Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Weekend catch-up: ICBMs, Xi in Hong Kong, RAMSI and more

Sam Roggeveen &Victor Abramowicz on North Korea's ICBM test, Vivienne Chow & Frances Kitt on Xi Jinping's Hong Kong visit, Amanda Kates on RAMSI and more.

Polish President Andrzej Duda and US President Donald Trump in Warsaw, prior to the latter's visit to Hamburg for the G20 (Photo:Flickr/Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland/Sebastian Indra)
Polish President Andrzej Duda and US President Donald Trump in Warsaw, prior to the latter's visit to Hamburg for the G20 (Photo:Flickr/Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland/Sebastian Indra)
Published 8 Jul 2017 

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter.

This week the North Korean government test fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, dubbed the Hwasong-14, which landed within Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone. Estimates of the Hwasong-14's minimum range vary at around 6700 km, would put most of Alaska and Darwin within range.

The test is part of a transition to a new chapter of North Asian deterrence dynamics, wrote Sam Roggeveen:

In future, when American presidents have to make decisions about war and peace in Korea, they don't only have to think about the damage a conflict would cause to the people of Seoul or Busan or even Tokyo, but also Alaska and in future the continental US.

While dramatic, the test doesn't markedly affect the chances of nuclear war, argued Victor Abramowicz:

A new capability exists that, once married to an atomic warhead that can survive re-entry, will provide the DPRK with its first survivable nuclear strike option against the US. This will enhance its deterrence over Washington. However, the US hasn’t the barest interest in marching on the North. More ICBMs will only reinforce this unwavering status quo. The real risk is that Pyongyang may try wider and more aggressive conventional military action, feeling that its bargaining power has increased.

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull heads for the G20 summit in Hamburg, Greg Colton suggests three potential points of focus for Australia:

Instead of spending two days consumed with the intractable problem of North Korea, the G20 should focus on the other great existential threat of our time: climate change.

Last weekend Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Hong Kong for the 20th anniversary of the city's handover from the UK to China. Frances Kitt on how the Chinese media framed Xi's visit, and why Hong Kong is such a sticking point for the Chinese Communist Party:

Hong Kong remains a central component of how Beijing imagines the future of China. That vision does not include political pluralism nor any type of separatism, but instead strong Party governance, a continuing focus on wealth creation and sovereign independence on the international stage.

Hong Kong writer Vivienne Chow on the city's changing culture:

To some people, the Hong Kong they grew up with is already dead (a prospect mentioned in Fortune way back in 1995). But even if the old Hong Kong no longer exists, can its ghost - the spirit, the soul and the values the city represents - survive?

Last week China's Navy launched the first Type 055 destroyer – potentially a future lynchpin for Chinese carrier groups venturing beyond China's immediate waters, wrote James Goldrick:

A China which has long been irritated by the appearance of American carrier groups on the East Asia periphery might well enjoy dispatching a task force to cruise the Caribbean and the coasts of central America. It will certainly deploy its carrier groups to South East Asia, the Indian Ocean and Africa.

Patrick Jory on the rapidly developing links between China and Thailand, following Western isolation of the latter after the 2014 coup:

For its part, a friendly military-led government in Thailand that keeps democratic forces at bay may suit China at a time when the US is working hard to enhance its relations with China’s neighbours in the region. If this is the case, such a geopolitical realignment would represent a change of historical significance for Thailand, and the East Asian region more generally.

As the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) comes to end after 14 years, the Australian Federal Police's Amanda Kates reflected on the consequences and legacy of the mission, and what lessons the AFP have taken away from the deployment:

While it is comforting to pat ourselves on the back and celebrate past achievements, we must also look forward, to ensure the lessons we have learned are not lost. Because one of RAMSI’s greatest achievements may just be the way it has helped to build and cement relationships across law enforcement agencies in the South Pacific.

Two years after footage of Australian foreign fighter Tareq Kamleh in a modern hospital ward somewhere in Islamic State-held territory first surfaced, a new video featuring Kamleh has emerged. Rodger Shanahan:

Fast forward two years and the picture is somewhat different released yesterday. Kamleh's clean-cut face now sports a wispy beard and he no longer looks fresh, while the hospital surrounds are less salubrious as the dystopian Islamic society that Kamleh helped create crumbles around him. This time the children he tends to are dying, a tragedy that is a grim and apt analogy for the violent and intolerant caliphate that Kamleh and thousands of other Western Muslims rushed to join.

In June the NSW government announced the establishment of a de-radicalisation helpline, which concerned individuals can call regarding friends or family members displaying extremist behaviours. Unfortunately, this effort is beset with structural and operational issues, wrote Hussain Nadim:

The de-radicalisation helpline is going to end up being one of those government programs that consume millions of dollars, justified by the tag of 'national security', with no discernible result and no accountability.

Merriden Varrall and Zixin Wang on how Chinese social media framed China's relationship with the issue of refugee resettlement, following World Refugee Day last month

It may seem difficult to reconcile China's reluctance to accept refugees with China's view that it is a responsible global stakeholder and good global citizen. However, the Chinese position is that its most valuable contribution to the global humanitarian good is the development and stability of China itself, and the lifting of the Chinese population out of poverty. In other words, China is doing its share if it isn't adding to the world's problems.

Finally, following the media frenzy surrounding John Edwards' speculation about future interest rate rises from the RBA, Stephen Grenville wrote on the hard part of central banking and those halcyon pre-2007 policy-making days:

Well over fifty years ago, the then-chairman of the US Fed, William McChesney Martin, said the job of the central bank was to ‘take away the punch bowl just when the party gets going’. Punch bowls may have gone out of fashion, but the essential task of raising interest rates is as unpopular as ever.

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