Under The Radar 10.31.12

Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2012 by Lucy Wen-Chin Lo

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • Clashes between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists continued to spread in Myanmar (Burma). The Burmese government attempted to resolve the conflict caused by the rape of a Buddhist woman in late May by segregating the two communities.

  • North Korea has reportedly taken a step forward with its special economic and trade zone with the establishment of the Rason Economic and Trade Zone Management Committee. The special economic and trade zone will be jointly developed and operated by North Korea and China.

  • Former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai was stripped of party membership for alleged power abuse, corruption, bribe-taking and involvement in his wife’s murder of a British businessman. The decision was reportedly made by the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party and the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and Chongqing Municipal People's Congress. More than 700 leftist academics and former officials sent an open letter that condemned the central government’s action as legally inappropriate and politically motivated.

  • Greenpeace claimed that the Japanese government underestimated the radiation levels in areas near the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The environmental group advised the government to be more efficient and effective in decontamination.

  • Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba embarked on a European tour to France, England and Germany in seek of support for his government’s position in the East China Sea dispute with China. France, England and Germany did not express clear support for Japanese claim of sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island.

  • Following a surprise visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to Dokdo/Takeshima Islands in August, South Korean MPs made a follow on visit on October 23. The trip was reportedly for checking security measures around the Islands. However, a photo released showed South Korean lawmakers wielding placards reading “Dokdo is our land. We will defend it.”

  • UN peacekeepers in Timor-Leste are being withdrawn over the next two months as the international body hands over full policing responsibility to the Timor-Leste government. There will be no UN peacekeepers left in the country by December 15, according to head of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).

Under The Radar 10.23.12

Posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 by Lucy Wen-Chin Lo

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • The White House denied a report cited by Reuters that cleared Huawei of spying on the US. The report claimed that there was no evidence of the telecommunication company actively spying on behalf of China. However, the White House rebutted that no “classified inquiry” has been conducted so far that cleared any telecommunication company, including Huawei.

  • Ralls Corporation, a company controlled by Chinese engineering giant Sany, was blocked from a wind farm investment project in Oregon due to US national security concerns. Ralls has subsequently sued President Barack Obama and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on grounds that the rejection was an act of discrimination and a political show.

  • After Malala Yousufzai – a teenage Pakistani rights activist – was shot by Taliban militants. Pakistani opposition party PML-N lodged strong criticism against the ruling coalition government for not adequately dealing with domestic militancy. A resolution was introduced for deliberation to the National Assembly in the hopes of forging more practical policies against Taliban militant forces.

  • Kim Han-sol, the 17-year-old grandson of Kim Jong-il, was interviewed by the former defense minister of Finland, Elisabeth Rehn. Kim is currently enrolled in the UN-sponsored United World College in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During the interview, Han-sol expressed how his international friends have expanded his worldviews and the dream of the unification of the Koreas. He also spoke of his early childhood in North Korea and Macau, explaining that he did not know his paternal grandfather was and never had a chance to meet him.

  • Following Myanmar’s (Burma) President Thein Sein and opposition parliamentary leader Aung San Suu Kyi visits to the US, the two countries made a step forward in bilateral relations by holding a dialogue over human rights issues in Nay Pyi Taw. The talk covered protection of labor rights, protection of civilians in conflict zones and humanitarian assistance to those regions. Implementation of the rule of law and matters related to prisoners were also included.

  • South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made his first visit to Yeonpyeong Island in a surprise move that officials say was intended to exert stricter military discipline on the front-line. President Lee expressed his firm stance on safeguarding the Northern Limit Line (NLL) for building peace in the region and the unification of Korea.

  • Japan declined to endorse the draft statement made by 16 countries to make atomic weapons illegal. The statement called on all states to "intensify their efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons and achieve a world free of nuclear weapons." Although Japan is the only country that suffered from atomic attacks, it is concerned that the initiative would affect its security arrangement with the US. According to Japan’s National Defense Program Guidelines, “as long as nuclear weapons exist, the extended deterrence provided by the United States, will be indispensable.”

