TIME Vietnam

Vietnam Cat Owners Must Live With Fear of Pets Getting Stolen and Eaten

VIETNAM-FOODS-ANIMALS
A cook prepares a dish with cat meat at a restaurant in Hanoi on This picture taken on May 13, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

"It’s sweeter and tenderer than dog meat"

In Asia, there’s a growing demand for quirky cat cafés where customers can enjoy tea or coffee in the company of domesticated felines. But in Vietnam, the concept of cat cafés would likely take on a very different meaning — one that any cat lover would find abominable.

Despite an official ban on eating cats, restaurants in the Southeast Asian nation still offer the forbidden meat on their menus, reports Agence France-Presse. In fact, the consumption of felines appears to be rising, prompting cat owners to fear for their pets’ safety.

“Eating cat meat is better than eating dog as the meat is more sweet, more tender than a dog,” said chef Le Ngoc Thien.

According to AFP, at one central Hanoi restaurant the cats are drowned, shaved and burned to remove their fur before being butchered and fried with garlic. A snack of cat meat is colloquially known as little tiger, and typically served with beer and eaten at the beginning of the lunar month.

Thien says the demand for cat meat grows each year. “When I first started working here, I was surprised so many people ate cat,” he said. “But now, fine, they like it.”

It’s this growing demand that has pet owners worried. Cats sell for $50 to $70, depending on the size — a hefty sum for many in the impoverished nation. While cat traders claim to breed the animals legitimately, there are hardly any regulations in place to verify this, opening the proverbial cat-flap for pets to be stolen to keep up with demand.

“My family is sad because we spend a lot of time and energy raising our cats,” cat owner Phuong Thanh Thuy, who keeps the animals to catch rats and regularly loses some to thieves, told AFP. “When we lose a cat, we feel pain.”

[AFP]

TIME Vietnam

China Removes Contentious Oil Rig From Waters Claimed by Vietnam

Chinese Coast Guard vessel passes near the Chinese oil rig Haiyang Shi You 981 in the South China Sea
A Chinese coast-guard vessel passes near the Chinese oil rig Haiyang Shiyou 981 in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam on June 13, 2014. Reuters

But as its deployment led to fierce anti-Chinese rioting across Vietnam, don’t except Hanoi and Beijing to rekindle their once fraternal ties anytime soon

The rig is finally gone, but unlikely to be long forgotten.

On Tuesday, the state-backed China Oilfield Services Limited said the billion-dollar platform, which had been drilling in the heart of highly contested waters claimed by Vietnam, had “precisely extracted the related geological data as planned” and was being redeployed to sea blocks off China’s Hainan Island.

The Vietnamese coast guard confirmed the platform was being towed out of the disputed waters south of the Paracel Islands, claimed by Vietnam but occupied by the Chinese, late Tuesday night.

Since early May, the Haiyang Shiyou 981 rig had been anchored in waters that Vietnam claims fall well within its exclusive economic zone. Hanoi responded to the unannounced arrival by allowing the public to hold the first large-scale demonstrations in recent memory.

However, smoldering nationalist anger exploded into deadly bouts of rioting at industrial parks in the suburbs of Ho Chi Minh City and in central Vietnam’s Ha Tinh province in mid-May.

Factories were razed, several Chinese workers were killed and relations between the neighbors deteriorated to their lowest ebb since diplomatic ties were renewed in the early 1990s.

Beijing remained unmoved by Hanoi’s objections, despite continued protests from the highest levels of government.

“The relations are certainly damaged and the outlook is not encouraging, particularly as China has indicated it has plans to send out more oil rigs to disputed waters and has made provocative statements with respect to its plans in the Spratly chain,” Jonathan D. London, a professor and Vietnamese scholar at Hong Kong’s City University, tells TIME.

Tensions remain high. A study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday reported that 84% of the Vietnamese polled said they were concerned that conflict could erupt with their northern neighbor.

