The author Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of the Japan Times Weekly, has extensively reported on North Africa and the Gulf States.
Move comes after state of emergency declared at two nuclear facilities
- U.S. Air Force delivers coolant to stricken nuclear plant
- Cooling system failed at Fukushima No. 1 plant after quake
- Fire reported at Onagawa nuclear facility
The United States has transported coolant to a Japanese nuclear plant hit by the massive Friday earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
“We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants,” Clinton said at a meeting of the President’s Export Council.
- Live Blog: Latest updates on aftermath of Japan quake
- Hundreds dead after quake, tsunami slam Japan
- American in Tokyo: ‘Everything started shaking’
- Japan braces for economic aftershocks
- Video shows devastating Japan earthquake
- Japan searching for ship swept away in tsunami
- The 10 deadliest earthquakes in history
- 2007 Japan quake was wake-up call on nuclear safety
- Tourists urged to avoid travel to Japan after quake
- US airlifts coolant to stricken Japan nuke plant
- World Blog: Latest posts on Japan’s quake disaster
- Earthquake triggers 80 fires in Japan
- Tsunami waves from Japan quake hit Oregon coast
- Massive earthquake hits Japan
“Japan is very reliant on nuclear power and they have very high engineering standards but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn’t have enough coolant,” Clinton said.
The move came after Japanese authorities evacuated thousands of residents from an area around the Fukushima reactor after damage caused by the powerful 8.9 quake that hit the Pacific Rim nation raised fears of a radiation leak. Officials, however, said there was no sign of leakage at present.
Japan’s nuclear safety agency said the order applied to about 3,000 people and followed a government emergency declaration at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant northeast of Tokyo after its cooling system failed after the quake.
Work has begun on restoring the reactor’s cooling function, the Jiji news agency quoted the Trade Ministry as saying, while the Kyodo news agency quoted a Fukushima prefecture official as saying that water levels at the reactor were not at critical levels.
The plant, which is owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and is located in Onahama city, about 170 miles northeast of Tokyo, experienced a mechanical failure in the backup power generation system to supply water needed to cool the reactor. Nuclear reactor cores normally remain hot even after a shutdown.
Tomoko Murakami, leader of the nuclear energy group at Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics, said there did not appear to be an imminent danger of a radiation leak.
“Even if fuel rods are exposed, it does not mean they would start melting right away,” she said.
“Even if fuel rods melt and the pressure inside the reactor builds up, radiation would not leak as long as the reactor container functions well.”
But Mark Hibbs, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned that the situation could turn grave.
Strongest quakes since 1900
These figures do not include the March 11, 2011, quake off eastern Japan, which at magnitude 8.9 makes it the fifth strongest in 110 years of records.
1: Chile, May 22, 1960, magnitude 9.5
2: Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 28, 1964, magnitude 9.2
3: Offshore Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004, magnitude 9.1
4: Kamchatka, Russia, Nov. 4, 1952, magnitude 9.0
5: Offshore Chile, Feb. 27, 2010, magnitude 8.8
6: Offshore Ecuador, Jan. 31, 1906, magnitude 8.8
7: Rat Islands, Alaska, Feb. 4, 1965, magnitude 8.7
8: Sumatra, Indonesia, March 28, 2005, magnitude 8.7
9: Tibet, Aug. 15, 1950, magnitude 8.6
10: Andreanof Islands, Alaska, March 9, 1957, magnitude 8.6
Source: United States Geological Survey
“This is no laughing matter,” he said, referring to unconfirmed reports that one or more of the emergency diesel generators for the cooling system were not working.
He said there was serious concern in Japan whether the cooling of the core and removal of residual heat could be assured.
“If that does not happen, if heat is not removed, there is a definite danger of a core melt … fuel will overheat, become damaged and melt down.”
TEPCO confirmed that water levels inside the reactors at the Fukushima plant were falling but it was working to maintain water levels to avert the exposure of nuclear fuel rods.
The company has been trying to restore power to its emergency power system so that it could add water inside the reactors, a TEPCO spokesman said.
“There is a falling trend (in water levels) but we have not confirmed an exposure of nuclear fuel rods,” a TEPCO spokesman said.
The four Japanese nuclear power plants closest to the epicenter of the quake were safely shut down, the United Nations atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Friday. Eleven nuclear reactors were automatically shut down in the quake-affected area, the government said.
In a statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: “Parts of nuclear plants were automatically shut down but we haven’t confirmed any effects induced by radioactive materials outside the facilities.”
The quake struck just under 250 miles northeast of Tokyo, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks, one as strong as 7.1.
Reactors shut down due to the earthquake account for 18 percent of Japan’s nuclear power generating capacity.
