Thursday, December 29, 2005

The United States and Burma

Apparently George Bush spent 50 minutes with a Burmese refugee called Charm Tong back in October, according to the Washington Post. What a brilliant follow-up to yesterday's WP article on the 'capital' move from Yangon to Pyinmana. that's a lot of time. He must be taking the issue very seriously then. Right?

Overall, little has changed in the US policy towards Burma (I don't like the name Myanmar, since it doesn't make any sense in its original language). What's new, is that the Bush administration is considering Burma a "test case", for whatever that means. But how can you test something without being involved in the experiment?

In my opinion it just means: "We know it's a problem, but we're stretched too thinly to do anything about it!"

Article Link

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Burma's New Capital: Part II

"The government's crazy" ... "This Pyinmana, I wish I could blow this place up". Those are the word of a Burmese deliveryman who appears in an interesting Washington Post article about the "capital" move, in a newspaper that mostly features US domestic reporting.

Burma’s new capital Pyinmana is located approximately 200 miles north of Yangon (Rangoon) in an area with little infrastructure (roads, houses, hospitals, etc.) and is located in a region with one of the highest rates of malaria, according to the Alan Sipress of the Washington Post.

Quite amusingly the article quotes a government official who states "You know there’s no psychiatric hospital…they’ll need one because everyone is going to go crazy". I love this article. I wish the paper would write more of these!

The article raises the interesting question of why the government has decided to move its capital from the well-established city of Yangon to the completely remote Pyinmana. Many theories exists, but this blog must emphasize the defensive maneuver behind it all. Partly, international opposition to the SPDC junta and the detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi. But also due to increasing threats from US foreign policy which has played hardball with other countries, while invading others deemed "undemocratic". Burma would definitely fit that profile.

All in all, this raises the issue of whether playing hardball with Burma is the best way to go. There’s the school of thought that argues that pressing a country against the wall would force it change. This has been partially successful for the US in Afghanistan, but less so in Iraq (and perhaps also North Korea). The other ethos is that of reaching out -- or the more sophisticated term -- engagement. Talking to the "enemy" and casting sunlight (a short homage to Mr. Kim Dae Jung) could also have positive results, but realists keep reminding me of the Munich Agreement (or appeasement) between Nazi Germany and ‘The Allies’. An ill-fated decision by particularly UK PM Neville Chamberlain. Yet, success with keeping Israel and Palestine in continuing negotiations has been through positive and constructive engagement -- not violence or confrontation.

But has the US played hardball? In words, perhaps, but in action? Perhaps there’s simply a lack of sympathy…

This blog called for a new front, or policy, vis-à-vis Burma in a previous post, but nothing has changed since (but I thought Condi was reading my posts?). It’s simply not at the core of any US/EU sphere of interest (the way Iraq and Israel are), at least if you ask Mr. Kissinger. People are in pain all over the world, the skeptic may argue --- why worry about Burma? … Because we can, the Clintonite replied!!!!!

Article Link

Thursday, December 22, 2005

WP: China Promises Not To Be A Threat To Other Nations

But that's only militarily speaking.
I bet China will cause of lot of economic harm to competitors and friends alike.

A war of cheap toothpaste and t-shirts -- not guns and ammo!!

What do you think?

Washington Post Article

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tea DOES Work In the Fight Against Cancer

Tea may not fight cancer directly (the way antibiotics fights bacteria), but research from Sweden now concludes that by drinking at least 2 cups of tea a day, the risk for women to develop ovarian cancer is cut by 50%. Please note that the research conducted by Karonlinska Institute was on a female population, although the medicinal functions of tea are likely to have a positive impact on men as well. So tea is much healther than other hot beverages. I'm convinced. This is not a TEAse..

Is this the beginning of the coffee wars? If a typical person only will drink a fixed number of warm drinks per day, then it is the beginning of a battle of the hot-drinks. If tea can complement our coffee drinking habits, then the two can live side by side. Overall, tea is much better for you than coffee, and besides having the option of a wider range of caffeine contents (from black to herbal teas), there is also a much greater variety of tastes in tea. It's a bit like comparing wine and beer, where tea is much more like wine.

Many of our habits are constructed by society and the way our neighbors/friends/family behave. If we can somehow kick-start the passion for tea and create a culture for this wonderful drink, we would be much healthier (and with much better teeth and less stinky breaths).

Let's hear your tea story. How much tea do you drink? What are your arguments against drinking tea/coffee? What can we do to promote a healthier intake of hot beverages?

Next time a photo is being taken, try saying "Teaasee"

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Another Bird Flu Case in China: Guangxi Sheng

Is this another SARS? Or Worse? Hype?

A young 10-year old girl was diagnosed with the Avian/Bird flu on Tuesday night in the province of Guangxi. This is the fourth case of bird flu in China, with another case marked "suspicious."

Disclaimer Note: This is not a medical blog, and we do not have the knowledge and capability to give advise or warnings about such issues. But make sure to talk to your doctor before going to counties that have been affected by the Flu.

We desire to inform people about the continuing problem of Avian Flu and would like to investigate whether it is a clear and present danger to global health or just a lot of spin. Keeping the information flowing is the best way to keep any governments from 'covering up' any developments in this arena.

LINK to article.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

North Korea Demand US Lift Sanctions

In a move to gain bargaining power, North Korea demanded that the US eliminate its financial sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom.

