Saturday 15 Dec 2018 | 05:56 | SYDNEY
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United States

US killing by drone: continuity and escalation

Recent revelations confirm that under President Donald Trump, the use of armed unmanned aerial systems, drones, in US combat operations has increased significantly. For example, in 2017–18, the Trump administration launched 238 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, according to data from

US-China competition is all about us

We are not entering a new Cold War, despite both Chinese President Xi and US Vice-President Pence finding the term a useful rhetorical tool. The Americans have decided to compete against China because they think the last two decades of cooperation has failed. The Trump Administration,

How the US can prevent a China-dominated Asia

The US military is dangerously under-funded and could lose the next big war it wages. That is the key message from a new report by the influential National Defense Strategy Commission. Established by Congress to provide an independent, non-partisan assessment of the 2018 US National Defense

Xi and Trump at G20: A tariff truce

This truce is by no means the end of trade tensions between China and the US. Over what was undoubtedly a delicious dinner last Saturday night on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to extend the deadline for the

George H W Bush: the internationalist president

George Herbert Walker Bush, who has died at age 94, will not reside in the top rank of American presidents, the Washingtons, the Jeffersons, the Roosevelts the Kennedys to name a few. But he will be remembered as a decent man who did his best in a long, distinguished public career. In his

North Korea’s emerging blackmail strategy

A recent New York Times article has drawn much criticism from the US intelligence community for depicting North Korea’s continued missile development as “a Great Deception.” Analysts have responded by proclaiming that North Korea has never agreed to cease its missile and nuclear

Russia-Ukraine: soggy response to Kerch aggression

With its doctrine of scrupulous media balance – “they said, he said, we don’t know” – Western reporting on the latest phase in Russia’s relentless imperialist aggression against Ukraine has been as misleading as what has gone before. Even the sight of Russian special forces swarming

Chipping away at trust in democracy

With a series of state elections due and the federal election looming, there are important lessons that Australia needs to learn from the tone of US politics. In particular, there is a responsibility for Australia’s political leaders to act in ways that ensure, and do not undermine, the integrity

More than words needed to meet the China challenge

Newly announced US ambassador-designate to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse, comes to Australia at a moment of significant tension in US-China relations, with a growing consensus in the US that it is entering a period of competition with Beijing.  Policy documents such as the National Security

The prospect of a “Trumpier” foreign policy

Donald Trump came to office with a more coherent worldview than other recent American presidents. For decades, he has held four core beliefs about the world. First, Trump scoffs at the longstanding American commitment to international leadership and cooperation. Since the 1940s, American

US midterms: the no-joke elections

The US midterm results are rolling in. The House of Representatives appears to have fallen under Democrat control, while former presidential candidate Mitt Romney has won himself a seat in the Senate, where the Republicans have comfortably retained a majority. As of a few minutes ago, The New York

Trump scores a win over Russia

Typically, Vladimir Putin answered Washington’s decision this month to leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by making new nuclear threats against Europe. His posturing underscored why this was the right decision. Better known as the INF Treaty, this agreement was signed in 1987

Disinformation campaigns and US elections

A New York Times article this month revealed a new tactic in the US war against election disinformation. US election officials had notified Russians suspected of involvement in online disinformation campaigns in the lead up to the mid-term elections that they were “on notice”, and that their

With Trump in Mind, China Realigns

The past week says a lot about the quagmire that Chinese President Xi Jinping has found his country in, as his American counterpart Donald Trump has shown no sign of de-escalating the trade war rhetoric. It also offers a glimpse into the most powerful post-Mao leader’s political and strategic

Jamal Khashoggi: shifting law in a deadly turf war

The alleged extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the international condemnation that followed, reflects not only rivalry in the Middle East, but also greater anxiety about the direction of liberal democracy and the international rule of law more broadly. Last week, US President Donald

The one Iran deal the US should keep

For all the talk about the broken nuclear deal, it might seem a surprise to learn of an old agreement between the United States and Iran that is still in force. The move to dismantle international agreements only makes diplomacy harder and belligerence easier. The US-Iran Treaty of Amity,

