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Monitor The Strategic Trends

Global Government Introduction:

 

      The move toward a global government received a big boost this summer by the introduction of a proposal for an International Criminal Court. Over U.S. objections, the United Nations Diplomatic Conference voted 120 to 7 in favor of establishing an international criminal court to try individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.


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With the wealth of information at our fingertips, it is sometimes hard to see the ‘’forest for the trees’’. In this Strategic Briefing, we will give you a current perspective on many of the trends that shape our world and their relevance to Biblical Prophecy. Now, more than ever, we need to stay informed about what is really going on.

What is REALLY going on in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt?
Who is going to deal with the nuclear Iran?
Will Israel go it alone?
What about America’s political future and what is on its' 2013 horizon?

Most Americans are totally unaware that the sacred Bill of Rights has been essentially
eliminated; how, when and by whom?

Europe - The State of Dis-Union and its Islamization.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler and Ron Matsen in the Executive Brie fing Room of
The River Lodge, New Zealand, in an intensive summary of some of the
Strategic Trends that will impact all of us.

© 2012 Koinonia House Inc.

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China 2015 military drills to focus on 'winning local wars': spokesman

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 29, 2015 - China's military training this year will focus on "improving fighting capacity" to win "local wars", the defence ministry said Thursday, with Beijing embroiled in several territorial disputes.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) has been tasked with improving its ability to "win battles" by President Xi Jinping, its commander-in-chief, who has also pushed a high-profile campaign to root out corruption in the world's biggest military.

"The PLA will firmly uphold the criteria of improving fighting capacity," defence ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Yang Yujun told reporters when asked about the military's exercise plans this year.

The army would also "take part in more joint exercise training and competition with foreign militaries so as to improve the capability of winning local wars", he said at a regular briefing.

Yang did not elaborate on the meaning of "local wars" but China has been involved in occasionally tense confrontations with Japan and the Philippines over maritime disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea respectively, amid fears that the disputes could result in armed clashes.

Japan and China have long been at odds over the sovereignty of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea which Japan administers and calls the Senkakus but which China claims as the Diaoyus.

The countries previously agreed in principle to set up a maritime hotline in a bid to avoid clashes but further discussions were suspended after relations soured in 2012 when the Japanese government angered China by nationalising some of the islands.

Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in November held their first formal summit meeting on the heels of an agreement the two sides reached in an effort to paper over differences on the dispute.

Talks on the maritime issue subsequently resumed earlier this month in Tokyo, and Yang on Thursday reported progress.

He said that officials agreed, at China's suggestion, to change the system of communication to cover both sea and air.

"The change will facilitate the two sides to conduct exchanges and consultation on both maritime and air security issues," he said.

"Both sides agreed that the mechanism should be operative as early as possible since technical conditions for launching it have already been met," he added.

Asked separately about Chinese naval activities in the Indian Ocean, including submarines, Yang said that China has since 2008 been dispatching different types of ships to the Gulf of Aden to carry out escort duties and international anti-piracy operations.

"In the process we have notified relevant countries as to the escort missions of the PLA navy ships, including the PLA navy submarines," he said.

"These are quite normal activities and there is no need to read too much into them," he added.

China has been extending its naval reach, sending more vessels further away from its shores for operations including escort and anti-piracy missions, humanitarian assistance, disaster and medical relief, and search and rescue, Yang said.

"By doing so the Chinese navy is contributing to provide more international public service and is helping with peace and stability in the open seas," he said.

 

 

Obama to request hike in US military budget: officials

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 29, 2015 - President Barack Obama plans to ask for an increase in military spending in a proposed budget for 2016, with a request for $585 billion that would exceed funding caps mandated by Congress, officials said Wednesday.

The budget proposal for the Pentagon would provide for a hike in spending on weapons, research and maintenance, which had been scaled back under automatic budget cuts in recent years, officials told AFP.

The Obama administration, which is due to unveil its budget request on Monday, will seek a base defense budget in fiscal year 2016 of $534.3 billion along with $50.9 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, a defense official said.

The request would invest $107.7 billion in weapons programs, an increase of $14.1 billion over the previous year, and provide $69.8 billion for research and development, up $6.3 billion from the last budget, the official said.

The spending request would fund a major expansion for the F-35 fighter jet, allowing for the purchase of 57 of the radar-evading aircraft, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The proposed budget would also set aside $209.8 billion for operations and maintenance, an account that absorbed major reductions under the automatic cuts two years ago.

But for the boost in military spending to be approved, Congress will have to cut a deal to stave off mandatory budget cuts that would limit defense funding to about $500 billion.

The proposed defense budget surpasses those mandatory spending limits by about $35 billion, and would mark a $38 billion increase from military spending this fiscal year.

Any military spending beyond caps set under the Budget Control Act will set off across-the-board cuts that do not take into account strategic priorities.

When the automatic cuts were triggered in 2013, the Pentagon had to place some employees on unpaid leave while slashing funding for maintenance and training.

Top commanders on Wednesday renewed warnings to lawmakers that a repeat of the automatic cuts, known as sequestration, would result in a "hollow force" and have a damaging effect on readiness, modernization plans and morale.

To offset spending increases, the Pentagon budget calls for saving money by increasing some fees for the military's health care service while slowing the growth of housing allowances and other benefits, officials said.

The administration's budget request, with its proposed boost for the military, could put Republicans in Congress in a difficult position, analysts say.

With a majority in both the House and the Senate, most Republican lawmakers are sympathetic to increasing the defense budget. But to make that happen, they would have to dismantle the mandatory budget limits, potentially opening the way to spending increases on domestic programs -- something they fiercely oppose.

 

 

China vows no 'Western values' in universities

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 30, 2015 - China's education minister has vowed to ban university textbooks which promote "Western values", state media said, in the latest sign of ideological tightening under President Xi Jinping.

"Never let textbooks promoting Western values appear in our classes," minister Yuan Guiren said, according to a report late Thursday by China's official Xinhua news agency.

"Remarks that slander the leadership of the Communist Party of China" and "smear socialism" must never appear in college classrooms, he added according to Xinhua.

China's universities are run by the ruling Communist party, which tightly controls discussions of history and other topics it construes as a potential threat to its grip on power.

The party often brands concepts such as multiparty elections and the separation of powers as "Western", despite their global appeal and application.

China has tightened controls on academics since President Xi Jinping assumed the party leadership in 2012, with several outspoken professors sacked or jailed.

Xia Yeliang, an economics professor at the prestigious Peking University, was fired from his post in 2013 after a 13-year tenure in a decision he attributed to persistent calls for political change in China.

Xia was one of the original signatories of the reformist petition Charter 08, whose main author Liu Xiaobo remains in prison even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

The university attributed the dismissal to poor teaching, and he moved to the US last year.

Yuan's remarks came a month after Xi called for authorities to increase the Communist party's leadership of universities, and to "strengthen and improve ideological work".

Teachers must "stand firm and hold the "political, legal and moral bottom line," Yuan added, using a common expression for support of China's authoritarian political system.

A Chinese province last month announced plans to install CCTV cameras in university classrooms, sparking an outcry from lawyers who say the move would further curb academic freedom.

Authorities have in the past installed video equipment in the classrooms of outspoken academics, most notably Uighur economics professor Ilham Tohti, who was sentenced to life in prison for separatism in September.

Evidence from the classroom cameras was used to convict the scholar, in a case that was condemned by human rights groups.

China has greatly expanded its higher education system as its economy has grown, with the total number of universities and colleges more than doubling in the past decade.

 

 

Ukrainian forces face drones, electronic jamming: US

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 29, 2015 - Ukrainian troops are struggling to counter artillery fire and electronic jamming by pro-Russian militants, who are flying drones to target the Kiev government forces, a top US general said Thursday.

The Ukrainian army's communications are hampered by the electronic warfare carried out by the separatists and they lack equipment and training to thwart artillery barrages, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges told reporters via video link from Germany.

"It is very difficult for Ukrainian forces to be able to operate on radios, telephones and other non-secure means of communications because their opponents have such an exceptional amount of jamming capability," said Hodges, commander of US Army Europe.

"Even if you can acquire where mortar or rockets are coming from, to be able to do something about it is very difficult if you can't communicate."

Surveillance drones supplied by Russia are enabling the separatists to pinpoint the location of Ukrainian troops with deadly accuracy.

"The rebels have Russian-provided UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that are giving the rebels the detection capability and the ability to target Ukrainian forces," the general said, speaking from an American base at Wiesbaden.

"So they've suffered heavy casualties from heavy artillery and from rockets."

The casualties are stretching the limits of the government army's medical services, which provides quality care but lacks the capacity to keep up with the stream of wounded troops, according to Hodges.

Hodges said planned US military instruction for Kiev's forces, which is due to start in the spring, could help alleviate the impact of the jamming and artillery fire, while also helping with emergency medical care.

The training, which will focus on units from Ukraine's interior ministry, will help local forces find "ways to avoid jamming" and to adhere to special procedures when using radios, Hodges said.

- US tanks to Europe -

The United States has accused Russia of conducting a proxy war in Ukraine but has so far ruled out arms deliveries to Kiev.

Instead, Washington has supplied the government with "non-lethal" equipment, including radar to detect mortar fire.

A different type of radar is needed to detect artillery rounds, Hodges said. But he stopped short of advocating providing weapons to the Ukrainians, as urged by some US lawmakers and the Kiev government.

Pro-Russian fighters last week withdrew from peace talks and announced a new offensive. The United Nations has estimated a death toll of 5,100 from the nine-month war in the country's east.

To reassure NATO allies anxious over a more assertive Russia, the United States has carried out high-profile exercises with Eastern European partners and sent in armored units for temporary deployments to the Baltics and Poland.

Hodges said a brigade from the US Army's 3rd Infantry Division would start arriving in March as part of the troop rotation. And in a reversal of a years-long drawdown of American forces in Europe, the brigade's entire fleet of tanks and armored vehicles will be transported to German or other European bases by the end of the year, he said.

The brigade's arsenal includes more than 200 M-1 Abrams tanks as well as Bradley fighting vehicles and Paladin 155mm howitzers, he said.

