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Saturday, 14 November 2009

China warns Obama

United States President Barack Obama should understand China's opposition to the Dalai Lama as a black president who lauded Abraham Lincoln for ending slavery, said the Foreign Ministry yesterday.

Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the remarks when asked to respond to a White House official's comments earlier this week that Obama would be ready to meet the Dalai Lama "at the appropriate time". Obama is expected to arrive in China on Sunday for a highly anticipated visit.

"Obama has said in a speech that without the efforts of Lincoln he would not have been able to reach his position," Qin said. "He is a black president, and he understands the slavery abolition movement and Lincoln's major significance for that movement."

Qin said China's position is similar to Lincoln's when the nation abolished serfdom in Tibet.

"Thus on this issue we hope that President Obama, more than any other foreign leader, can better, more deeply understand China's stance on protecting national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

China has long opposed any contact between foreign leaders and the separatist "in any name and form". The matter is among China's core concerns, Qin said.

His comments come as Obama kicked off his maiden Asia trip as president yesterday. After attending the annual Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore and a brief stay in Japan, he will arrive in the financial hub of Shanghai on Sunday for a four-day China visit.

The US president avoided meeting the Dalai Lama in Washington in October but a high-ranking US official has hinted he would make the meeting happen after returning from China.

Qin pointed out yesterday that more than 90 percent of polled Chinese Internet users are against such a meeting.

"The opinion of Chinese people should not be humiliated," he said.

A poll run by Chinese news portal huanqiu.com listed a number of choices that should be among the primary issues that China should raise with Obama. As of 8 pm yesterday, the choice of "Stop supporting separatists, including the Dalai Lama" ranked second after a call for the US to stop trade protectionism against China.

"We hope President Obama visits Tibet and tell us whether his ideas about the region is still the same as before," a netizen wrote as a comment to the poll.

Yuan Peng, head of the Institute of US Studies under the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said an immediate meeting with the Dalai Lama after leaving China will seriously damage the achievements of the visit and smear Obama's image among Chinese people.

Tenzin Lhunzub, a native of Lhasa and deputy director of Institute of Social and Economics under the China Tibetology Research Center, said Obama should "change" his stance on Tibet.

Source: China Daily

Washington may lose itself in Afghanistan

A new scandal over leaked confidential information has shaken Washington. It is not in every country that confidential messages to top government officials are published in the leading media within a week.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who once commanded forces there, has told President Barack Obama that bolstering the American presence in Afghanistan would not make the country more reliant on the U.S. unless President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates willingness to fight corruption and other vices, which are only strengthening the Taliban.
Obama was considering four options for sending between 10,000 and 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, which will cost between $33 and $50 billion annually, and wanted to know how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw. It was at that time that newspapers published the ambassador's opinion.
Eikenberry thinks that the U.S. will not attain its goals in Afghanistan without replacing Karzai's government.
It is not surprising that the press has published information about the confidential messages because Afghanistan is the biggest problem of the United States and, in general, the Western civilization. The point at issue is not just billions of dollars but human lives. Britain has lost 200 servicemen there, but was it worth it?
It has also become clear that the August presidential election in Afghanistan organized by the United States has seriously undermined American aspirations there.
The Obama administration regarded the Afghan election as a key element of the efforts to solve the Afghan problem. But when Karzai and his supporters were accused of framing the election results, they opted for the worst possible scenario: vote recounting.
When it turned out that a second round of the election was needed, U.S. diplomats did their best to wrench an agreement from Karzai. And then they looked like idiots when the Afghan president's opponent withdrew his candidacy.
Karzai took it unkindly and is now openly speaking his mind about the U.S. policy in his country, which explains Eikenberry's disappointment and messages. But Karzai was bound to speak up after the U.S. had done its best to show the Afghans - as if they did not know this - that their president is a puppet with many American masters who cannot even agree in which direction to pull his strings.
One can rule Afghanistan without elections, but never without respect.
While that black comedy was still playing out, President Obama said at the UN: "Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside. Each society must search for its own path ... rooted in the culture of its people and in its past traditions."
This sounds fine, but the United States and the Western civilization as a whole have not yet found a way to encourage Afghanistan to pursue such a path.
In a word, the agony can last long, and the United States will either find a new style of behavior in Afghanistan (and worldwide as well), or it will lose everything (Europe is a separate issue).
Meanwhile, many countries have become more active in the Afghan affairs, thereby creating an alternative to the U.S. policy there. The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution on Afghanistan unanimously and at the initiative of Germany, which is an unprecedented occurrence. The resolution reads that Afghanistan's presidential election was both credible and sound.
Then Japan decided to increase its aid package to Afghanistan from $3 billion to $5 billion within five years. Other donor countries are currently negotiating in Istanbul, Turkey, which means that the international community is not going to curtail aid to Afghanistan.
And lastly, India, China and Russia's foreign ministers added several interesting paragraphs to the final document of their meeting in Bangalore declaring willingness to develop a collective strategy in Afghanistan jointly with other countries.
The reason for all of the above is simple: The United States wants to review its operations abroad, first of all in Afghanistan and near it, but when it needs to do something in a new way, in particular with Russia's assistance, it becomes completely paralyzed.

