|Asia News Digest
Six-Party Talks on North Korea Issue Joint Statement
On Sept. 16, the participants in the Six-Party Talks issued their first joint statement since discussions began two years ago, in which North Korea agreed to end nuclear weapons programs, in return for a U.S. pledge of security, as well as economic and energy benefits. Pyongyang also agreed to return "at an early date to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards."
The full text rules out the military option, which U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has often refused to do, and drops Cheney's repeated demand for unilateral North Korean disarmament, citing instead the Asian principle of simultaneous sequencing, "commitment for commitment, and acts for acts." The statement makes no mention of North Korea's "secret uranium program," Cheney's allegation which was the cause of this manufactured crisis since September 2002. It states that all signatories "respect" the right of the North to peaceful nuclear programs, previously denied, and even mentions "provision of light water reactors" to the North. These issues were left vague, and both the U.S. and the North Korean regimes immediately staked out their own interpretations in the days following the agreement.
The parties, the agreement also states, "will negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum" and "explore ways and means for promoting security cooperation in northeast Asia." This is a reference to the South Korean call for a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War. Both the U.S. and Japan (which was not a party to the 1994 Clinton accord) agree to normalize relations with the DPRK (North Korea).
The statement was hailed by the South Koreans and Chinese as a "breakthrough." U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill called it a "turning point," saying: "The problem is not yet solved, but we hope it can be solved eventually through this agreement."
Indonesian, Iranian Presidents Meet in New York
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the sidelines of the UN Summit in New York in September, establishing several new energy deals between the two nations. The Indonesian President asked his Iranian counterpart to help Indonesia increase its oil production by investing in oil refineries in Indonesia. President Ahmadinejad promised to instruct the relevant ministers in his cabinet to take whatever appropriate action was possible to meet it. This development came in spite of Bush Administration efforts to separate the nations, by portraying Indonesia as "good Moslems," while demonizing Iran.
U.S. Makes Arrests in Philippine Spy Case
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested former Philippine National Police Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino, and a Filipino-American FBI agent, Leandro Aragoncillo, for spying on behalf of high-level Philippine politicians. Aquino, known as an associate of Sen. Panfilo Lacson (a Presidential candidate in last year's election) fled the Philippines several years ago, amid rumors of connections to several political murders. He is now accused of passing on documents stolen by FBI agent Aragoncillo, documents concerning U.S./Philippines relations. Both were arrested Sept. 13.
Among the stolen documents was a secret contract signed by the Manila government with Venable, a Washington lobbying firm, to help sell (in Washington) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's scheme to change the Philippine Constitution to a parliamentary system, from the current Presidential system. The subsequent uproar in the Philippines over the hiring of a U.S. firm to promote such a purely sovereign issue, and in a foreign nation no less, has already forced the Philippine President to cancel the contract. The National Security Advisor to President Arroyo, Norberto Gonzales, has ben detained by the Philippine Senate for refusing to reveal the source of the funds for the $900,000 Venable contract.
Another of the pilfered documents is an April report by the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Manila, Joseph Mussomeli, warning Washington of a military move to force Arroyo's resignation.
The U.S. is threatening to issue arrest warrants against three unnamed leading Filipinos, probably including Lacson, for participating in the spying. Some Filipinos, on the other hand, are demanding an investigation into whether some of the stolen documents were themselves the result of U.S. spying against the Philippines.
World Bank: Philippines Must Raise Taxes To Combat Poverty
The World Bank reported Sept. 21 that the income gap in the Philippines is among the highest in Asia, with the richest 5% of households accounting for nearly a third of national income, while the poorest 25% of households earn only 6% of the income. The Bank's country director, Joachim non Amsberg, honestly states that the poor "are effectively excluded from social and economic development" of the country. Then, in classic World Bank form, Amsberg then blames it all on the government's failure to raise taxes. This economic hitman pontificates: "While sometimes perceived as anti-poor, raising more revenues through improved administration and policy adjustments, is in fact essential for building a strong state that is reliable and accountable in undertaking policies and programs that reduce poverty."