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Asian Insider, August 24: Philippines refutes China’s claims over South China Sea, Sonia Gandhi offers to resign from Congress, Abe’s second visit to hospital

Hi, 

In today’s bulletin: Coronavirus continues to spread and raise alarm; Philippines refutes China’s claims over South China Sea; Singapore’s 14th Parliament opens, Sonia Gandhi offers to quit India’s leading opposition party after letter of dissent, US President Donald threatens decoupling of US economy from China; Japanese premier Shinzo Abe’s health raises concern, and more.

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COVID-19: SEOUL MANDATES MASKS, CORONAVIRUS IN ROHINGYA CAMPS, LIFE NEAR NORMAL IN CHINA

Coronavirus continued its rampage in parts of Asia encouraging officials to step up measures to contain the virus.

Seoul ordered people to wear masks both in indoor and outdoor public places in South Korea’s densely populated capital, even as officials debated if the country should move to Phase 3 of social distancing measures to contain the virus.

Indonesia refrained from reopening Bali to international tourists and said plans to do so would be on hold till the end of the year. 

In Malaysia, the country’s health ministry has urged the National Security Council to consider extending existing curbs under the recovery movement control order (MCO) beyond its end date of Aug 31, with the country still battling the pandemic. In Myanmar, concerns were mounting of an outbreak in overcrowded Rohingya camps with a surge in infections resulting in a lockdown in the state capital.

The story in China, however, was different.

PHILIPPINE MINISTER ACCUSES CHINA OF FABRICATING SOUTH CHINA SEA CLAIMS

Philippine defence minister accused China of illegally occupying the Philippines’ maritime territory late on Sunday night. But it wasn’t immediately clear if this hinted at any change in Manila’s ongoing bilateral relationship with China.

China’s “nine-dash line” used to claim most of the South China Sea is a fabrication, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in a text message, as he reiterated that the area was within Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Last week, the Philippine foreign ministry lodged a diplomatic protest over what it said was the “illegal confiscation” by China’s coast guard of fishing equipment near the disputed Scarborough shoal.

SINGAPORE’S 14TH PARLIAMENT OPENS

President Halimah Yacob is due to deliver her opening address to Singapore’s 14th Parliament session, which is covening at two locations for the first time, due to safe distancing measures. A record number of 28 women and the first official Leader of the Opposition, the Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh will join the 14th Parliament. The youngest member to be sworn in is Ms Raeesah Khan, 27, from the Workers’ Party.

In her speech, the President will set out the priorities and plans for the government’s next term and dwell on how Singapore tackles the healthcare and economic impact of Covid-19. Thereafter, in coming days, ministries will lay out what they will do in support of the agenda.  

Read more: 

As Singapore’s 14th Parliament opens, what next for politics? (premium content)

SONIA GANDHI OFFERS TO RESIGN FROM INDIA’S OPPOSITION CONGRESS PARTY

The leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, offered to resign today after almost two dozen top leaders called for better decision-making in the party. 

One of the oldest parties in the country, it has ruled India for much of the country’s independent history. But has been defeated in recent elections by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

The call for better decision-making was made in a letter and is a rare challenge to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has dominated Congress since India won independence in 1947 from colonial ruler Britain.

Read also:  

Erosion in power and authority of the Gandhi family

TRUMP’S THREAT TO DECOUPLE US ECONOMY FROM CHINA

It’s just a few words but those words uttered by President Donald Trump over the weekend made US-China foreign policy observers more concerned about what will follow next. 

In an interview with Fox News, President Trump raised the possibility of decoupling the United States economy from China. He is seen telling the interviewer  “we don’t have to” do business with China and then later mentioned decoupling, as seen in an excerpt of the interview.

Last week, the US State Department asked colleges and universities to divest from Chinese holdings. A letter sent to them raised the possibility of delisting of PRC firms from US exchanges by the end of next year. This is now putting venture funds with exposure to China in a spot.

Read also: 

Superpowers tussle as the world burns (premium content) 

Views from the Top: A rift with consequences – and opportunities

ABE’S SECOND HOSPITAL VISIT STOKES WORRIES

A visit to the hospital by Japan’s longest-serving prime minister Shinzo Abe, for the second time, for examinations that lasted over 7 hours has led to speculation over how long he will continue as prime minister. The visit came as the prime minister suffered a slide in voter support to one of the lowest levels since returning to office in 2012, over his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

IN OTHER NEWS

NEW ZEALAND MOSQUE SHOOTER PLANNED THIRD ATTACK: Australian Brenton Tarrant, 29, who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019, stood emotionless as surviving victims and families recounted the horror of the massacre, which prosecutors said he had carefully planned to cause maximum carnage. The shooter spent years purchasing high-powered firearms, researched mosque layouts by flying a drone over his primary target, and timed his March 15 attacks to maximise casualties, the prosecutor said. He was detained while he was en route to a third mosque.

VIETNAMESE TECH FIRM SUES TIKTOK:  Vietnamese technology firm VNG is suing TikTok, the popular short-form video app, saying it does not have adequate licences for the songs being used in its videos. VNG is accusing the Chinese-owned company of using audio tracks owned by Zing, a VNG subsidiary, without the company’s consent, reports said.

FIRST APPLE STORE ON WATER TO OPEN IN SINGAPORE: Apple is set to open its third store in Singapore, although the opening date still has to be specified. The new store will be situated in the dome-like structure sitting on the water off Marina Bay Sands.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. 

Shefali

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