High-sea chase after Japan spots Chinese sub and World news

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High-sea chase after Japan spots Chinese sub

Mail & Guardian Online - 10 November 2004 11:37 - Shino Yuasa | Tokyo, Japan

Japan was on alert on Wednesday after a suspected Chinese nuclear submarine entered its territorial waters, setting off a chase on the high sea amid mounting disputes between the Asian powers.

The submarine was detected in Japanese waters near islands disputed with China about 300km south-west of Okinawa, a southern Japanese island home to a major United States military base, officials said.

Japan was following the submarine with a PC-3 surveillance airplane, a destroyer and at least one navy helicopter, a military spokesperson said.

"The submarine is cruising in international waters and it is not necessarily cruising straight. The PC-3 is continuing to follow it," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the government spokesperson, told reporters.

The Kyodo News agency, quoting unnamed defence sources, said the vessel was a nuclear submarine from China.

The incident comes amid a series of disputes between Japan and China, including friction over the right to explore gas near the maritime border in the East China Sea.

Japanese officials declined to place blame on China.

"We are not in the stage for passing judgement before knowing where the submarine is heading and other details," Hosoda said.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said only that the incident was "regrettable".

"It certainly is not a good thing," Koizumi told reporters. "We have to continue to monitor the situation."

A Defence Agency spokesperson said Japan had between Friday and Monday spotted two Chinese ships near southern Japan -- one designed to rescue submarines and the other to tow wrecked ships.

The Chinese ships were in international waters about 1 000km south of Tokyo, the spokesperson said.

Asked if the Chinese ships had a link with Wednesday's submarine incident, the spokesperson said: "We don't know."

Japan wants the submarine to surface and show its flag, but has not given orders to attack the vessel as it is in international waters, the Defence Agency spokesperson said.

Jiji Press said the vessel was in Japanese waters for about three hours.

Hosoda said the submarine was found near Okinawa's Sakishima island chain, which lies close to islands disputed between China, Japan and Taiwan.

The only other time Japan has ordered such a hunt was in March 1999, when two suspected North Korean ships were spotted off the coast of the Japan Sea, also known as the East Sea. A plane dropped 12 bombs as a warning.

Okinawa, which hosts about 65% of the more than 40 000 US forces in the country, is closer to Taiwan and China than to the Korean peninsula.

China feels deep resentment over Japan's alleged refusal to admit its atrocities during its occupation from 1931 to 1945 -- a feeling reinforced by Koizumi's regular visits to a Tokyo shrine that honours the war dead, including convicted war criminals.

Six Japanese lawmakers in a report to Parliament on Wednesday recommended slashing aid to China, noting that Beijing tolerates anti-Japanese sentiments and is making its own loans to other countries.

Outrage over strategy report

China voiced outrage on Tuesday after a leaked Japanese report said defence planners in Tokyo were preparing strategies in the event of a Chinese attack.

The Japanese study, reported on Monday by Kyodo News, said China is trying to strengthen its military power to "demonstrate its capability to Taiwan and the US, and will be the greatest military power in the Asia-Pacific region in the future".

The report envisioned three scenarios for a Chinese attack on Japan, including one focused on Okinawa in which China would try to stop US forces from helping Taiwan in the event of a conflict with the island, which China regards as its territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhang Qiyue Zhang on Tuesday accused Japan of a "Cold War mentality" and said it is not certain that President Hu Jintao will meet Koizumi when they attend a regional meeting in Chile this month. -- Sapa-AFP

Japan Navy Mobilized After Mystery Submarine Spotted Reuters - Wed Nov 10, 2004 03:30 AM ET - By George Nishiyama

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Japanese navy was mobilized on Wednesday for the first time in five years after an unidentified submarine was spotted in waters off Japan.

The intrusion was brief and no warning shot was fired, the government said, but the mobilization was a rare display of the country's military capability, long constrained by a pacifist constitution.

