Monday 25 Mar 2019 | 14:23 | SYDNEY
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Asia

Indonesian tourism booms, Australia misses out

It didn’t even make the news in Australia, but two weeks ago India announced it will now allow Indonesian tourists to visit without having to apply or pay for a visa. This development allows Indonesian nationals to choose India, in addition to all the ASEAN nations, as a holiday destination

Why Japan is supporting Cambodia’s election

Japan has remained steadfast in its support of the upcoming Cambodian general election on 29 July amid growing pressure by its citizens, civil society organisations, and supporters of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – Cambodia’s former main opposition party. 

Tit-for-tat-for-tit-for-tat

The US is moving quickly to follow through on Trump’s threats to further escalate his trade war with China (now is as good a time as any to say that the trade war has officially started). Last week the US imposed tariffs on US$34 billion worth of Chinese imports, with another US$16 billion to be

Cambodia: dispelling the Malaysia illusion

Cambodia is headed for national elections on 29 July in which, although there are 20 parties contending, there is only one possible victor: the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). Despite the lack of suspense, everyone involved (apart from, perhaps, the electorate) seem to care a lot about

China’s expanding navy

Recent reports of problems with the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) carrier-borne J-15 jet fighters have opened a small window on challenges facing China’s expanding navy, presenting a narrative counter to the recent wave of triumphalist advertisements of new capabilities. Stresses on

Assessing Duterte’s China investment drive

When President Rodrigo Duterte visited the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in October 2016, he came home with an agreement that earmarked US$24 billion worth of Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) and overseas development aid for the Philippines. Many of the deals were eventually

US Navy sails into Taiwan sunset

It’s inevitable that, when the US sails warships through the Taiwan Strait, it will be interpreted as a broader diplomatic statement or even a protest – in this case, perhaps about North Korea, or the US–China trade spat. But these transits are more common than you might think. According to

China business and China threats

China has loomed large in the Australian economy for two decades. Be it the demand for iron ore or coal, or the education, property, and tourism markets, the Australian economy has boomed with China’s wind in its sails. As China is now the world’s second largest economy, its global

Indonesia’s elections and the local result

Regional elections took place across Indonesia on 27 June, when local voters went to the polls to elect governors, regents, and mayors. The results offer a fascinating insight into the current political landscape, albeit one that analysts need to approach with caution.  It is always

International rescue: the Thai cave response

As prime minister, Tony Abbott once called disaster response “an antidote to pessimism”. No less than eight countries – including China, the US, South Korea, and New Zealand – had gathered in the desperate search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 across the vast reaches of the

Détente divergence: the US-South Korean split

Reactions in the US and South Korea have differed sharply since US President Donald Trump met North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un last month in Singapore. (The president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo call Kim “chairman”, because he governs as the chairman of the State Affairs

Hambantota: “the Chinese port”

In early 2011, I was in Hambantota, southern Sri Lanka, looking for the new port. After hours of driving, from the southern beaches through kilometres of wetlands featuring water buffalo, ibises, and the odd elephant, through vivid green jungle as far you could see, the wilderness eventually

Pyongyang’s promises

Immediately after the Singapore summit on 12 June, US President Donald Trump proclaimed that North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat, and that the denuclearisation process would follow in accordance with the two leaders’ joint statement. However, three weeks later, Kim Jong-un does

Sources of Shinzo Abe’s resilience

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is now the third longest serving prime minister of Japan since the Second World War. Thanks to amendments by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to regulations, it is possible he will become the longest serving prime minister of post-war Japan on 24 August 2019. Why

Hun Sen and his personality cult

A fiercely loyal armed force is essential to cementing a dictatorship, and the sheer military might of Cambodia’s Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who has ruled the country with an iron fist for 33 years, should come as a surprise to no one. Yet many of Cambodia’s top military men are

The Huawei way

Recent months have seen controversy swirling around Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, the national security risk it may or may not pose to Australia, and its involvement with the nation’s legislators. Amid these concerns, it is important to consider the company in its

Duterte’s China policy: beyond law

Many local and international observers have denounced Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s conduct towards China as “appeasement” after he took the view there was nothing the Philippines could do to stop China’s militarisation in the South China Sea. Duterte’s defeatist attitude,

Vietnam: a month of mass protests

June 2018 may go down as a new record for mass protests in Vietnam. Thousands of people across the three main regions of the country took to the streets, mostly in a peaceful manner, to protest against two controversial bills tabled at the National Assembly: the now-delayed special

The “unsinkable” island is no substitute

In a recent Interpreter article (Glug, glug, glug: India’s interest in unsinkable aircraft carriers), David Brewster poses an interesting question: is there a cheaper and less risky way for India to project power in the neighborhood than by continuing to rely on its aircraft carriers? By

Exit strategy: will US troops leave South Korea?

The massive Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul has seen a near-continuous presence of foreign military since the Korean Peninsula was annexed by the Japanese in 1910. Prior to that, it housed troops from the Qing Dynasty who had been sent to help the last rulers of Joseon put down peasant rebellions

Reunification out of reach

The Trump–Kim summit in Singapore was the first step towards persuading North Korea to join the few countries that have relinquished nuclear weapons. It also presents the best chance since the Clinton administration’s breakthroughs in 2000 to normalise relations.  But

The big clean-up in Malaysia

While the world is watching Malaysia, trying to explain the unexpected victory of Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) in last month’s elections, what is actually more important is the massive clean-up currently underway in the country. By clean-up, I mean a near-total replacement of all key

US-China trade: joke’s over

Once entertaining, the Trump administration is becoming unfunny. In less than a week the trade dispute between China and the US has escalated to cover what will quite likely be the entirety of US goods exports to China, and the greater part, if not the whole, of Chinese goods exports to the US

Australia and Germany should work together on China

Efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to influence Australian politics have made headlines since 2017. In recent months, similar attempts have been at the centre of German debates. While geographically distant, Australia and Germany are well suited to address this challenge jointly,

The China puzzle in Asia

China is rising! This remarkable event, which is hardly surprising because the process has been underway for at least forty years, is causing great excitement in Australia and elsewhere. In some circles, China’s strong economic growth and international activities have 

When Indonesia sits on the Security Council

Indonesia has successfully won its bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council 2019–20, but what is the country likely to achieve? There are, of course, significant constraints to what a non-permanent member of the Security Council can do within the UN

Time to denounce China’s Muslim gulag

One of the worst human rights abuses in recent times is occurring in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party has rounded up possibly one million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in purpose-built concentration camps where they are subjected to

It’s all up to Moon now

The Trump–Kim summit last week in Singapore was a nothingburger – not good or bad, just nothing new really at all. After months of hype, including grossly inflated talk of CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible disarmament) and a Nobel prize, US President Donald Trump’s meeting with North

Ceasefire in Afghanistan: the first win for peace   

For the first time, the Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed on a ceasefire in the 17 years–long conflict that has made Afghanistan one of the most violent places on the planet. Both parties unilaterally announced the temporary armistice. The halt to hostilities has provided a glimmer

Should Shinzo Abe happen to meet Kim Jong-un

In recent weeks, Northeast Asia has enjoyed an unprecedented season of summitry. Spurred by a common desire to curb the North Korean nuclear threat, key leaders from the region have held historic bilateral talks with Kim Jong-un in close succession. Despite the fact that a concrete denuclearisation

China’s rising interests in Qatar

It has been a year since Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt severed diplomatic ties with Qatar. Saudi Arabia and the UAE led the boycott, instituting an economic and trade embargo that isolated Qatar by air, land, and sea from its neighbours, sternly restricting Qatari-bound

Vietnam: reconciling the diaspora

In 2018, Vietnam and Australia marked the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations by upgrading their ties to a strategic partnership. On this occasion, however, it is hard not to reflect on the disparity between the Vietnamese diaspora and homeland. Almost 45 years after the

Taking a stand for North Korean rocket engine tests

While many results from the recent Trump–Kim summit are yet to emerge, we can at least ponder one immediate and tangible outcome. North Korea has announced it is dismantling a rocket/missile engine test stand, which has been used to develop its ballistic missile capability as well as its space

Trump-Kim summit: China smiles

As analysts and pundits rake through the breadcrumbs dropped after the Trump–Kim summit in Singapore, one thing is for certain: the People’s Republic of China (hereafter “China”) is happy. The relationship between China and North Korea has been described as “as close as lips and teeth

Human rights missing in Trump–Kim summit

The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry into North Korean human rights was a rallying cry for the international community to take immediate action to address the egregious nature of abuses in the country. Thanks to the concerted efforts of a transnational coalition of dedicated activists, the North

Will Pakistan’s CPEC dream turn into a nightmare?

China’s huge infrastructure investments as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have the potential to change the strategic dynamics of the entire region. The BRI’s “flagship” project is the US$62 billion China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that is planned to run from one end of

Trump–Kim summit: negotiating weakness

Among many Asia watchers, there is a clear sense of disappointment with the Trump–Kim summit in Singapore on Tuesday. The deal is light on detail. Donald Trump got less from Kim Jong-un than Bill Clinton got from North Korea. Trump made a major concession by pledging to stop joint military

Trump–Kim summit: Moon’s conflicted achievement

North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un scored a huge diplomatic victory on Tuesday when he finally got the chance to hold a summit with US President Donald Trump, a feat his grandfather and father never achieved. In addition to the credit Kim and Trump received for their courageous acts, South

“Gunfights” in Bangladesh

In the past three weeks, no fewer than 130 people have died in what Bangladesh’s security forces have described as “gunfights”. The police and other forces, such as the Rapid Action Battalion, used this term to persuade citizens into believing that gangs of drug dealers and law enforcers

The Supreme Leader and his bodyguards

The Singapore summit between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump has all the drama of a Hollywood production, including glimpses the world is getting of the entourage travelling with the North Korean leader. One of the most visually striking elements of this entourage has been Kim’s phalanx of

Trump-Kim summit: history happens

The handshake lasted 12 seconds, body language experts tell us. That’s not quite the full minute Donald Trump had predicted it would take him to judge whether Kim Jong-un was ready to make a deal, but whatever the substance behind the showcase, this summit is indeed an extraordinary moment in

A new path to dispute settlement

On 9 May, the United Nations Conciliation Commission (UNCC) concerning the Timor Sea dispute between Timor-Leste and Australia released its final report. This was the first time such a form of compulsory dispute resolution had been invoked, with the proceedings initiated in April the year

A primer for the Trump–Kim summit

Barely six months ago, Australia’s debate on North Korea featured Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speculating about invoking the ANZUS treaty in case of war, and discussion on The Interpreter between Hugh White and Rob Ayson about what conflict with a nuclear-armed

Cambodia: the unfree press

The Cambodian government has continued tightening the screws on its already crippled free press, introducing severe prohibitions on election reporting ahead of the ballot in July, and establishing a taskforce to monitor social media posts. Guidelines issued by the National Election

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