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    Asian Insider 3 December: China hits back at US, Najib takes the stand, blast in Jakarta

    Published On: 3 December 2019

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


    3 December 2019

    In today’s bulletin: China rolls out some of its promised counter-measures against the US over Washington’s new Hong Kong laws; former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak takes the stand in the 1MDB trial; two Indonesian soldiers were injured by a blast at Jakarta’s National Monument park; and more.



    After US President Donald Trump signed two bills supporting Hong Kong protesters into law last week, Beijing promised a firm response. It was not clear then what levers China could pull in response amid delicate trade negotiations with the US, but Beijing’s response is now taking shape. On Monday, China suspended US military ships and aircraft visits to Hong Kong , and slapped sanctions on several US non-government organisations for allegedly encouraging protesters to commit violent acts. Today the state-backed Global Times and its editor have been tweeting about Beijing possibly publishing a list of “unreliable entities” and considering banning US officials from Xinjiang. All this as the US House of Representatives gears up to vote on a Xinjiang bill that is sure to further irritate Beijing.

    Read other key stories today on US-China ties: 

    Opinion: Consciously decoupling the US economy

    US and China differ on pluralism in world order: Top US diplomat David Stilwell

    Update on Hong Kong: Carrie Lam promises another round of ‘targeted’ relief measures amid economic slump



    After months of legal battles and hearings involving Najib Razak’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal, the former Malaysian premier took to the stand for the first time to defend himself. Dressed in a blue suit, he read from a 243-page statement that included a retelling of his long career in politics. During cross-examination by his lawyer, Najib said he was not the architect of the state fund from which billions of dollars were siphoned. Prosecutors have argued that Najib was in control of the fund and funneled money from it into his personal accounts. Though a significant moment, the several 1MDB-linked trials involving Najib are far from resolution.

    Catch up on all the latest on the 1MDB saga at our dedicated website.



    A blast at the National Monument park in Jakarta, near the presidential palace, injured two Indonesian soldiers today. Authorities say the explosion was caused by a smoke grenade but did not say if they had identified a culprit or a motive.  Police did not link it to a rally held by conservative Muslims near the park yesterday. It has also not been described as a terror attack. The blast does, however, come at a time when the country is on alert about the threat of radicalism. Just last month, six were wounded after a suicided bomber blew himself up in Medan.

    See alsoConservative Muslims rally peacefully in Indonesia amid tight security



    Typhoon Kammuri made landfall in the main Philippines island of Luzon today, shutting down air and sea links. The country’s largest international airport in Manila was closed for 12 hours today while the coastguard suspended commercial sea travel. At least four people have been reported dead with half a million displaced. Though some events were cancelled at the South-east Asian games, but disruptions did not appear to be very significant.

    Read more: Typhoon forces suspension of SEA Games events



    In the second part of our special look at Asia’s drug trade, journalists Tan Tam Mei and Zaihan Mohamed Yusof tagged along with Thai police on one of the drug smuggling routes along the Thai-Myanmar border. Police have to patrol between 500km and 600km of the mountainous border, leaving opportunities for smugglers willing to trek in darkness through treacherous terrain.

    See the interactive story hereThis is what smuggling meth across the Myanmar-Thai border is like



    SMART KIDS: China’s 15-year-olds topped an international benchmarking study testing how well they apply knowledge and skills, and solve problems. Singapore slipped from its previous No. 1 position in 2015, and was ranked second in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), a study done every three years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

    SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka’s new president suspended Parliament for a month from Tuesday (Dec 3) ahead of snap elections he wants to call in March to consolidate his sweeping victory. Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected president last month in a landslide victory, issued a proclamation overnight proroguing the legislature and said a new session will begin from Jan 3.

    ANOTHER TRADE WAR: US President Donald Trump revved up his global trade war on two fronts on Monday (Dec 2), announcing tariffs on industrial metals from Brazil and Argentina while eyeing tariffs of up to 100 per cent on dozens of popular French products.


    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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