Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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Why can't #Japan & #SouthKorea resolve their disputes? @SteveMillerANW's new podcast has answers from @EWInstitute: goo.gl/qQxvYC

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#SF Sheriff demotes former opponent, some call it politically motivated sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/s…

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San Francisco voter-approved pension reform reversed by court ow.ly/MczNE

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S.F. grapples with adding uncredentialed teachers amid shortage. sfchronicle.com/education/arti… via @sfchronicle @jilltucker

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In Japan, "planning and construction of super high-rise apt bldgs [20+ stories] began to increase in the late 1990s" japanpropertycentral.com/2015/04/high-r…

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Cities and counties in the Bay Area got a huge tax windfall from this office deal. We're talkin' millions - bizj.us/1h4sin

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Moffett Field mega-project shows signs of life after long hibernation bizj.us/1h7rw7 pic.twitter.com/GDXDoLIm6L

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In Hong Kong the top 15 families control assets worth 84% of GDP. In business, family matters econ.st/1dnc09K pic.twitter.com/GFpd8VywFw

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Supervisor plans task force to prepare #SF for marijuana legalization statewide sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/s…

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Beijing now bans private sources from releasing weather forecasts, newspaper.jfdaily.com/xwcb/html/2015… cc @hancocktom pic.twitter.com/YIX3o967OQ

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#China Los Angeles top pick for wealthy Chinese buying homes abroad, survey suggests:
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Thai Parties Banned From Debating Draft Constitution


North Korea accused of upping 'material support' for terrorism | World news | The Guardian


Academics warn China will dominate region without US | South China Morning Post


The case for a US-China military balance


Report: US, Philippines Agree on Base Rotations Along South China Sea | Military.com


China maritime tensions dominate Southeast Asia summit | Reuters


Air Passenger Fleets serving Australia South Pacific to almost double by 2033


Malaysia's ISIS dilemma


Australia: Ideas needed for next economic growth phase | afr.com


Malaysian politician gives cold shoulder to refugee seekers


Japan to dispatch SDF to Nepal, part of multifaceted aid effort | The Japan Times


Situation Report: Real talk about drones; U.S. and Japan talk defense, Generals talk about space; Iran doing lots of talking; and more | Foreign Policy


Indonesian President Widodo under corrupt thumb of Megawati


Under President Jokowi, Political Development Gets Better and Economy Deteriorates, Survey Reveals | GIVnews.com - Indonesian Perspective to Global Audience


Johannes Nugroho: In Writing Off Western-Led Institutions, Has Jokowi Jumped the Gun? - The Jakarta Globe


Jokowi to talk with Aquino on Veloso’s execution | The Jakarta Post


China’s Myanmar Conundrum | The Diplomat


No Surprises in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan | The Diplomat


China’s rise will drive defence policy: Kevin Andrews | The Australian


Question of the Week

Able Dart @ b-copy (@AbleDart)
Who Landed a Radioactive Drone on Shinzo Abe's Roof? | The Diplomat thediplomat.com/2015/04/who-la…

Monday, April 27, 2015

Despite Politics, Thailand remains attractive for property investors


Seoul sends $1 mil. quake relief


South Korea’s Weak Hand in Pressing Japan on the War



Azmin Ali under fire



Malaysia police say militants arrested, plot foiled ahead of ASEAN summit



Anwar’s Wife Stands by Her Man in Fight for Malaysia Seat



Guam's voice left out of sea turtle status



Four Nauru refugees who agreed to go to Cambodia wait to fly out



Fears over fate of Vietnamese asylum seekers turned back home



Japan's war history will shadow PM's U.S. visit next week



Japanese war apologies lost in translation | East Asia Forum



Civilian control over the SDF | The Japan Times


Aquino calls for consensus amid ASEAN silence on sea row | Headlines, News, The Philippine Star | philstar.com


China is moving towards de facto control of South China Sea: Philippines - East Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times


Chinese island-building in South China Sea 'may undermine peace', says Asean | World news | The Guardian



