ASPI suggests
29 May 2015|


The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore is the place to be this weekend. The stage is set for a fiery (cross) dialogue this year, with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently emphasising that the US won’t be recognising China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, commenting that US forces ‘will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world’ and will ‘remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.’ See the whole speech here. Australian Defence Secretary Dennis Richardson echoed similar sentiments when delivering the Blamey Oration at the RUSI’s International Defence and Security Dialogue in Sydney this week, stating that:

‘China now has more law enforcement and Coast Guard vessels in the South China Sea than the other regional countries put together. And given the size and modernisation of China’s military, the use by China of land reclamation for military purposes would be of particular concern.’

The full text is here. The Financial Review has a piece looking at how Australia has been drawn into the US and China’s conflict. To further fan the flames, China has released an English version of its Defence White Paper. Branding foreign interventions in the South China Sea as ‘meddling’, the document notes that China will continue to ‘safeguard its maritime rights and interests’. Stay tuned on The Strategist for Shangri-La news next week.

Also on the South China Sea, Chinese media group Sina has released a number of images of Vietnam’s own land reclamation projects (in Chinese). Despite China’s concern, the Vietnamese projects pale in size and pace when compared to China’s own efforts.

Moving now to South Asia, Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s inauguration. Al Jazeera has released an interesting infographic detailing the timeline of his promises both pre- and post-election under his election slogan: ‘good days are coming’. Modi also released an open letter on his personal website to the people of India to commemorate the milestone, indicating the importance placed on the Modi government’s war against poverty.

Turning to the Middle East, Glen Bowersock has penned a piece for The New York Review of Books that looks at the history of the ancient city of Palmyra, which fell to Islamic State (ISIS) forces last week. He concludes by stating that although Palmyra has been immortalised through historical records, the survival of reports and photographs can in no way compensate for the possible destruction and looting of the 2,000-year-old city to fund the purchase of weapons, explosives and vehicles for ISIS.

The New York Times has a fascinating read on the experiences of a female lieutenant who served in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. The piece details the struggles that Lieutenant Wilson faced leading a predominantly-male platoon, and the study of a group of social scientists who’ve determined that the mental costs borne by minorities in margins of a culture—females in professions dominated by males, and African Americans attending Ivy League schools to name just two—are the same.

For this week’s tech picks, we’ve got two stories for you. First, the US Air Force has finally cleared SpaceX for launch. Second, The New York Times has released an article that looks at DARPA’s robotics challenge, to be held in California next month. Although films that focus on artificial intelligence like Ex Machina and Chappie are in vogue, none of the 25 robots competing in the Challenge will be autonomous. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates can breathe a sigh of relief—for now.


This week, The Guardian‘s Global development podcast takes a look at the factors that drive conflicts around the world, and then assesses the role that women and the UN can play in creating lasting regional peace (35 mins).

The stalwart podcast from CSIS’ CogitAsia blog this week takes a look at the Rohingya refugee crisis currently unfolding in the region.


Still on Rohingyas, the Oslo Conference to End the Systematic Persecution of the Rohingyas took place on May 26-28 at the Nobel Institute. Messages of support were sent from around the globe, with a notable and powerful contribution from philanthropist George Soros, who drew attention to the ‘alarming’ similarities between the persecution of the Rohingyas and the Nazi genocide. Watch his speech here (30 mins).

ASPI’s Natalie Sambhi appeared in a interview (33 mins) with Robert Farley, where she discussed Indonesia-Australian relations and security.


Queenslanders, AIIA’s Queensland chapter will be hosting a panel discussion on the Sunni-Shia Divide and the future of the Middle East on 2 June. The panel will feature Halim Rane, Alex Bellamy and Patrick Jory.