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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

China and Cameroon Sign Economic Agreements

China signed a series of economic agreements with Cameroon Wednesday, giving the African country more than $54 million in loans.

The deals were signed as Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Cameroon's President Paul Biya in the capital, Yaounde.

Under terms of the agreements, China will provide Cameroon with loans of about $9 million for economic and technical projects, and $45 million for telecommunication projects.

Hu also canceled Cameroon's debt to China, the amount of which was not revealed.

Biya urged Chinese companies to invest in his country's energy, mineral and timber industries.

Hu's visit to Cameroon is the start of an eight-nation tour of Africa. China is seeking to strengthen its ties on the continent, as part of efforts to secure more markets and natural resources for its economy.

Hu heads next to Liberia. He also will make stops in Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and the Seychelles. This trip is his third to Africa since taking office in 2003.

Chinese state media say the president will use the 12-day tour to carry out aid pledges made to African leaders at a summit in Beijing in November.

State Department Failure Looms as New North Korean Nuclear and Missile Tests Seem Likely

Another failure for a failed State Department?

Most likely.

American diplomats are spreading the word that the United States aims to close a deal on North Korean denuclearization before President Bush leaves office.

Lots of luck.

The chances of a real deal are minimal at best. With Chinese and Russian backing, North Korea has succeeded in forging a linkage between the nuclear issue and US financial sanctions on Pyongyang over alleged counterfeiting and money laundering. But the US has no intention, as far as we can tell, of lifting the sanctions on China's vassal ahead of a breakthrough on at least controlling, if not dismantling, its atomic arms program. (Forget biological and chemical weapons--Washington acts as if they don't exist.)

Instead of a deal with North Korea, we expect to see more defiance on the part of the Stalinist/Kimist regime, as well as additional provocations in the form of new North Korean nuclear and/or missile tests.

Iran, which is engaged in its own nuclear standoff with the West, could not be happier with the way the North Korean issue is playing itself out. Pyongyang is again proving to be a useful and reliable tag-team partner. Like villainous characters in exhibition wrestling, the two dirty-fighting rogues are taking turns battling an increasingly battered Bush administration.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

US Sending Clean Energy Mission to China

The United States Commerce Department will send a delegation to China and India to market technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Energy Technologies Trade Mission" will head to Asia in April and involve a broad range of technologies such as biofuels (biodiesel and ethanol), energy efficiency and so-called clean coal.

The mission aims to match participating US companies with opportunities in these fast-growing markets, where US clean technology goods and services could help improve the environment.

China, by 2020, plans to spend nearly $200 billion to increase renewable energy use to 15 percent of total supply as well as reduce the energy that its buildings consume by 65 percent, the department said.

Along with biofuels and other forms of renewable energy, such as solar power, clean coal is an area of special interest in booming China. The country is home to the world's largest--and deadliest--coal industry. It presently produces 35 percent of the world's coal and 80 percent of coal related deaths--more than 6,000 fatalities per year.

Most coal accidents occur from methane gas explosions in the mines due to poor detection systems and poor gas drainage. Chinese mining efficiency per mine worker is about two percent of what it is in the US.

US (and European) technology could clearly increase Middle Kingdom coal productivity without significant capital expenditure.

The statistics speak volumes. China's 2006 coal production, estimated at 2.25 billion tons, was still not enough to meet demand estimated at a whopping 2.3 billion tons.

A persistent problem has been widespread use of what is known as off-spec, non-compliance coal, which results in SO2 emissions and other combustion byproducts that contribute to global warming, acid rain and other environmental and health problems. One solution that is said to be attracting considerable attention is coal blending. Europe is the leader in that field.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Senator Criticizes US Reaction to Chinese Sat Attack

An influential United States Senator is criticizing the Bush administration's response to China's recent anti-satellite test.

Jon Kyl, a Republican representing Arizona, asserts the Bush administration's distractions with the Iraq war contributed to a weak response to the Chinese test. Considered a staunch conservative, Kyl advocates a strong space defense.

China launched a missile on January 11 that destroyed one of its own, obsolete weather satellites.

Kyl says that while the test demonstrated China's ability to hit targets in low Earth orbit, there are indications Beijing is working toward destructive capabilities in higher orbits.

Which would put important US satellites, as well as satellites of US allies, at risk.

Kyl says the Bush administration has not responded appropriately so far to "the nature and urgency of this threat."

After the Chinese anti-satellite test, the State Department said Beijing had assured Washington it was "not meant as a threat," or meant to spark a race to militarize space.

Kyl disagrees. He says the US faces a multi-faceted threat from China, including development of anti-satellite missiles and other so-called kinetic weapons, and directed energy techniques involving laser weapons.

Calling the Chinese test a "wakeup call," Kyl says negotiating space arms control agreements with Beijing is unlikely to yield results that would be in the US national security interest.

He also says Congressional committees should examine whether the Chinese anti-satellite program is based on shared or stolen US technology.

It is. Scroll for the story.

Understanding Unrestricted War: From 9/11 to 1/11

China is practicing a form of low-intensity "Unrestricted Warfare" against the United States, as shown by its alarming anti-satellite test of January 11.

Unrestricted Warfare is the English title of an influential 1999 book on military strategy authored by two Colonels in the People's Liberation Army, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. The book argues that countries can defeat technologically superior foes through deployment of an unlimited array of unconventional means rather than through direct military confrontation. Methods include terrorism--the book predicted the use of hijacked airplanes as flying bombs--propaganda, international law, or "lawfare," and information warfare.

"To cripple or destroy the enemy's information system would drastically degrade the enemy's combat capabilities by making it blind, deaf or paralyzed," the authors assert.

China's use of a missile to destroy one of its own, low orbiting, obsolete, refrigerator-sized satellites is a stunning information warfare test. But, in line with the strategy of Unrestricted Warfare, the explosion that created a huge, dangerous debris cloud that will last a quarter century or more is also a test of US nerve and will. Beijing is betting that the proverbial Cooler Heads will prevail--i.e. that the battered Bush administration's pro-China-no-matter-what wing, which is led by billionaire Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, will effectively downplay the significance of the incident instead of treating it as a wakeup call to US policymakers and defense planners.

The Chinese reason that with the US bogged down in Iraq and focused on nuclear arming Iran (a Chinese ally) and nuclear armed North Korea (a Chinese vassal), Washington is in no mood to confront the harsh realities of China's meteoric military and economic ascent. Exploiting opportunity--such as the Islamist assault on the US--is a key underlying concept of Unrestricted Warfare.

In other words, one can draw an abstract, or theoretical, line from the mass-murdering Muslim flying bombs of 9/11 to the satellite-killing Chinese missile of 1/11. The US war against Radical Islam gives China the, well, space it needs to accomplish its not-so-peaceful rise. Not for nothing did Chinese President Jiang Zemin obsessively watch and re-watch video images of the hijacked aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center. He was reportedly fascinated by the spectacle of a terrorist band bringing the mighty US to its knees.

Other lines may be more material. Technology transfers from US and British corporations to Chinese-state owned firms has increased Beijing's military power and may have directly benefited China's test.

In addition, China and Russia have for years been conducting joint research and development programs for dozens of items related to the PLA's concept of "super-advanced," 21st Century, "sixth generation warfare," including new missiles and anti-satellite weapons. China typically provides the money; Russia, the research facilities and specialists.

One Sino-Russian project that bears watching: development of small rockets to launch a new family of small satellites that could eventually be used offensively against other satellites.

Back to Unrestricted Warfare. On the propaganda and lawfare fronts, we expect China to step up public opposition to the militarization of space and to use diplomacy to prevent or slow down US development of anti-satellite and missile defense systems. Washington's legions of Left/liberal critics--for whom US power is and has always been the source of all the world's problems--can be counted on to assist the Chinese effort.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

North Korea Denies Aiding Iran's A-Bomb Effort

China's vassal, North Korea, is dismissing speculation in Western media that it is secretly helping China's ally, Iran, to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

Pyongyang's state-media carried a government statement Saturday that denies allegations published in a British newspaper earlier this week. The statement called the allegations a "sheer lie" and "fabrication."

On Wednesday, The Daily Telegraph quoted an anonymous European defense official who alleged that North Korea was helping Iran to prepare for its own underground nuclear test, possibly before the end of this year.

North Korea says it will continue to honor its duty in the area of nuclear nonproliferation as a "responsible nuclear state." Pyongyang quit the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003.

The international community is pressuring both North Korea and Iran to give up nuclear weapons programs. Iran maintains its program is only for peaceful purposes.

The US says North Korea has sold missiles to Iran. North Korea has publicly acknowledged its nuclear weapons program uses plutonium, while Iran's is based on uranium. Tehran claims it has the right to develop a nuclear capability for power generation.

