The DailyBrief

Friday September 22, 2017

Japan nuclear capability: There is no question that the northeast Asian country has the technical capability to build an advanced atomic weapons arsenal, Shaun Burnie and Frank Barnaby write. However, to build a “credible” arsenal would require several years at least. More important than any actual timeframe are the external factors that would lead a Japanese government to move to nuclear weaponization. A public debate on the issue is stirring in Japan, and it’s clear that without a peaceful resolution to the underlying security threats in the region, chiefly North Korea, there is an increasing possibility that policymakers in Tokyo – backed by Washington – will decide that Japan should weaponize its significant plutonium stockpile.

Myanmar’s Rohingya refugees: The Southeast Asian country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi says that her government is prepared to begin taking back members of Rakhine state’s Muslim minority group recently driven into Bangladesh in a national verification process, Bertil Lintner writes. The violence has pushed an estimated 420,000 refugees into Bangladesh, which considers them natives of Myanmar and calls for their full return. Suu Kyi said the repatriation can start “at any time” in a speech on September 19, her first since the refugee crisis began in late August after a surge of insurgent attacks and harsh military counter-measures. While Suu Kyi’s offer to accept “verified” refugees may have aimed to defuse international criticism of military “clearance operations” the UN has likened to “ethnic cleansing”, it’s altogether unclear how many of the departed the country’s autonomous armed forces will accept back.

Asean economic outlook: About three-quarters of European firms, a major source of foreign capital for the 10-member Southeast Asian bloc’s members, expect their earnings to improve in 2017, according to the European Union-Asean Business Council, while 86% say their trade and investment will rise in the next five years, Alan Boyd writes. An annual survey of US executives’ business perceptions on the region conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore found that 78% believe their companies’ profits will rise this year. Almost 70% said their firms’ trade and investment in Asean had increased in 2016, down only slightly from 72% in the previous 12 months. Meanwhile, Asean’s relations with East Asian partners Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong have been complicated by recent policy changes in China, but are mostly upbeat.

Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement: Geopolitical divisions run deeper than ever in regards to possible changes to the text prompted by the withdrawal of the US from the deal early this year, Giovanni Di Lieto writes. As the November TPP-11 leaders’ summit looms on the horizon, it is becoming clear that the renewed attempt by Japan, Australia, and New Zealand to activate the deal without the US is poised to fail and bring down other mega trade deals in the Asia-Pacific region. From one side Australia, New Zealand and Japan are pushing hard to keep the TPP terms as they were negotiated with the US, while on the opposite side Malaysia and Vietnam seek to reopen the Pandora’s box of negotiations more widely, as they do not want to keep unpopular terms that were accepted only to gain US market access. In the middle ground, Canada and Mexico, in essence, prefer to keep the TPP entirely on ice, as they are focusing on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and will be careful to avoid any diplomatic misstep with the TPP-11.

HKEX moves down: Hong Kong is expected to be the third largest IPO market worldwide in terms of total funds raised, as of the end of September, placing it behind the Shanghai Stock Exchange, in the runner-up spot, and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), according to a Deloitte report, Lin Wanxia writes. That order is expected to continue through the end of the year and will represent a reverse of the order for 2016, when Hong Kong IPOs raised the most funds, ahead of Shanghai, with New York coming third. For the first three quarters this year, a combined total of HK$85 billion (US$10.89 billion) is expected to be raised in Hong Kong through IPOs, a 37% decline from a year earlier. However, the volume of IPOs will see a 49% year-on-year increase, rising to 106 from 71.

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.