Professor Bruce Jacobs, an Asia expert at Australia’s Monash University, says the deployment of Haiyang Shiyou 981 must be viewed within the context of Beijing’s brazen maneuvers to consolidate its long-held, albeit highly disputed, grandiose maritime claims across the Asia-Pacific. “The oil rig was just part of that,” he says.

With China unrepentant, the U.S. has attempted to use the episode to strengthen relations with its Asian partnerships and position itself as an arbitrator in the Pacific.

Last week Michael Fuchs, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Strategy and Multilateral Affairs, called on all states claiming a stake in the South China Sea “to clarify and agree to voluntarily freeze certain actions and activities that escalate disputes and cause instability.”

In response, Beijing accused the U.S. of unsolicited meddling.

“We hope that countries outside the region can stay neutral, distinguish right from wrong and truly respect the joint efforts made by regional countries for peace and stability of the region,” said Hong Lei, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, on Tuesday.

TIME China

Many Asian Nations Believe That a War With China Is Looming

Abner Afuang, a retired policeman, sets fire to an inverted Chinese national flag in a protest action in Manila,
Abner Afuang, a retired policeman, sets fire to an inverted Chinese national flag during a protest in Manila on June 9, 2014. Romeo Ranoco—Reuters

A majority in the Asian countries polled in a new Pew study say they fear a looming military conflict with China

China’s neighbors fear the worst is yet to come.

Strong-arm tactics and tough talk coming from Beijing in the past year have succeeded in convincing neighboring countries that war may just be around the corner, according to a new poll released by the Pew Research Center.

“In all 11 Asian nations polled, roughly half or more say they are concerned that territorial disputes between China and its neighbors will lead to a military conflict,” read the report published by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank on Monday.

In Vietnam, where relations with Beijing have been exceptionally tense since a state-owned Chinese drilling platform moved into disputed waters near the Paracel Islands in early May, 84% of participants said they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned that territorial disputes could lead to war.

In Japan, which is embroiled with Beijing in disputes over vacant outcroppings in the East China Sea, 85% concurred.

Farther south in the Philippines, 93% of those polled feared the possibility of conflict with China. The archipelago nation has a number of ongoing disputes with China in the South China Sea and, much to Beijing’s chagrin, is pursuing international arbitration in a bid to settle those claims.

While many of the territorial disagreements with China have been ongoing for years, a number of incidents initiated by Beijing in the past nine months have led to increasingly strained ties across the region.

The perennially taut relationship between Tokyo and Beijing reached a flash point late last year when China unilaterally declared the establishment of an air-defense zone that covered the skies over disputed isles in the East China Sea.

Both Manila and Hanoi have meanwhile accused China of maintaining a large presence of paramilitary vessels, coast-guard ships and fishing boats in disputed maritime areas in a bid to edge rival nations out of contested waters. Experts following the region say the tactic must have had clearance from the upper echelons of power in Beijing.

“Xi Jinping and the central military commission as well as key figures in Zhongnanhai — they took a calculated risk,” Alexander Neill, Shangri-La Dialogue Senior Fellow with the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia office, tells TIME. “China is testing the tensile strength of the sort of hub-and-spokes alliance system in the region.”

A majority of the Filipinos, Japanese, Vietnamese and South Koreans surveyed considered China as their nation’s top threat and the U.S. as their nation’s most important ally, according to Pew.

Only Pakistani and Malaysian respondents named the U.S. as their top foe and saw China as their biggest ally. (Indonesia was the lone country where respondents named the U.S. as both their biggest threat and No. 1 partner.)

The publication of the Pew poll comes after Washington has upped both economic and military cooperation with its Asian allies and fostered relations with former foe Vietnam to counter China’s increasingly brazen moves in the Asia-Pacific. Beijing has not responded kindly.

“What we seem to be seeing is increasing polarization in Washington and in Beijing,” says Neill. “The Sino-U.S. relationship is going through a rocky period.”

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution calling on China to avoid engaging in behavior that would “destabilize the Asia-Pacific region” and to refrain from enforcing its air-defense zone.

But Beijing does not appear to be interested in backing down. An editorial published in the state-linked Global Times on Monday fired back at Washington.

“[China] has the right to safeguard its sovereignty and it has no intention to go to war,” read the editorial. “China will not make trouble, but equally is unafraid of any trouble.”

TIME Vietnam

Vietnam Military Helicopter Crash Kills 16

VIETNAM-AVIATION-ACCIDENT
Vietnamese soldiers working at the scene of a helicopter crash walk past backed-up traffic (R) in the Thach That district in the western parts of Hanoi on July 7, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

Reports in the state-controlled media said 16 of those on board were parachute recruits from the air force's helicopter regiment

(HANOI, Vietnam) — A Vietnamese military helicopter on a parachute training mission crashed close to the Vietnamese capital on Monday, killing 16 people on board and wounding five others, officials and state-controlled media said.

The Russian-made MI-171 helicopter came down about 15 minutes after takeoff in a small village about 24 miles (40 kilometers) west of Hanoi.

A doctor at a military hospital said 16 people were killed and five others were being treated for serious burn injuries.

He didn’t give his name because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

Reports in the state-controlled media said 16 of those on board were parachute recruits from the air force’s helicopter regiment. There were also two trainers and three crew members on board.

The MI-171 helicopter is primarily a transport aircraft, but there is also a gunship version.

Vietnam buys most of its military hardware from Russia, the country’s Cold War ally. Much of it dates back more than 20 years.

TIME

Bombs Bursting in Air: A War on Fireworks

4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall
4th of July Fireworks on the National Mall, Washington, D.C. Matt McClain—The Washington Post via Getty Im

Let’s think about banning the “BOOM!”

I grew up in a town so small and so not ready to spring money for fun (yes, Puritans were involved) that we didn’t even have a football team, let alone fireworks. The first time I heard fireworks, I was 9. They were so loud that I cried, but I also wanted to like them, because everyone else did. The colors were admittedly amazing and people were clapping, which I associated with Ice Capades. So I managed to join the party.

A decade or so later, I was watching a movie in a mall in Bogotá, Colombia, and suddenly, from outside, came a nonspecific rat-a-tat-tat. The movie stopped. We clustered in the center of the theater. Most people were ashen and silent. Some people laughed, albeit nervously. I (never missing an opportunity!) cried and asked panicked, unanswerable questions. We all knew it would have been unusual for a battle to just erupt outside a semi-suburban mall, but, considering a general escalation of violence in the city in 1989, it was not impossible. (And today, I dare anyone to giggle at such a noise.) We waited. After it stopped, a brave man went out to investigate. He came back laughing. It was fireworks, he said, set off to celebrate the mall’s anniversary. We exploded with relief.

Fireworks have been used for all kinds of celebrations in all kind of cultures ever since they were invented by the Chinese in the 7th century. But when we use them on the Fourth of July, we are commemorating a war. And that experience of hearing fireworks divorced from the context of potato salad alerted me to how much they truly evoke the sound of munitions.

Of course, our War of Independence ended long before anyone who’s alive today knew anyone who was alive who knew anyone who was alive back then, and if our last war had been say, the War of 1812, it might make sense to have a holiday wherein we indulged in play bombing sounds. But many wars—Vietnam, the wars Iraq and Afghanistan—are not long over (and for those living in those places, not really over at all). American veterans of these wars do not have the same uncomplicated relationship to fireworks that the rest of us seem to. And what about the millions of Americans who fled here because of wars in Southeast Asia, Central America, the Balkan States, The Middle East, Africa…? Do you think any of them put on their weekend to-do list “1. Tolerate, within a state of heightened anxiety, noises that remind me of a terrible situation from which I barely managed to escape”?

You will notice that the above list of embattled countries basically reads like “half the world.” Most Americans are very, very lucky to have escaped any homefront experience with war. So there’s perhaps something arrogant about being like, “Whoo! Let’s make lots of sounds that sound like war!” To say nothing of fireworks’ considerable expense, or the fact that they aren’t great for the air, or that they tax fire departments who need to be at the ready for other more important things, especially since wildfires are increasing and intensifying with climate change.

I’m not against fun, and I’m not always against maybe-not-environmentally-friendly fun. Meaning: I don’t blame people for loving giant trucks and speedboats and ATVs. I own a Toyota Yaris that is so light you could punt it like a football, but if money were no object and cars burned dried albizzia flowers instead of fuel, I would drive a Ford F150. But we don’t live in a world where driving a giant car means nothing, or where loud, scary, artillery-like noises mean nothing. Now I’m not saying “Fireworks are bad, ban them!” or “Let’s make the Fourth a day to weave God’s Eyes together!” (Though if someone brings beer, I’m in.) But it’s worth imagining a world without them. And if you don’t believe me, ask the nearest Irish Setter.

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

TIME Iraq

So How Successful Is the U.S. When It Comes to Ending Wars?

Kosovo Force (KFOR) soldiers from Greece, Germany and the U.S. stand guard at the closed Serbia-Kosovo border crossing of Jarinje
Kosovo Force soldiers from Greece, Germany and the U.S. stand guard at the closed Serbia-Kosovo border crossing of Jarinje on Sept. 29, 2011. Marko Djurica— Reuters

The U.S. has a mixed record when it comes to wrapping up conflicts, but one thing seems clear: pulling out suddenly, and totally, is never really a good idea

Ending a war is often a complicated affair.

In December 2011, President Obama told U.S. troops returning home from their final tours in Iraq that the American mission in the country was effectively accomplished.

“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq with a representative government that was elected by its people,” said Obama during a ceremony at Fort Bragg. He was wrong. Iraq was still fragile and haunted by simmering sectarian tensions.

The blitzkrieg offensive led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and a smattering of Sunni militias last week across the country’s northwest has renewed discussion about the Obama Administration’s failure to negotiate a deal to leave behind a residual force in the country.

Debates over leaving American boots on the ground in foreign nations, after years of war, are often heated, especially when the conflicts were deeply unpopular. But here’s a quick rundown of how major U.S. withdrawals fared when peacekeeping outfits stayed behind in foreign theaters — vs. what happened when the military simply packed up camp and went home.

Japan

After six years of invasions, bombing campaigns, offensives and counteroffensives across Asia, the Second World War in the Pacific was brought to an end with Japan’s formal surrender on Sept. 2, 1945. The country’s military was disbanded by General Douglas MacArthur and a new “pacifist” constitution was drawn up to govern the nation.

Tokyo and Washington later signed a defense treaty that would allow U.S. forces to remain in the country and, in return, the American military would be responsible for the nation’s security. Today, 38,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in Japan at installations across the archipelago nation. How has the agreement fared? Extremely well. Japan has not engaged in any major military conflict since World War II and currently has the third largest economy in the world.

Korea

In the wake of Tokyo’s pullout from the peninsula in 1945 after the end of World War II, the U.S. established a residual presence south of the 38th parallel that was mostly made up of a small advisory force meant to help train the South Korean military.

However, according to Dr. Kalev I. Sepp, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense: “Their presence, unsupported by air power or ground combat units, did not deter the North Korean army from invading the South in 1950, and almost conquering the entire country.”

Following years of bloody civil war in Korea, the 1953 armistice brought fighting between Pyongyang and Seoul to an end. In the war’s wake, the U.S. has maintained a massive military presence in the country, which includes infantry divisions, fighter jets and nearby battle fleets. Approximately 28,500 American troops are currently stationed in South Korea.

“This powerful deterrent force held the North Korean dictatorship in check for over a half-century to today, supporting the U.S. policy of defense of democratic South Korea,” says Sepp.

Although the Korean Peninsula is still technically at war, South Korea has enjoyed decades of peaceful development that have transformed the country from a flattened war zone to a humming international hub of commerce.

