Friday, February 25, 2005

Japan's Ties to China: Strong Trade, Shaky Politics

By JAMES BROOKE, The New York Times, February 22, 2005

TOKYO, Feb. 21 - Just as China's state news agency was berating Japan for its "wild behavior" in joining the United States to express their "common strategic objectives" in Taiwan, the news came Monday that Japanese trade with China jumped 27 percent last year, hitting a record high of $168 billion.

It was only the latest example of a troubling dynamic in the countries' relations: white hot economics and deep freeze politics.

The joint United States-Japan declaration on Taiwan, buried last week in a long, seemingly bland statement of cooperative security objectives, left many Chinese analysts outraged. "Japan colonized Taiwan for half a century," one Chinese expert based here said Monday, hardly containing his anger. "When Japan talks about Taiwan, we think they have no right to talk." He asked to remain unidentified because he did not want to criticize Japan publicly.

But others say Japan's mention of Taiwan in its list of goals for a safer Asia was part of a larger effort to stand up to China's expanding power.

Japan's growing economic dependence on China would seem to point toward a greater deference from Tokyo. But political and military affairs have risen in importance in the region, and for Japan's government they may now be edging out economic concerns. As a result, many here say, it makes sense for Tokyo to bolster Taiwan, a convenient buffer state that absorbs the military hostility and expansive energy of its rival.-------------------

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bush Says Europe Should Not Lift Its China Arms Embargo

By ELISABETH BUMILLER, The New York Times, February 23, 2005

BRUSSELS, Feb. 22 - A simmering dispute with Europe came to the forefront on Tuesday when President Bush said there was "deep concern" in the United States that lifting the European Union's arms embargo against China would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan.

The issue has been one of the few disagreements to spill into the open during Mr. Bush's trip to repair relations across the Atlantic. He and European leaders have worked intently to ease hard feelings over the Iraq invasion, and they have played down the conflict that has risen in the last few months over the arms embargo. Even as he expressed his concerns on Tuesday, Mr. Bush insisted that he was willing to listen to European views on the issue.

In his most explicit public argument, the president said lifting the ban would allow the transfer of critical military technology to the Chinese that would "change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan, and that's of concern."

The administration also fears that such technology, especially advanced radar and communications systems, might be passed on to other countries.--------------------

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Taiwan navy to put on show of long-range power: Round-the-world voyage by warships is bound to anger Beijing

The Straits Times, Feb 22, 2005

TAIPEI - TAIWAN'S navy plans to embark next month on its first round-the-world voyage, which will include port calls in countries which recognise Beijing, in a display of long-range sea power sure to rile China.

A French-built Lafayette-class frigate, an American-built Perry-class frigate and a logistical support vessel will leave the southern naval base of Tsuoying in mid-March and return in June, the Defence Ministry and the mass-circulation China Times newspaper said yesterday.

The paper said the ships would visit seven countries which have diplomatic ties with Taiwan - Senegal, Gambia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Panama, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Palau.--------------------------

Monday, February 21, 2005

AFP: North Korea's Kim says nuclear talks can resume 'if conditions met'

(AFP & AP)

"BEIJING (AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il said six-party talks on his country's nuclear drive can resume "at any time" if certain conditions are met, Chinese state media said."

Kim did not, however, specify what the conditions are.

Full Article

Is Kim trying to take advantage, and try to appear "in control"?

Will the 6-party talks disarm DPRK?

Does Kim have the bomb?

S. Koreans Revising Image of Nation's Elite: Film, Truth Panel Seen by Some as Attack on Wealthy

By Anthony Faiola, Washington Post Foreign Service, February 13, 2005; Page A29

SEOUL -- The politically charged film "The President's Last Bang" is a shot at the heart of the South Korean establishment. The main target: Park Chung Hee, the South Korean president, conservative icon and former military leader who was gunned down in 1979 after 18 years in power.

Park was venerated by conservatives as a hero who faced down communist North Korea while turning his country into an economic success. But the film, which opened this month to cheers and jeers, casts him as a philandering drunk with a traitorous soft spot for Korea's former occupiers, the Japanese. South Korea's wealthy elite -- represented by Park's ministers, aides and henchmen -- are portrayed as degenerates torturing communists and gorging on luxury foods, excessive drink and easy women while displaying disregard for the common man. More than a lashing administered by one director, the movie captures the national mood.

