Saturday, July 17, 2010

South Korea: Jeju-do Resort Island says No to a Navy base

Forget Okinawa in Japan, Guam, or Jeju-do (South Korea) scenic landscape. Here, the "cold war" didn't end!

Aegis destroyers in Jeju-do harbor (concept map)

For years, the South Korean government planned to build a Navy base on Jeju Island, a touristic resort between ROK and Japan. Locals are angry and said their life and environment are threatened. A similar scenario to Japan owned Okinawa Henoko region where the US and Japan government plan to relocate segment of the Marine Corps airborne.

The South Korean Navy is to build this year 2010 wharfs where Aegis destroyers will be based. The ships, from the South Korean and US fleets, are set with "missile defense" systems and be used to monitor China’s coastal region and North Korea, naval activities and military transports.

Local activists and environment associations fear that: "Jeju Island, now called the peace island, will thus become a prime military target" They also claim nature will be damaged: "The coral reefs have been named by the United Nations as key environmental treasures that should be saved, building a naval base on top of these wonders of nature will not ensure they will be protected and the traditional way of life in this small fishing and fruit growing community will be severely impacted." End of quotes

The Joongang Ilbo daily reported this week that after 15 months of controversy, the Seoul Administrative Court rejected Jeju residents' request to stop the Defense Ministry from building a naval base on the island. The ruling gave the ministry permission to speed up the building of a port for 20 battleships and two large cruisers by 2014. Mr. Park Jeong-hwa, the judge who presided over the case, said there were no illegalities in the way the ministry handled the project.

Mr. Yoon Ho-gyeong, the head of a Gangjeong villagers association that is opposed to the base, said he can't accept the ruling: "The port will be able to harbor some 20 sophisticated warships, serving as the homeport of the Navy's 'strategic mobile squadron.'' The naval base is to be inaugurated by 2015, navy officials said. The mobile squadron, which will be rapidly deployed in regional conflict, will consist of 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers, 7,600-ton Aegis-equipped KDX-III destroyers, Type-214 1,800-ton submarines, anti-submarine Lynx helicopters and frigates among others. The squadron is expected to play a key role in "managing possible conflicts with Japan and China," ROK navy officials added. In line with the plan, the ROK Air Force also plans to build a base for a search-and-rescue unit to help facilitate the Navy's operations in the southern waters.

Jeju island has long been considered a tactical, strategic point to secure southern sea lanes for transporting energy supplies and to conduct mobile operations in the case of an emergency in the region according to officials quoted by the Korea Times daily.

East Asia: China (L) S & N Korea (C) Japan (R) Red circle is Jeju

Following the construction, the Korea Times writes, "the Navy will be able to successfully conduct long-range operations to protect our commercial vessels in blue waters, including the Malacca Strait, as well as carry out full-scale operations around the Korean Peninsula." Activities well beyond boundaries? "Some anti-U.S. civic groups have raised suspicions of the project being related to the country's joining the U.S. led global ballistic missile defense (BMD) system, arguing the plan will make Jeju vulnerable to international terrorism and becoming a potential military target of anti-U.S. militants, the Korean Navy admits that U.S. aircraft carriers may visit the port, but made it clear that it has no plan to join the BMD and make the port a permanent station for U.S. forces." End of quotes Korea Times.

What counter arguments do the activists oppose? Protection of the environment and laws.

Quotes : "First, the Gangjeong village that preserves the worldwide beauty is not appropriate for any reasons. Dec. 12, 2002, designated as the preservation area for the living creatures by the UNESCO.
Second, the base-militarization would be only the powder magazine of the North East Asia.
Seeing from the geopolitical viewpoint, militarization of the Jeju Island would only increase the tension with the vicinity countries and it would not do any influence for peace.
Third, the construction of the Gangjeong naval base is procedurally wrong.
There has been no process of public consensus such as the fair for the villagers.
Fourth, the Ministry of the National Defense and the Jeju Island Government had announced that they would not construct the naval base without the villagers’ agreement. But the Gangjeong villagers’ vote has been ignored. Gangjeong villagers practiced the villagers’ own vote on August 20, 2007: among 1050 electors, 725 voted and the voters in opposition were 680 ballots (94%), and favor ballots were 36 while cancellation ballots were 9.
Fifth, the Gangjeong villagers whose livelihood communities are broken are experiencing the acute suffering for three years." End of quotes.

