|Asia News Digest
Political Situation Becoming Untenable for Musharraf
May 15 (EIRNS)At least 25 people were killed today in the explosion at a hotel in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border. According to a report on the website of the Pakistani channel Geo TV, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Marhaba Hotel in Peshawar's old city, and the blast managed to demolish the building. The bombing took place a day after all major cities were shut down by a strike call by President Pervez Musharraf's opponents, who now include the bureaucrats centered around the Justice Department; the leading political party, PPP; and the anti-U.S Islamic militants who are in league with al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.
On May 14, militants carried out a strike on a meeting of Pakistani, Afghan, and NATO forces in Kurram agency in Pakistan's tribal areas adjacent to eastern Afghanistan. The officials were meeting at Teri Mangal to consider border fighting that erupted between the two neighbors on May 13, when Pakistani and Afghan troops exchanged fire. After concluding their discussions, NATO and Afghan forces returned to the Afghan side of the border and were attacked en route by militants loyal to al-Qaeda leader Abu Laith Al-Libby. One NATO soldier, an American, was killed in the shootout.
India, Brazil, South Africa to Join in Missile Development
May 15 (EIRNS)According to military sources in New Delhi, India is getting ready to join in the air-to-air missile (AAM) development agreement between Brazil and South Africa. The issue of cooperation in research and development had been discussed during recent high-level Brazilian military delegation visits to India. When Brazilian President Lula visits India next month, more about it will be heard, the report said.
India also has an indigenous AAM programAstra (Sanskrit for "weapon")which is being developed by India's Defense Development and Research Organization (DRDO). DRDO might jointly develop AAMs with Brazil and South Africa. The new tri-national agreement is reported to involve DRDO and Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), working in a risk-sharing R&D program dealing with two projects: a short-range imaging infrared (IIR) missile derived from the South African U-Darter, and the Long Range Air-to-Air Missile (LRAAM).
Japan Backs Russia/Kazakstan Enrichment Facility
May 14 (EIRNS)The chairman of the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission, Shunsuke Kondo, said today that Japan supports the idea of international uranium enrichment centers, which Russia and Kazakstan have agreed to set up.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made the first Russian initiative to create International Uranium Enrichment Centers in Russia, under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in January 2006. The policy would be to allow any nation to participate, if it respects IAEA policy and uses the uranium purely for civilian energy generation. On May 10, Putin and Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev oversaw the signing of an agreement between their two nations to set up such a center in Angarsk, East Siberia.
The policy is important for Japan, since it separates Russia's military and civilian nuclear facilities. Kondo said in Tokyo that "Russia's nuclear energy world in the past was one solid unit. There's been a great effort on the Russian side to divide these two functions." Japan has no atomic weapons and will only cooperate in civilian use of nuclear technology with other nations.
Japan is very interested in Russia's advanced fast-breeder reactor technology, since these produce plutonium which can be used for nuclear fuel. "We also want to diversify our supplier base," Kondo said. Japan already has 53 nuclear stations, and generates 30% of its electricity from this source, and wants to increase this to 40% by 2030.
Russia Using Nuclear Development as War Avoidance Strategy
May 15 (EIRNS)Russia's Rosatom, its state-owned atomic energy agency, announced that it has signed an agreement with Myanmar, to build the first-ever nuclear research reactor there.
Myanmar is one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia, with very little infrastructure of any kind. The Rosatom statement says that the "agreement provides for cooperation in the design and construction in Myanmar of a centre for nuclear research." The nuclear research center will include a 10-megawatt nuclear reactor with low-enriched uranium consisting of less than 20% uranium-isotope 235.
Late last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an international plan to develop nuclear research and uranium enrichment centers under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to foster development of nuclear energy while avoiding conflict over potential nuclear weapons development. Myanmar is ruled by a military group, and has been subject to Western arms sanctions since 1988.
New East Asia-North America Infrastructure Link
May 15 (EIRNS)A new infrastructure link is being created between East Asia and the interior of North America: Canadian National Railways announced yesterday that it has reached an agreement with COSCO, China's national flag shipping company, to ship goods from Asia to the new port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Prince Rupert, on the northwestern coast of BC, is near the border with Alaska.
The CN Rail press release said that COSCO Container Lines Americas, Inc., will start service in the fourth quarter 2007, the Prince George Citizen reported today. COSCO, founded in 1961, is China's leading shipping company, worth some $17 billion, and specializing in container shipping and modern logistics. "CN is delighted to have COSCO as its first customer to call on the Prince Rupert container terminal, a new North American gateway for Asian trade," the press release quoted James M. Foote, CN's executive vice president of sales and marketing.
The new Prince Rupert container terminal and CN Rail "will inject meaningful port-rail-terminal capacity into the global supply chain, and will offer shippers the fastest, most efficient and most cost-effective routing for Asian traffic destined to and from the interior of North America." The Prince Rupert port is eventually planned to be able to handle 2 million TEUs (standard container units) a year.
Chinese Workers' Living Standards Unchanged in 50 Years
May 17 (EIRNS)A Chinese scholar from a leading Beijing think tank has confirmed to EIR that, despite the popular opinion in the West that China's general population is rapidly getting richer, the standard of living of the industrial, blue-collar workforce, supposedly at the center of the booming Chinese economy, has not changed over the past 50 years. Combined with the continued extreme poverty of the agricultural workforce, there is a dangerous potential for economic and social instability across China in the case of a breakdown of the imports to the U.S., or a similar economic crisis.
The scholar also indicated that this problem is at the center of President Hu Jintao's intention to shift the underlying economic structure of China over the next year, from a primary focus on exports, to enhanced domestic consumption and a general welfare orientation, with a broad safety net.