Saturday, February 16, 2013

China should face Philippines before UN tribunal - EU solons

A group of visiting European Union lawmakers on Friday said China should join the arbitration process initiated by the Philippines before the United Nations to resolve the two Asian nations’ territorial rifts in the South China Sea and prevent a military conflict.

Although the E.U. says it does not take sides on the sea row involving the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, the European parliamentarians said they believe the Philippines’ legal action is a “good move” to enable a peaceful solution to the conflicts.

“The E.U. is on the side of the Philippines,” delegation chairman Werner Langen told a press conference.

“It is in the interest of all the EU states that through the adherence to international agreements we solve these questions and solve the question of natural resources.”

The E.U. lawmakers’ backing adds a crucial voice to the Philippine decision to initiate arbitration process under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to try to declare as “illegal” China’s expansive claim to the South China Sea, part of which is known in the Philippines as West Philippine Sea.

China has until February 21 to officially declare if it would get involved in the landmark case.

“The way chosen by the administration through arbitration is the way to do it,” Langen said.

”We hope China will accept this because it takes two to tango, to come to a solution.”

The lawmakers said they find unsettling and a “threat to international trade” what they call China’s “expansionist policy” in the region, including in the South China Sea, amid its rapid military build-up.

“We need here direct talks and also international talks in order to find a solution. Otherwise you will see an arms race going on in this part of the world and this is never good for humanity,” said delegation vice-chairman Robert Goebbels.

The delegation, headed by Langen, is on a five-day visit to the Philippines to see first-hand the economic and social developments in the country.

They held a series of meetings with their Philippine counterparts in Congress and various government officials, including Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.

Four members of Association of South East Asian Nations – Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia - have claims in the resource-rich waters. As a bloc, it has wanted to deal with the disputes as a regional group, a stance opposed by China, which wants bilateral negotiations to solve the overlapping claims without any international interference, specifically from its regarded regional military rival, the United States.

Manila has maintained that a rules-based approach is the only legitimate way in addressing disputes through a legal framework such as the UNCLOS.

UNCLOS is a 1982 accord by 163 countries that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states. The Philippines and China are both signatories to the treaty.

China is citing historical entitlements as basis for its huge claims over the South China Sea, a strategic waterway dotted with islands, shoals, cays, reefs and rock formations and is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas.

Many have feared the conflicts could be Asia's next flashpoint.

“The E.U. is very sympathetic to the Philippine claims and we see the way chosen by the administration to try to have this arbitration is a good one because that will force the Chinese to eventually accept arbitration,” Goebbels said.- Interaksyon (February 16, 2013 6:55PM)

Philippines seeks peaceful solution to Borneo stand-off

The Philippines on Saturday called for a peaceful resolution to a tense stand-off between Malaysian forces and a group of gunmen claiming to be followers of the heir of a former Borneo sultan.

The group, estimated at 200 with dozens believed to be armed, landed by boat near the Borneo town of Lahad Datu in Malaysia's Sabah state from the neighbouring Philippines on Tuesday.

Police say the group has declared itself followers of a former Philippine-based Islamic sultanate that once controlled parts of Borneo, including the standoff site, and is refusing to leave Malaysian territory.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Saturday the safety of the Filipinos was the government's main concern as Malaysian armed forces and police have locked down the area.

"The primary concern now is their safety and to resolve the incident peacefully," Valte said in a radio interview in Manila.

She said the Philippines had received assurance from Malaysia that the government would encourage the group, which Manila has yet to identify, to leave the area peacefully.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib was quoted by local dailies as saying police were in negotiations with the group and expected the stand-off to be resolved "very soon with the group returning to their home country".

Malaysian police have set up a series of road blocks along the route leading from Lahad Datu through palm oil plantations to the remote village where the gunmen are. Marine police were also patrolling the sea.

An AFP photographer was denied access some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the stand-off site.

The group involved in the impasse has claimed to be adherents of the former Sulu sultanate, a regional power centre until its demise a century ago.

A Philippine military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP Friday the group was demanding an increase in the nominal amount Malaysia pays, under a long-standing agreement, to the heirs of the sultanate for possession of Sabah.

