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Showing posts from January, 2014

North Korea's 'peace offensive': How should South Korea respond?

For the second year in a row, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un made mention of improving inter-Korean relations in his New Year's Address. Pyongyang followed by proposing a three-pronged approach to easing tense inter-Korean relations.

The document released by the North's National Defence Commission (NDC) called for both Koreas to halt all mutual criticism and slander starting from the Lunar New Year on January 30. Additionally, the proposal called for halting all provocative military acts between the two sides and suggested that authorities in Seoul scrap the scheduled US-South Korea joint military exercises that take place annually between February and April. Contrary to past rhetoric, the NDC highlighted how the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula is a common goal, and suggested that practical measures be taken to avert a nuclear military conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul responded coldly to the proposal, prompting the NDC to publish an open letter to the pe…

Thai army deploys 10,000 troops ahead of vote

Thousands of army troops are being deployed in Bangkok ahead of Sunday's election which the opposition plans to disrupt.

The government has pressed ahead with the Feb. 2 election, which protesters say they'll disrupt [EPA]

Thailand's army says it will increase the number of troops in the capital on standby to 10,000 ahead of Sunday's election that anti-government protesters say they will disrupt as part of their campaign to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The government's decision to press ahead with the February 2 election has inflamed tensions in the capital, Bangkok, where the protesters have blockaded main intersections and forced many ministries to close their doors this month.

"In addition to the 5,000 soldiers we have already deployed in and around Bangkok to help monitor security, we will be increasing troops around protest sites as there are people trying to instigate violence," army spokesman Winthai Suvaree told Reuters news agency.


Central Asia's Troubled Waters: Resource Allocation Stokes Tensions

An undated file photo shows abandoned ships sitting on the sand, where the Aral Sea retreated, near the Kazakh city of Aralsk. AFP/VICTOR VASENIN/Getty Images


The decline of the Aral Sea over the past 50 years is one of the most dramatic examples of the consequences of water mismanagement. Although the Aral Sea is not likely to be restored to its former state, Kazakhstan's efforts over the past decade have gradually restored a small portion of the lake. Individually, Central Asian countries could incrementally improve water management, but regional cooperation, which is necessary for significant restoration of the Aral Sea, is unlikely, given historical tensions in the region regarding water rights. Growing populations and increasing demand will continue to intensify pressure on the region's already stressed water resources, causing the antipathy between neighboring nations to rise further.

The Aral Sea, once one of the four largest lakes in the world, is locat…

U.S. Naval Update Map: Jan. 30, 2014

The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups, based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance of the world's oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier, which projects U.S. naval and air power and supports a Carrier Air Wing, or CVW. The CSG includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked. An MEU is built around a heavily reinforced and mobile battalion of Marines.
Carrier Strike Groups
The USS Harry S. Truman CSG with CVW 3 embarked is underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility supporting maritime security operations and conducting theater security cooperation efforts.
The USS Carl Vinson with CVW 17 embarked is underway in the Pacific Ocean for a Tailored Ship's …

Unusual Social Unrest in Cuba

Fruit and vegetable vendors at a market in Havana in August 2013. (ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)


Two unusual instances of protests by private vendors in Cuba are a security concern for the island's leaders. The demonstrations likely occurred because Cuba began enforcing recently approved laws to regulate the island's nascent small businesses. The government cannot suppress these protests as easily as those instigated by political groups because the protesters seemingly do not have an organizational structure that authorities can simply infiltrate.

