Category Archives: Asia

Trump calls Taiwan: Diplomacy for personal profit?


Donald Trump made a call to the President of Taiwan, an island China calls its own and which lost diplomatic ties with the U.S. in 1979, the result of Richard Nixon’s earlier move to restore ties with the mainland.

Before Nixon, the United States recognized the Taiwanese regime as the legitimate government of the mainland, denying recognition to the communist government in Beijing following Mao Tse Tung’s revolutionary victory over the Kuomintang forces of Chiang Kai-shek, who withdrew what was left of his forces to the island in 1950.

Since diplomatic recognition with the island was revoked, no U.S. President had spoken to its government,

Until Donald Trump.

Trump’s call complicates the ongoing Game of Zones being played by China, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines over control of oil, gas, and other resources beneath the contested waters.

China, needless to say, reacted to The Donald’s provocative ploy.

From Reuters:

China lodged a diplomatic protest on Saturday after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump spoke by phone with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, but blamed the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own for the “petty” move.

The 10-minute telephone call with Taiwan’s leadership was the first by a U.S. president-elect or president since President Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979, acknowledging Taiwan as part of “one China”.

China’s Foreign Ministry said it had lodged “stern representations” with what it called the “relevant U.S. side”, urging the careful handling of the Taiwan issue to avoid any unnecessary disturbances in ties.

“The one China principle is the political basis of the China-U.S. relationship,” it said.

The wording implied the protest had gone to the Trump camp, but the ministry provided no explanation.

But there’s another game afoot

And that’s a hotel apparently planned by a Trump corporation for the island.

That little but very significant fact would lead to a very big question: Is Trump planning to use the White House as a fulcrum to further his own business interests?

From the Guardian:

Weeks before President-elect Donald Trump’s controversial phone call with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, a businesswoman claiming to be associated with his conglomerate made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels as part of the island’s new airport development.

The woman, known only as Ms Chen arrived from the US in September to meet the mayor of Taoyuan, Cheng Wen-tsan, one of the senior politicians involved in the Aerotropolis project, a large urban development being planned around the renovation of Taiwan’s main airport, Taoyuan International.

“She said she was associated with the Trump corporation and she would like to propose a possible investment project in the future, especially hotels,” said an official familiar with the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“One thing quite sure from her side was that she would like to bring the Trump corporation here to build the hotel,” said the official, who did not know if Chen had a Trump Organization business card.

Can things get any sleazier?

Knowing Trump, we’re certain they can.

Fukushima reactor disaster costs near $200 billion


The latest sobering numbers from Japan Today:

Japan’s trade ministry has almost doubled the estimated cost of compensation for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and decommissioning of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to more than 20 trillion yen ($177.51 billion), the Nikkei business daily reported on Sunday.

The trade ministry at the end of 2013 calculated the cost at 11 trillion yen, which was comprised of 5.4 trillion yen for compensation, 2.5 trillion yen for decontamination, 1.1 trillion yen for an interim storage facility for contaminated soil, and 2 trillion yen for decommissioning, the report said.

The new estimate raised the cost of compensation to 8 trillion yen and decontamination to 4-5 trillion yen, the cost for an interim storage facility remained steady, and decommissioning will rise by several trillion yen, it added.

The part of the cost increase will be passed on in electricity fees, it added, citing multiple unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

A parallel story from California

The Fukushima reactor complex was constructed adjacent to the Pacific Ocean coast in a nation known for it’s frequent and furious earthquakes.

Remind you of California?

As we’ve written previously and extensively, California allowed construction of both its commercial power reactor complexes on the Pacific Coast and in areas riddled with earthquake faults.

And when one of the reactor complexes suffered a major breakdown, the Golden State did just as Japan is now doing. They stuck utility customers with the bill.

From a 3 June story in the San Diego Union-Tribune, reporting on the shutdown of the San Onofre reactor complex in northern San Diego County, a project of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.:

According to the utility, customers are on track to save $500 million or more off their share of the original $4.7 billion deal adopted by regulators 19 months ago.

An insurance payout and funding from a federal nuclear decommissioning trust have helped, the utility said. And further reductions in the ratepayer contribution may come if Edison is successful in a lawsuit against vendor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and in selling off fuel purchased for the nuclear plant that will no longer be needed.

Consumer advocates criticized Edison’s response to the utilities commission. They said the company cherry-picked numbers to make it appear customers are being charged less than they are.

