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Peaceful agreement between North and South Korea – but little of substance on denuclearization

North Korea agrees to dismantle nuclear site if U.S. takes steps too

At inter-Korean summit, little of substance on denuclearization

By Elisabeth Eaves, September 19, 2018 The leaders of North and South Korea met again this week, ostensibly with a goal of moving the peninsula they share towards denuclearization. Unfortunately they don’t seem to have done so, says Bulletin columnist Duyeon Kim, who followed the summit from Seoul. She shared her analysis with CNN.

“I hate to pour cold water on the situation, but … we have to wait and see what details come out of Moon’s meeting with Trump,” she told CNN anchor Kristie Lu Stout. Moon and US President Donald Trump are expected to speak next week.

The joint statement the Korean leaders issued on Wednesday was short on specifics and new information, Duyeon Kim says—which was as expected. North Korea said it would dismantle a missile engine-test facility and launch pad, a promise it had already made in June. It also said it was willing to dismantle the country’s Yongbyon nuclear complex—if the United States took unspecified “corresponding” measures first.

“Based on the joint statements and the press conference—what is known to us publicly—it does not move the ball forward at all,” Duyeon Kim told CNN. “We’re still in the same place.”

This is the third summit between the North’s hereditary dictator, Kim Jong-un, and the South’s elected President Moon Jae-in. Moon has become a sort of peace broker between the North and the United States, whose leaders were threatening each other with destruction just last year, and many observers still hope he will be able to bring them together.

Earlier, Duyeon Kim shared her expectations for this week’s summit with the BBC, available on this Twitter video thread. As she notes, North Korea and the United States have yet to agree on a definition of “denuclearization.”


September 22, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

UN is being pressed by Iran and Israel – each wanting action against the other

Iran and Israel call each other nuclear threats, ask U.N. to take action, Bozorgmehr SharafedinDan WilliamsLONDON/JERUSALEM (Reuters) 21 Sept 18,  – Iran asked the United Nations to condemn what it described as Israeli nuclear threats against it on Thursday, while Israel said it was stepping up security around its atomic sites as a precaution against threats from Tehran and its regional allies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a visit to a secretive Israeli atomic reactor in August to warn the country’s enemies that it has the means to destroy them, in what appeared to be a reference to its assumed nuclear arsenal.

“The United Nations’ members should not turn a blind eye to these threats and must take firms actions to eliminate all Israeli nuclear weapons,” Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gholamali Khoshrou said in letters to the U.N. secretary general and the security council, was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. Khoshrou asked the United Nations to force Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and bring its nuclear program under supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a U.N. atomic watchdog.

The director general of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission said on Tuesday that Iran and Syria posed significant proliferation threats to the region and called for U.N. action at the 62nd General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency now taking place in Vienna.

………Israel, which is outside the NPT, neither confirms nor denies having a nuclear arsenal, a decades-old “ambiguity” policy. It is trying to lobby world powers to follow the United States in withdrawing from the 2015 deal with Iran that capped the Islamic Republic’s nuclear capabilities in return for lifting of sanctions. The Israelis say the agreement does not do enough to denying their arch-foe the means to eventually build a bomb. Tehran, which is a signatory to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), denies wanting to so……..


September 22, 2018 Posted by | Iran, Israel, politics international | Leave a comment

Iran Says Israel Must Be Forced to Join  Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Reacting to Nuclear Violation Claim, Iran Says Israel Must Be Forced to Join NPT, Sputnuk News, 21 Sept 18   Iran’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a biting response to his Israeli counterpart’s claim that Iran and Syria posed “significant proliferation threats” to the Middle East and the world.

Iranian IAEA Ambassador Kazem Gharibabadi urged the international community to pressure Israel to sign onto Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), saying that doing so would be the only way to bring peace to the Middle East.

Speaking at the 62nd Annual Session of the ongoing IAEA General Conference in Vienna, Gharibabadi charged Israel with threatening its neighbors, pointed to its possession of nuclear weapons, and chastised the IAEA for giving in to Israeli pressure and not following up on what he said were the country’s “dangerous” nuclear activities.

According to the ambassador, little progress has been made on nuclear disarmament, one of the NPT’s major stated objectives, in the fifty years since the treaty was signed. Gharibabadi also pointed to the Middle East Nuclear Weapon Freeze Zone idea, a UN project dating back to 1970s aimed at prohibiting nuclear weapons in the region, and how this proposal too has suffered from a “lack of political will.”

