Under The Radar 09.17.12

Posted on Monday, September 17, 2012 by Michael Chen

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta embarks on a trip to Japan and China aimed at urging both parties to avoid escalation over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute. While in Tokyo, Panetta also confirmed that Japan will host a second land-based x-band radar to defend against ballistic missiles. In China, Panetta is expected to meet with Vice President Xi Jinping, just days after Xi resurfaced in public after a two-week disappearance.
  • Roughly 1,000 fishing boats have reportedly set sail from China and are due to arrive in the waters surrounding the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands before the end of September 17. The fleet could be accompanied by the six Chinese patrol ships that have been stationed near the islands since last week. On Friday, September 14th, those six ships entered the disputed waters that prompted a standoff with the Japanese Coast Guard.
  • Anti-Japan rallies in China have expanded to 85 cities, as angry protestors turn their anger to Japanese stores, restaurants, and even people driving Japanese cars. Even with officials clamping down, violent protests are expected to continue through Tuesday, September 18th, the 81st anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria.
  • Moon Jae-in, a close ally and former aide to South Korea’s late president Roh Moo-hyun, handily secured the main opposition party, the Democratic United Party’s nomination for president. In his acceptance speech, Moon raised “fairness and justice” as his theme, vowing to continue Roh’s work by ending corruption, expanding welfare, punishing “politically motivated prosecutors,” and seeking peace with North Korea. Moon’s challenge, pundits say, is to consolidate opposition forces to rally behind him. Sources close to entrepreneur-turned-professor Ahn Cheol-soo have said that the popular political outsider will make a formal decision soon on whether to throw his hat in the ring.
  • Members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Intelligence on September 13th accused Chinese telecoms Huawei and ZTE of spying for Beijing through computer equipment. Rep. Michael Rogers, chairman of the Committee on Intelligence, said the two companies could be compelled to assist China’s government if asked for data that passes through the company’s network routers. Rogers also raised the finding of a “backdoor” built into a ZTE product that could allow the Chinese government to secretly monitor information. A top ZTE official, who testified at the hearing, dismissed the problem as a technical “bug.”
  • The U.S. is planning to ease a blanket ban on imports on products from Myanmar (Burma), and the Burmese government announced on September 17th that it would grant amnesties to 514 prisoners, ahead of overlapping visits by President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the U.S.
  • Two days after expressing its intent of accepting aid from South Korea, Pyongyang announced that it would reject Seoul’s offer, calling the “meager” offer “deeply insulting.” Seoul’s offer to provide aid came after a typhoon this summer reportedly destroyed tens of thousands of hectares of crops in the impoverished North. Seoul called the North’s decision regrettable.
  • Taiwan and the U.S. will restart talks over the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) after Taipei eased restrictions on the import of American beef. Trade talks had been frozen since 2007 after a ban on U.S. beef was put in place. A trade deal with the U.S. could counterbalance Taiwan’s increasing reliance on China.
  • Support for Australia’s ruling Labor Party have risen to an 18-month high, polls show. Labor’s support ratings have been trailing the opposition party since 2010. The new boost may help Prime Minister Julia Gillard fend off challengers from within her party and from the opposition before elections that must be held by November 2013.
  • A scandal involving alleged improper allocation of India's coal reserves has stalled progress in its legislature, due to protests led by opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The “Coalgate” scandal and poor economic growth have caused support for the ruling Congress Party to plummet.

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