From Volume 37, Issue 2 of EIR Online, Published Jan. 15, 2010
Asia News Digest

South Korea Links Military Sales with Nuclear Exports

Jan. 7 (EIRNS)—South Korea, which has emerged as a proud exporter of nuclear power, is signing a number of memoranda of understanding around the world for the sale of various types of military equipment. The Korea Times reports that, according to a source, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young signed a deal with the UAE, in addition to the nuclear deal, to sell an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as well as Korea's own Hyunmoo cruise missile. The two nations also plan to cooperate in the development of an electromagnetic pulse bomb (EMP).

Col. Michael Finnegan (ret.) of the National Bureau of Asian Research told EIR that Seoul has signed a number of MOUs for similar military arms sales around the world, including its homegrown T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet. Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has set a goal of achieving $1.5 billion in defense exports this year, up 28 percent from last year's 1.17 billion, the largest amount ever. An agreement signed with Egypt this week is expected to open up military sales to other African nations.

Pakistan Arrests Five U.S. Citizens as Tensions Increase

Jan. 8 (EIRNS)—Pakistani security forces today arrested five U.S. citizens carrying out "suspicious activities" close to the Iranian border in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan. These individuals were driving a car with fake license plates, police reported. Although left unsaid, it is almost a certainty that the five belonged to U.S. military's "hired hands," most likely working with the Blackwater Worldwide. Subsequent reports indicate that the Americans were freed after the U.S. consulate in Karachi intervened and demanded their release. The U.S. consulate apparently told police that the Americans enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

Whatever the Americans were doing that caused the Pakistani security forces to arrest them, the area they were in is extremely sensitive. A few months ago, an explosion killed at least 13 senior officials of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iranians claimed the explosion was carried out by a terrorist group, Jundullah, based in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, and working on behalf of the Americans. Tehran had also accused Islamabad of being linked with Jundullah.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy complained on Jan. 7 that its staff members are being harassed and detained as they travel around Pakistan—a rare public protest which illustrates the tensions between the allies, as the United States expands its presence in Pakistan.

Nuclear Energy Is 'Key Area for U.S.-Korea Cooperation'

Jan. 5 (EIRNS)—Nuclear power development is "a key area for U.S.-Korea cooperation," said Michael Finnegan of the National Bureau of Asian Research, at a Brookings Institute forum today. Following a series of presentations on U.S.-Korea relations, which made absolutely no reference to either the emergence of South Korea as a nuclear exporter, nor Korea's role in the recent major development agreements across Eurasia, EIR challenged the panel on this glaring gap, noting that this is precisely the most fruitful area for U.S. engagement with Korea and Eurasia generally, were Washington to end its current foolishness and return to an approach of global high-technology development.

Finnegan, a former career military man at the Pentagon in East Asia relations, agreed, concurring with EIR that Westinghouse was already benefitting from the Korea-UAE nuclear deal, and that the expanding nuclear development programs across Asia show that "energy security, and security in general, have come together, that you can't have one without the other." While he gave lip-service to the "low-carbon" aspect of nuclear (another panelist had presented climate change as the key area for U.S.-Korea cooperation), he asserted that it was in America's self-interest to engage in the expansion of nuclear power across Asia.

India To Generate 60 GW of Nuclear Power by 2035

Jan. 5—In an interview with Nature magazine, Srikumar Banerjee, India's newly installed chief of its Atomic Energy Commission, has said that the country is planning to increase nuclear power generation from today's 4.7 to 60 gigawatts by about 2035. This would be roughly 10% of expected total installed capacity.

"India's established reserve of uranium will allow us to raise our installed capacity only to 10 gigawatts," Banerjee said. "We are intensifying our efforts to search for uranium in the country, but that takes time. But now that the Nuclear Suppliers Group has relaxed its guidelines, we can access international markets," he added. Banerjee also pointed out that agreements with the United States, France, and Russia for civil nuclear cooperation had been signed, as also a deal with Kazakhstan for the supply of uranium.

India will be constructing a wide variety of reactors in its bid to meet program objectives. According to Banerjee, "We will add eight to ten 700 MW pressurized heavy-water reactors, several fast-breeder reactors and an advanced heavy-water reactor, all of indigenous design.'

"Concurrently, we will set up light-water reactors in technical cooperation with foreign vendors. These imported reactors, each with a capacity of 1,000-1,650 megawatts, will be set up on energy parks at coastal sites including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal," he said. "We are also in the process of identifying stable underground geological sites for long-term storage of nuclear waste."

As for reprocessing plutonium which can be used for constructing nuclear weapons, Banerjee said, "India has committed to adopting the closed fuel cycle option, in which the plutonium recovered from spent fuel is utilized for energy production using fast-breeder reactors. We have always emphasized that we should have the right to reprocess imported nuclear fuel to separate plutonium, under the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, of course." As for the use of thorium, of which India holds 25% of known world reserves, Banerjee said, "Large-scale utilization of thorium for power generation can start only when we have accumulated enough uranium-233. "To gain sufficient experience with the thorium fuel cycle, we are also planning to set up an advanced heavy-water reactor in which nearly two-thirds of the energy output will come from fission of uranium-233."

Investment in Chinese Railways To Greatly Expand in 2010

Jan. 7—China will invest 824 billion yuan ($121 billion) in its rail system this year, including in building the long-planned high-speed link between Shanghai and Beijing, Railways Minister Liu Zhijun told a national rail conference today in Beijing. In 2009, as a key part of its policy to fight the world economic crisis, China invested 600 billion yuan in railways, 79% more than the year before. This was more than China invested in the whole decade from 1995-2005.

"Another 33,000 kilometers of railways are now under construction. This will need 2.1 trillion yuan of investment in the years to come," Liu Zhijun said. "The years from 2010 to 2012 are key in the modernization of China's railway system. The industry's development is entering a new phase and will face tough new challenges," Liu said today. Some 70 new railway projects would be launched this year, and by the end of 2012, the total length of China's railways would exceed 110,000 km (68,350 miles).

The Chinese national rail system will, within a few years, become the national infrastructure system proposed by its great republican leader Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Already by end-2009, China's rail network was 86,000 km, second-longest after the U.S.

The rail system will carry a record of 1.64 billion passenger journeys this year, up 120 million or 7.6% from 2009, Liu Zhijun said, as well as 3.5 billion tons of freight, up 5.4%. This includes 210 million train passengers during the Spring Festival, Jan. 30-March 10 this year.

The rail investment is spurring production of key heavy industries in China, including steel and cement. In January-November 2009, China produced 5.475 million tons of railway steel, 30% more than the year before. Overall steel production was up over 17%. In the cement sector, China Infrastructure Construction Corporation, a big producer of ready-mix concrete in Beijing, announced Jan. 5 that it had entered a 10-year strategic agreement with China Railway Construction Group Co., Ltd. The two will produce and sell concrete in the Xi'an region, a key area on the Euro-Asia Continental Bridge.

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