Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Still Think Putin is America’s Friend? Russia warns of nuclear war unless US backs down over missiles in Europe — Ready to close Black Sea

March 28, 2017

Russia has warned of nuclear war if US missiles carry on being shipped into Europe.

 

Pentagon missiles in Europe and warships patrolling Russia’s borders could lead to nuclear war, warned Vladimir Putin’s military bosses.The anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) is provoking a “new arms race” and scuppers Russia’s ability to defend itself from a nuke strike, they said.Russian military bosses warned the ABM “lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons” and increases the risk of “sudden nuclear attack”.

“The presence of the global ABM system lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, because it gives the US the illusion of impunity for using strategic offensive weapons from under the protection of the ABM ‘umbrella,’” said Viktor Poznikhir, top brass for the Russian general staff.
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He added: “The ABM shield is a symbol of the build-up of rocket forces in the world and a trigger for a new arms race.”

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Scientists previously warned the US’s new nuclear weapons could force Putin’s hand into a nuclear conflict.

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Russian leader Vladimir PutinGETTYVLADIMIR PUTIN: US President Donald Trump hopes to improve relations with Russia

Trump labels reports of his ties with Russia “fake news”

Poznikhir said: “The presence of American ABM sites in Europe and ABM-capable ships in the seas and oceans close to Russia’s territory creates a powerful clandestine potential for delivering a surprise nuclear missile strike against Russia.”US attempts to trump Russia and China are heighting the risk of nuclear war, the Kremlin warned.The stark warning came at a nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva.

Trump: ‘Vladimir Putin is a better leader than Barack Obama’

Poznikhir said the US missile shield “narrows down the opportunity for nuclear reduction dialogue”.He said the Pentagon is developing the missile system to face Iran and North Korea, but ignoring objections raised by Russia.Russia warns the US will have 1,000 missiles at its fingertips which could pose a threat to them by 2020.

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/600613/Russia-Nuclear-War-US-Missiles-World-3-Vladimir-Putin-Donald-Trump-ABM-Shield-China-ICBMs

China Drifts Into a U.S. Vacuum in Asia

March 28, 2017

Beijing builds its influence in Asia by default, not design, as Trump retreats

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Updated March 28, 2017 6:06 a.m. ET

BOAO, China — For more than half a century, Washington has set the economic agenda for the Asia-Pacific, where global wealth, technology and military power are concentrating.

Today, increasingly, Beijing does.

That’s not because its economic model…

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-drifts-into-a-u-s-vacuum-in-asia-1490695181

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See also:

China Touts Its Own Trade Pact as U.S.-Backed One Withers
https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-touts-its-own-trade-pact-as-u-s-backed-one-withers-1479811275

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From Sputnik

Is China Filling the Economic Vacuum in the Pacific?

© REUTERS/ David Gray

“The bilateral relationship between China and the United States is the single most important one for the prosperity and security and stability of the world, and the fact that we have very strong relationships, but different relationships — different in context and in terms of history — with both the United States and China, that is a great strength.”

Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: AAP

Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: AAPSource:AAP

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Premier Li agreed, saying China-Australia co-operation was not targeted “at any third party” and would benefit other countries and regions

“It is China’s consistent position that all countries, big or small, are equal members of the world, and there needs to be mutual respect and co-operation on an equal footing,” Premier Li said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Australia and New Zealand this week, while US relations with Australia cool over the migrant deal negotiated by the former US administration. Will China fill the vacuum in the region? Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker invited China expert Keith Bennett to discuss the issue.

China Expected to Import $8 Trillion Worth of Goods in 2016-2020

US President Donald Trump’s relations with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had a rough start. During their first phone talk, an apparently emotional exchange, Trump declined to fulfill the deal negotiated by the administration of former President Barack Obama in which the US pledged to take more than 1,000 immigrants from Australian detention centers.

“The Obama administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal,” Trump tweeted after the phone call to Turnbull, which he reportedly ended abruptly

In general, it becomes more and more likely that the US is disconnecting itself from active foreign policy and concentrating on its internal affairs. This allows for other nations to seek new opportunities for trade that had been unavailable for them. One might think the time is ripe for China to approach the Pacific with propositions of trade.

However, China already is significantly involved in trade with New Zealand and Australia, according to China expert Keith Bennett.

“China has very good relations with the two countries, at least on the economic level,” Bennet told Becker. “Politically, it’s more complicated, but this is not an unprecedented visit.”

According to various data from open sources, China’s share in New Zealand trade seems to be already twice as big as that of the US. The same goes for Australia, whose exports to China are several times larger than those to the US.

