Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Arrogant Abe

"Tokyo voters’ rebuke signals doubt about Abe’s future" by Motoko Rich New York Times  July 03, 2017

TOKYO — As recently as this spring, Shinzo Abe looked as if he was on track to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, no small feat in a country where the leadership sometimes seems to be equipped with a revolving door.

But a local election in Tokyo has put Abe’s longevity in doubt. Voters for the capital’s metropolitan assembly on Sunday resoundingly rejected candidates from Abe’s party, the Liberal Democrats, while electing all but one of 50 fielded by an upstart party founded by Tokyo’s popular governor, Yuriko Koike.

The victory for Tomin First, the party Koike established in January, was widely seen as a referendum on Abe as much as a vote of confidence in Koike.

For several months, Abe, in office since 2012, has been dogged by influence-peddling scandals and bumbling by some members of his Cabinet. He has also drawn criticism for pushing through a vote on an anti-conspiracy bill that many said he had not sufficiently explained. As the prime minister campaigned for his party in Tokyo last Friday, a scrum of protesters shouted, “Abe, resign!”

In brief comments on Monday, Abe appeared contrite, calling the Tokyo results, in which his party captured less than a fifth of the 127 assembly seats, a “very severe judgment” on his administration. “This is the biggest crisis and the first major setback for Abe,” said Atsuo Ito, a political analyst in Tokyo.

Until recently, Abe and his party behaved with an air of invincibility, shored up by their two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament. But frustration with Abe has grown.

He has repeatedly denied involvement in two corruption scandals, in which his administration is accused of giving preferential treatment to schools operated by allies of Abe, and he has shielded his defense minister, Tomomi Inada, from criticism of her competence.

Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science, said Abe’s “arrogant attitude” had “made people quite anxious.”

If Abe’s support has been strong in recent years, it may have been in part because voters saw few alternatives. Nationally, the public is wary of the leading opposition, the Democratic Party, which is seen as having failed to deliver during more than three years in power before Abe. Meaning

Fukushima happened under their watch.

Koike’s new party provided a fresh option.

“I just couldn’t vote for them,” said Kayo Mochizuki, 60, of the Liberal Democrats. Mochizuki, who voted for a Tomin First candidate, suggested problems like Abe’s were “what happens if someone keeps power for a long time.”

According to exit polls by NHK, 43 percent of voters in the Tokyo election supported Abe’s Cabinet, versus 60 percent in the spring.


Another arrogant leader:

"After angering China, Trump talks with its leader about North Korea" by Javier C. Hernández New York Times  July 03, 2017

This guy has their head on a swivel!

BEIJING — Vexed by China’s response to North Korean nuclear belligerence, President Trump angered the Chinese in recent days with actions on Taiwan, trafficking, trade, and their claims on South China Sea islands. But he and his Chinese counterpart still spoke on Monday about North Korea.

Trump made the phone call to President Xi Jinping of China, appealing for more help to restrain what he called the “growing threat” posed by North Korea, a White House spokesman said. Xi’s willingness to take the call appeared to suggest he was not ready to escalate tension with the United States over the North.

The call came a day after a US naval destroyer cruised near disputed territory claimed by the Chinese in the South China Sea.

The action taken by the warship, the USS Stethem, off Triton Island in the Paracel Islands prompted a furious response from the Chinese government, which called it a “serious political and military provocation.”

Last week the Trump administration imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank, accusing it of acting as a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity.

The White House also suggested it would act against imported Chinese steel. And Washington took additional steps seen as affronts to the Chinese government, calling China one of the worst human trafficking offenders and selling $1.4 billion in weapons to Taiwan, which China regards as its territory.

The US destroyer’s cruise near Triton Island appeared to be especially grating to China. It was only the second time since Trump took office in January that a US warship had ignored China’s claims in the South China Sea. On May 24, another guided missile destroyer, the USS Dewey, traversed Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.

“The Chinese side strongly urges the US side to immediately stop such kind of provocative operations that violate China’s sovereignty and threaten China’s security,” said Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry. “The Chinese side will continue to take all necessary means to defend national sovereignty and security.”

Trump’s phone call with Xi came less than a week before world leaders were set to converge in Germany for the Group of 20 summit meeting, which starts Friday. The North’s behavior continues to dominate diplomatic talks, and analysts have warned of the possibility of another nuclear test.

Trump also spoke Monday with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan about North Korea. They highlighted “their unity with respect to increasing pressure on the regime to change its dangerous path,” the administration said.

And the Israeli connection to all this? 

The North Koreans are strong supporters of Palestinians at the U.N., and it is the only nation to stick by Iran during the decades of sanctions.

For months Trump based his North Korea strategy on the hope that China, the North’s chief ally and trading partner, could persuade it to abandon nuclear weapons. But Trump acknowledged recently that those efforts had failed.

Trump also raised trade issues with Xi on the Monday phone call, the White House said, a sign that he may become more vocal on economic matters as he seeks concessions from China on North Korea.

He really has some chutzpah.

During the call, Xi said the relationship between the two countries had shown progress but was also affected by “negative factors,” according to Xinhua, the state-run news agency. He urged the United States to handle Taiwan in accordance with the “One China” policy.

Under that policy, which has been in place since 1972, the United States recognized a single Chinese government in Beijing and severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

In response, Trump reiterated his pledge to uphold the One China policy, Xinhua reported.

In a separate development Monday, the United States and Russia worked to restore a key diplomatic channel between the two clashing nations, days before Trump planned to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, under immense scrutiny in the United States over his contacts with Trump campaign associates, met in Washington with Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon for a meeting that focused partly on preparations for the highly anticipated presidential tete-a-tete.

Trump and Putin are to sit down on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit taking place Friday and Saturday in Germany. Yet Shannon and Kislyak also used their meeting to discuss the possibility of a new meeting between Shannon and Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergey Ryabkov.


Is there a war with China looming on the horizon?


"Suspect in Chinese student’s disappearance held without bail" Associated Press  July 04, 2017

CHICAGO — Hundreds of people gathered outside a federal courthouse Monday as the suspect in the kidnapping of a Chinese scholar at the University of Illinois made his first court appearance since he was arrested last week.

During the nine-minute hearing, 28-year-old Brendt Christensen did not speak other than to acknowledge to the federal judge that he understood his rights.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette reported that about 45 people attended the hearing Monday morning, with another crowd in the courthouse lobby and yet more people across the street, many chanting ‘‘Justice for Yingying.’’


Maybe that will appease them.

N. Korea says ‘intercontinental’ missile launched

That's where it will start, and US defenses have already gone on alert:

"US nuclear inspection results now concealed" by Robert Burns Associated Press  July 04, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has thrown a cloak of secrecy over assessments of the safety and security of its nuclear weapons operations, a part of the military with a history of periodic inspection failures and bouts of low morale.

Overall results of routine inspections at nuclear weapons bases, such as a ‘‘pass-fail’’ grade, had previously been publicly available. They are now off-limits. The stated reason for the change is to prevent adversaries from learning too much about US nuclear weapons vulnerabilities.

Let's just all pray they feel that way about their use.

Critics question the lockdown of information.

‘‘The whole thing smells bad,’’ said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy specialist with the Federation of American Scientists. ‘‘I think the new policy fails to distinguish between protecting valid secrets and shielding incompetence. Clearly, nuclear weapons technology secrets should be protected. But negligence or misconduct in handling nuclear weapons should not be insulated from public accountability.’’

The decision to conceal results from inspections of how nuclear weapons are operated, maintained and guarded follows a secret recommendation generated by in-depth Pentagon reviews of problems with the weapons, workers and facilities making up the nation’s nuclear force.....