The cyber attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment have become probably the most scandalous and gossip-worthy foreign policy story of the past decade, with North Korea being rocketed back into the spotlight of the American public. During late November and early December of last year, hackers released thousands of private email conversations and other confidential data from Sony’s system, with the apparent goal of threatening Sony into not releasing a comedy film about assassinating Kim Jong Un, entitled The Interview. The FBI asserts that these security breaches were orchestrated by North Korean hackers, and the United States has just begun a new round of sanctions targeting North Korea. While North Korea claims that they were uninvolved with the data leaks and some security experts have blamed disgruntled insiders, the damage has already been done to North Korea’s already shattered reputation.
Cambodian democracy is once again under assault. On January 9th, the leaders in Cambodia’s ruling party announced to opposition leaders of their proposal to limit campaign rallies. Political parties throughout the nation would be restricted to just two days of rallies during an election campaign. While this is a violation of the cardinal civil right to assembly, it’s sadly only the most recent attempt by Cambodia’s government to rollback the evolution of democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
Given the recent stories about Japan’s turn to nationalism, it is sometimes easy to forget how much Japan is influenced by pacifist sentiments. Indeed, even nationalists such as Abe Shinzo have found it necessary to dress up their policies in the language of pacifism. Thus, it is not surprising that Japan’s first National Security Strategy talks of a more “proactive contribution to peace.”
The Malacañang Palace in Manila—some say its name means “place of the fisherman”—is a rambling white concrete structure on the north bank of the Pasig River in the old district of San Miguel. The former residence of Spanish colonial governors and American generals, it now houses the office of the Philippine president, who lives out back in a smaller building on the palace grounds known as the “House of Dreams.”
Despite the staggering impact from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) that ravaged across the central Philippines in November 2013 and the 7.2 magnitude Bohol Earthquake just weeks before that, the country managed to sustain its economic momentum as its Growth Domestic Product (GDP) finished the year up by a rate of 7.2 percent. Fully expecting the impact of the severe disasters to be felt more intensely in the year ahead, the Moody’s March 2014 upward revision from a rate of 5.4 to 5.8 percent of annual GDP for the year is a welcome indicator. The solid economic growth trajectory combined with critical domestic reform efforts and energetic diplomacy continues to strengthen the outlook for the Philippines.
As India becomes a more powerful player in the global hierarchy and strengthens ties with the United States—despite occasional setbacks—China construes that it is in its best interest to turn towards Pakistan to fend off the Indo-U.S. alliance in South and East Asia.
The Mongolian economy, not long ago the darling of the global investment community, has hit another rough patch—with a bank collapse, slumping commodity exports, a devaluing currency, and a sharp slide in government bond prices all conspiring to produce a string of bad news. Mongolia’s recently re-elected president has reacted with dismay, and financial firms that track Mongolia are sounding alarm bells. Indeed, this October the government called an extraordinary session of parliament, the same month that the World Economic Forum hosted a special session in Ulaanbaatar to discuss possible solutions to Mongolia's economic travails.
Belinda Bow is the international ambassador for a Nepalese organization called 3 Angels, whose objective is to combat human trafficking. She is also the owner of Green Chili Marketing. Diplomatic Courier contributor Anne-Yolande Bilala recently interviewed Bow on the current situation in Nepal.
On December 24, 2013, several Cambodian union groups called for worker strikes throughout the country in response to new minimum wage policies by the Labor Ministry, who had set the minimum wage for 2014 at $95 dollars a month, not the $160 dollars a month that labor leaders had demanded. For ten days, tens of thousands of workers went on strike, marching through the streets of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh. At the height of the protests, over 100,000 workers joined the demonstrations on December 29th for new labor laws and improved wages.
Asia is home to the eight of the world’s ten largest megacities—Tokyo, Jakarta, Seoul, Guangzhou, Delhi, Shanghai, Karachi, and Manila—all with over 20 million inhabitants. As Asia’s megacities continue to grow, concern mounts over the ability of states to control them. That control would be tested by natural disasters, civil unrest, infrastructure shortfalls, or epidemics. Indeed, the preparedness of most of Asia’s sprawling megacities is untested.
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