|Asia News Digest
Afghan Taliban Within Striking Distance of Kabul
Sept. 1 (EIRNS)Despite brave words issued from the White House and from U.S./NATO commander Gen. David Petraeus, the Afghan insurgents have taken control of Wardak province, only 22 miles away from the nation's capital, Kabul.
A senior security official in the local government who spoke to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents were effectively in control of nearly all villages in Wardak, apart from district centers, where officials exercise ever-diminishing authority from heavily guarded offices behind fortified walls. "Government officials cannot go outside the walls of their offices, and people don't ask them to deal with their issues, preferring the Taliban," he said. "This shows that the government has no authority and that more than 80% of the region is under Taliban control."
Assadullah Wahidi, a political analyst and chief editor of the Sarnawisht Daily newspaper, said the growing insurgency in the province was a result of failed policies. "The government was unable to work for the people of Wardak, and it lost their support. The gap between the people and the government is widening every day," he said. Wahidi believes Wardak is being targetted by the Taliban because of its proximity to Kabul, allowing them to demonstrate their power to the government and international community.
For local people, there is little doubt about who is calling the shots in Wardak. Mirwais, a shopkeeper in the Salar bazaar, said the Taliban recently killed a driver who had been transporting material for American forces, but no one dared bury the body.
China Is Railroad-Builder in Iran, Thailand, South Africa
Aug. 31 China's role as a railroad builder is spreading rapidly around the world. Iranian Minister of Road and Transportation Hamid Behbahani said today that China and Iran on Sept. 12 will sign the final agreement to build a rail network in the western part of Iran. The network, which is expected to be finished in two and a half years, will connect Tehran to the central cities of Arak, Malayer, Hamedan, the western city of Kermanshah, and the border town of Khosravi. Iranian officials said that the railway lines will be expanded to Iraq and connect to Syria and Mediterranean countries.
China is also engaged in talks with South Africa about building a high-speed link between Johannesburg and Durban. A memorandum of understanding has reportedly been signed for rail projects in general.
In Thailand, the Cabinet has approved a plan for a joint Thai-Chinese project to build the Thailand portion of the "Asian Railroad" from Singapore to Kunming. (Parliament must also give approval.) The project would start with a line from Bangkok to Nong Khai on the Thai/Laos border. Subsequent construction would extend the line south through Malaysia to Singapore, and north through Laos to China's Kunming. It will be a high-speed project, if Thailand agrees to the rail standards set in China for high-speed trains.
Korea High-Speed Rail Plan: One Big City
Sept. 2 (EIRNS)The Korean Government announced its strategic plan for the Korean Train Express (KTX) high-speed networks, to the Presidential Council on National Competitiveness and other bodies.
Korea's current KTX system, which connects the capital Seoul with the two major southern cities, Busan and Mokpo, will be expanded to completely unify the country. "84% of the Korean public will be able to use bullet trains enabling them to travel to 82% of all locations in the country in less than 90 minutes and 95% in less than 2 hours," according to Hong Soon-man, director of transport policy at the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs. Thus, "The entire country will essentially become one big city."
The railroad expansion will be rolled out in stages between 2014 and 2020. Initial speeds will be 250 to 300 kph (155 to 186 mph) but will be enhanced to 400 kph.
The government also plans to develop the railway industry into a new engine of growth, and build a new generation of bullet trains capable of traveling up to 430 kph by 2012, with plans to export them overseas.
What is till missing, is the political will to expand the routes North Korea, and from there to China, Russia, Mongolia, and westward to Paris.