Category Archives: Military

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

Farewell to one of American journalism’s greatest

Sydney Schanberg was the greatest boss I never got to work for.

Back in 2001, I talked extensively with Schanberg about a new weekly newspaper he was preparing to launch in New York. He agreed to hire me, though the pay wouldn’t be much at first.

No problem, I said, eager to work in the most powerful city on earth for a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for whom I had deep respect.

We had a lot in common, two stubborn men who had each been driven out of prestigious journalism jobs, his at the New York Times and mine as the lead investigative reporter for the Sacramento Bee, because we had dared to ask important questions about very important people.

But then came 9/11/ and with it, funds for the new venture evaporated.

Schanberg went on to write columns for the Village Voice and I would soon be hired as managing editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

And today, Sydney Schanberg is gone.

From today’s New York Times obituary by Robert D. McFadden:

Sydney H. Schanberg, a correspondent for The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for covering Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and inspired the film “The Killing Fields” with the story of his Cambodian colleague’s survival during the genocide of millions, died on Saturday in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 82.

His death was confirmed by Charles Kaiser, a friend and former Times reporter, who said Mr. Schanberg had a heart attack on Tuesday.

A restive, intense, Harvard-educated newspaperman with bulldog tenacity, Mr. Schanberg was a nearly ideal foreign correspondent: a risk-taking adventurer who distrusted officials, relied on himself in a war zone and wrote vividly of political and military tyrants and of the suffering and death of their victims with the passion of an eyewitness to history.

Indeed, if folks today remember Shcanberg it’s probably because of the hit film based on his book about the Cambodian genocide.

Here’s the trailer for the critically acclaimed 1984 feature film:

The Killing Fields

Program notes:

OSCAR WINNER: Best Supporting Actor – Haing S. Ngor, Best  Cinematography, and Best Editing.

A New York Times reporter and his Cambodian aide are harrowingly trapped in Cambodia’s 1975 Khmer Rouge revolution. After the war, the adviser is imprisoned in Pol Pot’s work camps in Cambodia, and the journalist lobbies for his release. Sam Waterston, John Malkovich and Oscar winner Haing S. Ngor star in this shattering true story.

Schanberg won a Pulitzer for International Reporting for his coverage of the Cambodian killing fields, and his return to the Big Apple should have marked the beginning and a rise to the top.

But Schanberg had a problem as one of his Times colleagues explained to me: “He covers the city like a damned foreign correspondent.”


Consider this excerpt from journalist Edwin Diamond’s 1993 book From Behind the Times: Inside the New New York Times:

In the fall of 1977. . .Sidney Schanberg, his distinguished overseas service behind him, was back in New York, on a senior editing track, and being talked about as the “next Abe Rosenthal.” Like Rosenthal a decade before, Schanberg was running the Times Metro desk and seeing New York with the fresh eye of a a foreign correspondent. In a memo to Rosenthal, Schanberg proposed major new treatment of the homosexual community of New York, which he described as “ large and increasingly middle class. According to Schanberg, “many people still think of homosexual life in terms of interior decorators, Fire Island, and leather bars, but increasingly it’s also very much a world of lawyers, physicians, teachers, politicians, clergymen and other middle-class professional men and women who, aside from their sexual experience, live like their ‘straight’ counterparts,”

Rosenthal replied that while he would always give attention to Schanberg’s ideas, he didn’t “want a whole bunch of stories or a series. A great amount of coverage at this time would simply seem naive and deja vu. It was “a question of perspective” for the Times. “Yes, there are many homosexuals, just as there are many of almost everything in New York, I have a gut feeling that if we embark upon a series for now or a bunch of pieces, it would be overkill. And here he set down his principle of inclusion-exclusion, old hand instructing the new man: There is also a question of what we want to do with our space. Space is gold, The proper use of space is the essence of our existence, because it reflects our taste and judgment. . .It is the areas of taste and judgment that, in the long run, are our most important areas of responsibility.” Schanberg’s ambitious series never appeared.

Chris Hedges, a former New York Times colleague and fellow Pulitzer winner, described Schanberg’s experiences in a 17 July 2013 interview with The Real News Network:

Sydney Schanberg, who worked for many years for The Times, was eventually pushed out of the paper as the metro editor for taking on the developers, who were friends with the publisher and who were driving the working and the middle class out of Manhattan (so now Manhattan’s become the playground of hedge fund managers primarily), says correctly that your freedom as a reporter is constricted in direct proportion to your distance from the centers of power. So if you’re reporting from Latin America or Gaza or the Middle East as I was, or the Balkans, you have a kind of range that is denied to you once you come back into New York and into Washington.

