Monday, July 31, 2006

Giant Chinese Dust Bowl Forming and Spreading

Yet another inconvenient truth about rising China: its environmental disaster may be bigger and more complex than previously reported.

2006 has seen a number of unusually strong sandstorms in northern China. Beijing and other cities have days in which sand fills the air, blocking the sun and creating long-lasting health hazards. Those who have been through the storms compare the experience to walking into a flour mill. Breathing is extremely difficult. Reports of residents in affected areas caulking windows with old rags to keep out the dust recall the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

The worsening problem threatens to drive up the price of food and cause tens of millions of desperate Chinese to become environmental refugees.

Dust storms have been recorded in China for more than 2,000 years, but they are now increasing alarmingly both in size and in number. Some gigantic dust clouds have reached North America. Early this spring, Beijing residents woke one morning to find that 300,000 tons of sand had been dumped on their city. The sand was whipped up by fierce winds in the Gobi desert more than 1,000 miles away.

The potential for catastrophic damage--in China and other countries--is real and significant.

Desertification is partly--perhaps even largely--to blame. Basically, a giant dust bowl is forming in northwestern China, as overgrazing, overuse of land, and drought combine to created the biggest transformation of productive land into desert that world has ever seen.

It's a vicious phenomenon. Once the vegetation has been removed by overgrazing, strong winds that blow in from Siberia and Mongolia dry the land and kick up dust; after the small particles are gone, the sand blows.

Official estimates say the deserts, advancing by thousands of square kilometers a year, now make up between 18 and 27 percent of China's surface.

Land abandonments are forcing massive migrations of people, also reminiscent of the American migration from the southern Great Plains to California during the Dust Bowl years.

Adding to the direct damage to soil, the northern half of China is becoming drier and sources of natural irrigation more scarce. Aquifers are being depleted by overpumping.

Falling food production could become a serious issue. The United Nations estimates that 400 million Chinese people live in areas threatened by expanding deserts, which could force many into cities in search of jobs. The Asian Development Bank says at least 4,000 villages have already been buried by sand and their occupants forced to move to greener areas.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

China Disinforms About North Korea, Iran

China has launched a major disinformation campaign about its relationship with belligerent, nuclear-armed North Korea. Officials, diplomats, think tank intellectuals and state media journalists are telling anyone worth telling that Beijing has limited influence on Pyongyang.


The secretive Stalinist state of North Korea's deranged Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, is utterly dependent on China. North Korea is China's vassal. Beijing supplies a third of North Korea's total food donations, and as much as 70 to 90 percent of its fuel aid. China is also North Korea's number-one trading partner. Sino-North Korean trade rose 14 percent in 2005, to a record of more than $1.5 billion.

North Korea's other sources of economic aid are drying up. Japan, which was North Korea's second-largest trading partner until 2001, has cut its trade and imposed sanctions on Pyongyang; and South Korea suspended its sizable food aid after North Korea defied international warnings and test-fired seven missiles on July 4.

China could end Kim's missile threats--and the Kimist regime--in a heartbeat. Instead, China protects and supports the regime, balancing a need to appear "responsible" in international eyes with an appreciation for North Korea's continued usefulness as both a buffer state separating China from American forces in South Korea and a vicious attack dog against America and Japan.

Should the attack dog (and the comparison is admittedly insulting to dogs) be brought to heel, it would be seen by China as a major victory for the United States. Worse, a truly contained North Korea could cause the collapse of the Kimist regime, resulting in an all-democratic Korean peninsula--an anathema for China.

The emergence of a united, democratic Korea, coupled with the continued survival of self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, would contribute significantly to Chinese fears of encirclement by the US.

In a related development, China is also trying to downplay its alliance with Iran in anticipation of Tehran turning down Western incentives to halt its disputed uranium enrichment program. The party line: China has no leverage over the oil-rich Islamist nation; but Russia does; so the road to Tehran passes through Moscow, not Beijing.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

China Sees Iran Forming Anti-American Axis

Allah's Axis?

China's Middle East experts--led by Liu Yazhou, a Lieutenant General and Deputy Political Commissar in the People's Liberation Army Air Force--are apparently convinced that Iran is close to creating a new alliance in the Middle East that will unite Shiite and Sunni Muslims in an Islamist-led struggle against Israel and the United States. Grouping Shiite Iran with its Lebanese Shiite proxy, Hezbollah, the Sunni Palestinians and Syria and Shiite-controlled Iraq, the new anti-American axis, or bloc, would have widespread support throughout the region.

In China's view, the currents of power in the Middle East are about to change. Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, is fast emerging as a popular folk hero. His army's ability to hold out against Israel for more than two weeks is inspiring the proverbial Arab street--as well as Arab artists and intellectuals--in a manner not seen since Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser electrified the Middle East--and the Third World--by nationalizing the Suez Canal.

It's been 50 years, exactly, since Nasser's stunning blow for Egyptian dignity and freedom; and Arab and Muslim masses are apparently hungry for another victory against the despised West.

"Nasrallah is this month's Nasser," says an Israeli analyst. "But next month, it could be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's turn."

If the Iranian president, who has sworn to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, can even come close to striking a decisive blow against the Jewish State, his power and influence would increase dramatically.

And Iran's ally, China, would benefit tremendously. Following Beijing's successful experience with the increasingly influential Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Chinese "energy diplomacy" tool that groups China and Russia with the countries of Central Asia--with Iran as an observer--Chinese Communist Party grand strategists are already dreaming of a Middle East version of the SCO.

Liu and other Chinese Arabists argue that the bloc has the potential to seriously weaken Israel and other US "assets," including the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, which is threatened by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood that constitutes the core of Al Qaeda.

But events could spin out of control in unforeseen ways. Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal and support for Palestinian terrorists triggered an Israeli-French-British invasion of the Sinai Peninsula. Nearly a decade later, Nasser's saber rattling and threats to "push the Jews into the sea" unleashed a dynamic that led to Egypt's disastrous defeat at the hands of the Israel Defense Force in the Six-Day War of June 1967.

The Arab world has yet to recover from that debacle.

After 39 years, it would be incredibly ironic if a non-Arab Shiite Islamist were to bring about a similar sequence of events--in compressed time. Unlike Nasser, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could one day be remembered for taking the Arab world from the illusion of victory to true military catastrophe in a single summer.

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China's Ally Escalating Proxy War with Israel

Confident of Chinese support at the United Nations, Iran is escalating its proxy war with Israel, intensifying efforts to involve Syria in the conflict, and accelerating its secret nuclear weapons development program.

The next 48 hours could be critical. Some Israeli and American analysts believe (a) Hezbollah is poised to strike Tel Aviv, and (b) Syria is preparing to enter the conflict.

Iran could even strike Israel directly, according to some experts. Not for nothing, they say, have Iranian leaders been threatening to "wipe Israel off the map."

And Al Qaeda's call for global jihad--and unprecedented appeal for support from non-Muslims among the world's "downtrodden"--as previously reported, could also signal preparations for all-out Islamist war against Israel and the West.

Friday's developments seemed truly ominous. Hezbollah fired more than 100 missiles into Israel--including previously unknown long-range rockets--wounding at least six people. The longer-range "Khaibar 1" missiles landed in an open area near the town of Afula, around 33 miles from the Lebanese border. The rocket--named for Mohammed's battle with Jewish tribes in Medina--carried a 100 kg (220 lb.) payload of explosives in its warhead.

The strike matched the farthest distance that Hezbollah rockets have landed inside Israel since the fighting began on July 12. In all, the Shiite terrorist army, which is funded and directed by Iran, has fired more than 1,500 rockets into the Jewish State since starting the conflict with a cross-border raid.

In addition to Afula, the Israeli towns of Kiryat Shemona, Nahariya, Rosh Pina and Karmiel were hit on Friday.

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah (pictured above) has vowed to take the war deeper into Israel, suggesting there could be strikes south of the city of Haifa. Should Hezbollah missiles hit Tel Aviv, Israel would almost certainly respond with a massive retaliation, including, possibly, attacking Iranian/Hezbollah ally Syria.

