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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 28 November 2018

Defence

Image: Getty Images

Break rank

Okinawa’s governor isn’t happy about the number of US bases in his prefecture but their location isn’t up to him.

While the presence of US military bases in Japan may be reassuring for Tokyo, they have a less calming effect on those who live in their vicinity. Okinawa prefecture has been a favourite spot to place US installations due to its strategic position near Taiwan but the public and local government have long protested against them. Today Okinawa governor Denny Tamaki sits down with president Shinzo Abe to try and resolve a dispute about relocating a US airbase from one town to another. Tamaki believes that the term “relocation” actually translates to an upscaling of US defence in the area and that the concentration of fighter jets and radar towers ought to be more evenly spread throughout the country. Sadly for him, the final decision is more likely to be taken in Tokyo and Washington than the prefecture’s capital Naha.

International relations

Image: Shutterstock

Royal upset

Tensions are rising between China and Sweden as a spat over the arrest of a Hong Kong bookseller escalates.

Sweden’s diplomatic relations with China are on thin ice after King Carl XVI Gustaf cancelled a trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen at the last minute. According to Swedish media reports, the monarch’s sudden absence from a business delegation is due to negotiations about the continued arrest of Swedish national Gui Minhai, who was one of five Hong Kong booksellers arrested by Chinese agents in 2015. After being initially released, Gui was arrested in January on a Beijing-bound train while in the company of two Swedish diplomats. This latest spat comes after a video showing Swedish policeman ejecting Chinese tourists from a Stockholm hotel prompted an angry response from the Chinese embassy. Ironically, on that occasion, Beijing accused Stockholm of abusing human rights.

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Holy hotline

An app released by the Indonesian government allows hardliners to report blasphemers.

Enlisting the help of citizens to report subversive comments to authorities is a ploy straight out of Stalin’s playbook on totalitarianism. So it’s worrying that the trend is taking root in Indonesia where conservative Muslim communities are being encouraged to report incidents of blasphemy, a crime often punished with imprisonment. The government doesn’t seem perturbed: on Sunday it released a smartphone app called Smart Paken that enables the pious to digitally report those who deign to express views that run contrary to the teachings of Islam. President Joko Widodo styled himself as a great reformer when he first assumed office but he appears to be playing to hardliners ahead of elections in April.

Retail

Image: Shutterstock

Bags of potential

Iconsiam is the latest lavish mall to open in Bangkok – but will it tempt Thai consumers to shop until they drop?

Bangkok is no stranger to glitzy shopping malls but that hasn’t suppressed the excitement surrounding its latest entrant, Iconsiam. The gleaming two-towered monolith opened to extraordinary fanfare in the Thai capital this month. Backed by property developers Siam Piwat and Magnolia, the soaring THB54bn (€1.4bn) structure includes retail offerings from Japanese department store Takashimaya and residences from Mandarin Oriental. But what really sets IconSiam apart – besides its size – is its location on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, well away from a cluster of shopping malls along the traffic-clogged Rama I Road. An outdoor riverside park is another genuine point of difference in Bangkok – provided Thai consumers can be coaxed out of their air-conditioned cars.

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