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US military truck carrying missiles crashes in Idaho

Press TV – March 10, 2019

Police in the US state of Idaho were forced to close down a highway after a semi-truck carrying missiles for the military crashed.

According to state police, the truck veered off the main road at a rest stop along I-90 in northern Idaho on Friday night as the driver attempted to use the interstate on-ramp.

The 50-year-old man at the wheel lost control of the truck and accidentally drove into a hazardous materials containment area and disabled his vehicle by driving over a snowbank at the end of the hazmat area.

No one was hurt in crash but police had to completely shut down the road for four miles as a precaution, because the truck was transporting 16 missiles, each one weighing 900kg (2,000lbs).

The driver was cited for inattentive driving.

The US military has a long history of botched transportation of dangerous weapons and military equipment.

In November 2015, an astonishing video surfaced showing an armored escort vehicle colliding into a nuclear warhead loaded into a truck near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

The escort vehicle was speeding behind the truck but the driver failed to react in time and ended up driving into it.

More recently, in February this year, a truck hauling a shipment of US Navy-owned military munitions crashed into two commercial trucks on US Highway 212 in southeastern Montana.

The US Air Force sent a six-member disposal unit to the scene, who then used 58kg of explosives to detonate 60 hazardous munitions that were damaged. The unit recovered 420 other projectiles.

In late January, two US military vehicles crashed in New Mexico, injuring all 9 personnel onboard, two of them critically.

The US military has been blamed for similar incidents abroad, notably in Germany and Japan.

March 10, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

US Base in Okinawa to Be Relocated Despite Referendum Results – Japanese PM Abe

Sputnik – 25.02.2019

A total of 72.2 percent of those who voted in the referendum on the Japanese island of Okinawa voted against plans to build a new military airfield for US troops in their prefecture, the referendum’s results showed on 25 February.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he “took seriously” the results of the referendum in Okinawa on transferring the US Futenma base to Henoko in the same prefecture, but “it is impossible to postpone the transfer dates”.

“I have considered the referendum results with all seriousness and will do everything to reduce Okinawa’s burden… It’s been over 20 years since Japan and the United States signed an agreement about returning the entire territory of Futenma [to the prefecture]. But it has still not been returned. We cannot postpone the relocation any longer”, the prime minister stated.

He continued on by saying that the authorities need to “avoid a situation where the Futenma base, considered the most dangerous in the world, keeps being surrounded by schools and residential buildings”.

The statement comes after a non-binding referendum was held in Okinawa on 24 February, in which local residents expressed their attitude to the relocation of US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from the densely populated city of Ginowan, where it is currently situated, to the Henoko district.

A total of 19.1 percent of voters supported the plans for the US base relocation, while 8.8 percent refrained from responding yes or no.

In numerical terms, 434,273 people voted against the Tokyo-Washington plans, while 114,933 supported the move, with 52,682 others choosing neither of the options.

The US Marine Corps base Futenma was constructed in 1945. Talks on its relocation to a less populated area within the Okinawa prefecture started over two decades ago, but the government’s plans have been hampered by local residents’ protests.

While Ginowan residents have been calling on the government to close the Futenma base due to their environmental concerns, aircraft incidents and accidents related to the behavior of US troops, residents of Henoko district are also unwilling to see the base relocated to their region. The administration of Okinawa would like to see the base outside the prefecture instead of its relocation to another site within its administrative borders and called a non-binding referendum in hopes that it would demonstrate the prefecture’s strong opposition to the relocation project.

See also:

February 25, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese PM Abe set to ignore local referendum on US Okinawa military base relocation

RT | February 23, 2019

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said his government will press ahead with the controversial relocation of a US military base on the island of Okinawa, despite local objection.

Okinawa is home to two-thirds of the US’ Japanese bases. Tokyo wants to relocate one of these – US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, located in a densely populated area – to the more remote coastal area of Henoko. While residents near the base have been angered by a series of aircraft accidents, they also oppose the relocation to Henoko, claiming that planned land-reclamation works there will devastate the coral-rich coastal environment.

Okinawans will vote on the relocation on Sunday in a non-binding referendum, with nearly 70 percent expected to vote ‘No,’ according to a poll by Kyodo News. Okinawa’s Governor Denny Tamaki, who campaigned on an anti-base platform last year, has also traveled to Washington DC to lobby against the move.

The Japanese government intends to go ahead with the relocation “without being swayed by referendum results,” Abe told parliament on Wednesday.

Many Okinawans are unhappy with the base’s current location, as well as the planned relocation. They hope a ‘No’ vote will force the government to move the base off the island altogether.

The behavior of US troops stationed on Okinawa has also incensed locals, with the 1995 kidnap and gang-rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US soldiers triggering mass protests on the island. Two cases of rape and murder by US troops again caused protests in 2016. One year later, Okinawa was back in the news after a drunk Marine plowed his truck into another vehicle while running a red light, killing an elderly Japanese man.

