Under The Radar 06.25.12

Posted on Monday, June 25, 2012 by Rosalind Reischer

A weekly compilation of under reported events in Asia.

  • Violence between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in Rahkine state in Burma has displaced thousands of people (estimates range from 2,000 to 90,000). Burma views the Rohingya as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Meanwhile the refugee situation has intensified with Bangladesh closing off its borders to additional Rohingya refugees.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ordered the restart of two nuclear reactors last weekend, marking the first restart after last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Noda argued that Japan is dependent on nuclear power and that the economy would suffer without it. Opponents continue to call into question the safety of nuclear reactors in Japan, a country prone to natural disasters.
  • New EU-imposed sanctions will prohibit member countries from importing or insuring Iranian oil starting July 1. In an effort to circumvent the EU’s new stringent sanctions, Japan has passed a law that will allow oil companies to insure tankers carrying Iranian crude. Japan, China, South Korea, and India combined import a third of Iran’s oil and depend on European companies to insure their oil from Iran. Japan is the first of Iran’s oil importers to evade new EU sanctions.
  • The dispute over the Scarborough Shoal continued as Philippine president Benigno Aquino threatened to send Philippine ships back to the shoal if Chinese vessels did not leave. Meanwhile Chinese authorities issued a statement criticizing the Philippines for “stirring public opinion” instead of focusing on mending bilateral ties. The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday that the Chinese had removed all ships from the lagoon, but Chinese officials have yet to confirm this statement. 
  • Two Tibetan men self immolated in Qinghai province on Wednesday, leaving a note explaining that repressive Chinese rule made it impossible to contribute to the good of the Tibetan people. They also encouraged Tibetan youths to unite and “uphold the cause of the Tibetan race and nationality.” Since February 2009, there have been 41 reported instances of self-immolation. 
  • The militaries of Korea, Japan, and the United states carried out exercises in the Yellow Sea, between the Korean peninsula and China, on Thursday and Friday. The exercises served to commemorate the 62nd anniversary of the Korean War and to promote trilateral defense cooperation which has been stymied by rocky Korea-Japan relations. Meanwhile, the use of a North Korea (DPRK) flag as a target in live fire exercises drew criticism from the international community as a gratuitous provocation, and North Korean state media condemned the drills and the use of the flag as a precursor to invasion. 
  • At an investment summit in Burma (Myanmar), President Thein Sein set a new goal for the per capita GDP to triple in three years-- a target which would require a growth rate of over 25 percent each year. While over 300 foreign businessmen attended the summit looking to invest in the newly-opened country, consultants warned that investors considering Burma should wait until laws change and infrastructures improve.
  • Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was ousted Tuesday when the Supreme Court ruled him ineligible to rule, marking the first time the Pakistani Supreme Court has acted to remove a prime minister. Makhdoom Shahabuddhin, the first candidate for Mr. Gilani's replacement, was brought up on corruption charges for drug trafficking and also deemed ineligible. Raja Perves Ashraf, former water and power minister, was voted in as the next candidate for PM on Friday. Mr. Ashraf also faces corruption charges, but has taken office despite legal obstacles. In his first public speech on Sunday, Mr. Ashraf called on Taliban militants to put down their weapons and join mainstream life. 

Under The Radar 06.18.12

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012 by Rosalind Reischer

A Weekly Compilation of under reported news in Asia. 

  • Lee Myung-bak urged Japan to reduce its trade deficit and import-restricting trade barriers as necessary pre-conditions for negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). In the same speech, President Lee encouraged his counterpart to issue an apology for the sexual enslavement of South Korean comfort women during World War II. The speech is a microcosm of South Korea-Japan bilateral relations—the nations have many shared interests, but bilateral ties are complicated by their rocky history.
  • The United States military will provide the Philippines with a land-based long range radar that will track ships off the Philippine coast. The decision comes after President Benigno Aquino’s visit to Washington, D.C. and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to the Philippines and the strategy of rebalancing to Asia.
  • Netizens in China speculated the cause of a “mysterious haze” that descended on Wuhan on Monday. The most grave explanation put forth was an industrial explosion at a nearby steel factory. The Wuhan Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) refuted such allegations and announced the haze was a product of bad weather conditions and farmers’straw-burning habits. The incident further delineates the severity of air pollution in China.
  • Since the 2011 earthquake and subsequent radioactive contamination at Fukushima, Japan has struggled to find effective radiation monitoring techniques, given the nation’s mountainous and remote terrains. This week Japan announced plans to design unmanned aircrafts to measure radioactivity in Fukushima. The drones will have the capacityto fly at higher altitudes and over contaminated areas.
  • China sent its first manned space docking mission into space on Friday. The team, which consisted of two men and one woman, completed the docking mission at the Chinese space station, Tiangong, following an initial unmanned docking success last November. These steps are part of a project first conceived in 1992 that aims at a completed space station by 2020.
  • For the first time in 42 years, Japan’s Self Defense Forces (SDF) participated in a public military training in the streets of Tokyo. In the wake of a militarily capable China and an increasingly mercurial North Korea, the exercises seek to acclimate the Japanese public to the presence of armed forces. The 2012 Global Peace Index reported a planned reallocation of military resources to the South to mirror China’s military buildup.

