South China Sea, Korea and Pine Gap: three items on foreign and defence policy, historically and now

Former diplomat Mack Williams writes in Pearls and Irritations about the importance of involving South Korea in any ‘solution’ to the festering crisis on the peninsula. Williams is a former Australian ambassador to Seoul.

Another former diplomat, Andrew Farran, speculates in Pearls and Irritations about what might happen next in the South China Sea, given the inclination to conduct ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises there. Events in 2003 offer some guidance.

The American blog The Intercept seems to be the fullest source on the recent revelations about the ‘joint’ Australian-American base at Pine Gap – though much of the information revealed will be no surprise to some of the people who follow these issues. The article is by Ryan Gallagher. ABC RN.


Update 22 August 2017: Andrew Farran (Pearls and Irritations) on Pine Gap. ‘If it comes to a threat of Armageddon proportions, Pine Gap and the US alliance will either protect us or we will go down in a state of mutual destruction.’

Update 24 August 2017: Dennis Argall (Pearls and Irritations) on Andrew Farran on Pine Gap. Argall was involved in Australia-US negotiations in 1973. ‘It [Pine Gap] is a big and impressive cart but nothing can be done about it without dealing first with the horse of strategic entanglement with the US.’

Update 25 August 2017: Michael McKinley in Pearls and Irritations on Pine Gap. ‘[T]he total integration of Australian personnel with the operations of Pine Gap makes Australia both a de facto and de jure party to US wars and warlike operations by default.’

Update 28 August 2017: James O’Neill in Pearls and Irritations on the risks of tying ourselves too closely to the United States. ‘The history of the past seventy years demonstrates the folly of Australia’s blind fealty to US imperialism.  A serious rethink is urgently needed before it is too late and we are dragged into yet another war, the results of which would be terminal in every sense of the word.’

Update 1 September 2017: Michael Fullilove (Lowy Institute) in Guardian Australia:

Trump’s worldview may have significant consequences for Australian interests and for Australian foreign policy in the coming years. It is conceivable that Trump’s presidency may push Australia away from the United States. But hopefully, the lasting result will instead be a more ambitious Australia that seeks to shape its external environment and contribute to a stable balance of power in Asia and the rest of the world. With Trump in the White House, it is time for Australians to think big.

Update 4 September 2017: Benjamin Habib in The Conversation on the lack of rational options for Trump.

North Korea’s sixth nuclear test confirms it is very close to perfecting a miniaturised warhead for deployment on its missile delivery systems. The 6.3 magnitude seismographic reading registered by the test blast is approximately ten times more powerful than that recorded from its nuclear test in September 2016.

There seems to be no outcome from this crisis in which US power is enhanced. This adds to the gravity of the Trump administration’s impending response to the nuclear test.

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21 August 2017 updated

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