ASPI suggests

The world

China this week released its new defence white paper titled China’s national defense in the new era—see here for the English version. Australia is mentioned a grand total of once in the 51-page document and only in the context of our military alliance with the US. The white paper unsurprisingly reaffirms China’s sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea. It also provides an official update on Chinese defence spending, which, at 1.28% of GDP, is the lowest percentage of all permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Center for Strategic and International Studies has released a working draft highlighting more of the paper’s main points.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington made headlines this week, and not for all the right reasons. This New York Times article explains the significance of the first official bilateral meeting between Khan and President Donald Trump. The Diplomat argues that it was a major diplomatic success for Pakistan. Foreign Policy warns that Pakistan is back at playing its game of duplicity with Washington and that the US shouldn’t buy into its lies and deceit. Max Boot’s must-read piece in the Washington Post argues that Trump’s bluster about wiping Afghanistan ‘off the face of the Earth’ is just cover for his surrender to the Taliban.

Trump committed another major diplomatic faux pas during his meeting with Khan, saying Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate to resolve the Kashmir issue. As expected, his comments caused a major uproar, not only in India (which issued a firm denial) but also in the US. The Washington Post highlighted the seriousness of the damage Trump’s remarks caused to US–India relations. Elias Groll and Robbie Gramer despair in Foreign Policy that Trump was risking throwing a major security partner under the bus to get Pakistan’s help in negotiating with the Taliban.

A groundbreaking ASPI report casts doubt on assertions that conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State will enable Rohingya refugees to return safely to their former homeland. One of the report’s authors, Elise Thomas, talked to the ABC about the main findings of the report [7:34]. Al Jazeera claims ASEAN’s credibility will be at stake if it doesn’t intervene in the Rohingya crisis and aid in the repatriation process. This article in The Conversation describes the devastating conditions faced by Rohingya children and the role gender plays in refugee camps. And if you don’t know where Myanmar is, you’re not alone. Neither does the leader of the free world.

Across to Britain where Boris Johnson has just been sworn in as prime minister. See CNN for the highlights of his first speech as PM, which naturally focused on Brexit. Foreign Policy has an eye-opening article on the similarities between Trump and Johnson. See the BBC for a look at Johnson’s new cabinet and the facts and figures associated with it. If you want BoJo by the numbers, see The Conversation for a dive into his past, policies and plans.

And for some extra reading, see The Guardian to learn about the process of recovering the remains of soldiers who fell during the Korean War and lie, often unburied, within the Demilitarised Zone. Al Jazeera dissects special counsel Robert Mueller’s recent testimony on Trump and the Russia investigation. And following the 50th anniversary of the first boots on the moon, leap into this piece by James Gleick on the history of the Apollo space missions.

Tech geek

Fujifilm has made its first foray into the surveillance market with the SX800, a long-range surveillance camera. It boasts an impressive 40x optical zoom paired with 0.3-second auto-focus, optical image stabilisation, and an image-processing engine that’s able to reduce the effects of fog and heat haze. With the add-ons, this camera can focus clearly on a handheld sign from 2.2 kilometres away. The company says its new offering is a cost-effective solution to monitoring international borders, airports and city blocks.

US Cyber Command has launched its latest simulated cyberattack against a virtual seaport in its annual Cyber Flag event. The tactical exercise, aimed at testing digital readiness, brought together more than 650 cyber professionals from across the US government, industry and Five Eyes countries.

Finally, technological innovation and warfare have always gone hand in hand, but according to a recent announcement from France’s Defence Innovation Agency, the French military may be taking things one step further. In a novel approach, the French army has announced plans to assemble a team of science-fiction writers to imagine possible future cyber threats and inject innovative thinking into France’s cyber defence. The group of writers will be known as the ‘Red Team’ and will be tasked with imagining future ‘disruptive scenarios’ that may have gone unnoticed by traditional strategists.

This week in history

The final treaty concluding World War I, the Treaty of Lausanne, was signed this week in 1923. Turkey agreed to relinquish claims on all its former Arab provinces and the treaty defined the borders of the modern Turkish state. The Allies dropped their support for an autonomous Kurdistan and took control of the former territories of the Ottoman Empire covering present-day Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Israel.


Following the release of China’s new defence white paper, Inside Story this week asks the big question—can China become a military superpower? [24:35]

See the BBC for a day in pictures as Theresa May resigns as Britain’s prime minister and Boris Johnson takes her place.


The Australian Institute of International Affairs has released the first on-the-record interview with Paul Symon, the director-general of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, focusing on what ASIS does, how it manages technology and how it decides what information to collect. [49:30]

The Diplomat explores China’s new naval facilities in Cambodia—its second overseas military base—and examines the significance of this development for the region. [24:34]


Melbourne, 30 July, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘Australia: role model in a turbulent world?’ Tickets here ($30).

Canberra, 31 July, 12.30–1.30 pm, Australian National University: ‘Perceptions on governance and corruption in PNG’s public service’. Register here.