Thursday, 17 April 2014

Asia bucks military spending decline

from Asia Times Online: For the second year in a row, the world is spending a little less on the military. Asia, however, has failed to get the memo. The region is spending more at a time when many others are spending less.

Last year, Asia saw a 3.6% increase in military spending, according to figures just released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The region - which includes East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and Oceania - posted topping off a 62% increase over the last decade.

In 2012, for the first time Asia outpaced Europe in its military spending. That year, the world's top five importers of armaments all came from Asia: India, China, Pakistan, South Korea, and (incredibly) the city-state of Singapore.

China is responsible for the lion's share of the increases in East Asia, having increased its spending by 170% over the last decade. It has also announced a 12.2% increase for 2014.

But China is not the only driver of regional military spending. South Asia - specifically the confrontation between India and Pakistan - is responsible for a large chunk of the military spending in the region. Rival territorial claims over tiny islands - and the vast resources that lie beneath and around them - in both Northeast and Southeast Asia are pushing the claimants to boost their maritime capabilities.

Even Japan, which has traditionally kept its military spending to under 1% of Gross domestic product (GDP), is getting into the act. Tokyo has promised a 2.8% increase in 2014-15. 

Malaysia: Flurry of Deals Announced at Defence Services Asia

from Collaboration agreements, minor contract announcements, letters of agreement and letters of intent came thick and fast on the third day of the Defence Services Asia show here.

The (Malaysian) Ministry of Defence alone took over an hour Wednesday to announce 25 deals of various kinds, many of them requiring signing ceremonies.

Most of the contracts were for spares, maintenance and other support items for air and land systems with local companies like Sapura-LTAT Communications Technologies and Global Turbine Asia being the beneficiaries.

Indonesia keeping close eye on developments in South China Sea

from Channel News Asia: The Indonesian military is evaluating its troop deployment in its territory closest to disputed islands in the South China Sea. The Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces said he was closely monitoring developments there, as any conflict would spillover to Indonesian territory.

Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) General Moeldoko said that he has been keeping watch on territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea.

While Indonesia does not have competing claims over islands in those waters, the four-star general has met his counterparts from several ASEAN countries which do, and he has relayed their concerns to his Chinese counterparts.

General Moeldoko said: "We in ASEAN do not want a situation that would lead to instability in this region. That is our firm position. And Indonesia will contribute to ensure stability. Second, Indonesia will be following the situation from time to time."

The Indonesian military anticipated that any conflict in the area would naturally spillover to Indonesian territory.

284 Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks

from The Diplomat: 284 people are missing after a South Korean ferry headed to Jeju-do, off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, sank. According to Yonhap News, four people are confirmed to have died. The accident occurred early Wednesday morning. The 6,325-ton ship was carrying a total of 462 people, including 325 high school students. Jeju is a popular tourist destination for South Koreans and foreigners alike, drawing upwards of 6 million visitors a year.

The ship sent out a distress signal at 8:58 a.m. So far, 174 passengers have been rescued according to South Korea officials. ”A total of 174 are confirmed to have survived as of 7:00 p.m., while we continue to aggregate the number of survivors through various channels,” a government source noted.

Currently, there are fears that those still missing might be trapped within the sunken ship, lowering their prospects for survival. A government official noted that low water temperatures, darkness, and fast currents would make the rescue effort difficult as well as worsen the situation considerably for any potential survivors. According to CNN, the water temperature in the area is roughly 10 to 13 degrees Celsius (50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit).


Monday, 14 April 2014

China Expands Cyber Spying

By Zachary Keck | The Diplomat: A new industry report says that the Chinese government has expanded the scope of its cyber espionage despite the greater public scrutiny these operations received  in 2013.

The new report was published by Mandiant, now part of FireEye, the same company that in February 2013 published the much discussed APT1 report directly linking a unit of the People’s Liberation Army to a massive cyber espionage campaign against foreign businesses. APT1 was the hacking unit the report profiled.

The APT1 report was one of a number of very public exposures of China’s cyber operations in 2013. Others included the New York Times revealing its website had been repeatedly targeted by China-based hackers (a unit called APT-12) after the newspaper published an article tracing the the massive wealth senior Chinese leaders accumulated while in power. The Mandiant and New York Times’ reports led the Obama administration to raise the profile of cyber issues in U.S.-China relations, an effort that was partially undercut by the subsequent Edward Snowden leaks. The U.S. Defense Department also began more openly discussing Chinese cyber operations against the U.S. military and defense industrial base.

Chinese troops could train in Australia

from Prime Minister Tony Abbott has foreshadowed closer military cooperation and joint military exercises with China, and revealed President Xi Jinping has accepted his invitation to address both houses of Australian parliament later this year.

Speaking in Beijing the morning after a state dinner and bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Mr Abbott said personal relationships at senior levels of government had been "very much been enhanced".

"We had a very warm and constructive discussion last night," he told reporters on Saturday, the last day of his week-long visit to Japan, South Korea and Japan. Mr Xi will visit Australia in November for bilateral meetings attached to his attendance at the G20 summit in Brisbane.

Mr Abbott said he was "quite confident" of building on current high-level meetings and exchanges with the world's largest army through the form of "multilateral exercises in the months and years ahead".

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Japan orders chicken cull after bird flu infections discovered

from Channel News Asia: Japan has ordered the slaughter of some 112,000 chickens after officials on Sunday confirmed bird flu infections at a poultry farm in the south.

DNA tests confirmed the H5 strain of the virus at a farm in Kumamoto prefecture that kept 56,000 birds, after its owner reported on Saturday a lot of sudden deaths among his poultry, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

Officials also ordered the culling of another 56,000 birds at a separate farm run by the same owner after treating it as a location of possible infections, the ministry said.

It was the first confirmed outbreak of bird flu in Japan in three years.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

National Easter Peace Convergence: Canberra, Easter 2014

from Conference and demonstration supporting peace and independence.

Canberra April 21st-25th 2014

If you care about:
  • Australia's involvement in foreign wars and drone murders
  • Foreign troops and/or bases on Australian soil
  • Expensive arms purchases
  • The U.S. Alliance
Be a part of IPAN's campaigns promoting Peace and Independent foreign policy for Australia.

Download the Conference Brochure HERE

Philippines, United States reach military pact

from Press TV: A Filipino official says the country has reached a pact with the United States on allowing American military forces to access its local bases.

Both sides reached a “consensus on key points” during the eighth round of talks, said Pio Lorenzo Batino, Undersecretary of Defense and chair of the Philippine negotiating panel, on Friday.

Military sources added that the agreement would increase ship visits and deployment of surveillance aircraft.

The agreement is expected to be approved during US President Barack Obama's visit to the Asian nation on April 28-29.

The measure follows mounting tensions over the South China Sea between China, Japan, the Philippines, as well as the United States.

RELATED: Philippines Tests the Rule of Law

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Japan, U.S. fail to move closer over TPP

from Japan Times: Japan and the United States failed Wednesday to move closer over outstanding issues in their bilateral talks related to a Pacific regional trade pact, providing little hope of a breakthrough before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Tokyo scheduled for only two weeks away.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who met with his Japanese counterpart, Akira Amari, told reporters the two parties “still have gaps” over such issues as removal of Japanese tariffs on farm products and auto trade, the biggest sticking points in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks.

Amari also told reporters they “still remain apart” over the issues, adding they will resume negotiations Thursday morning to make progress toward reaching a bilateral deal, which is seen as crucial to conclude the broader 12-country TPP negotiations.

RELATED:  China takes open position toward TPP