South Korea Bolsters Defense Collaboration in the Arabian Peninsula

K239 Chunmoo Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS).

“…The two sides agreed to further develop the bilateral relationship to a ‘future-oriented strategic partnership’…”

South Korea is showing itself to be a potentially important player in the security landscape of the Arabian Peninsula thanks to deepening defense cooperation with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The most tangible Korean inroads in this regard have come from arms sales. In 2021, the UAE became the first publicly known export destination for the South Korean-produced K239 Chunmoo rocket artillery system[GRLCUT(1] . Similarly, in 2022, the UAE became the first export destination for the South Korean-produced KM-SAM (Cheongung II) air defense system[GRLCUT(2] . For its part, in April 2023, Saudi Arabia revealed its own previously undisclosed K239s, deployed along its border with Yemen.  The revelation came in a video posted on Twitter by the Saudi defense ministry. This disclosure follows a visit in March 2023 of Saudi Arabia’s defense minister to South Korea. As noted in the first accompanying excerpt, from South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the trip may have been partly related to Saudi interest in acquiring KM-SAM systems. South Korea appears poised to become an important actor in the lucrative Gulf states arms market.

Saudi Arabia aspires to develop a robust indigenous defense industry, in line with the country’s Vision 2030 strategic development plan. China has emerged as an important partner in these efforts; South Korea, it seems, is well positioned to follow suit.[i] Beyond merely arms sales, South Korean defense companies have shown a willingness to establish joint production ventures with countries in the Middle East.[ii] In 2019, leading Saudi and South Korean defense entities signed a memorandum to form a Riyadh-based joint venture company focused on manufacturing and selling ammunition inside Saudi Arabia, to be called SAMI-Hanwha Munitions Systems. As reported in the second excerpted article, from the South Korean English-language daily Korea JoongAng Daily, the same entities inked a contract worth nearly $1 billion involving undisclosed “support for Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities and supply chain services” at the 2022 Saudi World Defense Show. 


“S. Korean, Saudi defense chiefs agree on regular ministerial dialogue on defense cooperation,” Yonhap News Agency (South Korea news agency), 7 March 2023.

The defense chiefs of South Korea and Saudi Arabia agreed Tuesday to install a regular ministerial-level dialogue on arms industry cooperation during their talks in Seoul, the defense ministry here said… [South Korean Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup] expressed expectations that ongoing negotiations on South Korea’s defense exports to Saudi Arabia will be concluded successfully, while explaining progress that the country’s arms industry has made. The ministry did not elaborate on the negotiations. Saudi Arabia is known to be considering the introduction of the South Korean-made Cheongung II midrange surface-to-air missile system.

“Time is ripe for Korea to sell Saudi Arabia more weapons,” Korea JoongAng Daily (South Korean English-language daily), 16 November 2022.  

Hanwha’s contract, worth 3 billion riyals, entails company support for Saudi Arabia’s defense capabilities and supply chain services. Both sides declined to specify which weapons would be supported under the agreement, citing a confidentiality clause. 


[i] For more on Chinese inroads in Gulf country defense industries, see: Lucas Winter, “Chinese-Arab Summit Signals Growing Saudi-Chinese Defense Alignment,” OE Watch, 2-2023.

[ii] Last year, South Korea and Egypt signed a sale and co-production deal for the Korean K-9 howitzer. For more on the deal, see: “Egypt, South Korea sign deals for joint manufacturing of K-9 howitzers.” al-Ahram (Egyptian daily), 26 February 2022.,-South-Korea-sign-deals-for-joint-manufactur.aspx

Image Information:

Image:  K239 Chunmoo Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Attribution: CC 3.0

Micronesian President Warns Against Chinese External Influence Operations

Federated States of Micronesian President David Panuelo.

Federated States of Micronesian President David Panuelo.

“I believe that our values are presently being used against us. One of the reasons that China’s political warfare is successful in so many arenas is that we are bribed to be complicit, bribed to be silent.”

According to the excerpted article from the Asia-focused outlet, The Diplomat, outgoing Micronesian President David Panuelo recently warned of Beijing’s efforts to shape his country’s external operational environment via “political warfare”[i]and “gray zone operations.” To mitigate the China’s influence, Panuelo suggested that Micronesia switch diplomatic allegiance from China to Taiwan in exchange for Taiwan providing Micronesia with $50 million. The 13-page warning[ii]  letter detailed Chinese covert, coercive, and corrupting influence activities in Micronesia, including bribery, spying, and other external interference. 

Panuelo provided examples stating a former Chinese ambassador had tried to bribe Vice President Palik with an envelope of cash to be seated in a place of prominence at a Chinese Embassy Banquet. When Palik refused, the Chinese ambassador said something to the effect of “you could be President someday.” At the July 2023 Pacific Islands Forum, Paneulo relayed that he was followed by a People’s Liberation Army intelligence officer stationed at the Chinese Embassy in Fiji. The letter also recounts Chinese efforts to manufacture international support for China at the China-Pacific Island Countries Political Dialogue by having a Micronesian private citizen represent the Micronesia when the Micronesian government declined to attend a meeting of the regional multilateral forum. In response to these claims, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson derided Panuelo’s assertions as “smear[s] and accusations…completely inconsistent with the facts,” adding Beijing has “always respected Micronesia’s development path that it has chosen in light of its own national conditions and has supported the Micronesian side in safeguarding its independence.” While it remains to be seen if Micronesia will pursue the diplomatic shift Panuelo proposed after he steps down from office, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has expressed concerns over the burden such “dollar diplomacy” would put on Taiwan.[iii]


“Micronesia’s President Writes Bombshell Letter on China’s ‘Political Warfare’,” The Diplomat (international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region), 10 March 2023.

