Beyond the Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM): China’s Next Generation Long Range Precision Strike Systems

Posted on Thursday, December 30, 2010 by Ian Easton


By Mark Stokes

Recent comments by Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander Admiral Robert Willard regarding China’s anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) program have attracted considerable media attention. As the world focuses on what indeed is an interesting new capability, China’s space and missile industry is offering hints of programs beyond a basic ASBM.

The Chinese Society of Astronautics recently honored three senior aerospace system designers for significant contributions to national defense. One of China’s most accomplished senior conventional ballistic missile designers is a gifted, relatively young, gentle mother of one – Zhu Xuejun [祝学军]. Born in December 1962, Ms. Zhu graduated from the National University of Defense Technology’s Automated Control Department in 1987 and earned a graduate degree from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation's (CASC) China Academy of Launch Technology (CALT, or First Academy) in missile systems design.

Ms. Zhu’s record of accomplishments is impressive and revealing of the types of advances that China is making in long range precision strike systems. Assigned to the CASC First Academy’s First Design Department, she was an original member of the design team for China’s first generation of conventional short range ballistic missiles, specifically the DF-15 (NATO: CSS-6). After technology management training in the United States in 1996, Ms. Zhu was assigned as senior designer for follow-on variants in 1999, most likely the DF-15A and DF-15B, which was showcased in the 2009 National Day parade. She also appears to be overseeing the development of the next generation variant, the DF-15C.

The CASC First Academy’s DF-15 SRBM has long been the centerpiece of China’s coercive military strategy directed against Taiwan. With a decision made in 1988 to deploy ballistic missiles in a conventional role, the build-up began with establishment of a seed training group on August 1, 1991 that consisted of 11 junior and field grade officers under the leadership of then-Lieutenant Colonel Gao Jin [高津]. Working closely with the CASC First Academy design team and assembly factory personnel in Beijing, the group formed the core of China’s first SRBM brigade, the 96165 Unit based in Leping, Jiangxi Province. Most original DF-15 seed unit officers are emerging as the next generation of Second Artillery leadership. Major General Gao Jin now commands Southeast China’s 52 Base, the Second Artillery’s most powerful missile army. Senior Colonel Zhou Xiaolin [周晓林] was appointed as the fourth commander of the Leping brigade in 2010. He was formerly the brigade’s senior engineer, and an initial cadre involved in the establishment of the conventional missile force.

Looking toward the future, Ms. Zhu is at the cutting edge of some of the world’s most sophisticated long range precision strike systems. As lead engineer of a newly established CASC First Academy conventional weapon system business division [战术武器事业部], she serves as chief designer for CASC First Academy’s first conventional two-stage solid-fueled conventional ballistic missile. CASC First Academy’s two-staged conventional ballistic missile recently completed conceptual design flight tests. Existing SRBMs, such as the CASC’s DF-15 and CASIC 066 Base’s DF-11A, have a single solid rocket motor. A CASC First Academy missile system with two solid motors would be indicative of a competition with the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation's (CASIC) Fourth Academy’s 1700-kilometer range DF-21C medium range ballistic missile (MRBM). Appearing to be near completion of the research and development phase, the DF-21D ASBM likely is a variant of the DF-21C modified to engage moving targets at sea, such as aircraft carriers.

The China Astronautics Society also cites Ms. Zhu as serving as technical director for a maneuverable conventional missile system that remains in the atmosphere the entire range of its flight. As a type of hypersonic cruise vehicle, a system on a depressed ballistic trajectory with a maneuverable post-boost vehicle likely would complicate detection and engagement by sea-based missile defense interceptors, such as the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3).

As a final note, the September 2010 China Astronautics Society article also highlights the accomplishments of Fan Shiwei [樊士伟], a leading figure in the top level design and development of China’s space-based sensor architecture. As Director of the PLA General Armaments Department (GAD) Aerospace Bureau General Design Research Center [总装备部航天装备局研发中心], Fan likely has played a leading role in the design and operational requirements development process for the space-based surveillance system that would support an ASBM.

Image 1: DF-15B During 60th Anniversary PLA Parade
Source: Air Power Australia, Special Thanks to Sean O'Conner and Dr. Carlo Kopp

Image 2: Zhu Xuejia
Source: China Space News

Under the Radar News 12.23.10

Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2010 by Ian Easton

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

• India and Russia pledged 30 billion dollars to co-develop a 5th generation stealth fighter during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s state visit to India. The visit also produced an ambitious oil and gas deal, but failed to seal a commercial pact for nuclear reactors.

• Pakistan test fired a medium range ballistic missile, the Ghauri Hatf 5, capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warhead up to 1,300km. The missile is named after Afghan Muslim conquerors.

• Taiwan’s state-run National Nano-Device Laboratories scientists announced a breakthrough in advanced microchip technology, producing a 9 nanometer circuit. A chip using the new memory technology would have 20 times the storage capacity of chips currently on the market, and use 200 times less electricity to run.

• The U.S. expressed serious concern that China and Taiwan have yet to submit the ECFA bi-lateral trade deal inked in June to international observers. WTO regulations require members to report such agreements before they can take effect.

• It was revealed that New Zealand defense officials have been warning the U.S. that China’s military is fueling instability in the South Pacific. Likewise, New Zealand diplomats warned that China is on “rapacious quest” for natural resources, undermining good governance in the region.

South Korea-China relations at “an all-time low” this week due to the combination of Beijing’s continued support for North Korea and an incident in the Yellow Sea in which an illegal Chinese fishing boat rammed a South Korean coast guard vessel and sunk. Beijing demanded Seoul pay for the damage and punish the coast guard officers.

• Japan Airlines (JAL) unveiled a bamboo wheelchair that doesn’t set off metal detectors, saving passengers time and intrusive security checks.

• In a controversial move, Philippine President Aquino granted amnesty to 400 mutinous soldiers that staged three coup attempts against former president Gloria in 2003, 2006 and 2007, respectively.

• Eight Chinese suspects are given short prison sentences for selling over 530 fake rabies vaccines in China leading to the death of a ten year-old boy.

• China opened an ambitious high-speed rail line between the Three Gorges Dam in Yichang, and mega city Chongqing, marking the country’s most expensive rail project per kilometer to date. As part of the project some 50,000 workers dug 159 tunnels and built 253 bridges.

• Reporters Without Borders, a rights group, called for Beijing to investigate the near lethal beating of an investigative journalist, now brain-dead, who was doing research for a politically charged story in Xinjiang. The official Xinhua news agency sought to place the blame for the beating on the journalist.

• In a surprise move, North Korea threatened South Korea with a nuclear "sacred war" just days after making conciliatory gestures, suggesting that tensions on the Korean Peninsula are far from over. This is due, in no small part, to the ongoing leadership transition underway in Pyongyang.

Dark Futures: Thinking About North Korea's Coming Leadership Transition

Posted on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 by Ian Easton

The past year has witnessed a remarkable and troubling series of events that indicate Northeast Asia may be entering into a period of profound instability driven by North Korea’s precarious leadership transition. Pyongyang’s unprovoked sinking of a South Korean naval ship and its deadly artillery attack on a small coastal island, have escalated speculation on what these dramatic events portend for the future. Recent events seem to have quashed optimism of North Korean belligerence receding as Kim Jong-un’s ascension to power is consolidated. Moreover, there still remains a combination of factors that could shape a spectrum of political outcomes after Kim Jong-il’s death. Ultimately, the unification of Korea now appears more likely than ever to come at a far higher cost than generally thought – if it comes about at all – and the road there is paved with risks and unknowns.

Underpinning the instability is the reality that North Korea is not ready for the inevitable leadership transition ahead. Whereas Kim Jong-il benefited from many years of cultivation prior to his ascension to power in 1994, it appears likely that his youngest son could be faced with a transition lacking the benefits of time and training. This is why North Korea has been indulging in political grandstanding at the same time it cracks down internally, executing defectors and officials tied to unpopular policies.

For Kim Jong-un to have any hope of consolidating national power before he exercises it, he needs at the very least the tacit backing of the Chinese leadership and the North Korean military. Despite Kim Jong-Il’s best attempts, Beijing and the hardliners in charge of the North Korean military may have other ideas about who the future dictator-in-chief should be. A concerned China has engaged in an unprecedented amount of high-level diplomatic activity with Pyongyang. At the very least, would-be kingmakers in Beijing and Pyongyang can be expected to hedge their bets—often the case when one is gambling on their very survival. There are also indications that the key personalities in North Korea have deeply antagonistic relationships with each other and the political schisms are cemented by rivalries between powerful institutions raw from economic reform failure.

Listed below are five possible scenarios for what might happen when Kim Jong-Il passes away. Key metrics to watch include: the time and manner of Kim Jong-Il’s death, which individual or group discovers the body, and how long that knowledge can be exploited before the news leaks out. While different leadership scenarios could spell varied political and security outcomes for the country, the entrenched authoritarian political culture and leadership system hamstring prospects of governance reform and the likelihood of stability if Kim Jong-un’s succession is seriously challenged. The extreme militarization of North Korean society, growing power factions, and a crushing economic outlook are all likely to contribute to the generally pessimistic “dark futures” ahead.

Five Possible Futures

• Dynastic Rule: Given enough time, political cunning, and luck, Kim Jong-un could successfully succeed his father and rule under the protection of family allies, such as Kim Jong-il’s four-star general sister, Kim Kyong-hui, and her powerful husband, Jang Song-taek. North Korea would continue to remain fragile and militaristic for a time, but given enough pressure from Beijing, could eventually adopt Chinese-style economic reforms and begin a process of economic stabilization. However, greater engagement with South Korea and the U.S. would be limited unless concrete moves were made to denuclearize the peninsula, something not considered likely under this scenario.

• Family Feud: The reports of a failed assassination attempt on Kim’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, including rumors of a shootout between Kim Jong-chol and his uncle Kim Hyon-nam at one of the family palaces, highlight the antipathy that exists between members of the Kim family. While the middle son, Kim Jong-chol is considered too soft for leadership, it is possible that a conflict could erupt between him and his younger brother, with unexpected power shifts and/or an outright collapse of central leadership. This could result in a military takeover, a power vacuum, or a meltdown-type scenario.

• Military Takeover: In the event that Kim Jong-Il dies suddenly, catching the inexperienced younger Kim and family allies off-balance, opportunistic hardliner generals could stage a coup and push North Korea into an even more militarized state. The threat of war on the Korean peninsula would increase dramatically due to the highly paranoid worldview of the military establishment, and the likelihood that purges they would inevitably undertake to consolidate power would eliminate more cautious voices of reason in the party and elsewhere.

• Power Vacuum: There could be a highly perilous dissolution of centralized power resulting from a power struggle in Pyongyang between members of the Kim family, the party, and the security services, with regional military commanders and/or the Chinese military stepping in to fill the security void. It is possible that Beijing would attempt to install Kim Jong-nam as the titular leader of North Korea, but his lack of legitimacy, motivation, and experience would likely make him ineffective. The fragility of a power vacuum in North Korea would make it prone to further fractionalization.

• Meltdown: An all-out civil war could ensue, in which proliferation risks from North Korea’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, along with the missiles used to deliver them, would become an international concern of the highest order. In the event of intervention from both China and the U.S., North Korea could become a flashpoint for great power conflict. At the very least, there is the potential that a North Korean failed state could become a proxy conflict, with rival factions backed by the U.S. and South Korea on one side and China on another. A diplomatic mechanism for avoiding such an eventuality does not exist.

While it is not currently known, nor knowable, how events will unfold when Kim Jong-Il dies, it would behoove U.S. policymakers to prepare for a range of unsavory contingencies. Policymakers have made assumptions about the theoretical benefits and challenges of a unified Korea, but it is unclear whether they have addressed the full range of dangers lurking along the road to unification. Current short-term focus on pressing political issues such as nuclear disarmament and the six-party talks inadvertently distracts much needed attention from the long term strategic picture.

It is one of the cruel ironies of history that totalitarian rulers, through their inherently oppressive leadership (i.e., systematically eliminating all viable opposition and wrapping themselves in a cult of personality), set the conditions for their countries to suffer from instability and civil strife long after they are gone. Recognizing that this reality will impact the future of North Korea just as it has countless authoritarian regimes throughout history may be the first step to preparing for the instability ahead.



Image: Satellite image of North and South Korea at night, delineated by border line
Source: The Australian

Under the Radar News 12.17.10

Posted on Friday, December 17, 2010 by Amy Chang

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Japan's Cabinet adopted a new defense buildup program which eyes more proactive policies and "dynamic defense capability," which is designed to increase readiness, mobility and flexibility of Japan’s Self Defense Force.

  • Opium poppy cultivation surged in Southeast Asia by 22 percent in 2010, with production value rising over $100 million from 2009 figures to $219 million. It is hypothesized that the growth in production transpired from the poverty and instability of the global economic crisis.

  • The Russian government has offered to build a nuclear power plant in Indonesia.

  • Laos and North Korea have signed a cooperation agreement to enhance relations between their ruling parties, including increasing exchange visits and areas of traditional cooperation.

  • China's western push strengthens Pakistan links, including the acceleration of rail-link construction and a pipeline connecting the two countries. The investments indicate China’s long-term intentions to strengthen economic links in the region.

  • As part of a US$1.2 billion deal, Lockheed Martin has delivered the first of six C-130J Super Hercules airlifters for the Indian Air Force.

  • China, the world’s second-largest consumer of oil, is poised to buy more Saudi oil than the United States. While Saudi Arabia has also recently bought more Chinese goods (such as food, textiles, and hardware) than American ones, the U.S. remains its main supplier of military arms and technology.

  • China proposed investing $8 billion to set up a development bank with other member nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Though details are vague, the bank would fund energy exploration and infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines.

  • Thailand and Cambodia have revoked the need for entry visas between the two countries as a "gift" for their citizens to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

  • South Korean officials brushed off as "unrealistic" Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's remarks on a possible dispatch of his country's Self-Defense Forces to the Korean Peninsula in case of contingencies.

  • While some Pakistanis displaced by the devastating floods that hit their country are able to return to their homes, the United Nations and its partners warned today that humanitarian needs (food aid, shelter materials, and medical aid) remain enormous amid dwindling resources.

  • The Defense Consultative Talks between the U.S. and China restarted the bilateral military-to-military relationship. The two sides also discussed maritime safety and security concerns in Africa, North Korea, and Iran.

