Taiwan’s Ruling Party Is Getting Tough on China Ahead of 2020 Elections


DPP legislators have prioritized a flurry of new measures aimed to clamp down on cross-strait engagement between Taiwan and China.

Taiwan’s looming 2020 presidential election looks set to hinge on the country’s eternal “China question” as its ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continues to move forward with new measures aimed to regulate cross-strait affairs and combat what it calls a campaign of Chinese influence.

Last week, Taiwan’s legislature passed amendments extending the period during which former officials with access to state secrets are banned from traveling to China. On Friday, the presidential office formally notified Ma Ying-jeou and Wu Den-yih, formerly Taiwan’s president and vice president, and members of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT), of the revised travel restrictions.

This is one of many laws prioritized by the legislature’s DPP majority as it seeks to fend off a 2020 electoral challenge from the Kuomingtang, or KMT. While currently in opposition, the KMT won several key local races in November 2018 and its potential presidential nominees continue to outpace incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen in public opinion polls. The KMT favors friendlier ties with Beijing, which severed talks with Taiwanese officials after the DPP won the presidency in 2016.

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Taiwan also plans to implement laws targeting around 100,000 Taiwanese living or working in China who have applied for government-issued residency cards since Beijing began offering them last September. These include a bill that would fine card holders who do not report them to Taiwanese authorities and a proposal to bar residency permit holders from running for public office in Taiwan.

An estimated 400,000 to 1 million Taiwanese citizens live or work in China, although the exact figure is unknown as many Taiwanese split their time between both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan’s cabinet also approved amendments last week strengthening certificate of origin regulations for products made in China. Companies have been found to affix false “Made in Taiwan” certificates to goods made in China and shipped through Taiwan to evade United States tariffs on Chinese goods.

The country has followed the United States in taking a hard line toward Chinese technology providers wishing to do business in Taiwan. Last month, Taiwan’s cabinet unveiled guidelines to ban servers, telecom equipment, cloud computing services, software, and more provided by China-based companies including Huawei, Alibaba, Xiaomi, ZTE, and Lenovo, due to security concerns.

Analysts say Taiwan has a mixed record of leveraging its position as a key cog in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. The Tsai administration has prioritized its New Southbound Policy, an economic initiative aimed at strengthening economic ties with neighboring South and Southeast Asian countries in a bid to decrease the island’s dependence on China. The policy has seen successes, including a dramatic uptick in tourism from Southeast Asian nations. But its effectiveness in bolstering Taiwan’s economic presence in target nations, many of whom maintain significant economic ties with China, has been varied, and some tourism schemes have been abused by alleged trafficking and forced labor violators.

Taiwan’s broader legislative strategy of cracking down on China’s presence within the island is more solidly rooted in the DPP’s longtime ideological position of asserting Taiwanese sovereignty with an eye toward eventual independence, along with combating what lawmakers call the looming threat of Chinese influence over media, domestic industry, and electoral politics.

In March, Taiwan’s National Communications Commission fined the broadcaster CtiTV News NT$1 million, or about US$31,850, for failing to fact-check reports of an “auspicious cloud” hovering over three KMT mayors, including Kaohsiung mayor and presumptive presidential contender Han Kuo-yu. CtiTV is owned by Taiwan-based Want Want China Holdings Ltd., which allegedly received up to US$71 million in subsidies from the Chinese government between 2017 and 2018, according to an April report from the Chinese-language Apple Daily. Taiwan’s government has promised to explore the issue of Chinese government subsidies reaching Taiwanese companies.

DPP legislators have long pushed the communications commission to punish purveyors of false information spread by media outlets viewed as taking an editorial stance favorable to the Chinese government. The commission’s former chairperson, Nicole Chan, resigned in April amid criticism that her agency had not combated mis- and disinformation. Chan had previously pushed back against legislators calling for the commission to take a more punitive approach toward potential Chinese influence, citing free speech concerns.

CtiTV was fined an additional NT$1 million in April for failing to fact-check an interview given by a pomelo farmer ahead of a crucial local election, leading to criticism from KMT legislators that the government was targeting outlets seen as pro-KMT and favoring warmer relations with Beijing.

Earlier this month, Want Want’s media arm and the Beijing Daily Group co-hosted a media summit in Beijing, at which Wang Yang, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and a member of China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, said Taiwanese media should give more coverage to the “one country, two systems” framework of governance touted by Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Tsai Ing-wen responded by accusing China of interfering in Taiwan’s internal affairs and press freedom.

Chinese influence in Taiwanese media has long been an issue of concern in Taiwan, but DPP legislators largely avoided passing punitive laws after Tsai first took office in 2016 – leading to criticism from factions within the party, including those associated with former Premier William Lai, who announced in March he would challenge Tsai in the party’s primary. The DPP has not yet decided on its 2020 presidential candidate, but it appears certain that it intends to focus its campaign on warding off what many Taiwanese believe is a looming cross-strait threat to their country’s sovereignty.



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African samurai: The legacy of a black warrior in feudal Japan


Oda had never seen an African before. And like the locals in Japan’s then-capital of Kyoto, he was awed by Yasuke’s height, build and skin tone, according to Thomas Lockley, the author of “African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan.”

“When Yasuke got to Kyoto (with Jesuit missionaries), there was a massive riot. People wanted to see him and be in his presence,” says Lockley, who spent nine years researching and writing the book, which was published last month.

Oda believed Yasuke to be either a guardian demon or “Daikokuten,” a god of prosperity usually represented by black statues in temples. He tried to rub the pigment from Yasuke’s skin, believing it was black ink. Once convinced Yasuke was real, he immediately threw a feast in his honor, says Lockley.

In an era racked by political espionage, merciless assassinations and ninja attacks, Yasuke was seen as an asset. Nobunaga soon made him a samurai — even providing him with his own servant, house and stipend, according to Jesuit records.

Today, Yasuke’s legacy as the world’s first African samurai is well known in Japan, spawning everything from prize-winning children’s books to a manga series titled “Afro Samurai.”

And his legacy continues to spread worldwide.

Earlier this month, “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman announced he would play Yasuke in a Hollywood movie scripted by “Narcos” co-creator Doug Miro.

Lockley says his story has reemerged just as homogenous Japan reexamines the concept of multiculturalism in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Early years

Yasuke’s origins remain a mystery as historical sources are scant. While some researchers believe he was from Mozambique, others suggest Sudan.

Lockley suspects that Yasuke was abducted from his family as a child by Arab or Indian slave traders and trafficked through Arab countries and across the Indian Ocean. He likely worked as a slave and trained as a child soldier who fought in Gujarat and Goa in India, before being hired as a valet by Jesuit missionaries from Portugal.

At the time, Goa was a prime trading, missionary and military center for the Portuguese in India, and one of the largest centers of the African slave trade.
A Portuguese black ship arrives in Japan from Goa and Macau.

It’s where Lockley speculates that Yasuke met Alessandro Valignano, the most powerful Jesuit missionary of the day in Asia, who made him his valet and bodyguard.

The pair and their entourage arrived by ship in 1579 at the port of Kuchinotsu in Nagasaki, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, according to Lockley.

Valignano, who had spent six years traveling from Rome via countries such as Portugal, Mozambique, India, Malaya and Macau, hoped to convert thousands of Japanese to Christianity.

But his mission would not be easy.

Ninjas, warrior monks and samurai

When he arrived in Japan, the country was embroiled in a brutal civil war that ended only in 1603.

The period — known as the “era of warring states” — saw hundreds of strongmen from mini-states across the country battling for power.

A semblance of peace was restored when the remaining local feudal warlords, or “daimyo,” sought to unify Japan.

Nobunaga Oda became the most powerful among them. He controlled Kyoto, the dominant center of the country, and is viewed as one of Japan’s three unifiers along with Ieyasu Tokugawa and Hideyoshi Toyotomi.

Nobunaga Oda was considered the most powerful warlord in Japan.

But even his ascent did not stop minor warlords and bands of radical armed monks and bandits vying for territory, according to Lockley. Valignano needed protection.

Yasuke was tall and used his military experience to detect risks for the Jesuits as they formed alliances with local warlords, says Lockley. He trained other militiamen and likely learned new techniques himself, including Japanese martial arts and sword skills.

