welcome to "newsline." it's thursday, july 18th. i'm catherine kobayashi in tokyo. an american fugitive's time in limbo may be nearing an end. a russian lawyer for edward snowden says he could leave a moscow airport within a week. the former intelligence contractor has filed an application for temporary asylum. >> translator: russian authorities are still screening
snowden's asylum application, but within a week they are expected to clear him to enter russia. >> snowden worked as a contractor for the national security agency. earlier this year, he exposed secret government surveillance programs to the media. u.s. authorities have charged him with espionage. snowden traveled to hong kong, then to moscow, after making the revelations. he stayed in an airport there since late last month. the national security agency is facing some legal heat because of the revelations snowden made about how it gathers intelligence. a coalition of u.s. advocacy groups is suing the nsa. it includes human rights watch and groups representing muslims, environmental activists and others. representatives of the coalition filed the suit with the federal district court in california. they're demanding the nsa halt its checked of phone communications and destroy any information it has stored.
it argued the nsa is spying on ordinary u.s. citizens and they say that's against the constitutional rights of free speech and association. a u.s. civil rights organization filed a similar suit against the nsa last month in new york. the agency has suspended the intelligence gathering programs saying they have prevented terrorist attacks. cuban officials admit a stash of weapons on a north korean cargo ship came from their country, but they say the soviet-era arms were being sent to the north for repair. authorities policing the panama canal discovered the weapons hidden in a shipment of sugar. in a statement released late tuesday, the cuban foreign ministry confirmed that the cargo ship detained by panamanian authorities was carrying weapons bound for north korea. but they explained that the arms were obsolete soviet-era missile parts that needed to be repaired. they indicated it was not in any way a breach of u.n. security council sanctions. the news of the seizure was announced by panama's president
ricardo martinelli in a radio interview. he said authorities had found what he called sophisticated missile equipment. the 35 crew members resisted efforts to redirect the ship into port. investigators have detained them. they said the ship's captain tried to commit suicide. defense consultants with ihs janes intelligence analyzed military hardware. they identified the equipment as high-performance radar for surface-to-air missiles. u.s. state department spokesperson patrick ventrell said the ship has a history of involvement in drug smuggling. he said u.s. officials strongly support panama's decision to inspect the vessel. the acting u.s. ambassador to the u.n. said the shipments of arms or related material to and from north korea violate security council resolutions. >> obviously, this shipment, if it's confirmed to have what we suspect, would be of interest to the sanctions committee. >> dicarlo commended the
panamanians for the seizure. she said they have a responsibility to ensure the panama canal is used for safe commerce. a spokesperson for north korea's foreign ministry says the ship was transporting old weapons for return to cuba as part of a legitimate contract. ministry officials are demanding panama release the ship and its crew. we spoke with an expert who has been observing north korea for years and asked about his insight. >> as we all know north korea has been very severe united nations sanctions, so i think that north korea will engage in any activities that will make them money. international hard currency the dollar. so i think that what they've been trying to do is to engage in commercial activities that makes them money. so i think that i don't see any grand rational overall strategy,
just north korea is trying to survive. cuba and north korea are the two remaining communist countries, so-called trying to struggle against the united states. cuba and north korea, their relationship go way back to kim il sung era. castro and kim il sung very much known to be friendly with each other, share a lot of history of communist struggle against so-called imperialism. and that essentially continues up until today. they exchange students, they exchange officials, military and party officials, they engage in economic activities as well. i mean, obviously, it's a bad time, bad happening for north korea. as you said, north korea's trying to engage in dialogue and at the same time it confirms their rogue image. you know, transporting and spreading weapons. but however, if you look at what
they have found now is that really old, obsolete defensive weapon owned by cuban government. cuban government, that's argued, trying to send these weapons for repair. and from north korean perspective, a nice cash cow engagement activities. >> that was a professor in seoul. an expert that has been following, observing north korea for years. officials in south korea are becoming increasingly concerned about growing tensions on the korean peninsula. with this in mind, they've asked the united states to postpone a plan to transfer wartime operational control of military forces to the south. south korea and the u.s. had agreed to transfer the operational power currently held by their combined forces command to the south korean military in december 2015. a south korean defense ministry
spokesperson says the government proposed the postponement because of increasing tensions. >> translator: the security situation including north korea's nuclear program has worsened. we've proposed to the u.s. that our two countries consider the transfer plan. >> south korean defense ministry officials say they still want to proceed with the transfer while placing top priority on national security. the people who run china's state-run oil companies believe they may have found something valuable beneath the east china sea. they're hoping to develop new gas fields. but they could siphon off gas from the sea bed under waters claimed by japan. reuters news agency quotes industry officials with direct knowledge of the project. the officials say china national offshore oil corporation is among several firms planning to develop seven gas fields in the
area. managers reported lid plan to apply for government approval soon. they want to start production in 20 15. two of the sites are near the median line that separates china's exclusive economic zone from japan's. earlier this month japanese government officials say the crew of a chinese ship was building what appeared to be a drilling facility. they were working on the chinese side about 25 kilometers from the median line. japanese officials launched a protest with their chinese counterparts. they said unilateral development was not acceptable. officials in the philippines have been troubled by china's territorial claims in the south china sea. so they launched a complaint with an international court. now chinese officials have a complaint of their own. they say the philippines has trampled on their rights. members of a u.n. tribunal in the hague are examining the filipino claim. the country is challenging chinese claims to a group of
islands known as the spratlys. china reacted sharply, foreign ministry spokesperson hue wa chin young released a statement saying the move is unilateral and fails to consider their country's lawful rights. it adds a dispute is the result of the legal occupation of the territory by the philippines. the number of maritime disputes in the area is rising. as the dispute draws on, china's ramping up its naval activities. officials from the philippines say chinese claims over a major toif the islands violate the u.n. convention on the law of the sea. protesters have hit the streets of a town in eastern india demanding answers for a tragedy. 22 children died after being poisoned by a tainted school lunch. dozens more needed treatment in hospital. children at a school near the town of chhapra started falling ill after eating lunch on tuesday.
