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Outside View: Ukrainian president and European values
by Yuriy Lukanov
Kiev, Ukraine (UPI) Sep 12, 2013

China warns Japan over Diaoyu Islands comments
Beijing (UPI) Sep 11, 2013 - China has warned Japan to avoid provocative action over a clutch of uninhabited Islands in the latest war of words concerning the disputed East China Sea territory.

China's Foreign Ministry expressed "grave concern" over comments by Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga that Tokyo may station officials on the islands, known as Senkaku to the Japanese and Diaoyu in China.

China maintains the islands are its territory although they and the waters close around them have been under Japanese control for about 40 years.

China's official Xinhua News Agency quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei as saying China won't tolerate actions that violate its territorial sovereignty.

Hong urged Japan to "stop all provocative actions that undermine China's sovereignty" and "eliminate obstacles for improving bilateral relations."

Tension between Beijing and Tokyo has been high since Japan bought three of the five uninhabited islands from their private Japanese owner in September 2012.

The islands lie about 100 miles north of Japan's Ishigaki Island and about 115 miles northeast of Taiwan.

At the end of World War II the islands were under U.S. jurisdiction as part of the captured Japanese island of Okinawa. Japan has administered them since 1972 when Okinawa was returned to Japan.

The Japanese Cabinet secretary's comments come as seven Chinese patrol ships entered waters around the islands this week -- the latest of many incursions in the area, the Japanese coast guard said.

The coast guard also spotted a drone in the vicinity Monday that it believes could have been Chinese, Japan's Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

The unmanned aircraft didn't violate Japanese airspace, but flew about 120 miles northeast of the islands.

The drone then circled the islands and left in the direction of the Chinese mainland, Kyodo reported.

Japan's air force scrambled fighter jets as it did the day before after two Chinese bombers flew near Japanese airspace to pass through to the Pacific, Japan's Defense Ministry said.

The nationality of the drone was in doubt because it bore no national markings, the ministry said.

Xinhua, in a long article Tuesday, described the latest patrol by Chinese ships around the islands as another of China's "historical breakthroughs in its regular patrols by ships and planes."

Xinhua also described the Chinese government's patrols around the islands in the past year which on several occasions turned back fishing boats of "Japanese right-wing activists."

In April, "a fleet of 10 Chinese law-enforcement ships drove away 10 Japanese fishing boats for their illegal activities in the waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands."

The Xinhua report said last month Chinese coast guard ships drove away fishing boats of "Japanese right-wing activists which were escorted by ships from Japan's coast guard" and monitored them for more than a day.

When Viktor Yanukovych was elected president three years ago a lot of Ukrainians hoped that he had changed and become more democratically minded. Ukrainians believed that after coming to power Yanukovych wanted to put this image behind him and respect the constitution and laws.

They were completely wrong.

Yanukovych has shown himself to be more Soviet than European with no respect for private property, human rights, the rule of law and democratic values in general. This view of the world is made doubly worse by the influence of his past twice imprisonment in Soviet Union, which explains the appearance of aggressiveness toward political opponents, journalists and civil society.

Why then should the European Union extend its Association Agreement to Yanukovych at its Sept. 20 meeting that will decide the European Union's course of action at the summit of the Eastern Partnership to be held in two months' time in Lithuania?

Since coming to power, Yanukovych has demonstrably shown that European democratic values have little meaning for him and only repeats democratic rhetoric when talking to the European Union or to his voters while at the same time purposefully undermining them.

Yanukovych increasingly resembles the last long-term Soviet Ukrainian leader Vladimir Shcherbytsky, who was a member of Leonid Brezhnev's so-called Dnipropetrovsk mafia during the 1970s and first half of the 1980s. Shcherbytsky -- like Yanukovych today -- presided over an "era of stagnation" in economic reform, undertook political repression and suppressed media and cultural freedom.

Both Shcherbytsky and Yanukovych installed people from their home region into every high-level position. Of the 23 Cabinet positions nine are from Yanukovych's home base of Donetsk, including the prime minister and his first deputy. Chairmen of Parliament, Constitutional Court and Security Service, the prosecutor-general and his deputy are also from Donetsk as are 90 percent of regional governors.

Yanukovych's Soviet approach to running Ukraine is reflected in his penchant for a complete monopolization of power. In his first year in office he coerced and bribed the Constitutional Court to return Ukraine to a presidential system, transformed Parliament into a rubber-stamp institution through buying up of opposition deputies and introduced legal "reforms" that placed the judicial system under executive control.

The current Ukrainian Parliament has become a modern-day version of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet era. The opposition has little voice because proposed changes and draft legislation are either snubbed or they are bribed to join the pro-presidential coalition.

Legislation is adopted by "piano-voting"; that is, Party of Regions and Communist deputies vote for multiple colleagues. Meanwhile, as in Soviet times, the Party of Regions faction leader raises his hand and those who are present vote unanimously.

That Ukraine no longer has an independent judicial system was clearly demonstrated by the farcical trials of opposition leaders Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko.

Tymoshenko, who was sentenced in October 2011 to seven years in prison and banned from public office for three years, was convicted with massive infringements of the rule of law by two articles still in place from the 1961 Soviet criminal code.

Journalists are increasingly turning to the Independent Media Trade Union for protection from physical attacks and surveillance by the security service and police, who, just this month, were collecting intelligence on myself.

Civil society activists, such as the Femen gender movement and Road Control that monitors police corruption, have suffered from horrific beatings by pro-regime skinheads with ties to organized crime.

In a highly corrupt country such as Ukraine the very idea that, of 15 Ukrainian governments since 1991, only a government led by Tymoshenko is guilty of "abuse of office" is of course unbelievable. Especially at a time when corruption and corporate raiding is growing on a massive scale giving Ukraine, the Heritage Foundation says, the worst business climate in Europe.

This is most vividly seen in the expansion of what have been described as "The Family" -- a new clan originating from his home region of Donetsk that is rapaciously expanding his assets at the expense of other businesses and oligarchs who have lost favor with the president.

Yanukovych's eldest son, Oleksandr, a dentist by profession, entered Ukraine's top 100 wealthiest only a year after his father came to power and the All-Ukrainian Development Bank that his son owns has expanded 13-fold.

By imprisoning Tymoshenko on trumped up charges coupled with his unwillingness to not permit her to travel to Germany for medical treatment, Yanukovych has shown he is a Homo Sovieticus representative of the past and the major obstacle to Ukraine's integration into Europe.

The onus is on Yanukovych to prove he is a European by releasing Tymoshenko and permitting her to participate in elections and until then the European Union should not provide Ukraine with an Association Agreement.

(Yuriy Lukanov is chairman of the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine and a well-known freelance commentator and documentary film maker on Ukrainian politics.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)


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Japan on high alert for disputed islands anniversary
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 11, 2013
Japan's coastguard said it was "on high alert" Wednesday, a year to the day since Tokyo nationalised islands that China says it has owned for centuries. Often-testy ties have soured dramatically over the last 12 months, with frequent confrontations between official ships from Asia's two largest powers. On Tuesday, Tokyo said it had not ruled out stationing officials there, provoking an o ... read more

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