Under the Radar News 03.25.11

Posted on Friday, March 25, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Malaysia has announced plans to join the International Criminal Court. Malaysia will be the third country in ASEAN to ratify the Rome Statute of the ICC, a declaration that renounces war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

  • Saudi Arabian oil company, Saudi Aramco, has signed a MOU with Chinese state-owned firm, Petro China, to supply oil to an oil refinery in China’s Yunnan province. The oil would be transported via a new Chinese pipeline through Myanmar.

  • Malaysia and North Korea agree to enhance information cooperation in areas such as news and television documentaries. Since their signing of an information agreement in 1992, there has been increased information sharing between both countries’ media agencies.

  • After a six-year stall due to environmental concerns, India conditionally approved the building of a twelve-billion dollar Korean steel plant . If built, this project will mark the largest foreign investment in India since the beginning of market reforms in 1991.

  • India and Singapore engaged in talks to increase research and regional security cooperation . In particular, maritime security was emphasized as India seeks to acquire new warships in the next few years.

  • South Korea’s trade minister announced government interest in the creation of a Korea-China free trade agreement . China is Korea’s largest bilateral trading partner. A signed FTA will make it easier for Korean companies to invest in China.

  • North and South Korean civilian officials will meet to discuss the possible eruption of North Korean volcano, Mt. Baekdu. The talks are a small sign of cooperation despite heightened military tensions between the two states.

  • Nepal introduced a four-year emergency plan to combat the country’s frequent energy shortage problems. The government has pledged to spend US $20 billion on the power sector as well as provide tax cuts to companies investing in power plants.

  • China’s largest nuclear plant operator, China National Nuclear Corp, has started trial production at its first overseas uranium mine in Niger. China is also looking to invest in uranium production in other countries in Africa, Central Asia, Australia, and Russia. According to estimates, China should be self-sufficient in uranium supplies by 2020.

  • Despite the crisis in Japan, China is pushing ahead to increase nuclear cooperation with Pakistan. China dismissed safety concerns, upholding its decision to sell outdated, decades-old, nuclear reactors to Pakistan. More on the Sino-Pakistan nuclear deal:

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    Under the Radar News 03.18.11

    Posted on Friday, March 18, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • According to a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute report, India is the world’s largest arms importer, with Russia as its biggest supplier. The United States is the largest arms exporter.

  • Malaysia has invited the Singapore navy to cooperate in the monitoring of the Gulf of Aden. In response to Somali piracy, Southeast Asian nations are working together to ensure safe passage for merchant ships.

  • The Philippines has announced plans of raising $4.6 billion for the creation of a fund to aid private enterprises in the building of roads, rail, and port projects. The government is also pushing for a $1 billion investment in roads and rails to maintain 7 to 8% growth for the year.

  • Singapore has announced the loosening of restrictions on new media for the use of political campaigning. Political party officials view these changes as an indication of government recognition of the difficulties in monitoring new media.

  • South Korea will ship boron to Japan to aid in efforts to stabilize its nuclear reactors. Japan’s own stock of boron was depleted by the Fukushima nuclear plant.

  • Taiwan’s intelligence chief confirmed that China has deployed DF-16 ballistic missiles. The long range and destructive powers of these missiles is of serious threat to Taiwan.

  • The United States and Japan exhibit differing views on the depth of the crisis, with U.S. officials issuing much more dire warnings. Despite the panic, President Obama has said that no harmful radiation is expected to hit the U.S.

  • China objects to a U.S. report placing certain Chinese companies, such as search engine Baidu, on the “notorious markets" list for selling counterfeit and pirated goods. China has faced much international criticism for its extensive intellectual property rights violations.

  • A Tibetan monastery is closed off after a twenty-one year old monk’s death through self-immolation sparked limited protests. Anti-government unrest has been high in Tibetan areas, particularly in response to cultural erosion and lack of religious freedom.

  • After two years in office, Obama heads to Latin America for state visits to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador. His trip is seen as a response to growing Chinese influence in the region and to push for energy and construction deals.

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    The Year of the Tiger: China’s Spy Satellite Surge in 2010

    Posted on Monday, March 14, 2011 by Ian Easton

    From late 2009 to late 2010, as attention on East Asia was consumed by high tensions on the Korean Peninsula and at the edges of the East China Sea, China’s powerful military space establishment quietly deployed a record number of spy satellites into lower earth orbit.

    These included the launching of seven classified Yaogan series satellites for collecting military intelligence. Two of these satellites, the Yaogan 7 and the Yaogan 11, are believed to be electro-optical (EO) imaging satellites, capable of electronically capturing high resolution digital images of the earth and transmitting them in near real-time to ground stations via China’s Tianlian satellite data relay network. These satellites evolved from the older generation photo reconnaissance satellites that periodically returned film canisters to earth for processing. While EO satellites greatly improved monitoring capabilities, they are also limited by their reliance on the visible and near infrared spectrum, which means that their transmissions can be considerably reduced – sometimes altogether – by cloud cover, weather events such as sand storms, and the dark of night.

    For this reason China also launched two synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, the Yaogan 8 and the Yaogan 10, which bounce active radar signals off the earth’s surface to paint images of objects and plot terrain. Unlike EO satellites, SAR satellites can operate through cloud cover, the dark of night, and can even image a short distance underground and underwater. However, the trade-off is that they tend to produce images of lower resolution. Supporting the imaging satellite network are constellations of small electronic reconnaissance satellites that orbit together in carefully choreographed formations.

    China made a key breakthrough in 2010 with the launch of the three-satellite Yaogan 9 constellation, reported to be a Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS), capable of using time difference of arrival techniques to triangulate and target radar emitting carrier strike groups and other warships of interest with long-range missiles. These satellites appear particularly well-placed to fill a gap in China’s “carrier killer” anti-ship missile programs, which include both ballistic and cruise missiles designed to evade (or destroy) the air defenses surrounding U.S. aircraft carriers.

    Chinese sources indicate that operational tests have been successfully conducted to link these spy satellites to anti-ship missiles for targeting mobile targets on land and at sea. Falling within the range of these missiles are assets belonging to the United States as well as allied and friendly nations in the Western Pacific. China’s surging military satellite deployments has created the ability to monitor contentious territorial claims, and potentially enforce them vis-à-vis coercive missile diplomacy. With Chinese satellite launches set upon an upward trajectory in the next two years, countries around the world may be hard pressed to hide from China’s unblinking digital eyes in space.

    Image: Notional Chinese Co-orbital Satellites
    Source: Wired

    Under the Radar News 03.11.11

    Posted on Friday, March 11, 2011 by Lana Buu

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • The Dalai Lama said on Thursday he would seek an amendment allowing him to resign his political office when the exiled Tibetan parliament meets next week in the northern Indian hilltop town of Dharamshala. Beijing labels this move as "deceiving.”

  • Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed a Joint Meeting of Congress in Washington DC. Underlying it all was the observation that, with China and India on the rise, the Asia-Pacific region would become the world's most important region in economic and military terms. And Australia wanted American leadership in the region, both global and economic.

  • The Ministry of National Defense in South Korea said Tuesday that it will speed up plans to deploy stealth jet fighters and high-altitude spy drones to build up its surveillance capability and bolster deterrence toward North Korea.

  • India tested its indigenous interceptor missile, called Advanced Air Defense (AAD), on Sunday. It is capable of destroying any incoming hostile ballistic missile. India plans to establish the initial phase of a robust Ballistic Missile Defense shield by 2012.

  • The “Peace-11 exercises” kicked off in Pakistan on Tuesday. Naval exercises were conducted by delegations from 40 countries, including the U.S., China, Australia, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia. In particular, the issue of piracy at sea was recognized as a growing concern in the Indian Ocean.

  • Malaysia tries to build the world’s largest refinery for rare-earth metals— the first rare earth ore processing plant to be built outside China in nearly three decades—to break China’s grasp on the strategic metal monopoly. The Project 2049 Institute on China’s rare-earth monopoly.

  • The Philippine navy said yesterday it had bought a large Hamilton-class patrol craft from the US to help it guard its waters, amid tensions over territorial claims, notably with China.

