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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 27, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
September 27, 2013

Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). Men look at a screen displaying a picture of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai standing trial on the website of a court's microblog, in Jinan, Shandong province on September 22, 2013 (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Bo Xilai sentenced to life in prison. Former Communist Party official Bo Xilai was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery, and abuse of power in the eastern city of Jinan and sentenced to life in prison on Sunday. Though the guilty verdict was by no means a surprise, the length of the term was much longer than the fifteen to twenty years that many analysts expected. On Monday, Bo appealed his verdict—though that is considered a mere formality. The Chinese government has trumpeted the sentencing as a victory for the rule of law in China, but many outside experts believe the opposite—that the trial only made it eminently clear “that the Party still controls the Law.”

2. China bans weapon-related exports to North Korea. The Ministry of Commerce released a 236-page list of banned “dual-use” items to export to North Korea on Monday, which include components for nuclear devices and rocket systems as well as several biological agents such as the Ebola virus. The list signals China’s growing concern about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and a potential rift in the two countries’ relationship. It comes amid new reports that North Korea could be resuming production of plutonium at a newly reconstructed nuclear reactor, according to satellite photographs, and a report by American arms experts that posts that North Korean scientists have learned to produce crucial components of gas centrifuges required to enrich uranium. Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China said last week said it was time for North Korea to resume talks on its nuclear program.

3. Japanese prime minister reaffirms position in East China Sea. At a news conference following the UN General Assembly, conservative Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed that Japan would make no concession on the sovereignty dispute in the East China Sea, while emphasizing that Japan does not intend to escalate the situation. “The door to dialogue is always open,” he stated, “and I really hope the Chinese side would take the same mindset.” Beijing has also expressed its willingness to discuss the issue, but only if Tokyo formally admits that a sovereignty dispute exists. Abe’s comments came as the Japanese Coast Guard reported four Chinese Coast Guard vessels entering the disputed waters.

4. Australia-Indonesia relationship bothered by asylum issue. Recently instated conservative Australian prime minister Tony Abbott characterized the two countries’ border issues as a “passing irritant” in an otherwise “strong relationship.” Indonesia, however, sees it differently and is upset with the new government’s plan to curtail immigration to Australia. The plan, dubbed Operation Sovereign Borders, includes policies such as turning back boats full of asylum seekers and offering cash incentives to Indonesians who inform on people smugglers. Jakarta fears the plan will be enacted unilaterally by Canberra and does not respect Indonesia’s sovereignty. Abbott will make his first trip to Indonesia early next week.

5. Giant hornet attacks kill dozens in central China. Twenty-eight people have died and hundreds have been injured in the province of Shaanxi after being stung by a wave of giant hornets. The stings can cause anaphylactic shock and renal failure. Thirty-six people died and 715 were injured during the last major wave of attacks between 2002 and 2005. Scientists suggest that warmer temperatures have allowed the hornets to breed faster.

Bonus: Chinese man grows nose on forehead. Doctors decided to grow a nose on a patient’s forehead after his original nose was irreparably damaged from an infection following a car accident. Tissue expanders stretched the skin to resemble a nose. Doctors expect to implant the new nose on the proper part of the face soon.

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