How Shohei Ohtani became Japan's biggest baseball export

Shohei Ohtani poses for a photo with his dog prior to the announcement Ohtani winning the 2023 American League Most Valuable Player Award.Getty Images

Japanese baseball star Shohei Ohtani has made history by signing a record-breaking $700m (£558m) contract with the LA Dodgers.

His recent elbow surgery did not stop the Dodgers from offering the eye-watering 10-year deal – smashing Mike Trout’s $426.5m 12-deal contract signed in 2019, previously the largest in Major League Baseball (MLB).

The 29-year-old superstar, nicknamed “Shotime” has been described as the “best player ever” and is often referred to as “unicorn”. He has previously drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth for his ability to pitch and hit in the same game.

Last month, he was voted the most valuable player for the second time since 2021. What is unique about the achievements is that he received unanimous votes on both occasions and that is a first in MLB history.

Ohtani’s professional baseball career began at the age of 18 with Japan’s Nippon Ham Fighters under manager, Hideki Kuriyama. The pair were recently reunited with when Kuriyama managed Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic championship.

And his global fame has already surpassed that of other Japanese players who moved to the US before him, including Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo, Hideki Matsui, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka.

In addition to Ohtani’s baseball skills, his clean-cut image and a lack of scandals and tabloid gossip about his social life, have turned him into a brand advertisers and marketers are clamouring for.

But the baseball prodigy is known to be extremely picky about activities outside the sport as he does not want any distraction from his first love.

“Ohtani doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and doesn’t care about money, which is part of his unique charm,” says Robert Whiting who has written several books on Japanese baseball.

“In a game in which so many seem consumed by greed and entitlement, he is a purist – a warrior monk – who only cares about becoming the best baseball player in history.”

This is evident from when Ohtani left Japan for the US in 2017 at the age of 23 and he signed a six-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels for $545,000 a year when he was estimated to have been worth more than $200m.

The shortfall can also be attributed to MLB’s rules under which an incoming international player under the age of 25 is only eligible for the league’s minimum salary.

Shohei Ohtani


But the money has been following Ohtani. His endorsement portfolio has grown from $6m in 2021 to at least $35m this year, according to Forbes. Add that to his salary and he is estimated to have raked in around $65m in earnings for the 2023 season, which would be another MLB record.

It is also felt in merchandise and ticket sales, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue every year for his team.

Economist Katsuhiro Miyamoto of Kansai University estimates Ohtani’s economic impact for the 2023 season to be 50.4bn yen ($342m; £272m) which include 1.2bn yen spent by Japanese visitors who would travel to the US to watch his games. Japanese firms are also estimated to have spent 1bn yen to advertise at Angel Stadium.

“For an individual athlete to generate this level of economic impact is unheard of,” said Prof Miyamoto, adding that it is equivalent to when a popular Japanese baseball team wins the Japan Series.

Shohei Ohtani leads his teammates onto the field while carrying the Japanese flag prior to the game against the United States.

Getty Images

Japan’s hidden export gem, top baseball players, have been settling into the US turf for almost 30 years.

In 1995, Hideo Nomo – nicknamed “Tornado” – became the first Japanese player to join an MLB team.

This was before smartphones were widely available, and due to the time difference, his fans in Japan would gather in front of big screens in public spaces to watch him play.

At the time, US stadiums inexplicably, were not allowing Japanese language advertisements on their billboards. But that has changed after more Japanese players arrived.

The US stakeholders became more aware of how Japanese companies are willing to spend big bucks to introduce their labels and goods to consumers in the world’s biggest economy. The advertisers were also keen to be seen as supporters of the sport to Japanese viewers.

But beyond the money, the baseball stars also helped transform ties between the US and Japan.

When Nomo joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, relations between the two countries were at their lowest point since World War Two, according to Mr Whiting.

“Japanese goods – like cameras, automobiles, and TV’s – had flooded North America and the rest of the world, creating a huge trade imbalance.”

In the mid-90s, in a somewhat similar tune to current trade tensions between the US and China, American lawmakers were not happy with the amount of Japanese imports.

Nomo, Mr Whiting recalls the New York Times writing at the time, was the only export from Japan that no one in America was complaining about.

These days, ties between the US and Japan are much warmer but what has made Ohtani more popular among his teammates and fan base in America is his humble attitude.

Shohei Ohtani


As MLB has welcomed Japan’s top baseball players, the loser appears to be Japan’s domestic baseball league, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).