It is on this basis that Political Warfare and Grey Zone activity occur within our borders; China is seeking to ensure that, in the event of a war in our Blue Pacific Continent between themselves and Taiwan, that the FSM is, at best, aligned with the PRC (China) instead of the United States and, at worst, that the FSM chooses to ‘abstain’ altogether.

We understand that Mr. Wu [Beijing’s choice for ambassador to FSM] would, upon his arrival, be given the mission of preparing the FSM to shift away from its partnerships with traditional allies such as the U.S., Japan, and Australia. We know that Mr. Wu would expand PRC security activity, awareness, and interest in the FSM … I declined the Ambassador-designate his position … they’re simply awaiting the new President to take power so Mr. Wu can become the Ambassador of China to the FSM.

You can imagine my surprise when I was followed this past July in Fiji during the Pacific Islands Forum by two Chinese men; my further surprise when it was determined that they worked for the Chinese Embassy in Suva; my even further surprise when it was discovered that one of them was a PLA intelligence officer; and my continued surprise when I learned that I had multiple Cabinet and staff who had met him before, and in the FSM. To be clear: I have had direct threats against my personal safety from PRC officials acting in an official capacity.

Ambassador Qian was formerly the ambassador to Fiji – and by extension was the one responsible for  authorizing the two Chinese to follow me in Suva. ,,, Ambassador Qian also would have been present during the 2nd China-PICS Political Dialogue. That itself is noteworthy insofar as that was the public meeting where the FSM Government found itself represented not by myself or a Cabinet member or even a member of our Foreign Service – indeed not by anyone in our Government at all but, rather, a private citizen named Mr. Duhlen Soumwei. I said to the PRC that we would not have formal representation at the meeting, and the PRC went to the extent of taking one of our citizens and then publicly having that citizen formally represent us. To say it again: China has established a precedent of taking out private citizens in multilateral meetings to formally represent our country without our Government’s awareness or approval thereof.

In November, 2021 – after the Secretary of Health and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and myself had changed cellphone numbers due to incessant calls from Ambassador Huang – the FSM signed an agreement that we accept the Chinese vaccines. We included various stipulations, such as that they were to be used only for citizens of China in the FSM; but that wasn’t what China wanted. What China wanted was for the FSM to be on the list of countries that they could publicly promote as having accepted their vaccines. China got exactly what it wanted.

Senior officials and elected officials across the whole of our National and State Governments receive offers of gifts as a means to curry favor. The practical impact of this is that some senior officials and elected officials take actions that are contrary to the FSM‘s national interest, but are consistent with the PRC‘s national interests.

This isn’t rare. This happens all the time, and to most of us – not just some of us. It is at this point that I relay, simply as a point of information, that 39 out of 50 members of Parliament in Solomon Islands received payments from China prior to their vote on postponing elections that were otherwise scheduled for this year. Have you personally received a bribe from the PRC? If the answer is “no,” you are in the minority.When we sent our own patrol boats to our own Exclusive Economic Zone to check on PRC research vessel activity, the PRC sent a warning for us to stay away.


[i] Political warfare [政治战] seeks to mobilize and utilize the spectrum of strategic resources (party, state, military, commercial, and civilian) to influence the conduct, policies, motives, and perceptions of foreign actors in a manner favorable to the strategic objectives of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Political warfare differs from public diplomacy in its lack of transparency and calculated manipulation of a target to influence its norms, policies, and strategies through inducive and coercive methods of persuasion. For a more detailed exploration of the CCP’s political warfare and political work concepts, see: Mark Stokes and Russell Hsiao, “The People’s Liberation Army General Political Department: Political Warfare with Chinese Characteristics,” Project 2049 Institute, 14 October 2013, and for more on the PLA’s conception of political warfare, see: Peter Mattis, “China’s ‘Three Warfares’ in Perspective,” War on the Rocks, 30 January 2018.

[ii] For the full report see: LinkedIn Post, 10 March 2023.

[iii] “MOFA Response to Comments that Taiwan is Seeking New Allies through ‘Dollar Diplomacy’,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of China (Taiwan), 10 March 2023.

Image Information:

Image: Federated States of Micronesian President David Panuelo
Attribution: Public Domain

Chinese Military Researchers Debut “Precision Strike” Concept for Cognitive Domain Operations

Cognitive Change Cycle with Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations.

Cognitive Change Cycle with Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations.

“The continuous application of artificial intelligence, big data, and other technologies [equip] the technically advantaged party with the ability to swiftly and efficiently collect cognitive data and then discover the weaknesses, sensitivities, and points of ignition in the adversary’s cognitive system.”

Researchers with China’s National University of Defense Technology (NUDT)[i] recently published an article outlining a framework for “precision strike” in covert efforts by the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) to shape foreign audiences’ perceptions and behaviors. While the article is not singularly authoritative, the concept of precision strike broadly represents a military framing of the Chinese Communist Party’s “precise communication”[ii] external propaganda strategy, which uses consumer data to segment target audiences so that messaging can be crafted to successfully influence those audiences’ perceptions and behaviors.

In the NUDT researchers’ concept, behavioral data collection and algorithmic targeting enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and machine learning (ML) technologies are seen as the “fuel” and “engine” of cognitive domain operations. They facilitate the monitoring, collection, analysis, and evaluation of a target audience to sketch an “intelligent portrait” of its beliefs, values, opinions, and behaviors over time. Dynamic pool-based labeling[iii] and ML predictive models can then identify changing cognition and can suggest a time and place to inject bespoke messaging to maximize the impact of its messaging.

The authors assert tailored content is the “ammunition” of precision strike cognitive domain operations. The authors suggest that tailored content should match an audience’s cognitive profile to core messaging themes that align with their values. These may include legal persuasion, military deterrence, contradiction and diversion, emotional appeal, righteous guidance, and martial mobilization.[iv] The authors further conceive that such messaging could be used to build “information cocoons,”[v] or insulated and self-reinforcing media ecosystems that limit a target audience’s exposure to outside information. However, they do not suggest solutions for how Chinese propaganda and cognitive warfare practitioners could overcome what Chinese strategic communications experts often refer to as Western dominance in the international media layout,[vi] or the fact that Western media and social media platforms have effectively monopolized international news feeds through first mover advantages.

