Under the Radar News 04.29.11

Posted on Friday, April 29, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Taiwan’s President Ma put an end to a proposed $25 billion petrochemical project . The decision was made to the favor of environmentalists and local residents who have voiced strong objections.

  • In response to a three day strike by truck drivers in Shanghai, the government has agreed to cancel fuel surcharges and reduce other fees. The strike was seen as a response to rising fuel costs and inflation.

  • Australia expressed openness to joint training with Japanese troops. Increased defense cooperation is seen as a reaction to rising threats from China and North Korea.

  • Burma has agreed to sign contracts with companies from China, Singapore, and South Korea for oil and gas exploration. The contracts will mark the first signed with foreign companies under the current civilian government.

  • China’s aircraft carrier with combat capabilities could set sail this year. The deployment of the country’s first ever aircraft may impact security in the South China Sea.

  • Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen wins the nomination of Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party by a narrow margin. Tsai will run against current President Ma in the 2012 upcoming elections. Relations with China will be at the forefront of the policy debate.

  • Fighting continues as scheduled talks between Thai and Cambodian defense ministers to settle an ongoing border dispute were canceled. Crisis highlights inability of ASEAN to broker a peace settlement.

  • Tibetan exiles elect Harvard law academic as new prime minister . Elections were urged at the request of the Dalai Lama who announced plans to abdicate political control last month.

  • Chinese Defense ministry holds first monthly press conference in efforts to promote more transparency to the Chinese public and international community. Defense spokesman emphasized the defensive, non-threatening nature of China’s defense policy.

  • During Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao’s, visit to Indonesia, plans were announced to double bilateral trade to $80 billion by 2015. The two countries are also set to sign trade and banking agreements.
  • Under the Radar News 04.22.11

    Posted on Friday, April 22, 2011 by Lana Buu

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • A 2-month ceasefire ended on the Thai-Cambodian border on Friday morning with the deaths of 3 Cambodian soldiers. Thai Supreme Commander Songkitti Jaggabatara placed Thai armed forces on high alert after the deadly attacks and ordered armed forces commanders to prepare to implement their own defense plans.

  • Indonesia’s state-run defense research institute, “Balitbang,” will join South Korea’s “Boramae” project to develop a new fighter jet. According to the deal, Balitbang will pay US$10 million ― 20% of the budget required ― over the next two years to Seoul’s Agency for Defense Development, which is leading the process. The participants in the process include Korea Aerospace Industries and LIG Nex1.

  • Representatives of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam discussed the Xayaburi hydropower project undertaken by Laos at a special session of the Mekong River Commission Joint Committee (JC) in Vientiane on Tuesday. Some Mekong countries, especially Cambodia and Vietnam, want to delay the project until the ecological concerns can be thoroughly investigated.

  • India plans on strengthening its presence along its border with Pakistan by deploying 2 squadrons of Su-30 MKI fighter s there in the next two years.

  • China's central bank, People's Bank of China (PBOC), said on Tuesday it had signed a US$106 million currency swap agreement with the Central Bank of the Republic of Uzbekistan to promote bilateral trade, investment and financial cooperation. China ranks first among countries investing in Uzbekistan and second among Uzbekistan's trade partners. The volume of bilateral trade in 2010 was $2.85 billion.

  • Burma has told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that it wants to chair the regional bloc in 2014 after declining the post in 2006 amid Western criticism.

  • Taiwan plans to build a new 'stealth' warship armed with guided-missiles next year in response to China's naval build-up. The twin-hulled boat will be armed with up to eight home-grown Hsiung-feng II ship-to-ship missiles and eight other more lethal Hsiung-feng III anti-ship supersonic missiles.

  • An Asia-Europe meeting (ASEM) forum, discussing how to cope with social impacts caused by the global financial crisis, natural disaster and political chaos, was held in Hanoi on Monday. The forum, titled "Social Security Network: Strengthening cooperation to cope with challenges in the post-crisis period", was attended by more than 150 domestic and foreign scientists and scholars from international organizations in Asian and European countries.

  • South Korea will set up an air and missile defense system by 2015 to protect densely populated areas like Seoul and major strategic facilities such as air bases and nuclear power plants against ballistic missile attacks from North Korea. Also, the South Korean Defense Ministry plans to bolster a cyber warfare unit that is responsible for combating North Korean hackers and handle offensive operations in cyberspace.

  • Singaporean President S. R. Nathan dissolved parliament on Tuesday paving the way for early general elections. Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has confirmed his candidacy for the coming general election.

