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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

Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

By Maya Evans | Dissident Voice | August 5, 2018

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism. While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe. The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says:

People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.

Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibility, in a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul. This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.” There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk (Photo by Maya Evans)

Maya Evans coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK and has visited Afghanistan 9 times since 2011. She is a writer and a Councillor for her town in Hastings, England.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

DPRK Slams Extension of US-Japan Nuclear Pact as US Double Standard – Report

Sputnik – 05.08.2018

North Korea denounced the extension of the US-Japanese atomic energy agreement, accusing Tokyo of undertaking activities allegedly aimed at nuclear weaponization and blaming the United States of double standards, local media reported on Sunday.

The Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee (KAPPC) released a white paper on Saturday criticizing the 1988 US-Japanese nuclear pact, which was extended last month, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

According to the white paper, Japan has been conducting nuclear research since long ago, allegedly starting to push forward the A-bomb development in 1930s.

The paper also suggested that out of 518 tonnes of plutonium stockpiled around the world so far, 47 tonnes are stored by Japan.

The document accused the United States of a double-standard approach to treat North Korea and Japan differently on nuclear issues, calling on Washington to “judge the situation from a fair stand” if it wanted denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

In July, the United States and Japan extended a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement, which granted Japan the right to extract plutonium, reprocess spent fuel and enrich uranium on the condition that it was not used to build nuclear weapons.

August 5, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Nuclear Power | , , | 1 Comment

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