Tag Archives: South China Sea

ISRAEL ATTACKS SYRIAN AND IRANIAN TARGETS

Syria’s state media released images of what they say are destroyed houses near Damascus (AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Israel says it has hit dozens of targets in Syria belonging to the government and allied Iranian forces.

The Israeli military says the “wide-scale strikes” responded to rockets fired by an Iranian unit into Israel.   Syria says two civilians died and that Syrian air defenses shot down most of the missiles over Damascus.  Other reports say the death toll was higher.   Local reports said loud explosions were heard in the capital.   Pictures on social media showed a number of fires.

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PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS

“It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death.” — Vernon Brewer, founder and CEO of World Help, Fox News, November 4, 2019

“4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.  On average, that’s 11 Christians killed every day for their faith.” — Open Doors, World Watch List 2019

More than 245 million Christians around the world are currently suffering from persecution. — Open Doors, World Watch List, 2019 (Gatestone 11/15/2019)

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CHANGES AHEAD IF CORBYN WINS

The United Kingdom has a general election on December 12th.  It is considered the most important election in 80 years.  It will determine the issue of Brexit, the future direction of the British economy and even of the United Kingdom itself.

  • “By far the most likely casualty of a Corbyn government would be the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, where there is a strong likelihood that other member states of the alliance will be deeply reluctant to share highly sensitive material with a British prime minister who has spent his entire political career openly associating with regimes and groups that are utterly hostile to the West and its allies.
  • At the heart of his hard Left approach to foreign policy lies a deep hatred for the US and its role in safeguarding the interests of the Western democracies.
  • Thus Mr. Corbyn’s instinct is to be more sympathetic to the views of Russia, Iran, North Korea and the Assad regime in Syria than Britain’s long-standing allies in Washington and Europe.   (Con Coughlin, Gatestone, 11/16/2019)

JEREMY CORBYN’S BIG NEGATIVE EFFECT ON FOREIGN POLICY

“A Corbyn-led government would quickly lead to the biggest change in Britain’s defense posture since the second world war.   Even if the country stayed in NATO, as is likely, it would be a passive member, reluctant to push back against Russian expansionism and hostile to the idea of a nuclear deterrent.   Given that NATO depends on confidence that it means what it says, this would be a severe blow to its credibility.   Britain’s Middle East policy would be revolutionized, with a more hostile stance toward Israel and the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, and a friendlier one to Iran.   America would almost certainly stop sharing critical intelligence with Downing Street, for fears that such secrets would find their way into Russian or Iranian hands.   Given Britain’s membership of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, that would harm Europe’s ability to combat hostile states and non-state actors.

“Such a revolution would come at a sensitive time.   Mr. Trump is already disrupting established security relations (for all their differences, he and Mr. Corbyn share a common hostility to the multinational institutions that have kept the peace since 1945).   Brexit is straining relations with Britain’s European allies, while gobbling up the political class’s available bandwidth.  The Foreign Office is demoralized by decades of cuts, and the security establishment is still tainted by the weapons-of-mass-destruction fiasco.

All this is taking place at a time when Mr. Putin is on the march and Islamic State is shifting its focus from state-building to global terror. A Dangerous world may be about to become more dangerous.” (“Security questions,” Bagehot, The Economist, 11/9,2019).

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MACRON ON RUSSIA

“. . . consider Mr. Macron’s Russia policy.   He has long argued that rogue powers are more dangerous when isolated.   To this end, he has hosted Vladimir Putin at both Versailles, near Paris, and Bregancon, on the Mediterranean.   But his call for a “rapprochement” with Russia, in order to keep it out of China’s arms, has alarmed Poland and the Baltics.   “My idea is not in the least naïve,” argues Mr. Macron.   He insists that any movement would be conditional on respect for the Minsk peace accords in Ukraine.   He has not called for sanctions to be lifted.   And he sees this as a long-term strategy, that “might take ten years.”   Mr. Macron’s belief is that, eventually, Europe will need to try to find common ground with its near neighbor.   Not doing so would be a “huge mistake”.” (Briefing, The Economist, 11/9/2019)

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WHO WILL PAY FOR ENDLESS WARS?

