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.