Catalan separatists gather momentum
TOKYO — Japan emphasized China as a threat in escalating regional tensions in this year’s annual defense report as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government tries to convince the public of the need to pass legislation to give Japan’s military a greater role.
The report, approved Tuesday by the Cabinet, was delayed for more than a week as Mr Abe’s ruling party panel demanded mention of additional examples of China’s “one-sided” maritime activities, such as undersea gas and oil development in the East China Sea.
Mr Abe’s ruling coalition has been pushing to pass highly contentious legislation allowing Japan’s Self-defence Force to fight for for- eign militaries even when it is not under attack, while expanding its role in international peacekeeping.
Many Japanese are wary of expanding the military because of bitter memories of Japan’s World War II defeat. Opposition lawmakers have said Mr Abe’s party might be exaggerating the threats to drum up support for unpopular legislation that many experts have also called unconstitutional.
The 429-page white paper underscored that Japan’s security risk had worsened overall and cited continuing missile and nuclear threats from North Korea and terrorist threats from the Islamic State group as examples.
China by far topped Japan’s list of security concerns, taking up one-third of a chapter on global security trends covering eight countries and regions.
“China, particularly over conflicting maritime issues, continues to act in an assertive manner, including coercive attempts to change the status quo, and is poised to fulfil its unilateral demands high-handedly without compromise,” the report said. “Japan is strongly concerned about China’s actions, which we need to keep watching closely.”
The report also raised concerns over China’s recent reclamation work in the South China Sea, saying it had escalated regional tensions. The Defence Ministry report also added a new section that also refers to maritime activities elsewhere.
China has been building artificial islands in the vast, resource-rich area, alarming neighbouring nations. Japan has increased defence cooperation with the Philippines and has conducted joint exercises in the area.
Defence Minister Gen Nakatani has suggested that Japan could send reconnaissance aircraft to the region if the legislation is approved, though he denied any specific plans.
The report called secure maritime transport crucial to the nation’s survival.
China’s repeated incursions into territorial waters around the disputed East China Sea islands have become routine, with larger vessels now being mobilised, the report said. The uninhabited islands are controlled by Japan and also claimed by Beijing, the report said.
Responding to demands by the national security panel of Mr Abe’s party, the report takes special note to China’s undersea oil and gas drilling and surveying in the regional seas.
In disputed waters of the East China Sea, China has been building new offshore platforms and other facilities on the Chinese side of the median line since June 2013, causing repeated protests from Japan over china’s “unilateral” development, the report said.
The segment was printed on a separate slip as an insertion, a process that held up the report’s release for about 10 days. — AP BARCELONA — Catalan separatists said they were ready to declare unilateral independence if Madrid attempted to block a separation process they hope to launch if successful in September’s regional elections.
Spain’s conservative national government fiercely opposes independence for the rich north-eastern region of Catalonia, which wants to follow Scotland’s example by voting on its political future.
An alliance of pro-separatist parties want the regional vote to serve as a de facto referendum by running on a joint ticket, campaigning on the single issue of independence.
“If in this process, the Spanish state, through its political or legal decisions, blocks the autonomous government of Catalonia or the Catalan parliament, we will move forward with a declaration of independence,” said Raul Romeva, a former MEP and key figure in the coalition, which brings together the centre-right CDC party and left-wing ERC.
“(We are) going for broke. We are betting everything on this, no turning back,” he said at the presentation of the “Junts pel si” (Together for yes) list of candidates at the Museo de Historia de Catalunya.
The aim would be for a negotiating process to be concluded in 18 months, with institutions such as a taxation office set up.
The process would also pave the way for a binding independence referendum in 2016. Catalonia, which is home to about 7.5 million people, has seen a rise in separatist sentiment at a time when its debts have forced local spending cuts and prompted renewed debate over how it is funded within Spain’s regional structure.
Proud of their distinct language and culture, many Catalans say they get a raw deal from the way their taxes are redistributed to the rest of Spain. — AFP
Tokyo’s move to give greater leeway to its well-equipped and well-trained military is far from popular at home with most Japanese against the move.