Ardern disarmament aims versus Turnbull, Putin and Trump

Three days ago Jacinda Ardern promoted disarmament and arms control, and announced that she would reinstate the Cabinet position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control (with Winston peters responsible).

Disarmament and arms control are issues we need to take more action on in today’s global climate, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington this morning.

“We will ensure New Zealand’s voice is heard on disarmament and arms control issues by reinstating the Cabinet position of Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“The portfolio responsibility will be given to Rt Hon Winston Peters, and is an acknowledgment of the emphasis this government places on our long held anti-nuclear stance, and the role we must play now and in the future,” says the Prime Minister.

The portfolio will include considering the spread of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons.

“We must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament, and to the norms and rules which support those endeavours,” says the Prime Minister.

The government is also looking at the early ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which New Zealand signed last year.

Today Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull disagreed:

New Zealand is seeking an early ratification of a United Nations nuclear weapons treaty ban, which Australia has refused to sign.

Mr Turnbull maintains the treaty is flawed because it doesn’t cover the world’s nuclear powers.

He said Australia also relies on the deterrent protection from the United States’ nuclear weapons arsenal.

“Everyone would like to aspire to a world which is free of nuclear weapons but we have to focus on the here and now,” Mr Turnbull said.

And the here and now: Putin unveils new Russian nuclear missile, says it renders defenses ‘useless’

Russia has a new array of nuclear-capable weapons including an intercontinental ballistic missile that renders defense systems “useless,” President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday.

The ICBM has a longer range than any other and can reach almost any target in the world, Putin said in his annual address to lawmakers and political elites.

Other new technologies he highlighted included supersonic missiles and drone submarines that he said cannot be stopped.

“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development … you have failed to contain Russia,” he said.

He accused the West of “ignoring us. Nobody listened to us. Well listen to us now.”

He boasted that Russia’s new ICBM is “powerful and modern and defense systems will not be able to withstand it,” he said. “Missile defenses will be useless against it.”

“We are not going to take anything away from anybody. We have everything we need,” he said. “Russia’s strong military is a guarantor of peace on our planet.”

However, he warned: “Any use of nuclear weapons against Russia or its allies … any kind of attack … will be regarded as a nuclear attack against Russia and in response we will take action instantaneously no matter what the consequences are. Nobody should have any doubt about that.”

America’s nuclear strategy had “raised concerns in Russia,” he said.

Trumps nuclear proclamations have raised concerns in the US and around the world (as will Putin’s):  We need a backup plan for Trump’s nuclear button

For too many Americans, the past year has awoken fears that had faded over the past 30 years. President Donald Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” down upon North Korea. He has announced a program to build new and more “usable” nuclear weapons. A recent false alarm in Hawaii of an incoming missile attack sent thousands of families running for cover. Anxieties have risen to the point that a majority of Americans do not trust the president to handle a nuclear crisis.

NBZ:  Putin’s bravado over Russian nukes is emboldened by Trump, analysts say

President Vladimir Putin’s assertion Thursday that Russia is testing a range of new nuclear-powered weaponry reveals a Kremlin that has become increasingly emboldened by the Trump administration and skilled at stoking East-West tensions, analysts say.

“It’s back to the bad old days of Russia trying to claim its glory through having weapons of mass destruction,” said Jeremy Bash, a former chief of staff in the Department of Defense and CIA.

Bash said Putin’s latest campaign to bolster Russia’s military might, announced during his annual state of the nation speech, is loaded with Cold War undertones.

“You see an American foreign policy of weakness about Russia,” he added. “Putin is exploiting that weakness, and he tries to assert strength.”

All this macho bravado might need more than a Vogue puff piece if Ardern is going to stop the world going up in a puff of nuclear smoke.

USA v North Korea – increasingly bizarre

The slanging  match between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un continues to and unprecedented level of bizarreness. Both have backed themselves into tough guy corners that will be difficult to get out of without losing face, or significant numbers of lives.

