The 6 Way Talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear program continues. Here is a round up of news and opinions on the progress of the talks.]
First of all, the US and Japan have decided to make the North Korean human rights issue part of the nuclear negotiations. The believes that South Korea is right to feel frustrated by Washington’s move. On the other hand One Free Korea feels the human rights issue should be part of the nuclear talks:
How has Korea as a nation come to the point that something which has killed up to 3.5 million of its people is not "essential," even as an ongoing process within a broader set of talks? Can we contrast this jaw-dropping moral laissez-faire with South Korea’s intransigence in its SOFA negotiations with the United States, following two completely accidental deaths? Why should North Koreans who have lost children, parents, husbands, wives, and siblings ever forgive those who consider their loss an acceptable sacrifice to realpolitik? Isn’t this just a degree less heartless than the North Korean regime itself, which deprived them of food and starved them in the first place?
The Lost Nomad doesn’t expect anything to get accomplished anytime soon as North Korea is making demands for the US to build them two light water nuclear reactors in addition to the agreed upon energy aid from South Korea in exchange for dismantling their nuclear program. North Korea is also making demands that the that protects South Korea.
Progress is slow but never the less it is progress. However, I can’t help but feel that we are heading back to 1994 all over again. The prior disarmament framework agreed upon by President Clinton was meant to stop their nuclear program, but didn’t work because the North Koreans went ahead and kept making weapons anyway while enjoying the free international aid because there was no rigid inspection guidelines to ensure compliance.
The North Koreans kept real quiet about it and gave the appearance of compliance. This will be the same deal they will be looking for at this next round of talks starting this month on the 25th of July. The North Koreans just want a nice face saving deal that gives them the free food, money, and the oil they need to keep the regime going plus have enough flexibility in the agreement to be able to covertly hide their weapons program.
In turn they will keep quiet and give the appearance of good behavior to the international community, all the foreign diplomats can pat each other on the back about what a great job they did, heck maybe somebody can even get a Nobel Peace Prize out of this like former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung did back in 2000. All the while the North Korean elites will be sitting back enjoying their spoils, their people still starving, make no progress on human rights, and continue to covertly make nuclear weapons until the next crisis arises and they need more aid.
The yuan revaluation has sent shock waves through world financial markets and will have wider effects as time progresses. However, some effects are already being seen, and speculation is widespread.
Survived SARS is the best chronicle I have found of yuan news. The author also has a lot of insight, including criticism of the move in general:
China has moved from a single-currency peg which was largely credible, even though we knew there was extensive political argument surrounding the exchange rate regime. Now China has a multiple-currency peg, which is less credible, and proposes that several incremental currency moves will be less politicized in an environment with high speculation, precisely in an economy where the "adverse effects on some sectors of the community are large and very visible."
Monday’s WSJ had a lot of information,and Sun Bin has archived the main points, including caution to American diplomats from pushing for too much too fast.
Michael Turton is blogging that Taiwanese investors may be looking elsewhere as China prepares even further exchange rate hikes, even up to 10 or 15%. At the same time, a diverting investment in some sectors may be of interest to China. Attempts to cool its economy have largely been ineffective, and growth has hovered around 9%. Reuters reports that Chinese economists are now shifting their focus to safely cooling the roaring economy.
Now that China has America off its back for the time being, it can focus on domestic problems like inequality and spreading some of this new-found wealth. At the same time, the world remains tuned to the decisions of the People’s Bank and may resume pressure if revaluation does not continue speedily enough.
Here is today’s round up of some of the blogs of South Asia.
‘BDeshini’ has some thoughts on the stained glass art she is mastering.
Sadiq links us to the only site that brings together the Scriptures from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - all in one place and with the finest translations available in English.
Mezba explains why fishing is a cruel sport.
Dina Mehta tells about a protest by SMS - The Thane Municipal Corporation is being bombarded by text messages from 627 families of Saket Complex, a society of buildings, complaining and urging action against the stench created by open garbage.
Desipundit points to discussions about bothering nasty comments in blogs.
Seven notable Indian journalist/economists have started a blog called ‘The Indian Economy’.
