Saturday, May 21, 2005

Uzbekistan: the domino effect?

Central Asia : Unstable forecast. Uzbek President Islam
Karimov may be the next authoritarian head of state to
fall in former Soviet Central Asia, but he is unlikely
to relinquish power peacefully.


"The rising tide of unrest in Uzbekistan is destabilizing
the increasingly authoritarian regime of President Islam

Karimov - who has been president of Uzbekistan since
1990 - shares much in common with other regional
survivors from the Soviet era. He became first
secretary of the Communist Party of Uzbekistan in 1989
and has since managed to hold onto his position despite
independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. However,
his record in office has been controversial.

Any challenge to Karimov's rule is routinely branded
'Islamic extremism' and the president has responded with
characteristically colourful language, as well as with
armed force. For example, during a spate of violent
incidents in March 1999, he announced: "I am prepared to
rip off the heads of 200 people, to sacrifice their
lives, in order to save peace and calm in the republic.
If my child chose such a path, I myself would rip off
his head."

Although there have been small protests against the
government previously - including a tiny demonstration
involving around 60 people in the capital Tashkent
earlier this month - widespread opposition in the
eastern city of Andijan represents the most serious
challenge to Karimov's authority. Amid unconfirmed
reports that as many as 500 people may have been killed
and thousands of others wounded during a security
crackdown by Uzbek military forces, hundreds of refugees
have already fled across the border into neighbouring
Kyrgyzstan. There is a significant ethnic Uzbek
population living in the border area.

Unlike Askar Akayev, Karimov's fallen counterpart in
Kyrgyzstan, the Uzbek president is unlikely to withdraw
from his country in order to avoid further bloodshed.
This determination to crush all opposition by force
means that further military repression can be expected
as discontent with the regime in Tashkent mounts amid
popular anger over the deaths in Andijan. Uzbekistan is
set to be the next 'domino state' in Central Asia, but
the revolution can be expected to come at a far higher
price than in Kyrgyzstan."

end of quotes

Jane's : Naval market in Asia-Pacific on a rising tide

The Asia-Pacific region will overtake Europe and the US
as the world's single largest market for new-build naval
platforms and systems within the next five years,
according to projections prepared by naval analysts and
advisers AMI International.

Major naval modernisation programmes being pursued by
China, India and South Korea are seen as the key drivers
to this continued growth.

Speaking a day before the start of the IMDEX Asia 2005
conference and exhibition, AMI senior analyst Robin Keil
said that while about US$9 billion is currently spent
annually on new naval materiel in western Europe, the
market was "stagnant and likely to decline in the coming
years". Meanwhile, the amount being invested annually
in new warships and outfitting in the US "is likely to
stay at a constant US$10-11 billion for the foreseeable

Example of technology with the Sylena soft-kill system
aimed at small ships

French pyrotechnics group Etienne Lacroix, working in
association with EADS Defence and Communications
Systems, has unveiled a new multimode soft-kill decoy
system specifically designed to protect smaller surface
combatants such as patrol vessels, fast attack craft and

Known as Sylena, the new system combines a below-decks
control processor with multiple compact fixed launchers
firing SEALEM radio frequency (RF), SEALIR infra-red
(IR) decoy rounds and deck-edge SEA MOSC optronic
screening/masking devices. According to a Lacroix
spokesman Serge Bidan, the low size, mass and radar
cross-section (RCS) of topside launcher equipment has
been designed to minimise ship fit impact and maintain
stealth attributes aboard low-RCS ship designs.

A typical Sylena configuration for a patrol craft would
use two launchers plus four SEAMOSC screening
'suitcases', with the number of launchers increasing to
four for fast attack craft and corvettes. Lacroix said
that the new suite could provide protection against
between six and 12 threats without reloading."

end of quotes

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Japanese Princess Nori to marry mid November with commoner

Interesting to notice the good timing of the
announcement related to Princess Nori engagement and

First: it follows, October 2004, a tough palace quarrel
around the issue of whether singing Japan's national
anthem should be compulsory in schools, quarrels
immediately toned down April 25 2005 by emperor Akihito
himself who admitted that it was important to teach
respect for the anthem and flag as symbols of the nation
but also to consider the feelings of the people.

