Russian and Chinese Leaders Tighten their grips on Power as Tension with the West mounts

China

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 In 1981 the Communist Party of China amended the country’s constitution so that no one person could rule for life in an attempt to make the nation actually look like a “republic”. Leaders also made the change hoping that it would help the country recover from years of bloody turmoil and political campaigns under Mao that killed millions. But now those days are gone as the party overwhelmingly voted to do away with presidential term limits as they selected Xi Jinping to serve another term. His vice president Wang Qishan also selected by the National People’s Congress has long been a close ally of Xi and is expected to further Xi’s agenda of shoring up power in the Communist Party and ending poverty in the nation.

All 2,970 members of the NPC voted in favor of the change and supported Xi remaining in power. With his unlimited tenure as president, Xi was made once again the head of the commission that controls the nation’s military. Chinese officials defended the move saying that it would bring the presidency in line with Xi’s vision of China and give him more leeway as head of the armed forces.

The 64-year-old is said to be the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

Not everybody is happy with the move, however; critics say that the change will lead to further political repression and conflict within the party as various factions try to push their own candidates within what is a closed system.

Xi became president in 2013 and has not stated how long he intends to remain in power.

NPR reports that the government claims that overwhelming polls show that the majority of Chinese from the wealthy to the “commoners” support the NPC’s decision to allow Xi to rule for an unlimited amount of time, however, there have been no polls released nor has anybody been able to conduct any such polls. And when people are asked on the streets, they seem content with Xi remaining in power and cite that they like his tough foreign policy stance.

Russia

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On Sunday Russians go to the polls to vote in an election that is expected to place Vladimir Putin in power for another six years. In the Far East, polls have already opened where 109 million voters are eligible in 11 different time zones.

The election is said to be lop-sided favoring Putin who has no real competition and Putin’s only real opponent, Alexei Navalny has been barred from participating.

In 2012, Putin won in a landslide victory but this time, there is a lot of anti-western rhetoric to pave his path to victory. In what is more or less a controlled media in the country, Russians seeing what Putin and the government want them to see such as the diplomatic shortcomings between Moscow, England, and Washington according to them, Putin is not worried about losing power. However; voter turnout could be an issue as many Russians lost faith in the system due to a number of scandals and rampant corruption. There were also protests last year as many took to the streets to make the unsatisfaction with the government, public. Navalny has even called for a protest of the election.

Past polls have shown that Putin is popular among the Russian people as they believe that he has led the country out of the turmoil that was rampant following the post-Soviet days.

Where America comes in

As leaders who have typically been anti-American and in general, anti-west tighten their grip on power, the United States must play its cards smart. As President Trump continues to talk tough on North Korea and is planning on meeting with Kim Jong Un, he must keep in mind China’s tight alliance with Pyongyang, remembering their aid to the communists in the Korean War. U.S officials must not forget the hacks conducted by the Chinese and the recent hacks by Russia on the American power grid. And we must not forget the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, whether they helped Trump or not. Russia is also suspected of interfering in numerous elections in Europe.

As the UK has expelled Russian diplomats over the suspected poisoning death of a former spy, Moscow has pushed back expelling British diplomats as well. The Kremlin has even promised retaliation against the U.S for sanctions it has placed on Moscow over the election hacks.

Two men who are nothing less than dictators are trying to crack down in their own countries and looking to expand their dominance in other parts of the world. The U.S must remain strong and not allow Xi and Putin to influence other nations especially those who may already have some hostilities towards the west. The U.S must be ready for anything and keep an eye out for further Russian interference and hacks in the future.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/17/china-reappoints-xi-jinping-as-president-with-no-term-limit

https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2018/03/14/593155818/why-abolishing-chinas-presidential-term-limits-is-such-a-big-deal

https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/17/europe/russia-presidential-election-2018-intl/index.html

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Trump meets Kim Jong Un. What will happen?

From the day Donald Trump was sworn in as President of the United States, he has not been short on words when it comes to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, going as far as calling him “little rocket man” before the UN General assembly which prompted Kim to call Trump a “dotard”. For years the Kim family has requested a face-to-face meeting with a sitting U.S president but has been denied due to its refusal to cease its nuclear program and for various human rights violations. But now, the president who has labeled himself as “the dealmaker” will be the first sitting U.S President to meet with any North Korean leader since the Korean War ended in 1953 and the discussion will be denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula. Whatever the result of this meeting is, it will be crucial to global security and stability as well as an important moment in history.

