|Asia News Digest
China, S. Korea, Japan Try To Forestall War with North Korea
"The Bush Administration's refusal to talk to North Korea has now led Pyongyang to announce it has nukes on Feb. 10, then on March 3 they ended their 1999 moratorium on testing long-range missiles," a Japanese military source told EIR March 12. "So, any day we could have another missile over our heads," he said, as occurred in 1998. "Now we must join with China and South Korea to do everything we can to avoid a war," which could lead Pyongyang to destroy large parts of Tokyo and Seoul.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) reported to Parliament Feb. 24 that it doubted North Korea has a viable uranium enrichment program, but may have bought tubing from Pakistan to make prototype centrifuges. There is no hard evidence this went beyond prototypes for enrichment of uranium for power plant fuelnot the more difficult enrichment for weapons-grade fuel, it said. This is an unprecedented action by South Korea, to charge that an intelligence error (or worse) is the basis for the Bush Administration's October 2002 announcement that "we now have a North Korea crisis."
Malaysia Rejects Japan's Offer for Malacca Straits
Japan's effort to deploy military ships into the Malacca Straits to combat piracy was rejected by Malaysia, according to Agence France Presse March 17. The appeal from Japan, after pirates kidnapped two Japanese officers from their ship in the Straits on March 14, sounded very much like a Bush Administration invention, using Japan as their foot in the door for access to the Straits, as the U.S. has demanded for the past two years. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is also Defense Minister, made clear that the Straits lie within the sovereign territory of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, and no foreign military will be permitted general access. "We will do whatever we can, but the principle of sovereignty has to be respected." The three countries conduct joint patrols of the region.
The neo-cons have repeatedly warned of possible terrorist use of an oil tanker to block the Gulf, or blow up a port. Last week, a tanker was, in fact, pirated in the Straits, but the crew was kidnapped and the ship released. The Straits carry a third of world sea-carried trade, and half its oil supplies, including 80% of Japan's oil needs.
Dalai Lama: Tibet Is Part of China
Speaking to the South China Morning Post from Bodhgaya, India, the Dalai Lama said: "This is the message I wish to deliver to China. I am not in favor of separation. Tibet is a part of the People's Republic of China. It is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. Tibetan culture and Buddhism are part of Chinese culture. Many young Chinese like Tibetan culture as a tradition of China."
He said Tibet was underdeveloped and materially backward, "so for our own interest, we are willing to be part of the People's Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality, and our environment. But we can contribute to the spiritual side of China.... China will turn to its 5,000-year history of tradition, of which Tibet is a part."
The Dalai Lama previously maintained that Tibet should be a "self-governing democratic political entity," with Beijing responsible for its external defense and foreign affairs, a position he first delivered in a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 1988. He also insisted that parts of the neighboring Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces are part of Tibet.
China, Vietnam, Philippines Oil Companies To Survey Spratly Islands
China, Vietnam, and the Philippines have signed a pact for a joint survey of the Spratly Islands regions, the Straits Times reported March 15. Beijing and Manila had already come to an agreement to put sovereignty issues aside for now and jointly develop the oil-rich region. Now Vietnam, which also has claims in the region, and has had several military confrontations with China over those conflicting claims, has joined the collaborative effort. The state-owned oil companies of the three nationsChina National Offshore Oil Corp., Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp. (PetroVietnam), and Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC)signed the agreement to conduct a pre-exploration survey of the Spratlys. All three retain their claims to sovereignty.
The three also voiced hopes that the other claimants to the islesBrunei, Taiwan, and Malaysiawould eventually participate in the joint seismic research.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo said the joint seismic activity would be "a model-setting approach for the complex issues in the South China Sea and a step that brings the parties closer towards the peaceful, permanent, and comprehensive resolution of the territorial disputes and overlapping maritime boundaries in the area."
