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International press review Extrema Ratio - 20 April

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law & national security.


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Extrema Ratio

Agenda Digitale

G e N Iuvinale

Aziende cinesi bandite o limitate dalle reti militari e di sicurezza nazionale degli Stati Uniti, continuano a stipulare contratti con i governi statali e vari enti governativi come uffici, scuole e forze dell’ordine. Lo rivela il report China Tech Threat. Ecco i punti salienti.

China

The American Conservative

Keep it simple, if you can. We impose paradigms on a complicated world because we must—without these patterns we could not act, only react. In my interview with Sen. J.D. Vance earlier this year, the freshman from Ohio presented a tool for thinking about American policy towards China.

He described a classic two-by-two grid: On the x axis we can put China should make all our stuff and China should not make all our stuff; on the y axis, place We should go to war with China and We should not go to war with China.

There are, then, according to this paradigm, only four fundamental American responses to an emerging bipolar world order. I have returned to Vance’s quadrant model often since our conversation; I hope filling it out some here is useful.

RFA

Yes. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is an international agreement on maritime law, which stipulates that every country’s “territorial waters” extend 12 nautical miles from their respective coasts. In these waters, a country enjoys full jurisdiction.

A further 12 nautical miles beyond that is considered a “contiguous zone,” where they reserve the right to prevent and punish infringement of domestic laws.

Both zones are open to ships simply seeking to pass through on their way to other destinations, claiming so-called “innocent passage,” and both are closed to any vessel which threatens the security and interests of the respective nation.

Beyond the 24 contiguous nautical miles, UNESCO allows for a country to claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of up to 200 nautical miles (370 kms) from its coastline. Within the EEZ, a country has “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources.”

Song Chengen, a Taiwanese international scholar of law, notes that the phrase “international waters” carries a precise legal meaning in disputes concerning navigation rights and territorial jurisdiction, referring to all waters not designated as territorial. Because countries cannot limit freedom of navigation or overflight within the EEZ, this zone is therefore international waters.

  • Wargaming a Taiwan invasion: The House Select Committee on China and the Center for a New American Security think tank on Wednesday evening ran a tabletop exercise examining how the U.S. would respond if China invaded Taiwan.

  • In opening remarks for that exercise, committee chair Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., said he believes the "business community is not taking the threat of a Taiwan crisis seriously enough. I recently had a meeting with an executive from a leading financial services company who told me that the chance of a Taiwan conflict was "near-zero"...if the Chinese do invade Taiwan, any business or investor that is overly-dependent on the Chinese market, including both suppliers and customers located there, will suffer. We want American businesses to deal with these risks responsibly, not stick their heads in the sand."

  • And despite the "wargame name," Gallagaher said the exercise was "not about a desire for war, and tonight is not about playing frivolous games. We seek peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait—and the continuation of a relationship that has enabled both Taiwan and China to grow their economies and integrate their societies with the world through high-tech commerce. Only Beijing seeks to upend this peaceful situation, and provoke conflict."

  • "We're going to explore what happens in the very grim scenario in which deterrence fails in the Indo-Pacific. This is not a possibility we wish to contemplate, but one we must," Gallagher said.

China readies supersonic spy drone unit, leaked document says The Washington Post Christian Shepherd, Vic Chiang, Pei-Lin Wu and Ellen Nakashima The Chinese military could soon deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound, according to a leaked U.S. military assessment, a development that would dramatically strengthen China’s ability to conduct surveillance operations.

In China, a big auto show returns to a country that has gone electric The New York Times Keith Bradsher The Shanghai auto show, the largest in China since before the pandemic, had one theme: The dominance of electric vehicles in the world’s largest car market is here to stay.

  • China signals climate intent as vice-premier meets with COP28 president. Ding Xuexiang reiterated China’s climate goals in meeting with Sultan al-Jaber in Beijing. William Zheng.South China Morning Post

  • China warns Guatemala against helping Taiwan. Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei due to arrive in Taiwan on Saturday for a two-day visit. Guatemala is one of only 13 remaining diplomatic allies Taiwan has left. Shweta Sharma.The Independent

  • Guangdong province doubles down on semiconductor industry. 40 major semiconductor projects worth more than US$74 billion in the pipeline. Iris Deng.South China Morning Post

  • HSBC: Spinning off Asia-pacific business would result in material loss of value. HSBC has hit back at its largest investor, Chinese insurance company Ping An. Ping An has failed to attract support from other shareholders or advisors for the restructuring proposal. Owen Walker and Emma Dunkley. Financial Times

  • The Chinese economy after the ‘Two Sessions’. An analysis of the Government Work Report on the economy.George Magnus. Council on Geostrategy

  • 3 nuclear powers, rather than 2, usher in a new strategic era. China on track to massively expand nuclear arsenal. David E. Sanger, William J. Broad and Chris Buckley.New York Times

  • Threats to the dollar’s dominance are overblown. While renminbi-backed trade grows, it still only accounts for about 3 percent of central bank reserves. Financial Times

USA

“The FBI called me”: Meet Aric Toler, the Bellingcat sleuth who helped The New York Times find suspected Pentagon leaker Jack Teixeira Vanity Fair Charlotte Klein Toler, a 34-year-old Kansas City–based “digital digger,” as he puts it, is a researcher at Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based open-source news operation. He was the first person to report that the leaked documents came from a very small channel on Discord, a social network popular with gamers: On April 9, Toler told the “improbable” story of how the documents had made their way from Discord to 4Chan and Telegram.

Scoop: TikTok bill finds new detractor in House GOP Axios Andrew Solender A libertarian-minded House Republican quietly has been making the case to GOP leadership against legislation targeting TikTok, Axios has learned.

Response to Bloomberg opinion editors' critique of CHIPS Special Competitive Studies Project Liza Tobin and Brady Helwig In a recent editorial, the Bloomberg Opinion Editorial Board raises several objections to implementation of the CHIPS Act – all of which relate to efforts to build chip fabs in the United States. But a focus on fab construction is the wrong measure. CHIPS Act programs should be judged by whether they catalyze disruptive innovation in new microelectronics paradigms, not just by how many months it takes to build a fab.

FP

The U.S. Navy sailed its first drone boat through the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday, a crucial waterway for global energy supplies where American sailors often faces tense encounters with Iranian forces.

  • U.S. Treasury Secretary to Call for ‘Constructive and Fair’ Relations With China in Speech. In a speech about bilateral economic relations (FT) today, Secretary Janet Yellen is expected to say that the United States is not trying to “stifle” China’s economy, but that it will keep pushing back against “unfair” economic measures. The White House is reportedly preparing new curbs (Politico) on U.S. investment in China.

  • US Congress holds first hearing on implementation of Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Lawmakers discuss potential loopholes:brands such as Shein accused of using exemption for direct-to-consumer shipments under US$800 to evade customs scrutiny. Richard Vanderford.Wall Street Journal.

  • Blinken and G7 foreign ministers stress unity on Russia and China. Top diplomats reaffirm shared vision after Macron’s controversial comments on Taiwan. Edward Wong. New York Times.

  • Seagate fined US$300 million for sales to Huawei. Seagate, the world’s largest hard-drive maker, violated export controls by selling millions of units to blacklisted Huawei Technologies Co. The deal is the largest stand-alone settlement in the history of the Bureau of Industry and Security. Bloomberg

  • US-China Economic and Security Review Commission calls for tighter regulation of Chinese e-commerce firms Shein and Temu. In a public brief, the US agency say the two have skirted US laws and regulations, giving them an unfair advantage over homegrown companies. TechInAsia

  • U.S. tax dollars are probably ending up in the hands of the Taliban, John Sopko, a top inspector general, has warned. Sopko accused the Biden administration yesterday of stonewalling his efforts to procure records about assistance to Afghanistan. The Taliban is “siphoning off” funds entering Afghanistan, which he partly attributed to the “abject refusal” of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to allow oversight. Karoun Demirjian reports for the New York Times.

  • The State Department yesterday missed a congressional Republican subpoena to hand over a sensitive diplomatic cable about the U.S. exit from Afghanistan. State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement to The Hill that “​​Discussions with the committee about next steps are ongoing” and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered to brief McCaul and the committee next week on the contents of the dissent cable without providing the actual document. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.

  • An Internal Revenue Service criminal supervisor has told lawmakers he has information that the Biden administration is improperly handling the criminal investigation into Hunter Biden and is seeking whistleblower protections, according to people familiar with the matter. The supervisor sent a letter to Congress on Tuesday, claiming to have information that would contradict sworn testimony by a “senior political appointee.” The supervisor also has information about a “failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the ultimate disposition of the case,” according to the letter. Aruna Viswanatha, Sadie Gurman, and C. Ryan Barber report for the Wall Street Journal.

