News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Facing Isolation, Taiwan Woos Latin America: Chen's trip comes as some of Taiwan's 25 diplomatic allies, like Panama, the Vatican and the Solomon Islands, are holding secret talks with China on switching recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Some other allies are also mulling changing sides due to the expanding political and economic power of China. One of them, Haiti, has barred Taiwan's Premier Su Tseng-chang from attending the May 14 inauguration of President-elect Rene Preva, after China had threatened to veto UN's extending the mandate for peacekeeping force in Haiti in August. This is the first time a diplomatic ally has declined a visit by a Taiwan leader.
Military muscles bulging in SE Asia: Many Southeast Asian buyers spoke about long-overdue military modernization needs as the incentive behind their purchases. Others suggested they needed to prepare to repel armed insurgencies or unmentioned full state threats.
The unspoken subtext is the perceived need to safeguard against China's growing military might in the event Beijing someday takes on a more aggressive foreign policy toward its smaller regional neighbors. The Rand Corporation, a respected US-based think-tank, estimates that China, which claimed to have a $29 billion defense budget last year, actually spent between $42 billion and $51 billion in a rapid, if not secretive, military modernization drive.
There was plenty of geostrategic politics at play at the Kuala Lumpur arms show. Russia, which is aiming to ramp up global sales for its military hardware and strategically counterbalance China's growing economic influence in the region, was particularly active in brokering deals. Russian arms dealers have recently had a large measure of success in peddling their wares in Southeast Asia, signing contracts with Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia for aircraft exports worth nearly half of Russia's total global exports in recent years.
US, Seoul parting ways over North Korea: Human Rights Watch, dominated by former Clinton administration people, came out with a report this week that said North Korea had reversed its reformist policies and was again banning the private sale of grain. The grain, Washington advocacy director Tom Malinowski said, was going to the elite, not the millions who needed it most. North Korea, "has gone back to precisely the same set of policies that were a primary cause of that terrible disaster" of the 1990s in which at least 1 million people starved to death, said Malinowski, a former speech writer for former president Bill Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.
...about 6,000 North Korean workers are toiling away for South Korean companies. They're paid US$57.50 a month, a fortune by North Korean standards, and in a few years the complex will become a regional hub hiring half a million workers for international companies, according to the project's South Korean directors. The Americans frankly regard all this hype as nonsense. They say no workers see the money that's paid into North Korean accounts. They believe they're toiling away for almost nothing, living under terrible conditions, clothed and fed just enough so they'll be able to go on working. These charges, publicized by Jay Lefkowitz, a New York lawyer appointed by President George W Bush as his part-time envoy on human rights in North Korea, not only incense the Unification Ministry but cloud the future of a free trade agreement on which the United States and South Korea begin negotiations in June.
...The United States has repeatedly rejected South Korean insistence that South Korean troops in time of war should not revert to American command. The US view is that only one general can take charge in a war, and the United States, with all the means of modern war at its disposal, would have to rescue South Korea as it did in 1950. But would the United States again ride to the rescue? US forces are pulling back, in a controversial decision, viewed with alarm by some Koreans, to reposition its forces well south of Seoul rather than on the historic invasion route between North Korea and the capital. The United States is also reducing the number of bases while cutting down its forces from 37,000 two years ago to 29,500 today to 25,000 at the end of the decade.
Bigots, racists and worthless buffoons - so why do they keep getting elected?: It didn't hurt Respect in the East End, where the party did well on Thursday. Once again, we find a slice of the electorate in a poor part of Britain that is so lost in identity politics and victimhood that it will vote for those who stoke their rage, no matter how worthless they are.
Biff-Sounds much like the allegiance of African-American voters to both the Democratic Party and to black leaders who hide their Caribbean antecedents (Married blacks of Caribbean ancestry on average earn more per capita in the US than married Caucasians, not to mention the traditional contempt of Caribbean immigrant blacks for American blacks).
The conventional wisdom is that far right parties are driven back into the undergrowth when the electorate sees them for what they are. Historically, that has been the case, but those who expect the BNP and Respect to disappear should look at what has happened to Sinn Fein.
