Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cold War replay

U.S., Russia revert to cold-war rhetoric over missile-defense plan

Russia says that the proposed US defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, an initial agreement for which was inked this week, is targeting Russia, not rogue states.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, July 09, 2008

A war of words erupted this week between the United States and Russia over a controversial US plan to deploy a missile-defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland. The plan has already strained US-Russia relations and encountered resistance from some in Europe.

The verbal spat between the US and Russia came after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday inked an initial agreement on missile-defense deployment with the Czech government in Prague, as reported by the Associated Press.

According to Reuters, Russia's Foreign Ministry responded to the news in a statement: "If the real deployment of an American strategic missile defense shield begins close to our borders, then we will be forced to react not with diplomatic methods, but with military-technical methods."

In reaction to that statement, the US criticized Russia for its "bellicose rhetoric," which it said was meant to intimidate the European partners of the US into backing out of the defense plan, according to the BBC. The report goes on to clarify Russia's statement.

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington cites Russia's ambassador to the UN as suggesting that the phrase "military-technical means" does not mean military action, but more likely a change in Russia's strategic posture, perhaps by redeploying its own missiles.

The US has ambitious plans for a missile-defense system that would include advanced radar facilities in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missile sites in Poland. The US insists the shield is designed to protect against attacks from "rogue states" in the Middle East, such as Iran.

A graphic made available by Agence France-Presse maps the US missile shield as well as proposed deployments.

But Russia has strongly protested, saying the deployment of the US shield would threaten its security by blunting the capabilities of its own missile force.

Reuters adds that the US and Russia have discussed possible ways to address Moscow's worries, but that Tuesday's US-Czech deal is perceived as a step backward by Russia's Foreign Ministry.

Proposals under discussion had included stationing Russian military officers at the shield sites and providing real-time video monitoring of activity at those sites.

"Even those half-hearted promises relating to confidence-building and monitoring measures which our American partners gave us have been in effect cancelled out by them," Interfax quoted the ministry source as saying.

The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this year that NATO governments are unanimous in backing the US missile-shield plan, though they remain deeply divided on other issues.

"There is a threat ... and allied security must be indivisible in the fact of it," read the statement on missile defense.

Public opinion in Eastern Europe is another story, however. The Czech opposition strongly opposes the plan. Writing in the Post Global section of The Washington Post website, Dana Kuchtova, the first vice chair of the Czech Green Party, says that some 70 percent of the Czech public opposes the plan to host an advanced radar facility. Ms. Kuchtova says similar percentages of Poles oppose participating in the missile-shield project. She adds that Russia is the real target of the missile shield, not Iran and North Korea, which are "at best hypothetical threats to Europe."

Though ex-satellite states hardly have a warm spot in their hearts for Russia, few Czechs appreciate being used as launching ground for a Cold War revival. And with Russia's vast oil and gas supplies, it is not in the Czechs' interest, nor in the interest of any European nation for that matter, to become Moscow's enemy.

CNN reported that before leaving for Europe this week, Ms. Rice tried but failed to reach a deal with the Polish foreign minister on deploying interceptors in Poland.

The sticking point in talks with Poland, according to the Associated Press, is that the US has not offered enough defense aid. Poland wants more protection for the proposed interceptor sites, which could themselves make Poland a target for attack. Specifically, Poland wants US antimissile defenses, including a Patriot missile battery, to be deployed alongside the 10 interceptor missile sites.

"The fundamental issue that must be resolved is in what way the American installations are going to be protected from an eventual missile attack, and in what way Poland is going to be protected from an eventual ballistic missile attack," Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said on TVN24 television.

He said the proposed U.S. system would only protect Poland from long-range ballistic missiles, leaving the country vulnerable to short and medium-range missiles.

In an opinion piece for the International Herald Tribune last year, Michael O'Hanlon, a security expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, argued that it would be best to postpone the controversial shield rather than push it through over Russia's objections.

[The defense shield] is in principle a worthy idea, but the benefits in the short term are not worth the worsening of relations with Russia that it has already engendered.

Rather than push the idea now, when the threat of long-range missiles from the Middle East is hardly acute, it would be better to allow a new American president and a new Russian president ... to reconsider the subject in 2009 or 2010.

Original site

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Where are the protests?

The Key to Cross-Strait Détente

by Jonathan Adams
Far Eastern Economic Review, Posted July 6, 2007

Given the dramatic extent of the KMT’s current opening to China under Taiwan’s new President Ma Ying-jeou, you might expect Taiwan’s scrappy pro-independence party to take to the streets in protest.

After all, the Ma government’s measures look like a unificationist’s to-do list. These include: cross-Strait weekend charter flights, which began on July 4; an expansion of Chinese tourists allowed in to 3,000 per day (that’s one million per year); renminbi-Taiwan dollar exchange in Taiwan; a relaxation of restrictions on China-bound investment by Taiwan firms; a relaxation on restrictions on Chinese investment in Taiwanese banks, funds and real estate; a welcome to Xinhua and People’s Daily reporters banned from Taiwan by the previous DPP government; and a welcome mat for mainland pop stars and performers, previously tightly restricted.

All this amounts to a dramatic step toward normalization of economic and cultural relations.

Many believe, of course, that’s also the first step toward Beijing’s long-term goal: political unification.

But rather than strongly oppose all of this, the DPP is laying low. It’s raising quibbles (Mr. Ma’s giving up too much too soon at the negotiating table) while agreeing in principle with the normalization process.

In fact, in some cases the DPP is actually complaining the new links don’t go far enough. The DPP mayor of Kaohsiung has griped that too few cross-Strait charter flights will be coming to her city. And party headquarters is peeved that the flights deal doesn’t yet include cross-Strait cargo flights, something high on Taiwan businesses’ wish list.

The DPP’s stance suggests two points worth raising:

First, it’s evidence of the broad consensus in Taiwan supporting closer economic links—but not political unification—with the mainland. Despite the supposed polarization between the independence-leaning DPP and unification-leaning KMT, moderates in both parties are in fundamental agreement on this direction.

That consensus isn’t recent. In fact, it has been apparent since the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian took power in 2000. Far from being a protectionist hardliner determined to throttle business opportunities, Mr. Chen actually began a process of economic normalization with the mainland that Mr. Ma is only continuing.

Cross-Strait trade and investment boomed dramatically under Mr. Chen, and his government in 2001 launched the “three mini-links” between Taiwan’s Kinmen and Matsu islands and the mainland as a first step toward broader transport links. And the Chen government spent years negotiating a deal on cross-Strait charter flights and tourists—the deal Beijing only inked when Mr. Ma came into office.

In his heart of hearts, Mr. Chen may indeed cherish the long-term goal of independence and Mr. Ma of unification—only they know for sure. But as a matter of official government policy, their stands are identical: No independence, no unification, preserve the political status quo, but expand cross-Strait economic ties.

The only difference between the two governments is on the pace and scope of normalization—Mr. Ma is willing to move more quickly (the DPP says too quickly) on a raft of issues. But a more significant difference is Beijing’s attitude.

That brings us to the second point. Despite the similarity in Messrs. Chen and Ma’s official policy positions, from Beijing’s standpoint there are large symbolic differences. Exhibit A is Ma’s embrace of the “1992 Consensus”—a flimsy formula, never written down or formalized, to agree on “one China” while fudging its meaning. Mr. Chen’s DPP rejects that formula as a downgrade of Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Exhibit B is Mr. Ma’s stress on Taiwan’s essential “Chinese-ness”—such as his description of Taiwan and China as parts of the “zhonghua minzu” (the Chinese peoples or nation). Mr. Chen never rejected that cultural link outright, but instead stressed Taiwan’s distinct culture and history in order to bolster a budding sense of Taiwan identity and pride.

