U.S. spies find coronavirus spread in China, North Korea, Russia hard to chart


Mark Hosenball, Jonathan Landay

March 31, 2020 / 5:14 AM / Updated an hour ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As U.S. spy agencies seek to assemble a precise picture of the world’s coronavirus outbreaks, they are finding serious gaps in their ability to assess the situation in China, Russia and North Korea, according to five U.S. government sources familiar with the intelligence reporting.

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (blue) infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (red), also known as novel coronavirus, isolated from a patient sample. Image captured at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH/Handout via REUTERS

The agencies also have limited insight into the full impact of the pandemic in Iran, although information on infections and deaths among the ruling class and public is becoming more available on official and social media, two sources said.

The four countries are known by U.S. spy agencies as “hard targets” because of the heavy state controls on information and the difficulty, even in normal times, of collecting intelligence from within their closed leadership circles.

An accurate assessment of those countries’ outbreaks would aid U.S. and international efforts to limit the human and economic tolls from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, experts say.

The agencies are not just looking for accurate numbers, but also for any signs of the political ramifications of how the crisis is being handled.

We want to have as close an accurate, real-time understanding of where the global hotspots are and where they are evolving,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, an expert at the Center for Global Development thinktank, who led the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance from 2013 to 2017, including the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak. “The world is not going to get rid of this thing until we get rid of it everywhere.”

U.S. intelligence agencies first began reporting on the coronavirus in January and provided early warnings to lawmakers on the outbreak in China, where it originated in the city of Wuhan late last year, said the sources, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely about intelligence matters.

The pandemic has grown to nearly 740,000 cases in some 200 countries and territories, Reuters figures show, with the United States now reporting the most cases at more than 152,000.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, declined to comment.

NOT ONE CASE

North Korea claims to have not had a single case even though it borders China, but has asked international aid agencies for supplies like masks and testing kits.

One U.S. source said, “we don’t know” anything about the scale of the problem in the hermetic country.

It’s a nuclear-armed country where things that could destabilize the government would be of great interest to the United States,” said Konyndyk, who also led the U.S. response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Russian authorities are considering a nationwide lockdown after recording the biggest one-day rise in coronavirus cases for the sixth day in a row, for a total of 1,836 cases and nine deaths.

Knowing the full extent of Russia’s coronavirus spread could be critical as it shares borders with 14 other countries and is a hub of trade and travel.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo alluded last week to the dearth of accurate information on Russia and Iran, and accused China of a disinformation campaign, which Beijing denies.

China, which has reported more than 81,000 cases and more than 3,300 deaths, says no new cases are originating at home. It remains wary of travelers returning from abroad.

The U.S. view of the Chinese claim of no new domestic cases is that “some of it may be true,” according to one source. U.S. agencies remain skeptical that the Chinese have the virus under control, the source said.

Konyndyk said while Beijing concealed the severity of the initial outbreak, it does not appear to be doctoring numbers now, however.

China “seems to be the most successful country in terms of taking very large-scale growth and rapidly extinguishing it,” he said. “If their case numbers are real, it’s really important to understand their approach and adapt it.”

Editing by Mary Milliken and Sonya Hepinstall

Source: Reuters “U.S. spies find coronavirus spread in China, North Korea, Russia hard to chart”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Russian-Chinese Joint Air Patrol Showcases Strong Military Alliance


A Russian TU-95 bomber flies over East China Sea in this handout picture taken by Japan Air Self-Defence Force and released by the Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan July 23, 2019. Joint Staff Office of the Defense Ministry of Japan/HANDOUT via REUTERS

Reiters’ report “First Russian-Chinese air patrol in Asia-Pacific draws shots from South Korea” describes Russian-Chinese joint air patrol with strategic bombers and AEW&C warplanes, which aimed at display of Russia-China military alliance and perhaps the possible joint air protection of North Korea when it is attacked.

When the Soviet Union has collapsed and China has refrained to openly declare its commitment to protect North Korea, North Korea is justified to develop nuclear weapons to deal with US military threat. If the US has signed a peace treaty with North Korea to remove its threat and if North Korea has been ensured of joint Russian and Chinese protection, it certainly will be willing to give up its nuclear weapons.

