The Sixth Seal: More Than Just Manhattan (Revelation 6:12)

New York, NY – In a Quake, Brooklyn Would Shake More Than Manhattan
By Brooklyn Eagle
New York, NY – The last big earthquake in the New York City area, centered in New York Harbor just south of Rockaway, took place in 1884 and registered 5.2 on the Richter Scale.Another earthquake of this size can be expected and could be quite damaging, says Dr. Won-Young Kim, senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
And Brooklyn, resting on sediment, would shake more than Manhattan, built on solid rock. “There would be more shaking and more damage,” Dr. Kim told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.
If an earthquake of a similar magnitude were to happen today near Brooklyn, “Many chimneys would topple. Poorly maintained buildings would fall down – some buildings are falling down now even without any shaking. People would not be hit by collapsing buildings, but they would be hit by falling debris. We need to get some of these buildings fixed,” he said.
But a 5.2 is “not comparable to Haiti,” he said. “That was huge.” Haiti’s devastating earthquake measured 7.0.
Brooklyn has a different environment than Haiti, and that makes all the difference, he said. Haiti is situated near tectonic plate.
“The Caribbean plate is moving to the east, while the North American plate is moving towards the west. They move about 20 mm – slightly less than an inch – every year.” The plates are sliding past each other, and the movement is not smooth, leading to jolts, he said.
While we don’t have the opportunity for a large jolt in Brooklyn, we do have small, frequent quakes of a magnitude of 2 or 3 on the Richter Scale. In 2001 alone the city experienced two quakes: one in January, measuring 2.4, and one in October, measuring 2.6. The October quake, occurring soon after Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “caused a lot of panic,” Dr. Kim said.
“People ask me, ‘Should I get earthquake insurance?’ I tell them no, earthquake insurance is expensive. Instead, use that money to fix chimneys and other things. Rather than panicky preparations, use common sense to make things better.”
Secure bookcases to the wall and make sure hanging furniture does not fall down, Dr. Kim said. “If you have antique porcelains or dishes, make sure they’re safely stored. In California, everything is anchored to the ground.”
While a small earthquake in Brooklyn may cause panic, “In California, a quake of magnitude 2 is called a micro-quake,” he added.

Why South Korea is about to go nuclear: Daniel 7

How the Afghanistan Withdrawal Looks from South Korea, America’s Other ‘Forever War’

U.S. President Joe Biden this week was asked what the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan means for Washington’s other global military commitments. In response, Biden stressed the “fundamental difference” between Afghanistan and places like South Korea, where the U.S. also has a major troop presence. 

It would be hard, if not impossible, to find a South Korean who disagrees with that assessment. There are obvious differences between Afghanistan, one of the world’s poorest and least-developed countries, and South Korea, a stable democracy and U.S. treaty ally that has the world’s 10th largest economy and sixth most powerful military.

Yet, the messy U.S. retreat from Afghanistan, and the ensuing Taliban takeover, has intensified questions here about how much South Korea should depend on long-term U.S. military protection and whether Seoul should do more to look after its own defense. Specifically, it may amplify voices who want South Korea to pursue its own nuclear deterrent.

The U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea, a remnant of the 1950s Korean War that ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty. Although it has been decades since major hostilities, U.S. troops remain as a deterrent to the nuclear-armed and often belligerent North Korea.

Few think the U.S. military will withdraw from South Korea anytime soon. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said this week the U.S. has “no intention of drawing down forces” from South Korea.

Analysis: What Does Fall of Kabul Mean for North Korea? 

Experts are debating how the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan could affect Pyongyang 

What explains the concerns?  

Doubts about long-term U.S. military commitment are rooted partly in South Korea’s experience with former U.S. President Donald Trump, whose “America First” foreign policy consistently strained the seven-decade-old alliance.

Trump not only demanded South Korea pay a bigger share of the cost of U.S. troops, he at times questioned whether the troops were necessary at all. 

As a candidate, Trump even suggested South Korea and Japan get their own nuclear weapons, and threatened to withdraw troops from both countries, if they did not pay more for protection.

Those kinds of statements are hard to forget, said Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. 

“South Korea has experienced the past four years under the Trump administration, and we are not 100% sure the U.S. won’t go back to this,” Park said.

Larger US trends at play

Trump isn’t the only factor for South Korea to consider. Growing segments on both sides of the U.S. electorate are skeptical of U.S. military involvement overseas.

Many Trump-allied Republicans now oppose what they call U.S. “forever wars.” On the left, high-profile politicians, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, call for drastically reducing the Pentagon budget, along with a more restrained global agenda. 

Those views are concerning to Chun In-bum, a retired South Korean lieutenant general, who worries many Americans don’t see the value in having troops in South Korea. 

“They don’t realize the stability that comes with it. They don’t realize the security that comes with that stability. They don’t realize the economic benefits that come from that stability and security. And that really concerns me,” Chun said.

Kim Yong Chol singled out Seoul for what he said was a missed opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations by going ahead with the drills

Nuclear concerns

The U.S.-South Korea alliance already faced significant challenges, mostly from North Korea.

Although South Korea’s conventional forces are vastly superior to the North’s, Pyongyang has one thing that Seoul doesn’t, nuclear weapons. Instead, South Korea relies on the so-called U.S. nuclear umbrella of protection.

