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July 12, 2010 - No. 130

Alarming U.S. War Preparations in Asia

U.S. Submarines Reach Asian Ports - Li Jing, Global Times
Japan Takes a Shot at China -- via Taiwan - Jens Kastner and Wang Jyh-Perng, Asia Times Online

China Denounces U.S. Sanctions
U.S./Israeli Threats of Nuclear War
IAEA to Keep Heat on Iran - Gareth Porter, Asia Times Online

• Vindication of DPRK at UN Security Council
UN Command Considers DPRK Offer of Talks
South Korean Government Protests Russia's Conflicting Cheonan Findings

U.S. Submarines Reach Asian Ports

Three of the largest submarines of the U.S. Seventh Fleet surfaced in Asia-Pacific ports last week, the South China Morning Post reported on July 5.

The appearance of the USS Michigan in Pusan, South Korea, the USS Ohio in Subic Bay, the Philippines, and the USS Florida in the strategic Indian Ocean outpost of Diego Garcia was a show of force not seen since the end of the Cold War, the paper said, adding that the position of those three ports looks like a siege of China.

The report came as the U.S. and South Korea announced early June a joint military exercise in the Yellow Sea amid mounting tension on the Korean Peninsula.

On June 28, South Korea postponed the anti-submarine drill, originally planned to run last month, to July, to ensure US attendance, globalresearch.ca reported.

Beijing has objected to the proposed war game that may involve U.S. carriers. General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), said that the location of the drill is very close to Chinese territorial waters.

Xu Guangyu, a senior researcher at the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told the Global Times that the alleged military operation would not only escalate tension between the two Koreas, but also exert negative influence on Sino- US military relations.

"The joint military drill is not an irreplaceable measure for Washington to support Seoul on punishing Pyongyang over the alleged torpedoing of the warship Cheonan," he said.

"China's position on the Yellow Sea issue demonstrates its resolution to safeguard national rights and interests," said Xu Guangqian, a military strategist at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences. "It also reflects that China is increasingly aware of the fact that its strategic space has confronted threats from other countries."

Meanwhile, the U.S. strengthened its relations with other allied countries in the Pacific region by conducting another war game.

The Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC 2010), which is hosted and managed by the U.S. Navy, launched June 23 as ships, aircraft and military personnel from 14 nations poured into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to participate, suite101.com reported.

The exercises will be conducted until August 1.

Meanwhile, Russia's Vostok-2010 military exercises in Siberia and the country's far east kicked off June 29 and will continue until July 8.

Analysts suggest that the concentration of military drills at the current time is not just a coincidence, but represents the uneasiness of some regional powers amid the rise of China.

1 Ships, Marines Begin RIMPAC Exercises - Gidget Fuentes, Navy Times

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Japan Takes a Shot at China -- via Taiwan

Japan has extended its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) near Taiwan in the East China Sea without consulting Taiwanese authorities in advance. Taiwan's Kuomintang (KMT) government has condemned Japan's unilateral move in a tone unusually firm compared with previous Taiwanese administrations that dealt with similar issues.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs vowed not to make any concessions on what it called a "matter of national sovereignty."

Members of Taiwan's opposition camp see Japan's ADIZ extension in a different light. To them, the affair signifies that Japan doesn't trust Taiwan anymore. According to the opponents of incumbent Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's cross-strait policy, the KMT not only distances Taiwan ever farther from Washington and Tokyo but is also using the ADIZ issue to deliberately incite anti-Japanese sentiment among the Taiwanese to appease Beijing.

These are weighty allegations, and independent observers don't share the opposition's opinion. To them, it also seems plausible that Ma's government's strongly opposed Tokyo's move, but for another reason.

"It wasn't the KMT government's plan to stir up Taiwan's public opinion against the Japanese," said Lin Cheng-Yi, a researcher on international relations at Taiwan's Academia Sinicia, in an interview with Asia Times Online. "The Taiwanese government is worried over China's reaction, so it doesn't want to appear as being too soft on Japan."

A look out of the box of Taiwan's partisan politics reveals that Japan isn't short of motives to step up its military presence in the East China Sea other than to react to the KMT's pro-China course.

An ADIZ is an area where civilian and military aircraft are required to identify themselves. Aircraft entering the zone are obliged to radio their intended flight course to the respective country's air traffic controllers. The boundary between the Japanese and the Taiwanese ADIZs over the East China Sea used to be over a little island named Yonaguni.

