Thursday 20 Jun 2019 | 22:02 | SYDNEY
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Asia

ASEAN Regional Forum: less might be more

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – with its unwieldy number of member states (27) and preoccupation with dialogue (a “talk shop”) – has been declared a failure time and again. Some criticism is justified. But it can also be argued that the earliest expectations regarding this regional

Economic diplomacy: trade and infrastructure battles in Asia

Each way bet Australian businesses are simultaneously becoming more dependent on China and traditional Anglo markets just when the country’s foreign policy thrust is to diversify links to major emerging nations such as India and Indonesia. This at a time a new survey of business attitudes to

Taking transitional justice to Cambodia’s youth

Like young people the world over, the youth of Cambodia are glued to their mobile phones. They sit in cafes and bars, order food from street vendors, and weave their motor scooters through Phnom Penh’s frenetic traffic, all the while their thumbs tapping away, texting, gaming, connecting. In the

The “satellite clause” for North Korea’s rockets

Numerous reports give weight to the theory that North Korea will soon stage another satellite launch, the first since February 2016. North Korea has only ever placed two satellites into orbit, and neither of them worked. But North Korea did chalk up one achievement. It beat South Korea in the race

Indonesia: look beyond quotas for gender representation

How can we address the profound gender disparity that afflicts the vast majority of the world’s parliaments? Fewer than 10 countries are close to parity between men and women in their main national legislative chamber and only 3 – Bolivia, Cuba, and Rwanda – have more women parliamentarians

The K-Pop sex and drugs scandal sweeping South Korea

What started as a police investigation into a South Korean nightclub has since erupted into a national scandal, sweeping aside in the public mind at least all the international talk of North Korean denuclearisation and instead shining a light into the shady private lives of K-pop celebrities. The

Responding to China’s not-so-secret influence campaign

Sam Roggeveen wrote recently on the need for the government to be more forthcoming about its security assessments on China, specifically, allegations of influence and interference activities conducted within Australia. The trigger was Andrew Robb’s interview for the ABC, in which the ex-

Peace in Afghanistan: the tumultuous road ahead

The US and Taliban have agreed to a draft agreement after 16 difficult and lengthy days of what is the latest round of negotiations. The talks began on 25 February and ended on 13 March, and although no final agreement has been reached, the two parties have come to terms on the question of a US

India: never quite in focus

Last month, Financial Times columnist Edward Luce asked, what would it take for India to get America’s attention? His question was rather aptly answered a couple of weeks later with a spot of brinkmanship in Kashmir (Pulwama terrorist attack: Modi under pressure), meaning India hit the

Singapore’s careful F-35 fighter aircraft purchase

Singapore has finally decided to acquire four F-35 aircraft with options for eight more, initially for evaluation purposes. The purchase appears cautious, well-timed, and cost-effective. Cautious, in that development remains ongoing with a full rate production decision not likely until late 2019.

Economic diplomacy: trade and traps in ASEAN

Middle aged spread Southeast Asian countries are about to become the primary focus of Australia’s public diplomacy this year as the “Australia now” program stretches its budget from the usual single country approach to all ten countries of the ASEAN group. This stepped-up

What might a US-China trade deal look like?

Perhaps they will, perhaps they won’t, but if China and the US do reach a trade agreement in coming weeks it will likely be very long. Meeting to seal the deal, President Donald Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping will be able to display to the cameras a document of at least a hundred pages

Australia and Indonesia trade: deal (not quite) done

The signing on 4 March of the Indonesia Australia–Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) has been hailed as a major bilateral trade agreement and a diplomatic breakthrough given recent tensions between Canberra and Jakarta. However, now the negotiations are concluded, there may

Sri Lanka: politics overthrows justice

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently released a report on Sri Lanka. The document assesses the island nation’s compliance with previous commitments – pertaining to human rights and transitional justice – that it made at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Sri

The death penalty paradox in Buddhist Myanmar

On my recent visit to Myanmar, I attended the commemoration ceremony of U Ko Ni, the former lawyer and legal advisor to the National League for Democracy. He was among the most vocal of advocates for constitutional change in Myanmar. While some aspects of political and social life in Myanmar have

Military on the front line in Thai election

With the 2019 Thai election the first since the 22 May 2014 coup and the recently-retired army general, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, as the candidate most likely to become prime minister, it was virtually inevitable that the role of the military would hover in the background of the campaign.

