Saturday, July 9, 2016

Updates From Around The World: S. China Sea Heats Up, Russia vs NATO, Defiant Iran Continues Missile Ballistic Tests

Ahead of the Hague: Beijing Won't Take 'Single Step Back' in S. China Sea

Ahead of an international court ruling on disputed areas in the South China Sea, Chinese state-run media warned the Philippines against escalating tensions, claiming that Beijing won’t “step back” in the ongoing standoff.

On July 12, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is scheduled to issue a final decree in a trial initiated by the Philippines against China.

The lawsuit hinges on a “nine-dash line” that Beijing has used to define its territories in the region since the middle of the 20th century. Manila has denounced the claims as having neither historical nor legal grounds, turning to the Hague in 2013 for arbitration.

China has refused to participate in the legal process and promised to reject any decision. Beijing has also constructed air strips on artificial islands in waters it considers sovereign territory.
On Friday, the China Daily newspaper issued an editorial that claimed that the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague has no jurisdiction in the conflict. The paper labeled the trial a "farce" and said that any upcoming decision will be "illegal, null and void from the outset."
Another state-run Chinese paper, Global Times, went further, stating that Beijing "will fight back" if tensions in the South China Sea keep escalating.

"If the US and the Philippines act on impulse and carry out flagrant provocation, China will not take a single step back," the report reads, specifying that Beijing could make “a military outpost" out of Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea and "sink" Philippine military vessels deployed in the region

Open air preaching is something that was very effective 400 years ago.  Men such as John Wesley and George Whitefield, along with many others, set all of Britain ablaze with the gospel.  God blessed this form of evangelism during their time and for one good reason.  It was the familiar form of publication at the time it was used.
People were very accustomed to seeing men stand in a crowded street or the market and proclaim news.  It was not strange or funny like it is today for people to spread news this way.  And this was perfect for street preachers.  After all, the Gospel is Good News.  But this has changed, and people are now frightened and humored by such displays.

Among cheering crowds, four street preachers were arrested in the UK on Wednesday for causing a “disturbance” while exhorting men to “obey God and keep His commands.”
The incident occurred as local resident Mike Overd was open air preaching outside of the Bristol shopping center, while others engaged passersby in conversation and/or held gospel signs. Some of those joining Overd in the evangelism effort included American citizens visiting the country to share the gospel.

President Obama is in Warsaw, Poland today where NATO members are holding a summit to show the alliance will stand firm against new threats, including a “resurgent Russia.” The Warsaw meeting is being held in a district of the capital, Praga, that Poles view as a symbol of Russian betrayal of their nation.  
In the meeting, Obama called on NATO to "stand firm" against Russia, terrorism and other challenges even as a key member, UK, retrenches from Europe. In an op-ed published in the Financial Times on Friday, Obama says the U.S. and European nation "must summon the political will, and make concrete commitments" to affirm European cooperation.

“This may be the most important moment for our transatlantic alliance since the end of the Cold War,” Obama wrote. “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.” The US president added that “NATO will once again send a very clear message that we are here.” 
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg echoed the US President, mentioning deployment of troops, military infrastructure and hardware closer to Russia’s borders. 

Stoltenberg said that Russia's hostile actions in Ukraine have spurred the alliance to raise its defenses on the eastern flank. Stoltenberg spoke to reporters before the NATO summit opened in Warsaw on Friday to approve, among others, the presence of four battalions in Poland and the Baltic states.

NATO’s massive build-up in the three Baltic countries and Poland is officially labeled “assurance measures,” but not everyone in the alliance is keen to take part in what the Foreign Minister of Europe's most important NATO member, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called three weeks ago “saber-rattling and warmongering.”

“Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance's eastern border will bring security is mistaken,” Steinmeier said in defiance of multiple war games in the region. A recent YouGov poll found that 64 percent of Germans agreed with his statement, with only 16 percent rejecting it.

