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Analysing INF Treaty: US withdrawal and its implications towards Asian Allies

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United States of America and Soviet Union signed a treaty of “Intermediate Range Nuclear Force” during 1987 (also known as Cold War era). The basic purpose of this treaty was to prevent further destruction in the world, but US has engaged the complete world into an arms race. Both the super powers were enthusiastic to abide by the rules of this treaty but, later on US suspected Russia for violating the rules. This research paper is basically to analyze the position of US in the continent Asia whether it will be able to suppress China, as China is the emerging threat towards its hegemony. This research paper is supported by the “offensive realism theory” which was provided by John Mearsheimer. According to this theory, when any state develops strong in any region of strategic importance, different powers intervenes to suppress it in order to maintain their own dominancy.

The main reason behind America withdrawal from “INF treaty” was to construct missiles of that much longer ranges which can counter China and creation of those missiles was actually banned under that treaty. According to the research US actually wanted to suppress China by highlighting the Russia’s non-Compliance as a pretext. Furthermore, due to lack of policies and strategies in Asia-Pacific region US was actually unable to contain China and other Asiatic states for deploying missiles within their territories. The data has been collected from primary and secondary sources and analytical methodology has been applied. Primary data composed of interviews of political parties and American government on News Channels, talk shows and official websites whereas secondary data collected from journals articles, newspapers and reports of “SIPRI”.

Introduction:

Ronald Reagan representing United States and Michael Gaurbachev representing Soviet Union signed “Intermediate Range Nuclear Force (INF)” Treaty in year 1987. Under this treaty both states were obliged to eliminate all missiles having range of between 500 to 5500 Kms[1].Russia at that time was having SS 20 Missiles which was capable of destroying whole Europe with its range, the basic purpose of US behind initiating this treaty was to dismantle such types of missiles of Russia[2]. Under this treaty, a total of 2692 missiles (US 846 and Soviet Union 1846) were destroyed and hence it is known as the most successful treaty of the Cold War Era[3].

US blamed Soviet Union of violating the rule of “INF treaty” under which both of the states were not allowed to construct missiles having range more than 500 KMs, these allegations formed the cause of weakening of this treaty. Russia countered those allegations by giving a statement that those 9M729 missiles have a range of 480 KMs which does not exceed the range mentioned in the treaty[4]. Obama Administration made the first allegation on Soviet Union but never provided any evidence in their complete tenure. Donald Trump elected as US President after Obama in 2016, and suspended the treaty on 2nd Feb 2019 providing time of Six months to Soviet Union to comply on this treaty otherwise US will withdraw from this treaty then by using Russian Violation of treaty as a pretext, US officially announced its withdrawal from the treaty on 2nd August 2019[5]. The basic purpose of America to withdraw from this treaty was to contain China emerging as a super power as China was not the part of this treaty.

US hegemony is greatly threatened by rapid emergence of China as a super power. US has always used its powers against the states which threatened its position in the world as one could see US fought against Germany in World War I, as Germany was gaining a dominant position in Europe and similarly, during world war II America overpowered Japan and Soviet Union during the Cold War era. As currently, there is no state in Europe which can threaten US so it shifted its focus towards Asia to gain dominancy. The emergence of China is the real threat to US hegemony therefore US aims to hold INF treaty in Asia-Pacific region to be centric.US is facing a lot of criticism due to few steps it has taken in recent times which has not only affected the mutual trust of the states but has also put security of Europe at stake. They are facing the criticism of increasing the risk of military conflict in the world.

Significance:

US is desirous to develop a level playing field which includes the construction of all kinds of weapons i.e. Air, Naval, and ground-based intermediate missiles. There is a risk of enhancement in Arms race in the world due to withdrawal of America from INF. Much work has been done on “INF treaty” about its history and importance but this paper will analyze the United States interest and its policies in Asia after withdrawing INF treaty.

Objectives:

  • To examine United States reasons behind withdrawing from INF treaty
  • To examine the United States policies in countering China

Hypothesis:

US hegemony was threatened due to emergence of China as a super power in Asia therefore it withdrew from the INF Treaty

Research Questions:

Was Russian noncompliance the only reason for United States to withdraw itself from INF treaty?

Will US be able to contain China in Asia?

Methodology:

Primary and secondary data is primarily used to support Hypothesis and analytical methodology has been applied. Data has been taken from “Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)”, “China Global Television Network (CGTN)” and from Arms control and Disarmament websites. News articles, journals articles,news clipping, documentaries, research papers and magazines have been addressed in this research.

Limitations:

Not many books are available on the topic. Had to take help from newspaper clippings, opinion articles, talk shows or panel discussions, YouTube documentaries and news channels. Post 9/11 period has been taken to address the INF treaty.

Theoretical Framework and Discussions:

Realism is the most noticeable theory of International Politics. This theory sees the world with the logical and realistic point of view. It accomplishes the two significant idea of global relations; “Security” and power or force”. For each country “security” is the prime interest and to satisfy this interest, power is a primary source. Power and security can be called as the two sides of same coin. The state removes its insecurity from the persuasion of power which creates insecurity for another states Two speculations have been taken for the justification of hypothesis Classical Realism and Neorealism and it is further subdivided into two positions: “Offensive and Defensive realism”. Basically, Classical realism focus on Human nature and linked power with it that Human is greedy and selfish because of this war happened but in order to analyze Neo realism it is more appropriate in this contemporary world they discuss that International system is anarchic and this structure determines the behavior of states due to which states pursue power. In addition to this, two factorstalk about power but in different perspective. Offensive realism theory proposed by John Mearsheimer’s deals with maximization of power rather than security and seek towards hegemony than equality[6].Whereas Defensive realism theorists believe that state must seek power enough for its security rather than accumulating excessive power.

However, in order to apply this theory United States is focusing on offensive realism because hegemon state will use all its power to prevent the rise of competitor in order to stay dominant. Now US did not bother about the security of European states and withdrew INF treaty that has arisen the factor of arm race in the world. So, there is no central authority that can take authentic decisions due to which states create its own self-help system to ensure its own survival.

Russian noncompliance was a reason for United States behind termination of “INF treaty” but it was not a fact Trump was more worried about China missiles because it was not a part of this treaty and it was successfully developing numbers of missiles whose ranges are more than “INF” limits. Whereas, United States was prohibited under this treaty and was not allowed to test or deploy ground-based missile because of this US capability was becoming under threatened by the China[7]. On the other hand, Russia was in favor of this treaty because Russia position is different now as compared to 1980’s era. Soviet Union was split in 1991 and the states that were under Soviet Union associated themselves with “North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)” thus United States have an advantage to deploy its missiles here and target Russia in a minute. For example, Estonia is near to Russia and it can target Russia in a second. So, Russia does not want termination of this treaty so that US do not deploy its missiles here because in response Russia is unable to reach territory of United States[8].

Russia made a draft resolution for the preservation of the INF treaty and submitted to the 74th meeting of General Assembly but it was rejected by the “United Nation Disarmament committee” because it comes under Security Council[9]. Russia tried its best to preserve its treaty but unable to achieve success because US already made its mind since 2018 and US security advisor John Bolton told Russian President Putin that Trump has already made his mind to withdraw from this treaty in Moscow[10]. In addition to this, director of the “Center for Security Cooperation in the Chinese ministry of national defense” without supporting any states Zhou Bo has mentioned in an interview on “world insight China Global Television network” that if there was any problem related to Russian missiles then it was the duty of US to investigate it. Though, Russia showed positive gesture as they invited US for the inspection of missiles but America denied to visit[11]. In addition to this, United States denied this inspection because they were working on missiles if they accept this invitation then US has also reveal its information regarding missiles because Russia was also accusing that US is working on missiles formation i.e. Aegis shore and US is making planning to deploy these missiles in Poland[12].Continuous debate along with counteraccusation game was going on. Russia statements regarding development of US missiles are showing authentic observations because US tested intermediate missiles just after seventeen days of withdrawal from INF[13]. It means that US was working on these missiles for many years.

There were two reports regarding China Ballistic missiles. In 2013 first report was published by “National Air and space Intelligence Centre” that China consumes utmost diverse ballistic missiles[14].Moreover, second report was published by Pentagon in 2018 that China is improving its missiles[15]. In prior to this, United States seek hegemony in Asia continent and want to counter China by deploying its missiles in Asian allies’ states and announced that they will deploy missiles “sooner rather than later”[16]. Moreover, United States trying to form new treaty in which China must also become a part of it but China denied to join any treaty that make its capability limited. As China is becoming a continental power and intermediate missiles are its backbone so adherence to any treaty would create a huge asymmetry and might cause an unbalanced power between strategic rivals then it would be difficult to compete them.