Sabah has a history of incursions by armed Philippine groups, and the prickly situation could test ties between the neighbours, who are fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In the worst incident, guerrillas of the Islamic militant Abu Sayyaf movement seized 21 mostly Western tourists at the Sabah scuba diving resort of Sipadan in 2000. They were taken to Philippine islands and later ransomed.-Yahoo Philippines (February 16, 2013 5:00PM)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Versions differ in Malaysia, Philippines border standoff

Malaysian security forces have surrounded about 100 armed men believed to be from a breakaway rebel faction in the southern Philippines, Malaysian police and a government official said on Thursday, but a Philippine official said they were unarmed Filipinos who had been promised land.

The standoff in Malaysia's eastern Sabah state on Borneo island threatened to stir tension between the Southeast Asian neighbors whose ties have been periodically frayed by security and migration problems caused by a porous sea border.

"Our firepower is more than enough to arrest them but the government has chosen to negotiate with them so they leave peacefully to return to the south of the Philippines," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, on a visit to Sabah ahead of national elections, was quoted as saying by state-run Bernama news agency.

Malaysian police said in a statement the situation was under control, but did not say whether the men had agreed with a request to surrender.

A high-ranking Malaysian government source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters the gunmen were suspected to be from a faction unhappy with the Philippines' recent peace deal with the main Muslim rebel group.

Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Ministry, said his government was trying to get information about the incident and was in touch with Malaysian officials.

A senior Philippine military official said navy boats and an aircraft had been sent to the border area. He dismissed the Malaysian account of the group, saying they were unarmed Filipinos who had been promised land in Sabah.

He said a meeting over the land claim had attracted a large crowd and drawn the attention of Malaysian authorities.

"We know that these people arrived there five days ago and most of them are from nearby islands," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

"Some of them were already residents in Sabah for a long time and they normally cross the border without any problem."

Another Philippine military officer said the men were followers of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu - an island group off the southern Philippines - who had been invited to Sabah by a Malaysian opposition politician to discuss land issues.

Malaysia pays a token amount to the Sultanate each year for the "rental" of Sabah state - an arrangement that stretches back to British colonial times.

The number of illegal Muslim immigrants from the impoverished southern Philippines has surged in recent decades, stirring social tension with indigenous Christian inhabitants in Sabah.

The Philippine government signed a landmark peace deal with Muslim rebels late last year to end a 40-year conflict in the south, but some factions have voiced opposition.

In 2000, a group of militants from the southern Philippines kidnapped 21 tourists from the Sabah diving resort of Sipadan. In 1985, 11 people were killed when gunmen believed to be from the southern Philippines entered Lahad Datu in Sabah, shooting at random before robbing a bank.-Reuters (February 14, 2013 4:00PM)

Filipinos receive most LOVE in the World

Paris and Rome may be famous for romance, but it’s Filipinos who get the most love. That, at least, is a conclusion that can be drawn from a global love survey conducted by the Gallup Organization.

In our latest column for Bloomberg View, we mine the unique Gallup data for insights into the nature of love and its relationship to nationality, age, money and economic development. The survey, conducted in 136 countries, posed the question: “Did you experience love for a lot of the day yesterday?”

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought readers might be interested in seeing the full ranking. So here goes. The first number after each country name is the percentage of respondents who said they had experienced love the previous day. The second (in parentheses) is the sample size for the country.

1. Philippines 93% (2193)

2. Rwanda 92% (1495)

3. Puerto Rico 90% (495)

4. Hungary 89% (1002)

5. Cyprus 88% (988)

6. Trinidad and Tobago 88% (506)

7. Paraguay 87% (1986)

8. Lebanon 86% (970)

9. Costa Rica 85% (1985)

10. Cambodia 85% (1961)

CONTINUE HERE: Bloomber (February 14, 2013)

Philippine Largest Bookstore pulls Chinese-made globes

CHINESE GLOBES. The globes featured the 9-Dash line map claiming almost the whole South China Sea for Beijing. Photo courtesy of John Silva
The Philippines' largest bookstore chain has withdrawn Chinese-made globes showing Beijing's claims to most of the South China Sea from its shelves, a government spokesman said Thursday, February 14.

The globes were sold by the National Bookstore up until Wednesday, foreign office spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a statement.

