Category - Asia

TPP talks make progress but no deal on Pacific trade

BBC, August 1

Negotiators from 12 Pacific nations have finished a week of talks without agreement on a regional trade deal.

But the US trade representative Michael Froman said ministers were more confident than ever that a deal on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership was within reach.

He said it would support jobs and economic growth.

Among the sticking points were issues relating to the automobile sector and access to dairy markets.

No date has been set for the next round of talks.

India, Bangladesh swap border enclaves, settle old dispute

AP, July 31

New Delhi – At the stroke of midnight Friday, tens of thousands of stateless people who were stranded for decades along the poorly defined border between India and Bangladesh will finally get to choose their citizenship, as the two countries swapped more than 150 pockets of land to settle the demarcation line dividing them.

Television images showed people bursting firecrackers and raising an Indian flag in the Masaldanga enclave, which became part of India.

India’s External Affairs Ministry in a statement described July 31 as a historic day for both India and Bangladesh as “it marks the resolution of a complex issue that has lingered since independence” from British colonialists in 1947.

Nearly 37,000 people lived in 111 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh, while 14,000 lived in 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. These people are getting citizenship of their choice.

US set to be India’s biggest arms supplier

TNN, By Rajat Pandit, July 13

New Delhi – The US is fast consolidating its position as India’s largest arms supplier with a flurry of new defence deals and joint projects, after having inked the expansive new 10-year defence framework in June and bagging contracts worth $10 billion over the last eight years.

Sources said the Manohar Parrikar-led defence acquisitions council (DAC), in its meeting slated for Tuesday, is likely to clear the decks for acquisition of another four P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for almost $1 billion.

“The contract negotiation committee (CNC) has completed its work. Now, the DAC approval is needed for the offsets deviation. The proposed contract will then go to the finance ministry for vetting before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the final nod,” said a source.

This “follow-on contract” comes even as the Navy has now inducted seven of the eight P-8Is ordered from Boeing in the $2.1 billion deal inked in January 2009. Based at the Arakkonam naval air station in Tamil Nadu, these radar-packed aircraft serve as “intelligent hawk-eyes” over the Indian Ocean. They are also armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to take on enemy warships and submarines.

The Times of India: 10 yrs since nuke deal, India-US on cusp of sea change: Biden

Over a million people evacuated from China east coast as typhoon Chan-hom hits

RT, July 11

A heavy storm forced more than a million people to leave their homes on the Chinese east coast not far from Shanghai on Saturday. Typhoon Chan-hom might be the strongest to hit the region in over 60 years, the national weather service said.

Some 1.07 million people were evacuated from coastal areas of Zhejiang and the Jiangsu provinces south and north of Shanghai, ahead of the typhoon that reached the coast on Saturday, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Although China’s National Meteorological Center downgraded the storm from super typhoon to strong typhoon on Saturday, it still whipped up winds of up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, CCTV reported. Dumping over 100 millimeters (4 inches) of rain since late Friday, the storm made landfall in the city of Zhoushan in Zhejiang province.

UN warns of children in peril in North Korea’s ‘worst drought in 100 years’

Urgent action needed to save children’s lives says UNICEF as failures of early-harvest crops of wheat and barley loom.

AFP, July 9

A serious drought in North Korea requires urgent action to prevent the deaths of children already weakened by widespread malnutrition, the United Nations children’s fund, UNICEF, warned on Thursday.

“The situation is urgent,” said UNICEF east Asia regional director Daniel Toole in a statement. “But if we act now – by providing urgently needed expertise and prepositioning supplies – we can save lives

“If we delay until we are certain of crop failures, it may well be too late to save the most vulnerable children.”

North Korea is suffering what its official media described last month as the worst drought in 100 years that has severely affected the main rice-growing areas.

Pakistan heat wave claims hundreds of lives

CNN, By Ralph Ellis & Sophia Saifi, June 23

Islamabad – Hundreds of people have died in a three-day heat wave affecting Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi, according to local media reports.

A spokesperson from the Sindh province Ministry of Health told CNN that 323 people had died in Karachi as a result of the heatwave.

