8 February 2017, Jakarta, Indonesia – ABC News – Australian Army Chief Lt. General Angus Campbell flew to Jakarta on a diplomatic mission to repair bilateral military ties with Indonesia which Indonesia suspended in January 2017, when it was discovered that KOPASSUS Special Forces, training with the Australian SAS in Perth, were exposed to material considered offensive to Indonesian soldiers. This ‘offensive material’ referred to Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua and the country’s long-held national ideology of Pancasila. The diplomatic mission was successful in mending fences, however, Indonesian military chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo said that bilateral military ties would not be restored until General Gatot has briefed Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
9 February 2017, New York, United States – CNN Money – In the lead up to the US 2016 Presidential Election, Donald J. Trump made a lot of noise about how he would re-craft long-standing American alliances. On his ‘hit-list’ was Japan. But this week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with the new American president and they quickly became the best of friends. Promising billions of dollars of Japanese investment in modernizing America’s ailing domestic infrastructure, Abe hopes and is seemingly succeeding in pulling Trump towards Tokyo, in spite of the American president’s criticism of Japan’s ‘currency manipulation’ and outstanding bilateral security and trade issues. For now at least, the 1951 US-Japan Security Treaty is secure, as is the long-standing US military presence in Japan. Trump even promised that America would defend the disputed Senkaku Islands, which is seen as a fillip to China and its claims to the tiny, but strategically important island chain in the East China Sea.
9 February 2017, Washington D.C., United States – New York Times – In December 2016, the then President-elect made a call to the Taiwanese president, jeopardizing relatively stable Sino-American relations. Trump wanted to put China ‘on notice’ for having ‘stolen jobs’ from the US and acting as a currency manipulator. ‘Normalcy’ returned to Sino-American relations when Chinese leader Xi Jinping took a call from President Trump, on the condition that the US leader upheld the 44-year-old One China Policy, a policy sacrosanct to the Chinese Politburo. A White House statement suggests that the two leaders had an amicable discussion on matters of mutual interest. But issues like North Korea and the South China Sea will continue to be sore points between China and the US, with no solution in sight.
10 February 2017, Canberra, Australia – ABC News – Australia is in the grip of an energy security crisis. During this particularly brutal summer where the southeast of the continent sweltered under 40-degree celsius plus conditions, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull, long known for his pro-carbon pricing position and his pro-renewable energy mantra, backflipped on his long-standing carbon emission stance. This reversal came about as a consequence of the ongoing energy security crisis, where the active phasing out of old-style coal-fired power plants in favor of renewable sources of energy is creating gaps in the national base-load power capacity. The state of South Australia has been hardest hit because the local State Government has run an ambitious program to meet international renewable energy targets by building fields of wind turbines – SA is now 40 percent dependent on wind-generated electricity. But wind turbines as yet cannot store power. When the wind stops, so do the turbines. Shoddy workmanship and sub-standard building materials also come into play. Many turbines’ collapsed during storms late last year, and caused the entire state of South Australia to be blacked out. Now as the State of Victoria is about to phase out a major coal-fired power station which feeds power to South Australia, there will be even less base-load power available on the national grid, with the State having to rely on unreliable and extraordinarily expensive power generation. ‘Privateers’ among the power companies running this badly managed transition from fossil fuel to renewables, offer no solutions, but they are taxing homes, businesses and industry with ever increasing power prices, for no net return to the consumer. Turnbull, sensing that this strategic-level issue which goes to the very heart of the competitiveness of the Australian economy, is blithely playing politics, as are national and state politicians across the country. Expect no sensible outcome in the near-term.