The DailyBrief

Friday September 15, 2017

Nuclear earthquake threat: The respected Johns Hopkins University website 38 North says commercial satellite images show increased numbers of massive landslides near the slopes of Mount Mantap, close to North Korea’s nuclear test area, William Pesek writes. This appears to indicate that Kim Jong-un’s regime is essentially engineering giant earthquakes. It was a March 2011 quake, remember, that precipitated the Fukushima atomic plant meltdown. Ominously, South Korea is detecting traces of land-based radioactive xenon-133 gas from North Korea. These radioactive isotopes don’t occur naturally and they’ve been linked to North Korean nuclear tests in the past. In this context, 38 North’s assessment of Pyongyang’s September 3 nuclear test, its sixth, is decidedly chilling, especially from neighboring China’s perspective.

China business trend: A study released this week by the Tanoto Center for Asian Family Business and Entrepreneurship Studies at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology shows that most family businesses in mainland China are faced with a succession dilemma, as few second generation scions are willing to take over the family firm, Lin Wanxia writes. The study says that 80% of second generation “heirs” would rather start their own business. An increasing number of China’s “new wealth” enterprises – born from the 1980s onwards – are now in transition from first to second generation in terms of management and ownership. If they are not “passed down,” this leaves the issue of whether and how to sell up.

International real estate: Property markets in the United Kingdom are expected to regain their growth momentum partly due to the rising investments from Hong Kong and mainland China, according to IP Global, an end-to-end property investment service provider, Jeff Pao writes. As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, some buyers are hesitating because of the high purchase prices and transaction costs, while some others have adopted a wait-and-see stance. However, such trends are probably only temporary, as many long-term investors, attracted by the weak pound, are still interested in buying properties in London, which is seen as a safe-haven market.

Turkish defense strategy: The announced acquisition of Russia’s S-400 long-range air and missile defense system, a deal said to be worth US$2.5 billion, has more to do with geopolitical posturing than military calculation, Emanuele Scimia asserts. In strict military terms, it is not clear why Ankara is buying the S-400. Currently, its sworn enemies are the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria and the Syrian Kurds, but neither can threaten Turkey with air sorties or missile attacks. Ankara is a long-standing member of Nato, which has its own defense shield and could provide the kind of protection that the Turks are seeking. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s apparent aim is to carve out an autonomous geopolitical role for his country in the Middle East.

China design blunder: A man who bought an apartment in Harbin in China’s northern Heilongjiang province in March was shocked to find that the completed unit was not quite the same as what he had seen in the showroom – there were no windows, Ben Kwok writes. Li Yantao said the windowless flat was very dim and had affected his mood from the time he moved in last month. Much to his chagrin, a “window” appeared a few days later, thanks to innovative painters. A designer for the property developer said a ventilation shaft had been built where windows were supposed to go to comply with a higher anti-fire standard.

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.