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Taiwan’s navy chief to visit US next week, sources say

Taiwan’s navy chief to visit US next week, sources say

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Taiwan's navy chief to visit US next week, sources say

Taiwan’s navy chief, Tang Hua, will visit the United States from next week to attend a military ceremony and discuss how to boost bilateral naval cooperation as China raises threats toward the island, six people briefed on the trip said.

While Taiwan and the United States have a close relationship, it is unofficial, as Washington formally recognises China, not the democratically governed island that Beijing claims as its own territory. Taiwan rejects China’s territorial claims.

The six security sources said Tang would visit Hawaii, home of the US Indo-Pacific Command, for a Pacific Fleet change-of-command ceremony. Three of them said Tang was then expected to attend the April 8-10 Sea-Air-Space conference near Washington and that talks were under way to arrange a meeting with the US chief of naval operations, Admiral Lisa Franchetti.

The sources spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity given the trip’s sensitivity.

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Taiwan’s navy and the Pentagon declined to comment.

China’s defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment. China’s foreign ministry said it firmly opposed “military collusion” between the United States and Taiwan and that Washington should “refrain from sending out any erroneous signal to the forces of secession for the independence of Taiwan”.

Unlike visits to the US by senior officials from allies like Japan and Britain, conducted openly, those of Taiwanese officials, especially military, are kept low key and often not officially confirmed.

Washington and Taipei have had no official diplomatic or military relationship since 1979, when the US switched recognition to Beijing, though the United States is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

China has not renounced the use of force to take Taiwan, where the defeated Republic of China government fled in 1949 after it lost China’s civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists, who established the People’s Republic of China.

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Taiwan’s navy is dwarfed by that of China, which is adding nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers. Under a modernisation effort President Tsai Ing-wen has overseen, Taiwan is developing its own submarines, the first unveiled last year.

Without fanfare Taiwan and the US have expanded their military cooperation since Tsai took office in 2016, especially since China began ramping up military pressure over the past four years. Beijing now regularly sends fighter jets over the median line of the Taiwan Strait that once served as an unofficial barrier.

Previous US trips by senior Taiwan officers to the United States have included then-navy chief Lee Hsi-ming in 2015 and Deputy Defence Minister Hsu Yen-pu, who last year attended a Taiwan-US defence industry conference in Virginia.

Taiwan typically holds annual security talks in the United States, which neither government officially confirms and which last year were attended by Taiwan’s foreign minister and the head of its National Security Council, according to Taiwanese media.

Tang’s visit, two sources said, is part of a US effort, called the Joint Island Defence Concept, to coordinate with Taiwan, Japan and others to counter China’s armed forces within the “first island chain” – a string enclosing China’s coastal seas that connects Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Borneo, an island split between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.

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Taiwan and the US are trying to line up a Tang-Franchetti meeting, which has not been confirmed, said one source, a US official.

Tang on Tuesday accompanied Tsai to a navy base on Taiwan’s east coast for a handover ceremony for two new Tuo Chiang-class corvette warships, which Taiwan’s navy calls “carrier killers” for their high manoeuvrability, stealthiness and anti-ship missiles.

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

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British jets shot down Iranian drones, PM Sunak says

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Sunday that British military jets shot down drones launched by Iran in its attack on Israel and called for “calm heads to prevail” to avoid an escalation of the conflict.

“I can confirm that our planes did shoot down a number of Iranian attack drones,” Sunak told broadcasters.

“If this attack had been successful, the fallout for regional stability would be hard to overstate. We stand by the security of Israel and the wider region, which is of course important for our security here at home, too. What we now need is for calm heads to prevail.”

Sunak was due to join discussions between Group of Seven leaders later on Sunday.

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“It’s important that we coordinate with allies and we’ll be discussing next steps at that moment,” he said

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Hezbollah source says Israel struck position in east Lebanon

Hezbollah source says Israel struck position in east Lebanon

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Hezbollah source says Israel struck position in east Lebanon

A Hezbollah source said Israel struck Sunday one of the Iran-backed group’s buildings in Lebanon’s east, close to the Syrian border, as tensions soared after Iran directly attacked Israel.

“The Israeli strike targeted an area… near Baalbek and targeted a two-storey building belonging to Hezbollah,” a source within the Lebanese group told AFP, adding there were no casualties.

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported that “an enemy air strike targeted a building” in the village of Nabi Sheet and “destroyed it”.

An AFP photographer at the site saw the concrete and steel wreckage of the building, levelled in the attack.

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Earlier on Sunday, Hezbollah said it had twice launched barrages of rockets towards the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, after it joined in the major Iranian drone and missile attack against Israel.

The Iranian attack was in response to an April 1 air strike widely blamed on Israel that destroyed an Iranian consulate building in Damascus, killing seven Revolutionary Guards, including two generals.

Hamas ally Hezbollah has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with Israel since the Palestinian militant group attacked southern Israel on October 7 triggering the war in the Gaza Strip.

The violence, which has largely been contained to the border area, has so far killed at least 363 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also including at least 70 civilians, according to an AFP tally.

In Israel, the military says 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed.

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Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes on both sides of the border. 

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Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks

Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks

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Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon reopen airspace after Iran attacks

Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon have reopened their airspace after closing it late on Saturday as Iran launched drone and missile attacks against Israel, the three countries said on Sunday.

Jordan’s state TV said the country had resumed air traffic operations, citing aviation authorities. The opening of its airspace came more than three hours earlier than scheduled.

Iraq’s aviation authority said security risks had now been overcome.

Lebanon said its airport will resume its activities after the overnight closure, state TV reported.

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Iran launched explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late on Saturday – its first direct attack on Israeli territory in a retaliatory strike that raises the threat of wider regional conflict.

Jordan, which lies between Iran and Israel, had readied air defences to intercept any drones or missiles that violated its territory, two regional security sources said.

US and British warplanes were involved in shooting down some Israel-bound drones over the Iraq-Syria border area, Israel’s Channel 12 reported. 

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