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Reports out of the secretive ‘hermit kingdom‘ suggest that the suspension of food aid resulting from its continued attempts to launch rockets may well precipitate a ‘hidden famine‘ and possibly cannibalism.

Little can be known for certain about the realities inside North Korea, notwithstanding recent visits by prominent visitors.

Is food is being used as tool, even a weapon?

Who will help deal with the potentially disastrous consequences on the ground?

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un


Given recent developments at In Amenas in Algeria, has a new front in the so-called “war on terror” been opened in the Sahel? Who is responsible for this “escalation”?

French President Francois Hollande who ordered French troops into action in Mali.

Islamist militant Belmokhtar who allegedly led the attack on the Algerian gas plant.

Members of the Algerian special forces, also known as the kouksoul, attend a training in Biskra, south of Algiers in this June 28, 2007 file photo. -Reuters Photo

How long will the French and other European powers be embroiled in this fast-changing conflict in North Africa?

Are there ethical issues that arise when a game attempts to simulate an actual ongoing conflict where:

On the other hand, the creators of Endgame:Syria see themselves and their work more as a kind of journalism than entertainment:

We are the world’s first news correspondents who cover global events as games. As news breaks, we create own own twist on events in a playable form. We are gamers at heart, so we speak game fluently – we also share an interest in the real world too and so want to explore what is going on around us. We think that one way to explain news is via the international language of play, so we use games as a medium to explore issues and events: we game the news.

But have we blurred the lines between news reporting and trivial entertainment a bit too much here?

Is this an example of successful multi-national cooperation tackling trans-national crime? The combined maritime forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden seem to be making some headway against the pirates.


The Japanese government has already increased defence spending.

Now we learn that the Japanese Defence Ministry is looking for a budget increase.

Are we witnessing the beginnings of an East Asian arms race?

The Japan Times, in an editorial says:

Still, Japan must realize that it has committed diplomatic mistakes in addressing this issue and make efforts to regain China’s trust. Following a Chinese trawler’s collision with Japan Coast Guard patrol ships near the Senkakus in September 2010, then Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said that no agreement on shelving the Senkaku issue existed. Japan failed to fully explain to China that the government purchase of three of the five Senkaku islets was designed to forestall Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s apparent desire to destabilize Japan-China ties with his plan to buy the three islets and that the purchase only changes ownership status domestically.

Furthermore, Mr. Noda disclosed the plan to “nationalize” the three islands on July 7, the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which marked the start of the second Sino-Japanese War. Then in early September, a day after Mr. Hu asked Mr. Noda “not to make a wrong decision” during a meeting in Vladivostok, Japan officially announced the nationalization, causing Mr. Hu to lose face.

Which direction will Shinzo Abe’s new government take? Will his diplomats be manage to achieve this?

On Sept. 10, the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for returning to the joint understanding of the shelving of the Senkaku issue and resolving the dispute through negotiations. Japan should respond in kind and employ diplomacy characterized by caution, perseverance and ingenuity.

Or are we headed towards poorer bilateral ties between these two giant economies? What will that mean for the rest of us?

And now we have news of increased defence spending from the Abe government. How will the Chinese respond?

What does the change of government in Japan mean for the Sino-Japan relations, especially over the contested Diao Yu/Senkaku islands? Incoming PM Shinzo Abe is proceeding with caution for now.

New Chinese passports have maps printed in them that include disputed territories as part of Chinese territory. This move has prompted reactions from China’s neighbours who also lay claim to these disputed lands.

Meanwhile, Beijing attempts to downplay the whole passport row.

Disputed territories printed in Chinese map in new Chinese passports


Ambassador Barry Desker, now dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, has penned a commentary that offers a compact overview of the ongoing maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

See his commentary here. An earlier version of this commentary first appeared in the national broadsheet, The Straits Times on Dec 3 2012.

President Obama has come to South East Asia and given attention to the ongoing territorial disputes affecting this part of the world. And he has chosen ASEAN as the forum for this engagement. ASEAN does not have a good track record in serving as a mediator in this ongoing conflict. And it seems that ASEAN may have spoken too soon again.