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The View from Taiwan: Ma Ying-jeou February 14, 2007

Posted by David in Taiwan.
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A very good blog on Taiwan is Michael Turton’s The View from Taiwan (michaelturton.blogspot.com), and these days he’s posted quite a bit about the former mayor of Taipei and, until very recently, chairman of the Kuomintang, Ma Ying-jeou.

I recommend stopping on by his site if you’re interested in learning more about the on-going story concerning Ma, or if you just want to get to know a bit more about the free and democratic nation that is Taiwan.


It’s a Deal… For the Moment. February 13, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to read through the usual media sources during the last few days, and won’t get to do it for another day or so.  So, I’m kind of feeling out-of-the-loop.

However, I did manage to learn that North Korea has agreed to a deal. It’s all over the radio and television. They’re calling it a success.

In my opinion, this is a victory for the DPRK, and (to me) this kind of thing demonstrates the need for Japan to take a more aggressive role in the Region… I guess it could be the topic of one of my upcoming posts.

Deal or No Deal February 12, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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When the Six Party Talks resumed last week, they started in a rather optimistic environment. Now, one could say inevitably, they have “faltered over the amount of energy aid the North was demanding in exchange for disarming.” According to a BBC News report (12-02-2007) North Korea “has demanded two million tonnes of fuel oil – four times as much as was offered under a deal brokered in 1994.”

This quantity is seen by some as quite an excessive demand, but in a CTV News article (11/02/2007) it was stated that “South Korean and Japanese news reports gave varying accounts of how much energy North Korea was demanding, from two million kilowatts of electricity to two million tonnes of heavy fuel oil. Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported late Sunday that North Korea wanted one million tonnes of oil annually before disarming and two million tonnes every year afterward.” I imagine the true figures lie somewhere in the middle.

The fact is that no matter what the DPRK agrees to receive in energy aid, it will be a far greater amount than they actually deserve. In my opinion very little logic exists in these attempts to appease this so-called government.

Regardless, the success of these latest rounds of discussions rest entirely on North Korea. It’s up to them to decide whether or not to accept the deal which among other things (Xinhua 12-02-2007) “reportedly proposes halting within two months the work at nuclear sites in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, including the Yongbyon reactor, and supplying Pyongyang with alternative energy sources.” The Taipei Times (12-02-2007) reports that “in an attempt to move forward, the negotiators — from the US, China, Russia and South Korea as well as Japan and North Korea — held a series of two-way meetings at a Chinese government guest-house.”

However, the DPRK is taking its time in deciding on this latest deal, and this leads to frustration among the participants.

One of the “frustrated” participants is Japan, who will not “provide direct energy assistance to North Korea”, because of the lack of progress on the abduction issue, but “it could provide experts to help identify exactly what North Korea’s energy needs are.” In a story published in the Asahi Shimbun (12-02-2007) The Japanese government said “such indirect assistance could be provided through a working group to discuss energy assistance for Pyongyang.” On the other hand, should the abduction matter see positive movement, “Japan is prepared to join not only a working group on economic and energy assistance, but also a study group to grasp the actual state of the North Korean economy and draw a true picture of its electric power shortages.”

“Sources close to the talks also said there was no guarantee North Korea will agree to allow an economy and energy study group to cross its borders.” I have a feeling the North will not agree to a lot of things as time goes on, no matter how many deals are reached.

As I posted previously, in a few years we’ll be back here again, and the whole “song and dance routine” will start once more. North Korea, what is it this time? Deal or no deal?

The Yakuza February 9, 2007

Posted by David in Japan.

Admittedly, when it comes to the underworld I am not over-flowing with knowledge but I have always assumed that once in the mob always in the mob, and that it was a 24/7 type of deal. Apparently I am wrong.

According to a February 9, 2007 article published in The Japan Times, “last year saw ‘part-time’ yakuza outnumber their full-time mob counterparts for the first time ever”. Part-time? Yes, the article describes these individuals as “those not directly affiliated with the mob” and as of December 2006, “full-time yakuza numbered 41,500, while part-timers increased to 43,200.”

Amazing! How does the NPA come up with such specific data? For example they know that there are 3 main groups, the “Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai” operating in Japan. Together their numbers amount to around 61,600 or 73 percent “of the nation’s underworld ranks”.

The NPA must have one heck-of-an intelligence gathering team. Right? Maybe not, because in another yakuza-related story (also in The Japan Times 09-02-2007) it was stated that “Kobe-based Yamaguchi-gumi and Tokyo-based Sumiyoshi-kai separately reported to the Metropolitan Police Department on Thursday afternoon that they made peace in the wake of Monday’s gunning down of a senior Sumiyoshi-kai member.”