“It is absurd to speak of a threat coming from Russia when dozens of people are being killed in the heart of Europe, while hundreds die in the Middle East every day,” he stressed. Peskov added that NATO’s “anti-Russian hysteria” and multiple troop deployments do not help find common ground for cooperation.
Peskov added that "Russia is not looking (for an enemy) but it actually sees it happening. When NATO soldiers march along our border and NATO jets fly by, it's not us who is moving closer to the NATO borders."

But the most important development was Obama announcement that the U.S. is sending an additional 1,000 U.S. troops to Poland as part of a NATO effort to reinforce its presence on the alliance's eastern flank. 
The U.S.-led battalion is one of four that NATO will begin rotating through the region. The move is meant to act as a deterrent to Russia, AP adds.
Obama is touting the decision in remarks to reporters after a meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. The U.S. president thanked Poland for its contributions to the campaign against the Islamic State group, including its F-16 aircraft and special forces trainers. He called Poland "a lynchpin in the defense of NATO's eastern flank."
Naturally, Russia will promptly respond in kind and send even more troops to its borders with Europe, and the escalation will continue until finally an "accident" happens and the next phase of this unprecedented redux of the Cold War enters its next phase.

The Kremlin has hit back at a decision by NATO to station several thousand troops in Baltic countries and Eastern Europe, amid rising tensions between Europe and Russia, as "anti-Russian hysteria."
At a NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland on Friday, the military alliance is expected to formally agree to deploy four battalions with a total of 3,000 to 4,000 troops to the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland on a rotational basis. 
The deployment comes amid increasing concerns in those areas (all of which were under Soviet control during the Cold War) that Russia could be prepared to try to increase or regain its sphere of influence .

In a statement on Thursday, NATO also said it would "strengthen political and practical cooperation with Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova" - all former Soviet republics experiencing increasing tensions with Russia due to their political and economic relations with the EU.

In addition, the EU and NATO signed a declaration on Friday aimed at bolstering the region's security ahead of the full NATO summit Friday afternoon.
Left out in the cold from NATO and ostensibly the reason for such a deployment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reportedly hit back at the alliance, saying its actions were akin to "anti-Russian hysteria."

Iran said Saturday it would continue its ballistic missile program after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said the missile tests were not in the spirit of the country’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
In comments published on Iran’s foreign ministry website Saturday, spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said that “Iran will strongly continue its missile program based on its own defense and national security calculations.”
In his first six-monthly report to the UN Security Council on implementation of a resolution endorsing the landmark deal, Ban called on Iran to stop conducting ballistic missile launches. He said such actions could increase tensions in the Middle East.
But Ban’s report stopped short of saying the missile launches were a violation of the UN Security Council resolution.

The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards said the country has over 100,000 missiles in Lebanon alone readied for the “annihilation” of Israel.

Speaking in a July 1 speech aired on on Iran’s state-run IRIB TV, Brigadier General Hossein Salami also said that Iran has “tens of thousands” of additional missiles that are ready to wipe the “accursed black dot” of Israel off the map.
“Today, more than ever, there is fertile ground — with the grace of God — for the annihilation, the wiping out and the collapse of the Zionist regime,” Salami said, according to the MEMRI translation.
“In Lebanon alone, over 100,000 missiles are ready to be launched. If there is a will, if it serves [our] interests, and if the Zionist regime repeats its past mistakes due to its miscalculations, these missiles will pierce through space, and will strike at the heart of the Zionist regime. They will prepare the ground for its great collapse in the new era,” Salami said.
Lebanon is the base for the Hezbollah terrorist group, a powerful Iranian proxy that waged war with Israel in 2006, during which it fired scores of rockets into the Jewish state. Hezbollah is today believed to have more than 100,000 missiles in its arsenal.
Salami also boasted that “tens of thousands of other high-precision, long-range missiles, with the necessary destructive capabilities, have been placed in various places throughout the Islamic world.”
“They are just waiting for the command, so that when the trigger is pulled, the accursed black dot will be wiped off the geopolitical map of the world, once and for all,” he said, referring to Israel.

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