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Defense

US, China Rift, and the New Threat from North Korea

Amnah Amjad

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The launch of Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea on 4 July 2017 has sparked new tensions between United States, China and North Korea. The intercontinental ballistic missile has the capacity to reach 578 miles with the potential of reaching an altitude of 1700 miles. This would mean that the missile has the capability to get to Alaska, USA.

As a response to the North Korea’s missile launch, United States and South Korea held a ballistic missile drill on 5 July 2017 in the Sea of Japan to counter any attempt. However, the news of the drill broke within hours of the joint press statement by China and Russia in which they condemned the launch of ICBM by North Korea and in exchange demanded United States not to conduct military exercises with South Korea. The press statement indicates that both China and Russia want to address the issue on the table instead of using force.

North Korea’s latest missile test has created the rift between China and United States and many call it as an end of the ‘honeymoon period’ between the two countries. Trump, who called Chinese President, Xi Jinping, a ‘good person’ during Xi’s visit to the United States in April 2017, had taken a harsh stance against him this week and called for him to ‘do more’ for denuclearization of North Korea or face repercussions. China is the biggest trade partner of North Korea and United States blames it for not imposing United Nations sanctions on North Korea that included banning of coal imports from North Korea. The food and fuel supplies to North Korea and coal imports from the country by China are considered as lifeline of the former’s nuclear project. The latest ICBM test by North Korea proves that the sanctions have remained unsuccessful in the denuclearization of North Korea, hence probing United States to put pressure on China. United States have threatened China with the proposal of new sanctions that would curtail the Chinese bank linked to North Korea. This has been criticized by China that does not want to be affected by the US sanctions. Moreover, United States has also authorized sales of arms to Taiwan in order to put pressure on Xi.

Although China claims to aim for denuclearization of the region, it fears destabilized North Korea more than a nuclear North Korea. China has been supporting Kim Jong-un’s regime with food and fuel supplies to avoid instability in the country. Moreover, the trade between the two countries have risen this year, i.e. there is a 15 % increase in the trade between China and North Korea in the first five months of year 2017 as compared to those in 2016. This indicates that China has taken limited measures to impose the UN Security Council sanctions aimed to deter North Korean nuclear program. To aim for denuclearization of the region, China had suggested to resort to the Six Party talks (between North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and United States) and had aimed for the resumption of talks since its discontinuation in 2009.

There are a couple of reasons that China cannot cut off North Korea completely. Firstly, China’s priority is to have a stable Korean neighborhood; collapse of North Korea would create room for a United Korea as South Korea will take over the complete Korean region with the help of its ally, United States. This would make the lasting presence of the United States in the vicinity of China that will challenge the regional power structure. Moreover, United States is planning to test Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in July 2017. China has criticized the act and asks for peaceful settlement, as the use of force will create problems for China. Secondly, collapse of the North Korean regime would force refugees into China that will create problems for the country. China shares 1420 km long border with North Korea. The two provinces of China that share the border with North Korea, Jilin and Liaoning, have lower GDP compared to other coastal regions of China. The influx of refugees would create more problems for China that is already facing territorial issues with Tibet and Xinjiang.

The rift between China and United States appear to lie in the approach both countries take towards the denuclearization of North Korea. United States approach is aggressive; it wants to use force against North Korea and is even threatening China with sanctions and the sale of arms to Taiwan. Whereas, China regards the purpose of force unproductive and wants to solve the problem with negotiations. The use of force and sanctions against North Korea and China respectively, would aggravate the situation. Firstly, if United States attacks North Korea then North Korea will respond aggressively and the nuclear war will only create casualties and loss of lives. Secondly, if United States tries to put sanctions on China, then it may be backfired as China’s status of the second biggest economy in the world and emerging superpower has got it support from different countries of the world. Hence, imposition of sanctions by the super power on emerging super power will only create chaos in the world and may be repetition of another Cold War.

