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North Korea: Nukes, Drugs, Counterfeit Goods, Smuggling… It’s All Good January 31, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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In what I can only describe as a pathetically irresponsible move, the US is currently in talks with North Korea regarding their more-than-shady business dealings. The results from these particular meetings will, according to a January 31, 2007 Taipei Times article, determine “the duration of the nuclear discussions”, which are set to resume February 8, 2007.

In other words, Pyongyang will agree to chit-chat with the others if Washington releases their accounts in Macau, and allows the hermit state to resume making money from the various illegal activities, (mass drug production and sales, weapons proliferation, counterfeit goods and more) it once conducted almost completely unchecked.

No doubt the others involved (Japan, China, Russia, and South Korea) will be expected to do the same. All of this in the hopes that the “September 2005 pact where the North pledged to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees”, will come into effect.

I realize Russia and China will have no problem with this, but I doubt the US, Japan and South Korea will enjoy swallowing this pill. Especially when everyone knows North Korea will continue to develop its nuclear program despite the countless agreements and pacts.

So, why even hold the Six Party talks? Maybe all the states involved are using the forum as a way of “killing time” while they each come up with a strategy to handle regional co-existence, for the next hundred years.

What do you think?

Japan & China Aim for Strategic Ties January 30, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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According to a China Daily report (29-01-2007) Japan and China will now endeavour to build mutually beneficial ties.

After three days of meetings (seventh round of strategic talks between the two countries), in Hangzhou, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and Japan’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Shotaro Yachi exited the affair expressing feelings of “heavy responsibility” towards promoting better bi-lateral relations.

When it comes to relative gains, these two giants stand to do much better if they maintain a healthy relationship. As the region grows and becomes more important in the world (in every which way), tension between actors will rise and eventually fall, and undesirable events will occur. However, things will go much more smoothly for North-East Asia if ties between Japan and China, are strong.

Im eager to read reports, of this latest meeting, from the Japanese side.

Japanese Birth Giving Machines January 29, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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It sounds like a bad movie, or some far off humanity-saving invention, however it is nothing more than the idiotic comments of, Hakuo Yanagisawa, Japans Health Minister.

No, it wasnt a small joke to make an uncomfortable topic easier to approach. Nor was it a fumbled speech. It was all real, and intentional. I read about this in a January 29, 2007, BBC News story, and I must admit I wasnt surprised.

Despite all the great things about Japan, its people and culture, the fact remains that Japanese society is still quite backwards when it comes to women related issues.

According to the article, Japan’s prime minister has rebuked his health minister, and warned the minister to be more careful. What exactly does that mean? Be careful, dont say that kind of stuff in public?

Whether or not one says such things, in public, is irrelevant. What matters is how they truly feel (and believe) about these matters. As long as the Japanese people continue to think that way about women, problems like low fertility rates will go on.

One day a (baby-making) birth-giving machine may actually be needed.

No More Foreign Maps of China January 26, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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An article that appeared in the China Daily, on January 25, 2007 noted that beginning March 1, 2007 a new regulation restricting surveying and mapping by foreigners will be implemented.

Chinas government claims this regulation, will strengthen China’s management of surveying and mapping by foreign organizations and individuals, protect national security, and promote economic and scientific cooperation between China and other countries.

So, if youre a foreigner and wish to engage in surveying and mapping, you must go through the steps of obtaining, approval from the central government and (heres the best part) accept supervision from local governments. In other words you must agree to have a baby-sitter watch over you while you work.

According to the State Bureau of Survey and Mapping, foreigners who illegally survey, gather and publish geographical information on China will be severely punished.

This explains why they recently decided to practice shooting down satellites.

Nanjing Massacre: Myth January 25, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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No doubt an upcoming film by Japanese director, Satoru Mizushima, (if it is ever released) will get the Chinese all upset again, and once more well be swamped with completely exaggerated tales of Chinese people being viciously victimized by the evil Japanese, during the Second World War Over 60 years ago.

Im not saying certain atrocities did not occur while China was under Japanese control, but we all know that the Chinese government enjoys adding its own spin to history. And that is why, according to a January 25, 2007 Japan Times article, the film is being planned. To “strike back against an erroneous understanding of history.

Mr. Mizushimas goal (and supporters such as Upper House members Hirofumi Ryu and Jin Matsubara, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara and journalist Yoshiko Sakurai) is to stop the on-going China/Hollywood fictional version of what happened from becoming an established fact. 

The director believes he has a responsibility to spread a correct understanding of history, without spreading anti-Chinese ideology. Can we ever expect the same from the Chinese side?

Keep an eye out for, “Nanking No Shinjitsu” (The Truth About Nanjing).

Beating Bullies January 24, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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No one likes a bully, and those guilty of bullying should be punished. Agreed? Well, a Japanese government-appointed panel seems to think so, and they go so far as to suggest bringing back corporal punishments in the school system.

A BBC News story, which appeared today, noted that the Japanese panel did not say they favour beating students, as a form of punishment, but they did make it clear that there had to be “an end to a policy of leniency”. Especially where bullying is concerned.

Granted this has been a growing problem in the Japanese school system for a number of years. As a matter of fact, “bullying was found to be involved in 14 of 40 youth suicides from 1999 to 2005”. However, I wonder if bringing back corporal punishment really is the answer.

Wouldn’t a better solution be to, first of all, have teachers not ignore these acts, and involve both sets of parents? It should be up to the child’s parent(s) to decide whether or not disciplining is in order, not some teacher or other school staff.

After-all, a bully is, in the end, the product of his/her parents, and that is where the solution lies. At home. 

