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Sep 2, 2015

Chinese Warships Maneuver Near Alaska Coast for First Time Ever

In a reported first, Pentagon officials on Wednesday reported that five Chinese Navy ships were spotted off the coast of Alaska.

Pentagon officials said they’ve been monitoring three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel, and an amphibious ship, which in the last few days have entered the Bering Sea.

Officials declined to say how close the vessels are to American shores, but stressed that the ships remain in international waters.

"This would be a first in the vicinity of the Aleutian Islands," a defense official told the Wall Street Journal. "I don’t think we’d characterize anything they’re doing as threatening."
The incident comes just hours before a large-scale military parade is set to be held in Beijing. Meant to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the parade will showcase a variety of new Chinese military equipment.

Pentagon officials suggested there could be a number of ways to interpret the presence of the Chinese Navy in the area.

"It’s difficult to tell exactly, but it indicates some interest in the Arctic region," the official told the Wall Street Journal.
The move comes amid President Obama’s visit to the state, intended to highlight the effects of global warming. With rapidly melting sea ice, a number of nations are making claims on the waters of the energy-rich Arctic. The United States, Canada, Norway, Russia, and Denmark, have all staked claims.
Beijing is an active member of the Arctic Council.

The move could also be seen as a logical reaction to the growing presence of the US Navy in the Pacific, and, in particular, the South China Sea. Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago. While the Chinese government has assured the US that those installations will be used primarily for humanitarian purposes, the Pentagon has staged a number of military drills with regional allies near Chinese waters.

The Chinese military also recently completed joint drills with Russia approximately 2,000 miles west of the Bering Sea.

The Chinese defense ministry has not provided any comment on the ships. 
Source : SputnikNews

Aug 19, 2015

15,000 Chinese Arrested in Cybercrime, Gov't to "Clean Up the Internet"

Amid an increasing crackdown on China’s internet, the country’s officials “react appropriately” in the face of growing cybercrimes harming the government, banks and large companies’ websites.

Chinese police arrested 15,000 people suspected of cybercrime including the sale of personal data, online fraud and hacking, Chinese officials said on Tuesday.
 A total of 7,400 cases believed to be online crimes have been investigated by Chinese law enforcement since July when China’s Ministry of Public Security launched a six month "clean network action" to fight cybercrime in the face of a growing clash of opinions in society, said the Ministry of Public Security.

Those arrested were allegedly accused of hacking the websites of private companies, government agencies and banks while uploading classified content, changing sites’ information and defrauding others.

Chinese authorities have also launched an investigation into inappropriate online language; however this information has not been officially confirmed by the Ministry.

According to professor Xiao Qiang from the UC Berkeley School of Information in California, a crackdown on cybercrime of this scale is something that China has never faced before, Al Jazeera reported.

"The general atmosphere is very tight when it comes to freedom of speech," Xiao said, adding that some alleged hackers could be former “freedom of speech” activists.

The reported arrests prompted public outrage that could have a spiraling effect in the wake of the recent warehouse explosions that killed over 100 people in Tianjin.

Following the mass arrests of alleged hackers, 50 sites believed to “incite panic” while covering the Tianjin blasts apocryphally have been closed or temporarily suspended by the main internet watchdog in the country, Cyberspace Administration of China.
 The government has been repeatedly blamed for its actions led to the port city disaster.

Last month over 200 Chinese activists were detained in a 10-day government crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists amid growing international concerns about Internet security of the recent exposés made by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency subcontractor who made headlines in 2013 when he leaked top secret information about the NSA’s surveillance activities.

Source : SputnikNews

Aug 16, 2015

Away From Dollar: Russia, China to Create Entirely Different Gold Market

While key Western banks are artificially restraining gold prices to breathe life into the diluted and devalued dollar system, Russia, China and other emerging economies are involved in "the genial move" to establish an entirely different gold market, F. William Engdahl underscores.

Key central banks, particularly the Federal Reserve and Bank of England, and Western market players have long been accused of clandestine gold price manipulating aimed at preserving the dollar's role "as world reserve currency primus," American-German economic researcher and historian F. William Engdahl writes.

"The COMEX gold futures market in New York and the Over-the-Counter (OTC) trades cleared through the London Bullion Market Association do set prices which are followed most widely in the world. They are also markets dominated by a handful of huge players, the six London Bullion Market Association gold clearing banks — the corrupt JP MorganChase bank; the scandal-ridden UBS bank of Zurich; The Bank of Nova Scotia — ScotiaMocatta, the world's oldest bullion bank which began as banker to the British East India Company, the group that ran the China Opium Wars; the scandal-ridden Deutsche Bank; the scandal-ridden Barclays Bank of London; HSBC of London, the house bank of the Mexican drug cartels; and the scandal and fraud-ridden Societe Generale of Paris," Engdahl narrated.

Gold bars and a Swiss Franc coin are seen in this illustration picture taken at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant 'Oegussa' in Vienna November 7, 2014
Furthermore, Western banks are issuing numerous paper "gold-futures" and other speculative contracts which are in fact disconnected from real physical gold.
 In a word, operations with the precious metal in London and New York are in questionable hands, the economic researcher noted.

The West's ultimate goal is to preserve the dollar's monopoly in the market thus breathing life into the US-led global financial system. But no one likes monopolists.

Predictably, the current state of affairs cannot satisfy rising economies, such as China, Russia and other emerging powers.

However, "[r]ather than scream and cry 'fraud' at the owners of the COMEX/CME or the London Bullion Market Association Big Six clearing banks, these countries are involved in the genial move to create an entirely different gold market, one that not JP MorganChase or HSBC or Deutsche Bank control, but one that China, Russia and others of a like mind control," Engdahl stressed.

This new approach is connected closely with the China-led New Silk Road project and the Shanghai-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
 In May 2015 Beijing announced it had established a state-run gold investment fund, aiming to bolster China's role in global gold trade. The new initiative is a part of China's ambitious One Belt and One Road plan. The "Silk Road Gold Fund" will invest in mining projects in the regions along the New Silk Road encouraging central banks of its members to increase their holdings in the precious metal.

"As China has expressed it, the aim is to enable the Eurasian countries along the Silk Road to increase the gold backing of their currencies. That sounds very much like some clear-thinking and far-sighted governments are thinking of creating a stable group of gold backed currencies that would facilitate orderly trade free from Washington currency wars," the economic researcher elaborated.

