The DailyBrief

Monday September 4, 2017

Missile crisis escalates: The US has warned Pyongyang there will be a “massive” military response if it or its allies are threatened, after North Korea on Sunday conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which it said was a hydrogen bomb for a missile, Asia Times and other media report. “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” said US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The UN Security Council was expected to convene on Monday to discuss the crisis.

Myanmar communal violence: As violence-racked Rakhine state teeters toward humanitarian crisis, the Kofi Annan-led Rakhine Advisory Commission’s recommendations for peace and reconciliation have fast fallen from view, David Scott Mathieson writes. The report was designed to provide policy recommendations to seek long-term solutions to communal divisions, underdevelopment and rights issues for all ethnic and religious communities in Rakhine state. The launch of the final report on August 24 was overshadowed within hours by a series of lethal attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army militant group against police and military targets in three Rakhine townships. About 400 security forces and suspected militants have been killed over the last week, while tens of thousands of ethnic Rohingya, Rakhine, Mro and other minorities have been internally displaced or forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

Cambodia political crackdown: In a move independent analysts see as a near final blow to the Southeast Asian country’s battered and bruised democratic credentials, opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested on treason charges early on Sunday, David Hutt reports. If convicted, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) faces a potential 30-year prison sentence. Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the CNRP would be dissolved if its members try to “protect” him. “We had the option of arresting only one person or sending troops to crack down at the CNRP headquarters. Arresting only one person is better,” Hun Sen said. Kem Sokha’s arrest comes amid a rising crackdown on dissent. The Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper, closed on Monday after the government demanded it pay US$6.3 million in alleged back taxes.

Indian feminists celebrate: In a significant cabinet reshuffle, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has appointed India’s first full-time female defense minister, Saikat Datta writes. Hailing from the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Nirmala Sitharaman, who was in charge of the Ministry for Commerce and Industry, was an official spokeswoman of the BJP before the party came to power in 2014. Considered a quiet and efficient minister, her elevation to cabinet rank also brought relief to her senior colleague, Arun Jaitley, who is also the finance minister. The government had come in for considerable criticism for not having a full-time defense or finance minister at a time when the Indian economy seems to be in a downward spiral.

Pakistan’s people problem: Provisional census results have confirmed what had long been feared – the country’s population has ballooned by 57% in the last two decades to 207.8 million – making it one of the world’s most populous nations, Kamal Siddiqi writes. Reluctantly conducted after an order from the Supreme Court, the sixth census was delayed by almost two decades. Governments had long dragged their heels for reasons including the law and order situation – census workers have been killed in various locations – and a lack people or funds to conduct the exercise.

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.