The World Today for December 08, 2022

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Give War a Chance

JAPAN

Japan is planning on increasing defense spending to two percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years. That might not seem like a lot in relative terms but it would be double what the country now spends, Reuters noted.

North Korea’s erratic, nuke-wielding leadership, China’s aggressive stance in Asia, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have compelled Japanese officials, including Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, to reconsider the pacifist stance that the US wrote into their constitution after World War II, wrote DefenseNews.

Russia’s aggression has especially spooked Kishida, the Washington Post claimed. Like the US and Europe, Japan has slapped sanctions on Russian trade, worsening relations between the two countries. Japan and Russia also have an outstanding conflict over four small islands in waters that lie between the two.

Such moves are shaking up the strategic landscape of East Asia, where China, Japan, and the US are the three most important actors – but where Japan has played little to no military role for more than 50 years. “By asserting its own deterrent power, Japan — the world’s third-largest economy — could become less a military protectorate of the United States and more an equal partner,” wrote the New York Times.

The shift won’t be easy for Japan. GDP is only projected to increase by 1.7 percent in the next year, noted the United States Naval Institute. The country has a massive debt to pay down, and a graying population requiring healthcare and other services – but who aren’t paying taxes.

Meanwhile, those costs are unavoidable if Japan wants to preserve the stability in Asia that has helped the country become one of the most affluent and advanced on earth, concluded a new official report cited in Military.com. “Possession and reinforcement of counterstrike capability are indispensable for Japan to maintain and advance deterrence,” the report said.

To that end, Japan is seeking to acquire 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles that can strike targets as far as 775 miles away from their launch site, the Japan Times reported. Japan has also joined up with the UK and Italy to develop a new advanced fighter jet.

Japan is also permitting the export of fighter jets, missiles, and other weapons to allied countries, the Nikkei Asia reported. That’s a superb way to generate cash for domestic industries and maintain the capacity to produce a steady supply of equipment, ordnance and military tech innovations.

The samurais would be proud.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

The 4th Reich

GERMANY

German police arrested at least 25 people Wednesday who planned to overthrow the country’s government by force in one of the country’s largest raids against right-wing extremists, CBS News reported.

More than 3,000 officers were involved in 130 raids across 11 of Germany’s 16 federal states.

Officials said the detained individuals were part of an unnamed terrorist group that was made up of a German nobleman and a number of armed forces veterans. The alleged plotters were planning to attack the country’s parliament as part of a violent coup to overthrow the government.

While the group did not have a name, some of its key members, including the nobleman, Heinrich Reuss, were part of the “Reichsbürger” (Reich Citizen) – movement. Members of the movement believe that the modern German state is illegitimate and have been calling for the re-establishment of Germany’s pre-World War II borders.

The group is also known for its members’ refusal to pay taxes, printing their own passports and stockpiling of weapons. Some of its members are known to ascribe to right-wing populist, anti-Semitic and Nazi ideologies, according to Deutsche Welle.

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency estimates there are around 21,000 so-called Reichsbürger in Germany, with one in 20 classified as far-right extremists.

Reuss, who is known as Prince Heinrich XIII, was earmarked by the alleged plotters to become the new state regent following the coup. The nobleman – also a scion of a minor German royal household – has been critical of the German government.

He is also accused of contacting Russian Federation representatives in both Russia and Germany in the hope of gaining support for the overthrow of the government, NBC News noted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that the German investigation was “an internal matter for Germany, and they themselves state there is no question of Russian interference.”

The Long Trail

ARGENTINA

An Argentinian federal court convicted Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of fraud and sentenced her to six years in prison Tuesday, a ruling that deals a major blow to the embattled leftist government of President Alberto Fernández, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The court ruled that Fernández – who is not related to the president – was found guilty of embezzling money through public-construction contracts from 2007 to 2015 when she served as the country’s president. It also ordered the longtime politician to be permanently banned from holding political office.

Prosecutors allege Fernández and others conspired to steal over $1 billion from false contracts and 51 fake public works projects during her presidency.

The ruling makes Fernández the first vice president in the country to be tried and convicted on graft charges while in office.

The leftist leader rejected the accusations and said she was the victim of political persecution.

Fernández has long been a divisive personality in Argentina, regarded by her supporters as a champion of the poor, but others blame her for the country’s ongoing economic problems, notably inflation, which is anticipated to reach 100 percent by the end of the year, NPR added.

Even so, she plans to appeal the verdict, which legal analysts say could drag the case on for years and hinder authorities from banning her from public office.

Meanwhile, the verdict is likely to erode support for President Fernández. whose approval rating is at about 18 percent. Argentina is grappling with one of the worst economic crises it has seen in two decades.

President Fernández introduced a series of austerity measures and cut energy subsidies earlier this year as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund to refinance $44 billion in debt to avoid a default.

Loyal To Whom?

CANADA

The Canadian province of Quebec introduced a bill this week that would drop the 155-year-old requirement for provincial lawmakers to swear an oath to the king of Canada, King Charles III of the UK, the Canadian Press reported.

Canada is one of the 15 Commonwealth nations, including the UK, where the British monarch is the head of state. Before they sit in Quebec’s National Assembly, lawmakers must swear two oaths: One to the Quebecois, and the other to the monarch as required by the Constitution Act of 1867.

But the royal oath has caused conflict among provincial legislators in Quebec since the beginning of a modern separatist movement more than 50 years ago, according to the Washington Post.

The latest initiative came after the October reelection of the nationalist Coalition Avenir Québec, which controls a majority of seats in the provincial parliament.

Under the new bill, Quebec’s elected officials will foreswear the oath to the British king. Specifically, it will modify a section of the Constitution Act to exempt the province from the oath.

Jean-François Roberge, the province’s minister of democratic institutions, said the bill could become law as early as next week and doesn’t expect any legal challenges.

Even so, legal analysts remain divided on whether the province can unilaterally remove the requirement or if changing that element of the constitution requires the consent of all provinces and both houses of parliament.

A spokesperson for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not comment about whether the federal government planned to challenge the move.

While Trudeau previously said he has no plans to abolish the oath for federal lawmakers, polls in Canada show declining support for the monarchy – particularly following the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

DISCOVERIES

The Shy Pigeon

Scientists recently caught sight of a chicken-sized bird that hadn’t been seen in the mountainous tropical forests of Papua New Guinea for more than a century, the Washington Post reported.

The black-naped pheasant-pigeon was first identified in 1883 and since then has become the stuff of legend.

Ornithologists had presumed that the creature had gone extinct, but its recent “re-discovery” shows there’s some hope for the elusive avian.

A research team discovered the bird on Papua New Guinea’s Fergusson Island thanks to the help of Indigenous communities and local hunters. To do so, the team placed 20 camera traps around the 555-square-mile island where locals said they’d seen or heard the bird.

After numerous shots and recordings, researchers finally captured an image and also a video of a pheasant-pigeon.

“I figured there was less than a one-percent chance of getting a photo of the black-naped pheasant-pigeon,” said Jordan Boersma, co-leader of the expedition team that found the bird.

Boersma is part of an expedition funded by the Search for Lost Birds, a project sponsored by a number of conservation groups, including the American Bird Conservancy and BirdLife International.

The project seeks to identify around 150 lost bird species worldwide that have not yet been marked extinct.

While the team rejoiced at finally spotting the bird, they suggested that the pheasant-pigeon’s population could be very small and critically endangered.

They plan to cooperate with local communities on Fergusson Island to help the species.

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