The overriding moral imperative: to avoid war

August 20, 2017

In the Financial Times recently Dr Jenny Clegg wrote: “The overriding moral imperative has to be to avoid war. The preservation of the international multilateral system requires it”.

She added, “Britain is in a position to exercise some influence here . . . At the moment, other world leaders are calling for calm, with German chancellor Angela Merkel saying clearly that she sees no military solution to the conflict, but we hear nothing from UK prime minister Theresa May”.

Dr Clegg points out that Russia and China have called for North Korea to put its nuclear and missile programmes on hold, while the US and South Korea cease their joint military exercises. The aim is to create an atmosphere more conducive to the resumption of the six-party talks, in line once again with the latest UN resolution.

Two days later, on August 17th, Brian Eno, Bruce Kent, Mark Rylance, Emma Dent Coad and Michael Rosen were among the signatories to a letter calling for Theresa May to exert diplomatic pressure on Donald Trump to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last November, RAF Mildenhall announced that the Royal Air Force took part for the first time in military exercises on the Korean peninsula alongside the US and South Korean military.

Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, the RAF chief of air staff; Lt. Gen. Won, In-Choul, the South Korean Air Force Operations Command commander; and Lt. Gen Thomas W. Bergeson, 7th Air Force commander, participated in a media event for Invincible Shield at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Nov. 8, 2016

The civilised echo Dr Clegg’s call: “Will Theresa May now take the step to support the “freeze for freeze” by ruling out committing any armed forces, including for joint exercises, in the region?”

Dr Jenny Clegg (Chorlton, Manchester, UK) is a senior lecturer in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Central Lancashire. She first visited China in the 1970s and has followed developments there closely ever since. Her published work includes ‘China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world’ (Pluto Press, 2009), and ‘Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth’ (Trentham Books, 1994). She has produced a number of publications on China’s rural reforms as well as foreign relations.






Indian boxer’s message of peace

August 7, 2017

A stand-off in a remote frontier region beside the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has become increasingly tense. At the heart of the dispute are different interpretations of where the “trijunction” – the point where the three countries’ borders meet – precisely lies. China argues its territory extends south to an area called Gamochen, while India says Chinese control ends at Batanga La, further to the north.

Avoiding escalation

To avoid escalation, frontline troops in the area do not generally carry weapons, and the Chinese and Indian troops reportedly clashed by “jostling” bumping chests, without punching or kicking, in order to force the other side backwards – see video (Hindi commentary).

The current standoff began on 16 June when a column of Chinese troops accompanied by construction vehicles and road-building equipment began moving south into what Bhutan considers its territory. Bhutan requested assistance from Delhi, which sent forces to resist the Chinese advance.

On Thursday, China demanded India immediately remove troops from the border, accusing it of building up troops and repairing roads along its side of the border next to the Indian state of Sikkim.


The BBC reports that Vijender Singh, a middleweight Indian boxer, beat China’s Zulpikar Maimaitiali on points on Saturday to retain his WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title and take his opponent’s WBO Oriental super belt. But he dedicated his win to “India-China friendship”.

After the unanimous verdict in Mumbai, Singh returned to the ring, taking the microphone and saying: “I don’t want this title. I will give it (and the belt) back to Zulpikar.” He added: “I don’t want tension on the border. It’s a message of peace. That’s important.”




‘Civilization has no place for drones’

April 13, 2015

Read the words of Professor Joel Andreas here:

Blix: Middle East, NATO expansion, Russia, China & arms proliferation

December 5, 2014


hans blix

Hans Blix headed the International Atomic Energy Agency for 16 years, aiming to cut the world’s nuclear arms build-up and contribute to the international legal infrastructure governing nuclear energy, conventions about safety and plant waste disposal.

His inspections found no trace of weapons of mass destruction before the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and his verdict is: “The US went in to create democracy but they found no weapons of mass destruction and created anarchy . . . The invasion was illegal. It was in violation of the UN charter . . . I do weep still over the result of the mad rush by Bush and Blair to go to war. Tragically, the US and UK trusted their own faulty intelligence more than the inspection reports we gave.”

He suspects that the Bush administration, which he says didn’t give a “damn” about the UN, counted on war from the outset, and that a March deadline had been picked because of the extreme heat.

wmd blix coverSince he left the IAEA in 2003, Blix has been chairman of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (WMDC), an independent body funded by the Swedish government and based in Stockholm, opposing the world’s stockpiling of arms. He deplores the tremendous increase in military spending in China, Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and the Arab world:

“In 2012, the world spent some $1,700bn on the military – it all looks pretty black . . . Why do oil-rich Middle East states spend the money coming out of the ground from oil on the latest weaponry that will be obsolete in 10 years? There are 20,000 nuclear weapons ready to blow up. Nato has 200 of them, yet everyone knows they are useless. We must double our ambitions to stop war and stop the weapons build-up which is a bloody waste of the world’s resources.”

He roots the current crisis in Nato expansion:

“It was not subtly done. It’s the expansion that has triggered the [Ukraine] crisis. What Russia has done in Crimea and the east is unacceptable; at the same time the Russians fear being encircled. They won’t accept Ukraine in Nato.” Blix is urging the Swedes to stay out of Nato: “Embedding in Nato will increase tensions in the Baltics. Russia will take measures in response.”

