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Asian Stocks Extend Losses; Markets Cautious as Tariff Hour Nears

Asian markets extended losses in afternoon trade – Asian markets extended losses in afternoon trade on Thursday as markets remained cautious ahead of a deadline when tariffs from the U.S. and China are due to be implemented.

U.S.-China trade relations continue to take center stage, as the Chinese government accused the U.S. of "opening fire" on the world with its threatened tariffs. Beijing will respond the instant U.S. measures go into effect, its customs agency said on Thursday in a short statement.

"If the U.S. implements tariffs, they will actually be adding tariffs on companies from all countries, including Chinese and U.S. companies," Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said.

"U.S. measures are essentially attacking global supply and value chains. To put it simply, the U.S. is opening fire on the entire world, including itself," he added.

"China will not bow down in the face of threats and blackmail and will not falter from its determination to defend free trade and the multilateral system."

On Friday, the U.S. is scheduled to impose tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods.

Chinese Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Wednesday that China would “never fire the first shot”, and that the country would not implement tariffs ahead of the U.S., despite recent reports suggested that Beijing would begin imposing tariffs hours ahead of the U.S. due to the time zone difference.

Losses on the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Component steepened through the morning, with both index trading down 1.0% by 1:07AM ET (05:07 GMT). Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was also down 1.3%.

HNA Group Chairman Wang Jian, who had a 15% stake in the group, passed away in an accident while on a business trip in France, the company said on Thursday.

HNA, based on the southern Chinese island of Hainan, is best known as the owner of Hainan Airlines Co and for holding stakes in Deutsche Bank AG and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.8% in morning trade. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is reportedly preparing to head back to North Korea this week to discuss its nuclear disarmament.

At the Singapore summit earlier this year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised to “work toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” but has made no mention of how exactly or when Pyongyang might give up a nuclear weapons program.

Samsung Electronics (KS:005930) received some focus as reported on Thursday said its subsidiary Samsung Life Insurance is facing pressure to sell its stock in the electronics maker.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei 225 slid 1.1%. Index heavyweight Fast Retailing Co., Ltd. (T:9983) slumped as much as 2.8%.

Down under, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 bucked the trend to advance 0.5%.

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