Saturday 21 May 2022 | 01:17 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Lies, damn lies, and North Korea’s Covid statistics

More than two years since North Korea locked down its border in January 2020 and went on to record zero Covid-19 cases and deaths across all the months since, the country last week admitted to a coronavirus outbreak that it claims began in late April. The latest figures from North Korea’s state

Timor-Leste: Building towards the next 20 years

This week, Timor-Leste will celebrate its 20th anniversary as an independent nation and inaugurate Jose Ramos-Horta as its new president. Since re-gaining independence in 2002, the world’s third-youngest nation has built a functioning state and vibrant democracy from near-scratch amid trials and

Getting the most from Australia’s regional engagements

Depending who wins the election this Saturday, either Scott Morrison or Anthony Albanese will attend the Quad Summit in Tokyo on 24 May as Australia’s Prime Minister. Prior to last year, Quad Leaders’ meetings weren’t on the calendar – now they’re happening virtually or in-person twice

Philippines: justice and accountability, post elections

The Philippine election verdict is in. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr – the son of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who was deposed in the peaceful 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution – is the next President of the Philippines. Sara Duterte, the daughter of the current President Rodrigo

AUKUS: More than meets the eye

The clear intention of AUKUS is to tip the military balance in the Indo-Pacific in favour of the United States. The various initiatives in the pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States are headlined by cooperation to develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia

Scoring Biden’s ASEAN summit

US President Joe Biden hosted ASEAN leaders in Washington last week for a special summit to commemorate 45 years of US-ASEAN ties. Such a meeting was long in the making, having been mooted under the Trump administration but deferred due to the Covid pandemic, and then delayed in 2022 due to

Pakistani separatists turn their sights on China

In Pakistan’s southwest region of Balochistan – the country’s largest province by area but least populous and least developed despite having huge mineral and energy resources – there is a battle being waged for independence. The Baloch have grievances against the Pakistan government,

Diplomacy is indispensable to manage the Mekong

Milton Osborne mischaracterises the Mekong River Commission when writing last month in The Interpreter that the regional organisation “ignores reality”. To say we were “celebrating” the health of the river at our Mekong Day event on 5 April overlooks the fact that on that day I continued to

A flash in the pan? Indonesia’s palm oil export ban

The global vegetable oils industry was stunned after Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo announced late last month that his country, the world’s largest producer of palm oil, would impose a ban on exports. While Jokowi, as the president is widely known, cited domestic shortages in cooking oil as

Saudi Arabia and China: a blossoming friendship

As the relationship between longtime allies Saudi Arabia and the United States becomes increasingly strained, China could cultivate a stronger bond with the Middle Eastern kingdom. In a recent phone call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (colloquially known as MBS) and China’s

Chinese bases in the Pacific: A reality check

There was barely concealed panic in Australia when news broke that China had struck a security agreement with Solomon Islands. What if this is really a basing deal that allows China to station military aircraft or warships permanently? Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s emphatic denial on

Economic diplomacy: Trade shifts challenge a new government

Make or break Trade matters haven’t made much of an impact in Australia’s election campaign, not surprisingly overshadowed by Solomon Islands in the foreign affairs debate and now interest rate rises in the domestic debate. The Labor Opposition stepped up the rhetoric at its campaign launch

Death penalty: Singapore’s growing abolition movement

The sun baked the concrete and tarmac as mourners walked behind a hearse carrying Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, wailing and crying out for the life that had been lost. Over 200 people attended his funeral, sending him off on the final leg of a horrific journey that had begun 13 years ago, when

Shanghai lockdown prompts collective action

The Shanghai lockdown following a Covid-19 outbreak last month saw the most stringent restrictions placed upon a Chinese city since the pandemic began. Although Chinese civil society may be heavily circumscribed, a stituation exacerbated by Covid, civic action and protests have continued to occur

What is at stake with new provinces in West Papua?

On 12 April, the Indonesian parliament announced plans to establish three new provinces in West Papua. Currently, the western part of the island of New Guinea consists of two provinces: West Papua Province and Papua Province. The plan is to break down these two administrative regions into five, with

Timor-Leste: The new president needs to tune in

Following Timor-Leste’s presidential run-off election on 19 April, José Ramos-Horta has been confirmed as the country’s next president in a landslide victory over Francisco “Lú-Olo” Guterres. The outcome reveals a political scene still dominated by the old guard – the heroes of

Not all maritime disputes are built the same

Maritime disputes in Southeast Asia should be viewed less as a single big basket of problems, and more as smaller individual problems with their own corresponding solutions. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. And three inter-related policy contexts can help explain why some troubles persist

India-Russia: A friend in need

Two factors – military materiel and energy opportunities – have been used to explain India’s muted criticisms of Russia and its equivocal support for Ukraine. Both positions, to non-Indians’ chagrin, are in India’s national interests. As India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently

Solomons security pact: Sogavare, China, and Australia

Labor has described Solomon Islands’ security pact with China as Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the Pacific since the Second World War, but this is hyperbole. Australia’s biggest foreign policy failure in the region – ever – is its failure to address (at both a national and

A first for India and a chance to trade up with Australia

The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AIECTA) signed on 2 April marks a first for India in terms of liberalisation of “substantially all” trade and timeline of negotiations. India has often been blamed for prolonging trade negotiations with its rigid stance on tariff

Russia-Ukraine: It always comes down to food

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a food shortage – or crisis for some – in unexpected places across the world. For wheat, maize, barley and sunflower oil, Russia and Ukraine are among the biggest global producers. Russia is also the world’s top exporter of fertiliser and

Taming troubled waters

While regional countries respond to Covid-19 and the many social and economic consequences, ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea has become even more important due to its role in connecting continents, fostering international trade and ensuring supply chains are not broken. This will

The problem with postcards from Myanmar

Myanmar is fortunate to have extraordinary travel destinations within its borders. But these tourist jewels have been denied to most foreigners since the pandemic began and then the coup in February 2021. But, after years of closed borders, Myanmar is once again opening up to foreign tourists from

Law of the sea: A contested watershed ruling

When in 2016 the Arbitral Tribunal issued its watershed ruling in the case between the Philippines and China, responses from the international community were lacklustre. The Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative’s “arbitration support tracker” suggests that eight governments have publicly

How the Mekong River Commission ignores reality

Among the many “days” celebrated by the international community, one entrant seems especially incongruous. “Mekong Day” was proclaimed by the Mekong River Commission’s (MRC) headquarters in Vientiane to celebrate the signature of the “Agreement on the Cooperation and Sustainable

China’s nine-dash line proves stranger than fiction

Vietnam recently banned the film Uncharted from domestic distribution due to a scene depicting an “illegal image” of China’s infamous “nine-dash line”. This is not the first time popular culture has become embroiled in the politics of the South China Sea. In 2021, the Philippines’

Can Shah Rukh Khan help India “Act East”?

Of all the findings about how Indonesians view the world revealed by the Lowy Institute Indonesia Poll, it was notable that India fared rather unfavourably. The poll revealed that only 41 per cent of Indonesians report trust in India, a 17-point fall since a previous Lowy Poll in 2006. In the

How Japan can help nudge India away from Russia

Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio visited India last month ahead of a G7 summit. With India hesitant to criticise Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japanese media speculated Kishida’s visit was aimed at persuading fellow Quad leader Narendra Modi to change India’s position. The US

Economic diplomacy: Priorities shift amid a budget aid boost

Back to the future The Morrison government gave the development aid sector an unexpected surprise with a budget spending increase mostly in the Pacific, just as the latest crisis in Solomon Islands was occurring. There is still plenty of grumbling that this – perhaps parting gift given the

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