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Showing posts from December 19, 2013

China vs US 'Sea-to-shining-sea'

By Pepe Escobar

December 18, 2013 - It happened now and it will happen again: a near-collision between an American and a Chinese naval vessel in the South China Sea.

The USS Cowpens, a 10,000-ton guided-missile cruiser, got "too close" to a drill involving the Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, and its carrier task force, according to the Global Times.

The US Pacific Fleet stressed that the cruiser had to take emergency measures to avoid a collision. Yet the Global Times accused the cruiser of "harassing" the Liaoning formation by taking "offensive actions".

The paper spelt it loudly; "If the American navy and air force always encroach near China's doorstep, confrontation is bound to take place."

Finally, China's Defense Ministry intervened to clarify that the vessels had "met" each other in the South China Sea but the worst was avoided via "effective and normal communication".

Communication had better be d…

What to Expect From Germany's New Coalition

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the ceremony for the formation of a new coalition government in Berlin on Dec. 16 (Carsten Koall/Getty Images)


Germany's new coalition government -- consisting of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union party, its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, and the center-left Social Democratic Party -- officially took power on Dec. 17 after the German parliament voted to confirm Merkel's third chancellorship. There were two surprises among a host of familiar faces in the revamped 16-member Cabinet: Christian Democrat Ursula von der Leyen as defense minister and Social Democrat Joerg Asmussen as deputy labor minister (he will need to leave the European Central Bank's Executive Board). Christian Democrat Wolfgang Schauble will retain his post as finance minister. The Social Democrats' most prominent appointments will be Frank-Walter Steinmeier as foreign minister and Sigmar Gab…

In South Sudan, Tribal Frictions Persist

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit (C) is surrounded by his security detail during a rally in South Sudan's Unity state April 8, 2010. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images)


A firefight that broke out late Dec. 15 in the South Sudanese capital of Juba does not appear to have been an attempted coup, as some news organizations have reported. Rather, the incident -- in which presidential guard members with different tribal backgrounds fought at their barracks in the capital -- highlights the persisting tribal frictions in South Sudan. These tribal frictions take a central role in the political competition between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former Vice President Riek Machar, who come from different tribes, as they prepare to compete for the presidency in the 2015 election. Moreover, the incident is unlikely to affect the flow of oil from South Sudan through Sudan. Even if there were a change in government in Juba, the new government would face the same economic cons…

North Korea: Raising Tensions Before Seeking Negotiations

A North Korean soldier stands guard on the Yalu River on the Chinese border Dec. 17. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)


South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin said Dec. 17 that North Korea could take provocative military steps between January and early March, a time when U.S. and South Korean forces carry out several annual military exercises. Kim said his warnings were based on an assessment of North Korea's internal political situation and previous behavior. Kim said a statement by a ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker that North Korea is preparing for nuclear and missile tests was not correct, however. The comments followed reports that North Korea had spread leaflets over a South Korean-controlled island along the western maritime Northern Limit Line, threatening that the island would be bombarded.

Following the execution of Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and formerly a key individual overseeing the transition of power from Kim Jong Il, numero…

In Nigeria, a Rising Opposition Alliance Challenges the Political Status Quo

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in New York on Sept. 23. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


As Nigeria moves toward a more fluent multiparty system, one opposition party now has the numbers to challenge the status of the long-ruling People's Democratic Party in elections. The All Progressives Congress on Dec. 16 called for Nigeria's National Assembly to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan for "gross misconduct." Jonathan quickly countered by threatening treason charges against the party.

Provided that it can hold together, the All Progressives Congress will have a significant impact on Nigeria's presidential election in April 2015. This means the People's Democratic Party can no longer take the election or its own leadership primaries for granted. Although the party has always had to balance various interests in order to gain enough votes to ensure it wins the presidency, its widespread support has historically enabled it to rotate leadership from zone…