Pyeongchang hope: the Olympic Games of Peace

November 22, 2017

Ice-sculpture

In an interview with CNN, South Korean President Moon Jae-in recalled that the 1988 Seoul Games had played a part in ending the Cold War era by bringing countries together and expressed the hope that the 2018 Winter Olympics will help to build relationships in Asia.

He continued: “I hope that North Korea will also participate, which will provide a very good opportunity for inter-Korean peace and reconciliation. And to this, we are closely consulting and cooperating with the IOC.”

North and South Korea regularly compete in friendlies and international competition, notably the Asian Cup. Earlier this year, a qualifier for the Asian Cup — held in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang — attracted more than 40,000 fans to the Kim Il Sung Stadium. President Moon believes that, over the coming years, sport offers a chance for all nations in the to reconcile.:

“After the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, the 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing. So in two years’ term, the Olympic Games will be held Korea, Japan and China and I believe that this can provide a good opportunity to build peace and cooperation within the Northeast Asian region”.

Dr Kyungjin Song, President of the Institute for Global Economics in Seoul, responded to a negative article in the Financial Times which focussed mainly on the number of unsold tickets and the threat of disruptive provocation from the North. She addressed the issue of direct and immediate benefits from such big international events by saying, “Economic benefits are both immediate and long-term. Intangible long-term benefits such as improved national image and institutional capacity are even greater” and reminding all concerned to “Beware of short-termism”.

CNN stresses the positive:

  • New infrastructure completed includes highways as well as a direct train line from the country’s main international airport to Pyeongchang and other host locations.
  • The government will also rollout a 5G mobile network around the venues. Facilities have been constructed on schedule.
  • Chinese diplomats close to the matter are alleged to have said that President Xi Jinping will confirm his attendance at the opening or the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, or both, at the forthcoming Korea-China bilateral summit in December.
  • Two North Korean figure skaters have qualified but the country’s organising committee has yet to decide whether it will participate.

“We’d all like to see North Korea participate,” says Mr Kim of the organising committee. “The more, the merrier.”

And many will wish Dr Kyungjin Song well as she urges Korea to redouble its efforts towards participation of the North Korean team to make the Pyeongchang Games the Olympic Games of Peace.

 

 

 

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”The fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta”

November 7, 2017

 

Reuters reported in April that Pope Francis advocated conflict mediation by a third country like Norway between the United States and North Korea. A third country, Pope Francis said, could “cool a situation” that had become “too hot.”

As armed conflicts rage across the world in numerous countries, and amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, a reader sent a link to Pope Francis’ call for an end to “useless massacres” in an emotional anti-war homily at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy, where nearly 8,000 World War II soldiers are buried: “Please Lord, stop. No more wars.”

He told several thousand people that he believed the world was heading into what could be its biggest war yet, according to Reuters. Commemorating the young soldiers who died in World War II was of particular significance today, he said, because “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.”

Associated Press reported that before visiting the U.S. military cemetery Francis warned that “humanity risks suicide” with the increased danger of nuclear war between the United States and North Korea.

As part of the Vatican’s efforts to eliminate the threat of nuclear weapons, the Vatican will host a two-day conference starting Nov. 10 of several Nobel peace laureates, international ambassadors and representatives from NATO and the United Nations.

Francis will address the conference on its opening day, and speakers will include Masako Wada, a notable disarmament activist who survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. Other speakers include Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency, and Rose Gottemoeller, an American diplomat and NATO’s deputy secretary-general

The governments of China, Japan, and South Korea have also called for restraint in the midst of Trump’s handling of the crisis with North Korea, urging him to call Kim to the negotiating table.

President Trump has responded to Kim’s recent missile launches and nuclear tests by threatening the isolated country with “fire and fury” and saying he would “totally destroy” North Korea, home to 25 million civilians, if the nuclear activity continued. In light of Trump’s rhetoric, Pope Francis said in his speech, “the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war.” He added that “humanity must not forget” the suffering of those who have lost loved ones to war. “Humanity has not learned the lesson and seems that it does not want to learn it,” he said.

In the visitors’ book at the cemetery, he wrote, “This is the fruit of war: hate, death, vendetta. Forgive us, Lord.”

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.”

 

 

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‘Civilization has no place for drones’

April 13, 2015

Read the words of Professor Joel Andreas here: https://dronewarfare.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/civilization-has-no-place-for-drones/


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

December 5, 2014

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 . . .”

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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.

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Or is he ‘off track’?

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