Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad:
The New York Times on no nukes on the Korean Peninsula:
It's little wonder that South Koreans are thinking about ways to defend themselves, given North Korea's bizarre and dangerous behavior. The North has recently launched a long-range rocket and conducted its third nuclear test. It has also unleashed a barrage of apocalyptic threats, including potentially launching "pre-emptive nuclear strikes" on Seoul and the United States and declaring the 1953 Korean War armistice nullified.
In response, some influential South Koreans have urged that the South develop its own nuclear arsenal, and recent polls show that two-thirds of the population concurs. ...
In recent years, the international community has demonstrated rare unity in imposing sanctions on Iran and North Korea to curb their nuclear ambitions. ...
South Korea would do better spending the billions of dollars that nuclear weapons would cost on conventional capabilities that would actually enhance its security. The United States recently bolstered the deployment of ballistic missile defense warships in waters off the Korean Peninsula and on Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Pentagon is enhancing America's ability to defend itself from a North Korean nuclear missile attack by deploying up to 14 additional ground-based interceptors on the West Coast.
Many experts say that the North's new leader, Kim Jong-un, is looking to enhance his political position, not start a war. But there is a huge and growing risk of miscalculation. There is also every reason to believe that adding the threat of nuclear weapons from the South would inflame the situation, not calm it.
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W. Va., on rules for tamper-resistant drugs:
Attorneys general from 48 U.S. states and territories made it clear this week that they support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's efforts to make drug manufacturers more accountable for preventing abuse of powerful opioid drugs.
But the coalition also pointed out a potential gap in the FDA's efforts and asked that the federal agency takes steps to plug it. The FDA should listen.
In its letter, the National Association of Attorneys General praised the FDA's plan to adopt rules encouraging manufacturers to develop opioids that are difficult to crush or dissolve — two steps often used by abusers of the drugs. Early this year, the FDA released draft guidelines which suggested studies drug companies would have to conduct to show that their opioid products actually deterred abuse.
However, the attorneys general noted, those draft guidelines did not include how the developing standards would apply to generic versions of painkillers. They said they were concerned that if generic painkillers are approved without the same tamper-resistant features, abusers of the drugs will shift to the generic versions so they can more easily be abused.
In announcing his participation in the request to the FDA, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey noted the extent of the prescription drug abuse problem in the Mountain State. He cited a study from the Centers for Disease Control that found West Virginia had one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. About 25 of every 100,000 people in the state died from an overdose in 2008. Morrisey's counterparts in Ohio and Kentucky also signed the letter. ...
Both manufacturers of brand-name drugs and makers of the generic formulations have their own perspectives on the issue, and both no doubt will raise questions that could stall implementation of the tamper-resistant rules. ...
Despite the respective issues put forth by the brand-name and generic drug manufacturers, the FDA should move forward with a plan to require both segments to produce abuse-deterrent formulations. It's been a slow process to get the brand-name manufacturers to take greater accountability for the prescription-drug abuse problem. There shouldn't be any backsliding on that progress, and generic manufacturers should be held to the same standards.
The Courier, Houma, La., on the new pope:
With those Latin words, it was official. "We have a pope."
Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina won election as the Catholic Church's 266th leader but the first from Latin America.
In fact, he is the first pope in more than 1,000 years from outside of Europe.
As the spiritual leader of the world's more than 1 billion Catholics, Pope Francis will confront a number of challenges, perhaps the largest being the church's lingering abuse scandals.
But the 76-year-old former archbishop of Buenos Aires is known for his energetic, humble service to the church. He regularly used the public bus to travel to and from work, reportedly cooks his own meals and makes regular trips into Argentina's slums to minister to the poor.
The new pope was actually close to the papacy in 2005 when he finished second in the voting to Pope Benedict XVI, who recently announced his retirement. ...
While the pope is the official leader of the Catholic Church, that position allows him to take a leadership position in the world's religious and moral affairs.
He will certainly be challenged by the abuse scandals, but he has known challenges in his native Argentina. He was seen as instrumental in trying to restore credibility to the church that lost many of its followers during that nation's military dictatorship, which ended in 1983.
He has acknowledged the church's failure to fight the wrongs of that dictatorship and led an effort that ended in the church's apology in 2012.
The lessons of that episode will serve him as he reaches out to the world's Catholics and tries to restore the reputation of the world church. ...
Good luck on an important spiritual job that will lead the church of so many around the globe.
Houston Chronicle on U.S. should not view Mexico as a problem:
We've all seen the headlines. They're as gruesome and disturbing as any in the world, and they're all the more disturbing because they're relatively close to home:
Twenty-two bodies found in Mexico City over a recent weekend. Thirty-five bodies dumped like yesterday's trash along the side of a busy Veracruz highway. The bodies of 17 musicians and crew members of a band found in an abandoned well near Monterrey.
Mexico's narco-fueled terror rampage has become so commonplace that the horror stories barely rate as news. ...
For these reasons and others, the Obama administration needs to make sure that its focus on the Middle East and other trouble spots around the world doesn't blind it to the mutual opportunities of close neighborly ties. With President Enrique Pena Nieto in the early weeks of his presidency, it's an opportune time.
Writing in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs, Shannon K. O'Neil, a Latin American expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, points out that it also is time for this country "to start seeing Mexico as a partner instead of a problem."
She noted in a recent interview with the Chronicle that Mexico is now the second-largest export destination for U.S. goods, after Canada — and twice as much as China — and that Mexico is both Texas' and Houston's biggest trading partner.
More than a billion dollars worth of legal goods cross the U.S.-Mexican border into this country each day. An estimated 6 million U.S. jobs depend on U.S-Mexico trade.
Approximately 40 percent of the products made in Mexico have parts that come from this country. ...
Mexico still has challenges, certainly, but the vital signs are strong. Whatever Mexico's future holds, the United States will be affected.
An increasingly prosperous neighbor, a strong and able trading partner and a safe and stable democracy define the Mexico we hope continues to evolve.
San Francisco Chronicle on the Iraq war not being the answer:
It's not an anniversary that inspires public ceremonies or reflection, though it should. Ten years ago, the United States launched the Iraq War, an invasion that cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars and squandered this nation's worldwide leadership.
American troops left a year ago, but the war lingers in countless ways. Wounded veterans need help. Military spending deepened a national debt that totals $15 trillion. Iraq remains a fragile and violent place. The terrorist scourge, nominally the cause of the war, endures.
A Gallup poll out this week found that barely half the nation, some 53 percent, think the war was a mistake, down from 63 percent five years ago. No one likes to dwell on the bad memories, it seems.
Recalling the reasons for the war should remind Americans how unfounded the cause was. There was no Iraqi connection to al-Qaida as President George W. Bush's team suggested. Nor were there weapons of mass destruction as intelligence experts predicted. Finally, the Middle East didn't embrace democracy after the U.S. invasion toppled Saddam Hussein. The Arab Spring uprisings, which came years later, didn't feature posters or chants praising American troops sweeping into Baghdad.
If the Iraq War seems like ancient history, think again. The experience undercuts American resolve to end the slaughter in Syria. The overboard cost of the Iraqi conflict deepens this country's financial future. The decision to invade, made with minimal support from a handful of allies, will strain this country's stature for years.
If anything, the Iraq War produced yet another cautionary tale on the limits of military power.
The Chicago Tribune on growing need for missile defense:
Decades ago, in the scariest days of the nuclear arms race with Russia, American schoolchildren learned to "duck and cover" under their desks in case an atomic bomb was dropped nearby. Since the end of the Cold War, kids have grown up free of the fear of nuclear attack. But those days may be coming to an end.
New threats have emerged. The first is North Korea, which is believed to have as many as 10 nuclear warheads and recently carried out its third nuclear test. The Pyongyang regime, according to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., has missiles "that can reach U.S. shores." ...
Missile defense is an attempt to buttress the power to retaliate with the ability to fend off incoming warheads before they arrive. Last week the Defense Department said it would spend $1 billion to deploy more missile interceptors along the West Coast to shoot down a North Korean missile, increasing the total number from 30 to 44 in the next four years.
It's a reasonable and useful step, at a cost that would seem trivial if the system were ever called on to deflect an attack. ...
With regard to Iran, the administration took a different step, scrapping the last phase of a missile defense system that has elicited vigorous objections from the government of Russia — which regarded the program as a threat to neutralize its nuclear weapons. The Pentagon insisted the U.S. decision was based on technical problems, which may be true. But it may also serve to pave the way to better relations and even arms reductions with Moscow.
The danger still exists, of course, but President Barack Obama has made it clear he will take military action if necessary to keep Iran from getting the bomb. If he succeeds in deterring Tehran from that course — or in forcibly preventing it — the European missile shield will not be needed quite so soon.
American missile defense still has a lot of hurdles to surmount before it can offer a reliable safeguard against attack. But even an imperfect system is better than nothing. And no one can doubt the need to keep pursuing it.
Sacramento Bee on Vatican recognizing rise of the Americas:
By selecting Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the next pope of the Roman Catholic Church, cardinals have sent an important signal to the Americas — and particularly to Latin America, where 39 percent of all Catholics worldwide live.
Bergoglio, who will be called Pope Francis, was previously the archbishop of Buenos Aires. He is the first pope to be selected from anywhere in the Americas, and the first Jesuit tapped to be papal leader. While he may be more conservative than many American Catholics and Jesuits would prefer, it is significant that the Vatican has recognized the rise of Latin America, which for too long been overlooked by this and many other international institutions.
According to 2011 data from the Pew Forum, more than 425 million Catholics live in Latin America, with the largest populations in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. ...
The son of Italian immigrants, Bergoglio is said to lead an austere life. In Argentina, he worked to restore the church's reputation after a murderous military junta in the 1970s was allowed to "disappear" tens of thousands of leftists and people suspected of being opponents.
Yet it remains to be seen if the 76-year-old pope, the 266th pontiff, will be any more committed or effective than his predecessor in slimming down the Curia and moving the church into a modern age. ...
Yet both of the hemispheres are rapidly changing and, on many issues, the church is decades behind. Will Francis work to change that? The answer, at this point, will await moments of clarity that have been absent during the closed-door conclave.
The Star-Ledger, New Jersey, on momentum for assault weapons ban fades:
This time was supposed to be different.
A crazed man entered a school building and killed 20 children and six adults with an assault rifle. The sight last December of terror stricken children fleeing Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was supposed to be the last straw.
One nightmare was imagining the carnage inside, children under the age of 7 slaughtered in the one place we expect children to be safe. Another nightmare was the unimaginable grief of parents.
The outcry for gun control — and especially a ban on assault weapons — appeared to be gaining momentum. Enough was enough, everyone said. Surely, a strong gun control law would finally be enacted, with perhaps the assault weapons ban being reinstated.
The ban, which expired in 2004, would certainly have made a difference in the number of children who survived the Newtown shooting. The shooter could not have shot as many, as quickly, as he did.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced the assault weapon ban would not be part of any gun control bill, which he expects to introduce in April after the Easter break. ...
Gun control is personal with Feinstein, who was president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978 when she discovered the murdered bodies of Mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk in City Hall.
"The enemies on this are very powerful, I've known that all my life," Feinstein told the Washington Post.
Somewhere, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA is smiling.
The Jerusalem Post on U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel:
U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel is being billed by Washington insiders as primarily a "charm offensive." They have suggested that the American leader wants to communicate directly with the Israeli people, voicing his strong support for Israel and its security.
Obama will no doubt praise the US-funded Iron Dome system, which operated so successfully during Operation Pillar of Defense last November. It is a powerful symbol of the "unbreakable alliance" that both Israel and the US want to convey during the president's visit.
The White House has made it clear that Obama will not be bringing with him grandiose plans to jump-start the long-stalled peace process with the Palestinians. This represents a change in Washington's approach to a historic presidential visit to the Jewish state.
In Obama's first term, the assessment seemed to be that it made no sense to come to Jerusalem as long as negotiations with the Palestinians were stalled and the US president could have no tangible diplomatic achievements to show the American people. ...
As the leader of the Jewish people, who have been threatened with destruction by Iran's leaders, Netanyahu wants assurances that the US will launch a military strike if necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. ...
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg quoted "several sources" in Amman and Tel Aviv saying that Israeli drones were monitoring the Jordan-Syria border on Jordan's behalf and that military and intelligence officials from the two countries are in constant contact, planning for the inevitable chaos post-Bashar Assad.
Israel is also concerned that a large amount of arms - including huge caches of chemical and biological weapons - could fall into the wrong hands. ...
There are, however, a number of substantive issues - including Iran and Syria - on the agenda that need to be addressed during Obama's meetings in Jerusalem and Amman. And this should make the US president's visit to the region more than just a "charm offensive."
The Japan Times, Tokyo, on no place for nuclear weapons:
The Norwegian government on March 4 and 5 sponsored an international conference on the various effects that nuclear weapons detonations would have on human health, the natural environment and economic development.
Although the conference did not touch on nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear arms reduction or elimination of nuclear weapons, it was significant in that it squarely dealt with the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons.
Government and political leaders and citizens should deepen discussions on this issue and increase the awareness of the cruel nature of nuclear weapons to give momentum to efforts for reduction and eventual eradication of nuclear weapons.
Delegates from 127 countries, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent movement, and civil society organizations took part in the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. ...
Two atomic bomb survivors, among the Japanese government delegates, told the conference that survivors have suffered not only ill health but also post-traumatic stress disorder from their radiation exposure 68 years ago.
Masao Tomonaga, director the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku (atomic bomb) Hospital, presented his research, which showed a high cancer incidence among atomic bombing survivors. He characterized nuclear weapons as "gene-targeting weapons." ...
Having suffered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, Japan has a duty and responsibility to appeal against the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons and work toward their elimination in earnest.
The Australian on Obama's Middle East mission:
Expectations of Barack Obama's historic first visit to Israel as U.S. president were never high. On the eve of his arrival, those expectations look even less promising. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his new coalition government, with key posts going to powerful proponents of the settlements policy that lies at the heart of strained relations with the Obama White House.
Despite this, Obama has a vital mission with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in seeking common ground for the resumption of stalled Middle East peace talks. In pursuing that goal, he would be wrong to become bogged down in the settlements issue.
An Israeli commentator's description of the new government as "of the settlers, by the settlers, for the settlers" may be an overstatement but the cabinet's composition — with former armed forces commander and settlers' favorite General Moshe Yaalon as Defense Minister, the leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home party that rejects Palestinian statehood, Naftali Bennett, in a senior post and a member of his party, Uri Ariel, as Housing Minister responsible for new settlements — reasserts the policy that has rankled with Obama.
Despite international criticism, this is a clear signal Israel is not going to retreat and if Obama seriously wants to end Washington's protracted neglect of the Middle East peace process, he must find other ways of persuading the two sides to resume talking. The principal roadblock to negotiations remains, as always, Palestinian opposition to talks without preconditions and Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. Netanyahu, by contrast, has long been willing to talk without preconditions. In meeting Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, Obama must convince him that statehood can be achieved only by negotiating directly with Israel, however provocative the resettlements policy.
Obama must also do whatever it takes - including the use of force - to stop Iran getting nuclear weapons, and to work hand in glove with Netanyahu to thwart Tehran. Strained relations with Israel in Obama's first term ill-served U.S. strategic interests and seriously undermined what should be an intimate bilateral relationship, able to confront issues such as Iran. The president must seize the opportunity to restore the relationship and get talks over a two-state solution restarted.
The Globe and Mail, Toronto, on Argentina should accept the near-unanimity of the Falklander:
Not since the halcyon days of the Soviet Union has a vote been so lopsided, but there was no fraud or coercion. Ninety-two percent turnout; over 98 percent support for the Falkland Islands to retain its status as a British Overseas Territory. It is time for Argentina to give up its claim and respect the democratic will of the islands' residents.
A supporter of Argentine President Cristina Kirchner expressed dismay: "We must denounce this trickery that pretends to represent the popular participation of an implanted population." But as one British pundit pointed out, the descendants of implanted Europeans who have lived for generations on the Falklands have a better claim than the descendants of implanted Europeans who have lived for generations in Argentina.
The Argentine Embassy in Ottawa responded to the vote by offering assurances that "the Argentine Constitution specifically protects the way of life of the population of the Malvinas Islands." But in 20 years, the Falkland Islanders will celebrate the bicentennial of British administration over islands that were first charted by an English explorer. It is time for Argentina to let go.