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Debris of INF treaty will fall far and wide

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | January 17, 2019

The US-Russia talks in Geneva regarding the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty have ended in failure. In a final call to salvage the treaty, Moscow offered that American experts could inspect a new suspect Russian missile, which Washington has been citing as the alibi for its decision to quit the treaty, but the US point-blank rejected the offer and instead went on to reconfirm that it intends to suspend observance of the cold-war era pact with effect from February 2.

We are entering uncharted waters in regional and international security. Russia anticipates increased US deployments near its borders. In an interview with government-daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said on Tuesday, “In general, our analysis shows that the American presence near our borders will grow… As for Russia’s western borders, we note the course for the growth of military presence of the US and other NATO members in their vicinity. In 2019, placement of multinational battalion tactical groups in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland will continue. At the same time, Brussels does not hide the fact that its main goal is to contain our country. The strengthening of the European segment of the US global missile defense system continues. The inauguration of the missile defense complex in Poland in addition to the already functioning one in Romania is expected in 2020.”

Equally, new faultlines are appearing. Moscow anticipates further US missile deployments to Northeast Asia – specifically, Japan. Moscow estimates that it is unrealistic to expect Japan to adopt an independent foreign policy. This geopolitical reality in Northeast Asia is in turn casting shadows on the recent improved climate in Russo-Japanese relations. (See my blog Russia tamps down the Kuril hype.)

Following the foreign-minister level talks in Moscow on Monday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, the latter showed reluctance to hold a joint press conference, underscoring the rapidly changing climate of ties between the two countries. Lavrov’s remarks to the media later signaled a marked toughening of the Russian stance on the territorial dispute over Kuril Islands.

Lavrov demanded an outright Japanese recognition of Russian sovereignty over all the islands in the Kuril chain as part of the outcome of World War 2, as accepted under international treaties and by the UN – “Japan’s indisputable recognition of the entirety of results of World War 2, including Russia’s sovereignty over all of the islands of the southern Kuril chain,” as Lavrov put it.

Lavrov said Japanese domestic legislation must accordingly be changed in consultation with Russia. He added, “This is our base position and without steps in this direction it is very difficult to expect movement forward on other issues (such as peace treaty).”

Evidently, in the developing post-INF treaty scenario, Japan’s security alliance with the US now becomes a major hurdle in Russo-Japanese relations. Lavrov specifically pointed a finger at this: “The 1956 Declaration was signed when Japan did not have a military alliance treaty with the US. The treaty was signed in 1960, after which our Japanese colleagues departed from the 1956 Declaration. Now that we are resuming talks on the basis of this declaration, we must consider the drastic change that has taken place in Japan’s military alliances since then. At today’s talks we devoted attention to the US efforts to develop a global missile defence system in Japan with a view to militarising that part of the world and also to the actions that the US formally justifies by citing the need to neutralise the North Korean nuclear threat. In reality, these actions are creating security risks for Russia and China.”

Interestingly, Lavrov brought in the common concern of Russia and China with regard to the US-Japan security alliance and the American missile deployments to Japan. This is a snub to Tokyo inasmuch as recently, Abe’s aide in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (which Abe heads) had made a provocative statement that the US should be interested in concluding a treaty between Russia and Japan, as this would “strengthen the bloc” to contain China. Lavrov called it an “outrageous statement” and put across as bluntly as he could the Russian indignation over any Japanese ploy to create misperceptions regarding Russia-China relations:

“The problem is that the president of the Liberal Democratic Party is Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We have issued a serious warning about how inappropriate such statements are. We have also inquired more broadly about how independent Japan can be in addressing any issues at all with such heavy dependence on the United States. We were assured that Japan would make decisions based on its national interests. We would like it to be that way.” (See a detailed report by China Daily titled Russia tells Japan retaking Pacific islands not on horizon.)

As much as in regard of Russia’s western borders with Europe, the Asia-Pacific also becomes a region where Moscow’s policies will be significantly influenced by the new climate in international security. This holds good for other regions, too.

Most certainly, Russia will be even more wary of any open-ended US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan. The Russian-American contestation over Turkey will become more complex. (The US missile deployment in Turkey was a core issue during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.) Again, there are reports that a massive expansion of the US bases in Qatar is unfolding (where the US Central Command is headquartered.) Qatar is a potential site for the deployment of US missile systems. Indeed, in the circumstances, Russia’s relations with Iran assume a highly strategic character. Iran’s strategic autonomy is of vital interest to Russia.

The Balkans is another region that Russian strategies will prioritize. Putin is embarking today on a visit to Serbia, which is a key ally, but where conditions may arise for a potential standoff between the West and Russia as had happened in 2014 in Ukraine. In an interview with the Serbian media, Putin came down heavily on the NATO expansion policy, which he condemned as “a misguided, destructive military and political strategy.” He accused the Alliance of “trying to strengthen its presence in the Balkans.” No doubt, a period of heightened tensions in international security lies ahead with the US decision to abandon the INF treaty.

January 17, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Is there an Upside to the US Military Presence in the Southeast Asia?

