Archive for April, 2015

PHILIPPINES, CHINA TRADE ACCUSATIONS OVER ‘AGGRESSIVE ACTION’ in DISPUTED WATERS

April 29, 2015

AP on April 24, 2015, reported that the Philippines accused China of aggressive maneuvers against its reconnaissance plane and fishermen in disputed seas where Beijing has stepped up construction of artificial islands, but China reiterated its claim on the strategic waterways. Excerpts below:

A Chinese vessel flashed powerful lights and radioed the Philippine navy plane to leave the area near one of the islands in the Spratlys chain in the South China Sea, Philippine military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

“This is an aggressive action on the part of the Chinese vessel,” Cabunoc said. “They said, ‘You’re entering Chinese territory, leave.'”
He said the incident happened on Sunday closed to Subi Reef, which is near Pag-asa — also called Thitu — Island, which has been occupied by Philippine troops since the 1970s. Among the hundreds of Spratly isles, coral reefs and shoals, less than 50 are occupied by troops from countries with competing claims — the Philippines, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

China claims most of the South China Sea on historical grounds and in recent years has dispatched more vessels and patrols to stake its claim, alarming neighbors.

The Philippines filed a case in 2013 with the international arbitration tribunal challenging China’s claims.

The head of the Philippine Fisheries Bureau, Asis Perez, called on global action to stop China’s reclamation activities, saying they caused massive coral destruction — about 311 hectares (768.6 acres) — that will take thousands of years to repair.

“This is not a simple dispute over territory, but there is actually a huge environmental impact that will affect not just us,” he said.

U.S., JAPAN TO ANNOUNCE EXPANDED SECURITY PACT

April 28, 2015

Washington Times on April 24, 2015, reported that U.S. officials plan a “major announcement” April 27on expanding defense cooperation with Japan, White Houses aides said. Excerpts below:

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John F. Kerry will make the announcement in New York with their Japanese counterparts ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official state visit to the White House on April 28.

The two nations are expected to expand the areas of defense cooperation under new guidelines that cover Japan’s outlying islands.

The Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which are at the center of a territorial dispute with China, are to be included among Japan’s islands covered for defense.

Comment: This is a very important step to help protect Japan from Chinese attempts to take over Japanese territory. Growing Chinese aggression against neighbor states in Asia is a concern. The Obama administration has not done enough in what is called the Pivot to Asia. There is a growing risk of Chines-Russian co-operation in order to to lessen American influence in the rimland of Asia.

FORMER WARSAW PACT COUNTRIES RALLY BEHIND US CONVOY

April 27, 2015

toinformistoinfluence website on April 26, 2015, reported that all the Russian propaganda, that the US convoy there was not well greeted, is just that. Propaganda. The website used material from dailymail.com of March 30, 2015.

Excerpts below:

The Army has put on a heavy metal tour of Eastern Europe for Mr Putin. The US armor was mobbed by delighted citizens waving Stars and Stripes as it rolled across former Warsaw Pact countries
• Three American armored convoys converged in Czech Republic’s capital on tour of Eastern Europe
• Vehicles have traveled more than 1,000 miles through Poland and the Baltic States as warning to Putin
• Countries in the region are nervous after Russian annexation of Crimea and military unrest in the area
• U.S. Army said that Nato maneuvers are ‘a highly-visible demonstration of U.S. commitment’ to the region

Flag-waving supporters of the United States flooded the streets of Prague today to cheer on a highly visible display of U.S. military might rolling through Europe.

Dozens of Stars and Stripes flags, as well as symbols of the Nato military alliance, thronged Prague,the capital of the Czech Republic as American soldiers were given a warm welcome by the locals.

Armored carriers, including Stryker multi-purpose fighting vehicles, rolled down the highways before coming to a temporary stop in the city’s historic streets as part of an overt show of strength to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

WHY THE STAKES IN 2016 ARE SO HIGH

April 23, 2015

Wall Street Journal on April 22, 2015, published an article by Fred Barnes on the gigantic task of cleaning up after Obama. The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake. In 1980, a lot was. The economy was stuck with double-digit inflation and interest rates, and Soviet communism was advancing in Africa, Asia and South America. Ronald Reagan was elected president. Excerpts below:

Now, as the 2016 presidential race unfolds, the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread. And those problems are only part of what makes next year’s election so critical.

