|Asia News Digest
Korean and Russian Leaders Announce Progress on Joint Development
Nov. 2 (EIRNS)South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak stopped off in Russia on the way to the G20 summit in Cannes, France; he met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in St. Petersburg, to further the plans for the Korea Gasline project through North Korea.
President Lee's office said: "The two leaders agreed that if carried out successfully, the project to import Russian natural gas will bring economic benefits to all three countries," and that Seoul expects Russia's cooperation in resolving the North's nuclear stalemate. Lee said the two countries' economic collaboration will contribute to prosperity and peace in Northeast Asia, a major benefit for all of Asia.
The Korean-Russian perspective is that the pipeline would be only the first step. The two leaders agreed that once the security problems were dealt with, they could consider supplying surplus electricity as well as gas, from the Russian Far East to South Korea via North Korea.
Lee elaborated, "I visited Siberia and the Russian Far East a number of times when I was a businessman, confirmed the infinite potential of the region with my own eyes, and have sought bilateral economic cooperation since."
Nikolai Dubik, head of Gazprom's legal department, provided a timeline: Commercial negotiations on the basic conditions related to the pipeline gas project are to be finished by January, a deal signed by April. Construction is supposed to be completed by December 2016, to begin supplying in January 2017.
Lee also opened the door for a summit with the North's Kim Jong-il, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, published Nov. 1. "There will be a point in time where the South, the North and Russia hold three-way discussions.... But before reaching that stage, a lot of conditions must be fulfilled. Discussions on the gas pipeline project could proceed swiftly, or not. It is difficult to predict for now." Lee placed no preconditions on a possible summit with the North, saying only that it would be useful.
U.S. Analyst: Threats Against Libya, Syria Make Efforts in Korea Harder
Nov. 5 (EIRNS)Raymond Colston, recently appointed to the new post of National Intelligence Manager for Korea for the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI), after many years at the Defense Intelligence Agency, warned, at a Washington forum yesterday, that efforts to engage North Korea in discussions about ending their nuclear programs "are only that much harder," due to the military operations and threats against Libya and Syria.
Asked by EIR if North Korea were not justified in wishing to keep its nuclear program, after seeing what the British and the U.S. did to Iraq and Libya (which gave up their nuclear programs and were then destroyed militarily), and the continuing war threats from Obama, Colston told the Wilson Center audience that North Korean leaders pointed to Iraq and Libya as justification for their resistance to giving up their nuclear program. Not wishing to comment on President Obama or the issue of preemptive war, Colston nonetheless made clear that the military adventures in the Mideast are undermining U.S. diplomatic efforts in Asia. Colston had early insisted that before we condemn North Korea, we had better reflect on our own behavior, not only in the Koreas, but in Vietnam, Iraq, and elsewhere. He said the U.S. must have some humility in dealing with North Korea, after reviewing our disastrous miscalculations elsewhere.
China Warns on Extensive Flood Damage to Thai Rice Crop
Nov. 6 (EIRNS)"Thai floods may push up global rice prices," according to China's People's Daily. The Thai agricultural department has already indicated that Thai rice output for the current crop will drop from 25 million metric tons to 19 million. But, additionally, "The floods may also make the rice yield of the second quarter drop by 7 million tons because much seed rice was washed away in the floods."
Thailand accounts for about 30% of the world's rice exports. "There is no doubt that rice supplies in Southeast Asia will be influenced by the floods in Thailand, which may cause further rising food prices.... Analysts indicated that the underproduction of rice in Thailand due to floods will heighten Asian countries' concern with inflation and increase the pressure on them to fight it."
Fortunately, rice-dependent South and East Asian countries are self-sufficient, or nearly so, in rice. Africa is, however, a major rice importer.
Within Thailand, there will not be a shortage of rice, but supplies of "garden crops," and animal feed stocks have been affected by the floods.
Empire Royalists Use Thai Flood Catastrophe as Destabilization Tool
Nov. 4 (EIRNS)The floods in Thailand have caused over 400 deaths, while one-fifth of the capital Bangkok is now under water, seven industrial parks with 1,000-plus factories, including those of Sony, Toyota, Nikon, etc., are flooded and closed, and nearly 700,000 workers are out of work. Thirteen commercial banks have temporarily closed a total of 556 branches in flood-hit provinces.
The new Pheu Thai government under Yingluck Shinawatra (sister to ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted by a military coup), began dealing with the pending flood catastrophe even before taking office just over two months ago. But, besides having to deal with the 16,000 million cubic meters (by one estimate) of extra water, the opposition Democratic Party and other Royalist forces serving British imperial interests are working to destabilize the popular, nationalist government yet again.
Rumors of direct sabotage of flood-control measures, especially by the Royal Irrigation Department management of upriver dams and sluices, are not confirmed at this point; it is far more important to rescue people, provide food, shelter, and medical care, and otherwise deal with immediate problems, than to conduct a full investigation. But non-cooperation and defiance of government directives by Democratic Party officials and other anti-Yingluck forces is widespread, while these people are blaming the crisis on Yingluck. The Army, still led by a general who was key to the ouster of Thaksin, has called for a state of emergency to be imposed, which would put great political power in the hands of the military. The Royalist press touts a survey that praises the Army for its flood-relief efforts.
Worst of all is the attempt in the midst of this misery, heartbreak, and loss, to whip up even greater fear and hysteria. Thanong Khanthong, editor of The Nation newspaper, for example, wrote today: "The mismanagement of this whole affair appears to follow a scenario of total disaster. Once the capital runs out of food, drinking water, electricity and the possible breakdown of communications, we can kiss Bangkok goodbye. By that time, we will forever lose our capital."
In the days just prior to the 2006 coup which ousted him, Thaksin was moving towards design and implementation of large scale, anti-flooding, anti-drought water-control systems for all of Thailand. Neither the Army nor the following Democratic Administration moved the plans an inch forward.