Asian Insider Jan 31: Are we ready to accept North Korea as a nuclear power?


With a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un approaching, could the world be inching closer to accepting the North as a de facto nuclear power? US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh says that, increasingly, seems to be the realistic scenario rather than a ‘denuclearised’ North Korea. In turn, a realistic deal may see Pyongyang agree to freeze or partially roll back its Weapons of Mass Destruction, or the next-best option, agree to eliminate its intercontinental ballistic missiles, thus reducing the threat to the continental US.

With Japan and South Korea still vulnerable, the two may he tempted to develop their own nuclear weapons in order to achieve strategic balance.


Questions continue to swirl about the data leak in Singapore of HIV-positive people. Security Editor Kor Kian Beng says the issues involve whether the matter had been handled appropriately, if enough was done to spread the further malicious spread of the information and why the Singapore government only chose to reveal the leak this Monday, when suspicious about the leak emerged as early as 2012.

Meanwhile, Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, the 34-year-old American at the centre of the scandal and the alleged source of the data leak, was arrested in Clark County, Kentucky, for criminal trespass at what is believed to be his mother’s house. Brochez, who lived in Singapore since January 2008, was jailed 28 months for forging his qualifications and for lying about his HIV status. He was deported from the island last April. The Singaporean doctor who was Brochez’s partner  will stand trial for drug-related charges on May 29. The date of a trial for Official Secrets Act (OSA)  offences has not been fixed yet.

Complete coverage on the HIV data leak here.

- What you need to know about the case

- Love, lies, leak: Timeline of HIV Registry data breach


Clad in an Indian sari, Chanda Kochchar used to be an unmissable sight at the WEF’s annual meeting in Davos during her years as CEO and Managing Director of ICICI Bank, once India’s top private lender. But two years of controversy about cosy dealings has laid the iconic banker low. After appearing to have won board support to continue in her role, Kochchar has been fired by the ICICI board with retroactive effect, reports the Times of India. The paper said she will need to repay 100 million Rupees (US$1.4 million) received as bonus since 2009, as well as forego stock options currently valued at 3.46 billion rupees. The move follows a report by a retired Supreme Court judge who apparently upheld allegations that she violated the bank’s lending codes when ICICI loaned money to Videocon Group, an electronics company. Kochchar had been on ‘leave’ since last June pending the inquiry, and resigned her position in October.

Kochchar, the first woman to lead an Indian bank, was quoted as saying she was “disappointed, hurt and shocked” by the decision.


Good news for air travellers to Tokyo - now, airlines can plan more flights to Haneda Airport, rather than to the more-distant Narita. That’s because Japan and the US have reached a basic agreement on the use of new routes for commercial flights in the U.S. military-controlled airspace over part of Tokyo and its surrounding areas, Kyodo reported. With this agreement, arrival and departure slots for international flights at Tokyo’s Haneda airport are expected to expand by half from the current 60,000 annually, Kyodo said. The airspace west of Haneda has been managed by US forces at Yokota Air Base since World War II and overflight restrictions forced carriers to go elsewhere or fly prescribed altitudes, inconveniencing them. Since the new routes will be set over central Tokyo, some residents are concerned about excessive noise and potential safety risks, Kyodo noted.


Indonesian Muslims are taking a long look at their Air Max Nike’s and some are not liking what they see. In the world’s largest  nation of Muslims, many have lambasted Nike for selling the Air Max with a design on its sole that some think looks like the Arabic word for "Allah".The outrage began when a customer noticed the trademark and launched an online petition, demanding that the company remove the popular shoe from its worldwide market. Some 16,000 have signed it.

Nike denied allegations it intentionally insulted the Muslim community, saying the logo was a "stylised representation of Nike's Air Max trademark" and had no religious significance.

That’s it for today, folks.

- Ravi Velloor


- Malaysia on Thursday installed the sports-loving Sultan of Pahang, Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin, as the country’s new King after the last monarch abdicated in a historic first following his reported marriage to a former Russian beauty queen.

- Indonesia is battling a severe outbreak of deadly dengue, a mosquito-borne disease. More than 13,000 cases have been reported in January, twice that of the matching month last year and 133 have died, three times the fatalities recorded in January, 2018.

- The 3-metre long python caught in front of Tang Plaza, a fashionable mall in Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping district, has drawn a lot of reactions. Experts said it was probably hunting for rats in the sewers below. Our star illustrator Dengcoy Miel had another explanation, however..

"The fallen blossom does not return to the branch - Japanese proverb"