Taiwan bolsters South China Sea deployments, gets U.S. submarine parts approval

Taiwan bolsters South China Sea deployments, gets U.S. submarine parts approval

A member of the Taiwanese Coast Guard stands guard next to a Taiwanese flag on Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, at the South China Sea

 Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard·2 min read

By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s newly-appointed defence minister said on Wednesday it has strengthened deployments in the disputed South China Sea and that the United States has approved the export of sensitive technology to equip Taiwan’s new submarine fleet.

China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased its military activity near the island in recent months seeking to pressure Taipei to accept Beijing’s sovereignty. Taiwan has vowed to defend itself.

Speaking in parliament, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, who took up his post last month, said Taiwan has increased personnel and armaments on Itu Aba, the main island Taiwan occupies in the South China Sea.

Itu Aba, also known as Taiping island, is the largest naturally occurring island in the Spratleys and is garrisoned by Taiwan’s Coast Guard.

“They are capable of starting a war,” Chiu told the parliament when asked by a lawmaker on whether China could attack Taiwan. “My goal is for us to be ready at all times.”

Chiu said Taiwan was bolstering its position there due to China’s “expansionism” in the region, though it was not currently considering a return to a permanent army garrison.

China has built man-made islands in the South China Sea and air bases on some of them. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims in the strategic waterway.

Separately, Chiu said that the United States had approved export permits for all of the sensitive equipment needed by Taiwan’s indigenous submarine fleet, which it started building last year.

He added that Taiwan’s arms purchases from the United States – the island’s main source of weapons – had not been impacted by the new Biden administration taking office in Washington and were continuing.

Taiwan is modernising its armed forces, especially as it face almost daily challenges from China in the airspace and waters near the island, including frequent Chinese air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.

Chiu said these missions were part of China’s war of attrition against Taiwan, whose forces are dwarfed by Beijing’s, and defence forces were already adjusting on how to deal with such incursions, though did not give details.

“If we match them one for one, it costs a lot,” he said.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill)

Taiwan warns firms in Myanmar to fly flags after anti-China attacks

Taiwan warns firms in Myanmar to fly flags after anti-China attacks

Myanmar’s military are cracking down with increasing ferocity on protesters demanding the release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi

 ·2 min read  

Taiwan on Monday advised its companies in Myanmar to fly the island’s flag to distinguish themselves from Chinese businesses, which came under attack over the weekend amid a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Yangon.

Several Chinese-owned factories were torched in a textile-producing district of Yangon on Sunday, when Myanmar saw its deadliest day of protest against the military since the February 1 putsch.

The attack on the Chinese factories has rattled Taiwan, whose businesses have previously been mistakenly targeted during bouts of anti-Chinese sentiment in Southeast Asia.

Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Myanmar advised companies “to label themselves as ‘Taiwanese business’ in Myanmar language, to fly our national flag and explain to local employees and nearby residents that they are Taiwanese factories to avoid confusions and misjudgement”.

Public anger towards China has soared in Myanmar, as many in the pro-democracy movement believe China has sided with the army.

China initially pushed back against international outcry over the coup, calling it interference in the country’s “internal affairs”, though more recently it agreed to a United Nations Security Council resolution which “strongly condemns the use of violence against peaceful protesters”.

Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic island, vocally condemned the coup from early on, as well as the junta’s “successive abuse of lethal force against peaceful protesters”.

On Monday, Taipei’s foreign ministry said ten Taiwanese citizens were temporarily trapped during the unrest on the outskirts of Yangon, while some property was damaged when their factory in the district was attacked.

The group is currently safe and has remained inside the factory to wait for the situation to stabilise, the ministry said in a statement.

Chinese state media said 32 factories in Yangon were attacked on Sunday, causing $37 million in damage and leaving two employees injured.

Beijing’s embassy in Myanmar issued a statement condemning the actions of “destroyers” and urging police to “guarantee the security” of Chinese businesses.

Around 270 Taiwanese companies operate in Myanmar with an estimated total investment of over $1 billion, including banks, textile and shoe factories.

Taiwan says ties with US strong amid threats from China

Taiwan says ties with US strong amid threats from China

Associated Press
In this image from video, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a New Year’s speech in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. As the U.S. Navy asserts its presence in the South China Sea, Taiwan’s leader says its ties with Washington remain solid over the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration. (AP Photo/Taijing Wu)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — As the U.S. Navy asserts its presence in the South China Sea, Taiwan’s leader says its ties with Washington remain solid over the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration.

President Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday that U.S. military support remains firm even as China sends increasing numbers of military aircraft into Taiwan’s southwestern airspace.

“I would like to reiterate that Taiwan will not back down when receiving pressure and will not rashly advance when receiving support,” Tsai said in a traditional Lunar New Year television address.

“As long as the Beijing authorities are willing to resolve conflicts, we also want to have a dialogue with them under the conditions of equality and dignity,” Tsai said.

While China and the U.S. have indicated a desire to curtail the raw animosity of the Trump years, both the Democratic and Republican parties maintain strong support for Taiwan and a tough approach toward China over trade, human rights and its increasingly assertive military and foreign policies.

Tsai’s remarks came as the U.S. Pacific Fleet conducted exercises in the South China Sea combining ships and planes from the aircraft carriers Theodore Roosevelt and Nimitz. The exercises Tuesday were aimed at “increasing interoperability between assets as well as command and control capabilities,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.

“The ships and aircraft of the two strike groups coordinated operations in a highly trafficked area to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s ability to operate in challenging environments.” it said.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the U.S. exercises were not conducive to regional peace and stability.

“China will continue to take necessary measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and security and work with regional countries to firmly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea,” he said.

China claims ownership over virtually the entire South China Sea and has built military installations on reefs and atolls by covering them with sand and concrete.

Taiwan holds Taiping Island in the highly contested Spratly group, joining Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam in actively challenging China’s ambition to exert control over the area, through which an estimated $5 trillion in international trade travels annually. The waterway also has rich fish stocks and undersea oil and gas reserves.

EXPLAINER: How Taiwan figures in US-China ties under Biden

EXPLAINER: How Taiwan figures in US-China ties under Biden

Associated Press
A soldier holds a Taiwan national flag during a military exercise in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill Tuesday aimed at repelling an attack from China, which has increased its threats to reclaim the island and its own displays of military might. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)


TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — It didn’t take long for relations with China to become an issue for new U.S. President Joe Biden. A show of force by the Chinese air force off Taiwan last weekend prompted a U.S. response, even as Biden and his administration focus on the COVID-19 pandemic and other pressing issues at home in what is still their first week in office.


Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported that China sent a dozen bombers and fighter jets into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone on Saturday. Such a sizeable show of force is relatively rare, and the U.S. State Department issued a statement urging China “to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan” and expressing concern about “the pattern of ongoing … attempts to intimidate its neighbors.” China then sent 16 military aircraft into the same area on Sunday, Taiwan said. China has not commented on the reports.


It’s unclear. China may have been responding to Taiwanese military drills last week against a hypothetical Chinese invasion. It also may have been testing Biden, after the de facto Taiwanese ambassador to the U.S. attended his inauguration. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday that China is determined “to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and urged the U.S. to “refrain from sending wrong signals to the Taiwan independence forces.”

Tiehlin Yen, the deputy director of the Taiwan Center for Security Studies, said China’s moves may give it some bargaining chips as it prepares to deal with a new U.S. president and any adjustments he may make to China policy. But Chinese international relations expert Zhao Kejin at Tsinghua University in Beijing said the actions are not aimed at the U.S. but at Taiwan, and its opposition to unification with the mainland. “China needs to show its determination,” he said.


The U.S. response reflects what is expected to be continued U.S. support for Taiwan under Biden. His administration may refrain from the more provocative steps taken under his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, but it will abide by American legal requirements to ensure Taiwan can defend itself. China will no doubt continue to demand the self-governing island come under its control. Given their respective positions, the issue will likely remain a source of friction in U.S.-China relations.


Taiwan, an island of 24 million people about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off China’s southeast coast, separated from China in 1949, when the Communist Party took power. For three decades, the U.S. recognized the Nationalist government in Taipei, Taiwan, as the government of China, though it had no actual control over the much larger mainland. The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1979, but now-democratic Taiwan still enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington.

Boris Johnson first European leader to get call from President Biden

Boris Johnson first European leader to get call from President Biden

The TelegraphThe Telegraph

Christopher Hope

·4-min read 

Boris Johnson on the phone - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson on the phone – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

Boris Johnson told Joe Biden his arrival in the White House was a “moment of hope in a dark time” as he became the first leader outside North America to speak to the US President.

The Prime Minister is believed to be the third world leader to speak to Mr Biden after his scheduled call was brought forward by two days in what will be seen as a major boost for the special relationship between the UK and US.

Mr Johnson spoke to Mr Biden in a 35 minute phone call from his office at 10 Downing Street. The pair discussed “a very wide range of subjects”, sources said, describing the conversation as “very warm, friendly and wide ranging with agreement on key issues”.

One source said Mr Johnson welcomed the “fantastic initial announcements from the Biden administration and ‘moment of hope’ in a dark time”.

Announcing the phone call on Twitter, Mr Johnson said it was “great to speak to President Joe Biden”.

A Downing Street spokesman said that the pair “also discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”.

