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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.









Behold a Black Horse

 Behold a Black




Price R 249.00 




Behold a Black Horse:

 Economic Upheaval and Famine


by Dr. Chuck Missler



The third of the “Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse” brings inflation and famine on an unprecedented scale.
•What is the real cause of inflation?
•What are the real causes of famine?

Most famines are the direct results of government’s deliberate decisions. Germany sank into the most severe hyperinflationary period in recorded history after printing 1.3 trillion marks: that translates to about 4 trillion in today’s dollars. Ironically, that is almost exactly the same amount of money the United States government has printed since 2008. What are the implications for us today?

How can one use Bayes’ Theorem in “reverse probability”? (Can you form a hypothesis based on experience, common sense and whatever data are available; then test the hypothesis not by what has happened before, but by what comes after?)

The theorem has proved its worth, such as in 2012 when it was used to successfully predict the outcome of the U.S. presidential election in all 50 states before the final vote counts were available.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler in the Executive Briefing Room of the River Lodge, New Zealand, as he explores the identity of the third of the Five Horsemen of Revelation.

This briefing pack contains 2 hours of teaching

Available in the following formats


•2 MP3 files

•1 PDF Notes file






Obama set to challenge China at Asia-Pacific summit

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Nov 15, 2015 - US President Barack Obama is set to challenge China when Asia-Pacific leaders gather in the Philippines this week, speaking out on a territorial row and lobbying to set pro-American trade rules.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will also be in Manila for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, an annual event that is meant to forge unity on free trade within the region.

But this year's meeting risks becoming entangled in various US-China power struggles, including over the South China Sea where Chinese island building in disputed waters has caused alarm in the United States and with its Asian allies.

The global menace of terrorism will also be an unwanted talking point after gunmen massacred more than 120 people in a series of coordinated attacks in Paris on Friday.

Philippine authorities had already undertaken their biggest security operation for the summit, which will gather leaders from 21 Pacific Rim economies on Wednesday and Thursday, but they vowed after the French carnage to do even more.

While China said it wanted the summit to focus only on trade, the French attacks and US attention on the South China Sea showed this was unrealistic, according to Curtis S. Chin, a former US ambassador to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank.

"One cannot separate the economic and the non-economic in today's interconnected world," Chin, now an Asia fellow of the Milken Institute, a non-partisan think-tank, told AFP.

"That's as true in the battle against ISIS (Islamic State group) as in the search for a peaceful resolution to the many territorial disputes with China that haunt development in the South China Sea."

- Sovereign rights -

China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbours.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to some of the waters, which are home to some of the world's most important shipping trade routes.

China's island building in the Spratlys archipelago, which is close to the Philippines, prompted the US military to recently deploy a missile destroyer and B-52 bomber planes to the area.

China had insisted repeatedly in the lead-up to the summit that the South China Sea dispute was not relevant to the trade talks.

But US National Security Advisor Susan Rice said the dispute would be a "central issue" during Obama's three-day trip to the Philippines starting on Tuesday, and a subsequent visit to Malaysia for another regional summit.

Rice also emphasised Obama would raise the issues of "maritime security" and "freedom of navigation", terms commonly used when referring to the dispute.

The Philippines, which has hauled China before a United Nations tribunal over the row, initially promised to respect that demand.

But in his first press conference as official APEC spokesperson on Friday, Philippine foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose talked at length about China's "aggressive" actions in the sea.

Jose also said that, while the issue was not on the official agenda, leaders may discuss it at their retreat, one of the summit's key events where the delegates speak less formally.

- Promoting trade deals -

Obama will also use both legs of his Asian trip to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) mega-trade deal, which was signed last month by 12 APEC nations but excludes China.

On the sidelines of APEC, the leaders of the TPP nations will meet for the first time since the signing.

"TPP is central to our vision of the region's future and our place in it," Rice said.

"(It) is a critical step towards a high-standard free trade area in Asia and the Pacific, and our goal of revitalising the open rules-based economic system that the US has led since World War II."

China has flagged it will push on with its own effort to steer regional economic rules with a planned Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

"We need to actively work for the establishment of FTAAP," Chinese vice commerce minister Wang Shouwen told a briefing in Beijing.

China sought to champion the FTAAP at last year's APEC summit, which it hosted, and Wang promised a report would be released in Manila on its progress.

APEC members account for 57 percent of the global economy and 40 percent of the world's population, with the diverse grouping including Papua New Guinea, Peru, Japan and Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indonesia's Joko Widodo are the only major leaders of APEC nations who have said they will not attend.



Japan spots Chinese spy ship near disputed isles

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 13, 2015 - Japan said Friday it was monitoring waters near islands disputed with China in the East China Sea after it spotted a naval intelligence ship from the country operating in a new area for the first time.

Japan's Defence Ministry said late Thursday a P-3C patrol aircraft observed the Dongdiao-class intelligence vessel near territorial waters of the Senkaku Islands, which Japan administers but China claims as the Diaoyus.

The ship repeatedly moved back and forth in the area until Thursday evening before departing, never breaching Japan's 12-nautical-mile territorial waters, the ministry statement said.

Japanese defence minister Gen Nakatani called the ship's moves "unusual" at a regular press conference Friday, saying it made "repeated eastward and westward moves in one day".

The defence ministry will keep up monitoring of the Chinese navy and "make utmost efforts in patrolling the sea and air surrounding Japan", Nakatani said.

In Beijing, the Chinese government defended the ship's operations as standard.

"The Chinese naval vessel is conducting normal activities," spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing.

"It is in line with international law," he added. "There is nothing disputable about that."

Japan and China have routinely butted heads over ownership of the uninhabited islets, as Chinese state ships -- mostly coast guard -- and aircraft have approached them on and off to back up Beijing's claims and test Japan's response.

Relations between Japan and China hit multi-year lows after the Japanese government in September 2012 moved to increase its formal control by nationalising some of the islands.

But China and Japan -- Asia's two biggest economies, respectively -- have taken steps to improve ties.

They issued carefully worded statements on the dispute ahead of a summit last year in Beijing between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The two sides basically acknowledged they had different views on tensions emanating from the issue but agreed on the need for keeping them under control.

Distrust, however, remains high as China is wary of moves by Abe to raise Japan's military profile while Tokyo frets about Beijing's increasing regional and global assertiveness.

The latest move marked the first time a Chinese naval ship operated in the area between the disputed islands and the populated southern Japanese island of Miyako, a defence ministry spokeswoman earlier told AFP.

Nakatani himself declined to comment on the ship's aims but stressed that the Chinese military "is rapidly boosting their activities at sea and in the air".

Japan assumes that China "will try to expand the area of its activities further in the future", Nakatani added.

The 6,000-tonne vessel is armed with one 37 millimetre and two dual 14.5 millimetre cannons, the ministry said, citing IHS consultancy group's Jane's Fighting Ships site.

The mass circulation Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported that Japan will strengthen border security as a result of the spotting.

Anonymous sources from the ministry told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper the Chinese ship may have been there on an intelligence mission ahead of a planned drill this month by Japan's naval forces.



Okinawa governor refuses order on US base landfill work

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Tokyo Nov 11, 2015 - The governor of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Wednesday rejected a state order to proceed with landfill work on a new US military base in the latest move in a nearly 20-year battle over the controversial project. Outspoken governor Takeshi Onaga told reporters he will "do his best" to prevent the government from building the base. The dispute is over a proposal, first mooted in 1996, to move the US Marines' Futenma air base from a densely populated city in the central part of the island to a remote area in the north. The plan, however, has become the focus of anger among locals, who insist the base should be shut and a replacement built elsewhere in another part of Japan or overseas. Last month, Onaga cancelled approval for work on the facility, saying that "defects" had been found in the go-ahead given by his predecessor in 2013. But the Japanese government later overturned Onaga's revocation. Onaga said that the government's recent actions towards Okinawa are "extremely unjust". Japanese media reports said that the dispute is now likely headed to the courts for resolution. Okinawans have long complained that the rest of Japan must share the burden of hosting the US military presence, which has brought with it noise pollution, road accidents and occasional crimes by US service members. Okinawa, which was occupied by the United States for 27 years after World War II, is home to more than half of the 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan. Okinawa, which accounts for less than one percent of Japan's total land area, hosts about 75 percent of US military facilities in the country. Tokyo and Washington have repeatedly backed the base transfer plan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisting it was "the only solution" for eliminating the danger to residents of the Futenma base. Work in the Henoko district of Nago city in the island's north is only in the initial stages with crews setting up sea floats and a makeshift bridge necessary for landfill work. There is widespread agreement that Futenma's current site -- in the middle of a crowded urban area where US aircraft are a nuisance to thousands of locals -- is a danger to residents. The US says it will not close the base until a replacement facility is ready. Opponents say building the replacement facility in Henoko would seriously damage nearby coral reefs and the delicate habitat of the dugong, a rare sea mammal.

U.K. armed forces lead NATO exercise in Baltic states

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Nov 10, 2015 - U.K. armed forces are leading a NATO land training exercise in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in an effort to support military strength in the region.

The exercise, known as Arrcade Fusion, brings in around 1,400 troops from 18 NATO countries. For the training event, the U.K has committed 800 troops in addition to 350 Army logistics vehicles. The exercise aims to enhance the responsive capabilities of NATO's new Rapid Reaction Force, set to become operational in 2016.

The U.K.'s participation in Arrcade Fusion marks another example of British military training in Eastern Europe, which NATO has given more attention since Russia has become more politically active in the area with Moscow's annexation of Crimea and support for militant separatists in eastern Ukraine.

"This exercise underlines our commitment to the sovereignty of the democratic nations of Eastern Europe," U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement. "It builds on our decision to deploy RAF jets and company sized units to the Baltic region. It will also provide crucial training to ensure the effectiveness of the new Rapid Reaction Force when it launches next year."

Fallon announced additional military training support for Ukrainian forces in early October, with British troops limited to non-combat roles. U.K. Armed Forces also committed their armored battle group in NATO Exercise Dragon in October, which took place in Poland, and involved 800 ground troops and 130 military vehicles.

Arrcade Fusion is set to run through November.



U.S., Chinese naval forces conduct group passage exercise

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Nov 11, 2015 - Vessels from both the U.S. Navy and the People's Republic of China's People's Liberation Army Navy conduced a joint exercise off the coast of Florida.

The training event was a group sail and passing exercise, and marked the first visit to Florida by the People's Liberation Army Navy [PLA(N)]. For the exercise, PLA(N) committed three ships, including Jiangkai II-class frigate Yiyang, Luyang II-class destroyer Jinan, and Fuchi-class oiler Qindaohu. The U.S. Navy committed ships assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26, which includes Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Stout and USS Mason, and Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Monterery.

"The purpose of this exercise was to foster international maritime cooperation between our Navies," Lt. j.g. Lisa Lacross said in a statement on the exercise. "The PASSEX was executed well by all parties involved and allowed us to demonstrate a variety of seamanship skills."

The exercise allowed both naval forces to work on navigation and maneuvering in formation, while also building a working relationship between Chinese and U.S. naval personnel. The group sailing event came as ships assigned to DESRON 26 prepare for deployment in 2016.

"What a unique opportunity to conduct a PASSEX with the Chinese Navy as part of our own routine training off the coast of Florida, " DESRON 26 Commodore Capt. Brian Fort said. "The Sailors aboard Mason, Monterey and Stout will be able to tell their family and friends that they did something that was a first

Chinese navy visits Cuba, amid Havana-Washington thaw
Havana (AFP) Nov 10, 2015 - A Chinese naval flotilla arrived in Cuba Tuesday to bolster close military ties between the two Communist-ruled allies, its commander Wang Jianxun said.

"This is the first time a (Chinese) military flotilla has come to the island," Wang said at the Port of Havana.

And it is really "a chance to strengthen ties between the navies and armed forces of both countries."

Cuba and China "share ideals and a shared independent development path aimed at building socialism," he said in a report in Cuban official media. The visit had not been announced earlier in state media.

Three vessels took part in the flotilla, but did not discharge artillery fire as is often the case with visiting flotillas.

China is a key political ally of Cuba, and its number-two trade partner after Venezuela. Beijing also is one of the few sources of credit available to cash-strapped Havana.

The visit comes as former Cold War foes the United States and Cuba work on normalizing ties. The neighbors across the Florida Straits renewed their diplomatic relations in July after a 50-year standoff.



Philippines pledges warm welcome for China's Xi despite sea row

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Nov 10, 2015 - The Philippines pledged a warm welcome for China's leader Xi Jinping at an economic summit in Manila next week, officials said Tuesday, despite a bitter row over disputed islands.

President Benigno Aquino and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario made the pledge in rare talks with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is in Manila on a working visit ahead of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

"The president mentioned that he welcomed the decision of President Xi Jinping to attend the APEC summit," Aquino spokesman Herminio Coloma told reporters after Wang's courtesy call.

"He assured the foreign minister that it is in the culture of the Filipinos as hosts to make our guests feel the warmth of Filipino hospitality," Coloma added.

The Chinese minister, who did not speak to the press, visited the Philippines "to ensure that President Xi's visit will be smooth, safe and successful", Filipino foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose told reporters.

"(Wang) expressed hope that contentious issues will not be raised," Jose said, adding that the Filipino side will not be seeking to discuss the South China Sea because of its pending case before the United Nations.

"In the context of APEC we agreed that APEC is an economic forum and it won't be the proper venue to discuss political and security issues," Jose added.

- Maritime dispute off agenda -

The visits by Wang and Xi offers a rare opportunity for top-level talks between the Asian neighbours, which have seen diplomatic relations plummet in recent years over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines has been angered over what it has branded China's "bullying" and "hypocritical" tactics, including building artificial islands and taking control of a rich fishing shoal in Filipino-claimed waters.

China has in turn been angered over the Philippines' efforts to have a UN tribunal rule on the dispute, as well as by Manila encouraging its defence ally the United States to exert military and political influence.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbours.

Marciano Paynor, head of the hosts' APEC summit organising committee, told reporters Monday the maritime row would be off the summit agenda.

"I will reiterate that when we meet at APEC, it's all economic issues and we do not take up bilateral, specific bilateral issues in APEC," Paynor added.

Discussing the Beijing officials' visits to Manila, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China wanted to improve relations with its neighbour.

"We believe that we need to properly deal with our disputes in the South China Sea to ensure that they do not disrupt our relationship with our neighbouring countries."

However, Hong had said Monday that the onus rested on the Philippines to improve ties with Beijing.

His comments came after a landmark summit between Xi and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou at the weekend -- the first such meeting since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

Those talks raised hopes of a further thaw in relations between the two former rivals.

Aquino's only meetings with Chinese leaders included a very brief encounter with Xi on the sidelines of last year's Beijing APEC summit and talks with Hu in Beijing in his 2011 state visit.



Running mates: Bush 41 and 43's biggest mistakes?

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Nov 08, 2015 - President George H.W. Bush's latest book will hit the shelves Tuesday. The book has already reopened old wounds over September 11th and the second Iraq war. Known as 41 to differentiate himself from son George W. Bush, America's 43rd president, the father had unkind things to say about 43's vice president, Richard B. Cheney, and secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld. And 41 rebuked 43 for the "Axis of Evil" speech linking Iraq with North Korea as enemies of the West.

