In front of 300 diplomats, including senior US officials, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, and defended Chinese TV and radio as more reliable than Western media.
Why do China sell weapons to failed states like North Korea or Burma or Iran?
By Robert Marquand
Today Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, speaking with unusual bluntness in front of 300 leading diplomats – including senior US officials – here in Munich publicly stated that China is getting stronger on the international stage. He said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, offered that China’s TV and radio news service contains “more solid” and reliable news than Western media, and that China is not ready to address sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, stating instead that the Islamic Republic “has not totally closed the door on the IAEA.”
Transatlantic – meet the Pacific.
Foreign Minister Yang is the first Chinese official to speak at the annual Munich Security Conference, the premier transatlantic security meeting, in its 46 year history. He turned heads in the group at a time when the People’s Republic and the US have come to loggerheads over Taiwan arms sales, Internet freedom, currency rates, and climate policy coming out of the Copenhagen meeting in December.
“I haven’t heard a high-ranking Chinese official say, ‘Yes, we are strong,’ in a public setting before,” said a senior German diplomat. “It was a very assertive message, different, and it means we will soon see a different Chinese policy.”
Mr. Yang, a former ambassador to the US and highly respected, gave a somewhat conventional speech – though in a strong voice. He affirmed that China is both a developed and a developing country, that it seeks “win-win solutions,” and that it is preparing for greater “shared responsibilities” on the world stage – and that it played a transformative role in helping avert a global financial crisis in the past year.
Yet during three probing follow-up questions, Yang mopped his brow repeatedly in answering on Taiwan, cyberspace, and China’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, which he earlier admitted was “at a crucial stage.”
“Does China feel stronger? Yes,” he said as questions opened.
Regarding a proposed US $6.4 billion package of arms for Taiwan introduced in recent weeks by the Obama administration, and which China has for the first time threatened retaliatory sanctions on US firms that supply arms – Yang called it a “violation of the code of conduct among nations” by the US, said China has “every reason to feel indignant about this thing,” and added that Beijing has a “sovereign right to do what is necessary” in response.
He went on to say China is “totally against hacking attacks…I don’t know how this Google thing has popped up” – in response to a question about cyberspace. At a time when the American search engine giant has said it may leave China after repeated hacks on human rights workers, and British intelligence has reported official Chinese espionage against business travelers, Yang said that “China is a victim” of hacking.
The cyberspace answers were prefaced with polemics on the virtues of Chinese news gathering. The Chinese people have better news than members of the western public, and “freedom of speech is what we advocate,” Yang said, adding that with 15 million Chinese traveling abroad every year, “the Chinese people are well informed.” Yang also said that while foreign companies were free to enter China, and that many had done well there, they still must submit to Chinese laws, “and what is in the best interest of China.”
China’s presence at the 48-hour Munich conference, hosted by German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, and that will include US National Security Advisor James Jones, follows a robust Chinese presence at the annual Davos conference in Switzerland, where China rented one of the most splendid villas – used in the past by Microsoft.
Gary Smith, director of the American Academy in Berlin, said that Yuan’s assertive speech did not contain the kind of direct dynamite that Vladimir Putin’s address here did in 2007, when Russia’s then-president affirmed that Russia would taking a newly assertive role on the world stage. But Yuan’s comments nonetheless would be felt strongly here, Smith said: “Europeans have been terrified by this kind of moment…they’ve been obsessed by the rise of China and India.
“[Yuan’s remarks] tells this group that the hard work of Atlantic consensus on global issues can be negligible if the Chinese don’t agree to play ball.”
Key pieces of equipment purchased from Europe, shipped to Tehran
Editor’s Note: The following report is excerpted from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium online newsletter published by the founder of WND. Subscriptions are $99 a year or, for monthly trials, just $9.95 per month for credit card users, and provide instant access for the complete reports.
LONDON – British MI6 intelligence agency investigators have discovered Iran has set up a new smuggling network in Taiwan to obtain specialized equipment used for the production of nuclear weapons, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Insiders report Iran has established companies to buy the equipment on the world markets and then smuggle it into Tehran.
The purchases have involved pressure transducers, which are used to produce weapons-grade uranium, and Secret Intelligence Service officers have established that nuclear scientists from Tehran have held meetings in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, to buy the units.
The equipment is stored by the companies in a high-security area on the island.
The companies are fronted by local Chinese businessmen, and MI6 officers believe some of them have worked in China‘s own nuclear industry before moving to Taiwan. The intelligence officers have also traced bank accounts held by the businessmen to banks in the Cayman Islands.
Keep in touch with the most important breaking news stories about critical developments around the globe with Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence news source edited and published by the founder of WND.
