|Asia News Digest
S. Korea Says North Aims To Pressure U.S. with Nuke Test
The South Korean government recognizes that North Korea is endeavoring to use its threatened nuclear weapons test as leverage with the United States. South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun stressed that dialogue must be utilized to solve this crisis, and that North Korea must be told of the consequences of testing a nuclear weapon. Unification Minister Lee Jong Seok said that "there is a great chance that this move aims to pressure the U.S. into changing its behavior." In addition to this, Lee said, "[I]f a resumption of the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program comes to naught, we judge that there is a high likelihood that North Korea will conduct a nuclear test. This time there is a possibility that it will turn out more than an empty threat."
At the same time, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan will pay his first-ever visit to China and South Korea as Premier. Abe is expected to meet with President Roh and President Hu Jintao. East Asian press have confirmed that the three nations will issue a joint statement on North Korea.
State Department Threatens North Korea
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill threatened the end of North Korea if it proceeds with its planned nuclear weapons test. Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Korea Institute Oct. 5, Hill said that he had delivered a message to the North Korean delegates at the UN in New York to the effect that, "It can have a future or it can have these weapons. It cannot have both.... We are not going to live with a nuclear North Koreawe are not going to accept it."
While transcripts are not available, participants confirmed that Hill gave the reported warning, and added that the five former U.S. Ambassadors to Korea on the panel (Stephen Bosworth, Donald Gregg, Thomas Hubbard, James Laney, and James Lilly), were all opposing Hill on the threats, although none of that was covered in press reports.
Retired Korea Diplomat Blasts Bush Policy
A retired State Department Korea officer blasted the Bush Administration on Korea policy. David Straub, a 30-year Foreign Service Officer who was head of the Korea desk at State from 2002-04, was asked by EIR at an Asia Society forum in Washington Oct. 5, if the repositioning of U.S. troops in South Korea, away from Seoul and the DMZ, was not seen in Korea as moving U.S. forces out of the line of fire in preparation for a preemptive nuclear attack on the North. Straub said that President Bush had been asked this exact question in a press conference with former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung. Straub then imitated the clueless Bush saying, "Gee, I don't know why people ask me that. I have no intention of invading North Korea."
However, when Straub took him at his word and began writing reports that said the President had said there was "no intention to attack" the North, an "agency that will go unnamed sent them back with that phrase removed, and the phrase 'all options are on the table' in its place."
Straub, after his resignation this year from State, attacked Secretary Condoleezza Rice for rejecting former Secretary of State Colin Powell's efforts to "try to have some real diplomatic effort going" with Pyongyang, including bilateral talks, and asked of Bush: "How much attention is he able to pay to it? How much does he know?"
Thai Junta Announces New Prime Minister
The Thai junta announced Oct. 1 that a retired general who serves on the Privy Council will be the appointed Prime Minister for at least the next year. The junta's choice of Gen. Surayud Chulanont, whose mentor is former Army chief and Prime Minister Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, who now heads the Privy Council, was approved by the King. The coup of Sept. 19 was set in motion in July when General Prem gave speeches (in uniform) to military audiences, instructing them that they serve the King, not the elected government.
Surayud is highly praised by some in Washington for his role in getting the military out of business and out of politics (sic). In 2002, as Army Commander, Surayud implemented cross-border military actions against Myanmar, creating a crisis which was only resolved when the now-deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra kicked Surayud upstairs to become Chief of Staff, a less powerful position than Army Chief. Thaksin then initiated close economic and security relations with Myanmar, together with China and Indiaa policy which won him many enemies in Washington.
The new constitution written by the junta and approved by the King calls for the junta to become a "national security council" with the power to remove the Prime Minister. Elections are promised in about one year, but what will happen to the existing parties is not yet clear. For now, martial law forbids any political meetings, has shut down hundreds of radio stations, and is heavily censoring the press and the Internet.
The U.S. has maintained an official distance from the junta, calling for a return to "democracy" and cutting off the small U.S. military aid, as required by law. The "democratic opposition" in Thailand which has led the urban demonstrations over the past year, with support from Wall Street, is in the uncomfortable position of supporting a military coup.
India Supplying Military Hardware to Myanmar
Despite opposition by Western countries, India has begun supplying military hardware to Myanmar's military junta. According to Indian analysts, New Delhi's decision is mostly based upon its desire to neutralize China's growing defense, diplomatic, and economic clout within Myanmar's ruling clique.
In August, despite direct opposition of Britain, the Indian Navy transferred two BN-2 Defender Islander maritime surveillance aircraft and deck-based air-defense guns and various surveillance equipment to Myanmar. Islanders are British-built aircraft sold to India earlier.
"We have recommended and started giving them [Myanmar's army] 105-mm Indian Navy guns. In the past, we had given them 75/24 Howitzers," said Indian Army vice-chief Lt. Gen. S. Pattabhiraman.
In addition, according to Defense Secretary Shekhar Dutt, Delhi wants to hand over to Myanmar, in exchange for an unspecified number of Russian T-55 tanks (which the Indian army is retiring), armored personnel carriers, 105-mm light artillery guns, mortars, and the locally-designed advanced light helicopters, in order to conduct joint military operations against India's northeastern militant groups along the 1,643 km Myanmar frontier.
India To Deploy Israeli Drones Along Disputed Border
Indian sources indicated to EIR Oct. 4 that India will be receiving Israeli Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) later this year and will be deploying them along the disputed Jammu and Kashmir border with Pakistan. India stations 14 and 15 corps in Jammu and Kashmir and each corps will have eight UAVs. Herons, although identified as Israeli UAVs, are actually manufactured in France and the French government has made a significant investment in its development and manufacturing.
Herons, with their range of 250 km and their ceiling capacity of 30,000 feet above sea level, are preferred by the Indian Air Force over the currently used Searcher Mark IIs which have a range of 200 km and a ceiling capacity of 20,000 ft.
Some of the Israeli Heron UAVs will also be deployed in the demarcated western borders between India and Pakistan.
Musharraf Faces a Coup-Like Situation
Bomb disposal experts in Pakistan removed two rockets and their launchers hidden in a building aimed at the Pakistan Parliament Oct. 5. The rockets were primed to be fired through remote control.
The defusing of the rockets took place less than 16 hours after a bomb went off in Rawalpindi, reportedly close to President Pervez Musharraf's residence, the Army House. Although the Pakistani authorities have been tight-lipped about the incident and would not confirm that the target of the bomb was Musharraf, eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera's correspondent that a few injured people were taken from the building and its vicinity.
The Rawalpindi bomb went off the same day that Musharraf appointed the Army's Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Tariq Majid, as Commander of the Rawalpindi Corps. Every Pakistani military coup since 1947 had the involvement of the Rawalpindi Corps, based next to the capital.
Majid, whose role in the past was highly appreciated by Musharraf in his book, In the Line of Fire, replaced Lt. Gen. Salahuddin Satti. Satti has been appointed to replace Majid as the Chief of General Staff.
These developments do not bode well for the Bush Administration. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal, failing to co-opt Pakistan fully in their so-called "war on terror," is clinging to Musharraf as their "Great Secular Muslim Hope" against fundamentalist Islam. Washington realizes that Beijing is less picky about these distinctions (e.g., secular, fundamentalist) and would not hesitate to support anyone who takes the helm in Islamabad.