|Asia News Digest
Punjab's Governor Assassinated: An Inside Job
Jan. 4 (EIRNS)The gunning-down today of Pakistan's most powerful Punjab state governor, Salman Taseer, in broad daylight, in Lahore, allegedly by one of his body guards, is indicative of how deeply rooted is the link between Pakistan's military intelligence service, ISI, and the Islamic extremists. The assassination, described by the Pakistani media as the most high-profile assassination in Pakistan since that of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007, was organized to remove Taseer because of his leading stance against Pakistan's blasphemy law. The blasphemy law had come under greater scrutiny in recent weeks, after a Christian woman, Asia Bibi, was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The law effectively orders death for anyone convicted of insulting Islam.
Taseer was a member of Bhutto's People's Party, and Interior Minister Rahman Malik told reporters that the suspect, who has since surrendered to the police, killed Taseer because "the governor described the blasphemy laws as a black law." "He was the most courageous voice after Benazir Bhutto on the rights of women and religious minorities," said Farahnaz Ispahani, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari, and wife of Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani.
The killing has made Washington take note of the developments. Since it was the Islamic extremists of Wahhabi variety who were targeting the anti-blasphemy leaders, it is evident to Washington that Pakistani intelligence is working hand-in-glove with these dangerous elements. Soon after the assassination, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter issued a statement saying, "He [Taseer] had the courage of his convictions and was a champion of tolerance. His death is a great loss to the people of Pakistan."
In Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) released the following:
"Governor Taseer was a proud champion of democracy and respect for the rights of women and minorities. He fearlessly stood up to the threats of extremists, and lost his life in defense of moderation and tolerance, values shared by most Pakistani citizens. The best way to honor his legacy is to continue resisting violent extremism and supporting the core principles on which Pakistan was founded."
Russia-China Oil Pipeline Opened
Jan. 2 (EIRNS)Today, 42,000 tons of crude oil flowed from Russia, the world's biggest supplier, to China, in the first full day of operation of the new Skovorodino-Daqing pipeline. The 1,000 km pipeline will transport 15 million tons of crude oil per year from Russia to China from 2011 to 2030.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had officially opened the pipeline during his visit to the Amur region of eastern Siberia in August, has praised the strategic project not only for increasing Russian-Chinese energy cooperation, but also for giving Russia the opportunity to diversify its energy exports, which now rely heavily on the European market.
China Developing Capacity To Reprocess Nuclear Fuel
Jan. 3 (EIRNS)Chinese scientists have developed a technology which will make it possible to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, CCTV reported today. With this technology, China will join the U.S., Russia, India, France, and the U.K., all nations which already can extract uranium and plutonium from used nuclear fuel rods, expanding the power-generating capacity of the same fuel some 60 times. Each nuclear nation has to develop its own reprocessing capability due to strict regulation of plutonium extraction, especially by the U.S., which refuses any reprocessing technology to any nation which has purchased a U.S. nuclear plant. Chinese scientists had been working on this technology for 24 years.
The technology, although expensive to use, will greatly increase China's ability to generate electricity from nuclear plants. The country now has 12 operational nuclear reactors, with a power-generating capacity of 10-15 GW, and another 23 under construction, so that China will greatly increase that capacity by 2020. The official target is a 40 GW capacity by 2020, but the government has also indicated that China could build some 60 new plants, to create a capacity of as much as 80 GW by that year. By then, without the ability to reprocess, China would have to import 60% of its uranium. "With the new technology, China's existing detected uranium resources can be used for 3,000 years," CCTV announced today. Reprocessing is also supported by Russia, France, the U.K., and China, as a way to deal with "nuclear" waste, greatly reducing the need for long-term storage.
Vietnam Announces Significant Fall in Rice Export Volume
Jan. 4 (EIRNS)Vietnam, the world largest rice exporter, may cut rice exports to 5.5 million tons this year, down from 6.8 million tons last year, the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) estimates. More alarmingly, only 500,000 tons would be delivered in the early part of this year against 2.5 million tons delivered during the same period last year, Pham Van Bay, VFA deputy chairman said. Thus the estimate for year's export deficit of 1.3 million tons, assumes that rice exports can rise by 700,000 tons in the later part of this year.
The explanation given by Bay for the shortfall is the low reserve volume of 800,000 tons of rice transferred from last year to 2011. This volume was much lower than the 1.4 million tons carried over from 2009. However, the stated drop in carryover is only 600,000 tons, far less than the full year or early year expected deficits. Something, something major, does not add up.
The 2010 crop in Vietnam was said to have increased to 40 million tons, up 2.7%, a new record. During 2010, Vietnam's export price rose moderately by $22 a ton to $511 for five-per-cent broken rice.
But this shortfall occurring in the current hyperinflationary climate may rapidly shoot prices far higher. The world rice export market is relatively small, at only 31.4 million tons in 2010, since only a few major rice-eating Asian countries buy any substantial portion of their consumption on the world market. The loss of 2 million tons as the year begins is a very bad sign, for prices, and critically, for supply.
Asia Denounces Inflationary Pressures Driven by Bailouts
Jan. 5 (EIRNS)Thailand's English-language paper, The Nation, editorialized as follows yesterday. "With the dollar devaluation underway, prices of commodities have shot sky-high. Higher commodity prices translate into higher production costs and a higher cost of living for people around the world. The cause of inflationary pressure lies in the central banks' pumping in liquidity to shore up the financial systems and national economies. The world is now being flooded with liquidity. We have more paper money/liquidity than the underlying productive assets. Investors and money managers have exhausted their investment avenues. Now they are looking to hold solid assets."
In China, People's Daily regular columnist Li Hong says, "Some analysts say the U.S. government policy to extend Bush-era tax cuts to all American families, despite its mountain-high national debts, and the Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" monetary policy, have drawn gripes of both Europe and China, as the extreme measures not only will risk the U.S.'s own economy but also endanger the global one, which is in an anemic recovery. Their consolidated stance in opposing 'irresponsible' U.S. economic policies has made the two closer in relations.
"By printing more money and buying long-term U.S. debts, the world's largest economy is flooding the market with paper bills, effectively dragging down the value of the dollar assets. Also, an over-supply of the dollars has depreciated the currency itself, and caused considerable price rises in oil, food and other key commodities. As a result, inflation has raked up in November and December in China and other emerging economies."