Asian Insider May 10: China and North Korea to retaliate against US moves; fighting fake news in Singapore

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

US-CHINA TRADE WAR: IT’S ESCALATED!

China has said it "deeply regrets" the decision of the United States to increase tariffs on US$200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent and that it will have to take countermeasures. These have not been spelt out. But this is raising anxieties given the damaging implications of a trade war between the two economies. This is already showing its impact on stock market sentiment.

What's next?: Talks are to resume later today in the US (Friday, May 10) but it is anybody's guess as to where it could be headed.

What could China do? For now, it looks like China simply wants to talk to the US to resolve the dispute. Beijing's focus is likely to be on its own economy rather than hitting out at the US. Experts offer some insights into what it could do, but for now China has not specified.

What's the feedback in US? There seems to be much dismay. Our US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh says US exporters are bracing for more tariff hikes while our US Correspondent Charissa Yong says that the issue is that both Washington and Beijing can't be seen to be backing down. Read her article here.  

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Read more online:  

China's central bank adviser says US tariffs could cut GDP growth by 0.3 percentage points

China will fight back if US raises tariffs on imports

Deal or no deal, trade tensions will simmer

US-China ties: It’s not a clash of civilisation

US-NORTH KOREA RELATIONS: IT’S WORSENED!

North Korea's Kim Jong Un has ordered his military to boost its strike capability with a "full combat posture" after the United States seized one of North Korea's largest cargo ships carrying coal, as it approached US territorial waters in American Samoa, in violation of United Nations and US sanctions.

Why this is a big worry: Kim's call follows rising tensions with the US, with Washington refusing to lift sanctions on Pyongyang, which is severely impacting the North Korean economy even as the country prepares for a new advanced missile system. It also comes soon after North Korea fired two short-range missiles on Thursday and a series of projectiles on Saturday. The last time Kim did so was in November 2017.

What's Kim up to?: Analysts have been quoted in various reports as saying the North Korean leader wants to deploy an operational fleet of missiles that could be used in the opening hours of any war with the United States and South Korea.

So, chances for talks are over?: So far, both US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have said the latest missile tests would not stop talks. But then no date has been set. And a show of capabilities is not going to do any good.  

Meanwhile, things are not going very well for President Moon as he completes his second year, with the push to invigorate the economy not showing desired results. Read our South Korea Correspondent Chang May Choon's story on the double whammy he is facing.

Read more online:

North Korea fires two short-range missiles

Weapons tested by Pyongyang leader Kim Jong Un could strike deep into South Korea

Key dates in Pyongyang's weapons development programme

TRUTH MATTERS AND SINGAPORE'S PASSED A NEW LAW TO COMBAT ONLINE FALSEHOODS

Online falsehoods can have serious consequences. Singapore joins countries initiating legal measures to combat fake news. After several months of discussion, with different segments of society, and other experts, as well as a marathon two-hour debate in Parliament, the new Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill was passed this week.

The bigger picture: Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam summed it up: It is about shaping the kind of society that Singapore should be - one in which lies are kept out and there are honest debates among people based on truth and honour.

Read our exclusive interview with him here:

Shanmugam responds to key issues on fake news Bill

And concerns?: Many have been expressed. Singapore's responded.

Gain an insight here:

Fake news law does not stifle academic research

PHILIPPINE PRESIDENT DUTERTE'S CANDIDATES SEEN SWEEPING MIDTERM POLLS

Over 60 million Filipinos elect 12 senators, 297 district representatives and some 18,000 provincial, city and town officials in Philippine midterm polls on Monday, May 13. Past midterm elections had seen half of the Senate seats going to the ruling party, while the opposition and independents shared the rest, says our Philippines Correspondent Raul Dancel. But this time, Mr Duterte is guaranteed a landslide.

Read his full report here:

Philippine President Duterte's candidates seen sweeping midterm polls

WANT A READ ON ISSUES THAT MATTER IN ASIA?

Download our May issue of The Straits Times Asia Report magazine here.

WORLD’S FASTEST BULLET TRAIN IS HERE…..AND IT’S IN JAPAN

It wasn't a race but the Japanese have beaten the Chinese by building the world's fastest bullet train Alpha-X that can travel at a speed of 400kmh. It's scheduled to go into service in 2030. But the rail company that will operate it plans to begin test runs, hitting a speed of 360kmh - that would still be 10kmh faster than China's Fuxing Hao, which links Beijing and Shanghai.

One thing to note: Japan's not resting. It is building a new maglev line to start operations in 2027, that will travel mostly through deep tunnels, at a top speed of 505kmh!

Read more on fast trains:

High-speed rail can spur huge social innovation, says PM Abe

On the fast train from Hong Kong to Beijing

THE THINGS PEOPLE DO FOR FAME NOWADAYS!

A Chinese livestreamer tried eating a live octopus in front of the camera. The creature hit back. Want to see the video?

MEANWHILE, IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

Here are some more stories on what’s happening in the region:

Three Thais accused of insulting king have disappeared

Poor Pakistani women trafficked as 'brides' to China

China has stepped up efforts to infiltrate Taiwan, says President Tsai Ing-wen

Hope you’ve had a good week and will enjoy the coming weekend. Thanks for reading ST Asian Insider. We’ll connect again, on Monday.

Shefali