Chinese President Xi Jinping tipped to attend nuclear summit in US, South China Morning Post, Sidney Leng sidney.leng@scmp 24 Jan 16 Despite disagreement on North Korea, Beijing and Washington ‘have much common ground’President Xi Jinping is expected to make his second visit to the United States in less than a year to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in March, according to national defence and military experts from both countries.
During Xi’s state visit to the US in September, the two countries agreed to deepen cooperation on nuclear security. Beijing has not confirmed Xi’s attendance, but several Chinese academics and analysts at a China Energy Fund Committee conference in Hong Kong yesterday said he would probably go.
A White House fact sheet dated September also said the two countries might hold a meeting before the summit to discuss nuclear security.
“The two countries share common interests in intercepting nuclear terrorism, so I think there is plenty of room for cooperation on it, among other issues,” said Zhang Tuosheng, from the China Foundation For International and Strategic Studies.
Chinese foreign policy strategists say China has already put enough pressure on North Korea, made denuclearisation a priority in the region and insisted on addressing the issue through dialogue.
“If the six-party talks [involving the two Koreas, Japan, China, Russia and the US] don’t work, then I propose trilateral dialogues, such as ones between China, the US and South Korea. The most important thing is managing a crisis,” Zhang said. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/1904776/chinese-president-xi-jinping-tipped-attend-nuclear
the TPP would give foreign corporations like TransCanada broad power to demand compensation for policies that do not conform to their “expectations.”
In other words, any time our government takes an “unexpected” step to protect our air, our water, our economy, or the health of our families from dangerous projects like Keystone XL, corporations could use that as a reason to ask a tribunal to order the government to pay.
TPP provisions would undermine environmental efforts http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/opinion-tpp-provisions-would-undermine-environmental-efforts?utm_content=buffer4500f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer 01/21/16 03 By Michael Brune For years the Sierra Club has warned that international trade deals could be used by corporations to undermine U.S. environmental protections. Now the Canadian oil company TransCanada is attempting to do exactly that in response to President Obama’s rejection of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
This dispute won’t be settled in a normal court of law, though. Instead, it will be argued in a trade tribunal with no accountability to any domestic legal system — a private legal system that is outside U.S. law. No judge will hear the case. Instead, three private lawyers will issue a binding ruling that cannot be appealed. Many of these tribunal lawyers actually rotate between rendering judgments and representing corporations in their cases against governments. Therefore, it’s no great surprise when corporations come out on top and ordinary people either foot the bill or lose environmental and health protections.
This is unfair and unjust, pure and simple. We should be doing all we can to defend the environmental and health safeguards that keep us safe — not make them even more vulnerable to corporate attacks. Why would we want to lower our environmental standards to a lowest-common denominator dictated by the expectations of corporations who have proven they’d put profits before people?
Furthermore, at a time when virtually the entire world just agreed at the Paris climate talks that we must keep dirty fuels in the ground to avoid climate disaster, giant fossil fuel corporations see toxic trade agreements like the TPP as a way to trump the health and environmental protections that can keep dirty fuels in check and promote clean energy.
Luckily, opposition to the TPP is steadily growing, just as it did for the Keystone XL pipeline. Environmental groups, labor unions, public health advocates, and an array of diverse constituencies are voicing their opposition, whether because of investor-state dispute settlement provisions or one of the sweeping deal’s other controversial provisions. Many members of Congress from both parties are already saying no to the TPP.
We’ve seen what can happen when we come together to say no to a bad idea. We defeated the Keystone XL pipeline, and we can defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We need a new model of trade that puts the health and safety of people before the profits of big corporations that are already polluting our air and water.
Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest grassroots environmental organization. Brune is the author of “Coming Clean — Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal.”
Iran Complies With Nuclear Deal; Sanctions Are Lifted, NYT, By DAVID E. SANGER JAN. 16, 2016 VIENNA — The United States and European nations lifted oil and financial sanctions on Iran and released roughly $100 billion of its assets after international inspectors concluded that the country had followed through on promises to dismantle large sections of its nuclear program.
This came at the end of a day of high drama that played out in a diplomatic dance across Europe and the Middle East, just hours after Tehran and Washington swapped long-held prisoners.
