June 23, 2018

Expanding the Intellectual Capital on Challenges: China

Paul Morris 

 June 13, 2018


In western civilization, the classics of military strategy are often cited but rarely read. In contrast, Luo Guanzhong’s classic Three Kingdoms forms a subconscious foundation for the masses in eastern civilization to discuss strategy. Historical figures such as Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and the great strategist Kongming resonate more than most contemporary figures today. The Three Kingdoms is considered one of the four classics of Chinese literature with widespread availability in print, DVD, audio, cartoon, video games, and film.[1] In 2008, the film Red Cliff (the most well-known battle in the Three Kingdoms) broke box office records for the highest grossing film in China. On par with the significance of the Napoleonic and Peloponnesian Wars, the Three Kingdomsdocuments the fall of the Han Dynasty and one of the most significant battles in Chinese history.

Three Kingdoms is based on the historical facts of the Annals of the Three Kingdomsincorporating fictional elements.[2] Immortalized by Luo Guanzhong in the fourteenth century, the mixture of history and myth continues to resonate deeply in the hearts of China’s population. The epic is a tale of the struggle for power during the second and third century spanning a period of 100 years. Mao Zedong is purported to have read the classic 120 times and cited it until his final days as a revolutionary in part of his written memoirs.[3]

The impact on contemporary Chinese strategists and decision makers of this battle, in which military leaders may have employed an army of nearly one million men, is tremendous. Movements of such size may not have been seen again until Napoleon Bonaparte’s time over a millennium later. By unraveling Three Kingdoms and the Battle of Red Cliff, western strategists may find fundamental points of reference to better understand Chinese perceptions of strategy and international relations today and find global solutions to global challenges. Chinese activity in its periphery, global expansion through the One Belt One Road initiative, and even the naming convention of its anti-access/area denial capabilities may all have their roots in a Chinese classic and strategy relatively unknown to the western strategist but clearly understood to the whole of society in China.

Kongming and the Tri-Polar Balance of Power

The Three Kingdoms opens the same manner as it closes, “The Empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been.”[4] In this cyclical context of balance, strategists should prudently posture for the inevitable fall of one hegemon and the rise of another. Today the idea may provide a rich contextual point of reference and aid in explaining Chinese desires to reclaim vast territories lost centuries ago in what may genuinely be considered the natural unification of their divided empire. Of greater interest to strategists, it may provide an integrated view for understanding China’s global advances and overarching strategy through the tri-polar balance of power model.[5]


Often celebrated by the Chinese as the greatest strategist in history, Kongming is introduced in the classic as living an apparent life of seclusion. More likely, Kongming has prudently shaped the environment to build a cognitive buffer and gain a relative temporal advantage to understand the intentions of others. Throughout the Three Kingdoms, Kongming establishes a key role of the strategist as a highly aware observer of both man and nature. One of his tasks is “to listen and watch the behavior, especially the body language, facial expressions and tone of voice of the key players…[the strategist] is trying to decipher true intent, motivations and ambitions of the other contenders to the throne.”[6] In contrast, Western examples of gaining relative temporal advantage may emphasize accelerating decision cycles in relation to an already identified competitor. The Chinese model highlights a point of departure in method, often misidentified with the tactic of deception, to achieving relative temporal advantage. The Chinese model may identify a challenger long before their opponent gains the awareness to reciprocate and accelerate decision cycles. 

 The temptation to reduce Chinese thoughts on strategy to the single idea of deception is prevalent and conforms to Western stereotypes of “inscrutable” Asian cultures.[7] However, this reductionist conclusion is not consistent with Chinese core values and behavioral norms.[8] In framing his life motto, Kongming teaches “Opportunistic relationships can hardly be kept constant. The acquaintance of honorable people…continues unfading through the four seasons, becomes increasingly stable as it passes through ease and danger.”[9] In separating opportunistic relationships from honorable people, Kongming devalues the western norm of networking as a positive endeavor in achieving effects in the long term. Gaining the enduring allegiance of men, through creating binding structures of self-interest and trust, may be of more value than any short term gain. Contemporary efforts for western powers to overcome such cognitive buffer zones may prove insurmountable due to institutional scars from opportunistic interactions dating from the Century of Humiliation.[10]

The first character to pass Kongming’s test of sincerity to form a beneficial relationship is the warlord Liu Bei.[11] Liu Bei is losing a war against Prime Minister Cao Cao and is desperately searching for a strategy to unite the divided empire. Kongming directs Liu Bei’s attention to the central region of Jingzhou and presents the tri-polar balance of power model. He identifies key lines of communication and sources of wealth to establish a near term power base. Kongming points to a map, “To establish your hegemony, let Cao Cao in the north have the advantage of timely circumstance, let Sun Quan [warlord] in the south have his geographic advantages: you, my general, will have the allegiance of men. First take Jingzhou and make it your home base. Then move into the Riverlands [western area of Yizhou] and build your third of the triangle of power. Eventually, the northern heartland will become your objective.”[12] Kongming designs a tri-polar balance of power model to incrementally turn weakness into strength and defeat a superior force with a design for ultimate hegemony.

The incremental approach to consolidate power in the tri-polar balance of power model may provide a fundamental point of reference to better understand Chinese activity today in the Asia-Pacific region and the globe. Chinese activities in the South China Sea may be best understood in the context as the modern-day equivalent of a resource rich Jingzhou with similar key lines of communications. China’s largely uncontested territorial grab in international waters, combined with their emphasis on bilateral discussions to leverage weaker nations, offer a stark reminder of the classic. Many of the territories in dispute amongst the members of the Association for Southeast Asian States (ASEAN) and China contain vast energy reserves.[13] Following an incremental approach, China’s One Belt One Road initiative may correlate to the subsequent step of moving into the riverlands once a home base is established. The One Belt One Road initiative, characterized as a “revived Silk Road” consisting of both land and maritime routes, may position China to lead the multi-lateral system and reshape the international order with increased access.[14]

Of concern to strategists in this historical parallel is identifying who, or what, is the modern day objective of the northern heartland and how China may leverage its contemporary interpretation of the “allegiance of men” through the creation of binding structures of self-interest and trust. In a 2016 report to Congress, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission asserts “China is showing itself to the world now, and the outcome is not what many had hoped.”[15] The traditional U.S. educational pipelines of talent and resources allocated towards regional organizations and select professionals may not be sufficient to provide global solutions to a strategy implemented by a whole of society.   

China History SG, “Evaluation of the Long Zhong Plan ”(accessed 7 February 2018)


The Battle of Red Cliff may epitomize contemporary thoughts on Chinese strategy as part of one classical point of reference. The battle of Red Cliff masses the overwhelming land and naval forces of Prime Minister Cao Cao and his estimated force of 830,000 men against the allied force of Liu Bei and Sun Quan, led by General Zhou Yu, and their 60,000 men. The forces meet on the shore of the Yangtze River near Red Cliff in AD 208.[16]

Through an elaborate web of deception, General Zhou Yu develops a scheme of false defection to allow a subordinate General access to Cao Cao’s concentrated forces at the time and place of his choosing.[17] General Zhou Yu then ensures the concentrated force is unable to disperse under attack by fire through influencing Cao Cao’s decision to bind his ships.[18] A student of the the Battle of Red Cliff may find an uneasy historical parallel with the concentration of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region today and the associated challenges of dispersion.[19]

Kongming then instructs General Zhou Yu to construct a platform and call it the Altar of the Seven Stars in order to counter Cao Cao’s relative advantage of positioning his ships to the western winds.[20] Despite the consensus view on the projection of continued western winds backing Cao Cao’s fleet and mitigating risk to attack by fire, Kongming pledges to bring the eastern winds to shift relative advantage at an unanticipated moment to his adversary.[21] In preparation for the preemptive attack, Kongming divulged, “All our forces are in place and ready, what we require now is the easterly wind.”[22] Cao Cao did not anticipate the false defection, or abrupt change of winds, and fire borne vessels destroyed his massive fleet.[23]

To the casual western observer, or skilled strategist, the idea of eastern winds and the cultural significance of seven stars may not resonate due to a multitude of factors to include educational bias in reading lists, language limitations, or regional focus. The image of Kongming calling the eastern winds, or Dong Feng, standing atop the Altar of the Seven Stars to defeat a concentrated force with the use of fire is not a common point of reference. The Dong Feng DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, and the entire Dong Feng series of missiles, may take their naming convention from the battle of Red Cliff. The eastern winds were the precondition of Kongming’s strategy and may indicate a subconscious foundation for strategy today.