Pakistani Perspective posts an interesting review of the book ‘The dancing girls of Lahore’.
Abez has a recipe of Mango Milk for the husbands.
‘Chapati Mystery’ construes an interesting analogy:
The logic of the war on terror demands that there exist a cohesive ‘them’ while the premise of the jihadist narrative is the disintegration and dispossession of ‘us’.
United we blog has an informative post citing the usual misconceptions of Nepali Politics.
eTaiwanNews reports Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian has offered meet China’s Hu Jintao at the APEC meeting in Busan this November, a move that may meet resistance from the PRC. While Taiwan obtained APEC membership in 1991, China has always pressured Taiwanese presidents to send an envoy rather than represent their nation themselves.
However, recent events, including pressure from America, have given Chen more confidence in his cross-strait diplomacy. He sees this as a chance to put Hu on the spot to meet with him. While it might be ideal if the meeting occurred, the Taipei Times editorial board surmises that a snub from China could meet Chen’s ends as well:
The other two possible outcomes both involve a slap in the face for Chen, if he is as determined as he seemed to be yesterday. But perhaps this is his strategy. Given the overwhelming stupidity of the current China fever among Taiwanese — some of whom would sell their birthright to export a container of mangoes — Taiwanese need to be reminded that China is not their friend. It could well be that Chen is setting himself up for a humiliation, to stage a little morality play in the most brightly lit arena available.
Not only has China taken steps to isolate Taiwan, it has recently been courting the opposition KMT, seeking to cast Chen as a radical who would upset the tense peace in the strait. It seems that Chen would like to use APEC to strike back.
Pro-North Korean demonstrators first set their sites on tearing down the statue to General Douglas MacArthur located in Jayu (Freedoom) Park in Inchon, South Korea last December. The statue over looks the harbor where General MacArthur and his soldiers made their famous Inchon Landing in September 1950 in a surprise attack that changed the course of the Korean War. Now the protesters are back demanding the statue be pulled down:
"The statue is part of our humiliating history," said Kim Su-Nam, a 65-year-old activist wearing a yellow jacket inscribed with anti-US slogans.
"By dismantling the statue, we want to stoke an anti-US movement aimed at expelling US troops from the peninsula," Kim said.
Using a loudspeaker, he rebuked the pro-US demonstrators as "followers of the US colonial master".
However, this time the citizens of Inchon have rallied to protect their historical statue:
"We will never forget what he did for us. He is a hero who stopped the communization of the Korean peninsula," said Lee Jin-Ho, a 74-year-old veteran who fought alongside US soldiers during the war.
But forget is exactly what some South Koreans want to do.
After laying a wreath at the memorial, Lee joined hundreds of other pro-US demonstrators, including war veterans in their 60s and 70s, who gathered in the park on Sunday to block about 50 anti-US activists intent on pulling down the statue.
The pro-American demonstrators easily out numbered the pro-North Korean group and provided many money quotes like this one:
"Instead of quibbling, they should pay attention to North Korea’s human rights situation and the dictatorship of its Kim Jong-Il regime," Lee Phil-Han, a 56-year-old businessman in Incheon, said.
"We owe a lot to the United States which played a key role in our economic development. My notion is being supported by a silent majority of South Koreans."
The best quote comes from former South Korean U.N. Ambassador Park Keun:
"Not even dogs forget their benefactors."
Now if only the rest of the silent majority would speak up, maybe these idiot pro-North Korean groups would finally shut up and go away.
Surprise! Today, effective immediately, Malaysia and China have abandoned their currency pegs against the US dollar. Both countries ban offshore trading of the ringgit and yuan respectively, so there wouldn’t be an astronomical appreciation of either currency.
Plus, both countries aren’t allowing a free float, rather they are allowing currencies to move within limited trading bands structured around trade-weighted currency baskets. Malaysia’s central bank Bank Negara has been purchasing dollars en masse to head off an surge for the ringgit. More here. Updated for clarity
China has announced that it will revalue the Yuan 2.1 percent, institute a new, more flexible exchange regime and peg it to a basket of currencies instead of the US Dollar.
