Thursday, 28 May 2015

U.S. Planes May Fly Out Of Southern Thailand

from Asia News Network: Thailand is considering letting the United States use Phuket Airport or U-Tapao in Rayong as a base for planes assigned to monitor the movement of migrants stranded on surrounding seas.

The Foreign Ministry is reviewing the request," Supreme Commander General Worapong Sa-nganet said yesterday.

Thailand is setting up the Operation Centre for Patrol and Humanitarian Assistance to Irregular Migrants in the Indian Ocean (OCPHAM) to liaison with the international community in extending help any refugees set adrift, he said.

Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapagorn said the Thai side had asked the US to provide more details on its proposed mission. The US would have to conduct its operations under the supervision of OCPHAM, as they would be undertaken over Thai territory.

"I wish to emphasise that Thailand has not yet rejected the request. It's a good request but we have to take national security into consideration," he said.

The US has been asked to dispatch its warships to support a floating naval base that will be set up to help migrants found at sea.


Australia's Search For Missing MH370 Under Scrutiny

from Channel News Asia: Nearly a year after embarking on a multi-million dollar quest to solve one of aviation's greatest unsolved mysteries, authorities and search teams are being criticised over their approach to finding Flight MH370 in the remote southern Indian Ocean.

The Australian-led search, already the most expensive in aviation history, has found no trace of the Malaysia Airlines jet or its 239 passengers and crew, prompting calls for a rethink into the way the mission is conducted.

Experts involved in past deep water searches say the search to find MH370 could easily miss the plane as Dutch company Fugro NV, the firm at the forefront of the mission, is using inappropriate technology for some terrain and inexperienced personnel for the highly specialised task of hunting man-made objects.

Heightening concerns, Australian authorities said on Wednesday that another search vessel, the Go Phoenix, which is using the world's best deep sea search equipment and crew provided by US firm Phoenix International Holdings Inc, would pull out within weeks. No reason was given for withdrawing the vessel from the quest.

"Fugro is a big company but they don't have any experience in this kind of search and it's really a very specialised job," said Paul-Henry Nargeolet, a former French naval officer who was hired by France's air accident investigation agency BEA to co-ordinate the search and recovery of Air France Flight AF447 in 2009.

"This is a big job," Nargeolet told Reuters. "I'm not an Australian taxpayer, but if I was, I would be very mad to see money being spent like that."

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Malaysia and Indonesia Agree To Offer Temporary Shelter To 7,000 Migrants

from Asia News Network: Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to offer temporary shelter to the 7,000 migrants still at sea.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said the offer was under the understanding the resettlement and repatriation process would be done in a year.

The resettlement and repatriation are to be carried out by the international community, he said after a meeting on human trafficking on Wednesday.

Foreign ministers from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand held talks on the issue of irregular movement of people, in particular human trafficking.

The meeting involving Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman and his Thailand counterpart General Tanasak Patimapragorn, who is also Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Indonesia's Retno Marsudi, convened at Wisma Putra here.

Earlier, United Nations' agencies for refugees and human rights - together with the International Organisation for Migration - urged the three Southeast Asian countries to save and protect hundreds of boat people from Bangladesh and Myanmar stranded on vessels in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) called on leaders of the three countries, with Asean support, to use measures to help boats to leave territorial waters.

RELATED: Thailand's alleged human trafficking kingpin has connections to political party

Monday, 18 May 2015

Vietnam Opposes Chinese Fishing Ban In Disputed Sea

from Vietnam said it resolutely opposes a Chinese ban on all fishing activities in a sea area that covers the Gulf of Tonkin, claiming the act to be a "worthless decision".

The ban on all fishing activities between May 16 and August 1 violates international law and Vietnam's sovereignty and jurisdictional rights, said a statement on the foreign ministry website late on Saturday.

China's move came as the two neighbours seek to patch up ties since a bilateral row erupted in May last year when China deployed a US$1-billion (£0.64 billion) oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam

That lead to confrontation at sea between rival vessels and violent anti-Chinese protests in Vietnam.

Beijing claims more than 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a line that stretches deep into Southeast Asia.

