Threats to world security, disasters made 2014 a worrisome year

Threats to world security, disasters made 2014 a worrisome year

Various threats and dangers became evident this year.

Topping the list of "Top 10 International News Stories" selected by readers of The Yomiuri Shimbun was the declaration of a state of emergency made by the World Health Organisation over the Ebola epidemic.

The epidemic of Ebola, which is an infectious disease with an extremely high fatality rate, has killed more than 7,500 people in three West African nations, including Liberia, and spread to the United States and Europe. To contain the further spread of the Ebola epidemic, it is indispensable to strengthen international medical support.

Fortunately, no infected patients have been detected in Japan. But it is important to continue nationwide screening at this country's points of entry, including airports.

Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in southern Ukraine (5th place), which has caused a serious confrontation among countries concerned.

The United States, European countries and Japan did not approve of the forceful national border change and imposed a number of sanctions on Russia. The summit meeting of the Group of Seven major industrialized countries was held without Russian President Vladimir Putin (17th).

A passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine and 298 passengers and crew were killed (4th). It is strongly believed that pro-Russian militant groups supported by Russia fired a missile at the plane.

Longtime problems remain

The chaos in the Middle East is also a concern. The United States launched airstrikes on the Islamic State, which has expanded its influence in Syria and Iraq (6th). The military intervention was an agonizing decision by US President Barack Obama, who has boasted of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as a "good result."

The support rate for Obama dropped and a historic, crushing defeat was inflicted upon the Democratic Party in the midterm elections (7th).

Malala Yousafzai received the Nobel Peace Prize for continuing to campaign for women's right to receive an education (3rd). Many people were impressed with her courage to stick to her beliefs after being critically injured in an attack by Islamic extremists.

However, extremists from the same group attacked a school in Pakistan in December and killed many students. A rough road lies ahead before terrorism can be eradicated.

The South Korean ferry Sewol sank, leaving 304 people dead or missing (2nd). The disaster left a lasting impression with final, painful e-mail messages sent by trapped high school students from their mobile phones to their families and video footage of the ferry captain being rescued after abandoning the passengers.

In Hong Kong, students and other protesters occupied streets, demanding greater democracy in the election of Hong Kong's chief executive (9th). It was a protest against the administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has tightened control over Hong Kong. China, which is trying to change the status quo by force in the South China Sea, deepened its confrontation with Vietnam and the Philippines (13th).

How should China's neighbours, including Japan, confront that country, which adheres to a Communist Party dictatorship and aims to unilaterally expand territories and interests through the buildup of its military and economic powers? This will be a grave problem for China's neighbours next year as well.

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