Thursday 19 Apr 2018 | 17:35 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

Why definitions will be crucial for North-South talks 

In just over a week, President of South Korea Moon Jae-in will sit with his northern counterpart, Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un, at Panmunjom, the historic site of the 1953 armistice, for the third instalment of the inter-Korean summit (to be broadcast live). The summit will occur

Is Trump ready to bear the cost of a trade war?

Agree or disagree with his conclusions, we owe Hugh White thanks for forcing us to grapple with “the China challenge”. White’s writings have stripped away much of the easy, high-sounding rhetoric about dealing with Beijing and honed in on the central feature of US–China relations in the

Syria strikes: mission accomplished?

The US military claims the ability of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons has been set back “for years” following strikes on Saturday. Given it is just one year since the US last struck Syrian targets following a chemical weapons attack, the latest claim won’t wash for many.

In Syria, Trump must collude with Russia

President Donald Trump is under enormous pressure to respond militarily to the latest provocation by the Assad regime, but he would do so against all of his instincts and earlier pronouncements to end US military involvement in the Syrian war. Just days before the chemical attacks in Douma,

The peril of North Korea’s charm offensive

Since the first days of 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has undertaken a series of diplomatic activities whose scope and significance are rivalled only by his missile and nuclear tests. The fact that Kim made his first overseas trip to China, attended a K-pop performance in Pyongyang,

Trump, Kim, and the deal of the century

We still don’t know exactly when or where President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are going to meet, but Kim’s furtive visit to Beijing this week has heightened expectations that the summit will happen sometime in May. By the time the summit occurs, attention on this historic event

Hot take: what does Kim Jong-un’s trip to China mean?

So it’s now confirmed that Kim Jong-un went to China in the past few days to meet Xi Jinping. And apparently Xi will now go to Pyongyang. Breaking: Photos of secret talks between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping emerge in the Chinese media https://t.co/kdnPKQixGq pic.twitter.com/G7tQh0Amd8 — Javier

US–North Korea summit: can Trump deliver?

An armoured train carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un pulled into Beijing on Monday, with a summit with China’s Xi Jinping confirmed Wednesday morning by Xinhua. Perhaps Kim came to reassure China that he won’t upend regional geopolitics by making a dramatic deal with

South China Sea: the Philippine fissure

A new normal is evident in the South China Sea disputes. Last week, Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana revealed that China continues to exchange radio challenges and responses with Philippine aircraft patrols and resupply missions in the West Philippine Sea. With Manila keen to

What to expect from John Bolton at the White House

President Donald Trump’s announcement that former UN Ambassador John Bolton will be the new US National Security Advisor will send tremors through some allied capitals. But Bolton may not be effective in the role if he reverts to the aggressive and ideological approaches that made him

Intellectual property: the big risk in US–China ties

It may be chaotic and confused, but the Trump administration is not entirely nuts. Expected to slam China with heavy penalties for appropriating the intellectual property of US businesses, the administration instead appears to be stopping short of a fundamental injury to the world’s biggest

Carrots and sticks in the Iran nuclear deal

In January, US President Donald Trump’s frustration with the Iran nuclear deal got the better of him as he set a 12 May deadline for its renegotiation. But meeting this goal is impossible in the current environment. As a result, in an unnecessary and counterproductive move, it looks like the US

Rex Tillerson sacked: the swamp was winning

We’ll get to the consequences of Rex Tillerson’s sacking in a moment, but first consider his brief tenure as America’s chief diplomat. Mostly Tillerson will be remembered (lamented) for presiding over savage cuts to the State Department. Certainly there was damage – no one ever really

Multilateral trade versus self-interest

How should countries respond to President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium? One response would be to retaliate. Another would be to emphasise the damage done to the global multilateral trade framework. Yet another would be to negotiate a side deal to avoid, and perhaps even benefit

The danger of might without power

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the Pentagon is “considering plans to send heavily armed, versatile Marine Corps Expeditionary Units to East Asia … as it repositions forces in response to growing Chinese influence”. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Company tax cuts: America versus Australia

The expert panel on the ABC’s Q&A program earlier this month was hopelessly confused in comparing Donald Trump’s cut in US company tax with the proposed company tax cuts in Australia. Although it’s often useful to compare domestic economic policy initiatives with those

