Under the Radar 07.30.10

Posted on Friday, July 30, 2010 by Tiffany Chen

A weekly compilation of underreported developments in Asia

  • Two Chinese naval warships arrived in Egypt, kicking off a five-day visit to improve military exchange and cooperation between the PLAN and the navies of surrounding the Somali waters.

  • The Japanese Ministry of Defense has unofficially decided to postpone a budget request for fiscal 2011 to procure 50 next-generation F-35 fighter jets due to existing uncertainty over their production schedule. Some defense experts fear the delay may set back Japan’s air-defense capability.

  • The first high-level dialogue between the Communist Party of China, the Democratic Party and Republican Party is scheduled to take place in the United States by the end of this year. This is part of China’s efforts to “make friends all around the world.”

  • China is stepping up development strategy and the improvement of electricity infrastructure in its western regions. The project seeks to ameliorate the serious electricity shortage problem in Tibet and provide strong energy security for the region.

  • Despite warnings from the Israeli representative in Taipei, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not rule out commercial activity with Iran that benefits the island’s businessespeople.

  • Japan has reached a basic agreement with Jordan on a nuclear cooperation accord to allow sales of nuclear power plants and related technology.

  • The North Korean foreign minister is in Myanmar for talks with the junta amid western concerns over possible covert cooperation between the two states.

  • Thailand’s army is prepared to defend its border with Cambodia if the ongoing territorial dispute over the Praeah Vihear temple heats up.

  • The World Bank will grant Indonesia $600 million to build a hydro-power plant with a capacity of 1,024 megawatt. The plant is scheduled for completion in 2014.

  • Japan is seeking to leverage its energy efficiency know-how and technology to energy-hungry nations across Asia. It will send engineers to 10 locations in China, India, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore to assess and give energy-efficient solutions to industries in need.

  • Philippine President Benigno Aquino launched his first executive order, creating a truth commission to investigate possible corruption by the former administration.

  • India and Vietnam agreed to strengthen defense cooperation, particularly in personnel training and dialogue on strategic affairs.

  • For more Asia news throughout the week, visit our Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/Project2049

    Asia's Turbulent Waters: Blue Water Tensions in the Yellow Sea

    Posted on Thursday, July 29, 2010 by Guest Contributor

    By Ian Easton and Tiffany Ma

    Naval tensions mounting over recent months in the Asia-Pacific have unfolded in a blue water drama featuring almost every seafaring nation in the region.

    First, a South Korean patrol ship was attacked in the Yellow Sea on March 26, an event that triggered international concern and stoked diplomatic tensions. An international inquiry concluded that there was sufficient evidence that a North Korean torpedo sank the Cheonan, and U.S. Secretary of State Clinton confirmed that there was “overwhelming and condemning” evidence of North Korean responsibility. However, China prevailed in a U.N. resolution that “condemned” the sinking of a South Korean warship without mentioning North Korea by name - a move Pyongyang hailed as a diplomatic victory.

    Soon after the Cheonan incident, Tokyo found itself facing aggressive Chinese naval maneuvers in its Exclusive Economic Zone. Repeated incursions by Chinese warships in April, May, and July as well as the recent live fire drills in the East China Sea that shut down a large zone off the coast of Zhejiang province to all vessel traffic has raised concern in Tokyo and around the region. While many speculated that these live fire exercises were a possible test bed for the Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile system (first acknowledged by U.S. officials in March to being in the testing phase), it appears that the more likely explanation for China’s recent maritime saber-rattling stems from its fierce opposition to the large scale U.S.-South Korean maritime exercise, code-named “Invincible Spirit.”

    A Chinese map of Northeast Asia
    As the U.S. Seventh Fleet turned out in force to participate in the first drill in a series of joint maritime and air readiness exercises in the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan (called East and West Seas respectively by South Korea), the alliance also received a diplomatic boost from a historic “2+2” meeting. Secretary Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates were both in South Korea to meet with their counterparts to discuss the content and scope of the exercises, which are aimed sending a strong signal to North Korea. Secretary Clinton also announced a new round of sanctions against North Korea for its alleged role in the Cheonan sinking.

    For its part, Pyongyang has voiced its vehement displeasure to the exercises by threatening a “physical response” and stepping up its “nuclear deterrence” (potentially another nuclear test). Although the escalation in rhetoric has yet to be matched by action, such statements flame tensions at a time when the region is at the threshold of a “dangerous new period”, as Gen. James Clapper put it. Pointing to an upward trend of violent provocations by Pyongyang, the nominee for the top U.S. intelligence post also cautioned that North Korea could attempt to advance its political goals through direct attacks. The likelihood of such scenarios is compounded by signs that North Korea is becoming more provocative as it braces itself for a difficult leadership transition. It is also unclear how Pyongyang will respond if Washington continues future military exchanges with Seoul under these circumstances, particularly as the Six Party Talks remain stalled and relations in the peninsula remain at a low point following the Cheonan incident.

    Although Invincible Spirit was directed primarily at North Korea in response to the Cheonan sinking, China has also insisted that the presence of an aircraft carrier group in the Yellow Sea threatens its national security interests. A PLA official called the Yellow Sea a “sensitive area” and decried that the proximity of the carrier group will extend its attack radius over the entire mainland. Through a series of hyperbolic diplomatic protests, China appears to have successfully lobbied the U.S. to curb the planned exercises in the Yellow Sea. Some saw this as a testament to China’s “diplomatic wrestling,” although observers acknowledged that the change of location to the Sea of Japan was a tactical rather than a strategic adjustment.

    In the long term, the relocation of the exercise may threaten freedom of navigation. Analysts caution that it sets a negative precedent by allowing China to establish and “expand its definition of core interests” in the area. Furthermore, Beijing may interpret this concession as a sign of Washington’s weakness and leverage it to undermine U.S. interests in maintaining freedom of navigation in the Yellow Sea, which is an international body of water. However, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen reassured that “the United States always reserves the right to operate in those, in international waters… we have exercised in the Yellow Sea for a long time, and I fully expect that we'll do so in the future."

    The USS George Washington
    Nonetheless, this development is likely to complicate future U.S. carrier maneuvers in the region. Despite signs of goodwill such as the USS Nimitz making port call in Hong Kong earlier this year, China’s recent reaction stands in contrast to its lack of public opposition to the USS George Washington’s participation in a Yellow Sea exercise in October 2009.

    China’s strong objections may turn out to be a strategic miscalculation in the long term as their responses to future U.S. – South Korean naval drills in the Yellow Sea will come under significant scrutiny from both domestic and international observers. Within China, the state-run media outlets have been blasting nationalistic sentiments and calling for revenge on the U.S. and South Korea in response to the exercises. This may set expectations that may be difficult to moderate in the future. Furthermore, if Beijing continues to step up its own maritime activities in the Yellow Sea, then it is likely to generate further frictions with its neighbors.

    Beijing’s stance raises questions over its future reaction if the U.S. deploys a carrier to the region in the event of a security contingency to maintain stability or demonstrate solidarity with an ally. Similarly, it raises uncertainty as to whether China will be able to sufficiently raise the stakes to affect the U.S. strategic calculus with regard to its naval assets in the region. As the U.S. is unlikely to relinquish the option of deploying a carrier as a possible military response, managing any tensions that may arise will be a significant bilateral challenge in the absence of sound military-to-military relations.

    In addition to managing relations with China, the U.S. will also need to address concerns in South Korea that the alliance may be overshadowed by the tug of war between U.S. and China in the Korean peninsula, particularly following the decision to relocate the exercises. However, there is also an acknowledgment that the U.S.-South Korea bilateral relationship has been on a positive trajectory, and China’s reaction is partially attributed to Beijing seeing the alliance in this new light. Going forward, balancing relations with China emerges as a key challenge for the alliance and the strength of the bilateral relationship will depend on how the two allies meet the challenge. That will require not only symbolic shows of alliance solidarity, but also substantive measures to enhance Seoul's deterrence capabilities against North Korea before the transfer of wartime operational control of forces in 2015.

    The recent spate of naval activity in the Asia-Pacific region also hints at the emerging competition that is evolving between the region’s great and rising powers and this emerging competition may lead to the destabilization of the region. The ongoing crisis on the Korean Peninsula and China’s ensuing reaction to the U.S.-South Korean exercise certainly serve as reminders of how events can cascade in an insecure environment.

    Secretary Clinton at the ARF
    In particular, as the world’s eyes turn southward to the simmering tensions in the South China Sea, the increasingly complex dynamics in Asia may play out in yet another strategic maritime location. In addition to ongoing territorial disputes between surrounding nations, Secretary Clinton announced at the ASEAN Regional Forum last week that the area also is in the “national interest” of the United States, and that Washington would support a multilateral solution to territorial disputes surrounding it. That irked Beijing, which claims most of the South China Sea as its own, who insisted that all disputed claims be settled bilaterally, and opposes any efforts by outside actors to “internationalize” the issue. As regional stakeholders increasingly assert their national interest, balancing relations between major powers, peacefully resolving competing territorial claims and upholding the freedom of navigation in Asia all stand as significant maritime challenges.

    The authors would like to thank Prashanth Parameswaran, former research assistant at the Project 2049 Institute, for assistance in this piece. 

    Image sources: China Review News, PACOM & Chosun Ilbo.

    Under the Radar News 7.23.10

    Posted on Friday, July 23, 2010 by Steve Gummo

    A weekly compilation of underreported developments in Asia

  • Filipino soldiers were deployed in Manila Thursday in an effort to protect pipelines and prevent rioting over water shortages. The shortages have left some 1,120,000 Filipinos without water.

  • In response to international pressure, Thailand repealed their nationwide “state of emergency” decree in approximately 1/5th of the country. 60 of the 75 remaining provinces continue to be in a state of martial law due to the presence of anti-government protesters.

  • The USS George Washington, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, has been deployed to the Korea Strait to participate in a joint military exercise designed to showcase US support for the Republic of Korea. Japanese Self-Defense Forces are reportedly observing the exercises.

  • The United States announced further sanctions against North Korea, specifically targeting their ability to purchase and/or acquire materials for nuclear weapon production.

  • The General Logistics Department of the People’s Liberation Army recently called for the PLA to increase funding for disease prevention and control programs. The PLA recently announced a three-tier system for combating infectious diseases.

  • The US and Japan abandoned the previously set August deadline to find a location for construction of a facility designed to replace the Futenma US Marine Corps Air Station. Local Okinawan opposition has been cited as a primary factor in stalling the bilateral negotiations.

  • Relations between the United States and Indonesian Special Forces have resumed after a ten year freeze. The US initially broke ties after alleging human rights abuses on behalf of the ISF.

  • A meeting between the Japanese Foreign Minister and his Chinese counterpart has resulted in an agreement to proceed with negotiations concerning the building of a joint gas field in the East China Sea, according to Japanese officials.
  • Renewed Violence in Kashmir Provides Window of Opportunity for Militants, Politicians

    Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010 by Alexandra Matthews

    The deaths of over one dozen young Kashmiri citizens in recent weeks mark a departure from a period of relative calm in the volatile region. The region is no stranger to civilian casualties. Cycles of violence and protest, exacerbated by jihadist militancy, have plagued the disputed Kashmir Valley for years. Civilians have often been caught in the clashes between security forces and militants sympathetic to Pakistan.

    In the recent unrest, however, civilian deaths (including that of a 17 year-old student) occurred during attempts at crowd control by police and Indian Paramilitary Forces. In response to the public backlash, the Indian Army was deployed to the summer capital, Srinagar, for the first time in over ten years, to maintain order.

    In the aftermath of these Kashmiri deaths, anger and hostility towards India has, unsurprisingly, spiked amongst the Muslim majority population that appeared to be turning against militants in previous years. These developments seem to provide a prime opportunity for Pakistan-backed militants to capitalize on anti-India sentiment and advance their struggle. Groups operating in Kashmir, such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and even Al-Qaeda, may take advantage of public anger to incite even more violence, expand their operations in Kashmir, and scale up recruitment. This would further strain the already fragile relationship between India and Pakistan and make the prospect of peace even more unlikely.

    Although Indian forces claim they only fire upon protesters in self defense, many have criticized the Paramilitary Forces for not being adequately trained to react to stone-wielding youths who, along with innocent bystanders, were reportedly met with tear gas and bullets. The lack of preparation for civil unrest may have broader implications as the Indian military and government’s response to the uprising has further stoked public outrage and disillusionment. To ameliorate the current situation, Indian forces must learn from past mistakes and focus on building relationships with the people and gaining their trust.

    Going forward, India appears to be doing what it can to quell the volatile situation in Kashmir. The government has increased transparency of its actions by holding an inquiry into the killings. Although it was not attended by all Jammu and Kashmir political parties (the opposition People’s Democratic Party boycotted the meeting), the effort is representative of India’s commitment to maintaining peace in Kashmir. The parties’ call for both "internal and external dialogue" is especially symbolic considering Pakistan continues to support militants in Kashmir. In the long term, India needs to internalize the rhetoric presented during the inquiry. It must conduct meaningful dialogue that produces answers and solutions of how to avoid further clashes between civilians and Indian security forces as to not concede leverage to the militants.

    Image Source: The Globe and Mail

    Improving Indonesia's Counterterrorism Efforts

    Posted on Tuesday, July 20, 2010 by Prashanth Parameswaran

    Indonesia has received much credit for significant inroads in eradicating terrorism after the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 people dead. Since then, Jakarta’s elite counter-terrorism police unit, Detachment 88, has netted or killed over 400 militants, while several former ‘deradicalized’ terrorists have actually cooperated with the authorities to capture their former comrades. Though several attacks on Western targets have occurred since then, none have been nearly as deadly as Bali.

    Yet, Indonesia’s counterterrorism efforts have come under fire in recent months. Detachment 88’s startlingly high kill-to-capture ratio (one suspect killed for every four arrested) and conduct during recent operations have raised human rights concerns, despite claims by Indonesian authorities that they are exercising proper restraint. Indonesia’s much vaunted ‘deradicalization program’ has also been criticized for producing repeat offenders. A whopping 14 of those arrested or killed in recent police operations connected with the Jakarta hotel bombings in 2009 and a terrorist cell discovered in Aceh earlier this year had been previously detained or imprisoned. Meanwhile, the twin ills of corruption and weak intelligence-gathering continue to plague Jakarta’s counter-terrorism efforts.

    The government recognizes the shortcomings of its approach, and plans to launch a National Board on Antiterrorism later this year to better coordinate efforts. Yet, few are optimistic that it will solve the underlying structural deficiencies in the country’s counter-terrorism efforts. Analysts comment that entrenched problems like corruption and inter-agency rivalries will likely “continue to persist” despite this cosmetic change.

    Despite this, there are several concrete ways through which Jakarta can overcome some of these challenges. Internal reviews and officer training should be conducted in order to increase the likelihood that militants can be captured alive in the future, so they can provide the intelligence necessary to weed out terrorist networks. Existing detention laws must be enforced and corruption must be stemmed so that inmates cannot engage in radicalization via technology or prison study groups. Furthermore, if the National Board is to be effective, the government must empower it in a transparent fashion by allocating an operational budget, involving the National Commission for Human Rights and other NGOs, and allowing auditing by several agencies for corruption.

    Efforts to revise the current anti-terrorism law to facilitate counter-terrorism must also be done in a way that respects basic human rights. Indonesia’s top counter-terrorism chief Ansyaad Mbai ruffled feathers last year when he lamented that terrorists flocked to Jakarta because the country’s laws were not as substantial as its neighbors like Malaysia, which permit extended detention without trial. Yet adopting such an approach risks undermining the democratic traditions of the Indonesian state, which is exactly what the terrorists aspire to in the first place.

    Picture: Sulekha.com

    Under the Radar News 7.16.10

    Posted on Friday, July 16, 2010 by Alexandra Matthews

    A weekly compilation of underreported developments in Asia

  • In a meeting with Wu Poh-hsiung, honorary chairman of Taiwan’s Kuomintang (KMT) party, Chinese President Hu Jintao praised the two countries’ signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) last month. The controversial agreement, yet to be approved by Taiwan’s parliament, would reduce trade tariffs on hundreds of products.

  • The Australian plan to set up a refugee processing center in East Timor has been rejected by the nation’s lawmakers.

  • The high courts of Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Thailand and Uzbekistan adopted the Jakarta Declaration, establishing the Association of Asian Constitutional Courts and Equivalent Institutions, the first organization of its kind in Asia. The Association aims to strengthen democracy and promote human rights in its member countries.

  • In what some see as an effort to deepen ties with Nepal and the entire region of South Asia, China has planned to expedite the building of the biggest land port in Tibetan city of Xigaze. The port will boost overland trade and further connect the two of the world’s largest economies, those of India and China.

  • In the wake of last month’s referendum that created a new constitution and turned Kyrgyzstan into a parliamentary republic, the country’s president, Roza Otunbayeva, has established a “technical government” that will rule the country until parliamentary elections are held in October.

  • China appears to be cracking down on micro-blogging websites similar to Twitter, as some sites have been experiencing disruptions while others have been shut down altogether.

  • For the first time, Malaysia is sending troops on a medical and humanitarian aid mission to Afghanistan. Malaysia has voiced its opposition to US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the country’s Ministry of Defense stressed that troops will not engage in combat.

  • In an attempt to help restore fiscal sustainability to Japan, the International Monetary Fund has suggested the country start gradually raising its sales tax from 5 to 15 percent, a move that could potentially strengthen the government’s few fiscal conservatives and produce revenue of up to 5 percent of Japan’s GDP.
  • Kaesong Complexities

    Posted on Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by Steve Gummo

    In the aftermath of the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan, tensions are reigniting between North and South Korea. Amid the freezing of cross-parallel ties, one of the few remnants of past cooperation, the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), remains a major power piece for both the North and South.

    The complex began as a joint-economic development project in 2004. Under the arrangement, North Korean industrial labors produce a variety of manufactured items, such as textiles, automotive parts and semiconductors, under the auspices of South Korean corporations. Despite Pyongyang’s political blustering on closing the border, South Korean administrative staff continue to cross the DMZ for work each morning: a sign of the complex’s importance and endurance.

    For North Korea, the KIC is one of the few breadwinners in a flailing economy hobbled by underdeveloped primary and secondary sectors. For a nation with an annual export capacity of approximately USD$1.8 billion, the KIC’s potential to generate over USD$9.5 billion from 2004-2013 will constitute a significant portion of North Korea’s fiscal future. Amidst a failing economy, aging infrastructure and an oppressive authoritarian regime, North Korea’s development rests with the liberalization of their economy; a feat symbolized by the Kaesong complex.

    Considering the South Korean standpoint, the KIC is essentially a tool for outsourcing production without the usual drawbacks. For the South Korean companies, the common downsides of outsourcing – language and geographical distance - are not factors at the Kaesong complex. The workforce at the KIC speaks Korean, thus eliminating the language barrier, and the site is but an hour north of Seoul, just shy of the northern border of the DMZ, therefore facilitating physical access to means of production. Labor is also much less expensive in North Korea, where the average industrial worker only earns approximately USD$65 a month, as compared to the average USD$170 per month in China.

    The shared value of the KIC for both the ROK and DPRK may shield the complex from the cross-parallel fallout. In the past, many have considered the complex a permanent venture; independent from the tribulations of inter-Korean relations. Proponents commonly point to the 2006 North Korean underground nuclear test; an act that incurred multiple sanctions, but not the closure of the complex. Although Kaesong’s future is far from assured, both states have a critical and symbolic stake in the complex that sets it apart from other political cards. The KIC is crucial litmus test for inter-Korean relations in days to come. Despite rapid deterioration in relations since the Cheonan incident, preservation of economic activity at the Kaesong complex signals that this incident does not necessarily sound the knell for the relations on the peninsula.

    Image source: Korea Times

    China Yingli’s Green Power a Winner at the World Cup

    Posted on Monday, July 12, 2010 by Tiffany Ma

    As Spain clinched its first soccer World Cup victory, China’s green power also emerged as a winner on the field in South Africa. For 8 minutes of every game, spectators and television audiences around the world witnessed the rising profile of China’s burgeoning solar energy sector. The displays of “Yingli Solar” (in English) and “China Yingli” (in Mandarin) were sponsored by Yingli Green Energy Holding Co, currently the world’s sixth largest manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) panels. Founded in 1998, the company’s meteoric rise mirrors that of China’s green energy sector. While Yingli’s largest export destinations are avid soccer nations in Europe and North America, its bold advertising campaign also captured the company’s desire to expand into the African market.

    Numerous reports and assessments have highlighted Africa’s underdeveloped renewable energy potential, both as an opportunity for development and for investment. China appears to be responding, upping the ante at the 2009 FOCAC Summit when Wen Jiabao pledged 100 solar, bio-gas and hydro power projects as part of China’s $10 billion assistance package to the continent.

    This commitment, coupled with its domestic solar tech industry vying for new markets, should spur greater activities in Africa’s solar sector. Although, China has provided extensive ongoing technical training and assistance for solar power technicians in Africa, it is only more recently that the growing capacity of its PV industry provided new opportunities for harnessing Africa’s solar potential.

    A deal with Kenya in 2009 to optimize solar cells for the country’s climate was regarded with great anticipation as the first step toward opening the African market to China’s solar power industry. While the project’s future is uncertain, it has not deterred other investments. Recently, another Chinese company Sun Tech, secured a promising deal with a Tanzanian firm to distribute solar panels in the country and to its neighbors. By boosting access to electricity in one of the least developed regions in the world, the business opportunities for solar cells also serves critical development needs. Furthermore, the lower impact and environmentally friendlier nature of solar power could avoid some of the criticisms faced by other Chinese energy projects on the continent.

    While there are undoubtedly opportunities for advancing business and development objectives, Yingli also has another aspiration: to present a new face for Chinese business activities. A spokesperson noted that Chinese activities on the continent have been traditionally dominated by state-owned petroleum and infrastructure enterprises while Yingli enters the market as a privately held company. Armed with a staggering $5.3 billion loan to expand domestic and overseas activities, Yingli's future appears sunny, in Africa or otherwise.

    Image: Yingli advertisement at the FIFA World Cup final match.
    Source: ESPN.

    Follow the Project 2049 Institute on Twitter!

    Posted on by Prashanth Parameswaran

    In order to connect better with our readers, The Project 2049 Institute has now joined the Twittersphere! Follow us now at this address. We will be tweeting about current and under-noticed strategic developments in Asia as they happen, and posting our publications hot off the press!

    For instructions on how to set up a Twitter account, see here.

    Under the Radar News 7.9.10

    Posted on Friday, July 9, 2010 by Evelyn Kusnawirianto

    A weekly compilation of underreported developments in Asia

  • South Korean troops in Afghanistan will start working with the US forces there to conduct daily aerial reconnaissance in an effort to boost its surveillance against possible attacks on South Korean civilian aid workers after a rocket attack last week.

  • Australia has agreed to help Indonesia with people smuggling by providing patrol boats and surveillance aircraft as part of its $21.2 million package dedicated to fight people smuggling in the region.

  • The financial crisis has slowed the pace of poverty reduction and contributed to increased unemployment for some of the poorest countries in the East Asia and Pacific region. The World Bank has therefore increased its financial and technical support, committing a record $236 million to countries including Papua New Guinea, and projects such as infrastructure works in China.

  • Opposition to Australia’s proposal for setting up a refugee processing center in East Timor is growing. Many point out that East Timor is a small and impoverished country that will not have the capacity to run the center.

  • Japan has criticized Russia’s large-scale military drill on Etorofu, one of four contested islands off Hokkaido which are currently held by Russia.

  • A new report by Human Rights Monitors released this Monday points to new evidence that Myanmar’s military rulers are funding an illegal bid to build nuclear weapons using gas revenues from the Yadan gas pipeline, operated by Chevron and Total. The accusation has been denied by Myanmar’s military rulers.

  • China’s fifth- largest freshwater lake, the Chaohu Lake that supplies drinking water to 300,000 Chaohu city residents has been threatened by a green algae outbreak. Officials has been testing the water quality every two hours and sending boats to clean the algae up.

  • Indonesia and Switzerland will soon launch talks on a comprehensive economic partnership under the framework of the European Free Trade Association. Indonesia has been recognized as one of the seven countries Switzerland had prioritized for economic development.

  • A South Korean aid group reports that North Korea has sent 34 relatives of former economic official Pak Nam Gi and others to a prison camp on the outskirts of a northern city of Hoeryong, due to Pak’s failed economic policy when he was in office.
  • The Nuclear Renaissance in Asia and Radioactive Waste

    Posted on Tuesday, July 6, 2010 by Matthew Hallex

    The nuclear renaissance in Asia promises to reduce the region’s dependence on fossil fuels and to reduce carbon emissions from its growing economies. However, the growth of nuclear power raises the challenge of safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste. Along with the environmental threat posed by radioactive waste, there is also proliferation concerns associated with enriched uranium and plutonium by-products that could be used to construct a nuclear or radiological weapon. Japan has chosen to reprocess its nuclear waste. Reprocessing allows for recycling of nuclear fuel, reducing Japanese demand for foreign imports of nuclear material. Reprocessing is expensive, however, and the large quantity of plutonium that remains could pose proliferation risks. While strong international safeguards reduce these risks in Japan, a wider adoption of reprocessing would increase proliferation hazards in the region.

    In South Korea, domestic opposition and the high population density of the country have prevented the construction of a long-term storage site for spent fuel and other highly radioactive nuclear wastes. Although a decade of political wrangling led to the construction of a storage facility in Gyeongju for low and intermediate nuclear waste, there is no permanent facility in South Korea for highly radioactive waste. The failure to find a permanent waste disposal site coupled with plans for expanding nuclear power means that the production of nuclear waste will outstrip the capacity of the countries’ storage facilities.

    Developing states in Asia including Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia are embracing nuclear power in order to meet the energy needs of their growing economies. Yet, as Malaysia demonstrates, nuclear power also brings challenges that the region is currently unprepared for. Although Malaysia plans to build a nuclear power plant by 2021 it lacks a firm plan for handling waste. While storing waste in converted tin mines has been proposed, similar facilities in France have experienced groundwater contamination. Malaysia also has a poor proliferation record and has been linked to the transfer of nuclear equipment to Iran and Libya. While the country has taken steps to improve the proliferation environment the risk of proliferation of poorly guarded nuclear materials to third parties remains far from ameliorated.

    Nuclear power is a great opportunity for Asian states but also carries significant risks. A regional approach to nuclear waste management would provide an opportunity to deepen regional cooperation on energy issues and address the environment and proliferation threat posed by nuclear materials. In addition to cooperating on technical and security issues, nuclear states in the region could cooperate on the construction of waste disposal facilities to prevent both environmental damage and the diversion of nuclear materials to potentially hostile third parties.

    Under the Radar News 7.2.10

    Posted on Friday, July 2, 2010 by Tiffany Chen

    A weekly compilation of underreported developments in Asia

  • Japan will release details of “failed” official development assistance programs to bring greater transparency to the nation’s foreign aid.

  • Taiwan and China signed an agreement to create a mechanism for resolving intellectual property rights disputes arising from increasing cross strait business exchanges.

  • China is implementing the country’s first tort law on liability for acts of infringement. This is likely to further safeguard individuals’ personal and property rights and better gauge social behavior.

  • China discovered Asia’s biggest iron ore deposit in its northeastern province of Liaoning. The discovery may reduce China’s dependence on foreign imports.

  • Sri Lanka will begin to exploit its sizable domestic oil and gas sources off the Mannar Basin next year.

  • Vietnam stepped up its campaign of internet censorship to block users from English news media.Some observers fear Vietnam’s action may threaten its economic progress.

  • Tokyo, Washington, and the local government in Okinawa are calling for the deployment of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) troops to western Japan along the boundary with Taiwan. While Tokyo and Washington want the SDF to be deployed to counter China’s military expansion, the Yonaguni Municipal Government wants troops as part of the revitalization of the local community.

  • Mexico and South Korea agreed to restart the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement in order to strengthen bilateral trade and ease investment.

  • Cheap labor may no longer be considered China’s sole competitive edge as at least 18 provinces in China increase minimum wages by an average of 20 percent, including big cities like Beijing and Shenzhen.

  • Singapore military personnel will provide artillery training for Afghan officers from September, and will extend the deployment of the Weapon Locating Radar until the end of this year.
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