28 December 2023- 02 January 2024

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28 December 2023- 02 January 2024
NIAS- CEAP- China Reader | Daily Briefs

  CEAP Team

2 JANUARY 2023
China 
External power supply project of Chizhou-Huangshan Railway to be completed in E China's Anhui
On 1 January, the 220kV external power supply project of Huangshanxi Traction Station of Chizhou-Huangshan Railway will be completed in east China's Anhui Province in early January 2024. Chizhou-Huangshan Railway is an integral part of the railway from Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province to Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province. After the completion and commissioning of the Chizhou-Huangshan railway, it will become a vital tourism route connecting Jiuhua Mountain, Huangshan Mountain, Taiping Lake, and other tourist attractions, which is of great significance for promoting the economic and social development along the route. (“External power supply project of Chizhou-Huangshan Railway to be completed in E China's Anhui,” XinhuaNet, 01 January 2024)

China’s cadre urged to connect with the masses as part of education campaign, but some question its methods
On 2 January, the provincial party head visited the neighbourhood after hearing complaints about water quality issues in the southern province of Hefei. This visit by Anhui province’s Communist Party secretary, Han Jun, is a part of President Xi Jinping’s policy of connecting with the masses. According to the Anhua Daily, Han’s unannounced visit indicates that the senior cadres should “put people’s interest first” to address their grievances. This idea was promoted by Xi 35 years ago when he became the party chief of the Ningde city in the southeastern province of Fujian. However, some question the effectiveness of the methods and the education campaign. Some refer to these actions as publicity stunts or political shows. According to Wu, assessing the campaign's authenticity is difficult without independent studies or public polls. (Ray Jia, “China’s cadre urged to connect with the masses as part of the education campaign, but some question its methods,” SCMP, 2 January 2024)

China and East Asia 
Imposed Sedition charges on Hong Kong media tycoon, pleads not guilty
On 2 January, Aljazeera reported that Hong Kong media magnate Jimmy Lai had entered a not guilty plea to his charges of conspiracy to collusion with foreign powers under the China-imposed security law and to publish sedition under a colonial-era sedition law. Since December 2020, he has been in prison for these charges. Lead Prosecutor Anthony Chau labelled in the court that Lai is a mastermind, as he used his media business as a medium to pursue his political agenda and coordinated a plot with the Stand with Hong Kong Fight for Freedom organisation, which promotes democracy and freedom. The prosecution referred to 161 publications of Lai-owned Apple Daily between April 2019 and June 2021 to find examples of seditious publications. Lai was also charged with providing instructions and financial assistance for SWHK to lobby foreign countries for sanctions, including the UK, the United States, Australia, Japan, and Portugal. Instead of a Jury, the trial is heard by three specially selected security law judges and scheduled to continue for eighty days. (“Jimmy Lai pleads not guilty to national security, sedition charges,” Aljazeera, 2 January 2024)

China and Taiwan
China calls on Taiwan’s people to promote ‘peaceful reunification’
On 2 January, the head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office called on Taiwan’s people to promote the “peaceful reunification” process, saying that it is the common desire of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Mr Song Tao’s message came less than two weeks before the Taiwanese presidential and parliamentary elections and immediately after President Xi Jinping’s New Year speech. Mr Song reiterated China’s support for “one country, two systems” and opposition to Taiwan’s opposition to Taiwan’s formal independence stance and external intervention. The ruling party, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the opposition party, Kuomintang (KMT), say that only Taiwan’s people can decide their future. (“China calls on Taiwan’s people to promote ‘peaceful reunification’,” The Straits Times, 02 January 2024)

China and Southeast Asia
Thailand: Upgrade in relationship between two countries with visa exemptions
On 2 January, Reuters reported that Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said Thailand and China will permanently waive visa requirements for each other's citizens from March. Despite being the second largest South-east Asian economy, Thailand relies heavily on tourism. In September of last year Thailand waived entry requirements for Chinese tourists until February this year. Chinese foreign ministry said both countries were enhancing people-to-people exchanges by mutually exempting the visa requirements. In 2023, Thailand welcomed 2.8 million foreign tourists, slightly above its target, generating 1.2 trillion baht ($34.93 billion) of revenue, sitting just below Malaysia which had 4.5 million visitors.("Thailand, China to waive visas for each other's citizens from March," Reuters, 2 January 2023)

China and South Asia
China: Sri Lanka bans Chinese research vessels from entering its ports
On 2 January, Firstpost cited a Hindustan Times report that said, Sri Lanka has conveyed to India that it will not allow any Chinese research vessel to enter its ports or conduct operations within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for a duration of one year. The move comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging President Ranil Wickremesinghe to respect Indian strategic and security concerns during their meeting on 21 July, 2023. The scientific research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 from China, originally slated for “deep water exploration” in the southern Indian Ocean from January 5, 2024, until late May, will now not receive clearance from Sri Lankan authorities. In 2023, at least 25 Chinese ships, including PLA warships, submarines, ballistic missile trackers, and research vessels, had operated in the IOR, causing concern for India and the US. Since 2019, a total of 48 Chinese scientific research vessels have been deployed in the IOR, with their primary areas of activity near the east and west coastlines of India and in the deep Indian Ocean.("Sri Lanka bans Chinese research vessels from entering its ports for one year: Report," Firstpost, 1 January 2024)

