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US warship sails through Taiwan Strait amid tensions with China

US says destroyer USS McCampbell conducted ‘routine Taiwan Strait transit’ in accordance with international law.

A United States warship passed through the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, the US and Taiwan’s militaries said, following heightened tensions between China and Taiwan that has seen Taiwanese air force jets scramble to intercept Chinese fighters.

The ship sailed north through the waterway and was monitored by Taiwan’s armed forces, the island’s defence ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

It described the sailing as an “ordinary mission”, saying there was no cause for alarm, Reuters news agency reported.

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Anthony Junco, a spokesman for the US Seventh Fleet said the ship was the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell, which conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit March 25 (local time) in accordance with international law”.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” he said.

Taiwan is China’s most sensitive territorial and diplomatic issue and Beijing has never ruled out the use of force to bring the island under its control.

The narrow Taiwan Strait that separates the island from China is a frequent source of tension.

In recent weeks China’s air force has carried out several exercises close to Taiwan, causing Taiwan’s mostly US-equipped military to scramble fighters to intercept and warn away the Chinese aircraft.

Taiwan has called the Chinese drills provocative and has called on China to pay more attention to fighting the spread of the coronavirus rather than menacing Taiwan.

The US, like most countries, has no official relations with Taiwan, but is the island’s most important international supporter and main source of arms.

In January another US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait less than a week after President Tsai Ing-wen won re-election by a landslide on a platform of standing up to China.

Tsai visited a military base on Tuesday and again warned of the threat from China during the virus outbreak.

“Everyone knows that although at present there is an intense epidemic situation, the Chinese Communist’s military aircraft continue to harass Taiwan; their threat to Taiwan and regional security has not gone down,” she said.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, China has also stepped up its military activity in the region.

In recent days, it has been reported that Beijing launched two research stations on two disputed islands in the South China Sea, within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

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US authorities delay tax filing deadline by three months

US officials have decided to push the income tax filing date to July 15 from April 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the administration of President Donald Trump has decided to push the income tax filing date to July 15 from April 15.

Mnuchin announced the decision in a tweet on Friday saying that at Trump’s direction “we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15. All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

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The administration had announced earlier in the week that it would delay the payments, a move that Mnuchin said would leave $300bn in the economy at a critical time.

Mnuchin and other members of Trump’s economic team convened on Friday on Capitol Hill to launch negotiations with Senate Republicans and Democrats racing to draft a $1 trillion-plus economic rescue package amid the coronavirus outbreak.

It is the biggest effort yet to shore up households and the US economy as the pandemic and its nationwide shutdown hurtles the country towards a likely recession.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled the Republican opening offer to pump $1,200 direct cheques to taxpayers, $300bn for small businesses to keep idled workers on payrolls and $208bn in loans to airlines and other industries.

The GOP leader’s effort builds on Trump’s request for Congress to “go big”.

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