Am I surprised? No.
Are the 6-party talks in peril? Yes.

For more information, click here

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Justice in Singapore: Part II

In what has been called "a most unfortunate barbaric act" by Aussie Attorney General Ruddock, Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong has refused to grant clemency for a Australian national convicted of drug trafficking. The convicted, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Van, is to be executed by hanging later today (Thursday, Dec. 1), despite petitions and pleas from particularly the Australian Government, according to AP.

This issue again raises the issue of harsh punishments in the southeast Asian island nation. The first question that comes to mind: Is death penalty justified? Secondly, has Singapore handled death penalty cases with transparency and moderation? Thirdly, is hanging a humane form of death penalty (relatively speaking). Lastly, is it helping?

While Governor Mark Warner of Virginia yesterday granted clemency for a death row inmate, the US is still not in the position of criticism since it has more death penalties than any other Industrialized country (not counting China). According to Amnesty International, only China, Iran and Vietnam saw more executions in 2004 than the United States. Other developed countries, however, have banned the use of death penalty including all members of the European Union. Even the UN is against it. So death penalty a sunset endeavor.

Going back to the specific case in Singapore, the issue of death penalty seems to have taken precedence over the issue of the particular crime. Is it fair to completely forget that Mr. Van broke the law in Singapore, and give him all the support in the world just because he has been granted the death penalty? Perhaps the way we do things ( the means ) are more important than what we actually do ( the ends )? This raises the issue of how death penalty, with its strong opposition, is actually helping criminals as sentiments against this type of penalty clears from our mind the issue we all want to solve: crime. So perhaps we could spend more effort on fighting crime if authorities didn't have to spend so many resources on defending the death penalty. Besides, I'm pretty sure that it's more expensive to have a death row inmate for 5-10-15 years, than to have someone imprisoned for life.

Then again- what about deterrence? Would crime explode in Singapore and the United States if they were to overturn the death penalty overnight? Who thinks Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber) deserves better than death penalty? Vengeance is one of the oldest feelings, which have prevailed all throughout human history. But does that justify it?

I hope this entry raises more questions than it answers. I hope the debate will live on. And personally, I hope it one day will limit the number of death penalties. As theclichehé goes: an eye for an eye leaves all blind.

More info on Amnesty Intl's website. :
AP Article

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

With Expensive Speech in Singapore, Is Discounted Speech Possible?

According to Asia Times, two bloggers have been sentenced under the Sedition (definition: incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority) Act last month in Singapore. The ethnically Chinese individuals made remarks about the minority Muslim-Malay community on their websites. Although they may have committed an immoral act, this raises the question of justice, ethics, and freedoms of speech in Singapore and the broader East Asian region.

On the one hand, we all desire the freedom to say whatever we want and live free (or die). On the other hand, the saying "freedom isn't free" does carry some water, and in some cases we depend on people to be quiet for "the good life". It is essential to national security to have military and intelligence secrets, industrial secrets are important, and most of us can agree that it isn't right to call people names or ugly adjectives. But should laws or ethics govern these principles?

In the case of Singapore, an island-nation famous for its harsh penalties and unforgiving legal system, we are now faced with the clash between the IT-proliferation of bloggers, websites, rumors, and lots of crap being spread all over the world-wide-web at the speed of a mouse click. In Singapore the issue seems to be an even more hot-button issue in the US, where the Patriot Act has caused much pain to civil rights' groups. Singapore has to maintain a sensitive balance between its minorities, while at the same time sustain economic growth and prosperity--essentials for the legitimacy of the regime. A bit like China.

To complement, the article writes: "...some activist groups feel that Singaporeans have lost their right to freedom of information in exchange for social harmony and economic prosperity. "
Singapore again reminds us of PR China where the internet is even more censored and where the legal system is extremely severe. At the end of the day, however, free speech wins and those who sacrifice their freedoms to publish "the truth" will not have perished or lost their battles in vain. Most developed countries have eventually reformed their legal codes to adapt for freedoms of speech, and in the case of Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, we can see how Asian values do not make 'freedoms' an exclusively Western ideology.

While Singaporeans will continue to go to jail and pay hefty fines for speaking their hearts on the web, more and more bloggers will resist their inevitable desire for responsible freedom of speech.

Perhaps they will not have free speech in the near future - but can they instead have discounted speech?
Those are just some thoughts ....

What do you think?

What's up 'Stan?

Although this is the boundary of the scope of East Asia Blog, BBC has a cool segment/feature on the 'stans. How much do you know about them?

How about some cool facts, such as the fact that desert covers 80 percent of Turkmenistan. Tough.

Link to the feature

Monday, November 28, 2005

Another Mine Explosion in China: Does anyone care?

Although these tragedies happen quite frequently, I still think it is worth stopping whatever we are doing and send our thoughts to those who lost loved ones in Chinese mining accidents.

An explosion on Sunday night in northeastern China has killed 134 people, according to Associated Press (AP). Coal dust caught on fire in a mine deep underground the city of Qitaihe, Heilongjiang province.

Consider this, One, mining accidents have occurred often in china, and second, accidents in general have covered the headlines in China.

Now, why should we care? Well, that's up to us as individuals, but I think we should start to understand the importance of these mines to our own lives, and thank those who undertake such dangerous livelihoods.

