Der wöchentliche Presserückblick der Schweizer Botschaft in der VR China
The Weekly Press Review of the Swiss Embassy in the People's Republic of China
La revue de presse hebdomadaire de l'Ambassade de Suisse en RP de Chine
  14.8-18.8.2006, No. 128  
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Foreign Policy

Koizumi's shrine visit "a poison" for Sino-Japanese relations: Chinese historians
2006-08-17 Xinhuanet
A group of Chinese historians gathered at the Memorial Hall of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression Wednesday, to condemn Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's latest visit to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals. The historians labeled Koizumi's visit "a political farce", which they said is "a poison" for China-Japan relations. "Koizumi's shrine visit insults the people victimized by Japanese militarist aggression, challenges international justice and poisons Sino-Japanese relations", said Luo Huanzhang, a senior research fellow at the Military History Department of the Chinese Academy of Military Science. "By trampling on the feelings of Chinese people and people from other war-ravaged countries, Koizumi's wrongdoing will have along-term negative impact on the future of Sino-Japanese relations," Luo stressed. Relations between the two countries have turned chilly since Koizumi began making visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 convicted class A World War II war criminals, are honored. Koizumi has visited the Shrine each year since coming to office in 2001. But it is the first time he has made the pilgrimage on the August 15 anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II. "The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine goes right to the political foundation of China-Japan relations and demonstrates Japan's view of its actions during the war," said Tang Zhongnan, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He said that Koizumi's successor will find himself in a difficult situation as his latest shrine visit has further soured Tokyo's ties with China and other Asian neighbors. Koizumi will step down in September. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the front-runner to replace Koizumi, has backed Koizumi's pilgrimages and visited the shrine himself on August 15 last year. Media reports say he secretly did so again in April. But he refused to say whether he would go there if he became Japanese prime minister. "It will be hard for the statesman replacing Koizumi to deal with the Yasukuni Shrine issue," Tang said. "Correctly understanding and dealing with that part of history constituted the political basis for the resumption and development of China-Japan relations after the war", said He Li, a professor with China's University of National Defense. He called on the Japanese government and leaders to follow historical trends, remove political barriers and push Sino-Japanese relations back onto a normal development track as quickly as possible. The Memorial Hall, which Koizumi visited in 2001, is situated beside the Lugou (Marco Polo) Bridge in Wanping, west of Beijing. It is dedicated to the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945). Relics on display, including archives, guns, cannons and blood-stained clothing, illustrate the atrocities committed by the Japanese aggressors against the Chinese people. "At the Memorial Hall on Oct. 8, 2001, during his trip to China, Koizumi offered his apology and condolences to Chinese victims of Japanese aggression," recalled Tang Xiaohui, deputy director of the Memorial Hall. "However, on Tuesday he once again visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 top war criminals among others, provoking the ire of Chinese people and people from other Asian countries that suffered from Japanese aggression." "Koizumi paid homage to war criminals, placing the shrine visit and prayers for peace on an equal footing. The absurdity of this has hurt the feelings of the victims of the war", Chen noted.

Chavez plans visit to China
2006-08-16 Xinhuanet
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he is planning a trip that will include stops in China and Angola as he seeks to distance Venezuela from the United States and lobby for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Chavez, who promises a socialist revolution in his oil-producing nation, has been a thorn in the side of the United States by boosting ties with the rulers of Iran and Cuba. "Within a few days now I'll be going to China, an important visit to China," Chavez announced in a speech. A posting on a government Web site said Chavez was planning to visit Malaysia, China and Angola between August 21 and September 1. It was not clear if the trip would include other stops and the foreign ministry declined to provide details. Chavez this month completed a two-week tour that included stops in Argentina, Belarus, Russia, Qatar, Iran, Vietnam, Mali and Benin to sign energy and military cooperation deals and garner support for Venezuela's UN Security Council bid. It was not clear whether Chavez would visit North Korea, which was dropped from the itinerary of his last trip. But Chavez said last month he had received an invitation from Pyongyang and planned to visit the state. Venezuelans broadly support their leader for spending billions of dollars in oil revenue on social development programs. Chavez regularly accuses the United States of meddling in the affairs of other nations and recently withdrew Venezuela's envoy in Jerusalem to protest Israel's bombing of Lebanon.

'US shut up on Beijing arms spending'
2006-08-18 China Daily
The United States should "shut up" over Beijing's growing military spending, China's ambassador to the United Nations said in comments broadcast Thursday. Ambassador Sha Zukang told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that U.S. concerns about the country's burgeoning military might were misguided. "It's better for the U.S. to shut up," Sha said. "Keep quiet. It's much, much better. "China's military buildup is not threatening anyone," he added. "This is a legitimate defense." Much of its spending is defensive, ambassador Sha Zukang asserted. U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has recently called for closer military ties with China. A 10-member Chinese military delegation was invited to observe US naval exercises "Valiant Shield 2006," in the Pacific in the past June. But American officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, have expressed unease. Sha said other countries need not worry about China's growing economic and military might, because "China basically is a peace-loving nation."Incomplete statistics show that in 2005 China's military expenditure was roughly at US$ 35 billion, while the Pentagon spent more than US$420 billion.

New official appointed to manage Taiwan affairs
2006-08-15 Xinhuanet
Chinese State Council, or the central government, has appointed a new high-ranking official for its Taiwan Affairs Office. Ye Kedong, 46, was appointed the deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council. Li Bingcai and Wang Zaixi were removed from their posts as deputy directors of the office. Ye graduated from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou City in 1982, and served in the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in the early 1990s. He was the deputy head of the Taiwan affairs division of Hong Kong branch office, Xinhua News Agency (the central government's Hong Kong liaison office) before 1997. He also served as the director of the Department of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Related to Taiwan, and assistant to the director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.


Domestic Policy

Death toll of Saomai rises to 330
2006-08-18 Xinhuanet
The death toll in China from Typhoon Saomai has risen to 330, after the discovery of six more bodies in Fuding city, in the southeastern coastal province of Fujian. Local government officials pulled the bodies from the sea, bringing the number of bodies recovered from the waters off Shacheng harbor to 186. A mistake occurred in the calculation on Thursday, according to local sources, who noted that death toll on land in Fuding was actually 27, one less than previously reported, bringing the death toll for Fujian Province to 241. The death toll in neighboring Zhejiang Province stands at 87 dead and 52 missing, and two dead and one missing in Jiangxi Province.

Worst drought hits China, leaving 18 mln people thirsty
2006-08-18 Xinhuanet
A worst drought in 50 years is hitting China's western, central and northeastern regions, causing drinking water shortage to at least 18 million people and economic loss of 11.74 billion yuan (1.24 billion US dollars) as of Thursday. About 10 million people in the southwestern Sichuan Province, 7.65 million in Sichuan's neighbor Chongqing Municipality and 600,000 in northeastern Liaoning Province do not have adequate access to drinking water. All the 21 cities in southwestern China's Sichuan Province except Panzhihua have been hit by the drought, which has resulted in an economic loss of 8.87 billion yuan (1.11 billion dollars), the provincial disaster relief office said Thursday. Many villagers who live in mountains have to walk two kilometers to get water, while some towns used vehicles to transport water, the office said. The drought has affected 2.07 million hectares of farmland and caused total crop failure on 311,300 hectares. Agriculture in Sichuan suffered an economic loss of 7.96 billion yuan (1 billion dollars). The Sichuan meteorological bureau forecast that the drought would continue in the coming few days. In Sichuan's Dazhou City alone, more than 5 million people have been affected by the drought and about two million people in 20 counties under the city have been panting for drinking water. Dazhou suffered severe droughts in 2004 and 2005, which caused an economic loss of over 10 billion yuan (1.25 billion dollars). The drought since early July has caused at least 1.3 billion yuan of economic loss and the death of 11,000 heads of livestock, and destroyed crops on 400,000 hectares of farmland in the city. The worst-hit area is the southwestern Chongqing, which has had no rain for more than 70 consecutive days and where two-thirds of its rivers have dried up, local drought-relief authorities said Thursday, adding that one person has died of serious heatstroke. The mercury has been lingering above 35 degrees Celsius over the past month in Chongqing, and the thermometer hit record 42 degrees in the past week. About 1.3 million hectares of crops in Chongqing have been affected, with economic loss in agriculture reaching 1.93 billion yuan (241 million dollars), according to local agriculture authorities. The drought has caused 2.87 billion yuan (358.8 million dollars) in economic loss in the municipality. ()

