Wednesday 17 Jul 2019 | 17:37 | SYDNEY
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Asia

The fight to preserve the Khon Pi Luang rapids

In 2000, China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand concluded an agreement to begin clearing the Mekong River of obstacles so that cargo vessels could travel from southern Yunnan to the old royal capital of Laos, Luang Prabang. Neither Cambodia nor Vietnam, the other two riverine countries, were

Hong Kong: when rich dreams interrupt fortunate life

Kung Hei Fat Choi is the auspicious Cantonese phrase most commonly heard in Hong Kong this week during the Lunar New Year. Kung Hei stands for congratulations, while Fat Choi literally means making a lot of money. The phrase was said to be originated in the Guangdong region during the Self-

Thailand: the Princess vs the General

The Princess versus the General is completely new for Thai politics, which makes it both fascinating and unpredictable. Princess Ubolratana, the elder sister of Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn, has been declared a prime ministerial candidate for a party loyal to ousted prime minister

Is Australia wise to pick sides in US-China trade war?

The US-China trade war is viewed by many as a dark cloud over the global economy. So why is Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, seemingly urging Trump to go harder, and not settle for a “pyrrhic victory” that fails to resolve long-term differences between the US and China? In

Russian arms flood Southeast Asia

Russia’s “hard” power is generally well-understood. President Vladimir Putin has ensured this is the case, particularly through his proclivity to showcase Russian strength in Ukraine and Syria. And who could forget Russia’s arsenal of nuclear weapons? Not Donald Trump: just last weekend,

The Vietnamese venue will shape the second Trump-Kim summit

The news is in. US President Donald Trump will meet North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un for the second time on February 27-28. Instead of Singapore, this time Vietnam will play host. Although there are many concerns regarding the prospect of success for the second summit and North Korea’s

Getting a better outcome from the second Trump-Kim summit

If press reports are accurate, US President Donald Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un will again meet this month. They met for the first time last June in Singapore. Rumour suggests this meeting will be in Vietnam. The first summit was sharply criticised as a photo-op for Trump –

A blast from North Korean past

Appealing to South Korea with proposals of peaceful unification, while at the same time demonising foreigners occupying the Korean Peninsula, is one of the oldest pages in Pyongyang’s rhetorical playbook. Pyongyang is clearly painting a picture for Seoul that relations going forward could come

US, Taliban, Afghanistan peace talks: timing is critical

The Taliban and the US have agreed, in principle, on a peace framework that will ensure the Taliban part ways with international terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda leading to a possible withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. The negotiations also focused on a comprehensive ceasefire and

Malaysia and China: breaking up is hard to do

Breaking up is hard to do, judging by the Malaysian government’s latest contortions over how to handle a US $20 billion Chinese-backed rail project of questionable economic value. The East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) is one of several high-profile Chinese infrastructure deals signed by previous prime

Don’t “crush” Abu Sayyaf perpetrators, debrief them

The horrific bombing of the cathedral in Jolo last Sunday underscores the need for the Philippines government to understand more about the operations of pro-ISIS groups in Mindanao. The best way to get that information is to find, arrest, and debrief the perpetrators of violent extremist crimes.

Pacific collateral from the INF Treaty collapse

Washington intends to begin withdrawing from the landmark 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty early next month. President Trump indicated late last year that the US is pulling out because “they’ve (Russia) been violating it for many years.” The concern for Australia is that

Mediation a long shot in Kashmir conflict

When former prime minister of Norway Kjell Mangne Bondevik met with separatist Kashmiri leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in Indian Kashmir last month, a barrage of questions followed.   Fruitful meeting of JRL with Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik,Ex Prime Minister

The dark harvest of Chinese “black ships”

A US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies report (Illuminating the South China Sea’s Dark Fishing Fleets) sheds new light on the size and behaviour of fishing fleets in the Spratly Islands. It is critical to prevent the ‘maritime militia narrative’ from dominating the policy

Just how green is the Belt and Road?

