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US special forces secretly training troops in Taiwan – report

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A small group of special US forces and a unknown number of marines have been working with Taiwanese troops for at least a year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

US special operations forces have been quietly training Taiwanese troops for months, risking the ire of China, a Pentagon official has said.

A contingent of around 20 special operations and conventional forces has been conducting the training for less than a year, the official, who declined to be identified, told AFP, adding that some of the trainers rotate in and out.

The official largely confirmed a Wall Street Journal report which said the training has been going on for at least a year, amid China’s rising verbal threats against the island ally of the United States.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry declined to comment on the report, but Pentagon spokesman John Supple said that generally speaking, US support for Taiwan’s military is gauged on its defence needs.

“Our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Supple said in a statement.

“We urge Beijing to honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.”

Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang said “a just cause always attracts much support” when asked to comment on the Wall Street Journal report on Friday.

“We are making every effort to defend our national sovereignty and our people as well as maintaining regional peace. We are doing all we can and we appreciate like-minded countries working together,” he said.

Taiwan media reported last November, citing Taiwan’s Naval Command, that US troops had arrived there to train Taiwan marines and special forces in small-boat and amphibious operations.

But those reports were subsequently denied by US and Taiwanese officials, who emphasised the two sides are only involved in bilateral military exchanges and cooperation.

The United States supplies weapons to Taiwan, including missiles for defence and fighter jets, amid Beijing’s threat to forcibly retake control of the island and reintegrate it with China.

The US also maintains an ambiguous commitment to defend Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

A video released last year and featured in Taiwan media showed US troops taking part in an exercise on the island dubbed “Balance Tamper.”

Military tension at highest in four decades

Chinese forces have stepped up their activities toward Taiwan in the past year, conducting sea assault exercises and flying large sorties of bombers and fighters close to Taiwan airspace.

Taiwan’s defence minister said Wednesday that military tensions between the island and China are at their highest in four decades, after around 150 Chinese warplanes – a record number – made incursions into its air defence zone in recent days.

He warned that even “slight carelessness” or “miscalculation” could spark a crisis, and that Beijing would be in a position to launch a full-scale invasion in four years.

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price called the Chinese activity “destabilizing” and “provocative.”

“We strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” he said, calling US commitment to the island “rock-solid”.

“Let me just say this, we are going to take action now to try to prevent that day from ever coming to pass,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told the BBC when asked if Washington was prepared to take military actions to defend Taiwan.

‘Taiwan does not seek military confrontation’

Taiwan does not seek military confrontation, but will do whatever it takes to defend its freedom, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday.

Taiwan has complained for more than a year of such activities, which it views as “grey zone warfare”, designed to wear out Taiwan’s armed forces and test their ability to respond.

“Taiwan does not seek military confrontation,” Tsai told a security forum in Taipei.

“It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually-beneficial coexistence with its neighbours. But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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MPS still under Home Minister: PO

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President’s Office on Tuesday stated that though Maldives Police Service (MPS) is now operating as an independent entity, the Home Minister is still the responsible figure for the agency.

Following the ratification and implementing of MPS Act, MPS would function as an independent entity, with various internal governing bodies. The Home Minister will be responsible for overseeing the body but will have no control over day to day operations.

Confusion reigned supreme following a letter sent by President’s Office to the Home Affairs, stating that MPS would function as an independent entity effective from March 27, 2021. The letter also stated the Ministry’s functions and roles following this decision.

Clause 242 of the Constitution mandates that all government and government associated agencies be overseen by a Minister.

The statement issued by President’s Office said that Home Minister Sheikh Imran would still oversee the agency.

In response to the change, Minister Imran tweeted that ‘challenges’ were natural and expected. He added that success was in perseverance.

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Tourism Ministry sets three-year period for resorts to open

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Minister of Tourism Dr Abdullah Mausoom has revealed that the Ministry intends to automatically revoke the islands leased for resort development, if the developers fail to open the property within a three-year period.

Speaking to local newspaper, Mihaaru, the Minister revealed that this was already in the plans and a new agreement will be signed based on this principle.

Statistics by Tourism Ministry in 2020, show that over 50 resorts were still under development, with parties filing to extend the permits for 21 islands. Some of the leased islands have been listed as under development for over 10 years.

This, he said, was being implemented to urge developers to finish developing the property and begin operations. Minister Mausoom noted that most citizens living close to islands under development had raised their concerns over delays.

The Minister had previously said that Tourism sustained severe losses due to the pandemic. While the sector aims to bring in 1.3 million tourists, there are several challenges including a new mutation of the delta strain detected in the UK and limitations of the airport to cater for arrivals.

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U23 national team departs for Bahrain

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The under 23 national football team has departed to Bahrain for training ahead of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

The qualifiers will be held in Uzbekistan from the 27th to the 31st of this month.

The team is accompanied by Assistant Coaches Sabah Mohamed and Mohamed Shahid. They will play two practice matches in Bahrain before heading to straight to qualifiers in Uzbekistan. The team had also carried out successful training camps in the atolls.

Maldives will face off against Iraq on 27th October, against Bahrain on 29th October, and Afghanistan on 31st October.

Competing nations are divided into 11 groups. First place winners will go into the Asian Cup. Additionally, four top-performing teams from the second placed nations will proceed to the Cup.

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