10 May 2024

Pakistan’s Military Says March Suicide Attack That Killed 5 Chinese Was Planned in Afghanistan

Munir Ahmed

Pakistan’s military on Tuesday said a suicide bombing that killed five Chinese engineers and a Pakistani driver in March was planned in neighboring Afghanistan and that the bomber was an Afghan citizen.

At a news conference, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Ahmad Sharif said four men behind the March 26 attack in Bisham, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, had been arrested.

Sharif said the attack that killed the Chinese engineers, who were working on Pakistan’s biggest Dasu Dam, was an attempt to harm friendship between Pakistan and China. Thousands of Chinese are working on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Sharif also said Pakistani Taliban who have sanctuaries in Afghanistan were behind a surge in attacks inside Pakistan since January in which 62 security forces were killed around the country.

The Secret to Japanese and South Korean Innovation

Ramon Pacheco Pardo and Robyn Klingler-Vidra

Japan and South Korea are innovation and tech powerhouses. They are home to leading firms in many of the high-tech sectors powering global economic growth and usually rank near the top of innovation indexes. To get to where they are today, both countries harnessed the combined power of their public and private sectors for decades. The innovation strategies they used challenge the model mythologized by Silicon Valley: the individual genius who comes up with a brilliant idea and receives funding from venture capitalists acting in a private capacity. 

China Wants to ‘Divide and Conquer’ Europe

Ravi Agrawal

On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping began his first visit to Europe in five years. One can glean a sense of his motivations by examining the policies of the countries he has chosen to visit: France, Serbia, and Hungary. In each case, to varying degrees, there is significant daylight between the foreign-policy objectives of leaders in Brussels—the seat of the European Union—and those in Paris, Belgrade, and Budapest.

Xi Jinping’s Visit to France: Stumbling Blocks Pile Up on the Path of Bilateral Cooperation


On May 6 and 7, Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to France, his first to Europe since 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic. Emmanuel Macron and Xi Jinping will celebrate Franco-Chinese friendship and the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between their two countries. It comes at a time when the bilateral relationship is officially perceived as positive on both sides, especially after the French President’s visit to China in April 2023. However, beneath the diplomatic varnish, obstacles are piling up, and the space for cooperation between the two countries is receding.

Of the four major areas of cooperation on the visit’s agenda – international security issues, economic relations, human and cultural exchanges, and global challenges – the first three are already facing significant limitations. Beyond the strictly bilateral relationship, the two heads of state have radically different visions of and for Europe. Finally, there is a number of issues that remain absent from the discussions, which are not likely to ease tensions: the Taiwan Strait, nuclear arms control and Chinese interference in Europe. They will need to be addressed sooner or later.

Xi is probing for cracks in the EU and Nato


Who is Xi Jinping’s travel agent? If you are making your first trip to Europe in nearly five years, an itinerary that reads France, Serbia, Hungary seems a little eccentric. 

But the three stops chosen by China’s leader make perfect sense viewed from Beijing. For strategic and economic reasons, China badly wants to disrupt the unity of both Nato and the EU. Each of the three countries that Xi is visiting is seen as a potential lever to prise open the cracks in the west. 

On a recent visit to Beijing, I found Chinese foreign policy experts fascinated by French talk of the need for Europe to achieve “strategic autonomy” from the US. In a speech in Paris last month, Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, said that Europe must never be a “vassal of the United States” — which is language also favoured by China. 

The Xi government was also delighted when Macron, on a flight back from Beijing last year, intimated that Europe had no interest in defending Taiwan from a potential Chinese invasion. Although there was some effort to explain away those remarks, the Chinese have noted, with gratitude, that France later blocked efforts to open a Nato liaison office in Tokyo. Keeping Nato countries out of Asia — and preventing America from linking up its allies in Asia and Europe — is a key goal of Chinese foreign policy.

US military hit with embarrassing report exposing failings and vulnerability to China

Rebecca Robinson

The US military has been hit with a scathing report bashing its poor efforts in modernization and innovation that could see it at a disadvantage to China and other adversaries.

The Ronald Reagan Institue released the report detailing the failings of the Pentagon in reworking defense technologies to give the US a "competitive advantage" over other countries.

The leading defense experts also called for smoother coordination between the government, private sector, and military, warning of embarrassment in potential conflict if nothing is changed.

The grades are handed out to 10 key areas of the US government, assessing the National Security Innovation Base (NSIB). This annual report saw a series of Bs, Cs, Ds, and one F-.

