Asian Insider Feb 28: Sometimes you have to walk

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

TRUMP-KIM II: NO DEAL

It is safe to say, coming into the second Trump-Kim summit, that most observers had very low expectations about what the two leaders would ultimately agree to. But few had predicted that the meeting would end in an impasse. Under normal diplomatic conventions, leaders would never be allowed to get into the same room with each other if a deal - no matter how small - was not already a foregone conclusion.

That the summit collapsed over a disagreement involving the lifting of sanctions in exchange for denuclearisation - arguably the most obvious stumbling block - raises all manner of questions about the preparations for this meeting, as well as the path forward. This was always going to be the sticking point and that it has been reached at just the second meeting leaves not all that much room for this relationship to be taken forward.

We seem to have reached the limit of the rapport the two men have with each other and it is unclear what can happen that will allow a third summit to take place. And that leaves everyone back at the primary concern of having the meetings in the first place: If you make a diplomatic gesture and diplomacy fails, what are the remaining options? There remains sound geopolitical reasons for the US to embrace North Korea and the Trump administration has promised this is not the end.

We shall just have to wait and see.

The full story: Trump-Kim summit cut short with no deal

Reaction: Experts weigh in on collapse of talks

The post-summit press conference: Trump says summit with Kim ended with no agreement over North Korea's demand to lift sanctions

INDIA-PAKISTAN TENSIONS

There were no further reported airstrikes over India or Pakistan today after yesterday’s dramatic escalation in hostilities - a sign that the two sides might yet avoid an ugly conflict. Indeed, both have successfully stepped back from the brink of conflict several times before but analysts had worried that this week’s encounters had been markedly more serious. After all, India has never previously responded to a terror attack with an airstrike.

It could still go either way but if there is one thing working in favour of peace, it is the fact that neither side could really use a conflict right now.

As India Correspondent Debarshi Dasgupta reports, the path forward will likely centre on the treatment of Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force pilot currently in Pakistan’s custody.

Analysis: India and Pakistan headed to war? The situation is fluid

Comment from Associate Editor Ravi Velloor: Wisdom called for as India, Pakistan push to edge of war

The information war: Propaganda and rumour-mongering swirl as India-Pakistan tensions rise

Immediate impact: Thousands face flight cancellations, delays for second day amid India-Pakistan tensions

FINTECH BOOM FUELED BY ASIA

2018 was a record year for fintech investment around the world, with much of that growth fueled by a surge of funding in Asia. A recent analysis from consulting firm Accenture found that the value of deals in China multiplied by nine times last year. It’s total investment in 2018 of US$25.5 billion was nearly as much as the US$26.7 billion sum total of fintech investments globally the year before.

The surge reflected strong enthusiasm as a whole for fintech, with investments spiking in nearly every market. In the UK - even with the uncertainty over Brexit looming - fintech investments rose 50 per cent. Elsewhere in Asia,  India, Australia, Japan and Singapore rounded up the top five markets for fintech investments, each one seeing at least double-digit growth. Analysts have not voiced any concerns about a bubble just yet, but there are doubts over whether the current pace of growth is sustainable.

The full story: Singapore fintech investments more than double to US$365m in 2018 amid global surge

CHINA'S BIGGEST POLITICAL GATHERING

A quick look-ahead to a significant event this weekend. China’s “lianghui”, it’s largest annual political gathering, begins on Sunday. Over the course of 10 days, the 2,000-member Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top political advisory body, and the  3,000-strong national parliament, the National People's Congress, will hold meetings to take stock of the year and make plans for the one to come. Trade and economic growth will likely be key topics at this year’s meet amid a tariff war with the US and a slowing domestic economy. But if you need any other reason to pay attention to lianghui, note this: At last year’s meeting, the government scrapped presidential term limits.

Our team in China give a peek at what’s to come: Beijing gets ready for biggest political gathering

AND FINALLY, A QUESTIONABLE RESURRECTION

Here’s some useful tips for anyone intending to bring someone back to life. First, make sure said person is dead. Or if you are intending to do this with a living person, make sure the funeral parlours you get the hearse and coffin from are in on your stunt. Read what happened when one pastor failed to follow these rules. South African pastor in hot water for 'dead' man resurrection stunt

IN OTHER NEWS:

- The end of the US-China trade war may throw up a surprise winner among Asia-Pacific currencies other than the yuan: the Singapore dollar.

-Malaysia's anti-graft agency has seized assets belonging to leaders of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) as it probes claims that the conservative Muslim party had received RM90 million (S$30 million) from former ruling party Umno to cooperate in last May's general election.

- Australian Cardinal George Pell's sex crime conviction is expected to unleash a flood of lawsuits by abuse victims who fear they were cheated by a compensation scheme set up by the disgraced cleric himself, lawyers said.

-Thousands of people rallied in Myanmar's commercial capital on Wednesday in support of constitutional reform, amid mounting tension between the ruling party and the military over changes to the charter that enshrines the army's role in politics.

-Thailand's Constitutional Court has said there is "sufficient" evidence to decide whether a political party that named King Maha Vajiralongkorn's sister as a prime minister candidate should be dissolved.

That’s it, thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

-J