4 July 2020

India’s Chinese App Ban Is Just the Beginning

By Pallavi Shahi

While the jury is still out on whether there has been a Chinese incursion in the Galwan Valley or which country rightfully lays claim to the disputed stretch of land along the Sino-India border, within India, digital and real borders are being hurriedly drawn. On June 29, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps including WeChat and TikTok citing the “threat to sovereignty and integrity” that these apps pose through the misuse and transmission of user data to servers outside India. As an immediate reaction, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the Chinese government was “strongly concerned” about the ban and that it is India’s responsibility to “uphold the legitimate rights of international investors.” On the telecommunications front, the Indian government is reportedly mulling barring Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE from providing equipment to state-run telcos in their 5G upgrade, an action that could eventually include private players too.

Even prior to this official intimation, many Indians were ready and roaring to boycott anything Chinese. What began as a call to boycott Chinese apps such as TikTok immediately, and all Chinese products eventually, quickly engulfed various sectors. On June 25, the Delhi Hotel and Restaurant Owners Association announced that Chinese nationals were no longer welcome in over 3,000 hotels and guesthouses across the capital city. This came close on the heels of the Confederation of All India Traders’ (CAIT) decision to boycott Chinese products. On June 17, CAIT released a list of over 450 Chinese categories of products that were to be boycotted over “continued border skirmishes.”

India’s Great Firewall Against China Could Backfire

By Mohamed Zeeshan

In an unprecedented move this week, India banned 59 Chinese smartphone apps, including popular applications such as TikTok and CamScanner. The government justified the decision on the basis of “data security” and “privacy” concerns which, the Ministry of Information Technology said, also pose a threat to India’s “sovereignty and security.”

Privacy concerns have been buzzing around India’s digital economy for years, but the timing of the move suggests that its impetus lies elsewhere. The Modi government hopes that this decision will serve as retaliation against Beijing for the long-running border tensions between the two countries.

During the course of the ongoing standoff, many Indians have repeatedly called for economic boycott measures against China. The problem is that India’s share in Chinese trade is far too small to make much of a dent (by some estimates, Vietnam is statistically more influential on this count).

But the internet is a different battlefield. Chinese apps have proven increasingly popular in India’s massive market in recent years: According to one report, they accounted for over 60 percent of the Indian market in 2019, after having been only a fraction of that in 2015. Last year, TikTok clocked over 300 million downloads in India – nearly 80 million more than the second-placed WhatsApp. And six out of the top ten most popular apps in India were Chinese.

India in the Indo-Pacific: New Delhi’s Theater of Opportunity


Throughout history, the maritime domain has been a crucial space in establishing new and emerging powers shaping regional dynamics and the larger security architecture. The great power competition today is no different. As India and Australia recently recognized, “many of the future challenges are likely to occur in, and emanate from, the maritime domain” underlining the reemergence of the maritime space as the theater for geopolitical competition.1 The rise of China across the Indian and Pacific Oceans challenges the security umbrella established at the end of Second World War and strengthened after the end of the Cold War. The emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a new geographic space—bringing together the Indian and the Pacific Oceans—represents the new strategic reality of the twenty-first century.

India’s role in the Indo-Pacific is considered crucial by countries such as Australia, Japan, and the United States. However, despite New Delhi’s presence in the Indian Ocean, maritime security has actually remained outside of India’s strategic interests, concerns, and thinking, due to its continental threats. The Indo-Pacific therefore is a new domain in India’s foreign policy engagements, representing a shift in New Delhi’s strategic environment—expanding its threats solely from its continental borders to its maritime space. As Canberra, Paris, Tokyo, and Washington, DC continue to support and promote a stronger Indian role in the Indo-Pacific, this paper highlights New Delhi’s perceptions, challenges, and opportunities in the region.

Smartphone Apps Are Now a Weapon in International Disputes

IN THE IPHONE age, your smartphone home screen can be a geopolitical battleground. Earlier this month, 20 Indian soldiers died in a skirmish with Chinese troops on the countries’ contested Himalayan border. Monday, India struck a blow in the digital realm of its own citizens’ mobile devices.

