Archive | Asia

Amid Promises to End Afghanistan War, US Bombings Hit Two-Year High

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Central Command reveals US military carried out 436 air strikes on the country during August alone

A U.S. Army helicopter taking off from Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2012. (Photo: DoD/public domain)

A U.S. Army helicopter taking off from Forward Operating Base Shindand, Afghanistan, Oct. 3, 2012. (Photo: DoD/public domain)

Just months away from what President Obama refers to as the “end of the U.S. combat mission” in Afghanistan, the U.S. military escalated its air bombardments on the country.

In response to an information request from the Boston Globe, Central Command revealed that during the month of August, the U.S. carried out 436 “weapons releases” on Afghanistan, referring to air strikes. This is the highest number of air strikes on Afghanistan since August 2012, according to U.S. Central Command’s own data, pictured in the graph below.

central_command_data.jpg

Military officials are still working to compile data for the month of September, officials told the paper.

The data was released just over a week after Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani,approved the U.S. Bilateral Security Agreement, which locks in at least another decade of U.S. military presence in the country, far past the formal “end” to the war at the conclusion of this year. The heightened bombings, furthermore, were revealed the same week the longest war entered its 14th year.

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China Overtakes US as World’s Single Largest Economy

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‘The days when the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury could essentially dictate international finances and intimidate or crush opponents … are drawing to a close.’

The purchasing power of Chinese consumers has now surpassed that of American consumers and its overall economy, by some measures, is now the largest in the world. Despite those declarations, the deeply intertwined nature of the American consumer-based economy and China’s role as the world’s leading manufactuter, means the narrative about overall financial strength is never straight-forward. (Image: therealsingapore)

China has overtaken the United State to become the world’s largest economy, according to new data and an analysis by the International Monetary Fund.

Calculated by looking at gross domestic product (GDP) alongside cost-of-living data, the IMF announced Tuesday that China is now larger economically than the U.S. for the first time in history with an adjusted GDP of $17.6 trillion compared to a U.S. GDP of $17.4 trillion.

The milestone has been forecast for some time, but the conclusion of the IMF—presented in its 2014 World Economic Outlook report—comes as other economic indicators suggest a global shakeup in the world economy may be upon us. As the Financial Times reports, “the speed of [China's] transformation” is what’s most” breathtaking” considering that  “as recently as 2005, China’s economy was less than half the size of America’s.” Additionally, the IMF now projects that “China’s economy will be 20 percent bigger than that of the U.S. by 2019.”

The BusinessInsider explains how the IMF’s announcement is only based on a certain set of calculations and does not translate to a direct, side-by-side comparison of the two economies:

The simple logic is that prices aren’t the same in each country: A shirt will cost you less in Shanghai than in San Francisco, so it’s not entirely reasonable to compare countries without taking this into account. Though a typical person in China earns a lot less than the typical person in the US, simply converting a Chinese salary into dollars underestimates how much purchasing power that individual, and therefore that country, might have. The Economist’s Big Mac Index is a great example of these disparities.

So the IMF measures both GDP in market-exchange terms and in terms of purchasing power. On the purchasing-power basis, China is overtaking the US right about now and becoming the world’s biggest economy. [...]

It’s not all sour news for the US. It’ll be some time yet until the lines cross over in raw terms, not adjusted for purchasing power. By that measure, China still sits more than $6.5 trillion lower than the US and isn’t likely to overtake for quite some time.

As the relative size of world’s largest economies are shifting, so too, are some of the world’s most important economic alliances and institutions. Though the U.S. dollar continues to be the world’s dominant currency and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund both maintain formidable influence on monetary policies, their singular hold on global financial is shifting in numerous ways.

On Wednesday, USA Today reports on ongoing Chinese efforts to have its currency, the renminbi, allowed into the IMF’s Special Drawing Right (known as SDR), a global composite currency system that fosters international trade and maintenance of the world’s top currencies —which currently includes only the U.S. dollar, the British pound, the Japanese Yen, and the Euro. According to the paper:

As the world’s No. 2 economy after the U.S., China believes it is close to earning the status of a reserve money, the first time that an emerging market currency would attain this position. Chinese entry into the “magic circle” has been advanced by the British government’s September decision to issue renminbi-denominated bonds, the first big government to take such a step, and allow the proceeds to be held as reserves by the Bank of England.

The main conditions for the renminbi to pass the SDR test are that it should be widely used in trade and be “freely usable” in international payments and asset management. Although a long way behind the dollar, the renminbi has made impressive strides recently and is challenging the euro in several key fields.

As Conn Hallinan, an analyst who writes for Foreign Policy In Focus, wrote on Tuesday, the rise of emerging of economies—with China the largest and most striking example—the global economic picture is changing in interesting, though not widely understood, ways. According to Hallinan:

This past summer, the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—created an alternative to the largely U.S.-controlled World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) added 1.6 billion people to its rolls.

The BRICS’ construction of a Contingent Reserve Arrangement will give its members emergency access to foreign currency, which might eventually dethrone the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The creation of a development bank will make it possible to bypass the IMF for balance-of-payment loans, thus avoiding the organization’s onerous austerity requirements.

Less than a month after the BRICS’ declaration of independence from the current strictures of world finance, the SCO—which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—approved India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia for membership in the organization. It was the single largest expansion of the economic cooperation and security-minded group in its history, and it could end up diluting the impact of sanctions currently plaguing Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and Tehran over its nuclear program.

Given the deeply intertwined nature of the economic relationship between the American consumer-based economy and China’s role as the world’s leading manufactuter, the narrative about overall financial strength is never straight-forward.

However, as Hallinan concludes, “the days when the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury could essentially dictate international finances and intimidate or crush opponents” is swiftly “drawing to a close.”

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Indonesia struggles with Zio-Wahhabi Islamic State recruiting

In this March 8, 2014 photo, motorists ride past a graffiti of the Islamic State group's flag in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia. — Photo by AP
In this Sept. 5, 2014 photo, protesters hold posters during a rally against the Islamic State group, in Jakarta, Indonesia. — Photo by AP
In this Sept. 5, 2014 photo, protesters hold posters during a rally against the Islamic State group, in Jakarta, Indonesia. — Photo by AP
In this June 18, 2014 photo, a Muslim man wears a headband showing the Islamic State group's symbol during a protest calling for the closure of a local prostitution complex in Surabaya, Indonesia. — Photo by AP

CIANJUR: A businessman who proclaims himself leader of the Indonesian chapter of the Islamic State group says he has personally overseen the departure of scores of fighters from this Southeast Asian nation to Syria and Iraq.

