Asia and Australia Edition: Jared Kushner, Russia, Angela Merkel: Your Morning Briefing

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Good morning.

Here’s what you need to know:

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, reacted to President Trump’s harsh views on NATO and other urgent issues during his visit last week by saying afterward that Europe needed to look past weakening alliances “and really take our fate into our own hands.”

Two Asian leaders will offer immediate opportunities to do so. China’s prime minister, Li Keqiang, arrives in Europe today on a relationship-building tour that culminates in Germany on Thursday and Friday with the 19th meeting of Chinese and European Union leaders.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is also embarking on a trip to Germany, Spain, Russia and France.

Interactive Feature | Local Weather Today’s Weather


President Trump paid tribute to fallen American troops on Memorial Day, saying they “died in war so we could live in peace.”

Mr. Trump is trying to contain the fallout from reports that Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and adviser, spoke with the Russian ambassador in December about establishing a secret communication channel to the Kremlin.

Mr. Trump used Twitter to denounce the “fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.”

As Mr. Kushner’s woes play out in the White House, a different political star is rising: Melania Trump, the first lady.


North Korea’s latest missile test prompted outcries in Japan and emergency meetings in South Korea.

The Pentagon is testing a system to intercept North Korean warheads, launching a rocket from California today.

North Korea has found a new point of leverage against the U.S. In the past month, the government has arrested two American volunteers at a Christian-backed school in Pyongyang that offers the children of North Korea’s elite a top-notch education.


In the southern Philippines, intense fighting continues between government forces and local extremists loyal to the Islamic State. Our correspondent in the city of Marawi reports that hundreds of desperate residents remained trapped.

The military’s inability to drive out Abu Sayyaf and Maute insurgents has become a major challenge for President Rodrigo Duterte.


Muslim women in India have taken their fight against a religious divorce proceeding to the Supreme Court.

Husbands need only repeat the Arabic word for divorce — talaq — three times, which can leave the women homeless and without prospects. Five women are arguing that the practice violates the Indian Constitution’s guarantee of equality.


“The lake gives us fish, waters our fields, and brings the birds here. It is everything to my people.”

That was a local guide describing Indawgyi Lake in remote northern Myanmar, one of the largest bodies of freshwater in Southeast Asia — but the lake now faces the same environmental and conflict-related challenges that threaten Myanmar as a whole.

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• Has China reached “peak sharing”? Success with cars and bikes has Chinese start-ups offering concrete mixers, phone chargers and much more.

• Why “Trump” replaced “integrity”: The coat of arms used by the Trump Organization in the U.S. had to be changed in Britain, because it belongs to another family.

• Thailand plans to spend $5.7 billion to upgrade a Vietnam War-era airport with the aim of unseating Singapore as the regional leader in aircraft maintenance.

Warning: Hackers can breach your accounts through Twitter and Facebook, not just email.

Financial markets reopen after holidays in Britain and the U.S.; those in China and Taiwan reopen on Wednesday after the Dragon Boat Festival. Here’s a snapshot of global markets.

Graphic | What the Markets Are Doing

In the News

• Video from Sri Lanka shows the flooding and mudslides from Cyclone Mora, which left more than 150 people dead and almost half a million displaced. [The New York Times]

• Bangladesh issued emergency evacuation orders and India is bracing as Mora bears down. [Reuters]

• Strains between China and Taiwan escalated after the Chinese authorities, in a novel move, brought subversion charges against a Taiwanese rights advocate, Lee Ming-cheh. [The New York Times]

• For wealthy Chinese, medical tourism can offer lifesaving treatments that are unavailable in China’s overburdened health care system. [The New York Times]

• Britain’s intelligence agency is investigating reports that the authorities had been alerted to the Manchester bomber’s extremist views at least three times before he attacked, killing 22. [The New York Times]

• A 73-year-old Australian fisherman survived, spirits intact, after a great white shark leaped into his boat. “I looked over and said, ‘Oh, a bloody shark.’” [The New York Times]

Takuma Sato became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500. [The New York Times]

Smarter Living

• Sleep deprivation is linked to behavioral and mental health problems and car accident risk. Starting school later could help.

• Regular, brisk walks improve thinking skills in older people with a common form of age-related memory loss.

• Recipe of the day: Peppery watercress, beets and eggs can make an otherworldly salad.


• Can the love of soccer go too far? Ask Rome, where the retirement of one player, Francesco Totti, plunged the city into mourning. “Rome is a city of symbols, the pope, the Coliseum,” a fan said. “And Totti is part of this.”

• An emoji of representation. A new Twitter symbol for Australia’s indigenous people — showing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags — is now available when users type in hashtags like #IndigenousAU, #ReconciliationWeek and #1967Referendum.

• George Orwell meets Philip K. Dick. Our reporters examine how China’s ambitions in technology mingle far-out sci-fi ideas with the needs of an authoritarian state.

Back Story

Today is the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, so let’s honor the Dragon Boat Festival.

The tradition commemorates Qu Yuan, the right hand of a ruler in what is now Hubei Province during the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). By one account, he set up a legal code, helped the poor and advocated resistance in Chu State to the dominant Qin State.

Spies and rivals brought him down, the story goes, and the Chu king exiled him. Distraught, he wandered and composed the sorrowful “Songs of the South,” a masterwork of classical Chinese verse.

When he learned that the Qin had invaded Chu — on this day of the lunar year in 278 B.C. — he drowned himself. Supporters launched boats to try to save him, and, to keep fish from his body, dropped rice balls into the water. The Dragon Boat Festival was born.

The celebration has spread from Japan to Melbourne, Australia to Prague. In Las Vegas, 28 teams competed in the Nevada International Dragon Boat Festival — including the first race between visually impaired paddlers.

And Qu Yuan himself may have smiled at the “poetic” name of the team racing to raise money for breast cancer: Rah Rah 4 the Ta-Tas.


This briefing was prepared for the Australian morning. We also have briefings timed for the Asian, European and American mornings. You can sign up for these and other Times newsletters here.

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