Colum Lynch at the Washington Post reports that the UN Security Council yesterday froze assets and banned the travel of 10 North Korean individuals and corporations involved in the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Meanwhile, the Fabius Maximus blog notes two recent articles which reporting on a piece by Zhang Liangui, an expert on North Korea at the Central Party School in Beijing, this month in World Affairs magazine, which is sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which seem to indicate rising concern in Beijing about the possibility of armed conflict with Pyongyang.
2. MARATHON TO SELL 20% OF ANGOLAN CONCESSION TO CNOOC AND SINOPEC, US COMMERCE SECY SAYS AMERICANS NEED TO REALIZE THAT THEIR CONSUMPTION IS DRIVING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS OVERSEAS
Platts reports that Marathon has signed an agreement to sell a 20% stake in Angola's block 32 concession to CNOOC and Sinopec for $1.3 billion, maintaining a 10% stake in the project.
"There is no doubting the prolific nature of the deepwater block they are buying into. Block 32 has already seen a mouth-watering 12 oil discoveries: Gindungo, Canela, Cola, Gengibre, Mostarda, Salsa, Caril, Manjericao, Louro, Cominhos, Colorau and Alho."
"Block 32 is operated by France's Total, which has a 30% stake. The remaining equity is owned by Sonangol (20%), ExxonMobil (15%) and Portugal's Petrogal (5%).Marathon has stated it hopes to conclude the deal by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Keith Johnson at Environmental Capital reports that the US Commerce Secretary, Gary Locke, told the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai yesterday:
The existing partners in the block have the right of first refusal over the interest Marathon is selling."
"It’s important that those who consume the products being made all around the world to the benefit of America--and it’s our own consumption activity that’s causing the emission of greenhouse gases, then quite frankly Americans need to pay for that."3. CHINA SHUTS DOWN HUMAN RIGHTS LEGAL CENTER IN BEIJING
Audra Ang at the Associated Press reports that Chinese officials shut down a legal research center led by human rights activist lawyers in Beijing today. In late May it was reported that Beijing had begun denying licenses to practice to law firms which take human rights cases--see Daily Sources 5/28 #1.
4. SOUTH KOREA TO SPEND $100 MILLION IN AID TO ASIAN NATIONS COPING WITH WATER SHORTAGES AND FLOODS
Shinhye Kang and Heejin Koo at Bloomberg report that South Korea plans to spend $100 million by 2012 to help Asian nations deal with water shortages and floods.
"Asia, with half the world’s population, has less available fresh water than any continent except Antarctica, Suzanne DiMaggio, director at the Asia Society, said in April. Glacier runoff is the primary water source for many nations in the region, and they are shrinking with climate change.5. BP DROPS JATROPHA
'Asian countries have depended on Himalayan glaciers as their main water sources may face water shortage as the glaciers are melting rapidly,' said Park, who also directs the nation’s task force on international cooperation at the Presidential Committee on Green Growth.
South Korea’s government announced a plan last month to spend 22.2 trillion won (~$17.7 billion) over four years to upgrade the water quality and supply systems of the nation’s four major rivers."
Keith Johnson at Environmental Capital reports that BP has abandoned its jatropha venture, from which it had hoped to harvest biodiesel, selling its half of the project to its partner, D1 Oils.
"[T]he inedible but hardy plant that just a few years ago seemed like it could revolutionize biofuels has turned into a bust. The initial attraction was that it grows on marginal land, so it wouldn’t compete with food crops. But marginal land means marginal yields. And jatropha turned out to be a water hog as well, further darkening its environmental credentials."The joint venture had planted more than 200,000 hectares of jatropha, about a quarter of worldwide jatropha planting. New Delhi has also bet on the plant's potential only to see protests break out over plans to reclassify land for seeding it--see Daily Sources 6/9 #6.
