ASPI suggests

The world

There has been mixed reaction to the publication of an anonymous op-ed in the New York Times by a senior official in US President Donald Trump’s administration. The author claims that many of his or her colleagues are working in the interest of the American people by thwarting the worst of Trump’s tendencies. The Atlantic’s David Frum argues that the piece threatens to endanger US security by inflaming the president’s ‘paranoia’.

US sanctions against Iran are set to hit its oil exports from November, but Bloomberg reports there are several ways the country could counter American restrictions through ‘discounts, bartering and smuggling’. Hassan Hakimian examines the sanctions’ impact. On a related note, do you know who runs Iran’s foreign policy? Foreign Policy (fittingly) compares the power of Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s long-time foreign policy adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati. Still on Iran, CSIS has released a new report on the country’s military modernisation and its growing influence in the Gulf. On the Middle East generally, have a look at this RAND Corporation research on sectarianism in the region, and read Foreign Policy’s article on Russia’s strategy for undermining Europe—through the Middle East.

And now for some differing opinions on the best way to resolve the situation on the Korean peninsula. Vox and Bloomberg ask whether denuclearisation or a declaration of peace (to officially end the Korean War) should occur first. The National Interest reports that denuclearisation negotiations have reached a deadlock, with both sides expecting concessions of the other first. In the Asia Times, Robert E. McCoy looks at the state of the US–South Korea alliance.

China may be using satellite receiving stations based in the Australian Antarctic Territory for military purposes, possibly contravening the Antarctic Treaty. Listen to this ABC interview with Professor Anne-Marie Brady for more information on the treaty, whether Chinese actions have challenged it and what to expect next.

For The New Republic, Isaac Stone Fish dove deep into self-censorship at American elite universities targeting any work potentially displeasing to the Chinese Communist Party. He found that in most instances censorship is spurred by personal interests, such as maintaining visa access or protecting family in China, but others are motivated simply by economic factors. Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement has reached China, though the government is trying to silence activists. Yanan Wang reports for the Associated Press on the case of Ren Liping, who is speaking out about her alleged rape and trying to hold the police, her university and her ex-boyfriend accountable.

Chatham House has weighed in on Brexit, advocating for a security and foreign policy treaty between the UK and the EU which would allow for coordinated responses to crises like the Novichok nerve agent attack earlier this year. The BBC has the details on the latest revelations in that case involving two suspects who are thought to be Russian military intelligence officers. Russia expert Mark Galeotti spoke on the BBC radio show PM about Russia’s military intelligence service, GRU, and wrote about the West’s ‘obsession’ with the agency in the Moscow Times.

An interesting (and important) Policy Forum piece looks at liveability in urban spaces amid a growing need for design that protects people against terror acts. After neo-Nazi groups marched through the German city of Chemnitz last week, Bettina Vestring looks at widespread right-wing sympathies in Saxony’s police and judiciary, and the problem of underestimating neo-Nazism. Carnegie Europe’s Judy Dempsey shares similar arguments. ABC’s Four Corners examined how former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is attempting to spread his far-right message across the world, including in Australia [39:12].

Tech geek

China is nearing mass production of its fifth-generation J-20 fighter jet now that it has developed a new engine, the WS-15, to power it. The new engine is important for two reasons: it will make the J-20 much more potent, giving it longer range, and most importantly, it will give it the ability to ‘supercruise’ at Mach 1.8, making it comparable to the F-22 Raptor. The J-20 milestone also suggests that a major military technical gap in Chinese defence has been closed and that China can now be more ambitious in developing future fighter aircraft. There are plans to build up to 200 J-20s.

The US Air Force has released a new video showing a range of technologies including laser weapons and unmanned ‘wingmen’ for sixth-generation platforms that could be fielded by the late 2030s.

One of the most innovative space companies is the UK’s Reaction Engines Ltd, which leads development in high-speed propulsion. Its SABRE (which stands for ‘Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine’) technology can also be used for responsive single-stage-to-orbit spaceplanes.

Japan is going one better than spaceplanes and reusable rockets and beginning development of space elevator technology. Space elevators would allow people and cargo to be transported into space at vastly lower cost than rockets. It’s a space-launch technology we can expect to see in the 2050s.

With that future in mind, there’s a great think-piece in Wired on what the world might be like in 2050. Artificial intelligence will be of great importance in this future, and China could beat the West in developing AI-based weapons.


This Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty photo series gives some insights into the dreadful life of North Korean fishermen, whose abandoned vessels often wash ashore on the Russian coast.

VICE has produced a documentary on Paul Cale, a former member of the Australia’s Second Commando Regiment, who has developed a model for close-quarter fighting called integrated close combat, which special forces around the world have adopted. [13:34]

Watch Al Jazeera’s Inside Story for the latest on whether North Korea’s denuclearisation timeline is realistic … or even real. [25:25]


The ABC’s Pacific Beat summarised the Pacific Islands Forum, where leaders signed the Boe Declaration, a strongly worded security communiqué reaffirming that climate change is the biggest threat to the region and calling on the US to reverse its decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. [06:18]

Popular Front hosted Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff, director of an aid organisation engaged in Syria, to talk about the looming battle around Idlib, including discussing the groups on the ground and their varying levels of popularity. [50:26]

The National Security Podcast looks at the steps taken by the US and Europe to secure their democratic processes and fight fake news. [22:35]


Canberra, 10–12 September, ANU Department of Pacific Affairs: ‘State of the Pacific’ conference. Register here.

Canberra, 13 September, 6–7 pm, ANU National Security College: ‘Chinese Communist Party interference and influence-building: the view from America’. Register here.

Melbourne, 13 September, 5.30–7 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘Parallel governance in China: the case of disaster relief’. More info here.