TIME Japan

Japan Vows To Strike Any North Korean Missiles It Deems A Threat

Koreas Tensions
In this July, 2013 photo, military trucks carry Rodong missiles during a military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Kyodo News/AP

Japan issues stern warning as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel pledges firm commitment to mutual defense pact with Japan, ahead of a meeting with leaders in Tokyo. The order comes after North Korea launched medium-range missiles into the Sea of Japan

Japan dispatched a destroyer after warning North Korea Thursday it would strike any ballistic missile launched by Pyongyang that it deemed a threat.

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera issued the order, which took effect on Thursday and runs through April 25, a government source told Reuters, and dispatched a destroyer to the Sea of Japan that will fire if Pyongyang launches a missile believes may fall on Japanese territory.

The order comes after North Korea launched medium-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, prompting a retaliatory strikes by South Korea also into the sea. North Korea fired the two Rodong missiles on March 26 in an apparent show of defiance just as the United States, South Korea and Japan began discussions on how to contain North Korea’s nuclear threats.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is visting Japan, said Saturday the U.S. was standing firmly by its mutual defense agreement with its ally, the Associated Press reports. There is no “weakness on the part of the United States as to our complete and absolute commitment to the security of Japan,” Hagel said.

[Reuters]

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Goes To The Polls

An estimated 7 million people turned out to participate in Afghanistan's presidential election, despite bad weather and threats of violence from Taliban militants

TIME Pakistan

Pakistani Cops Book 9-Month-Old on Attempted Murder Charge

The infant was booked on attempted murder charges after his family was accused of scuffling with police over an unpaid gas bill. The police officer who registered the child has since been suspended from duty by the Punjab region's chief minister

A 9-month-old child was reportedly hauled into a Pakistani court, fingerprinted and booked on attempted murder charges after his family members were accused of throwing bricks at the police collecting an unpaid gas bill.

Police officers arrived at a family home February 1 to collect payment for a gas bill, Pakistani police said, leading to a scuffle during which the the baby’s father, one of his teenage sons and others in the residence severely injured some of the officials by throwing bricks, CNN reports.

The police then charged family members with stoning and attempted murder. The child appeared in court Wednesday in Lahore and was booked as his grandfather held him. “The police filed a wrong, false arrest charge sheet and brought this innocent 9-month old into this court room for an appearance,” the family’s lawyer Irfan Tarar told CNN affiliate GEO News.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif ordered the suspension of a Pakistani police official for registering the boy’s case.

[CNN]

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Defies Taliban Threats To Vote in Historic Polls

Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif
Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif April 5, 2014. Zohra Bensemraz—Reuters

Despite warnings of violence by the Taliban, Afghans turned out in large numbers to vote in Saturday's presidential election. Afghan forces were dispatched in a massive operation across the nation to protect voters

Updated 4:00 p.m. ET

Seven million Afghans braved security threats and inclement weather on Saturday to vote for their next president. Despite persistent intimidation and attacks by the Taliban in the weeks ahead of the April 5 polls, voter turnout was high in what many hope will be the war-torn nation’s first peaceful and democratic transition of power since 2001.

President Hamid Karzai, who has led Afghanistan since 2001 and is constitutionally barred from running again, cast his vote for his successor in the morning. Eight candidates are vying to take his place; the three frontrunners are Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, and Zalmai Rassoul. In such a wide field, the likelihood that one candidate will get the votes needed to win outright is slim. A runoff vote between the top candidates is widely expected, meaning that Afghanistan may not get its next government in place until the summer.

Officials and citizens’ central concerns as the presidential and provincial elections got underway were security and fraud. The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the vote, and ran a campaign of high-profile attacks in Kabul and other parts of the country in recent weeks. The day before voting started, two female foreign journalists traveling with election workers were attacked by an Afghan police officer in eastern Khost province. Anja Niedringhaus, a Pulitzer-prize-winning photographer working for the Associated Press, was shot and killed.

Afghan forces were dispatched in a massive operation across the nation to protect voters. Much of Kabul was reportedly blocked off to traffic, and in less stable parts of the country, the election commission closed hundreds of polling centers before the vote, in no small part to prevent ballot stuffing in places where voters and observers would be largely absent. After the 2009 presidential election, some 1.5 million votes were disqualified, according to the election commission. Karzai remained in power, but such widespread fraud this time around could lead to a protracted power struggle in a larger field of candidates.

Over the course of the day, a sense of euphoria built on social media as photos poured in of long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots and proudly showing off their ink-stained fingers after their turn. A total of seven million out of 12 million eligible voters, or 58 percent showed up to vote, despite the Taliban’s threats, Al Jazeera reports. There were scattered bombings and attacks throughout the country and several deaths were reported, but the violence was less intense than expected.

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the millions of Afghans who enthusiastically participated in today’s historic elections,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future.”

There were reports Saturday that some polling centers had run out of ballots — a better problem to have than widespread violence, but also one that underscores the work still ahead in this historic transition for Afghanistan. Today’s enthusiastic and inspiring vote was a good start.

TIME Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

‘Pulse Signal’ Detected in Search for Missing Jet

Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 is pictured during a search for the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, in the south Indian Ocean
Chinese patrol ship Haixun 01 is pictured during a search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in the south Indian Ocean April 5, 2014, in this photo courtesy of China News Service. Haixun 01 detected a pulse signal in the south Indian Ocean on Saturday, the state news agency Xinhua reported, in a possible indicator of the underwater beacon from a plane's "black box". CNSphoto/Reuters

Australian authorities said that the radio pings a Chinese search team reported "are consistent" with Flight MH370's black box, but there was no confirmation they were related to the missing plane. Meanwhile, the batteries for the flight's recorders are due to run out

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET

A Chinese patrol ship searching for the missing Malaysia airlines jet in the Indian Ocean detected a pulse radio signal at the frequency of a black box Saturday, but has been unable to determine with certainty whether the pulse belongs to Flight MH370.

The frequency detected, 37.5 kHz per second, is the international standard frequency for the locator beacon on the plane’s black box, Reuters reports.

Australian authorities said that the radio pings China reported “are consistent with the aircraft black box,” but said there was no confirmation they were related to missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

The search for the missing airliner has become increasingly desperate as the batteries in the flight and voice recorders are due to run out early next week. The electronic “pings” sounded by such boxes could be crucial in finding the missing jet deep under the ocean.

Malaysia vowed to continue the search to find the missing jetliner as a multinational team including 13 military and civilian planes and 11 ships scoured a remote area of the Indian Ocean Saturday, the Associated Press reports.

“I can only speak for Malaysia, and Malaysia will not stop looking for MH370,” Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s defense minister and acting transport minister said.

The missing Boeing 777 disappeared March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 people aboard. The circumstances of the disappearance remain a mystery.

[AP]

TIME Afghanistan

Afghanistan Goes To The Polls

Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif
Afghan women wait to cast their ballots at a polling station in Mazar-i-sharif April 5, 2014. Zohra Bensemraz—Reuters

Afghans defied threats of violence by the Taliban to turn out in large numbers to vote in Saturday's presidential election. About 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote in the election where eight candidates are running

Afghan voters braved cold, rain, and the threat of violence by the Taliban to cast their ballots Saturday, lining up at the polls in strong numbers to democratically transfer power for the first time in the country’s history.

There were few reports of violence Saturday, though a roadside bomb killed two policeman returning from a polling station in southern city of Qalat, and four voters were wounded in an explosion at a polling center in a southeastern province, Reuters reports. The Taliban had vowed to derail the elections, calling it a U.S.-manipulated sham.

The United Nations and other foreign donors funded the $100 million election, reports the New York Times.

About 12 million Afghans are eligible to vote in the election for eight candidates. The election is expected to end in a runoff with three leading candidates divvying up the vote.

More than 350,000 Afghan troops were mobilized to protect polling stations and voters, who formed long lines to cast their ballots across the country. Relatively few polling stations were closed under threat of violence.

Afghans had voted previously to elect current president Hamid Karzai in 2004 and re-elect him in a messy 2009 election that occurred amidst massive fraud, but Saturday’s vote is the first to elect a new president in the country’s history.

[Reuters]

TIME North Korea

North Korea: World Must ‘Wait and See’ on Next Nuclear Test

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un arriving at the Samjiyong airport in Ryaggang province in North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un arriving at the Samjiyong airport in Ryaggang province in North Korea, April 1, 2014. KCNA/AFP/Getty Images

The Communist nation has conducted three nuclear tests in the past, and its recent threat came amid heightened tensions with South Korea. “The DPRK made it very clear, we will carry out a new form of nuclear test,” said a North Korean official

A North Korea official said at a UN news conference Friday that the world should “wait and see” what the government meant when it threatened earlier this week a “new form” of nuclear test.

“The DPRK made it very clear, we will carry out a new form of nuclear test,” Deputy UN Ambassador Ri Tong Il of North Korea (DPRK) said, according to Reuters. “But I recommend you to wait and see what it is.

The UN Security Council condemned North Korea March 27 for firing two medium-range Rodong ballistic missiles into the sea a day earlier, calling it a breach of U.N. resolutions but drawing the ire of the North. On Sunday, the official Korean Central News Agency published a statement threatening a “new form” of nuclear test, following three past tests, without elaborating on what that would mean.

Tensions between North and South Korea have spiked amid joint annual military exercises between South Korea and the United States. On Monday, North Korea fired shells across a disputed maritime border, prompting return fire from South Korea.

TIME

Watch: What You Need To Know About Elections in India and Indonesia

+ READ ARTICLE

April will be a big month for democracy, as elections take place in India, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Hungary, Indonesia, Algeria and Iraq – countries with total electorates of more than one billion people. In particular, the upcoming elections in India and Indonesia promise to be momentous, with more than 1 billion eligible voters, more than 1.5 million electronic voting machines and more than a million polling stations in India alone. In the video above, we asked TIME’s International Editor Bobby Ghosh for a preview of what we should know about the upcoming elections in the two countries.

TIME diplomacy

Israel and Palestinians Look For Way Out of Talks Crisis

Palestinian women walk near Israeli border policemen after Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City
Palestinian women walk near Israeli border policemen after Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City April 4, 2014. Amir Cohen—Reuters

Peace talks hit another road bump with Israel announcing it would no longer release 26 Palestinian prisoners and Palestinians signing international treaties Israel opposes. Both sides, however, expressed hopes of saving the peace process

The trajectory at least appeared to continue downward Friday for the future of peace talks between Israel and Palestinians. Before heading back to Washington from Morocco, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the American commitment to the talks he has personally championed is not “open-ended,” and said it was “reality check time.” Israel dug in its heels, announcing it was cancelling the proposed release of 26 Palestinian prisoners—the final batch in a promised string of releases whose delay last week prompted the Palestinian leadership to retaliate by signing international treaties Israel regards as threatening.

“Peace Process Crisis” read the headline in Friday’s Sof Hashavua, a Hebrew weekly. And yet, no one was calling it over. Weeks remain before the April 29 deadline for talks originally set to last nine months, and an extension remains a real possibility, according to officials on both sides.

“I would not say that everything collapsed. I don’t think so,” says an Israeli knowledgeable about the negotiations, who spoke on condition of not being identified any more precisely. “I don’t think either party has an interest in collapse. But the question is how can we avert escalation given the dangerous point that we’re at right now.

“We still have till the end of April.”

A face-to-face meeting at midweek was “very tense, but we talk to each other,” the Israeli says. Voices were not raised, the source says, and despite reports in both the Palestinian and Israeli press, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat made no overt threat of pursing Israel in international courts for “war crimes.”

But that is precisely the threat implied by the Palestinians adopting international treaties. And though none of the 15 agreements signed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday directly involved the International Criminal Court, the Israelis complained of being blind-sided by the abrupt move, which the Israeli source said altered the “context” of the talks.

The Palestinians–who ordinarily complain that the status quo in the conflict favors Israel, which has occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967–pretend a certain amount of dismay at Israel’s outrage.

“It’s a non-violent, diplomatic step,” said a Palestinian official close to the negotiations, who also spoke anonymously, citing the sensitivity of the situation. “We are not joining al-Qaeda. We are talking about joining international treaties.”

And the treaties carry obligations for Palestine as well as for Israel, especially in the realm of human rights. On Thursday, right-wing members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition were researching grounds to charge Abbas’ government at The Hague, according to a report in Yedioth Ahronoth, the best-selling Israeli daily.

But if cooler heads do prevail, it remains unclear just how the two sides will find a way to extend the negotiations both privately indicated they prefer to see continue. One route might run through the deep thicket of UN bureaucracy, which the 15 treaties and conventions officially entered shortly after Abbas signed them. The Palestinians say prompt delivery proves they are serious, but the Israeli source appeared to suggest that the action was not yet final, saying, “If those letters of ascension reach their destination and the fact becomes irreversible, then we’re in a different ballgame and I don’t think that will allow us to go back and discuss the terms of an extension.”

A middle ground might be provided by slow, deliberate (or deliberately slow) processing at the U.N., which in accepting the Palestinian documents stated that its priority is to “salvage the two-state solution.”

At the same time, the Palestinians appeared to be making the most of their newly discovered leverage. They expanded their list of demands of Israel as the price for extending the talks, including the release of high profile prisoners and lifting “the siege” on the Gaza Strip, controlled by the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

At the same time, the Palestinian official who spoke to TIME suggested that, if Israel is serious about negotiating a final pact, talks could continue even as Palestine pursues its diplomatic track with sympathetic international bodies.

“What’s the problem with negotiating and going to the United Nations?” the official asks. “Because for the Israelis there seems to be no problem with negotiating while building settlements.”

Still unaddressed, amid the rolling controversies, are the borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem, and other issues at the heart of the conflict.

TIME United Kingdom

Royal Calls For Badgers To Be Culled With Cyanide Gas

The British princess said a 22-year ban on using cyanide to kill badgers would be a more humane method of culling than shooting

Princess Anne, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth, on Friday incurred the wrath of animal welfare protesters after she said Britain’s badgers should be gassed, reports the Guardian.

She claimed it was the most humane way of approaching the problem of the rise in bovine tuberculosis, a disease spread by cattle consuming grass contaminated with badger urine and faeces. But gassing badgers with cyanide was outlawed in Britain in 1982 after being considered ineffective and cruel.

She made her remarks during an interview on Friday with the BBC, set to be broadcast on Sunday. The government’s Environment Minister, Owen Paterson, said that gassing was being considered as an alternative to shooting if it proved to be efficient and humane. The Princess’s intervention came only a day after Paterson abandoned plans to extend a badger cull across Britain.

Badger experts insisted that gassing the animals would be just as inhumane as the current practice of shooting them. Veterinarian Mark Jones stated that “any attempt to reintroduce gassing would no doubt result in a slow and painful death for badgers.”

[Guardian]

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