Fox News:  Trump says US is ‘locked and loaded’ amid North Korea threat

President Trump took to Twitter early Friday issuing yet another stark warning to North Korea that the United States’ military was “locked and loaded,” and urged the rogue regime’s dictator to “find another path.”

“Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!” the president tweeted Friday morning.

I wonder if this will result in the first war to be declared by Twitter, or the first military attack (the Korean War of the 1950s is technically not over) to be announced by Twitter. The first nuclear attack by twit?

Earlier this week, Trump reacted to reports that North Korea had produced a compact nuclear warhead and warned the country they “will be met with fire and fury” if they carry out an attack. Hours later, state media in North Korea reported that its leaders were seriously considering a plan to fire missiles at Guam.

“Let’s see what he does with Guam. He does something in Guam, it will be an event the likes of which nobody has seen before –what will happen in North Korea,” Trump said Thursday, at his property in Bedminster, N.J., in response to Kim Jong Un’s threats to attack the U.S. territory. “It’s not a dare, it’s a statement.”

Trump added: “He has disrespected our country greatly. He has said things that are horrific. And with me, he’s not getting away with it. It’s a whole new ball game.”

An unprecedented exchange – but far to serious to be called a game.

I’m sure South Korea and Japan are a tad uneasy.

Fox News: North Korea threat: Pentagon says ready to ‘fight tonight,’ as Trump shows bomber pics

Pentagon officials told Fox News on Friday that the U.S. military stands ready to “fight tonight” on the Korean Peninsula, as President Trump said the U.S. is “locked and loaded” and retweeted images from U.S. Pacific Command showing B-1B Lancer bombers on Guam.

At the same time, a North Korean state news agency statement warned that “even a single shell dropped on the Korean Peninsula might lead to the outbreak of … thermonuclear war.”

“We consider the U.S. no more than a lump which we can beat to a jelly any time,” the Korean Central News Agency said, quoting Institute of International Studies researcher Kang Kum Chol.

After his ‘locked and loaded’ tweet Trump retweeted this:

In contrast from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis: War with North Korea would be ‘catastrophic’

Mattis said Thursday that war with North Korea would be “catastrophic,” casting a dire tone after President Trump unleashed a string of warnings to the rogue nation.

“The American effort is diplomatically led, it has diplomatic traction, it is gaining diplomatic results and I want to stay right there right now,” Mattis said while speaking with reporters in Mountain View, California.

“The tragedy of war is well-enough known it doesn’t need another characterization beyond the fact that it would be catastrophic,” Mattis continued.

Mattis has to try and deal with madmen on both sides of the slanging match.

I’m glad I’m in a different hemisphere.

Meanwhile, Australia’s prime minister said his country would come to the aid of the United States if North Korea attacks Guam.

Oh bugger, our neighbours across the ditch attracting attention.

Holocaust by tweet?

The US Pacific Fleet Commander said he would launch a nuclear strike against China next week if President Donald Trump ordered it, and warned against the military ever shifting its allegiance from its commander in chief.

Admiral Scott Swift was responding to a hypothetical question at an Australian National University security conference following a major joint US- Australian military exercise off the Australian coast.

The drills were monitored by a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off northeast Australia.

Asked by an academic in the audience whether he would make a nuclear attack on China next week if Trump ordered it, Swift replied: “The answer would be: yes.”

“Every member of the US military has sworn an oath to defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic and to obey the officers and the president of the United States as commander and chief appointed over us,” Swift said.

“This is core to the American democracy and any time you have a military that is moving away from a focus and an allegiance to civilian control, then we really have a significant problem,” he added.

Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charlie Brown later said Swift’s answer reaffirmed the principle of civilian control over the military.

“The admiral was not addressing the premise of the question, he was addressing the principle of civilian authority of the military,” Brown said. “The premise of the question was ridiculous.”

The premise of making military decisions by tweet may sound ridiculous but that seems to be how trump wants to run things. See Trump brain fart on transgender troops.

Big dicks from North Korea to Iran

While North Korean ‘pre-emptive strike’ rhetoric has ramped up the US has added Iran to it’s nuclear targets.

