The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

The Big One Awaits

The Big One Awaits
Published: March 25, 2001
Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

 A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.
Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.

Photo: Alexander Gates, a Rutgers geologist, is mapping a part of the Ramapo Fault, site of previous earthquakes. (John W. Wheeler for The New York Times)

Saudi Arabia And Their Secret Nuclear Bomb (Daniel 7)

Fears Saudi Arabia has secret nuke bomb

By David Trayner / Published 27th January 2016
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and a Shaheen-III nuclear missile
GETTYHARDLINE: Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and a Pakistani Shaheen-III nuclear missile
The hardline Islamic kingdom has refused to deny reports it has secretly bought nukes from Pakistan in preparation for a showdown with its arch rival.The US – close pal of the oil-rich Arab nation – has taken the unusual step of warning the House of Saud against going nuclear.
 But the Saudis have refused to negotiate and vowed to do “whatever it takes” to protect itself.
Pakistan's Shaheen II missile 
GETTYSHOW OF POWER: Pakistan shows off its Shaheen II missile
Trigger-happy Pakistani leaders have warned its neighbour Iran of “serious consequences” if it attacks Saudi Arabia – which analysts interpreted as a nuclear threat.Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir admitted discussing Middle East security and “negative and aggressive Iranian interference” with Pakistan.
But he refused the confirm or deny it had bought the bomb from its nuclear-armed ally.
An Iranian Emad missile 
Al-Jubeir said: “I would not discuss these things in a public forum – certainly not on television.”Saudi Arabia is committed to two things.
“I always say two things we do not negotiate over: our faith and our security.

“Saudi Arabia will do whatever it takes in order to protect our nation and our people from any harm – and I will leave it at that.”

King Salman of Saudi Arabia and Barak Obama 
GETTYALLIES: King Salman of Saudi Arabia and US president Barak Obama
Security analysts believe Saudi Arabia and Iran are carrying out a proxy war in the Middle East – centring on Syria, Iraq and Yemen.Many Sunni Muslim regimes – including Bahrain, Sudan, Kuwait, Pakistan and the UAE – cut diplomatic ties with Shia Muslim Iran after a mob burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Saudi jets then bombed the Iranian embassy in Yemen – where it is fighting Shia Muslim Houthi rebels backed by Iran.

Saudi Arabia has attacked the US for accepting Iran’s promise to roll back its nuclear programme.
Some fear the absolute monarchy may now be taking matters into its own hands.