"The National Bookstore has withdrawn all the educational globes, which reflect China's nine-dash line encompassing the South China Sea, from its stores," Hernandez said.

"It has taken a patriotic position to proactively support the Philippine government in advancing Philippine foreign policy objectives."

He said the decision to pull out the globes came after a dialogue with the bookstore management, which claimed they were unaware of the "misinformation" contained in the education materials.

China's "9-dash line" outlines its claims to virtually all of the South China Sea, even waters close to the shores of its neighbours.

The Philippine government last month took China to an arbitration panel under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea -- a 1982 treaty signed by both countries -- to demand that it declare China's claims invalid.

China's territorial claims overlap those of the Philippines as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Philippines and Vietnam have over the past two years complained of China's increasing assertiveness in enforcing its claims, particularly around areas believed rich in oil and natural gas reserves.

China's stance led to a standoff last year with the Philippines over rich fishing grounds around Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop much closer to the Philippine coast than to China's shores.-Rappler (February 14, 2013 6:55PM)

China rules the world by claiming neighbor’s territory?

The ongoing tensions between the China and the Philippines in the disputed Scarborough Shoal overtakes the reality of China’s ascendancies on the global stage lies the future of all nations. The thing is the history tells what the current situation is fraught with danger.

For over a century now China will overtake the U.S. as the largest economy in the world within the next decade.  No doubt that the development of China will takes place the global economic power. According to Martin Jacques, Britain’s foremost public intellectuals who wrote the 2nd edition of his book entitled  “When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order”,  the Chinese economy will be almost the same size as the US economy by 2025, with the Indian economy the fourth largest after Japan. By 2050, they project that the largest economy in the world will be China, which will be almost twice the size of the US economy, with the Indian economy following a close third, almost on a far with the US. READ MORE: Agora Business Intelligence (February 14, 2013)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Areas in South, East Jakarta Swamped Again

Fifteen urban wards in East and South Jakarta were inundated on Wednesday by floodwaters up to 3.5 meters in height, forcing about 175 people to flee their homes. 

Jakarta Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) spokesman Bambang Suryaputra said the floods affected 4,079 families and 8,993 people.

Besides swamping the frequently flooded Kampung Melayu, two other urban wards in East Jakarta were inundated, Bidaracina and Cawang. Meanwhile in South Jakarta, at least 12 urban wards were inundated: Lebak Bulus, Pondok Labu, Ulujami, Kuningan Barat, Bangka, Pela Mampang, Pejaten Timur, Bukit Duri, Kebon Baru, Petogogan, Pondok Pinang and Rawajati.

“The worst flooding hit Kampung Melayu, where floodwaters reached 3.5 meters,” Bambang said. “Around 175 are living as refugees. There are no refugees in other urban wards because the water level remained low.”

Torrential rains on Tuesday raised the water level of the Ciliwung River, causing it to overflow at about 1 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

“BPBD continues to ask people who live along the Ciliwung, Angke, Pesanggrahan and Krukut rivers to remain on alert for flooding,” Bambang said. “We ask the residents to secure their personal assets, mainly important documents and electronic devices.”

He also advised flood-hit residents to turn off their electricity to prevent electrical short-circuits that could result in fire.

“For emergency evacuation, logistics and other help, residents can contact the disaster post at [021] 164,” Bambang said.-Jakarta Globe (February 13, 2013)

Canadian Navy ship visits Manila to bolster military ties

A Canadian navy ship on Tuesday docked off a port at the Philippine capital for a goodwill visit intended to bolster military ties between Ottawa and Manila. 

The HMCS (Her Majesty's Canadian Ship) Regina (FFH 334), a Halifax-class frigate of the Canadian Forces, arrived Tuesday morning at Pier 13 of Manila South Harbor. Led by Commander Jason Boyd, the vessel, its 42 officers, and 219 enlisted personnel will stay in the country until February 16.

Rear Admiral William Truelove, the commander for Maritime Forces Pacific/Joint Task Force Pacific, will also arrive in the country on February 14.

Officers and crew of the HMCS Regina will pay a visit to Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano. A ship tour for Navy personnel as well as goodwill games will also be held. 

