|Asia News Digest
Japan To Impose Restrictions on 'Piranha' Hedge Funds
Sep. 6 (EIRNS)Japan's newly appointed Financial Services Minister, Yoshimi Watanabe, told the press yesterday, "We'd like to bring down hedges surrounding the Japanese markets, and attract investment from around the world." He said he wanted to give assurances that the Japanese market remained "a pond where fish from overseas could swim.... However, when piranhas happen to come, we have to take them out." He added that Japan "cannot judge whether hedge funds are piranhas until we see their teeth. Those who break compliance rules will be considered piranhas, and those who do not do so will not be considered as such," he said.
The new Financial Instruments and Exchange Law will upgrade the existing Securities and Exchange Law and other financial regulations. It will come into full effect Sept. 30.
Russia Dramatically Upgrades Relations with Indonesia
Sept. 8 (EIRNS)Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a $1 billion arms deal with Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, while visiting Jakarta this week on the way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Australia. As the first Russian leader in 50 years to visit the giant of Southeast Asia, Putin signed deals totaling over $8 billion, including a linkup between Indonesia's state energy company Pertamina and Russia's Lukoil for oil and gas exploration; a huge bauxite mining project in Kalimantan; links between state banks Bank Mandiri and Alfa Bank; and trade deals.
Although the United States is reestablishing military relations with Indonesia, the U.S. arms embargo from 1998-2005, and similar restrictions from the European Union, taught Indonesia a lesson about sovereignty. "Requirements for purchasing arms from Western countries are complicated, with preconditions attached, such as human rights, accountability, not to mention licensing," Indonesian Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono told reporters in Jakarta. "In our past experience with Britain, we were not allowed to use Scorpion tanks in Aceh, even though we were facing armed separatists." There are no strings attached to the Russian deal.
Russia has also extended a $1 billion line of credit to Indonesia for 15 years.
North Korea Agrees To Dismantle Its Nuclear Program This Year
Sept. 2 (EIRNS)U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill announced in Geneva this afternoon, that the North Korean government "will provide a full declaration of all their nuclear programs and will disable their nuclear programs by the end of this year, 2007," reported Reuters. Hill's declaration followed the conclusion of the second day of two days of talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Gye-gwan. "We made it clear, we showed clear willingness to declare and dismantle all nuclear facilities," said Kim, reported Associated Press. "We are happy with the way the peace talks went." The two discussed a range of issues, one of which, Kim said, was removing North Korea from the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. "In return for this we will receive political and economic compensation," Kim said. "We wouldn't be an enemy country anymore."
South Korea To Open an Experimental Fusion Testbed
Sept. 8 (EIRNS)South Korea has completed building an experimental fusion energy testbed that will be unveiled next week, South Korea's National Fusion Research Institute said Sept. 6. The state-run laboratory in Daejeon told YonHap News that the construction work on the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) took nearly 12 years and cost the country 309 billion won (US$328.7 million). They said if all goes well, plasma is to be created for sustained operations in the second half of 2008.
KSTAR uses superconducting materials identical to those of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and has been built with local technology. The Ministry of Science and Technology said it wants to become one of the top five nuclear fusion energy powers by 2021, and build its own commercial fusion reactor around 2040. ITER, which is being built in France, is expected to allow the world to use fusion energy as a power source after 2030.
Thailand Will Seek Out 200 Nuclear Experts
Sept. 4 (EIRNS)Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont told the press yesterday, "It will take us 10 to 15 years to have the first nuclear power plant, and we need 200 nuclear experts to help us." The experts are to be sought around the world. Thailand's state energy company, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), plans to invest $6 billion to build the 4 GW plant, which is expected to be operational in 2020.
However, Thailand's King, speaking to Thai ambassadors and Foreign Ministry officials, advised "extreme caution because of potential dangers and social conflicts" in the use of nuclear energy, according to The Nation. This prompted the Nuclear Power Infrastructure Preparation Committee to request a meeting of the Science and Energy Ministers with the King, to "listen to his advice," as the Thai press carefully put it.
Currency Fluctuations, Decline in U.S. Imports, Destroy Export Industries in Southeast Asia
Sept. 6 (EIRNS)Reports from Thailand and the Philippines indicate that the dollar collapse is driving dozens, perhaps hundreds, of export factories out of business. A source from Bangkok told EIR that 3,000 firms are behind in their payments to the government for social security, and may be shut down, threatening over 1 million jobs. One huge tennis shoe factory closed suddenly, dumping 5,000 jobs. Trade unions have organized demonstrations to demand government action to stop factory closings.
In the Philippines, 75 small and medium-sized export businesses have closed this year. Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters' Confederation, appealed to the central bank to reconsider its foreign exchange policy and slow down the peso's appreciation (i.e., the dollar's collapse), urging that the peso be made to remain within a fixed range to the dollar. "We cannot survive with the presently strong peso, especially one that rapidly appreciates or one that widely fluctuates," Ortiz-Luis said. "The strong-peso-equals-a-strong-economy argument is only a myth.... We only have to look at the export figures to know that while total export revenues are increasing, the fact is, 80% of our exports are labor-intensive and have thus fallen victim to the appreciating peso," he said.
The peso has gained 5% against the dollar since the start of the year, while the Thai baht has gained nearly 11%.
Change of Policy Towards Myanmar?
Sept. 8 (EIRNS) - President George W. Bush told the press yesterday that he had invited Southeast Asian leaders to Texas for a summit, including an official from Myanmar, despite the fact that he spent much of his time at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, in Australia this week lambasting the Myanmar regime, while his wife has made Myanmar-bashing her favorite pastime.
The White House, however, said that all heads of state of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had been invited, except Myanmar, whose "level of participation is to be determined."