The original intent of the vice president’s trip was to discuss trade ties, but now he’s working to calm tensions between Japan and China.
The original intent of the vice president’s trip was to discuss trade ties, but now he’s working to calm tensions between Japan and China.
UPDATE: On Tuesday morning Beijing time, two US B-52 bombers flew over the disputed Senkaku/Daiyou islands, “in a direct challenge” to China’s new air defense zone, US officials have told the Wall Street Journal.
HONG KONG — Over the weekend, as world powers were busy negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, China declared the existence of a new “air defense identification zone.”
On the left, in pink, is China. Note the red line delineating a polygon, extending from its coast deep into the East China Sea. This is the area in which China claims that any military plane must identify itself and follow China’s rules or face “defensive emergency measures” from the armed forces.
On the right, in khaki, is Japan. Its own blue line extends south, off the coast of China. This is Japan’s air-defense identification zone.
In the middle of the polygon, over the Japanese-controlled (and China-coveted) Senkaku islands, these zones overlap.
After decades of peace, could China and Japan be on the brink of war?
Both China and Japan have long-held claims to the Japanese-administered islands — known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. Tensions have intensified over the past year, and observers fear that a political or military misstep could rapidly escalate.
Over the weekend, China announced an air defense zone over the East China Sea, encompassing the disputed islands. The new policy would require airlines to give Chinese authorities their flight plans before entering the airspace designated by China.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the new policy ”escalates the situation and could lead to an unexpected occurrence of accidents in the airspace.”
The United States on Monday called China’s announcement “unnecessarily inflammatory.”
Photos via AFP/Getty Images
Magnitude-7.3 quake reported off coast of Japan
USGS: An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 has been reported off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Authorities have issued a tsunami advisory.
Follow the latest at Breaking News.
Map via USGS.gov
TOKYO, Japan — Wall Street loves to speculate on whether Apple Inc.’s latest gadget is a winner or a dud.
But here in Japan, the tech giant has another constituency desperate to see iPhones disappearing from store shelves: The nation’s once-proud electronics producers.
Executives and employees of companies like Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and Sharp watch Apple with trepidation — not because it is a competitor, but because their livelihoods and the performance of their companies depend on it.
And that’s not necessarily a good thing, according to Japanese authors Naoyoshi Goto and Jun Morikawa, who co-wrote the critically acclaimed book Appuru Teikoku no Seitai (The Real Apple Empire).
"Apple is very popular in Japan and it has a great image. But there is a hidden side for contracted firms and workers," Naoyoshi Goto told GlobalPost.
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
In March 2011, as the world watched Fukushima’s explosions and partial meltdowns, Japan’s then-prime minister Naoto Kan stood center stage, urging people not to panic.
Behind the scenes, Kan now admits that he had been terrified that an unthinkable nuclear catastrophe was unfolding under his command.
In the first five days after the earthquake-tsunami, he says he weighed the possibility of evacuating metropolitan Tokyo — population 50 million — under a plausible worst-case scenario.
Fortunately, that nightmare did not materialize. Yet Kan remains haunted by critical decisions that he made in managing the crisis — miscalculations that endangered citizens and particularly children, he says.
“Looking back,” Kan confesses, “I have some regrets.”
Photo by AFP/Getty Images
Not deal day, but D day. The agreement in Washington we were hoping for yesterday never came. House Republicans last night canceled plans to vote on their latest proposal to end the standoff over the debt ceiling and government shutdown, leaving Senate negotiators to resume talks on a deal to avert a potentially catastrophic default.
Senators worked late into the night — poor diddums — and say they’re “optimistic” a bipartisan compromise is within reach. The full Senate is due to reconvene at midday; whatever they pass, if they pass it, then has to go before the Republican-majority House. We don’t know whether they’ll give up the ghost before tonight’s deadline. What we do know, however, is that if they don’t, tomorrow the US will run out of money to pay its bills — and probably lose its AAA credit rating, not to mention stiff the global economy, into the bargain. If it was the eleventh hour yesterday, it must be 11:59 by now.
