Asian Insider, Aug 28: Japanese Prime Minister Abe resigns; Philippines to scrap deals with blacklisted China firms; South Korea doctors' strike escalates

Hi, 

In today’s bulletin: Japan PM Abe confirms his resignation; Philippine Foreign Minister recommends scrapping deals with blacklisted China firms; South Korea doctors’ strike escalates; Thailand to offer $1 billion in loans to pandemic-hit airlines; Goldman pays Malaysia $3.4 billion as part of 1MDB settlement, and more.

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JAPAN PM ABE RESIGNS, SAYS HIS ILL HEALTH MIGHT HINDER DECISION-MAKING

Mr Shinzo Abe announced on Friday (Aug 28) that he will step down as Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister after suffering a relapse of a chronic condition in June this year. 

Mr Abe, 65, said that his condition, an inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis, rendered his existing medication ineffective and put him in a position where he does not know if he can live up to the confidence and expectations of citizens.

The resignation comes at a critical juncture for Japan, with Mr Abe voicing his intent to stay on as Premier until a successor is chosen in the interest of preventing a leadership vacuum ahead of a possible flare-up in coronavirus infections during the winter months. 

The resignation has sent shock waves through Japanese political circles, with even Mr Abe’s aides in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) kept in the dark before his announcement. 

A vote is expected to be held next month for the LDP to elect a new president, with jockeying likely to intensify among potential successors looking to take over from Mr Abe, whose support ratings have tanked in recent months to their lowest levels on record over a series of political scandals. 

Read more:

How possible successors stack up if Japan PM Abe resigns 

Japan PM set to resign: How does Abe score on his policy agenda? 

Japan PM Abe set to resign over ill health: What is ulcerative colitis? 

PHILIPPINE FOREIGN MINISTER RECOMMENDS SCRAPPING DEALS WITH BLACKLISTED CHINA FIRMS

Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin says he will recommend the termination of deals with Chinese firms blacklisted by the United States for their roles in constructing and militarising artificial South China Sea islands. 

Tensions between Manila and Beijing have been escalating over the Scarborough shoal, a prime fishing site some 240km off the coast of the main Philippine island of Luzon that was seized by China in 2012 after a naval standoff. 

A tribunal in the Hague had sided with the Philippines in that dispute, dismissing China’s claims in 2016, and last month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Trump administration recognised the Philippines’ claims – an endorsement that has emboldened Manila to take a more defiant stand against Beijing of late. 

Here’s more:

Philippines to defy China and continue patrolling the Spratlys 

Vietnam condemns new Chinese military drills in South China Sea 

SOUTH KOREA DOCTORS’ STRIKE ESCALATES, SEOUL IMPOSES UNPRECEDENTED CORONAVIRUS RULES

A strike by thousands of doctors couldn’t come at a worse time for South Korea amid a surge in coronavirus cases, with the Health Ministry extending a back-to-work order for doctors to the entire country and filing complaints with the police against at least 10 doctors who have defied the government. 

Seoul has taken the unprecedented step of restricting eateries in the capital for at least a week and extended Phase 2 restrictions – the second-highest level – across the country for at least another week as cases continue to mount. 

Complicating the situation, almost 16,000 intern and resident doctors have been on strike since Aug 21 over government plans to boost the number of doctors over the coming decade, crippling healthcare services in key places such as emergency rooms and intensive care units.

Read more:

South Korea to consider 4th extra budget if coronavirus situation worsens 

South Korea probes new outbreak in Seoul, shuts Parliament

THAILAND TO OFFER $1 BILLION IN LOANS TO PANDEMIC-HIT AIRLINES

Thailand’s government is offering soft loans worth 24 billion baht (S$1.05 billion) to help cushion seven local airlines from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as plans to revive tourism by gradually easing travel restrictions are firmed up. 

The soft loans with a five-year repayment schedule will help avert layoffs in the battered sector, with airlines worldwide crippled by a near shutdown in global travel. 

Foreign tourist arrivals in Thailand are forecast to plummet to just eight million this year from about 40 million in 2019, which has already forced Thai Airways International and budget carrier Nok Airlines to seek restructuring under the country’s bankruptcy law. 

Read more:

Singapore, Thailand to speed up talks on green lane for travel 

Thailand extends state of emergency till Sept 30 to control Covid-19 outbreak 

GOLDMAN PAYS MALAYSIA $3.4 BILLION AS PART OF 1MDB SETTLEMENT

The Malaysian government has received US$2.5 billion (S$3.4 billion) from Goldman Sachs Group to settle allegations of misconduct related to state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, with the funds earmarked to repay the outstanding debt of the scandal-tainted firm. The money will be welcome in Malaysia, which is desperately seeking funds to shore up an economy that has been badly battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

IN OTHER NEWS

TAIWAN PAVES WAY FOR US TRADE DEAL BY EASING PORK, BEEF IMPORTS: Taiwan has eased restrictions on the import of US beef and pork, looking to boost ties with Washington by paving the way for a free trade deal at a time of tensions with China. President Tsai Ing-wen said the decision was in line with the country’s overall interests and its strategic development goals, and could boost Taiwan-US ties. Ms Tsai also said the decision had nothing to do with the upcoming US election. 

THOUSANDS ARRESTED FOR ‘CORONAVIRUS-RELATED CRIMES’ IN CHINA: Nearly 5,800 people have been arrested in China for epidemic-related crimes since January, according to the state prosecutor’s office. Among the cases is a shopper who beat another customer to death for not wearing a mask in a supermarket, a person who deliberately mowed down medical workers with a car, and another individual who stabbed a health inspector monitoring temperatures. 

MYANMAR’S MUSLIMS, HINDUS SIDELINED IN ELECTION: Minorities in Myanmar continue to face discrimination on matters related to citizenship, including being denied identity cards and foisted with false ethnic identities which render them ineligible to vote in the country’s upcoming election. The Buddhist-majority nation is widely expected to return Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy to power on Nov 8. 

That’s it for today. Hope today’s bulletin was interesting for you. Thanks for reading and we’ll be back with you tomorrow.

Arvind

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