|Asia News Digest
India to U.S.: 'Do Not Transfer Your Problems to Us'
June 11 (EIRNS)Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, expressing the increasing anger over the way the Bush Administration is pushing the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement, told correspondents in New Delhi: "They [the U.S.] say that they have some problems. We say do not transfer your problems to us," referring to Washington's reluctance to grant India nuclear fuel reprocessing rights.
The U.S.-India nuclear agreement is stuck on two issues. First, Washington refuses to allow India to reprocess any spent nuclear fuel; and second, the U.S. wants assurances in writing that India will not carry out any further nuclear explosive tests. India refuses both of these demands.
Emphasizing that reprocessing rights are "absolutely necessary" for India, Mukherjee maintained that the government would not like the nuclear cooperation agreement to have any impact on the country's indigenous strategic program.
On prospects of the agreement going through, he said he was "hopeful that everything will fall in line." But, Mukherjee quickly added that even if the deal fell through, it will not set back the Indo-U.S. relationship.
Indian President: Satellite Systems Are for All Humanity
June 12 (EIRNS)India's President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam said on June 9 that satellite systems should be developed for the advancement of the entirety of humanity. He said this while dedicating the country's latest communication satellite, INSAT-4B, to the nation at the Indian Space Research Organization's Master Control Facility at Hassan in Karnataka. The satellite was successfully launched from the spaceport at Kourou in French Guyana on March 12.
Dr. Kalam, a scientist known as the "father of India's rocket program," called for development of space technology that would democratize access to knowledge. "Work for 'World Knowledge Platform'[is] an international network of EDUSAT-like satellites that would ultimately democratize access to knowledge," he said. The same level of access to information will be there for a child in a remote village in Africa or Asia and a student in the most advanced city in Europe or North America," he added.
Secondly, Dr. Kalam said, "a network of 'World Healthcare Platforms' could be developed for the common cause of the humanity." He also asked the space scientists to network themselves, and through them, the nations and humanity as a whole.
U.S. To Release North Korean Funds from Macao Bank
June 15 (EIRNS)The North Korean assets in Macao's Banco Delta Asia, frozen under orders from the U.S. Treasury in September 2005 as part of a Cheney-directed sabotage of the September 2005 Six-Party Agreement, negotiated by the State Department, have finally been released and are on the way to North Korea.
In February, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill broke the deadlock on the nuclear agreement by assuring North Korea that the $25 million frozen in Macao would be released, but the U.S. refusal to lift the declaration that the money was "tainted" left other banks unwilling to facilitate the movement. It appears that the money is now being transferred to the New York Federal Reserve, which will then transfer the funds to Russia's Central Bank, which in turn will send it to a North Korean account in Russia's Far East Commercial Bank.
North Korea has agreed to shut down its nuclear reactor, but only when the U.S. part of the deal is completed.
Is Washington Distancing Itself from Musharraf?
June 13 (EIRNS)An editorial in Lahore's Daily Times today points out that there is a clear indication that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's arrival in Islamabad June 12 is aimed at quashing reports that a "goodbye" message to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is on the way from Washington.
The genesis of such reports is the U.S. State Department's inability to counter a bipartisan letter from the foreign affairs-related committees in the U.S. House and Senate regarding growing instability within Pakistan in recent months. Instead of focussing on the Taliban and al-Qaeda themes, the letter asks the Bush Administration to intervene in Pakistan for the sake of democracy. It also states that, after observing the protests in Pakistan, it seems unlikely that the upcoming Presidential and general elections will be held impartially.
As a result, Musharraf has also begun to diversify his reliance on the U.S. in favor of reviving old links in the Gulf. He has been indulging in shuttle diplomacy on behalf of Saudi Arabia, and his Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, has been issuing statements of cooperation with the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
China Imposes Moratorium on Grain-Based Biofuels
June 12 (EIRNS)The Beijing Youth Daily reported yesterday that the "rapid development of grain-based ethanol biofuels has resulted in commodity price pressures in non-developed nations." While China put forward a "National Climate Change Program" earlier this month, the country must use its grain to feed 1.3 billion people, and arable land should be reserved for food, not energy production, the Youth Daily wrote.
Basic food prices are shooting up in China. Corn (maize) is a staple grain in northeast China, and also used to feed pigs and chickens. Already in May, prices for pork were up a full 43% over a year ago, with egg prices up 30% year-on-year. Rising food costs are the basis of overall inflation rising well above 3%, and earlier this month, Peoples Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochun said they would be "paying close attention to the recent rises in pork and egg prices, which weigh heavily on China's inflation," in considering interest-rate raises and other measures. The population spends about a third of its income on food, so price rises have a big impact. During the current Five Year Plan (2006-10), China will stop exporting corn and begin to import some 350,000 tons a year.
The State Council (national cabinet) has recently decided not to approve any new grain-based ethanol projects. Ethanol production can continue, but only non-grain sources, such as grass, corn stalks, sorghum, and such plant material will be used, an official of the National Development and Reform Commission said at a Beijing seminar on biofuel development June 11. "Food-based ethanol fuel will not be the direction for China," said Xu Dingming, vice director of the Office of the National Energy Leading Group, according to Agence France Presse.
There are already four enterprises, in Jilin, Heilongjiang, Henan, and Anhui, which can produce 1.02 million tons of corn-based ethanol a year, but they will slowly shift to non-food sources. The NDRC says that China follows the United States, Brazil, and the European Union in the quantity of ethanol produced and consumed.
Chinese Economists Warn of New Financial Crash
June 15 (EIRNS)Chinese economists warned of the danger posed by pressure from "unstable, idle international funds" on Asian economies, in a roundtable discussion, sponsored by the Peoples Daily, on the situation ten years after the big 1997 Asian financial crisis. Asked about the potential for a renewed crash, Prof. Ding Zhijie of the International Business and Economics University said that people must recognize the role of international capital in the last crisis, noting that now, "developing countries have become a place for unstable, idle international funds." When "the economic situation and market confidence change," the funds will target these countries, "and [a] crisis will be inevitable." Nations have to be "prepared for any accident or emergency." Prof. Jiang Ruiping of China Foreign Affairs University warned that nations "must strengthen financial supervision, and prevent and restrict the influx of idle international funds," and "not rely heavily on international financial organizations" like the IMF.
"Currently, the scale of international idle funds is even bigger than before, and lacks effective supervision," Jiang said. The only difference was that in the 1990s, Asian currencies were falling, and now they are rising. "Due to the sharp increase of foreign exchange reserves, the East Asian market has more floating surplus funds than American and European markets. Overall, the global economic imbalance makes East Asia become a weak link in the international economic network."
Asked about the potential for "hot money" capital flows abandoning Western nations to target Asian capital markets, Xia Bin, Director of the Financial Institute of Development and Research Center of the State Council, said that the U.S. policy of "growth" in the face of its "huge multiple deficits" is "truly a kind of threat to the economic stability of other countries." He equated "hot money" speculation with U.S. government policy, without identifying the central role of the City of London. However, he asserted that China must continue to protect its financial system and "must maintain a guard on its financial door, and open up to the outside world according to its current domestic situation." In the 1997-98 crisis, China could escape the devastation which hit Southeast Asia and South Korea, because it alone in East Asia had never abandoned its international currency controls and fixed exchange rate policy. Prof. Ding also warned that Asia is far too dependent upon exports and foreign investment. A recession in the U.S. "will become a sword dangling over the head of Asian economies," he said.
However, the economists' proposals for trying to "stabilize the regional market" were far too weak to amount to anything that could really meet the scale of financial crash the world is now facing.