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    Asian Insider 19 November: Could Hong Kong stand-off come to a head?, Malaysia’s succession talk heats up, Shinzo Abe’s record

    Published On: 19 November 2019

    Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.


    19 November 2019

    In today’s bulletin: The stand-off between protesters and police at a Hong Kong university continues into its third day; talk of succession is heating up in Malaysia’s ruling party after a disastrous by-election; Abe will break record as Japan’s longest serving PM; and more.



    Some three days after scores of protesters hunkered down in Hong Kong Polytechnic University, about 100 remain inside, cornered by police demanding they surrender peacefully. And as protesters dug in, some observers began to worry about how the prolonged stand-off might end. Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has urged for calm and instructed the police to try and resolve the situation peacefully but there is a growing sense that things may soon come to a head. A siege – which would likely lead to bloodshed  – to clear out those inside now appears to be a possibility.

    Need to know: 

    New Hong Kong police chief Chris Tang calls for support as university stand-off enters third day

    China says Hong Kong courts have no power to rule on face mask ban

    China tells US and Britain to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs

    Chan Chun Sing draws lessons for Singapore from Hong Kong situation



    Ongoing talks this past week between the US and South Korea on sharing the cost of US troops stationed in the country broke down today, with both sides reportedly failing to narrow the differences.

    Neither side confirmed any numbers but Washington reportedly wants Seoul to pay substantially more than the close to US$1 billion a year it is currently paying. The very public disagreement is an indication of just how much strain is now being put on the Japan-South Korea-US relationship. And it’s only about to get worse.

    Later this week, barring an unforeseen change of heart, Japan and South Korea will allow an important intelligence sharing pact to lapse.

    Read why South Korean defence spending is important: Buying a big stick – South Korea’s military spending has North Korea worried



    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today served his 2,886th day in office, tying a record set by Taro Katsura more than a century. The fact that Mr Abe will tomorrow stand alone as Japan’s longest serving prime minister is a testament to the 65-year-old’s survival instincts. Though he resigned in shame after just one year in his first term in office, he was able to return in 2012 stronger.

    And now, as he approaches the end of what many assume is his last term, he is also entering one of the more trying periods of his tenure. He is facing accusations of favouritism, two newly-appointed members of his Cabinet had to resign and there are growing concerns about his handling of the economy.

    Read more: Japan PM Abe says sorry, taking heat for gaffes by defence, education and trade ministers



    Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali held a meeting with 22 opposition MPs at his home on Monday (Nov 18)  – two days after the opposition trounced his party at a by-election – prompting speculation about jostling in the ruling party over when the 94-year-old prime minister will step down.

    There remains no firm date for a promised handover from PM Mahathir Mohamad to Mr Anwar Ibrahim though the results of the by-election over the weekend put pressure on the PM. The specific motive for a government minister, himself tipped to be vying for the top job, to have opposition MPs in his home is not known. Speculation has focused on the possibility the move is to secure defections that might shore up the PM, in a bid to block the ascent of Mr Anwar.

    See also: What you need to know about the Anwar – Azmin rivalry



    This weekend, Busan will host the first ever Asean-Republic of Korea (ROK) Commemorative Summit. Ahead of the summit, the South Korean president has written an op-ed about the opportunities he sees in the relationship with Asean.

    Read it here: Asean and Seoul can forge new paths to peace and prosperity



    West Bank: The United States on Monday (Nov 18) effectively backed Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank byabandoning its four-decade position that they were “inconsistent with international law.”

    Huawei: Huawei Technologies has dismissed a new 90-day extension by the Trump administration allowing US firms to continue doing business with the Chinese company as making little difference, repeating that it was being unfairly treated.

    A name we haven’t heard of in a while: A year after his arrest, Nissan ex-chairman Carlos Ghosn remains stuck in Tokyo under stringent bail conditions and without a trial date as he seeks access to a trove of Nissan emails and other evidence to fight charges of financial misconduct.


    These insights are produced by The Straits Times, the official media partner for the Asia House Global Trade Dialogue, which took place in Singapore on 7 November 2019.

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