The President’s decision to meet with Kim was sudden and has not come without criticism from his opponents who claim that he’s doing it for show. Others believe that the president shouldn’t meet with Kim until he shows that he is willing to put an end to his nuclear program and end the human rights violations that are taking place in the country. Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren stated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” “Before they get that kind of prize, we should insist that they make some real changes, verifiable changes to their programs”. The administration maintains the position that the meeting is not about theatrics or about Trump getting attention but that it is strictly business.  On the meeting, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said of Trump, “He’s going to solve a problem”. Pompeo also stated on CBS’s “Face the Nation” “This administration has its eyes wide open, and the whole time this conversation takes place the pressure will continue to mount on North Korea”.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle fear that Kim is setting a trap for President Trump and luring him into something. Analysts believe Kim is trying to sweet talk Trump into easing some of the sanctions the U.S and its allies have put on the country and Senator Elizabeth Warren stated that she fears Kim is going to try and take advantage of Trump. Even South Korean officials who are reaching out to China and Japan to take part in the talks are doubtful that anything will come of the meeting and that Kim is going to try and “cheat” Trump. Kim’s late father and former leader of the reclusive nation, Kim Jong Il cheated and fooled the administrations of Clinton and George W. Bush and Kim Jong Un fooled Obama. Whether Kim is attempting to blow smoke and buy time to farther his nuclear program and ease sanctions or is sincerely dedicated to peace talks and putting an end to his nuclear intentions, the outcome will be important. On the issue, the president said while at a Republican Congressional rally, “Hey, who knows what’s going to happen? I may leave fast or we may sit down and make the greatest deal for the world.”

Earlier in the year, Trump promised, “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” if North Korea doesn’t give up its nuclear program and put an end to its aggression in the region, although I am against war unless it is undoubtedly the only solution and keeping in mind that preemptive strikes never work out well, case-in-point, Iraq, Trump must stick to that threat and not back down to the dictator. With 40,000 U.S troops in Japan and another 35,000 in South Korea, not to mention submarines and aircraft carriers in the waters, it would be suicide for Kim to seek armed conflict. Trump must let Kim know that unless he can prove to the U.S and to the world that he is putting an end to his nuclear program that the pressure, the sanctions and the military exercises with South Korea and Japan will continue. Trump must also put pressure on China, North Korea’s biggest ally and get them on board with the idea of a North Korea without nukes. Trump must also not allow Russia to interfere as Putin likes to do when it comes to U.S foreign policy. Lawmakers from both parties are skeptical of Trump’s ability to reach any real deal with Kim as he has failed to win any major legislative victories at home, aside from a tax cut despite his party having the majority in both houses of Congress. Others believe that because the President talks more than seeking action on issues such as gun control, that things will be no different with Kim.

Whatever happens, Trump will have to keep his cool and keep his eyes and ears open for Kim’s tricks. He must not back down and he mustn’t let Kim get the upper hand. Trump says he wants “good deals for America”, now is his chance to get one not only for the U.S but for the world. I myself am doubtful not because I don’t have confidence in Trump’s ability to make something happen but because I don’t trust Kim, but if Trump by some miracle walks out of this with a denuclearized North Korea, it may be one of the greatest foreign policy success stories in American history. It will bring a sense of security to the U.S and to the Northeast region of Asia as well as the world. We can only know for sure after the meeting takes place.

Note: At the time of this writing, it’s been reported that President Trump fired U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson due to disagreements over the Iran Nuclear Deal and how to go about the talks with North Korea. Trump claims that he and Tillerson “got along well” but couldn’t come to an agreement on these matters. Tillerson learned of his firing as it was being reported by the Washington Post Tuesday, March 13, 2018, and via Trump’s tweet regarding the matter. Trump plans to nominate CIA Director Pompeo for Secretary of State.

Image retrieved from:  http://abcnews.go.com/International/analysis-president-trump-kim-jong-insults-talks/story?id=53654338

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http://matzav.com/report-tillerson-learns-of-his-dismissal-via-trumps-tweet/

It’s Time to Shut Down the U.S Marine base in Okinawa

In all reality, the U.S Marine base officially named Camp S. D. Butler named for a former marine located in the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa just outside of the Japanese mainland, is not going to close anytime soon, especially with the Trump Administration in power and its ongoing rhetoric and hostility towards North Korea. If the United States were to take military action against North Korea, Camp S.D Butler would be the primary launch site of an attack, just as it was during the Vietnam War, due to its close proximity to the Korean peninsula. Despite any strategic benefits that the base may provide the U.S, the Japanese people especially those who live near the base are calling for its closure due to the behavior of U.S Marines stationed at the base and the accidents that have been occurring as of late, putting civilians in potential harm. The base is a result of the American occupation of Japan following its surrender in World War II and today, is nothing more than a direct violation of the nation’s sovereignty.

Following the end of World War II, Japan was under an international occupation led almost entirely by U.S forces under the command of General Douglas McArthur from 1945-1952. During this time, arms manufacturing was dismantled, political prisoners were released and wartime leaders were brought to trial for war crimes. Japan would draft a new constitution establishing a democratic government, reducing the emperor to nothing more than a ceremonial role and shift its economy from one based on farming to one that focused on manufacturing. In addition, it split up the business monopolies that ruled the economy and even encouraged labor unions until the fear of communism struck the nation just as it had in the U.S and elsewhere. The education system which was viewed as one that benefited the elites was also dismantled and reorganized to mirror the U.S model. Following the end of the occupation, the United States began construction of what would become Camp S.D Butler in 1955 on the island of Okinawa. Today Camp Butler is made up of four bases that are scattered throughout the prefecture.

For years the base has been a nuisance for the civilians who live nearby. Everything from the noise and emissions which are a result of aircraft overhead, the behavior of the marines stationed there and recent accidents involving aircraft has caused concern among those who call the island home. In 2008 Condoleeza Rice, then Secretary of State under George W. Bush apologized for a string of crimes that had been committed by U.S Marines on the island, including the arrest of one marine who was charged with the rape of 14-year-old girl on the island which comes after the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year-old girl by U.S serviceman, which led to riots and protests among the Japanese who demanded that the base be closed and the Marines be moved out. Other crimes that have led to arrests of U.S military personnel are drunk driving and trespassing which forced the U.S military to set an indefinite curfew for the serviceman and their families living on or near the base.

Recently a number of U.S aircraft accidents once again has nearby civilians concerned, however; accidents involving aircraft date back to 2004 when a helicopter crashed into the main building of the Okinawa International University and burst into flames. In November 2007, while drunk driving, a Marine whose blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit collided a with another vehicle killing the 62-year-old driver. Following this incident, U.S military personnel and contractors working for the U.S military have been restricted from leaving the base or their place of residence. In January of this year, NHK reported that a helicopter made an emergency landing on an Okiwanian beach due to a faulty rotor. Another helicopter made an emergency landing on the grounds of a hotel, another burst into flames after crashing in a field, and a helicopter window fell out and landed in a schoolyard where children were outside exercising. U.S Secretary of State James Mattis has apologized for the recent accidents saying that they “cause fear on the part of local residents and should not happen.” Mattis also stated that the U.S would take all of the appropriate steps to avoid accidents in the future.

How many times can the United State apologize for the wrongdoings of its military personnel on the island? How many apologies can it offer regarding crashed military aircraft that puts the locals in direct danger? How much longer are we going to ignore the calls of the locals and citizens all over Japan that we shut the base down and leave? If we are to truly call Japan our ally then we need to respect their wishes and end our military occupation if that is their wish. Be certain that if another country had a military base on American soil and their troops were committing crimes in our communities or crashing aircraft where we live and where our children go to school, putting them in danger, we too would be furious and demanding the base be closed and the military leave. What makes the United States so special that we have the right to violate another country’s sovereignty and ignore the cries of its people? It’s time to close the base in Okinawa and return the island to the Japanese people.

Header image retrieved from https://paxchristiusa.org

 

  1. https://www.britannica.com/event/occupation-of-Japan
  2. http://www.militarybases.us/marines/mcb-camp-s-d-butler/
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/feb/28/japan.usa
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/19/asia/okinawa-american-drunk-driver/index.html
  5. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-42618777
  6. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-japan-helicopter-okinawa/japan-calls-on-u-s-to-take-safety-steps-in-wake-of-okinawa-military-incidents-idUSKBN1EY099