Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Elevation of the Periphery: China looks to build a sphere of influence

In 2013, new developments suggested that major changes were afoot. Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated in September 2013, that the periphery had become the “priority direction” (youxian fangxiang) for foreign relations work. A month later, the Central Committee held an unprecedented Central Work Forum on Diplomacy to the Periphery to review policy towards countries on the periphery. Xinhua highlighted appropriate policy changes at the start of 2014 and Xi Jinping listed the periphery first when he outlined guidance in the format of the general framework at the recently concluded Central Work Conference on Foreign Relations.
As with the most important changes to the party’s directives, the main drivers are assessments of long-term economic and geo-political trends. Beijing recognizes that the region is increasingly vital to China’s future. China’s Vice Foreign Minister stated in April that the country’s trade with East and Southeast Asia totaled “$1.4 trillion, more than China’s trade with the United States and European Union combined.” He noted “half of China’s top ten trade partners are in Asia,” and that 70 percent of its outbound investment is in Asia. The trend towards regional integration will likely continue. The IMF judges that the Asia-Pacific region remains best poised to drive future global growth if it implements structural reform and infrastructure investment. PRC leaders seek to achieve this potential through the Silk Road, Maritime Silk Road, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and other initiatives. 
Moreover, China realizes it must secure its geostrategic flanks to prepare the country’s ascent into the upper echelons of global power. Chinese leaders are deeply aware of historical precedents in which aspirants to regional dominance in Asia and Europe fell victim to wars kicked off by clashes involving neighboring powers. The persistence of disputes and flashpoints in the East and South China Seas makes this danger vividly real for Chinese policymakers. Finding ways to consolidate China’s influence and weaken potentially threats, such as the U.S. alliance system, offers for China hope of greater security. In the words of Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, the “imbalance between Asia’s political security and economic development has become an increasingly prominent issue.” China’s proposal to create an Asian “community of shared destiny” aims to resolve this imbalance. 

More @ The Diplomat

Vox has fun with North Korean rhetoric

Here, then, is a line-by-line translation and annotation of North Korea's anti-US, anti-Sony rant from the official English (KCNA does their own translations) into a clearer, more straightforward — and more honest — plain English. To try to cut through the noise, I've not just translated what they said, but what they really meant.
Pyongyang, December 21 (KCNA) -- The Policy Department of the National Commission of the DPRK issued the following statement Sunday:
Strange thing that happened in the heart of the U.S., the ill-famed cesspool of injustice, is now afloat in the world as shocking news.
The Sony Pictures Entertainment, the biggest movie producer in the U.S., which produced the undesirable reactionary film "The Interview" daring hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and agitating even terrorism and had a plan to distribute it, was exposed to surprisingly sophisticated, destructive and threatening cyber warfare and has been thrown into a bottomless quagmire after suffering property losses worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Translation: What do you know, someone launched an amazingly successful and sophisticated attack on Sony, which has humiliated the evil United States. We're not officially saying it was us — we often leave our major attacks ambiguous like that — but we're going to strongly imply that we did it in retaliation for insulting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by producing The Interview. That movie was tantamount to an attack of terrorism.

More at Vox

The Year in Jokowi

The Lowy Institute's Aaron Connelly appraises the impact of the election of Joko Widodo in Indonesia:

Indonesia's election dominated news from Southeast Asia this year, and demonstrated the consolidation of the country's remarkable democratic transformation. 
Or did it? Aaron Connelly expresses some misgivings in the interview below. We also talk about President Jokowi's maritime doctrine, and his foreign policy ambitions.