Japan's "Hinomaru" flag and "Kimigayo" anthem have long
been seen by some at home and other parts of Asia as a
symbol of Japan's past militarism.

The first October event with Akihito stirred controversy
when he told a guest at a royal garden party that
teachers and students should not be forced to sing the
anthem while facing the flag. (Ishihara's ears heard
the bells)

Second, it happens while Japan's history is the focus of
attention of the whole Asian region, for its military

Asia watchers remember that Mr. Kuroda's (a Tokyo city
bureaucrat) attraction for the daughter of the emperor ,
was announced late autumn. Some watchers based in Tokyo
noticed how Governor Ishihara hurried in any media
events to convey his views, sometimes in secret meetings
to editorial writers at such place as the National press

Latest announcement, quote:

"Princess Nori, Emperor Akihito's only daughter, will
marry Tokyo Metropolitan Government employee Yoshiki
Kuroda in a Nov. 15 ceremony, the Imperial Household
Agency said Wednesday.

The ceremony will take place at the Imperial Hotel in
Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, in the presence of Emperor Akihito
and Empress Michiko, the agency said.

The princess, whose other formal name is Princess
Sayako, and Kuroda will hold a Shinto wedding ceremony,
according to their wishes.

The agency announced the engagement of the 36-year-old
princess and Kuroda, 40, in late December.

The couple were formally engaged in March through the
traditional Nosai no Gi betrothal rite, the first in a
series of court ceremonies before the wedding. They
have more rites to go thorough, including the Choken no
Gi rite of audience, where the Emperor and Empress
receive the princess' official farewell."

end of quotes

Let's hope that they will live happily, long, and have
many male or female children.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee hostile to Yasukuni Shrine VIP visits

After China and Korea's, Singapore...


Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday
rapped Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for
indicating he would visit Yasukuni Shrine again this

In an interview with Japanese reporters ahead of his
trip to Japan next week, Lee said Koizumi's continued
visits to the war-linked shrine would show a lack of
repentance for Japanese military atrocities during World
War II and could hurt the progress of Japan's ties with
Asian countries.

"From the point of view of many countries in the region
who have experienced Japanese occupation, it raises many
unhappy memories," he said.

"A visit to the shrine is interpreted by many people, I
think including many in Singapore, as being a gesture of
not entirely accepting responsibility and not accepting
that Japan did wrong during the war and that these were
war criminals and they should not be honored," he said.

The criticism is one the harshest leveled by a Singapore
leader over visits by Japanese prime ministers to the
shrine in Tokyo.

Although Singapore was invaded and occupied by Japanese
troops from 1942 to 1945 and more than 50,000 civilians
are believed to have been killed during the period,
controversies over Japan's wartime atrocities generally
do not rouse as much ire here as in China or South

Lee said visits to the shrine were a stumbling block for
Japan's relations with neighboring Asian countries as it
showed that Japan had not come to terms with its
militarist past, unlike Germany.

"As a result, when a visit takes place, the temperature
goes up all over the region, especially in China and
especially in Korea. That is regrettable because in
fact we should be looking ahead, looking towards the
future and how we can work together rather than be tied
up with the past, but unless we comes to terms with the
past and acknowledge it, then it's very difficult to
move ahead," he said.

Koizumi hinted Monday that he will visit Yasukuni Shrine
despite repeated objections by Beijing and said other
countries should not interfere in the way Japan mourns
its war dead.

Yasukuni Shrine is regarded as the symbol of Japanese
militarism by China and South Korea because it enshrines
war criminals along with the war dead.

Lee said that the Japanese government's recent approval
of controversial revisions to school textbooks, which
Asian countries perceive as whitewashing Japan's wartime
military atrocities, is another sign that Japan had "not
come to terms with the past."

