Taiwan’s top military official was among eight people killed on Thursday, after a helicopter carrying them to visit soldiers crashed in a mountainous area near the capital Taipei, the defense ministry said. The reasons for the crash, in the wake of a forced landing, were unknown, the military said in a statement, adding that the chief of general staff, Air Force General Shen Yi-ming, had died, while five of the 13 aboard survived.
The US State Department has approved a potential arms sale to Taiwan, estimated to be worth $2.2bn, the Pentagon said. The deal is for 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. China’s foreign ministry has called on the US to “immediately cancel” the proposed sale. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory which should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
After decades of campaigning and waiting, Taiwan has welcomed hundreds of same-sex couples as they exercised their new legal rights to tie the knot. Dozens of reporters and photographers filled a registry office in Taipei on Friday waiting to capture the moment when the self-ruled island became the first country in Asia to legalise gay marriage. Some 300 same-sex couples were expected to register on Friday, according to local authorities, around 150 in the capital Taipei which boasts a thriving and vocal gay community.
Taiwan became the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday, as thousands of demonstrators outside parliament cheered and waved rainbow flags, despite deep divisions over marriage equality. The bill, which offers same-sex couples similar legal protections for marriage as heterosexuals, takes effect on May 24 after Tsai signs it into law. The law, however, allows same-sex marriages only between Taiwanese, or with foreigners whose countries recognize same-sex marriage. It permits adoption of children biologically related to at least one of the same-sex pair.
The US Navy sailed two destroyers, the USS Stethem and USS William P. Lawrence, through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, referring to the operation as a “routine” transit. While Chinese vessels shadowed the US warships during the transit, officials said that all interactions were “safe and professional.” The Trump administration has sought to make the Taiwan Strait transits more routine, with the operations now taking place on a monthly basis. The approximately 110-mile-wide strait, which separates the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, is seen as a potential geopolitical flashpoint should Beijing ever seek to take the island of Taiwan by force.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the people of Taiwan to accept it “must and will be” reunited with China. In a speech marking 40 years since the start of improving ties, he reiterated Beijing’s call for peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis. However, he also warned that China reserved the right to use force. While Taiwan is self-governed and de facto independent, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
The Chinese Oscars, the Golden Horse Awards, highlighted the controversial topic of Taiwanese independence, showing a political divide between directors and actors. Documentary filmmaker Fu Yue used her acceptance speech to call for Taiwan’s recognition as ‘an independent entity.’ The chair of the committee, Oscar award-winning director Ang Lee, commented that everyone is allowed to speak freely.
Terry Gou, the head of the world’s largest electronics supplier, Foxconn, said Wednesday he plans to run for president of Taiwan, bringing his pro-business and pro-China policies to what is expected to be a crowded field for next year’s election. Gou announced that he would be putting himself up as a hopeful in the opposition Nationalist Party primary ahead of next year’s election, shaking up the political landscape at a time of heightened tension between the self-ruled island and Beijing.
A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Taiwan’s east coast, late Tuesday night, killing at least 4 people, injuring more than 200, and leaving over 140 people unaccounted for. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said she ‘ordered search and rescue workers not to give up on any opportunity to save people while keeping their own safety in mind.’
At least 18 people were killed on Sunday in Taiwan’s deadliest rail accident since 1981. The train was carrying more than 360 passengers and over 170 people were injured in the accident. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met with victims’ relatives on Monday to offer consolation. No official cause of the accident has been determined.