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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

United States Accedes to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia

On July 22, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed the United States’ Instrument of Accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia. At the same time, the ten ASEAN Foreign Ministers signed an Instrument of Extension of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, completing the United States’ accession to the Treaty. Among other things, parties to the Treaty pledge to promote perpetual peace, everlasting amity and to cooperate in economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields.
During her visit to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta in February of this year, Secretary Clinton announced that the Administration would pursue accession to the Treaty because “we believe that the United States must have strong relationships and a strong and productive presence here in Southeast Asia.” Today’s signing ceremony successfully completes this Administration initiative.
The speed at which the United States worked together with ASEAN members to realize U.S. accession to the Treaty highlights our re-energized involvement in Southeast Asia, as well as the close mutual ties sought by ASEAN and the United States. U.S. accession is a symbol of the United States’ desire to engage more deeply and effectively with ASEAN on regional and global priorities.
The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia was signed by the original members of ASEAN in 1976. All ASEAN members have since become parties to the Treaty. In 1987, ASEAN amended the Treaty to invite countries outside of Southeast Asia to accede to the Treaty in order to build confidence, promote peace and security, and facilitate economic cooperation in the region

Article obtained from
Bureau of Public Affairs
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 22, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874

According to Ambassador Goldberg the United States has had some very good meetings with the Malaysian Central Bank. These discussions were for the purpose of continued improvements in the implementations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874. Resolution 1874, the most recent U.N. resolution, includes important new provisions on inspections, as well as on financial matters; they are aimed at North Korea’s nuclear and missile technology programs

Ambassador Goldberg would not comment on speculation that the Malaysian bank system was being used to help fund the North Korean development of nuclear weapons. However, the Ambassador did state, “…, Malaysia has expertise in the financial sector, and experience that we hope to tap as we move forward as an international community within the UN, to implement the U.N. resolution. Again, with our overall goal being a return to serious and meaningful discussions about denuclearization and non-proliferation. That is our goal, and we look at the resolutions as a way to get back to our original purpose. “

The Ambassador stated that the United States will continue to share information with the international community in an effort to keep the international banking system safe and secure.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Japanese Military movements

Yonguni Island probably doesn’t mean much to anyone except divers and archealogists. Yonaguni Island is home to an interesting collection of what some describe as the oldest buildings in the world. They aren’t actually on the island, they are in the water and are a major attraction for visitors.
Situated less than a hundred miles from Taiwan, Yonguni is the southern most Island of Japan and part of the Okinawa Perfecture District. It is making some news lately with the reported movement of Japanese Defence Forces possibly being relocated there. It is possible that Japan is trying to show its resolve in protecting its southern border from any intrusion, although this hasn’t been a problem in the past. There are a number of reasons that Japan may be moving troops to this location besides a show of force. Over the past 15 years Japan has started to come out of its cacoon which it wrapped itself in after their defeat in the Second World War. In recent years the Japanes Defence Forces have served in locations outside their national bounderies which was previously prohibited by the Constitution. Japan is once again taking a larger military role in world affairs. This move to Yonguni Island may be one method of getting the people of Japan use to the idea of military use in unison with diplomatic ends.
Japan also has Islands in the north which have been occupied by Russia since the end of the Second World War. Is it possible they are flexing their muscle in the south before stretching to the north?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Abu Bakar Bashir

Abu Bakar Bashir was born in 1938 and graduated from school in 1961. It is claimed that he is the spiritual head of the Jamaah Islamiyay (JI). He states that the organization does not exist. Bashir has been in prison numerous times on various charges. He has a large following and is considered very dangerous to the security of the Pacific Region. He has stated in the past that the only way the West will be secure is if it follows Islam.
Bashir has been charged with numerous terrorist activities to include the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings against Christian churches which killed 18 people and involvement in the 2003 bomb attack at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta which killed 14 people. He was also indicted for bombings in 2002 in Bali which resulted in the death of 182 people. Although Bashir was found guilty of the 2002 bombings he was not found guilty of the Marriott Hotel charges.
He was released from prison in 2006 to the cheers of his followers.
In October of 2008 he stated he was forming a new group called "Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid" ("partisans of the oneness of God").

Monday, June 29, 2009

North Korean Soap Opera

According to the Washington Post, “North Korea criticized the U.S. on Monday for positioning missile defense systems around Hawaii, calling the deployment part of a plot to attack the regime and saying it would bolster its nuclear arsenal in retaliation”.
The Administration believes the deployment of this system is necessary for the defense of Hawaii in the event of a missile launch by North Korea directed at the Islands.
North Korea has been beating its war drums as of late against the U.S. It continues to accuse the U.S. of hostile preparations against the North. This has given the North a hook on which hang its “…nuclear arsenal in self-defense”.
North Korea continues to employ a strategy of raising the bat to get the worlds attention. Whether this is for political reasons (NKorea is the last Stalinist Regime in the world), for economic reasons (keep the food flowing to us and we wont do anything stupid) or for both reasons is hard to say.

For whatever reason they play this irritating game, North Korea needs and deserves the full attention of all governments. North Korea should not be allowed to operate in this method as it lends to instability in the Pacific region. All governments should form a comprehensive and unified policy that motivates North Korea to decrease the sound of its war drums and increase its openness to the rest of the world.

Until there is a unified effort by all governments we can continue to look forward to more Soap Opera antics from North Korea.

Monday, June 22, 2009

U.S. Exercise in Korea

According to the Yonhap news agency senior North Korean military officials demanded the U.S. call off annual military drill in South Korea. North Korea is presently faced with UN sanctions because of missile testing.
Last week the North proposed meetings be held at Panmunjom inside the DMZ. This is the first meeting between high ranking officials since 2002. It was at this meeting that North Korea filed its complaints against the military exercises. They indicated that the exercise would increase tensions on the Korean peninsula.
A UN spokesman stated that the military exercise would be carried out as planned.
The military exercise will involve 26,000 U.S. troops and an unspecified number of South Korean forces.

Friday, June 19, 2009

UN Security Council Resolution

According to the U.S. State Department, enforcement of UNSC Resolution 1874 allows States to ask permission to board ships at sea to look for proscribed cargo. The State Department also stated that China and other states are obliged to enforce the UNSC Resolution. The Resolution requires flag states to permit inspection of docked ships or it will be in violation of the UNSC Resolution. They are in hopes that this will force North Korea to comply with international law and allow inspections.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Mr. Ian Kelly reported today for the U.S. State Department that Vietnamese authorities had arrested lawyer Le Cong Dinh on June 13. Le Cong Dinh was arrested for “distributing propaganda against the state”. He was apparently arrested for his defense of pro-democracy activists and expressing his views on the Internet.
Mr. Dinh is a former Fulbright Scholar and well respected in the legal community. The State Department expressed their concern over this event and stated that “…no lawyer should be punished because of the individuals they choose to counsel.”
The State Department also call for the immediate release of Mr. Dinh and others that have been arrested for peacefully expressing their view point.

Friday, June 12, 2009

North Korea Sanctioned

Although there have been no signs of further missile testing by North Korea, recent comments by them may have influenced actions by the UN Security Council. The Associated Press has reported that North Korea has stated that its nuclear missiles will be used for defensive as well as offensive purposes in order to protect its “dignity and sovereignty”. The UN Security Council passed a resolution strengthening sanctions against North Korea - though the statement may not have a direct bearing on the passage of the resolution. Japan’s Diet is also in the middle of passing legislation which would give them the power to inspect North Korean ships on the High Seas in support of the UN sanctions. Some believe that North Korea will not respond to pressure with military force.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Comments by Nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific

The following comments were made by President Obama's Nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific, Dr. Kurt M. Campbell, Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, DC, June 10, 2009

I’ve had the good fortune to see Asia from a variety of vantage points over the past 20 years. My first interactions in Asia were as a naval officer serving in Yokosuka, Japan and subsequently as an officer on the Joint Staff. As a treasury official in the early 1990s, I was fortunate to witness firsthand Asia’s remarkable economic transformation from a region of developing countries to a critical driver of the global economy. Later, working at the National Security Council and at the Pentagon as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia and the Pacific, I was able to gain a richer appreciation of the importance of American engagement to the security and stability of Asia. In my time outside of government I have had the chance to return to my roots as a professor and academic working on Asia-Pacific issues in the Washington, D.C. think-tank community and to work in the private sector in the most dynamic region on the globe. The last decade has allowed me to witness the dramatic rise of an increasingly integrated and highly innovative Asia – but nevertheless a region that still relies upon strong American leadership and sound judgment…..

I’ve had the great privilege to work on Asia-Pacific issues for many years and it is a high honor to have the chance to continue to serve at a moment of enormous consequence and opportunity for the United States in Asia…..

Japan and the Republic of Korea have been key partners in our joint efforts to maintain peace and stability in Northeast Asia and, in particular, to denuclearize North Korea through the Six-Party process. Recently this process has suffered serious setbacks, with North Korea stepping away from the denuclearization process and instead carrying out a series of provocations including its April 5 missile test and its May 25 announcement of a second nuclear test. As the President said, North Korea’s actions blatantly defy U.N. Security Council resolutions and constitute a direct and reckless challenge to the international community, increasing tension and undermining stability in Northeast Asia. If confirmed, I would use close bilateral and trilateral coordination with Tokyo and Seoul to make clear that neither the United States nor its allies will accept a nuclear North Korea. We will also work closely with China in order to coordinate our policies on North Korea. And there should be no mistake: the United States is firm in its resolve to uphold its treaty commitments regarding the defense of its allies…..

Last but certainly not least, I want to speak about our relationship with China. The U.S.-China relationship is complex, it is developing rapidly, and it is one of the most consequential of our bilateral relationships.President Obama agreed with President Hu at the G-20 Summit in London that both the United States and China will seek to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship for the 21st century. China’s rise as an economic power and its growing political and diplomatic influence are developments with global and not merely regional ramifications. Our bilateral engagement with China cuts across a range and depth of issues that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago. We currently convene over 50 bilateral dialogues and working groups spanning subjects from aviation to non-proliferation to food safety.

If confirmed, I will carry out the Administration’s objective to expand the cooperative aspects of the bilateral relationship in a way that parallels the complex and comprehensive nature of our engagement with China while further facilitating China’s integration into the international system. In this respect, the ability to conduct frank and honest conversations about the difficult issues where we disagree will be an essential element of our approach. The American people expect us to continue the promotion of human rights and religious freedom in China.

If confirmed, I will ensure that human rights, religious freedom for all China’s citizens, and development of the rule of law and civil society remain strong pillars of our engagement.

The situation in Tibet will remain a subject of engagement and concern.

Finally, I support the long-standing U.S. commitment to the one-China policy based on the three Communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act, which have served to preserve peace and stability across the Strait for the last three decades. We are committed to making available to Taiwan the defense articles and services required for a sufficient self-defense. We welcome recent initiatives from both sides of the Taiwan Strait that have increased interaction and dialogue, and reduced tensions.

To see the full text go to

Monday, June 8, 2009

China investing

China’s bid to scoop up Pacific Rim companies is meeting with some success. Since the current economic difficulties have started China has been one of the very few countries that finds itself with liquid assets. In order to capitalize on their position they have sought out companies that are in desperate need of cash flow. The majority of these companies are taking the investment money. Some countries such as Australia are resistant to China’s investment strategy. In Australia, China is beginning to see resistance and in some cases a reversal of previous acceptance of China’s money. Although China’s investment strategy has not yet reached the shores of the United States is it possible that China may be positioning for financial dominance of the Pacific Rim as Japan has tried in the past? China is no longer just a back-water country used by other countries as a source of cheap goods but is fast becoming an economic Capitalist giant and dominant player in the world market.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


We are currently updating our research tools so our Web Log for Wednesday June 3 will not be available. Please join us on Friday June 5 for our latest update. Thank you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Background Notes : Cambodia

Cambodia has established diplomatic relations with most countries, including the United States. The country is a member of most major international organizations, including the UN and its specialized agencies, and became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1998.
Cambodia is a member of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). On October 13, 2004, Cambodia became the 148th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In the past three years, bilateral relations between the U.S. and Cambodia have deepened and broadened. With the lifting of a congressional ban to provide direct assistance to the Cambodian Government, more direct technical assistance has become feasible. U.S. assistance to Cambodia administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) mission in 2008 totaled over $57 million for programs in health, education, governance, and economic growth.
The U.S. supports efforts in Cambodia to combat terrorism, reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, build democratic institutions, promote human rights, foster economic development, eliminate corruption, achieve the fullest possible accounting for Americans missing from the Indochina conflict, and to bring to justice those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed under the Khmer Rouge regime.
Between 1955 and 1963, the United States provided $409.6 million in economic grant aid and $83.7 million in military assistance. This aid was used primarily to repair damage caused by Cambodia's war of independence from France, to support internal security forces, and for the construction of an all-weather road to the seaport of Sihanoukville, which gave Cambodia its first direct access to the sea and access to the southwestern hinterlands. Relations deteriorated in the early 1960s. Diplomatic relations were broken by Cambodia in May 1965, but were reestablished on July 2, 1969. U.S. relations continued after the establishment of the Khmer Republic until the U.S. mission was evacuated on April 12, 1975. During the 1970-75 war, the United States provided $1.18 billion in military assistance and $503 million in economic assistance. The United States condemned the brutal character of the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. The United States opposed the subsequent military occupation of Cambodia by Vietnam, and supported ASEAN's efforts in the 1980s to achieve a comprehensive political settlement of the problem. This was accomplished on October 23, 1991, when the Paris Conference reconvened to sign a comprehensive settlement.
The U.S. Mission in Phnom Penh opened on November 11, 1991, headed by career diplomat Charles H. Twining, Jr., who was designated U.S. Special Representative to the SNC. On January 3, 1992, the U.S. lifted its embargo against Cambodia, thus normalizing economic relations with the country. The United States also ended blanket opposition to lending to Cambodia by international financial institutions. When the freely elected Royal Government of Cambodia was formed on September 24, 1993, the United States and the Kingdom of Cambodia immediately established full diplomatic relations. The U.S. Mission was upgraded to a U.S. Embassy, and in May 1994 Mr. Twining became the U.S. Ambassador. After the factional fighting in 1997 and Hun Sen's legal machinations to depose First Prime Minister Ranariddh, the United States suspended bilateral assistance to the Cambodian Government. At the same time, many U.S. citizens and other expatriates were evacuated from Cambodia and, in the subsequent weeks and months, more than 40,000 Cambodian refugees fled to Thailand. The 1997 events also left a long list of uninvestigated human rights abuses, including dozens of extra-judicial killings. From 1997 until the lifting of legislative restrictions on bilateral assistance in 2007, U.S. assistance to the Cambodian people was provided mainly through non-governmental organizations, which flourish in Cambodia.

Notes taken from U.S. State Dept.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The North Korean Nuclear Test and Geopolitical (cont. from 3-27-09)

By Nathan Hughes

RealityNuclear Weapons in the 20th Century
Even before an atomic bomb was first detonated on July 16, 1945, both the scientists and engineers of the Manhattan Project and the U.S. military struggled with the implications of the science that they pursued. But ultimately, they were driven by a profound sense of urgency to complete the program in time to affect the outcome of the war, meaning understanding the implications of the atomic bomb was largely a luxury that would have to wait. Even after World War II ended, the frantic pace of the Cold War kept pushing weapons development forward at a break-neck pace. This meant that in their early days, atomic weapons were probably more advanced than the understanding of their moral and practical utility.

But the promise of nuclear weapons was immense. If appropriate delivery systems could be designed and built, and armed with more powerful nuclear warheads, a nation could continually threaten another country’s very means of existence: its people, industry, military installations and governmental institutions. Battlefield or tactical nuclear weapons would make the massing of military formations suicidal — or so military planners once thought. What seemed clear early on was that nuclear weapons had fundamentally changed everything. War was thought to have been made obsolete, simply too dangerous and too destructive to contemplate. Some of the most brilliant minds of the Manhattan Project talked of how atomic weapons made world government necessary.

But perhaps the most surprising aspect of the advent of the nuclear age is how little actually changed. Great power competition continued apace (despite a new, bilateral dynamic). The Soviets blockaded Berlin for nearly a year starting in 1948, in defiance of what was then the world’s sole nuclear power: the United States. Likewise, the United States refused to use nuclear weapons in the Korean War (despite the pleas of Gen. Douglas MacArthur) even as Chinese divisions surged across the Yalu River, overwhelming U.S., South Korean and allied forces and driving them back south, reversing the rapid gains of late 1950.

Again and again, the situations nuclear weapons were supposed to deter occurred. The military realities they would supposedly shift simply persisted. Thus, the United States lost in Vietnam. The Syrians and the Egyptians invaded Israel in 1973 (despite knowing that the Israelis had acquired nuclear weapons by that point). The Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan. India and Pakistan went to war in 1999 — and nearly went to war twice after that. In none of these cases was it judged appropriate to risk employing nuclear weapons — nor was it clear what utility they might have.

Enduring Geopolitical Stability
Wars of immense risk are born of desperation. In World War II, both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan took immense geostrategic gambles — and lost — but knowingly took the risk because of untenable geopolitical circumstances. By comparison, the postwar United States and Soviet Union were geopolitically secure. Washington had come into its own as a global power secured by the buffer of two oceans, while Moscow enjoyed the greatest strategic depth it had ever known.

