Under the Radar News 08.26.11

Posted on Friday, August 26, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • South Korean President Lee Myung-bak embarked on his three-country tour of Central Asia. He elevated South Korean and Mongolian relations to "comprehensive partnership" status and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) calling for greater cooperation in natural resource development, infrastructure investment, and defense. President Lee also signed a $4.1 billion deal to develop Uzbekistan’s Surgil gas fieldand two $4 billion deals to develop a thermal power plant and petrochemical complex in Kazakhstan.

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong-il holds talks with Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to end Pyongyang’s nuclear programs. The two leaders also discussed building a natural gas pipeline from Vladivstok to Seoul.

  • Amidst South China Sea tensions the Philippines and Vietnam boost their defense capabilities. This week, Vietnam acquired the Gepard class frigate from Russia. The guided missile frigate is Vietnam’s most modern warship. Meanwhile the Philippines acquired the Hamilton-class cutter, a weather high endurance cutter, from the U.S.

  • Two Chinese fishing ships entered Japan’s territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands sparking a formal protest by Japan. The encroachment was a reminder of last year’s incident in which a Chinese fishing boat collided with a Japanese coast guard vessel, severing relations between the two nations.

  • The Philippines may have $1 trillion of untapped mineral resources in Mindanao, the site of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, (MILF). U.S. Representative Jerry Trenas argues that government-initiated peace talks with the MILF can propel the Philippines from "third world status to economic powerhouse."

  • Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigns after necessary precondition—a renewable energy bill—passes. The new bill will subsidize electricity from renewable sources and facilitate Japan’s shift away from nuclear power after the Fukushima reactor meltdowns in March.

  • The 2011 Pentagon report on Chinese military buildup reveals China deployed nuclear capable CSS-5 MRBM missiles on India’s border as a “deterrent posture.” The report also warns that Chinese infrastructure investments on the border while aimed at facilitating economic development, may also support PLA border defense operations.
  • Japan's Energy Outlook Post 3-11

    Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

    Japan is on energy conservation mode. Government buildings are dark and thermostats are set to 28 degrees Celsius. Due to a lack of public support and new maintenance measures, only 17 of 51 nuclear plants are currently operational. Before March 2011 nuclear power accounted for 31 percent of Japan’s electric energy needs.

    In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daichi plant, public support for nuclear power has plummeted. In a June public poll Asahi Shimbun, a prominent Japanese news media outlet, revealed that 74 percent of the Japanese public supports a policy to phase out nuclear power “with a goal to abandon it.” Just as the 1970s oil crisis spurred innovation in nuclear energy in Japan, the Fukushima disaster presents Japan with the opportunity to diversify its energy sources.

    With the future of nuclear power unclear, Japan is exploring renewable energy as an alternative to fill the energy gap. A bill that would incentive private investment in renewable energy was voted into law on August 26th. The bill proposes a “feed-in tariffs” mechanism, which requires utilities such as TEPCO, to purchase electricity generated by geothermal, solar, and wind sources at a tariff-rate. By promulgating renewable energy and setting a favorable tariff rate (still to be determined) the government is encouraging investment in renewable energy businesses and fostering an environment in which renewable energy can compete with conventional fossil fuel technologies.

    With overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill, TEPCO is investing in renewable energy sources to ensure its own supply of energy. Just this month TEPCO began operating its Ukishima Solar Power plant. The plant will generate 7,400 Megawatt Hours (MwH) per year, which is the equivalent energy consumption of 2,100 households per annum. Additionally, TEPCO is also constructing another solar power plant, the Ohigishima Plant, which is nearly double the size of Ukishima and will generate 17,700 MwH when it commences operation in December.

    Despite this apparent shift toward renewable energy, TEPCO does not possess an adequate supply of renewable energy sources to meet consumer demand. Private companies such as Softbank Corporation, a Japanese telecommunications and media Corporation, and Rakuten Inc., Japan’s largest online shopping site, seek to address this gap and break into Japan’s growing solar energy market. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son recently announced plans to invest $1 billion on 10 solar farms. Softbank plans to convert 20 percent of the 540,000 hectares of rice paddies currently not in production to generate 50 million kilowatts. Meanwhile, Rakuten is planning to sell home-use solar panels later this year.

