Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In The News

With Iran Secure As A Threshold State, Has Israel Failed?

Hours before the deadline elapsed on Monday, Iran and six world powers agreed to extend their negotiations on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program until the end of June, 2015. Israel reacted with extreme relief. “The deal that Iran was pushing for was terrible,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

No deal is better than a bad deal, officials in Jerusalem repeat tirelessly. If the international community keeps up the pressure on Iran, they assert, and ideally even increases the sanctions on the regime, there is a decent chance that Tehran will eventually cave and agree to fully dismantle its rogue nuclear program.

Except the P5+1 aren’t even pushing for Iran to dismantle the program. And a terrible deal is not off the table. The negotiations the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany have been conducting with Iran will continue and probably lead to an agreement. If not by July, then after that. This time the gaps couldn’t be bridged, but the idea that a future deal will satisfy Netanyahu’s declared requirements — the dismantling of Iran’s entire set of military nuclear capabilities — is beyond improbable.

Netanyahu demands that Iran be stripped of any uranium enrichment capability. But that train has left the station; the P5+1 have basically conceded that the Islamic Republic has the right to enrich uranium. Any conceivable future deal will disregard Netanyahu’s maximalist position and leave Tehran with some enrichment capability.

In other words: Iran is currently a nuclear threshold state, three to six months away from having enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, according to former IDF Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin. After a deal is cut, Iran will still be a threshold state, perhaps one or two years away from the bomb, but with an international stamp of approval — and without the sanctions regime that has been crippling its economy.

No deal was struck this week in Vienna, and some believe that the failure to reach an agreement this time means that there will never be an agreement. But however the negotiations now play out, the bottom line is that Iran will remain a threshold state for the foreseeable future — either because talks will fall apart, because of further extensions, or because a deal will be made.
Netanyahu has built his political career on the promise to keep Israel safe and secure. He has long emphasized the gravity of the Iranian nuclear threat, which he defines as the country’s greatest security challenge by far. And yet the way the negotiations have evolved, as he would be the first to acknowledge, has been disappointing and frustrating, and has emphatically not guaranteed Israel’s safety.

American armored vehicles sent to Poland and the Baltic States for military drills are to remain for the constant training of local troops and rotation of US forces. More fighting vehicles will be “pre-positioned” at US military bases in Germany.
The US Department of Defense intends to boost the number of its armored vehicles on the territory of the NATO member states in Eastern Europe.
Next year the number of M1 Abrams tanks and M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles will reach 150 vehicles.
“The troops will come over and train, and they’ll go back. The equipment will stay behind,” the newly-appointed head of US Army forces in Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, told AFP in a phone interview from Estonia.

Deployment of additional hardware to Baltic States and Poland goes on within the framework of the US ‘Operation Atlantic Resolve’ effort, established to reassure American allies in Eastern Europe anxious about a “resurgent Russia.”
After the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia and the civil war in Ukraine, waged between the coup-imposed government in Kiev and rebels in the eastern regions of the country, NATO members say they no longer feel secure.

The US currently has nearly 50 Abrams tanks and Bradley IFVs, taken to Latvia and Poland this autumn.
Out of about 600 US Army troops of the 1st Cavalry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, some 150 soldiers along with five M1A2 Abrams tanks, as well as 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles were deployed in Adazi, not far from the Latvian capital, Riga. The rest of hardware and personnel went to Poland.
The 100 fighting vehicles supposed to be brought to Europe next year will be “pre-positioned” in Germany - or elsewhere for the US troops conducting drills with NATO partners, Hodges said.
“I’m going to look at options that would include distributing this equipment in smaller sets, company-size or battalion-size, perhaps in the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, places like that,” he said.
“This is going to go on,” confirmed the general, noting that presence of American armored vehicles will continue through 2015 and well into 2016.

The fact that NATO 28-nation military bloc is concentrating forces closer to Russian borders has brought repeated and strident objections from Moscow.
“We shall provide an adequate and well-measured response to NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, and we shall take note of [the West] setting up a global missile defense architecture and building up its arsenals of precision-guided weapons,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said at the emergency Security Council meeting in Moscow on July 22.
“No matter what our Western counterparts tell us, we can see what’s going on. As it stands, NATO is blatantly building up its forces in Eastern Europe, including the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea areas. Its operational and combat training activities are gaining in scale,” Putin said.

