Weekly News Summary – March 18

A  look at the headlines making news this week from around South-east Asia  and a little bit beyond.

ASIAWATCH– A week into Japan’s nuclear emergency and it became apparent the crisis would not be solved quickly. Last week’s massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant’s backup power system, sending temperatures soaring and triggering fears of a meltdown.

There were increasingly ominous signs in the emergency. Radiation levels were described as “extremely high,” unexplained white smoke billowed from damaged reactors and officials warned spent fuel rods could be on the verge of spewing radioactive material. Despite seven days of desperate efforts, including waterbombing the troubled reactors using military helicopters, the reactors failed to cool.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the quake and tsunami continued to climb inexorably. Authorities estimated the number of dead at 10,000. Around 440,000 people took refuge in evacuation centres or makeshift shelters where they encountered bitterly cold temperatures and shortages of food, fuel and water.

All the while, aftershocks kept people across northern Japan on edge. Many foreign nations extended the recommended evacuation zone in advice for its citizens, whilst others accused Japanese officials of failing to provide enough information and downplaying the potential catastrophe. Europe’s Energy Commissioner said the word “apocalypse” was appropriate to describe Japan’s nuclear crisis.

China suspended approval for the construction of new nuclear power stations. It is currently constructing 27 new reactors, equal to about 40 percent of the total number being built worldwide.

Meanwhile, in the region’s other news, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao undertook a charm offensive in India this week, promoting what Wen called “cooperation, not competition,” between the two nations. India has received an enormous amount of international attention in recent months, with US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicholas Sarkozy all having visited the economic powerhouse.

The Indian media, however, was largely preoccupied with the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables on the world’s largest democracy. Of the most controversial were cables detailing how politicians had revealed “cash for votes is a way of political life in South India.” When surprised US Consulate-General officials asked about the legality of such practice, they were told, “Of course, but that’s the great thing about democracy.”

A Tibetan monk reportedly burned himself to death to protest against China’s occupation of Tibet. While China’s state media reported that the hundreds of protestors rallying in Sichuan province prevented the 28-year-old monk from receiving hospital treatment, Tibetan rights groups reported that witnesses saw police extinguish the flames and then beat the monk to death.

About Webmaster 857 Articles
Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.