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Asia News Today | Calls for stronger sanctions by China over Russia & Singapore flash floods

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The US White House is calling on China to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the Russian onslaught against its neighbour continued. They also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin has put nuclear forces on high alert, a significant ramp up in the ongoing rhetoric. China has implemented some sanctions imposed by the US and its allies against Russia over the invasion and have spoken in favour of Ukrainian sovereignty last week, but a White House spokesperson says the government is calling for more. The White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that this is not a time to stand on the sidelines. This is a time to be vocal and condemns the actions of President Putin and Russia invading a sovereign country.US President Biden took only a veiled swipe at China last week after Beijing rejected calling Moscow’s move an invasion and urged all sides to exercise restraint. China is Russia’s biggest trade partner for both exports and imports, buying a third of Russia’s crude oil exports in 2020 and supplying it with manufactured products from mobile phones and electronics to toys and clothing.
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Rescuers on Indonesia’s Sumatra island have retrieved more bodies following the strong earthquake on Friday. The death toll has now reached 11 while another 400 people were injured and thousands more displaced. The body of the latest victim was recovered from the rubble of homes toppled by the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that shook West Sumatra province. Six people died in Pasaman district and another five in neighbouring West Pasaman district, he said. Rescuers were still searching for four villagers believed to be buried under tons of mud that tumbled down from the surrounding hills. Nearly 400 people were injured by the earthquake whose tremors were felt as far away as Malaysia and Singapore. More than 13,000 people fled their homes to temporary shelters, and over 1,400 houses and buildings have been damaged. The last major 6.2 magnitude quake was in January 2021, when at least 105 people died and nearly 6,500 were injured in West Sulawesi province.
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In response to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, the Russian invasion has forced up crude oil prices more than 5%, and shares in Asia-Pacific traded lower this morning as investors monitor the situation and related sanctions. International benchmark Brent crude oil crossed the $100 level last week, even touching $105 before falling back. Spot gold, traditionally a safe haven in times of uncertainty, last traded at $1,910, rising 1.2%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures shed 0.6%. In South Korea, the Kospi was down 0.35%. Elsewhere, Taiwan markets are closed for a holiday today.
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Finnair is facing a wipeout of its Asian traffic as a tit-for-tat of airspace closures in Europe and Russia jeopardise its main long-haul strategy. Finland’s national carrier has found a niche providing transit passengers from smaller European cities the shortest flight times into Asia. But the flights through its Helsinki hub to destinations like Hong Kong, Seoul and Shanghai rely on access to Siberian and Russian airspace. Finnair says that for many of their North-East Asia flights, rerouting would mean considerably longer flight time, and operations would not be economically viable. More than a dozen European countries have closed their airspace to airlines from Russia, which has quickly reciprocated with its own bans. Asian traffic accounted for just under 40% of Finnair’s total revenue last year, down from about 43% in the last full year before the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Prolonged heavy rain over many areas of Singapore has sparked flash floods in several areas, including at some of its busiest junctions and the Pan Island Expressway. The National water agency says that its Quick Response Teams were deployed at the locations alongside Traffic Police to render assistance to motorists and direct traffic. The heaviest rainfall recorded in eastern Singapore was 142 millimetres at Kim Chuan Road rainfall station. That corresponds to 135 percent of Singapore’s average monthly rainfall in February and is in the top 1% of maximum daily rainfall records since 1981.
——
Indonesia will no longer require international passengers in Bali to quarantine when they arrive under a trial program that starts in March, with the intention to lift all quarantine requirements by April. Fully vaccinated passengers will still have to take a PCR test when they arrive and stay inside their pre-booked accommodation while waiting for the result, just the same as in Thailand. The trial program starts on March 14, and officials say the goal is to lift all requirements by April, at the latest. Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is gradually easing restrictions, following some other countries in the region in preparing to live with the coronavirus even as infections continue to spread nationwide. The government is accelerating its vaccination campaign by shortening the gap between the second dose and a booster dose.
—–
The Japanese government has decided to freeze the financial assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin, along with other key government officials, in response to last Thursday’s Russian invasion. Japan’s PM Kishida Fumio said Russia’s aggression is a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force. He said that Russia’s action is a clear violation of international law, which can never be tolerated and Japan strongly condemns it. He indicated that Japan will join the US and European countries in blocking selected Russian banks from the SWIFT international payment network. Japan is also donating the equivalent of 100 million US dollars as emergency humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine.
——
North Korea has apparently fired a ballistic missile yesterday, marking a return to weapons testing after a month’s pause which was overlapping the Beijing Winter Olympics. South Korea’s military has reported a single projectile was launched at 7:52 am yesterday from the Sunan area into waters off the Korean peninsula’s east coast. Earlier, the Japanese military reported that the projectile could be a ballistic missile. The missile flew around 300 kilometres, reaching as high as 600 kilometres, according to the Japanese. South Korea’s military placed the altitude slightly higher, at 620 kilometres. North Korea’s last test, conducted January 30, involved a Hwasong-12 intermediate range missile… Pyongyang’s longest-range missile test in more than four years. Pundits haven’t as yet predicted what yesterday’s launch was specifically testing.
——
The Burmese Junta has said the Russian invasion of Ukraine was “justified” and demonstrates Moscow’s position as a world power. The Burmese militaries response is a stark contrast to the otherwise, non-condemnatory, but “calling for peace” response from the rest of ASEAN. A Junta spokesperson has said that Moscow’s military had “carried out what is justified for the sustainability of their country’s sovereignty”.Apart from supplying them arms, Russia has continually supported Myanmar’s generals and repeatedly shielded the isolated country at the UN.

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