This creates a complicated situation in which Australia is a close military ally of the US, but its economic interests naturally go along with China and other Pacific nations, says Bennett.

“There is a dichotomy between the economic factor and a political and military security factor,” he says.

According to Bennett, the United States relies heavily on political and military force to prevent Australia’s drift towards China, even using political means to organize a “soft coup” to get rid of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The Obama administration also increased its military presence in Australia for the very same purpose: to send a signal to Australia not to get too friendly with China, Benett explains.

Given all that, it would be hard to imagine a sharp move by Australia toward China, but there are signs it could happen under the Trump administration. The United States under Trump seems to be stepping back from its role of global director of trade and finances — at least for capitalist countries — a role the US has taken since 1945 Bretton Woods agreement. Bennet said this shift by the US could create a situation in the Pacific in which close trade ties of those nations with China could finally result in corresponding political closeness.

“What we are entering is a very unstable period of convulsion and realignment,” Bennet noted. “So it’s hard to make predictions, but I think… that economic changes will come first and political changes will have to catch up.”

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201703251051966155-china-new-zealand-australia-trade/

See also:

http://www.news.com.au/finance/work/leaders/chinese-premier-meets-with-malcolm-turnbull-downplays-south-china-sea-tensions/news-story/bb41415200c089f62847e2c9b2ab0c9f

Despite Trump Move, Utilities’ Shift From Coal Is Set to Continue

March 28, 2017

Curbs on carbon emissions may be eased, but companies are sticking with plans to invest in power from gas, wind and solar

Marshall Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina owned by utility Duke Energy.

Marshall Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina owned by utility Duke Energy. PHOTO: ROLF SCHULTEN/GETTY IMAGES

The Trump administration’s expected move to roll back President Obama’s signature climate-change policy may extend the life of some aging coal-fired power plants, but companies and energy experts say it is unlikely to reverse the U.S. utility industry’s shift to natural gas, solar and wind as leading sources of electricity.

President Donald Trump is expected Tuesday to sign an executive order that would begin to reverse the Clean Power Plan, which would have required utilities to reduce power-plant carbon-dioxide emissions to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. The order also rolls back guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality on climate change and rescinds a temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands, a senior White House official said Monday night.

While the action may give a reprieve to some coal-fired plants facing extinction, large utilities say they will continue long-term investments to generate more power from gas, wind and solar, which are being driven by economic as well as regulatory forces. The White House official said Monday that the order is part of the president’s promise to restore the coal sector, but the official acknowledged that merely repealing the regulations wouldn’t bring back jobs.

Cheap U.S. natural gas unlocked by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has prompted many companies to scrap older coal plants in favor of gas-fired plants, which require fewer workers to operate. Companies are also taking advantage of tax credits for renewable power to build out solar and wind farms, which are becoming more cost-competitive with fossil-fuel generation thanks to economies of scale and advances in technology.

Duke Energy Corp. says it plans to invest $11 billion in natural gas and renewable power generation over the next 10 years, as the company aims by 2026 to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 35% from 2005 levels.

That represents a long-term company strategy and isn’t likely to change, Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good said in a February interview. The utility’s power generating mix is now 34% coal and 28% natural gas, compared with 61% coal and 5% gas in 2005. By 2026, it estimates gas will be the dominant fuel, followed by coal, nuclear and renewable power.

“Because of the competitive price of natural gas and the declining price of renewables, continuing to drive carbon out makes sense for us,” said Ms. Good. “Administrations will change during the life of our business and our assets, and we’ll continue to move forward in a way that makes sense for our investors and our customers.”

Southern Co. plans to invest at least $1 billion a year over the next five years in new wind farms. It now uses natural gas to generate 47% of its power, with coal providing 31%, nuclear 15%, and hydropower, wind, solar and other renewable sources 7%.

“Going forward, we anticipate an increase in renewable generation capacity and declining utilization of coal,” said Terrell McCollum, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based utility.

U.S. utilities generated more electricity from natural gas than from coal last year. Power from coal plants fell to 3.4 million megawatt-hours a day in 2016 to supply 30% of U.S. generation, down from 33% in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Natural-gas plants supplied 3.8 million megawatt-hours daily, or 34% of total power supplies this past year, up from 33% the previous year.

Hydropower and other renewables generated 1.7 million megawatt-hours daily, or about 15% this past year, up from 13% in 2015. Nuclear plants contributed 20%, and petroleum and other sources produced the rest.

