Pacific News Minute

PO2 Nathan Burke / U.S. Navy

As the big Russian military exercise in its far east wraps up, the United States has started air and naval maneuvers off Guam and the Northern Marianas, and Japan conducted war games in the South China Sea.

Photo: Lachlan Fearnley / Wikimedia Commons

Australia is still recovering from last month’s political crisis, where the Liberal party ousted Malcolm Turnbull as its leader – which meant he also lost his job as Prime Minister. It turns out, that one of his last acts in office, was to outmaneuver China on a military base in Fiji.

SKopp / Wikimedia Commons

Last week, while Nauru hosted the annual summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, the government suffered an important legal setback. A judge dismissed all charges in the long-running case of the so-called “Nauru 19” and issued a scathing condemnation of the government.

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Two women were publicly caned in a Sharia court in Malaysia this week, the latest in a series of homophobic incidents there.

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While on a diplomatic visit to the Middle East, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte moved against two prominent critics back home. Duterte ordered the arrest of an opposition Senator and the deportation of an Australian nun and human rights campaigner. 

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At a meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Brazil today, Japan will propose a series of changes to effectively lift the worldwide ban on commercial whaling. The moratorium took effect in 1985.


Next week, leaders from around the Pacific will gather for the annual Pacific Islands Forum Summit, to be held this year in the tiny island nation of Nauru.

They’re scheduled to discuss security, economic co-operation and disaster response, among many other issues, but inevitably, considerable attention will be focused on the host nation. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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The United States, Mexico, and Canada aren’t the only neighbors working on Free Trade Agreements. Just a few days after taking office, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will travel to Indonesia this week to announce what’s being described as an historic deal.

Matt Kieffer / Flickr

As the island of Chuuk prepares for a vote on independence from the Federated States of Micronesia next year, the U.S. Ambassador to the FSM has issued a video that warns of serious consequences.

dronepicr / Flickr

Two Americans are among a group of twelve people convicted of subversion in Vietnam yesterday. A court in Ho Chi Minh City said the Americans were sent to Vietnam by a group in California that’s still loyal to the South Vietnamese government that collapsed in 1975.

Thommy / Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, El Salvador switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China. That’s the third such change this year, and it leaves just 17 nations that recognize Taiwan – seven of them in the Pacific.

ITU Pictures / Flickr

Last week, Tonga’s Prime Minister called on China to forgive debts on loans, not just in Tonga but around the Pacific. The next day, he changed his mind.

JJ Harrison / Wikimedia Commons

Immigration remains a hot button issue in many countries around the world, including Australia. Earlier this week, a little known law maker prompted outrage after he called for a “final solution” on Muslim immigration. Yes, he really did say “final solution”.

ITU Pictures / Flickr

When the Pacific Islands Forum summit meets next month, leaders will discuss challenges like collective security, climate change, governance of the high seas and there will be a personal challenge as well. The Prime Minister of Tonga says he will ask his colleagues to lead the way on obesity by pledging to eat right and lose weight over the next year.

Maksym Kozlenko / Wikimedia Commons

The leader of a South Korean doomsday cult is being held by police, who say she’s holding 400 of her followers as slaves in Fiji.

Brodie Miller / Pexels

Big infrastructure projects built with Chinese loans are rising across the Pacific – a new government office building in Tonga and Samoa’s new police academy, for example. But new statistics from an Australian think tank suggest that China’s overall role is smaller than thought.

GeorgeLouis / Wikimedia Commons

With less than three months before New Caledonia’s referendum on independence, splits have developed on both sides, leading to concerns about what happens the day after the vote.

Australian Human Rights Commission / Flickr

In a speech last night, Australia’s Race Commissioner blasted the government and parts of the media. “There has never been a more exciting time to be a dog-whistling politician or race-baiting commentator in Australia.”


The government of Vanuatu says that evacuation of Ambae Island will begin this week. The compulsory evacuation order was issued late last week as ash from the eruption of the Manaro volcano buried houses, killed crops and polluted water supplies.

海上自衛隊 /

Four years after ending a 50 year ban on defense exports, it looks as if Japan’s first major foreign sale will be an amphibious plane that Greece wants to use as a firefighter.

Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff / Flickr

In Australia, the ruling Liberal National coalition took sobering losses in special parliamentary elections over the weekend. In today’s Pacific News Minute, Neal Conan considers the x-factor: Pie-gate.


Worldwide interest in the eruption of Kīlauea remains high, as lava flows continue to destroy buildings and reshape Hawaiʻi Island. Less attention is focused on Ambae Island in Vanuatu, where the Manaro volcano has been erupting on and off for more than ten months.

Nick Kean / Flickr

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.