March 31st, 2009
The first trial of a Khmer Rouge official began on Monday, where the former commandant of Tuol Sleng (SS-21) prison confessed to charges of systematic torture in a long indictment read by court officials in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
U.N. backed allegations against Kaing Guek Eav, better known as comrade Duch, also include crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the murder of at least 14,000 individuals.
Kaing is the first of five Khmer Rouge officials to be taken to court for one of the most horrific periods in recent history, in which 1.7 million people are reported to have died from hunger, disease, torture, and over-exhaustion from work during the late 1970s.
A Christian convert who has expressed remorse for his actions, Kaing has gone into great detail about what went on at the Tuol Sleng prison in his pretrial sworn statement. In his testimony, Kaing described the torture methods used which sometimes involved medical experiments and live autopsies.
The maximum sentence that can be issued to the Khmer Rouge officials on trial is life imprisonment.
March 30th, 2009
A popular new collection of short stories calling for China to rise up and assert itself in the world has been a hot topic of debate among Chinese recently.
The collaborative effort of five Chinese authors, “Unhappy China” was released on March 13 and has already moved to the best-sellers list on the popular website Dangdang.com; quickly selling out its initial 270,000 copies.
“From looking at the history of human civilization, we are most qualified to lead this world; Westerners should be second,” writes one author in the book.
The book is extremely nationalistic – criticizing and blaming the U.S. and other Western countries for their denigration of China and their role in the current economic downturn.
“This economic problem has shown the Chinese people that America does have problems, that what we’ve been saying is right,” said Wang Xiaodong, one of the authors, in an interview on Friday.
The book also is extremely critical of China’s current governmental leaders who the authors feel have taken a soft and timorous stance when dealing with Western nations.
“I’ve already lost all hope in China’s elite,” says Mr. Wang. “America will face a less friendly China in the future.”
Despite the high volume of sales, the book has been met with a large degree of criticism from academics and bloggers in China who feel that the publication is an attempt to cash in on the nationalistic sentiment currently felt in the country.
Others claim that the book is an embarrassment and write it off simply as unconstructive.
March 30th, 2009
With a 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates on Saturday, North Korea rose to the top of Asia’s Group 2 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying round with the hope of making their first appearance at the tournament since 1966.
Pak Nam Chol and Mun In Guk were the heroes of the match, notching a goal apiece in a hard-fought defensive battle between the two teams at a packed Kim Il Sung Stadium.
North Korea, with 10 points, is now two points ahead of rival South Korea with three games left in qualifying play – making the match between the two teams this Wednesday definitely a game worth watching.
March 30th, 2009
Reports released by the University of Toronto and Cambridge University over the weekend have revealed a vast and intricate electronic espionage program run from servers in China that have infiltrated computers in more than 100 countries.
The program, dubbed GhostNet, has reportedly compromised more than 1,295 computers in 106 countries: including embassies, foreign ministries, government offices, and exile centers of the Dalai Lama in cities like London, New York, and Brussels.
The attacks were fairly direct – typically in the form of emails with accompanying links or attachments that would trigger the virus. Once active, the virus would allow the hacker to operate the host computer as if it were its own, including being able to move or send files, and even capable of turning on the computer’s camera and microphone, effectively creating a surveillance bug.
Although the researchers at the University of Toronto have found China to be the source of the hackers, they have not found any evidence that would suggest the government was involved.
“We’re a bit more careful about it, knowing the nuance of what happens in the subterranean realms,” said Ronald J. Deibert, who is a member of the research team. “This could well be the C.I.A. or the Russians. It’s a murky realm that we’re lifting the lid on.”
The report by two researchers at Cambridge University, however, had no qualms with accusing the Chinese government of conducting cyber attacks on Tibetan exile groups.
March 27th, 2009
The Pentagon was very critical of China’s growing military power in its annual report to the U.S. Congress, claiming it is altering the military balance in Asia.
The U.S. Department of Defense criticized China’s development of “disruptive military technologies,” including “nuclear, space, and cyber warfare.”