Without the Clean Power Plan, however, the Energy Department expects coal-fired generation from existing plants to rise and natural gas-fired generation to fall by 2020, followed by another reversal after 2030 when it anticipates gas will exceed coal again.

The extent of a coal recovery will depend largely on the price utilities pay for gas, which averaged about $3 a million British thermal units last year. The department predicts it will rise to more than $4.50 in 2020, and $5 in 2029.

Many energy companies face state requirements to increase renewable power generation and are coming under pressure from large investors such as pension funds and university endowments to clean up their operations.

More pension funds, university endowments and other funds are divesting from companies that burn coal over concerns about the environment, said Fiona Reynolds, managing director at Principles for Responsible Investment, a London-based nonprofit that helps funds figure out how to cut the carbon footprint of their investments. “Investors want to see companies that are moving away from coal, to other energies,” she said.

Nearly 700 institutions worth more than $5 trillion have pledged to divest from fossil fuel companies, according to a December report by consulting firm Arabella Advisors.

Still, some coal plants that are economical to run, particularly those owned by rural electric cooperatives in states where coal is plentiful, are likely to enjoy longer lives without the carbon rule.

Basin Electric Power Cooperative, based in Bismarck, N.D., was among the power generators that fought the Clean Power Plan in court. It was concerned it would be forced to shut down coal plants it is still paying off, and replace them with new gas plants and wind farms, at a cost of $5 billion.

“We’re building natural gas and wind, but that doesn’t mean we would take a perfectly functioning coal facility and not consider that a valuable resource as well,” said Mike Eggl, a spokesman for Basin Electric.

Write to Cassandra Sweet at cassandra.sweet@wsj.com

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Trump to issue executive orders undoing climate-change policies

March 28, 2017

 

Administration to formally review requirement that utilities cut carbon-dioxide emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030

A mine in Racine, Ohio, as seen in 2015.

A mine in Racine, Ohio, as seen in 2015. PHOTO: JEFF SWENSEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday taking steps to unravel the most contentious climate-change policies of his predecessor, the White House said.

The Trump administration will formally review President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which requires utilities to reduce power plant carbon-dioxide emissions 32% below 2005 levels by 2030, a senior White House official said Monday night.

Officials will also pull back August 2016 guidance from the Council on Environmental Quality on climate change and official estimates of the social cost of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide, and rescind a temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands that Mr. Obama’s Interior Department issued in early 2016.

Certain other presidential memorandums issued by Mr. Obama on environmental matters would also be canceled, the official said.

The moves are all but certain to trigger legal and political pushback from supporters of the Obama administration’s policies on the climate, who include Democrats and environmentalists.

The official said it was likely that the review of the Clean Power Plan could take “some time” to run its course because of the federal rule-making process, and the prospect of litigation.

Mr. Trump is attempting to follow through on a key campaign promise to restore coal jobs, though the senior White House official acknowledged Monday that market forces in the energy sector meant that merely repealing regulations wouldn’t do that. The president was taking the steps he could, the official said.

The White House has also characterized its move as a bid to expand the responsible use of domestic energy resources, and signaled that it planned to take its own course on climate change.

“This order will help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday.

Scott Pruitt, Mr. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator, has doubted the scientific consensus that human activity is a major contributor to climate change. Others in the administration have said the main question is what policy steps to take in response, and whether regulations that restrict economic growth can be justified by their results.

Mr. Obama’s climate rule to cut utility-sector carbon emissions 32% by 2030, based on emission levels in 2005, was the main domestic policy in the U.S. government’s commitment to a global accord addressing climate change that about 200 nations agreed to in December 2015 in Paris. Mr. Trump campaigned on withdrawing from the deal and said it was bad for U.S. companies.

The senior White House official said Monday that the Trump administration hasn’t yet reached a decision on how to proceed with the Paris agreement.

Write to Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com and Amy Harder at amy.harder@wsj.com

Appeared in the Mar. 28, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Moves To Roll Back Obama Policy On Climate.’

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-to-sign-executive-order-to-roll-back-obama-climate-change-policies-1490670000?mod=e2fb

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Related:

 http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-to-issue-executive-orders-undoing-climate-change-policies-2017-03-27

Trump takes aim at Obama’s efforts to curb global warming

March 28, 2017

The Associated Press

By MATTHEW DALY and JILL COLVIN

WASHINGTON (AP) — Moving forward with a campaign pledge to unravel former President Barack Obama’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday that will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures in an effort to boost domestic energy production in the form of fossil fuels.

As part of the roll-back, Trump will initiate a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The regulation, which was the former president’s signature effort to curb carbon emissions, has been the subject of long-running legal challenges by Republican-led states and those who profit from burning oil, coal and gas.

Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, has repeatedly criticized the power-plant rule and others as an attack on American workers and the struggling U.S. coal industry. The contents of the order were outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution despite President Trump’s criticism of the use of unnamed sources in the news media.

The official at one point appeared to break with mainstream climate science, denying familiarity with widely publicized concerns about the potential adverse economic impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

In addition to pulling back from the Clean Power Plan, the administration will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.

The Obama administration had imposed a three-year moratorium on new federal coal leases in January 2016, arguing that the $1 billion-a-year program must be modernized to ensure a fair financial return to taxpayers and address climate change.

Trump accused his predecessor of waging a “war on coal” and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made “a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations,” including some that threaten “the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners.”

The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the “social cost” of greenhouse gases. It will initiate a review of efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine whether those reflect the president’s policy priorities.

It will also rescind Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change.

The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. But the moves to be announced Tuesday will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the U.S. to achieve its goals.

Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, alarmed environmental groups and scientists earlier this month when he said he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. The statement is at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and Pruitt’s own agency.

The overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies and climate scientists agree the planet is warming, mostly due to man-made sources, including carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons and nitrogen oxide.

The official who briefed reporters said the president does believe in man-made climate change.

The power-plant rule Trump is set to address in his order has been on hold since last year as a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly states and more than 100 companies who call the plan an unconstitutional power grab.

Opponents say the plan will kill coal-mining jobs and drive up electricity costs. The Obama administration, some Democratic-led states and environmental groups countered that it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by the international agreement signed in Paris.

Trump’s order on coal-fired power plants follows an executive order he signed last month mandating a review of an Obama-era rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution. The order instructs the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to review a rule that redefined “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.

While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties as a result of increasing automation and competition from cheaper natural gas. Another factor is the plummeting cost of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.

According to an Energy Department analysis released in January, coal mining now accounts for fewer than 70,000 U.S. jobs. By contrast, renewable energy — including wind, solar and biofuels — now accounts for more than 650,000 U.S. jobs.

The Trump administration’s plans drew praise from business groups and condemnation from environmental groups.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue praised the president for taking “bold steps to make regulatory relief and energy security a top priority.”

“These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration’s strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy,” he said.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy accused the Trump administration of wanting “us to travel back to when smokestacks damaged our health and polluted our air, instead of taking every opportunity to support clean jobs of the future.”

“This is not just dangerous; it’s embarrassing to us and our businesses on a global scale to be dismissing opportunities for new technologies, economic growth, and U.S. leadership,” she said in a statement.

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Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker contributed to this report. Follow Daly and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC and https://twitter.com/colvinj

More From AP

China’s Plan For Asia and Onward To Iran — Involves Domination on Land and Sea — “Without firing a shot. That’s Sun Tzu.”

March 26, 2017

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China’s “One Belt, One Road” master plan for Asian land and sea trade starts and ends with China itself.

Vietnamese in Hanoi are already starting to chit chat about what to do when Vietnam becomes a Chinese province.

Vietnamese with money and other assets are already heading to Canada, Australia, Europe and the U.S.

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President Duterte in the Philippines seems to have some kind of secret accord with China. There must be a big chunk of gold or currency hidden for Duterte somewhere.

Our sources in Asia tell us everyone with resources is taking an angle to make what they can from the notoriously corrupt Chinese in case there is a bloodless takeover by China.

The Chinese are already fortifying the South China Sea, intimidating Singapore, and moving in with Malaysia.  Maybe Mr. Najab can have his 1MDB debt “fixed” by Chinese backers….

Pakistan is already prepared to stand with China as the Indian Ocean Super Power.

Iran has helped China and Russia immensely in Syria, Yemen, North Korea and elsewhere. Mr. Obama’s nuclear deal took worries about Iran as a dangerous nuclear power out of the headlines as they hone their ground and sea forces and perfect the Republican Guards. They are still a dangerous nuclear power. Just more discrete — or below the radar in the nuclear research arena.

Isreal seems to have fewer and fewer friends.

Yet Donald Trump pledged to stand behind Israel.

But he also pledged to repeal and replace Obamacare — so let’s wait and see what he is really able to accomplish….

From the Peace and Freedom Strategy Team, March 26, 2017

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Related:

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What is China’s Plan For Asia? —

March 26, 2017

Moved to:

https://johnib.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/chinas-plan-for-asia-and-onward-to-iran-involves-domination-on-land-and-sea-without-firing-a-shot-thats-sun-tzu/

 

South China Sea: One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on the Verge of Collapse

March 26, 2017

South China Sea’s most important resource – its fish – is disappearing

Major disputes in the South China Sea are putting critical habitat—and the food supply of millions—at risk.

