Month in brief

Japan approves defence plan

Japan approves defence planJapan has endorsed plans to convert two ships into aircraft carriers –the nation’s first since the Second World War – in a bid to counter China’s mounting military power in the region. The plans are the clearest indication yet of Japan’s drive to become a regional power as strategic rivalry between China and Russia puts pressure on Tokyo’s US ally. North Korea is also a factor in Japan’s decision, as the nation has not yet fulfilled its pledge to dismantle its nuclear and missile programmes.

Flight from Indian cyclone

A mighty cyclone in the coastal areas of India’s Andhra Pradesh state left one person dead and forced thousands to flee their homes. Cyclone Phethai, which brought with it heavy rains and winds of up to 90km per hour, felled thousands of trees and electricity pylons.

Officials said 10,600 people were moved to relief camps after being evacuated from the worst affected districts.

Pyongyang condemns US sanctions

North Korea has denounced the Trump administration for accelerating sanctions and pressure on the nuclear-armed country, warning of a return to ‘exchanges of fire’ and a block on planned disarmament. Pyongyang’s response came after the US said it had introduced sanctions on three North Korean officials, including a top aide to leader Kim Jong-un, for alleged human rights abuses. Little progress has been made in denuclearising North Korea since Kim and Trump’s historic Singapore summit in June.

Demands for journalists’ release

Journalists, activists and rights groups in Myanmar are calling for the immediate release of two Reuters reporters, one year after their arrest and later imprisonment for exposing a massacre of Rohingya Muslims by members of the Myanmar military. The case of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo was seen as an indicator of press freedom and democratic rights in Myanmar, and their seven-year jail sentence cast a shadow over the country’s media community, sparking further international criticism of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hunt for Lion Air black box

A renewed search for the cockpit voice recorder of a Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 was delayed as bad weather impeded the arrival of a specialised ship. The crash, the world’s first of a Boeing Co 737 MAX jet, killed all 189 people on board and the main wreckage and second ‘black box’ were not recovered in an initial search. Lion Air said it was funding a 38 billion rupiah ($2.6 million) search effort – not a global norm, as such costs are typically paid by governments.

‘Love-struck’ man released from Pakistan

An Indian man detained for six years in Pakistan after entering the country illegally has returned home. Hamid Ansari was convicted of spying after he was found with a fake Pakistani identity card, though his supporters said he had entered the country in pursuit of a woman he met online. Ansari was greeted at India’s Wagah border by his family, government officials and journalists.

His return ends along ordeal for his family, who battled to track him down after he went missing during a trip to Afghanistan, and then to secure his release.

Gandhi unveiled

As part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi, a bust of Gandhi-ji was unveiled by India’s Ambassador to Germany, Mrs Mukta D. Tomar, and the Lord Mayor of Trier, Mr Wolfram Leibe, at the Auguste-Viktoria-Gymansium, one of the oldest schools in Trier, on 13 December. In her address at the unveiling, Ambassador Tomar highlighted the significance and relevance of the principle of non-violence to achieve peace, tolerance and understanding in the contemporary world.

Suicide threat over unpaid wages

A woman threatened to hurl herself from a Hong Kong building, allegedly over outstanding wage payments, resulting in a stand-off with police and firefighters that lasted more than 20 hours. Police received a report from the woman’s colleague saying she was threatening to jump from the roof of the Elizabeth House building in Causeway Bay on Hong Kong Island. A negotiator was sent to talk to the woman, who was reportedly asking for about HK$200,000 (S$35,000) in unpaid wages.

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