Japan Pacifisim Gone?

Via Al Jazeera

Japan alters pacifist stance

Japan’s government has moved to alter the country’s pacifist stance, requiring schools to teach patriotism and upgrading the defence agency to a full ministry for the first time since World War II.

The measures, passed by parliament’s upper house, are key to Shinzo Abe’s push to bolster Japan’s international military role and national pride.

The votes on Friday were important victories for the prime minister, who has suffered a sharp drop in popularity polls since taking office in September over the perception that he has not paid enough attention to domestic issues.

The education reform bill triggered controversy, because of its sensitive content and disclosures this week that the government had planted officials posing as ordinary citizens at town meetings to discuss the measure.

On Thursday, Abe apologised for helping to rig the meetings to give the impression of public support for his policies and said he and four senior cabinet members would work for three months without pay as penance.

The scandal and other issues inspired a spate of no-confidence motions against Abe and Taro Aso, his foreign minister, but they were crushed in parliament, which is dominated by the ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP).

Aso had angered opposition politicians, and some members of his own party, by suggesting Japan should hold debate on building a nuclear arsenal.

Last month, he told members of a parliamentary committee that Japan’s pacifist constitution did not prevent it from building nuclear weapons for defensive purposes and that it was capable of building a nuclear weapon but had no plans to do so.

The upgrading of the defence agency to a full ministry passed parliament without significant opposition, propelled by deep concern in Japan over North Korea’s nuclear test on October 9.

The upgrade, to be effected early next year, gives Japan’s generals greater budgetary powers and prestige – a reversal for a military establishment that has kept a low profile since the war.

The education measure, the first change to Japan’s main education law since 1947, calls on schools to “to cultivate an attitude that respects tradition and culture, that loves the nation and home country”.

The reform reflected concerns voiced by Abe and Bunmei Ibuki, the education minister, that Japan’s long stretch of economic prosperity has eroded the morals and co-operative spirit of prewar Japanese.

“The new education law will allow children to acquire a good understanding of their heritage and become intelligent and dignified Japanese,” Hiroo Nakashima, an LDP legislator, said during the upper house debate.

Critics, however, attacked the move as harkening back to Japan’s war-era education system, in which children were instructed to support the country’s imperialist military and sacrifice themselves for the emperor and nation.

Opponents on Friday voiced fears that the changes could lead to schools grading students on their patriotic fervor – possibly as a prelude to making Japan an aggressive nation once again.

Ikuko Ishii, a Communist party lawmaker, said: “The government is putting the future of Japanese children at risk and turning Japan into a country that wages war abroad.”

The call for more patriotism in the schools coincides with a push by some local governments to crack down on teachers and students who refuse to stand for the national flag or sing an anthem to the emperor at school ceremonies.

Sliding popularity

The no-confidence motions come amid sliding popularity polls for Abe’s government which only came to power in September.

At the time his public support stood at around 70 per cent. But in a poll released this week, conducted before the scandal over the public hearings emerged, that had slumped to 42 per cent.

Voters have expressed worries over Abe’s handling of the economy and his approach to foreign policy, particularly in the wake of North Korea’s test.

Interesting I think. One of the few countries in the world that does not have offensive capalities. Which is unique, I believe, among developed countries. Not sure where i stand on this, as the world is becoming more and more polarised.

Israel has Nuclear Weapons! Shock Horror :O

Via France 24

So the Israeli PM listed Israel as a Nuclear Weapon State

“We never threatened any nation with annihilation,” Olmert said on German television station N24 Sat1.

“Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as France, America, Russia and Israel?” he asked.

Ah but no, its a big mistake according to a spokesman

Miri Eisin, the premier’s spokeswoman, said that Olmert who on Monday started a visit to Berlin had not meant to list the Jewish state among countries with nuclear weapons.

“Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the region,” she told AFP, using the country’s standard phrase at the heart of its longstanding “policy of ambiguity” on whether it has the bomb.

Both the Right and Left are criticising him

Right-wing opposition Likud MP Yuval Steinitz called for the prime minister to resign after having made “an irresponsible slip which puts into question a policy that dates back almost half a century”.

Leftist MP Yossi Beilin said “the staggering comments of Ehud Olmert only serve to reinforce the doubts on his capacity to remain prime minister”.

But this is not the first time it has been said lately that Israel has the ‘bomb’ as the Defence Secretary Designate of the US made a slip up in the Senate

Gates told the Senate armed forces committee last week that Iran was “surrounded by nuclear powers, with Pakistan to the east, Russia to the North, Israel to the west”.

Some experts say that Israel has 200 nuclear weapons but I think Israel are going to try and keep all this quite for another bit


The head of the main United Nations agency dealing with HIV/AIDS today said the global threat posed by the disease requires an extraordinary response.