    With government support, not only will solar power become an increasingly feasible alternative to nuclear power, but it also bolsters Japan’s Kyoto pledge to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In September 2009, under Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, Japan pledged 25 percent reduction in green house gas (GHG) emissions by 2020 compared with the 1990 level. This ambitious goal, however, was coupled with a plan for nuclear energy to comprise 60 percent of primary energy by 2100 (compared with 10 percent now.) However, with a majority of its nuclear plants in decommission, TEPCO is relying on thermal power plants to supply electric energy. By utilizing liquefied petroleum gas (LNG), coal, and oil, thermal power plants have led to an increase in carbon emissions and weakened Japan’s commitments to the Kyoto CO2 pledge. By further developing renewable energy sources, Japan would demonstrate its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and the country’s mission of “lead[ing] the world in the low-carbon revolution.”

    While solar power appears to be the great panacea for Japan’s energy dilemma, questions about its sustainability and efficiency remain. Building new high-voltage electric transmission lines for potentially remote solar plants will require consumers to shoulder high utility costs. In addition to infrastructure costs, the actual cost of producing one 1 kWh of power through solar energy is greater relative to other energy sources. For example, the home solar power system, such as the one proposed by Rakaten Inc., would cost ¥40 ($0.52) per KwH, which is an 82.5 percent increase from the ¥7 ($0.09) per KwH cost of nuclear energy.The viability of solar power as a replacement for nuclear power source also depends on the way prices are set within the feed-in tariff bill. The Keidanren, Japan’s largest business lobby, has warned that higher energy prices will undermine Japan’s heavy industry competitiveness.Yet another factor in Japan’s shift toward renewable energy is the country’s forthcoming new leadership. While Prime Minister Naoto Kan has advocated for a “nuclear-free society” it remains to be seen whether his successor will place the same value on renewable energy.

    In the final analysis, renewable energy is a practical response to Japan’s energy needs post- March 11. Japan is renowned for its capabilities as an innovative nation and its potential in the renewable energy sector marks no exception. The shift toward renewable energy will allow Japan to resume its global leadership role as an innovator and as a major proponent in the fight against global warming and climate change. In spite of the challenges in transitioning from nonrenewable to renewable energy, the long term benefit outweighs the near term costs. The March 11th disaster is an opportunity for Japan to rebuild, improve, and reposition itself as a global power.

    Image: Shinjuku district skyline behind solar panels.
    Source: Getty Images

    Under the Radar News 08.19.11

    Posted on Friday, August 19, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • China’s Dalian city government closed a chemical plant in response to a large protest of around 12,000 city dwellers. The chemical factory manufactures paraxylene, a crucial ingredient in polyester, which can cause eye and nose irritation, and in higher concentrations, death.

  • Earlier this week Vietnamese authorities allowed 100 protesters to march in the 10th anti-China rally since June, which criticized Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea. Yet when protesters spoke out against the Communist party and state, authorities ordered an end to the anti-China protests, citing ‘division in national unity and Vietnam-China relations.’

  • Chinese security forces launch a massive crackdown in Xinjiang, where the annual China-Eurasia Expo will take place in September. Recent waves of violence have left more than 30 dead. The Chinese government blames unrest on Islamic extremism, while the Uighur populations cite Chinese repression.

  • China develops nation’s first deep water natural gas field, “Liwan 3-1,” in the South China Sea. The field will produce an estimated 20 billion cubic meters of gas when it starts production in 2013.

  • Approximately 3,000 North Korean laborers are reportedly working in Vladivostock, Russia on construction projects (Vladivostock is the host of the 2012 APEC Summit).Pyongyang is sending its workers abroad to raise foreign currency based on 3-5 year contracts, in exchange the government gets a portion of their earnings.

  • Japan’s five-year science and technology program excludes prior plans to promote next-generation nuclear technologies. The new plan along with legislation calling for subsidies on renewable energy reflect Prime Minister Kan’s calls to shift from nuclear power towards developing renewable energy sources.