……..“Iran has undertaken significant steps that many people — and I do mean many — doubted would ever come to pass,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday evening at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which earlier issued a report detailing how Iran had shipped 98 percent of its fuel to Russia, dismantled more than 12,000 centrifuges so they could not enrich uranium, and poured cement into the core of a reactor designed to produce plutonium……… http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/17/world/middleeast/iran-sanctions-lifted-nuclear-deal.html?_r=0
N. Korea Offers to Halt Nuclear Tests in Exchange for Peace Treaty VOA NewsJanuary 16, 2016
North Korea says it will stop conducting nuclear tests in exchange for a peace treaty with the United States and an end to joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul.
The proposal, published in North Korea’s state media late Friday, is similar to previous offers by Pyongyang that have been quickly rejected by the U.S. and South Korea……..
Earlier this week, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that seeks to deny the Pyongyang government the hard currency it needs for its nuclear weapons program by imposing stronger sanctions. http://www.voanews.com/content/north-korea-offers-to-halt-nuclear-tests-in-exchange-for-peace-treaty/3148838.html
US and South Korea plan simulated nuclear strike on North Korea http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/northkorea/12099482/US-and-South-Korea-plan-simulated-nuclear-strike-on-North-Korea.htmlUpdated plans would help them prepare their defenses against a potential nuclear strike from Pyongyang By Julian Ryall, Tokyo. 14 Jan 2016
In November, the two governments agreed upon an updated set of plans to defend South Korea from missile, nuclear, chemical and biological threats. Known as the 4D Operational Concept, the plans are designed to detect, disrupt, destroy and defend the South from threats posed by the North.
The additional capability would be on top of the military hardware that South Korea has asked its closest security partner to provide.
In the wake of Pyongyang’s fourth underground nuclear test on January 6, however, Seoul and Washington are examining the possibility of conducting manoeuvers to extend the reach of the plan, the Chosun Ilbo reported on Thursday. The two countries are discussing ways to reflect parts of the 4D concept during the joint annual exercises in March and then to develop it as a full scale operational system”, an official of the defence ministry in Seoul told the newspaper.
Analysts say the two governments – along with others in the region – will have drawn up contingency plans for a number of possible scenarios on the Korean peninsula, including indications of an imminent nuclear strike, an invasion of the South with conventional forces or the collapse of Kim Jong-un’s regime.
One situation that military planners are particularly concerned about would be the current regime imploding but a number of factions – potentially armed with nuclear or other non-conventional weapons – jostling for power.
“North Korean assets that are capable of waging nuclear war will obviously be of the highest priority”, Lance Gatling, a defence analyst and president of Nexial Research Inc., told the Telegraph.
“These will be the mobile launch tractors that the North has for its tactical medium-range ballistic missiles, which can reach targets in South Korea and Japan”, he said.
“They will also be targeting the openings to underground facilities where weapons are stored in preparation for launch, although it can be very difficult to find all these sites”.
The US has said it will “not accept North Korea as a nuclear armed state”.
Pyongyang has in the past condemned joint US-South Korean military exercises as provocation and preparations for an invasion of the North. It is likely to react angrily to suggestions that its perceived enemies are preparing a first-strike capability.
Koreas Ramp Up Psychological Warfare After Nuclear Test VOA News, Brian Padden January 14, 2016 SEOUL—North Korea’s fourth nuclear test earlier this month ended a short period of inter-Korean cooperation and restarted the Cold War standoff between Seoul and Pyongyang.
While avoiding direct military confrontation that could easily escalate into a hot war, both North and South have resumed psychological war games and tactical maneuvers to demonstrate military readiness and resolve.
On Wednesday a suspected North Korean drone was sighted crossing the inter-Korean demilitarized zone. South Korean forces responded by firing about 20 machine gun rounds at the unidentified flying object but apparently did not hit it.
“Our military fired warning shots after broadcasting a warning. Then it returned to the northern side of the border right away,” said Jeon Ha-gyu, the head of public affairs for the Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea’s armed forces.
North Korean propaganda
There have also been reports this week of pro-North Korean leaflets scattered throughout Seoul and its suburban areas. South Korea’s military suspects the propaganda leaflets were sent from the North by hot air balloons.
“North Korea was seen scattering leaflets from the northern area yesterday afternoon and early this morning,” Jeon said Wednesday. …….
Defense officials from China and South Korea are scheduled to meet Friday in Seoul to discuss the increasingly tense security situation on the Korean peninsula. http://www.voanews.com/content/koreas-ramp-up-psychological-warfare-after-nuclear-test/3145316.html
They failed — but they have not quit.