By Jean Perier – New Eastern Outlook – 30.12.2018 

As of today the Southeast Asian and Asia-Pacific region have found themselves at the center of a complex international process of establishing a new regional architecture. As states carry on fighting for control over strategic sea routes that run across the region, numerous security and transitional threats would appear seemingly out of the blue.

Unsurprisingly, the United States is trying to exercise as much influence over the region as it possibly can, even in spite of the fact that over the past decades the influence that Washington exercises in Southeast Asia has significantly diminished. Speaking about the evolution of the US approach to Southeast Asia in the post-bipolar period of global composition, it should be noted that the initial goal of containing the spread of communism that Washington used to pursue has evolved into attempts of ensuring American military and economic dominance in this part of the world. These days the US couldn’t care less about communism, as it’s dead set on opposing the rise of China and Russia and their regional allies. Washington’s new approach to its global strategy became evident after the release of America’s National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review, in which China and Russia were designated as primary geopolitical opponents of the US.

To achieve these goals, the Trump administration would concentrate its efforts on creating a 400,000 man strong force in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure that at least 50 large military bases across the region remain fully operational at all times. It goes without saying that the absolute majority of those are located in Japan.

Among the tools that allow Washington to advance its agenda in the Asia-Pacific region are large carrier strike groups. For the first time since the days of WWII, the Pentagon keeps a total of two carrier groups stationed in the Western Pacific. Additionally, the US Air Force would use strategic bombers on patrol duty over the Pacific, as Washington believes this practice to be a good demonstration of force.

The Pentagon is also actively deploying its anti-air capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, thus provoking an arms race across the region. At present, it has 20 ships capable of bringing down both missiles and aircraft, two THAAD batteries, three PAC-3 missile battalions along with five mobile radars stationed in the region.

To ensure its primacy in the region, Washington would place a particular emphasis on expanding its cooperation with Japan and South Korea. This results in those states holding an ever increasing number of joint military exercises, with their total exceeding 30 large military games over the last 18 months.

However, as inter-Korean relations begin reaping results of goodwill shown by both Pyongyang and Seoul, along with the progress that Russia and Japan have made in resolving their territorial disputes, Southeast Asian political analysts have begun discussing the issue of Washington maintaining such a leviathanian scale of American military presence in the region and the rationale behind it.

As for the prospects of a continuous US military presence on the Korean peninsula, it’s being addressed by China that which recently began insisting on the complete withdrawal of US armed forces from South Korea as a precondition for the complete denuclearization of the DPRK. Chinese authorities are persistent in convincing Pyongyang that this should be the first demand made, since there will be no way to force Washington into leaving once a peace treaty is signed. In turn, Washington is pursuing the goal of maintaining as many troops in South Korea as possible, as those remain an important element of its China containment plan.

As for the US military presence in Japan, the public pressure applied by various civil activist groups on Japanese authorities is almost palpable. Although Tokyo hasn’t faced a massive public uproar demanding the complete withdrawal of all American servicemen from the country, the number of civil protests demanding this course of action is increasing annually. In addition, the advances that Japan and Russia made in resolving their differences on questions over the Kuril Islands may vanish overnight, should it be announced that American servicemen are here to stay in Japan. As a matter of fact, this presence contradicts the terms of the 1956 agreement between the USSR and Japan, and ever since the day it was signed any further progress has been derailed by the presence of foreign servicemen in Japanese territory. Back in the day, this fact resulted in the USSR abandoning any discussions with Tokyo over the possibility of transferring a part of the Kuril Islands to Japan, as Tokyo signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security with Washington back in 1960. After all, in accordance with this treaty, the Pentagon is allowed to build its naval bases all across the territory of Japan. Should it decide to build one on the Kuril Islands once they are handed over to Japan, it will trap the Russian navy in its harbors. It is quite understandable that Moscow will never allow this scenario to occur.

To get a better understanding of this deadlock, it is enough to recall the Caribbean crisis of 1962 and the deployment of Soviet ballistic missiles in Cuba. Back then, Washington reacted vigorously to Moscow’s attempt to create a direct military threat to the United States in the immediate vicinity of its borders, which brought the world toward the brink of WWIII. So what reaction should we expect from Moscow should Washington build a naval base on the Kuril Islands? Therefore, without Tokyo demanding the Pentagon to pack up and leave, no further progress in the disputes that exist between Russia and Japan can be achieved.

Of course, both Moscow and Beijing in their approach to the question of the lingering US military presence in the immediate vicinity of their shores are driven by their strategic interests. This means that Beijing is going to use any leverage it has to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for a US withdrawal, while Russia would never go as far as to consider handing over the Kuril Islands without Japan sending American servicemen home.

