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Weekend catch-up: Hambantota port and more

Cambodian military politics, Nauru’s ABC ban, and “Patrons of Mateship”: the week that was on The Interpreter.

Hambantota port, Sri Lanka (Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty)
Hambantota port, Sri Lanka (Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty)
Published 7 Jul 2018   Follow @lowyinstitute

The week that was on The Interpreter.

Aarti Betigeri reflects on her 2011 trip to Hambantota port, known as “the Chinese port”, in southern Sri Lanka:

Even in 2011, the motivation for any move by the Sri Lankan Government to apparently cede a bit of its territorial sovereignty was understandable. This small country, reeling from decades of war, needed all it could get to propel the economy forward and fulfil the grandiose ambitions of its then leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

A number of Cambodian military leaders faced some unexpected publicity due to a new Human Rights Watch report on their links to Prime Minister Hun Sen. Erin Handley:

This core group of henchmen entrenches Hun Sen’s power. Each is an inner-circle member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and has privileged allegiance to the party above duty to the people – a key component in the CPP’s electoral victories. It seems military clout will once again play a role when Cambodians go to the ballot box later this month.

Nauru has banned the ABC from covering the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in September. Daniel Flitton:

The decision to black ban the ABC is the latest manifestation of a belligerent attitude Nauru has adopted towards the Australian and foreign media, and an authoritarian approach to information in general.

The Australian Embassy in Washington published a list of 15 eminent Australians and Americans – all men – to celebrate “100 Years of Mateship” between the two countries. Jenny Hayward-Jones:

If Australia wants to appeal to young Australian and American women, and right across the spectrum of the community, to continue developing our ‘mateship’ over the next 100 years and, importantly, ‘beyond the battlefield’, to quote the Embassy, a good start would be publicly recognising (by simply not excluding) the contribution all people have made and continue to make to the relationship.

The Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un drew different reactions in South Korea and the US. Robert Kelly:

If the South Koreans wish to keep the US alliance, then perceptions of this year’s détente will need to align at some point. The disjuncture between Seoul forging ahead alone on a wide front of engagement, while the Americans focus on Trump’s increasingly obvious inability to get nuclear and missile CVID, will force a reckoning – but only if alliance unity is still a goal.

And North Korea seems to have expanded one of its missile manufacturing plants, and continues to produce fuel for nuclear weapons. Khang Vu:

The Singapore summit has given North Korea the opportunity, without having to make any verifiable and irreversible concessions, to improve its economic relations with the South, and to prevent the US from imposing more sanctions and issuing preventive war threats.

The Australian Government is in the process of developing its second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. Susan Hutchinson:

Australia’s first National Action Plan (NAP) was developed as part of the government’s bid for a seat on the Security Council. It comprised five pillars: prevention, participation, protection, relief and recovery, and normative. But the actions taken under the NAP largely focused on protection. This focus as well as a serious lack of effective monitoring and evaluation were the key concerns civil society had with the plan.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced another political challenge this week, this time from a member of her coalition partner, Horst Seehofer. Daniel Woker:

Seehofer threatened to resign over the migration issue, implying the eventual break-up of the governing coalition in Germany. He succeeded in plunging German immigration policy into an ungodly mess.

Shinzo Abe has come through a series of political scandals to become the third longest serving prime minister of Japan since the Second World War. Ryosuke Hanada:

The regional security environment is seen to justify Abe’s realist foreign and security policy. As of March, nearly 90% of Japanese people surveyed sensed the severity of the security environment in East Asia.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced a plan to fade out “ghettoes” – areas with high unemployment and crime mostly populated by migrants. Amina McCauley:

Children are a fundamental part of this plan. ‘There must be an early effort to ensure good Danish knowledge’, the strategy insists.

A Thai junior football team trapped in a cave has sparked an international rescue effort. Daniel Flitton:

Stepping back from the drama, and the fervent hope the boys will escape, these types of events are indeed moments of extraordinary cooperation. Seeing China and Japan working alongside one another – even if only in the form of private sector experts – is warming.

Rajesh Trichur Venkiteswaran on the damage caused by hugely popular “bidi” cigarettes in India:

It is estimated that more than 73 million people smoke bidis in India, of which 600,000 succumb to tobacco-related death every year, making bidis the number one killer among tobacco products.

On Wednesday, two people were found unconscious in England, afflicted by the same Novichok-type nerve agent that poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March. Shashank Joshi:

The working assumption is that the latest victims came into contact with residue from the original batch. If so, Russia’s brazen chemical weapons attack on the UK – the first on European soil since the Second World War – continues to have casualties four months later. The difficulty for the British Government now is in crafting a fresh response.

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