-”Ukraine May Be East Asia Tomorrow”: Japan Defence Minister
“Japan is surrounded by actors that possess, or are developing, nuclear weapons, and that openly ignore rules,” Nobuo Kishi said in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security meeting.
Singapore: Manoeuvres by China and Russia have sharpened security concerns in East Asia, Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said in unusually strong comments on Saturday, adding that Japan was on the front lines as neighbours tried to upend international norms.
“Japan is surrounded by actors that possess, or are developing, nuclear weapons, and that openly ignore rules,” Kishi said in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security meeting.
In May, China and Russia conducted a joint aerial patrol in waters close to Japan and Taiwan, their first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Joint military operations between these two strong military powers will undoubtedly increase concern among other countries,” he said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made the same point in no uncertain terms in his Shangri-La Dialogue keynote speech the night before, saying his country would call for increased defence spending and possibly seek advanced strike weapons.
“Ukraine may be East Asia tomorrow,” he said.
Security and stability of the Taiwan Strait was also important for the security of Japan and the wider world, Kishi said on Saturday, calling China a “nation of concern”.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation,” has alarmed Tokyo, because it could establish military force as a way to settle international disputes and encourage China to try and take control of Taiwan, which lies close to Japan and maritime trade routes that feed its economy.
In his speech, Kishi also criticised North Korea, which has carried out at least 18 missile tests this year, saying the regime could not be allowed to threaten Japan, the region and the international community.
The three-day Shangri-La Dialogue, which attracts top-level military officials, diplomats and weapons makers from around the globe, began on Friday.
President Joe Biden, standing alongside Kishida in Tokyo in May, said the United States would militarily intervene if China attacked Taiwan. The White House later said Biden’s remarks did not represent a change in policy toward the island.
China says its recent military drills around Taiwan, which it considers as part of its territory, are meant to defend its sovereignty.
In a policy paper published on Tuesday, Kishida’s administration said it wanted to drastically increase defence spending within the next five years.
-Iran’s Nuclear Tactics Leaves Biden In Tough Spot
President Joe Biden opened his presidency with a pledge to return to the 2015 international agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from building nuclear weapons, after predecessor Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it.
Washington: A flare-up in tensions between the UN nuclear monitor and Iran this week has left US President Joe Biden in an increasingly tight jam.
The US leader opened his presidency with a pledge to return to the 2015 international agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from building nuclear weapons, after predecessor Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it.
Negotiations to restore that agreement have been at an impasse for three months over the very last details.
Without a deal — and Iran ever closer to nuclear “breakout” — Biden has a tough choice: to make more concessions to Tehran, and be accused of weakness by Republican opponents ahead of midterm elections, or declare the talks dead, which could spark a new Middle East crisis.
Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Thursday that Tehran’s removal this week of 27 cameras monitoring its nuclear sites could deal a “fatal blow” to negotiations.
“At this stage, things can go either way,” said Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group. “The tension of the past few days could potentially stir leadership in Tehran and Washington to take the deal that is on the table.”
Or, he said, “It’s the first step in another cycle of escalation, and from this point on it would only get worse.”
“Worse” could mean Tehran moving ahead to build a nuclear weapon, and its opponents like Israel and US hardliners demanding hard action to prevent that.
Verge of a deal
The talks in Vienna between Iran and the major powers resumed last year at Biden’s impetus, with the US willing to rescind sanctions in exchange for Tehran returning to full implementation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
But at the edge of a deal three months ago, the talks stalled, due — according to US officials — to final demands by Iran unrelated to nuclear issues.
Meanwhile, officials say, Iran has pushed ahead with uranium enrichment operations that take it close to a weapons capability.
The situation deteriorated this week when members of the IAEA censured Iran for not cooperating. A day later Iran removed the 27 cameras.
Supporters say the deal is the only thing that has prevented Iran from building nuclear weapons, and that saving it is worth Biden giving Tehran some concessions.
But opponents — Republicans, and strong supporters of Iran’s nemesis Israel — say Iran’s lack of cooperation shows the agreement is not worth pursuing.
If Tehran’s accelerated uranium enrichment operations “are not sufficient to get the Biden administration to change course, what will?” asked Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think-tank, which has opposed the JCPOA.
“The time has come for a multilateral version of maximum pressure,” he said, referring to Trump’s approach.
Even among Biden’s Democratic Party, some voices are growing impatient.
“At what point will the administration acknowledge that Iran’s nuclear advances make a return to the 2015 JCPOA not in the United States’ strategic interest?” said Senator Bob Menendez.
Vaez says that the Biden administration has settled into the situation of having neither an agreement nor a crisis over it.
“The developments of the past 48 hours have basically demonstrated to both sides that the status quo in the past three months of no deal, no crisis is really not sustainable,” said Vaez.
Yet Washington hasn’t set a deadline. On Thursday Secretary of State Antony Blinken only warned that the removal of the monitoring cameras threatened JCPOA restoration.
“The only outcome of such a path will be a deepening nuclear crisis and further economic and political isolation for Iran,” Blinken said.
Instead of a hard line, the top US diplomat kept the door open.
Returning to the deal “would still achieve our most important and urgent nonproliferation goals and would be strongly in our national security interests,” said a Blinken spokesperson.
Randa Slim, a researcher at the Middle East Institute in Washington, called the impasse a state of limbo “whereby everybody will assume that the Vienna talks have collapsed, but nobody will be willing to announce it.”
That is Biden’s dilemma, she said.
If they declare the talks over and conclude that Iran has imminent nuclear weapons capability, Washington could be forced into taking direct action against Iran, or supporting such action by Israel, said Slim.
“There are two clocks ticking …. putting a lot of pressure on the Biden administration,” said Vaez.
One is the clock on Tehran’s actual nuclear technology advances, he said.
“And then there’s the political clock,” of the congressional elections in November that could deeply erode Biden’s political clout.