Taiwan accuses Beijing of simulating invasion as US-China relations nosedive

Military-owned body working to more than double yearly missile production capacity to close to 500 this year amid China’s growing military threat. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 August 2022

Taiwan accuses Beijing of simulating invasion as US-China relations nosedive

  • Beijing maintained some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan on Saturday
  • The deputy head of Taiwan defense ministry’s research and development unit was found dead on Saturday morning

Taiwan accused the Chinese army of simulating an attack on its main island Saturday, as Beijing continued its retaliation for US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taipei visit.
Relations between the two superpowers nosedived following Pelosi’s trip to China’s self-ruled neighbor — which it claims as its territory — prompting calls from the UN for an urgent de-escalation of tensions.
Beijing maintained some of its largest-ever military drills around Taiwan on Saturday — exercises aimed at practicing a blockade and ultimate invasion of the island, analysts say.
Taipei said it observed “multiple batches” of Chinese planes and ships operating in the Taiwan Strait, some of which crossed a demarcation line that divides the strait, but which Beijing does not recognize.
“They were judged to be conducting a simulation of an attack on Taiwan’s main island,” it said.
The democratic island’s military mobilized air and land patrols and deployed land-based missile systems in response, the defense ministry said in a tweet.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting with his Philippine counterpart on Saturday, said Washington was “determined to act responsibly” to avoid a major global crisis.

Climate change conrcerns 
The environment became the latest victim of the geopolitical jousting a day earlier, as Beijing said it would withdraw from a series of talks and cooperation agreements with Washington — most notably on climate change and defense cooperation.
China should not hold talks on issues of global concern such as climate change “hostage,” Blinken said, as it “doesn’t punish the United States, it punishes the world.”
In a bid to show just how close China’s forces have been getting to Taiwan’s shores, Beijing’s military overnight released a video of an air force pilot filming the island’s coastline and mountains from his cockpit.
And the Eastern Command of the Chinese army shared a photo it said was taken of a warship patrolling in seas near Taiwan, the island’s shoreline clearly visible in the background.
Taiwan’s army released images on Saturday of one of its frigates monitoring a Chinese ship within touching distance, and soldiers activating its land-based missile systems.
The drills have also seen Beijing fire ballistic missiles over Taiwan’s capital, according to Chinese state media.
Beijing said it would also hold a live-fire drill in a southern part of the Yellow Sea — located between China and the Korean peninsula — from Saturday until August 15.
Taiwan has remained defiant, insisting it will not be cowed by its “evil neighbor.”

International outrage
The scale and intensity of China’s drills have triggered outrage in the United States and other democracies, with the White House summoning China’s ambassador to Washington to rebuke him over Beijing’s actions.
Blinken and the foreign ministers of Japan and Australia issued a joint statement calling on China to halt the exercises after meeting on the sidelines of an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cambodia.
Beijing’s decision to withdraw from hard-won cooperation on climate change has now sparked wider fears about the future of the planet.
It’s “impossible to address the climate emergency if the world’s number one and number two economies and number one and number two emitters are not taking action,” Alden Meyer, a senior associate at E3G, a climate-focused think tank, told AFP.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington the decision was “fundamentally irresponsible.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the two superpowers must continue to work together — for the world’s sake.
“For the secretary-general, there is no way to solve the most pressing problems of all the world without an effective dialogue and cooperation between the two countries,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Risk of military conflict 
With tensions over Taiwan having risen to their highest level in nearly 30 years with an elevated risk of military conflict, experts told AFP the latest downturn in relations between the two superpowers could be long-lasting.
The suspension Friday of bilateral military and maritime dialogue while China continues its military exercises was “particularly worrisome,” said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund.
“We don’t know what else they will do,” she said. “We just don’t know if this is just a temporary thing.”
John Culver, a former CIA Asia analyst, said in a discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that Beijing’s main purpose with its military exercises was to change that status quo.
“I think that this is the new normal,” Culver said.
“The Chinese want to show... that a line has been crossed by the speaker’s visit.”

