Pacific News Minute

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New Zealand Defence Force via AP

Earlier this month, the government of Kiribati finally released a long delayed report on the country’s worst maritime disaster, the sinking of an overloaded ferry that cost the lives of 95 people.

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

A Chinese company’s bid to lease Tulagi Island in the Solomons has been rejected by the country’s attorney general and the provincial leader who signed the five-year agreement has pronounced the deal dead.

Phi Nguyen, U.S. House Office of Photography

Last week, the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation of Democrat Michael San Nicolas, the delegate from Guam. Allegations include a sexual relationship with a member of his staff and misuse of campaign  funds.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Ahead of the resumption of  denuclearization talks between North Korea and The United States this weekend, North Korea test-fired a new submarine launched missile yesterday.

AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

Still under pressure from student demonstrators protesting Indonesia’s proposed new criminal code, President Joko Widodo dropped a political bombshell yesterday when he told reporters he would be willing to meet with pro-independence leaders in West Papua.

Military News Agency via AP

Last month, two Pacific island nations switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The decisions squeezed Taiwan’s dwindling diplomatic space, but they’ve also had repercussions in Kiribati and The Solomon Islands.

AP Photo/Beawiharta

At least 26 people have been killed after violence erupted again in restive West Papua. The worst incident came after rumors that a high school teacher from another part of Indonesia insulted an indigenous student with a racial slur.

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Pacific Island nations that played a key part in the Paris Climate Agreement took a prominent role again this week at the UN Climate Action summit in New York.

KevGuy4101/Flickr / Creative Commons 2.0 License

Last week, we reported that Solomon Islands had abandoned a 36-year diplomatic relationship with Taiwan to switch allegiance to Beijing. Now, Taiwan’s dwindling international space has been squeezed even tighter, as Kiribati has also recognized Beijing. 

Duc Thanh/AP

As he begins a state visit to the United States, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison leaves a tricky political situation back home.



AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

The Kingdom of Tonga is mourning the loss of Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva, who died of pneumonia in a hospital in New Zealand late last week. His body was returned to Tonga by a New Zealand Air Force plane and will be buried in a state funeral later this week.

presidentialoffice / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

China’s unremitting diplomatic push to isolate Taiwan has convinced another country to switch sides. Solomon Islands announced its decision to sever a 36-year relationship with Taiwan yesterday.

Voice of America / Iris Tong

For many years, a tiny bookstore in Hong Kong sold dissident and sometimes gossipy biographies of Communist party leaders and un-official histories of events like the massacre at Tiananmen Square. Causeway Bay Books became a symbol of Hong Kong’s liberties, and, four years ago, the disappearance of five staff members set off alarm bells. Now, the shop’s founder has moved to Taiwan and vows to re-open his bookstore.

Aziz Abdul via AP

After more than six years, it looks like Australia’s notorious detention center on PNG’s Manus Island will be closed later this month. Almost all of the remaining 350 migrants have been relocated to Port Moresby, some awaiting resettlement to the United States.

AP Photo/Beawiharta

At least ten people are reported dead and dozens arrested as political unrest continues in West Papua. Indonesia blames pro-independence groups for the violence, and has banned further protests.


Yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia will contribute forces to the American-led effort to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Skirmishes between U.S. and Iranian forces and the Iranian seizure of a British-flagged tanker have escalated tensions in the strategic waterway, which is used to transport about a third of the world’s oil supplies. The decision comes as an Australian think tank raised serious doubts about Australia’s reliance on the U.S. to guarantee its security.

AP Photo/Safwan Ashari Raharusun

The Jakarta Post reports that Indonesian President Joko Widodo will visit restive West Papua next week after violent protests there on Monday. Demonstrations erupted on news that Papuan students in Java had been subjected to racial abuse and arrest over the weekend.

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After marathon negotiations late last week, Australia succeeded in watering down references to climate change in the final communique of the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu. But the victory came at a price.

Jason Oxenham/Pool Photo via AP

Radio New Zealand reports that Australia has persuaded members of the Pacific Islands Forum to water down references to climate change in the summit meetings final communique. The phrase “climate crisis” has been removed, along with a commitment to phase out coal. While climate change dominated the meeting, other issues came up as well.

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As expected, climate change has taken center stage as the annual summit of the Pacific Islands Forum gets underway in Tuvalu. Ahead of the meeting, Australia pledged 340 million dollars to fund climate resistance projects but flatly rejected calls to phase out coal, reform its climate policies and resume payments to the UN’s Green Climate Fund.

Photo: Lachlan Fearnley / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to next week’s summit of the Pacific Islands Forum, small island states have made it clear that they intend to pressure Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on climate change.

Staff Sgt. B. Nicole Mejia / U.S. Army

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper are both visiting American allies in the Pacific. For Esper, it’s his first foreign trip since being confirmed as Secretary of Defense.

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Last week, a court in South Korea sentenced the leader of a religious cult to six years in prison for the barbaric treatment of 400 followers who relocated to Fiji. But so far, the case has had no effect on the cult’s operations in Fiji.

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Near Aukland airport, on the Northern Island of New Zealand, Maori protesters are blocking access to a construction site to protect what they regard as sacred land. The stand-off bears some similarities to the confrontation at Mauna Kea.

Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

The United States continues to conduct naval patrols in waters claimed by China. Last week, the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam sailed through the Taiwan Strait: the sixth such transit this year. The operation came as China issued an important policy document.

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Australia and Papua New Guinea have agreed to close the notorious detention camp on Manus Island. At a joint news conference, PNG’s James Marape and Australia’s Scott Morrison said they would establish a mutually workable timetable.

Staff Sgt. Chelsea Browning / U.S. Air Force

Obesity is a major problem around the Asia Pacific, contributing to diseases like diabetes. In Fiji, diabetes related amputations account for 40% of all surgeries. On average, that’s three every day.

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You may have seen pictures of a long line of climbers on Mount Everest earlier this year; now a similar scene is unfolding at much lower altitude, in Central Australia, where tourists are crowding in to climb Uluru before the iconic monolith closes.

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This month, celebrations are underway in Tonga to mark the birthday of the King, including the 40th annual Heilala Festival. But this year’s ceremony erupted as the outgoing queen criticized organizers for tormenting and bullying her.

Nightstallion / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

A cycle of ambush and revenge is being blamed for the deaths of as many as 25 people in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea. The massacres occurred in the district represented in parliament by Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, who vowed to hunt down the killers.