The DailyBrief

Tuesday August 29, 2017

Korean Peninsula crisis: Pyongyang sharply escalated tensions early on Tuesday by firing a missile that flew over Japan and landed in waters off the northern island of Hokkaido, Asia Times and agencies report. The test, which experts said appeared to be an intermediate-range Hwasong 12 missile, came as US and South Korean forces conduct annual military drills on the peninsula, which North Korea considers provocative. In response to the launch, a squadron of four South Korean F-15K fighter jets staged a live-bombing drill against a simulated target representing North Korea’s leadership facilities. North Korea has conducted dozens of ballistic missile tests under young leader Kim Jong-Un, the most recent on Saturday, but firing projectiles over mainland Japan is rare. “North Korea’s reckless action is an unprecedented, serious and grave threat to our nation,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

Doklam border standoff: The summer-long Himalayan impasse between China and India has quietly ended without any loss of face, Kenny Hodgart writes. The tensions began on June 16 when Chinese soldiers, convinced they were on Chinese territory, found their attempts to extend a road at Doklam, near the tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China, thwarted by Indian soldiers. How exactly Beijing and New Delhi came to an “understanding” remains unclear. India said on Monday that an agreement had been reached with China, following talks, and that both sides were pulling back their border forces from the Doklam plateau. For its part, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced only that China was “pleased” India had “withdrawn,” adding that it would “continue to exercise its sovereign rights” over the plateau.

Cambodia clampdown reaction: The Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) has been surprisingly reticent in the face of strongman Hun Sen’s fresh crackdown on civil society, nongovernmental organizations and independent media, David Hutt writes. Many analysts suspect the clampdown on free expression and grassroots organizing aims to give Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) a decisive edge at next year’s vitally important general election. The CPP has frequently accused civil society groups of supporting the CNRP. CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay told The Cambodia Daily, a local broadsheet that faces closure on September 4 for alleged tax evasion, that “we really do not know, at the moment, what to do.” He said while the opposition party doesn’t want to look like it can be intimidated into silence, it is also imperative that the party survives until the next general election is held in July 2018.

‘Doctrine of De-Moscovication’: A Russian demographer has proposed transferring his country’s capital to an area nearer China, Japan and South Korea, which he calls the center of the world’s geo-economic map, Inga Velanskaya writes. Yury Krupnov, the head of the Supervisory Board of the Institute for Demographics, Migration and Regional Development, argues that the development of Russia’s Far East and Siberia regions is hindered because the country’s population, finances, resources and economic development is concentrated around Moscow. “Putin said that the country’s Far East should become an absolute priority for us for the entire 21st century,” Krupnov said. “And this reflects our realities, because our Far East is located in the very heart of the modern geo-economic map. It is next-door to China, South Korea and Japan, and the US is just across the ocean.”

High-tech maritime threat: Recent collisions between US Navy warships and commercial vessels have led to speculation among military experts that China could be using electronic means to disrupt or fool radar or navigation systems into causing mishaps at sea, raising the specter of exotic weapons being deployed in a future conflict with the US, Bill Gertz writes. China has developed some of the world’s most advanced military electronic warfare weapons, including jammers, disruptors and cyber tools that can cause electronics to malfunction mysteriously, or to operate in ways that can cause them to self-destruct. The US Navy said investigators would determine whether the electronic defenses of the ships involved were disrupted or fooled in an intentional act.

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.