Monday 28 Sep 2020 | 18:44 | SYDNEY
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Asia

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

The contradictory world of Chinese journalism

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Yang Jisheng, a former senior journalist for China’s main state-owned news agency, Xinhua, was forbidden from traveling to Harvard to accept an award for his book on the famine induced by Chairman Mao’s policies in the late 1950s. While China

Abenomics loses some of its razzle-dazzle

One of the hallmarks of Shinzo Abe’s longevity in power has been his ability to switch back to bread and butter economic issues when he tests the patience of voters with his more nationalistic inclinations. But an interesting feature of his latest series of political setbacks has been the way

The thought and messaging of Xi Jinping

What rides on a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) slogan? These days, a lot. It's surprising for those who saw the launch of Jiang Zemin's tepid 'Important Theory of the Three Represents', which provided ideological cover for capitalists to join the Party, and Hu Jintao's even more underwhelming '

Australia and ASEAN: The next 50 years

Australia's future, and our future prosperity, are inevitably in Asia.   Julia Gillard pointed to this in 2012 when she launched the ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ White Paper, saying 'whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia's return to global leadership, Asia’s rise.

All eyes on North Korea at ASEAN

Just over a year ago, Manila was celebrating an unprecedented international ruling in its favour against China in the disputed South China Sea. This weekend, the city played host to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting, but every trace of enthusiasm for the

Making sense of the known unknowns in the South China Sea

I'd like to thank Hugh White for his continued thoughtfulness and collegiality in our ongoing exchange on the South China Sea. I thought it might be interesting to pivot from debating strategic dynamics in the region to a dialogue about what our divergent assessments mean for the making of US policy

Article 66(d): A menace to Myanmar’s democracy

The fetters on Myanmar's democracy are many. The 2008 constitution gives the military 25% of seats in parliament; it gives the military control over three of the most powerful ministries; it forbids Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming President. The military is prosecuting wars in the north and the

Pakistan: The combustible democracy

The forced exit of Nawaz Sharif has left Pakistan at a cross roads. The tensions between the military establishment and civil leadership that had become a feature of Sharif's third term as Prime Minister are likely to worsen. Even before his departure on Friday, the ongoing investigation into the

Chinese spy ships: The devil in the detail

Recent posts in The Interpreter (by Iain Henry, Euan Graham and James Goldrick) have commented on the presence of a Chinese intelligence-gathering ship off the Queensland Coast during Exercise Talisman Sabre. All these posts are broadly correct – the incident suggested Chinese hypocrisy with its

North Korea missile test: It’s all in the timing

The second test of a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has elevated concerns over the potential for this nation to launch nuclear strikes on the continental United States. Several major cities are in range. There has been some boffin speculation on the accuracy of North Korea’

The three issues impeding Myanmar’s transition

More than a year since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy came to power after a landslide election and six years since the transition began, Myanmar has come a long way on the road to reform. There are many successes. The health system has significantly improved – basic essential

Abe's troubles at home cause for concern abroad

This month Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) - which is led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - experienced its first major electoral defeat since Abe’s inauguration in December 2012. The Tomin First no Kai (‘Tokyoites First’, known as Tomin), a local political party led by the Governor of

Timor-Leste elections a significant milestone

For a nation that only won its hard-fought battle for independence 15 years ago, Timor Leste has travelled a long way fast. On 22 July, the Timorese people voted for the fourth time in parliamentary elections to elect the 65 members of the National Parliament. As the first election administered

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