 

 

India sends foreign minister to China after Obama visit

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 28, 2015 - India's foreign minister will travel to China this weekend, New Delhi said on Wednesday, a day after Barack Obama ended a visit aimed at renewing US ties with the South Asian country.

Sushma Swaraj will hold three-way talks with her Chinese and Russian counterparts during the trip, her first official visit since she took office last year, the Indian foreign ministry said.

The talks follow a high-profile visit to New Delhi by the US president aimed at cementing ties between the two countries, which share an interest in curbing China's growing regional influence.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said they were aimed at enhancing "political trust".

"China and India are two largest developing countries and major emerging economies," she said.

"We are enhancing our mutual political trust and practical cooperation in various fields."

Although neither side mentioned China by name during Obama's three-day visit, the US president welcomed what he called a "greater role for India in the Asia Pacific" and said freedom of navigation in the region must be upheld.

Beijing claims sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea, home to maritime lanes that are vital to global trade.

India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely seen as taking a more assertive line on China than the previous government.

But experts say he will be careful not to alienate China, whose investment he desperately needs as he tries to boost India's economy.

Obama and Modi took pains to demonstrate their personal rapport during the US president's visit.

China's state news agency Xinhua said it was a "superficial rapprochement", pointing to persistent differences on issues such as climate change.

burs-cc/kb

 

 

ASEAN ministers express concern over Chinese actions at sea

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia (AFP) Jan 28, 2015 - Southeast Asian foreign ministers on Wednesday expressed concern at Chinese land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea, as the Philippines urged them to stand up to Beijing.

The statement came after Manila warned fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a ministers' retreat in Malaysia that the 10-country grouping's credibility was at stake unless it dealt strongly with the "critical issue in our own backyard".

"The retreat shared the concern raised by some foreign ministers on land reclamation in the South China Sea," said a statement by the gathering's host, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, following the two-day meeting.

It mentioned no specific countries.

Wary of upsetting relations with its giant neighbour to the north, ASEAN has for years responded cautiously to China's increasingly assertive moves to stake its claims in the South China Sea.

China claims almost all of the sea, a position that conflicts with ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as with non-member Taiwan.

Beijing has sparked growing alarm around the region with actions viewed as aggressive, raising fears of conflict.

Philippine foreign minister Albert del Rosario said last week Beijing was trying to construct islands around isolated reefs in the Spratly islands, which could hold fortified positions or even airstrips.

"The massive reclamation issue presents a strategic policy dilemma for ASEAN," he said in a statement Wednesday.

"Our inaction on this would undermine (ASEAN unity), since we are unable to address in a unified and collective way such a critical issue in our own backyard."

He also said the international community must "say to China that what it is doing is wrong -- that it must stop its reclamation activities at once".

The foreign ministers met in the city of Kota Kinabalu on Borneo island -- on the shores of the disputed waterway -- in the first of several diplomatic gatherings this year in Malaysia, which holds the ASEAN chair for 2015.

Anifah's statement called on ASEAN to step up efforts to achieve implementation of a code of conduct in the South China Sea aimed at preventing conflict.

After years of pressure, China agreed in 2013 to talks with ASEAN on the issue.

But many analysts question Beijing's commitment and say it is likely stalling while it shores up its maritime claims.

China's foreign ministry dismissed Manila's accusations in the land reclamation row, saying last week that "small countries cannot make trouble out of nothing".

Del Rosario has said the Chinese reclamation would impair freedom of navigation in the waters, through which much of the world's trade passes.

 

 

Obama wraps India visit with pleas on religion, climate

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 27, 2015 - US President Barack Obama urged India to promote religious tolerance and do more to combat global warming Tuesday as he wrapped up a visit aimed at forging a new friendship between the world's largest democracies.

Speaking to an audience of mainly young people, Obama said the United States could be India's "best partner" but put pressure on his hosts over a range of political and social issues, including women's rights.

The US president also said their countries could forge "one of the defining partnerships of this century," even as he warned the war against climate change would not "stand a chance" without India.

The speech was the finale of a packed visit which has seen a dramatic upturn in an often troubled relationship, including the signing of a new "friendship" pact between Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India's right-wing premier was a pariah in Washington less than a year ago, but has since developed a close bond with Obama, with their two countries keen to counter-balance the rise of China.

"India and the United States are not just natural partners -- I believe that America can be India's best partner," said Obama after receiving a rapturous welcome from a group of around 1,500 people.

Obama, however, weighed in on two sensitive issues in India before departing for Saudi Arabia, saying women should not only have equal rights but be safe to "walk the street".

- Religious freedom -

"Every woman should be able to go about her day, to walk the street, or ride the bus, and be safe and be treated with the respect and dignity that she deserves," he said.

India was rocked by the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi in 2012 that unleashed seething anger about high levels of sexual violence and a round of soul-searching about its treatment of women.

Obama also urged respect for religion in officially secular India, where the election of Hindu nationalist Modi has given rise to fears among the country's large Muslim minority.

"Every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear of discrimination," he said.

"Nowhere is that more important than India, nowhere is it going to be more necessary for that foundational value to be upheld.

"India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along lines of religious faith, along lines of anything, and is unified as one nation."

Modi was treated as persona non grata in Washington for over a decade after deadly communal riots in Gujarat when he was state chief minister in 2002. Around 1,000 people were killed, mostly Muslims.

Both Obama and Modi have been at pains to demonstrate their personal rapport during the visit and announced a breakthrough on a long-stalled nuclear power deal on Sunday.

Obama was also chief guest at Monday's Republic Day parade -- one of the biggest honours that India can bestow on a foreign leader.

The US is looking to reinvigorate alliances in the Asia-Pacific as part of Obama's "pivot" east, and has taken note of Modi's more assertive stance towards China.

Beijing claims sovereignty over large swathes of the South China Sea, home to maritime lanes that are vital to global trade, and is engaged in territorial disputes with a host of nations in the region.

But in his speech, Obama said "the freedom of navigation must be upheld and disputes must be resolved peacefully".

- Curb climate change -

Speaking after their talks on Sunday, Modi said he would not be pressured on climate change by any country -- comments seen partly aimed at China after it agreed on new carbon emissions targets with the US.

But Obama warned the battle against global warming was doomed unless developing countries reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

"I know the argument made by some, that it's unfair for countries like the United States to ask developing nations and emerging economies like India to reduce your dependence on the same fossil fuels that helped power our growth for more than a century," Obama said.

"But here's the truth: even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if growing countries like India -- with soaring energy needs -- don't also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don't stand a chance against climate change."

India has balked at committing itself to major cuts in carbon emissions ahead of a major climate summit in December, fearing they would undermine efforts to boost living standards in a country where much of the population of 1.2 billion live in poverty.

Obama and his wife Michelle spent 10 minutes mingling after the speech, shaking hands and posing for selfies as the crowd chanted "Obama, Obama".

The scenes underlined the turnaround in ties after a row involving the arrest and strip-search of an Indian diplomat in New York in 2013, which saw the Stars and Stripes being burned on the streets of Delhi.

Obama had been due to visit the Taj Mahal with Michelle Tuesday, but the trip was cut short after the death of the Saudi king.

 

 

China to hold military parade to 'frighten Japan': report

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 27, 2015 - China will this year hold its first large-scale military parade since 2009 to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, reports said Tuesday, with one key goal described as being to "frighten Japan".

Communist China generally shies away from the vast annual demonstrations of military might that were a hallmark of the Soviet Union.

But it most recently held National Day parades in 1999 and 2009 to mark the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the October 1 establishment of the People's Republic of China.

Even now the part played by the People's Liberation Army in China's earlier resistance against Japanese invasion remains a key element of the Communist Party's claim to a right to rule.

On its instant messaging WeChat account the People's Daily newspaper, the Party's official mouthpiece, cited a Hong Kong report that a parade would be held this year to commemorate the anniversary of the war's end.

One reason for mounting the parade was "to frighten Japan and declare to the world China's determination to maintain the post-war world order", said the article, written by Chinese financial and global affairs commentator Hu Zhanhao.

"Only by showing its military capabilities can (China) show Japan its attitude and determination and let it know that whoever dares to challenge the post-war order related to China and touch China's core interests is its enemy and must be psychologically prepared for China's strong counterattack," it said.

Other reasons included showcasing China's military strength and increasing Chinese pride.

The report did not give a date for the event but said it would mark the first time it was not held on National Day.

Several Chinese media outlets on Tuesday described the posting of the article by the People's Daily as a confirmation.

- 'Contribution and sacrifice' -

Asked about the reports at a regular briefing, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China was planning a series of celebrations and commemorations related to the war, but did not offer specific details.

She stressed that China was both a victor and a battlefield during the conflict. "We have made a huge contribution and sacrifice to ensure the victory in that war," she said.

The commemorations were intended "to evoke in all mankind their memory of history", she told reporters, and be "a way for us to safeguard the victory and the outcomes of the Second World War and the post-war order".

The report comes as Beijing has taken an increasingly hard line towards Tokyo amid disputes over territory and history.

Ties between Asia's two biggest economies have been soured by a tense dispute over control of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, administered by Japan but also claimed by China, and Beijing's anger over a December 2013 visit by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead including convicted war criminals from World War II.

The countries have taken tentative steps to reduce tensions, with an agreement in November paving the way for the first formal bilateral meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the APEC Asia-Pacific leaders' forum in Beijing, but it took place in a glacial atmosphere.

Beijing, which uses memories of the war with Japan as a key tool to galvanise nationalist sentiment and deflect any dissatisfaction with Communist Party rule, remains wary of moves by Tokyo to raise its military profile and frequently says its neighbour must face its wartime history and not repeat it.

Victory over Japan, along with the economic development that has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty, are key pillars upon which the Party asserts its legitimacy.

China is also closely watching a statement on the anniversary of the war to be issued by Abe later this year to see if he alters the content of previous apologies for Japan's conduct.

Abe said early this month that he would release a fresh statement on World War II this year, but would stand by previous apologies for wartime misdeeds.

 

 

Modi in diplomatic balancing act as Obama visits India

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 26, 2015 - Narendra Modi has trumpeted a new era of friendship with Barack Obama but experts say the Indian premier will be careful not to alienate traditional ally Russia or giant rival China.

