Category Archives: Geopolitics

Boris Johnson, British Trump, heads foreign policy


New British Prime Minister Theresa May has named her Foreign Secretary, the equivalent of Secretary of State on this side of the pond, and he’s a British Donald Trump, right down the his extravagant hirsute adornment and his xenophobia.

Meet Boris Johnson, the now-former mayor of London and a lead campaigner for the Brexit.

From the New York Times:

Boris Johnson, Britain’s new foreign secretary, has a quality unusual for a nation’s top diplomat: He can be spectacularly undiplomatic.

Mr. Johnson has suggested that President Obama had an “ancestral dislike of the British Empire,” written a poem insinuating that Turkey’s president had sexual relations with a goat, and likened the European Union — which he helped lead the campaign for Britain to leave — to Hitler’s Third Reich.

And that was only this spring.

In December, he compared Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, to Dobby the House Elf, a “Harry Potter” character. In 2007, he wrote that Hillary Clinton looked like “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital.” In 2002, he referred to Africans as “flag-waving pickaninnies.”

So it was with no little shock that the world reacted to the news Wednesday evening that Britain’s new prime minister, Theresa May, had named Mr. Johnson to lead the rarefied Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which employs 14,000 people in nearly 270 diplomatic offices and works with the secret intelligence service MI6.

And here’s how Johnson was described in a 16 April 2008 cable from the U.S. embassy in London when Johnson was running for mayor [via Wikileaks, and thanks to Chelsea Manning]:

Conservative candidate Boris de Pfeffel Johnson’s successful candidacy for the mayor of London has defied the laws of political gravity. Johnson is best known as a mistake-prone former journalist twice exposed for committing adultery, now a Conservative MP. Johnson is also well known for apologizing: to the people of Liverpool for accusing them of mawkish sentimentality following the beheading of a resident of the city in Iraq; to the people of Portsmouth after describing the town as “too full of drugs, (and) obesity”; to the people of Papua New Guinea for associating them “with orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing,” and to the people of Africa after remarking on their “watermelon smiles”. He was also sacked as a member of the Shadow Cabinet for lying about an extra-marital affair.

Despite this record, Johnson is a popular figure and has built up a vast following in London.

Gee, if Trump’s elected here and Johnson comes to Washington for talks, they can head to the meeting site in matching clown cars.

Accompanied by stormtroopers.

Trump or Clinton: To Mexico, they’re all the same


John Ackerman is one of the leading legal lights of Mexico, serving as professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico [UNAM] and as editor-in-chief of the Mexican Law Review. He is also a columnist for Proceso magazine, source of some of the finest investigative reporting in North America, and for the La Jornada newspaper.

He is also a relentless critic of the corruption of the government of President President Enrique Peña Nieto.

In a recent essay for the Dallas Morning News, he attacked his government’s role in the investigation of the 26 September 2014 disappearance [previously] of the 43 students, still missing and presumed dead, from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

The [Inter-American Human Rights Commission] panel has discovered that many of the key witnesses in the case were tortured, key evidence was likely planted on the scene of the crime, and the government’s story about what happened to the students (their bodies were supposedly incinerated at a garbage dump) is scientifically impossible.

Significantly, the panel also has discovered the complicity of federal forces with the disappearances. During the night of Sept. 26, the Federal Police and the Army, which has two large military bases in the vicinity, were constantly tracking the students’ movements in real time and even made themselves physically present on various occasions.

The evidence points to an intentional act of aggression by government forces — local, state and federal — against the group of student dissidents. Just as occurred frequently during the “dirty war” of the 1970s, the government took advantage of the relative isolation of the mountains of Guerrero to eliminate its political opponents. The good news is that this time someone was watching.

In the light of government repression and cover-ups like this one, it should come as no surprise that the public approval ratings for Peña Nieto have reached the lowest point for any Mexican president in recent history. Only 30 percent approve of his performance and only 13 percent believe that Mexico is today “on the right track,” according to a recent independent poll.

