The DailyBrief

Friday September 1, 2017

US air power: As military tensions between Pyongyang and Washington escalate, America’s newest fighter-bomber, the F-35, is coming to Asia in increasing numbers. This, Todd Crowell writes, should worry Kim Jong-un. The F-35 “Lightning” is the most advanced fighter in the US inventory. The first so-called “Fifth Generation” stealth fighter in the region comes in three models: the F-35A for the air force; the F-35B, which is capable of vertical takeoff and landing, for the marines; and the F-35C naval version. The F-35 can reach speeds of up to Mach 1.6, or nearly twice the speed of sound, and its stealth design and coating of radar absorbents make it practically invisible. According to Aviation Week, the three air forces facing North Korea will have about 100 of the fighters by 2020, deployed in a kind of arc from South Korea’s Kunsan air base to Japan’s Misawa air base in northern Honshu.

Controlling the narrative: A war of words is raging at military press conferences and over social media in Myanmar, as armed conflict escalates in western Rakhine State following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a new ethnic Rohingya militant group, against state security forces, David Scott Mathieson writes. The nature of truth in Rakhine State has always been hotly contested, with hyperbolic narratives constructed by all sides often in a state-imposed void of access for independent media or researchers to ascertain hard facts. In one of the more curious official statements of recent days, the government, competing with the insurgents to command the narative, warned that foreigners may be assisting the ARSA and that all references to its members should label them as “extremist terrorists” rather than “insurgents.”

Americans go home: With a US ban on travel to North Korea taking effect on Friday amid escalating military tensions, some of the last US tourists to leave the country landed in Beijing this week, Christian Shepherd writes. It was not immediately clear how many Americans had sought, or been granted, exemptions or how many were still in North Korea. Journalists and humanitarian workers can apply for exemptions under the ban, which is similar to previous US restrictions on travel to Iraq and Libya. The ban followed the death of US college student Otto Warmbier, who was jailed during a tour of the country last year.

Blue Samurai victory: Japan is celebrating after storming into next year’s World Cup with its comprehensive 2-0 win on Thursday over Australia, Asia Times and agencies report, but doubts linger over coach Vahid Halilhodzic’s future. Reports suggested the Franco-Bosnian was facing the sack if his team had lost to Australia; after the game, however, he said he had considered leaving Japan for “personal reasons.” The Japan Football Association has clarified there has been a “family matter” at stake but insisted Halilhodzic would travel to Saudi Arabia for Japan’s final group B game on Tuesday. Halilhodzic had come under fire after Japan began the final round of Asian qualifiers with a shock 2-1 home loss to the United Arab Emirates.

Venice film festival: Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, an epic 23-country documentary essay on the global refugee crisis, which required a crew of 200 people to put together, has its international premiere in Italy on Friday, Angus McKinnon writes. Ai has produced several documentaries before but this is his first attempt at making an essay in film on a global scale, with the final product merging text, poetry and still photography with moving images. Ai, who has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government, was held under house arrest without charge for three months in 2011 and banned from traveling outside China until 2015. He is now based in Berlin.

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.