ICAN founded by Malaysia’s Dr. Ronald McCoy wins Nobel Peace Prize 2017


October 26, 2017

ICAN founded by Dr. Ronald McCoy wins Nobel Peace Prize 2017

http://www.straitstimes.com

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Dr Ronald McCoy founded ICAN a decade ago

Dr Ronald McCoy founded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) 10 years ago. On October 6, Ican won the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

But there was.

Decades later, Dr McCoy heard of and joined IPPNW, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Years of campaigning to eradicate nuclear weapons led the retired obstetrician to found the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) 10 years ago.

On October 6, Ican won the Nobel Peace Prize, after the United Nations announced in July that 122 countries had signed on to adopt a total ban on nuclear weapons.

The first UN treaty of its kind, it is legally binding and comes into effect once 50 nations ratify it. Absent from the negotiations were the nine nuclear-armed states and their allies, while Netherlands voted against it and Singapore abstained.

 “A lot of people in the world don’t understand what are the consequences of a nuclear war,” Dr McCoy said in an interview at his home in Petaling Jaya.

NOT AN INSURMOUNTABLE TASK

A lot of people in the world don’t understand what are the consequences of a nuclear war. There is the feeling that no matter what they do, nuclear weapons won’t be disarmed. But if there is a human problem, surely there is a human solution.

DR RONALD MCCOY, who founded the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or Ican.

“There is the feeling that no matter what they do, nuclear weapons won’t be disarmed. But if there is a human problem, surely there is a human solution.”

The founding of Ican, Dr McCoy said, stemmed from the 2005 failure of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to produce any agreed action plan.

“It felt like barking up the wrong tree… So I said, ‘Let’s take nuclear disarmament out of the NPT process, which was not working, and let’s form an international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons’. That is how we got Ican.”

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A sprightly 87-year-old, Dr McCoy has had an illustrious career delivering more than 20,000 babies during his 40 years working as a doctor in Malaysia.

Watching over soon-to-be mothers and their babies, Dr McCoy could not shake off the feeling of responsibility for children growing up in a world with nuclear weapons.

“This baby now lives in a world bristling with nuclear weapons and the threat of a nuclear war… To me, I have an extended responsibility to do something about that,” he said.

He added: “As doctors, we cannot do anything in a nuclear war… Nuclear disarmament is a kind of preventive medicine.”

Dr McCoy said that the countries possessing nuclear weapons cannot use the excuse of deterrence to justify having such destructive arms.

“You can’t forever rely on deterrence without an accident occurring one day,” he said.

The road to eradication of nuclear weapons, Dr McCoy believes, has to come from the country with the most nuclear arms – the United States.

“If the US gives these up, other nuclear states would give up their nuclear weapons. The change has to come from the US.”

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Despite his age, Dr McCoy has not slowed down. Spending his days responding to e-mails and reading the news and reports on nuclear weapons disarmament, he stays healthy by doing light exercises at home.

Dr McCoy, whose father was a civil servant with Malayan Railways, grew up in Kuala Lumpur.

It was a five minute-walk from his home to his primary school in Pudu, an old neighbourhood in KL; later, he cycled daily to the prestigious all-boys Victoria Institution for his secondary school education.

Of Anglo-Indian descent, Dr McCoy said many people are surprised to learn that he is Malaysian. “Maybe it is my name and the colour of my skin. So I would say, ‘I am 200 per cent Malaysian’,” he said in jest.

Although he thinks that it will be “a tough road ahead” for nuclear abolition, the bright and cheerful grandfather of four is optimistic that nuclear weapons disarmament is possible.

More so after the UN treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was passed.

“You should have heard the roar in the room when they announced it!” he exclaimed.

“When we get to zero nuclear, I won’t be around. But do leave me a forwarded message and wherever I am, I will celebrate,” he said, smiling.

The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented on December 10 in Oslo, Norway. Dr McCoy will be attending the ceremony.

When asked if he could impart any advice to the younger generation, he said: “Love your fellow human beings. What could be more needful than that today?”

Correction note: The headline has been edited for clarity. We are sorry for the earlier error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline ‘Malaysian doctor wins Nobel prize for anti-nuke movement’. Print Edition | Subscribe

Happy 2017 Diwali to All People of Faith, Peace and Goodwill


October 18, 2017

Happy 2017 Diwali

Image result for Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

With the Inauguration of a new President in the United States some 9 months ago, we have entered a period of global uncertainty.  Democracy promoted by  The United States since the end of the Second World War, as we taught to know it, is now dysfunctional. The America Dr. Kamsiah and I knew and admired has become  a selfish and self- centered fading power.

It is no longer the exceptional and indispensable nation. Under President Trump, America has shown worrying signs of having lost its moral high ground to preach and hector other nations on democracy, justice and human rights. At home,  it  is ideologically, religiously and racially divided. A House Divided cannot stand, nor can it lead.

New centers of global power have emerged–China, India and resurgent Russia–to  fill the gap created by  “America First”. My favorite Republican Senator from Arizona and a Vietnam War Hero, John McCain , said it most eloquently  just a couple days ago:

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Senator John McCain and Mrs Cindy McCain

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history. We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad.”

It is an uncertain world ahead as Trump’s America looks inwards purportedly to develop its badly neglected infrastructure and the economy. The vacuum in global leadership  is waiting to be filled. The rest of us must now adapt to new players and learn to deal with an enigmatic Donald Trump. It is, therefore, appropriate for us to reflect on the challenges for humanity since these times threaten our common future. What better occasion than Diwali 2017 –The Festival of Lights.

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Dr Kamsiah Haider in Kuala Lumpur and I in Phnom Penh take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Diwali 2017 with lots  of Peace and Happiness.

We thank you all for your friendship, support and kind cooperation. We have enjoyed engaging with you on FaceBook and this blog. We may have not agreed with you most of the time, but we pleased  that you were able to share your views and ideas with us.–Dr. Kamsiah Haider and Din Merican

Cambodia– Responding to Rising Voter Expectations


October 16, 2017

Cambodia– Responding to Rising  Voter Expectations 

by Kongkea Chhoeun, Australian National University

http://www.eastasiaforum.org

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As long as the Cambodian government manages to maintain satisfactory economic performance, continues its piecemeal reforms benefitting the majority of the population, and promotes some appearance of democracy in the country, it will continue to demand difficult value judgments on the part of Cambodian citizens as to whether the CPP’s actions against the media and civil society are worth fighting back against.– Kongkea Chhoeun

 

It might be easy to forget given the events of August–September 2017, but Cambodian democracy had until a few years ago been making progress. Many key indicators of democratic quality had continued to improve since the 1998 national elections, which followed the near collapse of the system in the aftermath of the July 1997 internal fighting between armed forces loyal to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Rannariddh.

 

Competition among political parties increased, thanks to the unification of the opposition parties in 2012 ahead of the 2013 national election. The economy also continued to grow extraordinarily well. Growth has averaged 7 per cent per year since 1993, and poverty has fallen more than 1 per cent per year on average since 2003. Inequality has also declined. Vertical political accountability has been strengthened markedly, thanks to decentralisation and deconcentration. Cambodians are increasingly able to hold local leaders to account through local democratic processes.

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Sanderson Park, at Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh  has a sculpture of a dove with an olive branch in its beak. It is made up entirely from parts of AK-47 rifles.

But the 2013 polls were a turning point. Although they won the election, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lost the popular vote for the first time since 1998, seeing its popular vote plummet by more than 20 per cent. To its credit, the CPP-led government subsequently implemented various reforms aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Cambodian voters. The CPP has permitted moderate reforms, restructured the National Electoral Committee and increased public servants pay. And in August 2017, Hun Sen also promised a slew of new benefits for garment workers, including a big increase in their monthly minimum wage.

But with the carrots have come sticks.Indicators of horizontal accountability have either stalled or are in decline. Local and international NGOs and media operated with comparatively little constraint from the state before the 2013 national election period. Since then, the government has made disturbing moves that wipe out progress made in terms of political openness. Among a range of actions is the passage of legislation governing NGOs.

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Despite a boycott by the opposition, the Parliament passed the Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations, which requires the nearly 5000 domestic and international NGOs that work in the country to register with the government and report their activities and finances or risk fines, criminal prosecution and being shut down. In August 2017, the government used this law to order the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to shut down its operations and repatriate its foreign staff, accusing the NDI of illegally operating in the country.

The Cambodian government has also targeted foreign and foreign-linked media. In August 2017, the government accused the Cambodia Daily of failing to pay more than US$6 million in taxes, giving the paper one month to resolve the issue or risk being shut down. The Daily is a US-owned outlet credited for its reports critical of the government. In addition, the government instructed more than a dozen radio stations across the country to cease operations, accusing them of failing to report how much and to whom they sell their airtime.

Two major factors — one internal and one external — may explain the government’s recent measures against international NGOs and media. Internally, these measures were escalated as a result of the June 2017 local government elections, the result of which represented a big boost for the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party and a serious blow to the CPP. After the June 2017 local government elections, the CPP still controlled the majority of local governments — 1156 or 70 per cent of communes. But the opposition party’s share of local governments increased about 12 fold in comparison with the last local elections held in 2012.

The external factor is the declining role of the United States as a champion of democracy. The drastic moves targeting US-based NGOs and media occurred in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. His election and subsequent attacks on mainstream media have disconcerted democrats at home and abroad and certainly delegitimised US efforts to promote liberal democratic principles internationally.

Furthermore, the failure of the United States to pre-empt and manage democratic breakdown in Thailand, and to promote democracy in Laos and Vietnam, only serves to diminish the US role in promoting democracy in Cambodia, and potentially gives the Cambodian government an excuse to maintain the status quo.

Likewise, Australia and European countries have been silent on these issues so far, showing a similar unwillingness to influence internal political decisions in Cambodia. The 2014 Australia–Cambodia refugee deal tainted Australia’s reputation as an altruistic donor to Cambodia, and has certainly undermined Australian leverage in promoting reforms in Cambodian domestic affairs. And European countries have been busy cleaning up the mess in their own backyard after the Brexit vote in 2016 and the rise of populist movements across the continent.

Meanwhile, Cambodia is increasingly dependent on China, and less and less so on Western countries. China is feeding the Cambodian economy, investing US$857 million (roughly 61 per cent of total FDI) and channelling US$320 million in aid (roughly 30 per cent of total aid) to the country in 2015. By contrast, investment and aid from Western countries is either modest or on the decline.

Whatever the mix of domestic and global political influences, the consequences of the CPP’s crackdown on Cambodia’s democracy are being felt. As long as the Cambodian government manages to maintain satisfactory economic performance, continues its piecemeal reforms benefitting the majority of the population, and promotes some appearance of democracy in the country, it will continue to demand difficult value judgments on the part of Cambodian citizens as to whether the CPP’s actions against the media and civil society are worth fighting back against.

Kongkea Chhoeun is a PhD Candidate at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

This article was first published here on New Mandala.

 

2017 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to ICAN–Congratulations


October  7, 2017

2017 Nobel Peace Prize Goes to ICAN–Congratulations

by Robin Wright

http://www.newyorker.com

Image result for Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director

 

The dreamers won. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is still so green that, when the call came from the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the group initially thought it was a prank. But, in the middle of two brewing crises over nuclear weapons, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to a global coalition of young activists who defied the United States and the eight other nuclear powers this summer to win support at the United Nations for the first treaty to ban the world’s deadliest weapon.

With dogged determination, ICAN, which was formed just a decade ago, generated support from more than a hundred and twenty countries for the landmark accord. Fifty-three nations have signed it since the formal process began, on September 20th.

The Trump Administration led a boycott of talks on the ICAN initiative at the United Nations last spring. “There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., told reporters. “But we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?”

The Nobel committee cited ICAN, which is based in Geneva, for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

Arms-control advocates were jubilant on Friday. “A stunning achievement with profound impact on global efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons,” Joseph Cirincione, the President of the Ploughshares Fund, told me. “No one but the members of ICAN thought they could succeed. They are dreamers in the best sense, people with a big vision and a big plan to match. Think John Lennon.” The Nobel committee’s message is clear, he said. “All nine nuclear-armed states are building more and newer nuclear weapons. The risk of nuclear war is at its highest level since the early nineteen-eighties, with impulsive, unstable leaders elevating the role of nuclear weapons in their strategies and playing nuclear chicken in Northeast Asia. The committee hopes that if the great nations won’t eliminate the one weapon that can destroy humanity, then the people themselves must force them to do so.”

In a statement, ICAN described the prize as “a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who, ever since the dawn of the atomic age, have loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our earth.”

In a video, Beatrice Fihn, ICAN’s Executive Director (pic above), described how she thought the call from the Nobel committee was a joke. “You just get so nervous that it’s not real. So, it wasn’t until the actual broadcast, when she spoke the name ICAN, that we really understood that it was real,” she said, shortly after the news broke. Asked if she thought the treaty or the Nobel Prize would change the minds of the world’s nuclear powers, she said, “It doesn’t work like that. The treaty is meant to make it harder to justify nuclear weapons, to make it uncomfortable for states to continue with the status quo, to put more pressure on them. That isn’t going to happen overnight, of course. But it is a huge boost to all the people who worked on this issue for a very long time, the new generations who are mobilizing around this issue, through our campaign and other work. It’s a huge signal that this is worthy to work on and this is needed and appreciated.”

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Beatrice Fihn, left, Executive Director of the International campaign to abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and Actor and UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas, right.

The Nobel decision comes amid growing tensions between the United States and North Korea, which this year has tested both a nuclear bomb and new missile-delivery systems. President Trump has repeatedly vowed that North Korea cannot be allowed to keep its advanced-weaponry program. Last month, he warned Kim Jong Un, whom Trump nicknamed “little Rocket Man,” that the military option is on the table to contain Pyongyang’s ambitions.

The Trump Administration will also unveil its strategy next week regarding the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, negotiated between Iran and the world’s six major powers. President Trump is expected to announce that Tehran is not fully conforming to the “spirit” of the accord, even though the U.N.’s nuclear-watchdog agency has repeatedly reported that Iran has fully complied with the deal’s restrictions. The move would endanger the deal but not automatically kill it. It would open the way for Congress to re-impose the economic sanctions lifted as part of the agreement—and put Washington and Tehran on a collision course.

The Nobel Prize was not a message to the Trump Administration, Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, told reporters on Friday. “We’re not kicking anyone in the legs with this prize,” she said. Instead, it was to offer “encouragement” to all parties engaged in disarmament initiatives. The Nobel committee also recognized that a formal ban—enshrined in the treaty promoted by ICAN—would “not in itself eliminate a single nuclear weapon, and that so far neither the states that already have nuclear weapons nor their closest allies support the nuclear-ban treaty.”

Yet ICAN has generated growing support among non-governmental groups—now totaling four hundred and sixty-eight disarmament, humanitarian, and environment organizations worldwide—since it was founded on a shoestring in 2007. The movement began in Australia but formally launched in Vienna.

Fihn, who is Swedish, said the movement was inspired by a similar coalition that mobilized support for a treaty to ban land mines. The U.S.-based International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and its American coördinator, Jody Williams, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. The land-mine treaty has been signed by the vast majority of U.N. members, although the big three—the United States, Russia, and China—have spurned it. Campaigns by civil society and grassroots movements have a growing profile on global issues—from the environment and human rights to the regulation or elimination of other weapons of mass destruction, despite pushback from major powers.

The new Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was voted on in July, prohibits nations from “developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons.” It also prohibits assisting, encouraging, or inducing any country to engage in these activities.

Any country that commits to destroy its nuclear weapons—in a legally binding and time-bound plan—is eligible to join. All nine nuclear powers—the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israeli, India, Pakistan, and North Korea—have directly or implicitly rejected the treaty, which will not take force until fifty countries ratify it, the step after signing it.

“The ceremony to open signatures on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came a day after Donald Trump vowed to totally destroy North Korea if they attacked, which was followed by additional nuclear threats from North Korea,” Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, in Washington, told me. “At a time when nuclear dangers and tensions are rising, ICAN’s call to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons — and the Nobel Prize itself—is the appropriate rejoinder to those governments and leaders who continue to promote the role and potential use of these mass-terror weapons in the twenty-first century.”

Donald Trump’s War Doctrine Débuts, at the U.N.


September 21, 2017

Donald Trump’s War Doctrine Débuts, at the U.N.

In a bellicose address at the United Nations, Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, called Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man,” and baffled veteran American diplomats. Photograph by Spencer Platt / Getty

On Tuesday, Donald Trump made his début on the world stage—on the same elegant green-marble dais, donated by Italy after the Second World War, that he had mocked in a 2012 tweet as ugly. “The 12 inch sq. marble tiles behind speaker at UN always bothered me,” Trump wrote. “I will replace with beautiful large marble slabs if they ask me.” Trump’s thoughts about the United Nations were bigger—and badder—this time around.

“Major portions of the world are in conflict, and some, in fact, are going to hell,” Trump declared. He vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if it didn’t abandon its nuclear weapons and the intercontinental ballistic missiles that deliver them. He came close to calling for regime change in “reckless” Iran, for policies that “speak openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.” Trump called the nuclear deal—brokered by all the veto-wielding nations of the world body—“an embarrassment” to the United States, implicitly insulting the European allies that initiated the effort and the Security Council, which unanimously endorsed it. He implied a willingness to use military action in Venezuela “to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy.” He blasted Cuba and took sharp digs at China and Russia.

The President also delivered a few campaign-style zingers—like his pledge to “crush loser terrorists.” About North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Trump pronounced, “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Trump reportedly insisted, over aides’ objections, that he keep the reference to the Elton John song in his speech. The line is sure to become part of U.N. lore—along with the Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s quip, in 1987, “Remember, President Reagan, Rambo only exists in the movies,” and the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s insult, the day after George W. Bush’s 2006 U.N. speech, “The devil came here yesterday, and it smells of sulfur still.”

For a body more accustomed to nuanced diplomatic speak, and now yearning for leadership in an unsettled world, Trump’s bellicose speech was his America First doctrine on steroids. Indeed, he opened his remarks to leaders from almost two hundred countries with a litany of his achievements since Election Day. “Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been,” he boasted.

One of Trump’s most curious and convoluted themes—in an increasingly interconnected and globalizing world—was the need for greater sovereignty. “The nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition,” he said. The subtext was that walls, along every nation’s borders, were the keys to prosperity and international security.

The line baffled veteran American diplomats. “The President kept talking about sovereignty as if it were imperilled,” Richard Haass, the current president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the head of the State Department’s policy-planning staff under the George H. W. Bush Administration, told me. “The last I checked, we still have a veto at the U.N. We set our own limits in the Paris climate pact. No one is forcing us to adhere to trade agreements. It seemed to me it was something of a red herring. U.S. sovereignty is not imperilled. It’s an odd emphasis at the U.N., where our goal is to generate collective effort against common problems. It seemed to me inherently contradictory.”

The tenor throughout Trump’s forty-minute speech was contrary to many of the trends of the twenty-first century. He advocated ideas that other nations either find suspect or shun outright. Trump ignored the fact that he needs the world right now more than the world needs (or wants) him. Saying that the United States is gaining military muscle no longer means that Washington gains more leverage. Power has been redefined and defused, as have the threats of the era.

“The defining challenges of the twenty-first century are global in nature,” Haass said. “That is what was missing—whether proliferation or terror or climate change or hacking or democratic disruption. A pinched approach to sovereignty is inadequate.”

Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a risk-consulting firm, told me that the long-term fallout from Trump’s speech may be to accelerate the identity politics and anti-globalization sentiments that fuel so many of today’s conflicts. The world, he said, has been headed toward a “geopolitical recession,” a period of instability featuring setbacks to globalization and international coöperation. Weakened global institutions that can’t respond quickly or effectively to challenges increase the prospects for more wars. Trump’s unilateralist rhetoric is “facilitating a faster unwind, and that’s a dangerous thing,” Bremmer said.

Trump’s patronizing language at the U.N. was a stark departure from the policies of America’s two other twenty-first-century Presidents. George W. Bush’s strategy emphasized the promotion of democracy and nation-building, while Barack Obama was big on human rights, global outreach, and resolving old tensions.

“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity, and peace for themselves and for the world,” Trump said. “We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions, or even systems of government.”

The question is whether Trump, in his speech, went too far—and scared too many—to generate the kind of collaboration that he needs to achieve the very foreign-policy goals he outlined.

The President’s threat “won’t make Kim Jong Un quiver in his boots and give up his nukes,” Mark Fitzpatrick, the executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in Washington, told me. “To the contrary, it will reinforce his determination to have nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles that can deter the U.S.” America’s allies also now have to worry, he added, that Trump’s belligerent words will make Pyongyang even more dangerous.

The same is true of his condemnation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the clunkily named Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the most significant nonproliferation agreement in more than a quarter century. “Nobody in the room, save Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, will have been pleased by Trump’s denunciation of the J.C.P.O.A.,” Fitzpatrick said. The consequences of abandoning the Iran deal, he noted, could also backfire in relation to North Korea. “Denouncing a deal that all other parties are upholding will certainly not make North Korea any more disposed toward striking a deal with the United States over its nuclear program.”

Trump’s speech infuriated the Iranians. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “Trump’s ignorant hate speech belongs in medieval times-not the 21st Century UN -unworthy of a reply. Fake empathy for Iranians fools no one.”

Key players didn’t even show up for Trump’s début. President Xi Jinping, of China, didn’t come to New York to build on the relationship started over dinner at Mar-a-Lago, in April. Trump is dependent on China to deal with North Korea—and Xi is unlikely to make the grand gestures required to force the “Rocket Man” to surrender his deadliest weapons. For all that is at stake between Washington and Moscow, President Vladimir Putin didn’t bother to attend, either. Trump needs Russian help to tighten the squeeze on Pyongyang through U.N. sanctions.

Angela Merkel, now the de-facto champion of the West, also stayed home, occupied by the run-up to a crucial election. The Germans are outspoken about their commitment to the Iran nuclear deal—and have said so, bluntly, to the Trump Administration. Despite closer ties with Saudi Arabia forged during Trump’s first foreign trip, neither the King nor the Crown Prince came to New York. As at Trump’s Inauguration, the crowd at this opening of the United Nations may not have been as large as the President had hoped.

Iran President Hassan Rouhani Latest Speech At UNGA United Nations | 20 Sept 2017–A Rebuttal to Donald Trump

 

Asia’s Fragile Strategic Miracle


August 20, 2017

Asia’s Fragile Strategic Miracle

by Richard N.Haass*

http://www.project-syndicate.org

*Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, previously served as Director of Policy Planning for the US State Department (2001-2003), and was President George W. Bush’s special envoy to Northern Ireland and Coordinator for the Future of Afghanistan. He is the author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order.

It is too soon to know whether and how the challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs will be resolved. But it is not too early to consider what that challenge could mean for a part of the world that has in many ways defied history.

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The moniker “Asian Miracle” goes some way toward conveying just how extraordinary the last half-century of economic growth in many Asian countries has been. The first economy to take off was Japan, which, despite a slowdown in recent decades and a relatively small population, remains the world’s third-largest economy.

China’s ascent began a bit later, but is no less impressive: the country achieved over three decades of double-digit average GDP growth, making it the world’s second-largest economy today. India, soon to be the world’s most populous country, has lately been experiencing an impressive 7-8% annual rate of GDP growth. And the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations averaged some 5% growth in recent years.

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Crony Capitalism and Patronage

But contemporary Asia’s economic miracle rests on a less-discussed strategic miracle: the maintenance of peace and order. Since the end of the Vietnam War in the mid-1970s, Asia has stood out for its lack of major conflicts within or across borders – an achievement that distinguishes it from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and even Latin America.

This stability is all the more extraordinary because Asia is home to a large number of unresolved disputes. When World War II ended in 1945, Japan and Russia did not sign a peace treaty, owing largely to their competing claims over the Southern Kuril Islands, known in Japan as the Northern Territories. Eight years later, the Korean War also ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving behind a divided and heavily armed peninsula.

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Asia’s Future depends on this handshake between Abe and Abe?

Today, competing territorial claims – mostly involving China – continue to stoke tension across Asia. Japan is embroiled in a dispute with China over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands in the East China Sea. More than half a dozen other Asian countries disagree vehemently with China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. And India is at loggerheads with China over their long-shared Himalayan border.

Despite all of these tensions, Asia has remained largely at peace, partly because no country has wanted to jeopardize economic growth by initiating a conflict. This perspective is most clearly associated with Deng Xiaoping. In leading China’s process of economic “reform and opening-up” from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Deng explicitly emphasized the importance of a stable external environment to facilitate internal economic development. The reliance on regional trade ties to support growth and employment has provided yet another incentive to sustain peace.

But economics was probably not the only factor at play. Because most Asian countries are host to relatively homogenous societies with strong national identities, the chance of civil conflicts erupting and spilling over national borders is relatively low. Last but certainly not least, America’s strong military presence in Asia – which underpins its robust regional alliance system – has reduced the need for Asian countries to develop large military programs of their own, and has reinforced a status quo that discourages armed adventurism.

These factors have contributed to peace and stability in Asia, but they cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, they are now coming under increasing pressure – putting the strategic miracle that has facilitated Asia’s economic miracle in jeopardy.

What changed? For one thing, China’s economic rise has allowed it to expand its military capabilities. As China adopts an increasingly assertive foreign policy – exemplified by its border dispute with India and territorial claims in the South China Sea – other countries are increasingly motivated to boost their own military spending. As that happens, it becomes more likely that a disagreement or incident will escalate into a conflict.

Meanwhile, the US – the only power with the capability to offset China – seems to be retreating from its traditional role in Asia. Already, US President Donald Trump’s administration has withdrawn his country from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and confronted US allies on their defense spending and persistent trade imbalances. More generally, the growing unpredictability of US foreign policy could weaken deterrence and prompt allies to take their security into their own hands.

The most immediate cause of potential instability is North Korea, which now poses not just a conventional military threat to South Korea, but also a nuclear threat to all of Asia, as well as to the US. This could invite a devastating preemptive strike from the US. But, if the US refrains from military action, the results could also be catastrophic, if the North actually does strike. Even just the threat of such a strike could be destabilizing, if it drives concerned US allies such as South Korea and Japan to increase their military spending and reconsider their non-nuclear postures.

Should any of these scenarios come to pass, the consequences would be far-reaching. Beyond the human costs, they would threaten the economic prosperity of not only Asia, but the entire world. A conflict between the US and China, in particular, could poison the single most important bilateral relationship of the twenty-first century.

The good news is that none of this is inevitable. There is still time for governments to embrace restraint, explore diplomacy, and reconsider policies that threaten to undermine stability. Unfortunately, we are living in a time of rising nationalism and at times irresponsible leadership. Add to that inadequate regional political-military arrangements, and it is not at all certain that wisdom will triumph over recklessness, or that Asia’s unique decades-long peace will endure.