Pyongyang's state-media says that last week, an Iranian delegation met with senior North Korean officials and signed a three-year agreement on unspecified scientific exchanges.

Our sources say the Daily Telegraph story is on the money. The Stalinist/Kimist and Shiite Islamist states have been cooperating closely for many years in the development of nuclear and missile technologies. More recently, as we have observed, the two rogues have behaved like a tag team in exhibition wrestling, taking turns to escalate tensions in their nuclear standoffs.

North Korea has also helped Iran to develop biological weapons; the US and its allies have barely begun to tackle this threat.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Editorial: Bomb Iran Now!

Amid reports that Tehran's turbaned tyrants are (a) close to creating an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking central Europe, and (b) planning to install more than 3,000 centrifuges at an atomic facility during next month's celebrations of the Islamic revolution of 1979, the United States State Department has threatened Iran with another Security Council resolution and additional sanctions.

The mullahocracy must be shaking in their robes--not!

Our opinion: Bomb Iran now! The sooner, the better. The United States ... and Israel ... should strike swiftly and decisively--with terrifying speed and power--to destroy the Islamist regime's nuclear and missile facilities, air force and war-making capabilities.

By any and all necessary means.

And we do mean any....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

China Disinforms After Anti-Satellite Test

Having stunned the world with its satellite warfare test, China is carrying out a sophisticated disinformation campaign aimed at influencing defense analysts and elite opinion makers in the United States and around the world.

The missile attack that successfully destroyed one of its own obsolete weather satellites clearly raised unsettling questions about China's rise as a major power and policy toward the US. Like the development of a deep water navy, the space war stunt belies Beijing's peacefully rising propaganda line.

The anti-satellite test also heightened concerns about Chinese civil-military relations--i.e. the theory that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is nowadays more powerful than the Communist Party. China's delayed confirmation of the test spurred speculation that the PLA is actually dictating policy to China's dictator, President Hu Jintao, or that Hu has given the PLA wide a significant degree of autonomy in conducting its own affairs.

There may be some truth to the autonomy notion; however, we think it is intentionally exaggerated for damage control purposes. On the one hand, the specter of a secretive, somewhat out-of-control military is frigthening given China's nuclear arsenal; on the other hand, if Hu is not completely in charge of the PLA, despite chairing the Central Military Commission, he can't be blamed for such recent provocations as last year's blinding of a US satellite by a Chinese ground-based laser and the surprise challenge to the USS Kitty Hawk by an armed Chinese submarine in the western Pacific. The Song-class diesel electric sub sailed within five miles of the aircraft carrier.

Hu's on first, our sources say. The Party rules; but advertising that may not be in its interest--internationally. On the contrary, the between-the-lines, deliberately deceptive message could be that Hu is a moderate--Americans love moderates--and that nothing should be done in terms of bilateral relations to weaken his position, lest the hawkish generals be tempted to take power.

The likely immediate target of China's opaque military buildup is Taiwan, of course. We continue to believe that the breakaway democracy should be extremely concerned about Chinese intentions. Beijing's brazen blast in space shows that the regime is playing by its own rules according to its own agenda and timetable. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the 2008 Olympic Games are no guarantee of security; with 1,000 missiles aimed at the island, China could attack Taiwan just when the island--and its US ally--least expects it.

In short, the anti-satellite test is a huge wakeup call; Washington and Taipei have nobody to blame but themselves if they ignore it.

Nigerian Gunmen Kidnap Chinese Oil Workers

Suspected armed militants attacked a Chinese oil company in the Southern Nigeria state, Bayelsa, Thursday, kidnapping at least two Chinese workers.

Bayelsa State Police Commissioner Hafiz Ringim confirmed the attack. He says one of the assailants died, following a shoot-out with security forces.

Gunmen also broke into the finance offices of the China Petroleum Company and stole some money.

Some 100 hostages--mainly workers in the oil industry--have been kidnapped in the Niger Delta, in the past year.

Thursday's abduction was the second involving Chinese this month in the restive oil-rich region. Five Chinese telecom workers seized by unidentified gunmen on January 5 were released last week.

Until recently, China felt immune from attack, because of secret protection payments to the main separatist group fighting for a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth. But rival groups have stepped up their campaign to cripple the multibillion-dollar oil industry--and profit from the kidnappings.

The Niger Delta violence has cut Nigerian oil output by more than 25 percent.

In line with the Chinese experience, hostages are often released after a few days or weeks in captivity, with the payment of ransom. A group of 24 Filipinos, abducted last week, is still being held.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Editorial: Time to Take the Gloves Off

Will President Bush do the right thing?

Following yet another threat by Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri--a Muslim Brotherhood fanatic who helped assassinate Egyptian President Anwar Sadat--will the President of the United States finally clearly and unequivocally address the Islamist enemy in a language it understands?

One can only hope the answer is a resounding yes.

The Sunni mass murderer warned Americans of a reprisal "far worse than anything they have seen" unless Washington changed its policies toward Muslim states.

"You are facing the Islamic rage... what awaits you, should you press on (with current policies), is far worse than anything you have seen," Zawahri said in a video posted on the Internet on Wednesday.

We urge President Bush to respond to the voice of Islamism in no uncertain terms--namely, that if the US is again attacked it will not hesitate to annihilate the Islamist enemy by any and all necessary means.

Ancient wisdom: Jewish tradition teaches that he who is compassionate to the cruel is destined to be cruel to the compassionate.

More recently, Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, Chapter 3, "The injury we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance."

The US should have wiped out Al Qaeda and the Taliban--and the nuclearizing, Islamist Iranian mullahocracy--right after 9/11. It is not too late to get it right. In fact, for the sake of US national security--and the survival of Western civilization--it better not be too late.

We have said this before, but we feel compelled to say it again: Islamism is the new Nazism. It must be utterly destroyed and defeated; there is no acceptable alternative to total victory.

End Islamism before it ends us.

Taiwan: China Aiming 1,000 Missiles at Island

A top Taiwan Defense Ministry official has warned that China has nearly 1,000 missiles deployed in its territory that could be used to target the island.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Major General Wang Cheng-hsiao said China's arsenal of missiles has increased from nearly 200 in 1996 to 980 this year.

Major General Wang said China has deployed 880 ballistic missiles and 100 cruise missiles that can target the island.

But Taiwan defense officials say China's missiles are not as precise as some believe. Taiwan's military estimates that if 70 percent of China's missiles were used in a conflict situation, Taiwan could retain over 50 percent of its combat capacity.

China claims self-ruled Taiwan is part of its own territory, and has threatened to use force against the island if it makes any formal moves toward independence or if (dormant) negotiations to peacefully reunify ultimately fail.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bush Declares War on Radical Islam

The good news about President Bush's State of the Union speech is that he put nuclearizing Islamist Iran and its murderous Shiite Lebansese proxy Hezbollah on the same level as Al Qaeda.

The bad news is that he repeated nonsense about crusading for democracy in Iraq, where, contrary to the President's assertion, "the people" have proven that they don't want to live in peace and actually prefer psycho-sectarian bloodshed.

That said, the good news outweighs the bad, in our view. The President signaled that Tehran's days are numbered: the turbaned tyranny is slated for elimination.

Iraq is a disaster. There is only one chance: end the clerical fascist regime in Iran in order to isolate ... and crush ... its Shiite Islamist proxies and stooges in Iraq.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Beijing Traffic Rising in Runup to 2008 Oympics

China says Beijing's already snarled traffic situation is likely to get worse in the runup to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

The official Xinhua news agency said Monday that Beijing registered more than 22,000 new vehicles in the first 18 days of this year.

Xinhua said the capital city already has more than 2,000,000 registered vehicles and more than 4,000,000 people have a drivers license. The agency said officials predict the number of cars is expected to reach over 3,000,000 by the 2008 Olympic Games.

Cars contribute to choking air pollution in major Chinese cities.

The government has urged people to use public transportation; but officials say it probably will not do much to help chronic traffic congestion.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Modest Proposal

Amid bipartisan calls by United States politicians and pundits to appease Iran's nuclearizing, monstrous mullahocracy, can we at least agree on the statement set forth below?

Should the clerical fascist regime (God forbid) actually manage to destroy Israel or attack one or more US coastal cities by launching a nuclear-tipped missile from a specially equipped, seemingly civilian (foreign flagged) cargo ship, Jimmy Carter would be barred from attending any memorial services for the victims.