The seven stars of the aforementioned altar, employed to call upon the eastern winds, are traditionally associated with the formation of the Big Dipper. The seven stars are also artifacts found on traditional Chinese swords and found in martial arts techniques.[24] The martial arts tradition with the Big Dipper conveys a belief that “an army that stands with its back to the Great Year was considered undefeatable.”[25] The position of the Big Dipper dictates the timing of the Great Year and is an indicator for the advance of an undefeatable army.[26] The significance of the Big Dipper, or BeiDou, to Chinese culture cannot be overstated.

Chinese satellites, such as the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, may serve as part of a system of seemingly disparate functions, to achieve a long-range and global precision guided capability. China’s Beidou system is projected to achieve global coverage by 2020, providing position accuracies that match the Global Positioning System.[27] The development of precision guided munitions in large quantities has been the central feature of China’s anti-access/area denial objective within the People’s Liberation Army intended to make a U.S. military intervention in the Western Pacific more costly.[28] The incremental fielding of seemingly benign coverage capabilities for the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System may echo Cao Cao’s metaphorical dragon, an attempt to hide ambition and become a global hegemon.


A literal interpretation of Kongming’s ability to forecast the opportunities from heaven and anticipate a change in the operational environment may bring thoughts of witchcraft and mysticism. A more useful analog is to frame the actions in the monitoring of indicators. Variables such as the number of ports under Chinese control, growing U.S. supply chain vulnerabilities, and the completion of Chinese global space capabilities offers a modern-day parallel for Chinese strategists to work in harmony within the existing winds and gain the “allegiance of men” with the ultimate aim of advancing for hegemony upon an abrupt change in the environment.[29] The classical Chinese strategist “integrated the universal, holistic and intuitive with the factual, data-knowledge driven, logic rational processes when formulating strategy.”[30] A lesser strategist than the great Kongming may not know the exact timing when heaven shall offer the desired opportunity, but situational awareness of indicators and prudent preparation can have forces in position should a hegemon become vulnerable.[31]

One Belt, One Road (Economist)

The Battle of Red Cliff may have never been fought in a position of relative disadvantage had Liu Bei heeded Kongming’s advice to first consolidate his economic base. Despite victory at the battle of Red Cliff, Liu Bei and Kongming do not unite the Han empire.[32] The lesson from the epic battle and war, as well as the heroics of strategist Kongming to overcome an overwhelming force, may permeate Chinese thinking today.[33] Similar elements of the operating environment, such as the concentration of U.S. force posture in the Asia Pacific, may spur further reference to the classic.[34]


 Kongming’s most well-known exploits anchor Chinese strategy with the characteristics of imagination and the unorthodox.[35] The purpose of a prudent defense is to provide sufficient security for whatever may occur and a false narrative may leave strategists across the globe at a cognitive disadvantage. If the naming convention of the Eastern Winds DF-21D reflects a point of reference for strategy found in Three Kingdoms, then the Chinese may be consolidating power and awaiting the right opportunity to establish their own hegemony. Chinese activity in its periphery, global One Belt One Road expansion, and the naming convention of its anti-access/area denial capabilities offer a compelling parallel to identify the true objective of the “northern heartland”, understand the contemporary interpretation of “the allegiance of men”, and shape the indicators bringing the eastern winds.


A possible indicator of a decision point from the Chinese is the fielding of the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in 2020 as it relates to the tri-polar balance of power model. With a broader base of understanding in the Chinese classics, U.S. strategists and planners may be better positioned to anticipate Chinese intentions and understand their objectives beyond what may be publicly espoused in contemporary writings and public proclamations. The classic may also prove valuable in generating ideas to overcome areas of relative disadvantage beyond discussions centered on next-generation technologies and concepts for their employment. Though Kongming was able to prolong the war with Cao Cao with the employment of technological innovations on the battlefield, the war was lost.  

U.S. challenges to demonstrating sincerity with the Chinese will persist with the labeling of China as a peer competitor and a relative short U.S. attention span of opportunistic interactions dating from the Century of Humiliation. The Three Kingdoms should be incorporated into American professional military education to expand the intellectual capital beyond foreign area officers and the regional expertise of geographic commands. As an exporter of professional military education, the U.S. has institutionalized western classics and ideas across the profession of arms around the globe. However, not all of the foundational classics of other civilizations have made their way to the required reading list. A common understanding of a challenge requires an understanding of our own fundamental points of reference for doctrine and strategy and an understanding of others.

Paul Morris is a U.S. Air Force officer. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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Header Image: Image from the film Red Cliff (YouTube)


[1] Check Teck Foo, “Cognitive strategy from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” Chinese Management Studies 2, No. 3, (2008), 172.

[2] Luo Guanzhong, Three Kingdoms, trans. Moss Roberts (1995; repr., Beijing, China: Foreign Language Press, 2013), 3.

[3] Dong Zhixin, Mao Zedong Read The Romance of Three Kingdoms (China: Volumes Publishing Company, 2011), 1.

[4] Guanzhong, 1 and 2175.

[5] The tri-polar balance of power model is a strategy applied in a tri-polar world where a relatively weaker power consolidates its economic and military power before engaging with the stronger power(s) to gain hegemony. 

[6] Foo, 179.

[7] Deception is a tactic, not a strategy, to initially test the sincerity and honor of others. In interfacing with their eastern counterparts, western business leaders are taught “tactics and deceptive behavior have three functions: first, test others’ sincerity, screening allies from competitors; second, protect, concealing strengths and weaknesses; third, deliver misleading information to rivals, “confusing and exhausting” them.” The effects of deception build a cognitive buffer zone to offer time to understand intentions of human interactions while shaping relative disadvantage or a condition of greater uncertainty to adversaries. If an unknown actor can overcome the initial buffer zone of deceptive behavior and demonstrate sincerity, a mutually beneficial relationship is possible.

[8] Li Yan and Taieb Hafsi, Understanding Chinese Business Behaviour: A historical perspective from three kingdoms to modern China, (Montreal, Quebec: HEC Montreal, Jan 2007), 7.

[9] Zhuge Liang and Liu Ji, Mastering the Art of War trans. Thomas Cleary (Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications), 58.