Such skills would later appeal to Oda, who also looked to Yasuke — by then conversant in Japanese — for news about the wider world.

“Yasuke was initially viewed as a source of entertainment as he was a novelty, but within a month he’d become a valued samurai and member of Oda’s entourage,” says Lockley. “According to the sources, Oda just loved talking with Yasuke.”

At the time, the samurai — groups of warriors well versed in warfare and the arts — formed the ruling class in Japan.

Given that there are no records of how much Yasuke earned, Lockley says it’s hard to know how highly he ranked. He speculates that the African was the equivalent of a page or bodyguard to Oda.

But while Yasuke became Japan’s most famous foreign-born warrior, his time with Oda was short-lived.

From samurai to ronin

In 1581, Yasuke joined Oda’s forces in their invasion of Iga province, according to Lockley.

Oda attacked the mountain-ringed province, a ninja hotbed with 40,000 to 60,000 troops, and conquered it following a failed attempt by his son Nobukatsu in 1579.

It was, says Lockley, Yasuke’s first military campaign under Oda.

His second and last such campaign was in June 1582 when Oda’s samurai general, Mitsuhide Akechi, attacked Oda’s residence in Kyoto.

Nobunaga Oda was forced to commit "harakiri", a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment after his defeat in the Battle of Honno-ji.

The attack, which triggered what was known as the Battle of Honno-ji Temple, put an end to Oda’s plans to consolidate power in Japan.

Facing defeat, Oda ended his own life to avoid losing his honor. He performed a ritual called “sepukku” which saw him stab a short sword into his stomach, slicing horizontally while his attendant Ranmaru Mori lopped off his head.

Legend has it, says Lockley, that Oda’s last order to Yasuke was to take his sword and his decapitated head to his son.

“Oda’s head couldn’t fall into someone else’s hands. Yasuke’s job was to keep the clan power,” says the author.

After Oda’s death, records on Yasuke became scarcer. The last possible references to him, according to Lockley, were from Jesuit accounts in 1582.

According to Gary Leupp, a professor of history at Tufts University, Yasuke was taken prisoner by Oda’s enemies but later released because he was not Japanese. Yasuke had become a “ronin” — a samurai without a master.

Lockley speculates that Yasuke could have either resumed his previous role of guard to Jesuit missionaries or become a sailor or pirate.

Legacy

While Yasuke’s existence has gone down in the history books, he was by no means the only foreigner in Japan.

At the time, Kyushu was home to a large population of Koreans and Chinese. Many Europeans, Indians and Africans also passed through the country.

Full Japanese folding screen showing the arrival of Portuguese to Nagasaki.

Their presence is documented on the handcrafted folding screens of the era, which depict their arrival on large black ships and their life alongside the locals.

Such ornately decorated screens belonged to the upper classes and were produced in the early 1590s. One portrays a wrestling match between a black man and a Japanese warrior, which Lockley assumes are Yasuke and Oda.

“Yasuke really comes to the fore because he served Oda. We have sources on his life, name, deeds and character,” says Lockley.

“Others like him weren’t that well documented, we can’t bring a picture of their lives.”

Yasuke’s life has often been reimagined through fiction.

In 1968, author Yoshio Kurusu made it the basis of a prize-winning children’s book called “Kurosuke.” In more recent years, there have been Japanese TV historical dramas and comic books.

And as debate on multiculturalism and diversity intensifies in the nation, Lockley says it’s the right time for Yasuke’s story to be told again.

“There’s still a kind of romance and mystery to the story of someone who escaped slavery and was raised to foreign heights next to the prime ruler of Japan,” says Lockley.

“It feels like the age where he’ll get the attention he deserves.”



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How to tackle India’s sexual violence epidemic – it starts with sex education


“DO you masturbate?”, “When did you first have sexual intercourse?”, “Did you ask for consent?” These are just some of the taboo-breaking questions I asked convicted rapists in a Delhi prison during interviews for my research.

Most of these men did not understand what consent meant or that it needed to be sought. Their stories also highlighted a sense of entitlement and ownership over the victim. I was not particularly surprised by their discomfort and lack of awareness. I myself had never received any form of sex education at home or at school while growing up in India.

Soon after the 2012 Delhi gang-rapeAvaaz Foundation, a US-based non-profit organisation, gathered over 1.1m signatures on their online petition to start an extensive public education programme to dispel traditional cultural attitudes towards women.

In their 2013 report, which looked at how to tackle India’s rape epidemic through education, they even set out a four-step public education campaign for changing sexist attitudes.

SEE ALSO: India rape cases show a sexual revolution is needed – education is where to start

Since then, several public awareness campaigns on recognising and reporting violence against women have been seen in India, some developed by NGOs, international organisations and some by or in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Child Development. But India is yet to see a nationwide campaign that focuses explicitly on changing everyday normalised misogynistic attitudes.

My own research highlights the role of education as a medium for change – and calls for the inclusion of a comprehensive sexuality education module in the school curriculum.

Growing up in India

Young men in India mature and develop in a male dominated environment, with little or no sex education. And in rural areas, with very little contact with female peers after puberty. Together, this leads to misdirected masculinity, characterised by male sexual dominance and unequal gender attitudes and behaviour.

Differences in gender roles intensify during adolescence, when boys enjoy new privileges reserved only for men – such as autonomy, mobility, opportunity and power. Whereas girls have to start enduring restrictions. Their parents curtail their mobility, monitor their interactions with males and in some cases even withdraw them from school. This is why, India is in great need of comprehensive sexuality education or modules focusing on sexual violence and exploitation awareness.

Such lessons can help to empower young people by highlighting women’s changing roles in society. And they can also provide a safe space to address distorted views of masculinity and create awareness of violence against women.

2018-04-13T000000Z_1278774679_RC11E7C687B0_RTRMADP_3_INDIA-RAPE

People participate in a candle light vigil as they protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua near Jammu, and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state, in Bengaluru, India, April 13, 2018. Source: Reuters/Abhishek N. Chinnappa

A comprehensive curriculum-based sexuality module, such as the one launched by UNESCO in 2018, can help young boys and girls understand their bodies and the age-related changes better. And it can also teach young people about consent and respecting each others’ personal space. Sex education should also be a space to learn about menstruation, sexual intercourse, sexually transmitted diseases and risks of pregnancy.

Young people also need to know about the risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. This in turn will allow them to recognise abuse, should it occur, and to protect themselves. Parents should also be involved in this process – findings from my research highlight the importance of children witnessing positive and equitable gender roles at home.

Global problem

According to UN Women – the UN organisation dedicated to gender equality – 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

We are now living in the #Metoo era where more and more people are opening up about their own experiences of sexual violence. Yet sex and sexuality still remain taboo subjects in India. Young children need to have a safe environment to discuss these issues. This is important because ultimately, unless people have conversations about sexuality, the issue of sexual violence in India – or in any other part of the world – will never be addressed.

A solution

Sex education is more than just talking about sexual intimacy. It includes reproductive health, sexually-transmitted diseases, contraceptives, consent, gender identity, gender equality and self worth – all of which are important themes when addressing sexual violence.

In 2015, the New Zealand Ministry of Education released a new curriculum policy document for sexuality education in all schools. This policy is a rare international example of a curriculum document that explicitly values diversity and promotes inclusive school environments, and it is important to encourage schools to view sexuality as innately motivated by social and political factors. Students also need to be taught to critically think and learn about sexuality and all that it encompasses. Particularly as research shows how schools all around the world act as key locations for exclusion and marginalisation of non-heterosexual youth. The new policy also approaches sexuality education as an area of study rather than a health intervention.

In its historical ruling in 2018, the Supreme Court of India decriminalised homosexuality. The judgement reflects the rapid social change in the country. Building on this momentum, sexuality must now be positioned as an area of learning and not an intervention. This is a crucial step in the battle to end sexual violence against women in India.count

Madhumita Pandey, Lecturer in Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



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Can China Drive the Afghan Peace Process?


China must clarify its strategic priorities to be able to positively influence the trajectory of the Afghan peace process.