But suppose either 41 or 43 had chosen other vice presidential running mates. How different the world might have been. In early 1992, George H.W. Bush seemed electorally invincible. After the 100-hour destruction and eviction of Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Bush's popularity rose to 90%. The Soviet Union had imploded. Bush's economic plans were gaining traction. As Ronald Reagan promised, this was truly "morning in America."

Governor Bill Clinton would win the Democratic nomination for president, but the White House was reluctant to take the challenger seriously. After all, Clinton was viewed in the demeaning terms of a "draft dodging, pot-smoking womanizer." Yet, the polls were moving in Mr. Clinton's favor and Ross Perot was mounting a third party movement to oppose President Bush.

That summer, former Defense and Energy Secretary and CIA Director James Schlesinger met with President and Mrs. Bush. Concerned that Bush could lose in November, Schlesinger presented the president with a brilliant idea. Why not pick a new vice president?

Bush had selected the junior senator from Missouri Dan Quayle as his running mate in 1988. Quayle had never recovered from the battering he took in the October vice presidential debate against Senator Lloyd Bentsen from Texas. In the debate, Quayle made the error of comparing himself to President John F. Kennedy. Bentsen, a decorated World War II veteran, was waiting in ambush. "I knew Jack Kennedy. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy!" Quayle was incinerated.

Schlesinger suggested General Colin Powell, then in his last year as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the Quayle alternative. Mrs. Bush warmed to the idea. The president considered the suggestion and then declined to dump Quayle. Whether Powell would have accepted or whether his selection would have overcome Perot's 19 percent take of the vote is unknowable. Vice presidents rarely affect the general election. But a Bush 41 second term would clearly have altered who would have been in charge in 2001.

In 2000, George W. Bush asked former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to form a vice presidential search committee. The outcome was not surprising. Cheney would be on the ticket. That made sense at the time. Cheney had the experience Bush lacked in Washington. Unfortunately, Cheney would dominate White House decision making for the first term and some of the second. Among the consequences were the catastrophic second Iraq War and the destabilization of the region that continues to threaten peace and stability.

But suppose Bush 43 had favored Powell over Cheney? Of course, Powell may not have accepted, preferring to become Secretary of State. In 1996, he and his family seriously considered his running for the presidency. In the end, the general decided he would not seek the Oval Office.

Running as the number two, however, would have been less onerous. The prospect of becoming the first African-American to rise to the second highest office in the land was compelling. Powell also would have brought the necessary foreign and national security experience to the White House, including two tours in combat in Vietnam where he had once been wounded in action.

Perhaps had Powell and not Cheney been vice president, the post-September 11th response to the al-Qaida attacks would not have ended in nation building in Afghanistan. Nor might 43 been so keen to intervene in Iraq in March 2003, as Powell was never in favor of that decision. But being a loyal soldier, the Secretary of State made the administration's case for war at the United Nations in February 2003, categorically assured by then-CIA Director George Tenet and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

That a Vice President Powell might have run in 2008 against Barack Obama would have produced possibly the most exciting presidential race in America's history. Of course, none of this happened. Still, speculation over the consequences of a Powell vice presidency under either Bush 41 or 43 is intriguing. Would the disasters following September 11th been averted or minimized? The latest book by 43 suggests the answer would have been yes.


Harlan Ullman is Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business; and Senior Advisor at both Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security. His latest book is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.



China president to attend APEC summit despite row

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Nov 9, 2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend an Asia-Pacific summit in the Philippines next week, officials said Monday, quashing the host's concerns he would snub the event over a territorial dispute.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Manila on Tuesday to prepare for Xi's presence at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit, both governments said.

"The Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing has officially announced this morning that Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the APEC economic leaders' meeting in Manila," Philippine foreign department spokesman Charles Jose told AFP.

The visits by Wang and Xi will offer a rare opportunity for top-level talks between the Asian neighbours, which have seen diplomatic relations plummet in recent years over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines has been angered over what it has branded China's "bullying" and "hypocritical" tactics, including building artificial islands and taking control of a rich fishing shoal in Filipino-claimed waters.

China has in turn been angered over the Philippines' efforts to have a United Nations tribunal rule on the dispute, as well as its encouraging of the United States to exert military and political influence.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbours.

In discussing the upcoming visits to Manila, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Monday that China wanted to improve relations with the Philippines.

"For reasons known to all, bilateral relations are facing difficulties, which is not something we want to see," Hong told reporters in Beijing.

"We value bilateral ties, and we would like to properly resolve relevant issues through consultations and negotiations."

But Hong emphasised the onus rested on the Philippines to improve ties.

"We hope the Philippines can work towards the same direction together with China... deal with relevant issues in a constructive way and create favourable conditions for the improvement of bilateral ties," he said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino's only meeting with a Chinese leader in recent years was a very brief encounter with Xi at a tree planting ceremony on the sidelines of the last APEC summit, which China hosted.

Most leaders from the 21-member APEC grouping, including US President Barack Obama, had already accepted invitations from the Philippines to attend the Manila edition, which starts on November 18.

The silence until Monday from Beijing over whether Xi would attend had fuelled speculation in the Philippines that he intended to snub Aquino because of the row.



Poland's PM-in-waiting taps controversial defence minister

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Varsovie (AFP) Nov 9, 2015 - Poland's future conservative premier stirred controversy Monday with her choice of defence minister, known for accusing Russia of playing a role in the deadly 2010 crash of a Polish presidential jet.

Future prime minister Beata Szydlo tapped veteran rightwinger Antoni Macierewicz, 67, for the job.

After the death of president Lech Kaczynski and scores of other senior Polish officials when the plane crashed in Smolensk in Russia, Macierewicz suggested it may have been deliberate.

Without offering decisive proof, he accused Moscow of instigating an attack on Kaczynski's jet in collusion with Poland's then prime minister Donald Tusk, now the EU president.

Szydlo spoke in Warsaw alongside Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the Law and Justice (PiS) party and widely regarded as the mastermind behind all of the faction's moves in the run up to and following its victory in the October 25 general election.

It scored an unprecedented majority, allowing it to govern alone.

Even though investigators in Moscow and Warsaw concluded that pilot error was to blame for the Smolensk crash, Kaczynski -- the late president's twin brother -- has also insisted the crash was not an accident.

"This requires an honest investigation by the justice administration and a normally functioning prosecutor's office," Kaczynski said of the crash.

"No extraordinary institutions, no international commissions -- unless perhaps someone abroad proposes this -- but rather a normal investigation," he told reporters.

- Coal miner's daughter -

Szydlo is expected to be formally tapped as prime minister by PiS-backed President Andzej Duda after outgoing centrist premier Ewa Kopacz resigns this week.

Kaczynski chose the 52-year-old as the party's candidate after she ran a victorious presidential campaign for political greenhorn Duda in May.

A coal miner's daughter with a degree in ethnography, Szydlo became a member of parliament with PiS in 2005. On the campaign trail, she targeted voters with promises of lower taxes and higher welfare spending.

Key figures in her future cabinet include veteran diplomat Witold Waszczykowski, 58, as foreign minister. He recently criticised Warsaw's tendency to follow Berlin's lead in foreign affairs and insists Poland must "firmly defend Polish national interests" within the European Union.

He served as Poland's ambassador to NATO in Brussels from 1997 to 1999, when it was among the first ex-communist countries to join the Western defence alliance.

Zbigniew Ziobro, 45, will return to the justice portfolio he held in 2005-2007 when he was accused of meddling in the prosecution of certain rival politicians.

The trained lawyer was among the founders of the PiS in 2001, but was barred from it in 2011 after falling out with Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The two however joined forces for the general election.

Mariusz Kaminski, the controversial former head of the Central Anti-corruption Bureau (CBA), has been tapped as intelligence services coordinator.

Last March, Kaminski was found guilty of overstepping his jurisdiction as CBA chief. Although sentenced to three years behind bars and banned from public office for a decade, his lawyers have said they will appeal the verdict which has not yet come into force.

Eurosceptic economist Mateusz Morawiecki, 47, will serve as development minister, also responsible for the economy, while legal expert Pawel Szalamacha, 46, will take over as finance minister.



Top Chinese general visits Djibouti amid base speculation

‎16 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎07:48:12 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Nov 10, 2015 - A top Chinese military officer visited Djibouti at the weekend, official media reported, prompting a state-run newspaper Tuesday to downplay concerns Beijing is planning to establish a base in the strategically vital African entrepot.

The chief of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) general staff, General Fang Fenghui met Djibouti's president at the weekend, the official PLA news source China Military Online reported.

Fang told President Ismail Omar Guelleh that China was willing to "deepen pragmatic cooperation between the two countries and two militaries", the report paraphrased.

Beijing is expanding its military heft and reach as China becomes more powerful, with annual double-digit defence budget increases and its first aircraft carrier entering service.

A former French colony, Djibouti guards the entrance to the Red Sea and, ultimately, the Suez Canal, and has been used by international navies -- including China -- as a base in the fight against piracy from neighbouring Somalia.

In May, Guelleh told AFP that "discussions are ongoing" with China for a military base in the tiny Horn of Africa nation, saying that Beijing's presence would be "welcome".

Chinese officials say the country does not have any overseas military bases.

But Chinese contracts to build or manage Indian Ocean ports have raised concerns it is seeking to establish a so-called "string of pearls" in the region.

The state-run Global Times on Tuesday said that Fang's visit had prompted overblown fears of Chinese military expansion.

"It is unfair to hype up the 'China threat' as China's military base will mainly serve as a supply station even if it is created to support escort groups engaging in anti-terrorist and anti-piracy missions," it paraphrased a navy military expert, Li Jie, as saying.

It also cited unnamed analysts urging people "not to politicise or over-interpret the visit".

The US, France and Japan already have facilities in Djibouti, and China Military Online said that Fang visited the Chinese guided missile frigate Sanya, which was making a port call after patrolling in the Gulf of Aden and off the Somali coast for more than 90 days.

The defence ministry reposted its report on its website.



Xi stresses China sea claims, but won't 'bully' neighbours

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Singapore (AFP) Nov 7, 2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday repeated his country's uncompromising claims to the South China Sea but pledged that it would not "bully" its weaker neighbours.

The comments by Xi were in line with China's oft-stated position but come as Beijing's assertiveness in the strategic waterway has raised concerns of potential future conflict.

"Let me make this clear: The South China Sea islands have been China's territory since ancient times," Xi said in a speech during a visit to Singapore.

"It is the bounded duty of the Chinese government to uphold China's territorial sovereignty and legitimate maritime right and interests."

China has long laid verbal claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, but in recent years has moved to back that up.

It is now using land reclamation to expand previously insignificant sea features into full-fledged islands and further underpin its claims.

China's neighbours have said the actions violate a regional code among the rival claimants against taking actions that upset the status quo.

Xi said some "Chinese" islands are currently being "occupied" by other countries, but vowed that China's intentions were peaceful.

"What we in China believe... is that the strong and rich should not bully the weak and poor," he said.

He added that "China will continue to seek resolution of the disputes through negotiation and consultation".

The United States has warned that China's actions could threaten freedom of navigation in a body of water that is vital for world trade.

On October 27, the US Navy sent a destroyer on a sail-by near the site of one of the man-made islands to assert its right to free passage, drawing an angry response from China's foreign ministry.

"There has never been any problem with the freedom of navigation and overflight, nor will there ever be any in the future because China needs unimpeded commerce through these waters more than anyone else," Xi said.

He added that "non-Asian countries should understand and respect this and play a constructive role", an apparent reference to the United States.

Xi is in Singapore for a state visit that suddenly took on new significance when it was announced last week that he would meet Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou while in the city-state.

It will be the first meeting between leaders of the two sides since their bitter split in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war, which was won by Mao Zedong's Communists.

Gunboat diplomacy: US skipper recalls chummy exchanges with Chinese
Aboard The Uss Theodore Roosevelt (AFP) Nov 6, 2015 - As the United States and China engaged in a standoff last week over an American naval vessel in Chinese-claimed waters, frontline officers from the two sides bantered about chicken wings and Halloween preparations.

Washington sent the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen to the South China Sea for a "sail-by" of Chinese-built islands that have raised concerns over Beijing's deepening toe-hold in the strategic waterway.

The move brought angry denunciations from China, which said its sovereignty had been violated, with US defence officials countering that American ships would continue such sailings.

But despite the big-power ramifications, radio contact between the two sides at the scene was frequent and surprisingly relaxed, according to an account of the close encounter by the USS Lassen's skipper, Commander Robert Francis.

"Every day a US ship is down here, we interact with the Chinese," Francis said.

"It's not uncommon for one of my officers on the decks to pick up the radio and start talking (to the Chinese)."

Francis spoke to reporters on Thursday after being helicoptered over from his ship to the USS Theodore Roosevelt -- also cruising the South China Sea -- during a visit to the giant aircraft carrier by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who was on a diplomatic swing through Asia.

"We picked up the phone and said, 'Hey, what are you guys doing this Saturday? We got pizza and wings, we're doing this, we're planning for Halloween as well,'" Francis said, recalling exchanges with the Chinese navy.

"So, discussions of that nature, just trying to show we are normal sailors like them, have families just like them."

- 'Just a normal day' -

On October 27, the USS Lassen cruised within about six miles (10 kilometres) of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, a sprinkling of reefs and islets at the heart of the South China Sea that also is claimed in whole or part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Subi reef is just one of the South China Sea sites where Chinese dredgers are creating expanding land masses capable of hosting large facilities, including runways.

A Chinese destroyer shadowed the USS Lassen, repeatedly querying why it was in "Chinese waters".

"I wouldn't call them warnings," Francis said.

The US vessel's carefully stage-managed "freedom of navigation" transit -- close enough to see construction cranes and other features on land -- was meant to subtly challenge China's sovereignty claims and stress the right to international free passage.

The South China Sea has long been viewed as a potential flashpoint for military conflict.

Those concerns have grown in recent years as China has taken a more assertive stance toward its long-standing insistence that virtually the entire sea is sovereign Chinese territory.

The island-building programme has accelerated within the past two years, and rival claimants to the body of water say it violates a regional code against provocative moves that could upset the maritime status quo.

Francis said he was surprised by the attention drawn by last week's encounter, calling the episode "just a normal day."

"I got a call from my mother and she was going, 'Hey, what's going on with you in China? I heard you were in China,'" he said.

"I was like, 'Mom, I'm not in China. I'm OK, I'm on the ship.'"



In, out or in-between: Obama's foreign policy

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UPI) Nov 5, 2015 - The White House has announced that it is reviewing its military options for what was once the intention of "disrupting and destroying the Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq. Critics (or realists) have argued that the Obama administration has already chosen to withdraw from the Middle East in favor of a strategic pivot to Asia and the president's aversion to being trapped in the quagmire that is consuming Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. No one can fault Mr. Obama for attempting to avoid committing billions or trillions of dollars and U.S. lives to another failed enterprise.

Yet, without strong U.S. leadership, as nature abhors a vacuum, others will assert themselves.

Vladimir Putin is doing nicely in that regard. While leading from behind is not necessarily a bad policy choice, unless allies and friends move in, that strategy will fail. There is also another problem regarding this review over what to do about IS.

The president has asked the Pentagon to provide a range of military options for review. But what is the overall strategy that frames these options and sets the objectives and aims to be achieved? It is reported that the White House strategy for Russia has been classified. That said, what is the broader strategy for the region beyond platitudes and broad intentions? Many argue there is none. And others complain that whatever the strategy is, clearly it is not working.

Three broad foreign policy choices lie ahead. The United States can be more forceful, aggressive and engaged in the Middle East. This will require explicit actions that combine using the whole political-military-economic toolbox to demonstrate greater commitment to the Middle East. Matching this shift with the declaratory pivot to Asia probably can be accommodated by using the Pentagon term of "rebalancing."

If this were the choice, then establishing some form of quasi-military alliance or relationship, possibly through more expansive use of NATO with the Gulf Cooperative Council, would be a strong political signal. As recommended in this column previously, using the Combined Air Operations Center in Doha, Qatar as the basis for developing closer ground force integration as a prelude to potentially establishing a joint Arab-Western land force of some sort could follow. And, while this may be a bridge too far, as NATO created a NATO-Russia Council (with mixed results), perhaps Iran might be invited in as an observer sometime in the future as and if the nuclear agreement is successfully implemented.

The second choice is indeed to reduce engagement or, more politically, to continue to rebalance east. The argument here is that the United States has invested enough in terms of resources. While IS is existential to the region, it is the region that must respond. The United States can act in support. However, it need not lead. This was the same assumption the Obama team used in withdrawing with a date certain from Afghanistan to force the Afghans to look after their own security. Objective observers can assess how well or how badly that assumption has worked out so far.

The last choice is in-between, or what cynics call the Goldilocks solution of porridge not too hot nor too cold. In essence this is playing at the margin. Doing enough to be seen as engaged and not enough to be caught in the maelstrom that is consuming much of the region. Obviously, in these last two choices, a further implicit assumption is that Russia would be assuming a larger role in Syria along with Iran and Hezbollah.

If the administration could be assured that moving the security burden to Russia and Iran had some chance of producing a political solution in Syria, that would be a smart play. The major downsides are what happens if that does not work: That Russia and Iran exacerbate the situation, or succeed and enhance their influence at the expense of the United States, our Arab allies react accordingly and Republicans flay the administration irrespective of outcome for deserting the region?

The simple solution is the most unlikely. The administration needs a real strategy for the region and for dealing with Russia and Iran. Simply reviewing military options will not work. As the famous Chinese general and military philosopher Sun Tzu wrote a millennium ago, tactics without strategy would assure defeat.

Since its first days in office, the administration has eschewed the use of strategic thinking in developing its policies. Campaign sound bites and promises and politically expedient pressures have superseded what should have been true strategic thinking. The outcome, while not irreversible, is surely too likely.


Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist; Chairman of the Killowen Group that advises leaders of government and business; and Senior Advisor at both Washington D.C.'s Atlantic Council and Business Executives for National Security. His latest book is A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace.



US defense chief warns of conflict in S. China Sea

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Simi Valley, United States (AFP) Nov 7, 2015 - US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Saturday warned that land reclamation efforts and a military buildup in the South China Sea could lead to conflict between nations in the region.

Speaking at a defense forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, the Pentagon chief also said America was adapting its military posture to counter increased Russian "aggression."

Appearing on the final leg of an eight-day trip that included meetings with defense ministers from several nations in the Asia-Pacific region, Carter said his concerns about the frantic pace of land reclamation in the South China Sea were broadly shared.

"The United States joins virtually everyone else in the region in being deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea," Carter told an audience of senior defense figures.

Carter added he was worried about "the prospect of further militarization, as well as the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states."

The Reagan National Defense Forum is an annual event that sees dozens of America's top defense figures -- including politicians from both political parties -- discuss America's defense policies.

Carter used his platform to take a swipe at recent Russian military moves.

"At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities," he said.

"And, most disturbing, Moscow's nuclear saber-rattling raises questions about Russian leaders' commitment to strategic stability, their respect for norms against the use of nuclear weapons and whether they respect the profound caution nuclear-age leaders showed with regard to the brandishing of nuclear weapons."

In an echo of some of Reagan's own attempts to use technology to counter a Soviet nuclear threat, Carter talked up some of America's new high-tech weaponry, including an electromagnetic railgun that can fire projectiles at an astonishing 4,500 miles (7,250 kilometers) per hour.

- 'Surprising' new technologies -

He added that the United States was modernizing its nuclear arsenal, investing in new technologies such as drones and a new long-range bomber, as well as lasers and new systems for electronic warfare.

The defense chief hinted at additional new weapons that would be "surprising ones I really can't describe here."

Additionally, "we're updating and advancing our operational plans for deterrence and defense given Russia's changed behavior," Carter said.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and has been supporting a pro-Moscow separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Russian jets also started bombing Syria on September 30.

Moscow says the campaign aims to counter the Islamic State militant group but the West says Moscow is trying to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Carter's trip was dominated by questions over China's continued land reclamation efforts and military buildup in the South China Sea.

On Thursday, he flew out to the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier as it was sailing in the South China Sea.

The enormous supercarrier was accompanied by the guided missile destroyer the USS Lassen, which last month sailed past a series of islets in Subi Reef in the Spratly Island chain.

There, China is using dredgers to turn reefs and low-lying features into larger land masses for runways and other military uses to bolster its claims of sovereignty in the region.

The Lassen conducted a "freedom of navigation operation" as a way to rebuff China's those claims.

"We've done them before, all over the world. And we will do them again," Carter said of the sail-by.

Carter said he chose to talk about Russia at the Reagan library as the Cold War was a defining theme of the US leader's presidency.

Still, he also made some conciliatory gestures to both China and Russia, suggesting there potentially was room for both countries to be part of broader international security structure.

"We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy," he said.

Gunboat diplomacy: US skipper recalls chummy exchanges with Chinese
Aboard The Uss Theodore Roosevelt (AFP) Nov 6, 2015 - As the United States and China engaged in a standoff last week over an American naval vessel in Chinese-claimed waters, frontline officers from the two sides bantered about chicken wings and Halloween preparations.

Washington sent the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen to the South China Sea for a "sail-by" of Chinese-built islands that have raised concerns over Beijing's deepening toe-hold in the strategic waterway.

The move brought angry denunciations from China, which said its sovereignty had been violated, with US defence officials countering that American ships would continue such sailings.

But despite the big-power ramifications, radio contact between the two sides at the scene was frequent and surprisingly relaxed, according to an account of the close encounter by the USS Lassen's skipper, Commander Robert Francis.

"Every day a US ship is down here, we interact with the Chinese," Francis said.

"It's not uncommon for one of my officers on the decks to pick up the radio and start talking (to the Chinese)."

Francis spoke to reporters on Thursday after being helicoptered over from his ship to the USS Theodore Roosevelt -- also cruising the South China Sea -- during a visit to the giant aircraft carrier by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, who was on a diplomatic swing through Asia.

"We picked up the phone and said, 'Hey, what are you guys doing this Saturday? We got pizza and wings, we're doing this, we're planning for Halloween as well,'" Francis said, recalling exchanges with the Chinese navy.

"So, discussions of that nature, just trying to show we are normal sailors like them, have families just like them."

- 'Just a normal day' -

On October 27, the USS Lassen cruised within about six miles (10 kilometres) of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands, a sprinkling of reefs and islets at the heart of the South China Sea that also is claimed in whole or part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Subi reef is just one of the South China Sea sites where Chinese dredgers are creating expanding land masses capable of hosting large facilities, including runways.

A Chinese destroyer shadowed the USS Lassen, repeatedly querying why it was in "Chinese waters".

"I wouldn't call them warnings," Francis said.

The US vessel's carefully stage-managed "freedom of navigation" transit -- close enough to see construction cranes and other features on land -- was meant to subtly challenge China's sovereignty claims and stress the right to international free passage.

The South China Sea has long been viewed as a potential flashpoint for military conflict.

Those concerns have grown in recent years as China has taken a more assertive stance toward its long-standing insistence that virtually the entire sea is sovereign Chinese territory.

The island-building programme has accelerated within the past two years, and rival claimants to the body of water say it violates a regional code against provocative moves that could upset the maritime status quo.

Francis said he was surprised by the attention drawn by last week's encounter, calling the episode "just a normal day."

"I got a call from my mother and she was going, 'Hey, what's going on with you in China? I heard you were in China,'" he said.

"I was like, 'Mom, I'm not in China. I'm OK, I'm on the ship.'"



Push for muscular military leaves many Japanese uneasy

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Nov 6, 2015 - Japan's move to expand the role of its armed forces has left both veterans and fighting families uneasy in a pacifist country unsure whether a military that has never fired a bullet in anger is ready for combat.

Since the carnage of World War II, Japan's Self-Defense Forces (SDF) have been banned from waging any kind of combat beyond defence of the nation thanks to a US-imposed 1947 constitution.

As a result, Japan's post war troops have never shot a bullet at an enemy, or been felled by one in a foreign land -- a track record many are proud of.

But in September the government of nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rammed through legislation allowing the nation's troops to fight abroad.

It caused significant uproar both at home and overseas, especially among regional neighbours, including China and Korea, which suffered under Japan's wartime aggression.

The legislation will give the government the power to send the military into overseas conflicts to defend allies, even if Japan itself is not under attack.

Abe sees an increasingly muscular and flexible military as necessary to protect against an increasingly powerful China and unpredictable North Korea.

But opponents fear the vague wording could see Japan dragged into far-flung foreign conflicts similar to the US invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan while regional neighbours who suffered under Japanese occupation, particularly China and Korea, are incensed.

Military families are themselves divided over the move.

"I feel more apprehension than relief over the legislation," explained one mother whose husband is stationed at a ground forces base on Tokyo's outskirts.

"When I talked about the issue with my husband, he said he would have to go wherever if an order was issued. But for family members, it's an extremely worrisome development," she added, asking AFP not to use her name for fear of any backlash.

But another army wife in her 40s said she believed the legislation would beef up Japan's security by strengthening the country's alliance with the United States, which welcomed Abe's move.

It would also, she said, embolden Japanese soldiers to protect themselves if they came under fire during peacekeeping operations.

"Currently, SDF servicemen are not allowed to fire a gun even if he or she faces the danger of getting killed," she told AFP.

- 'Sacrificing your life' -

Japanese troops have been deployed in peacekeeping missions with increasing frequency, including a small detachment controversially sent to Iraq, as well as ongoing anti-piracy missions off the Horn of Africa.

But during the deployment in war-torn Iraq, Japanese soldiers, on a reconstruction mission, had to be under protection of other foreign troops, who were in charge of keeping security.

While Japan's military may be neutered by what it can do under the post-war constitution, the country nonetheless boasts an impressive array of weaponry with highly trained personnel.

Fourth generation battle tanks, state-of-the-art fighter jets, frigates, destroyers and helicopter carriers are just some of the tools at Japan's disposal as well as the US-made Aegis defense missile system.

The post-war years saw the military often ridiculed by a deeply pacifist public scarred by the shame of defeat and the loss of some 3.1 million Japanese lives.

But in recent decades the military have burnished their reputation for disaster relief, particularly in the wake of the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the devastating 2011 quake-tsunami disaster.

Veterans say the new legislation makes it much more likely that the enemy of the future will be a hostile human, rather than Mother Nature.

"The chances that Japan will work together with the US military will increase for sure," said Inoru Fukanuma, 49, former Air Self-Defence Force captain who had worked as a mechanic and instructor for 18 years.

That means Japanese troops "may have to be deployed close to battlefields," thereby increasing the risk of losing their lives or killing others even if they are on logistical support missions, he said.

Whether a sceptical Japanese public -- or the military themselves -- would accept coffins returning home draped in white and red flags remains to be seen.

"My former colleagues tend to say they can't simply die for an uncertain amount of compensation for their families and...for ambiguous causes with public opinion divided," Takao Izutsu, a 45-year-old former ground SDF ranger, told AFP.

"If all the Japanese people praise the SDF for what they were asked to do that's a consolation, but a majority of people are against the legislation. What's the point of sacrificing your life?"



Historic Ma-Xi summit heavy on rhetoric but schism remains

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) Nov 8, 2015 - The summit between the presidents of China and Taiwan promised warmer ties and was loaded with historic symbolism as both men sought to secure their legacy -- but there were few concrete results in their bid to mend decades of estrangement.

China's Xi Jinping and Taiwan's Ma Ying-jeou shook hands for more than a minute to herald the start of a meeting once unthinkable due to the enmity between the two sides.

Xi's rhetoric likened China and Taiwan to part of the same family, while Ma urged cooperation and harmony in a surprisingly cordial exchange.

It was the first time leaders had met since they split at the end of a civil war on the mainland in 1949, with Taiwan now a democracy with a fierce sense of its own identity.

But while the language and gestures sought to reflect a message of burgeoning friendship, there were no agreements announced.

"It's historic, because it's the first (meeting), but I would not go as far as to say that it's very important because it was engaged in generalities -- no specific issues were addressed, no promises were made that we know of, and Ma Ying-jeou, six months from now, will no longer be president of Taiwan," said J. Michael Cole, a fellow of the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute.

Ma will step down next year with the China-sceptic opposition expected to win presidential elections in January as public concern over closer ties with Beijing grows.

The summit was a chance for Ma to publicly seal the dramatic seven-year rapprochement since he came to power and to underline what he says is a legacy of stability and peace for the region.

For Xi, it was an opportunity to reiterate his ultimate ambition of reunification.

"Beijing's desire is to emphasise interdependence between Taiwan and China, not to reduce it. So it is in Beijing's interest to maintain as many channels of communication as possible," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan political science professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.

- No concessions -

The meeting triggered protests in Taiwan where opponents accuse Ma of selling out the island, while supporters praised him for raising sensitive issues.

Ma said he had expressed concern to Xi over missiles aimed at Taiwan and had also argued for an end to the marginalisation of the island internationally.

But there was no sign that Xi had moved on either subject.

"Xi... did not unilaterally or voluntarily commit or promise some kind of international leeway or space for Taiwan. He could have done that, and he did not," said Titus Chen, associate professor at the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies at National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan.

The language of brotherhood and family would only exacerbate fears in Taiwan, Chen said.

"This kind of narrative or discourse is losing its popularity in Taiwan," he adds.

"I don't want to be a subject or citizen of China, that would put myself at great risk or violate my own political values. I think the divergence on political values - that's the biggest obstacle."

- 'Path to reunification' -

Meanwhile Xi's performance received praise in China, with several online commentators predicting that reunification could be achieved within 10 years. Analysts there hailed the meeting as a success.

"Under the circumstances of political sensitivity and unresolved political differences, disputes were put aside and there was dialogue with mutual respect," said Zhu Songling, head of Beijing Union University's Taiwan Research Institute.

"In terms of the timeline of reunification, before the two Germanys agreed, many scholars and politicians were very pessimistic, but that's just the way of history - chance determines the turning points of history," he added.

Others said Taiwan's opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who are expected to win the presidency, would have to follow Ma's example if they got into power -- historically the party has been pro-independence.

"For the mainland, curbing Taiwanese independence depends on hard power, and peaceful reunification on soft power," said Li Fei, deputy director of the Taiwan Research Institute of Xiamen University.

"Consideration of the Taiwanese people's wishes -- this is an issue for the future.

- Democratic firewall -

But the fundamental historic differences between the two sides and the schism between their political cultures is a rift many still see as extremely difficult to bridge.

Taiwanese would accept warmer relations if China respected the island's democratic culture and sovereignty, says J. Michael Cole -- but that is vastly at odds with Xi's unification message.

"The biggest impediment to what China is trying to achieve is Taiwan's democracy," says Cole.

"That is the firewall, in Taiwan, that is becoming increasingly consolidated.

"It is the resistance to being taken over by China."



True colours: China summit foments Taiwan's green-blue split

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) Nov 6, 2015 - In Taiwan's decades-long debate over independence or reunification with mainland China, the colours blue and green symbolise a rift that polarises friends and families and has been deepened by this weekend's historic summit.

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou's meeting with China's leader Xi Jinping in Singapore on Saturday has unleashed a visceral response on the island, a cold war outpost which has long sheltered under a United States pledge of protection.

But as the island wearies of the seemingly irreconcilable split over its identity and future, exemplified by the colour-coded political parties, some are seeking to breach the divide.

The summit could be a turning point for Taiwan, a self-ruling democracy which split from China in 1949 following a civil war, and which Beijing views as a renegade province awaiting reunification -- by force if necessary.

The blue camp favours closer ties with China, with the staunchest "dark blues" supporting full unification.

The greens strongly reject any "one China" principle, viewing Taiwan as an entirely separate entity. "Dark greens" call for formal independence from China -- a move that would risk an armed response.

Ma's Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT) is the main blue party, while the opposition Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) represents the greens.

"Taiwan traditionally has been split between the KMT and DPP, or the unification and independence they each represent," says Wang Yeh-lih, a political science professor at National Taiwan University.

"The blue supporters will back the Ma-Xi meeting, and the greens will of course oppose it. Taiwan has never had a high degree of consensus on this."

The blue, taken from the KMT banner of a white sun against a blue sky, is associated with the party's urban strongholds in the north, while green evokes the DPP's grassroot rural support, particularly in the island's south.

The announcement of Saturday's talks provoked strong responses from from political leaders, academics and the general public, with the blue camp saying it was long overdue and the greens accusing Ma of selling out Taiwan.

While citizens have become used to the split, some fear the enduring impact across an island that is heading to presidential elections in January as Ma bows out.

"My family is open-minded, but the problem has affected relationships between some of my friends. They argue until they are red in the face, defending their political ideas or their favourite parties," says Jesmine Su, a 30-year-old office worker from the southern city of Tainan.

"The phenomenon is bad for Taiwan... it has led people not to look at issues in a rational manner, from individuals and families to different political parties," she said.

- A third way? -

Ma has overseen a dramatic rapprochement with China since he came to power in 2008, yielding a tourism boom, the opening of flight routes, and more than 20 trade agreements.

But there is scepticism from voters who believe that only big business has benefited from the pacts, while the Taiwanese economy remains in the doldrums and salaries are static.

There are also fears that closer ties will risk Taiwan's sovereignty and security as Beijing tries to impose control, concerns that have seen public support for the president and his party plummet.

But while Ma's leadership has stoked divisions, there are also those who seek a path beyond the green-blue polarisation, and independent candidates with a fresh approach have benefited at a local level.

"I'm part of the population that doesn't care about green or blue. I care about the present, the reality, who can really make Taiwan better," said Hu Chih-cheng, 48, a building manager in Taipei who is among those embracing the new credo.

With the economy flagging, livelihood issues have become central to voter sentiment, for some overriding their traditional leanings.

Some analysts say the line between the camps is far more nuanced and flexible than it might initially appear as pragmatism weighs on ideology.

"There are of course many people who are diehard greens or diehard blues, but a much larger majority of voters base their support on the performance and policies of the parties," says Jonathan Sullivan from the University of Nottingham's School of Contemporary Chinese Studies.

"If the blue-green cleavage was absolute, we wouldn't see the kind of fluidity and volatility in election results in Taiwan," he said.

"Remember that after 2008 the DPP was supposedly finished, while the KMT rose to ascendancy. Now the opposite is happening."



UK 'letting down' allies over IS in Syria: defence chief

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Nov 8, 2015 - The head of Britain's armed forces on Sunday said the country was "letting down" allies by not participating in air strikes against Islamic State group jihadists in Syria.

Britain is part of a coalition hitting IS targets in Iraq, but its parliament has yet to be convinced of the need to join air strikes in neighbouring Syria and an influential committee of MPs recently advised against action.

"To an extent yes, we are letting our allies down by not being a full player," General Nicholas Houghton, the chief of the defence staff, told Sky News on Sunday.

"The source of their power, their command and control, their logistics, their organisation, the place from which they issue orders to international terrorists is from within Syria.

"In the most simplistic way it's like being asked to win a football match but not being able to go into the opponents' half," he added.

However, the defence chief stressed that Britain could make only "make a contribution to the international" effort.

"In the end the military dimension is done by regional platers, by Muslim countries," he later told the BBC.

"I don't think we should play the decisive military role because it runs the risk of adding fuel to the radicalisation of IS as an abhorrent cult."

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond later denied that the government had given up on a parliamentary vote.

"We are in exactly the same place that we've been for months," he told the BBC.

"When we think its right to do so, when we think we have a consensus, we will go to the House of Commons."

Hammond said the government was still in an "exploration" period with the opposition Labour party, which recently elected leftist Jeremy Corbyn as its leader, and was yet to establish if it had the cross-party support required to win a vote to extend the air strikes.

He admitted that Britain's decision "wasn't going to tip the balance" in Syria and called for a political solution to bring about a ceasefire in the four-year civil war.

- 'Illogical' -

The government has argued that it is illogical to conduct air strikes in Iraq and not neighbouring Syria, saying the two countries are "a single theatre of conflict".

But the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee -- a cross-party MPs' body which scrutinises Britain's foreign policy -- said in a new report that Prime Minister David Cameron's focus on joining air strikes was "incoherent" and "a distraction".

However, the crash of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt, which Britain believes was probably the result of a bomb, has once again thrust the issue centre stage.

Britain has suspended scheduled flights out of Sharm el-Sheikh as a result, and has sent over aircraft to fly home Britons remaining in the resort.

That decision was initially criticised by Russia, which is already hitting targets in Syria, but Houghton said Sunday that the common enemy of IS presented "an opportunity for an element of political convergence between America, ourselves, the West and (Russian President Vladimir) Putin."

Hammond on Sunday warned that air passengers worldwide faced more security checks, "additional costs and additional delays," if it were found that an IS bomb was responsible.

In Iraq, Britain is currently part of a coalition of more than 60 countries and has eight Tornado jets flying missions plus an unconfirmed number of Reaper drones.

This was approved by parliament in September last year, but the government was defeated on a vote to strike Syria in 2013.



Kiev completes arms pullout from eastern front: army

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Pisky, Ukraine (AFP) Nov 7, 2015 - Ukraine's military said Saturday it has finished withdrawing its weapons from the eastern frontline with pro-Russia rebels, where clashes have erupted in recent days despite a ceasefire.

Ukrainian soldiers withdrew their 82 mm calibre mortars from the villages of Pisky and Opytne near the ruins of Donetsk airport, which was ravaged by intense fighting last year, army spokesman Oleksandr Zavtonov told AFP.

Kiev's withdrawal came after pro-Moscow rebels said they pulled out their light arms from the area on Thursday.

A military convoy transporting mortars could be seen moving away from government positions in Pisky towards an arms depot, an AFP journalist said.

A Ukrainian soldier told AFP that troops near the front now have only firearms left.

"We do not respond to the rebels' provocations or shots. But if we must defend ourselves, we now only have guns, Kalashnikov (rifles) and stones," said 39-year-old Eduard, a soldier in Ukraine's 93rd Brigade.

Saturday's pullout completed the government's weapons withdrawal from the Donetsk area and was in line with a trust-building September 1 pact that ordered the withdrawal of all weapons with a calibre under 100 mm.

While the deal led to a marked de-escalation in one of Europe's deadliest crises since the Balkans wars of the 1990s, it remains unclear whether this semblance of calm will last.

The plan is to create a 30-40 kilometre (18-25 mile) buffer zone in the conflict. A similar withdrawal took place in the separatist Lugansk area in October.

A peace deal signed in February in Minsk calls for a vote to be held in the separatist regions under international auspices. Those elections have now been pushed back to early 2016.

Both the government and the rebels say they have honoured a pullout deal regarding larger weapons.

But the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), tasked with overseeing the withdrawal, has said some heavy weapons remain deployed on both sides of the frontline.

- 'Volatile' -

Chief OSCE monitor Ertugrul Apakan said this week that the ceasefire was "largely holding" but that the situation remains "volatile".

On Saturday the government and the separatist rebels exchanged blame over continued violence.

Kiev accused the rebels of firing at their positions using guns, grenade launchers and mortars. Four soldiers were wounded after they stepped on a landmine, the government added.

The rebels meanwhile accused Kiev loyalists of pounding Donetsk with a rocket launcher.

"Ukrainian volunteer battalions are bombing Donetsk in order to derail the Minsk (peace) agreement and to provoke a response from us," the separatists' defence ministry spokesman Eduard Bassurin said.

The conflict, which erupted in the aftermath of 2014's pro-democracy revolt, has left more than 8,000 people dead.

Russia denies instigating and backing the revolt in reprisal for last year's ouster of a Moscow-backed president in Ukraine and the subsequent leadership's decision to tie its future to the European Union and the NATO military bloc.



NATO exercises send clear message to potential foes: Stoltenberg

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Zaragoza, Spain (AFP) Nov 4, 2015 - NATO's biggest military exercise in more than a decade sends a clear message to friends and foes alike that it is ready to face the challenges of a fast-changing world, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.

"While our aim is to train and exercise, we are also sending a clear message to our nations and to any potential adversary," Stoltenberg said.

"NATO does not seek confrontation but we stand ready to defend all allies," he said as troops, armoured vehicles and aircraft battled it out at the San Gregorio training grounds near the northeastern Spanish city of Zaragoza.

The training moves were part of the much larger Trident Juncture exercise launched last month.

The drill is putting some 36,000 troops through their paces for five weeks in Italy, Spain and Portugal to demonstrate the improved readiness levels NATO judges necessary to cope with new threats.

Leaders of the 28-nation, US-led military alliance, shocked by Russian intervention in Ukraine, agreed in September last year to upgrade its rapid response force, more than doubling its size to around 40,000 troops.

They also approved setting up what is known as the Very High-Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), a smaller "spearhead" unit which can put boots on the ground within 48 hours, rather than the weeks and possibly months needed for the larger unit to get to a crisis spot.

"Trident Juncture is an important part of NATO's long-term adaptation to a changed and new security environment," Stoltenberg said.

If the Ukraine crisis provided the initial impetus, war and turmoil across North Africa and the Middle East are also major concerns for NATO.

Turkey, with NATO's second largest armed forces, is especially exposed as the Syrian war drives millions of refugees onto its soil and then onto Europe, creating a major humanitarian crisis.

Russian intervention in Syria and several incursions by its aircraft into Turkish airspace have also frayed nerves, although tensions appear to have eased recently as Washington and Moscow push for a political solution to the conflict.

Stoltenberg stressed that Russia had been invited to the Trident Juncture exercises, and complained that Moscow had not reciprocated when holding its own training drills.

He told reporters that NATO foreign ministers would discuss security on its southern borders at a December meeting, adding that the alliance planned to deploy surveillance drones to Sicily from next year to boost its situational awareness.

"I would like to underline that NATO has done a lot to meet security challenges to the south," he said, stressing the creation of the VJTF and the alliance's improved overall readiness.



NATO chief says alliance must counter Russia military build-up

‎10 ‎November ‎2015, ‏‎09:09:11 AMGo to full article
Lisbon (AFP) Nov 5, 2015 - NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday the alliance must counter a Russian military build-up in the Baltic, the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean which could give Moscow control of key areas in a crisis.

He said the 28-nation, US-led alliance must also consider doing more to reassure eastern member states once ruled from Moscow who have been badly unnerved by Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

As ties with the west have deteriorated, Russia has boosted its military presence in its Kaliningrad enclave, which sits west of and on the blind-side of the Baltic states.

Moscow has meanwhile deployed troops, aircraft and navy ships to Syria to bolster long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad.

Stoltenberg warned that Russia is acquiring the ability and presence to exercise control over strategic points and NATO must ensure it can carry out its own missions in such a changed environment.

"This is a military build-up which provides the Russians with what many experts call Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) capabilities," he told reporters at the Portuguese naval base of Troia south of Lisbon.

"We have to be sure we are able to overcome these capabilities so we can reinforce and deploy forces if needed," he said, after watching troops take part in the Trident Juncture exercise, NATO's biggest in more than a decade.

"The question on our agenda now is how to overcome, how to deal with the increased A2/AD capabilities of Russia in the Baltic, the Black Sea and now in the Mediterranean."

- Stepped-up presence -

Stoltenberg made his remarks when he was asked about what more NATO should do to reassure eastern member states who fear for their future in the face of a more assertive Russia.

They want NATO to do more and have suggested the alliance could even set up permanent bases on their soil.

NATO has previously ruled out that possibility for fear of breaching treaties agreed with Russia banning such a presence.

But Stoltenberg said Thursday there was no real distinction to be made between permanent and the sort of temporary, rotating NATO deployments of troops, ships and planes which have all been stepped up since the Ukraine crisis broke.

NATO has also set up forward command units in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, and pre-positioned equipment so that its new high speed rapid reaction force can hit the ground running in any crisis.

"We have already increased our presence and we are looking into the question of whether we should increase it even more," Stoltenberg said, adding that the issue would be on the agenda for the next NATO leaders summit in Warsaw in July 2016.

Stung by Russia's intervention in Ukraine, NATO leaders agreed last year to reverse years of defence spending cuts and to upgrade its rapid response force, more than doubling its size to around 40,000 troops.

They also approved what is known as the Very High-Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), a smaller "spearhead" unit which can put boots on the ground within 48 hours.

The Trident Juncture exercise is NATO's biggest since 2002, putting some 36,000 troops through their paces over five weeks in Italy, Spain and Portugal.



Fury in China over US sail-by in disputed waters

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 28, 2015 - Chinese media denounced the US Wednesday after Washington sent a warship into disputed South China Sea waters and vowed to do so again, while netizens filled the Internet with angry diatribes, demanding a far stronger reaction from Beijing.

The disputed waters have become the stage for a burgeoning tussle between the world's two largest economic and military powers as they struggle for regional dominance.

In the latest act, the US sent its destroyer the USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of small artificial islands in the South China sea that Beijing recently built on reefs despite competing claims from its neighbours, including Washington's ally Manila.

The US Navy will send more warships, a US official said late Tuesday, telling AFP: "We will do it again. We sail in international waters at a time and place of our choosing."

In the run-up to Tuesday's operation, Beijing repeatedly warned that it would take firm action against any country that violated its territorial sovereignty.

But when the long-awaited patrol finally arrived, Beijing only tracked and warned away the vessel, without intervening physically.

Falling back on a tried-and-tested formula, it summoned the US ambassador to protest, denounced Washington's actions, and made vague threats that it would "resolutely respond".

Commentary in Chinese state media was relatively restrained, calling for China to keep a cool head in the face of American provocations.

Even the Global Times, known for its nationalistic rhetoric, issued a call for restraint, emphasising the need for China to show moral superiority in the face of what it described as Washington's bullying.

"The Pentagon is obviously provoking China," it said in an editorial Wednesday.

"If we feel disgraced and utter some furious words, it will only make the US achieve its goal of irritating us."

But Chinese netizens demanded a stronger response from the authorities, which portray themselves as a major global power and have at their command the world's largest military, an increasing point of pride.

Beijing has been ramping up defence spending for years as it works to transform its once corrupt and dysfunctional military into a well-oiled machine with an increasingly powerful navy capable of operating far into the Pacific.

The Americans "are at our doorstep. Denouncing them again is useless," one commentator said, reflecting the general mood of thousands of responses on social media site Sina Weibo.

A September military parade in Beijing celebrating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Japan featured a procession of military hardware, including missiles thought to be capable of targeting American warships.

Such displays have heightened popular Chinese expectations, and social media were filled with demands for decisive action.

"Can China only flap its lips?" one comment asked, before offering a more decisive reaction: "Destroy the American warships that came."





Military solution 'impossible' in parts of Middle East: CIA chief

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 28, 2015 - A military solution is "impossible" in parts of the Middle East, US CIA chief John Brennan said Tuesday, arguing that it was hard to picture effective central governments in some countries as they exist today.

Brennan, who spoke at an intelligence conference in Washington, was joined by other security officials and industry experts.

"When I look at Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen," Brennan said, "it's hard for me to envision a central government in those countries that's going to be able to exert control or authority over the territory that was carved out post World War II."

"A military solution is just impossible in any of these countries," he added.

"You need to be able to bring down the temperature, try to de-escalate the conflict, build up some trust between the parties that are there, that are seriously interested by a peace settlement" he said.

Bernard Bajolet, head of France's DGSE external intelligence agency, said the region was not likely to return to its old self following the current conflicts.

"The Middle East we have known is over, I doubt it will come back," he told the conference.

"We see that Syria is already divided on the ground, that the regime is controlling only a small part of the county, only one-third of the country which was established after WWII" he said.

"The north is controlled by the Kurds."

"We have the same thing in Iraq" Bajolet said, adding that "I doubt really that one can come back to the previous situation."

Nonetheless, he said he was "confident" that the region would one day stabilize again.



China slams US over warship sailing near artificial islands

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 27, 2015 - The United States defied China Tuesday by sending a warship close to artificial islands the rising Asian power is building in disputed waters, prompting Beijing to summon the US ambassador and denounce what it called a threat to its sovereignty.

The USS Lassen passed within 12 nautical miles -- the normal limit of territorial waters around natural land -- of at least one of the formations Beijing claims in the South China Sea.

China's defence ministry said a destroyer-class ship and another frigate were dispatched to "warn" the US vessel, which Beijing said it had "shadowed".

Washington's long-awaited move appeared to escalate tensions over the strategically vital waters, where Beijing has rapidly transformed reefs and outcrops into artificial islands with potential military use.

China claims sovereignty over almost the whole of the South China Sea, raising concerns it could one day dictate who may transit its busy sea lanes.

Several neighbouring countries including the Philippines, a US ally, have competing claims and the dispute has raised fears of clashes in an area through which a third of the world's oil passes.

The US action was part of its "routine operations in the Sea in accordance with international law", an American official told AFP. "We will fly, sail, and operate anywhere in the world that international law allows."

China's deputy foreign minister Zhang Yesui summoned US Ambassador Max Baucus on Tuesday to announce that the USS Lassen had engaged in a "serious provocation," the official news agency Xinhua said.

"The Chinese government will resolutely safeguard territorial sovereignty and legal sea interests, and China will do whatever necessary to oppose deliberate provocation from any country," Zhang added.

A foreign ministry spokesman said that the ship had "illegally entered" waters near the islands.

Fiery state-run tabloid the Global Times hinted in an editorial that Beijing could respond more strongly if the US made similar trips in the future.

"We should first track the US warships. If they, instead of passing by, stop for further actions, it is necessary for us to launch electronic interventions, and even send out warships, lock them by fire-control radar and fly over the US vessels," it said.

It added that: "At present, no country, the US included, is able to obstruct Beijing's island reclamation in the region."

But despite the Chinese rhetoric, analysts said more such US manoeuvres could be expected.

Beijing's so far limited response showed that it had had "its bluff called", said Rory Medcalf, director of the international security programme at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

"The US and its allies and partners should now help the Chinese leadership in saving face, by emphasising that freedom of navigation operations are normal, not extraordinary," he said.

- Balance of power -

China's defence ministry said in a statement it had sent a "Lanzhou" missile destroyer and another ship to warn the USS Lassen.

It added that the US actions had "damaged trust" and said China would take "all necessary measures" to maintain national security.

There have been repeated confrontations in the area between Chinese vessels and boats from some of its neighbours who assert rights to the waters, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam.

Both are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has long called on China to negotiate a code of conduct in the region, as are fellow claimants Brunei and Malaysia. Taiwan also makes claims over part of the sea.

Manila has infuriated the world's second-largest economy by taking the dispute to a United Nations tribunal, and Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the US action demonstrated that "the balance of power says that there is not just a single voice that must be adhered to".

Beijing's reclamations have been seen as an attempt to assert its claims by establishing physical facts, but Aquino said: "There is no de facto changing of the reality on the ground."

Beijing has repeatedly said the construction work is mainly for civilian purposes.

But satellite images of the islands published by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies show that Beijing has reclaimed millions of square metres of land in the Spratlys, known as Nansha in Chinese.

The pictures also show a host of facilities with the potential for military applications being developed, including as many as three runways -- at least one of them 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) long.

- 'Long overdue' -

The US, which is engaged in a foreign policy "pivot" to Asia, and China, which has the world's largest military and is expanding the reach of its navy, are jockeying for position in the Pacific.

The sail-by was "long overdue", said Bonnie Glaser, a senior China expert at CSIS, adding that the exercises "should be done quietly, regularly, and often".

"There should be no media fanfare," she added. "The way this has been handled has left the Chinese believing that the US is challenging its sovereignty rather than simply exercising freedom of the seas."



Ukraine loses soldier in sudden upsurge in violence

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Donetsk, Ukraine (AFP) Oct 27, 2015 - Ukraine said Tuesday one of its soldiers had died in a mortar fire exchange with pro-Russian insurgents near the shelled-out remains of an airport in the rebels' de facto capital Donetsk.

The sudden upsurge in violence underscored the fragility of a two-month truce that had calmed fighting after 18 months of near-constant clashes in which more than 8,000 people died.

Echoes of repeated heavy weapons fire around the western outskirts of the coal mining city -- emptied of many of its nearly one million residents -- kept many up throughout the night.

"Shells flew over our house," a resident of the nearby Oktyabrsky district who agreed to identify himself only as Sergiy for security reasons, told AFP.

"We heard mortar fire this morning. The situation has calmed down a bit and I left without waiting for the violence to resume."

It was only the fifth death of a Ukrainian soldier in combat reported by Kiev since September 1.

There have also been some civilian casualties and Ukrainian soldiers blown up by landmines that still scatter both the Lugansk and Donetsk separatist provinces.

The rebels rarely report their own losses.

"Yesterday, the positions of the Ukrainian army near Pisky and Opytne came under fire that killed one Ukrainian soldier," military spokesman Oleksandr Zavtonov told AFP.

Donetsk airport was desperately defended by a skeleton force of outnumbered Ukrainian soldiers before falling to militia fighters that Kiev claims were backed by Russian troops in January.

Moscow denies either arming or supporting the rebels and only admits to providing them with political backing at such venues as UN Security Council debates.

Yet the area remains one of the main hotspots of a devastated war zone in the once booming industrial heartland in the east of the ex-Soviet state.

Ukrainian troops and volunteer units still surround towns to the northwest of the city and the rebels occasionally fire shells and rockets at government outposts.

Both sides accuse the other of repeatedly violating the truce.

The insurgents said it was actually Kiev's forces that first opened fire on the once-gleaming international airport -- rebuilt at a cost of nearly one billion dollars (900 million euros) for the 2012 European Football Championship that Ukraine co-hosted with Poland.

"The airport has been under fire for more than an hour. They shot from mortar launchers and guns," rebel military spokesman Eduard Basurin told AFP.

But Ukrainian army spokesman Zavtonov denied the claim.

- Russia 'sabotaging' truce -

The escalation came with Kiev and Moscow envoys gathering for a new round of European-organised peace talks with the insurgents in the Belarussian capital Minsk.

The occasional meetings are meant to salvage a truce and political reconciliation agreement that Germany and France brokered between the warring sides and Russia at the same venue in February.

The 13-point peace plan was meant to resolve one of Europe's deadliest conflicts since the Balkans wars of the 1990s by the end of the year.

But that goal now seems out of reach -- an admission that French President Francois Hollande made after hosting Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Paris at the start of the month.

One of the more bitter points of the sides' many disagreements involves separatist plans to stage their own elections that exclude pro-Kiev candidates early next year.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said those "fake" polls would be addressed in Minsk later Tuesday.

He also blamed Moscow for failing to pressure the militias into calling off their vote.

"The Russian side is basically sabotaging the implementation of the Minsk agreements," Poroshenko told reporters in Kiev.

"The illegal elections have not been cancelled but only postponed."



Tokyo overturns Okinawa's ban on US base relocation work

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 27, 2015 - The Japanese government Tuesday overturned a move by Okinawa's governor to stop work on a US base relocation site, marking the latest fight in a long-running battle over the controversial project.

The proposal to move the Futenma air base, first mooted in 1996, has become the focus of anger among locals, who insist it should be shut and a replacement built elsewhere in Japan or overseas.

Earlier this month, outspoken Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga revoked approval for work on the base in Japan's southernmost island chain.

"We have decided to nullify (Okinawa's) cancellation of the approval," land and infrastructure minister Keiichi Ishii said after a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Onaga's decision to halt the project was without merit.

"The national government has made the best decision it could to remove the danger associated with Futenma air base and to bring about its closure," Suga told a regular press briefing.

Tokyo's decision means that efforts to move the base from a residential area to the secluded Henoko district would press on.

Both Tokyo and Washington have repeatedly backed the plan, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe insisting it was "the only solution".

The latest chapter was sure to inflame tensions between Tokyo and Okinawa, which reluctantly hosts more than half of the 47,000 American military personnel stationed in Japan.

Residents have bitterly complained that the rest of Japan must share the burden of hosting US military facilities, along with accidents and crimes committed by US service members.

Japanese media have reported that Okinawan officials are considering legal action to halt the project.

Work in Henoko is only in the initial stages with crews setting up sea floats and a makeshift bridge necessary for landfill work.

There is widespread agreement that Futenma's current site -- in the middle of a crowded urban area where US aircraft are a nuisance to thousands of locals -- is not appropriate.

The US says it will not close the Futenma until a replacement facility is ready.

Opponents say the existing plan to move it to Henoko, with untouched nature, would seriously damage nearby coral reefs and the delicate habitat of the dugong, a rare sea mammal.

"This decision is an insult to the people who have worked so hard, for so long, to have their voices heard," said Greenpeace Japan oceans campaigner Kazue Komatsubara.

"It is shocking that the government is failing to protect Japan's endangered species and trampling over the wishes of so many Okinawans."



Russian navy holds drill to 'repel strikes' on Crimea

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Oct 26, 2015 - Russia said Monday its navy is holding drills off the coast of Crimea to practise thwarting an attack on the Black Sea peninsula it annexed from Ukraine last year.

"Today and tomorrow ships... will practise the organisation of repelling strikes by the enemy from the air in the Black Sea fleet's naval range near the Crimean coast," fleet spokesman Nikolai Voskresensky was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying

The drill will include the navy's guided missile hovercraft Samum and several smaller ships, as well as Su-24 bombers, he said, and will finish by launching a cruise missile strike.

The drill will be managed from Russia's naval base in Crimea, located at the former headquarters of the Ukrainian navy in Sevastopol.

Russian forces took over Ukrainian military bases on the peninsula after the Kremlin seized the region in March 2014. Ukraine lost nearly all of its fleet which is now part of the Russian base.

Elsewhere, Russia's only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov on Monday engaged in an artillery exercise in the Barents Sea bordering NATO member Norway, taking down a target with a missile.

Russia has dramatically ramped up the number of military drills it conducts as relations with the West have slumped to their lowest point since the Cold War over the Ukraine crisis.

Moscow is also currently conducting a bombing campaign in Syria to back forces loyal to its long-standing ally President Bashar al-Assad.



Communist conclave seeks leaner, cleaner China

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 26, 2015 - Economic malaise and the spectre of intractable pollution confronted China's Communist leaders Monday as official media reported they gathered to plan the nation's course for the next five years, following a surprise interest rate cut.

The world's second largest economy is riddled with structural inefficiencies and growth is at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis.

The Communist gathering, called the Fifth Plenum, follows a series of disappointing economic data prompting "increasing attention from observers both home and abroad", the official Xinhua news agency said.

It came after the People's Bank of China last week cut benchmark interest rates for the sixth time since November, and lowered the amount of money banks must keep in reserve, in an attempt to stimulate the economy and avoid a hard landing.

In a reformist move the central bank also abolished limits on what interest rates banks can pay savers, a step away from old-style controls.

The meeting will focus on the next Five-Year Plan -- the 13th since the People's Republic was founded in 1949, and a holdover from the days before China embraced capitalist reforms that have lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Although the plans might seem anachronistic in China's modern, more market-oriented economy, they still provide important guidelines for managing the nation's affairs -- from the boardroom to the bedroom.

They "create motivational targets and metrics... It's about having a unified message and having a managerial strategy," according to Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder of China analysis firm J-Capital Research.

- 'Defend to the death' -

China is a key driver of the world economy and analysts have urged more and broader structural reforms to sustain its long-term expansion in the face of vested interests resisting change.

The ruling party's legitimacy depends on projecting an aura of ultra-competence, but leaders have floundered in recent months as disjointed attempts at stemming falling stock prices raised doubts in global markets about their economic management.

Beijing has set 2021 -- the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party's founding -- as the deadline for achieving a "moderately prosperous society", a goal that includes doubling income from 2010 levels.

Leaders have also pledged to establish a "new normal" of slower, more sustainable expansion after the double-digit growth of the past.

GDP expansion fell to 6.9 percent in the third quarter and a weekend posting on a government website reported Premier Li Keqiang as saying authorities may let growth rates slip below the previous target of around seven percent.

"We never said we must defend any target to the death," he said.

- 'National rejuvenation' -

China is entering a "key period of Chinese socialism as it trudges along the road of national rejuvenation", the Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said in a commentary.

The single-minded focus on promoting growth has, among other problems, led leaders to ignore the effects of the country's dependence on heavy industry powered by cheap but dirty coal.

That must change, according to an editorial in Monday's China Daily, which is published by the government.

"The government should resort to energy restriction, particularly of coal, in order to press ahead with the transformation of the economic structure," wrote Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research.

Hu Angang, an economics professor at Tsinghua University, said bold environmental reforms cannot continue to have a lower priority than growth.

"We need to raise economic efficiency, but we need to raise environmental efficiency more," said Hu, who was on an experts' committee helping guide the planning process.

"We need to grow material investment, but we need to strengthen environmental investment more. We need to conserve energy, but we need to develop green energy more," he told AFP.

Beijing is also considering loosening restrictions on its one-child policy, which has fuelled public discontent and which experts say is now raising demographic dilemmas.

After 205 members of the Central Committee, plus around 170 alternates, burnish the plan at the four-day plenum it is due to be formally approved by the rubber-stamp legislature next year.

More than half the Central Committee have changed jobs or been removed from their posts since they were appointed in 2012, according to a social media post by the Beijing Daily, the official newspaper of the capital's Communist committee.

Many of the personnel switches are linked to a widespread anti-corruption drive under President Xi Jinping, which critics have compared to a political purge.

The Global Times, a newspaper with close ties to the government, described the "large-scale reshuffle" as "extremely rare" in the history of the party.


Bank of China



England celebrates 600th anniversary of Agincourt victory

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Oct 25, 2015 - England was this week celebrating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, one of its greatest-ever battlefield victories, when king Henry V's longbow archers routed the French nobility.

The battle on October 25, 1415 saw a heavily-outnumbered English army inflict a catastrophic defeat on the enemy that altered the course of the Hundred Years' War.

Commemorative services, Shakespeare performances, anniversary dinners, exhibitions, conferences and archery tournaments are marking the anniversary.

"By defeating the French, Henry V united the English. He was the last great warrior king of the Middle Ages," said Andrew Gimson, author of "Brief Lives of the Monarchs since 1066".

King Henry was 28 at the time of the battle, two years into his nine-year reign.

He is buried in London at Westminster Abbey, which is holding a service marking the anniversary on Thursday, six centuries on from the day when news of the victory reached the city.

The abbey holds king Henry's "funerary achievements" -- the personal items carried at his funeral, namely his sword, shield, saddle and helmet.

King Henry's sword will be paraded through the abbey once again on Thursday and placed on the altar.

- Shakespeare's inspiration -

Agincourt was immortalised in William Shakespeare's 1599 play "Henry V", whose stirring battle speeches still resound and feature in popular lexicon, including "Once more unto the breach, dear friends", "we happy few, we band of brothers", and "Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"

The Royal Shakespeare Company is staging the play at its base in the bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, central England, with Alex Hassell in the title role.

"Henry says that he and his troops shall be remembered because of their actions on St Crispin's Day until the ending of the world," Hassell told AFP.

"Well, we may not be there yet but being part of their remembrance 600 years on feels rather wondrous."

He added: "There will be an added weight to the notion of dying in battle, of legacy, of being remembered, and of making history".

Casualty estimates vary widely, but English losses are thought to have numbered more than 100, while the French lost thousands, including around 40 percent of the French nobility on some counts.

- London guilds helped victory -

The historic Worshipful Company of Bowyers, or bowmakers, held a special Agincourt Dinner on Thursday and hailed the longbowmen who it described as "a key component in a stunning victory".

The guild is part of the City of London, the British capital's financial hub, which is keen to recall its part in bankrolling the expedition.

It contributed 10,000 marks -- 3 million pounds ($4.6 million, 4.1 million euros) in today's money.

It is putting on show the rarely-seen Crystal Sceptre, the 17-inch (43-centimetre) long mace given to the City by king Henry to mark his gratitude.

"Over the last six centuries, only a handful of people have seen or touched the Crystal Sceptre," the City said.

It is only removed from the Guildhall vaults for coronations and the ceremonial swearing-in of City of London mayors, who silently place their hands on it.

It contains red spinels from Afghanistan, blue sapphires from Sri Lanka and pearls from the Gulf.

"The story of Henry V is part of our national consciousness," said Guildhall gallery curator Katty Pearce.

The Guildhall exhibition also contains an iron mace used in the battle.

The anniversary is, of course, also being remembered in Azincourt, the village in northeastern France where the two armies clashed.

A remembrance ceremony will take place on the battlefield, involving French and British troops.



China's Xi leaves UK with EU call, Man City trip

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Manchester, United Kingdom (AFP) Oct 23, 2015 - Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded his visit to Britain on Friday with a call for Britain to remain in the European Union and a trip to see the English Premier League leaders Manchester City.

After three days of banquets, processions and trade talks, Xi posed for a "selfie" picture with Sergio Aguero, City's Argentinian star striker, and British Prime Minister David Cameron at the football club.

The four-day trip focused on strengthening relations between London and Beijing, particularly trade ties, and Cameron's office announced deals worth almost 40 billion pounds ($61.6 billion, 54.4 billion euros).

During his official talks with Cameron on Thursday, the Chinese foreign ministry reported Xi as saying he hoped Britain would remain in the European Union -- a hot-button political topic for the British leader.

"China hopes Britain will be an important member country of the European Union to be a more positive and constructive element to deepen the development of Sino-European relations," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying in an official statement.

Contacted by AFP, Downing Street declined to comment.

Cameron has promised to hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership by 2017 under pressure from eurosceptics within his own Conservative Party and the anti-EU UK Independence Party.

Xi's pomp-filled visit proved controversial.

Some campaigners felt Britain should have pushed Xi more on human rights issues, while others were angry at the closure of British steelworks, partly due to cheaper Chinese steel.

Cameron accompanied Xi on his tour of Manchester on Friday as the UK government tries to promote investment in the post-industrial cities of northern England.

Xi is reportedly a fan of Manchester United, who host their local rivals Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday.

But he visited City's academy, a state-of-the-art training facility that includes a 7,000-capacity stadium and 16 football pitches able to cater for more than 450 players.

He watched a training match and met players who helped build the city's footballing legacy, including former United captain Gary Neville and ex-City star Patrick Vieira.

Xi and Cameron also toured the National Football Museum, seeing a football used in the first-ever World Cup final in 1930.

Xi inducted former City player Sun Jihai into the museum's Hall of Fame, in recognition of his role enhancing the popularity of English football in China. Sun was the first Chinese player to score in the Premier League.

- 'Strongest partner in West' -

The British government is keen to promote its "Northern Powerhouse" project, in which councils in the post-industrial north of England are being given more powers in an attempt to stimulate their economies.

Xi had lunch with around 200 business and civic leaders at Manchester Town Hall, where hundreds of organised British-based Chinese greeted his arrival, waving Chinese flags handed out from cardboard boxes.

A small number of protesters were grouped with a banner demanding "Justice For Human Rights".

"We see ourselves as China's strongest partner in the West," Britain's finance minister George Osborne said during Xi's tour of the city.

"A partnership is a relationship where we do things together, like build nuclear power stations, invest in modern science, regenerate cities like Manchester.

"A partnership is also where you can have frank discussions about issues like the future of steelmaking or cyber security or, indeed, human rights."

A clutch of business contracts have been announced during Xi's four-day visit, as well as the launch of the first yuan-denominated bond in London as China seeks to internationalise its currency.

As part of a raft of partnership deals, Hainan Airlines announced its first direct flights from Manchester Airport to China, before Xi flew home from Britain's third-biggest air hub.

Meanwhile British police arrested a survivor of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and raided his home after he stepped out in front of Xi's motorcade, police and campaigners said Friday.

London police said Shao Jiang was arrested and later released on bail on suspicion of "conspiracy to commit threatening behaviour".



Two Chinese diplomats shot dead in Philippines: police

‎28 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎10:00:20 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Oct 21, 2015 - China's consul general in the Philippines' second biggest city was wounded and two of his staff members were killed on Wednesday during a lunchtime gun attack at a restaurant, police said.

Two other Chinese at the lunch, a consular officer and her husband, were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the shootings, national police spokesman Wilben Mayor told AFP.

Officers retrieved a semi-automatic .45 Colt pistol and three bullet shells from the scene, he added.

Police said the attack occurred at 1:30pm (0530 GMT) at Lighthouse, a popular restaurant that serves Filipino food in Cebu, the trading capital of the central Philippines and the nation's second biggest city.

Staff at the upmarket restaurant told AFP a group of nine people had gathered in a private room to celebrate the birthday of the consul general, Song Ronghua.

Restaurant cashier Remedios Rivalde, 27, said she was at work at the cash register outside of the function room when she heard gunshots.

"I dived under the counter and covered my ears. Then there were other shots that followed," Rivalde said by phone.

She said the reservation had been made shortly before lunch for the consul general's birthday, and the group had ordered a banquet that included popular local delicacies such as tuna head, shrimps and roasted pork.

"They ordered a lot of food, but no liquor," she said.

- Bullet through the neck -

Song was shot in the neck, but his injuries were not believed to be life threatening and he was in a stable condition in hospital, regional police chief Tom Banas told AFP.

"The bullet went clear through (his neck)," Banas said.

Police identified his dead staff members as Sun Shan, the deputy consul general, and Hui Li, a finance officer.

Banas said the husband and wife were arrested without any resistance.

But he said they had not immediately co-operated with police, and so the details of the shootings and the motives were not known.

"They claimed they can not speak English. Maybe they don't want to give a statement," he said, adding they had a lawyer.

Lighthouse manager Stephen John Patero said staff did not see the shooting because only the guests were in the private room at the time.

But he said waiters who served them beforehand had heard the guests shouting at each other.

"They are all friends who apparently figured in an argument," he said.

Song was born in October, 1962, according to a biography published on news website Sina News.

He has been a career diplomat, joining the foreign ministry in 1987 then serving in New Zealand, Japan and Hong Kong before his current posting, according to the biography.

A spokeswoman at the Chinese embassy in Manila, Li Lingxiao, said she could not yet comment.

"Our embassy is still verifying the facts. We'll update you as soon as I have anything new," Li said in a text message to AFP.

Philippine foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose also said he had no comment, as authorities were still determining what happened.





Two more Japanese detained for spying in China: media

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 11, 2015 - Two more Japanese nationals have been detained in China on suspicion of spying, bringing the number of Japanese held by Chinese authorities for espionage to four, news reports said Sunday.

A Japanese woman in her 50s has been held in Shanghai since June for her alleged involvement in spying on the country, the Mainichi Shimbun daily said.

The woman, who runs a Japanese language school in Tokyo, had visited China frequently, Kyodo News said, adding that the purpose of her visits was unknown.

Separately, another Japanese national in his 60s has been detained in Beijing on similar charges, the Mainichi said.

China said in late September it had arrested two Japanese citizens for suspected spying, a move likely to strain already tense ties between Asia's two largest economies.

The detentions -- the first since 2010 involving Japanese on such charges -- come as relations remain clouded by disputes over islands and Tokyo's wartime history, despite close trade links.



Outgoing Army Secretary calls for larger U.S. land force

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Oct 12, 2015 - Outgoing Army Secretary John McHugh warns that recent situations like the rise of the Islamic State and Russian aggression are reasons to expand the U.S. land force.

McHugh spoke Monday alongside Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley at a media briefing held by the Association of the United States Army. Defense News reports both senior Army officials agreed that while the United States presents a very formidable force for air and sea platforms, long-range attacks alone do not win wars.

"There are a lot of things going on around the world today that present very real threats to the security of the United States," Milley told reporters. "As we look to the future, it is incumbent that we maintain our capability and capacity, and for the Army, that means the total Army."

McHugh agreed, citing the rapid mobilization of the Islamic State, Sunni militants also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL, and the political turmoil in Syria as reasons that having a strong ground force is an invaluable asset for an armed force.

"If the last 18 to 20 months haven't proven the necessity of a viable land force, I'm not sure what will," he said.

McHugh is finishing his seven-year service as the secretary of the Army. The position serves as an advisory to the Secretary of Defense on manpower, personnel, weapons systems, acquisitions and other areas.



Senior Chinese politician to head to Japan

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 12, 2015 - China's top foreign policymaker will visit Japan Tuesday for a high-level political dialogue, in the latest possible thaw between the Asian rivals despite territorial disputes and tensions.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi, whose visit was announced Monday by Beijing's foreign ministry, will be the highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to make an official trip to Japan for several years.

Yang is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, Japan's foreign ministry said in Tokyo.

It will be his first trip to Japan since he became State Councillor in 2013, a year after relations plunged following Tokyo's nationalisation of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Despite close trade links between the world's second- and third-largest economies, relations are also clouded by rows over wartime history. Beijing last month held a huge military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Japan's World War II defeat.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe met on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit last year, their handshake was marred by expressions of barely concealed distaste.

During his three-day trip Yang will meet the head of Japan's National Security Council Shotaro Yachi as part of an ongoing series of meetings between the two countries, following the first in Beijing in July, foreign minstry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.

The visit comes as Japanese media reported as many as four citizens have been detained in the past month on accusations of spying in China, the first such cases since 2010.



USS Porter arrives in Ukraine for NATO peace mission

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Odesa, Ukraine (UPI) Oct 12, 2015 - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter arrived in Odesa, Ukraine in support of the NATO initiative to promote peace in the region.

The U.S. Navy says the Porter's presence in the region is meant to reaffirm its commitment to NATO, while also allowing U.S. maritime forces to connect with local forces and strengthen the alliance.

"During our port visit, the crew will have the opportunity to experience the rich cultural heritage of Ukraine as well as strengthen bonds between our maritime forces," said Cmdr. Blair Guy, the commanding officer for the Porter. "Ukraine is a key partner for the U.S., and our presence here demonstrates the U.S. commitment to maintaining a persistent presence in Eastern Europe."

The Porter is scheduled to host a reception for naval counterparts to promote partnership between Ukrainian and U.S. sailors. The ship operates as part of the U.S. Navy's Sixth Fleet area of responsibility, which promotes peace and security in Europe and Africa.

The Porter's arrival comes as NATO officials move to bolster their defenses to counter Russian aggression in Syria and Ukraine. Ukraine's government remains locked in a battle with Russia-backed militants based in the eastern portion of the country.

NATO chief sees 'growing support' for Montenegro membership bid
Oslo (AFP) Oct 12, 2015 - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday said he was encouraged by recent reforms in Montenegro and saw "growing support" for inviting the tiny Balkan nation to join the Western military alliance.

A formal decision on Montenegro's membership bid is to be made at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in early December.

"I will not prejudge the decision... but I sense some kind of growing support for inviting Montenegro," Stoltenberg said at a gathering of lawmakers from NATO member states in Norway's southwestern town of Stavanger.

"Montenegro is really making progress both when it comes to the rule of law, when it comes to establishing an independent judiciary but also when it comes to modernising its armed forces, its intelligence services," he said.

"I am actually encouraged by the progress I've seen."

Stoltenberg is due to visit the Montenegro capital Podgorica later this week.

After breaking away from a loose alliance with Serbia in 2006, the Adriatic nation of around 630,000 people announced its desire to join the 28-member NATO bloc.

It received a boost last month when the United States came out in favour of supporting Montenegro's accession.



