It’s Friday and that means it’s time to take a quick jaunt around the Indo-Pacific to check in on all the latest news.
In the early morning hours on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in the United States after another meeting with Kim Jong Un — only this time he was accompanied by three former prisoners of the Kim regime. In his 13 hours on North Korean soil, Pompeo secured the release of Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Kim Sang Duk, also known as Tony Kim, had been held in North Korea for at least a year. He also secured a face to face meeting between President Trump and Kim. Trump took to Twitter to announce the date and location — June 12 in Singapore.
Some insiders are concerned about the security environment in Singapore due to an intense amount of Chinese intelligence activity there. Singapore had been thought to be off the table — internally ruled out within the West Wing. Pompeo, Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton continued to argue that the DMZ could appear conciliatory to Kim and that he may get the wrong message if Trump traveled there. Apparently, Singapore it is.
ZTE may be the first casualty in a brewing trade war between the U.S. and China. The Shenzhen headquartered company said it had ceased “major operating activities”, in a filing late on Wednesday to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The announcement comes less than a month after the U.S. banned American firms from selling hardware and software to ZTE for seven years, effectively cutting off the company’s supply chain.
ZTE said in its filing it maintains “sufficient cash” and is “actively communicating” with the U.S. for a modification or reversal of the order, issued by the U.S. commerce department over violations of a previous settlement regarding illegal sales of ZTE phones and equipment to Iran.
Jerry Chun Shing Lee, 53, was arrested in January when he arrived in the U.S. on a flight from Hong Kong. He was initially charged with illegally possessing classified information — two handwritten notebooks containing names and phone numbers of covert CIA employees and informants.
But on Tuesday, a federal grand jury added an official espionage charge to the mix. Lee — an American citizen who joined the CIA in 1994 and left in 2007 — was a case officer, and his primary mission was recruiting clandestine human intelligence sources. Internal damage assessment is likely underway, the full impact of which is almost never fully released to the public.
Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as Malaysian prime minister, despite efforts by the defeated incumbent Najib Razak to resist conceding and allegedly offering opposition candidates $6m to switch sides.
Despite the opposition gaining a historic win in the election, gaining a simple majority for the first time in 61 years, hours of uncertainty followed the result. But by late Thursday night, it was confirmed by the Palace that — after interviewing all leaders of the opposition parties — the King was finally willing to swear Mahathir into office. At 92, he becomes the oldest leader in the world.
The free press may have breathed its last in Cambodia. The Phnom Penh Post was bought by an investor this week who demanded a “damaging” article be removed, prompting a mass resignation.
With the Post compromised, all that remains is the Khmer Times (a paper denounced by its own former editor-in-chief), Facebook and the odious government mouthpiece Fresh News. There are no reliable sources of information left. Not for the Cambodian people, nor for diplomats and NGOs. The only other reputable newspaper, the Cambodia Daily, was shut down in September 2017 over a tax dispute many see as politically motivated.
A riot broke out at the Mako Brimob detention facility in Depok, on the outskirts of Jakarta, on Tuesday evening and resulted in five officers being taken hostage and brutally killed. A sixth victim was a prison detainee. Inmates started a deadly riot controlling three cellblocks inside a maximum-security Indonesian jail for more than 36 hours before the siege ended on Thursday morning with five officers and one prisoner dead.
Most of the officers, members of Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism squad Densus 88, had their throats cut, said a police spokesman, Brig Gen Muhammad Iqbal. After hours of negotiation and the release of one final police hostage overnight, police confirmed the siege was over on Thursday morning.