WikiLeaks is again proving a thorn in the side of the U.S. military, with recently leaked documents indicating that Washington asked Tokyo to conduct a status report on the availability of its civilian airports and ports in 2008 in the event of a war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported on Wednesday Washington called on Tokyo to wrap up the report on its 23 airports and harbors earlier than scheduled so that American forces could use them as strategic bases if aggression broke out in the region, according to a report that the U.S. Embassy in Japan submitted to the U.S. State Department on July 31, 2008. The embassy report was obtained by WikiLeaks.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Planning Thomas Mahnken visited Japan on July 17, 2008 and repeatedly asked high-ranking Japanese Defense Ministry officials to speed up completing the status report. But Japan dragged its feet, arguing that it was difficult to get fast results in sensitive areas such as Nagasaki, where memories of the atomic bomb dropped on it by U.S. forces during World War II still haunt the city, as well as in regions controlled by the opposition political party.
Japan said that the secret nature of the report also made it harder to gain the trust and cooperation of provincial governments without revealing the purpose of compiling the information.
In the end, Tokyo compiled status reports on two airports and ports. Washington responded by urging it to wrap up the project on the remaining sea and air bases by September of 2009. It also asked for information on the ports' fueling facilities and staff numbers, according to the Asahi Shimbun.
"The U.S. needed information on Japanese airports and ports, because it needed to mobilize passenger planes and naval vessels to transport its citizens to Japan in the event of an emergency," the Japanese daily reported.
Japan is required to support the U.S. military in the event of an emergency by providing the use of its civilian airports and ports, according to a revised defense treaty that Washington and Tokyo signed in 1997.
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Thursday, June 16, 2011
Nato chief Rasmussen: 'Europe needs to step up'
Nato's Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has told the BBC that European members of the alliance need to spend more on defence.
Mr Rasmussen said Nato was needed more than ever, but that European countries needed to "step up to the plate".
He echoed the comments made last Friday by the outgoing US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, who criticised the Europeans for not doing enough.
Mr Gates said Nato faced the risk of collective military irrelevance.
He said he was exasperated that only four European countries - France, the UK, Greece and Albania - are spending 2% of GDP on defence.
"If current trends in the decline of European defence capabilities are not halted and reversed, future US political leaders - those for whom the cold war was not the formative experience that it was for me - may not consider the return on America's investment in Nato worth the cost."
Libya had revealed serious shortcomings, he added. Only 11 weeks into the operation against a poorly-armed regime, the allies began to run short of munitions. Supplies had to be brought in from the US.'Proper investments'
In an interview with the BBC's Newsnight programme, Mr Rasmussen said Nato was "more wanted and needed than ever", but that he shared Mr Gates' concerns about declining defence budgets across Europe.
"If we are to compete we also need proper investments," he said.
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Iran has successfully launched a second domestically-built satellite into orbit, Iran's Arabic language al-Alam television reported on Wednesday.
"Iran launched a domestically built rocket and the Rasad 1 (satellite) has been put into orbit," al-Alam reported.
In February 2009, Iran launched its first domestically-built satellite, OMID.
The United States and its allies fear Iran is seeking to build nuclear bombs and are concerned that the long-range ballistic technology used to put satellites into orbit can also be used to launch warheads.
Iran says its nuclear program is solely to generate electricity.
The Rasad 1 (Observation) satellite will be used for transmitting images and weather forecasts, TV reported.
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ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called for a security alliance of several former Soviet nations and China to form a united front against the West.
Mr. Ahmadinejad’s address to fellow heads of state at the summit of theShanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan likely will deepen suspicions that the bloc is intended as a counterweight to the United States across the region.
In a summit declaration signed by all the member states, the organization also attacked missile defense programs in another apparent dig at the United States.
“The one-sided and unlimited development of missile defense systems by one government or a narrow group of governments could cause damage to strategic stability and international security,” the document said.
Much of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s fiery speech was devoted to leveling an exhaustive series of thinly veiled accusations against unnamed Western countries, which he described as “enslavers, colonialists (and) invaders.”
“Which one of our countries (has played a role) in the black era of slavery, or in the destruction of hundreds of millions of human beings?”Mr. Ahmadinejad said, opening his address.
The SCO was formed in Shanghai in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to address religious extremism and border security in Central Asia, but in recent years it has attracted interest in full membership from countries such as Iran, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. I
Iran‘s entry to the SCO has been resisted by the existing members, who worry that Iran‘s membership would lend the group a more explicitly anti-American quality, a concern that Mr. Ahmadinejad seemingly was unwilling to allay.
Russia has been an active opponent of U.S.-backed plans to create a missile shield in Europe and was likely behind the inclusion of harsh words against the proposal in the summit declaration.
Moscow sees the U.S.-led missile defense plans as a potential threat to its security. It has agreed to consider NATO’s proposal to cooperate on the missile shield, but it insists the system be run jointly.
Reprising the criticism addressed at Washington, Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed calls for the United States to respect his country’s sovereignty.
Mr. Karzai in recent months has become increasingly strident in his attacks against NATO’s accidental bombings of Afghan civilians, describing the Western-led alliance as being at risk of becoming an “occupying force.”
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Ibrahim Sarsour, an Israeli-Arab Knesset Member, calls to establish Islamic Caliphate centered in Jerusalem and praises Hizbullah for defeating Israel.
Israeli-Arab MKs have long been accused of spouting anti-Israel rhetoric, but it appears that Sarsour, a seemingly mild-mannered Knesset Member and leader of the Ra’am-Ta’al United Arab List party, has now gone further than most.
In a recent speech – in Arabic – at Abdul Rahman’s club in Israel, Sarsour actually lauded Hizbullah, a Lebanese terrorist organization bent on vanquishing Israel, for having “defeated” Israel in the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He also encouraged Hizbullah to continue working to this end in the future.
The speech was reported on and translated into English by Walid Shoebat, a former PLO member who converted to Christianity and is a strong critic of militant Islam.
Shoebat says that MK Sarsour also called in his speech for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate centered in Jerusalem.
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In a speech before the Knesset, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said he backs Obama's peace plan, and that negotiations are the 'only solution.'
The European Parliament supports the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, its president said Wednesday.
It embraced the vision for peace in the Middle East as outlined by U.S. President Barack Obama in a May 19 address in Washington, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said.
Addressing the Knesset in Jerusalem, Buzek however reiterated direct peace negotiations were the "only solution."
In Ramallah on Tuesday, he said the parliament opposed Palestinian plans to seek United Nations recognition in September of their state in the West Bank and Gaza, without negotiating this with Israel.
The Palestinians have said negotiations with of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are conditional on a freeze of Israeli construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, fearing that settlements will continue to expand unchecked as talks crawl on indefinitely.
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WASHINGTON — For government scientists usually cautious about going out on a limb, a "special report" issued Wednesday minced few words: Last April saw an unprecedented onslaught of extreme tornadoes, flooding, drought and wildfire, they concluded.
The preliminary tornado count was 875 for April, and even after duplicates are eliminated the final total is expected to approach the single-month record of 542 set in May 2003, Center Director Tom Karl said at a briefing. The 30-year average for tornadoes in April is 135.
The tornado death toll for the year is 536 so far, and the vast majority were in April during two outbreaks across the Southeast.
The toll already makes 2011 the sixth deadliest year on record, said Harold Brooks of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. That might still rise somewhat, he added, though typically most annual tornado deaths occur by mid-June.
The researchers explained that April brought an active weather pattern across the 48 contiguous states, with strong storms moving through the center of the country, tapping into moisture from the Gulf of Mexico as they matured across the mid-Mississippi Valley.
Contributing to the thrashing were the La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the increase of moisture in the atmosphere caused by the warming climate.
But Karl cautioned against focusing on any single cause for the unusual chain of events, "clearly these things interconnect."
La Nina is marked by a cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean and has now returned to more normal conditions. However, when it is under way it sets up a storm weather track that brings storms into the upper Midwest and then south into Ohio Valley. This resulted in the extremely thick snowpack in some areas that contributed to the spring flooding and also brought dry, windy conditions to the southern Plains.
The spring warming then brought the warm, moist southerly flow of air in from the Gulf of Mexico, contributing energy to the storms that developed into the outbreaks of tornadoes and other severe storms.
And it wasn't just April that saw extreme weather. The March-May spring tally posted by government scientists includes:
Heavy snowmelt in the upper Midwest combined with record rains in the Ohio River Valley produced floods along the lower Mississippi River equaling or surpassing the historic floods of 1927 and 1937.
Ideal wildfire conditions developed across the southern plains as rainfall encouraged rapid plant growth, followed by drought and hot weather to launch still-burning fires consuming millions of acres.
Consecutive dry months caused drought that extends across much of the Southwest and South from Arizona and New Mexico across Texas to the Gulf Coast and southern Georgia.
The wettest April on record for Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia.
The last time any spring looked like this year's was in 1927, which also had a lot of tornadoes and flooding, said Brooks.
So far this year the United States has suffered eight disasters costing $1 billion or more and the total damage to date is $32 billion and rising, Karl said. If no more disasters occurred, 2011 would still rank in the top 25 percent of years for disaster costs, he said.