A navy P3C patrol plane spotted the submarine near the Okinawa islands, 1,600 km (1,000 miles) southwest of Tokyo, in an area close to another series of islets at the heart of a territorial dispute between Japan and China.

A second P3C plane, at least two Japanese destroyers and a helicopter were dispatched to the area, Japanese media said.

Media reports said Tokyo believed the submarine belonged to the Chinese navy, but government officials said they were still trying to confirm its nationality.

"It is regrettable. It is certainly not a good thing that an unidentified submarine entered our country's territorial waters," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told reporters.

Media reports said that the order to the navy to mobilize -- giving it powers to fire in self-defense or forcibly change the submarine's course -- was issued more than three hours after the intruder was spotted and after it had left Japanese waters.

It is possible the submarine was having trouble, Kyodo news agency said, quoting navy officials.

Kyodo said the navy had spotted two vessels of the Chinese navy on Friday in the area near where the submarine was seen. One was designed to rescue submarines and the other to tow ships.

The last time the navy was mobilized was in 1999 when a suspected North Korean spy ship violated Japanese waters.

The Japan Coast Guard is in charge of the security of the country's coastline and waters, and the navy is ordered into action only when the government perceives a threat to lives or a security beyond the powers of the Coast Guard to handle.

CHILLY RELATIONS

Japan's top government spokesman, Hiroyuki Hosoda, said a Japanese navy patrol plane continued to track the submarine.

Media reports said it was heading toward the Chinese coast.

Relations between China and Japan are chilly.

China, occupied by Japan in the 1930s and 1940s, is upset by Koizumi's annual visits to honor war dead at a Tokyo shrine and the two countries have a long-running dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, some 200 km (124 miles) northwest of the area where the submarine was found.

The islands, known in China as the Diaoyu Islands, are controlled by Japan but also claimed by Taiwan.

Tokyo and Beijing are also at odds over a Chinese gas field project in a disputed part of the East China Sea, where Chinese research and naval ships have repeatedly entered Japan's exclusive economic waters without prior notice.

China criticized Japan's defense ministry on Tuesday over a discussion paper outlining scenarios under which Chinese forces might attack Japan, saying it revealed a lingering Cold War mentality.

Wednesday's incident comes just two weeks after Japan hosted an international maritime exercise aimed at stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Officials made it clear they were most concerned about North Korea.

Apart from China, other navies in the area with submarines include North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan and Russia.

Earlier on Wednesday, South Korea's military said it had sent three warning messages to North Korea after a North Korean patrol boat briefly crossed their disputed maritime border.

Naval spat chills Japan-China ties Al-Jazeera - Wednesday 10 November 2004, 18:10 Makka Time, 15:10 GMT

Japan is on alert after a suspected Chinese nuclear submarine entered its territorial waters, setting off a chase on the high seas amid mounting disputes between the Asian powers.

The submarine was detected on Wednesday in Japanese waters near islands disputed with China about 300km south-west of Okinawa, a southern Japanese island home to a major US military base, officials in Tokyo said.

Japan was following the submarine with a PC-3 surveillance airplane, a destroyer and at least one navy helicopter, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the incident was "regrettable."

"It certainly is not a good thing," Koizumi told reporters. "We have to continue to monitor the situation."

A Defence Agency spokesman said Japan had spotted between Friday and Monday two Chinese ships near southern Japan - one designed to rescue submarines and the other to tow wrecked ships.

The Chinese ships were in international waters about 1000 km south of Tokyo, the spokesman said.

Asked if the Chinese ships had a link with Wednesday's submarine incident, the spokesman said: "We don't know."

International waters

Japan wants the submarine to surface and show its flag, but has not given orders to attack the vessel as it is now in international waters, the Defence Agency spokesman said.

The submarine was in Japanese waters for about three hours.

Hosoda said the submarine was found near Okinawa's Sakishima island chain, which lies close to islands disputed between China, Japan and Taiwan - known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.

