ASPI suggests
13 Feb 2015|
Will the real Kim Jong Un please stand up?

We’re keeping your Black Friday screens bright with infographics of the conflict in Syria, private military security companies, China’s military, India and Australian uranium, Fatboy Kim and more.

The Institute for the Study of War has ‘maps on maps on maps’ with a useful series of situation reports and infographics on Syria showing the location and advance of the various groups involved in the conflict. ISW’s latest chart (PDF) shows ISIS continuing to lose ground in northeastern Aleppo, while their 9 February map (PDF) marks out areas controlled by the regime, ISIS, rebels, Kurds and others.

In case you missed it, here’s the full text of President Obama’s newly unveiled National Security Strategy. For a quick hit, check out this summary, but for those who want to dig a bit deeper, check out Thomas Fedyszyn’s wrap on The National Interest, Michael Krepon on Arms Control Wonk, and National Security Adviser Susan Rice as she takes questions at the 35-minute mark of this Brookings event.

Hat tip to our friends over at CIMSEC for their first multi-authored report on the role of private military security companies (PMCs) in the maritime domain, available free for download here. Of particular interest to Strategist readers is the first chapter by Scott Cheney-Peters on PMCs in South and Southeast Asia.

Also on Southeast Asia, the jailing of former opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, on sodomy charges isn’t just bad news for Malaysia’s democratic street cred, write Murray Hiebert and Nigel Cory, but it’s a challenge to the US’ project nurturing closer ties with Kuala Lumpur. Keep reading on the cogitASIA blog here.

Military wonks, RAND has a new report ‘China’s Incomplete Military Transformation’ (PDF) which assesses, among other things, the PLA’s weaknesses, the trajectory of modernisation from the mid-90s to 2025, and China’s defence industry. For a quick wrap of the report’s main findings, read this Breaking Defense post here.

Australia’s agreement to sell uranium to India is back in the news. Carnegie Endowment’s Mark Hibbs has a cautionary note about India’s attempts to weaken information-sharing provisions; he writes:

[Australian] Parliamentarians should consider that what Australia requires in its arrangement with India may have signal impact this May when the NPT’s 189 parties review the treaty. They might also consider that the international reputation of Australia’s uranium industry has increasingly depended upon transparent implementation of national policies, including on nonproliferation.

George Lekakis highlights the submissions of nuclear experts John Carlson and Ronald Walker to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, both of whom have said ‘nay’ to the current terms of the Australia–India deal.

For the IR nerds, Dan Trombly has a thoughtful response to John Mearsheimer’s suggestion that we ought to leave Ukraine as a buffer state.

Lastly, Fatboy Kim or tyrannical Fred Flintstone, will the real Kim Jong-un please stand up? If you wanted to know more about the ‘world’s most enigmatic and unpredictable dictator’ read Vanity Fair’s feature by Mark Bowden on the boy-king’s upbringing in Switzerland and his penchant for b-ball.


DARPA is lending a hand to prosthetics research with the DEKA Arm System (aka ‘Luke’ after Luke Skywalker) which was first developed to benefit wounded veterans. Watch as the system allows users to scale a rock wall or grip slippery objects like plastic water bottles (YouTube).


The latest episode of cogitASIA’s podcast features Bonnie Glaser on US–China military relations and crisis management mechanisms, and Zachary Abuza on a botched Philippines police raid in Mindanao and the MILF peace process (28mins).

Meanwhile, turning to Africa, the team at Loopcast have a new podcast on Nigeria and Boko Haram with guest Hilary Matfess (41mins).


Melbourne: The Women in Emergency Services, Enforcement and Defence Leadership Summit 2015 features a range of key speakers on strategies and skills for career progression to improving workplace cultures to encourage and sustain women’s leadership. The event is on 27 and 28 April at the Marriott Hotel. Flyer and registration details here.

Natalie Sambhi is an analyst at ASPI and managing editor of The Strategist. Image courtesy of Kim.Jong.Tour.