Taiwan missile official's death 

The deputy head of Taiwan defense ministry’s research and development unit was found dead on Saturday morning in a hotel room, according to the official Central News Agency.
Ou Yang Li-hsing, deputy head of the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, was found dead in a hotel room in southern Taiwan on Saturday morning, CNA reported. It said authorities were looking into the cause of death.
Ou Yang was on a business trip to the southern county of Pingtung, CNA said, adding that he had assumed the post early this year to supervise various missile production projects.
The military-owned body is working to more than double its yearly missile production capacity to close to 500 this year, as the island boosts its combat power amid what it sees as China’s growing military threat.


Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

Updated 15 August 2022

Second fatal shooting this month near George Floyd Square

  • The intersection became a makeshift memorial after Floyd’s death and was officially renamed earlier this year

MINNEAPOLIS: One man died and another was seriously hurt in the second fatal shooting this month near the intersection where George Floyd died in police custody more than two years earlier.
Minneapolis Police spokesman Officer Garrett Parten said officers found two wounded men with life-threatening injuries Sunday afternoon near the intersection in south Minneapolis that was renamed to remember Floyd’s death. One man died at the hospital, and the other man’s condition wasn’t immediately available.
No arrests were reported immediately.
A week before Sunday’s shooting, Mohamed Omar, 29, died after he was shot in the area early on Aug. 7. Parten said the police department would likely increase patrols in the area after the two shootings, which both took place near the intersection of 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
The intersection became a makeshift memorial after Floyd’s death and was officially renamed earlier this year. Floyd, who was Black, died May 25, 2020, after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
Floyd’s death sparked protests nationwide and forced America to confront racial injustice.

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Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother

Updated 15 August 2022

Police: Man drives into fundraiser crowd, then kills mother

  • Police identified the driver as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck, who was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of criminal homicide

BERWICK, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania state police say a man who was upset about an argument with his mother drove through a crowd at a fundraiser for victims of a recent deadly house fire, killing one person at the event and injuring 17 others, then returned home and beat his mother to death.
Police identified the driver as 24-year-old Adrian Oswaldo Sura Reyes of Nescopeck, who was arraigned early Sunday on two counts of criminal homicide.
Police allege in a criminal complaint that Sura Reyes said he argued with his mother at their Nescopeck home Saturday evening and while driving through nearby Berwick was “extremely frustrated” and was “tired of fighting with his mother, including about money, and wanted to be done with it.”
At the time, police said, a crowd of about 75 people, including adults and small children, had gathered in a blocked-off parking lot in Berwick outside the Intoxicology Department bar, which was holding an all-day fundraising event to benefit victims of the Aug. 5 blaze in Nescopeck that killed seven adults and three children.
Police say Sura Reyes told them he drove past the gathering, then turned around and headed back to the bar “to drive through the crowd of people.” Investigators asked how fast he drove into the crowd and Sura Reyes replied “speeding up.”
“Video surveillance gathered by the Pennsylvania State Police corroborates Sura Reyes’s statement that he sped up into the crowd purposefully,” according to the criminal complaint.
Geisinger Medical Center said it received 15 patients after the crash, and five remained in critical condition while three were listed in fair condition, a hospital spokesperson said Sunday morning. Seven patients had been treated at hospitals and released.
Trooper Anthony Petroski III told reporters late Saturday that Sura Reyes was not currently a suspect in the fire, the cause of which remains under investigation.
“This is a complete tragedy in a community where there’s already been tragedy,” Petroski said.
Shortly after the crash was reported, troopers were called about a man “physically assaulting” a woman less than two miles away in Nescopeck. Troopers arrived to find local police had arrested Sura Reyes and a woman was dead.
Luzerne County Coroner Francis Hacken confirmed Sunday that the victim, Rosa D. Reyes, 56, of Nescopeck, was the mother of Sura Reyes and had died of multiple traumatic injuries after being hit by a vehicle and assaulted with a hammer.
In the criminal complaint, police say Sura Reyes told investigators he saw his mother in the street upon returning home and struck her with his vehicle, then hit her with a hammer several times.
Sura Reyes was denied bail and remained in Columbia County prison pending an Aug. 29 preliminary hearing. News outlets reported that he said “Sorry” in response to reporters’ questions as he was taken from Shickshinny police station. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had a lawyer to comment on his behalf.
The first funerals for victims of the fire were held Friday, and more were scheduled for Sunday and Monday.
The bar called the events an “absolute tragedy” and said on its Facebook page that they will be closed until further notice and would like privacy “while we grieve add try to process the events that occurred.”

