Friday, August 19, 2016

Hard Feelings, Burnt Fingers

Long Tan: Half a century on, a battle memory interrupts Australia-Vietnam friendship - Helen Clark, Lowy Interpreter
The shock caused by the late cancellation reached the highest levels with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling his counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, for an explanation. It seems now that small groups will be allowed into Long Tan, in an orderly manner. For a long time now it has been this way; military uniforms (save for our military attache from the embassy in Hanoi), medals, flags have long been disallowed. 
The controversy is unfortunate for veterans and their families and for all those who worked so hard for the event. The abrupt announcement so close to the event was undoubtedly poor management. However we don't who made the call. Was it the local government in Ba Ria-Vung Tau or the national administration in Hanoi? And, more importantly, why? 
The Australian media has mentioned local sensitivities and fears that the event had simply become too big. It’s important to remember that hundreds of Vietnamese were killed in this battle, which was part of a war that divided a nation. The battle of Long Tan and its commemoration by Australians has long been sensitive locally.

International Financial Community Grows Leery of Malaysia - John Berthelsen, Asia Sentinel
“The downgrade will certainly worry bankers especially, all for the right reasons because how much more blue-chip can you get than Petronas?” asked a Malaysian businessman who asked not to be named. Another source pointed out that Petronas is usually higher ranked than sovereign IDRs “so what does it all mean for the broader economy?” 
Both described a global financial system that is tightening informally on Malaysian international depositors as bankers apparently grow increasingly distrustful. However, other than a bland report of the Fitch action, there has been no reporting in the local press of the implications of the report. 
“It’s next to impossible for a Malaysian – especially non businessmen – to open an account in the UK or Europe for children staying there,” said one. “Now, over the past several weeks, even Singapore, where you could walk in and open an account, has tightened screws and a Malaysian would have to jump through fifty hoops to open one.”

North Korea Defector Thae Yong Ho among trusted elite - AFP story in The Straits Times

Prior to his defection, Mr Thae had worked at the embassy for 10 years - an unusually lengthy period of time in such a high-profile posting. Overseas diplomats are generally recalled to Pyongyang every three or four years and undergo a period of "re-education" before being posted abroad again. 
Mr Thae's defection was also eased by having his wife and children with him. Some diplomats have to leave family members in the North, precisely to deter flight impulses..."All of this suggests he had impeccable credentials and must have been considered very loyal and trustworthy in Pyongyang," Prof Yang added. 
According to South Korean media reports, both Thae and his wife were of blue-blooded North Korean revolutionary stock. Thae's late father was believed to be a four-star general Thae Pyong Ryol, who fought with North Korea's founder leader Kim Il Sung against Japanese colonial forces, the Yonhap news agency reported. And his wife Oh Hae-Son was also related to a senior ranking member of the anti-Japanese guerrilla campaign, Oh Baek-Ryong.

Can Russia be a leader in East Asian economic integration? - Ekaterina Koldunova, East Asia Forum
...Russia is still facing several structural challenges in expanding its stance in regional multilateralism. Some positive measures are already in place. For example in the Russian Far East, a special business and visa-free regime for Vladivostok and territories of advanced socio-economic development in other parts of the Far East are making this underdeveloped Russian region more attractive for domestic and foreign investors. But Russia still has a long way to go to bring the Far Eastern business climate and economic conditions to a level comparable with Russia’s more eastern regional counterparts.

Internationally, Russia has to find a way to reconcile its Eurasian integration project with a Chinese vision of the region’s further development embodied in the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative. Russia also needs to find a way of better coordinating with China in regional institutions where China enjoys a stronger economic position without alienating other counterparts, like ASEAN member states.

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