Monday, 13 April 2015

More States Approved As Founders of China-led AIIB

from Press TV: The Chinese Finance Ministry says Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Georgia and the Netherlands have been accepted as founding members of the Beijing-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

“With the consent of the existing founding members, the Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Georgia and Denmark officially became the founding countries of the AIIB on April 12,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Sunday.

The announcement came a day after Austria, Spain and South Korea were also approved as founders of the bank.

Other countries earlier approved as founders include Iran, France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Pakistan and Malaysia. Russia is also set to become a founding member.

The exact number of AIIB founding members is expected to be finalized on April 15. They will be entitled the right to assist in writing the AIIB rules.

Any other country that joined the AIIB after March 31 will only be given an ordinary membership. The organization will grant them voting rights, but they will have no say in writing the rules.

Meanwhile, concerns are already rising in Washington over growing applications by countries – many of them hardcore US allies – to join the AIIB.

The AIIB – which is seen as an emerging rival to powerful Western-led financial institutions such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund – is feared by the White House to be a new Chinese policy to increase the influence of the world’s second largest economy at regional and international levels.

China established the AIIB in 2014 and is expected to announce an initial subscribed capital of $50 billion, which is planned to be raised to USD 100 billion. The bank was formed to provide finance to infrastructure projects across Asia.

Philippines Gains 'International Support' For South China Sea Dispute With China

from The Presidential Palace on Saturday said it was the Philippines’ peaceful approach to dealing with its maritime dispute with China that drew support from the international community, including from U.S. President Barack Obama, who reacted strongly on Thursday to China’s massive land reclamation in the South China Sea.

“Where we get concerned with China is where it is not necessarily abiding by international norms and rules, and is using its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions,” Obama told a town hall event in Kingston, Jamaica, ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” Obama said.

It was the strongest U.S. reaction so far to China’s land reclamation following publication of pictures that, according to analysts, showed how Beijing was trying to create “facts in the water” to strengthen its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday welcomed the statements of support from Obama and other countries that recently criticised China for aggressively reclaiming land at contested reefs in the South China Sea, apparently trying to alter natural rock formations in disputed waters, which could affect territorial claims such as the case brought by the Philippines in the United Nations.

South Korea and Japan Set To Resume Security Talks After 5 Year Hiatus

from Senior officials of South Korea and Japanwill resume security talks next week after more than five years, with the hope of normalising dialogue despite recent diplomatic spats.

South Korea this week twice summoned Japanese envoys to protest what it saw as an attempt by Tokyo to whitewash its wartime past by making fresh claims to disputed islands.

The protests came after the foreign ministers of the two countries and China pledged last week in their first meeting in nearly three years to improve ties and overcome tension so that their leaders can soon resume what had been an annual summit.

South Korea said it would host the security dialogue of foreign and defense officials on Tuesday in Seoul. The officials would discuss cooperation in the areas of defense and national security, South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

Japan’s Defense minister Gen Nakatani said on Friday he hoped to meet his South Korean counterpart soon, possibly at an annual forum of defense chiefs from around the world in Singapore in late May.

Such a meeting if realised would be a sign of a further thaw in ties between the United States’ two major Asian allies.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

McDonald's Sales Plunge Again In Japan

from McDonald's Japan has marked its second-biggest yearly decline in sales since the company was listed in 2001. Company officials say a drop of 29.3 percent last month from a year earlier comes after a record fall of around 40 percent in January. 

The March decline is McDonald's 9th consecutive double-digit fall in sales. In July last year, the company was found to be using expired meat from a Chinese supplier. 

The scandal was followed this year by incidents in which foreign objects were discovered mixed in its products.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Revised Defense Rules Would Give Japan New Powers To Aid U.S. Military

from The United States and Japan are close to concluding a set of bilateral defense rules that if finalized would give Japan’s military new powers to act when U.S. forces are threatened by a third country, U.S. officials said Wednesday. 

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, speaking during a visit to Tokyo, said the revision of the “defense guidelines” would transform U.S. military ties with Japan, which is grappling with a "missile threat" from North Korea and "China’s moves to assert control of areas off its coast." [emphasis' added]

Under a previous bilateral arrangement, Japanese forces could protect the U.S. military only if it was operating in Japan’s direct defense in areas close to the country. U.S. officials say the new rules, once given final approval, would broaden the geographic scope and, significantly, allow Japan to respond to an attack on the U.S. military even if the American forces are not acting in defense of Japan at the time. 

A senior defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, called the new rules “a big, big deal.” He said they were also intended to empower Japan to use its missile defense systems to protect U.S. military assets under a greater range of circumstances. 

“With missile defense, the more radars you have and the more shots you have, the higher the probability of a kill is,” he said, referring to the likelihood that a missile could be intercepted. 

The revised rules, which are expected to be unveiled later this month ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Washington, mark an evolution in Tokyo’s military ties with the United States. Under a 1960 treaty, the United States is committed to protecting Japan from external aggression. About 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan. 

The changes take place as the conservative Abe continues his effort to overhaul how Japan uses its military power, which has been tightly restricted since World War II. Abe is now seeking passage of legislation that would provide greater power to the military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to protect Japan and its allies, and to take part in limited military cooperation overseas.


h/t: Mike Seaman

Malaysia Revives Detention Without Trial

from Al Jazeera: Malaysia's parliament has passed an anti-terrorism bill that reintroduces detention without trial, three years after it was revoked by Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Opposition members of parliament proposed several amendments to the legislation, under which individuals can be detained for up to two years with two-year extensions thereafter, but it was voted through unchanged early Tuesday morning, the Reuters news agency reported.

Malaysia last had detention without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was repealed in 2012 by Najib under his reform agenda.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and a member of Malaysia's parliament, told Al Jazeera opponents of the bill were not given enough time or room to debate the act.

"We asked the home minister to establish a bipartisan committee to discuss the impact each provision would have before the act would go to vote but they rejected the idea," she said.

On Sunday, Malaysian police arrested 17 people, including two who had recently returned from Syria. The men are accused of sympathising with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but Anwar says the government has not been open about the threat the group poses.

"We have had no disclosures on the ISIL threat, no intelligence reports. Just a proclamation that ISIL is a threat. We need access to all information."

Anwar warned that the law, like the Sedition Act used to detain more than a hundred people including journalists over the last two months, will be used to target political opponents of the government.

"The law gives wide powers to declare any organisation a terrorist threat. It's very troubling as there's no judicial review ... without balancing civil liberties and security, the climate will worsen," Anwar said.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Radiation From Fukushima Has Reached The BC Coast

from Press For Truth: It’s official. Radiation from trace amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 isotopes originating from the Fukushima disaster have now been detected on the coast of British Columbia. This comes as no surprise and as Dan Dicks of Press For Truth reports those of us in the alternative media have been warning about this for years and yet the MSM is still taking the “nothing to see here” position even when the proof has been handed to them on a silver platter. And what’s the lesson we can learn from this for today? Throw out your TV and don’t eat the fish!

Vietnam and Russia Set To Enhance Cooperation In All Fields

from Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev agreed Monday to boost Vietnam-Russia ties in all fields, especially trade and investment, oil and gas, and nuclear cooperation. 

During their meeting after Medvedev arrived in Hanoi for a three-day visit, they said the value of bilateral trade has slightly decreased recently, therefore the two countries’ ministries, sectors and businesses should seek proper measures. These include speeding up negotiations for the singing of a free trade agreement between Vietnam and the Eurasian Economic Union by middle this year.'

PM Dung and Medvedev also suggested that the two countries’ banks examine the feasibility of using each others' currencies to help promote bilateral trade.

Russia and Vietnam can easily switch to their national currencies -- the Russian rouble and the Vietnamese dong -- in mutual settlements, Medvedev previously said in an interview with the Vietnamese media.

So far, most of the settlements are made in US dollars.

PM Dung also pledged to create favorable conditions and ensure safety for Russian oil and gas companies operating in Vietnamese waters. 
They confirmed the two countries will go ahead with the construction of Ninh Thuan 1 Nuclear Power Plant as agreed. Russia is expected to provide technical assistance and training for the project. 
They highly valued their mutual defense-security ties, especially in military technology and soldier training and affirmed their continued cooperation in the field.


Japan: All Textbooks To State Rights Over Territories

from The education ministry on Monday announced the results of its latest textbook screenings (See below) and the content of new textbooks to be used in middle schools from the next academic year.

All social studies textbooks for middle school students will include descriptions of the Takeshima islets and the Senkaku Islands as “territories inherently belonging to Japan,” among other similar phrases, according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

This will be the first time that all social studies textbooks for middle schools will refer to both these islands and the northern territories off Hokkaido.

Publishers submitted for screening 104 textbooks on nine subjects, including Japanese and social studies. A total of 102 passed the ministry’s checks after publishers made alterations.

Although two social studies textbooks were initially rejected, as they contained certain problems, they also eventually passed the screenings after corrections were made and new applications were submitted.

In addition to the northern territories, passages referring to the Takeshima islets in Shimane Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture were included in all 20 social textbooks for the first time.

In January last year, the ministry revised an instruction manual for curriculum guidelines, which serve as the criteria for editing social studies textbooks.


Japan rebuffs international outcry over new history textbooks

Monday, 6 April 2015

Japan Admits Fabricating 2014 Wage Growth Data

from Zero Hedge: Several days ago, when we learned that the Japanese Labor Ministry was inexplicably delaying its wage data, we had a prompt, if sarcastic response: we immediately assumed there was an error in the Japanese fudging of this all important to the success of Abenomics data series.

Well, in addition to "prompt" and "sarcastic" we can also add "accurate", because in this bizarro world that has long since made The Onion obsolete, snark has proven to be reality once more, and following a several day delay in which the data "revision" was marinated, aka spent unfabricating fabrciated data, the Labor ministry finally released the delayed numbers (we won't call it "data" for the simple reason that it clearly is just goalseeked jibberish to be shortly revised lower yet again). 

We can only hope that it will come as no surprise to our readers that following the "revision", Japan revealed that in 2014 there were no months with any basic wage growth.

None. Zero.

Which is surprising because based on the pre-revision "data", Japan supposedly had exactly 6 months of positive Y/Y basic wage growth, which the media was hailing with every passing month, as proof that Abenomics was indeed working, and providing this fabricated data as validation of Japan's idiotic, and terminal, experiment in 100% debt monetization, and currency and stock market manipulation and soon, devastation.

Yet, in "revised" reality as noted above, Japan had exactly zero months of basic wage growth in all of 2014.