I’m curious how this was done. By e-mail? It also leads me to wonder about the relationship between Japan’s yakuza and police agencies.

I realize that essentially the “yakuza, like mobsters worldwide, are involved in extortion, gambling, the sex industry, gunrunning, drug-trafficking, and real estate and construction kickback schemes.” However, I am interested in learning more of the relationship the yakuza has with Japanese law-enforcement and the country in general.

Is it very similar to the Italian and/or Russian mob and North America? I guess I’ll look into it a bit more… Can anyone recommend a good place to start?

North Korea: Getting Not Giving February 9, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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It’s a major topic in North-East Asia these days. Today the BBC News, Taipei Times, Asahi Shimbun, and China Daily all have stories on the recently resumed nuclear talks involving the US, Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and, of course, North Korea.

What’s the latest? All parties involved are “discussing a draft agreement which reportedly calls on Pyongyang to shut down its nuclear facilities in the next two months, in exchange for aid.”

Doesn’t it all sound familiar?

In any case, everyone is optimistic about these new rounds of talks because, “Washington is reportedly showing an increased willingness to sit down and discuss North Korea’s demands to lift financial sanctions.” As well, we can’t ignore “reports that the North is enduring a winter food crisis”. Once again due to terrible management of the country, but which will hopefully make the North Koreans more flexible during their negotiations.

However, as they often claim “the isolated nation’s chief atomic envoy said disarming was a possibility, but that the onus rested with the US.” North Korean Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan said, “We are ready to discuss the initial steps, but whether the US will give up its hostile policy against us and come out for mutual peaceful co-existence will be the basis for our judgement. There are still lots of contentious points yet to be settled. It depends on how we settle those contentious points. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Yes, let’s all wait and see how North Korea will pretend to play along, for a while, until they believe it is time to demand more from their neighbours.

Those countries being asked to give more will eventually begin to object, and point out that the North should be doing much better, considering all the aid they are receiving.

Words will be exchanged. North Korea will throw a tantrum.

Then we will all be shocked to learn that their nuclear ambitions had remained strong, and that the DPRK possesses several nuclear missiles.

Japan and China: Exchanging Social Knowledge for People February 8, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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In 2006 Japan’s population peaked at 127.7 million (The International Herald Tribune 08-02-2007) “and is expected to plummet to about 100 million in 2050”. By that time, “fully one-third of the population is projected to be 65 years old or more.” Needless to say, Japan has a lot of serious thinking to do, and I refer to the dreaded ‘I’ word. Immigration.

“A United Nations projection that assumes Japan would want to maintain its recent population peak of 127.5 million shows that this could be achieved with an average net increase of 381,000 immigrants per year. This would mean a net increase of 17 million immigrants into Japan from 2005 to 2050, with the result that by 2050 the immigrants and their descendants would total 22.5 million people, comprising 17.7 percent of the total population.”

I recommend Howard French’s excellent article, published in today’s International Herald Tribune, entitled “Japan and China have much to gain from each other.” It highlights just how both China and Japan can benefit from each other, by having China provide Japan with the bulk of its immigration needs and by Japan providing the Chinese with what French describes as, “social knowledge”.

According to the article, this type of integration “may even help China find its way toward another elusive goal: achieving pluralism and loosening the tyranny of central government control.” This would surely be welcomed in North-East Asia, and the world.

However, the road to a day when Japan will accept the need for immigration as reality will not be easy. An example of this difficulty can be seen clearly with the current perception by the Japanese (exaggerated and encouraged by the media) that foreigners cause most of the crimes in Japan. Shinichiro Fukushige of fukumimi.wordpress.com has more on this, in his February 8, 2007 post, “Statistics for crimes committed by foreigners.” Take a look, its worth a read.

Personally, I believe Japan will face reality sooner rather than later, and their already high level of infrastructure, quality of life, and positive world contributions will continue to improve.

China’s Crooks Love Canada February 8, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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China’s most wanted fugitive, Lai Chang-xing, has been hiding out in Canada since 1999. Two employees of the Bank of China travelled to Vancouver after allegedly stealing $570 million from a southern Chinese branch in 2001, and as of 2005 Gao Shan has joined them.

According to a CTV (January 29, 2007) story, China has requested Canada extradite a fugitive bank manager who is accused of embezzling $150 million from customers. That particular bank manager is Gao Shan.

Canada does not have an extradition treaty with China (that whole capital punishment thing), and so, the bad guys escape China to live amongst the Canucks At least until the heat has considerably died down.

