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The sea of death

By John Loretz | IPPNW | July 13, 2018

The US conducted 105 atmospheric and underwater tests at its Pacific Ocean proving ground from 1946-1962. Massive amounts of radioactive fallout from those tests spread across the Pacific, causing severe health effects that have continued to this day.

One of the best-known incidents from this reckless and shameful history was the fate of the Japanese fishing boat the Lucky Dragon. Despite being 90 miles away from ground zero, all 23 crew members were covered in thick layers of fallout from the March 1, 1954 Castle Bravo explosion, which, at 15 megatons, was the largest US nuclear test. The entire crew suffered from acute radiation sickness and were hospitalized for months. One crew member died from his injuries.

As it turns out, the Lucky Dragon was not an anomaly. Japanese film maker Hideaki Ito has produced a documentary called “Exposure to Radiation—Post X Years,” which explores how the extensive tuna fishing ground came to be known as “the sea of death.” The fishing crews had no idea they were working in heavily contaminated waters, and contaminated tuna became a health hazard throughout Japan.

Hideaki and his crew surveyed affected communities some 50 years later, and spoke with public health experts about the limited data that’s available. Field maps obtained from what was then the US Atomic Energy Commission, show fallout paths extending across the Pacific and the US, reaching into Canada and parts of Central and South America. Today, cesium-137 from the tests has been detected in ground samples under houses in Okinawa, Kyoto, and Yamagata prefectures.

Hideaki’s full documentary exists only in Japanese. When he visited IPPNW last fall after a showing at an MIT film festival, we encouraged him to make at least a portion of the film available in English. He has now come back to us with an 11-minute abridged version that we highly recommend to anyone concerned about the health and environmental consequences of nuclear testing and their persistent legacy.

“Knowing how much damage was done in order to make nuclear weapons,” Hideaki told us, “I believe it will be a great accomplishment to abolish them.”

July 13, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | 1 Comment

Japan PM Abe cancels trip to Iran amid US pressure

RT | July 4, 2018

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reportedly abandoned plans to visit Iran later this month, amid increasing pressure from Washington aimed at isolating Tehran politically and economically.

According to Japanese media reports, Tokyo recently informed Tehran that Abe was cancelling talks with President Hassan Rouhani scheduled for mid-July. Abe’s trip would have marked the first time a Japanese leader had visited Tehran in 40 years.

Washington’s growing hostility towards Iran is believed to have played a deciding factor in the sudden change of travel plans. Openly declaring its desire to cut off Tehran’s oil revenues, the Trump administration is now pursuing a policy of economic strangulation, urging Japan and its other allies to stop buying Iranian crude oil entirely by November 4.

Japan has so far refused to comply with Washington’s demands, although Iranian crude currently only accounts for roughly five percent of the country’s total oil imports. It’s likely that Washington’s request to increase political and economic pressure on Tehran will be a major topic of discussion when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Tokyo for a two-day visit this weekend.

According to government sources who spoke to the Japan Times, Tokyo was still exploring the possibility of Abe visiting Iran, although much would depend on the state of relations between Washington and Tehran.

Still, there’s a chance that Japan will resist Trump’s strong-arming. A spokesman for the Japanese prime minister’s office told Reuters that Abe’s travel plans in the Middle East – where he is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt following stops in Brussels and Paris beginning July 11 – had not been finalized yet.

Trump was condemned by Washington’s allies after unilaterally withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in May. Soon after, he announced tough new sanctions targeting the country. The move has jeopardized the future of the landmark 2015 accord –which lifts international sanctions on Tehran in exchange for placing strict controls on the country’s nuclear capabilities. Europe has strenuously objected to the draconian measures, arguing that its firms would lose billions invested in Iran following the removal of sanctions in 2015.

July 4, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 2 Comments

Western leaders back in Russia as tensions appear to ease

East-West relations seem to have changed over past 10 days, as three major Western leaders attend St Petersburg forum

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | May 28, 2018

East-West relations have transformed over the past 10-day period. Russia’s isolation from the West after the Maidan coup in Kiev appears to have warmed as abruptly as it began.

Three major Western leaders – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – visited Russia during the period since May 18, mainly to attend the St Petersburg Economic Forum. But they had one mantra to chant: Russia is an indispensable partner – and one offer to make – despite sanctions, economic and political ties with Russia are possible and necessary.

On the other hand, US President Donald Trump’s critics, who accuse him of causing a trans-Atlantic rift, have had a rethink, since he may have instead triggered an overall easing of East-West tensions, as America’s European partners dust off their “Ostpolitik” to seek an apparent rapprochement with Russia.

