Category Archives: Geopolitics

Game of Zones: China raises the specter of war


While Barack Obama brought to Sino-American relations to a level of tension not seen sent Nixon went to Beijing, Donald Trump threatens to send them back to darkest days of the Cold War.

And now China is striking back, though only with words — for the moment,

From RT:

Chinese state media has warned that the US would have to launch a “large-scale war” to prevent Beijing from accessing islands it has built in the South China Sea. It comes after secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson said such access should be restricted.

“Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish,” the state-sanctioned Global Times newspaper wrote on its English-language website.

>snip<

The article also said that China has so far “shown restraint” when Trump’s cabinet picks have expressed “radical views,” as the president-elect has not yet been sworn in. However, it stressed that the US “should not be misled into thinking that Beijing will be fearful of their threats.”

“If Trump’s diplomatic team shapes future Sino-US ties as it is doing now, the two sides had better prepare for a military clash,” the article reads, adding that Tillerson’s statements are “far from professional.”

The former ExxonMobil CEO’s comments were made during his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, in which he said that China’s activities in the disputed South China Sea were “extremely worrisome.”

More from the Global Times report:

China has enough determination and strength to make sure that his rabble rousing will not succeed. Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.

The US has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories. Probably he just has oil prices and currency rates in his mind as former ExxonMobil CEO.

He also lacks legality. If China is not allowed access to islands it has long controlled, does this also apply to Vietnam and the Philippines? Should the Nansha Islands become a depopulated zone? What does so-called US freedom of navigation around the Nansha Islands mean?

As Trump has yet to be sworn in, China has shown restraint whenever his team members expressed radical views. But the US should not be misled into thinking that Beijing will be fearful of their threats.

Fueled by Trump, the Game of Zones heats up


The Donald’s provocative moves in the delicate multi-power game underway in the China Seas have include incendiary tweets, numerous campaign declarations, and, in particular, two meetings.

The first came in the form of the first post-election visit by a foreign leader, Shinzo Abe’s 18 November visit to the President-elects Trump Tower suite, a meeting also attended by the first-daughter-to-be Ivanka and her real estate mogul/media baron spouse.

The meeting, Trump’s first-ever flesh-presser with a foreign head of state, also came while Ivanka was sealing a business deal with a Japanese company. business negotiations.

Then, on 2 December came another foreign visitor, this time by telephone, when Trump reversed decades of American foreign policy by engaging in direct conversation with the President of Tawan, a government most of the world doesn’t recognize, in part because of its claims to be the only legitimate government of the Chinese mainland.

Besides appealing to the Cold War strains still resonating in the Grand Old Party, Trump’s conversation with Tsai Ing-wen inflamed Beijing — probably intentionally — even though he’s the first Taiwanese leader who hasn’t endorsed claims to rightly rule the mainland.

Oh, and former U.S. Senator-turned-lobbyist Bob Dole spent months setting up the meeting, his firm pocketing more than $140,000 for Dole’s labors.

Abe takes heart from Trump’s glad-handing

Bolstered by his meeting with the anti-Beijing Trump, Japan’s prime minister is beefing up his country’s military agenda in the Game of Zones.

We begin with a map from the Yomiuri Shimbun, a conservative Japanese paper charting the competing powers in the Game of Zones:

blog-zones

From the accompanying story:

The government plans to formulate by this summer an integrated defense strategy, which outlines how the Self-Defense Forces would respond in the event of a contingency involving China over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, according to government sources.

The measure is aimed at devising scenarios for a possible clash between Japan and China.

To strengthen the defense of the Nansei Islands through cooperation between the SDF and U.S. forces, the government will also compile a Japan-U.S. joint operation plan at the same time, the sources said.

With these measures, the government intends to become fully prepared and, at the same time, to develop a deterrent effect against China, which has been stepping up its military activities in areas around Japan.

