Asian Insider: US-Asia ties | Return to the skies

Dear ST reader,

We hope you’ve been keeping well. 

In our Asian Insider newsletter this week, we look at the United States’ continuing courtship of Asia as President Joe Biden visits Japan and South Korea in the coming days, after agreeing to upgrade ties with Asean countries last week. Meanwhile the air travel revival has begun, with industry insiders predicting a return to pre-pandemic levels by as early as 2023.

US steps up Asia courtship

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The US is stepping up its courtship of the region, pledging over S$200 million in programmes for Asean last week, ahead of President Joe Biden’s visit to key allies Japan and South Korea this week. In Tokyo, Mr Biden will also meet with the leaders of the Quad grouping which includes Australia, Japan and India, and is seen as a bulwark against China.

Amongst the issues discussed by leaders at the US-Asean summit were tensions in the South China Sea, their views of the Ukraine war and climate change cooperation, reports Charissa Yong from Washington. 

Meanwhile, it is not set in stone which way Philippines’ president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr will tilt in the US-China rivalry, writes Raul Dancel from Manila in the latest edition of Power Play.

Read more:

Pledges, not substantive action

Yoon’s foreign and domestic challenges


Flights take off

International air travel could return to pre-pandemic levels by 2023, with most of Asia opening up quickly and international passenger numbers rebounding, reports Clement Yong, ahead of the Changi Aviation Summit in Singapore. 

Watch news editor Karamjit Kaur’s interview with Willie Walsh, director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) where they discuss aviation’s recovery. 

And get travel ideas from our correspondents in ST’s First Flight Out series.


Election groundwork

Malaysia’s politicians are getting their houses in order, and raising their profiles, ahead of the next general election which is widely expected to be called this year. 

A televised debate between Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Najib Razak on whether to bail out an ailing oil and gas company turned into a showcase of their ideas for taking the country forward, writes Hazlin Hussein from Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile ruling party Umno voted to keep its office bearers in place until after the election, a move that preserves the peace for now, says Malaysia bureau chief Shannon Teoh. 

Indonesia’s oldest party Golkar too made moves ahead of the 2024 election, forming a coalition with two smaller parties in order to position its chief Airlangga Hartarto as a presidential candidate, reports Linda Yulisman from Jakarta.

Read more:

DAP’s brain drain 

Technocrat Zafrul eyes politics

Minister gets creative on Myanmar

Catch up on Malaysia news by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. 


Okinawa 50 years on

May 15 marked the 50th anniversary of the return of Okinawa to Japan by the United States, but the southern prefecture continues to struggle with its legacy from World War II. Japan correspondent Walter Sim speaks to the locals about the challenges of hosting the bulk of US military bases in their prefecture, in the latest edition of Asian Insider.


Till death do us part?

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Is it an example of boundless love? Or a morbid discovery? Bangkok resident Charn Janwatchakal hid his wife’s body in a shed at their home for over 20 years, as he couldn’t bear to cremate her after she died. He decided in April it was finally time to let her go, he tells Thailand correspondent Tan Tam Mei.


The sweet spot

Fruit exports are proving a sweet spot for South Korea, with nearly S$20 million worth of strawberries sent to Singapore alone in 2020, reports Chang May Choon. She gives us the lowdown on her top K-fruits - strawberries, grapes and oranges - in the latest dispatch of Letter from the Bureau.


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