China incident prompts note
The government has issued a diplomatic note to China seeking explanation on a South China Sea incident over suspected rocket debris, in a move that could further strain the nations’ ties. The Department of Foreign Affairs wants China to clarify what happened between the navy and the Chinese coast guard off Thitu Island (Jhongye Island, 中業島) on Sunday, department spokesperson Teresita Daza said in a statement. A Chinese vessel “forcefully retrieved” suspected rocket debris being towed by the navy, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, citing the military. China has denied any interception or seizure. The latest incident presents another challenge to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who has been fostering the long-standing alliance with the US, while seeking compromise with China in the disputed sea.
Kim’s sister insults S Korea
The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has described the South Korean president and government as “idiots” and a “faithful dog” of the US, state media reported yesterday. Kim Yo-jong’s vitriol follows Seoul saying that it was considering fresh unilateral sanctions on the North over recent missile tests, including an intercontinental ballistic missile launch last week. “This disgusting act shows more clearly that the south Korean group is a ‘faithful dog’ and stooge of the US,” Kim said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency. “I wonder what ‘sanctions’ the south Korean group, no more than a running wild dog on a bone given by the US, impudently impose on the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea],” she said, using the acronym of the North’s official name. Pyongyang always refers to South Korea with a lowercase “s,” an apparent sign of disrespect.
BTS’ Jin to enter military
The oldest member of K-pop phenomenon BTS is to begin his military service on Dec. 13, becoming the first in the band to enlist, local media reported yesterday. All able-bodied men under the age of 30 must perform about two years of military service, mainly because the country remains technically at war with nuclear-armed North Korea. That means the age cut-off is approaching for 29-year-old Jin, senior member of the hugely popular septet. He will begin his mandatory five-week training before being deployed to a “frontline unit,” Yonhap news agency reported. The news left fans overwhelmed and emotional, with some expressing concern about Jin’s safety. “My heart literally dropped when I read that he will be deployed to the front line,” one fan wrote on Twitter, adding: “This military thing that surround BTS for years NEVER really concerns me until now. Why front line?? Why??”
Biden taps Palestine envoy
President Joe Biden has appointed a new special representative for Palestinian affairs, a significant upgrade in relations with Ramallah, despite the diplomatic mission in Jerusalem, closed by former president Donald Trump in 2019, being yet to reopen. The White House on Tuesday informed Congress that it had promoted Hady Amr, previously the deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli-Palestinian affairs, to the newly created, Washington-based role. Amr would work closely with the assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs and with diplomats at the Jerusalem-based office of Palestinian affairs. The move came amid deteriorating conditions in the occupied West Bank.
A senior UN official has said he is “alarmed” that a peaceful Australian climate protester has been jailed for 15 months — and refused bail before her appeal — amid global outrage at her “disproportionate” punishment. On Friday, Deanna “Violet” Coco was sentenced to 15 months in prison for blocking a single lane of traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in April in a protest staged to draw attention to the global climate emergency. “I am alarmed at a NSW court’s prison term against climate protestor Deanna Coco and refusal to grant bail until a March 2023 appeal hearing, ” UN Special
SECOND ATTEMPT: An overhaul of the criminal code is expected this month, after a similar move was in 2019 stymied by large-scale protests in the Muslim-majority country The Indonesian parliament is this month expected to pass a new criminal code that would penalize sex outside marriage with a punishment of up to one year in jail, officials have said. The legislative overhaul would also ban insulting the Indonesian president or state institutions, and expressing any views counter to the country’s state ideology. Cohabitation before marriage is also banned. Decades in the making, the new criminal code is expected to be passed on Dec. 15, Indonesian Deputy Minister of Justice Edward Omar Sharif Hiariej said. “We’re proud to have a criminal code that’s in line with Indonesian values,” he told Reuters
CARROT-AND-STICK: Authorities tightened control over virtual private networks, which protesters used to access banned non-Chinese news and social media apps Chinese authorities have initiated the highest “emergency response” level of censorship, according to leaked directives, including a crackdown on virtual private networks (VPNs) and other methods of bypassing online censorship after unprecedented protests demonstrated widespread public frustration with the “zero COVID” policy. The crackdown, including the tracking and questioning of protesters, comes alongside the easing of pandemic restrictions in an apparent carrot-and-stick approach to an outpouring of public grievances. During an extraordinary week in China, protests against “zero COVID” restrictions included criticism of the authoritarian rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) — which was further highlighted by the death of
EASING RESTRICTIONS: China has not approved any foreign COVID-19 vaccines and is opting for those produced domestically, the US Director of National Intelligence said Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is unwilling to accept Western vaccines despite the challenges China is facing with COVID-19, and recent protests could affect his personal standing in the Chinese Communist Party, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said on Saturday. Although China’s daily COVID-19 cases are near all-time highs, some cities are taking steps to loosen testing and quarantine rules after Xi’s “zero COVID” policy triggered a sharp economic slowdown and public unrest. Despite the social and economic impact of the virus, Xi “is unwilling to take a better vaccine from the West, and is instead relying on a vaccine