The DailyBrief

Thursday February 23, 2017

Alarm for ASEAN: US-China rivalry in the South China Sea is increasing conflict fears in the region, writes Richard Javad Heydariann. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations again expressed ‘grave concern’ over militarization of the maritime area but members are split over the line to take. The Philippines and Vietnam have quietly welcomed Trump’s more robust approach while smaller states remain more concerned.

MMA’s Asian return: The Ultimate Fighting Championship, after a yearlong absence, is back in the region, writes Pedro Chan. The popular Mixed Martial Arts fight format is returning to Asia with an event in Singapore in June but with its ambitions firmly set on China, as UFC eyes venues in Shanghai and Beijing and develops its stable of top level Chinese fighters.

Scandal rocks Abe: After looking unassailable a couple of weeks ago, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has become embroiled in a scandal over an infant school that neatly combines the two perennial bugbears of Tokyo politicians: Comments about China and Korea, and possible shady money deals. Peter Langan reports that Abe has, in a highly unusual move for a Japanese politician, promised to quit as prime minister if his involvement in the scandal is proved.

Hanoi breaks taboo: Several of Vietnam’s state-controlled news outlets have recently started to write about the country’s 1979 border war with China, a subject that has, up to now, been strictly off limits. Xuan Loc Doan writes that the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam seems to have finally eased censorship of the short-lived but bloody military conflict, probably in a bid to counter Beijing’s rising assertiveness in the South China Sea amid growing pressure from the Vietnamese public to assert its maritime sovereignty.