Here's my logic: most manufactured goods and textiles that I have seen recently have all been either partially or fully "Made in China." How are they made? Without electricity they will definitely not end up in our shopping baskets. That's for sure! So what is the most used form of energy in China? ..... Coal, kemosabe!

Thus, these mining operations have an indirect effect on our lives and in addition to our sympathy from learning about awful things that happen to our fellow humans, we now have a business-economic reason for caring as well.

Let's all care!!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi's Detention Extended

"Why not", thought the Generals. "She's a pest to our system", said their cohorts. "Let's keep her in house arrest for another 12 months to make sure she learns her lesson", they agreed. That's at least how I imagine the process behind this decision...

I'm not surprised by these developments. Are you?
The SPDC military junta is still in charge and the international community has done little, despite Ms. Suu's resilience.
Do you think anything will change in the near future?
Has Aung San Suu Kyi's methods worked? Will they?

Let's hear your say!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New Constitution in Japan?

LDP reveals plans to amend constitution and become less pacifistic.

November 22 is the birthday of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), and this year it celebrates its 50th anniversary. PM Koizumi took the opportunity to propose a revision to the country's constitution by ending the ban on the military and allow for the military to be more active on the international stage. The change would require two-thirds of both legislative houses and a majority in a national referendum.

Now, is this good or bad? If history is the best judge, let's look at Japan's recent history. For the past 50 years, Japan has been one of the greatest donors of humanitarian aid, development, peacekeeping forces, and other benevolent undertakings. If we must judge someone by their actions in an appropriate time-frame, we must give Japan a chance acquiesce to a Japanese military. Although history doesn't forget, we must forgive.

On the other hand, is this the right time for such a bold act?

East Asian intramural relations are not exactly rollicking. Perhaps Japan must become better friends with Korea and China; the immediate neighbors. If not, these nations may judge the military buildup as a threat--and more tensions and distrust, we cannot have.
Perhaps the countries could become more involved in the ASEAN Regional Forum, 6-party, or the ASEAN +3 frameworks to solve their differences?

Or perhaps conflict is inevitable?

Nobody knows, but as long as these countries continue trading and doing business, I believe there is a greater chance of peace.

What do you think?

Relevant articles:
AP Article

Monday, November 21, 2005

Catching up... Mr. Bush in Asia

Wow. East Asia has been busy, but unfortunately, so have I.

While George W. Bush is touring the region (just finished by the time of this article) and hoping to appease an increasingly anti-Chinese sentiment in Washington, he also visited a Church and tried to get through the "locked doors" of Beijing--both metaphorically and literally.

In other words, Mr. Bush didn't get much accomplished, save a bike-ride and a trip to the a few temples.

So why not demonstrate Mr. Bush's feelings about his trip, and have a good Monday night laugh:

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

6-party talks resume

And so they will talk again. And they will translate. And they will drink some water, although it won't be from the dry throat of talking too much. It will be a good discussion between the 6 parties. But will it matter? Will they accomplish anything?

What does the media say?

BBC: George Bush's comments during his visit to Brazil has upset the North Koreans: "The North Korean delegation leader, Kim Kye-gwan, warned that the US sometimes made progress difficult. "
AP: "Even host China tried to moderate expectations, saying this week's meeting could be considered a success even if it produces no written agreement."
Overall, there seems to be little optimism, and generally very little information about this in the media.
What's next? Probably another round of talk.
We'll see. Bush doesn't seem to have much 'political capital' to spend on this with his plate full of concerns back in Washington.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Burma's New Capital

Burma now has a new capital city. Say good morning to Pyinmana. It's not as if Yangon is about to die out, or like Seoul, too much of a homogenous country is focused on one single city. Then why is Burma relocating its capital city?

According to the BBC: "The authorities have chosen Pyinmana because it is centrally located and has quick access to all parts of the country," Brig Gen Kyaw Hsan said.

It makes sense doesn't it! A government that cares so much about its citizens that it literally want to be 'closer' to everyone. But the government has apparently been planning this for quite some time, some calling it a 'pet project'. Alas, we all suspect that its only a step deeper into a trench already well-dug by the Burmese military junta. The FT revealed it intriguingly: "Foreign diplomats and international aid workers said the move suggested the military junta was retreating into a physical bunker."

What about the new capital?
Location: 600 klicks north of Yangon.
Sights: A 10 large governmental complex. I wonder if this is like a Pyongyang, but without any locals?

Next Capital: Somewhere on the dark side of the moon (see you there, Pink).

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Studying Chinese

I study Chinese in my leisure time. It is a very difficult, but rewarding language to learn. Why? For the future. One could argue: I want to save the environment. How do I save it? Learn Chinese, since China will be the biggest polluter in not so many years and the best way to influence anything in any country is to learn the language. That's only argument 344 out of thousands (or perhaps 1.3 billion) reasons for learning "zhong wen": Chinese.

Why am I talking about this? Because I just read an article about the mushrooming of Chinese language schools. A chain of these, similar to the Goethe Institutes and the British Councils, is called the Confucius Institutes, which are now located in no less than 5 major cities around the world including Perth, Stockholm, and Nairobi -- all places you typically associate with the Chinese language, right?

Added on top of that, more and more public schools in the US are now offering Chinese. The Knight Ridder article (where I got all this info from) says that while only 200 public schools in the US offer Mandarin classes, 2400 replied to a survey that they would like to have such classes.
How about that!!

Am I wasting my time with Chinese (and not just taking a very long time learning it)?