  • Tamdrin Dorjee set himself on fire and died near the Tsoe monastery in China's north-west Gansu province. He is considered the grandfather of the seventh Gungthang Rinpoche, the reincarnation of an important religious figure to Tibetan Buddhists. “More than 50 ethnic Tibetans have set themselves on fire since such protests began in 2009.”

Under The Radar 10.15.12

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2012 by Hong Hanh Dinh

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • Myanmar (Burma) President Thein Sein visits Seoul to meet with South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak to negotiate trade and investment opportunities for both nations. South Korea plans to develop gas and power plant projects, and both sides will cooperate on improving energy and resources development, infrastructure and construction. In addition, the two leaders signed a framework agreement on grant aid and a memorandum of understanding to establish Myanmar's first state research think tank on economic development.
  • North Korean fishing boats violates the Northern Limit Line, which the South Korean government claims was intended to stir up tensions and influence the upcoming elections in South Korea. The South Korean government responded firmly to the provocation and stated that it was North Korea's attempt to sway voters towards the opposition, which is more soft-lined towards North Korea.
  • Suggestions to "jointly manage" the disputed Diaoyu/Takeshima islands by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has sparked tensions within his party, Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). Although Hashimoto believes the islands are Japanese sovereign territories, he believes "sovereignty and utilization are different matters." This has resulted in divided opinions by Japanese experts.
  • Amidst increasing trade barriers against Chinese solar firms set up by the European Union and the U.S., China's top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, has approved several overseas energy projects. Chinese solar firms are now moving towards the establishment of solar power stations in Europe and the U.S. to promote local employment, thereby lessening trade frictions.
  • From 2013-2015, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will provide $144 million to implement a three year plan in the Kachin, Kayin, Chin, Rakhine and Shan ethnic states of Myanmar (Burma). The plan's three main objectives includes the "eradication of poverty and hunger, assurance of environmental sustainability, and the development of democracy and human rights through good governance."
  • At last week's IMF's semi-annual meeting, the China's central bank governor, Zhou Xiaochuan, withdrew the Chinese delegation in Tokyo that included senior finance officials and state-owned bank representatives. A reaction ostensibly in response to Japan's sovereignty claims over the disputed Diaoyu/Takeshima Islands.
  • China commissions its first aircraft carrier called Liaoning into its navy. Yet, the new aircraft carrier is not yet fully operational due to the absence of an air wing off of its flight deck.
  • As a result of its rice intervention scheme, the Thai government expects a loss of 80 million baht ($3.2 billion). The Thai government bought rice from farmers at 15,000 baht per tonne of paddy, which was well above the 9,000 baht per tonne quoted by traders. This was implemented under the populist scheme last year in order to bring Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to power.

Under The Radar 10.08.12

Posted on Thursday, October 11, 2012 by Hong Hanh Dinh

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • China’s ongoing 12th Five-Year Plan (2001-2015) includes an initiative to  rapidly develop a more sustainable, green economy, while promoting domestic consumption that will enhance its domestic market, particularly in the renewable resources industry. Currently, China is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels, and the largest market for wind power.  
  • Disregarding the 2004 agreement to halt all official-level cross-border propaganda, North Korea sends thousands of propaganda leaflets over the heavily militarized border for the second time this year. Pyongyang criticized the South Korean defense ministry's "anti-Pyongyang" education program for its military, while praising pro-North Korean activists in the South.
  • Frank Hsieh of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is the highest-level opposition politician ever to visit China. The DPP have given mixed reactions and the Chinese state media have remained silent. Hsieh stated his visit was to “build mutual trust." 
  • China continues to closely monitor the water of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as four more Chinese marine surveillance ships arrives on Tuesday. This was a response to the Japanese right-wingers attempt to enter the islands.
  • The South Korean government plans to run commercials domestically and abroad to defend its sovereightyclaim over the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima Islands. The increase in South Korean public relations is occurring against the backdrop of worsening tensions between the two countries after South Korea rejected Japan's proposal to jointly take the case to the international court. Government sources cited by Japanese media reported that Tokyo is "in its final stage of preparations to unilaterally take the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)."
  • President Lee Myung-bak and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are collaborating together to build a gas pipeline through North Korea, linking the two nations. Russia agrees to protect the gas pipeline passage through North Korea from any threats. South Korea hopes that cooperation between Russia and North Korea will help ease tensions.  Lee and Medvedev believes this project will bring economic benefits to all three countries, increasing efforts to eventually bring peace to the Korean peninsula.
  • Taiwan joins the 36 countries that the US permits visa-free travel for tourism or business for 90 days. This privilege is not granted to China, who claims Taiwan as its territory. This response may signify US’s elevated stance against China by promoting self-governance to Taiwan, as well as returning the favor to Taiwan after the island lifted restrictions on US beef imports.

