May 31st, 2009
NASA announced this week that it extended its contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos. With the space shuttle scheduled to retire from service next year, NASA is in need of the crew and heavy lifting capabilities that the Russian’s can provide to support the International Space Station.
According to NASA’s website, the new deal includes “comprehensive Soyuz support, including all necessary training and preparation for launch, crew rescue, and landing of a long-duration mission for six individual station crew members.” The US$306 million deal will involve four launches by the Roscosmos Soyuz program.
NASA and Russia previously agreed to a US$719 million deal in 2007 that included 15 seats and 5.6 tons of cargo to be transported on Soyuz flights to the orbital site Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports.
May 26th, 2009
A day after the test detonation of a nuclear device, North Korea test fired two short range missiles from its eastern coast South Korea’s Yonhap New Agency reports.
“The North is continuing its saber-rattling,” a South Korean official told the news agency, declining to be identified and to say whether the launches were meant as tests.
North Korea’s second nuclear bomb test reverberated around the world Monday. The U.N. Security Council condemned it as a “clear violation” of international law and its closest ally, China, said North Korea “disregarded the opposition of the international community” to conduct the test.
May 26th, 2009
India is about to make a break from Russia over the provision of mid-air refuellers, citing a lack of safety and technical standards to keep its fighter aircraft airborne. This breaks Russia’s 50 year monopoly over providing the Indian air force with aircraft. India’s Air Force has stated that the Russian Ilyushin-78 refuellers do not meet the required tender objectives and that it prefers the Airbus A330 MRTT a military derivative of the Airbus A330 airliner.
May 15th, 2009
The release of a top Chinese official’s personal memoirs may shed new light on the political and free-market reforms of the 1980’s in China, as well as the events leading up to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and subsequent violence on June 4th, 1989.
Zhao Ziyang, the former Chinese Premier from 1980 to 1987 and then Secretary General from 1987 to 1989, was placed on house arrest following the Tiananmen Square incident for his sympathizing with demonstrators; and would remain there until his death in 2005.
During his years in isolation, Zhao managed to relate his personal experiences at the forefront of Chinese politics by recording over cassettes of children’s songs and the Chinese opera.
The tapes were subsequently smuggled out of the country by some of Zhao’s colleagues and are the material for the 306-page book Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang which will be released by Simon & Schuster on May 19th.
No doubt to the consternation of the current Chinese administration, Zhao praises the western system of parliamentary democracy in the last pages of his book as the only way to stamp out corruption and the growing economic inequality among China’s citizens.
May 13th, 2009
In a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee yesterday, Vietnam’s Minister of Planning and Investment Vo Hong Phuc unveiled the details of the government’s US$8 billion stimulus package.
US$5.2 billion of the funds will go towards infrastructure and development projects, US$1.6 will come in the form of tax breaks for enterprises and individuals, and a further US$400 million will serve welfare purposes.
During the meeting, Minister Phuc also downgraded Vietnam’s expected yearly growth in gross domestic product (GDP) to 5 percent from the original forecast of 6.5 percent.
May 11th, 2009
Vietnam has recently completed a US$1.8 billion deal with Russia that will send six Kilo-class attack submarines to the Southeast Asian nation.
This move by Vietnam may be in response to China’s military buildup in the region and its growing economic influence in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam has been troubled by civilian unrest recently in protest of a growing Chinese presence in the country and the prospect of “Sinification.”
May 7th, 2009
5,335 students were killed or remain missing as a result of the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan Province on May 12th last year, according to government officials. Another 546 students were left disabled.
Parents of the deceased have been demanding answers and accountability from the government for what they claim to be poorly constructed school buildings, but have been met with harassment and imprisonment.
As many as 7,000 schools collapsed during the earthquake, according to state media, with another 14,000 damaged.
Official estimates put the total number of deaths as a result of the earthquake at around 70,000 with another 18,000 missing.
May 6th, 2009
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) met last week in Moscow to discuss the possibility of increasing the coalition’s collaboration on military training to combat terrorism, extremism, and separatism.
Although the organization – made up of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – has maintained that it is not a political/military alliance, it seems that they have been moving towards that direction since Russia took the SCO presidency in August 2008.
As part of the SCO’s “Peace Mission 2010,” military exercises will be conducted in Kazakhstan with the bulk of the armed forces participating in the drills hailing from Russia and China.
“Specific anti-terrorism activities will be practiced at drills in Kazakhstan. All previous and upcoming military exercises involving SCO countries are of a counter-terrorist nature,” said Russia’s Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.
May 4th, 2009
A coalition of Asian nations consisting of China, Japan, South Korea, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to set up a US$160 billion emergency liquidity fund to help combat the global financial crisis.
“Poverty is worsening in many countries. Businesses are struggling. The extremely urgent climate change agenda could be affected,” said Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Asian Development Bank’s annual meeting in Bali. “If all this goes unchecked, down the road we could see social and political unrest in many countries.”
China, Japan, and South Korea will provide the bulk of the finances with contributions of US$38.4 billion each from China and Japan, and US$19.2 billion from South Korea.
ASEAN members will be responsible for the remaining 20 percent, or US$32 billion.
The fund will target social spending, health, education, credit-guarantees, and clean energy.