- South Korea’s Moon Jae-in reaches out to North’s Kim Jong-un as denuclearization talks stalled
- Typhoon Jebi, Ompong wreak havoc across Asia
- Opposition in shock electoral victory against China-backed candidate in Maldives
- Gunmen target military parade in Iran’s Ahvaz
- Trump escalates trade war with China
A hug from the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the South’s counterpart Moon Jae-in marked the beginning of the Inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang in mid-September. As the third such meeting between both of them this year, the summit in Pyongyang also bears historic significance as it was the first time in more than a decade a South Korean leader has stepped foot in the North amidst hostile relations over the years. On top of the huge fanfare, the summit also played a critical role in jump-starting the denuclearization talks that have made meager progress as US demanded for further disclosure of the North’s arsenal before offering more concessions. Moon insisted that he will continue to find a balance between the US’ demands for denuclearization and North Korea’s request for security guarantees in order to advance the stalled negotiations. While Washington remains wary of the North’s intention, Moon added that Kim also expressed hope to hold another summit with US President Donald Trump, in a move that is likely to aim at dispelling concerns that Pyongyang is insincere in denuclearizing. It remains to be seen if such high-level summit will come into fruition though there is still reason to be optimistic as both US and North Korea remain keen to ensure that all the hard work for the highly publicized summit in Singapore paid off.
The typhoon season continued to cause disruptions across many countries in Asia, bringing together heavy rains and strong winds. The first major typhoon of the month, Jebi lashed through Japan’s Osaka, killing at least 11 people and injuring more than 600 others. Severe disruptions have also been reported as the main airport in Kansai was forced to shut down after floodwater inundated both runways and its tarmac area. The shutdown that caused thousands of travelers to be stranded also raised questions if there is a need for another regional airport to operate more international flights should such situation happens again. Barely two weeks after Jebi, another typhoon named Ompong made its way through Northern Philippines as well as Hong Kong, Macao and southern China, triggering landslides as well as paralyzing movements of cities along its path. Although the typhoon hit over the weekend in Hong Kong, the commute on the Monday morning that followed turned out to be a chaotic affair as workers crammed into train lines to reach their workplaces amidst suspension of most bus lines, due to clean-up works on major roads and highways. Despite criticisms, the Hong Kong government defended its decision of not declaring the Monday a public holiday by highlighting the impacts it would have on the country’s financial markets. In the gambling hub of Macao, all casinos were also shut as the typhoon made its way.
In yet another surprise election result this year, the Maldivian opposition claimed victory after beating the incumbent president Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who has long been a key ally of China in the region. The success of opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, was greeted by loud cheers in the capital Male as fears have been mounting that the previous government was slowly backsliding into authoritarianism. For most Maldivians, the victory of Solih could also be a turning point in the country’s political landscape as many prominent opposition politicians who were previously jailed for dissent could now play a role in reviving the rule of law that was dented significantly during Gayoom’s rule. The road ahead however might not be easy, as Maldives faces a multitude of challenges including widespread corruption, a weakened judiciary as well as curtailed media freedom. Islamist extremism is also another problem that is slowly making its way into the archipelago nation. On top of domestic concerns, the electoral victory by the opposition could also be a setback for China in the region as it seeks to expand its influence in order to counter India’s growth. The latest setback followed similar events in Malaysia when the country’s opposition, under the leadership of Mahathir Mohamad, claimed victory and vowed to review controversial deals involving China made by the previous government.
An Iranian military parade in the city of Ahvaz became a target of a militant attack in late September in which at least 29 people were killed, and 70 others injured. As authorities in the country began to pick up pieces of the attack, speculation also rife on the group or even nation that is responsible for it. The Iranian government pinpointed that foreign governments including the United States and Saudi Arabia, among others, played a role in the attack and the Revolutionary Guards Corps has vowed revenge. The attack also came at a time when relationship between Tehran and Riyadh became increasingly tense with both sides seeking to claim hegemony in the Middle East region through several proxy conflicts in Yemen and Syria. Although Iran has always been accusing the Saudis of meddling in its internal affairs, this is also the first time that an attack of such magnitude has been linked to the latter.
Apart of foreign countries, several terrorist groups also emerged as the likely suspects and they include Islamic State (IS), the Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement and the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz. The latter two had vehemently denied the accusation while the IS group showed little evidence that it had a role in it. Regardless of the responsible party, Iran is very unlikely to remain silent and could come up with several measures including targeting Sunni militant groups operating in the country on the pretext of dismantling terror networks, as well as firing rockets into Arab and Sunni militants in Syria as a message of deterrent to US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The trade war between the two largest economies in the world was up by a notch in September when US President Donald Trump decided to slap tariffs on US$200 billion worth of imports from China. The latest round of tariffs is also the biggest imposed by the Trump administration so far and is likely to have significant impacts on consumer goods in the US. Strong measures against China have always been a cornerstone of Trump’s trade policies with his administration insisting that Beijing is practicing unfair trade practices, such as intellectual property theft. The Chinese government has rejected such assertions and accused US of protectionism and at the same time coming up with similar measures by imposing tariffs on US goods. Although the Trump administration intends to bring Beijing on the negotiation table through such measures, analysts said it could also be hurting the US in the long run and might even slow down the country’s economy growth should it becomes an all-out war. From the consumer’s point of view, the tariffs could also result in increase in prices of a variety of products such as shampoo, electrical appliances and furniture, among others. Big companies from both sides are also feeling the pinch and some of them have even warned that the dispute is likely to hurt the profit outlook for 2018.