“Future generations will pay for them:   the wars have been funded by debt.   Most Americans have had little reason to think their country is even at war.    And lucky them because war is hell.   But this disconnect helps explain why the country’s civil-military relations are as distant as they are.   It also helps explain how America came to be locked in such long and largely unproductive conflicts in the first place.   Its voters started to reckon with the rights and wrongs of the Vietnam War – then demand accountability for it – only after they felt its sting.   By contrast Donald Trump, who almost alone among national politicians decries the latest conflicts, has struggled to interest voters in them – or indeed end them.

“Though mostly wrong on the details, the president raises an important question of the long wars.   What have they achieved?” (Lexington, The Economist, 11/9/2019).

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TEMPLE MOUNT NO LONGER

154 UN nations call Temple Mount solely by Muslim name Haram al-Sharif  – EU approves text, but warns it may not do so in the future by Tovah Lazaroff, November 17, 2019

The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.

The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences.   It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve.   The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.

. . . Acting US Deputy Representative to the United Nations Cherith Norman Chalet told the Fourth Committee it opposed the “annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel.

. . .  “As the United States has repeatedly made clear, this dynamic is unacceptable,” Chalet continued.  “We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians.   And so the United States will once again vote against these one-sided resolutions and encourages other nations to do so.”
(https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/154-UN-nations-call-Temple-Mount-solely-by-Muslim-name-Haram-al-Sharif-608135)

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GERMAN MILITIAS

Right-wing militia groups say they patrol where police turn a blind eye.  But with criminality dropping and more police than ever in Germany,  analysts and politicians say their motives are more sinister.         Deutsche Welle, 18/11/2019 

Sebastian Niedrich is one of about 20 militiamen in Berlin with a “citizen patrol” initiative.   In groups of two or three, the red-vested men patrol neighborhoods in Berlin they claim are areas where petty crime is rife.   Their initiative is called “Establish Protection Zones” (“Schafft Schutzzone”).   It is abbreviated as “SS,” which in Germany immediately brings to mind the notorious Nazi-era “SS” – the paramilitary “Protection Squadron” that persecuted millions and was directly responsible for genocide.   Niedrich rejects any such connection.   Right-wing extremist initiative:   The “Establish Protection Zones” initiative, an offshoot of Germany’s extreme-right National Democratic Party (NPD), says the areas it patrols are often popular tourist areas, as well as those with growing immigrant communities.

The first subheading of the NPD’s party platform in Berlin reads “The Problem of Foreigners” and lays out ways to close Germany’s borders, bar immigrants from receiving jobs and social benefits, and preserve Germany’s national identity.   The party’s website also prominently displays images of its logo-wearing patrols, superimposed with slogans like “Protect Germans!” and “Germans helping Germans!”   Multiple attempts to disband or ban the party entirely have failed in courts.   The extreme-right NPD in western Germany, has made it their task to protest against Islam.   A study on German society’s biggest fears released earlier this year by the Berlin Social Science Center showed that one in three respondents feared “foreign infiltration” on account of too many immigrants. Over half feared criminality.

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GERMANY-TAIPEI LINKS

German politician urges military links with Taipei                             Taipei Times, 19 Nov 2019

Germany and Taiwan should conduct military exchanges, which would be more meaningful than exchanges with China, German lawmaker Ulrich Lechte, a member of the Bundestag Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Sunday.   “The free world should stand together,” the Free Democratic Party lawmaker wrote on Facebook.  The Taipei Representative Office in Germany’s Munich office shared Lechte’s post on its Facebook page, and thanked him for his continuing support of Taiwan.   The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that 62 nations, including China, are to receive training from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s military.

