Upping the Ante in the East China Sea

South Korea Announces Expansion of Its Air Defense Zone - NYTimes.com

via South Korea Announces Expansion of Its Air Defense Zone – NYTimes.com.

South Korea’s expanded “air defense identification zone” was the latest sign of a broadening discord among the Northeast Asian neighbors, who are already locked in territorial and historical disputes.

China and S Korea are feuding over a submerged reef in the middle of the sea.  Right now S Korea has a research station at Ieo-do, called Suyan Rock by the Chinese.  The main attraction is that the seabed around the reef is full of oil and gas, which both countries need.

China expanded its Air Defense Zone 2 weeks ago to include a small group of islands northeast of Taiwan called Diayou.  The Japanese also claim the islands, which they call Senkaku.

Japan and S Korea are disputing control of 2 small islets in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) know as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

China’s attempt to police additional airspace over the East China Sea has highlighted a potentially volatile dispute between China and South Korea. The South Korean Navy is already building a $970 million base naval base in Jeju, an island off the southern coast of South Korea, to protect shipping lanes for South Korea’s oil-dependent, export-driven economy as well as to respond quickly to any dispute with China over the submerged reef.

All these countries need energy resources, and so this will probably end badly – we can only hope the US doesn’t get dragged into the conflict.

Radioactive Japan

BBC News – Japan nuclear agency upgrades Fukushima alert level.

TEPCO and Japan have finally acknowledged the severity of the leaks from storage tanks at the severely damaged plant.  The radiation from the leak is the equivalent of getting a 5 year dose of radiation in one hour – pretty scary.

The March 2011 tsunami knocked out cooling systems to the reactors at the plant, three of which melted down.

Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors but this means that a large amount of contaminated water has to be stored on site.

The storage tanks are leaking – into the ground.  And because the plant is situated next to the ocean, that contaminated water is flowing into the seas.

Teams of workers at the plant have surrounded the leaking tank with sandbags and have been attempting to suck up large puddles of radioactive water.

But our correspondent says it is a difficult and dangerous job. The water is so radioactive that teams must be constantly rotated and it is clear that most of the toxic water has already disappeared into the ground.

With no other options, the operators of the plant must continue to pump water in to cool the nuclear materials.  Something has to be done with all the contaminated cooling water.
What can we learn from this disaster?  Are US nuclear reactors prepared for whatever natural disasters might befall them?

A Tsunami of Debris

NPR’s Morning Edition has a story about the tsunami debris washing up on Alaska’s pristine shores.  Listen here.

Trash, much of it believed to be debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, litters the beach on Montague Island, Alaska, on Jan. 26.

Aging Well in Japan

Elderly at Record Spurs Japan Stores Chase $1.4 Trillion – Bloomberg.

Adult diaper sales are at an all-time high in Japan; in fact, they have surpassed sales of baby diapers.  Why?  Because Japan is aging, and few women are choosing to have children.

Companies are rushing to grab a bigger chunk of the estimated 109 trillion yen ($1.4 trillion) that consumers over 60 spent in the year ended March 31 in Japan. The number of Japanese over 65 hit a record 23.3 percent of the population in October.

Japan has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates – 1.39 per women.  The US rate is 1.93.  Replacement rate, where the population neither grows nor shrinks, is 2.1.

Unicharm, Japan’s largest diaper maker, said the lessons it’s learning in Japan will help its expansion in China, where the population at or above 65 rose to 8.87 percent of the total as of Nov. 1, 2010, up 1.91 percentage points from the 2000 census. China introduced a one-child policy in 1979 to curb population growth.

How will Japan replace retiring workers?  Who will care for (and pay for) the growing numbers of elderly people?  And why does it matter?

Chinese Brinkmanship – 边缘政策

Protesters chant slogans outside the Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong yesterday as they hold up a picture of the Diaoyu Islands with words reading: “Diaoyu belongs to China” and a sign saying: “Evil spirits of mountains and rivers.”

China dispatches ships to Diaoyu — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New.

TWO China Marine Surveillance ships reached waters around the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea yesterday morning to assert the country’s sovereignty in a show of protest against Japan’s “purchase” of the largely barren outcroppings from so-called private Japanese owners.

The two countries are locked in a dispute over some islands, with the winner being able to claim the right to mine the rich gas fields around the islands.

In a statement read out on a state television news broadcast, the foreign affairs committee of China’s legislature said yesterday: “We strongly urge Japan to fully grasp the dangerousness of the present situation and step back from the edge of a precipice over the Diaoyu Islands issue.”

This is a serious game of chicken, with neither country willing to back down.  How will this issue be resolved?  How far will China and Japan push each other?  How will the US avoid getting sucked into this dangerous situation?

Can China Be Reigned In?


In Beijing, HIllary Clinton to Discuss Island Disputes - NYTimes.com

In Beijing, HIllary Clinton to Discuss Island Disputes -NYTimes.com.

As tensions mount between China and its neighbors over islands in nearby strategic waterways, China has scored some subtle victories, making the United States and its friends increasingly uneasy about the potential for violent confrontations.

With competing claims to numerous islands, and major disputes with Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, China has put itself in the international spotlight.  US Secretary of State Clinton is heading to China for talks about the maritime claims.

“We will need the nations of the region to work collaboratively together to resolve disputes — without coercion, without intimidating, without threats and, certainly, without the use of force,” Mrs. Clinton said …

Asian nations are vying for control of various island groups as they seek the natural resources in the seas around them.  Maritime control is governed by the UN Law of the Sea, which the US has so far refused to sign.

A senior State Department official who will be in Beijing with Mrs. Clinton said the main goal of the trip was to calm what has been an inflamed summer across the region. “It is absolutely essential that cooler heads prevail in every capital,” the official said.

We can only hope….


An Island by Any Other Name……

BBC News – Japan arrests pro-China activist swimmers in island row.

Japanese police have arrested 14 pro-China activists who landed on disputed islands, reports say.

The group had sailed from Hong Kong to the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, followed by Japanese coastguard vessels.

The area around the islands is a rich fishing ground, near major shipping lanes, and possibly contains oil resources.  These are not the only islands Japan  disputes claims of ownership.

Meanwhile, a group of South Koreans finished a relay swim early on Wednesday to another group of islands claimed by Japan.

It followed the first-ever visit of a South Korean president to the islands – called Dokdo by South Korea and Takeshima in Japan – on Friday.

How will these disputes be resolved?  Will this lead to further aggression?  We can only hope not, and that Japan and the other nations involved will be willing to reach a mutually agreeable solution.

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