By for The Diplomat

The war in Afghanistan has wreaked more havoc than anyone could have imagined when it began over 18 years ago. Today, the country faces one of the biggest humanitarian crises ever witnessed, where the problem of displacement caused by constant fighting has been compounded by the conditions of severe drought. Persistent calls for peace have been drowned out by the sound of incessant fighting and endless bombings. The Taliban, the foremost perpetrator of insurgent violence in country, have gone from a movement opposing the depredations of Afghan warlords in the early 1990s, to ruling Afghanistan, to resurrecting as an insurgency to be reckoned with. Now they are now negotiating the future of Afghanistan with the United States, with no sign of Afghan government involvement in the process. Regardless, violence continues unabated, and in fact has intensified manifold since the announcement of the Taliban’s annual spring offensive earlier this year.

At a time when the coalition of Afghan and U.S. forces is failing to contain the violence, humanitarian aid organizations are becoming the target of cold-blooded attacks, and peace negotiations seem to have plateaued, it is important to look for alternate means of potentially ensuring peace in Afghanistan. China is increasingly being thought of as a credible way out of the current security quagmire, for a number of reasons – both strategic and economic in nature.

Although China and the then-Kingdom of Afghanistan established diplomatic relations as far back as 1950, for China, Afghanistan’s importance remained limited to economic engagement. China invested in the vast natural resource repository that Afghanistan was, and still is, home to, until the Russian invasion in the 1980s. Chinese involvement in the spheres of politics and and security in Afghanistan was minimal. After the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, and the establishment of an interim government in Afghanistan, China and Afghanistan did try to institute good neighborly relations by reaffirming their 1960 Treaty of Friendship and Nonaggression in 2006. However, even with the resurrection of the Taliban in the early 2000s, and the ensuing widespread insurgent violence, China did not sanction a physical military presence in the conflict-ridden country.

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Having said that, the arc of China’s Afghan policy has visibly evolved from calculated indifference to active engagement, as Beijing’s interests in the region are expanding at a fast pace. First, China is wary of the geographical proximity between Afghanistan, home to the Taliban and a number of other transnational terrorist outfits, and its Uyghur Muslim-predominated Xinjiang region, which Chinese authorities claim is the breeding ground for the “three evils” plaguing the country (terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism). Second, China fears that the chronic political and strategic instability in Afghanistan may derail the progress of Beijing’s transcontinental infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to connect China with the countries of Southeast, South, and Central Asia; the Gulf region; North and East Africa; and Europe. Third, China’s growing involvement in Afghan issues exemplifies the Chinese aspiration to alter the global perception in favor of China as a powerful regional, and perhaps even a global, player, which has the potential to resolve the problem of the longest-standing insurgency South Asia has ever witnessed.

In theory, China is undoubtedly one of the most well-placed states to drive the Afghan peace process toward progress, for it exercises strategic leverage over the country that often hosts and provides material and ideological patronage to the Taliban — Pakistan. China provides Islamabad with much-needed economic assistance, lately in the form of the $62 billion strong China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will help stabilize a flailing economy, reduce conditions of rampant poverty and deprivation, and contribute to the overall development of Pakistan’s socioeconomic milieu. However, although China has stated on many occasions that the resolution of the Afghan problem hinges on the country establishing cordial relations with Pakistan, and vowed to collectively combat the menace of terrorism, China has not yet made considerable efforts at facilitating such an arrangement. It seems to have followed a selective approach to combating terrorism, by getting Pakistan to crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which counts China as its main target, but not the Afghan Taliban walking free in Pakistan.

On the economic front, although China is the biggest foreign investor in Afghanistan, it has failed to capitalize on the gains made in the form of a $3 billion copper extraction contract in the province of Logar, or the road and rail infrastructure it has painstakingly developed in Afghanistan. The lack of progress is due to the volatile security situation in the country, coupled with a low export capacity. Moreover, China has been unable to fully integrate Afghanistan as a member state into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) to provide impetus to the assemblage of a regional consensus to drive the Afghan peace process, or even utilize existing multilateral forums such as the Quadrilateral Group Cooperation (QGC) with an aim of providing diplomatic heft to the will of the Afghan government, and thereby a push toward reconciliation.

China, along with the United States and Russia, has proclaimed in an official joint statement that it seeks and fully supports an “inclusive, Afghan-led peace process,” and has explicitly committed to the cause of Afghan peace and reconciliation, ready to provide “necessary assistance” as needed. Yet so far, China seems to lack the will to implement those promises made on paper. To be clear, China undeniably has the potential to positively influence the present trajectory of the peace process, and persuade Pakistan to lend its unequivocal support to talks between the insurgents and Afghan officials, a step that is crucial to ensuring long-term stability in Afghanistan. However, to accomplish such a feat, China would first have to clearly lay down its strategic priorities with conviction –  and decide whether it wants to safeguard the prospects of its transcontinental economic ventures by mollycoddling Pakistan, or it is ready to take a pragmatic, long term view of regional security by vowing to combat all sources of terrorism equally.

Shubhangi Pandey is a Junior Fellow with the Strategic Studies Program at Observer Research Foundation. Her research focuses on Afghanistan, particularly exploring internal political dynamics, developments related to terrorism, and the role of nonstate militant actors in the region, including the security dynamics of South Asia.



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The North Korean restaurant accused by a think tank of using software sales to bypass sanctions


Inside, waitresses meander about serving cold noodles and kimchi to customers. However, online records show the restaurant could also be a cover for a company selling high-tech facial recognition software.

“Our understanding is that programmers who are working overseas generate as much as hundreds of thousands of US dollars for the regime every year, so they have a disproportionate capacity to raise funds overseas,” said Jason Arterburn, an analyst specializing in North Korea and China at the Center for Advanced Defense Studies, which is better known by its acronym C4ADS.

Furthermore, experts warn that North Korean software designers who create and sell these products online could be building hidden back doors for Pyongyang’s well-trained hackers to exploit.

Profits through software

North Korea is barred from selling weapons abroad — though the UN alleges that the country is still attempting to do so — but it’s not clear if high-tech software that isn’t used for military purposes is subject to that arms embargo. The UN Panel of Experts on North Korea, the body charged with monitoring sanctions enforcement, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Facial recognition software could provide a loophole in existing sanctions that seek to limit Pyongyang’s ability to make money overseas.

“(Information technology) services aren’t covered by the United Nations sanctions,” said Cameron Trainer, an analyst studying North Korean illicit finance at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). “It’s still a way North Korea can procure currency that is then funneled to its nuclear program.”

The UN Panel of Experts’ annual report alleges that North Korea’s operations abroad are meant to evade sanctions and earn money for the country to contribute to North Korea’s bottom line. Those funds undercut the effect of UN sanctions levied against the country in response to its nuclear weapons development.

Experts say the Hanoi restaurant’s alleged software sales raise concerns that other North Korean restaurants around Asia could also be used to sidestep sanctions. Police and investigators usually detect sanction evasions at points of entry, like harbors. Customs officials from countries in the region do not track online software sales, said George Lopez, a former member of the UN panel charged with investigating North Korean sanctions enforcement and efficacy.

“The irony that these operate in such plain sight make it more difficult to discover what exactly they are contributing to sanction evasion, other than wages being sent back,” Lopez said.

“And that, I think, is the scary part to people who are really nervous about this.”

The ‘Future Tech Group’

The link between the restaurant in Hanoi and sales of high-tech software was detailed in a report by Arterburn at C4ADS.
Both C4ADS and CNS found that a software company called Future Tech Group had ties to both the restaurant and a mysterious Malaysian company called Glocom, which the UN has long said North Korea uses to conduct illicit weapons sales.
A domain search shows Glocom’s website shares its IP address — the unique identifier assigned to a specific connection to a network — with Future Tech Group’s.
Future Tech Group appears to have removed its website, but a cached version shows the company advertised facial recognition products and design calculation technology, among other types of software.
How Hanoi went from being bombed by Washington to hosting Trump-Kim summit

That’s how Future Tech Group and Glocom appear to be connected. However, Future Tech Group’s connection to the restaurant in Hanoi is a little more complex.

Vietnamese business records list a North Korean national named Kim Jong Gil as the owner of a catering and restaurant company in Vietnam called Mudo Vina. It happens to have the identical street address as Koryo restaurant in Hanoi.

Kim is tied to Future Tech Group through a series of online profiles for software experts, Arterburn explains. The profiles appear on various freelancer websites, where the users advertise themselves as software developers and facial recognition software experts. The profiles used variations of the username kjg197318. Kim Jong Gil was born on 01/08/1973, according to Mudo Vina’s Vietnamese business filings. Some of the freelance profiles also included work samples that were found on Future Tech Group’s cached website, Arterburn said.

