Re: Earthquakes/Tsunami attacks? Asia stands divided against dollar and euro
[The regional disaster is allowing the US to get a strong foothold in SE Asia where the US military has not been wanted. Military and economic manipulation appears to be occurring by warfare that cannot be proven?]
Singapore June 4 - June 6 2004
Press Coverage - The Straits Times
June 5th 2004
Less potent US forces in Asia? It's not about numbers
Rumsfeld: Forget 20th-century mindset - US military capability in Asia will be boosted even if troop strength is reduced
By Felix Soh
THE capabilities of American forces stationed in Asia will not be reduced but will be even greater - even as cutbacks in United States troop deployment worldwide are being studied.
On the American initiative to protect Asia's most vital and vulnerable waterway, the Straits of Malacca, the defence secretary said it was an idea in its early stages. Consultations were still going on.
'The exact shape is yet to be devised and defined,' he said. 'Any implication that it would impinge in any way on the territorial waters of some countries would be inaccurate. It just wouldn't.'
The US proposal, called the Regional Maritime Security Initiative, has become a hot-button issue after littoral states Indonesia and Malaysia reacted negatively to it.
Under the plan, US Navy vessels and troops would patrol the Straits or respond in emergencies together with regional navies.
A terrorist attack on commercial shipping in the narrow and busy channel would disrupt global trade. About a third of the world's trade and half of the world's oil supply pass through the 800km- long Straits.
Mr Rumsfeld also said that he would not be bringing up the initiative when he meets Asean defence officials here.
'It's not something I am involved in,' he said. The proposal was first mooted by US Commander of Pacific Forces, Admiral Thomas Fargo.
On the terrorist threat in South-east Asia, he said that it was a serious one.
'Funds are still going to terrorist networks, we know the networks are global, we know they exist in this part of the world,' he pointed out.
The only solution was for countries to cooperate to fight terrorism by sharing intelligence and information.
'If terrorists can kill 3,000 people from all nations, of all faiths, men, women and children, using commercial airliners, they can kill multiples of that using biological weapons,' he said.
'The intelligence one sees about the appetite of terrorists to get increasingly powerful weapons is reasonably persuasive.'
Southeast Asia Jun 11, 2004
Fear, fanaticism and an Asian tightrope act
By Anil Netto
PENANG, Malaysia - This country's decision to reject US forces in tackling "terrorism" in the Straits of Malacca - in effect rejecting feelers from neighboring Singapore, a US ally - reflects a delicate tightrope act.
On the one hand, Malaysia wants to work together with Singapore and Indonesia in curtailing regional piracy along the busy Straits - without superpower involvement in the region. Malaysia has also been a critic of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. On the other, the United States sees Malaysia as a useful sounding board in its "war on terror". What's more, Malaysia has extensive trading links with the United States: it is America's 10th-largest trading partner.
Singapore proposed the idea of enlisting US troops to help patrol the Straits, the narrow shipping lane between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore that is vital to world trade but notorious for pirate attacks. Malaysia also has pledged to help wipe out piracy on the Strait, but Defense Minister Najib Razak, stressed last weekend that US counter-terrorism forces in the region would fuel Islamic fanaticism.
On May 10, US Trade Representative Robert B Zoellick and Malaysian International Trade and Industry Minister Rafidah Aziz signed a trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA). The agreement provides for "a bilateral forum to address trade issues and to help enhance trade and investment between the two countries". The TIFA creates a joint council to expand and liberalize trade and investment. It is also aimed at focusing attention on trade barriers that the United States faces and at helping to expand US access into Malaysia.
Just four days earlier, the US and Singapore, the United States' 11th-largest trading partner, reached a free trade agreement (FTA) "that would sweep away trade barriers".
Since the failure of the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun, Mexico, last September, the United States has been working to overcome that setback by resorting to bilateral trade agreements. By its own admission, the United States has been "aggressively working to open markets globally, regionally and bilaterally and to expand American opportunities in overseas markets".
The month after the Cancun meeting, in October, the Enterprise for ASEAN Initiative (EAI) was unveiled. Under this initiative, the United States offered to enter bilateral FTAs with member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that were committed to the economic "reforms" and "openness". The US and each ASEAN partner would jointly decide when they were ready to enter FTA negotiations.
It is against this closer trade relationship with the United States that Defense Minister Najib Razak's declaration not to allow US "troops or assets" to set foot in the Straits of Malacca must be viewed.
Last Friday, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he hoped US forces would be hunting terrorists in Southeast Asia "pretty soon". Rumsfeld warned that Islamic extremists were targeting moderate Muslim states around the world.
