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Weekend catch-up: FONOPs, space stations, Antarctica, and more

The week that was on The Interpreter.

Soyuz rocket destined for the International Space Station, 15 December 2017 (Photo: NASA/Getty Images)
Soyuz rocket destined for the International Space Station, 15 December 2017 (Photo: NASA/Getty Images)
Published 24 Feb 2018 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is in Washington to meet President Donald Trump. Dan Flitton on issues that may hijack the agenda:

Sex scandals, Russia, and guns are not the topics Turnbull and Trump would want to dominate coverage of a visit. Perhaps as a small blessing, this time won’t be all about a certain phone call.

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that a British frigate would sail through the South China Sea in March. Shashank Joshi and Euan Graham:

The UK would send a powerful message by following the more ambitious freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) conducted by the US. This would involve deliberately sailing within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-occupied features in the Spratly Islands, particularly those that have no legal entitlement to a territorial sea.

Following the January announcement of Australia’s defence export strategy, Susan Hutchinson outlines Australia’s obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty:

Even if increasing defence exports is required to meet Australia’s strategic defence needs, the exports must be undertaken in a transparent fashion, in accordance with international law.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop delivered a speech on Australian foreign policy priorities in London. Euan Graham:

It is probably Bishop’s most important foreign policy speech since her Fullerton lecture in Singapore last March, and the first major address since the launch of the Foreign Policy White Paper in November.

In the past four years, China has built the equivalent of the entire French navy. Sam Roggeveen on the military balance in Asia:

It looks as though we are moving not from one maritime hegemon to another, but from hegemony to a multipolar balance.

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron recently confirmed his promise of an increase in defence spending. David Ritchie:

Macron’s announcement contrasts starkly to the reticence, differences, and confusion in Germany, and is a signal that France is prepared to lead on major European and global security challenges.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in have differing views on how to deal with North Korea, and are struggling to influence President Trump on the matter. Dalin Hamilton:

As the Winter Olympics torch is about to be extinguished, it seems that Moon may challenge Abe as the foreign leader with the most influence on Trump’s North Korea policy. Abe is not going to let it go without a fight.

Graeme Smith from the Little Red Podcast on Chinese aid in PNG:

When Concetta Fierravanti-Wells railed against Chinese aid’s ‘white elephants’ and ‘roads to nowhere’ in the Pacific, part of her frustration was with the speed and surprise attached to these projects. Ironically, this feeling is shared by many Chinese diplomats in the Pacific, who often – along with their Pacific counterparts – first find out about projects in the morning news.

The wet season brings an annual outbeak of disease to Solomon Islands. Catherine Wilson discusses how climate change and urbanisation are exacerbating the issue:

The World Health Organisation predicts that diarrhoea and other diseases are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, contributing to an estimated 250,000 additional deaths each year between 2030 and 2050. This common, treatable illness could place an increasing burden on the health services of Pacific Island states.

Women’s participation rate in formal politics in the Pacific is among the lowest in the world. Ceridwen Spark on her interviews with three Pacific women leaders:

Taking the opportunity to learn from these successful leaders also flips the conventional wisdom that politicians in OECD countries have more to teach Pacific women than vice versa.

Efforts to stymie money laundering and financing terrorists have restricted Pacific countries’ access to the global financial system. Steven Beck:

The financial system needs to be safeguarded from terrorism and money laundering. But the people of the Pacific should not pay the heaviest price. Given the region’s unique challenges, it is crucial that ways are found to fortify its linkages to global finance.

China is constructing its fifth Antarctic research facility on Inexpressible Island. Indi Hodgson-Johnston on scientific cooperation in Antarctica :

There are more constructive discussions to be had beyond the usual commentary about mining and assertions of sovereignty. For example, is there actually a need for more research stations in Antarctica? What are the roadblocks to cooperation? And what role could and should China play as it asserts itself as a major contributor to Antarctic scientific research?

The International Space Station is losing its appeal to the United States, writes Morris Jones:

Calls for privatising the station are a thin PR strategy to hide a US retreat from the project. It’s a similar plan of action to the ‘Vietnamisation’ cover story designed to lessen the psychological force of US military withdrawal from Vietnam. The ISS is another strategic jam the US wants to get out of.

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