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.
US, South Korea, Japan hold missile defense exercise with eye on North Korea, China
The United States, South Korea and Japan participated in a ballistic missile defense exercise off Hawaii’s coast last week, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, reviving combined drills with an eye on North Korea as well as China.
It was the first time the three countries have held such drills since 2017, after relations between Seoul and Tokyo hit their lowest in years in 2019 amid renewed historical disputes dating to Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean Peninsula, Reuters reported.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who took office in May, has vowed to improve relations with Japan and deepen the U.S. alliance to better deter North Korea, including by expanding or resuming joint drills.
The missile warning and ballistic missile search and tracking exercise took place Aug. 8-14 during the multinational Pacific Dragon drills, and demonstrated the three countries’ commitment to respond to challenges posed by North Korea, protect shared security and bolster the rules-based international order, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The participants shared tactical data link information in accordance with a trilateral information sharing agreement, the statement said.
U.S.-led joint missile defence measures have been a sore point with China, which retaliated economically against South Korea’s 2016 decision to host a U.S. military Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.
Beijing says the THAAD radar can penetrate its territory and has called on Yoon to honour assurances made by his predecessor to not to increase THAAD deployments, participate in a U.S.-led global missile shield or create a trilateral military alliance involving Japan.
Yoon has said those do not represent formal agreements and that Seoul is not bound by them.
South Korea’s ministry of defense also confirmed on Tuesday that its troops would resume long-suspended live field training during their joint military drills with the United States to be held from Aug. 22 to Sept. 1.
The two sides have scaled back combined military drills in recent years due to COVID-19 and efforts to lower tensions with the North, which has accused the exercises of being a rehearsal for invasion.
Putin says Russia and North Korea will expand bilateral relations
Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong-un the two countries will “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts,” Pyongyang’s state media reported on Monday.
In a letter to Kim for Korea’s liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries’ interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea’s KCNA news agency said.
Kim also sent a letter to Putin saying Russian-North Korean friendship had been forged in World War II with victory over Japan, which had occupied the Korean peninsula, Reuters reported.
The “strategic and tactical co-operation, support and solidarity” between the two countries has since reached a new level is their common efforts to frustrate threats and provocations from hostile military forces, Kim said in the letter. KCNA did not identify the hostile forces, but it has typically used that term to refer to the United States and its allies.
Kim predicted co-operation between Russia and North Korea would grow based on an agreement signed in 2019 when he met with Putin.
Author Salman Rushdie on ventilator after stabbing in New York
Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born British author of a controversial book titled “The Satanic Verses” was stabbed as he was about to give a lecture in New York on Friday.
Police said Rushdie was stabbed “at least once in the neck, and at least once in the abdomen” after an assailant rushed to the stage and lunged at the 75-year-old writer just as he was being introduced to the audience.
Rushdie was airlifted to hospital where he spent hours in surgery. On Friday evening, Rushdie was on a ventilator and unable to speak.
“The news is not good,” Andrew Wylie, his book agent, wrote in an email to Reuters news agency. “Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.”
Police identified the suspect as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.
Stacey Schlosser, who witnessed the attack, told The Associated Press that Rushdie was stabbed six to eight times before the attacker was restrained.
“Nobody knew what to do. Nobody knew how to react. I mean, there were tons of people that rushed the stage,” Schlosser said.
Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses, has been banned in several countries, as many Muslims consider it to be blasphemous.
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