United States has again opted the policy of “Containment” against China as it made it against Soviet Union in Cold war. However, question arises that will US be able to contain China in Asia? In order to analyze China and Soviet Union, China is far superior than Soviet Union financially and strategically. US made progress in containing Soviet Union since it was inside frail, however in case of China it would be troublesome on the grounds because China’s procurement power is bigger than United States and has fabricated strong military in South China Sea[17]. China has opted winning heart mind scheme in its surrounding areas by building economic corridor, though United States consistently relied on hard power and consistently centered around military innovation. Rivalry among US and China is consistently there, in light of the fact that both are following nationalism and need to secure own national interest so collaboration would be difficult among them and it is very hard to contain China for United States.

US and Asian Allies:

As China is emerging and creating a military threat to United States. So, United States pull out INF treaty so that it makes itself free from the limitations and make a missile of those ranges that are banned under this treaty only to contain China. Three perspective could be made on US withdrawal: First intermediate missiles are inexpensive for US than air and naval assets, it will be good to deter China and more survivable than air and sea-based missiles. However, US did not consult with its Asian Allies before withdrawing the treaty that will these states allow US to deploy its missiles on their territory[18]. For US it would be one of the difficult tasks to attain because it is digging itself into one of the most complicated process i.e. long process of negotiation will take place between US and its Asian allies.

Japan and South Korea are the two allies of US in Asia. In order to analyze both states want good relations with China. The Government of Japan opposed the US decision regarding a withdrawal from INF treaty. Likewise, it will not allow US to deploy its missile on their territory. Moreover, Japan is bound with their customs and has to take consent from the local governors and administration. Japan does not want another challenge from its neighbor country along from their public because US military are deployed in Japan through “Status of force agreement (SOFA)” and they are operating there without respecting Japan domestic laws and Japan took decision to revise SOFA agreement in 2018[19]. So, public opinion is also playing role in Japan decision making and majority of people are not in the support of deployment of missiles in their territory along with unable to face other repercussions from its neighboring state China.

South Korea and United States relations are becoming weaker after 2016. In 2016 US deployed “Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD)” in South Korea to counter North Korea missiles. In result China retaliated and made sanction on economic and diplomatic efforts that costed South Korea approximately seven billion dollars[20]. In addition to this, if South Korea again deploy US missiles then it would face repercussions and its relation with China will affect. Furthermore, in order to analyze the leadership of Korea, they did not want now any sanctions from China and trying to make peaceful Korean peninsula.

Guam is there where US can deploy its missiles but it is very small island about thirty miles long and ten miles wide. China is far from Guam approximately 3,000 km and currently US is lacking this range of missiles to target China[21].

Australia is left with only the option but it will also cost US expensively because to target China US require Intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of intermediate missiles because from this region China is 5500 km far away and currently US is bound with the New strategic reduction arm treaty that does not allow US to develop these ranges missiles. Again, US did not consult with Australia regarding deployment of missiles. Australia is also not willing to deploy US missiles as its Prime minister also expressed this statement in an interview[22].

So, United States always make its policies or agreements with the states but whenever it feels the threat related to their dominancy it withdraws itself from agreements unilaterally. Either it is related to climate agreement or arms control agreement. US always look towards its interest if it is fulfilling then it will follow it otherwise it will withdraw itself from the treaty. As offensive realism theory explain that international system is anarchic not in means of chaos but lack of central political authority is there that leads states towards self-help system to ensure its survival. And this is the perspective that US is continuously using offensive behavior and tried it best to use all its power to prevent the rise of competitor and thus it withdraws from INF only to increase its power so that it would be able to contain China.

On the other hand, United States has undermined the trust of states. Before taking this step, US must know that many states are having missiles technology there is no monopoly over it[23]. Now every state will make more missiles to ensure its survival and thus give emergence to new arm race in the world.

US took verdict on withdrawal from INF arrangement rapidly because of absence of legitimate arranging or approaches in regards to containing China. First no vital strategies were made with Asian Allies particularly Japan and South Korea. These two states are bound to their administration order for deploying intermediate missiles in their region. Public perceptions or recognition and assessment are additionally impacting in their administration arrangements. Research explored that authority of Asian states needs great relations with China rather than United States because China is economically more strengthened then US and it is near to them and cannot take any risk against China so that in future, they face more difficulties. Furthermore, absence of clear strategy with respect to containing China will give no achievement in future as US secretary of states has referenced that it will send its missiles sooner in Asia however it is time taking procedure and will take a very long time to execute. In addition to this, if Russia was violating the rules of INF treaty, at that point why confirmations or evidences were not exposed by US government? United States always back out from the treatise whenever their security becomes threatened. Currently, US is only left with one treaty named as “New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty” that was also signed amid US and Soviet Union during cold war. It is expected that US could withdraw from this last cold war treaty in 2021 as President Trump already indicate this factor in his speech as well. Thus, US will free itself from all the restrictions and chances of arm race will be increased among the states either developing or developed states.

Conclusion:

Russian noncompliance was just a pretext for United States of America. Its main reason was to contain China and want to make INF treaty Asia-Pacific centric but it would be difficult for the United States after agreement termination, because for deployment of missiles, it needs Asian allies’ states to offer its launch sites for missiles within range of China. It is clear that which country will provide its territory along with future repercussions from China. In this contemporary world, China has opted winning heart mind strategy in its region whereas United States always believed on hard power and always focused on military technology to achieve its hegemony and this concept is becoming blur in modern world. Competition between US and China always there because both are following nationalism and want to protect their own national interest so cooperation would be difficult amid them and it is quite difficult to contain China for United States in South Asia region.


[1] “US. Department of State: Treaty Between the United States of America And the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on The Elimination of Their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty)”, 2009-2017

[2]Ivan Tselichtchev, “If Trump blows up US-Russia nuclear treaty, China will pick up the pieces”, South China Morning Post, 10 November 2018

[3]Lori Esposito Murray, “What the INF Treaty’s Collapse Means for Nuclear Proliferation”, Council on Foreign Relations, August, 1, 2019

[4] Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019): 53-54

[5]Ibid.

[6]Glenn H. Snyder, “World-Offensive Realism and the Struggle for Security: A Review Essay”, The MIT Press 27,no.1 (summer 2002)

[7]Andrey Baklitskiy, “What the end of the INF treaty means for China”, Carnegie Moscow Center, December 2, 2019

[8]Ivan Tselichtchev, “If Trump blows up US-Russia nuclear treaty, China will pick up the pieces”, South China Morning Post, 10 November 2018

[9]Ibid.

[10]Julian Borger, “European diplomats mount last-ditch effort to stop US scrapping INF treaty”, The Guardian, 18 November 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/18/inf-treaty-european-diplomats-us-russia

[11] “End of the INF treaty: China’s position”, YouTube video, 17:29, accessed August,2019,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxcURttIaok

[12]Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019)

[13]“INF nuclear treaty: US tests medium-range cruise missile”, BBC News, 20, August 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-49405499

[14] Alexander Lanoska, “The INF Treaty: Pulling Out in Time”, Air University, no.13 (Summer 2019): 56

[15] Alex ward, “The US just withdrew from an important nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Don’t panic — yet”, VOX, August 2, 2019, https://www.vox.com/world/2019/8/2/20750158/inf-treaty-trump-russia-withdraw

[16]Shannon Bugos, “US completes INF treaty Withdrawal”, Arms control Association, September,2019

[17]Will Saetern, “US cold war containment strategy against China may not end the Soviet way. Instead, it could explode into armed conflict”, South China Morning Post, September 17,2018

[18] Pranay Vaddi, “Leaving the INF Treaty Won’t Help Trump Counter China”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 31, 2019

[19] Ibid.

[20]Ibid.

[21]Ibid.

[22] “Australia won’t host U.S. missiles, prime minister says”, August,5,2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-australia-usa-missiles/australia-wont-host-us-missiles-prime-minister-says-idUSKCN1UV0IB

[23] Malik Qasim Mustafa, “US withdrawal from the INF treaty: Implications for global strategic stability”, Institute of strategic studies Islamabad, ed. Najam Rafique (ISSI, 2018)

Romana Khalid Gill, currently pursuing MPhil degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from National Defence University Islamabad. She has keen interest in Current affairs, US foreign policy, Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

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The East Expands into NATO: Japan’s and South Korea’s New Approaches to Security

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid can be seen as a momentous occasion not just for NATO but also for security in the Asia-Pacific. For the first time in NATO’s 73-year-long history, Japanese and South Korean leaders participated in the meeting as “Asia-Pacific partners”. For the first time, the Alliance named China a threat in their documents. However, having approached the hic sunt dracones (here be dragons) mark, NATO and its partners will soon have to think about the limits and purpose of expanding the organization’s areas of activity.

The Bargaining Yen

Fumio Kishida was Japan’s first premier to ever attend a NATO summit. Japan’s leader called for enhancing Tokyo’s ties with NATO based on the 2014 Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme. However, he also proposed permanently attaching representatives of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces to NATO’s headquarters, mutually exchanging observers at military drills, as well as to regularly involve Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea in NATO’s activities.