Bullion bar in sea of coin
And Russia is actively cooperating with China in this field, he underscored, adding that just before the creation of China's new gold fund the countries inked a deal to explore the gold reserves in Russia's Magadan region.
 Over the past several years Russia has been rapidly replenishing its vaults with golden bullions. In accordance with official data, Russian physical gold reserves currently amounted to 1250.9 tons in June 2015.

Today Russia is considered the world's third largest gold producer with 245 metric tons produced in 2014, while China produces over 450 tons a year.

"South Africa, also a member of the BRICS along with China and Russia, stands to add to the new energy surrounding a renaissance in gold as a support of solid, well-based currencies to replace the diluted and devalued dollar system," the researcher stressed.

According to Engdahl, the New Economic Silk Road, integrated with Russia's new Eurasian Economic Union, are more than just energy and railroad infrastructure: they are the central nervous system of the future largest and fastest-growing economic space on Earth.
 Interestingly enough, according to the ANZ Research report "East to El Dorado: Asia and the Future of Gold" the gold price may soar as high as $2,000 a troy ounce by 2025. ANZ Research underscored that gold, despite its current slump, remains both an investment and a defensive asset. The rise of emerging economies, such as China and India will facilitate the demand for gold investments.

"While most eyes are fixed on COMEX or the London Bullion Market Association listed daily gold price fix, the real worth of gold as a currency reserve and a standard of monetary soundness is growing in worth by the day," Engdahl concluded adding that this trend is a real pain in the neck of the US Treasury, Federal Reserve and Wall Street. 

Source : SputnikNews

Jul 18, 2015

Islamic State (ISIL) Flags Waved at Protest in India's Kashmir

Islamic State (ISIL) flags appeared during a protest in the Indian province Kashmir.

Flags of the Islamic State (ISIL) extremist group were waved along with those of Pakistan on Saturday during a protest over the detention of a separatist party leader in the capital of India-administered Jammu and Kashmir, Indian media reported.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, founder of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat party, is under house arrest over anti-India protests, alongside another separatist leader, Masarat Alam, for making anti-national slogans at a rally in the Jammu and Kashmir state.

According to the Times of India, police used truncheons and tear gas to disperse protesters in the streets of Srinagar.

Kashmiri Muslims protesters hold representation of a Pakistani flag, right, and an Islamic flag as they clash with Indian policemen and paramilitary soldiers during a protest near Eidgah, or an open-air mosque, in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Saturday, July 18, 2015 Protests have reportedly broken out in other parts of the state.

The killing of a young man in a shootout with police sparked the current wave of protests in India's Jammu and Kashmir, beginning on Monday.
 The Jammu and Kashmir region has been disputed by India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947. Following several armed conflicts, the two countries agreed to a ceasefire in 2003. Since then, both sides have repeatedly blamed each other for violating the truce.

Source : SputnikNews

Jul 11, 2015

China asserts that the fall of its markets was caused by Western Zionist banks.

Suspected hostile short-selling behind sell-off in China markets

A recent sell-off in China's stock markets is the first major challenge facing the country since the introduction of margin trading, and is believed to have been caused by hostile short-sellers.

In a report on the Chinese news site, an analyst said the sell-off was similar to what took place in Hong Kong in 1997, when the territory's benchmark Hang Seng Index plunged 60% after peaking at 16,673 points.

The steep drop in share prices in Hong Kong in 1997 was caused by financier George Soros, who shorted both the Hong Kong dollar and the Hang Seng Index futures, the analyst said, adding that similar practices were observed in the last two trading sessions in China.

According to the analyst, massive funds entered the futures market, building a short position and leading to declines in the stock markets. The size of the funds and the sophisticated trading methods are beyond the ability of Chinese institutional investors, the analyst said.

In fact, Bill Gross of Janus Capital, a co-founder of global investment firm PIMCO, said in early June that the Shenzhen Stock Exchange's Component Index presented perfect short-selling opportunities.

At the time, the index was at a seven-year high but plummeted 30% on Gross's comments. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have also been bearish on Chinese shares recently.

Several measures introduced or announced by the Chinese government, such as lower interest rates, required reserve ratio cuts, and a plan to allow the investment of pension funds in equities, have failed to prop up the Chinese stock markets.

The Chinese government is expected to introduce new policies to rescue the market, since further a decline will hurt companies' ability to borrow money and will put pressure on the economy.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission reportedly was soliciting proposals from institutions to rescue the market.

There have also been reports of brokerages promising not to force liquidation of shares held by investors facing margin calls.

Source : WantChineTimes

Jun 19, 2015

Japan : Fukushima Fallout - Bird Mutation and Possible Evacuation of Tokyo

The real picture of the seriousness of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is being covered up by governments and corporations putting people's lives further at risk.

Fukushima will most probably go down in history as the biggest cover-up of the 21st Century as citizens are not being informed about the actual risks and dangers. The real picture of the seriousness of the situation is being covered up by governments and corporations, according to Robert Hunziker, an environmental journalist.

Tens of thousands of Fukushima residents fled the area after the horrific disaster of March 2011. Some areas on the peripheries of Fukushima have reopened to former residents, but many people are hesitant to return home because of widespread distrust of government claims that it is safe.

One reason for such reluctance has to do with the symptoms of radiation. It is sinister because it cannot be detected by human senses. People are not biologically capable of sensing its effects, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, as reported by Global Research.

She further added that radiation slowly accumulates over time without showing effects until it is too late.

It was reported by Ben Mirin that bird species around Fukushima are in sharp decline, and it is getting worse over time. Some of the developmental abnormalities of birds include cataracts, tumors, and asymmetries. Birds were spotted with strange white patches on their feathers, Smithsonian reported.

Dr. Helen Caldicott, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, writes that Fukushima is literally a time bomb in dormancy and right now the situation is totally out of control.

According to Dr. Caldicott, “It’s still possible that Tokyo may have to be evacuated, depending upon how things go.”

The highest radiation detected in the Tokyo Metro area was in Saitama with cesium radiation levels detected at 919,000 Becquerel (Bq) per square meter, a level almost twice as high as Chernobyl’s ‘permanent dead zone evacuation limit of 500,000 Bq’, media reported.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attends a press conference of the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria on June 8, 2015
Furthermore, there have been quite a few accidents and problems at the Fukushima plant in the past year causing anxiety and anger among residents there. Earlier it was reported that TEPCO is struggling with an enormous amount of contaminated water which continues to leak into the surrounding soil and sea.
 But despite the severity of the Fukushima disaster, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed an agreement with Japan that the US would continue importing Japanese foodstuff. Therefore, Dr. Caldicott suggests that people not vote for Hillary Clinton.

