China detects 3.4 N. Korea earthquake on surface, fears of new nuclear test emerge

China detects 3.4 N. Korea earthquake on surface, fears of new nuclear test emerge
A magnitude 3.4 earthquake, at a depth of 0 kilometers, has been recorded near the Kilju area in the North Hamgyeong Province of North Korea, according to the China Earthquake Networks Center (CENC).

The ‘quake’ occurred at approximately 08:29 GMT (16:29 local time) on Saturday, CENC reported. Kilju is home to the Punggyeri nuclear site, where North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test was conducted on September 3.

Japanese news agency Kyodo reports that the quake was caused by a “suspected explosion” at the site, while Yonhap reports, that as of right now, the Korea Meteorological Administration believe the quake “occurred naturally.”

“A sound wave, which is usually generated in the event of an artificial earthquake, was not detected,” an agency official said, as cited by Yonhap.

Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Nuclear proliferation watchdog the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) confirmed that an investigation is already underway following “unusual seismic activity.”

Zerbo added that the tremor took place roughly 50km from the site of previously confirmed tests.

Analysts looking at unusual  activity of a much smaller magnitude in the  : 23-SEP-2017 08:30 UTC / More details to come!

Update: Korean Peninsula unusual  activity: LAT=41.36 LON=129.76 mb=3.5
About 50km from prior tests. Analysts investigating.

If confirmed as a nuclear test, it would be the North Korean regime’s seventh. However, all previous tests registered above 4.3 on the Richter scale, with the most recent test on September 3 being recorded as a 6.3 magnitude quake.

The September 3 test spurred the latest raft of UN sanctions and has raised tensions between the US, its allies, and the North Korean regime.

S.Korean ‘talk of appeasement’ with N.Korea will not work, @realDonaldTrump adds http://on.rt.com/8m2t    

Photo published for N. Korea tested hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on ICBM – state TV — RT News

N. Korea tested hydrogen bomb that can be mounted on ICBM – state TV — RT News

Pyongyang has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb which can be mounted on an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the country’s state TV announced. Earlier an “artificial quake” was registered…

rt.com

Saturday’s quake follows an escalation of the combative rhetoric between the North Korean and US leaders this week.

Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump have exchanged a variety of barbs through state media agencies and Twitter respectively, in recent days.

READ MORE: Trump: ‘Madman Kim Jong-un will be tested like never before’

Courtesy, RT

China fumes over S&P credit rating downgrade

China is angry at Standard and Poor’s (S&P) following a downgrade of its creditworthiness by the ratings agency over concerns about the country’s rising debt. S&P underestimated China’s financial strength, Beijing said.

Konzernzentrale von Standard and Poors in New York USA (dapd)

China’s Ministry of Finance said on Friday that S&P’s downgrade of Chinese sovereign debt was a “wrong decision” and based on a “long-standing mode of thinking, and misreading of the Chinese economy.”

On Thursday, the New York based ratings agency cut China’s sovereign credit rating from A+ to AA- , however keeping the country’s outlook on “stable.” The one-notch downgrade came after Moody’s Investors Service made a similar move in May – the first time in almost three decades that the nation’s credit rating was cut.

In a statement, S&P said it decided to make the call after concluding that China’s “de-risking” drive that started early this year was having less of an impact on credit growth than initially expected.

“Despite the fact that the government has shown greater resolve to implement the deleveraging policy, we continue to see overall credit in the corporate sector staying at a 9 percent point,” S&P senior director of sovereign ratings, Kim Eng Tan, said in a conference call. “We’ve now come to the conclusion that deleveraging is likely to be much more gradual than we thought could have been the case early this year.”

Debt-fueled investment in infrastructure and real estate has underpinned China’s growth for years. But Beijing has launched a crackdown amid fears of a potential financial crisis.

Watch video02:19

China’s new city unleashes speculation boom

Ballooning debt

China’s banks extended a record 12.65 trillion yuan ($1.84 trillion or 1.60 trillion euros) of loans in 2016, roughly the size of Italy’s economy. Total social financing (TSF) – a broad measure of credit and liquidity in the economy – was a record 17.8 trillion yuan.

