Under the Radar News 09.30.11

Posted on Friday, September 30, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia.

  • China and India launched the first Strategic Economic Dialogue this week to discuss differences on oil exploration in the South China Sea, business opportunities and solutions to the European debt crisis.

  • Tokyo is reportedly moving closer toward purchasing new generation jet fighters including the F-35 stealth fighter, Eurofighter Typhoon and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Japan’s Ministry of Defense will purchase 40 new jets in total and retire its fleet of F-4s.

  • During President Corazon Aquino’s visit to Japan this week, the two countries launched the “Coast Watch” initiative to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. During the visit Japan also pledged $1.4 billion in investment and $120 million loan in Official Development Assistance (ODA) for forest management programs.

  • South Korea will reportedly build a naval base on Ulleung Island in the East Sea to defend its sovereignty claim over Dokdo Island (called Takeshima Island by Japan). Both Japan and South Korea claim sovereignty over the small islet.

  • Japan plans to diversify its supply chain for rare earth elements (REE) through an agreement with Burma. Currently, China controls over 90 percent of global REE supply.

  • China and South Africa signed a MOU on geology and mineral resources cooperation and an agreement for developing financial cooperation. These pacts appear to reinforce the countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership status, established last year.

  • In an apparent effort to resume peace talks, India and Pakistan agree to double trade within three years and open a second border trading post.

  • Typhoon Nesat killed at least 43 people and left 30 missing in the Philippines. Around 160,000 Filipinos are still in evacuation centers due to flooding. In Hainan Island, China, hundreds of thousands evacuated their homes.

  • Taiwanese businessmen in China claim that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) threatened to send agents to monitor demonstrations in Taipei. Protesters claim that Chinese officials have illegally seized their investments in the Mainland.
  • Under the Radar News 09.23.11

    Posted on Friday, September 23, 2011 by Jessica Drun

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Japanese defense firm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, reported a cyber attack on over 80 of its servers. The hackers were trying to access sensitive data on the country’s submarine, missile and nuclear power plant production lines. Though Mitsubishi claims that no information has been compromised, the Japan Ministry of Defense has called for a full investigation. Later, two other Japanese defense companies, IHI Corp. and Kawasaki Heavy Industries revealed that they had been victim to similar attacks.

  • India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONCG) is reportedly working with Vietnam in outlining plans for an oil-drilling plant in the South China Sea. The proposed drilling points are located near the disputed Spratly Islands, prompting China—one of the claimants of the islets—to criticize the move on grounds that it constituted interference and territorial encroachment. Despite repeated warnings from Beijing, ONCG has maintained its commitment to the venture.

  • The Burmese government loosened its strict control over the internet this week, allowing its citizens access to websites hosted by dissidents, international news sources, and YouTube.

  • Taiwanese and Chinese telecommunications companies committed to funding the development of a cross-Strait marine cable, linking Kinmen and Xiamen. The cable is expected to increase both the volume and quality of calls between Taiwan and China and is backed with the full support of national security agencies.

  • Torrential rain has devastated parts of China, causing severe flooding and landslides in Sichuan, Henan, and Shaanxi provinces. Damages are assessed to be around $2.7 billion and affecting over 12.3 million people. Records indicate that the flooding in Sichuan is the worst ever recorded.

  • The opposition candidate, Michael Sata, won the Zambian presidential election on the Patriotic Front’s ticket. He is known for his staunch stance against China, which stems from his criticism of the labor conditions at local Chinese mining sites. His victory may alter the landscape of Sino-Zambian relations. Following Sata’s victory, Chinese officials warned local expats to stay indoors.

  • South Korea is reportedly investing in a multi-billion dollar missile defense project. The stated purpose of the initiative is to safeguard populated cities, key military sites and nuclear power plants from possible North Korean attacks. The United States had approached the South Koreans with an invitation to join the U.S. missile defense system. However, Seoul was unsure of the system's overall effectiveness and wary of Beijing's response.