  • Taiwan planned to slash the number of its troops by 9,200 this year amid warming ties with China, adding that the cut would be offset by more advanced weaponry. The reduction is part of a five-year plan aimed at trimming the size of Taiwan’s armed forces by 60,000, or more than 20 percent from the present level of 275,000 troops.

  • Prior to the first session of Burma's new Parliament, junta chief General Than Shwe signed a law that gives the commander-in-chief of the military—who is currently Than Shwe himself—the absolute authority to use unlimited “Special Funds” in performing his duties of protecting the Constitution and preserving national sovereignty.

  • A three-day ASEAN senior officials’ meeting concluded in Yogyakarta on Wednesday with several new ideas raised but left one crucial issue — the Indonesian-backed migrant worker regional deal — untouched. For Indonesia, the migrant workers issue is among top priorities as millions of its migrant workers are in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

  • The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs praised the Philippine government on Tuesday for deporting a Taiwanese suspect in a fraud case to Taiwan rather than China, where 14 Taiwanese suspects in an unrelated fraud case had been sent early last month.

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    Under the Radar News 03.04.11

    Posted on Friday, March 4, 2011 by Lana Buu

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • The U.S. and South Korean militaries on Monday launched major annual land, sea and air exercises, amid North Korean threats to turn Seoul into a 'sea of flames' in case of any provocation.

  • China will kick start a truck manufacturing line in Burma. Chinese investments helped boost bilateral trade between the two nations by 50% in 2010, with China eclipsing Thailand as the largest investor in Burma. China injected $US9.603 billion in the Burmese economy over a 20-year period compared to Thailand’s $9.568 billion.

  • The newly-appointed secretary- general of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), Fathimath Dhiyana Saeed of Maldives, assumed office at the SAARC Secretariat in the Nepali capital Kathmandu on Wednesday. Ms. Saeed is the tenth secretary-general of SAARC and the first woman to occupy this prestigious position.

  • China plans to carry out more than 20 space missions this year, an acceleration of efforts to improve its space technologies. A Chinese senior space technology expert said Thursday that China is expected to launch its first space laboratory before 2016. With its first unmanned space module, Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace, in the second half of 2011, China hopes to build a space station before 2020.

  • The Philippine military Thursday accused the Chinese navy of entering Manila's waters in the South China Sea and ordering an oil exploration vessel to leave. The area in question is subject to multiple competing claims of sovereignty.

  • Timor-Leste on Friday has sent a formal application to join the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to Indonesia, the current chair of the bloc. Timorese Foreign Minister Zacaria Albano da Costa points to double digit economic growth and a bounty of natural resources in Timor-Leste in regard to the concern of a “development gap” between ASEAN members. Indonesian President Yudhoyono voiced support for the Timorese candidacy on Thursday and vowed to use Indonesia's term as ASEAN chairman to direct its acceptance into ASEAN.

  • Russia plans to deploy anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems along the coast of the Kuril Islands, which include the Northern Territories that are claimed by Japan, according to media reports. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced his intention to strengthen Russia's military control over the disputed islands in February.

  • The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will expand its overseas operations and boost its defense capability at home by adding to its arsenal. Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday unveiled plans to have more overseas peace support operations and patrol the pirate-infested waters off Somalia.

  • Environment ministers from BASIC countries - Brazil, South Africa, India and China - met in New Delhi to assess the post-Cancun climate change policy and discuss coordination for talks in Durban conference in December 2011. Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh introduced a joint statement which pointed out that the Second Commitment Period of Kyoto Protocol and Fast Start Finance were the two critical issues that need further clarity.

  • North Korea hopes to register 10 hydro-power generation facilities with the United Nations by the end of this year and receive emission credits, using the clean development mechanism outlined in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. With carbon dioxide emissions currently trading for about 20 euros (about 2,200 yen or US$28) a ton, Pyongyang could expect to reap millions of dollars in income.

  • Nearly one-quarter of Burma's new national budget will go to defense, an official publication called the Government Gazette reported Tuesday. The gazette reported that 1.8 trillion kyat (US$2 billion), or 23.6% of the budget this year, will go to defense. The health sector, meanwhile, will get 99.5 billion kyat (US$110 million), or 1.3%.

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