Japan’s nuclear power sector produces about 30 percent of the country’s electricity and has been rocked periodically over the past decade by safety concerns. Many reactors are located in earthquake-prone zones such as northeastern Fukushima prefecture and Fukui prefecture on the Japanese coast.
Zaporizhzhya is one of Ukraine’s main industrial cities: It is built on the East bank of the majestic Dnieper river – where the mainly-Ukrainian speaking, more agricultural West gives way to the mainly-Russian speaking, more industrial East.
At first sight it is just another sprawling former Soviet city. Its huge chimneys silhouetted against the winter sky, belching out white smoke.
But it has a special place in Ukraine’s history and also in the annals of the Soviet Union.
Hundreds of years ago this was a strategic site. Cossack raiders based on Khortytsa Island took advantage of the impassable rapids to plunder goods passing through.
The raiders are seen by many as the founders of the Ukrainian nation.
In Soviet times a huge hydroelectric dam was built here, and vast steelworks grew up to take advantage of the nearby iron ore deposits.
A car plant followed and the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the Volkswagen Beetle – the “humpback” Zaporozhets – was built here.
For many Soviet citizens the Zaporozhets was their first car.
As a consequence the people here feel close ties to Russia, as well as a certain independence of spirit.
Their market – as much as there was a market in the Soviet Union – was largely in what is now Russia. They speak Russian, and many have relatives on the other side of the border.
The people of Zaporizhzhya were wary of the Orange Revolution of 2004 that peacefully brought Ukrainian nationalists to power.
In the years that followed, the government – trying to build a new nation – put great emphasis on the Ukrainian language, and there were numerous rows with Russia.
This heightened suspicions among the people of Zaporizhzhya and increasing corruption led to a sense of disillusion.
“The most serious disappointment in the Orange Revolution was because they never delivered on their principle promise – to defeat corruption,” says Zaporizhzhya’s mayor, Olexander Sin.
“People also got fed up with the constant in-fighting in the leadership.”
The city’s steelworks are still operating.
One of the plants, DeneproSpetzStal, was once a secret manufacturer for the Soviet defence industry but now exports its specialist alloys around the world to oil and aerospace companies.
It is a thriving, forward-looking business taking advantage of Ukraine’s new place in the world.
But workers there explained that the previous government’s moves to make the Ukrainian language compulsory, and to join the European Union were unpopular in the city.
“The language doesn’t matter”, one metallurgist said, “as long as we understand each other.”
Ukrainian and Russian are very similar languages.
“We don’t have to join the European Union”, his colleague added, “I think Ukraine can develop on its own.”
Space for fringe politics
They are not much happier with the new government of Viktor Yanukovych. Ukraine has slipped into the bottom third of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The danger is that as people get disillusioned with the mainstream they could drift to the fringes.
The local Communist Party built a statue to Stalin last year, which was promptly blown up by far right activists.
Of course Zaporizhzhya cannot be seen to represent all of Ukraine, but the views of people here mirror those of a sizeable proportion of the population.
They are disillusioned with politicians who have spent the last few years trying to build a Ukrainian identity which ignores the close ties that much of the country feels with Russia.
It is not that they want to become part of Russia. It is just that they do not want to rush into alliances with the European Union and NATO either.
Source: BBC News
Dirar Abu Sisi’s sister claims that Mossad abducted him without reason.
“This kidnapping violates international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty. It is further proof of the contempt of the (Israeli) occupation for the international community,” spokesman Sami Abu Zohi told AFP.
Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip, demanded the immediate release of Dirar Abu Sisi, 42, and called on the Ukraine to “take responsibility for a crime committed in its territory”.
The Israeli justice system has imposed a gag order on information connected to the disappearance of Abu Sisi, an alleged Hamas member and director of a power station in Gaza.
A court in Petah Tikva upheld a ban on publishing any information from Israel about the mysterious disappearance of Abu Sisi on February 19.
The tribunal rejected an appeal to remove the gag order by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, but permitted publication of information already circulated abroad.
On Thursday, the Ukranian interior ministry said it had received a request from Abu Sisi’s wife “to establish the whereabouts of her husband who disappeared in unknown circumstances,” spokesman Sergiy Burlakov said.
He told AFP that Abu Sisi was reported to have disappeared on a train between Kiev and the northern city of Kharkiv and that his wife said he could be in Israel.
The engineer’s sister, Sozan, told AFP her brother had “traveled to Ukraine to obtain Ukranian nationality” and accused Mossad of abducting him without reason.
He is being held at Shikma prison in Ashkelon, according to a Ukranian delegate at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees cited by Israeli media.
The Israeli press has said Ukranian security services may have collaborated in the kidnapping.
