The world at a glance . . . International
PyongyangThreatening ‘war’: North Korea ramped up its bluster this week as the U.S. and South Korea began their annual war games. The North Korean military cut off its telephone hotline with the South’s military and said the drills were a “provocation” that would only occur “on the eve of a war.” Pyongyang always condemns the U.S.–South Korean military exercises, but this year its rhetoric is more aggressive, as it is preparing to test-fire its Taepodong-2 missile under cover of a purported satellite launch. Japan last week threatened to shoot down any missile that comes near its territory, prompting a counterthreat this week from North Korea. “Shooting our satellite for peaceful purposes will precisely mean a war,” the People’s Army said in a statement.
Lhasa, ChinaClampdown in Tibet: China sent hundreds of additional troops into Tibet this week to prevent demonstrations on the 50th anniversary of Tibet’s failed revolt against Chinese rule. On last year’s anniversary, protests quickly turned violent as Tibetans began attacking businesses owned by ethnic Chinese and Chinese troops responded in force. The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, said at least 400 Tibetans had been killed. This year, authorities are taking no chances. In addition to beefing up the police and military presence, they have cut off Internet and cell phone service so that potential demonstrators cannot communicate with one another.
South China Sea, ChinaConfronting the U.S. Navy: The U.S. formally complained to China this week after five Chinese boats surrounded a U.S. ship in what the U.S. said were international waters. The Chinese boats dumped debris in the path of the Impeccable, a submarine-surveillance ship, and veered perilously close to it, prompting the Impeccable’s crew to spray one of the boats with a fire hose. Chinese vessels have also engaged in other aggressive behavior in the past week, buzzing U.S. boats with planes and shining a high-intensity spotlight at one U.S. ship. China blamed the U.S. for the confrontations, saying the vessels were in its waters. “We demand that the United States put an immediate stop to related activities and take effective measures to prevent similar acts,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu.
Damascus, SyriaWorld’s newest stock market: Syria opened its first stock exchange this week, its most dramatic step yet toward loosening the state-controlled economy. Syria’s economy has been struggling because of falling oil prices, U.S. sanctions, and the global credit crunch. In recent years, it has pursued Chinese-style market reforms; since 2004, nine private banks have opened and restrictions on foreign exchange transactions have been relaxed. The Damascus Securities Exchange has just six listings—four banks, an advertising firm, and a transportation company—and will be open only on Mondays and Thursdays. “The DSE was a dream and now has become a reality,” the state news agency said.
Harare, ZimbabweLeader’s wife killed: Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said this week he does not believe that the car crash that killed his wife was foul play. Tsvangirai’s wife, Susan, was killed last week when an aid truck slammed into the couple’s Land Rover, causing it to flip over three times. Rumors immediately swirled that the crash may have been an attempt to assassinate the prime minister, a longtime opponent of President Robert Mugabe who recently joined the government in a landmark power-sharing deal. Mugabe’s followers killed numerous opposition activists during last year’s disputed presidential election. But Tsvangirai, who was also in the car, insisted that “it was an accident, and unfortunately it took her life.”