  • Vietnam expatriates living in Western nations composed a letter to the Vietnamese president calling for democratic reform. The letter outlined a list of grievances toward China, citing both historical incidents and current offenses, including resource exploitation and China’s aggressive actions in the Spratly Islands. The expats ascertain that the most viable way to counteract Chinese influence is to amend the national Constitution and allow the voice of the people to be heard.
  • China’s “Doctrine of Non-Interference”: The Curious Case of Iran

    Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski


    China’s actions have not been in tune with its foreign policy “doctrine of non-interference.” This is a good thing.

    On stage, Chinese diplomats continue to promulgate the country’s oft-stated policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations. Yet the evolution of the PRC’s reaction to the on-going crisis in Libya and Sudan’s referendum suggest that it is not iron-clad and other calculations may be pulling at the seams of this so-called doctrine. Iran provides an interesting case-study as there are indications that a similar shift in Chinese posturing may be in the offing.

    While Chinese leaders consistently hoist Tehran up as a “fraternal partner” and resist U.N. sanctions to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Beijing’s recent actions do not match up with its diplomats’ congenial rhetoric. Recent reports reveal that Chinese SOEs have put the brakes on oil and gas investment in Iran. CNPC, China’s largest state oil and gas group has delayed drilling exploration wells on the South Pars natural gas field, the country’s most significant energy development project. Sinopec Group, China’s second largest oil and gas firm, delayed the start date of the $2 billion Yadavaran oil development project and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation) pulled its team from the North Pars gas venture.

    A permanent shift to a “go slow” approach would be significant because Chinese divestment could undermine the Iranian economy and hence challenge the current Iranian leadership under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose administration has been under severe pressure externally as well as internally by the popular “Green Movement.” Iran lacks the infrastructure to refine oil and to efficiently extract natural gas and therefore relies heavily on foreign investment and technological expertise. China has traditionally responded to this deficiency; in 2009, China invested $29.71 billion in Iran’s energy sector, a colossal amount relative to Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia’s $250 million aggregate investments. In 2010, Iran was also the fourth largest recipient of Chinese non-bond investment.

    Yet, recent international and U.S. sanctions have halted foreign investment in Iran and contributed to a 9.5 percent decline in Iran’s annual oil production levels. A U.S. National Academy of Sciences study estimates that Iranian oil exports could drop to zero by 2015.With South Korea and Japan having abandoned Iran, China could be the last straw for Iran’s strategic oil sector.

    Only time will tell if China’s recent investment slowdown in Iran’s oil sector is of a permanent nature or just a tactical diversion. Therefore, it is more important to examine the drivers behind Chinese actions: Is Beijing responding to U.S. carrots and sticks or voluntarily scaling back from Iran to improve its international image? An understanding of what strategies are effective in shifting China’s Iran policy will better facilitate the United States’ policy goals vis-a-vis China. While uncertainty over China’s intentions in Iran warrants caution, perhaps most disconcerting is the duplicity between Beijing’s rhetoric and actions. While such discrepancies in the cases of Iran, Sudan, and Libya are favorable positions for the United States, China’s questionable compliance to its agreements is a nascent warning to the level of trust that Washington should exert into its bilateral agreements with Beijing.


    Image Source: The New York Times

    Under the Radar News 09.16.11

    Posted on Friday, September 16, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • China has reportedly accelerated the pace of mapping the deep seabed from the ground area along the country's 3 million square kilometers of water territory that it claims. According to China's 2011 Ocean Development Report, offshore development and resource exploration are expected to bring in $814 billion in revenue by 2020.

  • The Chinese government officially recognized the National Transition Council as the legitimate authority in Libya and pledged to play an active role in the country’s reconstruction.

  • Japan’s Prime Minister Noda restarted nuclear power plants that were decommissioned following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. He also proposed a plan for an International Nuclear Safety Training Institute, which would seek to improve the quality of nuclear reactors within Japan and invite international experts to share best practices.

  • Indonesia and Vietnam established joint maritime patrols to improve security in the South China Sea in an apparent effort to reassert their own territorial claims and economic interests in the region.