Hedges had more to say in a 27 June 2011 essay for Truthdig:

Many editors viewed Schanberg’s concerns as relics of a dead era. He was removed as city editor and assigned to write a column about New York. He used the column, however, to again decry the abuse of the powerful, especially developers. The then-editor of the paper, Abe Rosenthal, began to acidly refer to Schanberg as the resident “Commie” and address him as “St. Francis.” Rosenthal, who met William F. Buckley almost weekly for lunch along with the paper’s publisher, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, grew increasingly impatient with Schanberg, who was challenging the activities of their powerful friends. Schanberg became a pariah. He was not invited to the paper’s table at two consecutive Inner Circle dinners held for New York reporters. The senior editors and the publisher did not attend the previews for the film “The Killing Fields,” based on Schanberg’s experience in Cambodia. His days at the newspaper were numbered.

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

Tension eases in one Game of Zones relationship

While the U.S. is pushing Japan and Vietnam to step up military tensions in the China Seas, one traditional U.S. ally has taken a unilateral step to ease tensions with China.

The irony is that it’s a country which has just installed a tough law-and-order vigilante in its presidential palace.

From the Japan Times:

The Philippines is willing to share natural resources with Beijing in contested South China Sea areas even if it wins a legal challenge next week, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay told AFP Friday.

Yasay said President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration hoped to quickly begin direct talks with China following Tuesday’s verdict, with the negotiations to cover jointly exploiting natural gas reserves and fishing grounds within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“We can even have the objective of seeing how we can jointly explore this territory: how we can utilize and benefit mutually from the utilization of the resources in this exclusive economic zone where claims are overlapping,” Yasay said.

The Philippines, under Benigno Aquino’s previous administration, filed in 2013 a legal challenge with a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague contesting China’s claims to nearly all of the strategically vital sea.

Military tensions rise in the Asian Game of Zones

As the Obama administration’s “Asian pivot” accelerates in the waning months of his administration, tensions are continuing to rise, with military confrontations involving the U.S. , China, Japan, and the Philippines accelerating.

First up, a warning from Beijing, via Reuters:

China’s foreign minister spoke with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by telephone on Wednesday ahead of a key international court ruling on China’s South China Sea claims and warned Washington against moves that infringe on China’s sovereignty, Beijing’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

Xinhua said Wang Yi repeated China’s rejection of the jurisdiction of the International Court of Arbitration in a case the Philippines has brought against China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, calling it a “farce” that should come to an end.

The court, based in The Hague, is due to give its ruling on Tuesday, raising fears of confrontation in the region. U.S. officials say the U.S. response should China stick to its vow to ignore the ruling could include stepped up freedom-of-navigation patrols close to Chinese claimed islands in what is one of the world’s business trade routes.

In the call initiated by Kerry, Wang “urged the United States to honor its commitment to not to take sides on issues related to sovereign disputes, to be prudent with its actions and words, and not to take any actions that infringe upon the sovereignty and security interests of China,” Xinhua said.

U.S. ships test the limits

An American military response to the tensions is covered by the Navy Times:

U.S. Navy destroyers have been quietly stalking some of China’s man-made islands and claims in recent weeks ahead of a ruling on contested claims in the South China Sea.

Over the past two weeks, the destroyers Stethem, Spruance and Momsen have all patrolled near Chinese-claimed features at Scarborough Shoal and in the Spratly Islands, according to two defense officials.

“We have been regularly patrolling within the 14 to 20 nautical mile range of these features,” one official said, who asked for anonymity to discuss diplomatically-sensitive operations.

The distance is important because if the ships patrolled within 12 miles, the Navy would handle it as a freedom of navigation operation that asserts U.S. rights to freely operate in waters claimed by other countries.

Those FONOPS patrols must be approved at very high levels, but these close patrols outside of 12 miles are in international waters. Experts say the tactic serves as a message of resolve to the Chinese and U.S. allies in the region and is a deliberate show of force ahead of a major international ruling on the legality of some of China’s claims; Beijing claims nearly all of the South China Sea, setting up conflicts with its neighbors and the U.S.

China’s navy holds its own maneuvers

But China is holding its own exercises in the region, reports China Daily:

China said its naval drill in the South China Sea is within its sovereign rights, and it urged the Philippines to come back to the negotiating table to solve its maritime disputes with China regardless of an arbitrary tribunal’s ruling.

“The drill is a routine exercise the Chinese Navy carries out according to the annual plan. It is within China’s sovereign rights and is not targeting any specific countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.

Hong made the remarks after Vietnam claimed the drill was violating Vietnamese sovereignty.

The Ministry of National Defense confirmed on Tuesday that China would hold a drill in the area between Hainan Island and the Xisha Islands in the first 10 days of July and that military equipment including multiple ships and fixed-wing aircraft would participate.

The Defense Ministry said the drill “aims at improving the military’s ability to respond to security threats and implement missions”.

“The Xisha Islands are China’s inherent territory. There is no dispute of this,” Hong reiterated on Wednesday. He asked the parties concerned to “objectively view” the drill.

More from Hawaii Public Radio:

China claims that a vast swath of water to its south and east has been Chinese since the Ming Dynasty and sent fishing fleets escorted by huge Coast Guard ships to slowly reclaim what it sees as its own territory.  This case dates to 2012, when they used water cannon to hose Philippine fishermen off their decks and seized Scarborough Shoal, almost due west of Manila.

