MONTH IN BRIEF
India on alert after vessel strike
The Indian navy is to deploy guided missile destroyer ships in the Arabian Sea as a deterrent after an Israel-affiliated merchant vessel was struck off the Indian coast.The navy was investigating the nature of the attack on the vessel, MV Chem Pluto, which docked in Mumbai on Dec 25, and initial reports pointed to a drone attack, a navy statement said. ‘Further forensic and technical analysis will be required to establish the vector of attack, including type and amount of explosive used,’ the statement added.
Threat of sanctions on Taiwan
The Chinese government has threatened to place further trade sanctions on Taiwan if the ruling party ‘stubbornly’ adheres to supporting independence, in a further escalation of the war of words as Taiwanese elections approach in January. Taiwan’s Jan. 13 presidential and parliamentary elections are taking place as China, which views the island as its own territory, has sought to force Taiwan to accept Chinese sovereignty claims. Taiwan recently accused China of economic coercion and election interference after Beijing announced the end of tariff cuts on some chemical imports from the island, saying Taipei violated a trade agreement between the two sides signed in 2010.
Khan’s AI address
Pakistan’s jailed former premier, Imran Khan, whose party is forbidden from holding public rallies, used an audio clip generated by artificial intelligence to address supporters in a virtual rally on Dec 17. It was the first event of its kind in the politics of the South Asian nation.The audio clipwas played over an AI-generated image of Khan, which appears to show him speaking during the Internet rally of his Tehreek-e-Insaf party. It attracted more than 1.4 million views when streamed on YouTube and was attended live on other social media platforms by tens of thousands of people.
NZ to consider AUKUS pact
New Zealand’s new prime minister Christopher Luxon has said he will look into the benefits of joining a part of the AUKUS defence pact that focuses on shared military technology amid a ‘more challenging’ world order. Mr Luxon is visiting Australia on his first official trip abroad since he was sworn in as prime minister in November. He said that the AUKUS weapons development and procurement project between the United States, Britain and Australia would help ensure peace and stability in the Pacific region.
Protesters set a train on fire in Bangladesh on Dec. 19, killing at least four people amid a nationwide strike called by the opposition to fuel its demand for the government’s resignation ahead of a January election. This was the latest incident sparked by anti-government protests, during which dozens of buses and vehicles have been set ablaze. At least six people have been killed since Oct. 28, when an opposition rally turned violent.
South Korea prepares
More than 1,000 South Korean military, police and emergency personnel joined rare defence drills on Dec. 27, which simulated an attack by North Korea on Seoul, to counter fears that the city is within striking distance of Pyongyang’s weapons and a covert attack.The exercise comes amid heightened tensions after the North tested an intercontinental ballistic missile and launched its first military spy satellite, with the neighbours reinstating in November some military measures eased after a 2018 pact.‘There was a big lesson for us when Israel’s world-class advanced defence system helplessly buckled under a surprise attack by Hamas armed with conventional artillery and primitive means,’ said Seoul’s mayor Oh Se-hoon.
Thailand has stopped issuing new gun licences for a year, the interior ministry announced, after a series of high-profile shootings. The change takes effect immediately, and follows debate in the kingdom about firearms control in the wake ofseveral fatal gun incidents. These include a 14-year-old boy opening fire in a Bangkok shopping mall in Oct. 2023, killing three peopleand, a year earlier, the murders of 36 people at a nursery by an ex-policeman armed with a legally owned gun.Thailand has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the region, with 10 million firearms in circulation, according to the GunPolicy.org website.
Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe granted an amnesty to more than 1,000 convicts and released them from jails across the country to mark Christmas, a prisons official said on Dec 25.Among the 1,004 freed on Dec. 25 were Sri Lankans jailed for not being able to pay outstanding fines, Prison Commissioner Gamini Dissanayake said.Sri Lanka is majority Buddhist and a similar number of convicts were freed in May to mark the holiday of Vesak, which celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.