Asia Government


Family's pain 'has never gone away.' Japanese abducted by North Korea in spotlight as Trump visits Japan

Los Angeles Times

When tales of young couples being snatched off beaches by North Korean agents first began to circulate around Japan in the late 1970s, they were dismissed by most Japanese as conspiracy theory paranoia. But as years went by, evidence mounted that North Korea had in fact engaged in a systematic program of abductions to obtain instructors in Japanese language and culture for its spies. North Korea long denied such claims, but in 2002, when then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made his historic visit to Pyongyang, then-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il took Japan by surprise by admitting 13 Japanese had been abducted. Kim apologized, blaming rogue special forces "on a reckless quest for glory." Among the surprised was the family of Megumi Yokota, a schoolgirl snatched while walking home from a badminton lesson in Niigata, on the Sea of Japan coast, in November 1977.


Give Saudi women a license not just to drive, but to run their own lives

Los Angeles Times

It'll be close, but it looks like women will be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia with some time to spare before the automobile industry converts entirely to self-driving cars. A royal decree announced Tuesday that women would finally be allowed behind the wheel, heralding a preposterously overdue end to the most high-profile and infamous of the repressive kingdom's restrictions on women. While there are a few other Middle Eastern and conservative Islamic countries where driving by women is culturally or religiously frowned upon, Saudi Arabia is the last country on the planet that officially prohibited it. The government says it will first form a panel to look into implementing the order, then create the infrastructure it claims is necessary to put the order into effect. However, the order seems likely to be carried out.


Eyes in the sky: Inside the hunt for Islamic State fighters in Syria

Los Angeles Times

Militants firing from bombed-out buildings had ambushed a U.S.-backed militia on a rubble-strewn street in Raqqah, Islamic State's self-declared capital and one of its last urban strongholds. The militia was pinned down and their commander wanted the drone to take out the gunmen. The pilot studied the surveillance video streaming onto his screen. A captain, he instructed the staff sergeant at his side to set the drone's target sights and powered up a Hellfire missile under its wing. "Rifle," the pilot said and the missile soared away.


U.S. forces shoot down Iranian drone over Syria as fighting escalates

Los Angeles Times

Democrats tie up Senate floor to protest Republicans' secrecy in writing healthcare bill Senate Democrats take to the chamber floor to decry the GOP's secret talks on healthcare bill President Trump's lawyer insists Trump is not under investigation, despite president's own tweets Trump and the Goldwater Rule: Should mental health pros weigh in on the president? Often seen but not heard, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner speaks at White House tech event. Senate Democrats take to the chamber floor to decry the GOP's secret talks on healthcare bill President Trump's lawyer insists Trump is not under investigation, despite president's own tweets Trump and the Goldwater Rule: Should mental health pros weigh in on the president? Often seen but not heard, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner speaks at White House tech event. U.S. forces shoot down Iranian drone over Syria as fighting escalates A U.S. fighter jet Tuesday shot down an armed Iranian drone supporting Syrian government forces in southern Syria, marking the third American air-to-air shoot-down this month.


South Korea opened fire at tense border zone. Turns out incursion was North Korean balloons

Los Angeles Times

The slow-moving, unidentified object flying over South Korea's border on Tuesday afternoon caused so much concern that soldiers issued loudspeaker warnings and ultimately fired more than 90 machine gun rounds in the air. What first seemed like a provocative North Korean military incursion -- perhaps a drone flight over the two countries' highly secured border -- turned out to be much more innocuous, the South Korean military said Wednesday. After studying radar evidence and thermal imagery, those military officials now believe the incident was sparked by a group of large North Korean balloons -- likely an effort to drop propaganda leaflets on the rogue state's ideological adversaries in the South. Though less serious than first reported, the incident underscores the heightened tensions along the border, and the region generally. That's because of the North's continued advancement as a nuclear state and its increasing technical prowess in developing missiles that can deliver warheads.


Q&A: How will we know driverless cars are safe?

Los Angeles Times

Anyone looking for a book about driverless cars -- smart, wide-ranging, nontechnical, easy to understand -- was pretty much out of luck until "Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead" was published in September. The authors, Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman, have a reputation for clear, succinct writing about emerging technologies. It's geared toward nonexperts, but scientists, engineers and computer programmers can learn new things too. Lipson is a roboticist and professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University, where he directs the Creative Machines Lab. Kurman, a former product manager and industry analyst at Microsoft, is an author and speaker with a specialty in technology and its effect on our daily lives and the economy.


Russia warns against US attack on Syrian forces

Los Angeles Times

Russia has warned the United States against carrying out any attacks on Syrian government forces, saying it would have repercussions across the Middle East. Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that a U.S. intervention against the Syrian army "will lead to terrible, tectonic consequences not only on the territory of this country but also in the region on the whole." She says regime change in Syria would create a vacuum that would be "quickly filled" by "terrorists of all stripes." U.S.-Russian tensions over Syria have escalated since the breakdown of a cease-fire last month, with each side blaming the other for its failure. Syrian government forces backed by Russian warplanes have launched a major onslaught on rebel-held parts of the northern city of Aleppo.


Hijackers' time in Southern California at center of allegations of Saudi government involvement in 9/11 attacks

Los Angeles Times

With Congress opening the way for Sept. 11 families to sue Saudi Arabia, victims' families are focusing on an unproven theory that a Saudi consular official in Los Angeles and a Saudi intelligence operative in San Diego directly assisted two of the 19 hijackers. The alleged Southern California connection is the key to showing that Saudi Arabia financed Muslim extremists who played a direct role in supporting some of the hijackers, according to lawyers for the families of those killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks. The families contend that lower-level Saudi operatives in Southern California helped find housing for the two hijackers, both Saudi citizens, months before they muscled their way into the cockpit of an American Airlines passenger jet that smashed into the north side of the Pentagon. If a pending lawsuit is allowed to proceed, the families hope to find the evidence in thousands of classified FBI, CIA and Treasury Department documents that could be made public as part of discovery in federal court. Saudi Arabia has repeatedly denied any direct or indirect support for Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that carried out the attacks, or any foreknowledge or involvement in the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.


Putin's party may have just won another victory, but its performance is underwhelming

Los Angeles Times

President Vladimir Putin's ruling party easily outdistanced its rivals in parliamentary elections Sunday, but it was a lackluster victory that suggested the Russian leader's brand may be growing stale. United Russia, the pro-Kremlin behemoth an opposition leader once dubbed the "party of crooks and thieves," won less than 45% of the vote for 450 seats in the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, according to preliminary results announced by the Central Election Committee on Sunday night. No other party came close. The nationalist LDPR party and the Communists competed for the second spot with 18% and 17% of the vote, respectively. Still, it was United Russia's lowest result in 15 years – and came in an election with turnout of less than 40% of eligible voters.


Militants sneak into Indian army base and mow down sleeping soldiers in Kashmir, killing 17

Los Angeles Times

In the deadliest attack against Indian forces in more than a decade, militants sneaked into an army encampment in the disputed territory of Kashmir early Sunday and opened fire on sleeping soldiers, killing at least 17 and wounding dozens. The four assailants, who also threw grenades that caused tents and temporary shelters to catch fire at the army brigade headquarters at Uri, were killed in a gun battle with security forces that lasted six hours, authorities said. Indian officials blamed the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed for the attack, saying it had recovered weapons from the assailants that carried Pakistani markings. Lt. Gen. Ranbir Singh, the director of military operations, said he contacted his Pakistani counterpart to convey "serious concerns." Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh was more pointed, saying on Twitter: "Pakistan is a terrorist state, and it should be identified and isolated as such."