BEIJING, July 21 - Following months of political pressure, China today revalued the yuan to 8.11 for every dollar, scrapping a decade-long peg to the currency in favor of a more flexible band using a "basket of currencies."
China’s announcement, which has been anticipated and debated by economists and government leaders for months, is the first time in a decade that China has raised the value of its currency, also known as the renminbi, effectively making the yuan and exports more expensive against the United States dollar.
Simon World is on the case and thinks the move will not be substantial enough for those lobbying for the Yuan shift. He also has a link to the People’s Bank’s official press release.
A South Korean patrol in the East Coast city of Donghae were ambushed, stabbed, and robbed of their weapons Thursday night:
A group of men in their 20s ambushed a patrol near a coastal guard post on the East Sea coast in Gangwon Province on Wednesday night, taking one K1 and two K2 assault rifles and 30 rounds of live ammunition.
The guard post commander, a first lieutenant identified by his family name of Gwon, and his signalman, a corporal identified as Lee, were overpowered at 10:10 p.m. by men in a black Hyundai Grandeur who stripped them of guns, two magazines of 15 rounds each, a P-96K walkie-talkie and a mobile phone.
The two soldiers were not mortally wounded by the stab wounds they received and are expected to recover. Korean authorities are ruling out North Korean spies as the attackers since they spoke with South Korean accents, also the Korean authorities also ruling out US soldiers stationed in Korea since the incident did not involve a taxi cab. Most likely the attackers were common criminals looking for weapons to use in other crimes.
South Korean Soldiers Search Cars at a Checkpoint for the Attackers
The Malaysian state of Pahang - the biggest on peninsular Malaysia and the third biggest in Malaysia, banned discos. Seriously. Not for Islam, but for… drugs:
The police have singled out discotheques as places where youths consume ecstasy and dancing in drug induced stupor called “goyang kepala.”
Recently, the federal government banned poppy seeds (kas-kas) in the nations popular mamak (Indian Muslim) restaurants. Because, apparently, it is too addictive.
Here is today’s round up of some of the blogs of South Asia.
Sadiq (aka the mystic man) studies the Muslim prophet Muhammad’s mentions in Hindu scriptures.
‘Deshcalling’ links to a history of the Kashmir conflict.
Chandrahas of ‘the middle stage’ posts an interesting review of Naguib Mahfuz’s book ‘Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth’.
Dilip D’Souza discusses a myth behind the stars which are called Cepheids.
‘The Glass house’ links to an article about misfit Pakistanis in England.
‘Pakistani Parspective’ talks about a 10 year old Pakistani girl who has become the youngest Microsoft expert.
‘KO Offroad Pakistan’ shows an alarming state of Pakistan’s Internet connectivity.
‘United we Blog!’ reports that the Nepali government barred agitating political parties to hold the special session of the dissolved parliament in a public building in Kathmandu.
Tuesday July 20th the Pentagon released a report that outlined the military capabilities of the PLA and what some of its near-term goals would be. The report details what the PLA has done to beef up its military infrustructure from adding submarines, landing craft, long-range nuclear missiles, to a possible foray into space-based weapons. It also outlines some scenarios of what China might do if Taiwan were to declare independance - most of which end up with a lot of shooting. It says what everyone expected it to say - China is a growing military presence in Asia and is shaping up to be a global military power in the long term. Which really means China is going to be a military threat in the future.
This document is an assessment of what the Pentagon thinks the PLA can do militarily now and in the near future and therefore will be cited quite a bit in the next year or two as China starts flexing it’s military muscle.
Madame Chiang, an expat who has recently moved from Hong Kong to Manila, has an interesting blog, full of wry humor. Her entry on Philippine newspaper headlines and funny/peculiar news items is a refreshing read. One such story:
"Three injured as corn truck, fish van sandwich chicken pickup"
it seems that three roast chicken shop employees were on their way to work when a cargo truck filled with corn made a sudden turn, causing their vehicle to brake which caused the van behind them to rear end them…the van behind was carrying fish. Now, I ask you…is that not a headline writer’s dream occurence?!
