|Asia News Digest
Afghanistan: Students Killed in Anti-American Protests
In eastern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan, student demonstrators took to the streets of Jalalabad on May 11, protesting against alleged desecration of the Holy Koran at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At least four students were killed and 50 injured. "There is a lot of damage to the city, they have burned a lot of things," provincial Afghan intelligence chief Sardar Shah told AP. People broke into two UN compounds and burned two cars, a UN spokesman said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, expressing his frustration, said the deaths were due to the inadequacy of the Afghan police who do not yet know how to handle large demonstrations. Karzai, whose inner circle of physical security is in the hands of the American private security firm, Dyncorp, and paid for by the U.S. State Department, is in no position to back the demonstrators. Instead, he made the "point" that the demonstrations were against the desecration of Holy Koran, and not against the United States. AP, among other agencies, however, reported that the demonstrators were carrying anti-U.S. posters and were shouting "Death to America."
Subsequently, the demonstrations spread to other provinces. In another police shooting in the northern Badakhshan province, three died. Meanwhile, the Afghan students have added the demand that Karzai must not allow the United States permanent military bases in their country.
Pakistan Concerned About Desecration of Koran
Following the demonstration in Jalalabad (see above), which led to the death of four students, Pakistan expressed concern about the allegations of the desecration of the Holy Koran in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp by the American guards and interrogators. Pakistani Ambassador Jehangir Karamat met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on May 11 to discuss the situation.
Subsequently, Rice expressed her concerns about the desecration claims on May 12 during testimony before U.S. Congress. Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military investigations have not yet found any evidence to support the charges of desecration.
At the same time, Tom Casey, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, told reporters that "the alleged desecration, if it occurred, would be deplorable and completely out of keeping with our deeply-held values of religious freedom and tolerance."
Meanwhile in Pakistan, the seven-party political alliance, the Muttahida Qaum Majlis (MQM), was planning anti-American demonstrations on May 13.
Karzai Foe Rejects Permanent U.S. Bases in Afghanistan
The Afghanistan National Congress Party (ANCP) has strongly opposed the U.S. setting up permanent bases in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Tribune reported May 11. It is widely known that President Karzai, who can't say no to the Americans, has agreed to allow a number of permanent bases in the country.
ANCP is the party of the influential Tajik-Afghans who led the Northern Alliance and had joined the U.S. in ousting the Taliban in 2001. It is also the Tajik-Afghans who have always been close to Moscow.
China Rejects Sanctions Against North Korea
Liu Jianchao, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on May 10 that China rejected suggestions that it should reduce oil and food shipments to North Korea, calling them part of its normal trade with its neighbor that should be separate from the nuclear pr1oblem, according to State Department briefings. "The normal trade flow should not be linked up with the nuclear issue," he said. At the same time, echoing President Bush's public comments, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said that China still hoped the talks with North Korea would succeed in disarming the country, even though it has boycotted talks for 11 months.
At the U.S. State Department briefing on May 11 in Washington, when the State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was posed this question by a correspondent, he avoided answering it by saying it is the responsibility of all, particularly of China, to see that North Korea does not get nuclear weapons.
China Will Repair Damage to Japanese Embassy
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing informed Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa in Beijing May 11 that China would repair buildings of the Japanese Embassy, which were damaged over the course of three weekends, in protests that were, in part, fueled by release of a new Japanese textbook which was said to play down Japanese war-time atrocities.
In a move to ease any further tension between the two countries, the Chinese government has ordered an end to the protests, and will undertake to repair both relations and the embassy. As well, China and Japan will resume talks this month on a long-standing dispute over sea waters, and set up a joint panel to study history, aimed at ironing out their differences by the end of 2005.
Terror Bombs Rip Myanmar as Europe Threatens ASEAN
Three bombs exploded simultaneously in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, on May 7, killing 11 and injuring 162. One of the bombs was set inside a visiting Thai trade exposition, while the other two were at supermarkets. The government placed blame on the Karen and Shan ethnic opposition groups and the NCGUB (National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma)an opposition government in exile, but those accused blamed it on an internal faction fight within the junta over the recent ousting of intelligence chief Khin Nyunt and his supporters.
Any serious investigation, however, would look at the history of Britain's "Friends of the Hill Tribes" intelligence operations from the 1940s, which ran terror operations against the Burmese nationalists (including the killing of Aung San, the leader of Burmese independence and father of Aung San Suu Kyi), under the cover of ethnic separatists. One significant piece of contextual evidence is accusations by European leaders, some in anonymous statements to the press, at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) just completed in Kyoto, which accuse ASEAN nations, and Thailand in particular, of coddling a dictatorship in Myanmar and undermining the U.S./Europe/UN sanctions regime against Myanmar.
The Thai government sent a plane to bring the trade delegation back from Yangon. High security measures are in place across the city. A bomb in a market in Mandalay two weeks ago killed two, but these are the first serious terrorist attacks on Myanmar cities since the mass riots of 1988.
Neo-Cons Launch New Salvo vs. China as 'Enemy Image'
Robert Kaplan has launched a new salvo in the neo-cons' attempt to make China the new 'enemy image' for America's new cold/hot war in the Pacific. In the June cover story for The Atlantic Monthly, Kaplan writes that NATO is washed up, a "farm system for the major-leagues U.S. military." The strategic center of gravity has moved east, where the "Chinese Navy is poised to push out into the Pacificand when it does, it will very quickly encounter a U.S. Navy and Air Force unwilling to budge from the coastal shelf of the Asian mainland." Since, in the neo-con mindset, the world is Hobbesian, we are in for a "replay of the decades-long Cold War."
Kaplan describes the role of the military in Huntington-style fashion: "leaving the values side of the political equation to the civilian leadership." To meet the new war of the Pacific, we need three navies: one for offshore bombing, as in Afghanistan and Iraq; a second for "special operations combat against terrorist groups based in and around Indonesia, Malaysia, and the southern Philippines, for example"; and a third for stealth capabilities "for patrolling the Chinese mainland and the Taiwan Strait, among other regions."
Unexpected Opposition to Revaluation of Yuan
There are splits among the lunatics: Steve Hanke and Robert Mundell are denouncing the effort to force China to revalue the yuan. "Dollarization-man" Hanke and Michael Connolly, chief scientist at the Hunan University Project on Globalization, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal May 5, argue that the current Congressional bills demanding China revalue its currency, under threat of huge tariffs, are pure madness. Quoting Mundell (who has a "Mundell International University of Entrepreneuership" in Beijing), they say that revaluation will cause a disaster in the Chinese economy, would be illegal under international and IMF law, would not improve the U.S. trade deficit, and that the yuan is not overvalued anyway, nor does China manipulate its currency as charged.