The Duterte double (Andrea Chloe Wong, The Interpreter)

On 25 August, Rodrigo Duterte announced his intention to seek the second-highest post in the Philippines government in next year’s elections. “I will run for vice president,” he said. “I will continue this crusade [against] insurgency, then criminality [and] drugs.” But by 2 October he had changed his plan, declaring: “In obedience to the will of the people…Today, I announce my retirement from politics.”

The Duterte double | The Interpreter (


China and the future of the Antarctic mining ban (Nengye Liu, Chen Jiliang, The Interpreter)

China’s fast-growing logistical and scientific capability in Antarctica and more active participation in Antarctic affairs continue to draw attention and scrutiny. In recent years, China has notably spoken about striking a “balance between protection and use” in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM). Vagaries in China’s Antarctic policy have led to suspicions about the country’s long-term ambition on the continent, with some worried about the potential for destabilisation of the Antarctic Treaty System regime caused by China’s desire for mineral resources.

China and the future of the Antarctic mining ban | The Interpreter (


Economic diplomacy: Japan’s new PM joins the (supply) chain gang (Greg Earl, The Interpreter)

For a country renowned for churning through ministers, perhaps the most remarkable thing about Japan’s new ministry under freshly appointed leader Fumio Kishida is that it is getting a fresh finance minister for the first time in nine years.

The departure of 81-year-old veteran politician Taro Aso, a former prime minister as well as the country’s longest serving finance minister, is a testament to the unusual stability that the Shinzo Abe-era brought back to Japan’s leadership.

Economic diplomacy: Japan’s new PM joins the (supply) chain gang | The Interpreter (

North Korea USA

With Biden’s lukewarm diplomacy, North Korea runs hot and cold (Khang Vu, The Interpreter)

North Korea is again following its old playbook, alternating between extending an olive branch or thorns, diplomacy or missile tests, all with the aim to extract concessions from the United States and South Korea.

After South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in proposed to declare an end to the Korean War in his address at the United Nations General Assembly, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un, praised Moon’s offer as an “admirable idea”. However, just four days later, the North tested a new hypersonic missile that experts deem could evade existing missile defence shields and need much less preparation time. North Korea then conducted a new anti-aircraft missile test, even though Kim Jong-un then kept his pledge of engagement by restoring the inter-Korean hotlines cut in August.

With Biden’s lukewarm diplomacy, North Korea runs hot and cold | The Interpreter (

Nuclear Weapons

An arms control stocktake (Orli Zahava, The Interpreter)

Nuclear politics and nuclear policy shifts get plenty of coverage – atomic-powered submarines for AustraliaChina’s missile silo fieldsNorth Korea’s enrichment activities in YongbonIran’s compliance with international monitoring, as well as weapons modernisation all receive considerable press, and rightly so.

An arms control stocktake | The Interpreter (

Australia World Trade Organization

WTO dispute settlement: why Australia bothers (Ravi Kewalram, The Interpreter)

I have three propositions about Australia’s participation in World Trade Organisation dispute settlement to put to Interpreter readers.

WTO dispute settlement: why Australia bothers | The Interpreter (


Indonesia: painted politics (Stania Puspawardhani, The Interpreter)

Street art has been much discussed across Indonesia’s airwaves in the last couple of months. Three spray-painted murals expressing a critical perspective on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic were quickly covered over by officials, igniting heated debates about free expression and the role of street art in national politics harking back to the country’s independence struggle.

Although the graffiti controversy has dimmed slightly in recent weeks, the debate could soon surge again with the potential for a third wave of the pandemic in Indonesia – with the country already an epicentre for the virus and one of the biggest contributors of daily cases globally.

Indonesia: painted politics | The Interpreter (

China Pacific

China’s declining Pacific aid presence (Jonathan Pryke, Alexandre Dayant, The Interpreter)

In November 2018 Port Moresby was a sea of red in the build up to the APEC leader’s summit. Chinese flags covered every road of Papua New Guinea’s capital while “China aid” was emblazoned – literally – on every traffic light. With China’s President tacking an official two-day state visit on to the start of the summit, it was well and truly the Xi show as the President-for-life charmed businesspeople and politicians alike. While traditional aid partners clawed back some of the narrative with a dubious electrification commitment and debated naval base, Xi Jinping was the talk of the town for many weeks after the dignitaries had left.

China’s declining Pacific aid presence | The Interpreter (

Germany Indo Pacific

Dankeschön Frau Merkel (Ian Kemish, The Interpreter)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, 17 November 2014 (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, 17 November 2014 (Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Angela Merkel had already been Chancellor for about six months when I commenced as Australian Ambassador to Germany in April 2006. Her tenure as Germany’s head of government has seen four further Australian heads of mission take up residence in Berlin, and the Australian prime ministership change hands seven times. Her term doesn’t actually finish with the weekend’s elections – the coalition building process could take weeks or even months, and she will continue on in the meantime. But the end is finally in view. Her retirement will require some adjustment for Germans themselves – particularly those in their early twenties or younger who have no memory of any other national leader. The international community will also need to adapt. Australia will join a long queue of countries seeking to establish a productive relationship with her successor.

Dankeschön Frau Merkel | The Interpreter (

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