PTI | 03:03 PM,Mar 11,2011
Rezaul H Laskar Islamabad, Mar 11 (PTI) A trust with close links to the Pakistan Army is recruiting hundreds of former soldiers to serve in the Bahrain National Guard at a time when the Arab nation is experiencing widespread protests against its ruling family, a media report said.Advertisements in an Urdu daily and on the website of the Overseas Employment Services of Fauji Foundation stated that the Bahrain National Guard immediately requires people with experience and qualifications as anti-riot instructors and security guards.An official of Fauji Foundation said there were 800 vacancies and 6,000 to 7,000 applications had been received while another official at the OES said there were 200 to 300 vacancies and a number of people had been selected, The Express Tribune newspaper reported.Media reports have quoted Bahraini opposition activists as saying that up to half of Bahrain’s approximately 20,000-strong national security apparatus is made up of Sunnis from Pakistan, Jordan and Yemen.Pakistanis serving in Bahrain’s security forces were reportedly involved in a crackdown on protestors in Manama in February in which seven people were killed and hundreds injured. Some injured protestors told the media that the police who beat them up spoke Urdu.The Fauji Foundation, set up in 1954, serves as a trust for ex-servicemen and their families. It is believed to be among the largest industrial conglomerates in Pakistan.The advertisement stated that a Bahrain National Guard is visiting Pakistan during March 7-14 to recruit people from the following categories: officers (majors), Pakistan Military Academy drill instructors, anti-riot instructors, security guards, military police, cooks and mess waiters.Civilians are required as security guards while the other categories require experience in the military or security forces.The requirement for anti-riot instructors was for non- commissioned officers from the paramilitary Pakistan Rangers or officers of an equivalent rank from the Elite Police Force.The OES official said Bahrain’s army had recently recruited former Pakistani soldiers. In December, the OES advertised positions for retired Pakistan Army doctors to serve in the King�s Guard.Maryam al-Khawaja, head of the foreign relations office at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said most of the Pakistanis serving in Bahrain’s anti-riot police are Baloch.Recruiting security personnel from countries like Pakistan and moves to naturalise them is viewed by the opposition in Bahrain as a way to increase the Sunni demographic. Bahrain’s 70 per cent population is Shia.Thousands protested in Manama earlier this week against any move to give citizenship to Sunnis serving in Bahrain’s military.
[Why does the US or NATO have a "right" to bomb Libya? It is obvious that this question will never be answered, or even noticed by the people who should be made to answer questions, but it still must be asked by someone other than just me or my friends. Do Russia and China also possess this "right" to do violence upon other nations? What would happen if either Russia or China, or both of them, should exercise their own right to intervene and put a damper on the moronic Euro/American call for a "no-fly zone"? At some point, someone will get between the leaders of the American bully nation and their next intended victim and stop them from shoving anyone else around.
Can this really be called part of the "war on terror"?]
The United States wants a well co-ordinated international effort on Libya, but reserves its right to take unilateral steps, a top Obama aide has said.
“It is our strong preference, in this situation and many others, which we act together with our international partners, because, collectively, we are stronger than we are individually in cases like this,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
“But it is obviously the case that we always reserve
the right to act,
NATO does, rather, as the US does, to act on its own,” he said in response to a question.
Top national security officials met President Barack Obama at the White House during the day to review the current situation in Libya and discuss on the future course of action.
“They are evaluating the various options in the situation in Libya and the broader region, and the various options that we have taken and are implementing, and others that remain on the table,” Mr. Carney said, adding no decision was anticipated out of this meeting.
The official said the U.S. was working with the United Nations, NATO and all its partners on variety of options.
“The option of declaring no-fly zone is being actively considered,” he added.
Mr. Carney said the statements and the actions that have been taken by this President in the three weeks since this circumstance began in Libya demonstrate the moral outrage that they feel at the actions taken by the Libyan regime against its people.
“So, clearly there is a moral component to not just the actions of the U.S. and its President but the actions of the entire international community, and its swift and coordinated reaction to and response to the despicable behaviour of the Libyan regime,” he noted.
The White House spokesman reiterated that Muammar Qaddafi needs to leave, needs to step down.
“He has lost the legitimacy to rule in the eyes of his people and in the eyes of the world. I don’t think you can be any clearer than that,” he asserted.
Responding to a question, Mr. Carney said the U.S. believes that the arms embargo by the UN Security Council contains within it the flexibility to allow for a decision to arm the opposition, if that decision were made.
Mr. Carney argued the Obama Administration has been working with a sense of urgency and speed with regard to Libya.
“What has been done in remarkable time. We have imposed very strong sanctions, including freezing over USD 30 billion of the Qaddafi regime’s assets. We have coordinated also with the UN for additional sanctions with our European partners and through the UN,” Mr. Carney said.