“Essentially, what we see is that the owners of companies registered at the address of the restaurant also appear associated with freelance profiles used to sell advanced facial recognition technology to clients around the world,” Arterburn said.

“We feel with pretty high confidence we were looking at agents within the same network engaged in an array of commercial activities, including both North Korean restaurants (in Vietnam) and high-tech technology sales.”

CNN visited the Koryo restaurant in March and an employee confirmed that Mudo Vina owned the restaurant. The employee would not say whether Kim Jong Gil worked there.

There was no indication that software was being sold on the premises, but that did not mean it was not happening, Trainer of CNS said.

“Software doesn’t have to be physically handed over, it can be produced in remote locations and you wouldn’t really know it,” he said.

‘The most visible part of a larger, syndicated structure’

On the surface, it doesn’t make sense to house a restaurant and a facial recognition technology company under the same roof.

But analysts say the move fits North Korea’s tendency of grouping multiple businesses together. Arterburn said it was helpful to understand such restaurants as “overseas commercial outposts” rather than just places to eat.

“It makes economic sense that they would house a number of commercial activities in the same location,” he said.

UN sanctions imposed in 2017 are supposed to effectively shutter these restaurants. Countries were supposed to bar North Koreans from working abroad and banned North Korean “joint ventures or cooperative entities” from operating in foreign countries, but the Koryo restaurant in Hanoi remains open. Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to an email seeking comment.

North Korean restaurants are some of the country’s best-known exports abroad, especially in China and Southeast Asia, despite the sanctions. There are dozens throughout Asia, with the majority in China, according to experts.

They’re popular with tourists because they provide a rare opportunity for people to interact with North Koreans, as the vast majority of people inside the country are barred from leaving.

Most of the waitresses at the restaurants are women who are trained performers and musicians. They’re selected for their talent, looks and regime loyalty, according to many North Korean defectors.

But these establishments pose legal and ethical dilemmas for the countries that allow them on their soil — and the customers that dine there.

Pyongyang has been accused of treating its overseas workers like slaves, restricting their freedom of movement and keeping most of their wages to fund regime priorities, like nuclear weapons development.

Many defectors, however, say the waitresses abroad have better lives than they would back home. Their employment overseas offers them an opportunity to see the world outside of North Korea and make more money for their families than they could at home.

But the fact that the Hanoi restaurant remains open highlights the limitations of the UN’s control over North Korea’s assets around the world. The UN does not have its own international police force so relies on individual countries to enforce its rulings.

Lopez, the former UN investigator, said regulators were concerned about what he called “the law of numbers.”

One North Korean restaurant may not make that much money, even if it could be a front for more lucrative — and potentially illegal — dealings. But scores of them?

“This is … the most visible part of a larger, syndicated structure in which not only citizens are repatriating money, but the enterprise that they’re part of also has other tentacles and is helping (to) evade sanctions,” Lopez said.

“If this is the only part of this you see, you better cut this off right away and see where the other parts are, because it’s a growing monster.”



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Taiwan parliament to vote on Asia’s first gay marriage bill


TAIWAN’S parliament began debating Asia’s first gay marriage law on Friday as conservative lawmakers launched a last-ditch attempt to scupper the most progressive bill in favour of a watered-down “civil-union” law.

Hundreds of gay rights supporters gathered despite heavy rain near Taipei’s parliament as a mammoth legislative debate got under way over an issue that has bitterly divided the island.

Parliament is up against a ticking clock.

Taiwan’s top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. Judges gave the government until May 24 this year to make the changes or see marriage equality enacted automatically. But they gave no guidance on how to do that.

SEE ALSO: Victory for LGBT in Taiwan as top court rules in favour of gay marriage

With that deadline fast approaching, three bills have been tabled for Friday’s vote — which also happens to be the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The most progressive is the government’s bill, the only one to use the word “marriage” and to offer limited adoption rights.

It is backed — begrudgingly — by gay rights groups who see it as the closest thing to full equality with heterosexual couples, despite its limitations.

Opponents have tabled two other versions which avoid the word marriage, offering something closer to same-sex unions with no adoption rights.

Conservative and religious groups have been buoyed by a series of referendum wins in November, in which voters comprehensively rejected defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

Families divided

In a Facebook post President Tsai Ing-wen said she recognised the issue had divided “families, generations and even inside religious groups”.

But she said the government’s bill was the only one that respects both the court judgement and the referendum.

“Today, we have a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society,” she added in a tweet.

Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds the majority in parliament, occupying 68 out of 113 seats.

SEE ALSO: Taiwan: Thousands protest for and against Bill to legalise gay marriage

But there is no guarantee her own lawmakers will vote for the more progressive bill, especially as many fear being punished by conservative voters at the ballot box in January.

One of the rival bills was proposed by a DPP lawmaker. And a last-minute amended version of the government’s bill has been tabled by fellow lawmakers in the party, dropping the phrase “same-sex marriage”.

However, it still lets same-sex couples join an “exclusive permanent union” and apply for a “marriage registration” with government agencies.

LGBT community in limbo

Taiwan’s LGBT community has been left in limbo the last two years, with many couples planning weddings ahead of the May 24th deadline but unsure of what marriage equality will look like.

“The world is watching to see if Taiwan’s parliament will write a new page in gender equality or deal another blow to Taiwan’s hard-fought democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” said Jennifer Lu, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

SEE ALSO: Taiwan poised to become Asia’s first country to legalize gay marriage

“For the gay communities what matters the most is whether we can legally get married on May 24 and be listed as the spouse in ID cards, to be treated and respected as the ‘spouse’ in the whole legal system … and whether same-sex families can obtain legal parental rights for their children.”

Cindy Su was one of thousands of gay marriage supporters gathered outside parliament on Friday ahead of the debate.

“We are just a group of people who want to live well on this land and who love each other,” she told the crowd.

But opponents warn that “forcefully” passing a gay marriage law will intensify tensions.

“The cabinet’s bill ignores the referendum results and that is unacceptable,” said Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang party, who proposed one of the bills backed by conservatives.



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Why the US-China Trade Negotiations Are Stuck


People who know a little bit about China will tell you that the most important component of a successful negotiation with the Chinese is guanxi, which is translated into English as “relationship.” In other words, we are told, in order to achieve one’s goals in China, it is necessary to spend time and make efforts to build a good relationship with one’s counterparts. Trust, sincere and reliable intentions, and goodwill are the foundation of any lasting deal in China, goes the conventional wisdom.

Is this true?

If it were, then the Chinese should, according to the formula, be bending over backwards to accommodate the U.S. government’s requests to balance trade and protect intellectual property. Why?

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An objective case can be made that the United States has gone to significant lengths to support the development efforts of the People’s Republic of China through investment, technology transfers, and education of its students in the United States, to name but a few of the measures that the United States has used since the 1980s. These efforts have brought a mixed bag of both benefit and harm to the United States, a situation which the Trump administration is determined to adjust in America’s favor.

With American investment into China totaling, by 2016, over $80 billion by some estimates and much more by others, which take into account American capital that flowed first into Hong Kong and then into the mainland, the United States has been China’s largest investor outside of Asia (not including the British Virgin Islands, which is usually used as a pass-through investment platform for capital from other sources).

China has also been encouraged to educate its youth in the United States. In 2018, the U.S. government reported that 340,518 Chinese students were in the United States, making up 30 percent of the foreign student population in America.

And above-board technology transfers in industry, high-tech, and agriculture have given China a competitive edge in sectors in which America and the West had previously dominated.

Shouldn’t all of this add up to a substantial pot of guanxi from which to draw significant concessions from China?

Apparently not.

Is it possible that guanxi doesn’t mean what we have been thinking it means all this time?

The Chinese character guan, 关, means “closed.” The character xi 系 means “system.”

That’s right — guanxi means “closed system.” It doesn’t mean “relationship” at all, particularly in the Western sense of the word. Thus, having guanxi, building guanxi, and using guanxi really means having access to a closed system of relationships that can make things work in your favor.

That system in olden days was rooted in imperial, dynastic China. Today its power resides in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

By definition, therefore, a non-Chinese can, at best, only get close to the periphery of that system, finding people who have the inside track that makes things work, and leveraging their power within their system.

When looking at the latest round of U.S.-China trade talks, experienced negotiators in China will have recognized the latest Chinese gambit. The Chinese side used a tactic that would have been considered rude and unsuitable to employ on one considered a true friend, a member of one’s own “closed system.” As reported by the White House, at the last minute, after months of discussion, previously agreed upon points were unilaterally scrapped by the Chinese side. Rather than going forward, or at least maintaining a status quo, the Chinese suddenly declared that the American demands infringed on the “sovereign rights and dignity of China.”

The timing of this negotiating tactic is familiar as well. In negotiations in which the Chinese side has to rang bu, meaning “step back” or “give in” to an opponent, officialdom will show its displeasure by seeming to scuttle discussions, ripping up tentative points of agreement, and retreating into victimhood, all at a moment when the opposite side thinks that a deal is imminent.

This sudden Chinese about-face, occurring as it does when the negotiating partner is feeling hopeful and optimistic that the end is in sight, usually produces a strong reaction. Particularly on those uninitiated in this tactic, the effect is often highly disconcerting, confusing, and maddening. Designed to throw one’s opponent off balance, the mechanism very often works. Foreign negotiators often react vociferously. This is the point at which open and very real anger may be displayed. It’s also the point at which many on the foreign side walk out of meetings, and then rail on about the bad faith of the Chinese.

And the most confusing part of it all is usually the misunderstanding of one’s real “relationship” with the Chinese. The American side, in this case, may think it has a great deal of guanxi, based on American support of China throughout the years, but the Chinese side is clearly telling them, “You don’t.” In fact, the message is, “You can’t.”

In truth, no matter how much America has “done” for China, the United States can never have the kind of relationship with China that depends on leveraging guanxi in the truest sense of the term. It’s pointless to negotiate from a position that Washington, decidedly not of the inner sanctum of the CCP, can never have. The United States, indeed the foreign community as a whole, would be better served by negotiating on their own terms, and from their own positions, rather than attempting to build relationships with China that are essentially futile. The old adage “be yourself” never sounded so good.

To a large extent, it seems that President Trump senses this; he has drawn the terms, and is sticking by them, increasing the number of goods that are subject to tariffs, and raising the tariff rate to 25 percent. Publicly at least, he sports ease and nonchalance over the whole thing.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are, in truth, flummoxed. The word on the street in Shanghai, for example, is that in one economic zone alone, of the 500 businesses that existed in 2017, less than 50 are still afloat today.



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Indian food: The best dishes in each region


(CNN) — When ordering “Indian” food in places such as the United States or the UK, garlic naan, biryani, butter chicken and dal are ubiquitous.

However, when you travel to India, don’t expect anything close to a standard menu. In this vast country, there are 29 states — each with its own topography and traditions.

Head 100 miles in any direction and the religion, language and culinary customs will be completely different.

The food experiences vary based on the landscape and climate, not to mention historic immigration patterns, spices, trade links, rulers and religions.

In northern destinations, you might find flatbreads and tandoor-grilled kebabs, while southern Indians dine on sweet coconut fish curries and rice.

Across the country, the diversity spans more than nine religions, all of which influence the relationship with food. For example, Hindus eschew beef, Muslims avoid pork and Jains practice strict vegetarianism.

From north to south, east to west, we take a deep dive into each region’s history and traditional dishes with insights from experts in each region.

Northern India

The markets of Amritsar, in Punjab, are a great way to explore the local spices, vegetables and street foods.

The markets of Amritsar, in Punjab, are a great way to explore the local spices, vegetables and street foods.

NARINDER NANU/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Comprising states such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, northern India is heavily influenced by its history and topography.

It’s here where you’ll encounter the majestic Himalayas and the Indo-Gangetic Plain — fertile alluvial flatlands that have been considered the “food bowl” of India for centuries.

“The Himalayas have a huge influence on Northern India,” Palash Mitra, the chef at New Punjab Club in Hong Kong, tells CNN Travel.

“The mountains create a temperate, arid, less humid climate compared to Kolkata or Mumbai. In addition, the landscape is full of hills and valleys. As you head up to the borders of Punjab, you’ll see huge steppes.”

Mitra, who grew up in western India and worked in northern India for much of his early career, says the climate results in an abundance of specific ingredients, such as wheat, rice, maize, dairy, mustard seed, dried fruits, pistachios, almonds, saffron, turmeric and cumin.

The cuisine in this part of India tends to be rustic, with an emphasis on the seasons.

“Even though the presentation is simple, I would say it’s a celebratory style of food — they are celebrating the flavors, the seasons, the bounties of nature and spirituality,” says the chef.

Another major influence can be attributed to immigrants, traders and conquerors.

“They are celebrating the flavors, the seasons, the bounties of nature and spirituality.”

Palash Mitra, New Punjab Club

Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Nader Shah, Amir Timur… many of the world’s best known conquerors rolled through Northern India.

“The diverse food culture reflects many waves of migration from Mongolia, Persia, Turkey, Africa and many other regions,” explains Mitra.

“Communities moved there and set up a life. They brought their traditions with them, adding to the wide spectrum of regional foods in the north.

The Mughal empire, which ruled during the 16th and 17th centuries, for example, dined on many milk proteins, such as paneer (an Indian cheese), ghee and yogurt.

Of course, within the vast northern region, there are significant differences between food traditions.

In Punjab, Mitra says dishes tend to revolve around the tandoor (clay oven), whereas lamb chops, beef kebabs, chicken tikka and all kinds of skewered meats are cooked.

Aside from tandoor dishes, Mitra recommends amritsari macchi — river fish that’s coated in a chickpea batter then deep-fried and served with various chutneys.

He also recommends sarson da saag and makki ki roti. To make this dish, corn flour roti are cooked on a griddle, then stir-fried with mustard greens, spinach and other leafy greens and then served alongside onions and butter.

“Punjab food is meatier and they use yogurts to sweeten and tenderize the meats in dishes such as murgh (chicken) tikka.

“People in Himachal and Haryana use a lot more vegetables, fish and foods like that. But the most common thing among them is the use of dairy. They all use it, but in different ways.”

By comparison, in places like Kashmir, there’s a distinct Muslim influence. A notable dish here, called roghan ghosht (a.k.a rogan josh), is a slow-cooked lamb stew using fennel, ginger and rattan jyot (made from tree bark).

In Northern India, jalebi -- batter fried into swirling shapes -- are a beloved sweet, especially when paired with condensed milk and topped with spices.

In Northern India, jalebi — batter fried into swirling shapes — are a beloved sweet, especially when paired with condensed milk and topped with spices.

NARINDER NANU/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

And in the mountains, there’s a pronounced Tibetan and Nepali influence featuring more dumplings, noodles and stews.

“The mountain communities are full of really kind, humble people — these are soul enriching places,” says Mitra.

“It’s about nourishing both the soul and the body.”

Throughout the North, jalebi with rabdi — swirls of deep-fried batter, topped with a creamy condensed-milk sauce, spices, sugar and nuts — is a must-try.

You can find it on every street corner, though Mitra claims those in Haridwar, in North India’s Uttarakhand state, are the most exceptional.

“If you go to Kashmir, you have to go to Dal Lake and try the local food around this area,” says Mitra.

“There is a big Muslim community, so you want to try to rogan josh and the Kashmiri muji gaad. It’s like minced meat, cooked in a stew.”

Central India

In Central India — covering the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand — the food packs a punch.

“Generally, people of this region don’t like bland or monotonous food,” Amit Pamnani, a professional chef who runs a culinary homestay experience called Stay with a Chef in Indore, in Madhya Pradesh, tells CNN Travel.

“They want it to be somewhat heavy on spices. The flavor of any dish will be strong — a mix of spicy, salty, sweet and sour all at once.”

The climate of this inland region is hot and dry, which is part of the reason behind the penchant for spice. Chilies, for example, are thought to keep the body cool while the anti-microbial properties of some spices can keep food from spoiling quickly in the heat.

Pamnani says a history of Mughal influence — a Muslim empire that ruled the region from the early 16th century to the mid 19th century — has also shaped the cuisine.

“While the Mughals enjoyed meaty dishes, such as the country’s kebabs and biryanis, we also have a large community of Jains (an ancient Indian religion known as Jain Dharma) who are strict vegetarians,” says Pamnani.

