It’s our first edition of News in Asia. Read on to discover what’s up.
PAKISTAN (BBC) Two deaths have been reported from a blast near the US Consulate in Peshawar. According to Pakistani police, a car driven by a suicide bomber and filled with explosives rammed into a government vehicle after it left the consulate. Reports say 19 others were injured. US officials say no consulate employees were killed, but two US and two Pakistani staff members were injured. Reports say the suicide bomber drove a car containing 110k of explosives into the US vehicle on Abdara Road, leaving a large crater on the busy road. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Peshawar is a key city linking the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan with the rest of Pakistan and the area is highly volatile. The city has been targeted for bombings in recent years from Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. US officials are said to always be under heavy guard. The city is one of the most dangerous in Pakistan, particularly for foreigners, though the number of attacks have dropped in recent years. It is an ideal target for militants given that it’s the closest urban area in the tribal region and many aid agencies are based in Peshawar. The source of the attacks in recent years can be placed on militants in the area angry over US involvement in Afghanistan and US drone attacks that have killed hundreds in the tribal regions on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
SOUTH KOREA (BBC) Sun Myeong Moon, whose Unification Church claimed to have millions of members worldwide, died at the age of 92. His followers, nicknamed “Moonies,” will hold a 15 day mourning period before his funeral on September 15th. Moon’s church may be best known for mass weddings involving thousands of couples, many who did not know each other, but had been paired by the church. Throughout the years, the church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, has been accused of brainwashing members and Moon himself has been the target of allegations he used church funds to line his pockets. Moon was born in 1920 in Pyongan province, in what is now North Korea. He claimed that Jesus visited him and asked him to set up God’s kingdom on Earth. He refused twice before accepting the third time. He was thrown out of the Presbyterian Church and jailed by Communists before fleeing to the south. He moved to the US in the 1970s and set up various businesses, including the Washington Times newspaper. He owned several lavish properties and in 1982, was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 11 months in jail. Moon was active until as recently as March 2012, performing a marriage ceremony for 2,500 followers. His empire was left in the hands of some of his 14 children when he retired to South Korea in 2006.
INDONESIA (BBC) Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is due in Indonesia as part of an 11 day tour of the Asia-Pacific region. Mrs. Clinton will be in talks that focus on unifying Southeast Asian countries over territorial disputes with China. The tour is seen by many to be part of the Obama administration’s push to gain stronger ties in Asia in the face of an increasingly aggressive China. An official for Clinton’s office said the US wanted to strengthen “Asian unity going forward.” The talks will focus on disputes in regards to the South China Sea. China has overlapping claims with several nations regarding territorial rights. Earlier this year, Chinese vessels faced off with Filipino vessels for several weeks over the Scarborough Shoal. The dispute has raised tensions so high that at a regularly held meeting in Cambodia in July, delegates from Asean countries declined to issue a joint statement. The Philippines and Vietnam have accused Cambodia of caving to Chinese pressure. An official, speaking anonymously, said Mrs. Clinton is hoping to “wind into the sails of a diplomatic effort.” Mrs. Clinton is also planning to raise the issue of human rights for religious minority groups.
JAPAN (BBC) Japanese officials have sent a group to survey a group of islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by both Japan and China. The team was sent by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who plans to buy the islands from the private owner. Protestors from both China and Japan have landed on the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China in recent weeks. Japanese officials say that they wanted to survey the waters surrounding the islands with the idea to build a small harbor, though the team was told not to land on the islands. China released a statement saying that any action by Japan would be considered illegal. Japan administers the island, but China claims the islands have been a part of their territory since ancient times. The islands sit on key shipping lanes and are thought to be near gas deposits.
CAMBODIA (BBC) Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm Warg has been arrested in Cambodia according to local police officials. Warg was being held in a prison in Phnom Penh. An international warrant was issued against him in April after he failed to appear for the start of his one year jail term for copyright violation. Cambodia does not have an extradition treaty with Sweden; however, the Cambodian government is looking for ways to handle the case. Warg, along with the co-founders, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde, as well financier Carl Lundstroem were convicted in 2009 for encouraging copyright violation. The other 3 had their sentences reduced after appeals though Swedish courts upheld Warg’s sentence after he failed to show up for his appeal hearing. His lawyer claimed he was too ill. The Pirate Bay was founded in 2003 and claims to have 30 million users worldwide.