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China Not the Only Place to Lower Costs March 23, 2007

Posted by David in Taiwan.
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A 20-03-2007 article carried by the International Herald Tribune said that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing has received Taiwan’s approval to “use more advanced manufacturing technology at its plant in Shanghai, China.”

According to the story the chipmaker can now “upgrade its production in China to 0.18 micron technology from 0.25 micron.” The narrower circuitry will allow for more semi-conductors to be packed on the wafers, which means cutting production costs.

“Taiwan Semiconductor and other Taiwan companies are pushing the island’s government to lift restrictions on their investments in China, where labor costs are cheaper, customers are closer and overseas rivals are expanding.”

However, their bid to be more competitive on the global market is meeting resistance because of Taiwan’s fear “that the island could lose jobs and technology to its political rival.”

Although I understand Taiwan Semiconductor’s position, I also see the Taiwanese government’s point-of-view. Until formal independence is declared the relationship between those two countries (China and Taiwan) will remain complex, and Taiwan businesses will continue to face these types of challenges.

Maybe those companies should look elsewhere to have their goods manufactured cheaply. India or Vietnam are good possibilities in my opinion.

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Lack of Entries Lately March 22, 2007

Posted by David in General.
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I must apologize for the lack of posts these last few days. I haven’t given up on this site, I have simply been busy and feeling under-the-weather.

Part of what has been keeping me busy is a new blog project I’m working on. It’s totally unrelated to North-East Asia and/or current event. However, it is about something I truly enjoy, and want to improve upon… Fishing.

Anyway, to those who are still visiting. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it, and will endeavour to post more in the near future.

The DPRK Way March 22, 2007

Posted by David in North-East Asia.
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The headlines in many of today’s media sources look like this… “No progress at North Korea talks” (BBC News), “North Korean nuclear envoy abruptly leaves talks” (CTV News), “North Korean nuclear talks break down” (China Daily) and even “Abduction issue may cripple 6-way talks” (Asahi Shimbun).

Although there are more than one reason for North Korea to leave the talks, blame is being passed around from the US to Japan to North Korea. Either way, the DPRK’s abrupt departure shouldn’t surprise anyone at all. It’s the DPRK way.

According to the BBC News story, “Six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear programme have ended without progress after its chief negotiator flew home amid a row over money.

The Beijing talks stalled after Pyongyang refused to discuss a deal to disable its nuclear facilities until it recovers $25m held in a Macau bank.

The transfer of the money has been delayed due to unexplained problems.”

The Russian envoy, Alexander Losyukov, simply blamed the Americans (of course) and said (China Daily) “the United States failed to assure the Chinese side that the Bank of China could receive the funds, which were linked to a counterfeiting and money laundering investigation, without fear of facing US sanctions or a negative attitude from the banking community and the US government.”

However, as reported by the Asahi Shimbun, “the major hurdle to further progress has increasingly become how to resolve the issue of Japanese nationals abducted by Pyongyang.

Host China as well as the United States and Russia are urging North Korea and Japan to engage in more constructive debate.”

Will Japan and North Korea ever meet in the middle on this issue? I doubt it.

As a matter of fact I believe Japan should stock up with even more Patriots (Asahi Shimbun 19-03-2007) than originally planned, because in a few years North Korea will once again shock the world when they successfully demonstrate that they can arm their missiles with nuclear war-heads. It’s the DPRK way.

At that time, the world will wake up after years of “being nice” to that so-called state and realize that none of it (talks, concessions, aid packages) served to benefit the Region.

When that day arrives, Japan will be in even greater danger of being on the receiving end of North Korean aggression, than it is today. That is why they should do what ever it takes to protect themselves and their interests.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. ‘Dear Leader’ could die abruptly, and the next-in-line could actually want to do the right thing for the North Korean people.

Japan Increasing Security March 16, 2007

Posted by David in China, Japan, North-East Asia.
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Although it constantly states that it poses no threat to the world, China must really wonder if the message is actually getting through… Especially after Japan and Australia recently agreed to, and signed, a Security Pact set to benefit both nations.

The Pact is the second arrangement on permanent security cooperation for Japan, the first being with the USA, and will undoubtedly serve to counter China’s growing military presence in the Region. Of course, both Japan and Australia “have expressly denied the pact is intended to contain Japan’s giant neighbour” (Japan Times 14-03-2007).

Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, wants “assurances from Japan and Australia that their new bilateral security accord is not targeted at the country.” He goes on to say, “Beijing does not pose a military threat to others. We will not invade others, and not threaten others.”

At this point,  a country called Taiwan should immediately come to mind, and maybe places like the Tibet too.

In order to strengthen its security, and Japan is seeking closer ties and greater co-operation with other countries that “share common basic values of democracy, human rights and the market economy.” Australia more than fits that description, and is a very logical choice.

A BBC News article published 14-03-2007 mentions that this latest pact “reflects the fact that Japan is moving to develop a more assertive defence and foreign policy.”

“The bilateral arrangement is also a boost to Canberra’s long-term efforts to make more friends in Asia.”

“Australia wants to engage more with its neighbours in Asia for two main reasons: to pursue economic opportunity and to enhance security.”

According to the Japan Times article, “the United States will be a key component of the Tokyo-Canberra security setup.” The draft statement states, “the U.S., Japan and Australia will strengthen trilateral diplomatic and defence co-operation.”

In my opinion this latest Security Pact does indeed strengthen Japan, and will allow it to develop assertive foreign policies, and help protect its interests in the Region, more effectively.

I’ve always been in favour of these types of agreements between democratic states. Umm… Here’s a thought (not a new one though), get rid of the United Nations, and create the United Democratic Nations instead.

