Archive for May, 2014

The US and Thailand’s military coup [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Afghanistan, Encirclement of China, George W. Bush, Iraq, Japan, Korean War, Obama, Pentagon, south Korea, Thailand, US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA, Vietnam, Wikileaks on May 31, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

26 May 2014

The US response to last week’s military coup in Thailand was utterly cynical. Secretary of State John Kerry declared that he was “disappointed by the decision of the Thai military to suspend the constitution and take control of the government,” urged “a return to democracy” and warned that military and other assistance programs would be reviewed.

Kerry’s “disappointment” had nothing to do with any concern for the democratic rights of the Thai people. Rather the Obama administration’s overriding concern throughout seven months of political upheaval in Bangkok has been to preserve its close, longstanding relations with the Thai military as part of its broader “pivot to Asia” and military build-up against China throughout the region…

…Last week’s coup follows the same pattern as the military’s ousting of Thaksin in 2006. WikiLeaks cables later revealed that US ambassador Ralph Boyce had been briefed about the military takeover several weeks in advance and had given the nod of approval. Both sides understood there would be cosmetic US aid cuts. However, US funding continued for law enforcement, counterterrorism and non-proliferation programs. Thailand kept its preferential treatment as a major non-NATO ally and the joint Cobra Gold military exercises, one of the world’s largest, went ahead as planned in 2007 under the junta. The Obama administration undoubtedly gave the green light for the latest coup as the Bush administration did in 2006.

The military’s actions are not aimed primarily against the pro-Thaksin faction of the ruling class, but against the working class and the rural poor. The fear in Thai ruling circles, and also in Washington, is that the protracted factional infighting could open the door for a movement of workers and peasants in conditions of negative economic growth, rising social tensions and corporate demands for austerity.

While giving tacit support to the coup, the US is also seeking to minimise the impact on relations with the military. Thailand is a formal military ally and has sent troops to fight in neo-colonial US wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. During the Vietnam War, 50,000 American troops were based in Thailand and US bombing raids took off from Thai airbases.

The importance of Thailand to the Pentagon’s war plans were underscored by a 2009 WikiLeaks cable from US ambassador Eric John which noted that “our military quietly access the [Utapao] air base over 1,000 times per year for flights in support of US operations, including missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.” He also noted that the US military used the same air base “for flights on targets of intelligence interest, and we received permission for these operations as a matter of routine, without having to answer questions to the purpose of the flights. It is hard to imagine another Asian nation so easily permitting such operations. While we avoid publicising our use of Utapao to avoid Thai sensibilities regarding the perception of foreign basing, Utapao and other Thai air fields and seaports remain vital to our force projection objectives in Southeast Asia.”

Washington’s implicit support for last week’s military coup in Thailand is a warning to the working class throughout Asia and internationally. Far from being a champion of democracy, US imperialism is increasingly relying on right-wing regimes, such as the Japanese government of Shinzo Abe and South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, daughter of former US-backed dictator Park Chun-hee, as it seeks to reassert US hegemony through the “pivot to Asia” and prepares for war against China. The Thai junta is the latest…

Peter Symonds

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Interview: Vietnamese authorities miscalculated in anti-China protests: scholar [Xinhua]

Posted in China, Japan, Singapore, south Korea, Taiwan on May 31, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

SINGAPORE, May 24 (Xinhua) — Vietnamese authorities apparently miscalculated during the protest targeting foreign enterprises in Vietnam last week, Li Mingjiang, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

“They have, in some way, connived in the protest and the subsequent developments, but they apparently underestimated the possibility that the initially mild protests could turn violent,” Li said.

Li said it’s hardly likely for the violence to have been orchestrated in the way a color revolution was organized, given the abruptness of the riots breaking out. However, there had been signs that certain groups in the opposition were waiting for an opportunity to put pressure on the Vietnamese government.

The possibility cannot be ruled out that some Vietnamese-American groups have been behind the protest, he said.

“The territorial disputes between China and Vietnam provide them good excuses to organize such a kind of demonstrations, together with local NGOs within Vietnam,” Li said. “The Vietnamese authorities, due to political considerations, chose to connive at these protests.”

South China Morning Post reported recently that some theories in Vietnam implied outside influences behind the riots.

The violence went largely unchecked by Hanoi, at least at the initial stage. China evacuated thousands of its nationals from Vietnam after a few were killed and more than 100 others were injured during the violence.

Apart from the loss of investors from the Chinese mainland, quite a number of factories and companies from elsewhere, including China’s Taiwan as well as South Korea, Japan and Singapore, were also victims of the violence.