The country’s Ministry of Information Technology banned 59 mobile apps, all Chinese, for allegedly endangering data security and privacy. They include China’s dominant messaging app WeChat and the wildly popular video-sharing service TikTok, owned by Bytedance, which has been downloaded more than 600 million times in India, according to app tracker Sensor Tower.

By banning the apps, India adds to a swelling global pushback on China’s technology sector in a way that brings consumers more directly into the conflict.

The Trump administration has imposed trade restrictions on Chinese technology firms and investments, citing abuses of human rights and US intellectual property by China’s government. It has helped convince allies such as Australia and Japan to block China’s Huawei from providing equipment for future 5G mobile networks over security concerns. US lawmakers have accused TikTok of being too close to China’s government; regulators are also probing TikTok’s acquisition of US social app Musical.ly.

Pompeo Warns Taliban Against Attacking US Troops

(RFE/RL) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has held a video conference call with the Taliban during which the top U.S. diplomat warned the insurgents against attacking American troops in Afghanistan, the Department of State says.

A statement said Pompeo and the Taliban’s Qatar-based chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, on June 29 discussed implementation of a February agreement between Washington and the militants.

“The Secretary made clear the expectation for the Taliban to live up to their commitments, which include not attacking Americans,” department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

Earlier, the Taliban said Baradar reaffirmed during the call the group’s commitment to the peace process in Afghanistan and reiterated a pledge not to strike U.S. forces.

The call comes as U.S. President Donald Trump faces mounting pressure to explain his actions after being reportedly told that Russian spies last year had offered and paid cash to Taliban-linked militants for killing American soldiers.

The White House has said Trump wasn’t briefed on the intelligence assessments because they haven’t been fully verified and were not deemed credible actionable intelligence.

The ‘Spies and Commandos’ of Afghanistan

By George Friedman

The media exploded late last week with reports that Russia had paid the Taliban bounties to kill U.S. and Afghan troops. The plot was revealed by “spies and commandos” who had, among other things, discovered a large cache of U.S. dollars in a Taliban base and traced it back to Russia. The use of the terms spies and commandos is a bit odd, as they are not terms that American intelligence would normally use; U.S. operatives are not normally referred to as spies, and foreigners working for U.S. operatives are typically called “sources.” Commando is a British term adopted by the U.S. for a while but since abandoned for “special operations forces.” It’s a small but curious rhetorical point, one that could simply be explained by communication error in the translation, transmission, vetting and eventual publication of sensitive intelligence.

What’s important is that, whatever the source or path, neither the State Department nor the intelligence community has categorically denied the report. President Donald Trump claimed he had no knowledge of it, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused him of again conspiring with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Thus is the nature of election years.

Even so, the story must be taken seriously unless disproven, so the question is why the Russians would do what they are alleged to have done. Any covert operation can be blown; this one could lock the U.S. into long-term hostility with Russia. The U.S. is neither economically nor militarily without options if it chooses to retaliate. Washington has been content with the status quo with Russia for a while, but if these reports are true, or at least convincing, that will have to change. Paying bounties to kill Americans crosses a line from which retreat is difficult.

How Terrorists Use Cryptocurrency in Southeast Asia

By V. Arianti and Kenneth Yeo Yaoren

In May 2020, the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) reported that Islamic State (IS)-linked terror groups had conducted their first transactions in cryptocurrencies. According to the report, a terrorist-linked money laundering operation involving cryptocurrencies generated funds, which were then allegedly used to finance the activities of terror networks operating in the conflict-ridden Mindanao region in the southern Philippines.

While the adoption of cryptocurrency is not unprecedented among IS supporters, this case signals a reinvigorated push to diversify funding tactics for terrorism in Southeast Asia. As such, this article explores the propensity for Southeast Asian militants to adopt cryptocurrency for fund raising, fund moving, and fund using for terrorist purposes.

