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Taiwan's opposition-led Parliament amends law to expand power

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Taipei, May 28 (IANS/DPA) Taiwan’s Parliament, dominated by the China-friendly opposition, on Tuesday amended a controversial law to expand the lawmakers’ investigative powers, which opponents have slammed as an erosion of democracy.

Outside the Parliament building, more than 30,000 protesters showed their outrage by giving the move a thumbs-down.

“This is a law that is most difficult to operate and enforce because it had never been fully discussed,” Puma Shen, a lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), said at the legislative session after the passage of the amendment, adding that the legislative procedure lacks transparency.

Protesters said the amendment’s passage would hinder the normal functioning of the government under new President Lai Ching-te of the independence-leaning DPP, who took office last week, and create chilling effects on Taiwan’s democracy.

In Taiwan, the directly-elected President appoints the premier to head the Executive Yuan, which formulates policy.

The Legislative Yuan then reviews policies and enacts laws.

The DPP lost its majority in the Legislative Yuan in January’s elections.

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The opposition lawmakers have moved to increase their powers over the work of the president and the executive. Now the president should deliver the state-of-the-nation report during the legislature’s annual assembly and he must appear himself in person, according to state-run Central News Agency.

The new rules also stipulate that counter-questions are not allowed when being questioned by lawmakers, and the person being questioned may not refuse to reply or else they will be considered in contempt.

Violators can be fined up to NT$200,000 ($6,215).

In addition, lawmakers have expanded the number of people they can call in to question to include government agencies, military units, legal representatives, groups or other relevant people.

Those who refuse to appear can be fined up to NT$100,000 by resolution of the legislature.

Tuesday’s demonstration was the fourth since mid-May.

The protesters have expressed concerns about what they see as a dysfunctional legislature and the violation of procedures by China-friendly opposition parties, including the Chinese Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP).

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KMT chairman Eric Chu said on Facebook on Tuesday that this reform is not only in line with public opinion after the 2024 presidential election, but is also a milestone in Taiwan’s third wave of democratic reforms.

Chu called on President Lai to abide by the constitutional system, respect the Legislative Yuan, and comply with the expectations of the majority.

KMT legislative caucus whip Fu Kun-chi said on Tuesday that, with the amendment, opposition lawmakers will soon launch investigations into certain corruption cases as soon as possible.

“We will bring sunlight into Taiwan,” Fu told reporters.

But DPP legislator Kuo Kuo-wen said, “The Parliament will become a platform for secret leakage because Beijing can gain key information through China-friendly lawmakers.”

“We, as people from the civil society, will urge the Executive Yuan to ask the legislature to reconsider the amendment,” Taiwan Economic Democracy Union convener Lai Chung-chiang told the crowd outside Parliament, saying that the government is entitled to do so in accordance with the constitution.

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“Why are the adults in power unable to practise the rules and spirit of democracy?” Chiu She-ching, a high-school student said on the stage to the crowd.

“I cannot tolerate irresponsible lawmakers skipping the procedure to review the bill clause by clause. I’m so worried about the gradual erosion of democracy and freedom,” a woman surnamed Lai, 39, with her two-year-old girl sleeping in a baby cart, told dpa at the protest.

On stage, Wu Rwei-ren, a researcher at the prestigious Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History, told protesters that foreign observers had pointed out that Taiwan’s opposition-controlled Parliament was seeking to rebalance power.

“The third reading passed today in Taiwan will ultimately benefit the Beijing regime,” Wu said, citing a new article in the current affairs magazine — The Diplomat.

–IANS/DPA

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Oil tank in Russia catches fire in drone attack

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Moscow, June 21 (IANS) An oil tank at an oil facility in Russia’s Tambov region caught fire following a presumed drone attack, said Tambov Region Governor Maksim Yegorov.

Yegorov added on Thursday that a blast was heard at an oil depot in the Rasskazovsky district of the Tambov region, and an oil tank caught fire following the attack, Xinhua news agency reported.

No casualties have been reported as a result of the incident, and the remains of another drone were discovered in the Pervomaysky district of the same region, he said.

–IANS

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Energy facilities in 4 Ukrainian regions damaged in drone, missile attacks

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Kiev, June 21 (IANS) Energy facilities in four Ukrainian regions were damaged during overnight drone and missile attacks by Russia, Ukraine’s state-run energy company Ukrenergo said.

The air strikes have harmed equipment at energy infrastructure in eastern, central and northern Ukraine, the Ukrenergo added on Thursday as quoted by Xinhua news agency report.

In the northern Kiev region, power transmission lines and equipment at an enterprise were damaged by the debris of intercepted drones, said the Kiev Regional Military Administration.

The attacks also hit the electric power grid in the central Dnipropetrovsk region, said regional governor Sergii Lysak.

At least seven energy infrastructure employees were injured in the air strikes and hospitalised, said the country’s Energy Ministry.

Russian forces fired 27 Shahed combat drones, four cruise missiles from Tu-95MC bombers, three ballistic missiles Iskander-M and two guided aviation missiles at Ukraine during the attack, said the Ukrainian Air Force.

All 27 drones and five missiles were shot down by the air defence.

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The Ukrenergo said it would expand power limitation restrictions in the wake of the attacks.

The power cuts, however, will not apply to critical infrastructure facilities.

Since March 22, Russia carried out seven major missile and drone attacks on Ukraine’s power generation and transmission infrastructure.

–IANS

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Will continue to work with India under Modi 3.0: US

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Washington, June 21 (IANS) The US reiterated on Thursday that it continues to consider India a “close partner” and looks forward to continuing to work with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in its third term

This reassertion came at the US State Department’s briefing in response to a question.

“India continues to be a close partner of the United States, not just at the government level but at the people the people level we do share close economic ties, close cultural ties, they continue to be a partner that we work with on our Indo Pacific strategy, and we will look forward to continue to do that with the government with Prime Minister Modi’s government,” spokesperson Mathew Miller said.

Prime Minister Modi and President Joe Biden spoke shortly after the election and met briefly on the sidelines of the recent G7 meetings in Italy.

In response to another question about the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan, Miller said: “We value our important relationships with both India and Pakistan. As we have said we support direct discussions between India and Pakistan. But the pace, scope and character should be determined by those two countries, not by us.”

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–IANS

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Russia could mirror Western actions, arm North Korea: Putin

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Hanoi, June 20 (IANS) In a clear warning to the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday indicated his nation could supply long-range precision weapons to North Kora and other countries, on the same pattern that the US and other countries are arming Ukraine.

”We do not rule out supplying weapons to other countries, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Let the West think where they might end up,” the Russian President, who is in Vietnam on the second leg of his Asian tour after visiting North Korea, told media persons after meetings with the Vietnamese leadership, RT reported.

He was responding to this previous statement on sending missiles to adversaries of the West, in response to the US and its allies allowing Ukraine to use their supplied weapons to strike deep inside Russia.

Noting that the Western countries that have supplied long-range and other weapons to Ukraine have said they can’t be held responsible for how Kiev uses them, and insist that it does not make them parties to the conflict, Putin said that Russia, therefore, reserves the same right for itself.

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He also said that Moscow is considering modifications to its doctrine on the use of atomic weapons, as the West appears to be working on low-yield weapons to lower the nuclear threshold.

Asked about the peace terms he offered Ukraine last week, Putin said that Russia has always been willing to negotiate, while Kiev and its Western backers sabotaged both the Minsk process and the Istanbul talks. The Russian President, who had cited conditions for peace talks, including Ukraine removing its troops from Donbass and two other regions, and assuring it would not join NATO, underlined that the terms he outlined will not be valid forever.

“Our terms will change depending on the situation on the ground,” he said.

Putin arrived in Hanoi on Wednesday evening from Pyongyang, where he signed a strategic partnership treaty with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. His trip to Vietnam is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties with Hanoi, including trade and nuclear energy cooperation.

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–IANS

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In rare move, US diverts missiles ordered by other countries to Ukraine

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Yashwant Raj Washington, June 20 (IANS) The US on Thursday announced, that in an “extraordinary” step, it was reprioritising “hundreds” of air defence missiles ordered by other countries and sending them instead to Ukraine for its defence from Russia.

These interceptor missiles are meant for American-supplied Patriot and NASAMS air defence systems.

The White House said missiles ordered by other countries will be delivered but will be delayed by at least 16 months. It refused to disclose the number of countries whose orders will be affected but said Taiwan was not among them.

Announcing the extraordinary measure, John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said that the broader message for Russia was that “if you think you’re going to be able to outlast Ukraine, and if you think you’re gonna be able to outlast those of us who are supporting Ukraine, you’re just flat out wrong. And we’re going to make sure that we give you print the critical air defence capabilities they need now and into the future”.

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Asked about the number of these reprioritized missiles, he said they were “in the realm of the hundreds”.

Kirby went on to say the countries whose orders would be delayed had been informed and that they understood why the US was doing it.

“We have of course informed all the affected countries that we are taking this extraordinary step and we’re making every effort to minimize any negative impact to countries with affected foreign military sales cases. If any of our other partners were ever in a situation similar to Ukraine’s we would go to extraordinary lengths to support their security as well.”

These missiles will begin reaching Ukraine before the end of summer and the supplies will continue over the next 16 months, shoring up the country to defend its cities and populations from Russian missiles.

US President Joe Biden has committed his administration to defend Ukraine for as long as it takes and has sent billions of dollars worth of defence equipment by itself and with allies in Europe and Asia.

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–IANS

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