Battle lines between China and its Asian/Pacific neighbors including the U.S. were sharply drawn at the Shangri-La dialogue heldin Singapore. Thirty nations attended the conference, were Key flashpoints included China’s expansionist claims to control of regional islands, and Beijing’s refusal to abide by international law in its actions.
The regular gathering, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) provides a forum for defense officials to gather and discuss significant topics. According to IISS senior fellow Alexander Neill, Sino-US tensions were a key element of this year’s gathering. In advance of the event, “US President Barack Obama made some rather pointed remarks directed towards Beijing, noting that America would not tolerate China’s ‘bullying’ tactics. That concept was the key motivation in the White House ending the 50 year arms embargo against Vietnam, now seen as an ally in the effort to contain Beijing.”
Much of the controversy arises from Beijing and Taiwan’s adherence to a policy known as the “Nine Dash Line,” essentially an arbitrary demarcation line on maps that assert Chinese control of vast oceanic areas. Neither other regional nations nor international law agree with the claim. The Brookings Institute has previously reported that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs stated, “Under international law, maritime claims in the South China Sea must be derived from land features. Any use of the ‘nine-dash line’ by China to claim maritime rights not based on claimed land features would be inconsistent with international law.”
U.S. concern over Chinese expansion was a key factor in President Obama’s ending the 50 year arms sales restriction against Vietnam, now seen as an important ally in the effort to contain Beijing. The U.S. will work with Hanoi to provide maritime security.
Widespread concern over China’s territorial claims, its aggressive moves which include expanding and militarizing small islands and its incursion into the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone have fostered discussions of establishing a NATO-like alliance in the area.
According to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, “Now, unlike elsewhere in the world, peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific has never been managed by a region-wide, formal structure comparable to NATO in Europe. That’s made sense for this region, with its unique history, geography, and politics, and where bilateral relationships have long served as the bedrock of regional security. And yet, as the region continues to change, and becomes more interconnected politically and economically, the region’s militaries are also coming together in new ways. They’re building connections for a common purpose: upholding the security and stability critical to a principled and prosperous future. And these connections are now helping our countries plan together, exercise and train together, and operate together, more effectively and efficiently than ever before… this growing Asia-Pacific security network includes but is more than some extension of existing alliances. It weaves everyone’s relationships together … to help all of us do more, over greater distances, with greater economy of effort…This is a principled security network … By expanding the reach of all and by responsibly sharing the security burden, this principled network represents the next wave in Asia-Pacific security…even as the United States counters Russian aggression and coercion in Europe…”
Not unexpectedly, China’s response has been harsh. Paul McLeary and Adam Rawnseley, writing for Foreign Policy reported that Chinese Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Chinese military’s Joint Staff Department flatly rejected Defense Secretary Carter’s repeated assertion that Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea were isolating it from the world community.“We were not isolated in the past, we are not isolated now, and we will not be isolated in the future”…He added that many countries maintain a ‘Cold War mentality’ when dealing with China, saying they may only “end up isolating themselves.” The comments were a direct response to Carter’s accusation last month that China was building “a Great Wall of self-isolation” in the South China Sea. Carter repeated the line in Singapore. “We do not make trouble, but we have no fear of trouble,” Admiral Sun Jianguo said.
Secretary Carter pledged that the U.S. would remain the guarantor of regional security in the coming decades. To do so, he said, “the Defense Department is continuing to send its best people – including some of those new Naval officers and Marines …and also its most advanced capabilities to the Asia-Pacific. That includes F-22 and F-35 stealth fighter jets, P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, continuous deployments of B-2 and B-52 bombers, and our newest surface warfare ships. The Defense Department is also investing in new capabilities critical to the rebalance. We’re growing the number of surface ships [some dispute whether the shrunken U.S. Navy is, in fact, starting to rebuild] and making each of them more capable, and we’re investing in Virginia-class submarines, new undersea drones, the new B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber, as well as in areas like cyber, and electronic warfare, and space.”
