October 2023

MONTH IN BRIEF

Russia, N Korea bolster ties

Russia, N Korea bolster ties

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has completed a six-day visit to Russia and a summit with President Vladimir Putin that ‘opened a new chapter’ in relations between the two countries, state media reported. ‘Through his visit to the Russian Federation, the respected Comrade Kim Jong-un further deepened the comradely fellowship and friendly ties with Russian President Putin and the government and people of Russia,’ stated KCNA. Meanwhile, officials in Seoul and Washington have warned that Kim and Putin seem to be negotiating an arms deal to replenish Russia’s dwindling artillery stockpile as its war against Ukraine continues.

Seats for women

The Indian government has cleared a Bill that pledges the reservation of 33 per cent of seats for women in India’s Lower House of Parliament and state legislative assemblies. The Women’s Reservation Bill was approved by the Cabinet in New Delhi and will be tabled during the current special session of Parliament called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. Government officials and ministers who attended the Cabinet meeting, which was led by Mr Modi, were not immediately available to confirm or deny the approval of the Bill that was introduced in 1996.

 

ASEAN drills

ASEAN drills

Militaries from the ASEAN states began their first joint exercises on Sept. 19 in Indonesia, with a Myanmar representative present despite the bloc’s ban on its junta leaders. The ten nations have previously participated in multinational defence drills, but these are the first featuring just the bloc, which is battling perceptions of irrelevance on major regional issues such as the turmoil in Myanmar and disputes in the South China Sea. These are non-combat exercises, however, with member forces training in areas such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, rescue operations and joint maritime patrols, according to the host Indonesia.

 

Ban for buoy

Japan has ordered Beijing to remove a Chinese buoy floating in waters within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an official has said, referring to an area located near islands claimed by both countries. ‘We have been lodging protests in both Tokyo and Beijing since Japan’s coastguard in July found a buoy’ in Japan’s EEZ in the East China Sea, a foreign ministry official reported. The buoy was spotted in waters near a group of islands that Japan calls the Senkaku and China the Diaoyu.

 

Action against Sikh separatist

Action against Sikh separatist

India’s top investigation agency has confiscated the properties of a prominent Sikh separatist and close ally of Mr Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whose killing has provoked a diplomatic row between India and Canada. Gurpat want Singh Pannun, a lawyer believed to be based in Canada, was designated as a terrorist by the Indian authorities in 2020 and is wanted on charges of terrorism and sedition. He is also the founder of United States-based group Sikhs For Justice, whose Canada chapter was headed by Mr Nijjar before he was gunned down bymasked attackers near Vancouver in June.

‘Not pro-Beijing’

Taiwan’s opposition presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih, a former policeman, is eager for the United States to know that his party, the Kuomintang (KMT) – Chinese Nationalist Party – is not pro-Beijing, despite the party historically favouring closer ties with the mainland.Analysts say this is why he has placed so much emphasis on recently bolstering Taiwan’s defence capabilities in his cross-strait policy, even as he seeks to resume talks with Beijing.

Hou Yu-ih

Scepticism over sports AI

Scepticism over sports AI

The Philippines’ largest TV network is now using AI-generated ‘sportscasters’, leading some sports journalists to lament that the move will drain the excitement from sports coverage. ‘Maia’ and ‘Marco’ were introduced by GMA Integrated News in time for the start of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), the Philippines’ oldest collegiate league.In a 40-second video, the two avatars – which look like an amalgamation of popular celebrities and sportscasters in the Philippines but have the ‘dead-eye’ look typical of AI-generated characters – promised to deliver ‘the latest news about the biggest leagues and tournaments in the Philippines and all over the world… using cutting-edge advancements in generative AI’.

Crocs captured

Dozens of Siamese crocodiles which escaped from a flooded Chinese farm have all been recaptured, according to Chinese state media. More than 70 of the reptiles broke out of a commercial crocodile farm in the southern Chinese city of Maoming in early September, after a typhoon inundated the area. Authorities in Guangdong Province launched an expansive search, with state broadcaster CCTV running footage of workers in rain boots dragging a crocodile out of the water with a rope.