U.S., India Don't See Eye-to-Eye on Iran
Answering a question from the floor from EIR, at a day-long conference March 16 at the conservative Heritage Foundation, on whether Washington is in the process of preparing for a military operation against Tehran, Col. David Smith (ret.), said this remains an option as long President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice do not say anything to the contrary. Colonel Smith, who was associated with military technology transfers at the Pentagon, was part of a panel discussing the geostrategic impact of the growing U.S.-Indian security relations.
During the panel presentation, news came in from New Delhi that the visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice had told the Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh that since the situation in Iran is unstable, it would be wise for India to stay away from any major energy security planning involving Iran. New Delhi's response was to convey to Washington that it has taken note of the American concern, but India has no problem with Iran, the Indo-Iran relations precede United States' difficulties with Iran, and India is keen to ensure its energy security at this point in time.
U.S.-India Relations Assume Greater Importance
Speaking on a panel on the geostrategic importance of U.S.-India security relations, Principal Undersecretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Donald Camp, a former India Desk officer in the mid-1980s, pointed out that U.S.-India relations in recent years have assumed a new urgency. The urgency was created by both New Delhi and Washingtonparticularly by the Bush Administration and the 9/11 event.
Camp said that while it was clear to Washington that the two largest democracies must join hands to secure the world, recent developments in Asia make it even more urgent. To begin with, Asia, with a huge population, has begun developing rapidly in the last decade, and this has brought about huge resource requirements, trade, and so forth. In addition, China is growing rapidlyboth in the economic and defense areas. China is not yet a democratic nation. Hence, Washington considers it important to help India in security matters. Camp qualified his statement by saying, "if India calls for such help."
Rice: India Must Reduce Troops in Jammu and Kashmir
During her talks with the Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh in Delhi March 16, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Indians to reduce troop strength in Jammu and Kashmir to further ease tensions with its neighbor Pakistan.
Responding to the stated concerns of Washington about the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, Natwar Singh laid out the measures undertaken by India to ease tensions. Secretary Rice, who went to Pakistan from India, asked the Indian Minister to reduce troops signficantly, which would act as a clear gesture to Islamabad that India has no intent to commit hostilities against Pakistan.
While Natwar Singh's response to the U.S. demand has not been made public, the news that Rice has asked the Indians to reduce troops in Kashmir will have a very negative impact on the U.S.'s image in India. The Indians view this as interference in India's internal affairs.
U.S. Took Control of Pak Nuclear Facilities in 2001
The United States took control of Pakistan's nuclear facilities in October 2001, soon after the U.S. attack on Afghanistan, according to a Congressional Research Service report March 13. The ostensible reasons behind the takeover, were Washington's fear that terrorists might gain access to Pakistan's nuclear weapons; the hope of forging stronger ties with both the Pakistani and Indian armies to aid in the war on terrorism; and to defuse the heightened tension in Kashmir in 2002, following the Pakistan-backed terrorist attack on India's Parliament House on Dec. 14, 2002.
On the other hand, the more obvious reason, left unsaid in Pakistan's The Dawn article March 13, is the culmination of the U.S. long-term plan to put the Pakistani nuclear facilities under Pentagon control. and effectively push the Chinese out of the nuclear equation vis-a-vis Pakistan.
No Sign of Imminent al-Qaeda Attack on U.S.
Contrary to warnings by senior Bush Administration officials in recent weeks, that al-Qaeda is regrouping for another massive attack, both Pakistan and Afghan intelligence indicated that local officials have picked up no sign of an imminent al-Qaeda attack on the U.S. Joining the Pakistanis and Afghans, U.S. Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, the number-two U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said he had seen nothing to indicate that al-Qaeda was attempting to get its hands on nuclear or biological weapons. "I think the pressure on them here, the pressure on them in Pakistan, the pressure on them in Iraq, is pretty great and it makes it very difficult for them to operate," General Olson said. Pakistani intelligence agents told AP that it has been months since they picked up any "chatter" from suspected al-Qaeda men, and longer still since they received any specific intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden or any plans to launch a specific attack.