|Asia News Digest
U.S. Korean Experts Denounce Failure of Obama on Korea Policy
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)Following the exchange of artillery fire in the West Sea contested region off the coast of North Korea today, and North Korea's recent revelation of its uranium-enrichment program, U.S. Korean experts Jack Pritchard (former special envoy to North Korea for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush), Bob Carlin (a former top U.S. intelligence official on Korean issues), and nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker ripped into the Obama Administration for continuing the failed policies of the Bush-Cheney years, leading to the current crisis. Bush and Cheney, in 2001, ripped up the successful "Agreed Framework" negotiated by the Clinton Administration in 1994. All three experts spoke today at an event sponsored by the Korea Economic Institute in Washington.
Hecker, who was shown the completed facility for low enriched uranium (LEU) and the light water nuclear reactor (LWR) now under construction on a visit to North Korea on Nov. 12, insisted that the LEU and LWR are clearly meant for electricity, not weapons, since the better path for weapons production would have been to reopen the gas graphite reactor (which produces bomb-grade plutonium), which could be accomplished in about six months. While enriching uranium to bomb grade (90%) rather than reactor grade (3.5%) is feasible with centrifuges, it would be a very long process and not efficient compared to the route that was not taken, via the gas graphite reactor.
Hecker concluded: "The U.S. needs a policy review of our North Korea policythere has been none since 2000."
Carlin, who played a central role in negotiating the Agreed Framework in 1994, ridiculed the outrage by the White House and others over the North Korean "revelations." "Remember," he said, "North Korea has always demanded a light water reactor, for electricity, in exchange for closing their plutonium-producing graphite reactor. We were going to build one for them, with the U.S. having full control of the fuelwe would bring it in, we would take it outwith IAEA inspectors on the scene every step of the way. We [the Bush/Cheney Administration] scrapped that in 2001. All that remains is this hat" [pulling out his old hat with the KEDO logo, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, which was building the LWR facility]. We had a bite of that apple once."
Asked what response he expects in Washington, Cardin said, "I hope they realize that the policies they are following need serious reconsideration. Are they ready to do that? I just don't know."
Pritchard concurred. He said that the Chinese have always advised Washington that "if we were not talking to the North Koreans, bad things will happen, but if we were talking to them, those things are less likely. I don't think the Administration will respond on that advice."
Obama to Karzai: We Are in Charge
Nov. 23 (EIRNS)President Obama's increasingly erratic behavior was on display in Lisbon at the NATO Heads of State summit meet last week, when he fell into a quarrel with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Obama made a sudden turn-around from his earlier agreement with Karzai.
Karzai made clear that he resents the fact that his elected government cannot veto certain NATO methods, such as night raids on Afghan homes in search of Taliban fighters, raids that sometimes terrorize a household and/or result in civilian casualties. He also dislikes the fact that so many foreign workers operate outside his government's control. To him, the 1,500 workers in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul seem like the rulers.
Initially, Obama appeared to sympathize, saying Karzai is eager "to reassert full sovereignty." But, suddenly he pointed out that the United States won't allow al-Qaeda to return to Afghanistan, that the U.S. is spending billions to develop the country, and that more NATO troops would be killed without the use of tactics like night raids.
"We have to listen and learn," Obama said. "But he's got to listen to us as well."
China Building Rail Connections Across Southeast Asia
Nov. 22 (EIRNS)Construction of a high-speed rail link from Kunming, capital of China's Yunnan province, to Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, part of a project to upgrade transport connections with Southeast Asian nations generally, will start in about two months, a rail expert said. The line will be 1,920 kilometers long, said Wang Mengshu, a professor at Beijing Jiaotong University. Trains will run at about 170-200 km/h once the project is completed.
Wang told China Daily that a high-speed rail connection between southwestern China and Cambodia is also under discussion. An exploratory survey for another route that would link Yunnan and Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is underway. These three connections, along with another linking China and Vietnam, will form a network that is likely to be completed within 10 years, Wang said, and will greatly enhance the economic development of China's western regions.
There are also discussions between Thailand and China for a massive upgrading of Thailand's rail network, to modern high-speed standards. These are North-South routes which will eventually be continued down the Southeast Asia peninsula to Singapore. Ultimately there will be a leap across the straits to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and over to the city of Jakarta on Java. Plans for the development of a major deep-water port at Tavoy (Dawei) in Myanmar's south include a major rail link, tentatively named the South-South Corridor, to cross from the Indian Ocean over to the Pacific in Southern Vietnam.
China to Russia: Build Big Projects, Defend National Interests
Nov. 24Today in Moscow, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said that China and Russia have to promote large projects and expand mutual investment. "China will encourage its enterprises to take an active part in Russia's economy in fields such as infrastructure, power network reconstruction, and high-speed railway," Wen said in his keynote address to the 5th Russian-Chinese Economic Forum, co-sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Russian Economic Development Ministry, and attended by hundreds of representatives of both nations.
China and Russia both have the responsibility to defend their interests, Wen had said yesterday at his joint press conference with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The international financial crisis has left far-reaching fallout, he said, and both Beijing and Moscow are facing a variety of challenges. China supports its financial institutions in launching investment projects in other nations, such as Russia, Wen said, and Beijing will create favorable conditions to boost China-Russia investment projects. He also called for expanded cooperation in space science, nuclear power, and bioengineering. Wen said Beijing wants to increase cooperation with Moscow in Northeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Asia-Pacific region, as well as in major international organizations.
The 4,300-km border zone is a focus, Wen said. The "development of border economic relations with Russia is China's strategic priority. Our common purpose is to improve living standards of the population in the Far Eastern regions." This is a crucial region for the development of mineral-rich northeastern Eurasia, since the Russian population and infrastructure in the Far East is extremely sparse.
Russia and China will lift restrictions on use of the yuan and ruble in joint trade by the end of the year, Putin said yesterday. This is hardly any big move away from the U.S. dollar, however. Joint trade is limited, worth just about $45 billion so far this year, while China holds some $2.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves, a large part in dollars. Russia holds about $500 billion.