Of course, the three Western leaders who traveled to Russia were not acting in concert. Merkel, Macron, Abe – each had a specific agenda with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. They were not interested in taking advantage of Russia’s tense relations with the US. Their intuition probably told them that things have come to such a pass in world politics that high-level contact between Russia and America might now be only a matter of time.

Equally, Putin was not inclined to turn the visits of three top Western leaders into an “anti-American” platform to exploit the current trans-Atlantic rift. Putin’s focus was on what these leaders could bring to the Russian economy by way of trade and investment. But in political terms, as much as Russia sizes up Germany, France and Japan as partners, the US still remains the partner of its heart’s desire.

Suffice to say, Russia grapples with the geopolitical reality that while the trans-Atlantic rift could become the “new normal,” an outright rupture between the US and its European allies or an unraveling of the Western alliance is not in the cards. Again, in the final analysis, without the United States’ participation, it is impractical to address issues such as Syria, the Iran nuclear problem, Ukraine, etc.

Macron audacious, Merkel wary

Between Merkel and Macron, the latter seemed far more eager and audacious to turn a new leaf in relations with Russia. France’s Total has taken US$2.5 billion in equity in Russian major Novatek’s Yamal LNG 2 project in the Siberian Arctic (with an option to double it). Macron promised to overtake German investments in Russia ($18 billion). He sought a new “mechanism” to solve the Syrian crisis; he stated France’s intention to protect its companies operating in Iran; and he even harked back to the defeat of Nazism to invoke France’s and Russia’s common destiny as United Nations veto powers and world leaders.

Nonetheless, Moscow is yet to figure out the potential of Macron, who began one year ago as the alpha male vis-à-vis Trump but went on to invite the latter as guest of honor on Bastille Day and become his best friend in the Western world, and is now presenting himself as an incorrigible Gaullist. Putin wore a quizzical look as Macron plunged gustily into an extraordinary speech lasting half an hour at the improbable forum of their joint press conference in St Petersburg on May 25.

The point is, Gaullism didn’t survive Charles de Gaulle. Will Gaullism-2 survive the second year of Macron’s seven-year presidency? Time only can tell. How far will Macron go out on a limb to drop the European Union’s hostile sanctions against Russia or to break loose from the West’s strategy to provoke Russia? Actually, he didn’t forget to add that France remains all the while a US ally.

As for Germany, Russia has always viewed it as the pace-setter in the EU. But there is a catch here too, since Merkel was also a midwife to the Maidan in Kiev (where it all began) and worked shoulder to shoulder with Barack Obama to erect a harsh sanctions regime against Russia. Those were halcyon days when Merkel was de facto leader of the EU and the champion of the liberal international order – “The Iron Frau” who doubled up as the “Matti” – Otto von Bismarck and Mother Teresa at the same time.

Things have changed since then. Obama has left the stage; the migrant problem became controversial and eventually diminished Merkel politically (despite the brilliant performance of the German economy); and she is besieged today by several negative factors. Brexit came out of the blue; the Franco-German axis that was integral to her pet project of European integration lost verve; and America First began incessantly battering Germany (and Merkel personally). To borrow a poignant metaphor from Mikhail Gorbachev over the sad plight of managers of Soviet state enterprises in the era of perestroika, Merkel is afraid to leave the open cage and take wing and fly into the firmament.

Perhaps her timidity is due to the fear that assertiveness may provoke accusations of Germany’s inordinate geopolitical ambitions triggering another tragic cycle of history (“German Question”), and due to a genuine distrust of Russia among Germany’s political class, which is weaned on Euro-Atlanticism. But it is there. As top Moscow pundit Fyodor Lukyanov wrote recently, in Berlin “change is feared.”

Within earshot of the visiting Western leaders, Putin again signaled his interest in a full-bodied Russian-American dialogue. But alas, Washington speaks in multiple voices. Meanwhile, bad tidings have arrived from Syria – an attempted drone attack on Hmeimim air base; a US threat to take “firm and appropriate measures” against any Syrian operations against extremist groups ensconced in southwest Syria; and the killing of four Russian military personnel in Dier ez-Zor on Sunday.

If only Russian wishes had wings, Americans should have been better soccer players. That might have just about brought them into the finale of the FIFA World Cup – and Trump to Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium on July 15 in front of a capacity crowd of 87,000 fans in one of the most picturesque districts of the Russian capital with the Moskva River flowing gently alongside the stadium, and Putin sitting beside him, with no aides present, for a full 90 minutes.

