Monday, February 20, 2017

Is WWIII imminent? Speculations.

China. South China Sea. An unhinged Trump, thin-skinned and impulsive. Recipe for another World War?

The first article with a short clip suggests that there are similarities. Whether those similarities are superficial or essential, remains to be seen. The hope seems to be that while the problems and the situations are the same, how the world now answers the questions posed by those problems are intended to avoid war.

But then again, there is Trump, who seems eager to prove that he does not follow (or know) the rules.

So are we heading for an inevitable World War III?

Troubling parallels between pre-WWII and today's world: Analysts 

The rise of nationalistic sentiments and tensions over refugees point to disturbing similarities with the 1930s. Insight asks, are we headed for another global conflict?
By Jade Han
18 Feb 2017

SINGAPORE: With the refugee crises in Europe and Southeast Asia, and middle-class wages stagnating in the West, observers are warning of parallels between the global political and socioeconomic climate of the present, and that of the 1930s – just before the onset of World War II.

A significant driving factor that led to World War II was the impact of the Great Depression on the middle class communities in the West, said Dr Benjamin Schupmann, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale-NUS College.

Coupled with the influx of migrant Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia, this created the basis for the instability, fear and exclusion in Western countries that contributed to the outbreak of the world war.

“With these displaced populations, you have the inhabitants seeing them as different, worrying at the same time about their socioeconomic status as their wages are dropping, and immigrants seem to be rising within the ranks of society,” said Dr Schupmann.

“So, if you need someone to blame, why not blame the new guy?”

Today, similar trends are leading to similar fears – and the similarly troubling rise of political figures championing nationalist and isolationist sentiments, analysts note on this week’s episode of Insight, ‘Lessons of War’.

“The way Hitler rose to power, he appealed to the lower middle classes. They felt that because they had seen a lot of their savings evaporate through hyperinflation, the system wasn’t looking out for them,” said Richard Bitzinger, coordinator of the Military Transformations Programme at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“I think this is the same thing Trump has done.”

United States President Donald Trump has made several controversial moves since taking office in January, including pulling America out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and carrying out extreme vetting of immigrants – all under a broad nationalistic agenda to put “America First”.

Nationalistic sentiments are resurgent elsewhere as well. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s push to make Russia “great again” has led to military adventurism, such as through Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, noted Mr Bitzinger.

Meanwhile, China’s increasingly aggressive attempts to assert sovereignty over the South China Sea has led to tensions with its neighbours – and could be a potential flashpoint for a major conflict, Mr Bitzinger warned.

“Increasingly, you have countries that are governing from a sense of fear and from the perspective of being the loser,” he said. “If everybody feels they are the victim, nobody wants to make concessions.”

But Dr Schupmann noted that while parallels between the present and the pre-war era exist, international institutions like the European Union are now in place and still considered legitimate by citizens around the world – in contrast to the situation pre-1940s.

These institutions are important for moderating different nations in dialogue and offering alternate paths for conflict resolution, he added.

Said Mr Bitzinger: “We are still dealing today with the same issues we dealt with 20, 30, 50 years ago.

“It’s how we deal with them, and the kind of people we have in charge of dealing with them, that will determine war or peace.”

[Ah. But Trump is in charge. As is Putin. 

Trump's Sec of State has questioned the legitimacy of China's activities in the South China Sea and China does not like it. The US has persisted in its patrols to underline the Freedom of Navigation in International waters, and this has caused China some unhappiness and they felt the need to issue warnings.]

U.S. carrier group patrols in tense South China Sea
February 19, 2017

BANGKOK - A United States aircraft carrier strike group has begun patrols in the South China Sea amid growing tension with China over control of the disputed waterway and concerns it could become a flashpoint under the new U.S. administration.

China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

The U.S. navy said the force, including Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, began routine operations in the South China Sea on Saturday. The announcement was posted on the Vinson's Facebook page.

The strike group's commander, Rear Admiral James Kilby, said that weeks of training in the Pacific had improved the group's effectiveness and readiness.

"We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," he was quoted as saying by the Navy News Service.

Friction between the United States and China over trade and territory under U.S. President Donald Trump have increased concerns that the South China Sea could become a flashpoint.

China wrapped up its own naval exercises in the South China Sea on Friday. War games involving its own aircraft carrier have unnerved neighbors with which it has long-running territorial disputes.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

The United States has criticized Beijing's construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement. 


China warns U.S. against fresh naval patrols in South China Sea 

February 15, 2017

BEIJING - China's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday warned Washington against challenging its sovereignty, responding to reports the United States was planning fresh naval patrols in the disputed South China Sea.

On Sunday, the Navy Times reported that U.S. Navy and Pacific Command leaders were considering freedom of navigation patrols in the busy waterway by the San Diego-based Carl Vinson carrier strike group, citing unnamed defense officials.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said tension in the South China Sea had stabilized due to the hard work between China and Southeast Asia countries, and urged foreign nations including the U.S. to respect this.