“The US government has come up with a decision at the highest levels of the State Department, as well as other departments who made a decision to downplay Fukushima. In April, the month after the powerful tsunami and earthquake crippled Japan including its nuclear power plant, Hillary Clinton signed a pact with Japan that stated there is no problem with the Japanese food supply and we will continue to buy it. So, we are not sampling food coming in from Japan,” Arnie Gundersen, energy advisor told Global Research.

However, unlike the United States, Germany is shutting down all nuclear reactors because of Fukushima. In comparison to the horrible Chernobyl accident, which involved only one reactor, Fukushima has a minimum of three reactors that are emitting dangerous radiation.

Source : SputnikNews

Jun 12, 2015

China to explore civilian ships' great potential for national defense

China's national transport war-preparedness office for national defense gathered about 130 people from the coastal transport war-preparedness system, military transport system, the China Classification Society (CCS) and shipping enterprises in Shanghai on June 4, 2015 for a training session on the Technical Standards for New Civilian Ships to Implement National Defense Requirements (hereinafter referred to as the Technical Standards).

  The Technical Standards is co-compiled by the Shipment Military Representative Office of the PLA Nanjing Military Area Command (MAC) and the CCS Shanghai Specifications Institute. It was officially approved and promulgated for implementation as a national military standard in March this year.

  Consisting of six parts - general rules, container ship, roll-on-roll-off ship, multipurpose ship, bulk cargo ship and general cargo ship, the Technical Standards specifies the performances, purposes and main items and design requirements for new civilian ships to meet the national defense requirements.

  The implementation of this military standards for civilian ships makes it possible for China to turn the great potential of its civilian ships quickly into military strength for national defense and will considerably enhance the PLA's strategic projection capability and maritime support capability.

Source : ChinaMil

Jun 11, 2015

India to Continue Troops' Buildup Along Myanmar Border

India’s high-ranking officials agreed in a Thursday meeting to continue to increase pressure along the country's border with Myanmar, a source in the Indian Home Ministry told Sputnik.

On Tuesday, the Indian Army crossed the border into Myanmar and killed some 115 insurgents who had fled from India’s northeastern state of Manipur into the neighboring country after having murdered from 18 to 30 Indian soldiers, according to various Indian media sources.
 On Thursday, a meeting on the Myanmar operation and its impact on the bordering areas was held in India’s Home Ministry in New Delhi. According to Sputnik’s source, the meeting was chaired by the Indian home minister. India's defense minister, national security adviser and Intelligence Bureau chief were also present.

“India will continue to build pressure along the India Myanmar border,” the source said, adding that the officials have discussed the security situation in Manipur and agreed that the security and intelligence network should remain on high alert.

Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is likely to visit Myanmar with a proposal for a further joint operation against the insurgents, the source added.

The Indian officials also discussed Pakistan's reaction to the operation. On Wednesday, Pakistani Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said that his country would not allow anyone to conduct similar raids on its territory.

Source : SputnikNews

Jun 5, 2015

China denies involvement in massive United States data breach cyberattack

China has denied any hand in the massive data breach in the US which has affected nearly four million people.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement: "Cyber-attacks conducted across countries are hard to track and therefore the source of attacks is difficult to identify. Jumping to conclusions and making hypothetical accusation is not responsible and counterproductive."

Zhu Haiquan added: "Cyberattack is a global threat which could only be addressed by international cooperation based on mutual trust and mutual respect."

US officials earlier alleged that a massive data breach - described as the biggest ever - of government networks, had been carried out compromising information of up to four million former and current federal employees.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which runs background checks of employees, said it had detected the malicious activities suspected to be sourced from Chinese systems, in April this year. The Department of Homeland Security later confirmed it to be a cyber-attack and warned that personal information of the staff could have been affected.

Subsequent to the incident, the OPM said it had alerted the susceptible people, whose data may have been stolen, and emphasised additional precautions have been put in place.

The cyber-attack could have hit nearly every federal government agency in the US. As the investigation continues, reports suggest millions of others could also have been affected by the attack.

Multiple US officials, who mostly spoke on condition of anonymity, have either directly or indirectly pointed fingers at China for the attack.

The FBI has launched a probe into the matter promising the hackers who are behind the attack would be held accountable.

"The FBI is working with our interagency partners to investigate this matter. We take all potential threats to public and private sector systems seriously, and will continue to investigate and hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace," the bureau said.

Source : IBTimes

May 29, 2015

United States Defence Secretary Sets Stage for Confrontation with China

In the lead-up to this weekend’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter yesterday bluntly declared that the US would continue its military provocations against China in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon deliberately inflamed tensions with Beijing last week by allowing a CNN news crew to fly on board a navy reconnaissance flight near Chinese-controlled atolls. The CNN report was designed to put a spotlight on China’s land reclamation activities. It also featured the warnings of Chinese authorities as the aircraft approached what China regards as its territory.

China issued a formal protest to the US on Monday. Its spokesperson condemned American actions as “utterly dangerous and irresponsible” and “highly likely to cause miscalculation and untoward incidents in the waters and airspace.”

Speaking in Hawaii yesterday, Carter again called for an immediate halt to China’s land reclamation activities, which the US insists are for military purposes. He made clear that the US would continue its “freedom of navigation” operations to challenge China’s territorial claims.

“There should be no mistake about this,” Carter declared, “the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world.”

In other words, under the pretext of “freedom of navigation,” the US will keep sending warships and warplanes near Chinese-administered islets, risking a clash that could rapidly escalate into conflict between the two nuclear-armed powers. Even more recklessly, the Pentagon is planning “freedom of navigation” missions to enter the 12-mile territorial limit around Chinese islets.

Carter accused China of being “out of step with both international norms that underscore the Asia Pacific’s security architecture and the regional consensus in favour of a non-coercive approach to this and other longstanding disputes.”

The cynicism involved in Carter’s remarks is breathtaking. Since 2010, the Obama administration has systematically exploited the maritime disputes in the South China Sea to drive a wedge between China and its South East Asian neighbours. Carter’s references to “international norms” are particularly hypocritical. Unlike China, the US has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Having encouraged Vietnam and the Philippines to aggressively pursue their claims against China, the US is now flying military missions, thousands of kilometres from any American territory, aimed at provoking a response from China and a major international crisis to force Beijing to back down.

The US military intervention in the South China Sea is part of the broader “pivot to Asia”—a diplomatic, economic and military strategy directed against China, aimed at securing American hegemony throughout the region. Carter declared yesterday: “We will remain the principal security power in the Asia Pacific for decades to come.”

