Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.
While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.
USGS Community Internet Intensity Map
While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.
According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is accelerating a once unthinkable debate over whether his country should acquire nuclear weapons — a move that would transform the U.S.-South Korea alliance and upend regional security dynamics.
Last week, Yoon made global headlines when he suggested during a policy briefing that South Korea could get its own nuclear arms if the security situation with North Korea worsens.
Yoon’s comment was delivered in an almost off-handed manner and framed as part of a worst-case scenario; his aides quickly claimed South Korea was not backing away from its commitments under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Nonetheless, Yoon’s comment was unprecedented, at least for the period since South Korea became a democracy.
“It’s a very important development,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, a nonpartisan foreign policy research organization outside Seoul. “Until now, the South Korean government had never considered independent nuclear armament, even as a ‘plan B.’
For Yoon, talking about nukes has become a pattern.
Yoon’s motives, in some ways, are straightforward.
North Korea recently has engaged in more frequent threatening behavior while rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. In comments published on New Year’s Day, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to “exponentially” increase his stockpile of nuclear warheads.
On a broader level, there are also concerns about the durability of Washington’s defense commitment to South Korea, especially given recent U.S. political turmoil and the relative popularity of so-called “America First” foreign policy ideas.
Those dynamics help explain the growing wave of scholars, former officials, and ex-officials who now publicly support South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons.
Analysts are divided, though, over what Yoon intends to accomplish with his nuclear weapons talk. Few believe South Korea would actually pursue nuclear arms, at least anytime soon, given the massive economic and security risks that would accompany such a move.
Instead, Yoon could be using the issue to send a tough message to North Korea, or to satisfy his conservative allies who support a more aggressive approach toward Pyongyang.
Some former senior South Korean military officials have called for South Korea, already a major producer of nuclear energy, to enhance its ability to acquire nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so. Yoon’s comments may be designed to eventually make that idea more palatable, some analysts note.
But the most obvious explanation is that Yoon wants to publicly pressure the United States to provide more robust defense assurances, according to Go Myung-hyun, a research fellow at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“I think Yoon wants the Biden administration to offer further strengthening measures for extended deterrence,” Go said. “He wants to highlight how seriously he views the North Korean threat.”
While Yoon may think that publicly raising the nuclear option will force the United States to provide more security guarantees, “it is likely to have the opposite effect of straining the relationship,” according to Eric Brewer, a former White House National Security Council official.
Brewer, now at the Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, said the United States “should balance firmly closing the door on any further talk of South Korea weaponization while avoiding a public spat with an ally.”
“The U.S. should be clear in public that it would not support South Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons and that Washington and Seoul are both focused on the real, and ongoing joint efforts to strengthen the alliance. It should also reinforce privately that such comments about developing nuclear weapons are counterproductive both to dealing with the North Korea threat, as well as efforts to enhance U.S.-ROK security cooperation and extended deterrence,” he added.
If Seoul were to pursue nuclear weapons, it could risk breaking the U.S.-South Korea alliance, Brewer said.
“The idea that, if South Korea can just convince the United States to allow it to go nuclear, everything will be ok is fundamentally misguided. It would still risk Congressionally required sanctions, a de facto end to international cooperation for its civil nuclear energy program, and a severe response from China,” he added.
“There are two ways things can get worse for South Korea. One, the North Korea threat gets worse, say with an exponential increase in nuclear stockpile and ICBMs,” he said. “Two, is somehow the U.S. response strategy stays inadequate.”
Following months of silence, Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called for his supporters to hold a unified Friday prayer today in Baghdad and a number of other cities.
The prayer was preceded by a speech written by Sadr himself, according to Sadrist Telegram channels, which distributed the text of the speech.
Sadr emphasized the necessity of organizing Friday prayers regularly, linking the prayers to political messages including patriotism, reform and combating corruption, as well as resistance against “occupation and colonialism.”
“Continue to attend Friday prayers even if Muqtada al-Sadr died,” Sadr said.