Police detained him for a night recently, but were unable to charge him with a crime.

Chep Hernawan reflects both the success IS has had in attracting support in the region, and the challenges Indonesia faces in responding.

The government, home to most of the up to 200 Southeast Asians believed to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, has forcefully spoken out against the Islamic State, as have mainstream Muslim organisations in the country.

But translating that into stronger legal tools that could stop suspected militants from traveling abroad, for example, will be a challenge given the fractious nature of the next parliament and other legislative priorities, according to a recent report into the evolution of the Islamic State group by the Institute of Policy Analysis for Conflict.

National Police spokesman Brig Gen Boy Rafli Amar said his force could only monitor IS supporters. “If they have no record of terrorism activities then they can’t be charged under our criminal law,” he said.

For the first time since the 1990s and the Afghan jihad, Indonesians, Malaysians and other extremists in Southeast Asia are traveling abroad in an organised fashion to join a global militant movement, picking up battlefield skills and militant contacts.

Security officials fear they could take part in terrorism on their return to Southeast Asia, as those trained in Afghanistan did in attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

Radicals at home also could heed the Islamic State group’s exhortations to carry out revenge attacks on Western targets.

In response to the threat posed by foreign fighters, the United Nations Security Council last month adopted a resolution demanding member states prevent the recruitment and travel of people to join militant groups like IS.

Hernawan’s brush with the law has not stopped him from campaigning on behalf of the group or defending its actions, including the beheading of journalists and opposition forces.

“I’m convinced that these are religious acts based on Islamic teachings (permitting acts) that strike fear in the hearts of enemies of Islam,” he told The Associated Press recently in an interview in his plush home.

Hernawan, 63, a longtime public supporter of radical Islam, said he was appointed the head of IS head in Indonesia at a meeting of radicals on March 16.

While he is a well-known for speaking on IS’s behalf in the country, two experts on militancy in Indonesia said it was unclear or even unlikely whether he had any structural links to the group’s leadership in Syria.

Like some other radicals in Indonesia, he says violent jihad within Indonesia is not justified because the country doesn’t meet the conditions required under Islamic law. Not so elsewhere.

“In countries where there are wars such as Iraq, Syria and Palestine, you either kill or get killed,” Hernawan said.

Earlier this year he addressed a gathering of IS supporters in the heart of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. On the stage with him was a man called Bahrumsyah, who in July later appeared in an IS propaganda video with other Indonesians in Syria.

The Islamic State group has quickly achieved popularity among a section of extremists in Southeast Asia because it has a territory that welcomes those willing to fight, a slick social media campaign and a reputation for battlefield success.

The danger posed to Indonesia from IS was brought into focus last month when police arrested four ethnic Uighurs they allege were being taken to meet the country’s most wanted militant to discuss recruitment for IS.

The militant, Abu Wardah Santoso, has taken responsibility for the killings of several Indonesian police officers and has pledged allegiance to IS.

In Malaysia, authorities have revoked the passports of 30 suspected militants who had previously been arrested under the country’s new defunct national security act, said Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay.

In late September, police detained three suspected jihadists at Kuala Lumpur International Airport as they were about to board a flight to Turkey.

Ayob Khan said at least 22 Malaysians were known to have left for the war in Syria. Sri Yunanto, an expert on militancy at Indonesia’s anti-terrorism agency, said many jihadi groups within Indonesia are trying to use the war in Syria to create a pool of combat-trained and indoctrinated recruits.

“Their goal is to send young people to Syria to provide them with expertise and experience,” Yunanto said. “When the time comes for terrorism, they will have skilled operatives. “

At least four Indonesians are known to have been killed in Syria and Iraq.

The first was Wildan Mukhollad, who blew himself up in a restaurant in Baghdad earlier this year.

He grew up in the same village as two notorious militants convicted and later executed for their role in the Bali bombings, and attended a school founded by them.

Ali Fauzi, his teacher at Al Islam boarding school, remembers Mukhollad watching the funerals of the two militants in the village. “He was a good boy, a smart boy,” Fauzi said. “I knew that it was his dream, he had reached what he dreamed of as a kid: to be martyred and go to heaven. “

Posted in South Asia0 Comments

US drone strike kills three in North Waziristan

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PESHAWAR: At least three people were killed and two others injured in a US drone attack in the North Waziristan tribal region, security sources said.

Sources said the drone fired missiles targeting a vehicle in the Loman area of Dattakhel Tehsil. Today’s strike is the fifth consecutive drone attack in the last five days, as the US-led drone campaign targets suspected militants and their hideouts in restive North and South Waziristan.

North Waziristan is among Pakistan’s seven tribal districts near the Afghan border which are rife with insurgents and are alleged to be strongholds of Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, among others.

Pakistan’s military in mid-June had launched an all-out operation, named ‘Zarb-i-Azb’, against Taliban militants in the region which is still under way.

Drone attacks are widely unpopular across Pakistan and according to survey conducted in June this year, 66 per cent of the country’s citizens oppose these strikes.

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PAKISTAN: UNFAIR ADVANTAGE OF DEATH AND DRONES

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Drones: choosing between droning on and understanding

By Ejaz Haider


One of the basic requirements of fighting wars and the many battles that make up a war is to gain asymmetric advantage over the enemy.

Put in English, if you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn’t plan well.

Winning is about unfair advantage at four levels – political, strategic, theatre, and tactical – of any conflict.

When David faced Goliath, a straight contest would have got David killed. His asymmetric advantage lay in deception, speed and surprise.

That’s where the slingshot came in, not only neutralising Goliath’s advantage but felling him. The history of warfare is the story of unfair advantage.

Today’s wars and its battlefields are complex and non-linear, but the basic principles remain unchanged. Non-state actors have introduced the suicide bomber, raising the cost for the state by upending the basic principle of security, i.e., self-preservation.

States, on their part, have learned that superior force in this contest with elusive enemies is not much use.

Corollary: develop and utilise technologies that are accurate, discriminatory and, more crucially, can be embedded in a C4I2 (command, control, communications, computing, intelligence and information) process for greater precision.

The objective: preempt the enemy and strike deftly.