Ankasina is a poor and overcrowded slum on the northern edge of Madagascar's capital city Antananarivo. Waste water flows through open gutters; dirt and garbage collects in heaps on the streets. The area is infested with rats, local residents say. Many blame the state for neglecting the neighborhood.
And now, the rats have brought in an even bigger problem: the plague. For the first time in ten years, the disease has started to spread in Madagascar's capital. A young woman from Ankasina died from the bubonic plague; she most likely contracted it after being bitten by a flea, which had contracted the bacteria from the rodents. She is one of 47 people who have died in the current outbreak on the island.

Madagascar's Prime Minister Kolo Roger admits that the plague has now also entered the capital city. He speaks of an epidemic on the island. "For each case, all the necessary measures have been taken to stop the spreading," he announced. "All cases, whether far away or in the capital of Antananarivo are being dealt with seriously."

Though the health ministry has announced that 200 households have been disinfected in a pest control campaign in slum areas around the city, the World Health Organization (WHO) is alarmed.
"We have never have seen so many cases in such a short time like now in Madagascar," the organization's spokesman Christian Lindmeier told DW. The organization has dispatched an expert to Antananarivo to assist local authorities contain the situation.

A massive sunspot capable of knocking out communications and power is once again aligning with Earth.
Renamed Active Region 12192, because it is a sunspot that has come around a second time, it is due to come into alignment in a few days.
Sunspots of this kind spew solar flares that can create what’s called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, that flings hot bursts of millions of tons of highly charged particles into space at 4 million miles per hour.
If the sunspot is aimed at Earth at the time of the CME, it would interfere enough with the magnetic poles to seriously damage satellites and electrical power grids. The damage could include all unprotected electronics and automated control systems that operate life-sustaining critical infrastructures.
In addition to the electrical grid, the critical infrastructures include communications, transportation, food and water deliveries, oil and natural gas pipelines, banking and financial systems, emergency systems and satellites.
The last time AR 12192 aimed its flares toward Earth was in October and early November. Even though numerous flares ejected from the surface, none included CMEs. At the time, the flares skirted Earth and there was no direct hit, NASA scientists say.
AR 12192 then rotated out of view but now is coming back again. A few weeks ago, AR 12192 was large enough to fit 14 Earths into it.

Also see:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Iranian Commander Celebrates 'U.S. Defeat' As Nuclear Deadline Missed; Former Envoy: Iran Showed No Flexibility

Top Iranian Commander Celebrates As Nuclear Deadline Missed

The sociopathic leadership in Tehran is high on its ego trip these days,as the Obama regime yields to its every whim and agrees to extend the nucler talks in seven months. IRGC chief has boasted that “the Americans have very clearly surrendered to Iran’s might” and brags openly about his plans to “liberate Palestine”(= destroy Israel). The Iranian foreign ministerwas reported to ‘Frequently Shout’ at Kerry and Western Officials during the negotiations. This “western failure”, however, was engineered by design. In many such cases the official incompetence is a cover for something far more sinister. A lengthy report by JPost has elaborated on the only final possible outcome of a deal with the Mullah regime: nuclearization with the full complicity of “the west”. This is exactly the endgame planned by Trilaeral commity boss Zbignew Brzezinski who is the real power broker in Washington’s foreign policy since 2006. 
The Israelis are alleged to be pleased with the exension of the nuclear talks (despite the fact that this also fits the Iranian interest of negotiating ad nauseum for the purpose of buying indefinite time for nuclearization), perhaps because they have long given up on direct aerial bombing and have opted instead for a prolonged series of covert ops, the last of which was proven to have occured in the massive explosion at Iran’s military nuclear research complex in Parchin last month. 
Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned that any US aggression against Iran will result in the “liberation of the occupied territories of Palestine by Iranian troops”.

Americans have very clearly surrendered to Iran’s might and this is obvious in their behavior in the region and in the negotiations, and the enemies’ reservations vis-a-vis Iran are completely felt,” Jafari said, addressing a forum in Tehran on Monday.
He said today the entire region is within the range of  resistance groups’ missiles, which, he said, is interpreted as the failure and collapse of the Zionist regime. “And the final victory will certainly occur,” he added.
The IRGC commander, meantime, cautioned that if the US and its allies dare to launch a military attack on Iran, then “our war will end by conquering Palestine“.

