Asia News In Brief

14:16' 20-07-2017
After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 5, just before the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the relationship between China and Germany was about to enter “a new phase”, according to Reuters.

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    German-Chinese relationship enters “new stage”

    After talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 5, just before the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that the relationship between China and Germany was about to enter “a new phase”, according to Reuters.

    Speaking at a joint press conference with Ms Merkel, the Chinese leader said, “China-Germany relations are about to mark a new start where we need new turning points.”

    President Xi expressed the hope of soon developing a new plan, bringing their vision to new goals and planning new routes for new cooperation between the two countries, which are in disagreement with US President Donald Trump on climate change-related policies.

    China and Germany pledged to promote closer cooperation in the fields of aerospace and trade, with the aim of reaching a free trade agreement, and also to cooperate in development in Africa and Afghanistan.

    Apple opens data centre

    Apple, the most successful foreign technology company in China, has set up its first data center there. The center, in the southern province of Guizhou, is part of a $1 billion investment.

    Apple said the new center would keep “strong data privacy and security protections in place,” in line with new Chinese digital security laws introduced last month, requiring foreign companies to store Chinese users’ information in the country. The rules also call for security reviews, and users of messaging apps must register their real identities. 

    Apple has been far more profitable in China than most foreign companies. This year it announced that it would establish two research and development centers in China. Last year, it invested $1 billion in the Chinese ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing.

    Apple will host data with the help of a Chinese partner, Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry.


    Hard-line Islamist group banned

    The Indonesian government has officially banned hard-line Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir. The group has called for a “global caliphate”, and last year organised protests that rocked the country.

    Islam in Indonesia is generally moderate, and is seen to be threatened by the rise of hard-line groups. In April this year Jakarta’s governor, a Christian, was voted out of office and then sentenced to two years' jail for blasphemy, following opposition from such groups, including Hizbut Tahrir.

    It is possible the government does not want to see a situation arise like that in neighbouring Malaysia, where pressure from extremist groups has driven moderate Muslims to flee the country. 

    Conservative Muslim organisations and human rights groups have criticised the decision, claiming that it is too severe. Analysts have said the move might simply drive the group underground, or into terrorist activities.

    Health sector cooperation with Japan

    Indonesia and Japan have reached a consensus on strengthening bilateral ties in health services and human resource development. Ministers representing the two countries agreed to exchange expertise, experience and programmes to improve health services.

    Indonesia and Japan currently have a wide range of bilateral cooperation under the Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership (I-JEPA) as well as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), including exchange of experts, research, and human resource development in the health sector.

    Japan has provided training for 500 Indonesian nurses in the country every year. Indonesia's Health Minister Nila Moeloek said that the Indonesian government will need to find further opportunities to promote cooperation in paramedics recruitment, human resource development, health services, health information technology and disease prevention.


    Call for increased sanctions against North Korea

    The European Union and Japan called for increased sanctions against North Korea on July 6, after Pyongyang launched an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) for the first time. The country has fired 17 missiles during 11 tests this year, improving its technology with each test, but all previous tests have been short to long range missiles.

    The latest test, on July 4 (American independence Day), disregarded UN Security Council Resolutions. The missile reached an altitude of 2,802km, and flew almost 1,000 km. Such a missile is capable of reaching Alaska or northern Australia.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed sending a military delegation to the border village of Panmunjom to discuss “stopping all hostile activities that raise military tension” along the border. Such a meeting would be the first between the two governments since 2015 and the first inter-Korean military dialogue since 2014. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had proposed such talks in a May 2016 speech. The South’s then-president, Park Geun-hye, rejected the offer.

    The South Korean Red Cross Society has also proposed a meeting at Panmunjom on Aug 1, to arrange reunions of relatives in the North and South who have been separated since the 1950-53 Korean War. Similar meetings were held in 2015, when fewer than 100 elderly Koreans from each side were allowed to spend three days with their family members.


    Alumni gathering in Vientiane

    Lao alumni who had studied at the Vietnam People’s Army schools and academies met together at an exchange in Vientiane on July 14. Many of them occupy high positions in the Lao People’s Army and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party.

    The Parties, governments, armies and people of the two countries are celebrating the Laos-Vietnam, Vietnam-Laos Year of Solidarity and Friendship, the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (July 18), and the 55th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties (September 5).

    In his speech at the event, Lieutenant General Vilay Lakhamphong, Deputy Defence Minister and Director of the General Political Department of the Lao People’s Army, expressed his appreciated of this significant exchange, and stated that the officers and soldiers of the Lao People’s Army will do their best to foster the special solidarity, fighting alliance and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.

    Earlier, similar events took place in the north, south and central of Laos in April, May and June, respectively.


    Dozens found guilty of human trafficking

    A Thai court has convicted dozens of organising a human-trafficking ring that enslaved hundreds of people. Many victims, who had been imprisoned, tortured and held for ransom, were found in 2015 buried in a mass grave near a secret jungle camp.

    The defendants included a high-ranking officer, a businessman and former politician, and police officers and smugglers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. The officer was sentenced to 27 years in prison, and the businessman to 75 years.

    Investigators said the victims were from Bangladesh or Myanmar. Many of them were of the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority, and had paid smugglers to help them find work in Thailand. Instead, they became slaves in Thailand’s fishing fleet.


    US travel site urges tourists to visit Vietnam

    A US travel site is urging travellers to visit the best tourist destinations of Vietnam before it is too late, as the Southeast Asian country looks to develop tourism into a key driver of economic growth.

    Canadian writer Lewis Kelly has published an article on New York-based travel site, naming Vietnam as one of the destinations to visit “before it’s too popular” and giving a list of must-see sites in the country.

    It is potentially the perfect bucket list for first-timers to Vietnam, including the world famous Ha Long Bay, Hoi An, royal tombs and temples in Hue, Saigon’s Notre Dame Cathedral, Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Sa Pa in the northern highlands, and the Ban Gioc Waterfall on the Chinese border.

    The country’s tourism industry made 400 trillion Dong (US$17.6 billion) in 2016.

    Tourism currently contributes 7.5% to Vietnam’s GDP. With visa waiver policies for several large markets in Asia and Europe, the industry expects to welcome 17-20 million foreign visitors and earn US$35 billion per year by 2020, pushing the figure up to 10%.

    Phung Nguyen and Span Hanna



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