More than any American, the self-hating, Israel-bashing former President is responsible for the Iranian nightmare. He deliberately dumped--and betrayed--the pro-US, Westernizing Shah in a cynical, stupid attempt to jump aboard the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamist bandwagon. And Carter's anti-Semitic Secretary of State, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was the architect of secret support for Afghanistan's Islamist menace--before the Soviet invasion of that miserable country. Brzezinski boasts that the policy succeeded in hastening the Soviet crackup by achieving is main aim--luring Moscow into intervening and becoming mired in its own terribly costly, Vietnam-like quagmire.

Gratuitous, below-the-belt anecdote: At one point during Carter's horrendous administration, a US-based British journalist with solid sources in the so-called intelligence community, was assigned to investigate a rumor that the President's wife, Rosalynn, had begun an affair with Jamaica's lady-killing, Castro-admiring, anti-American Prime Minister, Michael Manley. The rumor resulted from the seven hours the First Lady spent with Manley in discussion of issues related to US relations with Jamaica. The rumor was false--Manley only had eyes for his local mistress.

China's Slap-in-the-Face Satellite Strike

Hu First?

Like Joe One, the American code-name (for Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin) for the first Soviet atomic weapon test, which took place on August 29, 1949, the Chinese satellite strike of January 11, 2007 is both literally and figuratively an explosive event--one capable of triggering a terrifying and costly new arms race or cold war.

For the United States, China's destruction of one of its own obsolete weather satellites is at a minimum a serious slap in the face by an increasingly nationalistic regime bent on replacing the US as the global Hegemon. Forget the multipolar baloney meant to calm overseas concerns: Chin's long-term goal is a unipolar world ... dominated by the Middle Kingdom.

The satellite intercept by a medium-range KT-1 ballistic missile belies Beijing's peacefully rising propaganda and the wishful thinking--or outright disinformation--on the part of the fawning US State Department that China is becoming a so-called responsible stakeholder in the international community.

The brazen blast also mocks the absurd argument of US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that China's economic, political--and even military--rise is somehow in the US national interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The satellite strike could be the tip of the iceberg, or missile, if you will. Worse news is yet to come. The destroyed orbiter occupied a region of space only around 500 miles high--known as low-Earth orbit--which is the lowest of the available satellite orbits. Low-Earth orbit is favored for spy satellites because it gives the military the best possible images of the ground. But analysts say China has developed two longer-range missiles-- the KT-2 and the KT-2A--which carry boosters and are therefore thought to be capable of reaching more critical satellites in higher orbits, including GPS satellites that are crucial for smart weapons--such as cruise missiles--and geostationary broadband communications satellites that orbit at around 22,000 miles.

GPS and broadband satellites are the Achilles' heels of modern warfare. During the Iraq war, satellites accounted for more than 80 percent of communications among allied forces.

Which is why China is so eager to develop the capability of knocking them out. If the US command and control satellite network could be neutralized, the risks of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would be dramatically reduced. The Chinese test thus constituted a warning shot at the prosperous, democratically governed island, which China has vowed to recover by military means if Taiwan's government moves toward declaring formal independence (or if negotiations aimed at peaceful reunification prove pointless).

Taiwan got the message. On Friday, it expressed concern and anger at China's space war stunt, saying it has revealed Beijing's ambition to become a military superpower.

"China's action makes the whole world suspect that China's self-claimed 'peaceful emergence' is deception and propaganda," Taiwan government spokesman Cheng Wen-tsan said. "Deep in its bones, China want to become a military superpower and dominate the region by force."

Ironically, in written testimony submitted to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the same day China conducted its anti-satellite test, the country was named alongside Russia as "the primary states of concern regarding military space and counter-space programs" by US Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Said Maples: "Several countries continue to develop capabilities that have the potential to threaten US space assets, and some have already deployed systems with inherent anti-satellite capabilities, such as satellite-tracking laser range-finding devices and nuclear-armed ballistic missiles."

Notwithstanding the above, the word among Washington insiders is that the US State Department and intelligence community was shocked by the Chinese test.

After all the surprises and disappointments in recent years, how could this happen?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Washington Shocked by Chinese Space War Test

China's brazen anti-satellite test has sent shockwaves across Washington, causing concern among asleep-at-the-switch Pentagon planners, politicians, and China-worshipping diplomats.

The normally fawning State Department--a bastion of appeasement and accommodation--has actually expressed (gasp!) concern about the space debris that resulted from China's missile strike on one of its old satellites. State Department officials are telling reporters that the stunning intercept could endanger people in space and on the ground for many years to come.

But State Department officials are also saying the United States is not interested in any additional space treaties that might limit its freedom of action in space.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Friday that his government opposes the "weaponization" of space, and is not seeking a space weapons race. The spokesman would not confirm the test; but US intelligence and military sources have, along with civilian experts who monitor space activity. The specter of an all-out space war is incredibly scary, according to these analysts.

The altitude where China destroyed its satellite, about 800 kilometers high, is used extensively for military purposes, including reconnaissance, navigation, remote sensing and earth imaging, as well as for weather satellites that are also important in military planning. Communications satellites and satellites used to detect ballistic missile attacks fly much higher and would not be vulnerable to China's new weapon.

Early Warning: Iran Showdown Looms As Pressure Builds on Iranian-Backed Shiite Militias in Iraq

The world is apparently moving closer to a showdown with Islamist Iran over its ominous, suspect nuclear program.

Amid reports that the mullahocracy is ready to start assembling thousands of centrifuges to produce enriched uranium--a key achievement toward possibly producing nuclear weapons--the US and the Iraqi regime are at last cracking down in a serious way on the Iranian-backed Shiite militias and death squads that threaten to turn Iraq into an Iranian satellite and staging ground for aggression and terror.

If the US crushes the Mahdi army and associated death squads--and kills or captures its clerical fascist leader, Muqtada al-Sadr--the US escalation has a chance of succeeding in stabilizing the country. The Sunni insurgency can be defeated.

US and Iraqi forces reportedly arrested one of al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad; and the anti-American cleric--who, until now, had manipulated Iraq's Iranian/Syrian stooge, the duplicitous Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, like a pathetic puppet--told an Itralian newspaper that, in all, 400 of his men had been arrested. La Repubblica also quoted him as saying that he stays constantly on the move because he fears for his life.

Which is a good thing, assuming it is true. In any event, it will probably take swift, decisive strikes on Iran--military action to end its nuclear program for once and all--to truly turn things around in Iraq and across the region. The US-influenced Arab regimes, led by Saudi Arabia, know this, though they won't say so publicly.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iran Reportedly Ready to Install 3,000 Centrifuges; North Korea Says Agreement Reached with US

Good news, bad news.

First, the bad news. Diplomats say Iran is ready to begin installing 3,000 centrifuges to produce enriched uranium after completing work at an underground facility.

Media reports quoting diplomatic sources say preparations are being made to install the centrifuges at Iran's plant in Natanz to produce nuclear fuel. The reports say the revelation is based on findings by United Nations nuclear agency inspectors who visited Natanz this week.

Highly enriched uranium can be used to make atomic weapons.

The United States and its Western allies believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday said the Iranians are "overplaying their hand" and have caused concern in the Middle East and beyond about their intentions. Speaking in Bahrain, Gates also said there are many courses of action that do not involve an open military conflict with Iran.

In Tehran, meanwhile, the Iranian mullahocracy's monster-in-chief, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, lashed out at domestic critics of his policies in the international standoff on Iran's nuclear program. He vowed to press ahead with Tehran's nuclear program.

Now for the good news. North Korea said Friday it reached an agreement with the US during direct talks with Washington's main nuclear envoy this week in Germany. However, the North Korean foreign ministry statement, as quoted by the North Korean official Korean Central News Agency, gave no further details.

"The talks took place from January 16 to 18 in a positive and sincere atmosphere and a certain agreement was reached there," a foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying.

"We paid attention to the direct dialogue held by the DPRK (North Korea) and the US in a bid to settle knotty problems in resolving the nuclear issue."

Christopher Hill, the US envoy to six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program, met Thursday for the third time in three days with his Pyongyang counterpart in hopes of resuming full-scale negotiations later this month.

Hill had talks with Kim Kye-Gwan at an undisclosed location after six hours of talks Tuesday at the US embassy in Berlin and two hours of follow-up discussions Wednesday at the North Korean embassy.

US Stunned by Chinese Satellite Intercept

The United States is both embarrassed and alarmed by reports that China successfully tested a new anti-satellite weapon last week, firing it to destroy one of its own older satellites. The test makes China the third nation, after the US and the Soviet Union, to have successfully destroyed a satellite in orbit.

The Chinese test is also the first intercept of its kind in more than 15 years.