China feels deep resentment over Japan's alleged refusal to admit its atrocities during its occupation from 1931 to 1945.

Study

A Japanese study has meanwhile said China was trying to strengthen its military power to "demonstrate its capability to Taiwan and the United States and will be the greatest military power in the Asia-Pacific region in the future."

The report envisioned three scenarios for a Chinese attack of Japan, including one focused on Okinawa in which China would try to stop US forces from helping Taiwan in the event of a conflict with the island, which China regards as its territory.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue Zhang on Tuesday accused Japan of a "Cold War mentality" and said it was not certain that President Hu Jintao would meet Koizumi when they attended a regional meeting in Chile later in November.

Japan anger at stray sub The Australian - Peter Alford, Tokyo correspondent - November 11, 2004

THE detection of a foreign submarine in Japan's southern coastal waters threatens to aggravate tensions between Tokyo and Beijing.

Japanese cabinet officials claimed not to know the nationality of the vessel, which sparked a rare "naval security action" yesterday morning, but Japan Defence Agency sources told reporters it was a nuclear-powered Chinese submarine.

Cabinet secretary Hiroyuki Hosada said the submarine was detected travelling underwater near Miyako and the Ishigaki islands, about 300km southwest of Okinawa.

He said Japan would "take the appropriate step" when it identified the vessel.

Defence Minister Yoshinoro Ono invoked the naval security action at 8.45am after speaking to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The submarine left Japanese territorial waters after an hour.

"It is certainly no good that an unidentified submarine entered into our country's territorial waters," Mr Koizumi said later.

The intrusion comes at a moment of heightened tension between Japan and China. The Japanese have objected to Chinese gas exploration plans for an area of the East China Sea north of Okinawa that they claim is within Japan's exclusive economic zone.

Beijing has taken offence at reports that the JDA has prepared a strategic review that sets out three scenarios in which Chinese forces might attack Japan. They include a clash over the East China Sea gas fields, conflict with US and Japanese forces over Taiwan, and seizure of a disputed island group -- Daiyou to the Chinese, Senkaku to the Japanese -- now controlled by Japan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue Zhang appeared to warn on Monday that Japan's "Cold War mentality" could endanger a meeting between President Hu Jintao and Mr Koizumi at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation leaders meeting in Chile later this month.

"To make such a meeting possible, the Japanese side should create the good atmosphere and conditions for such a meeting," she told reporters.

Chinese leaders have consistently refused to host Mr Koizumi in Beijing because of his insistence on visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine war memorial.

Underlying the recent prickliness is a discussion between Tokyo and Washington about the realignment of American forces in Japan and an expanded role for Japanese forces within the US-Japan defence treaty.

The US has proposed a larger Japanese role in naval operations and missile defence, which People's Liberation Army (PLA) strategists believe is aimed principally at containing China's regional influence.

Military realignment talks resumed in Washington yesterday, following the American presidential election.

At least one senior PLA official has warned the Koizumi Government to proceed cautiously, or risk destabilising the region.

Defense strategists look to China's attack threat

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News

Defense strategists look to China's attack threat

The Japan Times: Nov. 9, 2004

As part of efforts to revamp the national defense strategy, Defense Agency officials have established three scenarios in which China attacks Japan.

The scenarios involve attacks stemming from disputes over ocean resources and claims over the Senkaku Islands as well as a clash across the Taiwan Strait, agency sources said Sunday.

While the scenarios are for discussions on Japan's future defense capabilities, they indicate the perceived threat China poses and will probably further upset Beijing amid the ongoing political standoff over the development of gas fields in the East China Sea and the dispute over the Senkaku Islands.

The scenarios are stipulated in the final report compiled in September by the agency's committee on defense capability. The agency has not made the report public because it will be used for further discussions for revising the National Defense Program Outline, they said.

The agency plans to finish compiling by the end of the month the revised defense outline, which is aimed at responding to new threats, including terrorism.

According to the sources, the report predicts China will "strengthen its military capability in order to demonstrate its capability to Taiwan and the United States, and will be the greatest military power in the Asia-Pacific region in the future."

In the case of a clash between China and Taiwan, China may attack parts of Japan to prevent U.S. forces in Japan from going to Taipei's assistance, according to one scenario.

In the second scenario, the report says China may take military action to seize the Senkakus if Chinese public criticism of the Chinese Communist Party over the territorial dispute grows strong enough to threaten its leadership.

The islands, known as the Diaoyu in China and Tiaoyutais in Taiwan, are controlled by Japan but are claimed by Beijing and Taipei.

As for the third scenario, the report says China may act illegally to secure its interests in the East China Sea if it deems Japan did not take what Beijing believes to be appropriate measures regarding the dispute over development of gas fields near the boundary of the two sides.

Japan and China are at loggerheads over their natural gas exploration activities near the median line in the East China Sea. They hold different definitions of where the exclusive economic zones are separated.

The report notes that while China "is cautious about using military force to solve international issues, as it understands that doing so will hinder its own development," it is "likely that the Chinese Communist Party will go its own way to secure its sovereignty and territory as well as expand its interests in the sea."

The China attack discussions are also believed to be behind Japan's plans to shift its concentration of military forces from the north to the south near Okinawa and the Nansei Islands, closer to China and Taiwan, now that the Cold War Soviet threat has abated, the sources said.

The agency's caution about China was apparently due to increased concerns of ruling coalition politicians about how to deal with China's growing military, political and economical power.

The report stresses the need for diplomatic efforts to avoid conflicts with China. It says that while the Japan-U.S. alliance should be strengthened to address the Chinese threat, "economic and technological cooperation from neighboring countries is essential for a stable China."

Japanese defence planners preparing for possible Chinese attacks Channel News Asia, Singapore - Posted: 08 November 2004 1241 hrs

TOKYO : Japan has determined China will become Asia's top military power and charted out scenarios for a Chinese attack against Japan which could be triggered by disputes over Taiwan or energy resources.

Kyodo News agency says the outline for potential Chinese attacks is part of a confidential report on Japan's defense strategy drawn up by military planners in September.

The report said China would "strengthen its military capability in order to demonstrate its capability to Taiwan and the United States, and will be the greatest military power in the Asia-Pacific region in the future," Kyodo said.

In the case of a clash between China and Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province, China could attack parts of Japan to prevent aid from US forces based in the country, the report said.



-- (Cn_Ngố_n-Dải-Dt@BBP.govt), November 11, 2004

Answers

(Continued )

Under a second scenario, Beijing would try to take over disputed islands between Taiwan and Japan -- called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China -- to rally support if public criticism challenged the communist leadership.

The report also listed a third scenario in which the Defense Agency believes China could take military action to secure its interests in the East China Sea where Tokyo and Beijing dispute the development of gas fields near their maritime boundary.

A spokesman for the Defense Agency declined comment on the Kyodo report, but confirmed the agency filed a report in September on Japan's defense capability.

According to Kyodo, the defense planners called for diplomatic efforts to avoid conflicts with China.

The report said "economic and technological cooperation from neighboring countries is essential for a stable China," Kyodo said.

In a controversial report last month, an advisory panel to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Japan should study acquiring the ability to launch pre-emptive strikes on foreign missile bases.

Japan, which is closely allied with the United States, has had a pacifist constitution since World War II, with its military known as the Self-Defense Forces.

- AFP

Japan Defense Agency set 3 scenarios of "China attack" People's Daily Online, China - November 08, 2004

Japanese Defense Agency officials established in internal meetings three scenarios of possible attacks on Japan by China as the agency prepares to revamp national defense strategy, agency sources said Sunday.