Under The Radar News 06.11.12

Posted on Monday, June 11, 2012 by Rosalind Reischer

A weekly compilation of under reported news in Asia.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his Chinese counterpart, President Hu Jintao to discuss the trajectory of Russia-China relations, which have reportedly “reached new heights.” The two United National Security Council members reiterated their shared stance on Syria, namely their support for the Kofi Annan peace plan and opposition to armed foreign intervention and forced regime change. The leaders also discussed plans for Russia to increase natural gas exports to China and signed 17 diplomatic and trade agreements, which will support their booming trade relationship.

  • Following the Shangri-La Dialogue last weekend Defense Secretary Leon Panetta travelled to India to encourage India to play a larger role in Afghanistan. India plays a key role in the U.S.’s new “strategic focus” on Asia and is a key partner on security issues in the Indian Ocean. Secretary Panetta urged his counterparts to increase India’s share of defense spending in American technologies. In return, Panetta also agreed to move forth on information and technology sharing talks.

  • U.S.-Japan talks on Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) came to a standstill last week. The U.S. insists that Japan liberalize its automobile, insurance, agriculture and beef markets and ease the tariffs that are artificially favoring these industries.  Meanwhile, Japan is concerned that abolishing long standing tariffs on products such as produce will eradicate the nation’s agricultural industry.   

  • The appointment of Satoshi Morimoto as Defense Minister drew some controversy in Japan, as he is the first unelected official to serve in this post. In his new position, Morimoto seeks to enhance the U.S.-Japan security alliance and to relocate the controversial Futenma base. Dr. Morimoto’s was a professor of security and diplomacy issues at Takushoku University and he also worked as an adviser on national security when the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was in power. His new appointment is part of a reshuffling of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s cabinet in an effort to secure bipartisan support for the consumption tax in Japan. 

  • The 2012 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit concluded last week, with its six member states reiterating their hopes for peace, stability and prosperity in the region. They also voiced their opposition to foreign intervention or unilateral sanctions in Syria. President Hu Jintao announced a $10  billion USD loan to develop the economies of SCO members, with the goal of the SCO driving regional economic development. Afghanistan also obtained observer status in the SCO this week, an achievement accompanied by President Karzai’s visit to China, where the two leaders elevated Afghanistan-China relations to a strategic and cooperative partnership.

  • Amidst two recent Tibetan self-immolations in Lhasa protesting new rounds of monastic repression, China has banned non-Chinese foreign tourists from entering Tibet. Since March 2001 there have been 36 self immolation cases in Tibet.

  • In his visit to the United States, Philippines President  Benigno Aquino met with President Barack Obama to discuss security, economic, and regional issues and to reaffirm his commitment to the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). In a joint statement, both leaders reiterated their commitments to the principles of freedom of navigation and respect for international law.

Under the Radar News 06.04.12

Posted on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 by Rosalind Reischer

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • On May 29, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met with ASEAN defense ministers in Phnom Penh to bolster the bilateral China-ASEAN relationship. One output from the meeting was a military cooperation agreement between Cambodia and China, in which Cambodia will send military personnel to train in China and China will provide Cambodia with aid to improve its military hospitals and training programs.     
  • Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York, Chen Guangcheng stated that the most pressing political issue in China today is the lack of rule of law. Chen pointed to the CCP’s treatment of his own family and friends who had helped him escape from Shandong as an example. After Chen escaped, local authorities allegedly raided his brother’s house, beat him and his family and confiscated their communication devices.

  • China’s Ministry of Commerce surprised speculators when it announced an increase in export quotas of rare earth elements (REE). Originally Beijing had significantly lowered REE exports for 2012, citing environmental concerns. The recent decision brings total REE exports to 21,226 tons, an amount that is comparable with exports in 2011.

  • In the South China Sea debate, Chinese analysts continue to cite historical texts to justify the PRC’s territorial claims. Meanwhile, Filipino analysts cite the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in their defense, arguing that as the proximal state they have complete sovereignty over the disputed territories. Both governments have increased patrol of the Scarborough Shoal area and China has tightened control on tourism and imports from the Philippines.

  • Cambridge University researchers discovered that a microchip manufactured in China, and used by the U.S. military, has secret remote access capability. The chip’s “backdoor” capability offers remote users with opportunities for intellectual property theft and reverse engineering. Experts disagree on the extent to which the chip’s backdoor had a malicious purpose.

  • Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra warned against escalating internal conflict after members of the opposition party known as “Yellow Shirts” rallied in the national parliament to protest the Reconciliation Bill. The controversial bill, if passed, would grant amnesty to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006, fled the country, and has not returned since in order to avoid corruption charges.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her first international speech in Thailand after 24 years of isolation. In the speech Suu Kyi urged “healthy skepticism” towards the current military government’s reform process and called for greater international assistance in education and vocational training. According to some observers, her visit to Thailand seemingly marred ties with President Thein Sein who cancelled his upcoming trip to Thailand.

  • During the Shangri-La Security Dialogue in Singapore, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained the U.S. strategy of rebalancing to Asia.  In line with the strategy, the U.S. Navy will allocate 60 percent of U.S. Navy forces to Asia. This marks an increase of 10 percent from the previous 50-50 allocation of naval assets between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Meanwhile, the international community was left speculating about the conspicuous absence of Chinese senior level delegates at the security forum.

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