Mr Whiting says NPB only has itself to blame.

“Unlike the US where it is a business operation to run a baseball team, Japanese companies buy a team to advertise themselves and they don’t use the extra money to reinvest in the teams,” he says.

In the 1990s, the gross revenue of Japanese baseball was about the same as the US. Now, MLB boasts $10bn total gross revenue compared to NPB’s less than $2bn.

Much of MLB’s success can be attributed to aggressive marketing through expanding sales of media rights, merchandising, sponsorships and the creation of new multi-faceted stadium complexes.

Competition is only getting tougher for future Japanese players in MLB.

On the opening day of the 2023 season 28.5% of the MLB’s top players were born outside of the US, led by stars from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Cuba

But Ohtani has broken so many records still early in his career.

And his first pro manager, Hideki Kuriyama, who oversaw his development as a two-way player despite criticism, recently said he is confident Shotime will “continue to evolve and show us even more than he already has”.

This is why, with the promise of greater things to come, companies will want to piggyback on Ohtani’s success and Japanese fans will be willing to travel to the US to pack the stadiums to watch him in action.

Related Topics

Continue Reading

Shohei Ohtani: Baseball star joins LA Dodgers in record $700m deal

Shohei OhtaniReuters

Baseball sensation Shohei Ohtani has joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in the biggest deal in the sport’s history.

The $700m (£557.8m) 10-year contract is the largest ever in US Major League Baseball (MLB) and makes Ohtani one of the world’s highest-earning athletes.

The Japanese player, who is widely seen as among the best to have ever played the game, was the most coveted target in baseball.

The move to the Dodgers comes after weeks of speculation about his future.

A major bidding war for his signature began when Ohtani opted to leave the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent after his contract expired following a six-year stint.

The reported value of the contract ranks alongside – or even surpasses – the sort of sums megastars like footballer Lionel Messi or basketball player LeBron James have commanded.

Fans and pundits have widely credited the 29-year-old with transforming how the sport is played in the modern era, and he is already well on the way to being considered an all-time great.

Unlike most baseball players who specialise in batting or pitching, Ohtani is equally skilled at both disciplines.

He won the American League MVP award in 2021 and again last month, despite his 2023 season being cut short by injury.

Ohtani led Japan to a famous victory over the US in March, their first ever win over the Americans at international level – a major milestone for a country where baseball is the most popular sport.

In a statement posted on Instagram, Ohtani said the Angels would be “etched in my heart forever”, adding: “Until the last day of my playing career, I want to continue to strive forward not only for the Dodgers but for the baseball world.”

Related Topics

Continue Reading

The women pushing boundaries in K-drama

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.

Many Korean television series – or K-dramas – now feature complex and powerful female characters, reflecting momentous changes in society and media habits.

K-dramas are now just as likely to have a female lead as a male. One of this year’s biggest hits, The Glory, was about a woman taking revenge against her bullies, and the hugely popular Extraordinary Attorney Woo featured an autistic female lawyer.

Women’s roles in K-drama weren’t always this interesting. Traditionally made to be watched by the whole family, nowadays shows even have the odd sex scene – and taboos like bisexual relationships and older people having love lives are being broken.

“In the 1990s Korean dramas were mainly about chaebol – rich heirs – loving poor women,” says Hong Eun-mi, vice-chair of the Korean Screenwriters’ Association.

Dramas such as Boys Over Flowers, in which spoiled rich heirs fell for plucky, working-class girls, were typical. The genre was known as “Candy girl” – named after the Japanese anime Candy Candy, about a cheerful, hard-working orphan girl waiting for her prince to sweep her off her feet.

A painting of the anime character Candy Candy hangs in a Seoul art gallery

“That’s not the case now,” says Hong. “The female protagonist has changed – she’s very independent, has a professional job, and is not really bothered by marriage.”

And even though dramas still love rich and powerful characters, they can now be women, too – like in Crash Landing On You, a huge global hit about an implausible, cross-border romance.

The actress and singer Uhm Jung-hwa, one of the most powerful women in Korean entertainment, says the spotlight rarely shone on women in the ’90s, when women’s “life goals boiled down to finding the perfect man”.

“Now we can see many strong female characters boldly embracing life on their own terms, and I feel fortunate and happy to be able to tell women’s stories, even at my age.”

