2 January 2017, Pyongyang, DPRK – Reuters – Threats were issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that his country was about to undertake its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Such a development would theoretically put the West Coast of the United States and the northern half of the Australian continent within reach of North Korean nuclear weapons. Alarmist reporting aside, for Pyongyang to have a resilient nuclear attack capability, the country would have to mate its nuclear warheads to its missiles, whether medium or intercontinental range. This requires miniaturisation, a feat suspected to be beyond the North Korean nuclear weapons program. Secondly, the missiles would have to be in hardened silos or on mobile transports to make them less of a target to unilateral or combined South Korean/American military action. Thirdly, missile accuracy, especially at intercontinental range, could only be guaranteed by a North Korean satellite network. Of these three key elements, as far as Western intelligence knows, only the second point mentioned, can be safely assumed. If recent North Korean medium-range ballistic missile and rocket tests are anything to go by, it is unlikely that a North Korean ICBM test, if indeed it goes ahead, would constitute a significant global threat.
4 January 2017, Canberra, Australia – International Business Times – Australian-Indonesian relations flared up yet again when Jakarta suspended military cooperation with Australia. This came as a surprise to the government of Australia and the government of Indonesia, both of them apparently ignorant of ‘any issue’, when Indonesian Major-General Wuryanto announced the suspension of bilateral military cooperation. Allegedly the Indonesian-initiated suspension was somehow due to ‘offensive material’ on the sensitive issue of West Papua, that Indonesian soldiers were exposed to while training in Perth, Western Australia. Also alleged were claims that Indonesian soldiers training in Australia were being recruited as spies for Australian intelligence agencies, allegations that Canberra was quick to deny. Modern Australian-Indonesian relations have never been smooth, fluctuating from friendliness to extreme hostility. The fact that both Canberra and Jakarta were caught by surprise over this incident, demonstrates a continuing, underlying fragility between the two neighbours. It also demonstrates that among some within the Indonesian military establishment, there is deep antipathy for Australia, no doubt accentuated by Australia’s role in wresting East Timor from Indonesia back in 1999.
5 January 2017, Berlin, Germany – Der Spiegel Online – Soul-searching in Germany as the nation ponders why local intelligence agencies, who knew the perpetrator of the truck attack which killed 11 people in front of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church Christmas Market, were not more vigilant. The brazen terrorist attack, conducted on the 19 December 2016, has had major political implications for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who opened Germany’s doors to asylum seekers from the Middle East without putting in place adequate background checks. Terrorist sympathiser, asylum seeker and Tunisian national Anis Amri, was known to German authorities and yet nothing was done to prevent him from perpetrating his assault. This raises the tricky question which all Western countries have to struggle with – when does a jihadist sympathiser decide to abandon ‘lip-service’ and act out his/her support for a terrorist cause? Investigations are ongoing, but politically, public sympathy for Middle Eastern/Muslim asylum seekers in Germany is at an all time low, not helped by right-wing parties and movements fanning the flames of German shock and outrage.
6 January 2017, Jakarta, Indonesia – ABC News – An Indonesian General, ruminating on the impact of a Chinese food shortage, suggested that such a situation would send waves of Chinese refugees toward Southeast Asia in search of food. The General said that to reach Indonesia they would have to come by boat, and to prevent an ensuing flood of refugees, he would bait sharks by slaughtering 10 cows to create a feeding frenzy, the implication being that the excited sharks would attack anything. Statements such as these are incredibly inflammatory. Indonesia has yet to publicly atone for the killing of some 500,000 Chinese-Indonesians during General Suharto’s bloody ascent to power in 1967. Currently, social and economic unrest appears to be dividing hardline and economically disenfranchised Muslim Indonesians from Chinese minorities residing within Indonesia. These minorities, like minorities all over the world, are accused of stealing jobs and other economic opportunities from their respective dominant ethnic populations.