|Russia/Asia News Digest
N. Korea: Six-Power Talks Suspended Indefinitely
North Korea suspended, "for an indefinite period," six-power talks Dec. 12, in an angry (if deliberately provoked) response to the new U.S. Ambassador to Seoul, Alexander Vershbow. Vershbow Dec. 7 called Pyongyang a "criminal regime," and said the U.S. would not remove economic sanctions against it. A North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said Dec. 11 that Vershbow's remarks amounted to a "declaration of war," and that the sanctions were just another example of the United States "faking up lies" to disrupt the six-way talks.
China and South Korea also said late last week that the sanctions show that not enough trust exists for true negotiations, so the sanctions should be removed to enable the talks to proceed.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld revised the basic war plan for North Korea, dubbed "Operations Plan 5030," in 2003, adding plans to topple the Pyongyang regime using irregular warfare, including sanctions to strangle access to foreign exchange, food, energy, etc. The U.S. Treasury on Oct. 21, 2005 froze U.S.-based assets of eight North Korean companies it said had been aiding the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
First Russia-ASEAN Summit Opens in Kuala Lumpur
The summit opened Dec. 13, with Russian President Vladimir Putin attending Itar-Tass reported Dec. 13. The leaders signed documents for a ten-year cooperation program, involving collaboration in "politics and security, the fight against terrorism and transnational crime, and energy and transport," plus "cooperation between small and medium-sized businesses," said Presidential adviser Sergei Prikhodko.
Putin held bilateral meetings also with the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. He was scheduled to speak on Dec. 14 at the founding meeting of the East Asia Summit, although Russia is not a member. The EAS, made up of the ASEAN+3, plus India, Australia, and New Zealand, expects to make Russia a member soon. The U.S., which has not signed the Southeast Asia Treaty of Amity (foreswearing preemptive attacks, among other things), did not attend and is not expected to become a member.
Russian Arms Sales in Southeast Asia Rising
Although Russian trade in Southeast Asia is now small, Russian military sales are rapidly increasing. While President Putin is planning far closer trade and investment cooperation, Moscow Defense Brief reported before Putin's recent visit to Malaysia on the bloc of countries in Southeast Asia which are already actively buying Russian arms and military hardware. Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam have signed contracts worth $1.5 billion with Rosoboronexport since 2003, mostly for Russian warplanes. Kuala Lumpur signed the contract with Rosoboronexport to buy 18 Su-30MKM fighters worth $900 million in 2003, Indonesia received two Su-27SK and two Su-30MK fighters in 2004, and intends to buy eight to ten such fighters from the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant, and Vietnam purchased four Su-30MK fighters for $110 million in 2004.
Now Irkut, another Russian arms manufacturer, plans to sign a contract with Thailand for 12-18 Su-30MKI fighters, at $600-$900 million. Warships and air defense missile systems are also in the works for Vietnam.
East Asia Summit Founding Meeting Uneventful
The 16 founding members (the ASEAN 10 plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand) met for three hours Dec. 14, and essentially only agreed to meet again next year in Manila. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who first proposed such an East Asia grouping, but has since denounced the inclusion of Australia, did not attend.
The "plus three"Japan, China, and South Koreadid not hold the tripartite summit which usually takes place at ASEAN+3 meetings, because of the growing anger from both China and South Korea towards Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's increasingly overt return to Japan's militarist/fascist traditions.
Mahathir Defends Myanmar vs. U.S. 'Democracy' Campaign
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, speaking in Putrajaya on Dec. 7, said that calls for sanctions against Myanmar, until it accepts demands for "democracy," will not work, and should be rejected by ASEAN. "There is a belief that if you become democratic, therefore, you become a very good people," he told a foreign press meeting. "One has to remember that it is a democratic country that dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is a democratic country that invaded Iraq. It is a democratic country that is trying to force others to do things before they are ready. All these things show that just being democratic does not mean everything is fine."
Ramos Allies Accused of Sedition in Philippines
The former Philippine President, notorious agent of Kissinger, Shultz, and Carlyle, and the Washington-allied controller of the coups of 1986 and 2001 against Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, claims that he has nothing to do with the actions of his old friends who are promoting a coup against the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Four of those friends were detained on Dec. 15 on charges of sedition for having declared a "revolutionary government," and demanding that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo step down, the Inquirer reported Dec. 16. General Fortunato Abat, who was Defense Secretary under the Ramos Presidency in the 1990s, and the top general at Ramos's side in the previous coups, was detained along with Salvador Enriquez, who had been Budget Secretary under Ramos, and two others.
The antics of General Abat over the past year have been rather comical, as he openly declared to the press his preparations for a coup against Arroyo, without any popular supportnot because anybody supports Arroyo any longer, but because everyone knows that Abat is fronting for the despised Ramos, if only to divert attention from the growing anger over Arroyo's obedience to deadly IMF austerity policies, as poverty and hunger spread.
The Arroyo government detained the four men without bothering to acquire an arrest warrant, and searched several buildingsa level of lawlessness which is increasingly the norm in the Philippines. Arroyo has ordered all military and government officials to refuse to testify before the Congress, concerning the mounting evidence of vote fraud, on penalty of arrest, or even on the illegal wiretapping of her conversations with election officials, even though those illegal tapes provided the evidence of fraud which could bring down her government.