Finally, the NUDT researchers consider social media to be both the “delivery vehicle and battlefield” for cognitive domain precision strikes. The authors assert Western social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are the key arena where China is competing for the hearts and minds of overseas audiences. Specifically, they assert Facebook is used for agenda-setting (what the authors call “preempting”),[vii] while Twitter and YouTube are used for coordinating actions and disseminating content, respectively, which the authors call “bombardment.” Precision strike’s parallels to precision communication showcases the degree to which PLA information and psychological operations are informed by the CCP’s propaganda work. While detailed open-source analysis of PLA information and psychological operations planning remains scant, analysis of China’s broader propaganda ecosystem can inform information operations and psychological operations practitioners as to how the PLA will seek to influence foreign audiences in the future.


“如何实现认知域作战精准打击? (How to Achieve Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations?),” PLA Daily (official news outlet of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army), 13 March 2023.

Cognitive domain operations should grasp the rhythm and strength of “temporal immersion” – select the right delivery time according to the target’s cognitive dynamics, and gradually seek to expand the effects. Before the target audience forms an initial understanding of an event, we should seize the priority of information dissemination and “bombard” them with information to strive to “preempt.” In addition, during the fermentation stage of an event, when the subject’s cognition is not yet solidified, repeated dissemination of specified information can achieve the purpose of subconsciously reconstructing the subject’s cognition.


[i] The National University of Defense Technology (NUDT, 中国人民解放军国防科技大学) oversees some of China’s top computer sciences, cyber, information and communications engineering, and intelligence portfolios. For more on NUDT, see: National University of Defense Technology (中国人民解放军国防科技大学), in China Defense Universities Tracker, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), 23 November 2019.

[ii] For more on precise communication and the CCP’s broader external propaganda strategy, see: Devin Thorne, “1 Key for 1 Lock: The Chinese Communist Party’s Strategy for Targeted Propaganda,” Recorded Future, 28 September 2022.

[iii] “Dynamic pool-based labeling,” or “label pooling” (标签池) is a category of machine learning algorithms and subset of semi-supervised learning that ranks all unlabeled instances according to informativeness measurement and selects the best queries to annotate. The authors reference Cambridge Analytica as a model of such methods.

[iv] The authors do not distinguish between cognitive domain operations for overseas audiences and domestic. However, CCP researchers have discussed elements of legal persuasion in the context of sovereign claims over disputed territories. PLA researchers have frequently asserted its messaging can serve to mobilize domestic will-to-fight as a deterrence mechanism to weaken foreign audiences’ resolve to fight and win. Recent PLA propaganda research asserts that Syria’s use of women and children in anti-foreign intervention emotional appeals has successfully impacted support for foreign intervention.

[v] “Information cocoon” (信息茧房) refers to the phenomenon that people’s attention to information domains is likely to be habitually guided by their interests, and thus their exposure and consumption of novel ideas.

[vi] International media layout (国际媒体布局), as opposed to international media structure (国际媒体格局), refers to the strength, structure, and strategy of (in this context) a country’s international media penetration and influence.

[vii] PLA researchers broadly recognize the influence of first impressions and identify first-mover advantages as key to winning in the cognitive domain.

Image Information:

Image: Cognitive Change Cycle with Precision Strike in Cognitive Domain Operations
Source: Created by Author
Attribution: Image by Thomas Shrimpton

China Developing Ultra-Low Earth Orbit Satellites With Possible Military Applications

Flatpack Starlink communications satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Flatpack Starlink communications satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“Compared with traditional orbits, ultra-low orbits can effectively reduce satellite development and launch costs, improve efficiency in collecting and transmitting data, and is suitable for satellite mass production with high-frequency launches.”

The following excerpt from Science & Technology Daily, the official newspaper of China’s Ministry of Science & Technology, quotes a senior leader of one of China’s main developers[i] of space and missile technologies discussing ultra-low earth orbit satellites, which could potentially be used for military applications. The article notes that ultra-low orbits range between 150-300 km. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is typically defined as orbits at an altitude between 160-1000 km; the “Kármán line” at 100 km above sea level is typically used to describe where space begins.

As explained by Song Xiaoming, President of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation’s Second Academy, China plans to begin testing ultra-low-earth orbit satellites in September 2023. These satellites have higher revisit rates and can achieve superior or equal resolution in imaging at lower costs in both financial and weight terms, allowing mass production. Separate reporting claims that a manufacturing facility for the satellites could produce upwards of 240 such satellites per year.

Spacecraft in ultra-low and low-earth orbits experience greater drag from the atmosphere than those in higher orbits, shortening their service life. Two efforts could help address these issues: miniature engines to raise their orbits, and orbital refueling to replenish maneuver and altitude-control thrusters. Chinese media reports suggest that progress has already been made in these areas. In September 2022, China successfully completed tests of Hall thrusters on its satellites, raising the altitude of a satellite in LEO by nearly 300 km.[ii] Hall-effect thrusters use magnetic fields to ionize and accelerate propellants at very efficient levels with minimal weight requirements, making them optimal for spacecraft. China reportedly first tested on-orbit refueling in 2016 with the Tianyuan-1 satellite.[iii] China has also recently tested orbital sails, which help de-orbit debris, as well as improved data-transmission satellites, space-based debris detection satellites, and other technologies.[iv]  If successful, the development of ultra-low earth orbit satellite constellations will further improve the revisit rate and volume of satellite imagery it is able to gather. However, the rapid revisit times, high-resolution imagery, quick manufacturing, and mass launch capabilities of satellites into these orbits strongly suggest they could be used for military applications as well.


