Under the Radar News 06.04.12

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 by Rosalind Reischer

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • On May 29, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met with ASEAN defense ministers in Phnom Penh to bolster the bilateral China-ASEAN relationship. One output from the meeting was a military cooperation agreement between Cambodia and China, in which Cambodia will send military personnel to train in China and China will provide Cambodia with aid to improve its military hospitals and training programs.     
  • Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, Chen Guangcheng stated that the most pressing political issue in China today is the lack of rule of law. Chen pointed to the CCP’s treatment of his own family and friends who had helped him escape from Shandong as an example. After Chen escaped, local authorities allegedly raided his brother’s house, beat him and his family and confiscated their communication devices.

  • China’s Ministry of Commerce surprised speculators when it announced an increase in export quotas of rare earth elements (REE). Originally Beijing had significantly lowered REE exports for 2012, citing environmental concerns. The recent decision brings total REE exports to 21,226 tons, an amount that is comparable with exports in 2011.

  • In the South China Sea debate, Chinese analysts continue to cite historical texts to justify the PRC’s territorial claims. Meanwhile, Filipino analysts cite the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in their defense, arguing that as the proximal state they have complete sovereignty over the disputed territories. Both governments have increased patrol of the Scarborough Shoal area and China has tightened control on tourism and imports from the Philippines.

  • Cambridge University researchers discovered that a microchip manufactured in China, and used by the U.S. military, has secret remote access capability. The chip’s “backdoor” capability offers remote users with opportunities for intellectual property theft and reverse engineering. Experts disagree on the extent to which the chip’s backdoor had a malicious purpose.

  • Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra warned against escalating internal conflict after members of the opposition party known as “Yellow Shirts” rallied in the national parliament to protest the Reconciliation Bill. The controversial bill, if passed, would grant amnesty to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, fled the country, and has not returned since in order to avoid corruption charges.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her first international speech in Thailand after 24 years of isolation. In the speech Suu Kyi urged “healthy skepticism” towards the current military government’s reform process and called for greater international assistance in education and vocational training. According to some observers, her visit to Thailand seemingly marred ties with President Thein Sein who cancelled his upcoming trip to Thailand.

  • During the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained the U.S. strategy of rebalancing to Asia.  In line with the strategy, the U.S. Navy will allocate 60 percent of U.S. Navy forces to Asia. This marks an increase of 10 percent from the previous 50-50 allocation of naval assets between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Meanwhile, the international community was left speculating about the conspicuous absence of Chinese senior level delegates at the security forum.

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