Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 19, 2011

Newsline: Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher Dies at Age of 85

Warren M. Christopher, a key figure in peace efforts in Bosnia and the Mideast as secretary of state in the Clinton administration, has died, a spokeswoman for his law firm said Saturday. He was 85. Christopher died at his home in Los Angeles late Friday of complications from bladder and kidney cancer, said Sonja Steptoe of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers, where Christopher was a senior partner. A longtime Californian, Christopher also headed a panel that pushed a number of Los Angeles Police Department reforms following the 1992 riots. A loyal Democrat and meticulous lawyer, Christopher also supervised the contested Florida recount for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. The Supreme Court, on a 5-4 vote, decided for George W. Bush. As he prepared to step down in 1996 as secretary “for someone else to pick up the baton,” he said in an interview he was pleased to have played a role in making the United States safer. His proudest accomplishments, he told The Associated Press, included a role in promoting a ban on nuclear weapons tests and extension of curbs on proliferation of weapons technology. He also tried to promote peace in the Middle East, tirelessly traveling to the region. Christopher made some two dozen trips to Syria alone in a futile effort to promote a settlement with Israel. He was more successful in the negotiations that produced a settlement in 1995 for Bosnia, ending a war among Muslims, Serbs and Croats that claimed 260,000 lives and drove another 1.8 million people from their homes. He had taken the job in January 1993 at the age of 68, saying that at his age he did not expect to be traveling all that much. In the skies over Africa and approaching his 71st birthday in October 1996, Christopher set a new mark for miles traveled by a secretary of state over four years, the normal length of a presidential term: 704,487. While Christopher often preferred a behind-the-scenes role, he also made news as deputy secretary of state in the Carter administration, conducting the tedious negotiations that gained the release in 1981 of 52 American hostages in Iran. President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. “The best public servant I ever knew,” Carter wrote in his memoirs. In private life, Christopher also served. Among many other things, he chaired a commission that proposed reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department in the aftermath of the videotaped beating by police of motorist Rodney King in 1991. An ensign in the U.S. Navy reserves, he was called up to active duty during World War II and served in the Pacific. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in 1945 and, after attending Stanford Law School, served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in 1949 and 1950. In the late 1960s, he was a deputy attorney general in the administration of Lyndon Johnson. As a successful Los Angeles lawyer, Christopher had a seven-figure income, and a beach house in fashionable Santa Barbara. He is survived by his wife Marie, and had four children in two marriages: Lynn, Scott, Thomas, and Kristen. Plans were pending for a private memorial service.



Newsline: Kenya closes Japan embassy

Kenyans living in Japan have been advised to avoid all travel to north of Japan and Tokyo. The embassy also advised them to relocate as far away as possible from the two cities hard hit by the earthquake. As they do so, they should notify the embassy of their new locations including any options to travel outside Japan, said a statement from the missions website. Consequently the mission announced it had temporarily closed office from Friday until further notice. “In view of the deepening crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power facility, the embassy wishes to advise all Kenyans resident in Japan to strictly observe the advises of the authorities as pertains to the above area including the set evacuation zone,” read the statement.



Newsline: Canadian blasts embassy’s evacuation plan for tsunami-struck Japan

Christian Paauwe couldn’t feel sorry for himself when the massive earthquake and tsunami smashed his adopted hometown of Sendai in the northeast of Japan last week. He and his wife and infant daughter were badly shaken, but survived otherwise unscathed when so many others hadn’t. When he did start to feel a little hard done by was when other countries – including the United States, France, Germany, Finland, China, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand – started sending buses to pick up their nationals trapped in the tsunami zone. But for a week no one came for Mr. Paauwe, his family or the other Canadians in Sendai. By the time he finally reached the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo after an 11-hour bus ride Friday, Mr. Paauwe was seething. “I would say that they weren’t doing anything at all” for Canadians trapped in Sendai, he said. “Other people [still] want to get out.” It would be difficult for Canadian officials in Tokyo or Ottawa to claim they didn’t know Mr. Paauwe and his family wanted to be evacuated. As soon as he had access to electricity, 40 hours after the quake, he placed a call to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to let them know he was in Sendai and needed help getting out. The 29-year-old Vancouver native also made daily videos of his life amid the ruins of Sendai which he posted on YouTube, garnering thousands of views. Then on Thursday, he sent a despairing e-mail SOS. When he wasn’t trying to get the attention of the Canadian government, Mr. Paauwe and his Japanese-born wife spent their time fretting over where to find diapers and formula for their two-month-old daughter Marlon. They passed long hours standing in lines to get into stores that had little to sell, and wondering what possible effects the unfolding disaster 115 kilometres south at the Fukushima nuclear plant might be having on their little girl. When a bus with a smattering of maple leaf decals stuck to the hood finally arrived Friday in Sendai, there was little advance warning and Mr. Paauwe said that although the bus left half empty, with 21 people aboard, including 17 Canadians, he knew of several other Canadians in town who wanted to be evacuated but had no idea that their rescue ride had come and gone. Even though the bus left with empty seats, Mr. Paauwe and his wife Marika were forced to leave Marika’s elderly parents behind. It’s unknown how many Canadians remain in the Sendai area, but Mr. Paauwe says he knows of “five or six,” including one who does not want to leave. The others, he said, didn’t know about the bus until it was too late. A second Canadian Embassy-chartered bus was to stay in Sendai overnight Friday, so that any Canadians still in the area could have another chance to get to Tokyo. Sixteen other Canadians left Sendai on Thursday aboard a bus chartered by the New Zealand government. The Canadian rescue was slower and less generous than those offered by some other nations. While the 17 who arrived at the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo last night were not being offered anything beyond the bus ride, British citizens who made the same journey Friday were being put up at a four-star hotel in downtown Tokyo and had the option to take a flight out to London on Saturday. Canadian Embassy staff are still struggling to get a handle on how many Canadians were in Sendai before the tsunami, and how many might be left there. André Lachapelle, a 76-year-old Catholic priest, is the only Canadian known to have died in the disaster.