Hallasan, Jeju-do is South Korea's tallest mountain and dormant volcano 1,950 m above sea

"The building of a Navy base in Gangjeong, to serve as a port for the growing U.S. Aegis destroyer fleet, will require dredging of the sea bed and destruction of the coral. According to news reports quoted in this report of Times-Record the U.S. wishes to multiply by 2 its military presence in the Asian-Pacific region in order to manage China. Thus we now see U.S. base expansion on Guam, Okinawa and in South Korea... U.S. wants to deploy Aegis destroyers ... at the base on Jeju Island largely because of its strategic proximity to China. China imports 80 percent of its oil on ships and a Navy base on Jeju would help give the U.S. ability to control this vital shipping lane in the Yellow Sea." End of quotes.

Gangjeong village where the base is to be built is famous for growing tangerines and for its fishing and soft coral reefs. UNESCO named the sea coast there as one of the world’s environmental jewels and artistic patrimony. Might loose the credit in the future.

Local guard, a Jeju-do traditional stone sculpture

* Regarding Cold war in the title, nowadays it is less the antagonism of ideologies but rather economics and geopolitical confrontations.

Sources: Joongang Ilbo , Korea Times, Times-record, No base stories of Korea, Opposition to the navy base flourishes on the Internet "No base stories of Korea" Agencies, Reporter's notes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

France & Japon! La Presse Tenue à Distance

Carton Rouge!

Le dossier franco-français dans ce Blog consacré à l'Asie? De quoi s'agit-il?

A l'occasion aujourd'hui et demain, 15 et 16 Juillet, de la visite de 48 heures au Japon du premier ministre français, en route vers la Nouvelle Calédonie, François Fillon et Naoto Kan vont faire une déclaration devant les journalistes japonais et français* et les "Foreign Correspondents" sont invités "à assister à la présentation" de cette rencontre au sommet des deux chefs de gouvernement au "Kantei", le Matignon japonais, mais les journalistes ne pourront poser aucune question à François Fillon et Naoto Kan!

A aucun moment il ne nous sera possible de poser des questions au premier ministre Fillon et à son homologue japonais Naoto Kan. Les services officiels japonais et français avancent pour motifs que les 2 hommes politiques craignent "que des questions soient posées sur l'actualité".


"No comment" sur la défaite de Naoto Kan aux élections sénatoriales de dimanche dernier, sur les relations entre la France et le Japon, sur l'actualité internationale, sur les affaires en cours. "No question" à François Fillon, sur la France ou le Japon, notamment l'affaire Woerth-Bettencourt, sur les suites de l'affaire Ozawa, sur le financement occulte de la vie politique japonaise, sur le futur programme gouvernemental pour Naoto Kan. Bref, sur l'actualité.

Si la presse ne peut plus faire son travail, poser des questions aux dirigeants politiques, si la presse ne peut plus accomplir sa mission et son devoir d'information, et les questionner sur leurs actions et décisions, bref de constater et transmettre le message selon lequel les dirigeants ont a coeur de respecter leurs engagements nationaux et internationaux en matière de promotion et de garantie de la liberté d’information, il me parait utile aujourd'hui de rappeler le rôle essentiel que les journalistes ont à jouer dans ce domaine et de dénoncer la méthode autoritaire qui s'apparente à un cas flagrant de censure.

Souligner l’importance de la liberté d’information en tant que partie intégrante de la liberté d’expression et sa contribution à la gouvernance démocratique, c'est ce qui anime les journalistes et on ne peut que regretter les campagnes de dénigrement lancées actuellement en France contre la presse. Le droit de savoir et de questionner est un droit fondamental et permet aux démocraties de promouvoir la réflexion et les échanges d’idées sur la liberté d’information pour faire progresser l’autonomisation des citoyens, la transparence, la responsabilisation de la vie publique et la lutte contre la corruption.

