The DailyBrief

Thursday August 24, 2017

Korean Peninsula exercises: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has assured his American ally that the two sides are “attached at the hip,” Helen Clark writes. In that spirit, Australia has joined for the first time the Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises underway now between the US and South Korea to defend the latter from a North Korea attack. The exercises, scheduled to run from August 21-31, are the world’s biggest computerized command-and-control drill, with over 50,000 South Korean and 17,000 American soldiers participating. Australia is sending a couple dozen officers but no troops to the decades-old war games. It’s not clear, however, that the public would support Australia’s involvement in a US-led conflict with North Korea. The Iraq conflict, in which Australia provided air, maritime and Special Forces operations, was very unpopular.

Singapore succession risk: More than half of the leading 200 companies in Southeast Asia are controlled by a single family, but few have succession plans in place, Alan Boyd writes. Consequently, family feuds, while nothing new in the heady world of Southeast Asian business, are becoming an operational risk as the pioneering generation of 1950s entrepreneurs fades into history. A study by the Singapore Business School and DBS Bank reported that only about 40% of families in the island republic have appropriate succession plans. The concern is that family conglomerates control more than 60% of stock market listings, which is too much business clout to be riding on the outcome of potential court challenges.

‘Political pressure’ talks: Executives from more than a dozen top European companies in China met in Beijing last month to discuss concerns about Communist Party interference in their local operations, according to sources. One senior executive whose company was represented at the meeting said some companies were under “political pressure” to revise the terms of their joint ventures with state-owned partners to allow the party final say over business operations and investment decisions, Michael Martina writes. Companies in China, including foreign firms, are required by law to establish a party organization, a rule long regarded by many executives as symbolic rather than anything to worry about.

United Nations survey: The world body has released its Global Innovation Index 2017, Liu Hsiu Wen writes. Singapore is ranked seventh in the annual survey, making it the top place in Asia for innovation. South Korea follows closely as Asia’s runner-up, in 11th place overall. The index provides detailed metrics on the innovation performance of 127 countries and economies worldwide. The survey looks at a total of 81 indicators, including political environment, education, infrastructure and business sophistication.

India rights milestone: The Supreme Court’s 3-2 verdict this week abolishing instant “triple talaq” – the practice of nullifying a marriage by uttering “talaq” (divorce) three times – is a huge victory for millions of Muslim women, and for India’s judiciary and constitution, E Jaya Kumar writes. The five judges found the practice of instant triple talaq unconstitutional, arbitrary, and un-Islamic. The federal government was directed to legislate against triple talaq in six months and is already in the process of sending an advisory to states to ensure compliance. The court ruling saw a rare convergence of views, with voices across party lines welcoming it as historic.

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.