“We are already witnessing a new form of AIDS ‘denialism,’ which maintains that AIDS must be treated as simply one of many public health crises,” the Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (<"http://www.unaids.org/en/AboutUNAIDS/Governance/200609-19PCB.asp">UNAIDS) Dr. Peter Piot said, opening the agency’s 19th board meeting in Lusaka, Zambia.

“AIDS is exceptional – it is a make-or-break challenge, like global warming – and its exceptionality must be maintained.”

While noting that “prevention finally found it voice in 2006,” he added much still needs to be improved.

Dr. Piot emphasized the need for predictable financing and annual increases in funding in order to improve universal access to HIV prevention and treatment, as well as boost development of new technologies for drugs and vaccines. He stated the greatest challenge of the programme in this new phase will be the struggle for social change.

Mr. Piot thanked outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his leadership in the global fight against AIDS, and welcomed his successor, Ban Ki-moon, who takes over at the UN’s helm in January.


The United Nations General Assembly today adopted a resolution effectively kicking off a diplomatic process aimed at promulgating a new international treaty on the global trade in conventional arms – a move immediately hailed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan – as it acted on a series of resolutions adopted at the recommendation of its Disarmament and International Security (First) Committee.

“The Secretary-General welcomes today’s adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution launching a process that could lead to a treaty regulating international trade in conventional weapons,” his spokesman said in a <"http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=2346">statement released in New York.

“While there are still many steps to be taken to forge a consensus to this end, the resolution represents the first formal step towards developing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons,” the spokesman said, pointing out that “unregulated trade in these weapons currently contributes to conflict, crime and terrorism, and undermines international efforts for peace and development.”

The resolution, “Towards an arms trade treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms,” was adopted by a recorded vote, with the United States alone in opposing the text which was supported by 153 countries. An additional two dozen countries abstained.

Under its terms, the Secretary-General was requested to seek the views of Member States “on the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for a comprehensive, legally binding instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms” and to report on this at its next session.

He was also asked to establish a group of governmental experts to start examining in 2008 the feasibility, scope and draft parameters for such a treaty. This will be considered by the Assembly’s sixty-third session, which opens in September 2008.

The resolution was one of 52 submitted by the First Committee to the Assembly for action today. The Committee’s measures are traditionally among the most contentious submitted each year, and 2006 was no exception, with dozens of votes expected to be cast before day’s end on texts covering such subjects as the prevention of an arms race in outer space, multilateralism in the area of disarmament and non-proliferation, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the establishment of nuclear-weapon-free zones.


Stressing this year’s theme of accountability, senior officials from across
the United Nations system have marked World AIDS Day with calls for
international leaders to maintain recent momentum and make good on their
promises to ensure greater access to treatment, prevention and support.

“The latest global AIDS figures give us reason for concern and for some
hope,” said Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations
Programme on HIV/AIDS, (UNAIDS), in one of a series of messages today by
the heads of UN organs and agencies.

Almost 40 million people live with HIV and another 4.3 million will be
infected this year, while at least 25 million others have died from
AIDS-related diseases in the 25 years since the first case was reported.
The pandemic is now the leading cause of death among both men and women
aged between 15 and 59.

Yet the number of countries providing antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to
sufferers and the breadth of access to HIV testing, counselling services
and health care have also continued to expand, including in sub-Saharan
Africa, the region hardest hit by AIDS.

“However, we must increase the scale and impact of HIV prevention
activities, including those directed at the drivers of the epidemic,” Dr.
Piot said. “New data show that HIV prevention programmes have better
results if focused on reaching people most at risk and adapted to changing
national epidemics.”

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said the theme of
accountability applied to everyone, from world leaders who have previously
vowed to improve reproductive health care services and information,
particularly for women, to individuals who can help establish healthy
behaviour when their children are young.

“The challenge for all of us is to make good on our commitments and work in
closer partnership towards our common goal. Civil society, NGOs
[non-governmental organizations], the media, private sector and faith
groups have an important role in promoting public awareness and holding
leaders to account for their promises,” she said.

Anders Nordström, Acting Director-General of the UN World Health
Organization (WHO), said the international community had reached “a
critical juncture” and needed to become smarter and more adaptable as it
responded to HIV/AIDS.

“We have to be… aware of which approaches are successful, and flexible
enough to adapt our resources accordingly,” Dr. Nordström said. “We do not
just need ‘more.’ We need to commit to clear-sightedness about what is
working and what is not – and quickly apply that knowledge.”

Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC), warned against the stigmatization and marginalization of people
living with HIV/AIDS, especially women, young people, injecting drug users,
prisoners and victims of human trafficking – all groups that are
particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

The UN Population Fund’s (UNFPA) Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid,
saw signs of hope among the young, noting that HIV prevalence rates among
youth have fallen in several countries because of increased condom use and
other behavioural changes.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said it was vital that
Member States are made to live up to their earlier commitments to
eventually provide universal access to comprehensive prevention programmes,
treatment, care and support by 2010.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP),
said it was important to recognize that combating HIV/AIDS is linked to
resolving other key global challenges, from promoting economic development
and fighting poverty in poorer countries to encouraging gender equality to
supporting environmental sustainability.

Numerous events are being staged around the world today to draw attention
to the pandemic and to some of the ways that individuals can help to reduce
or ameliorate its impact on communities.

In New York, Drawing IT Out, an exhibition of 300 cartoons drawn by
artists, in 50 countries opened at UN Headquarters. The event is sponsored
by UNAIDS, the Brazilian Ministry of Health and the International Planned
Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region.

Ethiopia authorises military action

Ethiopia’s parliament has authorised military action in the event of an attack on the country by Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts.

On Thursday the Ethiopian parliament passed a resolution to let the government take “all necessary” steps in response to what it said were plans for an invasion by the Islamic Courts movement.

Parliament approved the resolution by 311 votes to 90 against and 16 abstentions.

The resolution states that: “Parliament hereby authorises the government to take all necessary and legal steps to stave off a declaration of holy war and invasion by the Union of Islamic Courts against the country.”

Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia, said his country had already suffered attacks by groups working closely with Eritrea and the Islamic Courts forces in Somalia.

He said: “The jihadists in the Union of Islamic Courts, in collaboration with Eritrea, have already invaded Ethiopia by smuggling in rebel groups whom they trained and armed … to destabilise and create upheaval in the country.”

Ethiopian troops killed

On Thursday the Islamic Courts claimed to have blown up an Ethiopian military truck near Baidoa in Somalia, the headquarters of the country’s transitional government.

Fighters targeted a government convoy, possibly with a remote-controlled bomb, blowing up one of the vehicles, close to a camp where Ethiopians were training troops loyal to the transitional government.

Sheikh Mukhta Robow, deputy defence chief for the Union of Islamic Courts, said: “In praise of Allah, our holy warriors succeeded and destroyed a truck carrying troops. I’m not sure how many were killed, but all who were on board were blown up.”

Sources have said around 20 Ethiopian troops were killed in the attack, but the claims could not be independently verified and one Somali government official denied the attack took place.

Later a suicide car bomb was also reported to have exploded at a government checkpoint outside Baidoa.

The attacks came a day after the Islamic Courts accused Ethiopia of shelling a Somali town.

Arms embargo

On Wednesday, the UN security council condemned what it called a “significant increase” in the flow of weapons to Somalia in violation of a 1992 arms embargo.

The Union of Islamic Courts and the Ethiopian-backed transitional government are vying for control of Somalia, and many analysts fear that it could escalate into a regional conflict.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have been accused of violating the 14-year-old arms embargo on Somalia.

The US is consulting the UN Security Council members on a resolution that would lift the arms embargo for a regional peacekeeping force to help promote dialogue between the transitional government and the UIC.

However, the Islamic Courts movement is opposed to foreign intervention in the country and has declared a holy war on Ethiopia over incursions into its territories.

Ethiopia says it just has a few hundred military trainers in Somalia but a report commissioned by the UN suggests between 6,000 and 8,000 Ethiopian troops are in or near Somalia’s border.

The report also said 2,000 troops from Eritrea are inside Somalia supporting the Islamic Courts.

Source Al Jazeera

International News – Update


I’ve recently began posting press releases i would normally post here in the IRSOC forum in the International Relations Section. So check there for interesting tid-bits!!!


Panama emerges as compromise candidate to fill last vacant Security Council

Panama today emerged as the compromise candidate to fill the last remaining
seat on the 15-member United Nations Security Council, breaking more than
two weeks and 47 rounds of voting deadlock in the General Assembly that
pitted Guatemala against Venezuela to represent the Latin American and
Caribbean region.

The foreign ministers of the two rival countries decided to withdraw their
candidatures at a meeting in New York and proposed Panama to the Group of
Latin American and Caribbean States, General Assembly spokesperson Gail
Bindley-Taylor Sainte told a news briefing.

“Both Ministers stressed that Panama was chosen as it was a country with
which both nations had close ties,” she added.

The 192-member Assembly is expected to proceed with a formal vote on the
consensus candidate on Tuesday.

Throughout the earlier voting Guatemala maintained its lead over Venezuela,
except in one tie vote, but was never able to reach the necessary
two-thirds majority to serve as the region’s member for a two-year term
starting on 1 January, replacing Argentina.

