January 06, 2009

Leading Features of the International Security Landscape in 2008

Leading Features of the International Security Landscape in 2008
Source: http://english.people.com.cn/90001/90776/90884/6566867.html

As the footsteps of the incoming year are heard around the corner, The Study Times is honored with an exclusive interview with Comrade Xiong Guangkai, Chairman of China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS) focusing on issues related to the situation of international security in 2008. Chairman (CIISS) Xiong Guangkai stated that the international security situation in 2008 on the whole has retained the basic posture of peace and stability, and yet has been dented by the palpable growth of the unstable and uncertain elements, which is evidenced by the remaining grave presence of traditional threats to security and the meteoric spreading of the non-traditional threats to security that are looming larger than before. Therefore, we are required to be mindful of possible dangers while enjoying the present security, foster a comprehensive "grand security concept", and deal properly with the possible impacts inflicted on China by the intricate situation generated by the interlaced state of the current traditional security and the non-traditional security issues.

Question (hereinafter referred to as "Q"): 2008 will be remembered as quite an unusual year. As the running year eased into the incoming one, could you please share with our readers your overall assessment of the international security landscape in 2008.

Answer (hereinafter referred to as "A"): Due to the forward pushing of the in-depth development of the world trends of multi-polarization, economic globalization and the building of information-centric society, the international balance of forces in recent years has witnessed novel rise and fall, while the interests of various states have experienced fresh changes, which has led to the constant retooling of the diplomatic and security strategies by the major world powers. It is against this general backdrop that we examine and analyze the international security situation.

2008 stands out to be quite an unusual year with the international security situation going through numerous complicated changes that can be reduced to the following three principal ones: To begin with, peace and development remain the themes of the times with the international situation in stable status generally, and yet the insecurity, unstable and uncertain elements have decidedly increased with some areas experiencing fresh chaos and even war. The representative example of the latter development is the case of the Russia-Georgia armed skirmish which features "minor clash with a grand strategy". Secondly, the trend of the traditional threats to security and the non-traditional threats to security being intertwined is becoming increasingly prominent with traditional threats to security remaining gravely present while the non-traditional threats to security being promptly stretched to cover such sectors as climate, food, energy, economy, finance and what not in addition to terrorism. The most projected one is the international crisis triggered off by the American sub-prime mortgage crisis. Thirdly, the above-said developments have driven various countries to give more weight to international dialogue and cooperation in dealing with diversified security issues. While the armed forces of all the major powers are devoting great endeavor to such nuclear issues as boosting in a deep-going way the new round of revolution in military affairs and uplifting the combat capability under information-centric conditions, greater importance has been attached to building up the capability of executing military operations other than war for the sake of dealing with various threats to security.

2008 is likewise quite an unusual year for China's national security situation. China has not only been hit by the powerful tsunami of international financial crisis, but has also been nagged by such problems as "Taiwan independence" and "Tibet independence" as well as the troubles incited by the "East Turkeystan" terrorist forces in addition to the atrocious damage and heavy loses inflicted by the ice calamity and fatal earthquake. Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Hu Jintao as the General Secretary, the whole nation is of one mind to tide over the hard times. Generally speaking, the fundamental state of a favorable national security for China on the whole remains unchanged, only she is still faced with numerous risks and challenges.

Q: In 2008, the hot spot issues in the global traditional security field remains now eased-up, now tense again with the rise and fall of local wars and armed conflicts. How do you view the change and development of the present international traditional security issues?

A: Traditional security issues refer to such security issues related to national sovereignty, territorial integrity, political stability and the like, epitomized in political and military domains. In the post-Cold War period, the principal traditional security issue in the international security field is the lingering hegemonism and power politics, which is prominently reflected in the following three respects in 2008: a). Local wars and armed conflicts remain a phenomenon of frequent eruption; b). the international military competition with the new revolution in military affairs as the centerpiece is getting fiercer with each passing day; c). the situation of nuclear proliferation and armament control is still grim.

The local wars and armed conflicts in the present world have taken on the features of "high occurrence, being relatively concentrated in some regions and with complicated and diversified causes". The year of 2008 saw the eruption of 46 local wars and armed conflicts worldwide, showing a sharp jump from the 33 cases befell the corresponding period last year. The Middle East and South Asia are the two regions where relatively more local wars and armed conflicts popped up. The Afghanistan War staged by the U.S. in 2001 and the Iraq War in 2003 are unable to wind up to this day. The American forces are still bogged down in the quagmires in Iraq while the security situation in Afghanistan has got worsened rapidly, forcing the US forces to gradually shift the strategic priority to Afghanistan and new developments have also been detected in the local turbulent situation in the Middle East and South Asia. What merits attention is that armed conflict flared up between Russia and Georgia on August 8 over the South Ossetia issue. The armed conflict lasted four and half days with over 30,000 troops being thrown in. Judging from the size, intensity and duration of the said conflict, it is no more than a "minor skirmish", and yet its fallout should not be overlooked. Because both parties of the conflict fielded forces from the three services of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy, and got locked in a contest of strength in a multidimensional battlefield, in which a certain scale of warfare of public opinion, psychological warfare, legal warfare and cyber warfare were carried out. What is worth thinking deeply about is that the Russia-Georgia conflict broke out against the strategic backdrop of Russia in rapid recovery of national strength and the U.S and Europe busying in pushing forward with their drive of eastward expansion, hence with a deeper strategic background of geopolitics and complicated historical root. Therefore, we should not confine ourselves to taking a purely military view of the conflict, and what's more, its strategic impact on the international security situation is far from coming to a close.