The critics said that nowhere in the filing does the utility accept responsibility for installing flawed equipment that led to the shutdown of the plant amid a radiation leak in January 2012.

The reason for the shutdown is that the company installed a faulty piping system inside the reactor complex, a set of pipes so flawed that they leaked radioactively “hot” water inside the containment structure.

The whole nuclear power industry was an offshoot of the U.S. nuclear weapons program, and the government lied to the American people in order to get concessions and support run through Congress.

The most notorious lie came in 1954, when the first chair of the Atomic Energy Commission [now the Department of Energy] told science writers that “Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.”

Those children now have children of their own, and those meters are still clocking up the dollars.

And now when those power stations go flooey [a favorite phrase of esnl’s own dad], the customers are stuck with the bill.

Consider an analogy

You’re in a grocery store when an earthquake hits, hurling all those beer and wine bottles, milk containers, pickle jars, and all the rest smashing to the floor.

Where they break.

Then you go the the checkout line to pay for whatever you’re gathered before the earth moved, only to discover that you’re forced to pay for all that smashed inventory — goods smashed because the store didn’t built in devices to restrain those goods from hurtling into into a catastrophic mess of goo and gunk. . .

Seem fair to you?

Fukushima quake: Injuries, no serious nuke woes


An update on yesterday’s quake [reported as a magnitude 6.9 shock by the U.S. Geological Survey] that struck near the site of the disastrous 11 March 2011 magnitude 9.1 Tohoku earthquake that caused than 16,000 deaths and a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Diaichi reactor system.

Seismologists see Monday’s quake as an aftershock of the 2011 giant, but unlike this one, nobody was killed and the problems at the Fukushima reactor complex were short-lived.

First, from Reuters:

There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries hours after the quake hit at 5:59 a.m. (2059 GMT Monday). It was centered off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

A wave of up to 1.4 meters (4.5 ft) high was recorded at Sendai, about 70 km (45 miles) north of Fukushima, with smaller waves hitting ports elsewhere along the coast, public broadcaster NHK said.

Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from harbors as tsunami warnings wailed after alerts of waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) were issued.

“We saw high waves but nothing that went over the tidal barriers,” a man in the city of Iwaki told NTV television network.

Aerial footage showed tsunami waves flowing up rivers in some areas, and some fishing boats were overturned in the port of Higashi-Matsushima before the JMA lifted its warnings.

More from the London Telegraph on the reactor complex:

The operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant, though a swelling of the tide of up to 1 metre was detected offshore.

The plant was swamped by the 2011 tsunami, sending three reactors into meltdown and leaking radiation into the surrounding area. The plant is being decommissioned but the situation remains serious as the utility figures out how to remove still-radioactive fuel rods and debris and what to do with the melted reactor cores.

Plant operator Tepco said a pump that supplies cooling water to a spent fuel pool at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ni plant stopped working, but that a backup pump had been launched to restore cooling water to the pool.

The Japan Times covers the damage and injuries:

According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, a total of 17 people in Fukushima, Chiba, Tokyo and Miyagi prefectures were injured as a result of the quake. They included an 82-year-old woman in Chiba who fell down some stairs in her home and fractured her hip. In Fukushima, three people were injured, two of whom were elderly women who tripped and suffered broken bones.

>snip<

No abnormalities were observed at other nuclear plants in northeastern Japan, according to Tepco and other power companies. Reactors at these nuclear plants have been offline.

Japan’s Abe says TPP meaningless without the U.S.


Japan’s neoliberal Prime Minister Shinzo Abe overcame considerable domestic opposition to win parliamentary approval of the Trans-Pacific partnership, and he was the first foreign leader to win a sitdown with Donald Trump in the splendor of the President-elect’s luxurious digs in the Big Apple Thursday [a meet also attended by daughter Ivanka and spouse Jared Kushner]:

Official handout photo via euronews.

Official handout photo via euronews.

But all that flesh-pressing didn’t win Abe Trump’s support for the TPP, a pact Trump announced today [via YouTube] that he would kill on his first day in office.

And without U.S. participation, the TPP is effectively dead, Abe said today.

From the Associated Press:

Japan’s prime minister said Monday the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal would be “meaningless” without U.S. participation, as Donald Trump announced he planned to quit the pact.

Shinzo Abe’s comment came shortly before the U.S. president-elect released a short video about his plans for his administration, including an intention to have the United States drop out of the TPP pact.

>snip<

Abe discounted the idea of going ahead without the Americans being a part of the deal.