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Dock workers use cranes to off-load frozen tuna from a Chinese-owned cargo vessel at the General Santos Fish Port, in the Philippines. Tuna stocks in the South China Sea have plummeted in recent years because of overfishing. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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By Rachael Bale
National Geographic
PUBLISHED AUGUST 29, 2016

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PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES — Years ago Christopher Tubo caught a 660-pound blue marlin in the South China Sea. The fishing was good there, he says. Tuna fishermen would come home from a trip with dozens of the high-value fish as well as a good haul of other species.

“Here there’s none of that,” he says, looking toward the Sulu Sea, the Philippine sea where he’s been fishing for the past four years. His two boats, traditional Filipino outriggers called bancas, float in the shallow water nearby, new coats of white paint drying in the sun.

Tubo is sitting on a wooden bench in front of his home, which perches on stilts above the bay. One of his four kids wraps an arm around his leg. Worn T-shirts and shorts flutter on clotheslines behind them.


A worker carries a line-caught yellowfin tuna at the General Santos Fish Port, which is known as the “tuna capital of the Philippines.” The South China Sea, through which tuna migrate, produces more fish than almost anywhere else, but it has been severely overfished and is nearing collapse. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Glancing over at his wife, Leah, and the other children, he says, “It’s just chance, whether or not we can feed our families now.”

Tubo lives in Puerto Princesa, a city of 255,000 on Palawan, a long finger of an island that faces the Sulu Sea and the Philippine archipelago to the east and the contested South China Sea to the west. He’s one of the nearly 320,000 fishermen in the Philippines who have traditionally made their livelihoods from the South China Sea—and one of a growing number who are now fishing in other waters because of increasing Chinese interference. Beginning around 2012, China adopted a more assertive posture in the sea’s long-running territorial dispute, building military installations on contested islands and increasingly using its coast guard to intimidate fishermen from other countries.

It was after a Chinese coast guard vessel attacked a friend’s fishing boat with water cannons that Christopher Tubo stopped fishing the South China Sea.

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Filipino fishermen aboard the Ninay haul in sardines and scad in national waters near the South China Sea. The territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea have increased competition for dwindling fish stocks of all species.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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“One minute you’ll see an airplane, the next thing there’s a naval boat,” he says, describing how the Chinese attempt to keep fishermen from other countries out of the disputed area. “If we kept going over there, maybe we won’t be able to go home to our families.”

“As they see it, it’s theirs now, and Filipinos are forbidden,” says Henry Tesorio, an elected councilor for a fishing village in Puerto Princesa.

Vietnamese fishermen could say the same thing. Some 200 Vietnamese from the island of Ly Son, 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the mainland, reported being attacked by Chinese boats in 2015, according to local Vietnamese government officials.


The lights on the Melissa attract fish toward the boat and up to the surface. A storm later forced the boat to return to Quezon, a fishing village on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. Fishermen from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and elsewhere all fish the South China Sea.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Tubo’s decision not to fish in the South China Sea speaks to the rising tensions in the region, which are causing fierce competition for natural resources. Encompassing 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square kilometers), the South China Sea is of critical economic, military, and environmental importance: $5.3 trillion in international trade plies its waters annually; in terms of biodiversity, it is thought of as the marine equivalent of the Amazon rain forest; and its fish provide food and jobs for millions in the 10 countries and territories that surround it.

Of those, seven—China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia—have competing claims to the sea’s waters and resources. So it’s understandable why all eyes have been focused on the political and military wrangling. If war broke out over these claims, it would pit two superpowers, China and the United States—a longtime Philippine ally and guarantor of freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean—against each other.

South China Sea map. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies

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But another less publicized, also potentially disastrous, threat looms in the South China Sea: overfishing. This is one of the world’s most important fisheries, employing more than 3.7 million people and bringing in billions of dollars every year. But after decades of free-for-all fishing, dwindling stocks now threaten both the food security and economic growth of the rapidly developing nations that draw on them.

China argues that it has a right to almost the entire South China Sea because it says it has historically exercised jurisdiction in that area, which China delineates on maps with a U-shaped “nine-dash” line (see map). Every other disputant in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, bases its maritime claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that defines maritime zones.