What do you think? What are your experiences with learning Chinese?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thailand: 1.3 Million Mobilized to Contain Bird Flu Outbreak

We're talking about 1.3 million people here. Not so few indeed. So far 13 people have killed, so hopefully all these people will be able to contain it (and not contract the disease themselves). I'm quite amazed. Will the Thai authorities really be able to pull this one off?

The main mission of these volunteers and health workers (400,000 and 900,000 respectively), is to look for signs of the avian bird flu. If they find animals with symptoms of the avian flu, these animals will be duly killed and the owners sent for health inspection. Health Minister Suchai Charoenratanakul is confident that this measure will prevent the disease from becoming widespread.

In regard to the Avian Flu: Should we take this disease lightly? Probably not, since it has already been hyped up by all imaginable media outlets (did I hear the shopping channel talk about this?). But the statistics in Thailand speak a million words, or rather, the 13 words, which are the names of the people who have died from the disease in Thailand---and more importantly, to put this into perspective--- this is out of 19 confirmed human cases). You do the math (Spoiler: 68.42%).

At the same time, a local newspaper reported that the avian bird flu is spreading rapidly across Thailand with 39 out of 78 provinces having either confirmed or suspected infections to livestock.

What will this mean? An economist (who knows who) once said: "In the long run, we're all dead". But does that justify ignoring the early signals of the Avian Bird Flu? This is not a medical blog, so I will not give anyone medical advise.

The question for you to ask your local doctor is: What would happen to your neck of the woods, if the disease could be transmitted from human to human and someone down the street contracted the Avian flu?

What will your government do? And what will a widespread epidemic mean to the global economy and your job? (You may want to ask Mr. Bernanke this question).
Thank you.

Related Links:

Article on the flu spreading in Thailand:,4136,96498,00.html

Monday, October 24, 2005

East Asia Blog--New

East Asia Blog has just become a whole lot easier to access.

Instead of typing (which still works),

all you have to do is type:

See you back here soon!

Friday, October 21, 2005

Hu's going to North Korea?

A month before the scheduled 5th round of the 6-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue, China's President Hu Jin Tao will visit Mr. Kim in Pyongyang later this month, or early this month. It will be Hu's first visit to the Hermit State as President, and expected to take a neutral stance on the issue. The trip will be followed by another visit to Vietnam, on what has been dubbed "good will visits".

Will Hu Jin Tao be able to bring any changes to North Korea? Not very likely.
Can Hu Jin Tao convince North Korea of initiated a reform process? He hasn't in the past…
Is this report just media hype over a state visit, which like most others will have no implications? I think so.

What do you think?

Monday, October 17, 2005

And so he went again...

Koizumi did it again. Another trip to the Yasukuni Shrine has covered the headlines in East Asia, almost as if nothing else is going on. I'm sure the Japanese are more focused on the Major League play-off's than this, but for China and Korea it's a whole different story.

While a complaint on behalf of China was issued with the Japanese embassador, protests gained momemtum in Beijing and Seoul. Will this lead to another mass protests in China and perhaps in Korea?

This blog has already discussed this issue: on one side, Japan should show more sympathy to its neighbors---while on the other hand, why should other countries tell a free PM what to do?

Now it's time to hear what you think.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Rummy's Trip to Beijing

It's simply fantastic to report about all these big-wig Americans that are traveling to East Asia. I supposed the US still very much is a part of Pacific-Asia. Rummy's to meet with Hu as well as Don's counterpart in the Chinese military.

Before we think about the repurcussions of this trip, or what in the world the hawk might accomplish, let's not forget that Rummy just cancelled a stop in Japan. The discussions over base reallignment with the country of the rising sun is important, but Rummy would rather skip it to show his discontent with the slow progress of negotiations there (although a breakthrough has just been reached as this article was composed). Does this not underline a shifting focus from Japan to the Middle Kingdom. Is Japan, in the eyes of US official, a setting sun and China the new rising one?
Probably not - with Koizumi's recent election victory and first step towards privatization of the postal savings system, let's not jump to any premature conclusions, unless you really want to object???

For Rummy's trip to China, it shall be interesting to see whether this will be a first step towards mutual agreements for disarmament, or whether to check on the status of the rival, as to re-define the arms production in allignment with his findings? Rummy is a bit concerned over China's large military spending stating that it doesn't have any enemies. (Hold on, Does the US and Russia have that many, except terrorists?). At any rate, we'll have to see in the rear view mirror how his trip plays out and affects US foreign policy vis-a-vis China.

Please let me know what you think Rummy may tell Hu or what this could result in. But the question is, if tensions are growing between Taiwan and China, would we want someone like Rummy in control of the very powerful "buttons"?


PS. Did you know that Rummy used to be an investment banker, and has also been quoted saying "I don't do diplomacy." (Wikipedia article)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Bill Goes to the Hermit Kingdom

No, we're not talking about Hillary's other half. This is the superstar Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson. Having been connected to officials in North Korea for many years, Bill will next week make another trip to the DPRK in the name of goodwill to talk about health, energy, and of course, the nuclear weapons issue in the isolated land of Chosun. This is just awesome, isn't it?

