Focus: Indo-Pacific | 24th January 2024

In a significant move the Chinese leadership last week appointed Hu Haifeng, son of former Chinese President Hu Jintao as a vice minister of civil affairs. This is a leap into senior ranks of the government from a small city. This comes as tensions between Beijing and Manila continue to rise in the South China Sea region. However, sister of Philippines President who is also a Senator, has raised questions over US military supplies to Manila. Elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific region Japan and Bangladesh are set to agree to launch negotiations for an economic partnership agreement as early as end of the month that would balance Chinese moves in the region. Closer to Bangladesh Cambodian leader Hun Manet’s visit to France last week to discuss defence cooperation, among other issues, gives the Southeast Asian nation “a margin of manoeuvre” of counterbalancing its over-reliance on China.  In East Asia, North Korea is determined to bolster its military capabilities and has invited the Russian President for a visit. Meanwhile, India and USA last week announced joint open RAN plans.    

 

Former Chinese president’s son becomes a vice minister

The Strait Times | 16th January 2024

Hu Haifeng, son of former Chinese President Hu Jintao, was appointed on Tuesday (Jan 16) by the cabinet as a vice minister of civil affairs, making a leap into the senior ranks of the central government from a small city in an eastern province. Prior to his central government appointment based in Beijing, Hu, 51, had served for five years as head of the Communist Party of the city of Lishui in Zhejiang province. Born in November 1972, Hu was among the youngest vice civil affairs ministers to be appointed.

 

Manila gets tough in the South China Sea as a showdown looms

The Japan Times | 21st January 2024

While Taiwan has long been considered a potential flashpoint between the U.S. and China, another geopolitical storm may be brewing in the South China Sea — one that could force Washington to make some difficult choices. From laser pointers blinding Philippine sailors to collisions at sea near key military outposts, tensions are rapidly surging between Manila and Beijing in these strategically and economically important waters, where the two have overlapping claims.

 

South China Sea: will US-Philippine military ties make Manila a target for Chinese forces?

South China Morning Post | 21st January 2024

Philippine Senator Imee Marcos said the silence from Manila and Washington was “inexplicable”. In a statement earlier this month, the senator, who is also the sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr, said the shipment of 147 million litres (39 million gallons) of US Navy fuel from the American base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, to Subic Bay in the west of Luzon, demanded an explanation. The silence before the voyage raised suspicions that the US could be “pre-positioning” military supplies in the Philippines amid “predictions of an eventual war between China and the US over Taiwan”. The issue was a matter of national sovereignty and transparency, she said. In response, the US embassy to the Philippines said the shipment was coordinated with Manila and was “one of multiple shipments of safe, clean fuel”.

 

Japan and Bangladesh to negotiate economic partnership agreement

Nikkei Asia | 21st January 2024

Japan and Bangladesh are set to agree to launch negotiations for an economic partnership agreement as early as end of the month, Nikkei has learned, with the countries aiming to seal the deal in 2025. Bangladesh exports a significant amount of textiles to Japan, with many Japanese companies investing in the South Asian nation. However, Bangladesh is expected to be upgraded from a United Nations list of “least-developed countries” in 2026, meaning that it will no longer be exempt from tariffs on exports to developed nations.

 

(LEAD) N. Korea defends its stepped-up military measures at int’l forum

Yonhap | 22nd January 2024

North Korea has defended its measures to bolster military capabilities as a just exercise of the sovereign right against Washington-led military confrontations at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Uganda, state media reported Monday. North Korea claimed it has recently conducted a test of an underwater nuclear attack drone, named the Haeil-5-23, in the East Sea in response to the latest joint naval drills involving South Korea, the United States and Japan. The drills came after North Korea’s launch of a solid-fuel hypersonic missile on Jan. 14.

 

Putin willing to visit Pyongyang at early date: KCNA

Kyodo News | 21st January 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin is willing to visit Pyongyang at an early date, North Korea’s state-run media said Sunday. Putin expressed “deep thanks” for an invitation by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit the capital during a meeting with the country’s visiting foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

 

France visit offers ‘margin of manoeuvre’ in Cambodia’s bid to ease reliance on China

South China Morning Post | 22nd January 2024

Cambodian leader Hun Manet’s visit to France last week to discuss defence cooperation, among other issues, gives the Southeast Asian nation “a margin of manoeuvre” of counterbalancing its over-reliance on China, analysts have said. Together with Cambodia’s increased security cooperation with Japan, foreign policy experts said the Paris trip represented Phnom Penh’s tilt “towards diversification” as it sought to hedge its bets among the great powers vying for dominance in the region.

 

US and India announce joint Open RAN plans. Again

Telecoms.com | 19th January 2024

India’s Ministry of Communications shared the highlights of telecoms secretary Neeraj Mittal’s visit to India, including the fact that a meeting with White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Tech Anne Neuberger led to the formalisation and release of the US-India OpenRAN Acceleration Roadmap. “This milestone agreement promotes collaboration for interoperability and scaled deployments of OpenRAN products,” the ministry said, in a statement. “Both sides concurred on joint efforts in Next Generation Communication Technologies, marking a significant stride towards global technological advancement.”

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