May 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan not satisfied with N. Korea’s nuke test halt, wants ‘complete & irreversible’ denuclearization

RT | April 21, 2018

While South Korea has welcomed Kim Jong-un’s announcement of the suspension of nuclear and ballistic tests, Tokyo, which strongly supports Washington’s “maximum pressure” approach, voiced an extremely cautious optimism.

Japan, the United States and South Korea have been relentlessly striving for a complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, meaning of course only Pyongyang’s nukes and not the US strategic bombers and aircraft carriers. Following months of productive talks with Seoul, Kim Jong-un announced a halt to any further nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests, saying that North Korea’s strategic deterrence program has reached its goal.

“North Korea’s decision is meaningful progress for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which the world wishes for,” the South Korean President’s office said in a statement. “It will contribute to creating a very positive environment for the success of the upcoming inter-Korean and North-US summits.”

Japan, however, was a bit more cautious with its assessment of the development. “This announcement is a forward motion that I’d like to welcome,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

“I want to welcome these positive moves, but I wonder if this will lead to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear arsenal, weapons of mass destruction and missiles,” Abe said. “I’d like to keep a close eye on the developments.”

Japan’s Defense Minister was even more skeptical in his remarks. “We can’t be satisfied,” Itsunori Onodera, was quoted as saying by the Japan Times, noting that Kim did not mention the “abandonment of short-range and medium-range ballistic missiles.”

Donald Trump has, meanwhile, welcomed the news, calling it a big progress and telling his Twitter followers that he is “looking forward” to the upcoming US-North Korea summit, which is being planned sometime after the intra-Korean meeting on April 27.

April 21, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 3 Comments

China becomes Trump’s indispensable partner

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | March 29, 2018

On Wednesday, the Chinese ambassador to the United States briefed the National Security Council in the White House regarding the visit by the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Beijing. The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders later expressed cautious optimism that in their estimation, “things are moving in the right direction” and the meeting in Beijing between Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping was “a good indication that the maximum pressure campaign (on North Korea) has been working.” She said:

  • You saw him (Kim) leave for the first time — since becoming the leader of North Korea — for that meeting. And we consider that to be a positive sign that the maximum pressure campaign is continuing to work. And we’re going to continue moving forward in this process in hopes for a meeting down the road.
  • Certainly we would like to see this (end-May meeting between Trump and Kim). Obviously this is something of global importance and we want to make sure that it’s done as soon as we can, but we also want to make sure it’s done properly. And we’re working towards that goal. As we’ve said before, the North Koreans have made that offer and we’ve accepted, and we’re moving forward in that process.

Trump himself gave thumbs-up. He tweeted: “For years and through many administrations, everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting!”

Evidently, Beijing transmitted some extraordinarily hopeful tidings. The remarks by former US state secretary James Baker (who still remains an influential voice in the conservative spectrum) praising China’s role suggests that Beijing is moving in tandem with the Trump administration. In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Baker said:

  • “I think it’s too bad that there wasn’t some way that we could work with the Chinese to achieve this, this result of denuclearization of the peninsula. China is the only country in the world that really has any influence, significant influence on North Korea.”
  • “I would have sent some high-level envoy to Xi Jinping, the president of China, that the Chinese trust and have confidence in. And I would have said, ‘Look, you don’t like what’s going on in the Korean Peninsula. We don’t like what’s going on. Why don’t we cooperate to stop it?”
  • “We, the United States, will support any government you (China) install in North Korea, provided they repudiate the acquisition or maintenance of nuclear weapons. We will trade with that government, we will establish diplomatic relations, we will execute a peace treaty ending the Korean War. Your (China’s) job is to put a government in place there that is different than this government.” (See the video of the interview.)

There is great poignancy here in these remarks because Baker had played a key role under President Ronald Reagan (Trump’s role model) negotiating the end of the Cold War in the 1980s face to face with Mikhail Gorbachev.

China has positioned itself brilliantly as the facilitator-cum-partner-cum-ally-cum-friend – depending on who its interlocutor on the Korean Question happens to be. Xi deputed politburo member Yang Jiechi as his special envoy to visit Seoul to brief the South Korean leadership, even as preparatory talks for the inter-Korean summit in April were scheduled in the DMZ in Panmunjom. Evidently, Yang had a hand in the positive outcome today at the Panmunjom meeting where there is agreement to schedule the inter-Korean summit on April 27. (here and here)

Quite obviously, there are processes today that are beyond the US’ control. Again, the US’ number one ally in Northeast Asia – Japan – has been marginalized. No one set out from Beijing to brief Tokyo. Inevitably, there are conspiracy theories. The London Times newspaper resuscitated today the hackneyed thesis that China is driving a wedge between the US and South Korea. But that seductive conspiracy theory underestimates that China is, in actuality, playing for far higher stakes in its rise on the global stage as a great power.

