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ASPI suggests

Posted By , and on November 22, 2019 @ 15:22

The world

Kicking us off in the US, the second impeachment hearing has dropped a bombshell on a key part of President Donald Trump’s defence. The US ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, has testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. Al Jazeera [1] has all the details. Vox [2] has an interesting article analysing the timeline of Trump’s phone calls to Ukraine and subsequent events, which could put the president in a spot of bother. And former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt writes [3] about the implications of the impeachment process for the rest of the world.

Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize [4] might be delayed just a little longer as North Korea’s latest demands are apparently more than the US is willing to give. Foreign Brief [5] has you covered on looming deadlines and the possible restart of Kim Jong-un’s intercontinental ballistic missile program. Daniel David writing for The National Interest provides guidance [6] on how Trump can achieve peace on the Korean peninsula in part through targeted sanctions relief. Should the US withdraw its troops from South Korea to achieve the denuclearisation of the North? There are some great points on both sides of the argument in this 38 North [7] piece. On the topic of nuclear weapons, the Institute for International Strategic Studies [8] claims it’s essential to maintain the Iran nuclear deal to keep at least some level of cooperation on nuclear safety. And see The National Interest [9] for why South Africa became the first country to willingly give up its nuclear weapons.

Into the Pacific, where Australia’s position as the regional power and partner of choice for Pacific island nations is being challenged by growing Chinese influence. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Ben Bohane has examined [10] China’s activities in the region, including a proposal for $1.47 billion in infrastructure investment in Bougainville that could see the resource-rich Papuan province lose the rights to its own minerals. Speaking of which, Bougainvilleans will begin voting on the independence referendum tomorrow. The Guardian [11] has some great insights into the vote and the province’s bloody history. See The Interpreter [12] for how China has managed to enforce its own laws in Vanuatu, and there’s a great article [13] in The Strategist that claims Australia is being outmanoeuvred and outgunned in the Pacific.

Staying in the region, there have been calls for the US to ramp up its military presence in Australia by building a ‘massive’ naval base here. The US Naval War College’s James Holmes argues [14] that Australia’s prime strategic location in the Indo-Pacific means an aircraft carrier strike group similar to the one the US has stationed in Japan could help contain China in a future confrontation. He doesn’t suggest an exact location for the base, and though he argues times have changed since the idea was floated in 2011 [15], it’s still not certain a facility big enough for aircraft carriers would be supported [16] by the Australian public.

This all comes as former ASIO chief Duncan Lewis warns [17] in his first interview since leaving the job that China is seeking to ‘take over’ Australia’s political system through interference operations. Speaking to Peter Hartcher, Lewis also said the Chinese Australian community ‘could and should be vital in the work against foreign covert influence’. In an extract [18] from his forthcoming Quarterly Essay, Hartcher outlines [18] how new laws aimed at curbing foreign interference aren’t being enforced.

Tech geek

Boeing has been busy preparing [19] for the first flight of the Royal Australian Air Force’s ‘loyal wingman’ prototype. The company has successfully tested its ‘airpower teaming system [20]’ with a pair of unmanned jet-powered aircraft, and it’s planning more tests soon.

Defense One reports [21] that US Special Operations Command is trialling new ‘supercavitating’ bullets [22] that would allow special forces operatives to shoot enemy targets from underwater. In related news, the US Army has hired artificial intelligence company C3.ai to help it better predict when aircraft and other vehicles will break down.

In his latest contribution to The Strategist, ASPI’s Marcus Hellyer discusses [23] Australia’s long-range strike options in the face of growing strategic uncertainty. The article offers a stark reminder that for years Australia and other US allies have not fielded a major long-range strike capability, possibly hampering the alliance’s deterrence efforts more broadly.

Meanwhile, China has been steadily developing its long-range strike capabilities. A centrefold graphic published [24] by state-run Modern Ships magazine may have inadvertently revealed details of a new air-launched ballistic missile. In September, images [25] of modified H-6N strategic bombers increased speculation that China had developed an air-launched version of its DF-21 [26] anti-ship ballistic missile.

C4ADS has a fascinating analysis [27] of a new GPS-spoofing device which has popped up in Shanghai, and which may be linked to illegal sand extraction. Interestingly, The War Zone’s own work [28] reveals that the electronic-warfare device being used in Shanghai’s port is coming from a plant operated by Shanghai Gaore Industries, a company that distributes coal and other minerals.

This week in history

On 20 November 1945, the Nuremberg trials [29] began. Over the course of almost a year, 12 Nazi leaders were found guilty of war crimes committed during World War II. A legal enterprise [30] of this size and scope had never occurred before and among those hanged or sentenced to life imprisonment for their deeds were Hermann Göring, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Rudolf Hess.


Al Jazeera World has released a documentary [31] on how 14 cargo ships became stranded in the Suez Canal for eight years after it was shut during the 1967 Arab–Israeli War. [47:30]

See The Atlantic for some amazing photos [32] depicting protestors in Chile, Hong Kong and Iraq using laser pointers to distract and obstruct riot police, drones and aircraft.


The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ China Power Podcast [33] talks to Janka Oertel about the risks posed by China’s 5G infrastructure in Europe. [22:31]

For a deep dive into Australia’s jihadis, the Lowy Institute [34] discusses new data on 173 individuals who have either joined a terror cell or been charged with terrorism-related offences. [57:26]


Canberra, 27 November, 6–7 pm, Australian National University: ‘In conversation with Blanche d’Alpuget’. Register here [35].

Sydney, 27 November, 6–7 pm, Lowy Institute: ‘The disinformation age: Can democracy survive social media?’ Register here [36].

Article printed from The Strategist: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/aspi-suggests-156/

URLs in this post:

[1] Al Jazeera: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/gordon-sondland-quid-pro-quo-answer-191120161536460.html

[2] Vox: https://www.vox.com/2019/11/20/20974641/trump-no-quid-pro-quo-sondland

[3] writes: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/what-the-trump-impeachment-inquiry-means-for-the-rest-of-the-world/

[4] Nobel Peace Prize: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-usa-trump/trump-makes-his-case-for-nobel-peace-prize-complains-hell-never-get-it-idUSKCN1Q42FJ

[5] Foreign Brief: https://www.foreignbrief.com/asia-pacific/korea/2020-to-open-with-trump-and-kim-once-again-at-loggerheads/

[6] provides guidance: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/skeptics/trump-and-north-korea-why-2020-could-look-2017-97622

[7] 38 North: https://www.38north.org/2019/11/ddepetris112119/

[8] Institute for International Strategic Studies: https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2019/11/nuclear-safety-in-iran-why-keep-jcpoa

[9] The National Interest: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/why-south-africa-gave-its-nuclear-weapons-forever-97337

[10] examined: https://www.smh.com.au/world/oceania/where-is-australia-china-makes-a-bold-play-for-the-south-pacific-s-treasure-islands-20191115-p53b4g.html

[11] The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/commentisfree/2019/nov/21/peace-agreements-normally-fail-within-five-years-bougainville-is-a-lesson-to-us-all

[12] The Interpreter: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/china-media-freedom-pacific-and-great-australian-silence

[13] article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/the-great-game-in-the-south-pacific/

[14] argues: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/its-time-massive-us-navy-base-australia-97051?fbclid=IwAR1AjGWGMaq-s8UjwhT22WZmllPM2aq8YciBOzvcIfY9lfhGlctLKQKapo8

[15] in 2011: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/planners-make-the-case-for-us-bases/news-story/3beaada2e8063ca15610f1c6f22e912d

[16] supported: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/apr/27/us-troops-are-now-in-darwin-but-questions-remain-as-to-why

[17] warns: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/insidious-former-asio-boss-warns-on-chinese-interference-in-australia-20191121-p53cv2.html

[18] extract: https://www.theage.com.au/national/peter-hartcher-on-china-s-infiltration-of-australia-20191118-p53bly.html

[19] busy preparing: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/31104/boeing-conducts-flight-test-of-surrogate-drones-for-australias-loyal-wingman-program

[20] airpower teaming system: https://www.boeing.com/defense/airpower-teaming-system/index.page

[21] reports: https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/11/special-operations-command-experimenting-bullets-shoot-through-water/161443/?oref=d-skybox

[22] ‘supercavitating’ bullets: https://dsgtec.com/cav-x/

[23] discusses: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/australia-and-the-goldilocks-bomber/

[24] published: https://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/military/embarrassing-mistake-chinese-magazine-accidentally-reveals-new-top-secret-weapon/news-story/99967f182da868ba6321d559cde96e62

[25] images: https://twitter.com/RupprechtDeino/status/1176099459182338050?s=20

[26] DF-21: https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/df-21/

[27] fascinating analysis: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614689/ghost-ships-crop-circles-and-soft-gold-a-gps-mystery-in-shanghai/

[28] work: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/31098/chinas-mysterious-spoofed-gps-data-crop-circle-has-something-interesting-at-its-center

[29] Nuremberg trials: https://www.britannica.com/event/Nurnberg-trials

[30] enterprise: https://sofrep.com/news/november-20-1945-nuremberg-trials-nazi-war-criminals-go-on-trial/

[31] documentary: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2019/11/suez-yellow-fleet-191119110234435.html

[32] photos: https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2019/11/photos-lasers-discontent/602263/

[33] China Power Podcast: https://www.csis.org/podcasts/chinapower/debating-chinas-5g-infrastructure-europe-conversation-janka-oertel

[34] Lowy Institute: https://player.fm/series/the-lowy-institute-live-events/rodger-shanahan-on-typology-of-terror-an-analysis-of-australias-islamic-state-jihadis

[35] here: https://www.anu.edu.au/events/in-conversation-with-blanche-d%E2%80%99alpuget

[36] here: https://myaccount.lowyinstitute.org/events/lowy-geopolitics-of-information

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