North Korea puts armed forces on "full combat alert"; China nervous ahead of anniversary of Tibetan uprising; Japan announces record current account deficit; Pakistani politics gets dirty; and more
Top of the Agenda: North Korea Tensions
North Korea put its military on "full combat alert" after South Korea and the United States started an annual joint military exercise in the region. The BBC quotes from North Korea's national news source, the Korean Central News Agency, which reported Pyongyang was ready to go to war with the United States, South Korea, and Japan if those countries shoot down a satellite it is preparing to launch. Pyongyang also cut communication channels (Korea Times) between the North and South Korean militaries.
The rising tensions follow statements from Pyongyang last Friday that it could no longer guarantee the safety of commercial flights through its airspace.
They also coincide with meetings between the new U.S. envoy to the Six-Party Talks on North Korean nuclear disarmament, Stephen Bosworth, and senior officials in Seoul. Bosworth arrived in South Korea on Saturday. Following meetings with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and other officials, he expressed regret at Pyongyang's response to the military exercises and encouraged North Korea to restore communications with Seoul (Yonhap). Bosworth also said any satellite launch by North Korea would be "very ill-advised" (VOA).
Background and Analysis:
- CFR.org's Crisis Guide explains the history of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
- Reuters has a Q&A looking at possible reasons why tensions are spiking right now.
- The BBC has a photo slideshow of the U.S.-South Korean military drills.
North Korea held parliamentary elections on Sunday. While most analysts interpret the vote as a rubber-stamp for Kim Jong-Il's regime, the New York Times notes experts are watching closely for signs of a shift in the power-structure of the isolated Communist government. The Times reports the new assembly's first task, when it comes to power, will be to reelect Kim as the chairman of the country's National Defense Commission. The celebrations surrounding this event could include the test-launch of Pyongyang's longest-range Taepodong-2 missile, the article says.
PACIFIC RIM: Tibet Blasts
Two bombs exploded (BBC) in an ethnically Tibetan region of China amidst tight security ahead of the fiftieth anniversary of the Tibetan uprising of 1959. Meanwhile, China Daily reports Beijing is sending more patrols to the Tibetan region ahead of the anniversary.
A new Daily Analysis previews the anniversary and assesses the future of the movement for Tibetan autonomy.
In an interview, Robert J. Barnett, an expert on Tibet, explains China's nervousness ahead of the anniversary and discusses what would have to happen to resolve the conflict in the long-term.
JAPAN: Tokyo today announced a record current account deficit (FT).