|Asia News Digest
Japan Follows U.S. Pattern as Locusts Take Over
"Japanese corporate earnings are expected to rise this fiscal year for a fifth consecutive year. Stock and real-estate prices are climbinga contrast to the declines they experienced for a decade until the early 2000s," the Wall Street Journal gloated on Jan. 16. Companies, "are giving out fatter dividends and buying back shares in the hope of boosting their share prices. They have held down pay raises and are replacing full-time positions with temporary and part-time jobs, which on average pay less than two-thirds the salary of full-time posts," the Journal crowed. Sound familiar?
Japanese wages fell every year since 1997, until 2005, when they rose by 1%. However, in 2006 they fell again by 1.1%. The "cradle to grave" employment policies are long since dead: the proportion of part-time or temporary employees hit a record 33.4% last year, compared with 21% a decade ago, according to government data. Annualized household consumption in the July-September quarter was down 3.8% from the previous quarter. The consequent weak consumption has also led to continued price deflation.
These facts, as well as intense pressure from the government, led the Bank of Japan to decide not to raise interest rates from 0.25% to 0.50% on Jan. 18, as had been expected.
U.S. Demands North Korea Pay for Unfinished Nuke Plants
The U.S. has demanded that North Korea pay for the nuclear power plants whose construction begun under the 1994 agreement, but was scrapped by the Bush Administration, YonHap News reported Jan. 16. The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) was set up under the 1994 agreement with North Korea, under the Clinton Administration, to oversee the construction of two nuclear facilities in North Korea, and other economic support, in exchange for North Korea's suspension of its weapons-related nuclear programs. The plants were suspended and then cancelled under the Cheney plan to scrap the successful cooperation and launch a confrontationthe "axis of evil" lunacy. Now, pushing insanity to the limit, KEDO has asked the impoverished North Korean regime for nearly $1.9 billion in compensation for the unfinished nuclear power plants.
Optimism Expressed for Six-Party Talks on North Korea
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov, following his meetings with North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-Gwan, said on Jan. 22: "Our North Korean colleagues are quite optimistic about further six-party talks. This shows that there has been certain progress in talks with the U.S." Kim and the U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill met in Berlin in mid-January for bilateral talks. Subsequently, Kim went to Russia, a member of the six-party talks, and then to China. Hill went from Berlin to Beijing via Tokyo, and left China hours before Kim's arrival. Hill told reporters that separate U.S.-North Korea talks on the issue of the U.S. financial sanctions, which have held up the six-party talks, are going to start soon. South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon will arrive in China on Jan. 25.
In Beijing, the Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei indicated that China would announce the date of the next round of talks soon, possibly on Feb. 6.
China's Anti-Satellite Test Makes U.S. Hawks Bristle
China's apparently successful destruction of a satellite has generated harsh reaction from the United States, as well as from Japan and Australia. This is the first such test since 1985, when the U.S. tested its anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon. China confirmed the test on Jan. 23.
Although critics accuse the ASAT test of having "likely added hundreds of trackable debris objects and tens of thousands of small particles to the growing problem" of pollution in space, what worries Washington is that China has exhibited its technological capability, and that means the Bush Administration's proposed "missile defense" system, which is dependent on satellite navigation, communication, detection, and tracking of incoming missiles, is, in effect, vulnerable to China's ASAT capabilities. White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters that, "We do have concerns about that."
National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Jan. 19: "The U.S. believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation that both countries aspire to in the civil space area." The Financial Times wrote on Jan 20: "The Chinese test may or may not lead to a new arms race in space. But it will certainly strengthen the hand of hawks in Washington who regard Chinese power as a strategic threat to the U.S."
While the Soviet Union also tested anti-satellite systems, Russian and American analysts point out that that was during the Cold War, when something of a parity between the two space powers existed. Today, America's overwhelming military force, as compared to China's, makes asymmetrical military-space capabilities mandatory for Chinese strategic interests. The highly provocative "space" policy, released by the Bush Administration in October, undoubtedly had much to do with the Chinese decision to proceed with the test. It calls for the U.S. to take preemptive steps to "deny" nations the development of capabilities that could harm U.S. interests in space.
Russian President said the Chinese test had to be seen as a reaction to the U.S. space weapons program. (See this week's Russia/CIS Digest.)
Philippines Arroyo Government Called 'Fascistic'
The Philippines government was called "fascistic" by the leading Philippines newspaper. The most recent outrage by the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took place on Jan. 17, when troops were deployed to break down the doors of the provincial capital building of Iloilo Province, and arrest Gov. Niel Tupas. Tupas was one of about 50 elected and appointed officials who have been told to leave office by the government, for "corruption." The Philippines Inquirer wrote on Jan. 22: "The list looks like a political purge, in which the Ombudsman is apparently being used as the hit man, because it singles out high-profile local politicians who are associated with the opposition and who are considered more popular than candidates seen as allies of the President.... The assault triggered a wave of national revulsion down to the grass roots.... The assault also confirmed the underlying repressive and fascistic character of the Arroyo regime."
The Inquirer then reviewed the multiple cases in which the Arroyo regime has ignored the Constitution, including the failed attempt to railroad a constitutional convention to change the Constitution itself.
Arroyo is also being criticized for ignoring the law in appointing a new ambassador to the United Nations. Former Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court Hilario Davide, Jr., who illegally swore in President Arroyo in the 2001 coup against the popularly elected President Joseph Estrada, was himself sworn in as the Philippines UN Ambassador on Jan. 14. His nomination had not been approved by the Commission on Appointments, as required by the Foreign Service Act.
Opposition Sen. Jinggoy Estrada plans to go to New York to call on the UN to reject the appointment.
China and Japan To Cooperate in Nuclear Power
According to Japan's Kyodo News Service Jan. 23, Japan and China are putting together a cooperation plan on civilian nuclear energy, including measures to prevent technology being passed to any third party. Under the plan, Japan would send nuclear engineers to China to develop the nuclear industry, particularly the safety and security end of it.
Last December, China decided to buy four nuclear power reactors from the U.S.-based Westinghouse, recently acquired by the Japanese company Toshiba.
On Jan. 23, the Japanese and Chinese naval authorities announced that they are ready to resume military exchanges this year, with the goal of holding mutual naval visits that would bring Japanese warships into Chinese ports for the first time since the Second World War.
The renewed effort to build ties between Asia's two most powerful militaries reflects a dramatic improvement in Sino-Japanese political relations since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last September. Although one swallow does not ensure the arrival of summer, these developments are of immense importance.