Terrorist Exploitation of Cryptocurrency in Southeast Asia

IS has long been interested in cryptocurrency. In a high-profile case from 2015, a 17-year-old in the U.S. state of Virginia was jailed for providing IS supporters online with advice on using the virtual currency Bitcoin to conceal financial donations. He had also written a prominently referenced blog titled “Bitcoin and the Charity of Jihad.”

Hong Kong And Tibet Should Be Liberated From China’s Occupation – OpEd

By N. S. Venkataraman

Hong Kong was under British rule for as long as 150 years. During this period, on and off, China has been claiming that Hong Kong should be part of China. However, there were equally strong arguments as to why Hong Kong should not be part of China and should be independent region.

In 1997, the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher made a historical mistake by handing over Hong Kong to China, even after knowing that China has a dictatorial regime with personal liberty and freedom of speech severely suppressed. It was shocking that British government did not care to remember the atrocities carried out by China in Tibet after occupying the region and could not anticipate that similar condition would happen in Hong Kong also.

While handing over Hong Kong to China, the British government did not care to ascertain the views of the Hong Kong citizens but took them for granted. If Britain would have cared to conduct a complete poll in Hong Kong, the citizens of Hong Kong would have voted to remain as an independent nation. Hong Kong is now paying the price for Britain’s careless and thoughtless decision to hand over Hong Kong to China.

COVID-19 Complicates the US-China Cyber Threat Landscape

By Lee Clark

In February 2020, in an article for The Diplomat, I argued that the U.S.-China Phase One trade deal would not prevent future cyberattacks from China. At the time, the full scale and implications of the coronavirus outbreak was difficult to forecast and integrate into cyber strategy. A month later, COVID-19 was designated a global pandemic, and the crisis went on to generate mass shutdowns, economic chaos, and increased geopolitical tensions worldwide. The central argument of my earlier piece — that some level of Chinese cyberespionage activity will continue regardless of the success of trade negotiations, because the risks are low and the rewards great — remains true. However, events involving the pandemic have overshadowed any potential fallout of the trade negotiations.

U.S.-China relations have deteriorated under the stress of COVID-19 despite hopes for a trade deal and a focus on a warm interpersonal relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. In the past few months alone, tensions have been exacerbated by widespread misinformation on the origins of the virus from both Chinese and U.S. official representatives and racist language from the U.S. administration. Trump also decided to end the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization over accusations that the global body was complicit in China’s misleading reporting in the early stages of the outbreak.

Hong Kong Through Water and Fire

By Sebastian Veg

It has been a year since the beginning of the anti-extradition law movement, and it seems safe to say that Hong Kong will never be the same. The movement began as a massive pushback across Hong Kong society to resist the government’s proposed bill allowing extradition to mainland China and more generally the growing erosion of Hong Kong’s constitutionally guaranteed “high degree of autonomy.” It therefore began as a “reactive” (in the framework of Charles Tilly) movement, whereas the 2014 Umbrella Movement was arguably more “proactive” in trying to advance a deeper form of democratization.

After the unprecedented 1- and 2-million strong peaceful marches that took place on June 9 and June 16, respectively, millions of people mobilized over the course of six months, punctuated by hundreds of marches and gatherings, as well as a number of violent confrontations. At the same time, the movement morphed into a massive if inchoate attempt to resist the “restructuring” of Hong Kong’s basic institutions by Beijing. The government’s unwillingness to make concessions or engage in dialogue fueled a spiral of mutual escalation, in which outraged protesters, whose main claims were supported for most of the period by around 80 percent of Hong Kongers, faced off with a police force that was left alone to deal with political issues that it was not equipped to address and that the government refused to confront. Although withdrawal of the bill was officially announced on September 4 and completed on October 23, the confrontation continued unabated, with growing involvement from the Central Government, further complicating any resolution. Finally, the District Council elections in late November brought an overwhelming though arguably symbolic victory to the pro-democracy camp, allowing for a tentative though fragile, and ultimately short-lived, de-escalation.

How Can the World Help Hong Kong?

By Benedict Rogers and Johnny Patterson
When Hong Kong was handed over from Britain to China with great fanfare on July 1, 1997, there was a cloud hanging over the process. The shadow of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre loomed large, casting doubt on whether the promises that Beijing had made in international law could be trusted.

23 years later, Beijing’s decision to bulldoze through national security legislation without consulting the Hong Kong government vindicates those skeptical about the viability of the handover settlement. The Chinese Communist Party considers the illusion of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy to be so irrelevant that even the city’s puppet leader, Carrie Lam, did not see a draft of the law until it had been ratified.

Global outrage has erupted. More than 900 parliamentarians from over 40 countries have co-signed a criticism of the decision, condemning it as a “flagrant breach” of the handover agreement. This is a rare bipartisan issue everywhere from Washington to Tokyo, from London to Canberra.

Foreign ministries are now asking what can be done that is a proportionate response. Coordinated sanctions are an obvious first step, but political differences between Brussels and Washington, combined with the alarming dependency of so many states on China, means that this is unlikely.

Democracy in Hong Kong

by Eleanor Albert and Lindsay Maizland

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China that, unlike the mainland’s provinces, has certain political and economic freedoms. The former British colony is a global financial capital that has historically thrived off its proximity to China.

But in recent years, many in Hong Kong have become concerned with intensifying economic inequality and Beijing’s efforts to encroach on the city’s political system, which sparked massive protests in 2019. As China’s economic and military might grow, some fear that Hong Kong’s significant autonomy could erode. Beijing’s passage of a new national security law in June 2020 heightened fears of its tightening grip over Hong Kong.

What is Hong Kong’s political status?

In recent decades, Hong Kong has been largely free to manage its own affairs based on “one country, two systems,” a national unification policy developed by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s. The concept was intended to help reintegrate Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau with sovereign China while preserving their unique political and economic systems. After more than a century and a half of colonial rule, the British government returned Hong Kong in 1997. (Qing Dynasty leaders ceded Hong Kong Island to the British Crown in 1842 after China’s defeat in the First Opium War.) Portugal returned Macau in 1999, and Taiwan remains independent.

The Houthi Art of War: Why They Keep Winning in Yemen

By: Michael Horton

Executive summary: After five years of war against the Saudi-led coalition and its allies, Yemen’s Houthi rebels remain defiant and are once again on the offensive. The Houthis’ keen understanding and consistent application of the algebra of insurgency are fundamental to their martial success in Yemen. Ironically, the greatest threat to the Houthi leadership may be peace. Peace will bring internal tensions within the Houthi leadership and growing discontent among the Yemeni people to the fore.


Underestimating or having contempt for an enemy, argues Lao Tzu, is among the costliest mistakes a commander can make. [1] This alone has led to more defeats than any other miscalculation. Conversely, underestimating the enemy is a great asset to those who are underestimated. The military and political capabilities of Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been underrated for nearly two decades. First, by the government of former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and then by Saudi Arabia and its supporters, including the United States.

From 2004-2010, the government of Ali Abdulla Saleh fought and lost six wars against the Houthis. The Houthi takeover of the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in September 2014 and their subsequent move southward toward Aden partly prompted Saudi Arabia and the UAE to launch their ill-fated intervention in Yemen in March 2015. The Saudis and Emiratis bet on a quick victory over the Houthis. Now, more than five years on, it is clear they have lost their bet. The Houthis and those allied with them have proved themselves to be resilient, capable, and strategically and tactically creative.

Saudi Arabia: UN Aramco Attacks Report ‘Leaves No Doubt’ Over Iran’s Hostile Intentions

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Tuesday a UN report confirming Iranian involvement in attacks on Saudi Aramco facilities in September 2019.

A foreign ministry statement said the findings of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ report “leaves no doubt for the international community about Iran’s hostile intentions towards the Kingdom in particular, the Arab region and the wider world in general.”

Guterres presented his report to a virtual gathering of the Security Council on Tuesday, implicating the Iranian regime in attacks last year on oil installations in Abqaiq and Khurais in the east of the Kingdom.

The ministry’s statement also echoed calls made during the virtual meeting by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for an extension of an arms embargo on Iran.

It said the report’s findings also highlighted Iran’s continuous aggressive approach to destabilizing the region’s security, and the regime’s logistical, military and financial support for armed terrorist militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — something it did with “no regard for international laws and treaties or the principles of good-neighborliness.”

Where Does the TAP Gas Pipeline Project Stand to Date? The View From Baku

By: Shabnam Hasanova

On June 9, the press service of the Trans-Adriatic Gas Pipeline (TAP) consortium announced that construction of the 105-kilometer offshore segment of TAP, which will transport Azerbaijani natural gas to Europe, had been completed. This latest development phase comprised the offshore deployment of 36-inch pipes by the semi-submersible pipelaying vessel Castoro Sei, operated by the Italian firm Saipem. At the same time, project work included building the above-water interface with onshore assets on Albanian territory as well as hydrotesting various associated facilities to guarantee their safety and readiness. Operations to link the Italian and Albanian coasts started in January 2020, with tubes being welded and checked onboard the Castoro Sei and subsequently installed in a steady stretch, from west to east, along the Strait of Otranto, at the southern tip of the Adriatic Sea (Azernews.az, June 10).

Several weeks earlier, on May 20, the project hit another milestone when it commenced delivering the first test volumes of natural gas into a four-kilometer segment of the overland pipeline in Albania, between the Albanian-Greek border and a metering station in the town of Bilisht. This is the primary phase of the pipeline testing process, in accordance with national and global safety and functional requirements, which guarantees that the system is fully secure and available for exploitation. After this first segment is authorized, gas will begin to be slowly integrated into other parts of the Albanian pipeline and beyond (Tap-ag.com, May 22).

Russia’s Black Sea Ports in Trouble After Decades of Neglect

By: Paul Goble

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, Moscow lost many of its commercial ports on the Black Sea to the then-newly independent Ukraine and Georgia. That loss forced Moscow to reroute cargo flows and is one of the reasons that Vladimir Putin attacked Ukraine and annexed Ukrainian Crimea in 2014. Despite its losses of ports to the two other former Soviet Black Sea littoral states, Moscow nonetheless did retain control of a large number of coastal facilities in the region. But instead of maintaining and developing them, the Russian authorities have allowed them to deteriorate to the point that many are now accidents waiting to happen. And because that is the case, there is a growing chance that the Kremlin may become even more interested in advancing into Ukraine toward the important ports of Odesa or Kherson (see EDM, June 29).

Moscow’s loss of ports in the Black Sea in 1991 and its rerouting of trade to put pressure on its neighbors has been a constant in Russian policy under Putin. That strategy has attracted continuing attention in the Baltic region, where it has had a serious impact even though it has sparked opposition from Russian businesses (Fondsk.ru, May 29, 2016; Regnum, December 7, 2015; see EDM, December 5, 2019). But it has attracted far less in the case of the Black Sea littoral even though the impact there may be just as great (see EDM, January 23, 2020).

The Implications Of Withdrawing American Troops From Germany – Analysis

By Alexander Luck*
Source Link

(FPRI) — On June 6, the Wall Street Journal set off an avalanche of commentary by reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a drastic reduction in U.S. troops deployed in Germany within a space of only six months. The move was met with significant pushback in Washington and Brussels, causing Congressional Republicans to raise their concerns in letters and public statements. Trump’s announcement, however, was in fact an extension of earlier plans mooted in June 2019, when the administration first suggested moving at least 1,000 troops from Germany to Poland. At the time, Trump suggested that the proposed move was to “affirm the significant defense cooperation between our nations.” Washington picked up this potential troop move again in a rather unrelated context following a spat over the German refusal to participate in a naval mission in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran, reinforcing the notion Trump keeps using American deployments in Germany as a bargaining chip for any interaction on foreign policy with the Merkel government.