More important, the increasing visibility and aggressiveness of China's pursuit of offensive space capability represents a potential threat to US military dominance in space--and to US capabilities for assisting Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack on the self-ruled, breakaway island.

No wonder Washington is upset. It has been downplaying China's military might in recent months, playing along with its peacefully rising propaganda to win Beijing's diplomatic backing regarding nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran.

But the provocative Chinese test--make no mistake, it is provocative--is certain to spur a Pentagon push for development of costly and complex countermeasures. Two examples: a modified 747, dubbed the Airborne Laser, which is being designed to shoot missiles out of the sky as soon as they leave the launch pad, and the more exotic (and perhaps far-fetched) Kinetic Energy Interceptor, a long-range, non-explosive missile being designed for the same task. The Airborne Laser's already delayed initial test flight is supposedly slated for 2009, though further delays are possible; and the weapon system may not be operational until 2014 (if ever). The interceptor is little more than a dream at its present stage of development.

Meanwhile, China is likely to continue testing state-of-the-art satellite-killing weapons at a rate of two or more tests a year for at least the next five or six years.

The report of a new Chinese space weapon first appeared in the publication Aviation Week and Space Technology. On Tuesday, the director of the private Center for Defense Information,Theresa Hitchens, said she and other specialists have been able to confirm its existence.

Said Hitchens: "There has been some confirmation through the tracking data of the satellite that's been released by the US Air Force. And there has also been tracking of the pieces of debris."

Hitchens said it is difficult to predict China's next moves now that it has successfully tested the anti-satellite weapon.

"You might look at this as a Chinese shot across the bow, thinking that they would not be taken seriously until they had a hard power response," she said.

Hitchens said China might want to spark negotiations on space weapons, which Washington has resisted in recent years. Alternatively, Beijing could be trying to establish supremacy in a type of weaponry the US has not pursued for the last two decades.

"It shows the urgency for the space-faring powers to come together to establish rules of behavior, and establish what is acceptable behavior in space and what is unacceptable. It seems to me that the policy of refusing to discuss these issues with China or any other nation has backfired," Hitchens said.

As a matter of policy, the US has refused to engage in negotiations on the use of space so as not to limit US freedom of action.

The spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council, Gordon Johndroe, offered an official comment on the Chinese test. "The United States believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area," Johndroe said. "We and other countries have expressed our concern to the Chinese."

China's successful space weapon test comes after a series of warnings by US officials (and China Confidential) that China and Russia were developing space weapons.

Previous reports of Chinese attempts to temporarily blind US spy satellites with ground-based lasers have not been publicly confirmed by the US military, although it was certainly aware of the attempt. The latest launch would have been detected and tracked by the Pentagon; and any breakup would have been immediately noticed.

Washington offered no official response until after the release of the Aviation Week report.

Last Communist Immortal, Bo Yibo, Dead at 98

Eventually, even immortals die.

Bo Yibo, the last of the Chinese revolutionary elders known as the Eight Immortals, died Monday at a Beijing hospital. He was 98.

Born in 1908, Bo participated in the 1949 Communist Revolution and remained hugely influential in Chinese politics though the 1980s and '90s.

He was alternate member and then member of the Politburo, deputy prime minister, chairman of State Economic Commission and vice-chairman of Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party of China.

Despite his senior status and skill at navigating Chinese elite politics, he was persecuted and imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution of the late 1960s and early '70s. He was later rehabilitated, however.

Joining the Communist Party of China when he was 17, he was the last of the mostly retired revolutionary veterans who supported the October 1976 coup d'etat against the Mao Zedong-backed Gang of Four.

During the Second World War, Bo set up the Shanxi Suicide Squad for the Liberation of China, which was widely acclaimed as one of the most courageous sections of the Chinese Red Army against the Japanese invaders. The unit also became the mainstream force in the struggle to overthrow the nationalist Koumintang regime. Bo was responsible for incorporating the warlord Yan Xishan into the Red Army, who provided more than 200,000 troops.

During the civil war, Bo worked underground with Liu Shaoqi--later persecuted and killed during the Cultural Revolution--in KMT-controlled areas. At the end of the war, Bo was named first secretary of the CCP Central Committee's North China Bureau (1949-54).

In the first years after 1949, Bo was Minister of Finance, a post he lost in December 1953 to his political ally of the time, Deng Xiaoping. Bo's ouster was mainly the result of a factional dispute.

As finance minister, Bo was a key figure in the savage repression of the post-revolutionary countryside. In a 1952 report, titled "The Economic Achievements of the New China," he wrote: "In the past three years, we have eliminated more than two million bandits. Counter-revolutionaries and secret agents have also been placed under close guard in a secure place."

In the late '50s, he was among the veteran planners resistant to Mao Zedong's economic policies. As Chair of the State Planning Commission, he took a leading position in repairing the damage of Maoist economic policies pursued during the Great Leap Forward. Bo later came to regard the Great Leap Forward as a forerunner of the Cultural Revolution.

Bo's activities made him an enemy of Kang Sheng, the legendary head of the Chinese secret service. The ruthless spy boss and propaganda master--who helped to create the personality cult around Mao--allegedly plotted to assassinate Bo on at least one occasion.

Bo was also the father of China's current commerce minister, Bo Xilai, known as the Crown Prince of the Party.

Before his imprisonment during the Cultural Revolution, the elder Bo addressed a group of student Red Guards, warning them "not to be a leftist among the leftists."

"To be a leftist among the leftists is to be a leftist in quotation marks, which is also to be a rightist," Bo said. "A circle consists of a left semi-circle and a right semi-circle. Going too far to the left, you end up on the right."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

US-NK Nuke Talks Underway; Rice in Berlin

Berlin breakthrough?

Maybe.

The United States and nuclear armed North Korea are (at last) negotiating directly, thanks (a) to Chinese pressure on its Stalinist/Kimist vassal, and (b) to Washington's desperate need to avoid conflict with Pyongyang ahead of a possible confrontation with Beijing's slamist ally, nuclearizing Iran.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Berlin Thursday that an accord ending North Korea's nuclear program would lead to normal relations between Washington and Pyongyang. The chief US negotiator to the Chinese-sponsored six-party nuclear talks held a two-day set of meetings with his North Korean counterpart in the German capital.

Arriving in Berlin from a Middle East mission, Rice and went immediately to a briefing from Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Christopher Hill on his meetings with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Gye-Gwan.

Hill had bilateral meetings with the senior North Korean diplomat before within the context of the six-party talks in Beijing, but the closed-door sessions here Tuesday Wednesday were the first of their kind outside of the Chinese venue.

At a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Rice framed the Berlin meetings as part of a broader effort by Hill to prepare the way for a more favorable atmosphere for the next round of six-way talks, which US officials hope can resume later this month.

Rice told reporters that she agrees with an earlier assertion by Hill that an accord ending the North Korean nuclear program would open the way to normal bilateral ties:

The Secretary of State said: "This is anticipated, of course, in the joint statement that was signed at the six-party talks back in September of 2005, when it was envisioned that the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula would lead to bilateral - a normalization - of relations between the United States and the DPRK [North Korea], between Japan and the DPRK Of course other states already have normal relations. But it is very clearly in the context of the denuclearization--complete, verifiable denuclearization--and I should say irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula."

In the September 2005 understanding, North Korea agreed in principle to end its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees from the other parties, which include South Korea, Japan and Russia as well the US and China.

The negotiations broke off shortly thereafter, however, with North Korea complaining of economic penalties the US imposed because of alleged North Korean counterfeiting of US currency and other illicit activity.

North Korea returned to the bargaining table in December after a break of more than a year, but reportedly wanted to discuss only its demand that the US sanctions be lifted.

In a talk with reporters in Berlin before Secretary Rice's arrival, Hill said North Korea has a big choice to make when the negotiations resume again.

"I think it is very important that the North Koreans understand that they really have come to a crossroads," Hill said. "They really have come to a point where they have to decide, do they want nuclear weapons or do they want a future in the international community, because the international community since October 9th - the day that North Korea exploded a nuclear device--has made very clear that the North Korean nuclear program is simply unacceptable."

Hill said the US has no hostile intentions toward North Korea and no animosity toward its people and looks forward, consistent with its obligations under the 2005 accord, to having a normal relationship with Pyongyang.

The US envoy is due in Seoul for consultations Friday and is scheduled to go on to Beijing and Tokyo.

AP Exclusive: Pentagon Sold US Military Parts to Brokers Secretly Working for China and Iran

The Pentagon is ironically responsible for the illegal sale to China and Iran of United States-made missile components and high-technology parts for US fighter jets and helicopters.