Carter’s remarks are a prelude to a showdown with Chinese officials at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, which starts tomorrow. At last year’s gathering, Carter’s predecessor, Chuck Hagel, rebuked China for “destabilising, unilateral actions” in the South China Sea and warned that the US would “not look the other way.”

Over the past year, the US has rapidly ratcheted up its pressure on China in the South China Sea, securing a basing arrangement with the Philippines, urging Japan to send its own patrols to the tense region and beefing up access to military bases in northern Australia. Last week’s navy surveillance flight left from the Clark Air Force base in the Philippines.

The foreign policy and military establishment in Washington is well aware that US actions in the South China Sea could lead to war.

Writing this week on the Daily Beast website, Gordon Chang identified the South China Sea as “history’s next great war zone.” Portraying China as the aggressive threat to peace, he concluded: “China’s challenge to the United States in the South China Sea sets up the classic zero sum confrontation.
“Beijing has declared that its South China Sea claims are a ‘core interest’ that cannot be negotiated. Washington, which has plied the seas from its very first days as a nation, cannot compromise its defence of the global commons. Each side can make tactical retreats, but neither can abandon its position for long.”
Chang warned: “There are two competing visions of the world, and only one can prevail.”

In reality, the “zero sum confrontation” is of Washington’s making. The Obama administration is demanding the unfettered “right” of access for the US military throughout the South China Sea, including in Chinese-controlled territory, and is also dictating the terms of China’s activities in these strategic waters. The US would regard similar actions by China in waters near Hawaii or California as an act of war.

China has already signalled that it might respond to US provocations by declaring an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea. In an interview published yesterday in the Chinese press, Ouyang Yujing, director of boundaries and oceanic affairs for the foreign ministry, declared: “China has the right to establish ADIZs.”

While downplaying the immediate likelihood, he declared: “Whether or not China will establish a South China Sea ADIZ will depend on factors such as whether China’s air safety is under threat and the seriousness of the threat.”

Such a move would dramatically intensify the South China Sea confrontation. In November 2013, when China announced an ADIZ covering the East China Sea, including disputed islands administered by Japan, the US reacted by immediately flying nuclear capable B-52 bombers into the zone.

While the responsibility for the mounting crisis lies with Washington, there is nothing progressive about the Chinese regime’s response. Incapable of making any appeal to the working class in China or internationally, the Chinese Communist Party leadership is expanding its own military apparatus, playing directly into the hands of US imperialism. This only heightens the danger of humanity being dragged into a devastating world war.

Source : WSWS

May 27, 2015

Protests in Japan Denounce United States Military Presence

Japanese protesters gathered outside the parliament building in Tokyo on Sunday to demand the removal of a US base on the island of Okinawa. Numerous rallies have been held recently, both on the island and the Japanese mainland, to oppose the US military’s presence in the country.

An estimated 15,000 people took part in Sunday’s protest, denouncing plans to move the US Marine Corp Air Station Futenma base to a new location at Henoko, which is currently being constructed. Futenma is located in the city of Ginowan, while Henoko sits along a less populated coast in Okinawa. Many people held banners reading, “No to Henoko.” They demanded the base be removed from the prefecture altogether.

One protester, Akemi Kitajima, told the press: “We must stop this construction. The government is trying to force the plan, no matter how strongly Okinawa says ‘no’ to it.” The demonstrators also expressed opposition to US plans to deploy CV-22 Ospreys to the Yokota Air Base in Tokyo.

A larger protest took place on the previous Sunday, when 35,000 people gathered on Okinawa to oppose the base relocation plan. The protests began that Friday and continued throughout the weekend. On the Saturday, demonstrators marched around the Futenma base and were joined in other cities across the country by approximately 2,600 others. Besides their opposition to the base, people shouted slogans, such as “Oppose enhanced Japan-US defense ties,” directed against Japan’s turn to militarism.

Plans to move the Futenma base have been in the works since 1996, following the 1995 brutal kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by three US servicemen, which resulted in widespread anti-US protests. Other, less publicized crimes by US personnel have also stoked anti-US sentiment.

Okinawa, however, is on the front lines of any conflict with China. A majority of the 47,000 American troops stationed in Japan are on the island, strategically located in the East China Sea adjacent to the Chinese mainland. Okinawa plays a key role in Washington’s “pivot to Asia,” designed to surround China militarily and economically subordinate it to US interests.

There is little chance the Obama administration would agree to relocate the Marine base off the island, especially at a time when it is engaged in provocations with China. The relocation of the base, which was outlined in a 2006 agreement between the US and Japanese governments, has provoked persistent protests. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to office in 2009 promising to revise the agreement, but the Obama administration refused point blank to discuss the issue with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and worked to undermine him. He was forced to accept the 2006 deal, then resigned in June 2010. His DPJ replacement, Naoto Kan, quickly reaffirmed his full support for the US alliance.

The current Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government has not only made clear that the base relocation will proceed. It has stepped-up the remilitarization of Japan, acting in concert with Washington as part of the US “pivot” against China.

The recent demonstrations have been organized by citizens groups with ties to the Okinawan prefectural government. Governor Takeshi Onaga was elected last November as an independent, largely on his opposition to the Futenma base and its relocation. He is formerly of the ruling LDP and draws support from the conservative Shinpukai faction that left the LDP due to its support for the Okinawan bases.

Onaga is not opposed to the military alliance with the United States, nor to Japanese militarism. His is simply making the limited, parochial demand that the Marine base be moved to another location in Japan. Onaga recently declared: “I fully understand (the importance) of the Japan-US alliance. You should never break it down.”

At the same time, the governor has fostered illusions in the possibility of a shift by Washington. Onaga said recently: “Only Okinawa is burdened with this heavy load, and I want to let the United States, a democratic nation, know about this unfair situation.”

Despite his explicit backing for US militarism, Onaga has been backed by the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, both of which posture as opponents of Japanese re-militarization. They function as a political safety valve. The protests allow people to blow off steam while the governor plays to Okinawans’ sense of mistreatment at the hands of the mainland.

For politicians like Onaga, the battle over the bases also provides a pretext for land grabs. Nearly one-fifth of Okinawa is covered in US military bases, taking up territory that the wealthy elite would rather use to turn a profit. The governor views the bases as the “biggest impediment” to increased business opportunities.

