Taiwanese general: Beijing not trying to ‘provoke’ Taipei | #emailsecurity | #phishing | #ransomware

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Taiwan’s top military representative in the United States said China’s current intention isn’t to start a fight with the democratic island with its increased rate of provocations, but that the risk of misjudgment and miscalculation is there each time.

Even as China flies warplanes through Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone, Army Maj. Gen. CHIEN-FENG (RACE) YU — the defense attaché at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, D.C. — assured NatSec Daily that Beijing is “not trying to provoke” Taipei. China is mainly conducting training flights, the general argued, namely to see how far off the mainland coast its pilots can fly and navigate since they have progressively moved further and further out into the seas.

As long as Taiwan doesn’t overreact to such moves, then China “has no excuse to attack us,” he said.

Our conversation last night came as panic has engulfed official Washington, with worries China will attempt a forcible takeover of Taiwan within a handful of years. Yu isn’t numb to the dangers, but he asserted Taiwan is making the requisite defensive investments in missile systems and other equipment to make China think twice before launching an invasion. U.S. lawmakers also show a growing interest in further helping the island boost its arsenal.

Our chat also came as recent reports questioned Taiwan’s ability to defend itself against a Chinese assault. One in particular, led by The Wall Street Journal’s Taipei-based JOYU WANG last week, really piqued Yu, who went so far as to call the piece “disinformation.”

He said WSJ interviewed cadets who only spent four months in basic training, which isn’t representative of the Taiwanese armed forces writ large. He said you’d probably come to a similar conclusion about the state of the American military if you only interviewed attendees at The Basic School. “They should’ve interviewed more elite forces,” Yu said.

The reason Yu was so angered is he thinks China would struggle to take over Taiwan. Its path to conquer Taipei runs mainly through a river, which Taiwanese forces have practiced to defend repeatedly. And that’s if Taiwan’s arsenal doesn’t stop Chinese troops from landing on the island in the first place. “We won’t let them set their feet on our beachhead,” the general said.

“We will fight to the last bullet in our rifles, the last drop of blood in our bodies,” Yu insisted. Few analysts doubt the resolve of Taiwanese fighters, but the broad consensus is Taiwan would struggle mightily to fend off Chinese forces in the midst of an invasion.

As for whether or not America will come to Taiwan’s defense, Yu said the breakaway democracy must prepare as if it won’t happen. But the recent admission of U.S. troops training Taiwanese forces on the island “sends a strong message to China.”

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO MILLEY: Gen. MARK MILLEY sounded off on a variety of national security threats today at the 2021 Aspen Security Forum. Here are the highlights from the Joint Chiefs chair’s interview with NBC News’ LESTER HOLT.

Afghanistan: Milley said the ruling Taliban “are being challenged as to whether they can adequately govern the land mass called Afghanistan,” and it’s still unclear whether the country is “going to devolve into warring factions and warlordism and further civil war … which provides the environment for” a reconstituted al-Qaida or Islamic State presence.

“I think, right now, it’s an open question as to whether they can do that. My own personal estimate is that the conditions are likely to be set for a reconstituted ISIS or al-Qaida” between six to 36 months from now, Milley said. “Somewhere in that window, you are likely to see a reconstituted al-Qaida.”

China: Milley reiterated his concerns about Beijing’s reported test of a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile in August, saying: “I won’t go into anything classified as to what our specific capabilities are — or what theirs are, for that matter — but I would just say that that test that occurred was a very significant test.”

“In my view,” Milley added, “we’re witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geostrategic power that the world has witnessed. And it only happens once in a while. … We are entering into a tripolar world, with the United States, Russia and China being all great powers.”

Iran: “They know it’s not in their interest to have an open, kinetic fight with the United States,” Milley said of the leadership in Tehran. “That probably wouldn’t end well for them, and they know that. So they’re very calculated. But at the same time, they do a lot of things in the gray zone, and they execute a lot of what we call ‘malign operations’ throughout the Middle East and the region that are absolutely undermining and against U.S. national interests.”

“Iran is a very, very difficult issue for the region and for the United States,” Milley added. “We have all kinds of capabilities, and Iran knows that, and we’re prepared to do whatever the president directs us to do.”

North Korea: “The South Korean military is very capable, our military is very capable, and you’ve got also a capability with the Japanese. … I’m confident that the combined forces of the United States and the Republic of Korea can deal with anything that North Korea has in mind,” Milley said.

But Milley also warned that the Korean peninsula “is one of those areas where you never know” and “is one of those areas that’s highly militarized. … So bad things could happen on the Korean peninsula on relatively short notice.”

Russia: Milley acknowledged the Pentagon was observing “a significant amount of military movements on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border,” but he described the troop buildup as “nothing overtly aggressive, per se.”

“We’ve seen this before,” Milley said, referring to Moscow’s Zapad military exercises. “So what does this mean? We don’t know yet. Too early to tell. But we’re continuing to monitor with all of our capabilities, and we’ll stay abreast of it.”

Taiwan: Asked whether the United States is moving away from strategic ambiguity and toward strategic clarity with respect to the democratic island, Milley dodged: “That’s a great question, and I’m going to avoid that question.”

Strategic ambiguity “has been successful to date,” Milley said, “and whether or not that changes as we go forward should be a matter of considered thought and deep deliberation. And this is not the place for me to wax and wane eloquently about that. … Right now, our policy is what it is, and it’ll continue for the foreseeable future.”

Although Milley insisted U.S. forces “absolutely have the capability” to defend Taiwan, he predicted it was unlikely China would launch an invasion there “in the near future,” being defined as “six, 12, maybe 24 months — that kind of window.”

However, “the Chinese are clearly and unambiguously building the capability to provide those options to the national leadership if they so choose at some point in the future,” Milley added. “But near future? Probably not.”

IRAN SETS NEW NUCLEAR DEAL TALKS DATE: Iran’s lead negotiator for nuclear deal talks, ALI BAGHERI KANI, today announced his country will rejoin long-stalled negotiations on Nov. 29. His tweet about “aiming at removal of unlawful & inhumane sanctions” came after conversation with his European counterpart ENRIQUE MORA.

Tehran in the past has promised to sit down for negotiations only to back out. But this is the first time it’s said it’ll meet on an actual date, which analysts say increases the chance of the restart of the diplomatic process.

NSO GROUP GETS BLACKLISTED: The Israeli technology firm NSO Group was one of four foreign companies the Commerce Department added to its “entity list” today “for engaging in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” according to a department news release.

An international consortium of journalists previously reported in July that NSO Group created and leased the Pegasus spyware that was used to hack the smartphones of dozens of journalists and activists.

NSO Group’s addition to Commerce’s “entity list” bans “all exports from the U.S. to NSO of any type of hardware or software, severing the company from a vital source of technology,” per The Washington Post’s DREW HARWELL and CRAIG TIMBERG. “It could also hinder future business arrangements and challenge the company’s ability to work as an international company.”

The Israeli Embassy in the U.S. didn’t return a request for on-record comment.

DOD SAYS NO MISCONDUCT IN ERRANT, DEADLY AFG STRIKE: A drone strike that killed 10 innocent people in Afghanistan, including children, didn’t happen because of negligence or misconduct but rather because those involved in the strike “believed at the time that they were targeting an imminent threat,” per a watchdog’s fact sheet released by the Pentagon.

“The authorities and Rules of Engagement utilized to execute the regrettable strike were understandable based on the information available at the time and the perceived very high threat to US forces” at the international airport in Kabul, the fact sheet read. “The investigation found no violation of law, including the Law of War. Execution errors combined with confirmation bias and communication breakdowns led to regrettable civilian casualties.”

Going forward, the U.S. military will aim to reduce confirmation bias, improve situational awareness during a mission and review “pre-strike procedures to assess presence of civilians.”

BLINKEN AND STATE RISK-TAKING: Tuesday’s top story was about Rep. SARA JACOBS (D-Calif.) and her legislation to encourage State Department officials to get outside their embassy and start engaging more deeply in the country they serve.

After it published, we heard from some State staffers that Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN has already encouraged this, and were upset to see we didn’t note his speech last week addressing this issue. So, here’s the key passage that shows Blinken agrees with Jacobs’ sentiments.

“A world of zero risk is not a world in which American diplomacy can deliver. We have to accept risk, and manage it smartly. And in this, as in other areas, we will work closely with Congress to ensure that we have the authorities and policies in place to support our people,” Blinken said.

IT’S WEDNESDAY: Thanks for tuning in to NatSec Daily. This space is reserved for the top U.S. and foreign officials, the lawmakers, the lobbyists, the experts and the people like you who care about how the natsec sausage gets made. Aim your tips and comments at [email protected] and [email protected], and follow us on Twitter at @alexbward and @QuintForgey.

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ETHIOPIA’S WAR FEATURES ‘EXTREME BRUTALITY’: All parties in Ethiopia’s war have committed “extreme brutality,” the United Nations’ human rights chief said today — though the “big number of violations” belong to Ethiopian forces.

That stunning comment came as MICHELLE BACHELET released a report on human rights violations in Ethiopia. But it has a few shortcomings, per the Associated Press’ JAMEY KEATEN and CARA ANNA.

“The joint investigation covers events up until late June when the Tigray forces regained much of their region, but it failed to visit some of the deadliest sites of the war, including the city of Axum, because of security and other obstacles. Notably, the report said, obstacles included the Ethiopian government’s failure to release satellite phones procured for the investigation — crucial tools as phone and internet service are cut off in Tigray,” they wrote. “The investigation breaks little new ground and confirms in general the abuses described by witnesses throughout the war. But it gives little sense of scale, saying only that the more than 1,300 rapes reported to authorities are likely far fewer than the real number.”

Still, the report offers some insight into how horrible the yearlong conflict has become. And despite U.S. and international efforts, there’s little sign of the violence winding down any time soon.

CISA CRACKDOWN: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a binding operational directive today ordering federal agencies to fix hundreds of vulnerabilities that hackers are known to be exploiting, per our own ERIC GELLER (for Pros!).

The agencies have six months to remedy vulnerabilities identified prior to this year and two weeks to remedy vulnerabilities identified this year. Agencies also must update their vulnerability handling procedures in 60 days — including fixing newly identified flaws, validating those fixes and reporting data to CISA.

PENTAGON PREDICTS MASSIVE BUILDUP OF BEIJING’S NUKES: The Pentagon’s annual China Military Power report, released today, predicts the country will likely have “at least” 1,000 deliverable nuclear warheads by 2030, per our own PAUL MCLEARY. The new assessment comes after the United States estimated that China’s atomic arsenal consisted of about 200 warheads just last year.

With the stockpile’s development, the Chinese are “creating capabilities that suggest they might be moving away from a decades-long approach to their nuclear policy and strategy,” a senior defense official told reporters before the release of the new study.

China’s maritime expansion is similarly concerning administration officials, McLeary writes: “The breakneck military buildup has produced a 360-ship navy, pushing well past the 297 hulls that the U.S. Navy operates. The Office of Naval Intelligence estimates that by 2030, China will have 425 ships in the water.”

ERIC SAYERS, an expert on China at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., had quite the response to the findings: “These reports started 21 years ago as a way to ensure the Congress and U.S. military had a baseline of the [People’s Liberation Army] to plan and modernize against,” he told NatSec Daily. “In this regard, they have utterly failed as a tool to motivate focus and resources. I now consider it an annual reminder of our lackadaisical response to the PLA military threat.”

LATEST AIR FORCE VACCINE FIGURES: Following Tuesday’s deadline for members of the Air Force to receive their Covid-19 vaccine, the service announced today that nearly 97 percent of airmen and Guardians on active duty have received at least one dose of the shot.

“Over the next 30 days, the Department of the Air Force will review requests for medical exemptions and religious accommodations,” the service said in a news release. “Department of the Air Force civilians have until Nov. 22 to be fully vaccinated, and Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members in a reserve component status must be vaccinated by Dec. 2.”

MARKEY, MERKLEY RESIST RAHM: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today advanced to the full chamber RAHM EMANUEL’s nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to Japan — but not without defections from two Democratic senators who voted against the president’s diplomatic pick.

Both Sens. ED MARKEY (D-Mass.) and JEFF MERKLEY (D-Ore.) opposed the nomination, with the latter releasing a statement invoking Emanuel’s handling of the 2014 murder of LAQUAN MCDONALD — who was fatally shot by Chicago police when Emanuel was mayor of the city. “Black Lives Matter. Here in the halls of Congress, it is important that we not just speak and believe these words, but put them into action in the decisions we make,” Merkley said.

“I have carefully considered Mayor Emanuel’s record — and the input of civil rights leaders, criminal justice experts, and local elected officials who have reached out to the Senate to weigh in — and I have reached the decision that I cannot support his nomination to serve as a U.S. Ambassador,” Merkley continued. “While I respect Mayor Emanuel’s many years of service, and the points of view of my colleagues who have come to a different conclusion, I will be voting ‘no’ when his nomination comes before the committee.”

HAWLEY WANTS SUPPORT FOR KEEPING WOMEN OUT OF DRAFT: Sen. JOSH HAWLEY (R-Mo.) is enlisting support for his effort to roll back a provision in the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would require women to register for a military draft, our own CONNOR O’BRIEN reports.

So far, five other Republicans have cosponsored the amendment, according to Hawley’s office: TOM COTTON of Arkansas, TED CRUZ of Texas, CINDY HYDE-SMITH of Mississippi, ROGER MARSHALL of Kansas and ROGER WICKER of Mississippi. Cotton and Wicker are members of the Armed Services Committee and joined Hawley in opposing the provision during a markup of the bill in July, as did Sen. MIKE ROUNDS (R-S.D.) and the panel’s top GOP member, Sen. JIM INHOFE (R-Okla.).

The timing of when the bill will come to the floor is still up in the air, as is what amendments will receive votes, including revisiting expanding the now male-only draft.

UPENN RESPONDS TO GOP SENS: Tuesday in this section, we reported on the three Republican senators who are questioning President JOE BIDEN’s ambassador to Germany nominee. They said AMY GUTMANN, the University of Pennsylvania’s president, engaged in a “quid pro quo” with Biden by giving him money for a no-show position at Penn, and that she also accepted Chinese money for the institution.

The university has long denied these charges, but last night STEPHEN MACCARTHY, Penn’s vice president for communications, sent us a long and blistering response to the lawmakers.

Re: the “no-show charge”: “Not all are tenure-track and involve teaching regular classes. Some are clinicians, some are researchers, and others are Professors of the Practice (the category that applied to President Biden), who contribute in a unique range of ways. In his affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania, President Biden was in fact phenomenally successful. As a Benjamin Franklin Presidential Professor of the Practice at Penn, he helped to expand the University’s global outreach, while sharing his wisdom and insights with thousands of Penn students through University-wide events, talks and classroom visits.”

And on the Chinese funds: “The foreign gifts cited were all properly reported to the U.S. Department of Education as required by Section 117 of the Higher Education Act. The President of the University was not personally involved in soliciting any of those donations. Penn is fully compliant with federal law regarding the reporting of foreign gifts and contracts.The Penn Biden Center has never solicited or received any gifts from any Chinese or other foreign entity. In fact, the University has never solicited any gifts for the Center. Since its inception in 2017 there have been three unsolicited gifts (from two donors) which combined total $1,100. Both donors are Americans. One hundred percent of the budget for the Penn Biden Center comes from University funds.”

— AMY GRAPPONE is now senior director of communications and strategic engagement at the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University. She most recently was communications director for Sen. TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

— TIFFANY EMERY is now a communications consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. She most recently was a media engagement specialist at CACI International, working for U.S. Central Command. She also is in the Air Force Reserves’ 927th Air Refueling Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

— URVASHI SARKAR, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “What’s known — and not known — about India’s nuclear weapons budget”

— ERIK EDSTROM, POLITICO Magazine: “Catching the Last ‘Last Flight’ Out of Afghanistan”

— RAMIN SKIBBA, Wired: “The United Nations Could Finally Create New Rules for Space”

— Chatham House, 4 a.m.: “Europe’s Strategic Choices 2021 — with CORNELIUS ADEBAHR, HANNES ADOMEIT, DOROTHÉE ALLAIN-DUPRÉ, DAN ANDREWS, JÖRG AU and more”

— The European Council on Foreign Relations, 5 a.m.: “Bulgaria’s Position in EU Foreign Policy: What Do the Candidates Think? — with MARIA CAPON, VESSELA CHERNEVA, DANIEL LORER, STEFAN TAFROV, EKATERINA ZAHARIEVA, KRUM ZARKOV

— The Center for a New American Security, 10 a.m.: “Towards a Sustainable U.S. Posture in the Middle East — with DEREK CHOLLET, ELISA EWERS, ILAN GOLDENBERG, MICK MULROY and BECCA WASSER

— The Foreign Policy Centre, 10 a.m.: “Fragmenting States: Learning the Lessons From Lebanon and Yemen — with NADWA AL DAWSARI, IBRAHIM HALAWI, FABIAN HAMILTON and LYNN MAALOUF

— The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 10:30 a.m.: “A Conversation with His Excellency Ambassador SHAIKH ABDULLA BIN RASHID AL KHALIFA — with MARISA LINO

— Open Society Foundations, 11 a.m.: “Investigating the Police in Latin America: The Role of Civil Society — with HAMISH CAMPBELL, GISELLE FLORENTINO, MANAKA INFANTE, MASHA LISITSYNA and MARIA LUISA AGUILAR RODRIGUEZ

— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 11 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Business Meeting”

— The Bipartisan Policy Center, 12 p.m.: “One Year Out from the Midterms: Where Election Misinformation Stands — with KATIE HARBATH, C. MURPHY HEBERT, NAOMI NIX and MAURICE TURNER

— The Royal United Services Institute, 12 p.m.: “Lord DAVID OWEN on Two Hundred Years of British-Russian Relations — with GILL BENNETT

— The Atlantic Council, 1 p.m.: “Elections Under DANIEL ORTEGA: Implications for Nicaragua, Central America, and Beyond — with CYNTHIA ARNSON, CARLOS FERNANDO CHAMORRO, LAURA CHINCHILLA, ISABEL DE SAINT MALÓ, JASON MARCZAK and PATRICK VENTRELL

— The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 1 p.m.: “From the Iranian Revolution to the Kabul Withdrawal — with KIM GHATTAS and TAREK MASOUD

— The Stimson Center, 1 p.m.: “How Do You ‘Know’ Who Did It — and Then What? The Challenges of Cyber Accountability — with DMITRI ALPEROVITCH, ELS DE BUSSER, DEBRA DECKER, MICHAEL TEODORI

— The Wilson Center, 1 p.m.: “Russia Resurrected: Its Power and Purpose in a New Global Order — with MICHAEL KIMMAGE and KATHRYN STONER

— The Wilson Center, 1 p.m.: “Taking Control: The United States and Canada Respond to China’s Supply Chain Challenge — with ANNA ASHTON, PERRIN BEATTY, KEVIN DEMPSEY, KIRSTEN HILLMAN and PITMAN B. POTTER

— The Institute for Policy Studies, 5 p.m.: “No Weapons, Wars, or Walls! Divest from Militarism, Invest in Communities! — with KHURY PETERSEN-SMITH

Have a natsec-centric event coming up? Transitioning to a new defense-adjacent or foreign policy-focused gig? Shoot us an email at [email protected] or [email protected] to be featured in the next edition of the newsletter.

And thanks to our editor, John Yearwood, who believes in our own self-defense capabilities.

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