Asian Insider Feb 27: On the border between India and Pakistan, a rapid escalation

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

Tit-for-tat airstrikes

Let’s start with a quick recap of what both sides have said. A Pakistan military spokesman said two Indian Air Force planes had been shot down in its airspace in Kashmir and an Indian pilot had been captured. Pakistan also launched airstrikes on the Indian side of the border. It said, however, that this was not a retaliation for Indian strikes on Monday but a demonstration of their “right, will and capability of self-defence”.

Indian air force sources meanwhile rejected the Pakistani reports of downed aircraft and a captured pilot, stressing that all pilots have been accounted for.

What to make of all of this? To some analysts, this is 20 years of mutual provocation on the ground now taking to the air. Of critical importance now is the question of what both sides have been targeting with their strikes. It is one thing to strike a terror camp but something altogether different if civilian or military targets were hit. The two sides have left themselves some room to de-escalate, but not much.

The story so far : Air skirmish as Pakistani jets drop bombs in Kashmir, Islamabad claims to shoot down two Indian fighters

Monday’s strikes: Indian fighter aircraft hit terror camps in attack across de facto border with Pakistan

The terror attack that started it all: Kashmir car bomb kills 44; India demands Pakistan act against militants

What the fight is about: Decades of animosity between neighbours India and Pakistan

Markets react: Global stocks turn negative as India-Pakistan tensions worsen

Trump meets Kim, again

Since this is happening momentarily, let me just give you a quick timeline of what’s to come. At 6.30pm local time in Hanoi, US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un for the second time in eight months. After another heavily photographed handshake, they will have a one-on-one meeting before adjourning to a social dinner. The official summit-part of this will take place on Thursday although the White House has yet to furnish details.

That the meeting is taking place over two days and includes a private session is a sign of the rapport the two men seem to have. Mr Trump has spent far less time with leaders of actual US allies. None of this though can be taken as an indication of what the two men might agree to at the end, if anything.

Either way, with both men in town, Hanoi has come to a standstill. China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei and South Korea Correspondent Chang May Choon are on location and they tell us the Vietnamese are taking all the inconvenience the summit brings in stride - even if it means putting up with tanks on what was already very busy thoroughfares.

Reports from Hanoi: Tanks roll in, hotels fill up as thousands descend on Hanoi

Video: Hanoi gears up for the Trump Kim Summit

Our frequently updated photo gallery:  Trump-Kim summit 2019 in pictures

Click here for all the latest

GBA - pain or gain?

Experts have now had a week to mull over China’s ambitious Greater Bay Area plan that seeks to turn the region covering Hong Kong, Macau and nine other cities into an economic and innovation powerhouse akin to America’s San Francisco Bay Area. Their conclusion? Cities like Singapore will need to watch out.

With a combined population of 70 million and GDP of US$1.58 trillion, the region will be difficult to compete with in a whole range of fields. Hong Kong will have an edge over other financial hubs in the region just as Shenzhen looks set to be the premier tech hub in Asia.

As Hong Kong Correspondent Claire Huang reports, the one upside is that adjacent cities might be able to benefit from some of the spillover effects of the region’s growth.

The story: Greater Bay Area, greater HK-Singapore competition

South Korea's birth rate problem just got worse

Low birth rates are a problem that plague many of Asia’s developed or newly industrialised countries, with South Korea’s challenge particularly acute. Government data showed that its fertility rate hit 0.98 last year, well short of the 2.1 replacement rate needed to sustain its population. It is the first time it has dipped below one since such data has been collected there.

Like Japan and Singapore, South Korea has devoted a significant amount of resources to trying to boost birth rates. It has spent some 135 trillion won (US$120 billion) since 2005 providing subsidies to parents and has launched numerous campaigns to encourage young Koreans to have children. And like its Asian counterparts, nothing seems to have worked. The worsening problem is renewing conversations about whether life in Korea is too competitive for children and parents.

The story: South Korea's fertility rate drops below one for first tim

And finally, a big mini miracle

A happier story to cap off today.

This little baby boy was born in Tokyo at 24 weeks, just over the halfway mark of most pregnancies. At birth, he was just 268g, about the same weight as a large onion and not much bigger. Last week, he went home weighing a perfectly normal 3.238kg - becoming the smallest newborn ever to leave the hospital safely.

The story: Mini miracle: 'Record-breaking' premature baby leaves Tokyo hospital

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

-J

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