Like it or not, the next president must deal with the world President Obama leaves behind. It won’t be easy. A Republican president will be committed to reversing a significant chunk of Mr. Obama’s legacy, as most GOP candidates already are. That’s a gigantic undertaking. A Democratic president, presumably Hillary Clinton, will be forced to defend Mr. Obama’s policies, since they reflect the views of her party. That will leave little time for fresh Democratic initiatives.

The most immediate issues confronting the new president are strategic and military. The U.S. role in the world is in retreat. Allies such as Israel and Poland have been alienated. American leadership against Russian intervention in Ukraine and Iran’s dominance of neighboring countries in the Middle East was fleeting. Mr. Obama’s promise of a foreign-policy “pivot” toward Asia turned out to be merely rhetorical.

Ashamed of past American policies, Mr. Obama began his presidency with an apology tour. When the next president takes office a tour of reassurance may be required, along with an effort to persuade the world of America’s intention to stand up to Russia, Iran, China and Islamic terrorists.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has shrunk to pre-World War II levels in troops and arms. “Our leaders have painted a fictional picture of the state of our military,” said former Texas governor and likely GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry in a speech in early April.

Mr. Perry did not exaggerate. But a military buildup as massive as Mr. Reagan’s in the 1980s would be expensive, take years to complete, and face political opposition. The Democratic Party no longer has a hawkish, internationalist faction.

Next in line of importance is the economy, which has not experienced annual economic growth of more than 3% since 2005. Like the diminished military, this has weakened America’s ability to project power and influence outside U.S. borders.

… a Republican won’t be blocked from altering the ideological balance on the Supreme Court. It’s very much at stake in the 2016 election. Four justices are 76 or older. Two, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (82) and Stephen Breyer (76), are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote. The next president’s nominees, assuming there are several, will be pivotal.

…“If a Republican wins, he’ll almost certainly have both houses of Congress,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. But “GOP ranks in the Senate won’t be at or even near 60 due to the seats that are up for grabs in ’16. Still, it’s an end to extreme gridlock.”

When attacking eight years of Obama policies, Republicans would be wise not to treat Democrats the way Democrats treated them. Mr. Obama did himself no favors by shunning Republicans when ObamaCare, the economic stimulus and Dodd-Frank were passed. Democrats had large majorities in the House and Senate at the time. They spurned even a hint of bipartisanship.

…an important issue in the 2016 election [will be] the possibility of a “new normal” in the way Washington works. The parties are deeply divided. They don’t like each other. Mr. Obama made things worse. With Mr. Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gone, the next president can improve relations.

Mr. Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, is a Fox News commentator.

SOUTH CHINA SEA CLAIMS POSE ASIA GEOPOLITICS RISK

April 22, 2015

Wall Street Journal on April 21, 2015, reported on the geopolitics of the South China Sea and the existing territorial claims…it is now on the front lines of U.S.-China strategic rivalry. There is also the claim to Spratly Islands by “Admiral” Tomas A. Cloma Sr., a Philippine fishing magnate…Excerpts below:

As it is, the micronation he set up in 1956 among the Spratly Islands he claimed to have discovered—the “Free Territory of Freedomland”—is an important link in a chain of events that is now causing regular diplomatic fireworks over those far-flung reefs and rocks.

…it is the basis for Manila’s present-day claims to the Spratlys. China disputes those claims, along with those from four other rivals, and is reinforcing its own claims by churning up the seabed and using the sand and rubble to balloon the bits of territory it controls there.

The South China Sea is where Chinese naval and law enforcement armadas run up against the U.S. Seventh Fleet. Accidents can—and do—happen.
Rhetoric is ratcheting higher all the time. President Obama accused China a few weeks ago of using “sheer size and muscle” to get its own way. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman retorted that Beijing’s actions are “beyond reproach.”

