Barack Obama and Xi Jinping will meet in California this Friday and Saturday. The extended and comparatively informal meeting has the potential to shape the relationship of the two leaders, and of their countries. It has been called a ‘chance to recast the century’s most important bilateral relationship’, and the ‘last, best chance’ to lay the foundations for peace in Asia in the coming decades. Cyber security (see this week’s new report from ASPI on China’s cyber capabilities) and North Korea (a view on that subject here from Ross Terrill) are also likely to be on the agenda.
Despite the concerns of Asia and the ‘rebalance’, the Obama administration has old problems too (from CSIS):
The United States cannot afford to blunder its way into staying in Afghanistan, or to blunder its way out by making the wrong decisions about whether and how to stay.
Also on the Middle East, this week France and Britain released statements confirming their view that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said that ‘there is no doubt that it was the regime and its accomplices’ had used sarin gas. Obama’s response continues to be cautious.
Iran and turkey are each politically excitable, Iran with its upcoming Presidential election, and Turkey as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced nation-wide protests against his pro-islamic government.
Speaking of the maritime sphere: food for thought for anyone contemplating the replacement of Navy’s two afloat support vessels (HMAS Sirius and Success) is the Canadian Parliamentary Budget Office’s look at the budget required to build two such ships in Canada. The Canadian Department of National Defence has budgeted $2.6 billion—a number that would strain our already creaking DCP if repeated here, but the PBO warns that the right figure will be $3.3–4.1 billion.
Washington is also looking at ways to cut defence spending, but the political capital required to pare-back luxury military supermarkets seems to have proved too large an obstacle:
If we can’t fix something this straightforward, how are we going to tackle everything else?
…said a member of the Pentagon’s advisory board.
As far as Australia’s own ‘pivot’ to our near region is concerned, ANU is holding the first annual State of the Pacific conference on the 25 and 26th of June. Registration, we are told, is essential.
Lastly, just a quick reminder that Monday is a public holiday for those of us here in Australia. Have a good long weekend, from The Strategist team.
Image courtesy of The White House.