East Asia
We won’t seek reunification with South Korea, says North Korea
On 1 January,  KCNA news agency reported a declaration by Kim Jong-un saying, North Korea would not look for reunification with South Korea, and the relations had turned into a relationship between two hostile countries. Kim added that if the U.S. and South Korea try for a military confrontation with Pyongyang, our nuclear war deterrent will not stand back in taking serious actions. Following last week’s KCNA report on Kim’s instructions for military readiness and the statement saying the Korean Peninsula is moving towards an armed conflict, these comments on reunification are significant, as Kim has been increasingly moving away from inter-Korean relations in recent years, according to CNN’s report. On 31 December KCNA stated that North Korea plans to launch three additional reconnaissance satellites in 2024, as the first launch in 2023 was successful. It will promote the development in the space science and technology domain of North Korea. (Heather Chen and Yoonjung Seo,North Korea says it will no longer seek reunification with South Korea, will launch new spy satellites in 2024,” CNN, 01 January 2024)

Kim Jong Un declares end to reunification pursuit with South Korea 
On 1 January, according to CNN, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an end to seeking reconciliation and reunification with South Korea, stating that inter-Korean relations have become those "between two hostile countries and two belligerents at war." Kim emphasized that it is time to acknowledge the reality of the relationship and clarified that North Korea would not deal with those who declare them as the "main enemy" and seek opportunities for regime collapse and unification by absorption. The declaration comes as North Korea vows to put three new military spy satellites into orbit in 2024. Kim warned that if the US and South Korea attempt a military confrontation, North Korea's "nuclear war deterrent will not hesitate to take serious action." Analysts see Kim's comments as significant, marking a departure from inter-Korean relations and signalling a focus on strategic alliances with China and Russia. (Heather Chen and Yoon-Jung Seo, North Korea says it will no longer seek reunification with South Korea, will launch new spy satellites in 2024,” CNN, 1 January 2024) 

Jimmy Lai pleads not guilty in National security law trial 
On 2 January, according to Aljazeera, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai pleaded not guilty to charges under the territory's national security law, marking one of the most prominent trials under the law imposed by China in 2020. Lai, 76, faces two counts of "conspiracy to collude with foreign forces" and "conspiracy to publish seditious publications." He has been in prison since December 2020. Lai, a vocal critic of Beijing, founded the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper. Other defendants in the case include three Apple Daily companies, six former executives of the newspaper, and two activists linked to the Stand with Hong Kong Fight for Freedom group. The trial, set to last 80 days, is being heard by three specially selected security law judges, with no jury. (“Jimmy Lai pleads not guilty to national security, sedition charges," Aljazeera, 2 January 2024) 

Australia's East prepares for flooding due to heavy rain; Gold Coast hit hard
On 1 Junauray 2023, Heavy rain pounded parts of Australia's east on Jan 1, causing flash flooding, road inundation, and further distress for residents still recovering from intense thunderstorms over the Christmas holidays. The north-eastern New South Wales and south-eastern Queensland regions experienced a wild weather system, receiving nearly a month's rainfall in 24 hours. The Bureau of Meteorology forecasted more heavy rain until Jan 2, with expected totals surpassing 250mm, exceeding the January average. Forecaster Ms Miriam Bradbury warned of the dangerous and dynamic situation, emphasizing the risk of life-threatening flash flooding, particularly with thunderstorms. The Gold Coast in Queensland, a popular tourist spot, was severely affected, with videos on social media showing vehicles stranded in flooded roads and low-lying areas submerged. Gold Coast City Mayor Tom Tate urged residents to stay home if possible. Thousands of Queensland residents remain powerless from previous thunderstorms, and the latest storms may further delay reconnection efforts. Rescuers saved a family of four stranded by flooding in a caravan park in northern New South Wales. (“Heavy rain lashes storm-hit Australia’s east,” The Straits Times, 1 January 2024)

Southeast Asia
Rohingya refugees arrive in Indonesia after weeks at sea 
On 1 January, South China Morning Post reported that approximately 150 Rohingya refugees, including women and children, arrived on Karang Gadih beach in Indonesia's North Sumatra province after weeks at sea. The group, consisting of 53 men, 39 women, and 55 children, arrived on a leaky wooden boat from Bangladesh. Residents provided food and water to the refugees, but there is resistance to accepting them in local communities. Last week, a mob of Indonesian students attacked a site in Banda Aceh, where 137 Rohingya were taking shelter. The incident prompted outrage from human rights groups and the UN refugee agency. Indonesia has urged the international community for assistanceas it faces a rise in Rohingya refugees leaving overcrowded camps in Bangladesh. (“Indonesia residents remain hostile against Rohingya refugees as more arrive – ‘only bring problems later’,” South China Morning Post, 1 January 2024) 