“Now the Islamic Iran doesn’t allow the Zionist regime’s expansion in the region and it is considered as the opposite point of the Zionist regime,” Jafari said, addressing people in the Central province of Isfahan.
Noting that the enemies had failed in their numerous plots to deviate the Islamic Revolution from its righteous path, he said now the Revolution has turned into the world’s spiritual superpower.
“Exporting the Islamic Revolution to the world, the country’s full and sustainable security and its pride and honor are the achievements gained as a result of the blood of our martyrs,” Jafari said.
Iran is now known as to be spearheading the resistance [illegal terrorism] front against Israel. Iran is known to be the main supporter of Palestinian resistance [genocidal terrorists] groups and the Hezbollah Movement in Lebanon.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said last year that the country had played a key and outstanding role in helping Hezbollah and Palestinian groups in their wars with Israel.

Historic negotiations with Iran will reach an inflection point on Monday, as world powers seek to clinch a comprehensive deal that will, to their satisfaction, end concerns over the nature of its vast, decade-old nuclear program.

But reflecting on the deal under discussion with The Jerusalem Poston the eve of the deadline, Israel has issued a stark, public warning to its allies with a clear argument:
Current proposals guarantee the perpetuation of a crisis, backing Israel into a corner from which military force against Iran provides the only logical exit.

From the moment this deal is clinched, Israel fears it will guarantee Iran as a military nuclear power. There will be no off ramp, because Iran's reentry into the international community will be fixed, a fait accompli, by the very powers trying to contain it.

By framing the deal as fundamentally flawed, regardless of its enforcement, Israel is telling the world that it will not wait to see whether inspectors do their jobs as ordered.

But responding to claims by that same official, quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg, over Netanyahu's courage and will, the Israeli official responded sternly: "The prime minister is a very serious man who knows the serious responsibility that rests on his shoulders. He wouldn't say the statements that he made if he didn't mean them."

"People have underestimated Israel many, many times in the past," he continued, "and they underestimate it now."

 Iran’s unwillingness to move on its positions during recent rounds of nuclear negotiations indicates Tehran’s negotiators may be incapable of sealing a comprehensive agreement, veteran US diplomat Dennis Ross said Tuesday.

A day after nuclear talks with Iran were extended until July 2015 after the sides failed to come together following a year of intensive negotiations, Ross said that the US had demonstrated flexibility during the talks, including a willingness to back down on demands over the Arak heavy water facility and the Fordo enrichment facility, but that its positions were received by intransigence by the Iranian counterparts.

The former diplomat said that Iranian negotiators were either unwilling or incapable of budging from a series of red lines.

Iran, Ross said, would not roll back centrifuge programs for uranium enrichment to the levels that the P5+1 members hoped, and “would not budge on the demands that sanctions be removed immediately” upon the achievement of a comprehensive agreement.
However, he said current Secretary of State John Kerry’s upcoming Congressional briefing on the talks would have to convince legislators that progress had been made, and that there was a reasonable chance of reaching an acceptable agreement by the end of the seven-month extension.
“The fact that the Iranians did not take advantage of US flexibility raises questions in my mind as to whether they are really capable of doing a deal,” Ross warned in a conference call with Jewish Federations of North America, arguing that Iranian negotiators’ hands may be tied by the anti-American ideology of the Islamic Republic’s religious leadership and specifically that of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

More than two-thirds of Americans oppose a deal with Iran that would allow it to maintain nuclear weapons capabilities, according to a new survey by American political strategist Frank Luntz. Americans are also overwhelmingly mistrustful of Iran, and consider it to be the country that poses the greatest threat to the United States.

The survey, shown to The Times of Israel on Tuesday, the day after US-led talks with Iran were extended till next July, also found an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the Iranians are stalling rather than negotiating in good faith, and that the regime in Tehran cannot be relied upon to honor any accord it may reach.

More broadly, Americans overwhelmingly feel the world to be less safe today than 10 years ago, and believe America is weaker today than it was 10 years ago.

According to the findings, 69% of Americans would reject a deal under which Iran agreed to stop R&D but kept its current nuclear capabilities, compared to 31% who would accept such a deal.

The survey also showed 62% of Americans consider that Iran is an enemy of the US, while 37% consider it neutral, and 1% consider it an ally. It found that 73% of Americans consider that Iran is an enemy of Israel, while 25% consider it neutral, and 1% consider it an ally.