Yonaguni is the western-most island of Japan and lies 180 kilometers from the Taiwanese east coast. The ADIZ line, which has defined two-thirds of Yonganui's airspace as being Taiwanese and one third as Japanese, was drawn by the U.S. military after World War II.

On June 26, Japan unilaterally extended the ADIZ line westwards by 22 kilometers. As a result, Taiwanese and Japanese AIDZs now overlap. That Tokyo seems willing to put up with the prospect of doing damage to Taiwan-Japan relations shows how much it worries about China's military activities in the East China Sea. At least three disputed economically and militarily important areas lie in this part of the Pacific Ocean.

The roots of the Sino-Japan East China Sea conflict lie in the cryptic wording of the "Preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Article 76." There, it is stated that "The continental shelf of a coastal state comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance."

According to China, the Okinawa Trough, an arc-shaped ocean trench that runs from southwestern Japan to northeastern Taiwan, separates China's and Japan's continental shelves. Beijing therefore claims that its territorial waters extend to the trough's center line. To Japan on the other hand, the Okinawa Trough is nothing but an "accidental depression" in the ocean floor and not the clear-cut boundary between continental shelves as China claims. Therefore, according to Tokyo's logic, it's the "200 nautical miles" mentioned in Article 76 that define the edges of China's territorial waters in the East China Sea.

The knowledge that the few kilometers where waters claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo overlap not only hold large reserves of oil, gas and fish but also are of strategic importance has been fueling the dispute. In recent years, both sides have significantly increased their military presence in the region.

Among the areas that have for a long time been in focus of Sino-Japanese contests are the oil and natural gas fields in the Xihu depression, located around 400km east of Shanghai in the East China Sea Basin. From the 1980s on, the fields have provided greater Shanghai with gas for public and industrial use. The fields have undergone further development to cater to the self-supply economy model pursued by the Chinese government.

Japan claims the area to belong to its own exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and therefore regards the Chinese extraction of oil and gas reserves as a large-scale theft of its resources.

Another disputed area is the sea near Okinotorishima, a reef far east of Taiwan and roughly 1,700km south of Tokyo. There, within the past 18 months, the Chinese navy has appeared three times. Japan claims to have the right to establish an EEZ around the reef. China acknowledges Japan's territorial rights to Okinotorishima itself, but unlike Japan, Beijing regards it as rocks, not as an islet.

Here again the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea comes into the game. Its hallmark misinterpretation states that "rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone." Ironically, the question whether or not a rock can sustain human habitation or economic life seems left to be answered by the very countries involved in the respective disputes.

In June 2009, China's navy approached Okinotorishima with a missile destroyer, a supply ship, a support ship and two frigates. In April 2010, a fleet consisting of two guided missile destroyers, three frigates, two Kilo-class submarines and one supply ship crossed the line between Okinawa and Miyako Island, home to popular Japanese beach resorts. Then, in proximity to the Okinotorishima reef, the Chinese held sea-air joint anti-submarine warfare drills, and China's ship-borne helicopters once came as close as 90 meters to a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ship. In military terms, this is very near.

After the incidents, Japanese media suspected China of having plans to solve the Okinotorishima dispute once and for all by blowing up the uninhabited reef with the use of special forces, naval guns or a missile attack.

A look at the map reveals that it's not primarily fish and oil that attracts China's navy to the area -- Okinotorishima lies midway between Taiwan and Guam, which is home to a U.S. naval base. Japan believes China's ships mapped the ocean's bottom over which the U.S. Pacific Fleet in future conflicts would pass on its way to Taiwan.

Also a major point of contention are the Diaoyu Islands -- called Senkaku Islands in Japanese -- which are divided from Okinawa by the Okinawa Trough. The islands are controlled by the Japanese. An estimated three to seven billion tons of oil are hidden under the ocean floor around Diaoyu, and fishery experts count on an annual catch of 150,000 tons.

Apart from this, Diaoyu is a sensitive spot in Japan's 1,000 nautical mile defense line since the foothold enables the Japan Self-Defense Forces to push forward more than 300km southwest. The islands are considered an ideal location to draw fire off Japan proper in the event of an outbreak of war in the East China Sea.

Japan regards Diaoyu as suitable for stationing electronic detection devices and ground-to-air missiles. It is further believed that the U.S. and Japan plan to turn Diaoyu into an operational outpost of their joint ballistic missile defense system.

