Pacific News Minute

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As we reported earlier this week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on a tour of the South Pacific to promote what she calls a “Pacific Reset.” The new prime minister pledged millions to help Samoa and Tonga recover from Cyclone Gita. But, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, New Zealand must still repair relations with one of its own territories.

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While President Trump’s tough talk on tariffs hits a nerve in China, Congress hit an even more sensitive area last week; when both houses unanimously approved the Taiwan Travel Act. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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On her first tour of the South Pacific as Prime Minister, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern arrives in Tonga today. She will find much of the country still devastated by Cyclone Gita and the government in disarray. Neal Conan has more in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jarod Hodge / U.S. Navy

On Sunday, the Chinese Communist Party announced that presidents will no longer be limited to two terms, clearing the way for Xi Jinping to remain in office for the foreseeable future. The news comes as the U.S. and its Indo-Pacific allies reconsider an old idea – an informal alliance called the "Quad."  We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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A year ago, the government of French Polynesia signed an agreement to build a futuristic floating city off the coast of Tahiti, with construction of a pilot project to begin later this year. Now, it looks as if the deal is dead. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Papua New Guinea’s Kokoda Track is open again, after local landowners ended a protest that closed the famous trail for three weeks. According to RNZ Pacific, the government agreed to review the joint aid program with Australia, which manages the track. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Wikimedia Commons

Research published this week shows that sea levels will rise at least three feet by the year 2300, and that’s a best case scenario. Rising waters already threaten low-lying island nations in the Pacific and will eventually trigger mass migration. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Last week, we reported on the inconclusive decision by the Melanesian Spearhead Group on West Papua’s bid for full membership. Since then, Indonesia’s declared victory in its campaign to block international recognition for the United Liberation Movement, and we’ve learned more about how they did it. Neal Conan has details in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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The Pacific Climate Change Conference got underway in Wellington this week, as the remnants of Cyclone Gita arrived to lash the west coast of New Zealand. Several small island nations suffered severe damage from the storm and, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, recovery is expected to take months, if not years.

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A summit meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group is underway in Port Moresby this week, with leaders still unable to decide on full recognition for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua. The group represents the indigenous peoples of the western half of New Guinea, which has been part of Indonesia for more than fifty years. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation into President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war in the Philippines. Thousands of people have been killed by police and vigilantes and this week, a defiant Duterte vowed to continue the war as long as he’s in office. More from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel / U.S. Navy

The long-rumored nomination of Admiral Harry Harris as the next U.S. Ambassador to Australia is now official. Admiral Harris is about to retire after three years as the head of U.S. Pacific Command where he became known for criticism of China’s military expansion into the South China Sea. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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As you’ve heard on the NPR News, President Trump wants to hold a big military parade in Washington, D.C., inspired by the celebrations he saw in Paris last Bastille Day. North Korea showed off its military might in a big parade in Pyongyang yesterday. We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

U.S. Navy / U.S. Embassy & Consulates in the United Kingdom

Earlier this week, photographs published by a Philippine newspaper showed that China has almost finished construction of military bases on seven man-made islands in the South China Sea. Facilities include runways, helipads, radars, control towers, missile shelters and hangars. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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The Indonesian government expelled a BBC crew from West Papua after a series of tweets “hurt the feelings of soldiers.” Indonesia rarely allows foreign reporters to visit that restive area because of the on-going independence struggle, but the BBC was given permission to cover an outbreak of measles and malnutrition. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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The search continues in the waters of Kiribati, but two weeks after a ferry sank, hope is fading after what’s now feared to be the worst disaster in the country’s history. It’s thought that 88 people were aboard, including a crew of five. Seven survivors were rescued last weekend. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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This week, the tiny South Pacific island state of Nauru marks the 50th anniversary of its independence from Australia. Dignitaries have gathered to celebrate the occasion from around the Pacific, and from Abkhazia and South Ossetia. And if you’re wondering what they’re doing there, we have an explanation from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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The legacy of French nuclear weapons tests in the South Pacific has triggered a surge of anxiety in French Polynesia. A report by a child psychiatrist said the children of people exposed to radiation suffered high rates of deformities and developmental disorders. The President of French Polynesia accused the doctor of creating a panic. We have more, from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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This week marks 50 years since North Korea seized an American intelligence ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo. Its crew of 82 suffered starvation and torture before their release almost a year later. The ship itself is now on display at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Wikimedia Commons

58 refugees from Manus Island in Papua New Guinea are on their way to new homes in the United States. The men have been held in Australian-run detention camps, many for more than four years. Another group of 154 men, women and children are expected to follow in February from Australia’s other-off shore camp in Nauru. We have details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Over the weekend, the U.S. Navy conducted the latest in a series of patrols to challenge Chinese clams in the South China Sea. The Pearl Harbor based destroyer U.S.S. Hopper passed near Scarborough Shoal, prompting Beijing to threaten accelerated militarization in the area. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Wikimedia Commons

The diplomatic dispute between Australia and China continues to seethe. This week, an Australian minister said that Beijing is trying to win influence in the Pacific with loans to build useless buildings and roads to nowhere. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Teinesavaii / Wikimedia Commons
Teinesavaii / Wikimedia Commons

The outspoken Prime Minister of Samoa said on television this week, that media organizations should rely on “official” information, and that it would be good if reporters were forced to reveal their sources. The statement followed passage of a law that makes libel a criminal offense in Samoa. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

Qiliho / Wikipedia
Qiliho / Wikipedia

In Fiji, an opposition member of parliament has been questioned by police on allegations of sedition. Critics accuse the government of using the charge to suppress dissent. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Today, we broadcast the final Pacific News Minute of 2017 and Neal Conan continues his series on big stories that will continue to reverberate in the coming year - today: decolonization.

(stephan) / Flickr
(stephan) / Flickr

2017 saw dramatic events across the Asia-Pacific. The leaders of both China and Japan won new terms in office; forces loyal to ISIS held a Philippine city hostage for months; Australia legalized same-sex marriage and moved to wind down its much-criticized off-shore refugee camps. In the last two Pacific News Minutes of the year, Neal Conan focuses on stories likely to make news in 2018 as well as today, North Korea.

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Wikimedia Commons

A main road on the French Island of New Caledonia was closed for part of the weekend after more violence. An emergency doctor says a pick-up truck repeatedly rammed his vehicle from behind and forced him off the road in what he said was an attempted murder. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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Wikimedia Commons

Last week, long forgotten trophies of a 19th century skirmish between the United States and Korea were discovered at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. USNI News reported that workers uncovered battle flags captured by U.S. Marines in 1871. In today’s Pacific News Minute, Neal Conan explains why both sides saw it as a victory.

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Wikimedia Commons

In Tahiti, lawyers for Gaston Flosse are trying to find a way to get the former president back into politics. After two corruption convictions, Flosse was barred from public office until 2019. But his lawyers argue that his sentences should run concurrently, which would allow him to stand in next year’s territorial election. If so, as Neal Conan reports in today’s Pacific News Minute, he may face new questions about a 20 year old case. 

Israel Defense Forces / Flickr
Israel Defense Forces / Flickr

More details have emerged about the Korean-born man arrested over the weekend in Australia. While Choi Han Chan faces charges that he tried to sell missile parts for North Korea, he’s also been described as a nice, polite hospital cleaner from a suburb of Sydney. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

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