Vietnam

The precipitous collapse of the Southern Vietnamese government in the face of a massive Hanoi-led offensive marked one of the most embarrassing moments in the history of U.S. foreign policy, after tens of thousands of American lives were lost and billions of dollars poured into the floundering Republic of Vietnam.

In January 1973, Hanoi and Washington inked the Paris Peace Accords and the U.S. pulled out its troops just two months later.

Although President Richard Nixon claimed the deal would “end the war and bring peace with honor,” by April 1975, the North Vietnamese overran the south, and on April 30 tanks slammed through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon. The Republic of Vietnam vanished and the country was reunited under communist rule after decades of conflict and more than a century of colonial occupation.

The country was almost immediately pinned down in large-scale wars with Cambodia and China following the American pullout. Another 20 years would pass before the U.S. and Vietnam would normalize relations.

The Balkans

U.S.-led NATO offensives in Bosnia and Kosovo, in the wake of years of gruesome sectarian war in the former Yugoslavian territories, ended with negotiated deals ironed out in Dayton, Ohio, and in a U.N. Security Council Resolution. Following the agreements, massive peacekeeping forces were left behind in both countries and then gradually withdrawn as tensions cooled between the various ethnic groups and stakeholders in the region.

In Bosnia, approximately 54,000 peacekeepers had boots on the ground in 1995, but by 2011 only a few thousand remained. Similarly, 50,000 peacekeepers were deployed to Kosovo in 1999. As of last year, about 5,000 remained.

“I think the key lesson to learn from the Balkans is when you’ve got a highly mobilized ethno-sectarian identity war, like we had in the Balkans and like we had in Iraq by 2006, people don’t just get over these kinds of fears and hatreds that sort of warfare produces overnight,” Stephen Biddle, adjunct senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, tells TIME.

According to Biddle, residual forces in the Balkans provided a textbook example of how peacekeepers can be utilized to create breathing space for states recovering from bloody bouts of sectarian fighting and provide a way for grievances to be mediated instead of allowing them to relapse into tit-for-tat violence.

“[It] in turn tends to keep the temperature down and the violence level under wraps as the various internal parties gradually relearn to cooperate with each other,” says Biddle.

TIME Aviation

This Is the Country That’s Spent the Most Searching for MH370

Which countries are footing the bill?

Though Malaysian officials said on Monday that the country has spent $8.6 million to locate MH370, and will split costs with Australia in the next phase of the search, estimates of expenditures by other countries indicate that Malaysia has thus far spent relatively little.

MH370 Flight Search Expenditure By Country

Local media sources estimated that Vietnam had spent $8 million in the initial search phases, according to Reuters, though Vietnamese officials have not confirmed this statistic. If true, then Malaysia has spent only about 7% more than Vietnam, which scaled back its search efforts four days after the plane disappeared.

Australia is estimated to have spent the most in the MH370 search: over $43 million, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday. The U.S has spent $11.4 million, officials at the Pentagon told NBC in April. Chinese officials have not disclosed the amount the country has spent, though Chinese warships are estimated to cost at least $100,000 per day to operate. Another 22 countries have contributed to the search efforts.

According to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, a country is required to assist distressed aircrafts in its territory, and the country where the aircraft is registered is granted the opportunity to help, too.

TIME Economy

Sub-Saharan Africa Is the New Investment Frontier

The Victoria Island waterfront is seen from the Ikoyi neighbourhood in Lagos
Nigeria has attracted much attention from American and European multinationals, according to a new survey. Here is the Victoria Island waterfront in Lagos from June 3, 2014 Joe Penney—Reuters

Nigeria leads frontier markets in attracting attention from American and European companies, according to the latest Frontier Markets Sentiment Index

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is the frontier market that attracts the most attention from American and European multinationals, according to an index commissioned by the Wall Street Journal.

Argentina, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia followed respectively.

But it was the sub-Saharan Africa countries that dominated the table, making up nine of the top 20 economies. Asia had three countries in the top tier.

The data found that one country in particular has seen multinationals’ interest wane dramatically. From 2013 to June 2014, corporate sentiment toward Ukraine dropped 12.5 points following a long period of violent protests and political instability.

The Frontier Markets Sentiment Index, developed by Frontier Strategy Group, based in Washington, D.C., provides insight into 200 multinationals’ sentiments toward markets regarded as the riskiest to invest in.

Matt Lasov, global head of advisory and analytics at Frontier Strategy Group, told the Wall Street Journal: “We collect data about which countries the companies are watching for potential future investment. Over time, that gives us a clear picture of their market priorities — which countries are they including in their future plans and which they are dropping.”

[WSJ]

TIME China

China Says Vietnamese Vessels Rammed Its Boats ‘1,416 Times’

Tension Rises In Disputed Area of South China Sea
A Chinese coast guard ship navigates around Chinese drilling equipment located in waters off the disputed Paracel Islands on May 28, 2014. The Asahi Shimbun

It's the latest in the war of words between the two countries

China’s Foreign Ministry has accused Vietnam of ramming into its ships more than 1,400 times near a highly controversial Chinese oil rig, according to a statement issued on Sunday night.

Vietnam, as well as other Southeast Asian nations, has been involved in a tense dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“As of 5 p.m. on 7 June, there were as many as 63 Vietnamese vessels in the area at the peak, attempting to break through China’s cordon and ramming the Chinese government ships for a total of 1,416 times,” said Chinese officials.

Beijing’s claim comes two days after Vietnam’s state television aired a video that appeared to show a Chinese ship chasing a small Vietnamese boat — later sinking it.

Tension over China’s drilling operations near the disputed Paracel Islands escalated into anti-China riots in Vietnam in May. Up to four Chinese citizens were killed.

[BBC]

TIME China

China Fires Back at U.S. Criticism Over Asia-Pacific Instability

From left: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel listens to Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, China's deputy chief of General Staff during the start of their meeting on May 31, 2014 in Singapore.
From left: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel listens to Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, China's deputy chief of General Staff during the start of their meeting on May 31, 2014 in Singapore. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—Getty Images

The gloves came off between the U.S. and China during a defense conference in Asia over the weekend, following Beijing’s forays into disputed areas of the South China Sea early last month

Diplomatic platitudes took a backseat to tough talk in Singapore over the weekend, as Beijing slammed Washington for investing in a “containment fantasy” after the U.S. accused China of overseeing “destabilizing” maneuvers in the South China Sea.

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel laid into China for allowing a state-owned drilling rig to drop anchor in the heart of heavily contested waters off the Vietnamese coast. He was speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“We firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims,” Hagel told the conference. “We also oppose any effort — by any nation — to restrict overflight or freedom of navigation, whether from military or civilian vessels [or] from countries big or small.”

Beijing did not take kindly to the forceful criticism.

“Hagel’s speech was full of hegemony, full of words of threat and intimidation,” said Lieut. General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, on Sunday.

“It was a speech to abet destabilizing factors to create trouble and make provocations. It was not a constructive speech.”

China’s stated-backed Global Times on Sunday railed against the Obama Administration’s renewed diplomatic thrust into Asia, which Beijing derides as a thinly veiled effort to contain China’s rise.

“Strengthened military alliance against China does not contribute to regional stability that the United States has touted for, but rather constitutes a provocative and hostile move that stirs up regional tension,” read an editorial.

This year’s Shangri-La Dialogue came at an increasingly hostile time in the region. Just four days before the meeting commenced, Hanoi accused Chinese vessels of sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat near the controversial oil rig in the South China Sea.

The incident was the latest flash point between the countries since the drilling platform entered waters claimed by Vietnam last month.

During a keynote address on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered to supply both the Philippines and Vietnam with patrol boats. Japan has its own bitter territorial disputes with Beijing.

“Japan will offer its utmost support for the efforts of the countries of ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] as they work to ensure the security of the seas and the skies,” said Abe, according to the BBC.

Wang later dismissed the Japanese Prime Minister’s comments as “provocative.”

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