Chinese actions push PH, Vietnam closer together | ABS-CBN News



Tweet by Andrew Erickson on Twitter

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Cyber Splash—China's Navy becomes its 1st service/branch to have its own microblog. PLANavy-specific or trend setter? m.chinadaily.com.cn/en/2015-04/27/…

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PM Abe discusses history, U.S. relations, and China with WSJ's @gerardtbaker @JMSchles
on.wsj.com/1z3Y4Lr pic.twitter.com/PYdC7HsjOV

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Aquino, Widodo side-by-side in photo as Asean summit opens | Inquirer Global Nation


Philippines urges ASEAN to stop China in South China Sea - The Washington Post


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Limited Good is Killing Bay Area Housing

Why David Campos’ narrative on market-rate housing isn’t helping anyone in the Mission — least of all those who need the most help

A lot of politicians, activists and lobbyists are playing on public fear of displacement with what may seem to some like an easy answer: don’t build any more new housing. In reaction to the growth spurt, a number of Bay Area cities have proposed moratoria on housing construction. Two such plans, in Emeryville and Walnut Creek, have failed, but efforts remain on the table in Foster City and in San Francisco.

Read the rest at our Medium page:


Wednesday, April 01, 2015

A Different Kind of Blue Economy in the Indo-Pacific


Here, the Focus is Not So Much on Sustainability as Security

The Indian Ocean island states are themselves taking a more coordinated view of the ocean resources under the “blue economy” concept that has been spearheaded by Seychelles prime minister James Michel. Seychelles has emerged as the leading voice of the small island developing states (SIDS) for the blue economy’s concept of developing oceanic resources in a sustainable manner for economic growth and development of the region. The blue economy proposes cooperation in ocean resource management that includes areas like fisheries, climate change, hydrocarbons, maritime lanes and other ocean resources. The concept has been adopted by the African union while Seychelles and Mauritius have moved ahead to sign an agreement to jointly manage an extended continental shelf in the Mascareignes plateau region. 
India has the capacity to work with these countries in these fields of ocean development with its expertise in earth sciences, conducting hydrographic surveys and deep sea and seabed activities. India has conducted hydrographic surveys in Mauritius and has signed a similar agreement with Seychelles as well. Both Seychelles and Mauritius are part of India’s pan African e-network for health and education. Capacity building is an important element in bilateral cooperation as about 1 per cent of Seychelles population has trained under India’s ITEC programme. 
India has differing levels of security cooperation with Mauritius and Seychelles but hopes to include them on a regular basis in its trilateral naval cooperation with Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India has assisted Seychelles in combating piracy in 2009 when pirates from Somalia moved their operations close to Seychelles. It has gifted two naval ships to Seychelles in 2006 and 2014 and a maritime reconnaissance aircraft for patrolling its EEZ of 1.3 million square miles. It is in the processing of building a coastal radar surveillance system (CRSS) for Seychelles

Modi, in his recent visit to Seychelles, Mauritius and Sri Lanka, urged for cooperation in blue economy, which is a multi-disciplinary approach for the exploitation of hydrocarbons and other marine resources; deep-sea fishing, preservation of marine ecology, mitigating climate change by addressing environmental issues and disaster management. 
With its advancement in science and technology, India is in a position to lend expertise in deep sea bed activities, hydrographic surveys and weather predictions. India has a long record of hydrographic surveys of Seychelles and Mauritius.

The agenda for combating climate change and the stress on renewable sources of energy are likely to gain support from many small island economies and littoral states.
The Indian Ocean region is strategically important as a vital sea lane of communication passes through it — from the Hormuz Strait to the Suez Canal, Red Sea, Persian Gulf and Malacca Strait and South China Sea.

These critical trade routes support almost two-thirds of the global energy trade, half of the world’s containerized cargo and a third of global bulk cargo.
Security is, therefore, an important aspect. Maritime piracy, threats of terrorist attacks, possible attacks by private mercenaries and money laundering are the issues that need to be dealt within cooperation.

