Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. South Korea warns China against interfering amid missile defense debate. On Tuesday a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesperson asked Beijing to not interfere in its defense policy, an unusual request with an increasingly close regional partner. Washington has been asking Seoul to deploy a ballistic missile defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea. The United States believes the system would serve as a deterrent against the increasing North Korean missile threat, while Beijing sees it as a masked attempt to hedge in China. The debate over THAAD in South Korea has been growing the past year, especially as North Korea continues various missile tests.
2. Another tiger targeted in China’s anticorruption drive. In the latest turn in China’s anticorruption campaign, the vice chairman of PetroChina, Liao Yongyuan, has been placed under investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) for "serious disciplinary violations." PetroChina’s parent company, China National Petroleum Corporation, has been a focal point of the CCDI for corruption, along with a string of other state-owned companies. Chinese President Xi Jinping has prioritized the eradication of corruption in recent years, viewing it as a threat to the party. A number of executives of PetroChina have been targeted for corruption recently, and the company is also the target of government-planned reforms.
3. Pakistan hangs twelve convicts after lifting moratorium on capital punishment. On Tuesday March 17, the Pakistani interior minister announced that the state had hanged twelve men in the largest group execution since the moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in December. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on December 17—the day after Pakistani gunmen open fired on a school in Peshwar killing 134 children and 19 adults. While the moratorium was lifted as a direct result of the Peshwar terrorist attacks, it became clear last week that the government had widened the capital punishment policy to include all prisoners on death row whose appeals had not been accepted. Twenty-seven Pakistani prisoners have been put to death since the ban was lifted and more than eight thousand remain on death row. One inmate scheduled for execution, Shafquat Hussain, has garnered international attention as human rights lawyers claim he was fourteen when he was arrested and subsequently convicted after nine days of torture.
4. Japanese police arrest Okinawa resident linked to death threats to U.S. ambassador. On Friday, Japanese police arrested a 52-year-old man who allegedly used a public phone to threaten to blow up the embassy building in Tokyo. Reports of the treat made last month, made via telephone to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, were first released on Wednesday. The news broke as First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Japan and while Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy appeared with former president Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a Tokyo symposium. The State Department has also stated it has stepped up precautions to protect its personnel.
5. Earthquake, volcano, and cyclone hit South Pacific island. The small Vanuatu island of Ambrym experienced a 6.5 earthquake, a volcano erupted for the first time in one hundred years, and a category five cyclone made landfall within the past month. Tropical cyclone Pam, the last of the three natural disasters to strike, has left the island in a state of “apocalyptic” shock, damaging at least 90 percent of the island’s infrastructure and leaving thousands in need of shelter, food, and water. Likely one of the worst disasters ever seen in the Pacific, humanitarian aid organizations are facing the challenge of coordinating communication and travel between Vanuatu’s eighty-two separate islands.
BONUS: Indian groom fails math problem; bride walks out. At a wedding in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the bride tested her husband-to-be on his math skills. She asked him to add fifteen and six, to which he replied seventeen and she then called off the marriage. Reports say the groom’s family tried to convince the bride to return, but she refused, claiming that she had been misled about her beau’s educational background. Local police stepped in to mediate between the families for the return of all wedding gifts and jewelry.