The visit aims to boost interoperability of the two countries, said Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic, acting director of public affairs of the Philippine Navy.-Interaksyon (February 13, 2013 5:25PM)

Thai firm works to boost Mideast trade with Asean

To cash in on the coming Asean Economic Community (AEC), Akavut Tangsilikusonwong wants to present the region to the Middle East market through his own exhibition and event organisation. Named Vega Intertrade & Exhibition, the company was set up by Akavut, who relocated from Thailand to Dubai in 1999.

Vega Intertrade & Exhibition is known in Dubai as a specialist in international trade exhibitions and events. 

"We provide the infrastructure for Thai retailers and manufacturers to introduce their products to overseas customers, while offering logistical support to achieve maximum benefits," Akavut said.

As a pioneer in organising trade activities in Dubai, Akavut, 41, has successfully brought together entrepreneurs from Thailand and neighbouring countries who want to establish their businesses in the Middle East.

"At that time [1999], entrepreneurs were quite dispersed in Dubai as they had no place to gather. I myself wanted to do something 'blue ocean', as nobody else did," he said. 

Akavut graduated in engineering from Chulalongkorn University. He worked as an engineer at Siam Ratchathanee for more than a year before deciding to resign and look for a way to go into business for himself. 

"I wanted to do something by myself at that time. I decided to go to the Middle East to look for new business opportunities," he said.

"When I went to Dubai, Thai businesspeople were quite dispersed. The Middle East was a market little known by Thai entrepreneurs, and individual consumers in the Middle East knew very little about Thai products and services," he said.

As Thailand promotes its tourism industry well, the country started to become better known by people in the Middle East. Last year, more than 150,000 tourists from the United Arab Emirates travelled to Thailand. 

Middle Eastern consumers have strong purchasing power and they have started to recognise products and services from Thailand, thanks to their unique style and low prices. Major Thai products and services, such fashion apparel, ornaments, home decorative products, restaurants, spas and massage have enjoyed dramatic growth in Dubai at more than 25 per cent annually.

Akavut and his company started to organise the Thai Pavilion at Global Village fair in Dubai between January 15 and February 15, 2003, and about 41 Thai enterprises joined the fair to exhibit their products.

"However, more than 115 businesses from Thailand joined Global Village Dubai this year, which began on October 21 and runs until March 30 this year. The Thai Pavilion has a huge exhibition space of about 2,465 square metres," he said.

He added that in addition to the Thai Pavilion, his company had built exhibition pavilions for other countries, including the Philippines with 880sqm, Vietnam with 660sm, and China with 3,510sqm.

"What I want to do is to bring entrepreneurs from Asean to this region to cash in on new business opportunities in the Middle East," Akavut said. 

He also plans to build an Asean Pavilion in Dubai's Global Village fair in the near future.

Akavut, who is also the chairman of Thai Business Council in Dubai, said the council had been set up in August 2010 with about 80 members. 

Its mission is to gather Thai entrepreneurs who have businesses in Dubai. The council now has about 150 members.-Asia News Network (February 13, 2013)

PH condemns North Korea nuclear test

The Philippines on Tuesday, February 11 condemned North Korea's nuclear test in "clear" violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (SDA) said that the government "deplores the series of acts of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) that have violated" resolutions 1695 (2006), 1718 (2006) and 1874 (2009) which demanded that Pyongyang not conduct any further atomic tests.

"The Philippines joins its international partners in urging the DPRK to desist from continuing these acts of provocation and to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs (…) in the interest of genuine confidence-building towards peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula and the Asia-Pacific Region," the DFA added.

North Korea appeared to have carried out a threatened nuclear test on Tuesday, with international monitoring agencies reporting a seismic event near the site of the atomic test site.

Pyongyang had been threatening a "higher-level" nuclear test for weeks despite warnings of severe repercussions from the UN Security Council.

If confirmed, it would mark the third time the North has detonated a nuclear device, following previous tests in 2006 and 2009.

The UN Security Council will meet later on Tuesday for emergency consultations on the issue.

South Korea is the current president of the 15-member Security Council and had been calling for strong action against its arch-rival neighbor in the event of a nuclear test.-Rappler (February 12, 2013 8:31PM)

Malaysia condemns North Korean nuclear test

Malaysia strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear test yesterday which was a direct violation of previous United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

He said Malaysia joined the international community in calling upon North Korea to fully comply with the relevant UNSC resolutions, namely the UNSC Resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009) and 2087 (2013).