“宋晓明委员:超低轨卫星星座首发星在研制 9月具备发射条件” (Committee Member Song Xiaoming: First Ultra-Low Earth Orbit Satellite is Under Development; Launch Planned for September), Science & Technology Daily [科技日报] (Official newspaper of PRC Ministry of Science & Technology [MOST]), 3 March 2023.  According to Song Xiaoming, President of CASIC’s Second Academy, his institution is currently developing satellites for an ultra-low orbit satellite constellation, the first of which is planned for launch in September. After being placed into orbit, tests of key technologies are planned, including flight technology, high-resolution ground imaging, on-board intelligent processing, and information transmission to user terminals. Ultra-low orbit usually refers to an orbit at an altitude of 150-300 kilometers. Compared with traditional orbits, ultra-low orbits can effectively reduce satellite development and launch costs, improve efficiency in collecting and transmitting data, and is suitable for satellite mass production with high-frequency launches. Satellites in lower orbits can achieve the same resolution as satellites in higher orbits at a significant reduction in weight and cost. During the “14th Five-Year Plan” period (2021-2025), China proposed development of a remote sensing space infrastructure system with global coverage and efficient operation. Song Xiaoming said that in the face of urgent requirements such as higher resolution, shorter revisit cycles, and faster transmission speed, the Second Academy used its institutional advantages in small satellite, low-earth orbit communications and intelligent manufacturing to quickly carry out research on ultra-low orbits. The development of ultra-low orbit satellite constellations is intended to achieve similar performance as traditional satellite systems at lower costs and with a faster response time superior to other satellites. Other goals involve mass production and efficient, high tempo launches.


[i] China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation’s (中国航天科工) Second Academy [二院] has historically had responsibility for the development of surface-to-air missiles. See: Peter Wood, Alex Stone China’s Ballistic Missile Industry, China Aerospace Studies Institute (Affiliated with USAF Air University), 11 May 2021.

[ii] “我国电推进系统首次完成低轨卫星升轨任务 (China’s Electric Propulsion System Carried Out Altitude Raising Mission for Low-Earth Orbit Satellites for First Time),” Xinhuanet, 21 September 2022.

[iii] The name of the satellite translates literally “space resources No. 1.” Wang Yaowen [王握文] Zhang Feibo [章飞钹], “我国实现在轨卫星 ‘太空加油’ (China Achieves ‘Space Refueling’ with a satellite in Orbit),” PLA Daily (the official newspaper of PRC military), 1 July 2016.

[iv] See: Peter Wood, “China Debuts New Space Capabilities,” OE Watch, 10-2022.

Image Information:

Image: Flatpack Starlink communications satellites aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
Attribution: CC0, 24 May 2019

Philippine Interest in Trilateral Security Pact With United States and Japan Possibly Increasing

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force butai 01 – 04.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force butai 01 – 04.

“Beijing is determined to change the status quo in the South China Sea by continuing to harass neighboring ‘small’ countries.”

In March 2023, the nationalist Japan Times published the excerpted article written by Kuni Miyake, the research director for foreign and national security affairs at the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo. Miyake argues the Philippines has growing concerns about Chinese policies in the South China Sea, including the building of military outposts on atolls claimed by the Philippines.[i] Therefore, the Philippines is more likely than in previous decades to be open to a trilateral partnership with Japan and the United States.

Miyake acknowledges that Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte has signed economic agreements with Beijing related to issues ranging from oil and gas exploration to fishing rights. However, provocative actions by the Chinese navy, including targeting a Philippine Coast Guard ship with a laser device in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and China’s harassing other smaller Southeast Asian countries, has contributed to momentum building in the Philippines government for closer security partnerships with Japan and the United States. In contrast to Beijing, Miyake argues that Japan must stress to the Philippine government the important geopolitical role of the Philippines in their bilateral relations. Miyake’s article comes after the Philippines began contemplating a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with Japan.[ii] For example, the second excerpted article in the Philippine publication Inquirer from November 2022 quoted the country’s Senate President, Juan Miguel Zubiri, who supports a VFA. Another senator stated a VFA would not only be beneficial to the Philippines because of the training Japan can provide, but also because the VFA would increase mutual preparedness between Japan and the Philippines for natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies.


Kuni Miyake, “The geopolitical trajectory of the Philippines is changing,” (English-language daily with a nationalistic editorial perspective), 8 March 2023.

Returning to Manila this time, I was struck by a series of developments: a growing anxiety toward China among the populace, dramatic improvement in U.S.-Philippine relations and growing momentum to advance trilateral-security cooperation between Japan, the Philippines and the United States, which until a few years ago would have been only a dream.

In January of this year, Marcos was invited to China as a state guest and signed 14 agreements as the Chinese business community expressed intentions to invest $22.8 billion in the Philippines. Nevertheless, Beijing is determined to change the status quo in the South China Sea by continuing to harass neighboring “small” countries. In February this year, for example, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel blocked the path of a Philippine Coast Guard ship within the island nation’s exclusive economic zone while another Chinese vessel targeted a Philippine ship with a laser device…. What I found most fascinating in Manila was the idea that security cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and the Philippines is gaining momentum these days.

“Senators push for VFA with Japan,” (popular pro-democracy newspaper in the Philippines), 14 November 2022.

Senators are keen to endorse a visiting forces agreement (VFA) with erstwhile invader Japan, making it only the third nation with which the country has such an extraordinary agreement, next to the United States and Australia. “I’m sure we can muster enough support in the Senate for a visiting forces agreement with Japan. They’re good partners,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said during the Senate plenary’s marathon budget deliberations on Thursday night.

Forging a VFA with Japan would not only be helpful in joint training but also during natural disasters, said Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.This is not just military training but it will also include disaster response and disaster risk reduction.”

China’s force buildup in the region and opportunities for trilateral coordination and cooperation will be among the key topics on the agenda.


