Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. Pakistan engulfed in anger and grief after the Taliban kills 132 schoolchildren and sixteen teachers. Members of the Pakistani Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren and 16 teachers, many of them shot at point-blank range and some burned alive. The Taliban claimed that the attack was to avenge Pakistani military operations in the northwest Taliban haven of North Waziristan. Though the school that was attacked was officially a military school, the victims included children of both military members and civilians. The Pakistani military offensive in North Waziristan has been underway since June, and the military redoubled its efforts and killed sixty-two militants in the region after the school attack. Additional militants were killed in a series of offenses in the Khyber tribal region. A Taliban spokesperson promised more attacks on military schools throughout Pakistan.
2. Armed siege of Sydney café leaves two hostages and gunman dead. Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh, stormed a café in central Sydney on Monday, forcing his hostages to display an Islamic flag. The end of the sixteen-hour crisis, though unclear, appeared to occur when Monis fired on his hostages, prompting the New South Wales police force to storm the café and kill him. Monis was known to the police—he was free on bail in two separate criminal cases—and was also wanted by the Iranian government for committing fraud. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has since ordered a sweeping government review of the siege and the events leading up to it, noting that the ordeal may have been preventable.
3. FBI blames North Korea for Sony cyberattack; The Interview is cancelled. On Friday, the FBI formally accused North Korea of the cyberattack on Sony and expressed deep concern over its “destructive nature.” The White House, meanwhile, categorized the attack against Sony as a “serious national security matter.” U.S. President Barack Obama also addressed the matter in a news conference on Friday, calling Sony’s decision to pull The Interview “a mistake.” The administration is considering a proportional retaliatory response to the attack, but the nature of the response is not yet clear as North Korea is already under a slew of economic sanctions for its nuclear program.
4. Abe re-elected in Japan’s snap election. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won another four years in office, and the ruling coalition, composed of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komeito party, will continue to govern Japan with a two-thirds majority in the Lower House of Parliament. With opposition parties in disarray, it was not a surprise that the government handily won the snap election, which was an attempt by Abe to gain renewed momentum for his policy priorities, in particular his economic reform plan (“Abenomics”). Not all are persuaded by the strength of the win, however, as voter turnout was at a postwar low, and one-fourth of the seats remain in opposition hands.
5. U.S. and Japan set new laws on renewable energy products and production. The U.S. Department of Commerce increased tariffs on imports of solar panels from China and solar cells from both Taiwan and China, closing a loophole that allowed Chinese companies to avoid tariffs by using photovoltaic cells made in Taiwan. Chinese manufacturers also benefited from unfair subsidies from the Chinese government, which enabled the sale of these products below manufacturing cost. In other renewable energy news, Japan’s trade ministry announced they would set stricter rules for production and sales of renewable energy, particularly for solar-produced electricity, to help ensure a stable energy supply. Immediately following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese renewable energy incentive program offered some of the highest rates for solar-produced electricity in the world, creating a flurry of interest in renewable energy applications. But the supply of energy is as yet unstable and applications to connect to the power grid have far exceeded the utilities’ acceptable capacity to take the unstable renewable energy supplies.
Bonus: Responding to potato shortage, McDonald’s in Japan trims its fry portions. While stateside fast food portion control is of increasing interest because of public health concerns, the Japanese french fry downsize stems from a potato shortage. Japan imports is the largest Asian market for French fries from the United States, but a labor dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and U.S. dockworkers has delayed shipments of frozen spuds. McDonald’s in Japan has tried to compensate for the shortage by flying in potatoes from the U.S. East Coast. The shortage, perhaps, could finally put a muzzle on Japanese students’ taste for french fry parties.