Opposing Beijing’s expansionist claims, in 2013 the Philippines brought a case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration—a forum for settling international disputes—in The Hague, Netherlands. China refused to participate. On July 12, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines on almost all its claims, declaring that China forfeited the possibility of any historically based rights when it ratified the UN convention in 1996. China has vowed to ignore the ruling.

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Crew members take shelter from a storm aboard the Ninay. Filipino fishermen have reported increasing interference from Chinese coast guard vessels in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea for itself.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Competition for fish has exacerbated the dispute, and the dispute has intensified competition among fishermen, further depleting fish. Some parts of the South China Sea have less than a tenth of the stocks they had five decades ago. And high-value fish such as tuna and grouper are becoming scarcer.

“What we’re looking at is potentially one of the world’s worst fisheries collapses ever,” says John McManus, a marine biologist at the Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami who studies the region’s reefs.

.“We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of species that will collapse, and they’ll collapse relatively quickly, one after another.”

MONICA SERRANO, NG STAFF
SOURCES: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION;
OCEANASIA 2015, REPORTED AND ESTIMATED UNREPORTED CATCHES; RANDALL AND LIM, 2000; CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Fishermen on the Front Lines

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As coastal waters are depleted, fishermen have been forced to venture farther offshore and into disputed waters to make a living. China has seized this as an opportunity to bolster its claims by aggressively supporting its fishermen. Beijing has consolidated the coast guard, militarized fishing fleets, and begun offering subsidies for bigger and better boats, water, and fuel. There’s even a special subsidy specifically for fishermen to fish in the contested Spratly Islands, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) to the south.

“The only reason that smaller [Chinese] fishermen go out to the Spratlys is because they’re paid to do so,” says Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic Studies. This extra pressure has sped up the depletion of fish stocks, he says.

The Chinese have also been building artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratlys to support military installations there. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” says Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian politics and maritime security at the National War College, in Washington, D.C. “China is trying to enforce its sovereignty through the construction of these islands and by denying other countries access to natural resources.”

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A couple sits outside a home built over the water in Quezon, where most people have family members who work as fishermen. Overfishing has put the livelihoods of many Filipinos at risk.
Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Eugenio Bito-onon, Jr.—until recently the mayor of the Kalayaan municipality, which includes islands in the Spratlys—is an outspoken advocate for the Philippines’ claims. Bito-onon and I met in the island’s cramped satellite office in Puerto Princesa, where he had a gigantic map of the South China Sea marked up with his own handwritten labels and colored dots showing which countries claim which features.

He pulls up Google Earth on his laptop and finds Thitu, an island in the Spratlys known locally as Pag-asa, where about 200 Filipinos, including a small number of troops, live part-time, their presence demonstrating the Philippines’ claim to the island. Rice, clothing, soap, and other necessities must be brought in by boat or airlift, and two government-owned generators are the only source of electricity. Bito-onon points out just how close Chinese-claimed Subi Reef is to Thitu. So close, he says, that on a clear day residents can see it on the horizon.

Even closer, though, are Chinese fishing boats, which he says have fished the reefs empty. “For the past three years, [the Chinese] never leave,” Bito-onon says from behind his laptop, now displaying satellite imagery of reefs around Thitu. “Chinese fishing boats come and go, replacing each other,” he says, but there are never not boats within sight of the island.

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A Filipino fisherman wades from boat to shore with part of the crew’s catch. Fishermen who go to the South China Sea report that their catches have gotten smaller in recent years. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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The Navotas Fish Port in Manila is the largest in the Philippines. The markets at the port trade in seafood from freshwater farms, national waters, and international waters, including the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
Gilbert Elefane, the Filipino captain of a tuna boat based in the municipality of Quezon, on Palawan, says he now sees up to a hundred boats, many Chinese, on a single two-week fishing trip in the South China Sea. Just a few years ago, he says he’d have seen no more than 30.

Beijing has provided military training and sophisticated GPS and communications technology to its fishermen so they can call in the coast guard if they have a run-in with a foreign law enforcement vessel or alert the coast guard of the presence of fishermen from other countries.

In the face of China’s island building, Vietnam has done some small-scale land reclamation of its own in an attempt to bolster its capacity in the Spratlys. Its efforts, however, have been less destructive than China’s.

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A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

As long as the conflict in the South China Sea continues, it will be nearly impossible to regulate fishing.

When one country tries to protect its fishing grounds, tensions flare. In March, for instance, Indonesian maritime law enforcement officials arrested eight Chinese on charges of illegal fishing. The fishermen were less than three miles (five kilometers) from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. The Natunas themselves are not in dispute, but the waters north of them, which are particularly rich in gas, have become a new flashpoint. Under international law they’re Indonesian, but they partially overlap with China’s nine-dash line claims, so China says it has a right to fish there.