Japanese Officials Apologize March 15, 2007

Posted by David in Japan.
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The cherry-blossoms will bloom three days later than originally forecasted by Japan’s Meteorological Agency.

According to a 14-03-2007 story in the BBC News, “predicting when the cherry blossoms will bloom is one of the Meteorological Agency’s most closely-watched tasks and this year they got it badly wrong.”

“We have disturbed those who relied on our information,” they said, “and we apologise deeply.”

I won’t really get into the details, but one of the things I really find interesting about Japan and its culture in general are things like this fascination with the little pink flowers.

I understand “the appeal of the cherry blossom is said to be that the flowers remind people that life is short and should be enjoyed”, but I just don’t think it’s a big deal.

Maybe it’s just the Western part of me talking, but you would never see such a big fuss made by Canadians if the Maple Syrup season was ever delayed by a few days or so.

However, the article does mention the season “is also an excuse for a party. Salarymen and office ladies, as they are known here, get drunk under the trees each night until the blossoms fall.”

Okay, I guess I’m starting to understand.

China Won’t Kill Lai March 15, 2007

Posted by David in China.
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In an earlier post I wrote that Canada is a favourite place for Chinese crooks to hide from China.

In a Xinhua (14-03-2007) report it was written that “China promised not to sentence accused smuggler Lai Changxing to death because this was essential to have him repatriated from Canada.”

Now the question is whether or not Canada will believe the Communist government of China, and return the fugitive.

“Lai, who fled with his wife and children, was accused of being the mastermind behind the country’s largest smuggling ring. He fled to Canada in 1999 and remains there. China wants to bring him back to face charges of smuggling, bribery and tax evasion.”

My guess is that as long as someone (a democratic state) is keeping an “eye on things” China will not execute Lai. However, if he’s handed over and forgotten he will most likely disappear.

A Japanese Education in Tennessee March 12, 2007

Posted by David in Japan.
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I came across a March 12, 2007 Japan Times article which mentioned the closing of a “Japan authorized” high school in Sweetwater, Tennessee. After 20 years the school is closing its doors “in the wake of a fall in the number of Japanese expatriates.”

“At its peak in mid-1990s, the co-ed boarding school (Tennessee Meiji Gakuin) had about 200 students, mainly children of employees posted in the United States by Japanese companies.”

According to The Knoxville News Sentinel (10-03-2007) “the boarding school… was housed at the 144-acre site of a former military academy.” That particular story goes on to say that enrolment “dropped after Sept. 11. when visas became harder to obtain and more Japanese parents were reluctant to send their children overseas.”

Although there is nothing extra-ordinary about this story, it serves as a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago when Japan’s economy was “on a very good high”, and Japanese businesses were popping up everywhere throughout North-America.

These days Japan’s economy isn’t like it was back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, but after a long period of stagnation it is indeed recovering. In Tennessee alone “more than 160 Japanese companies, including Nissan Motor Corp., employ about 40,000 Tennesseans.” As a matter of fact, “in January the Japanese government announced its plans to move its long-time consulate from New Orleans to cover Japanese interests in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.”

If everything keeps going well for Japan’s economy it could, one day, be flying high as it did a decade or two ago… Maybe higher.

Who knows, in a few years, there may even be a need to re-open Tennessee Meiji Gakuin.  Japanese kids could once again be getting their Japan-approved secondary school education in the state of Tennessee.

So Little Time March 9, 2007

Posted by David in General.
3 comments

Since starting this blog, I began to realize that there are many more aspects of North-East Asia that interest me. Much more than I originally thought, and that was already quite a bit.

So many things are going on and they are happening on so many levels that it is difficult to keep on top (or as close as possible) to it all.

I would like to improve the quality of my posts by spending more time researching certain topics and analyzing more closely media reports. I don’t know how I’ll do it (while attempting to meet all other family/domestic and job requirements), but I’ll figure it out.

Any advice?

North Korea/Japan Talks Cut Short: No One is Surprised March 8, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North Korea.
4 comments

Talks aimed at normalizing relations between the two North-East Asian countries ended abruptly, and in a typical North Korean fashion Thursday March 8, 2007 after the North refused to go on further if Japan would insist on discussing the abduction issue.
The DPRK considers the matter closed, but in Japan it is anything but, and remains a very emotional topic.

According to the Asahi Shimbun (08-03-2007), “no agreement was reached on any point, nor was any decision made on when the two sides would next meet.”

Xinhua (08-03-2007) went on to print what I can only assume to be a lie from North Korea’s Song Il Ho, the DPRK chief negotiator for these talks. He claimed that Japan stated that, “even if it is proved that the victims are dead, it cannot be said the abduction issue is resolved. In a word, they said that we must return the dead to Japan as alive people. If that cannot be resolved it cannot be said the issue is resolved.”

Not only does it not make any sense, but it is also not something one would expect to hear from Japan. However, one could easily imagine North Korea saying this type of comment.

The fact that these talks would end in this manner does not surprise anyone. As a matter-of-fact it was sort of expected in some circles.

What’s next for Japan? How can they deal with such an irrational state, one that has threatened Nihon more than once?

I am quite eager to see what the next step in this dance will be.

Japan Ends War Time Compensation to China March 7, 2007

Posted by David in China, Japan.
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Okay, it was never really identified as such because “Beijing has refused outright war reparations”, but the flow of huge sums of money being given to China now and over the years, in the form of low-interest loans, is about to come to an end.

The Taipei Post (07-03-2007) reported today that “Japan has gradually been switching aid from China to other countries seen as emerging allies, such as India.” Japan “will end all loans to China by the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.”

I support this move, and wish all other countries, who still provide “aid” to China, would follow Japan’s example. After-all, if China is able to hold the Olympics it should not still be considered to be in need of financial assistance… The amount of money China spends on its military is another reason why we should not be giving it any money.