Sunday 08 Dec 2019 | 09:39 | SYDNEY
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Asia

A bleak view of Southeast Asia

ASEAN's 50th anniversary last month prompted one enthusiastic commentator to suggest that the organisation deserves a Nobel Prize but a recently published book by a long-time observer of Southeast Asian politics offers a rather more sceptical view.  In Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in

Don’t discount the chances of a new Korean war

Robert Kelly all but discounts the possibility of conflict on the Korean Peninsula. While this is plainly wrong, he is right on other points, namely the emotional differences between South Korea and America in how they react to the North Korean threat.   The American press does inflate

Cambodia’s dying democracy

On Monday, the highly respected English language newspaper The Cambodia Daily, under pressure from the government to shut down, published its last edition. The front page led with a photo of Cambodia’s opposition leader, Kem Sokha, being escorted into detention by police after his arrest on Sunday

The Timor Sea breakthrough

Last Friday, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) announced a 'breakthrough' in maritime boundary conciliation proceedings between Timor-Leste and Australia. The two parties 'reached an agreement on the central elements of a maritime boundary delimitation' and on a 'Special Regime'

North Korea: Trump’s terrible binary choice

It is critical that we understand what North Korea’s test of a thermonuclear device means. North Korea claims that the weapon is miniaturised to fit onto a Hwasong­–14 intercontinental ballistic missile. We must assume this claim is true. North Korea’s advances have exceeded every expectation

The Tadmadaw returns to the ‘four cuts’ doctrine

In the past week, some 40,000 people from Myanmar's Rakhine State have fled to Bangladesh amid reports of indiscriminate killing and property damage by the Myanmar military. The violence comes in the wake of attacks by Muslim Rohingya on at least 20 police stations and an army base. These attacks

North Korean nuclear crisis: Talks still the best option

North Korea has just carried out its sixth nuclear test, claimed to be of a hydrogen bomb suitable for fitting on a missile capable of reaching the United States. At this stage there is insufficient information to determine whether it was a true hydrogen (fusion) weapon or a less-technically

Delhi’s new Indian Ocean diplomacy

As China continues to ramp up its Indian Ocean presence, Delhi is stepping up its engagement, collaborations and demonstrations of leadership in the region. In addition to expanding its network of naval partners and bilateral exercises, India is also reviving regional institutions such as IORA and

Addressing global capital flows

International capital flows present serious policy challenges. In textbook economics, such flows are unambiguously beneficial. But volatile flows were a key cause of the 1997 Asian crisis, cross-country financial linkages exacerbated the 2008 global crisis, and capital flows were once again central

Doklam: Who won?

North Korea's latest missile outrage has stolen the global headlines from a potentially even more significant turn of events in world security. That is the seemingly sudden resolution of the border confrontation between Chinese and Indian troops in an area known as Doklam in disputed Himalayan

Has Marawi killed the Philippines peace process?

For years, the common wisdom about conflict in the southern Philippines was that the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was the best antidote to radicalisation. We all said it – analysts, activists, donors, diplomats, anyone who cared about making Mindanao a better place

How Trump’s new approach to Pakistan might pan out

Perhaps the most notable part of President Trump's new Afghanistan 'strategy' is its treatment of Pakistan, with Trump saying out loud what was once largely debated and threatened in private: The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no

What is gained by shooting missiles across Japan?

On Tuesday morning, North Korean launched a missile over the southern tip of Hokkaido in northern Japan. Given the close interdependence of North Korea’s satellite launch program and its missile development, the latest launch invokes memories of August 1998, when the North Korean Kwangmyŏngsŏ

Japan’s five years of Abenomics

For many international observers, the Japanese economy is an enigma. On the face of it, the economy has been in bad shape ever since the Japanese stock market began to crash in late 1989, almost 30 years ago. Yet as you wander around Japan, both in Tokyo and across the country, it hardly seems a

Trump’s Afghanistan policy: Best in 16 years

Part One of this series looked at what President Trump’s recent Afghanistan policy announcement told us about the President and his administration. This post examines the policy itself and its consequences for Australia. Trump claims he has learned from history in his study of the Afghan war. If

