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VOA Asia Weekly: Biden Highlights Efforts with China, Mexico to Combat Fentanyl

VOA Asia Weekly: Biden Highlights Efforts with China, Mexico to Combat Fentanyl
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Attack on Gaza's Indonesian Hospital. North Korea says it successfully launched spy satellite. Taiwan's leading presidential candidate picks running mate. "Frozen" fans converge on Hong Kong Disney Resort.

Slowing the flow of fentanyl from China into the U.S.

Welcome to VOA Asia Weekly. I'm Chris Casquejo in Washington. That story is just ahead, but first, making headlines:

Israel and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to a ceasefire in Gaza for at least four days, to let in aid and release at least 50 hostages captured by militants in exchange for at least 150 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

A shell struck the second floor of the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza, killing at least 12 people, according to a medical worker inside the facility and the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

North Korea on Tuesday launched a rocket, which it says was carrying a reconnaissance satellite. Both Japan and South Korea reported the launch. It was Pyongyang’s third attempted spy satellite launch this year. In response, the Japanese government issued an emergency warning for residents in the south to take cover, citing the potential threat of a North Korean missile.

Almost 1,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have arrived in Indonesia by boat over the past week. Officials reported on Monday that these refugees comprise five groups of women and children who have been adrift at sea for days. A batch of over 240 people faced rejection twice by residents in the Aceh Utara district, raising concerns among human rights organizations.

Vice President William Lai, the leading candidate for Taiwan’s presidency, has announced Hsiao Bi-khim as his running mate for the upcoming January election. Hsiao, a distinguished diplomat who previously served as Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US, is well-known in Washington. Beijing denounces her as a separatist.

U.S. President Joe Biden highlighted on Tuesday his administration’s efforts to halt the flow of fentanyl and the ingredients used to produce the deadly drug, following deals with leaders of China and Mexico last week. However, as VOA chief White House correspondent Patsy Widakuswara tells us, observers say past efforts to control production and export from outside of the country have proved ineffective.

The deadly drug fentanyl can be shipped undetected via airport cargo, border crossings and even through the postal system.

Following counternarcotics deals with China and Mexico reached on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco last week, on Tuesday President Joe Biden vowed to boost his administration’s efforts to combat the drug that has killed more than 200 thousand Americans in recent years.

"This challenge also has roots outside our borders, outside the borders of the United States. It's a global challenge that demands global action.”

Fentanyl is mass-produced in Mexico using precursor chemicals largely from China and trafficked via cartels into the U.S. While China has agreed to reduce the flow of precursor chemicals, implementation remains to be seen, and other sources may open up.

“We always worry about displacement. That is that if China stops sending the precursors, that the very large, poorly regulated, corruptly regulated, Indian industry will replace China.”

Experts praise Biden’s comprehensive approach but say that a heavy focus on limiting fentanyl’s entry can be counter-productive to the positive steps in harm reduction the administration has taken.

“Many of these efforts to restrict the supply lead traffickers to identify substances which are more potent. So that means a smaller quantity for the same effect, which are easier to traffic.”

Biden urged Congress to tighten laws to make fentanyl a Schedule One drug. But advocates say such a move is dangerous.

“Maintaining the scheduling of fentanyl as Schedule One means that people are going to be stigmatized, they're going to go to jail and prison, and actually get pulled out of their communities and be more likely to overdose.”

Sylla argued that more focus and resources should be placed instead on efforts to reduce the negative impacts of substance use, including syringe services, overdose prevention and drug treatments.

Patsy Widakuswara, VOA News, Washington.

Visit for the most up-to-date stories.

I’m Chris Casquejo.

And now,

“Welcome to the Kingdom of Arendelle.”

As the gates to the first Frozen-themed land officially opened at the Hong Kong Disney Resort, hundreds of ‘Frozen’ fans from around the world rushed in.

Thanks for watching VOA Asia Weekly.