Thursday 20 Feb 2020 | 13:15 | SYDNEY
What's happening on


Self-determination on Pacific agenda

Nic Maclellan is co-author of La France dans le Pacifique and After Moruroa: France in the South Pacific. Denise Fisher's post on the re-inscription of French Polynesia on the UN list of non-self-governing territories underplays efforts by French diplomats to scuttle the resolution at the UN

Advice to McCain on Syria: Trust no one

It sounded so perfect. The hawkish Republican war hero John McCain visiting rebel-held Syrian territory to show the locals that not all US politicians are lily-livered liberals who have doubts about arming the Syrian freedom fighters. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which McCain is a

The China presence at Shangri-La

The Shangri-La Dialogue wrapped up yesterday with an underwhelming speech from PLA Deputy Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Qi Jianguo. Or at least, so I thought. Yoichi Kato, national security correspondent for one of Japan's biggest daily newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, heard something else,

Shangri-La missile defence

As Rory Medcalf said yesterday, often the most memorable things to come out of big events like the Shangri-La Dialogue are from the working groups rather than the big set-piece speeches. That was true not only of Rory's session on incidents at sea, but the one I attended yesterday on ballistic

Is China 'reciprocating' US maritime surveillance?

The best stories from the Shangri-la Dialogue, Asia's leading informal defence gathering, do not come from the public utterances of high-profile figures like Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Indeed, the most extraordinary thing I heard at the first full day of this year's dialogue here in Singapore

Shangri-La snippets

One of the talking points so far has been how vocal the Chinese delegation has been from the floor. The blunt question put to Secretary Hagel is just one example; in every session so far, one representative from the PLA has put a polite but firm line. UK Defense Secretary Hammond suggested that

Chuck Hagel at the Shangri-La Dialogue

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has just finished his remarks here at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore and has left for bilateral meetings. What kind of speech was it? I ran into a couple of American journalists this morning who had seen a transcript of Hagel's speech and said there was

Asia Pacific trade: Choosing sides

Hugh White makes a compelling case that we may have to choose between America and China one day, with that moment of choice decided by the two great powers. Here is one small example where we could do something which might – just might – make it less likely that this moment of choice will

The Interpreter this weekend

Usually we observe strict radio silence on weekends here on The Interpreter, but do check in with us tomorrow and Sunday for analysis and (I hope) some interviews from the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, a think tank conference that has become something of a staple in the Asia Pacific's regional

In conversation: Chan Heng Chee

Last week Lowy Institute Executive Director Michael Fullilove caught up with one of the Institute's newest board members, Ambassador Chan Heng Chee. Ambassador Chan is the first member of the Board from Asia and was Singapore's Ambassador to the US from 1996 to 2012. In this short video

Will Obama settle for Assad?

One of the paradoxes of the Syrian crisis has been the way Russia and China have worked determinedly to prevent America from doing something that it clearly does not want to do. I asked a diplomat from a P5 country about this in New York a few weeks ago. He said that while it was clear Obama did

Syria: Hizbullah's line in the sand

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Sunday (which the Iranians would have you believe was watched by Obama live) merely formalised what everyone has known for a while now: Hizbullah and its chief sponsor Iran no longer believe Assad is a lost cause. During my recent trip to

NZ diplomacy: The budget buzz cut

In what is becoming an annual ritual after the Australian budget for Foreign Affairs and Trade has been handed down, I take a look at how DFAT's New Zealand counterpart fared in its own budget-cut fest. The NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade 'Estimates of Appropriations' usually make

Eight is enough: Iran's elections

Iran's Guardian Council has stayed true to form, rejecting the vast majority of the 600 candidates who nominated to run in next month's presidential elections and approving just eight. The most contentious refusal was that of the former two-term president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who held the

Defence White Paper: French Pacific power ignored

The Australian Defence White Paper 2013 was not the only such document to be released recently: France's 2013 White Paper on Defence and National Security appeared the same week. But, as far as strategic perceptions of France in our region are concerned, there the symmetry ends. I looked

Australia's consular conundrum in Dubai

The harsh sentencing of Australian businessman Matthew Joyce in Dubai yesterday brings into sharp relief the Government's messaging on consular matters and the problems it encounters regularly in dealing with what I've called Australia's consular conundrum. The conundrum is multi-dimensional,

India Poll 2013: Big threats, big expectations

Danielle Rajendram is a Research Associate in the Lowy Institute's International Security Program. Today the Lowy Institute, in partnership with the Australia India Institute, has released the results of a nationally representative opinion poll on Indian attitudes towards their future in the world

China doomsayers run out of arguments

Ever since China slowed from unsustainable 10%-plus growth figures in the pre-2008 decade, there has been a barrage of voices foreseeing a painful slump. Some even doubt that China will overtake American GDP.  Meanwhile, official figures show China growing at more than 7%, which is enough to