  • Taiwan’s annual budget for 2012 sets asides 16 percent of spending for defense, marking the first year-to-year rise since President Ma Ying-jeou came to office.

  • As part of Independence Day celebrations, Indonesia has reduced the sentences of 84 convicted terrorists, including Mohammed Jibril Abdurahman, an Al-Qaeda linked extremist.

  • Under the Radar 08.12.11

    Posted on Monday, August 15, 2011 by L.C. Russell Hsiao

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

    • With recent opinion surveys showing that public approval rating for Japan’s PM Naoto Kan's Cabinet had dropped below 20 percent, PM Kan reconfirmed his intention to step down. If Kan officially announces his resignation at the end of the current Diet session, the presidential election may be held in early September.
    • The People First Party (PFP) in Taiwan announced that the political party will run at least 10 candidates in the legislative elections in February 2012. The PFP is part of a coalition (pan-Blue) that include the Kuomintang (KMT), the current ruling party. The announcement has led some political observers to speculate that there may be a split in the pan-Blue tickets in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections.

    Under the Radar 08.05.11

    Posted on Friday, August 5, 2011 by L.C. Russell Hsiao

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

    • Korean Central Bank doubles its holding of gold as governments worldwide increase their net gold purchases. South Korea now holds around 39 metric tons of bullion in reserves.

    • Vietnam received the first of three Airbus Military C212-400 maritime patrol aircraft. The new coastal patrol planes will be used to conduct maritime patrol role and carry out missions' including coastal surveillance, operations against illegal fishing, drug traffic and smuggling.

    • Japanese researchers reveal that two glaciers, Yala Glacier of Langtang Himal in central Nepal and the AX010 Glacier of Shorong Himal in the Khumbu region in Nepal, are set to disappear due to rising temperatures.

    • Japan's Defense Ministry report composed by a committee chaired by Senior Vice Defense Minister Katsuya Ogawa proposes utilizing private-sector transport and the assistance of U.S. forces to defend Nansei Islands.

    • Chinese naval vessels, Zheng He and Luo Yang, were in the DPRK for a goodwill visit. The port call was preceded by a visit to Vladivostok, home to the Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet.

    • China launched SJ-11-02 orbiter from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province in the country’s northwest.

    • DPRK's First Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan went to Beijing for talks after weeklong nuclear talks in New York.

    Spotlight on New Second Artillery ICBM Base Leadership

    Posted on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 by L.C. Russell Hsiao

    By Mark Stokes and L.C. Russell Hsiao

    Mark Stokes is the executive director and L.C. Russell Hsiao is a senior research fellow at The Project 2049 Institute.

    A Chinese government-affiliated publication has identified Major General Liu Qide [劉啟德] (b. 1957) as the newly assigned commander of 55 Base (96301 Unit), China’s premier intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) command headquartered in the western Hunan city of Huaihua. Liu replaced Major General Lu Fu’en, who was promoted to Second Artillery chief of staff in December 2010. Lu—in turn—replaced Lieutenant General Wei Fenghe (b. 1954), [1] who was assigned as People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deputy chief of the General Staff Department (GSD). Wei’s move to a senior position within the GSD reflects the Second Artillery’s growing prominence within the Chinese defense establishment. Furthermore, these personnel shifts suggest the significant role of the 55 Base in the Second Artillery’s organizational structure and the importance that the Chinese leadership attaches to the ICBM units’ function in its overall missile defense strategy. [2]

    A Profile of Liu Qide

    Given his relative youth, Major General Liu Qide appears to have a bright future. Born in Shandong’s Jining County in February 1957, Liu Qide has roots in the Second Artillery’s ICBM community. He was assigned to 55 Base’s 803 Brigade in Jingzhou as a junior officer, and remained in the unit for more than a decade (see Chart I below). Liu Qide was a junior member of the DF-5 operational test and evaluation unit within the brigade, and participated in test launches in the early 1980s. [3] Liu served as 803 Brigade Commander from 1997, and was subsequently assigned as director of the 55 Base Equipment Department in 2004. In this position, he oversaw the integration of the DH-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM) and new ICBM variants into the base’s missile inventory. He transferred to the Second Artillery’s Communications Department in July 2007, where he managed the force’s nuclear command, control, and communication system. He returned to Huaihua in early or mid-2010 to serve as 55 Base chief of staff until his promotion to commander.

    Background on 55 Base

    The Central Military Commission (CMC) directed the initiation of launch site preparations in Hunan in August 1966, and 55 Base was formally established on 25 May 1968. An engineering unit (306 Engineering Command) that had returned to its home base of Guangxi Province after service in Vietnam was responsible for infrastructure development. Deployed to the remote southwestern Hunan town of Jingzhou, the command moved to Huaihua in 1970. The first 55 Base commander and political commissar were Mo Yiming and Deng Bo, respectively. Mo and Deng remained in their positions for over a decade. Initial DF-4 and DF-5 missiles entered service with two operational test and evaluation units in the first half of the 1980s.

    As 55 Base commander, Major General Liu Qide and his staff oversee three brigades equipped with the DF-4 and DF-5 ICBM systems, and a fourth equipped with the 2,000 kilometers (km) range DH-10 LACM. [4] With an estimated range of at least 13,000 km, the silo-based, liquid-fueled DF-5 (NATO designation of CSS-4) is capable of striking targets throughout most of the continental United States. The DF-4 (NATO designation: CSS-3), with a range of at least 5,500 km, is capable of reaching targets throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including U.S. facilities on Guam.

    Chart I: Organizational Structure of 55 Base

    Source: Second Artillery Handbook, July 25, 2011 (unpublished draft)

    • 803 Brigade (Jingzhou): Established as an operational test and evaluation unit in October 1968, the Jingzhou brigade (96311 Unit) has been equipped with the DF-5 ICBM since 1984. However, media reporting in November 2007 highlighted the unit’s acceptance of a new missile–possibly the DF-5A–in the 2006-2007 timeframe (PLA Daily, November 20, 2007). The brigade’s six battalions are located in Jingzhou and Suining Counties. Senior Colonel Ceng Aijun serves as brigade commander.
    • 805 Brigade (Shaoyang): Also established as an operational test and evaluation unit in the 1960s, the Tongdao 805 Brigade (96313 Unit) was equipped with initial DF-4 theater-level nuclear missile systems in the early 1980s. Within the last two years, the brigade headquarters appears to have relocated from Tongdao to Shaoyang, a prefectural-level city in central Hunan Province (Shaoyangtv.com, February 11, 2010; Shaoyang.gov.cn, August 12, 2010). There are indications the brigade began conversion to a new missile variant in 2007, possibly an improved variant of the DF-4 (e.g., DF-4A). By July 2010, the unit was becoming increasingly proficient in day and nighttime operations (Science and Technology Daily, January 4, 2011; Chinamil.com.cn, February 16, 2011; People.com.cn, March 29, 2011). A 2010 Shaoyang City report identified Senior Colonel Yi Decai as brigade commander. Yi previously commanded Base 55’s nuclear warhead and missile depot. Colonel Dai Weide was transferred from the warhead depot to serve as the brigade’s political commissar in 2010 (Science and Technology Daily, July 8, 2010).
    • 814 Brigade (Huitong): A third brigade under Base 55 is centered in Huitong County, about 60 km south of Huaihua. Formerly an engineering regiment, the CMC directed formation of the 814 Brigade (96315 Unit) in April 1993. The brigade is most likely equipped with either an improved variant of the DF-4 or DF-5. Senior Colonel Jiang Hua has commanded the brigade since at least 2009.
    • 824 Brigade (Yichun): Formed in 2005, the 824 Brigade (96317 Unit) is headquartered in the heavily forested far western mountains of Jiangxi Province. The brigade is one of at least two LACM units in the Second Artillery. Previous 824 Brigade commander, Senior Colonel Li Youcheng, appears to have been assigned as chief of staff of 53 Base, headquartered in Kunming, Yunnan Province. Current brigade commander, Colonel Chen Qian, directed the 55 Base warhead regiment from 2007 until his current assignment. Zhang Junhui, who formerly served as Political Commissar of the 55 Base Repair Factory, replaced Senior Colonel Xie En’you in early 2011. The 824 Brigade’s sister LACM unit–the 821 Brigade–is under Base 53 and located near Liuzhou in Guangxi Province.

