|Asia News Digest
China Approves Plan for National Space Development
May 11 (EIRNS)The Chinese State Council yesterday approved in principle China's 11th Five Year Plan 2006-10 for national space development, Xinhua reported. Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan spoke at a conference on the next phase of China's space development, where he said that priority should be given to a manned space flight, lunar exploration, a new launch vehicle, and high-resolution Earth observation. He said China should promote industrialization of space technologies, particularly to develop satellites for telecommunication, navigation, and remote sensing. These space technologies would support and lead China's economy, he said, and called for non-governmental as well as public investment in the space sector.
Japanese Shipbuilding Companies Reopen for Growing Demand
May 11 (EIRNS)Three big Japanese shipbuilding companies are re-opening production plants because of the demand of the growing economies of China, Russia, India, and Brazil. "The volume of sea transport is increasing more and more as the economy becomes more global. It is also because of the growing economies of the BRICs"Brazil, Russia, India and ChinaYasumi Makimura, a spokesman for the Shipbuilders Association of Japan, was quoted today by Bloomberg.
The Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. will resume building cargo ships, for the first time since 1996, at its plant in Aichi prefecture, spokesman Keiichi Sakamoto told Bloomberg. When production restarts in October, it will be the first increase in Ishikawajima-Harima industries production in 30 years, and could result in a 20% increase in production capacity.
Kawasaki Shipbuilding is to invest over $80 million to increase capacity in its plant in Sakide by March 2009, according to Kawasaki Heavy Industries spokesman Katsuhiro Sato. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will invest a similar amount over two years in its plant in Nagasaki.
Bangladesh Seeks India's Nuclear Help
May 7 (EIRNS)The military-dominated Bangladesh Interim Government has requested India's help for setting up a 600 MW nuclear power plant in order to meet its growing energy demands. A senior scientist in the Atomic Energy Center run by the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) told Press Trust of India, "We have approached India for help to set up a nuclear power plant and talks are on at the government level." The Bangladesh government had earlier approached a European nation for supplying nuclear reactors, but later chose India as it was "closer to home," Hamid Khan said.
Bangladesh is facing a power shortfall of more than 1,500 MW and the BAEC hopes to generate at least 1,500 MW with nuclear plants that it plans to build, Khan said.
Bangladesh had installed a 3 MW research reactor at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Savar in 1986 for research and development activities, and production of short-lived radioisotopes used in treating diseases like cancer.
In Badakshan: Bartering Opium for Food, Other Essentials
May 7 (EIRNS)The northeastern Afghan province of Badakshan, which borders Pakistan, was considered an extremely poor but opium-free region, until now. Still extremely poor, the people of Badakshan now have opium to exchange for food.
Badakshan appeared on the opium map in 2004, two years after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the installation of a pro-U.S. government in Kabul. Last year, Badakshan had the dubious distinction of showing a 77% growth in opium production.
A report from a Badakshan village, Shahran-e-Khash, covered in the San Francisco Chronicle, said the people of this impoverished corner of the province rarely have money to buy even the simplest items from their local market. Instead, they use a different currencyopium. Shopkeepers keep customers' records in ledgers, and debts are paid off after the poppy harvest. The merchants then sell the opium to buyers from outside the area and use the cash to replenish their stock.
Will NATO Bombings Cause Pakistani Coup?
May 9 (EIRNS)Pakistani media reported May 7 that some of the country's generals have called for imposing a state of emergency. The military is growing increasingly uneasy over street demonstrations against President Pervez Musharraf due to the blowback effect of the killing of innocents in Afghanistan by foreign NATO troops. They are concerned that Musharraf, who has little authority at this point to stand up to the Bush-Cheney cabal, will allow the country to drift further into chaos and to a state of ungovernability.
Despite repeated appeals by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to the U.S.- and NATO-led forces not to kill innocent Afghan civilians under the pretext of blunting the Spring offensive of the Taliban, NATO air raids in the Sangin Valley of Helmand Province killed at least 21 civilians on May 9, according to the provincial governor, bringing the total of innocents dead from bombings to 90, according to some counts.
Japan To Break Ranks, Resume Funding to Palestinians
May 10 (EIRNS)Japan is ready to break ranks with Western nations and resume funding the Palestinian Authority (PA), despite a mandate by the Quartet (the U.S., Russia, the United Nations, and European Union) to freeze payments to the Hamas-led PA government, Yomiuri Shimbun reported on May 10.
Japanese Foreign Ministry officials are scheduled to visit the area in June. Following the visit, it is expected that Tokyo will announce resumption of funding. However, the plan to resume funding was taken following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent Middle East tourthe second trip to the region by a Japanese Prime Minister in less than 16 months. By visiting five Arab countries in a single trip, Abe put in place a wide range of Japanese economic, political, and strategic objectives for the region. Topping his agenda was securing energy supplies for Japan.
Japan stopped funding to the PA following the Hamas electoral victory in the 2006 elections. At the time, the Japanese Foreign Ministry had said Tokyo would resume funding once it became clear that Hamas was committed to the Mideast peace process.
India Plans Big National Investment in New Railroads
May 9 (EIRNS)The state-owned Indian Railways is planning to spend some $56 billion up to 2012, to build more track and modernize the entire system, chairman J.P. Batra said at a Tokyo conference organized by the Congress of Indian Industry May 8. Of this, $15 billion would be raised through the public-private partnership (PPP) model, and from commercial banks.
Batra said in an interview with Bloomberg from Kyoto May 6: "We realize that [India's] high growth would be difficult to sustain without adequate capacity augmentation. A number of major Japanese and European banks are keen to lend money to us." He said that the Indian and Japanese finance ministries are holding discussions to arrange $4 billion in loans to build a new dedicated freight rail corridor. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is planning to invest $320 billion by 2012 on transport infrastructure. "India is building two dedicated freight tracks: one Mumbai-New Delhi and the other Ludhiana-Kolkatta. To build the first 2,700 km of track will cost about $6.5 billion. However, the "major focus in the next five years will be on rolling stock such as the locomotives and passenger cars," Batra said.
Bill Clinton, in Thailand, Backs Generic Drugs
May 9 (EIRNS)Former U.S. President Bill Clinton yesterday firmly supported the recent breaking of pharmaceutical patents on AIDS drugs by Thailand and Brazil.
Standing next to Thailand's Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkhla, who was visiting New York, Clinton said, "No company will live or die because of high-price premiums for AIDS drugs in middle-income countriesbut patients may."
Dr. Mongkol said he believed the support from the former U.S. President was credible enough to clear doubts over the country's motives in challenging the patents of drug firms, the Bangkok Post reported.
The Trade Office has downgraded Thailand to the Priority Watch List, which can bring sanctions, in retaliation for its breaking the drug patents, although the action is legal under international law when lives are at stake. Dr. Mongkol said Thailand would also hold out against pressure to submit to U.S. demands on other issues in exchange for reversing the downgrade, including permission to patent not only drugs but also diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures for the treatment of humans or animals, which would inevitably force Thais to shoulder high medical treatment costs.