Days after reports that Iran has dismantled one of the most dangerous parts of its program by removing the core of its heavy-water reactor in Arak and filling it with cement, Republicans in the House of Representatives are mounting a new attempt to kill the agreement that has already made the world much safer.
The “Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act” would prevent the President from lifting sanctions imposed on Iranian individuals and entities unless the Administration can “certify the entity is not a terror financier, human rights abuser or involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
President Obama has already vowed to veto the bill, should it reach his desk, for the simple reason that it tangles up an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program with other issues that have nothing to do with it. The new bill is simply a poison pill, designed to kill the nuclear deal.
The deal was designed to do one very important thing — make the world safe from the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. It does not aim to tackle Iran’s role in regional conflicts, or its sponsorship of terrorist groups or its domestic human rights abuses.
There are separate sanctions imposed on Iran to confront those issues, all of which will remain in place. And the United States and its partners should remain vigilant and take appropriate action when faced with Iranian provocations — like the ballistic missile test they conducted last October which violated UN Security Council resolutions. But none of these factors have anything to do with the nuclear deal.
If the latest bill passed, the White House warned, the legislation “could result in the collapse of a comprehensive diplomatic arrangement that peacefully and verifiably prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
That would lead to the end of international inspections and monitoring of Iranian nuclear facilities and leave Iran free to restart its program. It would “lead to the unraveling of the international sanctions regime against Iran, and deal a devastating blow to America’s credibility as a leader of international diplomacy,” the White House said.
Republicans have the votes to pass this bill in the House. It will be more interesting to see how it fares in the Senate, where prominent Republicans expected to face strong Democratic challengers this year, like Mark Kirk of Illinois and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have been strong backers of previous efforts to sabotage the agreement.
What opponents don’t get is that the nuclear deal is already proving itself. The Iranians have moved faster than most experts believed would happen to fulfill their part of the agreement. Notably, they shipped 25,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium to Russia, leaving them without enough material for a bomb.
“This step is vital because it is irreversible, since the low-enriched uranium is never coming back and would instead need to be produced again,” said Ilan Goldenberg, who directs the Middle East security program at the Center for a New American Security, writing in The National Interest.
The Iranians have also removed centrifuges as required and allowed intrusive inspections of its facilities, as laid down by the JCPOA. And now they are rendering the Arak plant harmless.
It will soon be time for the United States and its partners to live up to their side of the agreement. Once the designated international authorities confirm that Iran has met its obligations, the international community must begin to lift sanctions originally imposed because of Iran’s nuclear program.
Opponents can be expected to continue their campaign to kill the agreement one way or another. That’s why supporters, and all those who believe in diplomatic solutions to tough international problems, must remain vigilant, ready to take political action whenever needed to preserve this important breakthrough.
Iran nuclear deal: heavy water nuclear reactor core filled with cement, SMH, January 12, 2016 Dubai: Iran has removed the core of its Arak heavy water nuclear reactor and filled it with cement as required under a nuclear deal signed with world powers last year, the semi-official Fars news agency has revealed, citing an informed Iranian source.
Any such move, reducing the plant’s ability to produce plutonium, might signal imminent implementation of the nuclear deal and clear the way for Tehran to receive relief from economic sanctions.
Separately, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said that EU nuclear-related sanctions on Iran could be lifted soon.
The fate of the reactor in central Iran was one of the toughest sticking points in the long nuclear negotiations that led to an agreement in July between Iran and six world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under the deal’s terms, Iran accepted that the Arak reactor would be reconfigured so it could not yield fissile plutonium usable in a nuclear bomb.
China, the United States, France, Britain, Russia and Germany have agreed to participate in the redesign and the construction of the modernised reactor…….http://www.smh.com.au/world/iran-nuclear-deal-heavy-water-nuclear-reactor-core-filled-with-cement-20160112-gm3zkz.html
US FREQUENTLY USES THREAT OF NUCLEAR WAR, WARNS WHISTLEBLOWER DANIEL ELLSBERG MINNEAPOLIS , Shadow Proof, KIT OCONNELL—, 2 Jan 16 MintPress News is proud to host “Lied to Death,” a 13-part audio conversation between famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and social justice activist Arn Menconi.
Menconi wrote that these interviews are a “mixture of historical, political science and Dan’s sixty-year scholarly analysis as a former nuclear planner for Rand Corporation.”