Whether the U.S. will actually fulfill that pledge remains questionable, as sharp Defense budget cuts and the growing need for a stronger American military presence in Europe and the Middle East limit its abilities in the Asian-Pacific region. During his tenure in office, President Obama formally ended the policy of having armed forces capable of fighting two region wars simultaneously.
The New York Analysis continues with its review of the vital study by the Congressional Research Service on the military challenges facing the United States. The report, which directly contradicts President Obama’s assertion that America is safe and strong, examined evidence that overwhelmingly points to an era of exceptional, indeed, unprecedented danger facing both the U.S. and its allies across the globe.
The June 2015 National Military Strategy released by the Department of Defense (DOD) states: Since the last National Military Strategy was published in 2011, global disorder has significantly increased while some of our comparative military advantage has begun to erode. We now face multiple, simultaneous security challenges from traditional state actors and transregional networks of sub-state groups—all taking advantage of rapid technological change. Future conflicts will come more rapidly, last longer, and take place on a much more technically challenging battlefield. They will have increasing implications to the U.S. homeland….
Complexity and rapid change characterize today’s strategic environment, driven by globalization, the diffusion of technology, and demographic shifts…. Despite these changes, states remain the international system’s dominant actors. They are preeminent in their capability to harness power, focus human endeavors, and provide security.
Most states today — led by the United States, its allies, and partners — support the established institutions and processes dedicated to preventing conflict, respecting sovereignty, and furthering human rights. Some states, however, are attempting to revise key aspects of the international order and are acting in a manner that threatens our national security interests…Russia … has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and it is willing to use force to achieve its goals. Russia’s military actions are undermining regional security directly and through proxy forces. These actions violate numerous agreements that Russia has signed in which it committed to act in accordance with international norms, including the UN Charter, Helsinki Accords, Russia-NATO Founding Act, Budapest Memorandum, and the IntermediateRange Nuclear Forces Treaty.
Iran also poses strategic challenges to the international community. It is pursuing nuclear and missile delivery technologies despite repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that it cease such efforts. It is a state-sponsor of terrorism that has undermined stability in many nations, including Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iran’s actions have destabilized the region and brought misery to countless people while denying the Iranian people the prospect of a prosperous future.
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technologies also contradicts repeated demands by the international community to cease such efforts. These capabilities directly threaten its neighbors, especially the Republic of Korea and Japan. In time, they will threaten the U.S. homeland as well. North Korea also has conducted cyber attacks, including causing major damage to a U.S. corporation…
China’s actions are adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region. For example, its claims to nearly the entire South China Sea are inconsistent with international law. The international community continues to call on China to settle such issues cooperatively and without coercion. China has responded with aggressive land reclamation efforts that will allow it to position military forces astride vital international sea lanes…For the past decade, our military campaigns primarily have consisted of operations against violent extremist networks. But today, and into the foreseeable future, we must pay greater attention to challenges posed by state actors. They increasingly have the capability to contest regional freedom of movement and threaten our homeland. Of particular concern are the proliferation of ballistic missiles, precision strike technologies, unmanned systems, space and cyber capabilities, and weapons of mass destruction.
U.S. and NATO Military Capabilities in Europe
Russia’s seizure and annexation of Ukraine and Russia’s subsequent actions in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe have led to a renewed focus among policymakers on U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe…. In December 2014, Russia issued a new military doctrine that, among other things, calls for a more assertive approach toward NATO. In June 2015, Russia stated that it would respond to the placement of additional U.S. military equipment in Eastern Europe by deploying additional forces along its own western border…
New Forms of Aggression and Assertiveness
Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea, as well as subsequent Russian actions in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, have already led to a renewed focus among policymakers on how to counter Russia’s hybrid warfare or ambiguous warfare tactics.
China’s actions in the East and South China Seas have prompted a focus among policymakers on how to counter China’s so-called salami-slicing tactics in those areas.
Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Deterrence
Russia’s reassertion of its status as a major world power has included, among other things, references by Russian officials to nuclear weapons and Russia’s status as a major nuclear weapon power. This has led to an increased emphasis in discussions of U.S. defense and security on nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence…
Maintaining Technological Superiority in Conventional Weapons
DOD officials have expressed concern that the technological and qualitative edge that U.S. military forces have had relative to the military forces of other countries is being narrowed by improving military capabilities in other countries, particularly China and (in some respects) Russia. To arrest and reverse the decline in the U.S. technological and qualitative edge…
Defense Acquisition Policy
DOD officials and other observers have argued that staying ahead of improving military capabilities in countries such as China in coming years will require adjusting U.S. defense acquisition policy to place a greater emphasis on speed of development, experimentation, risk-taking, and tolerance of failure during development.
Reliance on Components and Materials from Russia and China
Increased tensions with Russia have led to an interest in eliminating instances of being dependent on Russian-made military systems and components for U.S. military systems. A current case in point concerns the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine, which is incorporated into U.S. space launch rockets, including rockets used by DOD to put military payloads into orbit. Concerns over Chinese cyber activities or potential Chinese actions to limit exports of certain materials (such as rare earth elements) might similarly lead to concerns over the use of certain Chinese-made components (such as electronic components) or Chinese-origin materials (such as rare earth elements) for U.S. military systems.
There can be little doubt (except, perhaps, in the White House) that terrorism poses an immediate, deadly, and significant threat to the safety of the American people. However, there is an even more dangerous peril facing the nation.
As previously noted by the New York Analysis of Policy & Government, American defense policy remains trapped in a time warp assumption that the potential of massive scale, nation vs. nation warfare, including the use of extensive conventional forces as well as nuclear weapons ended with the fall of the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, that assumption couldn’t be more incorrect. The extraordinary military buildup, and accompanying aggressiveness, of Russia and China, and the alliance of those two great powers together with Iran and North Korea pose perhaps the greatest threat to the United States since the British burned the White House during the 1812 War. The problem is magnified by the decline in American military power, which is both increasingly outdated, underfunded, and basically half the strength it possessed a quarter century ago
While the Executive Branch downplays the problem, Congressional researchers are documenting the challenge. A newly released study by the Congressional Research Service, “A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense,” addresses it. The New York Analysis has reviewed the documented, and excerpts key portions of it. Our review concludes tomorrow.
A Shift in the International Security Environment: Potential Implications for Defense
World events since late 2013 have led some observers to conclude that the international security environment has undergone a shift from the familiar post-Cold War era of the last 20 to 25 years, also sometimes known as the unipolar moment (with the United States as the unipolar power), to a new and different strategic situation that features, among other things, renewed great power competition and challenges to elements of the U.S.-led international order that has operated since World War II.
…Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea, as well as subsequent Russian actions in eastern Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, have already led to a renewed focus among policymakers on U.S. and NATO military capabilities in Europe, and on how to counter Russia’s so-called hybrid warfare tactics.
China’s actions in the East and South China Seas have prompted a focus among policymakers on how to counter China’s so-called salami-slicing tactics in those areas.
A shift in the international security environment may also be generating implications for areas such as nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence, maintaining technological superiority in conventional weapons, defense acquisition policy, submarines and antisubmarine warfare, and DOD reliance on Russian-made components.
Background Shift in International Security Environment: Overview
The United States must come to grips with a new security environment as surging powers like Russia and China challenge American power, said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. “Great power competition has returned…Russia is now a resurgent great power and I would argue that its long term prospects are unclear. China is a rising great power. Well, that requires us to start thinking more globally and more in terms of competition than we have in the past 25 years… Both Russia and China are challenging the order that has been prevalent since the end of World War II…
The New Situation
Observers who conclude that the international security environment has shifted to a new strategic situation generally view the new period not as a bipolar situation (like the Cold War) or a unipolar situation (like the post-Cold War era), but as a multipolar situation characterized by renewed competition among three major world powers—the United States, China, and Russia. Other emerging characteristics of the new international security situation as viewed by these observers include the following:
- renewed ideological competition, this time against 21st -century forms of authoritarianism in Russia, China, and other countries;
- the promotion in China and Russia through their state-controlled media of nationalistic historical narratives emphasizing assertions of prior humiliation or victimization by Western powers, and the use of those narratives to support revanchist or irredentist foreign policy aims;
- the use by Russia and China of new forms of aggressive or assertive military and paramilitary operations—called hybrid warfare or ambiguous warfare, among other terms, in the case of Russia’s actions, and called salami-slicing tactics or gray-zone warfare, among other terms, in the case of China’s actions—to gain greater degrees of control of areas on their peripheries;
- challenges by Russia and China to key elements of the U.S.-led international order, including the principle that force or threat of force should not be used as a routine or first-resort measure for settling disputes between countries, and the principle of freedom of the seas (i.e., that the world’s oceans are to be treated as an international commons); and
- additional features alongside those listed above, including:
- continued regional security challenges from countries such as Iran and North Korea;
- a continuation of the post-Cold War era’s focus (at least from a U.S. perspective) on countering transnational terrorist organizations that have emerged as significant non-state actors (now including the Islamic State organization, among other groups); and
- weak or failed states, and resulting weakly governed or ungoverned areas that can contribute to the emergence of (or serve as base areas or sanctuaries for) non-state actors, and become potential locations of intervention by stronger states, including major powers.