The U.S.-Soviet competition was, of course, intense, from the nuclear arms race to the space race to countless proxy wars. Yet underlying it was a fear that the other side would engage in a war that was on its face irrational. Western Europe promised the Soviet Union immense material wealth but would likely have been impossible to subdue. (Why should a Soviet leader expect to succeed where Napoleon and Hitler had failed?) Even without nuclear weapons in the calculus, the cost to the Soviets was too great, and fears of the Soviet invasion of Europe along the North European Plain were overblown. The desperation that caused Germany to seek control over Europe twice in the first half of the 20th century simply did not characterize either the Soviet or U.S. geopolitical position even without nuclear weapons in play. It was within this context that the concept of mutually assured destruction emerged — the idea that each side would possess sufficient retaliatory capability to inflict a devastating “second strike” in the event of even a surprise nuclear attack.

Through it all, the metrics of nuclear warfare became more intricate. Throw weights and penetration rates were calculated and recalculated. Targets were assigned and reassigned. A single city would begin to have multiple target points, each with multiple strategic warheads allocated to its destruction. Theorists and strategists would talk of successful scenarios for first strikes. But only in the Cuban Missile Crisis did the two sides really threaten one another’s fundamental national interests. There were certainly other moments when the world inched toward the nuclear brink. But each time, the global system found its balance, and there was little cause or incentive for political leaders on either side of the Iron Curtain to so fundamentally alter the status quo as to risk direct military confrontation — much less nuclear war.

So through it all, the world carried on, its fundamental dynamics unchanged by the ever-present threat of nuclear war. Indeed, history has shown that once a country has acquired nuclear weapons, the weapons fail to have any real impact on the country’s regional standing or pursuit of power in the international system.

Thus, not only were nuclear weapons never used in even desperate combat situations, their acquisition failed to entail any meaningful shift in geopolitical position. Even as the United Kingdom acquired nuclear weapons in the 1950s, its colonial empire crumbled. The Soviet Union was behaving aggressively all along its periphery before it acquired nuclear weapons. And the Soviet Union had the largest nuclear arsenal in the world when it collapsed — not only despite its arsenal, but in part because the economic burden of creating and maintaining it was unsustainable. Today, nuclear-armed France and non-nuclear armed Germany vie for dominance on the Continent with no regard for France’s small nuclear arsenal.

The Intersection of Weapons, Strategy and Politics
This August will mark 64 years since any nation used a nuclear weapon in combat. What was supposed to be the ultimate weapon has proved too risky and too inappropriate as a weapon ever to see the light of day again. Though nuclear weapons certainly played a role in the strategic calculus of the Cold War, they had no relation to a military strategy that anyone could seriously contemplate. Militaries, of course, had war plans and scenarios and target sets. But outside this world of role-play Armageddon, neither side was about to precipitate a global nuclear war.

Clausewitz long ago detailed the inescapable connection between national political objectives and military force and strategy. Under this thinking, if nuclear weapons had no relation to practical military strategy, then they were necessarily disconnected (at least in the Clausewitzian sense) from — and could not be integrated with — national and political objectives in a coherent fashion. True to the theory, despite ebbs and flows in the nuclear arms race, for 64 years, no one has found a good reason to detonate a nuclear bomb.

By this line of reasoning, STRATFOR is not suggesting that complete nuclear disarmament — or “getting to zero” — is either possible or likely. The nuclear genie can never be put back in the bottle. The idea that the world could ever remain nuclear-free is untenable. The potential for clandestine and crash nuclear programs will remain a reality of the international system, and the world’s nuclear powers are unlikely ever to trust the rest of the system enough to completely surrender their own strategic deterrents.

Legacy, Peer and Bargaining Programs
The countries in the world today with nuclear weapons programs can be divided into three main categories.

Legacy Programs: This category comprises countries like the United Kingdom and France that maintain small arsenals even after the end of the threat they acquired them for; in this case, to stave off a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. In the last few years, both London and Paris have decided to sustain their small arsenals in some form for the foreseeable future. This category is also important for highlighting the unlikelihood that a country will surrender its weapons after it has acquired them (the only exceptions being South Africa and several Soviet Republics that repatriated their weapons back to Russia after the Soviet collapse).

Peer Programs: The original peer program belonged to the Soviet Union, which aggressively and ruthlessly pursued a nuclear weapons capacity following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 because its peer competitor, the United States, had them. The Pakistani and Indian nuclear programs also can be understood as peer programs.

Bargaining Programs: These programs are about the threat of developing nuclear weapons, a strategy that involves quite a bit of tightrope walking to make the threat of acquiring nuclear weapons appear real and credible while at the same time not making it appear so urgent as to require military intervention. Pyongyang pioneered this strategy, and has wielded it deftly over the years. As North Korea continues to progress with its efforts, however, it will shift from a bargaining chip to an actual program — one it will be unlikely to surrender once it acquires weapons, like London and Paris. Iran also falls into this category, though it could also progress to a more substantial program if it gets far enough along. Though parts of its program are indeed clandestine, other parts are actually highly publicized and celebrated as milestones, both to continue to highlight progress internationally and for purposes of domestic consumption. Indeed, manipulating the international community with a nuclear weapon — or even a civilian nuclear program — has proved to be a rare instance of the utility of nuclear weapons beyond simple deterrence.

The Challenges of a Nuclear Weapons Program
Pursuing a nuclear weapons program is not without its risks. Another important distinction is that between a crude nuclear device and an actual weapon. The former requires only that a country demonstrate the capability to initiate an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction, creating a rather large hole in the ground. That device may be crude, fragile or otherwise temperamental. But this does not automatically imply the capability to mount a rugged and reliable nuclear warhead on a delivery vehicle and send it flying to the other side of the earth. In other words, it does not immediately translate into a meaningful deterrent.
For that, a ruggedized, reliable nuclear weapon must be mated with some manner of reliable delivery vehicle to have real military meaning. After the end of World War II, the B-29’s limited range and the few nuclear weapons the United States had on hand meant that its vaunted nuclear arsenal was initially extremely difficult to bring to bear against the Soviet heartland. The United States would spend untold resources to overcome this obstacle in the decade that followed.

The modern nuclear weapon is not just a product of physics, but of decades of design work and full-scale nuclear testing. It combines expertise not just in nuclear physics, but materials science, rocketry, missile guidance and the like. A nuclear device does not come easy. A nuclear weapon is one of the most advanced syntheses of complex technologies ever achieved by man.
Many dangers exist for an aspiring nuclear power. Many of the facilities associated with a clandestine nuclear weapons program are large, fixed and complex. They are vulnerable to airstrikes — as Syria found in 2007. (And though history shows that nuclear weapons are unlikely to be employed, it is still in the interests of other powers to deny that capability to a potential adversary.)

The history of proliferation shows that few countries actually ever decide to pursue nuclear weapons. Obtaining them requires immense investment (and the more clandestine the attempt, the more costly the program becomes), and the ability to focus and coordinate a major national undertaking over time. It is not something a leader like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez could decide to pursue on a whim. A national government must have cohesion over the long span of time necessary to go from the foundations of a weapons program to a meaningful deterrent capability.

The Exceptions
In addition to this sustained commitment must be the willingness to be suspected by the international community and endure pariah status and isolation — in and of themselves significant risks for even moderately integrated economies. One must also have reasonable means of deterring a pre-emptive strike by a competing power. A Venezuelan weapons program is therefore unlikely because the United States would act decisively the moment one was discovered, and there is little Venezuela could do to deter such action.

North Korea, on the other hand, has held downtown Seoul (just across the demilitarized zone) at risk for generations with one of the highest concentrations of deployed artillery, artillery rockets and short-range ballistic missiles on the planet. From the outside, Pyongyang is perceived as unpredictable enough that any potential pre-emptive strike on its nuclear facilities is too risky not because of some newfound nuclear capability, but because of Pyongyang’s capability to turn the South Korean capital city into a proverbial “sea of fire” via conventional means. A nuclear North Korea, the world has now seen, is not sufficient alone to risk renewed war on the Korean Peninsula.

Iran is similarly defended. It can threaten to close the Strait of Hormuz, to launch a barrage of medium-range ballistic missiles at Israel, and to use its proxies in Lebanon and elsewhere to respond with a new campaign of artillery rocket fire, guerrilla warfare and terrorism. But the biggest deterrent to a strike on Iran is Tehran’s ability to seriously interfere in ongoing U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan — efforts already tenuous enough without direct Iranian opposition.

In other words, some other deterrent (be it conventional or unconventional) against attack is a prerequisite for a nuclear program, since powerful potential adversaries can otherwise move to halt such efforts. North Korea and Iran have such deterrents. Most other countries widely considered major proliferation dangers — Iraq before 2003, Syria or Venezuela, for example — do not. And that fundamental deterrent remains in place after the country acquires nuclear weapons.

In short, no one was going to invade North Korea — or even launch limited military strikes against it — before its first nuclear test in 2006. And no one will do so now, nor will they do so after its next test. So North Korea – with or without nuclear weapons – remains secure from invasion. With or without nuclear weapons, North Korea remains a pariah state, isolated from the international community. And with or without them, the world will go on.