The scenarios are attacks stemming from disputes over ocean resources and territorial claims over the Senkaku Islands as well as a clash across the Taiwan Strait, they said.

While the scenarios are assumptions for discussions on Japan's future defense capability, they indicate a strong warning that China is a threat and are likely to further upset Beijing amid the ongoing political standoff over the development of gas fields in the East China Sea and the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands.

The scenarios are stipulated in the final report compiled in September by the agency's committee on defense capability. The agency has not made the report public as it will be used for further discussions on the revision of the National Defense Program Outline, they said.

The agency is planning to finish compiling by the end of November the revised defense outline, which is aimed at responding to new threats such as terrorism. The outline was first compiled in 1976 and revised in 1995.

According to the sources, the report predicts China will ''strengthen its military capability in order to demonstrate its capability to Taiwan and the United States, and will be the greatest military power in the Asia-Pacific region in the future.''

In the case of a clash between China and Taiwan, China may attack parts of Japan to prevent aid from U.S. forces in Japan, according to the scenarios.

In the second scenario, the report says China may take military action to seize the Senkakus if Chinese public criticism of the Chinese Communist Party over the territorial dispute grows strong enough to threaten its leadership.

The islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China and the Tiaoyutais in Taiwan, are controlled by Japan but claimed by Beijing and Taipei.

As for the third scenario, the report says China may conduct illegal moves to secure its interests in the East China Sea if it deems Japan did not take what Beijing believes to be appropriate measures regarding the dispute over development of gas fields near the boundary of the two sides.

Japan and China are at loggerheads over their natural gas exploration activities near the median line in the East China Sea. They hold different definitions of where the exclusive economic zones are separated.

The report notes while China ''is cautious about using military force to solve international issues as it understands that doing so will hinder its own development,'' it is ''likely that the Chinese Communist Party will go its own way to secure its sovereignty and territory as well as expand its interests in the sea.''

The discussions on possible Chinese attacks are also believed to be behind Japan's plans to shift its troop alignment focus from the north, made under the assumption of Soviet threats during the Cold War, to the south near Okinawa and the Nansei Islands, closer to China and Taiwan, the sources said.

The agency's caution about potential threats from China was apparently due to increased concerns brewing among politicians in the ruling coalition on how to deal with China's growing military, political and economical power, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the report also stresses the need for diplomatic efforts to avoid conflicts with China. It says that while the Japan-U.S. alliance needs to be strengthened to prepare for Chinese threats, ''economic and technological cooperation from neighboring countries is essential for a stable China.''

Source: Kyodo News

Vietnam seeks bids in S. China Sea

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Bloomberg News - Oct. 16, 2004, 9:07PM - By JASON FOLKMANIS

Vietnam, Southeast Asia's third-largest oil producer, is looking for bids to explore parts of the South China Sea that the government said may hold the equivalent of a sixth of the nation's total oil and natural gas reserves.

An area known as the Phu Khanh Basin may contain the equivalent of 5.4 billion barrels of oil, or 16 percent of the 33.6 billion estimated to lie in Vietnam's continental shelf, Tran Duc Chinh, acting general manager of exploration at state-run Vietnam Oil & Gas, or PetroVietnam, said in an interview.

Bids are due at the end of March for nine exploration areas.

Record-high oil prices above $50 a barrel probably will spur interest in the region from companies, PetroVietnam Vice President Nguyen Dang Lieu said. "When the oil price is high, the efficiency of investments increases," Lieu said.

The nine blocks are at an "early exploration stage," said PetroVietnam Chief Executive Tran Ngoc Canh, speaking last week at a seminar in Hanoi to promote the region's prospects.

The country's biggest oil field, Bach Ho, is located in Cuu Long. Operated by a Russian-Vietnamese joint venture, the field has produced about 239,000 barrels a day this year. The second-biggest field, Su Tu Den, in which Houston-based ConocoPhillips is the top foreign investor, is also in Cuu Long and was producing about 88,000 barrels a day earlier this month.

