TOKYO — Despite having denied newspaper reports that it is planning to drop its efforts to acquire the F-22 Raptor, the Japanese government seems no closer to securing an order of the stealth fighter in the face of an American export ban. The U.S. is said to be wary of lifting the ban because of a well-publicized data leak concerning the U.S.-developed Aegis defense system by a Japanese officer in 2007. The approach has left some Japanese policymakers and U.S. analysts frustrated. “I find the U.S. policy in this case incomprehensible,” said James Auer, director of the Center for U.S.-Japan […]

The Reality of Afghanistan

I mentioned last week that France is facing severe budgetary pressureson its military deployments abroad. In the last few days, PrimeMinister François Fillon and Defense Minister Hervé Morin have announced the goal of reducing foreign deployments, now numbering 13000troops, by roughly 20 percent, or 3000 troops. So far, thecuts announced have been in African missions that are largely completed(Ivory Coast) or that will be relieved by the UN (Chad, where 600 outof 1800 French troops will remain). In addition, the two navy vesselsdeployed to the UNIFIL maritime mission in Lebanon are being removed,although it’s not clear if they will be […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — Regular bombings, killings and skirmishes between rebels and the military in southern Thailand have forced Thai authorities to finally grasp the scope of a conflict that has scarred thousands and changed the lives of millions. Previously, Thai police, military and politicians had dismissed the attacks as random violence committed by bandits or a handful of disgruntled Islamic militants. Such attempts to play down the carnage were dismissed by Western governments, who see the confrontation with ethnic Malay-Muslim separatists in the south as a persistent threat to regional security. Now, as the rebellion enters its sixth year, Thai […]

The Nabucco Pipe Dream

Patrick Frost at the FPA’s Afghanistan and Central Asia blog flags a meeting of high-level participants in the EU’s Nabucco pipeline project. Frost’s rundown on the state of play is about the most thorough and concise analysis I’ve read of the issue, and well worth clicking through to read. Most Nabucco observers remain skeptical for two principal reasons. On the demand side, the commitment level of the European consortium torealizing the project has never met the threshhold to make it worth thepolitical risks (i.e. Russian retaliation) for the supplier and transitcountries involved. On the supply side, it’s unclear whether Turkmenistan […]

Rediscovering Trade Barriers

Guess what happens to Chinese products once destined for Western economies that can no longer afford them? They find destinations closer to home (via 2point6billion): Indian markets saw a flood of Chinese made toys in the second half of2008 after many western countries decided not to import toysmanufactured in China anymore. Besides a lack of capital, westernimporters decided to “buy American” also due to recent qualityproblems. Guess what happens to Chinese products that try to find destinations closer to home? They get turned away: India on Friday banned Chinese-made toys for six months in order toprotect the domestic industry which […]

The Bridge to Nowhere

Patrick Barry at Demcoracy Arsenal says, “Not so fast,” on those Russian supply routes for Afghanistan. Seems like the Russians are denying that any formal agreement was reached. Frankly, I’d been surprised by the initial reports that the Russians had given the go ahead. President Obama has yet to clarify his stance on European-based missile defense and NATO expansion, and I doubt anything on the U.S.-Russia agenda will budge a whole lot until he does.

While few can predict exactly what new policies will be implemented by the incoming Obama Administration, it is clear that addressing climate change will be among its top priorities, and that any successful approach to the challenge will involve international cooperation. The outlines of a solution are relatively simple. Over time, global carbon emissions need to be reduced, which means that current emitters — largely in the developed world — will need to reduce their emissions. Countries in the developing world, meanwhile, will need to limit the increase in their emissions as their economies grow and modernize, so as not […]

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — In October 2007, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf deployed more than 25,000 security forces to Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan to fight against Taliban militants under the command of Maulana Fazlullah and restore peace to the picturesque valley. At the time, military commanders claimed that the whole mountainous region would be cleared of all militants within two weeks. The locals hoped the heavy deployment of security forces would be instrumental in defeating the rising tide of militancy that increasingly threatened their lives and property. Fifteen months later, the inhabitants of Swat valley are witnessing a completely different […]

ICC TRIAL TO TAKE AIM AT CHILD SOLDIER USE — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court hope the impending trial of Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga will focus international attention on the plight of child soldiers, and serve as a warning to others around the world that use of children in combat will result in prosecution. Lubanga is charged with three counts of war crimes for recruiting child soldiers into the armed wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots group. Hundreds of children as young as 10, prosecutors charge, were kidnapped or recruited by Lubanga, then beaten, […]