In the final round on Tuesday, when 122 votes would have been enough to
secure victory, Guatemala obtained 101 votes, Venezuela received 78, and
Barbados, Ecuador and Uruguay received one vote each. There were seven

At the start of this year’s balloting on 16 October Assembly members,
following an agreed geographic allocation, elected Belgium, Indonesia,
Italy and South Africa to serve as new non-permanent members, replacing
Denmark, Greece, Japan and Tanzania when their terms end on 31 December.

The Council’s five other non-permanent members, whose terms end on 31
December 2007, are Congo, Ghana, Peru, Qatar and Slovakia. The five
permanent members, the only ones with veto power when voting, are China,
France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

UN Security Council Nominees

On Monday October 16 the U.N. General Assembly will choose five new non-permanent members of the Council to replace Argentina, Denmark, Greece, Japan and Tanzania. New members will take up their seats on January 1, 2007.

Eight countries are contesting the five seats, which are being allocated according to geographical region: Latin America and the Caribbean: Asia; Africa; and Western Europe and Others (to which two seats have been allocated). Guatemala and Venezuela are vying for the Latin American and Caribbean Seat; and Indonesia, The Republic of Korea and Nepal for the Asia seat. South Africa is uncontested for the Africa seat, as are Italy and Belgium for the two Western Europe and Others seats. Election to the Council is by secret ballot, with each country requiring a two-thirds majority to win.



Secretary-General Praises Ban as ‘Exceptionally Attuned’ to All Countries, Peoples

The General Assembly today appointed Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea as the next United Nations Secretary-General, giving him a two-and-one-half-month transition before taking over the helm of the world body from Kofi Annan on 1 January.

Acting on the Security Council’s recommendation, the Assembly adopted a resolution formally appointing Mr. Ban to a five-year term. Diplomats and United Nations staff in the packed chamber cheered the decision. Mr. Ban becomes the eighth Secretary-General in the United Nations’ 60-year history, and will oversee an Organization with nearly 100,000 peacekeepers in 18 countries around the world, and a $5 billion annual budget.

Mr. Ban will succeed 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan, of Ghana, who will retire at the end of December, after leading the 192-member world body for a decade. Earlier in his 40-year diplomatic career, Mr. Ban, 62, served in his country’s Mission to the United Nations and, in 2001, was Chef de Cabinet to then-Assembly President Han Seung-soo, of the Republic of Korea. Mr. Ban will be the first Asian to lead the Organization since U Thant, who held the post from 1961 to 1971.

“I stand before you deeply touched and inspired,” Mr. Ban told the Assembly. As Secretary-General, he vowed to work “diligently to materialize our responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of humanity, and for the peaceful resolution of threats to international security”. He added that: “The true measure of the success of the UN is not how much we promise, but how much we deliver for those who need us most… We need not shout [the Organization’s] praises or preach its virtues. We simply need to live them every day: step by step, programme by programme, mandate by mandate,” he said.

Pledging to carry out reforms, building on Mr. Annan’s legacy, the Secretary-General-designate said: “My tenure will be marked by ceaseless efforts to build bridges and close divides.” He declared that his leadership would be one of harmony, foreswearing division.

“Let us remember that reform is not to please others, but because we value what this Organization stands for,” he said, laying out his vision of a truly reformed United Nations that could effectively meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. “We need reform because we believe in the future. To revitalize our common endeavour is to renew our faith not only in the UN’s programmes and purposes but also in each other. We should demand more of ourselves, as well as of our organization,” he said.

Mr. Annan praised Ban as “a future Secretary-General who is exceptionally attuned to the sensitivities of countries and constituencies in every continent — a man with a truly global mind at the helm of the world’s only universal organization”.

He recalled that, more than 50 years ago, the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, had used the following words in greeting his successor, Dag Hammarskjöld: “You are about to take over the most impossible job on Earth.” Mr. Annan said that, while that might be true, he would have to add: “This is also the best possible job on Earth.”

Welcoming Mr. Ban, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa of Bahrain said his appointment came at a time when the United Nations was deeply engaged in a wide-ranging reform process. “We are grateful to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has played a major role in shaping a clear and comprehensive vision to address the many global challenges confronting us,” she declared. She was confident that the Organization would build upon its past achievements and move ahead to become an even more effective body under Mr. Ban’s leadership.

Kenzo Oshima of Japan, whose delegation holds the Security Council’s rotating Presidency for the month, presented the work undertaken by that 15-nation body leading to Mr. Ban’s appointment by the Assembly. The chairpersons of the United Nations five regional groups, and representatives of the European Union and the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as of the host country, each took the podium, praising the Secretary-General-designate for his diplomatic skills and personal qualities. They said the world body would be in able hands, as it faced the challenges to come. The speakers also paid tribute to Mr. Annan for his work in steering the United Nations through 10 difficult years.

The General Assembly will meet on Monday, 16 October, at 10 a.m., to elect five non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Click here for more info