To protect its control over Diaoyu, Japan goes to great lengths. In Japan's Coast Guard District Number 1 on Okinawa, no fewer than 20 warships are stationed, five of which belong to the Kiloton class. Japan's aircraft patrol the area every morning and afternoon, sometimes even three times a day. On the nearby Miyako and Kume islands, radar stations have been built which double-monitor Diaoyu.

The Chinese side, however, doesn't seem too impressed with Japan's military buildup. As was the case in the waters around Okinotorishima, the Diaoyu Islands have been witnessing China's military showing off increased self-confidence. In 2008, China's coastguard fleet and J-10 fighters patrolled around Diaoyu, and in 2009 two Chinese J-10 fighters expelled three Japanese F-2s. Earlier this year, a Chinese Oceanic Administration's research vessel came close to a Japanese coastguard ship and followed it for almost four hours.

From a Japanese perspective, China has been challenging Japan's interests in the East China Sea in ever-shorter intervals. China's navy has been coming closer and closer and has crossed sea lines considered sensitive by Japan. It's obvious that Japan's extension of its ADIZ is to be seen in the context of the complicated East China Sea sovereignty disputes. Tokyo's choice to go ahead with the extension without consulting Taiwan's authorities is revealing since it demonstrates that Japan worries to a high degree. a recent extension of the ADIZ over the entire island of Yonaguni, Japan has a freer hand in monitoring the Diaoyu Islands and even the oilfields in the Xihu depression. The deployment of significant fire power on Yonaguni has also become an easier task.

That the Taiwanese have seen their sovereignty infringed by Japan's actions in the East China Sea is something that has happened in the past. From Lee Teng-hui over Chen Shui-bian to the incumbent Taiwanese president Ma -- all had reasons to complain about Japanese unilateral moves conducted in that part of the Pacific Ocean.

Yet, previous and present-day Taiwanese administrations handled the matter differently. As Academy Sinicia researcher Lin puts it, "The problems with the Japanese aren't new, and they have always been raised by the Taiwanese. However, under Taiwan's administrations that were pro-Japanese, there was no urgent need to solve them."

* Jens Kastner is a Taipei-based writer. Wang Jyh-Perng is a reserve captain of the Taiwan Navy and associate research fellow at the Association for Managing Defense and Strategies.

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China Denounces U.S. Sanctions

China is said to have criticized the United States for imposing unilateral sanctions against Iran, saying Washington should not act outside UN resolutions. The U.S. move came after the UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions against Iran over the country's nuclear program.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a July 5 press conference, "China supports the UN sanctions. China believes that countries should have correct implementation of the sanctions instead of expanding the sanctions."

China, a long-time trade partner of Iran, did not exercise its veto power to block the UN's resolution for sanctions against Tehran, saying the sanctions' aim is to facilitate a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear issue. Qin repeated that China believes talks were the best way to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

In related news, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili announced on July 6 that Iran can resume nuclear talks as of September 1 if specific conditions are met, the official IRNA news agency reported.

In a published letter responding to an offer for talks from the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (who is acting as the negotiator between Iran and the G5+1 -- the five permanent members of UN Security Council plus Germany) Jalili said, "In order to initiate the talks your answer to the three following questions is needed."

"Is the objective of the resumption of the talks cooperation or the continuation of enmity with Iranians' rights?

"Are you committed to the logic of the talks which necessitates avoiding threats and pressures [on Iran]?

"In order to clarify the basics of the bilateral talks, what is [the West's] position concerning the Zionist regime's nuclear weapons?

"Your response to the above-mentioned questions can pave the ground for the talks to remove the common global concerns over [failures in] establishing peace, justice and well-being for the nations," Jalili maintained.

If and when Iran's questions are given an appropriate response, interested countries can take part in the nuclear talks between Iran and the West, the letter stated.

"Today, more than ever, you need our nation's trust in you. Therefore, drop the wrong 'dual-strategy' of imposing sanctions and calling for talks and compensate for your last mistakes," Jalili said in the letter.

According to the letter, the conditions laid out were already set by President Ahmadinejad. In June, the president said Iran would postpone nuclear talks with the West to late August to punish the West for imposing economic sanctions on the country, as well as saying that Iran would include Turkey and Brazil in forthcoming nuclear fuel swap talks.

In related news, Iran's Fars news agency reported on July 8 that the Bushehr nuclear power plant will start operations in September as announced by Ali Akbar Salehi, director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. The plant was the first one built under the Iran'speaceful nuclear program. Initially constructed by a German firm, the facility was destroyed during the Iranian-Iraqi war in the 1980s and later rebuilt with Russiam technology.