To be sure, history is in the making. If, as Baker says, the US is willing to normalize with North Korea and conclude a peace treaty to bring the Korean War to a formal end, the raison d’etre of continued US military presence in South Korea (on which there is significant local opposition already) becomes unsustainable. That impacts the overall US power projection in Asia. Again, if the North Korean problem is resolved peacefully, can the Taiwan Question be far behind?

Equally, China must know that there is no quick fix to the North Korean problem and it suits China to leverage the US’ critical dependence on its cooperation for the long haul – which in turn can stabilize the Sino-American relationship itself and open a new era of big-power relationship based on trust, mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s core interests, which Beijing has been assiduously seeking.

On the other hand, Trump is well aware that if he can swing a deal on North Korea, it will significantly boost his re-election bid in 2020. Wouldn’t China know it, too? (Read my column in The Week magazine recently – The art of the Korean deal.)

March 30, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

North Korea Calls US-Japan Missile Drills Provocation Against Intra-Korean Dialogue

Sputnik – 22.02.2018

MOSCOW – North Korea’s committee on Korean reconciliation condemned on Thursday an upcoming joint US-Japan missile defense drill as an attempt to reignite regional tensions and obstruct the ongoing thaw between Pyongyang and Seoul.

“Branding this as a ferocious gangster-like act aimed to tarnish the hard-won atmosphere for the improvement of the North-South ties and for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and as a dangerous military provocation to ignite the train of a war,” the [North’s] Korean National Peace Committee said in a statement, announced by state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The statement was made after on February 15, the Japanese Defense Ministry announced that this year’s joint ballistic missile defense exercise, which is due to start on Friday and last for a week, would have a larger scale than the previous ones and involve not only the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force and the US Navy but also the two countries’ air force units and the US Marine Corps. The ministry stressed the importance of the drill, citing November’s North Korean ballistic missile activities.

The committee also noted “greater bellicosity” and the danger of the forthcoming exercise, pointing to the planned involvement of fighter jets and US marines.

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have further escalated as North Korea achieved significant progress in its nuclear and missile programs last year. Pyongyang tested several ballistic missiles, including its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile in November, which it said was capable of hitting any part of the mainland of the United States. In turn, Washington has led a number of diplomatic initiatives to put pressure on Pyongyang and held several drills in the region.

In January, Pyongyang and Seoul resumed bilateral talks ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. As a result, their national teams marched together under a “unification flag” at the opening ceremony and are jointly participating in a number of sporting events.

The sides also reportedly agreed to delay their military activities until after the Olympics, which will last through Sunday.

February 23, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Seoul won’t rush to renew joint military drills with US as new intra-Korean summit solidifies

RT | February 10, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in reportedly rejected a call from Japan to quickly resume joint US-Korean military drills. Moon has been invited to visit Pyongyang for what may become the first top-level summit in over a decade.

At a bilateral summit on Friday, Moon called on the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to wait before resuming the drills, Yonhap reported, citing a government official. The drills have been paused for the duration of the Winter Olympics, as part of Seoul’s attempt to mend relations with Pyongyang. North Korea considers the drills a major threat to its national security, saying they may be used to conceal a build-up for an invasion.

According to the report, Abe argued that the time to delay exercises scheduled for spring was not right and that Pyongyang had to change its behavior before receiving concessions.

“I understand what Prime Minister Abe said is not to delay South Korea-U.S. military drills until there is progress in the denuclearization of North Korea. But the issue is about our sovereignty and intervention in our domestic affairs,” Moon told the Japanese leader, according to the unnamed official. “The president said it was not appropriate for the prime minister to directly mention the issue.”

North Korea’s successful development last year of a ballistic missile, which is apparently capable of reaching the US mainland, as well as carrying a small thermonuclear device, triggered a major security crisis on the Korean Peninsula. As US President Donald Trump threatened to use military force to destroy Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, a new left-wing government in Seoul took several symbolic steps to deflate the tension, including agreeing to have a joint athletic delegation with North Korea at the Olympics.

