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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 27, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
December 27, 2013

abe-visits-yasukuni-shrine Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe follows a Shinto priest during a visit to the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo on December 26, 2013. Abe’s visit to the shrine for war dead has angered China and South Korea (Toru Hanai/Courtesy: Reuters).

Darcie Draudt, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Japanese prime minister pays his respects to Yasukuni Shrine. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid his respects at the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including over a dozen “Class A” war criminals. It was the first visit to the Shinto shrine by a serving prime minister since 2006, when Junichiro Koizumi went. Abe tried to play down the visit, saying it was an anti-war gesture, but Abe’s actions were widely and swiftly condemned; the Yasukuni Shrine is seen by the region as a symbol of Imperial Japanese aggression. China called the visit “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people”; South Korea expressed “regret and anger”; and the U.S. embassy in Tokyo said in a statement that it was “disappointed” and the prime minister’s actions would “exacerbate tensions” with Japan’s neighbors.

2. Move of U.S. base at Okinawa gains approval. After years of disagreement, Governor Hirokazu Nakaima of Okinawa approved the relocation of the U.S. Marine base on the island to a less populous area. Residents of Okinawa, where about half of the 50,000 U.S. troops in Japan are based, have long complained of base-related crime, noise, and accidents; some protestors still seek the complete removal of U.S. troops from the island. It could take close to a decade to build the new base, which will be located on a landfill. The agreement comes at a crucial time for both Tokyo and Washington, as the former seeks to strengthen ties with the United States amid rising tension with China and the latter continues the U.S. rebalance toward Asia.

3. Satellite images indicate further development at North Korean nuclear plant. A facility for producing fuel rods at Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, north of Pyongyang, now appears to be operational. Last month, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said the agency has observed activity at a North Korean nuclear site that indicates effort to restart a reactor. Since April this year, North Korea has repeatedly asserted it is strengthening its nuclear weapon capabilities. The five-megawatt reactor, which was verified to be shut down by IAEA inspectors in July 2007, has previously supplied sources of plutonium, a component for nuclear weapons. Though IAEA has not had access to the site since North Korea banned IAEA inspectors from entering in October 2008, the IAEA continues to monitor the Yongbyon plant via satellite imagery.

4. Protesting garment workers and police clash in Cambodia. Violence broke out between police and protesters in the capital Phnom Penh on December 27, as military police attempted to move the striking workers. Police fired warning shots into the crowd, which incited the protesters to throw rocks in response; about ten police officers and ten protesters were injured. Thousands of garment factory workers have been protesting nationwide for weeks, upset by inadequate minimum wages. Unions have demanded a raise to $160 minimum monthly wage, but the national government decided to raise the minimum wage for the garment and shoe industry to $95 (a 19 percent increase on the status quo). In addition to calling for increased wages, the striking workers have joined the Cambodian opposition movement that demands the resignation of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

5. Thai election body calls for delayed vote amid violence. The Election Commission of Thailand is urging the country’s February 2 vote to be postponed as protests and chaos continued to grip Bangkok. One police officer was killed and dozens injured on Thursday in the first violent incidents in almost two weeks. Protestors were trying to stop election preparations, as the current government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra most likely will win another term; the protestors’ ultimate goal is her resignation and the establishment of an unelected “people’s council.” The government has rejected the proposed postponement, citing concerns that it could lead to “prolonged violence.”

Bonus: Rodman visits North Korea, but doesn’t see Kim Jong-un. Retired NBA player Dennis Rodman wrapped up his third visit to North Korea this week, during which he trained North Korean basketball players and helped plan a proposed exhibition game in early 2014, allegedly coinciding with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s birthday celebrations. He did not, however, see the supreme leader this time, whom he has previously called a “good friend” while distancing himself from the issues dealing with security, politics, or human rights in North Korea.  Rodman’s corporate partner, the Ireland-based online betting site Paddy Power, announced on December 23 it would no longer support Rodman or his planned game, citing increased international concern over the North Korean regime. Likewise, the U.S. Department of State has distanced themselves from Rodman’s “basketball diplomacy.”

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  • Posted by Liang1a

    It is obvious to anyone willing to see things for what they are that Japan is embarking on the path to national military expansion free of American interference. The most important thing to Japan is the Chinese economy. If Japan can gain control of the Chinese economy then it can exploit its vast output of goods and services to enrich the Japanese economy to provide the money and materials to rearm. This would not be the first time for Japan to do so. This is just a repeat of the 19th and 20th centuries. Following the war in 1895, Japan extorted enough silver to rearm its military to a degree that allowed it to invade China in 1931 beginning with the Mukden Incidence.
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    Because of this, the most important thing for China to do now is not to try to maintain “friendship” with Japan in order to extend China’s “strategic economic opportunity era” by maintaining exports and FDI with Japan. Ultimately, China’s “strategic economic opportunity” lie within China itself and in the hands of the 1.35 billion Chinese people. Only the Chinese people can produce some 200,000 yuan of per capita GDP which at 1.5 billion population will produce some 300 trillion yuan of total GDP. At the exchange rate of 3 yuan per dollar of PPP value, this is equivalent to some $100 trillion (2010 PPP). Only the Chinese can produce such a vast amount of goods and services and only the Chinese consumers can have the incomes to afford these goods and services. Therefore, China does not need foreign trade in general which can never amount to more than $2 trillion when its domestic economy can be as much as $100 trillion or more. And foreign trade with Japan will shrink to less than $100 billion as China’s own domestic high tech products out-compete against Japanese imports. Therefore, Japan is useless to China economically. And Japan is more trouble than it is worth as a rabidly dangerous aggressive country who is dreaming of repeating history of its grandfathers again.
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    Therefore, the Chinese people should take this opportunity to terminate all foreign trade with Japan while banning all Japanese investments in China. Just by shutting down all Japanese car factories in China, it will allow Chinese car companies to increase their incomes by some 1 trillion yuan (4 million cars at 250,000 yuan per car).
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    The world has changed drastically in the last 30 years. In that time the USSR has disappeared. Russia is now weak and not a threat to China. America has reached its peak and is kept afloat by cheap Chinese imports. Japan has peaked and is sliding down due to its inability to compete against the S. Korean and Chinese high tech exports. S. Korea itself has peaked and cannot grow due to increased competition from Chinese high tech exports. And as Japan devalue its yen, it will only hurt the S. Korean exports. China on the other hand has vast amounts of energy and natural resources and can be fully technologically self-sufficient. It can be 98% or more self-sufficient. Therefore, isolation can no longer hurt China. In fact, some degree of “isolation” by banning foreign FDI will benefit China and promote faster and more thorough domestic growth to provide the services that are critically necessary for raising Chinese people’s standard of living such as education services, medical services, financial services, communication and transportation services, cultural-sports-entertainment services, etc. Only by expanding these domestic services through the urbanization of the rural residents and becoming energy self-sufficient will the Chinese economy develop to its full maximum potential to give the Chinese people the highest standard of living in the world.
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    Therefore, Chinese people should support, indeed, compel their government to terminate all relationships with Japan. China will grow faster and safer over the short term by increasing the incomes of the Chinese enterprises by taking over Japanese businesses in China. And over the long term China can be more secure by cutting off all support to the Japanese economy thus making it unable to rearm. Abe’s visit to the war criminal shrine is an opportunity for China to justify its termination of relationship with Japan. Do not miss that opportunity!

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