Hong Kong simmers. For a third consecutive week, protests calling for the permanent withdrawal of a controversial extradition bill turned violent. Despite Hong Kong authorities banning marches in the city over the weekend, thousands of protesters demonstrated on Saturday and Sunday. Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters, and roughly 60 people were arrested after clashes with police. At a press conference today, spokespersons for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of China’s State Council voiced support for embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and scolded foreign countries’ “irresponsible remarks” on the situation in the city. Hours after the press conference, the People’s Daily was slightly more forthright, urging the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s government and police force to take “all necessary steps” to restore rule of law in Hong Kong. Thus far, though, the Chinese government’s comments on the situation have stopped there, and Beijing is watching and waiting, for now.
The Gulf bubbles. Diplomats from the signatory states of the Iran nuclear deal (with the exception of the United States) met over the weekend and agreed to salvage the deal. Based on the statements after the meeting, it seems very much like that was the only resolution to come from the photo opportunity. Meanwhile, an Iranian government spokesperson denounced a British proposal to lead a European naval escort mission as “hostile.” Britain deployed a second warship to the Gulf and is sending additional military personnel to Bahrain, but has rejected the suggestion that it was willing to engage in a tanker swap to secure the release of the Stena Impero, which is still being held by Iran. According to South Korea’s Maeil Business Newspaper, Seoul is planning to send its anti-piracy naval task force that’s operating off the coast of Somalia to the Persian Gulf to join a U.S.-led maritime force to protect freedom of navigation in the region.
Japan and South Korea’s trade spat continues. There appears to be no end in sight to the Japan-South Korea trade dispute. South Korean cities are canceling exchange programs with Japan, and Korean Air announced it was suspending flights between Busan and Sapporo because of low ticket sales. A Nikkei poll found that 58 percent of Japanese respondents backed curbs on Japanese exports to South Korea – and Japan is due to decide later this week whether it will broaden the restrictions it announced earlier this month. The rare bit of good news is that Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said earlier today that Japan wants to maintain a bilateral accord on intelligence sharing with South Korea despite the fact that the two countries are in a “very difficult situation.” (South Korean officials indicated two weeks ago that the pact might come under review if the trade spat continued.) That this dispute shows no signs of abating even after North Korea’s missile tests and a Chinese-Russian incursion last week into Japanese and South Korean airspace (depending on whose territorial claim you recognize) indicates just how deep this seemingly minor trade spat runs.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is visiting Scotland today and will continue on to Wales and Northern Ireland this week to “renew the ties that bind” the United Kingdom.
- Cambodia’s prime minister said the country has spent $40 million on “tens of thousands” of Chinese weapons so far this year.
- Australia ratified an agreement earlier today that establishes an official maritime boundary with East Timor.
- Myanmar and India signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation.
- Israel and the U.S. said they successfully tested the Arrow missile defense system.
- Chinese state media is focusing on how China has bought more U.S. soybeans and inquired on buying cotton, pork, sorghum and other agricultural products in recent weeks as the two sides get set for face-to-face trade talks in Shanghai tomorrow.