The Report Continues Tomorrow
While the eyes of the world remain fixed on the depredations of ISIS and Russia’s incursions into Turkish air space, what may be the most significant long-term threat to the future of the United States receives relatively little attention. The New York Analysis of Policy & Government has outlined recommendations to deal with the crisis—and yes, it is an immediate crisis.
Increasingly, military and global affairs analysts are realizing that it is China which possesses the means and the will to severely harm the United States. Its recent actions indicate that it is, indeed, positioning itself with speed and determination to do exactly that. Gordon Chang, who has briefed the National Security Council, the CIA, the State Department and the Pentagon on the subject, succinctly states his concern:
“With each passing day, an increasingly emboldened China is using its new found economic power and military might to grab territory, violate trade rules, proliferate nuclear weapons technology, support rogue regimes, cyberattack free societies, flout norms, and undermine international institutions…as China has continued to lash out, it has set itself against its neighbors, the United States, and the international community…Regrettably, the United States…has not risen to meet this unprecedented challenge. From the Oval Office to the halls of Congress and across the suites of Corporate America, our political and corporate leaders have not wanted to confront the fact that China, despite our efforts, does not want to enmesh itself in the community of nations…what we thought was our diplomatic subtlety and carefulness, the Chinese have perceived as weakness and irresolution. As a result, our policy has failed…with their new partnership with Russia and assistance to client and rogue states like North Korea and Iran, the Chinese have taken on not just their neighbors but the world as well. It is an existential challenge that inexplicably the international community has largely ignored…”
Chang penned his concerns in a forward to one of the latest studies outlining the worrisome development of what is soon to become the world’s most fearsome military, Peter Navarro’s “Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism means for the World.”
Navarro dispels a number of illusions that far too many who fail to comprehend the true extent of the danger adhere to. Foremost among those myths is the oft-stated alleged disparity between Beijing’s military budget and Washington’s. Navarro notes that the comparison doesn’t survive a closer inspection, for a host of reasons.
First, of course, is the fact that China’s military can purchase its weapons at a fraction of the cost the Pentagon must pay. Second is that personnel expenses and benefits for its armed forces are significantly less than those in the U.S. Third, and perhaps most infuriatingly, is the fact that China doesn’t have to worry about the exceptionally high expenses incurred in the research and technology to develop the most advanced weapons systems; they simply steal R&D from other nations, especially America. In essence, China’s military spending can be significantly lower than the Pentagon’s because the U.S. taxpayer essentially foots the bill! In addition to stealing R&D results, Beijing also saves vast sums by purchasing or otherwise acquiring one or several items, then engages in “reverse engineering” to save the expenses of the onerous trial and error it would have to endure if it developed its own technology.
Beyond those illicit cost-saving measures is another key factor. While western military budgets are the subject of open debate and disclosure, a significant portion of China’s military spending is hidden. The People’s Liberation Army has means to channel funds into its budget that are never listed as government expenditures.