(Press TV, Xinhua, Agencia Cubana de Noticias)

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U.S./Israeli Threats of Nuclear War

President Barack Obama on July 6 met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House. Their discussions are said to have addressed Israel's security, Iran and nuclear weapons and peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Both Obama and Netanyahu spoke to the "excellent" character of the discussion.

The Readout of the meeting by the White House makes it absolutely clear that Obama has no intention of getting Israel to admit to its nuclear weapons or come under the authority of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Obama emphasized in his remarks July 6, "The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable. It encompasses our national security interests, our strategic interests, but most importantly, the bond of two democracies who share a common set of values and whose people have grown closer and closer as time goes on."

Netanyahu added, "We have an enduring bond of values, interests, beginning with security and the way that we share both information and other things to help the common defense of our common interests -- and many others in the region who don't often admit to the beneficial effect of this cooperation. The President said it best in his speech in Cairo. He said in front of the entire Islamic world, he said, the bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable. And I can affirm that to you today."

Contrary to demanding Israel come under the NPT, Obama gives Israel the green light to commit crimes against the peace in the name that this is required to defend its security. He threatens that the U.S. will back Israel up emphasizing, "The United States is committed to Israel's security; we are committed to that special bond; and we are going to do what's required to back that up, not just in words but with actions."

The Readout said, "The President reaffirmed the United States' unshakeable commitment to Israel's security, and the leaders reviewed the significant progress made in recent months to expand coordination between our militaries, to preserve and strengthen Israel's qualitative military edge, and to fortify Israel's ballistic missile defenses, including through additional U.S. financial support for Iron Dome [which provides increased anti-missile and missile capabilities in Israel -- TML ed.]. The President told the Prime Minister he recognizes that Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats, and that only Israel can determine its security needs. The President pledged to continue U.S. efforts to combat all international attempts to challenge the legitimacy of the State of Israel."

All of this then is focused on targeting Iran. Netanyahu said, "The President and I had an extensive, excellent discussion in which we discussed a broad range of issues. These include of course our own cooperation in the fields of intelligence and security. And exactly as the President said, it is extensive. Not everything is seen by the public, but it is seen and appreciated by us. We understand fully that we will work together in the coming months and years to protect our common interests, our countries, our peoples, against new threats.The greatest new threat on the horizon, the single most dominant issue for many of us, is the prospect that Iran would acquire nuclear weapons. Iran is brutally terrorizing its people, spreading terrorism far and wide. And I very much appreciate the President's statement that he is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons."

In speaking further about Iran, the Readout stated, "The President and the Prime Minister reiterated their strong support for the adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 and the additional U.S. sanctions against Iran." Obama said, "We have instituted through the U.N. Security Council the toughest sanctions ever directed at an Iranian government. In addition, last week I signed our own set of sanctions, coming out of the United States Congress, as robust as any that we've ever seen. Other countries are following suit. And so we intend to continue to put pressure on Iran to meet its international obligations and to cease the kinds of provocative behavior that has made it a threat to its neighbors and the international community."

Netanyahu added, "I think the latest sanctions adopted by the U.N. create illegitimacy or create de-legitimization for Iran's nuclear program, and that is important. I think the sanctions the President signed the other day actually have teeth. They bite. The question is -- how much do you need to bite is something I cannot answer now."

Nuclear weapons were specifically addressed. This included the proposals from the recent Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Conference that Israel sign the NPT and submit its nuclear weapons program to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran is already a signatory to the NPT and its General Director recently issued the 22nd Report saying there is no evidence of any military program by Iran. The Conference also proposed a Middle East Conference to discuss establishment of a nuclear-weapons free zone for the Middle East, something which Iran also supports. Israel and the U.S. do not.

In speaking to the NPT conference, Obama said, "We discussed issues that arose out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Conference. And I reiterated to the Prime Minister that there is no change in U.S. policy when it comes to these issues. We strongly believe that, given its size, its history, the region that it's in, and the threats that are leveled against us -- against it, that Israel has unique security requirements. It's got to be able to respond to threats or any combination of threats in the region. And that's why we remain unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security. And the United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests."

