Next week President Obama makes his sixth trip to Asia – his second this year. After visiting America’s friends like Japan, Korea and the Philippines in April, next week is set to be a tougher assignment, beginning in Beijing. The trip to China will be Obama’s first since 2009 when a newly inaugurated Obama wowed students in Shanghai. Post-midterms, it’s a very different Obama who’ll show up this time.
On Wednesday, in an editorial, the state run Global Times gave the president a taste of what’s to come, describing his performance as “insipid,” adding that U.S. society had “grown tired of his banality.” Chinese officials are a bit more diplomatic. Beijing’s ambassador in Washington says the U.S.-China relationship is “the most important as well as the most sensitive, the most comprehensive as well as the most complex, and the most promising as well as the most challenging.” This week, John Kerry added one more epithet: “most consequential,” warning the relationship “will do much to determine the shape of the 21st century.” The president also visits Myanmar (formerly Burma) where he’ll see opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi before ending the week at the annual G20 summit in Brisbane where he’ll come face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who’s hosting the G20, has said he intends to confront Putin over the shooting down of that Malaysian airline over Ukraine. Four months after MH17 was shot out of the sky, Dutch officials have begun the process of recovering and transporting the wreckage of MH17 to the Netherlands. The Dutch authorities have been able to reach the site of the crash for the first time in weeks after fighting between government forces and rebels eased off under a truce. Thirty-eigth Australian citizens and residents were killed when the plane crashed. While Putin is known for his love of judo, Abbott once boxed for Oxford in the annual “varsity” fight against Cambridge. And the PM, who has been no less combative since he entered politics, says he intends to “shirt-front” Putin – a sort of aggressive front-on physical challenge from Aussie rules football. Russian diplomats said the prime minister’s comments were "immature," "offensive" and "insulting.” It could be the most entertaining political summit in years.
Tuesday is Veterans Day – the moment that marks 96th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. And 100 years after The Great War began, the last of 888,246 ceramic poppies will be planted in the moat of the Tower of London – one for each of the British casualties between 1914-18. Four million visitors have viwed the installation over the past few months, among them, Queen Elizabeth as well as Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate. On Nov. 12, 11,000 volunteers will begin removing the poppies, each of which will be sold to support service personnel, veterans and their families.
Next week a court in South Korea will decide the fate of the captain of a ferry that capsized in April, leaving 304 people, most of them school children, dead or missing. Lee Joon-seok, 68, has been charged with homicide after the Sewol capsized and sank on a routine voyage in the south of the country. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Lee who is among 15 accused of abandoning the ferry after telling the passengers to stay put in their cabins. There have been no executions in South Korea since 1997 despite several death sentences in recent years.
And next Wednesday – after 10 years and a journey of 4 billion miles – the Rosetta spacecraft will launch its Philae landing module onto a comet traveling through space at 40,000 mph. Rosetta has been orbiting the duck shaped comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, since September as scientists here on Earth have been looking where to land. Scientists and engineers identified a spot called “Agikia.” And at 3.35 a.m. ET next Wednesday, the flight team based at the European Space Agency mission control in Germany will instruct Rosetta to drop Philae 14 miles above the surface of the comet. The descent, 300 million miles from earth, will take around seven hours. Because of the distance, communication between Rosetta and the controllers take 28 minutes each way. All being well, it should land around 11 a.m. ET. There’s no steering of the lander. Once released, Philae is on a path of its own. An inaccuracy of just a few fractions of an inch per second in Rosetta’s orbit, could mean the lander completely missing the comet. Think it’s simple? Our friends at the BBC have come up with cool interactive feature that allows you to have a go. It’s not so easy!