Good morning. Here's my take on some of the stories driving the debate in politics, finance and social issues across Asia today.
Asia's dangerous cities.
It's always a downer to be reminded I live in the world's most dangerous city, natural-disaster wise. Tokyo, of course, is one of the most seismically-active metropolises anywhere. But what's interesting about this Swiss Re ranking of the riskiest places is that eight of the 10 finalists are in Asia. There's Manila (typhoons and floods), China's Pearl River Delta area (cyclones and pollution), Japan's Osaka-Kobe region (earthquakes), Jakarta (floods and earthquakes), Nagoya (tsunamis), India's India (hurricanes and tsunamis) and the greater Shanghai area (floods). It's enough to make you want to rethink your living choices -- or at the very least, top up your insurance coverage.
North Korea's cagey geopolitical timing.
Kim Jong Un is one cagey political tactician. Not keen to let the leaders of the U.S., Japan and South Korea meet in peace, the North Korean leader fired two ballistic missiles capable of reaching Tokyo moments before that three-way summit began. That President Barack Obama should broker a meeting in which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun Hye grudgingly made nice is a sign of progress for Asian relations. But Kim's action is also a reminder of why Japan and South Korea need to put aside enmity about World War II and focus on creating a safer and more prosperous future.
China's role in Philippine power?
It's the kind of story that sends conspiracy theorists into a tizzy: China has the means to switch off the nation's power. This fantastical claim by Rafael Alunan, a former interior and local government secretary, has Philippine cyberspace pulsating with indignation and "what-if?" scenarios. While the national electricity supplier dismisses the risk, the buzz surrounding it shows how on edge Filipinos are about ways in which China might retaliate against Manila for pushing back on territorial claims in Asia. Disputes over resource-rich shoals in the South China Sea have escalated in recent years. In the China-Philippines drama unfolding in the halls of power, who knew there was a role for, well, power?
India's political dynasty problem.
Hard as it is to believe, many Indians would still vote for another Gandhi. Not because they believe Sonia Gandhi's Congress Party served India competently these past 10 years -- political paralysis, runaway inflation, a rupee crisis, corruption scandals, you name it suggest not -- but because voters can't shake their fascination with political dynasties. This study by Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace finds that many voters are willing to overlook the dire predictions about supporting Rahul Gandhi, Sonia's son, in May. It doesn't mean the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party will lose, but such nostalgia does toss an intriguing wild card into the proceedings.
Fallout may hurt face of MH370.
Among the many mistakes Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak made since a plane vanished on May 8 was letting his heir-apparent man the microphone. The hapless Hishammuddin Hussein has been a fountain of contradictory remarks, defensiveness and condescension at a time when Malaysian needed a calm, competent and steady hand to be the face of a nation. This piece by my Bloomberg colleagues Sharon Chen and Manirajan Ramasamy looks at how Hishammuddin's weak performance may tarnish his chances of succeeding Najib, which, frankly, it should.
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Willie Pesek at firstname.lastname@example.org