[i] One of the first significant South China Sea confrontations between China and the Philippines occurred with China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal in 2012. At the time, the Philippines believed an agreement existed whereby both countries would withdraw naval patrols from the shoal as typhoon season approached. However, when Philippine ships left the shoal, China placed a barrier across the entrance to the shoal and stationed coast guard boats there to chase away Philippine fishing boats. See: Mark Raymond and David A. Welch, “What’s Really Going On in the South China Sea?,” Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, Vol. 42(2), 214-239, August 2022.

[ii] Since the rise of China in the 1990s, Philippine and Japanese political leaders and high-ranking defense officials have conducted goodwill visits and high-level dialogues, while Japan has consistently provided emergency relief assistance to the Philippines in the wake of earthquakes and typhoons. However, a VFA between the two countries would represent a significant elevation of the two countries’ bilateral ties. See: Renato Cruz De Castro, “Exploring a 21st-Century Japan-Philippine Security Relationship: Linking Two Spokes Together?,” Asian Survey Vol. 49 (4, 691-715), 2009.

Image Information:

Image: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force butai01 – 04
Attribution: Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, CC x 4.0

Taiwan Considers “Porcupine Strategy” Against Chinese Invasion

“Taiwan’s asymmetrical warfare strategy is commonly referred to as the ‘the porcupine strategy.’ A porcupine braces itself by hardening its many quills when faced with a huge predator.”

In recent years, Taiwan has felt an increasing sense of urgency to develop a strong system of defense because mounting cross-Strait tensions, China’s growing military might, and gray-zone activities that are one step short of the use of force. Since 2017, some Taiwanese commentators have advocated for the development of a “porcupine strategy” to ward off a potential Chinese invasion.[i] A porcupine strategy, viewed as asymmetric warfare, is used by a weaker opponent to counter an attack from a more powerful one. In Taiwan’s case, this would mean hardening its defenses and inflicting many small, but significant and early, losses for China using many weapons spread throughout the island. As described in the first excerpt, published in Taiwan’s English-language publication Taipei Times, “the pain of stepping on (a porcupine’s) quills become the main deterrent to crushing it.” The second excerpted article, published by the newly established English-language news and opinion site, Japan Forward, also discusses the porcupine strategy. The article attributes retired Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, who served as chief of Taiwan’s General Staff from 2017 to 2019, with being the architect of Taiwan’s overall defense strategy, at which a porcupine approach was the core. Lee argues that the best option is to deter the enemy from attacking. This article also describes a scenario in which People’s Liberation Army forces gather around Taiwan to conduct standard military exercises prior to the unexpected attack. While larger Taiwanese targets, such as fighter jets and large naval vessels, would be easier to see and therefore destroy if taken by surprise by China, smaller mobile weapon systems that are well dispersed throughout the island and its environs—such as small missile-equipped boats, multiple rocket launchers, and mobile missiles—would be less vulnerable. However, according to the article, while Taiwanese leadership understands the importance of asymmetric weapons, the Taiwanese armed forces have not yet fully embraced the “porcupine strategy.”


“Editorial: ‘Porcupine Strategy’ the Right Move,” Taipei Times (Taiwan’s English-language sister publication of Liberty Times), 29 April 2022.

Taiwan’s Overall Defense Concept is based on a strategy of asymmetric warfare. Instead of acquiring expensive jets and submarines, the strategy focuses on deployments of mobile and concealable defensive weapons across Taiwan, especially missiles for use against ships and planes. This is the “porcupine strategy” — the pain of stepping on the animal’s quills becomes the main deterrent to crushing it.

Yoshiaki Nishimi, “Taiwan Military Expert: ‘Porcupine Strategy’ Could Deter Chinese Invasion,” Japan Forward (a new English-language news and opinion website), 27 January 2023.

…retired admiral Lee Hsi-ming, who served as chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China (Taiwan) from 2017 to 2019. He spoke to a group of reporters, including a Sankei Shimbun correspondent, in Taipei in November of last year. During his time in office, as the military power gap with China rapidly widened, [retired admiral Lee Hsi-ming, who served as chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China… from 2017 to 2019] sought ways to defend Taiwan through “asymmetric operations.” In fact, Taiwan’s “Overall Defense Concept,” which has this strategy at its core, is his brainchild.

Taiwan’s asymmetrical warfare strategy is commonly referred to as the “porcupine strategy.” A porcupine braces itself by hardening its many quills when faced with a huge predator. Similarly, this strategy is designed to prevent occupation by an invading Chinese force by inflicting severe pain (damage) with smaller weapons widely dispersed throughout the island. 

“Taiwan needs an asymmetric strategy to deter China,” Lee emphasizes. “That means having a large number of small weapons that are less susceptible to long-range attacks, more mobile, and capable of conducting precision strikes.”

“Taiwan does not have the strength to go toe-to-toe against China in a traditional ‘symmetrical war’ involving aircraft carriers against aircraft carriers, warplanes against warplanes, and tanks against tanks. After all, there is a disparity of more than twenty times between their defense budgets.”

Taiwan’s asymmetrical warfare strategy is commonly referred to as the “porcupine strategy.” A porcupine braces itself by hardening its many quills when faced with a huge predator. Similarly, this strategy is designed to prevent occupation by an invading Chinese force by inflicting severe pain (damage) with smaller weapons widely dispersed throughout the island.

“The best course of action is to deter the enemy and keep him from making a move,” explains Lee. “To that end, Taiwan must prepare itself as quickly as possible. We must demonstrate that we have the capacity to prevent a successful Chinese invasion.”Lee argues that the only option for Taiwan is “deterrence by denial.” In other words, a defense capable of physically blocking an attack by the other side. What scenario does Lee offer in which Taiwan would be able to repel the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)?


