Under the Radar 1.28.13

Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Henna Sharif

A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • The Philippine government brought the South China Sea disputes to an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). According to Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario: "The initiation of Arbitral Proceedings against China on the nine-dash line is an operationalization of President Aquino's policy for a peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea (international name: South China Sea) in accordance with international law.”

  • The Republic of Korea’s president-elect, Park Geun-hye, sent special envoy Kim Moo-sung to Beijing. Kim said that his visit emphasized the importance of maintaining bilateral relations and demonstrated that the new administration was ready to advance the bilateral partnership. Kim’s visit followed Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun, who visited the ROK earlier this month to deliver a personal message from Xi Jinping.

  • Russia has expressed its readiness for trilateral economic cooperation with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and South Korea on a variety of economic projects. Russia welcomes high-level exchanges with the DPRK and South Korea on projects such as gas supplies and trans-Korean railroad.

  • During the January 21-22 visit by Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony to Myanmar (Burma), the two sides reportedly discussed a working roadmap on border management. This move has been seen as an effort to check China’s entry into the Indian Ocean region.

  • North Korea threatened to carry out a nuclear test as part of an “all-out action” against the United States, which it called the “main player” behind recently tightened international sanctions. Intelligence experts in Seoul and Washington have speculated for months that the secretive police state is preparing to conduct its third nuclear test, based on satellite photos showing activity at the North’s test site. Pyongyang’s state news agency also has made several opaque references about bolstering the nation’s “nuclear deterrent.”

  • Japan launched an intelligence-gathering satellite from a rocket launch site in the southern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima. The launch took place as planned at 1:40 pm local time at Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island of the prefecture, and the satellite has successfully gone into orbit around the earth.

  • A labor activist and former magazine editor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Thailand’s king, the latest in a string of convictions under the country’s strict lèse-majesté law. The case of the activist and editor, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, 51, stood out because Mr. Somyot directly challenged the lèse-majesté law in court, saying it violated the right to free expression.

  • Taiwan held a military exercise simulating an attempt by rival China to seize an airport on its east coast, one of the key crucial military installations on the island. Hundreds of soldiers and a fleet of main battle tanks were mobilized in the drill at Hualien airbase, while F-16 fighters were scrambled. Persistent threats from China have prompted Taiwan to keep modernizing its military forces.
  • Under the Radar 1.22.13

    Posted on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 by Henna Sharif

    A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • The chief human rights official at the United Nations, Navi Pillay, called for an international inquiry into human rights offenses committed by the North Korean government over many decades. Human rights groups have been lobbying for an international investigation over the past year, and they hope to persuade Japan to sponsor a resolution at the next session of the Human Rights Council in March that would create a commission of inquiry.

  • The foreign ministers of Japan and Australia agreed to strengthen security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions with the United States amid China's growing maritime assertiveness, stressing the importance of security cooperation between the two countries and their common ally the United States.

  • Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members expressed mixed feelings about DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang’s plan to try to recall President Ma Ying-jeou and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers. The reasoning behind the plan is legitimate because Ma’s governance has been poor, some DPP figures said, but others were concerned about the political ramifications the move could have and the difficulty of achieving the recall.

  • The United Nations (UN) in Vietnam has initiated a series of consultations with a broad range of Vietnamese citizens on the new development framework to be put in place in 2015, once the current Millennium Development Goals expire. The UN wants to ensure that a diversity of voices is heard in determining the new development goals post-2015 and the consultations are an excellent way to identify how to best address the new development challenges.

  • Foreign affairs and defense officials from the United States and Japan began consultations over revising guidelines on defense cooperation. One focus of the revisions was how to beef up cooperation between the security allies in monitoring and surveillance activities as China moves to increase its maritime presence in the region. Japan and the United States also hope to deepen their alliance in areas that are not confined to those surrounding Japan, such as U.N. peacekeeping operations in various parts of the world, antipiracy missions and fighting cyberterrorism.

  • Nuclear specialists from the United States offered in-person assistance to Myanmar's (Burma) plan to accept greater international scrutiny of any atomic activities. Officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration were in Myanmar for a workshop with atomic energy, science and diplomatic officials. “The purpose of the workshop was to promote awareness of the international safeguards system, including elements and requirements for the implementation of the IAEA Additional Protocol and the modified Small Quantities Protocol,” the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said in a release issued on Wednesday.

  • India and China discussed reviving military exercises that have been stalled since 2010, and increasing military exchanges during the Third India-China Annual Defense Dialogue in Beijing. The two sides also discussed regional and international issues of common interests, including potential hotspots in the Asia-Pacific region and in the India-China border areas.
  • Under the Radar 1.14.13

    Posted on Monday, January 14, 2013 by Henna Sharif

    A weekly compilation of under-reported events in Asia.

  • Thai Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung met with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the interior minister last week. The talks focused on Thailand's restive South and the need for cooperation to maintain peace in the region.

  • The Sri Lankan parliament voted to remove Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake in a move analysts say could trigger a constitutional crisis. The parliament accused her of corruption, an allegation which she has denied. President Mahinda Rajapaksa dismissed her from office on Sunday in the culmination of a widely criticized impeachment process that has crippled the nation’s courts and may precipitate a constitutional crisis.

  • China called for a reinforcement of cooperation among the five BRICS countries at the third meeting of senior representatives of national security affairs. The meeting was chaired by Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and was attended by senior officials from Russia, Brazil and South Africa. Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo suggested that BRICS countries establish more confidence in their own ways and prospects of development and in cooperation among themselves by promoting the ideas of solidarity, cooperation and win-win situation.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened the first meeting of the Economic Revitalization Headquarters, endorsing the outline of the government's emergency stimulus package totaling some ¥20 trillion in a bid to steer Japan out of deflation and prop up the economy with massive public works spending. The package includes public-private initiatives and spending by local governments.

  • China's new ties with the Maldives, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka may sink India's influence over the Indian Ocean. With the rise in the military capabilities of China and India, the two are increasingly rubbing against each other; China expands its presence in the Indian Ocean region and India makes its presence felt in East and Southeast Asia.

  • Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt went on a private trip to North Korea in an attempt to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, a US citizen who is being held awaiting trial.

  • The Vietnam- France Joint Committee on Defense Cooperation held its third session, which was co-chaired by Vietnamese Deputy Minister of National Defense Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh and French Deputy Chief of Staff Major General Gratien Maire. Both sides evaluated effective cooperation in various areas between the Vietnamese and French ministries of defense, including exchange of visits, staff training, cooperation on military science and technology and suggested measures to further enhance the all- sided cooperation in the future including maritime security, patrol and supervision, staff training and others.

  • South Korea urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to take action against North Korea’s recent long-range missile launch, which violates UN resolutions, within two weeks time. “Key players, including South Korea, are currently in the process of unofficially negotiating UNSC countermeasures against North Korea.”
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