Eighteen months ago, pundits predicted its support would collapse after the IRA stole £26m from the Northern Bank and its drunken sadists murdered Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub. After that, everyone should have been able to see that the peace process had turned it into Ireland's version of the Mafia. Its political purpose was a distant memory - the Mafia originally tried to protect Sicilians from foreign invaders; its made men saw themselves as above the law; it had pet politicians to provide it with excuses; and could threaten both the British and Irish states with an escalation of the violence if its profits from racketeering were endangered.
But in both the north and the south of Ireland, Sinn Fein support has held steady. I hope I'm wrong, but the lesson from Ireland is that nothing sectarian politicians do can shake the doltish faith of their supporters.
No Gun Ri: No Gun Ri is a village in South Korea, located in Hwanggan-myeon, Yeongdong County, North Chungcheong province. During the early days of the Korean War, a highly publicized massacre took place in which a group of Korean refugees, and possibly North Korean infiltrators, were killed by elements of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.
Biff- A few years back, watched the Cspan debate between the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter of this story and the cavalry regiment's historian. Under questioning, it became clear the reporter didn't know what he was talking about from time to time. Reporters, after all, seldom have time for in-depth investigation. But in this case, he came out of the debate looking much, much the worse for wear. My conclusion was that the reporter was a second-rate con-man taken to the cleaners by a first-rate crook who bit off more than he could chew. Unfortunately the video ain't up at Cspan or you could judge for yourself.
...Soon after the awarding of the Pulitzer, however, a U.S. News & World Report article questioned the credibility of one of the witnesses relied upon in the AP report. Using the same Army records consulted by the AP, the news magazine pointed out the discrepencies which pointed towards fraud on the part of at least one key witness. The person in question was Edward Daily, who had claimed to have been eyewitness both to killings at No Gun Ri and an order to carry them out. The US News story alleged, based on army reports, that he was not in fact part of any unit at No Gun Ri anywhere near the time in question and was not, as he had claimed to have been, a machine gunner. The AP initially stuck by Daily, who had reaffirmed his claims to numerous other media outlets...
However, after the expose by other journalism outlets, the AP reinterviewed Daily who, when confronted with army records which conflicted his personal testimony, admitted that he could not have been at the scene of the incident and instead had heard of it second hand. Daily was in fact a mechanic during the war and did not join the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Cavalry until 1951. He later plead guilty to defrauding the government for collecting over $300,000 in benefits for combat-releated trauma over nearly fifteen years.
...Robert Bateman, a former member of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and an academic historian at West Point, authored a book after The Bridge at No Gun Ri was published. No Gun Ri: A Military History of the Korean War Incident is highly critical of the AP team's findings and calls into question both evidence presented to the reporters as well as their interpretation of the findings.
...Bateman demonstrated the plasticity of memory and susceptibility of some "memories" to outside suggestions from influential figures such as Daily, who had written two books on the history of the unit. Another AP witness inadvertently demonstrated Bateman's point in a front-page New York Times article. Veteran Eugene Hesselman would adamantly deny the charge that Daily was not at No Gun Ri when confronted; "I know that Daily was there. I know that. I know that." He and others, including Pfc. Delos Flint, come under scrutiny in Bateman's book for their recollection of events and are suggested to have not even been there just as Daily was not.
...The result of the official Army inquiry was released in January 2001. Among its findings:
...Estimates of the time length of fire range from a few minutes to four days.
U.S. commanders did not issue orders to fire on civilians in No Gun Ri during July 25-29.
Pilots were not ordered to kill civilians in the vicinity of No Gun Ri.
Interviewed veterans said deadly force was not authorized against civilians who posed no threat, and they were not given orders to shoot and kill civilians.
Some veterans believed they had the ability to use deadly force if civilians did not halt from passing their position.
...The summary concludes: "Neither the documentary evidence nor the U.S. veterans’ statements reviewed by the U.S. Review Team support a hypothesis of deliberate killing of Korean civilians. What befell civilians in the vicinity of No Gun Ri in late July 1950 was a tragic and deeply regrettable accompaniment to a war forced upon unprepared U.S. and ROK forces."

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