Onaga hopes to turn the island into a hub for tourism, which means more hotels, restaurants, and other businesses to cater for visitors, as well as construction deals. In 2013, a record 6.58 million tourists visited Okinawa while the number of overseas visitors jumped 64 percent to 630,000 over the previous year. In total, tourism accounted for 448 billion yen ($US3.87 billion) in revenue during the 2013 fiscal year.

Onaga is seeking to attract foreign investment. He visited China in April as a delegate for the Association for the Promotion of International Trade Japan. Before the visit, an Okinawa prefectural government spokesperson stated:

    “We would like to take this opportunity [of Onaga’s visit] to promote economic exchanges between Okinawa and China. We hope companies use special economic zones in China and Okinawa to trade with each other.”

Onaga is offering up the Okinawan people as a source of cheap labor. Okinawa is the poorest prefecture in Japan with an unemployment rate twice as high as on the mainland. “Companies were attracted by subsidies, low labor costs, and the abundant workforce,” Takehide Kinjo told the Wall Street Journal last November. Kinjo is president of Dinos Cecile Communications Company, based in Uruma City, an hour north of Naha, Okinawa’s capital.

Local investors are eager to get their hands on the land now occupied by the Futenma base. “Expectations are rising for redevelopment projects on the land after it is vacated,” an Okinawan bank official told the Asahi Shimbun. “Futenma has good transport connections, and the average land price there can rise higher than that in Naha’s new city center.” Naha’s city center, once the site of residences for US military personnel, now hosts shopping malls and duty-free shops offering luxury brands.

Okinawans have for decades had a strained relationship both with Japan and the United States. Known as the Ryukyu Kingdom until it was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1879, the island saw heavy combat at the end of World War II, during which more than 100,000 civilians were killed. Following the war, Okinawa remained under direct US control until 1972, two decades after the US occupation ended in the rest of Japan.

Source : WSWS

May 26, 2015

Japan to Join Huge United States and Australian Pacific War Games As China Tensions Mount

The US continues to push its allies to take a larger role in patrolling the waters of the Pacific. To that end, the United States and Australia have brought Japan into its regular war games, a move signaling a renewed front against a perceived Chinese threat.

Conducted every other year, the Talisman Sabre is a joint military exercise conducted in July between Washington and Canberra involving nearly 30,000 troops. Held largely in the waters off Australia, but also on land, the drills include special forces tactics, maritime operations, amphibious landings, and urban warfare.

While New Zealand will contribute 500 troops, this year’s drills will also include, for the first time ever, the cooperation of the Japanese military, which will send 40 officers and soldiers.

Two warships of the South China Sea Fleet of the Chinese Navy fire missiles during a competitive training.

"I think the US is trying to get its allies to do more," Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowry Institute in Sydney, told Reuters. "There is an obvious symmetry between Japan as the upper anchor of the Western Pacific alliance and…Australia as the southern anchor."

This follows a steady pattern of Washington pushing Tokyo to take a larger role in patrolling the Pacific. Earlier this month, the Japanese government greenlit a proposal from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe which would expand the nation’s use of its defense forces.

A military honor guard prepares for U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert's visit with Commander in Chief of the China's navy Adm. Wu Shengli
Many security experts attribute this to an alleged threat posed by China’s construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.  A hotly contested region, nearly $5 trillion in trade passes through the waterway annually. The US and its allies have expressed concern that these islands are being built as part of an effort to control the South China Sea, despite Beijing’s repeated claims that the islands are meant largely for peaceful purposes.

In recent months, Washington has conducted military exercises with several nations who also lay claim to the South China Sea, including Indonesia and the Philippines. The US also announced earlier this month that it would begin patrols of the Spratly Islands, a move which has been heavily criticized by Beijing.

Despite this clear pattern of aggression, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani denied that Tokyo’s inclusion in the Talisman Sabre has anything to do with China, and was instead part of Japan’s general interest in strengthening ties with its allies.

Members of a Japan Self-Defense Forces
That cooperation has reached new heights under Prime Minister Abe. As Australia seeks to upgrade its navy, Japan will likely gain a contract to supply a new fleet of submarines to Canberra, a move strongly supported by the Pentagon.

"To expand the reach of these alliances, we are embarking on unprecedented trilateral cooperation," US Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear told the Senate last month.

"In some cases this cooperation directly benefits our work on maritime security. For example, we’re cooperating trilaterally with Japan and Australia to strengthen maritime security in Southeast Asia and explore defense technology cooperation."

US-Japanese ships sail in formation.
In response to the growing ties between the three Pacific allies, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged for calm.

"We believe the relevant countries should all play a proactive and constructive role to strengthen mutual trust and cooperation between countries in the region," she said during a news briefing.

While Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam all have overlapping, competing claims.

Source : SputnikNews

Official China Media Warns of “War between China and United States” Over South China Sea, Unless US Backs Down

A Chinese state-owned newspaper said on Monday that “war is inevitable” between China and the United States over the South China Sea unless Washington stops demanding Beijing halt the building of artificial islands in the disputed waterway. 

The Global Times, an influential nationalist tabloid owned by the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper the People’s Daily, said in an editorial that China was determined to finish its construction work, calling it the country’s “most important bottom line.”

The editorial comes amid rising tensions over China’s land reclamation in the Spratley archipelago of the South China Sea. China last week said it was “strongly dissatisfied” after a US spy plane flew over areas near the reefs, with both sides accusing each other of stoking instability.

China should “carefully prepare” for the possibility of a conflict with the United States, the newspaper said.

“If the United States’ bottomline is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea,” the newspaper said. “The intensity of the conflict will be higher than what people usually think of as ‘friction’.”

Such commentaries are not official policy statements, but are sometimes read as a reflection of government thinking. The Global Times is among China’s most nationalist newspapers.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

The United States has routinely called on all claimants to halt reclamation in the Spratlys, but accuses China of carrying out work on a scale that far outstrips any other country.

Washington has also vowed to keep up air and sea patrols in the South China Sea amid concerns among security experts that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands.

China has said it had every right to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.
The Global Times said “risks are still under control” if Washington takes into account China’s peaceful rise.

“We do not want a military conflict with the United States, but if it were to come, we have to accept it,” the newspaper said. Reuters

Source : GMANetworkNews

May 22, 2015

China Jams US Spy Drones over Disputed South China Sea Islands

China tried to electronically jam US drone flights over the disputed South China Sea in order to prevent surveillance on man-made islands Beijing is constructing as a part of an aggressive land reclamation initiative, US officials said.

