Cata­lan sep­a­ratists gather mo­men­tum

Lesotho Times - - International -

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.

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