Under the Radar News 01.30.12

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2012 by Ai-Shan Lu

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • Taiwan's President Ma Ying- jeou, who was re-elected on January 14, announced that a free trade zone will be established in Kaohsiung City, a southern city in Taiwan. According to Mr. Ma, "the government has put a lot of effort into free trade in the hope that Taiwan can join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 10 years, which is a new regional trade pact within the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)."

  • On January 26, South Korea’s Marine Corps held its first live-fire exercise on islands shelled by North Korea in 2010 since the death of Kim Jong-il. According to the spokesperson, the drill was a regular exercise that had been planned before Kim's death on December 17.

  • As China and Japan decided to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations in Beijing on February 16, Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda tried to enhance diplomatic ties with the PRC and encouraged more people-to-people exchanges in the near future. During his visit to Beijing at the end of 2011, the two sides agreed to strengthen political mutual trust and increase dialogue in various fields.

  • The European Union (EU) agreed to lift some of its sanctions (how long have they been in place?) on Burma (Myanmar) ostensibly in response to the political reforms undertaken by the Burmese government. Visa bans on the president of Burma and other senior officials will reportedly be suspended, but other sanctions including an arms embargo and restrictions on targeted industries will remain. The easing of sanctions could lead to Western investment in oil, gas and other sectors to compete with Burma’s neighboring nations, especially India, Thailand and China.

  • Prime Minister Wen Jiabao stated that China will face bigger challenges in 2012 (Year of Dragon) in a meeting with top officials on January 21. Wen said that the government’s main goal will be to maintain price stability alongside rapid economic development. Moreover, that China must change its development model to “give more importance to people's lifestyles, and let the population share the fruits of the reform.”

  • Kazakhstan has decided to withdraw several billions of dollars out of Western banks to fund special projects to diversify its economy away from resource extraction. Kazakhstan is abundant in natural resources such as oil, gas and uranium. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that his government will invest in industrial-innovation projects.

  • China reportedly did not send any high-level officials to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos. By comparison, the Chinese delegation used to be led by vice-premier ranking officials, and even premiers. Observers hold that absence of senior officials this year may reflect Beijing’s focus on domestic issues, especially in the run-up to the once-a-decade leadership shuffle later this year.
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