Global Hawk long-range surveillance drones were targeted by jamming in at least one incident near the Spratly Islands, where China is building military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

That statement follows Thursday reports that the Chinese navy warned a US surveillance plane to leave the same area eight times in an apparent effort to establish and enforce a no-fly zone, a demand Washington rejected.
"This is the Chinese navy … This is the Chinese navy … Please go away … to avoid misunderstanding," a radio call in English from an installation on Fiery Cross said. The warnings were reported by CNN, which had a crew on the aircraft.

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the United States does not recognize China's sovereignty claims over the new islands. He added that flights and Navy ships will continue their routine patrols, but will maintain a distance of at least 12 miles from the island.

Details of the drone interference are classified, but last week, David Shear, the assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said Global Hawks are deployed in Asia as one element of a buildup of forces near the South China Sea.

"We're engaged in a long-term effort to bolster our capabilities in the region,” Shear told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Just a few examples of the increases in our capabilities in the region include the deployment of Global Hawks and F-35s. Soon we will be adding to the stock of V-22s in Japan as well."

Shear said the Pentagon estimates that China will complete construction of an airfield on Fiery Cross Reef by 2017 or 2018. Meanwhile, rapid militarization has security experts worried about the potential for a conflict.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs analyst, said China could increase pressure on the United States to halt surveillance flights in Asia by first attacking one of the unmanned aircraft flights.

"Though UAVs like the Global Hawk are rather expensive, they are also regarded as more expendable because they are unmanned," Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, told the Washington Free Beacon.

"But failing to defend these UAVs runs the risk of China viewing them as 'fair game' to shoot down whenever they please."

Beijing also might attempt to capture a Global Hawk by causing one to crash in shallow water, or by attempting to snatch one in flight using a manned aircraft, Fisher said.
Source : Sputniknews

May 12, 2015

United States may send planes and war ships near disputed South China's Sea islands

The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending U.S. military ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of reefs that China has been building up in the disputed Spratly Islands, the official said.

Such a move would directly challenge Chinese efforts to expand its influence in the disputed region by literally adding territory through a massive island-building exercise.

"We are considering how to demonstrate freedom of navigation in an area that is critical to world trade," the U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding any options would need to be approved by the White House.

Carter's request for the development of options including using the U.S. ships and aircraft was first reported earlier on Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.

The Pentagon did not immediately comment.

The practice of sending ships and aircraft near the islands would be in line with regular U.S. military "Freedom of Navigation" operations, which it conducted last year to challenge maritime claims of 19 countries, including China.

    Five countries as well as China lay claim to parts of the Spratly archipelago. They are Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

    Recent satellite images have shown that since about March 2014, China has conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and is constructing a military-sized air strip on one artificial island and possibly a second on another.

    Other images have suggested that China is working to extend another airstrip to that length in the Paracel Islands further north in the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, a vital shipping route through which $5 trillion of trade passes every year.

"The U.S. and its allies have a very different view than China over the rules of the road in the South China Sea," the U.S. official said.

Reuters reported last week China had added about 2,000 acres of land since the start of 2014, according to one U.S. estimate.

    China drew condemnation from Japan and the United States in 2013 when it imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), in which aircraft are supposed to identify themselves to Chinese authorities.

The United States responded by flying B-52 bombers through the zone in a show of force.

Source : Reuters

May 11, 2015

Malaysian Forces Arrive to Join Saudi-led Yemen Offensive

Malaysian troops have arrived Sunday in Saudi Arabia to join the Saudi-led coalition against Shia Houthi group in Yemen, the Saudi state news agency reported.

According to the agency, Malaysia became the 12th country to join the coalition, a week after Senegal announced that 2,000 of its troops would join the coalition.

The coalition’s operations centre is preparing plans for the participation of the Malaysian and Senegalese forces and the nature of the tasks to be assigned to them, the report said.

The news agency gave no details about the number of Malaysian troops that had arrived or whether other would follow. It did not clarify whether they were ground troops or air force personnel.

Fractious Yemen has remained in turmoil since last September, when the Houthis overran capital Sanaa, from which they sought to extend their influence to other parts of the country. President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi fled to Riyadh in late March after Houthi forces attacked his residence in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden.

In the same month, Saudi Arabia and several allies began an extensive military campaign targeting Houthi positions across Yemen. Riyadh says its air campaign comes in response to appeals by Hadi for military intervention against the Houthi militia.

The Shia group has agreed to a Saudi-proposed five-day humanitarian cease-fire in Yemen and called for resuming political dialogue under the auspices of the United Nations.

On Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and US Secretary of State John Kerry announced a humanitarian truce in Yemen as of Tuesday provided it would be respected by the Houthis.

Source : MiddleEastMonitor

May 5, 2015

Nepal Asks Foreign Rescuers to Leave as Hopes Fade

The government of Nepal is asking foreign search-and-rescue teams to leave now that the likelihood of finding survivors buried by last month’s earthquake has largely passed, and a top Nepalese tourism official said Monday that no more climbers were likely to ascend Mount Everest this season.

“We have already asked them to go home,” Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, a Home Ministry spokesman, said on Monday of the foreign rescue teams, adding that roughly half the 4,000 rescuers had already left. “I think all the rescuers will go to their respective countries by Friday.”

Some of the rescuers, however, said they had no intention of leaving immediately.

    Many bodies prepared for cremation last week in Kathmandu were of young men from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas.

The leader of a large Spanish team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized by his embassy to speak publicly, said Nepal’s government would soon divide Kathmandu, the capital, into sectors so that various teams would have responsibility for specific parts of the city. In the early days of the rescue effort, teams often ended up searching the same sites because of a lack of coordination.

Pemba Tamang, the 15-year-old who was rescued after being trapped for five days under rubble from Nepal’s earthquake, and his rescuer and the doctor treating him described the ordeal on Thursday.
By AP on Publish Date April 30, 2015. Photo by Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters.

Asked whom his team could still rescue, the leader responded: “Whoever is still alive. We don’t yet know if anyone is still in there.”

“We have the technology for surveying under the rubble; we have dogs that sniff people out,” the team leader said. “And we have other kinds of techniques.”

There seems almost no chance that anyone alive is still trapped amid the rubble from the quake, which struck just before noon on April 25. On Sunday, though, three survivors were found in the Sindhupalchok district, an especially hard hit and largely rural area north of Kathmandu. The official death toll now exceeds 7,300.

When Nepal was hit with a powerful earthquake the tremor shattered lives, landmarks and the very landscape of the country. The scope of the disaster in photographs.