[i] The concept of a porcupine strategy gained popularity following the 2008 release of a study published in the Naval War College Review. At the time, Taiwan was intent on building up its weapons systems to try to match those of the People’s Liberation Army. Countering Taiwan’s belief that like weapons would help to deter China from attacking, the study instead described using alternative asymmetric warfare to counter China’s short-range ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and manned tactical aircraft. For more information, please see: William S. Murray, “Revisiting Taiwan’s Defense Strategy,” Naval War College Review, Vol. 61, No. 3, Article 3, 2008.

Vietnam and Indonesia Resolve Maritime Disputes

Vietnam People's Navy honor guard at ASEAN defense ministers meeting.

Vietnam People’s Navy honor guard at ASEAN defense ministers meeting.

“It was very important to demarcate the overlapping waters between Vietnam and Indonesia…”

Over the past 10 years, Indonesia and Vietnam have clashed in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls “The East Sea,” and which Indonesia calls “The North Natuna Sea.”  For example, in 2021, Indonesia seized 25 Vietnamese fishing boats and then detained and extradited more than 350 Vietnamese fishermen.[i] Prior to this incident, in 2019, a Vietnamese coast guard boat and an Indonesian naval boat crashed into each other in disputed waters.[ii] Before that, in 2014, the Indonesian navy accused Vietnamese fishing boats of entering Indonesian waters and sunk three Vietnamese boats.[iii] However, the excerpted article published by the pro-government Vietnamese publication tuoitre, noted that after 12 years of negotiations, Vietnam has proposed a boundary line in the waters with Indonesia, which Indonesia has accepted. According to the article, this boundary line will allow Vietnamese fishermen to avoid disputed waters and end the maritime clashes between the two countries. According to the excerpted article from Vietnamese military newspaper quân đội nhân dân the agreement followed the “Sea of ​​Peace-Sustainable Resolution” conference. At the conference, experts recommended Vietnam cooperate with ASEAN nations based on international law to resolve disputes.[iv] This was subsequently achieved with Indonesia and will allow ASEAN nations to be more unified when confronting maritime disputes with China, either diplomatically or military.


“Việt Nam – Indonesia hoàn tất đàm phán phân định vùng đặc quyền kinh tế trên biển” (Vietnam – Indonesia complete negotiations on demarcation of exclusive economic zones at sea”),” (pro-Communist Party newspaper covering current affairs and originally aimed at youth audiences), 12 December 2022.

Since 2010, the two countries have had dozens of rounds of negotiations regarding overlapping EEZ claims in the waters surrounding the Natuna Islands in the East Sea. The two sides have concluded negotiations on the demarcation of the exclusive economic zone on the basis of international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982

It was very important to demarcate the overlapping waters between Vietnam and Indonesia, because this was the justification for Vietnamese fishermen being accused by Indonesia of “fishing in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.”

“Hội thảo quốc tế về Biển Đông ‘Biển hòa bình – Phục hồi bền vững’ (International Conference on East Sea ‘Sea of ​​Peace-Sustainable Resolution’),” (Russian-language daily focusing on business and politics), 16 November 2022. principles in the South China Sea will help shape other principles in other seas and oceans. Maintaining an order at sea, emphasizing compliance, trust and cooperation, more than ever before, is essential to ensuring a sustainable resolution. Vietnam’s policy on the East Sea is to fully respect and comply with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).


[i] “Indonesia returns 166 detained fishermen to Vietnam,” RFA, 16 November 2014.

[ii] “Indonesian, Vietnamese vessels clash over illegal fishing,” AFP, 29 April 2019.

[iii] Mathias Hariyadi, “Jakarta sinks three Vietnamese fishing boats caught in its territorial waters,” Asia News, May 12, 2014.

[iv] Notably, prior to 2021, there was little optimism in the academic community that Indonesia and Vietnam would reconcile their maritime claims. However, Darwis and Putra noted that Indonesian President Jokowi sought to take a less confrontational stance when dealing with ASEAN navies in disputed waters. See Darwis and Bama Andika Putra, “Construing Indonesia’s maritime diplomatic strategies against Vietnam’s illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the North Natuna Sea,” Asian Affairs: An American Review, 49:4, 172-192, 2022.

Image Information:

Image: Vietnam People’s Navy honor guard at ASEAN defense ministers meeting
Attribution: Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, U.S. Air Force, CC x 2.0

China Issues Concept Paper on Its Role in Global Security

China Issues “The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper” at the 21 February 2023 Lanting Forum.

China Issues “The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper” at the 21 February 2023 Lanting Forum.

“The legitimate and reasonable security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously and addressed properly, not persistently ignored or systemically challenged. Any country, while pursuing its own security, should take into account the reasonable security concerns of others.”

In February 2023, China released The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper, a document that describes China’s perception of its role in international security governance. According to Beijing, the Global Security Initiative (GSI) is meant to address the “deficits in peace, development, security, and governance” with “Chinese solutions and wisdom.”[i] Most of the GSI’s underlying principles—the “six commitments”—are the pillars of China’s foreign policy as codified in the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence.”[ii] The GSI document also refers to a Chinese Communist Party treatise on China’s Peaceful Development[iii] and Xi Jinping’s New Asian Security Concept[iv]speech,citing claims about China’s historical love for peace and commitment to common, cooperative, comprehensive, and sustainable security. However, the fourth of the “six commitments”—“taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously”—has only in recent years achieved prominence in Chinese foreign policy rhetoric. For example, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization endorses the underlying concept of indivisible security.[v] More recently, just weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China and Russia signed a “no limits” partnership agreement evoking the spirit of indivisible security to oppose NATO expansion.[vi] Following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, China’s foreign influence apparatus has actively sought to frame Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as induced by NATO expansion.[vii] It has also sought to undermine U.S. efforts to hold Russia accountable by accusing the United States of “Cold War mentality, unilateralism, bloc confrontation, and hegemonism.” The GSI thus provides Beijing with a normative tool for advancing China’s expanding national security interests, motives, policies, and conduct when it comes to international security. It legitimizes any aggressive motives, policies, and conduct on Beijing’s part as defensive, while simultaneously enabling Beijing to denounce the United States, its allies, and partners as the aggressors.


