North Korea tests nuclear weapon, claiming big technological advance
North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Friday, and claimed to have successfully mounted a warhead onto a strategic ballistic missile for the first time. The US Geological Survey reported a 5.3 seismic event at a depth of 0km in the vicinity of the Punggye-ri test site. Friday’s explosion coincided with the 68th anniversary of the country’s founding on September 9.
What next? Diplomacy has so far failed to stop North Korea’s progress. Six-nation negotiations on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme in exchange for aid were last held in late 2008 and fell apart in early 2009. North Korea blames the United States and South Korea for its nuclear programme, claiming long-running hostility from Washington and Seoul makes the development crucial for the small country’s survival.
Islamic State targets Australian landmarks
Australia’s government insisted it took the latest terror threat from Islamic State seriously after the group urged supporters to carry out lone wolf attacks on specific neighbourhoods and landmarks. IS’ propaganda magazine Rumiyah,released online, called for attacks on the streets of Brunswick and Broadmeadows in Melbourne, and Bondi in Sydney. In response, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted his government would not take the threats lightly. He said: “The capacity of Daesh (another name for IS), of course, is much less than they proclaim it to be but we do have to be very alert to the actions of these lone actors.”
What next? Australia’s minister for counterterrorism, Michael Keenan, was quick to seize on the latest threat as justification for increased powers for security agencies. “We are living in a security environment that is worse than it used to be two years before, but we do have agencies that we’ve given powers to, that we’ve given resources to, that are capable of protecting us,” he said.
Angry reception in Myanmar as Kofi Annan kicks off rights abuse role
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan was met with anger when he arrived in Myanmar to lead a commission into abuses against ethnic Rohingya Muslims in the impoverished Rakhine state. Hundreds of Buddhists jeered Annan in the state capital, Sittwe. Many booed and shouted “No Kofi-led commission” into loudspeakers as they swarmed his convoy. Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh, has been scarred by bouts of violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and the minority Rohingya. Rohingya are despised by hardline Buddhists, who say they have no right to citizenship and label them “Bengalis”, shorthand for illegal immigrants.
What next? Annan has downplayed his role, claiming he is not meant to investigate human rights in the country, but to come up with recommendations for the government to ease the tensions. “We are not here to do a human rights investigation and write a human rights report,” Annan said. “We are not here as an inspector or as a policeman. We are here to help at the request of the government.”
Indian tycoon launches new phone network with eye-catching offers
In a move that promises to dramatically reshape the Indian smartphone landscape, Mukesh Ambani, the country’s richest man, announced his long-awaited Reliance Jio 4G network with an audacious free service for the rest of 2016, followed by vastly cheaper data plans and free voice calls for life. With his $20 billion investment in mobile, Ambani is betting on an evolving internet landscape in a country where nearly a billion people are still not online. Public wifi is scarce and broadband access weak, with many rural areas lacking the infrastructure for high speeds. Ambani hopes to win over those who have never had the internet and for whom mobile data was unaffordable before, with high-speed 4G covering 90 per cent of India by March 2017.
What next? The promised freebies have attracted plenty of attention, but proof will be in the service, analysts say. Others say it is a gimmick and that free will not really mean free. While poor customers, who often use two SIM cards in the same phone to hop between plans, may switch early, better-off users are likely to wait and see.
Mario to join Pokemon in Nintendo’s smartphone revolution
Nintendo has decided to bring Mario to smartphones, with the Italian plumber set to debut in a game app in December. The bar was set high by the July release of Pokemon Go, a franchise partly owned by Nintendo, although the effort was mostly led by partner Niantic. That was downloaded more than 500 million times. Nintendo’s stock has almost doubled since March 2015, when it committed itself to the smartphone era, adding close to US$20 billion to its market value.
What next? A demo shows a familiar scene: Mario racing across a two-dimensional landscape, jumping over obstacles and collecting coins – recognisable to anyone who played Super Mario Brothers on TV screens decades ago. It isn’t revolutionary, but rather a bet by Nintendo that sticking to a successful formula will translate into a solid debut for the Mario franchise on smartphones.
Japan’s former PM Koizumi attacks Abe over Fukushima aftermath
Former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi criticised current premier Shinzo Abe’s claim the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is under control. “It’s a lie,” an impassioned Koizumi said. “They keep saying it’s going to be under control, but still it’s not effective.” Koizumi backed the use of nuclear power whilst in office from 2001-2006, but now says he regrets his ignorance of its risks, and is campaigning for its abolition. “When I was prime minister, I believed what they told me. I believed it was a cheap, safe and clean form of energy,” Koizumi said.
What next? More than five years after the meltdowns at the plant, operator Tokyo Electric Power is struggling to contain the contaminated water that inundates the plant. It is using a frozen “ice wall” to stop water from entering the wrecked facility, but still about 300 metric tonnes of water flows into the reactor building daily.
Compiled by Thomas Sturrock