From Volume 7, Issue 3 of EIR Online, Published Jan. 15, 2008
Asia News Digest

Eurasian Land-Bridge Takes Off From Beijing

Jan. 9 (EIRNS)—With great fanfare, a large container train left Beijing today, on its way to Hamburg, Germany, traveling through Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, to Germany. This was the "pilot train" of the Eurasian Continental Land-Bridge. The train was highly decorated in Chinese style, and the send-off included railway officials from the six countries along the route.

Chinese television coverage showed them at the station in front of a large railroad map of the Eurasian line, very similar to that published in the 1997 EIR report on the subject, with the caption "Sketch Map of Eurasian Land-Bridge Corridor" (printed in Russian, English, and Chinese). "The train will travel 9,800 kilometers through six countries," the CCTV commentator told viewers. "The train will take 18 days. The same trip would take almost 40 days by container ship." "This can be seen as a breakthrough in our cooperation," said Zheng Mingli, the chairman of the China Container Transportation Company. "Today railway officials from six countries are here to witness this event. This is very important for the development of the Asia-Europe continental bridge. This means of transportation has great potential for the countries involved." A Polish railway official was also interviewed, who expressed the wish that this "pilot train" would be the beginning of a permanent connection to Europe. The commentator noted that the rail connection will take a much greater chunk of the trade between China and the EU.

India Reorienting Towards China, Eurasia

Jan. 11 (EIRNS)—Indications that India is re-emphasizing its relations to China, and downgrading the non-productive "U.S.-Australia-Japan-India" orientation, are emerging in the days before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh begins his three-day visit to China on Jan. 13.

Yesterday Singh called engagement with Beijing an "imperative necessity," when speaking to reporters at a political forum in New Delhi. Asked about the U.S.-Australia-Japan-India security dialogue, which held sea maneuvers in the Bay of Bengal in September, Singh said: "I have made it clear to the Chinese leadership that India is not part of any so-called 'contain China' effort." He said there is "no misunderstanding" between India and China on the security dialogue, which "never got going" anyway, he said.

"China is our largest neighbor and in many ways engagement with China is an imperative necessity," Singh said. When he meets Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and President Hu Jintao in Beijing, "We will discuss all issues with frankness and friendship. Engagement with China is a priority."

The two nations will sign five agreements during the visit, including a pact between their state-run railways, the Press Trust of India reported today. Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said the accords would also cover housing, geosciences, land resource management, and traditional medicine.

The rail agreement counters complaints by some of the more geopolitically oriented in India, who have been expressing concern about the Chinese rail line to Tibet, and plans to extend it further west, in the direction of Nepal and India.

Japan Votes To Rejoin U.S. 'War on Terror'

Jan. 11 (EIRNS)—Japan's House of Representatives enacted a law today to resume the Maritime Self-Defense Force's (MSDF) refueling mission for U.S. and NATO ships in the Indian Ocean, as part of the "war on terror," possibly in mid-February, after a three-month hiatus, despite rejection of the bill in the opposition-controlled upper chamber.

The House of Representatives, the more powerful lower chamber in the bicameral Diet (parliament), passed the bill in a second vote, with a two-thirds majority vote by the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) ruling bloc, under Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda. This vote allows the lower house to pass a bill without passage in the upper house, but will aggravate political tensions. Fukuda was under intense pressure to ram the bill through, from London, from Washington, and from the neocons within the LDP; but passing it in this "in-your-face" manner to the opposition risks political turmoil. This is the first time since 1951 (soon after the current constitution came into effect), that a bill has been passed and enacted into law in this way.

Japan suspended the mission in November, when a law authorizing it expired, in the face of resistance from the opposition camp, led by the Democratic Party of Japan. The new law would limit the supply operations for foreign vessels to the provision of oil and water, and would be valid for only one year. It does not require specific parliamentary approval for the mission.

The officials also said the Japanese government will ensure that the oil supplied in the mission will only be used for operations related to Afghanistan, and will not be diverted for other purposes such as operations in Iraq, as the Democratic Party of Japan and major press had charged.

The Democratic Party of Japan handily won the last election to the upper house, and is way ahead in the polls, but Fukuda is not likely to call new elections for the lower house until next Fall.

How enthusiastic Fukuda is about support of the refueling policy and helping in the "War on Terror" in Afghanistan (and Iraq) is debatable. He represents traditional nationalist interests—replacing the right-wing faction of the party which was in power under the last two prime ministers, Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe—but is not willing to damage Japan's relations with the West.

Junta-Led Government Moves To Reverse Thai Election

Jan. 10 (EIRNS)—Remnants of the Thai junta, which appointed the present government, have threatened to keep the new party allied with deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which swept the December election, from participating in the formation of a new government, and possibly to disband it. The Thaksin-allied party, the People Power Party (PPP), won 233 of the 480 parliamentary seats. The three-man election commission, appointed by the junta, has already thrown out seven PPP candidates for supposedly buying votes (at least some of them, in districts where there is no way anyone else could have won). The election commission has set up a sub-panel to rule on PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat; the sub-panel is headed by one of the judges who voted against Thaksin in a 2001 corruption case that failed.

A provision in the Thai constitution states that if a member of a party's executive board (such as Tiyapairat) knew something wrong was being done (which is implied, if his election is reversed for vote fraud), the party can be dissolved by a court. This is one of several scenarios for disbanding the PPP altogether by February or March.

Junta-appointed Prime Minister Chulanont today called on the Thai population to respect the Election Commission's decisions, and by no means to protest the decisions in demonstrations; just to make sure, the prime minister also announced that he'd assigned the national police chief to keep law and order.

India and Malaysia Agree To Counter British Operation

Jan. 8 (EIRNS)—India and Malaysia have agreed to increase defense ties, after the meeting between visiting Indian Defense Minister A.K. Anthony and Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Mohd Najib Tun Razak. This high-level trip counters the attempted destabilization of Malaysia, and India/Malay relations, by a British-backed dissident group in Malaysia claiming that there is "ethnic cleansing" against the minority Indians.

Malaysian Air Force personnel will be trained by Indian specialists in the operation of Su-30 MKM aircraft. The two nations also discussed co-production, joint ventures, and military-related industry collaboration. Also, Najib announced that Malaysia has awarded a $1.08 billion project to Indian Railways for a 100-km two-track network between Seremban and Gemas in Malaysia.

India has also been invited to participate in security projects for the Strait of Malacca, one of the most critical waterways in the world. Najib said India had accepted the offer to cooperate based on the "principle [that] the primary responsibility for the security and safety aspects of Malacca lie with the littoral states," and India "respects this principle."

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