Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina on precursor to U.S.'s nuclear deal with Iran:
In the past few days, North Korea has renewed its threat to produce nuclear weapons and to demonstrate its long-range missile capability to targets that could include United States.
So much for the previous attempt by an American president to duck a challenge to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty by offering incentives.
We can only hope that President Obama succeeds with Iran where President Clinton failed with North Korea, but the precedent is not encouraging.
The background for the latest flare-up of the oft-repeated North Korean nuclear threat is that the Hermit Kingdom is once again facing famine. Based on past performance, it may be using the threat of its nuclear weapons and missile programs to obtain better terms for the delivery of food or to block efforts to use food aid to extract military concessions.
In response, China has proposed reopening the six-nation talks that have previously led to North Korean promises to shelve its nuclear program — promises that have not been fulfilled.
It has been two decades since President Clinton agreed to provide North Korea with safe nuclear power reactors in exchange for international control of its supply of weapons-grade plutonium. Mr. Clinton was following the lead of former President Jimmy Carter, who went to North Korea to negotiate the deal.
But less than 10 years after it was struck, North Korea admitted to secretly converting uranium into nuclear weapons material in violation of its pledge to keep the Korean Peninsula a nuclear free zone.
That led China and President George W. Bush to agree on the six-nation talks designed to find a way for North Korea to relinquish its nuclear arsenal. (The other members are South Korea, Japan, Russia and North Korea.)
Since then, North Korea has repeatedly conducted a policy of appearing to agree to terms in order to obtain benefits, then reneging.
It has also continued to work on its nuclear weapons program. The latest public estimate, from China, is that it has about 20 nuclear weapons and is actively making more. It is also trying to master the technology of making a nuclear weapon small enough to be fired over the Pacific on one of two long-range missiles it has under development.
However, North Korea is highly dependent on China, which has made it clear that it strongly opposes further development of Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal and its threats. This has, so far, limited North Korea's efforts to use its nuclear status for anything more than the extortion of economic benefits.
The newest flare up of extortionate threats casts a shadow over President Obama's effort to sell the alleged benefits of his agreement with Iran to restrict its nuclear ambitions.
Secretary of State John Kerry last week sought to deflect concerns about the latest threats, under the presumption that North Korea does not yet have a capability to endanger other nations, despite plenty of evidence that it has enough nuclear weapons to wreak havoc on the Korea Peninsula. He said, "Our position is clear: We will not accept ... North Korea ... as a nuclear weapons state, just as we said that about Iran."
Sorry, but North Korea already is a nuclear weapons state. And Iran, a much more dangerous antagonist, is headed in that direction unless it is stopped by something more effective than the agreement that Mr. Kerry negotiated.
The News & Observer of Raleigh (North Carolina) on Pope Francis' visit to U.S.:
Those fortunate enough to see Pope Francis on his visit to the United States will know it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one they'll share with friends and family all their lives. And that feeling will apply to non-Catholics as well as members of the church.
For Pope Francis has captured the world's attention not just with his position, but with a message that embraces all people with love and forgiveness and understanding that goes beyond doctrine. Indeed, long-time church observers thought from the moment he appeared as pope and asked people for their prayers that his might well be a transformative period in the church's history.
Francis certainly is not a revolutionary, in that he adheres to and advocates many of the church's traditional beliefs. But he has cleared the way for the church and its leaders to be more forgiving and more understanding. He has given priests the right to absolve the Catholic sin of abortion. He has acted to make annulment easier.
And he has repeatedly emphasized the need for all to help the poor and disadvantaged. He has preached for humility, for tolerance of those who are different.
And of late, he has spoken of the threat of climate change and the need to better care for the environment and tied that together with the needs of the less fortunate. A gifted writer, the pope wrote in his encyclical policy on social justice and the environment, "It must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."
The pope conveys his view of the church's obligation to involve itself in social issues with his own itinerary in the United States.
Yes, there will be parades and masses. But he will be visiting a school, a charity and a prison. And as he always does, this pope will greet his crowds with kisses and handshakes. He seems particularly touched by children, embracing them when possible, blessing them, kissing them. He makes a special effort with those children who are sick or handicapped.
The pope's humanity is what has caused him to be admired and even adored by non-Catholics. He is a person without pretense, who chooses to live in humble rooms at the Vatican and not the more well-appointed apartment of his predecessors. By example, he is a leader of all, and though he'll address Congress and the United Nations, he'll likely admonish them to serve all the peoples of the world. And they will sit up straight when he does.
Pope Francis has attained extraordinary attention since assuming the papacy. Yes, that's true of all new popes. But in this case, the attention comes as much because of his ideas and his forceful way of expressing them. From Raleigh, hundreds will be going to Washington to see the pope. This is a special day.
The Miami Herald on trial and conviction of Venezuela's opposition leader:
The trial and conviction of opposition leader Leopoldo López by a kangaroo court in Caracas last week is more than just another outrage by the political gang running Venezuela.
It sends an unmistakable signal that President Nicólas Maduro's regime has reached the point of no return in its determination to stay in power no matter what. If ever a slight hope existed that Mr. Maduro could be persuaded to engage in a reset of his reckless policies and return to democracy, that hope is now gone.
The late Hugo Chávez, Mr. Maduro's mentor, was the first to criminalize political activity. But the López prosecution was something else: a show trial, designed to quash political opposition and instill fear in adversaries who believe that peaceful change is still possible.
The trial was a mockery of justice, the culmination of a process started by Mr. Chávez to turn the judiciary into an arm of the repressive machinery of the politicians in power. "Out of 700 hours of trial, López's legal team only had three hours to argue in his defense," the Human Rights Foundation noted. The judge allowed 108 witnesses and 30 exhibits presented by the prosecution, but only two of the 60 witnesses proposed by the defense. The trial was closed to reporters and independent observers.
In the end, Mr. López was sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison for allegedly committing the crimes of arson, damaging public property, incitement to commit a crime and conspiracy. Yet no evidence has ever been put forward. The only evident fact is that Mr. López was turned into a prisoner of conscience for having exercised his right to free speech in leading peaceful protests.
The U.S. government should sanction everyone involved in this scandalous incident and lead a regional campaign to support fair elections in Venezuela later this year. That will be Venezuela's last chance to have a peaceful exit from its mounting chaos.
The Wall Street Journal on Greek's parliamentary election and economic bailout:
By the recent standards of Greek democracy, Sunday's parliamentary election lacked the usual drama. Membership in the eurozone was not at issue, as it seemed to be in July's bailout referendum, and none of the leading parties were promoting Argentina-style economic cures, as the governing Syriza party was when it took office in January.
Official projections showed Syriza came first in a low-turnout election, and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, is on track to stay in office. But he is a chastened Prime Minister whose party lost some parliamentary seats while abandoning its fiery economic rhetoric.
Meanwhile, nearly 75 percent of voters cast their ballots for parties that promised to implement the bailout package that Mr. Tsipras struck with creditors in August. If Greeks had been given a choice between the economic agendas of Germany's Angela Merkel or Argentina's Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, the German Chancellor who in the past was a foil for Syriza would have won in a rout.
Still, this status quo result is not the political transformation Greece needs. Voters re-elected the party least disposed to implement the privatizations, product-market liberalizations and other supply-side reforms demanded by the August bailout. This will exacerbate the main flaw in the deal, which is that it imposed high taxes on the private economy while leaving reform commitments largely unenforceable.
A breakthrough will come when voters demand bolder pro-growth measures that go beyond the liberalization and privatization targets called for by the bailout agreement. The right-of-center New Democracy party, which came in second with about 28 percent of the vote, made some tentative nods in that direction under its caretaker leader, Evangelos Meimarakis. But its conversion to market liberalism from patronage politics remains in an early stage.
Meantime, the risk remains that grudging and partial implementation of a flawed deal will consign Greece to another period of politically toxic low growth. That's a recipe for another Greek drama, a tragic one, unless Greek voters can raise their sights higher than their leaders.
The Los Angeles Times on Americans CEOs involvement in Chinese market:
Pope Francis isn't the only high-profile international figure arriving in the United States this week. Chinese President Xi Jinping is due in Seattle on Tuesday before heading east for an official White House visit. He and President Obama will have much to discuss, including economics, trade, human rights and China's territorial ambitions. But 30 U.S. business leaders will meet with Xi in Seattle first, and it's important that they not undermine their long-term interests by giving Xi the wrong message on cybersecurity.
The visit is Xi's first since becoming China's head of state in 2013, and analysts say he's determined that China be seen as this country's equal. To many U.S. chief executives, though, China seems the more attractive market: Its economy is growing considerably faster, the population is much bigger and incomes are rising as a middle class emerges.
The CEOs may see the meeting as an opportunity to press for greater access to the Chinese market, which would be helpful for all U.S. firms. So would pushing China to provide more protection for intellectual property. But Xi no doubt wants something in return.
According to the Wall Street Journal, analysts expect Xi to ask the CEOs to lobby the Obama administration to not impose economic sanctions on China as punishment for cyberattacks, including the theft of millions of sensitive personnel records from U.S. government computers. Chinese officials have denied any state involvement in online crime, but cybersecurity experts say there's strong evidence tying the Chinese military and other government agencies to a raft of attacks. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has been reluctant to do anything in response.
Chinese officials also point out (with some relish) that many of the world's hacking incidents can be traced to computers in the United States. And as Edward Snowden revealed, the U.S. government secretly gathers information online on an epic scale. The crucial difference, though, is that government agencies here do not, and should not, engage in the sort of industrial espionage that analysts say the Chinese government does routinely, such as the theft of trade secrets.
The business leaders fortunate enough to get an audience with Xi can't be faulted if they spend the time pushing their short-term objectives. And given that economic sanctions against China could bite into U.S. companies' sales, some CEOs may be tempted to side with Xi if he asks for help opposing them. But it would be shortsighted and foolish to try to dampen the federal government's response to the relentless cyberattacks. Imposing sanctions may not stop the hacking, but it would be an overdue step forward from the current policy, which is to do nothing.
London Evening Standard on the European Union's migrant crisis:
Yesterday's deal to impose a quota system on the EU — though not Britain — for the distribution of 120,000 of the migrants who arrived in Europe was passed by a majority, not unanimous, vote: remarkable for such a contentious measure. To make matter worse it was reinforced by threats from France and Germany to the four recalcitrant nations — Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary — that if they didn't capitulate they would get fewer EU subsidies.
There will now be a financial penalty of 0.002 per cent of GDP on states that refuse to accept their agreed share. This is not the way the European Union is meant to function.
In reality, the distribution of migrants through the EU is academic. Refugees who want to join family and existing communities in Germany and Sweden are unlikely to remain in Slovakia or Romania; indeed, they are already reluctant even to register in Italy lest they be obliged to remain there. The gravitational pull for refugees is to Germany because its government made clear that it is prepared to accept virtually unlimited numbers of migrants from Syria.
In fact, the deal prioritises not just Syrians but refugees from Iraq and Eritrea; the numbers of potential migrants is virtually unlimited. The OECD has pointed out that the EU has processed 700,000 asylum applications already this year and by the end of 2015 may reach one million. It also says that integrating refugees will be expensive.
If the numbers were finite, as was the case during the conflict in former Yugoslavia, the problem might be surmountable but given the number of poor, war-torn states whose people want to leave for Europe, the migrant figures may not diminish over time.
The Prime Minister's suggestion today that EU states should focus on repatriating economic migrants is plainly sensible. Yet while it is relatively easy to return migrants from Kosovo, say, what about those from Afghanistan, Somalia or Pakistan?
The crisis reinforces the necessity of addressing its original cause, the war in Syria. If, as Robert Fox intimates in this paper today, there is a danger that Damascus may fall to Islamic State, the human cost, not least in terms of refugees, will be huge. It is time to deal with causes, not just effects.