China confirms new H5N1 human case
2006-08-15 China Daily
The Chinese Ministry of Health on Monday confirmed a man had died from the H5N1 bird flu virus in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The victim, a 62-year-old farmer, became ill on June 19, and died on July 12. Epidemiological research showed the man did not have close contact with any human cases of bird flu and sick or dead poultry in the last month of his life. The regional center for disease control (CDC) and prevention tested his samples and got negative results 14 days after he fell ill, but the re-test by the national CDC on July 16 indicated he was H5N1 positive. On August 2, the national CDC tested the rest of his samples left from previous tests and again got positive results, said the ministry. The ministry confirmed it as a human case of bird flu by both Chinese and WHO standards and reported the new case to the World Health Organization. Local health authorities have tightened prevention and control measures and have found no abnormal symptoms of the people who had close contact with the farmer. This case brings China's total human cases of bird flu to 21 and the death toll from the disease to 14. An outbreak of bird flu in poultry in Xinjiang's Aksu City was confirmed on July 14. A total of 3,045 chickens were killed by the disease and another 356,976 were culled when the outbreak was confirmed, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. It announced on August 10 that the outbreak had been brought under control. The information office of the Ministry of Health said they could not link the new human case with outbreaks among poultry in the region. The source of infection for the new case is still unclear, spokesman of the Ministry of Health Mao Qun'an told Xinhua. The direct causes of most of the previous cases in China are also unknown. Last week, the Ministry of Health confirmed the mainland's first human casualty of bird flu actually occurred in November 2003, two years before the previous official figures. The case, in which a 24-year-old man died in Beijing, was first revealed by eight Chinese scientists in June who published a letter in the New England Journal of Medicine. The ministry then carried out parallel tests with the WHO to confirm their claims. The WHO has said it was the first ever human infection from the H5N1 outbreak. By August 9, the WHO had recorded 236 human cases of bird flu, including 138 fatalities.

China denies cover-up typhoon casualties
2006-08-18 China Daily
China has denied covering up casualties from natural disasters as the official death toll from the strongest typhoon to strike the country in half a century rose to 330, a number residents says is greatly understated. Saomai, graded a "super typhoon" with winds exceeding 216 km (134 miles) per hour, barrelled into China's southeast coast last Thursday, flattening tens of thousands of houses, overturning ships and damaging infrastructure. The hardest hit was the coastal town of Shacheng in Fujian province, where about 1,000 of the more than 10,000 ships which returned harbour before Saomai's arrival capsized and hundreds of fishermen died or went missing. Wang Zhenyao, disaster relief chief under China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, denied any attempts to cover up the scale of the damage. "Local officials don't have to lie about death tolls from natural disasters as they don't bring them liabilities like coal mine accidents do," Xinhua quoted him as saying on Thursday. China has the world's most dangerous coal-mining industry and local officials have been accused of colluding with mine owners to conceal fatal accidents which happen on an almost daily basis. Wang cited China's declassification of natural disaster death tolls as state secrets last year and other "institutional checks" against cover-ups, Xinhua said. "And given the supervision from relatives of the victims, residents and media, it is also impossible to cover up (death tolls)," Wang was quoted as saying. "Covering up would be even a graver mistake." He said poor communications and a growing migrant population hampered an accurate account of disaster casualties. ()

