Focus: Indo-Pacific | 27th  December 2023

In an interesting development in the Indo-Pacific region China has appeared to distance itself from Russia-N Korea partnership as it embarks to revive Japan-China-S Korea trilateral. Regarding N Korea America has expressed serious concern over Pyongyang showing signs of starting the operation of a new light-water nuclear reactor in a possible attempt to produce nuclear weapons fuel. The Quad counter-terror experts met for their table top exercise last week to strengthen efforts, including information sharing, to counter extremism in the Indo-Pacific region. Elsewhere in the region China has upped the ante against Philippines. Chinese state media accused the Philippines of repeatedly infringing on China’s territory in the South China Sea, spreading false information and colluding with extraterritorial forces to cause trouble. Meanwhile in Japan the political scandal is getting murkier as reports surface about a practice to stop corruption in the ruling party being withdrawn. Election campaign is getting intensified in two states – Indonesia & Taiwan — that will have major impact on regional politics.  

 

Why China is keeping its distance as Russia and North Korea cosy up

The South China Morning Post | 25th December 2023 

At last month’s meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea – their first in four years – Beijing pledged to be Northeast Asia’s “stabiliser” while opposing bloc-based cooperation, as the launch of North Korea’s spy satellite loomed. The satellite, allegedly capable of spying on the White House and US naval bases, was the first to successfully enter orbit following previous failed attempts. This prompted South Korean intelligence to speculate that North Korea had received key technical support from Russia in return for delivery of weapons to support the war in Ukraine. Both Russia and North Korea have denied any arms deal. The matter was widely speculated to have been discussed at a rare meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in September. Beijing, a close partner of both Pyongyang and Moscow, has remained low key about the growing alignment between the two, repeatedly saying that their cooperation was a matter between the two sides and that China would not interfere.

 

Quad countries exchange information on ever-evolving terrorism threats in Indo-Pacific region

The Economic Times | 24th December 2023 

The US Department of State hosted representatives from India, Japan and Australia for the Quad Counterterrorism Working Group meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii from December 19 to 21. The aim was to strengthen efforts, including information sharing, to counter extremism in the Indo-Pacific region. As part of the Quad Counterterrorism Working Group’s efforts, this multi-day event included presentations and a tabletop exercise focused on enhancing Quad cooperation in response to an overwhelming terrorist incident in the Indo-Pacific region, according to a US State Department statement.

 

Philippine actions in South China Sea ‘extremely dangerous’: Chinese state media

The Strait Times | 25th December 2023 

Chinese state media accused the Philippines of repeatedly infringing on China’s territory in the South China Sea, spreading false information and colluding with extraterritorial forces to cause trouble. The Philippines has relied on support from the United States to continually provoke China, with such “extremely dangerous” behaviour seriously harming regional peace and stability, China’s Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, wrote in a commentary on Dec 25.

 

LDP’s top faction withdrew decision to abolish kickbacks

The Japan Times | 25th December 2023 

The largest faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which is at the center of a slush fund scandal, had once decided to abolish the practice of giving kickbacks to its members after they sold fundraising party tickets, informed sources said on Sunday. The decision was made by senior officials of the faction, Seiwa Seisaku Kenkyukai, formerly headed by the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, ahead of a fundraising party in 2022. But the decision was later withdrawn and kickbacks were given as before, the sources said.

 

What’s at stake in Taiwan’s January presidential election?

The Japan Times | 25th December 2023 

It’s difficult to overstate the geopolitical significance of Taiwan’s upcoming presidential and legislative elections. When the self-ruled island’s 19 million eligible voters head to the polls on Jan. 13, they will not only decide who handles everyday domestic issues. Depending on the outcome, the closely watched vote could also have markedly different security and economic implications for the entire region.

 

Prabowo leads initial campaign finance data with $2 million

The Jakarta Post | 22nd December 2023 

Prabowo Subianto -Gibran Rakabuming Raka tops the list of initial funds pooled by candidate pairs to support their election campaigns, while Anies Baswedan-Muhaimin Iskandar is at the bottom, according to the latest campaign finance data released by the General Elections Commission (KPU).

 

U.S. expresses serious concern over signs of N.K. commissioning light-water reactor

Yonhap | 24th December 2023 

The United States has expressed serious concern over North Korea showing signs of starting the operation of a new light-water nuclear reactor in a possible attempt to produce nuclear weapons fuel. International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Thursday that the agency has detected more signs of the North commissioning the light-water reactor (LWR) at the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex, such as warm water being discharged from it.

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