 


1 JANUARY 2024
CHINA  
Scientists explore lethal potential of Kinetic energy weapons 
On 1 January, according to South China Morning Post, Chinese scientists conducted detailed tests on the damage capability of kinetic energy weapons against US military tanks, finding that a small, high-speed projectile weighing just 20kg could potentially disable a tank in one shot. The scientists conducted experiments and numerical simulations, concluding that a solid sphere, weighing 20kg and traveling at four times the speed of sound, could cause irreparable damage to the tank's inner workings, even if the exterior appeared unscathed. The research, led by Huang Jie of the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre’s Hypervelocity Aerodynamic Institute, highlights the vulnerability of traditional military hardware in the face of new weapons technology. The study underscores the potential of kinetic energy weapons to cause lethal damage, even with grazing contact, challenging the robustness of advanced tanks manufactured to US military standards. (Kinetic energy weapon can break an American tank apart with a single shot: Chinese study,” South China Morning Post, 1 January 2024) 

Xi Jinping affirms China's reunification in New year address 
On 1 January, according to Reuters Chinese President Xi Jinping stated in his New Year address that China would "surely be reunified," emphasizing the nation's goal of reunification with Taiwan. Xi's comments struck a stronger tone compared to the previous year, and they come less than two weeks before Taiwan's presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13. Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have been high, with China increasing military pressure to assert its sovereignty claims over Taiwan. While he did not mention military threats in his speech, the Chinese government has criticized Vice-President Lai Ching-te, the presidential candidate for Taiwan's ruling Democratic Party, as a dangerous separatist. Taiwan's government, led by President Tsai Ing-Wen, asserts that only the people of Taiwan can decide their future through democratic processes. (“China's Xi says 'reunification' with Taiwan is inevitable,” Reuters, 01 January 2024) 

China and Taiwan 
Taiwan's President Tsai Responds to Xi Jinping's Reunification Remarks 
On 1 January, Reuters reported that Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-Wen responded to Chinese president Xi Jinping's New Year's Eve remarks about the "inevitable" reunification of Taiwan with China. President Tsai emphasized that Taiwan's relations with China should be determined by the democratic will of the people, and peace should be based on "dignity." She highlighted the importance of democracy in making decisions about the island's future and called on China to respect the outcome of Taiwan's elections. Tsai also stressed the need for both sides to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. China has increased military pressure on Taiwan, viewing the upcoming elections as a choice between war and peace. President Tsai urged Taiwan's companies to diversify globally and warned against using trade and economic exchanges as political tools. (“Taiwan president says ties with China must be decided by will of the people,” Reuters, 1 January 2024) 

China and the World
Xi and Biden exchange New year messages on 45th anniversary of ties 
On 1 January, according to South China Morning Post Chinese president Xi Jinping and US president Joe Biden exchanged congratulatory messages on the 45th anniversary of their countries' diplomatic relations. The messages mark a positive start to the new year for Washington and Beijing amid efforts to restore relations that have been strained in recent years. The exchange follows Xi's meetings with North Korea's Kim Jong-un and Russia's Vladimir Putin. In his message, Xi has emphasized the historical significance of the 45 years of China-US relations and the importance of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence, and win-win cooperation. Biden expressed commitment to responsibly managing the relationship and building on progress made by their predecessors. Analysts see the exchange as a positive sign for bilateral relations in 2024. (Orange Wang and Seong Hyeon Choi, “China-US relations Xi Jinping and Joe Biden exchange greetings on 45th anniversary of ties,” South China Morning Post, 1 January 2024)

Southeast Asia
Pro-Democracy fighters retaking the aerial domain from Myanmar Junta through ‘drop bombs
On 30 December, a squad of Myanmar pro-democracy fighters worked intensively to ready drones for an attack on a nearby military base, which helped to turn the war against the junta. The leader of the drone unit of the Mandalay People’s Defence Force Soe Thuya Zaw said that the military position of the Junta is four Kilometres away from us but within our reach. The team stayed back as the drone called Bomber VIII flew above the trees, carrying a new six-kilogram explosive. After the drop bombs were released, the team counted two blasts and one failure. Myanmar Junta Chief Min Aung Hlaing has accepted that the impact of drones has forced the military to retreat from its positions. Soe Thuya stated that while military pilots are flying jets and attacking us, we are also trying to conquer the sky. In recent weeks, the drop bomb attacks carried across Myanmar have displaced the military troops from their positions, attacked domestic airports and also killed a Brigadier-General near the China border. (“High-impact ‘drop bombs’ retaking the sky from Myanmar junta,” The Straits Times, 30 December, 2023)

