- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Insider notes from United Press International for Jan. 7 …

President George W. Bush may assert that North Korea is no crisis, but the Japanese are speeding up their plans to launch two surveillance satellites from the Tanegashima Space Center. One will be an optical-sensor satellite, taking conventional pictures with a resolution of 1 meter or less, and the other a synthetic aperture radar that can see through bad weather and at night. The launch of Japan's first national security surveillance system will take place in March, with the satellites due to be operational in July, providing 24-hour coverage of the Korean peninsula, all surrounding waters, and stretching as far south as Taiwan. Two more satellites will then be launched later this year, also on Japan's own H-2A rocket, for a total surveillance bill of $2 billion. The two satellites will orbit the Earth from south to north 18 times a day, at an altitude of around 300 miles. The Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center decided to develop the surveillance system after North Korea tested its Taepodong-I ballistic missile by launching it over Japan in August 1998.

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No doubt by pure coincidence, the Japanese satellites will also be able to keep a watchful eye on the new controversy over the Diaoyu Islands, located two-thirds of the way from Okinawa to Taiwan. Claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan, Tokyo has decided to beef up its claim to the potentially oil-rich islands by leasing three of the uninhabited islands from a "private owner" for $200,000 a year. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue this week refuted Japan's claim, stressing the Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times and any unilateral claim by Japan is invalid.

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Israeli Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is worrying his own officials with his high-handed approach to Britain, not just refusing to let Palestinian delegates travel to a British-organized conference but also publishing the transcript of his heated talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Aides warned against it, objecting that Britain had become the only reliable friend that Israel had in Europe, and that Tony Blair had blocked efforts by other members of the European Union to punish Israel for human rights violations. (France and Belgium have been lobbying to suspend Israel trade privileges with the EU.) But Netanyahu has the backing of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who spurned a personal message from Blair asking that the Palestinian delegation be allowed to leave. Relations with Britain have become so bad that Blair is again restricting military supplies. Some Israeli Defense Ministry officials are hoping that Sharon's rival, the Labor party candidate Amram Mitzna, will be able to persuade Blair to drop the arms embargo when he visits Downing Street later this week. Maybe, but it will just reinforce the Sharon-Netanyahu view that Blair wants them to lose the Jan. 28 election.

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It looks as if the Bush administration has found itself a new ally. Two U.S. warplanes, one of them a Boeing 727 used as an airborne command center and the other a C-17 military cargo jet, were spotted refueling at India's Mumbai airport in the early hours Saturday. They were en route to Kuwait from California, via another stop-off in Singapore. India has so far been generous with its airspace for U.S. operations that could be labeled part of the international coalition's war on terrorism, but military operations against Iraq are politically far more tricky for New Delhi. But as the United States and British air fleets build up to the 600-plus warplanes and planners envisage putting pressure on the increasingly crowded U.S. airbases in Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey and Diego Garcia, India could be a useful fallback. There is speculation that the U.S. aircraft were testing the Indian political climate. Having already stopped off in Singapore, they could as easily have refueled at Diego Garcia as at Bombay's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.

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The release of hitherto secret letters between British prime ministers and Queen Elizabeth II have turned up the following gem from Harold Macmillan, premier from 1957-63, which helps explain Britain's long difficulties with its European partners. After attending a summit with President Eisenhower and the French and Germans in 1959, as President Charles De Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer were negotiating what became the Paris-Bonn treaty, Macmillan wrote to his monarch, "I thought the relationship between the French and the Germans was very interesting, and different to what I'd been led to expect. De Gaulle treated Adenauer almost as a satellite and the Germans were very quiet, even deflated." But then Macmillan may have missed a step or two. His letter continues: "After lunch, which was extremely good, Dr. Adenauer delivered for nearly an hour a lecture on the dangers of communism and the best way to deal with it — in the schools, in the factory and in the home. I regret to inform Your Majesty that I fell asleep during the latter part of this oration."

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