Sunday, December 27, 2009

DTN News: Technology News TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ China Launches World's Fastest Train Service

DTN News: Technology News TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ China Launches World's Fastest Train Service *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) BEIJING, China - December 28, 2009: China on Saturday launched what it described as the world’s fastest train service covering a distance of 1,068 kms at the average speed of 350 kms an hour. The distance between Wuhan in central China and Guangzhou in the country’s south was covered by the high-speed train in two hours forty five minutes. ZHUZHOU, CHINA - DECEMBER 26: A CRH train runs out of Zhuzhou West Railway Station on December 26, 2009 in Zhuzhou, Hunan Province of China. Trainwomen are ready for the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway's running out at the Wuhan Railway Station on December 26, 2009 in Wuhan, Wubei Province of China. The Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway, which boasts of the world's fastest train journey with a 350-km-per-hour average speed, debuts on Saturday. The new service will cut the travel time between these cities by more than six hours. The train reached a maximum speed of 394.2 km per hour during trail runs that begun on December 9. The commercial operation was launched today with two trains covering the distance while passing through 20 different cities along the route. The high speed line will use technology developed in co-operation with foreign firms such as Siemens, Bombardier and Alstom, sources said. The new service is expected to act as a catalyst in the development of central China that includes backward areas like Xianning by linking it to the highly developed Pearl River Delhi, which is an industrial hub in south China. Chinese railway authorities pointed out that the average speed of the high-speed railways is 243 km per hour in Japan, 232 km per hour in Germany and 277 km per hour in France. The era of high speed railway began in China in 2004 when Guangzhou was linked to Shenzhen, both in Guangdong Province, with a train traveling at 160 km per hour. This was followed by the launch of a high-speed line linking the capital with the port city of Tianjin at the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The government recently announced it plans to build 42 high-speed lines by 2012 in order to spur economic growth amid the global downturn. China has unveiled a massive rail development program, considered to be the world’s biggest plan outside the United States. The goal is to take the rail network from the current 86,000 kilometers to 120,000 kilometers.

DTN News: Airlines News TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ Problematic JAL Faces Bankruptcy Option According To Report

DTN News: Airlines News TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ Problematic JAL Faces Bankruptcy Option According To Report *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) TOKYO, Japan - December 28, 2009: A state-backed turnaround body overseeing Japan Airlines' restructuring is considering bankruptcy as one option for the cash-strapped carrier, reports said Monday.A Japan Airlines aircraft is parked at Haneda airport in Tokyo December 28, 2009. Bankruptcy has been proposed by a state-backed fund as an option in the restructuring of Japan Airlines, two sources familiar with the matter said. Proposals submitted to JAL's creditors by the Enterprise Turnaround Initiative Corp. include filing for protection from creditors to give the airline time to put its finances in order, the Nikkei business daily said. But debt-ridden JAL, seeking its fourth government bailout since 2001, aims to avoid bankruptcy proceedings. "We are pursuing the possibility of restructuring without bankruptcy," JAL spokesman Kojiro Waki told AFP. An official at the turnaround body declined to comment on the reports. The airline has said it plans thousands of job cuts and a drastic reduction in routes as part of its efforts to return to profitability. JAL has been offered financial assistance by both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, who are competing to take a minority stake in the Japanese carrier, eyeing its coveted Asian landing slots. Japan's government has ruled out allowing JAL to collapse, but has left the door open to possible bankruptcy proceedings to allow the group to restructure more easily.