6. EASTERN EUROPEAN DIGNITARIES PUBLISH OPEN LETTER EXPRESSING SOME WORRY ABOUT OBAMA'S "RESET" WITH MOSCOW
Yesterday the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza published an open letter from 22 major political figures from Eastern Europe, including Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel indicating worry about the Obama administration's "reset" policy with Russia. Key excerpts:
"Our hopes that relations with Russia would improve and that Moscow would finally fully accept our complete sovereignty and independence after joining NATO and the EU have not been fulfilled. Instead, Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods. At a global level, Russia has become, on most issues, a status-quo power. But at a regional level and vis-a-vis our nations, it increasingly acts as a revisionist one. It challenges our claims to our own historical experiences. It asserts a privileged position in determining our security choices. It uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of Central and Eastern Europe.
We welcome the 'reset' of the American-Russian relations. As the countries living closest to Russia, obviously nobody has a greater interest in the development of the democracy in Russia and better relations between Moscow and the West than we do. But there is also nervousness in our capitals. We want to ensure that too narrow an understanding of Western interests does not lead to the wrong concessions to Russia. Today the concern is, for example, that the United States and the major European powers might embrace the Medvedev plan for a 'Concert of Powers' to replace the continent's existing, value-based security structure. The danger is that Russia's creeping intimidation and influence-peddling in the region could over time lead to a de facto neutralization of the region. There are differing views within the region when it comes to Moscow's new policies. But there is a shared view that the full engagement of the United States is needed."
"When it comes to Russia, our experience has been that a more determined and principled policy toward Moscow will not only strengthen the West's security but will ultimately lead Moscow to follow a more cooperative policy as well. Furthermore, the more secure we feel inside NATO, the easier it will also be for our countries to reach out to engage Moscow on issues of common interest. That is the dual track approach we need and which should be reflected in the new NATO strategic concept."
"[T]he thorniest issue may well be America's planned missile-defense installations. Here too, there are different views in the region, including among our publics which are divided. Regardless of the military merits of this scheme and what Washington eventually decides to do, the issue has nevertheless also become--at least in some countries--a symbol of America's credibility and commitment to the region. How it is handled could have a significant impact on their future transatlantic orientation. The small number of missiles involved cannot be a threat to Russia's strategic capabilities, and the Kremlin knows this. We should decide the future of the program as allies and based on the strategic pluses and minuses of the different technical and political configurations. The Alliance should not allow the issue to be determined by unfounded Russian opposition. Abandoning the program entirely or involving Russia too deeply in it without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can undermine the credibility of the United States across the whole region."A must read.
7. TURMENISTAN SIGNS DEAL WITH GERMAN NABUCCO PARTNER FOR GAS EXPLORATION, EC PROPOSES NEW RULES FOR EU FOR HANDLING NAT GAS DISRUPTIONS
AFP reports that Turkmenistan signed a deal with RWE--a German firm involved in the Nabucco pipeline project--giving it a license to explore a block for six years and after finding gas the right to extract it for a period of 25 years.
"Moscow has a virtual monopoly on the export of Turkmen gas through its state-run energy giant Gazprom, but there have been signs of strain recently between the two countries ... .'"Ashgabat publicly accused Gazprom of blowing up a pipeline sending its gas through Russia in order to put an end to payments it had contracted for at exorbitant prices late last year. In late June, Turkmenistan also inked a deal to increase its natural gas exports to China by 30%. On the first of July, Turmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov invited Russian President Medvedev to Ashgabat to discuss the resumption of exports--see Daily Sources 7/1 #3. Meanwhile, Alessandro Torello at the Wall Street Journal reports that the European Commission has proposed new rules to ensure that the European Union is prepared to weather a disruption in gas supplies such as the one caused by the cut off of supplies through Ukraine by Russia at the start of the year. The rules are designed, in part, to allow the EU to respond as a single entity to future disruptions.
"Under the proposals, each of the EU's 27 countries would have to designate an authority to look after security of their gas supplies, preparing plans aimed at preventing disruptions and dealing with any shortages that arise. The new rules would give the commission--the EU's executive arm--authority to ask for changes to these national plans if it considered them 'not effective' or incompatible with those of other EU countries.8. OIL STOCKPILES IN ASIA BEING DRAWN DOWN ON LOW REFINERY UTILIZATION
The European Parliament and the 27 EU governments must back the proposal before it becomes law. Talks are expected to take months and might lead to a watered-down version of the rules."
Yuji Okada at Bloomberg reports that oil stockpiles in Asia are being drawn down on low refinery utilization rates.
"The fuel oil inventory in Singapore, Asia’s biggest oil-trading center, was 14.1 million barrels in the week ended July 15, 38% lower than a year earlier, said International Enterprise Singapore, a unit of the trade ministry. Refiners in South Korea and Japan are cutting crude throughput after the recession reduced demand, leading to high product stockpiles and reduced margins.10. EIGHT KILLED IN BOMB BLASTS IN TWO JAKARTAN HOTELS
'The narrowing fuel oil crack in Singapore was mainly caused by the refinery run cut among Asian refiners, particularly ones in Japan and South Korea,' said Akira Kamiyama, a Tokyo-based trader at Mitsui & Co. 'Refinery utilization rates in these countries have been around 70%, while rates in the U.S. have been close to 90%.'
The refinery operating rate in Japan was 64.1% for the week ended June 20 and rose to 70% for the week ended July 11., according to the Petroleum Association of Japan."
John Aglionby at the Washington Post reports that eight people were killed in bomb blasts in two hotels in Jakarta.
"Speaking from the presidential palace in a live television address, the angry and visibly shaken president said the attackers were irresponsible and inhumane. While their identities remained unknown, the president said, the government will 'use the full extent of the law' to bring to justice 'those who did it, those who helped them, and the masterminds.'11. KURDISH LEADERS WARN OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH BAGHDAD, IRAQI CLERICAL ESTABLISHMENT BELIEVES IRANIAN CLERICAL ESTABLISHMENT UNDERMINED BY ELECTIONS, RAFSANJANI USES FRIDAY SERMON TO CRITICIZE ELECTION RESULTS
Yudhoyono--who was reelected July 8 by a wide margin and is set to begin a second five-year term--said it was too early to say whether the bombing was linked to Jemaah Islamiah. But other officials and independent analysts said the radical Islamist group or an offshoot is the likeliest suspect."
Anthony Shadid at the Washington Post reports that the Kurdish Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, said in an interview that
"If the problems are not solved [with the Maliki administration] and we're not sitting down together, then the risk of military confrontation will emerge."Interviews with the Prime Minister and President Massoud Barzani
"described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions."Well worth reading in full. Meanwhile, Anthony Shadid at the Washington Post reports that the clerical elite in Iraq believes that the election crisis in Iran has strengthened the religious credibility of their own at the expense of the Shi'a leadership in Iran.
"'It's true,' said Ghaith Shubar, a cleric who runs a foundation in Najaf aligned with Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most powerful cleric. 'The spiritual guidance of the people in Iraq has become stronger than the guidance offered under the system in Iran. The marjaiya'--the term used to describe the authority of the most senior ayatollahs--'has more influence in Iraq, spiritual and otherwise, than it does in Iran.'"The article--well worth reading--concludes with the following statement by Ali al-Waadh, a cleric and representative of Sistani's near the Kadhimiyah shrine in Baghdad, "We're not following Iran; Iran should follow Najaf." (Najaf is where Khomeini himself penned much of his criticisms of the Shah.) I alluded to some of the consequences of the supremacy of the Koran in Iran's legal and political system, given the relative lack of religious credentials of the Leader of the Revolution in a post early last year Law and Revolution in Iran. Meanwhile, in today's Friday prayer sermon, Rafsanjani said the following per a post at the Revolutionary Road blog:
"I have some suggestions. I have spoken to some members of the the expediency council and the assembly of experts about them too.On Wednesday, Borzou Daragahi at the Los Angeles Times reported that respect for the Leader of the Revolution has been diminished in Iran itself after taking sides in the election:
We must bring back the trust of the people. First of all, everyone must accept the law. The people, the parliament, everyone.
We must create a condition so that everyone can speak. We must speak logically. And a part of this is on the shoulders of the broadcasting corporation.
The Guardian Council did not make good use of the extra fives days given to them by the leader.
We do not need people in prison for this. Let’s allow them to return to their families."
"'Public respect for him has been significantly damaged,' said one analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'Opposing him is no longer the same as opposing God.'"Protests followed Rafsanjani's sermon which were reportedly put down by security troops.
12. OLMERT SAYS SETTLEMENTS A SIDE ISSUE
Former Prime Minister of Isreal, Ehud Olmert, has an opinion piece in the Washington Post which argues that the current focus on Isreali settlements misplaces the focus of the peace talks. Key excerpt:
"Yet today, instead of a political process, the issue of settlement construction commands the agenda between the United States and Israel. This is a mistake that serves neither the process with the Palestinians nor relations between Israel and the Arab world. Moreover, it has the potential to greatly shake US-Israeli relations."Worth reading.
13. SUDAN ACCUSES CHAD OF LAUNCHING AIR RAIDS INTO WESTERN SUDAN, ADDITIONAL MEASURES AGREED TO BY NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN SUDANESE OFFICIALS IN ANTICIPATION OF HAGUE RULING
AFP reports that the cross border conflict between Chad and Sudan is heating up again. Yesterday, state-Sudanese media reported that Chad had launched air raids in western Darfur.
"The website, quoting senior military officials, said there were no causalities but that the Sudanese army was on 'standby' and waiting for 'the green light for retaliation'."Meanwhile, BBC News reports that southern and northern interlocutors in Sudan have agreed to new measures to quell any violence that could erupt in response to the Hague ruling on the border between the two regions expected next Thursday. The UN peacekeeping presence will be increased in the south, and both sides will send officials to explain the ruling once it is handed down.
"Tensions are rising ahead of national elections put back until April 2010 and a referendum on whether the south should secede, due in 2011."In early June both sides began demobilizing their troops and on June 24th the two sides agreed to abide by the Hague's ruling--see Daily Sources 6/24 #10.
14. PETROECUADOR SEIZES PERENCO OILFIELDS, CHILE SIGNS CONTRACT FOR ECUADORIAN SUPPLY
Stephan Kueffner and Matthew Campbell at Bloomberg reports that PetroEcuador has seized the oilfields of Perenco SA, which operated the block 7 and 21 concessions producing about 21 kb/d.
"Perenco said yesterday it would suspend production after Ecuador started expropriating its crude oil in March because of a dispute over $327 million in back taxes. Ecuador, which increased a windfall tax on oil to 99% in October 2007, has said that Perenco and other companies haven’t paid the full levy, which has since been cut to 70%."Perenco SA is an independent international oil firm whose main offices are in London and Paris with annual revenues of about $3 billion. Meanwhile, Tom Azzopardi at Platts reports that ENAP, Chile's national oil company, has signed a deal with PetroEcuador to import 800,000 barrels a month (~ 26.7 kb/d) to up to 10 million barrels a year (27.4 kb/d) of crude.
"Shipments are due to begin next month with two shiploads of 400,000ENAP is the only refiner in Chile with a capacity of about 230 kb/d. Chile produces about 11 kb/d of its own crude needs. Ecuador stopped making payments on its sovereign debt on December 12 and later in that month pressured its social security system to purchase $1.2 billion in new bonds--see Daily Sources 12/29 #14. Ecuador currently uses the US dollar as its currency.
barrels each to Chilean ports ... ."
15. MEXICAN CENTRAL BANK CUTS BENCHMARK RATE TO 4.5%
Jens Erik Gould and Hugh Collins at Bloomberg reports that Mexico's central bank cut its benchmark rate by 0.25% to 4.5% in the seventh consecutive month of cuts. The bank's statement from the board indicated it will henceforth "pause its current monetary easing cycle" and that "[a]n improved performance in the general economic activity is expected in the second half of the year."
"Mexico’s annual inflation rate slowed to 5.74% in June, the lowest in nine months. While the rate was within the central bank’s forecast of 5.5% to 6% in the second quarter, it was above policy makers’ forecast of no more than 5.25% for the third quarter.Remittances from abroad contracted by 20% in May, the sharpest drop on record.
The bank aims to meet its inflation target of 3% by the end of 2010."
16. NEW BUILDING PERMITS & HOUSING STARTS UP STATISTICALLY INSIGNIFICANT AMOUNT
Barry Ritholtz at the Big Picture notes that new building permits in June were 8.7% (±3.0%) above May and that housing starts were up 3.6% (±11.3%). He comments:
"The year-over-year data is much clearer: New Starts down 46% [±4.3%], Permits down 52% [±3.6%]."He links to a Barron's Econoday graph: