The White House on Monday announced a series of new agreements with Singapore aimed at combating cyberthreats, tackling climate change, addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviating supply chain issues. The announcements coincide with Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to the region. Harris’ Southeast Asian trip, which brings Harris to Singapore and then later to Vietnam this week, is aimed at broadening cooperation with both nations to offer a counterweight to China’s growing influence in the region.
The disruption in healthcare services caused by Covid-19 may have led to an estimated 239,000 maternal and child deaths in South Asia, according to a new UN report. It’s focused on Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, home to some 1.8 billion people. The report found that women, children and adolescents were the worst-hit. South Asia has reported nearly 13 million Covid cases and more than 186,000 deaths so far.
After a Sunday meeting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to allow inspectors into a key nuclear testing site which the North claims was destroyed. Indonesian officials announced that the search for people missing from last month’s Tsunami will end on Thursday. Almost 700 people are still missing.
After President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines called God ‘stupid,’ Catholic bishops in the country called for three days of fasting, prayers, and almsgiving starting on July 17th. Two Reuters journalists who were covering the Rohingya crisis were charged by a Myanmar judge with violating the country’s colonial-era secrets act. The journalists pleaded not guilty.
A Pakistan court suspended the sentences of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam. The pair, who were jailed before the general election in July, was released after denying any wrongdoing. India has instituted a law making ‘instant divorce’, called ‘triple talaq’ practiced by Muslim men, a criminal offense which is punishable by up to three years in prison.
The Indian government criticized Facebook-owned WhatsApp after a series of deadly attacks on victims mistakenly accused of kidnapping children, following the spread of false reports on the platform. WhatsApp said it plans to run long-term public safety advertising campaigns. At least 31 people have died with another 3 missing after a ferry sank in Indonesia.
Asian leaders are due to sign a mammoth trade deal this weekend that has been nearly a decade in the making. It includes the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), plus China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The new free trade zone will be bigger than both the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the European Union.
President Donald Trump chose flattery with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday hoping China’s leader makes moves regarding trade and North Korea. Trump did not blame China for leaving American ‘so far behind’ in trade. Friday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam Trump spoke freely saying America will not tolerate ‘chronic trade abuses.’
South Koreans are heading to the polls on Tuesday to choose a new president after Park Geun-hye was sacked and indicted for corruption, and against a backdrop of high tensions with the nuclear-armed North. Left-leaning Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer, has held a commanding lead in opinion polls for months, with the final Gallup Korea survey before a week-long pre-election blackout giving him 38 percent support, followed by former tech mogul Ahn Cheol-soo on 20 percent.