Following China’s unveiling of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, overlapping a large expanse of territory also claimed by Japan, the Japanese media has, as The Japan Times reports, had a dramatically visceral reaction on the various scenarios of a shooting war. From Sunday Mainichi’s “Sino-Japanese war to break out in January,” to Flash’s “Simulated breakout of war over the Senkakus,” the nationalism (that Kyle Bass so notably commented on) is rising. Which side, wonders Shukan Gendai ominously, will respond to a provocation by pulling the trigger?The game of chicken between two great superpowers is about to begin has begun.
Five out of nine weekly magazines that went on sale last Monday and Tuesday contained scenarios that raised the possibility of a shooting war.
First, let’s take Flash (Dec. 17), which ran a “Simulated breakout of war over the Senkakus,” with Mamoru Sato, a former Air Self-Defense Force general, providing editorial supervision.Flash’s scenario has the same tense tone as a Clancy novel, including dialog. On a day in August 2014, a radar operator instructs patrolling F-15J pilots to “scramble north” at an altitude of 65,000 feet to intercept a suspected intruder and proceeds from there.
Sunday Mainichi (Dec. 15) ran an article headlined “Sino-Japanese war to break out in January.” Political reporter Takao Toshikawa tells the magazine that the key to what happens next will depend on China’s economy.
“The economic situation in China is pretty rough right now, and from the start of next year it’s expected to worsen,” says Toshikawa. “The real-estate boom is headed for a total collapse and the economic disparities between the costal regions and the interior continue to widen. I see no signs that the party’s Central Committee is getting matters sorted out.”
An unnamed diplomatic source offered the prediction that the Chinese might very well set off an incident “accidentally on purpose”: “I worry about the possibility they might force down a civilian airliner and hold the passengers hostage,” he suggested.
In an article described as a “worst-case simulation,” author Osamu Eya expressed concerns in Shukan Asahi Geino (Dec. 12) that oil supertankers bound for Japan might be targeted.
“Japan depends on sea transport for oil and other material resources,” said Eya. “If China were to target them, nothing could be worse to contemplate.”
In an air battle over the Senkakus, the Geino article continues, superiority of radar communications would be a key factor in determining the outcome. Japanese forces have five fixed radar stations in Kyushu and four in Okinawa. China would certainly target these, which would mean surrounding communities would also be vulnerable.
One question that seems to be on almost everybody’s mind is, will the U.S. military become involved?
Shukan Gendai (Dec. 14) speculated that Chinese leader Xi Jinping might issue an order for a Japanese civilian airliner to be shot down. As a result of this, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier would come to Japan’s aid and send up fighters to contend with the Chinese.
“Unlike Japan, the U.S. military would immediately respond to a radar lock-on threat by shooting down the Chinese planes,” asserts military analyst Mitsuhiro Sera. “It would naturally regard an aircraft flying overhead as hostile. They would shoot at it even if that were to risk discrediting the Obama administration.”
“With the creation of Japan’s National Security Council on Dec. 4, Japan-U.S. solidarity meets a new era,” an unnamed diplomatic source told Shukan Gendai. “If a clash were to occur between the U.S. and China, it would be natural for the Self-Defense Forces to provide backup assistance. This was confirmed at the ‘two-plus-two’ meeting on Oct. 3.”
“China is bent on wresting the Senkakus away from Japan, and if Japan dispatches its Self-Defense Forces, China will respond with naval and air forces,” Saburo Takai predicts in Flash. “In the case of an incursion by irregular forces, that would make it more difficult for the U.S. to become involved. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs would protest through diplomatic channels, but China would attempt to present its takeover as a fait accompli.
“China fears a direct military confrontation with the U.S.,” Takai adds. “A few days ago, two U.S. B-52s transited the ADIZ claimed by China, but the flights were not for any vague purpose. I suppose the Chinese tracked the flights on their radar, but the B-52s have electronic detection functions that can identify radar frequencies, wavelength and source of the signals. These flights are able to lay bare China’s air defense systems. It really hits home to the Chinese that they can’t project their military power.”