Lee, however, expressed appreciation for Japan's
positive contributions to Southeast Asia over the past
decades and said he believes that Japan will continue to
play an important role in the region despite the rapid
economic rise of China.

He said that Singapore looked forward to Japan playing a
bigger role in the region and would be willing to back
Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the U.N.
Security Council.

"You are a natural candidate, you make many
international contributions, and you have the ability to
contribute internationally to peace and stability and
prosperity in the world," he said, though adding that
reforming the United Nations and expanding the permanent
membership is likely to be a "long and difficult

"China is growing rapidly but Japan is still a lot
bigger" in terms of the breadth and depth of its
economy, technological prowess, and the sheer scale of
its overseas investment, he said. "There are many
things which Japan can do which China will not be able
to do for quite a long time, and I think there is a role
for Japan to play in the region," he said.

On Japan's proposal for co-chairmanship of the first
East Asia Summit to be held in Kuala Lumpur in December
this year, Lee said he wants the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations to play a central role as the
"core" participant of the summit.

The summit is expected to include the 10 ASEAN members,
Japan, China, South Korea, plus possibly India,
Australia and New Zealand.

Asked about whether he thinks the United States, which
has often insisted it should not be left out of major
groupings in Asia, could participate in the summit, Lee
said "I am not sure that the U.S. would fit in

"They have an interest in what is happening in the
Asia-Pacific, but if you look on the other side of the
Pacific, there are groupings, NAFTA (North American Free
Trade Agreement)...which they participate in and we
accept that's part of the regional cooperation in the
two Americas."

Lee also urged Japan to hurry up in forming a good
free-trade deal with ASEAN, saying it was in Japan's
strategic interest to do so. He said current
negotiations have been bogged down by political
sensitivities in Japan over market access to
agricultural products and moved at a slower pace than
ASEAN's FTA talks with China.

"From a strategic point of view, it is in Japan's
interest to have a good FTA with Southeast Asia, with
ASEAN, and we hope that will develop," he said.

Lee, who assumed the premiership late last year, is
expected to hold talks with Koizumi during his visit to
Japan from May 23 to 28. He said he would like to
encourage Japan to continue to play an active role in
the development of Southeast Asia during the trip, and
contribute more in non-economic areas, and also urge
Japanese companies to invest in Singapore.

end of quotes

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Toyota versus General Motors : risk of a nationalistic backlash

Risk of a nationalistic backlash?
For sure Mr. WTO Lamy is concerned, isn't he?


"... As GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner and Toyota
President Fujio Cho were meeting this weekend near
Toyota's headquarters, Japanese auto executives appeared
to be making some pre-emptive moves to head off any
anti-Japanese sentiment among American consumers.

Toyota Chairman Hiroshi Okuda caused a stir recently by
saying he was considering raising prices on Toyota cars
in the United States in a bid to aid ailing U.S.
rivals, as well as sharing technological research with
American automakers. "The decline of the once
invincible American auto industry in the face of
Japanese competition could set off a nationalistic
backlash among American consumers," the Japanese daily
Asahi Shimbun warned in an editorial this past week.
"There is every reason for Japanese automakers to work
hard to avoid unnecessary conflict."

Such fears are overblown, analysts say. For one, the
Bush administration is much more concerned about imports
from China than Japan. And over the years, Toyota,
Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. have made a point
of opening plants in the United States and buying
U.S.-made parts. Also, Japanese cars are not only
popular, they're viewed as setting the standard.
Americans are global consumers, seeking the best quality
and price on products, regardless of where they are
designed or made. "Ultimately, U.S. consumers are
consumers first and citizens second. Most people don't
really think about where their vehicles are made," said
Walter McManus, an auto analyst at the University of
Michigan Transportation Research Institute. "The
attitude of 'buy American' -- in cars at least -- is
pretty much gone," he said..."

end of quotes

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