A Short Taiwanese Adventure — Getting Lost in Taipei

BY BEN HABIB. In July 2008 I had the pleasure of a two night stopover in Taipei, on my way to South Korea. My visit was fortunately timed during a narrow time window between two typhoons, both of which caused significant damage on the island and killed dozens of people. While I was in Taipei, however, the weather was spectacular. The following diary and photo gallery is a snapshot of my day out in Taipei.

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Looking Back on the 1992 Rio Earth Summit

World leaders and government officials as well as representatives from NGOs and the corporate sector are currently convening in Rio de Janeiro, for “Rio+20: The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.” The conference is timed to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the seminal 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It is therefore worth looking back on the achievements of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 to remind ourselves of what can be achieved when parties from around the world unite to address global environmental problems and highlight the obstacles and limitations of international multilateral processes in pursuing environmental objectives.

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Korea — A Divided Nation

BY BEN HABIB. On Monday 7th May 2012, I delivered a guest lecture entilted Korea: A Fractured Nation to second and third year students studying the subject Contemporary Politics of the Asia-Pacific Region (POL2/3CPA) at La Trobe University’s Melbourne campus. The content of this lecture, along with other lectures in this subject, will form the basis for an international conflict negotiation simulation workshop structured around a hypothetical security crisis on the Korean peninsula.

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Living Lightly: Reciprocal Bonds and the Trust Horizon

BY BEN HABIB. One of the exiting aspects of living lightly is the opportunity it provides for community building and connecting with other people. Strong social networks will become increasingly important as we grapple with environmental problems, energy insecurity and financial turmoil at the end of the age of growth. As a specialist in international relations, I look to Chinese culture for ideas on building social cohesion during tough times.

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North Korea’s Failed Unha-3 Missile Test: Implications for Pyongyang and Northeast Asia

BY BEN HABIB. The technical aspects of the failed Unha-3 rocket launch are less interesting than the political undercurrents swirling around this event. The rocket’s explosion has spared the United States and its regional allies some loss of face while for North Korea, it represents a missed opportunity for Pyongyang to maximise its diplomatic and strategic leverage, over and above any threat to Kim Jong-un’s legitimacy as leader.

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The Lessons of Kwangmyongsong-3: Satellite Lauch, Missile Test, Leadership Badge or Bargaining Chip?

BY BEN HABIB. The North’s Kwangmyongsong-3 rocket launch is likely to yield important insights in three areas of interest to North Korea watchers. First, the relative success of North Korea’s rocket launch is likely to yield insights into the operability of the North’s overall nuclear weapons capability and specifically its ability to deliver a nuclear payload to targets at distances beyond 1,000 kilometres. Second, it would appear to fit with a longer trend of provocations dating back to the Cheonan incident in 2010 that have been linked to the legitimisation of Kim Jong-un’s leadership credentials. Finally, with the potential restart of negotiations with Washington in the offing, the launch indicates that coercive bargaining is likely to remain Pyongyang’s modus operandi in international negotiations under the new leadership.

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Peering into the Hermit Kingdom: My Experiences on the Fringes of North Korea — Presentation to the Albury Rotary Club

BY BEN HABIB. On Wednesday 7th March 2012 I made a presentation to the Rotary Club of Albury entitled Peering into the Hermit Kingdom: My Experiences on the Fringes of North Korea. In this presentation I gave a brief chronology of my experiences in and around Korea, touching on some of the interesting things I learnt along the way about Korean history, culture and the North Korean state.

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Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party: Presentation to Victory Lutheran College VCE History Class

BY BEN HABIB. On Thursday March 1st, 2012, braving torrential rain, Victory Lutheran College VCE history students, led by their teacher Logan Hayward came to La Trobe University Albury-Wodonga campus for a workshop presented by myself on Mao Zedong and the Communist Party. The workshop was a supplement to the students’ VCE History studies on the Chinese revolution.

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The China-Korea Frontier — Yánjí and the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture

BY BEN HABIB. All North Korea watchers inevitably get to Yánjí at some point in their careers. Yánjí is a small frontier city of approximately 400,000 people, capital of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, China. It is like a “little Seoul” in northeast China, with a large ethnic Korean (Zhonguo Chaoxian minzu) population navigate dual identities as Chinese citizens of Korean heritage. Many Chaoxian minzu have relatives living in North Korea. Yanbian is nestled in the important strategic border region where the Chinese, North Korean and Russian frontiers meet.

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The Yasawa Islands, Fiji

BY BEN HABIB. I’ll be honest, Fiji was not a place I had much interest in visiting. I had always thought it rivalled Bali as the destination of choice for Australia’s least adventurous travellers. However, Fijian society is diverse, culturally rich and ensconsed in beautiful natural wonders. We spent most of our time on Nacula Island (pronounced “Nathula”) in the Yasawa archipelago, northwest of Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. This photo essay is a diary of our experiences in this culturally unique and picturesque place.

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What Now? North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il

BY BEN HABIB. The death of North Korea’s ‘Dear Leader’ Kim Jong-il casts a cloud over the future of the already weak North Korean state and the stability of Northeast Asian security environment. Speculation about the future of a post-Kim Jong-il North Korea has been mounting since reports about Kim’s ill-health surfaced in 2008, raising questions about leadership succession, the viability of North Korea’s unique political system and political stability on the Korean peninsula. With Kim’s passing, those questions will be answered in short order.

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Grassroots Reaction to Economic Crisis: The ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Movement

BY BEN HABIB. Over the past month a grassroots protest movement called Occupy Wall Street has sprung up in the United States, in reaction to that country’s increasing disparity between rich and poor in the context of severe economic crisis, the hollowing out of the middle class and the government’s co-option by big finance. Occupy Wall Street, taken together with the Tea Party movement and the recent debt ceiling fiasco in Congress are signals pointing to the unravelling of the American political system. For this reason, it is worth paying close attention to the ongoing evolution of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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