The US president was the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade on Monday after accepting an invitation that is one of the biggest honours a country can bestow on a foreign leader.

Obama and Modi sat side by side watching the display of military might -- including gun-toting soldiers on camel-back and Soviet-era tanks -- that characterises the annual celebrations of the birth of modern India.

Their strong show of solidarity, which followed lengthy talks on Sunday and a breakthrough in a long-stalled nuclear pact, is seen as a crucial counterweight to an increasingly assertive China.

But experts say Modi will also be keen to strike a diplomatic balance between the US and China, whose companies the premier desperately needs to invest in India's dilapidated infrastructure.

"Modi is proving to be the ultimate realist on the balancing question," said Ashley J. Tellis, a South Asia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"He has a very subtle but very clear view about how he thinks of the United States and China. He wants to use the relationship with China for everything it's worth, particularly on the economic side."

"So whether they admit it or not there is a triangular game in play from Delhi's point of view, and he wants to play the game in a way that advantages India."

In a sign of the balancing act Modi faces, China's state-run media dismissed the new friendship between the world's two largest democracies, pointing to their "hard differences" on issues such as climate change.

"The... (Obama) visit is more symbolic than pragmatic, given the long-standing division between the two giants, which may be as huge as the distance between them," Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.

Modi rolled out the red carpet for Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited in November, the two leaders sharing a dinner on the Indian premier's 64th birthday in his home state of Gujarat.

But relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours are still characterised by mutual suspicion, in large part as a legacy of a brief but bloody war in 1962.

- Military hardware -

During Monday's military parade, much of the hardware on display was Russian-made, underscoring India's traditionally strong ties with Moscow.

Those strong relations date back to the 1950s after the death of Stalin. And today, Russia, India and China are part of the so-called BRICS grouping of major developing economies seeking to promote a multipolar world economy not dominated by the United States.

"Russia has been a good and old friend since just after independence and we want to nurture that," said Neelam Deo, a former Indian diplomat and director of Mumbai-based think-tank Gateway House.

"Historically our defence ties with Russia have been strong and also energy ties, but still bilateral trade is only $10 billion compared to $100 billion with the United States," she told AFP.

The US has surpassed Russia as India's biggest arms supplier. On Sunday Obama and Modi signed a new 10-year bilateral defence pact and agreed to cooperate on building an aircraft carrier and other projects.

But with India underdoing a major modernisation of its military, Russia is not expected to relinguish control of the lucrative market without a fight.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was in New Delhi only last week, reportedly to iron out disagreements over the supply of a fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

And for all the excitement over Obama's attendance at Monday's parade, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the chief guest back in 2007.

- Natural allies -

Modi on Sunday said Obama's three-day visit "reflects the transformation of our relationship", adding that the two countries were natural allies.

The visit caps a remarkable turnaround given that Modi was shunned for years by Washington over religious riots that erupted in 2002 in Gujarat.

Analyst Satish Misra said the newfound friendship could translate into stronger trade and other economic ties, but it did not mean Modi was beholden to Washington.

"Modi is not the kind of leader who is going to succumb to pressure from the United States on geopolitical or other issues," Misra, of the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think-tank, told AFP.

"There are no (diplomatic) camps any more. India will do what is best for India. It's the political reality for everyone."

Modi says no climate change pressure on India after US-China pact
New Delhi (AFP) Jan 25, 2015 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday India was not under pressure on climate change after the US and China signed an emissions deal, but added global warming itself was reason to take action.

India, the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has resisted pressure to commit to a timeline for capping emissions after China and the United States announced a bilateral pact in November.

"India is an independent country. There is no pressure as such," Modi said after talks with US President Barack Obama in New Delhi.

"But there is a pressure of a different kind, the pressure of what kind of legacy we want to leave for our future generations," Modi said, standing alongside Obama.

"Global warming is a pressure... We understand this pressure and we are responding to it," he added.

Obama has been keen to clinch a deal with India ahead of a key climate summit in Paris late this year.

Under last year's ambitious joint plan between the world's two largest economies, the US set new targets for carbon emission reductions while China said it would cap emissions and get more of its electricity from renewable energies.

India relies hugely on coal to generate its electricity, while its population is set to overtake that of China's by 2030.

Since coming to power in May, Modi has pledged to increase India's renewable energy in a bid to lower coal use and bring electricity to more than 300 million poor people without power.

The Modi government set a target in November for as much as 100 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2022, five times the previous goal.

Modi said Sunday that clean energy was a "personal and national priority" for him and that he was looking forward to a "successful" Paris conference in December.

Obama said the two leaders had made a "personal commitment" to work together and pursue a strong global climate agreement at the event.

The Paris summit will see some 195 countries hold talks to find ways to curb the fossil-fuel gases warming the planet.

 

 

Ukraine's 'Russian Woodpecker' takes stab at Putin

 
‎01 ‎February ‎2015, ‏‎03:56:08 AMGo to full article
Park City, United States (AFP) Jan 25, 2015 - The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was ordered deliberately by Moscow, as a coverup to distract attention from a failed weapons project.

That's the seemingly wild-eyed conspiracy theory behind a highly topical new film that takes direct aim at Russia, including over its post-Soviet aggression.

"The Russian Woodpecker," screened at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, tells the tale of a Ukrainian artist's bid to find out what actually caused the 1986 catastrophe in the then Soviet republic.

And its US director Chad Gracia uses the personal story to warn of the dangers by Russia's continued warmongering in its former sphere, over three decades after the end of the Cold War.

"Putin's strategy is to ensure that there are a ring of failed states around Russia," Gracia told AFP in an interview, adding: "Putin holds all the cards. He has nuclear weapons. He has a huge army.

"All those things are in Putin's favor," said the director, who uses extensive footage of Ukrainian street protests that preceded Ukraine's current bloody struggle with pro-Russia separatists.

The "Russian Woodpecker" of the film's title refers to a notorious rat-a-tat (hence the name) radio signal that started being beamed to the West from the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

- Mysterious structure -

Artist Feder Alexandrovich, whose family had long been victim of Moscow's abuse and the Great Famine of the 1930s, became fascinated by the bizarre signals when he began investigating the real cause of the Chernobyl disaster.

Specifically, he traced it to a massive mysterious structure built near the doomed nuclear power plant, site of the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster.

His theory, in a nutshell: the structure and signal were part of some long-running weapons project that was failing. And to distract attention from the failure, the official responsible ordered the Chernobyl meltdown.

"I'm a skeptic at heart," Gracia said of Alexandrovich's analysis.

But he added: "There certainly was a coverup over Chernobyl, I have no doubt about that... whether Fedor's theory is correct or some form of it, until the archives are open, it can only remain a theory."

Alexandrovich, who accompanied the director to the prestigious film festival in the Utah mountain resort of Park City, said he can understand those who are doubtful.

"As an artist and a Ukrainian, I am confident in my theory. But for the rest of the world to take it seriously, everyone has to be united and demand an investigation," he told AFP.

- World War III? -

But he agreed with Gracia that the greater priority is stopping what he described as Russia's continuing aggression in his homeland, which he says is part of a long-standing pattern.

"If Putin was stopped in Chechnya, then there wouldn't be (the brief 2008 war in) Georgia. If he was stopped in Georgia, there wouldn't be Ukraine," he said.

"If it's not possible to beat him in Ukraine, then the next step for him would be the war against NATO. He wouldn't even think that he's starting World War III, but he would begin it."

Gracia said Russia's annexation of Crimea and the current fighting in eastern Ukraine are just the natural progression from Moscow's historical aggression in its former Soviet area.

"To me, it vindicates the film. Fedor has said 'Every time I make a statement, I hope I'm wrong.' But unfortunately so far, he's been right," Gracia said.

Bizarrely, after filming had wrapped up on the movie, the mysterious "Russian Woodpecker" signals began being beamed again, this time aimed at Europe rather than the United States.

"It is saber-rattling. It's Putin reminding the West that he's still there, that he's watching," he said.

"It's a symbol that we're not living in a world where we're allies. We're living in a world that much more closely resembles the Cold War."

 

 

Chinese conductor sees new bridges with West

 
‎28 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎02:57:26 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) Jan 25, 2015 - China's leading conductor, Long Yu has set a goal of expanding his orchestra's exposure to the world. But as he spends time in the West, he has also found another mission -- showcasing the diversity of Chinese music.

"People know very little about Chinese music, actually, even people who talk a lot about the elements that Debussy used from the Far East," Yu told AFP before conducting his premiere subscription series with the New York Philharmonic.

"Most people see what happens as like a Chinatown culture," exotic and compartmentalized, he said.

Yu on February 24 will return to the New York Philharmonic to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The concert will feature Yo-Yo Ma on cello for the first US performance of modern Chinese composer Zhao Lin's "Duo," which also highlights the sheng -- a bamboo reed instrument common in Chinese operas.

Yu, who is music director of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, said he hoped to shine a greater spotlight both on contemporary Chinese composers and the music of the country's large minority populations.

"I want to give people a discovery tour of the musical life of China," Yu said.

- Expanding education -

Yu, who has led Chinese New Year concerts in New York since the annual galas started in 2012, has put a top priority on raising the international profile of his orchestra and of Chinese musicians.

He last year led the Beijing-based China Philharmonic Orchestra in its debut at the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall and recently was honored by France as a Chevalier dans L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

In September, an inaugural class of 22 young Chinese musicians began training with New York Philharmonic performers in an initiative called the Shanghai Orchestra Academy.

Yu, who last year turned 50, said he wanted his legacy to include education of Chinese musicians who often did not have the resources to train overseas or even to see top-quality performances.

"If we can give them a chance to study with top musicians in the world, particularly from the New York Philharmonic, it is a luxury and a service to the young generation," he said.

In one key difference from most Western conservatories, Yu's initiative trains musicians for careers in orchestras rather than honing soloists' skills.

Yu, however, played down cultural differences between Chinese and Western musicians, saying that the main gap was in training.

- A mixed heritage -

But one key divergence lies in history. While Western-style classical music has enjoyed a following in China for more than a century, the Cultural Revolution starting in the 1960s sought to eradicate any art not seen as extolling the communist system.