Launching of the coastal surveillance radar project, assurances for providing another Dornier aircraft, agreements on hydrographic survey and development of infrastructure on Assumption Island and other development assistance are the recent initiation of hydro-politics with Seychelles.

Modi, in his recent visit to Mauritius, gave similar gestures through the joint commissioning of an offshore patrol vessel (a Barracuda built with Indian assistance) an agreement to develop Agalega Island and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ocean economy, along with other development assistance. He invited both Seychelles and Mauritius to join the India-Maldives-Sri Lanka trilateral naval exercise.

Addressing the media after his visit to State House in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, located on the main island of Mahé, Modi announced that a joint working group would be established between the two countries to expand their cooperation on the blue economy. 
“This cooperation will increase our understanding of marine ecology and resources. We will improve our ability to harness new possibilities of the ocean in a sustainable and balanced manner,” said the Prime Minister, who hailed the agreement as a “major step” in advancing scientific and economic cooperation between India and Seychelles. 
Commenting on the announcement, the Seychelles President, James Michel, said the willingness of the government and people of India to work with Seychelles in the development of the blue economy concept was very encouraging. 
"This is an area that holds great promise for our nations," he said. "The blue economy is all about ownership by regional states of the resources in our oceans around our islands and our coasts."

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chúng tôi là Lorax! Chúng tôi nói cho các cây! Với Facebook!


Arboreal Angst in Hanoi spurs use of Social Media for civil society protest

Finger-pointing is the order of the day. Authorities insisted that only problematic trees have been targeted for replacement, and that proper procedures have been followed. But tens of thousands of Hanoians don’t seem to trust them. There’s a Facebook group that, translated from Vietnamese, is called “6,700 People for 6,700 Trees,” which has me imagining an army of people chaining themselves to trunks. But actually, more than 56,000 people have tapped the “like” button. As it happens, I first learned about the imbroglio through another Facebook group, Hanoi Massive, a site popular with expats and Vietnamese who are comfortable conversing in English. 
All things considered, it’s heartening to see how the Hanoi Chainsaw Massacre has brought out Vietnam’s tree huggers. The trees that have already been executed did not die in vain, for their peers have been granted a reprieve because Hanoians have raised their voices. Vietnam is a land of great natural beauty and people working to protect both the rural and urban environments. What with the rampant littering and public urination, it’s great to see Hanoians rally around the greenery that is much too sparse in a gritty city now becoming more crowded and polluted. 
Speaking of fingers, consider the ones that tapped that “like” button. Consider the fingers that tapped out the blog postings and the comments. This is also heartening. The public outcry wasn’t just a victory for the trees, but for the rising influence of social media in Vietnam.

Public protests are still not common in Vietnam but online protests and organizing have become more common in recent years. Facebook, now used by a quarter of the country’s 93 million citizens, is one of the most common venues. In fact it was most likely organizing against bauxite mining projects in the country’s Central Highlands that led to the social media site’s ongoing block in 2009. The government has since revised its stance (though it never stated it in the first place) and earlier this year Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung spoke of the need to harness Facebook’s power. At the same time environmental concerns have come to the foreground in Vietnam. Last year there were online protests and petitions to stop the building of a cable car in Hang Son Doong cave, the largest in the world. Some protesting that were also at Sunday’s protest, according to VOA.

"To be precise it's not only this tree chopping but virtually every policy of the government is being complained about," said one Facebook user. "Many things are short-termish and unreasonable that are not to the people's liking and people have lost trust [in the government]." 
Hung Nguyen of BBC Vietnamese says the nature of the campaign - or rather, the fact it was a nature campaign - allowed Hanoians to question their government. 
"This is a rare example of civil society in Vietnam," Nguyen says. "Challenging the government or party is still something rare in Vietnam and can land people in jail quite easily. But this issue appears to be non-political which is why it got momentum on Facebook."

