Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Cambodia changes gear into reverse

By Jonathan Power

Cambodia is no longer going forward, it is slipping backwards, as it has many times before. Earlier this month the government asked the Supreme Court to dissolve the main opposition coalition. One opposition leader, Kem Sokha, was sent to prison last month and the other, Sam Rainsy, is in exile.

The English-language newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, has been closed and the relatively free radio stations leant on and a number closed. The decades-long prime minister, Hun Sen, talks about rebels in the capital, Phnom Penh, plotting to overthrow the government.

Good things still happen. The economic growth nearly touches 7% year after year. Land reform has worked. The health and education of the poor has markedly improved. In other countries, this might be a prelude to political liberalisation. But not in Cambodia. Hun Sen, who before has won many elections, some reasonably honest, some rigged, now fears defeat at the polls next year.

To understand why Cambodia is so we must go back 47 years before the genocidal movement, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, took over.

In 1970 a pro-American military junta led by Lon Nol deposed King Sihanouk, who had succeeded in keeping his country out of the Vietnam War. Read the rest of this entry »

Nobel Peace Prize 2017: Law and morality versus violent geopolitics

By Richard Falk
Professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and University of California, Santa Barbara, board member of The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and TFF Associate since 1985

Finally, the committee in Oslo that picks a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize each year selected in 2017 an awardee that is a true embodiment of the intended legacy of Alfred Nobel when he established the prize more than a century ago.

It is also a long overdue acknowledgement of the extraordinary dedication of anti-nuclear activists around the planet who for decades have done all in their power to rid the world of this infernal weaponry before it inflicts catastrophe upon all living beings even more unspeakable that what befell the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on two infamous days in August 1945.

Such a prize result was actually anticipated days before the announcement by Fredrik Heffermehl, a crusading Norwegian critic of past departures from Nobel’s vision by the prize committee.

In making the prediction that the 2017 prize would be given in recognition of anti-nuclear activism Heffermehl prophetically relied on the outlook of the current chair of the Nobel selection committee, a distinguished Norwegian lawyer, Berit Reiss-Andersen, who has publicly affirmed her belief in the correlation between adherence to international law and world peace.

The recipient of the prize is ICAN, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a coalition of more than 450 civil society groups around the world that is justly credited with spreading an awareness of the dire humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons and of making the heroic effort to generate grassroots pressure sufficient to allow for the adoption of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by 122 UN members on 7 July 2017 (known as the ‘BAN Treaty’). Read the rest of this entry »

India up and then down

By Jonathan Power

October 2nd, 2017

Recent reports estimate that India’s annual economic growth rate is now down to 5.5%. The government of Narendra Modi which until recently seemed to be on a public opinion roll could fall off its log – but that depends on the Indian electorate ending its self-deceit.

Three years ago Modi at the helm of his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, gave Congress a thumping defeat. Suave and persuasive on the podium, Modi rammed home a simple message – that in the state of Gujarat where he was the chief minister more had been achieved in a short space of time than anywhere else in India.

It was industrializing fast, building more roads, modernizing its ports and communications and helping the poor.

There was some element of truth in this and few doubt that Modi is an effective administrator who is strong on productivity and hard on corruption. Nevertheless, when it comes to the poor the record is by no means as good as he preached. Hunger in his state only fell slowly, no faster than the Indian average. Two-thirds of Indian children received vaccinations but only half in Gujarat. 33% of its children were underweight whilst the Indian overall rate was 30%.

Modi with his silken songs of achievement put the Congress Party in the shadow. Never mind that the Congress government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chairwoman Sonia Gandhi had reduced the number of poor by 135 million, the poor gravitated towards Modi.

Congress seemed unable to persuade the media – and this was true of the international media too – to give it a fair hearing on its successes. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump as war criminal?

By Jonathan Power

September 26th 2017

Out of the blue the war in Vietnam is in the news. Yet it is not the fiftieth anniversary of America’s defeat in Vietnam when North Vietnam caused it to flee. It’s only the forty second.

Part of this must be fearful parallels with the moral and strategic blindness of President Donald Trump who seems to believe in uttering his life and death rhetoric, akin to President Richard Nixon’s on Vietnam, he can frighten the enemy into submission – in his case North Korea.