De bonnes raisons pour être en droit et en condition de pouvoir poser des questions aux décideurs et élus, quels qu'ils soient. D'autant que les français ont des questions. Par exemple: Une étude CSA pour Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France indique en effet que:

"... pour 57% des personnes interrogées, le président français n'a pas balayé leurs doutes sur l'affaire Woerth-Bettencourt, le dossier des retraites ou la réduction des déficits publics. A l'inverse, 32% jugent qu'il a été persuasif. Au premier rang des sujets qui ont le moins convaincu figure l'affaire Woerth-Bettencourt, sur laquelle 62% des personnes interrogées n'ont pas jugé probantes les réponses de Nicolas Sarkozy. "Ces pourcentages s'infléchissent peu quand la question est posée aux seuls spectateurs ayant vu la prestation du chef de l'Etat face à David Pujadas. Ils sont 52% à avoir jugé 'pas convaincant' le locataire de l'Elysée, contre 45%", précise Le Parisien. Dans Le Figaro, 44% des personnes interrogées par l'Ifop estiment que le chef de l'Etat a été globalement convaincant, contre 56% d'un avis contraire. Dans le détail, seuls ses propos consacrés au dossier de la réforme des retraites sont jugés probants par une majorité des personnes interrogées (52% contre 48%). Sur tous les autres sujets listés par l'institut de sondage, la balance est négative: 60% l'ont ainsi jugé pas convaincant sur l'affaire Bettencourt-Woerth ou sur la réduction de la dette et du déficit." Fin de citation.

Qu'en dit la presse?

"Les affaires Woerth continuent d’empoisonner le gouvernement"
"Affaire Woerth-Bettencourt-Sarkozy: le symbole de la lutte des castes"
Citations: "En concentrant entre ses mains les plus puissants leviers de pouvoir et les sommes d’argent les plus colossales, la classe aristo-politico-industrielle est forcément investie des plus hauts devoirs d’éthique, d’exemplarité et de transparence."

On le sait, des difficultés multiples sont ressenties par les français, et des critiques virulentes sont lancées à l'égard de la presse et des journalistes dans "les affaires" Bettencourt Worth et certes concourent à créer un climat nauséabond, une atmosphère de suspicion public-justice-politiciens-presse. Des doutes n'ont pas été dissipés par les déclarations officielles, c'est bien ce que ce sondage révèle. Dès lors, nul étonnement à observer notre élu national se réfugier dans le "no question no comment" qui s'apparente à un déni. Idem pour Kan qui s'était fait le champion de l'ouverture des "Kisha Clubs" avec son parti le Minshuto.

Retard à l'allumage

Mais ce que ce sondage indique aussi est la réaffirmation authentique du droit des publics à interroger leurs responsables, du droit à l'égalité dans l'accès à l'information, directement en période électorale ou via leurs représentants. Un rôle également assuré quotidiennement par la presse, son droit de savoir, de questionner, de commenter.*

Le droit d'accès à l'information, thème de la Journée mondiale de la liberté de la presse chaque 3 Mai, garantit aux publics que l’UNESCO soutient les actions destinées à autonomiser les individus de façon qu’ils puissent avoir accès et contribuer aux flux d’information et de connaissances.

* En tant que Co-Chairs du "Freedom of the Press Commitee of the FCCJ", nous avons publié 2 communiqués sur le droit à l'information lors des conférences de presse et briefings au Kantei.

**Les journalistes correspondants étrangers travaillant au Japon ont invité le 18 mars 2010 le ministre français des affaires étrangères et "French Doctor" Bernard Kouchner pour un déjeuner de presse qui s'est révèlé être un véritable succès. Nous avions travaillé la préparation de cette rencontre et débat lors de mon mandat au Board of Directors du "Press Club" en parfaite coordination avec les services officiels concernés en France et au Japon.

MFAE Bernard Kouchner (C) Ambassadeur de France Philippe Faure (G) Modérateur (D)

Sources: Parisien, Figaro, Liberation, Le Monde, La Tribune, Le temps, Les Inrock, Agences, Reporter's notes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Japan: Voters sanction the austerity policies of Prime Minister Kan !

