Asian Insider: Malaysia debates full lockdown | Shangri-La Dialogue cancelled

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

Dear ST reader,

We hope you've been keeping well.

In our Asian Insider newsletter this week, we look at the latest developments as nations reel from the worsening coronavirus situation in the region. We examine Japan's moves at sea in the face of a growing China threat, and consider India's options as it navigates a space for itself amid the ongoing US-China tech war.

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Malaysia mulls over full lockdown as Covid-19 cases hit new highs

Malaysia's top officials are at loggerheads over whether to bring the country under a full lockdown, as its daily coronavirus cases hit fresh highs this week, Malaysia bureau chief Shannon Teoh reports. The government is still chasing an effective response amid conflicting rules and policy flip-flops. The Prime Minister has called for a total transformation of pharmaceutical intellectual property amid vaccine hoarding by richer nations.

Desperate for access to Covid-19 vaccines, several states have moved to secure their own supplies, Malaysia correspondent Ram Anand writes. Across the country, front-liners have not had a chance for a breather, as hospital admissions soar. The movement restrictions have also stretched the finances of poor families to almost breaking point.

Read more:

Malaysia reports highest daily Covid-19 cases of 6,806, as Mahathir urges country to be 'serious'

Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore cancelled

The Shangri-La Dialogue scheduled for June 4 to 5 in Singapore has been cancelled due to the deteriorating global Covid-19 situation, organisers announced. The International Institute for Strategic Studies said it would plan for the return of the full in-person security summit next year. United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had earlier said he would attend the dialogue, which was to be held at the Shangri-La Hotel, while Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had been invited as keynote speaker.

Read more:

Strong social compact, evolving strategy needed to hold large-scale events in S'pore safely

Indian official slammed over 'Singapore variant' remark

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been widely criticised for his ill-informed remark about a "new form of corona found in Singapore", India correspondent Debarshi Dasgupta reports. The new variant was, in fact, first found in India. Mr Kejriwal's comment, which sparked a diplomatic incident, is rooted in domestic politics amid a power tussle with the federal government, India bureau chief Nirmala Ganapathy writes. Singapore wants to move past the controversy, Singapore's High Commissioner to India, Mr Simon Wong, said.

Japan should read writing on the wall for Olympics

Who wouldn't feel sorry for Japan, associate editor Ravi Velloor muses. The Tokyo Olympic Games were meant to make a statement about Japan's place on the global stage. Now, the coronavirus has laid low its economy, Covid-19 cases are mounting alarmingly, and pressure is growing for the government to cancel the Games. Now, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is left straw-clutching on an Olympian scale.

Japan builds up sea defences in face of China threat

Japan is boosting its defences on its south-west islands with an eye on the growing China threat, which has also prompted the country's European security partners to more actively take part in joint drills, Japan correspondent Walter Sim reports. Tokyo's main concern - besides the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea - is Taiwan. See where Japan is bolstering its defence capabilities in this succinct graphic.

Opportunities, challenges for India in US-China tech war

In the latest ST Power Play column, India bureau chief Nirmala Ganapathy lays out the new challenges and opportunities for India in the technology war between the United States and China. India's size and tech talent base are a draw for American investors, but its structural economic shortcomings hold it back from becoming a truly viable alternative to China.

Read more here of this weekly column that looks at various facets of US-China rivalry and its implications for Asia.

That's it for today. Until next Thursday, stay safe and keep reading!

Magdalene Fung

Assistant Foreign Editor

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