Yu -- whose grandfather, Ding Shande, was a prominent composer who died in 1955 -- felt the Cultural Revolution first-hand as a child.

"For almost eight or 10 years, we could not in public openly discuss doing classical music. It was quite a difficult time. Our whole classical music life really started 30 years ago," he said.

A tall man with a sturdy build, Yu offered a vigorous but firm lead to the New York Philharmonic for Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto. The audience, however, was most enraptured by violin soloist Maxim Vengerov whose intense performance was his first at the Philharmonic in more than eight years.

For the subscription debut that closed Saturday, Yu also conducted the Philharmonic in the Fifth Symphony of Shostakovich -- a composer well-acquainted with the struggles of navigating communist politics.

Yu himself has pushed the envelope on political boundaries. He helped bring to mainland China the National Symphony of Taiwan -- which Beijing considers a renegade province -- and conducted the China Philharmonic in Rome in a performance attended by then pope Benedict XIV, even though Beijing has no diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

With much talk in the West about how China will rise, Yu believes that, in music, his country will have a major presence.

"Probably in the future, China will become one of the largest classical music markets," he said.

 

 

China facing 'unprecedented' security risks, says Party

 
‎28 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎02:57:26 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 23, 2015 - China is facing "unprecedented national security risks", the ruling Communist Party's top leaders said Friday after a monthly meeting led by General Secretary Xi Jinping.

The elite 25-member Politburo said in a statement that "some of the security challenges and risks are unpredictable so the country must always be mindful of potential dangers", according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Beijing will protect its national security in "a pattern with Chinese characteristics," it added, without elaborating.

China's relations with its Asian neighbours -- particularly Japan -- have been strained in recent years by a series of territorial rows in the East and South China Seas.

It also sees the US foreign policy "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region as an attempt to contain it, a claim Washington denies.

Beijing maintains that its actions are solely in defence of its own sovereign territory.

At the same time, China has cited cybersecurity as a growing concern, with Beijing frequently describing itself as a victim of hacking -- while last May Washington charged five members of a shadowy Chinese military unit with hacking US companies to winkle out their trade secrets.

Violence within China's borders has also intensified over the past year, with at least 200 people killed in a series of clashes and increasingly sophisticated attacks in the restive Xinjiang region and beyond it.

The state-run China Daily newspaper reported Friday that prosecutors in the far-western region -- home to the mostly-Muslim Uighur minority -- had approved the arrest of 27,164 criminal suspects in 2014, up more than 95 percent on the previous year.

Beijing, which blames Xinjiang-related violence on "religious extremists," "separatists" and "terrorists," has responded by launching a severe crackdown in recent months, with around 50 executions and death sentences publicly announced since June.

The ruling party has also warned that terrorists from outside of the country's borders -- including an organisation it calls the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) -- are seeking to enter and launch attacks.

But Beijing has produced little evidence linking the attacks to organised extremist groups, and some analysts doubt that ETIM exists as a significant force in the region.

 

 

Russia-US Space Cooperation May Fall Victim to Politics

 
‎28 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎02:57:26 AMGo to full article
Moscow, Russia (Sputnik) Jan 22, 2015 - Tensions between power-brokers in Washington and Moscow could discourage cooperation between the two nations in space exploration and the development of new technologies, member of the Russian Cosmonautics Academy Aleksandr Zheleznyakov said Wednesday.

"If a political situation is such that difficulties between our countries will continue, political factors will dominate [the Russia-US space cooperation], no matter how high-quality our production is," the scientist said at a press conference in Rossiya Segodnya press center.

The scientist stressed that bringing politics into space exploration would severely compromise a signed deal for the delivery of Russian rocket engines to the United States.

According to Zheleznyakov, political relations between Moscow and Washington will be the determining factor as to whether Russia will continue its leadership in rocket engine production and development.

He also noted that Russian engines are more reliable than the US ones. "This is just what [the] US space industry currently needs," the expert said, adding that the United States could spend a decade developing a rocket engine capable of meeting demands of the country's space exploration.

Last week, Russian rocket manufacturer Energia signed a $1-billion contract with US Orbital Services Corporation for the delivery of 60 RD-181 engines, to be installed on Antares carrier rockets. The first two engines are expected to be delivered in June 2015.

Energia is also discussing the delivery of 30 RD-180 engines, to power the enormous Atlas-5 rockets, to US company United Launch Alliance.

 

 

 

Ukraine troops abandon airport in bloody day of conflict

 
‎28 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎02:57:26 AMGo to full article
Donetsk, Ukraine (AFP) Jan 22, 2015 - Ukrainian forces on Thursday abandoned their defence of a long-disputed airport in the country's separatist east and vowed a response to Russia's escalating "aggression" in one of the deadliest days of the nine-month war.

In a graphic illustration of the worsening conflict, pro-Russian rebels also paraded some 20 captured Ukrainian soldiers through the city of Donetsk and forced them to kneel before enraged locals who threw snowballs and glass at them, some of it from a bus hit by shelling.

At least 44 people were reported killed on Thursday, including 13 civilians left dead in the trolleybus shelling in the rebel bastion city, the day's bloodiest incident.

A nine-year-old boy in the town of Maryinka near Donetsk was also killed, hit by shrapnel while having dinner with his family.

The violence came only hours after peace talks in Berlin called for a ceasefire and as the toll from the conflict topped 5,000 dead, with a million people also forced from their homes.

Another 10,000 have been wounded by rocket and mortar strikes that have been raining down on the industrial region's residential districts, Michael Bociurkiw of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe told Ukrainian radio.

After a flare-up in clashes at Donetsk airport in recent days, Ukraine's military said early Thursday its troops had abandoned most of the site.

The airport had become the symbolic prize of the conflict, with the army and rebels continuously battling for control.

Defence officials said fighting continued around the ruins of the air hub -- once one of eastern Europe's most modern and busiest -- but they admitted that government forces no longer controlled any of its major buildings.

On Thursday evening, President Petro Poroshenko called in his defence chiefs for an emergency meeting to plan a response to Russia's escalating "aggression", his office said.

"We have pulled up extra reserves, and if the enemy does not want to respect the ceasefire, if the enemy does not want to end the suffering of civilians... we will be ready to hit them in the teeth," Poroshenko's office quoted him as saying.

- 'A monstrous crime' -

The trolleybus shelling was among the deadliest incidents yet involving civilians in a conflict that has devastated the ex-Soviet republic's industrial heartland.

Stunned Donetsk residents gathered around the shredded remains of the bus, where the bloodied bodies of some elderly victims could still be seen sprawled in their seats hours after the attack.

An official with the city's emergency services said 12 people died in the bus blast while another was killed in a passing car.

Kiev and the rebels traded blame for the attack.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk accused the insurgents of committing "a horrible act against humanity."

"And responsiblity for this is borne by the Russian Federation," he added.

The rebels said Kiev's leaders had orchestrated the "barbaric" attack, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the bus shelling "a monstrous crime" whose ultimate responsiblity rested with "the party of war in Kiev and its foreign sponsors."

The strike occurred just south of Donetsk's city centre, far from the front line.

Later in the day, the Ukranian prisoners were paraded around the city, some of them injured, bandaged and limping, and were forced to kneel before angry residents for five to 10 minutes at the scene of the bus explosion.

- 'Russian occupation plan' -

Thursday's violence came hours after the foreign ministers of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France ended a crisis meeting in Berlin with a joint call to cease hostilities, but no breakthrough agreement to stop the bloodshed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the main achievement was that all sides had agreed that the demarcation line agreed in September would form the basis for the pull-back of heavy arms on both sides.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry accused the rebels of attempting "a blatant land grab", while Washington's UN envoy Samantha Power said Russia was pursuing an "occupation plan" in the east.

Poroshenko, speaking on Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said the upsurge in fighting after a nearly month-long lull was prompted by a new surge of Russian forces and weapons.

"We have more than 9,000 troops of the Russian Federation on my territory, including more than 500 tanks and heavy artillery and armed personnel carriers," he said.

Moscow strongly denies supporting the insurgents despite NATO satellite imagery purporting to show its forces' presence in Ukraine.

 

 

Philippines slams China island building as Beijing hits back

 
‎28 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎02:57:26 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Jan 22, 2015 - The Philippines' foreign minister on Thursday slammed China's attempts to build islands in the disputed South China Sea, prompting Beijing to accuse Manila of making "trouble out of nothing".

Albert del Rosario repeated a warning that Beijing was reclaiming land around isolated reefs in the South China Sea to turn them into islands which could hold fortified positions or even airstrips.

The Philippine foreign secretary said the Chinese actions in the Spratly islands would impact freedom to navigate the strategic mineral-rich waters, through which large volumes of the world's trade pass.

"I will re-emphasise this and invite the concern of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) states because it is a threat to all of us," del Rosario told reporters.

Beijing dismissed Manila's concerns Thursday, saying that "small countries" should not play up disputes.

China's retort came after US assistant secretary of state Daniel Russel commented on the dispute that "bigger nations can't bully the small".

Asked about the remarks, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing: "China always maintains that countries, big or small, are equal in international relations.

"We are opposed to big countries bullying small ones, and meanwhile, we believe that small countries cannot make trouble out of nothing," she added.

Manila accused Beijing last year of reclamation work in the Cuarteron, Johnson, Johnson South and Gaven reefs in the Spratly group, which the Chinese call Nansha.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, a claim which conflicts with those of ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as non-member Taiwan.

Beijing has previously rejected Philippine protests, saying that the land reclamation was being conducted in Chinese sovereign territory.

A People's Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan defended China's actions as "justifiable" in state media.

While the Philippines and Vietnam have been vocal in accusing China of aggressive actions, other ASEAN members have been reluctant to criticise the regional giant.

Del Rosario said he would raise the issue at an upcoming meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers, pushing for countries involved in the dispute to adhere to a code of conduct to not increase tensions in the maritime region.

He said the Philippines hoped to receive a positive decision by early next year to the formal plea it filed to the United Nations last March challenging China's claims.