Dr. Ian Norton, head of the World Health Organization’s program of foreign medical teams, praised the government’s announcement, which he said would free up airport facilities and other resources.

“More is not better at this point,” Dr. Norton said. “If you’re not contributing, you need to make way for those who are.”

Dr. Norton said that the thousands of rescuers, who often work as firefighters in their home countries, had saved a total of 16 people in the aftermath of the quake, and that about 50 foreign medical teams comprising nearly 10,000 people had saved hundreds of lives and even more limbs. After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, nearly 2,000 rescuers saved 13 people, but nearly 30,000 Haitians died because of a lack of proper medical care, Dr. Norton said.

The earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 flattened sections of Katmandu’s historic center, where many structures were made with bricks.

“I’m not saying rescue teams are bad, but there needs to be a balance,” Dr. Norton said. “This announcement by the Nepali government is completely appropriate.”

Mr. Dhakal explained that many of the rescue teams had refused to take part in the task of recovering dead bodies from the still-towering piles of rubble in some parts of Kathmandu, “so their relevance is now over.”

Minendra Rijal, the minister for information and communication, said, “We do not need ones who are not needed for us, but we will keep those who are essential.”

Trapped by an earthquake hundreds of miles from home, 28 Nepalese workers hiked for days braving landslides and collapsed roads to reach family members.

Also Monday, a group of experienced Sherpas told the government that the Sherpa community had neither the time nor the inclination to do the necessary repairs before bad weather, which usually arrives in the third week of May, made climbing impossible.

Ang Dorjee Sherpa, chairman of the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, which is responsible for climbing-route maintenance, said in a telephone interview that an inspection he and others had completed Sunday found that the route through the Khumbu Icefall, which collapsed last year as well, was simply gone.

“We had to work almost for one month to fix the route and rope when it collapsed after last year’s avalanche,” he said. “If we started today, it would take at least 12 to 15 days to rebuild the route and refix the ropes.”

Maps show the landscape of temporary shelters, the epicenter of the earthquake and its aftershocks.

The work would be dangerous because of the instability of the icefall, and with only five climbers at the base camp willing to ascend, there was no point in undergoing the task, he said.

“Since the whole country is suffering from a devastating natural disaster, why should we encourage them to bear yet another risk?” Mr. Sherpa asked, referring to the mountaineers.

Tulsi Prasad Gautam, the head of Nepal’s tourism department, which oversees mountaineering, said in an interview that the Sherpa report most likely spelled the end of this year’s climbing season.

“We’ve been told that many climbers have already left base camp and that it’s not easy to fix the route and rope for climbing within the short window of time we have left,” the tourism official said.

This will be the second consecutive year that the Everest climbing season has been truncated because of a deadly event. Last year, about 30 climbers were crossing a notorious area known by some local residents as the Golden Gate because of the shape of its ice formations when a huge chunk of ice cascaded down the mountain’s south side around 6:30 a.m. and engulfed them, killing 16 Sherpas.

That avalanche, and the outrage among the Sherpas over their pay and safety conditions, forced the cancellation of the climbing season, a crucial part of Nepal’s tourism industry. It was the deadliest day in Everest history until the earthquake this year, which caused a wall of boulders, rocks, ice and debris to pulverize the mountaineering base camp, killing 18 people, including four Americans.

Source : NYTimes

May 4, 2015

Japan, Fukushima : “Caldrons of Hell”: More than 300 Tons of Highly Radioactive Water Generated Daily

Yauemon Sato, the ninth-generation chief of a sake brewery operating here since 1790 [and president of electric power company Aizu Denryoku] likens the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to “caldrons of hell.” In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Sato said the nuclear disaster “continues to recur every day”… Excerpts from the interview follow: Question: What drives you to be so active, including in the use of renewable energy? — Sato: You know the caldron of hell? You will be sent to hell and will be boiled in that caldron if you do evil. And there are four such caldrons in Fukushima… And the disaster has yet to end. It continues to recur every day. More than 300 tons of water, contaminated with intense levels of radioactive substances, are being generated every day…
Hiroaki Koide, professor at Kyoto Univ. Research Reactor Institute (retired), Apr 24, 2015:

  • 11:30 – The Prime Minister [said Fukushima] had been brought to a close. My reaction on hearing his words was, ‘Stop kidding.’ Reality is, though 4 years have passed, the accident has not yet been brought to a close at all.
  • 15:15 – What is the situation within the core? How much has melted? Where is the fuel exactly? We do not know… This is an accident of a severity that cannot be imagined anywhere else… As you can see, we are facing a very, very difficult situation. The only choice that we have open to us is to somehow keep the situation from getting worse.
  • 30:30 – We are in a very terrible situation, I would even call it a crisis.
  • 55:30 – The Japanese government has issued a declaration that this is an emergency situation. As a result, normal laws do not have to be followed. What they are saying is that, in these very high radiation exposure level areas, they have basically abandoned people to live there. They’ve actually thrown them away to live there… The Cs-137 that’s fallen onto Japanese land in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, so much so that this area should all be put under the radiation control area designation [the Kanto region includes Tokyo and is home to over 40 million people].
  • 1:01:00 – I really do want to impress upon you that the accident effects are continuing.
  • 1:02:00 – Bahrain’s Ambassador to Japan: If you were the Prime Minister of Japan, what are you going to do with this very complicated situation?… Koide: When you have an emergency legally declared, regular laws are put on hold. What that means is people can be thrown away into areas where normally people should not be… The first thing I would do as Prime Minister is evacuate all the children that are in the contaminated areas.
  • Watch Koide’s presentation here 
Source : ENENews

May 3, 2015

Protests Erupt in Japan over Anti-Constitutional Militarization Against China

The effort of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to emasculate and revise the country’s war-renouncing constitution encountered a mass protest on Sunday, the country’s 68th Constitution Memorial Day, when he returned from the United States with the updated bilateral defense guidelines that will result in unconstitutional revision of security-related legislation.

Thousands of demonstrators from across the country took to the streets in Yokohama, a southern port city, protesting against the prime minister’s dangerous politics. They held banners that read ” Firmly oppose destruction of the constitution,” “No Abe administration,” “Crush the ultra-right regime” and “Protect the pacifist constitution.”

Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party is mulling to hold a referendum in 2017 to realize the first-ever amendment of the country’s supreme law, and is seeking to start discussions with other political parties as early as possible to carry out the amending procedure at an early date.

However, the prime minister has reinterpreted that war- renouncing constitution last July to give the green light to the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to exercise the right to collective defense, allowing the SDF to engage combat overseas, which goes against the constitution that bans the SDF to fight outside Japan.

