Asian Insider July 11: Japan-S.Korea spat threatens global tech market; Indonesia to link Batam and Bintan

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

JAPAN-SOUTH KOREA SPAT THREATENS GLOBAL TECH TRADE

A simmering trade row between South Korea and Japan could hit global tech trade, if matters are not resolved within the next three months or so, when stockpiles of chips start depleting, observers say. 

Japan leads the world in manufacturing key materials for making chips while South Korea is the world leader in supplying chips. However, as tensions between the two neighbours worsened, following a Seoul top court ruling last October, Tokyo slapped new guidelines on the export of three chemicals vital to Seoul's chip and smartphone industry. 

This makes the news bleak for top market players Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, with the two firms supplying to tech titans such as Apple, Huawei and Amazon, among others. Shortages could drive up prices. And if the issue is not resolved, it may even delay the roll-out of 5G technology and futuristic folding screens, say experts. 

Read more

Moon Jae-in urges South Korean companies to brace for all possibilities in trade row with Japan

South Korea court orders Japan firm to compensate wartime forced labourers

PRAYUT'S NEW CABINET

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's new Cabinet has been endorsed by Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn and will set about building a new future for Thailand. 

PM Prayut will hold the defence portfolio as well, while the new Finance Minister will be Uttama Savanayana, leader of the Palang Pracharat Party that backed the PM. PM Prayut, however, shared important economic portfolios with other political parties, who have joined him in his coalition government, made up of 19 parties.

The government is expected to be sworn in later this week and a key test will be passing the budget, due to come up in January, 2020. 

Go deeper: 

New Thai government may last years if it passes first major test

Prayut 2.0 a chance to reset Thailand

New Thai government keeps junta powers of arbitrary detention

MAINLANDERS IN HONG KONG PROTESTS

Protests in Hong Kong has sparked mixed emotions for hundreds of thousands of Chinese mainlanders who've made the island their home. There were those who watched from the sidelines, fearful of the implications of getting involved, others who jumped in, having truly settled down in the city, and still others who joined in simply for the experience of being part of a protest. 

Meanwhile, Claire Huang, ST Hong Kong Correspondent says the protest movement is showing a strain and Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has pledged to listen to the people. The government has started a public consultation exercise for her 2019 Policy Address in October, which will be her third since she took charge.  

MALAYSIA CONSIDERS DIGGING FOR RARE EARTH

Malaysia could attract investments of up to RM100 billion (S$33 billion) in the rare earth sector over the next 10 years, the country's Entrepreneurial Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof said, signalling his government was examining the issue of attracting investments into the sector. 

Rare earth is used to make hard disc drives, LCD and plasma screens etc and there's been concern over its future availability should China, which produces over 70 per cent of the global demand, decides to restrict exports.

Malaysia needs to make clear how it intends to regulate the industry, the Minister said. Others, however, are more circumspect, with concerns about processing of rare earth waste and radiation poisoning prevailing.

IN OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe landed successfully on Thursday on a distant asteroid for a final touchdown, hoping to collect samples that could shed light on the evolution of the solar system. The brief landing is the second time Hayabusa2 has touched down on the desolate asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometres from Earth. The touchdown was intended to collect pristine materials from beneath the surface of the asteroid that could provide insights into what the solar system was like at its birth, some 4.6 billion years ago.

The heaviest average rainfall to lash a swathe of southern and eastern China in more than half a century brought torrential rain and floods, destroying houses, damaging crops and forcing the evacuation of nearly 80,000 people. State television showed images of half-submerged buildings and flooded streets in some of the worst-hit areas. Even more rain is expected, reports said. 

Hundreds of fishermen in Malaysia, from Penang and Perak, gathered in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, to protest against plans for three man-made islands, to be built at the border of the two northern states, which they say will hit  the livelihoods of about 10,000 colleagues. The reclamation was approved last week. The Penang South Reclamation (PSR) – larger than Forest City close to the Johor-Singapore border – was mooted as a way to fund the RM46 billion (S$15.1 billion) Penang Transport Master Plan.

Singapore has arrested a group of Myanmar nationals for using Singapore to mobilise support for armed violence against their government.

That’s it for today. Follow us on www.straitstimes.com for the latest on Singapore, Asia, and the world. Thanks for reading and we'll be back with more, tomorrow.

Shefali