Naypyitaw, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — Myanmar's military announced Friday that the Arakan Army, a Buddhist rebel group in Rakhine state, has been classified a terrorist organization after mounting a flurry of recent attacks.
The state earlier was the site of a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by the military against the Muslim Rohingya minority, causing more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
Military officers said at a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that leader Aung San Suu Kyi ordered security forces to launch the offensive against the Arakan Army.
The insurgent group, which seeks autonomy from the central government, killed 13 police officers and wounded nine in attacks on Jan. 4. The moves to counter the rebels were decided at a Jan. 7 meeting at Myanmar's presidential offices, the officers said.
Suu Kyi "said the Arakan Army is just a terrorist group and instructed us to defeat them effectively, quickly and clearly," Maj. Gen. Nyi Nyi Tun, vice chairman of the Myanmar Military Information Committee, told reporters. A terrorist designation criminalizes a group and bans all communication with them.
He said Suu Kyi suggested that if she did not order the military to attack the Arakan Army, the international community would accuse her of religious prejudice for attacking the Muslim guerrillas of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but not Buddhist rebels who committed similar actions with similar goals.
The military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar has been accused of ethnic cleansing, and even genocide, against the Muslim Rohingya. Its counterinsurgency campaign was triggered when a group of Rohingya guerrillas attacked security outposts in August 2017.
The officers said the military clashed with the Arakan Army 15 times in 2015, 26 times in 2016, 56 times in 2017 and 61 times in 2018, while the rebels also planted some mines. They said there have been at least eight armed encounters this year. The guerrillas are known to have trained in areas controlled by other ethnic rebel forces, especially in Kachin state.
The Arakan Army, founded in 2009, is estimated to have several thousand well-armed and organized uniformed members, in contrast to the ragtag and virtually dormant Rohingya guerrillas.
Myanmar's military in December announced cease-fires in five areas where ethnic rebellions are active, but did not include Rakhine state because it had information that the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army planned attacks, the officers said.
Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said he believed that the fighting with the Arakan Army would not interfere with plans to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.
New Delhi, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — An Indian court sentenced a popular and flamboyant spiritual guru and three followers to life in prison on Thursday in the murder 16 years ago of a journalist who published a letter about the guru's alleged sexual exploitation of women.
The guru, who calls himself Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, received the sentence through a video link from a prison where he is serving a 20-year sentence in a separate case involving the raping of two female followers.
Judge Jagdeep Singh convicted the guru and his three followers on murder charges last Friday. The followers were present in the court in the northern Indian town of Panchkula.
"This is the triumph of truth, I feel relieved today. The prosecution had demanded capital punishment but we're satisfied with the punishment," the Indian Express newspaper quoted Anshul Chhatrapati, the son of the slain journalist, as saying.
The guru is imprisoned in the northern India town of Rohtak after being sentenced last August in the rape case. His conviction sparked violent protests by his followers that left at least 38 people dead and hundreds injured in Panchkula.
Before his imprisonment he played himself in biopics and courted powerful politicians. He lived with tens of thousands of his followers on a sprawling 400-hectare (1,000-acre) ashram in Haryana state.
Tokyo, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Japan faces unforeseen risks in guiding economic policy as its population of about 126 million ages and declines, the governor of its central bank said Thursday.
Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told fellow financial leaders Thursday that policies must be devised to prevent the shrinking population from hindering economic growth.
Since taking his post in April 2013, Kuroda has flooded Japan's economy with cash through central bank asset purchases to help fight deflation and keep the economy growing. The BOJ also imposed a negative interest rate policy to keep lending costs ultralow in the longer term.
Kuroda told a seminar that while the conventional strategy of controlling short-term interest rates is well understood, the unconventional methods the Bank of Japan has adopted can have unexpected consequences.
Kuroda said one of the potential pitfalls could be if banks use cheap credit to seek higher yielding, high-risk investments harmful to financial stability.
"Policy makers need to manage prudential policy appropriately, taking into account the fact that the risk profiles of financial institutions could be dramatically transformed during times of demographic change," he said.
On the other hand, aging populations create new markets for many products and services, so there are positives along with the challenges, he added.
Japan's population began shrinking several years ago and is rapidly aging. That has discouraged companies from investing and hiring within Japan, while they direct their efforts toward faster growing overseen markets.
Hsinchu, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Taiwan held live-fire exercises along its east coast Thursday amid renewed threats from China to bring the island under its control by force if deemed necessary.
Artillery and assault helicopters fired at targets off the west coast city of Taichung, while French-made Mirage fighter jets took off amid rainy conditions from the air base at Hsinchu to the north.
The drills are Taiwan's first since Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 2 reasserted Beijing's willingness to use military force to bring self-ruling Taiwan under Chinese control.
The drills also follow a new Pentagon report laying out U.S. concerns about China's growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan.
Taiwan's independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen has made national defense a priority while refusing China's demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China. That's led to Beijing ratcheting up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island of 23 million.
In a meeting with U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson in Beijing on Tuesday, China's Chief of Staff Li Zuocheng issued a warning against foreign forces coming to Taiwan's assistance. The U.S. is Taiwan's chief source of military hardware and is legally bound to respond to threats against its security.
China's military will "pay any price" to ensure China's sovereignty, Li told Richardson at their Tuesday meeting. China considers Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, as an integral part of Chinese territory.
U.S.-China relations have become increasingly frayed on the military and economic fronts over the past year. President Donald Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Xi responded by imposing penalties on $110 billion of American goods.
And last year the Pentagon disinvited China to a major, multinational Pacific exercise, citing Beijing's militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — A senior North Korean official has arrived in Beijing, reportedly en route to the United States for talks ahead of a possible second summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Thursday that Kim Yong Chol had arrived at Beijing airport and was expected to leave for Washington later in the day.
A motorcade that included the North Korean ambassador's car and a Chinese car with a sign reading "state guest" could be seen departing from a VIP area at the airport.
Kim Yong Chol is a former North Korean spy chief who has been holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on North Korea's nuclear weapons program and related issues.