Import expo to improve trade balance: Xi addresses opening ceremony of the CIIE; When realities hit the ‘Road’


The first ever China International Import Expo (CIIE) kicks off in Shanghai today. President Xi Jinping attends the opening ceremony and delivers a keynote speech at the ceremony.

The China International Import Expo (CIIE), the world’s first import-themed national expo, kicks off on Monday. More than 3,000 enterprises from some 130 countries and regions will exhibit their products, taking this as a premier opportunity to enter or expand their presence on the Chinese market.

But there are still fault-finding reports about the event. Some say sarcastically that no state leader or government head from the G7 will attend the expo. Some even link the CIIE with the China-US trade war in spite of the fact that China announced the CIIE in May 2017 at the Belt and Road Initiative on International Cooperation, before the trade war hadn’t started.

Why do these media always want to dig out some political ends from the CIIE, which is in any way a good thing for global trade as well as the exports of Western countries?

CIIE is being held to serve enterprises and exporters worldwide, not Western leaders. Japan ranks first in terms of the number of participating companies, followed by South Korea, the US, Australia, Germany and Italy. This fully demonstrates how much passion companies from developed countries hold toward the expo and heralds the expo’s success.

If more countries and regions with a trade surplus can host import expos, that will promote global trade balance. Those with a trade deficit should not blame others, but encourage their enterprises to grasp every opportunity to promote their products. Sometimes the problem lies in information asymmetry and an import expo can provide a platform for suppliers and buyers to communicate at a low cost.

China has long had a trade surplus and too much of it is not helpful for the country. More imports of high-quality products can help Chinese to upgrade their consumption and advance the production. The inherent drive for hosting CIIE is to translate part of China’s foreign exchange reserve into social progress.

China started very early by holding trade fairs in Guangzhou and later became a leading exporter in the world. Now we are holding the import expo in the hope of promoting our imports.

Tangled in a trade war with the US, China could have shut US companies out of the expo as a way of pressuring, but it has acted the other way around. By contrast, the US now thinks everything about the Chinese economy is wrong and whatever China does is a trick. The two countries differ in their visions.

We believe that the CIIE, if held regularly, will help China enhance the quality of its imports and balance its imports and exports. China doesn’t need to care what the outside world thinks of the expo, nor should it intentionally enhance the volume of transactions as a proof of kindness.

As long as the Chinese market grows larger, CIIE will attract more attention and will be remembered in world trade history as a positive event.

Countries, businesses look forward to CIIE

As the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) nears, officials and entrepreneurs around the world aim to seize the opportunity to explore the Chinese market, voicing greater confidence in China’s further opening up.

“We understand the CIIE as … showcasing China’s greater openness to importers. These are all moves in the right direction,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “We support what China is doing to expand imports and address global trade imbalances.”

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Xinhua that “the expo is a ‘win-win’ event for both, China and the world, as it provides new opportunities for cooperation, helps companies across the globe enter the Chinese market and paves the way for China to satisfy its growing demand for high-quality products.”

Pakistan is confronted with current account deficit and the CIIE “is a great opportunity for Pakistan to have a pavilion where we will be exhibiting our exports,” Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Khan hailed China’s reform and opening up policy which provides Chinese industries a better environment to compete in international trade. “China has set a good example,” he said.

Madagascar will showcase products such as vanilla, cocoa beans, coffee beans and minerals at the CIIE. China offers a great opportunity for everyone, and everyone must know how to seize this opportunity, Minister of Tourism Jean Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa told Xinhua.

“Australia thinks it (the CIIE) is a great celebration of … the economic contribution that China makes to the region and the world. That is why we’re delighted that some 180 Australian businesses and brands are participating,” said Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham.

“We are in global markets, we are all together and we want to cooperate,” Israeli Scientific Minister Ofir Akunis said, adding that it is a “very good idea” and the “right way” that China hosts the CIIE where people from all over the world will meet meet on cooperation in the future.

“I think (the CIIE) is a great opportunity to show the players in the global economic environment the opening of China to world trade, and it is also a contribution to the growth of the global market,” Marco Tronchetti Provera, CEO of Italian-Chinese tyre maker Pirelli, told Xinhua.

