June 8th, 2010

[LINK] "4 Chinese Nationals Shot at North Korea Border"

Wow. This New York Times article points out an event that could have potentially huge ramifications, inasmuch as North Korea's existence seems to be contingent on China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that a North Korean border guard shot dead three Chinese nationals and wounded one last week in an incident in northeast China, prompting the Chinese government to file a formal complaint.

The shootings took place last Friday at the China-North Korea border by the Chinese city of Dandong, in Liaoning Province, said Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing. The four shot Chinese were residents of Dandong and were believed by the guard to be engaged in illegal trade across the border, Mr. Qin added, according to a report by the Chinese-language edition of Global Times, an official newspaper.

“China attaches great importance to that and has immediately raised a solemn representation with the D.P.R.K.,” Mr. Qin said, using the acronym for the formal name for North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “Now the case is under investigation.”

Mr. Qin gave the information in response to a question at the news conference about unconfirmed South Korean press reports on the shooting, but he did not provide more details. Nonetheless, Mr. Qin’s confirmation of the shooting and his description of China’s reaction was unusual, since China rarely upbraids North Korea in public.

It was unclear how the shooting incident would affect relations between North Korea and China, which is North Korea’s closest ally in the region.

[LINK] "Myanmar 'nuclear plans' exposed"

I can't imagine that China will be happy with this news, never mind every other country with any involvement in Burma. Al Jazeerah reports.

An investigation by an anti-government Myanmar broadcaster has found evidence that it says shows the country's military regime has begun a programme to develop nuclear weapons.

Journalists from the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) have been gathering information about secret military projects in Myanmar for years.

But they say recent revelations from a former army officer show that the military government is pushing ahead with ambitions to become a nuclear power.

[. . .]

Sai Thein Win says he was deputy commander of a highly classified military factory that was the headquarters of the army's nuclear battalion.

But he says he decided to defect and bring top-secret evidence of the project with him.

"They really want a bomb, that is their main objective," he says in the film.

"They want to have the rockets and nuclear warheads."

[. . .]

Sai Thein Win says he decided to defect after seeing a previous report by the DVB about the Myanmar regime's extensive network of secret underground bunkers and tunnels.

The broadcaster gathered thousands of photos and more defector testimony, claiming some of the tunnels are used as command posts, while others – some are large as two football fields – are used for storing secret weapons and equipment to protect them from aerial bombardment.

[LINK] "The Blog Prophet of Euro Zone Doom"

I would like to congratulate my co-blogger Edward Hugh for gaining the international attention that he deserves, as evidenced by an article in the New York Times, no less. He was certainly ahead of the times, and it is time that he has been recognized for his prescience. (I've reproduced his thesis below.)

For years, almost nobody paid attention to the sky-is-falling alarms of Edward Hugh, a gregarious British blogger and self-taught economist who repeatedly predicted that the euro zone could not survive.

[. . .]

“I guess I am countercyclical,” he said with a laugh. “For all the years during the boom when everyone was doing well here, I wasn’t doing anything. Now I am a household name in Catalonia.”

Well, not quite. The idea of the economist as a pop celebrity in the mold of a Nouriel Roubini, whose early prediction that the United States housing market would collapse later brought him fame and a worldwide consulting brand, or a Paul Krugman, the Nobel-winning economist who writes an Op-Ed Page column for The New York Times, is still unformed in Europe and in particular in Spain.

But as questions rise over how European governments can escape their debt trap and resume growth, Mr. Hugh, who has been pondering this topic for years, is for the first time being turned to for insights and wisdom.

His bleak message, in newspaper columns, local television and radio appearances, and in meetings with officials, is almost always the same: since Spain and other struggling countries of the euro zone like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Italy cannot devalue their common currency unilaterally, they have little choice but to endure what would essentially be a 20 percent internal devaluation instead. That means their public and private sector wages need to fall by roughly that amount if those countries are ever to restore competitiveness, lift exports and bring in the cash needed to pay down their debts.

“Why haven’t these countries converged” with the rest of Europe? he asks. “It’s demographics. As populations age, there are fewer people in their 20s to 40s to buy new houses, so they save more. The younger a country is, the more dependent it is on credit to get growth.”

Germany, where the average age is 45 and rising even as the population is beginning to shrink, is a nation of savers, and public policy has encouraged keeping wages under control and building up export industries.

By contrast, the younger Greeks, Irish and Spaniards went on borrowing binges, driven in particular by rising demands for new homes and consumer goods that, in several cases, turned into housing bubbles before going bust. Wages were pushed up, encouraging spending but soon making it all but impossible for their industries to compete with the thrifty Germans, Dutch and other Northern Europeans.