South Korea's upper classes -- which have succeeded in amassing enormous wealth over the past three generations -- are calling themselves the victims of an anti-establishment crusade designed chiefly to discredit the pillars of politics and commerce who have long opposed North Korea. Analysts and political experts, in turn, describe it as part of the ideological debate raging as South Korea undergoes the broadest re-examination of national history since the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910.--------------------

Sunday, February 20, 2005

BBC takes political debate to China

BBC News, Feb 14, 2005

BBC Television's flagship political discussion programme, Question Time, will broadcast a special edition from Shanghai on Thursday 10 March.
The debate, including a range of voices both critical and supportive of Chinese government policies, will be in English with David Dimbleby in the chair as normal.

Chinese Government spokesman Liu Jianqiao, Wild Swans author Jung Chang and former Hong Kong Governor and EU Commissioner Chris Patten have already agreed to take part in the programme, answering questions before a live studio audience.

People in Shanghai, residents or visitors, will be able to apply to join the studio audience and to put forward any questions they like on the most important political issues in China today.

David Dimbleby said: "It's a breakthrough. To have a programme from China with known critics of the Chinese government on the panel is something I never thought would happen.--------------------

Doubting U.S., China Is Wary of Korea Role

By HOWARD W. FRENCH, The New York Times, February 19, 2005

SHANGHAI, Feb. 18 - The dispatch by China of a high-level envoy this weekend to persuade the North Koreans to return to talks on their nuclear weapons would seem to present it with an ideal opportunity.

China's economy is growing enormously, casting shadows in every direction. Its fast-modernizing military has the attention of every power, regional or global. No other country, meanwhile, enjoys the kind of long, unbroken friendship that China has nurtured for over five decades with North Korea. In short, all the pieces would seem to be in place for Beijing to score its first big coup in global diplomacy, brokering an end to the nuclear threat on the Korean peninsula.--------------------

Thursday, February 17, 2005

China military buildup threatens US forces: CIA chief (AFP)

"...Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Goss also highlighted threats to the United States from North Korea (news - web sites), which he warned could resume missile tests anytime after boasting of its nuclear weapons' might last week.

"Beijing's military modernisation and military buildup could tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait," said Goss, who took over as CIA director in September.

"Improved Chinese capabilities threaten US forces in the region," he told the committee assessing the main security threats to the United States.

Goss said that China was stepping up efforts to "develop robust, survivable nuclear armed missiles as well as conventional capability for use in regional conflicts....."

Complete Article

Monday, February 14, 2005

Seoul Doubts N.Korea Has Nukes, Despite Claim (Reuters)

Here we go again.......

"SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's top policymaker on North Korea said Monday North Korea's claim to have nuclear weapons was unproven and Seoul's controversial engagement policy with the North would remain, at least for now.

North Korea explicitly said for the first time last Thursday that it had atomic weapons. The reclusive communist state also said it was pulling out of six-party talks aimed at ending a two-year impasse over its nuclear programs because of what it called U.S. hostility. "There is no doubt that North Korea has 10 to 14 kg (22 to 31 pounds) of plutonium, but there is no evidence that the North has turned it into plutonium bombs," Minister of Unification Chung Dong-young told parliament Monday. "

Reuters via Yahoo!News
Complete article

Is Mr. Chung having a point or trying to comfort a worrying nation?

Does North Korea have the bomb?

Any North Koreans out there (either in or outside of the hermit kingdom) .... who wish to comment on this?

Chinese News Media Critical of North Korea

By KEITH BRADSHER and JAMES BROOKE, The New York Times, February 13, 2005

BEIJING, Sunday, Feb. 13 - China on Sunday publicly called for the Korean peninsula to be free of nuclear weapons and urged North Korea to return to regional talks regarding its nuclear program. State-run Chinese media and censored Internet chat rooms were uncommonly critical of Pyongyang for having announced Thursday that it had manufactured nuclear weapons.

The official New China News Agency reported Sunday morning that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing of China had spoken by phone on Saturday night with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Mr. Li called for the regional negotiations to resume as soon as possible and for the "denuclearization" of the peninsula, the agency said.----------

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The North Korea Bugaboo and the Seas

SEOUL - North Korea issued a strong warning to South Korea on Saturday over what it claimed was the South's repeated intrusion into its waters, saying the alleged infringements could lead to a 'very serious disaster'.

