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China launches military exercises around Taiwan after Tsai’s U.S. visit



China’s military said on Saturday it launched three days of military exercises around Taiwan, after the leader of the self-ruled island infuriated Beijing by visiting the United States.

The exercises are being held “according to plan” to the north, south and east of Taiwan, a statement by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) said, providing no further details.

Taiwan said the military would “defend our country” and that assets had been redeployed.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen met Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy for talks in California on Wednesday.

The meeting between Tsai and the senior Republican lawmaker was the first of its kind on U.S. soil.

She returned to Taiwan on Friday night.

Beijing denounced the visit and promised to retaliate.

On Friday, the Chinese government announced sanctions against U.S. organisations which hosted the Taiwanese leader during her trip.

Tsai stopped in the U.S. on her return from Central America, where she met the leaders of Guatemala and Belize.

The White House insists her time in the U.S. was not an official visit.

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of China and rejects any official contact between other countries and Taipei.

China has previously raised the prospect of taking the island by force if necessary, with the U.S. threatening to take action if that happens. Taiwan is a self-governing democracy and has long seen itself as independent.

A visit to Taiwan in August by McCarthy’s predecessor, the veteran Democrat Nancy Pelosi, prompted China to stage its biggest live-fire drills in the waters around Taiwan in years.

Following Beijing’s announcement of the new drills, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence said the country’s armed forces “monitored the situation and responded accordingly with our assets to defend our country.”

In an update from 11 am (GMT 0400), the ministry said that 42 PLA warplanes and eight vessels were detected around Taiwan in the last five hours.

“29 of the detected aircraft had crossed northern, central, and southern median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered our southwest ADIZ (air defence identification zone), attempting coercion on us,” the ministry said on Twitter.

Taiwan views the median line as a political boundary marking its area of control and China has generally respected it in the past.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which handles dealings with Beijing, on Saturday condemned China’s attempts at military intimidation, saying such moves undermine regional peace and stability.

“Taiwan will not submit and will not act in haste to provoke,” it said in a statement.

During a lunch banquet with a visiting U.S. congressional delegation in Tapei on Saturday, Taiwan’s President Tsai stressed that cooperation among democracies has become even more important because “in recent years, we have faced continued authoritarian expansionism.”

“We will continue to work with the United States and other like-minded countries to jointly defend the values of freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, who led the delegation, said that it was important that all democracies stand together against tyranny and oppression, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as Chinese aggression against Taiwan and in the Pacific.

“We are doing everything we can in Congress to speed up these sales and get the weapons that you need to defend yourself,” McCaul told Tsai.

“And we will provide training to your military, not for war, but for peace,” he added.

The cross-party U.S. delegation’s three-day visit to Taiwan, scheduled to end on Saturday, is part of a longer trip to the Indo-Pacific region.

Before meeting with Tsai, the group had met with other national leaders in Japan and South Korea, McCaul said.

Later on Saturday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence released a video showing that it was closely monitoring the situation, adding that Taipei seeks neither escalation nor conflict.

“We remain steadfast, rational, and serious to react and defend our territory and sovereignty,” the ministry said in the clip, which included footage of Taiwanese military exercises.

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King Charlse to give up lease on Welsh country estate



King Charles is giving up the lease on his Welsh estate.

Llwynywermod estate, near Llandovery in Carmarthenshire, was purchased for the then-Prince Charles by The Duchy of Cornwall, external in 2007 for £1.2m

The three-bedroom property, a former coach house, is set in the grounds of a ruined mansion and overlooks an 18th Century country park including 40 acres of woodland.

Buckingham Palace confirmed the King had given notice to the Duchy earlier this year that he planned to give up the lease when it ends this summer.

Llwynywermod has served as the home of the King and Queen Camilla during visits to Wales, including while on annual summer tours of the nation.
Following renovations in 2008, old agricultural buildings centred on a courtyard were converted into self-catering units.

According to the Telegraph, external, the King has been paying rent on Llwynywermod since the Duchy of Cornwall was passed to Prince William after his father’s coronation.

Quoting royal sources, the newspaper said the King remained “passionate” about Wales but had decided to give up the property because it was “unlikely” he would be able to use it in the same way as when he was Prince of Wales.

Prior to taking the throne, the King was regularly seen walking in the area, with he and the Queen described as “active patrons” in the village.

The original owner of Llwynywermod estate, in the 13th or 14th Century, was William Williams who was related to Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII and the mother of Elizabeth I.

The old house and its disintegrating concrete and corrugated iron farm buildings were restored by Welsh craftsmen using traditional methods and materials from the area

The then-Prince Charles planted climbers including Albertine roses, jasmine and honeysuckle up the walls.

Six of the English field maples which formed the avenue of trees at William and Kate’s 2011 wedding were later rehomed at the Welsh retreat.

