The DailyBrief

Friday September 8, 2017

Russian foreign policy: President Vladimir Putin has been busy this week sowing the seeds of Kremlin-led diplomacy as a solution to the impasse on the Korean Peninsula, MK Bhadrakumar writes. At the two-day Eastern Economic Forum conference, which concluded in Vladivostok on Thursday, he made it clear that Russia’s “pivot to Asia” in recent years, in the downstream of Western sanctions against it, has become a core vector of Moscow’s foreign policies. The EEF began modestly in 2015 with the agenda of showcasing the “new reality” of a role for the Russian Far East in the economic integration of the Asia-Pacific region. But this year’s EEF waded into the critical regional security issue of North Korea.

Philippines counterinsurgency campaign: Military officials claim the battle for the Islamic State-besieged city of Marawi is nearly over, but the contest for the hearts and minds of those affected by the fighting has only just begun, Bong S Sarmiento writes. “I’m confident the end is already near,” said Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, predicting that troops would “normalize” the situation in the besieged city by October. However, restoring normalcy will be no easy task. The fighting continues to displace some 360,000 civilians, mostly ethnic Maranao Muslims, and has laid waste to what was the Philippines’ most religiously significant Muslim majority city on the southern island of Mindanao.

Japanese defense policy: Uncertainty over America’s commitment to Pacific security could lead Tokyo to conclude that “going nuclear” might be its best recourse, Richard A Bitzinger writes. Japan has the technological capacity to build an atomic bomb in a relatively short time – months, perhaps, a few years at the most. But becoming a nuclear-weapons state is a lot harder than it or most others think. It is not simply a matter of building an atomic bomb. Yes, if Japan were to build a nuclear bomb and test it, it would have resonance throughout Asia, and, indeed, the rest of the world. But it would require much, much more for Tokyo to create a credible nuclear deterrent. Massive fiscal, infrastructural and technological challenges aside, it would likely face massive public opposition.

Unlocking Myanmar’s potential: To create a more sophisticated financial system that facilitates economic development, institutional reform is required, Teun van Vlerken writes. First, regulatory capacity should be improved; the country’s antiquated institutions tasked with prudential oversight are not up to the job of regulating a rapidly expanding financial sector. Second, generally accepted accounting standards must become the norm across the board. Third, Myanmar needs a credit bureau. With many entrepreneurs still borrowing in their personal capacity, a nationwide database detailing the credit history of individuals would support banks and micro-finance institutions alike in their credit decision process.

China’s nightmare neighbor: Judging by its recent provocative missile tests, North Korea will be a major obstacle on China’s path to regional supremacy, Xuan Loc Doan writes. As a rising power, China’s ultimate ambition is to replace the US as the dominant player in Asia. But China can only overtake the US if the world’s biggest economy and military withdraws from this strategically and economically important region, something that looks increasingly unlikely as Pyongyang’s provocations force Washington to intensify its presence.

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.