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Man dies after crashing car, firing gunshots near US Capitol

Updated 14 August 2022

Man dies after crashing car, firing gunshots near US Capitol

  • Police said the man was identified as Richard A. York III of Delaware
  • Added that the man then fired several gunshots into the air along East Capitol Street

WASHINGTON D.C.: A 29-year-old Delaware man died in an apparent suicide early on Sunday after crashing his car into a barricade near the US Capitol and firing shots into the air, police said.
While the man was getting out of the crashed car, it became engulfed in flames just after 4 a.m. (0800 GMT) at East Capitol Street and Second Street, US Capitol Police said.
Police said the man was identified as Richard A. York III of Delaware. “It is still not clear why he chose to drive to the Capitol Complex,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
Earlier, police said “it does not appear the man was targeting any members of Congress, who are on recess, and it does not appear officers fired their weapons.”
Police said the man then fired several gunshots into the air along East Capitol Street. As police responded and approached, the man shot himself, police said. No one was else injured.
The death is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, which did not immediately identity or any details of his motives.
There are security barricades around the Capitol Complex checkpoints that are closely guarded.
In April 2021, 25-year-old motorist Noah Green rammed a car into US Capitol police and brandished a knife, killing one officer and injuring another and forcing the Capitol complex to lock down. Police shot and killed Green.


Taliban welcomes India’s diplomatic representation ‘upgrade’ in Kabul

Updated 14 August 2022

Taliban welcomes India’s diplomatic representation ‘upgrade’ in Kabul

  • Indian diplomats were recently sent back to the embassy in Afghanistan
  • Indian diplomats were recently sent back to the embassy in Afghanistan

KABUL: The Afghan foreign ministry has welcomed the “upgrade” of India’s diplomatic representation in Kabul, as the Taliban administration continued to struggle for recognition by the international community a year after it took over Afghanistan.

India had closed its embassy and consulates in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover last August, but New Delhi deployed a technical team earlier this year in June to coordinate their humanitarian efforts and assess the security situation in the country. 

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar confirmed on Friday that a batch of diplomats, except for the ambassador, was recently sent back to the embassy in Kabul to address a number of issues, such as humanitarian and medical assistance, as well as development projects. 

The Taliban administration has welcomed the move and promised security and immunity for Indian diplomats in Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan welcomes India’s step to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Kabul,” Abdul Qahar Balkhi, Afghan foreign ministry spokesperson, said in a statement issued on Saturday. 

“The Afghan government hopes that upgrading diplomatic representation and dispatching diplomats would strengthen Afghan-India relations leading to the completion of unfinished projects by India and the commencement of new vital projects.” 

Though India was one of the few countries which opposed the reconciliation process with the Taliban in the past, experts said on Sunday that New Delhi is now looking to reshape its relations with Afghanistan. 

“India is keen to engage with the Taliban as New Delhi believes that the Taliban government is going to stay for 5+ years this time or maybe longer,” Farid Mamundzay, Afghan ambassador to India appointed by the previous government, told Arab News. 

“So it’s important for India’s geopolitical interest to forget the past and form new working relations with Kabul.”

An Afghan foreign ministry official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Arab News that India didn’t want to be left behind its geopolitical rivals.

“India wants to have their own direct lines of communication to the Afghan government, as well as to counter Pakistani and Chinese influence in Afghanistan,” the official said.

India recently opposed plans by China and Pakistan to involve third countries in their ongoing multibillion-dollar infrastructure project, after Beijing and Islamabad agreed to extend the program to Afghanistan. New Delhi said last month that the proposed participation of third countries on those projects “directly infringe on India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

India’s efforts to improve relations with the Taliban government are aimed at protecting its own interests, Torek Farhadi, analyst and advisor to the former Afghan government, told Arab News. 

“When it comes to the Taliban, India will instrumentalize them against Pakistan when it is convenient for New Delhi,” he said. 

“What we need to understand about India is that they are a pragmatic player, driving towards their own interests.” 


Rushdie assailant Matar charged with attempted murder, denied bail because of international support

Updated 14 August 2022

Rushdie assailant Matar charged with attempted murder, denied bail because of international support

  • “He’s off the ventilator, so the road to recovery has begun,” his agent, Andrew Wylie, said
  • Suspect pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault at court appearance on Saturday

CHICAGO: The literary agent for Salman Rushdie — attacked by a pro-Iran activist at an event in New York state on Friday — said that the author had been taken off his ventilator, was able to talk and had been making jokes.

Hadi Matar, 24, arrested for the attack, was charged but denied bail as prosecutors argued that he had international support for his actions.

Rushdie’s literary agent, Andrew Wylie, told media on Sunday that the author, the subject of a death fatwa issued by the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini 33 years ago, remained hospitalized due to serious injuries.

Wylie had previously described Rushdie’s condition as bleak, noting that the author was in a “critical condition,” that he was “likely to lose an eye,” and had suffered damage to his arm and his liver.

The news about the improved condition of Rushdie, 75, however, encouraged hope and tempered the attack as a failed attempt by the extremist Iran regime, accused of fostering terrorism around the world.

The suspect, Hadi Matar, 24, pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree. He was arraigned on Saturday night at Chautauqua County Jail in New York.

Bail for Matar was denied with prosecutor’s arguing that Matar had international support and could easily flee the country.

Chautauqua County District Attorney Jason Schmidt told Judge Marilyn Gerace that the fatwa issued by Iran in 1989 “plays an important role for bail consideration because his resources don’t matter to me . . . the agenda that was carried out yesterday is something that’s adopted and sanctioned by larger groups and organizations well beyond jurisdictional borders of Chautauqua County . . . Even if this court sets a million-dollar bail, we stand a risk that this bail could be met because of that.”

Matar, who is from Fairview, New Jersey, is scheduled to appear again in court on Friday. He is being represented by a New York public defender assigned to represent him by the court.

Calls for a crackdown on Iranian terrorism and violence escalated as police continued to investigate Matar’s motives and possible ties to supporters of Iran’s regime.

Matar’s Facebook page and social media included photos of Khomeini and other Iran regime leaders.

“The stabbing of Salman Rushdie was not a spontaneous act,” said Ali Safavi, a member of the foreign affairs committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, who strongly condemned the attack. “Over 30 years ago, Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s ruling theocracy, issued a fatwa to murder him. His successor Ali Khamenei confirmed it and state institutions set a $3.5 million reward. Lesson to be learned is that appeasement backfires and emboldens terrorism.”

Former US president, Bill Clinton, wrote on Twitter: “Salman Rushdie has lived his life courageously and refused to let intimidation silence him, his art, and what he stands for. I am keeping him in my thoughts and praying for his recovery.”

Clinton’s post drew criticism from some writers, who accused the former president of turning a blind eye to violence against Muslims and Palestinians, but stopped short of praising Matar.

Hillary Clinton, former US secretary of state, tweeted: “I’m horrified by the cowardly attack on Salman Rushdie and praying for his speedy recovery. As he once wrote: ‘A poet’s work (is) to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep’.”

Chautauqua County Executive P.J. Wendel issued a statement offering thoughts and prayers for Rushdie’s recovery.

“The small tranquil community of the Chautauqua Institution has been shaken to its core by an act of violence, which has reverberated across Chautauqua County and western New York. It is disappointing that we live in a society where we cannot listen to the differences of others, especially in a place like the institution where thinkers and problem-solvers from around the world come to share their stories,” Wendel said.

“I thank all of the emergency and law enforcement agencies who have done a tremendous job in responding to this horrific event. It is through their quick response that they were able to mitigate the situation and capture the alleged assailant.”

Author Stephen King posted on Twitter that the attack had depressed him: “I’m trying to cheer myself up this afternoon. What happened to Salman Rushdie preys on my mind.”

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn, a strong critic of President Joe Biden, turned the debate to politics, attacking Biden’s efforts to reach an accord with Iran on nuclear weapons.

“Iran has been plotting for the death of Salman Rushdie since 1989 and offered a bounty to anyone who assassinates him. Yesterday, he was attacked on stage. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is open to having additional talks with this dangerous, terrorist regime,” Blackburn wrote on Twitter.

Rushdie was about to address the Chautauqua Institution, a nonprofit education center and summer resort near Buffalo, New York, when he was attacked. Rushdie was planning to speak about America being a place of “asylum for writers and other artists in exile.”

Police said that Matar had a pass to attend the presentation at the gated institution community but that passes were available to anyone.