Under The Radar 07.30.12

Posted on Monday, July 30, 2012 by Michael Chen

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • The U.S. ambassador to South Korea urged North Korea to learn from the recent political and economic reforms in Burma (Myanmar), saying that U.S. would respond constructively to positive changes. North Korea has yet to lay out specific plans to reform its economy, but rice hoarders eager to turn a profit from potential reforms have already raised prices, driving rice produce even further out of reach of North Korea’s starving population.
  • South Korean intelligence revealed that North Korea's former army chief Ri Yong-ho was ousted because he unilaterally repositioned troops near Pyongyang during a military exercise. Mr. Ri reportedly also expressed dissatisfaction over Kim Jong-un’s decision to transfer control of lucrative businesses from the military to the Workers Party.
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda took steps to extend the life of what pundits say may be another short-lived government. Facing growing concern over the deployment of Ospreys, Noda conceded that Japan was in no position to block the deployment, but ordered that no Ospreys be allowed to fly until investigations of prior accidents were concluded. To prevent more party members from defecting, Noda may also postpone Japan’s entry into Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
  • Australia’s gas producers expect to benefit from Japan’s new energy policy while Australia’s uranium industry sees a decline in its exports. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will unveil a medium-term national energy plan in August, but already natural gas is the favored option for Japan’s national energy mix.
  • Taiwanese regulators cleared the way for a pro-China media tycoon to take over one of the nation’s largest cable TV systems, drawing sharp criticism from opposition lawmakers, who said the deal would create a “media monster” and called for an immediate reversal.
  • Amidst severe flooding in Beijing, the public has exposed the government’s inability to respond to the severe conditions and criticized the government’s lack of transparency, forcing city officials to update the death toll from 37 to 77. The mayor of Beijing and his deputy resigned, but pundits say the resignations were most likely a routine reshuffling, and that the mayor is still poised to be promoted later this year.
  • Leaders of Burma and Thailand met to sign three Memoranda of Understanding, focusing on development cooperation, joint energy projects, and a commitment to invest in Dawei, a multi-billion-dollar port and special economic zone located in Southwest Burma.
  • Tens of thousands marched on the streets of Hong Kong in protest of the local government’s plan to implement a new curriculum praising the Chinese Communist Party. The Hong Kong government, undeterred by protests, continued to defend the curriculum, but promised to form a committee to monitor “moral and national” education.
  • The Philippine Senate ratified the Philippines-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), which is expected to further expand bilateral cooperation in maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and counter-terrorism. In addition to the agreement with Australia, the Philippine Coast Guard also received assistance from Japan, which announced plans to provide 12 new patrol boats by 2014.
  • The Vietnamese and Philippine Foreign Ministries jointly protested China’s plans to establish a military garrison on the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The two ASEAN members also voiced their opposition to the creation of Sansha City, a Chinese prefecture created to administer the Paracel and Spratly Islands.

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