In China, that conflict is known as the “War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea,” and is seen as a great victory, a view shared by Pyongyang, though North Korea failed to make any gains after its initial invasion of the South was rebuffed, and would likely have been defeated but for Beijing’s assistance.
Taiwan has emerged as a major potential flashpoint between the US and China in recent years, as Washington has become more forceful in its approach toward Beijing and China adopted a threatening posture towards the self-ruled island, which it has vowed to seize militarily if necessary.
“Despite its continuing pre-eminence, US standing has waned,” Lowy noted in its recent Pacific Power Index. “Washington, far from being the undisputed unipolar power, can more correctly be described as the first among equals in a bipolar Indo-Pacific.”
Meanwhile, the report said, “Beijing has enhanced its military capability by investing in weaponry that could threaten US and allied bases in the region.”
In a pre-recorded speech that was televised on Wednesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he is taking the first steps to “de-escalate” political tensions that have seen tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets in recent months, calling for a new constitution, monarchy reform and Prayut’s resignation.
“The protestors have made their voices and views heard,” Prayut said. “As the leader of the nation who is responsible for the welfare of all Thais — whether they be protestors or the silent majority with whatever political convictions — I will make the first move to de-escalate this situation.”
Prayut said he is planning to lift the state of severe emergency in the capital on the condition that “there are no violent incidents” and asked protesters to work through representatives in parliament.
“I ask the protesters to reciprocate with sincerity, to turn down the volume on hateful and divisive talk, and to let us, together, disperse this terrible dark cloud before it moves over our country,” the Prime Minster added.
Meanwhile, an extraordinary parliamentary session was given royal assent and will be convened from Monday, according to an announcement from Thailand’s Royal Gazette. Thailand’s parliament is in recess but will be recalled to debate the crisis. The order said King Maha Vajiralongkorn approved the session “With necessity for the national interest.”
Student-led demonstrators have continued defying an emergency decree imposed last Thursday that banned public gatherings of more than five people, restricted the publication of information deemed to incite fear among the public, and granted broader powers to security forces.
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters rallied in Bangkok and other cities over the weekend, galvanized by clashes between police and protesters on Friday. Many people, including celebrities, have publicly condemned the police’s use of water cannons to disperse protesters.
“Last Friday night, we saw things that should never be in Thailand,” Prayut said in Wednesday’s speech, referring to some of the violent clashes between protesters and police. But he acknowledged the peaceful “well-meaning” demonstrators as well.
Started by students, the protest movement has been mostly peaceful and has attracted support from a wider cross-section of society. Marches and flash-mob style rallies are organized online over messaging platforms such as Telegram, with protest locations announced last minute on social media.
On Wednesday, protesters said they were giving Prayut three days to resign or face more demonstrations.
A representative from the pro-democracy protesters handed a mock resignation letter to the Bangkok metropolitan police chief and a representative from the government, and at the bottom of the letter was a blank space for the Prime Minister to sign.
“Prayut must resign within three days, or else will face with people again,” a local protest leader said.
The group are also demanding the release of arrested protesters in custody, including several protest leaders. Thai police said that 77 people have been arrested from the protests in Bangkok since October 13. Thai Lawyers for Human rights put the number of people arrested nationwide at 87, with 81 prosecuted.
Charges have ranged from smaller offenses to more serious crimes such as sedition, which carries a maximum seven years in prison, and violating the Computer Crime Act.
Last week, two activists were arrested on charges of attempting violence against the Queen, after her motorcade was obstructed by anti-government crowds. The pair face a possible life sentence.
The threat of prison, the arrest of protest leaders and the emergency decree has not deterred protesters. A central demand is reforming Thailand’s powerful monarchy to curb the King’s powers and make him answerable to the constitution.
Protesters have scrutinized King Vajiralongkorn’s immense wealth and power. Vajiralongkorn has consolidated his power by expanding his own appointed military unit, the King’s Guard. He has also vastly increased his personal wealth and transferred billions of dollars worth of royal assets held by the Thai Crown directly into his control.
CNN’s Chandler Thornton and Hira Humayun contributed.
This wasn’t the first time the lawmaker and member of the ruling LDP party’s Women Activity Promotion Taskforce has alienated parts of the electorate with her conservative views.
Experts say Sugita’s recent apology missed the mark, and her comments are damaging — especially in a country with so few female politicians.
Toeing the boy’s club line
Tomomi Inada, a former defense minister who served in former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government before she resigned in 2017, said being part of a minority comes with its stereotypes.
“We are often judged to be emotional and are treated with skepticism when we voice our opinion strongly. That’s because we are such extreme minority in Japanese politics,” says Inada.
To survive, some women in Japanese politics feel the pressure to comply with their male counterparts’ views to fit in, according to Chizuko Ueno, a sociologist and the chief director of the Women’s Action Network. “They can become more hawkish than their male colleagues,” she adds.
Inada acknowledges feeling pressure to conform to the male majority’s viewpoint while in government, but says it is important for women not to give in to this.
However, Sugita’s latest actions encourage the normalization of casually misogynistic views, says Kukhee Choo, a Japan-based media scholar.
“Countless feminists paved the way for Sugita, but she is using her position of power to dismantle the privilege they built for her. It’s like she turned against that very fight,” says Choo.
In the past, women in Japan who defied expectations and pushed the needle on gender equality have faced backlash.
“All generations in Japan have access to the internet, and younger people, in particular, have mobilized on social media to express their opinions and force politicians to change their stance on topics,” says Choo.
Increasingly, people in Japan are no longer willing to turn a blind eye to discriminatory remarks made by politicians, adds Ueno, the sociologist.
“Society is changing and the media’s high attention on Sugita’s remark is proof of such change. Not long ago, remarks like hers were so commonplace they were overlooked but now it’s getting a headline,” says Ueno.
Inada says people in Japan think a strong woman will climb the political ladder alone, but that’s a myth. “We will never be able to change the system if we stick to the idea,” she says.
Today, for instance, 127 countries use electoral gender quotas to increase women’s representation in politics, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).
Inada has backed implementing enforced electoral quotas, arguing that increasing female participation raises responsiveness to policies concerning women, and is also beneficial to men.
“(Japan is) probably 20 to 30 years behind many other countries, but now is the time for female politicians to take action,” says Inada.
Some steps have been made towards change. In 2018, a law was passed to encourage political parties to set targets for gender parity.
However, as with an 1985 equal employment law which aimed to promote gender equality in private companies, there are no legal requirements or penalties for parties that fail to comply, according to Hiroko Goto, a gender equality expert at Chiba University.
The situation didn’t get much better in 2020.
When Yoshihide Suga took over office in September, he appointed only two women to his 21-strong team, to the chagrin of many, including the former defense minister Inada. She declared shortly afterward that Japan was a “democracy without women.”
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike was the LDP’s first and only female candidate — and that was in the 2008 presidential election.
Strength in numbers
Despite the barriers, more women are applying for political office than ever before.
Last year, of 370 candidates seeking one of the 124 seats being contested in the Upper House of Councilors, 104 — or almost 30% — were women, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Ueno, the sociologist, says while these women can serve as role models in Japan, many of them are members of smaller, left-wing parties such as the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP), which have a less influential presence in the Japanese parliament. Also, Japan’s upper house is the less powerful of the parliament’s two houses — for instance, laws are generally passed by the lower house before being sent to the upper house for approval. The lower house can overrule the decisions of the upper house with a majority vote on significant national issues, such as the selection of the prime minister and budgets.
The LDP Secretary General’s office said they did not accept the petition of the Flower Demo as it is not usual practice for them to do so.
“(Sugita) has always made remarks like that and the ruling LDP party has forgiven her. But as the Japanese #MeToo is gaining momentum, the LDP can’t ignore this,” says Kitahara.
“Japan is such a male dominated society, we really want the few female politicians to be feminists. We also need (male politicians) to be better allies to women, and understand that the gender issue is important.”
Binu, a construction worker in the southern Indian state of Kerala, sorely regrets attending his uncle’s funeral. He caught Covid-19 at the ceremony and spread it to at least another eight people.
Despite a recent surge in infections, Kerala with its well-equipped public health system is better equipped than some other Indian states to deal with the crisis.
Kamalamma, a health worker sharing information on the virus from door to door in the state, says older and infirm people are largely taking precautions but that younger people are still less concerned about the disease.
Asafoetida occupies a treasured spot in the Indian pantry, but has never been farmed there until now.
The participation of Australia means that all four members of the so-called Quad will be participating in the exercises for the first time since 2007.
While not a formal military alliance like NATO, it is seen by some as a potential counterweight to growing Chinese influence and alleged aggression in Asia-Pacific. The collation has been denounced by Beijing as an anti-China bloc.
The Australian and Indian defense ministries announced the expansion of the drills, which had been long-speculated, late Monday.
Australian Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said the Malabar exercises were key to enhancing Australia’s maritime capabilities, and showcased the “deep trust between four major Indo-Pacific democracies and their shared will to work together on common security interests.”
Australia’s previous participation in the drills in 2007 sparked diplomatic protests from China. Relations between China and Australia have since deteriorated, however, with the two countries locked in a series of long-running trade disputes.
In a statement Monday, India’s Defense Ministry said the four participants “collectively support free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific and remain committed to a rules based international order.”
The exercises will begin in November in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, India said.
Malabar began as a bilateral exercise between India and the US. Japan became a permanent Malabar member in 2015.
Previous exercises have taken place in the Indian Ocean as well as off the coast of Japan a year ago, and around the US Pacific territory of Guam and in the Philippine Sea in 2018.
CNN’s James Griffiths contributed reporting.
The Australian city of Melbourne has faced one of the world’s longest and harshest lockdowns. Tight restrictions included a 5km (3 mile) travel limit, sparking the trend “burbing”; to cycle every road in a suburb. Resident Ben Loke decided to take this trend even further and ride every street in his 5km radius.
Video by Isabelle Rodd.
Chaos broke out when thousands gathered in a stadium in Afghanistan to apply for visas to Pakistan.
But other parts of the country never saw such stringent restrictions, even during the early stages of the pandemic when similar lockdowns were introduced in cities throughout China.
In particular, China’s ability to track and trace cases across the country whenever there is the suggestion of a new cluster of infections has enabled the government to respond quickly and bring local epidemics under control.
Between provinces and regions, borders that were previously frictionless and mostly invisible are now increasingly monitored, so public transport can be restricted or halted completely in the instance of an outbreak. Entry into China from overseas has also been heavily restricted, with strict quarantine measures enforced on arrival.
In part, this more productive response to the virus in China — and in other places throughout Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan — is due to the differing reaction from the general population in this region compared to Europe.
Similarly, European borders have remained largely open — despite the bloc having the right to close its usually open boundaries in the name of public health — with summer travelers blamed for several recent outbreaks.
“Fundamental to these measures is extremely proactive surveillance to immediately detect cases, very rapid diagnosis and immediate case isolation, rigorous tracking and quarantine of close contacts, and an exceptionally high degree of population understanding and acceptance of these measures,” the report said.
Unfortunately, in the intervening months, even as China’s response has been shown to be effective — and similar models have shown success in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia long exposed to the virus — Europe continues to lag behind.