The Global Nuclear Dynamic
Despite how frantic the pace of nuclear proliferation may seem at the moment, the true pace of the global nuclear dynamic is slowing profoundly. With the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty already effectively in place (though it has not been ratified), the pace of nuclear weapons development has already slowed and stabilized dramatically. The world’s current nuclear powers are reliant to some degree on the generation of weapons that were validated and certified before testing was banned. They are currently working toward weapons and force structures that will provide them with a stable, sustainable deterrent for the foreseeable future rooted largely in this pre-existing weapons architecture.

New additions to the nuclear club are always cause for concern. But though North Korea’s nuclear program continues apace, it hardly threatens to shift underlying geopolitical realities. It may encourage the United States to retain a slightly larger arsenal to reassure Japan and South Korea about the credibility of its nuclear umbrella. It also could encourage Tokyo and Seoul to pursue their own weapons. But none of these shifts, though significant, is likely to alter the defining military, economic and political dynamics of the region fundamentally.

Nuclear arms are better understood as an insurance policy, one that no potential aggressor has any intention of steering afoul of. Without practical military or political use, they remain held in reserve — where in all likelihood they will remain for the foreseeable future.

Article reprinted with permission of STRATFOR

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The North Korean Nuclear Test and Geopolitical Reality

May 26, 2009
By Nathan Hughes

North Korea tested a nuclear device for the second time in two and a half years May 25. Although North Korea’s nuclear weapons program continues to be a work in progress, the event is inherently significant. North Korea has carried out the only two nuclear detonations the world has seen in the 21st century. (The most recent tests prior to that were the spate of tests by India and Pakistan in 1998.)
Details continue to emerge through the analysis of seismographic and other data, and speculation about the precise nature of the atomic device that Pyongyang may now posses carries on, making this a good moment to examine the underlying reality of nuclear weapons. Examining their history, and the lessons that can be drawn from that history, will help us understand what it will really mean if North Korea does indeed join the nuclear club. (to be continued on Fridays post)

Republished with permission of Stratfor

Monday, May 25, 2009

Japan and China on a collision course

Nikkei English News reported that Japan might consider a complete ban on exports to North Korea because of the nuclear tests it has been conducting. Japan already bans some exports and hopes the increased pressure on North Korea will have some sway on future testing of short-range missiles.

On the other side of the Pacific, it was reported that Japan and Peru have started negotiations for a free-trade pact. Over the past five years, trade between the two nations has grown over 200% and reported to be over $2 billion a year. Peru is trying to develop their foreign commerce with the Asia’s market, which they see as growing in potential. They have also negotiated with South Korea and China.

The psychology of Japan being second to China in trade may come hard to some hard-line nationalists in Japan. China, once occupied by Japan is considered by some in Japan as inferior in manufacturing and financial institutions. Japan may work harder to solidify their relation with Peru. Japan has been a dominate force in the Pacific area for over a century. Its possible failure to stay ahead of China on the economic front may cause some uneasiness in that region of the Pacific. Keep an eye on these two competitors as they are looking for new and better markets. Neither country likes to be in second place.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Internal Divisions and the Chinese Stimulus Plan

By Rodger Baker and Jennifer Richmond
Related Special Topic Page

China’s Economic Imbalance
Due in large part to fears of dire consequences if nothing were done to tackle the economic crisis, China rushed through a 4 trillion yuan (US$586 billion) economic stimulus package in November 2008. The plan cobbled together existing and new initiatives focused on massive infrastructure development projects (designed, among other things, to soak up surplus steel, cement and labor capacity), tax cuts, green energy programs, and rural development.
Ever since the package was passed in November, Beijing has recited the mantra of the need to shift China’s economy from its heavy dependence on exports to one more driven by domestic consumption. But now that the sense of immediate crisis has passed, the stimulus policies are being rethought — and in an unusual development for China, they are being vigorously debated in the Chinese media.

Debating the Stimulus Package
In a country where media restrictions are tightening and private commentary on government officials and actions in blogs and online forums is being curtailed, it is quite remarkable that major Chinese newspaper editorials are taking the lead in questioning aspects of the stimulus package. The question of stimulating rural consumption versus focusing the stimulus on the more economically active coastal regions has been the subject of particularly fierce debate. Some editorials have argued that encouraging rural consumption at a time of higher unemployment is building a bigger problem for the future. This argument maintains that rural laborers — particularly migrant workers — earn only a small amount of money, and that while having them spend their meager savings now might keep gross domestic product up in the short term, it will drain the laborers’ reserves and create a bigger social problem down the road. Others argue that the migrant and rural populations are underdeveloped and incapable of sustained spending, and that pumping stimulus yuan into the countryside is a misallocation of money that could be better spent supporting the urban middle class, in theory creating jobs through increased middle-class consumption of services.

The lack of restrictions on these types of discussions suggests that the debate is occurring with government approval, in a reflection of debates within the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government itself. Despite debate in the Chinese press, Beijing continues to present a unified public face on the handling of the economic crisis, regardless of internal factional debates. Maintaining Party control remains the primary goal of Party officials; even if they disagree over policies, they recognize the importance of showing that the Party remains in charge.
But, as the dueling editorial pages reveal, the Party is not unified in its assessment of the economic crisis or the recovery program. The show of unity masks a power struggle raging between competing interests within the Party. In many ways, this is not a new struggle; there are always officials jockeying for power for themselves and for their protégés. But the depth of the economic crisis in China and the rising fears of social unrest — not only from the migrant laborers, but also from militants or separatists in Tibet and Xinjiang and from “hostile forces” like the Falun Gong, pro-Democracy advocates and foreign intelligence services — have added urgency to long-standing debates over economic and social policies.

In China, decision-making falls to the president and the premier, currently Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao respectively. They do not wield the power of past leaders like Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping, however, and instead are much more reliant on balancing competing interests than on dictating policy.

Party and Government Factions
Hu and Wen face numerous factions among the Chinese elite. Many officials are considered parts of several different factional affiliations based on age, background, education or family heritage. Boiled down, the struggle over the stimulus plan pits two competing views of the core of the Chinese economy. One sees economic strength and social stability centered on China’s massive rural population, while another sees China’s strength and future in the coastal urban areas, in manufacturing and global trade.

Two key figures in the Standing Committee of the Politburo (the center of political power in China), Vice President Xi Jinping and Vice Premier Li Keqiang, highlight this struggle. These two are considered the core of the fifth-generation leadership, and have been tapped to succeed Hu and Wen as China’s next leaders. They also represent radically different backgrounds.
Li is a protege of Hu and rose from the China Youth League, where Hu has built a strong support base. Li represents a newer generation of Chinese leaders, educated in economics and trained in less-developed provinces. (Li held key positions in Henan and Liaoning provinces.) Xi, on the other hand, is a “princeling.” The son of a former vice premier, he trained as an engineer and served primarily in the coastal export-oriented areas, including Hebei, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai.

In a way, Li and Xi represent different proposals for China’s economic recovery and future. Li is a stronger supporter of the recentralization of economic control sought by Hu, a weakening of the regional economic power bases, and a focus on consolidating Chinese industry in a centrally planned manner while spending government money on rural development and urbanization of China’s interior. Xi represents the view followed by former President Jiang Zemin and descended from the policies of Deng. Under that view, economic activity and growth should be encouraged and largely freed from central direction, and if the coastal provinces grow first and faster, that is just fine; eventually the money, technology and employment will move inland.
Inland vs. the Coast.

In many ways, these two views reflect long-standing economic arguments in China — namely, the constant struggle to balance the coastal trade-based economy and the interior agriculture-dominated economy. The former is smaller but wealthier, with stronger ties abroad — and therefore more political power to lobby for preferential treatment. The latter is much larger, but more isolated from the international community — and in Chinese history, frequently the source of instability and revolt in times of stress. These tensions have contributed to the decline of dynasties in centuries past, opening the space for foreign interference in Chinese internal politics. China’s leaders are well aware of the constant stresses between rural and coastal China, but maintaining a balance has been an ongoing struggle.

Throughout Chinese history, there is a repeating pattern of dynastic rise and decline. Dynasties start strong and powerful, usually through conquest. They then consolidate power and exert strong control from the center. But due to the sheer size of China’s territory and population, maintaining central control requires the steady expansion of a bureaucracy that spreads from the center through the various administrative divisions down to the local villages. Over time, the bureaucracy itself begins to usurp power, as its serves as the collector of taxes, distributor of government funds and local arbiter of policy and rights. And as the bureaucracy grows stronger, the center weakens.

Regional differences in population, tax base and economic models start to fragment the bureaucracy, leading to economic (and at times military) fiefdoms. This triggers a strong response from the center as it tries to regain control. Following a period of instability, which often involves foreign interference and/or intervention, a new center is formed, once again exerting strong centralized authority.

This cycle played out in the mid-1600s, as the Ming Dynasty fell into decline and the Manchus (who took on the moniker Qing) swept in to create a new centralized authority. It played out again as the Qing Dynasty declined in the latter half of the 1800s and ultimately was replaced — after an extended period of instability — by the CPC in 1949, ushering in another period of strong centralized control. Once again, a more powerful regional bureaucracy is testing that centralized control.

The economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping at the end of the 1970s led to a three-decade decline of central authority, as economic decision-making and power devolved to the regional and local leadership and the export-oriented coastal provinces became the center of economic activity and power in China. Attempts by the central government to regain some authority over the direction of coastal authorities were repeatedly ignored (or worse), but so long as there was growth in China and relative social stability, this was tolerated.

With Hu’s rise to power, however, there was a new push from the center to rein in the worst of excesses by the coastal leaders and business interests and refocus attention on China’s rural population, which was growing increasingly disenfranchised due to the widening urban-rural economic gap. In 2007 and early 2008, Hu finally gained traction with his economic policies. The Chinese government subsequently sought to slow an overheating economy while focusing on the consolidation of industry and the establishment of “superministries” at the center to coordinate economic activity. It also intended to put inland rural interests on par with — if not above — coastal urban interests. When the superministries were formed in 2008, however, it became apparent that Hu was not omnipotent. Resistance to his plans was abundantly evident, illustrating the power of the entrenched bureaucratic interests.

Economic Crisis and the Stimulus Plan
The economic program of recentralization and the attempt to slow the overheating economy came to a screeching halt in July 2008, as skyrocketing commodity prices fueled inflation and strained government budgets. The first victim was China’s yuan policy. The steady, relatively predictable appreciation of the yuan came to a stop. Its value stagnated, and there is now pressure for a slight depreciation to encourage exports. But as Beijing began shaping its economic stimulus package, it became clear that the program would be a mix of policies, representing differing factions seeking to secure their own interests in the recovery plan.
The emerging program, then, revealed conflicting interests and policies. Money and incentives were offered to feed the low-skill export industry (located primarily in the southeastern coastal provinces) as well as to encourage a shift in production from the coast to the interior. A drive was initiated to reduce redundancies, particularly in heavy industries, and at the same time funding was increased to keep those often-bloated industrial sectors afloat. Overall, the stimulus represents a collection of competing initiatives, reflecting the differences among the factions. Entrenched princelings simply want to keep money moving and employment levels up in anticipation of a resurgence in global consumption and the revitalization of the export-based economic growth path. Meanwhile, the rural faction seeks to accelerate economic restructuring, reduce dependence on the export-oriented coastal provinces, and move economic activity and attention to the vastly underdeveloped interior.

Higher unemployment among the rural labor force is “proving” each faction’s case. To the princelings, it shows the importance of the export sector in maintaining social stability and economic growth. To the rural faction, it emphasizes the dangers of overreliance on a thin coastal strip of cheap, low-skill labor and a widening wealth gap.

Fighting it Out in the Media
With conflicting paths now running in tandem, competing Party officials are seeking traction and support for their programs without showing division within the core Party apparatus by turning to a traditional method: the media and editorials. During the Cultural Revolution, which itself was a violent debate about the fundamental economic policies of the People’s Republic of China, the Party core appeared united, despite major divisions. The debate played out not in the halls of the National People’s Congress or in press statements, but instead in big-character posters plastered around Beijing and other cities, promoting competing policies and criticizing others.
In modern China, big posters are a thing of the past, replaced by newspaper editorials. While the Party center appears united in this time of economic crisis, the divisions are seen more acutely in the competing editorials published in state and local newspapers and on influential blogs and Web discussion forums. It is here that the depth of competition and debate so well hidden among the members of the Politburo can be seen, and it is here that it becomes clear the Chinese are no more united in their policy approach than the leaders of more democratic countries, where policy debates are more public.

The current political crisis has certainly not reached the levels of the Cultural Revolution, and China no longer has a Mao — or even a Deng — to serve as a single pole around which to wage factional struggles. The current leadership is much more attuned to the need to cooperate and compromise — and even Mao’s methods would often include opportunities for “wayward” officials to come around and cooperate with Mao’s plans. But a recognition of the need to cooperate, and an agreement that the first priority is maintenance of the Party as the sole core of Chinese power (followed closely by the need to maintain social stability to ensure the primary goal), doesn’t guarantee that things can’t get out of control.

The sudden halt to various economic initiatives in July 2008 showed just how critical the emerging crisis was. If commodity prices had not started slacking off a month later, the political crisis in Beijing might have gotten much more intense. Despite competition, the various factions want the Party to remain in power as the sole authority, but their disagreements on how to do this become much clearer during a crisis. Currently, it is the question of China’s migrant labor force and the potential for social unrest that is both keeping the Party center united and causing the most confrontation over the best-path policies to be pursued. If the economic stimulus package fails to do its job, or if external factors leave China lagging and social problems rising, the internal party fighting could once again grow intense.

At present, there is a sense among China’s leaders that this crisis is manageable. If their attitude once again shifts to abject fear, the question may be less about how to compromise on economic strategy than how to stop a competing faction from bringing ruin to Party and country through ill-thought-out policies. Compromise is acceptable when it means the survival of the Party, but if one faction views the actions of another as fundamentally detrimental to the authority and strength of the Party, then a more active and decisive struggle becomes the ideal choice. After all, it is better to remove a gangrenous limb than to allow the infection to spread and kill the whole organism.

That crisis is not now upon China’s leaders, but things nearly reached that level last summer. There were numerous rumors from Beijing that Wen, who is responsible for China’s economic policies, was going to be sacked — an extreme move given his popularity with the common Chinese. This was staved off or delayed by the fortuitous timing of the rest of the global economic contraction, which brought commodity prices down. For now, China’s leaders will continue issuing competing and occasionally contradictory policies, and just as vigorously debating them through the nation’s editorials. The government is struggling with resolving the current economic crisis, as well as with the fundamental question of just what a new Chinese economy will look like. And that question goes deeper than money: It goes to the very role of the CPC in China’s system.

This article originally appeared in STRATFOR on February 23, 2009 and is reprinted here with their permission.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Terrorist activities in the Philippines

Malaysia transferred custody of five-suspected al Qaida linked Abu Sayyaf members to the government of the Philippines and are presently in the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Abu Sayyaf members are accused of kidnappings and bomb attacks in the Philippines. U.S. authorities want one of the five members.

Earlier in the week, various news outlets reported that Philippine governor Tan survived an attack by unidentified assailants armed with automatic weapons and a bomb. The assailants directed the attack against the governor's convoy on Jolo Island. Although the governor escaped harm, five members of his security detail were wounded in the bomb blast. The bomb was rigged to a motorcycle parked on a road, which the governor’s convoy usually takes when he goes home for lunch every day. The reports stated there was a heavy exchange of automatic gunfire following the blast.

Meanwhile the government of the Philippines, through a team of Islamic preachers, continued to talk to the kidnappers of Italian engineer Eugenio Vagni, in hope of a release in the near future. Last month, Abu Sayyaf militants freed Swiss national Andreas Notter and Filipino engineer Mary Jean Lacaba, who were held with Vagni.

All three Red Cross officials were abducted on 15 January when they were visiting a prison on Jolo.

Monday, May 18, 2009

U.S. Marines to leave Okinawa

The Japanese Diet has recently ratified the Agreement between the United States and Japan on the relocation of the U.S. Marines that have been on Okinawa since 1945. Secretary Clinton and Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone signed the agreement on 17 February 2009. This realignment will relocate the 8,000 Marines and dependents to Guam. There are currently more than 24,000 U.S. service members and dependents located on Okinawa. The Island is home to all four branches of U.S. Military.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mexican - U.S. Alliance needed

Drugs filtered through Central America into Mexico and eventually into the U.S. are a problem of immense proportion. Mexico’s drug addictions have doubled in the past few years and the numbers of murders and kidnappings has taken off like a rocket. People are no longer fleeing Mexico to escape poverty but are fleeing for their very lives. The current President of the U.S. has dropped the War on Drugs designation. The problem is that the threat from the southern boarder of the U.S. is as real and deadly as any threat in Iraq or Afghanistan. Border towns on both sides of the border have become high crime rate locations with narcotics as the major common denominator. Since the new administration in Washington D.C. has decided not to consider this a war any longer the presumption must be it is a local police problem if not in finances than at least in psychological terms. Does this mean we will abandon our neighbors to the south and in the process only exacerbate the problem along the boarder? I believe our efforts along the southern border of the U.S. should not only retain its War on Drugs nomenclature but should increase the budget by billions of U.S. dollars. The U.S. Congress and the Mexican Government must declare the Mexican and U.S. alliance against narcotics traffickers a true war in every sense of the word. The threat to the U.S. and Mexico is real and not a second rate annoyance that can be dealt with in time. The threat to stability in the Mexican and U.S. border area is real with long-term consequences.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