This week, Moon received an invitation from his northern counterpart, Kim Jong-un to visit Pyongyang for a top-level summit. If accepted, it would be the first diplomatic event of its kind since 2007, when the government of President Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul attempted to mend relations as part of the Sunshine Policy.

Roh’s successor, Lee Myung-bak, came from the other side of the political spectrum and took a hardline stance on intra-Korean relations, as did President Park Geun-hye, who came from the same conservative camp. After Park was impeached, Moon was elected partially on the promise of reviving the Sunshine Policy.

February 10, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Russia to deploy warplanes on Kuriles

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 3, 2018

A one-line decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on 30th January merely assigned a dual civilian-military role to the newly operational airport on the island of Iturop in the disputed Kurile chain. But its strategic content is unmistakable – Moscow is taking a big step forward in the militarization of the Kuriles by deploying warplanes, drones and command systems at the facility. The airport has a 2.3 milometer runway and can handle giant aircraft.

The Iturop island is one of four seized by Soviet forces in the final days of World War Two and is located off the north-east coast of Hokkaido, Japan’s biggest prefecture. The dispute over the islands (known as the Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan) has prevented the signing of a formal peace treaty between Russia and Japan to mark the end of the war.

Tokyo has lost no time to express concern over the Russian military deployment to Iturop. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “We’ve conveyed through diplomatic channels that it goes against our country’s position. We’re gathering information on the Russian military’s behavior in the Northern Territories.”

Moscow’s decision can be seen in the context of the U.S.-built Aegis land-based missile defense system getting deployed in Japan. In December, Japanese government approved a record $46 billion defense budget and funds to survey potential sites for two Aegis ground interceptor batteries. A ship-based version of the Aegis system (made by Lockheed Martin) is already installed on Japanese warships. Japan is expected to deploy the Aegis Ashore system by 2023.

Moscow refused to accept the contention by Japan that the Aegis Ashore system is meant to defend against enemy missile attacks such as North Korean ballistic missiles. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on December 28,

  • The recent decision by the Japanese government to deploy US Aegis Ashore missile defence systems on its territory causes deep regret and serious concern. Whatever arguments and motives behind it, it is clear that the deployment of these systems is yet another step towards building a full-fledged Asian-Pacific regional segment of the global US missile defence system. It should be kept in mind that these systems are equipped with universal missile launchers capable of using strike weapons. In practice, it means another violation of the INF Treaty by the United States with Japan’s assistance.
  • We consider Japan’s step as going against the efforts to establish peace and stability in the region. In addition, these actions by Tokyo directly contradict the priority task of fostering trust between Russia and Japan in the military-political area and will affect the general atmosphere of bilateral relations, including talks on a peace treaty.

Last November, Russian President Vladimir Putin had publicly voiced the expectation that Japan should review its alliance with the US as a condition for a peace treaty. Medvedev’s decree on January 30 is a snub to Japan, coming ahead of a scheduled meeting between the deputy foreign ministers of the two countries to discuss cooperation on the disputed territory of Kuriles. Russia seems to have given up hope since then that Japan can be encouraged to pursue independent foreign policies.

Meanwhile, the growing tensions over North Korea, the US military build-up in the Far East and the New Cold War between the US and Russia become added compulsions for Moscow to strengthen its defence lines in the Sakhalin Oblast. By the way, Moscow is also working on plans to create a new naval base in the region for submarines.

Clearly, under these circumstances, a Russo-Japanese peace treaty becomes an even more remote prospect. The ‘charm diplomacy’ by Japanese PM Shinzo Abe is not getting anywhere; Russia is not a pushover, as he’d have thought. This has serious implications for the power dynamic in East Asia in the near term, putting Japan at a disadvantage in the Russia-China-Japan triangular diplomacy.

February 3, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Fake News: Russia and Sputnik Accused of Meddling in Malaysian Elections

By Ivan Danilov | Sputnik | January 24, 2018

In its latest “Asia insight” feature, Japanese news agency Nikkei speculates that Russia is “meddling” in Malaysia and other Asian countries with alleged “authoritarian streaks”.

It seems that the fake news epidemic that struck Western media during the US presidential elections and the Brexit vote has spread to Japan. Nikkei cites two instances when Russia allegedly “filled the void” left by the Western powers, which chose to reduce their engagement with countries plagued by “creeping authoritarianism”: Malaysia and Cambodia. It is curious that in Malaysia’s case, the Japanese journalists claim that Sputnik’s cooperation with the local media is basically proof of Russian meddling, hinting that Moscow is seeking to influence Malaysian internal and economic affairs.

