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Japan is potentially open to hosting once-banned American intermediate-range missiles pending the results of a defense policy review, per the country’s ambassador to the United States — previewing what could be a dramatic escalation in Indo-Pacific tensions in just a few years’ time.
Speaking to NatSec Daily shortly after Prime Minister KISHIDA FUMIO spoke virtually with President JOE BIDEN, the ambassador said that leaders in Tokyo are weighing the idea of putting ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles capable of hitting China and North Korea on Japanese soil, though it’s far from a done deal.
“We have to move forward on the basis of national consensus,” Amb. TOMITA KOJI said, insisting his government is neither open nor resistant to the idea just yet. That will depend on the conclusion of Japan’s first defense strategy review since 2013, which the country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party announced in December. Tomita said Biden expressed his support for the review during his online chat with the Japanese premier.
“We look forward to engaging our American friends as we make progress here,” the ambassador told us. “We are starting to see an increasingly troubling security picture. Our security environment is getting very severe.”
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987, known as the INF, forbade the U.S. and Soviet Union from deploying ground-based nuclear and conventional ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges from 310 to 3,400 miles while also allowing intrusive on-site compliance verifications. But the deal ended in 2019 after both the Obama and Trump administrations accused Russia of violating its terms.
That’s now freed up the U.S. to put those missiles anywhere in the world, with some experts claiming such weapons in Japan would deter China from further aggressive action.
“A post-INF world offers huge potential for the U.S.-Japan alliance to enhance deterrence in Asia in the near-term. Washington and Tokyo need to move jointly and deliberately towards rotating ground-based anti-ship missiles across the Japanese archipelago,” ERIC SAYERS, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in an email. “The alliance exists to tackle big challenges and none are more critical than developing new ways to address the shifting military balance with the PRC.”
But the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ MIKE GREEN warned in an email, “the politics of U.S. INF in Japan are daunting. Never say never … China could make it easier … but the Japanese focus is on Japan’s own strike capability (non-nuclear) for now.” The politics are tough, namely because of Japan’s U.S.-drafted pacifist constitution, which dictates that the nation’s forces are for self-defense purposes only.
It’ll be hard for some to see the placement of U.S. missiles on China and North Korea’s doorstep as anything less than offensive in nature.
“We remain concerned about the potential for an arms race in intermediate-range ballistic missiles now that the INF Treaty is no more,” said DARYL KIMBALL, executive director of the Arms Control Association. Deploying those weapons to Japan would make the country a target in case of a broader conflict between the U.S, its allies and China, he said.
Last Friday, Japanese Defense Minister KISHI NOBUO said his country was exploring hosting American MQ-9 drones at a local base on a temporary basis.
End of war declaration won’t help: Tomita also told NatSec Daily that an end of war declaration signed between nations who fought in the Korean War won’t lead North Korean leader KIM JONG UN to dismantle his nuclear arsenal.
“I don’t think an end of war declaration at this point will help,” the ambassador said. “My understanding is that the North Koreans are not interested in that approach at the moment.”
Tomita called such a declaration — which would formally bring an end to the 1950s war — a “concession.” It should only be considered after the North Koreans make some positive gestures, he said.
NatSec Daily reported last year that the U.S. and South Korea were finalizing the end of war declaration text, a key goal for South Korean President MOON JAE-IN before his term ends in March. But if a key ally like Japan is opposed, Washington may pause before moving forward with the proposal.
SUPERPOWERS CLASH AT U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL: Russia and China swatted back at the United States during a fiery session at the United Nations Security Council over Moscow’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border, reports POLITICO’s DAVID HERSZENHORN.
“Russia’s actions strike at the very heart of the U.N. Charter. This is as clear and consequential a threat to peace and security as anyone can imagine,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD. She added: “Russia’s aggression today not only threatens Ukraine. It also threatens Europe. It threatens the international order.”
Russia immediately demanded a procedural vote seeking to stop the meeting — which the United States called before Russia takes over the Security Council presidency on February 1. “This is not only unacceptable interference in the domestic affairs of our state, but also an attempt to mislead the international community on the situation in the region, and also the reason for the current global tensions,” said Russian Ambassador to the U.N. VASILY NEBENZYA.
China agreed that the meeting should not have been called and defended Russia’s aggression. “Russia has repeatedly stated that it has no plans to launch any military action, and Ukraine has made it clear that it does not need a war,” said Chinese Ambassador to the U.N. ZHANG JUN. “Under such circumstances, what is the basis for the country’s concern to insist that there may be a war?”
In a statement on the Security Council meeting, Biden said the United States and its allies “continue to prepare for every scenario. The world must be clear-eyed about the actions Russia is threatening and ready to respond to the risks those actions present to all of us.”
And at her daily news briefing, White House press secretary JEN PSAKI responded to Russia’s questioning of the West’s estimate that Moscow has massed roughly 100,000 troops around Ukraine: “We have based the information that we have provided to all of you on substantive reports out there, our own assessments, our own coordinated intelligence-gathering with our partners on the ground.… It is not our preference to be having these conversations. We’d prefer there to be deescalatory actions by the Russians.”
BREAKING –– QATAR TO BE MAJOR NON-NATO ALLY: Biden announced today that he will designate Qatar as a major non-NATO ally of the U.S., giving the Middle Eastern country special benefits when it comes to weapons sales and security cooperation. Bahrain and Kuwait are the other Gulf states with the same status. Biden made the announcement as Sheikh TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL THANI, the emir of Qatar, visited Biden at the White House Monday.
BIDEN’S UKRAINE AMB PICK? Biden will select BRIDGET BRINK as ambassador to Ukraine, CNN’s KAITLAN COLLINS, NATASHA BERTRAND and KATE SULLIVAN reported, but the holdup now is that the Ukrainian government has yet to sign off on the selection.
We here at NatSec Daily couldn’t confirm this news before publication, but we reported earlier this month that Brink was the most-floated name in Washington for the job. We’ll stay on it.
2 YEARS AFTER TRUMP MOVE, BIDEN HASN’T REVERSED LANDMINE POLICY: Today is the second anniversary of former President DONALD TRUMP’s expansion of the U.S. military’s use of land mines, among the most brutal and horrific weapons of war. Biden promised during the campaign that he’d reverse the policy, saying “as president, I will promptly roll back this deeply misguided decision.”
The two-year mark would’ve been a good time to announce a reversal. Instead, he’s still thinking about it. “President Biden has made his position with respect to the use of landmines clear, and the Administration’s review of U.S. anti-personnel landmine policy remains ongoing,” a senior administration official told NatSec Daily.
Insiders tell us that the administration doesn’t want to announce the change until after the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy come out. Plus, there are some in the Pentagon who do believe prohibiting the use of land mines puts the U.S. military at a disadvantage in war.
“Two years of this reckless and immoral policy is two years too long. We urge immediate action to ban the use of anti-personnel landmines without geographic exceptions, and to set the U.S. on a short direct path to join the Mine Ban Treaty by 2023,” the group wrote in a letter to Biden and key Cabinet members today.
BEHIND BIDEN’S 51-WORD ASIA TRADE PLAN: Despite the administration’s claim that confronting China is their top focus and biggest 21st century challenge, so far America’s trade plan for Asia is all of 51 words, BOB DAVIS wrote for POLITICO Magazine.
“13 months into the Biden presidency, the administration’s plan for competing in the region consists of a single 51-word paragraph. In an October statement, Biden announced he would create what he calls an ‘Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.’ When asked now about Biden’s plans to take on China’s economy, administration officials still refer to the October description of the framework,” he wrote.
And that paragraph didn’t come about after some lengthy interagency review — it was hurriedly written as Biden was about to hold several virtual meetings with Asian leaders in the fall of 2021.
“The U.S. needed an economic plan — Biden had to show he was moving to counter China.
“JENNIFER HARRIS, a National Security Council economic official who has long been skeptical of free-trade pacts, was asked to come up with something the president could announce,” wrote Davis, a recently retired Wall Street Journal reporter. “She cobbled together a list of six areas the administration was working on already — digital technology, supply chains, climate, infrastructure, worker standards and what’s known as trade facilitation, meaning easing shipping problems.”
Critics say the plan isn’t ambitious enough. But others note the idea of finding common ground in separate areas reflects the political realities of the moment, where free-trade deals receive skepticism from both the right and left in Washington.
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PYONGYANG TESTS MOST POWERFUL MISSILE IN YEARS: North Korea has confirmed that the weapon it launched Sunday was an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Guam, The Associated Press’ HYUNG-JIN KIM reports, making it Pyongyang’s most significant test since 2017.
South Korean and Japanese officials judged that the missile flew roughly 800 kilometers (497 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles) before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
The official Korean Central News Agency identified the weapon as the Hwasong-12 missile, “a nuclear-capable ground-to-ground weapon with a maximum range of 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) when it’s fired on a standard trajectory,” per the AP. North Korea has now completed seven missile launches in this month alone.
UAE INTERCEPTS HOUTHIS’ LATEST MISSILES: The United Arab Emirates intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, per the AP’s JON GAMBRELL and ISABEL DEBRE. The attack — the Iran-backed rebels’ third in three weeks — came while Israeli President ISAAC HERZOG was visiting the country.
The UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported that “the attack did not result in any losses, as the remnants of the ballistic missile fell outside the populated areas.”
A Houthi military spokesperson claimed the rebels had targeted “sensitive sites” in Abu Dhabi and Dubai with Iranian-made Zulfiqar ballistic missiles and drones. Herzog’s visit to the UAE was the first official trip there by an Israeli head of state.
“America will have the backs of our friends in the region,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office today.
HOW A RUSSIAN-LINKED GROUP COULD HACK UKRAINE: Researchers at Symantec published a blog post Monday detailing how the Russian-linked Shuckworm hacking group — also known as Gamaredon or Armageddon — does its thing.
“Active since at least 2013, Shuckworm specializes in cyber-espionage campaigns mainly against entities in Ukraine. The group is known to use phishing emails to distribute either freely available remote access tools,” the researchers wrote, such as infecting Microsoft Word attachments to allow the delivery of malware.
Synmantec doesn’t disclose exactly who was targeted by the group, which has ties to Russia’s Federal Security Service, stating the post is solely meant to describe Shuckworm’s tactics, techniques and procedures — which we could see more of if Russia decides to renew its invasion of Ukraine.
“We do not expect to see reemergence of these TTPs until just prior or during active conflict,” Symantec told CyberScoop’s JOE WARMINSKY.
AUSTRALIA HAS MILLIONS IN RAYTHEON STOCK: Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the “Future Fund,” has invested $91.22 million in Raytheon Technologies via stocks, The Guardian’s BEN DOHERTY and BEN BUTLER reported.
The Fund told the Guardian that the money is invested in developed market equities, which also includes companies on the New York Stock Exchange.
Doherty and Butler note that Raytheon isn’t the only weapons maker receiving funds from Australia, drawing scrutiny from political leaders in Canberra.
“In December, a separate [Freedom of Information] request revealed the fund had invested in a Chinese state-controlled arms conglomerate, the Aviation Industry Corporation of China, that has sold combat aircraft to the Myanmar military, which is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Future Fund has more than $157m invested with 14 publicly traded companies that have done business with the Myanmar military,” they wrote.
LOCKHEED, AIRBUS VOW TO BUILD AF TANKERS LOCALLY: Lockheed Martin and Airbus announced they would build military tankers in Alabama and Georgia if they beat Boeing’s bid for the U.S. Air Force contract, Defense One’s MARCUS WEISGERBER reported.
“The companies plan to assemble the aircraft in Mobile before flying it to a Lockheed factory in Marietta, Georgia, where workers would install special military refueling and electronic equipment,” he wrote. “The work would create a total of 1,300 jobs in Mobile and Marietta, LARRY GALLOGLY, Lockheed’s project head, said during a virtual press conference this morning. Airbus would need to expand its factory in Mobile to accommodate widebody production, but Lockheed would use existing hangers previously used to work on the mammoth C-5 cargo plane.”
“Lockheed and Airbus have branded the new tanker as the LMXT. It would be a new version of Airbus’ Multi Role Tanker Transport, or MRTT, an A330-based tanker built in France and Spain and flown by 14 international militaries,” Weisgerber continued.
The Air Force plans to buy up to 160 tankers over the next decade.
PORTER WANTS COFA APPOINTEE: Rep. KATIE PORTER (D-Calif.) wants the Biden administration to talk to the Marshall Islands about its years of nuclear testing there during the Cold War in order to renew an agreement that could prove useful to countering China.
Countries called the Freely Associated States — the Marshall Islands, Palau and Micronesia — each have their own agreements with America known collectively as the Compacts of Free Association. Generally speaking, they all feature a trade-off: the U.S. provides funding for things like school lunches and the islands give America a platform from which to keep tabs on China and test missiles. In addition, the islands push Washington to remove nuclear waste from the islands after testing bombs decades ago in the region.
The COFA with the Marshall Islands expires in 2023, with the Palau agreement ending the following year.
The problem, Porter told NatSec Daily, is the U.S. has turned a blind eye to Marshallese concerns about America’s nuclear legacy there — potentially putting an extension to the agreement in jeopardy.
She told NatSec Daily in an interview that the administration is loathe to discuss what America might owe the islands after testing 67 nuclear bombs there from 1946 to 1958, namely covering the costs of cleaning up nuclear waste stored in the area.
Porter said that U.S. officials are reluctant to engage these small, but geostrategically significant, countries on the cleanup issue. “Well, we don’t have to talk about anything with our allies, but we benefit from talking with our allies about their concerns.”
To show the U.S. is serious, and won’t let the agreement expire, she’s calling on Biden to name a presidential envoy for finalizing negotiations. In the meantime, she’ll use her perch as chair of the Natural Resources committee’s oversight panel to ask administration officials about the status of talks.
“We have a real opportunity here in that we have democratic countries with whom we have a long standing relationship and a strong history. We need to be building on that and not leaving the door wide open to China,” Porter told us.
Relatedly, MARK LAMBERT, currently the deputy assistant secretary of State for Japan and Korea, will in the coming days — and as soon as tomorrow — be named as the new lead for the Pacific islands portfolio, multiple people familiar with the matter told NatSec Daily.
FORMER TRUMP ADVISER SAYS UKRAINE HAS GLOBAL IMPLICATIONS: K.T. McFARLAND, formerly Trump’s deputy national security adviser, wrote in a Fox News op-ed that the current Russia-Ukraine standoff is partly due to the president’s perceived feebleness.
She wrote of “America’s weakness and perceived decline under President Biden, and China’s and Russia’s new assertiveness” adding that “America’s allies no longer trust us, and our adversaries are emboldened. Friend and foe alike are reassessing their interests and ambitions accordingly.”
McFarland also goes on to argue that a potential invasion of Ukraine would be an earth-shattering event: “But the Ukraine crisis is about a lot more — potentially even the reconfiguration of the world. The tectonic plates of geopolitics are shifting and where it ends no one can predict with certainty. There are just so many unknowns, starting with the NATO alliance.”
And then there’s this: “China has weighed in and advises Biden to meet Russia’s demands. Russia will no doubt return the favor when China makes similar demands on Taiwan in the months ahead and advise the U.S. to stand aside. The Ukraine crisis had brought the growing economic and security relationship between Russia and China out in the open.”
Most experts aren’t convinced Moscow and Beijing are simpatico on the Ukraine issue or their general foreign policies, and there’s a weak causal link between Russia invading Ukraine and China invading Taiwan. Still, expect to see more attacks along these lines from the right on Biden’s handling of the crisis.
— MICHAEL DORAN is now the leader of the Hudson Institute’s new Center for Peace and Security in the Middle East. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who previously served in senior positions at the State Department and as a senior director at the National Security Council under former President George W. Bush.
— KEVIN ALLISON, XIAOQING BOYNTON and PAUL TRIOLO and are joining Dentons Global Advisors-Albright Stonebridge Group. Allison, who most recently served as director and deputy head of the Eurasia Group’s geo-technology practice, will be vice president for Europe and Eurasia and Technology Policy. Boynton, who most recently served as senior director for international affairs at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, will be senior vice president for China. Triolo, who most recently founded and led the Geo-Technology practice at the Eurasia Group, will be senior vice president for China and technology policy lead.
— JEREMY RODGERS has joined the Florida Digital Service as chief information security officer. He is a Navy Reservist who previously served as a client architect partner with the Defense Department, the intelligence community and other government entities.
— GEORGE PACKER, The Atlantic: “The Betrayal”
— EVAN OSNOS, The New Yorker: “How Beijing Is Playing the Olympics”
— ULRIKE FRANKE, The Washington Post: “Germany isn’t turning it’s back on NATO. It only looks that way.”
— The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, 8:30 a.m.: “Health IT Advancing the Mission: CXO Panel and HHS Panel — with DON BURGESS, GEORGE CHAMBERS, ANTIGONE DEMPSEY, RAM IYER, SAM MICHAEL, KSHEMENDRA PAUL, TROY SCHNEIDER, and RAJIV UPPAL”
— The Intelligence and National Security Alliance, 9 a.m.: “Coffee and Conversation with NEAL ZIRING — with LARRY HANAUER”
— The American Security Project, 10 a.m.: “How the United Kingdom Is Decarbonizing Defense and Adapting to Climate Change — with RICHARD NUGEE”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 10 a.m.: “Press Briefing: The Russian Threat to Ukraine — with RACHEL ELLEHUUS, SETH JONES, ANDREW LOHSEN and NIKOS TSAFOS”
— Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 10 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Sudan’s Imperiled Transition: U.S. Policy in the Wake of the October 25th Coup — with ISOBEL COLEMAN, COMFORT ERO, MARY CATHERINE PHEE and JOSEPH TUCKER”
— Washington Post Live, 10 a.m.: “World Stage: Crisis in Ukraine with Estonia Prime Minister KAJA KALLAS — with DAVID IGNATIUS”
— The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 10:15 a.m.: “Full Committee Hearing: Nominations — with NANI COLORETTI and SHALANDA YOUNG”
—The American Task Force on Lebanon, 11 a.m.: “Helping the Lebanese People Move Toward Recovery: Recommendations for U.S. Policy — with JEAN ABINADER, EDWARD M. GABRIEL, JOYCE KARAM, BRIAN KATULIS and PAUL SALEM”
— The Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, 2 p.m.: “Tenth Annual U.S.-Mexico Security Conference Part 2 — with RICARDO MÁRQUEZ BLAS, HENRY CUELLAR, VANDA FELBAB-BROWN, ALEXANDRA ZAPATA HOJEL, GEMA KLOPPE-SANTAMARÍA, NADIA NAVARRO, ANDREW I. RUDMAN, CLARE SEELKE, DAVID SHIRK, MARÍA TERESA MARTÍNEZ TRUJILLO”
— The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 3 p.m.: “‘Southern Blindness’: A View From the U.K. on Chinese and Russian Influence in the Global South — with JAMES HEAPPEY and DANIEL F. RUNDE”
— The Jewish Institute for National Security of America, 4 p.m.: “A Turkish-Israeli Thaw? — with YAAKOV AMIDROR, ALAN MAKOVSKY and BLAISE MISZTAL”
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, Ben Pauker, who also says he doesn’t have to talk about anything, but occasionally listens to our concerns.