Regardless, the U.S. government irresponsibly continues to cover the back of the Peña Nieto administration. In its most recent Human Rights Report, the State Department claims that during 2015 “there were no reports of political prisoners or detainees” and that the Mexican government “generally respected” freedom of speech and the press. Congress also continues to funnel millions of dollars of support to Mexican law enforcement through the Merida Initiative.

Ackerman argues that it may make little difference who is elected president in the United States, since both politicians favor policies that can only bring more harm to his country.

Instead, he calls for a Mexico/U.S.-disconnect, given that the corruption in Mexico is aided, abetted, and even created by U.S. neoliberal politicians and their corporate sponsors.

Similarly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership will only deeply the wounds already inflicted on Mexico by NAFTA.

The TPP contains the same provisions as NAFTA for a establishing a secret tribunal where corporations can sue nation states for policies created to protect their citizens. Currently Mexico is being sued for blocking radioactive waste dumps, a measure that interferes with corporate profit potential.

And those panels work only in one direction: Nations can use them to sue corporations for harming their citizens.

But there are signs of hope.

Ackerman outlines his views in this very important interview from the Keiser Report, and it’s well worth your time.

From RT:

Keiser Report: US, Mexico & walls

Program notes:

In this special episode of the 2016 Summer Solutions series of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy talk to John Ackerman, professor, columnist and the Mexican Law Review’s editor-in-chief, about the economic relationship between Mexico and the United States. Ackerman has a plan to cut off the flow of funds from America to the Mexican government and he also responds to Donald Trump’s wall. Like Trump, however, Ackerman believes Nafta has been devastating… both to the American worker and to the population in Mexico. They conclude with solutions to the consequences of neoliberal capitalism and dodgy trade deals.

The Game of Zones: Court rejects Chinese claims


China's maritime claims and bases built or under construction by Bejing, via the Yomiuri Shimbun.

China’s maritime claims and bases built or under construction by Bejing, via the Yomiuri Shimbun.

Tensions in the Game of Zones underway in the China Seas intensified today with a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration said there declared China has not right to control islands where the Asian economic giant has been constructing military bases and surrounding ocean waters.

The ruling by the court in the Hague is certain to provoke further military confrontations with the U.S., the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan.

Given that the Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a policy of rapid remilitarization and plans to strike the pacifist provisions of its post-World War II constitution we can be assured of one thing: Danger and crisis lie ahead.

From BBC News:

The ruling came from an arbitration tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which both countries have signed.

It ruled on seven of 15 points brought by the Philippines. Among the key findings were:

  • Fishermen from the Philippines and China both had fishing rights around the disputed Scarborough Shoal area, and China had interfered by restricting access
  • China had “destroyed evidence of the natural condition of features in the South China Sea” that formed part of the dispute
  • Transient use of features above water did not constitute inhabitation – one of the key conditions for claiming land rights of 200 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles granted for rocks visible at high tide.

The ruling is binding but the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no powers of enforcement.

More from the New York Times:

The landmark case, brought by the Philippines, was seen as an important crossroads in China’s rise as a global power. It is the first time the Chinese government has been summoned before the international justice system, and the decision against it could provide leverage to other neighboring countries that have their own disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

“It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” said the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler. “This is a remarkable victory for the Philippines.”

But while the decision is legally binding, there is no mechanism for enforcing it, and China, which refused to participate in the tribunal’s proceedings, reiterated on Tuesday that it would not abide by it. “The award is invalid and has no binding force,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China does not accept or recognize it.”

The foreign secretary of the Philippines, Perfecto Yasay, said Manila welcomed the decision as “significant” and called on “all those concerned to exercise restraint and sobriety.”

A harsh rebuke for China, provocations inevitable

The ruling was harsh, a strong rebuke for China’s claims.

Beijing has invested millions, possibly billions, in developed bases and facilities for exercising its control over waters wise in fish and a seabed believed to contain extensive mineral and petroleum resources.

The Guardian offers it’s take on the ruling:

The ruling will make grim reading for Beijing and contains a series of criticisms of China’s actions and claims. The tribunal declared that “although Chinese navigators and fishermen, as well as those of other states, had historically made use of the islands in the South China Sea, there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters or their resources.

“The tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line’.”

None of the fiercely disputed Spratly Islands, the UN body found, were “capable of generating extended maritime zones … [and] having found that none of the features claimed by China was capable of generating an exclusive economic zone, the tribunal found that it could — without delimiting a boundary — declare that certain sea areas are within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, because those areas are not overlapped by any possible entitlement of China.”

There’s a lot more, after the jump, including reaction from Beijing, Tokyo, and Washington. . . Continue reading

More troubles brewing in the Game of Zones


This time it’s North Korea, threatening retaliation for an Obama administration military move in its “Asian pivot.”

From Agence France Presse:

North Korea threatened Monday to take “physical action” after Washington and Seoul announced they would deploy a sophisticated US anti-missile defence system to counter the growing menace from Pyongyang.

Seoul and Washington had on Friday revealed their decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the South following recent North Korean missile and nuclear tests.

The two allies have not yet revealed exactly when and where the system, which fires projectiles to smash into enemy missiles, would be deployed but said they were in the final stage of selecting a potential venue.

“The DPRK will take a physical counter-action to thoroughly control THAAD… from the moment its location and place have been confirmed in South Korea,” the artillery bureau of the North’s military said in a statement, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Shinzo Abe wins votes for Japan remilitarization


UPDATED: At the end, with suspicions confirmed.

Japan may soon rejoin the ranks of the world’s major military powers following Sunday’s election, which ensured that Rightist Prime Minister Abe has the votes to strike the pacifist provisions from the nation’s constitution.

Elections for the upper house of the Diet handed a supermajority of seats to the two-party coalition dominated by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

The pacifist provisions of the constitution, once the pride of the nation, have fallen from favor as Abe’s government, prodded by the Obama administration in Washington, seeks control over key oil-and-mineral-rich sections of the China Seas.

Washington’s eagerness to contain China has led the White House to back the repeal of the antimilitarism provisions in the Japanese constitution imposed by the U.S. in the aftermath of World War II.

The U.S. push is part of Obama’s “Asian pivot,” policies designed to contain and constrain China both economically and militarily. Another part of the Washington, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, neatly dovetails with the prime ministers economic policies, dubbed Abenomics.

Here’s a graphic on Sunday’s results from the Yomiuri Shimbun:

BLOG Japan
From the Yomiuri Shimbun:

The key point of contention was whether a majority of voters would support Abenomics, the prime minister’s economic policy package. Another focus was whether the ruling parties and those among the opposition parties and independents that favor amending the Constitution would be able to secure the two-thirds majority of the 242 House of Councillors seats available — or 162 — needed to initiate constitutional amendment. As of 3:30 a.m. Monday, pro-amendment lawmakers were set to secure 162 seats or more in the upper house of the Diet.

As the possibility of the pro-amendment camp securing a two-thirds majority increased, Abe told NHK, “From now, we will move on to research commissions on the Constitution [in both houses of the Diet], and discussions will be consolidated into which provisions [of the Constitution] would be changed and how.”

Voter turnout is estimated to stand at around 54 percent, according to The Yomiuri Shimbun’s estimates, compared to 52.61 percent in 2013 upper house poll. The lowest voter turnout for a House of Councillors election was 44.52 percent in 1995.

Sunday’s election was the first national election since the minimum voting age was lowered from 20 to 18. About 2.4 million youths aged 18 and 19, including some third-year high school students, joined the electorate.

More from United Press International:

If achieves a two-thirds super majority in the Upper House to match that in the Lower House, Abe could conduct a referendum on constitutional change, including military constraints.

Abe wants to change Article 9, which forbids Japan from fighting wars abroad. It was imposed by the United States after Japan lost in World War II in 1945. The constitution has not been modified since 1947.

“This election was not fought on whether or not to change the constitution,” Abe told TBS as reported by Bloomberg. “I think we are expected to debate thoroughly in the constitutional panel which articles should be changed, while understanding spreads among the people.”

The Game of Zones continue to grow hotter, with no end in sight.

UPDATE: And suspicions confirmed

From the Japan Times:

The Liberal Democratic Party’s policy chief on Sunday called for changing the nation’s pacifist Constitution after the ruling coalition won a landslide victory in the Upper House election.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition and like-minded parties appeared to win two-thirds “supermajority” needed to try to revise the post-war Constitution for the first time, some TV exit polls showed, although others only said it is within their grasp.

