Taiwan simultaneously holds 2 military drills in Hengchun

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Army personnel preparing Apache and Kiowa helicopters for flight. Army personnel preparing Apache and Kiowa helicopters for flight. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan military has been conducting exercises on the east and west coast of the Hengchun Peninsula.

On the east coast, at the Jiupeng military base, the Aviation and Special Forces Command is conducting the annual Condor Exercise, Liberty Times reported. Apache, SuperCobra, and Kiowa helicopters from the Army’s 601st and 602nd Air Cavalry Brigades will fire Hellfire and Stinger missiles to verify the brigades’ combat capabilities, military officials said previously.

The Condor Exercise has been conducted in early September in past years, the officials said. However, this year it started in late August and will feature night-time operations.

On the west coast, a joint force consisting of soldiers from all three military branches has been carrying out the “Lien Yong Exercise,” beginning on Aug. 23. Various artillery, helicopters, and fighter jets have been deployed to partake in the drills, per Liberty Times.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was originally scheduled to arrive at Jiupeng on Aug. 31 and was also expected to visit local temples nearby, but her plans were abruptly canceled.

Meanwhile, preparations for the Han Kuang highway takeoff and landing exercises are still being made. The Han Kuang exercise will last from September 13-17.

Taiwan defense authority’s special missile budget futile to change status quo, to bring trouble on island: experts

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A cluster of attack helicopters attached to a brigade under the PLA 81st Group Army lift off successively and fly to a predetermined operational area at ultra-low attitude during a live-fire combat training exercise on July 28, 2021.Photo:China Military

The defense authority on the island of Taiwan is reportedly proposing a huge special budget for missile manufacturing capabilities with the aim of “coping with threats from the Chinese mainland” amid the fear that the US would give up the island as it did with Afghanistan.Despite the budget, the island lacks the technologies needed to develop advanced missiles that can change the power balance across the Taiwan Straits, and the budget will backfire as the missiles will become priority targets of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Chinese mainland military experts said on Sunday.Taiwan’s defense authority is proposing a special budget totaling NT$200 billion ($7.14 billion) to boost the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology’s missile manufacturing capabilities, the Taipei Times reported on Sunday, citing an anonymous source.It is hoped that the institute can use the funds to expedite the mass production of missiles with precision and long-range capabilities, the report quoted the source as saying.The special budget is proposed to “deal with threats from” the Chinese mainland, Taipei-based newspaper the Liberty Times reported on Sunday.Citing analysts on the island, the Liberty Times said that the island of Taiwan could become an unsinkable aegis ship equipped with all types of missiles. The missiles could be used to hit key locations in the Chinese mainland if the PLA launches an attack on the island, and this could disrupt a PLA attack, the report claimed, noting missiles are more cost-efficient than warplanes.However, Chinese mainland military experts said that this is just another futile attempt by Taiwan secessionists to resist reunification by force.With the Chinese mainland in mind, the island of Taiwan has been developing missiles for a while, but its technologies are not sufficient to develop advanced missiles that are meaningful enough to change the military power balance between the mainland and the island, Song Zhongping, a Chinese mainland military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday.For the armed forces on the island, this will only draw fire onto themselves, because the missiles will very likely become the first targets the PLA attacks if a conflict breaks out, Song said.No matter what kinds of weapons and equipment the island develops, they will not be enough to change the power balance status quo, Song said.In a recent live-fire exercise, the PLA Rocket Force launched two new-type conventional short-range missiles that hit well-protected targets and paralyzed the opponents’ key information nodes in their defense systems, China Central Television reported on Saturday.Experts said that the PLA will make use of the new missiles, along with all the other missiles it has at its disposal in a potential conflict across the Taiwan Straits, and the island, even reinforced by foreign forces, has no chance of winning this missile fight in both quality and quantity terms.On Tuesday, the PLA Eastern Theater Command dispatched warships, anti-submarine warfare aircraft and fighter jets in maritime and aerial areas near the southwest and southeast directions of the Taiwan island for military drills including joint live-fire assaults The PLA’s exercises took place right after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan following the US’ troop withdrawal, and this would be a strong shock to Taiwan secessionists who are now weighing the reliability of the US, observers said, noting that the special missile budget reflects their fear.