Beijing’s military doctrine is no longer just quantity to dispel the quality of opponents’ armaments. With its powerful economy and wildly successful espionage efforts, it has weapons every bit as advanced as America’s, and in some cases even more so. A great deal of this occurred during the Clinton Administration, and some of it was freely given, particularly the President’s inexplicable authorization of the sale of a Cray supercomputer to China.
China now possesses what may well be a decisive advantage. Modern warfare has a dimension even beyond the courage of the personnel involved and the quantity and quality of weapons. It is the ability to replace losses in manpower and ships, planes, tanks and other material at a rapid pace. This was decisive in America’s victories in both World Wars one and two. Far too many of America’s factories have been dismantled, due to cheaper costs in China. It is China that now has the industrial might that was America’s advantage throughout the past century.
On land, sea, air and space, China’s threat, and its aggressive intent are real, and much of it is already apparent. There are several steps the United States must take in response.
The first and most obvious is to cease the suicidal reductions to the U.S. defense budget. Now accounting for only 14% of the federal budget, and at lesser total dollars than at the start of the Obama Administration, it is based on both an unrealistic view of the threats facing the nation, and on the politically expedient policy of diverting federal funds from defense and other crucial needs to vote-buying social welfare programs.
The second is to enhance protection from cyberattacks, conventional espionage, and other means of technology transfer. To be blunt, Beijing’s citizens, whether as students or any other exchange programs (civilian or military) should not be involved in any U.S. area of high technology, whether civilian, military or academic. Government computers, both civilian and military, must receive far greater security.
Third, the U.S. must work with other developed nations to prevent the transfer of high technology to Beijing that has any potential for military applications. The point must be made that this activity is ultimately self-defeating due to China’s reverse engineering practices and its rampant theft of intellectual property.
Fourth, moving factory activities to China continuously increases that nation’s military potential and decreases America’s. It’s time that American tax policies, which provide the highest corporate tax rates of any of developed nation, along with onerous and excessive regulations, were reduced in order to incentivize companies to keep production facilities at home. U.S. and other international commercial firms should be encouraged, if they must produce their goods offshore or import finished products from abroad, to establish relations with nations other than China. There are significant dangers in importing goods from China.
Fifth, the United States should enter into NATO-type agreements with nations neighboring China, and America must adhere to its commitments. The Obama Administration’s shameful failure to even diplomatically support the Philippines when China incurred onto Manila’s offshore and internationally recognized Exclusive Economic Zone was a low point in U.S. diplomatic history.
Sixth: The United States Government owes over $1.2 trillion to China. However, as noted previously, Beijing has prodigiously stolen intellectual property from both the U.S. government (military and civilian) and private corporations as well. The value of the stolen technology should be deducted from the amounts owed to China. Since Beijing shows no sign of relenting on its illegal espionage assaults on the U.S., there must be a price placed on that activity.
Finally, while defense spending must rise, Washington must cease its profligate spending practices and stop borrowing funds from the very nation that seeks to defeat it.
According to the International Business Times, “Russia and China will continue to make weapons deals with Iran under U.N. procedures… Russia currently has a deal in place from April to supply Iran with the S-300 missile defense system. It’s yet to be seen how it will be completed given that Iran is now banned from buying missile technology for eight years. The deal was said to be a gesture of good will for Iran’s co-operation in the negotiations.”
Iran’s possession of the S-300 system substantially strengthens the ability of Iran to violate the already weak restrictions of the recently concluded nuclear arms deal, since it will now have the means to protect violative atomic test sites from air strikes seeking to destroy them.
The Jerusalem Post has reported on a deal, originally revealed in the Taiwanese press in which China will provide Iran with 24 J-10 fighter jets in exchange for Chinese access to the Islamic Republic’s largest oil field for the next 20 years.
The Washington Free Beacon has revealed that Russian and Iran naval forces conducted joint war games in northern Iran, “in another combined show of force meant to display the two nations’ control of nearby waterways. An Iranian destroyer and team of Russian warships staged a series of war drills and engaged in joint training exercises, according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled press.” IB Times http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/russia-iran-stage-naval-war-games-showcase-combined-strength-1515122 notes that “The joint naval exercise shows increased military ties between Russia and Iran after the two countries signed multiple arms agreements in recent months.”