Tan said broader lending by all financial institutions has started to rise after growing by a relatively steady 12-13 percent in the last few years. “That was the key metric that we look at…and we believe while this growth of aggregate debt financing could come down somewhat over the next few years, it’s not likely to come down very sharply,” he noted.

But the Finance Ministry accused S&P of ignoring the country’s economic fundamentals and development potential as the world’s second-largest economy.

“China is able to maintain the stability of its financial systems through cautious lending, improved government supervision and credit risk controls,” the ministry said in a statement Friday. “[S&P’s] view neglects the characteristics of China’s financial market fundraising structure and the accumulated wealth and material support from Chinese government’s spending.”

As a matter of fact, China’s economic growth has unexpectedly accelerated this year, racing ahead at 6.9 percent in the first half. But much of the impetus has come from record bank lending, a property boom and sharply higher government stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending.

Moreover, analysts say China’s campaign to cut financial risks this year has had mixed success, prompting doubts whether Beijing is moving fast enough to avert the dangers of a debt crisis down the road.

Hong Kong hit by fallout

On Friday, S&P also slashed Hong Kong’s top-notch credit rating, warning of potential spillover risks from the mainland’s ballooning debt pile.

The ratings agency cited Hong Kong’s “very strong institutional and political linkages” with China, saying: “We view a weakening of credit support for China as exerting a negative impact on the ratings on Hong Kong beyond what is implied by the territory’s currently strong credit metrics.”

Despite Hong Kong’s “very strong” credit metrics, S&P said the territory still faced multiple challenges including sky-high property prices and rising interest rates in the United States, to which the city’s monetary policy was tied.

Watch video01:15

Is China’s credit bubble about to burst?

uhe/tr (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

 

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Why China won’t help US against North Korea

Even after multiple rounds of sanctions, Pyongyang is continuing to provoke the international community with weapons testing. China and the US face bad options, and each other, in creating a united front.

Chinese and North Korean flags (Getty Images/K. Frayer)

After North Korea detonated what is suspected to be a hydrogen bomb on September 3, the US spearheaded the toughest sanctions levied to date against Pyongyang by the UN Security Council. But after the second round of “historic” sanctions within a month, the detrimental effect of partially cutting off fossil fuel supplies, freezing individual assets and preventing textile trade are seen by many observers as being just another incremental response to a belligerent regime clearly determined at all costs to continue developing nuclear weapons.

Friday’s ballistic missile launch over Japan, the second over Japanese territory in two weeks, also indicates that sanctions have yet to deter Pyongyang’s provocations. The launch also presents a direct challenge to the US and China to somehow create a united front against the North.

The US had originally pushed for a tougher sanctions regime – including a full oil embargo and travel ban for North Korean officials – but had to soften its demands to ensure full cooperation from China.

Read more: ‘Ultimate sanction’ – Will cutting off oil bring North Korea to its knees?

Aside from the self-congratulation earlier this week in Washington over another unanimous UN vote, the rift between Chinese and US interests moving forward on North Korea is clear, as it is apparent that Beijing is continuing to stop short of taking action that would topple the Kim Jong Un regime.

US China Trade (picture-alliance/AP Photo/S. Loeb)The US is dubious of China’s commitment to enforcing sanctions

This, combined with North Korea’s constant weapons testing and rapid advancements in capability, is exacerbating the already tense relationship between the US and China.

Read more: What is China’s role in the North Korean crisis?

Dialogue – made in China

Following the UN Security Council resolution on September 11, China’s official Xinhua news agency released a commentary stating that the Trump administration was making a mistake by pursuing deeper sanctions rather than seeking diplomatic engagement with North Korea.

“The US needs to switch from isolation to communication in order to end an ‘endless loop’ on the Korean peninsula where nuclear and missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests,” Xinhua said.

China has been advocating a so-called “freeze for freeze” strategy, where the Kim regime agrees to cease all weapons testing and missile launches in exchange for the US diminishing its military footprint on the peninsula and ceasing all joint military exercises with the South.