But why? Well, for a number of reasons. First of all, as already mentioned, Mr. Richardson has visited North Korea several times (4 trips under Bill Clinton) and has great contacts with the officials there. Secondly, Bill has the support of the White House. Ex-secretary Powell would even consult with Mr. Richardson on the North Korean Issue--so he's trusted on both sides of the isle. Thirdly, Bill would serve as someone as an alternative to the administration and would thus show a broad US support for the 6-party talks and their recent agreement. Last, but not least, Bill would fly to North Korea is a jet lent to him by the USAF. Isn't that just sweeeeet.

Bon Voyage, Bill!!
Yi Lu Shun Feng

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

China Hits Space...Again

And so we all cheer. The Middle Kingdom has stunned foreign observers by sending its second manned spacecraft, the Shenzhou 6, in orbit around our beautiful, blue planet. And so what?
Well, there are many so's:

- China is a major recipient of foreign aid. World Bank projects are involved in many development projects all over the country. So while peasants and minorities are starving in many parts of China, the regime is sending million dollar spacecraft into space? Does that make sense?

-China has the potential to develop a more advanced weapons program in space. This may not be in the near term, but I'm sure the generals at Pentagon are both shaken AND stirred (but not drunk on matinis)

- On a more positive note, this may help start another 'space race' against the US and perhaps the EU (I'm not mentioning Japan, just yet). Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could go back to the sixties and re-live the excitement of reaching new frontiers, and dream while the Star Trek theme is playing in the background?

The next mission, the Shenzhou 7, will carry out the first Chinese extra-vehicle activity. In other words, one of the astronauts will open the hatch to the spacecraft during the mission and take a look around.

Those are just a few thoughts. Perhaps there are more suggestions may want to add...

Have a safe trip back, Shenzhou 6. 一路顺风(Yi Lu Shun Feng).

Monday, October 10, 2005

Political Test

I guess cookiesap is a bit to the left ;-)

Courtesy of


Pakistan Quake: Learn and Do More

Ahistoricality has shared with us a great link to a site that both sheds light on the recent disaster as well as donation suggestions.

In the words of ahistoricality:
"Sepoy has been in contact with family in the region and is a generally smart guy."

Have a look:

Best of luck to all those that are leading the quest of helping the millions affected by this tragic event. Thanks also to Ahistoricality for being a loyal participant on this blog.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Major Earthquake in Northern Pakistan

Hundred are feared killed in a huge quake just 80 km north of the capital Islamabad. The quake measured a full 7.8 on the renowned Richter scale.

How many earthquakes have to shake the poorer parts of the world, before we all open our eyes to the disparity in wealth across our planet?

Were you there - what do you know at this point?
Please share your comments, information, or first-hand narrative!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Princess Nori is getting married

Isn't it nice! After all the bad news in East Asia with the Bali bombings, anti-Japan protest, and GW Bush opening his mouth, we can now announce Princess Nori's marriage to a Mr. Kuroda—--a commoner. Unlike Danish, English, and Spanish royal families, Nori has to leave the royal family, according to the BBC.

Japan has reformed in many ways, and much credence goes to Mr. Koizumi. Socially, however, Japan remains a very traditional society with many customs dating back hundreds of years. You can argue that the monarchic family of a given country (if applicable) demonstrates the cultural and social traditions of that location. In Spain, for example, society has modernized tremendously and new (and sometimes radical thought) is thus seen in the wedding between their Prince Felipe and commoner Letizia Rocasolano. She is previously divorced and an out-going career woman. You would not see that in Japan. If Japan's society has to modernize and carry with it an acceptance of progressive thought, it may have to look at the royal family and have Emperor Akihito promote a more avant-garde society.


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Another Sad Day for Bali


Despair and feelings of failure must be what is characterizing the thought process of the Indonesian authorities after this Saturday's devastating round of terror on the island of Bali. Perhaps it could have been avoided despite SBY's warning one month ago. Criticism, cynicism, and second-guessing is for another day -- today we mourn and do our best to share the love and compassion that is our best tool for peace and self-preservation.

The three restaurants involved were all famous for their expatriate patronage and all full at the time of the bombings. It is nearly 3 years to the day that bombings killed 202 people on the very same island. Vacations are all about having fun, relaxing, or getting away from it all. Like with the Sharm al-Sheik bombings, however, this couldn't be farther from the truth for the many killed in these horrific acts against humanity. Quite Naturally, Al-Qaeda affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah is a suspect.

May whatever higher being you believe in bless the (at least) 32 individuals who lost their lives in this round of terrorism.

Although does not exactly have the readership level of instapundit or Peking Duck, it would be interesting if you could share your view about this incident, and perhaps tell us more about the location of the blasts, and best, if you were there at the time and can give us a first-hand account of what you saw.
Xie xie!!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Avoid Mice Fever (EHF)

In the northeastern Jilin Province the discomforting Mice Fever has been spreading rapidly. The Star Online reports that the number of fatalities may already have surpassed last year's number of 1,840 cases. Experts suggest, according to that the increase may be linked to lower vaccination rates this year. Sadly, farmers in the poorest areas often cannot afford the vaccination, which is fatal in the areas where the Fever has hit the hardest. In one of the more seriously hit areas, Jilin's Shuangyang district, national-level monitoring of the disease has been implemented. The bottom line: stay away from Mice, their droppings, or any culinary delicacy (no matter what they tell you in Jilin) that involves Mickey's relatives.

Now, would this disease ever have the potential to reach epidemic status (like SARS)? You probably won't get that news from any Da Lu (Mainland) news sources if this ever were to become the case.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

End of China/Taiwan's "Dollar Diplomacy"...maybe


Remember the China/Taiwan "dollar Diplomacy" and these were donating vast amounts in order to win support in favor of each respective" country." This may soon be over Chen Shui-bian has called for this to stop and in his own words "Taiwan must never engage in a spending competition with China." You really think he can and will stop this? But then again, its also very exotic to report on China/Taiwan's surge in foreign aid to countries such as Grenada, Nauru, and Dominica.

What does this mean for the Taiwan-China rivalry? Would it mean more spending on other factors of rivalty (such as the military) or could it reduce the tensions between the two Chinas? You never know - but the sabrerattling between the rivals has lasted for 50 years without any major conflicts- why wouldn't this carry on as usual despite the end of the expensive "dollar diplomacy". Besides, the Taiwanese New Dollar has just dropped to new lows.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bush Should Visit North Korea: Kim Jong-il

According to a Yonhap news report, Kim Jong-il is apparently seeking a visit by Bush or another high-level official to visit his beloved DPRK. Bush Sr. and Condi would also make the VIP list.

What a situation it could turn out to be - Kim and Bush shaking hands. The comedy channels would have enough material for years - you would almost think Jon Stewart and Jay Leno would buy one of Bush's oil wells for such an event.

And what about translators? Would they 'really' translate when Bush and Kim meet?
Bush: I'm very happy to be here today! (Kim's translator): I envy your strength, Dear Leader.
: Welcome to heaven on earth. (Bush's translator): Isn't it almost as nice as Texas?

: Do you remember my comment about me loathing you? (Kim's translator): Let's be friends.

: Your Vice-President Cheney called me a 'bloodthirsty beast'. But I still think you're a half-baked man (Bush's translator): Mr. Kim loves Dick Cheney's blood sausages, and even more, your baked bread.

Let's hope Messrs. Stewart and Leno do it a bit better, if Bush and Kim do end up meeting...

Want to learn more about East Asia?

Copyright-Univ. of Washington

The East Asia Center at the University of Washington has an impressive list of Links to useful sites related to any aspects of East Asia ranging from General Information to Cultura, History, Languages, and many others.

Let's hope they think as highly of this blog :D


Friday, September 23, 2005

Higher Number of Mental Disorders in the South Korean Military; Korean Times

You may have heard rumors about the condition for soldiers in the South Korean military. Rumors speak of a hard-line marine corp, poor facilities--archaic to our time, and a tough conscription service that takes broad sweeps by forcing all young men to join the armed forces, save those that have physical- or mental health issues. While it may sound like a fair system--as you don't want unstable individuals in control of lethal weapons--you may be surprised.

The Korean Times reports of new information released by South Korea's Defense Ministry that speak of an increasing number of hospitalizations due to mental disease in Korea's armed forces. This does not sound swell now, does it?

Politicians and experts speak of a conscription service that signs up soldiers without serious consideration to their medical and mental history. Others speak of how the poor conditions in the military is not exactly "helpful" to preventing people developing mental conditions. It thus seems there's some credit to the Marine story and how it may be "driving people crazy."

It sounds like South Korea has another area in which it needs to shape up its human rights 'work-out'--a leftover from the 80-90s. It could also, however, demonstrate a global trend towards pacifism and the falling support for keeping such large military establishments active. The prosperity in the North East Asian region has developed without any major military conflicts since the Korean War, and perhaps people are starting to see the direct relationship between peace and prosperity.

Or maybe not. People may have developed mental disorders in the armed forces since the invension of the bow, arrow, and other sharp objects. What do I know??? I am not an MD in Psychiatry. What is important, however, is what you think?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Alas: North Korea wants a civilian nuclear program earlier than expected...

Sigh.... And we all thought it was going to go so smoooooothly....

BBC News Article

Is this is? Are we back to Square 1?

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Joint Statement: A scorecard

After much media ado and happiness regarding the first 6-party accomplishment (knock on wood), here is my numeric take on the joint statement issued on Monday on North Korea's nuclear program

Section 1
So they all agree on removing nuclear weapons from the Peninsula. North Korea has signed it. Good for all of us. +1
The US has agreed it won't attack the DRPT. Super. +1
The return to the 1992 joint declaration. DejaVu!. +1
South Korea will not build, receive nor store any nukes. Hmmmm. Ok. That's also great. +1
North Korea's right to a peaceful nuclear program. I'm pro-windmill, and not so happy about nuclear energy. That's a -1.
Light-water reactor issue. That might come back and haunt us all. Not great either. -1

Sub-total: +2. Not bad, Messrs. Kim, Hill, Wu, et al.

Section 2
The six parties have agreed to abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and recognize the norms of International Relations. With US attacking Iraq, we are currently lacking international norms and ethics: +-0

DRPK-US mutual respect for each other's sovereignty, peaceful co-existence, and steps to be taken to normalize their relations. Engagement is key. +1

DRPK-Japan took steps to normalize their relations. Wonderful. Perhaps North Korea will be more honest about the abduction issue and help prevent an anti-North Korean backlash under future-PM Abe. +1

Although this is a very vague category, we're still up with +3. That's stupendous.

Section 3
The six parties have agreed to promote economic cooperation in energy, trade, and investment, both bi- and multilaterally. Yahoo. Have you heard of Friedman's Dell theory of conflict resolution? +1

The five other nations will provide the DPRK with energy assistance and South Korea will stand by its commitment of providing 2 million KW of electric power. Let's hope this happens without any corruption scandals. +1
Sub(way) total: +2

Section 4
Commitment to long-lasting peace in northeast Asia. Sweet-honey-rosy stuff, but looks great on your CV. +1
A separate forum to pursue this. Why don't they use ARF, or Asean+3, or the like? But perhaps this could be a forum that actually works! Wow. That would be great. +2
Sub: +3

Section 5
Step-by-step follow through of commitments. This should help prevent a "you go first" situation. Nice one. +1
Do we need a sub? +1

Section 6
Another 6-party meeting in November. Let's hope this gets even BETTER! +1
Sub: +1

Deductions (them yella' cards):
For all the stubbornness (on all sides): -3
For the many, many…… meetings it required (and money it cost the tax payers): -1
This could still drag on for month, and months, and months, and m........ -1.25

What's the total? The quantitative conclusion?
I don't know. Who cares? It's like the point system in "Whose line is it anyway"? We don't really care. Its about the road and the journey 'out there.'
Let's instead save the energy and spend it on making the beautiful Korean peninsula a peaceful place with only one flag!

NK Agrees to Seize Nuclear Programs


WOW. Christopher Hill and Co. did it!!!

Now we just need to unify the countries...

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Hill's Monday Au Revoir- AP


AP reports that Christopher Hill, the head US Envoy at the 6-party talks, will leave Beijing on Monday afternoon after 7 days of negotiations. Whether he will leave the talks with an empty briefcase or whether his sooner-than-expected departure it will pressure all parties to sign an agreement, is yet unknown.

Pressure seems to be mounting on the US to allow the North Korean regime to establish Light Water Reactors, as originally promised in the 1994 Agreed Framework. It will be exciting to see whether this issue is a 'showstopper' or an issue to be resolved before the new Monday deadline. These LWR could potentially be used to construct nuclear weapsons material, but it is very difficult and probably the best solution for a country starved of energy.

The US should let the North Korean regime keep a low degree of Nuclear Power technology, in order to gain some leeway with the communist regime. This could in the long-term allow for better engagement and communication between the North Korea and the other 6 party members -- the best way to start a reform process.

My other suggestion is to let Denmark and Holland build windmill farms in North Korea. That's would be a sight and a half.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The 6-Party Talks Carry On...

Extending the deadline for the adoption of a Chinese draft document stating DPRK's right to utilize nuclear energy technology, the negotiations in this 2nd part of the 4th round is continuing.

Is there still hope - will the US find an alternative for the North's demand to establish a Light Water Reactor, or will the North give up on this?
Is there still hope?

Latest BBC News Article

Perhaps there's a chance for the US to commit as the eye of the US population is looking the other way, focusing on Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and college football.

What do you think?

Friday, September 16, 2005

The 6-Party Talks. Stalled Again???? Go Figure.

After having just reconvened after a long break in the 4th round of the super-duper 6-party talks, an impasse between North Korea and the US has left the talks stuck in the mud...once again. Similar to the situation before the long 'break', the North Koreans cannot agree with the US on the issue of having a peaceful nuclear energy program in the form of a Light Water Reactor (LWE) power plant.

The situation was predictable as most countries agreed with North Korea's request for a nuclear power program to fill its domestic needs rather than being dependant on its neighbors. But I think the problem goes deeper. North Korea is at heart still at war. The US and Japan are still seen as active enemies that North Korea fears will attack any time. For North Korea to suddenly accept to be dependent on its enemy (or their allies, such as South Korea) to supply them with crucial resources, is silly. There are many steps that need to be fulfilled first. So in other words this calls for a comprehensive plan, or a Grand Bargain (thank to Mr. O'Hanlon over at Brookings) to solve most of these problems at once, to prevent some problems standing in the way of each other.

A Grand Bargin should include not only the dismantling of the North's nuclear program, but also signing a comprehensive peace treaty, agreeing to de-militarizing the peninsula, re-establishing diplomatic relations, etc. etc. Before this happens, it seems very unlikely that the North will engage in an economic and inter-dependence role with its enemies, basically due to the threat it perceives in the other 6-party members, and the US' lack of a comprehensive strategy to finally come to terms and solve the North Korean dilemma.

Comments, please.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Asian Culture and Holidays: Chusok

East Asia Blog should not only be a forum for political and economic issues. Soft issues, such as culture, art, and entertainment (I love Korean movies) are just as important and interesting.

Since the Korean Thanksgiving, Chusok (추석), is just around the corner, now is an appropriate time to discuss the meaning of this important holiday. The following website gives you a good explaination of the ways in which Koreans celebrate their harvest festival:

Chusok the Korean Thanksgiving, by Eun Mee Kim

Korean Thanksgiving Day: by Yoo Min

Chusok: by Bet Key Wong

In a nutshell, Korea turns into one big traffic jam during this holidays, as people visit family members and graves of their ancestors, which they worship.

My own experiences from Chusok is that you get time off from work, and that's always fun.

What are your experiences?
Please tell share your stories, both from a Korean and Expat perspective.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Common East Asian Currency?

Korea Times writes about the proposal of an East Asian Currency

This would include Japan, South Korea and China. Now, why in the world would they want to do that? Aren't there enough grieviences between these countries to fill an oil tanker? The relationship between these countries is enough in itself to make the efford effortless. But then again, there are some positive aspects about it as well. What if, in the wake of the 6-party talks, this could kick-off an even closer cooperation between the countries to lubricate the rusty tensions in Northeast Asia. Here are some of the pros and cons. I am far from a currency expert, so your comments are highly appreciated (I will correct anything that is flatout wrong):

1. Quoting Korea Times "...under the current U.S. dollar-dominated currency system, Asian countries will not be able to maintain regional financial stability and sustain high economic growth". A common currency would enable East Asia to better shied itself from various shocks.
2. Peace, peace, peace. Common currencies have often been a major part of arguments speaking for increased inter-dependence with peaceful purposes.
3. Prevent another East Asian Economic Crisis, which could hurt China in the future.

1. The East Asian economies depend too much on exports to the US and lack a suitable financial system to deal with the current account surplus, Choi Gong-pil a Korean economist was quoted in the Korea Times.
2. China and Japan would never be able to build a working relationship conducive to such developments.
3. The US hubs-and-spokes system in East Asia would not allow for an enhancement in a regional structure such as a common currency. It would also not fit into the security parameters of East Asia, particularly with the Taiwan issue.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

DDDDOOONNNNGGG [sound of bell]: End of Round 4!

In retrospect, the 4th round of the six-party talks have produced absolutely nothing. Diplomatic kow-towing and tug-of-wars throughout the 13 days of negotiations has not managed to get the 747 Jumbo of an issue out of the mud and towards any tangible accomplishments or goals. Asia East Blog will take a look at a few of the main issues:

-A Nuclear-Free Korean Peninsula
North Korea has generally agreed to such an utopia, but has pushed for the establishment of a civilian nuclear energy facility, which has dominated the headlines. Please see below.

-Light Water Reactors (LWR)
North Korea was hell-bent on their right to maintain such reactors, which terminally became the stumbling block (or deal breaker) for this round of talks. Utilizing LWR for "peaceful" energy purposes in North Korea is not acceptable by Hill and his American delegation, who fear the North Koreans may use such facilities to generate weapons-grade plutonium (despite the much greater difficulty than at other types of nuclear plants). None of the 5 other parties are willing to issue a guarantee for the North Koreans to establish a LWR, as originally promised in the Agreed Framework and was to be constructed by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO). In a strong statement Hill said, "We decided it was time to end it and go to recess, with the idea that they can go back and think about what they've been told, which is, they're not going to get a light-water reactor."

-Peace Treaty
In what seems to make a whole lotta sense, the North Koreans have iterated their desire for a peace pact with the US. The two countries have officially been at war since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which ended with a cease-fire agreement. North Korean authorities stated, "Replacing the armistice agreement with a peace treaty is an urgent issue, which North Korea and the United States should immediately address to resolve the nuclear problem in a fair manner." This would seem to be a great first step--but we're still faraway.

-Future Talks (and actions, if any)
That's right. After a 3-week recess the 'big boys' including nice-guy Mr. Hill will experience another deja-vu in Beijing where expectations are as low as President Bush's approval rating. The Chinese delegate, Wu Dawai, is optimistic, however, which is understandable as China is poised to be the biggest gainer of the talks. Where why: if the issue is resolved: China is will appear as a good-will figure with gained diplomatic respect; if the talks fail: China will still have established an image as a worthy negotiating organizer through the 6-party talks being hosted in Beijing. The Washington Post argues that China has invested the most in the 4 meetings and has much to lose--that may be so, but in the long-run it will still be the US and North Korea that will be staring actors (or actresses) fated to disappoint, in this seemingly never-ending story.

-In summary
Christopher Hills is widely characterized as a flexible and skilled negotiator, as seen in his efforts in the 1998-99 Kosovo crisis. In the 6-party talks he was not given the amount of elbow space needed to successfully solve the nuclear issue. In a word, the US has not put enough serious bargaining power into this game. While keeping pretty much the same line drawn in the sand, the US is just as reluctant to give into any concessions. It may very well be that North Korea needs another Gorba before we can see any light at the end of the tunnel, but while that is not very likely, I do not think we can keep pressuring North Korea is this boxing fight between Mark Tyson and the mosquito equivalent DRPK (note, mosquitoes can carry all sorts of deadly diseases). At the end of the day, the United States IS the big boy in the playground, which has to make the choices that have an impact. You can say as much as you want about the atrocities of the North Korean politburo, but the only effort that will have a lasting effect (unless you're naïve enough to believe in the collapse of North Korea) is a 'Grand Bargain' between the US and North Korea. Please consult with Mr. Michael O'Hanlon over at Brookings for his ideas in this regard and how they seem the most credible, as opposed to the piece-meal path of the George W. Bush.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Asia Top 3

After a long absence on Holiday, Cookiesap is back with an update on some of the big issues in East Asia. I call it my top 3 list. Feel free to comment as you please:

3) Typhoon Matsa is about to hit Zhejiang and Shanghai. What can we do? RUN!

2) Russia: Another submarine is stuck to the ocean floor. Bottomline: Russia's military is rapidly deteriorating, and it is a horrible foreboding for the dangers of its much more dangerous nuclear stockpile.

1) North Korea: Impasse in the 6-party talks. On their 11th day of talks, the US negotiator Chris Hill is getting no-where. Why? Because the US is investing too little in this extremely urgent matter. Bush is simply over-stretched.