The Jerusalem Post has also monitored Iranian semi-official outlets which have reported that Iran, Russia, China and Syria are to conduct joint military exercises in Syria next month. Chinese and Russian warships as well as Russian nuclear submarines are to be involved.
According to the report, “China had gained Egyptian approval to allow 12 Chinese ships carrying military equipment to pass through the Suez Canal, and that these vessels would reach the Syrian ports of Tartous and Latakia in two weeks’ time.” No official sources from Syria, Russia, China or Iran had confirmed the war games would take place, and Russia has denied involvement.
Qassem Soleimari, the Iranian Quds force commander, recently met with Russian officials in Moscow, Fox News reports, citing intelligence sources. Soleimari is designated as a terrorist and is responsible for leading actions resulted in the deaths of numerous U.S. soldiers in Iraq. His Quds force also operates in Latin America.
According to the Middle East Forum “China’s new Middle East strategy is inimical to U.S. nonproliferation goals. Beijing may pledge to adhere to U.S. counter-proliferation policy, but its willingness to cultivate relations with Middle Eastern states, on the back of sales of both conventional weapons and materials applicable to weapons of mass destruction programs, indicates that its promises are insincere.”
Defense News notes that there is an indication of competition between Russia and China in their relationship with Iran. Both seek to sell their indigenous weapons systems to Tehran, particularly anti-aircraft missiles. To pursue that and other goals, it is expected that China’s President Xi will visit Iran in the near future. China has had a long-term relationship with Tehran’s government since the Islamic extremist takeover.
Despite the friendly rivalry, the three nations together serve as the most significant joint threat to the United States, Europe, and aligned nations across the globe to ever have emerged. Their combined massive geography, population, economic power, and scientific sophistication along with their strategic location and the contiguous land mass of the three produce a threat far greater than that endured during the Cold War, or even the German-Japanese alliance of World War Two.
China’s aggressive military actions against its neighbors have been the subject of discussion. Less publicized has been its extensive and hostile cyberespionage actions against those same nations and others. A report just released by Fireeye, Inc. analyzes the issue:
“When our Singapore-based Fireeye labs team examined malware aimed predominantly at entities in Southeast Asia and India, we suspected that we were peering into a regionally focused cyber espionage operation. The malware revealed a decade-long operation focused on targets—government and commercial—who hold key political, economic, and military information about the region.
“This group, who we call APT30, stands out not only for their sustained activity and regional focus, but also for their continued success despite maintaining relatively consistent tools, tactics, and infrastructure since at least 2005. In essence, our analysis of APT30 illuminates how a group can persistently compromise entities across an entire region and subcontinent, unabated, with little to no need to significantly change their modus operandi.
“Based on our malware research, we are able to assess how the team behind APT30 works: they prioritize their targets, most likely work in shifts in a collaborative environment, and build malware from a coherent development plan. Their missions focus on acquiring sensitive data from a variety of targets, which possibly include classified government networks and other networks inaccessible from a standard Internet connection. While APT30 is certainly not the only group to build functionality to infect air-gapped networks into their operations, they appear to have made this a consideration at the very beginning of their development efforts in 2005, significantly earlier than many other advanced groups we track. Such a sustained, planned development effort, coupled with the group’s regional targets and mission, lead us to believe that this activity is state sponsored—most likely by the Chinese government.
“APT30 predominantly targets entities that may satisfy governmental intelligence collection requirements. The vast majority of APT30’s victims are in Southeast Asia. Much of their social engineering efforts suggest the group is particularly interested in regional political, military, and economic issues, disputed territories, and media organizations and journalists who report on topics pertaining to China and the government’s legitimacy…
“APT30’s operations epitomize a focused, persistent, and well-resourced threat group. They appear to consider both the timing of their operations and prioritize their targets. Some of the their tools’ capabilities, most notably the ability to infect air gapped networks, suggest both a level of planning and interest in particularly sensitive data, such as that housed on government networks. The group’s method for selecting and tracking victims suggests a high level of coordination and organization among the group’s operators. With activity spanning more than ten years, APT30 is one of the longest operating threat groups that we have encountered and one of the few with a distinct regional targeting preference. Our research into APT30 demonstrates what many already suspected: threat actors rely on cyber capabilities to gather information about their immediate neighborhood, as well as on a larger, global scale. APT30 appears to focus not on stealing businesses’ valuable intellectual property or cutting-edge technologies, but on acquiring sensitive data about the immediate Southeast Asia region, where they pursue targets that pose a potential threat to the influence and legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. In exposing APT30, we hope to increase organizations’ awareness of threats and ability to defend themselves. APT30’s targeting interests underscore the need for organizations across the region to defend the information assets valuable to determined threat actors.”