“Our party is one that calls for reforming the Constitution,” said Tomomi Inada, policy chief of the ruling LDP, after the polls closed.

“Our party has already submitted a draft for reforming the Constitution,” she added.

Revising the Constitution, especially the war-renouncing Article 9, has been Abe’s long-term goal.

Dems defeat Bernie’s anti-TPP platform plank


We are shocked, shocked.

From the Associated Press:

Bernie Sanders failed in his quest to include opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal in a draft of the Democratic Party’s policy positions at a meeting Saturday, where several amendments against the deal were voted down by Hillary Clinton supporters.

During a combative meeting in a hotel ballroom, members of the Democratic National Convention’s full Platform Committee voted down amendments to explicitly oppose the deal and to oppose a vote on it in Congress. Instead, they endorsed an amendment that included stronger language governing trade deals, including the TPP.

Sanders and Clinton have come out against the trade deal, but President Barack Obama supports it. Clinton supporters, including labor leaders, believed that toughening the trade language made enough of a statement without directly opposing the president, whom they did not mention during their public comments. The amendment said that trade deals “must protect workers and the environment and not undermine access to critically needed prescription drugs.” It went on to say that Democrats would apply those standards “to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Labor leaders said after the vote that their amendment made clear where they stand on TPP and that they oppose “bad trade deals.” But Sanders backers expressed their frustration with boos and angry shouts.

Tensions mount again in the Asian Game of Zones


Tensions have reached new highs in the China Seas, where the Obama is pushing to militarize Japan and rearm one-time enemy Vietnam to oppose China’s presence in the resource rich waters of the China Seas.

As part of his gambit, Obama has been pushing the right wing government of Japanese Prime Minister to scrap the pacifist provisions of that nations constitution, provisions put in place under the American military dictatorship of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the wake of World War II.

Both Japan and Vietnam have long histories of warfare with China, which China remembers all vividly.

We begin with some raw video from RT depicting Chinese naval maneuvers clearly designed to send a message:

RAW: Chinese navy holds massive combat drills in disputed South China Sea

Program notes:

Warships, supporting vessels and planes from China’s Northern, Eastern and Southern Fleet were mobilised for the exercises, according to CCTV. The exercises took place on Friday between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands, known in China as Xisha Islands. The military drills come a few days ahead of an expected ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in the Hague, on China’s disputed territorial claims. The case was brought by the Philippines.

The story from Reuters:

The Chinese navy conducted combat drills near its southern island province of Hainan and the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, the Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

The drills come ahead of a July 12 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on a case brought by the Philippines disputing several of China’s territory claims in the South China Sea.

Ships from China’s northern, eastern and southern fleets participated in Friday’s drills, which focused on air control, surface operations and anti-submarine warfare, among other training exercises, the ministry said in a website statement.

China claims nearly all the South China Sea, but its claims overlap in part with those of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

China has repeatedly said it does not consider any decision reached by the arbitration court to be legally binding.

The Philippines back off from a conciliatory move:

For a couple of days this week an observer could grasp at one small straw, an apparent move by the new Philippine president hinting at a possible easing of tensions between two of the players.

But wait!

From the Japan Times:

The Philippines’ top diplomat appeared to walk back claims that Manila would be willing to share natural resources with Beijing in the disputed South China Sea — even if it wins a legal challenge next week, a brief statement on the Philippine Foreign Ministry’s website said Saturday.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told Agency France-Presse in an interview Friday that the administration of new President Rodrigo Duterte “hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China” following Tuesday’s verdict, with an eye on jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

On Saturday, however, Yasay was quick to issue a “rejoinder” to the interview.

“What I said is we have to wait for the ruling and study and dissect its implications,” he said in a statement on the ministry’s website.

“As the ruling will not address sovereignty and delimitation, it is possible that some time in the future, claimant countries might consider entering into arrangements such as joint exploration and utilization of resources in disputed areas that do not prejudice the parties’ claims and delimitation of boundaries in accordance with UNCLOS,” it added, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading