Saturday 23 Jun 2018 | 17:28 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Reunification out of reach

The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore was the first step towards persuading North Korea to join the few countries that have relinquished nuclear weapons. It also presents the best chance since the Clinton administration’s breakthroughs in 2000 to normalise relations.  But

The big clean-up in Malaysia

While the world is watching Malaysia, trying to explain the unexpected victory of Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in last month’s elections, what is actually more important is the massive clean-up currently underway in the country. By clean-up, I mean a near-total replacement of all key

US-China trade: joke’s over

Once entertaining, the Trump administration is becoming unfunny. In less than a week the trade dispute between China and the US has escalated to cover what will quite likely be the entirety of US goods exports to China, and the greater part, if not the whole, of Chinese goods exports to the US

The China puzzle in Asia

China is rising! This remarkable event, which is hardly surprising because the process has been underway for at least forty years, is causing great excitement in Australia and elsewhere. In some circles, China’s strong economic growth and international activities have 

When Indonesia sits on the Security Council

Indonesia has successfully won its bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council 2019–20, but what is the country likely to achieve? There are, of course, significant constraints to what a non-permanent member of the Security Council can do within the UN

Time to denounce China’s Muslim gulag

One of the worst human rights abuses in recent times is occurring in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party has rounded up possibly one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in purpose-built concentration camps where they are subjected to

It’s all up to Moon now

The Trump–Kim summit last week in Singapore was a nothingburger – not good or bad, just nothing new really at all. After months of hype, including grossly inflated talk of CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament) and a Nobel prize, US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North

Ceasefire in Afghanistan: the first win for peace   

For the first time, the Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed on a ceasefire in the 17 years–long conflict that has made Afghanistan one of the most violent places on the planet. Both parties unilaterally announced the temporary armistice. The halt to hostilities has provided a glimmer

Should Shinzo Abe happen to meet Kim Jong-un

In recent weeks, Northeast Asia has enjoyed an unprecedented season of summitry. Spurred by a common desire to curb the North Korean nuclear threat, key leaders from the region have held historic bilateral talks with Kim Jong-un in close succession. Despite the fact that a concrete denuclearisation

China’s rising interests in Qatar

It has been a year since Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the UAE led the boycott, instituting an economic and trade embargo that isolated Qatar by air, land, and sea from its neighbours, sternly restricting Qatari-bound

Vietnam: reconciling the diaspora

In 2018, Vietnam and Australia marked the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations by upgrading their ties to a strategic partnership. On this occasion, however, it is hard not to reflect on the disparity between the Vietnamese diaspora and homeland. Almost 45 years after the

Taking a stand for North Korean rocket engine tests

While many results from the recent Trump–Kim summit are yet to emerge, we can at least ponder one immediate and tangible outcome. North Korea has announced it is dismantling a rocket/missile engine test stand, which has been used to develop its ballistic missile capability as well as its space

Trump-Kim summit: China smiles

As analysts and pundits rake through the breadcrumbs dropped after the Trump–Kim summit in Singapore, one thing is for certain: the People’s Republic of China (hereafter “China”) is happy. The relationship between China and North Korea has been described as “as close as lips and teeth

Human rights missing in Trump–Kim summit

The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry into North Korean human rights was a rallying cry for the international community to take immediate action to address the egregious nature of abuses in the country. Thanks to the concerted efforts of a transnational coalition of dedicated activists, the North

Will Pakistan’s CPEC dream turn into a nightmare?

China’s huge infrastructure investments as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have the potential to change the strategic dynamics of the entire region. The BRI’s “flagship” project is the US$62 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is planned to run from one end of

Trump–Kim summit: negotiating weakness

Among many Asia watchers, there is a clear sense of disappointment with the Trump–Kim summit in Singapore on Tuesday. The deal is light on detail. Donald Trump got less from Kim Jong-un than Bill Clinton got from North Korea. Trump made a major concession by pledging to stop joint military

Trump–Kim summit: Moon’s conflicted achievement

North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un scored a huge diplomatic victory on Tuesday when he finally got the chance to hold a summit with US President Donald Trump, a feat his grandfather and father never achieved. In addition to the credit Kim and Trump received for their courageous acts, South

“Gunfights” in Bangladesh

In the past three weeks, no fewer than 130 people have died in what Bangladesh’s security forces have described as “gunfights”. The police and other forces, such as the Rapid Action Battalion, used this term to persuade citizens into believing that gangs of drug dealers and law enforcers

The Supreme Leader and his bodyguards

The Singapore summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump has all the drama of a Hollywood production, including glimpses the world is getting of the entourage travelling with the North Korean leader. One of the most visually striking elements of this entourage has been Kim’s phalanx of

Trump-Kim summit: history happens

The handshake lasted 12 seconds, body language experts tell us. That’s not quite the full minute Donald Trump had predicted it would take him to judge whether Kim Jong-un was ready to make a deal, but whatever the substance behind the showcase, this summit is indeed an extraordinary moment in

A new path to dispute settlement

On 9 May, the United Nations Conciliation Commission (UNCC) concerning the Timor Sea dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia released its final report. This was the first time such a form of compulsory dispute resolution had been invoked, with the proceedings initiated in April the year

