Asian Insider Aug 21: F-16 fighter jets for Taiwan; China-Japan-S.Korea talks & Hong Kong

Asian Insider brings you insights into a fast-changing region from our network of correspondents.

In today’s bulletin: China blasts America's sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, China, Japan & S.Korea agree to support free trade for regional growth; updates on Hong Kong and more. 

Reading this on the web or know someone who might enjoy receiving Asian Insider? Our sign-up page is here.

RIPPLES IN AMERICA'S TIES WITH ASIA

America's ties with Asia seemed set for more choppy times after the US State Department approved a US$8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan, in a move that upset Beijing. China slammed the move and threatened to sanction firms involved in the sale. Washington's move comes amid continuing uncertainty on the future of discussions between US and China on the trade front.

Meanwhile, General David Berger, the commandant of the US Marine Corps shared his concern over potential cracks in America's alliances in Asia that will hinder Washington's ability to counter threats from North Korea, in particular, and China. Read our latest reports here: 

F-16 fighter jet sale to Taiwan 

China threatens sanctions on US firms linked to Taiwan warplanes sale

Cracks in Asian alliances a worry, says US commander 

CHINA, JAPAN, S.KOREA PLEDGE TO SUPPORT FREE TRADE

East Asia's three giants met in Beijing for the first time since 2016 and pledged to support free trade and maintain regional growth. The meeting is significant in many ways given continuing differences between the three countries - China, Japan and South Korea - on various fronts.

Things looked better on the China-Japan front on the eve of talks, with Japan saying it would step up efforts to prepare for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Japan next spring. However, this wasn't the case on the S. Korea-Japan front, with Seoul announcing that it will increase testing on food imported from Japan to rule out contamination from the tsunami damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. At the meeting in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Japan and South Korea to resolve their differences. 

Trilateral dialogue in Beijing 

Japan voices eagerness to work for Xi Jinping's possible visit

South Korea to increase radiation testing of Japanese food 

CHINA CONFIRMS DETENTION OF UK CONSULATE WORKER

China confirmed the detention of Simon Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen working for the UK consulate in the city, for 15 days on allegations of violating local law, raising fresh concerns about the security of diplomatic staff working on the island. Cheng had reportedly gone to Shenzhen for an Aug 8 meeting, but never returned. There's a lot more happening in Hong Kong and you might want to click below for further updates: 

Activist Joshua Wong says the loose structure of the leaderless protests in Hong Kong has its fair share of challenges. 

Gambling hub of Macau set to choose Beijing-backed leader

Crew describe climate of fear at Cathay Pacific after Hong Kong sackings

INDONESIA SCRAMBLES TO DEAL WITH INSURGENCY IN PAPUA

Indonesia deployed more than 1,000 troops amid mounting tensions in Papua, following the detention of dozens of Papuan students over the weekend. The area has a long history of resenting Indonesia's rule. 

Indonesia's Papua hit by fresh unrest as troops deployed

Indonesia's leaders scramble for dialogue with Papuans after riots break out

BEIJING'S 'DRAGON' BUILDING SOLD ONLINE

The impressive 40-storey Pangu Plaza, that is shaped like a modernist dragon, and rises next to the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium was sold online, in 24 hours. Two bids were received for the building. It featured briefly in the 2014 movie Transformers: Age of Extinction. 

Confiscated Beijing skyscraper sold via online auction

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

PYONGYANG'S WEAPON PLANS: An influential newspaper in North Korea said the country would continue developing and testing new weapons, days after the country tested projectiles off its east coast a short while ago. North Korea is scheduled to convene the second session of its top legislative body on Aug 29 and observers are keen to see if leader Kim Jong Un will talk about ties with Washington.

NO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN CHINA: China's Parliament has ruled out allowing same-sex marriage. A spokesman said only marriage between a man and a woman will be recognised. 

ROHINGYA REFUGEES - Human Rights Watch has urged Myanmar and Bangladesh to cancel Thursday's (Aug 22) plans to begin repatriating 3,454 Rohingya refugees from Bangladeshi camps back to Rakhine state, fearing for their security.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow,

Shefali