North Korean missile launch earns rebuke from unusual bedfellows
On Wednesday, North Korea launched a missile, said to have had a range of 1,000km, from a submarine. It only managed half that distance, but that was enough to rattle the usual critics of Pyongyang’s missile, space and nuclear programmes. The launch coincided with more US-South Korean war games, which the North regularly describes as rehearsals for an invasion of its own territory. Within hours, representatives of Japan, China and South Korea, who were at a meeting in Tokyo, were united in agreeing that the North should show restraint and that the three countries needed to cooperate when dealing with Pyongyang, despite their mutual overlapping animosities. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said: “There are various outstanding issues among Japan, China and South Korea, but it is important to overcome them with political wisdom to promote cooperation.”
What next? Statements from North Korea’s neighbours – or anyone else for that matter – rarely affect what Pyongyang does, so the latest rebuke is unlikely to stop the weapon tests. The North argues that, since it is only trying to develop the kind of defence capabilities most of its critics already have, their complaints amount to hypocrisy.
Selling tech firm to Chinese group makes Indian brothers billionaires
Mumbai-born entrepreneurs Divyank and Bhavin Turakhi, described as “hackers with a business mindset”, sold Media.net, which provides publishing and advertising services, to Chinese investors for about US$900 million, in what is being touted as the biggest ever reverse merger deal. A Chinese consortium led by Beijing Miteno Communication Technology (BMCT) Chairman Zhiyong Zhang has paid US$426 million up front and will pay the other US$474 million later. BMCT is a Shenzhen-listed technology, media and telecoms company. About 90 per cent of Media.net’s revenue comes from the US.
What next? It’s a rags to riches tale for the two brothers, who started their first US$1 billion company, Directi, with just 25,000 rupees (HK$2,882) borrowed from their father. Proceeds from Media.net’s sale will be pumped into a pool of global investment funds co-owned by the brothers, who will also remain on board the company. There are no concrete plans to pump any of the money back into India.
Suu Kyi pins hopes on Annan breaking Rohingya deadlock in Myanmar
Myanmar’s leader, State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, needs a break in ending abuse of Rohingya Muslims. So she hired former UN chief Kofi Annan to lead a commission to stop it. Violence between Buddhists and minority Rohingyas in Rakhine state, in the country’s west, has forced thousands to flee to neighbouring countries or local refugee camps where their movements are severely restricted, since they are stateless. The situation has cast a shadow over Suu Kyi’s democratic reforms.
That is because some of the main opponents of a decision by the former military rulers to give Rohingyas ID cards and voting rights were members of Suu Kyi’s own pro-democracy movement. “The Myanmar government wants to find a sustainable solution on the complicated issues in Rakhine state,” the government said, through Suu Kyi’s office.
What next? The commission, which also includes members of the Muslim and ethnic Rakhine communities, would focus on conflict prevention, supporting humanitarian assistance, national reconciliation, human rights and development in Rakhine, according to Suu Kyi’s office. Once the committee has been formed, a report would be expected within a year, meaning Rohingyas will be in limbo for some time yet.
French firm rushes to plug Indian submarine data leak
A French shipbuilder contracted to build Australia’s next generation of submarines admitted suffering a massive data leak, which raised doubts about the security of one of the world’s biggest defence projects. More than 22,000 pages, outlining the secret fighting capability of six submarines that the DCNS Group designed for India, were leaked. The firm beat German and Japanese bids for the A$50 billion (US$38.06 billion) contract. Its spokeswoman admitted “other countries could raise legitimate questions over DCNS,” and said leaks were “part of the tools in economic war.” India was investigating the leak. Its Defence Ministry said did not come from there.
What next? Both DCNS and Australia pointed out the information was about older Scorpene submarines, not the new class being built for Australia. But it could compromise the navies from other countries. Besides India, Malaysia and Chile are also using the old subs.
Duterte sends mixed signals on China, with talk of a ‘reckoning’ to come
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned of a “reckoning” with China if there was no resolution to a dispute over rival claims to parts of the South China Sea. An international tribunal ruled last month that China’s claims to most of the waters had no legal basis, in a victory for the Philippines, which filed the case. Duterte repeatedly said he did not want to anger China with an aggressive response, but on Wednesday signalled he was prepared to adopt a more confrontational approach.
“There will come a time that we will have to do some reckoning about this,” he said in a speech to soldiers. Beijing has vowed to ignore the ruling and called for direct talks with Manila, but said it will not compromise on its claims.
What next? Duterte’s warning came just days after he said he would invite China and African nations to form a new global organisation during a rant against the UN. It’s quite possible he may reverse his threat next week.
Moves to ban booming surrogate pregnancy business in India
India’s government approved plans to ban commercial surrogacy, a move that would block thousands of foreign couples who flock to surrogacy centres to have a baby. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said: “This is a comprehensive bill to completely ban commercial surrogacy … Childless couples, who are medically unfit to have children, can take help from a close relative.” Swaraj said foreign couples, along with all single or gay prospective parents, would be barred from the services in India if parliament passed the bill. Critics of the industry said a lack of legislation encourages exploitation of impoverished Indian women who were denied rights in surrogacy arrangements.
What next? Swaraj said the ban would be introduced 10 months after the bill was passed to allow pregnant women already in arrangements with couples time to give birth. Critics said couples desperate to have children would be left with few options, while surrogate mothers have protested against the plan, saying they would be denied an income, usually about US$5,000 per pregnancy.
Compiled by Benjamin O’Rourke