JEMAAH ISLAMIYA (JI) Background Report

Jemaah Islamiya (JI) is terrorist organization based in Southeast Asia. JI seeks the establishment of an Islamic caliphate spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the southern Philippines. More than 300 JI operatives, including operations chief Hambali, have been captured since 2002, although many of these were subsequently released after serving short sentences, including former JI emir Abu Bakar Bashir. Abu Bakar was released from prison in 2006 after serving a 25-month sentence for his involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings. Indonesia’s Supreme Court later that year acquitted him of the charges. The death of top JI bomb maker Azahari bin Husin in 2005 and a series of high-profile arrests between 2005 and 2008, in combination with additional efforts by the Government of Indonesia, likely disrupted JI's anti-Western attacks­ that occurred annually from 2002-2005. These included the 2006 arrests of several close associates of senior JI operative Noordin Mat Top, the 2007 arrests of former acting JI emir Muhammad Naim (a.k.a. Zarkasih) and JI military commander Abu Dujana, the 2008 arrests of two senior JI operatives in Malaysia, and the mid-2008 arrest of a JI-linked cell in Sumatra.The group's most recent high-profile attack occurred in Bali on October 1, 2005, which left 25 persons dead, including the three suicide bombers. Other major JI attacks included the September 2004 bombing outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, the August 2003 bombing of the J. W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, and the October 2002 Bali bombing. The 2002 Bali attack, which killed more than 200, was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks since 9/11. In December 2001, Singaporean authorities uncovered a JI plot to attack the U.S. and Israeli Embassies, and British and Australian diplomatic buildings in Singapore. In December 2000, JI coordinated bombings of numerous Christian churches in Indonesia and was involved in the bombings of several targets in Manila. In February 2004, JI facilitated attacks in Manila, Davao, and General Santos City. JI associates in the Philippines provide operational support and training for indigenous Philippine Muslim violent extremists.

There exact numbers currently are unknown. Estimates of total JI members vary from the hundreds to one thousand.

Investigations indicate that JI is fully capable of its own fundraising, although it also has received financial, ideological, and logistical support from Middle Eastern contacts and non-governmental organizations.

This report is an extract from the U.S. State Department

Monday, May 11, 2009

Singapore's Most-wanted terrorist fugitive captured

According to several news outlets, Malaysian authorities arrested Singapore’s most-wanted terrorist, Mas Selamat Kastari on April 1 2009 in the Malaysia State of Johor. Although authorities arrested him in April, they have not yet announced his capture. He had escaped from a Singapore detention center in February 2008.

Mas Selamat was is the suspected leader of the Jemaah Islamiab (JI) group. The Jemaah Islamiab has links with al-Qaeda.

A senior Malaysian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest and said that Mas Selamat was being held under the country's Internal Security Act. This is the third time Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) has tracked down Mas Selamat since 2002.

Security agencies from Malaysia and Singapore conducted joint operations in an effort to capture Mas Selamat. The capture of Mas Selamat was one of the largest manhunts ever undertaken by Singapore and its neighbors for a terrorist.

His arrest took place around the same time as three other members of the JI. They also arrested Agus Salim, a 32-year-old Indonesian, in March and two Malaysians, Abdul Matin Anol Rahmat and Johar Hassan, on April 1.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Chinas arms

A shipment of arms was found in New Zealand by authorities. The arms destination and origin were unknown but the cargo appears to have originated in China. Amnesty International has reported that Chinas arms exports are stoking conflict and repression with sales to numerous governments who are under embargo by many Western countries. AI estimates Chinas export of arms to be in excess of US one billion dollars a year.

Recently some have blamed the US open market for Mexican drug lords having caches of weapons. These caches have included weapons that are not attainable in the US market such as hand grenades and rocket launchers.

The question of the day; is it possible that Mexican drug lords are obtaining the weapons from China and not the US?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Watching Panama

Because of its strategic location, Panama is very possibly the most important country in the Western Hemisphere. If you look at it on a map, you can see that it is long and narrow. Its size is not particularly significant and its production of raw materials is non-existent. As most people know, the significance of Panama is the canal. The length of Panama runs from east to west and the Canal runs north to south allowing international shipping to flow from the Caribbean Sea into the Pacific Ocean and thereby short circuiting the run around the southern tip of South America. This canal saves time and energy. The Canal is worth billions in the short run and trillions of dollars in the end. This is why everyone so closely watches Panama.
Panama is in the process of improving the canal in hopes of diverting more shipping through their small but significant country. The expansion project is expected to be complete and double the canals capacity by 2014.
The problem is that the canal is susceptible to sabotage and high-jacking just as ships off Somalia are susceptible to Pirates. Panama was already high-jacked once by Noriega and it is possible that it could happen again. It is also possible that the threat could be external from other countries in the region or narco-terrorists. At present narcotics operations in Colombia operate in remote areas of Panama. Human trafficking is another major problem that Panama has at the moment.
Panama is a country in the Pacific Rim that well demands our attention.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Indonesian paranoia?

Various Asian news networks are reporting the remarks of Indonesia’s Health Minister Siti Failah Supari as stating that the outbreak of H1N1 Flu virus could have been man-made. In her remarks, she accused Western governments of possibly making and spreading viruses in underdeveloped nations forcing them to buy vaccines from western pharmaceutical companies. Since the bird flu virus spread through Indonesia in 2006, the minister has refused to share samples with the World Health Organization (WHO) because she states the system is abused by rich countries to develop vaccines, which poor countries must buy. She has also accused WHO for the spread of AIDS.

In some parts of the Pacific region, independent news networks blame American military research laboratories for producing and spreading such things as HIV, Mad-cow disease and syphilis.

Question of the day: Are their concerns real or a case Anglo-American phobia and what steps should be taken to improve an obvious fractured relationship?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Chilling Effect on U.S. Counterterrorism