Fired GOP staffer: Benghazi probe politicized

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Oct 10, 2015 - A former GOP staffer on the House Select Committee on Benghazi says he was fired because he didn't go along with efforts by Republican panel members to politicize the process and steer the focus of the investigation onto former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Bradley Podliska, an Air Force Reserve major, told reporters he plans to file a federal lawsuit over his firing next month.

"My non-partisan investigative work conflicted with the interests of the Republican leadership, who focused their investigation primarily on Secretary Clinton and her aides," Podliska said in a released statement.

"The families of the Americans who died in the Benghazi attacks deserve to find out the truth about Benghazi, but to do that a thorough, non-partisan investigation must be conducted of all agencies and officials involved in Benghazi," the former committee aide added.

The House committee vehemently denied the accusations, claiming in a statement released to the press that Podliska was in fact fired for his own attempts at politicization.

The panel said Podliska was fired for cause, for "repeated efforts, of his own volition, to develop and direct committee resources to a PowerPoint 'hit piece' on members of the Obama administration, including Secretary Clinton, that bore no relationship whatsoever to the committee's current investigative tone, focus or investigative plan."

"Thus, directly contrary to his brand-new assertion, the employee actually was terminated, in part, because he himself manifested improper partiality and animus in his investigative work," committee members said in a statement.

The fresh allegations come as Democrats continue to characterize the investigation as a political witch hunt -- and just days after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., insinuated that the panel had accomplished its aims of hurting Hillary politically.

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? We put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee," McCarthy said in a TV interview on September 29. "What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? 'Cause she is untrustable. But no one would've known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen."



Belarus leader Lukashenko headed for landslide re-election

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Minsk (AFP) Oct 11, 2015 - Alexander Lukashenko won a fifth term as president of Belarus by a landslide Sunday, and warned the opposition against protests that could derail the lifting of Western sanctions imposed over rights abuse allegations.

With long-standing opposition figures barred from standing in Sunday's vote and state media giving Lukashenko uniformly positive coverage, the veteran leader ran against three virtual unknowns -- only one of whom campaigned.

Lukashenko took 83.49 percent of the vote, election chief Lidiya Yermoshina said, with his nearest rival Tatiana Korotkevich mustering just 4.42 percent of the ballot.

The result, though preliminary, is the highest ever for Lukashenko whose government made a huge effort to ensure a high turnout of over 86 percent.

The process was closely watched by the European Union, with officials indicating the bloc was ready to lift sanctions against the authoritarian leader, who is regularly accused of human rights violations, if the aftermath of the polls remained incident-free.

While Lukashenko allowed an unauthorised opposition rally in the capital to go ahead without police intervention on Saturday, he warned that he would not tolerate such protests after the vote.

"The polls close at 8:00 pm and I advise you to follow the law," he said. "You know what will happen."

A shrewd operator and exploiter of tensions between Moscow and the West, Lukashenko recently raised his standing with the EU by hosting peace talks in Minsk on the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Despite at times prickly relations with Moscow, he and Belarus's Soviet-style planned economy are propped up by Russia, which supplies the country of 9.5 million with discount price energy.

- 'Soft dictatorship' -

Europe's longest-serving leader had earlier ridiculed runner-up Korotkevich, saying she could not handle ruling a country because she is a woman.

"The president here has masses of powers, from security to the economy, that so far a person in a skirt cannot carry out," he said.

Lukashenko, 61, was once called Europe's last dictator by Washington, and now has the mandate to extend his 21-year grip on the landlocked eastern European country.

The last elections in 2010 led to mass street protests against his victory, triggering a crackdown during which a number of leading opposition figures were arrested.

Lukashenko's subsequent incarceration of his opponents led to his international isolation and the imposition of Western sanctions against him.

That could now change. A mooted EU move to suspend the punitive measures, also following the surprise release in August of the country's last political prisoners, has sparked an outcry from Belarussian opposition figures who have waged a long campaign against authoritarianism.

An EU diplomat said Friday the bloc would monitor the vote to see if it was held in an "acceptable climate."

"That means, if there are no new arrests of opposition figures, if there is no violence and no attacks against the press," said the diplomat, who asked not to be named.

But opposition leader Mikola Statkevich -- who was pardoned in August after spending five years in jail -- told AFP: "If they are together with this murderer, this criminal, then democracy is just words."

On the eve of the election, the newly crowned winner of the 2015 Nobel Literature Prize, Svetlana Alexievich, warned Europe to beware of Lukashenko, describing his regime as a "soft dictatorship."

Lukashenko had the lowest result in the capital Minsk where 65.58 percent of voters backed him, while in a striking figure, 20.6 percent in Minsk voted against all candidates, the most popular option for those who opposed the long-serving leader.

- Hosting peace talks -

Lukashenko is believed to be grooming his son Nikolai, known as Kolya, as his successor. The 11-year-old, who regularly accompanies the president at official engagements, cast his father's ballot for him at a polling station near their home in Minsk.

The Belarussian leader enjoys a degree of popular support for his folksy, outspoken style and his regime's durability.

Liudmila Vauchok, a six-time Paralympic medallist in cross-country skiing and rowing, said she voted for Lukashenko because he brought "reliability and calm."

"Whatever happens, Belarus is flourishing," Vauchok told AFP. "Our system is established. I wouldn't like to be in the president's place as things are very complicated now. The main thing is for there not to be a war."

Some voters voiced cautious opposition, however.

"I am voting against everyone," said Tatiana, a jeweller. "I have nothing against Batka but I wanted someone younger," she said, using Lukashenko's nickname, meaning father.



Japan hits out as UNESCO archives Nanjing massacre documents

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Oct 10, 2015 - Japan on Saturday lashed out at UNESCO's decision to inscribe documents related to the Nanjing massacre in its Memory of the World register, describing it as "extremely regrettable" and calling for the process to be reformed.

On Friday the UN's cultural and scientific body agreed to 47 new inscriptions, including a request by Beijing to mark documents recording the mass murder and rape committed by Japanese troops after the fall of the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937.

The massacre, often referred to as the "Rape of Nanjing", is an exceptionally sensitive issue in the often-tense relations between Japan and China, with Beijing charging that Tokyo has failed to atone for the atrocity.

Japan had called for the Nanjing documents not to be included and accused UNESCO Saturday of being politicised.

"It is extremely regrettable that a global organisation that should be neutral and fair entered the documents in the Memory of the World register, despite the repeated pleas made by the Japanese government," Tokyo's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"As a responsible member of UNESCO, the Japanese government will seek a reform of this important project, so that it will not be used politically," the statement added.

The UNESCO decision came after a two-year process during a meeting of experts tasked with studying nominations from 40 countries.

The new inscriptions were agreed at a meeting that ran from Sunday to Tuesday and was held in the United Arab Emirates.

Chinese state media hailed the decision on Saturday, citing researchers as saying that UNESCO's move was an act of "global recognition" for the massacre.

"Inscription of the documents will help us honour history, refute wrong claims and disseminate the truth," the official Xinhua news agency cited Zhu Chengshan, curator of the state-run Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall as saying.

- Killing, rape and destruction -

The Japanese military invaded China in the 1930s and the two countries fought a full-scale war from 1937 until Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945.

China says 300,000 people died in a six-week spree of killing, rape and destruction after the Japanese military entered Nanjing.

Some respected foreign academics put the number lower but there is very little mainstream scholarship doubting that a massacre took place.

In Japan, however, some conservatives and nationalists deny that atrocities were committed, a source of regular regional friction.

In February, a senior executive at Japan's publicly funded TV broadcaster NHK denied the massacre, reportedly dismissing accounts of it as "propaganda".

Japan's official position is that "the killing of a large number of noncombatants, looting and other acts occurred" took place, but it adds "it is difficult to determine" the true number of victims.

In April this year, Japan rebuffed protests about newly approved textbooks after complaints that they failed to use the word "massacre" when referring to the mass slaughter of Chinese civilians in Nanjing, preferring the term "incident".

Tokyo frequently clashes with many of its Asian neighbours over its war record, with many accusing the country of failing to atone for its atrocities or recognise the suffering that took place under the yoke of Japanese militarism.

The Memory of the World register, set up in 1992, is aimed at preserving humanity's documentary heritage, and currently holds 348 documents and archives that come from countries all over the world.

Japan had two entries recognised by UNESCO on Friday.

The first was a body of 18th century documents amassed by a Buddhist temple and the second a tranche of documents related to the internment of Japanese prisoners in Siberian labour camps after the end of World War II.



China vows to continue building on disputed islands, reefs

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 10, 2015 - China on Saturday vowed to continue building in disputed reefs of the South China Sea, as state media said construction had finished on two lighthouses on reefs claimed by other countries.

Beijing has been bolstering its claim to almost all the South China Sea by rapidly building large artificial structures resembling islands, straining ties with neighbours.

The lighthouses on Cuateron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands have been officially opened, the state-run Xinhua news agency said late Friday.

China established control of the Johnson South Reef after a skirmish with Vietnam in 1988. The Philippines claims both reefs as part of its territory.

The lighthouses are 50 metres high, Xinhua said. State television grave prominence to images of the white-structures standing above blue waters.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in an online statement that they would improve "safety of navigation" for ships.

"Next, China will continue to build other civil facilities on occupied islands reefs in the Nansha Islands," she added using China's name for the Spratlys.

China's building has increased tensions with Washington, which has condemned the structures.

Hua's statement came after reports said that the US would send navy ships close to the islands built by China, testing whether Beijing will defend them.

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea, including waters, islands, reefs, shoals and rocky outcrops nearer to other countries.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam -- all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- claim parts of the sea, while Taiwan is a sixth claimant.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will not militarise its newly-built structures in the Sea, but satellite images show it has constructed runways capable of use by air force jets.



US, Russia to hold new Syria air safety talks: Pentagon

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 10, 2015 - Russia and the United States are set to renew talks to avoid accidents in Syrian air space as the two countries conduct separate bombing campaigns, a US official said Friday.

The Pentagon expressed alarm this week after Russia failed to quickly answer proposals made during initial talks, even as it launched cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea and repeatedly violated Turkish air space.

But on Friday, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Moscow had filed an appropriate response.

"The Department of Defense has received a formal response from the Russian ministry of defense regarding DoD's proposal to ensure safe air operations over Syria," Cook said.

"Department leaders are reviewing the Russian response and talks are likely to take place as soon as this weekend."

US officials were furious after Russia only gave them a vague, verbal "heads-up" about an hour before Moscow launched its bombing campaign on September 30.

The two countries had "deconfliction" talks the next day via videoconference, aimed at ensuring Russian warplanes didn't cross paths with drones and US-led coalition jets.

Talks center around basic safety measures including which language air crews should communicate in and how much space planes should leave each other.

Russian planes have flown near a US drone, officials say, and the US military has had to reroute some flights to avoid any close calls.

The Pentagon for weeks watched Russia build up its military presence in northwestern Syria, but the launch of Moscow's campaign seemed to catch officials off guard.

The United States has since last year led a 60-plus member coalition of nations bombing Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

Also Friday, the Obama administration announced plans to overhaul the Pentagon's much-criticized program to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight IS in Syria.

Instead of training units of troops to fight, the program is being "refocused" to arm selected rebel leaders whose groups have been battling IS in Syria.

These groups, boosted by US-supplied weapons, will supposedly push into IS territory in Syria.



Norway to significantly increase defense budget

‎15 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎09:54:30 AMGo to full article
Oslo, Norway (UPI) Oct 9, 2015 - The Norwegian government proposed a 9.8 percent increase for its defense budget in 2016, which includes more funding for F-35 procurement.

The $526 million increase would bring Norway's defense budget to about $6 billion, and would almost double the funding for Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II fighters. Lockheed Martin, a U.S.-based arms and aerospace manufacturer, began producing the fighters for Norway in August 2015. The F-35 procurement plan makes up the majority of the increase, which also covers strengthening the country's Intelligence Service as well as increasing High North patrols.

The funding plan follows a Strategic Military Review by Norway's Chief of Defense, the office that serves the role of commander-in-chief of the armed forces in Norway. Additional funds are also allocated to the P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

Ine Eriksen Søreide, Norwegian Minister of Defense, says the budget increase is a response to new security threats the government needs to take more seriously.

"A considerable strengthening of the Norwegian Armed Forces is required in order to ensure that we develop capabilities for the future that are both relevant and modern, and which improve our ability to deter the use of force against both Norway and the wider NATO-alliance," Søreide said in a statement.

Norway's proposed increase to its defense budget comes as NATO officials announce intentions to bolster collective defenses. In a statement on Thursday, NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg announced a review of the Alliance's Readiness Action Plan in response to increased Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.



NATO moves to bolster collective defense

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Brussels (UPI) Oct 8, 2015 - NATO leaders reviewed the implementation of the Alliance's Readiness Action Plan on Thursday in response to growing Russian aggression in Syria.

NATO Defense Ministers approved the Enhanced NATO Response Force plan, marking the largest reinforcement of the alliance's defenses since the end of the Cold War. The ministers also agreed to set up NATO Force Integration Units, or small headquarters, in Hungary and Slovakia.

"We now have everything in place to make the Response Force stronger, faster and more capable," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, reassuring member states the alliance is bolstering their defenses, and intends to keep them safe from threats.

Further steps include increasing military exercises. Britain, a NATO member, also announced that it will send more troops to Ukraine and increase training programs for Ukrainian troops fighting Russian-backed separatists in the country.

Russian intervention in Syria, including airstrikes and the launch of cruise missiles from Russian Navy ships in the Caspian Sea, some of which reportedly ended up striking Iran, has been a cause for NATO concern.

Russian aircraft violated Turkish airspace during the course of its operations, and U.S. and Russian aircraft had a near miss as both countries conducted airstrikes over Syria.

Stoltenberg has called the violation of Turkey's airspace deliberate and "unacceptable", advising Moscow authorities to "avoid escalating tensions."

"This sends a clear message to all NATO citizens: NATO will defend you. NATO is on the ground. NATO is ready," Stoltenberg said of Thursday's measures.

NATO officials also discussed security issues in Afghanistan, concluding that troop levels will be determined following a detailed security assessment in the coming weeks.



U.K. Defense Secretary announces more support for Ukraine

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Brussels (UPI) Oct 8, 2015 - The United Kingdom will step up troop deployment to the Baltic states and increase training for Ukraine's soldiers, the country's Defense Secretary announced on Thursday.

Defense Secretary Michael Fallon pledged additional support for Ukraine when he spoke at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels. Fallon says British troops will be deployed to the Baltic states and Poland on a regular basis for training purposes, and build on existing deployments where it can.

"We are committed to supporting the sovereignty of the democratic nations of Eastern Europe. We are already deploying RAF jets to the Baltics and providing crucial training to the Ukrainian armed forces," Fallon said. "Now we will have a more regular drumbeat of troops deploying in the Baltics and Poland, and will step up our training effort in Ukraine."

Nineteen teams from the United Kingdom have deployed to Ukraine to train almost 1,600 members of the Ukraine Armed Forces since the conflict in the country began. The training includes skills for infantry, medical, logistics and tactical intelligence.

The move has Britain joining the United States and other Western allied powers in Europe in supporting Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko and his armed forces against Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine. The contribution is part of the U.S.-German Transatlantic Capability Enhancement and Training initiative, which the U.K. Ministry of Defense says builds on the country's policing of the Baltic region.

Moscow support for Ukrainian separatists has been one of the factors putting Russia in the worst standing with NATO powers since the end of the Cold War. More recently, Russian military action in Syria has drawn condemnation from NATO and U.S. officials.



USAF expands OIR mission in Turkey

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Diyarbakir, Turkey (UPI) Oct 8, 2015 - The U.S. Air Force began staging small detachments of airmen and aircraft in Turkey to support personnel recovery missions in Syria and Iraq.

The U.S. Air Force has maintained a working relationship with its counterpart in Turkey, a NATO ally. U.S. Airmen stationed at the Diyarbakir Air Base, home to the Turkish air force's 8th Air Wing, are assigned to assist with the recovery of coalition personnel in the event they need assistance. The Airmen come from the 435th Contingency Response Group, part of the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing. Lt. Col. Ryan Barney, 435th CRG element commander, says the unit's mission is to "get in and out."

"The unique thing about this mission is the 435th CRG were the first troops on the ground; and we really depended on everyone and the defenders deployed with us for security as the building began," Barney said.

The unit arrived in August to begin building operating bases, and brought in some 680 tons of equipment.

"When the 435th CRG first arrived, there was nothing but a grassy field and a lot of boulders," Barney said. "By providing airfield ops, combat support and training, security, construction and mobile aircraft support, that field is now a 'bare base' and ready for the follow-on force to arrive."

The deployment comes as Turkish government officials grow more concerned with Russian operations in Syria, following recent violations of Turkish airspace. Russia continued its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by initiating airstrikes, purportedly against the Islamic State, Sunni militants also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

Tanju Bilgiç, spokesperson of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issued a statement on the matter on Wednesday.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey strongly protested the violations of the Turkish airspace by the Russian Federation on 3 and 4 October 2015 to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ankara," the statement read.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the incursions, calling them "deliberate," a view shared by U.S. officials.

"I call on Russia to avoid escalating tensions with the alliance. Russia must de-conflict its military activities in Syria. I'm also concerned that Russia is not targeting [the Islamic State], but instead attacking the Syrian opposition and civilians."



UN launches audit of funds linked to bribery scandal

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Oct 8, 2015 - The United Nations on Thursday launched an audit to shed light on the relationship between a Chinese real estate developer and a foundation run by his associate who are accused of paying bribes to UN diplomats.

Former General Assembly president John Ashe was arrested on Tuesday for taking $1.3 million in bribes from developer Ng Lap Seng to promote his plan to build a UN conference center in Macau.

Ashe, a former UN ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda, also sought to advance the Chinese businessman's interests in his Caribbean home country.

Declaring that there will be "no tolerance for corruption at the United Nations", Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the UN internal oversight office to carry out the audit.

The review will look at "the interaction between the United Nations and the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group" owned by Ng, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

It will examine "the use of any funds received from these entities," he said.

The Global Sustainability Foundation headed by Sheri Yan, one of six people charged in the scandal along with Ashe, gave at least $1.5 million to the UN office for South-South Cooperation.

But Dujarric said the funds were used to organize conferences in Bangladesh and in Macau earlier this year and that this was "in full compliance with UN standards and guidelines."

Ashe is the co-founder and honorary chairman of the foundation.

The foundation's website names Edith Kutesa, wife of another former General Assembly president, Sam Kutesa of Uganda, as a member of its board of directors. Kutesa has not been cited for any wrongdoing.

The criminal complaint filed against Ashe and five others does not mention the foundation by name, but the description matches that of the Global Sustainablity Foundation which allegedly was used to funnel bribes.

Dujarric said the decision to launch an audit was "an important step" that underscored Ban's concern about the corruption allegations.

Also arrested on Tuesday was Francis Lorenzo, a UN deputy ambassador from the Dominican Republic, who heads South-South News, a UN-accredited media outfit that reports on development issues.



Belarus says 'does not need' Russian airbase

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Minsk (AFP) Oct 6, 2015 - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday said his country does not need a Russian airbase despite Moscow pushing to establish a facility in the strategic nation bordering the European Union.

"Today we don't need a base, even less the air force," Lukashenko said.

"We need specific arms. I have spoken publicly about it to Putin," the strongman said in comments released by his press office.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his ministers to agree a deal with Belarus to establish an airbase in the country.

Ex-Soviet Belarus is a long-standing ally of Russia and is a member of a Moscow-led economic union.

Russia already has a radar station and a navy radio station in Belarus but the air unit will be Russia's first major military base in that country.

The creation of a Russian military air base in Belarus -- which borders NATO and European Union members Poland, Latvia and Lithuania -- has been mooted since 2013.

Relations between Minsk and Moscow have, however, sometimes been prickly and strongman leader Lukashenko has largely remained neutral over the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine while relations with the European Union have improved slightly.

Around a thousand opposition supporters took to the streets of Minsk over the weekend to demonstrate against Russian plans to build an airbase.

Belarusians go to the polls this Sunday in presidential polls that look certain to see Lukashenko extend his 21-year grip on power.

Some leaders in eastern European countries such as Poland and the Baltic nations have become increasingly jittery over Russian expansionism since Moscow seized the Crimea region from Ukraine in March 2014.



China says two Japanese arrested on suspicion of spying

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 30, 2015 - China said Wednesday it has arrested two Japanese citizens for suspected spying, a move likely to strain already tense ties between Asia's two largest economies.

The detentions -- the first since 2010 involving Japanese on such charges -- come as relations remain clouded by disputes over islands and Tokyo's wartime history, despite close trade links.

In Tokyo Japan's top government spokesman said the two people were held separately in May, one in the northeastern province of Liaoning and another in the eastern province of Zhejiang.

The spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said he believed they were private citizens and Japanese diplomats had "offered support".

Japan does not engage in spying, he had told a briefing earlier in the day.

China's foreign ministry said the two Japanese were arrested "on suspicion of carrying out espionage activities".

Asked why they had been held for months without any public statement, ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing in Beijing that China had dealt with the case "in accordance with the law".

His statement came a week after China said it was holding a US businesswoman on suspicion of spying.

Supporters of the woman, Sandy Phan-Gillis, said she had been held for six months but denied she had any links to espionage.

Japan's Asahi newspaper said the two Japanese are being held on a string of charges including violating China's anti-espionage law introduced last year.

One was detained near the North Korean border while the other was picked up close to a military facility, public broadcaster NHK and the Asahi cited sources as saying.

Kyodo News said both are in their 50s.

The detentions are thought to be the first of their kind since China in 2010 held four Japanese men in the northern province of Hebei.

The group were employees of Tokyo-based construction company Fujita, which said they had been visiting the city of Shijiazhuang to prepare a bid for a project to dispose of chemical weapons left in China by invading Japanese forces in the 1930s.

The group were later released and sent back to Japan after they admitted filming in a military area. They said they had no idea they were in a restricted zone.

Japan and China are locked in conflict over disputed islands in the East China Sea, which in recent years sparked large-scale anti-Japanese protests in China.

Japan's brutal occupation of parts of China before and during World War II also remains a sore point, with Beijing accusing Tokyo of failing to atone for its past.

China last month said Japan missed an opportunity to offer a "sincere apology" for its World War II aggression, after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated Tokyo's past expressions of "deep remorse" over the conflict.

But ties have been seen as thawing somewhat in recent months, with China's President Xi Jinping holding a meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in April.



USS Ronald Reagan arrives in Japan for security support

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Yokosuka, Japan (UPI) Oct 1, 2015 - The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived in Yokosuka, Japan, on Thursday for security support in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) is currently the U.S. Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, and the fifth carrier deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility. The fleet is the largest of all the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed fleets, with 60 to 70 ships, 150 to 200 aircraft, and around 40,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel. The fleet has operational command of all naval forces in the region, and is tasked with providing natural disaster support and defense of the Korean Peninsula.

The ship departed from Naval Base North Island in Coronado, Calif., following a hull swap with Nimitz-class carrier USS George Washington in August. While traveling to Yokosuka, Ronald Reagan completed a blue water certification, replenishment at sea, and several medical and damage control training exercises.

Rear Adm. John Alexander commands the Battle Force for the 7th Fleet, and says CVN-76's arrival is part of the U.S. Navy's commitment to the security of Japan.

"Deploying our most capable units forward enhances the Navy's ability to contribute to the defense of Japan and meet our commitments under the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States of America," Alexander said.



Ukraine, rebels give initial backing to small arms withdrawal

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Kiev (AFP) Sept 30, 2015 - Kiev said on Wednesday it had struck an initial agreement with pro-Russian insurgents to withdraw smaller weapons from the buffer zone splitting eastern rebel lands from the rest of Ukraine.

International monitors said the two sides' February committment to pull back heavy weapons from the 500-kilometre (300-mile) line separating the forces was only observed laxly and led to more than 1,000 deaths.

But a new truce that went into effect on September 1 has been observed strictly and driven up hopes that fighting that has claimed at least 8,000 lives since early last year was finally approaching an end.

A spokeswoman representing Kiev said the new deal inked at talks chaired by the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the Belarussian capital Minsk covered mortar shells and rockets with a calibre of less than 100 millimetres.

"This means that President Petro Poroshenko's dream has been brought to life," Kiev spokeswoman Dariia Olifer wrote on Facebook.

She said the elusive agreement was initialled late Tuesday by Poroshenko's personal envoy Leonid Kuchma -- a former Ukrainian president who still carries tremendous political clout -- and the representatives of Russia and the OSCE.

Rebel negotiators said the heads of the self-proclaimed "people's republics" of separatist Lugansk and Donetsk would sign the pact when they receive it later Wednesday.

"The moment (the rebel leaders) sign the deal, it will come into force," Donetsk negotiator Denis Pushilin told the local separatists' official news site.

News of the impending deal should add impetus to talks between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin that will also include the leaders of Germany and France in Paris on Friday.

The warring sides still remain far apart over rebel plans to soon stage their own local elections that Kiev calls illegal.

Ukraine also insists in grabbing back full control of its Russian border by the end of the year. Moscow has said it would like the fulfilment of some terms agreed by the same four leaders in February pushed back into next year.

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Russia of orchestrating and arming the rebel revolt in revenge for Kiev's decision last year to pull out of Moscow's orbit and hitch its future to the European Union.

Moscow denies the charges and calls all Russian fighters captured in the Ukrainian war zone either volunteers of off-duty servicemen.

The 17-month crisis has seen Moscow's relations with the West plunge to a post-Cold War low.

But Putin has slowly shifted Western attention away from the conflict by boosting Russia's military presence in its war-torn ally Syria -- a step seen by Washington as an effort to boost the standing to President Bashar al-Assad.





US gathers great Asian democracies to its side

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) Sept 29, 2015 - The United States took a moment Tuesday to gather the great Asian democracies to its side to reassure them of the strength of their ties in the face of North Korean threats and an assertive China.

New threats from Pyongyang, ominous economic signals and China's aggressive stance on its territorial claims in the South China Sea and the Pacific have sent jitters through the region.

President Barack Obama's administration has long talked about a "re-balancing" in America's strategic focus, the so-called "pivot to Asia," but has often been distracted by crises elsewhere.

Officials say 21st century America will be as much a Pacific power as an Atlantic one, but in recent months Syria, Ukraine, Iran and Cuba have used up a lot of diplomatic bandwidth.

So on Tuesday in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, senior officials from the United States, Japan and South Korea met to renew their ties and show a common front.

Later in the day, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj of India, the world's largest democracy and a growing economic partner of the United States, was also to meet her US and Japanese counterparts.

"The primary purpose of this is to recognize that the region is going through certain challenges, but also faces major opportunities," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Kerry cited negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a major free trade deal -- as a great chance to deepen economic engagement, and North Korea's rogue regime as an immediate danger to the region.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida agreed, calling the security environment "very severe" and stressing the importance of the US-Japan and US-South Korea military alliances.

"Let us deepen further our three countries' dialogue today as well and cooperation over wide areas, including security," he said.

South Korea's foreign minister, Yun Byung-se, said the meeting came "at a very critical juncture, when the eyes of the world are set on the major challenges involving all of us."

He said the talks would send a "very clear" message to North Korea in particular not to provoke the allies.

- Rocket test -

On October 10, North Korea will mark the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party and there has been speculation for months that it will celebrate with a long-range rocket test.

Kim Jong-Un's pariah regime is under international sanctions, and Seoul and Washington have made it clear that they would see such a test as part of a banned ballistic missile program.

And even if the test does not take place, tensions remain high in the region, with Pyongyang periodically escalating its rhetoric and threatening all-out war against its neighbor.

US diplomats are loathe to describe their ties with the Asian democracies as a counter-balance to a rising China, but Beijing is the elephant in the room when the friends met.

Most of the countries of the Asia-Pacific have deep economic ties with China, but many also have disputes, in particular over its maritime territorial ambitions.

In recent months, Chinese construction crews have built air strips and docks on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea attempting to expand their control into disputed waters.

Last week, Obama welcomed his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to the White House and both men promised closer cooperation, as the world's great powers cautiously circle one another.

And even as the Chinese economy has stuttered, causing ripples through world markets, Xi has tightened his grip on power, purging corrupt officials and cracking down on dissidents.

Beijing remains a key partner in countering the North Korean threat, but its new assertiveness abroad risks throwing its delicately balanced US relationship out of kilter.



Report: Marine Corps may expand training in Ukraine

‎09 ‎October ‎2015, ‏‎03:13:52 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Sep 29, 2015 - U.S. Marine Corps officials are considering beefing up their training program for local troops in Ukraine who may take on Russian-backed separatists.

The original mandate for U.S. Armed Forces in Ukraine was to train national guardsmen. This mission was expanded by the U.S. State Department on July 25 to include conventional forces. U.S. Marine Corps leaders now want this to include naval infantry units, Capt. Richard Ulsh, a spokesman for Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa told the Marine Corps Times.

The announcement follows an 11-day military training exercise in Ukraine called Saber Guardian, which saw participation from 1,800 troops from the United States, including 56 Marines from Minnesota's 4th Law Enforcement Battalion, as well as several European military allies.

The exercise was held in the western portion of Ukraine, far from the front lines of the conflict in Crimea. The exercise focused on non-lethal tactics, though the skills may still be used to help Ukrainian soldiers in their civil war with the separatists.

The conflict in Ukraine has been one of several roadblocks in Russia's relationship with the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin has supported the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, while the United States has thrown support behind Ukraine's government under President Petro Poroshenko.

Putin and Obama discussed the matter Monday.

Following a discussion on how to implement bilateral efforts against the Islamic State, Sunni militants also identified as Daesh and by the acronyms IS, ISIS and ISIL, President Obama recently conceded that Russia has more at stake in the country, but the United States cannot afford to take a passive position.

"America has few economic interests in Ukraine," Obama said in his address before the U.N. General Assembly on Monday, "We recognize the deep and complex history between Russia and Ukraine. But we cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is blatantly violated."







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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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Conflict in Darfur
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Location Darfur, Sudan
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Allegedly supported by:
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