Friday, May 16, 2014

In The News:

Meeting with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Friday morning in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran was continuing to develop its nuclear weapons capability and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“We’ve been saying all along that Iran is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” Netanyahu said, “so I wasn’t surprised and I’m sure you weren’t surprised by the recent UN report on Iran’s ongoing efforts to deceive the international community, to continue to develop its ICBMs and to continually violate its commitments of Security Council stipulations on forbidding it to develop certain parts of its nuclear program.

“They continue to do that, and I think that requires very clear and firm policy on the part of the world powers, the P5+1, and I think as the talks with Iran continue, one thing must guide the international community, and that is we must not let the Ayatollahs win. We must not let the foremost terrorist state of our time, Iran, develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons.”

“One of the things we have found unfortunately is that our Palestinian neighbors are moving ahead in a pact with Hamas,” Netanyahu emphasized. “The United States has designated Hamas rightly as a terrorist organization, and obviously the Palestinians cannot have a pact with Hamas and peace with Israel.
“We’re concerned too that in both Gaza and in the PA-controlled areas, there is continual incitement and propaganda against the very existence of the Jewish state. A recent ADL study, published a few days ago, talks about the fact that in both places, anti-Semitic incitement is the most troubling on the planet, and that is something that I think hinders peace. I think the Palestinians have to make a simple choice, a pact with Hamas or peace with Israel, but they can’t have both.”

On Thursday the Philippines released photos to validate its claim that China is building structures and a possible airstrip on the disputed Johnson Reef.
As Shannon reported yesterday, on Wednesday the Philippines accused China of building structures on the disputed Johnson Reef in the South China Sea, which Manila said was in violation of the non-binding 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea agreement signed between China and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
On Thursday the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) released four overhead shots of the Reef that date from between March 2012 and March of this year. The photos appear to show in stages China’s reclamation of the Johnson Reef, which the Philippines refers to as Mabini Reef. A DFA spokesperson said that the photos had been obtained by Philippine intelligence sources.

“These actions are considered destabilizing and in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and international law,” the DFA said in a statement, the local news outlet GMA Online reported.
The Philippines has speculated that China is preparing to build an airstrip on the disputed reef in order to enhance its power projection capabilities in the South China Sea. Building structures on the reef could also bolster China’s claims of sovereignty over surrounding waters and isles.
The Philippines considers the Johnson Reef to be part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which it controls. Along with the Philippines and China, Vietnam and Taiwan also claim the Johnson Reef.
According to Jose, China is trying to re-define the Johnson Reef as an island in order to bolster its claims of sovereignty over surrounding waters. Under the terms of the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), a feature that is defined as an island contains a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Thus, a state possessing sovereignty over an island can claims the EEZ it generates. By contrast, smaller features like reefs or rocks do not have EEZs, according to UNCLOS.

In a somewhat stunningly hypocritical step for a nation that seems so hell-bent on proclaiming Russia's provactive actions as tantamount to World War over Ukraine, the White House has issued a statement "taking no position" on China's "disputes" in the China Seas...

So - the Chinese undertook "provacative actions" into the "disputed territory" of another sovereign (allied) nation... and the US retaliates with no sanctions, no damnation, no hellfire? Good to know who your friends are...

A top Chinese general on Thursday defended the deployment of an oil rig that has inflamed tensions in the disputed South China Sea and triggered deadly protests in Vietnam, blaming Hanoi and saying China cannot afford to "lose an inch" of territory.

General Fang Fenghui also pointed blame at U.S. President Barack Obama's strategic "pivot" to Asia as Vietnam and China grapple with one of the worst breakdowns in relations since the neighbors fought a brief border war in 1979.

The Japanese government will take steps to exercise its right to so-called collective self-defense, allowing it to attack a third country when an ally is in some way under threat. 

The move is at odds with Japan' pacifist postwar constitution and has alarmed neighbors who recall the country's wartime aggression.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is widely expected to amend the constitution so Japanese troops can once again operate overseas. Article 9 of the constitution says Japan forever renounces the use of force as a means of settling international disputes, unless the country comes under attack.

At a press conference on Thursday, Abe said his government will take the necessary steps to amend the current interpretation of the article but stressed the move will not translate into Japanese troops participating in a third country's war for just the sake of using armed forces.

Abe added Japan needs to exercise its right to collective self-defense in light of the North Korean missile threat and clashes with China over disputed islands.

Opposition parties and civic groups protested, voicing fears that the move could put the country on a war footing again.

Abe has already started pushing for a Marine force and allowing exports of Japanese-made weapons, citing a growing threat from China.

He plans to formally declare Japan's right to collective self-defense in June and wrap up any amendments to the constitution by the end of this year. 

Five more people die from the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in Saudi Arabia, health officials say.
The Saudi Health Ministry announced on Wednesday that the new victims were three women, all over 60, who died in the capital Riyadh and two men, aged 56 and 57, who passed away in the port city of Jeddah.
The latest fatalities bring the kingdom’s death toll to 157 since MERS appeared in 2012.
The ministry also reported 16 new infections with the MERS virus, raising the total to 511.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the spread of the disease has become more serious, but does not yet constitute a global health emergency.
“The committee indicated that the seriousness of the situation had increased in terms of public health impact, but that there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission,” WHO said, following the fifth meeting of its emergency committee.
The WHO also asked governments to make sure necessary measures were implemented in all health-care facilities in order to prevent and control the infection.
MERS is a cousin of SARS. The virus first emerged in the Middle East, and was discovered in September 2012 in a Qatari man who had traveled to Saudi Arabia.

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