As for the position of today’s political elite of South Korea and Japan on this issue, it is clear that they follow the instruction of their overseas masters in addressing these issues, as both of these states have launched massive media campaigns to persuade their population that the presence of US forces is somehow not a bad thing. Washington has even given them cues as to what their media should advertise. In particular, they try to convince the world that:

  • a certain part of the population of South Korea and Japan is still supporting the strengthening of military cooperation with the United States.
  • the withdrawal of American troops will be accompanied by a substantial increase in defense spending. In particular, it is said that in South Korea in order to prevent the weakening of its combat potential, Seoul will be bound to spend no less than 30-35 billion dollars.
  • both Japan and South Korea will lose jobs should they decide to close US military bases. It’s stated that South Korea will lose more than 10,000 jobs that were created by the fact that American soldiers needed services that the Pentagon was willing to pay for. It’s estimated that Washington would spend 800 million dollars on those and thus the withdrawal of American troops is going to somehow affect the overall economic growth rates of South Korea. Should those media sources be believed, Japan with its massive industrial potential is going to suffer even greater financial losses due to the withdrawal of US forces from Japan.

Under these circumstances, the ruling political circles of South Korea and Japan have to decide whether the costs and the lost income associated with persistent tensions those two states have with their neighbors are worth the pay Washington is providing them with. It goes without saying that neither nation can hope to secure full political independence without sending American troops home. Moreover, the signing of peace treaties with their neighbors will eliminate the need to carry on the arms race that Washington initiated, as both Japan and South Korea are bound to buy expensive outdated weapons produced by the United States to the detriment of their national interests. For sure, the final word on this matter should not be left to the political elites of South Korea and Japan who are closely tied to Washington, but to the population of these countries, since they are being described as democracies by the Western media.

December 30, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

DPRK Is Still Being Persecuted For “Violating Human Rights”

By Konstantin Asmolov – New Eastern Outlook – 20.12.2018

The ties between South and North Koreas are becoming closer and there are fewer tensions in the relationship between DPRK and the USA. That often makes us forget that, though it was rather the Democrats’ strategy to pick on North Korea for violating human rights, the pressure on Pyongyang for this reason has merely become less blatant.

For example, on 23 October 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK, Tomás Ojea Quintana, announced that over the past year many changes had taken place on the Korean Peninsula, but the situation with human rights in DPRK remained the same. He referred to testimonies, made by defectors from North Korea, when he said that ordinary North Korean inhabitants were starving and had no access to medical services due to lack of money. During his speech he even showed a padlock, which had been given to him as a gift by a teenage defector from North Korea, and said that specifically the United Nations had the key to improving the human rights situation in DPRK.

On 15 November, the UN General Assembly Third Committee on human rights, humanitarian affairs and social matters unanimously (without a vote) approved yet another resolution, put forward by Japan and the European Union, condemning DPRK for violating human rights. The UN has been adopting such resolutions since 2005, and the latest resolution happens to be the 14th one. And just as the resolutions approved earlier, it condemns DPRK for constant, systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the north of the Korean Peninsula. It demands, among other things, that all labor camps be immediately closed, all prisoners freed, and all parties, responsible for violating human rights, be held responsible. The authors of the document urge for the situation in DPRK to be resolved in the International Criminal Court; for the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be brought to justice, and for concrete measures to be taken on this issue, with due consideration to be given to the conclusions reached by the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) to investigate violations of human rights in DPRK (as it turns out the notorious 2014 report was, for the most part, based on false testimonies).

In reality, no serious changes were made to the document, which, according to South Korean media sources, lends evidence to the idea that no progress has been made to resolve human rights issues in North Korea, and does not illustrate the fact that such resolutions are produced regardless of the reality on the ground in North Korea. Still, the UN Committee on humanitarian affairs “has welcomed” Pyongyang’s attempts to normalize diplomatic relations with the international community and to abide by the inter-Korean agreements on families split up by the conflict.

In response, North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, stated that discussions about human rights violations in DPRK were out of the question, and that the international community was meddling in internal affairs of a sovereign nation. China, Russia, Syria, Myanmar and other countries also did not support the resolution, but they did not demand for its approval to be put to a vote. They did not do so because the international community cannot demand that Pyongyang abide by its conditions, and the pressure applied by the resolution on North Korea is not great enough to start a confrontation over it. DPRK media outlets also called the resolution a thinly veiled campaign to tarnish North Korea’s reputation, and stated that the step taken by the UN was aimed at halting the current trend towards better dialogue and peace.

In November 2018, Moon Jong In, a special advisor to the South Korean President on issues connected with diplomacy and unification, advised the DPRK leader to start focusing on human rights issues, and to better still close labor camps. In his opinion, any rhetoric voiced by Kim Jong-un on human rights issues can substantially help Pyongyang gain more trust from the international community. Quoting the statement made by Moon Jong In, Amnesty International estimated (it would be interesting to know how) that there are more than 130,000 political prisoners in North Korea. And on 31 October 2018, experts from the international organization Human Rights Watch published an 86-page report, entitled “You Cry at Night but Don’t Know Why: Sexual Violence against Women in North Korea”, which stated that North Korean officials used the lawless rape of women as a mechanism of repression. We will dedicate a separate article to the analysis of this report, as it is a good example of how broad interpretations of the meaning of the word “rape”, and inaccurate information selection help transform DPRK into an analogue of those African nations where mass rape is actually part of repression means, used by authorities.