Under The Radar 10.01.12

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2012 by Lucy Wen-Chin Lo

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • South Korea refused Japanese warships docking rights during an annual four-nation naval drill know as the Proliferation Security Initiative. Seoul suggested the port call was unnecessary and that refusal was based on mutual agreement. The incident occurs in the backdrop of rising nationalism and tensions over the Dokdo/Takeshima islets and it demonstrates the fragility of bilateral ties.
  • Recent missile policy talks between the U.S. and South Korea have made limited progress. Seoul received Washington’s support to extend its ballistic missile range from 300 to 800km while maintaining the scale of the warhead. However, Washington remained in opposition to Seoul’s development of combat drones and civilian solid-fuel rockets. This series of talks will lead up to the joint Security Consultative Meeting where the South Korean and U.S. defense ministers will announce a new missile policy.
  • In the backdrop of the Senkaku (Diaoyu) territorial dispute, China canceled 40th anniversary celebrations honoring the normalization of diplomatic ties with Japan. In place of the lavish, public ceremony, Tang Jiaxuan, head of the China-Japan Friendship Association, met privately with important Japanese figures.
  • China’s State Oceanic Administration plans to expand drone patrol of Chinese waters and build drone surveillance stations in coastal provinces by 2015. By bolstering control of neighboring waters China seeks to expand its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In addition to the Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands, Beijing reiterated its sovereignty over Ieo, an island comprised of submerged rocks that is currently administered by South Korea.
  • As Arctic ice recedes, a new maritime route connecting East Asia to Europe and North America emerges. With an eye towards the future of commercial shipping, South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is investing heavily in research and development of energy-efficient ice-breaking carriers, capable of navigating Arctic waters. While the emerging route has potential to transform shipping between East and West, legal procedures, lack of infrastructure, and environmental concerns remain to be addressed.
  • Zhou Yongkang, China's domestic security chief, made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, where he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. During the visit Yongkang pledged Chinese investment in Afghan natural resources and greater security cooperation, particularly in training Afghan National Police after NATO-led coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
  • In August 2012, the U.S. Congress renewed sanctions legislation against Burma (Myanmar). However, in light of recent political and economic reforms led by President Thein Sein, Washington has lifted import bans against the emerging democracy. The lift is expected to bring more foreign investment to Burma, boost the nation’s economy, and facilitate the normalization of U.S.-Burma relations.
  • With the resettlement of the last group of internally displaced people, Sri Lanka closed the doors of Menik Farm, one of the world’s largest refugee camps. During Sri Lanka’s ethnic war (2006-2009), the camp housed up to 300,000 displaced Tamil refugees. The United Nations welcomed the move as a milestone event ending a chapter of displacement in Sri Lanka’s history.
  • China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, a refurbished Soviet ship purchased from Ukraine, entered service last week. The carrier symbolizes China’s increasing air and naval capabilities. Military specialists point out, however, that it is still no match to the U.S. eleven Nimitz class carriers.
  • Vietnam sentenced three bloggers, Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan and Phan Thanh Hai, to prison for producing "anti-state propaganda." Despite recent economic and political opening, Vietnam is a one-party Communist state where government controls the media and judicial matters.

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