East Asia
DPRK

Russia-DPRK defense pact: Cold War redux

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a mutual defense assistance pact during Putin’s first visit to Pyongyang since 2000. According to a statement from the Russian government, the Treaty on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership stipulates “mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties thereto.” Article 4 of the pact states: “If either side faces an armed invasion and is in a state of war, the other side will immediately use all available means to provide military and other assistance.” While full details were not made public, this appears to revive provisions of the 1961 treaty between the Soviet Union and North Korea that stipulated automatic military intervention if either nation came under attack. (Photo: gfs_mizuta/Pixabay via Jurist)

Planet Watch
ASAT

Russia vetoes UN resolution to bar nuclear arms in space

Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution sponsored by the US and Japan which called on all nations to contribute to the peaceful use of outer space and to prevent a dangerous arms race in space-based weapons. The resolution reaffirmed the principles set out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which compels states to “not place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction.” The resolution was announced after the US accused Russia of developing an anti-satellite nuclear weapon to put in space. President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s ministry of defense have denied the accusations. Russia’s UN ambassador called the resolution a “cynical ploy.” (Photo via University of Portsmouth)

Planet Watch
Oppie

Podcast: Oppenheimer and techno-hubris

In Episode 185 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews the Oppenheimer movie, and discusses the legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer 78 years after Hiroshima. Manhattan Project dissidents like Leo Szilard petitioned to stop the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. But such sentiment was overruled by Harry Truman’s geopolitical imperatives—and what Freeman Dyson called the “technical arrogance” of Oppenheimer and his circle. Now, as open Russian nuclear threats continue to mount in Europe, we are poised at the brink of unparalleled catastrophe. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via The Day After Trinity)

Central Asia
Kashagan

Kazakhstan: environmental suit against Caspian consortium

The government of Kazakhstan has brought a legal action for violation of environmental protection laws against the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC), the consortium leading development of the country’s massive Kashagan oil field, seeking $5.14 billion in fines. In the complaint, the Ministry of Ecology & Natural Resources cites storage of sulfur on site in excess of permitted limits, burning of crude gas on flares without a permit, improper discharge of wastewater, and other violations. Kashagan is one of the largest oil-fields discovered on Earth over the past 40 years, with recoverable reserves estimated at up to 13 billion barrels. The consortium includes the Italian Eni, French Total, US-based ExxonMobil, Anglo-Dutch Shell, Chinese CNPC, Japan’s Inpex, and KazMunayGas, the Kazakh national operator. (Map: US Energy Information Administration via Jurist)

East Asia
Hwasong

North Korea law authorizes pre-emptive nuclear strikes

North Korea passed a law enshrining its right to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes. According to the official Korea Central New Agency (KCNA), the law states that “if the command and control system of the national nuclear force is in danger of being attacked by hostile forces, the nuclear strike will be carried out automatically and immediately.” The KCNA added that “by promulgating a law on a policy of the nuclear forces, our country’s status as a nuclear-weapons state has become irreversible.” The new law replaces a 2013 law that allowed for the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation only. (Photo: MissileThreat)

Planet Watch
Nagasaki

Nagasaki mayor: ‘tangible and present crisis’ of nuclear warfare

In official comments on the anniversary of the 1945 US atomic bombing of the Japanese city, the mayor of Nagasaki sounded a note of alarm. Mayor Tomihisa Taue stated: “In January this year, the leaders of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China released a joint statement affirming that ‘a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ However, the very next month Russia invaded Ukraine. Threats of using nuclear weapons have been made, sending shivers throughout the globe. The use of nuclear weapons is not a groundless fear but a tangible and present crisis.” (Photo: Pop Japan)

The Andes
Partnership of the Americas 2009

Colombia joins ‘new partnership’ with NATO

President Joe Biden issued an executive order designating Colombia a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) of the United States. The designation facilitates further weapons transfers from the US to Colombia, and increased military cooperation between the two countries. Colombia is the third MNNA in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina. Weeks earlier, a delegation of NATO staff visited Colombia to discuss the South American country’s participation in the alliance’s Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP). Colombia became NATO’s newest “global partner” in 2018, but this relationship was reinforced last December, when it became a member of the NATO Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
kurils

Submarine incident in flashpoint Kuril Islands

Amid quickly escalating tensions over Ukraine, Russia lodged a diplomatic protest with the US embassy in Moscow, claiming that a US nuclear submarine penetrated Russian territorial waters near the Kuril Islands. According to Moscow’s Defense Ministry, a Virginia-class US Navy submarine was detected off Urup Island, where Russia’s Pacific Fleet was conducting exercises. The Defense Ministry said the submarine was chased off by Russian vessels, and retreated at “maximum speed.” The statement accused the US of a “violation of Russia’s state border.” Media accounts did not emphasize that whether this purported incident indeed took place in Russian waters is questionable, as the Kurils are in part claimed by Japan—a dispute which has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from entering a treaty to formally end their World War II hostilities. Russia over the past weeks has conducted naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean, the North Sea, and northeast Atlantic Ocean, as well as the Pacific and Sea of Okhotsk, where the Kurils are located.  (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Planet Watch
nuclear power

Podcast: Nuclear power? No thanks!

In Episode 110 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the current greenwashing of nuclear power, and hype about a supposedly “safe” new generation of reactors. Every stage of the nuclear cycle is ecocidal and genocidal. Uranium mining has poisoned the lands of indigenous peoples from Navajo Country to Saskatchewan to West Africa. The ongoing functioning of nuclear plants entails routine emissions of radioactive gases, factored in by the bureaucrats in determining “acceptable” levels of cancer. Disposal of the waste, and the retired reactor sites themselves, is a problem that inherently defies solution. They will be deadly for exponentially longer into the future than biblical times stretch into the past. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in New Mexico, hyped as secure for hundreds of millennia, leaked plutonium after only 13 years. And finally there is the “sexiest” issue, the one that actually gets some media play, at least—the risk of accident. It is a mark of capitalism’s depravity that even after the nightmares of Fukushima and Chernobyl, we periodically get media campaigns about an imminent “nuclear renaissance.” Nuclear versus fossil fuels is the false choice offered us by industry. The imperative is to get off the extraction economy and on to one based on sustainability and resource conservation. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
kurils

Podcast: 007 in the New Cold War

In Episode 97 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg dissects the geopolitics of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and how the Daniel Craig reboot of the series has finessed the cultural icon’s role in the New Cold War. Famously, the film was produced pre-pandemic, with its release postponed a year due to the lockdown—and its key plot device is a mass biological warfare attack, anticipating the conspiranoid theories about COVID-19. Yet it could also be prescient in warning of a superpower confrontation over the Kuril Islands—disputed by Russia and Japan, and an all too likely flashpoint for global conflict. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Planet Watch
hiroshima

Podcast: Hiroshima at 76

In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city’s Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world’s nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Hiroshima Day vigil 2014, via Nihon zan Myohoji Buddhist Peace Council)

East Asia
Open the Gate for All

Japan: protest against restrictive immigration bill

A rally in Tokyo highlighted opposition to a proposed immigration law currently under consideration in Japan’s National Diet, seen as a yet further tightening of the country’s already highly selective refugee system. The rally, under the slogan “Open the Gate for All,” was organized by opposition lawmakers and human rights organizations including Amnesty International Japan and the Solidarity Network with Migrants Japan, all seeking to halt the legislation currently under consideration in the Diet. The proposed reform would permit asylum-seekers to be deported after a third failed application, and introduce new procedures for forcible deportation of individuals who entered Japan illegally or overstayed their visas. As the bill includes no cap on the length of detention or judicial review of cases, it has been criticized by human rights experts at the United Nations. (Photo via Twitter)