That will be a positive outcome of the patrol. As for Russia-China military alliance, it has been an established fact for a long time as proved by their joint drills and cooperation in development of weapons. It is nothing new.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-russia-aircraft/first-russian-chinese-air-patrol-in-asia-pacific-draws-shots-from-south-korea-idUSKCN1UI072.


China to Rebuild Socialist Camp by Making North Korea Prosperous


China declares that it will not export its socialist model. In fact, it has learnt from US and Soviet failures that political systems whether socialist or US-style capitalist democracy cannot be exported.

However, China will be stronger in resisting US export of capitalist democracy if it can rebuild the soviet camp. China’s rise has already proved the success of Chinese-style socialism but due to Western media’s demonization of China, it is not impressive enough. The success of North Korean socialism with Chinese assistance in bringing prosperity to a notoriously poor, backward and starving nation will really raise people’s eyebrow and attract all developing countries the world over.

In its report on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to North Korea now titled “Xi, Kim say boosting China-North Korea ties good for regional peace: KCNA” today, Reuters quotes North Korea’s state media KCNA as saying that the two leaders agreed to have close strategic communication and deepen cooperation in various fields.

The deepening of cooperation in various fields perhaps means that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has established his powerbase through years of efforts to be able to conduct reform and opening-up Chinese style in various fields. As a result, China can move lots of its labor-intensive enterprises to North Korea to reduce labor costs, avoid the threat of US tariff hikes and reduce US trade deficit with China.

The success of socialism in North Korea will extend to other socialist countries such as Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela and Laos. As the US is fighting trade wars with its allies in Europe and East Asia, there is no US camp in its Cold War with China. China, however, will have its socialist camp with those socialist countries plus its de facto ally Russia and Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That will be quite a strong group to counter US hegemony and maintain world peace.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-china/xi-kim-say-boosting-china-north-korea-ties-good-for-regional-peace-kcna-idUSKCN1TL30G.


Crash Landing: Study Says the Air Force Is In Trouble. Here’s Why


What’s the problem?

by Michael Peck May 11, 2019

The estimates are dismaying: in a peacekeeping/no-fly zone scenario, the Air Force could only meet 29 percent of C3ISR requirements, 32 percent of tanker demand, 40 percent of special operations missions, and 46 percent of bomber missions.

Like a trucking company with too few trucks and too many deliveries, America’s airpower is being overworked and under-maintained.

(This first appeared several months ago.)

Two recent studies by RAND Corp. and the Government Accountability Office paint a grim picture of U.S. airpower. The RAND study examined whether the U.S Air Force has the capacity to fight in four types of future conflicts: a new Cold War with Russia or China, accompanied by a major regional conflict similar to the Korean and Vietnam Wars; a new Cold War, alongside a short regional conflict such as Operation Desert Storm, peace enforcement operations such as no-fly zones, and a counterinsurgency campaign. Drawing on historical data from actual Air Force operations in such conflicts, RAND estimated whether the Air Force could meet demand for eight categories of missions, including air superiority, strike, airlift, aerial refueling and C3ISR (command and reconnaissance).

In almost no cases could the Air Force meet 100 percent of demand, according to RAND’s calculations. In a long regional conflict, the Air Force could only meet 62 of attack and 65 percent of strike requirements, but it could supply 92 percent of aerial tanker demand.

Ironically, the scenario with the least likelihood of combat is the most draining for the Air Force. As RAND noted, “perhaps the most surprising result is that a future characterized by peace enforcement operations is most stressful to capacity.”

The estimates are dismaying: in a peacekeeping/no-fly zone scenario, the Air Force could only meet 29 percent of C3ISR requirements, 32 percent of tanker demand, 40 percent of special operations missions, and 46 percent of bomber missions.

RAND derived those dismal numbers from “prolonged no-fly zones in the Balkans and Middle East, which required continuous rotations of fighter, tanker, and C3ISR/BM [battle management] platforms.” In other words, prolonged operations — even of routine missions like enforcing a no-fly zone — overtax the Air Force.

Meanwhile, a GAO report reveals that from 2011 to 2016, the Air Force and Navy failed to meet goals for aircraft availability. Examining availability of 13 Air Force and Navy aircraft models, including the B-52, F-22, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and AV-8B Harrier, GAO found severe issues such as delayed depot maintenance, needed parts that were no longer manufactured, lack of mechanics, and aircraft flying beyond their service life.

