GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Pacific Intelligence Update

A simple explanation of this week’s military and political developments in the Pacific


Mid-year assessment – The next six months in the Pacific

The Pacific region’s military and security matters tend to be under-reported in mainstream media. Since the start of 2023, we have been monitoring and discussing military and security matters in the Pacific and in this update provide our picks for key areas or issues to stay ahead of in the region over the next six months.

Taiwan / North Korea

Both areas will continue to get plenty of media coverage, both the United States and China testing each other’s resolve and flexing their military muscle.  However, the overall chance of either Taiwan or Korea escalating into armed conflict is low.  This is because both areas are secured by strong national militaries, are highly visible to the international community and benefit from the deterrent provided by the United States and its allies meaning that escalation is highly unlikely. 

Conflict is more likely in other less well-governed and internationally visible parts of the Pacific.  

Australia’s development into an international military hub

Australia’s security policy is evolving rapidly, as it supports the United States to compete with China. The nation ‘pulling no punches’ in recent policy documents that clearly state its concerns about China. Australia is supporting American policy in the Pacific; and developing as a ‘launch pad’ for American and possibly other allied military’s force projection into the Pacific.  

Australia and the United States are investing heavily in the redevelopment of large training areas near Darwin (Mt Bundy, Kangaroo Flats and Bradshaw Field Training Area) ready for use in large exercises. Nearby Robertson Barracks is being improved to provide facilities for large troop deployments to Australia.  Further, the AUKUS submarine deal will involve development of nuclear submarine repair and maintenance bases in Perth and Sydney that will be available for American and United Kingdom submarines in any future conflict. 

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Already there are regular rotations of large numbers of United States service personnel to the north of Australia for training exercises that increase soldier’s familiarity with the area and with their Australian allies. Better infra-structure also allows for pre-positioning of weapons and equipment.  The infra-structure being developed in the north of Australia can also support deployments of troops from other nations; the United Kingdom and France already train regularly with Australian forces.  If NATO’s presence in the Pacific increases expect to see other nations training in Australia. 

It seems likely that this activity will increase over the next six-twelve months and it would not be surprising for more information about future planning in the area to trickle out. Further, if there is conflict nearby, expect to see Australia playing a crucial support role either providing safer base areas for conflict in Taiwan or Korea; or if there is conflict in Papua New Guinea or Solomon Islands this area will be a direct support base for any military intervention. 

Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea

This year has already seen lots of activity already in this part of the Pacific, and that is not going to change in the next six-twelve months.  In fact, this week Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles is in Honiara speaking to the Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare and we should expect much more of this activity as Australia and the United States both try to counter China’s influence in the nation. 

In December an election is scheduled in Solomon Islands, an election that was postponed late last year and will take place amid tension about Chinese influence in the nation. The election may be fraught with difficulty, Solomon Islands has a history of conflict.  Recently in 2021, New Zealand and Australia deployed troops and police to Solomon Islands to support the nation’s government after riots started over a decision to accede to a Chinese request to cease diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.  

This year Daniel Suidani, Malaita’s Premiere from the Malaita Provincial Assembly and an outspoken critic of Chinese involvement in the Solomon Islands was sacked from his position and remains an outspoken critic of the government, and its relationship with China.  

Solomon Island’s history of debate about Chinese influence, combined with an election and the nation’s recent volatile history makes the forthcoming election dangerous enough without the addition of Sino-American competition. Since 2022, China has a secret security agreement with the Solomon Islands and is increasingly supporting its police force. If there is trouble in Solomon Islands who will the nation turn to for support?  

Traditionally, it has been Australia, New Zealand and other nations of the Pacific but will this continue to be the case?  Perhaps, if there is trouble in December, it will be China’s police or soldiers asked to support the Solomon Islands government.   How will the United States and Australia respond? 

Papua New Guinea is part of the discussion because whatever transpires in Solomon Islands will affect this nation.  Already, it has signed a defence agreement with the United States and by virtue of its location it plays a key role in the security of northern Australia.  Its location is also significant because it provides a base for operations in or around Solomon Islands.

The poverty and weak governance of both nations mean that this area is relatively poorly understood and is seldom reported on outside of Melanesia factors that combine to mean a conflict may develop suddenly ‘under the radar’ that carries a risk of unwanted escalation.  

NATO activity in the Pacific

Last week we discussed NATO’s latest strategic planning that includes the Pacific; and about NATO plans to set up a liaison office in Japan.  

In the next six-twelve months expect NATO activity to continue to develop in the Pacific. The liaison office in Japan is a start and in future it seems likely that NATO activities will initially focus on the North Pacific, especially Taiwan.  Over time though it is likely that NATO’s influence will extend south becoming a support partner for America’s development of a network of Pacific alliances to isolate and deter China.  

NATO’s influence is unlikely to be military initially, but it is likely that it will soon start meeting with Pacific nations building relationships and providing technical support. That support may include a range of aid including governance support, surveillance and communications technology or cyber-security advice. The general trend being to build networks and strengthen relationships in the area and is something to watch for over the next six-twelve months.  

The developing power of small Pacific nations

Sino-American competition and NATO’s interest in the Pacific is an interesting conundrum for the smaller nations of the Pacific.  Many small nations in the Pacific are keen to stay out of Sino-American competition preferring to focus on issues like climate change and economic development. Increasingly though Pacific nations will come under pressure to align themselves, however over the next six -twelve months watch for smaller nations becoming more demanding.

Last week, we reported on Papua New Guinea’s negotiations with Australia about defence and trade agreements.  Instead of signing the defence agreement, as expected, Papua New Guinea is negotiating and their Trade Minister, Richard Maru commented on the unfairness of the trade relationship between the nations. Perhaps, this represents a new confidence and willingness to negotiate strongly for a better deal.  

It seems that Sino-American competition provides an opportunity for smaller Pacific nations to negotiate powerfully with larger nations and try to get more support for local concerns like mitigating the effects of climate change, developing stronger government institutions or better access to trade.  

China and the United States both want bases in the area and achieving this requires support from the smaller nations of the Pacific. Likewise, groups like the Pacific Islands Forum may start to become more important internationally as they are courted by China, the United States and now NATO keen to build relationships in the region. There is an argument that this dynamic will empower these nations and creates opportunities to negotiate more favourable conditions for their relationships with larger nations. So, expect that over the next six-twelve months there will be a growing realisation that the smaller nations of the Pacific now have power because of the geo-political situation.  


Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer and TDBs military blogger 


  1. In the allegorical novel ‘1984’ by George Orwell, the official title of the British Isles was ‘Airstrip One’.

    In the novel, ‘Airstrip One’ was the forward base of the Western Alliance known as Oceania which was in permanent conflict with and arrayed against the rival fictional powers of Eastasia and Eurasia.

    By demoting the British Isles to a military outpost of the Western imperialist ‘Oceania’, Orwell was making a dark satirical point, warning us about the superpower imperialist rivalry he witnessed developing in his lifetime following the Second World War, and extrapolating that imperialist global rivalry into the future.

    If George Orwell were alive today he would have written Australia into his novel as ‘Airstrip Two’.

    Orwell would have depicted Australia as Airstrip Two, Ben Morgan depicts Australia as a ‘Launch Pad’.

    “Australia is supporting American policy in the Pacific; and developing as a ‘launch pad’ for American and possibly other allied military’s force projection into the Pacific.” BEN MORGAN

    Ben Morgan’s apt depiction of Australia as the ‘Launch Pad’ of the Western Alliance and NATO in the Southern hemisphere is not that far from Orwell’s depiction of the British Iles as the Airstrip of the Western Alliance of Oceania in the Northern hemisphere.

    Personally speaking I would be deeply ashamed to have my country turned into a Launch Pad or an Airstrip Two.

    • “Personally speaking I would be deeply ashamed to have my country turned into a Launch Pad or an Airstrip Two.”
      Hilarious, that you say this while endorsing the Zelensky coup regime’s attempts to turn Ukraine into a launch platform for NATO (the American empire)’s nuclear weapons.

    • Australia – Launch Pad 1.

      Come to think of it. When Orwell was writing, air power was the predominate way that imperialist nations enforced their will against their imperialist colonies and deterred, or fought, their imperialist rivals, Previous to that naval, so called ‘gunboat diplomacy’ was the way imperialist powers projected their dominance.
      The technology of imperialist power projection has moved on, and missiles are now the predominant way that imperialist nations project their power.

      In today’s world, Ben Morgan’s “Launch Pad”, better describes Australia’s subjugation to the Western Alliance, than the Orwellian Airstrip 1, that Orwell in his dystopian novel described a future England subjugated to the Western Alliance of ‘Oceania’.

