Trump takes another tack in East Asia and threatens to pull American troops out of South Korea

Battered by the latest polls which show presumptive Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden pulling ahead by double digits, President Donald Trump has turned to attacking Biden’s competence and age as the economy shows little sign of revival ahead of the November elections. Biden is 77, Trump 74.

This weekend Twitter pulled another of Trump’s campaign messages. Also, the New York Times reported in great detail how White House aides, unskilled in public health, took control of Covid-19 data from the Centre for Disease Control and Management as the pandemic rages unchecked across much of the US.

Deaths are expected to reach 140,000 this week and the aim has been to shift the responsibility – and blame – from the White House to state governors.

Now Trump has taken another tack and is threatening to withdraw troops from South Korea unless Seoul stumps up with a bigger share of the costs. At present the South pays $30,000 towards maintaining each US soldier. Trump wants this doubled. Continue reading “Trump takes another tack in East Asia and threatens to pull American troops out of South Korea”

China bypasses the govt in Canberra to engage in an infrastructural flirtation with Victoria

Our good friends from Beijing are at it again.  China has done a deal with the state of Victoria under its “Belt and Road” project.

Infrastructure and other projects are under consideration.  This has fired up the Australian Federal government —  and the United States.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, hardly China’s closest friend in the US administration, has promised action against Canberra should telecommunications become involved.

The US and several western countries have blocked the Chinese telco manufacturer Huawei from involvement in 5G developments for government agencies, notably Defence.

NZ has taken the same approach following detailed examination by the GCSB.  The problem stems from a Chinese 2017 law which requires companies to liaise with the many Chinese intelligence agencies and share any information gathered.

What concerns the US and Australia – and is being monitored from Wellington – are the Chinese tactics.  Beijing went direct, it didn’t work through the Commonwealth Government. 

We have been here before. Continue reading “China bypasses the govt in Canberra to engage in an infrastructural flirtation with Victoria”

Trump is banking on economic revival being better for his re-election prospects than a rising death toll

Politics in the US aren’t for the faint-of-heart at the best of times but this year, with only six months to run to the elections, under President Donald Trump it has become a bizarre wonderland with the president changing tack at will and his prospects of re-election vaporising by the day as the economy slides rapidly downhill.

Viewed from NZ, the situation looks chaotic, changing daily, sometimes hourly, with no coherent vision beyond that of the medical experts and no evident US-wide strategy to contain (let alone defeat) the coronavirus, so the country might be in better shape.

No wonder NZ is so envied and PM Jacinda Adern so highly regarded across the US.

More than 1.2m people in the US have been infected with the coronavirus and by Thursday, more than 74,000 have died.   Only in New York State, where the widely-respected Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo imposed strict controls, has the rate of infection reached a plateau.

Elsewhere across the US the virus continues to spread inexorably. Continue reading “Trump is banking on economic revival being better for his re-election prospects than a rising death toll”

Funding fuss must be weighed against Peters’ ministerial performance – and on the world stage he has been acclaimed

Can Winston Peters,  as   he has  done  so  often  before,  confound his  critics?   He  has  been  under intense  pressure  over  revelations  in  Matt Shand’s  Stuff   reports   on  donations channelled   through  the  NZ First  Foundation  Trust.

But Peters insists  the Electoral Commission, after investigating questions about loans made to the NZ First Party by the foundation will find that  everything is  in order.

And  even  if the  commission   were to  find   there has been a  breach,  could  it   derail   NZ  First?   Or its   leader?

After all,  Peters  has been  here   before—and  survived.

Here  at  Point of  Order  we   do  not pretend to  be   experts  on  the  ethics   of  political  donations to  NZ  First  any more   than of those   to  other  political  parties.    Or,  for  that matter, charging   $1500  to  those   who  want to  attend  a  dinner in the  presence  of  the   PM?

What  counts  for  the majority   of  voters    when they cast  their ballots  is what, if  anything,  politicians   have accomplished.  Or  what they promise.

Dispassionate  observers looking  at  how  Peters  has  performed   both  as  deputy  PM  and   Minister of  Foreign Affairs  would  mark   him well. Continue reading “Funding fuss must be weighed against Peters’ ministerial performance – and on the world stage he has been acclaimed”

Peters in the US: he can’t offer NZ ships (if asked) but maybe an Orion could be sent to the Gulf

South America a week ago;  this week it’s Washington DC.  Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters is on the move again, displaying  an indefatigable  energy level beyond many of his Cabinet colleagues.

In the US capital this week, he will address a major international conference called by the US on questions of inter-faith issues and problems.  He is expected to outline the government’s approach to inter-faith issues in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks which drew immense coverage in the US. Continue reading “Peters in the US: he can’t offer NZ ships (if asked) but maybe an Orion could be sent to the Gulf”

UK’s Huawei decision and US reaction raises questions about industrial policies

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits London this week and is  expected to ramp up pressure on the UK government over its decision to allow China’s Huawei to provide part of its new 5G IT network.  Pompeo will warn the British that, should this happen, it will have ramifications for the Five-Eyes intelligence network linking the US, UK, Australia, Canada and NZ.

Already the British decision has cost Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson his job after PM Theresa May accused him of leaking the 5G decision – something he has vigorously rejected. It has further split her Cabinet which already is riven by Brexit.

Why did the British Government embark on this seemingly challenging decision? In part because some elements in its security community reckoned Huawei’s 5G could be confined to the outer parts of its IT system – despite resistance from mainstream agencies including MI5 and MI6 and the knowledge that all Chinese companies are required by law to share information collected with national intelligence agencies.

However, a British academic, Trevor Taylor, a professorial research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think-tank, in a recent paper offers another view.

Continue reading “UK’s Huawei decision and US reaction raises questions about industrial policies”

Spark will be cheered by endorsement of UK’s handling of the Huawei spying threat

New Zealand  may  have been  presented with  a  model  to  follow  in  dealing  with the Chinese giant technology  firm  Huawei.  According to London’s  “The Economist”  Britain has struck an artful compromise on Huawei and 5G, even though many Americans and other friends of Britain will be appalled by its decision and fear the country is being naive and toadying up to China..

But, in an editorial, The Economist reckons  the UK’s  measured approach to dealing with the controversial Chinese firm is a model for other countries.

Britain’s decision matters: it is a member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance led by America, and was one of the first Western economies in which Huawei built a presence. Britain also has experience of electronic spying and knows Huawei well.

“Far from being a betrayal, Britain’s approach, of using the firm’s gear on the edges of 5G networks, under close supervision, offers a sensible framework for limited commercial engagement while protecting Britain’s security and that of its allies.” Continue reading “Spark will be cheered by endorsement of UK’s handling of the Huawei spying threat”

Peters is off to Washington to push for greater US involvement in South Pacific

Deputy  PM Winston Peters,  who   is  heading  to  Washington  this week to hold high-level  talks,  has been at  pains to  emphasise  he wants to  get  the  US  more  involved  in the  South  Pacific.

Point of Order,  which last  month  foreshadowed  the visit,  underlined then that Peters is taking a   more hard-nosed  line  towards  China,   which has  been extending its   influence and  aid  into  territories   like  Vanuatu, Niue and  the Cook  Islands.

This week, in announcing  his talks with  US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and other senior members of the US Administration, Peters went out of his way   not only  to say  the  US  is   is a “very close strategic partner for New Zealand”, but  the  two countries “enjoy a deep, long-lasting friendship that is based on shared interests and democratic values”. Continue reading “Peters is off to Washington to push for greater US involvement in South Pacific”

Jacinda’s confrontation with hard-nose regional politics

Forget the platitudinous UN General Assembly and those feel-good soft media moments. Life on the international stage is much harder and more complicated.

PM Jacinda Ardern confronted hard-nose regional politics at APEC and the regional assembly in Singapore.  Few believe Malaysia’s PM Mahathir bin Mohamad’s broadside on China and the Pacific in front of the NZ media was a slip of the tongue.  The wily 93-year-old (according to officials) knew exactly what – and why – he said what he did in public.

Malaysia, like many in the region, has measured the weight and cost of China’s beneficence in Asia-Pacific. Some of NZ’s closest allies suspect NZ has been unthinkingly close to Beijing in recent years. Continue reading “Jacinda’s confrontation with hard-nose regional politics”