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Thousands of Japanese rally in capital against ‘anti-terror’ bill

People demonstrate against a piece of “anti-terror” legislation in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, May 24, 2017.
Press TV – May 25, 2017

Thousands of people have held a protest rally in the Japanese capital, Tokyo, to express their dissent against the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for putting forward a controversial “anti-terror” bill.

Demonstrators, carrying placards, flooded the capital’s streets on Wednesday evening. They said the government would be prosecuting practically everybody in the name of fighting terrorism if the bill was passed.

The protest came a day after the country’s lower house approved the “conspiracy bill,” which enlisted 277 new types of offences deemed by the lawmakers as threats against Japanese national security.

The government argues that with the help of the bill, if it is passed, it will be able to mount a crackdown on what it calls organized crime and punish those who plan to carry out “serious crimes” against the country.

The bill now needs to be ratified by the upper house, the House of Councilors — where Abe’s coalition has the upper hand — to become law.

While Tokyo argues that the legislation should be adopted before the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 in an attempt to battle terrorism and organized crime, the opponents of the bill say they fear it would treat such offenses as sit-in demonstrations and violations of copyrights as “serious crimes.”

The government further argues that the law would be necessary to ratify the United Nations (UN)’s Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The demonstrators in the Wednesday rally also protested against a number of other issues, including Japan’s nuclear power policies and the United States’ presence on the Japanese Okinawa Island.

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism | | Leave a comment

Japan Proceeds With Controversial New US Air Base on Okinawa

Sputnik – 25.04.2017

After years of controversy, Japan has announced its intention to continue building a new air base to house elements of the US Air Force stationed on the island of Okinawa.

Tuesday’s initiation of the construction of seawalls around the new base, a replacement for the 1945-era US Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, continues the steps toward relocating the immensely unpopular foreign military facility.

Though these plans have met with resistance by officials and the public in the local prefecture, due in part to the ongoing environmental destruction required by the new base, Tokyo officials are going ahead with the build, including the dumping of landfill waste into sensitive marine habitats.

Okinawa governor Takeshi Onaga, citing local resistance to the move, has threatened to withdraw his support, which could hamper the completion of the project. A December 2016 ruling by the Japanese Supreme Court stated that Onaga’s offer to annul the construction of the air base was illegal, although legal grounds to back up the governor’s threat remain in place.

Local protesters have stepped up their actions at the construction site. The call to have the base closed down entirely, not simply relocated, has gained traction in recent years, particularly in light of several grisly crimes against locals, including sexual abuse, rape and murder, at the hands of US servicemembers stationed at the Futenma base.

Tokyo issued a statement in support of construction, as Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said, “I’m convinced that the start of the construction marks a steady first step toward realizing the complete return of the Futenma airfield.”

But the island base, regardless of its location, remains profoundly unpopular with residents.

As protesters held up signs saying “stop illegal construction work!” and “block the new base,” 64-year-old Yumiko Gibo from the village of Ogimi said, “They should not make Okinawa shoulder the burden of hosting [US] bases anymore,” according to the Japan Times.

Senior officials in Okinawa prefecture have slammed Tokyo for what they term the government’s “authoritarian” attitude toward the construction of the new facility, and have accused national officials of poor judgment after they “ignored the local will.”

A 71-year-old Naha resident, Yoshiko Uema, said, “We must not provide the place for war. We will unite and definitely stop the relocation,” according to the Japan Times.

Tokyo has remained unsympathetic to concerns on the island, insisting that the new air base in Henoko is “the only solution,” as the current Futenma site lies in a densely populated residential zone.

Some officials in Tokyo have privately acknowledged that the US Air Force presence in Okinawa is integral to maintaining the US-Japan military alliance.

A completion date for the new US air base, begun in 2015, has not been set.

April 26, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Banned Pollutant Detected in Water Under US Marine Base on Okinawa

Sputnik – 19.04.2017

Japan has revealed that high levels of a banned pollutant have been found in groundwater underneath Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, on the island of Okinawa.

Two recent surveys conducted in August 2016 and January of this year have revealed abnormally high concentrations of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and per-fluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), both used as aircraft lubricants, fire-retardant foam and a water-repellant, in the groundwater underneath the US Marine base in Okinawa. Both were banned in Japan in 2010.

Both chemicals are known cancer-causing agents, and exposure has been shown to result in tumors and increases in the weight of organs and the body overall, and to cause death in animals, according to Stripes.com.

Reported by the local Okinawa environmental protection department’s water environments control team, spokesman Yoshinari Mi-yahira affirmed that “High levels of contamination was detected in underground water samples taken from the Oyama and Kiyuna districts.”

During the August survey, researchers with the Okinawa water environment control team noted that of the 35 locations monitored, three downstream of the US military base were found to have measurements that exceeded US drinking water health advisory levels.

“The concentration of the substances is notably high in the vicinity of the downstream area of the air station,” Miyahira said, according to Stripes.com, indicating that the source of the toxins is the US base.

Requests by Japanese authorities to address the hazard, as well as calls for an investigation, have gone unanswered by the base or the US government.

“We have asked the military through the Ministry of Defense to provide us with information on the history of the use of the agents that contained the substances and an [on-base] survey by the prefectural government, the military and the Ministry of Defense,” Miyahira said, cited by Stripes.com.

According to Miyahara, health officials in the region have been stymied. “We received a [Japanese ministry] response that the military handles the agents appropriately and that they see no need to conduct the proposed survey.”

Tons of toxic materials on Okinawa were left to rot after the southern Japanese island came into US possession following the end of World War II. More recently, US military veterans serving in the Vietnam War who were exposed to defoliant Agent Orange while stationed on Okinawa have won disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

SEE ALSO :

Okinawa: Forgotten Occupation?

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Japanese scientists reject lifting of ban on military research at universities

RT | March 26, 2017

The influential Science Council of Japan (SCJ) adopted a statement rejecting research at civilian institutions for military purposes. It comes in response to government investment in dual-use technologies.

The SCJ, which was created in 1949 as an independent body representing academia, warned Japanese universities and research institutions against participating in military-related research, the Japan Times reported. In a statement adopted by the council’s executive body on Friday, it said taking grants from the defense ministry would compromise scientific independence.

It comes after 10 months of deliberation by a 15-member committee, which was formed in May 2016 to consider whether the long-held opposition to military research should be overturned. The SCJ previously rejected military research in 1950, and again in 1967.

