His remarks have reignited fears that Washington may seek his demise over his independent foreign policy and willingness to obtain weapons from other global suppliers.
To avert possible smartphone intrusion by outside powers, which Duterte said could include "Russia, China, Israel, and maybe Indonesia,” the 73-year-old leader is considering going back to using a basic cellphone, with which eavesdropping and interception is harder.
Noting that he is not a tech-savvy leader, he anecdotally recalled how he once sent a confidential message to all of his Viber contacts after accidentally clicking the “send all” feature.
Duterte has long feared that the CIA might be out for vengeance amid deteriorating bilateral ties with Washington. Just last Friday, Duterte once again noted that the CIA “wanted me dead.”
Washington’s refusal to sell assault rifles to Manila, over concerns about the country’s human rights record amid its ongoing war on drugs, has forced Duterte to seek new suppliers. Manila, which has long depended on the US for weapons, turned to China and Russia to fill the gap.
While the Trump administration is winding up international tensions across the globe with its penchant for slapping sanctions and tariffs on other nations, the breakthrough development over the Caspian Sea points to how multilateral accord can be achieved, and peace between countries maintained.
For over 20 years, the seashore nations of Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia have been locked in dispute over territorial rights governing the Caspian – the world’s largest inland body of water.
But last Sunday, the leaders of the five countries signed a landmark legal convention which formulates a compromise on sharing the benefits – and responsibilities – of the sea’s rich resources.
Addressing the other leaders in the Kazakh port city of Aktau, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the agreement as “epoch-making”, saying it would pave the way for greater cooperation and prosperity among the Central Asian neighbors.
Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani told delegates: “Our region could be an example of stability, friendship and a good neighborhood.”
At the heart of the erstwhile dispute was how to legally define the Caspian. Was it a sea or a lake? That definitional difference meant different governing laws could be applied, with implications for how the five littoral nations would share the resources of that vast waterway – an area (370,000 square km) which is bigger than that of Germany and many other European states. With huge oil and gas reserves, as well as lucrative fishing resources, the division of the Caspian has always been a fraught subject.
What has been agreed now is an innovative compromise between the stakeholder nations. The surface water is to be treated as an international sea which means freedom of navigation for the five peripheral countries to any of the shores. But the seabed is defined as if it were dry land, allowing for the distribution of constituent zones on an equitable basis.
The precise formula for sharing the area has reportedly yet to be established, requiring follow-up meetings between foreign ministers. But the main outcome so far is the five neighbors have come up with an amicable, workable solution.
“Reaching this consensus on the status of the sea was a difficult process,” said Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. “It required a lot of effort… but now we have goodwill.”
Up until the fall of the Soviet Union, the Caspian was shared by just two jurisdictions – that of the USSR and Iran. With the independence of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan that led to more competing claims.
The hydrocarbon resources under the seabed are immense, estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. With proven reserves of 50 billion barrels of oil that puts the region ahead of the United States or Nigeria. In addition, there are natural gas fields reckoned to be equivalent in size to those of Saudi Arabia.
Commendably, the littoral nations have come up with a mutual accord to allocate the resources, recognizing the sovereignty of each. That means for Russia, it is obliged to accede to a trans-Caspian pipeline between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan which could compete with its market share for fuel exports to Europe.
On the other hand, Russia’s total naval access to the Caspian gives it crucial security defense. Russian warships used the Caspian as a launching area for its Kalibr cruise missiles during the war in Syria in support of the Assad government against Western-backed militants.
As Putin also pointed out during the signing ceremony in Aktau, the Caspian is a vital security area for Central Asia, straddling Afghanistan and the Middle East. For Russia, securing its Caucasus region from encroaching terror threats is paramount.
Significantly, too, the Caspian Sea deal categorically excludes any external military power from gaining a foothold. Un
Kim made the rare remarks during a visit to a construction site in a tourist coastal area, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The North Korean leader expressed his discontent with the international sanctions, and accused what he called "hostile forces" of attempting to "stifle" his nation by imposing "brigandish" sanctions and a blockade on Pyongyang.
He also described his country’s resistance against such sanctions as “a do-or-die struggle to defend the prestige of the party and a worthwhile struggle for creating the happiness of the people.”
Kim’s comments came as a surprise to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency which wrote on Friday that it was rare for the North Korean leader to personally mention sanctions and blockade by using rough expressions like "brigandish."
The remarks came a few days after the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) warned that North Korea would likely go through a "full-blown food security crisis" amid a heatwave that destroyed a large portion of the country's agricultural fields.
In a statement issued last Friday, the IFRC stressed that the worrying situation has been exacerbated by the international sanctions imposed on North Korea over its missile and nuclear programs.
North Korea is under tough sanctions imposed by the UN, the US, and the European Union. The UN imposed its toughest-ever bans on Pyongyang after it test-fired new ballistic missiles in July 2017 and then conducted its most powerful nuclear test in September 2017.
The EU and the US, which has engaged in talks with North Korea over its nuclear program, have also imposed wide-ranging unilateral bans against the country.
After a historic summit in Singapore in June, US President Donald Trump said Kim had promised to immediately end North Korea’s weapons programs. Pyongyang, however, later urged Washington to take reciprocal measures including officially removing sanctions.
"The Secretary-General welcomes the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea by Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan," the spokesman for the UN chief said in a statement issued on Monday.
"This historic document demonstrates the importance of regional cooperation, which is vital for maintaining international peace and security," he added.
The presidents of the five states bordering the resource-rich Caspian Sea signed the historic convention on the sea's legal status, which had been under discussion for more than two decades, after the 5th Caspian Summit in the Kazakh port city of Aktau on Sunday.
The Caspian Sea convention has been drawn up in 24 articles with the most important highlights being a ban on military presence of all foreign countries in the sea and transit of military consignments belonging to foreign countries.
The convention emphasizes that the Caspian Sea belongs to all littoral states, prohibiting the establishment and handing over of any kind of military bases to foreign countries.
The UN head's spokesman further said, "This historic document demonstrates the importance of regional cooperation, which is vital for maintaining international peace and security."
He added that Guterres has described the convention as a "significant step" to solve regional tensions and believes that it "should prove invaluable in regulating a wide range of longstanding issues among the Caspian Sea littoral states."
The UN chief took "this opportunity to congratulate the five signatory countries on this landmark achievement of regional cooperation and multilateralism," the spokesperson said.
In an address to the Fifth Caspian Sea Littoral States Summit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the sea is now a model for guaranteeing peace, stability and friendship.
Rouhani said, "Today, this region has turned into a successful model for guaranteeing peace, stability, friendship, good neighborliness and progress and this summit is another step toward more convergence in the region that needs to be strengthened by taking more steps."
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water by area and is variously classified as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea.
The Caspian Sea littoral states have been discussing a convention on the sea’s legal status for years, which will finally turn out to be a comprehensive document outlining the duties and rights of the five littoral states as well as the framework of cooperation among these countries.