Moon versus Abe and the contest for America’s ear

A battle is underway between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in over their differing approaches to North Korea. They are competing to shape the attitudes of US President Donald Trump, and this contest has been a compelling sideshow at the PyeongChang Winter

Vietnamisation in space: America withdraws from ISS

Private enterprise is taking great strides in space. Recently, entrepreneur Elon Musk launched his own Tesla car into Martian orbit with the world’s most powerful rocket, his own Falcon Heavy. Other entrepreneurs are also making progress with rockets and spacecraft. Against this backdrop, the US

China and the military balance

The International Institute for Strategic Studies has launched the 2018 edition of The Military Balance, which tracks the development of military forces around the world. It contains a striking stat about China’s naval development: OK, this is an isolated factoid, but it illustrates a

The Monroe Doctrine revival

No other great powers will be allowed in Latin America, and liberal democracy is the only political system allowed in the region (or, in practice, no socialist or Marxist rule will be tolerated in the region). These are the two tenets of the Monroe Doctrine established by the US in 1823, a

Assessing global threats

The US has delivered its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, a useful document in that it provides a measure of transparency for judgements by the US intelligence community, yet which often tastes of cardboard – a bland, tick-the-box exercise that offers little genuine insight. Of course, the

The tide is turning against US financial regulation

For most of the decade since the global financial crisis, financial regulation has been strengthened. Now the tide is turning in America. Reform has come up against the combined forces of Wall Street lobbying and Donald Trump’s deregulation agenda. It is beyond dispute that the financial crisis

America’s two doctrines

“The United States now has two competing national security doctrines – Trump’s and that of his national security team.” That’s Tom Wright from the Brookings Institution (and a Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow), writing in The Atlantic. He makes a compelling point. While new policy

Indonesia–US relations: sweating the small stuff

The US and Indonesia have declared an overarching “strategic partnership” to meet broader challenges, from regional architecture building to global governance. At least, this was the case under the Barack Obama (2008–16) and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–14) presidencies. But under

Asia’s escalating missile race

If the Cold War was one long arms race, the modern era could be accurately described as an arms jog. Countries are defined less by how many nuclear warheads they have, and more by what they can do with them. This is particularly the case in Australia’s immediate region, where a

Joining the dots to Vancouver

Represented by Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Frances Adamson, Australia was one of 20 countries that participated in a conference last week on coordinating international approaches to North Korea. Co-hosted by Canada and the US, and held in Vancouver, the conference had

What a US–China trade war would look like

Sometime soon, US President Donald Trump will announce his plan to respond to what the administration calls China’s “economic aggression”. When he does, it is not only China that needs to be prepared to respond. Together accounting for well over a third of global output, the collateral damage

Why Hillary Clinton still haunts Donald Trump

Despite White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s fearlessly fictitious claim that nobody in the Trump administration is still talking about Hillary Clinton, President Donald Trump himself has tweeted about his former campaign rival no fewer than 75 times since being inaugurated. There is no

Washington's weak hand to play in Syria

With the change of administration in Washington came new clarity about US policy on Syria. The admirable, short-term aim was to defeat ISIS. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the organisation that would produce this outcome on the ground, was founded in late 2015 (the '

Pakistan: A reluctant ally

In one of his first tweets of the year, US President Donald Trump launched a tirade against Pakistan. ‘The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years’, Trump fumed, ‘and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit’. Washington

A turning point in US economic relations with China

The US appears to have reached a turning point in its economic relationship with China. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump accused Chinese policy makers of perpetrating the ‘greatest theft in the history of the world’ and blamed their foolish and incompetent American

Best of The Interpreter 2017: Donald Trump

The world was still reeling in January from Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. Barbara Slavin: As Americans ponder the future with fear, it is hard to reassure friends around the world that as Barack Obama told his farewell news conference, 'Everything is going to be okay'. Then, for

Clear messages required in Twitter-age of diplomacy

Robert Ayson is quite right to pick me up on the distinction between pre-emptive and preventative military strikes. My post on Australia’s policy towards a US attack on North Korea argued Australia should make clear that it would not support a pre-emptive US strike at the North’s nuclear and

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