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Wednesday, 11 October 2006 03:23

Gloria R. Lalumia's World Media Watch for October 11, 2006

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WORLD MEDIA WATCH

1//The Guardian, UK--BIG POWERS HUFF AND PUFF OVER NORTH KOREA (... But the strong words did not disguise the weakness of the international community's position now that North Korea has finally crossed the line and indisputably become what it has long claimed to be - a nuclear weapons state. In short, the big powers can huff and puff, but there is not a lot new in practical terms that they can do. This development was expected. They simply couldn't stop it. ... Other countries with nascent nuclear ambitions will also be watching closely to see what happens next. The fate of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, which failed to develop a nuclear deterrent and was invaded and overthrown by bigger powers, unfortunately provides a cautionary tale for insecure leaderships. The residual idea that the US could one day impose regime change on North Korea by military force died a death when Pyongyang's bomb went off today. That underscores the importance of dialogue. But it is also a spur to further global nuclear weapons proliferation.)

2//The Independent, UK--RUSSIA AND CHINA MAY STAND IN WAY OF UNITED RESPONSE TO NUCLEAR TEST (The leading world powers huddled in an emergency session at the United Nations yesterday to forge agreement on measures to punish North Korea for its reported testing of a nuclear device on Monday. Ideas ranged from sanctions on whisky imports to inspecting all cargo ships entering and leaving its waters. But with the regime in Pyongyang still showing unrepentant defiance, it remained hard to say whether measures to further isolate the country from the rest of the world would do much good. Nothing can now reverse the events of Monday, when North Korea staged its nuclear breakout. Even settling on sanctions will be hard. Last night China, backed by Russia, said it opposed plans to pass a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which implies it could be enforced militarily, saying reference to a single article within it would suffice. It also argued for a narrower scope for the sanctions. More than just punishment, whatever emerges from the UN will have two other main aims: to pressure North Korea to return to the six-party talks that it has boycotted for 13 months on ending its nuclear weapons programme and to prevent it from even considering proliferating its new-found technology.)

3//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong--CHINA YEARNS FOR HU'S ‘HARMONIOUS SOCIETY' (The Chinese Communist Party's policymaking Central Committee began its annual plenary session on Sunday. A major focus of the four-day session is to set policy principles to implement President Hu Jintao's signature concept of building a "harmonious society." This is the first time in 25 years after late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched economic reforms that the party Central Committee will devote an annual plenum to social equality. All other such gatherings in the past quarter of a century have concentrated on economic reforms or ideological issues. The fact that this year's party plenum focuses on building a "harmonious society" has twofold significance. On the one hand, it is evident that Hu now is firmly in power so that his idea is being materialized into the party's line. ... On the other hand, the theme of this plenum strongly suggests there now are so many acutely "unharmonious" factors in Chinese society that the party policymakers have to spend their annual gathering to ponder possible solutions. ... Indeed, social problems, such as the widening wealth gap and social injustices, have piled up to such an extent that if the CCP were to fail to address them properly, its very legitimacy would be questioned and challenged.)

4//EUobserver.com, Belgium--NEXT YEAR WILL MAKE OR BREAK THE EU, SAYS FORMER FRENCH FM (Former French foreign minister Michel Barnier has said the EU project risks going off track completely if political leaders do not use next year to make a concerted effort to pull Europe out of its crisis. Referring to the "suspended" political climate in Europe at the moment, the ex-commissioner indicated that the entire project is "threatened" if EU leaders do not seize the political impetus provided by the French elections next year to get Europe out of its "breakdown." Speaking at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Tuesday [10 October], he welcomed presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy's recent contribution to the EU debate which took the form of suggesting that the shelved EU constitution be reduced to a mini-treaty plus a reform of the bloc's institutions. ... France has elections in spring next year, which is expected to free up the political debate on the constitution - on ice since both France and the Netherlands rejected it in popular votes last year. Since the votes, which rocked Europe's political core, there has been little public debate and transparently little political will on the part of member states to put the issue back on the political agenda. ... Looking to the future, Mr Barnier suggested that if member states do not stop thinking on an "everyone for himself" basis, then in 15 to 20 years Europe's lack of power will be all too evident.)