"We urge the U.S. not to take any actions that challenge China's sovereignty and security," Geng told a regular news briefing on Wednesday.

The United States last conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the area in October, when it sailed the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur near the Paracel Islands and within waters claimed by China.

Dave Bennett, a spokesman for Carrier Strike Group One, said it did not discuss future operations of its units.

"The Carl Vinson Strike Group is on a regularly scheduled Western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of the U.S. 3rd Fleet," he said.

"U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike groups have patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific regularly and routinely for more than 70 years," he said.

China lays claim to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of trade passes each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds, along with oil and gas deposits.

The United States has criticized Beijing's construction of man-made islands and build-up of military facilities in the sea, and expressed concern they could be used to restrict free movement. 


[The truth is China doesn't want war. It has more important things to worry about, but at the same time, it cannot lose face, and President Xi cannot be seen as weak or he would lose power.]

China says United States should 'brush up on' South China Sea history

February 8, 2017

BEIJING - The United States needs to brush up on its history about the South China Sea, as World War Two-related agreements mandated that all Chinese territories taken by Japan had to be returned to China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Australia.

China has been upset by previous comments from the new U.S. administration about the disputed waterway.

In his Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China should not be allowed access to islands it has built there. The White House also vowed to defend "international territories" in the strategic waterway.

However, last week U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested that diplomacy should be the priority in the South China Sea.

In comments carried on the foreign ministry's website late on Tuesday, Wang said he had a "suggestion" for this American friends. "Brush up on the history of World War Two," Wang was quoted as saying during a visit to Canberra, Australia.

The 1943 Cairo Declaration and 1945 Potsdam Declaration clearly state that Japan had to return to China all Chinese territory taken by Japan, Wang said.
"This includes the Nansha Islands," he added, using China's name for the Spratly Islands.

"In 1946, the then-Chinese government with help from the United States openly and in accordance with the law took back the Nansha Islands and reefs that Japan had occupied, and resumed exercising sovereignty," Wang said.

"Afterwards, certain countries around China used illegal methods to occupy some of the Nansha islands and reefs, and it's this that created the so-called South China Sea dispute."

China is committed to having talks with the parties directly involved, and in accordance with historical facts and international law to peacefully resolve the issue, and that position will not change, Wang said.

Countries outside the region should support the efforts of China and others in the region to maintain the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and not do the opposite, he added.

China sets great store on Mattis' comments stressing diplomatic efforts in the South China Sea, as this is not only the position set by China and Southeast Asia but also the "correct choice" for countries outside the region, Wang said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, while Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei claim parts of the waters that command strategic sea lanes and have rich fishing grounds along with oil and gas deposits. 


[But if war comes, China would of course want to be in a position of strength and advantage, and not hobbled by US defences.]

China says understands South Korean need for security, still opposes missiles

February 19, 2017

BEIJING - China understands South Korea's need to protect its security but Seoul still needs to respect Beijing's concerns about the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his South Korean counterpart.

China has repeatedly expressed opposition to South Korea's planned deployment later this year of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which Seoul and Washington say is needed to defend against North Korea.

China worries the system's powerful radar can penetrate its territory and it has objected to the deployment.

Meeting on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Wang repeated to South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se China's opposition to THAAD, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Wang "stressed that one country's security should not be founded on the basis of harming another country's security", the ministry paraphrased him as saying.

"China understands South Korea's need to protect its own security, and at the same time South Korea should respect China's reasonable position," Wang added.

Yun Fu Ying, chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee in the Chinese National People's Congress, told a panel discussion at the Munich conference that China could not understand Washington's decision to deploy the system to South Korea.

"It is like being stabbed by your friends," she said, adding the system would not increase South Korea's security anyway.

But Yun Byung-se told the panel the system was needed to augment Seoul's existing Patriot missile defense system and guard against the kind of high-arc shot used by North Korea in its last test.

"What we need is multiple layers of defense ... THAAD is really relevant," he said. "We don't pose any threat to China."

Yun Byung-se said North Korea launched two nuclear tests and 24 missiles last year alone and was nearing the final stage of nuclear weaponization.

"In our analysis, the tipping point may be only a few years away," he told conference participants. "It's a ticking time bomb."

Wang told Yun Byung-se that efforts to seek peace with North Korea should not be abandoned, the ministry said.

"All parties, at the same time as strictly enforcing (U.N.) Security Council resolutions, should proactively look for break through points to resume negotiations, to break the negative cycle of the nuclear issue on the peninsula," Wang said.

North and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-1953 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and the South's main ally, the United States.

Earlier this month, North Korea tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile, its first direct challenge to the international community since U.S. President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.

China says it is committed to enforcing U.N. sanctions against its unpredictable neighbor, whose nuclear and missile tests have angered Beijing.

China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea starting Feb. 19, the country's commerce ministry said on Saturday, as part of its efforts to implement United Nations sanctions against the country.


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