Thursday, 24 July 2014

Japan's Secrecy Law Seen As Draconian

from Al Jazeera: "Abe colour" is an expression occasionally used in Japan's domestic media. It means those government policies that reflect Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's personal views, and the term relates to his hawkish security policies. Critics claim the secrecy bill passed into law in December 2013 is said to be one such example of "Abe colour", and it will go into effect this December.
Proper safeguards and oversight bodies were supposed to be included, but critics say that this secrecy law is still far from adequate.

One of the strongest critics of the new law comes from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which has asked the government to completely reconsider the law. Yoichi Eto, its representative, told Al Jazeera: "This law simply provides new powers to the government officials. It says that they are authorised to do this or that. But it has nothing to say at all about what officials must not do. 

"There are no limits on the scope of this law, and that is its biggest problem," Eto said.

Almost every critic of the law points to the vagueness of its language; the manner in which the line between what is allowed and what is forbidden is not clearly specified.

"If we don't have clarity in the regulations, if we don't have clarity in the law, then we don't know what is the extent of the government's power," said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University in Tokyo. "We don't know how government agencies will use that power, to what degree, to what extent, what range of information may be covered."

Professor Repeta goes on to note that the law makes no distinction about whether or not information is properly designated as a secret, or if release of the information will actually have any negative effect on national security, or if it is demonstrably in the public interest: All that the new law says is that if someone reveals something designated (for whatever reason) as a special secret, then they have committed a crime for which they may spend up to 10 years in prison.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Why Oil and Gas in the South China Sea Won’t Be Developed

from The South China Sea has enormous potential for oil and gas reserves but territorial conflict will likely hold it back for years to come.

On July 16, the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) decided to remove its oil rig from contested waters, stating that its exploration mission was completed after finding “sings of oil and gas.” 

While moving the rig out of waters claimed by both China and Vietnam could cool tensions, the intractable dispute over territory is holding back what could be massive investment in oil and gas exploration.

The Wall Street Journal reported on several major international oil companies that are steering clear of the South China Sea because of the conflict, despite the potentially huge reserves of oil and gas in its waters.

Thailand: Journalists Concerned About Junta's Move To Clamp Down

from The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) expressed concern yesterday at the ruling junta's order issued on Friday night barring all media from criticising its work.

The TJA warned that the order could lead to violations of people's right to be informed and would risk putting too much censorship power into the hands of the person in charge of censorship.

The association said many media organisations were already exercising restraint in order to ensure that their reports and analysis do not fan political conflict.

TJA said it was unclear what the effect would be if the military acted on its threat to shut down a media outlet if it fails to follow the order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The association said it would hold a meeting next week to mete out a more concrete response to the junta's order, which was issued late on Friday night.

The NCPO warned media organisations they would face immediate bans and legal action if they disseminate prohibited content.

NCPO spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvari said yesterday that the latest announcement just combined some previous ones involving the mass media. He said this new announcement also covered people other than the media.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

China Ends Drilling Operation In Disputed Sea

from Al Jazeera: China has ended drilling and exploration operations at an oil rig it deployed in a section of the South China Sea disputed with Vietnam and will relocate the unit, Chinese state media has said.

Beijing deployed the massive rig in early May, close to the Paracel Islands, triggering a furious reaction in Vietnam and the most serious increase in tensions in the waters in years.

Hanoi demanded Beijing withdraw the rig, and sent ships to the region to try and disrupt the operations. The Chinese move triggered protests in Vietnam and deadly anti-Chinese riots.

Beijing says it had done nothing wrong because the waters belonged to it.

News agency Xinhua said China National Petroleum announced the end of the operation on Tuesday, citing the beginning of the typhoon season, the AP news agency reported.

It said the rig would be relocated to operations close to China's Hainan Island.

The report said the company found oil and gas during the operation, but was assessing the data gathered before deciding its next move.

China To Join Military Exercise With US, Australia

from China’s military will take part in an infantry exercise for the first time with Australian and US forces in October, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The joint exercise will take place in northern Australia and marks another step forward in efforts by Washington and Canberra to bolster relations with China’s People’s Liberation Army, officials said.

“This is a small-scale exercise,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren told reporter.

The drill would involve “less than a 100 total personnel,” including one or two squads of US Marines, Warren said.

“The goal of the exercise is learn how to survive and thrive in austere conditions,” he said.

China broke new ground last month by taking part in a major US-led naval exercise in the Pacific. 

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) event is still underway, and Australia is also among the countries participating.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Escobar: BRICS Against Washington Consensus

by Pepe Escocar | The headline news is that this Tuesday in Fortaleza, northeast Brazil, the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) fights the (Neoliberal) World (Dis)Order via a new development bank and a reserve fund set up to offset financial crises.

The devil, of course, is in the details of how they'll do it.

It's been a long and winding road since Yekaterinburg in 2009, at their first summit, up to the BRICS's long-awaited counterpunch against the Bretton Woods consensus - the IMF and the World Bank - as well as the Japan-dominated (but largely responding to US priorities) Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The BRICS Development Bank - with an initial US$50 billion in capital - will be not only BRICS-oriented, but invest in infrastructure projects and sustainable development on a global scale. The model is the Brazilian BNDES, which supports Brazilian companies investing across Latin America. In a few years, it will reach a financing capacity of up to $350 billion. With extra funding especially from Beijing and Moscow, the new institution could leave the World Bank in the dust. Compare access to real capital savings to US government's printed green paper with no collateral.

And then there's the agreement establishing a $100 billion pool of reserve currencies - the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), described by Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov as "a kind of mini-IMF". That's a non-Washington consensus mechanism to counterpunch capital flight. For the pool, China will contribute with $41 billion, Brazil, India and Russia with $18 billion each, and South Africa with $5 billion.

The development bank should be headquartered in Shanghai - although Mumbai has forcefully tried to make its case (for an Indian take on the BRICS strategy, see here )

Way beyond economy and finance, this is essentially about geopolitics - as in emerging powers offering an alternative to the failed Washington consensus. Or, as consensus apologists say, the BRICS may be able to "alleviate challenges" they face from the "international financial system". The strategy also happens to be one of the key nodes of the progressively solidified China-Russia alliance, recently featured via the gas "deal of the century" and at the St. Petersburg economic forum. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

False Flag Watch: Terror Attack on Australian Soil Inevitable Says Opposition MP

from A Bali-Style terror attack on Australian soil is inevitable, a senior member of a parliamentary security committee has warned. 
LABOR MP Anthony Byrne, who is deputy chair of the joint intelligence and security committee, believes the threat to national security is accelerating.

"One of the grave concerns I have ... is that eventually and inevitably in this country an event will occur on this soil of the magnitude of the Bali event," he told parliament on Monday night.

Mr Byrne said he does not want to be part of parliament that reacts to an event.

"I want to be part of a parliament that puts the laws in place to prevent that event from taking place," he said.  Parliament should debate the merits of data retention legislation sooner rather than later. "

Sound Familiar?: 
(March 2004) Terrorist attack on Australia inevitable, warns FBI expert

Monday, 14 July 2014

Australian Army Plans For Future High-Tech Combat In Asia’s Mega-Cities

from Strat Risks: The Australian Army’s Directorate of Future Land Warfare has published a report that warns Australia’s future land wars will be very different from recent conflicts in the rural and remote terrain of Afghanistan and Iraq.

While the United States will “continue to be the world’s strongest military power and the most influential strategic actor” in the Asia-Pacific region, the army expects China’s growing economic and military power will “inevitably influence” Australia’s military strategy to focus on potential conflicts in east, south-east and south Asia.

With the world’s population expected to reach 8 billion by 2030, the directorate sees Asia’s mega-cities as key potential future battlegrounds.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Taiwan Using Drones To Spy On China

from Channel News Asia: Taiwan has started using unmanned surveillance aircraft to spy on China to reduce the risk to its pilots from an increased deployment of Chinese missiles, media reported on Sunday.

The army in March commissioned a fleet of 32 unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, developed by the military-run Chung Shan Institute of Science and Technology.

Initially the drones, based in the eastern county of Taitung, were watching airspace in the east and south but lately they had extended their range to the Taiwan Strait, the Liberty Times said.

"Now they can effectively monitor China's military movements in the southeastern coastal area," an unnamed senior officer at the defence ministry was quoted as saying.

The paper said the operation has attracted interest from the United States which has been using the sophisticated high-altitude Global Hawk drone to collect military intelligence on China.

The US raised the topic during a recent military exchange programme with Taiwan, it said.

Taiwan's defence ministry declined to comment on the report.

Philippines Extends Forum's Drilling Permit in South China Sea To 2016

from London-listed Forum Energy Plc has obtained approval from the Philippine government to extend by one year its drilling plan for a natural gas project in the disputed Reed Bank area of the South China Sea. 

The deadline for completion of the drilling of two appraisal wells has now been extended to August 15, 2016, Forum said in a filing to the London Stock Exchange. 

Forum has a 70 percent interest in Service Contract (SC) 72, an oil and gas exploration permit covering the Sampaguita natural gas prospect in the Reed Bank, to the west of the Philippine island of Palawan. 

Territorial disputes between the Philippines and China have so far hampered Forum’s plan to drill two appraisal wells in the SC 72 exploration permit. 

In 2011, Chinese patrol vessels almost rammed a Forum-contracted survey ship in the Reed Bank.
The Philippines’ Philex Petroleum Corp – which holds a 60.45 percent direct and indirect stake in Forum – posted a copy of the London filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Thursday. 

In May, Philex Petroleum Chair Manuel Pangilinan said Forum will likely start drilling in the Reed Bank, which the Philippines calls Recto Bank, in early 2016 despite rising tensions with Beijing.
Appraisal wells are drilled to assess the size of gas or oil discoveries. 

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, while the Philippines and Vietnam, along with Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, claim parts of it.