The DailyBrief

Tuesday September 12, 2017

North Korea energy: Proponents of cutting off the supply of oil to the Hermit Kingdom should remember that a sweeping embargo imposed on Japan in July 1941 was considered an act of war by Tokyo and provoked the devastating attack on US naval assets at Pearl Harbor, igniting the war in the Pacific, William Pesek writes. A similar strategy against Pyongyang would likely backfire as well, as a cornered and desperate regime fearing destruction lashes out indiscriminately. Today’s North Korea, after all, resembles 1930s fascist Japan more than any other analogy historians apply to Kim Jong-un and what the North Korean leader wants. To avoid unnecessary conflict and exacerbating the country’s catastrophic humanitarian situation, a patient, multi-layered approach involving sticks, carrots and diplomatic dialogue is needed.

Cambodia business environment: An English-language newspaper’s closure on arbitrary and punitive tax evasion charges has significantly raised the volatile country’s regulatory risk profile, David Hutt writes. The Cambodia Daily closed last week after being handed a US$6.3 million back tax bill with interest that its American owners couldn’t pay and claim they didn’t owe. While commentators viewed it as an attack on free speech, the arbitrary nature of the charge has also spooked foreign investors. “An international business would have to seriously consider the costs of doing business with a government that expropriated an American’s newspaper over an out-of-the-blue and disputed $6 million tax bill,” said Sophal Ear, associate professor of diplomacy at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

US naval power: New high-tech weapons could be game-changers in a maritime war with China, Doug Tsuruoka writes. The world’s dominant naval force has made substantial progress in developing advanced weapons such as solid state lasers (SSLs), electromagnetic railguns (EMRGs) and hypervelocity projectiles (HVPs). If perfected, these new weapons could be on a par with the advent of aircraft carriers, submarines or even Greek fire. They are expected to be highly effective in countering the swarms of anti-ship cruise missiles, ballistic missiles and drones that countries like China will likely unleash in a naval conflict with the US. However, funding issues may hobble the deployment of lasers and railguns.

Korean Peninsula solution: Beijing’s “double freeze” proposal calling for North Korea to stop testing missiles and nuclear weapons and for the US and South Korea to end their joint military exercises would not only bring stability to the region but also makes economic sense, Ken Moak asserts. Instead of wasting money on war preparations, it could be used on programs to enhance the economies of both Koreas, both of which are in need of stimulation. North Korea is one of the poorest countries on Earth, whose people are said to be on the brink of starvation. Meanwhile, the South’s economy is struggling to stay above water, with youth employment particularly hard hit.

Rohingya refugee crisis: Bangladesh is worried that India’s refusal to pressure Myanmar on the persecution of the Muslim minority group in its northwestern Rakhine state will only deepen the crisis in South Asia, Saikat Datta writes. New Delhi and Dhaka have so far resisted raising the Rohingya issue in bilateral discussions. But with mounting pressure on Bangladesh due to the influx of Rohingya refugees, its high commissioner to India, Syed Muazzem Ali, mentioned it to India’s foreign secretary, S Jaishankar, at a recent meeting, urging New Delhi to intervene in the expanding crisis. Bangladeshi diplomats have also privately expressed their disappointment with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not “putting pressure on Myanmar” on the Rohingya issue during his recent trip to Myanmar.

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.