Under The Radar 11.26.12

Posted on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 by Henna Sharif

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • On the eve of the East Asia Summit, India granted its support to the proposed Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China to govern the use of the resource-rich South China Sea. A majority of ASEAN members support the Code of Conduct, which seeks to internationalize South China Sea issues and advocates for a multilateral approach. China has staunchly advocated for bilateral dialogue.

  • In his first overseas trip since re-election, President Barack Obama visited the East Asia region to participate in the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh. The trip underlines the strategic re-balancing to Asia and the U.S.’s diplomatic and security commitments to the region. President Obama also became the first U.S. president to visit Burma (Myanmar), where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein and discussed the nation’s path of democratic re-engagement. He also met with Cambodian Prime Miniser Hun Sen for discussions on human rights and democracy.

  • China is set to emerge as the world’s largest nuclear power generator by 2020. Policy planning and third generation power plants that produce electricity more cheaply than coal and gas plants, have spurred growth in the nuclear energy sector. Despite increased nuclear energy generation targets, coal will continue to comprise the bulk of China’s energy supply.

  • South Korea, China and Japan, three of the world’s largest economies, have agreed to launch discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA). The trilateral FTA, while unlikely to dissolve political tensions, demonstrates a desire to limit the economic fallout from territorial disputes and nationalist sentiments. The first discussions will take place in South Korea in March 2013.

  • In the backdrop of upcoming national elections in Japan, Toru Hashimoto’s Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) and Shintaro Ishihara’s Taiyo no To (The Sunrise Party) have merged into one political party. Despite divergent stances on policy issues such as the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the future of nuclear energy, Hashimoto and Ishihara’s merge demonstrates party efforts to be a viable third force in upcoming elections.

  • During the East Asia Summit, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced a $615 million low-interest, long-term government loan to Burma (Myanmar). The loan will largely be used for infrastructure projects that will enable Japanese companies to further invest in Burma. The new loan comes after an earlier Japanese announcement to waive $3.5 billion of Burma’s unpaid loans.

  • Independent South Korean presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo on Friday announced his abrupt withdrawal from the presidential campaign and his endorsement of Rep. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP). His withdrawal clears the way for a two-way race with ruling party hopeful Park Geun-hye in the Dec. 19 polls.

  • Chinese fighter jets successfully landed on the Liaoning aircraft carrier while it was at sea. This marks the first official confirmation that China has mastered the technology and technical skills necessary to operate fighters from a carrier at sea. The feat further demonstrates the Middle Kingdom's progress towards becoming a global military power.
  • Under The Radar 11.19.12

    Posted on Monday, November 19, 2012 by Lucy Wen-Chin Lo

    A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

    • At a Washington forum on Asia policy in the second term of the Obama administration, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon said that North Korea can imitate Myanmar-style reform in economic development. Both North Korea and Myanmar(Burma) have been in isolation and under sanctions by the U.S., and reforms in North Korea’s economic sector could allow for its reentry into the international community.

    • Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino urged Southeast Asian countries to present a united front against China over the South China Sea issues. "We can talk to the other claimants that aren't ASEAN members but since we want to maintain ASEAN's centrality, we must have just one voice in Asean... in this regard," President Aquino told reporters.

    • The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and the commander of U.S. Forces Korea, Army Gen. James D. Thurman, visited the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Dempsey also met with his South Korean counterpart, Jung Seung-jo, to discuss the success of the U.S.-Korea alliance and an alternative joint command system between the two forces after the expected transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) to Seoul starting in 2015.

    • North Korea is suspected of attempting to ship graphite cylinders, ballistic missile components to a Syrian company. The cylinders were disguised as lead pipes in a Chinese ship, which was uncovered by South Korean authorities in the port city of Busan. The shipment violates UN sanctions against North Korea. China has promised to investigate the incident, which was reported last month to the UN Security Council North Korea sanctions committee.

    • Preceding a visit from U.S. President Barack Obama, the Burmese government began releasing prisoners under an amnesty. However, the extent of these releases is still uncertain with an estimate of 300 prisoners still in jail. Human rights groups continue to criticize the release of prisoners, stating that they are lying about the release of political prisoners.

    • The National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) in Singapore estimates that there may be a need to increase the number of foreign manpower in Singapore particularly in health care, construction, and domestic help sectors. NGOs express concern on the quality of foreign manpower that would come to Singapore while the country strives to increase productivity.