Vietnam's Christians persecuted as state sees hidden enemy

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By Sandra Jordan in Hanoi - Independent Digital (UK) - 15 October 2004

Amid the graceful pagodas, temples and French Colonial architecture, the Protestant church in Hanoi is a very ordinary building. The Vietnamese congregation sings enthusiastically, maybe unaware a government official is watching them.

The pastor sits at the back of the church. "I don't have government permission to give an interview," he said, sweat running down his face even though it was a rare cold day in Hanoi. Foreign journalists are accompanied everywhere by government minders and it is danger- ous for Vietnamese to criticise the government, especially during a visit to one of just 300 legal churches that service Vietnam's two million Protestants.

Outside, a young woman led the way to a group of men in the courtyard. "They will only talk if I translate," she said. The men were from the Xao tribe from Lai Chau and Caobang in the far north. They had been converted to Christianity by the neighbouring H'Mong, another ethnic minority who had been Christianised when they fought alongside Americans during the war.

The Xao men had come to worship in the legal Hanoi church and to apply to the government for permission to open a church of their own. The 4,000 Christians in their region are forced to worship in illegal "house churches". Christians, they said, could practise their religion in the cities but in the countryside they were being beaten for their beliefs, and forced to recant Christianity.

A woman who works at the church told us she had to care for injured Christians from Lao Cai and Caobang who come to Hanoi for treatment because local authorities broke their bones or poured boiling water on them for their religion. A farmer said he'd been arrested and beaten by two policemen for five hours last March for converting to Christianity.

Two thirds of Vietnam's Protestants are ethnic minorities, and many live in remote areas where neighbours are sometimes suspicious of the converts. "A lot of people don't understand, so they say he who believes in Jesus Christ is a follower of America and foreigners," said a man called Cao.

Thirty years after Vietnam defeated America, the communist government has made its peace with capitalism. Huge propaganda posters featuring party slogans stand alongside gaudy neon billboards advertising cars and French perfume, unexpected in one of the world's four remaining communist countries.

Last year the US became Vietnam's biggest trading partner, giving Hanoi the second-fastest growing economy in Asia. Increased economic liberty has brought the Vietnamese personal freedoms unimaginable a decade ago. With the easing of restrictions, evangelical Protestantism has exploded, and is practised in thousands of illegal "house churches". This is anathema to the communist government who apply strict regulations to "approved" religions.

Government officials fear evangelical Christianity, viewed as "a religion that originates in America", is being used to undermine Communism through peaceful revolution.

Last Easter, thousands of ethnic minority tribes people took part in demonstrations in the Central Highlands. They were protesting against the confiscation of ancestral lands and religious repression. The marches, attended by around 30,000, according to Human Rights Watch, were brutally quashed by the military. Most of the Montagnards - the collective French name for the Highlanders - are Protestants.

Christian groups in America dubbed it the "Easter Massacre", and the US-based Montagnard Foundation claimed 400 Christians were killed.

This figure was furiously denied by the Vietnamese government, which put the death toll at two and called the Montagnard Foundation a terrorist organisation. The government is now convinced the hill tribes, many of whom have been pushed off their land for state coffee plantations, are being incited to fight for an independent state by counter-revolutionary exiles in the US.

"The Montagnards have always been at the bottom of the social structure," said John, an undercover western missionary who has been working in the Highlands for nearly 40 years. "Then along comes the Christian message. For tribal people who have been oppressed by the system. They stand up and say we can't be pushed around. When the systems sees an alternate ideology developing it begins to persecute."

The "Yardies" of the Central Highlands fought alongside Americans during the war, and US veterans have called for America to impose sanctions on Vietnam. One US doctor who worked in the region during the war said: "After the war was over and the communists won, they still needed an enemy and the protestant faith was a convenient enemy. Religion is seen as a tool to interrupt and overthrow the communist system."

