Pacific News Minute

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Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of the confederacy, recently renamed a street in honor of African-American tennis star, and Richmond native, Arthur Ashe. The gesture was a response to the movement to remove statues of Confederate generals and politicians. Statues are also controversial in another part of the world . . . Australia.

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This week, the political organization leading the fight for independence in West Papua announced that three rebel groups have agreed to join forces as a united West Papua Army. But one of those groups disputes the claim.

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The wave of protest in Hong Kong has made headlines around the world, but it may be followed most closely in Taiwan. As recently as January, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed reunification with Taiwan under the same “One Country, Two Systems” framework now unraveling in Hong Kong.

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Amid ceremony and fanfare, commercial whaling ships left Japanese ports yesterday for the first time in 33 years.

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Seven months after Papua New Guinea hosted the APEC summit, it has yet to sell off a fleet of Maseratis and Bentleys it purchased to provide VIP transportation. Initially, government officials promised that the cars would sell “like hotcakes.” 

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France’s highest court has rejected an appeal filed by the former President of French Polynesia and 12 others in the so-called phantom jobs scandal.  The defendants have been ordered to repay 4.2 million dollars.

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The United Liberation Movement of West Papua has again applied for full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The ULM hopes that new leadership in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea may improve its chances.

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While trade will top the agenda when President Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Japan next week, there are human rights issues as well. Not only the so-called “re-education camps” that house an estimated million Muslim Uighers but this week’s report from an independent panel in Britain on harvesting organs from prisoners.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP

In four months, the people of Bougainville will vote in a referendum that gives them a choice of independence or greater autonomy within Papua New Guinea. While there’s been no polling, analysts expect overwhelming approval for independence. But the world’s newest nation would face serious problems.

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A caretaker government remains in charge of the French overseas territory of New Caledonia after a new council failed to agree on who should be president. There are new problems and new players, but one overriding old problem: sovereignty.

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Another incident in the South China Sea. Yesterday, the Philippines Secretary of Defense said that a Chinese fishing vessel rammed and sank a Philippine boat, and then left 22 crewmen to “the mercy of the elements,” as he put it.

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A new book and the Wall Street Journal independently report that Kim Jong Nam was a CIA informant. The half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un was assassinated in Malaysia two years ago.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation via AP

James Marape, the new prime minster of Papua New Guinea, has placed leading members of the opposition  into key positions in his cabinet. The appointments suggest that the new administration may be serious about reform.

U.S. Navy

While all eyes focus on the coast of France on this 75th Anniversary of D-Day, we sometimes overlook events on the other side of the world. That same day, June 6, 1944, a huge attack force cleared Pearl Harbor on its way to invade Japanese positions in the Mariana Islands.

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On Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison makes his first overseas trip since his upset victory in Australia’s general election earlier this month. His first stop will be in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands.

Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Mark J. Rebilas / U.S. Navy

Australia’s ABC reports that Australian military helicopters were targeted by lasers in the South China Sea. The laser attacks apparently came from China’s maritime militia.

On Sunday, Peter O’Neill announced plans to quit as Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, but opposition leaders say they won’t believe it until he actually delivers a signed resignation to the Governor General.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway

Two of America’s closest allies in the Western Pacific have challenged the facade of U.S. strategic policy. While American officials insist that the Indo-Pacific Strategy is not aimed at any individual country, the leaders of Palau and the Marshall Islands named China as the source of military and economic threats in the region.

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President Trump was among the first to congratulate Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison after his surprise re-election on Sunday. After what was described as an extensive conversation, the President added a tweet. China’s reaction was decidedly less enthusiastic.

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Leaders of three Pacific Island countries are in Washington today to meet with President Donald Trump. Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia operate under Compacts of Free Association with the U.S.

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres is on a tour of Pacific nations ahead of the UN’s Climate Action Summit, which is set for September in New York. Yesterday, the Secretary General spoke to a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.

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North Korea has demanded that the United States release a cargo ship seized for violation of United Nations sanctions. A statement from the North Korean foreign ministry described the seizure as a ‘blatant act of robbery” and a “gangster-like act.” The ship has been towed to American Samoa.

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On Sunday, pro-independence supporters made slight gains in provincial elections in New Caledonia, but loyalist parties will hold on to their majority in congress. The vote has important implications for the future of the French territory.

Sprent Dabwido, a former President of Nauru, died yesterday at the age of 46. While in office, he reached agreement with Australia to re-open Nauru’s controversial detention center. In a deathbed interview, he described that as “a deal with the devil.”

AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Tensions with North Korea have stepped up following a missile test last week and a report that Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of four officials who participated at the failed Hanoi summit. But legal proceedings in another North Korean murder are apparently over.

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In San Francisco last week, the Goldman Environmental Prize recognized six activists from around the world, including Jacqui Evans of the Cook Islands.

Chief Mass Communication Specialist Keith Deviney / U.S. Navy

USNI News reports that Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will unveil a new Indo-Pacific Strategy at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore later this month.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will face a motion of no confidence later this month in Papua New Guinea. Several members of parliament have switched to the opposition in the past week or so, complaining about a huge new natural gas project.

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Indonesia’s Navy reports that one of its patrol boats was rammed by a Vietnamese coast guard vessel in the South China Sea. The incident stemmed from a dispute over fishing rights.

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Members of parliament walked out to protest the election of a new Prime Minister in the Solomon Islands yesterday and afterwards, riots erupted in the capital, Honiara.