Simon Draper's October 2019 update

Kia ora koutou. Since last month's update I've spent a fair bit of time on the road - first up was our annual ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand (AANZ) dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, organised with partners AsiaLink and Malaysia ISIS, followed by a dialogue with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
Prof. Han Sung Joo addressing an audience

Simon Draper: Prof. Han...spoke softly and rarely, but when he did it was a masterclass in foreign policy.

The 11th AANZ dialogue gathered more than 50 commentators, academics and other Track II participants from across the region to exchange perspectives on security, defence, political, trade and environmental issues.

Our only pan-ASEAN dialogue was held under a heavy haze, both literally and metaphorically – fires from Indonesia blocking out the sky in Kuala Lumpur serving as an allegory for the strategic haze our fellow international-relations thinkers must peer into during these uncertain times.

Though anticipating where things are headed is challenging, it is apparent some of the ways of thinking and acting that have marked the past few decades need updating as US-China relationship ebbs and flows in ways we have not seen in our region for some time.

After Kuala Lumpur it was on to Seoul for a dialogue with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Our conversations in Seoul revolved around the situation on the Korean Peninsula, navigating great power politics, and the state of regional relations.

A personal highlight for me was spending time with the chairman of the ASAN Foundation Prof. Han Sung Joo – a hero of mine from my time as a Second Secretary at the New Zealand Embassy in the early 1990s when Prof. Han was the Foreign Minister. Over two dinners and a day of talks, Prof. Han, who is also an Asia New Zealand Foundation Honorary Advisor, spoke softly and rarely, but when he did it was a masterclass in foreign policy.

In both KL and Seoul, I was well supported by a strong New Zealand delegation and received great support from the New Zealand embassies. I was also able to spend some time with our fantastic new advisors Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and Jo Min Kim.

I flew back to New Zealand and straight to a panel at the Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA) meeting in Nelson at the invitation of FOMA chair and Asia New Zealand Foundation Honorary Advisor Traci Houpapa. It was a wonderful event, showcasing the strength of Māori business in New Zealand. I was able to outline some of the key findings of our Te Ao Māori research, much of which came as little surprise to those gathered.

With the Rugby World Cup now in full swing, Japan has been on New Zealand TV screens and in the media more in the last month than just about any time in living memory. The Foundation’s report of the bilateral relationship attracted some attention as the Prime Minister flew off for her bilateral with Prime Minister Abe. If you’re interested in Japan-New Zealand relations and haven’t done so already, I encourage you to take a look at the report. You can find it here.

Bhangra dancers on stage dressed in brightly-coloured traditional dress

Bhangra dancers are a perennial favorite at Diwali and never fail to get the crowd going

After a month of travel, it was great to be back in my hometown of Auckland this weekend just been to help open this year’s Diwali festival, alongside the mayor, the PM and other dignitaries. This is the 18th year the festival of lights has been held in Auckland, bringing some 200 performing groups from throughout the region to mark India’s biggest festival. It really is an outstanding celebration of Indian culture and an amazing way for New Zealanders to gain insight into this fascinating part of the world.

I look forward to seeing a number of you at our 25 to Watch event in Parliament on 17 October where we shine a light on some of the outstanding young people who are leading the way to foster connections between New Zealand and Asia.

Noho ora mai,

Simon Draper