Nuclear flashpoints, Palestinian suffering, Venezuelan meddling and more

In a week packed with international flashpoints, our CF Roundup looks at important developments on the Korean peninsula, the sub-continent, in Israel-Palestine and in Venezuela.

Collapse of Trump–Kim Summit in Hanoi

 The much-ballyhooed Hanoi Summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ended prematurely and in seeming disarray at noon on 28 February, with Trump claiming — and Kim denying — that North Korea wanted total sanctions relief in return for partial denuclearization. One thing is clear — the outcome seriously undercuts the momentum of the inter-Korean dialogue, which requires sanctions relief to allow further trade and investment between North and South Korea:

“It was shock. We are trying to figure out what happened,” the [South Korean] diplomat said. “We need to watch what happened behind the scenes.”

We can only hope that South Korean President Moon Jae-in is able to negotiate a behind-the-scenes deal that allows for at least some further economic development to proceed.

For the full article, see: Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi collapses after negotiations fail (Julian Borger, theguardian.com, 28 February 2019).

See also: North Korea’s foreign minister says country seeks only partial sanctions relief (Philip Rucker, Simon Denyer and David Nakamura, washingtonpost.com, 28 February 2019).

And for a Canadian diplomatic perspective, see: In the U.S.-North Korea summit’s ashes, nothing – and everything – changes (James Trottier, Globe and Mail, 28 February 2019).

Veiled nuclear threats in India–Pakistan crisis over Kashmir

The United States, China, the European Union and other powers have urged restraint between India and Pakistan — two nuclear-armed nations — as tensions escalated following a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14.

For a good summary of the background to this current outbreak of violence, see: How tensions between India and Pakistan reached historic highs (Mark Gollom, cbc.ca, 28 February 2019).

For a discussion (on video and in print) of the underlying causes — and the all too often ignored human toll — of the latest drastic escalation in tension between these two nuclear-armed neighbours, see: As India and Pakistan Issue Veiled Nuclear Threats, New Ceasefire Urged to Defuse Kashmir Conflict (democracynow.org, 27 February 2019).

In the words of Pakistani-born physicist, nuclear expert and disarmament activist Zia Mian:

The real issue that we need to talk about is the fact that this level of violence between India and Pakistan has continued for a very, very long time and that it’s not so much the military-on-military violence, but the fact that large numbers of civilians along the Line of Control that divides Indian Kashmir and Pakistani Kashmir are caught in this endless barrage of artillery and firing across there….

The CBC also provides an important Canadian angle to this story, with community leaders from the Indian- and Pakistani-Canadian communities in the B.C. Lower Mainland issuing calls for a peaceful resolution of the current crisis.

The urgency of nuclear de-escalation and disarmament

Any confrontation between nuclear-armed nations — whether in Northeast or South Asia — also raises broader implications for global stability.  Nuclear disarmament expert Rebecca Johnson examines some of those implications, writing:

Through aggressive rhetoric and miscalculations, nuclear war can happen by accident. As the Trump-Kim circus founders, escalating military action between India and Pakistan shows why global denuclearization is necessary

For her full article, see: Stalemate for Trump and Kim, as India and Pakistan risk nuclear war over Kashmir (Rebecca Johnson,  opendemocracy.net, 28 February 2019).

 New UN Report on Israeli International Crimes in Gaza

A new independent report by a UN Commission of Inquiry into last year’s protests along Gaza’s border fence involving Israeli security forces, which resulted in the shooting deaths of more than 180 Palestinians, concluded on Thursday that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel violated international humanitarian law:

“The Commission found reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers shot at journalists, health workers, children and persons with disabilities, knowing they were clearly recognizable as such,” it said in a press release.

For the full UN article on the report see: Gaza probe finds ‘reasonable grounds’ Israeli forces committed international human rights violations(UN News, 28 February 2019)

Whither Canada?  We have been unable to find any Canadian government response to this extremely disturbing UN report.  Perhaps the results of a new opinion poll, discussed below, will encourage Canada to defend Palestinian human rights more forthrightly in future.

Important new findings on Jewish Canadian public opinion of Israel

On the state of Canadian public opinion regarding Israeli policies, a recent report gives much cause for hope. In the words of Independent Jewish Voices:

A national survey has revealed that a significant proportion of Jewish Canadians are critical of Israel and its policies toward Palestinians. It also reveals that almost half (48 percent) believe that accusations of antisemitism are often used to silence legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies.

For analysis of this important survey, click: New EKOS Poll: Jewish Canadians sharply divided on Israel-Palestine (IJV Canada.org, February 2019).  See also: The Empire Strikes Back: Israel lobby groups lash out at recent survey on Jews’ attitudes towards Israel (canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca, February 2019).

New developments in the Venezuela Crisis

Canadian professor Jean Daudelin outlines the shortsightedness of Canada and the rest of the Lima Group in their stance on Venezuela:

Their bet on hardball diplomacy is coming back to haunt them: recognizing governments that enjoy no territorial or administrative control, and letting their leaders blatantly politicize humanitarian aid leads one down a slippery slope.

A slippery slope indeed with the horror of a Libya-type debacle ever present, should the USA actually make good on its reckless threats of regime change at the barrel of a gun.

For the full article, see: Why U.S. military intervention in Venezuela would be a risky gamble. (Jean Daudelin, Globe and Mail, 26 February 2019).

See also: As Maduro holds on, Venezuela opposition eyes negotiated transition (Brian Ellsworth, Sarah Marsh, reuters.com, 20 February 2019).

Statement of Concern by Civil Society upcoming

Note also that many civil society organizations have currently come together to work on a Statement of Concern to the government of Canada, calling for the end to illegal economic sanctions, a rejection of the use of force contrary to the UN Charter, increased non-politicized humanitarian aid under the auspices of the UN and impartial support for a free, fair and democratic resolution of the conflict by Venezuelans themselves.  Stay tuned.

Image credit: Save the Children (Mohamed N Ali)

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