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A Step in the Right Direction

Rare positive news emerged about North Korea this week as it has reportedly taken steps to start communicating with its southern neighbor once again.  Following the failed summit between North and South Korea, North Korea blew up a border office and all other communication lines with South Korea.  However, North Korea has just reopened its communication with South Korea signifying a step in the right direction of improving relations.  

While this step may seem promising, it is important to be realistic.  According to the article, the lines of communication have been severed and restored several times demonstrating that this time may be no different from the past.  Additionally, North Korea also stated that communication would be dependent on the South Koreans’ attitude.  Using such vague language leaves the door open for Kim Jong Un to end communications in response to anything that he perceives as a bad attitude.  For example, collaborating with the United States more could result in an end in communications again.  A leader as impulsive as Kim Jong Un has the power to destroy the communications lines with one simple order.  

Kim Jong--un

It will be important for South Korea to be careful with their neighbors in the coming days.  Communication between the two countries is fundamental in creating a better relationship.  South Korea must be conscientious of how their actions could be perceived by the North.  This news coming after weeks of intense missile testing from North Korea makes it all the more important that South Korea tread lightly.  If communication between the two countries can reduce the escalating militaristic tensions, much of the world will be able to sigh in relief.


North Korea Fires Anti-Aircraft Missile, 4th Recent Test

On Friday, October 1st, North Korea announced that they had test-fired some new anti-aircraft missiles, the fourth recent test. This is after the top U.S., South Korea, and Japan diplomats met to discuss ways in which they could get North Korea to abandon their weapon development. So far the communication line between North and South Korea on both sides is slowly being rebuilt, in order to build a better reputation between the two nations. 

For the Biden administration, they should continue strengthening their bond with the Japanese and South Korean governments. This is especially true for the Japanese government as they just got a new prime minister. I doubt there is much of a difference between this prime minister and the previous’ policies, as they are from the same political party, but it is still important to have a close relationship between the two governments.


China’s Border Clash with Bhutan Continues


Map of claimed territories by the PRC, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

Bhutan, a small Himalayan nation with few official diplomatic connections, has been facing a continuing crisis over land with its northern neighbor: the Middle Kingdom.

This is no new subject, however. It has hosted numerous talks with the People’s Republic of China to settle this matter of border integrity since 1984, beginning the nearly-annual summits that have since amounted to 24 meetings. However, the 25th meeting has yet to come to fruition, with the last occurring in 2016. The meeting was delayed in 2017 due to the standoff over the Doklam plateau between Indian forces and the Chinese military, and again in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This past April, the ’10th Expert Group Meeting’ was held to schedule the illusive 25th meeting. In the meantime, between the diplomatic pomp and circumstance, encroachments of Bhutanese territory (or, rather, alleged territory, if you prefer the PRC’s view of things,) have continued.

The famously remote and difficult to traverse border between the two nations is also incredibly difficult to maintain. The borders are frequently crossed by ethnic Tibetans — and contested settlements of peoples are located close to the borders. China has utilized these settlements in the past to justify their claims, and these claims are typically backed up through military buildup to maintain them.

The contested territories so far have amounted to nearly 760 square kilometers in Bhutan — and even recently this number has grown. It added an additional 740 square kilometers through its claim of ownership over the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary in 2020. This grabbing of lands has continued, particularly in the strategically-important areas of Bhutan that border both itself and India, providing China with further ability to reinforce its military buildup in the Himalayas.

China’s long-game is to put military pressure onto the small state, pushing for concessions of land granted through deals that, in essence, give back territory it already had loose claims on in exchange for the ‘legal’ recognition to continue its military buildup in more strategically important areas. Bhutan, with its small military and limited means of mobilization on its existing claims, can do little to nothing.

New Delhi has put pressure on Bhutan in the past to reject these deals — however, these summits and subsequent ‘solutions’ only do so much. Bhutan faces an encroaching force from which it can’t defend — and that creates an issue for India, already on the defense along its own border — let alone its neighbors.

– Liam

Further reading:

(I may continue with this topic in the future — there’s a lot to talk about here.)


VP Harris Visit Leads to Israeli Upset

Vice president Harris caused a ripple in US-Israeli relations during her September 29th visit to George Mason University.  During the visit, a student made a statement accusing Israel of “ethnic genocide.” The vice president’s initial response was, “no one can suppress your truth.” Unfortunately, some viewed this statement as validation of that student’s view, and others saw it as simply failing to reject the student’s viewpoint.  Overall, this exchange has not been viewed favorably, leaving the VP’s office to do damage control. In an attempt to soothe some of the tensions, her office reached out to prominent pro-Israel groups. It released a statement that “the vice president strongly disagrees with the student’s characterization of Israel,” but there are some who believe this slip-up will have lasting repercussions. Given the tight relationship between the US and Israel, I think it will be unlikely that this will have any serious repercussions. Still, it is a clear example of how action, or lack of action, can quickly cause conflict between allies and foes alike.


Somali Militia Group Clashes With Government

On Friday, a Somali militia group called Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) captured two towns in central Somalia from Somali federal forces. Previously, ASWJ had been allied with federal forces in the fight against al Shabaab, but this past week, conflict broke out between the two groups. On Thursday, federal forces attacked ASWJ, claiming that it was doing so preemptively to prevent ASWJ from attacking its troops. In response, ASWJ ousted federal troops from the towns of Mataban and Guriceel. ASWJ claimed that it did this because of the government’s failure to eliminate al Shabaab in those areas. ASWJ has been fighting al Shabaab unilaterally, so it belives that it can do a better job of fighting al Shabaab than the Somali government can. ASWJ indicated that it wants to control more towns and reigons to better protect them from and fight al Sahbaab.

In a previous post, I mentioned that it was not sustainable for the Somali government to rely on militia forces in their fight against al Shabaab, and this conflict supports that claim. While militia groups and the Somali government have a common enemy in al Shabaab, the militia groups also have their own interests and goals, so they will not continue aligning themselves with the Somali government forever. ASWJ’s reasoning for turning on Somali federal forces indicates that the militia groups are loosing faith in the government’s ability to effectively elimnate al Shabaab and generate meaningful change in the country. This is a bad sign for the Somali government, as they do not actually weild that much power in the country – if the militia groups turn on the government, it could lead to increased reigonal instability or a state failure.

Anna Bedal

Islamic Militants Expand into Central Nigeria

After numerous recent reports of “bandit activity” and reports that the group had been falling apart, Boko Haram has instead appeared to have regrouped and expanded out of the usual area of Islamic militancy, northeast Nigeria, into the north-central Nigerian state of Niger, with local government saying that a good 30% of one of the state’s Local Government Areas’ wards having militants present.

All this makes the situation in Niger state very volatile, especially with several communities now under Boko Haram control. This should also come as a humiliating shock to the central government, who have for weeks been toting their counter-insurgency strategy as being very effective in turning a page in the 11-year long war. There is also to unpack strategically for the Nigerian government. Niger state borders the federal capital territory, not just moving the conflict to a new theater of war, but also creating the (very slight) possibility that a serious threat on the capital now exists. This could also be evidence that the terror threat is not receding, but expanding. Combine that with a new slew of Islamic State – West Africa Province attacks over the past two weeks, and it is possible that the Government may be vulnerable to lose territory in other areas as well.

As always, it is incredibly hard to know what exactly is going on on-the-ground in Nigeria, but if current reports actually turn out to be even close to true, the situation has gotten worse not better.



Investigating The ‘Boko Haram’ Presence In Niger State

Calls for peace with Israel backfire after Iraqi confrence

Over the course of the past year, there have been open discussions amongst the Arab nations about incorporating Israel into normal relations amongst the Arab nations including Iraq. Last week during a conference those representing the Iraq state, stated that they were open to creating peace with Israel. While this is taking strides it still shows that Iraq is far from wanting to create peace with Israel, instead the reaction of Iraq towards the normalization of relations with Israel, creates more support towards those who support the 0ppostition of incorporating Israel into the normal relations of the Arab nations. The Iraqi government publically condemned the conference and has begun to put out warrants for the arrest of speakers and other participants at the conference who spoke publicly in support of Israel and any Zionist ideals, which is illegal to do under Iraqi law. The country of Iran also publically condemned the latest meeting over Israel, the conference was very counterproductive to the normalization of relations with Israel.


Russia Tests New Missile

On October 4th, Russia successfully  fired the hypersonic Tsirkon missile from a sub. Putin claims this missile is part of a new generation of arms systems. Some experts have questioned just how advanced this new missile really is. This new missile will likely be difficult to intercept and track.

