Pacific News Minute

Open Clip Art

You may have heard that President Rodrigo Duterte has suggested a name change for the Philippines. In a speech last month, Duterte denounced his country’s name as a relic of colonization and proposed “Maharlika” instead. He may have to amend the constitution to do it, but another country in the Asia-Pacific appears closer to a name change.

Nightstallion / Wikimedia Commons

Australia and Papua New Guinea have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a joint naval base on Manus Island. The United States has also agreed to participate in what’s described as part of the effort to push back against China’s growing influence.

Lencer / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Six weeks after a ship grounded on a reef in the southern Solomon Islands, salvers have finally managed to stop an oil leak that threatens a UNESCO World Heritage site. At least 60 tons of heavy fuel oil gushed into the water off Rennell Island in what is being described as the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history.

United Nations

The United Nations kicked off a series of public meetings in Bougainville this week to inform people about the upcoming referendum on independence. That vote, originally scheduled for June, has been postponed to October to allow more time to explain the procedure and what happens afterwards.

Kimdime / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Over the past few months, fighting has escalated in a remote part of West Papua. Last December, the West Papua Liberation Army massacred at least 16 construction workers; the Indonesian government sent in a strong force of troops and police, but violence continues.

Martin Falbisoner / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Australia’s ABC reports that two senior members of the National Security Council made a rare visit to the Pacific last week, with stops in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The trip is seen as the latest sign that the United States plans to challenge China’s growing influence.

Haa900 / Creative Commons CC0 1.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Scientists in Australia have dated a set of ancient tattoo chisels to the dawn of Polynesian culture, 2,700 years ago. The tools were found in Tonga Tapu, and the scientists say that suggests that tattooing began in Tonga and Samoa, and then spread to the rest of the Polynesian Triangle, including Hawaii.

Christian Haugen / Creative Commons / Flickr

Both Australia and New Zealand have revamped their Pacific policies this past year, partly to counteract China’s growing influence, and partly to address the inevitable effects of climate change. New Zealand’s foreign minister and a former Australian prime minister offered proposals for low-lying island countries recently.

Pacific Air Forces / Creative Commons / Flickr

The Australian International Air Show wrapped up on Sunday at Avalon Airport outside of Melbourne, and featured fly-bys of Australia’s newest military planes including the F-35A fighter, and one of its oldest.

Adam Selwood / Creative Commons / Flickr

The governments of Fiji and Vanuatu are having second thoughts about projects funded by China. In Port Vila, the National Convention Center appears to be a white elephant, while Fiji is considering charges against a Chinese resort developer.

Sonata(talk / Contributions) / Wikimedia Commons

Denny Tamaki, the governor of Okinawa, plans to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as soon as this Friday, to present him with the results of this past weekend’s referendum. 72-percent on Okinawa voted against a long-standing plan to relocate a U.S. Marine air base. The referendum is non-binding, but the decision to go ahead with construction may have repercussions.

cincomomo / Flickr

As you’ve probably heard, there are outbreaks of measles reported in several states and the World Health Organization reports cases up 30 percent worldwide since 2016. According to the WHO, measles killed 110,000 people in 2017, most of them children under five. Two countries in the Asia Pacific are struggling with outbreaks.

Kgbo / Wikimedia Commons

A court in Sydney, Australia issued a decision this week in a notorious case that’s gripped Malaysia for more than a decade. A case that involves murder, allegations of espionage and corruption at the highest levels.

Tākuta / Flickr

Canada’s relations with China have sunk to a new low following the arrest of a senior executive of the telecom giant Huawei. Two Canadians have been arrested in China and another sentenced to death. Now, New Zealand is worried about its relations with China, though the signals are not entirely clear.

mark broadhurst / Pexels

Australia appears to be the latest target of politically motivated cyber attacks. Foreign governments have been identified in previous attacks on France, Britain, Germany and the United States; now Australia’s prime minister blamed a “sophisticated state actor” for attacks on the networks of the country’s major political parties.

U.S. Navy

In wide-ranging testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Admiral Phil Davidson assessed the threats from North Korea and China. The head of Indo-Pacific Command also said the U.S. will maintain the pace of its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.

U.S. Navy

The wreck of USS Hornet has been found in the Solomon Islands. A research vessel funded by the late billionaire Paul Allen located the famous ship under 17, 500 feet of water at the bottom of the South Pacific. 

NASA / Youtube

Two years ago, we reported on a new island in the South Pacific that reminded scientists at NASA of volcanoes on Mars. One of those scientists got an unexpected chance to visit in person and found the four-year-old island teeming with life.

Lachlan Fearnley / Wikimedia Commons

In the latest step in its campaign to limit Chinese influence, the Australian government barred a wealthy Chinese businessman and political donor from re-entering the country. Huang Xiangmo has given millions to all of Australia’s major parties as part of a campaign to build support for Beijing.

TUBS / Wikimedia Commons

Authorities in Papua New Guinea are hunting a notorious outlaw whose been leading attacks on police in Milne Bay province. Following a prison escape, Tommy Baker has been blamed for armed robberies, piracy and murder but some blame the local police.

DIAC Images / Flickr

Two recent awards highlight Australia’s notorious off shore detention camps. A Kurdish journalist has won Australia’s richest literary prize for a book he wrote on his cell phone from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, and an Australian doctor won a freedom of speech award after blowing the whistle on the willful neglect of refugees at another camp in Nauru.

PCOO EDP / Wikimedia Commons

The armed forces of the Philippines launched air strikes and artillery attacks after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered “all-out war” against an Islamic group blamed for last Sunday’s bombing of a cathedral. Now two people are reported killed in a grenade attack on a mosque.

YunHo LEE / Flickr

One of the most prominent of the so-called “Comfort Women” died in South Korea on Monday at the age of 92. Kim Bok-dong was forced to work as a sex slave for the Japanese military during the Second World War and spent the last 27 years of her life as a tireless campaigner for reparations and apologies.

Official U.S. Navy Page / Flickr

You may have heard on the news that the United States filed charges yesterday against the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei and its Chief Financial Officer. Tomorrow, the two countries start high stakes negotiations on the on-going trade war. And both the U.S. and China continue military displays in the Western Pacific.

Last year, Chinese media started to censor images of tattoos; now the Chinese version of Netflix has started to blur out earrings worn by men. It’s part of a campaign to make media images of masculinity conform to government standards.

After three hours of talks in Moscow yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made no progress on the long running territorial dispute over four islands north of Hokkaido. While the two sides agreed to keep talking, a breakthrough looks as distant as ever.

G20 Argentina / Flickr

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has just wrapped up an historic three day visit to Pacific neighbors Vanuatu and Fiji. Australia’s been pushing what it calls a Pacific “step up” to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Abasaa / Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, the Catholic Church in Guam filed for bankruptcy. The assets of the archdiocese will go to pay off more than 200 victims in the child sex abuse and cover-up scandal that erupted three years ago.

IceUnshattered / Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Chief of Naval Operations has been in Beijing this week for meetings with his Chinese counterpart. After a near collision between U.S. and Chinese warships in the South China Sea last September, a Navy release said that Admiral John Richardson and Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong discussed ways to reduce the risks of interactions at sea. China has also deployed a new missile – known as the “carrier killer.”

Domenico Stinellis / Associated Press

Sad news from Vanuatu, of the death last week of Mungau Dain. Two years ago, the young star of the film “Tanna” was headed to Hollywood to celebrate the film’s Oscar nomination.