Friday, March 27, 2015

San Francisco: Voter Approved Waterfront Development Ban May Be Illegal

 The 8 Washington condo development plan which inspired Proposition B http://8washington.com/resources/111511_S200_ViewFromSoutheast_2011-11-11.jpg

State Court at least partially backs State Agency in fight against measure requiring public vote for zoning changes

A lawsuit by the State Lands Commission challenging whether voters can weigh in on waterfront height-limit increases in The City will proceed, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.

In response to a motion by the City Attorney’s Office for the court to dismiss the lawsuit that seeks to invalidate Proposition B, a measure that puts height-limit increases along San Francisco’s waterfront before voters, Judge Suzanne Bolanos opted to give the State Lands Commission an opportunity to disclose the potential economic harm of Prop. B.

“The State Lands Commission properly pleads a cause of action for violation of public resources,” Bolanos said.

Prop. B requires voter approval for projects that exceed current height limits, which range from 40 to 90 feet. Prop. B passed with 59 percent of the vote. Former San Francisco Mayor and current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is a member of the commission.
Both sides took the ruling as a partial victory. Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, which supports the nullification of Prop. B, said the “ruling gives us optimism that Prop. B might not withstand legal scrutiny and may no longer be a barrier to building thousands of homes at all levels of affordability on San Francisco’s Port property.”

Jon Golinger, the Telegraph Hill resident who led the Prop. B campaign, called the ruling “a mixed bag.” He said the judge clearly stated that “voters do have a say in what happens on the waterfront, and that is pretty significant.”

“The case goes on and Prop B remains in effect,” he said.

On Wednesday, Judge Bolanos denied some of the state’s motions, but ruled it could present evidence of the law’s economic impact. The litigants could start arguing that part of the case in May.

Herrara lauded Bolanos’ ruling, which he said underscores that the city’s law doesn’t conflict with the Burton Act. The state has argued the 1969 act gives it controls of the port land.

“This ruling upholds the power of San Francisco and its voters over building heights on the City’s waterfront, and is in keeping with over 45 years of land use regulation in San Francisco,” Herrera said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the opposition said the ruling “left the door open” Prop. B may be invalid.

“Today’s ruling gives us optimism that Prop. B might not withstand legal scrutiny and may no longer be a barrier to building thousands of homes at all levels of affordability on San Francisco’s Port property,” said Tim Colen, executive director of the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.

The San Francisco Housing Action Coalition is participating in the litigation.

Meanwhile, Prop. B has already begun to have a ripple effect on San Francisco development. After Prop. B passed, Forest City took it’s major office-housing-public park development on Pier 70 to voters. It was approved in November.

Another development site that will likely go to the ballot box over Prop. B is Seawall Lot 337 where the San Francisco Giants want to build a mixed-use development. Giants officials say they haven't decided when they will bring the initiative to the ballot.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gender Issues are Shaking the Tech Industry Treehouse


The war against gender bias in Tech switches theaters from finance to product, and is revealing the provincial folkways of a supposedly fast-forward industry

Essentially, the allegation is that there's a feedback loop leaving women at a disadvantage at Twitter: The people making decisions about who should be promoted are men, and the people they're choosing to promote are more of the same. 
The idea that people might be biased towards people like them is hardly a radical: Some academics have even argued that favoritism towards people within an individual's own group is a more likely cause of most modern discrimination than active malice towards people with different backgrounds. Looking for things like a "culture fit" may seem innocuous to the people in charge of hiring or promotion — but ultimately can lead to companies hiring a bunch of people with the same life experiences as current employees at the expense of other candidates with different and potentially important perspectives.
And the lack of diversity in tech means such "ingroup favoritism" could have particularly pernicious outcomes for the industry where, despite a myth of meritocracy, who you know can play a big part in getting your foot in the door.