[10] China endured a lengthy period of victimization by outside powers. Starting in 1840 with the Qing Dynasty and the failed negotiation to halt British imports of opium, China endured the destruction of its Emperor’s palace, the annexation of Hong Kong, and the imposition of extraterritoriality by an occupation force for its foreign citizens. A total of eight foreign powers occupied the Forbidden City during the Boxer Rebellion, seizing Chinese treasures as war trophies. China was divided up into fiefdoms with a series of local warlords serving various foreign powers.  With the assistance of the Soviet Union, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) looked to unify China under the precondition of allowing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to join the KMT. After an ideological confrontation, KMT Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek initiated a violent purge of the communists, setting the context for a civil war between the CCP and the KMT. From October 1934 to October 1935, the CCP endured a retreat of over 6000 miles—the Long March. In the course of this epic march, Mao Zedong emerged as the undisputed leader. The memory of the struggle for survival is etched in history 68 years later on the Long March 2F rocket which propelled China to become the third nation capable of manned space missions. Invasion by Japan in 1937 spurred Mao to offer an alliance with Chiang Kai-Shek to expel the foreign invaders. The eventual defeat of Japan in 1945 reignited the Chinese civil war, in which the Communists rapidly prevailed. In defeat, Chiang and the KMT retreated to Taiwan in 1949 with the sustained goal of overthrow of the CCP. In 1949, coupled with the final expulsion of foreign invaders and a unified mainland China, Mao Zedong publicly proclaimed the end of the Century of Humiliation. Today, leaders of the CCP continue to cite a desire for non-interference in domestic affairs and closure of their civil war through complete unification. Though the Century of Humiliation has ended, the scars of foreign intervention have yet to heal with continued U.S. involvement with Taiwan .

[11] Liu Bei writes a personal letter to Kongming and states, “I have enjoyed prestige and rank far beyond my merits…Whatever sincerity I may offer to the cause of delivering the Han is wasted for want of strategy.” He humiliates himself in the short term in order to gain the enduring allegiance of Kongming. Guanzhong, 672.

[12] Ibid., 680.

[13] The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves. In a disparity, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company estimates the area holds nearly 125 billion barrels of oil and 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. US Energy Information Administration, “South China Sea,” last modified February 7, 2013, available at https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/regions-topics.cfm?RegionTopicID=SCS.

[14] “The Multi-lateral Kingdom: China’s Growing Clout in International Economic Affairs,” The Economist, March 23, 2017, available athttp://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21719498-america-retreats-china-advances-chinas-growing-clout-international-economic.

[15] US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 2016 Report to Congress, (Washington DC, November 2016), available at https://www.uscc.gov/Annual_Reports/2016-annual-report-congress.

[16] Kongming instructs Liu Bei to consolidate his forces in Jingzhou and wait for “when Heaven shall offer…the desired opportunity.” But Liu Bei does not heed Kongming’s advice and allows Jingzhou to fall to Cao Cao, which further emboldens the advance of his adversary. The resources of Jingzhou, both in the allegiance of men and economic resources, propels the colossal army of Cao Cao. Subsequently, Kongming is forced to incite the ambitious warlord Sun Quan from the south into an alliance with Liu Bei under the command of General Zhou Yu to offset the error.

[17] General Zhou Yu requests his subordinate General Huang Gai to participate in a gruesome ruse. In the troop formation, General Huang Gai creates the illusion of insubordination and overtly advocates surrender. According to plan, General Huang Gai is beaten mercilessly to the dismay of the unsuspecting masses. In recovery, General Huang Gai feigns defection to Cao Cao’s spies under the pretext of revenge. Cao Cao warily accepts the General’s plan to surrender at the time of his choosing.

[18] General Zhou Yu develops an intricate plan to implant strategist Pang Tong within Cao Cao’s camp. Pang Tong, a refugee from the north, offers a plausible cause for sedition under the guise of leadership dissatisfaction. Pang Tong concocts a boat connecting scheme to make the greatest use of fire against Cao Cao’s massive flotilla. Pang Tong tells General Zhou Yu, “On the river if one boat burns, the others will scatter unless someone can convince Cao Cao to connect up his ships.” Once in Cao Cao’s camp, Pang Tong observes sickness and death among the soldiers with symptoms of nausea and vomiting due to poor acclimation to the southern climate. Pang Tong disingenuously diagnoses the cause as the pitching and rolling of the ships and proposes binding the ships with planks to minimize the effects of the waves. In admiration of Pang Tong’s knowledge of the classics, Cao Cao orders the binding of his ships to preserve the health of his men. In preparation for battle, Cao Cao’s advisors question his decision to bind his already concentrated forces, alarmingly aware of their inability to disperse under attack from fire. Cao Cao retorts, “Any attack with fire must rely on the force of the wind. Now at winter’s depth, there are only north winds and west winds-how could there be a south wind or an east wind? Our position is northwest; their troops are all on the southern shore. If they use fire, they will only burn out their own troops.”

[19] The US force posture in the Asia-Pacific somewhat resembles Pang Tong’s boat connecting scheme with forces heavily concentrated toward Northeast Asia. Of the non-CONUS PACOM military and civilian personnel, over 60 percent are based in the relatively tiny land masses of Japan and Korea. CSIS, US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment, (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2012), 48.

[20] General Zhou Yu impatiently awaits the eastern winds to back the positioning of General Huang Gai’s vessels and fire and feints with the arrival of stronger western winds. Kongming secretly passes a note identifying the lack of eastern winds as the source of illness. In disbelief, General Zhou Yu pleads for a cure to the crisis.

[21] Guanzhong852.

[22] General Huang Gai prepares for the offensive and packs 20 boats with flammable materials for the false defection. At the signal of the eastern winds, General Huang Gai is to set sail for Cao Cao’s fleet as part of his sham surrender and ram the unsuspecting force with fire. An impatient General Zhou Yu observes no changes to the winds and proclaims Kongming’s forecast as absurd. At that moment, the winds arrive from the southeast.

[23] In both elation and dismay of the arrival of the eastern winds, General Zhou Yu orders the attack on Cao Cao’s forces. Cao Cao initially welcomes the anticipated false defection and absorption of additional forces. General Huang Gai lights his ships on fire and rams into the concentrated naval formation. The fire leaps forward in advance of the charging ships, with the eastern winds pushing at their stern, and ignites Cao Cao’s entire fleet.

[24] Thomas F. Aylward, The Imperial Guide to Feng Shui and Chinese Astrology: The Only Authentic Translation from the Original Chinese (London: Watkins Publishing, 2007), 50.

[25] Ibid.

[26] The Great Year is “a visible phenomenon that refers to the direction to which the handle of the Big Dipper points when the new moon appears in the same zodiacal sign as the planet Jupiter. Aylward, 48.

[27] According to a U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report in January of 2017, the position accuracies are estimated to be under ten meters (one meter or less with regional augmentation) using a network of 35 satellites.

[28] Jordan Wilson, “China’s Alternative to GPS and its Implication for the United States,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Staff Research Report, (January 5, 2017), 3.

[29] China is the source of 90 to 95 percent of world rare-earth oxides and the producer of a majority of the globe’s strongest rare-earth magnets. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the US was the global leader in rare-earth mining and production. Access to rare earth metals are required for platforms such as the F-35, Alreigh-Burke Destroyers, and the Virginia Class of submarines. Peter Grier, “Rare Earth Uncertainty,” Air Force Magazine, February 2018, available at http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2018/February%202018/Rare-Earth-Uncertainty.aspx.

[30] Sawyer, 180.

[31] The CJCS identified “solvency” as a threat he would add to the “4+1 framework” of challenges (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and VEOs) if he could. Indicators of US solvency are an example of what Chinese strategists may be prudently preparing for in transitioning from one hegemon to another. Fred Drews, “Joint Chiefs Chairman Dunford on the “4+1 framework” and meeting transnational threats,” Brookings Now, February 24, 2017, available at https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2017/02/24/joint-chiefs-chairman-dunford-transnational-threats.

[32] Fighting against a numerically superior force, Kongming preserves the dream of uniting the empire with the successful employment of technological advances until the indifferent leadership of Liu Bei’s son proves too much to overcome. Artifacts to his logistic and operational genius are the development of the single-wheel wheelbarrow, known as the “wooden ox”, and the repeating ten-shot crossbow. The technological innovations were developed to meet the requirements of overwhelming circumstances. Lesser known for his failures, he “was constrained by limited resources, impossible terrain, occasionally incompetent and obstreperous commanders, and a youthful, ignorant ruler.” The logistic challenges of projecting force over great distances with an inferior force and poor leadership prove too much for the relative technological advantage employed on the battlefield. Ralph D. Sawyer, Zhuge Liang: Strategy, Achievements, and Writings (North Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014),108.

