Friday, September 15, 2023

Li Shangfu: The top US envoy raises doubts about the absence of China's defense minister

A senior US ambassador has raised concerns on the whereabouts of China's Minister of Defense, Li Shangfu, which has reignited rumors of a possible anti-corruption campaign in the country.

Since around two weeks ago, General Li has been absent from public view, and there have been reports that he skipped several meetings.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel tweeted that the "unemployment rate" in the Chinese government was quite high, which he interpreted as a possible explanation for Mr. Li's absence.

The dismissal of several high-ranking military officials occurred not long before Mr. Li went missing.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources in the United States and China, that Mr. Li is being demoted or somehow removed from his position.

In addition, it comes after several months have passed since Foreign Minister Qin Gang was last seen in public. There is still a lack of clarity regarding the circumstances surrounding Mr. Qin's unexpected departure and subsequent replacement in July.

In the case of Gen Li as well, the Chinese government has not made a lot of statements. According to reports, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded, "not aware of the situation" when she was questioned about it earlier this week.

The last time Gen Li was seen in public was in Beijing on August 29 for a security forum with African nations. This event took place three weeks ago. It is not out of the ordinary for defense ministers to disappear from public view for a period of several weeks at a time.

General Li is a rocket scientist and aerospace engineer who started his career working at a launch center for satellites and rockets. He rose quickly through the ranks of both the military and the political elite in China.

It is reported that President Xi Jinping holds a special place in his heart for him, just as he does for Mr. Qin. In addition, he is the second cabinet minister and state councillor to vanish without a trace in recent months, following in Mr. Qin's footsteps.

How the demise of a diplomat leaves China with egg on its face
The meteoric rise and unexplained fall of China's mysteriously vanished minister
When two generals in China's rocket forces, which manage land-based missiles, were replaced at the beginning of August, rumors began to circulate online about a possible military corruption purge. These rumors have continued to grow since then. The president of the military court of the army was likewise ousted from his position some months after he was appointed.

Mr. Emanuel brought up the absence of General Li in tweets that he sent out late last week and on Friday. He also made reference to the disappearance of Mr. Qin and the other military officers.

In addition to this, he brought up the fact that General Li had recently "missed" a trip to Vietnam as well as a meeting in Beijing with the head of Singapore's navy, and he suggested that General Li may have been subject to house arrest because of this.

The outspoken ambassador, who is known for his colorful tweets, linked the absence to the mystery novel "And Then There Were None" by Agatha Christie and to Hamlet by William Shakespeare. On Friday, Mr. Emanuel posted a tweet that stated, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

According to a report by Reuters that cited Vietnamese authorities, Mr. Li had abruptly dropped out of a meeting with Vietnamese defense commanders the previous week. The Vietnamese officials were told that the Chinese general had a "health condition"

Last week, Singapore's naval chief Sean Wat traveled to China and met with leaders from that country's military. The Singaporean navy has been contacted by the BBC to investigate the claim made by Mr. Emanuel.

In addition to being attributed to "health conditions," Mr. Qin's absence, which is approaching three months, has been the subject of widespread speculation that it is connected to an anti-corruption campaign as well. Since then, he has been demoted from his previous position.

Because they are subjected to stringent medical examinations on a consistent basis, it is stated that Chinese officials almost never miss important meetings due to health concerns.

There have been questions raised about Gen Li. He was sanctioned by the United States government in 2018, when he was serving as the head of the equipment development arm of the military, because of China's procurement of Russian combat aircraft and armaments.

It was speculated that Gen Li's refusal to meet his US counterpart Lloyd Austin at a defense summit in Singapore earlier this year was in response to the sanctions, which were supposed to be a sticking point for Gen Li.

According to observers, the disappearance of Gen Li demonstrates once again the opaque nature of the Chinese political leadership, while also highlighting the precarious nature of some of Mr. Xi's judgments.

"High-level disappearances and possible corruption investigations are not a good look for Xi because he approved the selection of the current leadership," says Neil Thomas, an expert on Chinese elite politics who works with the Asia Society Policy Institute.

However, he continued by saying that in the end, "Xi's leadership and overall political stability do not appear to be under threat, as none of the cadres affected are part of his inner circle."

Analyst Bill Bishop pointed out that the Chinese military has a "long history of corruption," and that President Xi, who, according to the political structure of China, also serves as the supreme head of China's military, has attempted to combat this issue, just like his predecessors did.

In spite of this, he pointed out in his most recent analysis that "it would be remarkable" that after more than a decade of Mr. Xi being in power, "there is still such high-level corruption [in the military]," and that "Xi cannot blame his predecessors for the Rocket Force officers and Li Shangfu."

He made the observation that Mr. Xi had promoted General Li, Mr. Qin, and the heads of the rocket force, and he predicted that "more purges will likely be seen as the solution."

Ian Chong, a non-resident scholar with Carnegie China, pointed out that the disappearances are taking place during a time of increased military action near Taiwan and tensions in the South China Sea. This was another point that he brought up.

near recent days, a large number of Chinese warships, including the Shandong aircraft carrier, have been observed gathering near the Taiwan Strait. This has raised concerns that another round of military exercises is about to take place.

Dr. Chong stated that some individuals "would be concerned about issues of communication, escalation, and crisis management" at this point in time due to the fact that the military and the foreign ministry are significant outward-facing aspects of the Chinese system.

These tweets by Mr. Emanuel would be considered odd for a high-level US diplomat, particularly one who is the ambassador to a significant US ally, Japan, which has a tense relationship with China.

Brad Glosserman, a senior adviser with the Pacific Forum research institute, said that the events are "perplexing," but that he is "pretty sure he has a greenlight from the White House" to be bringing out Gen Li's absence in this manner. The events themselves are "perplexing."

"It is possible that Mr. Emanuel is trying to elicit some response from China regarding the disappearance," Dr. Chong added. "It is possible that Mr. Emanuel is trying to elicit some response from China."

Monday, September 4, 2023

Sergei Surovikin'seen in first photo since Wagner mutiny' in Ukraine conflict

An online snapshot seems to show a Russian general who has been missing since the Wagner mercenary force staged a mutiny in June.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who died in a plane crash last month, was reportedly close to Sergei Surovikin.

According to rumors, Gen. Surovikin is being questioned about his suspected involvement in the rebellion.

However, a photo that purports to represent Russia's former commander in Ukraine has been shared online.

Sergei Surovikin, the general, has been relieved of his duties and has been dismissed. In good health and living in Moscow with his family. This photo was taken today," Ksenia Sobchak, a prominent figure in Russian media, captioned the image on Monday on the messaging app Telegram.

The BBC has not yet confirmed that the photograph showing a man in sunglasses and a woman with red hair who appears to be the general's wife Anna is genuine.

Separately, Russian writer Alexei Venediktov tweeted on Telegram, "General Surovikin is at home with his family. He is now on leave and available to serve in the Defense Department.

Find out who the ruthless commander Surovikin is.
Wagner's boss Prigozhin has spent a lot of his life on the edge.
On June 23 and 24, Wagner's mercenaries briefly mutinied and threatened to march on Moscow.

The tragedy that took the lives of Prigozhin and nine people on August 23 near Moscow sparked widespread panic. Many people felt the Wagner chief was "dead man walking" following the failed revolt.

During the mutiny, General Surovikin was last seen on camera pleading with the Wagner forces to stop their violence.

Days later, media reports said he had been arrested, but his whereabouts remain unknown.

The Russian general was put in charge of Ukrainian forces in October, but he was replaced three months later.

During Russian operations in Syria, he earned the nickname "General Armageddon" for his ruthlessness.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Israeli police and Eritrean asylum seekers get into a fight

Clashes between Eritrean asylum seekers and Israeli police have left dozens hurt in Tel Aviv, with some of those wounded by live fire.

Hundreds of demonstrators were met with stun grenades, tear gas, and sponge-tipped bullets.

Protests began after anti-government groups claimed they were requested by Israeli authorities to cancel a Saturday event at the Eritrean consulate.

Protesters, however, battled with government supporters as well.

This is the latest outbreak of violence in recent weeks, and it stems from tensions within Eritrea over President Isaias Afwerki's authority, which have spread to the country's diaspora.

Israeli media claimed the protesters headed in the direction of the site where the event was scheduled to take place. They were held back by police barricades at first, but eventually made it through.

Police helicopters flew overhead as Israeli cops shot live bullets into the air, according to residents of central Tel Aviv.

Demonstrators clashed with law enforcement and vandalized vehicles and local businesses.

According to a statement released by Israeli authorities, officers fired their weapons after fearing for their safety.

Eritrean officials booked the space for the occasion, but irate demonstrators burst in and overturned tables and chairs.

Videos posted online also depicted violent clashes between pro-regime and anti-regime Eritreans in the streets. Israeli police claimed they attempted to stop the fighting.

The police issued a warning on X (formerly known as Twitter) asking bystanders to keep away from the location.

Overview of Eritrea as a country
At a press conference earlier this week, police said that rival groups in Eritrea had reached an agreement to hold separate rallies on the same day.

Government supporters in Asmara were scheduled to gather nearby the embassy. Protesters planned to gather not far away at the decommissioned central bus station.

According to the police, however, the two parties did not follow through on their agreements.

As one senior police official told the Haaretz newspaper, "We were very surprised by the level of violence, scenes you only see in the West Bank."

The police say that hundreds of officers have been sent to the area.

As of midday, the Magen David Adom emergency medical service said that they had cared for 114 injured people. Thirty police officers, the most majority of whom were bruised, were among those who escaped with only minor injuries. Eight were in critical condition, while 13 others were just mildly ill.

Asylum seekers from Eritrea have been known to resort to violence against one another in the past.

There has been a turf war in south Tel Aviv between regime supporters and opponents, with one asylum seeker who was a regime supporter being fatally murdered in February of this year.

About 18,000 Eritreans are seeking asylum in Israel, most of whom entered illegally through the Sinai Peninsula several years ago. They claimed they left one of the most restrictive countries in the world due to threats of violence, persecution, and mandatory military service.

The authorities in Israel have reportedly not differentiated between asylum seekers based on political affiliations, despite the fact that it would appear that Eritreans who support the dictatorship do not require international protection as refugees.

The diaspora of Eritrea has been holding celebrations in honor of the country's 30th anniversary of independence from Ethiopia.

However, not only in Israel have protests and outbreaks of violence been a problem; just last month, a three-day Eritrean cultural event in Toronto, Canada had to be canceled because of violence between supporters and opponents of Eritrea's regime.

Friday, September 1, 2023

India is getting ready to send its first expedition to the sun with the Aditya-L1 spacecraft

Just a few days after India made history by being the first country to land on the moon near the moon's south pole, the country is getting ready to launch its very first observation mission to the Sun.

On Saturday at 11:50 India time, or 06:20 GMT, the Aditya-L1 rocket is scheduled to take off from the launch pad at Sriharikota.

It will be situated one percent of the way between the Earth and the Sun, which corresponds to a distance of 1.5 million kilometers (93 million miles).

According to the Indian space agency, the journey will take approximately four months to complete.

The Hindu god of the sun, Surya, who is also known by his other name, Aditya, was honored with the naming of India's first space-based mission, which was designed to investigate the largest object in our solar system.

And the abbreviation L1 refers to the Lagrange point 1, which is the precise location between the sun and earth where the Indian spacecraft will be positioned.

A Lagrange point is a location, as described by the European Space Agency (ESA), in which the gravitational influences of two big objects, such as the Sun and the Earth, cancel each other out, making it possible for a spacecraft to "hover" in that region.

After Aditya-L1 has arrived at this so-called "parking spot," it will be able to orbit the Sun at the same rate that Earth does. Because of this, the satellite will have a very low need for fuel in order to function.

A momentous landing was made by India close to the moon's south pole.
The lunar rover from India successfully completed its first steps on the moon.
Where has India's rover been going on the moon, and what has it been doing there?
According to the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro), once the spacecraft has lifted off, it will complete a number of orbits around the Earth before it is sent on its way to L1.

Aditya-L1 will be able to conduct research and keep a continual eye on the Sun from its perch in this strategic location, even when the Sun is obscured by other celestial bodies, such as during an eclipse.

According to sources in the Indian press, the total cost of the mission is estimated to be 3.78 billion rupees, which is equivalent to $46 million or £36 million. The Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) has not disclosed the cost of the mission.

According to Isro, the orbiter is equipped with seven scientific instruments that will watch and analyze the solar corona, which is the layer at the very top; the photosphere, which is the surface of the Sun or the part that is visible from Earth; and the chromosphere, which is a very thin layer of plasma that lies between the photosphere and the corona.

The research will provide scientists with a better understanding of solar activity, such as solar wind and solar flares, as well as their effect on the weather on Earth and in the vicinity of space in real time.

According to Mylswamy Annadurai, a former Isro scientist, the Sun constantly influences the weather on Earth through radiation, heat, the passage of particles, and magnetic fields. At the same time, it has an effect on the weather in space, according to him.

"The efficiency with which the satellites perform their functions is affected by the weather in space." Solar winds or storms have the potential to disrupt the electronic components of satellites and even cause power networks to fail. However, there are certain holes in our understanding of space weather, as Mr. Annadurai stated to the BBC.

More than 50 satellites are now in orbit over India. These satellites supply the nation with a variety of important services, such as communication linkages, data on the weather, and the ability to anticipate pest infestations, droughts, and oncoming natural disasters. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) estimates that there are roughly 10,290 satellites still in orbit around the earth, with nearly 7,800 of them being operational at any given time.

According to Mr. Annadurai, Aditya will assist us in gaining a deeper understanding of the star on which our lives depend and even provide us with a warning about it.

"Knowing the activities of the Sun, such as solar wind or a solar eruption, a couple of days ahead of time will help us move our satellites out of harm's way," said the scientist. Because of this, the amount of time that our satellites spend in space will be extended.

He goes on to say that the mission will, above all else, assist in enhancing our scientific understanding of the Sun, which is a star that is 4.5 billion years old and is responsible for keeping our solar system together.

It has only been a few days since India successfully landed the world's first-ever probe near the lunar south pole, and now the country is turning its attention to the sun.

India is now the only nation in the world to have successfully completed a soft landing on the moon, joining the United States of America, China, and the erstwhile Soviet Union as the only other countries to have done so.

The Solar Orbiter journey to the Sun has begun, and the probe will make a historic transit through the Sun's atmosphere.
If the Aditya-L1 mission is successful, India will become one of a limited handful of nations that are already conducting research on the sun.

In 1981, Japan was the first country to send a mission to the Sun in order to research solar flares. Since the 1990s, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been monitoring the Sun.

Solar Orbiter was jointly launched by NASA and the European Space Agency in February of 2020. Its mission is to conduct in-depth research on the Sun by observing it from a close range and collecting data that, according to scientists, will shed light on the factors that influence the Sun's dynamic behavior.

And in 2021, NASA's newest spacecraft, the Parker Solar Probe, made history by becoming the first spacecraft to fly through the corona, which is the name for the sun's outer atmosphere.

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