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Biden says US forces would defend Taiwan from Chinese invasion | Conflict News

US president’s remarks latest sign of a shift away from policy of strategic ambiguity toward self-ruled island.

United States President Joe Biden has said US forces would defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion, the strongest indication yet of a shift away from Washington’s decades-long policy of strategic ambiguity toward the island democracy.

Asked in a television interview whether the US military would defend the self-governed island if China invaded, Biden said it would if there “was an unprecedented attack.”

Asked to clarify further, Biden confirmed that US personnel would come to the defence of Taiwan, unlike in Ukraine, which Washington has given material support and military equipment to repel Russia without committing American troops.

Biden’s comments are his latest to cast doubt on long-standing US policy toward Taiwan enshrined in 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which commits Washington to help Taipei defend itself but stops short of promising to provide troops or directly participate in any conflict.

During a trip to Japan in May, Biden appeared to confirm that he would use force to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China, describing the defence of the island as a “commitment we made”.

While many observers have taken Biden’s comments as signalling the end of strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan, White House officials have repeatedly insisted that US policy toward the island remains unchanged.

A White House spokesperson said that US policy had not changed despite Biden’s latest remarks.

“The president has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year,” the spokesperson said. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true.”

In his interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes, Biden reiterated that Washington does not support Taiwanese independence and is committed to the “One-China” policy, under which the US officially recognises Beijing but not Taipei.

Despite not officially recognising Taipei, Washington ranks among Taiwan’s strongest international backers, and earlier this month agreed to sell $1.1bn in weaponry to the island.

China claims Taiwan as a province that must be “reunified” with the mainland, by force if necessary, and has accused the US of disrupting regional stability and encouraging Taiwanese separatism.

After Biden’s comments in May, China’s foreign ministry warned that “no one should underestimate the firm resolve, staunch will and strong ability of the Chinese people in defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, said Biden’s stance on defending Taiwan was “crystal clear.”

“As long as he is president, US policy is to defend Taiwan. This is the right policy as it contributes to the deterrence of China and helps to guide US military planning,” Kroenig told Al Jazeera.

“I do think America has the stomach for that fight. Hitler and imperial Japan bet that America didn’t have the stomach for a fight in the run up to WWII. How did that turn out for them? Washington has a huge strategic interest in maintaining peace and stability, and a free and open order, in the Indo-Pacific.”

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US top diplomat begins Latin America tour with visit to Colombia | Politics News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has begun a week-long tour of Latin America, with the top United States diplomat making a first stop in Colombia to meet the country’s newly sworn-in, left-wing president.

During his trip to Colombia, Chile and Peru this week, Blinken also will attend a ministerial summit and hold talks on regional challenges including migration, drug trafficking, post-pandemic recovery, climate change and the crisis in Venezuela.

“Heading to Colombia to build on our vital, strong partnership,” the US secretary of state wrote on Twitter on Monday.

“The vibrant ties between our people touch on virtually every aspect of our lives—our economies, security, respect for human and labor rights, and efforts to build a more democratic and equitable hemisphere.”

Reporting from the Colombian capital Bogota, Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti said “it is telling” that Blinken’s first stop will be in Colombia, which elected its first left-wing President Gustavo Petro earlier this year.

“The US wants to maintain a good relationship with this country. Remember that Colombia and the US have had a strategic partnership on a number of issues – obviously, the most important one being security and the ‘war on drugs‘ – for decades now,” Rampietti said, adding that the relationship remains positive.

But the Colombian leader has clearly stated that “the ‘war on drugs’ has been a failure that has had major, dramatic consequences for Latin America” and he is hoping that Washington will redistribute some of the funds used in that fight towards local development, Rampietti added.

“This obviously clashes with the classic vision that American governments have had.”

Colombia is a top cocaine producer and has historically faced pressure from the US to eradicate drug crops. Since taking office just weeks ago, Petro also has moved to re-establish diplomatic ties to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“There is a high level of concern within the US government regarding the current president’s embrace of the new left in Latin America and the tacit rejection of defence cooperation with the United States,” a defence official at the US Embassy in Colombia told Al Jazeera last week, just days after a key border crossing along the Colombia-Venezuela border reopened.

The reopening was welcomed by communities on both sides of the frontier, which in recent months has seen deadly clashes between armed groups, as well as crossings by Venezuelan migrants and refugees fleeing violence and dire socioeconomic conditions in their country.

US officials have acknowledged privately the need to show the US’s southern neighbours that they remain a policy priority despite the focus on big geopolitical issues, such as the Russian war in Ukraine and tensions over Taiwan.

Blinken will aim to solidify US partnerships in the face of China, which has been expanding its economic footprint across the resource-rich region.

“[The trip] reflects the interest of the United States to pay more attention to Latin America, and specifically South America in this case, in terms of the deepening relationship there is with China,” said Guillermo Holzmann, a Chilean academic and political analyst.

Washington also has been pushing its allies across South and Central America to stem irregular migration amid an increase in arrivals at the US-Mexico border.

This week, Blinken’s second stop will be in Chile, where voters earlier this year elected the country’s youngest-ever president, former student activist Gabriel Boric.

Boric, who campaigned on an ambitious social justice platform, has seen his approval ratings drop, and last month he reshuffled his cabinet after a new constitution he championed failed to pass in a nationwide referendum.

On Thursday, Blinken will travel to Peru’s capital Lima to attend a ministerial meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, where Washington will push to pass a new resolution against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He will also meet with left-wing President Pedro Castillo, who continues to fight for his political survival amid a string of impeachment attempts and government shake-ups.

The pair will discuss “increasing regional security, strengthening democratic governance, protecting the environment, and promoting inclusive economic development”, the US State Department said in a statement.



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What is the Japanese prime minister’s military strategy? | Military News

From: Inside Story

Fumio Kishida wants to boost the country’s military capabilities over the next five years.

Japan is scrambling to boost its military strength to counter what Tokyo sees as rising threats from China.

In his national address on Monday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasised his goal to bolster the military over the next five years.

But with the weak yen, he is struggling to find the finances to do it.

What is his intention? And will his strategy work?

Presenter: Adrian Finighan

Guests

Seijiro Takeshita – Professor at the University of Shizuoka

Craig Mark – Professor at the faculty of international studies at Kyoritsu Women’s University

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Who were the Denisovans? | News

By comparing DNA sequences, Nobel Prize winner Svante Paabo and his team found a ‘gene flow’ between both Denisovans and Neanderthals, and between Denisovans and modern humans.

Little is known of the mysterious Denisovans. These distant relatives of the Neanderthals roamed eastern and southern Eurasia, but left little trace of their time on Earth.

“Hominin Denisova” was discovered by Swedish paleogeneticist Svante Paabo, the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine.

In 2012, Paabo and his team sequenced the DNA of a well-preserved fragment of bone that was 40,000 years old and found four years earlier in the Denisova Cave in southern Siberia.

The result was astounding: They had come across an entirely novel hominin, distinct from Neanderthals and even more from modern humans.

The Denisovans shared a common ancestor with the Neanderthals until their populations diverged 380,000 to 470,000 years ago.

This was much later than the split between modern humans and Neanderthals/Denisovans, which occurred between 550,000 and 760,000 years ago.

In the same cave, paleontologists later discovered the fossil of a girl who was part Neanderthal and part Denisovan, proving that these two species interbred.

We know the Neanderthals disappeared about 40,000 years ago, but we have little idea when our other closest evolutionary relative went extinct.

Little is known about what the Denisovans looked like because they left few fossilised traces of their time on Earth other than the fragments found in Siberia and a jawbone discovered on the Tibetan Plateau in 2019. In 2019, researchers in Israel said they had reconstructed a prehistoric Denisovan skeleton – claiming 85 percent accuracy – using DNA found in the pinky bone of a 13-year-old girl who died tens of thousands of years ago.

The work of Paabo and his team at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany has nonetheless shed some light on our mysterious ancestor.

By comparing DNA sequences, they found a “gene flow” between both Denisovans and Neanderthals, and between Denisovans and modern humans.

In other words, before they went extinct, Denisovans also interbred with our species.

Up to six percent of Denisovan DNA is still found in present-day humans in the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia, such as the Indigenous people of Australia, Melanesia and the Philippines. This suggests our far-distant relative roamed over a vast swathe of eastern and southern Eurasia.

Neanderthals, by contrast, lived in western Eurasia.

Scientists believe the ancient ancestors of today’s Melanesians interbred with Denisovans from Southeast Asia, far from the frozen mountains of Siberia and Tibet.

Proof that the Denisovans had spread as far as the tropics of Asia was lacking until a missing link – a child’s tooth at least 130,000 years old – was discovered in a cave in Laos in 2018.

One of the biggest remaining mysteries is why modern humans were so successful in their expansion and why the Denisovans and Neanderthals went extinct after having adapted to a Eurasian environment for several hundred thousand years.

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