“TPP is meaningless without the United States,” he said at a news conference during an official visit to Argentina.

He also said the pact couldn’t be renegotiated. “This would disturb the fundamental balance of benefits.”

Trump to kill TPP, coal & fracking regs on 1st day


The Trans-Pacific Partnership [previously], a multinational trade agreement eliminating barriers across the Pacific in an effort to contain China’s economic power, will be one of the first casualties of the Trump administration, the President-elect announced today.

Also on the chopping block will be regulations on coal and fracking, and a new policy mandating two regulations be struck down for each new one adopted.

Trump too the unusual step of making his announcement in the form of a video on his Transition 2017 website:

A Message from President-Elect Donald J. Trump

Program notes:

The President-elect shares an update on the Presidential Transition, an outline of some of his policy plans for the first 100 days, and his day one executive actions.

New quake hits Fukushima; reactor cooling fails


And a tsunami warning and calls for immediate evacuation has been issued for the coastal region where the disastrous 11 March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami [previously] caused more than 16,000 deaths and a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Diaichi reactor system.

This map from the U.S. Geological Survey pinpoints the quake’s epicenter:

blog-fuku

From Japanese state broadcaster NHK World:

Municipal authorities in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, are urging residents of coastal areas to evacuate to higher ground following a powerful earthquake on Tuesday morning.

The Japan Meteorological Agency says the magnitude 7.4 earthquake hit off Fukushima Prefecture around 6 AM. It issued a warning for tsunami of up to 3 meters.

A tsunami of 90 centimeters was observed at Soma Port in the city of Soma after 7 AM.

Firefighting officials in the city of Iwaki said a fire broke out at a petrochemical complex in the district of Nishikimachi, but they have extinguished it at around 6:40 AM.

More from Bloomberg:

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck Japan off the coast of Fukushima, home to the nuclear power plant badly damaged in the March 2011 triple disaster, triggering a tsunami alert.

The temblor struck at 5:59 a.m. local time at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which issued a warning for a tsunami of three meters (10 feet) for the coast of Fukushima and a lesser warning for the northeastern coast of the country. The warning is the largest issued since the aftermath of the 2011 disaster.

A tsunami of 90 centimeters was detected in Soma port in Fukushima, as local authorities and the national broadcaster urged residents to remember the experience of 2011 and evacuate to higher ground. The office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on its Twitter account it had set up a liaison office to gather information.

NHK warned bigger tsunami waves could hit the coast.

Workers at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, which was crippled after the record tsunami almost six years ago, were evacuated, according to a spokesman.

Reactor cooling system fails

Making matters worse, the cooling system for at least one of the remaining nuclear reactors at the plant has failed, according to numerous reports.

From the Australia’s 9 News:

Tokyo Electric Power Co told national broadcaster NHK the water cooling system in reactor number 3 that supplies cold water to the nuclear rods in Fukushima’s Daini power plant has stopped working.

It is checking other reactors at Onagawa and the sister plant in Daiichi, Fukushima which was the centre of a catastrophic nuclear disaster in the 2011.

Finally, a brief video excerpt of ongoing coverage of the quake and tsunami by NHK:

Trump’s win kills the Trans-Pacific Partnership


Here’s one win both the left and Trump supporters can celebrate.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership [previously], the free-speech-threatening and multinational corporation-endorsed  keystone of Barack Obama’s “Asian pivot,” has been killed by The Donald’s election.

From BuzzFeed News:

Leaders of the House and Senate say they will not bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade deal that would lower tariffs and set new commerce rules for 12 countries including Japan and Australia, to a vote. President-elect Trump had said he planned to cancel consideration of the deal in his first days in office.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Thursday that the deal is a no-go, with McConnell saying the Senate will not bring it to a vote during the lame duck session and Ryan saying the House does not have the votes to pass it. Sen. Chuck Schumer also told labor leaders Thursday the pact would not be ratified, CNN first reported.

“If the next president wants to negotiate a trade agreement, he has the opportunity to do that and to send it up,” McConnell said. “It’s certainly not going to be brought up this year and… I think the President-elect made it pretty clear he was not in favor of the current agreement.”

President Obama had hoped to have the deal approved by Congress immediately following the election. The agreement had been intended to improve relations with companies in the region and reduce China’s economic influence.

Ironically, Bernie Sanders and his supporters had proposed an anti-TPP plank for the 2016 Democratic platform, but corporate-sponsored Dems rejected it.