Under the Radar News 07.29.11

Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • Japan boosts its contribution to fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden with opening of SDF base in Djibouti. The base is equipped with a maintenance hangar for P-3C patrol aircraft.

  • China’s Sinopec is building a $108 million lubricant plant in Singapore. This is Sinopec’s first foreign lubricant plant investment.

  • South Korea and China held their first strategic defense talk, establishing a precedent for an annual strategic dialogue.

  • International human rights groups slammed Australia’s refugee swap with Malaysia as an erosion of refugee rights. Under the deal, Australia will send 800 asylum-seekers to Malaysia in return for 4,000 certified refugees.

  • The newly-elected Vietnamese president, Truong Tan Sang, asserts that marine and island sovereignty in the South China Sea is sacred and violable. President Truong advocates legalizing marine and island sovereignty in national law and continuing research and exploration in the area.

  • The Thai army plans an offensive in the far South where insurgents have established bases and training camps for terrorist activities. A bomb attack in Yala province on Monday injured five teachers and volunteers.

  • Pakistan and India held secretary level talks on commerce, defense, and security in efforts to improve bilateral ties. Negotiations included controversial issues such as the Kashmir border disputes.

  • Tokyo drafts guidelines for the transfer of missile interceptor jointly developed with the United States. The draft sets conditions for the export of the next-generation Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptor.

  • The Armed Forces of the Philippines announced that it will no longer purchase Taiwan jets. Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesman and Lt. Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said: “The [acquisition of Taiwanese] F-5s didn’t materialize due to our One-China policy.”

  • Under the Radar 07.22.11

    Posted on Friday, July 22, 2011 by Maggie Rank

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • A new assessment warns that South Korean F-15Ks, transportation planes, and helicopters are vulnerable to new North Korean infrared missiles. The South Korean military is currently working on strategies to handle the threat.

  • The Vatican and Malaysia have established diplomatic relations at a time of tension between Muslims and religious minorities. This agreement was confirmed by the Vatican after Pope Benedict XVI and the Malaysian Prime Minister met to discuss Christian-Muslim relations.

  • In midst of transition from foreign to local control, seven Afghan police were poisoned and shot dead at a checkpoint in the southern province of Helmand. Read the Project 2049 Institute's recommendations on strengthening the Afghan National Police.

  • Close economic and trade ties between Latin America and China have been driven forward by China’s economic boom and the free trade agreements signed with Chile, Peru and Costa Rica. Trade amounted to US $180 billion in 2010, a 50-percent increase year on year. Read more about China’s Colombian Courtship.

  • Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense says that the PLA outspends Taiwan at a rate of twenty to one, dollar-for-dollar. The MND warns that the PLA could blockade and seize Taiwan's outlying islands by 2020.

  • India’s largest oil companies have arranged for extra oil from Kuwait, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Iran has warned that it may halt crude oil supplies to India on August 1 if outstanding debts are not paid.

  • Australia has settled its refugee swap deal with Malaysia with the hope that it will deter smugglers from targeting Australia. Australia will take 4000 confirmed refugees from Malaysia, while Malaysia will accept 800 asylum seekers from Australia.

  • The Mongolian Defense Ministry has announced plans to buy five Mikoyan MiG-29 fourth generation fighter jets from Russia this year. Mongolia has also expressed interest in purchasing a military transport carrier, weapons, and other military equipment.
  • Under the Radar News 07.15.11

    Posted on Friday, July 15, 2011 by Luke Warnock

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • The United Nations requested that Japan dispatch Self Defense Forces for a peacekeeping operation in the newly established South Sudan. Japan currently has SDF forces stationed in the quake-hit Tohoku region and in Haiti.

  • The Malaysian government is threatening to continue its crackdown on the opposition-linked protest movement after Saturday's (07.09.11) electoral reform rally. The current electoral system favors the Barisan National Front (BN) coalition that has governed uninterrupted since 1957.

  • Word leaked that Biden will announce no new F-16 sales to Taiwan during his August trip to China. The U.S. will only support upgrades to Taiwan’s existing fleet of 144 F-16A/B aircraft.

  • PLA chief Chen Bingde and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen conducted meetings intended to improve U.S.-China military ties. During the talks, China criticized U.S. defense spending and South China Sea military exercises.