DTN News: Iran TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ Tehran In Chaos, At Least 15 Dead In Street Battles

DTN News: Iran TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ Tehran In Chaos, At Least 15 Dead In Street Battles *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, Iran - December 28, 2009: At least fifteen anti-government protesters, including a nephew of Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran’s opposition leader, were shot dead yesterday as the smouldering confrontation between the regime and the so-called Green Movement finally erupted. Iranian anti-riot police officers following the protestors, during an anti-government protest in Tehran, second image/photo Iranian protestors beating police officers and an Iranian protestor throwing a rock at anti-riot police officers, as their bikes are set on fire by protestors, during anti-government protest at the Enqelab (Revolution) St. in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009. Early reports put the number of dead at five, but as clashes continued late into the night, Iranian state television reported that the number of dead had risen to 15. The Ministry of Intelligence said more than 10 were members of "anti-revolutionary terrorist" groups. The other five who died during the bitter clashes in the Iranian capital were killed by "terrorist groups," Iranian TV claimed. Analysts heralded the start of what could be a bloody endgame as hundreds of thousands of opposition supporters poured on to the streets of Tehran and other cities and fought running battles with the security forces. Opposition websites claimed that some policemen had refused to fire on demonstrators. Foreign journalists have been banned from Iran but Western newsrooms were inundated with mobile telephone footage of astonishing scenes: jubilant demonstrators attacking riot police and Basij militiamen, protesters gleefully setting light to a police station, Basiji building and motorbikes being captured from the security forces, detained protesters being freed from a police van while colleagues are carried away with blood pouring from gunshot wounds. Dozens were injured and more than 300 arrested. “The gloves are off. There is no question about that,” said one analyst. Ali Ansari, Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of St Andrews, said: “No one can now doubt that change is coming.” A leading opposition activist claimed: “The regime is on borrowed time. The entire country is beginning to rise.” The demonstrators’ fury was no longer directed solely at President Ahmadinejad, whose alleged theft of the presidential election triggered protests in June, but also at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader and embodiment of a theocratic government that has lost legitimacy. Passions were bound to be high because yesterday was not only Ashura, when Shias commemorate the martyrdom in the 7th century of Imam Hossein, the Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, but also the seventh day since the death of Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, the opposition’s spiritual leader, an important date in Shia mourning rituals. Few predicted quite such fury or aggression. Opposition websites said that demonstrators broke through cordons, blocked streets to thwart squads of baton-wielding motorbike police, hurled stones, stripped captured police officers of their uniforms and weapons, and burnt state-owned banks. Mobile telephone footage showed them holding aloft captured Basiji crash helmets as onlookers cheered. “People no longer fear,” one activist told The Times. They compared Ayatollah Khamenei to Yazid, the Sunni caliph who killed Imam Hossein. Film clips showed demonstrators trying to tear down Ayatollah Khamenei’s portrait and trampling on a street sign bearing his name. At least five protesters were shot in Tehran and reportedly four more in Tabriz — one of several other cities that witnessed huge demonstrations. They were the first shootings of demonstrators since June 20, eight days after the disputed election. The opposition website Rahesabz said that the security forces opened fire on a crowd near Enghelab Square in Tehran after failing to disperse it with teargas, baton charges and warning shots. A witness told The Times: “The person we saw killed was a young man, I am guessing early twenties. He was shot in the head from a rooftop. It happened so quickly that we did not know what happened. A couple of minutes later the Basiji came rushing in and fired teargas and used batons to disperse us and then they took his body.” It was unclear whether Seyed Ali Mousavi, 35, the opposition leader’s nephew, was one of those killed, though he, too, was shot near Enghelab Square. Footage showed him lying on a pavement as blood oozed from his chest. There were reports last night that security forces had surrounded the hospital where he died. Tehran’s police chief initially denied any killings. State television later reported several deaths on both sides. Iran’s deputy police chief then claimed that one protester fell off a bridge, two died in car accidents and one was shot, but not by the police. Another witness told The Times how a middle-aged woman emerged from a cornered crowd and yelled at the police: “Aren’t you ashamed to beat and kill your own people?” “To our surprise two of them admitted they were ashamed and were doing this only for money. The head of the squad then asked that we go home because he did not want to have to give the order to have us beaten,” the witness said. Gangs of pro-government vigilantes increasingly appear to be taking the law into their own hands. On Saturday night a group broke up a meeting addressed by Mohammad Khatami, the reformist former president, and attacked nearby offices used by the family of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. Leading members of the Khomeini family now support the opposition. The opposition claims that the unrest is spreading across Iran, and to every social class. It senses victory, but activists fear a bloodbath first. “The security forces, especially the Revolutionary Guards, are prepared to fight until the end as they have nowhere to go,” one member said.