[33] Mao Zedong makes a direct correlation to the masses and Proletariat with Kongming, emphasizing he does not need individual genius since collective wisdom can overcome anything. Indeed, the classic may support such a claim as it educates all levels of society from children to adults. In 1987, China Central Television constructed a Three Kingdoms theme park for both locals and tourists to relive the epic. The park attracts over 2 million visitors a year with the climactic Battle of Red Cliff as a main attraction. Further contributing to the collective wisdom, China Central Television produced an 84-episode series recounting the cyclical tales of division and reunification. Loyalty to the throne is a powerful message the government can embrace while corruption within the court as a causal factor of political decline is an equally attractive theme for the populace. At the 2014 Tokyo Game Show, video game maker Koei Tecmo announced the release of the 30th anniversary edition of Romance of the Three Kingdoms ensuring future generations will be familiar with heroes of the classicTouching even the elite in periphery nations, Japanese CEOs are known to recount their favorite episodes on competitive strategy in the business world.

[34] The U.S. force posture in the Asia-Pacific resembles Pang Tong’s boat connecting scheme with forces heavily concentrated toward Northeast Asia. According to the Aug 2012 CSIS Independent Assessment of US Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region,  over 60 percent of the U.S. Pacific Command military and civilian personnel not based in the continental United States itself are based in the relatively tiny land masses of Japan and Korea. At the Battle of Red Cliff, Pang Tong’s scheme binded concentrated enemy forces for their destruction through the use of fire with anticipation of changing winds.

[35] Kongming is known for more exploits than calling upon the Eastern Winds. Prior to the battle of Red Cliff, he turns a shortage of arrows into a surplus by absorbing the strength of his adversary in a naval engagement. Kongming incorporates deception by mimicking a large force attacking under the protection of fog, but his unorthodox knowledge of the imminent change in terrain to mask the true size of his force fascinates the aspiring strategist to this day. Even more astounding, his actions to reduce his own deadline to deliver the arrows and acting on the final day of the deadline resonates with the most selective of audiences. In a cognitive challenge from a treacherous ally, Kongming continuously spars to continue the game of relative appraisal until exiting at the time of his choosing


DIME, not DiME: Time to Align the Instruments of U.S. Informational Power

DIME, not DiME: Time to Align the Instruments of U.S. Informational Power

Donald M. Bishop 

 June 20, 2018

The officers I teach at Marine Corps University have long absorbed that American power has at least four elements—diplomatic, informational, military and economic. They use the shorthand DIME.[1] When they think of the instruments of informational power, however, what they call to mind is military information operations.

Their response tells a much larger story. First, U.S. informational power is much larger than military information operations alone. Their thinking also signals that the several instruments of U.S. informational power are hardly acquainted.

The challenges to American leadership and the international order—whether from nations like North Korea, China, Iran, and Russia, or from Islamism, runaway nationalism, terrorism, and disinformation—all have military, political, and economic dimensions, yes. All these adversaries, however, propagate ideas that challenge the norms that undergird peace, stability, order, democracy, and prosperity.[2] Ideas must engage ideas, so it’s time for the parts of the U.S. government that deploy informational power to work together.[3] Unifying them is a bridge too far. Something more simple—aligning—would be a good start.


The informational power of the United States mostly derives from higher education, the media, entertainment and film, advertising, U.S. content on the world wide web, libraries, museums, non-governmental organizations, endowments and foundations, and the growing status of American English as a world language. Unlike American military and diplomatic power, however, this informational power is not controlled, directed, or guided by presidential administrations, national security agencies, or military commands.

Four instruments of informational power areavailable to the U.S. government: public affairs by the White House and executive departments; the State Department’s overseas public diplomacy; information operations conducted by armed forces commands; and the five international broadcasting networks under the Broadcasting Board of Governors: the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio and Television Marti, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.[4]

There are several reasons why military students fail to consider the larger sum of informational power. On one hand, informational power and its elements have not been properly introduced in officer accessions programs and professional military education. The larger reason, however, is the four instruments are not unified, synchronized, or even coordinated. (That is, there’s no one button to push.) They have different authorities, appropriations streams, boundaries, lanes, rules, and doctrines. None have been funded to play in the big leagues. Sometimes they argue.[5] Even more telling, practitioners in one field are rarely aware of what the others do in theirs.

Initiatives, plans, and operations that integrate all the instruments of informational power can be more effective than those that rely on military information operations only, so these divisions enervate U.S. informational power. They narrow responses to foreign policy and national security challenges.


Public diplomacy in the State Department includes media relations, web presence, education and exchanges, conferencing, publications, cultural diplomacy, promoting study in the U.S., and English language programs.[6] Supplementing these traditional programs is a new unit, the Global Engagement Center, charged to lead “the U.S. government’s efforts to counter propaganda and disinformation from international terrorist organizations and foreign countries.”[7] Although one public diplomacy expert recently judged that the Center “has never achieved the takeoff stage,”[8] new funding provided by the National Defense Appropriation Act should energize it.[9]

If this seems a sprawling array of programs, all are directed toward U.S. goals through the State Department’s Integrated Country Strategy process.[10] All public diplomacy activities—informing, advocating, and persuading—aim to advance U.S. national interests and policies. Different programs have varied short-, mid-, and long-term effects that parallel the military concept of shaping.

While State’s public diplomacy officers know U.S. military commands practice something called information operations, they have characteristically leaned toward distrust of the concept. Foreign Service officers have gained first-hand knowledge of the armed forces during their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Special Operations Command deploys Military Information Support Teams to a few dozen U.S. embassies, but co-location has not fostered a sense of collaboration nor overcome public diplomacy’s unease with information operations.

The disquiet partly parallels the concerns of public affairs officers over deception and psychological operations among the functions of information operations. Resort to either would damage credibility. Compared to deployed military teams, the work of public diplomacy sections is usually unclassified, and it is fully attributed. Some Foreign Service people apprehend that information operations teams’ knowledge of a foreign nation’s politics, society, culture, and sensitivities are shallow. The cursory treatment of information operations in public diplomacy training is also a contributing factor.


Broadcasting Board of Governors Logo (Wikimedia)

The five networks under the Broadcasting Board of Governors broadcast in 61 languages—from Chinese, Russian, and Korean, to 16 African languages.[11] Shortwave, though still useful to reach a diminishing number of audiences, is a smaller portion of the technical mix, which now includes AM, FM, television, online channels, and multimedia social networks. Access through the internet and applications is on the rise.[12] Many users around the world tune in to the U.S. broadcasts via more than three thousand affiliated stations. Local broadcasters around the world highly value the Broadcasting Board of Governor’s training programs for their journalists.[13]

The language services know local societies, government media controls, and flows of information between home and diaspora communities. They apply the professional standards of journalism to their reports, features, and talk shows. They are not America’s version of Russia’s RT and Sputnik, or of the China Global Television Network.[14]

Congress and every administration since 1942 have committed the U.S. networks to truthful and accurate journalism, and statutory and policy firewalls guard their independence.[15] Even so, they are an important instrument of national power.[16] Leaders of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, assuming additional resources, have set a goal of 500 million users weekly, up from the 278 million today.[17]


As the U.S. faces new challenges and threats, national security and foreign policy thinkers join the media and public in sensing that information—disinformation, weaponization of information, propaganda, hybrid warfare, and cyber threats—is moving to the center of conflict. This has prompted fomented debate within the Department of Defense.[18]

Information operations include electronic warfare, computer network operations, operations security, military deception, and psychological operations. (The last two make many public diplomacy and public affairs practitioners blanch, but they need to join rather than turn away from the debate.) Scholars and practitioners much discuss terminology, with different specialists and different commands preferring influence or strategic communications. The Marine Corps now uses “operations in the information environment.”[19]

The public affairs and information operations specialists in the Department of Defense are well trained at their schoolhouses, but in my experience they exemplify a culture that incentivizes going it alone. Unaware of parallel work by others, they miss opportunities for cooperation.[20] Few armed forces practitioners, for instance, understand how to make working with an embassy a route to success. 

