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10 May 2024: The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs

10 May 2024
By Dr Adam Bartley

This week in Australian foreign affairs: Albanese addresses Chinese jet manoeuvers; Sanctions against Russian cyber criminal Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev; new investment in Australia-Tuvalu relations; Australia expands connectivity with Palau, and more.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed questions at a press conference on 9 May on China’s deploying of flares in front of an Australian helicopter causing it to conduct emergency manoeuvrers. Albanese stated that “Australian Defence Force personnel were engaged in international waters, in international skies, and engaged in international work, consistent with the United Nations sanctions being imposed on North Korea.” He continued,  “it was legitimate, peaceful activity which should be respected and which I’m proud of the role that Australian Defence Force personnel play in upholding international law and international sanctions and the appropriate processes as determined by the United Nations. This action by China was unprofessional and unacceptable. We’ve made that very, very clear going forward.”

On 8 May, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles joined Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Minister for Home affairs and Minister for Cyber Security Clare O’Neil to announce new sanctions and a travel ban on “Russian citizen Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev for his senior leadership role in the LockBit ransomware group.” Lockbit is a prolific criminal ransomware group that works to destabilise and disrupt key sectors for financial gain. The ransomware has “been used against Australian, UK and US businesses, comprising 18% of total reported Australian ransomware incidents in 2022-23 and 119 reported victims in Australia.” “Under Operation Cronos, the Australian Signals Directorate and Australian Federal Police worked with international partners, including the United Kingdom (UK) and United States (US), to identify Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev as part of LockBit’s senior leadership.” The sanctions make “it a criminal offence to provide assets to Dmitry Yuryevich Khoroshev, or to use or deal with his assets.”

On 9 May, Wong joined Minister for International Development and the Pacific Pat Conroy in a statement announcing the elevation of Australia-Tuvalu relations under the Falepili Union. Australia announced the investment of more the AUD$110 million into local development priorities. These include “$50 million (in 2024-25) to support Tuvalu to secure its first undersea telecommunications cable, alongside $25 million from likeminded partners; $19 million in additional support to extend the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project (TCAP), taking Australia’s total contribution to TCAP to $38 million; $10 million in immediate budget support (over 2023-24 and 2024-25) to ensure delivery of critical services; [and] $15 million for a new National Security Coordination Centre in Tuvalu. Recognising the importance of protecting Tuvalu’s critical maritime resources, Australia will also fast track the replacement of Tuvalu’s Guardian-class Patrol Boat.” Wong was joined by Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Birmingham for the second bipartisan Pacific visit to “demonstrate Australia’s deep and enduring connection with Tuvalu.” While there, Wong and Birmingham will meet with Prime Minister Feleti Teo OBE and his Cabinet to take forward a shared vision for the Falepili Union.”

In a join media release with President of the Republic of Palau H.E Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. on 6 May, Wong announced a partnership between Australian and Palau to expand connectivity with a new non-stop flight service between Brisbane, Australia and Koror, Palau. “The Palau Paradise Express, operated by Nauru Airlines, will be a direct flight between Australia and Palau and will help create new opportunities for regional tourism and trade.” The first Palau Paradise Express flight departs in May, with Australian, Pacific, and Asian airlines to be invited to participate in a limited tender to operate the route through October 2025. Meanwhile, this year, “Australia and Palau celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, building on decades of cooperation in the Blue Pacific.”

On 7 May, the Australian Government, via the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO), hosted an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) workshop on nuclear security and how it contributes to peaceful uses of nuclear and radiological technology in Melbourne. Together, “40 participants, from 20 countries worked on collectively understanding and improving nuclear security in the Indo-Pacific. The workshop was guided by the nuclear security needs of Indo-Pacific Island countries and to raise awareness of the Integrated Nuclear Security Sustainability Plan (INSSP) mechanism that the IAEA offers.”

Dr Adam Bartley is the managing editor for AIIA’s Australian Outlook and weekly columnist for The Week in Australian Foreign Affairs. He is a former Fulbright Scholar and resident fellow at the Elliot School for International Affairs, the George Washington University. Adam also has positions as post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation RMIT University  and as program manager of the AI Trilateral Experts Group. He can be found on Twitter here.

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