America builds on development aid

In the biggest reform of US foreign aid policy in recent history, the US Senate this month passed the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development, or the BUILD Act. This legislation, signed into law by President Donald Trump on 5 October, will create the new US International

Friends like these … allies and the Pence speech

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech was tasty red meat for anyone desiring a more confrontational US policy toward the People’s Republic of China. Pence’s speech reflects a strengthening bipartisan consensus in Washington, and suggests that a long-term policy of competition and confrontation

Killing Chimerica

Over a decade ago, the term “Chimerica” was coined to describe the symbiotic relationship between the US and Chinese economies. While offshoring manufacturing to China and opening access to US markets and universities benefited American interests, it also saw China’s share of world GDP jump

Is the second Trump-Kim summit necessary?

The third summit between the leaders of North and South Korea last month was a huge accomplishment for Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. At home, Moon’s approval rating shot up from 49% in early September to 65% a week after the summit, largely due to his successful efforts to jump start the

Beware of fighter pilots bearing gifts

In late September, an interesting news story populated some portions of the internet. A person purporting to be a (possibly retired) Russian fighter pilot flying one of Moscow’s most modern jets, a Su-35, claimed to have engaged in (and won) a mock air-combat against America’s premier fighter

Decoding the bombshell story for China

It is near impossible to find any mention of the Chinese chip hacking story in Bloomberg Businessweek that does not use the words “bombshell” or “explosive” to describe the piece. These descriptions have become cliché. But the cliché is fitting because even if the story unravels amid

Courting supreme mistrust

The past month or so has seen immense social change in India. Gay sex was decriminalised, two lesbians were given the right to live together against the wishes of their families, and adultery was decriminalised. These important progressive changes were not made by the government of Narendra Modi,

Will geopolitics trump trade?

Geopolitics may be rapidly moving to the forefront in deciding how the US-China trade war will play out. If so, the odds of a rapprochement are dwindling fast. The trade conflict has always been about many things, clouding how different analysts understood it. Initially, it seemed best understood

A slap in the face for diverse diplomacy

The US appointed its first openly gay ambassador in 1999. President Bill Clinton gave James Hormel a recess appointment as US Ambassador to Luxembourg after two years of a blocked Senate campaign. Since then, an additional six openly gay male ambassadors have been appointed by the US, including

Pence on China: reviving a neoconservative dream

Ever wondered who is now the culprit for many of the woes of the United States? Then look no further than a major speech delivered by US Vice President Mike Pence last week. Given just days after the “leaked” photos showing close encounters between US and Chinese destroyers in the South

Fawning and flummery winning over love-sick Donald

In the last six months, US President Donald Trump has “fallen in love” with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He has also been persuaded that Kim respects him, likely because he called him “your excellency” in his “beautiful letters”. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has claimed Trump

Time to fill the big hole in US-Australia ties

“We want to know to whom should we talk”, asked one South American diplomat in frustration at staffing problems in the US State Department. The question underscores, again, the failure of the Trump Administration to adequately staff its foreign service. This failure is not merely a curiosity,

Korean peninsula and the Moon-shot

The 12 June Singapore Summit has aged badly, as the declaration signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un has proven as useless as most analysts imagined. Consequently, the current US-North Korea diplomatic process is disintegrating under the weight of the parties’ misaligned

Trump to take on Iran at UN Security Council table

As it happens, the United States holds the presidency of the United Nations Security Council during the annual diplomatic gabfest at the UN General Assembly. Traditionally, that means the president of the US can choose to chair a Security Council meeting if he or she desires to spotlight a

America First, in space

Over the past few months, US President Donald Trump has seemed infatuated with outer space. He and Vice President Mike Pence have made grandiose announcements about US space policy, foremost among them, the controversial plan to set up an “American Space Force” as a sixth branch of the US

India-US: two plus two equals hopes and troubles

After talks had been delayed previously owing to domestic developments in the US, causing much disappointment in India, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis finally arrived in New Delhi last week for meetings with their counterparts in India – Foreign

Chinese “birth tourism” shows citizenship evolves

Several years ago, while living in Southern California and pregnant with my twin sons, I began hearing news reports about maternity hotels. Baffled neighbours were asking why so many pregnant Chinese women were coming and going into homes east of Los Angeles, why the garbage cans were piled high

The swooning over McCain is more about Trump

The passing of US Senator John McCain has brought forth a wave of lavish eulogies. Some of this is justified. McCain’s experiences as a prisoner of war were extreme and demonstrate his patriotism. No one questions that. But the political focus will turn on his policy efforts, where his

John McCain: death of a hero

In my dictionary, a “hero” is 1) an illustrious warrior; 2) a man admired for his noble qualities; or 3) one who shows great courage. John McCain met all the criteria. As a United States Navy pilot, McCain was daring to the point of recklessness, determined always to

What did the 2008 crisis cost America?

Next month marks the tenth anniversary of the failure of Lehman Brothers – the nadir of the 2008 global financial crisis. Not only was there a substantial fall in GDP in most countries (although not in Australia), but the recovery since then has been slow. GDP just about everywhere is

Why a US–Russia team–up against China is unlikely

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month, one might wonder if the US and Russia are considering the formation of, if not an explicit partnership against China, then at least an informal condominium. Trump seemed to lend some credence to this speculation

The struggle to conclude peace in Korea

The border separating North and South Korea remains one of the most heavily armed in the world. Surrounded by thickets of barbed wire, Korea’s misleadingly named Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) stretches about 250 kilometres across the peninsula. It is monitored ceaselessly, a stark reminder of the

The discord in the Korean peace process

Last week, the South Korean Blue House announced preparations for another  summit – what will be the third – between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un in the northern autumn. Both Seoul and Pyongyang have sent ministers to discuss topics

Who has been best for Australia: Trump or Obama?

US President Donald Trump comes in for widespread criticism, but he has at least one well-placed Australian defender. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer says that for Australia, Trump has been better than Obama. On the whole, Trump has been “good for us”. This is seriously misguided. Let

Made in China 2025 and US–China power competition

While US President Donald Trump seems to be cosying up with the likes of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin lately, his administration has wasted no time in upping the ante in its escalating trade war with China. At the moment, no one knows how this showdown might

Is Russia’s military better than America’s?

The US will devote $700 billion to its budget for 2018, dwarfing Russia’s $66 billion effort, a trend that has been consistent for more than 25 years. Yet Russia’s military has been relatively successful in recent conflicts, while the US armed forces have not. American wars

Kiwi Act marks “new” relationship with US

On 1 August, the Knowledgeable Innovators and Worthy Investors Act, or the improbably named Kiwi Act, having passed both the US House of Representatives the Senate, and signed by the president, became law. The Kiwi Act extends to New Zealanders the ability to enter the US 

What Kim Jong-un really wants hasn’t changed

The news that US and North Korean generals met for talks for the first time in nine years to discuss the possible repatriation of 200 American soldiers lost during the Korean War was a step in the right direction. While it’s true it has the appearance of giving North Korea added leverage

North Korea: repatriating fallen Americans

Private Lowell W. Bellar of Gary, Indiana, was only 19 years old when he was killed in action in Korea on 1 December 1950. However, his brother and surviving relatives would have to wait nearly 54 years before the US Department of Defense identified his body in 2005. Bellar’s family is not

POTUS does a Putin

On 8 November 2016 a combination of the American constitution and vox populi – with perhaps a little help from elsewhere – placed enough power in the hands of a roué real-estate tycoon to affect the lives of every one of the 7.6 billion individuals on planet Earth. Events and trends

Trump and the rebirth of satire

When Donald Trump was elected US President, many pronounced satire dead. The twitter hashtag #nottheonion, a reference to the satirical news website, grew more common with every outlandish tweet and unpredictable decision from America’s new leader. But to paraphrase one of the country’s

North Korea also an intelligence test for Trump

It is not only Donald Trump’s wavering, on-and-off attacks on the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election that betrays his distrust of intelligence agencies. News that US spies believe North Korea has been increasing uranium production at multiple sites runs

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