Asian Insider, July 30: Singapore-Malaysia RTS Link to start end-2026, next few months worrisome in US-China relations, Umno snubs Muhyiddin’s PN alliance

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In today’s bulletin: Singapore-Malaysia RTS link to be light-rail transit system, Australia deepens ties with US but says it will not hurt relations with China, US experts say next few months will be worrisome in US-China ties, Joshua Wong among 12 barred from Hong Kong legislature vote, Umno snubs PM Muhyiddin’s PN alliance, and more.

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SINGAPORE-MALAYSIA RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM LINK TO START OPERATIONS END-2026

After several postponements, Singapore and Malaysia held a ceremony today to resume work on the cross-border Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link, that will make it easier for people on both sides of the border to travel to the other.

The new RTS Link between Woodlands in Singapore and Johor Baru in Malaysia will now be a standalone light rail transit (LRT) system. It's capacity will be up to 10,000 passengers per hour in each direction, a joint statement issued by both countries said.

The new expected operation date for the cross-border project will be the end of 2026, instead of end-2024. 

Separately, Malaysia's Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said fares on the much-anticipated cross-border RTS Link will be affordable, as prices will be set with the low-income group and daily commuters in mind to make the project viable.

AUSTRALIA DEEPENS TIES WITH US BUT SAYS IT HAS NO INTENTION OF 'INJURING' CHINA TIES

Australia will set up a new US-funded military fuel reserve in the city of Darwin, in a show of strengthening ties between the two allies, after high-level talks in Washington.

The announcement comes as Washington strengthens its position in the Indo-Pacific. The city of Darwin, which is home to about 130,000 people, is closer to some Asian capitals than to the Australian capital of Canberra.  

A day earlier, the US and Australia held high-level talks on China and agreed on the need to uphold a rules-based global order, but Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also stressed Canberra's relationship with Beijing and said it had no intention of hurting it.

"The relationship that we have with China is important. And we have no intention of injuring it," she said.

ST ASIAN INSIDER VIDEO: NEXT FEW MONTHS WORRISOME IN US-CHINA RELATIONS, SAY EXPERTS

Relations between China and the United States are on a worryingly tense stage, prominent foreign policy experts on China based in the United States, tell The Straits Times Asian Insider.

As ties plunge, the next three to four months are particularly worrisome, they believe.

"I don't anticipate that we will see stability," Ms Bonnie Glaser, Senior Adviser for Asia and Director of the  China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told the ST Asian Insider's weekly video and podcast series, hosted by US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh. 

Speaking alongside her, Ms Yun Sun, Senior Fellow and Co-Director of the East Asia Program, and Director of the China Program, at the Stimson Center, said, "The Chinese are genuinely seeing this as not a temporary event." 

Go deeper: 

Premium: China Bureau Chief Tan Dawn Wei 

Why the Chinese restraint to Trump's blows

Premium: Global Affairs Correspondent Jonathan Eyal

Pompeo's quixotic quest for a G-10 against China

INDONESIA URGES PEOPLE TO COME OUT OF THEIR HOMES; PHILIPPINES PRESSES ON WITH REOPENING

Governments in the region are struggling to keep their economies on track with the pandemic showing signs of persisting. 

Indonesia urged people to "come out of their homes" to boost the economy, warning that there are limits to what state coffers can do amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The government's appeal comes amid reports that the country could be heading for a recession with a second quarter of negative growth. The forecast is for growth in the April to June quarter to be at least minus three per cent.

In the Philippines, which now has more Covid-19 cases than China had, a tussle is on between continuing to reopen the economy or reinstating tough social distancing measures. Yesterday, a task force coordinating efforts to roll back the outbreak allowed gyms, Internet cafes, tuition centres, pet clinics and drive-in cinemas to reopen, leaving health officials concerned that if the rate of infection remains at its current pace, the public health system will be overwhelmed.

JOSHUA WONG AMONG CANDIDATES BARRED FROM HONG KONG'S LEGISLATURE VOTE

Prominent Hong Kong activist and prominent leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement Joshua Wong was among 12 candidates disqualified by the Hong Kong government today from running for election to the legislature. The government has said more candidates could be disqualified in the run-up to the elections. Meanwhile, it wasn't clear if the September 6 vote will go ahead, as expected, due to the growing number of coronavirus infections.

Read also: 

Hong Kong activists arrested under new security law

Hong Kong's Covid-19 tally passes 3,000 mark

IN OTHER NEWS

UMNO SNUBS MUHYIDDIN'S PN ALLIANCE: Malaysia's largest party Umno has insisted it will not be a member of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance despite being a part of his government, and will instead focus on the Malay-Muslim pact it has with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). This comes just two days after Umno's former premier Najib Razak was convicted on seven counts of graft related to the 1MDB scandal.

JAPAN DISAPPOINTED WITH S.KOREA'S COMPLAINT TO WTO: Japan expressed its disappointment today with South Korea's decision to proceed with a complaint to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a day after the body set up a panel to rule on curbs imposed by Tokyo on exports of some key technology materials to its neighbour.

INDIA TO BEGIN CONSTRUCTION OF TEMPLE IN AYODHYA: The country is set to begin construction of a temple in Ayodhya, once at the heart of a bitter dispute between Hindus and Muslims, nine months after the Supreme Court handed over the disputed land to Hindu groups and asked the federal and Uttar Pradesh state government to provide alternate land of five acres to Muslims groups in Ayodhya. A formal ceremony will take place on Aug 5. 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading. Have a good, long weekend and Selamat Hari Raya to those who celebrate it. We’ll be back with you on Monday. 

Shefali 

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