On 26 November, the main DPRK newspaper commented on the Human Rights Watch report and the repeated allusions to this issue, by noting that the USA had been using these mind games in order to gain concessions from DPRK in negotiations and to destabilize the North Korean regime. The paper also reported that, currently in the US, it is being asserted that the stumbling block in the relationship between the USA and DPRK is the nuclear issue. But once this issue is resolved to the benefit of Washington, the US will use the human rights violation issue or another reason to apply pressure on DPRK to change its regime.

On 27 November, the international news agency France-Presse announced that Washington approached the UN Security Council with a request to hold a meeting on the human rights issues in North Korea on 10 December. Such meetings have taken place since 2014, and despite objections from Beijing, the request has already received support from 9 nation-participants, which is essential for its approval.

DPRK’s Ambassador to the United Nations once again expressed regret at the fact that the UN Security Council followed orders from Washington blindly, and highlighted that the decision would not have a favorable effect on the outcomes of diplomatic negotiations between the international community and Pyongyang.

Along with international sanctions, imposed in response to the violations, unilateral ones are also being used. Hence, on 29 November, in order to reinforce the fight against human trafficking, Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban provision of non-humanitarian and non-trade financial assistance to a number of countries in year 2019. Eighteen countries were placed in this banned list, which includes DPRK, China, Iran, South Sudan, Eritrea, Venezuela and even the Russian Federation. They were included, because their local authorities failed to make enough effort to combat human trafficking, and these restrictions will remain in place until the nations take decisive action. Trump appealed to the International Monetary Fund and development banks to not offer credit lines to the previously mentioned nations.

Every year, the USA publishes a report on human trafficking, and every time DPRK, for 16 years in a row now, is listed as a nation which actively engages in human trafficking. Since 2003, the country has received the lowest rating, which means that it is actively involved in human trafficking within its borders, and that local authorities take no measures to resolve this issue. In the case of DPRK, “slave trade” usually refers to the fate of North Korean defectors to China, who end up in inhumane conditions on account of the efforts made by the so-called “brokers” that are often protected by South Korean NGOs.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in DPRK, Tomás Ojea Quintana, stated, the United Nations would embrace closer ties between the two Koreas, but human rights violations were impossible to ignore. The author urges the readers to remember this statement and also recall it when answering the question “Will DPRK be left alone after it (let us say this is possible) fulfills the denuclearization requirements?” After all, in one possible scenario any mistake on North Korea’s part is presented as deplorable, but in another, as an unfortunate incident, which is easily forgotten. It is probably not worth explaining what the reaction of the international community would have been if the diplomatic mission where a dissident was dismembered had been a North Korean and not a Saudi one.

Konstantin Asmolov, PhD in History, Leading Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

December 20, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Russo-Japanese peace treaty is doable

A new template is forming in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific – Russo-Japanese concord. The two regional powers with a troubled history are moving in the direction of concluding a peace treaty that could formally end their World War 2 hostilities and open a new page in their relations.

The negotiations are being handled at the highest level of leadership and, therefore, every single meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is invested with high importance. Both statesmen are known to be ardent supporters of a robust partnership between their countries.

The conclusion of a peace treaty is a pre-requisite to put the relationship on a higher trajectory and to realize its full potential. But both nations are also riding a wave of nationalism and when territorial concessions are involved, feelings run high.

Abe also has tryst with destiny insofar as he hopes to garner the historical legacy of getting back from Russia, the territories, which the former Soviet Union had occupied in the final period of World War 2 when Japan was staring at defeat.

Putin understands that an obdurate Russian stance on Kuril islands is impossible for any Japanese leader to accept. On the other hand, he also cannot ignore the Russian public opinion against territorial concessions. Besides, what complicates matters is that Japan is the US’ number one ally in Northeast Asia and Russia is apprehensive that any formula to settle the territorial dispute – which will have to be based on the joint declaration issued by Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956 (which re-established diplomatic relations and stipulated the return of two of the Kuril islands Habomai and Shikotan after the conclusion of a peace treaty) may lead to an American military presence in a region where Russia has several highly sensitive bases.

Last September, Putin had made a novel offer of signing a peace treaty unconditionally by end-2018, but Abe found it unacceptable. Having said that, Abe acknowledged that Putin’s words showed a desire for peace treaty.

When they met last week in November 14, Abe reportedly came up with a proposal that Japan would not allow U.S. military bases on two islands off Hokkaido even if Russia returns them based on a 1956 joint declaration. (Ostensibly, Abe hopes to dispel Russian concern over the potential presence of US bases on Habomai and Shikotan islands.)

The Kremlin spokesman refused to comment but in a nuanced response made it a point to “confirm that Tokyo’s alliance obligations (with the US) are important as far as peace treaty talks go.”

