Washington’s geopolitical dance: In what increasingly appears to be a deliberate strategy of mixed messaging, United States Defense Secretary James Mattis has now openly challenged China’s position in the contested South China Sea. Richard Javad Heydarian writes that Mattis, now seemingly the primary shaper of American policy in Asia given the diminished role of the US State Department, seems to be sending new strategic reassurance to Washington’s regional allies.
China’s regional game-changer: The entry of South Asian neighbors India and Pakistan into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization fold this week means it now covers roughly half of humanity, reports Seema Sengupta. The SCO’s latest expansion now stretches it from Russia in the north to the waters of the Indian Ocean in the south and it stands to strongly affect the balance of power in a multi-polar world order.
Anti Iran alliance: In Pakistan there is a clamor to have a former army chief recalled from his role at the head of a Saudi-led alliance, because of the anti-Iranian direction this alliance has taken. F.M. Shakil reports that on a regional level, several key alliance partners are now cutting ties with Qatar because it is also reluctant to link Iran with terrorism.
Cambodian election results: The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party appeared to make solid gains at Sunday’s highly anticipated commune election but the ruling Cambodian People’s Party once again dominated the democratic contest. David Hutt writes that many saw Sunday’s local vote as a barometer for next year’s general election which could see the CPP lose power after almost four decades in government.
Japan-economy, sustained expansion: Activity in Japan’s services sector expanded at its fastest pace in almost two years in May, further evidence that demand in the world’s third-largest economy is picking up, reports Asia Times. Japan’s Services Purchasing Managers Index has remained above the 50 threshold, which separates expansion from contraction, for the eighth consecutive month and is now at its highest level since August 2015.