The US has roundly rejected any new forms of “freeze” agreements that it considers would weaken its strategic posture on the Korean peninsula. Two similar deals struck between the US and North Korea during the Clinton and Bush administrations fell through after they were not honored by Pyongyang.

– Donald Trump rejects diplomacy with North Korea

– How North Korea survives on an oil-drip from Russia

Watch video01:04

China was North Korea’s last major trading partner.

US dollars for Chinese compliance

The US is dubious of China’s commitment to enforcing sanctions, as Chinese individuals and companies have been found in the past to be in violation of UN sanctions for not cutting ties with North Korea.

After the last round of UN sanctions against Pyongyang in August, the US issued an additional set of sanctions against Chinese individuals and companies for allegedly aiding the North Korean weapons program.

A commentary in the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times responded by accusing the US of “severely violating” international law by sanctioning Chinese companies and individuals, while maintaining that China “strictly implements” UN Security Council resolutions.

“Who grants Washington the right to make judgments on which companies violate UN Security Council resolutions?” said the commentary.

The new round of sanctions on Monday makes it illegal for foreign firms to form commercial joint ventures with North Korean entities.

On Tuesday, the US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told media that if China didn’t follow the UN sanctions on North Korea, the Trump administration would pursue additional sanctions on Beijing to cut off access to the US financial system.

“If China doesn’t follow these sanctions, we will put additional sanctions on them and prevent them from accessing the US and international dollar system, and that’s quite meaningful,” Mnuchin said.

Ely Ratner, a former national security advisor with the Obama administration and a China expert at the US Council on Foreign Relations, told DW that the Trump administration would likely impose additional secondary sanctions on Chinese firms, banks, and individuals that continue doing business with North Korea illegally in violation of UN sanctions.

“The Chinese government won’t like this, but it only has itself to blame for not enforcing UN Security Council resolutions that it voted for,” said Ratner.

A Trump administration official told Reuters news agency that any such “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other companies were on hold for now to give China time to show it was prepared to fully enforce the latest and previous rounds of sanctions.

Read more: North Korea sanctions: EU targets main exports with an expanded blacklist

Infografik Timeline Nordkoreas Raketentests 05.07.2017 ENG

China won’t back down

But even if China complies with what the US considers are watered-down sanctions, the bottom line is that it is not in China’s national interest to eliminate the Kim regime in Pyongyang. Observers agree that Beijing is less concerned about the North’s weapons program than it is about a US-sponsored, re-united Korean peninsula.

“China doesn’t want the DPRK to collapse because that would leave many uncertainties regarding its weapons, refugees and a US base at its doorstep,” Eduardo Araral, Vice Dean of research at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, told DW.

Araral added that the US would not be able to handle North Korea without cooperation from China. “US-China ties are so intertwined that the US cannot continue hurting China, for example on trade, without hurting itself,” he said.

A post- Kim peninsula?

One of the major hurdles in preventing a united front from the US and China in dealing with the Kim regime, is the uncertainty of the geopolitical outcome on the Korean Peninsula if the North were to collapse and be folded into the South.

US and Chinese interests do merge, however, in that both do not want a nuclear-ready North Korean military machine, and China especially does not want nuclear war in its backyard. It should be noted that China does not necessarily have friendly relations with North Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping has never met with Kim Jong Un and there are signals that China is willing to take a tougher stance on the regime. Nevertheless, these considerations are outweighed by a tangle of Chinese geopolitical interests.

For China to accept a united Korean peninsula, they would need to be assured that the US would demilitarize in the region and that a new regional security architecture could be created with Beijing’s interests at the helm. This scenario presents a problem, not only for US interests, but also for Japan and South Korea.

Noah Feldman, author of “Cool War: The United States, China, and the Future of Global Competition” and professor at Harvard Law School, told a debate organized and broadcast online by Intelligence Squared on September 13, that China presented a “structural problem” for a unified Korea. US security guarantees on the Korean peninsula would be essential for South Korea and Japan to agree to a new geopolitical structure in Northeast Asia, which is something that China won’t agree to.

“Countries are living under the Chinese economic sphere of influence, while depending on the US as a security guarantor. They are playing both ends against the middle and that has worked for those countries,” said Feldman during the debate.

