Following last week’s sharp escalation in diplomacy between the US and Russia, when John Kerry warned of not only breaking off diplomatic relations over Syria with Russia, and threatening to use “military force” including potentially US-based ground forces in Syria for the first time, but also slamming Russian strikes over Aleppo as “barbaric”, Russia responded Monday when Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended an agreement with the United States for disposal of weapons-grade plutonium because of “unfriendly” acts by Washington, the Kremlin said.
A Kremlin spokesman cited by Reuters said Putin had signed a decree suspending the 2010 agreement under which each side committed to destroy tonnes of weapons-grade material because Washington had not been implementing it and because of current tensions in relations. The deal, signed in 2000 but which did not come into force until 2010, was being suspended due to “the emergence of a threat to strategic stability and as a result of unfriendly actions by the United States of America towards the Russian Federation”, the preamble to the decree said.
It also said that Washington had failed “to ensure the implementation of its obligations to utilize surplus weapons-grade plutonium”. The 2010 agreement, signed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on each side to dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium by burning in nuclear reactors.
Clinton said at the time that that was enough material to make almost 17,000 nuclear weapons. Both sides then viewed the deal as a sign of increased cooperation between the two former adversaries toward a joint goal of nuclear non-proliferation.
Moscow made public the full text of the Russia-US deal on Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.
The text of the agreement was published on the site of the Russian Foreign Ministry. According to the Russia-US deal on Syria, force can be used for self-defense during the ceasefire, while airstrikesm use of mortars and rockets, as well as the capture of territory is prohibited. Commenting on the release of the document, the foreign ministry said that it had proposed to make the document public, however, Washington refused to do so. The move caused “some questions about whether the US is sincere or not.” “The unwillingness [of the US] to publicly confirm their commitment to separate opposition from al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and jointly conduct strikes against terrorists and their partners in crime who did not cease hostilities called for special attention.”
Moscow urged Washington to make public the mandate of the joint center on the coordination of airstrikes against terrorists in Syria and the agreement on the monitoring of a road to Aleppo.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet on Wednesday, appointing a new defense minister with a history of hawkish views, in the third reshuffle since he returned as premier in December 2012.
Abe has kept eight of the previous Cabinet’s 19 members in their current roles, including his right-hand man Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
Tomomi Inada, policy chief in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, has replaced Gen Nakatani as defense minister. Inada is known for her rapport with Abe on security and foreign policy and has been outspoken on controversial historical issues involving Asian neighbors.
Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Nobuteru Ishihara, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki have kept their jobs, as has Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Keiichi Ishii, the sole Komeito lawmaker in the Cabinet.
Inada’s installment comes as the administration is closer than ever before to amending Japan’s pacifist Constitution for the first time since its enactment following World War II, a long-standing ambition the new defense minister shares with Abe.
Even though India is not a party to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, it has vital commercial and strategic stakes that keep its interest alive in the troubled waters.
Soon after an international tribunal in The Hague ruled that China’s claims to historical rights in the South China Sea have no legal basis, India said the countries involved in the row should resolve their disputes through peaceful means “without threat or use of force” and show “utmost respect” to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which establishes the global legal order of the seas and oceans.
“India supports freedom of navigation and overflight, and unimpeded commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in UNCLOS,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.
India and the South China Sea
In reality, this issue is not someone else’s problem for India. ONGC Videsh — the overseas arm of India’s state-run Oil & Natural Gas Corp.,known as OVL — has been searching for hydrocarbons in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam, which it entered in the late 1980s after securing the exploration license for block 06.1. About a decade ago, Vietnam permitted India to explore two more blocks — 127 and 128 — which lie in waters also claimed by China.
The G-7 foreign ministers pause for a photo during their discussions in Hiroshima. (Pool photo)
HIROSHIMA — Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrial nations kicked off a two-day conference on Sunday, with terrorism at the top of their agenda. They agreed that G-7 members will take initiatives toward strengthening the international alliance against terrorism and violent extremism.
At the beginning of the event, Japan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, the chairman of the meeting, proposed that the participants discuss terrorism and violent extremism, as well as the ongoing refugee problem, as the priority issues that international society should work together to tackle.
The ministers apparently discussed these challenges with the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris in mind, since all of the G-7 nations except Japan are Western countries.
Although the recent major incidents have been mainly in Europe and the Middle East, terrorism is a growing concern for Asia as well. In January this year, Indonesia’s capital Jakarta was the scene of suicide attacks that killed eight people. In August 2015, Bangkok suffered a deadly bombing attack, and India and Pakistan have seen a series of deadly incidents in recent years. Terrorists have struck in other Asian countries, and their attacks have paralyzed business activities, endangering emerging economies’ development.
The Washington-based magazine Foreign Policy has compiled its annual list of leading global thinkers. The influential outlet has placed President Putin at the top of its “Decision-makers” category for “poising Russia as critical to any peace deal” and ‘scoring points against America”.
Each year Foreign Policy magazine identifies its 100 Leading Global Thinkers List. While there are 100 slots, the outlet explains, there are far more individuals who actually populate it. This year there are 125 names, because the magazine identifies not just individuals, but sometime teams, when efforts are collaborative and often groups people who, independently of each other, work toward a common goal.
The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has included two foreign organizations operated by George Soros in its list of the undesirable NGOs, RIA Novosti quoted the office’s spokeswoman Marina Gridneva as saying on Monday.
The organizations include the Open Society Foundations and the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, both part of a network of international organizations created by noted US billionaire investor George Soros.
“[The prosecutors] have found that the activity of these organizations poses a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional system and state security,” Gridneva said.
The decision came after Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, asked the country’s Prosecutor —General’s Office, the Foreign Minister and the Justice Minister to inspect organizations included in the so-called patriotic “stop list.” The document was approved by the Federation Council in July 2015.
Earlier this year, Russia adopted a law facilitating the blacklisting of foreign and international non-governmental organizations which were considered “undesirable in Russia”. Organizations are included in the list if they are thought to pose a threat to the country’s constitutional system, defense capability or national security.
Under the law, the Prosecutor General or his deputy decides whether or not to blacklist an organization, in coordination with the Russian Foreign Ministry. The revocation of such a decision is carried out in a similar manner.
Syria has agreed to Russia’s proposal to put its chemical weapons under international control, according to the Moscow-based Interfax news agency. The news, if proved correct, could mean a military strike on Syria may have been averted.
The Russian news agency reported “a very fruitful round of talks” with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday.
Walid Moallem, the Syrian foreign ministerm, reportedly said:
We agreed to the Russian initiative.
President Obama is preparing in Washington for a national television address on Syria, to be broadcast at 9pm local time.
The EU has declared Hizbollah’s military wing a terrorist group, a decisive shift in the bloc’s dealings with the Lebanese Shia militant group that was precipitated by its believed involvement in a deadly attack on European soil.
EU foreign ministers took the unanimous decision at a meeting in Brussels on Monday following a two-month campaign led by the UK that managed to overcome longstanding misgivings among fellow member states.
The designation will open the way for the EU to curtail the group’s fundraising activities in Europe and freeze its assets – although sanctions will not be applied to individual members.
Several diplomats have acknowledged that the immediate practical impact could be limited, given the blurred boundaries between Hizbollah’s political and military activities. As well as possessing a formidable weapons arsenal, Hizbollah is also a political party in Lebanon and in practice the military and political wings are inextricably linked.
Nonetheless, they argued that blacklisting the group sent a strong political signal that the EU would not tolerate terrorist attacks within its borders. Read More
The United States has bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents cited in a German magazine on Saturday, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged U.S. spy programs.
Der Spiegel quoted from a September 2010 “top secret” U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) document that it said fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him, and the weekly’s journalists had seen in part.
The document outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the United Nations, not only listening to conversations and phone calls but also gaining access to documents and emails.
The document explicitly called the EU a “target”. Read More