I think that this new missile being successfully tested will likely improve Russia’s relationship with its allies. Russia’s allies likely view Russia as more capably due to this. Russia’s enemies will probably be a bit more scared of Russia and may increase military spending to improve their missile defense technology to counter this new weapon.


Havana Syndrome

This blog post is about Havana Syndrome. The blog will try and describe the syndrome and what are typical symptoms of the syndrome.. Havana Syndrome symptoms include; according to Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, Havana Syndrome symptoms are like those of a “mild head injury such as headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty concentrating, among other symptoms. These symptoms have mostly been reported by diplomats, intelligence officers, military personnel, and others deployed on foreign soil,” (para 1, 2021). It is believed that these symptoms are happening because of exposure to microwaves. The microwaves are being used from other countries, mainly Russia and Cuba (that have been accounted for) to intercept confidential information from diplomats, intelligence officers, military personnel and others that they could use to their advantage. This is only a simple analysis of the syndrome and there will be more to be explained when more research is completed and published. 

The reason why this syndrome brings up a question of national security is because these countries are obtaining information from places that are confidential environments. While doing this unimaginable act, they are slowly physically hurting the people inside of these targeted buildings. The scariest part is the victims are unaware of what is happening to them and unknowingly going to work every single day being exposed to these waves. The information that they are obtaining is information that could be used against the United States and other countries or intercept plans that these countries had scheduled which once again hurts our security. It is truly mind blowing that this is happening in the 21st century and that little research exists on it. 

-Olivia Lewis


How Will The German Elections Effect NATO

After 16 years in power, Angela Merkel, leader of Germany’s center right party the Christian Democratic Union or CDU, is stepping down from her role as Germany’s Chancellor. Going into the election, Germany appeared poised for big political change, but on Monday the Social Democrats or SPD only narrowly beat Merkel’s conservatives. In the end, the SPD came away with 25.7% of the vote compared with 24.1% for the CDU. While this narrow win from the SPD means that they will receive the most seats in the Bundestag, it does not guarantee much more than that because none of the parties won enough seats to govern alone. That means the major parties will have to negotiate with the smaller parties to form a coalition government.

In these negotiations, the SDP and the CDU must both attempt to win over the Greens, who won 15% of the vote and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), who won 11% of the vote. The Free Democratic Party is a pro free market party, and the Greens are a far-left environmentalist party. If the SPD intends to govern, they will need both parties. The same goes for the CDU except both the SDP and the CDU have made it clear they have no intentions of partnering with one another. But even with the chancellorship and the coalition up for grabs, the results provide some important clues about the future of Germany’s foreign policy. The transatlantic defense alliance is likely to encounter some trouble in the coming years, but more cooperation on new challenges like China might be on the menu.

In the United States, supporters of the traditional transatlantic relationship, centered on NATO, may be disappointed by the coalition that is likely to emerge. But for those interested in a new transatlantic alliance, focused on the United States and Europe countering China together, the outcome could be good news. The two smaller parties that will make or break any German coalition, the Greens, and the FDP, are inclined toward a stronger stance against China, which Germany under Merkel’s “Grand Coalition” of the CDU and SDP was more hesitant to take.

The next German government will be tasked with a critical decision: whether to replace the country’s aging Tornado aircraft, which are certified to carry U.S. nuclear bombs and ensure Germany’s participation in NATO’s nuclear-sharing program. The U.S., unsurprisingly, has long been pushing for Germany to replace the Tornados, and a failure to do so would be a major blow to the traditional transatlantic setup. But nuclear weapons are extremely unpopular in Germany. With the aircraft scheduled to be retired in 2024, there is not much time to find a replacement. If no replacement is found, it would call into question NATO’s nuclear power.

On China, an SDP-FDP-Greens coalition could be more outspoken in a way that aligns with the tougher stance the United States has been taking on China. The SPD itself is not considerably more hawkish on China than the CDU but, the two smaller parties haven taken a more critical stance towards China, as well as Russia. Both parties emphasize human rights and international law, and support grassroot democracy movements.

The transatlantic alliance is changing, and so are Germany’s politics so for those in favor of the pivot to Asia, the almost guaranteed inclusion of the Greens and FDP in a future government is likely good news. While a Germany that’s more critical of China may not always align with the U.S. and might have independent positions on the matter, it makes the discussion easier. On the other hand, the likely exclusion of the CDU from government will make it harder to maintain the longstanding defense arrangements in Germany that the transatlantic relationship has relied on.



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