Monday 20 May 2019 | 06:19 | SYDNEY
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North Korea probably does not seriously seek unification

After North Korea burnished its credentials last year as a nuclear-armed state, there's been much discussion about what Pyongyang aims to do with its nuclear missiles. The panic in the western media has been palpable. But so is the contrast with the South Korean media's more sanguine response. I

Calm the alarm on Antarctic krill fishery

There is periodic hyperbole surrounding the future use of the Southern Ocean krill fishery, often sensationally blaming a future threat from China. Yet krill are in no danger of being overfished. China’s krill take is currently a miniscule portion of catch limit under the present international

A turning point in US economic relations with China

The US appears to have reached a turning point in its economic relationship with China. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump accused Chinese policy makers of perpetrating the ‘greatest theft in the history of the world’ and blamed their foolish and incompetent American

An emerging role for the UN in the North Korean crisis

Last month, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman visited North Korean officials to promote a political solution to heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Feltman's mission has not received the attention it should have. The visit was the first

China and North Korea: Following the paper trail

Bill Gertz, senior editor of The Washington Free Beacon, specialises in scoops. But even by his high standards, his 2 January story that states a ‘(s)ecret Chinese Communist Party document reveals covert support to North Korea, including missiles, increased aid’ was a major coup. If true,

Best of The Interpreter 2017: The Rohingya Crisis

In July, shortly before an escalation of clashes in Rakhine state intensified the exodus of Rohingya people from Myanmar, Elliot Brennan wrote of Myanmar: Naypyidaw has failed to enable moderates in Rakhine state and an emergent yet hitherto weak Muslim insurgency has emerged. The situation must

Best of The Interpreter 2017: China's influence

Former senator Sam Dastyari cetainly found that history repeats itself as farce. Or as Stephen Conroy, the former Labor defence spokesman that Dastyari infamously contradicted over the South China Sea, would later observe, it took a 'unique set of abilities to

The crackdown on free press in India

In June, India’s former president Pranab Mukherjee drove home the point to the Indian media that ‘discussion and dissension’ is crucial for a vibrant democracy and that public institutions must be held accountable. His words could not have been more timely. The independence of the mainstream

Xi saves sea slugs on the sea floor

This post is based on Episode 16 of The Little Red Podcast, featuring Kate Barclay and Michael Fabinyi of the University of Technology, Sydney. My first culinary meeting with a sea cucumber - bêche-de-mer or BDM in its processed form - came out of curiosity. After nearly two decades travelling

Clear messages required in Twitter-age of diplomacy

Robert Ayson is quite right to pick me up on the distinction between pre-emptive and preventative military strikes. My post on Australia’s policy towards a US attack on North Korea argued Australia should make clear that it would not support a pre-emptive US strike at the North’s nuclear and

What should Australia rule out on North Korea?

In place of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ambiguous commitment to support US military action against North Korea, Hugh White wants a clear statement ruling out Australia's participation in a 'pre-emptive' attack. But in turn there are two points of ambiguity in White's argument that may get in

Saying the unsayable in Australia’s relations with China

The issue of influence by the government of the People’s Republic of China in Australian public and political life reached a turning point with the resignation of senator Sam Dastyari. It concluded a year of forceful reporting and vitriolic debate about China in Australia, fuelling a steady flow

South Korea’s search for autonomy

'When caught in a fight between whales, a shrimp gets his back broken.' This old Korean proverb has been used to describe Korea being stuck between great power rivalries. As Chinese-US competition intensifies, Seoul is now struggling not to have its back broken, navigating between two whales. As

How Australia can help avoid a disastrous Korean war

Pyongyang’s latest long-range missile test raises the probability that Washington will decide to launch a pre-emptive military campaign against North Korea, simply because it will come to see this as the only alternative to accepting that North Korea will soon be

Searching for sustainable energy in the Mekong

Southeast Asian governments are starting to wake up to the vast potential of solar energy, under pressure from civil society groups that insist it is time to get on board with a global revolution in renewable energy. Cambodia's former Energy Minister Pou Sothirak, now head of the Cambodian

China: Contradictions in climate leadership

This article is part of a series for the Australia-UK Asia Dialogue, co-hosted by the Lowy Institute and Ditchley Foundation, and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Xi Jinping had a good year in 2017. It began on the international

Taiwan and its South Pacific allies

With fleeting news coverage, President Tsai Ing-wen of the Republic of China last month concluded official visits to Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, three diplomatic allies of Taiwan in the South Pacific. No surprises occurred during her South Pacific trip, which was based on

Japan: Shinzo Abe wrestles with constitutional change

Wednesday 29 November in Tokyo, and the morning's breaking news was not Kim Jong-Un firing another missile but that sumo grand champion Haruma Fuji had announced his retirement following a week of scandal surrounding an alleged attack on a junior wrestler. As the two stories played

How America can build a durable military balance in Asia

During his tour of East Asia last month, US President Donald Trump visited five countries, but Americans could be forgiven for thinking that he only went to China, given the US media's coverage of the trip. Whereas journalists dissected Trump’s every move during his visit with Chinese President Xi

The symbolic politics of the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute

In recent years, maritime disputes have become highly visible microcosms of broader contests in the Indo-Pacific region. While much attention has been paid to disputes in the South China and East China Sea, a lower profile dispute has bubbled away for years between South Korea and Japan over a

The Korean Peninsula’s year in review

This has been a rollercoaster year for the Korean Peninsula. The South Koreans impeached their president. The North Koreans tested dozens of rockets, including intercontinental ballistic missiles. The US President repeatedly threatened war, possible nuclear war, against the North. And some

Post-Soviet states feel lure of (Chinese) socialism

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang's visit to Hungary for the sixth China-Central and Eastern Europe Countries (CEEC) Summit last week demonstrates that China has become an increasingly important player in the post-Soviet space. Its presence in Central Asia is now an undeniable fact, but less well-

Mistrust of Australia is growing in China

Over the past year or so the mood in Canberra has soured toward China. Indeed, of the countries unsettled by China’s rise and its increasingly confident and assertive foreign policy, Australia is now among the most outspoken in its criticism of Beijing’s behaviour. This change has been visible

Risk aversion in domestic Chinese politics

The 19th Party Congress was a watershed for the Xi administration. Feverish speculation about candidates for promotion the Politburo Standing Committee is over, but their policy significance much as before: enigmatic. There is a natural interest in factional or interest group allegiance. It is now

Donor scramble as Cambodia hits undo on democracy

After 32 years at the helm, Cambodia’s Hun Sen will effectively be running uncontested at next year’s elections. The world’s longest reigning prime minister has abolished the opposition in his country and realised a dream to do away with a UN imposed democratic system he has long despised.

Sam Dastyari and Chinese government influence in Australia

Senator Sam Dastyari has found himself back in the spotlight after Australia media outlets reported allegations that Dastyari gave Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo 'counter-surveillance' advice and unearthed the audio from Dastyari's now-infamous media conference last

Economic diplomacy brief: Geo-economics as the new Great Game

Economic integration as a pathway to peace has been a familiar theme of recent Australian international policy discussion despite the historical debate amongst strategists about whether trade really is a disincentive to war. But one of the more striking lines in the latest Foreign Policy White

Putting Indonesian Papua’s tensions in context

Since August, numerous civilians and security staff have been killed or wounded in the Tembagapura area in Indonesian Papua, host of Freeport McMoRan's vast Grasberg mining complex. The violence is almost entirely ascribed to the armed wing of the Free Papua Organization (Organisasi Papua Merdeka or

Australia-UK cooperation on the rules-based order

This article is part of a series for the Australia-UK Asia Dialogue, co-hosted by the Lowy Institute and Ditchley Foundation, and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. There should be plenty of scope for cooperation between Australia and

Echoes of Saddam at Kim Jong Nam assassination trial

The trial of the two young women accused of murdering North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia is now in its first month. Already it has provided some glimpses into how the deed might have been done and over the coming months more revelations can be

What the White Paper misses on China

The Foreign Policy White Paper paints a picture of an uncertain world and troubling times. With this understanding as its foundation, the White Paper outlines what approaches Australia should take to protect its national interests. While some elements are new, these approaches are still a

Academic cooperation with Chinese characteristics

I recently co-convened a small international academic workshop with a Chinese university. Since we wanted to involve quite a few China-based scholars and the topic concerned China, I thought it made perfect sense to hold the workshop in China. A number of scholars from outside China were to attend

Timor Sea dispute: progress and prospects as a deal emerges

Throughout the course of 2017, Australia and Timor-Leste have negotiated in international conciliation proceedings to resolve their protracted disagreements over hydrocarbon resources and maritime boundaries in the Timor Sea. So far, we know the two countries have reached an agreement on maritime

Trump's coming hard line on China

US President Donald Trump’s first visit to Beijing was an exhibition of mutual flattery. China rolled out the red carpet for what it termed a 'state visit plus', replete with unprecedented pomp and circumstance for an American leader.  Trump returned the favour with incessant fawning over

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