“It suggests that they are almost certainly well paid for the work on behalf of Iran,” said a senior intelligence source in London.
Iran has been trying to acquire the equipment for more than a year. But Russia and European companies refused to sell Tehran the transducers.
Now China has joined in refusing to sell such specialized technology after Beijing supported a censure motion passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last month following the revelation that Tehran was building a second uranium enrichment facility at Qom.
At the end of this month, the U.N. will be asked to impose a new round of sanctions against Iran unless it agrees to abandon its nuclear program.
A report passed on by MI6 to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna last week revealed Iran had already acquired 100 transducers from Taiwan.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s comments coincide with report that IAEA withheld evidence about Iran‘s nuclear weapon capabilities
In a rare interview with Western media, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Iran has no need for nuclear weapons, but he did not rule out the possibility that Iran might develop them in the future. The broadcasting of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s remarks coincided with a new report, based on previously undisclosed information, that the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog has withheld evidence about how close Iran is to making a nuclear bomb.
In excerpts of an interview aired Thursday night on NBC News, Ahmadinejad said that “the enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes… will never be closed down here in Iran.” When interviewer Ann Curry asked whether Iran would ever develop a nuclear weapon, Ahmadinejad said Iran had no need for such weapons.
“If nuclear weapons were influential, they would have prevented the downfall of the Soviet Union — for that matter, the downfall of the Zionist regime,” he said, referring to Israel, long believed to possess 200 nuclear weapons. “Our people have never had a need for nuclear weapons.”
“So, may I assume, then, your answer to that question is ‘no’?” Curry asked.
Again, Ahmadinejad said: “We don’t need such — we don’t have a such a need, nuclear weapons. We don’t need nuclear weapons. Without such weapons, we are very much able to defend ourselves.”
Curry pressed Ahmadinejad again on the question, noting that “people will remark that you did not say no.” He replied, “You can take from this whatever you want, madam.” Further excerpts of the interview, which was taped a week previously in Tehran, ran Friday morning. The full interview is to be aired Sunday afternoon.
Ahmadinejad’s refusal to rule out Iran building a nuclear weapon comes just a day after President Barack Obama announced plans to scrap the Bush administration’s missile shield plan in favor of a new system which would better deal with short- and medium-ranged missiles launched from Iran. President Bush‘s plan would have placed interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against long-range Iranian missiles targeting Europe.
Also on Thursday, the Associated Press released a report that experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, believe that Iran is currently capable of building a nuclear weapon. The AP based their report on a confidential document titled “Possible Military Dimension of Iran’s Nuclear Program,” which was written by senior IAEA officials.
The information in the document that is either new, more detailed or represents a more forthright conclusion than found in published IAEA reports includes:
– The IAEA’s assessment that Iran worked on developing a chamber inside a ballistic missile capable of housing a warhead payload “that is quite likely to be nuclear.”
– That Iran engaged in “probable testing” of explosives commonly used to detonate a nuclear warhead — a method known as a “full-scale hemispherical explosively driven shock system.”
– An assessment that Iran worked on developing a system “for initiating a hemispherical high explosive charge” of the kind used to help spark a nuclear blast.
In another key finding, an excerpt notes: “The agency … assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device (an atomic bomb) based on HEU (highly enriched uranium) as the fission fuel.”
These details add significantly to previous reports on Iran’s nuclear capability, as summarized this summer in a Monitor briefing, ‘How close is Iran to a bomb?’
The AP writes that two international officials confirmed the authenticity of the document, though they insisted on anonymity because the document was meant only to be seen by top IAEA officials.
The IAEA denied that it was hiding evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, calling such an idea “politically motivated and baseless,” Reuters reports. In a statement commenting on the AP story, the IAEA said that it “has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapons programme in Iran.”
Reuters also writes that Israel, which has typically been highly vocal about the threat of a nuclear Iran, may be changing its message. Ehud Barak, Israel’s minister of defense, said that even if Iran had nuclear weapons, it would not be able to defeat Israel.
“Right now, Iran does not have a bomb. Even if it did, this would not make it a threat to Israel’s existence. Israel can lay waste to Iran,” Barak said in a transcript of a newspaper interview obtained by Reuters before publication Friday.
Israeli leaders have repeatedly sounded alarms over Iran’s atomic ambitions, pointing at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map” and support for Islamist guerrilla groups arrayed along Israel’s borders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a right-winger who brought the centre-left Barak into his coalition government, said he saw “eye to eye” with the Defence minister – signalling a possible change in Israel’s official rhetoric as world powers prepare to revive diplomatic engagement with Iran next month.
Reuters adds that Mr. Netanyahu issued a supportive response to Mr. Barak’s comments, saying “I think that what the Defence minister wanted to say, something that I believe, is that the State of Israel will be able to defend itself in any situation.”
Advanced System Could Alter Strategic Decisions in Region
By Howard Schneider
ASHKELON, Israel — As it pushes for international action against Iran‘s nuclear program, Israel is steadily assembling one of the world’s most advanced missile defense systems, a multi-layered collection of weapons meant to guard against a variety of threats, including the shorter-range Grads used to strike Israeli towns like this one and intercontinental rockets.
The effort, partly financed by the United States and incorporating advanced American radar and other technology, has been progressing quietly for two decades. But Israeli defense and other analysts say it has now reached a level of maturity that could begin changing the nature of strategic decisions in the region. Centered on the Arrow 2 antimissile system, which has been deployed, the project is being extended to include a longer-range Arrow 3, the David’s Sling interceptor designed to hit lower- and slower-flying cruise missiles, and the Iron Dome system intended to destroy Grads, Katyushas, Qassams and other shorter-range projectiles fired from the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon.
With the Arrow system in operation and the Iron Dome due for deployment next year, Israel “has something to stabilize the situation: the knowledge that an attack will fail,” said Uzi Rubin, a private defense consultant who ran Israel’s missile shield program in the 1990s. Iran, he said, now cannot be assured of a successful first strike against Israel, while groups such as Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon may find one of their favored tactics undermined.
Advances in Iran’s rocket technology, coupled with its nuclear program, are chief concerns of the United States and Europe, as well as of Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. Alongside diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to curb its nuclear research, missile defense programs have been designed with that country in mind.
The Obama administration decided this week to scrap a Bush-era plan to deploy a longer-range-missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland, and said it would move toward a more intermediate system that better matches its assessment of Iran’s capabilities.
In Israel, the issue is considered a top foreign policy priority. There have been varying Israeli assessments about Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon: The head of the Mossad intelligence agency told a parliament committee over the summer that Iran may be five years away from acquiring an atom bomb, but the head of military intelligence has said it could happen by the end of this year.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, sees Iran’s program as an imminent danger. It “is something that threatens Israel and threatens the region and threatens the peace of the world,” he said during a recent visit to Germany. “There is not much time.”
A recent unannounced trip by Netanyahu to Russia was thought by some Israeli analysts to be linked to the broad set of issues regarding Iran, including Russia’s possible sale of advanced antiaircraft missiles to Tehran and the likelihood that Israel will strike Iran’s nuclear facilities if the United States and Europe cannot find another solution.
But the steady growth of Israel’s missile defenses sheds a different light on the country’s military doctrine and sense of vulnerability.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this week that he did not consider Iran’s nuclear program an “existential issue” because “Israel is strong.” Part of that strength lies in its nuclear capabilities — never acknowledged but widely presumed to exist — and part in the assumption that the United States would stand behind Israel if it came under attack. But it also rests in the calculation that enough of the country’s air bases and other military facilities would survive a first strike to retaliate effectively.
The sort of deterrence — guaranteed retaliation — that the United States and then-Soviet Union once achieved by deploying nuclear warheads in submarines and keeping bombers aloft is what Israel is striving for through its antimissile systems.
Iran “is radical, but radical does not mean irrational,” Rubin, the defense consultant, said. “They want to change the world, not commit suicide.”
Israel’s program had its origins in the 1980s and grew out of concern about Syria’s suspected acquisition of chemical weapons. It took on added urgency in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, when nearly 40 Iraqi Scud missiles hit the Tel Aviv area.
“If they want to, they will be able to set off a uranium bomb within six months,” an analyst with Germany’s intelligence service, Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), told the magazine.
“Nobody would have thought this possible some years ago,” an intelligence official told Stern.
The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for defying its demands to suspend uranium enrichment.
Some analysts say Iran may be close to having the required material for producing a bomb, but most say the weaponization process would then take one to two years due to technical and political hurdles.
“Weaponizing” enrichment would not escape the notice of UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), unless it was done at a secret location.
Until now there have been no indications of any such covert diversion, a point made by the IAEA’s incoming director-general shortly after his election earlier this month.
Current IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said it is his “gut feeling” that Iran is seeking at least the capability to build nuclear weapons, in order to protect itself from perceived regional and U.S. threats.
Libyan leader: Peaceful nuclear program should be encouraged
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says Iran should be encouraged to pursue its nuclear program as long as it is for peaceful purposes.
He said it is “unjust” to stop Iran from enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, but that it must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
The United States and Israel say Iran is seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge, saying its program is for generating power.
Libya in 2003 abandoned its own program to develop nuclear and chemical weapons.