Public diplomacy at an embassy, in its Public Affairs Section, already has contacts in the media and society, knowledge of local patterns of communication, employees who understand different social and political groups, and bilingual staff. The embassy can flag local sensitivities and brief commanders who meet the press. The public affairs outcome for a visit or deployment will always be better if it is worked together with the public diplomacy people at an embassy. What’s true for public affairs applies to information operations as well.


U.S. Information Agency Logo (Wikimedia)

Understanding the need to integrate informational power into grand strategy, many advocate re-forming the U.S. Information Agency. During the Cold War, U.S. Information Agency was the government’s leading instrument of informational power.[21] After the fall of the Soviet Union, however, its budget and programs were rapidly curtailed as part of the peace dividend, and in 1999 a shrunken U.S. Information Agency was folded into the State Department. Their Voice of America and the other U.S. international broadcasting networks were placed under a new Broadcasting Board of Governors, further dispersing America’s informational power. The new organizational arrangements have engendered their own vested interests and turf protection which now slim prospects for necessary Congressional action. These political realities mean that unifying the four instruments may be a bridge too far, but better alignment is possible. The first steps in an alignment agenda are easy ones.

The National Security Advisor or the Secretary of State must take the first step, convening those who lead the instruments of informational power—the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, the CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command among them. Once alignment begins, ideas should move from the bottom up, but the process can only be launched from the top down. As Plutarch said, “nothing makes the horse so fat as the king’s eye.”[22]

At initial, highest-level meetings, each organization can discuss how it addresses a threat or an issue, preparing the ground for working groups, consultation, and planning. The low-hanging fruit can be addressed first. Public affairs, public diplomacy, broadcasting, and information operations must educate one another in their professional schools. Exercises and simulations need role players from all four informational communities. Personnel experts can arrange exchange tours to strengthen unified action in the future. At embassies, alignment means ensuring cooperation among all the embassy sections with information, awareness, education, and exchange programs.


9/11 revealed the challenges facing public diplomacy. Its ideological skills were rusty. It had not previously engaged publics animated by religion. Its information technology platforms were outdated. Older leaders did not foresee how transformative the social media would be. It was unprepared to address online radicalization, younger audiences, Russian disinformation, propaganda, and the kind of cyber-accelerated information warfare seen in Crimea, Ukraine, and the eastern borders of NATO. Meeting the needs of public diplomacy in Iraq and Afghanistan crowded out forward thinking. New funds sources were scarce.

Because public diplomacy is now housed in the State Department, moreover, it has been pigeonholed as the publicity arm of Foggy Bottom’s diplomacy (the "D" in DIME), diminishing its importance as an informational instrument. Its traditional formulas—“telling America’s story to the world,” “mutual understanding,” and “foundation of trust”—capture only some of what public diplomacy is about. Considering it as part of America’s soft power, robust integration into national security planning, and embracing the DIME concept of America’s national power can all upgrade public diplomacy’s self-concept.[23]

All the instruments of U.S. informational power must become stronger because of the surge of non-state actors in international affairs, the need to integrate advocacy and influence with more coercive tools of statecraft, and the urgency of again considering the war of ideas. [24] The information environment of the 21st century will feature contested narratives, information blocking, Islamist social media, Russia’s hybrid warfare, and China’s three warfares.[25] Public affairs, public diplomacy, the U.S. government’s international broadcasting networks, and information operations must face these together. Unaligned, U.S. informational power will be defeated in detail, pushed back by aggressive information adversaries.

Information at War: From China’s Three Warfares to NATO’s Narratives (Legatum Institute)

This is a tall order, and more funding is unlikely, but there’s plenty to do. First, Americans must think strategically about public affairs, public diplomacy, broadcasting, and information operations. DIME provides a framework. Alignment is the necessary first step.

Donald M. Bishop is the Bren Chair of Strategic Communications at Marine Corps University in Quantico. His 31-year career as a Public Diplomacy officer in the Foreign Service included details to the Pentagon as the Foreign Policy Advisor to two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the the Marine Corps University, the Department of the Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps or the U.S. Government.


Swiss Time Bank

Time Bank:

Swiss Time Bank

A student studying abroad in Switzerland observes the country in Switzerland:

While studying in Switzerland, I rented a house near the school. The landlord Kristina is a 67-year-old single old lady who worked as a teacher in a secondary school before she retired. Switzerland's pension is very rich, enough not to make her worry about eating and drinking in her later years. However, it is puzzling that she actually found a "work" - to take care of an 87-year-old single old man. I asked if she was working for money. Her answer surprised me: “I did not work for money, but I put my time in the ‘time bank’, and when I couldn’t move at old age, I could withdraw it.”

The first time I heard about the concept of "time bank", I was very curious and asked the landlord thoroughly. The original “Time Bank” was an old-age pension program developed by the Swiss Federal Ministry of Social Security. People saved the time of taking care of the elderly when they were young, and waited until they were old, ill or needed care. Applicants must be healthy, good at communicating and full of love. Every day they have plenty of time to look after the elderly who need help. Their service hours will be deposited into the personal accounts of the social security system. She went to work twice a week, spending two hours each time, to help the elderly shopping, finishing the room, taking the elderly out to sunbathe, chatting with the elderly. According to the agreement, after one year of her service expiry, “Time Bank” will count out her working hours and issue her a “time bank card”. When she needs someone to take care of her, she can use her “time bank card” to “time bank” to withdraw “time and time interest”. After the information verification is passed, “Time Bank” will assign volunteers to take care of her to the hospital or her home.

One day, I was in school and the landlady called and said she fell off the stool when she wiped the window. I quickly took leave and sent her to the hospital for treatment. The landlady broke her ankle and needed to stay in bed for a while. While I was preparing to apply for a holiday home to take care of her, the landlady told me that I did not have to worry about her. She had already submitted a withdrawal request to the “Time Bank”. Sure enough, less than two hours, "Time Bank" sent a nursing worker to come to care for the landlord. In the following month, the care worker took care of the landlord every day, chatted with her and made delicious meals for her. Under the meticulous care of the carer, the landlady soon recovered to health. After recovering, the landlady went back to "work".  She said that she intends to save time in the "time bank" when she is still healthy, and wait until she can't move.

Today, in Switzerland, the use of "time banks" to support old age has become a common practice. This not only saves the country pension expenses, but also solves some other social problems. Many Swiss citizens are very supportive of this kind of old-age pensions. The survey conducted by the Swiss pension organization shows that more than half of Swiss young people also want to participate in this type of old-age care service. The Swiss government also specializes in legislation to support the "Time Bank" pension.

June 20, 2018

Mapping Belt and Road Initiative


*The BRI has a growing security component*

It is clear by now that the BRI is about much more than gaining market access and shares, securing trade routes and energy supplies as well as exporting Chinese industrial overcapacities to far-away construction projects. The initiative is a key part of Xi Jinping’s grand foreign policy design to increase China’s influence in its regional neighborhood and beyond.

Over the past year, three themes have emerged that provide the context for Xi’s signature initiative: the BRI is a long-term project, it has a global scope, and it is not limited to economic goals, but also has a growing security component.

