from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA)
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Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. North Korean belligerence: Kim Jong-un and his militaristic regime have ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula (again), this time unilaterally severing the inter-Korean military hotline. The move comes along with increased rhetoric, as North Korea declared that its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units “are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity.” The United States responded by flying two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula. And so the tit-for-tat continues…

2. Burmese military set to stay in politics: Myanmar held its annual military parade on Armed Forces Day, attended for the first time by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. More significant, though, was the statement by General Min Aung Hlaing: “While the country is moving toward modern democracy, our military plays a leading role in national politics.” Meanwhile, interethnic violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims increased in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and Human Rights Watch recently warned of an impending humanitarian crisis in the coastal region.

3. Rare earths breakthrough or just sea mud?: Japanese scientists claim to have found a vast reserve of rare earth metals in their territorial waters, potentially breaking China’s stranglehold on the industry. However, some reports suggest that the valuable resources might be far harder to extract than first thought. Japan uses 60 percent of the global supply, and China has restricted rare earths trade (allegedly) in retaliation for a maritime spat in the past.

4. Economic stagnation in China: A recent study by the U.S. Federal Reserve cast further doubt on China’s prospects for economic growth. The report suggested that China’s GDP growth rate could slow to around 6.5 percent by 2030, or even as low as 1 percent should a “worst-case scenario” take place. In better news for Beijing, the U.S. Federal Reserve of San Francisco released a report stating that China’s “2012 reported output and industrial production figures are consistent both with alternative Chinese indicators of the country’s economic activity, such as electricity production, and trade volume measures reported by non-Chinese sources.” Experts commonly question China’s GDP figures, believing that Beijing inflates its economic indicators to make growth appear more robust.

5. China accuses Apple of “unparalleled arrogance”: CCTV launched a campaign against Apple on International Consumer’s Day, claiming that it is treating Chinese customers as second-class citizens. Netizens have accused the Chinese government of using celebrities to organize an attack against Apple on Weibo and other social media. Chinese editorials argued that Apple’s warranty policy is a violation of Chinese law and disputed repair policies.