Obama looks to strengthen Asia ties, reaffirms Japan alliance

U.S. President Barack Obama said in an Asian policy speech in Tokyo on Saturday that United States looks to strengthen old alliances and build new partnerships with the nations of the region to cope with challenges of the 21st century.     "I want everyone to know, and I want everybody in America to know, that we have a stake in the future of this region, because what happens here has a direct effect on our lives at home," Obama said.
    He spoke of relations with old allies in the Asia region, including the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Thailand, and said: "These alliances continue to provide the bedrock of security and stability that has allowed the nations and peoples of this region to pursue opportunity and prosperity."
    "Our commitment to Asia's security is unshakable, and it can be seen throughout the region."
    He said the U.S. does not seek to contain China and the rise of a strong and prosperous China can be a source of strength for the community of nations.
    The president offered to help the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) if it returns to the six-party talks; upholds previous commitments, including a return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; and the full and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
    He also spoke of Myanmar, saying that the United States is now working to secure democratic reforms in that nation. "We support a Burma that is unified, peaceful, prosperous and democratic. And as Burma moves in that direction, a better relationship with the United States will be possible," he said.
    He added that better relations between the two nations would be conditional and urged the unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, an end to conflicts with minority groups and a genuine dialogue between the government and the opposition.

    The president also said that he expects the United States to be involved in any integration projects that Asia embarks on. "We also believe that the growth of multilateral organizations can advance the security and prosperity of the region," he said. "I know that the United States has been disengaged from many of these organizations in recent years, so let me be clear: those days have passed."
    "As an Asia-Pacific nation the United States expects to be involved in the discussions that shape the future of this region and top participate fully in appropriate organizations as they are established and evolve," he added.
    As the half century of U.S. alliance with Japan approaches, Obama said the partnership is as strong as ever and that he hopes it becomes stronger.
    "In two months our alliance will mark its 50th anniversary. In the half century the alliance has become a foundation for security and prosperity," the president said. "The first foreign leader I welcomed to the White House was the prime minister of Japan."
    "Above all, our alliance has endured because it reflects our common belief in the right to choose our own leaders and follow our dreams," said the U.S. president, speaking of his nation's partnership with Japan.
    "We have agreed to deepen our alliance. We've agreed to move expeditiously through a joint working group to implement the agreement that our two governments reached on restructuring U.S. forces in Okinawa," Obama said.
    He was referring to a group that the two nations are to set up to deal with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) agreed upon by the former governing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP in Japan) and the U.S. administration of President George W. Bush. Under that agreement, some 8,000 U.S. troops are to remain in Okinawa after 2012, and the rest moved to Guam, with the expenses in part paid for by Japan. The governing Democratic Party of Japan has expressed some opposition to that agreement.
    The president also praised Japan for its "assistance to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, most recently through its remarkable commitments to providing additional commitments to international developments there." Japan has just committed a maximum of 5 billion dollars in aid to that region for redevelopment over the next five years.
    The U.S. president is in Japan on the first leg of a nine-day tour of Asia that is seen as one of the most important of his presidency so far, with topics such as the new government in Japan, the growth of China and the future of the global economy on the agenda.

Sarah Palin goes rogue on a few facts in her book

Sarah Palin's new book goes rogue on some facts.
Ignoring substantial parts of her record, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayers' dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician indifferent to high ambition.
Palin goes adrift, at times, on more contemporary issues, too. She criticizes President Barack Obama for pushing through a bailout package that actually was achieved by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush -- a package she seemed to support at the time.
A look at some of her statements in Going Rogue :
Palin » Says she made frugality a point when traveling on state business as Alaska governor, asking "only" for reasonably priced rooms and not "often" going for the "high-end, robe-and-slippers" hotels.
The Facts » Although she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel for a five-hour women's leadership conference in New York in October 2007. With airfare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000.
Palin » Boasts that she ran her campaign for governor on small donations and turned back large checks if her campaign perceived a conflict of interest.
The Facts » Of the roughly $1.3 million she raised for her primary and general election campaigns for governor, more
than half came from people and political action committees giving at least $500, according to an AP analysis. The maximum that individual donors could give was $1,000; $2,000 for a PAC. Of the rest, about $76,000 came from Republican Party committees. Palin » Rails against taxpayer-financed bailouts, which she attributes to Obama. She recounts telling Bristol that to succeed in business, "you'll have to be brave enough to fail."
The Facts » Palin is blurring Obama's stimulus plan -- a $787 billion package of tax cuts, state aid, social programs and government contracts -- and the federal bailout that President George W. Bush signed. Palin's views on bailouts appeared to evolve as John McCain's vice presidential running mate. In September 2008, she said "taxpayers cannot be looked to" to bail out Wall Street. The next month, she praised McCain for being "instrumental in bringing folks together" to pass the $700 billion bailout.
Palin » Criticizes an aide to her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, for a conflict of interest because the aide represented the state in negotiations over a gas pipeline and then left to work as a handsomely paid lobbyist for ExxonMobil. Palin asserts her administration ended all such arrangements, shoving a wedge in the revolving door between special interests and the state capital.
The Facts » Palin ignores her own "revolving door" issue in office; the leader of her own pipeline team was a former lobbyist for a subsidiary of TransCanada, the company that ended up winning the rights to build the pipeline.
Palin » Welcomes last year's Supreme Court decision deciding punitive damages for victims of the nation's largest oil spill tragedy, the Exxon Valdez disaster, stating it had taken 20 years to achieve victory. As governor, she says, she'd had the state argue in favor of the victims, and she says the court's ruling went "in favor of the people."
The Facts » That response is at odds with her reaction at the time to the ruling, which resolved the case by reducing punitive damages for victims to $500 million from $2.5 billion. Palin said then she was "extremely disappointed" and it was "tragic" so many fishermen and families put their lives on hold waiting for the decision.
Palin » "Was it ambition? I didn't think so. Ambition drives; purpose beckons." Throughout the book, Palin cites altruistic reasons for running for office, and for leaving early as Alaska governor.
The Facts » Few politicians own up to wanting high office for the power and prestige of it, and in this respect, Palin fits the conventional mold. But Going Rogue has all the characteristics of a pre-campaign manifesto, the requisite autobiography of the future candidate.