A primer for the Trump–Kim summit

Barely six months ago, Australia’s debate on North Korea featured Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speculating about invoking the ANZUS treaty in case of war, and discussion on The Interpreter between Hugh White and Rob Ayson about what conflict with a nuclear-armed

Cambodia: the unfree press

The Cambodian government has continued tightening the screws on its already crippled free press, introducing severe prohibitions on election reporting ahead of the ballot in July, and establishing a taskforce to monitor social media posts. Guidelines issued by the National Election

Indonesia’s LGBT crackdown

Last month, Indonesia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was buoyed by a decision to remove the phrase “same-sex” from the article on fornication in the proposed Criminal Code (KUHP) bill, amid a raft of contentious legal changes that have sparked much debate

Kashmir: walking the line

Perhaps the biggest casualty of the current state of India–Pakistan relations has been Kashmir, where issues regarding territory, autonomy, and cross-border confrontations have been a long-standing flashpoint between the two countries. Recent times have seen total disregard&

North Korea: beyond an all-or-nothing ultimatum

Unsurprisingly, North Korea played a major role at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore over the weekend, as the focus of the event’s second main panel, and cropped up in discussion throughout. North Korea, of course, did not attend, and China lamentably insists on sending only mid-level

In conversation: Indonesian sectarianism

What are we to make of the relationship between religion and politics in Indonesia? Is Indonesia becoming more intolerant, or is intolerance becoming a more politically mainstream tactic? Following the mass rallies against then Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama in late 2016, and

Redesigning a nation: Guo Pei

Vain trifles as they seem, clothes have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us warm. They change our view of the world, and the world’s view of us.Virginia Woolf, Orlando (1928)  In 2003, then president of the French Fashion Federation, Didier Grumbach, had only one

China eyes its next prize – the Mekong

Beijing’s islands-building in the South China Sea and their militarisation, replete with surface-to-air missiles, is near complete. With guile, threat, and coercion, China can now seize control of one of the main transport arteries of Southeast Asia, making a mockery of

Japan-Russia: Abe’s brutal truth

On 26 May, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow for what was their 21st bilateral meeting. For the most part, the outcomes of that meeting paint a sorry picture for the Abe administration. No meaningful progress was made at the meeting on core

Mindful Mattis did just fine at the Shangri-La Dialogue

The theme of geopolitical competition which ran through the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue was appropriately expansive for the debut of the US Indo-Pacific strategy as outlined by US Defense Secretary James Mattis. Given that Singapore will host the Trump–Kim meeting in just over a week

Modi plays by the “rules” at Shangri-La

Sometimes what politicians don’t say is as important as what they do say. So it was with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi’s keenly anticipated keynote at the Shangri-La Dialogue this year. The speech could have been fiery, as Modi’s rhetoric often is in front of a domestic audience. But

A study in controversy: Chinese students in Australia

According to the caricature in the popular media, Chinese international students in Australia are devoted agents of the Chinese Government. They are “brainwashed from birth” and, in this compromised state, pose a threat to Australian universities and the values they espouse. In this context,

Rohingya: UN takes a cautious step forward in Myanmar

For months, Myanmar has sought a deal with the United Nations, to validate its assertions that is prepared to facilitate the “safe, voluntary, and dignified return” of Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh. In an arrangement struck late Thursday night, two UN agencies agreed to work with Aung

Has the PLA really overlooked its amphibious force?

It might surprise the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to learn they’ve short-changed themselves on amphibious capability. Sam Roggeveen wrote on The Interpreter recently (“Why China isn’t planning to storm Taiwan’s beaches”) that “China’s navy has grown dramatically over the past two

Singapore summit: the case for guarded optimism

Everybody is saying it: the big split between the US and North Korea as we head towards the 12 June leaders summit in Singapore (and yes, it looks like it is on again) is over the meaning of  “denuclearisation”. The maximalist American definition is that North Korea must dismantle

India: guiltless children in prison

More than 1800 children aged between one month and six years old languish in Indian jails, growing up with their imprisoned mothers. The plight of these guiltless children has long been known in India, but recent investigations by a human rights lawyer in the state of Odisha, on

Change in Malaysia, awkward questions for Singapore

In January this year, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong held a joint press conference with then prime minister of neighbouring Malaysia Najib Razak.  “I do not expect elections to change the nature of relations between our two countries,” Najib said in response to a question

A stocktake of Australia’s China policy debate

Australia’s not-so-old tendency to avoid tension that could jeopardise our economic and trade relationship with China had the unfortunate effect of making China dismissive of Australia’s regional interests. For too long, too few of us thought hard, if at all, about what a region deterred by

South China Sea: Paracels in the spotlight

On Sunday, two US Navy warships sailed through and near the Paracel group of islands claimed and occupied by China in the South China Sea. This was Washington’s latest freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) to counter what it claims are Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation

Beyond the “Chinese debt trap”

As China’s commercial and military presence grows across Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, other major powers are growing increasingly alarmed about Beijing leading partner nations into “debt traps”. In response, at the recent Commonwealth meeting, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada

Taiwan: Tsai Ing-wen at the halfway mark

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has reached the halfway mark of her first term in office, with mixed results. At home, Tsai has sought to boost feeble economic growth and prevent the collapse of the public pension system. In the near periphery, Taiwan’s relationship with China has grown

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