Two factors make congressional intervention on Iran almost inevitable: The inability of nuclear negotiators to reach a deal by the deadline and the Republican sweep of midterm elections on November 4.

The talks, centered on the status of Iran’s nuclear program, were extended from Monday’s deadline to June 30.

Meanwhile, the pro-Israel community, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is seeking support for proposed legislation that would insert Congress into the process.
“It is now essential that Congress take up new bipartisan sanctions legislation to let Tehran know that it will face much more severe pressure if it does not clearly abandon its nuclear weapons program,” AIPAC said in a statement after it was announced Monday that the major powers and Iran had extended the deadline.

Without substantive Democratic support, no bill is likely to reach a veto-busting majority of 67 in the Senate. Republicans, who have taken a harder line on Iran’s nuclear program, will control no more than 54 seats in the next Congress.

Lawmakers in Congress and mainstream pro-Israel groups blamed Iran for dragging out the process.

“Seven months of more talks tells me that the negotiators aren’t close to agreement,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. “Unfortunately, time is on Tehran’s side as it continues its research and development of centrifuges.”

Putin's Plan For Europe, 10 Signs That Russia Is Prepping For Nuclear War

Putin's Plans For Europe

Smarting and isolated due to international sanctions over the Ukraine crisis, Germany's biggest newspaper today published details of the Kremlin plot in which Putin seeks to hold sway over a continent currently aligned against him.

German intelligence sources claim the country's only mildly-eurosceptic party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), is being wooed by Russian agents as part of the campaign "to construct a network of right-wing populism in western Europe."

According to BILD, Moscow's Centre for Strategic Communications has drafted the blueprint for the covert operation under the title: "Putin: the new leader of international conservatism". 
It is unclear whether the UK, currently home to thousands of Russian exiles, features in his grand plan

Part of the Kremlin strategy includes acquiring gold dealerships through front companies to support parties friendly to it. 
It has also been suggested Russian banks and financial institutions run by the country's secret services could provide cheap loans to the parties it wants to control; recently a loan of nine milliion euros was made through the First Czech Russian Bank of Moscow to the National Front in France.

BILD, which is known in Germany for its credible sources within the intelligence community, said: "In Europe Putin dreams - and he has said this publicly - of having a sphere of influence across the continent all the way down to Portugal."
It said that at the end of May this year Putin met secretly in Vienna with leaders of right-wing parties, including those from Bulgaria, Austria and France.  He is cultivating Germany now because of an AfD vote in March this year against western sanctions.

Russian politician and Putin friend Vladimir Jakunin has been tasked to coordinate the political and diplomatic wooing offensive with the right-wing parties and appeared at the weekend in Berlin as the main speaker at a conference aimed at cementing ties with "friends of Russia."

He has been described as "Putin's most important western networker" in the past and one of the Kremlin's most effective propagandists.

If the United States and Russia fought a nuclear war, who would win?  You might be surprised by the answer.  Under the Obama administration, the rapidly aging U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal has been shrinking.  Meanwhile, the Russians have been developing an entirely new generation of bombers, submarines and missiles that have the capability of delivering an absolutely crippling first strike.  At this point, most Americans consider a full-scale nuclear war to be inconceivable.  But in Russia attitudes are completely different.  To the Russians, the United States is enemy number one these days and the Russians are feverishly preparing for a potential military showdown.  Of course the Russians don’t actually want to have to resort to nuclear war.  Such an event would be an unspeakable horror for the entire globe.  But if one does happen, the Russians want to make sure that they are the ones that come out on top.

