Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protestors gather in Kiev; South Korea expands air defense zone; Japan's GDP growth revised downwards; Afghanistan seeks closer ties with Iran; leaders head to South Africa for Mandela memorial; and more
Top of the Agenda: Ukraine Protests Gain Momentum
Anti-government protestors toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ukraine's capital, attacked it with hammers, and transported the pieces as trophies back to Kiev's Independence Square where hundreds of thousands gathered to pressure the president to sack his ministers (Reuters). Ukraine saw it largest protest since 2004 on Sunday as disapproval grows over President Viktor Yanukovich's shelving of a landmark agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow, and anger swells over a police crackdown on demonstrators last week (al-Jazeera). The Ukrainian Security Service said it was investigating politicians on "actions aimed at seizing state power" (BBC).
"There are rumors of Russian provocateurs in the crowds and the mobilization of riot police to move toward Kiev. For two decades Ukraine has been the powder keg that never blew, mocking a CIA prediction in the early 1990s of likely civil war. But violence is now a possibility, which could destabilize Europe. If Mr. Yanukovych does move toward a Moscow customs union by fiat, he would split the country," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.
"The true surprise—and one that should inspire democrats around the world—is the spontaneous and spirited resistance of Ukrainian civil society to this about-face. For more than a week, Ukrainians have been protesting in the Euromaidan, and in front of government buildings throughout the capital and across the country. They have done so in miserable winter weather and in the face of police brutality," writes Chrystia Freeland in the New York Times.
"Mr Klitschko is one of several opposition figures vying to become de facto leader of the demonstrations that broke out two weeks ago. He only recently learnt to speak Ukrainian—his first language is Russian—and is no orator. He lacks the magnetism and tactical brilliance of Orange hero Yulia Tymoshenko. Yet the 42-year-old is the crowd's favourite—the main potential challenger to Viktor Yanukovich, the vilified president, whether elections are triggered by protests or held as scheduled in 2015," write Neil Buckley and Roman Olearchyk in the Financial Times.
South Korea Expands Air Defense Zone
Seoul's defense ministry declared an expanded air defense identification zone that partially overlaps with China's new zone that was created two weeks ago over disputed islands in the East China Sea, a move that increases tensions in the region (SCMP).
CFR's Sheila Smith explains in this blog post that regional tensions in Asia are highlighting Washington's role in balancing a rising China.
JAPAN: Japan's third quarter growth in gross domestic product was revised to 1.1 percent from 1.9 percent, raising concerns over whether the country can maintain its recent momentum (Japan Times).
This CFR Backgrounder explains Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's vision for Japan, dubbed Abenomics.