We should note Japan’s rather loose interpretation of the concept of indivisible security. For instance, Russia and China insist that the security of any state cannot be bolstered at the expense of other states. However, Kishida believes that security in Europe and the Indo-Pacific are inseparable from each other; therefore, attempts to change the status quo by force in any region should be stopped through joint efforts.

As part of the steps taken to assist European partners amid the events in Ukraine, Tokyo imposed additional sanctions on 70 Russian individuals and companies since Japan “is not ready to provide any military support to the Alliance.” In exchange, Japan hopes that NATO will fully support Japan’s course for militarization. Particularly, Japan is expected to publish its revised National Security Strategy to replace the 2013 Strategy by the end of 2022. Over five years, “the land of the rising sun” will ramp up its defense capabilities by significantly increasing its spending (up to 2% of the GDP) and by stepping up its interactions with the U.S. It is also possible that the Strategy will, for the first time, name China as a clear and present danger to Japan—previously, Tokyo avoided openly labelling China as its adversary.

The West heard the Japanese leadership’s message of European stability being impossible without eliminating the threats in the Asia-Pacific. Ultimately, the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept that determines the activities of member states for the next ten years states that Beijing’s “ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.” Principal threats include China’s non-transparent conventional and nuclear military build-up, malicious hybrid and cyber operations, confrontational rhetoric and disinformation, attempts to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains, and creating strategic dependencies intended to subvert the rules-based international order, including in the space, cyber and maritime domains.

The list would certainly have been incomplete without sending an alarm regarding the deepening strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing. NATO’s Madrid Summit declaration also contains a statement on competition with China and on Beijing’s challenge to NATO members’ security and development.

At the summit’s sidelines, Kishida attended a trilateral meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden and South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol, and then a quadrilateral meeting with South Korea’s President and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The leaders discussed the threats from China and North Korea, while the U.S. President reaffirmed guarantees to every party present military aid in case of an attack on their states. At the same time, it appears that the idea of putting China on NATO’s agenda and generally under the organization’s purview had been spearheaded by Washington that has less and less strength and willingness to challenge the “dragon” to an honest battle.

Korean Tanks in Polish Woods

Similar to Japan’s leader, South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol noted in his debut NATO summit address that security in any given region has global ramifications. Consequently, a crisis cannot be resolved through the efforts of a regional alliance or union. Therefore, South Korea’s President announced plans to consistently bolster security cooperation between Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo, primarily for counteracting the threat of North Korea’s nuclear missile program. Moreover, since, in Yoon Suk Yeol’s opinion, Pyongyang’s actions posit a major threat to peace and stability and to the non-proliferation regime, all NATO members will need to assist in resolving this problem. Generally, South Korea raised the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization at every event at the Madrid Summit, including the plenary session, the three-party meeting between the leaders of the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and a dozen of bilateral talks.

In turn, in order to bolster European security, Seoul is ready to expand its economic interactions with NATO states—in particular, to ensure uninterrupted deliveries of semi-conductors—assist in building NPPs and modernizing power facilities, and also ramp up military technical cooperation. Among the successes already achieved by the South Koreans is an agreement to deliver FA-50 jet trainers/light combat aircraft, K-2 main battle tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers and AS21 IFVs to Poland, and to participate in building NPPs in the UK, the Czech Republic, Poland, France, Romania and the Netherlands.

Curiously, unlike Japan, Yoon Suk Yeol avoided in every way directly mentioning Beijing in connection with threats to global and regional security. Moreover, Seoul believes that South Korea’s interactions, both with NATO and otherwise, should not be aimed against any specific country. Even though some surveys indicate that only 26% of South Koreans have a positive opinion of China, the country’s leadership is not prepared to oppose Beijing and fully commit to U.S.-led containment initiatives. Besides, in the near future, Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration will have to explain to China its own plans to deploy a second THAAD missile defense unit and Seoul actively arming its navy, air force, and ground forces with state-of-the-art strike missile weapons.

Despite of both Japanese and South Korean leaders attending the 2022 NATO Summit, questions still remain regarding normalizing relations between Seoul and Tokyo. The parties noted that there is potential for improvements and the problems of the past and the future would need to be discussed together. At the same time, internal forces in both states have very mixed feelings concerning the prospects of setting up practical interactions on security issues. Kishida’s government is concerned with South Korea’s growing military capabilities, unacceptable compensation demands to victims of the Japanese occupation, and its intractable stance on the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo/Takeshima islands). Particularly, Japan vehemently protested Korea’s military drill around the islands on July 30, 2022, although this time the drill was far more modest than before and did not involve a beach landing. One of the few shared sentiments between Seoul and Tokyo is their negative attitude to North Korea’s nuclear missile program, although Japan’s current potential for resolving this matter via talks is small since Tokyo has virtually completely severed contacts with Pyongyang.

Beyond the Purview

According to Le Monde, NATO’s focus on the events in Ukraine does not mean that the Alliance is ignoring threats emanating from beyond the organization’s traditional purview, for instance, like those from the Asia-Pacific. Asia-Pacific’s “collective West” representatives gradually expanding their involvement in the region evidences both the Alliance’s transformation into a certain global security body, and Seoul’s and Tokyo’s transforming approaches to protecting their interests by expanding their partnership network.

Japan is already a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) whose principal and implicit goal is to form a counterbalance to China. In Kishida’s opinion voiced on June 10, 2022 at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Russia’s actions in Ukraine may spur a similar scenario in Asia Pacific, particularly toward Taiwan, especially given a recent surge in the regional activities of China’s People’s Liberation Army. That, however, did not prevent Japan from sending a parliamentary delegation, including two former defense ministers, to Taipei to “discuss extensively the regional security situation in Taiwan, especially in the context of the Russia-Ukraine military conflict.” In this situation, it would be odd to expect anything from Beijing except a protest boosted by military aircraft patrolling around the island.

Yoon Suk Yeol seems intent on significantly increasing South Korea’s role in regional affairs by using the image of a liberal democracy in a crusade against authoritarian regimes around it. However, Seoul intends to wage such a battle solely against the neighboring regime, and even that is not quite a real crusade with clearly defined results. Getting North Korea, to abandon its nuclear weapons though intimidation during an exacerbating East Asian crisis is utterly impossible, particularly in view of Kim Jong Un’s proclaimed readiness for any military action against the U.S.

NATO believes that comprehensive security cooperation with “partners in Asia Pacific” should be conducive to making the international situation more predictable. However, given the Alliance’s track record, should it interfere in the Korean Peninsula or in the Taiwan Strait, there will be little cause to expect a positive outcome.

From our partner RIAC

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A war where the machine decides who to kill! (LAWs wars)

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Which country wants to be attacked by an AI-controlled system with no one in command? Which country wants their soldiers to be killed by an autonomous machine, and potentially, some civilians by mistake? The answer is evidently no one! No country wants that. But which country intends to possess such weapons, then the answer is more ambiguous. The last report of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) reflects this. After a week (25-29 July) of discussion at the Palais des Nations, UN Geneva, the adopted report is hollowed without meaningful conclusion or commitments.

Lethal autonomous weapons

Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWs) are military system that can autonomously search for and engage targets based on programmed constraints and descriptions. LAWs are also known as killer robots.

Autonomous weapons have existed for many years; for example, land mines trigger and kill or an injury without any human action. With emerging technology, including AI, we understand the interest of certain states to include these technologies in weapons to improve their autonomy. Since the 70s, the US has used the Phalanx CIWS, which can autonomously identify and attack incoming missiles. With AI, its capacities are considerably increased! Continuing with the example of mines, Russia’s anti-personnel mines of the POM-3 type are particularly deadly. They are disseminated in the land of operations but do not explode immediately. When activated, they rise in the air before exploding and causing multiple ravages, which can be fatal within a radius of 16 meters. Equipped with sensors and software, they choose their target, when they explode or not, depending on the identity of the people or equipment that approach. There are, unfortunately, so many other systems that will be too long to cite here. To conclude this part, in Libya in 2020, a Kargu 2 drone hunted down and attacked a human target. According to a report from the UN Security Council’s Panel of Experts on Libya, published in March 2021. This may have been the first time an autonomous killer robot armed with lethal weaponry attacked human beings. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_robot]

We quickly understand all potential ethical and legal issues. Autonomous systems can make mistakes; who is responsible then? Like mine killed millions of civilians, new systems may have bias and kill unstintingly, with no one to stop them. The range of potential problems is extensive.

A slow-downed convention

For nine years, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons or CCW, also known as the Inhumane Weapons Convention, has tried to regulate it with its GGE. For the most ambitious, it would be a question of agreeing on a treaty, or another international instrument, which would guarantee the prohibition that a weapon can operate autonomously, i.e., without the intervention of human supervision. Many Latin Americans, and European states are now advocating for this outright ban. The answer is less clear-cut for other states, including the USA. They consent to the prohibition of specific weapon systems as well as to a certain regulation but refuse a binding legal framework. Finally, Russia is slowing down all negotiations and reducing its content.