Hospitals fail to report deaths
2006-08-17 Xinhuanet
China's medical institutions failed to report one third of deaths to the national health surveillance network, the country's top health authority said on Tuesday. Furthermore, an estimated 20 per cent of hospitals failed to report any deaths. "Lack of attention and understanding of the importance of death reporting has resulted in missing reports by local authorities," said Mao Qun'an, spokesman of the Ministry of Health (MOH). "It causes a lot of difficulties for the country's control and prevention of infectious diseases." The MOH carried out an investigation into the operation of a death reporting system among 130 medical institutions at and above county level in 29 provinces and municipalities at the end of last year. The reporting system was introduced in April 2004. In one province, which the MOH did not name, more than 86 per cent of deaths had not been reported. And across the country almost 30 per cent of deaths were not reported in a timely manner. The MOH pointed out that the hospitals at provincial level usually delayed reports for longer than those at lower levels. The investigation found that about 25 per cent of death causes had been misreported. More than 60 per cent of reported deaths had been attributed to symptoms instead of causes, including failures of the heart, respiratory system, kidneys or lungs. The investigation revealed poor management and supervision of the reporting system, the ministry admitted. The ministry urged local medical institutions to report fatalities in a more direct, timely and concise manner and instructed health authorities to improve staff training, especially on how to fill in the reporting form and pinpoint the exact cause of death. "The importance of such reporting needs to be stressed," Mao said. "It is very wrong for medical staff to only report deaths of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and bird flu, but neglect other fatalities from unknown reasons."

Corruption is getting worse, says court
2006-08-16 SCMP
More Guangzhou officials appear to be taking bribes in return for awarding government procurement contracts, with a steep rise in the number of commercial corruption cases in the city this year, according to a local court. The Southern Metropolis News yesterday quoted the Guangzhou Intermediate People's Court as saying nine commercial corruption cases had come before the court in the first seven months of the year, compared to a total of 14 in the previous three years. "This indicates the number of commercial bribery cases in Guangzhou's government purchases is increasing," a court representative was quoted as saying. In a report delivered to the local people's congress, the court also said the nine cases involved a total of 1.3 million yuan but did not specify whether the money referred to the amount of bribes taken or the contracts' value. The court representative said insufficient supervision over government purchasing was to blame for the corruption. "It indicates the supervisory mechanism may be not so sound," the court officer said. "The restrictions on people who wield power were not enough and supervision of the use of the powers was deficient." One of this year's high-profile commercial bribery cases involved Sars hero Luo Yaoxing . He went on trial in the court this month accused of taking more than 11.1 million yuan in bribes from vaccine suppliers while director of the Guangdong Provincial Centre for Disease Control's immunology department. The court officer said Luo was not only in charge of all vaccine purchases across the province but also supervised vaccine testing, making him a prime bribery target for vaccine suppliers. The newspaper said the Guangzhou Municipal Government was now requiring local governments to videotape any discussions of official purchases involving more than 1 million yuan.

19 trapped underground in coal mine accidents
2006-08-18 Xinhuanet
A gas explosion and a collapse have trapped 19 people underground in two coal mines, the latest accidents to hit the world's deadliest mining industry, the Xinhua agency reported on Friday. Seven people were caught at the Jianxin mine near Fengcheng city in eastern Jiangsu province after a Thursday afternoon gas explosion in the nearly 50-year old mine. Another 12 were caught by a collapse when they were changing shifts late on Wednesday at a mine in impoverished southwestern Guizhou province, Xinhua added. The Rongyang mine in the province's Bouyei-Miao autonomous area was a small venture, producing just 90,000 tonnes of coal a year, but it had an official license. Rescuers are attempting to dig a tunnel to free the trapped men, Xinhua reported, citing a spokesman for the local government. Survival odds for miners trapped underground are usually low. Last year nearly 6,000 miners died in 3,300 blasts, floods, collapses and other accidents as mine owners pushed production beyond safety limits in a rush to profit from booming demand.

