|Asia News Digest
U.K.-Based Terrorists Try Mumbai II in Bangladesh
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)British intelligence is in the middle of the civil war-like situation that has developed in Bangladesh. TNN news agency reported from Dhaka on some of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) rebels were seen wearing distinctive orange-colored bandanas, colors belonging to a U.K.-based Islamist organization, Hizb-ut-Tahrir. According to terrorism analysts, Tahrir has been focused on Bangladesh for the past couple of years, seeking to turn the nation into an Islamist caliphate.
Meanwhile, more details of the massacre of the Bangladeshi Army officers have begun to come out. There were reports of a mass grave where at least 38 Army officers were buried. Latest report indicates that 100s of dead, some of whom were wives and children of the Army officers, have been identified.
According to New Delhi sources, persistent threats to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina increase the possibility of mutiny. According to Maj. Gen. Muniruzzaman of the Bangladesh Institute for Peace and Security Studies, this operation must have been planned for months. "It was a huge intelligence failure and has security implications of a grave nature for Bangladesh and India." He added that for India, this event increased the threat of movement of "transnational terrorists into India."
Indian officials, who are following the developments in Dhaka closely, said that, notwithstanding the surrender by BDR rebels, the situation was "serious" because the real planners and causes still remained unclear. Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh has sent Washington's full support to the premier.
The immediate dangers for Hasina Wazed are several: first, there will certainly be short-term instability in her fledgling government if a concerted effort is made to weed out the rebellious elements. Second, there is a total collapse in the command structure in BDR since it became clear that at least 12 senior commanders (including the director-general, and his deputy) were killed, and their bodies were dumped in the sewer. One positive note is that the army, under Gen. Moeen Ahmed, has weighed in on the side of the Sheikh Hasina government.
China Denounces French Sale of Opium War Booty
Feb. 25 (EIRNS)The Chinese government has strongly denounced the French attempt to auction off two of the greatest treasures stolen by the British and the French from the Summer Palace in Beijing, which was pillaged and burned as the final act of sacrilege of the Opium Wars of 1840-60. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a news conference Feb. 24: "The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has formally informed the auctioneer of our strong opposition to the auction and clearly demanded its cancellation."
The bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit were part of a fountain of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals in the Summer Palace. Five of the 12 heads have been recovered and are now displayed in a Beijing museum. Legal efforts to prevent the auction, which is selling off the massive collection of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent from the Grand Palais exhibition hall in Paris, failed when a French court not only rejected the demand to stop the auction, but, in fine colonial fashion, fined the plaintiffs for holding up the sale, which started Feb. 23.
To emphasize the still-rampant colonial mentality of the French elites, Saint Laurent's former business manager and "companion" Pierre Berge offered to return the sculptures in exchange for Chinese human rights guarantees and permission for the Nazi-loving Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. Ma Zhaoxu responded: "Using the pretext of human rights to infringe on the Chinese people's fundamental cultural rights is just ridiculous."
Ma counterposed to the French outrage the recent visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which produced "positive results," when Clinton made clear that there are crucial matters of world affairs to be resolved by the U.S. and China, which will not be diverted over demands from the human rights mafia.
The raid on the Summer Palace was led by Lord Elgin, the son of the Earl of Elgin Thomas Bruce who had stolen the so-called "Elgin marbles"the Classical Greek sculptures hacked from the face of the Parthenon in Athens by Lord Elginwhich still remain in the U.K. todayand "Chinese" Gordon, who finally met his demise in Sudan, where the British are still seeking revenge.
Japan's Aso Advises Obama on High-Speed Rail
Feb. 25 (EIRNS)Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso spent over an hour in intense private conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 24. The major items on the agenda were re-confirming the close ties between Japan and the United States, dealing with the devastating economic collapse, and relations with the troublesome state of North Korea.
However, according to an interview Aso gave to the Washington Post, high-speed rail was an important addition to the conversation. Aso noted that in Tokyo, there are over 10 million people, and 76% rely on the railroads; in U.S., he pointed out, over 90% travel by auto."
A significant, if modest, allotment for high-speed rail is contained in the Obama stimulus bill. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says high-speed rail could be a signature issue for Obama. "I do think this is the transformational issue for this administration when it comes to transportation," LaHood said. "I think President Obama would like to be known as the high-speed rail president, and I think he can be."
Japan's Industrial Production Devastated by World Crisis
Feb. 27 -(EIRNS)-The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan the world's second-largest national economyhad to report sharp contractions in industrial production and shipments in January, in its preliminary report released today. Industrial production mining and manufacturingin January fell 10% from December, a post-war monthly record and the fourth sharp drop in a row; from a year ago, production has contracted 30.8%.
Just two days ago, the Finance Ministry had to report that Japan's exports had crashed by 45.7% in January, from a year ago, with vehicles, auto parts, and semiconductors hardest hit.
According to METI, industrial shipments were down 11.4% from a month ago, and 31.6% from last yearfrom the base year of 2005, both industry and shipment indices were just 76 out of 100. Demonstrating the "gridlock" of the Japanese and world economy, the inventory ratio was up 11.6% from December and a full 51.3% from last year, despite production decreases.
The worst hit industries were transport equipment, especially larger automobiles; electronic parts, especially semiconductors, which are shipped to China for use in the processing trade for consumption in the EU and U.S., and general machinery, the Ministry reported.
Production is expected to fall further this month, by over 8%, an expectation much more likely to be fulfilled than the sanguine projection that production will start rising in March.
The METI is acknowledging, as Xinhua reported today, that the entire economy, not just the export-oriented sectors, is being dragged under by the world crisis, and to an extent much deeper than expected. Finance Minister Koaru Yosano told the press today that "the recession is having an increasing impact on the real economy," as all 16 industrial sectors have had to cut output.
Some of the figures: non-ferrous metal production is down one-third from last year; iron and steel, over 40%. General machinery is down over 36%, and electrical machinery almost 25%. Cars and trucks production is down almost 45% from a year ago, and Japanese special sectors were devastated: precision instruments were down 23.7% from a year ago; industrial robots down 56%, and in the machine-tool sector, high speed tool production was down 27.5%; diamond tools by 43.1% and electric machine tools by 27.3%!
An additional factor hitting production, is that Japanese industry has become more export-reliant over the past 10 years, according to Bank of Japan figures cited by China Daily today. Industry exported 21% of their products in 2008, up from 16% in 1998.
Last week, Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa warned that the economy will remain in a "severe" state next quarter, and that investors are not going to provide producers with any credit. The Bank may have to start buying corporate bonds for the first time, to try to generate some credit, according to China Daily.