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.

Our Most Precious Resource, Explained

Which Nations Consume the Most Water?: Scientific American.

…meat consumption accounts for 30 percent of the U.S. water footprint.

With rising demand for meat in China and India, how will their water consumption change?

Certain countries, such as India and the U.S., also export significant quantities of water in the form of food and products, despite their own robust consumption. Populous nations that have little land or little water are huge net importers.

Will countries with water shortages, such as the western US, raise prices, or reduce consumption?  How will that change the food supply for the remainder of the US?  What industries consume huge amounts of water?  Will water shortages force the development of ‘green’ energy sources not so dependent on water as coal and oil?

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow


Ephemeral Islands – NYTimes.com.

In our rush to retaliate against Libya for killing American servicemen in Berlin in 1986, we first bombed an underwater volcano.

Ends up this particular piece of sometime real estate has been above water several times, only to succumb to the forces of erosion.

The volcano’s tip is an ephemeral island, flirting with sea level. The first documented emergence of the island dates from the First Punic War in the mid-Third Century B.C. It is also reported to have surfaced in 10 B.C.; in both cases, it re-submerged soon after.

The volcano continued its on and off again eruptions, and then, in 1831 it emerged from the sea and stay there.  Four nations planted flags on the “island”, each in turn cutting down the flag of the other.

But the material spewed out by the volcano turned out to be particularly susceptible to erosion. At its greatest extent, Ferdinandea had a circumference of over 15,000 feet and an area of about 1 square mile, but as the eruption subsided, it quickly crumbled back into the sea. On Dec. 17, two Sicilian observers filed a missing island report: Ferdinandea was gone — and with it, the diplomatic headache of adjudicating a four-way claim over a newly emerged island.

On the other side of the world another piece of rock is causing headaches for Japan.

Okinotorishima  is a reef about three miles long and one mile wide that only barely breaks the surface: at high tide, it sticks out no more than 5 inches above sea level. But that was enough for Japan to claim the atoll as its southernmost possession.

As agreed at the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from the coast, but states can exercise certain rights over the natural resources in a 200-mile zone beyond their shores – whether those shores are on the mainland, the largest island or the smallest, most remote spit of land in the country’s holdings.

If and when these islands are submerged by rising seas, Japan will lose up to 150,000 square miles of territory – and all the fish and minerals it includes.  China is already disputing Japan’s claims to this collection of “submarine rocks.”

Both of these rocky outcrops have major consequences for the nations that claim them.  Minerals, fish, and economic opportunity for the nation are at stake, and completely out of their control.


Child Population in Japan

Web Clock of Child Population in Japan.

364,870 days until Japan has only 1 child under 15 years of age, if current trends continue.

(1) As a result, the Prof. Yoshida’s research team has estimated that there are 16,620,000 children in Japan as of May 5, 2012, decreasing about 300,000 children from last year and 1,550,000 children (equivalent to the population of Fukuoka City) from 10 years ago.


(2) Child Population Web Clock is showing that the child population is declining by one every 100 seconds. This clock gives us a strong impression that the birthrate in Japan is rapidly declining and effective solutions have to be adopted as soon as possible.


(3) Child Population Web Clock has also revealed that Japan would have only one child in May 3011, about 365,000 days from now. By the next year, therefore, there would be no children in Japan. It can be said that “The Children’s Day would no longer come in May 5, 3012.”

Statistics from Professor Yoshida at Tohoku University

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