04/16/13: Reuters reports an international team of flu experts will go to China this week to help with investigations into the deadly H7N9 virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday. The new strain of avian flu has killed 14 among 63 people known to have been infected, but no human-to-human spread of the virus has been confirmed. The team includes four specialists in areas such as emerging viruses, human-to-animal flu viruses and epidemiology, as well as an unspecified number of WHO staff, Thomas said. Another WHO spokesman, Gregory Hartl, said it would be made up of eight people in all. One of the points the mission wants to investigate is how some people seem to fight off the infection. China confirmed on Saturday a seven-year-old child had been infected by the virus in the capital Beijing, the first case outside the Yangtze river delta region in eastern China where the new strain emerged last month. No exact date has been set yet for the arrival of the team which is expected to hold talks in Beijing and visit affected provinces, he said. The mission - made up of American, European, Australian and Chinese experts - will get underway by Saturday and is expected to carry out a week-long study, Thomas said. In a statement issued late on Monday, the WHO said more than 1,000 close contacts of the people confirmed as having H7N9 were being closely monitored for symptoms. "So far, there is no evidence of ongoing human-to-human transmission," it said.
04/14/13: The Miami Herald reports the United States said Sunday that it is committed to defending Japan and opposes any coercive action by China to seize territory under Japanese control in the East China Sea. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington isn’t taking a position in the dispute over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Japan and China have sparred over the uninhabited islands in recent years. Kerry’s strong words of support for America’s ally come just a day after he promised new levels of US-Chinese cooperation on a host of problems, most notably North Korea’s nuclear program.
04/02/13: The New York Times reports the Japanese soldiers in camouflage face paint and full combat gear were dropped by American helicopters onto this treeless, hilly island, and moved quickly to recapture it from an imaginary invader. To secure their victory, they called on a nearby United States warship to pound the “enemy” with gunfire that exploded in deafening thunderclaps. Perhaps the most notable feature of the war games in February, called Iron Fist, was the baldness of their unspoken warning. There is only one country that Japan fears would stage an assault on one of its islands: China. Iron Fist is one of the latest signs that Japan’s anxiety about China’s insistent claims over disputed islands as well as North Korea's escalating nuclear threats are pushing Japanese leaders to shift further away from the nation’s postwar pacifism. The new assertiveness has been particularly apparent under the new prime minister, Sinzo Abe, a conservative who has increased military spending for the first time in 11 years. Until recently, a simulated battle against Chinese forces would have been unthinkably provocative for Japan, which renounced the right to wage war — or even to possess a military — after its march across Asia in World War II resulted in crushing defeat. The purely defensive forces created in 1954 are still constrained from acting in too offensive a manner: last year, a smaller mock assault by Japanese and American forces on an island near Okinawa was canceled because of local opposition. That recalculation — a large step in what analysts see as a creeping over the years toward a more robust Japanese military — could have broad implications for the power balance in the region, angering China and likely giving the United States a more involved partner in its pivot to Asia to offset China’s extended reach.
03/29/13: AFP reports China is to build two extra research stations in Antarctica, where it currently has three facilities, the State Oceanic Administration confirmed on Friday. A summer base, to be used between December and March, will be built between two of its existing stations—Kunlun and Zhongshan—on the frozen continent, the official Xinhua news agency said. Kunlun is on the summit of the East Antarctic ice sheet while Zhongshan is 1,280 kilometres away on the Antarctic coast. The new station will be used to study geology, glaciers, geomagnetism and atmospheric science, Xinhua added. A new all-year base will also be built in Victoria Land, on the Ross Sea, for multi-disciplinary research on bio-ecology and satellite remote sensing, it said. About 30 countries, all members of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, operate research bases in Antarctica. The pact aims to reduce the likelihood of confrontations over territorial disputes there. On the other side of the world, China is looking to expand its presence in the Arctic, which is thought could harbour huge natural resources and serve as a shipping route to Europe. The Antarctic, the target of more than 80 percent of China's polar expeditions, is China's main polar focus, a report released last year by Swedish think tank the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.
03/23/13: The New York Times reports NASA has shut down a large public database and is limiting access to agency facilities by foreign citizens as part of a broader investigation into efforts by China and other countries to get information about important technology. NASA announced the security procedures this week, after the FBI arrested a Chinese citizen at Dulles International Airport in Virginia who had boarded a plane to Beijing. The man, Bo Jiang, had been working as a contractor at NASA’s Langley Research Center in southern Virginia. According to an affidavit filed on Monday, Mr. Jiang is being charged with making false statements to federal agents — failing to disclose that he was carrying a laptop, hard drive and SIM card that were discovered after a search of his belongings. On Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr, the NASA administrator, told a House committee that he has ordered a review of the “access which foreign nationals from designated countries are granted at NASA facilities,” and had issued a moratorium on any new requests for access from citizens of several countries, including China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. But it is another step that General Bolden announced — shutting down a giant NASA database used by scientists, engineers, academics and students — that some have criticized as draconian and unnecessary. The NASA Technical Reports Server is an online repository of millions of journal articles, videos, PowerPoint presentations and other scientific material that for decades has been an indispensable resource on aeronautics and aerospace.
03/18/13: CNN reports China warned Monday that the United States’ plans to beef up its missile defenses against North Korea are likely to inflame tensions already running high over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. “Bolstering missile defenses will only intensify antagonism, and it doesn’t help to solve the issue,” Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a news briefing in Beijing. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Friday that the United States will deploy additional ground-based missile interceptors on the West Coast as part of efforts to enhance the nation’s ability to defend itself from attack by North Korea. The announcement came after North Korea recently threatened a preemptive nuclear attack on South Korea and the United States in response to stepped-up UN sanctions over its latest nuclear test last month.
02/23/13: The New York Times reports Chinese Army units have been undergoing intense training near the border with Myanmar in anticipation of an ethnic war there spilling into soutwestChina, according to official Chinese news media reports on Friday. The training has been taking place in the hills of Yunnan Province. It borders Kachin State in northern Myanmar, where a civil war between an ethnic Kachin rebel army and the Burmese Army has been unfolding. The fighting intensified in late December, and Chinese officials and news organizations reported that shells had landed in China and that Kachin refugees had begun living in hotels and the homes of family and friends in Yunnan. Last month, the Myanmar government announced a cease-fire with the rebels of the Kachin Independence Army in order to hold peace talks, but foreigners in the area reported continuing attacks by the Burmese Army in the days after. One Chinese news report on Friday said there had been “no significant improvement” in the peace talks.
02/13/13: Al Jazeera reports the UN Security Council has “strongly condemned” North Korea’s third nuclear test and vowed to take action against Pyongyang. “The members of the Security Council strongly condemned this test, which is a grave violation of Security Council resolutions,” said South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, whose country is president of the Council this month. He said the council would now consider “appropriate measures” but did not elaborate on what those might be. The nuclear test drew universal condemnation from several countries and organizations, including the US and Pyongyang’s usual ally China. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was “deplorable” that North Korea had defied international appeals to refrain from such provocative acts. Ban’s spokesman called the test “a clear and grave violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions.”