Posted on Monday, August 20, 2012 by Michael Chen
A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.
- Rising nationalism is escalating tensions in the East China Sea. Following 14 Chinese activists’ landing on August 15th on the disputed Senkaku (Diaoyutai) Islands, 10 Japanese activists – including local assembly members – on August 19th also sailed to the isle to assert Japanese sovereignty over the disputed territories. The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, criticized the Japanese government’s decision to release, rather than indict, the Chinese activists; and several cities in China have witnessed anti-Japan rallies in the past week protesting the Japanese government’s actions.
- In the latest step of reform for the nominally civilian government, Burma (Myanmar) announced on Monday an end to pre-publication censorship of the country's media. Journalists were “cautiously optimistic” and called the new policy a major improvement, but also expressed concern over self-censorship. Journalists are still required to submit their work to state censors after publication.
- South Korea’s Park Guen-hye handily secured the ruling Saenuri (New Frontier) Party’s nomination to run for president with 84% of the primary vote. Park has pledged to improve ties with North Korea, but stated that Pyongyang would have to abandon its nuclear ambitions before Seoul would engage. The likely main opposition candidate, Moon Jae-in, vowed to provide unconditional aid for North Korea.
- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called on the military to prepare for a “sacred war” before an annual military exercise by South Korea and the U.S. aimed at testing defense capabilities. A U.S. research group warned that Pyongyang may have the fuel to build as many as 48 nuclear weapons by 2015 unless imposed sanctions start to work.
- Taiwan’s GDP growth forecast for 2012 was cut to 1.66 percent, down from a previous estimate of 2.08 percent. According to government figures released on August 20, exports in July also dropped 4.4 percent from the same month last year. Local economists urged the Taipei government not to view the free trade pact with China as a long-term solution, pointing to a recent plunge in exports to China.
- Taiwan’s main opposition party is taking steps to engage China. Following the reinstatement of its Department of China Affairs, two Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, Hsiao Bi-Khim and Lin Chia-lung, paid separate visits to China to attend forums on cross-Strait relations held by the Shanghai Institute for East Asia Studies and the Shanghai Asia-Pacific Regional Development and Urban Governance Forum (上海亞太區域發展暨城市治理論壇), respectively.
- Following Japan’s footsteps, India’s government is offering insurance for cargo ship companies willing to transport Iranian crude as a means to bypass EU sanctions. Yet because the $100 million per ship coverage pales in comparison to the $1 billion European insurers offered, most Indian companies have so far declined to resume oil shipments from Tehran.