Sunday 21 Jul 2019 | 08:59 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

The pitfalls of North Korea’s summitry spectacle

The third meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-un has come and gone, again without much substantial progress, but its symbolism has continued to dominate Korea watchers’ assessments of the event. Trump last month became the first sitting US president to set

The burden of friendship: Germany, Trump and NATO

“Burden sharing” has long been a totemic term in discussions about NATO. Behind the happy paeans to shared values and mutual security interests uttered publicly by national leaders has always stood the hard reality of American power and Europe’s complete dependency upon it. Yet under the

Iran’s dangerous gamble

Iran has announced that it has exceeded its enriched uranium limit under the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. This follows the decision in May 2018 when the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal and reimposed economic

The Republicans’ post-Iraq dilemma: the hollow threats

US President Donald Trump is sliding into an increasingly obvious pattern in his dealing with small or rogue states who oppose the United States. In his presidency so far, Trump has already picked fights with four such countries – Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran. In each case, after

The Matildas and Socceroos vs. Marta and Messi

The Australia women’s national soccer team bowed out of the Women’s World Cup this past weekend following a dramatic loss to Norway on penalty kicks. It was the end of a rollercoaster campaign, with the highlight coming from a comeback victory against a Brazilian side led by Marta – whose goal

Iran: Australia’s deliberate ambiguity

Ambiguity in foreign policy is no bad thing, and on Iran, the only certainty Donald Trump has displayed after a week of heightened tension was his weekend declaration that “the only one that matters is me”. So the debate is on, hawks versus doves, over messages and intentions. Was

The challenge to legal abortion in the Trump era is global

Last month Alabama passed a law that would imprison doctors for up to 99 years for performing abortions, with no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Even televangelist Pat Robertson, who in 2005 suggested Hurricane Katrina could be God’s punishment for allowing abortion, has said Alabama’s

The limits of unilateral action against Iran

As Washington is finding, maximum pressure campaigns have their own limitations, even with the most coherent and experienced foreign policy teams. But with ​the Commander-in-Chief sending mixed messages (overnight Donald Trump described the alleged Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the

Are we ready for a rare earths trade war?

Rare earth minerals have emerged as the latest front in the escalating US-China trade war. Nearly a decade after the Chinese government controversially suspended rare earth exports to Japan during the 2010 Senkaku dispute, similar threats are now being made if the bilateral trade dispute with the US

Oman: credibility gulf will test White House

For the US to directly accuse Iran of attacking oil tankers just outside the heavily congested, economically critical and strategically vital waters of the Persian Gulf … well, it ought to be a big deal. A really big deal. And it’s not as if this story is being ignored. As I checked this

Just why is the North Korean status quo so persistent?

Last month in The Interpreter, I argued that inter-Korean status quo is deeply persistent. US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have tried all sorts of tactics in the last 28 months to change things, yet nothing seems to work. In 2017, Trump reached to the limits of

Singapore steers the US-China extremes at Shangri-la

Midway through Lee Hsien Loong’s keynote speech at the Shangri-la Dialogue, I found myself turning to others on my table to register my surprise at how critical he seemed to be about China. Afterwards, talking to many of the Americans who had travelled from Washington for the annual Asian

Superpower scrutiny at Shangri-La

For the past two years, the highlight of the annual IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore was the keynote speech by the sadly departed former US defence secretary Jim Mattis. This year the task of speaking on behalf of America to the leading forum of Asian defence

Huawei and the decoupling dilemma

In two dramatic policy announcements this month, the Trump administration effectively barred US companies and government agencies from buying telecommunications equipment or services from – or selling any components to –Chinese technology champion, Huawei. President Donald Trump signed a broadly

The clock is ticking on tensions with Iran

Washington’s attempts to isolate Iran economically and politically rely largely on whether it can get Tehran to opt out of the 2015 nuclear deal. As long as the Trump administration is the only signatory to withdraw from what is known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),

Trump’s tariff tussle

As predictable as Big Ben striking the hour, as subtle as a battering ram, the final stages of the US-China trade negotiations involve upping the ante with a further tariff increase, as seen last week. Tariffs are the negotiating instrument, not the objective. For financial journalists needing an

The persistent status quo with North Korea

It is a commonplace in media treatments of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) to view the previous two years as remarkable. This is often premised on the notion that the heavy American and South Korean (ROK, or Republic of Korea) engagement with the North since 2017

Visa tussles: here come the Irish again

The Irish campaign to gain access to the E-3 visa in the United States has roared back to life.  Currently, Australia is the only country with access to the 10,500 E-3 visa slots. Yet Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, who led a delegation of US legislators on a visit to

US bipartisanship on Asia

Two recently passed laws pertaining to US policy to Asia challenge a well-entrenched negative narrative about the Trump administration, and serve as reassuring reminders about how the US government and legislative process actually works. The Trump administration is not as isolationist and Congress

The useful myth of central bank independence

One of the sustaining myths of modern economics is that central banks are independent, able to pursue monetary policy free from the pressures of politics. This makes monetary policy more effective: it gives confidence that the economy will be kept on a steady path unaffected by the exigencies of the

The battle to resource the US National Defense Strategy

In a recent article, (What the pessimists get wrong about Trump in Asia) Natasha Kassam argued that Donald Trump’s election has not ended Barack Obama’s pivot to the Pacific or led to a significant break with traditional approaches to US foreign policy in Asia. Kassam rightly pointed to the 2017

The Mueller illusion

No collusion. Or as Donald would say, NO COLLUSION! The report is in, the argument will still go on, yet as one America-based Australian correspondent has already declared, this “has delivered the US President one of the best days of his presidency”. Mueller became some kind of mythical

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

What the pessimists get wrong about Trump in Asia

Having an “America First” president elected on the MAGA platform left many Australians anxious about the future of US engagement in our region. But Trump’s tweets and meetings with despots may be distracting from a coherent and almost traditional Republican foreign policy in Asia.

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

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

Learning from Brexit in Donald Trump’s America

For those of us with an internationalist viewpoint, watching the Brexit process unfold in the context of the Trump Presidency has left us demoralised and despondent. In both cases, we see the rise of populism and demagoguery in great liberal democracies. We see chaos, a self-inflicted wound. And we

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

Breaking Russia’s space stranglehold

The test launch of a SpaceX astronaut capsule to the International Space Station (without astronauts aboard) is cause for celebration. It marks the debut of the first crew-carrying orbital spacecraft from America since the development of the Space Shuttle decades ago. But it also signifies the

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

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

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