Uhm Jung-hwa

Saram Entertainment

The 54-year-old has just starred in Doctor Cha, a Netflix series about a middle-aged woman who decides to complete her medical training and start work after 20 years of looking after her ungrateful family.

“Doctor Cha chooses to pursue her dreams, saying that she’s done her part as a mum. Her journey is incredibly inspiring,” says Uhm.

The idea of a middle-aged woman as the lead would have been unthinkable when she started her career.

“Once you hit 30, you couldn’t land a leading role. If you were over 35, you were often typecast as the mother figure in a family,” she says. “Even really talented and beautiful women would vanish from the screen because of their age.”

Doctor Cha


Uhm thinks the shift in women’s representation is thanks to South Korea’s extraordinary economic development, which has seen GDP per capita soar from $400 (£320) to about $35,000 (£27,730) in half a century. This has led to changes in society – including the social standing of women.

“Korean women are highly educated and want social success rather than marriage and childbirth – but there are some problems,” says Hong, the scriptwriter.

South Korea now has the lowest birth rate in the world and scores very low on measures of women’s equality. Korean women are paid a third less on average than their male counterparts.

But on screen, at least, women are taking charge.

Forbes’ K-drama critic Joan MacDonald credits the move away from Cinderella stories to the changing landscape of Korean television, with cable channels and streaming platforms willing to take more risks – 2016 was the first year that Netflix invested in a Korean drama: Kingdom, a historical zombie saga, where a woman played one of the leads.

By 2019, there were more workplace dramas and stories that involved women having influence in courts and in politics, even in historical dramas.

“You started to see a lot more women with jobs, women solving problems that had nothing to do with men,” MacDonald says.

Covid lockdown accelerated change – a combination of video on-demand streaming and people consuming more from home trebled K-drama viewership during the pandemic.

This year half of the K-dramas MacDonald reviewed had strong female characters, which was quite a departure.

“I’m not sure it completely reflects what’s going on in Korean society – but dramas certainly are leading the way.”

She is reminded of how people in apartheid South Africa saw black middle-class characters for the first time on TV, when watching the Cosby show – “they had never seen black people as professionals before, and it actually influenced society”, she says.

Female superheroes

Drama writer Baek Mi-kyoung has pioneered female narratives on Korean television, and her shows often tackle taboo subjects.

“With every show I try to break boundaries,” she says.

Baek Mi-kyoung

Baek Mi-kyoung

Baek’s highly-rated 2021 drama Mine featured a love story between two women, the first depiction of bisexuality on Korean TV – it was well-received, despite some angry letters.

But getting women’s stories on air has not always been easy. Baek’s acclaimed 2017 series The Lady in Dignity was repeatedly rejected by broadcasters.

“They thought that a story about two middle-aged women would not be commercially successful,” she says.

It was only after she had a huge hit with Strong Girl Bong-soon – about a girl from a family where all women inherit supernatural strength – that Korean broadcaster JTBC finally took a punt on Lady in Dignity. The series went on to beat the viewing records Strong Girl Bong-soon had just broken.

“I faced significant opposition to this project, but luckily, it was a big hit,” Baek says.

“Since my drama, female characters have become more proactive and empowered and very cool and independent. But I’m not satisfied yet. I want to be game-changing.”

Strong Girl Nam-soon sitting under a home-made yurt in a park in Seoul


In her latest comedy series, about another female superhero, Strong Girl Nam-soon, she decided to tackle a different TV taboo: older people in love.

“Korean audiences are crazy about romantic comedies, but only for young people. It’s a contradiction – most viewers sitting in front of the TV are seniors, but they don’t love senior love,” she says.

She says she was asked not to write about older people’s sex lives because it was feared viewers would switch off.

“But an older woman has a right to love in their life,” Baek says.

So her character, Nam-soon’s equally strong grandmother – played by 67-year-old Kim Hae-sook – falls in love with a barista, and at one point even carries her beau into a hotel, over her shoulder.

In the show, the grandmother says she has stopped watching Korean dramas because they only show young people in love. “Seniors have hearts too – their breasts may be sagging, but their hearts are beating,” her character says.

“That is an important message for me to send,” says Baek.

Super-strong grandmother Gil Joong-gan lifting huge dumbbells


She had ambitions to write the “first female generation superhero series” – but a very small budget limited what they could do with special effects. “There is a big difference between Marvel and my stories,” she sighs.

“It is difficult to receive investment for a script featuring a woman,” says Hong, who writes for both film and television. “When a woman is the main character, the budget is very small. I am very disappointed by that.”

