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UK says it will permanently station two warships in Indo-Pacific
Asia Pacific Focus

UK says it will permanently station two warships in Indo-Pacific

The United Kingdom on Tuesday announced that it would permanently station two Royal Navy warships in the Indo-Pacific as part of its endeavours to enhance regional security ties with Japan amid increasing tensions with China.

During his recent two-day visit to Tokyo, Britain’s Defence Minister Ben Wallace issued a joint announcement with his Japanese counterpart, Nobuo Kishi, noting that the warships will be placed in Asian waters in the coming weeks. 

“Following on from the strike group’s inaugural deployment, the United Kingdom will permanently assign two ships in the region from later this year,” he said.

UK-Japan boost defence ties

According to the UK defence ministry, the Royal Navy’s River-class offshore patrol vessels, HMS Spey and HMS Tamar, will be placed in the Asian waters. These vessels will be supported by ships from Japan, Australia and Singapore.

The Japanese Defence Minister added that the warships will be deployed after Britain’s Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and escort ships complete their sail to Japan in September.

Nobuo Kishi further stated that the HMS Queen Elizabeth and its strike group will split up to move towards separate ports to Japanese naval bases and the US for joint exercises. As per reports, the British aircraft carrier is being escorted by a wide range of ships including two frigates, two destroyers, two support vessels, and other ships from the US and the Netherlands. The Royal Navy strike group began its journey from Britain in May.

At the same time, the UK would also be deploying a Littoral Response Group to strengthen its regional cooperation with Japan and other Indo-Pacific countries.

“Both our countries seek to protect and uphold the rules-based international order,” Wallace said, during the joint conference.

The Japanese defence minister named Britain an important ally in addressing the ongoing challenges faced by Indo-Pacific countries.

“We confirmed our shared position in strongly opposing unilateral attempts using force to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas,” Kishi said.

Speaking to media in Tokyo, Wallace called on China to respect Britain’s freedom of navigation as the carrier strike group will sail through the sea to Japan.

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China’s increasing influence

With China’s growing assertiveness in regional seas, Japan has stepped up its efforts to expand maritime security ties with other countries, including Australia, the UK, and Southeast Asian nations. Responding to China’s attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China sea, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had vowed to defend the country’s sovereignty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. During an event earlier this year, he affirmed to boost Japan’s readiness to defend the country with the support of close allies.

Australia’s PM again calls for probe into origin of pandemic amid Delta variant surge
Asia Pacific Focus

Australia’s PM again calls for probe into origin of pandemic amid Delta variant surge

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has once again called for a transparent investigation into the origin of the covid-19 pandemic. The nation’s two biggest cities are under lockdown due to the Delta variant surge.

On Friday, Morrison said in Sydney after a Cabinet meeting with state leaders, “The world needs to know an answer.” “The individuals who have lost their lives and their occupations need answers. Australia will keep on posing the questions till we get those answers.”

While tending to the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September 2020, Australia’s PM stated that an investigation into the root cause of the coronavirus infection spread would reduce the danger of another worldwide pandemic. “This disease has caused a massive catastrophe in our world. 

We should do everything we can to get answers about what occurred for no other reason than to prevent it from happening once more,” he added.

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China unequivocally rebuked the move, with Beijing’s minister to Canberra threatening that the probe calls could spoil trade relations.

Since last year, Beijing has carried a range of sanctions against Australian merchandise, including wine, coal and some agricultural produce.

Despite all the consequences, Morrison has once again demanded an inquiry into the origin of the pandemic.

Morrison’s recent statement came as the virus continues seething across Asia, triggered by a highly infectious Delta variant spread.

On Thursday, the WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus requested China to cooperate in the second phase of investigating the origin of the Covid-19 virus, especially sharing raw patient data from the beginning of the pandemic.

WHO requested a probe concerning a theory that the disease leaked from a Wuhan lab, and also the Chinese researcher’s belief that they discovered the virus spread from bats to people through another animal.

New Zealand: Farmers protest against government’s environment regulations
Asia Pacific Focus

New Zealand: Farmers protest against government’s environment regulations

Thousands of farmers in New Zealand carried out protests across several parts of the country on Friday against sweeping environmental regulations introduced by the Labour Government. Under the banner “Howl of A Protest”, farmers drove their tractors and pickup trucks across multiple towns and cities, demanding the government to ease environmental regulations and climate changes measures. As the protesting farmers took to the city, tractors, trucks, and other farm vehicles flooded major roads in different regions and brought traffic across New Zealand to a standstill.

Besides the demand for easing environmental protections, they have also called on the Jacinda Ardern government to loosen COVID-19 lockdown measures and restrictions in order to allow the entry of more seasonal overseas workers amid ongoing labour shortages faced by major industries.

The New Zealand government introduced a wide range of environmental regulations to address increasing concerns related to polluted waterways, harmful agricultural and industrial practices, protecting animal welfare and commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Last month, the new rules were introduced as part of the Clean Car Package aimed at encouraging consumers to buy electric vehicles (EVs).

Responding to the protests, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stressed the government’s commitment to tackle climate change and environmental issues in the country.

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Government’s response

“We cannot standstill, If we want to make sure that on the world stage our exports continue to fetch a high price and are high values, we have to make progress on the challenges New Zealand and the world is facing,” she said, as quoted by reports.

The government has also maintained that the regulations are necessary to tackle the degradation of freshwater resources and biodiversities in the country. Furthermore, New Zealand is working on achieving its goal to ensure net-zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.

Farmer’s demands

New Zealand’s regional organisation Groundswell NZ which organised the nationwide protest noted that farmers across the country have been angry with the government’s interference in agricultural costing and private property rights.

“Farmers are not putting their heads in the sand and saying there isn’t a problem, they’re definitely working very hard to try and make things right. It’s hard to see why regulations [are] going to speed that process up,” Protest organiser and Gore farmer Bryce McKenzie told RNZ.

He noted that farmers are ensuring all possible efforts to protect the environment, adding that “unworkable regulations” are hampering their farming practices. The protests were joined by National MPs in a show of their objections against the Labour government’s Ute Tax.

China blames the EU for placing unacceptable preconditions to visit Xinjiang province
Asia Pacific Focus

China blames the EU for placing unacceptable preconditions to visit Xinjiang province

China has blamed the European Union (EU) for forcing unacceptable pre-conditions on visiting the Xinjiang province. The Chinese mission to the EU announced in a statement that Beijing has likewise welcomed ambassadors from the EU including its members posted in China to visit Xinjiang.

“However, the trip could not take place because of preconditions set by the EU, which are unacceptable to any sovereign nation,” the statement added. 

The remarks were included in a composed reaction to a February petition asking the EU’s foreign policy head Josep Borrell to probe the case of Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur professor who was imprisoned for dissent in 2014.

The mission additionally warned the EU that any interference in China’s internal affairs will be met with a solid reciprocal. 

The Chinese mission statement was released just a short while after the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s foreign and security policy agency, stated the coalition has taken a firm step on the human rights issues in Xinjiang and would make new rules to make certain that EU companies address forced labor dangers in the supply chain.

China rejected the EEAS’ criticisms, saying the statement is in complete disregard of realities and confounding high contrast”. It also stated that the EU is in “no position to make baseless allegations”. 

“We firmly express our disapproval of it. This is a clear interference in China’s internal affairs underneath the pretext of the Xinjiang-associated issues. It shows hypocrisy on human rights issues as well,” the mission added.

“In the course of recent years, under the administration of the Communist Party, Xinjiang has gained remarkable and notable progress in socio-economic development, citizens prosperity, and human rights. 

Nobody knows better than the 25 million people of Xinjiang about the human rights situation or the citizen’s wellbeing, the mission statement added. 

There have been reported that Xinjiang has kept 2,000,000 Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities under detention since 2016, while China completely denies the allegations and calls them vocational training centers.

Numerous former prisoners assert they were physically abused, and also went through forced sterilization. Moreover, China continues to deny such practices and says the camps give professional training, NPR reported.

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China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomatic makeover backfires
Asia Pacific Focus

China’s ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomatic makeover backfires

Under criticism in recent years over issues varying from human rights violations to rebuke over the coronavirus pandemic, Beijing had begun a new breed of diplomacy that grew popular as “wolf warriors” a term for aggressive nationalism inspired by a famous Chinese film.

The Foreign Ministry representatives and experts abroad used a sharp and resentful tone to uproariously safeguard the Communist-led nation and even utilized conspiracy theories or brazenly insult their foreign counterparts.

However, a sudden U-turn this month by President Xi Jinping urged top politicians to help develop a “dependable, respectable and admirable” global image in a bid to further develop China’s softer version. He stated to better tell China’s narratives, the officials and state media reported.

