A big week in Asia

Japan tragedy, South China Sea erupts and Trade War update

I am keeping this short because A LOT happened in Asia this week. This is a long issue, so enjoy!

If you enjoy Aseophile, make sure to share with friends or forward via email. The newsletter continues to grow :) .

-Montana, USA

Quote of the Week: “The tears, the tough times, the pain. Everything is paid back. It was all worth it.”

-Li Na, who became the first Asian elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Tragedy in Japan

Suspected Arson at Kyoto Animation Studio Kills 33, Shocking Japan

What Happened: A man ran into an anime studio in Kyoto, Japan and — after reportedly yelling “die” — lit fire to the building and killed 33 people.

The man, named Shinji Aoba, claims the studio, named Kyoto Animation, stole his novel and intellectual property.

Aoba seems to have splashed a flammable liquid around the building prior to lighting it ablaze. He tried to run away but was tackled by studio staff and held until the police arrived.

Aoba had mental health issues and had previously been arrested for robbery.

One of the saddest parts of the fire is that Kyoto Animation had bucked traditional Japanese culture by hiring a lot of women. The result is that 20 of the 33 people who died were women.

South China Sea broils

Vietnam, China embroiled in South China Sea standoff

What Happened: Vietnam and China are in a standoff over an offshore drilling block that both nations claim as their territory. Vietnam says the offshore oil falls under its exclusive economic zone (Washington agrees), while Beijing points to that famous nine-dot line as proof it is part of their territory.

There have been two separate “maritime incidents” that are cause for concern.

The rhetoric coming out of China is aggressive and stubborn, which is worrisome because Vietnam has shown itself to be the only Southeast Asian nation that will directly antagonise China.

It would be an egregious tactical error if China tried to bully Vietnam into submitting on this issue.

Duterte slams critics as he ‘invokes’ Philippine-US defence pact over South China Sea dispute

On the flip side, the Philippines is usually quick to acquiesce to Chinese demands. Last week, Duterte lashed out against that criticism.

He called on the Americans to, “Gather all their Seventh Fleet in front of China.” The Seventh Fleet is a US Navy fleet stationed in Japan that patrols the Pacific.

This clearly will not happen. Duterte is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

In 1951, the US and Philippines signed a mutual defence treaty to support one another should they be attacked. But, the Philippines has made a hard diplomatic shift towards China. To suddenly exploit that treaty is disingenuous.

Also on Philippines: Separate branches of government are releasing official drug war statistics that contradict one another.

Beijing 'erodes trust' with South China Sea reclamations: ASEAN

What Happened: ASEAN, the UN-like governing body of Southeast Asia, is set to officially express concern about China’s activities in the South China Sea. They say it “erodes trust” between China and Southeast Asia.

Assuming the official rebuke comes through, it will mark a significant moment in regional diplomacy and it will be fascinating to see how China reacts (it is a lot easier to bully one country than ten).

Trade War Update

Tariffs on China Don’t Cover the Costs of Trump’s Trade War

What Happened: The United States has made US$20.8 billion from the tariffs imposed on Chinese imports, but the drag on the economy has cost US industry US$28 billion. So far, the Trump administration has covered the US$28 billion with two separate bailouts, but that strategy is unsustainable in the long run.

Furthermore, an additional report says Chinese investment in America has dropped by 90 per cent since Trump took office. This points to a fundamental decoupling of what has traditionally been the largest trading partnership in the world (by a long shot).

Singapore exports drop most in six years as electronics slump

What Happened: In the beginning of the trade war, pundits debated if Southeast Asia would be a big beneficiary of the trade war because the region might enjoy increased investment as America and China fought for influence.

Government officials almost universally disagreed and said the trade war would be a big problem for Southeast Asia. Turns out, the governments were correct.

Singapore is taking very seriously the possibility it is about to go through a recession. Even if the economy does not shrink, it seems like the best case scenario is no growth.

Vietnam may soon find itself another victim of Trump tariffs. The US thinks that it has been acting as a work-around for Chinese firms hoping to avoid tariffs.

Hong Kong

At least eight hurt in Yuen Long violence: govt

What Happened: I tried to take a week off Hong Kong because it seems the protests will consistently continue for the rest of the summer. Then, Sunday night saw a worrisome wrinkle that demanded attention.

In Yuen Long, a mini-city near Shenzhen, dozens of people donning white shirts proceeded to attack protesters with wooden batons. It was violent and people went to the hospital.

A lot of people think the white-shirts were connected to Hong Kong’s famous triads (a mafia-style organisation that, like its western counterpart, is dying).

Not only was it violent, but it took police over an hour to respond. For a decent chunk of time, Yuen Long descended into Wild West law-and-order whereby people doll out justice however they see fit.

Regardless of your position on the protests, that is unacceptable.

Also: The city center saw an aggressive night but I think that will continue in some form over the coming weeks-to-months.


U.S. imposes sanctions on Myanmar military leaders over Rohingya abuses

What Happened: Min Aung Hlaing, the Myanmar military Commander in Chief was barred from entering the US, along with other senior officials. The hope is it will cut off the military politically and give more power to the civilian government.

This is in response to what the US calls ‘extra judicial killings’ of Rohingya in Myanmar. It was a genocide but using that word in diplomacy would legally trigger the US to pursue more aggressive interventions.

Yang Hengjun: Australian writer detained in China expected to be charged, lawyer says

What Happened: Yang Hengjun, who is naturalised-Australian but was a former Chinese diplomat, is expected to be charged with ‘endangering national security’ in China — a charge that could lead to the death penalty.

Yang was a longtime advocate of democracy in China, had built an online following promoting the cause. Him being a diplomat probably gives more ammo to Beijing’s logic.

His case will further antagonise Australia — a country that is not particularly fond of China at the moment.

South Korean forced labor victims to seek Japan's Mitsubishi asset sale

What Happened: I am including this because it is a follow up to my South Korea-Japan issue.

South Koreans who were forced to work for Mitsubishi in World War II will attempt to forcibly liquidate company assets in order to receive reparations. This will surely infuriate Japan if it goes through.

Some Levity

The Playlist: Miranda Lambert Stomps Back, and 11 More New Songs

It’s summer! Might as well get pointed to some new tunes.

Long Read

What Led Peru’s Former President to Take His Own Life?

After reading this article, it seems former Peru President Alan García killed himself out of pure ego, which is kind of incredible.

The story provides a nice avenue to learn about Peruvian politics and the García was a fascinating character.

One NBA Post

Blame Kyrie? It's not that simple, Boston

We have ourselves a new villain in the NBA. Kyrie’s time as a Celtic went so poorly that he is now persona non grata in Boston. While this article tries to spread the blame around, Kyrie still comes off very poorly.