Reuters: North Korea warns of ‘super-mighty preemptive strike’ as U.S. plans next move

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.

The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words.

“In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes,” it said.

This follows multi-pronged verbal attacks from the US.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, on a tour of Asian allies, has said repeatedly an “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said during a visit to London the military option must be part of the pressure brought to bear.

Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Wednesday that the United States was “reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang.”

And Tillerson has also aimed similar threats at Iran.

NBC News: Tillerson: Iran Left ‘Unchecked’ Could Follow North Korea’s Path

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the United States will conduct a “comprehensive review” of its policy toward Iran, including the 2016 nuclear deal, which he said had merely delayed Iran’s goal of becoming a nuclear state.

“This deal represents the same failed approach of the past that brought us to the current imminent threat we face in North Korea,” Tillerson said. “The Trump administration has no intention of passing the buck to a future administration on Iran. The evidence is clear Iran’s provocative actions threaten the U.S., the region and the world.”

Tillerson notified Congress on Tuesday that despite finding that Iran was meeting the terms of the deal, the Trump administration was reviewing whether to break from the agreement, saying in part that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Iran is closely involved in supporting the Assad government in the Syrian civil war. The US launched a military strike against a Syrian airfield recently.

The US also tried out their biggest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan last week. This didn’t go down well with ex-president Hamid Karzai.

Time: The Former President of Afghanistan Called the Recent U.S. Bombing ‘an Immense Atrocity’

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday that the U.S. is using Afghanistan as a weapons testing ground, calling the recent use of the largest-ever non-nuclear bomb “an immense atrocity against the Afghan people.”

Last week, U.S. forces dropped the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb in eastern Nangarhar province, reportedly killing 95 militants. Karzai, in an interview with The Associated Press, objected to the decision, saying that his country “was used very disrespectfully by the U.S. to test its weapons of mass destruction.”

The office of President Ashraf Ghani said following the bomb’s usage that there was “close coordination” between the U.S. military and the Afghan government over the operation, and they were careful to prevent any civilian casualties.

But Karzai harshly criticized the Afghan government for allowing the use of the bomb.

“How could a government of a country allow the use of a weapon of mass destruction on its own territory? Whatever the reason, whatever the cause, how could they allow that? It just unimaginable,” he said.

Since the missile strike and the massive bomb drop the US has launched a war of words on multiple fronts, from Iran to North Korea.

This is a very risky strategy by the Trump regime. The threats and shows of military force may pay off. They could also end very badly if someone’s provocation (from any side) goes too far.

There’s also risks of perception of provocation and unintended consequences, especially if Korea or Iran or Syria or ISIS or Al Qaeda get reported on Fox News insulting the size of Donald Trump’s ego.

The well being of parts of the world, and possibly the whole world, is dependant on the temperaments and self control of a small bunch of bozos, some of whom (on the US side) have no experience with international diplomacy or military strategy.

Big dicks with big weapons are a worry.

Possibly “Irreversible” Slide Towards Nuclear War

There is little doubt North Korea would come off very badly if the tensions between them and the US burst into military action.

But they are not likely to be the only ones severely impacted.

China, South Korea and Japan in particular will be very uneasy about the escalating confrontation.

Trump and the US are a lot safer lobbing bombs from afar, but at risk to them is their standing in the world.

While New Zealand is a long way from any potential nuclear fallout the trade repercussions could impact us.

And I’d be very wary of travelling in that region at the moment.

Korea, USA, nukes

South Korea and Japan in particular are likely to be increasingly nervous about what two unpredictable leaders might do as North Korea ramps up provocations against the US.

Stuff: ‘Inching to the brink of a nuclear war’: North Korea says missile launch was training for attack on US’s Japan bases

North Korea has warned that US-South Korean military exercises are driving the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia toward “nuclear disaster”.

The reclusive state fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan’s northwest on Monday (NZT), angering South Korea and Japan.

Kim Jong Un supervised the test launches which were by an army unit commissioned with attacking US military bases in Japan, the country’s state media said on Tuesday (NZT).