So says the Associated Press. In an exclusive expose, AP reports that the US defense department sold fighter jet parts to a broker who was secretly working for Iran ... even after the US customs service had intercepted that same equipment on its way to Iran from a previous sale to another broker. Those parts were for F-14 Tomcat fighters.

Iran is the only country that still flies the forever fearsome F-14, a supersonic, twin-engine, variable sweep wing, two-seat strike fighter manufactured by the Grumman Aircraft Corporation. Arguably the most beautiful and powerful airplane ever made, the F-14 entered service with the US Navy in 1972 as a replacement for the F-4 Phantom II. The F-14 was exported to Iran's air force in 1976, at a time when the government of Iran's pro-American, Westernizing ruler, the Shah, was at the peak of its power and influence.

The F-14 was retired from the US Navy fleet in September 2006 to make way for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The defense department is clearly embarrassed by the revelations. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Defense Logistics Agency, which manages US military surplus sales for the Pentagon, said it does not sell any F-14 parts at all. The written statement said it takes seriously what it calls its "primary mission ... to protect critical and sensitive information." In response to the published allegations of lax security measures, the statement says the agency "will continue to monitor" its "policies and procedures to ensure no excess military items fall into unauthorized hands."

Surplus military sales return tens of millions of dollars to the US Treasury every year.

The secondary market for US and other military components is huge, legal and public. Companies advertise on the Internet and in specialty publications. To prevent unauthorized resale of US military equipment, the Defense Logistics Agency is supposed to be careful about what it sells and who it sells to. But according to the AP article, inspectors from the US Government Accountability Office managed to buy surplus military equipment from the agency without providing proper identification. The Office has criticized the surplus sales program for poor security and inadequate inventory controls.

The AP reports: "Sensitive military surplus items are supposed to be demilitarized or ``de-milled''--rendered useless for military purposes--or, if auctioned, sold only to buyers who promise to obey US arms embargoes, export controls and other laws.

"Yet the surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers."

The most prominent recent case involving China was in 2003, according to the AP article, when a US broker sold surplus US missile guidance parts to China. The broker was fined $250,000 when Customs agents discovered the shipment before it left the US.

Another US company was convicted of selling hundreds of containers of US military technology items to China in the 1990s. Those sales stopped in 1999 after five years when customs agents discovered a shipment of parts for guided missiles, bombs, underwater mines and long-range B-1 bombers.

Monday, January 15, 2007

China's Trade Surplus Surges Again

China's trade surplus surged to a record $177 billion last year--an increase of 74 percent over 2005.

In other news, China's cabinet will allow local banks to sell yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong. This is the first time bonds in the Chinese currency can be sold outside the mainland, a key step for the yuan towards full convertibility. The move also expands Hong Kong's yuan business, which was first launched in 2004.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, but maintains separate political and economic systems, and a separate currency.

Elsewhere in Asia, India's second-largest software exporter, Infosys, reported a net profit of $210 million for the three months until December. Profits rose more than 51 percent compared to the fiscal third quarter a year earlier, and resulted from new outsourcing contracts.

The Bangalore-based software company earns 90 percent of its revenue from overseas clients. Last December, Infosys became the first Indian company to be included on the Nasdaq-100, a US stock market index of the largest non-financial American and international companies.

Japan's Nintendo Company raised its net profit forecast for the fiscal year ending in March to $1 billion, up from an earlier projection of $830 million. The increased outlook for the video-game producer is based on the strong global sales of its portable game player, Nintendo DS.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Watergate-Style Coup? Paris Rife with Rumors

You have to hand it to the French: they love a good conspiracy, real or imagined. From the sacred bloodline of Jesus (the hoax that served as the basis for The Da Vinci Code) to 9/11, the French relish for political intrigue is truly formidable.

So it should come as no surprise that Paris is rife with rumors of a secret Republican Party Plan B to end the US debacle in Iraq--and secure the White House for 2008.

Call it the Ford Solution, as in Gerald Ford, who succeeded the disgraced Spiro Agnew as Vice President in 1973 before moving up to the Presidency after Richard Nixon's resignation as a result of revelations of Watergate misdeeds.

Some self-styled America experts in the City of Light speculate that the party's endangered establishment is plotting to replace President Bush by pressuring him to resign, or face impeachment over his handling of the war and suspected engineering of a politically motivated, potentially catastrophic conflict with Iran.

But Vice President Cheney, the French theorize, must step down first to make room for an acceptable alternative to Bush--namely, an appealing personality capable of restoring US credibility abroad and also winning the next Presidential election. This turn of events, the French say, will be brought about by threatening Cheney with impeachment for his involvement in the Valerie Plame Affair--i.e. exposing a clandestine CIA officer to retaliate against her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for deeply embarrassing the Bush administration in the Niger Yellowcake Uranium Case.

There is more to the fantastic French theory.

The man supposedly selected to replace Cheney and succeed Bush is none other than US Senator Chuck Hagel, an articulate, telegenic Republican critic of the Iraq war. Traditional conservatives consider the 57-year-old, Nebraska centrist and personally wealthy Vietnam war veteran a level-headed political realist, in sharp contrast with Bush and Cheney, who are seen as impossibly influenced by crusading, neoconservative ideology.

The US Constitution provides that should the President die or become disabled while in office, the "powers and duties" of the office are transferred to the Vice President. Section 2 of the 25th of Amendment to the Constitution provides that "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress." Ford was the first Vice President selected by this method; after succeeding to the Presidency, he nominated Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President.

The conspiracy theorists' pick for Vice President under an interim Hagel presidency: former Secretary of State James Baker.

And so it goes.

China Suspects US Plans to Attack Iran

Sources say China's foremost Middle East experts are convinced that the United States is preparing to attack Islamist Iran--directly or, indirectly, through US ally Israel--in order to isolate and defeat the Iranian-backed Shiite militias and death squads in Iraq.

The Chinese assume that the capture of five Iranian Revolutionary Guard agents in northern Iraq last week was meant to provoke an Iranian response that could serve as a pretext for further US action, leading, within a few months, to an all-out assault aimed (a) at ending the Iranian nuclear program, and (b) at eliminating the Iranian regime.

The Chinese experts, including Beijing's special regional envoy Sun Bigan, essentially agree with the view we put forth before President Bush's troop surge speech, that the announced US escalation is only part of the administration's wider plan to salvage the disastrous, deeply unpopular US intervention in Iraq and stabilize the broader Middle East.

The Chinese (correctly) suspect that the US is prepared to live with a Shiite-dominated Iraq--even a "Shiite Lite" theocracy, as we have termed it--provided it is not controlled by Iran.

China and Iran are allies; the mullahocracy is an important oil supplier to China's booming, energy-starved economy.

China's Communist Party rulers are thus likely to signal their opposition to the perceived threat to Tehran by letting Washington know that Chinese help with the North Korea file could depend on US efforts to reduce, rather than raise, tensions in the Middle East.

Despite its negative attitude toward "US hegemony," China wants all sides--the US, Israel, and Iran--to step back from the brink of war. Beijing fears a conflict involving Iran could have catastrophic consequnces for the region--and world oil supplies.

In this context, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is thought to have urged his Israeli counterpart, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to refrain from attacking Iran (which has repeatedly vowed to destroy Israel) when the two leaders met in Beijing last week.

Olmert told reporters that he was "greatly surprised" by Chinese reassurances that it opposes "an Iran with a nuclear bomb."

No Progress on North Korea and Iran

Much travel, many photo ops, zero progress.

That seems to sum up the state of State Department diplomacy, as the United States appears to be hitting a brick wall in its attempts to address two critically important international issues--nuclear-armed North Korea and nuclear arming Iran.

Like dirty-fighting villains in exhibition wrestling, the atomic tag team continues to frustrate and defy the Bush administration and the so-called world community.

In response, US diplomats ... travel ... and talk ... and pose for pictures.

It is what they do best.

Regarding North Korea, the State Department said Friday that US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill will visit Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo January 19-21 to explore ways of reviving the (dead-as-a-doornail) six-party nuclear disarmament talks.

Meanwhile, Hill's boss, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, was winging her way to the Middle East for a round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on the dormant roadmap for creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and a tour of several Arab capitals to rally support for the US escalation of the Iraq war.

Rice can be expected to emphasize the looming Iranian threat. The nuclear-mad mullahocracy--as we predicted last summer--has expanded and strengthened its influence throughout the region through Tehran's Shiite Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, and Sunni Palestinian ally, Hamas.

A contrary view: concerning Iran, some analysts argue that there may be more to the seemingly pointless US diplomacy than meets the eye. They see the travel and talks as part of a prelude to possible US-Israeli military action--lining up sides and preparing the ground, politically, ahead of swift and decisive strikes to take out Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Demolition Blues: Hong Kong Government Promises to Give Public More Say on Fate of Landmarks

The Hong Kong government says it will give the public a greater voice in the conservation of historic buildings.

