Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. China sends more oil rigs to already-tense South China Sea. Two rigs are now stationed between China and the Taiwan-occupied Pratas Islands, and one has been given coordinates to be towed just outside Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang asked China to remove the rigs that are in disputed waters. China has been increasingly assertive in its claims to the Paracel and Spratly Islands, all of which are off Vietnam’s coast, and is reportedly moving sand onto reefs and shoals to support buildings and surveillance equipment. In Hanoi, Chinese and Vietnamese officials met on Wednesday for the first time to discuss the disputed waters, without much progress. The talks come on the heels of deadly protests in Vietnam against Chinese companies in May.
2. Japan protests Korean live-fire drills near disputed islands. On Friday, South Korea held a live-fire naval exercise thirteen miles south of the islands known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea. Korea has maintained administrative control of the islands since 1954, but Japan also claims sovereignty over the islands.Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga “strongly demanded that the South Korean government stop its plans,” and called the decision to go ahead with the drill “extremely regrettable.” In response, a South Korean defense ministry spokesman said that “when it comes to conducting a military drill for the self-defense of the Republic of Korea, any outside demand or interference is not a subject for consideration.” The South Korean navy went on to say that the drills were not meant to be aimed at Japan, but rather to practice targeting North Korean submarines.
3. Tens of thousands of Cambodian migrant workers flee Thailand. A month after the Thai army seized control of the country, rumors of a crackdown on undocumented workers have sent at least 200,000 Cambodians in eastern Thailand fleeing over the course of just twelve days. Many of the workers are leaving voluntarily, but the police have reportedly also forced many on buses and charged a 3,000 baht ($92) fine. The Thai government denied any new policy, saying, “No crackdown order targeting Cambodian workers has been issued.” According to the International Organization for Migration, most of the 2.2 million migrant workers in Thailand are from Myanmar and approximately 438,000 are from Cambodia. Thailand has a very low unemployment rate at 0.9 percent and could face a labor shortage if more workers flee.
4. Modi faces his first foreign policy test. Forty Indian expatriates were abducted in Iraq when the Islamic militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) seized Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. A spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs announced today that the forty kidnapped workers had been found, but did not provide further details. In addition, forty-seven Indian nurses are stranded at a hospital in Tikrit, abandoned by their employers when ISIS stormed the city. The Ministry of External Affairs issued a travel advisory and set up a twenty-four-hour call line for families with missing relatives in Iraq. With over ten thousand expatriates working in Iraq, ISIS’ victories are chilling news for India.
5. China executes thirteen in Xinjiang. Thirteen people were executed in the restive province of Xinjiang, convicted of “organizing, leading and participating in terrorist groups; murder; arson; theft; and illegal manufacture, storage and transportation of explosives.” It was also announced that more than sixty terrorist and extremist suspects had been captured in the past month. The executions and arrests are part of the Chinese government’s intensifying response to a series of deadly attacks blamed on Uighur separatists in Xinjiang and other places in China, including Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and a train station in Kunming.
Bonus: China says “House of Cards” is an accurate illustration of corruption, calls the United States “the Matrix.” On Tuesday, China’s Discipline Inspection Commission published an article linking the abuse of power seen on television to reality. The author said that corruption in shows like “House of Cards” and “American Gangster,” is real and widespread in Western societies like the United States. Some netizens criticized the article, saying that corruption in the West is only seen on television, while most Chinese “feel corruption in real time every day of [their] lives.” The pop culture references continued when, in unrelated news, a spokesperson from the Chinese foreign ministry called the United States “the Matrix,” in response to U.S. Department of Justice indictment of five alleged Chinese hackers and in reference to the NSA’s Internet surveillance programs.