“Some actually don’t eat ingredients that grow underground, such as garlic or onions. Instead, they use a lot of cumin and asafoetida [an aromatic herb that tastes of leeks when cooked] to add flavor to their food.”

“The flavor of any dish will be fairly strong — a mix of spicy, salty, sweet, and sour all at once.”

Amit Pamnani, Stay with a Chef

In Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, Pamnani says Galouti kebabs are a must-try: “It’s almost like a meat pâté. Legend has it that they were invented by a cook in the Mughal Darbar [king’s court] for a toothless king who couldn’t chew meat, so he made this melt-in-your-mouth kebab.”

Indore, the chef’s homebase, is one of the most famous places in Central India to dig into street food.

The two most well-known street markets — Chappan Dukan (meaning “56 Shops”) and Sarafa — are brimming with vendors.

Here, Pamnani recommends hunting down local staples, such as sev (a savory crispy fried noodle snack), dahi vada (lentil dumplings covered in yogurt and chutney), chole tikki (boiled chickpeas in a spice stew), coconut crush (coconut water smoothie) and Kachori samosas (deep-fried pastry puffs filled with vegetables).

Capital cuisine: Delhi

New Delhi streetfood

New Delhi’s old city streets of Chandni Chowk are a hub for the city’s best street food.

AFP/Getty Images

If you only have time to visit one food city in India, it has to be Delhi.

The capital of India is the melting pot of all of India’s regions and ethnicities, providing a round-the-country tour of culinary traditions.

Alongside world-famous butter chicken, stuffed parathas, chaat and kebabs, Delhi’s dining scene also plays host to a variety of international influences.

“If you want to try food from any region in India, you can find it here,” Anubhav Sapra, founder of Delhi Food Walks, tells CNN Travel.

“The noisy labyrinthine lanes of Chawri Bazar and Chandni Chowk have an extremely rich culinary culture to offer to tourists and residents alike.”

Old Delhi is considered to be the street food capital of India, so Sapra suggests you start your food crawl there.

“Many of the authentic Delhi dishes can be found here, such as bedmi puri (puffed bread with lentils), chole kulche (a popular breakfast of spiced chickpeas in a curry), nagori halwa (a sweet treat of puffed bread with a semolina- and ghee-based paste) or paaya (trotters),” says Sapra.

“At Jama Masjid mosque and Turkman Gate, you can relish nihari (a slow-cooked meat stew) at Kallu, biryani at Taufeeq ki Biryani, or enjoy Hussain’s fried chicken.”

You can find Tibetan thukpa in Delhi's Majnu-ka-Tilla district.

You can find Tibetan thukpa in Delhi’s Majnu-ka-Tilla district.

jenni marsh

Beyond Old Delhi, travelers can explore Tibetan cuisine beyond momo dumplings in the city’s northern neighborhoods.

“Close to the Yamuna river is Majnu-ka-Tilla, a residential area that’s also known as Little Tibet,” says Sapra.

“In the narrow lanes of this area, you will find a huge variety of traditional Tibetan foods — much more than momos.”

There are lots of food stalls and humble restaurants, serving up meaty stews, chicken thukpa (a Himalayan noodle soup) and spicy fried pork with steamed rice.

“You will find a huge variety of traditional Tibetan foods — much more than momos.”

Anubhav Sapra, Delhi Food Walks

South Delhi is also worth visiting on any food adventure. Home to a vast Afghan settlement of migrant workers, it’s known as Little Kabul.

“There are rows of Afghan tandoor shops and restaurants in this area, serving some of the tastiest tandoor cooked meals,” says Sapra.

He recommends exploring narrow Kashmiri Lane, where the scents of freshly baked roht (Afghan sweet bread), mantu (lamb and onion dumplings) and juicy mutton kebabs topped with sour sumac (a citrus-like spice) permeate the air.

Eastern India

Bengali food is often cooked in mustard oil.

Bengali food is often cooked in mustard oil.

Divya Dugar/CNN

Set against the Bay of Bengal, eastern states like West Bengal and Odisha are home to a largely humid climate, epic rainfalls, rivers and lakes.

As a result, there’s no shortage of green vegetables, fruit and rice. In addition, fish and cooling yogurts make appearances at almost every meal, as do nourishing mustard seeds and hearty ghee.

Best enjoyed at street stalls, the regional staples include dalma (hearty lentil stews), machher jhol (a tomato-based fish curry), pakhala (a fermented rice dish seasoned with spices, curd and lemon), badi chura (dried lentil cakes), aloo dum dahi vada (potato curry with lentil dumplings and yogurt), red chili chutney and delicious chhena poda (roasted cottage cheese with cashews and raisins).

“It’s very humid, very hot, so you will see a lot of cooling desserts and thin yogurts — almost like buttermilk — that keep people feeling full and hydrated,” says Sapra.

You’ll encounter dramatic variations in food traditions between the states in this region.

While Bengali cuisine tends to be simple yet packed with flavor, Oriya dishes are subtle and delicately spiced.

“I think Odisha’s food is one of the most underrated in India.”

To the north, there’s heavy influence from Mongolian and Chinese food traditions with momos and mutton on every corner.

Within the region, Bengali cuisine is by far the best known, thanks in part to its delicious street snacks and beloved desserts.

“Almost everything in Bengali cuisine is cooked in mustard oil,” says Sapra.

“Mustard is a very important part of Bengali food, along with vegetables. They leave no stone unturned when it comes to greens — Bengalis are known for using every part of the vegetable.”

A puchka vendor makes a small hole in the fried dough ball, which will then be stuffed with filling and dunked into a tamarind and green mango sauce.

A puchka vendor makes a small hole in the fried dough ball, which will then be stuffed with filling and dunked into a tamarind and green mango sauce.

Divya Dugar/CNN

Among the most popular dishes in West Bengal, you’ll want to taste various bhaja — fried snacks — as well as chana dal (thick chickpea dal) cooked in lots of spices.

A light, fluffy accompaniment to most meals is luchi, a deep-fried flatbread made from maida (white flour).

“Bengali cuisine has a lot to offer to all street food lovers,” says Sapra.

“Their popular mouthwatering puchkas (a flaky shell full of sour tamarind water, chaat masala, potatoes, chili and chutney) are an absolute delight for the palate, along with ghugni (a curry-like street snack made with yellow and white peas) and jhalmuri (puffed rice with a mélange of vegetables, nuts and spices).”

Sapra also recommends fresh singhara (a crispy fried snack filled with potatoes, peas and other vegetables), mughlai parathas (fried bread stuffed with minced meat and onions), or kati rolls (super spicy skewer-roasted kebab rolled in paratha bread) that are best enjoyed on a night out with friends.

“We can’t talk about Bengali food without mentioning sweets,” says Sapra. “Bengalis love their sweet dishes and why not? They are delicious.”

He points to specialties such as rasgulla (dumplings full of paneer and sugary syrup) and ras malai — similar to a crustless cheesecake made from chhena (cheese curds).

“Another one of their special desserts is payesh, which is rice pudding sweetened with jaggery (cane sugar and date palm sap),” says Sapra.

“This sweet dish tastes so good that you can never be satisfied with just one bowl.”

Northeastern India

In northeastern India, the eight sisters — Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim — are secluded from the rest of the country.

Bhutan and the Himalayas hug the region to the north, while Bangladesh borders to the south.

Highly remote, this is one of India’s most underrated provinces when it comes to food.

“It’s green and lush, with rainforests, deep rivers and valleys — it’s like heaven,” Chef Atul Lahkar, a celebrity chef and owner of Heritage Khorikaa in Assam, tells CNN Travel.

“Because of the rainfall, it’s easy to cultivate food here. People tend to live very closely with nature… foraging, farming and fishing.”

Known for its tribal communities, micro climates and lush rice paddies — Meghalaya is said to have the highest annual rainfall in the world — the food varies from state to state.

“It’s impossible to generalize because we have so many subcommunities — 28 in Assam alone — all with their own traditions,” says Lahkar.

But they do share a few common traits, namely simple, rustic food that eschews oil, ghee, milk and spice mixes.

You’ll often see baked, grilled or steamed dishes, such as chicken, fish or pork steamed with endemic herbs inside bamboo leaves.