The plan was issued in response to growing public concern over the demolition of what little remains of the city's architectural heritage.

Hong Kong Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho says the government will start by reviewing and expanding the current architectural heritage advisory body.

"We will actively collect public views and consider how to expand the current built heritage assessment criteria incorporating elements about 'collective memory' as appropriate," he says.

The new advisory body will include some of the people who protested last month's demolition of the Star Ferry pier on Hong Kong Island. Ho says those protests, which came too late to save the site, caught the government's attention, and prompted it to adopt a new approach toward historic preservation.

As Hong Kong's population surged from less than a million to nearly seven million people in the past 60 years, thousands of small, old buildings were destroyed to make room for modern high-rise apartment towers and office buildings.

In the past, neither the government nor the public showed much regard for Hong Kong's architectural history, as building after building from the territory's British colonial past was demolished.

In recent years, however, public anger has been quietly building, while the government continued to destroy historic sites.

The anger boiled over in December, in the demonstrations against the demolition of the Star Ferry pier, a landmark that was moved to make way for a new road. Violent scuffles broke out after police forcibly removed protesters from the demolition site of the piers of the iconic ferry pier and clock tower.

Protesters now are trying to block plans to demolish Queen's Pier, another historic location on the harbor.

The government has not given in on the Queen's Pier demolition, but Patrick Ho says city officials have taken note of the protests.

"The Star Ferry incident last year, of course, has caught our attention," he says. "We are well aware that the public sentiment for preserving cultural heritage in Hong Kong has become more active."

The Home Affairs Bureau plans to conduct a number of public forums on the heritage question, and also will meet with various experts in architecture and urban design in the coming month.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

China, Russia Block Burma Resolution

Again, rising China disappoints.

The irresponsible stakeholder joined resurgent Russia Friday in a rare double veto to block a Burma resolution put forward by the United States and Britain at the United Nations. The measure would have called on Burma's military government to stop persecution of political opponents and minority groups.

The sponsors were able to get the nine votes necessary to adopt a resolution in the 15-member Security Council. France, Italy, Belgium, Slovakia, Ghana and Peru joined them in voting 'yes'. But South Africa joined Russia and China in voting 'no'. Three other elected members, Indonesia, Qatar and Congo, abstained.

Acting US Ambassador Alejandro Wolff expressed deep disappointment at the outcome. Afterward, he spoke directly to Burma's people, urging them not to be discouraged.

"It is important to underscore that despite votes against by two permanent members, all members spoke about the situation in Burma," the diplomat said. "All of them recognized there are problems in the area of human rights, social issues, political freedom, and the people of Burma should not feel disheartened by this. This was an effort to bring this situation to attention of the world community and to send a clear signal that we haven't forgotten you and we won't forget you."

Friday's vote marked the first time Russia has used its veto since April, 2004, the first time China has exercised its veto since February, 1999, and the first time Beijing and Moscow have joined in a veto since 1972.

In casting their negative votes, the Russian and Chinese ambassadors argued that Burma, or Myanmar as it is known at the UN, should not even be on the Security Council agenda.

China's outspoken UN envoy Wang Guangya (no friend of the US) said the UN Charter gives the Security Council authority only in the case of threats to international peace and security.

"Of course there are problems in Myanmar," Wang said. "But we believe these problems do not constitute a threat to regional or international peace and security."

Burma's UN Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe said he was encouraged by the resolution's failure.

Burma's military has controlled the country since 1962, shutting it off from the outside world. Thousands were killed when soldiers crushed a pro-democracy uprising in 1988.

International human rights groups have repeatedly called on the Security Council to act in response to Burma's deteriorating conditions. The United States halted new American business investments there since 1997, and imposed a ban on financial transactions and imports in 2003.

Last week, 13 Nobel Peace Prize winners held a rally in Washington to call for the release of fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been in detention for most of the past 17 years.

The UN estimates there are 1,100 political prisoners in Burma.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Seoul Stalls on Key Trade Issues with Washington

Curious timing.

With only days to go before the start of controversial free trade talks with the United States, South Korea ... a country that would be a North Korean province if not for US support and the stationing of sitting-duck US troops in the South ... is refusing to discuss important issues that deeply concern Washington--namely, the dumping of South Korean automobiles and pharmaceuticals on US markets.

Seoul says South Korean companies have been unfairly targeted by US anti-dumping law, which aims to protect US producers from exporters selling products at below cost to grab market share.

Excluding key discussion topics is a favorite tactic used by the South Korean government to increase pressure on Washington to negotiate. The two sides are likely to make progress on other free trade issues, then address the more sensitive topics by exchanging give-and-take proposals later on.

Negotiators hope to reach a deal by June, when President Bush loses the authority to submit a deal to the US Congress for a simple yes or no vote. After that point, Congress will be able to seek amendments to any trade agreement, greatly complicating the chances of passage.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comment: Bush Speech Confirms Our Theory

The media doesn't get it.

As we predicted--scroll to read--President Bush signaled in his troop surge speech that his administration is going for the win in Iraq ... through Iran.

Like Richard Nixon before him, Bush will expand an unpopular war in order to end it. Nixon bombed Cambodia; Bush will bomb, or give the green light to Israel to bomb, Islamist Iran.

The road to stability in Baghdad runs through Tehran. Removing Tehran's nuclearizing turbaned tyranny is the key to isolating and defeating its Shiite Islamist allies--the militias and death squads--in the so-called country known as Iraq.

The Iranian regime's days are numbered.

Nigerian Gunmen Kidnap South Korean Oil Workers

Early Warning.

The security situation is worsening in Nigeria's southern oil-producing Niger Delta.

In a daring, pre-dawn attack, gunmen armed with dynamite invaded a riverside oil services base on the outskirts of Bayelsa state capital Yenagoa and kidnapped nine South Korean workers and one Nigerian.

Oil workers are regularly abducted in Nigeria by gangs saying they want a bigger share of oil revenues. Many politicians are suspected of aiding and protecting the kidnappers--and profiting from their criminal activities.

The hostages are usually freed unharmed after substantial ransoms are paid.

But the attacks in the delta region--which accounts for all oil production from OPEC member Nigeria, the world's eighth-biggest exporter of crude--have cut domestic output by more than 20 percent.

China needn't worry. For the time being, Beijing's stepped-up secret payments to militant gangs and groups--which we first reported last May--are providing adequate protection to Chinese oil workers and executives.

United Wins Washington to Beijing Bid

Capital to capital nonstop.

The United States has tentatively awarded United Airlines the right to operate a daily non-stop flight between Washington, DC and China's capital of Beijing.

United has not yet said how much it would charge for the 14-hour flight. Existing fares for travel between Washington and Beijing start at less than $1,000 for economy class and can exceed $15,000 for first class.

If the Department of Transportation decision receives final approval, the US-based air carrier could start flying the route--between Washington Dulles International Airport and Beijing's China Peking Capital Airport--as early as March 25.

United Airlines' key sales pitch to federal regulators was that its route would be the first non-stop service linking the capitals of the two countries. The company also had the backing of a coalition of former senior government officials and business groups.

United beat three other US carriers (American, Continental and Northwest) in its bid for the route. The competitors have 14 days to file an objection to the US Department of Transportation's decision. If objections are filed, the department has seven more days to review the objections and make a final decision.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Opinion: Washington's Unfolding Strategy?

Call it Shiite Lite.

In a last-ditch attempt to prevent Iraq from becoming a full-fledged failed state and mega-terror base, the battered Bush administration has apparently decided to tolerate and even support Shiite fundamentalist rule of Iraq in order to contain and defeat Shiite and Sunni (Al Qaeda) Islamists and secular Sunni (Baathist) insurgents.

Secular democracy--never a realistic possibility for the divided hell-hole--is more than ever a distant dream.

This is the lens through which one should view today's assault on suspected Sunni insurgents in central Baghdad, which reportedly killed 50 enemy fighters. Twenty-one Sunnis were supposedly captured in the battle for Haifa Street, a notorious stronghold of Saddam supporters. The prisoners are believed to include three Syrians and one Sudanese.

Coming on the heels of the botched execution of Saddam--he was essentially hanged by a Shiite death squad--today's raid is certain to deepen suspicions that the US is trying to divide and rule Iraq--and the Middle East, except for Israel--by siding with the Shiites, who are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Iraq's capital.