So what does Twitter get so wrong when it comes to promoting gender equality? Here’s Huang’s list as presented in the lawsuit text obtained by Mashable. 
“Twitter’s policies and practices have thus had the effect of denying equal job opportunities to qualified women. Such policies and practices include, without limitation:
a. Reliance upon subjective, gender-based and/or arbitrary criteria utilized by a nearly all male managerial workforce in making promotion decisions;
b. Failure to follow a uniform job posting procedure to guarantee that all employees have notice of openings;
c. Effectively discouraging women from seeking or applying for senior level and leadership positions;
d. Failing and refusing to consider women for promotion on the same basis as men are considered;
e. Failing and refusing to promote women on the same basis as men are promoted and compensated;
f. Failing to provide women with accurate and timely notice of promotional opportunities;
g. Providing women employees interested in promotion shifting, inconsistent and inaccurate statements about the requirements and qualifications necessary for promotion;
h. Establishing and maintaining arbitrary and subjective requirements for promotions which have the effect of excluding qualified women and which have not been shown to have any significant relationship to job performance or to be necessary to the safe and efficient conduct of Twitter’s business;
i. Failing and refusing to take adequate steps to eliminate the effects of its past discriminatory practices; and,
j. Retaliating against women employees who complain of unequal treatment.”
Huang invited other current and former female Twitter employees to join the suit. According to Huang’s numbers, only 30 percent of Twitter’s overall global workers are women but that number drops to 10 percent when only technical jobs are considered. Twitter’s leadership team is 79 percent male. It was not until the company’s IPO in December of 2013 that Twitter named the only woman, Marjorie Scardino, to its board of directors.


If Huang’s case gains class-action status, as her legal team hopes, it could attract more female plaintiffs — and more attention to the plight of women in tech.
The Pao case “is more culturally significant than legally significant,” said Reuel Schiller, a professor at UC Hastings School of Law and an expert on labor and employment law. But the Twitter suit “could be a much bigger deal ... and a potentially broad claim.”
If the case becomes certified as a class-action suit — which could take a year — “you could get programmatic change or injunctive relief, and that could get a company to change,” said Felicia Medina, San Francisco managing partner at Sanford Heisler Kimpel, who has worked on several large gender discrimination cases.
Not only does it involve a brand-name company that’s become embedded in American culture, but it also takes dead aim at the tech world’s vulnerable underbelly: The workforce at many of the industry’s best-known companies, including Twitter, is largely white and male. A mere 10 percent of Twitter’s technical employees are women — low even by the tech world’s underwhelming standards, according to data released last summer.


Monday, March 23, 2015

As Voting Begins on Metro Vancouver Transit Tax, Polls Indicate Defeat by Gridlock


Voting Yes means less time stuck in traffic, less pollution, and investing just $0.35 day to reduce our overall transportation costs. 
Voting No means no new transit service and therefore more traffic gridlock, more pollution, and higher transportation costs for many residents due to heavier car use. As some have pointed out, this option “really sucks. 
It’s a choice that will have enormous impacts for our region, and voting No is not a vote for the status quo. It is a vote to cut service per person, because there won’t be any funding for the current system to grow as the population increases. 
Regardless of how we vote, we need to make room for a million new neighbours on our buses, SkyTrains, SeaBuses and roads. Even now, residents and visitors are already stuck in traffic on a daily basis, facing unreliable commute times and overcrowding on transit.


We will freely confess that a sales tax is the second-best way to finance public transit. In an ideal world, the costs of building and operating transit would be borne by transit users themselves — through the farebox, not the ballot box. Private operators would raise funds for expansion schemes in the same way they do in other sectors, in anticipation of the revenues to be collected from willing customers. This would provide a truer test of demand, ensuring routes were built to meet the needs of transit users, rather than bureaucrats and politicians. 
But we don’t live in an ideal world. If transit is to be built — and no one disputes Vancouver needs more and better public transit — it will for the time being have to be done on the public dime. And of all the ways to raise revenues governments have at their disposal, a sales tax is the least distorting (entailing neither the disincentives of the income tax nor the inequities of the property tax), the most accountable (everybody pays the tax), and at least in this case, the fairest. Fair, both because the poor can be rebated any increase in costs, and because the tax increase will apply only within Metro Vancouver: in effect, a municipal sales tax.