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    After the Flood: Pakistan Domestic Security and Implications for Sino-Pakistan Relations

    Posted on Friday, December 10, 2010 by Amy Chang

    Recovering from its worst flood in 80 years, Pakistan is facing—among a laundry list of woes—gas shortages, food and water scarcity, agricultural losses, infrastructural damage, and a significant population of displaced persons. The calamities left by the deluge exacerbate Pakistan’s fragile political-security environment, allowing regions and actors (such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban) beyond government control to thrive and expand, while security loopholes in Pakistan’s judicial and law enforcement system undermine effective responses.

    As international relief contributions pour into Islamabad, China has dispatched rescue teams and four military rescue helicopters and pledged donations totaling USD$250 million. While China’s support was positively received by both the Pakistani population and officials, underlying Beijing’s aid is concern for Pakistan’s steadily declining situation. The recent natural disaster complicates Pakistan’s security efforts in militant safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that lie close to the China-Pakistan border.

    China’s longstanding concern about the destabilizing effect of Pakistan’s militant insurgents on radical Muslims in Xinjiang has led to joint counterterrorism efforts. This July, the two countries completed their third joint military exercise, codenamed Sino-Pak Friendship 2010, which included counterterrorism drills to enhance interoperability.

    While China is ostensibly a close partner in counterterrorism, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari hints that China could do more to stabilize the country and help recover its losses, including expanding military cooperation and investment. One possibility is to enhance cross-military, police, and counterinsurgency training initiatives. China could also support capacity building and supervise the effective allocation of aid funding. It is uncertain to what extent Chinese are ensuring the distribution of funds to the organizations and people with greatest need. Going forward, both countries must address the rampant corruption and the lack of accountability in Pakistan’s security and government apparatuses to improve both the image and implementation of Chinese support for Pakistan.

    Prior to the floods, China has also invested heavily in infrastructure such as nuclear power projects, hydropower dams, gold and copper mines, telecommunications, highways and railways, and defense production. Continued Chinese investment is vital to easing economic burdens, restoring order, and preventing future environmental destruction. It is especially helpful in FATA, where efforts can undermine Taliban recruitment efforts and provide employment opportunities for local citizens. China also welcomes the opportunity to expand its strategic access in South Asia and the Persian Gulf through these incentives.

    In addition to robust military cooperation, China has dedicated resources providing humanitarian relief and infrastructure rebuilding efforts in Pakistan. While the relationship will face challenges, recent bilateral developments and the number of high-level bilateral visits this year—including President Zardari’s recent visit to China for the Asian Games and the planned visit of Premier Wen Jiabao to Pakistan this December—are compelling evidence to a durable Sino-Pakistan relationship for the foreseeable future.

    Photo: A baby cries as his mother joins the scramble for food aid packages on the outskirts of Muzaffargarh in Punjab.
    Source: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

    Under the Radar News 12.10.10

    Posted on by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • After decades of importing and reverse-engineering Russian arms, China can now produce many of its own advanced weapons—including high-tech fighter jets like the Su-27 (model for the Chinese J-11 fighter)—and is on the verge of building an aircraft carrier.

  • The Philippines is due to ink a significant military hardware deal with China.

  • Upon constructing a lighthouse in a disputed area of the South China Sea, China maintains that it has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands.

  • Chinese steel giant Sinosteel Corporation and Australia's Rio Tinto signed an agreement to extend cooperation at the Australian Channar iron ore mine.

  • Taiwan is preparing for the mass production of the Hsiung Feng 2E (HF-2E) land attack cruise missile (LACM) and the Hsiung Feng 3 (HF-3) anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM).

  • Laos, one of Asia's poorest countries, inaugurated a $1.3 billion hydroelectric dam. The dam is expected to bring in $2 billion over the next 25 years and significantly helps its economic growth. However, social and environmental problems remain outstanding.

  • Southeast Asian central banks consider an eventual currency convergence to strengthen economic cooperation between the neighboring nations.

  • In an effort to maintain strong bilateral naval exchanges, the Chinese guided-missile frigate Xiangfan made a port call to Vietnam after 10th Sino-Vietnamese joint patrol in the Beibu Gulf.

  • Iranian defector claims ongoing nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Iran, including North Korea technicians travelling to Iran.

  • After the implementation of a 70,000 yuan government subsidy, sales of Chinese electric vehicles have increased in select cities (Hefei, Shanghai, Changchun, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou).

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    Under the Radar News - 12.03.10

    Posted on Friday, December 3, 2010 by Tiffany Ma

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

    China and Pakistan agree to launch a new US$13 billion Five-Year Development Plan to further bolster economic cooperation between the two countries. Projects involve the development of infrastructure, energy, agriculture, fisheries, and communication.

    Suspicion over China’s allegiance on the inter-Korean conflict and its ambivalent attitude erodes South Korean trust in its largest business partner.

    The missile destroyer U.S.S. Mustin arrived in Cambodia on a goodwill visit, the naval crews of both countries will conduct community service projects.

    The U.S. seeks support for retaining the U.S.-operated Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan to support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan; Secretary of State Clinton also offered a fuel deal as an incentive.

    In an effort to streamline their armed forces, Taiwan's military will trim over one hundred generals by 2015.

    China considers a sale of advanced fighters, air defense systems, helicopters, tanks, and mobile artillery to Bangladesh.

    Japan will engage in a large-scale military exercise with the U.S. amidst rising tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands. Ships from the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. George Washington will take part in the exercise.

    A Senior PRC official argues in favor of protecting the intellectual property rights of Chinese copycat manufacturers.

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved a list of essential counterinsurgency skills to be incorporated into training for troops headed to Afghanistan.

    The son of jailed former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian wins a local city council election despite charges of family corruption and scandal.

    Economic Implications of China’s 5th Generation Leadership

    Posted on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 by Joey Liu

    With Vice President Xi Jinping’s recent appointment as Vice-Chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, Hu Jintao’s successor is all but set. Xi now holds all three apprenticeship positions – member of the Politburo Standing Committee, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, and Vice-Chairman of the CMC - necessary for the transition to China’s paramount leader. As Hu’s protégé, and apparently favored successor, Li Keqiang is lined up to succeed Wen Jiabao as Premier, the fifth-generation is poised to take the reins of political leadership.

    While the carefully orchestrated transition process leaves little doubt over the desire for political continuity and harmony, factional differences – between the ‘princelings’ and tuanpai - within the CCP could come to the fore in Xi and Li’s approaches to economic management.

    Xi Jinping is considered a member of the ‘princeling’ faction, so-named because its members have ties to some of China’s most politically powerful families (Xi is the son of a former Politburo member). This elitist group is perceived to represent the interests of entrepreneurs and the middle class, and the needs of coastal business communities. Xi was credited with promoting pro-market reforms and attracting Taiwanese investment into the private sector during his tenure in Fujian province. Unsurprisingly, his priorities include increasing economic efficiency, maintaining GDP growth, and deepening China’s integration into the world economy.

    Li Keqiang, on the other hand, is a tuanpai, named after the Chinese Communist Youth League through which its members advanced their careers. These populist leaders, usually of humble origins, are seen as more concerned with protecting the interests of the inland region and addressing the plight of vulnerable social groups. Like Hu, Li stresses the importance of building a “harmonious society” and is a staunch advocate of helping the unemployed, providing low-income housing, and accelerating healthcare reforms.

    How then will this princeling-tuanpai pair steer China’s economic development? How the two factions will affect such a transformation and at what pace could be part of the fifth generation’s growing pains.

    Nevertheless, the general consensus among China-scholars is that the new leaders will compromise and adopt a moderate socio-economic approach, incorporating Hu’s social-welfare economic policies with some of Jiang Zemin’s growth-centered policies. This policy orientation is illustrated in Xi’s recent speech at the 2nd World Investment Forum, where he appealed to Chinese enterprises to “go global” and encouraged more foreign investment in high-end manufacturing industries, as well as labor-intensive industries in the central and western regions of China. Furthermore, China’s new 12th Five-Year Plan aims for the twin goals of maintaining relatively fast economic growth and enhancing balanced regional development. Set for the 2011-2015 period, the plan will span the critical upcoming leadership transition and will likely serve as the guidelines for the fifth generation leadership, despite their factional differences.

    Photo: Xi Jinping (L) and Li Keqiang (R)
    Source: news.backchina.com

    Under the Radar News 11.24.10

    Posted on by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • South Korea deploys more artillery on the border island hit by North Korean shelling attack, and the U.S. will send U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier to South Korea for military exercises, signaling an increased American presence in the region to ensure stability.

  • As Vietnam’s inflation soars, its prime minister admitting to government failures, including the bankruptcy of the state-run shipping company Vinashin.

  • The U.S. seeks to expand security cooperation with Central Asian states, but challenges—human rights issues, foreign access to local markets, and terrorism—remain.

  • Russia considers selling its newest fighter jet, the SU-35, to China. The sale would signify another step in China’s broad and deep effort to modernize its military.

  • India is preparing two army divisions of more than 36,000 troops for deployment along a disputed northern border with China near Tibet. The divisions are to defend against a possible Chinese attack on India's state of Arunachal Pradesh.

  • China invests in Southeast Asian infrastructure, including high-speed rail lines with Thailand and Malaysia, development of roads, bridges, dams, and railway links in Cambodia, and projects in energy and architecture in Indonesia.

  • South Korean and Japanese defense chiefs to discuss military strategies and security cooperation.

  • Due to the lower cost of living, Taiwan’s standard of living has surpassed that of Japan’s.

  • Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab AB seals a US$320 million deal to deliver six more Gripen fighter jets to Thailand.

  • In addition to sending troops to Yonaguni in response to spats with the Chinese navy, Japan also considers expanding maritime presence at the islands of Miyako and Ishigaki.

  • China and Angola further strategic partnership with pledges of economic and trade cooperation as well as cultural and educational exchanges.

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    Under the Radar News 11.19.10

    Posted on Friday, November 19, 2010 by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visits countries in Africa to shore up Chinese resource deals and pledge continued investment in the contintent. During his visit, China and South Africa signed a series of trade agreements on resources and minerals.

  • Pakistan confirmed that it plans to arm its JF-17 fighter aircraft (jointly manufactured with China) with Chinese-made missile and radar systems. It will also evaluate several Chinese surface-to-air missile systems for acquisition

  • Analysts believe North Korea may be preparing to conduct for another nuclear test and to build a light-water nuclear reactor. These actions are speculated to grab international attention and provide pressure in negotiations.

  • China Steel, Taiwan's largest steel producer, plans to team up with China's Baosteel to invest in iron ore mines abroad.

  • Kashgar, a Chinese city close to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, will be turned into special economic zone, emulating the Shenzhen model for economic development.

  • China vowed to "positively explore" new ways for low-carbon development in order to effectively control greenhouse gas emission and contribute to the global sustainable development.

  • India, Russia, and China signed a trilateral statement on cooperation in the fields of energy, high-tech sectors, innovation and modernization, aerospace, cultural exchanges, and health care and medicine. It also emphasized the necessity to step up efforts aimed at tackling terrorism and prosecuting terrorists and their supporters.

  • Malaysia strengthens bilateral ties with India with multiple trade agreements. Malaysia will also facilitate entry of Indian entrepreneurs into Southeast Asia and act as India's gateway into ASEAN.

  • With an investment of US$1.2 billion, China begins damming the Yarlung Zangbo (Brahmaputra) river for a hydropower station with a total installed capacity of 51 megawatts and anticipated to be in operation by 2014.

  • India allocated over US$400 million to boost missile and avionics defense research in Hyderabad.

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    Under the Radar News 11.12.10

    Posted on Friday, November 12, 2010 by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • A U.N. report reveals that despite UN sanctions, North Korea has annually exported around US$100 million worth of conventional weapons and nuclear weapons technology to Burma, Iran and Syria.

  • Japan, in an effort to update its fighter jet fleet, eyes the F-35 stealth jet as the next addition to the Air Self-Defense Force.

  • The $4.1 billion Indo-U.S. defense deal for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircraft is set to expand even further, adding another 6 to the order. The deal is aimed, in part, to amplify Indian power projection in the region.

  • Tokyo will send around 100 soldiers to a remote Japanese island, Yonaguni, in the East China Sea amid growing anxiety over China's naval activities.

  • Myanmar state media reports that the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party has a substantial lead over opposition parties, winning over 80 percent of total seats.

  • President Ma vows to avoid an arms race with China and will seek a balance of military power across the Taiwan Strait through soft power and asymmetric military development.

  • South Korea may drop its demand that North Korea apologize for sinking the Cheonan warship if long-stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks can resume.

  • Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation will boost investment in cyber security to address the rising prominence of cyber attacks and establish a comprehensive program and responsibilities for mitigation.

  • A landmark meeting in Laos on cluster munitions has set targets to destroy stockpiles of the weapons, clean up areas contaminated with unexploded ordnance, and help victims of the bombs. Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are among the most countries most affected by unexploded bombs.

  • The role of U.S. and NATO troops in training Afghanistan’s police force is the key to a stable future in the country.

  • India and Malaysia are keen to commence collaborative defense projects and enhance cooperation in counterterrorism and maritime security through means such as information-sharing and bilateral Joint Working Groups.

  • Japan’s Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke agreed to diversify rare earth supply to avoid an overreliance on China’s exports.

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    China’s Secret Co-orbital Satellites: The Quiet Surge in Space

    Posted on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 by Ian Easton

    The emergence of space as a strategic frontier in the Asia-Pacific has raised concerns that China’s nascent space capabilities could be employed in future military operations. Beijing’s rapid progress in space has been marked by milestones such as manned space flights, anti-satellite (ASAT) missile tests, and a significant increase in its co-orbital satellite activities. The latter involves small satellites that orbit in constellations and is a crucial component of China’s dual-use satellite program and military modernization.

    The first (and perhaps most strategically significant) of the co-orbital satellite constellations to form this year was launched in March. Unlike previous electro-optical and radar imagery satellites deployed in the series, the Yaogan-9 launch positioned three satellites orbiting in a highly choreographed triangular formation, suggesting that China had deployed a dedicated Naval Ocean Surveillance Satellite system to bolster its burgeoning anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) program. Space-based surveillance and cueing capabilities represent an essential (and previously underdeveloped) element of the ASBM program.

    The next (and by far the most controversial) co-orbital development came in August, when China’s Shijian-12 (SJ-12) satellite conducted a series of sophisticated maneuvers to rendezvous with a suspected electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite, the Shijian-6F. The reported bumping of the SJ-12 and the SJ-6F satellites (and the continuing Chinese silence on the mission) fueled speculations that Beijing was engaged in yet another anti-satellite weapons test.

    More recently, the September launch of the three-satellite Yaogan-11 constellation and the October launch of the two-satellite Shi Jian-6 Group-04 constellation have expanded China’s co-orbital portfolio. According to reports, the Yaogan-11 is a radar imagery satellite, with all-weather, day/night capability, that can play a role in tracking carrier strike groups. Likewise, the Shi Jian-6 Group-04 satellites were reported to be intended for an electronic intelligence role, also perhaps as part of the China’s ASBM program.

    Despite the shroud of secrecy surrounding China’s military space missions, the personnel crossover in its satellite development program is a key indicator of intentions. It is known that elements of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation’s Fifth Academy (China Academy of Space Technology) and Eighth Academy (Shanghai Academy of Space Technology) took the lead in building all four satellite constellations. Furthermore, the director and chief designer of the Yaogan-9 satellites, Li Yandong [李延东], was deeply involved in the Shi Jian-06 Group-04 mission, and has experience with ocean monitoring satellite programs.

    Ultimately, it appears that these co-orbital programs, when viewed in the context of their underlying military missions, have worrisome security implications for both the space and the maritime segments of the global commons in the coming years.

    Image: Notional Chinese satellite rendezvous
    Source: Wired

    Under the Radar News 11.05.10

    Posted on Friday, November 5, 2010 by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Burma was hit by massive cyberattack ahead of the November 7 election, raising fears of a communications blackout. Experts hypothesize a range of motives, including government censorship, extortion, and political motivation.

  • Commerce Secretary Gary Locke confirms that the U.S. will lift high-tech nuclear sanctions against India, allowing the resumption of sales of sensitive equipment to India.

  • Taiwan arrests two Taiwanese men allegedly working for China, adding to the list of growing espionage cases in Taiwan and suggesting that China has infiltrated Taiwan’s Military Intelligence Bureau (MIB).

  • Taiwan has so far spent $97 million developing the “Wan Chien” or “Ten Thousand Sword” missile system that targets Chinese airfields, harbors, and missile and radar bases across the Strait.

  • Japan’s Defense Ministry plans on relaxing its self-imposed arms exports ban in an effort to reduce the cost of procuring state-of-the-art defense equipment and enhance Japan's contribution to international peace and humanitarian activities.

  • China and Vietnam officially launched the Dongxing Trade Zone on November 1, their largest trade zone yet. It is expected to generate over $2 billion RMB in investments.

  • Korea plans to build offshore wind farms capable of producing the same amount of electricity as two nuclear plants by 2019.

  • The joint Japan-U.S. Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) intercept flight test on October 29 was completed successfully.

  • Chinese engineers have designed a cross-straits bridge to Taiwan, and are waiting for official approval to start construction.

  • A U.S.-backed Pacific Free Trade Agreement at APEC summit in Japan on November 13 and 14 is considered a pathway to regional free-trade.

  • China seeks foreign input on key issues for next Five-Year Plan, including thoughts on encouraging domestic consumption and increasing the pace of urbanization.

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    Urban mining: recycling Japan’s rare earth metals

    Posted on Tuesday, November 2, 2010 by Tiffany Ma

    China’s recent de facto embargo on rare earth metals has prompted Japan to accelerate and expand efforts to reduce its dependence on China as its primary supplier. In addition to developing alternative technology and diversifying rare earth sources, the government and businesses are looking at recycling as a domestic measure to improve the country’s rare earths outlook.

    In 2009, Japan’s Ministry for Economy, Trade and Investment already emphasized recycling as one of the four key pillars for securing rare metals. Last month, the Japanese Cabinet allocated 100 billion yen (US$1.25 billion) in the supplementary budget for a rare earths strategy. Almost half the package, 42 billion yen, was earmarked for recycling initiatives; presumably as part of the broader effort to establish Japan as a global center for rare earth recycling.

    Significant reserves of rare earths currently reside in Japan’s ‘urban mines,’ or discarded consumer electronics. It has been estimated that these used electronics could yield up to 300,000 tons of rare earths, holding great potential to offset a considerable fraction of Japan’s imports, approximately 35,000 tons in 2008. Recycling can take advantage of Japan’s high electronics density, especially as components often outlive the actual appliance’s relatively short lifespan (cell phones are used for an average of 2.6 years in Japan). Disused cell phones, LCD television and computers contain valuable rare earths, such as neodymium, which are in high demand, especially for hybrid vehicles. For example, each Toyota Prius requires approximately 2.2 pounds of neodymium.

    To harness the potential of urban mines, manufacturers are seeking to reintegrate used products and their components into the production cycle. Japanese electronics giants, including Mitsubishi and Hitachi, are stepping up efforts to improve the viability of rare earth recycling. A more comprehensive recycling system can be incentivized by addressing concerns over private data that have slowed cell phone recycling rates in recent years. Technological advancements can also improve the recycling process, especially for separating rare earths, and increase recovery rates, which currently stand at 150g of rare earth metals per ton of material for a leading Japanese recycler.

    While China announced further cuts to its rare earth exports in 2011, recycling initiatives currently underway will likely lag behind the anticipated short term supply crunch. However, there are strong environmental and economic rationales for recycling rare metals in addition to long term strategic benefits. Recycling efforts can facilitate both processing of e-waste, thereby addressing a mounting environmental concern, and recovery of other significant metal reserves, including gold and tantalum, that are also languishing in Japan’s urban mines.

    Image: discarded cell phones are part of Japan's 'urban mines' of rare earth metals.
    Source: gizmodo.com.au

    Under the Radar News 10.29.10

    Posted on Friday, October 29, 2010 by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Amid tensions in the East China Sea, China boosts its maritime surveillance fleet and Japan considers increasing its submarine fleet to offset the expansion of Chinese naval presence. This comes as a Japanese Diet panel is presented a video of the recent boat collisions allegedly showing Chinese trawlers ramming into Japanese coast guard boats.

  • As part of an effort to secure its borders and increase surveillance capabilities, India seeks to acquire six to eight medium-range surveillance aircraft and high-altitude long endurance UAVs.

  • Japan announced a US$2 billion environment rescue package for developing countries in a bid to kickstart tense UN talks aimed at securing a pact on saving biodiversity.

  • Malaysia is expected to build the country’s first nuclear power plant by 2021 to alleviate growing energy demand and diversify energy sources.

  • Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen will not allow the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal to prosecute former low-ranking officers of the genocidal regime, citing concerns over endangering national peace. Critics accuse the Prime Minister of trying to prevent his political allies from being indicted.

  • India and Russia completed the Indra 2010 joint counterterrorist military exercises in the Himalayas. The two countries have conducted joint Indra exercises since 2003.

  • China aims to complete a manned space station by 2020; in addition to studying long-term manned space flights, the space station also aspires to boost Chinese national strength and prestige.

  • Sri Lanka eases several checkpoints around the nation’s capital, signaling an improved security atmosphere after defeating Tamil Tigers last May.

  • Chinese Academy of Social Sciences recently released a report on national competitiveness. CASS forecasts that China will rise to second place (from 27th place in 2010) in global ranking of national competitiveness by 2050.

  • Transparency International released its Corruptions Perceptions Index, which indicated nearly three quarters of the 178 countries surveyed scored below five, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). Corruption rankings in Asia run the gamut from very clean (e.g., Singapore, Japan) to highly corrupt (e.g., Central Asian countries, Vietnam).

  • Ministries within the Japanese government are split on whether joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership would result in economic gains or losses.

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    The Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Regional Powerhouse or Military Theatre?

    Posted on Friday, October 22, 2010 by Amy Chang

    According to official statements, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was officially founded to promote peaceful coexistence and dialogue between China, Russia, and Central Asian states. The SCO’s agenda has since broadened to encompass dimensions of military and economic cooperation. To date, the SCO has successfully executed coordinated cross-border military operations, and developed joint security policies. A recent 16-day anti-terror drill, codenamed “Peace Mission 2010,” was heralded as another advancement in security cooperation.



    The SCO is also an effective platform for regional cooperation in energy and infrastructure as Russia and Central Asian states, rich in energy resources, are eager to increase and diversify exports. In 2009, China, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan commenced construction on a 1,833-kilometer natural gas pipeline. These projects and many others serve as examples of future energy cooperation in the region.



    The vast military and diplomatic agenda often call the SCO’s purpose into question. Its activities to date also raise questions over the organization’s genuine commitment to stated core purposes such as fighting terrorism. The inflammatory invitation to Iranian President Ahmedinejad to participate at SCO meetings and calls for removal of U.S. forces fighting terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan from their Central Asian bases both signal disconnect from original aspirations.



    Problematically, aside from the claim by SCO leaders that the organization has no intention of becoming a military bloc to counterbalance to NATO, there lacks a defined vision of the SCO’s future trajectory; specifically, its role in Afghanistan, its membership expansion, and future conflicts of interest between member nations



    Theoretically, the SCO’s proximity to Afghanistan creates potential to provide positive multilateral engagement to promote stability. While the SCO has pledged to combat drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime, there have been few tangible results. The SCO’s efforts in Afghanistan exhibit an organization conflicted between stabilizing the region and overstretching its resources.



    While the SCO approved a procedure for admitting new member states in June, membership expansion is currently difficult to delineate. Observer state Iran applied for membership in 2008, but was denied on the basis of UN sanctions (which China and Russia voted for), other observers India, Mongolia and Pakistan have yet to follow suit. If an observer state applies and successfully attains membership, it raises questions over how the interests of South Asian and Middle Eastern states can be incorporated into concerns unique to the SCO.



    In particular, the impact of India and Pakistan membership would raise challenges. First, it is likely the two would not work consensually within the same organization, and may internally fracture member relations over the Kashmir issue. Second, India and Pakistan are both non-signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which undermines the SCO membership requirement. With Iran blocked from admission, Pakistan and India disqualified for membership, and Mongolia seemingly uninterested, the future of SCO expansion is ambiguous.



    The SCO’s burgeoning portfolio of concerns and responsibilities exhibits an obvious dissonance to its nebulous strategic role and vision. While it began with clear fundamental principles, the organization’s evolving scope and dimensions is yet to be clearly defined.



    Image: Chinese soldiers march past SCO member flags for “Peace Mission 2007” in Russia
    Source: Canada.com

    Under the Radar News 10.22.10

    Posted on by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Speculating on whether North Korea is developing nuclear warheads, U.S. and South Korea watch closely as a reconnaissance satellite captures activity at a North Korean nuclear site. While South Korean officials and experts doubt it is preparing another nuclear test, they suspect North Korea may use it as leverage in sanction negotiations.

  • A 2011 climate change index ranked South Asian countries to be at greatest risk from the effects of climate change. Countries with the largest vulnerability are distinguished by high levels of poverty, dense populations, exposure to climate-related events, and reliance on flood and drought prone agricultural land.

  • Burma’s highest court will hear an appeal against the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is due to be released on November 13, days after Burma’s national election on November 7.

  • As China’s rare earth minerals embargo continues and expands, Japan plans to help Mongolia develop rare earth mineral mines to ensure supplies.

  • Stuxnet, a computer worm designed to target critical infrastructure, is suspected to originate from China. It has infected millions of computers, including those at Iran’s nuclear facilities, and has vast implications for cyber warfare.

  • China and Thailand are set to embark on a high-speed rail line connecting the two countries through Laos. The railway is expected to expand trade flows and improve infrastructure, though the governments also grapple with inter-operability and feasibility issues.

  • Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan have signed an agreement to construct a 1,043-mile natural gas pipeline between the countries.

  • India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls for a modernization of its defense doctrine to better tackle new and non-traditional security threats.

  • At least one Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarine has been spotted at China’s naval base in Hainan, leading analysts to believe that China is poised to expand its naval presence in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.

  • The Taiwanese navy will send battleships to the “grey area” between Taiwan and mainland China to protect Taiwanese fisherman from harassment and other cross-border disputes.

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    Under the Radar News 10.15.10

    Posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • The U.S. may lift the Chinese arms embargo on the sale of C-130 cargo aircrafts to China. A waive on the ban would signal the first time since 1989 that the U.S. has exported arms to China and a resumption of military exchanges since the planned U.S. arms sale to Taiwan earlier this year. China welcomes the lift.

  • Fifteen countries participated in the South Korea-led anti-proliferation drill, “Eastern Endeavor 10.” The drill included maritime interdiction exercises off the shores of Busan and a seminar on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

  • Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense confirmed that it is developing an unmanned surveillance aircraft. While the media reported that the army plans to deploy it, no specific date was given.

  • The U.S. and South Korea commenced an 8-day air defense exercise involving 50 fighter jets and 250 pilots that enhances interoperability and focuses on deterring potential air strikes from North Korea.

  • Undeterred by elections in Burma, Thailand’s largest construction company pushes forward on a US$13 billion deal to build a deep-sea port in western Burma to facilitate access to westward markets.

  • South Korea experienced another cyber breach as hackers stole defense and foreign affairs documents by using bogus e-mails from South Korean officials. The attack has been traced to China.

  • India plans to spend $2.3 trillion by 2030 to improve its energy sector, focusing on energy efficiency policies and the use of clean technology. Sustainability, however, remains an issue among skeptics.

  • The Sri Lankan government has released 500 former Tamil Tiger rebels after rehabilitation and vocational training.

  • The Shanghai Cooperation Organization voices its opposition to the “politicization” of the Nobel Peace Prize by using it as a weapon to “interfere in other country’s internal affairs.”

  • Vietnam will receive India’s assistance in establishing its peacekeeping forces, the countries will cooperate on training and some information sharing.

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    Under the Radar News 10.08.10

    Posted on Friday, October 8, 2010 by Amy Chang

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • In an effort to usher in economic development to the region, China invests nearly $7.5 billion to for an expansive highway and road construction plan in Tibetan regional townships and along the Himalayan.

  • Latest polls reveal that Japanese Cabinet approval ratings dropped 16.8 percentage points from a 64.4 percent to 47.6 percent. The ratings reflect citizen dissatisfaction with how their government handled the Chinese fishing boat incident in the disputed Senkaku Islands and the Ichiro Ozawa money scandal.

  • The delivery of Russian defense systems such as the Gorshkov aircraft carrier and Akula-II nuclear powered submarine to India have been delayed, but resolved. India and Russia recently signed committed to maintain defense ties through 2020.