“Malaysia deeply regrets the action by the DPRK (North Korea) to conduct the nuclear test despite the concerns expressed by the international community.

“We urge all relevant parties to exercise utmost restraint and avoid actions that would aggravate the situation in the Northeast Asia region,” he said in a statement today.

He said Malaysia strongly believed that all efforts should aim at reaffirming the commitment to maintaining regional peace and security, and establishing a peaceful environment in the Korean peninsula in particular and the world in general.-The Malaysian Insider (February 13, 2013)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

'Artificial' quake signals possible North Korea nuclear test

South Korea has detected an "artificial earthquake" at North Korea's nuclear test site, Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday, February 12, suggesting Pyongyang had gone ahead with a threatened atomic test.

Yonhap said an "artificial earthquake of 5.1 magnitude" had been detected in Kilju county, where the Punggye-ri test site is located.

The US Geological Survey measured it as a 4.9-magnitude quake at a very shallow depth of just one kilometer (0.6 miles).

The South Korean defense ministry and the presidential Blue House both said they were trying to verify whether a nuclear detonation had taken place.

Pyongyang has been threatening a "higher-level" nuclear test for weeks despite warnings of severe repercussions from the UN Security Council.

If confirmed, it would mark the third time the North has detonated a nuclear device, following previous tests in 2006 and 2009.-Rappler (February 12, 2013 11:36AM)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Japan plans to give patrol boats to Manila - report

Japan plans to donate patrol boats costing $11 million each to the Philippines, ramping up regional efforts to monitor China's maritime activity in disputed waters, a newspaper said Monday.

The Japanese government plans to finance the deal in its fiscal 2013 budget starting in April and hopes to officially sign it early next year, the Nikkei business daily reported.

Japan will then provide the Philippines with the newly built patrol vessels, which will cost more than one billion yen ($11 million) each, the newspaper said, without specifying the number of boats on offer.

Both countries are locked in separate territorial disputes with China.

Japan's dispute is over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.

The Philippines is one of several Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, that are rowing with China over claims to parts of the South China Sea. Two of the hotspots are the Spratly islands and Scarborough Shoal.

The Japanese coastguard also plans to train Philippine and Vietnamese personnel as part of additional efforts to boost security cooperation with Southeast Asia, the Nikkei said.

In the fiscal 2013 budget draft, 2.5 billion yen has been allotted for such expenditure, it said.

Last month, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida visited Manila and called for stronger ties with the Philippines to help ensure regional peace.

Japan's coastguard last month said it would create a special unit comprising 10 new large patrol boats to boost its surveillance of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

The long-running row over the islands intensified in September when Tokyo nationalised part of the chain, triggering fury in Beijing and huge anti-Japan demonstrations across China.

In the most serious high-seas incident yet, Japan last week said that a Chinese frigate locked its weapon-targeting radar on a Japanese navy vessel on January 30. China has angrily denied the charge.-Interaksyon (February 11, 2013 10:40AM)

How Jollibee beat McDonald's in the Philippines

With over 2,000 branches around the country, there is bound to be a Jollibee anywhere you go in the Philippines. 

Jollibee's continued success in the Philippines and the company's aggressive expansion overseas is making international headlines. Jollibee's Filipino-Chinese founder Tony Tan Caktiong is now on the cover of Forbes Asia's February issue.

Tan talked to Forbes Asia about how he started his business with an ice cream parlor and how his restaurant with a bumble bee mascot managed to beat American fastfood giant McDonald's in the Philippines. 

After opening the ice cream parlors in 1978, Tan said he decided to shift from ice cream to hamburgers when he saw customers wanted sandwiches.

However, the entry of McDonald's in the Philippines in 1981 was a cause of concern for the fledgling fastfood chain.

Tan recalled how they went to the US to study McDonald's operations, and studied how Jollibee compared to the American fastfood chain. 

"We found that they excelled over us in all aspects – except product taste... It suited Americans but not really Filipinos. Our (food) tends to be sweeter, more spices, more salty. We were lucky as it was not easy for them to change their product because of their global image," Tan told Forbes Asia. 

Jollibee worked hard to compete with McDonald's, from advertising to stores to service.

And their hard work paid off. "We were surprised customers ranked us higher in courtesy and service style. Maybe they felt we were warmer? And then they liked our marketing, promotion and advertising better. And then customers kept just coming back," he said. 

One advantage Jollibee had was offering hamburgers and other fastfood with a distinct Filipino flavor. For instance, Jolly Spaghetti has a sweet meat sauce with hotdog slices. 

Eventually McDonald's took the cue from Jollibee and offered McSpaghetti and other similar products aimed at the Filipino market.

Forbes Asia said Jollibee now controls 18% of the market in Metro Manila, handily beating McDonald's which is said to only have 10% share of the market.

Jollibee now operates the country's largest food service, with a total of 2,040 stores as of end-September. The firm's stores include Jollibee, Chowking, Greenwich, Red Ribbon, Mang Inasal and Burger King.

For its foreign operations, the company has 541 stores as of end-September. Aside from the Jollibee foodchain, stores abroad include Yonghe King, Hong Zhuang Yuan, San Pin Wang, Red Ribbon, Chowking, and Chow Fun.

But what is the secret to Jollibee's phenomenal success?

"We keep things simple and fill a simple need: very tasty food at a reasonable price. To this day I repeat to my people what my father told me – you have to make sure your food tastes really good," Tan said. -ABS-CBN News (February 11, 2013 6:22PM)

Myanmar, Malaysia to cooperate in science, technology

Myanmar and Malaysia have agreed to cooperate in science and technology, official media reported Sunday.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries' Ministries of Science and Technology in Nay Pyi Taw , the areas of cooperation ranges from exchange of scientists, experts and scholars in implementing joint projects, joint designing, holding joint conferences and seminars training courses and exchange of research findings to science and technology information and documents, said the New Light of Myanmar.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak visited Myanmar in March 2012, during which  the two sides agreed to work together in the fields of capacity building under  Malaysia's technical cooperation program.-The Philippine Star (February 11, 2013)

Manila, Bangkok retreat in holiday-thinned trade

Philippine and Thai stocks failed to hold on to earlier gains to fall on Monday, amid selling in recent gainers such as Ayala Land Inc and Bangkok Bank Pcl while Indonesia posted modest gains, led by energy names such as United Tractors Tbk.

Sharemarkets took a breather in the Lunar New Year holiday in subdued trade in Asia, with Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam shut.

The Philippine main index ended down 0.01 percent at 6,458.01 after touching an all-time high of 6500.08. Manila still hovered near a record close of 6,470.49 hit on Feb. 5 and remained in the overbought territory, while its 14-day relative strength index (RSI) closed at 75.8 on Monday.

Bangkok's SET index fell 0.6 percent, extending its loss for a fifth session and taking the index's 14-day RSI to 66.52, below the overbought mark of 70 and above.

Jakarta's Composite index was up 0.3 percent, helped by selective buying in market laggards, including resources shares. Its year-to-date gain was 4.3 percent, still underperforming most others in Southeast Asia.-ABS-CBN News (February 11, 2013 7:00PM)

China's patience with North Korea wearing thin

China's patience with North Korea is wearing thin, and a widely-expected nuclear test by the latter could bring that frustration to a head.

Beijing signaled its growing unhappiness by agreeing to tightened U.N. sanctions after North Korea launched a rocket in December, surprising China watchers with its unusually tough line, which prompted harsh criticism from Pyongyang.

And while China isn't expected to abandon its communist neighbor, it appears to be reassessing ties a year after new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took office. The question is for how long China, itself under new leader Xi Jinping, will continue to back North Korea's nettlesome policies.

"Perhaps Kim Jong Un thinks Xi Jinping will indulge him. Perhaps he's in for a surprise," said Richard Bush, Director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.

China is feeling spurned by Kim. Although China welcomed his ascension after his father died in December 2011 and maintained flows of aid and investment, Kim has ignored China's interests in a stable neighborhood with his two rocket launches and nuclear test plan. North Korea announced last month it would conduct a test to protest the toughened U.N. sanctions.

"At the start, China gave him a warm welcome and, I think, some aid. But we got no gratitude. They take us for granted," said Jin Canrong, an international affairs expert at Renmin University in Beijing. "China tried to get closer to him, but it was not successful. China has become very disappointed."