>> translator: when my boy came home from school, he started vomiting. we rushed him to the hospital. >> medical teams treating the children suspect the food had been contaminated with insecticide. authorities have promised to investigate. >> translator: the state's chief minister has ordered an immediate probe into the incident and the committee has been set up for that. a team of doctors has been arranged to provide treatment to the children. >> the school cook had prepared the lunch of rice, soy beans and lentils. the indian government provides free meals at public schools to encourage children from poor families to attend. people in bangladesh are bracing for more unrest. a special tribunal has found a top opposition party leader guilty of crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence with pakistan. ali ahsan mohammed mujahid has been sentenced to death.
mujahid is the secretary-general of the jamaat-e-islami party. they set up the tribunal three years ago. 3 million people were killed during the war. more than ten people have been charged with mass killings including senior officials of the islamist party. a number of sentences have been handed down since january ranging from death to life imprisonment mp jam at e islamy party officials say the judgments are aimed at eliminating opposition groups ahead of general elections scheduled as early as the year end. supporters of the islamist party have been staging protests across the country, with some setting fire to cars on the streets. emerging economic powers still struggling with poverty. emboldened citizens still demanding democracy. the threat of violence. the push for peace. the shadow of conflict. get news and insight on south and southeast asia every weekday "live from bangkok" only on nhk world "newsline."
voters in japan face a choice this weekend. they're deciding who should represent them in the upper house of their diet. when they cast ballots sunday they'll also be considering whether or not to give prime minister shinzo abe and his liberal democratic party more power. the ldp controls the lower house, but opposition parties hold the majority of seats in the upper chamber. and that's created a divided diet where passing legislation can be tricky. in the lead up to when japan decides, we've been looking at some of the key campaign issues and hearing from voters about what matters to them. candidates from these nine parties are running in the election. the groups qualified for political party status. others that failed to meet the standards are still fielding candidates. in all, 433 candidates including independents are running in this election. one of the more emotionally
charged issues some of those candidates are discussing involves japan's constitution. prime minister abe wants to revise it for the first time since it took effect in 1947. on tuesday, we talked about the political process he'd need to go through to do that. now we're going to look at one proposed amendment in particular. abe wants to change afrticcal nine, the constitution's pacifist core. takafumi terui shows us what's at stake. >> reporter: japan's self-defense forces look like a military. they have more than 200,000 personnel. men and women who are armed with 740 tanks and 355 fighter jets. they also have 4 l48 destroyers nearly twice as many as france. the sdf has an annual budget of almost $60 billion.
the fifth largest in the world for an armed force. >> the sdf can take military operations only in the case of emergency. they cannot take any kind of military actions in peacetime. on the other hand, the sdf is treated as military force in international society even in peacetime. >> reporter: but people in japan don't use the words "military" to describe the sdf. article 9 of their constitution prohibits them from having military forces. >> land, sea and air forces as well as other war potential will never be maintained. >> reporter: for decades japanese leaders stressed the self-defense forces are for just that -- self-defense. and they've limited their
activities. during the gulf war, the sdf didn't join coalition forces. japan offered $30 billion in support instead. it was criticized for not putting boots on the ground. it did send sdf units to iraq in 2003 to help with infrastructure reconstruction and medical assistance after the fall of saddam hussein. ♪ prime minister shinzo abe argues that the sdf should not face so many restrictions. he and his labor democrats want to amend article 9. >> translator: we face a problem of what role japan should play in international society. is it okay to just give money? japan should take responsibility
in the future. >> reporter: this political scientist and member of a government panel on japan's security policy says that lawmakers should revive the constitution to reflect the times in which we live. >> there were a couple of important things in modern history. still, there was no change of constitution. that is strange. so many people ask me why japan is now trying to change the constitution. but the right question should be why has japan never changed the constitution until now? >> reporter: however, a fair number of citizens are opposed. they believe article 9 defines order in japan. they meet on the 9th of every month with members of a group
that's calling for the constitution to stay as it did. they also hand out information about their cause. >> translator: if we amend the constitution, we will be allowed to go to war. there is a fear that the country may go back to its pre-war period. we think we are at the most crucial turning point. >> reporter: some political parties say the constitution has kept japan from working alongside other nations, but others argue it is necessary to prevent the country from being sucked into conflict. this debate has been on a low boil for months. after the election it will likely heat up. tack ka hammy ter uy, nhk world, tokyo. >> our coverage leading up to sunday's vote will continue for the rest of the week. later in the day we'll look at the issue many voters consider