    Under the Radar 11.13.12

    Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2012 by Lucy Wen-Chin Lo

    A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

    • A Japan-proposed resolution calling for joint action to eliminate all nuclear weapons was passed in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. Four nuclear powers including the U.S., Britain, France and Russia were among the 159 countries that voted for the resolution, while China together with 11 countries like India, Pakistan and Israel abstained. North Korea was the only country that voted against the resolution.
    • The number of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) delegates from the private sector has doubled from 17 in the 17th Party Congress to 34 in the 18th Party Congress. Since 2001, the CCP has started to assimilate private entrepreneurs into the participation of Party’s decision making process.
    • The Chinese delegation was absent in this year’s Tokyo Defense Forum (TDF). Japan's Minister of Defense Satoshi Morimoto said that he hoped that senior Chinese officials would attend to exchange ideas on new security challenges. TDR has been annually held by Japan’s Ministry of Defense since 1996. This year, the forum focused on U.S. role in the Asia-Pacific region.
    • Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand plan to accelerate the joint development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with the formation of a high-level joint committee. Myanmar Vice President U Nyan Tun’s visited Thailand last week and signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that prioritized certain sectors for development. The SEZ project includes steel mills, refineries, a petrochemical complex and powerplants, and is expected to be completed by 2018. The project also includes the construction of the Dawei deep-sea port, which would shorten the transportation route to Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
    • The UN Security Council ordered sanctions against the Haqqani militant group. The Haqqani militant network in Afghanistan was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani and now led by Qari Zakir. The group is responsible for sophisticated attacks on the Afghan government and NATO forces. The sanctions include a freeze on Haqqani assets, an arms embargo and a travel ban against Zakir.
    • According to a series of recent polls, South Koreans in their 30s – compared to others segments of the population – are ostensibly less conservative in terms of their views toward North Korea. Experts say that people now in their 30s were taught progressive ideas during college by the older generation who participated in the country’s democratic movements, and had to face the turmoil of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which helped to cultivate their strong anti-establishment views.
    • At the ninth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao urged for further cooperation on energy security and disaster prevention and mitigation with European countries. Asian countries have acquired experiences in disaster prevention while European countries have high-tech products in the field. Wen suggested three-point proposal on how the two sides could cooperate in the future.

    Under the Radar 11.05.12

    Posted on Monday, November 5, 2012 by Hong Hanh Dinh

    A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia. 

    • A closer business tie appears to be developing between the United Kingdom and China as the China Investment Corporation (CIC) recently bought a 10% state in the Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd, previously known as BAA Ltd. Unlike other countries that have been more protective of national assets from Chinese investments, the UK has displayed an open attitude towards the influx of capital. Amidst the Euro Crisis, the UK has remained a relatively stable investment environment, a very attractive sign for foreign firms during the economic slowdown.  
    • About 30 foreign ambassadors and other delegates were invited to Pyongyang to watch a musical performance that celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the prestigious Kim Il Sung Military University. Seated closely to the new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, this is an unconventional move from such a closed society since only Russian and Chinese ambassadors were permitted in the past. This may be interpreted as the new regime's efforts to be more open to the international community.
    • With the upcoming leadership transition, Chinese leaders are taking no chances as they render a lists of stringent rules restrictions to stem all possible threats to stability. Elite paranoia over propaganda leaflets has barred the use of any handles for rear windows in taxis, balloons, remote control model planes, and pigeons must be caged when congress starts. These concerns stems from the political dissidents in southern China that released pigeons, carrying slogans written on ribbons tied to the birds' feet in the late 1990's. 

    • After strong criticism of inaction, China has reportedly proposed a set of new initiatives to stem the violence in Syria. The initiatives were presented to Lakhdar Brahimi, the Algerian veteran United Nations peace envoy and advisor on Syria, and include “concrete” suggestions to resolve the 19-month old conflict. China will not change its stance on its opposition to the conviction of Assad's government, but is rather pushing efforts towards "a ceasefire region by region and phase by phase, and establishing a transitional governing body," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

    • Constitutional reform is under debate among the South Korean presidential candidates vying in the upcoming elections in mid-December. There is current discussion regarding the possibility of future presidents serving two four-year terms in office, a bicameral legislative system to enhance the rights of provinces, and additional clauses to enhance basic rights.The current ruling Saenuri Party candidate, Park Geun-hye, is assessing outdated elements of the constitution and is in favor of a two-term presidential system. Main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) candidate Moon Jae-in also advocates for a two-term presidency, along with a vice president. However, independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo remains reserved on this issue.
    • Peace between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippine's largest Muslim insurgent group, is moving forward as the two sides signed an agreement calling for the creation of a new autonomous regional government, to be called "Bangsamoro," that will replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The shape and size of the new Bangsamoro region will be decided through a plebiscite by 2015.

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