“The Global Security Initiative,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 21 February 2023.

Stay committed to taking the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously. Humanity is an indivisible security community. Security of one country should not come at the expense of that of others. We believe all countries are equal in terms of security interests. The legitimate and reasonable security concerns of all countries should be taken seriously and addressed properly, not persistently ignored or systemically challenged. Any country, while pursuing its own security, should take into account the reasonable security concerns of others. We uphold the principle of indivisible security, advocating the indivisibility between individual security and common security, between traditional security and non-traditional security, between security rights and security obligations, and between security and development. There should be a balanced, effective and sustainable security architecture, so as to realize universal security and common security.

Engage in wide-ranging discussions and communication on peace and security at the General Assembly, relevant UN Committees, the Security Council, relevant institutions, and other international and regional organizations based on their respective mandates, and put forward common initiatives and propositions to forge consensus in the international community to address security challenges.

Leverage the roles of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS cooperation, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, the “China + Central Asia” mechanism, and relevant mechanisms of East Asia cooperation, and carry out security cooperation incrementally to achieve similar or same goals. Promote the establishment of a multilateral dialogue platform in the Gulf region and give play to the role of coordinating and cooperative mechanisms such as the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Neighboring Countries of Afghanistan and the China-Horn of Africa Peace, Governance and Development Conference to promote regional and global peace and stability.Support the China-Africa Peace and Security Forum, the Middle East Security Forum, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, the Global Public Security Cooperation Forum (Lianyungang) and other international dialogue platforms in contributing to deepening exchange and cooperation on security. Promote the establishment of more global security forums to provide new platforms for governments, international organizations, think tanks and social organizations to leverage their advantages and participate in global security governance.


[i] For more on so-called “Chinese solutions and wisdom” on global issues, see: Wang Yi, “Acting on the Global Security Initiative to Safeguard World Peace and Tranquility,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 24 April 2022.

[ii] The Five Principles are mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; mutual non-aggression; mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; and, peaceful coexistence. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence make up the basic normative framework for modern China’s foreign policy and are codified in the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

[iii] For a detailed reading of China’s efforts to promote its “peaceful development” narrative, see: “China’s Peaceful Development,” State Council Information Office, 6 September 2011.

[iv] For Xi Jinping’s speech on the New Asian Security Concept, see: “New Asian Security Concept for New Progress in Security Cooperation,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 21 May 2014.,regional%20security%20issues

[v] China is the founding member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and has endorsed indivisible security through SCO. For more on the SCO, see: Rashid Alimov, “The Role of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Counteracting Threats to Peace and Security,” United Nations, October 2017.,its%20respective%20regions

[vi] Indivisible security is the principle that the pursuit of one’s security should not be at the expense of another’s security. Indivisible security as a guiding principle is difficult to incorporate in practice, as defining “at the expense of another’s security” is highly subjective. For more on Chinese normative conceptions of security, see: Jerker Hellström, “Security/安全,” Decoding China.

[vii] For more on China’s accusations that NATO expansion undermined Russia’s security interests, see: “People’s Republic of China Efforts to Amplify Kremlin’s Voice on Ukraine,” U.S. Department of State, 2 May 2022.,the%20West%2C%20NATO%2C%20and%20the%20United%20States and “China’s Position on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, 4 February 2023.,Putin%20during%20his%20December%202021%20annual%20news%20conference

Image Information:

Image: China Issues “The Global Security Initiative Concept Paper” at the 21 February 2023 Lanting Forum.
Source: Chinese Government,
Attribution: Public Domain

The Philippines Gaining Upper Hand Against Abu Sayyaf

2021-12-03 T4 Delivery 005.

2021-12-03 T4 Delivery 005.

“The terror groups may try to disrupt the peace and order during the election period but our preparedness will assure that they will not succeed…”

The Philippines government may be weakening Abu Sayyaf across the region.  According to Philippine daily, there was concern that Abu Sayyaf would seek to disrupt the elections after Philippine forces killed the group’s leader in Basilan only weeks earlier.  The military’s strategy to protect the elections from Abu Sayyaf involved closing off access points to the group’s main area of operations in Basilan and ordering troops to avoid political partisanship.  In addition, the army boosted its coordination with the Philippine National Police, the Commission on Elections, and other agencies to secure the elections.  Ultimately, the army deployed 69,000 soldiers to protect the elections, which were held successfully on 9 May.

A separate article in the Philippines’ largest English-language newspaper, Manila Bulletin, pointed to the surrender of an Abu Sayyaf bomb-maker as evidence that Abu Sayyaf’s ranks were being further depleted through the Philippines’ rehabilitation program for former Abu Sayyaf members.  The program, which allows local governments to work with surrendered repentant militants to reintegrate them into society, has seen some success since the Philippines stepped it up in recent years. Elsewhere, according to a recent Indonesian-language article in Hong Kong-based, a number of hostages escaped Abu Sayyaf in Indonesia in April.  Collectively, the articles imply that Abu Sayyaf’s military capabilities and negative impact appears to be waning in the face of determined government effort.


“Troops told to ready for poll worst-case scenario,” (Philippine daily), 20 April 2022.

Lieutenant General Alfredo Rosario Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), has ordered the troops in Basilan province to prepare for the worst-case scenario on election day. “The terror groups may try to disrupt the peace and order during the election period but our preparedness will assure that they will not succeed,” Rosario said. On March 25, Radzmil Jannatul alias Abu Khubayb, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan province, was killed in a clash with government troops in Sitio Center, Baiwas village, Sumisip, Basilan.

“Let us also sustain our good coordination with our partners from the Philippine National Police, the Commission on Elections, and other agencies to ensure an honest, orderly, and peaceful elections,” Rosario added. He reminded the JTF-Basilan troops to remain non-partisan at all times.

Source: “Sayyaf bomber surrenders in Zamboanga,” (Philippines largest English language newspaper), 23 March 2022.

A suspected Abu Sayyaf member linked to several bombing and kidnapping incidents in Zamboanga and Basilan surrendered to authorities on Tuesday. Mursidin Husin, 39, a resident of Sitio Buahayan, Dita, Zamboanga City, surrendered to the police at PNP Camp General Eduardo Batalla, RT Lim Boulevard. Husin also turned over his .38 caliber revolver with ammunition. Husin, a follower of Jamiul Nasalun, an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader based in Zamboanga City, was allegedly involved in the 2013 bombing of a passenger bus in Zamboanga City and two other explosions in a Sangali cafeteria and in Basilan.

Source: “Kisah WNI 427 Hari jadi Tahanan Abu Sayyaf: Jarang Makan dan Takut Kena Bom (Story of Indonesian Citizen 427 Anniversary of Abu Sayyaf Prisoner: Rarely Eat and Fear of Bombs), (Hong Kong based Indonesian language bi-monthly newspaper), 5 April 2022.

Arizal Caste Miran, one of the four victims of the Abu Sayyaf group hostage-takers in the Philippines, is now able to reunite with his family. Before returning to his family’s arms, Arizal and three other people were desperate to escape. They heard from a member of the Abu Sayyaf group that the hostages would be transferred to Tawi Island. While on their way in the morning, the ship they were traveling on capsized because from the waves. Instantly the four Indonesian citizens went to save themselves.

Image Information:

Image: 2021-12-03 T4 Delivery 005.
Source: Armed Forces of the Philippines
Attribution: CC x 2.0

China Expands Naval Expeditionary Capability With New Ship and Helicopter Variants

Type 075 (Yushen) Amphibious Assault Ship.

Type 075 (Yushen) Amphibious Assault Ship.

“The [Guangxi’s] complement of amphibious vehicles, tanks and helicopters is more complete and efficient in ship-to-shore movement.”

Captain Xu Ce [许策] – Captain of the Guangxi

China’s state-run television CCTV7 recently showed the Guangxi, China’s second Type 075 (Yushen) Amphibious Assault Ship, or a landing helicopter dock (LHD) in U.S. parlance, participating in workup exercises.  The second of its class, the Guangxi incorporates refinements learned from the development of the Hainan, China’s first Type 075.  Per China’s ship naming conventions, the amphibious ship is named after a Chinese province.  As noted by Captain Xu in state-run media outlet The Paper, the ship’s crew was able to quickly bring new systems online and begin training.  The Type 075 class LHDs can carry 1,687 troops and 30 helicopters, as well as two Type 726 air-cushion landing craft (see: “China: Type 075 Amphibious Assault Ship Launched,” OE Watch, November 2019).  The Type 075 class LHDs also have a defensive suite that includes HHQ-10 missile launchers, similar to the U.S. SeaRAM system; two 30mm H/PJ-11 CIWS; as well as jammers, chaff, and decoy launchers.

China is building multiple additional Type 075s, with the goal of fielding an extensive expeditionary force capable of executing “three-dimensional operations” involving power projection through air, sea, and amphibious land from multiple directions.  The growing force will complement the Chinese Navy’s rapidly expanding Marine Corps, which has grown from two divisions less than a decade ago to six operational brigades according to public reporting. In a related development, according to Chinese blog and media outlet Sina, the Z-20, a medium multi-role helicopter derived from the S-70 Blackhawk has entered service with the Chinese Navy.  The helicopter, which has superior capabilities compared to China’s indigenous Z-8 and Z-9 helicopters, has already entered widespread use in China’s ground force, but the apparent induction of navalized variants for anti-submarine warfare and other roles is a significant development, particularly for China’s naval expeditionary force.


Nan Boyi, [南博一], ‘两栖攻击舰 广西舰’ 首次公开亮相,进一步提升海军两栖战力 (Amphibious assault ship “Guangxi Ship” made its first public appearance, further enhancing the naval amphibious combat capability),” The Paper (state affiliated media outlet), 21 April 2022. hxxps://

Recently, the Guangxi, a newly commissioned amphibious assault ship began basic training exercises, focusing on the requirements of future amphibious operations and expeditionary operations, while continuing to test the crew on essential tasks such as navigation, damage control and other subjects.

From its appearance, it can be seen that the Guangxi (hull number 32) is the same class as the Hainan, China’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship (LHD).

According to a previous report by Xinhua News Agency, the Hainan (hull number 31) was launched in Shanghai on September 25, 2019.

According to previous CCTV reports, China’s first indigenously developed [class of LHDs] can carry amphibious armored vehicles, multi-role helicopters, hovercraft and tanks, and is equipped with missiles, naval guns, electronic warfare and other weapon systems.

Source: “国防军事早报 (Morning Report on Defense),” CCTV 7 (state TV military channel), 22 April 2022.

On April 22, CCTV Channel 7’s “Military Report” program displayed a images of an anti-submarine variant of the Z-20 helicopter taking off and landing on a Type 055 destroyer….The Z-20 is a new generation of 10-ton tactical general-purpose transport helicopters independently developed by China. It made its public debut at the 70th National Day military parade in 2019.

Source: “直-20反潜直升机首次公开,将进一步提升海军反潜能力 (Z-20 ASW Aircraft Publicly Shown for the First Time, Advancing the PLA Navy’s Anti-Submarine Capability),”Sina (Chinese blog and news outlet), 23 April 2022. hxxps://

Image Information:

Image: Type 075 (Yushen) Amphibious Assault Ship
Source: Peter Wood
Attribution: Creator, Peter Wood, grants permission to use