Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

Hong Kong on the March

Amazing.

An estimated 1.7 million people in Hong Kong – a quarter of the population – defied police orders to stage a peaceful march after a rally in a downtown park, after two months of increasingly violent clashes that have prompted severe warnings from Beijing and failed to win concessions from the city’s government.

Huge crowds filled Victoria Park on Sunday afternoon and spilled on to nearby streets, forcing police to block traffic in the area. Torrential rain came down an hour into the rally, turning the park into a sea of umbrellas. At the same time, protesters walked towards Central, the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, and surrounded government headquarters.

Sudan’s Leaders Sign Agreement

This doesn’t look promising.

Sudan’s ruling military council and civilian opposition alliance have signed a landmark power-sharing deal.

The agreement ushers in a new governing council, including both civilians and generals, to pave the way towards elections and civilian rule.

Gen Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, widely regarded as Sudan’s most powerful man, has pledged to abide by its terms.

Sudan has seen pro-democracy protests and repression since long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April.

[…]

Under the deal, a sovereign council, consisting of six civilians and five generals, will run the country until elections.

The two sides have agreed to rotate the chairmanship of the council for just over three years. A prime minister nominated by civilians is due to be appointed next week.

So the civilian and martial war lords have agreed to create an oligarchy to run the country. I don’t think that’s what the democracy protesters had in mind.

Israel Bans Omar and Tlaib

While Israel is perfectly within it’s rights and these two women are demonstrably anti-Semitic, I don’t appreciate the Israeli’s banning two duly-elected members of the United States Congress.

Israel is blocking two US Democratic lawmakers and prominent critics of Israel from visiting.

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were due to visit the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem next week.

Both have supported the boycott movement against Israel, but Israeli law allows supporters of the campaign to be banned from visiting.

Labour Moves Toward Brexit Deal

Nothing like a crisis to force a compromise. Then again, the compromise may be worse than the no-deal Brexit.

Labour MPs opposed to a second referendum are considering a “radical and dramatic intervention” to make clear to Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnsonthey are prepared to vote for a Brexit deal, with one estimating that dozens of colleagues are now ready to back the withdrawal agreement.

Stephen Kinnock, the Labour MP who coordinates around 30 MPs in a group called Respect the Result, said he believed that passing the withdrawal agreement was the most certain way of stopping the UK crashing out without a deal.

Kinnock, who had been urging Corbyn to do a deal with Theresa May in cross-party talks, said there was an increasing feeling among many of his colleagues opposed to a second referendum that passing the withdrawal agreement bill was the best option.

Despite Johnson’s refusal to negotiate with the EU unless it drops the backstop, Kinnock said a time would come in the autumn when a compromise deal could be done based on the withdrawal agreement that emerged out of cross-party talks.

“We’ve got to make a radical and dramatic intervention,” he said. “If enough of us do then it’s up to Boris Johnson to see where he goes from there. It means a large number of us going to see Jeremy and trying as hard as we possibly can telling him to make that big, bold offer, to face down the second referendum campaign and say there’s no time for that. We’ve got to get this deal over the line.

Hong Kong Continues to Rage

I expect that totalitarian China is running out of patience, but Hong Kong is too important to their economy to risk a complete crackdown… yet.

Hong Kong International Airport saw chaotic scenes on a second consecutive day of massive anti-government protests that have paralysed one of Asia’s key transport hubs.

Squads of riot police arrived shortly before midnight after thousands of demonstrators again flooded the terminal buildings during the day.

Flight departures were brought to a standstill amid scuffles.

At least three men were mobbed inside the airport by protesters.

They were said to be holding identity cards showing they were police officers from mainland China.

Hong Kong police have admitted deploying the editor of China’s Global Times newspaper said one of those attacked was one of his reporters who was merely doing his job.

Hong Kong Fights for Freedom

Fight on, brothers. We’re with you.

Hong Kong police have once again clashed with anti-government protesters as the city enters its 10th week of mass demonstrations and unrest.

Police fired tear gas across the city on Sunday night, including into an enclosed railway station.

In the Wan Chai district, petrol bombs and bricks were thrown at riot police who responded by charging at protesters with batons.

A number of people, including a police officer, were injured in the clashes.

Police were also filmed firing rubber bullets at close range inside a subway station, while other officers were seen beating people with batons on an escalator.

Two months of demonstrations sparked by a controversial extradition bill show no signs of abating, with both sides hardening their stance.

Mexico Makes Bid to Change American Laws

Heh.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s government said it considers a shooting at a crowded department store in El Paso, Texas that left eight of its citizens dead an “act of terrorism” against Mexicans and hopes it will lead to changes in U.S. gun laws.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard met Monday afternoon with local authorities in El Paso and said Mexico will participate in the investigations and trial there, as well as take legal action against those who sold the gun to the shooter.

“An investigation will be opened for terrorism, because that’s what it was,” Ebrard said at a press conference. “And the extradition request is not off the table.”

Ebrard also met with families of the victims and the injured and promised to speed up the repatriation process for the bodies of the eight Mexican victims.

“We agree that it appears racism and white supremacy are serious problems in the United States,” Ebrard said.

It’s a bit comical that Mexico – dysfunctional and rife with violence that it is – would take this stance. Glass houses and whatnot.

EU Rejects UK’s Bid for New Brexit Negotiations

Brexit gonna brexit.

Diplomats from the other EU member states have been told the UK will leave without a deal unless major changes are made to Theresa May’s agreement, but that proposals such as abolishing the Irish backstop were unacceptable.

One negotiator said: “We are back where we were three years ago.”

Downing Street said it hoped the EU would rethink its refusal of changes.

A spokesperson said the EU “needed to change its stance”, adding: “We will throw ourselves into the negotiations with the greatest energy and the spirit of friendship and we hope the EU will rethink its current refusal to make any changes to [Mrs May’s] Withdrawal Agreement.”

The plan negotiated between the EU and Mrs May was voted down by MPs three times.

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to “do or die”, and leave the EU by the deadline of 31 October, with or without a deal.

Iran Seizes British Ship

Escalation.

The British-flagged oil tanker ‘Stena Impero’ was heading to Saudi Arabia’s port of Al-Jubail from the UAE port of Fujairah when it was seized by the IRGC, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Friday, citing a statement from the IRGC.

The IRGC statement said the ship was making an entry from the exit point of the Strait of Hormuz in the South, “disregarding the established procedures that require all entries be made through the Northern pass,” Fars reported.

The ship has been escorted to the Iranian coastal waters in Hormozgan province for further legal procedures and investigations, Fars said.

10% Responsible for Genocide

What a fascinating case.

The Dutch supreme court has upheld a ruling that the Netherlands was partially responsible for 350 deaths in Bosnia’s Srebrenica massacre.

The court said the state had 10% liability, as this was the probability that its soldiers could have prevented the killings.

Bosnian Serb forces killed a total of 8,000 Muslim men in the town of Srebrenica in 1995.

The Dutch had been guarding a UN safe zone when it was overrun.

It is rare for a state to be held responsible for failures in UN peacekeeping work, but the court emphasised that the Netherlands bore “very limited liability”.

[…]

The court ruled that if Dutch forces had given 350 men hiding in the UN compound the chance to stay, there was just a 10% chance they would not have fallen into the hands of the Serbs, and so the Dutch state should be liable for only that proportion of the damages suffered by the bereaved.

The ruling did not give details on how it calculated the 10% chance of survival.

The final verdict draws a line under years of legal battles between the Dutch state and the plaintiffs – a group of victims’ relatives known as the Mothers of Srebrenica.

The case was escalated to the highest court because the state wanted to be cleared of responsibility, while the Mothers of Srebrenica wanted it to be held accountable for all 8,000 deaths in the genocide.

An appeals court had previously set the liability at 30%, but the supreme court’s ruling has drastically reduced that figure.

This is the Dutch court system ruling that their own people were partially responsible for failing in a UN peacekeeping mission that resulted in a genocide. While noble, war is incredibly ugly and I question the rationale of lawyers assigning percentages of blame decades after it happened – particularly for a NOT doing something. These soldiers didn’t commit a war crime. They merely failed to act to prevent one when they might have been able to.

Disney Caves to Chinese Pressure

One lady’s opinion.

Although you can’t judge a film by its trailer, the muted, unhumorous tone of this teaser hints at the film’s objective. Mulan is no longer the self-conscious teenager who disappoints her parents by failing to become the ideal wife, before her fierce and beautiful transformation into the woman she wants to be. Instead, she appears solemn and resolute: Mulan is a now robotic warrior. The removal of the songs is a big mistake: it eliminates the joy and emotional heart that Disney do so well. I can’t help wonder why Disney are remaking Mulan at all if they are simply going to pander to the nationalistic values espoused by the mainland Chinese government – especially as it looks exactly like the kind of “Imperial dramas” that the state media are currently taking aim at.

No doubt Disney have in mind the commercial failure in China of 1998’s Mulan; it was caught up in the controversy over the Disney-funded film Kundun about the Dalai Lama, which led to the Chinese government effectively banning Disney films. The timing of this trailer release is awful, with recent events in Hong Kong culminating in police brutality against anti-extradition bill protesters, and the ongoing oppression of ethnic Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. It feels like Disney is waving a big red flag in everyone’s faces in its desperation to secure success at the Chinese box office. For those who believe in democracy and freedom, this leaves a sour taste.

Protesters Thrown Out of Parliament in Hong Kong

Ouch

Police firing tear gas have evicted protesters who stormed and ransacked Hong Kong’s parliament.

Activists had occupied the Legislative Council (LegCo) building for hours after breaking away from a protest on the anniversary of Hong Kong’s transfer of sovereignty to China from Britain.

After midnight (16:00 GMT), hundreds of police secured the building following a warning to protesters to clear it.

It follows weeks of unrest in the city over a controversial extradition law.

Hundreds of thousands took part in the earlier peaceful protest – the latest rally against a proposed law that critics fear could be used to extradite political dissidents to mainland China.

The protesters have also been demanding an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality during an earlier protest on 12 June.

Iran Enriches Uranium

Shrug. This is why we withdrew from the agreement. We didn’t expect Iran to abide by it anyway.

Iran acknowledged Monday it had broken the limit set on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by the 2015 nuclear deal, marking its first major departure from the unraveling agreement a year after the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the accord.

Iran had been expected for days to acknowledge it broke the limit after earlier warning it would do so. It held off on publicly making an announcement as European leaders met Friday in Vienna to discuss ways to save the accord. Iran has threatened to increase its enrichment of uranium closer to weapons-grade levels by July 7.

The announcement comes as tensions remain high between Iran and the U.S. In recent weeks, the wider Persian Gulf has seen Iran shoot down a U.S. military surveillance drone, mysterious attacks on oil tankers and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen launching bomb-laden drones into Saudi Arabia.

Stepping into North Korea

Wow.

Donald Trump has become the first sitting US president to set foot in North Korea, after meeting Kim Jong-un in the area dividing the two Koreas.

Mr Trump and the North Korean leader posed for handshakes before talking for nearly an hour in the heavily fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ).

Both countries agreed to set up teams to resume stalled nuclear talks.

Their last summit broke down in February with no progress on denuclearisation in North Korea.

Critics have dismissed the occasion – the two leaders’ third face-to-face encounter in just over a year – as a political theatre and say North Korea still needs to show that it is serious in getting rid of its nuclear weapons.

I completely agree that it was theater and that NK needs to demonstrate its sincerity. I disagree that the encounter was meaningless. Symbols and images can be very powerful. Certainly, the evil butterball (as Jay Weber calls Jong-un) is susceptible to it. So we’ll see… maybe this is another step toward peace. Maybe it is one more in a decades-long series of false starts.

FBI Won’t Investigate Khashoggi Murder

Why should the U.S. expend time and money to investigate the murder of a foreign national by other (allegedly) foreign nationals in a foreign nation where the U.S. doesn’t have jurisdiction, authority, the power to subpoena, or use any of the tools of law enforcement? This smells like the U.N. just ribbing the U.S. for their own political purposes.

Donald Trump has dismissed a United Nations request for the FBI to investigate the murder of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, suggesting it would jeopardise American weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

But Trump brushed the proposal aside in an interview broadcast by NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

Asked if he would allow the FBI to investigate, Trump said: “I think it’s been heavily investigated.”

Asked who had investigated, the president replied: “By everybody. I mean … I’ve seen so many different reports.”

Khashoggi, 59, was a US resident who wrote for the Washington Post. He was killed and dismembered after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year, seeking paperwork he needed in order to marry.

Mexico Makes Show of Stopping Migrants

Progress

Chaos erupted along a highway in southern Mexico when a caravan with some 1,000 Central American migrants on their way north was intercepted by a special law enforcement unit as the Mexican government escalates efforts to block asylum seekers from reaching the US in response to President Donald Trump’s tariff threats.

The group of migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, including many women and children, departed from Ciudad Hidalgo at the Mexico-Guatemala border early Wednesday morning and was bound for Tapachula, the principal city in the region.

The special unit of 200 military police, immigration agents and federal officers formed a blockade about 11 miles outside of Tapachula near the town of Metapa to confront the caravan, which was accompanied by state and local police.

While the vast majority of the migrants complied with law enforcement directives and boarded buses and immigration agency vehicles, some resisted and were wrestled to the ground by unarmed agents.

Mexico’s Porous Southern Border

This is a big part of the problem. If Mexico wants to let them in, then fine. Keep them there.

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) — About 400 Central American migrants crossed into Mexico on Tuesday with the aim of reaching the U.S. border to request asylum.

Mexican police looked on as about half the migrants crossed the Suchiate River on inner-tube rafts. The mainly Honduran migrants then walked into the border city of Ciudad Hidalgo to rest in the main plaza.

“The federal police asked us where we were from, or if we had any ties to gangs,” said one Honduran, who didn’t want to give his name for fear of reprisals.

The other half of the migrants walked over the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala and waited to register at a Mexican immigration office. They included many women and children.

Failure is Not Tolerated in North Korea

Just in case you thought that the Evil Dictator was anything other than an evil dictator.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly ordered the execution of several top officials in March after they were unable to reach an agreement with President Trump at a second summit between the two leaders earlier this year.

Bloomberg News reported Thursday citing a South Korean newspaper that Kim Hyok Chol, North Korea’s special envoy to the U.S., was executed in March along with four other North Korean foreign ministry officials involved in the Hanoi, Vietnam, summit.

China Threatens US Over Rare Earth Metals

It is not impossible, but it is very difficult to win a trade war against a totalitarian regime. Their leaders can withstand decades of a down economy because they never have to stand for election. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try for vbetter terms and look for alternative trade partners. China only controls about a third of the known rare earth metal deposits, but that’s mainly because they are willing to take on the high cost and negative environmental consequences to mine them. If China pulls back, it opens the market for other countries to get in. Unfortunately, that will take years.

A Chinese state-run newspaper has warned the U.S. not to underestimate Beijing’s capabilities with its resources of rare earth minerals during a trade war between the two countries.

People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of China‘s ruling Communist Party, hinted serious consequences to the Trump Administration using a diplomatic term usually reserved by Beijing to signal the start of an armed warfare.

‘Don’t say we didn’t warn you!’ The newspaper said in a commentary today as it commented on the possibility of China suspending its exports of rare earths to the U.S.

EU Lurches to the Edges

It’s going to be an interesting time in Europe.

For the first time the big centrist blocs no longer have a majority. The European Parliament elections boosted nationalists, the Greens and liberals.

It leaves the EU more fragmented, so finding consensus may be harder than in the past.