All accusations are based on a twisted interpretation of a single diplomatic visit by a Russian deputy minister. According to Nikkei, “there are hints of Russian meddling in Malaysia, where the election is scheduled by August. Last month, the Russian deputy minister of telecom and mass communications, Alexey Volin, visited Kuala Lumpur to discuss cooperation between Sputnik, a Russian government-backed media company, and Malaysian player Bernama.”

It would be nice to know how exchanging articles and stories between two news agencies can amount to meddling, but the Nikkei analysts failed to provide any details on their accusations, only mentioning that the FBI is investigating Sputnik in order to determine whether “the Russian government’s involvement in journalism violates U.S. laws.” By the same token, the journalists crying foul over Sputnik’s alleged meddling in Malaysia should be deeply concerned by the fact that Sputnik also cooperates with one of the biggest Japanese media corporations, Kyodo News.

Sadly, it wouldn’t be surprising if Sputnik’s partners in Japan or other countries will soon be criticized as agents of Russian influence. Facts don’t matter anymore; the era of fake news is upon us. It used to be that gaining access to new sources of information was viewed as a positive development, but some Japanese journalists seem to believe that Malaysians shouldn’t have access to Sputnik’s news coverage.

Unsurprisingly, Nikkei found another country subjected to Russian influence: Cambodia, citing the presence of Russian election observers as proof. According to the Nikkei article, “Putin seems to find kindred spirits in so-called illiberal democracies”, and that is the reason for Russia’s decision to send election observers and set up a working group to negotiate the issue of Cambodian debt, left over from the Soviet days.

It is also alleged that “that China and Russia do not foist demands for human rights and democracy on their partners, making them appealing benefactors for regional leaders intent on staying in power,” while cooperation with Western countries is conditional upon maintaining a functional democracy and respect for human rights. Obviously, this is false, given the West’s extensive history of cooperation with regimes characterized by blatant disregard for basic human rights. For instance, the US openly supported the Pinochet regime in Chile after the 1973 coup, despite the fact that Chilean authorities routinely executed their political opponents. A Chilean commission investigating human rights abuses concluded that over three thousand Chileans were killed or “forcibly disappeared” under Pinochet, while the total number of recognized victims of this staunch US ally is above forty thousand. President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported the Nicaraguan leader Anastasio Somoza, who had a well-deserved reputation as a brutal dictator.

Western governments have supported numerous autocratic regimes across Africa, South America and the Middle East, and continue to support undemocratic countries to this day and therefore no American or Western apologist can claim they have a moral high ground on this issue. To say that the West cares about human rights is hypocritical. Pretending that “authoritarian streaks” are the reason why countries like Cambodia or Malaysia seek to cooperate with Russia or China is disingenuous. The logical explanation is that Russia and China offer better deals and refrain from imposing a political or ideological agenda on their partners.

The authors of the hit-piece, published by Nikkei, seem to be under the impression that economic cooperation in South-East Asia is a zero-sum gain in which a Russian or Chinese gain can only come at the expense of Japanese or American interests. It doesn’t have to be this way. Accusing Russia and its media outlets, like Sputnik, of political interference is counterproductive, and may also be interpreted as a sign of petty jealousy of Russia’s diplomatic prowess.Searching for win-win solutions that would allow everyone to benefit from multilateral economic cooperation is a better way forward. Economic cooperation without political strings attached is a prerequisite for peaceful coexistence between countries that share a complicated history and may have different opinions on a wide range of geopolitical issues. Giving up spreading fake news would be a welcome first step in this direction.

January 24, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

US missile systems in Japan may have offensive purpose & be controlled by Washington – Moscow

RT | January 15, 2018

The US-made Aegis missile-defense system deployed in Japan could be used for offensive purposes and fall under full control of Washington, the Russian foreign minister warns.

The deployment of the American Aegis Combat System, designed to provide defense against short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles, casts a shadow over Russia-Japan relations, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during his annual Q&A on Monday. Moscow has serious concerns over its purpose and who will be behind the operational control of the missile system in Japan. Despite Tokyo’s assertions, Moscow remains unconvinced.

“We have data that the system that will be deployed in Japan is based on universal launchers, which can use assault weapons,” the foreign minister stated. He added that Washington has never given control over its weapons to the country of deployment and this time will be no exception.

“We have heard that it will be Japan that will allegedly operate this system, and the United States will have nothing to do with it, but we have serious doubts that it is so.”