The policy statement carries no legal force, but the council’s opinion carries great weigh in Japanese scientific circles and the government.

The council was called to revise its policy, after Japan’s Defense Ministry boosted its funding of research into dual-use technologies, which can have both civilian and military applications. The funding almost doubled for 2017 to $96 million, compared to the previous year, according to The Asahi Shimbun.

The decision to reject military research came earlier in March. At the meeting on Friday, the council’s board debated on whether to adopt the statement directly or submit it to the SCJ General Assembly, which is to convene next month. The executives chose the former.

Japanese academia remains reluctant to deal with military technologies for historical reasons. Imperial Japan rounded up scientists to participate in the war effort during World War II.

Read more:

Japan’s cabinet approves record $43.6bn military budget amid tensions with China & N. Korea

March 26, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Terminal Decline? Fukushima and the Deepening Crisis of Nuclear Energy

By Jim Green | Nuclear Monitor | March 10, 2017

Saturday March 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the triple-disaster in north-east Japan – the earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

And the news is not good. Scientists are wondering how on earth to stabilise and decontaminate the failed reactors awash with molten nuclear fuel, which are fast turning into graveyards for the radiation-hardened robots sent in to investigate them.

The Japanese government’s estimate of Fukushima compensation and clean-up costs has doubled and doubled again and now stands at ¥21.5 trillion (US$187bn; €177bn).

Indirect costs – such as fuel import costs, and losses to agricultural, fishing and tourism industries – will likely exceed that figure.

Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan notes in a new report that “for those who were impacted by the worst nuclear disaster in a generation, the crisis is far from over. And it is women and children that have borne the brunt of human rights violations resulting from it, both in the immediate aftermath and as a result of the Japan government’s nuclear resettlement policy.”

Radiation biologist Ian Fairlie summarises the health impacts from the Fukushima disaster: “In sum, the health toll from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is horrendous. At the minimum:

+ Over 160,000 people were evacuated most of them permanently.

+ Many cases of post-trauma stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety disorders arising from the evacuations.

+ About 12,000 workers exposed to high levels of radiation, some up to 250 mSv

+ An estimated 5,000 fatal cancers from radiation exposures in future.

+ Plus similar (unquantified) numbers of radiogenic strokes, CVS diseases and hereditary diseases.

+ Between 2011 and 2015, about 2,000 deaths from radiation-related evacuations due to ill-health and suicides.

+ An, as yet, unquantified number of thyroid cancers.

+ An increased infant mortality rate in 2012 and a decreased number of live births in December 2011.”

Dr Fairlie’s report was written in August 2015 but it remains accurate. More than half of the 164,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster remain dislocated. Efforts to restore community life in numerous towns are failing. Local authorities said in January that only 13% of the evacuees in five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture have returned home after evacuation orders were lifted.

As for Japan’s long-hyped ‘nuclear restart’: just three power reactors are operating in Japan; before the Fukushima disaster, the number topped 50.

A nuclear power ‘crisis’?

Nuclear advocates and lobbyists elsewhere are increasingly talking about the ‘crisis’ facing nuclear power – but they don’t have the myriad impacts of the Fukushima disaster in mind: they’re more concerned about catastrophic cost overruns with reactor projects in Europe and the US.

Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute, a US-based pro-nuclear lobby group, has recently written articles about nuclear power’s rapidly accelerating crisis and the crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West“.

A recent article from the Breakthrough Institute and the like-minded Third Way lobby group discusses the crisis that the nuclear industry is presently facing in developed countries“.

‘Environmental Progress’, another US pro-nuclear lobby group connected to Shellenberger, has a webpage dedicated to the nuclear power crisis. Among other things, it states that 151 gigawatts (GW) of worldwide nuclear power capacity (38% of the total) could be lost by 2030 (compared to 33 GW of retirements over the past decade), and over half of the ageing US reactor fleet is at risk of closure by 2030.

As a worldwide generalisation, nuclear power can’t be said to be in crisis. To take the extreme example, China’s nuclear power program isn’t in crisis – it is moving ahead at pace. Russia’s nuclear power program, to give one more example, is moving ahead at snail’s pace, but isn’t in crisis.

Nonetheless, large parts of the worldwide nuclear industry are in deep trouble. The July 2016 World Nuclear Industry Status Report provides an overview of the troubled status of nuclear power:

+ nuclear power’s share of the worldwide electricity generation is 10.7%, well down from historic peak of 17.6% in 1996;

+ nuclear power generation in 2015 was 8.2% below the historic peak in 2006; and

+ from 2000 to 2015, 646 gigawatts (GW) of wind and solar capacity (combined) were added worldwide while nuclear capacity (not including idle reactors in Japan) fell by 8 GW.

US nuclear industry in crisis

The US nuclear industry is in crisis, with a very old reactor fleet – 44 of its 99 reactors have been operating for 40 years or more – and no likelihood of new reactors for the foreseeable future other than four already under construction.

Last September, Associated Press described one of the industry’s many humiliations: “After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.

“The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, eight miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot and more.”

Japanese conglomerate Toshiba and its US-based nuclear subsidiary Westinghouse are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four AP1000 reactors in the US – the combined cost overruns amount to about US$11.2bn (€10.7bn) and counting.

Toshiba said in February 2017 that it expects to book a US$6.3bn (€5.9bn) writedown on Westinghouse, on top of a US$2.3bn (€2.1bn) writedown in April 2016. The losses exceed the US$5.4bn (€5.1bn) Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.

Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option – but there is no prospect of a buyer. Westinghouse is, as Bloomberg noted, too much of a mess to sell. And since that isn’t an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy.

Toshiba is seeking legal advice as to whether Westinghouse should file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. But even under a Chapter 11 filing, Reuters reported, “Toshiba could still be on the hook for up to $7 billion in contingent liabilities as it has guaranteed Westinghouse’s contractual commitments” for the US AP1000 reactors.

The Toshiba/Westinghouse crisis is creating a ripple effect. A few examples:

+ the NuGen (Toshiba/Engie) consortium has acknowledged that the plan for three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in the UK faces a significant funding gap and both partners reportedly want out of the project;

+ Georgia Power, 45.7% owner of the troubled Vogtle AP1000 project, recently suspended plans for another nuclear plant in Georgia; and

+ Toshiba recently announced its intention to pull out of the plan for two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at the South Texas Plant, having booked writedowns totaling US$638m (€605m) on the project in previous years.