This is where drones, remotely-piloted vehicles, come in. They have become the most controversial platform over the last decade, flying and striking stealthily and, for the most part, cleanly and precisely.

The debate has two extreme ends: the absolutists who oppose their use unconditionally and the proponents who advocate their enhanced use equally unconditionally. The facts of drones use, as always, lie somewhere between these extremes.

The issue – or as some would like to term it, problem – has to be debated at three levels: technology, operations and law. Let’s consider them in that order.

First, drones aren’t just used to kill people. The technology has multiple uses, most of them in fact benign. While Amazon’s Octocopter package delivery project may still be in the future, drones are already being used in agriculture, search and rescue, 3-D mapping, geological surveys et cetera.

Corollary: the technology is here to stay. In 2005, around 40 countries possessed drones of varying capabilities. By 2012, this number had gone up to 75. It includes Pakistan.

Corollary 2: an idea cannot be dis-invented, though it can be controlled. We face the same problem with nuclear, chemical and biological substances.

Corollary 3: control, legal and normative, always succeeds technology. It cannot precede it. That’s an historical fact. Just because some of us don’t like drones is unlikely to reverse the obvious logic of this truism.

The next level is operations and by operations we mean their military-intelligence role, since that’s the only use that seems to make news.

In their military role, armed drones are used for long-duration surveillance, close air support, force protection strikes and ground attack. Funnily, while the use of drones in all these roles is bitterly criticised, all of these functions were performed by conventional aerial platforms which were, and remain, far less accurate and precise than the drones.

Drones can be used for missions round the clock, and their use has several advantages which make them extremely attractive to intelligence operators as well as field commanders.

The cost per flight hour is very low compared to fighter aircraft.

Cost estimates put out by the US Air Force show that the cost per flight hour for an F-15E Strike Eagle is USD 36,343, USD 22,514 for an F-16C Viper and USD 17,716 for an A-10C. Compared with this, the cost per flight hour of Predators and Reapers is USD 3,679 and USD 4,762, respectively.

Drones also have greater loiter time for ground intelligence.

A Reaper can stay up in the air for 14 hours. They are more precise and accurate. Pilots are not exposed to danger through air-to-air and ground-to-air attacks. The platform saves ground troops from entering hostile environments and drones can hit targets in inaccessible areas, making using ground troops irrelevant. That itself is a very tempting factor at various levels: no attack and extrication plans, no logistics headaches and no medevac problems.

Additionally, the inability of the enemy to kill the drones, the stealth with which they can strike multiple times instils fear in an elusive enemy, allows discriminate strikes against targets that are tightly coupled with the population, restricts the enemy’s freedom of movement and action, denies him assembly, makes electronic communications difficult, sows distrust among enemy cadres and degrades leadership, personnel and material through personality and signature strikes.

In short, drones are a dream aerial platform for military commanders fighting elusive enemies in areas where the zones of war and peace cannot be separated.

So, why is their use so controversial?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that the platform has been used very effectively in wars that are looked upon as imperial in nature. The issue at that level has more to do with the legitimacy of America’s war on terror and its narrative than the use of drones per se. However, the newness of the platform and its stealth make it menacing and sinister in an Orwellian way. This description is not entirely wrong but it misses the point that intelligence agencies are now using other technologies (and hacking techniques) that are no less Orwellian.

As for the much-hyped ‘collateral damage’ allegation, while drones can and have killed people other than terrorists, the fact is that all other known aerial and ground weapon systems and platforms are far less accurate than the weapons on the Predator and its advanced cousin, the Reaper.

Finally, we have the legal level. It’s also the most troublesome.

The problems of law relate to consent, self-defence, imminence of threat (the moral hazard of preemption), organisation (what groups or people can be targeted?), intensity of hostilities, targeting rules, transparency et cetera. Each of these problems emanates from legal principles that have become customary practice and are recognized as such in the body of law as it exists (lex lata).

What jurists fear, and this fear has been expressed in multiple high-end reports, is that the US is making an effort to change the practice of existing law in favour of lex ferenda (future law) which does not obtain at this point.

This is, and was, inevitable. In situations where the nature of conflict has changed and remains in a state of flux, there is always tension between law and force.

The existing body of laws dealing with self-defence at one end (Article 51 of the UN Charter) and non-use of force at the other (Article 2 (4) of the Charter) presupposed inter-state conflict. Even the idea of preemption related to a recognised way of fighting and some determination of the principle of imminence.

That situation has changed. Self-defence, incorporating the idea of preemption, now focuses on the highly controversial concept of anticipatory self-defence with all its attendant moral hazard.

As jurists have pointed out, this throws the problem back to the pre-Charter days, to what is termed as the Caroline incident.

The precise threshold for determining imminence is a subject of dispute and will always remain so. And it becomes even more problematic when preemption is conflated with prevention, as happened in the Caroline case or when the Israeli jets struck the reactor in Iraq, to mention just two examples.

This is how Ben Emmerson put it in his report to the UN:


This, then, is the bird’s-eye view of drones and drones use. The technology will only move further, its uses will multiply, in many cases drones will remain the preferred option as a weapon platform and law will have to keep pace with the technological and operational contours of these pilotless birds.

It will become easier to figure out a legal-normative framework for their weaponised use when more states have developed armed drones with beyond-line-of-sight capability.



There has been noteworthy increase in public disapproval of drones since 2013. American’s own disapproval of missile strikes has grown 11 per cent in the past year.

Israel, Kenya and the US are the only nations polled where at least half of the public supports drone strikes.

Women are more likely than men to oppose drone strikes in America whereas young Americans disapprove it more than the older generation.

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan was the only country surveyed where the US drone strikes take place, with the other two countries being Yemen and Somalia.


Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

Pakistan: Gilani’s son, six guards implicated in youth’s murder

NOVANEWS
Posted by: Tayyab Bajwa
.— APP file photo
.— APP file photo

LAHORE: A youth was killed after a guard of an influential person fired on him following a quarrel near PTCL Exchange on Mian Ghazi Road, Defence, on Wednesday evening.

The victim’s family alleged one of the guards deployed with former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s son Abdul Qadir Gilani fired on Malik Tahir, who was allegedly trying to overtake their vehicle.

However, Defence A police said it was not yet verified if the shooter was a policeman deployed in Qadir’s entourage. Police registered a case under sections 302 and 109 of the PPC and 7 ATA against Qadir and his six guards.

