Internet use still increasing
China’s number of Internet users — already the world’s largest — has risen to 450 million this year, more than a third of the population. A senior Chinese official says that statistics show that the new figure, as of the end of last month, is an increase of 20.3 percent compared to last year. China’s boom in Internet usage has come with the growth of an equally extensive policing system, from technical filters that block sites based on certain words to human monitors who scan bulletin boards and micro-blogging posts for political dissent. A yearlong government crackdown on pornography, violence and other harmful material has resulted in the shutdown of 60,000 Web sites.
Lee urges military to help
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak urged the military yesterday to help more in the battle against the country’s worst-ever outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, after half a million animals were culled. “I know the military is already offering active support [in slaughtering the animals], but I want more cooperation from the military,” he told Cabinet members. Lee also urged the military to “cooperate when the outbreak spreads to new regions” and all related government agencies to offer “special treatment for those involved in culling efforts.” A total of 66 cases have been reported across the nation since Nov. 29, prompting the culling of nearly 550,000 cattle, pigs and other cloven-hoofed animals, Yonhap news agency reported. The agriculture ministry estimated losses due to the outbreak at 400 billion won (US$350 million). About 160,000 animals were killed during the previous worst outbreak in 2002. The army has deployed some 35,000 troops as well as 400 pieces of equipment including excavators to help contain the disease.
North boosts forces: review
South Korea says in a major military review that rival North Korea has boosted its special forces and deployed huge artillery guns and a new kind of tank close to the heavily fortified border. The report, released by the Defense Ministry once every two years, also says the North intends to rely on its nuclear program as a counterweight to South Korea’s high-tech military. The document says North Korea has 200,000 special operations forces, an increase from 180,000 in its last previous assessment in 2008. It says those forces are aimed at infiltrating and disrupting sensitive facilities.
Tokyo mulls use of drones
Japan is to consider using unmanned aircraft for surveillance flights, a newspaper reported yesterday, at a time of heightened tensions with neighboring China and North Korea. Japan will send military officials to the US, which uses the cutting-edge Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance aircraft, to study how they operate and maintain the drones, the Yomiuri daily said. The defense ministry will start fully fledged research in the next fiscal year starting April, and intends to make a final decision on whether to deploy such aircraft by the end of fiscal 2015, the report said. The drones can fly at an altitude of 18,000m and have a surveillance radius of 550km in any direction, the daily said. Three of them would cover Japan and surrounding maritime territories, it said. The report did not say where Japan might deploy the drones or say whether they would be used to overfly foreign territories. The drones, excluding sensors, cost about ￥2.5 billion (US$30 million) each, the report said.