Gharibabadi’s remarks came on the heels of comments at the conference by Israel Atomic Energy Commission chairman Ze’ev Snir, who also called on the international community to take action against alleged Iranian and Syrian nuclear activities……..

srael, which has a policy of neither admitting or denying the existence of a nuclear weapons program, is presently believed to be the only country in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons, with estimates that it has anywhere between 80 and 400 warheads deliverable by a variety of air, sub and missile platforms.

Iran, an NPT signatory under observance by the IAEA over compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal, is barred from the creation of nuclear weapons. The fate of the 2015 deal, which was signed by the Iran, the United States, Russia, China, and several European countries, was put into question after Washington withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and vowed to impose unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic…….. 

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Iran, Israel, politics international, weapons and war | 1 Comment

North Korea would Permanently Dismantle Nuclear Complex If U.S. Takes Corresponding Steps on the peninsula

North Korea Agrees to Permanently Dismantle Nuclear Complex If U.S. Takes Corresponding Steps, TIME,  ERIC TALMADGE AND KIM TONG-HYUNG / AP , September 19, 2018   (PYONGYANG, North Korea)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a sweeping set of agreements after their second day of talks in Pyongyang on Wednesday that included a promise by Kim to permanently dismantle the North’s main nuclear complex if the United States takes corresponding measures, the acceptance of international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Declaring they had made a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula, the two leaders were side by side as they announced the joint statement to a group of North and South Korean reporters after a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning……

The statement caps off the third summit between Kim and Moon, who is under increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in its efforts to get Kim to completely — and unilaterally — abandon his nuclear arsenal. ……..

The question is whether it will be enough for President Donald Trump to pick up where Moon has left off.

Trump has maintained that he and Kim have a solid relationship, and both leaders have expressed interest in a follow-up summit to their meeting in June in Singapore. North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a cease-fire, but neither leader mentioned it as they read the joint statement.

In the meantime, however, Moon and Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.

According a joint statement signed by the countries’ defense chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones………

September 21, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | 1 Comment

North Korea is willing to allow outside inspectors to check its closed nuclear weapons test site

South Korea Says Pyongyang Willing to Open Up Nuclear-Weapons Test Site

Moon makes disclosure after returning from summit with Kim, in bid to win over North Korea skeptics, WSJ, By Andrew Jeong and Dasl Yoon,  Sept. 20, 2018 SEOUL—North Korea is open to allowing outside inspections of a nuclear-weapons testing site it closed in May, South Korea’s leader said Thursday, just a day after the North agreed to open a missile site to inspectors.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | Leave a comment

Trump keen to have Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to speak at UN nuclear meeting

Trump mulls inviting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to UN nuclear meeting, CBS News,  By KYLIE ATWOOD CBS NEWS September 20, 2018, In a show of President Trump’s staunch support of Saudi Arabia, his administration is mulling the possibility of having that nation’s young leader, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, speak at the U.S.-hosted UN Security Council meeting next week, according to sources familiar with its planning.But now that the U.S. agenda has shifted away from a narrow focus on Iran, pulling off this diplomatic showcase will be hard to finagle.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, initially declared that Mr. Trump would host a UN Security Council meeting on “to address Iran’s violations of international law” and its actions to sow instability in the region. But that meeting has since changed to focus more broadly on counter-proliferation……

The Trump administration holds the reins on the agenda for the meeting because the U.S. is chairing the Council this month. …..

If Iran had remained the focus, the country would have been offered a seat, and a voice, at the table. But now they will not, as administration officials wanted to avoid a possible confrontation between Mr. Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. Now they say Mr. Trump will have more breathing room and, in theory, avoid getting bashed on the world stage for exiting the Iran deal.  ….

moving away from Iran as the meeting’s focus also makes it logistically more complicated to secure a role for Saudi Arabia, which is not a member of the Security Council……

As of now, Saudi Arabia has not been invited to partake in the discussion. When asked about the possibility of inviting another country to speak at the meeting, a Security Council diplomat explained that “in theory” it could happen, but was not certain it would.  ….