The French nuclear industry is in crisis

The French nuclear industry is in its worst situation ever, former EDF director Gérard Magnin said in November 2016. The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF.

The current taxpayer-funded rescue of the nuclear power industry may cost the French state as much as €10bn (US$10.5bn), Reuters reported in January, and in addition to its “dire financial state, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems.”

France has 58 operable reactors and just one under construction. French EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7bn (US$13.4bn).

Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva’s EPR export ambitions are in tatters. Now Areva itself is in tatters and is in the process of a government-led restructure and another taxpayer-funded bailout.

On March 1, Areva posted a €665m (US$700m) net loss for 2016. Losses in the preceding five years exceeded €10bn (US$10.5 bn). A large majority of a €5bn (US$5.3bn) recapitalisation of Areva scheduled for June 2017 will come from French taxpayers.

On February 14, EDF released its financial figures for 2016: earnings fell 6.7%, revenue declined 5.1%, net income excluding non-recurring items fell 15%, and EDF’s debt remained steady at €37.4bn (US$39.4bn). All that EDF chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy could offer was the hope that EDF would hit the bottom of the cycle in 2017 and rebound next year.

EDF plans to sell €10bn (US$10.5 bn) of assets by 2020 to rein in its debt, and to sack up to 7,000 staff. The French government provided EDF with €3bn (US$3.2bn) in extra capital in 2016 and will contribute €3bn towards a €4bn (US$4.2bn) capital raising this year.

On March 8, shares in EDF hit an all-time low a day after the €4bn capital raising was launched; the stock price fell to €7.78, less than one-tenth of the €86.45 high a decade ago.

Costs of between €50bn and €100bn (US$53-106bn) will need to be spent by 2030 to meet new safety requirements for reactors in France and to extend their operating lives beyond 40 years.

EDF has set aside €23bn (US$24.3bn) to cover reactor decommissioning and waste management costs in France – less than half of the €54bn (US$57bn) that EDF estimates will be required. A recent report by the French National Assembly’s Commission for Sustainable Development and Regional Development concluded that there is “obvious under-provisioning” and that decommissioning and waste management will likely take longer, be more challenging and cost much more than EDF anticipates.

EDF is being forced to take over parts of its struggling sibling Areva’s operations – a fate you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. And just when it seemed that things couldn’t get any worse for EDF, a fire took hold in the turbine room of one of the Flamanville reactors on February 9 and the reactor will likely be offline until late March at an estimated cost of roughly €1.2m (US$1.27m) per day.

Half of the world’s nuclear industry is in crisis and/or shutting down

Combined, the crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for 45% of the world’s ‘operable’ nuclear reactors according to the World Nuclear Association’s database, and they accounted for 50% of nuclear power generation in 2015 (and 57% in 2010).

Countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or phase-out policies (e.g. Germany, Belgium, and Taiwan) account for about half of the world’s operable reactors and more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.

The Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END)

The ageing of the global reactor fleet isn’t yet a crisis for the industry, but it is heading that way.

The assessment by the ‘Environmental Progress’ lobby group that 151 GW of worldwide nuclear power capacity could be shut down by 2030 is consistent with figures from the World Nuclear Association (132 reactor shut-downs by 2035), the International Energy Agency (almost 200 shut-downs between 2014 and 2040) and Nuclear Energy Insider (up to 200 shut-downs in the next two decades). It looks increasingly unlikely that new reactors will match shut-downs.

Perhaps the best characterisation of the global nuclear industry is that a new era is approaching – the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning (END). Nuclear power’s END will entail:

+ a slow decline in the number of operating reactors (unless growth in China can match the decline elsewhere);

+ an increasingly unreliable and accident-prone reactor fleet as ageing sets in;

+ countless battles over lifespan extensions for ageing reactors;

+ an internationalisation of anti-nuclear opposition as neighbouring countries object to the continued operation of ageing reactors (international opposition to Belgium’s reactors is a case in point);

+ a broadening of anti-nuclear opposition as citizens are increasingly supported by local, regional and national governments opposed to reactors in neighbouring countries (again Belgium is a case in point, as is Lithuanian opposition to reactors under construction in Belarus);

+ many battles over the nature and timing of decommissioning operations;

+ many battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for decommissioning;

+ more battles over proposals to impose nuclear waste repositories on unwilling or divided communities; and

+ battles over taxpayer bailouts for companies and utilities that haven’t set aside adequate funding for nuclear waste disposal.

As discussed in a previous article in The Ecologist, nuclear power is likely to enjoy a small, short-lived upswing in the next couple of years as reactors ordered in the few years before the Fukushima disaster come online. Beyond that, the Era of Nuclear Decommissioning sets in, characterised by escalating battles – and escalating sticker-shock – over lifespan extensions, decommissioning and nuclear waste management.

In those circumstances, it will become even more difficult than it currently is for the industry to pursue new reactor projects. A positive feedback loop could take hold and then the industry will be well and truly in crisis.

Nuclear lobbyists debate possible solutions to the nuclear power crisis

Michael Shellenberger from the Breakthrough Institute argues that a lack of standardisation and scaling partly explains the “crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West”. The constant switching of designs deprives the people who build, operate and regulate nuclear plants of the experience they need to become more efficient.

Shellenberger further argues that there is too much focus on machines, too little on human factors:

“Areva, Toshiba-Westinghouse and others claimed their new designs would be safer and thus, at least eventually, cheaper, but there were always strong reasons to doubt such claims. First, what is proven to make nuclear plants safer is experience, not new designs. …

“In fact, new designs risk depriving managers and workers the experience they need to operate plants more safely, just as it deprives construction companies the experience they need to build plants more rapidly.”

Shellenberger has a three-point rescue plan:

1/ ‘Consolidate or Die’: “If nuclear is going to survive in the West, it needs a single, large firm – the equivalent of a Boeing or Airbus – to compete against the Koreans, Chinese and Russians.”

2/ ‘Standardize or Die’: He draws attention to the “astonishing” heterogeneity of planned reactors in the UK and says the UK “should scrap all existing plans and start from a blank piece of paper”, that all new plants should be of the same design and “the criteria for choosing the design should emphasize experience in construction and operation, since that is the key factor for lowering costs.”

3/ ‘Scale or Die’: Nations “must work together to develop a long-term plan for new nuclear plant construction to achieve economies of scale”, and governments “should invest directly or provide low-cost loans.”