Alarm sounded on gender imbalance - 10pc of men will struggle to find a mate in 20 years: experts
2006-08-18 SCMP
Population experts have sounded an alarm over the mainland's widening gender imbalance, warning that 10 per cent of men will have difficulty finding a partner in 20 years. In its "Green Book of Population and Labour" released on Wednesday, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Population and Labour Economics said the newborn gender ratio reached an alarming 121.2 boys to 100 girls in 2004 after more than two decades of parental attempts to select the sex of their child. Researchers consider a ratio of 107 males to 100 females as normal. The authors said that if the trend continued, many of the boys born since the 1990s would not be able to find someone of a similar age to marry when the time came. The book said the mainland's population was expected to grow to between 1.47 billion and 1.6 billion by 2050 from the existing 1.3 billion. Co-author Zheng Zhenzhen said the male-dominated culture in China and many Asian countries was largely to blame. [...] Dr Zheng also blamed the family planning policy in place since the late 1970s for exacerbating the mainland's gender imbalance. Her view was echoed by Chen Youhua of Nanjing University's Faculty of Sociology, who said the preference for boys over girls as well as the one-child policy "have combined to create the problem of [gender imbalance]". Professor Chen has studied the gender imbalance in Guangdong and said that many couples, especially those from rural areas, turned to sex selection technology with their first child and use of the procedures rose dramatically among parents who already had a baby girl and were desperate for a boy. Abortions of female foetuses in the early stages of pregnancy and abuse of equipment such as ultrasound technology were rife, especially in regions such as Guangdong and Hainan . Guangdong and Hainan have recorded the worst gender imbalance on the mainland with newborn ratios of 130.3:100 for Guangdong and 135.6:100 for Hainan in 2000. Dr Zheng said the problem would persist "as long as the culture remains the same". She said the culture also put pressure on women planning to have a child and on all-girl families to have a boy. "The key is to eradicate the social inequalities." Dr Zheng said mainland women still faced inequalities in the job market, including lower salaries than men for doing the same jobs.



WB: China's economy likely to slow down
2006-08-16 China Daily
The country's economy is likely to slow down slightly during the rest of the year, the World Bank said yesterday, pointing to the central government's moves to rein in growth. Gross domestic product (GDP) may grow 10.4 per cent for the whole of 2006 as recent macroeconomic control measures are likely to slow down the sizzling economy to under 10 per cent in the second half of the year, the bank said in its latest quarterly report. The economy grew at a decade-high 11.3 per cent in the second quarter, the fastest since 1996, raising fears among economists that the economy is overheating and prompting the government to take a slew of macro control measures. GDP expanded by 10.9 per cent in the first half. But despite the tightening measures, the World Bank said that investment growth, which grew 31 per cent in the second quarter, would remain strong in the second half. Domestic consumer spending "should continue to benefit from rising incomes, particularly in urban areas," the bank said. The Washington-based international financial organization also projected "a gradual slowdown in exports to continue." "This scenario would imply a slight slowdown in GDP growth to under 10 per cent in the second half, resulting in growth of 10.4 per cent for the year as a whole and 9.3 per cent in 2007." The central bank raised the one-year benchmark lending rate by 27 base points to 5.85 per cent on April 27 and has since increased banks' required reserves ratio twice, with the latest taking effect yesterday. The reserves ratio is the proportion of deposits a bank is required to have with the central bank as a way of managing lending capacity. In addition, the government has also recently taken a string of administrative measures against some sectors, such as imposing restrictions on land use and foreigners buying property in the country, in a bid to cool the housing market. Urban property prices rose 5.7 per cent last month from a year earlier a touch below the 5.8 per cent in June according to official figures released yesterday. The World Bank, however, played down concerns of an overheating economy. "The outlook for China's economy remains favourable. With production capacity continuing to expand in line with demand, inflation low, and the current account in surplus, the main policy concern is not general overheating," the bank said. "There is no generalized overheating at the moment," said Bert Hofman, the World Bank's lead economist for China. "What we are concerned about is the efficiency of a lot of this investment. If it's not efficient, it will lead to overcapacity in some sectors and an increase in non-performing loans in banks."

