Under The Radar 08.13.12

Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012 by Rosalind Reischer

A weekly compilation of under reported events in Asia. 

  • South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took a surprise trip to the Dokdo islets, which have long been part of a territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan. Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto claimed the trip was aimed at garnering a higher approval rating. Classifying President Lee’s trip as unacceptable, Japan announced Saturday it would take the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice. Observers predict Lee's audacious move will seriously jeopardize relations between the two countries due to the heightened sensitivity over territorial issues.
  • Top ranking Vietnamese officials including the president and party general secretary met with Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, in Hanoi last week. The two sides agreed to strengthen cooperation at regional forums such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang said that Vietnam consistently favored a stable, peaceful and nuclear-free peninsula and that concerned parties should make an effort to promote dialogue and nuclear nonproliferation on the peninsula. He also informed Mr. Kim of Vietnam’s decision to provide five thousand tons of rice in food aid to North Korea.
  • A weak monsoon season in India has led to economists reducing growth forecasts for the Indian economy. While agriculture only makes up 14% of the economy, 50% of the population works on farms. As a result, when rain is lacking, the rural population suffers. The latest Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report concluded that the composite leading indicators (CLIs) of both India and China reflect a continued slowdown in both countries.
  • South Korea’s cabinet and President Lee Myung-bak have endorsed a bill that would set up a fund to cover the incorporation cost in the event of the reunification of the peninsula. The bill, still awaiting approval from parliament, would draw on government and private funding sources. Estimates of the total cost of reunification vary widely, but as the GNP per capita in South Korea is now 19 times that of North Korea, the cost in any case would be considerable.
  • According to a recent report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service, Pakistan has plans to improve its nuclear arsenal to counter that of India and increase the circumstances in which it would use nuclear weapons. The report cited Islamabad’s increased production of fissile material as a response to the perceived nuclear threat from New Delhi.
  • Taepung International Investment Group, a North Korean military investment firm established to attract foreign investments, was reportedly closed last week due to poor performance. According to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, experts believe the closure was associated with the ouster of military official Ri Yong-yo and part of a broader initiative by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to loosen the military grip on politics and increase the influence of party technocrats.
  • The Japanese government has decided to extend the role of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in U.N. peacekeeping operations in the Golan Heights region of Syria. The Japanese government, acknowledging the deteriorating security situation in Syria, said steps would be taken to ensure the security of SDF troops.
  • The United States has decided to deploy drones to monitor Chinese activity in waters around the Senkaku (Diaoyutai) Island Chain in the East China Sea. The drones will also conduct surveillance around Okinawa Prefecture. The move is indented to reassure Japan so it does not have to take “provocative action” concerning the Islands.

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