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The Daily Brief for Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Thai regime reinforced: Former premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s departure into self-exile last month may herald what Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s ruling military junta’s proponents view as a “final solution” to the country’s political problems, Shawn W Crispin writes. Prayuth’s regime has leveraged Yingluck’s flight from justice ahead of a highly anticipated criminal negligence verdict on her loss-making rice price subsidy scheme as proof positive that she is indeed guilty as charged, providing further ballast to the junta’s narrative that her camp’s politicians are corrupt and driven more by personal than national motivations.

North Korea crisis: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted on Monday about the existence of military options that might spare South Korean capital Seoul from a brutal counterattack ordered by Pyongyang, but he declined to elaborate, Asia Times and Reuters report. Seoul is within artillery range of North Korea, which beyond nuclear and conventional weapons is also believed to have a sizable chemical and biological arsenal. Asked whether there were any military options the United States could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk, Mattis said: “Yes there are. But I will not go into details.”

Southeast Asia counterterrorism: Security experts will link up with financial firms in a bid to cut off Islamic State’s Southeast Asian cash lifeline at a November summit in Kuala Lumpur, amid mounting evidence that the extremist group’s Middle East coffers are starting to run dry, Alan Boyd writes. Hosted by financial intelligence agencies from Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia, the Counterterrorism Financing meeting – called Codeathon – aims to develop private-public initiatives to counter the spread of IS following its stunning seizure of Marawi city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on May 23.

Philippines murder campaign: President Rodrigo Duterte has responded to rising criticism of his lethal drug war, which has included the killing of teenagers, by targeting critics and defunding the Commission on Human Rights, Jason Castaneda writes. However, it is costing him politically. One authoritative survey showed that the first quarter of this year saw an 11% drop in public support for his once widely popular killing drive. The downward trajectory has likely accelerated due to a recent spate of unaccountable killings of several minors and rising perceptions that his ruthless campaign is aimed mainly at the poor. The vast majority of the roughly 7,000 extrajudicial killing victims have been slum-dwellers and small-time drug users.

Northeast Asia diplomacy: US attempts to get China to put pressure on North Korea without regard to Beijing’s views will not work, Francesco Sisci asserts. The Chinese might do all they can to end North Korea’s tests and move toward denuclearization, but only if Washington gets out of their way and commits to accept whatever Beijing can accomplish. Beijing will not serve as Washington’s surrogate or tolerate provocative second-guessing. And Washington has to forswear its regime-change tactics, which are a violation of international law. Now is the time for a gallant peace gesture from Washington or for Seoul to quit the war games – twice-yearly events, dating back to 1976, in which US and South Korean military forces deploy thousands of troops to simulate various scenarios for conflict with the North.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.

Posted inBeijingChinaNortheast AsiaSouth Korea

China Digest for Tuesday, 19 September 2017

China to amend constitution at 19th Party Congress

A recent politburo meeting has set the agenda for the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (NCCPC), including plans to amend the constitution of the Party, Caixin reported.

Lotte in talks with several firms to sell discount chain

Lotte Group, South Korea’s retail giant, is in negotiations with multiple firms to sell its discount store chain in China after heavy losses brought on by diplomatic tensions between Seoul and Beijing, an unnamed industry source told on Monday.

Gree Electric Appliances denies deal with FAW Xiali

China’s Gree Electric Appliances denied that it struck a merger and acquisition deal with FAW Xiali, reported, citing an official announcement on Monday.

Passengers can use cellphones on Chinese flights soon

Airlines will now be allowed to evaluate the impact of portable electronic devices and make regulatory rules accordingly, the China Civil Aviation Authority (CCAA) said, which means it will soon be possible to use mobile phones on domestic flights, reported.