  • A leaked cable from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou describes pollution in China’s Pearl River Delta as a threat to the region’s health and economic sustainability, citing cases of cancer and bone disease. Experts in Vietnam are concerned that the toxin-littered Dong Nai River awaits a similar fate.

  • Severe flooding in Thailand has claimed 91 lives and affected over 1 million people. Large dams are running near full capacity from the ongoing flood and an unconfirmed number of downstream residents may be forced to relocate.

  • U.S. Senator John Cornyn and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Relations) introduced two new Taiwan bills to Congress ordering an arms sale of 66 F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan and enhancing the Taiwan Relations Act.

  • With elections next year in Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak has promised a series of reforms including: relaxing censorship, guaranteeing freedom of assembly, and dismantling the Internal Security Act, which permitted indefinite detention for those critical of the government.

  • Under the Radar News 09.09.11

    Posted on Friday, September 9, 2011 by Jessica Drun

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia

  • Chinese officials stated that the yuan will be fully convertible by 2015, according to E.U. business executives who met with the delegation. This was revealed soon after China pledged its commitment to create an offshore yuan market in London.

  • The South Korean defense ministry reported North Korea has been developing GPS jammers and electromagnetic pulse bombs, capable of disrupting communication networks. Further investigation found that the DPRK has been using these devices on South Korean GPS systems and even on a U.S. military aircraft.

  • The Indian government plans to tackle its trade imbalance with China by calling for an action plan that aims to draw in Chinese investment while increasing tariffs and raising trade barriers.

  • A U.S. delegation led by Derek Mitchell—U.S. special envoy to Burma— makes its first visit to Naypyidaw to meet with the newly-formed government and democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Mitchell will raise the issue of the country’s poor human rights record to Burmese leaders.

  • Despite the ongoing tension over territorial disputes, the Philippines and China are moving forward with cooperation in oil exploration ventures in the Spratly Islands. The initiative is headed by Sino Petroleum with the approval of the Philippine government and will be conducted under its bylaws.

  • Violence continues in the southern provinces of Thailand as Islamist separatists target moderate Muslims, Buddhist monks, and government supporters. Their goals are unclear; though analysts believe the guerillas are vying for control of the region’s rubber plantations and aiming to set up sharia law.

  • The Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, Tsai Ing-wen has chosen Su Jia-chyuan, as her running mate. Su is expected to help garner critical votes from central Taiwan.
  • New DF-31A ICBM Brigade in Hunan?

    Posted on 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.

    An amateur photographer posted a video on China’s Youku website on August 24 capturing a probable Dongfeng-31A (DF-31A) convoy transiting downtown Shaoyang (邵阳), a prefecture-level city in Hunan Province (womil.com, August 24, 2011). [1] The video was taped at the intersection of Xihu Road (S217) and Highway G207, and showed a single DF-31 transporter, erector, launcher (TEL) moving north accompanied by six camouflaged support vehicles and a Public Security (公安) escort.

    New 805 Brigade Headquarters?

    The DF-31(A) TEL may have been on its way to a new Second Artillery brigade headquarters facility located in the far western suburbs of the city. Formerly based in Hunan’s Tongdao (通道) County, the 805 Brigade (96313 Unit) initiated construction of new facilities in Shaoyang in 2008 and completed its relocation last year (Shaoyang Daily, August 12, 2010; shaoyangtv.com, February 11, 2010; shaoyang.gov.cn, August 12, 2010). Older facilities in Tongdao County were being dismantled in 2010 (tdsfxz.gov.cn, January 11, 2011).

    805 Brigade Leadership & Structure

    Senior Colonel Yi Decai (易德才) has served as the 805 Brigade commander since as early as 2007 (shaoyang.gov.cn, August 12, 2010; sygyy.com, November 23, 2010). He formerly commanded the 55 Base’s nuclear warhead depot and before that served as 814 Brigade (96315 Unit, Huitong) chief of staff. The 805 Brigade’s political commissar, Colonel Dai Weide (戴伟德), previously served as political commissar of the 55 Base’s warhead storage regiment [2]—a key stepping stone for future leadership positions—and overlapped with Yi Decai (Science and Technology Daily, January 11, 2011; Science and Technology Daily, July 8, 2010; Science and Technology Daily, July 13, 2010; Shaoyang Daily, August 12, 2010). Reporting from early 2011 indicates that the 805 Brigade chief of staff is Lu Yi’nian (卢义年), who formerly served as a battalion commander. The brigade’s senior engineer is Ma Zhaodong (马朝东). The brigade oversees six launch battalions, a communications battalion, a site management battalion, technical battalion, and a technical support battalion. Nuclear warheads that the unit would employ are maintained in a specialized storage facility.

    Function of Operational Regiments

    The DF-31 and DF-31A are assumed to carry only a single nuclear warhead, which do not appear to be mated with missiles during peacetime. The 55 Base’s 905 Regiment— euphemistically referred to as an Equipment Inspection Regiment—maintains the 55 Base’s inventory of ballistic missiles and limited number of nuclear warheads in underground facilities. The 55 Base Technical Service Regiment (96322 Unit) has responsibility for transporting warheads and missile sections from 905 Regiment depot facilities to launch brigades when ordered to do so. The brigade’s technical battalion assembles missile sections and mates them with warheads in underground facilities maintained by the brigade’s site management battalion. The missile is subsequently hoisted and loaded into the brigade’s TELs, which are rolled out to pre-surveyed launch sites. The brigade’s communications battalion is tasked with ensuring the brigade commander and political commissar maintain constant communication links internally within the brigade and externally with upper echelons.

    Moving toward DF-31(A)?

    The 805 Brigade is said to have previously been equipped with the liquid fueled, two staged DF-4 (NATO designation: CSS-3) intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM). With a range of at least 5,500 kilometers (km), the DF-4 is capable of reaching targets throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including U.S. facilities on Guam. State media reporting indicates that the 805 Brigade began planning for the conversion to a new missile system at least as early as 2007. The conversion reflects a broader trend in the shift from liquid- to solid-fueled missiles that are road/rail-mobile, and capable of being launched more rapidly. A submarine launched variant of the DF-31, the JL-2, is still being flight-tested.

    Since integrating the new missile system, the 805 Brigade has implemented an aggressive training program. In July 2010, the brigade conducted an exercise involving rapid response, mobility, and survivability. During the second week of March 2011, the brigade carried out tactical mobility training involving night time operations under communications jamming conditions. In April 2011, another exercise tested the unit’s ability to counter enemy space surveillance assets. The brigade appears to have been involved in acceptance testing in 2009, which likely involved live fire exercises, and formally introduced the new missile variant into its inventory in 2010.

    The 805 Brigade may be the third known Second Artillery unit equipped with a type of DF-31. The first unit equipped with DF-31 was likely the 54 Base’s 813 Brigade, based in Nanyang, Henan Province. The Nanyang brigade received its first missiles for operational test and evaluation as early as 2003, and achieved initial operational capability by 2006. Senior Colonel Wang Zhanxiang (王占祥) oversaw the Nanyang brigade’s integration of the DF-31 in the early 2000s. Promoted in 2009, Major General Wang now serves as 55 Base Senior Engineer. A second unit—the 812 Brigade (96363 Unit), located in Tianshui, Gansu Province—was probably the first to be equipped with the extended range DF-31A variant. Previously based in Delingha (Qinghai Province) and equipped with the DF-4, the 812 Brigade began its transition to Tianshui as early as 2001 and completed conversion to the DF-31A in the 2007 timeframe. (NOTE: The Second Artillery brigade currently based in Delingha–the 96367 Unit–appears to be the Second Artillery’s Northwest Test and Training Base.)

    As a side note, Chinese government publications indicate the possible establishment of a test and evaluation unit (试训队) under the 54 Base, headquartered in Luoyang, Henan Province. Located within Xinyang City in southeastern Henan, the test and evaluation unit may be introducing a new missile variant into the Second Artillery Force’s operational inventory. The U.S. Department of Defense has reported in the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2011 that China is currently developing a new road-mobile ICBM, possibly capable of carrying a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV).

    Comments

    The presence the DF-31(A) convoy in Shaoyang augments reporting of the 805 Brigade’s conversion to a new missile variant, and appears to confirm the retirement of the DF-4 and initial introduction of the DF-31(A) to Hunan’s 55 Base. Beyond improved survivability, replacement of the DF-4 with the DF-31(A) increases the number of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles that could be dedicated to a regional scenario, and possibly the United States, in a crisis situation. According to the 2010 DoD report, the Second Artillery had approximately 10-15 DF-31 and 10-15 DF-31A missiles in the active inventory. [3] Each brigade is presumably equipped with 12 launchers (six launch battalions, two subordinate companies each, and with each company assigned one launcher). Estimates of China’s ICBM inventory appear to be based upon the assumption of roughly one missile per launcher (or silo). The Shaoyang brigade is likely equipped along similar lines as the first two DF-31 units.

    Notes:

    1. Based on the video, it is difficult to determine the specific DF-31 variant.
    2. The unique nature of nuclear operations places a premium on personnel reliability, which is a prime responsibility of the political commissar system.
    3. It is interesting to note, however, that the most recent DoD report credits China with 50-75 ICBMs, with ranges between 5,400 and 13,000 km.

    This post updates and corrects previous Asia Eye posting.

    Under the Radar News 09.02.11

    Posted on Friday, September 2, 2011 by Isabella Mroczkowski

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia


  • Philippines President Aquino visited China this week to peacefully resolve territorial disputes. He urged the world’s number two economy to invest in the Philippines and a five year $60 billion trade and investment plan is underway.

  • Last month an Indian Naval Ship confronted the Chinese Navy while sailing in international waters in the South China Sea. While China ordered the warship to change course, India has called for adherence to principles of international law.

  • Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda entered office this week, pledging to deepen the U.S.-Japan alliance and making a plea for unity in his divided DPJ party.

  • Typhoon Nanmadol stormed through the Philippines, Taiwan, and China this week resulting in seventeen deaths and devastating floods. Taiwan’s recovery from the tropical storm was further delayed by a 5.3 scale earthquake that hit on Wednesday.

  • China is set to pass new legislation that will allow police to hold political dissidents in secret detention centers.

  • In an effort to ease tensions following South China Sea disputes and political riots, China and Vietnam are planning a defense hotline to promote bilateral defense cooperation.

  • North Korea and Russia plan to increase naval cooperation specifically: joint search and rescue exercises and humanitarian drills.

  • Taiwanese Presidential Candidate Tsai Ing-wen urges a slower pace for Cross-Strait relations. Her comments are in response to President Ma Ying-jeou’s fast-track trade and tourism agreements with China earlier this year.

  • Under the Radar News 09.02.11

    Posted on by Isabella Mroczkowski

    A weekly compilation of underreported events in Asia


  • Philippines President Aquino visited China this week to peacefully resolve territorial disputes. He urged the world’s number two economy to invest in the Philippines and a five year $60 billion trade and investment plan is underway.

  • Last month an Indian Naval Ship confronted the Chinese Navy while sailing in international waters in the South China Sea. While China ordered the warship to change course, India has called for adherence to principles of international law.

  • Japan’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda entered office this week, pledging to deepen the U.S.-Japan alliance and making a plea for unity in his divided DPJ party.

  • Typhoon Nanmadol stormed through the Philippines, Taiwan, and China this week resulting in seventeen deaths and devastating floods. Taiwan’s recovery from the tropical storm was further delayed by a 5.3 scale earthquake that hit on Wednesday.

  • China is set to pass new legislation that will allow police to hold political dissidents in secret detention centers.

  • In an effort to ease tensions following South China Sea disputes and political riots, China and Vietnam are planning a defense hotline to promote bilateral defense cooperation.

  • North Korea and Russia plan to increase naval cooperation specifically: joint search and rescue exercises and humanitarian drills.

  • Taiwanese Presidential Candidate Tsai Ing-wen urges a slower pace for Cross-Strait relations. Her comments are in response to President Ma Ying-jeou’s fast-track trade and tourism agreements with China earlier this year.

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