It is worthwhile noting that the only time the US and China have engaged in direct conflict was on the Korean peninsula in 1950, after the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army entered the Korean War to fight on behalf of North Korea against a US-led coalition defending the South. And more than 65 years later, it seems that again decisive action from the Chinese is necessary to tip the balance in Northeast Asia.

Watch video01:53

US has stark warning for North Korean leader

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How North Korea survives on an oil-drip from Russia

Russia has voted in favor of new sanctions against North Korea in the United Nations Security Council, even though they include new oil sanctions. The Russian resource plays a much greater role than previously thought.

North Korea Propaganda

“Oil is the life blood of North Korea’s effort to build and fund a nuclear weapon,” said US ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley after the UN Security Council voted to apply new sanctionsagainst the communist country Monday in New York. Washington would like to cut off oil exports to Pyongyang altogether but has been repeatedly thwarted by Russian and Chinese opposition. Moscow, which is fundamentally opposed to tough sanctions against North Korea, feels it deserves credit for single-handedly watering down legislation so far.

Thus, there will be no oil embargo. Instead, the latest UN Resolution places limits on the delivery of petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel effective from October 1. From 2018 onwards North Korea will only be allowed to import about two million barrels of foreign oil each year. Depending on which estimates one uses, that would mean a 10-to-50 percent reduction in foreign oil imports. Until now, China was thought to be North Korea’s largest oil supplier but Russian imports have been growing steadily of late.

Read more: Germany, China back ‘peaceful’ dialogue with North Korea

United Nations Security Council holds an emergency meetingThe UN Security Council passed the new round of sanctions at the beginning of September

Trading in the gray zone

When Japan and South Korea asked Russia to stop delivering oil to North Korea before the vote at the Security Council, President Vladimir Putin played it down. He said that Russia was only exporting about “40,000 tons of oil and petroleum products per quarter.” A paltry sum compared to the hundreds of millions of tons that Russia exports to the world market. Moreover, Putin said that large Russian commodity companies were not involved in trade with North Korea.

Nevertheless, even at those small amounts the country has almost doubled its gasoline and diesel fuel exports to North Korea in the first half of 2017 according to Russian media reports based upon records from Russia’s tax authority.

But in reality the actual amount of oil being exported is likely much higher than those official records state. A former North Korean official who defected to South Korea and now lives in the United States gave an interview in June in which he claimed that Russia was actually delivering some 200,000 to 300,000 tons of oil to Pyongyang each year. Artyom Lukin of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, Russia, agrees with that estimate. “At current prices that amount of oil would add up to about $300 million (252 million euros) a year,” said the foreign policy expert while speaking with DW. If that number were true then it would be more than three times higher than official trade volume figures suggest. The reason: trading takes place in gray zones away from official markets, and the resource is often routed through China.

Read more: Vladimir Putin warns against ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea nuclear crisis

Watch video02:19

Putin warns of global ‘catastrophe’ over N Korea conflict

Detour via China

The majority of Russia’s oil deliveries to North Korea are transacted through middlemen and therefore do not appear on official customs documents, says Lukin. “For instance, a gasoline delivery will be declared to be destined for China or Singapore, but then it shows up in North Korea.” The reason for that is that sanctions against trading with North Korea make bank transfers “practically impossible.” Therefore Russian suppliers need to use well-connected “Chinese middlemen.”

The Washington Post has also reported on Russia’s circuitous sales of oil to North Korea. Among other things, the newspaper based its findings on increased tanker traffic between the Russian port of Vladivostok and North Korea in the spring of 2017.

If true, such actions would be a violation of US sanctions against Pyongyang. In June, Washington imposed sanctions on the International Petroleum Company (IPC), a privately owned Russian firm run by Eduard Khudainatov who was formerly the CEO of Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil and gas company. The US sanctions also hit IPC subsidiary NNK-Primornefteprodukt, which distributes petroleum products produced at its Khabarovsk refinery and also owns oil reservoirs in Vladivostok harbor. Khudainatov told Russia’s TASS news agency that the sanctions were politically motivated. Moscow rejects US imposed limits and points to the fact that to date there have been no UN sanctions against oil deliveries to North Korea. Artyom Lukin says that Russia has not broken any international laws.

