Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Obama In Vietnam: Only Permanent Interests – Analysis

Written by Amruta Karambelkar / Eurasia Review: The US and Vietnam are the strangest bedfellows in the Asia Pacific. US President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam received wide attention, particularly because of the lifting of the embargo on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam. The ban was eventually expected to ease but it seems to have happened much sooner. This appears to be one of the significant measures undertaken within the so-called US ‘rebalance’. Both the presidents have stated – Obama more clearly – that the elevated bilateral ties are not aimed against Beijing. At the same time, however, both have also expressed concern regarding developments in the South China Sea and freedom of navigation. The US ‘rebalancing’ is tangible through this visit, along with other recent US visits and initiatives in the region.

The US and Vietnam have been gradually striving to normalise their relationship. The process started after the end of the Cold War and the landmark visit to Vietnam in 2000 by then President Bill Clinton with the aim of reconciliation. Just like Clinton’s, Obama’s Vietnam trip has happened towards the end of his presidency. Sixteen years since Clinton’s historic visit, a lot has changed between the former enemies. Most of the present Vietnamese population was born after the war, and the negative psychological cloud of the war has passed. The enthusiastic welcome that Obama received from the civilian community is an indicator of the changing times.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Malaysia and China agree to settle South China Sea issues via DOC

via New Straits Times Online: Malaysia and China have agreed to settle South China Sea-related issues through the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and to speed up the completion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). 

Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the agreement was reached at his meeting with visiting China State Councillor Yang Jiechi after the latter called on him at Wisma Putra here today. 

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Anifah said the issues discussed at their meeting included the encroachment of Chinese fishermen into Malaysian waters. “We raised our concern and he (Yang) said he will look into it. We believe that between friends we should be able to find solutions. 

 “We (Malaysia and China) are not exactly neighbours but we share the same South China Sea. So we are bound to have that kind of problems,” he said. Anifah said Malaysia faced the problem of fishermen encroaching into its waters even with Indonesia because of overlapping areas. 

“Therefore, what we (Malaysia and China) have promised is to settle all issues through the DOC and speed up the completion of the COC,” he added. In March this year, it was reported that about 100 China-registered boats and vessels had been detected encroaching into Malaysian waters near Beting Patinggi Ali in the South China Sea.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Fukushima 5 Years Later: "The Fuel Rods Melted Through Containment And Nobody Knows Where They Are Now"

Today (March 11, 2016), Japan marks the fifth anniversary of the tragic and catastrophic meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people. Another 160,000 then fled the radiation in Fukushima. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and according to some it would be far worse, if the Japanese government did not cover up the true severity of the devastation.

At least 100,000 people from the region have not yet returned to their homes. A full cleanup of the site is expected to take at least 40 years. Representative of the families of the victims spoke during Friday’s memorial ceremony in Tokyo. This is what Kuniyuki Sakuma, a former resident of Fukushima Province said:
For those who remain, we are seized with anxieties and uncertainties that are beyond words. We spend life away from our homes. Families are divided and scattered. As our experiences continue into another year, we wonder: 'When will we be able to return to our homes? Will a day come when our families are united again?'
There are many problems in areas affected by the disaster, such as high radiation levels in parts of Fukushima Prefecture that need to be overcome. Even so, as a representative of the families that survived the disaster, I make a vow once more to the souls and spirits of the victims of the great disaster; I vow that we will make the utmost efforts to continue to promote the recovery and reconstruction of our hometowns.
Sadly, the 2011 disaster will be repeated. After the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, Japan was flooded with massive anti-nuclear protests which led to a four-year nationwide moratorium on nuclear plants. The moratorium was lifted, despite sweeping opposition, last August and nuclear plants are being restarted.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Australia and China: Do Bitlateral Relations Get Even More Complicated?

from New Eastern Outlook: Australia and China have a long history of mutually beneficial cooperation. Over the past five years, bilateral trade volume has grown by about fifty percent, and that was before signing the Free Trade Agreement between the countries, which took place in June 2015. Both countries make their respective mutual investments, Australian companies are widely represented on the Chinese market, student exchange and tourism programs are developing. In October 2015, Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the upcoming ‘golden age’ of Australian-Chinese relations. Recently, however, this harmony was broken. The fly in the ointment was added by the aggravation of confrontation between China and other Asia-Pacific countries for control over the South China Sea.

Recent news on the start of construction of Chinese military bases on the Paracel and Spratly Islands, as well as on the stationing of ground-to-air missiles on one of the islands, perturbed Australian Authorities. Australia addressed all countries involved in the conflict, calling for the termination of the militarization of the South China Sea, in which it sees a threat to the security of the region, as well as to economic development due to possible restrictions for sea and air traffic. Australia has also demanded that China stop the construction of artificial islands and has expressed its support to the Philippines, which appealed to the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague to challenge China’s claims.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Have We Witnessed a Dramatic Change in the Military Doctrine of the DPRK?

via New Eastern Outlook:

As it was reported on Friday by the KCNA, during a visit to a closed firing range where advanced multiple rocket launchers were tested, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced that the country should be prepared to use its nuclear weapons at any moment to ensure its self-defense. The North Korean supreme leader has also underlined that he perceives the upcoming South Korean-US maneuvers as a dangerous gamble that could lead to disastrous consequences, so he ordered the North Korean army to raise all forces to high alert. The KCNA has also noted that “hostile forces led by the United States,” adopted a resolution that is “undermining the rights of the DPRK as a sovereign state.”