Worst Case Scenarios for Afghanistan

Rob over at Arabic Media Shack makes two good points, one strategic and one political, regarding my earlier post on France and Afghanistan, which I neglected to make in focusing on the financial and material constraints facing our European allies with regards to troop increases: Looking at this from the French perspective, it’s hard for me to see whyit’s in French interests to send troops to Afghanistan. If the U.S. shipis sinkingin Afghanistan, as many are saying, why should France jumpon board, given their long-term interest in maintaining a globalforeign policy independent of the United States? Furthermore,US-Europe relations during Bush […]

France, Afghanistan and the Price of Ambition

Apparently whoever blogs for the Economist found this Dan Drezner post a bit heavy on the French-bashing, too. (Drezner’s response here.) To be fair to Drezner, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin’s flat-out rejection of any troop increases in Afghanistan on the day after President Obama was sworn in was uncharacteristically clumsy. Morin’s a very savvy and articulate politician whose tenure as Defense Minister won me over despite the fact that he stabbed François Bayrou in the back to get it, and I’m sure that he’s already gotten an earful from Nicolas Sarkozy. Drezner also pointed out some of the public […]

Last of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. Audio Reporter’s Notebook: Don Duncan discusses how recent resettlement efforts have affected Bhutanese refugees left behind in the camps, and the implications for the militant groups in their midst. (Trouble listening with the above flash player? Download the audio.) THIMPHU, Bhutan — The banners, portraits and flags marking the Bhutanese monarchy’s centenary in 2008, are slowly being taken down in Thimphu’s main streets, as the country eases itself into the new year. But while the rest of the world braces itself for 2009, […]

China, France and the Dalai Lama

Interesting article in Le Figaro about the price France is paying for Nicolas Sarkozy’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in Poland last December. Sarkozy campaigned on a pretty strong human rights plank — with particularly robust rhetoric reserved for Russia — and chose Bernard Kouchner, a militant advocate of liberal interventionism, as his foreign minister. Since taking office, though, his approach to Russia has been pragmatic and surprisingly cordial. He also received Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi at Elysée Palace, a move condemned by even his own Undersecretary of Human Rights, Rama Yade. And as for Bernard Kouchner, although he’s been […]

When Barack Obama takes the oath of office today, he will become the person most empowered to protect Americans, and the world, from attacks of mass destruction. Although he assumes the presidency at a time of grave danger, real progress in curtailing the threat from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is possible under his leadership. The threats, both real and potential, are significant. This past weekend, for instance, North Korean leaders claimed to have used the plutonium generated by the country’s nuclear energy program to make several atomic bombs. They insist that they will not relinquish these nuclear weapons even […]

ISRAEL MIGHT FIGHT FIRST, VOTE LATER — Even with the faint prospect of a ceasefire in the offing, there is talk of postponing Israel’s Feb. 10 national elections. For one thing, none of the parties has been campaigning; the public has been distracted (though not unduly dismayed: a recent poll showed only 10 percent of Israelis are against the Gaza incursion, and 82 percent believe Israel has not “gone too far”); and then there is the rather pious argument that a postponement would prevent resolution of the conflict from becoming a political issue. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is flying […]

Second of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part II: Border Antics JAIGON, India — In the Indian town of Jaigon on the border with Bhutan, a day’s journey from the refugee camp in Nepal that he now calls home, 47-year-old refugee N.B. Giri waits silently in a small hotel room for his old friend, Gopal. Like Giri, Gopal is an ethnic Nepalese who claims Bhutanese citizenship. But after the expulsions of 1991 that caused Giri to leave, Gopal was one of an estimated 100,000 ethnic Nepalese who remained in Bhutan. N.B. Giri stands outside his hut […]

KUDAT, Malaysia — A recent escalation in violence on the troubled Philippine island of Mindanao has led Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia to tighten international security across their maritime borders, and threatened to undermine U.S.-led peace efforts. From Kudat on the northern tip of Malaysian Borneo, south to Sulawesi in Indonesia and eastwards to the strife-torn southern Philippines, authorities have clamped down in response to mounting casualties, after a truce between the Philippine government and separatist Muslim rebels collapsed last year. Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur were to deploy battalion-force strength to their border areas, while Manila rolled out a plan […]

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