Asian Insider July 18: Arson attack in Japan, Chinese spy ship, robots to clean Singapore

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

In today’s Insider: Arson attack on anime studio shocks Japan, a Chinese spy ship watches US-Australia war games, Abe takes to Instagram to woo the youth to vote, India's quest for the moon, cleaning robots in Singapore, and more. 

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DEADLY ATTACK ON KYOTO ANIMATION STUDIO

A 41-year-old man went around Kyoto Animation's studio earlier today, spraying a flammable liquid and setting it ablaze, with the fire leaving several dead and injured, in an attack that has shocked Japan.  

Reports estimate the number of those killed to be between 13 and 24, while around 35 people were injured, with the attacker being one of them. Around 70 people were in the building, when the attack took place. 

Why did he do it? There's little information. The attacker was not an employee of the company and has no obvious connections, BBC reports. He is likely to punished severely, if found guilty. Arson is considered a serious crime in Japan, where many people still live in wooden houses.

Could it have anything to do with the work of the studio? This is also unclear. Kyoto Animation has produced a number of popular TV animation series featuring high-school girls such as K-On! and The Melancholy Of Haruhi Suzumiya and there's been an outpouring of support for the victims, since the attack.  

Read more: 

Other serious attacks in Japan

THE CHINESE SPY SHIP KEEPING AN EYE ON US-AUSTRALIA WAR GAMES

Thirty-four thousand troops from Australia and United States are participating in one of the world's biggest war games, at the Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland. But they have a new, unwanted "partner": China. 

Jonathan Pearlman, who writes for us from Australia, says that for the second year in a row, a Chinese surveillance ship has been sent to the waters off the coast to spy on the exercises. The ship has reportedly taken a position in Australia's exclusive economic zone, but not in its territorial waters.

Is China flouting rules? A senior Australian officer tells our writer that the ship is located in international waters and has a right to sail there. Still, they're monitoring it. 

The significance of the war games: The war games are designed to boost military ties between the US and Australia but includes troops from Japan for the first time. Forces from Canada, New Zealand and Britain were also due to participate and delegations from India and South Korea were invited as observers.

ABE ON INSTAGRAM AHEAD OF POLLS

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been on Facebook and Twitter before. But now he's taken to Instagram to attract the young to vote in the country's upcoming upper house election on July 21. Slick videos of him on the campaign trail and enjoying local delicacies have been posted. 

The youth matter: As such young voters tend to back Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) over other left-leaning opposition parties. But in the last five upper house elections, the voter turnout rate among those in their 20s has been the lowest. Will Abe succeed in getting more of them to vote? We'll know after July 21. 

Read more on the election: 

Japan PM Abe's coalition on track to win solid majority in election

What to watch for in a Japanese election that will shape Abe's legacy

INDIA'S NEW DATE TO REACH THE MOON

India will attempt to reach the moon again on July 22, after aborting a bid less than a week ago, because of a fuel leak. 

The country's Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said it had rescheduled the launch of Chandrayaan-2, or Moon Chariot-2, for 2.43pm local time on Monday. If the country succeeds, it will become the fourth nation after Russia, the United States and China to land a spacecraft on the Moon.

Find out more in these  stories: 

India scrambles to fix glitch that saw moon mission aborted

The quest for the moon, and more

ROBOTS TO CLEAN SINGAPORE

Spic and span Singapore is taking city cleanliness to the next level by hiring a fleet of 300 cleaning robots from a local company, to be deployed indoors and outdoors by 2020. 

What's interesting? The robots can sing, rap, speak in the city's four official languages, as well as Singlish. And can they clean? These robots can scrub, mop, vacuum, sweep and move up to 450 kg of cleaning equipment, says the manufacturer. 

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Trouble could be brewing in India after Home Minister Amit Shah announced that India will identify and deport illegal immigrants from across the country, stepping up a campaign that critics say could stoke religious tension and further alienate minority Muslims.

Matters in Hong Kong are far from resolved. The city's venerable and veteran residents took to the streets on Wednesday in a show of solidarity for youth-led anti-government protesters. Long lines of older demonstrators snaked through the city's streets in tropical heat, a powerful display in a culture where respect for one's elders remains paramount.

Vietnamese and Chinese ships have been embroiled in a weeks-long stand-off near an offshore oil block in disputed waters of the South China Sea which fall within Vietnam's exclusive economic zone, two Washington-based think-tanks have said. 

Stay connected with us on www.straitstimes.com for the latest on Singapore, Asia, and the world.  We'll be back with more tomorrow. 

Shefali