Wrong lessons

Josh Freed and Todd Allen from pro-nuclear lobby group Third Way, and Ted Nordhaus and Jessica Lovering from the Breakthrough Institute, argue that Shellenberger draws the wrong lessons from Toshiba’s recent losses and from nuclear power’s “longer-term struggles” in developed economies.

They argue that “too little innovation, not too much, is the reason that the industry is on life support in the United States and other developed economies”. They state that:

+ The Westinghouse AP1000 represents a fairly straightforward evolution in light-water reactor design, not a radical departure as Shellenberger claims.

+ Standardisation is important but it is not a panacea. Standardisation and building multiple reactors on the same site has limited cost escalation, not brought costs down.

+ Most of the causes of rising cost and construction delays associated with new nuclear builds in the US are attributable to the 30-year hiatus in nuclear construction, not the novelty of the AP1000 design.

+ Reasonable regulatory reform will not dramatically reduce the cost of new light-water reactors, as Shellenberger suggests.

They write this obituary for large light-water reactors: “If there is one central lesson to be learned from the delays and cost overruns that have plagued recent builds in the US and Europe, it is that the era of building large fleets of light-water reactors is over in much of the developed world.

“From a climate and clean energy perspective, it is essential that we keep existing reactors online as long as possible. But slow demand growth in developed world markets makes ten billion dollar, sixty-year investments in future electricity demand a poor bet for utilities, investors, and ratepayers.”

A radical break

The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors conclude that “a radical break from the present light-water regime … will be necessary to revive the nuclear industry”. Exactly what that means, the authors said, would be the subject of a follow-up article.

So readers were left hanging – will nuclear power be saved by failed fast-reactor technology, or failed high-temperature gas-cooled reactors including failed pebble-bed reactors, or by thorium pipe-dreams or fusion pipe-dreams or molten salt reactor pipe-dreams or small modular reactor pipe-dreams? Perhaps we’ve been too quick to write off cold fusion?

The answers came in a follow-up article on February 28. The four authors want a thousand flowers to bloom, a bottom-up R&D-led nuclear recovery as opposed to top-down, state-led innovation.

They don’t just want a new reactor type (or types), they have much greater ambitions for innovation in “nuclear technology, business models, and the underlying structure of the sector” and they note that “a radical break from the light water regime that would enable this sort of innovation is not a small undertaking and will require a major reorganization of the nuclear sector.”

To the extent that the four authors want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and replace it with a new one, they share some common ground with nuclear critics who want to tear down the existing nuclear industry and not replace it with a new one.

Shellenberger also shares some common ground with nuclear critics: he thinks the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and start from a blank piece of paper. But nuclear critics think the UK should scrap all existing plans for new reactors and not start from a blank piece of paper.

Small is beautiful?

The four Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors argue that nuclear power must become substantially cheaper – thus ruling out large conventional reactors “operated at high atmospheric pressures, requiring enormous containment structures, multiply redundant back-up cooling systems, and water cooling towers and ponds, which account for much of the cost associated with building light-water reactors.”

Substantial cost reductions will not be possible “so long as nuclear reactors must be constructed on site one gigawatt at a time. … At 10 MW or 100 MW, by contrast, there is ample opportunity for learning by doing and economies of multiples for several reactor classes and designs, even in the absence of rapid demand growth or geopolitical imperatives.”

Other than their promotion of small reactors and their rejection of large ones, the four authors are non-specific about their preferred reactor types. Any number of small-reactor concepts have been proposed.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been the subject of much discussion and even more hype. The bottom line is that there isn’t the slightest chance that they will fulfil the ambition of making nuclear power “substantially cheaper” unless and until a manufacturing supply chain is established at vast expense.

And even then, it’s doubtful whether the power would be cheaper and highly unlikely that it would be substantially cheaper. After all, economics has driven the long-term drift towards larger reactors.

As things stand, no country, company or utility has any intention of betting billions on building an SMR supply chain. The prevailing scepticism is evident in a February 2017 Lloyd’s Register report based on “insights and opinions of leaders across the sector” and the views of almost 600 professionals and experts from utilities, distributors, operators and equipment manufacturers.

The Lloyd’s Register report states that the potential contribution of SMRs “is unclear at this stage, although its impact will most likely apply to smaller grids and isolated markets.” Respondents predicted that SMRs have a “low likelihood of eventual take-up, and will have a minimal impact when they do arrive”.

The Third Way / Breakthrough Institute authors are promoting small reactors because of the spectacular failure of a number of large reactor projects, but that’s hardly a recipe for success. An analysis of SMRs in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists sums up the problems:

“Without a clear-cut case for their advantages, it seems that small nuclear modular reactors are a solution looking for a problem. Of course in the world of digital innovation, this kind of upside-down relationship between solution and problem is pretty normal. Smart phones, Twitter, and high-definition television all began as solutions looking for problems.

“In the realm of nuclear technology, however, the enormous expense required to launch a new model as well as the built-in dangers of nuclear fission require a more straightforward relationship between problem and solution. Small modular nuclear reactors may be attractive, but they will not, in themselves, offer satisfactory solutions to the most pressing problems of nuclear energy: high cost, safety, and weapons proliferation.”

Small or large reactors, consolidation or innovation, Generation 2/3/4 reactors … it’s not clear that the nuclear industry will be able to recover – however it responds to its current crisis.


Dr Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Monitor newsletter, where a longer version of this article was originally published. jim.green@foe.org.au

Nuclear Monitor, published 20 times a year, has been publishing deeply researched, often critical articles on all aspects of the nuclear cycle since 1978.

March 14, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Negotiation Option with North Korea

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium news | February 14, 2117

The unexpected missile launch this weekend by North Korea hit a bulls-eye. Its perfect aim, however, owed more to Pyongyang’s mastery of international theatrics than to rocket technology.

Traveling just 310 miles, the intermediate-range Pukguksong-2 missile struck nothing but water in the Sea of Japan. But it fully succeeded, as planned, in grabbing the attention of two of North Korea’s biggest enemies: Presidents Donald Trump of the United States and Shinzo Abe of Japan.

Instead of relaxing over dinner at Trump’s $200,000-per-membership Mar-a-Lago club, the two heads of state had to surround themselves with advisers and translators Saturday evening, scrambling to draft a joint statement by the light of their cell phones.

