Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for December 23, 2010

Newsline: Japan’s Moscow envoy faces sacking over island dispute

Japan’s envoy to Russia faces the sack after telling Tokyo that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would not visit a disputed island even after Moscow said the trip was imminent, reports said Thursday. Medvedev defied Japanese warnings and protests to visit the southernmost island, known as Kunashir in Russia or Kunashiri in Japan, on November 1, in the first ever journey by a Russian leader to the territory. It was the latest in a series of embarrassments over foreign policy for Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s government. Even though Medvedev had said since late September that he would “soon” visit the island, ambassador Masaharu Kono reported to Tokyo that he did not believe it would go ahead, major Japanese media said. Based on Kono’s reports, the Japanese government repeatedly said during October that it had no information suggesting Medvedev had a concrete plan to travel to the island. Media reports suggested Thursday that Kono had paid for his misjudgement with his job. Japan is preparing to appoint Chikahito Harada, a veteran Russia handler now serving as the ambassador in the Czech Republic, to replace Kono, said major newspapers including the Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun. No official decision has been announced but the personnel change could happen as early as January, according to major media, including the Asahi and national broadcaster




Newsline: Blasts at Swiss, Chile embassies in Rome, 2 wounded, all embassies alerted

Rome’s police chief says all embassies have been informed about a pair of package bombs that exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies, injuring two people who opened them. Chief Francesco Tagliente said a suspicious package found at the Ukrainian embassy turned out to be a false alarm. He spoke to reporters as he arrived Thursday at the Chilean embassy, where witnesses say an explosion was heard shortly after 3 p.m. One person was injured. Three hours earlier, a package bomb exploded inside an office in the Swiss Embassy, wounding the staffer who opened it. He was taken to the hospital with serious hand injuries but his life is not in danger, the Swiss ambassador Bernardino Regazzoni said.



US embassy cables: Next Chinese leader ‘redder than reds’

Leaked US diplomatic cables portray the anointed Chinese leader Xi Jinping as incorruptible, disinterested in extra marital affairs and a Communist hardliner who is “redder than reds”. The cables leaked by whistleblower web site WikiLeaks, says money seems unimportant to Xi as he apparently has enough. He likes the US and was at one time fascinated by the mysteries of Buddhism and Asian martial arts. On Oct 18, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party appointed 57-year-old Xi Jinping vice-president of the powerful Central Military Commission. This makes it all but certain that he will succeed Hu Jintao as Communist Party leader and Chinese president in 2012. The US embassy in Beijing has remarkably precise information about China’s future leader. Xi is “extremely ambitious”, and a good man, according to a US source. He also has a privileged upbringing. Xi is the son of former guerilla fighter and later deputy prime minister Xi Zhongxun. Xi is a “princeling”, one of an influential class of sons and daughters of loyal functionaries that steadily rise up the Communist Party hierarchy under their parents’ influence. During his time in eastern China, Xi developed a fascination with the mysticism of Buddhism, the Qigong breathing technique and martial arts. It appears he also believed in supernatural forces. In 2007 the leadership made him the Party leader in Shanghai. At the time, the Communist Party was embroiled in a corruption scandal and desperately needed a clean pair of hands. He was seen as incorruptible and as having sufficient authority to clean up the party’s ranks. Xi spent just seven months in China’s financial centre before the leadership brought him to Beijing and anointed him vice president. “Xi had promotion to the Center in mind from day one,” a US Embassy dispatch says. He is said to be a realist and a pragmatist, one who keeps his cards close to his chest before coldly playing his ace when the time is right. Xi appears uninterested in drinking and extramarital affairs, the pursuits preferred by many high-ranking officials. Women consider him boring, a trait he shares with his stern superior, President Hu Jintao. Xi, US cables say, knows his own country extremely well. He is well aware how corrupt many of his comrades are. He abhors the pursuit of money, much as he does China’s nouveau-riche. His greatest fear is that the new, free-market era will rob people of their dignity and respect. But he refrains from showing political initiative or promoting his own ideas, realising that such things are not good for a career within the Chinese Communist Party.



US embassy cables: Embassy Believed Financier Was Rotten

U.S. diplomats took rumors of accused Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford so seriously four years ago that they made sure to avoid being photographed with him. The embassy in Barbados referenced rumors that Stanford was involved in “bribery, money-laundering and political manipulation” in a 2006 cable, nearly three years before he was accused of bilking investors out of $7 billion in a Ponzi scheme. The discovery of the cable comes as Stanford’s trial nears its scheduled start date of Jan. 24, 2011. A psychiatrist working for the defense found the financier incompetent to stand trial. Prosecutors asked a federal judge to order Stanford to be examined again. The 2006 cable reported on a meeting the U.S. ambassador in Barbados had with Stanford and the Barbados prime minister, the Guardian reported. Officials wrote, “Allen Stanford is a controversial Texan billionaire who has made significant investments in offshore finance, aviation, and property development in Antigua and throughout the region. His companies are rumored to engage in bribery, money-laundering and political manipulation.” The cable’s author made sure to note that the ambassador “managed to stay out of any one-on-one photos with Stanford” and that embassy employees were told to stay away from him. The cable adds to reports that the government knew about Stanford well before he was charged in February 2009. After Stanford was charged, the inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission found that the agency had suspected since 1997 that he was running a Ponzi scheme.