In today’s bulletin: Biden signals days of ‘America First’ are over; China and Japan discuss restarting travel during Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Japan; Thai protesters target King’s wealth in demonstrations; global travel lobby eyes Covid passports to ease travel; Indonesian Fisheries Minister arrested, and more.
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Biden's picks for Cabinet signal that days of 'America First' are over
A change seems to be in the offing in America's dealings with the world, if President-elect Joe Biden's picks for the top foreign policy and national security jobs are any indication. The nominations signal that the days of America First are over and the United States will take up the mantle of global leadership again, writes US Correspondent Charissa Yong.
Mr Biden alluded to this in his interview with NBC, that was aired after he introduced six top officials he wants in his Cabinet on Tuesday. "America's back. We're at the head of the table once again," he said.
The list includes his nominee for Secretary of State Antony Blinken, 58, who is known for his belief in the US' alliances. He is seen to be a centrist but has also supported intervention - for example in Libya and Syria, writes US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh.
Others who will join President Biden's Cabinet include Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden's former adviser when he was Vice President, for National Security Adviser; former diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield for Ambassador to the United Nations, and former US Secretary of State John Kerry for Special Presidential Envoy on Climate, who if confirmed would be America's first full-time climate change tsar.
Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan: Issues facing Biden's foreign policy duo
Japan and China to restart business travel
Top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi's visit to Japan will see the two countries restarting business travel this month. Both sides also reached an agreement to continue talks on disputed isles in the East China Sea.
China's Foreign Minister met his Japanese counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi, while in Tokyo, in the first high-level meeting between the two countries since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took over in September.
The visit comes amid concerns about China's growing influence in the region and Japan's moves to strengthen its existing alliances. Mr Wang was due to fly to South Korea after Japan.
Thai protesters target King's wealth
Pro-democracy protesters sought to amplify their demands by planning a rally outside the office of Siam Commercial Bank, the nation's most valuable lender, after they were denied permission to demonstrate near the Crown Property Bureau.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn is the biggest shareholder of Siam Commercial Bank and the protesters are pushing for more transparency and accountability from the monarchy.
The King's wealth has become a key focus after legal changes in 2016 gave him the power to put his name on the assets of Crown Property Bureau, which included holdings of prime properties in Bangkok and shares in major listed companies.
Rude language against Thai monarchy? People are just venting, says young key protest leader by Tan Hui Yee, Indochina Bureau Chief
Covid passports to revive international travel
International aviation lobby group IATA is working on a new mobile app-based Covid passport to allow people to resume travelling.
This will display test results, proof of inoculation and will link to an electronic copy of the holder's passport. The International Air Transport Association said it will also list national entry rules and details of the nearest labs.
A test programme is due to begin with British Airways parent IAG this year, before it is ready for Apple's devices in the first quarter of 2021 and Android from April. Travellers will be able to share their status with border authorities or present a QR code for scanning.
Indonesian fisheries minister arrested
Indonesia's graft busters - the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) - arrested the country's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Edhy Prabowo for alleged corruption in a decision to lift a ban on lobster larvae exports.
The Minister and several others were arrested in the early hours of Wednesday at the country’s main Soekarno-Hatta international airport in Jakarta, local media reported. His arrest was the latest in a series of high-profile detentions by the KPK in recent years.
In other news...
HK leader emphasises stability:Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam emphasised that the government’s urgent priority was to restore the Chinese-ruled city’s constitutional order and its “political system from chaos”, in her annual policy address. She said the government will introduce a Bill to enhance “oath-taking” by civil servants and conduct widespread public education “to enhance the understanding of the rule of law”.
India bans 43 more Chinese apps: New Delhi banned 43 more Chinese apps including some from e-commerce giant Alibaba, saying they threatened its "sovereignty and integrity" as tensions remain high between the nuclear-armed neighbours following a deadly border clash. The latest tranche of banned apps include Alibaba's AliExpress, delivery service Lalamove as well as dating and live-streaming apps.
South Korean watchdog fines Facebook S$8.1m: A South Korean agency for protecting personal information fined Facebook 6.7 billion won (S$8.1 million) and sought a criminal investigation for providing users' personal information to other operators without consent.
Thanks for reading this newsletter & The Straits Times. We’ll be back with you with more on all that’s happening in this region, tomorrow.