They came up with the usual bluster: Abe denounced the launch as “absolutely intolerable,” and Trump vowed to stand behind Japan, America’s “great ally, 100 percent.”

North Korean Premier Kim Jon Un certainly didn’t win any friends with the launch. China criticized it as a provocation, and Russia declared that the test was in “defiant disregard” of United Nations resolutions. But it gave Kim something to brag about at home and, more important, kept his demands front and center on the world’s stage.

No Good Options?

A Reuters news report summed up the conventional wisdom among U.S. analysts: “Few good options in Trump arsenal to counter defiant North Korea.” In a nutshell, President Obama’s eight-year policy of “strategic patience” — ratcheting up economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure — was a spectacular failure. Leaning on China to make it dictate terms to Pyongyang hasn’t worked either—in part because Beijing doesn’t want to risk triggering a collapse of North Korea’s regime. Tough U.N. resolutions condemning North Korea are worth less than a bowl of steaming kimche.

Then there is the military option. Its many advocates in Washington — including former Secretary of State John Kerry — argue the United States may need to wipe out North Korea’s nuclear and missile launch facilities, or even decapitate its regime, to prevent it from acquiring long-range missiles capable of reaching U.S. soil.

But North Korea’s nuclear facilities are designed to withstand anything short of a nuclear attack, and its conventional forces could quickly leave Seoul a smoldering ruin. How China would react to a preemptive U.S. attack is anyone’s guess. No less an authority than former Secretary of Defense William Perry says that a war with North Korea would be “catastrophic, possibly destroying the societies of both Koreas as well as causing large casualties in the U.S. military.”

A Voice of Reason

Perry is one of the few voices of reason who contests the militant groupthink prevalent in Washington. He counsels instead an attempt to engage Pyongyang in diplomacy. That strategy should appeal to the dealmaker who now inhabits the White House.

As Trump said during his campaign, responding to Hillary Clinton’s disparagement of trying to engage with Kim, “What the hell is wrong with speaking? . . . It’s called opening a dialogue.”

Perry participated in the Clinton administration’s successful negotiation of a 1994 deal with North Korea that suspended its plutonium enrichment program. George W. Bush, in his wisdom, scrapped the agreement and made North Korea a charter member of his “axis of evil.”

Watching Presidents Bush and Obama in action, Pyongyang understandably redoubled its nuclear program. “North Korea has decided, based on lessons from Iran, Iraq, and Libya, that its only sure means of survival is to be ‘too nuclear’ to fail,” remarked Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, during a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Or as committee chairman Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, put it, “What they learned is, you get rid of your WMDs, we take you out.”

That exchange was a rare recognition by Washington insiders that Kim, however, brutish and blustering, is pushing his country’s weapons program for the same reason that other nuclear powers acquired the Bomb: not to commit suicide, but to deter enemies. His regime states unequivocally that “we will not use our weapons on anyone unless they have attacked us.”

As Perry commented in January, “During my discussions and negotiations with members of the North Korean government, I have found that they are not irrational, nor do they have the objective of achieving martyrdom. Their goals, in order of priority, are: preserving the Kim dynasty, gaining international respect and improving their economy.”

Risk to Peace

Those words offer only a small measure of comfort, however. A nuclear-armed North Korea, with its inherently unstable political system, remains a huge risk to peace — all the more so if it prompts revived militarism in South Korea and Japan and unleashes a regional arms race.

The logical response is to try diplomacy, not more military threats, to reduce North Korea’s sense of isolation and paranoia. As China’s foreign ministry has repeatedly pointed out, “the root cause (of) the North Korea nuclear missile issue is the conflicts between North Korea and the United States, as well as between North and South Korea.”

The place to start resolving those conflicts, according to many Korea experts, is with negotiations to end the state of war between North Korea and its adversaries. The Korean War ended in 1953 with a temporary armistice, not a peace treaty. Washington’s failure to negotiate such a treaty tells a deeply insecure Pyongyang that the United States views its regime as illegitimate and ripe for forcible change.

By refusing to consider unconditional normalization of relations with North Korea, President Obama forfeited real opportunities to rein in its nuclear program. Instead, he continued holding huge annual military exercises with South Korea, complete with mock amphibious landings, which sent Pyongyang into “a frenzy of bloodthirsty threats and sabre rattling.”

North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations told a reporter in November that diplomacy remains a viable option: “If (Trump) really gives up the hostile policy towards DPRK, withdrawing all the military equipment from South Korea, including the U.S. troops and coming to conclude the peace treaty, then I think it might be an opportunity to discuss the relations as we did in the 1990s.”

That was a rhetorical opening position, not a final demand, but it pointed to a peaceful way forward. Diplomacy offers no panacea. In particular, nothing will likely put North Korea’s nuclear genie back in its lamp anytime soon.

As Perry observed, “We lost the opportunity to negotiate with a non-nuclear North Korea when we cut off negotiations in 2001, before it had a nuclear arsenal. The most we can reasonably expect today is an agreement that lowers the dangers of that arsenal. The goals would be an agreement with Pyongyang to not export nuclear technology, to conduct no further nuclear testing and to conduct no further ICBM testing. These goals are worth achieving and, if we succeed, could be the basis for a later discussion of a non-nuclear Korean Peninsula.”

Joe Cirincione, a leading arms control expert, reminds us that “It was the negotiations, not the sanctions, that ultimately stopped Iran’s (nuclear) program.”

President Trump, a harsh critic of the nuclear treaty with Iran, now stands at a critical crossroads with North Korea. Will he heed the increasingly loud demands of interventionists for greater shows of force on the Korean peninsula, or channel candidate Trump and seek talks with Premier Kim? It’s no exaggeration to say that the fate of world peace may rest in part on his decision.

February 14, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Japan Forms Interdepartmental Council on Cooperation With Russia on Kurils

Sputnik – 07.02.2017

TOKYO – The interdepartmental council on joint economic activities with Russia on the South Kuril Islands was formed in Japan and its first session will take place on the evening of February 7, Japanese media reported Tuesday.

“The government will work as a team to reach substantial results quickly,” Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said, as quoted by Kyodo news agency.

According to the outlet, Kishida said he would head the council, which will consider possibilities of the cooperation with Russia on fishery and tourism.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko will also reportedly be part of the council, as well as the representatives of the Finance Ministry, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, Health, Labour, and Welfare Ministry.

On February 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the two countries agreed to hold consultations on joint economic activities on the South Kuril Islands in Tokyo in March.