“The traditional meat dishes are pork or chicken barbecue, because most of the tribal communities are hunters. This is the lifestyle,” says Lahkar.

Other common ingredients include bamboo shoots, white gourd, lentils, aromatic herbs, ginger, garlic, chili and more than 230 types of rice every color and texture imaginable.

“Rice is a staple food in this region. We often eat it pounded in a traditional way, with vegetables, meat or fish,” says Lahkar.

“We also use a lot of aromatic herbs, like borage (also called starflower). This herb is often paired with fish and meat to add a punch of flavor to the dish.”

Around the region, you can also find iterations of apong or xaj — a homemade rice beer often infused with herbs or fruits — almost everywhere.

In terms of foods to try in Assam, Lahkar recommends baah gajor gahori — pork with bamboo shoots and sticky rice (steamed rice wrapped in banana leaves).

In Meghalaya, he says one of the most popular dishes is Khasi-style pork with rice cooked in pork blood with sesame seeds, ginger and garlic.

And in Nagaland, the region’s staple smoked pork should be consumed with akhuni — an intensely aromatic type of chutney made with fermented soybeans.

“In every part of the northeast, they have their own heritage style of cooking,” Lahkar. “It’s all very simple and rustic.”

Western India

Mumbai's famous Bombay Sandwich.

Mumbai’s famous Bombay Sandwich.

saaleha bamjee/flickr/cnn

In Western India, states such as Rajasthan and Gujarat lie in largely dry stretches of desert where fresh vegetables and fruits are not always available.

“Food was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region,” Manish Joshi, the executive chef of Taj Lake Palace hotel in Udaipur, tells CNN Travel.

“Food that could last for several days and could be eaten without heating was preferred. Scarcity of water and fresh green vegetables have all had their effect on the cooking.”

You’ll find lots of dried lentils and beans, dairy and liberal use of ghee, as well as millet- and barley-based breads.

The area is also known for snacks like bikaneri bhujia (crispy moth beans and spices), mirchi vada (fresh green chillies stuffed with spicy potato filling) and pyaaj kachori (a fried pastry filled with a spicy onion filling).

Other famous dishes include bajre ki roti (a millet-based flatbread), lasun ki chutney (hot garlic paste) and mawa kachori (puffed pastries full of creamy mawa cheese) from Jodhpur.

The region has seen centuries of influence from Central and West Asia — especially Persian, Arabic and Urdu communities that settled here over the years.

It’s also important to note that Rajasthan has one of the most plant-based diets of all Indian states, home to roughly 75% vegetarians.

“Originating for the Marwar region (southwestern Rajasthan state), the concept of Marwari Bhojnalaya, or purely vegetarian restaurants, are found in many parts of Rajasthan,” says Joshi.

However, there’s plenty of influence here, too, from the Rajputs, who are avid hunters.

“Their diet consisted of game meat and dishes like laal maas (mutton curry), safed maas (mutton with cream, yogurt and dry fruits) and khad khargosh (curried rabbit),” adds Joshi.

“The natives of the Rajputi areas also prepare a wide variety of chutneys made of turmeric, garlic, mint and coriander.”

Heading west toward the coast, the state of Gujarat share similar food traditions with Rajasthan, though they tend to cook with more sugar due to historic influences from Chinese invaders and immigrants.

“Food was influenced by both the war-like lifestyles of its inhabitants and the availability of ingredients in this arid region.”

Manish Joshi, Taj Lake Palace

With a long stretch of coastline, the “Jewel of Western India” sees more seafood, chutneys, pickled vegetables and fruits.

Among the must-try experiences is the Gujarati thali — a platter of various dals, kadhi (a sour yogurt curry with vegetable fritters), sabzi (a mixed vegetarian dish), steamed basmati rice and rotli bread — which is often served on a glimmering silver platter.

With influence from the Jain culture, Gujarat is also a heavily vegetarian state, but the dishes are varied with flavors that often combine sweet, spicy and sour.

The broad range of spices — from turmeric to cumin, cardamom, coriander, tamarind, saffron, mint, cloves, ginger, cayenne, curry leaves, chili and more — make the masala mixes here particularly notable.

Southwestern India

Mumbai, India's financial capital, is renowned for its vast array of street food.

Mumbai, India’s financial capital, is renowned for its vast array of street food.

AFP/Getty Images

Maharashtra — where Mumbai is located — enjoys a long stretch of coastline and a tropical climate where the monsoon season can last for months. However, there’s also a wide swath of hinterland that’s far removed from the sea.

“The natural produce, cereals and vegetables vary greatly,” Pushpesh Pant, Indian food critic, historian and author of “India: The Cookbook,” tells CNN Travel.

“Fish and seafood are part of the daily diet along the seaboard while millet, mutton and different seasonal vegetables and lentils predominate elsewhere.”

Within the mix, there are several sub-regional cuisines, including coastal Malvani-style food in South Konkan — known for its coconut-based seafood curries with sour, fiery flavors — and Vidarbha cuisine, a particularly spicy style that can be found in and around Nagpur city, in the central part of Maharashtra.

“The straight jacket of caste, orthodox prescriptions and prohibitions no longer fetter the young.”

Pushpesh Pant, Indian food critic, historian and author

Nagpur is also home to ultra-spicy Saoji cuisine, which has its own unique style of non-vegetarian cuisine that often features goat meat, fish, lentil dumplings, boiled rice and roti.

“There is a great difference in the cuisines inhabiting this region … Hindus aren’t a monolith. Brahmins, Marathas and other castes, as well as Parasi, Muslims, Christians, Sindhis, refugee Punjabis and Anglo-Indians all have left their mark on food of this region,” says Pant.

In Mumbai, on the western coast, the food culture has long been shaped by industry and waves of immigration throughout the 20th century.

“Bombay was once a city full of textile mills,” says Pant. “It serves as home to India’s film industry and the country’s financial capital. As an important port, it continues to draw immigrants like a magnet.”

As a result, the city’s cuisine is a “melting pot on full boil,” says Pant.

“Gujarati-Parsi, Goan and various strains and streams of South Indian foods intermingle here. The straightjacket of caste, orthodox prescriptions and prohibitions no longer fetter the young.”

He says a few of the must-try dishes around the city include sol kadi (a pink-hued coconut and kokum drink), fish Koliwada (spicy battered and fried fish), Kolhapuri mutton rassa (a highly aromatic mutton curry), puran poli (an Indian sweet flatbread) and jhunka bhakri (a chickpea flour porridge) — to name a few.

Elsewhere in the region, look for kombdi vade (chicken curry and deep-fried bread) from the Malvan region, tambda rassa and pandhra rassa (mutton cooked in two different kind of curries) from Kolhapur, sumai or pomfret fish curry and mud crabs — many of which are often paired with thalipeeth (local flatbread) and kokum sharbat (a cooling fruit juice).

Of course, the street foods of Mumbai are part of the experience. In particular, food experts recommend seeking out misal pav, vada pav and Bombay grilled chutney sandwiches.

Goa

Goa cuisine features an array of exotic spices, thanks to its role as an important trade city.

Goa cuisine features an array of exotic spices, thanks to its role as an important trade city.

INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Sitting on the western coast of India, Goa is a popular beach destination about an hour south via plane from Mumbai.

Despite the proximity, the cuisine here is completely distinct, due in part to 400 years as a Portuguese colony and trade port.

As a coastal state, the food in Goa is dominated by ingredients like seafood, rice, potatoes, chili, vinegar (via Portugal), tamarind, kokum (a variety of mangosteen), tirphal (a kind of Sichuan-stye numbing peppercorn), cashew and coconut.

“The Portuguese were responsible for bringing chili peppers to the Goan coast, and today, the spice features prominently in the state’s cuisine,” says Karan Anand, head of relationships at Cox & Kings travel agency.

“Sourness is another flavor that finds prominence, whether in the form of vinegar, kokum or tamarind.”

“Sourness is another flavor that finds prominence, whether in the form of vinegar, kokum or tamarind.”

Karan Anand, Cox & Kings

He says Goan food can broadly be divided into two types: Goan Hindu (Saraswat) and Goan Catholic.

“Hindu dishes to try include humon-xit (curry and rice), kismur (a salad of sorts made using dried shrimp or fish, coconut and onions) and tondak (a stew made using lentils or grams),” says Anand.

