rick rozoff for apr 17/18

China reacts after US and Japan challenge it in five regions and Washington pledges to defend Japan with nuclear weapons
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 17 2021

Yesterday, Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met at the White House to hold a joint press conference reaffirming and expanding bilateral relations between the two nations. A statement was released after the press event which has raised the ire of China. Both the press conference and the statement addressed a multitude of issues from economic to security to environmental to cyber concerns, but what caught the attention of many, especially Chinese, observers is this sentence:

The US restated its unwavering support for Japan’s defense under the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear.

The treaty marks its seventieth anniversary this year, first having been signed during the height of the Cold War, as the war in Korea raged, in 1951. The statement, titled US-Japan Global Partnership for a New Era, also reaffirmed the two nations’ understanding that Article 5 of that pact would apply to China and Japan’s dispute over what Japan and the US refer to as the Senkaku Islands, but China knows as the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea:

Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.

Japan is also embroiled in a dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands, which Japan, and occasionally the US State Dept, refer to as Japan’s Northern Territories. The two leaders pledged to intensify military cooperation “across all domains, including cyber and space, and to bolster extended deterrence.” At yesterday’s press conference, Biden said:

Prime Minister Suga and I affirmed our ironclad support for US/Japanese Alliance, and for our shared security. We [are] committed to working together to take on the challenges from China and issues like the East China Sea, the South China Sea, as well as North Korea.

Suga spoke in the same vein:

We also had serious talks on China’s influence over the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific and the world at large. We agreed to oppose any attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China Seas and intimidation of others in the region.

In all, the two heads of state criticized China for its behavior in and toward five regions: the East China Sea, the South China Sea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Xinjiang. China considers the last three as its territory as it does the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Yesterday is the first time since 1969 that US and Japanese leaders have jointly criticized China over Taiwan. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington said that Biden’s and Suga’s statements went “far beyond the scope of normal development of bilateral relations.” The Chinese government-supported Global Times today spoke even more bluntly to the issue in an unsigned editorial:

Has Japan forgotten how many times it inflicted devastation on China? Has China ever truly harmed Japan and can Japan cite an example? The tiny Diaoyu Islands are just a territorial dispute between China and Japan, and in Asia there are many similar disputes. But Japan takes the dispute as a strategic level issue and hypes it up every day. What’s the point of it? The US-Japan alliance could evolve into an axis that can bring fatal disruption to Asia-Pacific peace, just like the Germany-Italy-Japan axis alliance before and during WW2. The core intention of the US is to maintain its hegemony and contain China’s development through violating international laws and rules. The arbitrary act of the US could eventually end the peace in Asia-Pacific. And Japan is positioning itself as the top Asian accomplice of the US’ vicious policy.

The editorial mentioned the use of what is now the official byword of the US and its allies around the world, especially NATO, namely “the rules-based international order,” saying that interstate relations should be governed by norms established by the UN “rather than those defined by the US and Japan.” It also returned to the WW2 analogy, reminding Japan that it should be more careful in building military alliances with powers outside the region after its ill-fated experience with the Germany-Italy-Japan Tripartite Pact of eighty years ago. The newly-installed Biden administration has the dangerous distinction of being the first since that of Lyndon Johnson to pursue Cold War-style confrontation toward China and Russia at the same time.

NATO nations train, arm Ukrainian military for war with Russia
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 17 2021

As the Ukrainian government and pro-government press is busily and dutifully terrorizing the domestic populace, and equally attempting to stampede the Western public into a “humanitarian intervention” moral panic, with headlines like “Over 103k Russian troops currently stationed near border with Ukraine” and “Russia deploys attack aircraft in occupied Crimea,” it is also reporting on assistance from NATO nations in preparation for an armed conflict with Russia. Yesterday NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu tweeted in response to Russia’s announcement it will bar US and NATO warships from parts of the Black Sea near its coast, including American anti-ballistic missile destroyers which have established permanent residence there. To repeat, near Russia’s own coast. American guided-missile destroyers near Russia’s coast. Without any pretense of balance or restraint, she wrote:

We are concerned by reports that Russia plans to restrict access to parts of the Black Sea and the Kerch Strait. This would be an unjustified move, and part of a broader pattern of destabilising behaviour by Russia. We call on Russia to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of ​​Azov, and allow freedom of navigation.