Russia and the game of consensus

A majority of States are now convinced of the need to act significantly, even asking for more days to debate in 2023. But the main problem is the rule of consensus, which prohibits any discussion breakthrough”.

Many little disagreements, for instance, delegations, wasted time discussing whether the CCW is an appropriate forum or the only appropriate forum for dealing with the issue of autonomous weapons.

These discussions have even been theatrical when Russia attacked many times the presence of civil societies to limit their intervention and participation in informal meetings. It was a tool to slow down the discussion, focusing the debate on organizational points. At the same time, we can also be afraid that this Russian posture is appearing in others GGEs. Meanwhile, some other states, like Israel and India, are discrete and do not oppose it. They probably use this condition to their advantage. Russia is doing all the work for them.

Therefore with the refusal of a few states, all the details about elements and possible measures for an agreement on autonomous weapons were removed. All conclusions about what kinds of control are necessary, and possible processes to achieve that control, were taken out. The present conclusions section just outlines the types of proposals discussed, recognizes ethical perspectives, and repeats the respect for international humanitarian law. It confirms then that states are responsible for wrongful acts in accordance with international law [link to report], so no new laws. 

Not only are the conclusions disappointing, but the way the discussion was carried out was disappointing, and the mandate for 2023 remains uncertain.

We can not wait on CCW, the urgency of the problem is too critical.

The slow process is to the advantage of countries using these technologies. The Russian POM-3 mines, for instance, have been used in Ukraine, accordingly to Human Right Watch. The development and deployment by Russia and other countries will continue as long as no agreement is reached. LAWs have to be outlaws! And the CCW seems not to be anymore the right platform.

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Escalating Big Power Contestation on Taiwan: Can It Lead to War?

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Xi Jinping is seeking to hide his humiliation over US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. His premature and unjustifiable warning to the US about the visit caused him embarrassment, and Pelosi’s purposeful visit after the warning not only hyped it, but humiliated him. China is using its Three Warfare Concept  which entails public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare along with aggressive military posturing, air violations, firepower power exhibition and some symbolic economic boycott of Taiwan, thus creating  heightened tension around Taiwan as a face saving exercise to amuse its domestic constituency. China is attempting to turn it as an opportunity to stoke national sentiments in favour of Xi Jinping on ‘Anti America’ theme highlighting Chinese mutilated version of his heroics to ensure that he doesn’t lose out on his third term in the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) later this year.

The US side has likewise been under similar pressures. Following the announcement of Pelosi’s visit and the contentious debate between President Xi Jinping and Joe Biden, the US found itself in a difficult situation. The USA was unable to cancel the trip in response to Xi’s warning because doing so would have indicated that Joe Biden was caving in to Chinese pressure. This would have been catastrophic for the Biden Administration, which is already struggling to recover from the disaster in Afghanistan and the difficulties brought on by the Russia-Ukraine War. Although the visit was a risky move, it is still unclear whether the US will follow it up by replacing strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity to support Taiwan in any prospective Chinese attack or not.

Can it Lead to War?

With unprecedented military posturing by China, live missile fire  East of Taiwan close to its coastline, and US aircraft carrier and maritime forces located not too far, the situation is tense and prone to accidental trigger causing escalation. It does not make any strategic sense for China to invade Taiwan, as it has all the negatives except false bravado, with bright chances of loss of face globally and domestically, in case the operations fail; hence, likely to contend with activities short of war.

Chinese strategist Qiao Liang, a retired PLA Air Force Major General, has warned that taking Taiwan by force is ‘Too Costly’. Chinese redline of “Taiwan going nuclear/declaring independence” has not been crossed as yet, giving no justification for China to cross US red line of ‘Changing status Quo by Force’. Xi Jinping may find it too costly to take such a risk before sealing his third term. The military drills near Taiwan have been conducted by Taiwan and US also in past and  the much publicised blockade of Taiwan through military drills, if prolonged may invite similar military drills by US and other democracies in Malacca Strait too, to block Chinese Sea Lines of Communication, beyond the realm of optics of the current Chinese aggressive posture, and it is well aware of this vulnerability.    

Taiwanese President Tsai has bravely given bold statements during visit of Speaker Pelosi and earlier to take on Chinese aggression. Taiwan with its national spirit, modern arsenal from US, determined armed forces and US backing is unlikely to give a walkover, although the first onslaught of potential offensive will have to be borne by it, till global response gets activated. Comparisons are being made with Hong Kong, but the major differences is that leadership, hierarchy in Hong Kong and police was manipulated by CCP, whereas  the leadership in Taiwan is strong and resolute refusing to give in to Chinese coercion. The need for amphibious assault due to terrain friction makes Chinese misadventure in Taiwan more difficult than Hong Kong.

Chinese amphibious capabilities to capture Taiwan are suspect, more so if US warships like the USS Ronald Reagan are around. China has enough missile arsenals to destroy Taiwan, but such a massive destruction of Han Chinese (95 percent of Taiwanese population is Han), who have relations, investments and inseparable linkages with their relatives in mainland and vice versa will not go well with domestic population of mainland. Over two million Taiwanese live in China, mostly in Coastal areas, and over 20 per cent have married there.

This will also destroy Chinese and Taiwanese economy, which does not suit Chinese leadership struggling to revive its economy marred by trade war, failing BRI and COVID effect. China is top destination for Taiwanese export accounting for approximately 40% of total exports, with Taiwan having  overall trade surplus of US$104.7 billion in 2021 with China.

A public opinion poll in Taiwan in 2020 indicated 73 percent people identified themselves as Taiwanese, who were against China, and 77 percent  supported democratic movement in Hongkong and this figure has increased in last two years. Getting Taiwanese under its wings will also bring a fresh democratic wave in China, which CCP may not be used to handle. Taiwanese people do not want to sacrifice their democratic freedom and prosperity, which is the main reason for success of President Tsai. The conflict if imposed by China will be deadly and Chinese, who want to win without fighting are not known for their appetite to accept body bags of Han Chinese, for a cause which doesn’t give them economic benefit but takes it away its dream of national rejuvenation, as indicated by General Qiao. 

Why Taiwan is a US-China Issue?

PRC may keep claiming Taiwan to be its domestic issue, but it has much greater external dimensions. Diplomatically US may claim to follow ‘One China Policy’ but it treats Taiwan no less than an ally. The Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019, effective from March 26, 2020 is an indication. The Taiwan Relation Act,1973, Taiwan Travel Act signed 2019, and National Defence Authorisation Act signed earlier this year to facilitate sale of state of the art weaponry and joint exercises justify the statement. US will always like to trade and strategically partner with democratic Taiwan outside Beijing’s influence, and not Taiwan under CCP.

In any potential invasion of Taiwan, the spill over of the battle space to Japan is obvious due to geographic proximity, an ally which US is obligated to protect. Chinese initial offensive can be on Taiwan, but US could join forces with its allies in the region to use their sea and air advantages to cut off Beijing’s maritime lifeline in and outside South China Sea. Chinese supply lines outside Nine dash line are still vulnerable to choking, and it will draw out PLA to get into war outside its comfort Zone. Taking Taiwan by force, therefore involves mobilisation of all its combat resources, expecting an escalation from limited war to an all-out war, as the operation amounts to crossing US redline of “No Change in Status Quo of Taiwan”. Economically Chinese heavy reliance on the US dollar is far from over, and such a war over Taiwan would be a massive economic blow to China, that would see capital flooding out, and companies moving of the country, much sooner than it thought.

Way Ahead

If Chinese aggressive posturing, air incursions and military drills announced for four days end as scheduled without escalation, may be that situation may still remain under control, as US and Taiwan have also done military drills in that region earlier. If it escalates into an attempt to unite Taiwan by force, it will certainly up the ante with US, prove China as irresponsible bully, may lead to loss of life of Han Chinese both ways, lead to economic destruction of its one of the largest investors and jeopardise China’s goal of national rejuvenation. Internationally, China may have miscalculated US resolve and Taiwan’s resistance and all may not go their way. If Chinese ambitions grow beyond global tolerance, it has bright chances to bring rest of the world against China. While the visit of Nancy Pelosi may have given a strong message to China, but the US resolve is still under test, because Taiwan can’t be expected to handle Chinese aggression alone, more so if it has been hyped by super power contestation. US therefore must consider starting similar military exercise in Malacca Strait with other navies to remind China of its vulnerable SLOC before it starts blocking Taiwanese shipping.

The aggressive posturing in Taiwan Strait, South and East China Sea will continue, even if the current crisis slows down. PRC’s aim is to pressurise President Tsai Not to declare independence, keep pressure on, hope DPP loses next election and work out favourable arrangements with opposition likely to be favourable to China. Neither China nor US want war, but none wants to give walkover as well, hence this strategic gaming and posturing is on and will continue.

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