China’s internet censors are ‘keeping an eye’ on sino-sexblogger Sister Hibiscus. The below item from the Asian Sex Gazette (worksafe, risque banner ads) concludes that her 15 minutes of fame are up.
To monitor what these increasingly curious "netizens" are reading about, the authorities have intensified their internet surveillance by recruiting "web watchdogs" to anonymously police thousands of cyber-cafes and public message forums. And all Chinese websites, bloggers and bulletin-board operators must register with the government - or be fined and shut down.
Furong Jiejie - the name literally means "hibiscus older sister" - seems likely to face that fate. "We have been keeping an eye on sister Furong," said Liu Qiang, an official with the Ministry Of Culture, which is responsible for overseeing the internet. "But there aren’t any explicit regulations to control such a phenomenon." The latest in a series of online celebrities, known in China as BB, or bulletin-board, stars, to have emerged in the past couple of years, 28-year-old Furong is an unlikely candidate to run into trouble with the authorities.
Prone to posing in provocative photos - tame by Western standards - Furong has an obvious hunger for fame. She hardly seems a threat to society.
Nevertheless, the publicity department of the central committee of the Communist Party has told BlogChina, the largest provider of blog-hosting services, to relocate content relating to Furong, whose real name is Shi Heng-xia, to less prominent parts of their website.
The recent uproar over General Zhu’s comments regarding Chinese use of nuclear weapons has inspired a number of responses, both from government officials and in major world newspapers.
Both the American and Chinese governments have come out to condemn his remarks. However, Xinhua reports the Chinese steadfastness on Taiwan:
"We will firmly abide by the principles of peaceful reunification and one country two systems, and we will express the deepest sincerity and exert the greatest efforts to realize a peaceful reunification of China," the Xinhua news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying late Friday.
But, the spokesman added: "We will never tolerate ‘Taiwan Independence’, neither will we allow anybody with any means to separate Taiwan from the motherland."
Australian Prime Minister Howard put his own spin on the comments, denouncing them and playing them down.
The Financial Times, which seems to have scooped this story, also promptly put out an editorial calling for both sides to resist the aggression of their hawk factions.
The Uncooperative Blogger suggests that this statement was intentional and was meant to rebuff Americans should the Chinese ultimately decide to invade Taiwan. America’s conservative FrontPageMagazine agrees.
I have been surprised with how little has been said about this by other foreigners in editorial pages. It seems to me that it should be bigger news. In any case, this seems to punctuate the recent slide in Sino-American relations and should certainly change the tone of the relationship.
The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Washington D.C today to a red-carpet welcome from President Bush. This is official visit is being used to symbolize the improving relations between the two countries.
Underscoring a rapidly improving relationship that he said had "never been stronger," President Bush gave a warm welcome today to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, as the two leaders pledged closer cooperation in trade and technology.
After decades of acrimonious relations between the two countries - tensions were highest during the Cold War, when India was friendly with the Soviet Union - the administration sees this improving relationship as a major foreign policy success, particularly as it parallels the rise in
the power and influence of China.
However, Mr. Bush and Mr. Singh failed to settle all their differences, notably over India’s request for nuclear energy materials and its bid for permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council.
Indo-U.S ties have been improving since Clinton’s (superstar in India) visit to India in 1999 and lifting of the sanctions. The fact that the two countries have signed a military pact and have been conducting joint exercises is a stark contrast to the mistrust of the past decades. In the recent years, the relationship has moved beyond dealing with Pakistan and Kashmir, rising to a sort of more mature level. Whether it is to prop up India against China, or the shared democratic values or even the shared threat of terrorism. Its only logical for these two nations to be natural allies. However,the recent refusal by U.S to back India for the security council has irked the Indians. As they believe they have a strong case.
Also, the increasing energy ties between India and Iran has (not surprisingly) been frowned upon by Washington. These issues and some others will take their toll on the relationship. However, it seems there won’t be any more name calling behind each others backs, at least not on this level.