Singapore’s foreign ministry had voiced their “deep concerns” several times over the damages to two Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks in Binh Duong province.

A Singapore flag was burnt by demonstrators on May 13. Singapore’s foreign ministry described it as “a serious incident.” It had also urged Hanoi to immediately restore law and order before the security situation worsens and investor confidence is undermined.

The deadly violence, to some extent, can also be traced to the domestic challenges or the deteriorating relations between Vietnamese citizens and the government, as well as the worsened economic and social problems, Li said.

“The rioters broke into foreign factories, conducting wrecking, looting and setting fire, regardless of them being Chinese companies or not.”

Editor: Mu Xuequan

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China Focus: WeChat loses shine amid information overload [Xinhua]

Posted in China on May 30, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

BEIJING, May 6 (Xinhua) — WeChat, or Weixin, a popular instant messaging service in China, risks losing its luster as users complain about bombardment by deceptive ads and excessive information…

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Rebels down Ukrainian military helicopter, killing 14 troops [Xinhua]

Posted in Ukraine on May 29, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

KIEV, May 29 (Xinhua) — Insurgents brought down a Ukrainian military helicopter near the rebel-held eastern town of Slavyansk, killing 14 troops onboard, acting President Alexandr Turchynov said Thursday.

Insurgents attacked a helicopter, which was carrying troops for a change of duty, with a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile, Turchynov told parliament.

Ukrainian major-general Sergei Kulchitskii was among those killed, he said.

Earlier in the day, Ministry of Internal Affairs adviser Anton Gerashchenko said a military helicopter, which was delivering food and ammunition to Ukrainian troops, went down near Slavyansk, but there was no immediate word on the casualties in the incident. It is unclear if he was referring to the same incident as Turchynov.

Heavy fighting between Ukrainian government forces and rebels seeking independence from Kiev has been raging in Slavyansk for weeks.@ Ukraine launched an “anti-terrorist” operation in the eastern city in early April following the seizure of several administrative buildings…

Maj-Gen. Kulchitskii was an active participant and one of the commanders of the government’s “anti-terror” actions.

Excerpted by Zuo Shou

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Ukraine’s Lugansk plans to hold parliamentary elections in Sept. [Xinhua]

Posted in Ukraine on May 29, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

KIEV, May 28 (Xinhua) — The leadership of “Lugansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine announced Wednesday parliamentary elections would be held in the self-proclaimed republic in September.

“Presumably, we plan to hold elections to the Supreme Council on Sept. 14,” Vasily Nikitin, the self-styled prime minister of the republic told the press conference.

He said local council elections in the region could also be held in September.

Armed activists in Lugansk and its neighboring Donetsk regions established “people’s republics” in early April and held referenda on their future status on May 11.

Organizers of the referenda later announced the overwhelming majority of voters favored independence…

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See also related Xinhua article: “Ukraine’s Lugansk declares martial law, asks Russia for troops” –

China Focus: China to start security vetting IT products [Xinhua]

Posted in China, Intenet control policy / "Great Firewall", National Security Agency / NSA, NSA, Pentagon, US imperialism, USA on May 29, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

BEIJING, May 22 (Xinhua) — The Chinese government is to start cyber security vetting major IT products and services for use by national security and public interests, the State Internet Information Office announced on Thursday.

The vetting is aimed at preventing suppliers from taking advantage of their products to illegally control, disrupt or shut down their clients’ systems, or to gather, store, process or use their clients’ information, according to a statement from the office.

Companies that fail the vetting will be stopped from supplying products and services in China, the statement said.

Ensuring that IT technologies and cyberspace are “safe and under control” is vital to China’s national security, economic and social development as well as people’s legitimate rights and interests, said Jiang Jun, the office’s spokesman.

“For a long time, governments and enterprises of a few countries have gathered sensitive information on a large scale, taking the advantage of their monopoly in the market and technological edge,” he said. “They not only seriously undermine interests of their clients but also threaten cyber security of other countries.”

China’s government departments, public institutions, enterprises, universities and backbone networks of its telecom firms have suffered extensive invasion and wiretapping, according to Jiang.

Documents leaked by former Central Intelligence Agency contractor Edward Snowden last June rang alarm bells over the cyber security of many countries, the spokesman said, adding that the affair reminded people how crucial cyber security is to national security.