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been carefully watching the fallout from the Obama administration’s decision to release four classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration that authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques.” In a visit to CIA headquarters last week, President Barack Obama promised not to prosecute agency personnel who carried out such interrogations, since they were following lawful orders. Critics of the techniques, such as Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., have called for the formation of a “truth commission” to investigate the matter, and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor to launch a criminal inquiry into the matter.
Realistically, those most likely to face investigation and prosecution are those who wrote the memos, rather than the low-level field personnel who acted in good faith based upon the guidance the memos provided. Despite this fact and Obama’s reassurances, our contacts in the intelligence community report that the release of the memos has had a discernible “chilling effect” on those in the clandestine service who work on counterterrorism issues.
In some ways, the debate over the morality of such interrogation techniques — something we do not take a position on and will not be discussing here — has distracted many observers from examining the impact that the release of these memos is having on the ability of the U.S. government to fulfill its counterterrorism mission. And this impact has little to do with the ability to use torture to interrogate terrorist suspects.
Politics and moral arguments aside, the end effect of the memos’ release is that people who have put their lives on the line in U.S. counterterrorism efforts are now uncertain of whether they should be making that sacrifice. Many of these people are now questioning whether the administration that happens to be in power at any given time will recognize the fact that they were carrying out lawful orders under a previous administration. It is hard to retain officers and attract quality recruits in this kind of environment. It has become safer to work in programs other than counterterrorism.
The memos’ release will not have a catastrophic effect on U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Indeed, most of the information in the memos was leaked to the press years ago and has long been public knowledge. However, when the release of the memos is examined in a wider context, and combined with a few other dynamics, it appears that the U.S. counterterrorism community is quietly slipping back into an atmosphere of risk-aversion and malaise — an atmosphere not dissimilar to that described by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) as a contributing factor to the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Cycles Within Cycles
In March we wrote about the cycle of counterterrorism funding and discussed indications that the United States is entering a period of reduced counterterrorism funding. This decrease in funding not only will affect defensive counterterrorism initiatives like embassy security and countersurveillance programs, but also will impact offensive programs such as the number of CIA personnel dedicated to the counterterrorism role.
Beyond funding, however, there is another historical cycle of booms and busts that can be seen in the conduct of American clandestine intelligence activities. There are clearly discernible periods when clandestine activities are deemed very important and are widely employed. These periods are inevitably followed by a time of investigations, reductions in clandestine activities and a tightening of control and oversight over such activities.
After the widespread employment of clandestine activities in the Vietnam War era, the Church Committee was convened in 1975 to review (and ultimately restrict) such operations. Former President Ronald Reagan’s appointment of Bill Casey as director of the CIA ushered in a new era of growth as the United States became heavily engaged in clandestine activities in Afghanistan and Central America. Then, the revelation of the Iran-Contra affair in 1986 led to a period of hearings and controls.
There was a slight uptick in clandestine activities under the presidency of George H.W. Bush, but the fall of the Soviet Union led to another bust cycle for the intelligence community. By the mid-1990s, the number of CIA stations and bases was dramatically reduced (and virtually eliminated in much of Africa) for budgetary considerations. Then there was the case of Jennifer Harbury, a Harvard-educated lawyer who used little-known provisions in Texas common law to marry a dead Guatemalan guerrilla commander and gain legal standing as his widow. After it was uncovered that a CIA source was involved in the guerrilla commander’s execution, CIA stations in Latin America were gutted for political reasons. The Harbury case also led to the Torricelli Amendment, a law that made recruiting unsavory people, such as those with ties to death squads and terrorist groups, illegal without special approval. This bust cycle was well documented by both the Crowe Commission, which investigated the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, and the 9/11 Commission.
After the 9/11 attacks, the pendulum swung radically to the permissive side and clandestine activity was rapidly and dramatically increased as the U.S. sought to close the intelligence gap and quickly develop intelligence on al Qaeda’s capability and plans. Developments over the past two years clearly indicate that the United States is once again entering an intelligence bust cycle, a period that will be marked by hearings, increased controls and a general decrease in clandestine activity.
Institutional Culture
It is also very important to realize that the counterterrorism community is just one small part of the larger intelligence community that is affected by this ebb and flow of covert activity. In fact, as noted above, the counterterrorism component of intelligence efforts has its own boom-and-bust cycle that is based on major attacks. Soon after a major attack, interest in counterterrorism spikes dramatically, but as time passes without a major attack, interest lags. Other than during the peak times of this cycle, counterterrorism is considered an ancillary program that is sometimes seen as an interesting side tour of duty, but more widely seen as being outside the mainstream career path — risky and not particularly career-enhancing. This assessment is reinforced by such events as the recent release of the memos.
At the CIA, being a counterterrorism specialist in the clandestine service means that you will most likely spend much of your life in places line Sanaa, Islamabad and Kabul instead of Vienna, Paris or London. This means that, in addition to hurting your chances for career advancement, your job also is quite dangerous, provides relatively poor living conditions for your family and offers the possibility of contracting serious diseases.
While being declared persona non grata and getting kicked out of a country as part of an intelligence spat is considered almost a badge of honor at the CIA, the threat of being arrested and indicted for participating in the rendition of a terrorist suspect from an allied country like Italy is not. Equally unappealing is being sued in civil court by a terrorist suspect or facing the possibility of prosecution after a change of government in the United States. Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of CIA case officers who are choosing to carry personal liability insurance because they do not trust the agency and the U.S. government to look out for their best interests.
Now, there are officers who are willing to endure hardship and who do not really care much about career advancement, but for those officers there is another hazard — frustration. Aggressive officers dedicated to the counterterrorism mission quickly learn that many of the people in the food chain above them are concerned about their careers, and these superiors often take measures to rein in their less-mainstream subordinates. Additionally, due to the restrictions brought about by laws and regulations like the Torricelli Amendment, case officers working counterterrorism are often tightly bound by myriad legal restrictions.
Unlike in television shows like “24,” it is not uncommon in the real world for a meeting called to plan a counterterrorism operation to feature more CIA lawyers than case officers or analysts. These staff lawyers are intricately involved in the operational decisions made at headquarters, and legal issues often trump operational considerations. The need to obtain legal approval often delays decisions long enough for a critical window of operational opportunity to be slammed shut. This restrictive legal environment goes back many years in the CIA and is not a new fixture brought in by the Obama administration. There was a sense of urgency that served to trump the lawyers to some extent after 9/11, but the lawyers never went away and have reasserted themselves firmly over the past several years.
Of course, the CIA is not the only agency with a culture that is less than supportive of the counterterrorism mission. Although the prevention of terrorist attacks in the United States is currently the FBI’s No. 1 priority on paper, the counterterrorism mission remains the bureaus redheaded stepchild. The FBI is struggling to find agents willing to serve in the counterterrorism sections of field offices, resident agencies (smaller offices that report to a field office) and joint terrorism task forces.
While the CIA was very much built on the legacy of Wild Bill Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services, the FBI was founded by J. Edgar Hoover, a conservative and risk-averse administrator who served as FBI director from 1935-1972. Even today, Hoover’s influence is clearly evident in the FBI’s bureaucratic nature. FBI special agents are unable to do much at all, such as open an investigation, without a supervisor’s approval, and supervisors are reluctant to approve anything too adventurous because of the impact it might have on their chance for promotion. Unlike many other law enforcement agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI rarely uses its own special agents in an undercover capacity to penetrate criminal organizations. That practice is seen as being too risky; they prefer to use confidential informants rather than undercover operatives.
The FBI is also strongly tied to its roots in law enforcement and criminal investigation, and special agents who work major theft, public corruption or white-collar crime cases tend to receive more recognition — and advance more quickly — than their counterterrorism counterparts.
FBI special agents also see a considerable downside to working counterterrorism cases because of the potential for such cases to blow up in their faces if they make a mistake — such as in the New York field office’s highly publicized mishandling of the informant whom they had inserted into the group that later conducted the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. It is much safer, and far more rewarding from a career perspective, to work bank robberies or serve in the FBI’s Inspection Division.
After the 9/11 attacks — and the corresponding spike in the importance of counterterrorism operations — many of the resources of the CIA and FBI were focused on al Qaeda and terrorism, to the detriment of programs such as foreign counterintelligence. However, the more time that has passed since 9/11 without another major attack, the more the organizational culture of the U.S government has returned to normal. Once again, counterterrorism efforts are seen as being ancillary duties rather than the organizations’ driving mission. (The clash between organizational culture and the counterterrorism mission is by no means confined to the CIA and FBI. Fred’s book “Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent” provides a detailed examination of some of the bureaucratic and cultural challenges we faced while serving in the Counterterrorism Investigations Division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.)
Liaison Services
One of the least well known, and perhaps most important, sources of intelligence in the counterterrorism field is the information that is obtained as a result of close relationships with allied intelligence agencies — often referred to as information obtained through “liaison channels.”
Like FBI agents, most CIA officers are well-educated, middle-aged white guys. This means they are better suited to use the cover of an American businessmen or diplomat than to pretend to be a young Muslim trying to join al Qaeda or Hezbollah. Like their counterparts in the FBI, CIA officers have far more success using informants than they do working undercover inside terrorist groups.
Services like the Jordanian General Intelligence Department, the Saudi Mabahith or the Yemeni National Security Agency not only can recruit sources, but also are far more successful in using young Muslim officers to penetrate terrorist groups. In addition to their source networks and penetration operations, many of these liaison services are not at all squeamish about using extremely enhanced interrogation techniques — this is the reason many of the terrorism suspects who were the subject of rendition operations ended up in such locations. Obviously, whenever the CIA is dealing with a liaison service, the political interests and objectives of the service must be considered — as should the possibility that the liaison service is fabricating the intelligence in question for whatever reason. Still, in the end, the CIA historically has received a significant amount of important intelligence (perhaps even most of its intelligence) via liaison channels.
Another concern that arises from the call for a truth commission is the impact a commission investigation could have on the liaison services that have helped the United States in its counterterrorism efforts since 9/11. Countries that hosted CIA detention facilities or were involved in the rendition or interrogation of terrorist suspects may find themselves exposed publicly or even held up for some sort of sanction by the U.S. Congress. Such activities could have a real impact on the amount of cooperation and information the CIA receives from these intelligence services.
As we’ve previously noted, it was a lack of intelligence that helped fuel the fear that led the Bush administration to authorize enhanced interrogation techniques. Ironically, the current investigation into those techniques and other practices (such as renditions) may very well lead to significant gaps in terrorism-related intelligence from both internal and liaison sources — again, not primarily because of the prohibition of torture, but because of larger implications.
When these implications are combined with the long-standing institutional aversion of U.S. government agencies toward counterterrorism, and with the difficulty of finding and retaining good people willing to serve in counterterrorism roles, the U.S. counterterrorism community may soon be facing challenges even more daunting than those posed by its already difficult mission.

This article originally appeared in Stratfor Global Intelligence and is republished with their permission.

Monday, April 27, 2009

North Korean Pirates?

North Korea is starting to become a very bad international joke. North Korea's most recent victims are Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American reporters. North Korean border guards detained Laura Ling and Euna Lee along the Chinese / North Korean border on 17 March. They are under investigation for spying. Many experts believe this is another effort to put pressure on South Korea and the U.S. during negotiations about North Korea's missile tests. The North continues to insist that the missile launches are an effort to get North Korea into space. Most other countries perceive it as an attempt to test nuclear capable missiles. The North is appearing to be taking lessons from the pirates off Somalia. They seem to think that by taking hostages they will obtain positive results on any financial or diplomatic negotiations.

The question of the days is: Since the North Koreans are acting more like pirates everyday and the U.S. Navy Seals were successful at handling the hostage standoff with Somali pirates, should they intervene in North Korea?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

North Korea continues its diplomatic brinksmanship.

In its ever-increasing roll as the center of attention in the Pacific Region, North Korea continues to exploit international fears. Even though the U.N. Security Council is preparing a list of companies from North Korea to be blacklisted because of their rocket launch, the threat seems to carry little concern for N. Korea. It is possible that N. Korea has been at this game so long that they are quite aware of the Security Councils capabilities or lack there-of.

Meanwhile the north refuses to release the detained worker from the Joint Industrial Park. For more information on this event see article below dated Monday, April 20, 2009.

North Korea is also trying to ramp up military tensions between the two nations by accusing South Korea of moving a border marker by several dozen meters. The markers are located in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which is a buffer between the North and South. The DMZ is four-km wide.

Question for the day: Is North Korea a real threat or a “Paper Dragon”?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quick notes on Thailand collected from the Department of State website

Thailand is approximately 198,114 sq. mi., which is about the size of France and slightly smaller than Texas. The capital is Bangkok with a population of 9,668,854. As of 2007, it is estimated that Thailand has a population of 65.74 million.

Buddhism is the dominate religion making up 94-95% of the population. The rest are divided between Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Brahmin and other.

Thai is the official language and the county's elite use English as a second language. Thailand is a very literate country with twelve years of school required.

The country is a Constitutional monarchy.

The per capita income as of 2007 was $3,738 but the unemployment rate was low at 1.4% of the labor force. Thailand’s natural resources are tin, rubber, natural gas, tungsten, tantalum, timber, lead, fish, gypsum, lignite and fluorite. The economy is export dependent. Thailand is expected to have a weak economy throughout 2009.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Threat from China

According to the “Annual Report to Congress on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage, FY07”, China is a major threat to Americas Industrial and Economic base. The following extracted comes from that report.

Since 2002, the United States has identified China-
connected computer network intrusions that have
compromised thousands of hosts and hundreds of
thousands of users accounts and exfiltrated terabytes
of data from US, allied , and foreign government,
military, and private-sector computer networks.

Actors conducting a subset of intrusion activity
affiliated with China have used socially engineered
e-mails to compromise the computers of cleared
defense contractors.

US Government networks are being continuously probed and targeted by both state and non-state actors for a wide variety of reasons, including legitimate cooperative scientific research. Chinese networks are the source of a significant amount of malicious activity targeting computers in the United States, but it is often difficult to attribute the origin or specific intent of any given activity. Many countries and criminals are able to get into the PRC’s networks and use its Internet protocols (IP) to obscure the origin of their attacks against other targets.

Pacific Regions Security Corporation has also noticed this trend relating to its own website. Since the corporation set up its website in 2008 nearly 25% of its hits have come from Beijing, China.

Beside the network probing by China, they are also involved in illegal export of sensitive items from the United States. In 2007, there were at least six incidences involving China. These incidences included illegal transfers or technology theft by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC).

Although China is not alone in illegal transfers, theft or efforts to compromise workers with security clearances, they are perhaps the most persistent of all the Pacific Rim Countries.

Question of the day is: What steps are being taken by your organization to ensure security awareness?

Monday, April 20, 2009

North Korean control of the South

North Korea is becoming more of a problem everyday for Pacific Rim Countries. Even as North and South Korea discuss a troubled joint industrial complex, the North continues to make threatening overtures towards other countries in the region with rocket launches. This activity continues to provide a great deal of tension in the area and does nothing to assist in the talks with South Korea. The gist of the talks concerns a joint manufacturing park north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). North Korea has recently detained a South Korean who worked there. He is a captive now for more than 22 days. North Korea seems to be using this joint manufacturing park as a tool to control South Korea. Some believe that North Korea is using this complex to stop South Korea from fully joining the Proliferation Security Initiative,

The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is an international effort led by the United States to interdict transfer of banned weapons and weapons technology. Former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton developed the idea of the PSI. The idea came about when 15 Scud missiles found on board a North Korean freighter could not be confiscated because international law would not allow it. PSI is an effort to see that weapons and technology transferred between countries is lawful.

The question of the day is: What measures should be taken to help South Korea join the Proliferation Security Initiative?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Illegal Fishing

It appears that some fish from the Pacific are finding their way directly to the dinner tables in Europe without going through the normal route. Greenpeace reported fishing vessels, fishing illegally in the Pacific appear to be owned or operated by Europeans. They stated that most of the cases showed clear links to tuna sold in European markets.
Estimates of illegal fishing in the Pacific Islands area is increasing. This illegal activity reduces the Pacific Islands states income by several times what their normal income would be if license and other fees were paid.
Illegal fishing is not only a problem in the Western Pacific it is a security problem throughout the entire Pacific Region. Illegal fishing is having an increased financial impact on more Pacific Rim Countries. With limited resources and a growing demand for sea food on everyone’s table the problem is not likely to go away. The U.S. Coast Guard is heavily involved in protection of U.S. fishing areas and enforcement of International Fishing Treaties.

The question for discussion today is: Should there be a Pacific Region Fishing Enforcement entity or should each Pacific Rim Nation be responsible for enforcing their own areas, as is presently done?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bombs around the Rim

Bombs continue to be the number one choice of rebels, terrorists and extremists. Within the Pacific Rim countries bombs continue to make a statement by groups that have limited financial and personnel strength. Recently there have been bombings in the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Peru and Columbia. According to “The Nation” - a newspaper for Muslims – on 10 April, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded at Kalamansig in the Southern Philippines. The police indicated that the bomb was similar to ones used by Muslim Extremists. In Indonesian Papua “The News ; International” reported on 8 April a home made bomb fashioned from a mortar round exploded under a bridge in Muara Tami district 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Papua provincial capital Jayapura. The explosion took place shortly before elections. In Peru, members of the Shining Path killed 13 soldiers with a combination of grenades and dynamite on 12 April. Bomb making ability is readily available to anyone who understands chemistry or can read an instruction manual. Information on bomb making abounds on the internet and in public libraries. However, the majority of these individuals that make and place bombs do not get their information from the internet or the library. Most of them get their information from other group members through formal and informal training.
Although the bomb threat is real and present, the restriction of information is not the answer. Those that want to do harm will always find a way to inflict it on others. The real problem is the inability to detect the threat. If you have the ability to detect the threat, the threat becomes moot.
Through experiences gained in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. Government is conducting studies of individual soldiers that seem to be good at picking out roadside bombs. The U.S. Government hopes to identify, train and imbed additional soldiers in various units. These soldiers will act as human radars for combat patrols, warning their comrades when something in the landscape is amiss, possibly saving them from harm or death. The question for the day is: Once the U.S. Government finalizes the study should it be made available to Pacific Rim countries or be held as a secret?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Piracy on the High Seas

According to an analysis by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), several factors contribute to the capture of commercial vessels by pirates. Among the most obvious contributing factors were; low speed, low freeboard, inadequate planning and procedures, visibly low state of alert and/or evident self protective measures, and a slow response by the ship. The IMB analysis also reports that no successful attack has occurred on ships traveling in excess of 15 knots. The ship’s crew that have trained and planned for such an event has repelled the majority of attacks.

Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Coast of Somalia can be read at

The question for discussion today is; should commercial vessels transiting high-risk areas be armed or have armed military personnel on board while transiting these areas?

I would say that the cost would be less than a five-day standoff or paying millions of dollars for continued hostage rescue.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Using Interpreters properly

One of the largest events in a Pacific Rim Country will be taking place within the next ten months. British Columbia Canada will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. The number of workers is estimated to be over 40,000. Not all these workers are Canadian citizens. Many of these workers, including volunteers will come from foreign countries.

So, what does this mean for security? It means a big headache. Security personnel have to not only deal with the normal aspects of event security but will also have to deal with the ability to communicate across social and linguistic boundaries.

For many security people this may be a new and complicated development placed on their already detailed and exacting security plans. It will also be an extra factor in dealing with the paid and un-paid workers.

It is not often that most people have the opportunity to work with Interpreters. For some of us it’s old hat. Something that everyone should keep in mind is that interpreters are not mere interpreting or translation hardware stuffed with the proper language software. Interpreters are social interpreters as well as language experts. When dealing with interpreters it is important to understand their full capabilities. It is important to know and agree with the interpreter ahead of time, their preferred method of interpreting. The method used could mean the difference between a successful communication and a disaster.

Many interpreters have specialties. You will find interpreters that do medical interpretation, legal interpretation, social interpretation, technical interpretation and some that do several of these. If you find one that has experience and training in one or more of these fields hold on to them and guard them closely as they will be invaluable. These specialties are not gained easily because each specialty has its own language.

When it comes to security, communications is always a major factor. How many times have things gone from bad to worse because of the inability to communicate with the people on the ground? When most people make there Emergency Plans they think in terms of Mass Communications or Internal Communications. Most Emergency Plans do not plan for communications across social and linguistic boundaries.

How many Security Experts use interpreters properly? How many have been trained to use interpreters properly?

Today’s questions for discussion are: What are your thoughts on including interpreters in your basic Emergency Plan? What are your organizations plans to have personnel trained in the proper use of interpreters? Does anyone have examples of when it worked or did not work?