Taliban surge in Afghanistan: EU and NATO in state of shock

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EU diplomats appear to have been caught unaware by the Taliban’s advance and the rapid collapse of the Afghan government. On Thursday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged the Taliban to “immediately resume substantive, regular and structured talks,” and agree to a cease-fire. He said the EU encourages “the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to settle political differences, increase representation of all stakeholders and engage with the Taliban from a united perspective.”

Two days before the fall of Kabul, that seems a bit clueless.

A request to guarantee the safe and orderly withdrawal of all foreigners and Afghans wishing to leave the country followed on Monday morning. It was signed by representatives from the EU and from parts of the international community. Chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, however, show that only military evacuation is still an option; civilian air traffic has been halted. A special EU foreign ministers’ meeting was called for Tuesday afternoon.

Complaints, warnings from the European Parliament

The president of the European Parliament is urging a united EU response. “The country needs a lasting and inclusive political solution that protects the rights of women and allows Afghans to live in safety and with dignity. Asylum must be granted to those in danger of persecution,” David Sassoli wrote on Twitter — a statement that also seems strangely belated.

The foreign policy spokespersons of the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament have urged that more people be brought to safety quickly. “In addition to the Afghan local forces of the German armed forces, for example, teachers, doctors, mayors and women’s rights activists have also held the torch of peace, freedom, democracy and human rights high in Afghanistan,” Daniel Caspary and David McAllister wrote in a statement, adding that the EU must step up humanitarian aid in the region to avoid a surge of refugees to Europe: “We must now do everything we can to ensure that those fleeing get protection close to home.”

The Greens are demanding that, at the least, the EU must now rescue the approximately 600 local personnel who worked in the EUPOL police mission, for the EU delegation in Kabul and the ECHO humanitarian aid mission — including their families. “Europe must live up to its responsibility for the local staff of the EU missions. Instead of acting quickly, the EU Commission and national governments are arguing about responsibilities,” said Sven Giegold, a Green Party spokesman and lawmaker. He urged setting up an airlift for EU personnel.

Dacian Ciolos, spokesman for the Liberals in the European Parliament, called for a special summit of EU governments and a meeting of the EU Parliament. Afghanistan’s “descent into darkness” must be urgently discussed, he said, in order to find a unified humanitarian and diplomatic response. “The international community must come together to protect those fleeing persecution,” he wrote on Twitter.

‘Some people won’t get back’

Security committee meetings were called in several European NATO countries on Monday, including the UK, Belgium and France. The military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, however, is silent.

On Monday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced a speeding up of procedures for civilian workers, saying, “Where the rules need to be changed, they will be changed.” The plan, he said, is to evacuate 1,200 to 1,500 people per day until August 31 while Kabul airport is still under Western control.

“Some people won’t get back," he said. “It’s sad, the West has done what it’s done, and we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations.” He added that only Afghans who make it to Kabul have a chance to be flown out.

A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was unclear how long the evacuation of Kabul will be able to continue. In a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party presidium meeting on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly spoke of “bitter hours,” saying the government identified some 2,500 local forces in Afghanistan, in addition to about 2,000 human rights activists and lawyers plus their families — a total of about 10,000 Afghans — who needed to be flown out, months ago.

In cooperation with the United States, Germany is now evacuating people. “We could not perform such a mission without the help of the US,” Merkel said. For women and the many Afghans “who chose progress and freedom,” she said, what is happening now are “bitter events.” The chancellor made it clear the German armed forces were dependent on the US concerning the rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The plan is to continue evacuations for as long as possible, with special forces and paratroopers doing a dangerous job in Kabul, according to Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Soldiers from previous Afghanistan missions were “shocked at what is happening,” she said.

Speaking of the West’s decades-long mission in Afghanistan, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert echoed Merkel’s words Monday, calling recent developments “bitter.” According to media reports, the Foreign Ministry paid no attention to situation reports from the embassy in Kabul urging speedy departures. CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet labeled developments in Afghanistan, “the biggest fiasco since the founding of NATO.”

Emergency meeting in Paris

Many European countries, including Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Italy, have flown out their diplomatic staff and some relief workers. The French National Defense Council held an emergency meeting earlier Monday; President Emmanuel Macron plans to deliver a televised address in the evening. Human rights activists, journalists and artists with ties to France are to be flown out, along with embassy staff and Afghan personnel, in an airlift to Abu Dhabi.

The French government is not alone in fearing a new refugee crisis if millions of Afghans were to make their way to Europe. Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi has already declared that his country will not be a “gateway for a new refugee wave.”

This article has been translated from German