During Abe’s week-long visit to the United States, foreign and defense ministers of the two countries revised their guidelines for bilateral defense cooperation for the first time in 18 years and the renewed guidelines gave Japan’s SDF a more proactive role in supporting the U.S. forces overseas with a more flexible concept involving the “use of force.”

In line with the updated defense guidelines, Abe said he will try to achieve the revision of a series of security-related laws so as to legalize the exercise of the right to self-defense, even before the amendment of the pacifist constitution.

Kenzaburo Oe, a Japanese Nobel literature laureate, said during a pro-constitution gathering of some 30,000 people on Sunday that Abe lied when addressing a joint session in the U.S. Congress.

He said the prime minister hawked the idea around to foreigners that it is for fighting together with the United States that Japan approved for the SDF to exercise the right to collective defense and adopted unconstitutional revision of security-related legislation. But back in Japan, he has made no explanation to the Japanese people and failed to get public support, Oe said.

The major figure in contemporary Japanese literature urged the Japanese people to protect the pacifist constitution and to oppose any legislation that may lead to war.

Yoichi Higuchi, a constitutional expert, also slashed the Abe administration, saying Abe is putting the Japanese people’s right to existence at risk by allowing the SDF to exercise the right to collective defense.

He called on the Japanese people to stop Abe’s coup against the constitution.

According to a latest nationwide poll conducted by Japan’s mainstream daily the Asahi Shimbun, 48 percent of the respondents oppose the amendment to the constitution as advocated by Abe, while 43 percent of them support the revision.

The survey result released on Friday also showed that 63 percent of the surveyed expressed opposition against the revision of Article 9 of the pacifist constitution that bans Japan to use force overseas, while only 23 percent said they agree to lift the ban on the SDF.

In Yokohama, the demonstrators also protested against a Japan-U. S. agreement to relocate the U.S. Futenma airbase within Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture as Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama had reaffirmed the plan during their summit in Washington, despite Okinawan’s public desire for moving the airbase outside the island prefecture.

Source : XinhuaNewsAgency

Apr 29, 2015

Want to Help Nepal Recover from the Quake? Cancel its Debt, Says Rights Group

The death toll has now passed 3,300, and there is no telling how much farther it will climb. Search and rescue operations in Nepal entered their third day Monday, as the government and international aid agencies scramble to cope with the aftermath of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck this South Asian nation on Apr. 25.

Severe aftershocks have this land-locked country of 27.8 million people on edge, with scores missing and countless others feared dead, buried under the rubble.
With its epicenter in Lamjung District, located northwest of the capital, Kathmandu, and south of the China border, the massive quake rippled out over the entire country, causing several avalanches in the Himalayas including one that killed over 15 people and injured dozens more at the base camp of Mt. Everest, 200 km away.

The United Nations says Dhading, Gorkha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot, Dolakha, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Ramechhap are the worst affected areas. In total, 35 out of 75 districts in the Western and Central regions of the country are suffering the impacts of the quake and its severe aftershocks.

Questions abound as to how this impoverished nation, ranked 145 out of 187 on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) – making it one of the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – will recover from the disaster, considered the worst in Nepal in over 80 years.

One possible solution has come from the Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of over 75 U.S.-based organisations and 400 faith communities worldwide, which said in a press release Monday that Nepal could qualify for debt relief under the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCR).

The IMF created the CCR this past February in order to assist poor countries recover from severe natural disasters or health crises by providing grants for debt service relief. Already, the fund has eased some of the financial woes of Ebola-impacted countries by agreeing to cancel nearly 100 million dollars of debt.

Quoting World Bank figures, Jubilee USA said in a statement, “Nepal owes 3.8 billion dollars in debt to foreign lenders and spent 217 million dollars repaying debt in 2013.”

Nepal owes some 1.5 billion dollars each to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as 54 million dollars to the IMF, 133 million dollars to Japan and 101 million dollars to China.

“In order for Nepal to receive relief from the IMF’s fund, the disaster must destroy more than 25 percent of the country’s ‘productive capacity’, impact one-third of its people or cause damage greater than the size of the country’s economy,” Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA Network’s executive director, told IPS. “It seems clear that Nepal will qualify for immediate assistance from the IMF.”

According to Jubilee USA Network, Nepal is scheduled to pay back 10 million dollars worth of loans to the IMF in 2015 and nearly 13 million dollars in 2016. Relieving the country of this burden will free up valuable and limited funds that can be redirect into the rescue and relief effort.

Strong emergency response – but is it enough?

“Time is of the essence for the search and rescue operations,” Under-Secretary-General of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said Monday.

    “The actions of the Government of Nepal and local communities themselves have already saved many lives. Teams from India, Pakistan, China and Israel have started work, and more are on their way from the U.S., the UK, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the European Union and elsewhere.”

Early on Sunday morning the United States’ department of defense confirmed it had dispatched an aircraft to Nepal carrying 70 personnel and 700,000 dollars worth of supplies.

But it is unclear whether or not the immediate response will prove equal to the mammoth task ahead.

The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 940,000 children from areas severely affected by the quake are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been supplying emergency food rations, while the World Health Organisation has sent in enough medical supplies to meet the needs of 40,000 affected people, yet experts say much more will be needed in the weeks and months ahead.

Tens of thousands of people are sleeping in the open air in makeshift tents; almost all are in need of better accommodation, clean water, sanitation, tents and blankets, and improved medical supplies.

A situation report released over the weekend by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed, “In Kathmandu Valley, hospitals are overcrowded, running out of space for storing dead bodies and lack medical supplies and capacity. BIR hospital [one of the country’s leading medical facilities] is treating people in the streets.”

Scenes of devastation all around the country highlight the need for emergency relief, but do not do justice to the massive reconstruction effort that will be needed in the months and years to come.

“Nepal’s rebuilding efforts will take years and debt cancellation is a recipe for long-term financial stability,” LeCompte stressed.

“Since the IMF has clear rules in place and the financing available with their trust, aid [to Nepal] should come relatively quickly,” he added. “Unfortunately, with the bulk of the debt owed to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, the rules for debt relief are less clear.

“It’s unfortunate that the World Bank, as a development institution, still has not yet released a plan similar to the IMF to respond rapidly to humanitarian crises. In the short term, the World Bank must offer a plan for grants and debt relief. I hope this crisis also motivates the World Bank to release their plans for a rapid response mechanism,” LeCompte concluded.

Source : IPS

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