For more information on the interview and Daniel Ellsberg, see the introduction to this series.
Chapter 1: Ellsberg on the the origins of empire and the nuclear danger to humanity
In the first full chapter of “Lied to Death,” Ellsberg discusses the origins of American empire, telling Menconi that empire building goes all the way back to Sargon, the ruler of ancient Mesopotamia and history’s first emperor.
However, unlike the emperors of old, the U.S. government publicly espouses democracy while simultaneously carrying out many of the same forms of repression and manipulation that historic rulers used to gain global power, he says.
For Ellsberg, that’s where the CIA and similar forces become essential. While he believes that covert actions may be necessary for any nation to protect itself during times of war, Ellsberg tells Menconi that only an empire needs covert agencies during times of peace because those agencies help maintain the image of freedom and transparency.
“The United States is not a government with a covert operations agency named the CIA, it’s a government which has a covert foreign policy,” Ellsberg explains.
Ellsberg argues that the CIA allows the U.S. to enact this covert foreign policy, which is not meant to ensure the independence of other nations, but to “buy their dependence.” When something goes wrong, the agency protects the White House from accountability. Even when the government’s cover story for its actions is revealed to be false by the media or a whistleblower, he says “there are other cover stories and cover stories within cover stories” — all of which misdirect attention. “The president is not held accountable … and he will not be held [accountable] before history.”
Apart from the pretense of democracy, Ellsberg argues that the United States is “unremarkable” as an empire, except for a few key points, most notably its ability to use the threat of nuclear weapons.
“The danger of all-out war leading to the extinction of the human species is significant right now and always has been larger than people thought,” he tells Menconi.
He does not believe that government officials actively seek out nuclear war, understanding that it would be devastating for humanity. But Ellsberg claims the U.S. has used the threat of nuclear conflict far more frequently than the public realizes, and that government leaders consider the potential for actual nuclear war to be an “acceptable risk” in return for the power the threat confers over other nations.
The U.S. and a handful of its allies, including the United Kingdom and France, also act as nuclear kingmakers, choosing which countries will be allowed to have nuclear weapons and which will not. Unfortunately, this behavior has brought us closer to human extinction by promoting a global buildup of nuclear weapons which could be deployed at any time. Specifically, Ellsberg says U.S. foreign policy is directly responsible for the buildup of Russian nuclear weapons during the Cold War…….
I wish I could say that our government has improved its treatment of whistleblowers in the 40 years since the Pentagon Papers. Instead we’re seeing an unprecedented campaign to crack down on public servants who reveal information that Congress and American citizens have a need to know.
Dutch fear impact of Belgian nuclear power plant problems http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/01/dutch-fear-impact-of-belgian-nuclear-power-plant-problems/ January 4, 2016 The Dutch government should be involved in solving problems at the Belgian nuclear power station in Doel, according to Dutch opposition parties in the AD. One reactor at the power station, on the banks of the Schelde estuary just over the border, was shut down at the weekend just days after being restarted following repairs.
Two other reactors were closed for a time last year after hairline cracks were found. One of those was also shut down shortly after being restarted because of a leak. Capacity The power plant was first opened in 1975 and should have been decommissioned last year. However, the Belgian authorities have agreed to keep it operational for a further 10 years because of a shortage of capacity.
‘The reactors are so old that if something goes wrong, the problem will not be confined to Belgium,’ D66 parliamentarian Stientje van Veldhoven told the AD. ‘When things of such importance are at stake, its only logical to involve the Netherlands in decisions about whether it should remain open.’ The AD says the mayors of several Dutch border towns, including Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom, also want the cabinet to get involved. Joint inspections Nos said later on Monday that agreement has been reached between the Netherlands and Belgium that a joint inspection by nuclear safety inspectors will take place on January 20.
Read more at DutchNews.nl: Dutch fear impact of Belgian nuclear power plant problems http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/01/dutch-fear-impact-of-belgian-nuclear-power-plant-problems/
Kim Jong Un Focuses on Economy, Not Nukes, in New Year’s Speech VOA News January 01, 2016 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year’s Day address Friday to focus primarily on the importance of economic development, avoiding any explicit threats or references to his country’s nuclear weapons program……..
“We will continue to actively try to improve the North Korea-South Korea relations and will discuss issues regarding the (Korean) people and unification in an open-minded manner with anyone who sincerely wishes for the (Korean) people’s reconciliation, unity, peace and unification,” he said.