But even after avoiding an embarrassing barrage of criticism for exiting the Iran deal, some experts say that putting Mr. Trump at the helm is still risky.  …

September 21, 2018 Posted by | politics international, Saudi Arabia | Leave a comment

South Korea’s President Moon hopes to break nuclear deadlock, in third meeting with Kim Jong Un

Moon seeks to break nuclear deadlock at Pyongyang summit, Yahoo News,  Sunghee Hwang, AFPSeptember 16, 2018 

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the third time in Pyongyang this week

South Korea’s Moon Jae-in will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the third time in Pyongyang this week (AFP Photo/Jung Yeon-je)

Seoul (AFP) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in travels to Pyongyang this week for his third summit with Kim Jong Un, looking to break the deadlock in nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States.

Moon — whose own parents fled the North during the 1950-53 Korean War — flies north on Tuesday for a three-day trip, following in the footsteps of his predecessors Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and mentor Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.

No details of the programme have been announced but Pyongyang is likely to pull out all the stops to create a good impression, with tens of thousands of people lining the streets to welcome him.

The visit comes after the North staged its “Mass Games” propaganda display for the first time in five years……….

Despite the deadlock in denuclearisation talks, since the Panmunjom summit the two Koreas have sought to pursue joint projects in multiple fields.

But North Korea is under several different sets of sanctions for its nuclear and missile programmes, complicating Moon’s desire to promote cross-border economic schemes.

The dovish South Korean president is taking several South Korean business tycoons with him to the North, including Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong and the vice chairman of the Hyundai Motor Group, whose founder was a wartime refugee from the North………

special advisor Moon Chung-in added that the South Korean president could look to persuade Kim to come up with a “somewhat radical and bold initiative”, such as dismantling some nuclear bombs, and press the US for reciprocal measures.

“And the United States should be willing to come up with major economic easing of economic sanctions,” he said.

September 17, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, South Korea | Leave a comment

USA – new sanctions on Chinese and Russian companies, over North Korea nuclear program

U.S. announces fresh sanctions over N.K. nuclear program,

2018/09/13 WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) — The United States on Thursday sanctioned two companies in China and Russia for allegedly facilitating North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The Department of the Treasury also sanctioned a North Korean individual in the latest set of sanctions aimed at denuclearizing the regime.

September 14, 2018 Posted by | politics international, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. Navy Conducts Military Exercises in Gulf Amid Iran Tension

Bloomberg By Zainab Fattah, September 9, 2018, 

Exercises to ensure free movement in Gulf, Red Sea chokepoints

  • Iran said it’ll halt exports from Hormuz if it’s oil barred

The U.S. Navy is conducting exercises this month to ensure its readiness to guarantee freedom of movement through Persian Gulf and Red Sea waterways amid escalating threats from Iran to disrupt shipping across important choke points.

The exercises, with regional and global allies, are part of the U.S. 5th Fleet Theater Counter Mine and Maritime Security Exercise, Commander Scott A. Stearney told reporters from NAVCENT headquarters in Manama. One exercise is taking place in Djibouti, which sits on one side of the Bab Al Mandab strait, a crucial pinch point for global shipping at the south end of the Red Sea…….


September 12, 2018 Posted by | Iran, politics international, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

North Korea now emphasising economic development, not nuclear might

North Korea spotlights economic development, not nuclear might, as it turns 70 Eric Talmadge, The Associated Press 

CTV News, September 9, 2018 

PYONGYANG, Korea, Democratic People’s Republic Of — North Korea held a major military parade and revived its iconic mass games to celebrate its 70th anniversary on Sunday, but in keeping with leader Kim Jong Un’s new policies the emphasis was firmly on building up the economy, not on nuclear weapons.

The North rolled out some of its latest tanks and marched its best-trained goose-stepping units in the parade but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the event to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy.

It also brought the mass games back after a five-year hiatus. The games are a grand spectacle that features nearly 20,000 people flipping placards in unison to create huge mosaics as thousands more perform gymnastics or dance in formation on the competition area of Pyongyang’s 150,000-seat May Day Stadium.

The strong emphasis on the economy underscores the strategy Kim has pursued since January of putting economic development front and centre. ………Kim attended the morning parade but did not address the assembled crowd, which included the head of the Chinese parliament and high-level delegations from countries that have friendly ties with the North…….

Kim’s effort to ease tensions with President Donald Trump has stalled since their June summit in Singapore. Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point. Washington wants Kim to commit to denuclearization first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War………

Soon after the anniversary celebrations end, Kim will meet in Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to break the impasse over his nuclear weapons.

The “new line” of putting economic development first has been Kim’s top priority this year. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter U.S. aggression and devote his resources to raising his nation’s standard of living…….

September 10, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics, politics international | Leave a comment

Third summit this year between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un

Third summit this year between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un stands in contrast to rift with Washington, South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, will travel to North Korea for a third meeting with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, as denuclearisation talks with the US stall.Moon would travel to Pyongyang between 18 and 20 September, said Chung Eui-yong, head of the South’s National Security Office, as he returned from a one-day meeting with Kim in North Korea. It will be the third time this year the leaders of the two Koreas have met, after talks in the border village of Panmunjom in April and May.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and expressed his willingness to closely cooperate with not only South Korea but also the United States to that end,” Chung said according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

The third meeting comes with talks between the US and North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme having made little progress since a summit between Donald Trump and Kim in June. Trump cancelled a trip by his top diplomat last month. While North Korea has repeatedly agreed to working towards the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, experts warn the language is vague and fails to address key US demands that the North give up its nuclear weapon unilaterally and allow weapons inspectors into the country…………

South Korea’s diplomatic overtures have also highlighted a growing rift between Seoul and Washington, with US officials frustrated by the pace of nuclear negotiations and South Korean authorities focused on improving ties with their unpredictable neighbour.

North Korean state media echoed many of the same statements conveyed by officials in Seoul, with language that emphasised denuclearisation as a shared responsibility, not one for Pyongyang alone.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said: “Noting that it is our fixed stand and his will to completely remove the danger of armed conflict and horror of war from the Korean Peninsula and turn it into the cradle of peace without nuclear weapons and free from nuclear threat, he said that the North and the South should further their efforts to realise the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.”

North and South Korea will also open a long-planned liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong before Moon and Kim meet, according to Chung. Officials from the two countries will hold talks early next week to finalise details for Moon’s trip.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, South Korea | 1 Comment

Yet again, Australia sets out to wreck international climate talks

Australia gets out the wrecking ball, again, in international climate talks

Giles Parkinson, In separate arena this week, Australia has been accused of attempting to water down the languageof the Pacific Islands Forum declaration on climate change. And in Bangkok it has sided with the Trump administration and Japan in attempting to weaken climate finance obligations in a move that has horrified some observers.

Australia is coming under increasing scrutiny since Malcolm Turnbull announced the country was dumping the emissions obligation proposed for the National Energy Guarantee, and was then dumped by the party’s climate denying conservative wing anyway.

Morrison has shown no interest in climate change, and has instructed new energy minister Angus Taylor to focus only on “bringing down prices” and ensuring the country retains as much “fair dinkum” coal in the system as it can.

The international community is looking on in horror, and so are the main business lobby groups in Australia, such as the Business Council of Australia – who have campaigned vigorosuly for a decade to minimise Australia’s contribution to climate action, but understand the considerable reputational, trade and business consequences of choosing to do nothing.

Morrison has so far resisted calls from the party’s far right to follow Trump out of the Paris climate treaty, but in crucial and complex climate talks in Bangkok this week, sided with the US and Japan in a dramatic attempt to weaken climate finance obligations.

The Bangkok talks were called to give negotiators extra time to put together the so-called “rule-book,” which will provide the fine details of the Paris agreement, particularly as countries gear up to increase their climate targets to try and drag the collective efforts closer to the target of limiting global warming to “well below” 2°C, and possibly 1.5°C.

But little progress has been made in Bangkok, forcing the UNFCCC, which runs the climate talks, to call for the annual talks scheduled this year in Poland to begin a day earlier, in the hope that visiting heads of state have something to work with when they turn up.

Climate campaigners say the proposed text on article 9.7 of the Paris accord, which refers to accounting and is meant to establish rules about how developed countries report what finance they provide to developing countries, serves to muddy the rules rather than clarify them.

The campaigners say that the proposal would allow countries to report whatever items they like – including commercial loans ≠ as climate finance, in contrast to demands of clear financial and technical packages to help them developing countries cope with future extreme weather-related events.

“(This) does not create any meaningful rules on how climate finance is accounted for, and instead it essentially says ‘countries should report what they want,’” Brandon Wu, director of policy and campaigns for ActionAid USA, told Devex.

“This would completely let rich countries off the hook and deprive developing countries of real money for real action,” Wu said. Other campaigners said this meant climate finance could just be re-badged existing aid.

These problems are being felt acutely in the Pacific, where island nations are furious with Australia’s stance on climate, its attachment to coal, and its refusal to act on its declarations that “it takes climate change seriously.”

The current Coalition government still has no policy in place to try and reach what is regarded as a very low interim target of a 26-28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Continue reading

September 6, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change, politics international | Leave a comment

USA negotiations with North Korea may be on the verge of breakdown

The current US negotiating strategy with North Korea is doomed, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Perry World House, August 30, 2018 US negotiations with North Korea over the latter’s nuclear weapons program appear to have hit a major roadblock. While North Korea has temporarily suspended nuclear and missile testing and partially destroyed its nuclear test site, both steps are reversible, and North Korea has largely balked at US President Donald Trump’s demand for “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.” Consequently, negotiations with Pyongyang may be on the verge of breakdown. Trump recently cancelled his secretary of state’s planned trip to the country, and the administration has gone back and forth in the last few days about whether Washington will continue to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, a concession Trump made to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their historic summit in June. Given this critical juncture in negotiations, it is time to reevaluate what talks can actually achieve. It would be great if Kim agreed to hand over all of his nuclear weapons, but the reality is that North Korea will not be completely, verifiably, or irreversibly denuclearizing anytime soon. Therefore, if the Trump Administration wants to salvage the negotiations, it needs a new strategy.

Why North Korea won’t denuclearize. The first step to a successful negotiating strategy is understanding how your opponent thinks. So why does North Korea want nuclear weapons in the first place? For the same reason Israel, France, India, and others wanted them—security. Specifically, security against the United States.

North Korea’s murderous dictator has good reason to worry about an American intervention to overthrow his regime. First of all, the United States is much more powerful than North Korea. While the size of North Korea’s entire economy is about $40 billion at most, America spends over $700 billion on its military alone. Second, this fact, combined with Washington’s long history of military interventions, is enough to make any despot shake in his shoes. Finally, the specific history between the United States and North Korea is not reassuring to Kim. The two countries fought against each other in the Korean War, President George W. Bush branded North Korea part of the “axis of evil,” and Trump threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Like many relatively weak countries facing a threat, North Korea turned towards nuclear weapons not because its leader is crazy, but to deter a stronger power. By threatening to punish the United States and its allies with a nuclear response if it is attacked, North Korea is able to effectively dissuade Washington from such attempts. Since Kim’s top priority, like most autocrats, is regime security, he will only give up the protection of his nuclear weapons if he is very confident that he can retain his power without them. Though Trump committed to guaranteeing North Korea’s security in the Singapore Declaration, a number of recent historical episodes will make it difficult to convince Kim he can remain safe if he surrenders all his nuclear weapons.

One example involves Libya. In 2003, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi agreed to give up his nascent nuclear weapons program and permit international inspections. In return, US President George W. Bush promised that Libya could “regain a secure and respected place” among nations. However, just eight years later, in 2011, the United States led a NATO military intervention in Libya that resulted in the brutal killing of Gaddafi. In recent months John Bolton, Trump’s national security advisor, has repeatedly said that Washington has the “Libya model” in mind for North Korea, probably the least reassuring example that could be communicated to Kim.

A second leader who did not do well after suspending his nuclear weapons program was Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. While states that possess nuclear weapons can almost always effectively deter military intervention, states that do not, like Iraq in 2003, are vulnerable. In a fate not much better than Gaddafi’s, Saddam was removed from power by an American military intervention in 2003 and ultimately hung in 2006…….

Trump personally undermined American negotiating credibility in two ways; one indirect and one direct. Indirectly, he hurt Washington’s credibility by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, even though, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran was complying with its terms. The Trump Administration has now moved to severely punish Iran for its compliance by instituting tough sanctions………..

Given this record, North Korea is very unlikely to agree to fully denuclearize in the short or medium-term, and demanding that it do so is only likely to lead to negotiation failure. To make real progress on this issue, the White House will need to take a different tack.