Some who have laid claim to reefs in the Spratlys
• The “Free Territory of Freedomland” was set up in 1956 by Tomas A. Cloma Sr., who claimed to have discovered some islands in the Spratlys. This is the basis for Manila’s present-day claims.
• The “Kingdom of Humanity” was established in 1914 by Franklin N. Meads, the son of a British ship captain who claimed to have discovered the Spratlys, according to a legal affidavit.
• The breakaway “Republic of Morac-Songhrati-Meads” was founded in 1959 by Christopher Schneider, according to a legal affidavit. (The Kingdom of Humanity and the Republic of Morac-Songhrati-Meads were merged in 1963.)

Over the years, other private claimants than Cloma have sought to plant flags over the monsoon-whipped archipelago. In 1914, Franklin N. Meads, the son of a British ship captain who also purported to have discovered the Spratlys, established the “Kingdom of Humanity,” according to a legal affidavit. A breakaway “Republic of Morac-Songhrati-Meads” was founded in 1959 by one Christopher Schneider.The two entities merged in 1963.

Bizarre as all this may appear, it’s arguably no more far-fetched than China claiming the Spratlys partly on the strength of sovereignty established by Ming Dynasty seafarers. Historians point out that the concept of sovereignty didn’t even exist then: Countries with fixed borders were a 17th-century European invention.

Besides, Arab and Southeast Asian traders were plying the South China Sea long before the Chinese arrived.
The Vietnamese approach in the South China Sea, meanwhile, also smacks of opportunism. Hanoi appeared to recognize Chinese sovereignty over the Spratlys and the Paracel Islands in 1958, but later changed its mind and claimed them back

For decades, the Spratlys were regarded as little more than navigational hazards until the discovery of oil and gas suddenly enhanced their value. That triggered a free-for-all in the 1980s as rival claimants built fortifications on minuscule outcrops. China is now following that playbook.

There’s no easy way out of this mess. It’s questionable whether the U.S. can ever act as an honest broker, even though it claims to be neutral. The disputes are now mixed up in America’s broader fears that China seeks to push its forces out of the Western Pacific. In China, the issue is too deeply enmeshed in the politics of nationalism. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea is silent on the question of who owns what; it concerns itself solely with maritime rights.

What’s urgently required, as former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd argued last week in a Harvard study, is a regional security organization that can mediate such disputes. China, however, has ruled out multilateral solutions. Frightened neighbors have joined an arms race.

SOUTH CHINA SEA: MORE CHINA CONSTRUCTION OF MILITARY FACILITIES

April 21, 2015

Diplomat.com on April 14, 2015, published an article by Victor Robert Lee on how China is rapidly consolidating its hold on islands in the South China Sea. The article is illustrated with satellite photos of runways and airport facilities as well as several useful maps. Excerpts below:

As Vietnam’s Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong met with China’s President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week, China’s government news service Xinhua extolled a “deep-rooted partnership” between the two nations. But 400 kilometers off Vietnam’s coast, in the Paracel Islands, China was rapidly consolidating its hold on islands that both countries vehemently claim as their own.

High-resolution satellite images from March 17 show that Woody Island, occupied by China since 1956, is undergoing a major expansion of its runway and airport facilities. Within the past five months, a 2,400-meter airstrip has been completely replaced with a new concrete runway measuring 2,920 meters in length, accompanied by a new taxiway, expanded runway aprons and adjacent large buildings under construction. Additional land reclamation is also underway on Woody Island, called Yongxing Dao in Chinese and Đảo Phú Lâm in Vietnamese.

Eighty kilometers southwest of Woody, on Duncan Island (seized by China from Vietnam in 1974) satellite images show landfill that has increased the size of the island by approximately 50 percent since April 2014.

Much attention has been focused in recent weeks on China’s exceedingly rapid land reclamation and construction on at least seven disputed reefs further south in the South China Sea, within the Spratly Island group. China’s land grab for these reefs and atolls, variously claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, meets with little to no resistance; in the Paracels, even less so.

…reactions appear to be occurring in slow motion compared to the speed with which China’s dredgers, bulldozers, and portable concrete factories are being deployed across the South China Sea.