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    Expansion of China's Ballistic Missile Infrastructure Opposite Taiwan

    Posted on Monday, April 18, 2011 by Mark Stokes

    By Mark Stokes, Executive Director of the Project 2049 Institute

    The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Second Artillery Force appears to be in the midst of a significant expansion of its ballistic missile infrastructure opposite Taiwan. Public statements made by senior authorities in the U.S. and Taiwan indicate that the PLA has formed its first unit equipped with an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system. Looking beyond a first generation ASBM, the Second Artillery also is investing in a new generation of conventional medium range ballistic missile (MRBM) systems. The Second Artillery’s expansion appears to include incorporation of two ballistic missile brigades previously under the PLA Army.

    The Qingyuan ASBM Brigade?

    The first noteworthy example of the Second Artillery’s expansion is the apparent deployment of a follow-on variant of the DF-21 MRBM that is capable of engaging moving targets at sea out to a range of 1650 kilometers. In a December 2010 interview with Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, Pacific Command (PACOM) Commander ADM Robert Willard asserted that the Dongfeng-21D (DF-21D) has reached an “initial operational capability” (IOC). Quoting an unnamed PLA official, China’s English language Global Times claimed that the country’s first generation ASBM system is “deployed with the army.” In March 2011 testimony before the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan National Security Bureau (NSB) Director Tsai Der-sheng also asserted that the DF-21D ASBM is “deployed.”

    A Project 2049 Institute Asia Eye post published in August 2010 outlined two possible candidates for receiving the ASBM, both newly established units in Guangdong Province. A recent Defense News report indicates that the initial ASBM brigade is located in the area of Guangdong's Qingyuan City. A number of sources suggest that the report has merit. The Qingyuan brigade, known by its cover designator of the 96219 Unit, is administratively subordinate to the 53 Base, which operates in Southern China. Headquartered in Kunming (Yunnan Province) and commanded by Major General Zhou Yaning, the 53 Base oversees two DF-21 MRBM brigades, a DH-10 land attack cruise missile (LACM) brigade, and a brigade-level training complex. Before his 53 Base command assignment, Major General Zhou served as 52 Base Chief of Staff. A new brigade equipped with a maritime variant of the DF-21 would bring the total number of MRBM brigades under 53 Base to three, and a total of 10 DF-21 brigades in the Second Artillery. The operational training facility under 53 Base is located in Guizhou Province, with a detachment on Hainan Island. Missile brigades are supported by training, transportation, nuclear warhead, repair, and communications regiments that report directly to the 53 Base command staff.

    The Qingyuan brigade was formed as a regimental-level test and training unit as early as 2006. The unit was originally collocated with a DF-21 brigade in the Chuxiong area, west of Kunming (NOTE: The DF-21 brigade command staff has likely relocated to newer facilities in Yuxi City). The test and training unit appears to have converted to an operational brigade as early as 2009. At the same time, the unit began the move to its permanent home in Guangdong Province. Elements of the brigade have been noted in Yingde City and Qingxin County, both within Qingyuan City’s jurisdiction. A Second Artillery engineering regiment responsible for construction of pre-surveyed launch sites has been present in Yingde as recently as late 2010. Reliable sources indicate that between 10 and 12 missile rounds are available to the brigade’s subordinate battalions for training and familiarization. In 2009, Second Artillery headquarters team certified a training simulation system developed by the test and training unit.

    The Qingyuan brigade is commanded by Senior Colonel Zhang Weimin, and its political commissar is Colonel Chen Zhihao. Key engineers responsible for technical aspects of the new missile variant’s introduction into the operational inventory include Zeng Weidong and Hu Xianfeng, who in 2007 was credited with discovering design shortcomings in a new missile system. The brigade’s Equipment Department, directed by Lu Kangwen, also likely played a key role in integrating the new missile variant. The operational test and evaluation team included battalion commander Li Shaogang, a graduate of Northwest Polytechnical University and the Second Artillery’s only battalion commander with a PhD. Dr. Li carried out extensive liaison work with relevant R&D institutes and the manufacturer. The ASBM brigade appears to have conducted one of its first major field exercises at an unspecified joint training center in early Spring 2011.

    The specific organization of the brigade is unclear at the present time. However, if structured like other MRBM units, a Second Artillery ASBM brigade could have six launch battalions, a technical battalion, a site management battalion, a communications battalion, a technical service battalion, and an electronic countermeasures (ECM) battalion. The technical battalion would prepare the missile for launch, including inspection and testing of assemblies and components, mating, targeting, loading, launch control, and other tasks. Missile preparation work may be carried out in a fixed central depot, possibly an underground facility maintained by the site management battalion. The site management battalion could oversee as many as six subordinate companies. Responsibilities could include underground facility management, including power and electricity, water, air conditioning, and ventilation. A service battalion likely would provide support functions such as security, camouflage, concealment, and deception, as well as weather reporting. The ECM battalion or group would help defend brigade assets, especially the brigade's central depot and launch positions, against air strikes.

    While speculative, a brigade equipped with the DF-21D could also include a similar variant in its inventory, such as the DF-21C. Inclusion of both maritime and land strike variants could present a brigade commander with a wider range of targeting options. At least two brigades are believed to be equipped with the 1650 kilometer-range, terminally guided DF-21C -- the 822 brigade (96117 Unit) at Laiwu (Shandong Province; 51 Base) and the 823 Brigade (96365 Unit; 56 Base) at Korla (Xinjiang Province). In addition to the DF-21C, the 823 Brigade's inventory is said to also include the 1650 kilometer-range DF-21B variant. Few details about the DF-21B are available at the current time. As a side note, the 808 Brigade at Yuxi (Yunnan; 53 Base) appears to be the only unit equipped with the original 1800 kilometer range DF-21 variant, while the 806 Brigade in Hancheng (Shaanxi; 51 Base), 816 Brigade at Tonghua (Jilin; 51 Base), 807 Brigade at Chizhou (Anhui; 52 Base), 811 Brigade at Qimen (Anhui, 52 Base), 802 Brigade at Jianshui (Yunnan; 53 Base), and 809 Brigade at Datong (Qinghai; 56 Base) are likely equipped with the 3000 kilometer range DF-21A variant.

    Other Systems

    The Second Artillery is looking beyond the DF-21D. In his presentation before the legislature, Taiwan’s NSB Director referenced the introduction of a new ballistic missile system into the active inventory – the DF-16. The DF-16 is said to have a range of over 1000 kilometers. Specific technical characteristics of this missile system are unavailable at the current time. However, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) do indeed appear to be developing new designs for the Second Artillery. One is a two stage solid-fuelled “tactical” missile system, which is said to incorporate a high strength carbon fiber motor casing. A new two-staged solid rocket motor, developed by CASC's Fourth Academy, was successfully flight tested on September 25, 2010. CASIC's 066 Base in Hubei Province has been investing in optical and imaging infrared terminal guidance technology development. A Wikileaks cable refers to a medium range ballistic missile under development (NATO designation CSS-X-11), which served as a target for a January 11, 2010 missile defense test. The intercept was made at an altitude of 250 kilometers, indicating a range of at least 1000 kilometers. As a side note, a Xinhua news release, quoting an unnamed PLA official, highlighted the development of a new generation 4000-kilometer range missile system that could be completed by 2015.

    Update on the Shaoguan Missile Brigade

    Another recent development is the Second Artillery's establishment of a new launch brigade (96166 Unit) in the area of Shaoguan, just north of Qingyuan. The unit is subordinate to the 52 Base, the army-level command that operates in Southeastern China. The launch unit was initially collocated with an existing DF-21 brigade in Anhui Province's Chizhou City. A Second Artillery engineering regiment responsible for tunneling was operating in the Shaoguan area in early 2009. The 96166 Unit moved to new permanent facilities in Shaoguan in July 2010. The unit’s leaders appear to have extensive experience with the 600 kilometer-range DF-11A short range ballistic missile (SRBM) system. Two brigades under 52 Base are believed to be equipped with the DF-11A -- the 817 Brigade in Yong'an (Fujian Province) and the 818 Brigade in Meizhou (Guangdong Province). Former 96166 Unit Commander, Senior Colonel Tang Qixing, and Deputy Commander Tang Guozhong previously served with the 817 Brigade. Former Meizhou brigade Chief of Staff, Colonel Liu Chuanguo, was assigned as the Shaoguan brigade commander in July 2010. While possibly being equipped with follow-on variant of the DF-11, the Shaoguan brigade could be a candidate for a new MRBM system, such as the DF-16. Two subordinate launch battalions have been identified to date.

    Transfer of Army Tactical Missiles to Second Artillery?