For few political analysts, the comments addressed a developing acknowledgment that the time of stirring up nationalism at home has left Beijing with little space to make more unpredictable diplomatic moves. 

Nonetheless, authorities and intellectual society calling for a subtler tone have confronted nationalist pushback, leaving them confused between their international and domestic public.

Beijing passed a law this month that will permit it to hit back at organizations that meet foreign sanctions and has also increased incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification region.

China additionally made international headlines last week after Beijing passed a national security law that was utilized to squash Hong Kong’s tabloid. The newspaper’s senior chief editor was arrested along with the owner Jimmy Lai, The Strait Times reported. 

Dr. Jonathan Hassid, a professor of political science at Iowa State University stated to Agence France-Presse (AFP), “Sometimes, the ‘wolf warrior’ opinions or sentiment can get out of hand, however, if China tries to soften their global image, the nationalists at home will be angry. If it plays to the patriots, the international community responds adversely.”

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US is the greatest creator of risks in the region: China
Asia Pacific Focus

US is the greatest creator of risks in the region: China

China has condemned the United States move of sailing its warship through the Taiwan strait and has termed it as the region’s “greatest creator of risks”.

Taiwan Strait is a strategically critical zone for China as the narrow waterway separates mainland China from the island of Taiwan.

The US Navy’s 7th fleet said that its Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine” transit through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday.

In a statement, it was said the “ship’s transit within the Taiwan Strait proves the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

China issued a warning after its forces monitored the vessel through the tense waterway.

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China claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

“The US is intentionally playing the identical old tricks and creating trouble in the Taiwan Strait,” the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command said.

This “shows that the US is the greatest creator of risks in terms of regional security, and we are firmly opposing this”.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry downplayed the scenario by saying that the “situation was as normal” and the ship had travelled in a northerly direction through the strait.

The US Navy has been handling such operations in the Taiwan Strait each month.

Military tension between Taiwan and Beijing have surged over the past year, with Taipei protesting against China for repeatedly sending its air force into its air defence zone.

A month ago, the same ship had transited the strait that has made China blame the United States for threatening peace and stability.

In the series of events, a Chinese aircraft, including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers, pervaded Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. This is the largest reported incursion to date that followed the Group of Seven leaders issuing a joint statement asking China for underscoring the importance of stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait.

China condemned these comments as “slander”.

Military junta in Myanmar rejects UN chief’s allegations of human rights abuse ahead of Suu Kyi’s trial
Asia Pacific Focus

Military junta in Myanmar rejects UN chief’s allegations of human rights abuse ahead of Suu Kyi’s trial

Ahead of the trial of Suu Kyi, state counselor of Myanmar, the military junta has gone on record to refute the claims of human rights abuse in the country after the chief of the United Nations blamed the military control for unjust practice.

There have been many incidents in the country after the military take over when human rights were witnessed to be neglected. Many residents also took to social media handles to project the demonstrations against the current power and their force on common people who were demonstrating against them.

Following these incidents, the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights  commented on deadly practices but the military junta on Sunday completely refuted the claims. On February 1, when the military started governing the Burma administration, Suu Kyi was detained by the military power along with some of the most senior diplomats of the country.

There have been tons of requests to free their leader which resulted in armed forces coming fighting the unarmed citizens of the country. Even after a lot of requests were made to conduct fair set up, there was nothing that could change the mind of the military junta.

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The 75-year-old has since been in detention and it was decided that on Monday, trial for her breaching the coronavirus regulations was scheduled. She had reportedly done an election campaign without taking covid-19 protocols into consideration. She clearly won the elections held in November last year but was blamed for health negligence as well as possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies.

Her legal representative said that her trial will stretch till July and there is no way it could be concluded any sooner. Other charges on the nobel laureate include intent to incite and breach of official secrets act. She has also allegedly accepted $600,000 and 11.4 kg worth of gold from the Yangon minister.

The army stresses that they took control of the administration because they believe that Suu Kyi took over Myanmar only by fraud. The accusations are however rejected by the previous election commission but the military nevertheless continues to stress that there was election fraud. Things got worse when it was reported that the military had killed over 800 people during the administrative crackdown in three months. Hence the activists had to jump in to protect human rights but the strong reluctance to accept the civil crimes further threatens the existence of democratic powers.

US to aid Taiwan in its fight against Covid-19
Asia Pacific Focus

US to aid Taiwan in its fight against Covid-19

The United States has announced to donate 750,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan as the latter is in dire need of jabs to boost its fight against the pandemic.