A lot of Americans are still operating under the faulty assumption that the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” still applies.  The thinking was that both sides had so many nuclear missiles that a launch by one side would guarantee the destruction of both parties.
But since that time, so much has changed.
For one, the U.S. nuclear arsenal is far, far smaller than it was back then.  Back in 1967, the U.S. military possessed more than 31,000 strategic nuclear warheads.  Now, we only have 1,642 deployed, and that number is scheduled to be further reduced to about 1,500.
Sadly, reducing the size of our nuclear arsenal by close to 95 percent is not enough for anti-nuke crusader Barack Obama.  He has spoken of unilaterally reducing the size of our strategic nuclear arsenal down to just 300 warheads.
During this same time period, the Russians have been developing some very impressive stealth delivery systems which have the capability of hitting targets inside the United States within just minutes of an order being issued.  This is particularly true of their submarine-launched missiles.  The newest Russian subs have the ability to approach our coastlines without us even knowing that they are there.  If the Russians came to the conclusion that war with the United States was unavoidable, an overwhelming first strike using submarine-based missiles could potentially take out nearly our entire arsenal before we even knew what hit us.  And if the Russians have an anti-ballistic missile system that can intercept the limited number of rockets that we can launch in return, they may be able to escape relatively unscathed.
In order for “mutually assured destruction” to work, we have to see the Russian missiles coming and have enough time to order a launch of our own.  Thank to emerging technologies, the balance of power has fundamentally shifted.  The old way of thinking simply does not apply anymore and the Russians understand this.
The following are 10 signs that Russia is preparing to fight (and win) a nuclear war with the United States…

#1 Russia is spending an enormous amount of money to develop the PAK DA Strategic Bomber.  Not a lot is known about this stealth bomber at this time.  The following summary of what we do know comes from an Australian news source

#2 Russian nuclear bombers have been regularly buzzing areas in northern Europe and along the coast of Alaska.  The Russians appear to be brazenly testing NATO defenses.  Here is just one recent example

#3 Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says that Russian nuclear bombers will now conduct regular patrols “in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico“.
#4 Russia is constructing an anti-ballistic missile system which will supposedly be superior to anything that the U.S. currently has
#5 Russia recently successfully test launched a new submarine-based intercontinental ballistic missile
#6 Russia already possesses super silent nuclear attack submarines that arevirtually undetectable when submerged.  In a previous article, I discussed how the U.S. Navy refers to these virtually undetectable subs as “black holes“…

#7 Russian media outlets are reporting that 60 percent of all Russian nuclear missiles will have radar-evading capability by 2016

#8 For the first time ever, Russia has more strategic nuclear warheadsdeployed than the United States does

#9 Russia has a massive advantage over the United States and NATO when it comes to tactical nuclear weapons

#10 Russian President Vladimir Putin has initiated a huge “weapons modernization program” that is projected to cost the equivalent of 540 billion dollars

Meanwhile, the Chinese have been investing heavily in this kind of technology as well.
In fact, just the other day the Chinese successfully tested a new submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile…
Most Americans do not believe that any of this is a concern whatsoever.
Most Americans just assume that a full-scale nuclear war is virtually impossible.
But the truth is that a successful first strike against the United States is more possible today than it ever has been before.
Hopefully the American people will wake up to this reality before it is too late.

Russia tightened its control Monday over Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia with a new treaty envisaging closer military and economic ties with the lush sliver of land along the Black Sea.
The move drew outrage and cries of "annexation" in Georgia and sent a chill through those in Abkhazia who fear that wealthy Russians will snap up their precious coastline. It also raised further suspicions in the West about Russian President Vladimir Putin's territorial aspirations after his annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.
Under the treaty signed by Putin and Abkhazia's leader in the nearby Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russian and Abkhazian forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.
Putin said Moscow will also double its subsidies to Abkhazia to about 9.3 billion rubles (over $200 million) next year.
"I'm sure that cooperation, unity and strategic partnership between Russia and Abkhazia will continue to strengthen," he said.
"Ties with Russia offer us full security guarantees and broad opportunities for socio-economic development," Abkhazian President Raul Khadzhimba said.
Russian troops have been deployed in Abkhazia for more than two decades since the region of 240,000 people broke away from Georgia in a separatist war in the early 1990s. Still, Monday's agreement reflected a clear attempt by Moscow to further expand its presence and came only after a change of leadership in the territory.
Coming amid a chill in Russia-West ties over the Ukrainian crisis, the deal raised concern about Moscow's plans. The Black Sea region has always been important for Putin, who justified the annexation of Crimea by saying it would guarantee that NATO warships would never be welcome on the peninsula, the home base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
"This so-called treaty does not contribute to a peaceful and lasting settlement of the situation in Georgia," Jens Stoltenberg said. "On the contrary, it violates Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and blatantly contradicts the principles of international law, OSCE principles and Russia's international commitments."
The U.S. also said it wouldn't recognize Russia's move and expressed continued support for Georgia's sovereignty.
"The United States will not recognize the legitimacy of any so-called 'treaty' between Georgia's Abkhazia region and the Russian Federation," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
Abkhazia's former leader, Alexander Ankvab, was forced to step down earlier this year under pressure from protesters who reportedly were encouraged by the Kremlin. Khadzhimba, a former Soviet KGB officer, was elected president in an early vote in August that Georgia rejected as illegal.