It is hard to tell whether the ongoing Putin-Abe diplomacy is also a tango being staged by the two statesmen who have a shared interest in expediting a peace treaty, but who are also having to negotiate with each other and safeguard national interests as well as carry their respective domestic audiences along at the same time.

It is entirely conceivable that the two statesmen may even have set a timeline. In fact, Putin and Abe are meeting again in Argentina during the G20 in end-November. Tass reported today that Abe will also be visiting Russia in January. The accelerating diplomacy could well have something to do with Putin’s proposed visit to Japan in June to attend the G20 at Osaka. Don’t be surprised if Abe hopes to meet Putin on a full-fledged state visit in June.

Quite obviously, Russo-Japanese relations are deepening and what seemed an intractable territorial dispute may lend itself to resolution. One possibility could be that Japan regains sovereignty over the Habomai Islands and Shikotan, and the two islands might be turned into special economic zones.

Clearly, the US is the elephant in the room. Under the framework of the Japan-US Security Treaty, American troops in Japan can be stationed on Habomai and Shikotan if the two are handed over to Japan. Therefore, Abe’s proposal (that such a thing will not happen) also implies his willingness to maintain a diplomatic distance from the US.

Indeed, it could not have escaped Putin’s attention that there are incipient trends in Abe’s policies lately suggesting a degree of ‘detachment’ from the US – as apparent, for instance, from Abe’s moves to actively improve relations with China and sequestering it from the deterioration of Sino-American relations. The fact of the matter is that Japan is increasingly uncertain about the US intentions.

Having said that, Japan is still dependent on the security treaty with the US. Trust the US to interfere with the conclusion of a Japan-Russia Peace Treaty, given the long-term implications it would have for the American military presence in Northeast Asia.

On the other hand, a peace treaty would completely transform Russo-Japanese relations, which would also impact the Russia-Japan-China triangle. To be sure, a full-bodied partnership with Russia will vastly expand the strategic space for Japan to recalibrate its relations with both the US and China.

All signs are that Abe is working on a grand design. For a start, he has to contend with domestic opinion.  Abe’s big re-election as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in September (with 82% support) has put him on track to become Japan’s longest serving prime minister and to pursue his vision of Japan over the next three years in power (in what will be his last term in office), as well as to focus on the kind of legacy he will leave behind. Read a fine piece here by Japanese scholar Tomohiko Satake at the National Institute of Defence Studies, Tokyo – Should Japan continue to support the US-led international order?

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

US Blocks $199Mln in Assets Belonging to Iran, Syria, N Korea in 2017 – Treasury

Sputnik – 07.11.2018

WASHINGTON – The United States blocked nearly $200 million in assets belonging to Syria, Iran, and North Korea in 2017 as a result of the sanctions imposed on the three countries, the Treasury Department said in its annual report to Congress released on Wednesday.

“Approximately $199 million in assets relating to the three designated state sponsors of terrorism in 2017 have been identified by OFAC as blocked pursuant to economic sanctions imposed by the United States,” the report said.

The statement comes days after the US fully reinstated sanctions against Iran, including measures that curb Tehran’s oil industry. At the same time, the United States temporarily exempted eight nations — China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey — from the sanctions on importing oil from Iran.

In May, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and reimpose sanctions against Tehran that were previously lifted under the accord, including secondary restrictions.

The first round of the US sanctions was reimposed in August, while the second round, targeting over 700 Iranian individuals, entities, banks, aircraft and vessels, came into force this week.

November 7, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive, but… ‘safe’? Japan to dump Fukushima wastewater in Pacific despite objections

RT | October 17, 2018

Running out of space to store water contaminated by fuel that escaped during the Fukushima meltdown, the Japanese government is preparing to release it into the Pacific Ocean – despite the presence of radioactive elements.

Currently, 1.09 million tons of contaminated water is stored in 900 tanks near the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which suffered a catastrophic release of fuel following an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The government claims that radioactive material is being reduced to non-detectable levels through the Advanced Liquid Processing System procedure, but there is evidence that this process does not remove many radioactive elements, including antimony, cobalt, iodine, rhodium, ruthenium, strontium, and tellurium. Tepco, which operates the plant, admits the water contains tritium, but insist the levels are “safe.”

The UK Telegraph has obtained documents from Japanese government sources indicating that authorities are aware ALPS, developed by Hitachi, is not actually eliminating radioactive elements to non-detectable levels. Tepco was forced last month to admit that 80 percent of the water still contains radioactive substances after local residents and fishermen protested plans to dispose of it in the ocean.

Tepco admits that 65,000 tons of ALPS-cleansed water retain more than 100 times the amount of strontium-90 legally permitted. Strontium-90 accumulates in teeth and bones and can cause leukemia and bone cancer.

Tritium, too, is not harmless, despite Tepco’s assurances. According to nuclear specialist Shaun Burnie, beta particles of the element are more harmful than X-rays and gamma rays.

The government initially planned to release the contaminated water in 2016, but was surprised by the strength of local opposition. In March 2016, Tepco executives were charged with contributing to deaths and injuries in relation to the Fukushima meltdown after a judicial panel said they had ignored a 2008 internal report warning the plant could be struck by 15-meter waves in the event of a tsunami.