“It shows that without cyber security, there’s no national security,” he said…

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US diplomacy ensnared in combat with Russia [People’s Daily]

Posted in Economic crisis & decline, NATO, Obama, Pentagon, Russia, Sanctions as weapon of war, Ukraine, US imperialism, USA on May 29, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

May 22, 2014

“The panic that the United States has shown on the issue of Ukraine reflects U.S. concerns about the loss of global leadership.” Such was Noam Chomsky’s observation on American reaction to the Ukraine crisis. Some analysts believe that the Obama administration underestimated Russia’s determination to defend its national interests, and had no idea that Putin would offer such a tough response. If Putin should take even tougher measures, the United States will have no strategy to deal with the situation. U.S. foreign policy is “stretched” and its lack of overall strategic planning has left it “passive and isolated” in the Ukraine crisis.

= West’s crossing of a ‘red line’ has provoked a Russian counterattack =

“The truth is that the United States was not expecting such a strong response from Russia,” says Marlene Laurelle, director of the Central Asia Program in George Washington University. For the Obama administration, preoccupied with its ‘rebalancing’ act in the Asia-Pacific and with Middle Eastern affairs, European issues were far from the top of the agenda.

Secretary of State John Kerry described Russia’s participation in the protests in eastern Ukraine as “more than deeply disturbing”. As Chomsky pointed out, from the perspective of the U.S. Putin’s annexation of the Crimea disrupted the international order established after the Cold War, which the U.S. and its allies have relied on.

However, there is one voice of reflection in the U.S. – Richard Weitz, a senior editor with World Politics Review. His view is that fundamentally, Russia’s resentment stems from the West’s disrespect for its interests and concerns. Without proper consultation with Russia, NATO has continually expanded eastward, threatening Russia’s core interests. It is the Western countries that have crossed Russia’s “red lines”; this is what has led to Putin’s counterattack.

= Sanctions on Russia are largely a propaganda tool =

Since the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States has launched three rounds of sanctions against Russia. In terms of their effect, the media have quoted Bogomolov, the honorary director of the International Institute of the Russian Academy of Economics and Political, suggesting that the sanctions against Russia are largely a propaganda tool, and have had little effect on Russia’s economy.

Stephen Blank, senior researcher of Russia American Foreign Policy Council, offered this view to People’s Daily: “The US sanctions against Russia have not affected bilateral trade between the two countries, as the volume of U.S.-Russian trade is small and U.S. investment in Russia is very limited. Economic sanctions against Russia have had little impact on the U.S.”

Dr. Andrew Kuchins, CSIS Director, was equally skeptical about the worth of the sanctions: “Russia is one of the world’s top ten economies. Many European countries are more than willing to trade and engage in economic cooperation with Russia.”

Kuchins is right – there are obvious differences between the U.S. and Europe on expanding sanctions against Russia. Ignoring U.S. objections, France has proceeded to deliver two Northwest Wind amphibious assault ships to Russia, while German Chancellor Merkel stressed that the U.S. and Europe should work out a comprehensive set of sanctions against Russia to avoid damaging any individual EU country.

With the approach of the presidential elections in Ukraine at the end of May, the United States and its allies have proposed a fourth round of sanctions against Russian suppliers, upgrading the level from “limited” and “warning” to “comprehensive” and “substantial”. However, these aggressive measures are being tempered by voices questioning how effective the sanctions will be, and asking what are the plans to deal with any Russian counter-measures.

Many people are questioning Obama’s diplomacy. Clark A. Murdock, senior Adviser and Director of the US Defense and National Security Group, observed: “From the strategic level, Obama did not make good use of deterrence. The opponent does not fear him, and his allies are unsure about whether the US will meet its commitments.”

= America faces an inevitable decline =

American media are worried by the outcome of the stand-off between Obama and Putin in terms of leadership and international influence. Richard Weitz notes that in the past few years the world has witnessed a significant recovery of Russia’s international influence and ambitions. Under the leadership of Putin, Russia is becoming an important and independent force in determining the world order.

In his book Foreign Policy Begins at Home, Richard N. Haass describes a twenty-first century in which power is widely diffused. Globalization, revolutionary technologies, and the rise and decline of new and old powers have created a “non-polar” world where American still dominates, but no longer dictates.

One thing is clear – in the struggle between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine, Russia will not accept a swing to the west. For Russia, the concern is that any retreat or reticence might lead to a “domino effect” among other CIS countries. However, the Obama administration does not seem to recognize the profound importance of Ukraine to Russia. As a result, the United States has no draft, far less any detailed blueprint, to deal with Russia’s tough response to the crossing of its red lines.

The article is edited and translated from《博弈乌克兰,美国外交陷被动》, source: People’s Daily, author: Li Boya.

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