Metro Vancouver workers ride transit more and have a wider range of incomes than those in many other West Coast cities, according to data compiled by Bing Thom Architects. 
Bing Thom planner Andy Yan and principal Michael Heeney created the ridership portrait using Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey and the 2011 American Communities Survey. They’re using the results of their analysis to support the yes side in Metro Vancouver’s ongoing transit tax plebiscite. 
According to the data, a higher percentage of workers — 20% — take transit to work in Metro Vancouver than other major West Coast cities; the next-highest city was Calgary, at 16%.

“We’re total leaders on the West Coast. Now we’re not [when compared with] New York City, which is 40%,” Yan said.
“But at 20% you’re light years ahead of Calgary, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.” 
Women and young people represented the highest proportion of transit riders: 60% of workers who commuted via transit were women and 60% were under the age of 40.


No one likes to pay more taxes, and saying “yes” means regional residents will pay an additional half per cent on the existing seven per cent sales tax to fund sweeping transit expansion plans across the fast-growing region. 
“No” means keeping more money in your own pocket – a powerful lure for the 1.5 million voters living in the country’s most expensive urban centre, and particularly so for younger adults, many of whom are under-employed and struggling to keep financially afloat. 
But Barrett, 32, believes firmly that a vote against the tax is a vote against her generation. Indeed, without the proposed improvements, people her age will be unfairly doomed to a lifetime of clogged roads, choking pollution and a public transit system that can’t possibly keep up with projected growth. 
Heck, with a million more people expected to move to Vancouver and its surrounding cities by 2040, it won’t just be the Millennials who suffer.
It will be their children, and maybe even their children’s children.


Up close, the sight of this referendum is not so awe-inspiring. And after it’s over, it’s likely to become a case study in what happens when you don’t have the time to properly lay the groundwork for such a vote: Bad strategies are devised. Panic sets in. Blunders are made. And eventually, a colossal opportunity is wasted. 
Recent polls have shown the No side with an almost unsurmountable lead. Vancouver’s Yes supporters can only hope that the pollsters are as wrong about the outcome of this ballot measure as they were about the provincial election in 2013, when all predicted that Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals were going to be crushed by the New Democrats and it turned out to be just the opposite. 
Somehow, though, I don’t think the pollsters have it wrong this time. 
Last year, I took a look at how these types of transit referendums are conducted in the United States, where they are common. In virtually every case, successful campaigns are conducted over a period that spans a year or longer. Carefully strategizing takes place to design the best possible “Vote Yes” operation. Deep consideration is given to obvious vulnerabilities and measures are taken in advance to address them. Careful plans are put in place to ensure that the opposition doesn’t get an insurmountable head start in the debate, enabling it to define what the vote will ultimately be about.
The Yes side in Metro Vancouver’s transit plebiscite enjoyed no such luxury of time. It literally had a couple of months. And that is entirely the fault of a willful provincial government that insisted on the referendum and its ridiculously short time frame. It then backed off to watch the Yes side mostly falter with the entirely avoidable mess of a situation it was handed.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Lee Kuan Yew's Legacy | Daniel Wagner

Say what you will about the type of democracy LKY created, and nurtured, after stepping down as Prime Minister in 1990, the net result is an economic miracle unrivaled in Southeast Asia that has punched way above its weight for decades. It has done so for several reasons - including its ability to constantly adapt to regional and global economic realities, by expanding its physical size, by encouraging foreigners to live and work there, but also by maintaining a diplomatic presence on the global stage that has made it a 'player', in its own way.

When LKY assumed office in 1959, Singapore had fewer than 2 million inhabitants. Today, it is approaching 6 million, many of whom are foreigners, who have helped make the country a regional financial and technology powerhouse, but who have also produced much of the hard labor that was essential to achieving Singapore's incredible growth. In 1960, Singapore's GDP was less than $1 billion; in 2014 it was just under $300 billion. In 1960, the country's GDP per capita was $427 per person; in 2013 is was over $55,000 per person. By any measure, this is an astonishing success story.