 

 

China has never asked Huawei to spy: CEO

 
‎28 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎02:57:26 AMGo to full article
Davos, Switzerland (AFP) Jan 22, 2015 - China's controversial telecommunications equipment maker Huawei supports the ruling Communist Party and loves the country, its CEO said Thursday, but stressed Beijing has never asked it to spy on the United States or others.

Ren Zhengfei, a former People's Liberation Army (PLA) engineer, founded the company in 1987 and it has risen to rank among the world's top manufacturers of network equipment.

But his PLA service has led to concerns of close links with the Chinese military and government, which Huawei has consistently denied.

Asked about the issue in a rare public appearance at the World Economic Forum, Ren said through an interpreter: "We are a Chinese company, we definitely advocate (the) Communist Party of China.

"We love our country," he added. "But having said that, we definitely will not compromise the interest of any other country or government. We comply with laws and regulations in every country we do business in."

Asked whether Beijing has ever asked him to use the company's network to tap into US facilities, he responded: "We have never received such a request from the Chinese government."

He also suggested Huawei's technology would not be up to such a task: "There's no way we can possibly penetrate into other people's systems."

The US has long seen Huawei as a security threat, while Washington and Australia have barred it from involvement in broadband projects over espionage fears. The company denies such allegations vigorously.

Last year The New York Times and Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported the US National Security Agency (NSA) had accessed Huawei's email archive, communications between top company officials and the source code of some of its products.

The allegations were based on documents provided by fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

But Ren had nothing but positive comments about the US on Thursday, emphasising that its openness was a key reason it has become the world's top power and stressing he has never thought it has treated Huawei unfairly.

Huawei operates in 170 countries and the company says one third of the world's population communicate using its products in some way.

It is the world's second largest network equipment supplier behind Sweden's Ericsson, and has made a large push into consumer products such smartphones in recent years.

Research firm Strategy Analytics ranked Huawei as the world's number five smartphone maker by shipments in the third quarter last year, with a 5.1 percent market share.

 

 

China planning naval base in Namibia: report

 
‎24 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎08:26:29 PMGo to full article
Windhoek (AFP) Jan 20, 2015 - Namibia and China are discussing plans for a Chinese naval base in the southwest African country, the Namibian newspaper reported Tuesday, prompting an immediate denial from Beijing.

The Namibian quoted a confidential letter from Namibia's Beijing ambassador to his foreign ministry stating that a Chinese delegation would visit Windhoek for discussions "on the way forward regarding plans for the proposed naval base in Walvis Bay".

The letter from Ambassador Ringo Abed to foreign affairs permanent secretary Selma Ashipala-Musavyi, dated December 22, 2014, followed a meeting he had with Chinese defence ministry official Geng Yansheng, the Namibian said.

The detailed letter said the Chinese delegation would include technical staff and naval architects who would do an exploratory feasibility study, the newspaper reported.

In response to a query, the Chinese defence ministry told AFP that "the exchange of communication between Chinese defence officials and Namibian embassy officials reported by 'The Namibian' is an out-and-out fabrication".

Namibia's Foreign Affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who was sent a copy of the letter, said: "The whole issue is completely new to me. I'm seeing this letter for the first time."

The ambassador's letter said Geng Yansheng had noted that China had invested heavily in Namibia and that a Chinese naval presence would deter illegal fishing trawlers and smugglers in Namibian waters, the paper reported.

"Other considerations for the naval base would be for it to serve to train the Namibian navy, not only to be combat ready but to carry out civilian duties as well," the Nambian quoted the letter as saying.

This is the second time Beijing has denied reports of a planned naval base in Walvis Bay, which has a sheltered deepwater harbour and is Namibia's biggest commercial port.

The desert nation on the Atlantic coast to the north of South Africa is mineral-rich -- from diamonds to uranium -- and China has increased investment and aid in recent years.

 

 

Pope Francis leaves door open to Dalai Lama meeting

 
‎24 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎08:26:29 PMGo to full article
Rome (AFP) Jan 20, 2015 - Pope Francis left the door open on Monday to a meeting with the Dalai Lama, denying that he refused to receive the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in December over fears of upsetting China.

"The usual protocol of the secretary of state is not to receive heads of state and high ranking personalities when they are in Rome for an international meeting," he told journalists as he flew back from Manila.

The Dalai Lama was in Rome last month for a summit of Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

"When there were FAO meetings (the Food and Agriculture Organization summit in November), I did not meet anyone," the pope said.

"Some newspapers said that I did not meet with him out of fear of China. This is not true. He asked for an audience some time ago. A date has been fixed. But not for the moment. We are in contact," he added.

Asked about efforts to forge closer ties between the Vatican and China, he said: "The Chinese are polite, and we are also polite. We are doing things step by step."

The Chinese "know that I am ready to go there (China) or to receive (Chinese officials) at the Vatican," he said.

As his plane returned to the Vatican from Manila, the pontiff sent a telegram to Chinese President Xi Jinping, as he does for each country he flies over.

"I assure you of my prayers for you and the people of China, invoking abundant blessings of harmony and prosperity."

In December, sources said the Vatican decision reflected concern over what would inevitably be a furious Chinese reaction, and a desire not to jeopardise efforts to build bridges with Beijing or risk retaliation against the country's small Catholic community.

The Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with China since they were broken off by Chairman Mao in 1951.

 

 

NATO says Russia has increased equipment flows into Ukraine

 
‎24 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎08:26:29 PMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Jan 21, 2015 - NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday Russia had recently increased the flow of heavy arms and equipment into eastern Ukraine but he declined to comment on Kiev's charge it has 9,000 troops on the ground helping pro-Moscow rebels.

"We will not go into specific figures or numbers," Stoltenberg said when asked about Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's remarks that more than 9,000 Russian soldiers were now in the separatist east.

Russia had been moving forces and equipment back and forth repeatedly but recently "we have seen an increase in Russian equipment inside eastern Ukraine... like tanks, artillery, armoured vehicles and advanced air defence systems," Stoltenberg said.

"This Russian military presence... does not contribute to a peaceful and negotiated solution," he said, calling on Russia once again to fully implement the Minsk peace accords it signed up to in September.

Poroshenko said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that there were "more than 9,000 troops of the Russian Federation on my territory, including more than 500 tanks and heavy artillery and armed personnel carriers".

The solution to the conflict "is very simple," he said, citing provisions in the Minsk accords.

"Stop supplying weapons. Stop supplying ammunition. Withdraw the troops and close the border. A very simple peace plan," Poroshenko said.

 

 

US should deploy troops to Baltics: Brzezinski

 
‎24 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎08:26:29 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 21, 2015 - The United States and its allies should deploy troops to Baltic states to deter Russia from staging a possible incursion in those countries, former presidential national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, told lawmakers Wednesday.

The foreign policy expert, who served under president Jimmy Carter, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he feared Russian President Vladimir Putin might try to take control over Baltic countries in a lightning move that could take NATO by surprise.

A nightmare scenario could be that "one day -- and I literally mean one day -- he just seizes Riga and Tallinn . . .That would literally take him one day. There's no way they could resist," Brzezinski said.

"And then we'll say how horrible, how shocking, how outrageous. But, of course, we can't do anything about it," he said, without risking a potential nuclear conflict.

The United States needed to make clear to Russia that it would US forces if it tried to invade the Baltics, he said.

"I think deterrence has to have meaning. It has to have teeth in it. And it has to create a situation in which someone planning an action like that has no choice but to anticipate what kind of resistance will lie in counter," he said.

"I do recommend pre-positioning of some forces," in those countries, he said, but in a way that was not provocative.

"An American company (of troops) in Estonia is not going to invade Russia," he said.

Putin would understand that, "but he will know that if he invades Estonia, he will encounter some American forces on the ground. And better still, some Germans, some French. And some Brits, of course," he said.

Brzezinski also said that Western governments should provide "defensive" weapons to Ukraine to make Moscow's intervention more costly, while also sending a signal Ukraine would not be given membership in the NATO alliance.

His comments came as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Russia had increased the amount of heavy arms it was sending into Ukraine while Kiev accused Moscow of deploying 9,000 troops inside its country.

The United States has sent troops to the Baltics, Poland and other eastern allies for high-profile exercises to reassure anxious government's over Russia's intervention in Ukraine. But US officials so far have not proposed stationing additional American troops permanently in the Baltics.

Brzezinski served as the national security adviser under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981 and is a professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

 

 

China's Xi gets 62 percent pay rise: report

 
‎24 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎08:26:29 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 20, 2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping and the other six members of the Communist Party's elite Politburo Standing Committee have been given 62 percent pay rises, state-run media said Tuesday, as civil servants get their first increases since 2006.

Xi's basic monthly pay will go up to 11,385 yuan ($1,832) from 7,020 yuan, the China Daily said, citing announcements by the ministry of human resources and social security.

Despite leading the world's second-largest economy, Xi's pay falls far short of US President Barack Obama, who earns $400,000 a year.

At the bottom of China's scale, the lowest-ranked civil servants have seen their pay more than double to 1,320 yuan.

Increasing numbers of officials are quitting over low compensation, the paper said, but it pointed out that basic salaries make up just one component of civil servants' monthly compensation.

Additional allowances are also provided based on their positions and duties, it said, though it did not provide breakdowns or amounts.

Civil service work in China has long offered both prestige and official perks, as well as opportunities to accrue extra wealth through the receipt of bribes and other forms of corruption.

Since becoming party chief in November 2012 and state president in March 2013, Xi has spearheaded a crackdown on corruption within the party and government that has seen low-ranking "flies" and once high-flying "tigers" brought down.

Relatives of top leaders including Xi and former premier Wen Jiabao have used offshore tax havens to hide their wealth, according to a mammoth investigation released in January last year by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

In 2012 The New York Times and Bloomberg News published investigations into vast wealth said to have been amassed by family members of Wen and Xi. Neither official was accused of wrongdoing.

- 'Scientific wage system' -

Other countries' leaders enjoy significantly higher basic pay. India's government said in 2013 that its then-premier Manmohan Singh was earning around 160,000 rupees ($2,600) a month in salary and allowances -- as well as a personal staff, rent-free housing, a plane and an official vehicle.

And Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, with a population a fraction the size of China's, is among the world's best-paid heads of government with an annual salary of Sg$2.2 million ($1.64 million).

