Pacific News Minute

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It’s easy to confuse the flags of New Zealand and Australia. Both feature the British Union Jack and stars on a dark blue background. Now, in the latest eruption in a war of words between the two old allies, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minster said Australia had copied New Zealand’s flag, and ought to change it.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade /

Earlier this year, Hawaiʻi joined the Polynesian Leaders Group, a sub-regional organization in the Pacific modeled on the Melanesian Spearhead Group. But the MSG is having its problems and the Foreign Minister of Vanuatu now says the organization is failing.

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon Renfroe / U.S. Navy - DVIDS

We hear a lot about economic, military and diplomatic competition between China and the United States, but the rivalry extends to other fields as well – including humanitarian efforts.

Sylvain Machefert / Symac / Wikimedia Commons

You’ve probably heard about Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death, a fungal disease that threatens an iconic tree species here in Hawaii. But another fungal disease is threatening the majestic kauri trees of New Zealand.

Santeri Viinamäki / Wikimedia Commons

A new report from a Swedish think tank rates the state of democracy around the world, and ranks 201 countries. Norway and Sweden are listed at one and two.

Henning Blatt / Wikimedia Commons

Australian media report that members of the Pacific Islands Forum will sign a new security pact at this year’s summit in September. A Chinese newspaper said that if the agreement is aimed at containing China, that would be a strategic mistake.

Keith Allison / Flickr

Last winter, almost every club in Major League Baseball tried to woo Japan’s Shohei Ohtani before he decided to join the Los Angeles Angels. Now, the Kansas City Royals have signed a 16-year-old Japanese pitcher who just graduated from junior high.


With a trade war already raising tensions between the United States and China, two American warships probed what may be Beijing’s most sensitive spot over the weekend . . . the Taiwan Strait.

glukan / Pixabay

Two mayors have been murdered this week in the Philippines. One shot dead by a sniper at a flag raising ceremony, the other killed in his car by gunmen on a motorcycle.

ABC (Australia) logo / Wikimedia Commons

Nauru, the host of this year’s Pacific Islands Forum, has barred Australia’s ABC from covering the annual summit. A government statement charged the ABC with blatant bias.

Lindsay Fox /

Cigarette packages could change in many countries after a ruling by the World Trade Organization last week. In a landmark case, the WTO upheld an Australian law that requires what’s called “plain packaging.” But the packages are anything but plain.

Open Clip Art

At the end of it’s annual meeting, the United Nations Decolonization Committee approved resolutions on five territories – three of them in the Pacific.

ABC (Australia) logo / Wikimedia Commons

The diplomatic rivalry between China and Australia has stepped up in recent days. The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea just made a state visit to Beijing, while the leaders of the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu went to Canberra. China’s also taken over some former Australian territory. . . on the radio.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jesus McCloud /

After violence in two provinces, the government of Papua New Guinea has sent half its army into the Central Highlands. The deployment of 440 troops is a major commitment, and they face a complicated series of problems.

Minister for Trade and Investment The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP / Wikimedia Commons

Australia’s main political parties have reached agreement on the controversial Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill, which, when it passes, will further cool Australia’s already frosty relations with China.

JaFKa_Journeys / Pixabay

Scientists believe they’ve solved an enduring enigma: how the prehistoric Polynesians of Rapa Nui placed huge hats on top of the famous statues of Easter Island.

Poweruser / Wikimedia Commons

A State of Emergency has been declared in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands Province. Last week, rioters burned a commercial airplane, the courthouse and the home of the provincial governor.

Ingomhhf / Wikimedia Commons

Here in Hawaii,  the noxious gas belching from the eruption of Kilauea continues to be a major concern. In New Zealand, the belches of sheep are a major problem, and scientists there have developed a new breed that burps less.

VOA / Wikimedia Commons

Over the weekend, more than a hundred people were arrested during sometimes violent demonstrations in Vietnam. The protests followed a government proposal to create Special Economic Zones, but the real issue was China.


A cannon from the HMS Bounty has been sold at auction in Scotland, of all places. It fetched almost $23,000. The cannon was salvaged from the Bounty after it sank off Pitcairn Island.

Michael Coghlan / Flickr

A confrontation between church and state looms in Samoa, where the largest church in the country says its ministers will not obey a new law that requires them to pay income tax.

ZTE Com, Ltd / Wikimedia Commons

As you’ve probably heard over the last few weeks, Chinese phone giant ZTE is caught up in controversial negotiations as part of President Trump’s on-again off-again trade war with China. This week, an Australian news agency reports that ZTE bribed the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea to win a contract back in 2010.

Voice of America / Wikimedia Commons

At an international security conference in Singapore last weekend, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis accused Beijing of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea – comments that a senior Chinese general branded as “irresponsible.” We have a look at the history of China’s claim to the area from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

byeangel / Flickr

This week, we got updates on the loss of two Malaysia Airlines jets four years ago. One disappeared on a flight to Beijing, the other was shot down over Ukraine. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Merlion444 / Wikipedia

Singapore is set to host the meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 – if it happens. But this week, defense ministers from around the Asia-Pacific are gathering there for an annual conference. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

KevGuy4101 / Flickr

A new documentary about climate change and Kiribati screened at film festivals in New Zealand and Colorado this last weekend. We have more on “Anote’s Ark” from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Wikimedia Commons

A new documentary screening in New Zealand this week focuses on the lives of the leitis of Tonga, transgender women with traditional roles at court and in church. The film, called “Leitis in Waiting,” shows that they also face discrimination and even punishment. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Wikimedia Commons

In an important press freedom case in the Asia-Pacific, a judge in Fiji found four men not guilty of sedition. The defendants included the publisher of the Fiji Times, two editors and an opinion writer. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.


China has stepped up military activity in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. As part of a training exercise, Chinese strategic bombers landed at a base in the Paracel Islands for the first time. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Global Panorama / Flickr

As U.S. officials continue the slow process of resettlement for refugees in Australia’s off-shore detention camps, two incidents this month illustrate the despair of those still waiting. We have more from Neal Conan, in today’s Pacific News Minute.