In Iran's view, an Israeli retaliatory strike against Syria would compel a counterattack. Conventional wisdom says Syria would lose badly in a military confrontation with Israel. But Tehran may be counting on a Hezbollah barrage of longer-range missiles--some of which could be equipped with chemical warheads--to strengthen Syria's offensive capabilities.

In the event of a wider war, Syria could conceivably recover all or part of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured during the Six-Day War of June 1967. More likely, a humiliating Syrian defeat by Israel would lead to the fall of Syria's secular regime. Sunni Islamists--the long suppressed Muslim Brotherhood--could come to power.

Either way, Iranian influence throughout the region would increase. As shown by the impressive degree of coordination between Sunni Palestinian Hamas and Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah, Islamists are setting aside their traditional religious rivalries to challenge Israel and its ally, the United States.

And China ... under US pressure to influence its oil-rich ally, Iran, and control its nuclear-armed, missile-proliferating vassal, North Korea ... could not be happier.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Intelligence Items: Chinese Sympathy for Al Qaeda, Arms for Genocidal Sudan, Food 'n' Fuel for N. Korea

Ayman al-Zawahri's unprecedented appeal to non-Muslims to join Al Qaeda's war against "tyrannical Western civilization and its leader, America" confirms China's somewhat sympathetic view of the terrorist group. Beijing sees Al Qaeda as the both the vanguard of populist, political Islam and a potential catalyst for a global uprising by the world's impoverished nations--"the downtrodden," in the words of Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader--against the United States, Europe, and Israel. In the message broadcast on Thursday by the Al Jazeera satellite television network, the Egyptian-born physician--a member of the Muslim Brotherhood that constituted Al Qaeda's core--called on Muslims worldwide to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam prevails from Spain to Iraq. But he also called on non-Muslims to join the battle....

... China has plans to increase its investment in genocidal, Islamic-leaning Sudan--specifically, in its oil and armaments industries. Sudan is China's largest overseas oil provider; and energy-hungry China is Sudan's largest arms supplier. China has invested over $14 billion in Sudanese oil through the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which contributes Chinese-made tanks, fighter planes, bombers, helicopters, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and firearms to the Sudanese military. China has also established three arms factories in Sudan....

... China's rogue vassal, North Korea, received more than 90 per cent of the 576,582 tons of cross-border food aid provided by China in 2005, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). China has long been North Korea's most important supplier of fuel and food. But the WFP data spotlights the extent of the regime's reliance on its neighbor and belies Beijing's arguments that it has little influence over North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong-il.

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China Exploiting Mideast Crisis at UN

China is effectively exploiting the Middle East conflict to divert attention from Beijing's failure--or refusal--to control its nuclear-armed vassal, North Korea, and influence its nearly-nuclear-armed ally, Iran.

At the United Nations, China has masterfully maneuvered the United States into blocking a Security Council statetment condemning Israel's accidental aerial attack on Tuesday on a UN outpost on the Lebanese border. In a stunning piece of diplomatic linkage, China warned the US Thursday that its opposition to the statement condemning the deadly bombing could have a "negative impact" on UN talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"This is a serious matter," China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters. "It is an attack on the UN peacekeepers."

Four UN military observers, including a People's Liberation Army Lieutenant Colonel, were killed in the incident, which for the first time revealed a Chinese presence in the combat zone. (The slain PLA officer was probably a spy--scroll down to read yesterday's story.)

China's proposed statement was worded to suggest that the attack was deliberate, which US ally Israel has strongly denied. The draft language alluded to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's accusation late Tuesday that Israel seemingly struck the UN site intentionally. Annan later appeared to retract the statement; but the damage was done; and there is widespread suspicion among UN diplomats that Annan was pressured by the US into softening his stance.

The proposed condemnation of Israel was Beijing's second attempt this month to isolate the US at the UN. On July 13, China, Russia and eight other Security Council members voted for a draft resolution calling for an end to the "disproportionate" Israeli military actions in Gaza. China showed no inclination to compromise. Reason: Beijing wanted to force a US veto; that way, if China has to cast a veto to protect North Korea or Iran, it can cite the US vote to protect Israel.

Meanwhile, China has successfully encouraged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum to condemn Israel for its "apparently deliberate" attack on the UN outpost. And China has also brought Iran to the party; in a surprise move, Tehran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was expected to arrive in Kuala Lumpur Thursday for the security meeting, which will also be attended by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

ASEAN includes Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic country, as well as Malaysia, which currently chairs the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Iran has been pushing for an emergency OIC session to discuss the fighting in Lebanon between its terrorist proxy force, Hezbollah, and Israel.

While the crisis is likely to dominate the ASEAN meeting, the North Korean nuclear issue will also be addressed. But the secretive Stalinist state--which days ago called Rice an "imbecile"--has flatly refused to participate in a proposed resumption of six-party talks on the sidelines of the regional conference.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chinese UN Observer Was Probably a Spy

The Chinese United Nations observer killed in an accidental Israeli air strike in Lebanon was probably engaged in espionage on behalf of Beijing's oil-rich Islamist ally, Iran, which is sponsoring Hezbollah guerrillas as a proxy force against Israel and the United States.

In addition to the Chinese national, People's Liberation Army Lieutenant Colonel Du Zhaoyu, three other UN observers--an Austrian, a Canadian, and a Finn--were killed in Tuesday's strike on the Lebanese border town of Khiam.

But Du's death was especially newsworthy, revealing for the first time the presence of Chinese observers in southern Lebanon.

Du was one of 180 Chinese officers, soldiers and observers working in Lebanon as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, according to China's official Xinhua news agency, which said the victim had been in Lebanon since January.

China was quick to condemn the Israeli air strike. The government summoned Israel's ambassador to Beijing to demand an apology--which it got, along with a promise to fully investigate the attack--and called for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Chinese state-owned media websites played the news as the lead item; and anger over Du's death dominated Internet chat rooms and message boards that are controlled or manipulated by Communist Party propagandists. A posting on the website of the People's Daily Communist Party mouthpiece said: "Condolences to the victims! If Israel despises the United Nations and breaks faith with other countries, it's because they have the support from the United States."

Israel's foreign ministry issued a communique saying it deeply regretted the deaths of the UN observers; but UN Secretary also condemned the strike and alleged that Israel may have deliberately targeted the UN team.

Many UN missions are used as covers for spying operations, Israeli analysts assert. Sources tell China Confidential that the Chinese group stationed in Lebanon included a number of intelligence officers.

Tuesday's incident recalled the 1999 US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which housed sophisticated spying equipment that was used to monitor the performance of US aircraft, missiles and smart bombs. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across China in protest after that attack, which killed four people.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Australia Asks China About Organ Harvesting

The Australian Government has raised concerns with China about reports it is harvesting organs from executed members of the outlawed Falun Gong movement. The issue was raised in Canberra yesterday with a Chinese delegation of foreign, judicial and security officials.

Australian Foreign Affairs Department deputy secretary David Ritchie spoke about the reports with Chinese assistant foreign minister Cui Tiankai.

Cui told reporters: "It always puzzles me why some people are always interested in a very small number of people who violated the law, while paying very little attention to the interests and concerns of the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens in China."

Falun Gong is a peaceful meditative practice, sometimes called "Chinese yoga." The movement says it has 70 million practitioners in China, hundreds of thousands of whom have been illegally detained. More than 100,000 of them have reportedly been sent to labour camps without trial.

Former Canadian secretary of state for Asia and the Pacific David Kilgour has backed a report alleging there is a trade in the body parts of Falun Gong members.

In 2004, the United States State Department reported: "Tens of thousands of practitioners remained incarcerated in prisons, extrajudicial re-education-through-labor camps and psychiatric facilities. Several hundred Falun Gong adherents reportedly have died in detention due to torture, abuse and neglect since the crackdown on Falun Gong began in 1999."