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A pregnant woman wades in the dirty water near the Navotas Fish Port. The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on fishing and the seafood trade, as do most of the countries around the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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When Indonesia’s vessel began towing the Chinese boat back to port, an armed Chinese coast guard ship appeared and began ramming the Chinese boat to break it free. The Indonesians were forced to let the boat go and retreat.

“It’s unclear whose laws you’re enforcing when you have seven overlapping sets of fisheries laws,” Poling says. “States have a vested interest in purposely violating fishing laws of other states.”

That’s because abiding by another country’s fishing law is tantamount to accepting that that country has jurisdiction over that region, which no country has been willing to do.

In 2012, a Philippine navy warship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, about 138 miles (220 kilometers) from the Philippine coast, on suspicion of illegal fishing and poaching rare corals, giant clams, and sharks. A Chinese coast guard ship interfered to prevent the arrests, forcing a standoff. After 10 weeks both sides agreed to withdraw, but once the Philippines left, China remained, effectively seizing control of the shoal.

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A fisherman at the General Santos Fish Port carries a yellowfin tuna caught in the South China Sea. Fishermen say the fish they catch now are smaller than before.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

 

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Workers at the Navotas Fish Port unload and sort fish from commercial boats that have returned from the South China Sea, where overfishing has exacerbated the land and sea disputes in the region.
Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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As Filipino fishermen have seen their catches—and the fish themselves—getting smaller, they’ve increasingly been resorting to dangerous, illegal fishing methods. Blast fishing, which Filipinos call “bong bong” fishing, involves setting off homemade bombs underwater to kill dozens of fish at one time. Cyanide fishing, which involves squirting fish in the face with poison to stun them, is used to catch live reef fish to supply high-end live seafood restaurants in Hong Kong and other large Asian cities. Both practices kill coral and other fish, collateral damage that’s pushing the sea ever closer to an overfishing crisis.

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Dock workers at the Navotas Fish Port sort through mussels. If the South China Sea fishery were to collapse, it would threaten the food supply of millions. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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China’s island building and giant clam poaching have caused most of them documented reef destruction in the South China Sea, an area totaling 62 square miles (163 square kilometers). Island building grinds up corals for use as foundation material, smothers reefs that become the base of islands, and creates sediment plumes that suffocate nearby reefs. Dredging to deepen ports also causes serious damage. And poaching of giant clams entails grinding up corals to loosen the shells from the reef.

“It’s quite possible we’re seeing a serious decline in about half of the reefs,” John McManus, the marine biologist, says. “That’s what I expect will happen, if it hasn’t happened already. It’s just total destruction.”

When a reef is destroyed, the ecosystem unravels. Reef fish lose their habitat, and pelagic fish such as tuna lose an important source of food. Furthermore, reefs in the South China Sea are connected. Fish larvae from one reef ride the current across the sea to repopulate another reef. If a reef disappears, so does that source of larvae, increasing the chance that local extirpations of fish species will be permanent.

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Dock workers and fishermen buy food from a street vendor at the Navotas Fish Port, in Manila. Some 320,000 Filipinos fish the South China Sea, and many more work on the docks, as fish packers, and as seafood traders, among other jobs.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

McManus says that many of the damaged reefs will be able to recover in a decade or two—if the island building and destructive giant clam poaching stop. He champions the idea of a “peace park,” a kind of marine protected area where all countries would put a freeze on their claims and halt all activities, like island building, that bolster those claims.

Experts also say cooperative regional management could go a long way toward making the South China Sea fishery sustainable. It would require dramatic cutbacks in the number of fishing boats and restrictions on fishing methods such as the use of huge fishing vessels that use powerful lights at night to attract tuna. All this would in turn mean helping fishermen find other ways to earn a living.

Under a sustainable management plan, tuna and mackerel could recover 17-fold by 2045, Rashid Sumaila and William Cheung at the University of British Columbia predicted in a 2015 report. Reef fish would recover up to 15 percent, and the catch and value of reef fish would also increase. Sharks and groupers, which are also high-value fish, would make a comeback too.

But Poling, of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, questions whether such a plan will happen in time. “What that requires is setting aside the disputes,” he says. “It’s possible—it’s just not likely. In order to have a successful joint management system, the first step is to agree on what area you’re talking about.” With China clinging to its nine-dash line while other countries base their claims on international law, agreement just won’t be possible, he says.

As it now stands, the South China Sea’s most important resource—its fish—is disappearing, and countries are either passively standing by or actively encouraging their fishermen to take more.

