|Asia News Digest
More Idiots Oppose U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Oct. 6 (EIRNS)Ignoring realities on the ground in Afghanistan, and counting on fear to drive the American people, today, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, and the lead editorial of the Washington Post, both concluded that withdrawal from Afghanistan could be catastrophic for the United States. Both claim that if U.S. troops withdraw, al-Qaeda and Taliban will take control of the country, endangering Pakistan and eventually grabbing its nuclear weapons to threaten the world.
The arguments are false: When the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, the forces that would take over would be decidedly anti-U.S., but not necessarily the Taliban. Less than 5% of Pushtuns (Afghanistan's largest ethnic group) have embraced Taliban ideology and almost none among the Tajiks, Hazaras, and Uzbeks. The Taliban was created in the 1990s by the Saudis and the British, and trained by the Pakistani military, while Washington watched and encouraged.
Both Scowcroft and the Washington Post display gross ignorance about Pakistan. The Pakistani military, dominated by Punjabis, is power-hungry and very well trained. If that military feels threatened on its own turf, it has the ability and willingness to wipe out al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That they are not doing that now, is because they do not want the United States and NATO to feel comfortable in Afghanistan.
Fissures Widen in Pakistan Between Military and Islamabad
Oct. 7 (EIRNS)As President Obama and 15 administration officials were planning to meet at the National Security Council on Oct. 7 to discuss the Afghan war strategy, with special emphasis on Pakistan's stability, the Kerry-Lugar bill to enhance financial support to Pakistan ran into rough weather there.
The bill, which calls for providing Pakistan with a $1.5 billion annual aid for the next five years, was passed by Congress last week, but has clearly upset Pakistan's powerful military. The military claims the bill places too many conditions on the aid, including an attempt to curtail the nation's nuclear program, and puts too much pressure on Pakistan alone to battle the militants. In addition, one the bill requires the U.S. to assess the extent of control that the government has over the military, including its budgets, the chain of command, and top promotions. In a country that has spent about half its 62-year existence under military rule, such language does not go down well with the Army.
The bill is now being debated in Pakistan's parliament, where the opposition is accusing President Zardari of humiliating the country by accepting these conditions. "The bill has put Pakistan and its people in the dock," said Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, the political party aligned with the former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf.
Pakistan's Chief of the Armed Services (COAS), Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, met with the Army commanders, and expounded upon various issues related to national security and impending challenges faced by the country. He reiterated that Pakistan is a sovereign state, and has the right to analyze and respond to threats in accordance with its national interests. The Kerry-Lugar bill was discussed during the meeting. The forum expressed serious concern regarding clauses impacting on national security.
China Engages North Korea
Oct. 6 (EIRNS)Following the visit of Bill Clinton to North Korea in August, and the U.S. agreement to North Korea's request to a bilateral meeting outside of the Six-Party framework, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has completed a three-day visit to Pyongyang, both to strengthen bilateral ties and to encourage North Korea to return to the Six-Party format. North Korea had declared that the Six-Party talks were a dead issue, due to the sanctions imposed by the UN after North Korea attempted to launch a satellite (which was within its rights under international law).
But Pyongyang leaders told the Chinese Premier this week that they would consider returning to the Six-Party forum, depending on the results of the bilateral meetings with the United States. China was the primary sponsor of the Six-Party format. Only because the U.S. has finally taken tentative steps to reverse the confrontational policies of the Bush Administration towards North Korea, can China now intervene to ease tensions and get back to cooperation.
The official North Korean press reported that supreme leader Kim Jong-il told Wen that denuclearization of the entire Korean peninsula was still the ultimate goal, and that relations with the U.S. "should be converted into peaceful ties through bilateral talks without fail."
China and North Korea also signed a number of investment and trade agreements, including the construction of a bridge over the Yalu River separating the two nations.
Huge Tunnel Project Could Create $240 Billion in Benefits
Oct. 9 (EIRNS)An enormous tunnel, over 125 miles long, could be built under the Yellow Sea between the west coast of Korea and the Shangdong region of China, bringing huge benefits to the countries in the region. A study by the Gyeonggi Research Institute (GRI), under the sponsorship of China's Shandong Academy of Social Sciences, identifies potential benefits of about $240 billion.
The primary benefit would come from linking express railways in the two countries. The tunnel would shorten travel from Seoul to Shanghai to 5 hours and 31 minutes, and to Beijing to 4 hours and 26 minutes, he said. This could result in creating a huge economic sphere, linking about 24 million people in the Seoul area with some 272.1 million in the Beijing and Shanghai regions.
GRI vice president Cho Eung-rae said that if the tunnel is built, it will produce economic benefits worth $99 billion for Korea, $134 billion for China, and $7 billion for Japan.
Xu Yunfei, a senior engineer with the Shandong Research Institute of Communications and a participant in the study, said, "If a Korea-China tunnel turns out to be a success, the construction of a Korea-Japan tunnel could also be pushed. If these tunnels link overland railways in Central Asia afterwards, it could create a modern version of the Silk Road."
The benefits of a China-Korea tunnel were calculated without including the vast synergetic effects of extending the link east to Japan and west to Europe. Were such a route to utilize maglev technology rather than standard high-speed rail, the benefits to the region would be multiplied many times over.