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How Asia Gets Militarized — Pictures of an Exhibition

Despite pitting its military against Iraq and possibly North Korea, is the U.S. military dominance vanishing?

January 17, 2003

Despite pitting its military against Iraq and possibly North Korea, is the U.S. military dominance vanishing?

President George Bush may assert that North Korea is no crisis, but the Japanese are speeding up their plans to launch two surveillance satellites from the Tanegashima Space Center.

One will be an optical-sensor satellite, taking conventional pictures with a resolution of one meter or less, and the other a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that can see through bad weather and at night.

The launch of Japan’s first national security surveillance system will take place in March 2003, with the satellites due to be operational in July, providing 24-hour coverage of the Korean peninsula, all surrounding waters — and stretching as far south as Taiwan.

Two more satellites will then be launched later this year, also on Japan’s own H-2A rocket, for a total surveillance bill of $2 billion. The two satellites will orbit the earth from south to north 18 times a day, at an altitude of around 300 miles.

The Cabinet Satellite Intelligence Center (CSICE) decided to develop the surveillance system after North Korea tested its Taepodong-I ballistic missile by launching it over Japan in August, 1998.

No doubt by pure coincidence, the Japanese satellites will also be able to keep a watchful eye on the new controversy over the Diaoyu Islands, located two-thirds of the way from Okinawa to Taiwan.

Claimed by China, Taiwan and Japan, Tokyo has decided to beef up its claim to the potentially oil-rich islands by leasing three of the uninhabited islands from a “private owner” for $200,000 a year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue this week refuted Japan’s claim, stressing that the Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times, and any unilateral claim by Japan is invalid.

It looks as if the Bush Administration has found itself a new ally. Two U.S. warplanes, one of them a Boeing 727 used as an airborne command center and the other a C-17 military cargo jet, were spotted refueling at India's Mumbai airport.

They were en route to Kuwait from California, via another stop-off in Singapore. India has so far been generous with its airspace for U.S. operations that could be labeled part of the international coalition’s War on Terrorism, but military operations against Iraq are politically far trickier for New Delhi.

But as the U.S. and British air fleets build up to the 600-plus warplanes planners envisage — putting pressure on the increasingly crowded U.S. airbases in Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey and Diego Garcia — India could be a useful fallback.

There is speculation that the U.S. aircraft were testing the Indian political climate. Having already stopped off in Singapore, they could as easily have refueled at Diego Garcia as at Munbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport.

In what could be another sign of mission creep in Asia, Washington has sent 3,000 M-16s to help Nepal battle its Maoist insurgents.

The shipment is part of a total shipment of 5,000 rifles Washington agreed to provide the Himalayan kingdom after a visit to Washington last May by former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Following Mr. Deuba’s visit a military team from U.S. Pacific Command visited western Nepal to assess the government’s requirements. The Bush Administration last week also offered Kathmandu $12 million for its anti-guerrilla campaign.

The Maoists have been fighting since 1996, and more than 7,700 people have been killed in the conflict. Washington — like its new friend, India — fears the insurgents are winning.

The Maoist guerrillas have made repeated threats against U.S. diplomats, and a number of Western businesses — including Western icons like a Coca-Cola bottling plant — have been attacked.

Some Indians believe that they hardly need a nuclear deterrent. Nukes have no fears for devout Hindus armed with cow dung.

One R S Gupta, chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Gau Sewa Ayog (State Cow Protection Commission), has solemnly informed a local press conference: “Houses with an outer coating of cowpat could be the safest place to be in during a nuclear attack.”

According to Gupta, there was sufficient evidence to support this theory in the traditional Hindu scriptures. “We are now working on a scientific back-up,” he added.

Uttar Pradesh Animal Husbandry Minister L K Bajpai said: “I propose to send samples of specially prepared cow dung to the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre that could be used as an external coating over the plaster of buildings.”

What's more, this exemplar of the increasingly bizarre "vedification' trend among fundamentalist Hindus proposes that you can too can have the prettiest A-bomb shelter in your village. Minister Vajpai revealed that a local firm had developed a form of paint in five colors, with 30% base being cow dung.