Asian Insider Dec 11: The looming tariff deadline, the cost of Indonesia’s forest fires, Aung San Suu Kyi

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

Hi,

In today's bulletin: Mixed signals are coming from the US and China over whether the December 15 deadline for a fresh round of tariffs will be postponed; the International Court of Justice is hearing opening arguments from both sides in the landmark case accusing Myanmar of genocide; the World Bank estimates the cost of Indonesian forest fires; and more...

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WILL NEW TARIFFS KICK IN ON DEC 15?

There is now no chance that the "phase one" trade deal between the US and China - which seemed imminent just two months ago - will now be ready before this Sunday's deadline for tariffs on US$160 billion worth of consumer items. However, whether or not they will actually kick in as planned remain up in the air with just days to go. While Chinese officials expect the tariff increase to be postponed to increase the chances of a deal being struck, White House officials have been sending mixed signals. Though US and China ties have been strained by a series of controversial Bills passed by US Congress in recent weeks, both sides are said to still be keen on an agreement. Letting the tariffs kick in, would spark retaliation from China and surely make any proposed deal, no matter how limited, much more difficult to reach.

Read more about what both sides have been saying in the lead up to Dec 15:

US, China working to delay Dec 15 tariffs: Report

Trump says China trade deal might have to wait for 2020 election

Chinese officials lash out at US over new legislation on Hong Kong, Xinjiang

OPENING ARGUMENTS IN MYANMAR GENOCIDE CASE

The International Court of Justice has been listening to opening arguments in a high-profile case on Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya Muslims. Gambia, which is bringing the case on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, yesterday urged the court to make Myanmar stop the "genocide of its own people". In response, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said today the case brought against her country was "incomplete and misleading". Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi herself have drawn global criticism for the military crackdown that expelled some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country two years ago.

Don't miss our special report on the plight of the Rohingya:

Rohingya refugee crisis: Inside Cox's Bazar, the world's largest refugee camp

INTERNATIONAL PANEL ADVISING HK POLICE WATCHDOG QUITS

An international panel - that included current and former police watchdog chiefs from around the world - announced today that it was stepping aside from its role advising Hong Kong's Independent Police Complaints Commission(IPCC). The departure is a blow to the Hong Kong government who had hired the panel in September to lend some credibility to the Hong Kong commission probe into police handling of protests. Protesters have long demanded a fully independent probe though the Hong Kong government has always insisted its own commission can perform the task. A month earlier, a leaked statement from the panel revealed that the experts considered the IPCC incapable of carrying out the investigation.

Find out what the panel had earlier said about police probe:

Hong Kong police watchdog unequipped to probe protest response, say experts

THE COST OF FOREST FIRES

US$5.2 billion: That's the price tag The World Bank has placed on the fierce forest fires that burned in Indonesia from June to October, and the resulting haze that blanketed the region. The report noted some startling statistics about the fallout from the fire - over 900,000 people reported respiratory illnesses, 12 airports halted operations, and 942,000ha of land were burned.

Read more: Forest fire emissions from Indonesia worse than from Amazon: EU

NEW ZEALAND VOLCANO UPDATE

The smoldering volcano on New Zealand's White Island remains too dangerous for rescuers to visit three days after the blast. Eight people remain unaccounted for, all assumed to have died on the island. The death toll as of Wednesday climbed to six, after a victim died in hospital, with authorities warning that the injuries many of 22 in hospital were critical. Authorities have, however, begun releasing the identities of confirmed victims.

Key updates on the New Zealand eruption:

Still too dangerous to go to volcano to remove bodies: New Zealand police

Focus turns to recovery, caring for the injured

Australian mother and daughter named as victims

How New Zealand's warning system for volcanoes works

IN OTHER NEWS

WORLD'S FIRST ELECTRIC PLANE: The world's first fully electric commercial aircraft took its inaugural test flight on Tuesday (Dec 10), taking off from the Canadian city of Vancouver where tall mountain peaks edge the Pacific Ocean.

USMCA: House Democrats and the White House announced a deal on a modified North American trade pact, handing President Donald Trump a major Capitol Hill win on Tuesday (Dec 10) on the same day that impeachment charges were announced against him.

WHO WAS BEHIND DRONE ATTACK? The UN has been unable to confirm Iranian involvement in a dramatic attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday (Dec 10).

UK HEADS TO THE POLLS: The people of Britain are going to the polls on Thursday (Dec 12) in a general election which will not only decide who will govern them for the next five years, but will also determine whether the nation stays or leaves the European Union, a decision affecting generations to come.

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

-Jeremy

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