Wipha’s wrath. At least 17 people are dead after Typhoon Wipha — the strongest of its kind in a decade — wreaked havoc along Japan’s east coast. The storm sent mud churning down mountainsides and flood waters gushing into homes as it hit Oshima island, some 75 miles south of Tokyo. In the capital itself, hundreds of flights were canceled, trains halted and schools closed.
Another 51 people are still missing, and authorities warn they expect the death toll to rise. “We have no idea how bad the extent of damage could be,” said one Oshima official. One small mercy, though: the typhoon skirted the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant, but didn’t cause any new damage.
Russia doesn’t need any more martyrs. Which might explain why an appeals court has decided to let Alexei Navalny, charismatic anti-corruption blogger and Russia’s best known opposition figure, walk free. Navalny, convicted in July on embezzlement charges most believed were a sham, found out this morning that his sentence would be suspended — sparing him five years behind bars.
Five years? Why, that would take us right up to… 2018. Exactly: the year Russia holds its next presidential election, in which Navalny has hinted he hopes to take part. It sounded like a mighty big coincidence to many, which could be part of the reason judges took today’s surprise decision. It doesn’t look great to have your would-be opponent behind bars, especially when he’s so darn photogenic. But before anyone orders their Navalny ‘18 campaign pins, remember: the conviction alone — conveniently upheld in the appeal court’s ruling — should be enough to prevent him running for elected office.
Snap, crackle and deal? Iran says it’s considering allowing international monitors to conduct snap inspections of Iranian nuclear sites as part of the proposals up for discussion at the ongoing Geneva talks. That’s something Tehran has resisted for most of the past decade, and is a fundamental requirement if the government is to set the world’s suspicions about its nuclear program to rest.
Other reports suggest Iran is open to setting a limit on how much uranium it enriches in exchange for a loosening of the West’s sanctions. These are all things Iran’s critics have been demanding for years, and now they could be granted. Or could they? As one Iranian now living in Israel tells GlobalPost: with Tehran, if it sounds too good to be true — it probably is.
Another day, another dollar. Today is World Food Day. And just like every other day, more than a billion of Planet Earth’s inhabitants will see it out with less than $1.25 to spend.
To put that meagre budget in context, the World Bank asked people the world over what $1 would buy them where they are. From a plate of biriyani in Pakistan to processed cheese in Panama, noodles for two in Thailand to an expresso in Italy, here’s what they answered.
The fashion police. Handpicked. Rigorously trained. Impeccably dressed. Meet South Korea’s newest police recruits, a crack team of young men and women whose top priority is making sure you have a good time.
No, they’re not strippers. For one, because those uniforms are too fashionable to include rip-away side seams: they’re designed by none other than the costumier to Psy, and every detail has been considered to help Seoul’s new “tourist police” force put their best foot forward in front of country to foreign visitors. Need directions? They’ll give ‘em you, in English, Japanese or Mandarin. Think your taxi driver ripped you off? Just summon that charming young person in sunglasses to get you your money back.
And if all that weren’t enough: they dance, too. ‘Gangnam Style,’ of course.
We have your budget. Scrap Obamacare or the government gets it. How long before House Republicans start sending the White House the severed scraps of federal funding bills in the mail? It’s day nine — nine! — of the US government shutdown, and President Barack Obama says he won’t “pay a ransom for America to pay its bills.”
He did say, however, that he’d go “more than halfway” to meet Republicans’ demands, just as soon as they agreed to reopen government and raise the national debt ceiling — an offer to negotiate that House Speaker John Boehner interpreted as, er, a refusal to negotiate. The whole mess is looking more and more like the world’s longest, unfunniest farce; and if a solution isn’t reached by the time the US hits its borrowing limit, in another nine days’ time, the ending will be anything but happy — at home and around the world. If you’re not worried about the debt ceiling debacle yet, here’s why you should be.
Don’t forget about Bo. He may have been stripped of his position, his wife may be serving life in jail, he may even have been convicted himself — but Bo Xilai isn’t going down without a fight. A long and — not to dampen your spirits, Bo — almost certainly doomed fight.
A high court in China’s Shandong province says it has agreed to allow the former politician to appeal his conviction for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, which was handed down by the same court last month. That trial saw Bo mount a surprisingly robust defense, insisting on his innocence and accusing officials of coercion and even outright lies. And if he’s been granted this appeal today, the court said, it’s because he’s “refused to accept the verdict” ever since. Granted it they may have; but it’s precisely that defiance that’ll mean the authorities will most likely seek to wrap it up behind closed doors.
Is Egypt about to lose its best hook-up? Multiple reports suggest that the US is on the verge of suspending most of its military and economic aid to Egypt in the wake of the military’s overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi and the turmoil that has ensued. If confirmed, the move would represent a major shift in US policy and a tacit admission that the summer’s events were, indeed, a coup.
White House officials have been careful to deny that all assistance will be cut off, saying only that an announcement on future aid to Egypt will be made “in the coming days.” Unnamed sources say that announcement will inform Egypt it’ll have to do without almost all of the $1.2 billion in military aid that it’s used to receiving from Washington. With unrelenting protests by Morsi’s supporters, a “war on terror” in the Sinai and the ex-president due to be put on trial — controversially — within weeks, for Egypt’s military leaders, it couldn’t come at a worse time.
The Fed’s getting a new head. And not just any head: President Obama is today expected to nominate Janet Yellen, the US central bank’s current vice chair, to becomethe only chairwoman the Federal Reserve’s ever had.
She’ll be the first woman to lead the Fed and the first Democrat to do so in more than 25 years. One first she isn’t, however, is Obama’s first pick: that was former presidential adviser Larry Summers, who dropped out of the running last month in the face of opposition from Democratic senators. It’s hoped that Yellen — who like the boss she’s to replace, Ben Bernanke, is considered something of a “dove” — will prove an easier sell on both sides of the Senate aisle.
Don’t cry for me, North Korea. Kim Jong Un’s people have suffered a lot. They’ve been ruled by Kim and his bizarro family for the best part of a century, for starters. Their nearest neighbors are officially at war with them. No government will talk to them. They’re under the constant shadow of nuclear apocalypse. Thousands of them live with abject poverty, disease and famine. And now, the most monstrous deprivation of all — they can’t even ski.
That’s according to the regime, at least, which has excoriated Switzerland for "serious human rights abuse"after it, um, declined to sell North Korea ski lifts. You’d think it might be more concerned about all the food aid other countries stopped sending because of Pyongyang’s insistence on threatening nuclear war, or even, you know, all those gulags it runs, but no — it’s the refusal to help kit out Kim Jong Un’s pet project, the luxurious Masik Pass ski resort, that’s really got the regime outraged.
All of which puts North Korea’s latest threats against the US, South Korea and Japan this week into rather comforting perspective. Sure, Pyongyang may unleash a "terrible disaster" should trilateral military exercises proceed — but we can hope that the harshest punishment it comes up with is refusing to export salopettes.
As he visited the area around Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant last month, photographer Damir Sagolj saw towns and villages that had been abandoned and met people whose lives had been irrevocably changed by the disaster of March 11, 2011.
Inside the exclusion zone around the plant, Sagolj found a scene he likened to “a silent horror movie.” But amidst the carnage and the deserted houses he found one man who had defied the order to leave.
Keigo Sakamoto, a farmer and former caregiver for the mentally disabled, is considered a lunatic by some and a hero by others, Sagolj says. Sakamoto refused to evacuate, stayed inside the zone and made animals his mission. He ventured into empty towns and villages and collected a veritable Noah’s Ark of animals — dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, even marmots — abandoned by former owners when they left.
"There are no neighbours," says Sakamoto. "I’m the only one here but I’m here to stay." Of his 21 dogs, only two are friendly to man. One is called Atom, a super-cute white mutt, named because it was born just before the nuclear disaster struck.
Sakamoto lives with more than 500 animals in his mountain ranch near Naraha, in a scene Sagolj says is more reminiscent of experimental theater than modern Japan. With donations and support from outside Fukushima, he lives with his animals of which many were abandoned by previous owners as they left the exclusion zone.
Read More (Photos by Damir Sagolj/Reuters)
NEED TO KNOW
Syria’s toxic war. Activists say hundreds of people are dead after what they claim was a poison gas attack by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Rockets loaded with nerve gas landed on rebel strongholds in Ghouta, east of Damascus, anti-government groups report, where — if graphic witness accounts are to be believed — they left scores of people, many just young children, injured or dead.
Syrian state media, meanwhile, says the reports are “completely baseless.” As so often in Syria, it’s a war of words as well as weapons; this time, though, there is someone who could potentially sort the real from the rabble-rousing, in the form of United Nations inspectors. They’re in the country to investigate allegations of three earlier chemical weapons attacks — but given how hard they had to battle for even the restricted access they’ve been granted, there’s little chance Assad’s government will allow them to search out what could be the deeply damaging facts.
Polluting like it’s 2011. Japan’s nuclear watchdog has issued its first “serious incident” alert since the earthquake and tsunami two years ago that left the Fukushima Daiichi plant in such a mess. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has classified the latest radioactive leaks from the crippled plant as a level-three incident on the seven-point international warning scale.
Some 300 tons of highly contaminated water have seeped from a storage tank and into the ground since Monday — and that’s in addition to the hundreds of tons that have alreadyflowed all the way to the Pacific Ocean in recent weeks. The latest leak is said to be so toxic that standing within half a meter of it will put you five times over the recommended radition limit for the entire year. We’re no scientists, but “serious incident”? Yeah, we’d say so.
WANT TO KNOW
It’s a Mubara-comeback. Egypt’s jailed former president, Hosni Mubarak, could be a free man by the end of today. A court in Cairo is due to deliver its verdict shortly on the one final corruption charge still outstanding against the ex-military strongman. If the case is dismissed, as so many others have been before it, Mubarak will be released into the chaos that is Egypt right now. Goody.
If he is freed, however, it’ll only be on bail; he’s still embroiled in a retrial for his role in the deaths of protesters who helped oust him back in 2011. Not that current authorities appear to be in any hurry to prosecute him: that retrial has been adjourned again, again and — oh look — again since it began in May.
The sinister side of special. In the disturbing light of the past few days’ revelations, the much vaunted relationship between the US and UK is looking decidedly less wholesome. When British police can detain a journalist’s partner for nine hours under counterterrorism laws and demand files related to a US whistleblower — and when Downing Street calls to tell the White House about it — the two allies’ famously obliging friendship is making many uncomfortable.
You scratch my back, I’ll spy on your citizens for you? When it comes to national security, GlobalPost ponders how close is too close.
STRANGE BUT TRUE
They call him “Volkan the Invader.” Though it’s unlikely he’ll be invading much in the near future: German police are investigating Herr Volkan for trespassing and other offenses after he boarded the private plane reserved for Chancellor Angela Merkel — let’s just call it Air Force Eins — and threw a one-man, four-hour, off-his-gourd party. And he did it all wearing nothing but his underwear.
While Volkan — now said to be in psychiatric care — wasn’t the least bit embarrassed to be discovered, nearly naked, covered in fire extinguisher foam and dancing on the plane’s wing, the incident has left those responsible for Die Merkel’s security more than a little red-faced. We’d recommend more strip searches, but perhaps that was how all the trouble started.