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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
December 20, 2013

India's Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, attends a Rutgers University event at India's Consulate General in New York on June 19, 2013. (Mohammed Jaffer/Courtesy Reuters) India's Deputy Consul General in New York, Devyani Khobragade, attends a Rutgers University event at India's Consulate General in New York on June 19, 2013. (Mohammed Jaffer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Fury erupts over Indian diplomat’s arrest in New York. Anti-American protests have erupted across India after Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, was arrested for allegedly underpaying a domestic worker and lying about her wages to obtain a U.S. visa for the woman. Khobragade claimed that she paid the women $4,500 per month, but the worker in fact received less than $600 per month, or approximately $3.13 per hour in wages. Khobragade said that she was handcuffed and faced a cavity search despite her diplomatic immunity; U.S. officials countered that she received preferential treatment, was allowed to keep her mobile phone, and did not face a cavity search. India lodged a formal complaint with U.S. ambassador to India Nancy Powell, and Indian politicians have refused to meet with a congressional delegation. A senior Indian diplomat also said that the government could retaliate against gay partners of U.S. diplomats.

2. Japan releases new long-term National Security StrategyPrime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Japan’s first comprehensive strategy to confront the country’s long-term security concerns. The strategy states that Japan needs to make a more “proactive contribution to peace” and includes a five-year military spending increase of about 5 percent over the previous five-year plan, mostly devoted to upgrading hardware. North Korea and China feature as primary security concerns; China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone in particular is worrisome and is labeled as an “attempt to change the status quo by coercion.” CFR’s Sheila Smith states that Japan’s National Security Strategy should be viewed in the context of a broader defense reform agenda pursued by the Abe government; she predicts military funding, revising the U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation Guidelines, and the use of force will all be debated in the new year.

3. Four people, including a town mayor, shot at airport in the Philippines. Gunmen shot four people, including the mayor of a small southern Filipino town, at the Manila airport on December 20. In addition to Mayor Ukol Talumpa, his wife, their twenty-five-year-old nephew, and an unrelated eighteen-month-boy were killed in the attack. The gunmen escaped via motorcycles after the attack. The airport manager said they are still investigating the motive for the attack. There have reportedly been two previous attempts to kill the mayor, who serves in an area where political violence is common.

4. Chinese and U.S. ship nearly miss collision; Hagel criticizes Chinese navy. China confirmed on December 18 that Chinese and U.S.vessels narrowly missed a naval collision by a hundred yards in the South China Sea. China’s Defense Ministry explained the two vessels “met” during “normal patrols” on December 5, and that the Chinese vessel handled “in accordance with strict protocol.” American officials said the Chinese ship cut their ship into the path of the USS Cowpens, which was forced to take evasive action.  However, on December 19, U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel said China’s behavior was “unhelpful and “irresponsible.” Some experts claim this is the most signficant U.S.-Chinese maritime incident since 2009.

5. China landed its first probe on the surface of the moon. The robotic lander was the first soft-landing on the moon’s surface in nearly four decades, and China is only the third country to achieve such a feat, after the United States and the Soviet Union. The Chang’e-3, named after a Chinese lunar goddess, will conduct geological surveys. A Xinhua column said that, “The dream for lunar exploration once again lights up the China Dream.” The People’s Liberation Army Daily said that while it is difficult to say when a Chinese person will walk on the moon, China is “heading towards this goal with unprecedented speed.”

Bonus: North Korea menaces South Korea via fax. North Korea threatened to attack the South “without notice” following anti-Pyongyang rallies in Seoul on the anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s death. Curiously, the North’s National Defense Commission found the most effective way to warn Seoul of a “merciless” strike was by a fax to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.

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