One then imagines that what could be the best possible approach in such situation? United States, China and North Korea need to come on one page and should revive Six Party Talks. The talks were discontinued by North Korea in the wake of resolution passed by UN Security Council condemning North Korea for the launch of satellite in April 2009. The revival of talks will foster dialogue process and will help in communicating each side’s picture clearly. This will also clear the picture of China’s approach towards North Korea as it had been unpredictable in the past; China agreed to adopt sanctions against North Korea in 2016, but 2017 has shown an increase in trade relations between the two countries. Moreover, instead of threat and sanctions, United States and China could offer economic incentives to North Korea. North Korea’s geographical location amidst strong economies such as China, Russia, Japan and United States would help its economy revive if it starts trade with these countries.

Amnah Amjad has done BSc (Honours) in Political Science from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Pakistan. She has keen interest in international relations, counter-terrorism strategies and peace studies. She can be reached at amnah.amjad[at]gmail.com

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Defense

Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region

Asim Suleymanov

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The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that combines large-scale conventional military threats, internationalized civil wars and protracted conflicts, as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) challenges. As such, a fragile set of states caught between the Euro-Atlantic community, on the one hand, and Russia and its allies, on the other, has emerged as a key interface between the two security communities.  

Since the 1990s, most of the world’s identified cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials—fissile materials, in particular—have been located in countries around the Black Sea. The nuclear security situation in the region is further complicated by the existence of areas with unstable governance and protracted conflicts such as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and areas of Eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The Washington’s open, aggressive behavior in the international arena pushes traditional allies away from it. But despite the escalation of the conflict with Turkey, the United States, being the founding member of NATO, is still pursuing the goal of strengthening its presence in the Black Sea.

Today, the main allies of the White House in this region are the leadership of Georgia and Ukraine, who dream of entry into NATO and accept all the imposed conditions.
However, for more than 80 years the presence of warships of non-Black Sea powers, that could enter the sea via the Bosphorus, has been regulated by the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. According to it, the total non-Black Sea tonnage, with few exceptions, is limited to 15 thousand ships. It prevents the emergence of something more significant there than a detachment of light forces, one or two large warships. At the same time for warships there are restrictions on the class and duration of stay. In particular, ships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the water area for no more than 21 days.
Any attempts to violate this document will be extremely negatively perceived by Turkey, that should be one of the leading players in the region. It is impossible to revise the convention without the consent of Turkey, and only supporting by Ankara country can provide overwhelming superiority in the Black Sea.


In such a situation, the Pentagon considers it possible to use the navigable channel of Istanbul for the passage of American aircraft carriers, that will connect the Marmara and the Black Sea. A channel of about 50 km in length will run parallel to the Bosphorus, while the Montreux Convention will not extend to it. The construction of Channel Istanbul will be completed in 2023.

By the end of construction, everything will depend on the leadership of Turkey. If Ankara concedes and allows the passage of the US Navy aircraft carriers through the new channel, it will surrender all its positions in the Black Sea to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, NATO member countries (this is not about Bulgaria and Romania) maintain a military presence in the Black Sea region. The Sea Shield 2019 naval drills ended in mid-April, and the reconnaissance ship HMS Echo of the British Royal Navy continues to carry out its mission in the Black Sea.

The US Navy already has 11 atomic high-speed aircraft carriers, each with about 90 aircraft. If we imagine that a small part of them will be placed in the Black Sea, then Russia will receive a defensive response. And then all the terrible scenarios of hostilities are likely to happen.

There is a hope that the Turkish government has enough resilience and determination in confronting the harsh rhetoric of other NATO partners.

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Defense

Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons

Ali Raza

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After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.

Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.

Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.

During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.

The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.  

The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.

The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.

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Defense

Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States

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The Baltic States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise Saber Strike.

The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.

Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.

There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.

The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.

It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.

BulgarianMilitary.com  quoted  Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises. We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow every year.”

From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.

“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.

As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.

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