The system is only a year old, and was designed to measure the "collective impact" of the NSIB's "critical yet largely uncoordinated ecosystem."

U.S. Wary of China’s Next-Generation Stealth Bomber As Development of H-20 Reaches Final Stage

Keiichiro Azuma and Hiroshi Tajima

The Chinese military’s new stealth bomber, the H-20, appears to be in the final stage of its development. A next-generation strategic bomber, it is expected to significantly improve China’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy aimed at deterring U.S. military action in the event of a contingency involving Taiwan.

The United States has been increasingly alarmed, as the H-20 could have capabilities close to those of U.S. bombers.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed strong concern over the modernization of the Chinese military at a ceremony in Hawaii on Friday to mark the change of the leadership of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

“The PRC [People’s Republic of China] is the only country with both the will — and, increasingly, the capacity — to dominate the Indo-Pacific and to reshape the global order to suit its autocratic vision. And that’s why the PRC remains the department’s pacing challenge,” Austin said.

How DC became obsessed with a potential 2027 Chinese invasion of Taiwan

Noah Robertson

At a summit near San Francisco in November, the leaders of America and China turned to the biggest threat to their relationship.

The topic was Taiwan, which China’s government considers part of its rightful territory and has threatened to take by force. When it came up, according to an American official who later spoke to the press, Chinese leader Xi Jinping grew exasperated — not at the risk of war, but at the timeline.

“Xi basically said: ‘Look, I hear all these reports in the United States [of] how we’re planning for military action in 2027 or 2035,’ ” the official said.

“ ‘There are no such plans,’ ” Xi said in the official’s telling. “ ‘No one has talked to me about this.’ ”

That first year, 2027, is a fixation in Washington. It has impacted the debate over China policy — a shift from the long term to the short term. It’s also helped steer billions of dollars toward U.S. forces in the Pacific. And in the last several years, it’s been a question mark hanging over the Biden administration’s approach to the region.

The State Department’s Complex Role in Making China Policy

Jiachen Shi

“Politics stops at the water’s edge.” The famous maxim coined by U.S. Senator Arthur Vandenberg appears to have waned in influence in modern U.S. foreign policy. This is especially evident in the policymaking process toward China, where not only do inter- and intra-party conflicts often pervade the discourse, but bureaucratic politics also play an increasingly prominent role.

As China emerges as a strategic competitor to the United States, its issues have transcended the traditional spheres of policymaking, such as the State and Defense Departments, the intelligence community, and various economic bodies. Consequently, the landscape of actors engaged in China-U.S. relations has significantly diversified and expanded over the past few years.

For instance, the National Security Council (NSC) has steadily expanded its China-focused staff from the Obama administration through to the Biden administration. In December 2022, the State Department established the Office of China Coordination, colloquially referred to as the “China House,” reminiscent of the Cold War-era “Soviet House.” Similarly, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) initiated organizational changes with the creation of the China Mission Center (CMC), indicating a heightened prioritization of China within the intelligence community. Additionally, the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched the China Initiative in 2018, aimed at countering economic and national security threats posed by China, particularly in critical infrastructure and the private sector.


David Scott

China’s Interests and Presence

China’s strategic interest in the Red Sea is two-fold – geo-economic and geopolitical. On the geo-economic front, China is interested in stable maritime trade routes. This includes energy flows from the Middle East and Mediterranean eastwards back to China, and westward flows of Chinese imports and exports to Europe. Disruption of such flows is not something that China particularly wants. Both of these aspects are closely connected with China’s Maritime Silk Road (MSR) initiative, which in going from the Indian Ocean into the Mediterranean passes through the Red Sea. All of the Red Sea littoral states (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti) have signed up for the Maritime Silk Road. The Suez Canal, Red Sea, and Gulf of Aden are “essential” to the success of China’s MSR.

On the wider geopolitical front, China has strong strategic links with Iran. Both countries are lending support to the Russian war effort in Ukraine, for which the Red Sea has become an important corridor for Russian supplies. China continues to illicitly buy 90 percent of Iran’s oil, thereby helping Iran finance the Houthis and other proxy groups in the Middle East. Hence the Politico headline in March 2024, “How China ended up financing the Houthis’ Red Sea attacks.” China’s other persistent strategic interest was accurately summed up by Ron Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who pointed out in February 2024 that the Red Sea Crisis shows that “Beijing’s main regional focus remains undermining the United States.”

