from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 12, 2014

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice (L), shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)

September 12, 2014

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice (L), shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY)
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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. U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice visits Asia. Susan Rice is in Beijing for three days of meetings, including a forty-five minute private session with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in preparation for U.S. president Barack Obama’s visit to China in November. Much of the conversation focused on the close calls between U.S. and Chinese military ship and aircraft in recent years, and a senior Chinese military officer told Rice that the United States should stop its close-up aerial and naval surveillance of China. Rice also urged China to help respond to the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); this comment came after Obama referred to China as a free rider in international crisis response in a recent interview. Chinese state media had some difficulty differentiating between Susan Rice and former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice.

2. Pakistan and India scramble to rescue flood victims. Both India and Pakistan are struggling to respond to devastating floods that left Kashmir and hundreds of surrounding villages mostly submerged. Close to 500 people have been killed, and nearly one million have been displaced in what authorities are calling the worst flooding in the region in six decades. Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif discussed collaborating on relief efforts, despite the tense situation at the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Anger has mounted over the lack of warning and chaotic relief efforts, especially in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

3. Legislation proposed to give Muslims autonomy in the Philippines. A draft law submitted by President Benigno Aquino III to the Filipino congress proposes to give Muslims in Mindanao the ability to run their own government under their own flag. Under the Bangsamoro Basic Law draft, Islamic Sharia law would apply to Muslims in the region, but the country’s justice system would continue to apply to non-Muslims. Mr. Aquino’s proposal marks another milestone in the peace process between the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front. While the bill is expected to pass easily in both houses of congress, implementing the agreement and establishing a functioning, democratic Bangsamoro will be difficult, as opposition to the legislation from three smaller Muslim rebel groups remains.

4. Abe visits Sri Lanka. On the heels of his widely successful meeting with India’s Narendra Modi, Shinzo Abe on September 7 became the first Japanese prime minister to visit the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka since Toshiki Kaifu in 1990. Sri Lanka is the forty-ninth foreign country that Abe has visited since regaining Japan’s premiership twenty months ago, making him one of the most well-traveled prime ministers in Japan’s history. Abe’s two-day visit culminated in a thirty-seven-part Joint Statement in which Japan pledged billions of yen in economic support and increased maritime security cooperation, including the donation of patrol vessels to the Sri Lankan Coast Guard. Tokyo first has been one of Colombo’s largest donor of economic aid for decades. Abe’s renewed commitment to Sri Lanka comes amid increasing regional maritime activity by both India and China.

5. Inter-Korean economic zone opens foreign investor support center in Seoul. On Friday, Kaesong  Industrial Complex (KIC) opened a foreign investment center in Seoul, South Korea. Kaesong has been seeking international investment in its joint facility, located in Kaesong, North Korea, just north of the Demilitarized Zone dividing North Korea and South Korea. Currently, more than 120 South Korean companies, employing 50,000 North Korean workers, are located in the zone. Potential investors believe that affordable, skilled labor make KIC attractive for investment, but some analysts remain skeptical for a variety of reasons, many related to sanctions against products from North Korea. Last year, North Korea unilaterally closed KIC for several months.

Bonus: Burger King reintroduces black burger in Japan. The Kuro Pearl and Kurl Diamond burgers, first launched in 2012, feature black buns, black cheese, and black sauce. The new iteration is even darker than its predecessors, with bamboo charcoal in the cheese and squid ink in the sauce. “The bamboo charcoal adds a nice aroma to the bun as well,” added a spokeswoman.

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