|Asia News Digest
Showdown in Philippines Between the President and Congress
On Sept. 28, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued a Presidential directive that government officials and military and police officers must get clearance from her before testifying before the Congress. The next day, Gen. Francisco Gudani (who happens to be the leading Philippines representative of the military wing of the Fellowship of Tom DeLay, et al.) testified before the Senate on his direct knowledge of vote fraud in the May 2004 election in Mindanao. The general and an associate who testified with him were immediately sacked from their positions and threatened with court martial. Gudani had been referenced on the famous "Hello Garci" tapes (of the President talking to an election official about fixing the elections) as a general unfriendly to Arroyo, and was in fact removed from his position in Mindanao at the time of the election.
Members of the Senate from both the government and the opposition reacted angrily to the Arroyo directive. Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that the Senate will continue to call on officials to testify, and that if they refuse because of lack of permission from the President, they will issue subpoenas and cite them for contempt. Already, the National Security Advisor to the President, Norberto Gonzales, has been detained by the Congress for several weeks for refusing to reveal the secret financial source that was paying for a contract with a Washington lobbying firm.
Indonesia To Barter for Sukhoi Fighter Jets from Russia
A team of 16 Indonesian defense officials visited Moscow in early October, to arrange for Russia to essentially replace the U.S. as Indonesia's defense provider; the U.S. has refused to lift the embargo on most military equipment sales to Indonesia, left over from the East Timor conflict "sanctions." Also on the requested purchase list are submarines, tanks, and missiles. Indonesia is looking for Russian loans and to barter trade for oil and food to finance the deal, the Sunday Mail of Australia reported Oct. 2.
Indonesia to ExxonMobil: Develop Natuna or We Will
Indonesia has told Exxonmobil that the government would take over the Natuna gas field if the company failed to develop and market the output from the field by the end of its contract period in January 2007. ExxonMobil has a 76% stake in the field with Indonesia's state oil company Pertamina holding 24%. "There is no need to extend [ExxonMobil's] contract after 2007 if it fails to develop and produce from the block and find buyers for the gas.... If Exxon does not do that, the block should be given back to the government." Indonesia's Medco Energi International has already expressed an interest in taking over and developing the block after ExxonMobil's contract expires.
Exxon recently coerced Indonesia to extend by 20 years their rights to Cepu, a huge oil field in Java, for which they held rights until 2010, under threat that they would not develop it otherwise. Indonesia did not assert its rights in that case.
Philippine-American Spy Worked in Cheney's Office
A Philippine-American spy admitted he had worked in the White House, including in Vice President Dick Cheney's office. Leandro Aragoncillo, a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Philippines, joined the FBI after leaving the Marines (at a date which is not yet clear). He was arrested on Sept. 18, together with former Philippine Police Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino, for stealing over 100 documents concerning U.S./Philippine relations. It is now being reported that Aragoncillo is cooperating, and has confessed to working in the White House since at least 2000, both in Vice President Al Gore's office and in Cheney's office.
The documents stolen include reports from the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Manila, Joseph Musomeli, about interviews with generals and opposition political leaders about a possible coup against the Arroyo government, and included a "job interview" with Vice President Noli de Castro, which advised against allowing him to take over in any regime change. The U.S. role as coup-maker was clear from the reports. It is not yet publicly known where the pilfered documents came from, or whether any U.S. officials are implicated.
Japan Complains of Chinese Warships Near Disputed Gas Fields
Japanese Trade Minister Shoichi Nakagawa went on TV Oct. 1 to complain that China had sent five high-tech missile-equipped warships near the disputed East China Sea ocean border between Japan's Okinawa and China. "This ... violates what Prime Minister Koizumi and [Chinese President] Mr. Hu Jintao have confirmed: that this is a sea of cooperation, a sea of peace," Nakagawa said. China said they were only conducting normal training.
Talks between Japan and China failed again Oct. 1 to agree on how to develop the giant gas fields halfway between Okinawa and Shanghai, the subject of military maneuvers on both sides in this dangerous situation.
South Korea Determined To Achieve Defense Independence
South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun moved to end U.S. control over joint Korean-American forces in Korea, which could prevent the U.S. side from starting a war. In his Armed Forces Anniversary speech Oct. 1, Roh described the ROK's "complete determination to achieve independence in defense capability ... to be reborn as independent armed forces that fit its name and reality as well, especially by exercising our own wartime operational control." Under the current treaty since 1950, South Korea only controls its own 680,000 troops in peace time; should war commence, control over all troops on the peninsula, is to be given to the U.S. Recovery of wartime operational rights, handed to U.S. authorities during the Korean War, is seen by many South Koreans as a matter of national sovereignty.
Roh's statement comes during severe tension in the U.S.-ROK relationship. Thousands of students are demonstrating in Incheon to pull down the statue there of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, while South Korean newspapers are full of rumors attacking the Pentagon and claiming that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to pull even more troops out.
Condi Forced Musharraf To Release A.Q. Khan to CIA
Under intense pressure from the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has ostensibly agreed to allow the CIA to interview the intrepid nuclear proliferator and "Father of Pakistani Atom Bomb", Abdul Qadeer Khan. Reports indicate Secretary Rice told President Musharraf that he has "no option" but to hand over Khan to U.S. intelligence for questioning. Khan is presently under "house arrest " in Pakistan.
Analysts claim that Khan's testimony is needed by the United States to present its case against Iran at the United Nations Security Council for actions against Tehran.
India's Left Claims a Victory
Under pressure from India's communist parties, the Congress Party-led coalition government, under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has backed out of disinvesting 10% equity of the public sector unit, Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL), to the private sector. The four Indian communist parties, who have 65 seats in India's 540-member Parliament, support the minority UPA, but are not part of the coalition. However, it is the communist parties' support that has kept the 16-month-old Manmohan Singh-led UPA government in power.
Reports indicate the communists threatened to boycott participation in the UPA-Left Front meetings, demanding the UPA abandon its disinvestment plans. They made known their intent by sending separate letters to the Prime Minister and the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. It is said that Gandhi has intervened on behalf of the Left Front.
The ostensible reason behind disinvestment of public-sector units, cited by New Delhi, is to generate cash for developmental investment. As of now, no government has met this promise, and the money raised went quickly to reduce India's yawning fiscal deficits to please the foreign financial institutions.