Read more: Brazil fascinated by mysterious North Korea

Closer trade relations since 2014

Moscow has been steadily strengthening its relationship with Pyongyang over the last three years as part of its so-called “eastward pivot,” which has in turn been sped by Russia’s conflict with the West over its annexation of Crimea.

In 2014 Russia extended debt relief to North Korea, taking a loss of around $10 billion on loans stemming from the days of the former Soviet Union. That same year both countries agreed upon the ruble as the currency for all future transactions. In 2015 the Russian Chamber of Commerce established an economic council for relations with North Korea. Russia’s then minister for Far East development announced that Moscow intended to increase its trade volume with North Korea tenfold – to roughly $1 billion – by the year 2020. But so far nothing has come of that. Trade dropped from about $113 million in 2013 to roughly $77 million last year, although in 2017 – thanks mainly to oil exports – customs officials have registered an increase.

Read more: What is China’s role in the North Korean crisis

Legal trade still possible

The latest UN sanctions will likely “reduce” Russian oil exports to North Korea, feels Artyom Lukin. But he says there is still room for Russia to conduct legal trade with North Korea. Still, the expert from Vladivostok predicts that one thing might become a real problem for Russian oil suppliers: the dwindling state of Pyongyang’s coffers.

Lukin says the UN sanctions hit North Korea hard because they severely limit its ability to export goods and resources. “Where is North Korea supposed to get the money to pay for gasoline from Russia or anywhere else?”

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‘Fresh N. Korea sanctions reflect influence of Russia & China’

‘Fresh N. Korea sanctions reflect influence of Russia & China’
The latest UN sanctions on North Korea were supposed to be extremely hard-hitting, but instead showed the influence of Russia and China in pushing for diplomacy, said Christine Hong from the Korea Policy Institute. Other analysts joined the discussion.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously adopted a new sanctions resolution against North Korea. The decision prohibits countries from buying textiles from DPRK and issuing new work permits for North Korean workers.

Also, it freezes Pyongyang’s crude oil imports at their current level and curtails the import of refined petroleum products to two million barrels a year.

Christine Hong, board member of the Korea Policy Institute

RT:  This version of the resolution is a big step back from what was originally proposed by the US. Why do you think the US watered down the new sanctions resolution? Do you think diplomacy is winning after all?

Christine Hong: …What you have here is basically Nikki Haley having initially distributed the most extreme set of sanctions perhaps even historically. In the first instance, this package was supposed to cut off all crude oil to North Korea. It was supposed to freeze the assets of Kim Jong-un; it was supposed to ban North Korean workers from being able to work overseas; it was supposed to entail the search on the high-seas of supposedly suspicious North Korean vessels. Essentially it does none of that. So in terms of what this was touted to do initially and what it actually is in its stripped down form are two very different things. This latest round of sanctions, which was supposed to be extremely hard-hitting, but instead reflected the influence of both Russia and China in pushing for diplomacy, signals a possibility…

Richard Becker from the anti-war ANSWER Coalition

RT:  Russia and China have proposed North Korea freeze nuclear and ballistic missile tests, while South Korea and the US stop their military exercises. Why wouldn’t South Korea and the US not agree to such a proposal? And why doesn’t North Korea want to stop its program?

Richard Becker: For anybody who has an objective view of this situation, they know that regardless what rhetoric is used, North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and missile capability as a deterrent. They know that if they were to launch first, what they are not about to do, they would suffer incredible damage – if not being completely wiped out. So they are doing it as a deterrent.

The US could stop these maneuvers, and South Korea could stop the maneuvers …They talk about them as being a plan for decapitation and the invasion and occupation of the north. They are extremely menacing, and the other side never knows when those maneuvers are going on so close to their borders whether they are maneuvers or in fact the real thing.

North Korea has also said that if there is a peace treaty signed between them and the US and if there is a halt to those maneuvers – they would suspend nuclear and missile tests. But the US has brushed off as absolutely unthinkable. That is the real reason that we’re having an ongoing crisis.