To China, Mr. Ma’s shift in emphasis is critical. It suggests cross-Strait solidarity rather than separation. Here, Beijing and the KMT are allied in a culture war against the DPP—one waged through language and symbols—about what it means to be Taiwanese.

That, and not any dramatic policy shift by Mr. Ma’s government, is why cross-Strait economic relations are advancing so quickly under a KMT government.

But this, of course, could put China in a very difficult position in the future. What happens when the DPP inevitably retakes power in four, eight or 12 years? Presumably, it will continue to back economic normalization, while rejecting the “1992 consensus” and downplaying cultural and historical cross-Strait ties.

Will Beijing call back its tourists, withdraw its investment, and cancel the cross-Strait flights?

China is responding to the symbols and language used by specific politicians and parties in Taiwan, rather than engaging the official policy produced by Taiwan’s democratic government. For now, that’s producing results acceptable to all parties.

But as the basis for long-term cross-Strait stability, it’s a shaky foundation indeed.

Mr. Adams is a freelance journalist in Taiwan.

Original site

DPP supporter actively protests former KMT chairman Lien Chan's 2005 trip to China

Friday, July 4, 2008

Tourists, meet Falun Gong

A Falun Gong welcome for mainland visitors to Taiwan

By Jonathan Adams
International Herald Tribune, July 3, 2008

TAIPEI: Outside a popular tourist site in Taipei on a baking-hot morning recently, Gao Mingzhu, 56, a visitor from Beijing, took a break in the shade and posed as his tour group companion took a picture.

A few meters away 10 members of Falun Gong, the spiritual group outlawed as an "evil cult" in China, were greeting the newly arrived Chinese tourists and trying to pass out promotional flyers and newspaper articles.

Gao shook his head disapprovingly. "They're cheating people," he said.

But when one of the Falun Gong members, Jou Chi-ying, 68, approached, Gao turned all smiles. Indeed, after some initial uneasiness, the scene quickly became something of a cross-Strait love fest.

"See, we in the Republic of China are so polite to visitors, there's nothing to be afraid of," said Jou, using Taiwan's formal name.

"Taiwan is great," responded Gao. "We're all one family - we share the same ancestors, and the same heart."

So went another encounter between fervent Falun Gong practitioners and cautious mainland visitors. The tourists are guests in the self-governing island that China's Communist government claims as its own, faced with members of a sect that has been banned on the mainland since 1999, but who can speak and gather freely in democratic Taiwan.

Whether hostile, sympathetic or indifferent, such encounters are about to become much more frequent. Beginning Friday, direct charter flights will shuttle as many as 12,000 mainland tourists to the island each weekend, as part of an easing of cross-Strait relations under Taiwan's new president, Ma Ying-jeou. Hopes run high in Taiwan that the sharp increase in mainland tourists will help lift the island's lackluster economy.

Now, some in Taiwan are worried that Falun Gong could sour the mainland visitors' experience and hurt the tourist trade, and they would like to curb the group's activities. But Falun Gong members insist on their rights under Taiwan law and say they will increase, not reduce, their presence at scenic sites.

Standing outside the Shilin Residence in Taipei - once home to the late strongman Chiang Kai-shek, whose Nationalist troops fled to Taiwan after the 1949 Communist victory in the Chinese civil war - Jou said her group of Falun Gong activists planned to double its numbers at that location alone.

"We'll slowly increase our numbers here to 20 or 25 people, because more mainland tourists will come," said Jou, as the Beijing tourists shuffled back to their tour bus. "They can see our freedom, and we can change their thinking."

Falun Gong originated in northeast China and blends elements of Buddhism and Taoism with traditional breathing and exercise disciplines. The Chinese government, alarmed by its influence and organizational power, outlawed it and tries to block information about the group from the Internet and other media. Falun Gong adherents, who estimate their number at 600,000 in Taiwan, have countered with their own campaign.

At tourist sites around the island, Falun Gong activists have set up exhibits with sometimes graphic photos depicting what they say are Falun Gong victims of Chinese persecution. In deference to mainlanders' sensitivities, some Taiwan officials have called on the sect to tone down its displays and activities - while conceding they have little power to require such an action.

Freedom of assembly is protected by Taiwan's Constitution and its Assembly Act, and government officials who violate those rights can face stiff penalties, including prison time. So officials must fall back on persuasion.

Shih Tsung-hong, the recreation section chief of the Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area Administration, said that mainland tour guides had complained that their clients did not like running into Falun Gong promoters.

"We're concerned about this problem, and we are trying to get them to reduce their activities," Shih said of Falun Gong. "But this is a democracy - people can say whatever they want, and we can't tell them to stop."

In the southern city of Tainan, which boasts a fort dating from the Dutch colonial presence in the 1600s, controversy flared last week when a newspaper reported that local officials might try to shield mainland tourists from Falun Gong volunteers with partitions or other means.

Tainan city officials denied having any such plans, but said they were instructing the police to watch for and deal with any confrontations between tourists and Falun Gong members. One official said they hoped to strike a balance between safeguarding freedom of expression and making mainland visitors feel welcome.

"We all agree on respecting human rights," said Yu Chi-chi, of Tainan's Cultural Affairs Bureau, in an interview.

"But we just don't want them to see things criticizing their country," Yu said of the mainland Chinese. "If I went to the U.S. and got off the bus and saw signs criticizing Taiwan, I wouldn't feel comfortable."

However, Falun Gong members insist that Taiwan's freedoms are absolute and that they will not compromise, even if their activities offend some mainlanders. In an interview, the chairman of the Taiwan Falun Dafa Society, Chang Ching-hsi, said that the group was loosely organized and did not dictate to its members. But he expects that their presence at tourist sites will increase as Chinese tourists arrive in greater numbers.

"Many more Chinese people will visit here, so we know that it's even more important to be there to tell the truth about Falun Gong," Chang said. "It's not because we'll give orders - everyone understands the importance."

Meanwhile, he said, the group had met with the Taipei police and other officials to discuss its activities.

Chang said the group had suffered greatly at the hands of the Chinese government, and he was trying to influence the thinking of Chinese citizens, one tour group at a time.

"We only criticize the Chinese Communist Party, not the Chinese people," Chang said. "We know almost every person in China criticizes the CCP almost every day. If more Chinese people know the truth, we think we'll be able stop the persecution of Falun Gong in China."

Falun Gong members acknowledge that mainland tourists almost never accept their material, and that some react badly.

"Sometimes they give us a 'thumbs up"' of approval, said one Falun Gong volunteer who asked not to be named, because she was not authorized to speak for the group. "But sometimes they criticize us. They say 'Exercise is fine, but don't do this political activity."'

Some observers are skeptical that the group's outreach will make much difference with the mainlanders.

At least twice a week, sect members gather at the north gate of Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall - a tourist landmark - to descend on passing visitors. But one security guard who has watched the interactions doubted that their activities would sway many.

"Falun Gong gives them information, and the mainland tourists immediately throw it away," he said, with a chuckle. "It's useless."

But some people in Taiwan hope mainland visitors will absorb a larger lesson about civil rights on the island.

Lai Ching-te, a legislator and chairman of the Asia branch of the Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (though not a sect member himself), says Taiwan should not restrict its peoples' basic rights just because a few tour guides say their customers are offended.

"In Taiwan you can freely go out and make your appeal. We're a democratic society," Lai said in an interview. "This is mainland China's biggest deficiency - it has no democracy or freedom. And that's what we can show them here."

Original site

China, Taiwan nudged closer

First weekend flights herald closer ties between Chinese, Taiwanese

By Jonathan Adams
The New York Times, July 4, 2008

TAIPEI — The first nonstop, cross-strait weekend flights from China landed in Taiwan on Friday morning, in the latest breakthrough in cross-strait relations that are rapidly warming under the island’s new president, Ma Ying-jeou.

The first batch of flights was expected to carry 662 Chinese tourists on package tours from five cities on the mainland, but that number is expected to expand gradually to as many as 3,000 tourists per day.

This is the first time that “ordinary” Chinese citizens will be allowed to visit Taiwan as tourists. Before, only Chinese citizens who were permanent residents of a foreign country, or those with special permission for business or cultural exchanges, could visit the island.

China sees self-governed Taiwan as part of its territory and has long threatened to use force to back up its claim. Analysts said the flights and the increase in tourism were part of a significant easing of tensions.

“It marks a big step for closer interactions between the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” said Alexander Huang, an expert in cross-strait security at Tamkang University in Taiwan. “This will be the first time for ordinary Chinese people to see Taiwan for themselves. I think that over time, Taiwanese will feel more comfortable with their cousins on the other side.”

The two-way, weekend charter flights will also fly nonstop. Previously, most people traveling across the strait had to land in a third location, such as Hong Kong, before going to Taiwan, adding hours of travel time.

The two sides agreed to the weekend charter flights and more tourism in talks in Beijing in June. That meeting resumed formal talks that Beijing cut off in 1999.

Political analysts said that Mr. Ma’s March election victory made the flights and the tourist deal possible. His predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, angered Beijing by trumpeting Taiwan’s distinct identity and seeking to cement its de facto independence. But Mr. Ma ran on a platform that included expanding economic ties and improving relations with the mainland.

His government is rapidly moving to make good on those promises. Earlier this week, Taiwan allowed currency exchange on the island between Chinese yuan and the New Taiwan dollar to ease travel. It expanded Taiwan-China travel by ferry via the offshore islands of Kinmen and Matsu to all Taiwanese citizens. And on Thursday, Taiwan’s government said it would allow mutual funds to invest a higher percentage of their money in China-listed stocks.

Other economic measures on the agenda include lifting restrictions on businesses’ China-bound investment, allowing Chinese investment in Taiwan’s property market, and allowing Taiwanese banks to do retail business in the mainland.

Hopes are high on the island that the tourism and other measures will help Taiwan’s lackluster economy. That has become even more urgent as Taiwan has raised fuel prices, battled inflation and seen its stock market go down by 20 percent in Mr. Ma’s first month and a half in office.

Al Qaeda's Algerian franchise

How much of a threat is Al Qaeda in North Africa?

Despite Algerian insurgents' stated intentions to strike in Europe, some officials remain skeptical that an attack outside Africa is possible.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, July 02, 2008

A report published in The New York Times on Tuesday is likely to fuel concerns that North Africa is emerging as a major new front in the US-led global war on terror.

In the report, an elusive Algerian insurgent leader confirmed that his group had forged contacts with Al Qaeda in 2004, and that it now regards attacks on US territory as legitimate.

In a recorded response to questions from The New York Times, insurgent leader Abdelmalek Droukdal said:

"If the U.S. administration sees that its war against the Muslims is legitimate, then what makes us believe that our war on its territories is not legitimate?"...

"Everyone must know that we will not hesitate in targeting it whenever we can and wherever it is on this planet," he said.

Mr. Droukdal's group, based in the hills east of Algiers, is a terror franchise that terms itself Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The group is responsible for numerous attacks in North Africa, including several deadly bombings in Algiers. The goals of Algerian insurgents at the time of their resurgence under the banner of AQIM were outlined by The Christian Science Monitor.

AQIM's followers kidnapped 32 European tourists in the Algerian desert in 2003, gunned down five European tourists last year in Mauritania (killing four of them), and kidnapped two Austrian tourists on vacation in Tunisia this February.

But European officials quoted by the paper disagreed on the small group's ability to strike outside Africa. One expert was skeptical that the group could pull off an attack in the US or Europe. The group numbers only 300 to 400 fighters, with another 200 supporters scattered throughout Algeria, according to The New York Times.

So far, despite its stated intentions to strike Europe and the rest of the West, investigators say they see little evidence that the North Africa branch of Al Qaeda is exporting fighters and equipment for an attack in Europe.

"Their ambition is to attack in Europe, but I wouldn't hard-sell it," said Gilles de Kerchove, the head of counterterrorism for the European Union. "I wouldn't say AQIM is poised to attack in Europe."

Indeed, while a suicide bombing last December by two formerly convicted Algerian Islamic militants in Algiers attracted attention, it also exposed the limits of AQIM, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

[While] the bombing has shown that AQIM, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, still poses a serious threat, analysts say this new Al Qaeda affiliate in North Africa is far from reaching its goal of building a potent force across the entire region or even striking Europe, as it says is part of its overall goal.

"Despite its pretensions to be a Maghreb-wide organization, it is mounting attacks only in Algeria," says Hugh Roberts, an independent analyst who specializes in North African politics.

"The notional threat to Europe is exaggerated."

Reuters reported that the group has rarely attacked US interests in Algeria, with the exception of a December 2006 bombing of a bus carrying foreign oil workers, including one American.

An explosives expert, Droukdel was appointed leader of an Islamist rebel group called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat in 2004, six years after it was founded with the aim of toppling the government and establishing purist Islamic state.

In October 2003, the group offered its support to the al Qaeda network and in January 2007 the group changed its name to Al Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb.

Since then it has set off a string of deadly car bombings in and around Algiers, including bombings of United Nations and government buildings in Algiers that killed at least 41 people.

Meanwhile, Agence France-Presse reported two weeks ago that the Austrian government said there was "progress" in negotiations to secure the release of the two Austrian tourists kidnapped by the group in February.

The kidnappers initially demanded the release of a number of Islamic extremists imprisoned in Algeria and Tunisia. They have since demanded a five million euro ransom (7.9 million dollars) according to unconfirmed press reports.

On June 23, Algeria's president named a "pragmatist known for his tough stance against Islamic extremists" to a third term as prime minister, according to the Associated Press, amid what it called a recent "resurgence" of violence.

Most of the recent bombings have been claimed by al-Qaida in Islamic North Africa, formerly known as the GSPC — a Salafist group that grew out of an insurgency that raged in the country in the 1990s.

Algeria's government canceled 1992 elections that looked set to put an Islamist party in power and then outlawed that party. An estimated 100,000 people died in the armed rebellion that followed, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

In its latest report on Algeria in 2004, the group called the persistence of armed movements in Algeria "a factor facilitating expansion of al-Qaeda's jihad."

But the ICG added that such armed groups had been dramatically marginalized, as most of Algeria's Islamists moderated their political platforms in the 1990s.

It warned that the Algerian military could use the global war on terror as a pretext for its continued domination of Algerian politics, and urged the US to be "more sophisticated in its handling of an over-played al-Qaeda factor."

... there is a danger U.S. military engagement in the region in the context of the "war on terrorism", instead of eliminating an al-Qaeda presence, may actually aggravate it by underlining the strategic weakness, dependent nature and possible legitimacy deficits of the states of the Sahel region and, especially, by providing in the U.S. military presence itself significant motives and targets for jihadi activity that were previously absent.

Tilting toward China?

Taiwan-Japan relations remain strong, despite the latest Diaoyutai row. But Ma Ying-jeou's handling of the crisis has fueled concerns about his Japan policy

By Jonathan Adams

Newsweek Japan, June 23 issue (unedited draft)

It was a rare scene in Taiwan. Holding signs saying "Protect the Diaoyutai", an angry group of protesters set fire to a Japanese flag laid out on the sidewalk in front of Japan's de facto embassy in Taipei last Wednesday.

The cause of their anger: the June 10 sinking of a Taiwanese fishing boat after a collision with Japanese boats patrolling the disputed island chain.

Had Taiwan suddenly turned anti-Japanese?

Hardly. In fact, there were only some 15 protesters – even less than the number of police at the scene. What's more, half the group weren't even Taiwanese. They were from a veteran, 60-member Hong Kong-based activist group 保釣行動委員會 . Since 1996 that volunteer group has visited Taiwan many times to lead protests and expeditions asserting Chinese sovereignty over the island chain.

"We were outraged about this incident, and we came to express the view of private-sector Chinese," said the group's chairman 主席, Mr. Chen (陳多偉). "The Diaoyutais are Chinese territory."

Few Taiwanese feel as strongly as Mr. Chen and his group. To be sure, many thought Japan had taken excessive action and should apologize. And some hardline KMT legislators tried to whip up anti-Japanese sentiment, and urged a much stronger response. (They were scheduled to visit the Diaoyutai on a navy frigate last Wednesday in a show of force, before President Ma Ying-jeou cancelled that trip and publicly called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute).

But overall, public opinion of Japan remains very positive.

"This was an unfortunate incident," said Lo Fu-chen 羅福全, Taiwan's former representative to Japan. "But in the last eight years, Taiwan-Japan relations have reached a peak. I don't think this incident will change that."

Still, last week's Diaoyutai crisis has fueled concerns about Ma Ying-jeou's new China-friendly government and its attitude toward Japan.

It's hard to gauge the extent of anti-Japanese sentiment in Taiwan. But in general, such views are limited to a small minority of Mainlanders (waishengren 外省人) who originally came to Taiwan with the KMT in the 1940s. These people make up about 14% of the population.

Hardline Chinese nationalists – the most likely to be anti-Japan -- are an even smaller number. According to the latest poll from the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University, only 5.4% identified themselves as "Chinese only", compared to 26% in 1994.

"Those who wanted to send the gunboats are a minority," said Fu. "They're just trying to use the incident to fuel an anti-Japanese movement -- but what can they do? To me they're modern-day Boxers," he said, referring to the Chinese ultra-nationalists who unsuccessfully sought to drive out foreigners from mainland China around 1900.

Most native Taiwanese (本省人), by contrast – about 84% of the population -- have fond or neutral feelings toward the island's former colonizer.

Enjoying a cigarette break from work in Ximending, 西門町, Ye Zhou-xian, 葉桌賢, 24, said he liked Japan more than mainland China, and that the Diaoyutai incident hadn't changed his attitude. "I like Japanese fashion and manners," he explained. "I don't like mainland China because they think Taiwan belongs to them."

If some Taiwanese did briefly sour on Japan last week, it was due in part to relentless media coverage. Competition is fierce in Taiwan's crowded media market.

Every outlet hypes up conflict to get more eyeballs, and last week was no exception. TV reporters hounded Taiwan foreign ministry officials and gave extensive airtime to anti-Japan KMT legislators. Talk show commentators kept up a round-the-clock drumbeat of criticism of Japan's actions. They slammed the Taiwan government's initial reaction to the incident, which was widely seen as too weak-kneed.

Still, the anti-Japan fever passed quickly, as the media pack moved on to chase another target.

But if public outrage was short-lived, the crisis raised longer-term questions about Ma Ying-jeou's Japan policy, and its ability to manage crisis.

Change is afoot in Taiwan's foreign policy. Ma's priority is to improve ties with China. He's rapidly improving economic relations with the mainland, hoping to give Taiwan's lagging economy a shot in the arm. Cross-strait flights and tourists will be ramped up next month.

Beyond economics, he's raised hopes of a truce in the cross-strait diplomatic battle for allies, and even talked of a peace deal.

The question is, will all this come at the expense of relations with Japan?

For his part, Ma insists he won't downgrade Taiwan-Japan relations. He's dismissed charges of being ignorant about Japan during the presidential campaign, insisting he was a "zhi ri pai" (知日派). He made a point of visiting Japan last November, seeking to convince skeptical Japanese Diet members that he was not anti-Japanese.

Not everyone's convinced. Some observers say privately that there are reasons to be concerned. Ma failed to mention Japan even once in his May 20 inauguration speech – an omission that reportedly upset some members of a visiting Diet delegation.

He has also scrapped the Foreign Ministry's Committee of Japanese Affairs. That was an ad-hoc task force set up by the DPP government in 2005 to enhance Taiwan-Japan exchanges, and raise the status of Japanese experts within the ministry. It's still unclear what will replace the task force.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong-born Ma comes from a Chinese nationalist tradition whose anti-Japan stance is rooted in Japan's invasion of the mainland in the late 1930s. He was reportedly moved to tears by the scene in "Lust, Caution" (色戒) in which a Chinese crowd shouts together, "zhongguo bu neng wang" (中國不能亡). And he wrote several books on the Diaoyutais in his youth and was an enthusiastic defender of Taiwan's claim to the island chain.

Observers also criticize his government's bad crisis-management skills and mixed messages during the Diaoyutai dispute. The public witnessed a government that one day seemed too cowardly to confront Japan, then the next day recklessly talked of war. The conflict nearly turned violent, before Ma intervened.

"The premier totally mismanaged the situation," said Lo Fu-chen. "They're not acting like a mature government."

A poll conducted by TV station TVBS, only 38% were satisfied with his handling of the incident, compared to 45% unsatisfied.

Part of the problem is Ma's Japan policy isn't yet completely clear. Hardliners in his own party see Taiwan's long-term interests lying with China, not Japan. But Ma must balance better China relations against Taiwan's de facto security alliance with the US and Japan – no easy trick.

"Ma wants to have equal distance between China and the US-Japan alliance, because he believes that could maximize Taiwan's interests," said Lin Chen-wei (林成蔚) director of international affairs for the DPP and a former Japan specialist advising the National Security Council. "But whether they can successfully manage that remains to be seen."

Still, Ma's policy isn't likely to depart dramatically from his predecessor's. Taiwan depends on the US-Japan alliance for its security. Japanese air bases would be critical in any US defense of the island should China make good on past threats to retake Taiwan by force.

That means any changes are likely to be in tone rather than in substance. "The KMT might change Taiwan's policy toward Japan," said one KMT insider. "But if they do, it will only be a small change, because Japan is so important. Keeping good relations with Japan is vital for Taiwan's security."

Springtime for Japan, China

Historic port call marks Japan-China thaw

The arrival of a Japanese war ship in a Chinese port and the recent announcement of a joint gas-exploration deal signal improving bilateral ties, but territorial disputes remain unresolved.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor,June 25, 2008

A Japanese war ship made a port call in China this week for the first time since World War II, as East Asia's two leading powers seek to forge stronger ties and turn the page on their troubled past.

The visit comes on the heels of a landmark deal last week between Tokyo and Beijing to jointly develop gas fields in the East China Sea, and an ice-breaking visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Japan in May.

Analysts see these events as part of a broad trend of warming relations between the historic rivals. But they cautioned that the two nations have failed to resolve dangerous, underlying disputes in the East China Sea.

The Associated Press reported that the Japanese destroyer Sazanami arrived Tuesday in Zhanjiang, a port city in southern Guangdong Province, on what was officially a humanitarian relief mission.

The navy vessel with 240 crew members carried blankets, medical supplies and other relief goods for survivors of China's devastating May 12 earthquake that killed more than 69,000 people.

Chinese state media showed pictures of the ship arriving with Chinese sailors lined up on the dock in white uniforms under the two countries' flags.

The destroyer Sazanami was paying a return visit for a port call made by the Chinese guided missile destroyer Shenzhen to Tokyo in November, the first visit by a Chinese military vessel to Japan since the war.

Agence France Presse reported that Chinese residents welcomed the ship, but that a strong sense of rivalry persists.

Local residents said the port call was a promising sign of warming ties, but amid the words of welcome was an undertone of pride that China was increasingly dealing with Japan as an equal rather than a poor cousin. "Originally Japan had money and they bullied us, but now we've developed so much that even if they wanted to bully us, they couldn't," said Xing Chen, a local driver.

The Times noted the lingering sensitivities in China over allowing Japanese military visits.

It was such sensitivities that scuppered a plan last month for Japanese soldiers to set foot once again on Chinese soil, at China's invitation, to airlift tents and relief supplies to earthquake victims. Fears of public anger persuaded Japan to switch the cargo to chartered flights instead.

Anti-Japanese sentiment remains widespread in China. That's due to bitter memories of Japan's brutal occupation of China in the 1930s and 1940s, and what many Chinese and other observers see as Japan's failure to make a full, formal apology for wartime atrocities.

In the last two years, the Chinese government has shown a willingness to play down such grievances in order to improve bilateral ties. That policy shift came after former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006. Mr. Koizumi had irked China with visits to a controversial war shrine.

The Christian Science Monitor reported in May on President Hu Jintao's trip to Japan, which paved the way for recent breakthroughs. In Tokyo, Mr. Hu played ping-pong with a Japanese table tennis star, praised the Japanese people, and urged long-term friendship between the two nations.

That softer policy line has begun to bear fruit. Last Wednesday, China and Japan announced a deal on joint exploration of natural gas fields, reported the Associated Press.

The Daily Yomiuri shows that the deal was hailed as a major step forward since the two countries' competing claims in the gas and oil-rich East China Sea are one of the main sticking points in bilateral relations.

Security experts warn the East China Sea is a potential flashpoint for conflict between one of Asia's strongest navies – Japan's – and its rapidly rising naval power, China.

The Financial Times noted that despite the gas deal, the countries' territorial dispute has not been resolved.

Beijing shows no sign of softening its underlying territorial claims in the East China Sea, which clash with those of Japan. "China does not accept the Japanese so-called 'median line'," in the East China Sea, insisted Wu Dawei, vice-foreign minister yesterday.

The two sides are also still far from agreement on regional security arrangements, says Zhu Feng of Peking University.

"There is not yet any great strategic depth to the relationship. What has happened has been an exercise of self-restraint to prevent the countries from entering on a collision course," Prof Zhu says.

Writing in the China Brief, which is published by The Jamestown Foundation, earlier this month, James Manicom, an expert on China-Japan maritime disputes, noted that the two countries' spat in the East China Sea goes beyond gas and oil rights. Chinese naval vessels routinely violate a 2001 agreement by entering Japan's exclusive economic zone, Chinese military intelligence vessels continue research in disputed areas, and fishing disputes are frequent, writes Manicom.

In short, whatever progress was made on the proposed joint development scheme at the recent summit, it will be quite sometime before the East China Sea becomes the sea of "peace, cooperation and friendship."

Bomb targets Somali president

Somali bomb attack targets president Abdullahi Yusuf

The attack undermines a UN-mediated cease-fire signed last week between the government and opposition groups as the country's humanitarian crisis worsens.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, June 19, 2008

Somalia's president was targeted Wednesday in a bomb attack that killed two policemen, as violence continued in the capital of Mogadishu despite a peace accord inked last week. The timing of the attack highlights the concerns of United Nations officials that continuing political instability is exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Somalia.

The June 9 accord aimed to put an end to fighting between the United States-backed Somali government and its Ethiopian allies, and a coalition of Islamic opposition groups. But some hard-line Islamic militants have refused to lay down their arms.

The BBC reported that the bomb blast occurred in Mogadishu moments after a convoy carrying Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf had passed by. The attack followed fierce fighting in Mogadishu on Tuesday that left at least seven dead.

Tuesday's fighting started when insurgents attacked government soldiers and Ethiopian troops who were searching for weapons in houses in the Hurwa and Karan districts of the capital.

Fourteen people were wounded in the fighting that continued until midnight. Ethiopian troops have been in Somalia for 18 months since helping the government oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) that ruled much of Somalia in 2006.

Reuters reported that the fighting highlighted the ineffectiveness of the peace pact signed in Djibouti last week.

Somalia's government and members of an exiled opposition group signed a U.N.-mediated ceasefire... but hardline Islamist leaders and insurgents on the ground rejected the pact.

They say they will not talk until thousands of Ethiopian troops backing President Abdullahi Yusuf's government leave the Horn of Africa nation. Somalia has been in near-perpetual conflict since the 1991 toppling of a military dictator.

A donors' meeting in Nairobi on Tuesday was held to discuss support for the new peace deal, with participants including the US, European Union, Norway, the League of Arab States, and the African Union. The deal calls for hostilities to stop within 30 days, with a 90-day cease-fire to follow.

According to the Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN representative to Somalia, said he was pleased with the level of donor support.

"I am overwhelmed by this new, widespread demonstration of goodwill, generosity and support for the agreement and for Somalia as a whole," the envoy said.

Ould-Abdallah said he was pleased by the traditional generosity and willingness of Saudi Arabia to help Somalia and the region to recover. He hoped the formal signing of the agreement will take place in the Holy City of Mecca by the end of the month.

"Today what is at stake is not only peace and stability in Somalia but the credibility of the international community in the country and in the region," he said.

Meanwhile, other UN officials warned of a looming refugee and food crisis that could rank among the world's worst current humanitarian disasters.

On Monday, a UN official told the BBC that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia was worse than in Darfur. He said that some 3.5 million people would need emergency food aid in the coming months due to a combination of the country's political instability, droughts, currency problems, and rising food prices.

Mark Bowden, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for the region, says the food crisis is dramatically worsening....

[He] says Somalia has become one of the world's most challenging humanitarian crises. He fears that there is now a sense of fatalism about what is happening to the country.

Some 20,000 Somalis have fled to refugee camps in Kenya this year to escape the violence, the Associated Press reports. Refugees described an atmosphere of terror and chaos in their homeland.

In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, the newest arrivals from Mogadishu told of relentless shelling and gunfire. Several children said their friends were forcibly recruited into militias. And they all described frantic escapes, with many walking for weeks to reach Dadaab, hitching rides on donkey carts or squeezing into strangers' cars.

"I couldn't live in Mogadishu anymore, my whole family would have been killed eventually," said Osman, 25, who left Mogadishu three months ago, hours after identifying his mother's body. He begged a ride in a car with a crowd of strangers, holding up his daughters – age 2 and 4 – to persuade the driver.

Somalia was plunged into chaos in 1991 when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre, creating a power vacuum. The United Nations helped set up a transitional government in 2004. But the weak government was unable to exert control over much of the country.

In 2006, it called on Ethiopian troops to enter Somalia to help fight Islamic militants.

The US backs the Somali government and has helped train and equip its Ethiopian allies. The US says the Islamic insurgents have ties to Al Qaeda, and has launched gunship and missile attacks on suspected terrorist leaders in Somalia.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the latest attack in early May killed a man that US officials described as a "known Al Qaeda target and militia leader in Somalia."

According a recent report in The Guardian, some Western intelligence officials are concerned that Somalia – along with Algeria and Yemen – could become a new front in the fight against Al Qaeda, as the terror group loses ground in Iraq.

Officials talk about the appeal of an "attractive area of ungoverned space". This is Somalia, described as an increasingly popular destination for "western jihadists", though al-Qaida is playing only a small part in the violence there, western intelligence officials suggest.

Chinese hackers attack

Chinese hacked computers, U.S. lawmakers say

The alleged attack renews cyberwarfare concerns.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, June 12, 2008

Two US congressmen have accused hackers from China of breaking into their computer systems and stealing information on political dissidents, raising concerns at a time of growing global concern about cyberwarfare.

The lawmakers warned that other lawmakers, civilians, and military officials should take steps to protect their laptops and other devices against such break-ins, especially while in China.

The Chinese government has denied any involvement in the cyberattacks.

The two congressmen who made the claims are active in promoting human rights, according to Reuters.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican, said his office computers had been compromised in August 2006 and that he was told by the FBI and other officials the source of the attack was inside China.

Rep. Christopher Smith, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his computer had also been attacked from China. The New Jersey Republican has sponsored legislation that would prohibit U.S. companies from cooperating with governments that restrict information about human rights and democracy on the Internet.

Representative Wolf said that other US government officials had pressured him not to go public with the claims, according to the Associated Press. "My own suspicion is I was targeted by China because of my long history of speaking out about China's abysmal human rights record," said Wolf, according to the report.

Wolf urged congressional hearings on the break-in and wants to raise awareness of the threat of hacking from China and elsewhere, reports Bloomberg.

He is calling for a closed briefing where officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can brief House members on technological threats from China and other countries.

"The potential for massive and coordinated cyber attacks against the United States is no longer a futuristic problem,'' Wolf says. "We must prepare ourselves now and develop universal procedures for responding to this threat."

Chris Smith, one of the congressmen targeted in the attacks, told The Washington Post that he believed the hackers may have had Chinese government support.

[The] sophistication of the attacks, in December 2006 and March 2007, and the kind of information involved suggest that the Chinese government might have been behind them.

"The Internet can be used as a terror weapon. It can be used as a disinformation apparatus," Smith said. "And nobody has done that more expertly than the Chinese government."

But a Chinese Embassy official in Washington denied his government was involved in the hacking. That official told The Washington Post that sophisticated hackers in other countries could make their attacks appear to originate from China, regardless of their actual physical location.

ABC News reported that US officials said it's difficult to determine whether hackers from China are backed by the government or operate independently. But it's clear that attacks traced to China-based ISPs (Internet Service Providers, or local hosts) are on the rise.

Computer intrusions from China have dramatically increased in recent years and, according to officials, have included cyber attacks on the Secretary of Defense's e-mail servers in June 2007....

In December 2007, hackers believed to be in China were behind cyber attacks on three of the U.S. National Laboratories, including Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory and California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In those attacks, hackers used e-mails with attachments sent to thousands of lab employees.

The latest charges come amid an investigation into whether a US official's computer was compromised during his visit to China last month and concerns over electronic eavesdropping during the upcoming Beijing Olympics, reports the IDG News Service.

In late May, the contents of a U.S. government laptop may have been copied during a visit to China by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, a matter which is still under investigation.

In early May, U.S. Senator Sam Brownback alleged that the Chinese government had asked major hotel chains to censor their Internet traffic during the 2008 Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing August 8 to 24. Brownback did not name the hotels involved, but condemned China's human rights record.

Experts say China is clearly ramping up its cyberwar capabilities. The Christian Science Monitor reported last fall that China was in the vanguard of states aiming to use cyberwarfare for political ends. It said experts believe that most Chinese hackers are "gray hats" – meaning they are tech-savvy Chinese nationalists who aren't formal agents of the Chinese government.

Today, of an estimated 120 countries working on cyberwarfare, China, seeking great power status, has emerged as a leader.

"The Chinese are the first to use cyberattacks for political and military goals," says James Mulvenon, an expert on China's military and director of the Center for Intelligence and Research in Washington. "Whether it is battlefield preparation or hacking networks connected to the German chancellor, they are the first state actor to jump feet first into 21st-century cyberwarfare technology. This is clearly becoming a more serious and open problem."

A recent National Journal article claimed that according to US security sources, China-based hackers, including those working for the government, may have played a role in two massive blackouts in Florida and the northeast US in recent years.

The magazine said US intelligence officials had linked the People's Liberation Army to the largest-ever blackout in North America, a 2003 outage across 9,300 square miles in the US Northeast that affected some 50 million people.

Tim Bennett, the former president of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, a leading trade group, said that U.S. intelligence officials have told him that the PLA in 2003 gained access to a network that controlled electric power systems serving the northeastern United States. The intelligence officials said that forensic analysis had confirmed the source, Bennett said. "They said that, with confidence, it had been traced back to the PLA."

However, some commentators reacted skeptically to that report. Writing for a Wired magazine-hosted blog, Kevin Poulsen called the article "cyberwar hysteria," arguing that an exhaustive 6-month investigation into the 2003 blackout had traced the root cause of that outage to the utility company First Energy's failure to trim trees growing into power lines in Ohio.

Now that we're seeing "overgrown trees" between the same scare quotes conspiracy theorists bracket around "lone gunman" and "moon landing," the cybarmageddon hawks have squarely set foot in the realm of 9/11 truthers. I'm waiting for them to blame Chinese hackers for "Hurricane" Katrina.

Sudan on the brink

U.N. Security Council delegation tours Darfur

Ongoing Darfur attacks and violent outbreaks in oil-rich central Abyei region are high priorities.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, June 05, 2008

A top UN official said Wednesday that Sudan was "on the brink" of war, as forces from the north and south converged near a strategic, disputed oil town.

The UN regional coordinator for South Sudan, David Gressley, told journalists that the military buildup near the town of Abyei in central Sudan was jeopardizing a shaky 2005 peace agreement, the BBC reports.

"There's a gradual escalation of forces on all sides at this point in time," Mr Gressley said.

Mr Gressley said he did not think either side wanted a war, at this point, but that the situation had to be de-escalated or it could unravel the entire peace process.

Fighting flared in mid-May between northern and southern forces in Abyei, which sits on disputed, oil-rich land. The 2005 peace agreement called for joint north-south patrols of the town but did not resolve the town's status. The Voice of America reported that the escalation in central Sudan is high on the agenda of a delegation from the UN Security Council that is now visiting the country.

The fighting, which began on May 13, resulted in widespread destruction in Abyei and the displacement of as many as 50,000 people.

[Salva Kiir, the regional president of southern Sudan] confirmed reports this week that the Khartoum government of President Omar al-Bashir is deploying more than 1,000 additional troops to the disputed region.

"I have already called upon him [President Bashir] to intervene to order his military commanders to pull out their forces from Abyei area," he said. "We are not going to fight them."

The Security Council delegation is also expected to press Sudan on ending a separate conflict in the western region of Darfur that is threatening to spill over into a Chad-Sudan border war.

The delegation arrived early Thursday in Darfur, according to the Associated Press. The UN passed a resolution almost a year ago to create an international peacekeeping force in Darfur, but Sudan's government has only allowed about one-third of the force to deploy. The delegation plans to press Sudan on allowing in the remaining force as one priority.

At the top of the list was speeding up deployment of the United Nations-Africa Union force that took over peacekeeping in January but has only gotten 9,000 of the 26,000 authorized troops on the ground, a key to helping protect civilians in the many camps for the displaced.

One stumbling block has been the Sudanese government's reluctance to allow non-African troops into the region - and on this issue the council got a piece of good news Wednesday.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers, co-leader of the council delegation, said [Nafie Alie Nafie, a Sudanese presidential adviser], promised that Thai and Nepalese battalions could deploy after Ethiopian and Egyptian troops arrive in Darfur.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the US envoy to Sudan blasted leaders from both the north and south for a lack of sincerity.

On Tuesday, Richard Williamson, the US envoy in Sudan, postponed talks on normalising Washington's relationship with Khartoum, after years of sanctions, saying neither side was serious about maintaining peace.

"I won't be part of a sham peace that won't change the situation," he told reporters, referring to both the north-south tensions and the ongoing but separate conflict in Sudan's western Darfur provinces.

More than two decades of civil war in Sudan have left an estimated 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced, according to the International Crisis Group. The major divide is between the mostly Muslim, Arab north – which dominates the government – and the mostly Christian and animist south. Coveted oil resources in southern Sudan have raised the stakes in the conflict.

In 2003, a separate conflict intensified in the western Darfur region, where government-backed Arab janjaweed militias have attacked ethnic African civilians. That conflict has left some 300,000 dead, according to the United Nations. It's also turned into what many now see as a proxy war between Sudan and neighboring Chad to its west.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the International Criminal Court's top prosecutor implicated top Sudanese officials in recent atrocities in Darfur, including rape and killings. Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo was expected to deliver a report to the UN Security Council Thursday and present names and evidence to the court in July.

"Women and girls are raped. Victims are as young as five or six years old. Parents are forced to watch," he said in his report. "This is not an incidental byproduct of war. It is a calculated crime, intended to do irreparable damage to communities."

The Christian Science Monitor reported last month that Sudan's ongoing turmoil was destabilizing the region. Tensions between Sudan's government and neighboring Chad mounted after a Chad-backed Darfur rebel group carried out a daring raid, the first time violence had spread near the capital.

The attack, carried out by the Justice and Equality (JEM) rebel group, left more than 200 dead.

The move by the Justice and Equality (JEM) rebel group … gives Khartoum a reason to ramp up its latest offensives in Darfur and raises the prospect of a border war between Chad and Sudan; both believe the other is using rebels as proxy fighters.

Basque terrorists busted

Basque separatist arrested as Spain confronts region's future

The arrest of Francisco Javier Lopez Peña in France on Tuesday signals a wider crackdown against the ETA, which has waged a 40-year campaign of bombings.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, May 22, 2008

In a setback for one of Europe's longest-running armed independence movements, the suspected chief of the Basque separatist group ETA was arrested earlier this week.

Francisco Javier Lopez Peña, who is also known as "Thierry," was seized in a raid in Bordeaux, France, by Spanish and French police late Tuesday night. Three other ETA suspects were also captured.

The ETA – "Euskadi ta Askatasuna," or "Basque Country and Freedom" in the Basque language – has waged a violent struggle for independence for 40 years. ETA has been labeled a terrorist organization, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called the arrest "another important step in the victory of democracy against terror," reports the Associated Press.

The Washington Post reports that two more ETA suspects were captured Wednesday, signaling a broader crackdown against the underground group. While the Spanish government singled Mr. Lopez Peña out as ETA's leader, it cautioned that the group was still dangerous, reports the BBC.

Spain's Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba hailed the arrest. He said Mr Lopez Peña was "in all probability, the person who carried the most weight within Eta - politically and militarily".

But he emphasized that the group remained a threat.

"This is a very important operation, because it involves very important leaders, so it should have a big effect. But I insist that Eta could still cause a lot of harm," he said.

ETA had claimed credit for two recent attacks. On Monday, a car bomb ripped through Bilbao, the capital of Basque Spain, damaging several buildings. No one was injured in that attack. On May 14, a bomb attack killed one policeman and injured four others in Legutiano, also in the Basque region.

The Marxist-Leninist ETA has long struggled to create an independent Basque nation along the border between Spain and France. Its attacks have killed more than 800 people since 1968, mostly in car bombings and shootings, according to Reuters.

Britain's The Daily Telegraph reports that Thierry may have taken the reins of ETA in 2006 and was key to the group's decision to end a cease-fire announced that year and turn its back on a budding peace process.

Peña, who has used the alias Thierry and been on the run since 1983, is suspected of being the mastermind behind a series of recent attacks that began with a car bomb at Madrid international airport in December 2006 that killed two people and brought an abrupt end to a fledgling peace process.

He is believed to have taken over Eta's underground leadership in 2006 when the group was holding peace talks with the government of Mr Zapatero. According to Spanish media, Peña, 49, participated in the talks but then decided to end the ceasefire.

The Spanish newspaper Publico writes that Peña once said "They will never catch me," but was wrong to think that his security measures and claim to French nationality would protect him, according to the Spain Papers Review at the website

EuroNews reports the successful raids on ETA suspects were the fruit of close cooperation between Spain and France.

ETA are considered terrorists by Spain, America, and the European Union.­ ETA activists have long used South-western France as a base, while attacking targets over the border in Spain. In December last year, two young Spanish officers working undercover in France were shot dead by ETA suspects in a cafe on the French Atlantic coast.

Agence France-Presse reports that the three other suspects captured with Thierry were: Jon Salaberria, Igor Suberbiola, and Ainhoa Zaeta Mendiondo. The Spanish interior minister said all were "important leaders" of ETA.

Salaberria, a former regional lawmaker for ETA's now-banned political wing Batasuna, has been accused of financing the Basque separatist movement.

Suberbiola was a member of a Basque independence youth movement close to ETA before going underground.

Ainhoa Ozaeta is believed to be the masked woman who read a statement in an
ETA video last year that officially called off a permanent ceasefire announced in March 2006.

On Tuesday, the Spanish government rejected a plan by the local Basque government to hold a referendum on talks over the region's status, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he told the head of the Basque Country regional government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, that the plan violated the Spanish constitution, during a meeting which took place as Basque separatist rebels ETA stage a bombing offensive.

The scene is now set for a confrontation later in the year if Ibarretxe tries to push ahead with the referendum in which he hopes Basques will vote to authorise talks between local political parties on the region's future.

The issue could dominate regional elections due by next year.

In March, following the ruling Socialists' victory in national elections, The Christian Science Monitor reported that the party won despite criticism of being "soft on terror."

Compared with their conservative rivals, the Popular Party, Spain's Socialists are seen as more tolerant of autonomy drives in both the Basque area and Catalonia.

Significantly, as well, the Socialists scored the first-ever majority win by a national party in Catalonia and the Basque area – regions where local parties seeking greater autonomy or independence have long been most influential. The Socialist scores in these two most vibrant economies in Spain – whose capitals are Barcelona and Bilbao – suggest that the party's policies of gradually greater autonomy, much criticized by the Popular Party, may have gained traction.

Original site

Flare-up in Sudan oil town

Renewed Sudan violence raises fears of return to civil war

Fighting flared this week in an oil-rich flashpoint in central Sudan.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, May 16, 2008

A flare-up this week in an oil-rich flashpoint in central Sudan is jeopardizing a shaky 2005 peace accord between north and south. That's raising concerns of a return to all-out civil war, even as conflict in the western region of Darfur rages on.

The violence in Abyei broke out this week between Sudanese government troops and southern forces from the Sudan People's Liberation Army. It comes on the heels of a brazen attack by Darfur rebels on Khartoum's twin city, Omdurman, last Saturday – the first such attack on the capital area.

Four Indian oil workers were also taken hostage in Abyei, according to the Indian ambassador, reports the British Broadcasting Corp. The BBC reported that the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group from Darfur – which has carried out similar kidnappings of Chinese oil workers and was responsible for last Saturday's attack near the capital – denied responsibility.

Trouble began in Abyei on Tuesday, when southern forces detained a northern soldier and some civilians.

The situation intensified on Wednesday, said Reuters.

A U.N. official said fighting in Abyei had worsened on Wednesday after a Sudanese government soldier was killed. "That seemed to cause the escalation," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

[A diplomatic] source said an SPLA [former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army] soldier was killed on Wednesday: "There are gunshots in town, heavy gunfire and mortars."

The United Nations announced on Thursday that it had pulled out 250 staff from the town, though 400 UN peacekeepers remain, according to the Associated Press. The AP gave the following background:

The [2005] peace agreement created a unity government led by President Omar al-Bashir and his one-time military rival, First Vice President Salva Kiir. It also set up a semiautonomous southern government, led by Kiir, and called for national elections in 2009 and a referendum on independence for South Sudan in 2011.

The Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, which Kiir heads, has accused al-Bashir of multiple breaches of the 2005 accord, including not sharing oil wealth, not pulling troops out of South Sudan, and remilitarizing contested border zones, such as Abyei.

More than two decades of civil war in Sudan have left an estimated 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced, according to the International Crisis Group. The major divide is between the mostly Muslim, Arab north – which dominates the government – and the mostly Christian and animist south. Coveted oil resources in southern Sudan have raised the stakes in the conflict.

In 2003, a separate conflict intensified in the western Darfur region, where government-backed Arab Janjaweed militias have attacked ethnic African civilians. That conflict has left some 300,000 dead, according to the United Nations. It's also turned into what many now see as a proxy war between Sudan and neighboring Chad to its west.

In the wake of last Saturday's attack on Omdurman, Sudan immediately cut ties with neighboring Chad, which it believes backs the Darfur rebels, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

The head of the African Union, Jean Ping, on Thursday urged the leaders of Sudan and Chad to calm tensions, Agence France-Presse reported. More than 200 people were killed in last week's attack and related clashes.

In Sudan, the 2005 peace accord gave the south semiautonomous status. But tension has never fully subsided, particularly in disputed, oil-rich areas along the unofficial north-south border line.

The BBC notes that the disputed status of Abyei was not resolved in the accord.

Three years after the signing of a peace deal, an administration is yet to be set up in Abyei, which is claimed by both north and south.

"This is indeed one of the most serious issues facing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between south and north," [UN spokesman Khaled] Mansour told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said because of the dispute the town lacked even the most basic services which made the area a "tinderbox".

The agreement stipulates that Abyei is to be guarded by joint units of soldiers from the north and south, according to Reuters.

In mid-March,the International Crisis Group said tensions had subsided when a December agreement saw southern leaders rejoining the unity government after a 2-1/2-month boycott.

But the group warned that "the risk of significant new fighting is growing in the Abyei area."

The group said that the international community was "dangerously disengaged" from the peace agreement, in part because of preoccupation with the ongoing Darfur conflict in the West. It urged the UN and other international players to form a comprehensive policy covering both Darfur and the implementation of the 2005 accord. It specifically recommended:

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) should increase monitoring of flashpoint areas in Abyei and along the North-South border and negotiate with the parties to create demilitarised zones into which UNMIS forces could deploy and monitor movements of troops to help prevent local flare-ups from escalating.

Original site

China adds "boomers" to buildup

Global scrutiny follows reports of Chinese nuclear base

The naval buildup on Hainan appears to be part of Beijing's long-range plan to increase its military presence, but the new base has alarmed neighboring countries and the US.

By Jonathan Adams
Christian Science Monitor, May 13, 2008

Reports of a massive new naval base in southern China have fueled more concerns in the West and Asia about the rapid rise of China's military.

The underground base can reportedly hold up to 20 submarines, including new nuclear-armed submarines. It is also apparently big enough to hold future aircraft carrier groups if China decides to build them.

Military analysts say that the base is part of China's long-term plan to beef up its naval and nuclear might. They say the expansion is aimed at deterring Taiwan from making its de facto independence permanent, better protecting China's seaborne energy supplies, and projecting Chinese power far beyond its shores.

China is also replacing about 20 silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of hitting the US with a new strategic force that includes road-mobile nuclear ICBMs and submarine-launched, nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, which are less vulnerable to attack.

Jane's Intelligence Review, the British-based defense periodical, reported that commercially available satellite imagery had confirmed China's construction of the new base near Sanya, on China's southern Hainan Island. Military sources knew about the planned base since 2002.

China's nuclear and naval build-up at Sanya underlines Beijing's desire to assert tighter control over this region. China's increasing dependence on imported petroleum and mineral resources has contributed to an intensified Chinese concern about defending its access to vital sea lanes, particularly to its south. It is this concern that in large part is driving China's development of power-projection naval forces such as aircraft carriers and long-range nuclear submarines.

China has pursued this build-up at Sanya with little fanfare, offering no public explanations regarding its plan to base nuclear weapons or advanced naval platforms there.

China's foreign ministry refused to confirm or deny the report about the base, according to Reuters.

"China is going down the road of peaceful development. China's national defence policy is defensive. Other countries have no reason to fear, or make a fuss about it and be prickly," [Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang] told a regular news conference.

Meanwhile, some US experts are calling for a strengthening of alliances in the region to counter the growing military challenge from China, reports Agence France-Presse. Arthur Waldron, of the University of Pennsylvania, said the US should strengthen alliances with Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Singapore to contain China's military strength.

James Lyons, an ex-commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said the US should use the same tactics it used to contain the Soviet Union during the cold war. One of Lyons's suggestions: increase US ties with the Philippines by leasing fighter jets and Navy vessels to the island nation.

The revelations about the base near Sanya come as the Pentagon is seeking to forge better ties with its military counterparts in China. The Christian Science Monitor reported earlier this year that US-China military relations still lag behind the two countries' diplomatic and economic relations. The Pentagon hopes that better communication can help clarify the intent behind China's rapid military buildup.

The new base is also raising concerns in India, reports the Asia Times from New Delhi. It said Indian defense experts view China as a long-term military threat, since the two countries have overlapping interests in the Indian Ocean. India recently tested its own Agni III ballistic missile, that will be capable of hitting Beijing and Shanghai.

Indian Express reports that the new Jin-class submarine deployed at the base carries 12 nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. It notes that the new base in Hainan is 1,200 nautical miles from the Malacca Strait, through which some of China's energy supplies pass from the Indian Ocean.

The new base could help provide China with the ability to cut off commercial traffic through the strait in a crisis. It said China's new base could also spur India to accelerate its own nuclear submarine program. Sea trials for the first sub are set for next year.

The Times of India reports that the extent of the new Chinese base has "jolted the Indian defence establishment." India has nuclear weapons, too, but has yet to develop its own nuclear-armed submarines, a deficiency that "has long troubled defence planners."

While an adversary can take out missile silos and airbases in pre-emptive strikes, it's difficult to target nuclear submarines which can remain underwater for prolonged periods.

The sheer importance of the underwater nuclear deterrent can be gauged from the fact that even the US and Russia will ensure that two-thirds of the strategic warheads they eventually retain, under arms reduction agreements, will be in the shape of SLBMs [submarine-launched ballistic missiles].

Writing in the Federation of American Scientists' Strategic Security Blog, Hans Kristensen strikes a skeptical note. He says that the Chinese have very little experience in operating ballistic missile submarines, so it's not clear yet how strategically significant the new base will be.
He suggested that the US could easily monitor Chinese movements from the base, which is near deep water.

The U.S. navy has several decades of experience in trailing Soviet SSBNs [nuclear-powered submarines armed with ballistic nuclear missiles] in the open oceans; shallow waters are much more challenging. And the South China Sea is a busy area for U.S. attack submarines, which have unconstrained access to the waters off Hainan Island. And I'd be surprised if there were not a U.S. "shadow" following the Jin-class SSBN when it arrived at Hainan Island.

The Daily Telegraph quoted a leading arms control expert in saying that China was giving its nuclear forces a major overhaul.

Bates Gill, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), said that [China] was developing more flexible delivery systems, including from submarines, as well as the capacity to use multiple warheads.

"Among the major nuclear powers China stands out in its effort to modernise, expand and improve its nuclear weapons capability," he said in Beijing today.

"We see some very interesting and quite dramatic changes in the way its nuclear deterrent operates."

But the Telegraph says China's arsenal is still the smallest of the five big powers – also including US, Russia, Britain, and France – at only 100 to 200 warheads.

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