Welcome back to News in Asia. There have been quite a few developments on the Asian continent in the last couple of weeks, so we will cover the major ones.
One of the biggest news stories today is a flare up of tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region.India accused the Pakistani army of being involved in an attack that killed five Indian soldiers. The two countries signed a ceasefire in 2003, but the remote region of Kashmir has always been a flash point ever since both nations won independence from the British in 1947. Two out of three wars have been fought over the region. India’s opposition party accuses the government of being too soft in dealing with Pakistan; however, it is relevant to note that both Pakistan and India have nuclear weapons so I’m in favor of a more diplomatic approach.
Last week, the U.S. closed more than a dozen embassies and consulates overseas after intelligence officials received word of an impending attack on U.S. interests on foreign soil. The move came after an increase in “chatter” among known terrorist groups. The move was criticized by members of Congress who basically said the “terrorists win” by forcing the U.S. government to shut down embassies and consulates. Representative Ted Poe stated that the Obama administration was using the closures as a cover-their-asses move in case of another Benghazi-style attack.
I do think it appears that the State Department doesn’t want to get in a situation like it did in Benghazi where the consulate was not secure, despite requests for more security months in advance. Part of the problem, though, is a public notice like this … The public knows so the bad guys know too.
So, in other words, don’t close embassies as a precaution because if there is an attack, the administration can be blamed for not taking enough precautions. Gotcha.
I sometimes wonder if there’s some kind of cosmic clock or alarm out there for things like viruses and diseases because it’s as if news of a new strain of flu or the plague pops up every few years. This time however; it’s pretty serious. A study suggests that there has been human to human transmission of the H7N9 virus or bird flu in China.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that there is a timeline to end the CIA drone program in Pakistan after a visit to Islamabad last week. Kerry said he’s aware that the drone strikes are a “sensitive” issue and may violate Pakistan’s sovereignty, but it’s the terrorists who are the ones violating the sovereignty of the nation. I’m sure that’s very comforting to all the families who have lost members due to the drone strikes, including the parents of the of children killed.
In a move that is eerily reminiscent of measures to prevent gun violence in the West, Pakistani activists want to remove toy guns from the streets, saying the fake Glocks and Kalashnikovs help foster a culture of violence among young people.
For the first time, Burma has openly commemorated the anniversary of the uprisings that sparked the current pro-democracy movement.
A less than happy commemoration of an anniversary is taking place between Korea and Japan over the ending of World War II. The controversy centers around the plans for Tokyo officials to worship at the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15. The shrine honors the war dead, including military leaders who oversaw massacres, forced labor and sex slavery. The same day also marks the day in 1945 when the Japanese surrendered to Allied forces and ended Japan’s colonial rule over the Korean peninsula. If you want to spend a day falling into a Wikipedia rabbit hole, research Japanese-Korean relations over the last thousand years. It’s not pretty.
In Afghanistan, Eidul Fitr was celebrated in the same way as in many other places in the world, but the ending of the holy month of Ramadan was also celebrated with special prayers for peace.
As the population in China ages, the Chinese government is contemplating plans to change China’s infamous one-child policy. The change could begin as early as 2014 and be fully implemented by 2015. The one-child policy was started 30 years ago as a way to control China’s booming population, but the policy’s unintended consequences have included infanticide, gender selective abortion and high number of young men unable to find wives.
Finally, because there can never be enough pandas in my life (or P-Mag readers’ lives) the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China has launched a website where viewers can watch 24 hours of live high definition panda shenanigans at iPanda.com. When I clicked on the livestream link, I saw two baby pandas sleeping and I almost died from the cute. You have been warned.