If this is true, the US strategy is doomed to fail; and the expected escalation of the Iraq war, termed a surge by Bush spin-doctors, is nothing more than a stupid, cynical waste of life and treasure. Sending more troops to mainly suppress Sunni insurgents will only reinforce the impression that the US is playing the Shiite card now that its Iraq intervention has ironicaly helped create a Shiite Crescent linking Iran, Iraq, and Syria with Hezbollah in Lebanon. (Thtat the crescent includes Iran's Sunni Palestinian ally Hamas in Gaza does little to calm Sunni regional nerves.)

But ... call it wishful thinking ... we suspect ... hope ... pray ... that there is more to the strategy than meets the eye. The Haifa Street operation could be the price the US feels it has to pay for relatively moderate Shiite support for additional surges--and an eventual assault on Sadr City, the sprawling Shiite slum in northeastern Baghdad. This center of Islamist hate and militancy is controlled by the so-called Mahdii army, a well armed militia of anti-American Shiite cleric (and clerical fascist) Moqtada Al-Sadr.

As long as Al-Sadr is alive and well, Iraq will continue on its path toward Islamist rule. The present prime minister is Al-Sadr's stooge--and Iran's agent.

Which brings us to the key point: Iran must go. Removing Tehran's turbaned tyranny is essential to isolating and defeating the Shiite Islamists of Iraq. For this reason, we believe the US has decided to give Israel the green light to destroy Iran's nuclear arms program.

End the Iranian menace (before it ends Israel) and everything changes--is this the real Bush plan?

We'll know soon enough.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Hail Mary Time

Hail Mary, Full of grace, The Lord is with thee....

We're near the end of a Global Superbowl, with just over a minute to go, and the United States is losing. Will the battered quarterback--George W. Bush--who, after a strong start, has been sacked and jeered throughout most of the game, attempt a Hail Mary--a desperate, long forward pass--known as a Surge in this game--which everyone expects? Or will the US coach call for something else--a trick play?

As shown by the piece below--scroll to read--we're predicting the trick--specifically, some variation of the Statue of Liberty, staple of high school and touch football games--and Hollywood movies--in which the play shifts from a run to a pass and then back to the run again, leaving the defense dazed and confused, and, assuming a successful execution, beaten.

The football analogy is not exact, but close enough. The trick: fake appeasement (Iraq Study Group report), then fake a desperate Surge, or troop increase, then win the game--by bombing Iran and surging in Iraq--again and again, if need be--until the Shiite Islamist menace is isolated and defeated.

38, 56, 7, hike!

The numbers tell the story: 38 signifies 1938, when the civilized world unsuccessfully sought to appease a genocidal totalitarian monster bent on world domination; 56 signifies 1956, when Israel, Britain, and France teamed up to defeat Egyptian despot Gamal Abdel Nasser, whom they viewed as another Hitler (though one can't help but be nostalgic for Nasser given today's enemies); and seven signifies 2007, the new year, and the urgently felt need by Israel and the US to defeat the new, nuclearizing Hitler, the genuine article this time, Iranian monster-in-chief Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose accomplishments include repeated vows to annihilate the Jewish state and the holding of neo-Nazi Holocaust-denying and -ridiculing conferences.

Like Nixon before him, who bombed Cambodia to exit Vietnam, Bush, we believe, plans to bomb--or allow and help Israel to bomb--the Iranian mullahocracy in order to destroy its nuclear weapons program and bring down the regime, without which, the Shiite militias and death squads of Iraq ... and Iranian proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon ... and even Iran's Sunni Palestinian ally, Hamas ... will wither and die.

The secret Bush team coach, we suspect, is the brilliant and resourceful Henry Kissinger, not the bullying, Israel-bashing intellectual lightweight, James Baker.

Fourth quarter, fourth down, a minute or so remaining on the clock ... time will tell if we're right soon enough.

Meanwhile, it can't hurt to pray.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

To Surge or Not to Surge? There Could be More to the Bush Troop-Boosting Scheme than Meets the Eye

With Iraq in the grip of Shiite Islamist death squads--the failed state's current prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, is a stooge of the most powerful, anti-American Shiite militia leader--President George W. Bush's expected troop surge scheme seems like a last-ditch, desperate attempt (a) to salvage a disastrous United States intervention, and (b) to save a divided and demoralized Republican Party from further electoral defeats and permanent political marginalization.

But there may be more to the scheme than meets the eye. Boosting US troop strength in Baghdad could be effective if the escalation is tied to taking out the militias' main backer--Islamist Iran. We suspect that the US has decided to give Israel the green light to do just that--eliminate the nuclearizing Iranian regime through devastating air attacks--and that the coming surge of 20,000 troops in Iraq will be followed by an even greater increase in boots on the ground in order to crush the Shiite militias there for once and all. Maliki will be swept away if he refuses to break with the Islamists.

As for Iran's secular ally, Syria, the Bush plan could be to give it a chance to come around either before or after the attacks on Iran. If Damascus persists in behaving badly, it, too, will be attacked and defeated.

Wild ideas? Maybe. But don't underestimate Bush. He does not want to go down in history as the president who, after 9/11, lost Iraq--and the whole Middle East--to Radical Islam. Bush would rather be remembered as the president who dismantled the Axis of Evil, paving the way for ultimate victory over the movement he correctly considers the new Nazism--Islamism.

The appointment of John Negroponte to second-in-command at the State Department could be a sign of things to come. Hold onto your seats if he replaces Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. That surprise switch would signal that we are indeed in for a wild ride.

Hint: Negroponte served as a political aide to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the late 1960s and '70s. More specifically, he was on the National Security Council staff from September of 1970 until February of 1973, during which time he was in charge of the Vietnam office of the National Security Council staff, supporting Kissinger in his peace talks with the North Vietnamese.

Like Nixon before him, Bush may be a man with a plan ... call it Iraqization ... authored by Kissinger, not James ("F*ck the Jews") Baker, the Israel-bashing, self-styled political realist and former Secretary of State under W's father, President George Herbert Walker Bush. Baker's Iraq Study Group may go down in US diplomatic history as one of the great sideshows--and diversions--of all time.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Newspaper Says Tokyo Would Let Washington Launch Attacks from Ports and US Bases in Japan

This is very significant.

Emphasis on "very."

Japan and the United States have reportedly agreed to upgrade their joint military cooperation plan in case of armed conflict on the Korean Peninsula, a missile attack on Japan--or a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper says that under the new agreement the US would be authorized to launch attacks on North Korea from bases and ports in Japan.

Some 50,000 American troops are regularly stationed in Japan as part of the existing alliance between the countries.

The current plan is clearly primarily aimed at providing an answer to the threats made by North Korea, which carried out nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2006. But--Beijing won't like this--the paper quoted a senior Japanese defense official as confirming (a) that Tokyo and Washington are considering “reactions to possible scenarios in the area” and (b) that in addition to the threat from Pyongyang, the Taiwan issue is one of “two key points” that concern Japan.

Comment: A Day for Pointless Diplomacy

For the United States, Friday was a good day for huffing and puffing and pointless diplomacy.

The State Department announced that President Bush's special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, will visit Beijing next week in an attempt to get China to use its "considerable influence" on Sudan to achieve peace in Darfur.

The trip is a waste of time. China is Sudan's largest trading partner. The African nation produces around 500,000 barrels of oil a day, most of which are exported to energy-starved China. Beijing will do nothing to interfere with this oil flow; on the contrary, China fuels conflict in places like Darfur in the context of an aggressive "energy diplomacy," which seeks to lock up supplies with wellhead deals and other preferential access arrangements.

More than 200,000 people have died in Darfur--and 2.5 million been left homeless--by fighting between ethnic African rebels and forces loyal to the Arab-led, Islamist-leaning government in Khartoum.

Also on Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned China's rogue vassal, North Korea, against conducting another nuclear test , saying it would "only further deepen Pyongyang's isolation."

Rice spoke at a press conference with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Song Min-soon. She said that South Korean and US governments sought resumption of the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that a new North Korean nuclear test would have negative consequences for the six-party talks, casting doubt on the need for continuing the "politico-diplomatic process" involving North and South Korea, China, Russia, the US and Japan.

Our forecast: the six-party talks are dead. There is a high likelihood of another nuclear test--and more missile tests--as the Stalinist/Kimist North Korean regime continues to defy the US and provoke the US and its ally, Japan. US policy depends on China to bring North Korea into line; but that will not even begin to happen unless the US drops its sanctions on Pyongyang and seriously signals that is essentially prepared to appease its old enemy--a totalitarian hell-hole sustained by China.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Australia Ready to Sell Uranium to China

Australia could start selling uranium to China as early as next month, now that the two countries have ratified treaties covering use of the nuclear fuel. The agreements aim to ensure that exports are used solely for peaceful and non-military purposes.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Friday the agreements go into force in 30 days.