  • The Biden administration is readying plans to roll out new sanctions on members of rival military factions in Sudan, according to four current and former officials familiar with the matter. Privately, some U.S. officials fear new sanctions packages could be too little, too late, amid a broader debate within the Biden administration on whether it has been too timid with sanctions programs against human rights violators in Africa. Robbie Gramer reports for Foreign Policy.

  • U.S. allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia use threats, physical surveillance, hostage-taking, and prosecutions to try to silence dissidents and rights activists in the U.S., according to evidence presented in a Freedom Initiative report released this week. While U.S. politicians frequently impose consequences when China, Iran, and Russia deploy such tactics, the report argues that policymakers do not meaningfully hold Saudi Arabia and Egypt accountable even when they violate U.S. law and threaten national security. Claire Parker reports for the Washington Post.

  • U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin yesterday promised to work for Sweden’s “swift accession” to NATO. While in Sweden, Austin said he hoped that objections to the country’s membership would be ironed out before the NATO summit in Lithuania in July. Helene Cooper reports for the New York Times.

  • U.S./Sweden: Lloyd Austin became the first U.S. secretary of defense (Politico) to visit Sweden in twenty years. His visit signals U.S. support for Sweden’s accession to NATO, which is currently being blocked by alliance members Hungary and Turkey.

  • Biden Hosts Colombia’s President at White House. U.S. President Biden and Colombian President Gustavo Petro are expected to discuss (Bloomberg) Petro’s ambitions to reform drug policy, as well as migration and plans to restart talks between Venezuela’s government and the opposition.

Americas

Canadian AI experts issue letter in support of draft law aimed at curbing technology’s risks The Globe and Mail Joe Castaldo Canadian artificial intelligence experts and industry chief executives are urging Ottawa to pass legislation to regulate AI before the summer to deal with the potential harms, saying that any delay would be “out-of-sync” with the speed at which the technology is developing.

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told NATO officials privately that Canada will never meet the military alliance’s defense-spending target, according to leaked intelligence reports. The document says “enduring” defense shortfalls led the Canadian Armed Forces to assess in February that it “could not conduct a major operation while simultaneously maintaining its NATO battle group leadership [in Latvia] and aid to Ukraine.” The reports further stated that the situation was not likely to change without a shift in public opinion. Amanda Coletta reports for the Washington Post.

  • U.S. Sanctions Nicaraguan Officials Who Stripped Dissidents’ Citizenship. The U.S. Treasury Department said the three judicial officials removed the citizenship (Reuters) of nearly three hundred Nicaraguan dissidents earlier this year.

  • Cuba: In a widely anticipated move, Cuba’s legislature granted a second five-year term (CNN) to President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

Asia

Janes

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has announced the development of an enhanced version of the Korean Tactical Surface-to-Surface Missile (KTSSM) or KTSSM-II.

The project to develop the missile is named the Tactical Ground-Based Guided Weapon-II Project. DAPA allocated KRW1.55 trillion (USD1.17 billion) for the project. The missile development is expected to be completed by 2032, DAPA said.

DAPA seeks to develop long-range vehicle-mounted tactical surface-to-surface guided weapons under the project.

  • India’s population to surpass China by June, according to UN data. Both governments have been subdued in their responses as demographic challenges remain a sensitive issue. Financial Times

  • Cambodia: The prime minister’s son, army chief Hun Manet, was promoted (AP) to the Cambodian military’s highest rank. He is expected to succeed his father, Hun Sen, later this year.

  • Bangladesh Holds Trade Talks With Eleven Countries. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told Nikkei that the new trade deals would help promote Bangladeshi exports. Bangladesh will soon outgrow its UN designation as a “least developed country,” which comes with tariff exemptions.

  • Afghanistan: The U.S. inspector general for Afghanistan said during a congressional hearing yesterday that U.S. agencies are blocking his ability to supervise (NYT) aid flows to Afghanistan, meaning he cannot guarantee that U.S. funds are not going to the Taliban.

C4ADS

In 2017, the United Nations sanctioned the Chinese-owned PETREL 8 for silently ferrying coal between its country of origin and North Korea. Now, six years later, Indonesian authorities have detained the cargo ship for violating that port ban.

