Sunday 25 Aug 2019 | 06:16 | SYDNEY
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Asia Pacific Security

Why Japan hangs tough on the history issue

In one of my previous essays for The Interpreter, I argued that Japan at some point needs to come around on the history questions that divide it so sharply from South Korea and China. I argued that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his coalition persist in interpretations of the empire and the war

Is China ready for global leadership?

Is China ready for a larger global role and should the outside world, in particular a regional partner like Australia, embrace this possibility? Evidently not, judging by remarks made by the Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department, Michael Thawley. 'China wasn't ready to take on the

Peak box? Global container trade is slackening

In a little-noticed interview, the chief of Panama's Canal Authority concedes that 'the world and the canal were unlikely to ever again see the booming container trade that characterised the 1990s and early 2000s' due to shifting manufacturing patterns and American thrift. Obviously, he has

Liberalism, China and the internet

'It's not that laws aren't relevant' said MIT Media Lab co-founder Nicholas Negroponte during the 1990s, 'it's that the nation-state is not relevant...The internet cannot be regulated.'   Negroponte's assessment has not aged well, but to be fair, he was not alone in his belief. Digital activist

Shadow boxing on the Korean Peninsula

The report that Korean People's Army General Hyon Yong-ch'ol, Minister of the People's Armed Forces, has been shot for insubordination – by an anti-aircraft gun and before a crowd of officials, no less – raises troubling questions about both halves of the divided Korean Peninsula. While there

A way forward for Indonesia-Australia relations

It is hard to avoid a sense of déjà vu when one looks at Indonesia-Australia relations today. Our fundamental strategic interests mostly converge – from regional and maritime stability to managing China's growing power – even if our policy preferences diverge in various issue areas. And

China-Russia: An uneasy friendship

The China-Russia relationship is the world's most important, and the best between any two great powers, Xi Jinping told Vladimir Putin a couple of years ago. Last week, at the Kremlin's V-Day celebration, their ties were reaffirmed in grand style. Some observers dismiss the partnership as an '

China's dangerous cyberwar strategy

There's an 'Uber for X', goes the little ditty, celebrating the ubiquitous infiltration of the online 'sharing economy.' It seems Uber's business model can be turned to virtually all our needs, and a global ecosystem of app buttons has popped up on our smartphones. As in so many things, however,

Jokowi hoping for good news from Papua

President Jokowi lifted an effective ban on foreign journalists reporting from Papua during his visit to the province over the weekend. Aside from being a positive step for press freedom, the move has been interpreted as an effort by Jokowi to boost his own image as a human rights defender and to

Are peace talks in Afghanistan slowly taking shape?

In a positive sign for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, an Afghan Government delegation recently met with Taliban representatives in Qatar – ostensibly for a research conference, but most likely to discuss the commencement of formal peace talks. Representatives from Pakistan also attended

Unquestioned beliefs on both sides of US-China divide

China and the US have both been described as countries that consider themselves to be exceptional. China, so much so, that some analysts argue it sees itself as 'uniquely unique'. What this means in China is that most Chinese understand themselves to be part of a culture that no-one else can truly

New Defence Guidelines re-brand US-Japan alliance

The US-Japan Defence Cooperation Guidelines are best thought of as an occasional re-branding exercise for the US-Japan alliance in response to changing strategic conditions. Following a review, a revised version of the Guidelines was announced on 27 April. The 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation

Burma: Police reforms expand women's roles

There was a time when there were very few women in Burma’s national police force, and they were practically invisible. Under an ambitious plan to enlarge, modernise and reform the Myanmar Police Force (MPF), however, that situation is rapidly changing. Not only are there now many more female

Nepal aid response reflects regional rivalries

In recent years, strategic rivalry between India and China has been evident across the Indo-Pacific, with Beijing progressively growing its diplomatic, economic and military influence on India's land and maritime periphery, and India belatedly pushing back to preserve its once privileged position in

North Korea's new diplomacy

Russian state-run news agency Tass confirmed on 22 April that Kim Jong-un will be in Moscow for the 9 May Victory Day celebrations. The North Korean leader will be among 26 other heads of state who have so far confirmed their attendance. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong (Flickr/UN Geneva)

China's economic march into Pakistan

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is nothing short of a 'fate changer', said Pakistani Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal, the man behind the historic project. The excitement appears to be mutual, as China has shown equal enthusiasm for the project throughout a two-day visit by Chinese President

Burma: The return of the 'vigilantes'

In 2011, Burma's hybrid civilian-military government launched an ambitious reform program that, among other things, envisaged the transfer of responsibility for Burma's internal security from the armed forces to the national police. Given Naypyidaw's firm and public commitment to this policy, it

China's dream scenario for Asia

'Who lost China?' is perhaps the most dreaded question of modern American foreign policy. It reveals the historical dilemma that haunts Washington today: The rise of China will inevitably challenge America's longstanding presence in Asia; it doesn't matter whether American interests actively help or