Nations targeted include the United States, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Saudi Aabia, Nepal, Bhutan, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Japan.
It’s not just governments and corporations that are the targets.
“In addition to APT30’s Southeast Asia and India focus, we’ve observed APT30 target journalists reporting on issues traditionally considered to be focal points for the Chinese Communist Party’s sense of legitimacy, such as corruption, the economy, and human rights. In China, the Communist Party has the ultimate authority over the government. China-based threat groups have targeted journalists before; we believe they often do so to get a better understanding on developing stories to anticipate unfavorable coverage and better position themselves to shape public messaging.
“APT30’s attempts to compromise journalists and media outlets could also be used to punish outlets that do not provide favorable coverage – for example, both the New York Times and Bloomberg have had trouble securing visas for journalists in wake of unfavorable corruption reporting. 28 Beyond targeting, we also saw summaries of media events or reporting in decoy documents, particularly around press releases related to government or military updates. It appears that APT30 could plausibly be targeting press attachés in order to obtain access to their contacts, which would presumably include the contact information of other public affairs personnel or other journalists of interest to target. Targeting press attachés would enable APT30 to target journalists from a trusted source, which would be an excellent resource for spear phishing.”
It is the guiding policy in the strange, new world of international relations in the Obama years: treating enemies with respect and empathy, and giving allies the brush-off, or worse.
At her recent Georgetown speech, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated: “This is what we call smart power…Using every possible tool and partner to advance peace and security. Leaving no one on the sidelines. Showing respect even for one’s enemies. Trying to understand, in so far as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view. Helping to define the problems, determine the solutions. That is what we believe in the 21st century will change — change the prospects for peace.”
This came at the same time that Congress furiously demanded an explanation of why the White House was floating the idea of imposing sanctions on America’s only firm ally in the region, Israel. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) in a document obtained by the Washington Free Beacon noted that fifty members of the House of Representatives demanded that the Administration explain why it is seriously considering imposing sanctions against Israel. “Israel is one of our strongest allies, and the mere notion that the administration would unilaterally impose sanctions against Israel is not only unwise, but is extremely worrisome…such reports send a clear message to our friends and enemies alike that such alliances with the United States government can no longer be unquestionably trusted.”
President Obama has not commented on the matter.
During the tenure of the current White House, the Obama/Clinton concept of “respect and empathy” for enemy nations, including those that blatantly and substantially violate human rights, has predominated in every sphere of foreign affairs. Consider these salient examples:
The Obama/Clinton “reset” with Russia came as Mr. Putin squashes democracy in his own realm, invades a neighboring nation, ramps up his armed forces, returns to cold war bases around the world, and deploys his military in a manner that clearly threatens Europe.
The President, during his recent Asia trip, gave major concessions to China in environmental issues and visas despite Beijing’s continued suppression of free speech and human rights within its borders, major espionage efforts against the United States, and aggression against its neighbors, particularly American allies Japan and the Philippines. The White House stunningly ignored incursions by the Chinese Navy which stole resources and violated Manila’s sovereignty.
Even as Iran moves expeditiously to develop its nuclear weaponry, the White House has moved to soften sanctions and extend deadlines, despite the absence of any real progress.
During this same time period, the Administration has by word and deed weakened American commitments and diplomatic relations with key allies.
An initial attempt to improve relations with opposing nations by a new Administration can be written off as an example of naiveté or a reliance upon an excessive degree of hope. But when those attempts clearly and dramatically fail, as they have in the case of Russia, China, Iran, and Islamic extremists, then there can be no excuse not to return to a more sensible policy.