The statement comes on the heels of a report, which states that the stationing of the Aegis system is allegedly aimed at curbing Russia and is intended as a deterrent against its nuclear missiles, Japanese media say, citing an unnamed official.

Last month, Tokyo decided to boost its ballistic missile defense system and approved the purchase and deployment of two Aegis Ashore batteries – expected to become operational by 2023 – at a cost of around $2 billion.

Moscow has repeatedly stressed that it is eager to engage in dialogue over the stationing of US missile defense systems overseas, to make sure they will not “become a serious destabilizer” of the international climate, according to Lavrov. Despite US claims that the weapons are not directed against Russia, Moscow has “plenty of evidence that all this is not so.”

January 15, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Analyst Dismisses White House Claims Pyongyang Behind WannaCry

Sputnik – 20.12.2017

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday, White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert announced that North Korea is responsible for the May 2017 “WannaCry” global cyberattack that targeted Windows computers and was allegedly aided by leaked National Security Agency technology.

In the article titled, “It’s Official: North Korea Is Behind WannaCry,” Bossert points the finger at North Korea for being behind the cybercrime in which millions of users’ computer data was encrypted and then ransomed for bitcoins. The attack slowed down after a mistake in WannaCry’s code revealed a kill switch that prevented infected computers from spreading the virus.

“Cybersecurity isn’t easy, but simple principles still apply. Accountability is one, cooperation another,” Bossert wrote in his article. “They are the cornerstones of security and resilience in any society. In furtherance of both, and after careful investigation, the US today publicly attributes the massive ‘WannaCry’ cyber attack to North Korea.”

In a White House press briefing Tuesday morning, Bossert claimed that the US came to this conclusion after a “careful investigation.”

“We don’t do this lightly,” Bossert said during the briefing. “We do so with evidence and with partners,” adding that Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom all agree that North Korea is responsible.

“While victims received ransom demands, paying did not unlock their computers,” the homeland security adviser wrote. “It was cowardly, costly and careless. The attack was widespread and cost billions, and North Korea is directly responsible.”

On Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear, financial policy analyst Daniel Sankey asserted his belief that North Korea is not behind the cyberattack.

“I’m a little suspicious myself. The drums of war have been beaten against [North Korea] for some time now and it’s very convenient that now this severe cyberattack is being laid against the doors of North Korea,” Sankey told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

“And of course, as usual, we can take the intelligence community’s word for it because they know better than us and they published it in the Wall Street Journal — so it must be North Korea,” he added sarcastically.

“I am a little skeptical because a big part of the virus was extorting various users to send bitcoin in exchange for access to their files again. In the end, they stole about $55,000 in bitcoin and that’s not enough money for North Korea to trouble itself with,” Sankey said.

“Also, what is North Korea going to do with bitcoin? They need commodities, they need cash, they need access to different markets. They don’t need bitcoin. How are they going to turn that into oil or coal or various other things they need? How are they going to convert that into a convertible currency? It’s really not feasible.”

Although Bossert said that the US did “not make the allegation lightly,” he didn’t provide any solid evidence and simply alluded to National Security Agency and Microsoft research. He also referred to the UK’s determination in October that North Korea was responsible for the attack.

In May, security firms discovered a link between the ransomware and southern China during an investigation of the code’s notes, which revealed that WannaCry’s creators were fluent in a form of Chinese very common in that region.

According to security firm Flashpoint, which conducted the analysis, “A typo in the note, “帮组” (bang zu) instead of “帮助” (bang zhu) meaning “help,” strongly indicates the note was written using a Chinese-language input system rather than being translated from a different version. More generally, the note makes use of proper grammar, punctuation, syntax, and character choice, indicating the writer was likely native or at least fluent.”

Although the linguistic analysis of the code did not reveal any Korean, the US has still confidently asserted that North Korea is responsible, and Sankey believes it’s because the underlying problem behind the attacks actually has nothing to do with the hackers but with intelligence communities, who may be actually be responsible for the crimes.

“I think that the real problem is that intelligence communities are becoming aware of vulnerabilities in these systems, and rather than working with the private sector to protect consumers and peoples’ data, they are just sitting on those vulnerabilities so that they can use them later to hack systems.”

In his editorial, Bossert concludes, “Mr. Trump has already pulled many levers of pressure to address North Korea’s unacceptable nuclear and missile developments, and we will continue to use out maximum pressure strategy to curb Pyongyang’s ability to mount attacks, cyber or otherwise.”