  • The Okinawa local government demands that Tokyo and Washington cancel planned deployment of Osprey aircraft at the U.S. Futenma base, citing civilian casualties from previous test flights crashes in 2001-2002.

  • North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-Chun will make a rare appearance on the international stage next week as he attends a regional security conference along with Hillary Clinton on Indonesia's resort island of Bali.

  • After American drone strikes killed 45 Pakistani militants and the U.S. has suspened military aid packages, Pakistani officials suggest they may be turning increasingly to "all-weather friend" China.

  • As Japanese Prime Minister Kan scraps previously stated 53 percent nuclear energy targets for a nuclear-free society plan, Chinese companies are looking at Japan as a new market for wind and solar technologies.

  • South Korea heavily criticizes Japan’s boycott of Korean Air, after flight over disputed Dokdo Islets, a territory in the Japan Sea occupied by South Korea since 1954. The confrontation threatens to roll back recent progress on economic deals, cultural exchanges, and a united front against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
  • Under the Radar News 07.08.11

    Posted on Friday, July 8, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • Anti-government strikes in Bangladesh shut down the city for two days and left dozens injured and at least 27 jailed. Strikers are protesting changes to the electoral system that would unfairly favor the incumbent government in the 2014 elections.

  • Japanese researchers discovered new rare earth reserves in the Pacific Ocean; with appropriate technology, the deep-sea minerals may replace the need for land-based rare earth elements of which China currently produces 90 percent of the world’s demand.

  • Taiwan’s navy reportedly developed a new "stealth coat" paint. During tests, the paint allowed the Israeli-designed Seagull fast attack boat to travel undetected by radar until it was within view.

  • Australia will slash aid to China and India, the world’s second and sixth largest economies respectively, and instead focus on Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Middle East and Africa—where Australia’s most direct strategic and economic interests lie.

  • The Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) urged businesses to set up shop in China’s smaller cities, citing larger consumption growth in emerging cities beyond first-tier cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou.

  • Recently surfaced documents show that North Korea's government paid more than $3.5 million to two Pakistani military officials as part of a deal for critical weapons technology in the late 1990s. Pakistan’s dealings with rogue state undermine U.S. trust and potential to cooperate in the battle against militant extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  • China’s Central Bank will raise its benchmark deposit and lending rates by 0.25% points, its third rate increase this year. With May inflation rates at a high of 5.5% and rising food prices, Chinese leaders seek to slow growth and avoid potential social unrest.

  • After convening in China, the Filipino and Chinese Foreign Ministers agreed to abide to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, to maintain stability in the South China Sea, and to settle all disputes peacefully. Earlier this week tensions rose as a suspected Chinese war plane flew over a Filipino fishing vessel and the Philippines sought out a lease of U.S. military equipment to secure territory in the South China Sea.

  • The Mongolian government selected a consortium of U.S., Chinese, and Russian firms to develop one of the world’s largest unexplored reserves of coking coal, a resource used to make steel. The consortium reflects Mongolia’s efforts to appease its immediate neighbors while including the U.S., a political ally, in developments in the Central Asia region.
  • Terrorism in Indonesia After Bashir

    Posted on Tuesday, July 5, 2011 by Project2049Institute

    By Prashanth Parameswaran

    Prashanth Parameswaran was a research assistant at the Project 2049 Institute and is a Master of Arts candidate at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

    Last month, Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was found guilty of terrorism charges and jailed for 15 years. The 72-year old Muslim cleric, which some consider the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian offshoot of al-Qaeda, is widely believed to have inspired the deadly Bali bombings of 2002.

    Though this is his third arrest and imprisonment on terrorism-related charges, the other two were much shorter stints while this is seen as a life sentence. The conviction this time was for organizing and financing a terrorist training camp called Al-Qaeda in Aceh, where dozens of militants were allegedly plotting to assassinate Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

    While Indonesian authorities deserve credit for effectively putting the country’s most notorious Islamist behind bars for the rest of his life, it remains unclear to what extent this actually stems his potential ideological influence on others both from within prison and beyond.

    In most cases, imprisonment tends to at least somewhat diminish the threat the prisoner could otherwise pose to society. In Indonesia, however, experts have long warned that prisons are not only poor barriers against, but good incubators of terrorism.