5//The Toronto Star, Canada--TORIES TO FOCUS ON SMOG: PM (-- Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will impose anti-smog regulations in a new Clean Air Act to be introduced next week but critics say he is doing little about greenhouse gas emissions while duplicating existing regulations. The latest part of the Conservatives' long-awaited strategy focuses more on smog than on global warming and it will be at least a year before the government has settled on targets. ... The government plans to spend a year consulting with industry and the provinces with the aim of coming up with short-, medium- and long-term targets that will have to be met by regulation, rather than on the voluntary basis that exists now. ... The Liberals and other environmental critics say Canada already has a law -- the Environmental Protection Act -- which covers everything from smog to greenhouse gas emissions. "It's a little frustrating," said Hugh Wilkins, a lawyer with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. "Instead of using the tools we already have, he's proposing to rebuild the whole house and start from scratch which could take literally years before we can actually see any action on the promises he's making now." And Harper's plan does little to address greenhouse gases, Wilkins said. "He's not ... addressing climate change the way he should be.")

* * *

1//The Guardian, UK Monday October 9, 2006

BIG POWERS HUFF AND PUFF OVER NORTH KOREA
Simon Tisdall

A storm of predictable condemnation rained down on the heads of North Korea's isolated regime in the wake of its first atomic weapons test today. The US, Japan, South Korea and others all described the move as a "provocation" that would be met with stern measures.

China, which may feel particularly affronted given its protective attitude towards Pyongyang over the years, called it a "brazen act".

But the strong words did not disguise the weakness of the international community's position now that North Korea has finally crossed the line and indisputably become what it has long claimed to be - a nuclear weapons state. In short, the big powers can huff and puff, but there is not a lot new in practical terms that they can do. This development was expected. They simply couldn't stop it.

The six-party talks process involving North Korea's neighbours and the US that went off the rails last year now appears to have slammed into the buffers. A strong statement issued at the weekend by the UN security council, under Japan's presidency, urging North Korea to step back or face unspecified consequences has been flagrantly ignored. Future UN action may be, too.

And behind-the-scenes coaxing via South Korean and Chinese officials has come to nothing.

Sanctions are the obvious tool to which the US, Japan and other concerned spectators such as Britain will now resort. But such measures have been tried before and have failed to modify Pyongyang's behaviour. In fact, they may have made it worse.

(SNIP)

The prospect that, like it or not, the international community will ultimately have to deal with North Korea on its own terms has significant implications elsewhere. Iran, whose suspect nuclear activities will soon be brought before the UN security council, may be encouraged in its defiance if no effective punitive action is taken against North Korea. Conversely, those in Washington who argue against direct talks with Iran, and against offering the sort of incentives proffered North Korea last year, may be persuaded by today's events that dialogue is the only viable future option. Arguably, it was the Bush administration's refusal to persist with former president Bill Clinton's "framework agreement" with North Korea that has led to the present impasse.

Other countries with nascent nuclear ambitions will also be watching closely to see what happens next. The fate of Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, which failed to develop a nuclear deterrent and was invaded and overthrown by bigger powers, unfortunately provides a cautionary tale for insecure leaderships.

The residual idea that the US could one day impose regime change on North Korea by military force died a death when Pyongyang's bomb went off today. That underscores the importance of dialogue. But it is also a spur to further global nuclear weapons proliferation.

2//The Independent, UK Published: 11 October 2006

RUSSIA AND CHINA MAY STAND IN WAY OF UNITED RESPONSE TO NUCLEAR TEST
By David Usborne in New York

The leading world powers huddled in an emergency session at the United Nations yesterday to forge agreement on measures to punish North Korea for its reported testing of a nuclear device on Monday. Ideas ranged from sanctions on whisky imports to inspecting all cargo ships entering and leaving its waters.

But with the regime in Pyongyang still showing unrepentant defiance, it remained hard to say whether measures to further isolate the country from the rest of the world would do much good. Nothing can now reverse the events of Monday, when North Korea staged its nuclear breakout.

Even settling on sanctions will be hard. Last night China, backed by Russia, said it opposed plans to pass a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which implies it could be enforced militarily, saying reference to a single article within it would suffice. It also argued for a narrower scope for the sanctions.

More than just punishment, whatever emerges from the UN will have two other main aims: to pressure North Korea to return to the six-party talks that it has boycotted for 13 months on ending its nuclear weapons programme and to prevent it from even considering proliferating its new-found technology.

Pyongyang, meanwhile, is far from remorseful. Rather, the regime said it was for the US to resolve the crisis or face the consequences of the unleashing of warheads. "We hope the situation will be resolved before an unfortunate incident of us firing a nuclear missile comes," the South Korean news agency, Yonhap, quoted an unidentified North Korean official as saying. "That depends on how the US will act."

