|Asia News Digest
Indonesian President To Visit Two Koreas in July
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will visit North and South Korea July 17-22, with the aim of strengthening Indonesia's relations with the two Korean states, Antara reported June 23. Hans Blix, the former chief UN arms negotiator, told reporters after meeting Yudhoyono: "It's very hopeful that your President is going to North Korea, and he may well have a mediating influence."
Yudhoyono will try to draw on the longstanding special relationship between Indonesia and North Korea, going back to President Sukarno's friendship with Kim Il-song in the 1950s.
Also important is a planned nuclear power development agreement that Yudhoyono will sign with the South Korean government. South Korea has agreed to build three nuclear power plants in Indonesia, the first in Southeast Asia (not counting the mothballed plant in the Philippines).
The two nations will establish a "strategic partnership," involving politics, security, defense, investment, trade, science, technology, social affairs, and culture.
Lugar Proposes One-on-One Talks with North Korea
Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind) proposed one-on-one talks between the U.S. and North Korea, during an appearance "Face the Nation" June 25, where he appeared with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif). Lugar, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, directly dismissed the advisability of a U.S. strike on North Korea (as recommended by Bill Perry), and countered that a better approach would be to conduct talks, even one-on-one talks, given that the issue is whether North Korea has a missile that could hit the United States.
North Korea has long sought such direct recognition from the U.S.
While Boxer's emphasis was on the six-party talks, and on not "taking anything off the table," she went out of her way to interject at the end that she did not oppose direct talks, as Lugar had proposed.
China, South Africa Sign 13 Cooperation Agreements
China and South Africa signed 13 cooperation agreements, in political, economic, trade, defense and social fields, Chinese and Russian press reported June 22. This came in the context of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit there. Itar-tass reported that "among the discussed issues was cooperation in the sphere of peaceful use of atomic energy. However, no details" were given. Wen continues his Africa tour, with visits to Tanzania and Uganda.
China is also launching an initiative in the Middle East. The Foreign Ministry announced that special envoy Ambassador Sun Bigan will visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine between June 25 and July 2. China, ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said, is "very concerned about the situation in the Middle East." She said that "relevant parties" in the region had conveyed their desire that Ambassador Sun visit the region.
Russia-China Trade Can Be a 'Locomotive' for Eurasian Development
In an interview with Interfax China, published in China Daily June 15, the day of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit, Vneshekonombank (VEB) chief Vladimir Dmitriyev spoke of the formation of the SCO Interbank Association. "Acting on our proposal, Russia came up with an initiative to establish an association of authorized, state-owned specialized banks of SCO member-nations," Dmitriyev said. "An agreement on inter-bank cooperation was signed at a ceremony in Moscow on Oct. 26, 2005, in the presence of SCO Prime Ministers."
And the Chinese reaction to the VEB proposal?, the reporter asked. "Russia's initiative was supported by all SCO member nations, including China," Dmitriyev said. "I would like to add that China Development Bank is acting as VEB's principal partner in promoting the initiative." Dmitriyev goes on to explain that the banks have begun to create a combined database of potential investment projects. "We have also developed a mechanism to rapidly coordinate the activities of the SCO association's member banks and have held negotiations on a package of documents that will regulate the association's functioning, including credit facilities and the aforementioned database of potential investment projects," he said. (These were then ratified at the Shanghai summit.)
"As for avenues for investment within the SCO over the period until 2010, projects aimed at developing the organization's transportation infrastructure, energy sector, and telecommunications hold great promise," Dmitriyev said.
An increase in Russia-China trade would be key in this respect, Dmitriyev said. "The volume of Russian-Chinese trade amounted to U.S. $29.1 billion last year. VEB, for its part, can play a crucial role in making these plans a reality, especially as it can become a kind of "locomotive" and spur the development of business cooperation with the SCO in general." The two parties hope to increase the trade to $60-80 billion by 2010, he said. "Russia is strongly interested in expanding and diversifying its high-tech exports, because it sees such products as a key contributor to its sustainable economic growth. From this standpoint, China is one of the most lucrative markets for us. VEB gives top priority to providing state support for industrial exports, as Russia chiefly exports raw materials to China at this stage," he said. The collaboration will also include development projects in the Soviet Far East. "Projects to be implemented in Siberia and the Far East will soon dominate the agenda of Russian-Chinese business cooperation," Dmitriyev stated.
China Opens First Train to Tibet
The first trains on the Qinghai-Tibet rail line took off from their respective stations on July 1, to traverse the 1,956 km stretch, reaching an altitude of over 5,000 meters above sea level. The Qinghai-Tibet stretch, for the first time, assures rail connections between Beijing and the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. The project represents a new level of technology, with 960 km of the track located 4,000 meters above sea level. President Hu Jintao cut the ribbon at the Golmud Railway Station in Qinghai province.
The largest stretch of track is built on stilts above the Tibetan plateau so as not to disturb the natural habitat. It contains some of the longest railroad tunneling ever constructed. Some 550 kilometers of track is built on frozen tundrathe average annual temperature on the Qinghai-Tibet is 0 degrees Celsius, with minimum temperatures of minus 45 degrees C. Because of the rarefied atmosphere, the trains contain oxygen supplies which can be pumped into the cars as needed.
Mahathir: Bush, Blair Are 'War Criminals'
Speaking at a conference of his own foundation, called the Perdana Global Peace Forum, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that there must be trials of the heads of state of the U.S., Britain, and Australia for their crimes, showing slides of torture and murder in Iraq and Palestine. He said George W. Bush had "demonized Islam," and said: "We should simply call them 'War Criminal Bush' or 'War Criminal Blair' as casually as they would label the targets of their war of aggression," adding that war, as a means to deal with conflict, must be criminalized.
Mahathir also warned that Iran is likely to be attacked. "The bunkers are spread all over Iran, so they have to bomb the whole of Iran to get all the bunkers." He also called the U.S. a "bankrupt country." Mahathir's statements were reported in Pravda and the China Daily June 24.
Firing of Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Protested
The Filipino community in the U.S. sent a scathing open letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo June 22, denouncing the firing and shabby treatment of Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Albert del Rosario. EIR has reported that Del Rosario, who has been in the position for five years, had recently allowed embassy spokespersons to openly side with those institutions of the Philippines, including the Supreme Court, which have increasingly accused Arroyo (and her controllers) of unconstitutional moves and dictatorial ambitions.
Ambassador Del Rosario confirmed the charges contained in the Open Letter by issuing a statement of his own, saying: "In truth, your Open Letter has welled up so much deep feelings within me. There is no way for me to thank you for your zeal in taking a position on my behalf. At the same time, I am most saddened that my situation has caused your expression of disappointment with our government. If you will, may I please urge us to move on."
The Open Letter, signed by over 100 Filipinos and Philippine Americans, reads in part: "We are deeply saddened and outraged that Ambassador Albert del Rosario has been unceremoniously dismissed from his post as the official representative of the Philippine Government to the United States.... What is utterly dismaying is the unceremonious manner in which his exemplary service has been abruptly terminated."