October 17, 2018 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | | 5 Comments

How the tentacles of the US military are strangling the planet

By Vijay Prashad | Asia Times | October 3, 2018

In June this year in Itoman, a city in Okinawa prefecture, Japan, a 14-year-old girl named Rinko Sagara read out of a poem based on her great-grandmother’s experience of World War II. Rinko’s great-grandmother reminded her of the cruelty of war. She had seen her friends shot in front of her. It was ugly.

Okinawa, a small island on the edge of southern Japan, saw its share of war from April to June 1945. “The blue skies were obscured by the iron rain,” wrote Rinko Sagara, channeling the memories of her great-grandmother. The roar of the bombs overpowered the haunting melody from the sanshin, Okinawa’s snakeskin-covered three-string guitar. “Cherish each day,” the poem goes, “for our future is just an extension of this moment. Now is our future.”

This week, the people of Okinawa elected Denny Tamaki of the Liberal Party as the governor of the prefecture. Tamaki’s mother is an Okinawan, while his father – whom he does not know – was a US soldier. Tamaki, like former governor Takeshi Onaga, opposes the US military bases on Okinawa. Onaga wanted the presence of the US military removed from the island, a position that Tamaki seems to endorse.

The United States has more than 50,000 troops in Japan as well as a very large contingent of ships and aircraft. Seventy percent of the US bases in Japan are on Okinawa island. Almost everyone in Okinawa wants the US military to go. Rape by American soldiers – including of young children – has long angered the Okinawans. Terrible environmental pollution – including the harsh noise from US military aircraft – rankles people. It was not difficult for Tamaki to run on an anti-US-base platform. It is the most basic demand of his constituents.

But the Japanese government does not accept the democratic views of the Okinawan people. Discrimination against the Okinawans plays a role here, but more fundamentally there is a lack of regard for the wishes of ordinary people when it comes to a US military base.

In 2009, Yukio Hatoyama led the Democratic Party to victory in national elections on a wide-ranging platform that included shifting Japanese foreign policy from its US orientation to a more balanced approach with the rest of Asia. As prime minister, Hatoyama called for the United States and Japan to have a “close and equal” relationship, which meant that Japan would no longer be ordered around by Washington.

The test case for Hatoyama was the relocation of the Futenma Marine Corps Air Base to a less populated section of Okinawa. His party wanted all the US bases to be removed from the island.

Pressure on the Japanese state from Washington was intense. Hatoyama could not deliver on his promise. He resigned his post. It was impossible to go against US military policy and to rebalance Japan’s relationship with the rest of Asia. Japan, but more properly Okinawa, is in effect a US aircraft carrier.

Japan’s prostituted daughter

Hatoyama could not move an agenda at the national level; likewise, local politicians and activists have struggled to move an agenda in Okinawa. Tamaki’s predecessor Takeshi Onaga – who died in August – could not get rid of the US bases in Okinawa.

Yamashiro Hiroji, head of the Okinawa Peace Action Center, and his comrades regularly protest against the bases and in particular the transfer of the Futenma base. In October 2016, Hiroji was arrested when he cut a barbed-wire fence at the base. He was held in prison for five months and not allowed to see his family. In June 2017, Hiroji went before the United Nations Human Rights Council to say, “The government of Japan dispatched a large police force in Okinawa to oppress and violently remove civilians.” Protest is illegal. The Japanese forces are acting here on behalf of the US government.

Suzuyo Takazato, head of the organization Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence, has called Okinawa “Japan’s prostituted daughter.” This is a stark characterization. Takazato’s group was formed in 1995 as part of the protest against the rape of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen based in Okinawa.

For decades now, Okinawans have complained about the creation of enclaves of their island that operate as places for the recreation of American soldiers. Photographer Mao Ishikawa has portrayed these places, the segregated bars where only US soldiers are allowed to go and meet Okinawan women (her book Red Flower: The Women of Okinawa collects many of these pictures from the 1970s).

There have been at least 120 reported rapes since 1972, the “tip of the iceberg,” says Takazato. Every year there is at least one incident that captures the imagination of the people – a terrible act of violence, a rape or a murder.

What the people want is for the bases to close, since they see the bases as the reason for these acts of violence. It is not enough to call for justice after the incidents; it is necessary, they say, to remove the cause of the incidents.

The Futenma base is to be relocated to Henoko in Nago City, Okinawa. A referendum in 1997 allowed the residents of Nago to vote against a base. A massive demonstration in 2004 reiterated their view, and it was this demonstration that halted construction of the new base in 2005.

Susumu Inamine, former mayor of Nago, is opposed to the construction of any base in his city; he lost a re-election bid this year to Taketoyo Toguchi, who did not raise the base issue, by a slim margin. Everyone knows that if there were a new referendum in Nago over a base, it would be roundly defeated. But democracy is meaningless when it comes to the US military base.