Book Review: A Partnership Transformed

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Women of influence in South Korea

Today is International Women’s Day. In South Korea, women have owned the past year, regularly uniting in their tens of thousands to rally in the streets against gendered violence and injustice. The numbers were unprecedented, 70,000 attended one rally alone, including women of all ages and from

Kim and Trump, again: North Korea’s drives the wedge

Despite inflated pre-summit expectations that US President Donald Trump and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un would sign a deal involving at least some sanctions relief, liaison offices, an end of war declaration, and agreement for North Korea to dismantle its nuclear facilities, the fact that Hanoi

China cabinet: Two Sessions, W-We’ve got Two Sessions

In Beijing, the Two Sessions has begun: a fortnight of meetings involving thousands of delegates of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. China wants to tell the world about itself, which is this: we’re all-conquering, globe-striding, dark

Political leadership versus diplomacy

Following the Trump-Kim summits and a gush of commentary on “presidential diplomacy”, “face-to-face diplomacy”, “summit diplomacy”, and even “Trumpian diplomacy”, we’ve somehow come to accept politicians as diplomats. It may be time to recall the difference – before it

Malaysia joins the International Criminal Court

On Monday, Malaysia ratified the Rome Statute, making it the 124th State party to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision to join the ICC after 20 years of resistance is not only a welcome development but highlights the importance of long-term persistence in the pursuit of human rights

The Huawei indictments: allegations and politics

Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou is reportedly suing the Canadian government, its border agency, and the national police force for false imprisonment in relation to her arrest as she transited through the country in December. Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder and

Four reasons why China supports North Korea

Of all the countries on the sidelines of the Hanoi summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, few were watching more intently than China. Chinese financial and trade support effectively facilitated North Korea’s nuclear program by keeping its economy afloat and thus fractured the chances of a

India’s wobbly quest for fighter aircraft

India’s air strikes this week targeting suspected terrorist hideouts in Pakistan and subsequent air battles comes at a time of growing concerns about sharply declining strength of India’s fighter squadrons. The number of aircraft presently stands at 31, against the authorised level of 42. The

Kim-Trump 2.0: three observations

Assessing the import and impact of the Trump-Kim summits is a challenge. The visual spectacle of the two “colourful” leaders, both of whom prize the optics almost more than the substance of meetings, can prove highly distracting. Viewed from Beijing or Pyongyang’s perspective, the two

Economic diplomacy: Development aid in the Belt & Road era

Mergerplomacy Five years after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) swallowed AusAID in the first major spending cuts of the new Coalition Government, two contradictory trends seem to be emerging. The reality of the takeover is getting some grudging acceptance in the

The intrusion of domestic politics in Kashmir tensions

On Tuesday, India launched air strikes targeting what it claimed was the biggest training camp of the militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) near the town of Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The strikes were said to be aimed at preventing an imminent attack on India and

India-Pakistan: shadow dancing in the Himalayas

The strike by the Indian Air Force on Tuesday against targets in Pakistan is the latest step in a delicate shadow dance between India and Pakistan. This began after a suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy at Pulwama in Indian Kashmir on 14 February, which killed more than 40 Indian

The gloom about Myanmar’s economy

Talking to business owners across a variety of sectors in Yangon in January this year, the mood was universally glum. Big-spending Western tourists were staying away in droves, concerned over human rights abuses. Bureaucratic red tape was clogging up business and investment, and the country

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