✔First, the BRI is here to stay. Initial doubts about the initiative’s longevity have been dispersed. In the fall of 2017, the BRI was introduced into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitution. The CCP is also ensuring a flow of financing into BRI projects. Even as it introduced capital controls that make it harder for Chinese companies to invest abroad, it still channels funds into specific sectors and regions – and BRI policy goals are a strategic priority. The excessive debt levels of many target countries receiving Chinese loans have, however, sparked concerns about the BRI’s financial sustainability and have made mobilizing private investments and commercial lending a priority for Beijing.


*The geographical scope of the BRI is constantly expanding*

✔Second, rather than remaining limited to initial target regions along historic land and maritime routes between China and Europe, the geographical scope of the BRI is constantly expanding. Last year, the “Vision for Maritime Cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative” introduced a new so-called economic passage through the Arctic to Europe (as marked in the map above). Beijing also signaled its intention to further expand the BRI into Latin America. The increasingly global scope of the BRI underlines that Beijing uses the initiative as a vehicle to frame and market its overall foreign policy. MERICS’ tracking efforts reflect this trend.  

✔Third, BRI is no longer limited to economic goals. The “Vision for Maritime Cooperation” includes a sub-chapter devoted to security issues as one of Beijing’s cooperation priorities. In view of China’s ballooning investments and growing Chinese expat communities in risk-prone countries, Beijing has become convinced that it has to take security concerns along the BRI routes in its own hands. In 2013, China adopted an anti-terrorism law allowing for foreign missions of PLA units, and it opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, a hub of the Maritime Silk Road. A new industry of Chinese private security companies is rapidly developing, providing protection to BRI projects. Beijing also touts its technological, law enforcement and military capabilities to countries covered by the BRI on security-related issues like satellite navigation, disaster management and combating crime.


🔴 *The BRI is not without controversy, for economic and political reasons*

✔First, the MERICS BRI database shows an uneven track record as to whether and when projects proceed from the planning and MoU stage. Blanket allegations that China fails to deliver on promised investments have proven to be unfounded. But China found some environments more difficult to operate in than expected, and expectations of fast results were disappointed in many target regions. Many initially enthusiastic governments, such as in Central Eastern Europe, now view the BRI more soberly.

✔Secondly, the BRI has raised suspicions about China’s global agenda and has provoked increasingly assertive counter-initiatives by other countries. The United States as well as regional powers in Asia and Europe have grown concerned about rising Chinese influence, partly built on Beijing’s propaganda outreach, partly on concrete infrastructure outcomes. Japan presented the “Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” (2015), and together with India launched the “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor” (2017). Joined by the United States and Australia, these countries now discuss harmonizing their efforts within the so-called “Quad,” initially a security dialogue format. The EU is working on a response strategy, which will likely be presented in October 2018. Lastly, Russia put forward its own “Greater Eurasia” economic integration concept with the aim to include member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and potentially ASEAN countries.

Building on a database that already contains more than 1,000 project entries – only projects above a 25 million USD project value threshold are included – MERICS aims to continuously monitor all these developments. In the months and years ahead we will publish a series of analytical pieces highlighting successes, failures and consequences of China’s BRI-related activities. Several thematic and regional maps will illustrate these articles and complement the above-shown BRI map

One Bill One Ruin (OBOR)  / Bankrupt Ruin Initiative (BRI)

Posted on June 19, 2018 by Nepal Matters for America

“One Bill One Ruin (OBOR)  / Bankrupt Ruin Initiative (BRI)”

Jennifer Loy interviews Priyajit Debsarkar, author of Pakistan’s Atlantique Attack & Arbitration  and the previous book The Last Raja of West Pakistan,  on China ’s OBOR/BRI and the motivations behind it.

In a simple way, can you explain China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR)/Belt Road Initiative (BRI)?

My honest candid explanation would be one Belt of Debt, Road to nowhere. One Road Multiple traps. One Bill One Ruin (OBOR)  / Bankrupt Ruin Initiative (BRI).

Do you believe Xi Jinping’s intentions are truly economic and almost nation-building, or do you think there are military motives as well?

Most certainly martial myth of double digit growth to keep the deep seeded socio- economic issues at bay. Domestic debt, poverty and climate change linked pollution are the key spheres that President Xi should concentrate on.

The BRI is an incredible endeavor, a modern Silk Road.  How is the Chinese government funding this project?

Estimates for the capital needs of projects under its scope range from US$4 trillion to US$8 trillion over an indefinite period. China will try to provide concessional funding through institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund, But Chinese banks alone will not be able to fully fund these Belt and Road projects as the scale of the initiative expands. That’s when private capital will come in and public-private partnerships (PPP) have an important role to play. Port in Pakistan, Bridges in Bangladesh and Railways to Russia can’t be conceived out of thin air.

4. How do the Chinese people view such an extensive project?

I really doubt how much information the common Chinese has access to make an educated assessment of the entire project. It’s highly likely they will not have access to any real-time debt to GDP figures at best they can guess.

BRI projects would truly benefit the host nation if locals are employed.  Where are examples that they have been?

The best example is Tibet were locals have been involved in Chinese sponsored infrastructure development model.

6. In Xi Jinping’s first address to the UN in 2013, he stressed, “We should build partnerships in which countries treat each other as equals, engage in mutual consultation, and show mutual understanding.”  I feel this does not prove true today with Sino-Indian relations, especially as China is gaining influence in South Asia.  What can you say to this in terms of the BRI?

Delhi-Beijing aligning can work to Kabul’s advantage; this was reportedly decided at the informal summit in Wuhan on April 27-28 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. If this gets operationalized, it has the potential to reshape the geopolitics in and around Afghanistan.

India appears to be losing influence in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.  What do they need to do to regain this, or should they wait and see how the BRI aids the region?

India must show pivotal role to ensure Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation emerges the prime alliance in South East Asia a beacon of hope in the region.

A couple months ago, India and China “reset” their relations. Was this for show or do you think it has worked?

China inaugurated its first overseas military base in Djibouti, increasing India’s anxiety about China’s growing profile in western Indian Ocean; maybe the Reset Button is made in China.

It appears Nepali Prime Minister Oli is interested in increasing relations with China.  Besides China Telcom Global and a Beijing funded railway into China, what other projects will Nepal benefit from with the BRI?

India and Nepal agree on key infrastructure and agriculture projects, two countries agree to expand rail links from Raxaul to Kathmandu apart from key Electricity projects. It’s not all doom and gloom. India and Nepal are connected by the same umbilical cord after all.

With positive and seemingly strengthening Sino-Nepali relations, it is odd that in early May Nepal withdrew from the Budhi Gandaki hydroelectricity project. Can you elaborate?

“Political prejudice or pressure from rival companies may have been instrumental in the scrapping of the project. But for us, hydropower is a main focus and come what may, we will revive the Budhi Gandaki project”, these are Nepal PM K P Oli’s own words; it can rise as a phoenix.

How far do you think Sino-Nepali relations can extend before India intervenes, perhaps militarily?

The historical angle of Gorkha war, an invasion of Tibet by Nepal from 1788-1792 should be made more accessible to the youth of today to understand the founding stone of Sino- Nepali Relationships.

In 2017 at the World Expo in Astana, Kazakhstan, the China Pavillion was concerned with clean, green technology. How have they already taken steps to implement this within the BRI?

Yes they have progressed – A new report released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) delves deep into the country’s efforts to lead the world in laying an international foundation for renewable energy generation.

Chinese tourists make up the largest percentage in the Maldives.  How will the BRI improve the Maldivan economy besides tourism?

Ex-president Mohamed Nasheed said Chinese interests had leased at least 16 islets among the 1,192 scattered coral islands and were building ports and other infrastructure there, they are on route of becoming the Sri Lanka 2.

Besides the 99-year lease on the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, how else will the BRI affect the island nation?

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport is a perfect example of Ghost town developmental model which will benefit the Island Kingdom.

The landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan is secluded and unique because of its geography as well as its environment and lifestyle.  Will the BRI affect it?

The taste of Doklam dim sums along with a fuzzy Beijing bluff  will live in the memories of Bhutan for a long time to come.

Bangladesh is often a forgotten South Asian nation.  It is poor and suffers from great infrastructure concerns and it would greatly benefit from the BRI.  Are there any such projects?

The Dhaka Stock Exchange is the most recent Sino-progress in Bangladesh. It will not benefit in the long run as China has aggressively in recent times come up with export oriented finished garments. The political leadership in Bangladesh has resolved a 70- year old land dispute with India in the most amicable way possible. They are working closely to implement the Indira Mujib Accord signed in 1971.

What are the prospects for Gwadar and Kyaukphyu as Indian Ocean ports for China to decrease sea shipping?

The string of Pearls from Myanmar to West Pakistan might not be beneficial to the dreams of Deep Sea shipping alternatives for China. With regards to Pakistan the entire region from Kashgar to Gwadar is plagued with security concerns and runs into foreign sovereign disputed territory. With an impending IMP bailout package with high premium of FATF black list its most likely to derail.

How is the “China Model” affecting nations in Africa?

Offer the honey of cheap infrastructure loans, with the sting of default coming if smaller economies can’t generate enough free cash to pay their interest down. It’s a road of multiple traps.

The BRI will extend to Europe eventually. Explain those that are and are not interested and their reasoning.

Only if it succeeds to lift off in Asia and Africa, which looks highly unlikely at the present time.

Xi described the BRI as a “win-win” for the nations involved.  I understand it is too soon to truly tell.  Regardless, what needs to happen for it to be a “win-win” for those involved?

Win for some, Multiple Debt trap for all.

Jennifer is a Research Associate at Nepal Matters for America, Washington DC.

Photo Courtesy: South China Morning Post


World Security Update: JustSecurity

Be sure to visit www.justsecurity.org throughout the day for the latest analysis from the Just Security team. 



North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is visiting China today and tomorrow,according to Chinese state media. The trip follows Kim’s summit with President Trump in Singapore last week and is his third visit to China in three months, Jeremy Page and Chun Han Wong report at the Wall Street Journal.

The announcement of the visit marked a departure from protocol, as Beijing usually waits until after North Korean leaders have left to acknowledge their visits. Lucy Hornby and Charles Clover report at the Financial Times.

It is expected that Kim will discuss sanctions and – at least in general terms – the commitments towards denuclearization that he made at the Singapore summit, the BBC reports.

“We hope this visit can help to further deepen China-North Korea relations, strengthen strategic communication between both countries on important issues and promote regional peace and stability,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing. Ben Blanchard and Christine Kim report at Reuters.

Details of Kim’s itinerary have not been released, but the timing of the visit serves as an indication of Beijing’s key role in diplomacy on the continent, with one Beijing policy analyst commenting that “although it seems there is a booming romance between Kim Jong-un and Trump, Kim understands the hierarchy, he knows that [Chinese President] Xi is the Asian Godfather.” Emily Rouhala reports at the Washington Post.

Kim’s visit will allow China to highlight its crucial role in U.S. efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, with the U.S. having long hoped that China will exert its influence on the North. Christopher Bodeen and Dake Kang report at the Washington Post.

Kim’s visit coincides with a major trade conflict between the U.S. and China, enabling Kim to play one side against the other. Kim appears to arrive in Beijing with some degree of leverage; although China has backed U.N. sanctions against North Korea, it has recently indicated it is willing to offer Pyongyang economic assistance – in a move some see as intended to anger Washington, Jane Perlez reports at the New York Times.

China’s priorities for talks with Kim will be to ensure that Beijing is included in any peace treaty talks, and to move towards creating an environment on the Korean Peninsula that will make it unnecessary for U.S. troops to remain. Al Jazeerareports.

The Pentagon announced yesterday that it had agreed with South Korea to cancel the major Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint exercise scheduled for August,in keeping with Trump’s pledge to halt “war games” while negotiations are in play with North Korea. Gordon Lubold and Michael R. Gordon report at the Wall Street Journal.

“Consistent with President Trump’s commitment and in concert with our Republic of Korea ally, the United States military has suspended all planning for this August’s defensive ‘war game,’” commented Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White in a statement released last night. White added that “we are still coordinating additional actions … no decisions on subsequent war games have been made,” Eric Schmidtt reports at the New York Times.

South Korea presented a united front with the U.S. with Seoul’s defense ministry claiming that the decision was necessary to support ongoing talks both countries have with the North. Ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo comment “South Korea and the U.S. made the decision as we believe this will contribute to maintaining such momentum,” Kim Tong-Hyung reports at theWashington Post.

“If you are not attending to your security and continuing to advance your capabilities, then you’ll be in danger … security is a temporary condition,”cautioned Chief of U.S. Forces Korea and U.N. Command Gen. Vincent Brooks, the general who is ultimately responsible for South Korean security. Demetri Sevastopulo and Bryan Harris report at the Financial Times.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said yesterday that he will likely travel back to North Korea “before too terribly long,” in an attempt to flesh out the commitments made at the Singapore summit last week. Pompeo made the remarks at a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, and added that it was “hard to know” whether a second summit would be required between Trump and Kim, David Brunnstrom reports at Reuters.

Pompeo said yesterday that Trump agreed to “alter the armistice agreement” that brought Korean War fighting to a close in exchange for denuclearization,adding that Kim “has made very clear his commitment to fully denuclearize his country… that’s everything, right. It’s not just the weapons systems. It’s everything. I return for that, the president has committed to making sure that we alter the armistice agreement, provide the security assurances that chairman Kim needs.” Rebecca Kheel reports at the Hill.

Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said that he appreciated the reasons for the decision to cancel the exercises, but stressed the need for the two countries to continue their other joint drills which he described as “important pillars” for maintaining regional peace and stability, adding that plans for U.S.-Japan exercises have not been affected. Kim Tong Hyung reports at the A.P.

The Russian Foreign Ministry today welcomed the suspension of the drills,according to Interfax news agency. Katya Golubkova reports at Reuters.

An explainer on U.S.-South Korean “war games” is provided by the A.P.

It is a moral and strategic imperative for the U.S. to stand with North Korean dissidents, Natan Sharansky comments at the Washington Post.



The Department of Justice (D.O.J.) Inspector General Michael Horowitz disputed Trump’s claim that his report exonerated the president with regard to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, saying during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that he “didn’t look into collusion questions” and his investigators did not look at the Russia probe being led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Sadie Gurman and Del Quentin Wilber report at the Wall Street Journal.

Horowitz will issue a report on former F.B.I. Director James Comey’s handling of memos detailing his conversations with Trump, the Inspector General said at the hearing yesterday. Olivia Beavers reports at the Hill.

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that his demand for the Mueller investigation to be suspended following the release of the Inspector General’s report was just for show, explaining yesterday that his calls for Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to “redeem themselves” was what he’s “supposed to do” because he’s not a “sucker.” Darren Samuelsohn reports at POLITICO.

“I have spoken voluntarily to Congress and I also cooperated with the special counsel,” Erik Prince, the Trump ally and founder of the private security company Blackwater, has said in an interview with Betsy Woodruff at The Daily Beast, defending himself after coming under scrutiny for his reported meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Lebanese American businessman George Nader and the Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel at Trump Tower in August 2016, and his meeting with a senior Russian official during the presidential transition.



Yemeni government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition today entered the airport compound in the port city of Hodeidah following intense battles with the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels currently in control of the city. The storming of the airport comes amid the ongoing pro-government forces and Saudi-led coalition offensive on Hodeidah which, if captured, would mark a turning point in the Yemeni conflict, Mohammed Ghobari reporting at Reuters.

Around 26,000 people have sought safety during the offensive on Hodeidah,the spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said yesterday, adding that “the number is expected to increase as hostilities continue.” Al Jazeera reports.

“There can be no conditions in any offers to withdraw,” the U.A.E.’s Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash told reporters yesterday, explaining that the coalition’s approach “is one of gradual, calibrated and methodical pressure designed for unconditional withdrawal of Houthis.” Patrick Wintour reports at the Guardian.

“The crisis in Yemen should be resolved through political channels … a military approach will fail,” the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call to Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani yesterday, according to Iranian state media. Reuters reports.



The Turkish Armed Forces and U.S. Armed Forces have begun “independent patrol activities” in northern Syria as per the Manbij roadmap agreed by the two countries, the Turkish military said yesterday, referring to the tensions over the U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish Y.P.G. militia in the area, which Ankara deems to be a terrorist organization, and an extension of the separatist Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.). Reuters reports.

Turkey has expanded its military, political and economic influence in northern Syria. There is speculation that its deepening hold is intended to revive imperial territorial claims to Syrian provinces and to increase its standing when it comes to negotiating Syria’s future, Sarah El Deeb reports at the AP.

Israel was behind Sunday’s attack on pro-Syrian government forces near the southern city of Albu Kamal, a U.S. official said yesterday, making the comments after Syrian state media accused the U.S.-led coalition of being responsible for the airstrikes near the Iraq-Syria border, which caused multiple casualties. Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Oren Liebermann report at CNN.

“We are not commenting on foreign reports,” a spokesperson for the Israeli military said today in response to the claim by the U.S. official. The AFP reports.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry condemned the airstrike near Albu Kamal in a statement issued today, after Iraqi Shi’ite militias and Syria accused the U.S.-led coalition of carrying out Sunday’s airstrikes. The AP reports.

Talks in Geneva between representatives of Russia, Iran and Turkey will begin today to discuss establishing a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria,however the U.N. envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura conceded that he does not expect “a major breakthrough” but is “confident progress is possible.” Barbara Bibbo reports at Al Jazeera.

U.S.-led airstrikes continue. U.S. and coalition forces carried out 26 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq between June 11 and June 17. [Central Command]



Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that the Palestinian leadership rejects the Trump administration’s plan to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, as it believes the U.S. intends to create a diplomatic rift between Gaza and the West Bank. A statement issued by Abbas’ spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh accused the U.S. administration of working with Israel to separate Gaza from the West Bank under the pretense of “humanitarian aid or rehabilitation,” with the goal of ending Palestinian attempts to establish an independent state, Jack Khoury and Amir Tibon report at Haaretz.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the Jordanian capital of Amman to discuss regional developments, with Netanyahu’s office announcing yesterday that “Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to maintaining the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem.” Al Jazeera reports.

President Trump became the fourth consecutive U.S. president to uphold a decades-long commitment – contained in a secret letter – not to press Israel to give up its nuclear weapons, after a delegation of senior Israeli officials met with the then-national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House in 2017, according to a report published in The New Yorker yesterday. The delegation including ambassador Ron Dermer met with officials at the White House to discuss signing the letter, but Flynn resigned amid the Russia scandal later that day, Haaretzreports.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has said that the intensification of violence in Gaza is “a warning to all how close to the brink of war the situation is,” and is urging leaders on both sides to recommit to the ceasefire that ended the 2014 war. Edith M. Lederer reports at the Washington Post.

A 24-year old Palestinian man was killed yesterday when a section of Israel’s fortifications on the Gaza border blew up as he tampered with it, according to the Israeli Defense Forces. Nidal al-Mugrhabi reports at Reuters.



The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will travel to Switzerland and Austria next month, the Swiss and Austrian government have said, with the visit to the neutral European countries coming amid attempts to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement in May. Reutersreports.

Iran has no plans to extend the range of its missiles, a commander for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C.) Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said today, also reiterating that Iran would not negotiate with President Trump over Iran’s regional influence and that Iranian politicians and activists who favored a new round of talks were “traitors and anti-revolutionaries.” Bozorgmehr Sharafedin reports at Reuters.

The former Israeli government minister Gonen Segev was indicted by state prosecutors last week for allegedly spying for Iran, the Israeli Security Agency and the Israeli Police said in a statement yesterday. Ruth Eglash reports at theWashington Post.



At least four members of Afghanistan’s security forces were killed today by Taliban fighters targeting checkpoints in northern Kunduz province, according to a provincial official. The AP reports.

Uzbekistan has invited Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban to hold peace talks on its territory, the Uzbek foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday, explaining that it was ready to “create, at any stage of the peace process, all the necessary conditions for setting up direct talks.” Reuters reports.



“We must have American dominance in space … I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” President Trump said yesterday at the White House during a meeting of his National Space Council, describing the new force as being “separate but equal” to the Air Force. Betsy Klein reports at CNN.

“We don’t want China and Russia and other countries leading us … We’re going to be the leader by far,” Trump said yesterday, framing the new force as being important for U.S. national security. Andy Pasztor reports at the Wall Street Journal.

An act of Congress is needed to create a new branch of the military, experts have said in response to Trump’s announcement. Geoff Brumfiel and David Welna explain at NPR.



Former C.I.A. coder Joshua Adam Schulte has been indicted for computer hacking and espionage, allegedly having passed on the agency’s computer intrusion secrets to WikiLeaks, the Justice Department announced yesterday. Schulte was already in federal custody in Manhattan on child-porn charges and if convicted, he likely faces decades in prison, Kevin Poulsen reports at The Daily Beast.

“Schulte utterly betrayed this nation and downright violated his victims,” F.B.I. official William Sweeney Jr. said in the Justice Department press release, adding that “as an employee of the C.I.A., Schulte took an oath to protect this country, but he blatantly endangered it by the transmission of Classified Information.” Avery Anapol reports at the Hill.



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone yesterday to discuss Syria and North Korea. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that the two senior politicians also discussed “some aspects of bilateral relations, including the schedule of political contacts between Russia and the U.S. for the near future,” the A.P. reports.

Pompeo “re-emphasized the U.S. commitment to the southwest ceasefire arrangement that was approved by President Trump and President Putin one year ago,” according to the U.S. State Department, which also claimed in a statement that Pompeo “noted that it was critical for Russia and the Syrian regime to adhere to these arrangements and ensure no unilateral activity in this area.” The statement did not mention whether the two diplomats talked about the Korean Peninsula, Katya Golubkova reports at Reuters.

The Austrian capital of Vienna is under consideration as the location for a potential summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, two sources familiar with the discussions said yesterday. The sources added that the meeting could take place in advance of a July 11-12 N.A.T.O. summit in Brussels that Trump is expected to attend, the comments following Trump’s assertion to reporters on Friday that it was possible that he would meet Putin this summer, Steve Holland reports at Reuters.

The Kremlin said today that there are no plans for a meeting between Trump and Putin ahead of the N.A.T.O. summit, according to Interfax news agency. Katya Golubkov reports at Reuters.

The State Department yesterday urged Russia to release more than 150 political and religious prisoners, accusing Moscow of returning to “cruel Soviet-era practices” to suppress dissent, with one senior State Department official commenting that “the number of these cases involving Russia is growing rapidly…we have seen a threefold increase since 2014.” The renewed concern largely relates to Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Senstov, who opposed the Russia annexation of Crimea and is currently on a hunger strike in a Russian prison where he is serving a 20-year sentence on terrorism charges, Michael R. Gordon reports at the Wall Street Journal.



Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have increased after the U.S. Senate voted yesterday to prohibit the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. Katrina Manson and Laura Pitel report at the Financial Times.

The Senate yesterday voted 85-10 to pass the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (N.D.A.A.), which provides for around $716bn in spending. Jordain Carney reports at the Hill.