Amnesty International arms and human rights expert Mathias John criticized the plans to train Chinese soldiers, telling the paper that doing so was “incomprehensible” given China’s “human rights situation and the role the Chinese People’s Liberation Army plays” in human rights violations in China.   John also brought up the protests in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong police’s response to them.  Germany should “send a clear message and immediately cease all military cooperation with China,” he said.   A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense told the paper that Chinese soldiers regularly participate in educational events organized by the German military, including international officer courses, as well as officer training courses offered at military schools, universities and military leadership academies.   The weekly news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday reported that the German government is planning to send warships into the South China Sea and through the Taiwan Strait as a way of “refuting Chinese territorial claims” in those areas (http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2019/11/19/2003726106)

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ADMIRAL HORATIO NELSON and THE BATTLE OF TRAFALGAR

 214 Years Ago

The Battle of Trafalgar, fought 21 October 1805, was one of the most important and decisive Naval engagements of all time, decisively establishing the supremacy of the Royal Navy on the high seas.   Rather than a conventional engagement between lines of battle with gunnery duels, the English made a bold attack that allowed them to gain local superiority over the enemy and raked their ships with devastating broadsides.   The Franco-Spanish fleet was decisively defeated and British supremacy on the high seas was decisively established for the rest of the 19th century.   Lord Nelson’s defeat of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar allowed British trade to flourish around the world, laying the foundations for Britain’s emergence as an economic superpower.   It also made possible the Greatest Century of Missions, as Protestant missionaries were able to sail to every corner of the world.   The Royal Navy’s domination of the high seas brought an end to the slave trade in the 19th Century.   (Reformation SA, 2019)

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TO THE POINT

  • The Chinese Ambassador to the UK has accused both the UK and the US of interfering in Chinese domestic affairs.   He is referring to British and American support for student protesters in Hong Kong.   He has a point. Democracy isn’t working too well right now in the US or the UK.   Perhaps we should shut up until things calm down at home!
  • “The escalation of the unrest in Hong Kong coincides with recent mass protests around the world.   These protests – in Bolivia, Iran and elsewhere – are not connected.   However, they are loosely linked thematically in that they concern inequality, political freedoms, corruption and climate change.”  (“Protests catch fire,” USA Today, 11/19/2019)
  • Prince Andrew’s BBC interview in which he denies having had a relationship with a 17- year-old girl, courtesy of Jeffrey Epstein, has failed to convince many.   Members of the royal family rarely give interviews.   It’s difficult to remember one, which was advantageous to the royals.   Perhaps they just haven’t had as much practice at lying as politicians!  (Prince Andrew has since withdrawn from public duties, “for the foreseeable future”.)
  • A 55-year-old man in China’s Inner Mongolia region has been diagnosed with bubonic plague after eating wild rabbit, the third recorded case of the deadly disease in the country.
  • A famous person I’ve never heard of is complaining about the patriotic song “Rule Britannia,” which dates back to the days when the British Royal Navy governed the world.   Is she objecting to the fact that the royal navy did more than any other institution to end the slave trade?   From 1810 to 1860 the West Africa Squadron freed 250,000 slaves. (see article above on Horatio Nelson; last sentence) “Slavery was a fact of life in the sixteenth century.   The African slave trade was already the largest form of commerce in the world.   No one had the least qualms about it, least of all Africa’s own tribal rulers.” (“To Rule the Waves,” page 2, Arthur Herman, 2004)
  • “The global debt ballooned to a record high of more than $250 trillion and shows no sign of slowing down, according to a new report from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).   . . . Extended low interest rates and easy money has facilitated the accumulation of a bone crushing amount of debt over the last decade or so,” Dylan Riddle, a spokesperson for the IIF told ABC News in a statement.   “This debt has helped fuel global growth, however, we must focus on managing the current debt load, and deploying resources for more productive means — like fighting climate change or investing in growth.”  (ABC News)

DOES SINGAPORE SUMMIT MEAN PEACE IN OUR TIME?

President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sentosa Island, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.   These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.   These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”  (Rev 17:12-14)

For these ten nations to come together, there must be a major upheaval that transforms the nations of the world and their alliances.   President Trump may be the catalyst.