For now, it is unclear whether established political dissidents will be able to co-opt growing economic frustration. However, as the government continues to manage a complex campaign to slowly incorporate private economic activity into the economic system, there will continue to be pressure on the relationship between private entrepreneurs and the government. This natural tension will create further opportunities for publi…

Policing Urban Violence in Pakistan


Endemic violence in Pakistan’s urban centres signifies the challenges confronting the federal and provincial governments in restoring law and order and consolidating the state’s writ. The starkest example is Karachi, which experienced its deadliest year on record in 2013, with 2,700 casualties, mostly in targeted attacks, and possibly 40 per cent of businesses fleeing the city to avoid growing extortion rackets. However, all provincial capitals as well as the national capital suffer from similar problems and threats. A national rethink of overly militarised policy against crime and militancy is required. Islamabad and the four provincial governments need to develop a coherent policy framework, rooted in providing good governance and strengthening civilian law enforcement, to tackle criminality and the jihadi threat. Until then, criminal gangs and jihadi networks will continue to wreak havoc in the country’s big cities and put its stability and stil…

Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (III): The Limits of Darfur’s Peace Process


The violence in Darfur’s decade-old war spiked in 2013, as the mostly Arab militias initially armed by the government to contain the rebellion increasingly escaped Khartoum’s control and fought each other. Recent fighting has displaced nearly half a million additional civilians – in all 3.2 million Darfurians need humanitarian help. The Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) signed in Qatar in 2011 is largely unimplemented, notably because it was endorsed by factions with limited political and military influence, blocked by the government and suffered fading international support. The main insurgent groups remain active, have formed an alliance that goes beyond the region and increasingly assert a national agenda. If Darfur is to have durable peace, all parties to the country’s multiple conflicts, supported by the international community, need to develop a more coherent means of addressing, in parallel, both local conflicts and nationwide stresse…

TNI commander urges weapon upgrade for Indonesian marines

Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) commander General Moeldoko has described the weapon systems used by the Indonesian Marine Corps (Korps Marinir - KORMAR) as "obsolete" and is calling for their upgrade and modernisation.
Gen Moeldoko was addressing reporters at a handover ceremony of 37 amphibious infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) held at a KORMAR training facility in East Java on 27 January. Excluding the latest inductions, KORMAR is currently equipped with about 450 armoured fighting vehicles.
"We have to constantly modernise our weaponry and cannot persist in modifying old platforms," said Gen Moeldoko, who added that the corps was in the process of gradually decommissioning its PT-76 tanks. The service still field 50 of these, most dating back to 1954.

Also present at the ceremony was Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who said that the Russian government had agreed to sell two Kilo-class submarines with Klub-S cruise missiles to Jakarta. He said that Indones…

US agencies might lose drone bases in Afghanistan

© Photo:

According to New York Times report that was published this Monday, American intelligence agencies could loose drone bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan unless Afghan President Hamid Karzai signs a security deal with the US. The deal is very controversial as it can affect the US security interests with Pakistan, which is Afghanistan’s neighbor.

A special team was already organized by the Obama’s administration to try to help the officials in the negotiating process. The team is also supposed to find alternatives in case their mission fails.

American officials have prepared the agreement last year. However, the Afghan president has underlined certain set of rules that the American side has to agree to in order for him to sign an agreement. First and foremost, the President is urging military to stop drone raids at nights during which hundred of civilians were left died.

Due to that, the US President Barack Obama has promised to withdraw all American troops from the cou…

Hate the Super Rich?

By Joel S. Hirschhorn

- There are times when hatred is a needed, logical and moral stance to take. Evil, injustice and corruption are fine examples of what to appropriately hate. For the overwhelming majority of people it is now rational to hate the super rich, notably the thousands of billionaires holding most of the world’s wealth and wielding power over political and economic systems. They have been successfully raping the global economy and while doing that have kept increasing their wealth as well as economic inequality afflicting ordinary people. One dollar, one vote describes the new reality.

Before discussing some basic reasons to hate the super rich consider some facts about them.

How many billionaires are there? According to the inaugural Wealth-X and UBS Billionaire Census 2013, the global billionaire population reached a record 2,170 individuals in 2013, with a combined net worth of $6.5 trillion. What happened after the most recent global economic meltdown? Some 810 individu…

The Danger of War in Asia

By Peter Symonds

- An editorial in the Financial Times last week, entitled “End drift to war in the East China Sea,” highlighted the growing alarm in ruling circles about the prospect of a conflict between Japan and China. “The possibility of war,” it declared, “is rapidly emerging as one of the biggest security risks facing the world,” and the two governments “are doing nothing to make conflict less likely.”

The FT focussed on comments by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in which he explicitly drew the comparison between the current rivalry in East Asia and that between Britain and Germany prior to World War I. “For Japan’s prime minister to allow any comparison with 1914 in Europe is chilling and inflammatory,” it stated.

The immediate source of tensions is the territorial dispute over rocky outcrops in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. However, the chief responsibility for inflaming this dangerous f…

The European Union Slows Its Renewable Energy Push

EU commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard in Brussels on Jan. 22. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)


With the European Union battling a crippling economic crisis, Europe's high energy and electricity costs have become politically and financially untenable and have sapped support for costly, environmentally friendly policies in many member countries. Reflecting this situation, the European Commission in mid-January unveiled its new energy and environment strategy through 2030, which softened Brussels' longstanding push for the development of renewable energy sources while maintaining binding targets for carbon emissions. However, the impact of this particular EU policy change will be limited, particularly compared with the broader trends that govern energy markets in Europe.


Early drafts of the policy cited statistics showing that average industrial electricity prices in the European Union are more than double those in the United States, while industrial…

The Limits of Turkey's Interest Rate Hike

A Turkish man stands in front of a foreign exchange shop on Jan. 28 in Istanbul. (GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images)


With a dramatic hike in Turkey's overnight lending rate from 7.75 to 12.5 percent announced on Jan. 28, Turkish Central Bank Governor Erdem Basci followed through on his earlier promise to use interest rates as a weapon to defend Turkey's currency, the lira. While the hike is a bolder-than-expected move designed to jolt investor interest, Basci is still, in effect, using a sword to fight off a barrage of artillery as a wrenching political crisis continues to erode investor confidence.


Turkey has been desperately trying to stem the plunge of the lira, which has declined about 10 percent against the U.S. dollar over the past year. Like several other once-celebrated emerging economies, Turkey has seen a rapid outflow of short-term portfolio investment that Ankara had been heavily relying on to help cover its burgeoning current account deficit, totaling…

Côte d’Ivoire’s Great West: Key to Reconciliation


Western Côte d’Ivoire’s land, security and identity problems make this vast border territory the country’s most unstable area. Reconciliation has yet to begin there and communal tensions remain acute. Two administrative regions are especially problematic: Cavally and Guémon. Outside Abidjan, these are the two regions where the post-electoral crisis claimed the most victims and which saw the gravest violence. The Ivorian government’s preference for a security clamp-down there, rather than measures to address political and economic problems has done little to address instability, which could provide the spark that reignites the crisis. Since December, the government has taken some steps nationally to lower political tension and promote national reconciliation: these should be immediately extended to these two regions, which remain strongholds of former President Laurent Gbagbo.

Since independence, the central government has ignored Cavally and Guémon …

Defiant Morsi declares himself Egypt’s ‘legitimate leader’ as trial gets underway

In this image taken from Egyptian state TV, toppled President Mohammed Morsi stands inside a glass-encased metal cage in a courtroom in Cairo on Tuesday. Morsi was separated from other defendants for the start of a new trial Tuesday over charges from prison breaks during the country's 2011 revolution. 

CAIRO — Egypt’s toppled President Mohammed Morsi stood alone in a soundproof glass-encased metal cage at the start of a new trial Tuesday wearing a white prison uniform, pacing and shouting angrily at the judge in apparent disbelief: “Who are you? Tell me!”

Morsi is on trial with 130 others, including Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and militants from the Palestinian Hamas group and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, over charges related to the prison breaks at the height of the 18-day 2011 uprising against his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. After five hours, the trial was adjourned to Feb. 22.

The trial coincided with the third anniversary of one of the most violent days of that revoluti…