Australia’s trade minister Dan Tehan speaking earlier this year. Tehan sees energy technology as the next area of the relationship with Taiwan to be strengthened. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP
· The Australian government says it wants to help Taiwan decarbonize its economy, flagging this as the next area of cooperation with the democratically ruled island, amid ongoing tensions with China. The trade minister, Dan Tehan, said he saw “real opportunities” to deepen energy ties with Taiwan while arguing there was bipartisan recognition in Australia of “the greater assertiveness that we’re seeing from China”. Taiwan has outlined plans to generate 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, up from 5% in 2020, including a significant focus on offshore wind power. The Australian government – which has been resisting calls to strengthen its 2030 emissions reduction target and is yet to reach a deal for a mid-century net-zero target – has instead declared a focus on “technology”. It has already signed deals with partners including Germany and Japan to cooperate on low-emission technology and hydrogen. Local media in Taiwan said the Australian office in Taipei had recently hosted a hydrogen trade and investment event. In an implicit message against politicizing national security and foreign affairs before Australia’s looming federal election, Tehan said: “The more that we can make sure that we’re united politically in how we tackle these current strategic issues, I think the better it is for us as a nation.”
President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall at the Baltimore Center Stage Pearlstone Theater, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021, in Baltimore, with moderator Anderson Cooper. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) EVAN VUCCIAP
· China on Friday said there is “no room” for compromise or concessions over the issue of Taiwan, following a comment by U.S. President Joe Biden that the U.S. is committed to defending the island if it is attacked. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reasserted China’s longstanding claim that the island is its territory at a daily briefing after Biden made his comment a day before at a forum hosted by CNN. China has recently upped its threat to bring Taiwan under its control by force if necessary, by flying warplanes near the island and rehearsing beach landings. Under President Xi Jinping, who is also Communist Party leader and head of the armed forces, China has been stepping up military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan. Over its National Day weekend at the beginning of the month, China sent a record 149 military aircraft southwest of Taiwan in strike group formations, prompting Taiwan to scramble aircraft and activate its air defense missile systems. The United States in response to this has reinforced its support for Taiwan through military sales and the U.S. government claims to want deeper ties with the island nation.
· A newly discovered mutation of the delta variant (AY.4.2) is being investigated in the U.K. amid worries that it could make the virus even more transmissible and undermine Covid-19 vaccines further. U.K. government health officials have said it’s too early to tell whether the mutation poses a greater risk to public health than the delta variant, which itself is significantly more infectious than the original Covid-19 strain (and its successor, the alpha variant). It also has not been confirmed that it causes significant community transmission or multiple Covid-19 clusters, but if confirmed will decrease the efficacy of vaccinations and other immunizations against it. As well as the U.S., Israel said it had confirmed a case of the new variant in an 11-year-old boy entering the country at Ben Gurion airport. On Thursday, Russia also said it had registered some isolated cases of the AY.4.2 variant. It’s unknown to what extent, if any, the subtype has been found in mainland Europe.