East Asia
In the first half of 2024, South Korea and the US will strengthen the extended deterrence regime, says Yoon
On 1 January, in a New Year’s Day address, the President of South Korea Yoon Suk Yeol said that by the first half of 2024, South Korea and the United States would achieve a strengthened “extended deterrence” regime to fence off North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. In December, in the second South Korea and The U.S. Nuclear Consultative Group meeting, the two allies decided to complete a set of guidelines for a cooperated nuclear strategy by the middle of 2024. Extended Deterrence means the commitment of the US to defend an ally with all its military capabilities. Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un, days after the test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile, stated that the launch is the option he would take when Washington makes a wrong decision. A large part of Yoon’s address is on economic issues which made a difficult year for people. (Yonhap, “Yoon says S. Korea, US will complete strengthened extended deterrence regime in first half of 2024,” The Korea Herald, 1 January, 2024)

Japan launches revamped NISA program to boost investment
On 1 January, Japan upgraded its NISA tax-free stock investment program for individuals to boost investments over savings in the equities market. The new program is to expand annual investment limits and extend the tax-exempt period to an indefinite term. The restructured framework allows an overall annual investment of up to 3.6 million yen subject to tax exemptions, which is 2.4 million yen higher than the previous plan. In addition, it allows individuals to hold up to 18 million yen using their NISA accounts. According to The Japan Times, the reform reflects "the new form of capitalism" advocated by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as he aims to double financial assets held by Japanese households, which kept about half of their some 2.1 quadrillion yen (15 trillion USD) worth of assets in cash as of September. (Kyodo, “Revamped NISA program launched to spur investment wave in Japan,” The Japan Times, 1 January, 2024)

Japanese investors to sell UK rail assets
On 31 December, The Times newspaper reported that Japan’s Mitsubishi HC Capital intends to sell UK rail assets worth about 500 million Euro (637 million USD). To sell the investments it previously made under the Japan Infrastructure Initiative, the firm is bringing up advisors from Cantor Fitzgerald, the Times said without any identifying sources. The newspaper added that an auction is about to begin in the spring, where the firm may sell the East Midlands investment first as it holds the investment of 400 million Euro. The firm also holds a stake worth 75 million in the owner of the High Speed 1 rail line, said the Times. There is no decline from the Mitsubishi HC Capital and Cantor Fitzgerald to the comment from the Times.(Nishant Kumar, “Japanese Investors to Sell £500 Million of UK Rail Assets,” Bloomberg, 31 December, 2023)

South Korea begins its two-year term elected member of UNSC, pledged responsibility
On 1 January, South Korea began its two-year term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council, it pledged to play its role to contribute to international efforts in dealing with global challenges that deters peace and security. On 06 June 2023, South Korea won the UNSC non-permanent member seat with 180 votes from 192 member states. South Korea is serving a third time on the council as one of the ten elected members. The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release that the UNSC is facing difficulties due to the conflicts among the permanent members. As a result, the ten elected members need to come together to induce the permanent members and find a breakthrough. The Ministry added that South Korea will contribute to promoting the agenda related to the U.N. (Kim Seung-yeon, “S. Korea vows responsibility as elected UNSC member as 2-year term begins,” Yonhap News Agency, 1 January, 2024

The Korean Peninsula is approaching armed conflict, says Kim
On 1 January, KCNA stated that North Korea’s Leader Kim Jong-un urged the military for readiness, saying that the Korean Peninsula is approaching an armed conflict and a clash could occur anytime. On 31 December, during the meeting with major commanding officers of the KPA, Kim made these remarks analysing the nature of U.S. and other hostile forces’ military moves in that area. Referring to the acronym for the North’s official name KCNA stated that Kim said that the situation indicates the importance of further sharpening the treasured sword for safeguarding the security and peace of the DPRK and perfecting the army’s regular military response posture. Kim also stated that if the enemy opts for military confrontation and provocation against the DPRK, our army will deal a deadly blow to thoroughly annihilate them by mobilizing all the toughest means and potentialities without a moment's hesitation. (“N.K. leader says Korean Peninsula inching closer to armed conflict,” Yonhap News Agency, 1 January, 2024)

North Korea: Military advancements of Kim Jong Un
On 31 December, The Strait Times reported that North Korea aims to launch three spy satellites, produce military drones and advance its nuclear arsenal in 2024. North Korea Leader Kim Jong Un stated that United States policies have made war inevitable. He has ordered the military to respond to any attack with nuclear arms if required. Experts stated that North Korea seeks to maintain a campaign of military pressure to increase leverage during the US presidential elections scheduled in November 2024. US President Joe Biden stated that the United States is open to talks, but imposed sanctions on North Korea over banned missile tests. ("North Korea to launch new satellites, build drones as it warns war is inevitable," The Strait Times, 31 December 2023)

North Korea: Kim Jong Un declares war is inevitable
On 1 January, The Strait Times reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated that an armed confrontation on the Korean Peninsula was inevitable. Leader Kim Jong Un congratulated the senior military leaders at the ruling Workers Party headquarters. Kim Jong Un called for military mobilisation to counter the United States and South Korea if they choose military confrontation. ("North Korea’s Kim says armed conflict becoming reality because of US," The Strait Times, 1 January 2024) 

 

 

30 DECEMBER 2023
China
China’s state owned space company CASC completes all 48 Launch missions for 2023
On 30 December, as per Global Times, China’s state owned space company China Aerospace Science and Technology (CASC) successfully completed all 48 launch missions for 2023. According to the CASC’s official press release, CASC has sent more than 130 spacecraft into the pre-designated orbits in the 48 orbital launches, with the Long March rocket series carrying out 47 flight missions. The latest internet technology test satellite was launched on Saturday developed by the China Academy of Spacecraft Technology Corporation (CAST) by CASC. As per the space expert Pang Zhihao, China is achieving steady progress in its space program such as launch vehicles, manned spaceflight, etc., in 2023. (Deng Xiaoci, “China's state-owned space giant CASC completes all 48 launch missions for 2023 with a perfect success rate,” Global Times, 30 December 2023)

China welcomes other countries and companies to lay cables in water under China's jurisdiction: FM
On 28 December, the Chinese FM spokesperson Mao Ning welcomed other countries and telecommunications companies in laying international submarine cables in waters under China’s jurisdiction. These remarks came after the Financial Times accused the Chinese authorities for being slow in granting permits for the cables to be laid in the South China Sea. The FT also claims that the long approval and strict requirements has pushed companies to avoid the SCS. In this regard, Mao said that China will continue to work with the international community to strengthen bilateral, regional, and international dialogue, and cooperation, and to promote the construction of global information infrastructure such as submarine cables with a shared future. (“China welcomes other countries and companies to lay cables in water under China's jurisdiction: FM,” Global Times, 28 December 2023)

Xi Jinping calls for ethnic unity with new Xinjiang rules
On 29 December, China’s Xinjiang province will implement the nation's first rules for ethnic groups to mingle. These are all part of President Xi Jinping’s goals to forge one national unity. The ruling Communist Party has long been pushing assimilation policies to create a unified national identity, anchored on the culture of the majoritarian Han group. Such actions have raised eyebrows of the US and the western democracies on account of the human rights violations while Beijing denies the same. According to the official Xinjiang Daily, the new rules represent a stepping up of those policies and are the first of their kind. As per Mr Arfat Erkin, a Uighur activist, says that Beijing is shifting its policies from promotion to forced assimilation between the local and the settler population. (“Chinese President Xi’s call for ethnic unity gets boost with new Xinjiang rules,” The Straits Times, 29 December 2023)

Xi urges Chinese envoys to create ‘diplomatic iron army’
On 30 December, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged Chinese ambassadors to create a “diplomatic iron army” loyal to the Communist Party, indicating the revival of “wolf warrior” rhetoric as a sign of China’s increasingly assertive foreign policy. Xi remarks reminisce back to a more confrontational style of diplomacy since 2020, which had been less prominent in 2023 as China struggles to attract FDI for its sinking economy. China also faces diplomatic thaws with the US, the Philippines and Japan. Xi’s remarks come amid the recent removal of former foreign minister Qin Gang from his post. His remarks stressed the need for China to increase its influence internationally amid the western attempts to contain China. (“Xi urges Chinese envoys to create ‘diplomatic iron army’,” The Straits Times, 30 December 2023)

China appoints ex-navy chief Dong Jun as new defence minister
On 29 December, China named former navy chief Dong Jun as its new defence minister to replace the former defence minister which disappeared mysteriously. This appointment comes at a time when President Xi calls for making China a dominant world power, which has alarmed its neighbours. Before becoming the PLA’s navy chief in 2021, he was vice-commander of the East Sea Fleet, which focuses on  Taiwan. His appointment will make him engage with the US amid the growing risk of conflict over Taiwan and the South China Sea. (“China appoints ex-navy chief Dong Jun as new defence minister,” The Straits Times, 29 December 2023)

China and Taiwan
China accuses Taiwan of hyping military threat 
On 28 December, The Straits Times reported that China's Defence Ministry accused Taiwan of deliberately exaggerating a military threat from China to gain electoral advantage ahead of the island's upcoming elections. The accusations come as tensions escalate between China and Taiwan in the run-up to the January 13 presidential and parliamentary elections in Taiwan. China's Defence Ministry spokesperson, Wu Qian, accused Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of "hyping up" the military threat and using it as an electoral strategy. Taiwan, in turn, reported further Chinese military activities in the Taiwan Strait, detecting 12 Chinese military aircraft crossing or flying close to the waterway's median line. China has increased military pressure on Taiwan in recent years, viewing the DPP as separatists. The U.S. has sold arms to Taiwan, further straining relations between China and US, Wu Qian reiterated China's opposition to any official or military contact with Taiwan and accused the U.S. of manipulating the Taiwan issue, calling it a "dangerous gamble." 

East Asia 
South Korea: Government to initiate digital nomad visa
On 29 December, the Korea Herald reported that the South Korean government will initiate digital nomad visas to permit foreign nationals to reside in South Korea for two years while maintaining employment in their home country. The Justice Ministry stated that the initiative aims to facilitate smoother remote working and vacation for foreign nationals. The applicants must provide documents to prove an annual income of over USD 84.96 million. Foreign nationals currently possessing B-1, B-2 and C-3 visas are eligible to apply. South Korean embassies abroad are scheduled to initiate the application process. The South Korean government stated that it would assess the visa system before adopting it permanently. ("Korea to launch new ‘digital nomad’ visa on Jan. 1," The Korea Herald, 29 December 2023)

North Korea: Yongbyon nuclear reactor to be operational by Summer 2024
On 29 December, The Strait Times reported that North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility is expected to be fully operational by June 2024. UN atomic agency head Rafael Grossi stated that the reactor is capable of producing plutonium. South Korean Defence Minister Shin Wok-sik stated that the North Korean nuclear reactor is reported to currently be in trial operation. Additionally, Shin remarked that North Korea could potentially utilise this plutonium to produce tritium for hydrogen bombs. ("N. Korea’s new nuclear reactor likely fully operational next summer: Seoul," The Straits Times, 29 December 2023)

Japan: Foreign Ministry clashes with South Korea over military drills on disputed island
On 30 December, The Japan Times reported that the Japanese government has expressed disapproval over South Korean military drills near disputed islands. The disputed islands are called Takeshima by Japanese nationals and Dokodo by South Korean Nationals.  The Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau director general Hiroyuki Namazu stated that the drills conducted in December were unacceptable and extremely regrettable. Additionally, the Foreign Ministry claimed that the islands are an integral part of Japanese territory. ("Japan protests South Korean military drills near disputed islets," The Japan Times, 30 December 2023)

Japan: allows the export of lethal weapons-revised guidelines
On 22 December, the administration of Prime Minister Kishida Fumio revised and eased the guidelines on exports in defence, which allows the export of missiles and other finished lethal weapons to other countries. Following the decision to acquire counter-strike capabilities last year, this shift in export is significant for the nation’s defence-oriented policy. Tokyo has planned to transfer the Patriot Advanced Capabilities system, or an Air and Missile Defence system to Washington as per their request. On 26 December, in a press conference, Defence Minister of Japan Kihara Minoru stated that Tokyo will concentrate on the export of PAC-2 Guidance Enhanced Missile. The Ministry of Defence is also planning to export of PAC-3, Kihara added. (Takahashi Kosuke, “Japan Eases Rules on Lethal Weapon Exports,” The Diplomat, 29 December, 2023)

Japan: The third launch attempt of the H3 rocket is set for February
On 28 December, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency announced in a press release that the third launch of its next-generation H3 rocket is scheduled for 15thFebruary 2024, from the Southern Island of Tanegashima. The rocket will be installed with an instrument to check the performance of the rocket, along with two small secondary satellites. The first two attempts were taken early in 2023, which faced failure when the solid rocket boosters did not ignite in the first and were forced to self-destruct in the second. Though Japan is facing a series of space failures, this week they succeeded in placing its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon space probe into the moon’s orbit. (“Japan sets third launch attempt of next-generation H3 rocket for February,” The Straits Times, 28 December, 2023)

Southeast Asia
Myanmar: Rebels take flight- Homemade drones challenge Junta's grip
On 30 December, The Straits Times reported that Myanmar's pro-democracy fighters are taking to the skies in a wave of drone attacks challenging the junta's dominance. Using homemade "drop bombs" crafted by young engineers, they're forcing the military back from positions, hitting airports, and even taking down a brigadier-general. From cooking gunpowder in remote workshops to training female pilots, a new generation redefines the battlefield. Meanwhile, ethnic minority armed groups with decades of experience are joining the fight, hailing a "drone era" in Myanmar's revolution. Despite the limited range and constant risks, these sky-borne assaults mark a significant shift in power dynamics, leaving the junta scrambling to regain control. The battle for Myanmar's future soars to new heights, fueled by ingenuity and unwavering defiance. (“High-impact ‘drop bombs’ retaking the sky from Myanmar junta,” The Straits Times, 30 December 2023)

Indonesia: Navy escorts Rohingya boat out of waters, adding to Refugee Crisis
On 29 December, according to The Straits Times, An Indonesian Navy vessel near Weh Island, off Sumatra, intercepted a boat believed to be carrying Rohingya from Myanmar. The military ship escorted the ship until it was outside Indonesian waters. The number of Rohingya on the boat remains unknown. Over 1,500 Rohingya have arrived in Indonesia since November, facing hostility from locals. On 27 December, Indonesian students stormed a convention centre housing Rohingya in Aceh, demanding their deportation. Indonesia, not a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, has a history of accepting refugees but has also called on Myanmar to stop violence against Rohingya. The UNHCR expressed concern over the attack on the shelter. (Indonesia navy drives away boat carrying Rohingya,” The Straits Times, 29 December 2023)

Myanmar: Myanmar-Thailand Alliance targets online scams, Drug hotbed Myawaddy in focus 
On 28 December, According to The Straits Times, Myanmar authorities planned to crack down on online scam operations along the border with Thailand following discussions on military cooperation between the two nations. There has been a surge in scam compounds in Myanmar's borderlands, frequently operated by citizens from China and other countries who are compelled to deceive their fellow citizens. The junta has recently arrested scam ringleaders in a border enclave and deported numerous Chinese nationals as part of an effort to curb the multibillion-dollar industry. Myanmar's junta chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and Thailand's Lieutenant-General Jakkapong Janpengpen discussed joint efforts to eradicate online gambling and scams near Myawaddy on the Myanmar-Thai border. Myawaddy is under the control of a militia aligned with the military and is recognized for both drug production and engagement in online scam operations. The year 2023 saw over 120,000 individuals held captive in Myanmar's widespread network of scam compounds, according to a UN Human Rights Office report. Thai and Vietnamese citizens working in scam compounds in Laukkai, a town in northern Shan state, have been evacuated amid ongoing conflict. (“Myanmar junta to crack down on scam operations on Thai border,” The Straits Times, 28 December 2023)

 


29 DECEMBER 2023
China
Xi Jinping proposes ethnic unity regulations in the Xinjiang region
On 29 December, The Strait Times reported that China's ethnic unity rules will be implemented in the Xinjiang region. On 1 January, the Ili Kazakh prefecture is set to adopt measures including mixed housing, construction of parks and public areas. The measures are aimed at achieving 'zhonghua minzu' (one Chinese nation). The US and European governments have accused the Chinese government of human rights violations. The Chinese government has warned the officials of punishments for neglecting implementation of regulations. ("Chinese President Xi’s call for ethnic unity gets boost with new Xinjiang rules," The Strait Times, 29 December 2023)

China: Intends to speed up its recovery and to widen its domestic demand
On 27 December, the Parliament published an interim report on China’s 14th five-year plan, it says that China will try to widen its domestic demand, have a fast economic recovery and promote stable growth. On 26 December, the head of the state economic planning body Zheng Shanjie said in a meeting that, China will prioritise the restoration and expansion of consumption, stabilise bulk consumption and promote the consumption of services. He also said that China will accelerate reforms aimed at widening the country’s middle-income bracket and will deepen its market-oriented reforms and institutional opening up to boost development. To overcome the blockade on technology exports imposed by some countries, China will have to step up its development of high technology, he added. (“China aims to expand domestic demand, ensure speedy recovery,” Reuters, 27 December, 2023)
 

China and the world
Chinese Ministry of National Defense criticised the US, as maintaining a “cold war” mindset
On 28 December, a spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of National DefenseWu Qian said in a press conference that, the United States continues to strengthen its Asia-Pacific deployments, which are full of a Cold War mindset. Despite the video conference held a week before, on December 21 between U.S. General Charles Brown and Chinese General Liu Zhenli, in which both sides pledged to work toward restoring contacts to avoid miscalculations and misunderstandings, Beijing expects Washington to take concrete actions with equality and promote the development of the China-US military relationship, he added. Wu warned the U.S. not to interfere in Taiwan's affairs, including the supply of arms and he blamed the U.S. for the recent rising tensions in the South China Sea. (“China's military lashes out at US after breakthrough talks,” Reuters, 28 December, 2023)

East Asia
NIS claims North Korean interference in US and South Korea elections
On 29 December, The Strait Times reported that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) issued a statement regarding North Korea's influence during the American and South Korean election campaign scheduled in 2024. The NIS claimed that North Korea has launched military and cyber provocations to raise the profile of Leader Kim Jong Un. Additionally, the NIS remarked that Kim Jong Un has pledged to expand North Korea's nuclear arsenal. Kim Jong Un has termed the South Yoon Suk-yeol as a puppet traitor and challenged the military cooperation between US, South Korea and Japan. ("North Korea aims to shake up US and South Korea votes, spy agency says," The Straits Times, 29 December 2023)

Heatwaves and Storms across the  Austraila
On 29 December, The Strait Times reported that Australia is expected to experience intense heat waves across its northern and western region, while severe thunderstorms are expected in the eastern region. Authorities have placed total fire bans in several regions to address bushfire risks. The Bureau of Meteorology stated that hail, wind gusts more than 90 km h and heavy downpour are expected. Additionally, the Bureau of Meteorology stated that the storms were expected to east and not impact Sydney's New Year firework display. ("Australia braces for heatwave and thunderstorms on New Year’s holiday weekend," The Strait Times, 29 December 2023)

China and Southeast Asia
China refuses ignore the Philippines continuous provocation
On 28 December, China stated that it would not ignore the persistent provocation and harassment from the Philippines, amid the increased tensions in the South China Sea. Earlier this month, Manila accused the Chinese Coastguard and maritime militia of repeated fire of water canons at its resupply boats. But a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Defence Wu Qian called the accusation purely false hype and said that the Philippines' side used vessels that proactively rammed a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and intruded into seas close to a disputed area. Wu also said that China is often committed to resolving differences through dialogue, consultation and joint efforts to maintain maritime stability, but China will not turn a blind eye to the Philippines’ persistent provocation. He also urged the U.S. to stop meddling in the issues of the South China Sea, as they are found to be supporting the Philippines in antagonizing China. (“China says it won't turn a blind eye to Philippines' repeated 'provocations',” Reuters, 28 December, 2023)


28 DECEMBER 2023
China
China's state security ministry tries espionage attempts at Naval base
On 28 December, South China Morning Post reported that China's Ministry of State Security issued for the prevention of an alleged espionage attempt at a coastal naval base, claiming a foreign company rented a flat to film "trump card weaponry." The ministry, without naming the country involved, emphasized the importance of public vigilance, and urged citizens to report suspicions. The discovery resulted from a landlord's tip-off, who noticed an "eerie green light" in the rented house. The light emanated from video monitoring equipment used by foreign agents seeking intelligence from the naval base, engaged in crucial military tasks. While details such as the incident's time, location, and arrests were not provided, the ministry commended the landlord's contribution and stressed potential harm to China's security if the gathered information had been sent abroad. China has been vocal about perceived security threats from foreign nations, particularly the United States and its allies, prompting calls for intensified efforts to counter espionage, reinforced by a new counter-espionage law implemented in July. (Sylvie Zhuang, “Chinese security agencies appeal to public for tip-offs after claiming foreign spies were caught after suspicious landlord spotted mystery ‘green light’ in flat,” South China Morning Post, 28 December 2023)

China removes aerospace defence executives from political advisory body as part of the anti-corruption drive 
On 28 December, South China Morning Post reported that Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference announced the removal of  three top executives Wu Yansheng of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Liu Shiquan of China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco), and Wang Changqing of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation as part of their anti-corruption initiative. . The companies play crucial roles in China's aerospace and defence capabilities. Although no prior reports indicated investigations or falling out of favour, the move aligns with President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive. The aerospace and defence industry holds significance for technocrats in leadership, exemplified by three Politburo members with industry backgrounds. The announcement coincides with the sentencing of Hu Wenming, former head of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, to 13 years in prison and a USD700,000 fine for bribery and abuse of power. Hu, who oversaw the development of China's aircraft carriers, is added to the list of targeted officials in the  campaign against corruption. (Phoebe Zhang, “Beijing strips 3 aerospace-defence executives of political titles as China cracks down on corruption in crucial sector,” South China Morning Post, 28 December 2023)

China commemorates 130th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong's
On 26 December, Communist Party of China commemorated the 130th birth anniversary of Mao Zedong at a symposium presided over by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi highlighted Mao's contributions for national prosperity, rejuvenation, and people's happiness, his role in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, founding the CPC, and for establishing China as a socialist power. Emphasising Mao's historic contributions, Xi called for advancing the cause pioneered by him, framing it as a solemn historical responsibility for today's Communists. He  reiterated the mission to build a stronger China and rejuvenate the nation through Chinese modernization, urging the public to stay confident in history and grasp the historical initiative. Xi also affirmed the necessity of upholding the "one country, two systems" policy, promoting peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait, and preventing Taiwan's secession. Chinese modernization. (“CPC Central Committee holds symposium commemorating 130th anniversary of Mao's birth,” Xinhua Net, 26 December 2023)

Xi'an and Yinchuan cities of China issue a red alert due to heavy pollution
On 27 December, Xi'an and Yinchuan authorities of the two cities in north-western China, issued red alerts and implemented emergency measures to combat heavy pollution. These  included advising residents to stay indoors, limiting industrial production, and halting coal processing. The warnings come ahead of an expected period of dense haze and thick fog from 28-30 December. Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, initiated a red alert on December 27, anticipating serious pollution until 29 December. The measures include mandatory steps to reduce emissions, such as encouraging the use of public transport and implementing flexible work arrangements. Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia region, activated pollution reduction measures from 26 December, a

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