The Kerch Strait connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov. With Crimea part of Russia again, the land on either side of the strait is Russian territory. As the land on both sides of the Dardanelles and Bosporus is Turkish. Russia has said nothing about preventing Ukrainian vessels from entering and leaving the Sea of Azov. Instead it announced that it would temporarily bar vessels from part of its coast near the Kerch Strait while it conducted exercises nearby. As though Lungescu had not already made her tendentious and bellicose sentiments sufficiently obvious, she added this:

We call on Russia to de-escalate immediately, stop its pattern of provocations, and respect its international commitments. NATO Allies do not and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea. We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

As to Russia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, Washington and NATO for some fifteen years have respected them by turning the Black Sea into a training ground for naval warfare with almost constant exercises and port visits to all the Black Sea littoral nations but Russia: Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine. So far this year the US has dispatched three anti-missile destroyers and a cruiser to the sea, often two at a time. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba recently boasted that “Western partners,” NATO member states will provide his nation’s armed forces with military equipment, especially weapons, in the event Russia “mounts a further, full-scale military invasion,” he pointed out. It is not at all clear which previous full-scale military invasion or invasions his comments imply. In words that could have come from a movie version of Hector at Troy or David Crockett at the Alamo, Kuleba stated:

If, God forbid, active, large-scale hostilities resume, we will be provided with specific, substantive military equipment assistance by a number of our partners, which will significantly strengthen Ukraine’s defense capability and help us repel the aggressor’s offensive.

We have not yet begun to fight. Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes. The shot heard around the world. Couldn’t his American partners have provided him with rhetoric better than “repel the aggressor’s offensive”? On the American theme, he also urged Ukrainians not to trust and further circulate rumors that “an American brigade would come to fight.” That, he claimed, was Russian propaganda. A variant of “hybrid warfare” or exercising “malign influence” surely. Ukraine’s defense minister, Andriy Taran, recently met with British ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons and afterward said that the British military will continue to train Ukrainian armed forces “as part of the ongoing mission in support of the country in the face of Russian aggression.” The British training program, Operation Orbital, has trained over 17.5k Ukrainian service members since its inception in 2015. Last year British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the training mission would be extended until 2023. It is explicitly designed to transform the Ukrainian military in order to meet NATO standards, to be a NATO proxy army on Russia’s western border. If a war between Ukraine and Russia should ensue, NATO has already identified itself as a belligerent in the conflict.

Syria condemns US and NATO military drive to Russia’s border as threat to world peace
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 18 2021

To quote SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency):

Syria has condemned the US’s and NATO’s step of dispatching more military forces towards Russian borders which would pose a threat to international peace and security. An official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry told SANA on Sunday that the US’s step of escalation comes as a reflection of blatant US intervention in the affairs of other countries, in addition to imposing coercive measures on them in an attempt to subjugate these countries to US policies and to continue its hegemony over the world. The source added that the Syrian Arab Republic rejects the US method of international relations, and expresses its full solidarity with friendly Russia and all procedures it takes to preserve its national security and protect peace and stability in the region and the world in light of the threats that surround it as a result of reckless US policies.

Confronting Russia in the High North: Pentagon acquires four new air, naval bases in Norway
Rick Rozoff, AntiBellum, Apr 18 2021

The US and Norway have signed an updated military cooperation agreement that permits the American military to construct new facilities at three Norwegian airfields and a naval base. Stars and Stripes reported that the move “comes amid continuing concerns of Russian military activities along NATO’s borders, including in the Arctic region.” The locations marked for US military deployments are the Evenes Military Air Station, Rygge Military Air Station, Sola Military Air Station and Ramsund Naval Station. The Evenes and Ramsund bases are in the Arctic. In the words of Norwegian Foreign Minister (before that defense minister) Ine Eriksen Soreide, the new agreement, which provides the Pentagon unimpeded access to the bases, “confirms Norway’s key position on the northern flank of NATO.” This announcement comes less than two years after the US began upgrading a radar station at Vardø in northern Norway with a Globus-III system. Vardø is less than 40 miles from Russia’s Kola Peninsula, which contains several Arctic naval bases hosting nuclear submarines attached to the strategic Northern Fleet. American military presence in the Scandinavian nation, though not fully acknowledged until recent years, has been extensive. At the beginning of the Cold War US Marine Corps took over a cave complex near Bodø, in the Trondheim region of central Norway (the exact location not disclosed) which contained eight air-conditioned caves where Marines were stationed. A 2018 Marine Corps report on the complex was titled “US Marines store equipment in secret caves in preparation for war with Russia.” In the same year the Marine Corps inaugurated a second training base in the Troms region, closer to Russia. The Marines at the first location were redeployed last year and now return on a rotational basis. Last month a formerly nuclear-capable B-1 supersonic bomber landed at the Bodø Air Station, the first landing of its kind within the Arctic Circle. The Barents Times said this about the location of the event:

Bodø Air Base just north of the Arctic Circle is home to Norway’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets, including NATO’s northernmost aircraft prepared for alert-scramble to meet Russian military planes flying out from the Kola Peninsula.

For the first fifty years of its existence, NATO only had Norway’s 125-mile border with Russia as its direct battle line with the latter nation. Norway is again assuming special significance in NATO’s plans to contain and confront its 72-year adversary.

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