Possible scenarios for a contingency over the Senkakus likely include an accidental clash between a Chinese fisheries patrol boat and a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel, the dispatch by China of patrol vessels en masse, the deployment of Chinese naval vessels, and landing on any of the islands by a Chinese airborne unit.

The strategy is expected to stipulate operations to be conducted in the form of exercising the right to self-defense within Japan’s territories and waters, such as preventing a military vessel from approaching a remote island by using surface-to-ship missiles of the Ground Self-Defense Force, bringing enemy forces under control with ground strafing from an Air Self-Defense Force fighter jet or fire from a Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, and having GSDF personnel land on the island.

So what are Trump’s motives

Here’s what a Chinese government paper came up with when it looked across the Pacific.

From China Daily:

In light of US President-Elect Donald Trump’s hawkish remarks about China, allied to a number of unexpected moves in the wake of his election victory, experts in Sino-US studies around the world have expressed deep concerns about the key relationship.

Many of the experts have warned that the Sino-US relationship may revert to the deep, mutual distrust that characterized relations between the countries during the 1960s.

Ted Carpenter, senior fellow of defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute in Washington, said he is “increasingly worried” about Trump’s policies regarding China.

“At first, I thought that Trump was engaging in the ‘China-bashing’ that is fairly typical of US presidential campaigns. Yet once in office, new presidents have pursued policies very similar to those of their predecessors since the early 1970s,” he said, adding that Trump’s post-election actions suggest that something else may be going on.

“The telephone conversation with Tsai Ing-wen was startling enough, but the Trump transition team’s insistence on referring to her as the ‘President of Taiwan’ indicated sympathy with hard-line Taiwanese separatists,” he said, referring to a phone call between Trump and the Taiwan leader on Dec 2, which broke with decades of diplomatic precedent.

The irony is that China turned to the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that gave birth to the first draft of Reaganomics.

And China signals possible reprisals to come

More on China/U.S. relations in the Age of Trump from the Financial Times:

Senior Chinese officials have warned the US that Beijing is ready to retaliate if Donald Trump’s incoming administration imposes new tariffs, highlighting the risk of a destructive trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Penny Pritzker, the outgoing US commerce secretary, said in an interview with the Financial Times that Chinese officials had informed their US counterparts in a meeting after November’s election that they would be forced to respond to trade measures taken by the new administration.

“The Chinese leadership said to me ‘If you guys put an import duty on us we are going to do it on you’,” Ms Pritzker said. “And then they said ‘That will be bad for both of us’.”

She said that the next administration needed to decide “the fine line between being tough and a trade war”, cautioning that such a confrontation would have “enormous consequence” for the US.

The move highlights the concern in China over the risk to relations presented by Mr Trump, who has also offended Beijing by breaking with traditional US policy on Taiwan.

In the words of that venerable China-watcher Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street,  “Come Watson! The game is afoot.”

Obama’s revenge: Russian diplomats expelled


Angered over those alleged Russian hacking attacks on his party, President Barack Obama has ramped up the pressure on Moscow, today expelling a host of Russian diplomats.

Cold War 2.0 is escalating once again, though we suspect the new Oval Office occupant will do what he can to damp it down, perhaps the one silver lining in a very dark cloud.

Form teleSUR English:

The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds in New York and Maryland in response to an alleged campaign of harassment against American diplomats in Moscow, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

The move against the diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the U.S. election.

The Obama administration was also announcing on Thursday a series of retaliatory measures against Russia for allegedly hacking into U.S. political institutions and individuals and leaking information to help President-elect Donald Trump and other Republican candidates, two U.S. officials said.

Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has called for better relations with Russia. It was not clear if he will be able to immediately overturn the measures announced on Thursday.

The Russian diplomats would have 72 hours to leave the United States, the official said. Access to the two compounds, which are used by Russian officials for intelligence gathering, will be denied to all Russian officials as of noon on Friday, the senior U.S. official added.

And on a related note. . .

Lori Harfenistis a Manhattan-based punk artist who did a show cal The Resident for the weekly show for the Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public access channel, then moved it over to RT America in 2003.

In this brief segment she points out a conflict for the news medium that’s been doing so much on the alleged Russian hacking of the American political system. You might even call it financial hacking.

It’s short and well worth watching:

WaPo refuses to add disclosure about $600M CIA contract

Program notes:

In 2013, Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. Only 4 months later, he was awarded a $600 million contract with the CIA. So the CIA has a direct connection to the Washington Post, the paper of record in our nation’s capital, but they refuse to add a disclosure to stories they write about the CIA.

Chart of the day: Adding fuel to MENA flames


From Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, a report by the Congressional Research Service, a look at who’s selling arms to nations in the inflamed Middle East/North Africa region [click on the image to enlarge]:

blog-mena-arms

Trump, the most dangerous man in the world


And the reason isn’t the obvious one.

No, it’s not his vanity, and it’s only partly related to his arrogance.

No, what makes Donald Trump the most dangerous man in the world is that he is utterly untrustworthy, a man whose word means nothing and who will say anything to get his way.

In other words, he’s a unprincipled liar.

And that’s what makes him dangerous.

To Trump, the art of the deal is say whatever works toward his end, and when the deal is done he will brag about the lies he told to get there.

From the Daily Show:

Trump Lets the Truth Come Out Post-Election

Program notes:

While out on his “Thank You Tour,” President-elect Trump smugly admits to lying about his campaign promises to lock up Hillary Clinton and “drain the swamp.”

No foreign leader will be able to trust anything Donald Trump says, and for that reason they will always assume the worst.

And when the stakes are high and the folks on the other side of the table are armed with nuclear weapons, we can only expect the worst.

Scary, ain’t it?

Trump’s not Adolf Hitler, says Noam Chomsky


While Adolj Hitler was a sincere, dedicated ideologue, Donald Trump is a thing-skinned megalomaniac, firing off tweets at 3 a.m. when anyone angers him, says Noam Chomsky in this extended interview with Al Jazeera.

And in some ways he’s worse: “The most predictable aspect of Trump is unpredictability. I think it’s dangerous, very dangerous.”

And in many ways, he says, it’s the Republican Party itself that’s the greatest threat to humanity’s future.

Topics covered include the failure of the news media to cover real issues, climate change, Barack Obama’s assassination program, NATO and threats to peace in Eastern Europe, and more

From Al Jazeera English’s UpFront:

Noam Chomsky on the new Trump era

Gulliani may be out as AG, but in as Sec. of State?


Holy cap!

Hold on to your hats, folks. We’re in for a really bumpy ride.

From the New York Times:

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, is the leading contender to be secretary of state in the Trump administration, campaign officials said on Tuesday, as Vice President-elect Mike Pence plans to join President-elect Donald J. Trump in New York to accelerate the process of filling out his cabinet.

Mr. Giuliani, a loyal, often ferocious backer of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, would be a startling choice to be the nation’s chief diplomat – a relentless former federal prosecutor who has viewed foreign policy largely through the prism of the Sept. 11 attacks, which turned him into a national figure.

Though that ordeal gave Mr. Giuliani a firm grounding in domestic security issues, his formal diplomatic experience is slim. Like other New York City mayors, he made occasional ventures into foreign policy, on issues like the Middle East peace process or more parochial concerns, like going after foreign diplomats for their unpaid parking tickets.

Mr. Giuliani, who mounted brief bids for the Senate in 2000 and the White House in 2008, is now best known for his full-throated advocacy of his fellow New Yorker, Mr. Trump. He delivered a speech on his behalf at the Republican National Convention in which he condemned President Obama, saying he had failed to protect Americans from “Islamic extremist terrorism.”

Giuliani may be one of the few Republicans ever more frightening tan Trump, a President elect who’s says he’s willing to press the nuclear button.

Trump and Giuliani, two loose cannons. . .

Nuclear cannons.