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Current Topic: International Relations

The Seattle Times: Hu calls Gates
Topic: International Relations 11:00 pm EDT, Apr 18, 2006

Amid talk of how the Bush Administration is risking going lame duck, let it be noted that Hu's first stops in America were Boeing and Microsoft.

In the kitchen, the counter displayed a recipe and instructions in Chinese for making foccacia bread, prompting Hu to ask if you still need a housekeeper if you have RFID tags.

Is "housekeeper" a keyword for those people who round up dissidents and stick them in prison?

"Because you, Mr. Bill Gates, are a friend of China, I'm a friend of Microsoft," he said.

Now, if Bush doesn't get such nice words in regards to China and American relations.. Get nervous.

"I'd also like to take this opportunity to assure you, Bill Gates, that we will certainly our words in protecting intellectual property rights," Hu said.

Eh? "we will certainly our words"? Lingual mistake? Either way, words and actions are two different things.

The Seattle Times: Hu calls Gates - Ahmadinejad: Iran has enriched uranium
Topic: International Relations 2:05 pm EDT, Apr 11, 2006

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Tuesday that Iran has successfully enriched uranium.

"Iran has joined countries with nuclear technology," he said.

"Iran has put into operation the first unit of 164 centrifuges, has injected (uranium) gas and has reached industrial production," Rafsanjani was quoted by the agency as saying. The interview was also carried by the Iranian Student News Agency.

"We should expand the work of these machines to achieve a full industrial line. We need dozens of these units (sets of 164 centrifuges) to achieve a uranium enrichment facility," he said.

I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that the shit is actively hitting the fan and splattering all over the place. There is brinksmanship going on, on a very large scale. This weekend we had the Hersh article, which was clearly released with US approval, flaunting that we are waving around the big (nuclear) stick. We have Saudi Arabia, who has long been terrified by the possibility of a Shiite presence in the south of Iraq unified with Iran, announcing it will join the nuclear club if Iran does. We have Iran doing military exercises displaying it (thinks it) can shut down the Strait of Hormuz, while claiming it has missile technology that can evade our detection capability. Meanwhile, we have the US forces doing mock bombing runs across Iran. We have disclosure of all kinds of things, including intelligence activities inside Iran. And all of this, leading up to (and clearly driven by) talks with Iran about Iraq.

What an unbelievable fucking mess! Not only all this, but at the helms of the two ships colliding in the night, we have Bush who believes he is being guided by God, and Ahmadinejad who believes it's his destiny to pull the next Caliph out of a well (or something along those lines). The Sunni/Shiite spat in Iraq will look like an inconvenient argument if we wind up in a situation where Iran seriously threatens the Saudis. I could envision a ramp-up occurring depending on how things play out in the near term. The worst case scenario for the Middle East looks pretty damn bad these days. - Ahmadinejad: Iran has enriched uranium

UPI - Saudi Arabia may join nuclear club
Topic: International Relations 11:25 pm EDT, Apr  9, 2006

Kuwaiti researcher Abdullah al-Nufaisi told a seminar in Doha, Qatar, that Saudi Arabia is preparing a nuclear program, the Middle East Newsline reported.

He said Saudi scientists were urging the government to launch a nuclear project, but had not yet received approval from the ruling family.

Riyadh denies any intention to establish a nuclear energy program, but Gulf sources told the Middle East Newsline Saudi officials have been discussing a nuclear research and development program -- and that the program would be aided by Pakistan and other Riyadh allies.

"Saudi Arabia will not watch as its neighbors develop nuclear weapons," a Gulf source said. "It's a matter of time until a Saudi nuclear program begins."

Not acceptable.

UPI - Saudi Arabia may join nuclear club

Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley (from Beijing)
Topic: International Relations 1:47 am EST, Mar 25, 2006

This is always my favorite week of the year to be in China. It’s the time when the China debate goes from the inside to the outside, as the National People’s Congress segues directly into the China Development Forum.