The Readout elaborated on this further saying, "The President and the Prime Minister discussed the global challenge of nuclear proliferation and the need to strengthen the nonproliferation system. They also exchanged views on the regional conference to discuss a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction and systems for their delivery referenced in the 2010 NPT Review Conference final document. The President informed the Prime Minister that, as a cosponsor charged with enabling the proposed conference, the United States will insist that such a conference will be for discussion aimed at an exchange of views on a broad agenda, to include regional security issues, verification and compliance, and all categories of weapons of mass destruction and systems for their delivery. The President emphasized that the conference will only take place if all countries feel confident that they can attend, and that any efforts to single out Israel will make the prospects of convening such a conference unlikely. In this regard, the two leaders also agreed to work together to oppose efforts to single out Israel at the IAEA General Conference in September. The President emphasized that the United States will continue its long standing practice to work closely with Israel to ensure that arms control initiatives and policies do not detract from Israel's security, and support our common efforts to strengthen international peace and stability." In this manner Obama made clear U.S. support for Israel's nuclear weapons and potential use of them. This includes recently sending Israel nuclear-weapons related materials to upgrade her systems.

Addressing U.S. efforts to organize peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Authority, President Obama said, "We've seen real progress on the ground [in Gaza]. And we believe that there is a way to make sure that the people of Gaza are able to prosper economically, while Israel is able to maintain its legitimate security needs in not allowing missiles and weapons to get to Hamas." He said Netanyahu is "willing to take risks for peace." He added, "I think it's very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they are not engaging in provocative language; that at the international level, they are maintaining a constructive tone, as opposed to looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel."

Obama spoke to Netanyahu's "Willingness to engage in serious negotiations with the Palestinians around what I think should be the goal not just of the two principals involved, but the entire world, and that is two states living side by side in peace and security. Israel's security needs met, the Palestinians having a sovereign state that they call their own -- those are goals that have obviously escaped our grasp for decades now. But now more than ever I think is the time for us to seize on that vision. And I think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is prepared to do so. I believe that the government of Israel is prepared to engage in such direct talks, and I commend the Prime Minister for that."

Obama also spoke to the role of Arab states saying, "There are going to need to be a whole set of confidence-building measures to make sure that people are serious and that we're sending a signal to the region that this isn't just more talk and more process without action. I think it is also important to recognize that the Arab states have to be supportive of peace, because, although ultimately this is going to be determined by the Israeli and Palestinian peoples, they can't succeed unless you have the surrounding states having as -- a greater investment in the process than we've seen so far."

Netanyahu said, "We discussed a great deal about activating, moving forward the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We're committed to that peace. I'm committed to that peace. Israelis are prepared to do a lot to get that peace in place, but they want to make sure that after all the steps they take, that what we get is a secure peace. We don't want a repeat of the situation where we vacate territories and those are overtaken by Iran's proxies and used as a launching ground for terrorist attacks or rocket attacks. I think it's high time to begin direct talks. I think with the help of President Obama, President Abbas and myself should engage in direct talks to reach a political settlement of peace, coupled with security and prosperity. This requires that the Palestinian Authority prepare its people for peace -- schools, textbooks, and so on. But I think at the end of the day, peace is the best option for all of us, and I think we have a unique opportunity and a unique time to do it." Direct talks are now expected in the coming weeks.

Both Obama and Netanyahu concluded their remarks again emphasizing the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel and the U.S. readiness to take action to guarantee the security of Israel.

In an interview with Fox News, Netanyahu repeated the conception of self-defence as a pretext for war. "We always reserve the right to defend ourselves," he said. "[...] So when [Obama] says that he's determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and that all options are on the table, I think that's the right statement of policy."

Netanyahu did not directly respond to a question about a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East, the essence of which is the broad demand of the peoples of the region for Israel to rid itself of nuclear weapons. Instead, he sought to divert from the matter by accusing Iran, Iraq and Libya of violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

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IAEA to Keep Heat on Iran

Olli Heinonen, the Finnish nuclear engineer who resigned last Thursday after five years as deputy director for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was the driving force in turning the United Nations nuclear watchdog into a mechanism to support UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.

Heinonen was instrumental in making a collection of intelligence documents showing a purported Iranian nuclear weapons research program the central focus of the IAEA's work on Iran. The result was to shift much of opinion among Western publics to the view that Iran had been pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program.

But his embrace of the intelligence documents provoked a fierce political struggle within the secretariat of the IAEA, because other officials believed the documents were fraudulent.

Heinonen took over the safeguards department in July 2005 -- the same month the George W. Bush administration first briefed top IAEA officials on the intelligence collection.

The documents portrayed a purported nuclear weapons research program, originally called the "Green Salt" project, which included efforts to redesign the nose cone of the Shahab-3 missile, high explosives apparently for the purpose of triggering a nuclear weapon and designs for a uranium conversion facility. Later, the IAEA referred to the purported Iranian activities simply as the "alleged studies."

The Bush administration was pushing the IAEA to use the documents to accuse Iran of having had a covert nuclear weapons program. The administration was determined to ensure that the IAEA governing board would support referring Iran to the UN Security Council for action on sanctions, as part of a larger strategy to force Iran to abandon its uranium-enrichment program. Long-time IAEA director general Mohammed ElBaradei and other officials involved in investigating and reporting on Iran's nuclear program were immediately skeptical about the authenticity of the documents. According to two Israeli authors, Yossi Melman and Meir Javadanfar, several IAEA officials told them in interviews in 2005 and 2006 that senior officials of the agency believed the documents had been "fabricated by a Western intelligence organization."

Heinonen, on the other hand, supported the strategy of exploiting the collection of intelligence documents to put Iran on the defensive. His approach was not to claim that the documents' authenticity had been proven but to shift the burden of proof to Iran, demanding that it provide concrete evidence that it had not carried out the activities portrayed in the documents.

From the beginning, Iran's permanent representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, denounced the documents as fabrications. In governing board meetings and interviews, Soltanieh pointed to several indicators, including the absence of official stamps showing receipt of the document by a government office and the absence of any security markings.

The tensions between Heinonen and the senior officials over the intelligence documents intensified in early 2008, when Iran provided detailed documentation to the agency disproving a key premise of the intelligence documents.

Kimia Maadan, a private Iranian company, was shown in the intelligence documents as having designed a uranium conversion facility as part of the alleged military nuclear weapons research program. Iran proved to the satisfaction of those investigating the issue, however, that Kimia Maadan had been created by Iran's civilian atomic energy agency solely to carry out a uranium ore processing project and had gone out of business before it fulfilled the contract.

Senior IAEA officials then demanded that Heinonen distance the organization from the documents by inserting a disclaimer in future agency reports on Iran that it could not vouch for the authenticity of the documents.

Instead, Heinonen gave a "technical briefing" for IAEA member countries in February 2008 featuring a diagram on which the ore-processing project and the uranium-processing project were both carried out by the firm and shared the same military numbering system.

The IAEA report published just three days earlier established, however, that the ore-processing project number -- 5/15 -- had been assigned to it not by the military but by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. And the date on which it was assigned was August 1999 -- many months before the purported nuclear weapons program was shown to have been organized.

Heinonen carefully avoided endorsing the documents as authentic. He even acknowledged that Iran had spotted technical errors in the one-page design for a small-scale facility for uranium conversion, and that there were indeed "technical inconsistencies" in the diagram.

He also admitted Iran had provided open-source publications showing spherical firing systems similar to the one depicted in the intelligence documents on alleged tests of high explosives.

Heinonen suggested in his presentation that the agency did not yet have sufficient information to come to any firm conclusions about those documents. In the May 2008 IAEA report, however, there was no mention of any such caveats about the documents.

Instead, the report used language that was clearly intended to indicate that the agency had confidence in the intelligence documents: "The documentation presented to Iran appears to have been derived from multiple sources over different periods of time, is detailed in content and appears to be generally consistent."

That language, on which Heinonen evidently insisted, did not represent a consensus among senior IAEA officials. One senior official suggested to Inter Press Service in September 2009 that the idea that documents came from different sources was not completely honest.

"There are intelligence-sharing networks," said the official. It was possible that one intelligence organization could have shared the documents with others, he explained. "That gives us multiple sources consistent over time," said the official. The same official said of the collection of intelligence documents, "It's not difficult to cook up."

Nevertheless, Heinonen's position had clearly prevailed. And in the final year of ElBaradei's leadership of the agency, the Safeguards Department became an instrument for member states -- especially France, Britain, Germany and Israel -- to put pressure on ElBaradei to publish summaries of intelligence reports portraying Iran as actively pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

The active pressure of the United States and its allies on behalf of the hard line toward Iran was the main source of Heinonen's power on the issue. Those states have been feeding intelligence on alleged covert Iranian nuclear activities to the Safeguards Division for years, and Heinonen knew that ElBaradei could not afford to confront the U.S.-led coalition openly over the issue.