Yet Malaysia does not appear to be faced with an immediate terrorist threat that it cannot handle by itself or within the context of ASEAN. It has locked away more than 80 alleged militants indefinitely under the feared Internal Security Act (ISA), sparking protests from human-rights groups. The exact nature of the threat posed by these individuals, some of them detained for more than two years, has not been independently verified, as none has been tried before an independent tribunal. The ISA allows for detention without trial.
Although the threat of piracy against shipping in the Straits of Malacca is serious, it should be viewed from a historical context rather than seen as "terrorism". Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Fa Hsien said in AD 413 after a voyage to India that the area was "infested with pirates". According to historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya, one of the most dangerous areas was the southern approach to the Malacca Straits, where numerous rocky outcrops provided a haven for raiding fleets. They pointed out that a Chinese itinerary circa AD 800 describes an island to the northeast of Srivijaya where "many ... people are robbers and those who sail ships fear them".
So while piracy in the Straits is nothing new, it is also nothing that regional governments cannot tackle through closer cooperation.
A key factor behind Malaysia's decision to reject a US military presence would be political. Any visible US presence in the region would ruffle feathers among Malaysia's Malay-Muslim majority population in particular. Many Muslims are strongly against the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq and see the United States as an ally of Israel, which has occupied Palestinian territories.
Although Malaysia has forged close trade links with the United States, from a political standpoint it cannot afford to be seen as working too closely with the US military. Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi may have won a sweeping majority in parliament in the March general election, but he cannot be complacent enough to disregard the long-term ambitions of the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). In Malaysia's first past-the-post system, the ruling coalition won 90% of parliamentary seats but won just 63% of the popular vote. A swing of a few percentage points could make a lot of difference in many marginal seats.
In any case, any US military presence in Southeast Asia would violate a key ASEAN tenet of creating a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN). Malaysia is already a member of the Five Power Defense Arrangement (FPDA), which holds periodic joint exercises. This post-colonial arrangement, originally aimed at deterring the communist threat, groups together Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Syed Husin Ali, deputy president of the Malaysian People's Justice Party, has urged the Malaysian government to review the FPDA as well as the US-Malaysian Defense Agreement, signed in 1984 by then-US defense secretary Casper Weinberger and former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad. "Despite several requests made from inside and outside parliament, the government has refused to disclose the content of the [US-Malaysian Defense] Agreement," Syed observed. The agreement, he said, is believed to provide, among other things, for regular joint training for air and land forces of both countries, and for the access to Malaysian ports by the US Navy.
Moreover, Malaysia has already set up a Southeast Asian Regional Center for Counter-Terrorism in Kuala Lumpur. The center was mooted under a joint pact between ASEAN and the United States and focuses on capacity-building, human-resources development and exchange of information to counter terrorism.
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer of another US ally, Australia, arrived in Malaysia to discuss trade, defense and security arrangements. Downer will also visit the Center for Counter-Terrorism "to examine ways to further enhance capacity". This visit suggests an Australian interest in the center as well.
According to the comments made by Najib, a US military presence in Southeast Asia could prove to be a magnet for the very groups Southeast Asian governments are wary of. As evidence of this, analysts point to how the US occupation of Iraq has not only generated an active domestic resistance but has also led to suicide bombings within Iraq and actively boosted the ranks of terror groups in the Arab region.
"There is a tendency for the Americans to generate rather than to resolve conflicts, especially when Americans are seen as representing an ideology which is diametrically opposed to those of its opponents," said Johan Saravanamuttu, a professor in international politics specializing in peace studies and conflict resolution.
Johan said the United States is the worst party to be involved in any kind of conflict-prevention process because it is not seen to be neutral by the groups involved. "America is part of the problem and not part of the solution," he added. Instead, he said, any regional measures should be carried out under the umbrella of the United Nations.
Of course, there are also lingering suspicions about US military motives in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Author Chalmers Johnson cites statistics gleaned from the US Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic US military real estate. The Pentagon, he notes, owned or rented 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and had another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. Not surprisingly, some critics are wary of US empire-building in the strategic sense - to exert military and economic dominance and create spheres of influence.
Others in the region still remember well the legacy of past US military involvement in Southeast Asia - the bloody atrocities in Vietnam; the secret US collaboration in the Indonesian massacres that toppled former president Sukarno, and the "big wink" the United States gave to that country that served as the green light for the dictator Suharto to launch Indonesia's bloody occupation of East Timor, which left 200,000 dead; as well as US backing for another despot, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines.
Najib's decision to reject a US presence in the region may not have been influenced by these considerations; but it will reassure many others in the region who would have been more than a little disturbed by any fresh US military deployment in Southeast Asia.