North-East Asian Semi-Conductor Industry: China Wants In January 23, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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On January 18, 2007 The International Herald Tribune reported that US based Intel had received approval from China to build a semi-conductor manufacturing plant in the Dalian Economic and Technological Development Zone.

Of course, this all depends on the types of counter-incentives India will be offering the chip-maker, and what kind of restrictions the US would impose on the company (in terms of export controls) if it decided to settle in China.

However, if it ends up Chinabound, Intel will be joining the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and South Koreas Hynix.

The plant, which may make computer processor chips, may cost $3 billion to $3.5 billion to build, said Rick Hsu, an analyst at Nomura Securities in Taipei. China undoubtedly looks forward to having Intel since according to the article it will have a cluster effect and attract, other technology-related investments.

And speaking of semi-conductors, the Taipei Times reported today that Japans Dai Nippon Printing plans to invest ¥20 billion in producing semiconductor parts in Taiwan. Apparently Dai Nippon Printing has already bought land in northern Taiwan to build a new factory to produce photomasks (used to print circuits on wafers).

Construction should begin this Spring, and the plant is scheduled to start operating in 2008. Sales at the plant are projected at ¥5 billion for the year to March 2009 and ¥12 billion the following year.

In all honesty, I know next-to-nothing about the field of semi-conductors, but during the brief research that went into writing this particular post I did notice that it seems to be dominated by North-East Asian companies, most notably, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. This explains why China is eager to get a bigger share of the pie.

Russia Captures Japanese Ship January 22, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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If North Korean antics and Chinese ambitions were not enough of an incentive for Japan to revamp its constitution, and flex its military and economic muscles, surely Russias ongoing aggression against the Land of the Rising Sun, is reason enough.

Officials in Tokyo, today, reported that once again Russia had seized a Japanese fishing boat near a chain of disputed islands known in Japan as the Northern Territories. This is the same argument that has stopped both countries from signing a peace treaty officially ending World War 2.

By the way, these islands didnt belong to Russia in the first place. They were seized by the Soviet Union at the end of the war in 1945.

A report in todays BBC News mentioned that, in August, a Russian coast guard boat opened fire on a Japanese fishing vessel, killing one of its four crew members. In that incident, Moscow accused the boat of poaching in its waters, and detained the vessel’s captain for a month and a half.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, it is the second time a Japanese fishing vessel has been seized by Russia in the area since the two countries agreed in 1998 to allow Japanese fishing boats to operate in some waters close to the territories.

I understand Japans slow pace towards reform, but things have to change because little by little the competition is chipping away at the country, the neighbours arent being neighbourly, and the bad guys are watching/waiting.

China Prepares For Space War January 19, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer recently stated that, the United States should be optimistic about China, work on its ties with Beijing and not exaggerate the dangers of the rise of the Asian giant.

A rising China isn’t necessarily a danger to America.”

Despite Chinas use, last week, of a ground-based medium-range ballistic missile to destroy a weather satellite, I tend to mostly agree with the foreign ministers comment.

However, as noted in todays BBC News story relating to this event, Japans chief cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, brings up a couple of good points, but mostly applicable to the region.

He said, “We are concerned about it firstly from the point of view of peaceful use of space, and secondly from the safety perspective.

Okay, space junk flying around the planet cant be good. The last time this sort of thing occurred was in 1985, when the US destroyed a satellite and, as printed in a January 19, 2007 International Herald Tribune report, the last trackable debris took 17 years to clear out. And according to American Aviation Week and Space Technology, this latest move could have left “considerable space debris in an orbit used by many different satellites”.

As a matteroffact, These tests were halted over concerns that the debris they produced could harm civilian and military satellite operations.

Putting safety concerns aside (from the debris that is), although China is not a threat to America, it can definitely be a threat to the neighbourhood. Of course, it means others (meaning Japan) in North-East Asia will respond in the fashion they think best.

An act of this nature does nothing to lower suspicions Japan has over Chinas intentions in the region. While the technology is not new, it does underline the growing capabilities of China’s armed forces, mentioned BBC News. China can now shoot down spy satellites operated by other nations, and lets not forget other non-military satellites too.

Think of the potential chaos which would result from the destruction of a few communication satellites serving Taiwan and Japan.

It doesnt take a genius to read between the lines. The Chinese may not want to rule the world but they do want to rule Asia. This kind of muscle flexing is a sure sign.

Keep the following in mind “This is the first real escalation in the weaponization of space that we’ve seen in 20 years,” said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launchings and space activity. “It ends a long period of restraint.” It also starts a new chapter in regional relations.

Japanese Seniors Moving North January 18, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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An interesting story appeared in todays Japan Times claiming that Hokkaido is looking to attract retirees to its shores. According to the story, Hokkaido has launched an aggressive campaign to lure retiring baby boomers to the northern island.

Why would you want your cities filled with cranky old folks?

The prefecture believes that if it can get 3,000 baby boomers to move there, they will bring with them as much as 570 billion yen in economic benefits.

Actually it makes a lot of sense when you take into consideration the longer lives we live, and the level of activity seniors exercise compared to just a few decades ago. Its no longer just a bunch of old people complaining about the local youths, and their aching knees. These days, senior citizens are quite active, and continue to spend well after retiring.

For Hokkaido, where the benefits of the country’s current economic expansion have been slow in coming, this plan of action is smart. Especially when you consider the high number of baby-boomers, in Japan.

When you think about it, for someone who has spent their entire working-life battling Tokyos pollution, terribly hot summers and other challenges, enjoying your last years where, there is no rainy season and few cedar trees, which release hay fever-causing pollen, is very appealing. The one challenge is Hokkaidos cold winters At least for those not accustomed to the occasional -7 Celsius winter days.