NBR News Brief

December 2, 2022


China and Taiwan

In arguably the largest display of public dissent since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, protests have erupted across China against China’s zero-Covid policyDiscontent stemming from the economic and social costs of the lockdowns peaked after 10 people died in a residential building fire in Urumqi on November 24 as rescue efforts were delayed by lockdown barriersDemonstrators voiced frustrations with the zero-Covid policy by waving blank pages of white paper to express symbolic defiance against the Chinese Communist Party’s use of censorship. While Chinese leadership has yet to release an official response, their actions are being closely watched by a global audience and will be highly indicative of the future of China’s zero-Covid policy 

In the annual report to Congress on military and security developments concerning the People’s Republic of China, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) listed four potential military actions China could take against TaiwanThe report suggested that China could (1) attempt to impose an air and maritime blockade to cut off Taiwan’s vital imports; (2) conduct “limited force or coercive operations” to attack against infrastructure; (3) execute an air and missile campaign to degrade Taiwans defenses or undermine the public’s will to resist; and (4) launch a joint island landing campaign to conduct an invasion of Taiwan. DoD also argued that the PRC is already capable of executing amphibious operations without launching a full-scale invasion. 

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Korean Peninsula

South Korea’s deputy nuclear envoy Lee Tae-woo met his U.S. counterpart, Jung Pak, to discuss how North Korea could take advantage of its offensive cyber capabilities to earn foreign currency. North Korea has allegedly used these global resources to fund its nuclear program and evade U.S. and UN economic sanctions. During the meeting, they exchanged views on North Korea’s state-sponsored cybercrimes, including the cryptocurrency theft, and discussed how to prevent third parties from facilitating North Korea’s money-laundering. According to an analysis, North Korea stole over $1bn in 2022 from decentralized crypto exchanges alone. 

In a meeting with leaders of Korean defense firms and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Yoon Suk-yeol praised the companies for their recent deals to export homegrown weapons, describing the defense industry as the country’s “future growth driver.” His remarks preceded announcements that South Korea plans to invest at least 1 trillion won ($753 billion USDinto public-private technology transfers and R&D projects, as well as having the military lead in providing post-sale services to countries that procure South Korean weapons. South Korea’s arms exports have increased due to rising foreign interest and global investments in the military amid the protracted war in Ukraine. 

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On November 29, the Japanese government announced plans to issue new bonds from the next fiscal year using revenue from carbon pricing to boost investment in decarbonation projects and accelerate its climate transitionThe carbon pricing system will be a mix of emissions trading and surcharges, the latter likely being levied on fossil-fuel importers such as oil wholesalers, utilities, and trading houses. The government aims to raise around $145 billion by issuing bonds, but it has also estimated that public and private investment of over $1 trillion is required over the next decade to achieve its net-zero goals by 2050.  

On November 30, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Japan is looking to buy up to 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the U.S. by the end of FY 2027. PM Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden discussed the purchase of the Tomahawks during their bilateral meeting in Cambodia on November 13. Tokyo’s decision to acquire 500 Tomahawk missiles from the U.S., as part of a broader effort to revise its national security strategy and develop new means of counterattackremains prompted by rising concerns over North Korea’s continued provocations and China’s increasingly assertive regional behavior. 

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South Asia


In a report to the Congress, the Pentagon stated that China has warned the United States to refrain from meddling in its relationship with India. Following the China-India border skirmishes in 2020, there has been a long-standing standoff between the two countries, with both countries’ notably reinforcing their respective military posture and infrastructure along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC). The warning comes amid broader U.S. efforts to deepen security ties with New Delhi and reduce Russia’s predominance as India’s key source of military assistance. 

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, released a statement on November 28 announcing the end of a ceasefire agreed with the government of PakistanA,part of the statement, it called on its followers, concentrated mainly in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to commence attacks across PakistanThe TTP’s unilateral repudiation of the ceasefire, originally brokered in June, comes after repeated armed clashes between the TTP and Pakistan’s militaryYet, as security specialist Asfandyar Mir notes, despite the recent uptick in TTP attacks, they had been limited to tribal areas.

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Southeast Asia

During a visit to the Philippines in November 2022, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris expressed the United States’ continued dedication to strengthening overall ties with Southeast Asian nations. In addition to emphasizing defense bonds, the vice president also unveiled telecom and energy investment projects. As nations within this region gain increasing economic sway with critical minerals and other resources, interest from both hemispheres may signal a sort of bidding war for Southeast Asia’s favor when the time comes to engage in trade for these rare materials 

Indonesia’s top military commander has said that the country is seeking greater collaboration with countries in the Indo-Pacific—including Brunei, Malaysia, and the Quad—as it faces an increasingly contested regional security environment. This collaboration will take place primarily through the annual U.S.-Indonesia Garuda Shield exercise, which has expanded to involve 13 countries in recent yearsMany of the invited countries share maritime disputes with China, and the increased interoperability Indonesia derives from this training could be a sign of external balancing against China. Notably, the commander was careful to not mention the PRC by name when discussing potential threats Indonesia might face. 

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Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, warned of rising “coercive statecraft and grey-zone activities” in the Indo-Pacific region. Campbell delivered the remarks on the regional security situation at an event hosted by the Japanese Embassy in Canberra on November 30th, where he also reiterated the importance of the Australia and Japan in responding to “increasingly shared strategic challenges”. This comes as amid rising tensions with China, an ongoing defence strategic review for the Albanese government, and renewal of a security cooperation pact between Australia and Japan in October. 

Top officials from U.S. Space Force, Lt. General Nina M. Armagno and Deputy Commander Lt. General John E. Shaw, attended an event at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) on December 1st, where they spoke about Australia’s strategic value in countering growing Chinese power in space. According to the two generals, Australia’s position in the southern hemisphere made it a vital strategic interest in “space domain awareness. Additionally, the deputy commander highlighted Australia’s advanced technological capabilities, stating “Australia is a leader in quantum computing, we’re going to be using those kinds of technologies in the future. 

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United States


In its 2022 China Military Power Report (CMPR), the Pentagon stated that China’s nuclear arsenal will grow to 1,500 warheads by 2035, which dovetails with the 2021 CMPR’s estimate that China would have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030. The U.S. is currently permitted 1,550 nuclear warheads on deployed missiles and bombers under the New START Treaty signed with Russiaand its overall nuclear stockpile stood at 3,750 warheads in 2020China is also deploying nuclear weapons that can strike the continental United States to secure a second-strike capability if Washington employs nuclear weapons to defend its Indo-Pacific allies in conflicts involving China 

With the recent protests against China’s zero-Covid policy, the White House is choosing its words carefully but has continued to monitor events closely. Top U.S. officials have made two things clear: the Biden administration supports people’s right to peacefully protests and it does not see China’s zero-Covid policy as a sound approach. The caution is to some degree a reflection of the current complicated U.S.-China relations and tensions fueled by Taiwan, economic disputes and other disagreements. A U.S. official acknowledged it was still difficult to assess the scope and scale of what was taking place on the ground due to the early-stage nature of the protests and the unpredictability of such events. 

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