World View: Riots in Tunisia After Assassination

This morning's key headlines from

  • Riots spread in Tunisia after popular opposition leader assassination
  • Tunisia - the birthplace of the Arab Spring
  • China: N. Korea 'must pay a heavy price' for third nuclear test
  • S. Koreans debate pre-emptive strike on N. Korean nuclear site
  • Japan considers modifying anti-war provisions of constitution

Riots spread in Tunisia after popular opposition leader assassination

Chokri Belaid during a radio interview in November
Chokri Belaid during a radio interview in November

Long-term simmering tensions between secularists and Islamists in Tunisia exploded into violence Wednesday, as word spread that a popular secular leader and outspoken government critic Chokri Belaid was shot dead with three bullets fired from close range. Police fired tear gas at the thousands of protesters gathered outside the interior ministry in central Tunis to denounce the murder. It's not known who is responsible for the murder, but protesters are blaming the ruling Ennahada party and its leader Rached Ghannouchi. Ennahada party offices were torched and ransacked in Tunis and in other cities, including Sidi Bouzeid, considered the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Tunisia's government has collapsed for the time being, and opposition parties are calling for a nationwide general strike to protest the murder. France 24

Tunisia - the birthplace of the Arab Spring

Over two years of turmoil throughout the Arab world, known as the "Arab Spring," is thought to have been triggered on December 17, 2010, when a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi set fire to himself in Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia, in protest of the police confiscation of his vegetable cart. After days of clashes between protesters and the police, long-time dictator Ben Ali was forced to flee the country, and is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia. By January the clashes had spread to Egypt, Yemen, Morocco and Lebanon, launching the Arab Spring. Tunisia's current government is led by prime minister. Hamadi Jebeli, secretary general of the Ennahada party. The Ennahada party is usually referred to as a "moderate Islamist" party, not as religiously conservative as Tunisia's Salafist parties, but opposed by Tunisia's secular parties. The secularists are blaming Ennahada and the Salafists for the murder, but so far the perpetrator has not been identified. Daily Star (Beirut) and Reuters

China: N. Korea 'must pay a heavy price' for third nuclear test

According to state-run Chinese media, a third nuclear test by North Korea, which is considered by outside observers to be imminent, is complicating relations between China and North Korea. China has strenuously expressed its disapproval of North Korean nuclear testing, and has threatened economic sanctions if a third test proceeds. North Korea will pay a heavy price if it conducts a third nuclear test. Some fear the worst case scenario, that the rupture that occurred in relations between China and Soviet Union will be repeated. But China will not be taken hostage by North Korea's intransigence, although China and North Korea have a strong friendship. Global Times (Beijing)

S. Koreans debate pre-emptive strike on N. Korean nuclear site

Fears are increasing that North Korea's imminently expected third nuclear test will be of a type that will allow North Korea to create a nuclear weapon small enough to be the nuclear warhead of a long-range missile, such as the missile they recently tested. The South Koreans are weighing the possibility of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea's nuclear test site, although no such strike is planned at the current time. According to South Korea's Defense Committee chairman, when told that a strike is possible if the situation changes:

"Are you sticking to your guns even if a pre-emptive strike on the North's nuclear weapons will lead to a full-scale war? It would be better to destroy the North's nuclear weapons first than to be struck by them, given that that would lead to a war in any case."

Chosun Ilbo (Seoul)

Japan considers modifying anti-war provisions of constitution

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing a goal to reinterpret Article 9 of Japan's post-war Constitution, in which war was renounced. The changes would be aligned with the Japan-U.S. military alliance, and would permit military action in four specific situations:

  • To shoot down a ballistic missile flying over Japan possibly toward the United States;
  • To defend U.S. military ships on the high seas that are engaged in joint operations with the Maritime Self-Defense Force;
  • To defend allied troops in U.N.-led peacekeeping operations;
  • To provide logistic support for U.N.-led troops using military force.
Public opinion now strongly favors such a constitutional change, where it didn't just three years ago. However, there is some parliamentary opposition to the change. 76-year-old Yohei Kono, who lived through World War II, says:

"I don’t think politicians understand the price we have to pay if we are going to revise the Constitution or reinterpret Article 9. The Constitution has contributed to the peace and regional stability of Japan since the war, which is why we have not revised the Constitution even though creating our own Constitution has been one of the LDP’s goals since the party was launched in 1955."

According to Kono, the rightward shift in public opinion is occurring because so many of the current crop of lawmakers were born after World War II and have no experience with the horrors of war -- which is exactly the kind of point that Generational Dynamics makes. Japan Times

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