Russia’s Nuclear Strategy Is Provoking A Nuclear Race

By Keith B. Payne – – Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Russian President Putin has said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. He views the West as the culprit and a threat to Moscow’s vision of reestablishing Russian dominance over the former lands of the Soviet Union, by force if necessary. Russia’s 2008 military operation against Georgia, 2014 occupation of Crimea and continuing military actions in Ukraine all reflect this vision. Russia apparently put its nuclear forces on alert during its military operations against Georgia, and President Putin considered doing so again in 2014.
Russia has been modernizing its conventional military forces for almost a decade and seeks to prevent any significant collective Western defensive opposition by threatening limited nuclear first-use in response. Russian military officials speak openly of the preemptive employment of nuclear weapons in a conventional war, and Moscow frequently makes direct nuclear threats to U.S. allies and partners.
Russian first-use nuclear threats essentially provide cover for Moscow’s military actions that destroy the post-Cold War settlement and established European boarders. Russia’s coercive use of nuclear weapons is a new reality more dangerous than the Cold War. If Russian planning follows this declared nuclear first-use strategy, then U.S. and NATO deterrence policy already is failing in a fundamental way, and the consequences of that failure could be catastrophic.
Russia reportedly is pursuing specialized, low-yield nuclear weapons to make its first-use threats credible. In December 2002, then-director of Russia’s Sarov nuclear weapons laboratory, Viktor Mikhailov, reported that considerable work was being done to develop a “nuclear scalpel” capable of “surgically” destroying local military targets. Very low-yield weapons, Mr. Mikhailov argued, can be used in the event of large-scale conventional conflict. Such capabilities are destabilizing when developed to support territorial expansion and a strategy of nuclear coercion.
Moscow’s sophisticated propaganda complements this strategy. It vilifies the United States and NATO with what can only be described as a repetition of big lies. Russian defense expert Alexi Arbatov has observed that Russian defense and foreign policies are now based on consensus beliefs in Moscow, including the notion that the United States is using the pro-democracy opposition inside Russia to subvert the Putin regime, and that the U.S. with its allies may invade any time to seize Russia’s natural riches. Noted Russian journalist Alexander Golts rightly calls such views dangerous and self-induced “paranoia.”
Russia’s grand strategy also includes across-the-board nuclear modernization programs and defensive preparations for nuclear war, most of which appear to predate the Obama administration’s fledgling nuclear modernization programs. Again, such capabilities are destabilizing when developed to destroy the established international order via a strategy of nuclear coercion.
Nevertheless, U.S. perceptions remain divided regarding Russia and the appropriate Western policies at this point. Some claim that Russia poses no serious threat and that a robust U.S. response will serve only to provoke Russia. Senior U.S. civilian and military leaders, however, now have no doubt Russia is an “antagonist” that poses a “very, very, significant threat,” and that the absence of a robust U.S. response will provoke further Russian aggression. The key question is, what should be that response?
First, we must recognize that the optimistic post-Cold War expectations about Russia do not reflect reality and adjust U.S. policies accordingly. The numerous confident claims that serious military crises and possible conflict with Russia were a thing of the past have proven to be false, as has the U.S. planning assumption that Russia would comply with arms control treaties.
Second, we must reinvest in intelligence capabilities to better understand contemporary Russia, including its nuclear developments. Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said recently that after nearly two decades of treating Russia as a potential ally, the intelligence community needs to adjust because, “Now we see that, possibly, we didn’t have the partner we thought we had.” The U.S. intelligence community reportedly has largely divested itself of the capacity to understand Russian nuclear-weapons policy, programs and war-planning. This is a dangerous and even destabilizing deficiency. If we hope to deter effectively, the intellectual resources necessary to understand adversaries must be reconstituted.
Third, Western declaratory policies must be clear and coordinated to help ensure that Mr. Putin understands that any use of nuclear weapons against us or our allies always would be the worst of all Moscow’s possible options.
Fourth, we need to re-establish the credibility of U.S. deterrence threats and red lines, particularly against Russian nuclear first use. U.S. and NATO nuclear capabilities must help to deny Moscow’s apparent confidence that the West would be compelled to concede following Russian nuclear first use. That gap in U.S. deterrence capabilities must be closed. Modernizing the U.S. nuclear deterrent will likely help in this regard, which is why the Obama administration’s announced programs to rebuild U.S. nuclear forces after decades of coasting and reductions are critical. Every Republican and Democratic administration for five decades ultimately has rejected the ever-smaller and narrower U.S. nuclear deterrent advocated by anti-nuclear activists in favor of a more credible U.S. deterrent with diverse capabilities.
Finally, to assure nervous allies, NATO’s will and conventional capabilities must be sufficiently united and robust to deny Mr. Putin’s claim that Russian troops could be in five NATO capitals within two days. That is a tall order, but given Moscow’s revisionist foreign policy and nuclear threats, perceptions of NATO disunity and conventional weaknesses are highly provocative and destabilizing.
We may not, metaphorically, be at 1938 again. But many current similarities to that perilous time are troubling. U.S. nuclear policies and NATO capabilities now must counter contemporary realities, particularly including Moscow’s destabilizing nuclear strategy.
Keith B. Payne is president of the National Institute for Public Policy, department head in the Graduate School of Defense and Strategic Studies at Missouri State University (Washington campus), and former deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Military Undermined Obama’s Attempt To Enable ISIS (Ezekiel 17)

A new report by the Pulitzer-winning veteran journalist Seymour Hersh says the Joint Chiefs of Staff has indirectly supported Bashar al-Assad in an effort to help him defeat jihadist groups. Hersh reports the Joint Chiefs sent intelligence via Russia, Germany and Israel on the understanding it would be transmitted to help Assad push back Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. Hersh also claims the military even undermined a U.S. effort to arm Syrian rebels in a bid to prove it was serious about helping Assad fight their common enemiesHersh says the Joint Chiefs’ maneuvering was rooted in several concerns, including the U.S. arming of unvetted Syrian rebels with jihadist ties, a belief the administration was overly focused on confronting Assad’s ally in Moscow, and anger the White House was unwilling to challenge Turkey and Saudi Arabia over their support of extremist groups in Syria. Hersh joins us to detail his claims and respond to his critics.
AMY GOODMAN: The United Nations Security Council’s passage of a peace plan for Syria has been called perhaps the best chance yet to end the country’s civil war. The measure, approved Friday, calls for a ceasefire, talks between the government and opposition, and a roughly two-year timeline to form a unity government and hold elections. Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the terms.
SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: Under the resolution approved today, the purpose of those negotiations between the responsible opposition and the government is to facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian governance within six months. The process would lead to the drafting of a new constitution and arrangements for internationally supervised election within 18 months.
AMY GOODMAN: The resolution is silent on the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. has insisted on excluding Assad from a political transition, pointing to the mass killings of his own people throughout the more than four-year war. But Russia and China have staunchly backed Assad. The world powers’ impasse has fueled U.N. inaction amidst a death toll of more than 250,000 and the world’s worst refugee crisis. Although the U.S. remains opposed to Assad, his omission from the Security Council resolution signals a softening stance and a potential diplomatic turning point. The Obama administration has quietly backed off its public insistence that Assad must go, claiming it’s no longer seeking regime change in Syria.
Now an explosive new report says U.S. military leadership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff has held that view all along and has taken secret steps to move U.S. policy in that direction. According to award-winning veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the Joint of Chiefs of Staff has tacitly aided the Assad regime to help it defeat radical jihadists. Hersh reports the Joint Chiefs sent intelligence via Russia, Germany and Israel, on the understanding it would be transmitted to help Assad push back Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. Hersh also claims the military even undermined a U.S. effort to arm Syrian rebels in a bid to prove to Assad it was serious about helping him fight their common enemies. At the Joint Chiefs’ behest, a CIA weapons shipment to the Syrian opposition was allegedly downgraded to include obsolete weapons. Hersh says the Joint Chiefs’ maneuvering was rooted in several concerns, including the U.S. arming of unvetted Syrian rebels with jihadist ties, a belief the administration was overly focused on confronting Assad’s ally in Moscow, and anger the White House was unwilling to confront Turkey and Saudi Arabia over their support of extremist groups in Syria.
Hersh’s report in the London Review of Books follows his controversial story in May challenging the Obama administration’s account of the killing of Osama bin Laden. Like that story, his latest piece relies heavily on a single source, described as a “former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs.” And while critics have dismissed both stories as conspiracy theories, it turns out that key aspects of the bin Laden report have since been corroborated. After the bin Laden story came out, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources confirmed Hersh’s reporting that the U.S. discovered bin Laden’s location when a Pakistani officer told the CIA, and that the Pakistani government knew all along where bin Laden was hiding.
For more, we’re joined by Seymour Hersh. He won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam, when U.S. forces killed hundreds of civilians. In 2004, Sy Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. His latest piece in the London Review of Books is headlined “Military to Military: US Intelligence Sharing in the Syrian War.” Hersh is working on a study of Dick Cheney’s vice presidency.
We welcome you back to Democracy Now!, Sy Hersh. Why don’t you lay out this very controversial report that you have just published in the London Review of Books. What did you find?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, it began, actually, as I wrote, with a very serious, extensive assessment of our policy, that was completed by June—let’s say by middle of 2013, two-and-a-half years ago. It was a study done by the Joint Chiefs and the Defense Intelligence Agency that came to three sort of conclusions, that may seem obvious now but were pretty interesting then.
One is that they said Assad must stay, at least through—through the resolution of the war, because, as we saw in Libya, once you get rid of a leader, like Gaddafi—same, you can argue, in Iraq with the demise of Saddam Hussein—chaos ensues. The second—so that was an issue, that there—the point being, elections at some point, certainly, but for the short term, while we’re still fighting, he has to stay. And that wasn’t the American position then. And, I would argue with you, I still think the American position is very muddled, although they have seemed to soften it.
Secondly, the other point they made is that their investigation showed this notion of a moderate force just was a fiction, was just a fantasy, that most of the Free Syrian Army, by the summer, by mid-2013, were in some sort of an understanding with al-Nusra, or, as you put it, ISIL, the Islamic State. There was a lot of back-and-forth going—arms going into the Free Syrian Army and other moderates were being peddled, sold, or transferred to the more extremist groups.
And the third major finding was about Turkey. It said we simply have to deal with the problem. The Turkish government, led by Erdogan, was—had opened—basically, his borders were open, arms were flying. I had written about that earlier for the London Review, the rat line. There were arms flying since 2012, covertly, with the CIA’s support and the support of the American government. Arms were coming from Tripoli and other places in Benghazi, in Libya, going into Turkey and then being moved across the line. And another interesting point is that a lot of Chinese dissidents, the Uyghurs, the Muslim Chinese that are being pretty much hounded by the Chinese, were also—another rat line existed. They were coming from China into Kazakhstan, into Turkey and into Syria. So, this was a serious finding.
It was not the first time some of these points had been raised. And there was simply no echo. Once you pass this stuff on to the White House or into the other agencies—the Defense Department does this routinely. These are very highly secret. This study was composed of overhead satellite intelligence, human intelligence, etc., very compartmentalized stuff. But it did go to the State Department and to a lot of offices in the White House and National Security Council. No response, no change in policy.
So, at this point, as I wrote, the Joint Chiefs, then headed by an Army general named Dempsey, Martin Dempsey, who has since retired, decided that they had—that there was a chance to do something about it without directly contravening the policy. And that was simply that we were aware that Germany, the German intelligence service, the German General Staff, had been involved pretty closely with Bashar in terms of funneling intelligence. Russia—and it’s— a lot of people will find this surprising, but the United States military, the military has had a very solid relationship with the leadership of the Russian military since the fall of the Soviet Union in ’91. And General Dempsey, in particular, had a one-on-one relationship with the general who now runs the military for the Soviet Union. And so, we knew the Russians and the Israelis were also involved in some back-channel conversation with Syria, with the idea being Israel, sort of very on the margin on this, understood that if Bashar went, what comes next would not be healthy for Israel. They share a border with Syria, and you don’t want Islamic State or al-Nusra or any of those groups to be that close to the Israelis. It would be a national security threat for them.
So there was a lot of people, a lot of other services communicating, and so what the Joint Chiefs did is they began to pass along some of this very good strategic intelligence and technical intelligence we have—where the bad guys are, you can put it; what they might be thinking; what information we had. That was passed not directly to Assad, but it was passed to the Germans, to the Russians, through the Israelis, etc. The exact process is, of course, way beyond my ken, but there was no question that was a transmission point. The point being that there was no direct contact, but the information certainly got to him, and it certainly had an impact on Saddam’s—the Syrian army’s ability to improve its position by the end of the year, 2013.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk—
SEYMOUR HERSH: Period. That’s the story. Go ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the source that you used for this story and the criticism of your single-source method.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, my god. Well, you know, as you know, it’s usually anonymous sources you get criticized for. That’s always been traditionally, although any day in The New York Times and Washington Post, they’re full of anonymous sources. That’s an easy way out. I wish I could tell you that I haven’t been relying on this particular person for since 9/11, but I have been. And many of the stories I wrote for The New Yorker about what was going on inside Iran, what was going—there was no bombs inside Iraq, part of those early stories I was writing, all came from one particularly well-informed person, who, as—you know, who, for a lot of reasons, I can’t make public. One is them is this government would prosecute him.
So the idea that there’s one source, that’s—I’ve done that—I worked for The New York Times, as you know, for eight or nine years, all during Watergate and the Vietnam War years, and won many, many prizes based on stories based on one source. I don’t know what the public think goes on, but, you know, if you get a very good source who over many years has been totally reliable, I’m not troubled by it at all. And neither—you know, the London Review, as many in America know, is a very, very seriously edited magazine, who did the same amount of very intense fact checking as happened when I worked at The New Yorker, which is famous for its fact checking, and the editing was certainly as competent and as good as you get in The New Yorker. I’m very happy working for them. And so, it’s not as if I’m not put to the same question that you’re putting, that critics may put, by the editors of the magazine. And they get—they have direct contact. They know who the person is. They have discussions with him, and with me not present. All of these standards are met.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Yes, go ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me share with you some of the criticism of your piece—