That is despite taking a 36 percent pay cut in 2012 in response to public anger over ministers' multi-million-dollar salaries. The government defends them as necessary to attract talent from the private sector and deter corruption.

Last year, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Xi and China's top leaders decided to cut salaries and restrict expense accounts and other perks of executives at state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

Xinhua provided no amounts at the time, but the China Times newspaper said in December that executives at most central government-controlled SOEs would have their salaries cut by around 30 percent, with their pay not to exceed eight times that of average workers.

The civil service pay increases are retroactive to October 1, the China Daily said, adding that future salary adjustments will be more frequent, with the ministry saying they will take place every year or two.

"The adjustment is not only about the salary increase, but aims to establish a scientific wage system, which can measure employees' duties and workload no matter whether they work for the government or a corporation," the paper cited Yang Yansui, director-general of Tsinghua University's Employment and Social Security Research Centre, as saying.

 

 

US-Cuba relations: Tense ties take new turn

 
‎24 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎08:26:29 PMGo to full article
Havana (AFP) Jan 21, 2015 - Relations between the United States and Cuba, more strained than neighborly over the past century, have seen US occupations, Cold War enmity, and even the brink of nuclear war.

Here are some key events in US-Cuba relations, as the two sides prepare for historic talks on Wednesday and Thursday aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations:

- 1898-1902: After the Spanish-American War, the United States occupies former Spanish colony Cuba, pulling out only after Cuba agrees to terms making the island independent in name only.

- 1906: The United States occupies Cuba again, staying three years.

- January 1, 1959: Fidel Castro leads the ouster of US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

- 1961: After the United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Central Intelligence Agency organizes the doomed Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles.

- 1962: The 1960 US embargo is expanded to cut off all trade with Cuba except food and medicine. Soviet missiles are then discovered in the country, sparking the 13-day nuclear crisis.

- 1965: Cuba allows hundreds of exiles to sail to the United States in the October-November Camarioca boatlift. US President Lyndon Johnson establishes "freedom flights," and 260,561 Cubans leave until the program ends in April 1973.

- 1977: US-Cuban relations improve slightly with the establishment of "Interests Sections" in each other's capitals.

- 1980: The Mariel boatlift: Castro says anyone wanting to leave can do so through the port of Mariel. Some 125,000 refugees arrive in Florida by late September.

- 1996: The US Congress passes the Helms-Burton Act strengthening the embargo against Cuba.

- 1999-2000: Elian Gonzalez, a Cuban boy who survived a shipwreck while fleeing Cuba, becomes the focus of a six-month politically charged international custody battle. US eventually forcibly repatriates him. US President George W. Bush tightens the embargo, making it harder to travel or remit money to Cuba.

- May 2002: Former US president Jimmy Carter visits Cuba, becoming the first US leader in or out of office to do so since Castro took power.

- November 2004: Havana bars US dollars for commercial transactions, making the Cuban peso the only currency allowed in business transactions.

- December 2009: Alan Gross, a government contractor for the US Agency for International Development, is arrested for importing banned computer technology for distribution to Cuba's small Jewish community.

- March 2011: Gross is sentenced to 15 years in prison for "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the Cuban state."

- Spring 2013: Obama authorizes exploratory negotiations with Cuba on normalizing ties, leading to secret negotiations.

- Early summer 2014: Pope Francis makes personal appeals in letters to presidents Obama and Castro, adding impetus to the talks. The Vatican hosts US and Cuban delegations in the fall.

- December 17, 2014: US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro simultaneously announce plans to normalize ties and the release of prisoners. Cuba releases Gross, now 65, and a Cuban spy, while the United States frees three Cubans imprisoned on espionage charges.

- January 12, 2015: US announces that Cuba has released 53 political prisoners as part of the normalization deal.

- January 15, 2015: The US government eases travel and trade restrictions, allowing certain approved categories of Americans like journalists, scholars, artists and athletes to visit Cuba without asking for a special license. The embargo, however, remains in place until Congress votes on it.

- January 21-22: The highest-level US delegation in 35 years is due in Havana for talks on migration and negotiating the reopening of embassies.

 

 

Japan approves biggest ever defence budget amid Asia tensions

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 14, 2015 - Japan approved its largest-ever defence budget for the next fiscal year on Wednesday, as hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe looks to strengthen surveillance of territorial waters in the face of a continuing spat with China.

For the year to March 2016, Tokyo will spend 4.98 trillion yen ($41.97 billion), the government said, indicating a budget rise for the third straight year.

"This is the largest budget ever," said a defence ministry official, adding the highest allocation previously was 4.96 trillion yen earmarked in 2002.

The trend reflects Abe's wish to build a more active military, a push supporters say is in response to the raising of tensions with China, with which Tokyo is at odds over the ownership of islands in the East China Sea.

Japan is increasingly wary of Beijing, which is seen by several countries in the region as becoming aggressive over various sovereignty claims.

But detractors point to Abe's desire to bolster the military more generally, and to shrug off the shackles of pacifism.

China responded cautiously to the announcement, urging Tokyo to pay heed to the past.

"Japan's moves in its military and security policies have long drawn the attention of its Asian neighbours and of the international community. They indicate whether or not Japan can follow the path of a peaceful development," said foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

The premier had wanted to alter the constitution to reduce restrictions on the armed forces, but was unable to muster sufficient public support, and moved instead to reinterpret the relevant clause to allow the military to come to the aid of an ally under attack.

"We hope that the Japanese side will regard history as a mirror and follow the path of a peaceful development and play a constructive role to promote regional peace and stability."

Among items on the Japanese defence ministry's shopping list are 20 "P-1" maritime patrol aircraft, with a combined price tag of 350 billion yen.

It will also buy five V-22 "Osprey" -- crossover aircraft, which have the manoeuverability of helicopters and the range of aeroplanes -- along with six high-tech F-35A stealth fighters.

The ministry is looking to obtain a fleet of "Global Hawk" drones over a five-year period, and part of the purchase will come out of this budget, officials said.

The ministry is also buying 30 units of amphibious vehicles and one E-2D airborne early-warning aircraft to be assigned to protect fringe areas, including the Nansei Shoto islands which lie between the East China Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

The cash will also go towards the construction of one Aegis destroyer, and fund the deployment surveillance units around the southern islands of Okinawa and Amami.

- Routinely butted heads -

The Abe cabinet decided in late 2013 to set aside roughly 24.7 trillion yen between 2014 and 2019 to spend on kit including drones, submarines, fighter jets and amphibious vehicles, in a strategic shift towards the south and west.

Japan and China have routinely butted heads over the ownership of the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus, with official Chinese ships and aircraft regularly testing Japanese forces.

Separately, Chinese naval ships and military jets are seen increasing their activities around Japan, while an unpredictable North Korea continues its missile and nuclear programmes.

Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in last November, the first face-to-face encounter since each came to power, and agreed to work towards easing tensions over the sovereignty of the islands.

On Monday, defence officials from the both sides resumed talks on building a hotline, for the first time since June 2012, in an effort to avert unexpected clashes in the East China Sea, the government said.

But conservative ideologue Abe has also travelled abroad tirelessly to reinforce ties with foreign leaders, particularly those in Southeast Asia, in a bid to counter China's efforts to expand its sphere of influence.

Abe has also worked to strengthen Japan's military alliance with the United States.

The defence expenditure makes up more than five percent of Japan's general budget for the next fiscal year, which comes in at a record-high 96.34 trillion yen, up from 95.88 trillion yen the previous year.

 

 

Top Chinese spymaster probed for corruption

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 16, 2015 - China's ruling Communist Party said Friday it has put the deputy chief of the country's top intelligence agency under investigation, the latest high-ranking figure probed in a much-publicised corruption crackdown.

Ma Jian, a deputy head of China's ministry of state security, is suspected of "serious disciplinary violation" -- generally a euphemism for graft -- the party's internal watchdog said on its website.

The shady ministry of state security is said to be responsible for intelligence gathering overseas and surveillance against Chinese dissidents. It is a vast organisation but does not have a website or public address.

Separately, the former mayor of the eastern city of Nanjing, Ji Jianye, stood trial Friday for bribery.

The news of Ma's investigation follows probes into other figures in China's security apparatus, most notably Zhou Yongkang who was responsible for the security ministry and Ma's ultimate boss as a member of the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee before his retirement in 2012.

Dozens of Zhou's associates and family members, including many from the police and security services, have been detained in the past year, according to Chinese reports.

State media reported Thursday that Zhou had formed a clique with Bo Xilai, a former rising star in the party who fell victim to a murder and graft investigation and was jailed in 2013.

China's President Xi Jinping has vowed to target both high-level "tigers" as well as low-level "flies" in a campaign against endemic graft that he says is a threat to the future of the party.

But critics say China has failed to implement institutional safeguards against graft, such as public asset disclosure, an independent judiciary, and free media, leaving anti-corruption campaigns subject to the influence of politics.

A party investigation usually precedes a criminal prosecution, followed by a trial and possibly a jail sentence.

Former Nanjing mayor Ji, who was expelled from the ruling party last January, allegedly accepted 11.3 million yuan ($1.9 million) from late 1999 to 2012, the Yantai Intermediate People's Court said on its microblog.

The politician had earned the nickname "Bulldozer Ji" for promoting construction in the city -- but state media linked his downfall to construction project awards to a company with which he had close ties.

- Police meeting -

The ministry of state security is often described as China's equivalent of the Soviet Union's much-feared KGB.

Li Fengzhi, a former operative in the ministry who defected to the US, told reporters in 2009 that he had grown "furious" that his job entailed spying on dissidents, spiritual groups and aggrieved poor people.

Very little official information about Ma has been made public, but respected financial magazine Caixin said he had worked at the ministry for several decades after attending university in the 1980s.

It cited an unnamed source as saying Ma was connected to "disputes" at Founder Group, a technology conglomerate affiliated with the elite Peking University.

Police this month reportedly detained the group's CEO and several other executives after they were accused by a business rival of insider trading and misappropriating company assets worth several billion yuan.

The most recent official report to mention Ma says that he attended "activities related" to a December meeting in Islamabad between China's top police official Guo Shengkun and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post this week cited sources as saying that Ma is "closely linked" to Ling Jihua, the previous chief of staff to former president Hu Jintao.

