TOKYO/JAKARTA — China’s claims to historical rights in the South China Sea have no legal basis, an international tribunal at The Hague ruled on Tuesday. In the first international ruling on artificial islands and military facilities built by Beijing in the disputed waters, the tribunal sided with the Philippines, flatly denying China’s historic claim to the “nine-dash” line, which encompasses most of the sea. A panel of five judges at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the Netherlands also noted that no maritime feature claimed by China along the Spratly Islands constitute a fully entitled island, and therefore cannot generate an exclusive economic zone or a continental shelf. The tribunal, established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, said there was “no evidence” China had historically exercised exclusive control over the waters in the South China Sea or its resources. Moreover, the tribunal said any historical rights “were extinguished” when the U.N. convention established EEZs.
KUALA LUMPUR — Obama held a separate press conference at a plush hotel away from the summit venue, where he repeated his view that the war in Syria — the seedbed for IS — was the fault of the Assad government, against which the U.S. has funded opposition militia groups. “It is not conceivable that Mr. Assad can regain legitimacy in a country in which a large majority of that country despises Assad, and will not stop fighting so long as he’s in power,” Obama said, at around the same time a terror threat forced the diversion to Canada of a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York, while Belgian capital Brussels, the European Union headquarters, remained in lockdown due to “a serious and imminent threat,” according to Prime Minister Charles Michel.
TAUNGGYI, Myanmar – A draft national cease-fire deal was agreed in March, but whether the agreement will be signed is questionable, given that the government has refused to recognize six of the 21 ethnic armed groups as potential signatories. The government’s stance has caused a rift among the ethnic organizations. Some, including the powerful Karen National Union and the Restoration Council of Shan State – Shan State Army South, said in August that they would back the deal regardless of others’ involvement, but have since wavered. The Kachin Independence Organization, with an estimated 10,000 fighters, has said it will not sign the national cease-fire without all armed groups on board. If the Kachin were to opt out, any deal would be toothless. “You really need the Kachin involved for it to be comprehensive,” said a close observer of the negotiations, who did not want to be identified.
DALHAMIEH, Lebanon – Rolling up a green dress sleeve, 12-year-old Syrian refugee *Reina murmurs “chemical, chemical.” Her arm, what’s left of it, is distorted, wrinked and swollen – looking more more like a fossilized tree root than a human limb. Inside her family’s shelter, a grimy hut made from a frame of uneven-sized timbers nailed together and covered in plastic sheetings and tarpaulin, others gather round. Most decline to have their full name quoted out of fear of reprisals. “Look, look,” says Safaa, 16, pulling down a snot-covered sleeve from her baby daughter Noufa’s arm. Scabs and blotches cover the infant’s wrist and foream. Clasping the child to her chest, she stoops to reveal shins covered in rotten wounds, greying at the edges and crusted over in between. Over the course of Syria’s two-year civil war, both the government and rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons, a charge both sides deny.
LAIZA — The Burmese army is using underage boys for forced labour and is coercing porters to fight on the front line against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to accounts given to The Irrawaddy by four teenagers who say they served as porters for the army. Two of the four say they are under 18, and two others, age 18 and 19, say they were forced to march in front of infantry as the soldiers approached KIO/KIA positions. All four say they were coerced into joining the Tatmadaw (the name for the Burmese army) after being promised jobs by army officers, at different locations and at different times during 2011. Burma’s government forces have long been accused of forcing civilians to work as porters and for using child soldiers in its campaigns against ethnic militias in the country’s borderlands. According to January 2012 figures, since 2007 there have been 1,160 forced labour complaints registered with the International Labour Organization, which recently agreed with the Burmese government to renew its complaints process for another year.
Kyeli, Blue Nile State, Sudan – “Soon after we married, my husband was killed during the war, ” says Hawa Abdul-Gadr. Hawa’s eyes are repositories of a grief suppressed, part-masked by a poised resolve that surely comes from getting on with things, in what is a tough place to live. Still, hers is a perceptible sadness – long-kept under wraps but maybe closer to the surface than she would care to admit. Chopping her left hand down from her right cheek, as if swatting away an invisible spectre, Hawa declares “I am happy now here, we have peace and I hope it stays.” She spent eleven years in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. The border is just fifty miles away from this village in southern Blue Nile state, but for those long years, home here in Kyeli seemed like a distant dream. “I came back in 2006, after the word spread about peace in the camps.”