Asian diaspora bloggers in the West with ironically-threatening names, such as America’s Angryasianman and New Zealand’s Yellow Peril, are viewing America’s recasting of China as a non-ironically-threatening geopolitical force, to be a uniquely challenging branding dilemma. Says Yellow Peril:
Since I started my convolutedly ironic, yet politically and culturally challenging diaspora blog, if you Googled ‘Yellow Peril’, the first thing that came up was ME. That’s the way I like it. How is the resurgence of Sinophobia and General Zhu’s threat of a nuclear strike [see below] going to affect my hitrate?
Meanwhile, the UK-born Asian diaspora was busy trying to figure out how many of them went to school with the London bombers.
And in Sydney, one of Yellow Peril’s Chinese doctor ‘cousins’ treated a shambolic, mentally ill Muslim man with a broad Australian accent. The local police then reported the terrified Muslim to the federal authorities because in the midst of his pavement ramblings, he said the word ‘bus’.
Blogcount.com has an extremely interesting piece on blogging in South Korea. Is it a nation of bloggers? If so, why do people doubt the assertion? Discuss.
A research note from The Acorn.
The West prefers to believe that Jihadus alqaedus, the most feared variety of the Jihadus family is the most dangerous, and is devoting most of its energies to eradicate it. While it is fighting Jihadus talebanus in Afghanistan, it is content to allow Pakistan to carry on with its charade of appearing to support US and Afghan efforts against increasingly numerous ‘remnants’ of J. talebanus which was previously believed to be near extinction. As for Jihadus kashmirius, the West believes that this is a variety that Pakistan prepared specifically to attack India, and hence poses no threat to the world at large.
The Financial Times reported today that General Zhu Chenghu said "…I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons" - in regards to a U.S. military intervention in the conflict over Taiwan. He was answering questions at a press conference for foreign journalists.
This statement was made a week before the Pentagon presents a report to Congress on the Chinese military. It is also in the midst of a heated debate on whether the Chinese should be allowed buy the California based oil company Unocal. This has repeatedly brought up the question of whether China is a friend or foe - General Chenghu’s statement might help to clear up that issue.
Cambodia Non-Stop Feeding is blogging developments in Cambodian oil and gas fields:
SIEM REAP, Cambodia (Reuters) — US major Chevron Corp. will assess the scope of its offshore Cambodia oil find early next year, raising hopes for the country’s first production by 2008, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
Chevron will drill six appraisal wells and four more exploration ones in early 2006 after discovering oil or gas in five of the six wells it drilled in
Cambodia’s Gulf of Thailand over the last two years, said Ho Vechit, vice-chairman of the Cambodian National Petroleum Authority.
"If the findings are positive, oil production may commence as early as 2008," he told an industry conference.
This seems to be good news for a country as impoverished as Cambodia. Oil’s importance to the global and regional economies was attested to in the recent ASEAN conference, and having feedstocks near growing Asian markets is also an advantage.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that China’s consumption of oil has declined by about 1% after increasing 11% and 15.4% the previous two years. The quick and dirty analysis might point to a slowing Chinese economy while other experts attribute the stagnation/decline in oil demand to the highly regulated Chinese energy market that has supposedly set a relative gas price at $1.63 a gallon. Read the whole story from the New York Times.
Many experts agree that China needs to maintain >8% growth a year to sustain its burgeoning economy and if this decline in oil consumption means a slowdown in growth this could be an indicator that world oil prices are beginning to slow down some if not all of the worlds major economies. Although the U.S. economy has managed to post some gains both in economic growth and through job creation it’s service based economy is relatively slow to respond to high raw energy prices where as more industrial based economy like China’s will have a quicker and much harder hitting reaction to high oil prices.
Yesterday, there was an event than increased my worries over the future of the Philippines. It wasn’t the growing anti-Arroyo protests, though it does concern me that the country seems to have lost all ability to operate as a functional legal democracy. No, more worrying was that the Philippines lost one of its few top-tier foreign investors.:
HONG KONG - In a move to exploit China’s fast-growing market, FedEx Corp. said Wednesday it will close its Asian hub in the Philippines and replace it with a new $150 million facility in Guangzhou, southern China.