    As a final note, there are indications that two tactical missile brigades under the PLA Army have transferred to the Second Artillery. The Nanjing Military Region’s First Missile Brigade, based in Fujian Province's Xianyou County, may now be assigned to the Second Artillery's 52 Base (cover designation of the 96180 Unit). The Guangzhou Military Region’s Second Missile Brigade, based in Puning City’s Hongyang Village, may now have a designation of the 96212 Unit, and subordinated to 53 Base. A February 11, 2011 Second Artillery publication reported that the Puning brigade conducted the Second Artillery’s first live fire training exercise in 2011. The units’ older 300 kilometer-range DF-11 SRBM systems may be replaced with more modern extended range variants. The Second Artillery also would incorporate the brigades’ inventory of unmanned aerial vehicles, which would be particularly useful in a Taiwan scenario.


    The expansion of the Second Artillery's infrastructure in Southern and Southeastern China has been driven largely by the PLA's desire to coerce Taiwan into a political settlement on unfavorable terms. The expansion also reflects PLA interest in undercutting the capacity of the United States to assist Taiwan in a conflict against China, and enforce other territorial claims around its periphery. Trends suggest that existing SRBMs targeting Taiwan may gradually be replaced with MRBM systems with ranges greater than 1000 kilometers. Higher re-entry speeds associated with extended range ballistic missile systems, such as the DF-16, could reduce the effectiveness of PATRIOT PAC-3 missile defense systems expected to come on line over the next few years. Operations from launch areas further inland also enhance survivability. A relative erosion of Taiwan’s military capabilities could create incentives for Beijing’s political and military leadership to assume greater risk in cross-Strait relations.

    Under the Radar News 04.15.11

    Posted on Friday, April 15, 2011 by Lana Buu

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • The Varyag--a refurbished aircraft carrier purchased by China for about US$20 million from Ukraine in 1992--is near completion and could take to sea as early as July 1 of this year.

  • The Taiwanese Air Force launched its annual war games involving 100,000 soldiers and reservists responding to simulated attacks from the mainland.

  • The defense ministries of China and the United States held their seventh working-level meeting in Beijing on Monday. Both sides reviewed the development of the relationship between their militaries and agreed to maintain dialogue and communication at all military levels and to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in non-traditional security sectors.

  • Indonesia has selected South Korea's state-run aircraft maker as the preferred bidder for its trainer jet project, a government official said Tuesday, paving the way for Seoul to export its T-50 Golden Eagle fighters to the Southeast Asian nation.

  • The Australian federal government on Monday released the biggest area in more than a decade for offshore petroleum exploration –a total of 29 areas in nine basins in Australian waters covering around 200,000 square kilometers—stretching from the West Coast through the Northern waters to Victoria in the south.

  • Thailand is currently in discussion with the newly elected Burmese government about the possible closure of its Burmese refugee camps and the forced repatriation of over 100,000 Burmese refugees who have taken shelter in Thailand for the last 20 years.

  • Indonesia has decided to join the Malaysian-led 60-member International Monitoring Team in order to assist in the safeguarding of the ceasefire between the Philippines government and the country's largest Muslim rebel group.

  • The development of the revolutionary Joint Strike Fighter, intended to provide Australia's air defense through this century, is running well behind schedule and the RAAF may need to buy 18 more Super Hornets for $1.5 billion to fill the gap.

  • The Korean government will conduct a safety inspection on nuclear power plants in the country amid growing worries about the radiation leaks in Japan. Officials said they may shut down reactors if they fail to meet safety standards. Currently, South Korea’s nuclear power industry presently stands as the world’s fifth-largest and the second largest in Asia. A total of 21 nuclear reactors are currently in operation, providing some 40 percent of the nation’s power supply.

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states will launch an infrastructure fund later this year to finance infrastructure projects in the region. Malaysia is the biggest contributor with 150 million dollars, followed by Indonesia and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), whose contribution was not specified.

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    Under the Radar News 04.08.11

    Posted on Friday, April 8, 2011 by Sophia Tsirbas

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • South Korea has agreed to grant greater humanitarian aid to North Korea despite continued tensions between the two countries. North Korea has been in a food emergency state since the 1990s, with increasing dependence on foreign aid to feed its population.

  • The Ivory Coast conflict may be a boon for Indonesia’s cocoa market. The Indonesian government announced a 15% tax on cocoa exports and plans to increase cocoa production in hopes that Indonesia will be the world’s largest cocoa producer by 2014.

  • India expresses concern at China’s buildup of PLA troops along the volatile 778-km-long Line of Control between Pakistan and India. The Indian army is engaging in pro-active measures to address the possibility of a two-front war with China and Pakistan.

  • China is seeking to cooperate with ASEAN in accessing natural resources located in the oil and mineral rich Spratly Islands. China asserts that its priority is to ensure political stability and peace in the South China Sea, despite territorial disputes.

  • The European Union plans to proceed with the first ASEAN-EU business summit, scheduled for next month, despite concerns over human rights abuses in Myanmar. Some experts attribute the EU’s reversal stance as indicative of a decreased bargaining power and a desire to not lose out on economic gains to China.

  • North Korea has made some changes to its top leadership with new appointments to the positions of Minister of People’s Security and member of the National Defense Commission. Kim Jong-il and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, were not present at the ceremony despite rumors of an expected promotion for Kim Jong-un.

  • A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry asserts that dissident artist Ai Wei Wei’s detention has 'nothing to do with human rights.’ Currently, he is being held and under investigation for ‘economic crimes’. Ai’s case reveals that no one is exempted from the surge of recent government crackdowns on political dissidents. Read more about why Beijing is targeting Ai.

  • ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, China, and the ADB plan to allocate US$700 million to secure a private bond market. The aim of this market, the Credit Guarantee and Investment Facility (CGIF), is to curb emerging volatilities and safeguard the stability of financial markets.

  • Japan managed to restore main grid power to three nuclear plants in the wake of a 7.1 magnitude aftershock from last month’s earthquake. The Fukushima disaster, as well as this recent episode, demonstrates the dangers of relying on diesel emergency generators.

  • Australia rejects Singapore’s proposed merger between the two countries’ SGX and ASX exchanges claiming that it would violate Australia’s “national interest.” A future merger might occur if Australia changes financial rules or establishes a working group to evaluate changes, stated Australian treasurer Wayne Swan.
  • Under the Radar News 04.01.11

    Posted on Friday, April 1, 2011 by Lana Buu

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • According to 2011 Census report released by New Delhi, India's population has reached 1.21 billion people (623.7 million males and 586.5 million females). The 181-million person increase since the country's last census marks a growth rate of 17.64%, the biggest reduction in India's population growth rate ever.

  • Pakistan has embraced China as its new arms partner, overshadowing the United States. China will send Pakistan 250 JF-17s over the next five to 10 years, Beijing says. Also, a $1.3 billion deal has been reportedly signed to buy J-10 fighters and six submarines. Check out Isaac Kardon's new paper, "China and Pakistan: Emerging Strains in the Entente Cordiale".

  • Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has approved a 7.7B baht purchase of six second-hand, U-206 class submarines from Germany for the first-ever missions to protect national interests in the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Also the Thai Army has received three Russian MI-17 V-5 helicopters (US$29.1 million).

  • The Philippines has increased air and naval patrols and plans to upgrade an airstrip on an island it occupies in the South China Sea to strengthen its claim on the Spratly Islands. General Eduardo Oban said the army had about 8 billion pesos (S$233 million) to buy faster boats, long-range maritime aircraft, surveillance and communications equipment.

  • The UN has asked China to release a prominent human rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, saying his detention violates international law. Gao is a major figure in the rights movement, advocating constitutional reform and arguing landmark cases to defend religious dissenters, including members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement. Check out Project 2049's Kelley Currie commenting on democracy and human rights in China.

  • Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on Monday said that Egypt and Tunisia have asked Indonesia to help them in their election process, including how to regulate and make laws on political parties.

  • ASEAN firms are set to benefit from Japan’s $300 billion reconstruction program. The plan would possibly create opportunities for Japanese firms to move factories to ASEAN countries, allow Southeast Asian comapnies to help support the supply-chain, and make ASEAN goods more attractive due to the uncertainty of the Japanese export market.

  • China, India, and Brazil—eager to lock in new energy resources to sustain rapid economic growth—target Mozambique. The African Development Bank predicts that by 2020, Mozambique will become the second-largest coal producer in Africa with projected coal exports of 110 million tons a year with total reserves estimated at 10 billion tons.

  • Germany has provided over 31 million euro for development projects in Laos. The financial and technical assistance will expand vocational education and human resource development for a market economy, improve the access to aid for people living in rural areas, and promote sustainable development in the mining sector.

  • Malaysia will station more police in human trafficking hotspots like the Strait of Melaka and South China Sea to battle against human trafficking. In similar fashion, 32 nations in the Asia-Pacific region agreed to take a regional approach to human trafficking and people smuggling during the Fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime. While the framework is non-binding, it is the world’s first such agreement.

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