Many people are worried that Trump is ready to fight America’s biggest war since Vietnam. As did Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor, he appears to be considering the use of nuclear weapons.

The second reason for Vietnam-consciousness are the rave reviews that are being given to Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10 part documentary on the Vietnam War.

It is being mentioned all over the place.

To my mind one of the big questions is, is Trump ready to be branded a war criminal by present and future generations? Read the rest of this entry »

Can the US and North Korea move from threats to negotiations?

By Gareth Porter

For months, the Trump administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have each made a series of moves that have appeared to take them ever closer to the brink of war.

But a closer review of the escalation of the conflict reveals that both sides are consciously maneuvering for what they know will be extended serious negotiations on a new framework for peace on the Korean peninsula. The Trump administration is well aware that it has no real military option against the North, and the Kim Jong-un regime seems to have sought to use missile launches as signals to the Trump administration to convey not only North Korea’s determination not to give in to pressure, but also its hopes to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation in US-North Korea military relations.

Continue reading here at TruthOut…

Nuclear sabre rattling with North Korea

By Jonathan Power

Does President Donald Trump (aka “Fire and Fury”) know what a nuclear war would be like?

I ask the question because President Roland Reagan confessed he did not until he decided to look at some movies (once an actor, he was a cinema man), like “On the Beach” that depicted a nuclear war. The exercise changed his thinking and he became an anti-nuclear weapons militant. Together with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev they cut their nuclear stockpiles sharply.

They also came near an agreement to destroy all their nuclear weapons.

The blasts at the end of the Second World War in Hiroshima and Nagasaki can now be repeated hundreds of thousand times. The remains would not just be the broken arches of the Caesars, the abandoned viaducts and moss-covered temples of the Incas, the desolation of one of the pulsating hearts of Europe, Dresden, but millions of square miles of uninhabitable desolation and a suffering which would incorporate more agony than the sum of past history.

It would be a time when the living would envy the dead and it would be a world which might well have destroyed the legacy of law, order and love that successive generations have handed over the centuries to one another. Read the rest of this entry »

New counterproductive U.S. sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea

Jan Oberg comments on the new U.S. sanctions – passed on July 28, 2017, against Russia, Iran and North Korea.

North Korea: A danger that can easily be contained

By Gunnar Westberg
TFF Board member

An easy Q & A session:

Question: What does Kim Jong-un and the leaders of DPRK, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea want?

Answer: Security for themselves, power and privileges.

Q. Are their privileges and their leadership threatened?

A: Yes. From outside and from inside.

Q: What outside danger?

A: An attack from the USA.

Q: Is there a real threat from the USA?

A: It seems so, from the perspective of Pyongyang. There are US exercises by air and navy, showing off the superiority of the US forces. And verbal threats.

Q: Why have DPRK developed nuclear weapons?

A: The leaders believe, just like in other nuclear power states, that nuclear weapons are effective deterrents.

Q: What is the danger from the inside?

A: A revolt from the repressed and destitute masses.

Q: How can the leaders prevent a revolt and keep their power?

A: By force, by fear but mostly by pointing at the danger of an attack from the South. There is one thing the people fear more than their leaders: A war. Nuclear weapons give a feeling of security, just as the US Ambassador to the UN, Ms. Nikki Haley, explained for the USA.

Q : How can we decrease the danger from DPRK?

A: There are two main ways:

1. Stop the military provocations.

2. Start negotiations.

In 1994 a “framework” of an agreement was reached and DPRK stopped their nuclear weapons program for several years. When that agreement gradually fell apart, former President Jimmy Carter helped negotiate a second agreement , which unfortunately was not accepted by President George W. Bush . Today the situation is more difficult, but if the DPRK leaders feel assured that they will not be attacked, that there will be no attempt of a regime change, progress can be achieved. And DPRK leaders can always be bought.

However, there is one great danger: If the threat from the south is removed, the people of DPRK may start a revolt, the government may fall and masses of people from North Korea will start walking, into South Korea and into China.

Maybe that is the reason the USA does not want to solve the “problem of North Korea”? Or is it just the need for an enemy?