A statement reported by Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said: 'The South Korean army perpetrated military provocations by infiltrating a battleship several times into the North Korean waters.

AFP in the Straits Times
Full Article

With an ambiguous maritime border and with North Korea's re-ignited brinksmanship, are we closer now than ever to a breach in the 1954 armastice agreement?

How can the South Korean people help prevent an escalation in the crisis?

Friday, February 11, 2005

The North Korean Challenge

Editorial, The New York Times, Feb 11, 2005

North Korea put all of its worst instincts on display yesterday, announcing that it had produced nuclear weapons, intends to go on producing them and has no further interest in talking. Experts already knew the North was probably producing nuclear bombs, and it has been painfully obvious for months that diplomacy was getting nowhere. But by waving its nukes around so contemptuously and then kicking over the negotiating table, North Korea has managed to make a terrible situation even worse.

The world cannot simply resign itself to the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea. It directly threatens South Korea, Japan and China. It raises the risk of nuclear blackmail against the United States, and only strengthens concerns that North Korea may be exporting nuclear ingredients and technology.---------------

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Kim's New Claim: We have nukes!!!! ...... really?

The New York Times Reports:

North Korea declared publicly on Thursday for the first time that it possessed nuclear weapons and would refuse to return to disarmament talks. That left China, the United States and its allies to debate whether diplomacy could still persuade the North Koreans to give up the nuclear option.

Feb. 10. 2005.

Full Article

Do they have nuclear weapons....really?

Might they have a nuclear 'bomb', but without the missile capability needed to threaten other countries, such as Japan and Fiji?

Should Tokyo's mayor be as audacious as always?

Can Rice salvage the situation?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Beijing invites Tokyo to talk

BEIJING-China has asked Japan to enter a bilateral ``strategic dialogue'' on the vice foreign minister level concerning regional and global situations and economic issues, diplomatic sources said over the weekend.
Beijing has recently urged several major nations to enter into special policy dialogues.
While India and the United States have already entered special talks with China, Tokyo has yet to respond. Full article.

Another round of good ol' Asian 'talk'?

What good will come of this?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Tests Said to Tie Deal on Uranium to North Korea

The New York Times Reports:

Scientific tests have led American intelligence agencies and government scientists to conclude with near certainty that North Korea sold processed uranium to Libya, bolstering earlier indications that the reclusive state exported sensitive fuel for atomic weapons, according to officials with access to the intelligence.

Full Article

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Asia: An empress regnant?; Japan considers letting women take the throne

The Economist. London: Jan 29, 2005.Vol.374, Iss. 8411; pg. 60

IN JAPAN, social progress often comes in baby steps. So it is fitting that a prominent decision about women's equality will involve Japan's most famous baby: three-year-old Princess Aiko. On January 25th, a ten-member government-appointed panel met for the first time to discuss whether women should be made eligible for the imperial throne. If the law is revised, Princess Aiko might one day take a very big step indeed.

Most Japanese like the idea. In a recent poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun, a big daily, 79% said that women should be allowed to take the throne. Less than 4% were opposed. In 1975, only 32% were in favour. Perhaps conservatism and sexism are fading faster in Japan than people thought. But equality is not the only factor. Popular support for female succession also reflects the way the government has sold the issue, as a step to bolster the stability of the Chrysanthemum Throne: something dear to conservatives' hearts as well. The imperial family will not run out of male heirs for a while yet. Crown Prince Naruhito is only 44, and his brother, Prince Akishino, is five years younger. But because no males have been born since them, and existing law strips women of their royal status when they marry commoners, the imperial family could face a succession crisis one day under current law. That is why so much attention has focused on Princess Aiko, the only child of the crown prince and princess.

Many Japanese feel sympathy for Crown Princess Masako, a 41-year-old, well-educated former diplomat who has had a hard time coping with imperial life. For years after her marriage to the crown prince, single-minded officials of the Imperial Household Agency pressured her to produce a male heir. The birth of her daughter in December 2001 captivated the nation. But that happy announcement has been followed by tough times for the crown princess. Last summer, the Imperial Household Agency acknowledged that she was being treated for anxiety and depression. A few months earlier, her husband had shocked the public by blaming unnamed people for trying "to deny her career and personality". Some Japanese assume that her unhappiness stems from ongoing pressure by imperial-household officials to bear a son. Making Princess Aiko eligible for the throne would remove any doubts over succession, and relieve any pressure on her mother.