Singapore prepares for life after founding father Lee Kuan Yew | World news | The Guardian

Lee was a founding member of the governing People's Action party and is credited with transforming Singapore from a sleepy Asian entrepot into a bustling and wealthy financial hub.

He encouraged economic growth with easy regulation and low taxes for business, and by employing a large government apparatus to look after citizens.

But progress came at the expense of civil liberties. Critics and human rights groups condemned his iron-fisted rule of his country which saw his political opponents jailed, exiled, or driven to financial ruin through costly libel suits.

Only 12 opposition politicians have ever been elected to parliament in Singapore.

Singapore tries to imagine a future without Lee Kuan Yew – BorneoPost Online | Borneo , Malaysia, Sarawak Daily News | Largest English Daily In Borneo

After becoming the Southeast Asian island's first prime minister in 1959, Lee oversaw its independence from Britain and Malaysia, then used a far-sighted economic vision and an iron fist to transform Singapore from a third-world colonial trading post into a glittering, multicultural commercial hub.

This was done by encouraging business with easy regulations and low taxes, and by using big government to look after citizens.

But progress was made at the expense of civil liberties, with the media stifled — often through libel suits — and political dissent barely tolerated.

Although his three-decade reign as prime minister ended in 1990, he held advisory positions until four years ago and has continued to exert his influence both through his son, who became prime minister in 2004, and his People's Action Party, which has a stranglehold on the parliament.

"Just like all the great men who built Southeast Asia in the postcolonial period, Lee Kuan Yew is a presence for as long as he breathes," said Ernest Z Bower, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Singapore is now looking for change and evolution," Bower said, "but they're not sure. I think there's a little bit of fear and anxiety about all of this."

‘No one can accuse me of not speaking my mind’: memorable quotes from Lee Kuan Yew | South China Morning Post

On the art of governance: "Whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him. Or give it up. This is not a game of cards. This is your life and mine. I've spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I'm in charge, nobody is going to knock it down."

"I make no apologies that the PAP [People's Action Party] is the government and the government is the PAP." 

"Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up." 

"Rest on laurels? I wish I could do that. No, you rest when you're dead". 

"You know the Singaporean. He is a hard-working, industrious, rugged individual. Or we would not have made the grade. But let us also recognise that he is a champion grumbler." 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#SouthChinaSea Update: Response is Growing, but still Tentative

At the 9th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) held in Langkawi, Malaysia, the ministers signed a joint declaration that reaffirmed their commitment to address common security challenges.
In the statement, seen by The Diplomat, the South China Sea did get a mention, with all parties underscoring “the importance of freedom of navigation in, and over-flight above, the South China Sea as provided for by universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.”

MANILA - Magdalo party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo has urged President Aquino to convene the National Security Council (NSC) over what he says is the "even graver danger" of China's massive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea. 
In a privilege speech late Monday night, Acedillo also criticized government's current tack in dealing with maritime disputes with China. 
“The avowed policy of government as regards the West Philippine Sea is highlighted merely by DFA’s Tripartite Action Plan heavily reliant on arbitration, diplomatic protest, and a collective ASEAN effort towards an enforceable Code of Conduct (COC). The Tripartite Action Plan is a no-action plant, unconsciously inviting disaster to befall our nation and unconscionably binding other agencies like the DND, AFP, the Coast Guard and others to futility. I urge the National Security Council, President Aquino sir, please convene already and tackle this impending existential threat to our country’s territory, sovereignty and economic well-being," he said. 
"Let us not be lulled into inaction by the pending verdict of the UN International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea over our claims in the West Philippine Sea," he added. "Some analysts fear that a major discovery of oil or natural gas may again spark another round of clashes in a region lacking the mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of such disputes - and with the United States providing merely mixed signals of either facilitating conflict resolution or an outright confrontation with China. The think tank International Crisis Group, in fact, believe that all of the trends are in the wrong direction, headed towards conflict, where the 'prospects of resolution are diminishing.' Those assessments bode poorly for the region, more so for our country." 
The Philippines has filed an arbitration case against China in connection with Beijing's incursions into waters claimed by the Philippines. 
China has refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings.