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Yet Beijing also sees Pyongyang as a crucial buffer against U.S. troops based in South Korea and Japan. It also deeply fears a regime collapse could send swarms of refugees across its border. For those reasons, Beijing is unlikely to cut Pyongyang adrift, even if it pushes North Korea harder to end its nuclear provocations and reform its broken-down economy.

"China's not ready to turn the support to North Korea switch to 'off' at this stage," said Roger Cavazos, a North Korea watcher at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability.

North Korea's apparent reluctance to reform its economy ranks among Beijing's biggest frustrations, and the thorny nature of the bilateral relationship is on show along the frigid Yalu River, which forms part of the border Chinese troops crossed to rescue North Korean forces during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Last week, ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, dozens of North Korean trucks lined up at a customs checkpoint in the northeastern Chinese border city of Dandong, loaded with bags of rice, cooking oil, cheap electronics and other daily items that their country's collapsed industry cannot produce enough of for its 24 million people.

Further to the south, a much-heralded North Korean economic zone on a pair of islands along the Yalu remains a field of untrammeled snow behind a newly erected border fence, more than 18 months after it was opened with great fanfare.

The Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islands zone, one of two such establishments along the border, resulted from talks led by Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and Jang Song Thaek, Kim's uncle and a top official in the ruling Korean Workers' Party who is thought to be pro-China. The two men attended the June 2011 grand opening accompanied by a brass band and the celebratory release of doves, giving rise to hopes that China's advice was having an impact on the North.

Yet area residents say they've seen no progress since then, while work on a towering bridge nearby, intended to supplement the rickety old one in Dandong, has slowed to a snail's pace. Dandong's city government has moved offices to the area, but the thickets of surrounding high-rise buildings remain unfinished and empty.

While Kim has made improving the economy a hallmark of his nascent rule, many analysts doubt that he will go too far with reforms for fear that change could lead to a loss of control, in turn threatening his authoritarian rule.

"There's nothing going on around here. North Korea is fine with taking Chinese aid and doing some trade, but its economy doesn't seem to be changing at all," said a Dandong businessman who trades with North Korea AND asked to be identified only by his surname, Qu.

That leaves the new fence as the dominant feature along the border. Topped with rolls of barbed wire, it doubles up in places to form both an inner and an outer perimeter, with a strip of concrete in between for guards to patrol along.

The intimidating barrier seeks to block the flow of illegal border crossers, typically those seeking food and work in China or an escape route to South Korea. It also symbolizes China's fears of instability in North Korea, a steel barrier to contain the chaos.

China is widely credited with keeping its neighbor afloat, providing an estimated half million tons of oil to North Korea a year, along with copious amounts of food aid. Officially tolerated smuggling buttresses the formal trade between them, while North Korea earns much-needed hard currency from thousands of North Koreans who work in northeast China and a similar number of Chinese tourists and advisers visiting the other side. Chinese companies are also investing in North Korea's mines, although many complain of corruption and a lack of respect for contracts.

Yet it remains unclear how much influence China has with North Korea. Despite Beijing's entreaties, Pyongyang has refused to return to Chinese-hosted six-nation nuclear disarmament talks that had won China credit as a responsible international power.

In a sign of China's rising pique, the Foreign Ministry recently took an unusual swipe at North Korea for spending on defense, rocket and nuclear programs instead of the economy. "We would also like to actively encourage the relevant country to develop economy and improve people's living conditions," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters late last month.

Chinese media have also been running commentaries suggesting Chinese interests need not be held hostage by its desire for a stable North Korea.

"If North Korea ignores the persuasion and eventually carries out a third nuclear bomb test, it must pay a heavy price for it. The various kinds of aid it receives from China will be decreased for good reasons. Of this, we hope the Chinese government will warn North Korea in advance, so that they will not have other fantasies," the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid that often airs controversial views, said in a commentary last week.

Another test may not be enough to push the new leadership into casting North Korea adrift, but China may employ tougher measures, given that it has already upped the ante by agreeing to the tightened U.N. sanctions. If it does, North Korea can't say it wasn't warned.-The Philippine Star (February 11, 2013 4:26PM)