How Dangerous is China's "At Sea" Fujian 3rd Aircraft Carrier


The pace at which the People’s Republic of China is building and adding Navy ships and aircraft carriers is not likely to be overlooked at Pentagon and throughout the world. China is fast expanding its global power projection ability, and perhaps even more concerning to the Pentagon is the very visible extent to which China’s third “Fujian” aircraft carrier appears to “replicate” or simply copy elements of the US Navy’s Ford-class carriers.

The PLA-Navy’s “Fujian” third carrier is now on the ocean for sea trials, a development which introduces a number of critical threat variables , the most pertinent of which may be questions of presence, reach and construction speed. The PRC has added a second large shipyard, blended civil and military construction and is fast adding a new class of carriers. China has already deployed “dual carrier” war preparations similar to the US and had also sent its second carrier, the Shandong, on deployments near Taiwan and the South China Sea, With the Fujian, China has abandoned a ski-jump kind of formation and instead migrated toward a large, flat-deck design similar to the US Navy’s Ford class.


Alexander Holderness, John Schaus, Nicholas Velazquez, Audrey Aldisert, Henry H. Carroll & Emily Hardesty


China’s economic transformation over the past 40 years has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty and established China as one of the world’s largest economies. The rise of China as a global economic leader has enabled its rise as a military and political power. Xi Jinping’s ascent to power as the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 2012 marked the beginning of a new era of power dynamics.

Even before 2012, China began to undermine economic norms and international agreements—including by failing to comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations it had agreed to, by stealing foreign intellectual property, and by illegally fishing throughout the world, among other actions.2 This trend expanded after 2012 and the world saw China undertake new actions such as building and militarizing artificial islands, ramping up cyber espionage, and leveraging state economic control to advance China’s economic objectives at the expense of other countries’ economic prospects.3 China has also not followed international law, including with respect to human rights in Xinjiang and its claims in the South China Sea, which are not based on legally significant geographic features nor recognizing the sovereign territorial boundaries of other South China Sea claimant states.4 This pattern leaves little doubt that China has begun to shape more forcefully the international rules-based order

Xi views this established order—with democracy, the free market, and the rule of law at its core—as not in China’s long-term interest.5 According to the 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy, “China harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit.”

Efforts toward a deal on Gaza provide daily twists in the plot, while the price of failure continues to rise

Nimrod Goren, Brian Katulis, Gönül Tol, Charles Lister, Fadi Nicholas Nassar, Syed Mohammad Ali

Back in late January 2024, the media first reported on a possible six-week deal under consideration to pause the fighting in Gaza and release Israeli hostages. The United States, Egypt, and Qatar then stepped up their mediation efforts in February in the hopes of reaching such an outcome ahead of Ramadan (which started in early March). “[M]y hope is that by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire,” President Joe Biden said on Feb. 27, reflecting the intense US diplomatic investment in this endeavor. Alas, Ramadan came and went, negotiations continued, but no deal was reached.

In March, Washington raised the pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by not vetoing a United National Security Council resolution on a cease-fire; and in April, messaging from the Biden administration signaled that Israel was ready for a deal but Hamas needed to be pushed further. As talks lingered, doubts and concerns intensified about the fate of the hostages, an Israeli military operation in Rafah, the effectiveness of the international mediators, and the readiness of Israel and Hamas to reach a deal.

Hamas agreed to a deal - What does it entail? - report

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said on Monday it had agreed to a three-phased deal for a ceasefire and hostages-for-prisoners swap, although an Israeli official said the deal was not acceptable to Israel because terms had been "softened."

The United States, which alongside Qatar and Egypt has played a mediation role in the talks, said it was studying the Hamas response and would discuss it with Middle East allies.

Based on details announced so far by Hamas officials, a copy of the proposal and an official briefed on the talks, the deal that the Palestinian group said it had agreed to included the following:

Phase One

Phase one would include a 42-day ceasefire period, alongside the freeing 33 Israeli hostages by Hamas, alive or dead. In return, Israel would release 30 Palestinian children and women for each released Israeli hostage, based on lists provided by Hamas according to the earliest date of detention.

Hamas talks up a truce, but Israel may still invade Rafa

Shortly before nine in the morning of May 6th, blue and red leaflets began fluttering down over the city of Rafah in southern Gaza. The Israel Defence Forces (idf) was warning those in the city’s eastern suburbs and neighbourhoods that it was planning to “operate” there and urged them to evacuate to a “humanitarian zone”, five or six kilometres away, near the coast.

That evening Hamas announced that it would accept an Egyptian proposal for a temporary ceasefire and would in return release 33 of the Israeli hostages it is holding in Gaza. This was met with scepticism in Israel. Government sources claimed that Hamas had not accepted the original compromise that Israel had tentatively agreed to. Instead, Israel says that Hamas has added further conditions and is trying to portray the Israelis as the naysayers. Nevertheless, Israel is planning to send a delegation for another round of talks in Cairo to discuss the details of how the agreement could be implemented.

Israel Begins Rafah Strikes After Hamas Agrees to Ceasefire

Tom O'Connor

Israeli leadership is pressing forward with a planned offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah despite U.S. protests and an announcement by Hamas that the group would agree to a ceasefire proposal mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Monday that it had begun "conducting targeted strikes against Hamas terror targets in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip."

Hours earlier — coming after the IDF announced a "temporary evacuation" of residents in parts of Rafah — Hamas issued a statement saying the head of the group's Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, had informed senior Qatari and Egypt officials of a breakthrough in the months-long negotiations for a new ceasefire.

In calls with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani and Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel, Haniyeh "informed them of the Hamas movement's approval of their proposal regarding the ceasefire agreement," according to the statement.

Four Years On, the Mysteries of Covid Are Unravelin

Knvul Sheikh

When the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic in March 2020, nearly everything about the novel coronavirus was an open question: How was it spreading so quickly? How sick would it make people? Would a single bout buy you protection from future cases?

In the four years since, scientists have unraveled some of the biggest mysteries about Covid. We now know far more about how it spreads (no, standing six feet apart isn’t surefire protection), why it doesn’t seem to make children as sick as adults and what’s behind the strange symptoms it can cause, from brain fog to “Covid toe.” Here’s a look at what we’ve learned.

Why do people’s experiences with Covid vary so widely? And are superdodgers real?

By now, most Americans have had Covid at least once. While the majority of those infected have been hit with flulike symptoms, some have been hospitalized with serious respiratory issues, and others have had no symptoms at all.

White House Releases Cybersecurity Report and Implementation Plan

Matt Gluck

According to the White House, the report—which is the first of its kind—“assesses the cybersecurity posture of the United States, the effectiveness of national cyber policy and strategy, and the status of the implementation of national cyber policy and strategy by Federal departments and agencies.” The report also describes active and emerging cyber threats—including novel technologies related to national security, economic growth, and “the rule of law.” The report covers 2023 and the period in 2024 preceding the release of the report.

The White House says that the U.S. cybersecurity posture has grown stronger over the past year through advancement toward the vision of a stable and “values-aligned digital ecosystem” laid out in the 2023 National Cybersecurity Strategy. The report also notes that the Biden administration has started to execute the plan for implementation of the cybersecurity strategy.

The report is divided into three parts. It first describes the “Strategic Environment” in which U.S. cybersecurity policy is operating, including an examination of adversaries’ capabilities and aims. It then outlines the U.S.’s “Current Efforts” to bolster domestic cybersecurity, which include, among others, promoting software security and addressing risks to the security and privacy of data. And it concludes by laying out a “Future Outlook.”

Reinventing Mine Warfare in the Baltic Sea

Ott Laanemets

Mine warfare is often described as a cycle: A simple sea mine strikes an expensive warship, but no mine warfare forces are able to respond because mine warfare has been neglected; thereafter mine warfare receives some attention. After the conflict, however, mine warfare resumes its unsexy status—at least until the next mine strike.

During the Cold War, small European navies maintained NATO’s mine warfare readiness. This included both minelaying and mine countermeasures (MCM). However, after the demise of the Soviet Union, minelaying was quickly dismissed as the first benefit of the peace dividend, and the focus of mine warfare communities turned toward clearing the sea of war remnants. For other warfare communities, focus turned “out of area” altogether. As a result, NATO has lost its institutional mine warfare knowledge and, more broadly, coastal defense warfare knowledge, which is the type of warfare applicable to the Baltic Sea.

The character of mine warfare in the Baltic Sea has not changed but has been forgotten. Sea mines are still the central weapon, and mine warfare must be part of maritime and joint warfare.

'The Taste of Battle', Both On-line and On-Ground


Yesterday, the United States published its International Cyberspace and Digital Policy Strategy, hitting out specifically, among other actors, on China, for presenting the “broadest, most active, and most persistent cyber threat to government and private sector networks in the United States.” It is important to note that above all else, the US places China as a priority threat actor in cyberspace, replacing the relatively regular Russian and North Korean Advanced Persistent Threat actors (APTs).

Further, the Strategy document laments the differences in ideological and policy approaches between China and the US, when it comes to governing digital spaces. It argues, “Russia, the PRC, and other authoritarian states have promoted a vision of global Internet governance that centers on domestic control and top-down, state-centric mechanisms over the existing bottom-up multi-stakeholder processes.”

Ukraine is outmanned, outgunned and outmaneuvered — should they give up?


Things aren’t looking good for Ukraine.

Russian military manpower is estimated to be at 69,432,472 combatants, while Ukraine can muster 22,806,303 — a ratio of about three to one However, Russia has mainly been on attack since 2023, a scenario where casualties are expected to be greater. Hence, Russia has a higher number of casualties, at an estimated 50,000 to 31,000. On these figures alone, Russia will eventually triumph.

But even in the age of AI algorithms, data alone does not determine the outcome. There are always outliers.

One outlier that favors Russia is their ability to pay for mercenaries. They are using their vast oil and mineral wealth to hire mercenaries from Pakistan, India and North Korea. The BBC created a useful chart that shows the increasing use of mercenaries, and conscripts from the poor parts of Russia, mainly Muslims and Siberians. Many of them are given as few as two weeks training and sent to die in headlong charges against the Ukrainian drones and artillery — often before they can be paid. On the other hand, if Ukraine can counterattack, the mercenaries are more likely than Russian regulars to surrender.

Russia to Carry Out Exercises for Tactical Nuclear Weapons

Matthew Luxmoore

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his country’s military to test its readiness to use tactical nuclear weapons—a step the Kremlin said was a response to recent comments by Western officials, including warnings that European powers could do more to help Ukraine in its fight with Moscow.

Exercises involving Russia’s navy and air force, along with units in the country’s southern military district that oversees Crimea and other parts of Ukraine occupied by Russian forces, are to begin on an undisclosed date, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the drills are a response to some Western officials’ suggestions that restrictions on Kyiv’s use of Western weapons should be lifted, and that Ukraine’s allies could significantly increase their involvement in the war if Russia threatens major Ukrainian cities.

Can VPNs Be Tracked by the Police?

Drew Robb

VPNs are popular due to the fact they add security and privacy to what are otherwise fairly open Wi-Fi and public internet channels. But can VPNs be tracked by the police?

Virtual private networks are designed to preserve online privacy by encrypting internet traffic and hiding IP addresses that can be used to determine user location. Most users are aware of this when they try to access a website or service when they are overseas. The IP address generally triggers the loading of a URL in the local area and may restrict access to a U.S. service or site. A VPN can be used to circumvent such restrictions and limitations. For example, a U.S. user traveling in Europe might be blocked from accessing paid streaming services that the user could access if he or she were physically located in the U.S. A VPN masks the local European IP address and can enable the person to view U.S.-based content.

A VPN server, then, replaces an IP address with its own as it passes the encrypted data to the public internet. For example, if you live in New York, your IP address will show that you are connecting from New York. However, if you connect to a VPN server based in Amsterdam, the IP address appears to indicate that the user is based in the Netherlands.

Army wants different GPS alternatives for different domains, including commercial tech


Rather than focusing on one type of the technology, the Army is seeking out a diverse range of alternatives to GPS satellites to provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) signals, according to the service’s lead official on the “alt-PNT” effort.

The Army has hundreds of different platforms that use Global Positioning System satellite signals to navigate, explained Michael Monteleone, director of Army Futures Command’s new All-Domain Sensing Cross-Functional Team (CFT), on Sunday.

“From the Army perspective, it’s going to be a little bit different for us in every domain. So, if I’m on the ground, there are certain things I can take advantage of from just simply being on the ground that maybe I can’t if I’m airborne, or if I’m a precision-guided munition moving at an incredible speed, perhaps maybe spinning while I’m in the air,” he told Breaking Defense and Defense News here in Kissimmee, Fla. at the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s annual conference.

One defense strategy, two drastically different budgets

Stephen Losey and Megan Eckstein

Call it a tale of two China strategies

The U.S. Air Force and Navy are each preparing for a potential fight in the Pacific against China, perhaps in the next couple of years, under the guidance of the same National Defense Strategy. But this uncertain timing overlaps uncomfortably with a mountain of modernization priorities for each service.

Add to that budget caps for fiscal 2024 and fiscal 2025, and the two services have responded with very different budget strategies.

On one side, the Air Force’s proposed FY25 budget would trim its procurement account by $1.6 billion from the prior year, while boosting research, development, test and evaluation spending by nearly that amount. In the process, the service expects to reduce its fighter jet purchases by 12.