“We have led the way in initiating steps through the UN to make sure that those members of the Qaddafi regime who are responsible for gross violations of human rights and the use of violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. That includes a UN Security Council referral of the Qaddafi regime to the International Criminal Court,” he said.
“We are engaged in a highly swift and coordinated effort to provide humanitarian assistance and we have also, through a variety of channels, reached out to the opposition to discuss what their goals are and what their situation is,” he said.
“We have also done military contingency planning. We have talked about positioning resources in the region for contingencies that might occur of all sorts,” he added.
The US, he said was in the process of reviewing a variety of options, but there is no timetable for decisions on them.
The actions we have taken have been dramatic, and we are implementing them in a way that we hope they will have an effect, he said.
“We are also using the full spectrum of our intelligence resources to ensure that we are monitoring what’s happening in Libya and in a way that will enable the international community to hold responsible those members of the regime who are perpetrating violations of human rights,” Mr. Carney said.
“So this is an ongoing process. The review continues, the options are refined and reviewed and considered, and obviously, we want to work with our international partners. We feel it’s very important so that any action we take be done in a coordinated way with our international partners, because that is a powerful message to the people of Libya, to the Libyan regime, and to the people around the region.
“This is not about the United States; it is not about Western powers, European powers. It’s about the people of the region, and in this case the people of Libya,” Mr. Carney said.
Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi
By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent
Saudi Arabia has not yet responded to a request from the US to supply weapons to rebels in Libya
Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a “day of rage” from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington’s highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.
Washington’s request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later – to America’s chagrin – also funded and armed the Taliban.
But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain – even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.
The Saudis have been told that opponents of Gaddafi need anti-tank rockets and mortars as a first priority to hold off attacks by Gaddafi’s armour, and ground-to-air missiles to shoot down his fighter-bombers.
Supplies could reach Benghazi within 48 hours but they would need to be delivered to air bases in Libya or to Benghazi airport. If the guerrillas can then go on to the offensive and assault Gaddafi’s strongholds in western Libya, the political pressure on America and Nato – not least from Republican members of Congress – to establish a no-fly zone would be reduced.
US military planners have already made it clear that a zone of this kind would necessitate US air attacks on Libya’s functioning, if seriously depleted, anti-aircraft missile bases, thus bringing Washington directly into the war on the side of Gaddafi’s opponents.
For several days now, US Awacs surveillance aircraft have been flying around Libya, making constant contact with Malta air traffic control and requesting details of Libyan flight patterns, including journeys made in the past 48 hours by Gaddafi’s private jet which flew to Jordan and back to Libya just before the weekend.
Officially, Nato will only describe the presence of American Awacs planes as part of its post-9/11 Operation Active Endeavour, which has broad reach to undertake aerial counter-terrorism measures in the Middle East region.
The data from the Awacs is streamed to all Nato countries under the mission’s existing mandate. Now that Gaddafi has been reinstated as a super-terrorist in the West’s lexicon, however, the Nato mission can easily be used to search for targets of opportunity in Libya if active military operations are undertaken.
Al Jazeera English television channel last night broadcast recordings made by American aircraft to Maltese air traffic control, requesting information about Libyan flights, especially that of Gaddafi’s jet.
An American Awacs aircraft, tail number LX-N90442 could be heard contacting the Malta control tower on Saturday for information about a Libyan Dassault-Falcon 900 jet 5A-DCN on its way from Amman to Mitiga, Gaddafi’s own VIP airport.
Nato Awacs 07 is heard to say: “Do you have information on an aircraft with the Squawk 2017 position about 85 miles east of our [sic]?”
Malta air traffic control replies: “Seven, that sounds to be Falcon 900- at flight level 340, with a destination Mitiga, according to flight plan.”
But Saudi Arabia is already facing dangers from a co-ordinated day of protest by its own Shia Muslim citizens who, emboldened by the Shia uprising in the neighbouring island of Bahrain, have called for street protests against the ruling family of al-Saud on Friday.
After pouring troops and security police into the province of Qatif last week, the Saudis announced a nationwide ban on all public demonstrations.
Shia organisers claim that up to 20,000 protesters plan to demonstrate with women in the front rows to prevent the Saudi army from opening fire.
If the Saudi government accedes to America’s request to send guns and missiles to Libyan rebels, however, it would be almost impossible for President Barack Obama to condemn the kingdom for any violence against the Shias of the north-east provinces.
Thus has the Arab awakening, the demand for democracy in North Africa, the Shia revolt and the rising against Gaddafi become entangled in the space of just a few hours with US military priorities in the region.
Like Robert Fisk on The Independent on Facebook for updates