“When aircraft availability goals are not met, training and operational missions may not be fulfilled as timely as needed,” GAO notes. “For example, F-22 squadron officials explained that the lack of available aircraft creates a shortage of trained pilots. F-22 pilots need extensive training to fulfill their air-superiority role. Further, command officials explained that when aircraft availability goals are not met, there may not be enough aircraft to respond to contingency requirements.”

For its part, the Navy has been shuffling aircraft to keep deployed squadrons up to strength, leaving non-deployed units with insufficient planes for training.

There are the usual no-brainer solutions for American airpower: more planes, better maintenance, fewer deployments. But the real problem is that the U.S. military has to prepare for a variety of missions, including peacekeeping or counterinsurgency operations that may be not combat-heavy, but are maintenance-intensive. And it has to do it with a fleet of expensive, aging and frequently finicky aircraft.

Something has to give.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Source: The National Interest “Crash Landing: Study Says the Air Force Is In Trouble. Here’s Why”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China, Russia Building Super-EMP Bombs for ‘Blackout Warfare’


Report reveals electromagnetic war scenarios

BY: Bill Gertz
January 24, 2019 5:00 am

Several nations, including China and Russia, are building powerful nuclear bombs designed to produce super-electromagnetic pulse (EMP) waves capable of devastating all electronics—from computers to electric grids—for hundreds of miles, according to a newly-released congressional study.

A report by the now-defunct Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack, for the first time reveals details on how nuclear EMP weapons are integrated into the military doctrines of China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

The report discloses how those states could use EMP attacks in theaters of battle in the Middle East, Far East, Europe, and North America.

“Nuclear EMP attack is part of the military doctrines, plans, and exercises of Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran for a revolutionary new way of warfare against military forces and civilian critical infrastructures by cyber, sabotage, and EMP,” the report states.

“This new way of warfare is called many things by many nations: In Russia, China, and Iran it is called Sixth Generation Warfare, Non-Contact Warfare, Electronic Warfare, Total Information Warfare, and Cyber Warfare.”

Nuclear-electronic warfare also is called “Blackout War” because of its effects on all electronic devices.

EMP attacks will be carried out at such high altitudes they will produce no blast or other immediate effects harmful to humans. Instead, three types of EMP waves in seconds damage electronics and the strikes are regarded by adversaries as not an act of nuclear war.

“Potential adversaries understand that millions could die from the long-term collateral effects of EMP and cyber-attacks that cause protracted black-out of national electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures,” the report said.

The attacks are regarded by enemy military planners as a relatively easy, potentially unattributable means of inflicting mass destruction and forcing opponents to capitulate.

EMP strikes can be adjusted in the size of the area and the intensity of the wave by detonating at different altitudes. The closer to the earth the more powerful is the pulse. The higher the altitude, the wider the area of impact.

“A single nuclear weapon can potentially make an EMP attack against a target the size of North America,” the report said. “Any nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 30 kilometers [18.6 miles] or higher will generate a potentially catastrophic EMP.”

Super-EMP bombs produce gamma rays that generate a peak EMP field of 200,000 volts per meter—enough to fry strategic communications and intelligence systems. China, Russia, and probably North Korea are said to have these arms, according to the commission. The United States has no super-EMP weapons in its nuclear arsenal.

The bombs do not require accuracy and the weapons do not require a re-entry vehicle, heat shield, and shock absorbers required for nuclear warheads detonated in the atmosphere above targets.

The weapons can be delivered through a variety of means including satellites, long- or medium-range missile; short-range missiles launched from a freighter; from some cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles; from jets or a commercial jetliner; or a meteorological balloon.

The declassified report was cleared for release by the Pentagon after a security review and provides graphics showing for the first time in an official government publication how nuclear detonations triggered 18.6 miles to 248 miles above the earth will produce targeted electronic waves stretching up to 1,500 miles.

Portions of the report are redacted in order to prevent adversaries from learning U.S. electronic vulnerabilities.

The report shows how Iran—a state U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed is one year away from building a nuclear weapon—could use a single nuclear weapon fired on a medium-range missile to black out Israel, Egypt and Israel together, or Saudi Arabia without creating blast damage.