China has seen a steep, unexplained rise in transplants over the past six years. There were 18,500 transplants from 1994 to 1999. The number rose to 60,000 from 2000 to 2005.

The source of 41,500 additional transplants for the six-year period is unexplained.

Websites for Chinese medical facilities advertise that it is quick and easy to get a human organ in China. One site boasted, "It may take only one week to find out the suitable (kidney) donor."

The maximum wait time is one month.

Customers are prepared to pay up to $170,000 for a major organ such as a lung or heart.

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N. Korea May Have Helped Iran Test Sea-Going Scud

Early Warning.

Western intelligence agencies are concerned that North Korea may have helped Iran to test-launch a sea-going Scud missile.

The short-range missile is believed to have been successfully fired from the deck of an Iranian cargo ship.

Although Scuds carry conventional explosives, the missile was originally developed for the purpose of carrying a nuclear warhead. The ability to use a mobile, sea-going platform would mean that Tehran need not seek long-range missiles to attack distant targets. The Iranians--or their terrorist proxies--could mount short-range missiles on civilian ships, and launch them from sea, near the coastlines of the United States or Israel.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has referred to an attack by a ship-launched ballistic missile as one of the most serious security threats facing the US. Thousands of cargo ships move through US waters every day. If a Scud-B missile armed with a nuclear warhead were to hit a major port city, such as Los Angeles, or Long Beach, California, tens of thousands of people would be killed and injured.

Iran is also said to be working out the technical issues for firing a longer-range Shahab 3 or 6 missile from a cargo ship.

Western analysts are also worried that Iran or North Korea could eventually have the capability to detonate a nuclear weapon at high altitude to create an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, along with radiation and blast effects. Experts say an EMP weapon detonated high in the earth's atmosphere over America's Midwest region could cause catastrophic damage to the country's infrastructure, destroying 70 percent of the electrical grid and computer systems for finance, transportation, and emergency services.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Kim Reportedly Inspired by Cuban Missile Crisis

South Korean analysts say their northern neighbor's deranged Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, has made some revealing additions to his huge personal library of films and television programs.

Along with the thousands of porno flicks--perhaps the largest collection of its kind--James Bond films, and cartoons, the mass murdering madman has reportedly beefed up his portfolio of feature films and documentaries dealing with the 1960s Cuban missile crisis.

The North Korean leader is said to be obsessed with the episode, which, while bringing the United States and the Soviet Union close to nuclear war, was also responsible for assuring the survival of Moscow's Cuban Communist ally, Fidel Castro.

The crisis ended when the Soviet Union backed down and removed the missiles Moscow had secretly installed in Cuba to threaten the US. But, as we now know, the secret agreement between US President John Kennedy and Soviet Communist Party boss Nikita Khrushchev forbade any invasion of Cuba, not just by the US, but also by any other group or nation in the Western Hemisphere. And thousands of Soviet troops and KGB officers already in Cuba were allowed to remain on the island, bolstering an anti-American regime just 90 miles from Florida.

Shortly after the missiles were removed, the US, in accord with its covert deal with the Soviet Union, pulled American missiles out of Turkey. And US President Lyndon Johnson, following Kennedy's assassination, reaffirmed Washington's hands-off-Havana pledge.

The key lesson for Kim: missiles--and nukes--mean survival. Without weapons of mass destruction, Castro would have been long gone, another victim of US "imperialist aggression."

Which explains why the North Korean leader is also said to be obsessed with the Iraq war. As Kim supposedly sees it, Saddam Hussein would still be in power had he really had a nuclear arsenal to deter the US and Britain from attacking him.

Sources say Kim has spent hours screening news footage of the US invasion.

The criminally insane head of the Hermit Kingdom is also reported to have a somewhat nonconventional explanation for the longevity of his ally and protector, China. Kim watchers say Dear Leader credits the survival of China's ruling Communist Party with its development of nuclear weapons, including an arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking cities throughout the US. When China went nuclear, Kim allegedly argues, the US came courting: Nixon visited Beijing, China was given Taiwan's seat in the United Nations, and the breakaway island was kicked out of the world body--after more than two decades of steadfast support by Washington.

Though it has not yet tested a nuclear weapon, North Korea is believed to have a small but growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, along with the missiles to rain atomic warheads down on South Korea and Japan. The secretive Stalinist state is also capable of hitting US military bases in Okinawa.

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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hill Fails to Sell Five-Party Talks to China

They don't call him Kim Jong-Hill for nothing.

For United States Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, diplomacy appears to be an end, not a means. The chief advocate of appeasing North Korea--dubbed Kim Jong-Hill by Bush administration hawks--told reporters on Friday that the US was considering holding five-party talks about North Korea's nuclear program--without North Korea. Said Hill: "We just don't want a situation where we don't meet at all because one party doesn't want to meet."

Not a bad thought, perhaps, provided the purpose of the meeting is to plan the destruction of the North Korean regime. But Hill had something else in mind--the illusion of progress, with Chinese participation.

Beijing had other ideas. Less than a day after Hill's silly remarks, China signaled its reluctance to go along with talking about its Stalinist vassal for the sake of talking. Japanese media reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing told a senior Japanese diplomat in Beijing that China would not meet without North Korea.

Hill desperately wanted to meet in Malaysia. Top diplomats of the six nations involved in talks over Pyongyang's weapons programs--the two Koreas, China, Japan, the US and Russia--will be in Kuala Lumpur for annual talks on defense and security in Asia.

The six-party talks stalled last November after North Korea objected to US financial sanctions imposed on the regime of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il for allegedly counterfeiting US currency, money laundering, and drug trafficking.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on July 15 for a resolution demanding North Korea halt its ballistic missile program and requiring nations to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring advanced weapons. But China used the threat of a veto to remove critically important (Chapter 7) language that would have authorized use of force against North Korea; so the final version, though praised by Hill and other diplomats, is essentially a triumph of symbolism over substance.

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China Sees Tehran Trying to Suck Syria into War

Senior Chinese officials and intellectuals specializing in the Middle East believe Iran is trying to suck Syria into Tehran's proxy war with Israel.

The Iranians, according to the Chinese, see a no-lose opportunity. On the one hand, Iranian ally Syria could surprise Israel and recover the Golan Heights, which the Jewish State captured during the Six-Day War of June 1967. On the other hand, should Syria suffer a humiliating defeat at the hands of Israel's superior military forces, the secular Baathist regime in Damascus would almost certainly be toppled by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Either way, Iranian influence in the region would increase, even though the non-Arab Iranians are Shiites and the Syrian Islamists are Sunnis.

That's how Iran sees the situation, according to the Chinese experts, including: Leu Yazhou, the People's Liberation Army Air Force Lieutenant General and Deputy Political Commissar, who is considered an architect of China's alliance with Iran; Wu Guanzheng, a leading pro-Arab member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee and secretary of the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the government body charged with rooting out corruption among party cadres, who has a relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Zhang Xiaodong, a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS); and Shen Jiru, a researcher with the CASS Institute of World Economics and Politics.

Israeli analysts, meanwhile, would like to know everything China knows about Iran's intentions and capabilities. Some Israelis are concerned that Iran's mad dog President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have more bite than previously assumed to back up his rabid, anti-Jewish, anti-American barking. Hardly a day goes by without the Iranian leader threatening to wipe Israel off the map or questioning the reality of the Holocaust. His bizarre, neo-Nazi-like letter to Germany's pro-Israel president is especially ominous in Israeli eyes.

Also ominous: a speech by Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad 'Adel, which aired on the Iranian News Channel on July 18. Referring to Israel as "an artificial, false, and fictitious state," the Iranian said: "The confrontation (with Hezbollah) is not only in Lebanon, but deep inside occupied Palestine."

" No place in Israel will be safe," he warned. "The Palestinian refugees should return to the land of their forefathers, and you, who came to Palestine from other countries, should return to your homes too....

"Today is the day of the liberation of Palestine, and the day of resistance....

"The war has just begun."