DTN News: Indonesia TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ The Rise Of The Indonesian Strategic Industry

DTN News: Indonesia TODAY December 28, 2009 ~ The Rise Of The Indonesian Strategic Industry *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media By Cyrillus Harinowo Hadiwerdoyo , Jakarta (NSI News Source Info) JAKARTA, Indonesia - December 28, 2009: A few weeks ago, Indonesia’s minister of defense officiated the launching of the new Landing Platform Dock (LPD) built by PT PAL for the Indonesian Navy. It marked a new beginning for PT PAL, the largest Indonesian shipyard located in Surabaya, East Java, after having been successful in developing various non-military ships, such as 50,000 ton cargo vessels, large oil and chemical tankers and passenger ships. PT PAL ~ State-owned shipbuilding company PT PAL Indonesia said it will built a navy corvette at a cost of US$ 40 million in cooperation 12 other state and private companies. The corvette to be completed in 2007 will be first type of warship built in the country. PT PAL said the construction of corvette has long been programmed by the defense ministry and the navy Most of the components are expected to be locally supplied by state-owned companies In the area of military combat ships, PT PAL has successfully developed various smaller craft such as Fast Patrol Boats in different sizes. The development of the Landing Platform Dock has been done in conjunction with similar production in Dae Sun Shipyard, Busan, South Korea, which developed two out of four LPDs for the Indonesian Ministry of Defense through the export credit extended by the Korean financial institution. The export finance was later on extended to PT PAL to develop the remaining two LPDs. PT PAL, under the technical assistance from Dae Sun, has succeeded in building the first ship, and in the process of building the second ship. The development by PT PAL was done with several refinements in its design. The LPD built by the Korean could accommodate three helicopters in its deck, while the LPD built by PT PAL is able to accommodate five helicopters. In addition, the refinement in its shaft enabled the ships to improve the speed from 15 knots to 15.4 knots. The achievement is going to be followed by the development of Sigma Class Corvettes and also Guided Missiles Ships currently on the drawing board. Currently, the maintenance and overhaul of the Sigma Class Corvettes are also being done by PT PAL. The two types of ships are within the capacity of PT PAL to develop. Another ambition, which is currently enabled by the success in developing the 50,000 tons of cargo ships, is in the form of the building of Helicopter Carriers. In a later stage, PT PAL is also developing submarine building capability. The rise in the Indonesian shipyard industry is also followed by the rapid development of the Indonesian aerospace industry. Long time in neglect, the Indonesian aerospace company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), a metamorphosis of PT. IPTN, has shown its resilience and in fact has shown significant revival. Recently, the Korean military signed a contract ordering four CN 235-110 MPAs, turboprop aircrafts for the military patrol. The Korean military have acquired rhese aircraft before, so they have experience using the aircraft. In fact, this purchase was done after a tight tender process which involved American, Spanish and Israeli aircraft manufacturers. In addition, the Indonesian Ministry of Defense has just issued an order of three similar planes for the Indonesian Navy. These planes, as part of a planned bigger squadron, will replace the Nomad patrol aircrafts that have been planned for its retirement. PTDI also produces helicopters, including the Superpumas. The Indonesian aerospace industry, during its hibernation period, continued its contracts with EADS in developing the wings and other parts of Airbus 380 and other types of Airbus planes. Recently, the company received an award for achieving a high-level quality requirement in supplying the components to Airbus. With such an achievement, PTDI has prepared the ground for further challenges. Before the monetary crisis in 1998, PTDI, then named IPTN, was in the process of developing its homegrown airplanes called N250. There is a real possibility that such a plane will be revived in anticipation for the upcoming surge in short-haul flights. Further down the road the development of passenger jets are also on the drawing board. The Brazilian aircraft industry, Embraer, has been successful in developing and marketing its ERJ (Embraer Regional Jets) to the competitive markets of the US and Europe. Such an opportunity is certainly available for the kind of aircrafts developed by PTDI. Fifty-passenger aircraft are similar to the size of the famous ERJs. Meanwhile, the Indonesian defense industry (PT PINDAD) has also succeeded in developing APCs (Armored Personnel Carrier) for the Indonesian Army. The Indonesian Ministry of Defense placed order of 154 Combat APCs that will be used by various Army Units throughout Indonesia. PT PINDAD ~ Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) with 6 wheels symmetrical drove designed for military, especially cavalry need. Designed and produced by our engineers and designers for the military. Size and operation has been adjusted to suit Indonesian Military figures, doctrine and combat tactical strategy as our commitment to Indonesian Military needs. This type of panzer is able to carry 10 personnel with 3 crews, 1 driver, 1 commander and 1 gunner. 12,7 mm weapon mounting with capable for 360 degree rotation are also included. Following up first phase delivery of 20 units 6x6 Armoured Personnel Carriers to the Department of Defense in February 2009, PINDAD witnessed by the President of Republic of Indonesia, again delivered 40 units of 6x6 Armoured Personnel Carriers to the Department of Defense of Republic of Indonesia on July 10, 2009. The vehicles which were the second phase of delivery were then submitted to the Commander in Chied of Indonesian Armed Forces, Djoko Santoso and Head of Staf of Indonesian Army, Agustadi Sasongko Purnomo. In order to support the autonomy of production of military weaponry system, the Government represented by the Department of Defense in June 2009 giving credence to PT. PINDAD to produce 150 units of 6x6 Armoured Personnel Carrier and 4 units of 4x4 Forward Observer Vehicle with the following detail: 116 units of APC type, 3 units of Ambulance type, 6 units of Logistic type, 4 units of Recovery type, 6 units of Mortar type, 4 units of Observer type, and 15 units of Commando type. The APCs are similar to the French built Renault APC that has been purchased by the Indonesian Army for the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon. It can be expected that the new capability in developing such vehicles enables the company to develop more complicated light tanks. Neighboring Malaysia has also placed an order for 40 APCs from PT PINDAD. Such order is a testimony of the quality of the product. PT PINDAD also supplies high quality automatic rifles, pistols, grenade launchers and munitions to the Indonesian Armed Forces. The weaponry has now become the standard issue for the military and police forces in Indonesia along with the better known AK47 and M16. Recently some of its products have also been exported, including to the United States. The rise of the three companies has emboldened the Government to balance the sourcing of Indonesia’s defense suppliers. Having been the target of a prolonged embargo by the United States, it is believed that self-sufficiency in the defense supplies becomes a necessity in the growing complexity of geopolitics. At the same time, the development of such industries will enable them to attract the skilled human resources that nowadays are scattered across the world. What is the way forward? These strategic industries very much depend on the orders by the foreign shipping and airline companies as well as orders from within the country. In the past, as what happened with the development of the Landing Platform Docks, these companies also depend on the external finance from the Export Finance Agencies like in Korea. The rise of the Indonesian banking system also enables banks to help extend finance for the purchase of such equipment as long as the Government is responsible for the repayments of the loans. This is basically what has happened now with all the Export Credits, because the Government is fully responsible to repay the debts to these Export Finance Agencies. With the increasing capacity of the Indonesian Government Finance, it could be expected that 10 years from now the Indonesian budget are in much greater capacity than what we have now. Therefore, the current government can leverage that capacity by placing orders for the military equipment that can be repaid gradually over time. In addition, the government can encourage Indonesian State Owned Companies to place orders in these industries. Pertamina, the Indonesian Oil Company, has at one time purchased a 30,000 DWT oil tanker. The ship, named the Fastron, was delivered by PT PAL in 2005. Such strategic purchasing could be repeated again in the coming years.

DTN News: Yemen Emerges As New Al Qaeda Hub

DTN News: Yemen Emerges As New Al Qaeda Hub *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON- December 28, 2009: Yemen is rapidly emerging as the new Al Qaeda hub, indicating that military operations in Pakistan’s tribal areas are forcing the militant group to look for new refuge, US officials and terrorism experts said on Sunday.
The debate followed the arrest on Friday of a 23-year-old Nigerian man recruited by Al Qaeda in Yemen where he was also taught how to make explosive devices and was directed to use one such device on a US plane.
A Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force jet fighter takes off near graduates during a graduation ceremony in Riyadh, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009. Saudi fighter jets have pounded the strongholds of Yemeni Houthi rebels combatants in northern Yemen. A Nigerian man's claims that his attempt to blow up a U.S. plane originated with al-Qaida's network inside Yemen deepened concerns that instability in the Middle Eastern country is providing the terror network with a base to train and recruit militants for operations against the West and the U.S.
On Saturday, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was formally charged with trying to blow up a Northwest airliner by setting off a device strapped to his body as the plane was approaching the Detroit airport.
“This could be a game-changer because it will be the first time since 9/11 that you’ve had a US-based plot driven out of somewhere other than the Pakistan-Afghan theatre,” said Juan Zarate, former US Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism.
“Yemen is a place where Al Qaeda is on the move, a strong movement there,” said former CIA acting director John McLaughlin.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that President Barack Obama wanted to “increase our cooperation with nations like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia,” places used by Al Qaeda to regroup and plan attacks at US targets.
The three were among half a dozen experts and officials who appeared on various US television channels on Sunday to talk about the failed attempt to blow up the airliner on the Christmas Day.
Mr McLaughlin warned that in the last two or three years Al Qaeda had changed its tactics and had now dispersed across the globe. “They have safe havens of sorts in the tribal areas of Pakistan, one growing in Yemen. In Somalia, it can be claimed that they have a safe haven of sorts,” he said.
New York Congressman Peter King, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, described Nigeria, the home country of Abdulmutallab, as another “suspect country … with a strong Al Qaeda presence” and urged US authorities to increase surveillance of planes and individuals coming from Nigeria.
But a senior Obama administration official told reporters that they might soon find Yemen being mentioned more often in President Obama’s speeches about terrorism. Mr Zarate, the former security official who is also a CBS national security analyst, agreed with the suggestion that Yemen was now what Afghanistan was in the 1990s.
Describing the country as “a problematic theatre, Mr Zarate noted that Yemen had an unstable government, facing three different security situations: a Shia rebellion in the north, secessionist in the south and an increase in Al Qaeda presence.
“And you have greater ties to plots towards the US in Yemen.” He recalled that at least three recent attacks in the US were traced to Yemen: the recruitment centre attack in Little Rock, the Fort Hood case and now the attempt on the Northwest airliner.
In a similar discussion on CNN, experts noted that Yemen was probably the second-most important place in the world for an Al Qaeda presence, after Fata. “Very similar to Afghanistan, there’s a civil war going on. It’s a very poor country.
The government doesn’t control it. Bin Laden’s family, of course, comes from Yemen. The USS Cole attack was directed from Yemen,” noted one expert. “We’ve seen multiple attacks – or attempted attacks on the American embassy there. Al Qaeda has a strong foothold in Yemen.” CNN terrorism expert Peter Bergen noted that Yemen had been a subject of intense American interest since the USS Cole attack in October of 2000, before 9/11. Mr McLaughlin, the former CIA acting director, said that after 9/11, when the US had chased Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan in early 2002, the place they thought the militants would go, other than the urban areas of Pakistan, was to Yemen.
“The Yemenis are difficult to work with. They don’t have capabilities. They are dealing primarily with an effort to control their own country,” he added.

DTN News: US Civilian, Military Planners Differ On New Afghan Approach

DTN News: US Civilian, Military Planners Differ On New Afghan Approach * Officials say Obama had refused McChrystal’s request to double size of Afghan army and police * US president’s war cabinet disagrees over pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) PARIS, France - December 28, 2009: Nearly a month after US President Barack Obama unveiled his revised Afghanistan strategy, US military and civilian leaders have seemingly buried their differences on several fundamental aspects of the president’s new approach, a number of senior administration and military officials told The Washington Post.
U.S. soldiers walk with Christmas gifts on Christmas day at the Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday, Dec. 25, 2009.
In a report carried on Saturday, the paper said Obama had informed Gen Stanley McChrystal that he was not approving McChrystal’s request to double the size of Afghan army and police, just two days before announcing the revised policy.
“Cost was a factor, as were questions about whether the capacity exists to train 400,000 personnel. The president told McChrystal, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to focus for now on fielding a little more than half that number by next October,” the newspaper said.
But 10 days after Obama’s speech, the US command responsible for training the Afghans circulated a chart detailing the combined personnel targets for the army and police, with McChrystal’s goal of 400,000 staying unchanged. “It’s an open issue,” a senior Pentagon official said last week.
U.S. army soldiers from Task Force Denali Platoon 1-40 CAV secure the area during a training session of Afghanistan's national policemen outside a police station at Nadir Shah Kot district in Khowst province, Afghanistan, December 24, 2009.
Disagreement: Members of Obama’s war cabinet also disagreed over the meaning of the president’s pledge to begin drawing down forces in July 2011 and whether the mission had been narrowed down from a proposal advanced by McChrystal.
“The disagreements have opened a fault line between a desire for an early exit among several senior officials at the White House and a conviction among military commanders that victory is still achievable on their terms,” the paper said.
The differences are complicating implementation of the new strategy, with some officers responding by seeking to accelerate the pace of operations.

DTN News: U.S. Special Forces Boost In Afghanistan

DTN News: U.S. Special Forces Boost In Afghanistan *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media Posted by Mc Parry on December 27th, 2009 (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - December 28, 2009: US special forces have stepped up counter-terrorism missions against some of the most lethal groups in Afghanistan and plan an even bigger expansion next year, The New York Times has reported. Citing unnamed US military commanders, the newspaper said the commandos from the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s classified Seals units have had success weakening the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the strongest Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan. U.S. Special Operations forces during a joint operation with Afghan National Army soldiers targeting insurgents operating in Afghanistan (AP) Haqqani’s group has used its bases in neighboring Pakistan to carry out deadly strikes in and around Kabul, the Afghan capital, according to the report. Guided by intercepted cellphone communications, the US commandos have also killed some important Taliban operatives in Marja, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province in the south, the paper noted. Marine commanders say they believe that there are some 1,000 fighters holed up in the town, according to the report. Although US President Barack Obama and his aides have not publicly discussed these highly classified missions as part of the administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the counterterrorism operations are expected to increase along with the deployment of 30,000 more US troops next year, The Times said. The increased counter-terrorism operations over the past three or four months reflect growth in every part of the Afghanistan campaign, including conventional forces securing the population, other troops training and partnering with Afghan security forces, and more civilians to complement and capitalize on security gains, the paper noted. (AFP)

DTN News: German Unification Not The Model For Korea

DTN News: German Unification Not The Model For Korea *Source: DTN News / Int'l Media (NSI News Source Info) SEOUL, South Korea - December 28, 2009: When it comes to unification, many people in Korea look towards the German experience but the ambassador said there are better models to choose from. Herald Media CEO Park Haeng-hwan (right) and German Ambassador Hans-Ulrich Seidt [The Korea Herald] "My personal recommendation would be not to follow the German example because the situation is different, I would recommend looking to the Chinese example," German Ambassador Hans-Ulrich Seidt told Herald Media publisher Park Haeng-hwan during a recent courtesy call. The ambassador's statement reflects a different environment and political settings. "Look how China managed Hong Kong, Macau, and now they are managing Taiwan," he pointed out. Since the middle of 2008, when Ma Ying-jeou took the reigns of Taiwan, the relationship between Taipei and Beijing has changed tremendously making it without a doubt one of the most important developments of recent history. The Unification Flag is a flag designed to represent all of Korea when both North and South Korea participate in sporting events. The flag was first used in 1991 when the two countries competed as a single team in the 41st World Table Tennis Championship in Chiba, Japan and the 6th World Youth Football Championship in Lisbon, Portugal. The two countries' teams marched together under the flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, and the 2006 Asian Games in Doha; however, the two countries competed separately in sporting events. The flag was not used in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, due to the decision made by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), that the two teams would enter separately. The flag represents North and South Korea. The background is white. In the centre there is a blue silhouette of the Korean peninsula, including the island of Jeju-do to the southwest. In 2006 however, the two nations both agreed to use the flag which includes Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo in Korean). The flag has no status as the official flag of either country. One of the first steps to warmer relations between Taiwan and mainland China was opening up direct flights. In the past, a Taiwanese traveler wanting to visit the mainland had to take a connecting flight from either Incheon or Jeju Island just to name a couple. Today there are more than 200 flights per week between the Taiwan Strait. "This means that some kind of economic integration is underway," he said. "Slowly, not formulized in a political way, but something is underway." "So if I look at the trend I would say that in 10 years from now, if the trend continues, the economy of mainland China and Taiwan will be very closely integrated," Seidt said. This means that this economic synergy will also have an impact on the Chinese Diaspora throughout the world. "This is a real development and if this economic integration slowly but steadily continues, one day they will start to cooperate militarily and for me the most interesting day is when the mainland Chinese and the Taiwanese start military operations," he added. Following the course of that logic, then it would be possible to see the navies of both China and Taiwan patrolling the Taiwan Strait and their surrounding waters. "These are developments and possibilities of reunification that are closer to the Korean neighborhood and could be also a kind of model," he said. Still, why not the German model? Many local scholars and politicians keep plugging it as a possible avenue for Korean unification. To put it simply, the German model is not exclusive to Germany. At the same time as the wall came down in Berlin, there was the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia, a liberalization movement in Hungary and in the Baltic republics of the former Soviet Union. "So the developments leading to German reunification were embedded into a European process that started in the late '70s," Seidt said. One example would be the Charter 77 which was an informal civic initiative in Czechoslovakia from 1977 to 1992. The Charter was the most prominent opposition to the process of normalization. Charter 77 criticized the government for failing to implement human rights provisions of a number of documents it had signed and also described the signatories as a "loose, informal, and open association of people united by the will to strive individually and collectively for respect for human and civil rights in our country and throughout the world." There was also Andrei Sakharov, an eminent Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist who advocated civil liberties and reforms in the Soviet Union and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975. One cannot forget the Solidarity Movement in Poland which was the first non-communist-controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country. In the 1980s it constituted a broad anti-bureaucratic social movement. "So there was already, at that time in Eastern Europe, a fermentation process underway that went far beyond the individual trends in East Germany," he said. "East Germany was probably the country least affected and last affected by these dynamics." Seidt added that he does not see this fermentation process in North Korea. "However I have the feeling that there is some fermentation process underway in particular in the economic field, otherwise this monetary reform wouldn't make sense." For the ambassador, the monetary reforms by the North Korean regime is an indication that something is getting out of control and they have to react, probably because there is too much money or free market in the local and regional level in North Korea. Secondly, the population in Eastern Europe already had a democratic tradition. For example, the Czech Republic between the world wars was a very democratic and liberal society. Same is true for other countries. "They had a liberal democratic experience sine the end of the 19th century, a modernization process, all this is lacking in North Korea," he said. What there is in North Korea is something very archaic. "I would say it's not communist, it's something different, it's a monarchy with a one family rule," he said. "So if the legitimacy of the family goes away then the system would collapse." By this regard, even a military collective leadership would not be in a position to replace this kind of family legitimacy set by Kim Il-sung. Seidt said that unification of the two Koreas needs to be done slowly and carefully by strengthening the economic and social segments in the North before political cohesiveness can be attained. "Steps like Kaesong for example, trying to open up economically and make use of the comparative advantage of the lower wages in North Korea, bring them up to South Korea's standards over a longer period of time, try to cooperate on the exploration of the natural resources of North Korea; this would be a longer process, a longer unification process."