America's China consensus slowly unravels

For a long time American (and Australian) thinking about China has been dominated by a broad consensus that, despite many signs of growing assertiveness, Beijing does not pose a fundamental challenge to US leadership in Asia. The argument goes that, whatever they might say, China's leaders know

Ashton Carter's Northeast Asia visit looks south

Ashton Carter's inaugural trip to Asia as US Secretary of Defense went about as smoothly as he could have hoped. The logic of visiting Tokyo and Seoul ahead of other capitals in the region is straightforward. Between them, Japan and South Korea host over 80,000 US military personnel and the bulk

French elections reverberate in New Caledonia

    You might wonder whether the result of the recent second round of French departmental elections – with Nicolas Sarkozy taking credit for the UMP's win of 67 departments, trouncing Francois Hollande's Socialists, who got 34 – has anything to do with Australian

The coming nuclearisation of the Indian Ocean

While the world focuses on the dangers that a nuclear-armed Iran could present in the Middle East, a potentially more dangerous and unstable nuclear proliferation is occurring in the Indian Ocean. In the coming years India, Pakistan, and perhaps China will likely deploy a significant number of

Shambaugh's China disaster scenario examined

'Always predict disaster', a shrewd academic economist told me some years ago. 'If it happens, you are proved right. And if it doesn't, then catastrophe was avoided by people heeding your wise and timely advice!' Dystopia is, as least for those foreseeing it, a win-win game. 18th National Congress

Do we need 'full-spectrum defence'?

The first thing to say about Alan Dupont's recent paper is that he is absolutely correct about the dire condition of Australian strategic policy. As he suggests, we lack a coherent answer to the most basic question of all: 'What do we want our armed forces to be able to do?' Until that question

India is no ally of the US

In the continuing debate between Hugh White and Shaskank Joshi regarding US-India strategic cooperation, I would associate myself closely with the views of White and what he sees as the eventual limits of the relationship. But I would take it one step further. In the long-term, an anti-US

Would India go to war with China to help America?

In his latest contribution to our debate, Shashank Joshi raised some excellent points against my sceptical view of the emerging India-US strategic partnership. But I'm still unpersuaded. To explain why, it helps to step back and clarify the question we are debating here. It is not whether

What is New Zealand's mission in Iraq?

On Tuesday New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced in parliament that New Zealand would deploy a non-combat military mission to Iraq as part of the US-led coalition against ISIS. The 'Building Partner Capacity' mission to help train the Iraqi Security Forces will be part of a joint (albeit

Is Beijing supporting rebel groups in Myanmar?

China faces a recurring problem along along its border with Myanmar. Beijing has repeatedly emphasised that it wants to play a constructive role in Myanmar's national reconciliation and economic development. But no matter what Beijing does to signal good intentions, on a local level the capacities,

Timor-Leste: New prime minister, new approach

It has finally happened. After months of 'will he, won't he' melodrama, Xanana Gusmão, Timor-Leste's resistance leader and long-serving prime minister, has stepped down. His successor, Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, will be sworn in as prime minister in a ceremony in Dili later today. The new PM will

The US-India convergence

One of the most important aspects of the recent dramatic shift in US-India relations has been the convergence in the two states' narratives about Asia. It's easy to forget that this change is palpable not just over a four-decade period, but even in the past six years alone. In 2009, early in his

North Korea's emerging cyber capabilities

The cyber attack on Sony Pictures by North Korea in response to the film The Interview (which opens in Australian cinemas today; see my review) came after a series of North Korean hacks of institutions in South Korea. It appears North Korea is improving its cyber capabilities and widening its target

India nuclear deal needs serious parliamentary scrutiny

The Australian parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) will soon review the proposed treaty between Australia and India on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed by Prime Ministers Abbott and Modi in New Delhi on 5 September 2014. A 1984 cartoon on Australia's

A dangerous history of multipolarity

The Sino-American relationship may be in decent shape. It's other countries we should be worried about. Last year, the centenary of World War I's outbreak, was a bonanza for history fans. The prior benchmark The Guns of August, published 50 years ago, was comfortably eclipsed by several authors

Treat terrorism like crime, not war

Earlier this week Anthony Bubalo suggested that a debate is needed about how to properly counter terrorism in liberal democracies, and more specifically how to achieve the proper balance between security and civil liberties when confronting violent extremism. This is part 1 of my response. The

Why invading North Korea is a terrible idea

Earlier this month, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry argued for a US invasion of North Korea. Thankfully, the general response has been quite negative (here, here and here). Invading North Korea is a terrible idea, and it is worth laying out why in some detail. I do not intend this as a particular shot

Police massacre threatens Philippines peace deal

The best chance for peace in Muslim Mindanao in the Philippines has just noticeably faded. The deadly clash in the early morning of Sunday 25 January between the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police and the local command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the

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