East Asia Theater
US President Barack Obama announced his decision to send 2,500 troops to be stationed in Australia in a speech before the parliament in Canberra Nov. 17—a move widely seen as a counter-balance to China's growing power in the Asia-Pacific region. China's People’s Daily warned in an editorial: "If Australia uses its military bases to help the US harm Chinese interests, then Australia itself will be caught in the crossfire." Obama's announcement symbolically comes on the 60th anniversary of the Cold War-era Australia-New-Zealand-United-States (ANZUS) defense treaty. Obama did hold previously unscheduled and seemingly amicable talks two days later with Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. But Obama's Australia move also comes days after a congressional advisory panel, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, warned of Beijing's growing military presence in Asia.
Farmers staged sit-in protests at five regional offices of lawmakers of South Korea's ruling Grand National Party on Nov. 9, demanding no ratification of the new US-Korea Free Trade Agreement. "The protests are to denounce the GNP, which is moving to ratify the FTA that will surely devastate the local agricultural industry," said a leader of the Korea Farmers League’s branch for North Gyeongsang province, which organized the protests. "We will mount a campaign against those lawmakers who vote in favor of the deal." (Korea Herald, Nov. 9) Days earlier, police in Seoul fired water cannons to disperse more than 2,000 protesters who tried to break into the National Assembly as lawmakers debated FTA ratification. (AP, Nov. 3)
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said Nov. 1 it had begun injecting water and boric acid into Reactor No. 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, after detecting signs of fission. The injection was ordered after analysis of gas samples from the reactor building indicated the presence of xenon 133 and xenon 135, byproducts of a nuclear reaction. "We cannot deny the possibility of a small nuclear fission reaction," TEPCO spokesman Hiroki Kawamata said. The temperature in reactor No. 2 had been brought to below 100 degrees C, one of the conditions for the utility to declare "cold shutdown." TEPCO and the government had said they were on track to bring the damaged reactors to cold shutdown by the end of the year. (AFP, Bloomberg, Nov. 2)
Thousands of villagers attacked government buildings in the southern Chinese city of Lufeng, Guangdong province, in a protest over land sales Sept. 22. The protests, in which around a dozen were hurt, were triggered by the seizure of several hectares of land and their sale to property developer Country Garden for 1 billion yuan ($156.6 million) at the village of Wukan. Witnesses said villagers were beaten after they surrounded a police station, armed with sticks and bricks. The government of Shanwei prefecture accused villagers of having "ulterior motives" and of "inciting" other villagers to charge into the police station by spreading rumors about police officers beating a child to death. At least four villagers have been detained.
Some 500 villagers in China's Zhejiang province protested for a third day Sept. 17 at the factory of Zhejiang Jinko Solar, storming the compound, ransacking offices and overturning vehicles. Residents from the village of Hongxiao gathered outside the gates of the solar panel manufacturer in nearby Haining city to demand an explanation for the death of a large swath of fish in a river downstream from the plant last month. They grew angry after receiving no answer following a three-day vigil. The factory had earlier this year received a warning from Haining's environmental protection bureau for improper waste disposal. The company sells solar products around the world, maintaining offices in the US and Europe.
We recently noted China's aggressive embrace of the pathological, dystopian car culture first pioneered by the West. Now comes another sign of this cultural retrogression. From RTTNews, Sept. 16:
China Detains General's Teenage Son Over Road Rage Incident
The teenage son of a famous Chinese army general has been detained and sent to a government correctional facility for one year in connection with a road rage incident which sparked outrage across the country, state media reported Friday.
Hundreds of activists from throughout South Korea have gathered in force on Jeju Island, off the country's southern coast, to hold a "peace event" aimed at halting construction of a naval base slated to be used by US forces. The event, including a concert and cultural activities, opened Sept. 3—one day after riot police dispersed protesters at the island's Gangjeong village, who held a sit-in to block construction equipment. After the blockade was broken, and 38 arrested, work crew commenced construction of a perimeter fence around the construction site.
The amount of radioactive material being emitted from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has fallen to one-fifth that of a month ago and one-10 millionth the levels in mid-March, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said Aug. 17. Maximum radiation levels near the plant measured since the beginning of August were put at 200 million becquerels per hour—but Goshi Hosono, the cabinet minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, cautioned the 200 million becquerel reading is an estimate, and promised to seek ways of making precise measurements. TEPCO and the government said there is no major change in their timetable for bringing the plant under control. Containment efforts include building a wall of steel plates in front of the existing sea walls for units 1 through 4 to keep contaminated groundwater from entering the ocean. (ENS, Aug. 17)