Among the activities Philippines and Japan will undertake are regular high level defense and military officials meetings. Philippine Navy and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force will conduct naval training this year based on Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea. 
Japanese Ministry of Defense-JSDF will also conduct capacity building assistance for members of Philippine Air Force. Both countries also agreed to explore possibility of cooperation in the area of defense equipment and technology.

Singapore has been a strong supporter of India’s increased engagement in the region through security forums, Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said in an interview on Monday after a meeting with Southeast Asian counterparts in Langkawi, an island in Malaysia. The group declared its commitment to the principle of no first use of force, he said. 
“We hope that their presence and participation will increase -- that really adds up to engagement and confidence building and mutual understanding,” Ng said, referring to Asia’s third-biggest economy. “India is a big country and it’s an influential country.”

India’s involvement in the region could give Southeast Asian nations a further buffer against China as that country seeks to enforce its claims to the majority of the South China Sea and push back against decades of U.S. military dominance in the Pacific. China is also looking to build a maritime trade route linking a network of ports through the Indian Ocean with Europe via the Suez Canal, a prospect that has unnerved India.

India today said if the American "trumpet" was more "certain" in Asia-Pacific region where the two countries have shared interest, it would be helpful. 
The remarks, made by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, came as US rebalances to Asia and Pacific by moving 60 per cent of its naval assets to the region by 2020. 
Identifying, Indo-Pacific region as an area of commonalities, Jaishankar said both countries can also act on it. 
He said the Joint Strategic Vision released during US President Barack Obama's visit had sought to capture the shared interest and convergences that India and the US has in the Asia Pacific region. 
"As a diplomatic posture point or perhaps as pol-mil point, I would also suggest that if the American trumpet was more certain in this region, it would be helpful," he said addressing a seminar at the Vivekananda International Foundation. 
Speaking of bilateral defence cooperation in the region, he said it was broadly moving in the right direction. 
"My sense is that, from an Indian perspective today, for us the fact that the US is both a source of supply and a military partner helps to create enough uncertainties that could actually strengthen security in Indo-Pacific region," he said.
(Business Standard)

China’s island-dredging is itself only a symptom of the real problem: a significant power vacuum in the South China Sea. 
The United States has largely reduced its presence in those waters over the past 20 years. While the overall capabilities of the U.S. Navy are increasing with each new ship, the newer, more versatile platforms are more expensive. In DoD terminology, the Navy has prioritized capability over capacity, with the result being the reduction by more than 20 percent in total Navy ships since 1995. Combined with demands on the U.S. Navy to be present in the waters around the Middle East, and the United States is left with fewer “presence days” elsewhere in the world. 
In terms of hard power, Southeast Asia’s littoral states’ maritime—navy and coast guard—capabilities are extremely limited. In addition, they are reluctant to take actions that would put them in direct opposition to China. The reluctance may be due, at least in part, to the fact that China is the top trading partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Even considering countries’ willingness to pursue their interests according to international law, the Philippines’ much-noted arbitration case (which was initially highly controversial among ASEAN countries) is only to determine what maritime features are contestable in court—not who owns them, but “can they be owned?”

Together, these factors leave a significant power gap in the South China Sea. While Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia are all increasing their spending on maritime assets, their efforts will need to be sustained for at least another decade to provide the countries with both the assets and the crews capable of sustaining presence in their claimed waters of the South China Sea. Mira Rapp-Hooper is right to highlight the need to expedite U.S. capacity-building efforts for maritime domain awareness. That said, China’s 35 years of economic growth, and 20 years of 10 percent or more annual growth in military spending allows it to fill the gap. If current trends continue, the future strategic landscape in the South China Sea will be considerably different, and unlike today, it will no longer be open to interpretation.
(War on the Rocks)