|Asia News Digest
Philippines Vets Likely To Have Rights Restored
The Filipino veterans' associations and the Philippine Embassy have expressed their strong support for the new head of the U.S. House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Bob Filner (D-Calif). Filner told a Philippines veterans conference Dec. 8 at the Embassy in Washington, that he will file the Filipino Veterans Equity Act as soon as the 110th Congress opens, and get it passed by the end of February.
The Philippines vets who fought with the United States in World War II, while they were still under U.S. control, have been trying to restore the pensions and benefits due them for the past 50 years. By order of President Franklin Roosevelt, these men had been recruited into the U.S. Armed Forces and promised citizenship and status as veterans. These rights were taken away from them by the Rescission Act of 1946. When a Filipino delegation (including the young Ferdinand Marcos) visited President Harry Truman, demanding that their rights be honored, Truman told them that they must choose between their promised national independence and no benefits, or to stall the independence and get their benefits. The Filipinos chose independence, and their rights were stripped away.
After 50 years, their rights as veterans of the U.S. military will likely now be restored, as part of the revolution for justice now sweeping the nation.
Indian President Calls for Accelerating Thorium Reactors
Echoing EIR's suggestions to the Indian leadership, India's President and "father of India's missile program" A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, addressing a Dec. 4-6 seminar, "India R&D: Mind to Market," said India should use its thorium reserves to meet the increased needs for nuclear power generation, India News reported Dec. 4.
The statement of President Abdul Kalam is of particular importance, since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has signed an agreement with President Bush which, if allowed by the U.S. Congress, would enable India not only to have access to the civilian nuclear technology of the West, but to import nuclear reactors from abroad.
India has developed the thorium fuel cycle and is on the verge of developing indigenous thorium reactors which could provide unlimited energy to the Indian people. Diverting money to import foreign reactors, which would require imported enriched uranium fuel, would jeopardize the Indian program and long-term plan of power independence. In his presentation to the technocrats, scientists, technologists, and overseas delegates, Abdul Kalam said: "Implementation of the advanced heavy water reactor (AHWR) project and development of associated fuel cycle facilities will provide industrial-scale experience into the handling of thorium."
Indian Farmers Continue To Commit Suicide
Despite promises of relief made by the Congress Party-led government, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) farmers continue to commit suicide, according to the Khaleej Times Dec. 6. The four most suicide-affected states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Karnataka are now being offered sops by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Almost a million farmers have taken their own lives in last five years, because they could not repay their loans in time, due to failure of crops.
In addition to crop failure, the government's involvement in price manipulation has also been alleged as a reason. According to the Times correspondent, in the states where the Congress Party is a partner in governance, there have been accusations of the government giving out false projections of bumper cotton crops in order to ensure low prices for the private traders and favor the U.S.-based Monsanto company, which sells Bt cotton seeds. The total outstanding agricultural loans in the affected districts in Andhra Pradesh are about $3.5 billion, Karnataka $1.1 billion, Kerala $0.5 billion, and in Maharashtra about $0.5 billion.
New Delhi has said that it is now working out a relief package for the most distressed areas.
Expert Forecasts Food Disaster for Asia, Africa
The head of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) told the Washington Press Club Dec. 6 that a disaster is in store for Asia and Africa, if the collapse in agricultural R&D is not reversed. Dr. Robert Zeigler, an American who has headed the IRRI in the Philippines for five years, gave a powerful presentation which paralleled Lyndon LaRouche's warnings about the poverty and potential social breakdown in China and India in the current global economic crisis.
His presentation was titled, "A Contrarian View of Poverty, Agriculture, and Economic Development in India, China and Asia," and was meant to counter the popular view that the recent economic growth in China and India means that hunger and poverty have been solved. He showed that the number of poor in Asia swamps the horrible rates in sub-Saharan Africa, and even the percentages of the population suffering from malnutrition, stunting, and wasting are far worse in Asia. He said that the U.S., Japan, and the EU have slashed funding, arguing that the private sector should handle ita prescription for disaster, Zeigler said.
Focussing on the drastic decline in R&D funding for IRRI, and for its sister institutions in the "Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research," CGIAR, Zeigler said that the 40-50% cuts in R&D will translate into a near-term disaster, by failing to maintain the necessary rates of increase in production and yields to meet the needs of the world's population. He pointed especially to the urban expansion eating up farmland, and the incredibly rapid takeover of the bio-fuel psychosiswhich he described as suchtaking over food production land around the world.
Hedge Fund Locust Icahn Gobbles Up Korean Firm
Hedge fund locust Carl Icahn has completed a takeover of South Korea's only tobacco firm, the Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 5. Icahn's hedge fund teamed up last year with another fund, Warren Lichtenstein's Steel Partners of New York, to buy 7.68% of KT&G Corp., and then used this clout, and the threat of a $10 billion hostile takeover, to force the company to pay out $2.9 billion in extra dividends and stock buy-backs, while demanding more. This grand larceny, together with the Texas Lone Star hedge fund looting of over $4 billion through the earlier purchase and manipulation of stock of the Korea Exchange Bank, has created a firestorm of opposition in South Korea, and Icahn has decided to bail out. He sold 4.8% of his stock in KT&G (thus avoiding reporting required on any sale over 5%), for $460 million.
South Korea Housing Bubble Ready To Burst
South Korea's housing inflation is greater than in the United States, and the bubble is about to pop, the Korea Times reported Dec. 3-4. High-end apartments in Seoul are twice as expensive as in Tokyo and 1.3 times those in New York City. With near-zero income growth in the stagnant economy, the speculation and cash-out financing in the housing sector are threatening a crash like that of Japan in the 1980s and '90s. Household debts are now at about $634 billion, triple that of 1997-98, before the Asian currency collapse. Personal bankruptcies have more than doubled so far this year, with expectations of a spike in coming months.
It is this economic crisis which is primarily the cause of the severe unpopularity of President Roh Moo-Hyun, not his sponsorship of the "Sunshine Policy" of opening ties with the North, which the majority of the population strongly supports.
China-Russia-Kazakstan Oil-Gas Forum Opens in Shanghai
A large-scale oil and gas forum involving China, Russia, and Kazakstan opened in Shanghai the first week of December. While focussing on energy cooperation, it does not appear that the forum is addressing the only real solution for China's or India's huge needs, which is nuclear power. Instead, the forum, which is in part sponsored by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is focussing on pipelines and so forth. Some 200 officials and investors from Russia, China, Kazakstan, and Azerbaijan, as well as Great Britain, Japan, and France, are in Shanghai. Russia plans to expand its oil exports to China by 50%, to some 15 million metric tons.
While India also wants to expand its Russian oil imports, the Russian side is apparently stalling on constructing a pipeline, and wants to ship by sea because it's cheaper, according to Vladimir Sayenko, head of the Russian Energy Ministry's policy department. India was "eagerly" awaiting construction of an oil pipeline to link Russia and China via the Altai Republic in southwest Siberia, through the Tian Shan mountains, and then on south to India. But Sayenko said that though the project could be effective, "oil shipments to India by sea will be cheaper."
Indonesia, Korea Sign 'Strategic Partnership'
South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun and his Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held a summit in Jakarta Dec. 4 and agreed to further enhance bilateral relations in the fields of information technology, atomic energy, forestation, and infrastructure construction, Roh's office said.
South Korea, like Russia, is bidding to build Indonesia's first nuclear plants in the near future. Indonesia is running a campaign to convince the population to support the nuclear program.