Meanwhile, must-try Catholic dishes are xacuti (a thick, coconut-heavy gravy with chicken or lamb), choris pao (local bread stuffed with the local pork sausage), sorpotel (a spicy pork dish) and bebinca (a multilayered pudding traditionally served at festivals like Christmas).

In addition, local staples like Goan vindaloo, fish curry and sausage pao are not to be missed.

Anand recommends getting your fill at restaurants like Mum’s Kitchen or Peep Kitchen in Goa’s capital city of Panaji.

Southern India

Home to the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana, Southern India’s landscape and climate are dramatically different than the dry deserts of the north.

Also known as Peninsular India, the south is hugged by the Arabian Sea to the west and the Bay of Bengal to the east, creating a predominately tropical climate that hosts humid temperatures and heavy monsoons.

Across the region, recurring ingredients include lentils, dried chilies, coconut, tamarind, plantains and ginger — all ingredients that grow easily in the tropical climate.

“The food in Southern India has earned fame across the world, particularly for delicious dishes like dosas, vada (savory fried snacks), idli (fluffy rice cakes) and uttapam (thick dosa-like pancakes) which are typically served with a coconut chutney and sambar (South Indian-style vegetable stew),” Sudip Misra, chef of Bengaluru Marriott Hotel Whitefield, tells CNN Travel.

Though selecting a few dishes can’t do justice to the region’s diversity, Misra recommends bisibelebath (a rice and dal dish seasoned with curry and mustard leaves), chicken chettinad (yogurt-marinated chicken curry with coconut), mutton pepper fry and appam (pancakes made from fermented rice batter and coconut milk).

There’s also meen moilee (a coconut and fish curry dish) and the delectable neer dosa (lacy crêpes made with a rice batter).

A man selling kebabs waits for customers by the side of a busy road in Bangalore, in the southern Karnataka state.

A man selling kebabs waits for customers by the side of a busy road in Bangalore, in the southern Karnataka state.

DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images

“You can expect robust flavors, since spices are used generously here,” says Misra.

“The region is known for its varied range of high-quality spices like cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. But the level of spice and method of cooking differs from each state.”

The cuisine also draws influence from Ayurvedic traditions — an ancient system of Indian medicine.

“Considered extremely healthy, South Indian food incorporates specific herbs and ingredients that are meant to be part of a holistic way to regain the mind and body’s health and vitality,” says Misra.

When it comes to preparation methods, most dishes are cooked or steamed using very little oil, ensuring that they taste light and are easy to digest.

A food tour of the region might take you to Udupi, in Karnataka, to sample breakfast staples like idli and dosas and over to Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, to dig into famous Chettinad cuisine — said to be one of the fieriest in all of India.

Influenced by seafaring Southeast Asian traders and, later, British and French colonizers, the cuisine in Chennai includes spongy rice cakes, sambar, dosas, coconut chutney, mutton pallipalayam (a slow-cooked curry mixed with ginger, tomato, chili and coconut) and lots of rice.

Misra also recommends a visit to Kozhikode, in Kerala, which known for its Malabar paratha (a flaky, layered flatbread), chatti pathiri (a pastry stuffed with nuts and raisins) and famous pazham pori (banana fritters).

A former French settlement, Pondicherry is a paradise for fusion food, while Madurai, in Tamil Nadu serves the most mouth-watering lamb dishes.

“Andhra Pradesh is known for its fiery food and, on the flip side, Pondicherry and Kerala serve up very subtle spices in their cuisine,” says Misra.

“The list is really endless, but you can be sure you will eat well in South India.”





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Ex-vice justice minister arrested for bribery in S. Korea


A FORMER South Korean vice justice minister has been arrested on allegations of bribery, including being provided with prostitutes by a construction contractor.

Kim Hak-ui is a former prosecutor who briefly served as the number two at the justice ministry in 2013, during the administration of ousted former president Park Geun-hye.

He is accused of accepting bribes worth 130 million won (US$110,000) and sexual entertainment on more than 100 occasions from businessman Yoon Jung-cheon.

Kim was taken into custody late Thursday after the Seoul Central District Court granted an arrest warrant, citing the possibility of “fleeing and tampering with evidence”, according to South’s Yonhap news agency.

SEE ALSO: South Korea: Ex-President Park abused power to gain bribes, prosecutor tells court

The scandal surrounding Kim has become notorious in the South, particular due to the sexual element. He is also accused of receiving bribes worth 40 million won from another businessman.

Kim was appointed by Park in March 2013, but resigned a week later in a storm of controversy.

He was investigated on allegations including rape and bribery but was cleared due to lack of evidence.

Prosecutors launched a new inquiry earlier this year and Kim was stopped at Incheon airport in March as he sought to fly to Bangkok with his face covered with a cap and mask, raising suspicions he was trying to flee.

Kim has denied the allegations.

202340



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UN Secretary-General Pays a Visit to the Blue Pacific


The Pacific’s “large ocean states” are on the frontlines of climate change, and urging the world to act.

This week United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a trip through the islands of the South Pacific, visiting Fiji, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu. His visit to the region was conducted with the specific aim of highlighting the existential threat that climate change is posing to these island states. Although this was his first trip to the South Pacific in his current role as Secretary-General, it was nevertheless a demonstration that the Pacific’s unique experience and perspective on these issues should be of greater importance in the world’s peak multilateral forum.

Guterres gave a speech as part of the High Level Political Dialogue between the UN Secretary-General and the leaders of the Pacific Island Form (PIF) in Suva, Fiji. In his speech, he outlined the current shifts in the planet’s environment and their potential knock-on impacts. Guterres also used the speech to commend the work that Pacific Islands states are doing in order to try and raise global awareness of these issues and seek mitigating behavior from other states, stating that “The United Nations is strongly committed to supporting your response to climate change and reversing the negative trends that have put your cultures and very existence at risk.” He concluded that in in regards to climate change, “the Pacific has a unique moral authority to speak out.”

In highlighting this authority, Guterres acknowledged the work that Pacific Island states have done to place themselves at the center of this issue. For small states like those in the Pacific, gaining global attention for issues that affect them can be difficult. However, in recent years these states have been able to forge a collective strategy and developed a much more assertive diplomatic posture, enabling them to create a clearer and outsized voice to promote an issue that is in their vital interest. This more assertive diplomatic approach was highlighted by Fiji’s recent presidency of the COP23 forum.

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A major component within the strategy of the Pacific Island states has been a new conceptual framework for the region known as the Blue Pacific, where Pacific Island states have been repositioning themselves as “large ocean states,” rather than “small island states.” Through this lens, these states see themselves as the dominant custodians of the Pacific Ocean and take responsibility for the health of its interrelated ecosystems. However, the responsibility of these states alone cannot provide solution to problems that do not recognize political boundaries.

The transnational nature of the phenomenon is something that is keenly felt in the Pacific. These are states that emit negligible carbon emissions themselves, but are disproportionately affected by the emissions of others. This was reflected in the Boe Declaration that was established at the Pacific Island Forum meeting held on Nauru in October last year. In the declaration, the signatories “reaffirm[ed] that climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific, and our commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris agreement.”

Recognizing the breadth of the security threat identified in the Boe Declaration, Guterres noted during his speech in Suva that “military strategists see clearly the possibility of climate impacts increasing tensions over resources and mass movements of people everywhere in the world.” The framing of the situation in these terms has the potential to provide a greater comprehension of the potential effects of a changing climate than might otherwise be recognized by larger, more powerful, and more polluting states.

To coincide with the visit by Guterres, the Pacific Island Forum issued a statement asking the UN Secretary-General to widely spread their blunt plea: “The Blue Pacific – our great ocean continent, our thousands of islands, our strong and resilient people – is running out of time.” Adding that “ All countries, with no caveats, must agree to take decisive and transformative action to reduce global emissions … If we do not, we will lose. We will lose our homes, our ways of life, our wellbeing and our livelihoods. We know this because we are experiencing loss already.”

Despite this plea, these Pacific Island states have not been trying to play the victim or simply seek undue sympathy. Instead, they are attempting to try and foster a realization that the forces that will initially come for the Pacific, will also eventually come for everyone else. The Pacific may be the on the front line for the effects of a changing climate, but they won’t be the last line.



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