China also could use EMP weapons to plunge the island of Taiwan into electronic darkness and disable aircraft carrier strike groups sailing to defend Taiwan from a mainland attack.

China-Taiwan-Philippines

North Korea could set off a nuclear bomb in space over Japan. Both Japan and Taiwan are heavily reliant on electronics that are vulnerable to EMP.

Russia could fire off one of its super-EMP bombs over Europe to throw NATO and the continent into darkness and create chaos as well, according to the report.

The Islamic State might acquire a nuclear weapon from North Korea or Iran along with a short-range missile that could loft it into space and detonate over Italy.

For the United States, an EMP war scenario is shown as the result of conflicts involving Russian strikes on Canada and U.S. retaliation using conventional precision strikes.

In a major conflict with either China or Russia, the first shot in the war could be a space burst of a super EMP weapon designed to knock out U.S. nuclear command and control and weapons.

“A super-EMP warhead, in the possession of Russia or North Korea, could put at risk the best protected U.S. assets, even threatening the survival of the U.S. nuclear deterrent,” the report said.

Moscow has adopted a new nuclear strategy called escalate to de-escalate a conflict with nuclear arms that the report suggests is tailored to space-based EMP attacks.

Russian nuclear missile submarines could use super-EMP warhead to paralyze U.S. strategic and conventional forces and blackout the national grid.

The report states that 14 EMP bursts up to 60 miles would create powerful electronic waves for key facilities, including national missile defenses at Alaska and California; the command center at the Pentagon outside Washington; and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado.

Other EMP strikes would shut down missile and bomber wings in Minot, North Dakota, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming and Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana.

Bomber wings in Missouri, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Texas also could be blacked out along with nuclear missile submarine bases in Washington and Georgia.

A U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan could lead to Beijing conducting a black-out EMP strike on the lower 48 states that it hopes would disrupt military command and control and communications and knock the United States out of the regional Asian conflict.

EMP area coverage

Iran, too, could launch a long-range missile nuclear attack in space over the United States as a way for the Islamic regime in Tehran to destroy what its leaders regard as the “Great Satan.”

IranEMPonIsrael

If North Korea or Iran covertly supplies the al Qaeda terrorist group with a nuclear weapon, the terrorist group that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon could obtain a short-range mobile missile and fire the nuclear warhead into space above the country as part of its war against the United States.

North Korea, which several years ago covertly transferred SA-10 surface-to-air missiles on a ship after repairs in Cuba, could use a short-range missile with a nuclear warhead to black out the Texas electric grid in a bid to force the United States to halt military exercises in South Korea.

“The United States is particularly vulnerable to this new type of warfare, because we have come to rely on information systems and computerized technologies,” said Peter Pry, a former CIA officer, commission member, and author of the new report.

“Much of the administrative information in the armed forces goes through the civilian internet,” he said. “Ours is the most technologically advanced society, and therefore the most susceptible to attack. What is surprising is that our enemies do not consider an EMP attack to be an act of nuclear war.”

The report makes clear that the potential use of EMP attacks is a real danger and one openly discussed in military doctrine writings.

Russian Gen. Vladimir Slipchenko first disclosed Moscow’s intentions for using EMP in his book “Non-Contact Wars” in 2000. “A single low-yield nuclear weapon exploded for this purpose high above the area of combat operations can generate an electromagnetic pulse covering a large area and destroying electronic equipment without loss of life that is caused by the blast or radiation,” he stated.

China’s military doctrine is similar and was outlined in a book on “Total Information Warfare.”

“As soon as its computer networks come under attack and are destroyed, the country will slip into a state of paralysis and the lives of its people will ground to a halt,” the author Shen Weiguang wrote.

Shen urged China to build “nuclear electromagnetic pulse” along with cyber weapons that will “enable it to stand up to the military powers in the information age and neutralize and check the deterrence of Western powers, including the United States.”

Iran’s doctrine is contained in a military textbook “Passive Defense” that calls for EMP attacks. “As a result of not having the other destructive effects that nuclear weapons possess, among them the loss of human life, weapons derived from electromagnetic pulses have attracted attention with regard to their use in future wars,” the book states.

North Korea has threatened to use nuclear EMP attacks following its most recently underground nuclear test. State-run North Korean media said the thermonuclear test blast involved tests for EMP strikes.