Kim also warned that his country was open to war if provoked by “invasive” outsiders.
He also spoke positively of the high-level talks agreed to this year with South Korea, which have offered the prospect of improved inter-Korean relations but so far delivered little in the way of concrete results…….http://www.voanews.com/content/kim-jong-un-focuses-on-economy-in-new-year-speech/3127151.html
Iran nuclear deal: Tehran on track, says John Kerry http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35191146 28 December 2015
The US says Iran has taken a “significant step” towards meeting its nuclear commitments, by sending a large quantity of uranium abroad. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke after Iran dispatched a shipment of more than 11 tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia.
Iran signed a deal in July with six international powers. It is designed to demonstrate that Iran is not on the threshold of being able to make an atomic bomb.
Under the deal, Iran agreed to reduce its holdings of low-enriched uranium; sharply reduce its quantity of centrifuges – used to enrich uranium – and cut its output of plutonium by re-engineering a power plant.
Mr Kerry said Monday’s shipment of low-enriched uranium to Russia had tripled the amount of time it would take to produce enough fuel for a bomb – from two or three months to nine months. “I am pleased to report that we have seen important indications of significant progress towards Iran completing its key nuclear commitments under the deal,” Mr Kerry said.
Under July’s agreement, the International Atomic Energy Agency will decide when Tehran has complied with its obligations.
After this, the US and other world powers will begin to dismantle their programme of economic sanctions against Iran.
Key areas of the nuclear deal:
Uranium enrichment: Iran can operate 5,060 first generation centrifuges, configured to enrich uranium to 3.67%, a level well below that needed to make an atomic weapon. It can also operate up to 1,000 centrifuges at its mountain facility at Fordow – but these cannot be used to enrich uranium.
Plutonium production: Iran has agreed to reconfigure its heavy water reactor at Arak, so that it will only produce a tiny amount of plutonium as a by-product of power generation, and will not build any more heavy water reactors for 15 years.
Inspections: International monitors will be able to carry out a comprehensive programme of inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Sanctions: All EU and US energy, economic and financial sanctions, and most UN sanctions, will be lifted on the day Iran shows it has complied with the main parts of the deal.
That’s It: All Enriched Uranium Removed From Iran Under Russian Assistance http://sputniknews.com/politics/20151229/1032438231/iran-uranium-russia.html MOSCOW (Sputnik) – All of the enriched uranium in Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, accepted on July 14 in Vienna on Iran’s nuclear energy program, has been removed under Russia’s assistance, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
“Under Russia’s assistance, all of the enriched uranium falling into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has been removed from Iran,” the ministry said in a statement.
On July 14, Iran and the P5+1 group of mediators — Russia, the United States, China, France and the United Kingdom plus Germany — reached an agreement on maintaining a peaceful nature of Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Russia played a vital role in arranging for Tehran’s low-enriched uranium being shipped out of Iran under the P5+1 nuclear deal
U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe threaten Russia – Putin http://rbth.com/international/2015/12/20/us-tactical-nuclear-weapons-in-europe-threaten-russia-putin_552869
“U.S. tactical nuclear weapons have always been there [on the planes] after WWII, after America became a nuclear power. They are simply modernizing them now,” the president said in an interview in a documentary, “World Order,” of the Rossiya-1 (VGTRK) television channel.
“Indeed, this is a dangerous thing now. Why? Because our tactical nuclear weapons are not strategic for the United States, they cannot reach their territory, while U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in Europe can reach our territory. In this sense, they are strategic for us and they are posing a bigger threat to us than our strategic nuclear weapons,” the president said.
Modi, who heads for Moscow on December 23, will also offer Russia a site in Andhra Pradesh to build six nuclear reactors of 1,200 megawatts (MW) each, the same sources added.
That is in addition to the six Russia is constructing in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the press.
New Delhi has turned to Russia as US firm General Electric and Westinghouse, a US-based unit of Japan’s Toshiba, are still weighing an entry into India’s nuclear energy sector because of a law that makes reactor suppliers liable in case of an accident………
Russian President Vladimir Putin is banking on India’s drive to manufacture at home to regain market share…….http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/india-russia-eye-nuclear-helicopter-deals-prior-to-modi-visit/story-wdxOqkpbmKbbi8hu8QxHjM.html
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