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Children fish at dusk in the fishing community of Quezon in the Philippines. Fishermen here ply their trade in national waters and the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Aurora Almendral contributed to this report.

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Coming Tuesday: China’s giant clam poaching is decimating reefs in the South China Sea.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

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We at Peace and Freedom have catalogued much of the history of recent events and issues around the South China Sea for the past five years. Use these keywords to see more:

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 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

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Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Alleged Obama administration spying on Trump team — Is there a potential ‘smoking gun’?

March 24, 2017

By

Nunes: Surveillance reports I’ve seen are ‘concerning’

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Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

The FBI hasn’t been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by Friday. The NSA document production is expected to produce more intelligence than Nunes has so far seen or described – including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying.

Some time will be needed to properly assess the materials, with the likely result being that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on the contents of the documents – and their implications – until next week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources during a span of several weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his committee colleagues, he will be the only member of the panel in a position to know whether the NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News was told Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had been briefed on the basic contents of the intelligence described by Nunes.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is also sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of any alleged Obama administration spying on the Trump team, sources said.

At a dramatic Wednesday news conference, Nunes claimed to have seen evidence that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including the president-elect, were subjected to “incidental surveillance” collection that Nunes characterized as legal but troubling.

“What I’ve read bothers me,” he told reporters, “and I think it should bother the president himself, and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

Schiff blasted Nunes for not coming first to the Intelligence Committee with the information.

“If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,” Schiff said in a Wednesday statement.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.” His latest book is “A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/23/potential-smoking-gun-showing-obama-administration-spied-on-trump-team-source-says.html

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Philippine President Duterte hits out at US for lack of action in South China Sea

March 24, 2017
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte listens as a reporter asks a question during a press conference at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, Philippines on Monday, March 13, 2017. The Philippine president has ordered the military to assert his country’s ownership of a vast offshore region off its northeastern coast where Chinese survey ships have been sighted last year and alarmed defense officials. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has questioned the silence of the United States over Chinese activities in the disputed South China Sea.

The president said that only the US can deal with China over the contested waters.

“Why in hell ang America siya lang talaga ang pwede kumasa doon bakit sabihin niya ngayon magpunta ang Navy ko? It will be a massacre for my soldiers, I will not do it (Why would America tell me to have my Navy sent to the South China Sea when it is the only one that can posture there?),” Duterte said in a speech during the opening ceremonies of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ 16th National Convention of Lawyers on Thursday evening.

Duterte noted that the Philippines had been warned about five years ago that somebody was going to build a structure in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off the coast of Zambales.

RELATED: Forget jet skis, Chinese choppers can take Duterte to disputed islands

The president said that the US should have addressed Chinese activities in the area as soon as they were informed about it.

“Bakit hindi mo pinuntahan doon? Bakit hindi mo sinita? Bakit hindi ka nagpadala ng limang aircraft carrier at kinasahan mo and you had to wait for the problem to ripen into international issue involving this time so many countries… You could have cut the problem in the bud had you taken a decisive action,” Duterte said.

The US government under former President Barack Obama, however, deployed several freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, challenging China’s excessive maritime claims. From October 2015 to September 2016 alone, the US challenged five of China’s claims, including its so-called jurisdiction over airspace above another country’s exclusive economic zone and Beijing’s laws criminalizing survey activities in the area.

No match for China

Duterte stressed that the Philippines cannot match China’s military power in case a war brews in the region.

“Wala tayong cruise missiles, wala tayo noon (We don’t have cruise missiles, we don’t have those). We are no match and we have to be brutally frank to admit it. ‘Wag na natin bolahin ang sarili natin (Let’s not delude ourselves),” the president said.

Duterte said on Thursday that China assured him that they will not build structures in Panatag Shoal out of respect for its friendship with the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the US has ramped up its patrols in the South China Sea in response to an assertive China.

The USS Carl Vinson, which is deployed at the Western Pacific as part of the US Pacific Fleet patrolling the Indo-Asia-Pacific, recently visited the Philippines.

The aircraft carrier strike group was deployed as part of the initiative to extend the command and control functions of the US 3rd Fleet.

The carrier, which began routine operations on February 18, was accompanied bu one warship, making it unlikely that the escort would break off for a freedom of navigation operation.

The Trump administration has signaled a tougher approach in the region.

“We have operated here in the past, we’re going to operate here in the future, we’re going to continue to reassure our allies,” Rear Admiral James Kilby, commander of the San Diego-based Carrier Strike group 1. — with reports from Associated Press

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