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Outside View: Asian missile power

UN chief outlines five-point nuclear disarmament plan
UN chief Ban Ki-moon outlined steps Friday to advance the goal of a nuclear-free world, including a call on Russia and the United States to resume talks on cutting their nuclear arsenals. "The world would welcome a resumption of bilateral negotiations between the United States and Russian Federation aimed at deep and verifiable reductions of their respective arsenals," he said in an address here to the East-West Institute, an independent international body focusing on security issues.

The UN secretary general also called on signatories of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to fulfill their disarmament obligations and consider negotiating "a nuclear-weapons convention, backed by a strong system of verification." "The United Kingdom's proposal to host a conference of nuclear-weapon states on verification is a concrete step in the right direction," he noted. The UN symposium on the theme "The United Nations and security in a nuclear-weapon-free world" was also attended by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed El Baradei, US former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak.

ElBaradei called for "concrete action" to speed up nuclear disarmament, noting that "The world cannot afford 27,000 nuclear weapons 20 years after the Cold War." Some lamented that efforts to whittle down nuclear stockpiles have gained little traction. "The goal of nuclear disarmament has remained a mirage," said retired General Ved Malik, a former chief of India's Army Staff. Ban said that while most nations had opted to forgo the nuclear option and have complied with their commitments under the NPT, "some states view possession of such weapons as a status symbol." "And some states view nuclear weapons as offering the ultimate deterrent of nuclear attack, which largely accounts for the estimated 26,000 that still exist." Citing world concern about nuclear activities in North Korea and Iran, Ban added however that "there is widespread support for efforts to address these concerns by peaceful means through dialogue."

by Andrei Kislyakov
Moscow (UPI) Oct 24, 2008
China is going to play a major role in the global space exploration program. Soon a new center for space research may emerge in the Eastern Hemisphere and push the current players aside.

China's achievements in science and technology, as well as its consolidation of space programs in the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, which have a tremendous economic potential, will contribute to its development.

At the 59th International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow on Oct. 2, Sun Laiyan, chief of the China National Space Administration, announced that China was prepared to lead the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization.

No doubt the participating world leaders in space research, representing the United States, Russia and Europe, did not underestimate the significance and far-reaching consequences of the Chinese initiative.

Formally, APSCO was established by China, Thailand and Pakistan in 1992. On Oct. 28, 2005, China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Thailand, Iran, Peru, Bangladesh and Indonesia signed the APSCO Convention, shortly followed by Turkey. Argentina, Philippines, Malaysia and Ukraine may join the organization in the foreseeable future.

The participation of China, Pakistan and Iran, with their dynamically developing missile programs, will turn APSCO into an authoritative high-tech group. Such members of the organization as Thailand and Indonesia already have launched their own satellites. Thus, with China as its leader, the organization has a good chance of becoming very successful.

Although China has been following the initiatives of world leaders in space exploration, it has been making new technological breakthroughs. Three successful manned flights have inspired Beijing to build its own orbital laboratory. At the same time Beijing is making progress in developing a new generation of carrier rockets, a program of outer space exploration, including launching an artificial moon satellite and preparing for a manned expedition to the moon.

China's success in space exploration and its leadership in the Asia-Pacific region are evident. If backed up by the potential of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization, Beijing may turn into a leading global space power.

While the space exploration programs within the Asia-Pacific region are gaining pace, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Russian Federal Space Agency -- Roskosmos -- and the European Space Agency cannot decide on a shared direction for their joint space programs. In spite of encouraging official statements on the need to promote international cooperation in space exploration, both the United States and Europe are set on carrying out their own research, as well as getting useful information to ensure their strategic independence and safety.

A good example of such policy is NASA's Constellation Program aimed at developing U.S. space technologies for conducting large-scale space exploration, which does not envisage the participation of other countries.

Another project of this kind is the U.S.-Russian International Space Station program. Despite NASA's public statements, the United States sees the use of Russian spaceships as a forced measure. In addition, NASA has failed to clearly formulate its vision of the ISS future once the space shuttle program is over.

Cooperation between Russia and Europe in space is less dramatic and has not resulted in any impressive joint programs. The declared Roskosmos-ESA program of developing a new space shuttle system has not seen any practical steps yet. Moreover, EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen said in late September that any dependence on "the Russians" in organizing manned flights would be unacceptable.

However, in terms of finance and technology, space exploration programs are hard to implement without the involvement of other countries. As Andrei Ionin, a corresponding member of the Tsiolkovsky Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, puts it: "Today we must think about who our key partners in space exploration are. This may be the right moment to start looking eastward, rather than westward. Centers of economic, technological and political power have been shifting to the Asia-Pacific region, where China, Japan and South Korea are experiencing dynamic development."

Once the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization has advanced to the practical stage, there will be another reason for "looking eastward."

(Andrei Kislyakov is a political commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(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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Aging Tu-95 Nuclear Missile Platform Offers New Strategic Threat
Washington (UPI) Oct 23, 2008
Russia's venerable Tupolev Tu-95 bomber is a gigantic, lumbering and slow behemoth that flies with turbine-driven propellers. It has an engine technology that the U.S. Air Force wouldn't be caught dead with since before 1950. So how come it now poses a formidable strategic threat to the United States and its NATO allies in the 21st century?

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