China's national per capita income reaches $1,740
2006-08-18 Xinhuanet
On Wednesday the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Development and Reform Commission announced that they had confirmed with the World Bank that China's national per capita national income has reached US$1,740. According to WB regulations, the time limit on hard loans (long-term loans and loans with interest) must be cut from 20 to 17 years when a country's national per capita income is between $1,676 and $3,465. All loans negotiated after July 1 this year will be reduced from 20 to 17 years. Grace periods will also be cut accordingly. Last April, the Commission and the Ministry of Finance consulted with the WB about the scale of loans for the 2007 to 2009 fiscal years. Loan amounts will not vary in the next three years; they range between 1 and 1.5 billion dollars and the total amount borrowed will not exceed 4.5 billion. Most loans China has received from the WB have been directed to infrastructure construction. On June 27 this year, the WB's board of executive directors ratified four Chinese projects, with loans totaling 668 million dollars, which will be mainly used to improve environment and transportation facilities.



Rare grave found
2006-08-09 Mongol Messenger
In a rare discovery, the 'Pazyryk' gravesite of a primitive man has been uncovered in Mongolia. The Mongolian Archaeological Institute and a Russian and German joint expedition uncovered the grave in Tsagaan Salaa of Ulaan Us soum in Bayan-Ulgii aimag last month. Because the Russians found and subsequently studied the Pfrozen grave in ice, scientists from three countries jointly conducted an exploration that began in 2004 and which continued with geophysical exploration in 2005, operating under the belief that the pazyryk or frozen grave was likely to be in Mongolia. The man in the grave was wearing a marmot-skin coat, trousers made from sheep leather and felt boots. The man was found to be on a felt mattress and had a set of tools, including a wooden bow with five arrows, a hammer and a hoe. It is the first time a frozen grave has been found in Mongolia. Although the sex of the grave's inhabitant was unclear, it was thought to be a hunter because of the tools and the shape of the face and body. It is believed he lived 2500 years ago and his body was well-preserved; the only deterioration was to his marmot- skin coat. The grave was not completely frozen and had ice beneath it. The patterns on the belongings were also well-preserved. The archaeologists tried to transport the remains to Ulaanbaatar by aircraft, but they weighed too much. They decided to instead take the remains by road, but they happened to meet President N. Enkhbayar and his team after they had climbed Khuiten Peak in the Altai mountains, who were able to arrange for the remains to be transported to Ulaanbaatar by special aircraft. The discovery contains valuable information for science. Scientists from three countries plan to give official information on their findings in the middle of October. Archeological Institute Director D. Tseveendorj refused to give detailed information about the find at this point.

Dawn of a new era in relations
2006-08-16 Mongol Messenger
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid an official visit to Mongolia on August 10-11 at the invitation of his Mongolian counterpart. A ceremony to welcome the Japanese Prime Minister was held in Sukhbaatar Square in front of Parliament House. At Sukhbaatar Square, Mr Koizumi was presented with a bouquet of flowers by a girl dressed in Mongolian national costume. After the national anthems of two countries were played and the state honour guards greeted, Mr Koizumi laid a wreath, paying respect to the Chinggis Khaan Statue and signed a memorial notebook in Parliament House.When the Prime Ministers held official talks in Parliament House, both reaffirmed their commitment to develop full partnership relations. They pledged to devise a decade-long programme to implement the new stage of the bilateral relationship.