Fort Trump

The US military has a staggering 883 military bases in 183 countries. In contrast, Russia has 10 such bases – eight of them in the former USSR. China has one overseas military base. There is no country with a military footprint that replicates that of the United States. The bases in Japan are only a small part of the massive infrastructure that allows the US military to be hours away from armed action against any part of the planet.

There is no proposal to downsize the US military footprint. In fact, there are only plans to increase it. The United States has long sought to build a base in Poland, whose government now courts the White House with the proposal that it be named “Fort Trump.”

Currently, there are US-NATO military bases in Germany, Hungary and Bulgaria, with US-NATO troops deployments in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The United States has increased its military presence in the Black Sea and in the Baltic Sea.

Attempts to deny Russia access to its only two warm-water ports in Sevastopol, Crimea, and Latakia, Syria, pushed Moscow to defend them with military interventions. A US base in Poland, on the doorstep of Belarus, would rattle the Russians as much as they were rattled by Ukraine’s pledge to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and by the war in Syria.

These US-NATO bases provide instability and insecurity rather than peace. Tensions abound around them. Threats emanate from their presence.

A world without bases

In mid-November in Dublin, a coalition of organizations from around the world will hold the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases. This conference is part of the newly formed Global Campaign Against US/NATO Military Bases.

The view of the organizers is that “none of us can stop this madness alone.” By “madness,” they refer to the belligerence of the bases and the wars that come as a result of them.

A decade ago, a US Central Intelligence Agency operative offered me the old chestnut, “If you have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.” What this means is that the expansion of the US military – and its covert infrastructure – provides the incentive for the US political leadership to treat every conflict as a potential war. Diplomacy goes out of the window. Regional structures to manage conflict – such as the African Union and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – are disregarded. The US hammer comes down hard on nails from one end of Asia to the other end of the Americas.

The poem by Rinko Sagara ends with an evocative line: “Now is our future.” But it is, sadly, not so. The future will need to be produced – a future that disentangles the massive global infrastructure of war erected by the United States and NATO.

It is to be hoped that the future will be made in Dublin and not in Warsaw; in Okinawa and not in Washington.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute, which provided it to Asia Times.

October 3, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Anti-US base candidate wins Okinawa governor elections

RT | September 30, 2018

A staunch opponent of the planned relocation of a US military base within Okinawa Island, where the issue sparked major public protests, has beaten a government-backed competitor in the local governor elections.

Denny Tamaki, a former opposition lawmaker and the son of a US marine, has got a win against Atsushi Sakima, the former mayor of a local city of Ginowan, who was backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The vote was largely determined by the issue of the relocation of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which has been a source of controversy for the locals over the years.

Tamaki vowed to continue fighting against relocation of the US base from the crowded town of Ginowan to the less populated coastal region of Nago, which would put corals and dugongs, the endangered marine mammals, at risk, according to environmental activists. He also pledged to follow the steps of the former Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, who had been an outspoken opponent of the relocation until his death in August that prompted early gubernatorial elections.

His major rival in the four-person race, Sakima, also supported the closure of the existing Futenma base but did not clarify his stance on the issue of relocation. Tamaki, meanwhile, vowed to continue fighting for the base to be relocated off the island.

Tamaki’s victory is considered to be a blow to Abe’s plans as the prime minister is pushing for the controversial base relocation plan despite vehement opposition from the locals, the Japanese media report. Okinawa, which amounts to less than one percent of the Japanese total land area, hosts about a half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan.

The US presence on the island has long been a source of discontent for the locals. Okinawans have raised concerns about machinery mishaps, noise, sexual assaults against Japanese women, and even some deadly incidents – all of which triggered massive protests. Onaga also repeatedly clashed with the government over the relocation issue in particular.

In 2015, he revoked an approval for the construction works issued by his predecessor. His decision was overruled by the central government, which went ahead with the project. In August, the local government retracted the permission again. Since then, the work has been suspended.

Following Onaga’s death in August, 70,000 people protested the Japanese government’s plan to relocate the US air base. Participants also held a one-minute silence to pay respect to the late governor.

September 30, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Abu Town Mayor Opposes Aegis Ashore Deployment Nearby

Sputnik – 20.09.2018

Norihiko Hanada, the mayor of the Japanese town Abu, said on Thursday he was opposed to the deployment of Aegis Ashore component of the US ballistic missile defense system next to the town, NHK reported.

The mayor argued that such a deployment could be detrimental to the safety and security of the town residents, the NHK broadcaster reported.

According to the outlet, the town’s assembly has unanimously voted to back the residents’ petition against such a deployment.

The government wants to set up an Aegis Ashore unit at a military training range in the city of Hagi, next to Abu, while another unit is expected to be installed in the city of Akita.

In March, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said, in response to concerns voiced by Russia, that the system was needed to ensure Japan’s protection against North Korea’s missile and nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang has launched several missile and nuclear tests in the last few years. However, North Korea has not had one test since the beginning of 2018 as its relationship with South Korea began to improve.

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment