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SITUATION REPORTOct 20, 2020 | 19:14 GMT
Japan: Prime Minister’s Trip to Vietnam, Indonesia Yields Progress on Arms Deals
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reached an agreement in principle to export defense technology and equipment to Vietnam during his first official visit to the country, Reuters reported Oct. 19. Suga has since arrived in Indonesia, where he’s also promised the government $473 million in low-interest loans to help manage the economic fallout from COVID-19 and agreed to speed up talks toward arms deals. 
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SnapshotsOct 20, 2020 | 17:49 GMT
A satellite image shows Europe at night.
The U.S. Ramps Up Financial Support to Central and Eastern Europe
U.S. financial support for the Three Seas Initiative shows the White House remains committed to its security and economic engagements in Central and Eastern Europe, with an eye on countering China and Russia’s presence in the region. On Oct. 19, the United States announced that it will contribute $300 million to the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund, which finances cross-border energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects in the regions between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas, raising its capital base to over $1.3 billion. The United States will use cooperation with the Three Seas Initiative to compete with China and Russia for influence in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as promote its foreign policy agenda in the region (which does not always align with that of the European Union). However, internal divisions among Three Seas Initiative countries will limit the effectiveness of such U.S. influence campaigns by weakening the group’s
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SnapshotsOct 19, 2020 | 22:14 GMT
A protester uses a loudspeaker to talk to the crowd during an anti-government rally in Bangkok, Thailand, on Oct. 19, 2020.
Gauging the Thai Government’s Response to Growing Protests
The recent escalation of the monthslong Thai student protest movement will compel the government to step up its restrictions on dissent and intensify efforts to co-opt the protesters’ less controversial demands through a limited constitutional reform process. This could cause protests to drag on amid continued controversy over the scope and pace of such amendments, even as it eases overall public support for demonstrations. Between Oct. 13 and Oct. 19, Thai protesters turned out on the streets of Bangkok for the most sustained period of protest-related disruptions since the movement kicked off in earnest in July. Demonstrators also appeared in 20 other locations nationwide in smaller numbers. 
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SnapshotsOct 15, 2020 | 21:23 GMT
The U.S. State Department building is seen in Washington D.C. on July 22, 2019.
The White House’s Hong Kong Report Maintains Its Measured Approach
The White House is continuing its cautious and relatively slow-paced approach to Hong Kong, as it tries to avoid disrupting business continuity in the city and ensure the volatile political dynamic doesn’t drive the overall U.S.-China dynamic, including outreach on issues such as trade. On Oct. 14, the U.S. State Department issued its required Hong Kong Autonomy Act report to Congress, listing 10 Chinese and Hong Kong officials found to have materially contributed to eroding the region's autonomy. The report warned that banks that conduct significant transactions with the individuals listed could face U.S. secondary sanctions, including restrictions on U.S. dollar transactions and measures targeting corporate leadership. This sets the stage for a potential increase of U.S. pressure on foreign, Hong Kong and Chinese financial institutions operating in the city. However, the nature of the Oct. 14 report suggests a less escalatory approach, though that could change depending on the
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 16:08 GMT
A close-up view shows the Alipay logo in Ant Group’s office in Shanghai, China, on Aug. 28, 2020.
The U.S. Sets Its Eyes on Chinese Fintech Companies
The U.S. government will likely increase restrictions on the use of Chinese payment systems in the United States, but any decisions regarding broader action on Chinese data acquisition is unlikely ahead of the U.S. election in November. On Sept. 30, senior Trump administration officials reportedly discussed imposing new restrictions on WeChat Pay and Alipay -- the two payment apps owned by the Chinese fintech giants Tencent and Ant Group, respectively. Some White House officials have advocated for wider restrictions that could affect the use of the payment apps outside the United States as part of the administration’s push to limit China’s overall access to the U.S. market due to national security concerns. But any initial U.S. restrictions will likely be limited to WeChat Pay and Alipay’s specific use in the United States and its access to U.S. technology in order to limit the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation and/or self-inflicted
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AssessmentsOct 15, 2020 | 10:00 GMT
U.S. Naval Update Map: Oct. 15, 2020
The Naval Update Map shows the approximate current locations of U.S. Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) and Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), based on available open-source information. No classified or operationally sensitive information is included in this weekly update. CSGs and ARGs are the keys to U.S. dominance over the world's oceans. A CSG is centered on an aircraft carrier and includes significant offensive strike capability. An ARG is centered on three amphibious warfare ships, with a Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked.
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SnapshotsOct 14, 2020 | 17:11 GMT
A pile of briquettes, which are compressed blocks of coal dust, is seen in Melbourne, Australia, in March 2017.
With an Apparent Coal Ban, China Ups the Cost of Australia’s Political Defiance
Reports that China has halted purchases of Australian coal suggest Beijing is increasing economic pressure to curb Canberra’s more confrontational stance. Such moves, however, are unlikely to inhibit Australia’s greater strategic shift to rebalance against Chinese encroachment in the region. On Oct. 14, leaks indicated that around 850,000 tonnes of Australian coking coal on ten Panamax vessels bound for China was being diverted to other markets. This follows an Oct. 13 confirmation from Australia's trade ministry that it was determining whether Beijing has suspended purchases of Australian coking and thermal coal. Reports from the day before indicate that Chinese officials told most large power stations and steel mills in early October to halt the use of Australian coal. Many ports were also reportedly told not to offload the product, causing buyers to respond by halting purchases for fear they wouldn’t clear customs. If confirmed, China's suspension of Australian coal purchases
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