Also read: NAB accused of being soft on Gilani, Ashraf

Police said 24-year-old Malik Tahir of Wapda Town was going on a motorbike in Y Block of DHA along with his brother Waheed at the time of the incident.

The family and relatives of the victim protested against police by placing his body on Ghazi Road. They demanded a stern action against the suspects who fled from the scene.

Later, they staged a sit-in outside the house of the former prime minister in Y Block and were sitting until the filing of this report.

Cantonment SP (Operations) Muhammad Nadeem said preliminary police findings showed that Tahir and his brother were coming from Bhatta Chowk when they tried to overtake two vehicles.

Quoting Waheed, the SP said the brothers got into an argument with the driver of one of the vehicles – a land cruiser — for not giving them space to overtake. One of the guards in the vehicle opened fire and a bullet hit Tahir in the head who died on the spot. He said though the family alleged involvement of a guard of Qadir Gilani, but the police were not verifying the claim.

DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf told Dawn the bullet that hit the victim had been fired from an SMG. He said the sole witness to the incident gave police the registration number of the suspects’ vehicle and police were investigating it.

He said efforts were under way to contact the former premier and his son, adding Qadir, who was usually provided a police escort, was travelling with his private guards during Eid days.

Posted in Pakistan & Kashmir0 Comments

Educational background material on Hong Kong crisis prepared by the PSL

NOVANEWS
By PSL Central Committee

The corporate-owned media, and imperialist governments, are expressing their support for the protest movement in Hong Kong, which they are describing simply as “pro-democracy.”

This stands in stark contrast to how these same media outlets and governments handle protests in their countries against the government, corporations and police violence.

The Occupy Wall Street movement — after which Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” was named — was repressed with mass and targeted arrests, numbering in the thousands. That movement’s encampments in public parks were permanently broken up in a matter of weeks and months in the name of “public safety” and “order.” These are the same media outlets and governments now reporting favorably on protesters who have threatened to take over government buildings and shut down the city of Hong Kong.

So what accounts for their lavish praise for the demonstrations and sharp criticism of any repression? Working-class and progressive people have to analyze what’s really going on, and go beyond the surface-level descriptions offered by the Western media.

Nearly all political movements in the present era legitimate their own cause with the abstract slogan of democracy. To truly understand a movement and its trajectory, we must ask what social sectors are demanding more power and to what end.

The history of colonialism in Hong Kong and China

1. The struggle over political reform in Hong Kong is bound up with the area’s particular history as a colonial subject of Britain. While in form, the present struggle is over electoral regulations and standards, its content is over the terms of Hong Kong’s reintegration into China, and how that process will unfold.

2. Hong Kong was stolen from China during the Opium War of 1839-1842, when Great Britain sought to punish China for denying it the right to import opium and reap massive drug profits. Until 1997, the British Crown ruled Hong Kong with an iron fist. In the first 153 years of colonial rule the British refused to allow any general election. London had always appointed a white British aristocrat to be governor of this colony that was 98 percent Chinese. This governor had absolute power. Britain only devised an “electoral” game in 1994 as they were about to leave. Now the British and other imperialists are talking about a grievous crime committed against democracy in Hong Kong.

3. There was a mass, popular revolution in China in 1949 of peasants and workers. It was a socialist revolution, reorganizing society in the interests of the vast majority under the leadership of the working class. It was at once also an anti-colonial revolution, reclaiming national control over the territory and the economy after centuries of colonial humiliation.

A chief task was integrating the disparate regions of China, which had been carved up by imperialist division into spheres of influence, and by feudal lords and warlordism. The only reason Hong Kong has a special status today, and was not integrated into the Chinese nation-state through the agency of revolution, is that British colonialism held onto it, and blocked it from becoming part of this revolutionary process. The Chinese people always considered the separateness of Hong Kong, like Taiwan, nothing other than a great and ongoing crime of colonialism.

4. In the 1960s, a strong left-wing movement developed within Hong Kong demanding reunification with revolutionary China. Days of uprising in 1967 were met with violent suppression by British colonialism, and the revolutionary working-class organizations of Hong Kong were greatly weakened.

5. At any time the Peoples’ Liberation Army could have gone in and seized Hong Kong, their stolen territory. The Chinese government was not required to negotiate with British imperialism, which should have been paying them reparations. Instead, the Peoples’ Republic of China sought a peaceful and legal solution.

“One Country, Two Systems”

6. The reintegration of Hong Kong did not occur on a revolutionary basis or through the subsequent force of the Chinese military. Instead, it occurred through the mechanisms of bourgeois legality. It took place during the post-Mao era, when the Chinese leadership had turned decisively towards capitalist methods and global integration as the means to develop the country. China made an agreement with Great Britain to transfer power and reintegrate Hong Kong.

7. By the 1980s, Great Britain had turned Hong Kong into a major global city and center of finance capitalism. Although China had just turned towards capitalist methods and principles, as a social system it was economically, politically and culturally distinct from Hong Kong. Thus, the formula of “one country, two systems” was created, a step-by-step process of integration. The aim was to devise a managed, rule-based system for a peaceful, rather than military, reunification of this stolen and colonized piece of China.

8. The official transfer was carried out in 1997. In both China and Hong Kong there were mass celebrations greeting the process of reunification. The process of merging Hong Kong into the Chinese state and body politic was, however, laid out as a long and delicate process that would last decades.

9. Since 1997, China has further opened its market to foreign corporations and internal class divisions have sharpened. In this way, China became more like Hong Kong and more integrated with it as a primary circuit of finance and trade between China and the West. But Hong Kong also had its own class and political formations, distinct government institutions, and ideological influences as a result of its role as a center of global finance capital and its 153 preceding years as a comprador outpost of British rule. These have not gone away.

Hong Kong’s social classes

10. Hong Kong was and is one of the most unequal places in the world, with a large proportion of financiers and others capitalists on one side. Presently, an estimated 8.5 percent of families are millionaires. On the other side is a large working class, including many migrant laborers, who suffer through the area’s miserable poverty rate. Hong Kong’s professional class has long been culturally and ideologically oriented towards the West, while vacillating in its identification as either “Hong Konger” or “Chinese” or both.

