Asia/Oceania/Africa update: September 6 2018



After Wednesday’s double bombing in Kabul, probably carried out by ISIS, killed 21 people and wounded 89 more, later Wednesday and Thursday saw two likely Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces that left 18 of them dead. Militants killed 10 Afghan soldiers in an attack on a military outpost late Wednesday in Badghis province, and early Thursday morning an Afghan police officer killed eight of his colleagues in an “insider” attack. He reportedly took their weapons and fled.

While China continues to deny that it will be stationing any of its soldiers in Afghanistan as part of its effort to help the Afghan military establish a “mountain brigade” near their mutual border, it appears that Afghan soldiers will be heading to China for training. The Afghans say they’ve also asked China to provide them with military hardware, especially combat helicopters.


Though the US and India are at odds with one another over Iranian oil (India wants to keep buying it, the Trump administration wants it and every other country to stop doing that), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis headed to New Delhi on Thursday for a few hours worth of talks with their Indian counterparts about ways to strengthen the US-India relationship. Both countries see their partnership as the best way to counter China.

Also on Thursday, India’s Supreme Court unanimously decriminalized homosexual activity, overturning a colonial British law that had been on the books for more than 150 years. I think it’s worth noting that, as the fight for LGBT rights continues around the world, many of the modern laws that criminalize same-sex relationships stem not from indigenous roots but from Section 377 of the British Empire’s penal code.


Speaking of the British Empire, the Chinese government is complaining of British “provocation” after the Royal Navy sailed one of its warships close to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea last month. China claims those islands as its territory though that claim is disputed. It also has a rather expansive view of the concept of “territorial waters” that goes beyond the international 12 mile norm, and the US and Britain both will sail near Chinese islands from time to time to demonstrate that they do not accept Chinese assertions in this regard.


North and South Korean negotiators have firmed up plans for another summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to be held in Pyongyang between September 18 and 20. Clearly diplomacy between the Koreas is moving faster than diplomacy between North Korea and the US, though South Korean media says that Kim expressed his continued “trust” in Donald Trump to South Korean representatives earlier this week. Kim also apparently gave his first hint at a timetable, suggesting that he wants to denuclearize the Korean peninsula by the end of Trump’s first time. I’d like to interject here that we still don’t know what Kim means by “denuclearization” because Washington and Pyongyang haven’t really talked about that, but anyway Kim’s remarks seemed to make Trump happy so I guess we can all assume we’ll get to live a while longer.



Australia’s new, even more conservative government didn’t exactly cover itself in glory at this week’s Pacific Islands Forum:

Australia attempted to water down a resolution on climate change agreed by country representatives at the Pacific Islands Forum, a leader attending the event has claimed.

Pacific leaders issued the Boe declaration on Wednesday night, calling climate change “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific” at the conclusion of the Pacific Islands Forum, which has been held in Nauru this week.

However the forum communique – which focused heavily on climate change and the need for emissions reductions – was endorsed by leaders “with qualification”.

The qualification, if you’re wondering, came from the Australians, who decided to cover for their buddies in Washington by objecting to a section in the declaration that called on the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. To be fair to the current Australian government, Australia is generally way behind the Pacific Island nations on climate issues, probably because it doesn’t have nearly as much to lose as they do.


The highlight of the forum was a spat between China and Nauru, probably the closest thing you’ll see to David and Goliath in a contemporary geopolitical sense. Nauru’s President Baron Waqa is still demanding an apology from Beijing and may take it to the United Nations. Apparently China’s representative to the forum angered Waqa by attempting to speak out of turn–or at least out of what Waqa felt should be his turn. But people who were at the conference came away with the impression that Waqa had intended to embarrass the Chinese representative as a kind of political statement. There is a longstanding beef here over Nauru’s continued recognition of Taiwan, and Pacific Islands nations in general are wary about China’s intentions toward the region.



The Libyan government says it will reopen Tripoli’s airport on Friday, signaling that militia fighting in the city has at least died down from where it was last week. So far the ceasefire the United Nations arranged on Tuesday appears to be holding.


Peace and happy feelings are in vogue all over the Horn of Africa at the moment. For one thing, Ethiopia officially reopened its embassy in Eritrea on Thursday after a 20 year closure due to conflict between those two countries. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki have been working to restore relations between their two countries at a breakneck pace over the past couple of months. On Wednesday, a ship full of cargo bound for Ethiopia docked at an Eritrean port, another important milestone especially for landlocked Ethiopia.


For another thing, Djibouti and Eritrea agreed on Thursday to normalize their relations, which were broken off amid border hostility back in 2008. Obviously this is the first step of a reconciliation process but it could be another step back toward international engagement for Eritrea, whose regional conflicts have resulted in its isolation.

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