The new cargo-handling center at Guangzhou’s Baiyun International Airport, scheduled to open in December 2008, will better serve clients doing business in China, the company said in a statement.
FedEx said that the move was based on China’s growth potential and I’ll take that at face value. Still, the perennial instability in the Philippines no doubt was also taken into consideration.
I believe that Arroyo did conspire to rig the last election and that she should go. Plus, she should face prosecution if presentable evidence is strong enough to build a case against her. Still, People Power III would not be good for the country… if only because it will likely be followed by People Power IV, V and VI. I expect that this is the concern that is keeping the elites and middle classes on the sidelines.
More on the unfolding mess that is Philippine
rule by crooks mob rule democracy can be found at PCIJ. An anti-Arroyo and anti-Ramos view is at Philippine Politics ‘04. Sassy has a legal view as does Punzi’s Corner. Manuel (a co-pundit here) has details at his site. Torn says that Gloria’s appeasement has been her undoing.
I don’t believe that democracy has to hinder development - you only need to look to Indonesia to see a country that is managing to find its footing through the ballot box. However, democracy as it is practiced in the Philippines is not a path to growth.
It’s unfortunate that FedEx is choosing stable-but-authoritarian China over the free-but-anarchic Philippines, but if I were a shareholder I wouldn’t criticize the decision. Not one inch.
Hello Asiapundit readers this is my first guest post. I will be touring you around some of the blogs of South Asia.
Imtiaz slams Bangladesh politics, as opportunists are being able to influence the Prime Minister for their own interests.
Tasnuva talks about ignorant Pakistanis who does not have a clear idea of Bangladesh & the liberation war which separated itself from Pakistan.
Over at my blog ‘The third world view’ I have asked ‘whose problem is terrorism anyway’?
Abhi of Sepia Mutiny finds that the London bombers are the second generation Pakistani-British. This has aroused another controversy as some think that the Indians should not be refered to as ‘desi’ or ‘South Asian’, because they are not Pakistanis or Bangladeshis.
Kiruba writes about an interesting legal battle between Coca-Cola & Sharad Haskar, the best digital photographer of India over a photograph.
Parag thinks that the plight of Muslim women in India is equally bad if not worse than Pakistan.
Chapati Mystery celebrates the new ultra-hip cultural phenomenon ‘desi’ which is the focal point of marketing strategies of some of the US companies.
Pakistani Perspective slates a new ‘moral law’ (hasba).
KO Offroad Pakistan shows an alarming state of Pakistan’s Internet connectivity.
Anbika of United we Blog! discovers that Nepal’s private colleges are being increasingly involved into unhealthy competition to attract top students.
Global Voices has been redesigned and relaunched.
From Xiamen, Andrea says she doesn’t like: "Caucasians who cut the queue in a bank with a clear number queueing system." She asks "We all take a number and wait, why the hell on God’s green earth shouldn’t you?" Answer: Because we all look like Dashan.
Richard spots another ominous article on how the CPC is using the internet to control thought in China. Rebecca offers all of that and more.
CSR Asia reports that Japan and Korea have started investigating whether or not Chinese brewers are using formaldehyde .
Coca Cola’s former CEO David Daft once remarked that the company’s main competitor was not Pepsi, but water. They may be aggressively trying to squeeze out the competition. Tak at the Old Revolution notes that Daft’s former company may sue an Indian artist.
"Mr. Sharad Haksar, a photographer in India, faces a possible lawsuit for a billboard he has displayed in Chennai in an effort to bring attention to the severe water shortage caused by the company’s bottling plants."
Ampontan at Japundit discusses the cultural significance of Godzilla.
China is opening a memorial to martyred journalists. No monument for jailed journalists is expected.
There’s trouble at the boardroom of KFC Malaysia, the Colonel would never have tolerated such shenanigans.
Gloria Aroyo is willing to leave, but wants to set her own terms of exit.
Japan is diversifying away from China, Glenzo says everyone else should too,
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Mao: The Unknown Story - by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday:
A controversial and damning biography of the Helmsman.
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