ASPI suggests

The world

North Korea has tested two more missiles as diplomatic relations with the US remain stalled. And yet, Vox argues President Donald Trump is unlikely to care that his ‘friend’, Kim Jong-un, is quite literally going ballistic. Reuters dives into how the tests didn’t violate any of Kim’s pledges to Trump at their third meeting on 30 June 2019. On the topic of missiles, Carnegie has an interesting read on why Beijing is unlikely to join a new START program as proposed by Trump, comparing China’s meagre stockpile of nuclear weapons with those of Washington or Moscow. And, following the 70th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party and China’s transformation into a global powerhouse, Chatham House analyses how, with some changes, the country can maintain that momentum into the future.

Japanese electric utility company Tepco announced the closure of its nuclear plant in Fukushima, which is just south of the infamous Fukushima nuclear reactors that melted down in 2011. Recently, exclusion zones on some villages have been lifted and the beach nearby has been reopened for the first time. CBS News has released a short video showing the eerie and abandoned towns surrounding the reactors. All reactors in the Fukushima prefecture will be decommissioned, but the company has indicated that it will take more than four decades to properly deconstruct and decontaminate them.

Germany was recently forced to shut down a nuclear reactor as a record-breaking heatwave rolled over the continent for the second time in a month, sending temperatures soaring. High temperatures are also accelerating the melting of ice sheets in Greenland. ABC News has analysed the ability of ancient European centres and structures to cope with heatwaves like these. Elsewhere, Ethiopia is working to counteract the effects of climate change by planting 350 million trees in a single day.

After revelations of gross misconduct in the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, the Netherlands and Switzerland have suspended aid to the agency and the US has used the reports to justify stopping funding it. However, Al Jazeera argues that the international community shouldn’t punish Palestinian refugees for the mismanagement. Twelve acclaimed Palestinian authors, writing for a new science fiction collection, have tried to imagine life in Palestine in 2048 and to find a solution to the intractable conflict.

Despite the US offer to lead a naval security mission in the Persian Gulf, Foreign Policy argues Iran is already in total control of the Persian Gulf just as Trump questions why the US should protect the shipping lanes for other states. The US has imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, essentially cutting off the main avenue for negotiations between the countries, according to the New York Times. And is Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Iran actually working? The Atlantic Council believes Iran may be forced back to the negotiating table as sanctions reduce its ability to conduct destabilising activities.

Azeem Ibrahim in Foreign Policy explains the dangers of the proposed national verification card for Rohingya refugees. Ibrahim argues that the card is ‘a useful tool of population accounting’ and will be used by the state to further track, exclude and oppress the Rohingya people. The reaction of Rohingya refugees to the proposal is seen in these photos from a refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Tech geek

The threat posed by hypersonic weapons is in the forefront of disruptive military technology, particularly as China and Russia appear to be winning the race. There’s an interesting article in Forbes on the challenge of defending against these weapons.

The US Army is receiving the first of its M1-A2C Abrams main battle tanks, with the new version the product of a major redesign and improvement program. This upgrade will keep the US Army’s tanks effective until something entirely new comes along later in the next decade. A decision on what that will be is expected as early as 2023.

The Council on Foreign Relations has published a great overview of what would be involved were the US to adopt a nuclear no-first-use policy, as suggested in recent Democrat debates.

On China, two policy camps appear to have emerged in Washington, with veterans of past administrations arguing for continued engagement while China ‘hawks’ argue that engagement has failed to moderate China’s strategic ambitions. There’s an excellent analysis of this debate in Politico.

A great article on ‘Dronekrieg’ looks at swarming and machine intelligence on the future battlefield.

Finally, two space developments are worth noting. The US Army is considering Australia as one location for its ‘Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance’ (GEODSS) network, which would extend Australia’s role in space situational awareness, while France announced it would build ‘laser’-equipped ASATs to blind an opponent’s systems in space.

This week in history

It’s 75 years since the Warsaw Uprising, when the Polish resistance movement rose up against occupation by Nazi Germany. The uprising failed; 150,000 people died and 80% of the city’s buildings razed. Marking the anniversary, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the German government felt ‘moral responsibility’ for the devastation of Poland during the war.


Al Jazeera has produced a series of documentaries on human trafficking, highlighting the conditions faced by millions of people who are taken either across borders or within their own country every year. Warning: they do contain some confronting material.

National Geographic has a photo series on the ‘wolf children’ of World War II, depicting the trials the children of East Prussia went through just to survive.


The third (and final) of ASPI’s special ‘War in 2025’ podcast episodes analyses General Angus Campbell’s speech made at the conference, before talking to members of ASPI’s cyber team about their ground-breaking research on Rakhine State. [16:50]

Catch up on all things worldly with Pod Save the World, discussing everything from the US’s new director of national intelligence to BoJo and Trump’s global corruption network. [1:13.56]


Canberra, 6 August, 6–7 pm, Australian National University: ‘In conversation with Paul Tilly’ with Peter Costello AC and Michelle Grattan. Register here.

Melbourne, 7 August, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘The rising tide: among the islands and atolls of the Pacific Ocean’. Tickets here ($30).