|Asia News Digest
Legal Opium, Anyone?
Senior British Tory members of Parliament have urged their party supremo, David Cameron, to push for the licensing of legal opium-farming in Afghanistan, Guardian Unlimited reported July 26. For unstated reasons, Cameron paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where thousands of British soldiers are part of a U.S.-led coalition force fighting the resurgent Taliban. Six British soldiers were killed in the last six weeks in the drug-infested southern Helmand province.
Tory whip Tobias Ellwood, justifying the legalization of Afghan opium, told the Guardian that "the poppy crops are the elephant in the room of the Afghan problem." "We are in complete denial of the power that the crops have on the nation as a whole, and the tactics of eradication are simply not working.... Last year we spent 600 million British pounds on eradication and all that resulted was the biggest-ever export of opium from the country," Ellwood said.
Explaining the plan, Ellwood said opium-farming should be licensed so that the harvest could be sold legally on the open market, bringing in income for Afghan farmers and helping to plug a global shortage of opiate-based medicines. Ellwood pointed out the plan has the support of several Tory MPs and senior military figures in Afghanistan. Last week, Lt. Gen. David Richards, a Briton and head of the International Security Assistance Forces, had said eradicating poppies will have to take a back seat to development work and infrastructure improvement in Helmand province.
U.S. Congress 'Shifts Goalposts' in India Nuclear Deal
Despite joyous shouts from the Indian and American backers of the July 2005 Bush-Manmohan Singh accord, widely known as the U.S.-India nuclear deal, it is evident that since July 18, 2005, when the agreement between the two heads of states was signed, the U.S. Congress has shifted the goalposts, and demanded changes in the agreement. India's nuclear scientific community, and the political opposition to the present Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), have now seized upon these changes and are questioning the Prime Minister's intention. Singh, who considers the deal to be the jewel on his turban, is under immense pressure to abandon it. If that happens, he will be history.
On July 26, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 359-68 to approve the bill. But, in the process, the House has added clauses which change the bill significantly. For instance, the bill introduces a "cap, rollback and eliminate" goal which calls on the parties to seek to "halt the increase of nuclear weapons arsenal in South Asia, and to promote their reduction and eventual elimination." The bill has also asks the U.S. President to report to Congress on the steps he is taking to "encourage India to identify and declare a date by which India would be willing to stop production of fissile materials."
India is being required to join new U.S.-led cartels not identified in the July 18 accord, including the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement (the last two are international agreements on nuclear fissile material production). Interestingly, PSI is not yet an international law.
ASEAN 'Deeply Shocked' by Israel's Hit on UN Workers
Participants in the ASEAN+3 Foreign Ministers meeting in Kuala Lumpur July 27 declared that they were "deeply shocked and distressed by the apparently deliberate targetting" of the UN post in Lebanon by Israel in which four UN peacekeepers were killed. ASEAN on July 25 had denounced the "indiscriminant and excessive use of force by Israel" in both the occupied territories and in Lebanon.
EIR Intervenes at D.C. Conference on Philippines
An EIR intervention at a Washington conference on the Philippines July 26 drew attention to U.S. subversion in that region, past and present. The conference, at the Wilson Center, attended by several State Department officials including former Ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Hubbard, was dominated by references to the fact that the 1986 "People's Power" revolt (the U.S.-run military coup in the guise of a popular revolt) has brought no improvements in the nation, but only the current unfolding disaster. A question from EIR noted the emerging recognition that the nation has been duped, 20 years later, and that those who ran the U.S. role in the 1986 regime change, with George Shultz in charge, are the same team now in power in Washington.
EIR also asked if the current effort to court martial Gen. Danny Lim, who threatened to withdraw support from President Arroyo in February, did not in fact put Gen. Fidel Ramos on trial as well, since Ramos did the same thing in 1986 to overthrow Marcosthe only difference being that Ramos had U.S. support.
The leading speaker at the event, Joel Rocamora of the Institute for Popular Democracy (an NED-linked NGO, formed in 1986, which grew out of the "people's power" revolt), conceded that people are rethinking the political and social realities of the 1986 events. He also noted that the vast majority of the officer corps in the Armed Forces, especially in the special forces units (which Lim headed), are strongly opposed to President Arroyo and support Lim.
China To Build Maglev Based on New Technology
China will build a 3-kilometer-long "permanent magnetic levitation" train in Dalian, in northeast China, The project, according to the People's Daily July 24, represents a new technology, developed by a Chinese research team, over many years of work. This technology is not the same as the Japanese or German ones, the Daily said.
Research on developing a Chinese magnetic engine began in 1998; by December 2004, the train was successfully tested on a 70-meter track. The Chinese scientists have developed two types of magnetic engines: One is capable of driving a train at 140 km to maximum 218 km/hour, which is suitable for urban transport, and a second, with a 268 km to maximum of 536 km, could be used in passenger and cargo trains. The Chinese project leaders say that their technology has a much more powerful levitation force than the German or Japanese maglevs, but will cost China far less. It also consumes less energy; in fact, operating costs for a permanent maglev train are less than those for wheel-on-rail trains.
North Korea Cuts Last Dialogue Channel with South
North Korea has withdrawn all officials from its facilities shared with South Korea in the key border town of Kaesong, cutting the last direct channel for communication, Seoul's Unification Ministry told Yonhap News July 22. "Therefore, we think we will face difficulties for a while in working-level negotiations between the governments, which have been conducted at the economic cooperation promotion committee office," Yang Chang Seok was quoted as telling reporters. North Korea's move was to express dissatisfaction with South Korea's refusal to discuss further aid to the North after the North test-fired seven missiles earlier this month. Pyongyang also said that it was suspending all cross-border reunions of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War. Yonhap, quoting South Korean officials, said the recall of North Korean officials apparently will not include military liaison officers at the truce village, Panmunjom.
Japanese Minister Calls for Dialogue with North Korea
Japanese Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe on July 23 described North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as having a "rational" way of thinking, and hinted at the possibility of being able to resolve with Kim the abduction issue (many Japanese citizens were abducted from Japan by agents of the North Korean government during a period of six years from 1977 to 1983). "I got the impression that he is a leader who can talk logically and think rationally," Abe said of Kim, whom he met in Pyongyang in September 2002 while accompanying Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the first-ever Japan-North Korea summit. Abe said the North's test-firing of ballistic missiles July 5, its receiving Koizumi on visits, and the Korean Peninsula nuclear crises since 1993, are all aimed at seeking an opportunity for direct negotiations with the United States. "Critics say it is difficult to predict what North Korea might do, but it is a predictable country," Abe said. "It launched the missiles for the purpose of negotiating bilaterally with the United States. We must take the approach of dialogue and pressure in inducing North Korea to think that its difficult problems will not be resolved unless it resolves the abduction issue."