Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake: Revelation 6

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger BilhamQuakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

Russian nuclear roulette: Daniel 7

Russian nuclear roulette

Posted : 2023-03-06 17:10

Updated : 2023-03-06 17:10

By Kim Won-soo

Ahead of its widely expected spring offensive in Ukraine, Russia announced its decision to suspend its participation in New START, a landmark nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, which has recently been extended to Feb. 4, 2026. This decision is the latest in a series of Russian attempts to pressure the West through nuclear blackmail.

The latest blackmail attempt can be understood as an extension of Russia’s earlier threat to use nuclear weapons against any country trying to intervene in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These threats remind us of how easily a nuclear war could be triggered that could annihilate humanity. Given the high volatility of the current international security environment, perhaps it is not a surprise that this year’s doomsday clock is set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest ever to a man-made apocalypse.

Seen from a realpolitik perspective, Russia’s decision to suspend New START is not a sign of strength but one of weakness as it seems to reflect its growing desperation more than anything. As it stands now, Moscow’s desire to end the war quickly is far removed from the reality on the ground. No feasible way out of the war is in sight.

Seen from an arms control perspective, the latest blackmail carries high risks like in Russian roulette: One unlucky shot could ruin too much for Russia as well as the whole world.

First, the suspension of New START would be extremely difficult to sustain in the face of the near-universal outcry by the international community. Indisputably, New START represents the only remaining nuclear arms control treaty between Washington and Moscow. New START plays a critical role in preventing vertical proliferation between the world’s two largest nuclear weapon states.

Over the last five decades, multiple measures have been put in place to curb both the deployment and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. The nuclear arms control architecture has endured tough tests with many ups and downs along the way. Overall, it has contributed tremendously to reducing the number of nuclear weapons from over 70,000 at the peak of the Cold War to around 12,000 at the moment. Throughout this process, START and New START have played the most instrumental roles. Now New START is the only instrument that can make sure this arms reduction process continues into at least 2026 and hopefully beyond. Therefore, Russia will soon begin to feel the rising pressure from the international community to reverse its decision to suspend New START.

Second, if Russia disregards this pressure and continues to shirk its commitment to New START, it can potentially lead to the termination of the treaty regardless of the outcome of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Then it may be the beginning of the end of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime held together by the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) for the last five decades. A nuclear arms race would be waged in full force by both the recognized and unrecognized nuclear states, just like during the Cold War. This would erode the already shaky commitment of non-nuclear states to renounce horizontal proliferation. Russia’s blackmail would prove to be the death knell for all humanity.

Humanity stands at a crossroads right now in the struggle to stave off a nuclear winter. Collective pressure is the only way to make reason prevail within the Russian leadership. The international political climate is turning hostile as the rivalry among the major powers becomes intense. Competition and confrontation will likely rise in almost all areas, from political and military to economic and technological. It is true that the hostile political climate is not conducive to arms reduction and control. But it is not necessarily harmful, either.

The history of nuclear arms control shows that agreements were signed even when the global political climate was sour and the major powers were clashing during the Cold War. The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) are prime examples. They were concluded despite the height of Cold War tensions and served to build confidence between the two superpowers. Then the confidence built helped the two countries attempt to work together to dismantle the Cold War structures peacefully.

We should not lose hope but learn lessons from past trials and successes in nuclear arms control. This time the biggest onus is on the United States and China. The two most powerful states must talk to each other to ensure that their strategic competition does not spiral out of control. Plus, they need to publicly reaffirm their commitment to the core principles of the NPT. China has a special responsibility both as a fast-rising challenger to U.S. primacy and the only country with the power to moderate Russia. Going forward, the nuclear arms control architecture will not be complete without the participation of China. The United States and China must take the lead in getting all five recognized nuclear states fully involved in a revamped N5 (Nuke Five) or P5 (Perm Five) nuclear dialogue. The leadership of the United States and China is critical to correcting the course from collective suicide to peaceful coexistence.

Kim Won-soo (wsk4321@gmail.com) is the former under-secretary-general of the United Nations and high representative for disarmament. As a Korean diplomat, he served as secretary to the ROK president for foreign affairs as well as for international security. He is now the chair of the international advisory board of the Taejae Academy (Future Consensus Institute) and a chair professor at Kyung Hee University.

The South Korean Horn Holds Off On Nukes For Now: Daniel 7

CNN Exclusive: South Korea doesn’t need nuclear weapons to face the North, prime minister says

CNN’s Richard Quest interviews South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo

By Jessie Yeung and Richard Quest, CNN

South Korea doesn’t need nuclear arms to deter the threat from North Korea, the country’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said in an exclusive interview with CNN — even as public opinion swings the other way amid Asia’s accelerating arms race.

Several recent public surveys “definitely showed that we should re-arm ourselves. In nuclear capability terms, (the surveys say) we should go farther,” Han told CNN anchor and business editor-at-large Richard Quest during a sit-down in Seoul.

One such poll, released last February, found that 71% of more than 1,300 respondents in the country were in favor of South Korea developing its own nuclear weapons — a once-unthinkable idea that has become increasingly mainstream in the past decade, with rising tensions in the Korean Peninsula and dwindling confidence in South Korea toward US protection.

However, Han insisted the country has enough in its arsenal to stave off North Korea’s “preposterous ambitions” — and that developing nuclear capabilities was not “the right way.”

“We have built up a quite adequate level of our deterrence capabilities in close cooperation with the United States,” he said, adding that the government had “put a lot of emphasis” on strengthening its deterrence since President Yoon Suk Yeol took power last year.

“We should work together with the international community… to put a lot of continuous pressure on North Korea to denuclearize,” he said. “We would like to let North Korea know that developing and advancing nuclear capabilities will not guarantee the peace and prosperity in their country.”

Relations between North and South Korea have worsened in recent years as Pyongyang ramped up its weapons program, firing a record number of missiles last year — including one that flew over Japan, the first time North Korea had done so in five years, prompting international alarm.

And for months, the US and international observers have warned that North Korea appears to be preparing for its first underground nuclear test since 2017. The country’s dictator Kim Jong Un also intensified his rhetoric last year; he declared his intention to build the “world’s most powerful” nuclear force, warned adversaries that North Korea was fully prepared for “actual war,” vowed to “never give up” nuclear weapons and dismissed the possibility of negotiating denuclearization.

In response, the US and its allies South Korea and Japan have stepped up their own military drills and cooperation. Yoon, who has publicly taken a tough stance against North Korea, even raised the prospect of South Korea building its own nuclear arsenal, saying in January it could “deploy tactical nuclear weapons or possess its own nukes.”

And despite Han voicing opposition to such a plan, he too emphasized South Korea’s preparedness in confronting its nuclear-armed neighbor — as well as its openness for further talks, under certain conditions.

“We are not disarming ourselves against North Korea,” he said. “But we are not closing the dialogue channel with North Korea … as long as North Korea is abstaining from their very strong nuclear ambitions.”

China’s role

Han also discussed China’s role in the region, saying the superpower was “not the country it used to be,” in past decades that ushered in economic reforms and liberalization.

“China is a huge and important global player,” he said. “Including Korea, I think many countries would like to see (China) be more compliant with global rules.”

He added that though China “will contribute a lot in solving global problems,” the country often doesn’t meet the “expectations a lot of countries would like to have — for example, we hoped that China would be more aggressive and more active in reducing tensions in the Korean Peninsula.”

For years, China has been North Korea’s biggest trading partner and an economic lifeline, with Pyongyang isolated from much of the world.

But Beijing, too, is a major player in the Asia arms race.

In January, US and Japanese ministers warned of the “ongoing and accelerating expansion of (China’s) nuclear arsenal.” Just days later, Japan’s prime minister expressed concern over China’s military activities in the East China Sea, and the launch of ballistic missiles over Taiwan that landed in waters near Japan in August.

China’s military buildup, aggressive foreign policy and multiple disputed territorial claims haven’t gone unnoticed in Seoul — where attitudes toward Beijing are fast souring.

In the 2022 survey on South Korean nuclear armament, more than half of respondents said China would be the biggest threat to the country in 10 years, and many cited “threats other than North Korea” behind their support for a domestic nuclear arsenal.

Han acknowledged that Seoul was closely watching these territorial disputes.

“Peace in the Taiwan Strait is also very important for the security and peace of the Korean Peninsula,” he said. And though South Korea is “committed” to the one-China policy, he said, “at the same time, we (expect) China to be more rule-based, not behaving as a country … being condemned by international community.”

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Russia Will Supply the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel

Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022.

Russia and Iran secret nuclear deal would allow uranium transfers to Tehran’s illicit weapons program: sources

US and EU should snap back sanctions on Iran for its illegal work on weapons-grade uranium, say experts

By Benjamin Weinthal | Fox News

Fox News’ Rich Edson reports on Russia and Iran’s allyship growing more integrated as they look to expedite a drone facility.

Amid the International Atomic Energy Agency’s disclosure this week that the Islamic Republic of Iran accumulated near weapons-grade enriched uranium for its alleged nuclear weapon program, Fox News Digital has learned that Iran has allegedly secured secret deals with Russia to guarantee deliveries of uranium.

In what could be a major setback to a new Iran nuclear deal, foreign intelligence sources speaking on the condition of anonymity, and who are familiar with the negotiations between Moscow and Tehran over Iran’s reported illegal nuclear weapons work, told Fox News Digital that Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to return enriched uranium that it received from Iran if a prospective atomic deal collapses. The State Department would neither confirm nor deny the reports. 

The State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “We will not comment on purported secret intelligence reports, but in any event the JCP­OA has not been on the agenda for months.” A spokesperson for the National Security Council deferred comment to the State Department.

One major component of the effort by the U.S and other world powers to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the Iran nuclear deal, is for Russia to warehouse Tehran’s enriched uranium. The rationale for Russia storing the uranium is to prevent the regime from using the material to construct an atomic bomb.

The foreign intelligence sources claim, “As part of the agreement between the two countries, Russia has undertaken to return all the enriched uranium to Iran as quickly as possible, if, for any reason, the U.S. withdraws from the agreement.”

Vladimir Putin meets with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, Iran, July 19, 2022. (President Website/West Asia News Agency/Handout via Reuters)

“It would make sense to me that they would agree to this type of side deal,” Rebekah Koffler, a former analyst at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said. Koffler noted that, “Based on my knowledge of Russian doctrine and state tradecraft, the Russians are trying to play both sides. On the one side, they do not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, they do want assistance from Iran for Ukraine.”

Koffler, an expert on Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, added, “Russia benefits from being a party to the JCPOA. Russia’s tactic is to drag things on and play both sides. That gives Putin leverage over both sides but also allows him to be perceived as a deal-maker. Russia is signaling that the U.S. is dependent on Russia.” 

She concluded that, “The Russians are trying to signal to the Iranians that they will help them out like they did with Iran’s civilian nuclear program. On the other hand, they might want to put pressure on the U.S. to do the deal. It is just part of Putin’s standard playbook to try to game his opponents.”

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 because he and his administration believed the JCPOA failed to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Trump’s White House also argued that the Iran nuclear pact did not crack down on the theocratic state’s terrorism and restrict its missile program.

Iran’s regime wants an ironclad agreement from the Biden administration that it and future U.S. administrations will not pull the plug on a new JCPOA. The White House said it cannot guarantee that a new administration will not walk away from the controversial deal.

On Tuesday, a top U.S. Defense Department official told Congress that Iran’s regime could develop enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb in a mere 12 days.

When asked about the secret deals between Iran and Russia over the shipments of enriched uranium, Mojtaba Babaei, a spokesperson for the Iran mission at the United Nations, told Fox News Digital, “There’s no information about the claim.”

He added, “Massimo Aparo, deputy director general and head of the Department of Safeguards, visited Iran last week and checked the alleged enrichment rate. Based on Iran’s assessment, the alleged enrichment percentage between Iran and the IAEA is resolved. Due to the IAEA report being prepared before his trip, his trip’s results aren’t in it and hopefully the IAEA director general will mention it in his oral report to the board of governors.”

Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022. Iran has been supplying drones to Russia that have killed Ukrainian civilians and caused major damage to civilian infrastructure.

Firefighters work after a drone attack on buildings in Kyiv, Ukraine, Oct. 17, 2022. Iran has been supplying drones to Russia that have killed Ukrainian civilians and caused major damage to civilian infrastructure. (AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna, File)

When questioned about the Islamic Republic building a nuclear weapon, Babaei said, “Iran has no plans to make nuclear weapons because its military doctrine prohibits the use of weapons of mass destruction in any form.”

Experts on Iran’s alleged atomic weapons program have long sharply disagreed with the Islamic Republic’s denials and the growing cooperation between Russia and Iran has exacerbated the conflict over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Jason Brodsky, the policy director of the U.S.-based United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), told Fox News Digital that the “reported side deals between Iran and Russia on the nuclear file just demonstrate the risks of depending on Moscow as a participant or guarantor in a JCPOA-like arrangement. The geopolitical context has fundamentally shifted with its invasion of Ukraine.”

He added, “P5+1 [China, France, Russia, Britain, U.S. and Germany] under these conditions of great power conflict is not a viable diplomatic platform. Iran has leverage over Russia in 2023 that it did not have in 2015 with its supply of arms. It’s in this dynamic that the Kremlin can’t be trusted. The JCPOA of 2015 has no future. It’s time to declare it dead, invoke the snapback sanctions mechanism, and pivot to a deterrence strategy as the diplomatic track has run aground.”

Iran’s regime is supplying Russia with sophisticated lethal drone technology in its war against Ukraine.

Three versions of domestically built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran, on June 6, 2018. (IRIB via AP, File)

Three versions of domestically built centrifuges are shown in a live TV program from Natanz, an Iranian uranium enrichment plant, in Iran, on June 6, 2018. (IRIB via AP, File)

The uranium enrichment deal was hammered out during Putin’s visit to Iran in July 2022. The ostensible quid pro quo arrangement between the authoritarian regimes further solidified their growing alliance.

The Intelligence officials said, “President Putin, who made a special trip to Iran to pursue weapons deals between the two countries, agreed to approve the request, apparently due to his interest in compensating the Iranians for their assistance.” Talks about the secret deals also unfolded between Moscow and Tehran during August 2022, when Iran’s regime was providing a shot into the arm of Putin’s war machinery in Ukraine.

According to the intelligence officials, the Iranians seized the opportunity during Putin’s desperate need for drones and demanded a “nuclear guarantee” that would enable Iran “to quickly restore its uranium stock to the quantity and enrichment levels it had maintained before the resumption of the agreement.”

The attempt to circumvent the U.S. and the other Western powers would gut the entire purpose of the Iran nuclear deal, argued the intelligence officials, who noted, “This would significantly undermine U.S. interests and would give Russia de facto control over the nuclear agreement in the present and future.”

The Biden administration remains deeply wedded to the Iran nuclear deal, which would provide Tehran with up to $275 billion in financial benefits during the first year of the agreement and a startling $1 trillion by 2030, according to one U.S. think tank study.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan Sept. 15, 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan Sept. 15, 2022. (Sputnik/Alexandr Demyanchuk/Pool via Reuters)

In an unusual move, the Biden administration is following a more dovish approach than its Western European counterparts who want Iran to be censured at Monday’s IAEA meeting for enriching near weapons-grade uranium. The Islamic Republic has produced weapon-grade material of 60% since 2021, but new material was discovered showing 84% purity. Weapons-grade uranium starts at around 90%.

Michael Singh, an expert on Iran’s nuclear program and the managing director for The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, urged the Biden administration and its allies in a late February article on the think tank’s website to “snap back sanctions” against Iran in response to Tehran’s near weapons-grade uranium enrichment

The 2015 JCPOA contains a penalty that allows for snapback sanctions and Singh argued that the sanctions would “bolster military deterrence, and plan for potential crisis scenarios.” 

The row over Iran’s illicit enrichment of weapons-grade uranium comes amid a Fox News Digital report that Tehran may be behind an assassination and terror target list focused on law enforcement agencies in Boston.

The U.S. government under both Democratic and Republican administrations has classified Iran’s regime as the worst state sponsor of international terrorism.

Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri and IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh during the unveiling of "Kheibarshekan" missile in Iran, Feb. 9, 2022.

Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri and IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh during the unveiling of “Kheibarshekan” missile in Iran, Feb. 9, 2022. (West Asia News Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Fox News Digital queries to Russia’s government and the IAEA were not immediately returned. 

The IAEA’s Director General Grossi said on Saturday while in Tehran that he had “constructive” meetings and a settlement with Iran over its near weapons-grade enrichment of uranium was reached. Grossi met with the head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, Mohammad Eslami.

The IAEA board is scheduled to meet Monday in Vienna to consider the organization’s latest report and could once again censor Iran for its actions.

THE Associated Press contributed to this report.

The China Horn Continues to Grow: Daniel 7

From left, Li Zhanshu, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Premier Li Keqiang stand during the opening session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sunday, March 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

China expands defense budget 7.2%, marking slight increase

China on Sunday announced a 7.2% increase in its defense budget for the coming year, up slightly from last year’s 7.1% rate of increase.

That marks the eighth consecutive year of single-digit percentage point increases in what is now the world’s second-largest military budget. The 2023 figure was given as 1.55 trillion yuan ($224 billion), roughly double the figure from 2013.

Along with the world’s biggest standing army, China has the world’s largest navy and recently launched its third aircraft carrier. According to the U.S., it also has the largest aviation force in the Indo-Pacific, with more than half of its fighter planes consisting of fourth or fifth generation models.

China also boasts a massive stockpile of missiles, along with stealth aircraft, bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons, advanced surface ships and nuclear powered submarines. 

The 2 million-member People’s Liberation Army is the military wing of the ruling Communist Party, commanded by a party commission led by president and party leader Xi Jinping. 

In his report Sunday to the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, Premier Li Keqiang said that over the past year, “We remained committed to the Party’s absolute leadership over the people’s armed forces.”

“The people’s armed forces intensified efforts to enhance their political loyalty, to strengthen themselves through reform, scientific and technological advances, and personnel training, and to practice law-based governance,” Li said.

Li touched on what he called a number of “major achievements” in national defense and military development that have made the PLA a “more modernized and capable fighting force.” 

He offered no details but cited the armed forces’ contributions to border defense, maritime rights protection, counterterrorism and stability maintenance, disaster rescue and relief, the escorting of merchant ships and China’s draconian “zero-COVID” strategy that entailed lockdowns, quarantines and other coercive measures.

“We should consolidate and enhance integration of national strategies and strategic capabilities and step up capacity building in science, technology and industries related to national defense.” That includes promoting “mutual support between civilian sectors and the military,” he said. 

China spent 1.7% of GDP on its military in 2021, according to the World Bank, while the U.S., with its massive overseas obligations, spent a relatively high 3.5%. 

Although no longer increasing at the double-digit annual percentage rates of past decades, China’s defense spending has remained relatively high despite skyrocketing levels of government debt and an economy that grew last year at its second-lowest level in at least four decades.

Li set a growth target of “around 5%” in his address, as he announced plans for a consumer-led revival of the economy still struggling to shake off the effects of “zero-COVID.”

While the government says most of the spending increases will go toward improving welfare for troops, the PLA has greatly expanded its overseas presence in recent years. 

China has already established one foreign military base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti and is refurbishing Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base that could give it at least a semi-permanent presence on the Gulf of Thailand facing the disputed South China Sea.

The modernization effort has prompted concerns among the U.S. and its allies, particularly over Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China claims as its territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary. 

That has prompted a steady flow of weapons sales to the island from the U.S., including ground systems, air defense missiles and F-16 fighters. Taiwan itself recently extended mandatory military service from four months to one year and has been revitalizing its own defense industries, including building submarines for the first time.

In his remarks on Taiwan, Li said the government had followed the party’s “overall policy for the new era on resolving the Taiwan question and resolutely fought against separatism and countered interference.” 

Along with Taiwan, tensions have been rising with the U.S. over China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea, which it claims virtually in its entirety, and most recently, the shooting down of a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the U.S. east coast.

The huge capacity of China’s defense industry and Russia’s massive expenditures of artillery shells and other materiel in its war on Ukraine have raised concerns in the U.S. and elsewhere that Beijing may provide Moscow with military assistance.

The Russian Horn Warns of Nuclear Escalation: Revelation 16


Russia Warns of Nuclear Escalation As Tensions Soar

Tensions are once again mounting between the United States and Russia as Moscow warned that the increasing Western support for Ukraine could trigger an open conflict between the nuclear powers.

In his speech at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov blamed the US and NATO for their policy that poses “the most acute strategic threat” as it aimed at further fomenting the conflict in and around Ukraine.

“Their growing involvement in an armed confrontation is fraught with a direct military clash of nuclear powers with catastrophic consequences,” Ryabkov said on Thursday.

The diplomat recalled that the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France issued a joint statement to avoid war between the nations with nuclear weapons in January 2022. The five countries affirmed “that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.

Ryabkov noted that the policies of the US and its allies went against that declaration, and could bring about a nuclear standoff.

He went further to say that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move to suspend its participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) – the last remaining nuclear arms pact with the US – came in response to the US and NATO actions in Ukraine.

During his speech on February 21, when he announced the decision to pull out of the New START treaty – President Putin also made it clear that Moscow will resume nuclear weapons tests if the US does so.

The move added to the tensions between the two nuclear powers, against the backdrop of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Russian authorities have repeatedly criticized Western nations for their military assistance to Ukraine, arguing that the aid is not only fuelling the conflict but also boosting the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and NATO powers.

In addition, Moscow has long accused the West of provoking conflict with the expansion of NATO and the deployment of its weapon systems in proximity to the Russian territories.

The New START treaty limits all deployed intercontinental-range nuclear weapons by Russia and the US and requires both countries to allow on-site inspections of their nuclear weapons-related facilities by the other. Originally signed by former US President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, the treaty was extended by five years in February 2021 during the first weeks of Joe Biden’s presidency. Currently, it is the only one left regulating the two largest nuclear arsenals in the world.

The mutual inspections of nuclear weapons-related facilities were paused in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and formally suspended by Moscow in August 2022, after Washington attempted to resume the inspections. The Kremlin claimed that the disagreement between Russia and the US over the war in Ukraine had hampered similar tours of US facilities by Russia. Russia’s Foreign Ministry explained that the ban on flights from Russia to the US and allied countries and visa restrictions made it impossible for Russian inspectors to travel to the US.

More Lies from the Liberal Press About the Obama-Iran Nuclear Deal: Daniel 8

AP claims Obama nuclear deal ‘contained’ Iran’s program, ‘attacks’ in Middle East followed Trump’s withdrawal

Story by Joseph Wulfsohn • Feb 25

The Associated Press raised eyebrows by declaring just how effective the 2015 Obama era nuclear deal with Iran was.

On Thursday, the AP published a story about Iran acknowledging that it had “enriched uranium to 84% purity for the first time” as part of its weapons program, something that has been a foreign policy challenge for multiple presidencies. The regime’s uranium development is key to nuclear capability. 

But it went beyond just reporting the facts. 

FILE – This file photo released Nov. 5, 2019, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows centrifuge machines in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran. Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File© Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP, File

“The acknowledgment by a news website linked to the highest reaches of Iran’s theocracy renews pressure on the West to address Tehran’s program, which had been contained by the 2015 nuclear deal from which America unilaterally withdrew in 2018,” the AP wrote.

“Years of attacks cross the Middle East have followed,” the AP added, linking to another AP story from early February about Israeli drone strike on an Iranian weapons facility.  

There has been a years-long political divide over whether President Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal actually slowed down Iran’s nuclear program, something Republicans always argued it did not. The lack of access and transparency regarding Iranian facilities have always clouded the debate.

The Trump administration ultimately pulled out of the deal in 2018. The Biden administration attempted to renegotiate the deal but President Biden suggested as recently as December that talks with Iran are “dead.”

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2015, file photo released by the Iranian President’s Office, President Hassan Rouhani visits the Bushehr nuclear power plant just outside of Bushehr, Iran. AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno, File© AP Photo/Iranian Presidency Office, Mohammad Berno, File

Critics on social media accused the AP “rewriting history” using “Democrat talking points.”

“This is why it’s not quite right to talk about ‘bias’ in journalism. Bias is when you write a news story that’s supposed to be objective but you let your personal views seep in. This is different. It’s something in between laundering Democrat talking points and rewriting history,” reacted Omri Ceren, national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

“Who doesn’t recall fondly the famously placid Middle East of our youths?” National Review senior writer Noah Rothman jokingly asked.

Others were more blunt with their criticism, calling it “propaganda.” 

The AP did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.