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Tsunami toll passes 121,000
By Chris Brummitt
10:52 a.m. December 31, 2004
Thai volunteers burn the rubbles on Phi Phi island in Krabi province, southern Thailand, Friday, Dec. 31, 2004.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia – Two U.S. Navy battle groups loaded with supplies headed for tsunami-ravaged coasts Friday and an airlift of dozens of flights brought help to this wrecked Indonesian city, as a huge world relief drive to shelter, treat and feed millions of survivors kicked in. The death toll passed 121,000 and was still climbing.
But with help streaming in, overstretched authorities were dealing with logistical nightmare of getting it to the needy. Tons of supplies were backlogged in Indonesia, with thousands of boxes filled with drinking water, crackers, blankets and other basic necessities piled high in an airplane hangar nearly 300 miles from Banda Aceh, the wrecked main city in the disaster zone.
Indonesia, the hardest hit nation, said its toll – now at 80,000 – could reach 100,000, and officials began to acknowledge that the number of dead may never be known with precision, because the towering waves that smashed into Sumatra island swept entire villages with their inhabitants out to sea.
Sunday's 9.0 magnitude quake struck just off the coast of Sumatra, near the Indian archipelago, sending walls of water racing across the Indian Ocean and wiping out coasts in 11 nations.
Thais and foreigners put candles on a long tray during the candlelight vigil for the tsunami victims outside a shopping mall in Phuket province, Thailand.
After Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the next hardest hit, with about 28,500 deaths. A total of more than 300 were killed in Malaysia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Maldives, Somalia, Tanzania and Kenya.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday that nations had donated $500 million toward the relief effort, but more help was needed. Militaries from around the world geared up to help.
Nine U.S military C-130 transport craft took off Friday from Utapao, the Thai base used by U.S. B-52 bombers striking targets in Indochina during the Vietnam War, to rush supplies to the stricken resorts of southern Thailand and to more distant airfields in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, said Maj. Larry J. Redmon in Bangkok.
One of the cargo jets arrived in the main airport near Banda Aceh with blankets, medicine and the first of 80,000 body bags. Other C-130s were sent by Australia and New Zealand, and the Indonesian government said 42 flights from 18 countries had reached Sumatra by Friday.
Some pilots dropped food to villagers stranded among bloating corpses.
Two Navy groups of a dozen vessels – led by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard – are headed for the coasts of Indonesia and Sri Lanka with supplies and, importantly, more than 40 helicopters to help ferry food and medicines into ravaged seaside communities.
(Continued . . . )
Posted on Fri, Dec. 31, 2004
Tsunami's victims wait, hope, endure
Millions in need of water, food, shelter, medicine
HERALD WIRE SERVICES
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - Pilots dropped food to Indonesian villagers stranded among bloating corpses Thursday, while police in a devastated provincial capital stripped looters of their clothing and forced them to sit on the street as a warning to others. The death toll topped 120,000, and officials warned that 5 million people lack clean water, shelter, food, sanitation and medicine.
American planes delivered medical staff to Sri Lanka and body bags to Thailand, while a Thai air base used by B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War was becoming a hub for a U.S. military-led relief effort that will stretch along the Indian Ocean.
Also Thursday, the White House announced that President Bush will send a delegation led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and including the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, to assess the damage and the need for additional assistance.
Responding to persistent criticism that U.S. pledges have been slow to materialize and deliveries of aid not fast enough, Boucher ticked off a string of relief flights and declared: "Any implication we are not leading the way is wrong."
The United States, India, Australia, Japan and the United Nations have formed an international coalition to coordinate worldwide relief and reconstruction efforts.
In Galle, the graceful old city on the southern tip of Sri Lanka, German and Finnish teams helped set up water plants and mobile clinics.
A U.S. Air Force plane arrived in the capital, Colombo, bringing 26 medical specialists from the Army, Marines and Air Force, which form part of the Pacific Fleet Command.
American planes already have delivered 1,400 body bags to southern islands in Thailand, where Interior Minister Bhokin Balakula said more than 3,500 bodies have been found. Rescue and forensic teams from Australia, Japan, Germany, Israel and other nations fanned out across Thailand trying to find survivors and identify rapidly decomposing corpses.
"We have to have hope that we'll find somebody," said Ulf Langemeier, head of a German team that combed a wrecked resort with three body-detecting dogs under huge flood lamps early Thursday.
There likely will be up to 1,000 U.S. military personnel arriving in Thailand in the next week, Lt. Col. Scott Elder said. A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier battle group is heading from Hong Kong to the shores of Sumatra. The first of many Air Force C-130 cargo planes has landed in Indonesia with blankets, plastic sheeting and medicines.
Australian and New Zealand military cargo planes have flown supplies and water purification plants into Indonesia. A Pakistani navy ship has been diverted to rescue survivors on outlying islands in the Maldives. Singapore is sending eight helicopters, a navy ship and more than 500 military personnel.
More than 120,000 bodies recovered from disaster