Asian Insider, Oct 6: Mike Pompeo in Tokyo for meeting of Quad ministers; Singapore to negotiate more air travel bubbles

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In today’s bulletin: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo builds ties with Japan; Indonesians protest new jobs law; Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam defends punishment of teachers for pushing politics; Australia unveils new budget with record deficit to create jobs; Kim Jong Un calls for 80-day campaign to meet goals, and more.

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POMPEO BUILDS TIES WITH JAPAN IN MEETING OF QUAD FOREIGN MINISTERS

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hailed Japanese premier Yoshihide Suga as a "force for good" and agreed with him that a free and open Indo-Pacific was the foundation of regional peace and stability.

Mr Pompeo is in Japan for the Quad grouping of foreign ministers - from the US, Japan, Australia and India - and it comes during a time when Washington's relations with China continues to decline, given differences over trade, tariffs and range of other issues.

Experts believe that his visit is also intended to send a signal to China, which has denounced the Quad as a bid to contain its development.

Also read: 

Pompeo visit shows strong US commitment to Asia, says top East Asia diplomat David Stilwell

INDONESIANS PROTEST JOKOWI'S JOB CREATION BILL

Hundreds of Indonesian workers took to the streets today to protest President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's new jobs law that the government says is vital to attract investments.

The move, passed by Parliament on Monday, seeks to revise over 70 existing laws to speed up economic reforms. But workers and trade unions fear it will affect their employment prospects.

The new law removes the three-year maximum duration of contracts and cuts severance benefits, among other changes.

HONG KONG'S CARRIE LAM DEFENDS PUNISHMENT OF TEACHERS FOR PUSHING POLITICS

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has defended the Education Bureau's decision to deregister a primary school teacher accused of giving students worksheets about freedom of speech and independence.

Mrs Lam told the media that she was obliged to protect students from being drawn into the political disputes that have fuelled a historic wave of unrest in the city.

The move is the latest in a series of disputes over the island's education system. Meanwhile, the Professional Teachers' Union has said that it would help the teacher appeal the decision.

Also read:

Carrie Lam hails ‘return to peace’ in Hong Kong

AUSTRALIA UNVEILS PANDEMIC BUDGET WITH RECORD DEFICIT LEVELS TO BOOST JOBS

Australia unveiled a multi-pronged fiscal plan with billions of dollars worth of tax cuts and wage subsidies for younger workers to revive its economy, knocked by the pandemic, and increase employment opportunities for tens of thousands of people. 

The move will take the country's budget deficit to levels unseen in peacetime. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told Parliament today that the underlying cash deficit will swell to A$213.7 billion (S$208 billion), or 11 per cent of gross domestic product, in the 12 months through June 2021

"This is a once-in-a-century shock that requires an unprecedented level of support," he said in budget papers.

Delve deeper: 

Australia enters recession after three decades of growth

KIM LAUNCHES 80-DAY CAMPAIGN TO ATTAIN GOALS

Kim Jong Un, leader of economically distressed North Korea has initiated an 80-day campaign to realise the country's goals before the country embarks on a new five-year plan in January, 2021. This is part of his efforts to make the country self-reliant.

Meanwhile, security officials are watching to see if Pyongyang will unveil new weapons or test fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Oct 10, the 75th anniversary of the ruling workers party.

IN OTHER NEWS

SINGAPORE TO NEGOTIATE AIR TRAVEL BUBBLES WITH MORE COUNTRIES: The Republic will negotiate Air Travel Bubbles with safe countries or regions - an arrangement meant for general travellers that does not require a controlled itinerary, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said today. These would in addition to other measures like unilaterally lifting border restrictions and form part of Singapore's plans to revive its air hub status. 

MALAYSIA'S FORMER SPY CHIEF ACCUSED OF MISUSE OF FUNDS: Malaysia's former spy chief Hasanah Abdul Hamid, who is on trial for criminal breach of trust, has been accused of spending US$12.1 million (S$16.5 million) to buy six luxury watches using funds contributed to the government, public prosecutors said today as her trial began. 

AFGHANS FEAR TALEBAN RETURN: Almost two decades after the United States launched what would become its longest-ever war with air strikes on Afghanistan's ruling Taleban regime, the hardline group is in a stronger position than ever and is pushing for a return to power, having signed a landmark troop withdrawal deal with Washington in February.

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading the Asian Insider newsletter. We’ll be back with you tomorrow. 

Shefali

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