Which side, wonders Shukan Gendai, will respond to a provocation by pulling the trigger? The game of chicken between two great superpowers is about to begin.
Anti-government protesters in Ukraine have toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Kyiv as opposition leaders called for President Viktor Yanukovich and his government to resign at a rally of about 500,000 people, the biggest protest in the capital since the “Orange Revolution” of nine years ago.
A group of protesters dragged down and decapitated the landmark statue Sunday evening after hundreds of thousands of others took to the streets to denounce the government’s move away from Europe and toward Moscow.
Protesters took turns beating on the torso of the fallen statue, while others chanted “Glory to Ukraine!”
On a day of huge emotion, which also marked the anniversary of Ukraine’s 1991 referendum on independence from the Soviet Union, opposition leaders denounced Yanukovich for walking away from a pact offered by the European Union and swinging trade policy back towards Russia.
“They stole the dream,” heavyweight boxer-turned-opposition politician Vitaly Klitschko told the crowds on Independence Square.
“If this government does not want to fulfill the will of the people, then there will be no such government, there will be no such president. There will be a new government and a new president,” declared Klitschko, himself a contender for the next presidential election due in 2015.
After months of pressure from Russia, Yanukovich suddenly backpedalled last week from signing the deal on closer relations with the EU in favour of renewed economic dialogue with Moscow, Ukraine’s former Soviet master.
Far-right nationalist leader Oleh Tyahniboh called for a national strike to start from Sunday, and members of his Svoboda (Freedom) party occupied Kiev’s city hall along with followers of former economy minister Arseny Yatsenuk’s Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party.
All three opposition leaders also occupied a trade union building, turning it into a temporary headquarters.
Events evoke memories of Orange Revolution
The events, evoking memories of the 2004-5 Orange Revolution that overturned the established political order, took place against the background of an apparent attempt by a protesters to storm the main presidential office.
Interior Ministry forces and riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to repel the protesters, who used an earth excavator in an attempt to break through police lines.
Police said 100 officers had been injured in violence during the day, news agencies reported.
But opposition politicians, who had been urging protesters all day to remain peaceful, denounced the violence at the headquarters of Yanukovich’s administration as a stage-managed “provocation” to justify a security clampdown.
They sent officials to appeal to supporters to return to the main protest on Independence Square.
“We know that the president wants to … declare a state of emergency in the country,” Yatsenyuk told reporters.
Klitschko, who heads a separate pro-Europe party, also urged his supporters to stay away from the area near the presidential offices. “The authorities are trying to turn our peaceful demonstration into a place of blood,” he said.
Police said some protesters had been detained and 22 had sought medical help, the Russian state-owned agency RIA reported.
Yanukovich’s U-turn has highlighted an old East-West tug-of-war over Ukraine, which is the cradle of eastern Slavic tradition while sharing today borders with four EU countries.
‘I want my children to live in a country where they don’t beat young people.’– Andrey, protester
Yanukovich, a native Russian-speaker, represents a constituency in the industrial east which has close cultural and linguistic kinship with Russia. In Ukrainian-speaking areas, particularly in the west, people have a more Western outlook.
Yanukovich says he has taken only a strategic pause in moves closer to Europe but the opposition accuses him of doing a deal with Russia that will ultimately harm national sovereignty.
Trying to defuse tensions before Sunday’s rally, Yanukovich said he would do everything in his power to speed up moves toward the EU. But he repeated the need to balance European integration with national interests.
The protesters, shouting “Down with the Gang!”, swept through the streets of Kyiv in a sea of blue and gold — the colours of both the EU and Ukrainian flags — before arriving at Independence Square.
The crowd had been additionally inflamed by a crackdown early on Saturday when riot police broke up an encampment of mainly young protesters using batons and stun grenades, injuring an undisclosed number of people.
Police, who had sealed off part of Independence Square following the swoop on young protesters on Saturday, withdrew as the marchers approached the square.
Call for national strike
Apart from Klitschko’s call for Yanukovich to go, far-right nationalist Tyahniboh called for a national strike. “From this day, we are starting a strike,” he declared.
“I want my children to live in a country where they don’t beat young people,” said protester Andrey, 33, the manager of a large company, who declined to give his surname for fear of reprisals.
“I want my children to live in a state that differs from the Soviet past,” said Iryna Lukyanenko, a 19-year-old student. “After Saturday, when the protest was broken up, I thought I should come today to defend our rights, We are no longer talking about ‘euro-integration,’ but our rights.”
“We are here to defend our dignity,” said Andrey Semenov, 55, who runs a small business. His friend Mykhailo, 58, said: “We are here to defend the young people, our children who are defending the future.”
The interior minister warned that police would respond to any disorder and said Ukraine had no place among the ranks of countries like Libya or Tunisia, where Arab popular uprisings overthrew autocratic old-guard leaderships.
“If there are any calls to disorder, we will respond,” Interfax quoted the minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko, as saying.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said late on Saturday that Yanukovich would travel to Moscow to work on a “road map” for new economic co-operation after a trip to China on Dec. 3-6, though he gave no dates.
South Korea says it has extended its air defence zone to partially overlap with a similar zone declared by China two weeks ago that has sharply raised regional tensions.
Beijing’s declaration of an air defence identification zone in an area that includes islands at the heart of a territorial dispute with Japan has triggered protests from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia.
Announcing the expansion of its own zone to include two territorial islands to the south and a submerged rock also claimed by China, South Korea’s defence ministry said the move would not infringe on neighbouring countries’ sovereignty.
“We believe this will not significantly impact our relationships with China and with Japan as we try to work for peace and co-operation in north-east Asia,” defence ministry head of policy Jang Hyuk told a briefing.
“We have explained our position to related countries and overall they are in agreement that this move complies with international regulations and is not an excessive measure,” he said, adding the ministry’s top priority was to work with neighbouring countries to prevent military confrontation.
South Korea had objected to last month’s move by China as unacceptable because its new zone includes a maritime rock named Ieodo, which Seoul controls, with a research station platform built on it. China also claims the submerged rock.
But South Korea’s reaction to Beijing has been more measured than the sharp rebukes delivered from Tokyo and Washington, reflecting a sensitivity towards Seoul’s largest trading partner.
The extension of South Korea’s zone will not apply any restrictions to the operation of commercial flights, the defence ministry said separately in a statement. The move would take effect on 15 December, it said. It will also overlap with Japan’s air defence zone, Jang said.
There was no immediate reaction from China, although Beijing’s response to news last week that South Korea was reviewing its options on the air defence zone was relatively low key.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Friday that any move by South Korea must “accord with international law and norms”, but added: “China is willing to maintain communications with South Korea on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”
The decision by China that kicked off the latest spat was the subject of a tense disagreement as the US vice-president, Joe Biden, visited China last week, stressing Washington’s objections to the move that he said caused “significant apprehension” in the region.
Japan’s defence minister, on a visit to the Philippines on Sunday, called on the international community to oppose China’s zone and any move to establish a similar zone over the disputed South China Sea.
Itsunori Onodera discussed Japan’s concern over China’s action separately with the Philippines defence secretary, Voltaire Gazmin, and Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop.
In his meeting with Bishop, Onodera said he mentioned that the international community “should meet to deal with this matter together” and that any unilateral action by coercive means should be opposed.
“If any country would establish a similar air zone in the South China Sea, that would bring up tension in the region and I mentioned that should be stopped,” he told reporters in Tacloban, where he visited a school serving as a shelter for villagers who lost their homes in last month’s typhoon.
He said that the issue should be resolved by dialogue.
China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Ma Keqing, said last week it was Beijing’s right to decide “where and when to set up” an air identification zone. She was asked about a possibility that China might set up a similar zone over the South China Sea.
Ma did not say if China would set up such a zone.
Onodera said China’s unilateral action violated the spirit of the International Civil Aviation Organization treaty.