It’s difficult to know at this point what the outcome of the Singapore summit will be.   North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump seemed to get along fine and there is hope of an end to almost 70 years of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

“President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hearkens back to an era of high-risk summits where the outcome was not preordained.”   (“In the past, summits often redrew maps, changed world,” Gregory Korte, USA Today, 6/13)

“ . . . To Trump’s credit, we are surely at a better place than we were a year ago when Kim was testing hydrogen bombs and ICBMs, and he and Trump were trading threats and insults in what seemed the prelude to a new Korean War.

“Whatever one may think of his diplomacy, Trump has, for now, lifted the specter of nuclear war from the Korean peninsula and begun a negotiating process that could lead to tolerable coexistence.”   (“Trump’s Bold Historic Gamble,” Pat Buchanan, 6/15)

For a more critical view, note this paragraph from The Economist:   “In foreign policy, perhaps more than anywhere else, President Donald Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do:   he has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Iran deal, moved America’s embassy in Israel and imposed tariffs on imports.  His supporters, and many business folk, are thrilled.  But though his wrecking-ball approach may bring short-term wins for America, it will cause long-term damage to the world.”  (6/9)

WILL THERE BE PEACE?

In 1938, before the word “summit” was used to describe meetings of world leaders (it was first used by Sir Winston Churchill over ten years later), the two most powerful men in the world met in Munich.   British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Germany’s leader, Adolf Hitler, worked out a peace “deal” between them.   Mr. Chamberlain was able to return to England and proclaim  “Peace in our time.”   Less than a year later, the two nations were at war.  World War Il was to last six years.

80 years later, the Singapore summit has raised hopes of an end to the threat of nuclear war involving North Korea.   But whether this will mean peace remains to be seen.

“Here is where the crunch comes.   Kim is being told that he must give up the weapons whose very possession by him are the reason why the world powers are paying him heed.”   (PB)

Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that neither North Korea nor the United States are the biggest beneficiaries following the summit.  The nation that benefits the most is China, already the greatest power in the Far East.

A HUGE WIN FOR CHINA

“Kim Jong Un flew into Singapore on a Chinese plane for his summit with US President Donald Trump and left with a prized concession long sought by Beijing:   the suspension of US-South Korean war games.

Not only that, but Trump also teased the possibility of a complete withdrawal of American troops from the Korean Peninsula at some point in the near future.

“It’s a huge win for China,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at CSIS, told CNN.”   (CNN, 6/3)

SAVING MONEY

Mr. Trump clearly wants to reduce the number of US military personnel in South Korea, variously said to be 28,000-32,000.   At a press conference, he said the following:

“I want to get our soldiers out.   I want to bring our soldiers back home.   We have 32,000 soldiers in South Korea.   I would like to be able to bring them back home. . . .   We will stop the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money.”

As said on CNN, this statement is exactly what China wants.  Under pressure from Beijing, North Korea will likely take a more peaceful course.   The country will likely open up to some foreign investment, mostly from China, although there is little prospect of an end to authoritarian, communist rule.   China itself has not made any progress in that area.

It may take some time for the world to see clearly that this summit was a big step forward for China and Chinese power in the Asia-Pacific region.   Perhaps mindful of the decline of the European powers in the region following World War II, China is enabling the US to decline gracefully in what is increasingly a Chinese sphere of influence.   Even the summit venue, Singapore, is ethnically Chinese. A friend of mine in the city-state reports an increased sighting of Chinese ships around the strategically important island.

On the day of the summit, the Singapore Straits Times reported:

PARIS (AFP) – “France is increasing its military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, sending warships through the South China Sea and planning air exercises to help counter China’s military build-up in disputed waters.

“In late May, the French assault ship Dixmude and a frigate sailed through the disputed Spratly Islands and around a group of reefs that China has turned into islets, to push back against Beijing’s claim to own most of the resource-rich South China Sea.”

Around the globe, the talk was of peace; but the summit was largely about money, as is so often the case with global power struggles.

Although the US economy is doing well, the country is heavily in debt (more about that later), while China has mountains of cash. Inevitably, the latter is going to overtake the former, at least in Asia, unless things change fast.

EU & NATO  CONCERNS

“Donald Trump’s America-first diplomacy has shaken the foundations of many global institutions and alliances, but its most damaging effects so far have been on the trans-Atlantic relationship. The community of North American and European nations forming the nucleus of the alliance that won the Cold War for the West is closer to breaking up now than any time since the 1940s.”   (“Why Trump clashes with Europe,” by Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 6/12).

The summit of the G7 nations, meeting in Quebec just a few days ago, ended in disarray when the US president refused to sign the joint communiqué and walked out of the conference.   The future of the organization remains in doubt.   The G7 was sometimes referred to last week as the G6+1; at other times the G4, as only the European countries seemed to be in agreement.

By throwing out the suggestion that all tariffs be abolished, Mr. Trump was undermining the very foundations of the European Union.

Early in July, the US president will be attending the NATO summit in Brussels.   It should become clearer then if he feels any support for the European democracies.   If he doesn’t, Europe will be on its own.

GERMANY’S VIEW

The German news magazine Der Spiegel commented on the “G7 fiasco,” saying “it’s time to isolate Donald Trump:”

“The G-7 summit once again made it clear that U.S. President Donald Trump is intent on treating America’s allies worse than its enemies. Europe must draw the consequences and seek to isolate Trump on the international stage.”

“Germany’s foreign minister called for the European Union to become a more self-confident global actor, prepared to take counter-measures when the United States crosses “red lines” and able to respond to Russian threats and Chinese growth.

“In a Berlin speech, Heiko Maas gave the clearest sign yet that Germany no longer sees its 70-year-old alliance with the United States as unconditional, and threw his weight behind French proposals to make the EU shipshape for a more uncertain world.

“We need a balanced partnership with the US,” he told youth activists in a converted railway station, “where we as Europeans act as a conscious counterweight when the US oversteps red lines.”

“In remarks that drew a line under the post-war German doctrine of close alignment with the United States, Maas listed President Donald Trump’s Washington as a challenge for Europe, alongside more traditional rivals like Russia and China.

“Donald Trump’s egotistical politics of ‘America First’, Russia’s attacks on international law and state sovereignty, the expansion of gigantic China:   the world order we were used to – it no longer exists,” he said.

“The speech is the latest in a flurry of declarations by leading German politicians digesting the implications of the disarray following Trump’s abrupt departure last week from the Quebec G7 summit, long a pillar of the US-led Western global order.

“Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, long known as among Germany’s most committed Atlanticists, effectively demoted the US relationship in a television interview by saying Germany’s second loyalty had to be the EU.

“The first loyalty goes to your own country,” she said.  “But the second should go to the EU.”   For Berlin’s elites, the EU and the transatlantic alliance were long regarded as equal pillars.”  (Euractiv with Reuters 6/14)

Once again, money has played a part in Mr. Trump’s anti-European rhetoric.   Although some European countries do spend more than the required 2% of their GNP on defense, some do not, including Germany.   Mr. Trump feels very strongly that this is wrong and needs to change.   The United States is deeply in debt.   In itself, this poses a grave threat to national security.   Other nations must devote more of their resources to defense.

Did both the Singapore and the Quebec summits have a lot to do with money?   Seemingly so.

ONE SUMMIT STILL TO GO

Here’s a final comment from a British conservative publication, linking all three summits (G7, Singapore and NATO):

“Donald Trump is feeling confident about world peace following his big summit in Singapore with Kim Jong Un.   But . . . western leaders are desperately worried.   Might the US President, inebriated on his own sense of destiny, be about to collapse Nato?   Theresa May is certainly worried:   she knows how hard the British government had to push Trump to officially endorse Nato.   But now, following the fallout over tariffs at last weekend’s G7 summit in Canada, Trump is not feeling well disposed towards the rest of the West.   Next month’s Nato Summit in Brussels will be a tense affair.”   (Spectator, UK, 6/14)

Seventy years after the formation of NATO, could the organization break up?   We will see next month.