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18 September 2019

Outbid by China

Yesterday, the flag was brought down for the final time at the Taiwanese embassy in Honiara, Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands was previously the largest of Taiwan’s Pacific allies, but has decided to switch its allegiances to China, a move that could lead to similar flips by the five allies that remain.

The switch occurred despite Australia’s …

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11 September 2019

Morrison’s lukewarm deployment

Even by Australian standards, Scott Morrison’s recent commitment of troops to join a United States–led coalition in the Strait of Hormuz seems lukewarm. Morrison plans to send a surveillance aircraft and a frigate to ensure free passage through the narrow strait following threats by Iran. But the aircraft will be deployed for just one month …

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4 September 2019

The forgotten neighbour

Off the tip of north Queensland is a looming problem that Australia has long tried to avoid: a people suppressed. The region of West Papua receives little attention in Australia, partly because Indonesia blocks access to aid groups, foreign media and the United Nations. But Canberra, too, prefers this silence.

In recent weeks, however, the …

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28 August 2019

Bypassing the US and China

In the past week, global stock markets have dipped and climbed as Donald Trump threatened to increase tariffs on China, then suggested he may not, then claimed – despite Beijing’s denials – that Chinese officials had called the White House to resume trade talks. Asked if he was having second thoughts about his tactics, Trump said “I have …

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21 August 2019

Morrison’s Pacific step-down

Last week’s meeting of Pacific leaders in Tuvalu was supposed to advance Scott Morrison’s effort to improve ties with Australia’s neighbours. Instead, the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum will be remembered as the moment when Morrison’s Pacific “step-up” went backwards.

One measure of the shift can be seen in the response of Fiji’s …

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14 August 2019

Hong Kong is dangerous

Every week in Australia about 55,000 people travel to Hong Kong, which for decades has been one of the country’s most popular destinations. Yet, last week the Australian government changed its official travel advice for Hong Kong to “Exercise a high degree of caution”. Protests and random attacks on demonstrators, the advice warned, have become …

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7 August 2019

Pompeo vs White

Last weekend, Australia’s foreign and defence ministers met with their American counterparts for the annual Australia–US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). These days, the forum serves as a sort of litmus test of where Australia is sitting between the US, its closest ally, and China, its largest trading partner. The dilemma for Australia is …

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China’s red line

Last week, China released a 51-page defence white paper that outlined its long-term military plans, as well as its concerns about countries such as the United States and Australia. Published in Mandarin and English, the document was the country’s first such white paper in four years. It did not label the US an adversary – as Donald Trump’s …

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24 July 2019

The other trade war

In South Korea recently, shoppers have been avoiding Uniqlo, convenience stores have been removing Asahi beer from their fridges, and holiday-makers have been cancelling trips to Tokyo. This unofficial boycott of Japan is part of a new trade war that began on 4 July, when the Japanese government began curbing exports of material crucial to South …

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17 July 2019

Not getting the Pacific

Yesterday, Scott Morrison announced that his first official guest since he won the election will be James Marape, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea. This six-day state visit will be the latest instalment in Morrison’s firm, and occasionally frenzied, commitment to the Coalition’s signature foreign policy – the “Pacific step-up”. Since …

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