The CIIE, a significant move by the Chinese government to further open the Chinese market, has attracted about 2,800 exhibitors from over 130 countries and regions. Economic and trade exchanges are bringing more benefits to all sides.

“We are going to Shanghai to represent more than 89 of our members who are able to export a range of products (to China),” Sandile Ndlovu, Executive Director of the South African Aerospace, Maritime and Defence Export Council, said. “China could be one of our biggest customers as there is so much potential for trade with China.”

Marathon Ginseng, a U.S. Wisconsin-based ginseng grower, will have a stall at the CIIE. It registered for the expo the first time it heard of the fair.

“It is a big event in China,” Jiang Mingtao, founder of Marathon Ginseng, told Xinhua. “We hope to enhance the reputation of ginseng produced in the state of Wisconsin … and let more Chinese consumers know our products – Global Times

Highlights of Xi’s keynote speech at import expo – Chinadaily.com.cn

When realities hit the ‘Road’

 

JUST 11 weeks into his election victory, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan has already had to accomplish a task that seriously tests his diplomatic skills.

More than that, it is a task that would tax his diplomatic creativity. And that is in addition to the dire economic challenges he already faces at home.

Confronted with multiple needs and demands, it has taken some time for the new Government to form a Cabinet. Pakistan’s economy has taken some beating. Imran’s opposition party won the August election on a tide of change, against an incumbent party in government whose leaders had been charged with corruption.

Worse, the novice Prime Minister also has to contend with unfavourable terms that the previous government had agreed to with China in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

Imran is in Beijing this weekend to try to negotiate those terms.

He is a self-confessed fan of Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Even so, he could not possibly have planned to follow in Dr Mahathir’s footsteps so closely. Imran’s toughest task is to present his case in China so persuasively as to avoid a cynical sense of déjà vu among China’s leaders. But what can this new Prime Minister say that has not already been said by his much more experienced Malaysian counterpart, to any greater effect?

One theme Imran’s delegation may be pursuing is explaining to Beijing the plight currently facing Pakistan: in its dire economic straits, Islamabad has to choose between negotiating terms with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or renegotiating terms with China.

Neither option is ideal by any means. Going with the IMF may even be a worse debt trap than China has ever been accused of fostering. The fact that Imran is in Beijing shows that the lesser evil may be to renegotiate the BRI terms, such as reducing the costs to Pakistan by a couple of billion US dollars.

If Pakistan opts to go with China, it would prove that any conceivable terms with the IMF would be more onerous and risky. Both the new Finance Ministry and Imran’s task force are leaning that way.

Alternatively the BRI projects could be deferred, but would China agree? Much of that remains to be seen, or heard, in the following days. For now, it is important to remember that such situations are prone to misinterpretation and misrepresentation – including of the deliberate kind.

Predictably, the largely Western international media have already portrayed Pakistan as “saying no” to the China-led BRI.

But why would Pakistan ever do that? The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a vital segment – indeed, the flagship – of the BRI is of far greater value and importance to Pakistan than to China.

Whatever strategic or symbolic significance the US$62 bil (RM258bil) CPEC may have or be said to have for China, it is dwarfed by the immediate and tangible benefits for Pakistan’s development.

It is situated fully and squarely in Pakistan, not China, covering much of Pakistani territory and set to boost such sectors as energy, telecommunications, tourism, trade and transportation. Pakistan’s Railways Ministry calls CPEC the “backbone” of the country.

Its strategic value to China is access to the Arabian Sea at the corridor’s south-western corner in the port of Gwadar. It is access that China does not need now, and may or may not need sometime in the future. China is comfortable investing heavily in Pakistan’s development because the two countries have a special relationship in South Asia. Western observers who still consider Pakistan a Western ally need to have their perspective of Asia updated. Casting Islamabad as a US ally is merely harking back to the 1950s era of the US-led South-East Asia Treaty Organisation (Seato) in the early phase of the Cold War.

Times have moved on, as have China and Pakistan. Their leaders have repeatedly declared their respective countries “all-weather friends” – perhaps even allies.

To India, China and Pakistan have no common border, their link being only Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The territory is bitterly disputed with India following the 1963 China-Pakistan boundary agreement.

Controversy with India flared again two days ago when a bus service was launched linking Lahore with Kashghar in Xinjiang, with the route running through contested PoK.

The term “debt trap” in reference to allegedly risky China-led projects was not coined by China, Pakistan or even Sri Lanka. It was coined by an Indian economist.

If any doubt still lingers over the China-Pakistan relationship, BRI cooperation continues between them and may even expand. Both countries are now seeking to extend CPEC into Afghanistan.

On a stellar scale, China helped Pakistan launch two satellites this year. By 2020, Pakistan hopes to send its first astronaut into space under China’s space programme.

India’s problem with the BRI is essentially its passage through territory disputed with Pakistan. That has now been conflated with what is said to be “Pakistan’s problem” with the BRI.

Western pundits in particular tend to draw such hasty and hazy conclusions since they accord with preconceived US notions of a rising China threat. Such misperceptions are not only wrong but misleading.

Asian countries have a different perspective because a rising China as Asia’s main economy also means a rising Asia. It is the proverbial rising tide that lifts all boats in this region of the continent.

Even the classic anecdotal “debt trap,” Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, was never quite the disaster its detractors claimed it to be. That controversy was built up principally between Sri Lanka’s contending political parties and their different positions on China at the time.

Now that Mahinda Rajapaksa – prime mover of the Hambantota project and defeated in the 2015 presidential race – has returned as Prime Minister nine days ago, punditry should be buzzing.

The point, however, is to arrive at reasoned analysis away from wild speculation. China is a rational player whatever the objective may be, so that a rational approach can only help understanding.

For its part, China should also empathise with its BRI partners in the conditions they find themselves in. Financially strapped and economically challenged, nations that wish to work with the BRI are constrained by factors beyond their control.

First, these countries may have new governments that have inherited a broken economy from their predecessors. Much urgent repair work first needs to be done. Second, BRI projects are largely about massive infrastructure, usually the most expensive public projects to be undertaken by any government. Third, much of the BRI runs through developing countries and regions that may not have the largest financial resources even at the best of times.

How will Pakistan’s appeal to China for revised terms hold out? Prime Minister Imran Khan should be able to win some concessions.

After all, China has helped other Asian countries before in times of need, even at some expense to itself. When the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis struck, China postponed its scheduled currency revaluation to absorb some of the cost so that the afflicted countries do not go under from excessive loan repayments. Such a generous gesture from Beijing would not be out of character, whether the beneficiary is Pakistan or Malaysia.

After all, each boasts a special relationship with Beijing.

Bunn NagaraBy  bunn nagara

 

Martin Jacques – Big Picture: China’s Belt & Road Initiative will change the world as we know it

 


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Huduh is good for Malaysia?


Enough with hudud

The growing number of politicians in this country who think that hudud is a good idea for Malaysia should see the video that is circulating online of the execution of an Afghan woman by her husband for alleged adultery.

HERE is a video circulating online which everyone in this country should watch:

It depicts the execution of an Afghan woman for alleged adultery. Her husband shoots her many times in the head while being cheered on by a crowd of men.

If anyone thinks this happened many years ago during the Taliban–era, they are sadly mistaken.

This gruesome event happened recently, in present-day non-Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The authorities are now looking for the executioner who has predictably disappeared. But really they should arrest the entire crowd that watched it, as accessories to murder.

I think this video should be shown to the growing number of politicians in this country who think hudud is a good idea for Malaysia. In particular, it should be shown to those who have just called for the same.

If they can watch the video without at least blanching and truly think that’s what they want, then I hope they will be held accountable for not only the exodus of Malaysians from this country but also for the drastic reduction in foreign investments coming in.

If they want to blow us back to the Stone Age, then they should at least be made to answer for it.

What is it with some of our politicians who seem to have taken leave of their senses?

Is the loathing for reading and knowledge so widespread that they have to show it off with such ill-informed statements?

In a world where problems are increasingly sophisticated and complicated, ishudud the only response these people can come up with?

Maybe they should get out a bit more.

They might like to travel to places like Pakistan where the literacy rate is all of 55% and where, in some areas, only 22% of women can read.

Or, go to Iran where a full 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. They might also like to notice the vast numbers of children forced to do backbreaking work in the Middle East.

Or they can stay home and instead of reading the tabloids and beefing up their knowledge on which actress is about to marry which rich man, they might like to read up on our very own Federal Constitution which basically says that not only can’t you havehudud laws, you also can’t impose it on anyone who isn’t Muslim.

Unless they have some subconscious need to lose the elections for their beloved party, then they might pause and see where this is going.

But introspection is not a Malaysian strong point.

Somebody floats an “idea” that they think will attract some press attention and next thing you know, everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon.

Never mind that none of the so-calledhududpunishments can be found in the Quran.

For years, our Government has steadily pooh-poohed the idea of having hudud in this country because that was what the Opposition (or at least some of them) wanted. For years those of us who knew that hudud did not belong in the 21st century have held on to that as our bulwark against theocratic rule in this country.

Now, however, the government supporters have changed their tune and are echoing the Opposition’s line all those years ago. They seriously think this is the way to win an election?

If hudud is to be implemented, then I hope someone realises that it has to be implemented fairly.

Therefore not only will petty thieves get their hands cut off but major-league million-ringgit bribe-takers too. And no doubt we will have morality police patrolling the streets and checking that everyone is being good.

MUSINGS
By MARINA MAHATHIR

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American drone strikes slammed!


Strong criticisms have emerged against the use of drones for killing people in several countries.

THE use of drones by one state to kill people in other countries is fast emerging as an international human rights issue of serious public concern.

This was evident in the recent session (June 18-July 6) of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, both in the official meetings and in NGO seminars.

The use of drones, or pilotless aircraft operated by remote control, by the government in one country to strike at persons and other targets in other countries, has been increasingly used by the United States in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Instead of following clear legal standards, the practice of drone attacks has become a vaguely defined and unaccountable “licence to kill”, according to a 2010 report of a UN human rights special rapporteur.

According to an article in The Guardian, the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that as many as 4,000 people have been killed in US drone strikes since 2002. Of those, a significant proportion were civilians.

The numbers killed have escalated significantly since Barack Obama became president.

Recent criticisms and concerns raised by officials, experts and governments about the use of drones include the high numbers of deaths and casualties of innocent civilians; possible violation of sovereignty and international human rights laws; lack of information, transparency and accountability; their being counter-productive; and the indirect encouragement to other countries to similarly use drone attacks.

The UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Navi Pillay in her overall report to the Human Rights Council on June 18 said that during her recent visit to Pakistan she expressed serious concern over the continuing use of armed drones for targeted attacks particularly because it was unclear that all persons targeted were combatants or directly participating in hostilities.

She added that the “UN secretary-general has expressed concern about the lack of transparency on the circumstances in which drones are used, noting that these attacks raise questions about compliance with distinction and proportionality.”

She reminded the US of their international obligation to take all necessary precautions to ensure that attacks comply with international law and urged them to conduct investigations that are transparent, credible and independent, and provide victims with effective remedies.

On June 26, Pakistan’s ambassador Zamir Akram told the council that his country was directly affected by the indiscriminate use of drones, and at least a thousand civilians, including women and children, have been killed in drone attacks.

“The government of Pakistan has maintained consistently that drone attacks are not only counter-productive but a violation of international law and Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said Akram, adding that Pakistan’s Parliament has called for an immediate end to these attacks.

“Regrettably this call has not been heeded. The drone attacks continue in violation of the UN Charter, international human rights and international humanitarian law. The international human rights machinery must clearly reject attempts to justify these actions.”

At the council on June 16, Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, called for more transparency and accountability from the US, according to a IPS news report.

He urged that a framework be developed and adhered to, and pressed for accurate records of civilian deaths. “I think we’re in for very dangerous precedents that can be used by countries on all sides,” he said.

At an event organised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Heyns said the US drone attacks would encourage other states to flout human rights standards and suggested that some drone strikes may even be war crimes, according to a report in the London-based Guardian.

Criticisms are also coming from US groups and a former president. “The US has cobbled together its own legal framework for targeted killing, with standards that are far less stringent than the law allows,” Hina Shamsi, a director of the ACLU told the council on June 20, according to IPS.

Shamsi also took issue with the lack of transparency of military programmes based on what she called “a secret legal criteria, entirely secret evidence, and a secret process”.

“The international community’s concern about the US targeted killing programme is continuing to grow because of the unlawfully broad authority our government asserts to kill ‘suspected terrorists’ far from any battlefield, without meaningful transparency or accountability,” Shamsi told IPS.

The lack of a legal framework allows for drone strikes to be implemented at will, in non-conflict zones and on the basis of loosely defined terrorist threats, without permission from the host nation, added the IPS article.

“In essence, drones cancel out national sovereignty,” Tom Engelhardt, co-author of Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050, told IPS. “The rules of the game are one country’s sovereignty trumps that of another.”

Former US President, Jimmy Carter, writing in the New York Times (June 24), noted that the use of US drone attacks “continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

“These policies clearly affect American foreign policy. Top intelligence and military officials as well as rights defenders in targeted areas affirm that the great escalation in drone attacks has turned aggrieved families toward terrorist organisations, aroused civilian populations against us … As concerned citizens we must persuade Washington to reverse course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms.”

Drones were originally developed to gather intelligence.

More than 40 countries have this technology and some have or are seeking drones that can shoot laser-guided missiles, according to a pioneering 2010 report by the then UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston.

They enable targeted killings with no risk to the personnel of the state carrying them out and can be operated remotely from the home state.

GLOBAL TRENDS By MARTIN KHOR

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Drones, computers new weapons of US waging shadow wars!


AP FILE – This Jan. 31, 2010 file photo shows an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile. Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm’s way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

FILE - This Jan. 31, 2010 file photo shows an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile. Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm's way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint.  (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, burn a representation of a US flag during a rally condemning US drone strikes in tribal areas and the reopening of the NATO supply line to neighboring Afghanistan, in Hyderabad, Pakistan, Friday, June 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Pervez Masih) — AP

FILE - This Jan. 31, 2010 file photo shows an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile. Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm's way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint.  (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)FILE – In this Sept. 7, 2011 file photo, John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, speaks in Washington. After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile. Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm’s way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) — AP

WASHINGTON — After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile.FILE - This Jan. 31, 2010 file photo shows an unmanned U.S. Predator drone flies over Kandahar Air Field, southern Afghanistan, on a moon-lit night. After a decade of costly conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American way of war is evolving toward less brawn, more guile. Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm's way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint.  (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm’s way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint.

Chart shows the number of air attacks in Pakistan — AP

It’s war in the shadows, with the U.S. public largely in the dark.

In Pakistan, armed drones, not U.S. ground troops or B-52 bombers, are hunting down al-Qaida terrorists, and a CIA-run raid of Osama bin Laden‘s hide-out was executed by a stealthy team of Navy SEALs.

In Yemen, drones and several dozen U.S. military advisers are trying to help the government tip the balance against an al-Qaida offshoot that harbors hopes of one day attacking the U.S. homeland.

In Somalia, the Horn of Africa country that has not had a fully functioning government since 1991, President Barack Obama secretly has authorized two drone strikes and two commando raids against terrorists.

In Iran, surveillance drones have kept an eye on nuclear activities while a computer attack reportedly has infected its nuclear enrichment facilities with a virus, possibly delaying the day when the U.S. or Israel might feel compelled to drop real bombs on Iran and risk a wider war in the Middle East.

The high-tech warfare allows Obama to target what the administration sees as the greatest threats to U.S. security, without the cost and liabilities of sending a swarm of ground troops to capture territory; some of them almost certainly would come home maimed or dead.

But it also raises questions about accountability and the implications for international norms regarding the use of force outside of traditional armed conflict. The White House took an incremental step Friday toward greater openness about the basic dimensions of its shadowy wars by telling Congress for the first time that the U.S. military has been launching lethal attacks on terrorist targets in Somalia and Yemen. It did not mention drones, and its admission did not apply to CIA operations.

“Congressional oversight of these operations appears to be cursory and insufficient,” said Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy issues for the Federation of American Scientists, a private group.

“It is Congress’ responsibility to declare war under the Constitution, but instead it appears to have adopted a largely passive role while the executive takes the initiative in war fighting,” Aftergood said in an interview.

That’s partly because lawmakers relinquished their authority by passing a law just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that essentially granted the White House open-ended authority for armed action against al-Qaida.