One thing is obvious: Military threats against North Korea strongly supports the leaders of the country and increases the risk of war, maybe a nuclear war.

Gunnar Westberg

UN Peacekeeping gets tougher

By Jonathan Power

The United Nations is often scapegoated for the falling short of its peacekeeping troops and deployments. Why are they not in Syria or Yemen, Libya or along the Palestinian/Israeli border? Why did the US and the UK make it impossible for the few UN troops present at the onset of the genocide in Rwanda to have their numbers significantly augmented? As a result those few on the ground had no choice but to withdraw when some of their members were killed and their genitals stuffed in their mouths.

All good questions if not easy to answer. In Syria, for example, where exactly would they be deployed?

But a better question is why didn’t they go in at the beginning of the civil war when things weren’t so complicated and Al Qaeda and ISIS were not around?

Then there is the bad behaviour of UN troops.

In Mali, French peacekeepers were found to have engaged in paedophile activity with local children. In the Congo peacekeepers from the Indian subcontinent have been found to be raping. In Bosnia, Dutch troops washed their hands and pulled back after they felt they couldn’t do anything to avert the onset of a pogrom that happened almost before their eyes.

In Somalia, US troops supposedly there under UN command, fled when the going got rough, and then President Bill Clinton blamed the UN for the debacle.

On the other side of the coin are the great unsung victories of the UN troops – in El Salvador where at the end of the civil war the UN held the ring and organised fair elections. In Namibia at the end of the colonial war against South Africa the UN did the same. In Cyprus it averted a Bosnian-type Christian/Muslim war. Read the rest of this entry »

Overcoming nuclear crises

By Richard Falk* and David Krieger**

TFF PressInfo # 420
June 30, 2017

Prefatory Note
This jointly authored essay was initially published in The Hill on May 30, 2017 under the title, “Averting the Ticking Time Bomb of Nukes in North Korea.” We did not choose such a title that is doubly misleading: our contention is not that North Korea is the core of the problem, but rather the retention of nuclear weapons by all of the states pose both crises in the context of counter-proliferation geopolitics and with respect to the possession, deployment, and development of the weaponry itself; a second objection is with the title given the piece by editors at The Hill.

While acknowledging the practice of media outlets to decide on titles without seeking prior approval from authors, this title is particularly objectionable. The term ‘nukes’ gives an almost friendly shorthand to these most horrific of weapons, and strikes a tone that trivializes what should be regarded at all times with solemnity.

Alarmingly, tensions between the United States and North Korea have again reached crisis proportions. The United States wants North Korea to curtail any further development of its nuclear weapons program, as well as to stop testing its missiles. North Korea evidently seeks to bolster its security by acquiring a sufficiently robust deterrent capability to discourage an attack by the United States.

The unpredictable leaders of both countries are pursuing extremely provocative and destabilizing patterns of behavior. Where such a dangerous interaction leads no one can now foresee. The risk of this tense situation spiralling out of control should not be minimized.

It is urgent that all governments concerned make a sober reassessment in a timely manner. The following questions need to be addressed:

• What can be done to defuse this escalating crisis?

• What should be done to prevent further crises in the future?

• What could be learned from recurrent crises involving nuclear weapons states?

It is discouraging that the White House continues to rely mainly on threat diplomacy. It has not worked in responding to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions for the past few decades, and it is crucial to try a different approach.

Currently, there are mixed signals that such a shift may be underway. President Trump has turned to China, imploring that it use its leverage to induce Kim Jong-un to back down, and has even mentioned the possibility of inviting Kim for crisis-resolving talks. Also relevant and hopeful is the election of Moon Jae-in as the new president of South Korea, and his insistent calls for improved relations with the North.

In the end, no reasonable person would opt for another war on the Korean Peninsula. The only rational alternative is diplomacy. But what kind of diplomacy?

American reliance on threat and punitive diplomacy has never succeeded in the past and is almost certain to fail now. We assuredly need diplomacy, but of a different character.

It is time to abandon coercive diplomacy and develop an approach that can be described as restorative diplomacy. Coercive diplomacy relies on a zero/sum calculus consisting of military threats, sanctions, and a variety of punitive measures. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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