Three US Senators, speaking at Taipei’s downtown Songshan airport, announced that Taiwan would be getting 750,000 vaccines as part of the first tranche of donations.

The step is a part of the global superpower’s plan to share more and more vaccines with the countries in need.

US President Joe Biden last week announced that the US will swiftly donate the initial allotment of 25m doses of vaccine overseas via the UN-backed Covax program. The initiative, to date, has shared only 76m doses with needy countries.

Taiwan is currently dealing with a sharp spike in domestic Covid-19 cases but has been affected by global vaccine shortages.

From its population of 23.5 million people, only around 3% have been vaccinated so far. Most of those vaccinated have got only the first shot of two needed.

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Taiwanese health authorities announced on Sunday that there were 343 new locally transmitted cases. Taipei contained coronavirus last year but the outbreak that started in May has spread into some factories in the electronics industry. The industry forms the backbone of the country’s export sector.

Taiwan’s opposition has heavily bashed the government of President Tsai Ing-wen over the failure of mustering up enough vaccine supplies. The government fears that China is trying to use the health crisis to turn the public against Tsai. Beijing denies this allegation and has accused Tsai of “plotting independence aided by the pandemic”.

China says it is all set to provide vaccines to Taiwan, but Taipei accuses Beijing of blocking efforts to obtain vaccines directly. China has recently shown its displeasure on Japan for its vaccine donation to Taiwan.

Taiwan to never forget Tiananmen Square massacre: Present
Asia Pacific Focus

Taiwan to never forget Tiananmen Square massacre: Present

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said, on Friday, that her people will never forget China’s gaping crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 32 years ago.

She reiterated that resolve that the Taiwanese will stick with their faith in democracy.

Taiwan uses the Tiananmen Square anniversary to blame China and urges it to meet eyeballs with what it did. This has so far led to Beijing’s repeated annoyance as China lays a claim on Taiwan and considers it as its own territory that could be taken over by force if necessary.

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Huge crowds usually take to roads each year to mark the painful memory of Chinese troops toeing peaceful democracy protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

There was an international condemnation after tanks and troops opened fire on protesters in Beijing. Estimates of the people dead stay contested to date, as it varies from a few hundred to several thousand.

The coming Friday marks 32 years to the deadly assault.

The President, writing on her Facebook page, said Taiwan’s people can not forget what had happened.

“I believe that all Taiwanese are proud of their freedom and democracy and they will firmly stick to their faith, unshaken by challenges,” said Tsai.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council urged China, on Thursday, to give the power back to the people and allow a real political reform rather than avoiding remembering a crackdown.

On the other hand, Pro-democracy activist Chow Hang Tung was arrested by Hong Kong police for promoting an unauthorized assembly on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

She is the vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance. The group organizes annual vigils for victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters.

Macau and Hong Kong remain the only places in Chinese territory that see people commemorate the unfortunate incident.

ASEAN urged to act against Myanmar over violation of human rights
Asia Pacific Focus

ASEAN urged to act against Myanmar over violation of human rights

Human rights groups, activists, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to probe Myanmar’s military chief for crimes against humanity. 

Calls are being made to consider the nation’s ousting from the bloc, as member states are gearing to attend a regional summit on the crisis this week.

Amnesty International urged Southeast Asian countries, on Friday, to launch a probe into the Myanmar coup leader’s crimes against humanity as reports came that he will attend a regional summit. 

Amnesty in a statement said: “As a party to the United Nations Convention against Torture, it is a legal obligation upon Indonesia to extradite or prosecute a suspected perpetrator on its territory”.

The summit is to be held on Saturday in Jakarta, Indonesia. As the host country says that Min Aung Hlaing will attend the summit, authorities in Myanmar have refrained from commenting on the reports.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have said that they will send their foreign ministers instead of participating in the summit themselves. Other ASEAN members include Myanmar, host country Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, and Vietnam.

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On Thursday morning, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Prayuth, in a phone call, discussed the summit. Prayuth said that Myanmar’s situation is a challenge for peace and stability in the region. 

The meeting is the first proper international effort to settle the crisis in Myanmar, where hundreds of pro-democracy protesters have been killed by the security forces since the February coup. 

Experts see this as a test case for ASEAN, which usually does not interfere in the internal affairs of any member state and carries out operations by consensus. Myanmar’s military has not shown any sign of wanting a dialogue with the members of the government it ousted. Many of the members have been accused of treason by the Junta, which is punishable by death

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