With the Trump administration’s increased use of aggressive language against North Korea’s continued nuclear weapon tests and with this new allegation that the country is responsible for WannaCry, it doesn’t appear that the relationship between the two is going to be getting better anytime soon.

December 20, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Belt and Road rules need makeover

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | December 6, 2017

Over the past 24 hours, the narrative by India’s self-styled “China watchers” regarding the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been shown to be quixotic. The Pakistani media has carried speculative reports that China is holding up the funding for certain road projects coming within the orbit of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) due to a revision of financial rules.

So, the BRI, after all, is not a devious geopolitical strategy but is also about money. And money doesn’t grow on trees – even yuan. Clearly, BRI is expected to be cost-effective and self-financing. And it is not about investing in unsustainable projects in basket economies with an ulterior agenda to surreptitiously acquire ‘equity’ or to entice those moth-eaten countries into a “debt trap” that eventually forces them to pawn their national sovereignty to the pawn broker in Beijing – which is what our China watchers have been propagating.

Indeed, trust the Chinese to put money only where the mouth is. The BRI is, after all, far more profound than a theatrical imperialist adventure in foreign lands. It’s about money, creation of wealth, primarily. Read up China’s current history to understand that China’s priority has never been any different.

For sure, China has excess industrial capacity and needs to export. But as with any complex architecture, it is impossible to distinguish one thread in the BRI matrix as pre-eminent. If at al, the core element of BRI is about galvanizing the “backward” regions of China. It doesn’t need explanation that China’s economic miracle has created regional imbalances in development.

In a bold statement at the party congress, Xi Jinping pledged to remove poverty from the face of China by 2020, which means lifting 70 million people above poverty line. The CPEC focuses on the development of Xinjiang (spanning a mind-boggling landmass of 1.6 million square kilometers endowed with vast mineral resources but sparsely populated.) China has been encouraging foreign investment in that region. With greater connectivity and market access, Xinjiang can be yet another locomotive of growth for the Chinese economy. Equally, the CPEC is also about creating an access route to the world market that is far more economical than the sea route.

Meanwhile, the CPEC’s second phase is about to begin, which concerns the setting up of special economic zones along the newly-laid infrastructural grid. Again, trust the Chinese to make investments that guarantee returns. That is one thing. China is open to inviting partners from third countries. Pakistan is also an increasingly attractive investment destination for western countries. General Electric is showing interest in power projects in the CPEC.

Make no mistake that Pakistan too is eager to attract US investments. During an animated discussion yesterday at the Carnegie in Washington, Pakistan’s ambassador Aitzaz Ahmad Chaudhry highlighted this aspect. He said:

  • Pakistan’s relationship with China is not at the expense of its relations with the US.
  • The US still remains Pakistan’s single most important country. It stood by Pakistan for 6 decades and is perceived as a highly benevolent country.
  • The US involvement in CPEC not only brings in technology but will also “balance out” Pakistan’s relations with China.

On the other hand, China too hopes to make the BRI a template of its relations with western countries. The Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang held a brain storming session with 250 top Japanese business executives two weeks ago in Beijing to flesh out ideas. Japan anticipates the Chinese motivations, which explains the plan it has drawn up to support participation by Japanese companies and funding for BRI projects.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made a dramatic announcement on this in Tokyo on Monday at a 2-day gathering of Japanese and Chinese business executives. “Meeting robust infrastructure demand in Asia through cooperation between Japan and China will contribute greatly to the prosperity of Asian people, in addition to the economic development of the two countries,” Abe said. He added that he hoped that Xi will visit Japan “as early as possible.” (Straits Times, South China Morning Post )

Clearly, time is not far off when China becomes the “co-investor” – rather than sole investor – in BRI projects. Therefore, China will continuously upgrade the BRI concept and its rules and regulations with a view to ensure conformity with high western standards. If the Pakistani reports are accurate, a major revision of the financial rules of CPEC projects is already going on.

China takes immense pride in the BRI. It is enshrined in China’s constitution now. The bottom line is that BRI enhances China’ stature as the flag-carrier of globalization. China hopes to create a new supply chain where its standards get global acceptability. Which means that the BRI needs to be transparent and accountable and is on par with (or even excel) western financial and banking norms and business practices.

Time is running out for our pundits who spite the BRI out of Sinophobia and keep making apocalyptic predictions. But the tragedy is that they have done immense damage to India’s interests already by propagating falsehoods and prejudices. The BRI could have been — and should have been — a template of PM Modi’s development agenda. The residual hope now will be: “When Abe goes, can Modi be far behind?”

December 6, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment