Arms show offers Japan venue to build military ties in Southeast Asia

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo TOKYO (Reuters) - Defense firms will put out their wares on Monday at Japan's only dedicated arms show, a site for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government to promote industrial military ties that will bolster the country's influence in Southeast Asia. Japan's defense ministry has invited Southeast Asian military representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam to a separate military technology seminar, aiming to ensure attendance for the three-day Maritime Air Systems and Technologies Asia (MAST) show near Tokyo, two sources said. "The Ministry of Defense is hosting the seminar right after MAST closes," said one of the sources with knowledge of the plan. Abe's government wants to make arms sales and military technology collaboration a new plank of Japanese diplomacy in Southeast Asia as it counters China's growing influence in the South China Sea. About $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes through the strategic waterway each year, much of it to and from Japan. In 2014, Abe ended a decades-old arms export ban, partly to cut procurement costs by widening arms production, but also, for the first time since World War Two, to allow Japan to offer arms technology as a lure for closer military ties. The small Southeast Asian arms market is growing as economic growth boosts defense spending. Japan is likely push to back against China's offers to supply military equipment to the region. "The only thing that really matters in Southeast Asia is cost and China will offer at low cost," said Paul Burton, director of aerospace, defense and security at IHS Markit in Singapore. "They will quite happily give away the family jewels in terms of enabling indigenous production, training the local workforce and offset into other sectors." LESS RELUCTANT In their first outing at MAST Asia in 2015 Japanese firms were still reluctant to advertise their defense work to a public wary of any return Continue Reading

Seizing of Philippines city by Islamist militants a wake-up call for Southeast Asia

By Tom Allard MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - At the beginning of the battle that has raged for the past 12 days in Marawi City at the southern end of the Philippines, dozens of Islamist militants stormed its prison, overwhelming the guards. "They said 'surrender the Christians'," said Faridah P. Ali, an assistant director of the regional prison authority. "We only had one Christian staff member so we put him with the inmates so he wouldn't be noticed,” he said. Fighters from the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS), menaced the guards and shouted at prisoners: but no one gave up the Christian man. "When they freed the inmates, he got free," said Ali. It was a brief moment of cheer, but over the next few hours the militants took control of most of the city, attacked the police station and stole weapons and ammunition, and set up roadblocks and positioned snipers on buildings at key approaches. The assault has already led to the death of almost 180 people and the vast majority of Marawi's population of about 200,000 has fled. For a graphic about the battle:( The seizing of the city by Maute and its allies on the island of Mindanao is the biggest warning yet that the Islamic State is building a base in Southeast Asia and bringing the brutal tactics seen in Iraq and Syria in recent years to the region.  Defense and other government officials from within the region told Reuters evidence is mounting that this was a sophisticated plot to bring forces from different groups who support the Islamic State together to take control of Marawi. The presence of foreigners - intelligence sources say the fighters have included militants from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Chechnya and Morocco - alongside locals in Marawi, has particularly alarmed security officials. For some time, governments in Southeast Asia have been worried about what happens when battle-hardened Islamic State Continue Reading

Exclusive: Japan seeks Southeast Asia clout with chopper parts for Philippines military – sources

By Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's army will give thousands of helicopter parts to keep Philippine military choppers airborne, helping Tokyo gain clout with Manila in a contest with China to secure influence over the strategic South China Sea nation, four sources said. Military diplomacy is a new means for Japan to confound China's bid for control in the bitterly contested South China Sea as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks a regional military role amid a retreat from decades of state pacifism. The pact could be the first in a series of similar deals as Tokyo cranks up defense diplomacy with Southeast Asian nations eager for hand-me-down patrol aircraft, ships and other military equipment. "This is a demonstration of the robust strategic partnership and cooperation of the two allies," a senior Philippine Air Force commander told Reuters, adding that Japan would deliver around 40,000 parts under the deal. The value of the parts could not be determined. The sources, who have knowledge of talks between the two countries, asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The supply agreement will be Japan's first military aid deal since lawmakers scrapped a rule in June barring giveaways of surplus military kit to other countries. "We are looking at what we will do with our spare parts, but have nothing concrete we can discuss," said a spokesman for the procurement agency of Japan's defense ministry. "In order to strengthen national security we want to push ahead with defense equipment cooperation." Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have already asked about taking Japan's submarine-hunting P3-C maritime patrol aircraft, made by Lockheed Martin Corp, as they are replaced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries P-1 planes, two of the sources said. "There has been some preliminary discussion," said one of the sources. Japan worries that Beijing could blunt opposition to its territorial Continue Reading

WeWork to invest $500 million to expand in Southeast Asia, South Korea

HONG KONG (Reuters) - New York-based startup WeWork on Monday said it will invest $500 million in Southeast Asia and South Korea in its latest effort to tap growing demand for shared office space in Asia. The firm, which provides workspace for users as varied as freelancers, entrepreneurs and corporations, said it will buy Singaporean peer Spacemob for an undisclosed amount, and that it will retain Spacemob's management team. WeWork named Turochas "T" Fuad, who founded Spacemob early last year, as its managing director for Southeast Asia. It also appointed Matt Shampine, currently WeWork's head of marketing and revenue for Asia, as general manager for Korea. It did not elaborate on its investment in Korea. The announcement comes less than two weeks after WeWork set up a Chinese unit with the help of a $500 million injection from China's Hony Capital and Japan's SoftBank Group Corp to expand beyond current locations of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. That followed the establishment earlier in July of a joint venture with SoftBank in Japan which aims to open its first workspace-sharing location in Tokyo next year. WeWork could announce more local units soon, founder and Chief Executive Officer Adam Neumann told Reuters in a July interview. Having separate local entities in different countries gives WeWork the flexibility to take some of those units public, while keeping others under the parent, he said. WeWork operates over 155 properties in 16 markets including the United States, its biggest market, Canada and Germany. (Reporting by Julie Zhu; Editing by Christopher Cushing) (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. Click For Restrictions Continue Reading

More attacks likely in Southeast Asia after Marawi: report

By Tom Allard JAKARTA (Reuters) - As a lengthy, urban battle drags on between Philippine forces and Islamist militants in the southern city of Marawi, a new report by a think-tank has warned of more attacks by radicals in Southeast Asia, including on foreigners. A coalition of Philippine militant groups, augmented by foreign fighters, stormed Marawi, on the island on Mindanao, nearly two months ago. The militants, who claim allegiance to Islamic State (IS), still control a portion of the city despite a sustained military offensive. There have been similar attacks in the Philippines since last year, but the duration and ferocity of the fighting in Marawi has alarmed Southeast Asian nations and led to fears the assault could inspire and unite the region's disparate Islamist groups. "The risks won't end when the military declares victory," said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict, adding that threats would mount in neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, both Muslim-majority nations. "Indonesia and Malaysia will face new threats in the form of returning fighters from Mindanao, and the Philippines will have a host of smaller dispersed cells with the capacity for both violence and indoctrination." The Marawi siege had united two feuding pro-IS factions in Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim-majority nation, and led to soul-searching among militants there "about why they cannot manage to do anything as spectacular", the report said. "Once the battle for Marawi is over, it is possible that Southeast Asian ISIS leaders (in Syria) might encourage Indonesians to go after other targets, including foreigners or foreign institutions – especially if one of them comes back to lead the operations," the report added, using another acronym for the Islamic State. Asked about an elevated threat in Indonesia, including for foreigners, police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said: "We will stay cautious, increase our alertness and Continue Reading

John Kerry heading to southeast Asia, Pacific countries to meet with officials

Secretary of State Kerry will travel to Southeast Asia and the Pacific next week. He’ll leave Friday on a six-day trip to Myanmar, Australia, the Solomon Islands and Hawaii. Kerry plans to attend a meeting of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, where he will hold talks with diplomats and members of the Myanmar government. On Aug. 11, Kerry will head to Australia to join Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Australian officials for security talks. He travels to the Solomon Islands on Aug. 13, where he is to meet government officials and attend wreath laying ceremonies at the Guadalcanal American Memorial. Later that day he flies to Honolulu, where he is to give a talk to the East-West Center. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Kate Middleton remains unfazed by French nude photo scandal during tour of Southeast Asia; British royals file lawsuit

Kate Middleton isn't letting a little topless photo scandal ruin her tour though Southeast Asia.  The Duchess of Cambridge put on an elegant front during two stops in Malaysia on Friday, the day a French magazine spread showing her sunbathing without a top hit newsstands.   Buckingham Palace, on the other hand, wasn't letting the "grotesque" intrusion slide.  The royal family said it will sue the magazine, Closer, for breach of privacy, The Associated Press reported. Closer's editor defended the photos, saying the couple’s poolside frolic was "visible from the street". "These photos are not in the least shocking,” said Laurence Pieau told BBC. “They show a young woman sunbathing topless, like the millions of women you see on beaches.” Meanwhile, Middleton -- half a world away on Friday -- looked lovely and demure in a blue lace dress while chatting and laughing with guests at an afternoon tea party in Kuala Lumpur hosted by Britain's high commissioner to Malaysia. The Duchess and Prince William appeared unrattled by the burgeoning scandal, politely sipping tea while shmoozing with the assembled VIPs, including Malaysian-born shoe designer Jimmy Choo.  Choo said it was clear her highness didn't have clothes or shoes on her mind, as she appeared eager to discuss his foundation's work in children's education.  "She is an absolutely beautiful person both inside and out," Choo gushed to reporters later. "Very much like Prince’s William’s mother." Earlier in the day, the couple visited the Assyakirin Mosque, the largest mosque in Malaysia, where the duchess donned a headscarf and removed her shoes, in keeping with religious custom.  Tim Rooke/Getty Images What scandal? The duchess, wearing a headscarf, beamed during a Friday morning visit to the Assyakirin Mosque, the largest in Malaysia.   It was the couple's first visit to a mosque, and Wills appeared Continue Reading

Volkswagen to slow brand acquisition, plans to expand in southeast Asia: report

Volkswagen will take a breather when it comes to acquiring more brands as the German company is busy integrating its 12 nameplates to become the world's biggest carmaker by 2018, Handelsblatt reported its CEO as saying. "We have enough work on our hands at the moment," chief executive Martin Winterkorn said in an interview with Handelsblatt published on Friday. Automakers in Europe could live with 10 fewer plants given sagging demand across the region, Winterkorn said, adding VW's commitment to its European sites was "without ifs and buts". Winterkorn said comment from his counterpart at Fiat , Sergio Marchionne, that VW was waging a price war in Europe was nonsense. "Success comes to whoever builds the right cars at the right time at the right place," he said, adding VW itself was locked into "brutal global competition". Europe's top carmaker must beef up its presence in southeast Asia to better compete with rivals such as Japanese group Toyota and South Korean company Hyundai, but has no interest in buying Malaysian group Proton, he said. Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it using the "Join the Conversation" buttons below, and thank you for visiting Daily News Autos. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Hillary Clinton heading to Southeast Asia in attempt to defuse North Korea-South Korea crisis

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Clinton headed to Southeast Asia on Thursday to work out a response short of military action to North Korea's sinking of a South Korean warship."We will be guided by actions that South Korea wishes to take," but "there's no interest in seeing the Korean peninsula explode," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley.The U.S. has backed the findings of a South Korean investigation that concluded a North Korean minisub fired a torpedo that sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan on March 26, killing 46 sailors.North Korea has threatened "all-out war" if the allies retaliate, and South Korea is said to be considering a mix of naval and military maneuvers and renewing propaganda broadcasts across the demilitarized zone as a response.The initial focus of Clinton's trip was a visit to the U.S. pavilion at the Shanghai World's Fair, but she will now concentrate on talks with Chinese, Japanese and South Korean leaders.  Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Most wanted: Southeast Asia’s No. 1 militant, bomb-maker Noordin Mohammad Top, still at large

JAKARTA, Indonesia  — Southeast Asia's most wanted Muslim militant is said to be a masterful bomb-maker and aspiring regional commander for al-Qaeda, who has eluded capture for nearly a decade.Malaysian Noordin Mohammad Top, classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorism financier since the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, is believed to have struck again last week when two suicide blasts killed seven at the Ritz-Carlton and J.W. Marriott hotels in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta — at least four of them foreigners."Noordin is a smart and cunning terrorist," Brig. Surya Dharma, the former head of the Detachment 88 anti-terrorism unit told The Associated Press. "He wants to show that he deserves to be the commander of al-Qaeda here in Southeast Asia."He fled south to the Indonesian province of Riau in 2002 amid a crackdown on Muslim extremists in Malaysia after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, before rising to prominence in the Bali bombings.Prosecutors say Noordin orchestrated attacks in Indonesia four years in a row with al-Qaeda's support, including the 2002 bombings on Bali, the first J.W. Marriott Hotel attack in 2003, the Australian Embassy blast in 2004, and the 2005 triple suicide bombings on restaurants in Bali.Together, they killed more than 240 people, many of them Western tourists. Police have widely distributed his photo and offer a $100,000 reward for information that leads to his capture.A disagreement over targeting civilians caused a split in Jemaah Islamiyah and Noordin formed a more violent faction, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad, which he reportedly called the "al-Qaeda for the Malay archipelago." Its aim is to create a common Muslim state in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.The closest authorities have ever come to seizing him was probably in July 2008 in Sumatra, in a raid that netted 10 militant suspects."Noordin has shown a talent for escape," said Jones, a senior adviser to the International Crisis Group think tank. "He Continue Reading