Oil-rich Iran is engaged in a standoff with the West over Tehran's nuclear development program. It's still a distinctly minority view, but some Israelis fear that Iran could be just one or two months away from assembling a nuclear weapon.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

North Korean Missile Tests May Have Succeeded

Kim's missile madness and Biden's blunder.

Two days after North Korea's July 4 missile tests, China Confidential predicted that United States Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, a Democrat and 2008 Presidential candidate, will regret his rapid-fire ridicule of Pyongyang's provocative move. Within hours of the tests, Biden called the secretive Stalinist state, ruled by North Korea's mass-murdering Dear Leader Kim Jong-il, a "paper tiger."

We suspected that there was more to the tests than met the eye. Unfortunately for the US and its allies, it seems that we were right; and, assuming he bothers to keep up with the news, Biden is probably already regretting his snappy, sound-bite response to North Korea's missile madness.

Disturbing details are seeping into the public domain. As reported by China Confidential and other outlets, and confirmed yesterday by the US State Department, a delegation of visiting Iranians observed the tests, which seem to have been conducted as part of a simulated response to a US air attack. The long-range Taepondong-2 missile that plunged intact into the Sea of Japan--after staying aloft for nearly two minutes and not 40 seconds as initially reported by the US--was meant to simulate a nuclear weapon strike on US allies--probably Japan--or assets. Two or three intermediate-range ballistic missiles were also fired, as China Confidential reported yesterday, in addition to three or four short-range missiles.

US, Japanese, and Israeli analysts believe the Iranian contingent--which traveled to North Korea via Beijing--included scientists, technicians, and 10 or more Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including members of the elite Partisans of the Mahdi group. Sources say the Iranians paid for the tests and were keen to observe the results as Tehran's strategic and tactical missile system was built by North Koreans, using Chinese designs. Iran's Islamist leadership is apparently convinced that the US intends to attack it--directly or through Israel.

Sources say the Iranians and their North Korean hosts were satisfied with the test results. Contrary to media reports, the exercise was successful.

Ironically, It was US Assistant of State Christopher Hill--a prominent dove on North Korea--who confirmed the Iranian presence at Pyongyang's test-firings. Appearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hill underscored US concern about growing ties between China's vassal, nuclear-armed North Korea, and ally, nuclear-wannabe Iran.

Under questioning by Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia, Ambassador Hill said that Iranian representatives were on hand to witness North Korea's fireworks.

ALLEN: "Is it not true that there was at least one or more Iranian officials there to watch those missile launches?"

HILL: "Yes, that is our understanding."

When asked if the United States found the relationship between Pyongyang and Tehran worrisome, Hill said that was "absolutely correct."

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Human Rights Background Briefs

CHING CHEONG: Human rights and media advocacy activisits are calling on the Chinese government to release Ching Cheong, a reporter for the Singapore-based Straits Times, who has been detained for over a year on charges of spying for Taiwan. Ching was arrested in southern China in April 2005. A month later, the Chinese foreign ministry announced that Ching had confessed to being a spy in the pay of foreign agencies, gathering intelligence information. In fact, Ching was trapped by an intermediary while trying to obtain recordings of secret interviews with former communist party leader Zhao Ziang. Zhao died under house arrest in January 2005 while being investigated for his role in negotiating with pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989. China has not produced any evidence against Ching, who faces a possible death sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for later this month, which has alarmed media groups, such as the international group Reporters Without Borders. Ching is a resident of Singapore and holds a British National Overseas passport, a category of passport given to citizens of Hong Kong....

... FU XIANCAI: Human Rights in China (HRIC) reports authorities in Zigui County, Hubei Province are keeping friends and family members of injured Three Gorges activist Fu Xiancai under close surveillance that is tantamount to harassment. HRIC says Fu Xiancai has recovered movement to his arms and feeling in his fingers since surgery on June 18 to mend vertebrae crushed in an assault on June 8. According to HRIC, Fu still relies on a chest tube because of pulmonary difficulties resulting from his injuries. Hei was paralyzed from the shoulders down after suffering a blow to the neck from an unidentified assailant shortly after he was called to the Zigui County Public Security Bureau for questioning regarding an interview he had provided to a German television station. The attack was the latest in a string of harassment and threats Fu had suffered over the course of more than a year because of his petitioning on behalf of villagers in resettled for the Three Gorges Dam project.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

True Lies: Chinese General Disinforms US Officials

China's top military officer, General Guo Boxiong, lied several times this week during discussions with United States defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and US officials and military officers in Washington, DC.

As ranking vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, Guo is the highest-ranking Chinese military officer to visit the Pentagon.

He said that Beijing is doing all it can to persuade North Korea to reach agreement on its nuclear and missile programs, but cannot force it to change course. Alluding to North Korea's reclusive regime, he also joked that he learned more about North Korea's military plans from meetings with Americans than through talks with his counterparts in Pyongyang.

None of that is true.

North Korea is wholly reliant on China for food and fuel. And Chinese and North Korean military officers regularly coordinate and cooperate on a wide range of matters.

In fact, some intelligence analysts suspect that China knows a lot more about North Korea's July 4 missile tests than previously assumed--specifically, that Pyongyang test-fired two or three intermediate-range ballistic missiles, or IRBMs, in addition to the long-range missile capable of hitting the US and three or more short-range missiles.

Iranian scientists and military and intelligence officers may have been present as observers for those tests. The Iranians, as China Confidential has reported, are believed to have transited through Beijing.

US and Israeli officials are concerned that North Korea may have supplied Tehran with some IRBMs.

Guo's Washington visit parallels US fears that there is an internal debate in China regarding the country's no-first-use nuclear strike policy.

A Pentagon spokesman offered no details about the general's meeting with Rumsfeld. The spokesman emphasized that the visit affirms a consensus reached in recent high-level meetings, that both countries should have more military-to-military exchanges and contacts. Rumsfeld visited Beijing last October.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Guo is also meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The spokesman said the crisis over North Korea's nuclear program will definitely be discussed, adding that the US government is also concerned about the need for "greater transparency" in China's military activities and policies.

Beijing's ruling Communist Party leadership has announced plans to boost defense spending to $35 billion, an increase of nearly 15 percent. The Pentagon and other military analysts outside China say that figure may be three times higher.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

China Reaching Out to Nepal's Maoist Guerrillas

About face.

China is scrambling to cozy up to a formidable force it recently condemned and actively opposed--Nepal's Maoist guerrillas.

The impoverished Himalayan state sandwiched between China and India is inching towards a new, interim government, in which the Maoists are expected to be the dominant partner.

China's move comes some three months after street protests led by a coalition of seven major opposition parties toppled Nepal's despised, corrupt King Gyandera. The absolute monarch seized power in a February 2005 coup and ruled with the help of the military.

China's problem: it backed the wrong horse. Beijing branded the guerrillas as insulting the image of Mao Zedong. China also sentenced two Nepalese Maoists to death in absentia, accusing them of smuggling arms and explosives into neighboring, Chinese-controlled Tibet. More important, China supplied Nepal's monarchy with arms and ammunition after India, the United States, and Britain suspended military sales to the regime. The Chinese arms were used against the Maoist guerrillas and to suppress the anti-monarchy protests,

In April, just days after the new government was formed, Beijing rushed a diplomatic team to Nepal to mend fences with the Maoists, who claim to have 36,000 fighters.

Leading the Chinese delegation was Wang Hongwei, a leading government intellectual best known as an India expert. Wang, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, met with the Maoists and assured them of Beijing's support.

Interviewed by the weekly Maoist mouthpiece, Janadesh, which was banned by the king, Wang praised the Maoists as representing "the aspirations of the poor people of Nepal."

"Even though India and the US dubbed the Maoists terrorists, Chinese officials never called them that," Wang said. "It is wrong to brand the party terrorists. I feel Washington is trying to play the terrorist card to further its own vested interests in Nepal."

The decade-long fight by the Maoists for a Communist state left more than 13,000 dead. The Maoists declared a three month truce after Gyanendra handing over power to an interim multi-party government. The truce ends next weekend; but the Maoists are expected to extend the ceasefire.