The US designated Vietnam a "country of particular concern" over its religious freedom record. The Vietnamese government points to the American's record in Iraq today and Vietnam 30 years ago, to accuse Washington of "the pot calling the kettle black".

But Hanoi might do well to re-read their own recommendations: "Fighting the contagion of Christianity in the minority areas has the opposite effect ... Actually the numbers grow slowly if we have a relaxed policy, and if we crack down hard, Christianity grows faster."

Outside the Hanoi Church the Xao tribesmen were planning to head back to the mountains. "We pray to God to give us aid," said Thang, a farmer, "no foreigner comes and give us food or medicine. Only God helps us."

'Unreported World: Hearts, Minds and Souls', directed by Daniel Meyers, will be on Channel 4, Saturday 16 October at 6.10pm

Vietnam, EU Reach Trade Deal --- Hanoi Will Reduce Tariffs On Many Products as It Pursues Entry Into WTO

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By Margot Cohen - 11 October 2004 - The Asian Wall Street Journal

HANOI -- Vietnam gained fresh momentum for its bid to join the World Trade Organization after sealing a deal Saturday with the European Union on a broad package that enhances market access in this rapidly developing Asian nation, including reduced tariffs on industrial goods.

The agreement signals that Hanoi is serious about pursuing its goal of entering the global trade body by late 2005, according to trade analysts and foreign investors. But they caution that the EU deal won't automatically serve as a stepping stone to swift conclusion of negotiations with the U.S, Japan and other major trading partners.

Before joining the WTO -- a move that would give investors greater access to Vietnam and help it export more of its goods -- Hanoi must hold bilateral talks with major trading partners among the 147 members of the Geneva-based trade watchdog. Vietnam began the process of seeking WTO membership in 1995.

Foreshadowing the thorny talks that are ahead, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy acknowledged Saturday at a news conference that the Europeans obtained fewer concessions from Vietnam than they had hoped for in sensitive areas such as telecommunications, banking, insurance and tourism.

Such key services are expected to figure prominently in coming WTO talks between the U.S. and Vietnam scheduled for this month in Washington. Some U.S. banks have lobbied American negotiators to press for immediate rights to issue credit cards and fewer restrictions on opening automated teller machines -- measures that would give Vietnamese consumers more options and promote efficiency in the country's banking system, they argue.

"Closing the deal with the EU sets the stage in an important way" for the talks in Washington, said Virginia Foote, president of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council.

Officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative declined to comment. Meanwhile, Japan is resisting Vietnam's wish to use the EU deal as leverage to wrap up negotiations, according to Chiba Akira, director of the international press division of Japan's ministry of foreign affairs. "Our perception is that we have just started negotiating with Vietnam. There are lots of areas to cover," he said.

Still, the EU agreement with Vietnam is significant in several ways. European investors have been anxious to obtain the same treatment granted American investors under the terms of a U.S.-Vietnam bilateral trade agreement in force since December 2001. Under the broad outlines of the EU-Vietnam deal -- reached on the last day of the fifth Asia-Europe Meeting last week in Hanoi -- European investors will get treatment that is at Least equal to Americans in all sectors, and better treatment in some, Mr. Lamy said.

Such assertions are difficult to gauge because most details of the deal remain confidential, pending the outcome of Vietnam's talks with other trading partners. Much depends on the fine print detailing the phase-in periods for various services. In banking, for example, Mr. Lamy noted that "we still have problems with capital requirements for banks and capacity to use local currency."

Aside from the EU, Vietnam has concluded negotiations so far only with Chile and Cuba. That leaves a long road to the final stage of approval in Geneva.

As part of the pact with the EU, Vietnam agreed to apply average tariffs of around 24% for agricultural goods, 22% for fishery products and 16% for industrial goods.

Preben Hjortlund, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, predicted that there would "definitely" be more European investment in Vietnam as a result of Saturday's announcement. "Many companies, who were maybe a little bit doubtful, as of today, will feel safer," he said.