On December 15-16, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Japan to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The sides agreed to start developing economic cooperation in the disputed area.

The Kuril Islands are the subject of the long-standing territorial dispute between Russia and Japan. Japan lays claim to Kunashir, Iturup, Shikotan islands and the Habomai group of islets. The territorial dispute has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace treaty after World War II.

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Okinawa governor hits out at US bases during Washington visit

RT | February 3, 2017

The governor of Okinawa has used a trip to Washington to reiterate his opposition to the heavy presence of US military bases on the island, urging all Japanese citizens to rethink security arrangements between Tokyo and Washington.

Outspoken Governor Takeshi Onaga arrived in the US earlier this week, holding a press conference to convey his discontent with the high number of US military bases in Okinawa, which hosts 74 percent of Japan’s total US military presence.

“I think all Japanese citizens should think about the Japan-US security arrangements. US military bases occupy 6 percent of the whole of Japan and 70 percent of those US military bases are in places where the population density is about the same as Tokyo. I don’t like it anymore…” he said in response to a question from RT’s Gayane Chichakyan at a press conference.

He went on to cite jet crashes related to the US bases, as well as sexual assaults which have been linked to US soldiers since World War II.

Onaga and citizens of Okinawa have long protested the heavy presence of US military bases and troops on the island, with mass demonstrations drawing thousands last year.

Of particular concern is the planned relocation of the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station from Ginowan to the less-populated area of Henoko, in Nago.

Onaga is against the relocation, stating it would destroy the environment of the bay surrounding the new site.

In December, the governor was defeated in a lawsuit filed by the central government regarding the air station, with Japan’s Supreme Court finding that it was illegal for Onaga to revoke the approval granted by his predecessor, Hirokazu Nakaima, for land reclamation required to build replacement runways at the new base.

But Okinawans could soon see their hopes answered, if President Donald Trump follows through with a campaign statement in which he said that he wants foreign nations to pay for US presence and protection in those countries.

Instead of seeing Trump’s statement as a threat, Okinawa policy adviser Moritake Tomikawa said a withdrawal of US troops would suit Okinawans just fine.

“Mr. Trump says if Japan doesn’t pay more than he’s going to withdraw the troops from Japan. As far as Okinawa people are concerned, that’s fine…” he said.

It is unclear, however, where Trump stands on the specific Okinawa issue. The new defense secretary, James Mattis, is currently in Japan, though his views on the issue also remain unclear.

Japan spends an estimated $1.5 billion a year on the US bases, while Washington dished out around $5.5 billion in 2016, according to the Pentagon.

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February 3, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Japanese embassy pays British think tank to plant anti-China stories

RT | January 30, 2017

The neoconservative Henry Jackson Society (HJS) think tank is on the payroll of the Japanese embassy, charged with drafting in public figures to spread anti-Chinese propaganda, investigators claim.

The Times’ investigation suggests the London-based HJS is paid £10,000 (US$12,500) per month to spread anti-Chinese propaganda, including through public figures like former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind.

HJS frames itself as a pro-intervention and pro-capitalist voice, which aims to spread freedom and democracy around the world. It is run by the academic and failed Tory parliamentary candidate Alan Mendoza.

The deal between the think tank and the embassy was reportedly reached to counter the growing cooperation between the UK and China, championed by former Chancellor George Osborne.

The agreement reflects the rising tensions between China and Japan – the latter a close US ally in the Asia-Pacific region.

Rifkind confirmed to the Times over the weekend that he had been asked by HJS in August to put his name to an article called ‘How China could switch off Britain’s lights in a crisis if we let them build Hinkley C’, which criticized a UK-Chinese nuclear power station deal.

The comment piece claimed there may be a risk of a Chinese-funded power station having cyber-backdoors built into it which could present a risk to UK security.

Rifkin told the Times he had not been aware of the links between HJS and the Japanese embassy and said the think tank “ought to have informed me of that relationship when they asked me to support the article they provided. It would have been preferable if they had.”

The report indicates that HJS originally approached the Japanese embassy alongside a PR firm named Media Intelligence Partners (MIP), which is run by a former Tory PR man named Nick Wood.

The Times says it saw an early version of a proposal which would see the think-tank and PR firm develop a communications strategy for the embassy for a fee of £15,000 per month.

This, they said, would allow Japan’s concerns to be placed “on the radar of mainstream UK journalists and politicians.” It includes journalists from major papers like the Telegraph and the Guardian.

Other aims included the creation of “an engaged and interested cadre of high-level politicians” and a focus on the “threat to Western strategic interests posed by Chinese expansionism.”

The actual deal reached was for a lower figure of £10,000 plus expenses, according to the Times.

January 30, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 1 Comment

Trump, Atomic Bombs and Confused Japanese Samurais

By Andre Vltchek | Dissident Voice | January 26, 2017

Goodbye President Obama! Japan is mourning your imminent departure. It is mourning because you were such a good friend, an exceptionally predictable ruler, and a truly traditional imperialist. You spoke so well, and tormented all those unruly colonies with admirable zeal and effectiveness!

What is soon coming is untested and therefore frightening. Obedient and disciplined Japan historically detests unpredictability.

It doesn’t really mind prostituting itself, but only if it brings great tangible benefits and as long as strict protocol and decorum are fully respected. The upcoming scenario could be frightening: Who knows?  That new big ugly chap across the ocean could soon ruin all etiquette; calling whores and profiteers by their real names.

The Japanese government and big business are now shaking in dread, day and night. What changes are coming? How to please the new foul-speaking lord?

10 billion dollars will be spent — or should we say ‘invested’ — in the United States by Toyota car giant, in order to appease the new Emperor? Why not? Every penny of it is worth it! The Emperor has to be kept happy. Japan is ready to arm itself to the teeth, provoking both North Korea but especially China? Yes and yes again, as long as the global ‘balance of power’ so greatly in favor of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for decades, remains intact.

The Conservative Prime Minister of the country, Shinzo Abe, doesn’t want any ‘dangerous’ developments, any deviations. As far as he is concerned, things are just fine as they were. Not perfect, but fine. Japan has been exactly where it should be: on its back, ageing, but still desirable, eating mountains of caviar and oysters.

*****

Things are, however, ‘developing’, rapidly and some would say, irreversibly. The new US president, Donald Trump, is clearly allergic to China as well as to several other Asian countries. He is preaching protectionism and an extreme form of nationalism, something that used to be synonymous with Japan’s trade and business practices of the past.