One of the most lucid and independent commentator Dr. Minoru Morita predicted on June 22nd a "Big Loss for the DPJ in the Upper House Vote elections". Quotes: "The Kan Cabinet and the Democratic Party of Japan escaped parliamentary deliberations. Though they could have convened the budget committees of both houses, the cabinet and the party quashed any hopes for deliberation and fled. They pulled a fast one. Parliamentary deliberations are for the people. It's an important way that a democracy gives voters the material they need to decide their votes. It's criminal for Kan and the DPJ to eliminate debate just as we enter a crucial time (...) We have to leave behind the politicians who choose to act immorally. There's no reason for the Diet to exist if we allow lawmakers and politics that don't show esteem for the institution. I want the power of the people to get behind the Diet, the most esteemed institution of our government. To do this, we must punish those who run from it."

Focus on a political tragedy

Tanigaki's victory (R) seen as a responsive symbol of the younger generation of Liberal-Democrats while Kan (L) seen as incapable to fix Japan without the "Shadow Shogun" Ozawa Ichiro?

It took less than 4 months to crush two prime ministers, one resigned, Hatoyama Yukio after a feud within the left side of the DPJ, the other, Kan Naoto, is a lame politician without a majority after Sunday's Parliament election.

DPJ defeat at the Upper House election throws Japan national politics into chaos for the time being as the DPJ will have to decide what to do with the defeated leader Naoto Kan, some push for Kan's resignation to take responsibility and look for a stable new coalition partners while others call for the return at the helm of the "Shadow Shogun" Ozawa Ichiro who was hastily sided out by Kan's team, a team regarded as irresponsible vis a vis Japan's opinion deep sense of abandon and despair.

Quotes of Monday's Japanese dailies and commentators

"If there is one lesson that this upper house campaign has taught us, it is a lesson that we all should have already learned: there is no stopping Ozawa Ichiro... Ozawa's behavior during the campaign could signal a new role for Ozawa as an internal critic, concerned less with vying for control of the party than with keeping the party on what he sees as the right path. It seems to me that the Kan government could live with Ozawa's moving into this role." writes Japan watcher - blogger Tobias Harris.

Tokyo stocks opened slightly lower Monday as selling took the upper hand on anxiety over possible political instability after Japan's ruling coalition suffered a major setback in Sunday's upper house election.

Defeat was severe and DPJ punished after Japan's ruling coalition not only failed to gain an overall majority in the House of Councillors but also to win more seats than its main rival, the Liberal Democratic Party.

Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party, retained her Upper House seat even though her party left the coalition after Fukushima was dismissed from the Cabinet of Yukio Hatoyama for opposing the government position on relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa Prefecture.

And now?

“Kan will be in a defensive crouch
trying to ward off Ozawa attacks.”
Dr. Gerald Curtis, Columbia University

Ozawa Ichiro. Profession? Political shadow shogun

With the ruling coalition falling to a minority in the Upper House, Kan will have to seek out new coalition partners to obtain a working majority. It remains to be seen whether any party would be willing to join a DPJ that has been effectively rejected by voters. Yoshimi Watanabe, the leader of Your Party, repeatedly said during the Upper House campaign that his party would never join hands with the DPJ. New Komeito head Natsuo Yamaguchi also maintained a confrontational stance toward the DPJ throughout the campaign. Asahi daily.

"The DPJ is growing arrogant now, so I wanted to punish it," a 40-year-old man of Gifu who voted for Your Party. "I'm disappointed at its handling of the issue of relocating U.S. Air Station Futenma (within Okinawa Prefecture)," said a 22-year-old man living in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo. "This is not about Okinawa or about civil servants, it is about helping Japanese to reinvent their life in the XXIst century," said a mid-aged Japanese office employee in Osaka.

About half of voters in three big cities who supported the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the House of Representatives election last summer voted for other parties in the July 11 House of Councillors race, according to a Mainichi daily survey. However, the LDP's outstanding performance was aided largely by voters' criticism of Prime Minister Naoto Kan's inconsistent remarks on a consumption tax hike. A failure by the party to show clear prospects for winning the unified local elections next year and the next House of Representatives election is likely to spark calls for the party leadership to step down.

After Kan took the reins from his unpopular predecessor, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, the DPJ benefited from a big boost to its approval rating. Kan then began speaking out in favor of raising the 5% consumption tax to 10%, calling for cross-partisan discussions on restoring Japan's fiscal health. But opposition parties resisted such calls and criticized Kan. Nikkei financial daily.

The setback for the DPJ may increase political uncertainty and should lead Japan to a necessary consensus and revitalization with the aid of the public and private sector in Japan as "it struggles to climb out of a prolonged economic slump and trim its massive public debt, while facing a host of other challenges as a result of drastic changes in the country's social structure, ranging from an aging population to weakening community bonds."

"It was not a good strategy to vituperate the civil servants while chastising consumers with an increase of the consumption tax and offering simultaneously tax reductions to the private corporations" said a Japanese scholar in a Tokyo seminar prior to the elections.

The DPJ now faces the challenge of finding new allies to secure a majority to pass bills smoothly through the Diet. It is almost certain that Kan's grip on the government will loosen and rifts will deepen within the ruling party ahead of its leadership election in September. Kyodo news agency.

The outcome also will induce problems for Kan within his own party, the DPJ. With a party presidential election scheduled for September, DPJ lawmakers who are thinking about their own political futures will request for a new party president to lead them into the next Lower House election, which must be held within three years.

Some will likely blame Kan's comment about the consumption tax rate for the party's loss. His resignation is asked. Upper House elections are often a barometer of whether a prime minister can build a stable government. Many past leaders, including Ryutaro Hashimoto in 1998 and Shinzo Abe in 2007, stepped down following crushing defeats, while Junichiro Koizumi got a landslide victory in the 2001 election and stayed in power for five years through 2006. End of quotes.

Consequences of Kan's defeat on foreign relations?

"The Japanese government that emerges from this vote will be notably weaker, less able to push through important legislation, with a leadership facing challenges from within and outside the DPJ. Key international issues now loom on the immediate horizon, from finalizing negotiations on the base dispute with the U.S. to coping with a rising China, not to mention responding to signs of new slowdown in the global economy," said Daniel Sneider, of Stanford University.

Michael Green, Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies: "The result of Japan’s Upper House election may condemn Japan to another year or more of weak and uncertain coalition government, or worse — a “twisted Diet” in which the opposition controls the Upper House and blocks legislation until the ruling government collapses."

Sources: Asahi, Mainichi, Yomiuri, Morita's, Tobias Harris's blog, wsj blog, illustration Kazuya-Akimoto, Reporter's notes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

French navy: successful test fire of the new M-51 ballistic missile

France new submarine ballistic missile M-51 launched from SNLE "Le Terrible"

With a deterrence inherited from the Cold War geared mainly towards Soviet Russia, France now moves to a position much more "all-out", which helps deter proven nuclear and emerging nuclear powers.

France has just completed a test firing of a missile M-51 in Brittany, on Saturday, in the Baie d'Audierne near Brest. This is the second launch since the 1st test in January. This launch, while diving, validates the operational aspect of the fourth type SSBN Triumphant.

With a length of 138 meters underwater for a mass of over 14,000 tons, "Le Terrible" has a crew of 111 men including 15 officers and made his first launch of the M-51 on January 27 after three firings from land-based facilities in 2006, 2007 and 2008. The missile-sea-land-strategic ballistic missile submarines is designed for new generation, starting with the Terrible, launched in March 2008, and who will receive 16 copies.

This high technology M-51 will be commissioned by the Navy this year 2010. This test is part of the renewal and adaptation of deterrence of France against new threats in strict compliance with its international commitments. The Gendarmerie Maritime, including Coast-guards and the Gendarmerie of the Armament provided their support for the monitoring of the firing zone.

Illustration of the M-51 nuclear ballistic missile

The DGA is owner of the M51 and SSBN military programs. EADS Astrium has designed and built the M51 missile. The DCNS has designed and built the SSBN "Le Terrible". The CEA designs and manufactures missile payloads. The M51 was monitored during its flight (without nuclear charge) by a ship of the French Navy, the "Monge" and through the center of the "DGA missile tests" of Biscarrosse and Quimper. The fallout area is the center of the North Atlantic, hundreds of miles from any coast. The reentry phase lasted a few seconds with a huge slowdown with... a military secrecy precision.

Sources: Reporter's notes

✍✍✍ VDO 1 Launch of the M-51

VDO 2 Le Terrible