New Zealand has 1504 of them, Indonesia has 3059, East Timor has 390 and poor Papua New Guinea has only 66. The leaked cables from the US State Department paint a picture of a region where the US diplomatic missions in Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia provide a constant stream of information back to the Pentagon, New Zealand punches above its weight and Papua New Guinea is all but ignored.
But while the so-called “cablegate” release has so far provided a tantalising sketch of US interests in our region, it now appears part of a deliberate strategy by WikiLeaks to hold back the actual content of cables related to Asia and the Pacific.
The reason for this delay was published in the last hour on one of their websites, with WikiLeaks announcing that the “embassy cables will be released in stages over the next few months. The subject matter of these cables is of such importance, and the geographical spread so broad, that to do otherwise would not do this material justice”.
In practical terms this means an initial focus on Western Europe and US, with Asia and Australia secondary concerns. To give some perspective, only the first 219 cables out of nearly 300,000 have been released in full.
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Governments that will be sweating for the next few days or weeks are Malaysia, with 996 secret cables from Kuala Lumpur waiting to be released, Singapore with 704 sensitive documents and troublesome Fiji with 393. And of course, Australia, which styles itself a “middle power” and has fingers in every pie from Antarctica to Iraq.
In a case of “if WikiLeaks has 300 US cables on your country, you have a problem, but if WikiLeaks has 3000 US cables on your country, the US has a problem”, the US government will be sweating on what is about to be revealed from Jakarta (3059 cables) and Taiwan (3456 cables).
In the race for worldwide notoriety, the country in our region most entitled to gloat is New Zealand, with a strangely high 1504 cables, more than produced by Australia. Whether this is due to lax encryption, an overzealous civil servant or Wellington’s role in myriad micro-nations in the Pacific only time will tell.