It has recently stepped up its efforts to build up islands on shallow reefs in the disputed area.

Recently released satellite images show Vietnam has also carried out significant land reclamation at two sites in the disputed South China Sea, though the scale and pace of the work is dwarfed by that of China.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims on the sea.

‘Okinawa Without U.S. Bases’: Thousands March Against Foreign Military Presence In Japan

from Thousands have been marching in Okinawa and across Japan in protest against the planned relocation of a US military base in Okinawa. The protesters criticized the Japanese government, who appear to be turning a deaf ear to the locals.

The protests began on Friday with about 1,200 people in Okinawa, as the island marked the 43rd anniversary of its reversion to Japanese sovereignty, and continued into Sunday gathering thousands of people.

“Even after our reversion, the problems of the bases remain unchanged,” Okinawa Governor Takeshi Onaga said at the protest, adding reversion of sovereignty had failed to bring Okinawans what they wanted.

The activists said the island had seen decades of injustice from US and Japan.

“We’ve long suffered from the bases, and I’m angered by the outrageousness of both the US and Japanese governments in insisting a new base be built in Henoko,” Fujiko Matsuda, who heads a local citizens’ group, told the Japan Times.

“It is wrong to proceed with the Henoko relocation without listening to the voices of the Okinawans,” said another Okinawa resident, Atsuko Ikeda. “If we don’t prevent it, there is no future for Japan as a democratic nation.”


Friday, 15 May 2015

Australia Denies U.S. Bomber Deployment

from Media outlets reported the move earlier, sparking concerns in Beijing.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott denied late Thursday that his country would be hosting United States B-1 bombers.

“I understand that the official misspoke and that the U.S. does not have any plans to base those aircraft in Australia,” Abbott told reporters.

Wednesday's original report sparked concerns in China, as the U.S. has decisively backed Japan which is currently in a territorial dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.

The waters are also claimed by Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

On Wednesday, China's U.S. Ambassador reacted to the news, claiming that the U.S. has “no right whatsoever to intervene in the legitimate activities conducted by China in the South China Sea.”

The original affirmation which sparked controversy was made by U.S. Defense Department Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Shear also described China's presence in the South China Sea as a military threat. China has insisted, together with the rest of the regional claimants, that the sea should only be navigated with peaceful purposes, a point that has caused tensions with neighboring countries.

Beijing has called on Washington to “abandon its Cold War mentality” and stop “doing or saying anything that jeopardizes bilateral relations and military-to-military mutual trust.”

RELATED: U.S. Might Boost Sea Patrols Near Islands Claimed by China

Steel Consumption in China Declines First Time in Three Decades

from Looking for signs of a global recovery that will lead export growth? If so don't look at China.

Reuters reports China's Annual Steel Consumption Drops for First Time in Three Decades:

"China's apparent crude steel consumption fell for the first time in three decades in 2014, data from an industry association showed, a further indication of how the country's economic slowdown is hurting industrial demand.

A decline in the use of steel in China, which is both the top consumer and producer of the alloy, will dent iron ore prices that have already been roiled by a global oversupply.

Spot rates of the steel making ingredient are currently mired near a 5-1/2 year low $65.60 per tonne.

China's apparent crude steel consumption fell 3.4 percent from a year ago to 738.3 million tonnes in 2014, according to calculations published by the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) on Thursday.

Official data shows China's power output growth fell to a 16-year low last year, while coal output likely dropped for the first time in more than a decade.

China's 2014 steel output rose 0.9 percent to a record 822.7 million tonnes over the year, data showed.

"Affected by overcapacity, it is unlikely there will be any turnaround in oversupply in the steel product market or any big recovery in prices," CISA said."

Painful Rebalancing 
This is all part of China's painful rebalancing process that is really just getting started. Commodity exporters like Australia and Canada are in the cross hairs.

Prices may or may not stabilize here, but they are highly unlikely to shoot higher and stay higher. China's transition from infrastructure and housing to consumer consumption will take many years.

And China's GDP will slowly sink (far more than most believe possible) until the process is complete. Two percent growth, down from seven is along the lines of what I have in mind. Of course, that presumes one believes China is really growing at seven percent.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

U.S.-China Trade Rivalry in Asia Is 'Overhyped'

from The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the backbone of U.S. President Barack Obama's Asia policy, is down to its final haggling. U.S. negotiators hope they could close out the TPP deal by the summer, despite opposition mounting from both sides of the nation's partisan aisle. When opposition arises from within, exaggerating threats from the outside has practically become a usual practice adopted by some U.S. politicians to divert attention and win domestic support.

There have been many voices in the U.S. that have described the TPP and the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) as two complete competing trade initiatives, and labeled the "competition" as a China-U.S. tug-of-war in the Asia-Pacific region. They fear that China is trying to gain dominance in Asia-Pacific trade agendas and displace the U.S.-led TPP by pushing for the FTAAP. Although the appearance of rivalry does exist, much of the hype is overblown.

FTAAP, not "Made in China"
Quite a number of media outlets see the FTAAP as a China-led product, but in fact it isn't. It has long been a common vision of APEC economies.

The initiative was first formally proposed by the APEC at its Hanoi Summit as early as in 2006 and endorsed by all the 21 APEC leaders, including then-U.S. President George W. Bush. Noted American economist C. Fred Bergsten, then-director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, even made a strong statement in favor of the FTAAP, arguing that it would represent the largest single liberalization in history. Interestingly, the FTAAP concept was in fact first developed by the Americans.

Moreover, according to an interview with APEC Executive Director Alan Bollard on People's Daily Online's Elite Talk, a high-profile interview program that features some of the biggest names in the global business community discussing the latest trends in China's business and finance, the FTAAP has long been a shared aspiration of most APEC economies; and as the host of the 2014 APEC summit, China helped to cement the deal. The APEC was grateful for China's engagement in turning the all-encompassing, all-win trade deal from words into action.

Brisbane Airport Develops 'Intelligent' CCTV Technology

from Every move you make, every step you take, Brisbane Airport will be watching you.

The Brisbane Airport Corporation and the Queensland University of Technology's Airport Innovation Research Lab have been working on CCTV technology to increase security and, hopefully, efficiency at the international port.

BAC general manager of operations Stephen Goodwin said that work was close to paying off, with new technology headed towards "intelligent" CCTV data that was set to revolutionise security at the airport.

"Currently, CCTV isn't always manned in the sense of it being constantly monitored," he said.

"It just records and you go back if something happens and you look at the recording, so what this will do it help us directly monitor what's happening in the terminal in real time."

Using what Mr Goodwin called "soft biometrics", such as the colour of clothing being worn, along with facial recognition technology, the cameras in the terminal would soon be able to identify or track down any individual who had come through Customs.

"Once you get through that [Customs] gate, it's not that easy for them to find you, so with this new thing it'll connect the information that comes from the smart gates directly with the CCTV and directly to [the person of interest]," Mr Goodwin said.

China Balks At Pentagon’s Report Warning Of Aggressive Behavior In South China Sea

from China’s Foreign Ministry says a U.S. report is defying the facts and painting an unfair picture of China’s military involvement in the South China Sea.

According to a statement released on Sunday, the Chinese think the Americans are hopelessly stuck framing the world in Cold War terms.

The U.S. report, released last Friday by the Department of Defense, looks at China’s naval modernization with a specific focus on overreaching activity in the South China Sea, noting that Beijing “uses a progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed territories and avoid escalation to military conflict.” One particular example highlighted is the employment of Chinese Coast Guard vessels for “low-intensity” coercion in all disputed areas, as opposed to full military escalation. The report argues that China’s goal is complete acceptance of all territorial claims, which span to 90 percent of the South China Sea.

For China’s Foreign Ministry, this assessment is beyond the pale and threatens bilateral relations between the two powers.

“It is hoped that the American side would abandon the cold-war mentality, view China’s military development with objectiveness and reason instead of prejudices … and make tangible moves to ensure the sound and steady development of state-to-state and military-to-military relations between China and the US,” the statement noted.