George Shultz, US secretary of state who helped usher out Cold War, dies

US President Barack Obama listens as former US Secretary of State George Shultz speaks at the White House in Washington on May 19, 2009. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo)
US President Barack Obama listens as former US Secretary of State George Shultz speaks at the White House in Washington on May 19, 2009. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo)
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Updated 08 February 2021

George Shultz, US secretary of state who helped usher out Cold War, dies

US President Barack Obama listens as former US Secretary of State George Shultz speaks at the White House in Washington on May 19, 2009. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo)
  • Shultz had the rare distinction of serving in four different cabinet positions
  • He repeatedly clashed with ally Israel, especially over Lebanon, and opened contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization

WASHINGTON: George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s genial secretary of state who identified a diplomatic opening that helped end the Cold War but contributed to a new brand of conflict by advocating preemptive strikes, has died. He was 100.
An economics professor who saw himself more as a data-driven expert than an ideologue, Shultz had the rare distinction of serving in four different cabinet positions — including Treasury secretary as Richard Nixon dismantled the post-World War II Bretton Woods monetary system.
President Joe Biden said “few people did as much to shape the trajectory of American diplomacy and American influence in the 20th century” as Shultz.
“I regret that, as president, I will not be able to benefit from his wisdom, as have so many of my predecessors,” Biden said in a statement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken described Shultz as a “legend” and a “visionary.”
In the Reagan White House, notorious for infighting, Shultz was one of the least controversial figures, cultivating cordial ties with Congress and the press and — most crucially — rock-solid backing from the president himself, who kept Shultz as his top diplomat for six and a half years.
In early 1983, half a year into his tenure, Shultz returned from China to a snowed-under Washington and was invited by Nancy Reagan to a casual dinner at the White House, where he was intrigued to hear the famously anti-Communist president sound eager to meet the Soviets.
“He had never had a lengthy session with an important leader from a Communist country, and I could sense he would relish such an opportunity,” Shultz wrote in his memoir, “Turmoil and Triumph.”
Days afterward, Shultz brought the Soviet ambassador to the White House in an unmarked car for a secret meeting with Reagan, who pressed for Moscow to allow the emigration of Pentecostal Christians who had sought refuge in the US embassy.
The Soviets quietly followed through. Reagan’s unlikely role as a negotiator with the superpower he termed an “evil empire” had begun.

Mikhail Gorbachev
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev ascended to the helm of the Communist Party, and Shultz — joining then-vice president George H.W. Bush — flew to Moscow and met him at the funeral of his predecessor, Konstantin Chernenko.
Shultz immediately detected opportunities with Gorbachev.
“Gorbachev is totally different from any Soviet leader I’ve met,” Shultz told reporters.
A former Marine who fought the Japanese in World War II, he recalled the trust he built with the Soviets as Treasury secretary when he offered a sincere salute at a memorial to their war dead.
Shultz’s approach with Gorbachev encountered deep skepticism from Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and CIA chief Bill Casey, but Reagan overruled them.
By 1987, Reagan and Gorbachev signed the landmark Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The Soviet Union soon began disintegrating after Gorbachev initiated liberal reforms and dissent grew.
Shultz later played down Gorbachev’s role, pointing to underlying weaknesses in the Soviet system and crediting the US leader’s massive boost in defense spending.
He also hailed European allies, especially West Germany, that defied public protests against NATO missile deployments in the 1980s.
“The Soviets had to see that and realize that we were strong and our diplomacy was based on strength,” Shultz said in a 2015 appearance at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he spent his post-government career.

Hezbollah terrorism
Shultz became secretary of state weeks after Israel invaded Lebanon, a nation that would become central to an issue that would define his tenure: terrorism.
In 1983, a suicide bomber suspected to be a Shiite Muslim militant blew up the barracks of US Marines serving as peacekeepers in Lebanon, killing 241, with a second attack targeting French forces, killing 59.
With hijackings and bombings rising around the world, Shultz vowed in a 1984 speech at a New York synagogue that the United States would go “beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, preemption and retaliation.”
“We cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations, worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond,” said Shultz, who recommended the US strikes on Libya in 1986 after a US soldier died in an attack on a Berlin nightclub.
Shultz’s doctrine was cited two decades later when George W. Bush’s administration invaded Iraq, inaccurately alleging it was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.
Shultz vocally backed the invasion, which along with ensuing wars would claim hundreds of thousands of lives.
Declaring Iraq to be a “rogue state,” Shultz said Saddam Hussein’s overthrow was crucial “for the integrity of the international system and for the effort to deal effectively with terrorism.”
While secretary of state, Shultz’s policies in the Middle East were more moderate. He repeatedly clashed with ally Israel, especially over Lebanon, and opened contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Shultz had served Nixon as labor secretary and also headed his Office of Management and Budget, a cabinet-level post.
In an essay for his 100th birthday in 2020, he bemoaned the style of Donald Trump, saying that the United States, like individuals, could succeed only if others trust it.
“Put simply,” Shultz said, “trust is the coin of the realm.”


Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran

Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran
Updated 28 October 2021

Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran

Japan provides $6.3m in medical aid to Iran
  • The aid comes after Human Rights Watch claimed Iranian mismanagement has harmed the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

TOKYO: Japan provided Iran with grant aid of ¥695 million (about $6.3 million) to strengthen health and medical capabilities to fight coronavirus in the country, the foreign ministry in Tokyo said.

The aid comes after Human Rights Watch claimed Iranian mismanagement has harmed the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The HRW also called on Tehran to honestly and clearly communicate with the public about the situation. 

Iran’s official government statistics showed that the country experienced its fifth wave in August, with with at least 655 daily COVID-19 deaths.

Hirotaka Matsuo, Japan’s Charge d’Affaires and interim in Tehran exchanged the letter of agreement on this aid with the World Health Organization representative Dr. Husain Syed Jaffar.

The aid, in cooperation with the International Health Organization, will help in providing six MRIs to hospitals in five Iranian locations and obtaining equipment needed to diagnose COVID-19 complications.

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans

Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans
Updated 28 October 2021

Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans

Japan condemns Israeli settlement plans
  • Japan underscored the necessity of confidence-building between Israel and Palestine and the efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the region

TOKYO: Japan on Thursday condemned Israel’s plans to build about 1,300 settlement housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Israel’s settlement activities violate international law and undermine the viability of a ‘two-state solution.’ The Government of Japan deeply deplores the continued settlement activities by the government of Israel despite repeated calls for freezing such activities from Japan and the international community,” said an official statement by the foreign ministry in Tokyo.

In the statement, Japan underscored the necessity of confidence-building between Israel and Palestine and the efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the region. “Japan strongly urges the government of Israel to rescind the tenders mentioned above and approval of the construction plans, and to freeze its settlement activities.”

This story was originally published in Japanese on Arab News Japan


India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range

India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range
Updated 28 October 2021

India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range

India tests ballistic missile with 5,000-km range
  • The Agni-5 missile blasted off from Abdul Kalam Island off India’s east coast late Wednesday and splashed into the Bay of Bengal

NEW DELHI: India has tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 5,000 kilometers, the defense ministry said, in what media called a “stern signal” to China as the two remain locked in a border spat.
The Agni-5 missile blasted off from Abdul Kalam Island off India’s east coast late Wednesday and splashed into the Bay of Bengal.
“The successful test ... is in line with India’s stated policy to have ‘credible minimum deterrence’ that underpins the commitment to ‘No First Use’ [of nuclear weapons],” a defense ministry statement said.
The 17-meter-tall missile has been tested several times before, but not at night, and local media said that the timing was aimed at sending a signal to Beijing.
Tensions with China have been running high since 20 Indian soldiers died in clashes on their disputed Himalayas border in June 2020.
The nuclear-armed neighbors have since reinforced the frontier with tens of thousands of extra troops.
India has deepened defense cooperation with Western countries in recent years, including in the Quad alliance with the United States, Japan and Australia.
New Delhi is also a major buyer of Russian military hardware, and ordered Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system despite the threat of US sanctions over the $5.4 billion deal.
The Financial Times reported this month that China had tested a hypersonic missile that circled the Earth at low orbit before descending toward, but missing, its target.
Beijing denied the report, insisting it was a routine test of a reusable space vehicle.
Hypersonics are the new frontier in missile technology, because they fly lower and are harder to detect than ballistic missiles, can reach targets more quickly, and are maneuverable.
The United States, Russia, China and North Korea have all tested hypersonic missiles and several others are developing the technology — including reportedly India.
According to the Times of India, New Delhi is working on enabling the Agni-5 to carry several nuclear warheads at once so they can split up and hit different targets.


Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister

Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister
Updated 28 October 2021

Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister

Taiwan must prepare to defend itself – defense minister
  • Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades
  • China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory although the island has been self-ruled

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s defense minister said Thursday that Taiwan must be prepared to defend itself and could not entirely depend on other countries to help if China were to launch an attack against the island, even as Taiwan’s president said she had faith the US would defend it.
“The country must rely on itself, and if any friends or other groups can help us, then it’s like I said before, we’re happy to have it, but we can not completely depend on it,” the minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, told reporters after being questioned in the legislature as part of a session on national defense.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have risen to their highest level in decades, with China sending record-breaking numbers of fighter jets toward international airspace close to the island, stepping up a campaign of military harassment. Taiwan’s defense ministry has said that China would have “comprehensive” capabilities to invade the island by 2025.
China claims Taiwan as part of its national territory although the island has been self-ruled since it split from the communist-ruled mainland in 1949 after a long civil war.
Chiu has called the rising tensions between China and Taiwan the most “severe” he has seen in 40 years.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN that aired Thursday that she had faith the US would defend Taiwan if China made a move against the island.
“I do have faith given the long term relationship we have with the US and also the support of the people of the US as well as Congress,” Tsai said.


Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record

Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record
Updated 28 October 2021

Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record

Singapore probes unusual surge in COVID-19 cases after record
  • Last week, Singapore extended some social curbs for about a month, to rein in the spread of COVID-19

SINGAPORE: Singapore is looking into an “unusual surge” of 5,324 new infections of COVID-19, the city-state’s health ministry said, its highest such figure since the beginning of the pandemic, as beds in intensive care units fill up.
Ten new deaths on Wednesday carried the toll to 349, after 3,277 infections the previous day, while the ICU utilization rate is nearing 80 percent, despite a population that is 84 percent fully vaccinated, with 14 percent receiving booster doses.
“The infection numbers are unusually high today, mostly due to many COVID-positive cases detected by the testing laboratories within a few hours in the afternoon,” the health ministry said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Health is looking into this unusual surge in cases within a relatively short window, and closely monitoring the trends for the next few days,” it added in Wednesday’s statement.
While nearly 98.7 percent of the past month’s 90,203 cases had no symptoms, or only mild ones, about 0.2 percent of those had died, and 0.1 percent each were being monitored closely in intensive care units (ICU) or were critically ill and intubated there.
About 72 ICU beds were vacant by Wednesday, at an overall ICU use rate of 79.8 percent, with 142 coronavirus sufferers accounting for about half of occupied beds.
The ministry said it was adding more ICU beds. The Asian city-state, which has set aside 200 ICU beds to be used by COVID-19 patients, can add 100 more at short notice.
Last week, it extended some social curbs for about a month, to rein in the spread of COVID-19 and ease pressure on health care facilities.
Authorities reinstated curbs limiting social interactions and dining out to two people, so as to slow infections.