Secret wars are not new.

For decades, the CIA has carried out covert operations abroad at the president’s direction and with congressional notice. It armed the mujahedeen in Afghanistan who fought Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, for example. In recent years the U.S. military’s secretive commando units have operated more widely, even in countries where the U.S. is not at war, and that’s blurred the lines between the intelligence and military spheres.

In this shroud of secrecy, leaks to the news media of classified details about certain covert operations have led to charges that the White House orchestrated the revelations to bolster Obama’s national security credentials and thereby improve his re-election chances. The White House has denied the accusations.

The leaks exposed details of U.S. computer virus attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, the foiling of an al-Qaida bomb plot targeting U.S. aircraft, and other secret operations.

Two U.S. attorneys are heading separate FBI investigations into leaks of national security information, and Congress is conducting its own probe.

It’s not just the news media that has pressed the administration for information about its shadowy wars.

Some in Congress, particularly those lawmakers most skeptical of the need for U.S. foreign interventions, are objecting to the administration’s drone wars. They are demanding a fuller explanation of how, for example, drone strikes are authorized and executed in cases in which the identity of the targeted terrorist is not confirmed.

“Our drone campaigns already have virtually no transparency, accountability or oversight,” Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and 25 other mostly anti-war members of Congress wrote Obama on Tuesday.

A few dozen lawmakers are briefed on the CIA’s covert action and clandestine military activity, and some may ask to review drone strike video and be granted access to after-action reports on strikes and other clandestine actions. But until two months ago, the administration had not formally confirmed in public its use of armed drones.

In an April speech in Washington, Obama’s counterterrorism chief, John Brennan, acknowledged that despite presidential assurances of a judicious use of force against terrorists, some still question the legality of drone strikes.

“So let me say it as simply as I can: Yes, in full accordance with the law – and in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States and to save American lives – the United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists, sometimes using remotely piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” he said.

President George W. Bush authorized drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere, but Obama has vastly increased the numbers. According to Bill Roggio of The Long War Journal, an online publication that tracks U.S. counterterrorism operations, the U.S. under Obama has carried out an estimated 254 drone strikes in Pakistan alone. That compares with 47 strikes during the Bush administration.

In at least one case the target was an American. Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaida leader, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September.

According to a White House list released late last year, U.S. counterterrorism operations have removed more than 30 terrorist leaders around the globe. They include al-Qaida in East Africa “planner” Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed in a helicopter strike in Somalia.

The drone campaign is highly unpopular overseas.

A Pew Research Center survey on the U.S. image abroad found that in 17 of 21 countries surveyed, more than half of the people disapproved of U.S. drone attacks targeting extremist leaders in such places as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. In the U.S., 62 percent approved of the drone campaign, making American public opinion the clear exception.

The U.S. use of cyberweapons, like viruses that sabotage computer networks or other high-tech tools that can invade computers and steal data, is even more closely shielded by official secrecy and, arguably, less well understood.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been a leading critic of the administration’s handling of information about using computers as a tool of war.

“I think that cyberattacks are one of the greatest threats that we face,” McCain said in a recent interview, “and we have a very divided and not very well-informed Congress addressing it.”

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and national security officials often talk publicly about improving U.S. defenses against cyberattack, not only on U.S. government computer systems but also against defense contractors and other private networks linked, for example, to the U.S. financial system or electrical grid. Left largely unexplained is the U.S. capacity to use computer viruses and other cyberweapons against foreign targets.

In the view of some, the White House has cut Congress out of the loop, even in the realm of overt warfare.

Sen. James Webb, D-Va., who saw combat in Vietnam as a Marine, introduced legislation last month that would require that the president seek congressional approval before committing U.S. forces in civil conflicts, such as last year’s armed intervention in Libya, in which there is no imminent security threat to the U.S.

“Year by year, skirmish by skirmish, the role of the Congress in determining where the U.S. military would operate, and when the awesome power of our weapon systems would be unleashed has diminished,” Webb said.

By ROBERT BURNS, LOLITA C. BALDOR and KIMBERLY DOZIER, Associated Press

Online: Pew Research Center: www.pewresearch.org  The Associated Press

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