SEYMOUR HERSH: Oh, oh, spare me.
AMY GOODMAN: —like Max Fisher’s writing in Vox—but let me share it with our audience, as well—who, you know, talks about your relying entirely on one unnamed source for your principal allegation that U.S. defense officials bypassed the Obama administration and shared intelligence with allies, who subsequently shared it with the Assad regime. Fisher goes on to conclude, quote, “We are required to believe that the senior-most leaders of our military one day in 2013 decided to completely transform how they behave and transgress every norm they have in a mass act of treason, despite never having done so before, and then promptly went back to normal this September when Dempsey retired.” Can you respond to that?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, there’s—it’s so many instances where the military disagree with a president. We’ve seen this in World War II, MacArthur. I mean, the idea that the Joint Chiefs of Staff—let me just say, in general, when you’re at that level, at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, you make an oath of office not to the president of the United States, but to the Constitution. And there’s been many times the military objects. There were times just in the last couple of years, in congressional testimony, that General Dempsey has made it clear he disagrees with the policy.
Specifically about some of the matters that were raised in that article—and I did look at it, of course—is that, for example, Dempsey agreed in testimony that we should arm the moderates—the opposition, rather. And, in fact, what he agreed to—this is with the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, at the time—when this discussion came up of arming dissident groups, opposition groups inside Syria, Panetta and the chairman both made a point of saying “vetted groups.” They said only those groups we really know are reliable, and not wackos and not jihadist groups that want to exclude anybody except those who share their particular beliefs in the future state, if they were to take it over. So there’s a lot of—there’s a lot of contradictory evidence about it. And there are—there certainly can be more sophisticated arguments to make than this has never happened before. This is certainly unusual that, in a time like this, the military would give information to allies, our allies, at their request, that differ from the official policy. Sure, that’s a very complicated thing, and it was a tough thing to do, but it happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Was there direct communication between the United States and Syria?
SEYMOUR HERSH: I’m going to stand by what I wrote in the article.
AMY GOODMAN: Which was?
SEYMOUR HERSH: I wrote in the article that there was no direct contact, that the whole purpose was to use the cutouts, that there was no attempt to directly engage with Bashar al-Assad or his regime.
AMY GOODMAN: And what—
SEYMOUR HERSH: But there—yes?
AMY GOODMAN: What did the U.S. get in return?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, there was an understanding, obviously, conveyed by our allies. And the understanding was that we were going to give this stuff, and if Bashar would, among other things, agree to an election, a monitored election, once the war was over, and presumably he had re-established—you know, Bashar—there’s a lot of talk about the success of the Islamic groups, but Bashar right now, although he doesn’t control 100 percent—much less, 60—I’m not sure of the number, but it was more than 50 percent, less than—the opposition groups controlled large swaths, 30 percent, 40 percent. But he does control as much as—I’ve seen estimates of 86 percent of the population. And the notion that everybody in Syria despises him, etc., all these things you hear, that’s not true. He has a lot of native support, and even from Muslims, because every Muslim in Syria is not a Wahhabi or a Salafist, an extremist. Many are very moderate people who believe they would be in trouble if the Islamic force, the Islamic groups, came into power, because they would go and seek out those fellow Muslims that don’t agree with their extreme views. So he does have an awful lot of support, more than most people think. This is not to say he’s a good guy or bad guy. We’re just talking about reality.
And don’t forget, we are a country that, in World War II, a year after the Russians had done—were in a pact with Hitler, we joined with the Russians against Hitler. So, you know, you sometimes overlook—one of the points also made by—in this article is this incredible hostility towards Russia and these allegations, time and time again, that Russia is not really serious about going after the Islamic State. And there—even just in the debate over at the U.N., a statistic suggesting that 80 percent of the Russian attacks have nothing to do with ISIS, but they’re attacking the ISIS opposition, the moderates. And you just have to say to yourself, “Well, why then did ISIS bomb, as we all believe and the Russians believe, destroy a Russian airliner? Why was ISIS upset with Russia, if Russia was basically bombing their enemy, the moderates?” It doesn’t—it just—the logic in some of the American thinking and the thinking around the world on this, it doesn’t make much sense to me.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. Sy Hersh is our guest, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His latest piece is in the London Review of Books; it’s headlined “Military to Military: US Intelligence Sharing in the Syrian War.” This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Pete Seeger singing “If I Had a Hammer.” And in our next segment, we’ll be talking about the U.S. government spying on Pete Seeger for close to 30 years. New documents have been released by the government, over 1,700 of them.

US Fails to Convince the Asian Nuclear Horns

U.S. and China appear to be at an impasse over North Korea and the South China Sea

Jonathan Kaiman Contact Reporter

Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi appeared to reach an impasse Wednesday over the severity of prospective sanctions for North Korea, three weeks after the isolated country conducted its fourth nuclear bomb test.

Kerry arrived in Beijing on Tuesday night after two days in Laos and Cambodia, and met with Wang for more than four hours Wednesday morning. North Korea “topped the agenda,” he told reporters at a news conference afterward.

At the conference, Kerry and Wang painted a positive picture of U.S.-China relations in broad strokes, discussing “cooperation” on a range of issues including the Iranian nuclear deal, wildlife trafficking and combating the Ebola virus.

Yet their failure to bridge a deep divide on North Korea’s nuclear program and Beijing’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea illustrated the fragility of the region’s security environment.
On Jan. 6, North Korea announced that it successfully conducted its first underground test of a hydrogen bomb; experts said that a nuclear bomb clearly detonated but raised doubts about Pyongyang’s claim of owning a significantly more powerful thermonuclear weapon.

Beijing has provided an economic lifeline to North Korea for decades and fears that unrest in the country could destabilize China’s northeastern provinces.

“North Korea poses an overt threat, a declared threat to the world,” Kerry told reporters. He proposed negotiating a U.N Security Council resolution to tighten sanctions on North Korea, dealing a potential blow to China-North Korea trade in industries including aviation, shipping, and the exchange of resources such as fuel and coal.

“The U.S. will do what is necessary to protect the people of our country and our friends and allies in the world,” he said. “All nations, particularly those who seek a global leadership role or have a global leadership role, share a fundamental responsibility to meet this challenge with a united front.”

Although Wang agreed that the U.N. Security Council must pass a new resolution in response to the nuclear test, he balked at the prospect of tightening sanctions. “Sanctions are not an end of themselves,” he said. “We must point out that the new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation, much less destabilize the Korean peninsula.”

Experts said that China likely does not see much upside in adopting the U.S.’ proposed framework for dealing with Pyongyang.

“On the nuclear side, I’ve never had any doubt that the Chinese want to end this program but they don’t see a strategy in the international community to achieve that goal,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior advisor for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “A lot of people think China is the missing link and if only it would get on board with sanctions that North Korea could be compelled to give up its nuclear weapons. The Chinese just don’t look at it like that.

“They play out in their minds, what are the consequences if they really agree to very tough sanctions — if they cut off oil deliveries to North Korea?” she added. “So that creates instability in North Korea most likely, then China ends up with a crisis on its border that potentially brings U.S. troops closer to China, and you end up with a worse situation than when you started.

On Wednesday morning, China’s New China News Agency accused Washington of “uncompromising hostility” toward North Korea, “flaring up the country’s sense of insecurity and thus pushing it towards reckless nuclear brinkmanship.”

Kerry also reached loggerheads with Wang regarding China’s maritime ambitions, which have riled the country’s neighbors and threatened the region’s U.S.-led security order.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, a potentially oil and gas-rich area of the western Pacific Ocean dotted with remote islands and reefs. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea as their own.

China has stepped up its claims in recent years with a series of heavyweight projects, including building artificial islands on a shoal also claimed by the Philippines. In October, the U.S. sent a warship within 12 nautical miles of these islands, drawing harsh rebukes from Beijing.

“The South China Sea islands were historically China’s territory, and China has a right to protect its maritime sovereign and legal rights and interests,” Wang said at Wednesday’s news conference. He denied accusations that China has militarized its artificial islands, adding that Beijing has built “some necessary facilities for self-defense.”

Southeast Asian countries are indeed divided over how to handle the issue, and the lack of consensus has allowed China to advance its projects with limited opposition.

Kerry said he also met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and that they had a “constructive discussion.”

Before his meetings in China, Kerry visited Laos, a landlocked, deeply impoverished country of 7 million people between Thailand and Vietnam, and Cambodia, which enjoys close economic ties with China and tends to side with Beijing on issues of maritime rights.

Although the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, a 10-member regional bloc, could band together to counter China’s territorial claims, internal divisions have stymied attempts at collective action. In 2012, Cambodia blocked mentions of the disputes at a summit in Phnom Penh, leading the association to fail to issue a joint communiqué.

ASEAN leaders will attend a summit hosted by President Obama in California in February. Laos is the association’s chair.

During his visit to Laos, Kerry — only the second U.S. secretary of State to visit the country since 1955 — promised to boost U.S.-funded programs to ameliorate malnutrition and remove unexploded ordnance left from the Vietnam war. China, meanwhile, has promised the country major investments in infrastructure, including a high-speed rail line.

China’s state media have responded to U.S. pressure on the South China Sea issue with significantly less restraint than the country’s foreign minister.

Washington’s strategy has fed the strategic distrust between China and the US, and prompted smaller countries in the region to vacillate between the two powers and try to benefit from their contest,” said a Tuesday commentary in the state-owned, notoriously bombastic Global Times newspaper.

Many of them are manipulated by Washington behind the scenes as a proxy to counter China. Washington instigates some smaller nations to challenge China in the South China Sea, one of China’s core interests, and sugarcoats itself as a defender of justice.”