The DailyBrief

Thursday August 31, 2017

Trump talks tough: A day after Pyongyang drew UN condemnation by firing a ballistic missile over Japan, US President Donald Trump renewed his bellicose rhetoric, saying that “talking is not the answer” to the standoff with North Korea, Asia Times and agencies report. Trump wrote on Twitter: “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” However, his defense chief swiftly responded that diplomatic options remain, and Russia demanded restraint. When asked by reporters just hours later if the United States was out of diplomatic solutions with North Korea, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis replied: “No.”

Chinese icebreaker mission: In a voyage intended to test new shipping routes, Xue Long has entered the Northwest Passage in Canada’s Far North and is expected to navigate the fabled waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by September, Doug Tsuruoka writes. The research vessel, operated by the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, is on the last leg of an unprecedented circumnavigation of the Arctic from Asia that took it across Russia’s Northern Sea Route into Scandinavian waters before heading to Canada. Analysts say one of its chief purposes is to test the feasibility of moving cargo on container ships across the melting Arctic seas from China to North America and Europe.

Tycoon bids farewell: Hong Kong billionaire and socialite Sir David Tang died at 63 on Tuesday, a week before his planned farewell party with close friends at the Dorchester Hotel in London, Ben Kwok writes. The famous businessman and friend of royals and celebrities won lavish praise from the Hong Kong press, which hailed him as the last noble of his generation and a man who manifested the best of Orientalism. Tang, the grandson of Hong Kong philanthropist Tang Siu-kin, was educated in the United Kingdom from the age of 12, and through hard work, acquired a British accent much like the upper class. He founded the luxury fashion house Shanghai Tang in 1994.

Sino-Australian card deal: In a bid to encourage Chinese tourists to spend money, Australia’s highest government tourism body has signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s UnionPay, Mason Hinsdale writes. UnionPay is China’s, and the world’s, largest card payment firm, and its credit and debit cards are accepted in 162 countries and regions. It is unclear exactly how cooperation between UnionPay and the government of Australia will take shape. However, the move is nonetheless significant because of the direct cooperation of a major Western government with a Chinese firm. Chinese tourism is on track to become Australia’s No 1 source market in the near future, surpassing New Zealand.

Nuclear disaster warning: In the event of a conflict with the US, North Korea could rain its missiles down on South Korea’s atomic power plants, causing widespread radiation contamination that would turn South Korea into a desert, devoid of life, warns Russian diplomat Georgy Toloraya, Asia Times staff report. Toloraya said in an interview with the Russian news service that if the current situation in East Asia is not resolved, a number of countries “will be living under a threat of a nuclear volcano erupting.” South Korea operates 24 nuclear reactors, most of them on its east coast facing Japan.

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.