|Asia News Digest
China To Proceed with Fusion Energy Development
Welcoming the 21st IAEA Fusion Energy Conference at Sichuan Province's capital, Chengdu, Chinese Vice Premier Zang Peiyan called for expanded interest in nuclear fusion development, and assured the scientists that China expects to join the international community in this field. Zang said that fusion is an efficient way for people to generate infinite and clean energy, the People's Daily reported Oct. 18. A total of 830 scientists from China and abroad will attend the six-day conference that began Oct. 17. China became the first developing nation to host the IAEA's fusion conference. The most likely reason why Chengdu was chosen as the venue is the recent successes achieved in the Southwestern Research Institute of Physics, located in Chengdu, in the areas of controlled fusion and plasma physics research. Last month, China's other major facility, Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), located at the Institute of Plasma Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Heifei, Anhui Province, reported achieving fusion of hydrogen isotopes reaching a temperature of 50 million degrees Celsius.
China Outlines Space Accomplishments; Future Plans
In stark contrast to the ten-page Bush "space policy," released Oct. 6, the Information Office of the State Council of China released a white paper Oct. 12, on "China's Space Activities in 2006," in order to "give people around the world a better understanding of the development of China's space industry over the past five years and its plans for the near future." The paper stresses that China's space program serves "the country's overall development strategy"; that it provides a "cohesive force" for the country; and that while over the past 50 years, China has made progress in space technology "independently," it is "adhering to the policy of opening up to the outside world, and actively engaging in international space exchanges and cooperation." The paper reviews progress in the design of satellites and new launch vehicles, remote sensing applications, and manned space flight. Over the next five years, China plans to improve launch capacity, enable astronauts to engage in extra-vehicular activity, send an orbiter around the Moon, and develop scientific satellites. China plans to "guarantee [the] input of funds for space activities"; to "encourage people of all walks of life to participate in space-related activities"; and foster the education of talented people into space industry. Over the past five years, China has signed 16 international space cooperation agreements with 13 countries, space agencies, and international organizations. The irony of the coincidental concurrence of the release of the U.S. and Chinese space policy papers is that while the Bush Administration has used the fact that China's People's Liberation Army oversees its manned space program to stymie cooperation with China's space program, China has outlined an extensive civilian-based program, whereas the Bush Administration has rattled its space assets in a unilateral attempt to "militarize" space.
Rice 'Assures' Japan Full Defense vs. Nuclear N. Korea
The visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Japan last week seems to have been triggered by increasing concern in the U.S. about the growing pressure on Tokyo to become a nuclear weapons nation, especially in the face of recent threats from North Korea. Washington knows Japan is a few turns of the screw away from becoming so. The issue in Tokyo, however, is the consequences of taking such a decision in light of its relations with the U.S., as well as with China. For that reason, Secretary Rice, with little to show, told the Japanese upon her arrival: "I want to make sure that everybody wants that the U.S. fully act on our defense obligations under the [U.S.-Japan] mutual defense treaty...." But the rumblings in Japan have begun. Shoichi Nakagawa, chairman of the governing Liberal Democratic Party's policy council, told an Oct. 15 TV talk show: "We need to find a way to prevent Japan from coming under attack. There is an argument that possession of nuclear weapons is one of them." Although the subject of nuclearization is a taboo in Japan, even Foreign Minister Taro Aso, who received Rice at the airport, told a lower house panel on foreign affairs on Oct. 18 that he believes "...it is important to have various discussions on it [possessing nuclear weapons] as one more way of thinking." But, Washington does not have to panicat least as of now. Both Aso and Nakagawa made sure to get across to the United States that "the Japanese government has no intention now of preparing to possess nuclear weapons."
Some 2.5 Million Afghans Face Food Shortages
According to an assessment released by the international aid group, Christian Aid, some 2.5 million Afghans in the provinces of Badghis, Farah, Faryab, Herat and Ghor, devastated by crop failures and drought, face acute food shortages, Reuters reported Oct. 18. Most of these people have lost 70% to 80% of their rain-fed crops because of drought. With a potentially severe winter approaching, many people are leaving their villages and coming to major cities like Qalat or Kandahar. With the fifth anniversary of the initial defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan approaching, some Afghans have begun to take stock of what has been achieved since. According to Qadam Ali Nikpai, public information officer at the Afghan upper house of the parliament, "Unfortunately, there is a direct link between worsening security, rising opium production, and corruption, and they work in parallel with one another in endangering the future of our war-torn people." They also point out that the discussion in the West still centers around what level of military success has been achieved. Or, is it possible to completely subdue the Afghans. Very few have pointed out that the life of 30 million Afghans have become more difficult than ever.
Cheney Protégé Rattles Sabers vs. Kim Jong-il
Princeton University's Aaron L. Friedberg, formerly Dick Cheney's National Security Advisor for China affairs in 2003, published a blood-curdling op-ed in the Washington Post Oct. 16, titled "An Offer Kim Can't Refuse." The operative statement, after a string of vituperative attacks on North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, is: "The only way to move him is by confronting him with a stark choiceturn over existing nuclear weapons, dismantle production facilities and submit to rigorous international inspections, or face a steadily rising risk of overthrow and untimely death." Friedberg was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) with arch-Straussians William Kristol and Gary Schmitt. Cheney brought him in with a specific task in 2003prepare to end the relatively peaceful interlude in U.S.-China relations after 9/11, in preparation for confronting China in the second Bush term. That Friedberg (and his Cheneyac allies) are delighted with the current crisis with North Korea is demonstrated in the following quote from Friedberg's Commentary article, "Struggle for Mastery in Asia," on overcoming resistance to confronting China: "Only a sudden, severe crisis could galvanize American domestic opinion, overwhelm the objections of business groups and others with a strong vested interest in continued commercial contacts, and lead to the imposition of near-total restrictions on imports, exports and capital technology flows." While he was talking of China, these are exactly the sanctions just imposed on North Korea, with China in the sights.
Charge Aussie SAS Engaged in Combat with Philippine Insurgents
The Australian SAS (Special Air Service) allegedly "training" Philippine soldiers in Jolo is actually engaged in combat with the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah, according a report leaked by the Australian Oct. 16. Since this is explicitly against the Philippine Constitution, the Philippine government is loudly denying it, while the opposition is screaming. Moreover, since there are also at least 100 U.S. special forces in the same small island off of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, and the opposition in Manila has long charged that the U.S. forces are illegally engaged in the combat there, there is a potential explosion over the leaked report. Australia is trying to sign a Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines based on that between the Philippines and the U.S., but that is now in trouble.
Philippine Dereg, As Predicted, Drives Up Energy Prices
As EIR warned in 2001, the Philippine deregulation of electricity has not reduced prices, but driven them up. The first order of business for the newly installed government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001, following the U.S.-orchestrated military coup against President Joseph Estrada, was to deregulate the energy sector along the lines of the California modeleven though California's energy costs had just exploded under the manipulation of Enron and company. EIR produced a White Paper at the time, providing the necessary evidence to stop the disaster, but the nation's sovereignty was already lost, and the process went forward in a rush. The spot market, which is central to the "free" energy market, took five years to get set up, finally opening just three months ago. Already, the price of electricity is skyrocketing, and everybody is pointing fingers. The government has opened an investigation into the organization set up to manage the privatization, claiming that they are fixing the price on the spot market, but the proponents are panicked that someone might start trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. For example, the Manila Times editorialized that the price spike could "unsettle the public, which is naturally adverse to price increases. Worse, this controversy, if it gets out of hand, risks rousing public clamor against the open-market scheme."