The official said the nuclear test was "an expression of our intention to face the US across the negotiating table". It is most unlikely, however, that North Korea, yet at least, has developed a device stable and small enough to mount in the tip of a missile. Nor is there evidence that its long-range ballistic missiles are reliable. A test-launch of one in July ended with it flopping into the sea.

In an attempt to reassure Pyongyang, the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said it should not fear US military action. "The USA doesn't have any intention to attack North Korea or to invade North Korea," she said.

A member of the North Korean Assembly, Ri Jong Hyok, defended the test during a visit to the European Union in Brussels. "Whenever we take measures it is not necessary for us to look the others in the face. Every country has its own interest, no country can represent our interest," he said, adding: "We have to take these measures so that we have a nuclear deterrent against the Americans."

British officials expressed confidence that a "binding package of measures" would emerge from the UN within seven days. But Japan and the US will now have to decide how far to push for broad Chapter 7 authorisation, given the resistance of China.

Beijing even so continued to display unusual anger. "The nuclear test will undoubtedly exert a negative impact on our relations," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, adding that it was "in disregard of the international community's shared opposition".

(SNIP)

In Tokyo, the newly installed Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, told members of parliament that Japan had no intention of abandoning its long-held commitment to remaining a nuclear-free nation, despite the new threat from South China Sea. "There will be no change in our non-nuclear arms principles," he said.

A list of 13 possible measures tabled by the US on Monday include inspection of all cargo to and from North Korea to limit the proliferation of weapons, and blanket bans on luxury and military goods - from guns to Scotch whisky - and material that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction.

Japan followed with a few ideas of its own that, if anything, were more stringent, including requiring all countries to bar North Korean ships or planes from their territories. Indeed, Japan implied that its own sanctions regime may include a total trade embargo with North Korea, a ban on all North Korean ships from its ports and steps to prevent all North Korean nationals from entering Japan.

While China has long been queasy about UN sanctions, it will also be anxious about measures that could precipitate a collapse of the North Korean regime. The country's economy is already on its knees, in part because of the wide-ranging sanctions on it that already exist. It depends on food and oil supplies from China to keep going at all.

3//Asia Times Online, Hong Kong Oct 11, 2006

CHINA YEARNS FOR HU'S ‘HARMONIOUS SOCIETY'
By Wu Zhong, China Editor

HONG KONG - The Chinese Communist Party's policymaking Central Committee began its annual plenary session on Sunday. A major focus of the four-day session is to set policy principles to implement President Hu Jintao's signature concept of building a "harmonious society".

This is the first time in 25 years after late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched economic reforms that the party Central Committee will devote an annual plenum to social equality. All
other such gatherings in the past quarter of a century have concentrated on economic reforms or ideological issues.

The fact that this year's party plenum focuses on building a "harmonious society" has twofold significance.

On the one hand, it is evident that Hu now is firmly in power so that his idea is being materialized into the party's line. This is the sixth plenum Hu has chaired since he replaced Jiang Zemin as the party's general secretary in late 2002. However, Jiang did not give up his last and most powerful official post as chairman of the Central Military Commission until two years later. In this sense, it could be said that Hu had been working under Jiang's political shadow.

Two weeks before the convention, Hu sacked Chen Liangyu as Shanghai party chief. As Chen, who was also a politburo member, is widely considered a major member of the so-called "Shanghai Gang" backed by Jiang, Hu's bold move proves he has walked out of Jiang's shadow. The timing of Chen's removal was by no means coincidental but was designed to deliver the message that Hu is in full charge of this plenum so that his idea can be elaborated and implemented.

This suggests, furthermore, that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will likely to revise its charter at its 17th National Congress next year to include Hu's "harmonious society" idea as the party's guiding ideology.

On the other hand, the theme of this plenum strongly suggests there now are so many acutely "unharmonious" factors in Chinese society that the party policymakers have to spend their annual gathering to ponder possible solutions. For if society were quite harmonious, the party elite would devote their precious time to other more urgent issues.

Indeed, social problems, such as the widening wealth gap and social injustices, have piled up to such an extent that if the CCP were to fail to address them properly, its very legitimacy would be questioned and challenged.

(MORE)

4//EUobserver.com, Belgium 10.10.2006 - 17:20 CET

NEXT YEAR WILL MAKE OR BREAK THE EU, SAYS FORMER FRENCH FM
By Honor Mahony

BRUSSELS - Former French foreign minister Michel Barnier has said the EU project risks going off track completely if political leaders do not use next year to make a concerted effort to pull Europe out of its crisis.