China is frequently hailed as a leader in international efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, playing a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris Agreement, and pledging that carbon emissions will peak by 2030 and decline rapidly thereafter. The country has quickly become one of the

2019: a rough road ahead for Xi

In 2018, Xi Jinping seemed to be in an almost unassailable position in Chinese politics. China’s president started the year with the sort of political power that few since Mao have enjoyed, with what was seen as an emphatic victory for him at the 2018 National People’s Congress for his proposal

Talking to the Taliban: challenges for Kabul

Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections are due in July and there are, at best, contradictory signals about progress on the negotiations with the Taliban. Despite 2018 being one of the most violent years in Afghanistan’s post 9/11 history, last year also increased hopes on the

Australia articulates its Indian Ocean priorities

At the Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship geopolitical conference held last week in New Delhi, Australia’s high-level presence was noticeable. Foreign Minister Marise Payne led the delegation from Canberra and was accompanied by Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell. Campbell’s

Why China’s financial system remains closed

While China still uses the rhetoric of “reform and opening up” its financial system remains relatively closed and is set to get even more unfriendly for foreign investors despite some recent announcements on liberalisation. The recent news that China continues to delay access by Visa and

Timor-Leste’s forgotten Chinese

There used to be thousands of them – the children of the children of the first Chinese people to migrate to Timor-Leste in the 1800s and their indigenous Timorese husbands and wives. But conflict, rejection, and the promise of a better life abroad saw the dispersed Hakka-descended Chinese-

Philippine alliance angst

Last month, at his end-of-year press conference, the Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana called for a review of the 1951 US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT). Under the terms of this treaty, either side can unilaterally withdraw. When asked if post-review options

North Korea is eclipsing the Moon presidency

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently shook up his cabinet. In particular, his controversial chief of staff, Im Jeong-seok, stepped down. The growing impression in South Korea is that Moon is more concerned with relations with North Korea than with domestic issues. Certainly, it appears that

What I missed last year: Japan, the unlikely overachiever

A series where Lowy Institute experts look back on what surprised them in 2018. Surveying international news headlines from 2018, you’d be forgiven for believing that the geopolitical landscape of Asia is exclusively a two-horse race. US, China spar over trade at WTO. More worrying than a US-

North Korea’s “selective détente”

Almost two weeks have passed since Kim Jong-un delivered his 2019 New Year Address. He informed the world of his intention to capitalise on his diplomatic victories to enhance North Korea’s international status. He also expressed his willingness to continue the détente with South Korea and

Religious freedom in China: better than before?

Speaking at New York’s Asia Society Policy on 5 December, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd contended that religious freedom in China is “much better now than it was before.” A storm of indignant posts spread on social media, voicing displeasure and disagreement. If, as Rudd argued

Choking point: India’s environmental crisis

It is January; a month that, in north India, once fell in the season of winter, but now is more synonymous with the depths of the region’s dreaded pollution season. This month, as in recent years, a brutal combination of diverse factors has continued to coalesce to produce dire air quality in its

The rude health of Cambodia’s Hun Sen

Once again, “Victory Over Genocide Day” has been celebrated in Cambodia by the Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) government and its supporters. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the defeat of the Pol Pot regime by an invading Vietnamese army numbering around 100,000 and the small,

Best of The Interpreter 2018: Talking with Kim Jong-un

How to capture a year of extraordinary diplomacy on the Korean peninsula, that started out with bragging about the size of a nuclear button to a cozy photo-op with the US President and North Korea’s supreme leader. Perhaps Khang Vu put it best, asking whether the so-called “Olympic truce”

Best of The Interpreter 2018: The US-China trade war

In recent months, the US-China relationship has accelerated from rivalry toward adversarial antagonism. In the US, a policy shift on China has been propelled by a sense that China is winning and America is losing in a competition for global hegemony.  “I want tariffs,” Donald Trump&

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