Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. Mass stabbing in Kunming, China, leaves thirty-three dead and 130 injured. Eight people armed with knives attacked travelers in a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on Saturday. Four attackers were shot dead, one was wounded and captured, and three other attackers were apprehended near the border with Vietnam. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, called “China’s 9/11” by Chinese media, early signs suggest that Uighur separatists are the perpetrators. The western province of Xinjiang, home to the the Muslim Uighur minority group, has a tenuous relationship with Han Chinese based on religious, cultural, and linguistic differences. The last attack by Uighur’s against Han occurred in November 2013, when three Uighurs drove an SUV through Tiananmen Square in Beijing, killing themselves and two tourists. These two attacks were especially surprising because they occurred half a country away from Xinjiang, where the vast majority of China’s twenty-two million Uighurs live. The governor of Xinjiang signaled that the Communist Party would crack down on separatist groups in the region.
2. China’s NPC, CPPCC meet, marking one year in office for President Xi Jinping. The National People’s Congress (NPC), China’s parliament, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top political advisory body, began their annual meeting this week. Though the NPC is seen as little more than a rubber stamp for the Communist Party’s decisions, it signals the state’s priorities for the next year. On the opening day of the Congress, Premier Li Keqiang presented his work report—among its most important points were: China’s growth target would be set at about 7.5 percent; the country’s military budget would increase by 12.2 percent; Beijing would launch “a war on pollution”; and China would expand President Xi’s anti-corruption policies.
3. North Korea test-fires missiles into East Sea. North Korea fired seven short-range missiles from its east coast on March 4, the most recent in a slew of missile tests. Just minutes following the launch, a Chinese passenger plane flying from Tokyo to Shenyang, China, passed through the trajectory of one of the missiles. North Korea launched four short-range missiles on February 27 and another two on March 3. The tests follow the conclusion of annual U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, though many experts say the launches will not raise tension in the region. The tests have since prompted the UN Security Council on March 5 to extend its sanctions on North Korea through April 2015. Despite its reticence to respond to diplomacy, North Korea has had careful engagement with its neighbors recently, including reunions for separated families with South Korea last month and a visit by the Japanese Red Cross to Pyongyang on March 3 to discuss the repatriation of the remains of Japanese nationals buried in the North. Japanese government officials accompanying the envoy were able to conduct informal talks with North Korean officials.
4. Caroline Kennedy urges Japan, South Korea to mend ties. In an interview with Hiroko Kuniya for the show Close-Up Gendai, which aired on Japan’s national broadcaster NHK, Ambassador Kennedy said that it was up to Japan and South Korea to improve their relations, but that the United States is “happy to help” in any way possible. “The three countries can work together, will work together, and I think these good relations are in everyone’s interests,” Kennedy said. Tensions between Japan and South Korea have been high for some time. Earlier reports had suggested that the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo was reluctant to give NHK an interview with Ambassador Kennedy because of controversial remarks about WWII history made by some of the broadcaster’s board members. Kennedy did reiterate the negative U.S. view toward Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, but she also praised Abe as a “strong, stable leader” and a “wonderful partner” for the United States.
5. Suicide bomber kills 11 in Pakistan; talks with Taliban resume.Two suicide bombers killed eleven people in Islamabad’s district court complex on Monday, the deadliest terrorist attack in Pakistan’s capital in five years. Ahrar-ul-Hind, an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the country’s biggest militant coalition, has claimed responsibility for Monday’s attacks. The attack came days after the Pakistani government and the TTP announced a month-long ceasefire. The ceasefire was supposed to head off a Pakistani military operation against militant strongholds, allowing for the resumption of peace talks between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and the TTP. Last month, peace talks between the two sides broke down after a Taliban faction killed twenty-three paramilitary soldiers.
Bonus: Nepal making Mount Everest climbers take out the trash. With climbing season for Mount Everest starting, Nepal’s tourism ministry is enforcing a new rule: clean up after yourself. Climbers must return to base camp with eighteen pounds of garbage, or forfeit a $4,000 deposit. The new regulation is an attempt for Everest to dump its nickname as the “world’s highest garbage dump.” The rule won’t do much about the garbage heaps already on Everest, but it will at least keep the situation from getting worse.