    Chart II: Base 55 Units

    Source: The Project 2049 Institute

    In addition to its four missile brigades, 55 Base oversees five support regiments. A regiment in Dongkou trains new recruits assigned to 55 Base units. Another regiment, headquartered in Huaihua’s eastern suburbs, manages the storage of nuclear warhead components and missiles. A special mobility regiment, most likely headquartered in the vicinity of the warhead depot, transports warhead components and/or missile assemblies from underground storage facilities to launch positions. The regiment also likely supports the 824 Brigade’s LACM cross-regional mobility mission. Another regiment ensures readiness of launch vehicles and other mobility systems. A final regiment manages base communications systems.

    Grades of Second Artillery Bases

    Base 55’s sister ICBM command base is 54 Base, headquartered in Luoyang, Henan Province. Also established in 1968, Western sources claim 54 Base oversees a DF-5 brigade and a DF-4 brigade, as well as one probable DF-31 brigade at Nanyang in southwest Henan Province. All three are concentrated in Henan Province. The commanders of 51 Base (Shenyang), 52 Base (Huangshan), 55 Base (Huaihua), and 56 Base (Lanzhou) (Note: Base 56 Headquarters have moved from Xining, Qinghai Province to Yuzhong County, Gansu Province, which is approximately 30 km southeast of Lanzhou City.) have the equivalent grade of a group army commander, with 53 Base (Kunming), 54 Base (Luoyang), and 22 Base (Baoji) carrying the equivalent grade of deputy group army commander. Unlike Navy and Air Force regional commands, Second Artillery bases are delinked from PLA military regions and report directly to Second Artillery headquarters in Beijing.

    Chart III: Second Artillery Bases

    Source: The Project 2049 Institute


    Liu Qide, and others such as 52 Base Commander Major General Gao Jin (b. 1959), represent the next generation of leadership within the Second Artillery. However, Liu and Gao have taken different career tracks: conventional and nuclear missile campaign operations, respectively. With the anticipated retirements of Second Artillery Commander Jing Zhiyuan and Deputy Commander Yu Jixun, Gao is likely to be promoted to one of the Second Artillery deputy chief of staff positions within the coming year as China prepares for its leadership transition.

    The CMC exercises strict command and control authority over release of nuclear weapons, with the Second Artillery’s central nuclear warhead base in the Qinling Mountains (22 Base) playing a key role in the command and control system. Base 55 likely has control only over few if any warheads during peacetime. In the past, China has relied upon a minimal deterrence nuclear strategy, which requires a small number of warheads and delivery vehicles for counterstrikes against a limited number of enemy targets. Yet, given the expansion of the Second Artillery’s infrastructure, fielding of increasingly sophisticated delivery vehicles, development of missile early warning systems, investment into missile defenses, and Gao’s likely promotion as Second Artillery deputy chief of staff, China’s nuclear doctrine may be transforming in tandem with its growing capabilities. [5]


    1. Wei was commander of 53 Base from 2002-2005.
    2. Other senior personnel shifts also included the retirement of the Second Artillery’s Deputy Commander Zhang Yuting, who was replaced by former GSD Third Department Director Wu Guohua.
    3. Other members of the initial operational test and evaluation team appear to have included current Second Artillery Deputy Chief of Staff Wang Benzhi and 54 Base Commander Guo Bin. Other senior Second Artillery leaders with roots in Base 55 include Deputy Commander Zhang Yuting, who played a critical role in the construction of Base 55 infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s.
    4. Base 55 eventually could convert to solid fueled ICBMs, such as the 8,000 km-range DF-31 and +12,000 km-range DF-31A.
    5. Among the many open questions include whether or not the Second Artillery is introducing a multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) variant of the DF-5 into its inventory, and status of a new road-mobile solid fueled MIRV’d ICBM possibly under development that was referenced in the 2010 DoD Report to Congress on PRC Military Power.

    Jump to TOP