Her own debut 2016 film, Missing, was about a workaholic, divorced mother’s desperate search for her kidnapped daughter. “I’m really proud of myself because I made a movie with female protagonists,” she says.

During the pandemic Korea’s movie industry slumped, while K-drama viewership rose sharply. Streaming services provided freedom of expression and big budgets, and many filmmakers started making K-dramas. The gap between K-drama and cinema has narrowed, with dramas such as Squid Game – a hyper-violent dystopian thriller and Netflix’s most-viewed show ever – actually being made by filmmakers.

The Netflix series "Squid Game" is played on a mobile phone


Before Covid, more than 80 big-budget movies were made per year – but this year only six, Hong says. “For the filmmakers it is a very sad story, but it’s good for Korean content, I think.”

Investment from streaming platforms, and with it change, looks set to continue. Netflix is planning to invest another $2.5bn – 60% of its subscribers saw a Korean drama in 2022. Disney, Amazon Prime and others are also ploughing cash in.

Hong says she no longer has to think about the budget when she writes – but at the same time, she worries that quieter, female narratives could be pushed aside to make action-packed shows in what she calls “the Squid Game effect”.

“I feel they want more and more of that for the audience. Women writers get a bit sick of it,” she says.

Squid Game would not have been made unless Netflix had invested money in it because it was deemed “too violent and strange” for terrestrial television in Korea, says MacDonald.

She can already see that streaming is changing K-dramas. “I started watching them 14 years ago and there was a lot less violence, there was a lot less sex – you had to wait until episode 10 to get a kiss, and that’s certainly not the case any more.”

Women are taking part in the violence too. My Name, a hard-hitting drama about a policeman’s daughter seeking revenge for her father’s death, had lots of fighting – and even a sex scene.

Short presentational grey line

Minha Kim and Uhm Jung-hwa

Short presentational grey line

K-dramas are famously chaste, which is part of their global appeal.

“Women don’t generally have free and enjoyable sex lives in K-dramas,” says MacDonald – but that, too, is changing.

And K-dramas are beginning to depict different genders and sexuality in a positive way.

Itaewon Class characters chef Ma Hyun-yi and her friend Choi Seung-kwon

Netflix/Lim Hyo Seon

The hit drama Itaewon Class featured a transgender character who was treated with respect. The show was adapted from a webtoon – a comic designed to be read vertically on a smartphone – which often have millions of international fans, acting as a sort of barometer for any drama reversion.

Minyoung Alissia Hong, an executive at Kakao Entertainment who was behind the adaptation, says this popularity comes with increased responsibility.

“We need to be very careful not to offend any audience globally,” she says.

“Korean dramas used to have much more aggressive male characters when it comes to romantic scenes. It was something that we identified as a risk, so we dealt with it before it turned out to be problematic.”

Alissia Hong feels that K-dramas and K-pop actually show that men don’t have to be macho. “You can be very sensitive but you can still be a cool character,” she says.

Itaewon Class stars


Even though the classic K-drama hero starts off as “kind of arrogant”, MacDonald says that one of the things she first liked was seeing men cry and express their feelings.

“I think one of the reasons women are drawn to K-dramas is the way they portray men,” she says. “They might pretend to be macho at the beginning, but inside they’re tender, and very romantic.”

She hopes K-drama “doesn’t change too much because we like it for what it is”.

But she says: “Perhaps it is time for men to take note of what women’s fantasies entail. Women have been catering to men’s fantasies for centuries.”

Continue Reading

Can certain foods really reduce your cancer risk? Here are 6 that experts say are worth adding to your plate


Common bean varieties like black and kidney beans, and legumes like chickpeas, dry peas and lentils, are not only high in protein. They’re also great sources of fibre, which is crucial for gut and immune health, Dr Brockton said.

Fibre is also linked with colorectal cancer prevention. The bacteria in our gut break fibredown into fuel for the cells lining the colon, which keeps them healthy and less likely to turn into cancer cells, Dr Brockton said.

Henry Thompson, the director of the Cancer Prevention Laboratory at Colorado State University, said that in animal and human studies, the consumption of beans (and other pulses like chickpeas and lentils) has been linked with the prevention of obesity, which is tied to several cancers. One ongoing clinical trial in humans is testing whether eating canned beans reduces cancer risk.

According to DrBrockton, the protective benefits of fibrekick in after eating around 30 grams – or the amount in about two cups of black beans – per day.


Tree nuts are rich in healthy fats, protein and fiber, and studies have found that those who consume them tend to have reduced risks of various types of cancer, especially those of the digestive system.

Walnuts in particular contain exceptionally high levels of plant compounds called ellagitannins, which are converted by our gut bacteria into metabolites that may reduce cancer’s ability to grow and multiply.

Dr John Birk, a gastroenterologist at UConn Health who has performed colonoscopies for people in clinical trials that investigate the colon health benefits of walnuts, said that it was easy to spot a “walnut colon.” The lining of the colon wall “has a healthier appearance, a sort of glistening reflection of the light shining on it from the endoscope,” he said.

Studies suggest that eating about a handful of tree nuts per day is linked with health benefits.

Continue Reading

‘They keep me young’: Meet the OG bartenders in their 60s at Singapore’s top bars

Having worked as bartenders for so long, what keeps both Ding and Foo working in such a demanding scene at their age? Both shared that it’s more rewarding now with awards such as 50 Best Bars giving them a sense of pride.

“When we won the Best Bar award in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017 and won a spot in World’s 50 Best Bars, we were filled with joy and pride,” said Ding. “I’m still working at this age, it’s tiring, but as long as I’m in good health and able to contribute, I would be happy to keep working.”

As for Foo, he reckoned the changes in the industry has certainly enhanced his social skills. But while he takes great pride in being an integral part of the team, he jokingly embraced the idea of taking a break soon.

“I now work behind the scenes more. It has been a good ride, but a change in environment and some rest would definitely be welcomed!”

Continue Reading

Tripling Singapore's AI workforce to 15,000 not just about numbers, but 'talents and ideas': Experts

Some of the increase in AI workers that Singapore seeks will come from local universities. In 2020, the undergraduate intake for information and digital technologies degree courses was 3,100 across the country’s six autonomous universities, according to the Education Ministry.

But not all graduates will specialise in AI, leaving a gap likely to be filled by other sources, including continuing education and overseas workers.

An apprenticeship scheme by AI Singapore – the national programme to develop AI capabilities – will be redesigned as part of NAIS 2.0.

Close to 300 people have graduated from the apprenticeship since it started in 2018. About 90 per cent have gone on to become data scientists, machine learning operations engineers, AI engineers, software engineers and other roles.

AI Singapore said its graduates have between five to 15 years of experience, with diverse backgrounds in engineering, banking and finance, teaching, law and human resources. 

Still, given a worldwide scarcity, Singapore will have to present itself as an attractive destination for AI talent – and it does have some advantages in this area.

Assoc Prof Kan pointed to the country’s transparency, suitability as a testbed and interconnectivity. And speed of AI regulation and rollout can allow Singapore to serve as a role model for other countries facing more difficulties scaling up deployment, he said.

Mr Adrian Goh, co-founder of tech talent platform Nodeflair, said government support to foster tech trends and welcome innovation – as seen in cryptocurrency-friendly policies – has helped make Singapore attractive.

The country’s strong English proficiency also attracts global companies like FAANG – Meta (formerly Facebook), Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – and Nvidia, while the high quality of life appeals to overseas AI talent.

Compared to the United States, where tech workers face challenges securing visas, Singapore has a streamlined employment pass system, Mr Goh added.

On the other hand, compared to Singapore, other countries in the region offer “cost-efficient growth options” with their emerging talent pools, he said.

Singapore’s software engineers have the highest median salaries among seven Asian economies, according to a recent Nodeflair report. The median salary for a lead software engineer was about S$6,600, versus S$2,400 in Malaysia and S$2,100 in Vietnam, which had the next highest salaries.

Dr Lily Phan, IDC’s research director for the future of work in the Asia-Pacific, also cited a lack of “AI-readiness” infrastructure, which was a limiting factor for 47 per cent of Singapore companies her market intelligence firm surveyed.

“It’s the combination of different factors to make AI really work: Strategy, infrastructure, skills, governance (regulatory framework), data and culture,” she said.

Continue Reading

Commentary: More screen time won’t ruin your kids’ ability to read books


In our Temasek Foundation Innovates research project, we found that children are spending more time on their screens after the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, 18.5 per cent more children spent over one hour daily perusing English materials on digital devices post-pandemic. We also found that parents have become more receptive to their child’s device use not only for learning and communication, but also for entertainment.  

Longer screen time for children is not as negative as some may think it is. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP), while maintaining the importance of control and moderation in screen time for young children, has recognised that age-appropriate and educational digital content can bridge the learning achievement gap between disadvantaged students and their peers.

The rise of a wired generation does not mean the end of deep reading. Over the years, the number of e-books and other online resources loaned out by the National Library Board (NLB) has been on a steady increase, with usage growing by 2.1 million to 82.7 million in 2022. NLB also has a mobile app to facilitate the borrowing of e-books for reading on digital devices.

However, reading on mobile phones and tablets is potentially distracting given the presence of other apps on these devices. E-readers, on the other hand, are designed to be optimised for the reading of long-form texts. They are also now relatively inexpensive, and can be used by students for deep reading.

For younger children, ways to encourage deep reading include reading aloud to them or with them. Putting time aside for reading together, just as we put aside time for excursions and play, is important to cultivating habitual reading. It is also important for adults to engage in conversation with children about the book to enhance their understanding and enjoyment of it.

These habits will help a new generation develop a “biliterate brain” – a term coined by Maryanne Wolf – that can engage in both deep and digital reading. Rather than view them in opposition to each other, we need to intentionally cultivate these literacies in our kids, in tandem with the evolving times.

Victor Lim Fei is Associate Professor, in the English Language and Literature Academic Group, at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. Sun He is a Senior Education Research Scientist and Assistant Centre Director at the Centre for Research in Child Development. Loh Chin Ee is Associate Professor and Deputy Head (Research) in the English Language and Literature Academic Group.

Continue Reading

Singapore suspends poultry imports from regions in Japan, US and other countries hit by bird flu outbreak

According to SFA’s data in 2022, Singapore approved 30 countries as sources of poultry which includes chicken, duck, turkey, goose and quail.

Brazil, Malaysia and the United States are Singapore’s top sources of chicken. 

SFA said in a media statement earlier this year that as part of the accreditation, it assesses the countries to ensure that they have measures in place to make sure that the exported poultry, poultry products and eggs are free of high pathogenicity avian influenza (HPAI).

“In addition, SFA monitors the outbreaks of HPAI worldwide and takes measures to suspend sources that have outbreaks of HPAI,” the agency added in a February statement on the global bird flu outbreak.

“We suspend import from regions affected by HPAI or only allow products that have been heat treated to inactivate the HPAI virus.”

SFA said Singapore poultry farms and slaughterhouses must also have biosecurity measures such as preventing wild birds from coming into contact with their poultry flocks.

“SFA inspects local poultry farms and slaughterhouses, as well as test imported live poultry and poultry in local farms for avian influenza,” the agency stated on its website.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said that the risk of transmission to humans is low. But as a precaution, people are advised not to touch dead or sick wild animals.

To minimise the risk of contracting bird flu, SFA said consumers should cook poultry thoroughly. They should wash their hands with soap after handling raw poultry products. 

The agency added that people should also avoid contact with wild birds and live poultry when overseas.

Continue Reading

Philippines accuses China of shooting water cannon at its boats

This video can not be played

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.

The Philippines has accused China of using water cannons to obstruct three of its vessels, in the latest territorial dispute between the two countries in the South China Sea.

Video footage shows Chinese ships firing powerful blasts of water towards the Philippine government vessels.

The Philippines called China’s actions “illegal and aggressive”.

The South China Sea is at the centre of a territorial dispute between China, the Philippines and other countries.

The incident happened near Scarborough Shoal, a flashpoint between the two countries. Beijing seized the shoal in 2012 and Chinese boats have since harassed Philippine fishermen in the area.

The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea said that “Chinese Coast Guard ships utilised water cannons to obstruct” government vessels from delivering fuel and food supplies to fishing boats.

The agency said it “vehemently condemns the illegal and aggressive actions”.

Beijing said it had used what it called “control measures” on ships that had intruded into its waters.

Earlier this week, the Philippines accused China of “swarming” a reef off its coast after more than 135 military boats were spotted in the South China Sea.

On Sunday, the Philippines plans to send a Christmas convoy of around 40 boats to distribute gifts and other provisions to people on Thitu island, the Philippines’ largest occupied island in the South China Sea.

Friction between the two countries over competing sovereignty claims has increased since Ferdinand Marcos Jr became Philippine president last year.

Last month, the Philippines carried out two separate joint air and sea patrols with the US, and with Australia a few days earlier.