Vietnam's resistance to broader investor access to some services is often motivated by politics as well as economics. In the tourism sector, Hanoi won't allow 100% foreign-owned tour operators to handle outbound Vietnamese tourists because it wants to maintain control over movements of Vietnamese citizens.

Last year, the EU was Vietnam's biggest trading partner. Their trade, totaling 6.4 billion euros, or nearly $8 billion, accounted for 17% of Vietnam's trade value. The U.S. was Vietnam's second biggest partner, with 14% of trade, followed by Japan with 13% and China, 11%.

John Baer | It's time to just let the Vietnam War go

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philly.com - Posted on Tue, Oct. 12, 2004

EVERY SERIOUS citizen ought to be angry.

At the media, at Republicans, at Democrats, at consultants.

It's unforgivable: a presidential election in a time of war and terrorism, job loss and health-care crises gets bogged down by - Vietnam.

After all these years.

And just as we reach a point where candidates are starting to talk about actual issues, here we go again.

Swift boaters are back and a TV "documentary" on John Kerry's '71 anti-war Senate testimony is scheduled for prime-time broadcast next week on 62 stations, 14 in key states (two in Pennsylvania, both in Pittsburgh), owned by Sinclair Broadcasting.

You know what ? It has to stop.

The war is over. It ended 29 years, six months ago.

So let's just make some stipulations.

First, Kerry's an idiot for featuring his four-month combat tour as the centerpiece of his Boston convention. Blown up pictures in uniform. Crew mates standing on the stage. His goofy salute and "reporting for duty." (Teresa's idea?) All this invited attack.

No surprise it came. The only surprise is that TV ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, originally aired in just three states (Ohio, Wisconsin, West Virginia) had such saturating reach.

Why not acknowledge Kerry served in combat then opposed the war ? And move on.

I'd rather hear him say, since he seems so passionate about giving every American the same golden health-care coverage as members of Congress, what he did to make that happen during 20 years in office.

Stipulation two: George Bush used his name and family influence to get a National Guard gig and avoid combat.

We don't need no stinkin' documents or Dan Rather to prove it. We know he did. We knew it last election. It's what lots of people did back then. Especially rich people with lineage. Get over it.

I'm more interested in hearing Bush say why Americans continue to die in Iraq and for what and how does he plan to make it end ?

Vietnam ?

Dr. Bill Benoit, a presidential scholar at the University of Missouri, says neither candidate should talk about it.

"Kerry talking about Vietnam doesn't tell anyone what he'd do about Iraq," says Benoit, "and questioning Bush? Most voters want to hear what he did in the last 3 ½ years, not 30 years ago."

Agreed.

Vietnam has eaten too much of this campaign already.

Andrew Tyndall of The Tyndall Report, which monitors network newscasts, says other issues suffer. Iraq, he says, got one-third the network attention in August it got in April and May.

The Columbia Journalism Review used a subscriber database to measure cable news network attention to Vietnam compared to Iraq.

CJR reporter Brian Montopli says CNN and Fox News, for example, mentioned Vietnam 2,264 times in a month spanning August and September, and Iraq 4,978 times.

That means a war 30 years ago got close to half the mention given a war under way today. Make sense to you ?

Also, CNN mentioned "Kerry/Vietnam" 372 times during the period and "Bush/National Guard" 131 times; Fox mentioned Bush's guard duty 307 times and Kerry's Vietnam 771 times.

Wait, 771 times? In a month that's 26 times a day, slightly more than once an hour.

"It's amazing," says Michael Genovese, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "We might fight this war until everyone in that generation is gone."

I recognize the power of Vietnam. I understand no one lived through that time untouched by that war in some way.

But younger voters weren't alive and don't really get it; and for older voters nothing's gained by reliving its turmoil.

Presidential elections are, or should be, about the present and the future. That war is past. It's time to let it go.

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com

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