most important -- the economy. prime minister abe has focused on trying to end decades of deflation. we'll explore the impact of his policies also known as abe-nomics. >> nhk world special coverage of japan's upper house election is just a click or tap away. we're adding a host of features to our web and mobile sites. you'll find backgrounders and analysis plus in depth reports on issues that could define the campaign, from the economy to the constitutional debate. get online and get informed. the chairman of the u.s. federal reserve says the central bank will maintain its monetary easing policy for the time being. ben bernanke spoke at the house financial services committee. >> with unemployment still high and declining only gradually and with inflation running below the
committee's longer run objective, a highly accomodative monetary policy will remain appropriate for the foreseeable future. >> bernanke said the bank may ease back its money saving measures by 2014. he said the defense asset purchases depend on economic and financial development and they're not on a preset course. so the current pace of asset purchases could be maintained longer under certain conditions. bernanke also said that the fed will keep its short-term interest rate near zero for quite some time after bond purchases and to continue stimulating the economy. foreign direct investment in china rose for the first half in this year, but higher labor costs and a strong eer yuan mad for a slow crime. they say foreign investment for the january to june period totaled $62 billion. that's up 4.9% from a year ago and the first year on year increase in two years. china's direct investment in other countries was up 29%.
investment in the u.s. nearly quadrupled compare fod the same period last year. but it fell in japan by 9.1% year on year due to souring relations. digital tv is spreading its tentacles around the globe. botswana will start terrestrial digital format at the end of july. the country will be the first in africa to introduce the digital format developed by japan. the vice minister for presidential affairs and public administration mock geetsy month sissy met japan's communications minister in tokyo. they exchanged memorandum on the launch of the digital system in botswana. the broadcasting will begin on july 29 in the capital. under the agreement japan will send engineers to the african nation to help keep the introduction smooth. in return, japanese tv manufacturers will be given help to enter the local market. the countries have also agreed
approaching southeast areas of china. what's the latest? >> yes, catherine. tropical storm cimaron can hit guangdong by early tomorrow morning. as a tropical storm, after that it will weaken to a tropical depression. winds won't be too strong but the main threat will be heavy rain upwards of 100 millimeters likely for the southeast coast of mainland china in the southern tip of taiwan. and these are the areas that typhoon soulik dumped rain, so the ground is already saturated. a rainmaker can be found north af west of sichuan province may get 100 millimeters of rain. the xwround is already very well
soaked. it will trigger further flooding and landslides. as for japan then, we have an incoming low pressure system and cool air in the atmosphere and that is creating very unstable weather for the central and northern parts of the country. thunderstorms, gusty winds and even isolated tornadoes are possible. tokyo may see afternoon thundershowers, mostly dry, and temperatures will be soaring to the mid-30s once again today. seoul cooling down to 27 degrees. rain could develop today as well and thundershowers for beijing with a high of 29 degrees. in north america the main story's going to be the heat across the eastern u.s. and parts of eastern canada. this is the high pressure system responsible for creating the oppressive hot conditions. and this one is actually getting bigger and bigger as we go into thursday. and on the ridge of the high pressure dome, we have a risk of severe weather across the u.s./canada border, isolated
tornadoes are likely but rain is on the decreasing side across new mexico and western parts of texas. mainly dry across the west coast, 30 degrees for los angeles. much hotter than that across the northeast. mid-30s in washington, d.c., 35 in new york city and 35 for you in boston on thursday and particularly hot across the western and central parts of europe. we have the video coming out from the uk. officials in england have issued a heat wave health warning. temperatures have soared about 30 degrees celsius for five consecutive days making it the most intense heat wave in seven years. hospitals around the country are on alert for increased and heat-related incidents and illnesses. but here you can see the expected highs as we go into the next three days. london, you may see some slight development improvement, 24 degrees on saturday. but the rest of central and
western europe very hot for this time of year, 30 degrees, over 30 degrees in bordeaux on thursday and friday and 32 on saturday. dangerous heat will be continuing into the weekend. precipitation-wise, rain may develop over the pyrenees and the alpine region in the afternoon hours. here's your extended forecast. ♪
one more story to share with you before we go. a rice paddy may not be the most obvious place to make art, but visitors are still flocking to a field in northeastern japan to see a very unusual show. the 140-meter-long paddy in aomori prefecture is home to an exhibition of portraits made from rice plants. it began the exhibition to attract tourists. this year's exhibits are a traditional chinese courtesan and movie star marilyn monroe. visitors view the paddy from an observation deck on the sixth floor of a building in the village. the portraits are so detailed, they can see the patterns on the courtesan's kimono. >> translator: i'm very moved. i cannot find words to express my feelings. >> the exhibition continues