On Saturday night sources in Berlin and Paris confirmed that neither German Chancellor Angela Merkel nor French President Emmanuel Emmanuel Macron had spoken with Mr Biden since Wednesday’s inauguration.

Mr Biden had been expected to start phoning allies across the Atlantic on Monday and the call will be seen as a major post-Brexit boost for Britain and a sign the US president wants to cement the special relationship.

The conversation came after it emerged Mr Biden had removed a bust of Sir Winston Churchill when selecting furnishings from the Oval Office.

British officials had downplayed the significance of this decision, as did the White House and the US embassy in London.

British officials told The Sunday Telegraph it was “likely” Mr Johnson was the first leader outside the Americas to receive a call.

Boris gives a thumbs up - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street 
Boris gives a thumbs up – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

A readout from the White House said: “President Joseph R. Biden spoke today with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.

“The President conveyed his intention to strengthen the special relationship between our countries and revitalise transatlantic ties, underscoring the critical role of Nato to our collective defence and shared values.

“President Biden also noted the importance of cooperation, including through multilateral organisations, on shared challenges such as combating climate change, containing Covid-19, and ensuring global health security.

“He noted his readiness to work closely with Prime Minister Johnson as the United Kingdom hosts the G-7 and United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) this year.

“The leaders also discussed the need for coordination on shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Iran, and Russia.”

Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden  - Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street 
Boris Johnson speaks to Joe Biden – Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street

A Downing Street spokesman said that the pair “also discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the Prime Minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”.

Mr Biden spoke to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday.

Mr Johnson has sought since the inauguration last week to extend the hand of friendship to the Democrat president after his victory over Donald Trump and said in November: “The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities from climate change to trade and security.”

The speed of the call to Mr Johnson is a significant improvement on when Donald Trump won the Presidential election in November 2016.

Then Theresa May, Mr Johnson’s predecessor in 10 Downing Street, was a lowly 11th on President Trump’s call list in 2016, behind the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Japan, India, Turkey, Israel, South Korea, Australia and Ireland.

U.S. urges China to stop pressure against Taiwan

U.S. urges China to stop pressure against Taiwan

Sat, January 23, 2021, 8:09 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Saturday urged China to stop pressuring Taiwan, after the island’s defense ministry said Chinese bombers and jets entered the southwestern corner of its air defense identification zone.

“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

Lawmakers blasted the UK government for sharing ‘confidential’ information in private messages to TikTok execs

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Chris Stokel-Walker 

8 hours ago
Boris Johnson Edward Lister
Boris Johnson’s (left) senior aide Sir Edward Lister (right) was among those receiving the messages with TikTok 
Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images
  • British politicians reacted to Insider revealing the UK government told TikTok the ‘confidential’ identity of its next China ambassador.
  • One says Downing Street faces ‘serious questions’ on the tranche of messages, obtained under Freedom of Information laws.
  • They also showed the government trying to reassure TikTok over new national security powers.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK government has “serious questions” to answer, lawmakers have said after Insider revealed it told TikTok the confidential identity of its next China ambassador before the appointment was confirmed.

Insider published internal conversations between TikTok and senior government officials from January to June 2020, when the video app was reportedly negotiating to base its global headquarters in London.

The conversations took place even as TikTok was the subject of national security concerns in the US due to its ties to China.

Officials from the government’s trade department tried to reassure TikTok over wider plans to boost government powers to police foreign investments into the UK, the messages show.

The Department for International Trade (DfiT) also revealed, then asked TikTok to be “discreet” about, the news Caroline Wilson was likely the UK’s next ambassador to China, before the appointment was confirmed and four months before it was announced.  

Read the UK government correspondence with TikTok exclusively obtained by Insider

Politicians blasted the government for the revelations.

Labour MP Chris Elmore, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on social media, said the messages “leave a trail right to the Prime Minister’s own office.” Recipients on the messages included senior Downing Street officials such as Sir Edward Lister, then Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief strategic advisor.

Elmore added: “There are now serious questions that need to be answered by the UK government … We must all be concerned that strictly confidential information of national importance is being willingly shared with social media companies.

“We need to know what direction the Prime Minister gave to his staff to provide this information with TikTok, when did he first learn about this email exchange and what other sensitive information may have been shared from his office.”

“It is utterly contemptible to find ourselves yet again in the position where social media companies are operating in cosy back rooms to gain influence at the very heart of government.”

Andrew Lewer, a member of the China Research Group (CRG) of Conservative MPs launched by senior Tories last year to shape policy on China, was surprised by how the government acted.

He added attitudes to China have changed since the messages were sent last June. Conservative lawmakersare increasingly concerned about the UK’s trading relationship with China, particularly in light of atrocities against its Uighur minority population.