The U.S. is also worried about the purpose of China’s military, stating in the report that, “much uncertainty surrounds China’s future course, particularly regarding how its expanding military power might be used.”
Chinese officials have expressed their disappointment with the Pentagon’s annual report, which they feel unfairly portrays China as a military aggressor.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang has urged the U.S. to “drop the Cold War thinking… to prevent further damage to the relationship between the two countries and two armies.”
China’s military spending is still a fraction of America’s and it maintains that the “peaceful rise” in military spending is appropriate in concordance with the country’s economic growth.
March 26th, 2009
The European Union, International Monetary Fund, and World Bank collaborated on Wednesday to bail out Romania with a €20 billion loan – making Romania the third country in Eastern Europe, after Hungary and Latvia, to receive financial assistance to help survive the current recession.
A breakdown of the loan has the IMF issuing a majority of the funding at €13 billion, the EU committing €5, and the World Bank accounting for €1 billion. The extra €1 billion will be sponsored by a collection of smaller creditors and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.
The loan comes under the stipulation that Romania make severe cuts in public spending and wages, as well as with a strong urging from other EU members that the country recapitalize its banks and enhance its deposit guarantee scheme.
“I am aware of the hardships that Romania and its citizens are encountering at this time of crisis but I am confident that, with the right policies and with the help of the EU and other international bodies, they will emerge stronger,” said EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquín Almunia.
March 25th, 2009
In the first exhibit of American art since the 1986, Havana’s Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes will feature artwork of more than 30 artists from New York City’s Chelsea District.
The display, named “Chelsea Visits Havana,” will be shown from March 28th to May 17th and is another hopeful sign of warming relations between the two countries since the inauguration of U.S. President Barrack Obama.
“Art has always been a bridge to culture, and if this is any sign of things to come, it’s a great first step,” said Alberto Magnan, a U.S. curator of Cuban-American descent.
March 25th, 2009
Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People’s Bank of China, released an essay in Chinese and English on Monday which called for a new currency reserve system to be implemented by the International Monetary Fund.
This move may be an indication of China’s increasing concern over their foreign exchange reserves which, valued at almost US$ 2 trillion, are the largest in the world. Of those assets, more than half are made up of U.S. treasury and other dollar-valued bonds.
In his paper, Zhou supported his request with what he claimed the current economic crisis has revealed as, “inherent vulnerabilities and systemic risks in the existing international monetary system.”
“Chinese are quite concerned that the large U.S. government deficits will eventually lead to inflation, which will erode the purchasing power of the dollar-denominated financial assets which they hold,” said Nicholas Lardy, an economist with a focus on China at the Peterson Institute in Washington. “It is a legitimate concern.”
March 24th, 2009
A coalition consisting of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia has agreed to establish a nuclear-weapons-free zone across their region.
The pact, which was signed this past Saturday by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, prohibits the nations from researching, developing, producing, or possessing nuclear weapons.
The treaty further stipulates that each nation must ratify the Additional Protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and adhere to the requirements of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, according to the United Nations.
“The secretary general trusts that the entry into force of the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia will reinforce efforts to strengthen the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, underline the strategic and moral value of nuclear-weapon-free zones, as well as the possibilities for greater progress on a range of issues in the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Kim-moon in an issued statement.
March 23rd, 2009
North Korea confirmed on Saturday that they were holding two American reporters who they apprehended last week near the Chinese-North Korean border.
The two captured journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were doing a report for the U.S. based Current TV on North Korean refugees in China. Two others, reporter Mitch Koss and an unidentified Chinese guide, were also part of the television crew, but managed to escape back to the Chinese border.
The four seemed to have trespassed onto North Korean lands near the Chinese city of Tumen while trying to get closer footage.
According to human rights activists who have visited the area, the border area in question is said to be tough to distinguish; marked by the Tumen River, which is less than 30 yards across here, it is a combination of dry-river bed and ice this time of year.
Regardless, the Chinese-American Ling and Korean-American Lee are currently being held in Pyongyang on charges of “illegally intruding” into North Korea.