Eric Sirotkin, founder, National Campaign to End the Korean War

RT:  Vladimir Putin has said the conflict is not going to turn into a large-scale one with the use of real nuclear weapons. Do you agree with this?

Eric Sirotkin: I think we could go any route when you have such weapons poised at one another in this situation. I do think that it is important for the international community to get on board, to step up and have unified support for dialogue and talks. That is good, but there is no peace treaty in place. As a human rights lawyer practicing international law and other things, I have found that it is well-established that an armistice agreement is only is only a temporary ceasefire. So consequently we’re coming up against this – that we have a written agreement to stop the firing, to leave Korea, to not introduce new weapons into Korea. And both sides have not done well…

Michael Maloof, Former Pentagon official

RT:  Could this kind of diplomatic maneuvering work with conflicts in other countries, for example, Syria? Is this a sign that UNSC might start working together more?

Michael Maloof:… There were P5+1 – the UNSC members and Germany – that got the nuclear agreement with Iran working. Even though Trump wants to pull out of that and he’s looking for all kinds of ways – that is the best thing we’ve got going right now. And that has helped freeze Iran’s nuclear development program. Iran doesn’t appear to be eager to break that. Certainly the other members of the UNSC – Russia, China, England, and France – do not particularly want to pull out of that agreement, notwithstanding the US wants to do. Angela Merkel of Germany said this could be held up as an example of how to proceed even with North Korea. That is why what I am suggesting what they ought to consider doing is – Russia, China should initiate, don’t wait for the US to call a meeting of this magnitude. Sit down and have a four-power discussion, and propose something sweeping that would be good. North Korea is developing these weapons for leverage and for its own survival. If we can lessen the tensions then that might help not only freeze but maybe cause a dismantling, as we saw before. But I don’t think North Korea would go that far – with the dismantlement.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy, RT

Moscow rejects cutting off North Korea from Russian oil supplies

Moscow rejects cutting off North Korea from Russian oil supplies
Russia won’t stop delivering oil products to North Korea, as dialogue, not sanctions, is the only solution to the crisis, said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

South Korea has proposed cutting all crude supplies to the North in response to the latest missile test.

“Pyongyang needs to be involved in dialogue, conditions must be created in which Pyongyang will feel secure, and that will allow us to search for solutions,” Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

The spokesman stressed the current level of oil supplies to North Korea from Russia is minimal, so the suspension of them is pointless.

“The Russian president repeatedly, including at a press conference in Beijing, said the volume of trade and economic cooperation and the supply of oil and oil products to Korea is at an insignificant level, at a meager level, so in this case, it is hardly reasonable to continue talking about this. There are no significant quantities there,” said Peskov.

Pyongyang has been buying most of its oil from China and trying to boost imports from Russia as an alternative source of energy.

Earlier this week, South Korea pushed for a global embargo on oil exports to North Korea as the UN Security Council discusses a new round of sanctions against Pyongyang.

The proposal followed Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful missile test it claimed involved a hydrogen bomb.

Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea https://on.rt.com/8mb2 

Photo published for Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea — RT Business

Russia to work on trilateral projects with North & South Korea — RT Business

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Moscow and Seoul have agreed to develop projects involving North Korea.

rt.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the idea of driving Pyongyang into a corner with sanctions pressure to solve the current crisis didn’t make sense.

“It is clear that it is impossible to solve the problems of the Korean Peninsula by sanctions alone and pressure,” the president said at the economic forum in Vladivostok, following talks with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In.

Courtesy, RT

The BRICS strike back

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
The BRICS strike back
The wide-ranging Xiamen Declaration, issued in conjunction with the just wrapped-up annual BRICS summit, shows that Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, although facing internal challenges of their own, may be about to step up their collective game, big time.

And they won’t be intimidated/derailed by the crumbling unipolar order.

Xiamen made it clear the BRICS are all-out engaged to “redress North-South development imbalances,” with Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasizing the necessity of a more just international order, echoing President Putin’s calls for a “fair multipolar world,” and “against protectionism and new barriers to global trade.”

Xi, the host at Xiamen, where he was once mayor, went out of his way to stress, “we five countries [should] play a more active part in global governance.”