What Washington’s strategy should be. The Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck said, “politics is the art of the possible, the attainable.” If North Korea will not be handing over its entire nuclear stockpile anytime soon, what possible, attainable options might curtail the threat? The most extreme option, of course, would be to launch a massive military attack against North Korea in an effort to destroy all of its nuclear weapons and infrastructure—the “fire and fury” Trump threatened. However, such an operation would be reckless to the point of insanity. North Korea has the ability to deliver nuclear missiles to South Korea, Japan, and American military bases in the Pacific. If even one or a handful of nuclear missiles survived an American first strike, hundreds of thousands could die beyond those killed in the initial US attack. Furthermore, even if the United States could reliably locate and destroy all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons in a first strike, Pyongyang would still be able to inflict tens of thousands of casualties daily using conventional and chemical weapons. Given that there is no imminent threat from North Korea’s nuclear program, a preventive war of this type would be nonsensical.

The most sensible option to address the nuclear threat from North Korea would be to pursue an approach dubbed “less for less” by nuclear scholar James Acton. Rather than demanding total denuclearization, the United States should seek a smaller-scale deal that puts significant restrictions on North Korea’s nuclear program in return for moderate sanctions relief and other limited concessions. ……….

Though the prospect of living with a nuclear-armed North Korea for the foreseeable future may seem unacceptable, the world has survived with a nuclear-armed Russia for the last 69 years, China for the last 54 years, Pakistan for the last 20 years, and, yes, North Korea for the last 12 years. Just as North Korea’s nuclear weapons have effectively deterred the United States from a major military intervention, America’s vastly superior nuclear arsenal and conventional capabilities will almost certainly deter North Korea.

This column was written by Joshua A. Schwartz, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Pennsylvania.

September 3, 2018 Posted by | North Korea, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele berates world leaders who fail to take climate issue seriously

World leaders who deny climate change should go to mental hospital – Samoan PM

Tuilaepa Sailele berates leaders who fail to take issue seriously, singling out Australia, India, China and the US, Guardian, Kate Lyons, 31 Aug 18 The prime minister of Samoa has called climate change an “existential threat … for all our Pacific family” and said that any world leader who denied climate change’s existence should be taken to a mental hospital.

In a searing speech delivered on Thursday night during a visit to Sydney, Tuilaepa Sailele berated leaders who fail to take climate change seriously, singling out Australia, as well as India, China and the US, which he said were the “three countries that are responsible for all this disaster”.

“Any leader of those countries who believes that there is no climate change I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement, he is utter[ly] stupid and I say the same thing for any leader here who says there is no climate change.”

Speaking at the Lowy Institute, just days before the beginning of the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, the Samoan prime minister seemed to take a swipe at Australia’s commitment to minimising the impact of climate change, which he called the “single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing peoples of the Pacific

“While climate change may be considered a slow onset threat by some in our region, its adverse impacts are already felt by our Pacific islands peoples and communities,” said Sailele. “Greater ambition is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade and Pacific island countries continue to urge faster action by all countries.”

Sailele said addressing climate change required “political guts” from leaders. “We all know the problem, we all know the causes, we all know the solutions. All that is left would be some political courage, some political guts to get out and tell the people of your country, ‘Do this, this, this, or there is any certainty of disaster.’”

Sailele’s speech comes as leaders of Pacific nations are preparing to meet at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next week, where Australia is expected to face questions about its emissions targets.

Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is under pressure from some members of his party to abandon Australia’s commitment to reducing emissions under the Paris agreement.

His immediate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, was due to attend the forum, but Morrison has announced he is sending his new foreign minister, Marisa Payne, a move the opposition Labor party condemned as “an insult to our neighbours” as well as “a serious strategic mistake”.

Saliele’s speech also touched on China’s rising influence in the Pacific, saying the region had become “an increasingly contested space”. “The big powers are doggedly pursuing strategies to widen and extend their reach, inculcating a far-reaching sense of insecurity.”

September 3, 2018 Posted by | climate change, OCEANIA, politics international | Leave a comment

Beyond the backyard: understanding geopolitics for a more peaceful foreign policy

Dr Adam Broinowski, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University,,31 Aug 18

At this moment of shifting world order, in which the atomic clock has been returned to two minutes to midnight (the first time since 1953) and the United States has committed to a 1.5 trillion dollar upgrade to its nuclear arsenal, one can be forgiven for a sense of déja vu. Unlike the 1950s, however, we are now aware of the risk of even greater extinctions in the next 100 years not only from potential full-scale nuclear war but also from the impacts of climate disruption across the entire biosphere.