Ties between China and Japan have been strained for months by the dispute over the islands in the East China Sea, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan.
Washington takes no position on the sovereignty of the islands, but recognises Tokyo’s administrative control and says a US-Japan security pact applies to them.
Beijing says its zone is in accordance with international law and Washington and others should respect it.
Under the Chinese zone’s rules, all aircraft have to report flight plans to Chinese authorities, maintain radio contact and reply promptly to identification inquiries.
US, Japanese and South Korean military aircraft have breached the zone without informing Beijing since it was announced. South Korean and Japanese commercial planes have also been advised by their governments not to follow the rules.
South Korea’s new air defence zone includes an area already claimed by both China and Japan [Al Jazeera]
|South Korea is set to expand its air defence zone to partially overlap China’s recently enlarged airspace, South Korean officials have said.
Seoul’s defence ministry said on Sunday that the expansion, which covers an extra 66,480 square kilometres, would include two territorial islands to its south, and a submerged rock also claimed by China.
The move would not infringe on the sovereignty of neighbouring countries, said officials in the South Korean capital, and had been discussed in advance with Washington.
Aviation authorities in South Korea say the air zone expansion is in line with international standards, reported Al Jazeera’s Stella Kim from Seoul.
“The South Korean government is confident that this won’t lead to any military clashes or become an international diplomatic issue,” she said.
“The expansion includes a set of islands at the centre of a territorial argument between Beijing and Tokyo, so there wil be a seven-day grace period before the new zone is enacted.”
Air defence identification
The new South Korean air zone in the East China Sea overlaps a similar area, first declared by Japan in 1969, and recently claimed by China.
“This is a very direct response to China’s decision to expand,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett in Seoul.
Aircraft intending to fly through the area will now be required to inform aviation authorities of all three nations.
South Korea’s air defence identification zone was first declared in 1951 during the Korean War to counter potential air intervention by the Chinese. At the time, the more remote islands and submerged rocks were not carefully considered, say analysts.
The new expansion covers the two islands Marado, which is south of Jeju island, and Hongdo, which is south of Geoje island and is also covered by Japan’s air defence zone.
Further south, Seoul’s expansion also includes the submerged rock named Ieodo, which is home to a strategically located research station operated by South Korea.
China has also claimed that Ieodo is within its exclusive economic zone.
A strategic analysis carried out in 2010 for the oilsands identifies a “worst-case scenario” for the industry that appears to have come to pass.
In a PowerPoint presentation evidently put together for oilsands giant Suncor, Texas-based intelligence consultancy Stratfor warns of a scenario in which the anti-oilsands movement “becomes the most significant environmental campaign of the decade as activists on both sides of the border come to view the industry as arrogant.”
That scenario is “exactly what has happened,” Mark Floegel, a senior investigator for Greenpeace, told Inside Climate News.
The North American environmental movement has coalesced around opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oilsands product from Alberta to an oil terminal in Cushing, Okla. With the Obama administration repeatedly delaying a final decision on allowing the pipeline, the movement to stop it has grown into the most high-profile environmental battle of recent years.
The Stratfor presentation was released by Wikileaks, and was part of a massive trove of millions of documents it has obtained from the intelligence consultancy over the past two years.
Stratfor presents several options for oilsands companies to address opposition to their business. Among those options is simply doing nothing. Not responding could work because “activists are not stopping oilsands’ growth and they have no power in Alberta or Ottawa,” the PowerPoint presentation stated.
In the best case, the presentation said, environmental activists would move on to protesting the new hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, methods being used to extract oil. But while opposition to fracking has indeed materialized, the debate over the oilsands continues to dominate environmentalists’ agenda.
As New Republic puts it, the documents provide “rich evidence of how the industry thinks about its foes.”
Aside from doing nothing, the presentation also set out a number of other options for oilsands companies, including “rapid negotiations,” “intentionally delayed negotiations,” and “flying in formation” — meaning oilsands companies could come up with their own environmental initiatives, rather than bending to the demands of environmental groups.
The Stratfor presentation breaks down oilsands opponents into four groups: “radicals,” “idealists,” “realists” and “opportunists.” Each of the major environmental groups campaigning against Keystone are located within one of those four categories (see slideshow above).
Suncor denies ever seeing this report, Inside Climate News reports, however the presentation mentions Suncor by name repeatedly.
Stratfor, which Barron’s magazine once described as a “shadow CIA,” is not universally embraced as a source of corporate intelligence. The company has been criticized for preparing intel reports that are little more than analysis of publicly available information.
“The group’s reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight,” Max Fisher wrote in The Atlantic.
Falsely Stated That There Were No Unusual Radiation Levels
They’ve cut way back on radiation monitoring after the Fukushima meltdown, underplayed the amount of radiation pumped out by Fukushima, and raised acceptable radiation levels … rather than fixing anything.
For example, Straight.com reports:
A study by several researchers, including Health Canada [the department of the government of Canada with responsibility for national public health] monitoring specialist Ian Hoffman, reveals a sharp spike in radiation over southwest B.C. on March 20, 2011.***
In 2011, investigative journalist Alex Roslin reported in the Georgia Straight that a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney had detected radioactive iodine-131 levels up to 300 times normal background levels.
In 2011, Health Canada was declaring on its website that the quantities of radiation reaching Canada did not pose any health risk to Canadians.
“The very slight increases in radiation across the country have been smaller than the normal day-to-day fluctuations from background radiation,” Health Canada said at the time.
Roslin maintained in his article that Health Canada’s own data contradicted that assertion. Below, you can see more of what the researchers stated in the PowerPoint presentation about the radiation plume.
Here’s what Roslin wrote in 2011:
After Japan’s Fukushima catastrophe, Canadian government officials reassured jittery Canadians that the radioactive plume billowing from the destroyed nuclear reactors posed zero health risks in this country.
In fact, there was reason to worry. Health Canada detected large spikes in radioactive material from Fukushima in Canadian air in March and April at monitoring stations across the country.
For 22 days, a Health Canada monitoring station in Sidney detected iodine-131 levels in the air that were up to 300 times above the normal background levels. Radioactive iodine levels shot up as high as nearly 1,000 times background levels in the air at Resolute Bay, Nunavut.
Meanwhile, government officials claimed there was nothing to worry about. “The quantities of radioactive materials reaching Canada as a result of the Japanese nuclear incident are very small and do not pose any health risk to Canadians,” Health Canada says on its website. “The very slight increases in radiation across the country have been smaller than the normal day-to-day fluctuations from background radiation.”
In fact, Health Canada’s own data shows this isn’t true. The iodine-131 level in the air in Sidney peaked at 3.6 millibecquerels per cubic metre on March 20. That’s more than 300 times higher than the background level, which is 0.01 or fewer millibecquerels per cubic metre.
“There have been massive radiation spikes in Canada because of Fukushima,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
“The authorities don’t want people to have an understanding of this. The government of Canada tends to pooh-pooh the dangers of nuclear power because it is a promoter of nuclear energy and uranium sales.”
Edwards has advised the federal auditor-general’s office and the Ontario government on nuclear-power issues and is a math professor at Montreal’s Vanier College.
Similarly, the Nelson Daily reported in 2012:
The Green Party of Canada said despite public concern over fallout from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Health Canada failed to report higher than normal radioactive iodine levels in rainwater.
“We were worried that this important information would not reach the public and unfortunately, it looks as if we were right,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May, MP for Saanich Gulf Islands in a written press release.
It has now been revealed that data were not released from a Calgary Health Canada monitoring station detecting levels of radioactive iodine in rainwater well above the Canadian guideline for drinking water.
This isotope was known to be released by the nuclear accident and also showed up in tests in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa. Lower levels of contamination resulted in a don’t-drink-rainwater advisory in Virginia.
“Serious questions are arising about how Health Canada tests for radiation, and why it has failed to properly alert the public,” said May.
“In effect, Health Canada has not allowed Canadians to take any preventative steps to reduce our exposure to this radiation.”