One of the key planks of what is a concerted geopolitical/geoeconomic drive will start to be implemented via an upcoming BRICS-wide customs union. It’s all about connectivity – in trade, commerce, and finance. And that also dictates investment and business openings rolling in sync, as well as a sharper role for development funds and the BRICS’s own New Development Bank (NDB).

Enter, thus, multiple South-South “dialogues,” like those proposed in Xiamen with Mexico, Egypt, Thailand, Guinea, and Tajikistan.

The dialogues, which will inevitably evolve into business and investment deals, are at the core of ‘BRICS Plus’; the overarching concept, proposed last March by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for expanding South-South partnership/cooperation.

What this will mean, in the immediate future, is an even further, complex interpolation of BRICS Plus with the already converging New Silk Roads, a.k.a. Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU); and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

All these economic/political vectors are advancing in sync. The SCO may be essentially focused on security, countering jihadism or even solving border disputes, but it has also been developing the economic cooperation front. India and Pakistan have become SCO full members this year. Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey are observers, and will soon become full members. Egypt and post-war Syria want in. The SCO’s geopolitical reach is fast becoming pan-Eurasian.
And that’s reflected, for instance, in the Xiamen Declaration proposing an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and national reconciliation process, “including the Moscow Format of consultations” and the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul process.”

This means, essentially, the BRICS supporting not a surge of Pentagon troops but an all-Asian (and not Western) Afghan peace process brokered by the SCO, of which Afghanistan is an observer and future full member.

And this course of action once again graphically shows how the core of the BRICS is and will continue to be, what I call “RC”: the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Triple Win!

It was RC, not by accident, that suggested the only possible solution for the Korean Peninsula stand off, that is “double freezing,” put forward by the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministry in early July. Pyongyang ceases all missile launches and nuclear tests, Washington/Seoul cease their monster military exercises. Needless to say, the ‘War Party’ in Washington, as well as Trump’s generals, vetoed the idea.

Flagship project under the  Initiative! China-built 688-km mega railway begins construction in Malaysia

But just as the BRICS wrapped it all up in Xiamen, the action started at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok; once again, all about economic convergence, focusing on Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam and crucially, both Koreas.

Enter RC, once again, as peace negotiators, able to practice diplomacy with both Pyongyang and Seoul at an international forum. RC – with Russia in the forefront – solved the Syrian tragedy. While RC has a plan for both Afghanistan and North Korea, the unipolars only have sanctions and bombs.

I have sketched elsewhere other aspects of BRICS, such as the current internal politico-economic tragedy in Brazil, as well as outsiders India-Japan pushing to counteract the BRICS/BRI/SCO convergence via an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC).

But the holy of the holies – and it’s never enough to stress it – is what I call the Triple Win triad of the future: oil-yuan-gold. This is one of the prime outcomes of a strategy the BRICS have been discussing, behind closed doors, at their summits since the previous decade – when Lula was still Brazil’s president: how to bypass the US dollar.

President Putin has hinted at “the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies” – code for US dollar unipolarity. Beijing now is stepping up the game via a crude oil futures contract priced in yuan and convertible into gold on both the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

Putin: Old economic models based on ‘protectionism and unlawful restrictions’ cannot sustain global growth https://on.rt.com/8blp 

That might as well represent the burial ritual for the US sanctions dementia. It’s a categorical imperative for Eurasia integration to be able to bypass any manifestations of this disease by trading energy in yuan or in their own, local, currencies.

In parallel, something RC, via the Central Bank of Russia and the People’s Bank of China, have been developing all these years – ruble-yuan swaps – will spread out to other BRICS/BRI/SCO members. The concept of trading in their own currencies will reach, of course, all number of aspiring BRICS Plus members.

The late Zbig ‘Grand Chessboard’ Brzezinski Doctrine – preventing, by all means, the emergence of a peer competitor – has long ago been pronounced dead. What we see instead is the emergence not only of a peer competitor, but an alliance of peer competitors (RC), with a geo-economic pull all across the Global South.

More than enough for any unipolar brain to go nuclear.

 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Courtesy, RT