China’s legal claim is based on a map produced by Nationalist China in 1947, which shows a nine-dash line extending south and east.  Due to its shape, it’s sometimes called the cow’s tongue.  In 2013, the Philippines filed suit with the Permanent Court of Arbitration, established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.  While it’s a member of that treaty, China argues it does not apply in this case, refused to participate in the proceedings and declared it will not comply with any judgement.

Last week, Paul Reichler, an American lawyer who served as lead counsel for the Philippines told the Associated Press that while this ruling would only apply to China and the Philippines, “If the nine dash line is unlawful as applied by China against the Philippines, then logically, it is equally unlawful as applied by China against other states.” The US has a mutual defense treaty with the Philippines and sent warships into the disputed area in recent months to assert its claim, that the South China Sea is International waters, open to all.

After the jump, Taipei keeps watch, aerial confrontations between China and Japan, North Korean concerns continue, and a bright spot. . . Continue reading

UPDATED: Chelsea Manning suicide attempt fails

America’s best-known leaker apparently made an unsuccessful attempt to kill herself, reports United Press International:

Former U.S. Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, has reportedly trying to kill herself.

Chelsea Manning, 28, is currently serving a 35-year sentence. She tried to commit suicide in a cell at Fort Leavenworth Prison in Kansas, according to CNN. One source told TMZ that she tried to hang herself.

Manning was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment before being returned to prison.

U.S. Army spokesman Colonel Patrick Seiber said that Manning was found in her cell “during the early hours of July 5th” and added that officials “continue to monitor the inmate’s condition.”

As Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, Manning leaked a vast trove of State Department cables to Wikileaks as well as documents and combat videos from the Iraq war, was convicted of espionage, computer fraud, and disobeying military orders.

Diagnosed with gender identity disorder by Army physicians, Manning asserted a female identity and renamed herself Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, the name under which she is serving her sentence in the army prison at Fort Leavenworth.

UPDATE: While the army is talking to the press about Manning’s condition, they are refusing to provide the same information to Manning’s attorneys.

From Fight for the Future:

Today, an unnamed official at the Army revealed unverified information relating to Chelsea Manning’s confidential medical status to the media and Nancy Hollander, lead attorney on her defense team, released the following statement:

“We’re shocked and outraged that an official at Leavenworth contacted the press with private confidential medical information about Chelsea Manning yet no one at the Army has given a shred of information to her legal team.

“I had a privileged call scheduled with Chelsea at 2pm Leavenworth time yesterday, after the Army has now said she was hospitalized, but the Army gave the excuse—which I now believe to be an outright lie—that the call could not be connected although my team was waiting by the phone.

“Despite the fact that they have reached out to the media, and that any other prison will connect an emergency call, the Army has told her lawyers that the earliest time that they will accommodate a call between her lawyers and Chelsea is Friday morning. We call on the Army to immediately connect Chelsea Manning to her lawyers and friends who care deeply about her well-being and are profoundly distressed by the complete lack of official communication about Chelsea’s current situation.”

Headline of the day: Awaiting the Guns of August?

From RT:

‘Price to pay for US’: Beijing ready to confront Washington if it intervenes in S.China Sea dispute

Beijing must prepare to make the US “pay a cost it can’t stand” if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force, a state newspaper editorial has warned, days before a court at The Hague rules on the territorial row between China and the Philippines.

And if you’re wondering about our own postal headline, the reference is to the late Barbara Tuchman’s magisterial history of the events leading up to World War I. A film documentary based on her book is here.

Map of the day: Iraq’s imperiled minorities


As Britain braces for the imminent release of the 2.6-million-word Chilcot report on the impact of the U.K.’s role in the American-led, perto-seeking Iraq invasion and the ensuing and seemingly endless bloody chaos of civil war, another report has already laid out a stark picture of a nation whose minorities are vanishing, swept up in endless terror.

From Minority Rights Group:

After thirteen years of war minority communities in Iraq are now on the verge of disappearance, says a new report by Minority Rights Group International, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Institute for International Law and Human Rights and No Peace Without Justice.

‘The Chilcot report needs to reflect not just the immediate circumstances of the invasion, but the devastating long-term consequences of the conflict for Iraqi society. The impact on minorities has been catastrophic. Saddam was terrible; the situation since is worse. Tens of thousands of minorities have been killed and millions have fled for their lives,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.

No Way Home: Iraq’s Minorities on the Verge of Disappearance documents how tens of thousands of persons belonging to Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities have been murdered, maimed or abducted, including unknown numbers of women and girls forced into marriage or sexual enslavement, after the fall of Mosul in June 2014.

According to the international rights organisations, the Christian population, which before 2003 numbered as many as 1.4 million, is now under 250,000. Most of the Yezidi and Kaka’i have been forced from their traditional lands and are now internally displaced or have fled the country altogether, whilst Shi’a Turkmen and Shabak have been driven to the south.

There’s more. . . Continue reading