The idea was the King’s and, with William and Kate’s approval, he set them in the soil at the front of the house, along a rustic wooden fence.

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All there is about Prince Harry’s hacking claims, royal court case



Prince Harry has been on this collision course for years – and finally he is going to be in a courtroom in person, eyeball to eyeball, in his battle against the tabloid press.

It promises to be an electrifying moment as he gives his evidence and faces questions this coming week from lawyers in London’s High Court about his allegations of phone hacking.

Prince Harry has said that changing the media landscape is his “life’s work” – and this gladiatorial courtroom encounter could be one of his own defining moments.

He has two of the key requirements for this legal battle: First, a single-minded determination to keep going without settling, and second, being rich enough to take the financial hit if he loses.

But giving evidence in person in this Mirror Group Newspapers hacking trial will have big risks for him. He will face the type of open, public and tough questioning that is a long way from any previous royal interview he has taken part in.

“This isn’t like taking questions from Oprah Winfrey in a celebrity interview,” says Tim Maltin, managing partner of Maltin PR, which specialises in high-profile reputation management.

“It is a hostile encounter with a highly-skilled cross-examiner armed with a battery of techniques to undermine your credibility.

“Giving evidence is daunting… and cross-examination is far more often traumatic than cathartic,” he says.

Prince Harry is likely to face detailed questioning about highly personal news stories which he claims were obtained through unlawful means – an allegation which the newspaper group disputes.

He could face gruelling questioning about stories relating to his relationships, his girlfriends, his mother Diana, the treatment of Meghan and his life growing up in the Royal Family.

There have already been challenges to the allegations of Prince Harry and his co-complainants. Lawyers for Mirror Group have said the evidence of hacking is “slim” in some cases and “utterly non-existent” in others.

Prince Harry’s own memoir, Spare, might be turned against him, with its accounts of drug taking and family tensions.

Historian and author Sir Anthony Seldon thinks Prince Harry is ill-advised to be appearing in court like this.

“Harry should never be there,” he says, arguing that the Royal Family should rise above such fights.

“Harry’s standing and trajectory will only be harmed, whatever the outcome. The public is losing sympathy with him and his constant protestations of victimhood,” says Sir Anthony.

“Harry and Meghan’s continuing hard luck stories only make William and Kate look much better in every way,” he adds.

But royal commentator Pauline Maclaran thinks taking a stand like this could boost Prince Harry’s popularity, particularly among young people.

Rather than being accused of being privileged or entitled, she says in this court case “he’ll be seen as the underdog, and that’s a good position to be seen in”.

“Many young people will see him as quite a heroic figure, fighting the establishment,” says Prof Maclaran, an academic at Royal Holloway, University of London.

“It could be good for Harry in the long run, even though the older generation will be tut-tutting,” she says.

As for the rest of the Royal Family, they will be “watching with an element of horror”, she says.

A previous hacking case this year against News Group Newspapers already produced the bombshell claim that Prince William had reached a private settlement with the newspaper publishers.

And Prof Maclaran expects more focus on the Royal Family’s dealings with the press in a way that could prove “uncomfortable” for Harry’s royal relatives.

The Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew in 2019 only lasted an hour – but it is still providing material for news four years later. So it is not surprising if there is royal anxiety about Prince Harry facing days of giving evidence.

There is going to be intense global interest in this court case. Harry and his wife Meghan provoke strong reactions among supporters and critics, and the eyes of the world will be watching.

Royal historian Ed Owens says the public will be fascinated by this combination of “courtroom drama and royal soap opera” and the prospect of a royal “pulling back the curtain” on the relationship between the tabloid press and the monarchy.

Not only does this case aim to expose evidence of hacking, but the stakes are made even higher by the argument that senior executives must also have known what was going on.

How will Harry react when his claims are challenged and put under the microscope? Will he start getting irritated? Will it be upsetting for him to talk about the press intrusion which by his own account has dogged him since childhood? How will he handle the pressure?

It is very unusual to see a royal appearance in a witness box.

The last senior royal to give evidence in this way was in the 19th Century, when Edward VII, as Prince of Wales, appeared in two cases – one in a dispute over card cheating and the other in a divorce case, in which the prince denied any “improper familiarity”.

In 2002, Princess Anne appeared in court to plead guilty after her dogs bit two children.

But those were very brief and different types of court appearances.

Part of the mystique of the monarchy is in saying little and answering less. Prince Harry is breaking the unspoken taboo about a royal going into the witness box to face what could be very embarrassing questions – but it is something that he clearly feels is worth the risk.

His grievance with the excesses of the press is deeply personal and emotional.

This is a court confrontation that you could almost trace directly back to the death of his mother Diana, in a car crash in Paris in 1997 when she was being pursued by paparazzi.

He has repeatedly connected that moment to his battle with the tabloid press.

It is his day of reckoning. His high noon in the High Court.

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