PRINCIPALLY because of two recent events, our part of the globe is on the center stage of world attention and concern.
North Korea last Friday tested an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) which, according to analysts, could reach most of the United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago. In a previous test, North Korea sent a medium-range missile arcing south towards the Philippines, which landed near Batanes. Shorter-range missiles have landed in the East Sea near Japan.
United States President Donald Trump’s initial reaction to this latest test has been to warn China, North Korea’s principal ally. China could easily solve this problem, he said, and warned that he would not allow China to “do nothing” about North Korea and its missile and nuclear bomb tests. The US sent two supersonic B-1B bombers, escorted by South Korean jet fighters, over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force.
Closer to home, the siege of Marawi City was the focus of concern of security officials of six countries who met in Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. They discussed the danger of foreign jihadists to this part of Asia. Australia’s Attorney General George Brandis said the attack by militants identified with the Islamic State (IS) could be the precursor of a region-wide terror crisis directly threatening the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand. The collapse of the Islamic State caliphate in the Middle East, highlighted by the recent fall of Mosul to Iraqi government forces, he said, throws up a new range of problems, with the jihadists now moving to rebase themselves in this part of the world.
The six nations agreed to establish databases to help them track terrorists moving in the area and share information among their police and intelligence agencies through a Foreign Terrorist Fighters Strategic Forum. “No one country is in the world is free from the threat of terrorism and we must face the threat together,” Indonesia’s Security Minister Wiranto said.
The world’s attention is thus focused on Northeast and Southeast Asia. The nuclear threat reaches out as far as the US, but the jihadist Islamic State menace is right here in our country and the entire region, including Australia and New Zealand, now feels threatened.