Needless to say Chinese officials are infuriated, and rightly so.

Warming Straits February 7, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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Certain academics in Taiwan are claiming that “China’s willingness to accept the return of illegal immigrants from Taiwan is a sign of warming cross-strait relations”. Referring to the recent deportation of  “152 illegal Chinese immigrants”, Liao Yuan-hao and Huang Kwei, professors at National Chengchi University, said that this type of action, on the part of China,  was to be taken as a “sign of good faith.”

The 07-02-2007 Taipei Times article goes on to mention that persistent “communication with China had resulted in Beijing’s respecting Taiwan’s sovereignty in the case of deportation operations.”

Maybe so, but as Bernard Cole, a professor at the National War College in Washington, recently stated, Taiwan “faces a great military threat from China” and he warned the nation that it “should never neglect this factor.”

Taiwan may desperately want better ties with China, and certain individuals may be too willing to see hope in acts like the deportation cases, but the fact remains China has stated, more than once, its willingness to use force against Taiwan if it formally declared independence or moved too much down that particular path.

Just watch the language that will come out of China once Taiwan begins its “campaign aimed at promoting the nation’s participation in the UN under the name Taiwan.”

China’s so-called Anti-Secession Law, and 900 + missiles currently pointed at Taiwan, should clearly demonstrate China’s true intentions towards Taiwan. Furthermore, “intelligence reports show that China was to establish contingency-response combat capabilities by 2007, reach combat capability for large-scale military engagement by 2010 and ensure victory in a decisive battle by 2015.”

Are those cross-strait relations warm enough for you?

China Discouraged Writers from Attending Conference February 6, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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In a typical move, and yet another reason why China needs to be approached cautiously, the Communist Government recently “either banned or warned more than 20 Chinese writers from attending an international writers’ conference” which was held in Hong Kong, this past week-end.

According to a story published in the Taipei Times (06-02-2007), “fifteen Chinese writers attended the conference in Hong Kong but more than 20” did not. “Half the writers who did not go could not obtain travel documents, while the others decided not to come after being warned.”

“Gao Yu, a journalist banned from working in China,” said that although writers in China are currently facing a cold-front, “she was optimistic, however, that restrictions on freedom of speech will ease as economic growth continues.”

Economic growth does have benefits, huge benefits, but I doubt improved financial fortunes alone can make everything better. At one point the people of China will need to demand more freedom, and not just simply accept what is being handed down to them and branded as “good enough”.

The officials who held this conference want to organize another conference in a year’s time where “all Chinese writers can attend to discuss the China situation.”  It’s a worthwhile goal but they may be in for a bit of disappointment.

“Restrictions on the writers in mainland China to write, travel and associate freely” are bound to be maintained as long as the people don’t apply more pressure on China’s government to loosen the chains.

Boosting China-Japan Ties Chinese Style February 5, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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According to a 05-02-2007 China Daily story, China is aiming to advance ties with its powerful, and democratic North-East Asian neighbour, Japan. “Vice President Zeng Qinghong on Monday pledged to further advance China-Japan ties.”

Zeng stated that it was “the common responsibility and historic mission of governments, parties and statesmen in the two countries to improve China-Japan ties.” Of course, this is true, and beneficial for both countries.

However, while these good intentions are being expressed by the Chinese, Japanese officials reported (Japan Times 05-02-2007) that “a Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel detected a Chinese research ship Sunday morning within Japan’s exclusive economic zone”(EEZ).

China’s ship was “seen operating some 30 km west-northwest of Uotsuri, the main island of the Senkaku group in the East China Sea.” This area, clearly belonging to Japan, is near the group of islands, claimed by Taiwan and China.

For China to have a ship operating in Japan’s EEZ without first seeking Japan’s approval, no matter the reason, demonstrates its true intentions towards Japan/China ties. Especially when you consider that they are violating “an agreement under which each country is to give advance notice, of such activities, to the other”.

I guess when Zeng went on to say, “China would like to step up exchanges and cooperation with Japanese parties and friendship organizations,” he was thinking more along the lines of hooking up with Japanese folks like those of Yamaha Motor who (also in a Japan Times 05-02-2007 story), in 2005, “tried to export a remote-controlled helicopter with possible military use to China without government authorization.”

These are the same people who previously “sold seven or eight unmanned helicopters to Chinese companies without government permission”. This advanced type of UAV (in this case, a remote-controlled helicopter) can be used “to spread chemical weapons or for other military purposes.”

Yamaha was helped by a Tokyo-based trading company run by a Chinese resident… Could this be what Zeng meant by “friendship organizations” and “exchanges”?