Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 05/29/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter May 22 – 29 2023 US INKS SECURITY DEAL WITH PAPUA NEW GUINEA US Secretary of


Geopolitics Newsletter May 22 – 29 2023


US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken signed a landmark security and maritime cooperation agreement this week with Papua New Guinea (PNG)—the largest nation in the Pacific, directly north-east of Australia—in a deal that will allow US military access to PNG ports and territorial waters. The US also extended $45 million to assist PNG’s defense forces improve its response to humanitarian and natural disasters, as well as allowing joint maritime cooperation in countering transnational crime.

It is the latest geopolitical move by US President Joe Biden’s administration to counter China’s influence in the South Pacific. While the US has historic ties to the country—PNG was the site of fierce fighting during World War Two between Japanese and Allied forces—China has poured billions of dollars in development aid into the country in the past decade. Indeed, China is PNG’s third-largest trading partner and a major contributor to PNG’s infrastructure development. That development is headlined by a $4.1 billion highway—the Pacific’s largest Chinese loan-funded project—under China s Belt and Road Initiative.

However, the agreement has had a mixed response from PNG citizens—sparking student protests—and disquiet in Pacific capitals, with governments fearing that an escalation in US-China great power competition could destabilize their region. PNG has been forced to defend the deal, clarifying that the agreement prohibits the US military from using PNG as a de facto military base. Regardless, the deal is a major success for the Biden administration in a region historically aligned but recently been at odds with the West. Oftentimes, economic development and climate change priorities have conflicted in recent years with the West’s security objectives in the region to counter China. Washington has likely made inroads to bridge that divide in interests with this agreement. Read more [External]

US Papua New Guinea

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Papua New Guinea Defense Minister, Win Bakri Dakri sign the agreement with PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, looks on. | Source: AFP/ Adek Berry


G20 tourism meeting begins in Kashmir amid China boycott – May 22

China boycotted the third meeting of the recent G20’s Tourism Working Group in Kashmir, India, this week, amid continued animosity between the two countries over their ongoing territorial disputes in the contested Himalayan region. Sino-Indian relations remain at a standstill regarding Kashmir—although India’s Western allies may benefit from a decline in Sino-Indian relations. Read more

EU-Republic of Korea Summit began – May 22

The 10th EU-South Korea summit took place early this week, marking increased cooperation in the green technology and sustainable energy sector—although other topics of conversation such as trade, security interoperability, and peacekeeping were also reviewed. Read more

Narendra Modi met with Australian leadership – May 24

Modi’s impromptu trip to Australia followed the cancellation of President Joe Biden’s attendance at the Quad summit, set to be held in Sydney. Biden pulled out of the meeting to focus on domestic debt-ceiling negotiations in Congress. This visit is Modi’s first since 2014 and marks an important tightening of relations between the two countries. Read more

Chinese Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui arrived in Russia – May 27

Special Envoy for China, Li Hui, met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other officials to discuss China’s 12-point peace plan regarding the war in Ukraine. By doing so, China is seeking to influence potential outcomes of the war in an effort to position China to benefit from any post-war settlement and challenge US influence in the country. Read more

Singapore’s finance minister concluded his visit to Japan – May 27

Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s deputy prime minister, concluded meetings in Japan this week on the heels of his Beijing trip and the G20 summit in Hiroshima. Wong discussed joint economic and security concerns in the Indo-Pacific, given Singapore’s economy directly depends on an open and undisrupted South China Sea. Read more

China released data on industrial profits – May 27

China’s industrial output grew by 5.6% in April—falling short of predictions of 10.9% growth. Although it is the fastest monthly output since September 2022, the underwhelming growth figure has fueled uncertainty in Beijing and among international analysts over the strength of China’s post-COVID lockdown economic recovery. Read more

India opened its new parliamentary building – May 28

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over the opening of a new, enlarged parliamentary building in New Delhi this week. The project replaces the cramped colonial-era building but has triggered criticism from the opposition over the high cost of the wider redevelopment of the government quarter in the capital where the parliament sits. Read more


Russian Prime Minister led a business delegation to Beijing – May 23

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin—the chair of President Vladimir Putin’s cabinet—led a delegation including several Russian tycoons currently sanctioned by the West in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine to China. China is a much-needed buyer of Russian oil, gas, and coal, helping to keep the heavily sanctioned Russian economy afloat. Read more

German president began Romania visit – May 24

Steinmeier met his Romanian counterpart President Klaus Iohannis, as well as representatives of ethnic minorities in the country—including the country’s German-speaking minority, of which Iohannis is also a part. The main topics of discussion revolved around support for Ukraine. Read more.

Russia hosted a meeting between Armenia and Azerbaijan – May 25

Russia sought to re-establish influence in the region after Armenia’s criticism of Moscow’s lack of military aid earlier this year when Azerbaijan took further contested territory in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh-Karabakh—two years after Azerbaijan won back large swathes of the territory in a short war. Read more.

Cypriot President Christodoulides met with Olaf Scholz – May 25

Republic of Cyprus’ President Nikos Christodoulides met with German Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss European security issues and bilateral affairs. It is anticipated that the Cyprus problem, territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean, irregular migration, political and economic consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine, and energy and climate cooperation were at the heart of the discussions. Read more.

National Security

Lebanon celebrated Liberation and Resistance Day – May 25

Today marks the commemoration of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon after years of warfare two decades ago. Hezbollah, the largest militant group in Lebanon, recently staged its largest war games effort on the southern Israel-Lebanon border? to demonstrate its military expertise. Read more.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned to Ukraine after G7 Summit – May 26

The summit was a success for Ukraine’s war effort, with Zelenskyy leaving having secured a further $375 million in US military aid and a commitment from President Biden to support the training and eventual provision of F-16s to the Ukrainian air force. The UK and EU also reconfirmed their support in training Ukraine’s future F-16 pilots. Read more

Politics and Society

Serbian president held a counter-rally in Belgrade – May 26

Under fire over his government’s handling of recent mass shootings in Serbia, President Alexander Vucic held a counter-demonstration to defend his record—he argued that his record of removing 37,000 illegal weapons from circulation via a gun amnesty is particularly noteworthy. However, opposition parties blame his populist government for fueling hate crimes with their political rhetoric. Read more

Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan is heavily favored to win the run-off election – May 28

Erdogan, the ultra-conservative nationalist strongman leader of 24 years, defied pre-election predictions by leading the first-round results on May 14 with 49.5% of the vote over his secular opponent, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, with 45%. It was a disappointing result for opposition supporters, given the third-ranked ultra-nationalist candidate and his supporters are highly likely to support Erdogan in this second-round vote. Read more [External]


Turkey’s Erdogan expected to win run-off Presidential election – May 29

The win likely presages more years of populist and controversial economic rule at home and abrasive, often anti-West, foreign policy abroad. Read more [External]

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken begins Scandinavian tour – May 29

On the agenda in Norway, Sweden, and Finland are coordinating military aid for Ukraine as well as NATO cooperation—especially with new NATO member, Finland. Read more [External]

Nigerian President-elect, Bola Tinubu, to be inaugurated – May 29

The inauguration—after a rancorous election that saw the opposition dispute results—will mark only the second peaceful transition in Nigeria’s democratic history. Read more [External]

South Africa to host BRICS Summit in Cape Town – June 2-3

Rapidly becoming a political rival to the West’s G7 bloc, China seeks the enlargement of the economic bloc which has largely refused to condemn fellow BRICS member, Russia, over its invasion of Ukraine. Read more



Contributions by: John Milo, Joseph Egidio, Will Wain-Williams, Cian Muenster