Japan ties strong
2006-08-09 Mongol Messenger
On August 3, President N. Enkhbayar met former Prime Minister of Japan T. Kaifu in Ulaanbaatar to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation. At the meeting, Kaifu said: "It is a pleasure to visit Mongolia on the special year of the 800th anniversary of the establishment of the Great Mongolian State. I will devote all my best for the future development of a bilateral relationship." President Enkhbayar congratulated T. Kaifu for his election as head of the 'Organizing Committee of Friendship Year', which was set up in connection with the celebration of the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Japan. On August 4, Prime Minister M. Enkhbold received Japanese parliamentary delegates led by former Japanese Prime Minister T. Kaifu. Two sides exchanged views on resolving some urgent issues for Mongolia's socioeconomy by means of loans, especially those supporting private businesses, which produce 77 percent of the GDP. Japanese parliamentarian delegates expressed an interest in increasing the number of flights between Japan and Mongolia, with Japanese aviation companies opening a flight route. The Prime Minister expressed his satisfaction about an announcement made about Mongolia in Japan this year, and said that a working group charged with preparations for the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and Japan had been set up.


North Korea

N. Korea may be preparing nuclear test
2006-08-18 China Daily
Activity at a North Korean facility suggests Pyongyang could be preparing its first test of a nuclear bomb, U.S. media on Thursday cited U.S. officials as saying. But U.S. officials said they had no new evidence of such a plan, and a diplomatic official in Seoul familiar with the North's nuclear program said he was skeptical of the reports. ABC News quoted an unidentified senior military official as saying a U.S. intelligence agency had observed "suspicious vehicle movement" at a suspected North Korean test site. A senior State Department official, who was also not identified, told the network, "It is the view of the intelligence community that a test is a real possibility." CNN reported U.S. military sources said satellite images had shown wire bundles appearing at a suspected test site that could be used to monitor an underground test. It said the wires had not been connected to anything and that it was still unclear if a test was being prepared. Asked about the media reports, a senior U.S. official told Reuters, "We have no new evidence to support that." Another official, who also declined to be identified, said there was no indication of a threat in the near term. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos declined to comment on intelligence matters. South Korean government officials had no comment on the report and the diplomatic source in Seoul said he was not aware of a new intelligence report. "I was not aware of the area mentioned in the report as being a possible site for a North Korean nuclear test," the source said. ABC said the suspected test site was an underground facility called Pungyee-yok in northeast North Korea. The intelligence was brought to the attention of the White House last week, its report said. The activity includes the unloading of large reels of cable outside Punggye-yok. Cables can be used in nuclear testing to connect an underground test site to outside observation equipment. Even before this most recent intelligence, there has been growing concern within the U.S. government that North Korea has been moving toward a nuclear test. North Korea is believed to have enough nuclear material to build as many as a dozen nuclear bombs, but it has never tested one. A successful test would remove any doubt that North Korea is a nuclear power. "What does he have to lose?" asked one senior military official, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. On July 4, North Korea conducted seven ballistic missile tests, which provoked international condemnation, including a unanimous United States Security Council resolution condemning its actions. A nuclear test, however, would be seen as a much greater provocation than the missile tests. Only seven other nations in the world have ever conducted nuclear tests. U.S. officials fear a nuclear test could provoke a nuclear arms race in East Asia, forcing Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear weapons. "A nuclear test is going to be alarming and troubling for everyone and would cause a very strong reaction I think from all of North Korea's neighbors," said former National Security Council official Michael Green, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. U.S. officials caution that the intelligence is not conclusive. Last year U.S. spy satellites picked up suspicious activity at suspected test sites in North Korea, leading some to predict an imminent nuclear test, but nothing happened. Underground nuclear tests are notoriously difficult to detect ahead of time. ()


Julie Kong
Embassy of Switzerland

The Press review is a random selection of political and social related news gathered from various media and news services located in the PRC, edited or translated by the Embassy of Switzerland in Beijing and distributed among Swiss Government Offices. The Embassy does not accept responsibility for accuracy of quotes or truthfulness of content. Additionally the contents of the selected news mustn't correspond to the opinion of the Embassy.
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