Maoist leaders have said that they want to see Nepal become a republic--a federation with nine autonomous regions representing "the oppressed classes, nationalities and genders." Defense, foreign and monetary matters would be controlled by the central government, with the Maoists calling the shots.

Covert Chinese ties to Nepal's monarchy date to the early 1960s. China sided with the royalty in the context of its intense rivalry with India for influence in South Asia.

Nowadays, relations between China and India are at their highest point in years--which is why New Delhi is following events in Nepal with some concern. India fears that once in power, the Maoists of Nepal will step up support for their comrades across the border--the ultraleft Naxalites whose Maoist insurgency in India's rural heartland is a growing security threat.

Back in the 1960s, China encouraged the Naxalites, describing their uprising as "spring thunder" and a "prairie fire." By the early '70s, however, China lost interest in the movement, which split into various factions and suffered several defeats at the hands of Indian police and security forces.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

China Forging Strategic Ties to Radical Islam

China is pursuing a troubling, tricky alliance with radical, rightwing Islam, or Islamism, despite concerns about its own restive Muslim population.

In China's view, the potential rewards of cozying up to Islamist countries and terrorist groups outweigh the risks. In forging ties to Shiite Iran, its Lebanese terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, and the Sunni Palestinian Hamas, Beijing believes it can effectively buy protection against the export of Islamism to China's western province of Xinjiang, which is home to some 55 million Muslims, including radical fundamentalists and ethnic separatists.

The policy has the blessing of the Chinese military, which is also supporting and dictating policy toward North Korea (more about this below).

The architect of the pro-Islamist policy, Liu Yazhou, is an extremely influential Lieutenant General and Deputy Political Commissar in the People's Liberation Army Air Force, best known for his essays and books on international affairs and strategy. The 51-year-old non-combatant officer is a dedicated nationalist and hardliner toward the United States, Japan, and Taiwan--and the only serving PLA general to have visited the self-ruled island. He has traveled extensively overseas, including a stint in the US as a visiting professor at Stanford University (so much for the silly notion that cultural and educational exchange programs automatically foster warm feelings toward the host nation).

A son-in-law of the late Chinese president Li Xiannian, Liu is a so-called princeling--meaning, a privileged offspring of a high Communist Party official--who has also been linked to the Shanghai clique led by China's unpopular former president, Jiang Zemin.

Liu's wide-ranging views include the idea that the West is engaged in a losing civilizational clash with rising, radical Islam and that the world of military strategy has forever been changed by the US invasion of Iraq. Like other PLA theoreticians, he advocates "unrestricted warfare"--use of a variety of methods to isolate, weaken and ultimately defeat the enemy--and "winning without fighting" whenever possible, i.e. making maximum use of deception and diplomacy in the face of a technologically superior enemy, such as the "US hegemon." Liu also likes to talk in terms of the "Maoization" of the military, though it is not always clear what he means by this.

Liu deserves much of the credit for energy-starved China's warm relations with oil-rich Iran and for an agreement signed last month between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazef. The accord aims to deepen strategic and cooperative relations between Beijing and Cairo: Chinese state-owned enterprises will increase investment in Egyptian energy, textiles and electronics industries, while Egypt will provide preferential treatment to Chinese enterprises.

As the second largest US foreign aid recipient after Israel, Egypt gets $1.7 billion a year in economic and military assistance from the US. But China is seeking to exploit a downturn in US-Egyptian relations, partly stemming from US criticism of Egypt's human rights record.

China is also attracted to Egypt's increasing importance as an energy producer--its oil and gas industry is booming--and the potential opportunity of edging out the US in the event of a radical political change. Chinese intelligence officers have established contacts with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood--the Islamist organization that constituted the core of Al Qaeda--which seeks to topple the present secular regime and replace it with a Sunni theocracy. At least one of the officers dealing with the Brotherhood (which was responsible for the assassination of Egypt's peace-making President Anwar Sadat) is also aiding Hamas--specifically, its military wing.

China's military meddling is not limited to terrorist groups. In an audacious disregard for US interests, the PLA has recently initiated military contacts with a growing number of Washington's allies in the region, including Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Nor is Liu's strategic influence limited to the Middle East and political Islam. In April, he accompanied Chinese defense minister Cao Gangchuan during his four-day visit to Pyongyang. North Korean state media (the only kind) reported that the PLA officers and their Korean People's Army comrades discussed ways to “strengthen military ties” and exchanged “valuable” opinions.

Analysts tell China Confidential that they also discussed Iran. A delegation consisting of 10 Iranian missile scientists and Iranian military and intelligence officers, we are told, were on hand for North Korea's provocative July 4 (US time) missile tests. Japanese sources say the Iranians stopped in Beijing on their way to the secretive Stalinist state.

North Korea, as China Confidential reported yesterday, has supplied Iran with Chinese-made missiles, technology and know-how, which Tehran has in turn transferred to its terrorist Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. It would not be surprising if some of the Iranians who were present for the North Korean tests have also participated in Hezbollah's missile attacks against northern Israel.

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Chinese-Designed Iranian Missiles Fuel Conflict

The human rights group Amnesty International reported early last month that China has become the "most secretive and irresponsible" exporter of arms that help fuel conflicts in many parts of the world.

At approximately the same time as the report's release, the United States froze the assets of four Chinese companies and one US company accused of helping Iran in its pursuit of missile technology. But the US sanctions have no punitive effect; and China is under no real pressure to introduce transparency in its over $1 billion-a-year arms export trade, including secret sales to rogue nations.

So the Amnesty report, like so many other warnings about China, may have come too late to do much good.

The war in the Middle East proves the point. China's rogue Islamist ally, Iran, is essentially using its Lebanese terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, to attack Israel--with Chinese-designed, Iranian-manufactured missiles.

The missiles are far more advanced than the old Russian Katyusha rockets Hezbollah has fired at northern Israel in previous attacks. In contrast with the Katyushas, which Iran used in its war with Iraq in the 1980s, and have a range of only five miles, the Iranian-supplied missiles reportedly have ranges of 25-60 miles. The new missiles also have more powerful payloads than the Russian rockets.

Hezbollah has hundreds of these up-to-date weapons, in addition to thousands of Katyushas, which can be fired from multiple launchers.

The Fajr class missiles that hit Israel's major port city, Haifa, 18 miles from the Lebanese border, were made in Iran with the help of North Korean and Chinese expertise.

The Iranian military recently reported successful test-firing of a Fajr-3 missile with multiple warhead missile with stealth capabilities; however, Pentagon analysts are skeptical about the claim.

The missile that stuck an Israeli warship last Friday was certainly stealthy--a C-802 antiship cruise missile, made in Iran with Chinese technology and expertise. Also known as the Noor, the radar-guided C-802 is the Iranian version of China's Jing YJ-82 missile. Iran claims the missile, which has a 60-mile range and uses a small turbojet engine in place of a solid rocket engine, can be fired from aircraft, ships, submarines, and land-based vehicles.

The missile has an interesting history. Iran reportedly bought over 60 Jing YJ-82 missiles from China between the end of the 1991 Gulf War and 1997, along with 20 Chinese patrol boats. Not satisfied with the original version, Iran is said to have turned to North Korea for assistance; and the present C-802 is believed to be the result of a joint upgrading effort.

Iran, which is engaged in a standoff with the West over its nuclear development program, has also developed and tested a medium-range ballistic missile, the Shahab-3, which is based on North Korea's Nodong-1 missile. The Nodong is based on Russian and Chinese Scud missile designs. The Iranian missile can easily reach Israel.

Iran gives Hezbollah over $100 million a year. US and Israeli sources say most of the missiles in Hezbollah's arsenal have been delivered through Syria,

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tale of Two Chinese Allies: North Korea Rejects UN Vote While Iran Uses Terrorist Proxy to Play for Time

While the United States tries hard to present Saturday's watered down United Nations Security Council resolution as a great diplomatic victory that sends a message that world powers can work together, the intended recipients of the message--nuclear-armed North Korea and nuclear wannabe Iran--are certain to see things quite differently.

