|Asia News Digest
Japan's Prime Minister Abe Resigns
Sept. 12 (EIRNS)Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned today, after less than a year in office, unable to overcome opposition demands that Japan cease its aid to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan (and possibly, covertly, Iraq).
The impact of the political crisis on the unravelling yen carry tradewhose collapse could detonate a final explosion of the teetering world financial systemis not yet clear.
Abe's Liberal Democratic Party will choose a new leader, who will become the Prime Minister, as soon as possible, trying to resist pressure to call new elections, which they would likely lose.
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has ruled postwar Japan almost exclusively, was soundly defeated in upper house elections in July by the opposition Democratic Party, led by Ichiro Ozawa, primarily over repeated scandals within Abe's cabinet. Abe had refused to step down after that defeat, as is customary in Japanese politics.
However, Ozawa and the Democrats have now refused to extend the Anti-Terror Law, under which Japanese ships have been fueling coalition ships in the Indian Ocean which are engaged in the Afghan war. Abe, and his predecessor Junichiro Koizumi, have claimed this is not a breach of the Japanese Constitutional restriction against military operations other than self-defense. Abe said this week that he would resign if he could not persuade the Diet to extend the law which expires Nov. 1, but Ozawa would not even meet with him to discuss it.
Adm. Eiji Yoshikawa, chief of staff of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, refuted claims by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer that Pakistani destroyers would not be able to continue operations if Japan dropped out of the multinational force. According to Asahi Shimbun, Yoshikawa told a news conference a few hours before Abe's resignation that the United States is fully capable of replacing the Japanese role.
Further, the Democratic Party announced this morning, before Abe's resignation, that it will use its enhanced investigative powers in the upper house to investigate reports that the Japanese ships in the Indian Ocean have also been used to refuel American warships engaged in Iraq. The report came from a posting on the website of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, saying that Japan had contributed 86 million gallons of fuel to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The posting was subsequently removed.
Economic Traditionalist Fukuda Will Likely Replace Abe
Sept. 14 (EIRNS)Yasuo Fukuda, the 71 year-old son of former Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, will likely become the next Prime Minister after LDP leadership elections on Sept. 23. This is upsetting Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, since Fukuda is seen as a traditionalist who will slow down or reverse the free-trade "reforms" launched by neo-con darling Junichiro Koizumi and his protégé, Shinzo Abe, who resigned this week.
The Journal complained today that a Fukuda victory could result in "backsliding from Mr. Koizumi's small-government policies. That could mean more public spending to bolster the economies of hard-up provinces and regulation to protect weak industries." Even worse, in the eyes of the Journal, a Fukuda government could cause "delays in possible corporate-tax reduction and in the privatization of the giant Japan Post," the huge postal saving bank. Abe led the campaign for the speculators to steal this fund, which has over $2 trillion in savings, and another $1 trillion-plus in insurance. The Post has traditionally invested in infrastructure development.
Fukuda, who is a member of the largest faction in the LDP (now led by Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura), served in Koizumi's government, but resigned in 2004, when he criticized Koizumi for his anti-China provocations, including his regular visits to the Yasakuni Shrine. The Journal noted that Fukuda is "said to be the Japanese politician most trusted by China."
Fukuda has won the endorsement of all the leading factions, as well as top cabinet members and Koizumi himself.
Japan Will Pull Out of U.S. War in Afghanistan
Sep. 13 (EIRNS) - One result of the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is the almost certain pullout, at least temporarily, of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Fleet from the Afghan war. The Fleet has been refueling coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since 2003, despite constitutional restrictions on military operations overseas (other than UN-mandated peace-keeping missions). Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi rammed through an anti-terrorist bill for his friend Dick Cheney after 9/11, which simply declared that such refueling was "self-defense." The bill has been regularly renewed, but the upcoming Nov. 1 renewal date will almost certainly not be met.
The opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept the upper house elections in July largely based on its opposition to this breach in the pacifist constitution, and the alliance with the Cheney faction it represents. DPJ head Ichiro Ozawa's refusal to compromise on this issue was one cause of Abe's resignation.
The New York Times today quotes former Defense Minister Gen. Nakatani, who helped pass the authorization of the military operations in 2001: "It's now 100 per cent sure that our ships will have to come back at least once." The supporters of moving Japan out from under the pacifist restrictions in the Constitution will try to renew the bill at a later date, Nakatani said.
Likely Next S. Korean President Drops Anti-North Posture
Sept. 11 (EIRNS)The South Korean opposition Grand National Party's Presidential candidate, Lee Myung Bak, the likely winner of the Dec. 19 South Korean Presidential election, has just revealed his policy regarding North Korea, which represents a dramatic shift from the GNP's historic opposition to the "Sunshine Policy" of cooperation with the North.
Upon North Korea denuclearizing, as has been agreed at the Six-Party talks, Lee's new policy will take effect. It consists of a consultative body being formed, which will represent both Koreas, with five subcommittees, on economy, education, finance, infrastructure, and welfare.
This policy is just the beginning, says Lee, for a much broader South Korea regional policy for Northeast Asia economic cooperative relations, with South Korea providing capital and technologies, with North Korea's highly skilled labor and Russia's bountiful resources working together. This is to be the main contributor for a new Inter-Korean Relationship.
Japan Launches the Largest Lunar Mission Since Apollo
Sept. 14 (EIRNS)Japan has successfully launched and put into Earth orbit its Selene lunar orbit explorer, Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced today. The agency said that the launch of Selene, which is also called KAGUYA and has been subject to delays for four years due to technical problems, was carried out by an H-IIA launch vehicle at 10:31 a.m. local time, according to Ria Novosti. "The launch vehicle flew smoothly, and, at about 45 minutes and 34 seconds after lift-off, the separation of the KAGUYA was confirmed," JAXA announced.
The spacecraft will orbit the Earth twice, and after 20 days, it will head for the Moon, reaching its orbit about 100 km above the Lunar surface by the end of October. The selenological and engineering explorer Selene is Japan's first large lunar explorer. It consists of a main orbiter and two small satellites.
This mission is the largest Lunar mission since the U.S. Apollo program, examining the Moon for information on its elemental and mineralogical composition, surface and sub-surface structure, and its magnetic and gravitational fields.
Roh: South Korea To Become a Leader in Fusion Energy
Sept. 14 (EIRNS)South Korea will become one of the world's top five countries developing nuclear fusion, President Roh Moo-hyun said today, at the dedication ceremony for the Korea Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) facility at the National Fusion Research Institute. The reactor, which uses advanced superconducting magnets, was developed over 12 years. "South Korea has to overcome its weakness as a resources-poor nation, with advanced technologies," Roh told the 400 fusion scientists, diplomats, and guests at the dedication. "The KSTAR reactor, independently designed and built by South Korean scientists, demonstrates the nation's status as a technology power." Technology developed for KSTAR will be applied to the ITER project.
South Korea long ago made the decision to deal with its paucity of natural resources by going nuclear. Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Energy, Young-Ju Kim, announced Sept. 13 that he had approved the construction of two new nuclear plants, Shin-Kori units 3 and 4, to produce 1350 MW each, with a design life of 60 years. They will come on line in 2013 and 2014. These new plants use the new APR-1400 design of Doosan Heavy Industries. South Korea operates 20 nuclear reactors, producing 40% of its electricity; two other reactors, under construction, are 35% complete.