      Airstrip One, for instance, had not been so called in those days: it had been called England or Britain, though London, he felt fairly certain, had always been called London. WINSTON SMITH

  2. Take a look at that Map at the Top of this Article? This sums up who the real aggressor is here? The US is attempting a strategy to try & contain China by surrounding it with Bases which are forward staging areas to choke off China’s Sealanes! The US can’t compete with China so try to contain its rise, but this is a losing Strategy!

    • The aggressor is the one who launches the first attack.

      Despite being encircled by the French Anglo Alliance, Despite England and France declaring war on Germany first, and not the other way round, history still rightly records Germany as the aggressor in WWII.

      History records, that it is often, what Lenin called the “Have not” imperialist powers, (they don’t have an empire, but they want one), that strike first.

      In Ukraine the aggressor is Russia.

      Diplomacy, trade, political, militarily, in this region the US and China imperialists are competing in every sphere.

      Capitalist growth economies must expand or go into recession.

      Today, though both sides are itching for a fight. In the Pacific the aggressor is still to be determined.

      The big mistake for the Left and the one that was made in Germany in 1914 and again in 1939 was that the Left in Germany gave their support to one side against the other

        • Mohammed – If you live anywhere other than the Islamic World (i.e. New Zealand) and you despise the ‘Anglosphere’ so rabidly why do you choose to live here?

      • @Pat
        “The aggressor is the one who launches the first attack.” and “In Ukraine the aggressor is Russia.”

        Sticking with your logic that depends on when you think the war started. As a matter of record, after 2014 the Ukraine government agreed to respect the rights of ethnic Russians in the east. They did not and the subsequent conflict and saw well over 10,000 deaths overwhelmingly among local ethnic Russians.

        I’m not pro-Russia or pro NATO but a case can be made for seeing the Russian invasion as an escalation of the pre-existing conflict in which both Russia and the US were actively taking sides in as competing imperial powers.

        • @Tui

          Virtually everything you say is pure bullshit, except for the part where you say the war in Ukraine began in 2014.

          The war in Ukraine began in 2014 when official Russian government state forces seized Crimea, and unofficial Russian proxy forces invaded Eastern Ukraine and attempted to seize that territory, (with little success after eight years of fighting).


          Mercenary groups fully funded by the Russian Government, (for instance the Wagner Group) were specifically set up by the Russian Federation to give deniability to imperialist land grab resource theft and colonial takeover. And not just in Ukraine starting in 2014, but around the globe before and afterwards.

          The trouble with this way of conducting imperialism was that eventually one of these proxy military outfits became too big for its boots and thought they could take on their pay master. Before quickly realising their mistake and beating a hasty retreat.

          The ones persecuting the citizens of the Donbas since 2014 are the Russian imperialist invaders and their proxy mercenary forces.

          Disappearances of civilian activists and leaders were a feature of the pro-Putin Yanukovych regime. Since 2014, the policy of disappearing civil society activists and leaders carried out during Russia’s “Dirty War” in the Donbas by the Russian backed separatists and mercenary forces, and since February 24, 2022 by the Russian state forces directly.

          June 26, 2014

          Amid the ‘Dirty War’ in Ukraine, Hundreds Have Disappeared – and a Few Volunteers Search for Them
          By Irena Chalupa


          Kateryna Serhatskova, a 26-year-old Russian reporter for the Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda, is becoming one of the main documenters of the “dirty war” for control of the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine…..

          ….In the town of Horlivka, 26 miles northeast of Donetsk, rebels hold about 100 local residents, according to Viktor Maystrenko, a Russian journalist who has done research for the Open Dialog Foundation, a Warsaw-based pro-democracy and human rights group. Maystrenko is one of the volunteers working to free rebel-held captives and recently obtained the release of three of them. Horlivka has been a center of violence and intimidation, including the rebels’ abduction, killing and mutilation in April of Volodymyr Rybak, a city council member who had tried to remove the rebels’ flag from the city offices and replace it with the Ukrainian national flag.
          Abductions and disappearances have been used by the forces and allies of the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, almost since the beginning of the mass protests last fall that led to his ouster in February. At one point, more than 660 people went missing amid the Kyiv protests,…..

          I think it is notable that the reporter detailing these atrocities is Russian,

          I challenge you Tui to produce even one detailed account with the names and faces of the people and places in the Donbas where civilians were persecuted by the Ukraine authorities.

          You won’t because you can’t. It’s total bullshit, You’re just parroting pro-war Kremlin propaganda and lies.
          One of the perpetrators of these atrocities, is the Mercenary leader, Yegeny Prigozhin, who has just admitted this fact .

  3. Ben you claim that “China and the United States both want bases in the area and achieving this requires support from the smaller nations of the Pacific.” ironically you have a picture of US bases in the pacific surrounding China. What you should be saying is that the US wants more bases in the pacific.

    NATO is not a defensive military alliance, its history has proven that its primary goal is to destabilize region like the M.E, Africa, and europe. Why would any clear sober articulate minded persons believe that NATO intervention in our region would be good for the pacific??

    This narrative that China is the big bad boogeyman has no merit in historic and contemporary facts. However our colonial ally the US and its NATO partners have historic and contemporary baggages that should warrant our concern for our region.

  4. What the…“North Atlantic Treaty Organisation” moves into the Pacific! Well why not, they went to Lybia…in defence of the Yanks and their oil needs.
    another disgusting display of warmongering and slaughter–7000 bombing missions on Gadaffi forces NATO claimed. Libya actually allowed non secularism, women to be educated, an extensive welfare state–but now it is a theocracy of waring factions with women back in their ‘place’.

    So many US Imperialist/Anglophile alliances and paper tigers happening in Asia/Pacific at the moment.

    Ben’s CIA/NSA Weekly News hints that he should try stand up comedy.

  5. “Mao Zedong did not proclaim that “China will now lead the world,” “China first,” “the world needs Chinese leadership,” or any other similar assertion of China’s superiority to other countries—and therefore of the inferiority of others. It was a statement that in every sense—national, cultural, social, moral, economic, and any other—China would never accept to be regarded as less than an equal by any other country. But it was not an assertion of China’s superiority, and therefore others’ inferiority, unlike declarations made every single day by United States leaders.” …….

    ….. “China’s Universal Human Achievements

    To start with the decisive facts of international significance: China has lifted more than 850 million people out of internationally defined poverty. This is more than twice the population of the United States, more than the population of the European Union, more than the entire population of the continent of Latin America. When this was accomplished, it was over 70 percent of those lifted from such poverty globally. This is by far the greatest contribution made to real human rights by any country.

    Turning from the poorest to the average for its people, China has achieved by far the most rapid increase in living standards of the greatest number of people in human history. To grasp the scale of this, in 1949 China was almost the world’s poorest country—only ten states had a lower per capita GDP. Next year or the following one, China will achieve “high income” status by international classification. The effect of this for China’s people’s lives is not only a question of their immediate living standards but of all the advantages it means in terms of education, health, culture, travel, ability for social interaction, real ability to make choices in life, and innumerable other aspects of human well-being.

    To grasp the scale of what this means for humanity as a whole, the existing population of high-income economies is only 16 percent of the world. China by itself is 18 percent. In short, the People’s Republic of China will have lifted more people to the advantages of high-income level than all other countries in human history put together.”

    “China expressed no desire or path to arrogantly impose its model on others. China certainly understands that it is different from other countries—indeed, it knows and openly states that every country is different from every other and that they are equal. Thus, equal, different, cooperating—not leader, led, superior, inferior—are the essential concepts expressed by China, in stark opposition to the arrogance of the United States.”

    “in just over seventy years, a single lifetime, China has gone from being almost the world’s poorest country to one that has achieved the advantages of high-income standards for its people. ” …. “Such an achievement is of the type that every developing country, which includes more than 80 percent of the world’s population, aspires to achieve. And if they did make such similar achievements, a gigantic step forward would be taken for all of humanity.”

    “All this was achieved by a socialist country. It shows that in the real world, socialism is not some “pie in the sky” idea for the future, but the most successful solution to today’s problems.”

    “the single most urgent and greatest threat to the world is the consequences of the reality that governments and media in the Global North refuse to admit and to face up to the facts. By doing so, they are in denial of reality. This, in its geopolitical consequences, literally threatens humanity with catastrophe. Most specifically, the threat of a world war whose nuclear consequences would dwarf every other conflict in human history combined.”

    “This threat of a war from the United States against China, which has every chance of becoming nuclear and is openly discussed by circles within it, is made much more possible by the systematic refusal of the United States to acknowledge or face the facts. ”

    ” The U.S. media and government are devoting enormous resources to falsification and attempts to conceal reality. “

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