'BRICS System' - Healthy Alternative To 'Defunct Dollar' System

The BRICS Bank marks a major step to de-dollarization, and a new monetary system. It should replace the Western-dominated “predatory casino scheme” that has contributed to world wars and “economic terrorism,” says former World Bank economist Peter Koenig.
“A ‘BRICS system’ would offer a healthy alternative to the highly indebted and defunct dollar system, where money is printed at will,” Koenig said in an interview with Asam Ismi of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
A 'BRICS system' should be based on a new currency, which Koenig called 'Bricso.'

“…it is high time that the currency of worldwide theft, abuse and exploitation – the US dollar – financial instrument for endless wars and economic terrorism, be replaced with a currency of peaceful endeavors that respects national sovereignty – a currency that works for the people, not for the elite few,” said Koenig adding that currently six US banks control more than 60 percent of all banking assets.
A new monetary system should replace the existing FED-BIS (Bank for International Settlement)-Wall Street “dollar denominated predatory casino scheme that has in the last 100 years alone largely contributed to – and benefitted from – two world wars, impoverished our planet, socially and environmentally,” Koenig said “This system is at the verge of a larger abyss than the depression of the 1930s."
BRICS, which is actively leading a massive effort of de-dollarization, can become a viable alternative to the Western economic system, Koenig believes.

Moreover, he thinks BRICS is already in process of replacing it. Increasing cooperation between Russia and China is a clear example – the two countries started to carry out ruble-yuan swaps in June 2014 in order to free themselves from the traditional trading currency, the US dollar.

Ten years ago, the world’s reserves consisted to about 90 percent of dollar denominated securities. Today that figure has shrunk to 60 percent, the economist said.
Koenig believes Washington is afraid of losing the dollar’s monopoly on the global stage, and is trying to destabilize the situation in the BRICS countries. For example, by slandering the government of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil for corruption and high debt, or depreciating the Russian ruble by fraud and currency manipulations.
“Today, though steadily declining, most trading is still denominated in dollars and has to transit through a US bank and the BIS clearing system,” he said. “Under the FED-BIS-WS banking system currencies and gold are subject to exchange rate and interest manipulations”.
The potential of BRICS is promising indeed, as the members account for almost 30 percent of world GDP and about 45 percent of the global population.

Fiery Cross Reef will be renamed an island as it is expanded into a key military base for the PLA. (Photo/Xinhua)

China appears to be building a military base on the newly expanded Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands in an attempt to tip the balance of territorial disputes in the South China Sea in Beijing's favor, reports Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao.
Over the past year, Beijing has been particularly aggressive in conducting reclamation activities on Chinese-controlled reefs and islets in the Spratlys, parts of which are which are also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Following the most recent period of construction, China is said to have essentially "created" five new islands from existing reefs, including Fiery Cross Reef, which has reportedly become the largest island in the Spratlys.

Of particular interest to neighboring countries is a newly constructed airstrip on Fiery Cross captured by British satellites. The strip, measuring around 3 kilometers in length and about 200-300 meters in width, would be large enough to cater to China's H-6 jet bomber and Y-20 large military transport aircraft. Along with the construction of a new harbor large enough to dock military tankers, experts believe Beijing is aiming to build a strategic base on Fiery Cross, the only Chinese reef under reclamation large enough for such a project.

Some analysts have noted that further reclamation could potentially expand Fiery Cross to as large as 30 square km in size, which would rival that of America's naval base at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
The US has called on China to freeze its "provocative" reclamation activities in the South China Sea, with a Pentagon spokesperson calling on Beijing to "engage in diplomatic initiatives to encourage all sides to restrain themselves in these sorts of activities."

Ni believes the reclamation activities in the Spratlys could offer China a strong counterpoint to America's "return to Asia" policy and will also be beneficial to Chinese civilians who can count on a safe passage through the South China Sea for trade purposes. He also notes, however, that tensions will likely increase and the odds of conflict in the region will also increase as a result.