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Taiwan says China can blockade its key harbours, warns of ‘grave’ threat

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November 9, 2021

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – China’s armed forces are capable of blockading Taiwan’s key harbours and airports, the island’s defence ministry said on Tuesday, offering its latest assessment of what it describes as a “grave” military threat posed by its giant neighbour.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring democratic Taiwan under its control and has been ramping up military activity around the island, including repeatedly flying war planes into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

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Taiwan’s defence ministry, in a report it issues every two years, said China had launched what it called “gray zone” warfare, citing 554 “intrusions” by Chinese war planes into its southwestern theatre of air defence identification zone between September last year and the end of August.

Military analysts say the tactic is aimed at subduing Taiwan through exhaustion, Reuters reported last year.

At the same time, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is aiming to complete the modernisation of its forces by 2035 to “obtain superiority in possible operations against Taiwan and viable capabilities to deny foreign forces, posing a grave challenge to our national security”, the Taiwan ministry said.

“At present, the PLA is capable of performing local joint blockade against our critical harbours, airports, and outbound flight routes, to cut off our air and sea lines of communication and impact the flow of our military supplies and logistic resources,” the ministry said.

China views Taiwan as Chinese territory. Its defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan is already an independent country and vows to defend its freedom and democracy.

Tsai has made bolstering Taiwan’s defences a priority, pledging to produce more domestically developed weapons, including submarines, and buying more equipment from the United States, the island’s most important arms supplier and international backer.

In October, Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern theatre of the zone over a four-day period, marking a dramatic escalation of tension between Taipei and Beijing.

The recent increase in China’s military exercises in Taiwan’s air defence identification zone is part of what Taipei views as a carefully planned strategy of harassment.

“Its intimidating behavior does not only consume our combat power and shake our faith and morale, but also attempts to alter or challenge the status quo in the Taiwan Strait to ultimately achieve its goal of ‘seizing Taiwan without a fight’,” the ministry said.

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To counter China’s attempt to “seize Taiwan swiftly whilst denying foreign interventions”, the ministry vowed to deepen its efforts on “asymmetric warfare” to make any attack as painful and as difficult for China as possible.

That includes precision strikes by long-range missiles on targets in China, deployment of coastal minefields as well as boosting reserve training.

(Reporting By Yimou Lee; additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian; editing by Robert Birsel)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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