An international tribunal invalidated China’s claim to 90% of the South China Sea in 2016, but Beijing does not recognise the ruling and has been building islands in the disputed waters in recent years.

The contested waters have also become a naval flashpoint for China-US relations, and in October, US President Joe Biden warned that the US will defend the Philippines in case of any attack.

President Biden’s comments were made days after two collisions between Filipino and Chinese vessels in the waters.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei also claim parts of the sea.

Related Topics

Continue Reading

COP28: Tuvalu negotiator flies 8,000 miles to save home

Mervina Paueli

The UN climate talks start haggling over how protect the oceans on Saturday – and one woman will be closely watching.

Mervina Paueli, 25, has come to Dubai to negotiate a future for her home, Tuvalu – a group of low-lying Pacific islands.

We owe the oceans a lot – by absorbing heat, they protect us from the full cost of global warming.

If this summit agrees to slash fossil fuel use, oceans could be a big winner.

This is Mervina’s first COP summit – she was in the air for 24 hours, flying from Fiji to Hong Kong before finally landing here in the United Arab Emirates.

“We all have that umbilical cord attachment to our lands. Anything for my country is worth it,” she says.

Around 11,000 people live on Tuvalu's nine islands

Getty Images

As a negotiator with Tuvalu’s team, she belongs to a club no-one wants to join – a community facing a wipe-out of home and history.

“The numbers are not looking good for Tuvalu. Picturing it just not being there anymore makes me feel really sad,” she says.

She talks about the island’s white sands and beautiful clear waters lying either side of her family home.

Sea levels are 0.15 metres higher than 30 years ago, with an average increase rate of 5mm a year. That increase is expected to speed up and by 2050 the sea will be be 20cm higher than it is today.

The islanders’ culture, history and livelihood is totally reliant on the seas. They need healthy oceans with good fish stocks, and crucially, limited or no rise in sea levels.

That relationship is not unique to this population of a few thousand.

The oceans have provided a “great service” to Earth and everything that lives on it, says Ko Barrett, senior climate advisor at the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Their dark waters have absorbed 90% of the warming humans have created by burning coal, oil and gas and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

But that service could soon end. Oceans are showing signs of huge stress from climate change, pollution and loss of habitats.

Metres away from the politicians at COP28, the waters shimmering off the shores of Dubai are close to 30C. In July, the average global ocean temperature reached its highest on record.

The UN says Tuvalu is extremely vulnerable to climate change

Getty Images

In Tuvalu, tuna are relocating to cooler waters, pushing fishermen further and further away from the shores, Mervina explains.

Despite this, oceans are the “poor cousin” of climate talks, the UN Special Envoy on Oceans Peter Thompson says, speaking at the Oceans Pavilion at COP28.

The first time oceans were mentioned in a UN climate talks deal was just two years ago, he explains.

On Saturday ministers from major ocean nations – including the US, Norway, and the Seychelles – meet to discuss next steps and how they can provide climate solutions including renewable power from tidal energy.

More than 100 organisations have signed the Dubai Oceans Declaration – including scientists anchored on a ship off the coast of Peru, frantically working to understand how long oceans have left before they start pumping out heat.

Collette Kelly from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is on board, hanging instruments from the ship’s side to measure nitrogen levels and acidification, both signs of higher ocean temperatures in the waters deep below.

The Dubai Oceans Declaration calls for investment in ocean science, so experts can better understand issues like rising sea levels and the death of coral reefs.

“Put simply, the ocean is one of the best solutions we have to tackle climate change. Governments must commit to ocean-based action in their national climate goals, strategies and policies,” says Tom Pickerell, director of the ocean programme at the World Resources Institute.

But it may be too late for Pacific Islanders. Sea level rise has been baked into Earth’s system by melting glaciers, and it is uncertain whether sea surface temperatures will stabilise at cooler levels.

Recognising the existential threat facing these communities, in November close neighbour Australia offered climate refugee visas to Pacific Islanders.

Mervina says she would not take up the offer. “No. I just love Tuvalu. I would lose my culture and community where everybody knows each other, everybody helps each other,” she explains.

She describes a New Year’s eve party on her grandmother’s island.

“We were children but we stayed up until four o’clock in the morning. Everyone was dancing the traditional fakaseasea – the kids beating tin cans. Whenever you hear it, you join it. Whoever wants to join starts dancing,” she says.

She plans to stay and fight for this community and tell COP28 it must save her island home.

Related Topics

Continue Reading