Victor Robert Lee reports from the Asia-Pacific region and is the author of the literary espionage novel Performance Anomalies.

EIGHT RULES FOR DEALING WITH A RISING CHINA

April 20, 2015

Wall Street Journal on April 9, 2015, published excerpts from former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr’ new book “Dealing with China” (Twelve). Excerpts below:

In the not-too-distant future, China is likely to surpass the U.S. as the world’s biggest economy, knocking us off a perch we’ve held for nearly 150 years. Increasingly, China has been flexing its newfound muscles in Asia and cracking down at home. It is also our biggest foreign creditor, owning nearly $1.3 trillion of Washington’s debt.

The U.S. and China have the most critical bilateral relationship in the world, and it serves America’s national security, economic health and environmental well-being to keep it strong. I’d like to suggest eight rules for dealing with China—offered not as a scholar or a theorist but as someone who has made more than 100 visits there and spent nearly 25 years dealing with senior Chinese officials.

1.Help those who help ourselves. When the U.S. negotiates hard to liberalize markets and open up China to real competition, we help reformers achieve their economic goals.

2. Shine a light; nothing good happens in the dark. Supporting reform in China means pushing for greater transparency and better adherence to universal standards.Transparency is the best way to fight corruption and strengthen the confidence of Chinese citizens—and foreign investors—in their government and the rule of law.

3. Speak with one voice. China’s decision-making process functions best with one senior person in charge so that clear direction from the top can help forge consensus below. Without one go-to person for the U.S., the Chinese often wonder who speaks for our president. I can’t count the number of times since leaving government that Chinese officials have asked me who President Barack Obama is relying on to manage his ties with China. On the U.S. side, that point person should probably be the vice president; in China, it could be the premier.

4. Find China a better seat at the table. We should want China to play a bigger, more responsible role in international groups like the World Trade Organization and thus to help support the global economic system from which it has benefited so much. We should be prepared to make pragmatic compromises (and reciprocate for Beijing’s) to get China to step up and take a leadership role.

5. Demonstrate economic leadership abroad.The U.S. must compete with China from a position of strength. We should reassert our status as a Pacific power, build on the North American Free Trade Agreement to create greater economic integration closer to home and move forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which aims to create a free-trade area across the Pacific.

6. Find more ways to say yes. Rather than trying to persuade the Chinese to adopt our approach to everything, we’re better off devising new policies together—or recasting older ones in fresher terms.

7. Avoid surprises. I can’t recall a single Chinese business executive or government leader who didn’t come to meetings thoroughly prepared. Their careful preparation and consensus-driven decision-making leaves them particularly uncomfortable with last-minute changes on complex issues, which can impede a deal.

8. Act in ways that reflect Chinese realities. Facts, not wishes or dreams, should direct our dealings. China is very different from the U.S., and we cannot be guided only by the understandable desire that it become more like us. We need to know as much as possible about what is going on inside China—and to be self-confident and realistic enough to focus on what is doable.

The U.S. will deal best with China from strength, not weakness. We need to restore our economic competitiveness so that we can better lead by example.

Mr. Paulson is chairman of the Paulson Institute, a former CEO of Goldman Sachs and a former secretary of the Treasury. He is the author of “Dealing With China” (Twelve Books), from which this is adapted.

Comment: The basic advice of Mr. Paulson is important: the United States would best deal with China from strength. Economic and military strength that is. Admittedly world economy is to a certain degree dependent on China’s growth. At the same time the United States should put pressure on China. There could even be partnership, but only with a China that respects the rule of law.

ASSASSINATIONS ‘RITUAL SACRIFICE’ ON ALTAR OF RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA?

April 18, 2015

Ukrnews.com on April 16, 2015, published an interview with Director Volodymyr Fesenko, Penta Center for Applied Political Studies, on the murder of former Member of Parliament from Ukraine’s Party of Regions Oleh Kalashnikov and pro-Russian journalist Oles Buzyna. Fesenko says that they could have been arranged by special services of the Russian Federation to discredit Ukraine before a summit with the EU. It could be also used as the accusation of alleged political terror in Ukraine. Excerpts below:

…Volodymyr Fesenko expressed such an opinion in an interview with UNIAN.

