The week at a glance...International
Pyongyang, North Korea Exchange of fire: In yet another provocation, North Korea launched artillery into the waters of South Korea during its first live-fire drill on the maritime border with South Korea. The South responded by firing into North Korean waters. The exchange came just a week after a North Korean missile test and a day after a threat to test a nuclear device. But a low-tech threat may be more immediate. South Korea found two suspected North Korean drones that resemble model airplanes fitted with primitive digital cameras on its territory this week. One of the drones had flown over the presidential residence. “What if it was not a reconnaissance drone but one with 800 grams of biochemical weapons?” said South Korean defense analyst Shin In-kyun. “Pyongyang does not need cutting-edge technology to cause great harm to Seoul.”
Tokyo Whaling banned: The International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to stop killing whales in the Antarctic. Japan has slaughtered thousands of minke and finback whales under a loophole in the 1986 whaling ban that allows some whaling for research. The court ruled that the Japanese program was commercial under the guise of science. The government said it was “disappointed” at the decision but would abide by it. Japan retains other whaling permits, though, and could even resume whaling in the Antarctic Ocean if it tweaks the program. “It’s an important decision,” said Japanese conservationist Nanami Kurasawa, “but it also leaves the Japanese government a lot of leeway.”
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Hunt for plane continues: Weeks after classifying the search for missing Flight 370 as a criminal investigation, Malaysian officials this week conceded they may never know why the plane went down in the Indian Ocean, and may not ever find any trace of it. Nearly a month after the jet flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing abruptly changed course and disappeared, no debris has been found, and the batteries on the flight data recorder—which sends pings so it can be located—are running out of power. At this point, even the largest possible floating objects, such as empty fuel tanks, have probably sunk. Families of the 239 passengers and crew are criticizing Malaysian authorities for the chaotic, inefficient search effort. “They didn’t give us any convincing information,” said Steve Wang, a representative of some of the families.
Jerusalem Talks may be canceled: The Obama administration’s effort to negotiate a definitive deal between Israelis and Palestinians all but collapsed this week. The talks were already stalled because Israel failed to deliver a promised release of Palestinian prisoners, and Secretary of State John Kerry offered to possibly release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from U.S. prison if the Israelis would comply. But before that deal was finalized, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took his own step away from talks by formally applying to join 15 international organizations affiliated with the United Nations. Membership would allow the Palestinians to pursue grievances against Israel on the world stage, a move both Israel and the U.S. said could destroy prospects for peace talks. In response, Kerry canceled a planned trip to meet Abbas.