The DailyBrief

Monday August 28, 2017

Insurgency gains momentum: In an exclusive interview with Asia Times, Myanmar’s Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) said its August 25 surprise attacks on police and army posts were staged in “self-defense” and would continue until the rights of the Rohingya Muslim minority group are restored, Mike Winchester writes. A militant official who identified himself simply as “Abdullah” said the campaign of Myanmar military suppression and the rebel counter-punch has now pushed the majority Muslim northern region of Rakhine state into a state of “open war.” Involving what one Myanmar military count estimated at around 1,000 insurgents, the coordinated wave of attacks marked a dramatic improvement in ARSA’s tactical capabilities when compared with its first attacks on October 9 last year.

South China Sea: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is playing down reports that China has occupied another contested land feature, Sandy Cay, close to the Philippine-occupied island of Thitu, but his defense establishment is calling for a tougher stance, Richard Javad Heydarian writes. Security analysts see China’s build-up on the nearby contested Scarborough Shoal as the third vertex of a triangle of emerging Chinese military bases that aims to establish control of the strategic waterway. The influential Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a key architect of the Philippines’ landmark arbitration award against China last year at The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, has described China’s latest move as nothing short of an “invasion of Philippine territory.”

ISIS losing ground: Iraqi forces have retaken almost all of Tal Afar, Islamic State’s stronghold in the country’s northwest, Thaier Al-Sudani and Kawa Omar write. After just eight days of fighting, all 29 neighborhoods in Tal Afar city had been taken back from the militant group, the military said on Sunday. However, fighting was ongoing in al-‘Ayadiya, a small area 11 km northwest of the city, where militants who fled the district’s city center were hiding out, a spokesman explained, adding that troops were waiting to retake the area before declaring complete victory in the offensive.

US Navy mishaps: The collision of the USS John S McCain with a cargo ship near Singapore last week and a similar event involving another 7th Fleet destroyer near Japan two months earlier were more than just unfortunate accidents, Grant Newsham writes. Rather, they highlight more fundamental problems facing today’s increasingly stretched US Navy as it struggles to cope with emerging operational challenges.The US Navy has shrunk from nearly 600 ships to around 275 vessels over the last 30 years, but its Asia-Pacific operations have increased markedly to meet threats posed by an aggressive China and a blustering North Korea.

‘Peaceful pressure campaign’: North Korea’s firing of three ballistic missiles last week was a provocative act, the US Secretary of State said on Sunday, but he assured that the United States will continue to seek a peaceful resolution, Reuters reports. “We do view it as a provocative act against the United States and our allies,” Rex Tillerson said in an interview on Fox News Sunday. “We’re going to continue our peaceful pressure campaign as I have described it, working with allies, working with China as well to see if we can bring the regime in Pyongyang to the negotiating table.”

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.