This was the last question of the meeting -- and the final word from the Chinese leadership at this year’s China Development Forum. The Premier was especially animated and intense in framing his response. “China views this relationship as very important,” he said, “and takes these risks very seriously.” He implied that efforts will be made to further expand Chinese imports from the US as well as deal with the all-important concerns over intellectual property rights. He was emphatic in re-emphasizing the limited role that foreign exchange policy could play in tempering the US saving shortfall and related trade imbalance -- in effect, implying no major change in the RMB exchange rate. At the end of his discourse, he leaned forward, looked me straight in the eye, and stated with great emphasis, “You can take this message back to the American people: It is unfair to make China a scapegoat for structural problems facing the US economy.”

The next morning, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity over breakfast to run Premier Wen’s comment by three US politicians who just happened to be in town -- Senators Schumer, Graham, and Coburn. As they put it, the liberal, the moderate, and the conservative, respectively, had come to China in a rare moment of solidarity to demonstrate both the breadth and depth of bipartisan political support to bring the US-China trade issue to a head once and for all. Schumer and Graham, of course, are co-sponsors of a bill (S. 295) that would impose 27.5% tariffs on all Chinese imports into the US unless there was an RMB currency revaluation of a like amount. They were steeped with confidence that this bill had overwhelming support in the Senate and most likely comparable support in the House. And since it played to the angst of middle-class US wage earners, they did not expect the first veto of a politically-weakened President Bush to be exercised on this issue.

“It worked in Japan and it will work in China.”

The big risk is that China calls Washington’s bluff and the two parties start to stumble down the very slippery slope of trade frictions and protectionism.

“I care deeply about the loss of US manufacturing jobs to China. If I am successful in cutting our trade deficit with the Chinese, not only will those jobs come back home but I will have succeeded in boosting US saving and cutting excess consumption. My bill can do all that and more.”

“Let me get this straight,” I gasped, “tariffs will boost saving?”

In a short span of 24 hours, I had heard it all on both sides of the China debate. The Chinese leadership was amazingly transparent in expressing their own hopes and concerns at a critical juncture on the nation’s extraordinary journey. And then the Washington crowd blitzed into Beijing with an agenda of its own. What was missing was a willingness to bend -- for both sides to come together in the best interests of the collective whole. The great paradox of globalization never seemed more vivid -- our economies may be global but our politics remain decidedly local. Unless we resolve that paradox, I am afraid the win-win dreams of globalization advocates could remain fleeting.

Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley (from Beijing)

Good versus evil isn't a strategy - Los Angeles Times
Topic: International Relations 5:12 pm EST, Mar 24, 2006

It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction. The administration's penchant for painting its perceived adversaries with the same sweeping brush has led to a series of unintended consequences.

Although this is not an administration known for taking advice, I offer three suggestions.

The first is to understand that although we all want to "end tyranny in this world," that is a fantasy unless we begin to solve hard problems.

Second, the Bush administration should disavow any plan for regime change in Iran — not because the regime should not be changed but because U.S. endorsement of that goal only makes it less likely.

Third, the administration must stop playing solitaire while Middle East and Persian Gulf leaders play poker.

This is the world, the president pledges in his National Security Strategy, that "America must continue to lead." Actually, it is the world he must begin to address — before it is too late.

Madeleine Albright has an editorial in the LA Times. I only quoted the first line of several paragraphs, so go read the whole thing.

Good versus evil isn't a strategy - Los Angeles Times

AP | U.S. Hiring Hong Kong Company to Scan for Nukes
Topic: International Relations 3:17 pm EST, Mar 24, 2006

In the aftermath of the Dubai ports dispute, the Bush administration is hiring a Hong Kong conglomerate to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the Bahamas to the United States and elsewhere.

The administration is negotiating a second no-bid contract for a Philippine company to install radiation detectors in its home country, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. At dozens of other overseas ports, foreign governments are primarily responsible for scanning cargo.

"Li Ka-Shing is pretty close to a lot of senior leaders of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party," said Larry M. Wortzel, head of a U.S. government commission that studies China security and economic issues. But Wortzel said Hutchison operates independently from Beijing, and he described Li as "a very legitimate international businessman."

Any positive reading would set off alarms monitored simultaneously by Bahamian customs inspectors at Freeport and by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials working at an anti-terrorism center 800 miles away in northern Virginia. Any alarm would prompt a closer inspection of the cargo, and there are multiple layers of security to prevent tampering, officials said.

Very interesting. This comes on the heels of the Dubai port management row and along with an outcry over the State Department buying computers from Lenovo, the Chinese buyer of IBM's personal computer division.

Li Ka-Shing is a major power in Hong Kong, and owns a large percentage of the country's assets as a whole. Companies, buildings, etc.. His son Richard runs PCCW, the province's major telecom company. As a whole, the Li family in a major power in both Hong Kong and China as a whole.

I think an outright rejection of letting some of these parties get involved in the process of running and securing our ports is missing some of the big picture. Without the cooperation of trading partners, our ports will never be secure. In the case of scanning for radiological weapons, its not all that useful unless it can happen before things get here. Either way, that will require cooperation on the part of foreign powers. In these recent cases, the players at hand are all places that have a very hardcore interest in having both our support in the geo-political realm and in having us as a solid trade and business partner.

Dubai is counting on tourism and being a business hub to be the basis of its economy by 2015. If they don't achieve that goal, things will not be going well for them around that time. This is why they are engaging in insane amounts of unprecedented creative building.

Hong Kong is a business and trade hub where anyone can do busines... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

AP | U.S. Hiring Hong Kong Company to Scan for Nukes

Guardian Unlimited | North Korea Suggests It Can Strike U.S. First
Topic: International Relations 12:48 pm EST, Mar 21, 2006

"As we declared, our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter possible U.S. pre-emptive strike," the spokesman said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. "Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States."

Last week, the communist country warned that it had the right to launch a pre-emptive strike, saying it would strengthen its war footing before joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises scheduled for this weekend.

If it becomes necessary to engage in a shooting conflict with North Korea, it's not going to be hard to back up why it's necessary. If these bozos didn't have enough artillery aimed at Seoul to take it out three times, they would be toast by now.

The spokesman also said it would be a "wise" step for the United States to cooperate on nuclear issues with North Korea in the same way it does with India.

"If the U.S. is truly interested in finding a realistic way of resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, it would be wise for it to come out on the path of nuclear cooperation with us," he said.

I seriously want some of that North Korean crack. It's gotta be some over the top stuff to cause these DPRK officials to think that North Korea and India exhibit the same level of good will necessary to enter into a nuclear development agreement. Reality isn't even in the equation. Did these people skip over the news about our approach to Pakistan on the same issue? Pakistan has better odds of getting a nuclear development treaty than North Korea ever will.. North Korea's leadership is completely bonkers. It's just preaching to its own brainwashed populous.

Asia is in a period of unparalleled economic boom... Meanwhile, the DPRK's people are starving to death, abused and tortured, and completely brainwashed into thinking none of it is their leadership's fault. This continues to just be flat out sad and pathetic. It shouldn't be possible. It's human tragedy of an all to surreal level.

Guardian Unlimited | North Korea Suggests It Can Strike U.S. First

AFP | Thousands of Taiwanese hold anti-China rally
Topic: International Relations 6:17 pm EST, Mar 19, 2006

Tens of thousands of slogan-chanting Taiwanese took to the streets to protest rival China's military threats against the island.

"The great Taiwanese people oppose annexation and invasion. We protect democracy and care for Taiwan... and say no to China," President Chen Shui-bian told the rally organized by his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

"Taiwan is an independent sovereign state. It belongs to the 23 million people on the island and its future should be decided by the people here rather than by the 1.3 billion people in China," Chen added.

The DPP said the rally was intended to highlight the increasing threat from China, which has some 780 ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan.

The protestors, estimated at 150,000 by the organizers, shouted slogans such as "Loving Taiwan, opposing annexation!" and "Loving peace, opposing missiles!".

"We oppose ultimate unification as the sole option for Taiwan people as it runs against the principle of democracy," Chen said.

He also pledged to lead "Taiwan to walk the right and its own road" while saying the road may be bumpy.

Here are some pictures of the crowd showing how they feel about china.

Also, check out this editorial in the Taipei Times which reflects on the 10th anniversary of the Taiwan Straits missile crisis.

AFP | Thousands of Taiwanese hold anti-China rally

Chinese military trains in West - The Washington Times, Reverend Moon's Newspaper
Topic: International Relations 7:31 pm EST, Mar 15, 2006

China is stepping up military training in Latin America because of a law that limits U.S. military support to nations in the region, the general in charge of the U.S. Southern Command told Congress yesterday.

"If we are not there and we can't provide this opportunity, someone else will," Gen. Craddock told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Other nations are moving in. The People's Republic of China has made many offers, and now we are seeing those who formerly would come to the United States going to China."

"Some of these countries are critical -- Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia," Gen. Craddock said, noting that in several nations, "we are losing the opportunity to bring their officers, their senior noncommissioned officers, to the United Sates into our schools."

The lack of training has prevented sharing U.S. military "attributes and characteristics" with foreign militaries, including concepts of military subordination to civilian leaders, and principles of democracy, he said.

China has also offered to sell its new FC-1 jet fighter to Venezuela, after last year's sale of three JYL-1 mobile air-defense radar units.

"We know almost nothing" about Chinese military and intelligence activities in the region, a Pentagon official said.

So much for the idea of China having no reach... Aren't they building aircraft carriers now? Making a play to start getting a footprint on both sides of the rim? What exactly is "almost nothing"? What came out of Rummy's recent trip over yonder that pertains to this?

Chinese military trains in West - The Washington Times, Reverend Moon's Newspaper

NYT Review of 'America at the Crossroads,' by Francis Fukuyama
Topic: International Relations 7:18 pm EST, Mar 15, 2006

Michiko Kakutani calls Fukuyama's new book "tough-minded and edifying."

In "America at the Crossroads," Mr. Fukuyama questions the assertion made by the prominent neoconservatives Mr. Kristol and Robert Kagan in their 2000 book "Present Dangers: Crisis and Opportunity in American Foreign and Defense Policy" that other nations "find they have less to fear" from the daunting power of the United States because "American foreign policy is infused with an unusually high degree of morality." The problem with this doctrine of "benevolent hegemony," Mr. Fukuyama points out, is that "it is not sufficient that Americans believe in their own good intentions; non-Americans must be convinced of them as well."

That's where the General Memetics Corporation comes into the picture.

Fukuyama writes:

"Bureaucratic tribalism exists in all administrations, but it rose to poisonous levels in Bush's first term. Team loyalty trumped open-minded discussion, and was directly responsible for the administration's failure to plan adequately for the period after the end of active combat."

Fukuyama is getting hell from people for what they perceive as him changing his mind. First, I'm not sure that's completely the case. I was happy to see Saddam go down as well, even though I thought our timing and approach was way off. I also do not think its contradictory to be anti-war and applaud the downfall of Saddam at the same time. You can be happy about ends and still think that means suck. You can also want a particular end, but have a different set of means in mind to get there. However, all these things involve complex arguments. Most people don't like complex arguments that actually require a few levels of thinking. Meaningful ideas are like onions, they must grow a few layers before they are edible and taste good. The outer layers don't have as much flavor, but they can also easily be peeled off.

Since I've followed Fukuyama's works, I'm looking forward to reading his new book and seeing where he goes with it. I don't always agree with him, but I consistently find some great insight in his writings.

This interview is also worth a read. Dare I say it ends on a note that makes Fukuyama look like an intellectual snob?

NYT Review of 'America at the Crossroads,' by Francis Fukuyama

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