Lavrov Spells Out Russia’s Position on China, Korea, the US and Japan.

On January 18, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov gave his annual news conference. The online event lasted just short of 3 hours. After an initial statement spelling out Russia’s position on a number of different issues, Lavrov took questions from journalists around the world. Minister Lavrov was never short of an answer and provided a clear explanation of the Russian view of things.

Mr. Lavrov began by talking about Russia’s homegrown Sputnik V vaccine for the Corona virus. He expressed Russia’s desire to cooperate with other countries in dealing with the pandemic. Germany is now testing Sputnik V, while countries like Belarus, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Algeria have already approved the vaccine which is said to be 91+% effective.

When questioned about the relations between Russia and China, Lavrov said that there is good cooperation between Russia and China, and that in 2021 there will be special emphasis on scientific research between them. He noted that not only have China and Russia stood together on many issues in the United Nations, but also that this is the 20th anniversary of their treaty of friendship. He went on to say that China and Russia have conducted military exercises and continue to do so, not only on land but also in the air.

Good and kind relations with Japan are at the forefront of Russian thinking he said, and that the joint military exercises with China are not targeting any specific country, but are rather designed to protect domestic borders. Mr. Lavrov expressed concern with Japan’s willingness to accept ABM missile systems from the United States. He also noted the US intention to place short and medium range missile systems in the area in addition to the ABM systems.

As for the Korean peninsula, Mr. Lavrov said that while there had been problems between the DPRK and the ROK, and between the DPRK and the US, there had been no actions that lead to military response. He added that Russia is interested for robust peace on the Korean peninsula and that Russia has a plan to offer to deal with the situation when the time is right.

Asked about the case of Russian politician Alexi Navalny, Lavrov said that it was a justice question and not a foreign ministry matter. When pressed further he said that there was not evidence of Mr. Navalny being poisoned with Novichok. He said Russia had not received any tissue samples or clothing samples containing the substance, and that Germany said that its armed forces had made the necessary tests but could not release the results for security reasons.

As for relations with the United States he said that Russia is not expecting any radical changes from the new administration and he wondered if a new START treat would be negotiated before it expires in February. He also said Russia is ready to discuss issues with the US such as:

  • Information security
  • Cyber crime
  • United Nations matters

In closing Mr. Lavrov thanked those organizations connected with helping the Russian diaspora or overseas Russians during the Corona virus pandemic and noted some members had received recognition from the Russian government for their contributions.


For China, Tokyo 2020 is Just The Start of A Very Busy Two Years.

                              by David Parmer / Tokyo

There are a lot of expressions to explain the situation surrounding the Tokyo Olympics (Rescheduled) 2020. For example “up in the air”  “undecided”  “unclear” “murky” “fuzzy” “hazy” etc.

From all the news that is available from Japan and the IOC it seems that the rescheduling of the 2020 Olympics will be decided in the spring of 2021. And it seems clear that summer 2021 is “it” i.e. it is either next summer or not at all.

The other news for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (Rescheduled) is that even if it is held, it will be scaled down in terms of fewer spectators at events and scaled-down opening and closing ceremonies. All well and good, we will just have to wait and see. But for China, there is a problem caused by this rescheduling, and it has to do with events that China will host post-Tokyo 20230.

China has a “full plate” of hosting major international sporting events in the 2021-2022 timeframe. All of these events, to one extent or another, will be affected by the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Summer games, and the threat of COVID-19 contamination.

The events in question are:

China 14th National Games, (Xian Xiaanxi). China’s internal Olympics are directly affected by the dates of the Tokyo games. While the schedule cannot be confirmed, the dates of August 28-September 9, 2021 have been mentioned. This timeframe would put a strain on China’s athletes who would have to compete in two major international sporting events only 10 days apart.

World Summer University Games in (Chendu, Sichuan). As many as 10,000 student athletes would compete in the games which will be held August 18-29 2021. Again, this event like the China National Games is, just 10 days after the closing of the Tokyo Olympics. Organizers are moving forward with preparations despite the uncertainty surrounding both Tokyo and the threat of continued COVID-19.

Beijing winter Olympics (Beijing and Vicinity). The winter games are a bit farther down the timeline, scheduled to be held from February 4-20, 2022. China has a lot to do to get ready to host the winter games. Also, by this time, a model for the Olympics in the time of COVID-19 should have been established at the Tokyo games. So China and the International Olympic Committee will have a “template” to work from for the winter games.

19th Asian Games 2022 (Hangzhou, Zhejiang). To be held from September 10-25, 2022. Athletes from around Asia will be competing in 37 sports in venues in one of China’s most beautiful cities. The slogan for the 19th Asian Games is “Heart to Heart,@Future” which is a tip of a hat to the digital age being able to connect people.

For the next two years China will be planning and coordinating four major sporting events with thousands of athletes and their teams and many tens of thousands of visitors from around the world. What China learns not only from managing such events, but also in holding mega-events in the post-pandemic world will be lessons well worth learning and well worth sharing.






Photo: Du Kong, via flickr

Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways Set To Make A Name For Itself–But not just yet.

It is very interesting to see the ongoing evolution of air travel from the days of the grand and luxurious Pan American Airways to the Low Cost Carriers (LCC) of today. And while it might seem that there is not much room to carve out a niche in the airline industry, there is evidence to the contrary. Recently RG21 took a look at Air Astana, the national airline of Kazakhstan, a newcomer that has gotten generally positive reviews all around. Another new player with its cheerful green, white, and blue livery worth keeping an eye on is Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways. Their corporate motto is “More than just a flight.” With their user-friendly online presence and new equipment, they just might make the user’s travel experience live up to this ideal.

Bamboo Airways, which is headquartered in Hanoi, started operations January 2019 with an Airbus A320 as its first equipment. They have 15 domestic destinations including their hubs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Mihn City. Bamboo Airways flies Airbus and Boeing equipment. Airbus models include A319-100, A 320-200, A320neo and A321-200 and A321neo. They also fly the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Besides its domestic routes, Bamboo Airways has an ambitious menu of international destinations including:

  • Czech Republic
  • Macau
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment was specifically acquired for long-haul routes like Hanoi-Prague. Flights were scheduled to start in March 2020, but with the coming of the Corona epidemic. European and other international destination schedules have been modified or cut back. The Hanoi-Prague flight has been pushed back to late spring and there has been no announcement of international flights scheduled to begin in June 2020.

It is truly unfortunate that the timing for this new member of the airlines community has come at the peak of the Corona epidemic. When the “all clear” has been sounded, Bamboo Airways will be in an excellent position to take advantage of the pent-up demand  for domestic and international flights and the travel boom that will surely follow. Let us hope that this is much sooner than later. (When do you think travel will “normalize” again? Please let us know your thoughts on this.)

Photo: Courtesy Bamboo Airways


Abe to Lead G20 Summit in Osaka.

                      by David Parmer / Tokyo

On June 28 the leaders of 19 countries and the EU plus assorted invited organizations will converge on Osaka Japan for the 2019 Summit of Financial Markets and the World Economy, more commonly know as “The G20.”

Preceded and followed by a number of “satellite” ministerial meetings around the country, these leaders and guests at the Osaka venue will discuss global issues and issues related to the world economy. Topics will include:

  • Global economy
  • Trade
  • Innovation
  • Environment and Energy
  • Employment
  • Women’s empowerment
  • Development
  • Health

Host for this 14th meeting will be Japan, and point man will be her prime minister, Shinzo Abe. In his January 2019 speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland Abe laid out his hopes for the June 2019 Osaka summit.

His biggest priority was data governance:

“I would like Osaka G20 to be long remembered as he summit that started world-wide data governance.”

Mr. Abe’s second point was his desire for disruptive technology to address climate change:

“In Osaka, here comes my second point, ladies and gentlemen, I would very much like to highlight what innovation does and how much innovation counts in tackling climate change, because, and this is an important “because,” we NEED disruptions.”

And finally, in the Davos speech Mr. Abe said:

“My third and last point is about Japan’s commitment. Japan is determined to preserve and committed to enhancing the free, open, and rules-based international order.”

On the official Japanese G20 website, Mr. Abe defined Japan’s further aims at the G20:

“At the Osaka Summit, Japan is determined to lead global economic growth by promoting free trade and innovation, achieving both economic growth and reduction of disparities, and contributing to the development agenda and other global issues with the SDGs at its core. Through these efforts, Japan seeks to realize and promote a free and open, inclusive and sustainable, “human-centered future society.”

In addition, we will lead discussions on the supply of global commons for realizing global growth such as quality infrastructure and global health. As the presidency, we will exert strong leadership in discussions aimed towards resolving global issues such as climate change and ocean plastic waste.

Furthermore, we will discuss how to address the digital economy from an institutional perspective and issues that arise from an aging society. We will introduce Japan’s efforts, including the productivity revolution amid a “Society 5.0” era, towards achieving a society where all individuals are actively engaged.”

Mr. Abe ended his welcome with pledge:

“With great support from you all, I am determined to lead the Osaka Summit towards great success.”

 News reports leading up to the G20 summit have been focusing on a possible Trump-Xi meeting on the sidelines to discuss the US-China trade war. This is indeed of great importance to all concerned; to the parties involved, to the region and to the world.

Having said that, Mr. Abe’s strong commitment to get things done, and important things at that, would deserve a bit more coverage and focus than say Japan’s world-renowned ometenashi hospitality and the Trump-Xi meeting.

Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Davos 2019

Message by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe G20 Website

Photo: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe official photo via wikipedia