Whatever the cause of the decision, the proposal has led to renewed debate over the significance of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), German contributions to the Alliance, and the security benefits that Berlin derives from being a member. The potential reallocation of forces has also caused European national security observers to take a closer look at the relevance of American military assets for national foreign policy and the benefits—actual or perceived—to its European partners. The figures featuring in the original Wall Street Journal report suggest that there would be a reduction of 9,500 out of 34,500 troops deployed in Germany and that Trump would also impose a hard cap of 25,000 total troops there. Speculation followed that some may be redistributed into Poland, the Indo-Pacific, or back to the United States. Trump himself stated that the number of troops based in Germany is to be cut “by half” from an estimated 52,000 personnel to 25,000 troops. This figure, it must be noted, includes 17,000 civilian staff, something that needs to be considered in squaring of POTUS’s remarks against the aforementioned 9,500 troops more commonly circulated in media reports.

Late Soviet America


PRINCETON – The Soviet Union was fertile ground for political jokes, which featured as prominently in the culture as late-night comedy does in the United States. According to one popular story, a young man who shouted in Red Square that the decrepit Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was an idiot ended up being sentenced to 25.5 years in prison – six months for insulting the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, and 25 years for revealing state secrets.

With hopes of a sharp rebound from the pandemic-induced recession quickly fading, policymakers should pause and take stock of what it will take to achieve a sustained recovery. The most urgent policy priorities have been obvious since the beginning, but they will require hard choices and a show of political will.

The Trump administration’s furious reaction to a new book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton has followed a similar script. The book is considered dangerous not so much because it insults Donald Trump as because it reveals that the president is deeply incompetent and “stunningly uninformed.” If it wasn’t obvious already, the whole world now knows that the US lacks any strategic orientation or coherent executive leadership.

SPECIAL REPORT: What if Biden Wins?

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“The world does not organize itself.” That’s the standout line in Joe Biden’s keynote article in January’s Foreign Affairs, in which the presumptive Democratic nominee laid out his vision for America’s role in global security. It’s also the one to which Americans should be prepared to hold him accountable if the former vice president beats Donald Trump in November. 

In speeches and statements and interviews, the candidate and his advisors have been sketching out a foreign policy that would put the United States, as Biden has said, “back at the head of the table.” And over the past month, Defense One asked dozens of his aides, advisors, surrogates, and former Obama administration colleagues what the world might expect from his presidency. What they said is that Biden may not radically change the nation’s military, deviate from the era’s so-called great power competition, or even slash the bottom line of the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget. But how that money is spent, how the United States competes, and how the military is deployed to advance American interests certainly would. 

Its Economy Battered by COVID-19, Spain Tries a Guaranteed Minimum Income

Alana Moceri 

MADRID—Tens of thousands of households in Spain began receiving checks last Friday under a new guaranteed minimum income program that was passed by parliament in early June. Plans to provide a guaranteed income had been part of the coalition agreement reached in January between the ruling Socialists and their junior coalition partner, the far-left Podemos party, but they were fast-tracked due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Spain is one of the hardest-hit countries from COVID-19, with nearly 300,000 confirmed infections and more than 28,000 deaths. Its GDP is expected to contract by more than 9 percent this year, with unemployment slated to rise from 14.4 percent to 19 percent. Long lines are forming at food banks across the country, as charities struggle to meet the spike in demand for their services. All of this has raised the stakes for Spain’s new policy, which, if implemented effectively, could provide a necessary layer of protection for the most disadvantaged Spaniards.

The Economic and Military Impact of China’s BeiDou Navigation System

By Namrata Goswami

On June 23, 2020, China completed construction of its BeiDou Positioning and Navigation System (BDS) by launching the 55th and final satellite for its BDS3 navigation constellation. With this launch, China now enjoys a fully independent self-reliant global navigation satellite system (GNSS) as an alternative to the U.S. Space Force-maintained Global Positioning System (GPS). An independent BeiDou offers China augmented precision navigation and timing (PNT) for its military space forces.

A commentary from Xinhua, China’s state-run new agency, highlighted this aspect by specifying:

The BeiDou network, a major infrastructure independently constructed and operated by China, can better meet the demands of the country’s national security, economic as well as social development. It can also provide more stable and reliable services, as well as an alternative to the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System (GPS) [emphasis added] for global users. Given national security concerns due to the GPS’s dominance, China is not the only one in the world that strives to develop its satellite navigation systems. For many years, the European Union, Russia and others have all been working on their own projects.

