JAPAN, France, and the United States are reportedly set to hold joint military drills for the first time in May next year, as part of attempts to contain what is claimed as China’s growing influence in the Asia Pacific region.
Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on Sunday that the exercises – conducted on land and sea on one of Japan’s uninhabited outlying islands – would focus on providing relief efforts during a natural disaster, but some parts could also form the basis for a defence against attack.
The paper said the joint drills aim to counter China, which claims Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
The Diaoyu Islands, which are known as the Senkaku in Japan, are at the centre of a festering row between Tokyo and Beijing.
China maintains that it has indisputable sovereignty over the islands, but the Japanese government regards them as part of its territory.
China says it has the right to conduct law enforcement activities in the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan disputes.
France pointed to its military cooperation with Japan and said the war games were meant to send a ‘message’ to Beijing.
‘We want to demonstrate our presence to the region and send a message about Japan-France cooperation,’ Admiral Pierre Vandier, chief of staff of the French navy, told Sankei in a separate interview.
‘This is a message aimed at China. This is a message about multi-lateral partnerships and the freedom of passage.’
The drills come as the US attempts to create a formalised military alliance and a united front against China, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging Japan, India, and Australia in October to team up with Washington to create such an alliance.
The United States routinely sends warships and warplanes to waters that regional countries dispute with China, claiming the deployments are meant to protect its right to ‘freedom of navigation.’
The United States’ relations with China have grown increasingly tense under the US President Donald Trump administration. Washington has clashed with Beijing over trade, the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the coronavirus pandemic.
- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has met with foreign delegations who arrived in the country earlier to monitor the parliamentary elections.
Maduro and his allies are poised to win back control of the National Assembly in elections on Sunday. The president has vowed ‘to step down if opposition wins parliamentary polls.’ The US-led opposition, led by Juan Guaido, has boycotted the polls.
The Venezuelan leader met observer delegations from Russia, Iran and Turkey on Saturday. He also met with Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales, who heads the Bolivian observer team.
Maduro, on Twitter, thanked the foreign delegations who had come to the country to monitor the election process. ‘I am very grateful for the trouble you have gone to in order to monitor the crucial elections,’ he was quoted as saying.
Following Maduro’s re-election in 2018, Guaidó was recognised as ‘interim president’ by the National Assembly, the United States and more than 50 other nations allied with Washington in January 2019. The opposition leader later staged an abortive coup with support from the US.
Maduro has repeatedly noted that the US, with the opposition’s help, has been trying to oust him from power through economic sanctions and other means.
Maduro said in his tweet that the Venezuelan nation will show their resistance against the harsh sanctions by their huge participation in the Sunday vote.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says he will step down from his post if his party loses to the opposition in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On Saturday, the White House National Security Council claimed the election was fraudulent.
‘This election only serves to keep Maduro in power and does nothing to build a better future for the people of Venezuela,’ the council tweeted. ‘The US will continue its unwavering demands for freedom, basic human rights, the rule of law, and truly fair elections in Venezuela.’
As a result of foreign sanctions, Venezuelans are living in dire conditions, struggling with basic needs such as electricity, security and food.
Guaido’s self-declared mandate is due to expire on January 5 when the new assembly is due to take power. His recognition as ‘interim president’ was based on his position as head of the National Assembly.
However, Guaido and his loyalists have dismissed the Sunday vote as illegitimate and argue that whoever succeeds him will also lack legitimacy.
Guaido’s decision to boycott the election, however, has raised questions about his strategies and left the opposition divided. Despite the boycott, a number of opposition parties are standing.
The opposition leader has called on Venezuelans to skip the vote and participate in a December 12 consultation that will ask citizens whether they want a change of government
- Hezbollah says it successfully flew a drone into the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories during large-scale Israeli military manoeuvres, retrieving the aircraft safely without it even being detected.
The Lebanese resistance movement announced the information last Friday, offering footage recorded by the aerial vehicle of two Israeli outposts as proof, Lebanon’s al-Manar television network reported.
Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post said the drone had been ‘sent to spy’ inside the occupied territories.
The unmanned aircraft peeked into the ‘Lethal Arrow’ drills on the second day of the wargames in October, which were simulating warfare on the resistance group among other scenarios.
The Times of Israel identified the bases captured in the drone footage as ‘the Biranit camp near the (occupied territories’) border (with Lebanon) and a military outpost in the Har Dov area.’ Har Dova is Israel’s designation for Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms that Tel Aviv has been occupying since 1967.
The occupying regime has been put on an unprecedented level of alert since April, when it assassinated a Hezbollah member in Syria, prompting the movement to vow revenge.
Israeli media say the occupied territories are overwhelmed by ‘fear and alertness’ about the possibility of a retaliatory attack by Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement after the popular organisation announced the martyrdom of one of its members in an Israeli aggression on the Syrian soil.
Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee also confirmed the incident in a tweet, saying likewise that ‘the Israeli Northern Command remains in a state of great readiness and will not allow a breach’ targeting the occupying regime. Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Benny Gantz, meanwhile, alleged that the Lebanese people would be the ones paying ‘the price of any aggression from Hezbollah.’
Israel launched two wars against Lebanon in the 2000s to supposedly deliver crushing blows to the movement, which conversely fought off the occupation army and forced it into a retreat.
The Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian resistance movement based in Israel-blockaded Gaza Strip, hailed the drone operation by Hezbollah as a ‘great strategic achievement’ for the regional resistance front.
Islamic Jihad Spokesman Davoud Shihab said the triumph indicated that the Lebanon-based Islamic resistance fighters were enhancing their military capabilities and equipment in various ways.
In August, Hezbollah reported that it had downed an invading Israeli drone near the town of Aita al-Shaab on Lebanon’s border.
Shihab said Palestinian resistance movements were prepared to confront any invasion by the Israeli military.
He said, according to his group’s assessments, the regime was after committing one such invasion in the run-up to US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration in order to ‘complicate’ matters for the incoming administration in Washington.