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Ashlyn Anderson, Lincoln Davidson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. China conducts live fire drills in the South China Sea. More than one hundred naval vessels, dozens of aircraft, and units from China’s information warfare forces and missile corps participated in the live fire exercises Tuesday, which one Australian expert called a “needlessly excessive show of force.” China’s military responded to critics by saying the exercises were intended to practice integrating information warfare systems with traditional forces, a major part of China’s military doctrine in recent years. Hoping to reassure regional allies concerned about China’s continued dredging and growing military presence in the disputed area, the United States has increased routine surveillance flights in the region in recent weeks. On Thursday, China’s Defense Ministry spokesperson criticized these moves and warned the United States to stop “militarizing” the South China Sea.
2. Malaysian prime minister shakes up cabinet. Prime Minister Najib Razak removed his deputy premier, four ministers, and a deputy minister, as he continues to be buffeted by accusations of corruption. Early this month, a Wall Street Journal report indicated that around $700 million was deposited into Najib’s personal accounts from a state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), that he heads. Deputy Premier Muhyiddin Yassin recently disparaged the handling of the debt-laden 1MDB, raised questions over the suspension of The Edge newspaper, and asked Najib to step down from the 1MDB. Amidst the shakeup, the attorney general, who said he had documents concerning Najib and 1MDB, was removed from his post. In addition, the chair of the parliamentary committee investigating the 1MDB allegations was promoted, forcing him to resign and suspending the inquiry until October.
3. India executes 1993 Mumbai bombing conspirator. On Thursday, Yakub Abdul Razak Memon was executed by hanging for his involvement in a 1993 terrorist attack that killed more than 250 people. The execution occurred following the Indian Supreme Court’s rejection of a last-minute appeal the previous night. Memon was sentenced in 2007 as the primary planner behind targeting a dozen locations including the Bombay Stock Exchange. Among the eleven suspects in the case, Memon was the only to receive the death penalty. The bombers sought to avenge Muslims who died in a riot after hard-line Hindu groups demolished a mosque in the city of Ayodhya in 1992. The execution has fueled scrutiny of the death penalty in India, which is falling out of favor.
4. South Korea declares end to MERS outbreak. This past Tuesday, South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn declared a “de facto” end to the Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS) outbreak in South Korea. Tuesday’s announcement was early in comparison to World Health Organization (WHO) standards, as it marked only twenty-three days since the last confirmed case. The WHO requires twenty-eight days without a new infection for a country to be in the clear—twice the incubation period of the virus. MERS has claimed thirty-six lives and infected a total of 186 individuals in South Korea since May 20, when a man who had visited the Middle East brought the virus back to South Korea.
5. Animal sacrifice banned in Nepal festival. Nepalese temple authorities have announced they will end a centuries-old Hindu tradition of mass animal slaughter that takes place twice each decade as part of the Gadhimai festival. In past years, pilgrims have sacrificed an estimated five hundred thousand buffaloes, goats, and chickens to the Hindu goddess Gadhimai in hopes of a better life. Animal rights activists have tried to end the slaughter for the last decade, including asking the Indian Supreme Court to slow the cross-border transportation of sacrificial animals. The next Gadhimai festival, scheduled for 2019, will be a “momentous celebration of life” without the animal bloodshed, activists said.
Bonus: Chinese investor selling pet alpaca to recoup stock market losses. As the Chinese markets have taken a tumble in recent weeks, one speculator in Kunming named Fang said he has been forced to part with his beloved pet alpaca, which he purchased two years ago. While Fang sees the alpaca as a part of the family, he said he didn’t have any choice but to sell the animal after losing all of his savings in the recent market downturn. Fang is asking $16,000 for the alpaca, but has so far been unable to find a buyer. Alpacas are a popular meme on the Chinese Internet, where they are sometimes referred to as “grass mud horses,” a term coined by Chinese netizens to circumvent censorship of profanity.