But the White House has failed to do so, and has given no viable answer why it has not. It has not been pressed to do by a largely supportive media. But the failure has become so obvious, serious, and dangerous, that the ongoing safety of the nation requires an immediate explanation and description of what Mr. Obama’s foreign policy goals are, what he believes America’s role in the world is, and how he intends to keep the U.S. safe from the burgeoning military might of Russia, China, and Iran, three nations that have become increasing allied and increasingly powerful. The same requirement must be responded to by Ms. Clinton, not only for her previous failures as Secretary of State, but her views for the nation she seeks to lead in the future.
There is a domestic content to this problem, as well. The Executive Branch is part of a government of a free nation. The White House is answerable to the voters. There has never been a truly open, thorough or cogent explanation of what Mr. Obama’s world vision is. If, indeed, the President seeks to “fundamentally transform” America’s role into one in which enemies are now considered friends and former allies have been discarded, which appears to be the case, then he is compelled to reveal his radical new perspective to the American people, a duty he has for far too long ignored.
Pentagon sources were quoted by the Weekly Standard as being concerned that America is losing its edge in military technology to China.
In addition to its massive strides in cyber warfare and missiles that can destroy American aircraft carriers from almost a thousand miles away and knock vital U.S. satellites out of orbit, Beijing, according to a Spacewar report, has developed a laser that can shoot down light drones. According to Chinese reports, the weapon has almost 100% accuracy and is transportable. It is expected that a more powerful version will be developed for use against heavier craft as well.
The American people have been repeatedly told that cuts to the U.S. defense budget were not exceedingly dangerous because of both the higher rate of spending by Washington and the Pentagon’s technological edge. That edge may no longer exist, and China and Russia’s massive increases in their defense spending may soon close the fiscal gap as well.
There is also the increased threat from the sharing of research and technology between Moscow and Beijing. China’s Xinhua news paper quotes Vladimir Putin as stating that Sino-Russian cooperation has “reached its all-time best.” Putin placed particular emphasis on joint high-tech ventures.
Putin emphasized that the two nations are striving to create a “new security” framework in the Asian Pacific region.
The image is both iconic and reassuring—an American aircraft carrier on patrol in East Asia, protecting friends, deterring aggressors and criminals, insuring that vital trade routes remain open.
For a while, however, the scene will exist only in historic newsreels. After well over a half century in which U.S. carriers served as an omnipresent key guarantor of peace and stability, budget cuts will force their temporary absence. The unprecedented gap will occur when the U.S.S. George Washington returns to America for refitting. No replacement will be provided for at least a third of a year, until the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan becomes available.
The news has been met with distress by American allies in the region. The Japanese news source Asia Nikkei reports that “Security policymakers in Japan and the U.S. are privately voicing concern about the absence of U.S. aircraft carriers from East Asian waters for four months next year…officials fear having no carriers in the region could provide China and North Korea with an opportunity to take military action.”
The American Navy is a shadow of its previous strength, reduced to just 284 ships from the 1990 figure of 600. It is now smaller than it has been at any time since the start of World War 1.
The radical alteration in the U.S. military posture has occurred without much public discussion or debate. In addition to starving the armed forces for funds, President Obama has unilaterally withdrawn all American tanks from Europe, allowed the further deterioration of the American nuclear deterrent, reneged on plans to protect the U.S. and allies with an anti-missile system, and agreed to allow Russia to maintain a ten to one advantage in tactical nuclear missiles. The White House has advocated unilateral cuts in American atomic weapons. It pursues a budget which will leave the U.S. army with fewer personnel than North Korea’s force. It has not responded in any substantive manner to China’s massive military buildup. It has failed to take even any significant diplomatic steps in response to armed attacks by Russia and China against their neighbors.
These are fundamental alterations in a defense posture that over the past seventy years has prevented another world war, and defeated the Soviet Union in the cold war. Mr. Obama’s inexplicable abandoning of this successful policy should been widely debated, but the major media has seen fit to ignore it.