The launches were a training exercise for a strike on those bases, it said.

The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, said in a letter to the UN Security Council hours after the missiles were launched that the US-South Korea exercises were the “the most undisguised nuclear war manoeuvres”.

“It may go over to an actual war,” Ja warned of the military drills, “and, consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war”.

How will Donald Trump respond to provocations like this?

Hopefully he will stick to pushing buttons on his Twitter rather than anywhere else.

Comical Donny and the buttons

Donald Trump’s anti-media button pushing antics could be comical, if it weren’t for serious matters like nuclear buttons.

‘Nobody hates the media worse than me’?

Trump should love the US mainstream media, because they more than anything gave him the exposure he needed to win the presidency. Negative was good, even great. It fed his campaign.

But as President he is continuing and even escalating attacks on media now that he doesn’t want negative press. Or is using them as a diversion from what he and the Whiter House are trying to do.

He has established two big bogeys, Muslims and media. I wonder what he thinks of Al Jazeera.

Politico: Trump escalates his feud with the media

President Donald Trump fired the latest shot in his self-proclaimed war with the media Friday, doubling down on his declaration that the press is an “enemy of the American people.”

“I want you all to know that we are fighting the fake news. It’s fake, phony, fake,” Trump said in his remarks at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “A few days ago, I called the fake news ‘the enemy of the people,’ and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources. They just make them up when there are none.”

This appears to be a deliberate strategy of telling Americans to only believe his crap and to disbelieve anyone else’s crap. This is working with his supporters, who seem to be under some sort of ‘Donald can do no wrong’ spell.

But with his RCP average approval rating at 445  compared to disapproval at 49.8 it seems that he can suck in less than half the people at this time.

He condemned the use of anonymous sources, which he claimed without evidence were fake accounts drummed up by an industry with its own agenda that everyday Americans must fight against. He ominously vowed to “do something about it.”

Trump cited polls conducted by CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC News over the past two years that signaled that he wouldn’t prevail in the presidential election as evidence of the media conspiring to create “a whole false deal” to suppress GOP voter turnout.

Except that media actually gave his campaign the coverage it needed.

Reporters, he said, are very smart, very cunning and very dishonest people who cry “First Amendment” when their stories are criticized, or, in the president’s word, “exposed.”

That’s very dishonest but that’s the irony of Donald Trump – it’s a standard tactic to accuse others of what he is. Bannon and Breitbart have done it. Slater and associates have done it. It’s one of the top strategies from their play book.

“I love the First Amendment. Nobody loves it better than me. Nobody,” Trump said. “I mean, who uses it more than I do”

Nobody does bullshit better than Trump.

But the First Amendment gives all of us — it gives it to me, it gives it you, it gives it to all Americans — the right to speak our minds freely. It gives you the right and me the right to criticize fake news and criticize it strongly.”

“As you saw throughout the entire campaign, and even now, the fake news doesn’t tell the truth. Doesn’t tell the truth,” he continued. “I say it doesn’t represent the people. It never will represent the people. And we’re gonna do something about it, because we have to go out and we have to speak our minds, and we have to be honest.”

Well, that would be a change then. But I don’t expect the smoke and mirrors and fire and brimstone to abate.

Trump, in his address before CPAC, didn’t directly address the allegations, but he did voice his opposition to “people that make up stories and make up sources.”

“They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name,” he said of the media. “Let their name be put out there. Let their name be put out.”

Trump sarcastically stated, “A source says that Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being.”

“Let them say it to my face. Let there be no more sources,” he added. “They are very dishonest people. And they shouldn’t use sources. They should put the name of the person. You will see stories dry up like you’ve never seen before.”

Politics without ‘sources’, political media without sources would be gutted. Of course anonymous leaks can be misused and abused, and often are, but the alternative is far worse.

Trump appears to be trying to be building another wall, a wall of silence around the White House which only allows himself and his apparatchiks to trumpet from the parapets.

This would be Emperor has clothes, but it’s easy to see what’s beneath the ruffles and rhetoric. Easy for those who haven’t been sucked in by his spell.

“There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people,” Trump said. He provided no evidence to refute the Post’s account but suggested he has insight because he knows the sources.”

So he doesn’t want others to use anonymous sources but ‘the people’ should accept his anonymous sources without question? A typical Trump double standard.

“Nine people,” he continued. “And I said, ‘Give me a break,’ because I know the people. I know who they talk to. There were no nine people. But they say nine people. And somebody reads it and they think, ‘Oh, nine people, they have nine sources.’ They make up sources. They’re very dishonest people.”

This is all trivial, pathetic bullshit. But it’s Trump.

Is he knowingly trying to play the people like this? Or is he being used as a comical diversion while the real power is built and wielded?

It would be comical if there wasn’t so much at stake, for the world. This is the person who said:

“I am the first one that would like to see … nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country, we’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.

“It would be wonderful, a dream would be that no country would have nukes, but if countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack”.

It turned out that Comical Ali and Saddam Hussein didn’t have the weapons of mass destruction as claimed by another US president.

This president does have weapons of mass destruction far greater than are needed to obliterate the world. And while he pushes the media’s buttons as a diversion, the real risks are not a laughing matter.

 

Gorbachev: ‘world is preparing for war’

Mikhail Gorbachev writes in Time ‘It All Looks as if the World Is Preparing for War’

The world today is overwhelmed with problems. Policymakers seem to be confused and at a loss.

But no problem is more urgent today than the militarization of politics and the new arms race. Stopping and reversing this ruinous race must be our top priority.

The current situation is too dangerous.

Politicians and military leaders sound increasingly belligerent and defense doctrines more dangerous. Commentators and TV personalities are joining the bellicose chorus. It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.

He looks back at the 1980s.

In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the U.S. declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.

But there has been a deterioration since then.

Today, however, the nuclear threat once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now. The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands.

We must break out of this situation. We need to resume political dialogue aiming at joint decisions and joint action.

Gorbachev suggests:

I urge the members of the U.N. Security Council — the body that bears primary responsibility for international peace and security — to take the first step. Specifically, I propose that a Security Council meeting at the level of heads of state adopt a resolution stating that nuclear war is unacceptable and must never be fought.

I think the initiative to adopt such a resolution should come from Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin — the Presidents of two nations that hold over 90% of the world’s nuclear arsenals and therefore bear a special responsibility.

That looks very unlikely given Trump’s moves to reduce US involvement in the UN.

The world could really do without the sort of war Gorbachev is warning about.

Expanding nuclear capability

“…such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes” – very ironic.

That will worry quite a few people and countries. How many times over does Trump want to be able to destroy Earth?

Will trump care about treaties?

Trump just kidding about nuking

The Borowitz Report: TRUMP SAYS HE WOULD ONLY USE NUCLEAR WEAPONS IN A SARCASTIC WAY

Clarifying his position on a key national-security issue, Donald Trump said on Friday that as President he would be willing to use nuclear weapons, “but only in a sarcastic way.”

“People who are worried about me having the nuclear-launch codes should stop worrying, O.K.?” Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “If I ever used nuclear weapons, it would be really obvious that I was just being sarcastic.”

Pressed by Blitzer to explain the difference between a sarcastic and non-sarcastic nuclear attack, Trump responded, “You’d use the weapons and everything, but then you’d say, ‘Just kidding.’ ”

Trump did not specify which nations he would target for a sarcastic nuclear attack. “I can’t say right now,” he said. “But there are a lot of countries that need to lighten up.”

This is clearly flagged as satire and Borowitz is identified as a comedian, but the guts of this message is really not funny.

Ok, this is probably an exaggerated piss take, maybe.

But if Trump handled foreign policy and relations anything like he campaigns for president then the world is justified in feeling somewhat uneasy should Trump turn his campaign around in a winning direction.

There’s no doubt that Trump identified and struck a strong chord with a significant proportion of Americans in the US primaries. But since then he has played an increasing number of bum notes, most notably amongst the Republicans.