Hun Sen prepares for next year’s national elections

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen often criticises those he sees as his political enemies but even seasoned observers have been puzzled by his recent attack on English-language newspaper the Cambodia Daily, which he claims owes the government a tax bill of US$6.3million.Once published with the quiet

Doklam stand-off may spark Indian Ocean tensions

The two-month standoff between India and China on the desolate Doklam plateau in the Himalayas shows no signs of ending. Indeed, while both sides have so far been careful to avoid a shooting match, there are indications that relations are souring further and the confrontation could easily

Burn the books, bury the scholars!

Chinese censorship has come a long way. During his rule in the 2nd century BC, the First Emperor of a unified China famously quelled the intellectual diversity of his day by 'burning the books and burying the scholars'. This infamy would be decried throughout Chinese history until, in 1958, Mao

What the US would need to deter China

I am reassured to see from Ely Ratner's most recent post in our exchange on US-China relations and the South China Sea how much he and I agree about, because I have such a high regard for his ideas on these important questions, and for his lucid and gracious way of presenting them. In fact, we

India feeling the heat on Belt and Road

In May, when China organised a major summit in Beijing around its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as 'One Belt, One Road', or OBOR), one invited country was completely absent: India. In response to queries, New Delhi issued only a short statement that underscored the benefits of

Big job ahead for China’s new envoy to North Korea

Competition for the world’s most thankless jobs is hotting up. Donald Trump’s chief of staff, the Premier of China, the official standing next to the UK’s Panglossian Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davies – all these jobs have, as their number one objective, taking endless

Indonesia's unorthodox toll road debt

In 2016 Indonesia’s Ministry of Public Works dramatically underestimated the funds it needed to acquire land for toll road development. To try to keep development on schedule, the government leaned on toll road developers to lend them the difference at well-below-commercial rates. Over a year

South China Sea: Beijing raises the temperature again

Something significant is happening in the South China Sea. Philippine media has reported that, over the past week, a flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels, accompanied by PLA Navy frigates and Chinese Coast Guard vessels, have maintained a presence very close to Thitu (which Manila calls 'Pagasa'),

Timor-Leste’s critical window on ASEAN

Amid the celebrations of ASEAN's 50th birthday last week, the question of whether Timor-Leste will soon be granted full membership lingers. ASEAN membership is the cornerstone of Timor-Leste's foreign policy. In March 2011, Timor-Leste applied for formal membership to ASEAN while Indonesia was

Australia and Korea’s wars: A debate worth revisiting

Tensions have temporarily abated on the Korean Peninsula, following the latest blustery exchanges between Washington and Pyongyang. In typically mercurial fashion, after threatening 'fire and fury', President Donald Trump has now praised Kim Jong-un’s 'decision' not to launch missiles at Guam as '

South China Sea patrols: Does the Trump team get it?

On 10 August, a US Navy warship challenged China’s implied claim to a territorial sea around Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. By lingering for six hours within 12 nautical miles of the massive island China has constructed on the reef, the USS John McCain affirmed the principle, clearly

Australia and Korea’s wars

In light of recent discussion about Australia's responsibilities under the Korean Armistice Agreement, we are republishing this post that first appeared on 29 November, 2010. In 1985, I published a paper entitled 'Australia and the Republic of Korea: Still Allies or Just Good Friends'. I had not

The Kra Canal: Double bypass

Recent reports that Thailand, with Chinese money, is planning to build a new canal between the Pacific and Indian Oceans have set off a new wave of alarm bells over China’s plans to dominate the region. If – and it is a big if – the project goes ahead, it will create some big winners and

New sanctions spark a China-North Korea diplomatic row

The UN Security Council sanctions resolution (UNSCR 2371) on North Korea, passed last week, is the toughest yet. It fully bans the export from North Korea of iron, lead, coal and seafood, expands the number of sanctioned entities and individuals, prevents new joint ventures or additional investment

North Korea has goals other than nukes

As you will no doubt have seen by now, President Trump has issued a threat to North Korea: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they

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