A fine setting for the warlords

un sec co

Using an expression which indicts the UN Security Council’s permanent members, he insists that the integration of Russia and China is crucial in international affairs:

“You need what I call the five warlords plus Germany in the UN – the junta of the big warlords”.

To read more about his work go to the informative Wikipedia entry, and for additional news of his taste in food, furnishing and art, find ‘Hans Blix – the diplomat with a disarming nature’ in the FT magazine.

Russia’s foreign policy: ‘back in the diplomatic big league’ or ‘nearing complete failure’?

November 6, 2013


Japanese Russian ministers meet 11.13

Reuters’ Kiyoshi Takenaka reported on November 1st that foreign ministers from Japan and Russia have agreed to hold a vice ministerial-level meeting early next year to work towards resolving conflicting claims over certain islands – the Southern Kuriles in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan – and towards signing a peace treaty formally ending their World War Two hostilities.


The foreign ministers of both countries said the meeting helped “build trust” between Russia and Japan.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and noted: “Ever since Prime Minster Abe visited Russia in April, bilateral cooperation has been progressing in many fields such as economy, security and human exchanges”.

On 2nd November 2013, the BBC reported that Japan and Russia have agreed to hold joint military exercises and combine forces over cyber security. A video may be accessed from its site. Russia Today notes that during their joint conference the  ministers discussed international security and bilateral relations, as well as plans to hold joint navy exercises to combat terrorism and piracy.


The deployment of elements of a US missile defense network in Japan is causing Russia ‘grave concern’

Moscow suggested holding another meeting with Tokyo about Washington’s move to deploy missile defenses around the arc of the South China Sea, including a new missile defense radar in western Japan to join an existing radar in the northern Aomori prefecture. Sergei Lavrov said: “We made no secret of the fact that the creation by the US of a global missile defense system, including a Japanese element, is causing us grave concern, primarily over the possible destruction of the strategic balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region”.

This is confirmed by an item in the Nato Watch bulletin : “Putin Dissolves Task Force for Missile Defense Cooperation with NATO”, Source: Global Security Newswire, 31 October 2013.


stephen sestanovitchProfessor Stephen Sestanovich (right), who has served the American state all his working life, notably as former ambassador and special adviser to US secretary Madeleine Albright, comments:

“It seems only yesterday that President Vladimir Putin seized the world’s attention with his proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. To many, the fancy footwork had a clear message: Russia was back in the diplomatic big league at last. . .

“Some experts point out that Mr Putin has at least improved ties with China. . . When you have good relations only with China, you have nowhere else to turn. Russians are as uneasy about China’s rise as Americans – maybe more so. But they are facing it alone. . .

“Many think they can stand up to Moscow because its leverage is declining. Upheaval in global energy markets – especially the shale gas revolution – is one reason. The dramatic drop in Russian economic growth this year further saps Russian influence . . .”


Is Sestanovich giving good advice?

“What Russian policy makers and experts alike should hear from Europe and the US – a message delivered more in sorrow than in anger – is that their foreign policy has gone way off track. Until it rights itself, Russia will have less and less global influence.


Or is he ‘off track’?



Panmunjon meeting is under way

June 9, 2013


The BBC World Service reports that a meeting at Freedom House on the South Korean side of the joint security area, is under way today in Panmunjom, where the truce ending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed – the first meeting of its kind on the Korean Peninsula in more than two years.

SK delegate meets K. Song-hyeSouth Korean delegate Chun Hae-sung (right) meets Kim Song-hye, North Korea’s representative 

A few days ago CHOE SANG-HUN, writing for the New York Times from SEOUL, South Korea, reported that North and South Korea had agreed to hold this dialogue, easing the tensions after the North’s nuclear program this year escalated into one of the divided peninsula’s worst crises.

North Korea made a surprise overture on Thursday, proposing official negotiations with the South on reopening two shuttered joint economic projects, including the recently closed Kaesong industrial park, as well as humanitarian programs. South Korea quickly accepted the offer, proposing a cabinet minister-level meeting in the South Korean capital, Seoul, next Wednesday.

North Korea on Friday welcomed the response from the South and proposed to begin with working-level talks in Kaesong on Sunday to prepare for the proposed cabinet-level meeting. It also announced that it was restoring the cross-border communications lines it had cut off earlier this year, following joint United States-South Korean military drills.

Diplomatic and economic factors

Ms Sang-Hun notes that this overture came a day before President Obama’s meeting in California with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s main ally, when the North’s recent threats of nuclear attacks if provoked was expected to be a main topic of discussion.

Another motive for trying to reopen the joint ventures with South Korea is the need to generate badly needed revenue. Kaesong’s factories, which paired 53,000 North Korean workers with South Korean capital and management, generated $90 million in hard currency each year.

North Korea also proposed resuming cross-border tours from South Korea to a North Korean mountain resort that were suspended after North Korean soldiers fatally shot a tourist from the South in 2008, and reviving programs for arranging the temporary reunions of Korean families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, said, “Our position has been consistent for promoting the reconciliation and solidarity of the nation and achieving reunification and peaceful prosperity.” The South’s Unification Ministry also issued a statement: “We hope the government-to-government talks will become an opportunity to build trust between the South and North”.