Asian Insider June 20: Xi's meeting with Kim; Carrie Lam's future

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

XI-KIM MEETING IN PYONGYANG

The show and tell began at the airport as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Pyongyang for a two-day meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un just before Xi is due to meet US President Donald Trump, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, to discuss trade.

Kim's welcome for Xi: The welcome signalled warmer ties between the two leaders. Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, greeted Xi at the airport. Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and officials who played prominent roles in recent nuclear talks with the United States were also on hand. The Chinese President was driven through the capital city in a convertible car and greeted warmly by the crowds on his way.

The bigger picture: China and North Korea have been working to improve bilateral ties, with Kim having visited China four times in the past year and Beijing calling for US sanctions to be eased. But will Xi bring up denuclearisation or even get Kim to agree to a third US-North Korea summit? The wait is on to know.

Letter diplomacy: To mark the first anniversary of the US-North Korea summit earlier this month, the North Korea leader sent a letter to Trump, who described it as "beautiful" but also complained that it lacked substance. Now Xi, who is the first Chinese President to visit North Korea in 14 years, penned a letter just ahead of his visit to North Korea, in which he hailed their "irreplaceable" friendship and offered to discuss a "grand plan" to bring stability to East Asia.

Go deeper:

North Korea's Kim Jong Un will seek China's mediation with the US during Xi Jinping's visit, says defector

China stays silent on G-20 Xi-Trump meeting, but says door open for talks

CARRIE LAM'S FUTURE

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam's government hadn't withdrawn the extradition Bill by the deadline set by some protesters earlier today, in a move that might trigger fresh demonstrations in the city.

When could that happen?: The Civil Human Rights Front, the organiser of the massive protest on Sunday that it said attracted about 2 million people, is gearing up for an annual pro-democracy march on July 1, the 22nd anniversary of the handover, from Britain to China in 1997.

What next?: ST's East Asia Editor Goh Sui Noi says Carrie Lam will serve out her full term of office but she would be leading a weakened government.

Go deeper:

Students warn of more unrest if HK leader ignores demands

Uncertainty may lead to outflow of funds from Hong Kong

ANWAR AIDE DENIES BEING MASTERMIND

Malaysia's sex video scandal is getting murkier. The political secretary to Malaysia's PM in waiting Anwar Ibrahim, Farhash Wafa Salvador has refuted allegations that he was behind the video purportedly featuring Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali having gay sex with his accuser Haziq Aziz, a deputy minister's aide. Our Malaysia Correspondent Hazlin Hassan has more in her story. Haziq, the accuser, meanwhile, has been sacked.

Why this matters? Anwar and Azmin lead rival factions within the Parti Keadilan Rakyat, a lead partner in the Pakatan Harapan coalition. The Economic Affairs Minister, 54, has denied having anything to do with his 27-year-old accuser. Still, his reputation has been tarnished and investigations are on.

HIMALAYAN GLACIERS ARE DISAPPEARING

Here's reason for more alarm over climate change:  Himalayan glaciers running from western Pakistan to central China, that feed rivers providing water for over a billion people, are melting way faster than before.

Numbers shock: The 650 glaciers under study in parts of China, India, Bhutan and Nepal reportedly melted at the rate of about 0.43m of water a year between 2000 and 2016, or twice as fast as they did between 1975 and 2000. About 13 per cent of the ice seen in 1975 disappeared by 2000. Another 15 per cent will disappear in the next 16 years.  

What this means: Temperatures in the region have been rising rapidly and millions are set to suffer as the phenomenon gathers momentum. Without mountain glaciers, droughts will be worse for people living downstream, researchers said.

Related story: Did you catch our El Nino special report? Audrey Tan, ST Environment Correspondent travelled to the Galapagos Islands - famous for the birthplace of Darwin's Theory of Evolution - a few weeks ago and filed this special report:

El Nino rocks the cradle of biodiversity

Go deeper:

ST's Climate of Change series

Melting ice sheets may cause 'climate chaos'

Greenland ice sheet melting faster than thought: Study

DRONES DELAY FLIGHTS AT CHANGI

Drones caused a bit of an annoyance at Changi yesterday. The appearance of unauthorised drones near the airport over two days led to 37 flights getting delayed and operations at one of the two runways being suspended. A multi-agency search and locate operation is on. Those found guilty face hefty fines.

This is not the first time drones have disrupted flights. Unauthorised drone activity near London's Gatwick Airport in December affected 1,000 flights and ruined travel plans for about 140,000 passengers.  

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Guess where people are living the longest? Singapore. The city state has topped the world in life expectancy in 2017 with an expected lifespan at birth of 84.8 years, surging ahead of traditional chart-topper Japan by more than half a year. The average Singaporean also enjoys the longest span of living in good health - 74.2 years.

Protesters in Bangkok dumped plastic waste in front of a government building to draw attention to the problem of trash being dumped by developed countries. The protest comes ahead of an Asean Summit due to take place over the weekend. Countries in Asean now receive more than a quarter of global plastic waste, most of which comes from developed economies like Canada, the US, Australia and Japan.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo is planning an unprecedented US$70-billion splurge on toll roads to help connect the most strung-out country on the planet.

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That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and we’ll be back with more tomorrow.

Shefali