The treaties--the Australia-China Nuclear Transfer Agreement and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement--were signed in April during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Canberra.

The agreements also ban China from transferring Australian uranium to a third country or reprocessing the material without Australian consent. If China breaks any part of these agreements, Australia has the right to cancel future sales of uranium.

The Chinese plan to quadruple their nuclear energy output by 2020 to meet rapidly growing demand for electricity, and need imported uranium to achieve their objective.

Analysts say Australian uranium exports could indirectly help China's nuclear weapons capabilities. Even if Australian uranium itself isn't used directly it can be used to free up Chinese uranium for expanding the Chinese nuclear weapons program.

In 2005, Australia earned $449 million from uranium exports from record production of more than 12,000 tons.

Australia holds around 40 percent of known uranium reserves, but accounts for only about a quarter of global production. This is in part because of mining bans associated with fears over the safety of nuclear waste and proliferation.

Australia exports uranium to 36 countries under strict conditions ensuring its peaceful use.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

China Pushing for Peaceful Solution to Iran Issue

True to form, China is continuing to help Islamist Iran play for time in its nuclear standoff with the West.

In talks with Iran's visiting chief nuclear negotiator Thursday, Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan said his country is committed to a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the issue. Tang said renewed dialogue is the only way for all sides to reach an agreement on the nuclear issue.

Iranian Negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran is also seeking what he called a "reasonable solution" through talks. He stressed that Iranian officials will continue to honor a nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Larijani is in Beijing on a two-day official visit for talks with senior Chinese officials.

China's official Xinhua news agency says Larijani is expected to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao Friday.

China supports Iran's right to a nuclear program. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, however, it voted for a resolution that imposed sanctions targeting Iran's nuclear industry and ballistic missile program.

Abe Promises to Strengthen Japan-US Alliance

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed Thursday to strengthen ties with the United States and Europe and to pursue assertive foreign policies in response to a "drastically" changed security situation.

"The security situation surrounding Japan has changed drastically with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles as well as a series of regional conflicts," Abe told reporters. "To protect Japan's peace, independence and democracy and the lives of the Japanese, we need to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance."

Abe, who took office in September, said that he will try to make good this year on a previous pledge to reform Japan's pacifist constitution, which severely restricts the Japanese military from any activities other than homeland defense. The constitution was imposed by the US occupation following World War II.

The Japanese-US alliance dates to the early days of the Cold War, and was originally aimed at defending against the Soviet Union. The pressing concern today is the potential threat from Moscow's old ally--Stalinist/Kimist North Korea--which has become a virtual vassal of rising China.

Pyongyang's provocative actions in 2006--which this blog accurately forecast--have made it easier for members of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party to discuss previously taboo security issues.

Last July, North Korea tested a series of missiles, including a long-range missile theoretically capable of reaching the US. North Korea had already sent a missile on a test flight over Japan in 1998.

In October, Pyongyang conducted its first test of a nuclear device. Japan responded with strong sanctions against the North, and some Japanese politicians have called for a debate on whether Japan--the only nation ever to suffer a nuclear attack--should build its own nuclear arsenal.

Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported Thursday that US and Japanese defense officials are planning to discuss broader military cooperation in the event of North Korean aggression against Japan--or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province, has repeatedly threatened to retake the democratically governed island by force. A recently passed Anti-Secession Law authorizes military action against Taiwan if it moves toward declaring formal independence or if efforts to peacefully reunify ultimately fail.

In other words, as far as China is concerned, it is not a matter of if it will take back Taiwan, but when it will do so and by what means.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded to the Kyodo report Thursday by saying Beijing hopes all nations will continue to adhere to the so-called "One China" principle, which holds that China and Taiwan are one nation.

Our view: China is not likely to escalate tensions across the Taiwan Strait ahead of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games. After that, anything can happen. Not for nothing has China amassed an arsenal of nearly 1,000 missiles opposite the island, adding 50-100 missiles a year. Not for nothing is China modernizing and expanding its navy with a focus on deterring possible US intervention in the event of war.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chinese Theory: Bush Aim to Divide and Rule Islam

Sign of the times....

Examining the Iraq war, certain Chinese foreign affairs analysts, including experts close to special Middle East envoy Sun Bigan, have supposedly come to some startling conclusions that constitute a grand, divide-and-rule conspiracy theory. As such, it is certain to resonate in the region.

The Chinese theory credits the Bush administration with cunning and ruthlessness instead of criticizing it for incompetence and ignorance. Sources say the reasoning goes like this: the United States never believed Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction--WMD was a manufactured pretext from the start. The Bush administration is accused of deliberately deceiving the US public and the international community into backing an unnecessary war against a secular foe that had no serious Islamist ties or Al Qaeda connections.

Nor, according to the Chinese theory, originating in at least one state-run think tank, did the Bush administration really believe it could transform the Middle East by removing Saddam and Sons and installing a Western-style democracy in place of the demented despotism. The Chinese charge that the democracy crusade was also a deception, which its key authors--prominent administration neoconservatives--have only recently come to recognize. Hence, their unexpected turn against Bush, blaming him for incompetence.

The Chinese speculate that the US actually invaded Iraq in order to put Shiite Islamists in power, albeit ones allegedly allied with so-called moderate elements within the Iranian mullahocracy--which the Bush administration mistakenly bet would come to power following 9/11. The broad objective of US policy, according to the Chinese who subscribe to this theory, was to defeat Radical Islam (a) by fomenting a pan-Islamic Sunni-Shiite religious war, and (b) to work with pliable Shiite Islamists wherever possible.

Though it obviously failed with regard to Iran, the Chinese contend, the policy achieved its main goals--and is still driving the US war effort, as shown by the macabre circus surrounding Saddam's end-of-year execution. Handing him over to an Islamist Shiite death squad was a calculated, cynical stroke, say the Chinese, aimed at stirring up more sectarian violence.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Asia Slowly Recovers from Massive Blackout

Asia began a new business year slowly recovering from a major telecommunications outage caused by last week's earthquake in southern Taiwan.

Foreign banks boast their lines are back to normal; but many local connections are still slow and patchy; and it could take weeks before key cables are fixed.

The 7.1 quake damaged an undersea optic cable, causing serious disruptions to international phone lines and Internet connections in Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan and Southeast Asia. At least six undersea optic cables connecting Korea, China and Japan, Hong Kong and Macau, and mainland China, Hong Kong, the US and Europe were cut. The damage plunged much of Asia into a virtual telecommunications blackout for two days, with severely disrupted Internet and telephone access.

The December 26 quake--which took place two years exactly after the earthquake-triggered tsunami that took the lives of an estimated 230,000 people in Southeast Asia--exposed the lack of infrastructure depth in Asia and the urgent need for more robust, disaster-proof networks. A prolonged telecommunications disruption would mean billions of dollars in losses for the region's businesses, especially if banking, foreign exchange and stock trading operations are affected.

The losses from last week's outages are still being counted.

In late December, US telcom Verizon announced that it would work with China Telecom and China Netcom to lay undersea cables linking China and the US. Verizon says the project will increase the cable capacity linking the two countries by 60 times, and cost more than $500 million.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Chinese Conglomerate Buys Kazakh Oil Field

Happy New Year! We begin with a business story for Borat and his faux news TV crew....

One of Beijing's biggest conglomerates, China International Trust and Investment Corp. (CITIC) has bought the Karazhanbas oil field in western Kazakhstan for $1.91 billion, Xinhua reported Sunday.

The official Chinese news agency said CITIC bought the oil assets of the Nations Energy Company of Canada and granted KazMunaiGas, Kazakhstan's state-owned oil company, an option to a 50 percent interest in Nations Energy. The option can be exercised within a year, with the price to be based on CITIC's original acquisition price.

CITIC's bid for Nations Energy's Karazhanbas oil field had been opposed by some in the former Soviet Central Asian republic who feared increasing Chinese influence; and the option may have been one way to win approval from Kazakhstan'’s regulatory authorities.

In 2005, China National Petroleum Corp. sold 33 percent of Toronto-listed PetroKazakhstan back to the Kazakh government after acquiring it for $4.18 billion, as a condition of securing the deal.

The Karazhanbas oil field has proven reserves of more than 340 million barrels of oil, with current daily production exceeding 50,000 barrels.

Kazakhstan possesses the largest oil deposits in the Caspian Sea region and produces about 1.3 million barrels a day.

China is the world's second-largest oil consumer after the United States. The Chinese government is aggressively attempting to lock up preferential access to oil supplies and other raw materials around the world to support the country's booming economy.