from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 7, 2014

Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for...it in Beijing, November 4, 2014. Picture taken November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) CHINA OUT.

November 7, 2014

Fireworks explode over a screen displaying the APEC logo on the National Stadium, or the "Bird's Nest", during a rehearsal for...it in Beijing, November 4, 2014. Picture taken November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) CHINA OUT.
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Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Leaders gather in Beijing for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. A wide range of issues are expected to be addressed throughout the week of APEC meetings, an agenda perceived as tailor-made for China. One of the most important topics is the Free Trade Agreement of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), an initiative critics fear will take momentum from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks. With the aim of rebooting Asia-Pacific growth, Chinese officials also announced a series of economic measures, including more bank credit for high-tech imports and quicker approvals for meat and seafood shipments. Other items on the forum agenda include an anti-corruption transparency network, climate issues, and regional support for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

2. Suicide attack on the border of India and Pakistan raises security concerns in both countries. More than sixty people were killed in a suicide attack on the Pakistan side of the Wagah border between India and Pakistan, the site of a renowned flag-lowering ceremony where spectators from both countries gather each night. The attack occurred on the Pakistan side of the border, and separate Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) splinter groups have claimed responsibility. The groups cited the Pakistan Army’s ongoing operation in North Waziristan as the reason for the suicide attack. However, a spokesman from one of the groups also threatened that attacks against India were in the pipeline. Both countries have amped up their security in response to the deadly bombing.

3. New tensions mount between China and Japan over coral poachers. Japan’s foreign minister on Tuesday warned China to keep their fishing vessels out of Japanese waters after six Chinese fishing captains suspected of illegally hunting red coral were arrested. In Tokyo, lawmakers are demanding harsher penalties for poachers, while in Beijing, China’s foreign ministry said it was taking measures to prevent coral poaching. Tokyo claims that over 200 Chinese fishing boats have been poaching the coral, which is used to make high-end jewelry in China. The new flare-up in Sino-Japanese tensions comes as the heads of both countries prepare for a potentially landmark meeting at the upcoming APEC summit.

4. British banker charged with murder in Hong Kong. A twenty-nine-year-old British banker has been charged in a murder case after police found the bodies of two women in his apartment in Hong Kong, including one body hidden in a suitcase. Rurik Jutting, until recently a Hong Kong-based employee of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, appeared in court on Monday. The case is a shock to Hong Kong, where the murder rate is low. The victims, Seneng Mujiasih and Sumarti Ningsih, both Indonesian women in their twenties, are believed to have been sex workers. Though prostitution in Hong Kong is legal, many sex workers come to the city on tourist or domestic worker visas, as both victims did.

5. China passes counterespionage law. Beijing revised its 1993 National Security Law, replacing it with a new set of rules that focuses more on foreign individuals and organizations and Chinese nationals that engage with them. The law grants domestic security agencies the right to confiscate property if the individual or organization fails “to stop or change activities considered harmful to national security.”  The law comes as both the United States and China have traded accusations of spying and cyberespionage, and foreign nationals have been under increased scrutiny of late. Some Chinese leaders accused the United States and Britain of instigating the protests in Hong Kong, and earlier this month, Chinese authorities detained two Canadians on suspicion of spying.

Bonus: For relaxing times, make it Suntory time. Suntory’s Single Malt Sherry Cask 2013 this week was named 2015’s best whiskey in the world, to appear in next year’s Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible. This year marks the first time a Scottish whiskey was not in the top five since the publication started in 2003. It also marks the first time in the publication’s history in which a Japanese whiskey topped the list. The Yamazaki distillery, Japan’s first whiskey distillery, has been making whiskey since 1923.

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