China-Taiwan: Risk of war 'near zero'

This is one of those interviews that I wish could have gone longer. Former Taiwan Deputy Defence Minister Dr Chong-Pin Lin visited the Lowy Institute last week for a roundtable with China experts from around Sydney, and he was kind enough to agree to this short chat. Dr Lin has a mild-mannered

Syria: A week is a long time

In order to make any sense of a conflict it is necessary to take the long view; snapshots at any particular time can skew one's perspective. But having said that, this week has been of particular interest for Syria watchers because of the range of issues raised, all of which further illustrate why

China no rival for island influence

China's activities in the Pacific Islands are being viewed in the same light as its growing geo-strategic role in Asia. Australia's recent Defence White Paper 2013 cautioned that Australia's role in the Pacific may well be balanced in the future by the growing influence of Asian nations. America

Four fascinating years in Timor-Leste

Gordon Peake is a Visiting Fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, ANU. Interpreter readers with long memories may remember my name from a series of pieces on Timor-Leste posted a year or so ago. The articles included profiles of the campaign to elect war hero Taur Matan

Will Aung San Suu Kyi be president of Burma?

Andrew Selth is a Research Fellow?at the Griffith Asia Institute. One question uppermost in the minds of many who attended last week's Lowy Institute's panel discussion on Burma (event video above) was whether Aung San Suu Kyi might become president when Thein Sein's five-year term expires in

Dreaming of China in the Pacific Islands

Research staff at the Lowy Institute meet with many visiting foreign delegations: European foreign ministers, US State Department and Pentagon officials, Pacific Island MPs, senior officials from Asian countries, academics from India and China. We also meet regularly with Australian ministers and

Today in killer robot planes

Chinese military websites have been abuzz lately with images emerging of China's first stealth drone, dubbed 'Sharp Sword', which has started undertaking so-called 'taxi trials' (moving under its own power on a runway) and will presumably make its first flight soon. This image posted today on

Reader riposte: Divided Asia

Professor Richard Rosecrance writes on a recent discussion thread about the above graphic: The main problem with the 'Asian circle' is not its population or its economic importance — which was initially great 200 years ago and is growing now. It is its manifest and lasting divisions. Like

Iran elections: Rise of the guardians

Given Australia's unofficial nine-month long election campaign, it is worth noting that, six weeks out from the Iranian presidential election, the names of the candidates are not even known yet. Registration of presidential candidates was conducted between 9-11 May, at which point the Guardians

Documentary trailer: Red Obsession

It's nice to be able to flag an Australian film once in a while, and this one combines two modern Australian pre-occupations: China and wine. Red Obsession looks at the enormous appetite that China's wealthy elite have for fine French wine from the Bordeaux region. As the film-maker notes in this

China-PLA: 2nd comes right after 1st

Every year the US Defence Department releases a Congressionally-mandated unclassified study called Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China. This year's edition was released earlier this week.  China specialists tend to pay this document some attention and so

Trailer: Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips tells the story of the Maersk Alabama hijacking in 2009, which was eventually brought to end by US Navy SEALs in what was interpreted as an early foreign policy victory for the new Obama Administration. The Wikipedia page on the hijacking tells a pretty hair-raising story, and

Free and fair? Pakistan's election woes

Alicia Mollaun is a PhD Candidate at the Crawford School at ANU. She has lived in Islamabad since 2010. Photo is by the author. Back in Australia, our election day concerns usually revolve around timing our vote so that we can get a parking space at the local school, avoiding how-to-vote

In conversation: Burma's transition

Yesterday the Lowy Institute was privileged to host two of Australia's most prominent Burma watchers, Dr Andrew Selth of the Griffith Asia Institute and Dr Sean Turnell from Macquarie University, for a discussion on Burma's recent rapid transformation. Interpreter readers will be  familiar

Gillard must stand up for PNG's women

Julia Gillard's first visit to Papua New Guinea as prime minister, starting tomorrow, is loaded with symbolism. Following on from the April visit of Australia's first female Governor-General, the Prime Minister can demonstrate to Papua New Guineans that women can effectively and confidently

Malaysian election: PM Najib Razak on thin ice

Associate Professor Lily Zubaidah Rahim, from the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, is an affiliate of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Malaysia's thirteenth election, held last Sunday, was fiercely contested and controversial. The 80% voter

Documentary trailer: The Defector

The full title for this film is The Defector: Escape from North Korea, and it follows the life of a people smuggler who helps North Koreans escape via the Chinese border. But since North Korean refugees are not recognised by China, these escapees then face the challenge of getting to a third

After the MDGs: What's next for Asia?

Later this month, a high level panel convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will deliver its recommendations on what should come after the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It's no ordinary panel. Co-chaired by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf