July 1, 2022- Stealth War 94: China Tests New Missile Defense System; Tuvalu Pulls Out of UN Ocean Conference Over Objections to PRC Blocking Taiwan’s Participation; Will Iran Join BRICS?; New Philippines’ President Sworn into Office as South China Sea Energy Talks with China Stall; President Biden Releases National Security Memo on IUU Fishing Indirectly Implicating China

By: Jamestown Foundation

Fri July, 2022, Age: 11 months



July 1, 2022

Welcome to the Stealth War Newsletter, a collection of the top 5 recent news items, collected on The Jamestown Foundation’s website, stealth-war-org.cdn-pi.com. To continue to receive this weekly collection, click the button below to subscribe. 

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Stat Du Jour 
This issue’s number to watch.034%

China’s population growth in 2021 according to official statistics. Per the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s population increased by a mere 480,000 people last year.

This Week: 

China Tests New Missile Defense System

* Tuvalu Pulls Out of UN Ocean Conference Over Objections to PRC Blocking Taiwan’s Participation 

* Will Iran Join BRICS?

* New Philippines’ President Sworn into Office as South China Sea Energy Talks with China Stall

* President Biden Releases National Security Memo on IUU Fishing Indirectly Implicating China

Top Stories

(source: Global Times)

China Tests New Missile Defense System

On June 19, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Ministry of Defense announced (MoD) the successful testing of “a land-based-mid-course missile interception” system. The MoD emphasizes that the trial “is defensive in nature and not targeted against any country.” The PRC first utilized the system 12 years ago. In the interim, incremental improvements have been made to the system to keep up with developments in missile technology. The primary goal is to defend against medium and long-range ballistic missiles by intercepting them in the second of three phases, when their boosters stop and the missile leaves the atmosphere before re-entering to strike their target. The PRC claims to have a 100 percent interception success rate compared to the U.S. rate of 55 percent, but this is based upon five publicly acknowledged PRC tests and an unknown number of failures. Beijing hopes that newer versions of the missile defense system will be able to counter hypersonic missiles and aircraft, but it is unclear if this is achievable.

Some have noted that the state-controlled Global Times took a more aggressive tone than the MoD when writing about the test. Rather than simply describing it as a means of domestic defense not concerned with any country, the Global Times claims that the technology shall be the “shield” paired with the “spear,” which is the the People’s Liberation Army, guarding ”territorial integrity and development interests,” deterring the U.S. and its “nuclear blackmail,” and “contribut[ing] to regional stability and world peace.” References to territorial integrity clearly include areas the PRC claims, but which are not recognized by international law or even most nations. Similarly, PRC sources also claim these capabilities are needed for protecting it  “development interests” and “contributing to regional stability and world peace.” However, these objectives  can be broadly construed, particularly now that Beijing has approved a policy similar to that which preceded Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

(source: Wikimedia)

Tuvalu Pulls Out of UN Ocean Conference Over Objections to PRC Blocking Taiwan’s Participation 

Tuvalu’s Minister for Justice, Communication, and Foreign Affairs Simon Kofe recently announced that his country will exit the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon after the People’s Republic of China (PRC) barred the participation of three Taiwanese experts who were members of the Tuvaluan delegation. As he Republic of China (ROC) is not a UN member or observer state, it is unable to send representatives to the organization’s events. The PRC threatened that if Tuvalu did not remove its Taiwanese members, it would revoke the entire Tuvaluan delegation’s credentials. This move prompted Taipei’s Ministry of Foreign affairs to accuse China of abusing its position on the UN Credentials Committee.

In a June 27 press release, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Lijian accused Taiwanese officials of using a foreign delegation to gain access to the UN Ocean conference. He went on to state that ROC authorities had “disgraced” themselves by joining Tuvalu’s delegation. Citing UN Resolution 2758, Zhang emphasized the United Nation’s adherence to the One China Policy, which states that Taiwan is a part of the PRC. China remains adamant on this policy, which much, although not all, of the international community adheres to.

Minister Kofe withdrew his delegation in protest of the PRC’s actions due to his island nation’s support for the ROC. Notably, Tuvalu is one of only 14 states to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Since establishing diplomatic ties in 1979, the two island nations have maintained an extremely close partnership. Moreover, Kofe’s withdrawal is not the first time Tuvalu has opposed the PRC’s efforts to isolate Taiwan from the international community. In 2019, Tuvalu rejected offers from Chinese companies to build a series of artificial islands around the tiny island nation. While Tuvalu’s size may make these actions seem inconsequential, they are part of a larger trend of countries showing support for Taiwan.

(source: Tehran Times)

Will Iran Join BRICS?

On June 24, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi gave a speech to the 14th BRICS+ Summit at the invitation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which virtually hosted this year’s meeting. In a reference to President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech calling for the expansion of BRICS,  Raisi promoted his nation as a willing, eager, and valuable asset for the organization. While this appeared to be a prelude to applying for membership, it was revealed on June 27 that Raisi’s invitation was actually a plug for Iran’s candidacy, and that Tehran had already submitted an application to join BRICS.  Argentina has also applied to join the grouping. Following the speech, both Beijing and Moscow enthusiastically welcomed Tehran’s application and practically assured its acceptance. This development was not out of the blue.

While historically sharing friendly relations, over the last several months Russia and the PRC have sought to deepen their ties with Iran, forming a “triangle” of power in Asia. Towards this end, Iran’s acceptance into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in September 2021 was a significant milestone, beginning its integration with the multilateral grouping which includes the PRC, Russia, and India, and also offers economic benefits. Similarly, BRICS is focusing more on strengthening security ties among its member and partner states. Iran can contribute greatly to both organizations via its military, intelligence, ideological, and natural resource capabilities.

Iran’s SCO and BRICS membership will be a significant economic boon for all involved. For perspective, the members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) comprise over 40 percent of the world’s population and almost 25 percent of the global GDP. Iran will add to this by providing energy, but it could also benefit by becoming a regional transit hub. In turn, Iran stands to benefit from BRICS’ goal of reducing the world’s reliance on Western economies. BRICS seeks to accomplish this via trade agreements, alternative financial institutions (including development and currency reserve banks, and alternatives to SWIFT). Access to alternative financial systems will allow Tehran to bypass crushing sanctions. Despite sanctions over its nuclear program stunting its potential, it saw a 20 percent increase in trade during the first quarter of 2022. Though it may be some time before the country is economically uninhibited, BRICS membership will drastically improve its economic outlook, its bargaining position with the West over its nuclear program, and change its status from pariah state to regional leader.

(source: Wikipedia)

New Philippines’ President Sworn in as PRC Energy Talks Stall

On June 25, then Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte terminated talks with China for joint energy exploration in the South China Sea, according to Philippine media. NHK World reported that Teodoro Locsin, foreign secretary of the Philippines, said that talks were terminated with Beijing specifically over disagreements concerning oil and gas exploration. In 2018, Duterte signed a memorandum of understanding with China on a joint resource exploration venture, but China later proposed further hydrocarbon exploration inside the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Beijing has also stipulated that the Philippines must put aside a 2016 international arbitration ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, which rejected the legality of Chinese claims to much of the South China Sea. In light of Beijing’s demands and increased pressure, the two countries had been trying to reach a compromise. Over the course of three years, however, nothing had been developed and there was nothing on the table. This lack of progress.

The stalled talks coincide with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. assuming office on July 30. Marcos Jr. is the son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the strong man leader of the Philippines during the Cold War, who ruled the country for 21 years until a popular revolution drove him from power in 1986. Many in the Philippines still view the period as a brutal one, but Marcos Jr. capitalized on his father’s mixed  legacy with a targeted social media campaign, which his opponents have deemed revisionist history. Like his predecessors, dealing with China in the South China Sea is a major foreign policy challenge for Marcos Jr. Just last week, Duterte called on the incumbent administration to protect the country’s sovereignty in the face of future Chinese incursions into the Philippines EEZ. Only time will tell whether the Marcos administration will lean toward China, as the Duterte government did in its early years. Furthermore, one limiting factor on any embrace of China by Manila is likely to be the Philippines’ defense and security community’s commitment to its formal treaty alliance with the U.S. Despite threats from Duterte that he would scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement with the U.S., Manila ultimately agreed to fully restore the agreement in 2021.

(source: Wikipedia)

President Biden Releases National Security Memo on IUU Fishing Indirectly Implicating China 

U.S. President Joseph Biden recently signed a National Security Memorandum that would combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing contributes to global overfishing, which causes the destruction of valuable oceanic ecosystems and maritime food resources around the world. Distant water vessels, ships that engage in industrial scale fishing in other countries’ waters, are one of the major culprits of IUU fishing. By utilizing various existing conservation, economic, law enforcement and national security authorities, the Biden Administration seeks to better regulate the global fishing industry, as well as curtail IUU fishing from distant water vessels. This memorandum coincides with the United Nations Ocean Conference, where 120 countries will meet to discuss global maritime conservation efforts. Moreover, the memorandum aims to build upon the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA). The members of this agreement are the Quad nations: Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. The IPMDA’s goal is to foster closer maritime relations and cooperation between the Quad nations.

While the memorandum does not call out any specific country, it does indirectly implicate the People’s Republic of China (PRC). China is a major perpetrator of IUU fishing, in part due to its extensive exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea and elsewhere. Moreover, the PRC maintains one of the largest distant water fleets in the world, numbering nearly 17,000 vessels. The IPMDA was met with harsh criticism from the Chinese Foreign Ministry, who accused the Quad countries of using the partnership as a pretext for creating an “Asia-Pacific version of NATO”. While the agreement and memorandum are meant to tackle IUU fishing around the globe, the Indo-Pacific remains a region where security, economic and environmental issues are intertwined. As a result, as the U.S. moves forward with the IPMDA and recent national security memorandum, contention with China over the issue of IUU fishing will likely continue.




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