    Last year, a report by Carl Ungerer from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, based on in-depth interviews with 33 terrorists in Indonesian prisons, concluded that some prisoners were actually contributing to a surge in violent jihadi literature while in captivity, and that a full 30 percent shared Al-Qaeda’s view of global jihad against the West and were immune to de-radicalization.

    And as early as 2007, the International Crisis Group had warned that while Jakarta had achieved some success with regard to its de-radicalization programs and was beginning to address prison reform, more needed to be done, including establishing an on-the-job training program for prison administrators, addressing corruption, and increasing coordination between correction officials.

    Furthermore, while Bashir the man has been in captivity since last August, the jihadist ideology he helped spawn has remained free to wreak havoc on Indonesian society, and will probably continue to do so in the near future.

    The appetite for high-profile, high-casualty attacks on ‘Western targets’ such as the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, the Australian Embassy in 2004, or the J.W. Marriot Hotel bombings in 2003 and the Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2009 may have dried up. But other more localized, smaller-scale manifestations of religious violence targeting institutions like the police and other minorities, whether by splinter factions or ‘lone wolves,’ remain a major concern as militants try to undermine pluralism and push for an Islamic state.

    Since Bashir was taken into custody last August, mobs have continued to take the law into their own hands, slaying members of the Muslim Ahmadiyya sect which was banned in 2008, razing churches and beating Christians to death over a blasphemy case earlier this year, and staging sporadic violent protests against unregistered Christian churches, karaoke bars and other ‘places of immorality’ organized by local clerics. Such religious violence can often be a prelude to more radical acts thereafter, such as the case of Muhammad Syarif, a member of Bashir’s Jema’ah Ansharut Tauhid who blew himself up at a police station mosque last month, killing one and injuring 28 people.

    All this suggests that while the most prominent face of terror in Indonesia is now behind bars, the country faces an uphill struggle against the many faces of extremism still prevalent on its streets.

    Image: Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir
    Source: Al Jazeera

    Under the Radar 07.01.11

    Posted on Friday, July 1, 2011 by Maggie Rank

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • The U.S. “strongly and vehemently” supports a clean waiver for India from the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Outgoing ambassador Timothy Roemer stressed that this civil nuclear agreement will move the U.S.-India relationship in a positive direction.

  • The White House and the Congress have cleared an impasse over three key trade pacts with South Korea, Panama, and Colombia. After weeks of negotiations, the Trade Adjustment Assistance programs in relation to each of the three countries were renewed to provide workers unemployed due to international trade with benefits and services.

  • Chinese and United Kingdom companies have agreed to build three high-resolution earth observation spacecrafts. The satellites will be able to capture surface images less than one meter in diameter and are intended to record China’s rapid growth from orbit. Read more about China’s satellite program.

  • This week, the State Department removed the Philippines and Singapore from the annual Trafficking in Persons report. The only Asian countries that fully comply with the State Department’s human rights standards are Taiwan and South Korea. Read the Project 2049 Institute’s report on human rights in Asia.

  • AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt announced that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will continue, but no commitment has been made in regards to the 66 requested F-16C/Ds, but the Taiwanese air force did receive the first six of 71 upgraded Indigenous Defense Fighters.

  • Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan Bank for International Corporation to increase and develop gas production. The head of the Indonesian Executive Agency for Upstream Gas and Oil says this is a crucial move for encouraging the Japanese to invest in Indonesia.

  • The Pakistani army rejects Afghan claims that it has fired more than 450 rockets into Afghan territory over the past three weeks. Afghan officials have expressed “great concern” over the issue and the alleged 36 killed.

  • The possible return of exiled Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra poses instability concerns for the July 3rd elections. Since his removal from office under in a military coup five years ago, Thailand has been very politically divided; Thailand’s current PM has warned that his return could herald increased turbulence.

  • The Bangladeshi Parliament repealed a 15-year-old requirement that general elections be supervised by nonpartisan caretaker governments through a Parliament vote of 291-1. The opposition claims the move could allow the current ruling party to rig the votes.

  • Russian navy chief says Russia will deliver a nuclear submarine to India by the end of the year. India sees Russia as a strategic counterweight to China but has suffered chronic delays to large weapons orders, including the Admiral Gorshkov heavy aircraft carrier.
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