from Asia Unbound

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 20, 2013

September 20, 2013

Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Libera...ighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)
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Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Chinese President wraps up trip to Central Asia. President Xi Jinping ended a ten-day trip to Central Asia with a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last weekend. Xi signed a number of bilateral economic and energy deals with countries in the region, and the SCO reached consensus on a number of foreign policy issues (largely in line with Chinese and Russian interests). With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, Central Asia is a region ripe for Chinese leadership.

2. Violence nears end in Philippines. After the breakdown of last week’s truce, fighting in the southern city of Zamboanga will soon be over as more Muslim rebels were forced to surrender on Friday. The rebels, part of the Moro National Liberation Front that is seeking an independent state, have dwindled to around fifty from the original 200. Still, they remain dangerous, and three were killed by a bomb planted inside a bus earlier today.

3. Abe orders all of Fukushima’s surviving reactors to shut down. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered all nuclear power plant reactors from the Fukushima Daiichi plant scrapped, rather than only four as previously announced. The decision comes as Japan is trying to reassure the Olympic Committee and the public about its safety after being awarded the opportunity to host the 2020 Summer Olympics. Tokyo won the title of host city for the Summer Olympic Games over Istanbul by a vote of sixty to thirty-six. Buenos Aires and Madrid were also contenders.

4. Shuttered Kaesong complex stirs back to life. Cars and trucks flooded across the border between North and South Korea early this week, as the Kaesong industrial park restarted operations after a 166-day hiatus. The complex was closed in April, when rising tensions triggered the North to withdraw its workers. It houses 123 South Korean factories and employs over 50,000 North Koreans; it is the last joint inter-Korean project and an important source of hard currency for Pyongyang.

5. Caroline Kennedy nears confirmation for ambassadorship to Japan. Caroline Kennedy was warmly received at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday. Lawmakers questioned her on issues ranging from tensions in the East China Sea, Japan’s trade relations with Iran, and recovery from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Senator Tim Kaine noted that Kennedy’s father served in Japan during World War II, citing the fact as evidence of the family’s long history of representing the United States in the country. If confirmed, Kennedy will have to contend with policy issues such as increased tensions between China and Japan and implementing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Bonus: Muslims in Indonesia protest Miss World beauty pageant. Conservative Muslims have held protests against the Miss World beauty pageant, and some have promised violence. An estimated 6,000 have already booked flights and hotel rooms for the contest, scheduled to be held next week. It is likely that the contest will be held in Bali, a majority-Hindu island, instead. A Muslim-only beauty pageant, called World Muslimah, was held in Jakarta earlier this week. All contestants were required to wear head coverings, were judged on their knowledge of the Quran rather than conventional beauty, and the winner was awarded trips to Mecca and India.