Somehow, this does not appear to be in Japan’s favor. Japan was allowed to be protectionist, in exchange for its unconditional political obedience. It thought that it was awarded almost exclusive privileges.

Now paradoxically, Japan is trying to save the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation free trade agreement, which Donald Trump is promising to nuke.  Japan’s parliament even ratified the pact at the end of 2016. Foreign Policy Magazine (FPM) declared in its report published on January 2017: “Abe Wants to Be the Last Free Trade Samurai”.

In fact, Shinzo Abe is desperately trying to preserve Japan’s prominent position, at least in Asia, and mainly against China, which is intensively negotiating its own economic partnership agreement with several Asian countries called “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP). Mr. Abe is also trying to push through his brutal neo-liberal reforms that are encountering resistance from the Japanese public.

FPM wrote:

TPP gives the government the handy excuse it now needs to take unpopular reform measures meant to give a new push to the Abenomics program. Blaming outsiders for such ‘un-Japanese’ actions is a popular political maneuver that even gets a special name ‘gai-atsu’.

*****

Japan’s desperate desire to remain the regional superpower is pushing it even closer towards the West, and particularly the United States. Since WWII, the country has been fully dependent on Washington (and its market fundamentalist dogmas), to such an extent that it almost totally abandoned its own global vision and foreign policy.

In the meantime, Japan is trying to even further penetrate and subjugate various Southeast Asian countries, literally wrestling them away from the increasing influence of China and Russia. It is a very complex, often bizarre game, as Abe’s government is habitually acting by inertia, doing what was expected of it by the earlier US administrations, not necessarily by the upcoming one.

Once totally under Western control, the Southeast Asian monolith is beginning to crack: the Philippines under President Duterte and Vietnam after some fundamental leadership changes in early 2016 are moving closer towards China and away from Washington’s orbit. Even Thailand, one of the most dependable Cold War allies of the West is quickly discovering the countless advantages that come from a stronger relationship with Beijing.

In Asia, resistance against Western imperialism is on the rise, and Japan is in panic. It collaborated for so long that it lost all memories of acting independently. In exchange for betraying Asia, it used to reap great benefits; the gap between its astronomical standards of living and those in the rest of Asia used to be exorbitant, but now, the Human Development Index (HDI) rates such countries as South Korea, even higher. Socialist and fiercely independent China is catching up, not only economically but also in terms of science, technology and standards of living.

The essential question is never openly asked, but is creeping into the subconscious thoughts of many Japanese people: ‘Was it really worth it to collaborate so shamelessly with the West, and for so long?’

The more confusing and unsettling the answers, the more aggressive the behavior of many ordinary Japanese citizens: racism towards the Chinese and Koreans is on the increase. Often it is propelled by a frustration that accompanies defeat; sometimes it comes from shame.

*****

The present is intertwined with history and its interpretation.

In Nagasaki, I discussed once again the complex intricacies related to Japan’s past, with the legendary Australian historian Geoff Gunn.

Japan never really took full responsibility for the tremendous pain it caused several Asian countries, but particularly China, where around 35 million people vanished during the brutal, genocidal occupation.

It is also silent about its role during the Korean War, and the crimes committed by its corporations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

However, it portrays itself as a victim, because of the atomic bombs that destroyed two of its cities – Hiroshima and Nagasaki – at the end of WWII, and because of the annexation of several of its islands by the Soviet Union.

Of course, the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities by the US Air Force (or the fire bombing of Tokyo) was not meant to be a ‘punishment’ for the monstrous crimes Japan committed in China or Korea.  It was simply a thinly disguised experiment on human beings, as well as an aggressive message and warning to the Soviet Union.

In Japan, everything is taken out of historic context. Collective memory is hazy. The occupation of several Asian and South Pacific countries, the alliance with the European fascist powers, WWII itself, the US occupation and consequent collaboration, Japan’s profiteering during the Korean War, as well as the constant siding with the imperialist policies of the West: it all has been covered by a comforting and softening duvet; by cozy make-believe pseudo reality.

While the horrendous US military and air force bases located in Okinawa and Honshu have been intimidating both China and North Korea, Japan has been distributing, hypocritically, all over the world its multi-lingual columns with “May Peace Prevail On Earth” signs, trying to feel good, and congratulating itself for its “peaceful constitution” (composed by the US after the War).

In 2016, Shinzo Abe’s close ally, Barak Obama, visited the Peace Park in Hiroshima City. He did not apologize to the victims of the nuclear blast. Instead, he posed with two traditional Japanese paper cranes, the local symbols of peace, and he spoke about the suffering of people during the wars. He wrote a message to promote the abolition of nuclear weapons, and then signed the book, putting the paper crane next to his signature.

How touching!

Servile Japanese media dutifully covered the event. Nobody died from laughter; nobody puked publicly, while recalling countless wars, deadly covert operations and coups as well as targeted killings that took place while Mr. Obama was the boss of his aggressive Empire.

A few months later, Mr. Abe visited Pearl Harbor. Like his US counterpart did in Hiroshima, he spoke about the suffering of the US servicemen based in Hawaii during the Japanese attack. He did not apologize, but he turned sentimental, even poetic.

At the end, almost everyone felt really well, at least those living in Japan and the West. Others do not matter too much, anyway!

*****

Now the old script is quickly becoming obsolete. The new director is facing the stage, shouting at the actors, hitting seats with his cane, insulting protégés of his predecessors.

Japan is terrified. It likes continuity and certainty. It plays by the rules, the older the better.

This is not looking good. It may not end well, not well at all.

China and Russia are rising, indignant and finally united. Several Asian countries are switching sides. President of the Philippines is calling Western leaders ‘sons-of-whores’. India, now the most populous country on Earth, has gritted its teeth and ‘just in case’ got itself one more chair, now sitting on two.

At least some in Japan are now (secretly and quietly) suspecting that all along they were betting on the totally wrong horse.

How can a samurai break all his allegiances without losing face? How can he save his ass, when his armor begins to burn? It is not easy; the etiquette of honor is extremely strict, even if honor consists, if stripped of its decorative layer, of brainlessness and sleaze.

One possible and very traditional escape is a ritual suicide. It seems that Japan’s leadership is committing exactly that: it is raising the banner abandoned on the battlefield by the previous warlord, it is trying to gather some scattered allies, and then lead them to the futile battle against the mightiest creature on Earth – the Dragon, and by association, against the dragon’s friend and comrade – the Bear.

It is all beginning to look like a kitschy martial art movie, or like a desperate set of irrational moves performed by a gambler before he reaches absolute bankruptcy.

All this could be, however, extremely deceiving, as Mr. Abe is actually not a fool. He is playing a very high game and he may still have some chances of winning: if the new Lord, Mr. Trump, decides to exceed all previous rulers by his brutality and aggressiveness, and re-hire the old and well-tested samurai, Japan, for his deadly onslaught against humanity.

It is worth remembering that throughout Japan’s history, not all samurais were fighting for honor. Most of them were for hire.


Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary: novel Aurora and two bestselling works of political non-fiction: Exposing Lies Of The Empire and Fighting Against Western Imperialism.

January 27, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Malaysia: US Loses Another Key Ally in Asia Pacific Region

By Alex GORKA | Strategic Culture Foundation | 07.11.2016

Malaysia is another old time America’s ally to shift away from the US orbit following the Philippines. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited China on October 31-November 6 to sign 14 agreements totaling 143.64 billion ringgit ($34.25 billion), including a defence deal.  Malaysia agreed to buy four Chinese littoral combat ships. Two will be built in China and two in Malaysia.

The rapprochement has taken place despite the differences over the South China Sea territorial disputes. During the visit, both countries pledged closer cooperation to handle the problem bilaterally to counter US influence in the region.

Najib Razak said Malaysia welcomed the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank which marks a turning point «of peaceful dialogue, not foreign intervention, in sovereign states». Global institutions needed to be inclusive of «countries that were given no say in the legal and security infrastructure that was set up by the victors of the Second World War», he noted.

China has increasingly invested in Malaysia and is implementing major infrastructure and other projects in the country. Chinese companies are widely expected to win a planned $15bn high-speed rail project linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore – a new rail line on Malaysia’s east coast. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in jeopardy, the US seems to have little leverage over Malaysian foreign policy.

The trip marks another potential setback for US Asia «pivot» policy. The event took place against the background of worsening relations between the US and the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made statements about his intent to break the military alliance with the United States and shift to the partnership with China and Russia. He had visited Beijing to defy America just two weeks before Mr. Razak’s trip.

Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia politics analyst, said, «This is the new regional norm. Now China is implementing the power and the US is in retreat», adding Washington’s Asia «pivot» was «dead in the water».

Russia-Malaysia relations are also on the rise. In 2017 the two countries will mark the 50th anniversary since the diplomatic ties were established in 1967.

In May, the Malaysian PM visited Sochi, Russia, leading a delegation to the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit. Back then, Russian President Vladimir Putin said,  «We will be pleased to develop relations in the humanitarian sphere, in the economy, investments and of course in the military sphere, or in the sphere of military-technical cooperation».

The Russia-produced Sukhoi Su-30MKM is the most advanced fighter in the inventory of the Royal Malaysian Air Force.  The contract to deliver 18 jets was signed in 2003 during the Russian president’s official visit to Malaysia. The purchase of Su-34 and Su-35 Russian jets is on the agenda.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishamuddin Hussein believes  his country should «look to the future, to a new era of military-technical cooperation with Russia». Russia took part in the 15th Defense Services Asia Exhibition and Conference on April 18-21, 2016, in Kuala Lumpur to demonstrate the Mi-171Sh helicopter, the T-90MS tank, the BTR-82A armored vehicle, and the Pantsir-S1 air defense system.

Malaysia will explore the possibility of signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

There are other facts to prove the fact that the US loses its clout in the Asia Pacific region. Japanese banks and development institutions may offer loans to Russian regional banks. Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko told TASS in an interview.

It was also reported that the government-backed Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) will provide about 4 billion yen ($38.5 million) in financing to Sberbank of Russia, in open defiance of Western sanctions. The US and the European Union have effectively banned lending to certain Russian companies and financial institutions, including Sberbank, as part of sanctions imposed on Russia in 2014. The announcement comes before the President Putin’s visit to Japan in December.

The JBIC also plans to make investments into the Yamal LNG gas project. The JBIC is likely to set up a special fund to invest in Russian projects together with the Russian Direct Investment Fund.

The economic cooperation with Russia definitely threatens the Group of Seven’s united front on sanctions. The move will most certainly provoke Washington’s anger but Tokyo finds the development of ties with Russia important enough to risk it. The US influence in the region is not strong enough to prevent Japan from pursuing its national interests.

With the Philippines and Malaysia shifting away from US orbit, Washington is finding itself with increasingly fewer allies in the region. The Asia Pacific «pivot» appears to be another foreign policy failure in addition to the Middle Eastern debacle. In addition, the US faces a major setback as Europe rejects the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

America is a global power in retreat. A new US president will have to face this reality. The events in the Asia Pacific region provide a good example to support this obvious fact. In a very short period of time the US has lost two major allies in the region. Japan defies the anti-Russia sanctions regime. The American century seems to be fading away as other poles of power emerge on the world map.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching Tokyo Independence: Rodrigo Duterte Goes to Japan

Katehon – 25.10.2016

October 25th is the start of a three-day visit to Japan by the President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte. During his visit, Duterte will meet with Japanese Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The leaders plan to discuss a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation.

The weakening of the US in the region

Duterte’s visit to Japan comes just after a similar trip of the Philippines leader to China. This fits in with a recent trend characterized by the considerable weakening of the position of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s diplomatic goal is to bring together the US’s traditional allies into their sphere of influence. To this, success can be attributed to the warming relations between Beijing and Bangkok, as well as the recent breakthrough in the negotiations between Rodrigo Duterte and Xi Jinping.

Setting an example

The Philippine leader’s position and his actions in the international arena should be an example for a more powerful neighbor – Japan. In spite of its economic development, Tokyo is very much under the influence of Washington and unable to pursue an independent policy, while Rodrigo Duterte with his actions is guided solely by national interests.

Eurasian direction of Duterte

After the trip to Japan, Rodrigo Duterte is planning to go to Moscow. Thus we can clearly see his geopolitical course. Faced with all the leading leaders in the region ignoring Washington, Duterte declares himself as a consistent supporter of a multi-polar approach. The fact that such can be the situation with a country that isn’t very powerful, without nuclear weapons or huge economic potential, says that the US can not cope any longer with its function as a global leader.

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | 1 Comment