  • India and Japan will hold a second round of talks for bilateral civil nuclear cooperation. It is a sign of movement on a potential deal, but the issue is still sensitive and fraught with difficulties that must be carefully flushed out in the negotiation process.

  • The Indonesian military has recently joined the police in the fight against local militants to send a signal to terrorists that they are now enemies of the state. The change in strategy is sparked by the recent increase in terrorist activity in the country.

  • Malaysia has joined early talks on expanding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an effort to tie economies along the Pacific into a free-trade zone. Current members include New Zealand, Singapore, Chile, and Brunei; Japan, the United States, Vietnam, Australia, Peru, and the Philippines have indicated interest in joining the talks. It is interpreted as an effort to counterbalance an area that is increasingly influenced by China.

  • On Thursday, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai inaugurated the High Council for Peace, an independent body designed to offer dialogue and reconciliation with Taliban militants. However, the Taliban have yet to accept its offers.

  • Public executions have been on the rise in North Korea, with reportedly 10 people executed in 2010 on charges ranging from robbery to narcotics smuggling. The executions are speculated to be a tool that tightens control over the populace during the regime change.

  • Tonga will send over 200 troops to Afghanistan over the next two years in an effort to show support for the International Security Assistance Force.

  • Two Chinese patrol boats leave waters off Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands after two weeks of sailing in and around the area.

  • In an effort to create a more strategic mobile force, South Korea plans to reinforce Marine Corps with increased personnel and equipment.

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    North Korea's Food Security Future

    Posted on Thursday, October 7, 2010 by Alexandra Matthews


    North Korea’s December 2009 currency revaluation triggered disastrous consequences. Many citizens lost life savings and some died of starvation as a result of severe inflation and food shortages, which were exacerbated by the recent devastating floods.

    In a country where 33 percent of the population is already undernourished, North Korea faces major threats to its future food security. Environmental and technical challenges include a shortage of arable soil, insufficient infrastructure, shortages of agricultural inputs (such as fuel, fertilizer and machinery), inadequate water reserves, lack of access to international markets and food imports, and vulnerability to natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and typhoons. Although agricultural production accounts for around 23 percent of North Korea’s GDP, its colder climate, brief growing period, and mountainous terrain is not conducive to the cultivation of critical staples such as rice.

    Despite Pyongyang’s adherence to the “juche” ideology, the agricultural sector’s performance has been on a downward trend since the 1990s and remains far from self-sufficiency. Plagued by ineffectiveness, North Korea’s opaque Public Distribution System (PDS) - ostensibly designed for equal distribution of rations to the population - has all but collapsed in recent years, forcing the government to accept aid from China and South Korea. In a rare admission, the leadership has acknowledged its inability to alleviate the food crisis and has encouraged citizens to look to private markets for essential provisions. Another indication of government failure and the increasingly dire food situation comes from reports that the country’s military is storing over 1 million tons of rice in preparation for war.

    As public discontent increases in response to the food crisis, North Korea remains far from improving its shortage-induced food insecurity. Dependency on continued, or even increased, foreign food aid will not alleviate long-term shortages. The agriculture sector would benefit from aid in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. Output can also be boosted by crop diversification, more advanced tools and machinery, and reduced soil input.

    North Korea’s food security is inherently tied to its political conditions as the latter stifles market drivers and foreign economic exchanges. Despite continuation in authoritarian rule, the country’s strengthening economic relationship with China and improving telecommunications system is facilitating access to information that could buoy public backlash toward Pyongyang. International and domestic pressure on the new regime could possibly induce greater transparency or improvements in the efficiency of the PDS.

    Greater political shifts, particularly unification on the Korean peninsula, could accelerate opportunities for an influx of aid, removal of sanctions, and eventually more sound economic and agricultural policies. Although most North Korea watchers agree that unification will eventually occur, its prospects remain bleak in the near future, as does the chance for a relief in food shortages.

    Image Source: Huffington Post

    Under the Radar News 10.1.10

    Posted on Friday, October 1, 2010 by Alexandra Matthews

    A weekly compilation of underreported developments in Asia

  • The completion of a Russia-China crude oil pipeline was hailed as an important step for energy cooperation between the two neighbors. The pipeline, which stretches almost 1,000 kilometers, is part of a deal in which China provides Russia with a $25 billion loan in exchange for 300 million tons of oil over the next 20 years.

  • The US and South Korea conducted anti-submarine drills in the Yellow Sea as part of a series of joint military exercises is intended as a show of strength against North Korea. The next stage of the joint drills, which the North calls a “military provocation”, will be held at the end of October and is reported to include the USS George Washington.

  • Taiwanese Premier Wu Den-yih expressed that the time is not right for cross-strait political negotiations. Premier Wu cited the constraints China continues to place on Taiwan’s presence at international events as a reason for not moving forward on developing military confidence-building mechanisms or engaging in political talks.

  • Resource-poor Japan will withdraw from an offshore Iranian oil field project in an effort to avoid US sanctions. The Japanese company, Inpex, was originally set to develop the oil field, which contains about 42 billion barrels of oil. Meanwhile, Indonesia has reaffirmed its support for Iran's nuclear program. Indonesia maintains that all nations have the right to develop nuclear technology for civilian use.

  • The world’s first “cyber superweapon”, Stuxnet, has infected millions of computers in China. The virus, which may have been created to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, has the potential to not only break into computers, but to take control of plants and industrial systems including pumps, motors, alarms and valves.

  • The Taliban has posted messages on its website threatening Bangladeshi leaders after Foreign Minister Dipu Moni was asked by Richard Holbrooke to deploy Bangladeshi combat troops to Afghanistan. Bangladesh currently has aid workers stationed in Afghanistan and is the second largest contributor of troops to the United Nations peacekeeping missions.

  • According to the United Nations, opium production in Afghanistan has decreased by almost 50 percent this year as a result of a disease that affected poppy fields. As Afghanistan’s opium output decreased, the drug’s value skyrocketed by 38 percent to $604 million, five percent of the country’s GDP.

  • Bilateral free trade agreement talks will resume between Malaysia and Australia next month after being disrupted by Australian general elections and the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand regional trade pact, which came into effect earlier this year. The resumption of the talks is another step towards furthering Canberra’s economic integration with Southeast Asian nations.

  • China will resume exports of rare earth metals to Japan. The dispute between the two countries over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands halted shipments last month.

  • China has launched its second lunar probe, the Chang'e-2, to conduct tests in preparation for what China hopes will be its first unmanned moon landing in 2013 and first manned moon landing in 2020. The launch of the probe occurred on China's National Day, which marks 61 years of communist rule.
  • Tip of the Spear: The 13 Missions for the U.S. Marines in Okinawa

    Posted on Monday, September 27, 2010 by Project2049Institute

    The latest from the Project 2049 Institute's Insight Series

    By Tetsuo Kotani

    Mr. Tetsuo Kotani is a special research fellow at the Okazaki Institute in Tokyo. He is also a member of the Project 2049 Institute International Advisory Council, a senior research fellow at the Research Institute for Peace and Security (RIPS), and a Pacific Forum CSIS Nonresident SPF Fellow.


    The shifting balance of military power in the Asia-Pacific is altering strategic calculations as the region faces a range of potential security contingencies. In the vast Asia-Pacific maritime theater, naval and air power can offer decisive advantages. Yet, the increasingly complex spectrum of possible contingencies, ranging from military confrontation to disaster relief, calls for retention of flexible response options. As the U.S. Air Force and Navy move toward an AirSea battle concept to preserve power-projection in the face of challenges, including China’s growing anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities, the U.S. Marines on Okinawa remain a potent “tip of the spear” with their unique ability to operate from the sea as an integrated expeditionary air-ground force.

    This integrated force, known as the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), unites air, ground and logistics elements under a single command element for both autonomous and joint operations. Its flexibility and versatility distinguishes the MAGTF as the premier global emergency response force.

    MAGTF is unique among the militaries of the world because of its scalability in size, capability and capacity in meeting a growing requirement or threat. It can be arranged in formations according to demand of the mission, ranging from a formidable Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) to a smaller Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) or an even more nimble Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The MAGTF is usually deployed from the sea and the required logistics to self-sustain operations ashore increases with the size of the MAGTF.

    The MEF is the largest MAGTF, numbering 20,000 to 90,000 Marines, and the principle Marine war fighting organization; capable of both amphibious and sustained operations ashore. A MEF provides geographic combatant commanders with a rapid response force capable of conducting conventional amphibious and maritime operations across a spectrum of visibility and weather conditions, deploying from the sea, by surface and/or by air under communications and electronics restrictions. The III MEF is based in Okinawa and is forward deployed to respond to larger crises or contingencies, such as combat operations on the Korean peninsula or in the defense of Japan as accorded by the Treaty of Mutual Security and Cooperation.

    Marines from the 31st MEU aboard the USS Essex
    The MEF formation also ensures the combatant commander has MEF or MEB sized force for sustained combat operations as well as a MEU sized force for smaller scale rapid response. The MEB is a mid-sized MAGTF consisting of up to 20,000 Marines and is equipped with amphibious assault capabilities and capacity to sustain operations ashore for approximately 30 days.

    The smallest MAGTF, the MEU, consists of 1,500 to 3,000 Marines. MEUs are forward deployed around the world with the 31st MEU based in Okinawa. The 31st MEU also maintains a sea-based forward presence onboard the U.S. Navy's "Task Force 76" (Amphibious Force, Seventh Fleet) vessels, based out of Sasebo, Nagasaki. In certain power-projection scenarios, the 31st MEU can be designated "Task Force 79" (Landing Force, Seventh Fleet), providing indispensable support to the Seventh Fleet.

    The 13 primary unclassified missions of the 31st MEU are as follows:

    Traditional Amphibious Missions
     (1) Amphibious Assault
    --The principal type of amphibious operation that involves establishing a force on a hostile or potentially hostile shore
    (2) Amphibious Raid
    --A type of amphibious operation involving swift incursion or temporary occupation of an objective followed by a planned withdrawal
    (3) Maritime Interception Operations
    --An amphibious operation including visit, board, search and seizure of a static maritime platform and selected maritime security missions.
    (4) Advance Force Operations
    --An amphibious operation to shape the battlespace in preparation for the main assault or other operations of an amphibious or Joint Force by providing battle space awareness and conducting reconnaissance, seizure of positions, preliminary bombardment and air support.

    Expeditionary Support To Other Operations, Crisis Response And Limited Contingency Operations
    (5) Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP)
    --Rescue or extraction of downed aircraft and personnel, aircraft sanitization, and provide advanced trauma-life support in a benign or hostile environment.
    (6) Airfield/Port Seizure
    --Secure an airfield, port, or other key facilities in order to support MAGTF missions or receive follow-on forces.
    (7) Expeditionary Airfield Operations
    --The capability to conduct tactical air operations at austere locations, including short-field, unimproved runways.
    (8) Stability Operations
    --Conduct operations to help establish order when civilians cannot do so, to secure a lasting peace and facilitate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

    Non-Combat Support Missions during Peacetime and Crisis
    The 31st MEU respond after Indonesian earthquake
    (9) Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief
    --Programs conducted to relieve/reduce the results of natural or manmade disasters or other endemic conditions that might present a serious threat to life or that can result in great damage to or loss of property.
    (10) Theater Security Cooperation
    -- Conduct combined and multinational military non-combat activities with other nations within the theater to advance mutual defense and security arrangements and to build allied and friendly military capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations.
    (11) Non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)
    --Operations directed by U.S. government whereby noncombatants are evacuated from foreign countries when their lives are endangered to safe havens or to the United States.

    MEU Special Operations Capable MEU-SOC
    (12) Direct Action
    --Short duration strikes and other small-scale offensive actions in hostile, denied or politically sensitive environments against designated targets.
    (13) Special Reconnaissance
    --Surveillance in hostile, denied or politically sensitive areas to collect or verify information of strategic or operational significance.

    The 31st MEU is capable of quick reaction both in crisis and peacetime—rapidly assembling required forces to accomplish missions, using intelligence-based operational decision making, and acting as a rapid response force. In peacetime, the MEU acts as a “goodwill ambassador” and engages in stability operations (Mission 8), humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (Mission 9), and theater security cooperation (Mission 10).

    In the future, the 31st MEU will likely be called into action in a number of imaginable contingencies in northeast Asia due to its range of capabilities. In addition to conventional amphibious operations (Missions 1 and 2), the MEU has the capability to accomplish maritime interception operations (Mission 3), shape the battlespace in advance of follow-on forces (Mission 4), and conduct non-combatant evacuation (Mission 11).

    In the event of a military scenario on the Korean Peninsula or in the Taiwan Strait, the MEU can enable the full combat capabilities of the MEF for sustained operations. In the event of a regime collapse in Pyongyang, the 31st MEU can search and seize North Korean nuclear arsenal and prevent proliferation of those weapons (Mission 11). Although tensions across the Taiwan Strait have reduced, the 31st MEU can still play an important role by creating a fait accompli that the United States would be involved in any Chinese attack on Taiwan (Mission 4). Secretary Clinton's recent assurance that the contested Senkaku Islands are subjected to the bilateral security treaty also places emphasis on the United States' ability to respond in the event of an armed attack on Japan.

    Amphibious assault vehicle assigned to 31st MEU
    The 31st MEU will continue to play an important role even as the U.S. places an increasing emphasis on the AirSea battle. While the concept aims to limit damage to U.S. forward bases and forces while maintaining command and control networks and operational logistics, the MEU can act as the advance force (Mission 4) to provide tactical air power support under the A2/AD environment in support of U.S. Air Force and Navy operations (Missions 5, 6 and 7). Additionally Marine special forces can conduct disrupting direct action activities (Mission 12) and special reconnaissance (Mission 13) in preparation.

    Moreover, the combat capability of the U.S Marines is also a valuable psychological deterrent. The III MEF forces in the Western Pacific and the 31st MEU’s presence in Okinawa and Iwakuni sends a strong signal to potential aggressors that hostile actions against Japan could directly involve the United States. This “trip wire” effect afforded by the presence of U.S. Marine Corps on Okinawa also has significant implications for regional security beyond the U.S. – Japan security relationship, and any discussion on Okinawa should not miss this fact.


    *The author thanks Mr. John Niemeyer and Ms. Noriko Niijima at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Japan (CNFJ) and anonymous staff at the Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific for listing the13 primary MEU missions.

    An alternate version of this article was published by Pacific Forum CSIS. 

    Images from defencetalk.com, U.S. Navy, and wikipedia.com.

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