Toothpicks now available | Inquirer News

Toothpicks now available

/ 07:25 AM May 15, 2012

They will beat their swords into plowshares and  spears into pruning hooks,” proclaims a granite tablet fronting New York ’s 43rd street  entrance to the United Nations. “Nation will not take up sword against nation.” These lines are from the prophet  Isaiah.

They’re reflected in a statue that dominates the UN park along East River. Sculpted by Evgeniy Vuchetich, it depicts a man shattering a  bent sword with a hammer. “Never again will they train for war,” the prophet Micah wrote


Those hopes seemed elusive as ever this week. The Taliban-fanned war in Afganistan continues. North Korea and Iran forge ahead for a nuclear trigger.

South Sudan, which has oils wells, battles northern Sudan which straddles pipelines and refineries. Instead of becoming a glue, oil is a sputtering fuse, notes New York Times. In Syria, suicide bombers blew up 55 people, adding to a casualty list of 9,000 in over 14 months. “Has the Arab spring become a Balkan winter?”


“The only conflict not in this map is the incoming Barrack Obama versus Mitt Romney ‘nuclear war’,” a late-night show  wisecrack says. Or  tension between China and the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal?

The name Scarborough comes  from an 18th-century  tea trade ship that smashed into those reefs. Filipinos call them “Panatag Shoal” or “Bajo de Masinlóc.” Chinese name them “ Huangyan Island. ”Both claim ownership.

Beijing cites  history, flagging  a Yuan dynasty 1279 map. Manila insists on geography. The reefs are about 123 miles west of Subic Bay—and 350 miles from China.

These are rich fishing grounds. Between 1998 to 2001, the Philippines arrested Chinese fishermen catching endangered and protected species using banned methods.

The shoals are well within the 200 exclusive economic zone that the 1982 UN Convention on Law of the Sea defines, the Philippines notes. Not  valid,  replies says Beijing whose claims abut into the EEZ of other Asean countries.

Vietnam bristled when China announced plans to develop tourist facilities in Paracel Islands. Forcibly taken over by Chinese troops in 1974, Vietnam continues to claim the Paracels. Chinese and Vietnamese hackers attacked each other  websites last year, as Filipino and Chinese hackers did in 2012.

China jacked up the number of  its ships at the shoals from 14 to 30. The Philippines keeps a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel plus a coast guard rescue ship.


The Chinese foreign ministry demanded that its boats “be left alone to go about their normal activities.” But Philippine vessels must  scram. Out of their own seas? No,  said  Foreign Albert  del  Rosario.  Manila  would  seek  instead a rules-based approach to all disputes in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In stark contrast , “war talk, it seems, is all the rage in China,” “British Broadcasting Corp. Damian Gramaticus  notes. “There are serious people in serious publications seriously advocating war” over  those rocks—and potential oil deposits..

China has “made all preparations to respond to any escalation,” the Foreign Ministry  warned. Controlled media clobber the Philippines. “It is fair to believe all this coverage is officially approved.” Imports of  Philippine bananas and  travel of Chinese tourists are squeezed.

China reels from the Bo Xilai scandal and it’s once-in-a-decade transition even as the US plunges into elections. “There will be two elephants in the same room.” How the next US president “manages emergent China will have global repercussions, writes Kenneth Lieberthal, Joshua Meltzer and Jonathan Pollack of the think tank Brookings Institute.

Asian countries view China ’s power ascendance with growing concern. All feel they can benefit from some level of U.S.-China competition. No one, however, wishes to face an “either-or” choice between Washington and Beijing .

The near-term possibilities for full cooperation with China seem doubtful. Nonetheless, the “need for China ’s active participation in building a more durable and stable regional order remains beyond dispute. The question is how to realize this fundamental objective.”

Both Republican and Democrat parties center  America’s relations with the Asia-Pacific region in their foreign policy priorities  “(But)  there will be more posturing than thoughtful analysis during the campaign. And these could exacerbate tensions.”

Chinese foreign policy has proved prickly, especially on regional issues. Obama sought to advance presumed common (or at least complementary) interests, as resolution of Korea ’s nuclear ambitions or “contested maritime domains in the South China Sea.”

“Long-term investments in military modernization, ratchet  prospect of Beijing ’s being able to restrict U.S. ability to conduct uncontested operations in waters and air space contiguous to Chinese territory.” These “enhance the possibility of misunderstanding and miscalculation that neither state seeks.” Defense officials of both countries meanwhile are “engaged in a dialogue of the deaf.”

China’s gains during global financial turmoil, ignited gripes about unfair trade practices, like  feet-dragging on appreciation of the yuan, large-scale subsidies for state-owned industries and roadblocks for  access to China ’s domestic market. Obama skewered Beijing ’s skewed  trade surpluses.

“For  years the only commodity I couldn’t  find  in Chicago was the good old toothpick,” my friend and retired colonel Julian  Ares e-mailed. Lo and behold, they’re now available. Made in China.

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TAGS: Afghanistan, Middle East War, Mitt Romney, Taliban, United Nations (UN), US Elections
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