It added that Ma may have been held as part of an inquiry into Ling, who was detained last month following rumours that he had attempted to cover up the lurid 2012 death of his son in a Ferrari crash.

 

 

US Concerned About Russia's Emerging Strategic Military Capabilities

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Washington DC (Sputnik) Jan 16, 2015 - The United States is concerned about Russia's emerging strategic capabilities in nuclear, space, cyber security spheres, Commander of US Strategic Command Adm. Cecil Haney said on Thursday.

"Russia has had more than a decade of investments in modernization across their strategic nuclear forces. This is not about the continuation of the cold war This is about emerging capability at a time of significant concerns in Russians execution of their near abroad strategy," Adm. Haney said at the event devoted to strategic deterrence in Atlantic Council, Washington, DC.

The commander went on by saying that Moscow has significant cyber capability and also "has publicly stated they are developing counter space capabilities."

"Russian leaders openly maintain that Russia's armed forces have anti-satellite weapons and conduct anti-satellite research," Adm. Haney noted. The commander also reminded of the news of "Russian strategic bombers penetrating the US and ally air defense identification zones on multiple occasions this year."

"[Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin continues to stress the importance of Russia's strategic forces,"Adm. Haney said adding that President Putin was seen during major strategic force exercises in 2013 and 2014.

Relations between Russia and the United States have deteriorated following Crimea's reunification with Russia in March 2014 and the escalation of an armed conflict in Ukraine's southeast.

The United States and its allies have introduced several rounds of sanctions against Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis. The restrictive measures target Russia's defense, banking and energy sectors, as well as a number of individuals.

 

 

 

Confucius the Redeemer symbol of Xi's Chinese Dream

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Beidaihe/, China (AFP) Jan 14, 2015 - Arms outstretched like Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, a towering Confucius statue stands in the seaside resort that hosts the Chinese Communist leadership's summer retreat, opposite a hulking monument to President Xi Jinping's dreams.

The gleaming gold-yellow sculptures are part of a 50 million yuan ($8 million) complex built by Wang Dianming, a portly ex-general who says his fortune comes from a series of travel and educational companies.

A Communist Party member, Wang insists the project has no official backing -- but the juxtaposition is a revealing illustration of the nationalist, sometimes traditionalist tenets inherent in Xi's outlook.

Confucianism, an ethical and philosophical system that stresses hierarchy and obedience, was China's official state ideology in Imperial times.

It was reviled by the Communist Party during their first decades in power, and particularly targeted during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, but Xi has long approvingly cited the sage.

Since taking office two years ago he has also coined the concept of the "Chinese Dream", describing it as "national rejuvenation, improvement of people's livelihoods, prosperity, construction of a better society and military strengthening".

Standing under the effigy's open palms, Wang, 61, told AFP: "The Chinese Dream draws on the nutrients from China's exceptional traditional culture and the teachings of Confucius.

"Using these ideas together will save mankind."

The Confucius figure is 19 metres (62 feet) high and gazes out at a stylised obelisk emblazoned with the characters for "Chinese Dream" on the front and "socialist core values" on the back.

Its square base greets visitors with a lengthy quote from Xi, while the other three sides depict soldiers, farmers and workers in a socialist realist style akin to 1950s propaganda posters.

"We want to achieve the Chinese Dream not only for the benefit of the Chinese people, but also for the benefit of all peoples," reads part of the Xi statement.

In a corner of the grounds a much smaller white statue of Mao, the founder of Communist China, ensures that all ideological bases are covered.

- 5,000 years -

Mao excoriated ancient Chinese traditions, including Confucian teachings, for promoting a feudal social system, with the "Pilin Pikong" campaign -- "Criticise Lin, Criticise Confucius" -- singling out the writer along with former military commander Lin Biao, who ostensibly died in a plane crash amid rumours of an attempted coup.

In more recent years, Beijing has been working to counteract the increasing popularity of Western culture and religions by promoting carefully crafted interpretations of Chinese heritage.

The sculpture garden synthesises official Communist doctrine with Confucian values, and is tightly in step with Xi's own pronouncements.

The party chief's speeches have been littered with Confucian sayings and allusions for years, since long before he became president, with experts pointing to them as evidence that he truly admires the ancient philosophy, rather than it being a device used by presidential speechwriters.

Much of Xi's writing has focused on looking back in order to propel China forward, they say, and the scholar's teachings feed into his own ideas about Chinese exceptionalism.

"Several thousand years ago, the Chinese nation trod a path that was different from other countries' culture and development," the People's Daily, the Communist Party's official mouthpiece, quoted Xi as saying in a front page article in October.

"We should be more respectful and mindful of more than 5,000 years of continuous Chinese culture."

In one of his most high-profile endorsements of Confucianism to date, Xi delivered the keynote speech at an International Confucian Association meeting in Beijing's hallowed Great Hall of the People to commemorate the 2565th anniversary of the sage's birth in September.

"Excellent traditional Chinese culture, including Confucianism, contains important implications for solving problems faced by humanity now," he said.

The Confucian concepts being promoted under Xi are a romanticised ideal crafted by the Communist Party and not open to discussion or further interpretations, said Jyrki Kallio, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

"Xi seems to believe that Confucianism is something that can bolster his own standing in China," he told AFP.

"The Party has apparently launched a dedicated project to formulate a new set of values to guide the people, and traditional schools of thought provide a good foundation for this."

- Metal sunflowers -

Wang's complex -- which also includes exhibition halls with displays on Chinese Communist leaders and their political theories, along with bungalows for rent -- will start charging for admission this year, one of his assistants said.

"Hopefully we will have organised groups of cadres coming here to learn more about the Chinese dream and traditional Chinese philosophies," said Wang Xuesen, who is not related.

But the attendance numbers do not bode well.

On a winter's day university student Feng Jin and a friend were the only visitors, and seemed more interested in selfies next to metal sunflowers around the Chinese Dream structure than connecting with any of the sculptures' meanings.

"I've heard about the Chinese Dream on television," said Feng, "but I don't think it has anything to do with me."

 

 

West facing 'payback' for colonialism, says China paper

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 13, 2015 - The religious and cultural tensions the West faces are "payback" for slavery and colonialism, a Chinese state-run newspaper said Tuesday in the wake of the Islamist attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine.

The editorial in the Global Times newspaper -- which often takes a nationalistic tone -- dismissed the weekend's huge marches in Paris and elsewhere as "painkillers" that cannot halt the intensifying "clash of civilisations".

The article comes amid a global show of support for the satirical French weekly, whose Paris office last week was stormed by Islamist gunmen in an attack that left 12 people dead.

"Voices say that what Western developed societies have gone through is payback as it is their historical acts of slavery and colonialism which led to their current demographic structures," the newspaper, which is close to China's ruling Communist Party, said.

"The immigrant issue has bred ultra-extremist right-wingers in Europe, making conflicts largely insolvable," it continued.

About 1.5 million people took to the streets of Paris on Sunday to mourn the victims of the magazine attack and support free speech, including several world leaders.

But the Global Times contended that the rallies "can hardly produce significant results".

"Despite its impressive scale, the vast solidarity march in Paris on Sunday looked like feeding a seriously ailing person with painkillers," the paper wrote.

"When calm is restored, if the magazine holds on to its stance on Islam, it will put the French government in a difficult position and it will become a symbol of a clash of civilisations in Europe," it continued.

Beijing strictly controls its own domestic media and has recently launched one of its biggest campaigns to silence critics in years, detaining and jailing dozens of human rights activists, lawyers, academics and journalists.

China has also been engaged in a heavy handed crackdown on unrest in the far-western, mainly Muslim, Xinjiang region which has been the scene of bloody clashes that authorities classify as religiously-inspired terrorism.

In the days since the Paris attack, Beijing has both condemned terrorism and argued that Charlie Hebdo's provocative cartoons were an invitation to violence.

In a commentary Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said that the incidents in Paris "should not be simplified as attacks on press freedom, for even the freedom itself has its limits, which does not include insulting, sneering or taunting other people's religion or beliefs".

"It is high time for the Western world to review the root causes of terrorism, as well as the limitation of press freedom, to avoid more violence in the future," Xinhua said.

 

 

Japan, China resume talks on maritime hotline: reports

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Jan 12, 2015 - Japan and China resumed talks on Monday about setting up a hotline to prevent sea clashes, following frequent sparring between ships from the two sides around disputed islands.

The working-level talks, the first since 2012, were held in Tokyo, Kyodo News and Tokyo Broadcasting System reported.

The Japanese government has not disclosed a detailed schedule for the talks.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed last November to ease tensions over the sovereignty of the Senkaku islands, an uninhabited rocky chain in the East China Sea which China also claims as the Diaoyus.

The meeting -- the first face-to-face encounter since each came to power -- followed a long period of hostile relations due to the territorial dispute and China's historical grievances over Japan's 20th century aggression.

Japanese and Chinese defence authorities have agreed in principle to set up a hotline, and use a common radio frequency for their ships and planes around the disputed islands.

But further talks were suspended when relations soured in 2012 after Tokyo nationalised some of the Senkaku islands.

Since then the islands have been the scene of regular confrontations between paramilitary vessels and jet fighters as both countries press their ownership claims.

Analysts have warned that a miscalculation could spark a military conflict that would draw in Japan's ally the United States.

 

 

China says Sri Lanka 'friendship runs deep' despite election upset

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Jan 9, 2015 - China on Friday downplayed the impact of Sri Lanka's presidential election upset, dismissing suggestions that the stunning win by Maithripala Sirisena could shake up Beijing's plans in the Indian Ocean.

Sirisena on Thursday ousted longtime president Mahinda Rajapakse, who has relied heavily on Chinese funding for major infrastructure work in his island country.

Among the major projects is Colombo Port City, Sri Lanka's largest single foreign investment, which is under construction alongside an existing giant Chinese-built container terminal.

Beijing has been accused of seeking to develop facilities around the Indian Ocean in a "string of pearls" strategy to counter the rise of its Asian rival India and secure its own economic interests.

At a regular briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei congratulated Sirisena on his win and said that cooperation between the two countries "has been deepening".

