|Asia News Digest
Afghanistan's Stabilization: Only Option Left Now Is Regional Cooperation
Aug. 22 (EIRNS)Britain's Daily Telegraph reported today that the status of forces agreement being negotiated between the United States and Afghanistan may allow a U.S. military presence in the country until 2024. That's a full 10 years beyond the deadline announced by the Obama administration for withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops and handing over security responsibilities to Afghan forces!
What triggered this change in tactic? The most likely reason is that the ongoing U.S.-Taliban talks, maneuvered by the British and the Saudis, are going nowhere. Washington had long given up the will to control Afghanistan militarily for any length of time.
However, the only option left to usher in a long-term stability in Afghanistan is through regional cooperation which is acceptable to the entire region. Writing in the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief Vol. 11, Issue 15, Jagannath P. Panda pointed out on Aug. 12 that it is doable. He cited RIA Novosti of May 16 to say that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan on June 15 signaled that Asia's regional security order is slowly shifting, as Afghanistan appears to be angling to become a new observer member in this decade-old Central Asian body. The Sino-Afghan relationship looks to be establishing the contours for an institutional linkage between Afghanistan and the SCO.
Three factors coincide in this emerging relationship: withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan; the SCO's tenth anniversary; and the debate about expanding the SCO's mandate and membership, Panda said. Although China shares only a 46-mile-long border with Afghanistan, Chinese investment in that country is increasing consistently to exploit Afghanistan's energy and mineral resources, Panda noted.
Also, on Aug. 22, Marc Grossman, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, in his essay in the McClatchy-Tribune News Service, promised that "we are creating the diplomatic surge Clinton called for by leveraging a broad range of contacts at many levels across Afghanistan and the region, including preliminary outreach to members of the Taliban. As part of this diplomatic effort the United States has focused special attention since February on the need for regional support for Afghanistan. Pakistan and India, Iran and China, Russia and the Central Asian republics would all benefit from an independent and stable Afghanistan integrated into a secure and prosperous South and Central Asia."
Grossman also pointed out that "people in Islamabad, Astana, New Delhi, and Washington have an interest in achieving a secure, increasingly prosperous Afghanistan at peace with its neighbors, and a region free from al-Qaeda. Only the Afghan people can reconcile with the insurgency. But Afghanistan's neighbors must support their efforts. There is hard work to do in each of the three areas Clinton highlighted last February and again in India in July. Building on these actions will require difficult choices and consume enormous diplomatic energy."
Electoral Defeat of British-Controlled Government in Thailand Creates Burst of Pro-Development Projects
Aug. 22 (EIRNS)With Thailand's monarchical/military junta and its "Democratic Party" stooges overwhelmingly voted out of office in July, the new government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (sister to Thaksin, deposed by the military coup in 2006) has revived multiple long-stalled infrastructure projects and quickly established peace with neighboring Cambodia. The former government was trying to start a war over a piece of turf in order to declare an emergency and cling to power, on behalf of the Brits.
The new Transport Minister today announced that several rail projects will proceed immediately, especially the high-speed rail lines to be built as joint ventures with China, connecting the Laos border in the north to Bangkok and on to the Malay border in the south. This is part of the planned high-speed "Orient Express" connecting Singapore to Yunnan in China.
Also, friends of EIR in Thailand report that the Kra Canal project, which Lyndon LaRouche spearheaded in the 1980s together with leading Thais, Japanese, and others in the region, is back on the table at the highest levels, with China now the primary foreign backer. (See article in In-depth)
Another idea being proposed is a bridge across the Gulf of Thailand connecting Pattaya, on the industrial eastern coast, with Hua Hin on the Kra Isthmus. This would dramatically improve the connection between the industrial area on the eastern shore with the South, and together with the Kra Canal, would transform the now poor and terrorist-infected southern region of Thailand into a hub for Asian-wide development.
South Korea Charges Four Deutsche Bank Employees with Manipulating Market
Aug. 21 (EIRNS)South Korean prosecutors have charged four Deutsche Bank employees with illegally manipulating Seoul's stock market last year to "earn" more than $40 million in a single day! Yonhap news agency said the German bank's Seoul securities unit and the four workersincluding three foreignerswere accused of amassing 44.8 billion won ($40 million) through illegal trading on the spot and futures markets. South Korea has been tightening, and enforcing, rules about speculation and fraud in various shady, international marketplaces in the recent period.