US military ties with China have been slow to recover from the forced landing of a US Navy spy plane on a Chinese island more than two years ago. But the prospect of closer military relations and Washington's push to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear program are among the chief reasons for a trip to Asia by the top US general. \nAir Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left Saturday for a tour that will take him to Japan, Mongolia, China and Australia. \nMyers' predecessor, Army General John Shalikashvili, visited China in May 1997. No other Joint Chiefs chairman has gone to China since the early 1980s. \nChina is wary of US intentions in Asia and the Pacific, most notably regarding Taiwan. \n"Myers' trip comes at a good time in US-China relations," but also at a time of substantial risk of a confrontation over Taiwan's ambitions for independence, said Ashton Carter, who was assistant secretary of defense for international security policy during former president Bill Clinton's administration. \nTaiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has declared that an immediate security threat from China exists. He has announced that the island will hold a referendum on March 20 -- the day Chen seeks re-election -- on whether China should stop pointing hundreds of missiles at Taiwan. \nFor China, even referendums on mundane issues threaten to lead Taiwan to an independence vote, which Beijing has threatened to stop by force. To the chagrin of conservatives in Congress, the administration has criticized the referendum plans. \nUS President George W. Bush's Pentagon has been highly skeptical of the value of military cooperation with China. \nRelations sank to new lows in April 2001, when Chinese fighter pilot Wang Wei flew his jet too close to the US reconnaissance EP-3E that it had been shadowing over international waters off China's Hainan island. \nThe two planes collided. Wang's plunged into the South China Sea and he became a national hero. The Navy plane had to make an unauthorized emergency landing on Hainan. The Chinese military kept the 24-member crew in custody for 11 days. \nAt that point, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ended military contacts with China. Relations have improved only gradually since. \nUnlike his two most immediate predecessors at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld has not visited China. He did meet his counterpart, Geneal Cao Gangchuan, in Washington in October. \nBefore Myers, the highest-ranking US military officer to visit China under Bush has been Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of US Pacific Command. In a speech at Shanghai's Fudan University in December 2002, Fargo said it was important to promote "a genuine exchange of thought" and consistency in the relationship. \nThe state of US-China military relations has been anything but consistent in recent decades. \nTies were severed after China's army-led crackdown in 1989 on student protests at Tiananmen Square. \nA 1994 visit to Beijing by then-defense secretary William Perry was meant to put relations back on track, but that effort was short-lived. \nIn 1996 China lobbed missiles near Taiwan during the island's first direct presidential election. In response, Clinton sent two aircraft carrier groups to the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait. It was the largest US naval movement in the Asia-Pacific region since the Vietnam War. \nHigh-level Chinese military visits to Washington were canceled after that. Relations improved until satellite-guided bombs from an Air Force B-2 bomber hit the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, during the US air war over Kosovo in May 1999. China broke off military contacts with the US after that. \nCarter, co-director with Perry of the Harvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project, said in an interview Friday that most of China's leaders believe US-China relations have never been better.
‘TRAVEL FREELY’: Visitors from 10 countries deemed low-risk would be allowed into Thailand, while others must still undergo a week of quarantine at a hotel Thailand plans to fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from Nov. 1, the country’s leader said on Monday, citing the urgent need to save the kingdom’s ailing economy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand attracted nearly 40 million visitors a year drawn to its picturesque beaches and robust nightlife, with tourism making up almost 20 percent of its national income. However, pandemic-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the country would be reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from
Vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, even against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, a vast study in France has shown. The research published yesterday — focusing on prevention of severe COVID-19 and death, not infection — looked at 22 million people over 50 and found those who had received jabs were 90 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die. The results confirm observations from the US, the UK and Israel, but researchers say it is the largest study of its kind so far. Looking at data collected starting in December last year, when France launched its vaccination campaign,
Australia’s highest court yesterday dismissed an intellectual freedom claim by a university physicist who was fired in part over his public statements that scientists exaggerated damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Five High Court judges unanimously dismissed physicist Peter Ridd’s claim that he had been unlawfully dismissed in 2018 by James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland. The court ruled that a clause in his employment contract that protected his intellectual freedom was not a “general freedom of speech” clause and did not protect him from being fired for serious misconduct under the university’s code of conduct. Australian Minister for Education Alan Tudge said
HUMAN RIGHTS FIRST: The US and the EU have said they are ready to back humanitarian initiatives in Afghanistan, but are wary of providing direct support to the Taliban Afghanistan’s new Taliban government has warned US and European envoys that continued attempts to pressure it through sanctions would undermine security and could trigger a wave of economic refugees. Acting Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi told Western diplomats at talks in Doha that “weakening the Afghan government is not in the interest of anyone because its negative effects will directly affect the world in [the] security sector and economic migration from the country,” a statement published late on Tuesday showed. The Taliban overthrew Afghanistan’s former US-backed government in August after a two-decade-long conflict, and have declared an Islamic emirate