The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that imposes limited sanctions on North Korea for its recent missile tests--including the firing of a long-range rocket capable of reaching the US--and demands that the secretive Stalinist state suspend its ballistic missile program.

Key word: limited. The resolution, which capped 10 days of negotiations, bans all UN member states from selling material or technology for missiles or weapons of mass destruction to North Korea, and bans all countries from receiving missiles, banned weapons or technology from the secretive Stalinist state.

However, in a major concession to North Korea's principal ally and protector, China, the final text dropped mention of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of military force to assure compliance.

China, which provides Pyongyang with the fuel and food that it needs to survive, had threatened to veto any resolution that mentioned the critically important language.

And so the words were omitted. The toothless resolution states that the Security Council was "acting under its special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security."

But all was not lost. In a diplomatic display of sartorial solidarity with supposedly helpful China, the US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, wore an official Beijing Olympic Games tie to the UN vote.

Too bad Bolton's tie can't be used to bind--or strangle--North Korea's lunatic leader, Kim Jong-il. Less than an hour after the less than historic vote, his criminally insane regime said it "totally rejects" the resolution and vowed to continue its provocative missile launches--in the name of "self-defense."

North Korea's UN envoy also accused the Security Council of trying to isolate his country.

Over to Iran, which is using its terrorist Lebanese proxy to distract world attention from Tehran's disputed nuclear development program while seeking to dramatically diminish American influence in the Middle East.

Iran's clerical fascists are confident that they can count on China and Russia to block meaningful Security Council action; and the North Korean resolution is not likely to change their thinking, except, perhaps, to further encourage tactics that are more deceptive than openly defiant.

Beijing is cautiously optimistic about the outcome of Iran's intrigue. For Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Leading Small Group (LSG) on foreign affairs, Tehran's management of the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah provides fresh proof that China's deepening ties to the oil-rich, Islamist nation--and developing alliance with China's former Communist rival, oil-producing Russia--are smart, low-risk investments with great upside potential.

In keeping with the Chinese military doctrine of "unrestricted warfare" and the military's public embrace of the ancient Chinese concept of "winning without fighting," Hu's LSG basically believes that anything that hurts the US--the "hegemon" that presently finances but, in the military's view, also seeks to prevent China's rise through policies of containment and encirclement--is good for China.

Anything? Yes, anything, from a terrorist megastrike, such as the awful attacks of September 11, to the runup in world oil prices, even though energy-starved China is now the world's second largest oil consuming nation after the US. Beijing bets that it is better equipped to deal with high oil prices because its mercantilist foreign policy--or so-called energy diplomacy--makes it possible for China's state-controlled oil giants to lock up reserves in corrupt African countries through state-supported "wellhead deals" against which no normal private sector company, no matter how large, can possibly compete.

The bottom line is that with nuclear weapons within its grasp, Iran's is effectively exploiting its China relationship. In an effort that recalls the temporary alliance between the followers of the Ayatollah Kohomeini and various leftwing groups that toppled the pro-US Shah, the Shiite mullahocracy is closely coordinating strategy with China's atheistic, Communist Party rulers, keeping them informed of important events and developments in the region.

And also tipping them off about pending terrorist attacks. China Confidential has learned that in talks on the sidelines of the recent meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and African Union, Iranian intelligence officers told their Chinese counterparts that war in the Middle East was imminent and that Beijing and Moscow could both benefit from the coming crisis.

Iran was an official observer at the meeting of the once obscure, Chinese-dominated SCO, which groups China and Russia with the countries of Central Asia, and also at the AU semiannual summit--which banned Israeli participation while providing a platform for Iran's hate-mongering President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad to condemn Israel and for Venezuela's populist demagogue, Hugo Chavez, to rant against "US imperialism."

China is a crucial player in the Iranian nuclear dispute. It is an influential member of the P5 Plus 1 group--Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council--which came up with the package of incentives for Iran aimed at ending the standoff. The world is waiting for Iran's response to the package; but the regime in Tehran is playing for time.

For Iran, the manufactured Middle East crisis conveniently complicates matters. Though Syria is getting more than its share of the blame, Iran was the prime mover in creating, bankrolling, and arming Hezbollah, which is raining rockets down on Israel with the assistance of Iranian military advisers.

And in an impressive show of radical Muslim unity, Shiite non-Arab Iran also supports Sunni Palestinian Hamas terrorist attacks against the Jewish State.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Perfect Storm: China's Surplus, Support for Rogue States Spur US Demands for Economic Response

The politically potent combination of continued Chinese economic expansion at America's expense and Chinese backing for America's avowed enemies--nuclear-armed North Korea and nuclear wannabe Iran--is certain to fuel protectionist sentiment among American lawmakers, labor leaders, manufacturers, and ordinary citizens.

Monday's news stirred things up. With world attention focused on Pyongang's provocative missile tests and Tehran's likely rejection of Western incentives aimed at ending its nuclear program, China posted a record trade surplus with the rest of humanity--the largest monthly trade imbalance any nation has ever recorded.

Ironically, China's announcement that its surplus in June reached $14.5 billion--a record for the second consecutive month--coincided with the swearing-in of the new US treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson, Jr. As chairman and chief executive of the globalizing Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs, Paulson played a "pivotal role" in expanding the firm's China business, as The New York Times noted. He reportedly made 70 trips to China during his tenure.

Which explains why China's US critics were so critical of Paulson's appointment. Putting this well known China champion in charge of US China business is a little like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank, they say.

"I'd like to have him (Paulson) be very, very tough on China's currency issues," US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said in an interview on the US cable television network CNBC.

The Senator was echoing complaints by US manufacturers that China undervalues its managed, or manipulated, currency by as much as 40 percent, giving Chinese companies an unfair price advantage in international trade.

The US Trade Enhancement Act of 2006 (USTEA), which Grassley, a Republican, is sponsoring with Democratic Senator Max Baucus, would seek to "correct for trade imbalances that are created or maintained when a country intervenes in foreign exchange markets in an effort to prevent its currency from adjusting to market forces." Though purportedly not aimed explicitly at China, it would become USTEA's principal target, given its $202 billion trade surplus with the United States in 2005--a 24.5 percent increase over the previous year.

Another bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, would impose a temporary tariff of 27.5 percent on Chinese goods until China eliminates its unfair trade advantage.

US Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican, who chairs the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, responded to China's announcement that its exports in June were worth $14.5 billion more than its imports by condemning China's "unfair trade practices such as currency manipulation" and urging the Chinese government to bring the yuan in line with underlying market conditions."

Snowe said she would continue to press for Senate consideration of the Fair Currency Practices Act, legislation she introduced "to force nations to live up to their treaty obligations and stop undervaluing their currencies."

The proposed legislation has three key provisions. The first would change the criteria by which the Treasury Department is required to enter into negotiations with foreign countries that it labels as currency manipulators. The second would further clarify the working definition of manipulation under the Exchange Rates and International Economic Policy Coordination Act of 1998. The act would also instruct Treasury to undertake an extensive examination of China's trade surplus, with particular attention paid to China's suspect trade data, and report on its findings.

A bipartisan bill proposed by Representatives Tim Ryan, a Democrat, and Duncan Hunter, a Republican, would let US companies petition for duties on imports to compensate for the effect of an undervalued currency from the exporting nation. The bill has the support of the largest US manufacturers' association, the National Association of Manufacturers, despite objections by multinational companies doing business with China.

US steelmakers weighed in Thursday by urging action against Beijing at the World Trade Organization over heavy subsidies to the Chinese steel industry, saying it is growing so fast it threatens global economic stability. The chairman of a large US steel maker told reporters: "Since 2000, we have lost over three million manufacturing jobs in the United States, directly related to these subsidies and directly related to China."

Organized labor has also been active against China. The AFL-CIO trade union federation has filed a petition with the US Trade Representative charging the Chinese government with violently suppressing workers' basic rights as part of a systematic effort to maintain an unfair trade advantage in the global marketplace.

The 301 petition, named after the relevant section of US trade regulations, says China's failure to protect workers' rights amounts to an unfair trade practice that has cost more than a million US jobs. The petition calls on US President George Bush to use his authority under US law to impose sanctions against China and to implement a system to verify compliance with internationally recognized workers'' rights.

Pro-Chinese voices in Washington are clearly concerned. They urge caution, saying a massive currency revaluation in China could hurt US financial markets and the dollar by discouraging China from buying US securities. Opponents of tariffs see America's reliance on foreign capital as the country's Achilles' heel, arguing that by dumping US Treasury bills and other dollar-denominated assets, China, which holds more federal US debt than any other country, could cause the value of the dollar to plummet, plunging the US economy into a severe recession.

All told, foreign central banks, led by China and Japan, hold close to $1 trillion of US Treasury bonds and bills, almost a quarter of the publicly held US debt. If China stopped buying US bonds, or sold them outright, many economists contend, bond prices would fall, and their yields, which move in the opposite direction, would rise, causing mortgage rates to rise, in turn depressing home sales and weakening the economy.

Not everyone agrees that the US is so vulnerable. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, no slouch when it comes to monetary matters, has said that while foreign central bank holdings are large, they are actually small compared with the total trading volume in US debt markets, and their sales could be easily absorbed. Moreover, most foreign central bank holdings are short-term bonds, according to Greenspan, meaning maturity of two years or less. Such yields, unlike those on 10-year bonds, tend to be influenced more by the US central bank's monetary policy than day-to-day trading.

Other economists argue that fears of Chinese economic retaliation are overblown because Beijing would also be hurt in the process of destabilizing US markets. If China stopped buying dollars, its currency would rise, hurting exports--the engine driving China's economic expansion.

In other words, China needs the American consumer to keep buying its goods to assure continued job growth and social stability. A financial crisis could trigger a political crisis, possibly leading to the collapse of the regime.

Meanwhile, US consumers could be tempted to take matters into their own hands, so to speak, by boycotting Chinese goods. In principle, they could cause considerable harm by turning against one US company that is most responsible for growing China's economy.

That company is Wal-Mart, of course, the firm that used to proudly promote the "Buy American" motto of its founder, Sam Walton.

Today, at least 70 percent of non-food items sold at Wal-Mart stores have a Chinese component.

Importing an estimated $18 billion in products from China each year, Wal-Mart is China's eighth largest trading partner, surpassing entire countries like England and Russia.

A "Made in China" boycott may seem far-fetched. But North Korean missile launches and threats to "annihilate US imperialism" with nuclear weapons once seemed far-fetched, too.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

PLA Seen Supporting North Korean Threats to Japan

Some South Korean analysts suspect that senior Chinese military leaders have welcomed--and perhaps even encouraged--North Korean threats to attack Japan, even though the bellicose statements are likely to spur a major Japanese military buildup, including, possibly, nuclear weapons development.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA), according to these experts, assumes it is only a matter of time before Japan upgrades its offensive military capabilities because of Tokyo's alliance with the United States, which, in the PLA's view, is committed to an anti-Chinese policy of encirclement and containment.

The analysis contradicts conventional wisdom, which holds that a militarily stronger, nuclear armed Japan is China's worst nightmare.

"Not true," says a Seoul-based China expert. "The Chinese military has no fear of Japan. In fact, the military sees benefits in Japan building itself up sooner rather than later."

A key "benefit," this expert contends, would be political: creation of an enemy that would clearly justify continued Chinese military modernization and expansion, effectively answering US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's rhetorical question: "Who threatens China?"

On the domestic front, a Japanese military buildup would also fuel Chinese nationalism--an increasingly potent and useful force for a regime that has based its entire claim to legitimacy on continued material progress.

Chinese nationalism and anti-Americanism go hand in hand. In their 1999 book "Unrestricted Warfare," two PLA political commissars, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui, actually praised the tactics of Al Qaeda leader Osama Binladen, arguing that his tactics are as legitimate as those used by US General Norman Schwartzkopf in the Gulf War. Focusing on alternative means of warfare, including, in addition to terrorism, economic warfare, the book argues China can only defeat a technologically superior opponent such as the United States by using these methods and avoiding the need for direct military action.

More recently, an archived article initially published on the English-language PLA Daily website on June 8, titled, "Widening the View on the United States," accuses the US of "ceaselessly looking for enemies, ceaselessly playing up crises, and ceaselessly sending out troops for military actions ... in order to build a unipolar world and to ... create a parity situation among different regions so that different regions will hold up and restrict each other."

The "US-Japan alliance," according to the article, which is bylined by Li Bingyan and apparently based on an interview with "America issue expert" Dr. Lu Dehong, "is an alliance by which the US holds Japan in its arms."

The article predicts that "the future that lies before us is a coexistence of opportunities and crises, and crises will generate from opportunities."

Urging the Chinese people to "bravely rise to challenges," the article concludes: "In order to build a unipolar world, the US has hit out everywhere, resulting in its ever-growing battlefront and accumulating more and more contradictions. If things go on like this, the US will eventually prove to be true (to) an old Chinese saying: Big ones have their own troubles. Biting off more than one can chew, and the old will certainly decline."

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hill Spins China's Non-Moderation of North Korea

Perception is not reality.

For reasons known only to himself--and presumably also to his boss, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice--US nuclear envoy Christopher Hill was less than truthful Wednesday in his public comments concerning the current crisis over North Korea's missile madness.

An Assistant Secretary of State and longtime, leading advocate of peace talks with North Korea, Hill accused Pyongyang of refusing to cooperate in efforts to end the impasse over its missile and nuclear weapons programs.

This is true.

What is not true is that China, as Hill told reporters, is "really trying" to use its leverage as North Korea's principal ally and aid donor to persuade the rogue regime to stop its provocative missile test-firings and return to six-party nuclear disarmament discussions.

In fact, as we have reported, China has done next to nothing to moderate North Korea--and may even have encouraged its belligerent behavior.

Hill met the press after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. The US diplomat said he had "very good" discussions with Li but reported no progress.

"China's really trying," Hill said. "We're trying. Everyone is trying except, unfortunately, the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). So far the DPRK seems to want to choose a road of deeper isolation."

Hill, who was sent to Asia to coordinate a consensus response to North Korea's July 4 (US time) missile tests in the Sea of Japan, said Chinese officials who have traveled to Pyongyang have yet to get all of the appointments they requested.

US hawks have in the past accused Hill of appeasing North Korea. Some Bush administration officials have been known to privately refer to the diplomat as "Kim Jong-Hill" after North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il.

The United Nations has delayed voting on a US-backed Japanese resolution to sanction North Korea. Pyongyang's neighbors are divided on the issue. China, like Russia, opposes sanctions. South Korea wants the international community to condemn the missile launches, but also opposes sanctions.

The UN resolution would ban North Korean missile tests and authorize use of force to prevent the regime from acquiring or exporting missiles and missile technology or weapons of mass destruction and their components.

China and Russia introduced an alternative, watered-down UN resolution Wednesday that reportedly "strongly deplores" North Korea's missile tests but eliminates language that could have led to military action against Pyongyang.

In Washington, State Department officials did their best to downplay Chinese-Russian obstructionism, with some officials going to great lengths in discussions with reporters to put a positive spin on China's actions.

But Japan--which, like its ally, America, has been threatened with nuclear attack by North Korea--said Wednesday it will continue to press for a vote on its resolution if Pyongyang's only concession is an agreement to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

"It is natural that North Korea will need to return to the six-party talks without any preconditions," Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe told a news conference. "However, that alone will not mean we will not vote on the resolution."

China has urged the US to comply with North Korea's demands to lift financial sanctions against its businesses--a North Korean condition for returning to nuclear negotiations.

Hill rejected that demand, and repeated Washington's position that the restrictions are a response to illegal money laundering and are not related to the missile and nuclear issues.