Public Friday prayer sessions serve as a significant political symbol for Sadrists. When Sadr withdrew his party members from parliament in June of last year, he called for a Friday prayer among his followers. His supporters soon stormed the parliament and organized a sit-in that lasted about two months, in an attempt to prevent his Shiite rival, the Coordination Framework, from forming a government. The Coordination Framework includes Shiite groups and factions close to Iran.
Sadrists finally ended the sit-in after a bloody confrontation.
The call today seems to indicate that Sadr is making a comeback to politics, especially since his speech preceding the prayer contained strong political messages.
This comes in conjunction with reports of a split among former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition, the largest bloc among the Coordination Framework with about 40 seats in parliament.
According to reports circulated in Iraqi social media accounts and confirmed to Al-Monitor by sources within the bloc, 12 members of the bloc have left to form a new political group.
Maliki is the strongest foe of Sadr among the Coordination Framework, due to the long history of hostility between them since the second term of Maliki’s premiership.
Sadr is trying to protect his political influence and prevent the Coordination Framework from expanding and building a deep state within the government institutions. After Prime Minister Mohammad Shia al-Sudani took office last October, dozens of officials were dismissed or replaced by people close to the Coordination Framework.
Moreover, the Coordination Framework is planning to change the electoral law to a system that might benefit them and cost Sadr seats in both the provincial and parliamentary elections.
Now 35.7% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line; the country is ranked 99 out of 121 nations on the Global Hunger Index.
NEW DELHI : Journalist Fakhar Yousafzai from Pakistan posted that video clip. I got the chills seeing this 41-second video. What did it show?
Three people fought over a 10-kg sack of wheat flour. The owner of the sack was trying to hold on to it, while the other two tried to relieve him of it. He was pushed to the ground, but managed to hold on to the sack. The man called for help, but no one came to his aid. Then two children appeared from nowhere to aid the assailants. Such horrible things were not meant for their tiny hands. It makes us think of the Sanskrit proverb Bubhukshitah kim na karoti papam (What sin would a hungry person not commit?).
The army masters and their stooge rulers have completely emptied Pakistan. There is no milk for newborns, no electricity during the harsh winters, hospitals are running out of medicine, and the government is clueless. Shahbaz Sharif is out begging in the West and in Arab countries after overthrowing Imran Khan. His nation’s problems cannot be solved without urgent aid.
Now 35.7% of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line; the country is ranked 99 out of 121 nations on the Global Hunger Index. It is in desperate need of foodgrains, despite possessing exceptionally fertile land and agriculture accounting for 19% of its GDP. Pakistan now faces starvation and the threat of civil war.
Some critics have said that while only one part of Pakistan was separated in 1971, there may now be four more in the offing. They are not mistaken. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has established a parallel government in the border region. In response, Islamabad has escalated military operations under the “right to defend for existence” in “disturbed” districts. America has already given its approval. It won’t be surprising if we see the Pakistani air force bombing the region in the coming days.
But will this make things better? Who would believe now that until 1980, Pakistan’s economy was stronger than India’s? Delegations from Arab and African nations used to visit that country in the 1970s to learn about governance. But things started changing under General Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq. He made the costly decision to wage a covert war against India. Pakistan developed the atomic bomb while he was in power, and it now has a larger nuclear arsenal than India. If Pakistan experiences a civil war or has to deal with fresh divisions, not only India but the entire globe will be in serious trouble. What will happen if the entire nuclear arsenal, or even just a portion of it, falls into the hands of terrorists is a question that is currently being asked.
It is safe to conclude that Pakistan has long been using this fear to demand aid from wealthy nations. But this time, the menace is significant and the hands of the global community are tied. With covid and the Russia-Ukraine war, the global economy is weakening.
The consequences are widespread. The Brazilian parliament was taken over by Jair Bolsonaro’s followers last week. Now, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s backers have hit the streets. Their rage is well-founded. The disorderly demonstrators severely damaged both public property and the dignity of the democratic system. Even Brazil’s heritage suffered harm.
The events in Brazil bring to my mind a June 2009 evening at Yekaterinburg, Russia. Representatives of the ministry of external affairs were attempting to convince journalists , including me, over dinner that BRICS —Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—has the most promise for the future. But what actually took place? Brazil has already been discussed; Russia’s situation is deteriorating daily, and China is now experiencing an unheard-of economic disaster as a result of its zero-covid policy. Also, the armies of China and India are at loggerheads on the borders. Nobody can predict what will unfold tomorrow.
The only solace in these depressing times is that among these nations, India is the most stable. We have Pakistan on one side, and Sri Lanka on the other. Both are in poor shape.
Following Colombo, the capture of Brazil’s power centre and the deterioration of democratic nations demonstrate that now is the time to address the looming crisis among many democratic countries. This trend is detrimental to global peace.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. Views are personal.
Israeli soldiers take security measures in the area following a 45-year-old Palestinian’s death, who was wounded by Israeli soldiers around the western entrance of Silwad town, north of Ramallah, West Bank on January 15, 2023. [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]January 15, 2023 at 2:53 pm
A Palestinian man was shot dead by the Israeli army in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, Anadolu reports.
US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida walk to the Oval Office for a meeting at the White House on January 13.Kevin Dietsch/Getty ImagesSeoul, South KoreaCNN —
It’s an arms race bigger than anything Asia has ever seen – three majornuclear powers and one fast-developing one, the world’s three biggest economies and decades-old alliances all vying for an edge in some of the world’s most contested land and sea areas.
In one corner are the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea. In another corner, China and its partner Russia. And in a third, North Korea.
“We’ll continue to see these dynamics spiral in East Asia, where we have no measures of restraint, we have no arms control,” Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN.
Kishida warned Beijing against trying to “change the international order” and said it was “absolutely imperative” for Japan, the US and Europe to stand united on China. His words came just days after US and Japanese ministers had spoken ominously of the “ongoing and accelerating expansion of (China’s) nuclear arsenal.”
Japanese and South Korean warships join the submarine USS Annapolis and US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan during a combined trilateral anti-submarine exercise on September 30, 2022.South Korean Defense Ministry/Getty Images
Yet according to North Korea and China, it is Japan who is the aggressor. They have seen Tokyo pledge recently to double its defense spending while acquiring weapons capable of hitting targets inside Chinese and North Korean territory. And their alleged concerns will only have grown with the announcement just days ago of plans for new US Marine deployments on Japan’s southern islands, including new mobile anti-ship missiles meant to thwart any first strike from Beijing.
To the US and Japan, such moves are about deterrence; to Beijing, they are escalation.
Digging up the past
China claims its concerns are based on historical reasons. It says it fears Tokyo is returning to the military expansionism of the World War II era, when Japanese forces controlled vast swathes of Asia and China bore the brunt. Some 14 million Chinese died and up to 100 million became refugees during the eight years of conflict with Japan from 1937 to 1945.
Beijing insists the plans, which include Japan acquiring long-range “counterstrike” weapons like Tomahawk missiles that could hit bases inside China, show Tokyo threatens peace in East Asia once again.
But critics suspect China has a secondary motive in dredging up historical wounds – distracting from its own military buildup.
They point out that, even as Beijing vociferously rejects US and Japanese concerns about its own burgeoning military might,it has been growing its naval and air forces in areas near Japan while claiming the Senkaku Islands, an uninhabited Japanese-controlled chain in the East China Sea, as its sovereign territory.
In late December, Japan said Chinese government vessels had been spotted in the contiguous zone around the islands, known as the Diaoyus in China, on 334 days in 2022, the most since 2012 when Tokyo acquired some of the islands from a private Japanese landowner. From December 22 to 25, Chinese government vessels spent almost 73 consecutive hours in Japanese territorial waters off the islands, the longest such incursion since 2012.