Insider originally requested the documents under Freedom of Information laws in July. 

“Reports of the contents of these documents serve to show how quickly sentiment within both government and the Parliamentary Party is hardening towards China,” Lever said, speaking personally rather than for the CRG.

“Some elements of these conversations, as reported, would be, at the very least, difficult to envisage happening now, even though it is less than a year later. They also illustrate the growing tension between China as a market for UK plc and its status as a human-rights abuser on a vast scale.”

Luke de Pulford, coordinator of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a group of lawmakers whose members include former UK Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and former US presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, was also worried.

He decried “the so-called ‘Golden Era'” of British-Chinese relations under past governments when “the UK sold out to China, shelving our values in the hope of economic gain.”

“Many key civil servants have yet to smell the coffee,” he said. “There cannot be business as usual or behind closed doors deals with states credibly accused of genocide.”

Fears of TikTok’s ties to China stem from the fact its parent company ByteDance, though registered in the Cayman Islands, is headquartered in Beijing. Lawmakers worry that the firm could be compelled to hand over information about users to the Chinese regime.

TikTok has repeatedly denied it would share user data with the Chinese Government if asked.

TikTok declined to comment and DfIT did not respond.

Outging US ambassador says world must end Taiwan’s exclusion

Outging US ambassador says world must end Taiwan’s exclusion

Associated Press
In this image made from a video screen shows and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft meeting virtually with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (unseen) on Wednesday night, Jan. 13, 2021. Craft’s trip to Taiwan was canceled but Craft told Tsai: “The United States will always stand with Taiwan.” (The United States Mission to the United Nations via AP)


UNITED NATIONS (AP) — In a final swipe at China, the Trump administration’s outgoing U.N. ambassador tweeted that it’s time for the world to oppose China’s efforts to exclude and isolate Taiwan, drawing sharp criticism from Beijing.

To make the point even more graphic, Ambassador Kelly Craft accompanied the tweet with a photo of herself in the U.N. General Assembly Hall where the island is banned. And she carried a handbag with a stuffed Taiwan bear sticking out of the top, a gift from Taiwan’s representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.

Taiwan left the United Nations in 1971 when China joined. Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and has been using its diplomatic clout to stop its 23 million people from joining any organizations that require statehood for membership including the U.N. World Health Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

American relations with Taiwan warmed under president Donald Trump, largely due to strong bipartisan support in Congress, but also because his administration was willing to defy Beijing’s threats and promote Taiwan as an alternative to Chinese Communist Party authoritarianism.

Craft met in September with Taiwan’s New York representative and had been scheduled to visit Taipei last week, but her trip was canceled after then secretary of state Mike Pompeo banned all travel.

Undeterred, she held a virtual meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on the evening of Jan. 13, telling her: “The United States will always stand with Taiwan.”

Earlier that day, she went into the General Assembly Hall, stood at the speaker’s podium, and recorded a virtual address to Model U.N. students in Taiwan.

Craft followed up those events with a statement Tuesday — her last full day as ambassador — stressing that the United States “is determined to end” Taiwan’s exclusion and isolation, and predicting this will continue with the administration of newly inaugurated President Joe Biden.

“The U.S. position on this matter enjoys universal bipartisan support,” she said, “and so, even as the United States is preparing for a transition, I can speak with great confidence that the U.S.-Taiwan relationship will continue to grow and strengthen.”

She called Taiwan “a force for good on the global stage — a vibrant democracy, a generous humanitarian actor, a responsible actor in the global health community, and a vigorous promoter and defender of human rights.”

In a final salvo during Trump’s final hours in office on Wednesday, Craft tweeted her appeal for an end to Taiwan’s isolation and exclusion, saying: “All @UN member states should recognize the benefits of Taiwan’s meaningful participation in int’l organizations & the damage done by its continued exclusion.”

The spokesperson for China’s U.N. Mission, referring to Craft’s photo in the General Assembly Hall, tweeted back: “Without prior notice to the UN, you sneaked into the GA Hall to record the video. You have not only violated the guidelines for the use of UN premises but also broken the rules for prevention of COVID-19. You’re spreading virus literally. Time to stop!”

A spokesman for Craft responded Thursday saying: “Ambassador Craft was proud to speak with the youth of Taiwan from the floor of the U.N. General Assembly, to underscore the outrageous fact that Taiwan’s voice remains unwelcome in that Hall.”

In her speech to Taiwan’s Model UN, Craft told the students: “Stay firm, say the words of democracy even in the wake of this moment. Because one day, you, too, will be standing here.”

To reinforce her personal commitment, she ended her statement on Tuesday saying: “As my posting at the U.N. comes to a close, my mission will not be complete until the people of Taiwan have a voice.”