The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has other reasons for wanting to move quickly. He has already been one of Japan's longest-serving post-war prime ministers, and the economy has turned around impressively since he took office in April 2001. But his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) imposes term limits, and his stint as its leader is due to end in September 2006. Many of the projects Mr Koizumi has pursued to cement his legacy will take much longer to reach fruition. Privatising the postal service, his pet project, will take more than a decade. Japan is pressing the United Nations for a permanent seat on the Security Council, but that is no overnight task. And although the LDP will propose some constitutional revisions later this year--perhaps tweaking Japan's pacifist restrictions in the process--enacting any changes will take much longer. That leaves a territorial dispute with Russia and the "stability" of the throne as Mr Koizumi's best bets for achieving something popular.

The panel will have much to discuss. It could, for example, choose to make men and women equal in the imperial line, thus giving priority to Princess Aiko over her uncle, Prince Akishino. Or it could opt for a system like Britain's, in which a woman can take the throne, but only if the monarch has no male issue. Hopefully, the panel's deliberations will spark some debate over the broader role of women in Japan. May Princess Aiko grow up in a country with more women as accomplished as her mother.

New Beijing tactics? (Editorial)

The Straits Times, Feb 2, 2005

CHINA's latest nuanced show of conciliation towards Taiwan, an offer made last week to open talks with any leader 'regardless of his past rhetoric and actions', plainly would have President Chen Shui-bian among the target audience. It is just as plain Mr Chen will not budge, as the condition of an absolutist one-China acknowledgment is anathema. The Chinese leadership knows this. But what if Mr Chen were no longer its prime interest? What if China were obliquely addressing itself to the broad spectrum of Taiwanese opinion that straddles those who favour the no-change status quo and those who prefer independence? In short, that it is calculating it could do better by taking its case directly to the Taiwanese people, on the premise the islanders have been kept out of the loop by their own leaders? By extension, it can be argued China is doing an Arafat - freezing out Mr Chen until his second term runs out, just as US President George W Bush would not deal with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for being what the President called an obstruction to peace. Time is on China's side - this is cliched but demonstrably true.

The probability has to be considered. China's tactical play has changed perceptibly under President Hu Jintao. Since he assumed full control by taking over the military headship once held by his predecessor, Mr Jiang Zemin, he appears to be moving towards making the unification time-frame flexible. Moreover, the offer of dialogue came from Mr Jia Qinglin, the fourth-ranked member of the party Politburo's standing committee. The clearance level is suitably high for the message to filter through. What is significant is that Beijing says it is prepared to deal with any quarter - including officials of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as well as the Kuomintang-dominated opposition. They need only acknowledge Beijing's supremacy over Taiwan. By offering the option of contact to DPP quarters that are ambivalent about independence, China would be driving a wedge through Mr Chen's constituency. Offering the KMT equal privilege is more of the same. It is no different from Mr Chen keeping up his 'reconciliation' offer to the opposition People's First Party leader James Soong, in hopes of weakening Taiwan's pro-China alliance. Beijing's switch of tack has risks, but it does force Mr Chen on the defensive.

Taiwan’s new cabinet unveils reform agenda

By Kathrin Hille, Financial Times, February 1, 2005

Taiwan’s government plans to concentrate on a series of economic and social structural reforms in an attempt to seek common ground with the opposition and avoid further political gridlock. Outlining the agenda for Frank Hsieh, the new premier who took office Tuesday morning along with a newly elected parliament, President Chen Shui-bian said Mr Hsieh’s cabinet should seek an agreement with opposition parties and should consult the opposition in formulating policies.

This represents a departure from past practices, under which Mr Chen’s government tried to ram through controversial policies but was often blocked by the opposition, which had the legislative majority. Mr Chen said the cabinet and the opposition should work together on reforms of the public health insurance system, tax reforms and fighting crime. For a long time, he said, the government had only tinkered with immediate problems and made small adjustments to these issues which were of extreme importance to every citizen.--------------------------