The part that one can consider to be crucial in all this information warfare is the fact that in the same speech, Kim Jong-un announced that Pyongyang would reconsider its military doctrine to allow the possibility of preemptive strikes being launched in connection with the dangerous situation on the Korean Peninsula. On March 4, a statement issued by the DPRK government stated that in circumstances when the United States and its satellites have openly challenged North Korea’s sovereignty and have endangered its right to existence, any hostile actions would lead to a decisive response. The statement has also added that should some disastrous event occur on the Korean Peninsula or in the region adjacent to it, the entire responsibility will lie on the United States and its collaborators.

World War Games & Massive Military Drills; Countries Threaten Posture & Practice Nuclear Strikes

from Spiro: The U.S. and South Korea are set to begin their largest ever joint military exercises amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula.

More than 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 US troops will take part in the drills

North Korea threatens 'pre-emptive nuclear strike of justice' against the South and the U.S. mainland if planned military drills go ahead on Monday

Large-scale NATO military exercises in Norway has three strategic bombers B-52 that will practise applying simulated, as they call it, nuclear strikes against ground targets.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

China’s Trillion Dollar Gamble: The New Silk Road

Written by James Corbett
The Corbett Report / The International Forecaster

Two weeks ago a train carrying 32 containers of cargo arrived in Tehran. Although you probably didn’t hear about it, this rail shipment changed the face of global geopolitics.

Well, OK, not that particular train itself. But what it represents. You see, this was the first ever shipment of cargo between Wuyi, China and Tehran, Iran, and it only took 14 days to travel the 6,462 miles between the two cities. Compare that to the traditional method of shipment between China and Iran. Those containers would generally be loaded onto ships in Shanghai and travel to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. Total journey time: 44 days. They just shaved a month off the trip.

Again, the significance of this is not the connection between China and Iran, per se. It is that this new rail line represents only one part of a much, much, much more ambitious project: China’s “One Belt, One Road” plan to build a vast transportation infrastructure connecting the “middle kingdom” to destinations all throughout Central and South Asia, Eurasia, and even Europe. The plan is as ambitious as it is comprehensive; consisting of a “Silk Road Economic Belt” and a “21st-Century Maritime Silk Road,” the aim is to link China to 65 countries with a combined population of 4.4 billion people, or more than half the population of the planet.

In an official news release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlining the project, the Chinese government explains:
“More than two millennia ago the diligent and courageous people of Eurasia explored and opened up several routes of trade and cultural exchanges that linked the major civilizations of Asia, Europe and Africa, collectively called the Silk Road by later generations. For thousands of years, the Silk Road Spirit – ‘peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit’ – has been passed from generation to generation, promoted the progress of human civilization, and contributed greatly to the prosperity and development of the countries along the Silk Road. Symbolizing communication and cooperation between the East and the West, the Silk Road Spirit is a historic and cultural heritage shared by all countries around the world.”
The new silk road, then, is intended to be the 21st century equivalent of this millennia-old idea. But it is about so much more than mere transportation infrastructure.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

China Presses Its Maritime Luck, Blocks Access To Fishing Lanes

from Zero Hedge

“No fishing for you!”

We suppose it was only a matter of time, but Beijing has now escalated the South China Sea dispute.

The waters around the Spratlys have become the subject of international diplomacy after China decided to dredge up 3,000 acres of new sovereign territory in what amounts to the most epic sand castle building exercise in maritime history.

The world first caught on to what China was up to (and no, that’s not derogatory because they were literally “up to something”), early last year when satellite images depicted rapid construction on Fiery Cross Reef. The situation escalated quickly and before you knew it, the PLA was warning a Poseidon spy plane with a CNN crew aboard to “go now” in a move that pretty clearly indicated China intended to establish a no-fly zone over its new islands.

Finally, in late October, the Obama administration decided to conduct a freedom of 
navigation “exercise” near China’s new islands, an effort The Pentagon says was designed to establish security in a corridor through which $5 trillion in global trade flows.

Earlier this month, China send warplanes to an airstrip on one of its islands. That move came on the heels of the deployment of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to Woody island.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Japanese Bracing For Negative Interest

from Corbett Report Extras: James Corbett joins Jim Goddard for his regular bi-monthly appearance on HoweStreet.com. This week they discuss how the Japanese are preparing for the new normal of negative interest, the ongoing oil glut, Zika hype and the state of the global markets.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Chinese Environmental Issues: Is There a Way Out?

from New Eastern Outlook: In recent years, the difficult ecologic situation in China has become an international issue. Decades of industrial and agricultural development, with no attention paid to environmental issues, have driven some regions to the brink of an ecological catastrophe. For a long time the Chinese Government has concealed the true scale of the threat, but recently it has become impossible to conceal, and Chinese leadership had to implement a policy to save the environment.

Other states also suffer from the contamination produced by China. These are primarily countries bordering its northern-eastern regions, which are the most industrialized and, consequently, the most polluted. These are North and South Korea, Mongolia, Russia and Japan. The damage that China causes to these countries invariably influences their relations. Obviously, recovering from crisis will require joint efforts of the mentioned countries. Virtually, however, the key part in resolving the Chinese issue belongs to China, and there is little that neighboring countries can do without its wish. China signed agreements on joint efforts to protect the environment in 1990s-2000s. The agreements stipulated reduction of water contamination by industrial waste, air pollution by coal combustion products, petroleum products, prevention of soil degradation as a result of uncontrolled farming and cattle grazing, cease of deforestation and joint ecological monitoring. China, however, was not eager to make ecological issues one of its priorities, and, as it is clear now, the agreement did not bring about any tangible results.