“These killings [Kalashnikov and Buzyna] have got something in common: they’ve been referred to by Russian President Vladimir Putin during his press conference [shortly after they had happened]. The murders happened right before Putin’s call-in show and were used to prove the thesis of alleged political terror in Ukraine,” the expert said.

Fesenko says that the killed persons in fact had no great weight in the current opposition, in the [opposition] protest movement, but they were pro-Russian figures and even infamous ones.

“Putin had to refer to certain, available proof during his press conference. Of course, this is only a suspicion, but the concourse of these circumstances gives grounds for such conclusions,” he said.
“It’s all done for the Russian audience, but also with the aim to scare Europe, as there will be an EU-Ukraine summit [on April 27], the EU leaders are to arrive here, and such explicitly committed murders is the way to discredit Ukraine. All these deaths match well a certain masterminded plan, certain strategy that can be implemented by the Russian special services,” Fesenko said.

EU MINISTERS AGREE TO COUNTER RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA

April 17, 2015

The Heritage Foundations Daily Signal on March 26, 2015, reported in a contribution by Helle C. Dale, the foundation specialist on Russian disinformation and propaganda, that the ministers from the European Union countries have decided to work strategically to counter Russian’s propaganda offensive in Ukraine and other former Soviet states. EU countries intend to collaborate on broadcasting to give citizens in the target countries, e.g. the Baltics, an alternative to the relentless bombardment of Russian media, which produces a highly distorted version of the news aimed at Russian speakers. Excerpts below:

The ministers tasked foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini with creating a strategic plan for an integrated media campaign by June 2015. Also, the European Endowment for Democracy, funded by the EU, is to present proposals at a summit in Riga, Latvia on May 21-22, 2015. This is to be attended by representatives from Ukraine and other neighbors of Russia.

The United States government has taken similar steps…In October 2014, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in collaboration with Voice of America, launched a news program aimed at countries bordering Russia. The 30-minute long, Russian language “Nastoyashchee Vremya,” or “Current Time,” is carried by television channels and Internet portals in Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.

The aggressiveness of Russia’s propaganda offensive has alarmed politicians in the West,..Ignoring evidence of the Kremlin’s emerging propaganda strategy, state-funded international broadcasters both in the United States and Europe previously all but eliminated radio broadcasting in Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian and other critical languages. The motives were budget cuts and a focus on new media. They were nonetheless short-sighted from a strategic point of view.

Accordingly, the U.S. broadcasters, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the British BBC, the German Deutche Welle, etc., have not been able to counter the avalanche of well-funded broadcasting from Russia. The global television network Russia Today and the propaganda website Russia Direct are closely supervised and nurtured by the Kremlin.

Comment: Since the publication of this report the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Congress has held a hearing on the Russian information war and how to counter it (April 15, 2015). Congressman Ed Royce of California, the committee chairman, will soon introduce bipartisan legislation on improving US broadcasting to Russia. The bill would charge one U.S. broadcasting organization (VOA) with reporting U.S. policy and other global news, and another, including RFE/RL and similar services, to act as the free press in repressive societies like Russia. Each organization will have its own CEO and its own board, with clear accountability. This blog will report on developments in the field both in the United States and the EU.

EU MEMBERS URGE ‘ALTERNATIVE’ TO RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA

April 17, 2015

Radio Free Europe on January 9, 2015, reported on a letter from the foreign ministers of Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania and the United Kingdom calling on the European Union to create information alternatives to Russian propaganda. Excerpts below:

In a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, foreign ministers from the four countries said Moscow was suppressing independent media and increasing “disinformation” to counter Western criticism over the war in Ukraine.

The letter added that Kremlin propaganda aims to undermine EU and Western unity, and called on the EU to create alternative sources of information to counter Russian propaganda by 2016.

The call comes just days after EU President Latvia announced it is considering plans to launch a Russian-language TV channel with EU support.

Nearly 40 percent of the population in Latvia and neighboring Estonia are native Russian-speakers and regularly watch Russian-based television.