From here, if we are to identify the dynamics of both militarism and climate disruption with a view to achieving and perpetuating more peaceful conditions, we must recognise how oil – and control over its distribution – has been pivotal to the development of US-led world order since the turn of the 20th century. When US leaders claim the ‘exceptionalism’ of the ‘indispensable’ US nation, they are primarily referring to the US military capability to allow or deny access to supply corridors for the flow of vital resources, products, labour and market access. We can track this through various stages of the US empire.

Stage I: Beyond the western hemisphere

Having expropriated the lands of native Americans and propelled by its own abundant supply of oil, the US claimed the trophies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines after the Spanish-American War in 1898 and entrenched itself in the oil-rich Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region (‘Western Hemisphere’).

As envisioned by ‘world island’ theory, in which maritime powers could claim hegemony by encircling and containing from the ‘rimlands’ any rival economic and military land-based power emerging on the Eurasian ‘heartland’, the US sent naval flotillas from US bases to control geostrategic ‘land nodes’, ‘geographical pivots’, and ‘choke points’ along resource corridors supplying the largest market at the time: western Europe.

In 1900, the Russian empire accounted for over 50 percent of the world’s oil production and was the world number two producer by the 1920s. After the British procured an exclusive petroleum concession in 1901, British and French powers sought to undermine any coordinated resistance from a united Arabia by forming weak Arab provincial administrations that relied on revenue from oil extraction and distribution to Europe. By the 1920s, however, the US had over 70 percent of world oil production with an economy the size of the next six powers combined. After Standard Oil secured concessions in Dharan, ‘one of the greatest material prizes in history,’ on the Saudi peninsula by 1938, the US consolidated its operations east of Suez by 1944.

Stage II: Cold War

At war’s end, having escaped major destruction from WWII as compared to nations in Europe, the Soviet Union and Asia, the US possessed:

  • over 50 percent of world GDP;
  • guaranteed oil supply from Saudi Arabia, and Israel as a foothold in the Middle East;
  • 70 percent of world monetary gold and the US dollar fixed as world currency reserve.

This leverage permitted the US to construct a ‘division and alliance architecture’ (UN system, NATO, US military bases) in which US bases were set up primarily in western Europe and East Asia on either side of the ‘world island’. US bases carry and store nuclear weapons and related systems; they surround territories with large oil and gas reserves and strategic transport corridors; they facilitate rapid interventions and support for proxy wars, economic warfare, and information/psychological warfare. US operations conducted from these bases have primarily targeted governments, authoritarian or otherwise, that seek autonomous and sovereign control over their country’s resources, markets and finances.

Despite the hype surrounding Soviet plans to invade western Europe and its potential attack US cities in the early Cold War years, there is evidence to show that it was indeed hype, and by 1960, the US could target and destroy almost all Soviet and Chinese cities with near-simultaneous nuclear attack, ostensibly in ‘retaliation’ for a nuclear attack by the enemy. Only by the mid 1970s did the Soviets really catch up with the US in terms of scale and sophistication of nuclear weapons to establish a period of détente. In the intervening years more nations acquired nuclear capability in either a clandestine fashion or outside the Non Proliferation Treaty while others relied on US ‘extended nuclear deterrence’ in return for hosting US bases and other bilateral agreements.

Stage III: Oil politics

In the 1970s, with large debt from the American War in Vietnam, and with several countries seeking return of their gold security deposits from the US Federal Reserve, the Nixon administration withdrew from the gold-backed system rather than allowing the dollar to devalue. When oil prices sky-rocketed with the OPEC oil embargo, the US arranged a financial mechanism whereby all OPEC nations would trade oil exclusively in US dollars in return for US military protection and weapons contracts. The dollar remained the world currency reserve, the US could disregard its national debt from foreign wars and US and UK banks amassed huge profits from commissions on foreign currency exchanges for the purchase of oil, the world’s largest commodity.

The Tengiz field oil reserves in the Caspian Sea were discovered in 1979, the same year as Iran’s Islamic Revolution. The latter was met with heavy sanctions while Saudi Arabia’s Wahabbist Islamic uprising at Mecca was not. The US armed and trained Islamist mujahideen to fight against the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan (Operation Cyclone). Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party was installed by the CIA in Iraq and aided to fight Iran for eight years. Wahabbism spread to Pakistan and to Chechnya, Dagestan, Albania and Kosovo – Russia’s soft oil-rich underbelly.

Stage IV:  Middle East wars

In 1991, despite the opportunity to withdraw US foreign bases and ratify arms control treaties with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the US together with NATO proceeded to foment ‘Colour Revolutions’ in resource-rich former Soviet-aligned states (Yugoslavia, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova). The Persian Gulf War launched that year, rather than to stop an illegal invasion by a dictatorial regime and to keep local gas prices low, was primarily to enable US control over the distribution of Iraqi oil and further its reach in the region.

Similarly in Afghanistan 2001 and Iraq 2003, rather than retaliation for the 11 September 2001 attacks or to destroy mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction, the Iraq War was to prevent Iraqi oil being traded in Euro, to weaken the Iraqi state by supporting competing factions and claim a stake in roughly one-third of Iraqi oil production. The selection of Hamid Karzai, with connections to the US oil industry, to lead Afghanistan, and the installation of US bases (including the huge Bagram base), allowed the US to further its access and control over oil and gas pipelines from Tengiz and Turkmenistan and leverage over the economies of US rivals in the region (Russia in the north-west, China in the East, Iran in the South).

In Syria, while the Assad government stands accused of human rights abuses to its own population (and this needs careful scrutiny), US intervention in this multinational proxy war is not about democracy or international law. In 2009 President Assad rejected a ten billion dollar pipeline offer (proposed in 2000) from Qatar (North Dome field) and signed onto a PARS pipeline project from Iran (South Pars field) to Europe. Rather, it is yet another in a long line of US interventions to destabilise the Syrian government since 1947, and to increase its control over (via US bases in the north-eastern part of Syria) the distribution of oil and gas through the region to Europe.

Similarly, rather than to bring about a corrective to Iran’s human rights record, years of US sanctions against Iran (Iran is an NPT signatory, maintains legal levels of uranium enrichment, has a legal right to possess non-nuclear missiles and combats terrorist groups) have been to weaken its control over resource flows through the Strait of Hormuz, slow its oil and gas exports to inhibit its economic growth and to support its rivals (and US allies) Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Stage IVa: North Korea

On the eastern side of the world island, the Korean peninsula has remained divided despite the end of the Cold War. Having lost its security guarantee from the Soviet Union in 1991, North Korea has on many occasions sought direct talks with the US to arrive at a formal conclusion to the Korean War in a peace treaty and the normalisation of relations both with the US and South Korea. While North Korea is a garrison state that has developed under siege conditions for over sixty years, media hyperventilation over North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons has conspicuously ignored several important points. These include:

  • the gross imbalance in military and economic capacity between North Korea and the US and its allies
  • many nations outside the permanent (P5) nuclear weapons states such as Israel, the NATO nuclear umbrella states, India and Pakistan possess far higher numbers of nuclear weapons while remaining free of sanctions or threats
  • it is not illegal to conduct non-nuclear missile tests or sell missile technology to other countries
  • the US regularly tests its own non-loaded nuclear weapons and obviously sells missile technologies to many other countries
  • North Korea was the only nuclear weapons state to support the motion for the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017
  • the US’ legacy of abrogation of its commitments in negotiations with North Korea.

Over the course of the 20th century, having experienced the long game to weaken and force China and Russia, or any other perceived rival, to submit to the US-led system, these nations have responded by establishing an alternative geopolitical and geoeconomic system, dividing the world once more. It is crucial to question further the dominant narrative repeated in mainstream media to better understand the underlying drivers of wars in recent history when we seek to identify ways of achieving and promoting long-lasting peace in the 21st century.[i]


[i] This paper is part of a longer chapter with citations by the author: Adam Broinowski, ‘Nuclear Power and Oil Capital in the Long Twentieth Century,’ Bellamy B. and J. Diamanti (Eds.), Materialism and the Critique of Energy, Alberta and Chicago: MCM Press, 2018: 197-240.

Adam Broinowski is a lecturer and researcher at the ANU,

August 31, 2018 Posted by | politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment