March 2024

MONTH IN BRIEF

Dictators-in-arms

North Korea has shipped containers that may hold millions of artillery shells to Russia

North Korea has shipped containers that may hold millions of artillery shells to Russia, a top South Korean official said, allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to maintain his assault on Ukraine as Kyiv’s stocks of ammunition decline. South Korean Defence Minister Shin Won-sik told reporters that North Korea is estimated to have sent about 6,700 containers to Russia, accelerating the pace of shipments since Putin held a summit with Mr Kim Jong Un in September 2023, Yonhap News reported on Feb 27. The containers could hold about three million rounds of 152mm shells, Mr Shin said.

More charges against Khan

Imran Khan and his wife Bushra

A Pakistani court has indicted jailed former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi on charges that they allegedly received land as a bribe by misusing his office during his premiership, his party said. The latest charges come after a string of convictions against Khan in the months leading up to the Feb 8 national election, in which his supporters won the most seats overall. Khan, 71, has been in jail since August in connection with other cases, but has previously denied the allegations.

Oz to boost defence budget

Australia plans to increase its defence spending by an additional A$11.1 billion (S$9.8 billion) over the next decade to procure six ‘optionally crewed’ warships and 11 new frigates, as it aims to double its fleet of combat-ready ships. The country has been looking to build its defence capabilities amid concerns about rising global geopolitical tensions and China’s growing influence among some Pacific island nations. Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said the government’s plan would eventually increase the navy’s surface combatant fleet to 26 from 11, the largest since the end of World War II.

China-Taiwan: coastal tensions

Chinese coast guard personnel briefly boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat near Taiwan-controlled islands

Chinese coast guard personnel briefly boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat near Taiwan-controlled islands next to China’s coast on Feb. 19, the government in Taipei said, in an escalation of tensions after China said it would carry out regular patrols. Beijing announced on Feb 18 that its coast guard would strengthen law enforcement activity around the Kinmen islands following the death of two Chinese nationals fleeing Taiwan’s coast guard having entered into prohibited waters too close to Kinmen, which lies opposite the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou. Taiwan’s coast guard said in a statement that six Chinese coast guard officers boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat carrying 11 crew members and 23 passengers to check its route plan, certificate and crew licences, leaving around half an hour later.

Japan pledges aid to Ukraine

Japan has hosted Ukrainian Premier Denys Shmyhal in Tokyo

Japan has hosted Ukrainian Premier Denys Shmyhal in Tokyo to discuss the reconstruction of Ukraine, and pledged a new bilateral tax treaty and other support from Japanese businesses as the Ukraine war rages on. ‘Japan has stood with and continues to stand with Ukraine,’ Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a speech opening the talks, during which he announced the new bilateral tax treaty and the start of negotiations for an investment treaty without giving details. As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its third year, Japan has pledged more than US$10 billion worth of financial aid, as it seeks to show solidarity with Kyiv’s war effort.

Vietnam’s energy transition

Vietnam aims to produce 100,000 to 500,000 metric tonnes of hydrogen a year by 2030 as part of its energy transition efforts, according to the country’s hydrogen development strategy adopted earlier in February. The output would be raised to 10 to 20 million tonnes by 2050, including green hydrogen, according to a government document detailing the strategy reviewed by Reuters. The production, distribution and usage of hydrogen will help “meet the country’s national targets for climate change, green growth and to meet its net-zero target by 2050’, the document said.

vietnam-aims-to-produce-100000-500000-tons-of-hydrogen-a-year-by-2030

Philippines ravine tragedy

Fifteen people have been killed after a truck plummeted down a ravine in the central Philippines. The vehicle was carrying people on their way to a livestock market on Negros island in the mountainous area near Mabinay, which is a frequent scene of road accidents.

Of the 17 people onboard, only one passenger and the driver survived. The driver was found drenched in motor oil in the wreck at the bottom of the ravine at least 50m below the road, Fatal road accidents are common in the Philippines, where drivers frequently flout the rules and vehicles are often poorly maintained or overloaded

 

Elephant watch

Local authorities in Kerala are hoping that hundreds of new cameras and intense patrolling will help combat the problem of elephant attacks, which have sparked state-wide protests. The increased surveillance follows the deaths of three people in recent weeks after they were attacked by the huge mammals. In the most recent incident, a tourist guide was fatally charged by a herd of elephants on Feb. 16 in the town of Pulpally in the forested Wayanad region, causing thousands of people to block roads in protest, and vandalise a forest department vehicle. But environmental activists say deforestation is the root cause of the problem, as elephants are being driven from their natural habitat into more built-up areas.