Meanwhile, major powers agreed Wednesday to send another Chinese ally, Iran, back to the UN Security Council for possible punitive sanctions, saying the Islamist regime has given no sign it intends to negotiate seriously over its nuclear program.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Crude Conspiracy? Caracas Considering Oil-for-Arms Deal with Beijing's Belligerent North Korean Ally

Latin American sources report that China is engaged in covert talks with oil-rich Venezuela to cut crude exports to the United States, increase shipments to Beijing--and begin selling oil to its impoverished ally, North Korea.

China is the world's second largest oil-consuming nation after the US, which buys around 18 percent of its oil from Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil-producing nation.

Venezuela's populist president Hugo Chavez, an avowed enemy of the US, recently announced plans to visit North Korea in late July. Chavez also intends to visit Russia and Iran (more about Caracas-Tehran ties below).

China Confidential has learned that an oil-for-arms deal is in the works, involving North Korean conventional weapons, missiles--and, incredible as it may seem, maybe even an atomic bomb--under cover of a pending "strategic alliance" and a so-called science and technology cooperation agreement.

Should Chavez and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il dare to deal in missiles and nukes it would constitute the biggest threat to US national security from a Western Hemisphere nation since the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, when the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union came close to nuclear conflict.

Nearly 44 years later, a crisis caused by Cuban ally Venezuela teaming with Stalinist North Korea could trigger a new kind of Cold War--with China. In the wake of North Korea's provocative missile tests and nuclear threats, Washington would not hesitate to blame Beijing for allowing a Pyongyang-Caracas axis to develop.

In fact, relations between North Korea and Venezuela have been warming dramatically. Senior Venezuelan government officials have made statements in support of North Korea's missile tests, and high-level North Korean political and trade officials--and intelligence officers--have visited Venezuela. In May, a delegation of Venezuelan foreign ministry officials visited Pyongyang, just a month after Caracas opened its first-ever embassy there.

Chavez, who proudly considers himself a protege of Cuba's Communist dictator Fidel Castro, is also forging an alliance with another Chinese ally, oil-rich Iran, which is engaged in a nuclear enrichment standoff with the West.

Energy-starved China has tried to downplay deepening ties to Venezuela. While increasingly interested in the South American country's oil--including the huge, untapped heavy crude deposits of the Orinoco River belt--Beijing is concerned that relations with Chavez could needlessly antagonize Washington and hamper efforts by Chinese state-run companies to secure supplies of oil and other raw materials in a region historically considered within the US sphere of influence.

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Bloggertorial: Some Consolation in Korean Crisis

The United States now spends more than $500 billion a year on defense, including supplemental spending on Iraq. New weapons, as reported in today's edition of The New York Times, are expected to cost at least $1.4 trillion over the next three years, including $320 billion on Air Force fighter jets, $80 billion on advanced Navy submarines, and $130 billion in computerized replacements for Army tanks and other vehicles--all part of a Pentagon plan to technologically transform the US military with supposedly superior and more lethal war-making "megasystems."

At the same time, the US seems to find itself hopelessly hamstrung in its dealings with the North Korean military menace, relying on North Korea's chief ally and protector--and America's foremost rising adversary--China, for questionable diplomatic support.

The US appeals for assistance--from authoritarian China--as a rogue nation threatens and provokes the US and thumbs its nose at the world, boasting of its intentions to retaliate against real or perceived attacks with nuclear weapons.

The sole surviving superpower ... the world's greatest democracy ... the country that defeated Nazism and Fascism and contained Soviet Communism until it collapsed from within ... a powerful, post-industrial nation armed to its high-tech teeth ... prostrating itself at the altar of appeasement.

What's wrong with this picture?

Plenty. And more and more Americans, we suspect, share our view. In fact, if there is any consolation at all to be found in the current Korean crisis it is this: threats to annihilate American cities by the criminally insane Kimist regime are likely to spur debate about the primary purpose of US foreign policy and the value and direction of US defense spending.

Interrupted by 9/11, the defense debate is long overdue.

Asks a veteran American analyst: "What good are all those high-tech weapons if they can't be effectively used against countries that clearly threaten America's national security?"

Indeed. What good are the weapons? Even Washington's reaction to the Islamist attacks of nearly five years ago--the worst-ever attacks on American soil--calls into question the fundamental value of the advanced arsenal. Instead of responding swiftly and decisively to destroy and defeat the Islamist enemy operating from Afghanistan (with significant Pakistani and Saudi sponsorship and assistance), the US apparently took too long to counterattack and relied on notoriously unreliable Afghan warlords for much of the fighting, allowing Al Qaeda leader Osama Binladen, Taliban head Mullah Omar (anyone remember that monster?) and their most senior henchmen and followers to escape. (Washington also diverted American anger and resources away from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to focus on what most Americans now seem to see as an unnecessary invasion of a contained, secular foe, Iraq, with no weapons of mass destruction and no meaningful Islamist/Qaeda connections. But that's another story.) Instead of delivering destruction to its enemy, eliminating its fighting capacity by any and all necessary military means, the US restrained itself--the proverbial cooler heads prevailed--and opted for a protracted politico-military conflict with shifting, unclear objectives and aims.

No wonder North Korea's nuclear-mad, Communist killers--more than a half-century after the close of the Korean war--appear to be utterly unafraid of the mighty US.

No wonder Iran's clerical-fascist regime--headed by a fundamentalist Shiite tyrant who makes a point of mixing Islamist rhetoric with neo-Nazi hate speech--takes its sweet time to ponder a Western package of incentives aimed at ending the nuclear enrichment impasse.

No wonder a second-rate, tropical Mussolini like Hugo Chavez brazenly urges Africans and Latin Americans to unite against "US imperialism" and praises and announces plans to visit--and presumably plot anti-American strategy with--his Iranian and North Korean comrades.

No wonder....

Inspired by China's challenge to "US hegemony," aided by Beijing's treachery, as previously noted, America's avowed enemies are emboldened and encouraged by the classical Communist Chinese view of the US as a "paper tiger." Americans have the arms, they sneer, but lack the will to use them.

Heaven help the world if America's enemies--and their Chinese helpers--turn out to be right.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Background Briefs: North Korean Nightmare

Pyongyang is no longer capable of preventing migration within the country or out of the country to China by hungry or starving people. Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have crisscrossed the country in search of food. At least 100,000 people have sought temporary refuge in China, with thousands attempting to defect. China, which supplies North Korea with food and fuel, fears that a collapse of the regime would send a flood of refugees across the border....

North Korea is home to the world's most oppressive personality cult. The legitimacy of Dear Leader Kim Jong-il is derived directly from his status as the son of the late Great Leader--and Eternal President--Kim Il-sung, who is depicted as personifying the revolutionary struggle of the Korean people for independence, unification, and respect. His birthday and death are public holidays. Statues, portraits, and propaganda posters depicting his heroism are ubiquitous. Indoctrination stresses the centrality of the family as a unique, revolutionary clan....

There are at least six known North Korean concentration camps, with an inmate population of at least 200,000 at any given time. A distinguishing feature of the camp system is the philosophy of "guilt by familial association" or "collective responsibility" whereby whole families within three generations are imprisoned--and, in at least one "control zone," killed in gas chambers. Multigenerational murder, torture and imprisonment has been practiced since 1972 when Kim Il-sung stated: "Factionalists or enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations." Baby killings and forced abortions are also commonplace....

Despite increasing cross-border Chinese and South Korean cultural influences, including illicit use of VCRs and mobile phones connecting defectors and their relatives, North Korea has managed to keep most people almost completely reliant on official media for information and suspicious of propaganda from the United States or South Korea. North Korean televisions and radio sets are fixed so that they can only receive one approved station. Most people have no access to external print media. Even if they get access to South Korean or Chinese newspapers and magazines, their ability to read these materials is hampered. While the North Korean populace has a high rate of basic literacy, with at least seven years of education, many North Koreans cannot read Chinese characters, only the indigenous Hangul syllabary. Decades ago, Pyongyang purged its writing system of Chinese characters that are still used in South Korean and Japanese publications.

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