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International Relations

In 2013, Xi Jinping announced the idea of building a ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ across Eurasia. A few months later, he proposed a ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road.’ Five years on, these two projects have been merged in what is arguably the most ambitious economic and diplomatic enterprise of the 21st century: the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), or One Belt One Road (OBOR). BRI involves over 80 countries across three continents and along six economic “corridors”, plus an additional route to the Arctic. It encompasses 900 infrastructure and development projects with a combined cost of US$900 billion. The Belt and Road Initiative includes projects such as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the trans-Eurasian railways network, Ethiopia’s Eastern Industrial Zone …

After much speculation about the future of the Japanese Navy, it was announced in early December that the Izumo-class helicopter carriers will be converted to aircraft carriers.  This will require a substantial reconstruction of the two ships as well as the purchase of F‑35B fighter jets to comprise the carriers’ airwings. It is likely that 100 additional F-35 aircraft will be ordered to further bulk up Japanese aerial capabilities. This change is important for three reasons, firstly, Japan has not operated aircraft carriers since World War Two, secondly, they are being commissioned to contest increasing Chinese control of the northwest Pacific, and thirdly, because aircraft carriers are also under construction in the United States, Britain, China and India. We appear …

As expected, the recent NATO Summit was dominated by President Trump’s blunt criticisms of allies. He accused European member states of taking advantage of the United States, of failing to follow through on the 2014 agreement to raise defence spending to a minimum of 2% of GDP, and cozied up to Russia, perhaps most shockingly given the accusations levelled at his own campaign, of colluding with Russia. The basis for these accusations should be taken seriously, even if the latent threat of the United States withdrawing from NATO and the capricious means of delivery seem designed more to appeal to American domestic political interests than to truly illicit reform of the organisation. Cutting through the hyperbole, we see that there …

The recent confirmation of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State by the Senate symbolizes that nationalist “hawks” dominate the Republican Party’s foreign policy. Even the famously non-interventionist Republican Senator Rand Paul supported his nomination. Pompeo’s quick and frictionless confirmation points to a shift to the right in what constitutes “common-sense” in US foreign policy. However, as this article will argue such changes in US foreign policy have predated Pompeo’s nomination and even President Trump’s election. Mike Pompeo, who came to Congress with the Tea Party movement in 2010, is an interventionist of the America-First variety. He desires strong sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia, supports extra-legal military strikes in areas of jihadist activity, and deeply distrusts China’s economic and …

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines with his PowerPoint presentation on Iran’s nuclear program. Media outlets talked of a ‘bizarre PowerPoint’, a ‘strange slideshow’ and deemed it unnecessary for Netanyahu ‘to convince us that you don’t support the Iran nuclear deal’. The slideshow quickly became a twitter meme. What these reactions made me recall is how rare it is for heads of state or government officials to use PowerPoint slides, or any type of visualizations, to convey and illustrate information of international concern to the public. While PowerPoint is a medium of debatable value, nonetheless, we all use it frequently to present complex information. It is the default medium in business and academia, but it is not …

Recent revelations about the alleged misuse of the personal data of millions of Facebook users have dominated international headlines. Reportedly, Cambridge Analytica exploited loopholes in Facebook’s privacy settings to create psychometric profiles for targeted political influence campaigns. Thus far, available evidence suggests that the firm was active all over the globe, but not directly involved in Australian politics. So, why has the Cambridge Analytica scandal got alarm bells ringing, on the opposite side of the world, in Canberra? To understand the significance these events for Australia, one must understand our geopolitical position in the Pacific. Australia has long thought of itself as the United States’ younger sibling. In 2003, US President George Bush memorably labelled Australia America’s “deputy sheriff” and …

Donald Trump surprised the world by accepting an invitation to meet with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. The announcement came unexpectedly, after more than a year of rising tensions between the United States and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear programme. What are the reasons for this diplomatic about-face? We can identify three reasons that have led to this development. The first is North Korea’s long-standing desire of building bilateral negotiations with the United States. The second reason is President Trump’s preference for personal and unconventional diplomacy. Finally, South Korea’s mediating role under the Moon administration has created the conditions to reopen diplomatic contacts between the two opponents. North Korea’s Quest for US Recognition Although North Korea has repeatedly threatened …

One year has passed since Donald Trump’s inauguration as president and his promise to reorient American foreign policy away from a liberal internationalist agenda to putting “America First.” Since January 2017, the Trump administration has jettisoned major diplomatic achievements of the Obama years – the TPP and the Paris Climate Change Accord. Further, he has called for a revision of the Iran Nuclear Deal and NAFTA, escalated the nuclear standoff with North Korea and threatened to disrupt relations with its long-term allies in Europe and Asia. The main features of the new American foreign policy so far have been: A transactionalist, business-style approach to international bargains, with the aim to negotiate or re-negotiate treaties on more favourable grounds for the …