The ministry also told CNN that the number of patients treated for heat stroke in Jinnah hospital, the largest in the city, is 2.360.

Others, unable to make it to a hospital, may have died at home. At least one city morgue, CNN affiliate Geo.tv has reported, has been overwhelmed with the numbers of dead.

Death tolls in local media reports vary.

Why Is The U.S. Desperate To OK Slavery In Malaysia?

Huffington Post, By Akbar Shahid Ahmed, Ryan Grim & Laura Barron-Lopez, May 26

Washington – On Friday night, in an impressive display of dysfunction, the U.S. Senate approved a controversial trade bill with a provision that the White House, Senate leadership and the author of the language himself wanted taken out.

The provision, which bars countries that engage in slavery from being part of major trade deals with the U.S., was written by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). At the insistence of the White House, Menendez agreed to modify his language to say that as long as a country is taking “concrete” steps toward reducing human trafficking and forced labor, it can be part of a trade deal. Under the original language, the country that would be excluded from the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership pact is Malaysia.

But because the Senate is the Senate, it was unable to swap out the original language for the modification. (The chamber needed unanimous consent to make the legislative move, and an unknown senator or senators objected.) So the trade promotion authority bill that passed Friday includes the strong anti-slavery language, which the House will now work to take out to ensure that Malaysia (and, potentially, other countries in the future) can be part of the deal.

Observers are left with a deeper question: Why, in the year 2015, is the White House teaming up with Republican leaders essentially to defend the practice of slavery?

[…]

But Malaysia also borders what is effectively China’s jugular vein: the Strait of Malacca.

Via Naked Capitalism: America’s First Black President Throwing Slaves Under the Bus on TPP

Southeast Asia maritime build-up accelerates, raising risks in disputed seas

Reuters, By Siva Govindasamy, May 25

Southeast Asian nations are prioritizing spending on their navies and coastguards amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, but as their capabilities grow, so does the risk that any confrontation in the contested waterway will be harder to contain.

Annual defense spending in Southeast Asia is projected to reach $52 billion by 2020, from an expected $42 billion this year, according to IHS Janes Defence Weekly.

The 10 nations of Southeast Asia are expected to spend $58 billion on new military kit over the next five years, with naval procurement comprising a large chunk, it said.

Much of this equipment is likely to be used in and around the South China Sea, where Beijing’s creation of artificial islands has alarmed some Asian countries and stoked tension between China’s navy and the U.S. air force.

China: Massive Protest in Linshui Intense Repression and Resistance

Revolution News, By Jennifer Baker, May 16

Linshui County, China – Tens of Thousands of residents of the southwestern county of Linshui gathered in the morning and marched about 3km. Photos posted by the protesters on social media also showed violent attacks by a police tactical team(SWAT)and the resistance that followed lasted all day and well into the night.

The residents want (need) to have a proposed railway linking Dazhou to Chongqing pass through their county in the centre of Sichuan. The county currently has no railway, waterway, or airport.

Rage built up last week after residents found out that the authorities favor another plan – that the railway stretching more than 200km will instead by-pass Linshui and be routed through the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s hometown Guangan, to the west of Linshui.

Super Typhoon Noul makes landfall in northeastern Philippines

CNN, By Jethro Mullen, May 10

Super Typhoon Noul roared over the northeastern Philippines on Sunday, prompting evacuations and warnings of flooding and landslides in the mountainous region.

The storm, referred to as Dodong in the Philippines, hit land Sunday afternoon at the northeastern tip of the island of Luzon, near the small town of Santa Ana, according to PAGASA, the Philippine government agency that monitors the weather.

Noul’s outer bands had lashed Luzon’s eastern coast through the afternoon as it drew nearer, packing maximum sustained winds of about 260 kph (160 mph) and gusts as strong as 315 kph (195 mph).

“The wind and the rain are just steadily building up and they have been for the last couple of hours,” said storm chaser James Reynolds from Santa Ana as the storm approached.

Authorities said they relocated more than 1,200 residents of vulnerable areas to evacuation centers ahead of the typhoon’s arrival.

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