The DailyBrief

Thursday August 17, 2017

An uncertain trajectory: What will North Korea do next? Pyongyang claims it has developed intercontinental missiles capable of hitting US targets, Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom write. Now it faces the challenge of perfecting a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on the missile without affecting its range. However, weapons experts say that to do that it needs to carry out at least one more nuclear test and more tests of long-range missiles. North Korea’s two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile last month likely carried a payload lighter than any nuclear warhead it is currently able to produce. One way to have a lighter warhead would be to concentrate on developing a hydrogen bomb. Pyongyang’s claims to have tested one, but this has not been proven.

A game changer: What if Pyongyang uses advanced 3D printing technology to mass-produce rocket and nuclear-bomb parts? Doug Tsuruoka asks. Terror groups and rogue states reportedly aim to tap the technology, and it may have already fallen into the wrong hands. The technology, which rapidly creates physical objects from three-dimensional digital models, is a game changer for North Koreans and others who want to reverse-engineer and make weapons of mass destruction in quantity. Analysts say signs are that North Korea is trying to acquire 3D printers for this purpose, or may have already.

Tightening the noose: Days after Manila and Beijing signaled a new modus vivendi in the South China Sea driven by joint energy development proposals, bilateral relations are once again under strain over Chinese vessels massing near a strategically sensitive Philippine-occupied island, Richard Javad Hyderian writes. Recent reports suggest China is tightening the noose around the Philippine-claimed Thitu Island by deploying several naval and coast guard ships provocatively close to the feature in the disputed Spratly Islands. Despite a new negotiation track being opened for a “Code of Conduct” in the maritime area at the Asean summit, critics question whether President Rodrigo Duterte’s soft-pedaling on the issue is an effective strategy.

Big stage dreams: A partnership between composer and musical theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and one of China’s largest media and cultural conglomerates to develop the country’s musical theatre industry could see it outgrow Broadway in coming years, Richard Cook writes. The partnership will work to develop the industry by creating Chinese versions of Webber’s well-known stage productions. It will also offer training to help develop China’s dancing and acting talent, kicking off with a Chinese produced version of the Webber work, Tell Me On A Sunday. The show will tour China in 2018 with a modified Chinese-language and Chinese-produced version and a story that has the protagonist as a modern Chinese girl leaving Shanghai.

Yen for change? China’s Alibaba hopes that Alipay, its mobile payment platform, will become as popular among traditionally cash-oriented Japanese consumers as it has in China, Zara Hoffman writes. Ant Financial, the operator of Alipay, is planning to bring the platform to Japan under a new brand that will be connectable to Japanese bank accounts. The move says a lot about where Ant Financial hopes to take Alipay in the future. In particular, it appears that Ant wants Alipay to become a staple payment method outside of China, and it illustrates the transformation of Alibaba from a primarily Chinese company into an increasingly internationally focused firm.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that will deliver the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. Asia Times Staff report that 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.