"Our friendship runs deep, and successive governments of Sri Lanka have had a friendship policy towards China," Hong said, adding: "We have a good momentum there."

"We hope and we believe the new Sri Lankan government will carry on the friendly policies towards China and lend their support to relevant projects to make sure these projects are successful," he added.

Sri Lanka is a midway point on one of the world's busiest international shipping lanes, which Beijing wants to develop as a "maritime silk road" for the 21st Century.

During a visit in September, Chinese President Xi Jinping launched construction of the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City, which will give Beijing a firmer foothold in the region.

As part of the deal, China is set to gain ownership of one third of the total 233 hectares (583 acres) of reclaimed land that the new facility will occupy.

But the project has drawn strong criticism from Sri Lanka's now-triumphant opposition, which last month accused China of destroying the island's pristine beaches and warned Beijing its investment could be in jeopardy should they return to power.

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe -- who is expected to return to his former post as prime minister under the new government -- has said his party would take a fresh look at "haphazard reclamation" of land near Colombo harbour for a new port city.

Hong maintained that China and Sri Lanka would "accommodate each other's interests" and that progress would be based on consensus.

 

 

US scaling back bases in Europe in cost-cutting move

 
‎19 ‎January ‎2015, ‏‎06:59:56 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Jan 8, 2015 - The US military said Thursday it will close a major air base in Britain and withdraw from 14 other installations across Europe as part of a reorganization of forces to save money.

The "consolidation" will save the US government about $500 million a year and not diminish American military power, Pentagon officials said, but the move prompted disappointment in Britain and anger in Portugal over the potential economic effect of the scaled-back presence.

The closure of bases and various outposts over the next several years will likely reduce the current contingent of 67,000 American forces in Europe by only about 1,200 troops, a defense official told AFP.

Under the plan, US operations at RAF Mildenhall in Britain will end and 500 troops and civilians will be withdrawn from Portugal's Lajes Field in the Azores. Commanders concluded the Lajes air base was largely a relic from another era when aircraft on transatlantic flights needed to refuel or make emergency landings on their way to the European continent.

The government of Portugal expressed strong dissatisfaction over the "unilateral decision," accusing Washington of failing to take into account reservations conveyed in discussions in recent years.

Lisbon was "particularly concerned about the consequences of this decision on the economic and social situation on the island of Terceira," while the regional government of the Azores called it an "enormous slap in the face to the Portugese state."

Some of the forces withdrawn from Britain and elsewhere will be shifted to Germany and Italy, US officials said.

-- F-35 jets head to Britain --

The closure of Mildenhall, home to refueling tanker aircraft and special operations forces, will be offset in part by plans to station two squadrons of the new F-35 fighter jet at RAF Lakenheath within the next several years. The special operations unit at Mildenhall will be redeployed to Germany.

The moves will mean a net decrease of about 2,000 US military and civilian personnel in Britain, while in Germany, the 40,000-strong US force there will increase by several hundred troops over the next several years.

Britain played down the effect of the US decision to pull out of Mildenhall and instead focused on the plan to deploy F-35 squadrons to the country.

"Our historic relationship with the US remains as strong as ever, and their decision to base their first European F-35 squadrons in the UK clearly reflects the closeness of our partnership, as well as the American commitment to NATO and Europe," British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.

The move to end US operations at Mildenhall is "disappointing," Fallon said. "However, we recognize that such changes are sometimes necessary."

Despite the closures the United States remains committed to Europe's security, amid concern over Moscow's intervention in Ukraine.

"In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region," Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said in a statement.

The Pentagon made a pointed reference to Ukraine, saying funds already approved by Congress will allow Washington to keep up joint exercises with eastern partners, pre-position additional hardware in Eastern Europe and "build the capacity of our newer allies as well as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova."

The location of many US bases in Europe dates back to the aftermath of World War II and the tense years of the Cold War, and officials said new conditions and technology rendered some facilities obsolete.

The plan calls for pulling out from two smaller British air bases as well, RAF Alconbury and RAF Molesworth, where about 750 troops are stationed.

A number of barracks, commissaries and other facilities in Germany will be closed, and a few sites in Belgium and the Netherlands also will be shut down.

In Portugal, two-thirds of the military and civilian personnel at Lajes Field will be withdrawn and operations scaled back.

 

 

 

 

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Prophets To The Gentiles: Jonah, Nahum, Obadiah - DVD 
 
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The History of the House of Rothschild

by Andrew Hitchcock

 

 

  • Hitchcock also wrote a history for the bankers:

 

 

  • One of our listeners added images and photos and turned this Rothschild document

into a PowerPoint presentation. It is very large; 67 megabytes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rothschilds have been in control of the world for a very long time, their tentacles reaching into many aspects of our daily lives, as is documented in the following timeline.  However, before you jump to the timeline, please read this invaluable introduction which will tell you who the Rothschilds are as oppose to who they claim to be.

The Rothschilds claim that they are Jewish, when in fact they are Khazars.  They are from a country called Khazaria, which occupied the land locked between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea which is now predominantly occupied by Georgia.  The reason the Rothschilds claim to be Jewish is that the Khazars under the instruction of the King, converted to the Jewish faith in 740 A.D., but of course that did not include converting their Asiatic Mongolian genes to the genes of the Jewish people.

You will find that approximately 90% of people in the world today who call themselves Jews are actually Khazars, or as they like to be known, Ashkenazi Jews.  These people knowingly lie to the world with their claims that the land of Israel is theirs by birthright, when in actual fact their real homeland is over 800 miles away in Georgia.

So, next time you hear an Israeli Prime Minister bleating about the so-called persecution of the Jews, consider this, every Prime Minister of Israel has been an Ashkenazi Jew.  Therefore when all these Prime Ministers have curried favour with the West for their re-establishment of a Jewish homeland, they have knowingly and deliberately lied to you, as they were never from that region, and they well know it, because it is they who call themselves Ashkenazi Jews.

The Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verse 9, states the following which would appear to be about these Ashkenazi Jews:

"I know thy works, and tribulation and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
The most wealthy bloodline in the world bar none and the leader of the Ashkenazi Jews in the world today is the Rothschild family.  As you will see in the timeline, the Rothschilds have obtained this position through lies, manipulation and murder.  Their bloodline also extends into the Royal Families of Europe, and the following family names:  Astor; Bundy; Collins; duPont; Freeman; Kennedy; Morgan; Oppenheimer; Rockefeller; Sassoon; Schiff; Taft; and Van Duyn.

However, these are not the only bloodlines to worry about.  You are probably aware of the centuries old pratice undertaken by many Ashkenazi Jews whereby they would change their name, in order for them to appear part of the dominant race of the country in which they lived, so as they could obtain influential positions in that country, which they would then exploit to serve their real masters elsewhere.  There is plenty of evidence to prove the Rothschilds continue that deceptive tradition.

Furthermore the Rothschilds are known to sire many children secretly that they can put into positions of power when required.  This started with the very first man who took the name Rothschild, who had a secret sixth son.  Finally, remember the world is a diverse place, I could if I wanted change my name to Rothschild, or any of the names listed above, and that would not make me part of this family anymore than converting to Judaism in 740 A.D. will make these Ashkenazis Jewish.

Please, therefore, do not automatically assume someone you see with the name Rothschild or any of the names listed above are part of the Rothschild criminal network.  Furthermore and most importantly, the majority of Ashkenazi Jews are innocent and not part of this network.  Check the facts out for yourself first, this article is designed to inform people who the enemy is, not single out people of a particular race or people with a particular surname, who may have nothing to do with this Rothschild criminal network.
 

1743: Mayer Amschel Bauer, an Ashkenazi Jew, is born in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Moses Amschel Bauer, a money lender and the proprietor of a counting house.

 

Moses Amschel Bauer places a red sign above the entrance door to his counting house. This sign is a red hexagram (which geometrically and numerically translates into the number 666) which under Rothschild instruction will end up on the Israeli flag some two centuries later.

 

1753: Gutle Schnaper, an Ashkenazi Jew (future wife of Mayer Amschel Bauer), born to respected merchant, Wolf Salomon Schnaper.

1760: During this decade Mayer Amschel Bauer works for a bank owned by the Oppenheimers' in Hanover, Germany.  He is highly successful and becomes a junior partner. Whilst working at the bank he becomes acquainted with General von Estorff.

Following his father's death, Bauer returns to Frankfurt to take over his father's business. Bauer recognises the significance of the red hexagram and changes his name from Bauer to Rothschild, after the red hexagram or sign signifying 666 hanging over the entrance door ("Rot," is German for, "Red," "Schild," is German for, "Sign").

 

Now Mayer Amschel Rothschild, he discovers that General von Estorff is now attached to the court of Prince William IX of Hesse-Hanau, one of the richest royal houses in Europe, which gained its' wealth by the hiring out of Hessian soldiers to foreign countries for vast profits (a practice that continues today in the form of exporting, "peacekeeping," troops throughout the world).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 The State Of Dis-Union Pics

 

 

 

The European Union (flag pictured) is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".

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South Sudan must sustain efforts to protect human rights, says UN official

Conflict in Darfur
Date 2003–2009 /2010

 

Location Darfur, Sudan
Belligerents
Sudan JEM factions
Bandera Darfur.svg SLM (Minnawi faction)
Sudan LJM
Allegedly supported by:
 Chad
 Eritrea
Sudan Janjaweed
Sudan Sudanese Armed Forces
Sudan Sudanese Police
Foreign Mercenaries
African Union
 
United Nations
Commanders and leaders
Sudan Khalil Ibrahim
Sudan Ahmed Diraige
Bandera Darfur.svg Minni Minnawi
Sudan Abdul Wahid al Nur
Sudan Omar al-Bashir
Sudan Musa Hilal
Sudan Hamid Dawai
Sudan Ali Kushayb
Sudan Ahmed Haroun
Rodolphe Adada
United Nations
Martin Luther Agwai
Strength
NRF/JEM: Unknown N/A 9,065
Casualties and losses
unknown
  • 178,258-461,520 excess deaths
  • 2,850,000 Displaced (UN estimate)
  • 450,000 Displaced (Sudanese estimate)
unknown 51 peacekeepers killed

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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