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ASPI suggests

Posted By , and on August 30, 2019 @ 15:20

The world

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has prorogued parliament for five weeks beginning on 10 September in a bid that appears to be aimed at giving MPs less time to debate Brexit, a move some have labelled a ‘coup’. The Atlantic has two articles worth reading to understand this development— one providing an explainer on what’s next in the Brexit process, and the other addressing BoJo’s ‘assault’ on democracy and tossing up which populist politician he’s more similar to—US President Donald Trump or leader of Italy’s Lega party Matteo Salvini. The Atlantic Council offers some distinguished opinions on whether suspending parliament could strengthen Johnson’s position or bring on a vote of no-confidence in his leadership. Only time will tell. Experts also believe they may have the answer to the hotly debated Northern Ireland ‘backstop’, one of the biggest issues as the 31 October deadline looms.

Some interesting analysis on Ukraine has emerged this week. To kick us off, Foreign Policy outlines the prospects of President Volodymyr Zelensky continuing to build on recent economic growth and improving relations with the West despite the country’s recent tumultuous history. For a deep dive into the changing attitudes and identities of those living in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, see this report by the Centre for East European and International Studies or Bloomberg’s summary of its findings. Politico, meanwhile, highlights the frustrations experienced by US and Ukrainian lawmakers and security personnel as US$250 million of US military assistance is taking its time to arrive despite claims the funding is essential in deterring Russia.

Just over a week after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte resigned and the country’s governing coalition fell apart, he’s been given a new mandate to form government. Under the new arrangement, Conte will seek a coalition between his party, the anti-establishment Movimento Cinque Stelle, and the centre-left Partito Democratico instead of Salvini’s far-right, anti-immigration Lega, ousting him and his party from the governing coalition This Guardian piece gives a clear and succinct overview of the crisis to date.

Over to the Korean peninsula, where North Korea has recently changed its constitution to make Kim Jong-un not only supreme leader, but also ‘commander-in-chief’. This means Kim is now formally recognised as the country’s head of state. Reuters has more on this development, while National Review depicts the transition of North Korea’s leaders from men to gods. New satellite images show the Kim regime may be closer to building a new ballistic-missile submarine than previously thought, although the Center for Strategic and International Studies claims much of the evidence is circumstantial.

In Indonesia, the government has announced it’s moving the capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan. Rumours have been circulating for years about a possible relocation, but this is the first time the government has confirmed the new site. However, the move won’t come without costs. This article highlights the significant environmental degradation already occurring in East Kalimantan and points out that constructing a new city there may accelerate that progress. The Sydney Morning Herald has you covered for any questions about the move to the new capital, which is expected to welcome its first residents in 2024.

Further along the Indonesian archipelago, protests have continued for another week in Papua and West Papua as thousands of protesters rally for self-determination. With a reported seven deaths and an ongoing internet shutdown, it’s difficult to see the demonstrations ceasing anytime soon. Reuters has released an excellent explainer of the ongoing civil unrest, with a particularly interesting look at its historical roots.

Finally, with tensions continuing to run high in Hong Kong, and the prospect of a Chinese military intervention remaining a concern, there’s a great article in War on the Rocks on China’s People’s Armed Police.

Tech geek

The US is considering expanding the number and scale of its bases in the Indo-Pacific as a response to growing Chinese power. Potential options might include a greater US presence in Singapore, the Philippines or Thailand. One of the most interesting ideas that’s been floated is for enhanced access arrangements in Vietnam. China has reacted angrily to the suggestion, even as it extends its own reach by establishing a presence in Cambodia.

As an interim step towards the establishment of a US space force, the Trump administration has re-established US Space Command within the US Air Force, under the command of General John Raymond. It will include two components—a combined command to provide space support to military commanders and a space defence element to protect military satellites. The US National Reconnaissance Office, which operates America’s spy satellites, will also join space command.

Staying in space, the USAF’s X-37B space plane has broken the record for the number of consecutive days in orbit by passing the 718-day mark. The secret plane broke its own previous record of 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes in orbit. As the vehicle is highly classified, its actual mission and activities over this period are unknown. But amateur observers have managed to photograph the X-37B through telescopes.

Turning to a different kind of unmanned vehicle, an interesting article by Greg Rowland in Grounded Curiosity about the future of naval drone warfare looks at the concept of the ‘dronenaught’.

This week in history

This week in 1949, the USSR conducted its first nuclear test. Codenamed RDS-1, the bomb had a yield of 22 kilotons, slightly bigger than the atomic bomb ‘Fat Man’, which was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945.


Al Jazeera’s Rewind this week investigates the forgotten contribution of over 50,000 members of Laos’s Hmong people who were recruited by the CIA to fight the Pathet Lao in the late 1960s and 1970s. [25:22]

The annual Royal Air Force photography competition closed this week. See Forces Network for the stunning results.


Smart Women, Smart Power this week sat down with Bonnie Jenkins to discuss how she’s working to increase the number of young women in politics. [23:37]

Listen to the Wall Street Journal’s What’s News for the latest on how security concerns could put an end to a cable project to link China and the US. [13:38]


Sydney, 7 September, 2–3 pm, University of Sydney: ‘Kokoda track archaeology’. Register here.

The Submarine Institute of Australia is holding a one-day seminar on the future of Australia’s submarine fleet and will consider the possibility of nuclear capabilities heading into the future. The event will be held at ASPI on 2 October. Tickets available here.

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

URL to article: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/aspi-suggests-144/

[1] prorogued parliament: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49495757

[2] one: https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/08/boris-johnson-suspends-parliament-what-now-brexit/596944/

[3] the other: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/08/boris-johnsons-radically-undemocratic-maneuver/596983/

[4] The Atlantic Council: https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/will-suspending-parliament-strengthen-boris-johnson-s-brexit-hand

[5] believe: https://www.politico.eu/article/experts-propose-alternative-to-brexit-backstop-no-deal-uk-eu-ireland/

[6] Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/08/28/ukraines-democracy-is-almost-all-grown-up/

[7] this report: https://www.zois-berlin.de/publikationen/zois-report/zois-report-32019/

[8] Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-08-28/eastern-ukraine-isn-t-really-that-separatist

[9] Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2019/08/28/trump-ukraine-military-aid-russia-1689531

[10] Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/29/italy-president-gives-giuseppe-conte-mandate-form-new-government-m5s-pd

[11] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-north-korea-constitution/north-korea-changes-constitution-to-solidify-kim-jong-uns-rule-idUSKCN1VJ1JQ

[12] National Review: https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/08/north-korea-religious-freedom-believers-compete-with-secular-gods/

[13] Center for Strategic and International Studies: https://beyondparallel.csis.org/sinpo-south-shipyard-construction-of-a-new-ballistic-missile-submarine/

[14] announced: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-27/indonesias-new-capital-city-announced-in-kalimantan-on-borneo/11451654

[15] article: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/indonesia-capital-move-jakarta-borneo-environmental-concerns-2019-8?r=US&IR=T

[16] Sydney Morning Herald: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/why-will-jakarta-stop-being-indonesia-s-capital-and-why-is-it-sinking-20190827-p52l70.html?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter

[17] seven deaths: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/29/west-papua-deaths-as-protest-turns-violent

[18] ongoing internet shutdown: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/indonesia-blocks-internet-west-papua-protest-rages-190822022809234.html

[19] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-papua-explainer/explainer-deepening-unrest-in-indonesias-papua-idUSKCN1VJ0EI

[20] article: https://warontherocks.com/2019/08/the-re-conquerors-of-hong-kong-a-primer-on-chinas-peoples-armed-police/

[21] bases: https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/2019/08/27/esper-calls-for-new-basing-investments-in-the-pacific/

[22] response: https://news.usni.org/2019/08/27/esper-pentagon-evaluating-how-to-expand-indo-pacific-presence

[23] reacted: https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3024949/chinese-military-figures-cast-doubt-us-plans-build-more-bases

[24] in Cambodia: https://www.aspistrategist.org.au/chinas-cambodia-gambit/

[25] US space force: https://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/us-space-command-launch-trump

[26] re-established: https://spacenews.com/usspacecom-officially-re-established-with-a-focus-on-defending-satellites-and-deterring-conflict/

[27] components: https://spacenews.com/u-s-space-commands-major-components-will-be-based-in-california-and-colorado/

[28] National Reconnaissance Office,: https://spacenews.com/u-s-space-command-and-national-reconnaissance-office-will-join-forces-to-defend-space/

[29] broken the record: https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/08/27/air-forces-x-37b-space-plane-breaks-record-for-consecutive-days-in-orbit/

[30] photograph: https://twitter.com/ralfvandebergh/status/1146479681266495488?s=20

[31] article: https://groundedcuriosity.com/battleship-redux-an-ironclads-inflection-dronenaught-class-warships/

[32] first nuclear test: https://www.ctbto.org/specials/testing-times/29-august-1949-first-soviet-nuclear-test

[33] Rewind: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rewind/2019/08/lost-tribe-cia-secret-army-laos-190823120704792.html

[34] Forces Network: https://www.forces.net/services/raf/pictures-royal-air-force-photographic-competition-2019

[35] Smart Women, Smart Power: https://www.csis.org/podcasts/smart-women-smart-power-podcast

[36] What’s News: https://player.fm/series/wsj-whats-news-2428755/national-security-concerns-threaten-cable-project

[37] here: https://whatson.sydney.edu.au/events/published/kokoda-track-archaeology

[38] here: https://www.submarineinstitute.com/events/Nuclear-Seminar/