ASPI suggests
27 Sep 2013|

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, accompanied by longtime Chinese translator James Brown, stand in front of the South Gate to Beihai Park and look at Bai Ta, or the White Pagoda, at Beihai Park in Beijing, China, on April 13, 2013. US Secretary of State John Kerry finds it hard to focus on Asia, writes Robert Kaplan.

John Kerry has made his choice. Chaos in the Middle East is more important to him than historic power shifts in Asia and Europe. Passion, rather than geopolitical vision, drives this Secretary of State.

But for all his and the President’s interest, the Middle East is a challenge. Even the get-out-of-jail-free card offered by the Russians over Syria might not go smoothly. The NYT has this piece on the challenges of chemical weapons disarmament in Syria. On the other Middle East story this week, the relationship between the US and Iran, here’s the handshake that wasn’t, hope, and scepticism for the Tehran-Washington thaw.

Meanwhile, even without Kerry’s attention, Asia surges forwards. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been in Washington, including a meeting with Kerry. Mr Wang also gave a speech at Brookings, on the ‘new model of great power relations’.

Bloomberg has this interesting piece on how China may yet disappoint pessimists and avoid a hard landing for its recently-slowing economy.

Closer to home, Stuart McMillan penned a piece for us on the stand-off between the Moro National Liberation Front and the Philippines Government. For more on the issue, check out this RSIS commentary in which Joseph Franco argues (PDF) that a protracted stand-off might have spill over effects for neighbouring countries like Malaysia.

Back in North East Asia, ASPI this week co-chaired the North East Asia Defence and Security Forum with the Department of Defence. Academics and officials from Australia, China, Japan, Mongolia, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the United States attended the forum, which focused on the nuclear threat from North Korea and the recent deterioration in relations between Seoul and Tokyo. ASPI’s Executive Director Peter Jennings observed:

I think relations between Japan and China are as tense as they have been for a generation and, somewhat unexpectedly, there are also rather poor relations between South Korea and Japan.

Speaking of South Korea, Seoul surprised many observers this week (and probably the Boeing company) when it made an eleventh hour decision to re-tender its acquisition of new tactical combat aircraft. It’d been expected to announce the purchase of new-build F-15s on Tuesday. But there’d been some controversy in the process, with a financial cap essentially ruling out the F-35 and Eurofighter, the other two contenders.

And last on our reading list: we all know that the internet is for wasting time, but now you can waste the National Security Agency’s time as well, with this handy NSA keyword false positive generator.

Events

Canberra: ANU Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans will lead a panel discussion on disarming Syria of chemical weapons. Hosted by ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, the discussion is at University House on Wednesday 2 October at 1pm, with lunch provided from 12.45pm. RSVP essential.

Professor Michael Wesley will be talking about the Abbott Government’s foreign policy challenges. Hosted by AIIA ACT, the event is at the ANU Crawford School’s Barton Theatre on Thursday 3 October at 5.30pm.

What are the foundations of US leadership in East Asia? Professors Evelyn Goh and David C. Kang answer this question by examining the concept of ‘authority’. This seminar will be held at the ANU’s Hedley Bull Centre on Thursday 10 October at 5.30pm.

For Korea watchers the Korea Update 2013, which features updates on political, economic, security and social issues, will be held at ANU’s Hedley Bull Centre on Friday 11 October from 8.30am – 5pm. Program here (PDF).

The Kokoda Foundation will be holding their annual trilateral dinner on Thursday 31 October with Australia, the United States and Japan. Held at the Rydges Lakeside Hotel, speakers include Japanese Ambassador to Australia HE Yoshitaka Akimoto, Dr Kurt Campbell, The Hon Michèle Flournoy and more.

Sydney: Dr C. Raja Mohan will present on the future of Indo-Pacific security and middle power coalitions. Hosted by the Lowy Institute, the talk is at Lowy’s Bligh Street offices on Wednesday 9 October at 12.30pm.

Adelaide: RUSI SA is hosting a luncheon and talk by Dr Bruce Paix on ‘Using Operation Slipper to discuss the scope of modern military medicine’ at Keswick Barracks on Tuesday 8 October at 12pm. Details here.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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