President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey still intended to buy a second batch of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, a move that could deepen a rift with NATO ally Washington and trigger new U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported.
According to the report Washington says the S-400s pose a threat to its F-35 fighter jets and to NATO’s broader defense systems. Turkey says it was unable to procure air defense systems from any NATO ally on satisfactory terms.
“In the future, nobody will be able to interfere in terms of what kind of defense systems we acquire, from which country at what level,” Erdogan said in an interview that aired on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“Nobody can interfere with that. We are the only ones to make such decisions.”
The United States imposed sanctions on Turkey’s Defense Industry Directorate, its chief, Ismail Demir, and three other employees in December following the country’s acquisition of a first batch of S-400s, Reuters said.
Talks continued between Russia and Turkey about the delivery of a second batch, which Washington has repeatedly said would almost certainly trigger new sanctions.
“We urge Turkey at every level and opportunity not to retain the S-400 system and to refrain from purchasing any additional Russian military equipment,” said a State Department spokesperson when asked about Erdogan’s comments.
“We continue to make clear to Turkey that any significant new Russian arms purchases would risk triggering CAATSA 231 sanctions separate from and in addition to those imposed in December 2020,” the spokesperson added, referring to the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.
The spokesperson also said the United States regards Turkey as an ally and friend and seeks ways to strengthen their partnership “even when we disagree.”
Erdogan will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Wednesday to discuss issues including the violence in northwestern Syria, read the report.
Erdogan also said that U.S. President Joe Biden never raised the issue of Turkey’s human rights track record, seen as extremely troublesome by international rights advocacy groups, confirming Reuters reporting from earlier in September.
Asked whether Biden brought up the issue during their June meeting on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Erdogan said: “No he didn’t. And because we don’t have any problems of that nature in terms of freedoms, Turkey is incomparably free.”
Turkey is among the top jailers of journalists, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), while Human Rights Watch says Erdogan’s authoritarian rule has been consolidated by the passage of legislation that contravenes international human rights obligations, Reuters reported.
Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others: Erdogan
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power, Reuters reported.
Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on Monday, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”.
They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
The US and French embassies and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.
A US State Department spokesperson said it was aware of the reports and was seeking clarity from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense
The United States would come to Taiwan’s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.
“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.
While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”, but declined further comment when asked if Biden had misspoken.
“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.
Taiwan’s presidential office, responding to Biden’s remarks, said their position remains the same, which is it will neither give in to pressure nor “rashly advance” when it gets support.
Taiwan will show a firm determination to defend itself, presidential office spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement, noting also the Biden administration’s continued concrete actions to show its “rock-solid” support for Taiwan.
Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world.”
“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views,” he said.
Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025, Reuters reported.
Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.
N.Korea fires ballistic missile off its east coast, S.Korea military says
North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile off its east coast on Tuesday, officials in South Korea and Japan said, as Seoul opens a major arms fair, spy chiefs meet to discuss the nuclear standoff, and South Korea prepares for a space launch, Reuters reported.
The North Korean launch would be the latest weapons test by the country, which has pressed ahead with military development in the face of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
According to the report one ballistic missile was launched about 10:17 a.m. local time from the vicinity of Sinpo, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, where North Korea keeps submarines as well as equipment for test firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). North Korea has also launched other types of missiles from that area.
“Our military is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining readiness posture in close cooperation with the United States, to prepare for possible additional launches,” JCS said in a statement.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that two ballistic missiles had been detected, and that it was “regrettable” that North Korea had conducted a string of missile tests in recent weeks, read the report.
The launch came as the intelligence chiefs of the United States, South Korea, and Japan were due to meet in Seoul to discuss the standoff with North Korea, amid other issues, Yonhap news agency reported, citing a government source.
Representatives of hundreds of international companies and international militaries were gathered in Seoul for the opening ceremonies of the International Aerospace and Defence Exhibition (ADEX), Reuters reported.
It is set to be South Korea’s largest defence expo ever, with displays of next-generation fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, drones, and other advanced weapons, as well as space rockets and civilian aerospace designs.
According to Reuters South Korea is preparing to test fire its first homegrown space launch vehicle on Thursday.
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