Cybersecurity nightmare in Japan is everyone else’s problem too Bloomberg Jamie Tarabay, Min Jeong Lee and Takahiko Hyuga In response, the Japanese government said it would introduce new laws to engage in offensive cyber operations to “begin monitoring potential attackers and hack their systems as soon as signs of a potential risk are established.” It’s a marked escalation in the government’s approach to cybersecurity, which previously adhered to the spirit of Japan’s constitutional commitment to pacifism following the end of World War II. The changes are being reflected in the new cyber command that’s being stood up within Japan’s defense force.

After Chinese vessels cut Matsu internet cables, Taiwan seeks to improve its communications resilience The Diplomat Wen Lii Matsu’s internet outage has sparked many conversations in Taiwan about the nation’s resilience in communications, especially in the context of security threats from China. Commentators have discussed the possibility that the damaged cables were deliberate acts of gray-zone aggression by China.

Australia

Chatting with a hacker ABC Jessica Longbottom, John Lyons, and Jeanavive McGregor The people behind the cyber attacks on Australia are highly organised criminal gangs, often based in Russia, with dozens of employees and even HR departments. Authorities are still tight-lipped about who carried out last year’s Medibank hack that left the personal details of millions of Australians exposed on the dark web. However, security researchers have linked the attack to REvil — one of the most successful cyber gangs of all time.

  • Hackers Inc ABC Australia is under cyber-attack and the problem is only getting worse. John Lyons tracks the criminal syndicate behind one of our largest-ever data breaches, finding highly-organised criminal gangs, often based in Russia.

TikTok Australia has launched a factcheck on itself. But does it tell the full story? The Guardian Josh Taylor On Monday, TikTok Australia published a self-described factcheck, titled The Truth About TikTok: Separating Fact from Fiction, on TikTok’s site and on LinkedIn. However, the report, Myth vs fact, did not tell the full story.

Europe

  • NATO Chief Makes First Wartime Trip to Ukraine. The visit by North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg comes ahead of a meeting of NATO defense officials (AFP, Reuters) in Germany tomorrow. Meanwhile, U.S.-made Patriot missiles have arrived in Ukraine (AP), Ukraine’s defense minister said.

  • Italy in talks with Taiwan over potential chip deal as it considers scrapping participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Officials have reportedly discussed increased cooperation with Taiwan on the production and export of semiconductors, though Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is yet to take a position on the matter. Italy is the only G7 country that has signed up for the BRI. The agreement will be automatically renewed in 2024 unless Italy acts. Chiara Albanese and Alessandro Speciale. Bloomberg.

  • EU demands ‘immediate and unconditional’ release of Chinese activists detained last week. Yu Wensheng and wife Xu Yan were detained on their way to a meeting with EU officials. Their charges: ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’. Finbarr Bermingham. South China Morning Post.

  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, returning from a “more than shocking” trip to China, said yesterday that Beijing was increasingly becoming a systemic rival. Baerbock previously warned that any attempt by China to control Taiwan would be unacceptable. While China is Germany’s largest trading partner, she warned against repeating past errors of trying to achieve “change through trade,” referring to Germany’s previous policy toward Russia. Alexander Ratz reports for Reuters.

Ukraine - Russia

Russian-aligned cyber groups are seeking to target Western infrastructure, U.K. says NBC News Dan De Luce Russian-aligned cyber groups outside Moscow’s formal control represent a growing threat and are looking to target critical infrastructure in the West, according to Britain’s cybersecurity agency. Motivated more by ideology than by money, the groups, which surfaced after Russia invaded Ukraine, pose a potential risk to crucial infrastructure systems in Western countries, especially those that are “poorly protected”.

Russia is importing Western weapons technology, bypassing sanctions The New York Times Ana Swanson and Matina Stevis-Gridneff Late last month, American and European Union officials traded information on millions of dollars’ worth of banned technology that was slipping through the cracks of their defenses and into Russian territory. Senior tax and trade officials noted a surge in chips and other electronic components being sold to Russia through Armenia, Kazakhstan and other countries.

  • The Biden administration announced $325 million in new military aid for Ukraine yesterday, including additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, advanced missiles, and anti-tank mines. It is the 36th security package for Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, bringing total U.S. military assistance to more than $35.4 billion in that time. Reuters reports.

  • A 57-year-old Ukrainian woman from Kherson yesterday testified to House Foreign Affairs Committee members that Russian soldiers forced her to dig her own grave. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, who also testified at the hearing, said his office registered around 80,000 incidents of potential war crimes and has already convicted 31 Russians for war crimes in Ukrainian courts. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.