The latest EMP commission report, “Nuclear EMP Attack Scenarios and Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare,” is the 13th and final report of the commission. It is dated July 2017. However, as a result of a lengthy security review the report was made public last week.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “China, Russia Building Super-EMP Bombs for ‘Blackout Warfare’”

Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China, Russia and North Korea eye adjustment of U.N. sanctions in talks


October 10, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China, Russia and North Korea believe it is necessary to consider adjusting U.N. sanctions against North Korea at an appropriate time, China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

It issued the statement with the three parties’ positions on its website after they held talks in Moscow on Tuesday.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

Source: Reuters “China, Russia and North Korea eye adjustment of U.N. sanctions in talks”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China says ‘no cause for panic’ over U.S. ties, but won’t be blackmailed


David Brunnstrom, Rodrigo Campos

September 29, 2018

UNITED NATIONS/NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, said on Friday there was “no cause for panic” over friction between Beijing and Washington, but warned that China would not be blackmailed or yield to pressure over trade.

At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump escalated tensions with Beijing by accusing it of seeking to meddle in the Nov. 6 U.S. congressional elections to stop him and his Republican Party from doing well because of his China trade policies. At the same meeting, Wang rejected the charge.

“Protectionism will only hurt oneself, and unilateral moves will bring damage to all,” Wang said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

“Regarding trade frictions, China stands for a proper settlement based on rules and consensus through dialogue and consultation on an equal footing. China will not be blackmailed or yield to pressure.”

Trump, who accuses China of stealing U.S. intellectual property, limiting access to its own market and unfairly subsidizing state-owned industries, has escalated his trade war with China and U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods kicked in on Monday, prompting Beijing to retaliate with additional tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. products.

Wang earlier told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York that concrete actions had to be taken to maintain relations between the United States and China.

“The closer our engagement, the more closely entwined our interests, maybe various suspicions and even frictions may ensue,” Wang said.

“This is not surprising and it is also no cause for panic. What is important is how these differences should be viewed, evaluated and handled.”

Wang, who holds the twin titles of foreign minister and state councilor, dismissed any suggestion there was forced technology transfer from foreign firms in China and played down complaints by some U.S. firms about market conditions in China.

“A small number of companies that are not so satisfied may speak up louder, but I don’t think they represent the majority of the companies in the Chinese market,” he said.

Further cooperation between the United States and China was key in pursuing denuclearization of its ally North Korea, Wang said, while urging the creation of a peace mechanism and for the United States to give North Korea more incentives.

“We believe it is … right for the U.S. to make timely and positive responses so as to truly meet North Korea halfway,” Wang said in his U.N. speech.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned members of the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that they must “set the example” by enforcing sanctions on North Korea as China and Russia suggested the council consider easing the tough measures because progress had been made.

Wang warned that scrapping the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which China and other powers are fighting to save after Trump pulled out of it in May, could lead to a regional arms race.

He said China was fostering closer economic ties with Russia as the two economies were complimentary and Moscow and Beijing were also on the same page on international issues.

“We want to build a new kind of relationship featuring non-confrontation, non-conflict and no targeting any third country,” he said. “Russia is our largest neighbor, and there’s need for normal and friendly ties between neighbors.

“Certainly, the two economies are highly complementary. We need the Russian energy like oil and natural gas and they need Chinese processed goods … and inexpensive Chinese goods.”

Wang said China had exercised “utmost restraint” in the South China Sea and seeks peaceful solutions to disputes there. He said Beijing’s sovereignty over the South China Sea islands was “very clear” and that people there felt the need for enhanced defenses given “heavy” U.S. military patrols, Wang said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about $3 trillion worth of trade passes every year. Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the sea, which has oil and gas deposits and rich fishing grounds.

Wang said that while Asia belonged to the people of Asia, China did not seek a closed continent or to create “a new order” or hegemony.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 28, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
“China will not, repeat, not repeat the old practice of a strong country seeking hegemony,” Wang said. “I don’t think China will become the United States and China will not challenge the United States, still less will China take the place of the United States.”

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Rodrigo Campos; writing by John Irish and Michelle Nichols; editing by Grant McCool and Jonathan Oatis

Source: Reuters “China says ‘no cause for panic’ over U.S. ties, but won’t be blackmailed”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.