A Chinese fleet heads for a naval exercise with Russia from a military port in Zhoushan, east China’s Zhejiang province, on Dec. 20, 2022.Li Yun/Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images
China has also been raising the temperature through the strengthening of its partnership with Russia. A State Department official told CNN recently that this had not only spurred some of the US-Japan agreements, but that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “moved things on warp drive” given how Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had showcased their close relationship in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics.
Beijing’s aggression has been particularly visible when it comes to Taiwan, a self-governing island of 24 million that the Chinese Communist Party claims as its territory despite never having controlled it.
Xi has refused to rule out the use of military force to bring the island under Beijing’s control, and China has increased its aggressive military activities around the island, especially since the visit of then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in August. In the days following Pelosi’s visit, China held unprecedented military drills around the island, firing multiple missiles near its waters and sending its warplanes to harass it.
As recently as last week China sent 28 warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, including J-10, J-11, J-16 and Su-30 fighters, H-6 bombers, three drones and an early warning and reconnaissance aircraft. That exercise mirrored a similar one on Christmas Day, when the People’s Liberation Army sent 47 aircraft across the median line.
Amid such actions, US resolve has remained strong. Washington has continued to approve a growing list of military sales to the island, in line with its obligationsunder that Taiwan Relations Act.
North Korea’s nuclear escalation
A thousand miles to the north of Taiwan, talk of cooperation on the Korean Peninsula is a faint and fading light.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for an “exponential increase” in his country’s nuclear weapons arsenal, starting from 2023, and is building a fleet of “super large” mobile rocket launchers that could hit any point in the South with a nuclear warhead.
In a report Thursday, the South’s Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) said that Kim’s plan could manifest itself into 300 weapons in the coming years.
That is a great step up from 2022, when the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated he had 20 assembled nuclear weapons and enough fissile material to make up to 55.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a photo released on November 19, 2022, by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.KCNA/Reuters
Such a prospect has South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol vowing a military build-up of his own.
“Firmly building a (military) capability that allows us to strike back 100 times or 1,000 times more if we are attacked is the most important method for preventing attacks,” Yoon said this week, in remarks reported by the Yonhap news service.
He even raised the prospect of South Korea building its own nuclear arsenal, suggesting his country could “deploy tactical nuclear weapons or possess its own nukes.”
The thought of the Korean Peninsula being host to even more nuclear weapons is something US leaders are highly wary of – even if those weapons were to belong to an ally.
War game suggests Chinese invasion of Taiwan would fail at a huge cost to US, Chinese and Taiwanese militaries
So to assure its ally, the US has made clear that Washington’s backing of South Korea is “iron clad” and all US military assets are on the table to protect it.
“The United States will not hesitate to fulfill its extended deterrence commitment to (South Korea) by using a full spectrum of US defense capabilities and that extends to nuclear, conventional, and also missile defense,” Adm. Mike Gilday, the US chief of naval operations, told a virtual forum of the Institute for Corean-American Studies (ICAS) on Thursday.
Gilday cited as an example of US support for the South the visit of a US aircraft carrier to the South Korean port of Busan last year. But it’s just such a display of one of Washington’s most powerful warships in North Korea’s backyard that Pyonygang sees as a threat.
And so the spiral continues.
Still, as Asia’s arms race accelerates, one thing that has become clear is that the US, Japan and South Korea will be engaging as a pack, rather than isolated individuals.
The presence of Kishida and other Japanese leaders in Washington over the past week has provided ample visual evidence of that.
“The closer that we work together, the stronger that we become,” Adm. Gilday said of the three-way cooperation during his speech to ICAS. “Hopefully (that will) convince any potential adversary it’s not worth it to make a move.”
Perseverance is necessary in the face of relentless pressure from adversaries, he added.
“We shouldn’t be deterred, and we shouldn’t lose our nerve in terms of what it takes for all of us to come together.”