At the same time, the new round of revolution in military affairs with informationization as the centerpiece is unfolding in various major powers in a deep-going way and in the midst of constant adjustment. All the major powers are progressively swelling their input in military outlay. In the FY-2008, the U.S. military budget hits USD $481.4 billion, showing a year-on-year hike of 4.35%; the British military budget stands roughly at USD $64.6 billion with 0.6% year-on-year increase; USD $52.2 billion for France with a 1.4% year-on-year rise; and USD $40.2 billion for Japan, also retaining a rather high figure. To parallel with this is the neck-snapping development of the strategic nuclear force in major world powers. The U.S. has issued the "National Security and Nuclear Arms in the 21st Century" which reassessed the nuclear security environment and is considering retooling its nuclear policy; Russia has sped up its pace of deploying its mobile "Topol-M" intercontinental ballistic missile and test-fired the "Bulava" submarine-launched ballistic missile for several times, putting priority on lifting the capability in breaking through the missile defense and on raising the accuracy of strike. The U.S.-Russia rivalry centering on the deployment of the missile defense system continues to develop. To begin with, the U.S. has ramped up its push for deploying missile defense system in East Europe. The U.S. and Czech Republic signed an agreement on July 8, 2008, granting the U.S. the right to establish an missile defense radar base about 60 km to the Southwest of Prague and is projected to be in operation in 2013. Then on August 20, the U.S. signed an agreement with Poland mandating the U.S. to establish a missile defense base in that country. The U.S. agenda says that it will put in place 10 missile interception systems in the northern part of Poland prior to 2013. To counter the American move of installing missile defense systems, Russia has declared that it will deploy Eskander operational-tactical missile system in Kaliningrad State and postpone the plan of dismantling the Kozelsk intercontinental ballistic missile division. The fierce rivalry in the space is mounting. The U.S. has been keeping on developing anti-satellite weapons and the space-to-land strike weapon systems in an effort to retain its leading edge in the space. On February 21, 2008, the U.S. launched a "Standard"-3 I A anti-missile interception missile from the U.S. warship anchoring near Hawaii and successfully knocked off a run-away spy satellite about 247 km above the earth. In the meanwhile, Russia has stepped up the development of the "Glonass" satellite global navigation positioning system. India blasted off its first circumlunar flying device. Japan, on the other hand, has approved the Basic Law on Universe clearing the legal hurdle for exploiting the space for military purpose. The major powers continue to deepen the military reform. Russia has proclaimed that it will enforce the military reform of downsizing the armed forces and optimizing the structure of the officers by 2012, keeps on pushing forward its process of turning the Army divisions into brigades. Japan on its part has trotted out the Reform of the Defense Agency, planning to overhaul the policy of directing the military by civil officials and the leadership and commanding system of the armed forces. In a nutshell, a new round of international arms race with quality building as the centerpiece is in full swing.

Besides, the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and the Iran nuclear issue remain to be the hotspot issues in the international security sector, the nuclear proliferation sector in particular. The work to disable the nuclear facilities of the Korean nuclear complex at Yongbyon is making hard-earned headways in twists and turns, with the newly recorded progresses showing that North Korea has officially submitted to the six-party talks a nuclear declaration list and demolished the 5 megawatts nuclear reaction cooling towers at Yongbyon; and the U.S. State Department declared officially on Oct. 11, 2008 to remove Korea from the list of countries offering support to terrorism. At the third meeting of the chief negotiators of the sixth round of six party-talks on Dec, 2008, consensus was arrived at on some issues, and yet falling short of reaching an agreement on verifying the nuclear declaration list submitted by North Korea, which indicates that numerous difficulties remain to be overcome before the ultimate settlement of the Korea nuclear issue, and worse still, even backslides can not be ruled out. The Iran nuclear issue remains at a deadlock. The U.S. and Europe bypassed the UN Security Council to impose a number of sanctions on Iran in an attempt of forcing Iran to give up nuclear development but of no avail. On its part, Iran has been playing both hard and soft tactics to deal with the U.S. and Europe in an endeavor to win more time for its nuclear development. So far, peaceful settlement of the Iran nuclear issue remains the primary choice of the international community and the door for negotiation has not been closed and yet the possibility of deterioration cannot be ruled out.

China pursues an independent foreign policy of peace and has made positive contributions to seeking for peaceful solutions to international conflicts and to promoting anti-nuclear proliferation and arms control. However, the complete reunification of China is yet to wrap up, and therefore obliges us to fight against traditional security issues like secession and subversion. In addition, the disputes between China and some neighboring countries over the territorial sovereignty, the sovereign right over territorial waters as well as over the maritime rights and interests are yet to be settled, and accordingly that too requires proper handling.

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