Friday, September 23, 2005

Excerpts of editorials from newspapers around the world.

La Repubblica

Contrasting elections

ROME — A calendar coincidence scheduled the German and Afghan elections in the same hours. While we watched their images on television, we were appalled by the differences. On one side, the authoritative Angela Merkel, on the other, female candidates wearing burqas. On one side, the results of the elections were known while the polls were still open and the candidates voiced their opinions as soon as the election was over; on the other side, we had somebody killed and the outcome of the voting is due in four weeks.

We couldn’t have gotten a better idea of the distance between these two worlds. Nevertheless, those two different stories in the news, in the end, impressed because of their resemblance: Election day in Berlin and Kabul — simply two places in the world where people voted.

Helsingin Sanomat

Pyongyang’s promises

HELSINKI — The average duration of diplomatic concessions made by North Korea has always been short. If some text that is agreed upon with North Korea has a loophole in it, that country is sure to use it.

In the six-nation talks concerning North Korea’s nuclear program, a breakthrough in principle was achieved … whereby North Korea will abandon all nuclear weapons “at an early date” in exchange for U.S. guarantees not to attack and promises by South Korea to supply it with electricity. A day later, Pyongyang issued its own interpretation: Power stations first.

As building power plants would take many years … this was tantamount to scrapping the pact. Pyongyang was apparently playing for time again and trying to squeeze out more concessions.

Asahi Shimbun

At the starting line

TOKYO — Representatives of the six nations taking part in talks in Beijing over North Korea’s nuclear development have finally issued a joint statement, the product of extremely hard labor.

The biggest news for Japan and the rest of the international community is that the joint statement contains North Korea’s promise to abandon all of its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.

But the road ahead will no doubt be bumpy.

The six countries did nothing other than broadly agree on the future goal of negotiations. But no agreement was reached on how to reach that goal. The latest accord means that the six countries have come to the starting line. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to underestimate the accord.

The understanding of the current stalemate by the countries concerned must have prompted mutual concessions for the latest agreement.

Steady steps forward must be taken on the basis of this agreement. The first thing that must be done is to stop the nuclear facilities now in operation in North Korea.

Financial Times

Britain’s nuclear weapons

LONDON — Sometime in the next few years Tony Blair, or perhaps it will be Gordon Brown, will announce the modernization of Britain’s nuclear weapons. We are promised a national debate on the relevance of the atomic arsenal in a world without an obvious nuclear enemy. Our submarines already prowl the seas with their ballistic missiles untargeted. But the bomb has been central to British foreign policy for more than half a century. Why should that change?

The politicians, of course, will not put it quite like that. John Reid, the defense secretary, has already spoken of the unforeseeable dangers 15 or 20 years hence. Such known unknowns are deemed sufficient to require that Britain retain its nuclear status. The deeper truth is that Britain’s political and foreign policy establishments are trapped in the past. Since 1989, the geopolitical landscape has been torn up and remade by a series of successive shocks: the end of the Cold War, the rise of new powers in Asia, and the terrorist attacks on the U.S. to take just three. Yet Britain’s place in this new terrain is said to be unalterable.

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