Click for Interview (Audio) @ The Lowy Interpreter

San Francisco's Tall Poppy Saga Continues: Kilroy must now choose between deals

Kilroy already has put a lot at stake. It said last week t would do all it could to keep the flower sellers on or next to the Brannan Street site even during construction. The vendors had said without that concession, they could be driven out of business. The vendors now say they also want a legally enforceable "no displacement" guarantee. 
Once construction is done, vendors will move into a 115,000 square-foot underground facility on the site with modern touches that its outdated warehouses now lack. Kilroy unveiled preliminary plans last week for the new structure after buying the two Flower Mart sites for about $70 million. It plans to build towers for technology companies on the site – surrounded by the Central SoMa area that will be rezoned by 2016. 
If Kilroy can't hammer out a deal with Peskin and the tenants association, it would likely have long odds going into a ballot fight. Peskin was part of the team that helped take down the 8 Washington condo project, and 78 percent of San Francisco residents polled earlier this year said they would like to preserve the Flower Mart.
Kilroy may be better off hoping it can reach the kind of compromise pitched by another neighborhood advocate last week. John Elberling, head of the affordable housing group TODCO, sent a framework for negotiations to city officials, flower mart vendors and Kilroy on Friday. 
It asks that the sides agree to, among other concessions, a relocation plan that Kilroy pays for, a cap of vendors' rents and an ownership model for the Flower Mart. Elberling also urges the city to allow Kilroy to build taller towers (above the 160-foot buildings that would be allowed) if that would make the plan financially feasible. Kilroy, after all, would still have to convince investors that they will be rewarded for building towers and paying to preserve the Flower Mart.

More @ SF Business Times 

Monday, December 22, 2014

So How Do You Build Big Nowadays While Avoiding "Shanghai Issues?"

This is a tale of two projects.

One – the $6.5 billion San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge – is the largest public works project in state history. (More specifically, its $2 billion suspension-span segment.) The other – the $1.8 billion Greater Gabbard Offshore Wind Farm in the North Sea off Suffolk, England – is one of the world’s biggest wind-energy projects.

Both were built between 2008 and 2011 in the same Shanghai, China, factory complex. Each suffered from mistakes by inadequately trained Chinese welders. Thousands of welds in the towers for the 140 giant wind turbines cracked. Hundreds of welds in the Bay Bridge roadway cracked, too. Both were contracted and managed by Fluor Corp., an Irving, Texas-based construction firm – by itself for the wind farm, and in a joint venture with Corapolis, Pa.-based American Bridge Co. for the Bay Bridge.

Each required costly repairs. Who paid for the repairs and problems differed markedly.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/bay-bridge/article4748610.html#storylink=cpy

North Korea’s Cyber Warfare and Challenges for the U.S.-ROK Alliance By Dr. Alexandre Mansourov

The Mirim War College, which contains the country's Electronic Warfare Research Institute, one of the country's premier cyber warfare education and training institutions. (nkleadershipwatch)


Despite an inferior information communication environment, North Korea has a high capacity to conduct robust cyber operations aimed at collecting foreign intelligence, disrupting foreign comput- ers, information and communication systems, networks and critical infrastructures, and stirring public discontent and disorder in the enemy states. The Korean People’s Army concentrated its efforts on strengthening the cyber war capabilities through establishing a command and control structure dedicated to cyber warfare, form- ing military units specializing in cyber warfare, training expert man- power, and advancing research and development of core cyber technologies. North Korea critically depends on outside resources for the conduct of its offensive cyber effects operations.

The U.S.-ROK alliance managers often find their response options limited in the absence of a clearly identifiable North Korean gov- ernment source of cyber operations. Washington and Seoul must strengthen their cooperation in cyberspace domain to deter North Korean cyber attacks and to promote the resilience of critical in- frastructure, including the security of information and computer systems. The allies are well advised to learn the key lessons and operational concepts of Israel’s Cyber Iron Dome. Seoul should be more discreet about its cyber offense plans because unwarranted publicity may undermine its cyber and military security and dam- age its moral and legal standings in the international community. The South should seek to expand cyber cooperation with China, in order to contain the North’s cyber threats. Once the inter-Korean military-to-military dialogue is resumed, Seoul should attempt to engage Pyongyang in a cyber arms control discussion.
Keywords: Cyber warfare, cyber warfare units, cyber bases, com- puter network operations, proxy wars

Read the rest here (PDF)

A Leading, Relevant Authority Shares Some Thoughts on Whether the Sony Hack is an "Act of War"


Newt Gingrich will not be happy with this.

Michael Schmitt is professor of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College and has participated in a number of leading research efforts on the laws of armed conflict. Not the least of these was chairing the study which resulted in the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare, which right now is the closest thing you'll get to a authoritative restatement on the legal issues of the use of force in cyberspace, anywhere.

Professor Schmitt posted the following at the Just Security blog on 17 December:
Pursuant to Article 51 of the UN Charter and customary international law, if the malicious cyber operation against Sony had constituted a “use of force” rising to the level of an “armed attack,” the United States would have been entitled to respond forcefully, whether by kinetic or cyber means. The IGE unanimously agreed that cyber operations alone may be sufficient to cross the armed attack threshold, particularly when they cause substantial injury or physical damage. Some members of the group went further by focusing not on the nature of the harm caused, but rather its severity. In their view, a sufficiently severe non-injurious or destructive cyber operation, such as that resulting in a State’s economic collapse, can qualify as an armed attack.

The cyber operation against Sony involved the release of sensitive information and the destruction of data. In some cases, the loss of the data prevented the affected computers from rebooting properly. Albeit highly disruptive and costly, such effects are not at the level most experts would consider an armed attack. Additionally, some States and scholars reject the view that the right of self-defense extends to attacks by non-State actors. Even though the attribution of the Sony incident to North Korea has been questioned, this debate is irrelevant because the operation failed to qualify as an armed attack in the first place.
So: it looks like a number of public figures on this matter need to dial down their rhetoric. But it doesn't mean that the U.S. is not without recourse (so long as the DPRK is indeed responsible):

The substantive criteria for breach of sovereignty by cyber means has been the subject of extensive examination in the Tallinn 2.0 process. In the earlier Tallinn Manual, the IGE agreed that at the very least a cyber operation breached sovereignty whenever physical damage (as distinct from harm to data) occurred. While no further consensus could be achieved on the matter, it would seem reasonable to characterize a cyber operation involving a State’s manipulation of cyber infrastructure in another State’s territory, or the emplacement of malware within systems located there, as a violation of the latter’s sovereignty. This being so, if the cyber operation against Sony is attributable to North Korea, it violated U.S. sovereignty. In the patois of the law of State responsibility, the operation amounted to an “internationally wrongful act”.
The commission of an internationally wrongful act entitles an injured State to engage in “countermeasures” under the law of State responsibility, as captured in Article 22 and 49-54 of the Articles on State Responsibility. Countermeasures are actions by an injured State that breach obligations owed to the “responsible” State (the one initially violating its legal obligations) in order to persuade the latter to return to a state of lawfulness. Thus, if the cyber operation against Sony is attributable to North Korea and breached U.S. sovereignty, the United States could have responded with countermeasures, such as a “hack back” against North Korean cyber assets. Indeed, it may still enjoy the right to conduct countermeasures, either because it is reasonable to conclude that the operation is but the first blow in a campaign consisting of multiple cyber operations or based on certain technical rules relating to reparations. It must be cautioned that the right to take countermeasures is subject to strict limitations dealing with such matters as notice, proportionality, and timing. Moreover, they are only available against States and the prevailing view is that a countermeasure may not rise to the level of a use of force.

Takeaway: So long as we can pierce the veil of DPRK deniability, the US (not Sony on their own) can respond in a proportional manner.

And that seems to be the White House's position as well.

The South China Sea And Great Power Politics: Implications For U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations - a paper by the Stimson Center

Maritime security has become a salient issue since 2010, as disputed sovereignty and resource claims in the Asia Pacific region have escalated. In 2010, when the South China Sea disputes became a more prominent issue in U.S.-China relations, many scholars and policy analysts reached the tentative conclusion that the risk of conflict between the two giants was growing. Claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines also strongly expressed their positions. In the East China Sea, the sovereignty issue over the Diaoyu Islands (Senkakus to the Japanese) has become particularly sharp since September 2012, when Japan “nationalized” three of the islands. In November 2013, China unilaterally declared the establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, including the area of the Diaoyu Islands, further complicating the situation. Domestic political considerations and nationalism within each of the claimants involved are narrowing theopportunities for cooperation and peaceful resolution.

Read analysis here.