The Bush administration had threatened to replace ElBaradei in 2004 and had reluctantly accepted his re-election as director general in 2005. ElBaradei was not strong enough to threaten to fire the main antagonist over the issue of alleged studies.

ElBaradei's successor Yukio Amano is even less capable of adopting an independent position on the issues surrounding the documents. The political dynamics of the IAEA ensure that Heinonen's successor is certain to continue the same line on the Iran nuclear issue and intelligence documents as Heinonen's.

* Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam," was published in 2006.

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Vindication of DPRK at UN Security Council

Attempts by the U.S. and south Korea to isolate the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the UN Security Council failed when on July 9, the UN Security Council issued a presidential statement condemning the sinking, but did not attribute blame to any party.

"The Security Council condemns the attack which led to the sinking of the Cheonan," the 15-member body said in a statement read out by Ambassador U. Joy Ogwu of Nigeria, which holds the Council's rotating presidency for this month. It added that such an incident "endangers peace and security in the region and beyond." The Council expressed its deep concern over the findings of the international report, but noted that the DPRK has "stated that it had nothing to do with the incident." It welcomed the "restraint" showed by the ROK and stressed the importance of maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula as well as in all of North-East Asia.

The Council encouraged "the settlement of outstanding issues on the Korean peninsula by peaceful means to resume direct dialogue and negotiation through appropriate channels as early as possible, with a view to avoiding conflicts and averting escalation." It urged the DPRK to fulfil its commitments under the now-suspended Six-Party Talks which sought to resolve the crisis over the country's nuclear program.

The DPRK in a statement issued on July 10 said it was willing in principle to return to nuclear disarmament talks. Repeating its earlier stance, the DPRK said it would make "consistent efforts for the conclusion of a peace treaty and denuclearization through the six-party talks conducted on an equal footing." Referring to the declaration from the UN Security council it said the statement exposes the "foolish calculation" of the U.S. and south Korea in bringing the issue to the UN. The DPRK ambassador to the UN, Sin Son Ho called the statement a "great diplomatic victory." A foreign ministry spokesman noted that the UN "hastily tabled and handled the case before the truth of the case has been probed" and said the issue should have been handled between the two Koreas. He stated that the DPRK "remains unchanged in its stand to probe the truth about the case to the last" and called the allegations against it a "conspiratorial farce." From the beginning, south Korea has denied the DPRK's Military Defence Commission access to the evidence and the site of the sinking.

Despite the UN Security Council presidential statement pointedly not attributing the sinking to any party, both the U.S. and south Korea sought to turn the statement into a vilification of the DPRK to justify their warmongering and other acts to increase, not decrease, tension on the Korean Peninsula. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will visit south Korea in July, claimed the UN had sent a warning to the DPRK "that such irresponsible and provocative behaviour is a threat to peace and security in the region and will not be tolerated." The White House issued a similar statement, claiming the UN Security Council's presidential statement "increases North Korea's international isolation... as the international community continues to make clear the cost that comes with North Korea's provocative behaviour." South Korea's foreign ministry said the international community "condemned North Korea's attack on the Cheonan with a united voice and emphasised the importance of preventing additional provocations." News agencies report that the south Korean and U.S. navies are persisting in carrying out a joint exercise in the West Sea. South Korea has also announced reprisals including a partial trade cut-off.

South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo reports that prior to the statement from the Security Council, China had asked the south Korean government through a diplomatic channel to refrain from the joint exercise with the U.S., saying that it "might destabilize the Korean Peninsula."

The Chinese newspaper Global Times in a July 7 editorial said south Korea had "delusions" of putting pressure on China through the exercise. "The U.S. and South Korea are using the UN as an excuse to pressure China over its stance on the sinking," the daily quoted a Chinese academic as saying. In an editorial July 6, the same paper said the drill is a clear challenge to China's security. "Considering the growing economic, diplomatic, political and cultural ties the U.S. has with China, the price the U.S. has to pay for its irresponsible decision will be higher than it can envision now. If the U.S. does not pay for this 'adventure' now, it will pay in the future," it added.

A south Korean government official said, "Just as China staged a live fire exercise in the East China Sea on June 30, the two allies Korea and the U.S. are staging a drill in our territorial waters. It's a matter of sovereignty that nobody can interfere with. We can't cancel the plan just because China is protesting."

Following the release of the Security Council's statement, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said, "We hope the involved parties continue to maintain calm and restraint, and take this opportunity to flip over the page of the Cheonan incident as soon as possible"

"We call for an early resumption of the six-party talks and joint efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula," he added.

Meanwhile, the DPRK in its own statement aimed to "take the steam" out of the U.S.-South Korea joint naval exercise and reprisals from south Korea including a planned resumption of psychological warfare against the DPRK. If hostile forces persist in "demonstration of forces and sanctions," they would not escape "strong physical retaliation" or evade responsibility for escalating the conflict, a foreign ministry spokesman said on official media. The DPRK warned "hostile forces" against carrying out "such provocations as a demonstration of forces and sanctions" in contravention of the UN statement. "They will neither be able to escape the DPRK's strong physical retaliation nor will be able to evade the responsibility for the resultant escalation of the conflict," it said.

(UN News Centre, Agence France Presse, Chosun Ilbo, Korean Central News Agency)

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UN Command Considers DPRK Offer of Talks

The U.S.-led UN Command (UNC) for multinational forces in South Korea may accept a proposal from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea for military talks over the sinking of a South Korean warship Cheonan, said a July 11 report from Yonhap news agency. On Friday, July 9, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had made a proposal for colonel-level military talks as a counter offer to the U.S. proposal to for general-level talks. "Chances are high that the North-UNC meeting will take place," Yonhap quoted a senior official at the South's defence ministry as saying. "A working-level meeting can be held on July 13 as proposed by the North or it could be scheduled for a later date than that."

The DPRK's modified proposal is for a senior colonel -level working contact at Panmunjom at 10:00 am on July 13, to discuss the issues concerning the opening of the DPRK-U.S. general-level talks.

The Korean Central News Agency stated that if the U.S. forces side truly stands for a solution to the warship case and peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, it should seriously respond to this proposal carrying the good faith and magnanimity of the army of the DPRK.

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South Korean Government Protests Russia's Conflicting Cheonan Findings

It came to light Friday that the South Korean government summoned the Russian Ambassador to South Korea and expressed strenuous objections over the Russian government's failure to provide notification of the findings of its independent team that investigated the Cheonan sinking. The team was dispatched to South Korea around one month ago and concluded that it was unable to view the "No. 1 torpedo" as being the cause of the sinking.

According to military and foreign affairs support personnel connected to Russia, the Russian government provided notification of its independent investigation results only to the Chinese and U.S. governments last week, and South Korea only found out about the content indirectly through those two countries.

Following this, 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Shin Kak-soo summoned Russian Ambassador to South Korea Konstantin Vnukov to the Foreign Ministry on July 4 to express "astonishment" at Russia's investigation findings because the findings were a complete contradiction to the South Korean government's announcement. They also expressed severe dismay about the fact that Russia notified only the U.S. and China about the findings, while leaving South Korea out of the communication loop.

Foreign affairs sources reported that Shin used forceful and diplomatically irregular language to denounce Russia's behavior, calling it "unfriendly conduct that violates trust," "bewildering," and "disappointing." It was also reported to Shin proposed additional discussions with Russia during the meeting, and that the South Korean government subsequently provided additional information to the Russian government.

"Was it not the South Korean government that provided assistance to the Russian investigation, saying that they would be objective?" asked a former senior official in foreign affairs and national security, adding that the Russian investigation results "raise fundamental doubts about the [South Korean] government's announcement of its Cheonan investigation findings."

It was reported that while the Russian investigation team did conclude that the Cheonan was not sunk by a North Korean bubble jet torpedo, it did not present any definitive conclusions about the direct cause, suggesting several possible scenarios such as a secondary mine explosion following a problem with the Cheonan during its maneuvers. Analysts are interpreting this as being due to the fact that the Russian team, made up of submersible and torpedo experts, focused its examination on the question of whether the sinking resulted from a strike by the "No. 1 torpedo."

"The Russian investigation team's primary interest was in whether North Korea, which had been unable to produce its own torpedoes until 1995, suddenly was able to attack the Cheonan with a state-of-the-art bubble jet torpedo," said a South Korean diplomatic source.

Indeed, the technology for bubble jet torpedoes, which are capable of splitting a vessel in two through the expansion and contraction of a bubble resulting from a powerful explosion, is possessed only by the U.S. and a small number of other countries, and has only been successful to date in experiments on stationary ships rather than actual fighting. The joint civilian-military investigation team also acknowledged in its June 29 briefing to media groups that North Korea was the first to have succeeded in using a bubble jet torpedo in the field.

(The Hankyoreh)

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