Today's D Brief: China’s infiltration; Pentagon airstrike revelations; US confirms key ambassadors; And a bit more.
China’s spies have infiltrated Taiwan’s military, Reuters reports in a new special feature about the future of security on the island of nearly 24 million people. (Recent similar features focused on Chinese air force incursions near Taiwan, possible plans to invade the island, and Taipei’s quietly growing submarine program.)
Reuters reviewed espionage prosecutions to learn “how Beijing allegedly sought out commanders in the Taiwan military and induced them to become spies.” Chinese officials were also able to “extract details of high-tech weapons and gain insights into defense planning” via these offers to members of the Taiwanese military over the past 10 years.
How it starts: With small gifts, “like drinks or meals.” But it’s that “first piece of secret information” that often yields the highest price, a former naval commander told Reuters. “This payment would later be used to blackmail them into supplying further intelligence at a much lower price, he said.” Read on, here.
How Beijing views Taiwan now: As a “wanderer” that will eventually come home, China’s foreign minister said (via Reuters again) Monday in Beijing. “Taiwan is a wanderer who will eventually come home, not a chess piece to be used by others,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, and added, “China must and will be reunified.”
Extra reading: “How Loitering Munitions Can Help Counter China,” via Ryan Brobst, Bradley Bowman, and Maj. Lauren Harrison of the conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington.
The gist: “The U.S. military needs a mix of ‘stand-off’ munitions that can fire from outside the [anti-access/area-denial] bubble as well as ‘stand-in’ munitions that can fire from within,” the authors write, and emphasize that “While new classes of missiles are being developed to fill the first role, [loitering munitions] could help fill the second, enabling strikes on enemy radars, air defense capabilities, missiles, and associated A2AD infrastructure.” Read on, here. Coverage continues below the fold.
From Defense One
At Least 458 U.S. Crimes Tied to Extremism Involved Veterans, Active Duty Troops // Tara Copp: The “underlying factors are not going away,” says one researcher.
800,000 Deaths // Clint Smith, The Atlantic: The number is so enormous that we risk becoming numb to its implications.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: JUST IN: Boeing suspends vax mandate; NDAA clears Congress; UAE’s F-35 hardball; and more.
How Loitering Munitions Can Help Counter China // Bradley Bowman, Maj. Lauren Harrison, and Ryan Brobst: “Suicide drones” are already tapped to fill various roles, but more are needed, and faster.
My Children Live in Fear of US Drones // Ahmed Ali Jaber: It is time to end America’s use of airstrikes that too often kill the innocent.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. Happy birthday to the Space Force, which turns two today.
The U.S. finally has an official ambassador to China. Veteran diplomat Robert Nicholas Burns was confirmed Thursday evening in a 75-18 Senate vote, after Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio released his months-long hold.
“I am looking forward to working with our superb career professionals at our embassy and consulates who are doing such vital work for our country,” Ambassador Burns tweeted Friday morning.
Rubio lifted his hold after the Senate passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which passed in the House on Tuesday. The bill bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region, where the Communist regime has forced nearly a million regional Muslims into labor camps over the past several years.
What that means: If companies in Xinjiang can provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection with “clear and convincing evidence that goods were not produced with forced labor,” then business can proceed.
Said one co-sponsor, Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democra: “As the Chinese government tries to whitewash their genocide and claim a propaganda victory with the upcoming Olympics, this legislation sends a powerful, bipartisan message that the United States will not turn a blind eye.”
“Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains,” Sen. Rubio said Thursday on the Senate floor. “And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law. For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans—every one of us, frankly—unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide that’s being committed by the Chinese Communist Party.”
“The [Biden] Administration will work closely with Congress to implement this bill to ensure global supply chains are free of forced labor, while simultaneously working to on-shore and third-shore key supply chains, including semiconductors and clean energy,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last week following passage in the House. More here.
New: Chinese government officials manipulate Facebook and Twitter posts for readers in the mainland, and the New York Times reports Monday that it can prove this after obtaining confidential contracting documents that Beijing blocks domestically with its “Great Firewall.”
Russia is itching for the U.S. to respond to its list of strange security demands regarding Ukraine and NATO that the Kremlin pitched last week, Reuters reports from Moscow.
Putin’s push for “urgent” negotiations with the U.S. and NATO began earlier this month during his phone conversations with President Biden and the UK’s Boris Johnson. They continued on Dec. 14, when he spoke with French and Finnish leaders.
On Friday, Putin laid out his negotiating position: he wants the United States and its allies to “halt all military activity in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” and return to a “Cold War-like security arrangement,” the New York Times reported.
“The Russian proposal—immediately dismissed by NATO officials—came in the form of a draft treaty suggesting NATO should offer written guarantees that it would not expand farther east toward Russia and halt all military activities in the former Soviet republics, a vast swath of now-independent states extending from Eastern Europe to Central Asia.” Read on, here.
ICYMI: Russia sent a pair of nuclear-capable bombers on an overflight of Belarus on Saturday, AP reported from Moscow. On the same day, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned U.S. officials against delaying their response to those unusual demands of Washington. AP has more on that bit of messaging via Russian state-run media, here.
Newsflash: U.S. military airstrikes are not nearly as efficient as the Pentagon insists, the New York Times reported in a months-long investigation whose FOIA’d source documents were made public over the weekend.
The Times’ headline for this project: “The Human Toll of America’s Air Wars,” and it pulls from “more than 1,300 [military] reports examining airstrikes in Iraq and Syria from September 2014 to January 2018,” which totaled more than 5,000 pages.
CENTCOM’s response: “Mistakes do happen, whether based upon incomplete information or misinterpretation of the information available. And we try to learn from these mistakes.”
FWIW: Recall what former SecDef Jim Mattis said about airstrikes and civilian casualties in Yemen: “I leave perfection to God…The costs of war throughout history—and it has not changed—are more heavily borne by civilians, as far as I'm concerned, in almost every war in history.”
See also: A person plea for an end to drone strikes by a Yemeni man who has lost family members in drone strikes.
Israel just banned travel to the U.S. and nine other countries because of rising coronavirus infections inside Israel and because of the rapid spread of the omicron variant. AP has more from Jerusalem.
Lastly: Someone has been selling “anti-5G necklaces” on the web, and those necklaces—at least 10 different kinds—appear to in fact be radioactive, the BBC reported Saturday. (Find the full list, here.)
What to do if you bought one of these devices: “Don't wear it any more, put it away safely and wait for the return instructions,” Dutch authorities announced after making the discovery.
Reminder: “There is no evidence that 5G networks are harmful to health,” the BBC reports. Read on, here.