Neal Conan

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minutes" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; and he appears most Tuesdays on The Conversation.

Presidential Communications Operations Office / Wikimedia Commons

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Indonesia earlier today to attend the annual ASEAN summit. He left rumors of serious health problems swirling in Manila, but the controversial leader does have one serious problem for sure – the economy.

GeorgeLouis / Wikimedia Commons

With the referendum on independence less than a month away in New Caledonia, preparations are underway for the vote. Officially, the campaign begins on October 22, but it really started 40 years ago.

sanjitbakshi / Flickr

As you’ve heard on NPR this week, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued dire warnings of extreme weather, rising sea levels, food shortages and climate migration unless urgent and unprecedented economic measures hold the average temperature rise under 1.5℃ – a goal many scientists believe is already out of reach. 

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RNZ Pacific has obtained documents that detail the run-up to the military coup in Fiji in 2006. Then Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power. Now Prime Minister, his Fiji First party is favored to win Fiji’s second post-coup election next month.

U.S. Navy

More details are emerging about the near collision between U.S. and Chinese destroyers last Sunday morning in the South China Sea. Images released by the U.S. Navy appear to show the Chinese warship pulling in front of USS Decatur, which veered off to avoid a crash.

PCOO EDP / Wikimedia Commons

Late last week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made a statement that some interpret as an admission of extrajudicial killings under his administration.

Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michelle R. Hammond / U.S. Navy

Over the summer, Australia moved to block the development of potential Chinese military facilities in Fiji and Vanuatu; now media reports say that Australia will build a naval base of its own in a Pacific Island nation.

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“Tongasat” may never gain the renown of “Watergate” or “Iran-Contra,” but the scandal in the tiny Pacific kingdom involves 50 million dollars in Chinese funds, a princess and now the government wants to sue two former prime ministers.

Indonesian Consulate General Osaka / Facebook

We’re just learning this week about an Indonesian teenager who survived 49 days adrift in the Pacific. The 18-year-old returned home earlier this month after he was picked up by a passing ship near Guam, about 1,200 miles from home.

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.

PCOO EDP / Wikimedia Commons

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.