  • Denmark and the Netherlands will jointly donate 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the two countries said today. The Leopard 2A4 tanks, to be bought from a third party and refurbished, are expected to be delivered in the first quarter of 2024. Reuters reports.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address Mexican lawmakers by video today as he seeks support in his country’s war with Russia. The Mexican government has said it wants to remain neutral in the conflict. Some supporters of Ukraine have criticized President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for taking issue with European arms shipments to Kyiv. Mexico has voted alongside the United States on several major U.N. resolutions critical of Russia’s invasion. Reuters reports.

  • Russia is increasingly using treason and espionage laws to smother criticism of the war against Ukraine after President Vladimir Putin’s government widened the scope of the legislation and expanded its crackdown on opponents. OVD-Info, a Moscow-based rights group, last year recorded the filing of more than 20 criminal cases for high treason. Its unpublished figures for 2023 show ten espionage and treason cases launched in March alone. Matthew Luxmoore reports for the Wall Street Journal.

UK

Criminal Records Service still disrupted 4 weeks after hack BBC Joe Tidy and Tom Gerken The body that manages criminal records in the UK is still facing disruption nearly a month after a cyber-attack.

  • Chinese businessman with Conservative party links hosted secret overseas police station in Croydon. Chinese businessman Ruiyou Lin has organised Conservative Party fundraising dinners and been photographed alongside prime ministers. Billy Kenber and Sam Dunning.The Times.

  • UK warns China against intimidating foreign nationals on British soil. Policing minister Chris Philp said the government would not comment further at risk of jeopardising ongoing law enforcement investigations. Reuters.

  • Britain’s National Cybersecurity Centre, part of its GCHQ eavesdropping spy agency, said in a report published yesterday that the mercenary hacking market was offering products on par with government hacking groups. British officials have sounded the alarm over the widespread abuse of surveillance software and hackers-for-hire, saying that thousands of people were being targeted each year by an industry they described as posing an increasingly unpredictable threat. James Pearson and Raphael Satter report for Reuters.

Middle East and Africa

  • Report: Egypt, Saudi Arabia Target Dissidents on U.S. Soil. The U.S. allies use tactics such as hostage-taking and prosecutions (WaPo) to stifle dissent from within the United States, according to a new report from the Freedom Initiative, a U.S.-based rights organization.

  • Yemen: At least seventy-eight people died in a stampede during a Ramadan charity event in the capital, Sanaa. The stampede was apparently triggered by gunfire and an electrical explosion, the Associated Press reported.

Suspicious Twitter accounts artificially amplify Sudanese paramilitary leader amid armed conflict Digital Forensic Research Lab Tessa Knight A network of Twitter accounts is promoting the leader of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, by posting copied content and duplicate replies. The network’s content appears to fall into three categories: tweets copied directly from the official Twitter accounts of the RSF or Hemedti; posts promoting Hemedti and the RSF; and replies to tweets posted by the RSF and Hemedti.

  • An uneven cease-fire between Sudan’s two rival generals held in parts of the capital last night as desperate residents tried to escape the city. Nearly 300 people have been killed and over 3,000 wounded since fighting erupted on Saturday, the World Health Organization said. The U.S. State Department has said that it has no plans for a government-coordinated evacuation and has urged Americans in Sudan to shelter in place. Declan Walsh, Elian Peltier, and Cora Engelbrecht report for the New York Times.

  • Thousands Try to Flee Sudan Fighting as Clashes Continue. Gunfire in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, continued for a sixth day (Reuters) despite efforts to broker a cease-fire between the military and the paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Residents have tried to escape the city, where supermarkets are running low on food. U.S. officials said yesterday that the situation is too volatile (CNN) to get embassy staff out of the country. The U.S. State Department is reportedly preparing sanctions (WSJ) on both sides.

  • A powerful Libyan militia and the Egyptian military have sent military support to rival generals in neighboring Sudan, people familiar with the matter say, an illustration of how the fighting threatens to draw in regional powers. Khalifa Haftar, the commander of a faction that controls eastern Libya, dispatched at least one plane to fly military supplies to Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Meanwhile, Egypt sent warplanes and pilots to back the Sudanese military. Benoit Faucon, Summer Said, and Jared Malsin report for the Wall Street Journal.

Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico? (Italian)

Gabriele and Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

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