11. These upper-class professionals’ main political expression has been in the “pan-democratic” movement, focused on attaining greater influence in the Hong Kong political system, through a political party and nominating process for candidates that is similar to that in western capitalist countries. By such an “open” process, the upper class would have their candidate in the elections who represents their interests of perpetuating independence from China. In the current situation, for the upcoming Hong Kong election, a nominating committee of 1,500 is vetting the candidates to assure their support for eventual integration into the People’s Republic of China.

This movement attributes many social contradictions inside of Hong Kong not to global capitalism, but to “interference” and corruption from Beijing. Although some of its rallying calls speak to socioeconomic concerns, such as high prices, this movement has historically been completely disconnected from the working class.

12. In addition, there is a considerable right-wing, anti-PRC trend within Hong Kong society. It defaces the Chinese flag, the flag of the 1949 revolution, while waiving the British colonial flag. It portrays mainland Chinese tourists and migrants as invading “locusts,” demagogically trying to combine the demands of various social sectors with anti-mainland moods to build their fascistic movement.

13. The large protests taking place now in Hong Kong reflect the fact that Hong Kong has become polarized between those supportive of the Peoples’ Republic of China and those mobilizing in opposition to it. There have, in fact, been dueling protests with pro-Beijing forces also mobilizing large numbers in opposition to Occupy Central earlier this year.

14. Given the contradictory and complex social formation of Hong Kong, as well as its significance in the overall relationship between China and the West, from the perspective of the Chinese government it is absolutely essential, as a matter of national interest, to closely manage the integration process. Britain, China and the people of Hong Kong have long understood this, and it is reflected in the Basic Law governing the balance of power.

The Basic Law

15. Under the 1984 Sino-British treaty detailing the handover of Hong Kong, there was no explicit mention of universal suffrage. This was established in the 1990s in the Basic Law, which functions similar to a constitution for Hong Kong. It explained that, “the ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic proceedings.” From China’s perspective, the clear long-term strategy has been to help develop a stable local leadership in Hong Kong, integrated in with the Chinese state. That way, the implementation of a distinct form of political rule in Hong Kong would not result in a new crisis, a pro-Western independence movement or the destabilization of mainland China.

16. In accordance with the transfer of power agreement and the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s chief executive has been chosen by a committee of Hong Kongers — like an electoral college — selected by the central Chinese government to be “broadly representative.” The legislative body is filled with those elected by popular vote (including both pro-Beijing and anti-Beijing sectors of the Hong Kong upper classes.) It also includes those who run on behalf of “functional constituencies,” which typically consist of corporate leaders of different economic sectors.

17. China’s National People’s Congress has over time taken up the question of introducing broader suffrage into Hong Kong politics. Under the Basic Law, it was not required to give a precise timeline for such changes and it has revised the expected timeline on a few occasions. Most recently, it outlined a plan for the 2017 election for Chief Executive in accordance with the Basic Law. For the first time in Hong Kong’s history, the proposal provides for the top governing official of the city-state to be elected via a one-person, one-vote system. The candidates for this position must still be pre-approved by a nominating commission, and this is the stipulation that the Hong Kong opposition movement is currently fighting.

State formation, universal suffrage and bourgeois democracy

18. While being projected by the capitalist media as out-of-control tyranny, it is worth noting that this system is far more democratic than what existed under British rule, where the leaders were simply appointed. The British and U.S. governments presently back up open monarchies all over the world — recently trotting out several of them as “regional representatives” in the bombing of the Islamic State in Syria.

19. Moreover, the proposed system is not entirely inconsistent with the practice of bourgeois democracy in many places around the world. The United States has an Electoral College. In Britain, the Prime Minister is not directly elected. In many Western European countries there are “party-list” systems, where voters choose parties rather than individuals. Smaller bodies within each party selects — or “pre-approves” — the candidates, without being accountable to voters.

20. In the United States, candidates historically were selected by tightly controlled party machines, and to the extent that this has changed with the primary system, it has only expanded the influence of money in politics. In none of these forms of bourgeois politics do the people actually rule. So what exactly is the model of universal suffrage that is being upheld? The one where the 2016 U.S. presidential race is likely to be another Bush against another Clinton?

21. An election where everyone can vote but the only realistic candidates are pre-approved by the rich — this is the norm for democracy under capitalism everywhere.

22. Universal suffrage in the United States has not existed eternally, but only in connection with different stages of state formation. Given this history, the U.S. government is in no position to lecture China about voting rights and how it forms its state. The U.S. Constitution did not grant universal suffrage at the time of the country’s founding. It left issues of suffrage to the states, which generally only gave the right to vote to white male property holders, barring women, Black people (free and enslaved), Native peoples and white male non-property holders. Universal suffrage, it was feared, would upset the class domination of the capitalists, landlords and slaveholders. The states gradually and unevenly widened the right to vote as a key strategy to achieve social peace amid growing social contradictions, movements and transformation.

23. New territories were gained primarily through the process of settler-colonialism and genocide, and “universal suffrage” established only on that basis. These territories became states only by federal Congressional approval, when the central government, in other words, trusted that the local governments would adequately fall in line with the rest of the country.

24. In its very founding, the United States was formed with its own “one country, two systems” model — but in this case, the other system was that of brutal chattel slavery. This was the order it protected through a delicate process of laws and codes until this “one country, two systems” contradiction was finally resolved through civil war. It required the Civil War, followed by the passage of the 15th Amendment, another 100 years of racist hypocrisy and heroic struggle, and a new Voting Rights Act to make “universal suffrage” a legal reality for Black people. Even today, millions of current and former prisoners – disproportionately African American – are denied the right to vote.

Hong Kong’s opposition movement and its trajectory

25. The Hong Kong opposition is dominated by “liberal-democratic” bourgeois ideology. That is, they espouse the abstract “democratic” standard that Western capitalist states also espouse, while never meeting it themselves.

26. A January 2014 study by the Hong Kong Transition Project shows that the Occupy Central movement has a definite social base among upper-class and upper-middle class Hong Kongers. Managers and administrators were evenly split in opposition and support. Upper-middle class sectors — professionals and educators, associate professionals, and college students — were the only sectors offering more support than opposition to the movement. The lower-class sectors of clerks, service employees, blue-collar workers, retirees and the unemployed, as well as housewives, responded with overwhelming opposition to the Occupy Central movement. This was clearly not formed as a movement of and for the “99%.”

27. Given its own particular history as a hub of Western colonialism and finance capital, and taking note of the present global situation, no movement in Hong Kong that feeds on anti-mainlander sentiment or seeks greater autonomy from China can develop in a progressive direction. A progressive movement in Hong Kong would emphasize the criminal division of China by British imperialism and, on the basis of unity with China, fight for the social and class interests of the working class, including ultimately the return of socialist leadership.

28. The leadership of the so-called “democratic movement” in Hong Kong does not call for a complete breach with China, simply a different type of election process. On the surface, this seems innocuous. However given their fundamental disagreement with the PRC, the development of a strong autonomous current there would create a very rich beachhead oriented towards the West inside of the People’s Republic.

29. It has already been established by the South China Morning Post and Wikileaks that Hong Kong is a hub of Western spy activity, so to bring into power a government that may give aid and comfort to its enemies is clearly the key concern behind the NPC decision to select candidates more narrowly for the 2017 Chief Executive election.

30. The U.S. State Department is heavily involved behind-the-scenes in the Hong Kong protests and other “civil society” opposition trends within China. The U.S. State Department has provided grants of $500,000 to train students at the University of Hong Kong in building a “pro-democracy” movement. One of the founders and central leaders of Occupy Central, law professor Benny Tai, is a close collaborator with the U.S. State Department, serving on the Board of Directors of the U.S.-funded “Centre for Comparative and Public Law” at the University of Hong Kong. Other Occupy Central political leaders promoted in the media, such as Audrey Eu Yuet-mee and Martin Lee, are also close allies of the U.S. State Department who both met with Vice President Joe Biden in the White House this year.

31. Notwithstanding the participation of some working-class youth and small left-wing organizations, the likely trajectory of this opposition movement — in both its composition and its program — is towards the right-wing and towards Western imperialism. Already the strongest organizations in the movement are of middle-class “pan-democrats” and the far-right, both of which orient towards Western support. To the extent that confrontations sharpen with the state, and the liberals pull back or seek compromise, the far-right has already stepped forward as the militant alternative. They are promoting and provoking sharper confrontations because they understand they have the most to gain from an anti-mainland China movement. A similar process unfolded in the Maidan movement of Kiev, Ukraine.

32. This basic class character of the movement can be misinterpreted because of several factors. For one, the major finance and industrial tycoons who effectively run Hong Kong desire stability above all else and thus have criticized the disruptions caused by the movement. They have a narrow class interests in protecting their profits by preserving their status quo relationship with China. Secondly, many students in Hong Kong are facing the same objective problems existing for young people throughout the capitalist world: low-paying jobs, debt and unemployment. This is compounded by the high cost of living in a major global city like Hong Kong, squeezing even middle and upper-middle classes economically. Although the poor and working class of Hong Kong are largely standing aloof from the movement, it is not impossible that a larger anti-government and anti-corruption struggle, including episodes of police violence, could draw in such sectors.

33. The Hong Kong movement is not “leaderless.” In fact, the concept of a leaderless, all-inclusive “umbrella” movement, however, can only exist for very short periods in the course of political struggles. In all movements, as the dynamics of real-life struggle present new contradictions, organizations and parties step forward to give leadership. Whether or not they are elected or proclaim themselves leaders, one force or another is always leading in the long run. Western-oriented liberalism and far-right fascism are contending for leadership at present in the Hong Kong opposition movement.

34. While the middle-class opposition movement has a mass character, and may draw in working-class sectors with broader social demands, any Hong Kong movement that seeks “democracy” for the purposes of greater autonomy or independence can, under the present circumstances, only develop in the direction of Western imperialism.

The global situation and China

35. In present-day China, liberalizing “political reform” is the core program of Western-oriented NGOs and the most servile, comprador elements of the Chinese big bourgeoisie, who make up a considerable (but not dominant) trend within the Chinese Communist Party.

36. The CCP does not follow a revolutionary policy in either international or domestic affairs. At the same time, it has retained state power and while it has allowed and encouraged capitalist development it is not under the thumb of the capitalists. The Chinese Communist Party is large and variegated. It contains a variety of views but in the main is led by those attempting to manage a society that mixes volatile elements, including a market economy and the shell of a socialist state. This is why, for instance in labor and political disputes, workers and peasants rarely call for the overthrow of existing state structures but for their rights within them to be recognized.

37. The core program of revolutionaries and working-class militants in China is not “democracy” in the abstract. It is to protect and defend the interests of the working class and peasantry against the depredations of capitalism; it is to reassert state control over major industries; it is to re-establish as guaranteed social rights access to work, health care, education and housing; it is to popularize the socialist ideas and restore the internationalist foreign policy of China’s revolutionary era; it is to safeguard China’s national integrity, self-determination and sovereignty against Western imperialism. There are millions of revolutionaries who remain inside the Chinese Communist Party, and although they are not in power, they do not advocate breaking up its political monopoly along the lines of Western bourgeois democracy. The historic program of the Hong Kong left was to build unity with the Chinese working-class and the revolutionary elements within the Chinese Communist Party.

38. In every trade forum and from the columns of all major capitalist newspapers, China is taken to task for not truly “opening-up” its political system, refusing to allow Western companies free rein, not giving due deference to capitalist intellectual property rights and so on. The United States and other Western nations heavily promote movements in China that seek to push it in this direction or bring about regime change in one form or another. Separatist movements in China often find aid and comfort from the United States and its allies, and in fact any dissident of any variety, aside from communist, will almost assuredly be widely celebrated in the Western press.

39. This situation therefore is not of Europe in 1848, when the working class took up the banner of “universal suffrage” in alliance with the progressive middle-class and bourgeois sectors to overthrow feudalism and improve conditions for the emergence of working-class politics.

40. The present situation is of a formerly colonized country (China), the state of which emerged from a socialist revolution, now oriented towards rapid development through capitalist integration while also protecting its national sovereignty in a world dominated by Western militarism and imperialism. The call of universal suffrage emerges from a long-colonized hub of Western finance capital, built on stolen territory as a hostile social system to the mainland, in the course of the contradictory process of reintegration. It is a call for Hong Kong’s self-determination on a reactionary basis — against the self-determination of China to integrate a stolen territory.

41. The present era is characterized by the rise of formerly underdeveloped nations within the global capitalist system. This has given super-profits and a new lease on life to the crisis-prone imperialist centers, while also presenting them with new challenges to their hegemony. Starting with the “re-opening” of China in the 1970s, through the overthrow of the Soviet Union and the rolling back of anti-colonial and socialist movements and states in the 1980s and 1990s, and up to the present day, the main trend in the world has not been of revolution, but of counter-revolution (with a few notable exceptions). In the previous period, working-class, democratic and national liberation struggles evolved in the direction of socialism, based on the existence of a socialist pole. Today, many opposition movements in the underdeveloped countries that take up the slogans in the abstract of “democracy” and even “self-determination,” for whatever legitimate grievances they may express, often gravitate in the strategic interests of Western imperialism and turn in a right-wing direction. Such was the case in the overthrow of the Soviet bloc, in the “color revolutions,” in Iran’s “Green Movement,” in Ukraine’s “Maidan,” and it also became a significant aspect of the long-term unfolding of the Arab Spring.

Posted in China0 Comments

Hong Kong crisis analyzed – Statement from the Central Committee of the PSL

NOVANEWS
By PSL Central Committee

hong-kong-handover

The protests in Hong Kong have subsided Monday as negotiations continue between the opposition movement and the local government. There are unconfirmed reports of the basic framework of an agreement, details of which have not yet been released.

Discussions are continuing on the basis that the police will not forcefully break up the protesters’ encampments and the protesters will in turn reopen the streets they had blocked.

Over the last week, the corporate-owned media, and imperialist governments, have expressed their support for the opposition movement, which they described simply as “pro-democracy.”

Their hypocrisy cannot be starker.

The Occupy Wall Street movement — after which Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central” was named — was repressed with mass and targeted arrests, numbering in the thousands. That movement’s encampments in public parks were permanently broken up in the matter of weeks and months in the name of “public safety” and “order.”

These same media outlets and governments are now reporting favorably on protesters who have threatened to take over government buildings and shut down the city of Hong Kong.

What accounts for their praise for the Hong Kong demonstrations and sharp criticism of the Chinese government’s response?

It is part of the ongoing campaign aimed at forcing China to “open up” its political system. The Western ruling classes consider the break-up of the political monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party as a long-term strategic objective that would usher in the unrestrained domination of U.S. corporations and militarism in the region.

Regardless of what interruptions such “liberalizing” reform in China would bring to current Western profits and international finance in the short- or medium-term, in the long-term it would amount to a conquest equal to the overthrow of the Soviet bloc.

The colonial history of China and Hong Kong

The struggle over political reform in Hong Kong is bound up with the area’s history as a colonial subject of Britain. While in form, the present struggle is over electoral regulations and standards, its content is over the terms of Hong Kong’s reintegration into China, and how that process will unfold.

Hong Kong was stolen from China during the opium war of 1839-1842, when Great Britain sought to punish China for denying it the right to import opium, reaping massive drug profits. Until 1997, the British Crown ruled Hong Kong with an iron fist. In the first 153 years of colonial rule, the British refused to allow any general election. London had always appointed a white British aristocrat to be governor of this colony that was 98 percent Chinese. This governor had absolute power. Britain only devised an “electoral” game in 1994 as they were about to leave. Now, the British and other imperialists are talking about a grievous crime committed against democracy in Hong Kong.

A chief task of the Chinese Revolution was integrating into a unitary nation-state its disparate regions, which had been carved up by imperialist division into spheres of influence, and by feudal lords and warlordism. Hong Kong was not part of this process because British colonialism held onto it, and the West intentionally built it as a central hub of finance capital and hyper-capitalism on China’s borders.

At any time the Peoples’ Liberation Army could have gone in and seized Hong Kong, their stolen territory. The Chinese government was not required to negotiate with British imperialism, which should have been paying them reparations. Instead, the Peoples’ Republic of China sought a peaceful and legal solution.

Instead of the reintegration of Hong Kong on a revolutionary basis or through military force, it happened on the legal and peaceful basis of the “One Country, Two Systems” formula and the subsequent Basic Law.

Since 1997, China has further opened its market to foreign corporations and internal class divisions have sharpened. In this way, China became more like Hong Kong and more integrated with it as a primary circuit of finance and trade between China and the West. But Hong Kong also had its own class and political formations, distinct government institutions, and ideological influences as a result of its role as a center of global finance capital and its 153 preceding years as a comprador outpost of British rule. These have not gone away.

Nearly all political movements in the present era legitimate their own cause with the abstract slogan of democracy. To truly understand a movement and its trajectory, we must ask what social sectors are demanding more power and to what end.

The large protests taking place now in Hong Kong reflect the fact that Hong Kong has become polarized between those supportive of the Peoples’ Republic of China and those mobilizing in opposition to it. There have, in fact, been dueling protests with pro-Beijing forces also mobilizing large numbers in opposition to Occupy Central earlier this year.

Although the opposition movement claims that its struggle for greater autonomy will automatically improve the notoriously terrible conditions of poor and working-class people in Hong Kong, it is a movement based in Hong Kong’s middle and upper-middle classes.

The U.S. State Department has been heavily involved behind-the-scenes in the “civil society” opposition trends within China including Hong Kong’s “pan-democratic” movement. Western-oriented liberal groups are clearly leading the Hong Kong opposition movement and their most significant challengers inside the movement come from the growing far-right anti-PRC trend.

The Basic Law

China has, since the transfer of Hong Kong, attempted to closely manage its integration, which was laid out as a 50-year and gradual process. This is understandable given the divergent political and social formation that Hong Kong represented. The current struggle is not about democracy in the abstract, but over the terms of this process.

China’s National People’s Congress has over time taken up the question of introducing broader suffrage into Hong Kong politics. Under the Basic Law, it was not required to give a precise timeline for such changes and it has revised the expected timeline on a few occasions. Most recently, it outlined a plan for the 2017 election for Chief Executive in accordance with the Basic Law. For the first time in Hong Kong’s history, the proposal provides for the top governing official of the city-state to be elected via a one-person, one-vote system. The candidates for this position must still be pre-approved by a nominating commission, and this is the stipulation that the Hong Kong opposition movement is currently fighting.

While being projected by the capitalist media as out-of-control tyranny, it is worth noting that this system is far more democratic than what existed under British rule, where the leaders were simply appointed. The British and U.S. governments presently back up open monarchies all over the world — recently trotting out several of them as “regional representatives” in the bombing of the Islamic State in Syria.

Moreover, the proposed system is not entirely inconsistent with the practice of bourgeois democracy in many places around the world. The United States has an Electoral College. In Britain, the Prime Minister is not directly elected. In many Western European countries there are “party-list” systems, where voters choose parties rather than individuals. Smaller bodies within each party selects — or “pre-approves” — the candidates, without being accountable to voters.

Given its own particular history as a hub of Western colonialism and finance capital, and taking note of the present global situation, including the “Asia Pivot,” no movement in Hong Kong that feeds on anti-mainlander sentiment or seeks greater autonomy from China can develop in a progressive direction. Any Hong Kong movement that seeks “democracy” for the purposes of greater autonomy or independence can, under the present circumstances, only develop in the direction of Western imperialism.

A progressive movement in Hong Kong would emphasize the criminal division of China by British imperialism and, on the basis of unity with China, fight for the social and class interests of the working class in both mainland China and Hong Kong.

Posted in China0 Comments

Indian Airforce Chief Concerned By Fighter Delays

NOVANEWS

Indian top-gun pilots are slowly but surely running out of combat-worthy fighters to fly. Faced with the twin-threat from China and Pakistan, the IAF has once again sounded the red-alert over the huge delays dogging all its three fighter induction projects.

Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha on Saturday said the delays in the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project, the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft program and the joint development of the futuristic stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, should be a major concern for the entire country.

“Every project, be it acquisition or design and development, is taking longer than it should. We have lost timelines. We have quite a few fleets which are on their last legs. It’s definitely a concern,” said ACM Raha, ahead of the IAF’s 82nd anniversary on October 8.

Down to just 34 fighter squadrons, which includes 14 of ageing and virtually obsolete MiG-21s and MiG-27s, IAF is obviously worried about its fast-depleting air combat power when both China and Pakistan continue to flex their muscles along the borders. It requires at least 44 squadrons to be at ease against both.

Responding to the military standoff with China in Chumar and Demchok sectors of eastern Ladakh last month, which coincided with Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, the IAF chief said it was “mysterious” how such border incursions took place during high-profile visits.

“In diplomacy, some signaling is done. I am not going to guess why it was done. But we are not giving ground to anyone,” said ACM Raha, who is also the chairman of the chiefs of staff committee. He admitted it would take four to five years to plug all operational and infrastructure gaps in Ladakh and the north-east.

The new Modi government is showing “great urgency” in “expediting” processes and projects. With all the three Service chiefs meeting the PM on a one-on-one basis every month, every project is being reviewed and accountability being fixed, he said.

But it will take a lot of doing. The indigenous Tejas fighter, in the making for over 30 years now, for instance is still far from becoming fully combat-ready. Tejas also cannot replace the need for a MMRCA since the light-weight fighter has a shorter-range and less weapon-load carrying capability. It will not, for instance, be capable of deep-penetration attacks into China.

Similarly, the final commercial negotiations for the almost $20 billion MMRCA project — the global tender for which was floated in August 2007 – for 126 French Rafale fighters have proceeded at a glacial pace.

Though the work of three sub-committees dealing with technical maintenance, offsets and transfer of technology has been completed, sources said Dassault Aviation is still reluctant to take responsibility, with warranty and liquidity damages, for the 108 Rafale jets to be made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics.

Posted in India0 Comments

US lifts 40-year arms ban to boost Vietnam sea defense

NOVANEWS

Map of Vietnam

In a decision likely to anger China, the US is partly lifting a 40-year ban on arms sales to former foe Vietnam to help boost defenses in the tense South China Sea. The historic easing of the ban in place since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 will only apply to maritime equipment, State Department officials stressed, and comes amid warming ties and as Hanoi makes “modest” improvements to human rights. “What’s driving this is not a sudden desire to transfer military equipment to Vietnam writ large, but a specific need in the region,” said one official, highlighting what he called Vietnam’s lack of capacity in the disputed waters and America’s own national security interests. “It’s useful in trying to deal with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to bolster the capacity of our friends in the region to maintain a maritime presence in some capacity.” Some 40 percent of the world’s seaborne trade passes through the sea which is claimed in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as China and the Philippines. Although the United States has not taken sides in the territorial disputes, it has warned Beijing against “destabilizing actions” amid a series of tense maritime incidents. Earlier this year, Beijing placed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, sparking deadly riots in the Southeast Asian nation. Secretary of State John Kerry informed his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Min during talks Thursday of Washington’s move to adjust the current policy “to allow the transfer of defense equipment, including lethal defense equipment, for maritime security purposes only,” a senior State Department official said. Kerry later praised “the transformation” in Vietnam since the US normalized diplomatic relations two decades ago, calling it “nothing short of amazing.” “Vietnam has become a modern nation and an important partner of the United States. And (when) we talk to the young people in Vietnam you can feel the enthusiasm for the potential of the future,” he told a US-ASEAN business council dinner. – Not ‘anti-China’ – A prohibition on sales of other kinds of lethal weapons, such as tanks, will stay in place as Washington pushes Hanoi to improve its human rights record. “Vietnam will need to make additional progress on human rights for the United States to consider a full lift of the ban on lethal defense articles in the future,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. US officials denied the policy change was “anti-China” and insisted they had no specific sales to outline so far, but would consider each request from Hanoi on a case-by-case basis. And they sought to allay any concerns from Beijing, saying it was purely a defensive measure. “We’re not talking about destabilizing systems, we’re talking about defensive capabilities… These are not things that are going to tip the regional balance,” a second State Department official said, also asking not to be named. Any sales would be done in close consultation with the US Congress, and would be heavily focused on equipping the Vietnamese coast guard, the State Department officials said. So far, Washington has only been allowed to sell unarmed patrol boats to the Vietnamese coastguard since a total ban on military sales was lifted in 2006. That could now change, for example, the officials said. And they acknowledged that airborne defense systems would also be considered for sale if they included a maritime capacity. “This policy supports Vietnam’s efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities,” Psaki told reporters. Officials said, however, that the easing of the ban did not mean all arms sales were now on the table to the communist-run authorities amid continuing concerns about rights such as freedom of expression and religion. “It’s not an indication that we are going to provide all lethal assistance now. It just simply says we can remove what has been a hinderance to our ability to provide legitimate maritime capacity,” the second unnamed State Department official said.

 

Posted in China, Far East, USA0 Comments

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