Referring to the "suspended" political climate in Europe at the moment, the ex-commissioner indicated that the entire project is "threatened" if EU leaders do not seize the political impetus provided by the French elections next year to get Europe out of its "breakdown."

Speaking at the European Policy Centre in Brussels on Tuesday (10 October), he welcomed presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy's recent contribution to the EU debate which took the form of suggesting that the shelved EU constitution be reduced to a mini-treaty plus a reform of the bloc's institutions.

Mr Barnier, who helped pen the Sarkozy initiative and is currently involved in a 'wise' group working on ways to revive the constitution, said he preferred to call it a "simplified and functional" form of the treaty. He said that work on the streamlined version should be carried out very quickly during 2007 and 2008.

France has elections in spring next year, which is expected to free up the political debate on the constitution - on ice since both France and the Netherlands rejected it in popular votes last year.

Since the votes, which rocked Europe's political core, there has been little public debate and transparently little political will on the part of member states to put the issue back on the political agenda.

Mr Barnier said he found the "the silence for a year and a half in France unbelievable" adding that as a possible future president of France it was "absolutely necessary" that Mr Sarkozy speak out on the constitution.

European affairs should also be treated as a national affair and not as a foreign debate said Mr Barnier, adding that he was astounded that there was such a "disconnection" between Brussels and citizens that the services directive, published without much ado at the beginning of 2004, could a year and a half later "blow up in our faces."

The controversial law on opening up the market in services fuelled fears of a neo-liberal Europe, with the services debate colouring most of the discussion leading up to the French rejection of the constitution on 29 May, 2005.

EU will not be sitting at the power table

Looking to the future, Mr Barnier suggested that if member states do not stop thinking on an "everyone for himself" basis, then in 15 to 20 years Europe's lack of power will be all too evident.

(MORE)

5//The Toronto Star, Canada Oct. 10, 2006. 06:36 PM

TORIES TO FOCUS ON SMOG: PM
But environmentalists, Liberals say he's not going far enough

Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will impose anti-smog regulations in a new Clean Air Act to be introduced next week but critics say he is doing little about greenhouse gas emissions while duplicating existing regulations.

The latest part of the Conservatives' long-awaited strategy focuses more on smog than on global warming and it will be at least a year before the government has settled on targets.

"This act is going to put in place the framework necessary to improve the air we all breath," Harper said at a news conference today.

The government plans to spend a year consulting with industry and the provinces with the aim of coming up with short-, medium- and long-term targets that will have to be met by regulation, rather than on the voluntary basis that exists now.

Harper said industry will need time to make the needed technological changes to allow them to reduce emissions.

The Conservatives have been attacked by environmentalists for turning their back on Canada's commitments under the Kyoto protocol.

The Tories have said those targets aren't realistic, although the government has not pulled out of the accord.

Earlier in the summer, Harper told the international community Canada remains "fully engaged" in the Kyoto process.

Harper called the Kyoto protocols "incomplete," saying they are meant to target major emitters of such gases.

"Most of those major emitters are not part of the protocol," he said.

(SNIP)

The Liberals and other environmental critics say Canada already has a law - the Environmental Protection Act - which covers everything from smog to greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's a little frustrating," said Hugh Wilkins, a lawyer with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. "Instead of using the tools we already have, he's proposing to rebuild the whole house and start from scratch which could take literally years before we can actually see any action on the promises he's making now."

And Harper's plan does little to address greenhouse gases, Wilkins said.

"He's not . . . addressing climate change the way he should be."

Wilkins' group would like to see the government set comprehensive standards that meet or exceed internationally set benchmarks.

Instead, he said, Harper has not been specific.

"It's so hard to say exactly what he's doing," he said. ``They've been providing just little tidbits of information about what their grand plan's going to be."

In Toronto, three Liberal leadership hopefuls slammed Harper's green initiative following a question and answer session with business leaders.

"All (Harper) has to do is, rather than have a showpiece in Parliament, he could actually implement, tomorrow. . . protections for clean air," Gerard Kennedy said.

Bob Rae also wasn't impressed.

"I still don't think they get the full dimensions of the problem," said Rae.

Stephane Dion said he fears the Harper government "will only pretend to do something" when what's needed is substantive action on the environment.

(MORE)

Copyright 2006, Gloria R. Lalumia

WORLD MEDIA WATCH