Back to Square One for Inter-Korean Relations

Scott A. Snyder

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, the two Koreas face a dramatic breakdown in relations. Tensions rocketed on 16 June when North Korea demolished a liaison office that had stood as a symbol of hope for improved communications. For the South Korean Moon administration, the re-establishment of inter-Korean summitry in 2018 represented an historic step toward establishing a permanent peace, coexistence and economic integration on the Korean Peninsula.

But now, the motives of the Kim family regime appear increasingly instrumental. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s 2018 diplomatic summitry and charm offensive failed to unblock monetary flows from South Korea or achieve Kim’s desired diplomatic rapprochement on equal footing with the United States. North Korea’s slogan appears to be no cash flow, no peace — and certainly no denuclearisation.

A statement on 4 June by Kim Yo-jong — Kim Jong-un’s influential sister — identified the spread of anti-North Korean leaflets by North Korean defectors as the cause of the rapid unravelling of inter-Korean relations. But the statement also targeted the Moon administration for its failure to contain the leaflets in contravention of the April 2018 Panmunjom Declaration.

Bounties Are Part of Moscow’s Aid to the Taliban, Current and Former Intel Officials Say

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Intelligence reports of Russian bounties offered to Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan suggest a reinforcement of Moscow’s behind-the-scenes assistance to the militant group, according to current and former intelligence officials.

Explosive reports of the existence of the bounty program — and the Trump administration’s failure to publicly respond in the months since the program was discovered — have sparked outrage among lawmakers and some national security practitioners who claim that Russia has been allowed, essentially, to order the killing of U.S. service members. 

But some current and former intelligence officials say the alleged program is more properly seen as a moderate escalation in a long-suspected pattern of clandestine Russian aid to the militant group. 

“We always said, we believe Russia is supporting the Taliban. It was very hard to prove,” said one former senior intelligence official who recently served in the region. “It was things like giving them small arms — difficult to trace. It’s not [as if] when we seized equipment on the battlefield, it said, ‘provided by Russia.’”

Everything You Have Read About Contact Tracing Apps Is Wrong

Technology sounds like an attractive solution to contact tracing, but apps are at best a minor supplement to a large effort. In this opinion piece, Lyle Ungar writes that “we should be taking best practices from call centers, where human callers are supported by chatbots and information systems, supplemented with privacy-respecting apps on people’s phones that allow them to share information more easily and accurately. In the end, contact tracing is not an app, but a combined effort between technology, human tracers, and the general population.” Ungar is a machine learning researcher and professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Contact tracing is key to reopening society. Best estimates put widespread vaccination in the U.S. more than two years in the future, and we can’t safely resume public life until we can identify who has been exposed to COVID-19, test them for the disease, and isolate them if they are sick. The U.S. has far too few human contact tracers, with states planning to hire only a tiny fraction of the estimated 180,000 contract tracers needed. Contract tracing apps have been proposed as one way to mitigate this problem. People are worried about their privacy; they should be even more worried about whether the apps will help. Even expert articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), underestimate the challenges.

The Geopolitical Ramifications of Starlink Internet Service?

By Herb Lin

Starlink is a space-based internet service provider that seeks to provide high-speed (40 mbps upload, 100 mbps download ), near-global coverage of the populated world by 2021—bringing this service to locations where access previously has been unreliable, expensive or completely unavailable. Starlink has publicized the space-based segment of its platform for some time, which will involve thousands of low-earth orbit satellites (about 550 km altitude), but what one needed on the ground to access Starlink was not entirely clear. Until now.

A June 23 Business Insider article showed photographs of the hardware—called a user terminal—needed to connect terrestrial users to Starlink satellites overhead. Notably, the dish antenna is approximately the size of a medium pizza, though from the photographs themselves, it is not entirely clear how large or heavy the entire assembly will be.

The history of electronic components suggests that, over time, they shrink in size and weight—so it is not unreasonable to expect user terminals to be significantly smaller in the future. Costs are expected to drop as well—the target price for the first-generation user terminals is expected to be a few hundred dollars.