In recent years, though, there have been more calls for South Korea to pursue nuclear weapons in some form, either through domestic development or the restationing of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons that were removed in the early 1990s.

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, there have already been renewed calls for South Korea to acquire nuclear weapons.

In a Facebook post this week, conservative South Korean lawmaker Thae Yong-ho proposed Seoul pursue either a NATO-style nuclear sharing arrangement or that it restore U.S. tactical nuclear weapons.

If North Korea does not denuclearize by 2027, Thae said, the South “should present a strategic timetable to the United States and China and announce that we will inevitably pursue nuclear development.” 

“The lesson for us from the Afghan crisis is that there are no permanent enemies or permanent allies in this world. There is only national interest,” said Thae, who defected to South Korea after working as a North Korean diplomat.

South Korea briefly pursued an illicit nuclear program in the 1970s, when there were also concerns about U.S. military commitment. It abandoned that effort several years later.

In recent years, some opinion polls suggest the South Korean public would support domestic nuclear weapons development.

“The very serious and fundamental problem is that we, South Korea, do not have any capability of nuclear deterrence. We have to rely 100% on the United States,” Park said.US Lt. Col. Douglas Hayes and Republic of Korea Army Col. Seong Ik Sung discuss the progress of a coordinated, joint artillery exercise May 10, 2016. (US Army photo)

Sovereignty debate

Another point of alliance tension is whether and at what speed South Korea should regain more control of its forces during a hypothetical war.

In 1950, South Korea handed command authority of its troops to the U.S. in order to fend off a North Korean attack during the early stages of the Korean War. The U.S. retained that authority until 1994, when South Korea assumed peacetime “operational control” of its forces.

Under the current arrangement, the U.S. would still control certain aspects of South Korea’s military if war broke out. Some left-leaning South Korean politicians object to that prospect and want the arrangement to be changed as soon as possible. 

Song Young-gil, who heads South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party, said the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is the latest evidence Seoul should speed up the so-called “OPCON transition.” 

“If you have no experience in planning and executing your own operations, you do not know what kind of trouble you will face as a nation,” Song said in a Facebook post.

Chun, the former lieutenant-general, disagreed. Such a transition, he said, could jeopardize the U.S.-South Korea alliance, ultimately making South Korea less safe.

“South Koreans need to realize that if we have OPCON transition there’ll be a possibility of a disconnect between the two allied forces who are right now attached at the hip,” Chun said. 

The issue already causes friction in the U.S.-South Korea relationship, though mostly beneath the surface. 

The U.S. and South Korea agreed in 2018 to begin a three-stage process for assessing whether Seoul is ready to regain wartime control. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says he would like to complete the transfer by the end of his term in May 2022. U.S. officials, however, warn against imposing a time limit, saying the transition should instead be conditions-based.

Any attempt to rush the issue will “do damage to the relationship we have right now,” Chun said. “And the relationship we have right now is pretty good,” he added. 

Ties growing

In fact, the U.S.-South Korea alliance has recently expanded to focus on other regional and global issues, such as the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and China’s growing assertiveness.

Many South Korean analysts believe the Korean peninsula is a core national interest for the United States. Opinion polls suggest broad public support in both countries for the U.S. troop presence. There are no signs that will change, especially as the U.S.-China rivalry intensifies.

“It’s pretty clear that the U.S. has tried to move from the Middle East to focus on the so-called Indo-Pacific area,” Park said, adding that “South Korea is one of the, if not the most, important allies in this region.”

Russia Tests New Nuclear Weapon: Daniel 7

New satellite images show Russia may be preparing to test nuclear powered ‘Skyfall’ missile

By Zachary Cohen, CNN
Updated 8:22 PM EDT, Wed August 18, 2021

Washington(CNN)New satellite images obtained by CNN show Russia may be preparing another test of its nuclear-powered cruise missile, known as “Skyfall”– a controversial weapon that is designed to defeat US defense systems.

The photos, which were captured on August 16 by the commercial satellite imaging company Capella Space, offer “strong indications Russia was preparing to test a nuclear-powered cruise missile” at a known launch site located near the Arctic Circle, experts at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies Center for Nonproliferation Studies who analyzed the photos told CNN. 

US officials are aware that Russia could be preparing another test of what it calls the “Burevestnik” missile as part of its advanced weapons program, according to a source briefed on the matter. 

The CIA declined to comment and the Pentagon and the Russian Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests.

“Using a nuclear reactor would, in principle, give the cruise missile unlimited range to fly under and around US missile defense radars and interceptors,” according to researcher Jeffrey Lewis, a weapons expert at the Middlebury Institute who reviewed the images.

There are “substantial questions, however, about whether the system can be made to work successfully, to say nothing of the threat that testing this system may pose to the environment and human health,” he added. 

Those risks have prompted some experts to call the weapon a “flying Chernobyl,” Lewis told CNN, noting an August 2019 effort to recover a missile that had crashed into the White Sea resulted in an explosion that killed five Russian technical personnel

At the time, Lewis told CNN that satellite imagery suggested that the incident might have been related to the development of a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

Russia conducted at least one test flight of the nuclear-powered cruise missile from the same site near the Arctic Circle in November 2017. Moscow reportedly carried out multiple other tests in the months that followed, though none were considered successful.

In March 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin released a video of a nuclear-powered cruise missile test, which allowed open-source researchers, including analysts at the Middlebury Institute, to identify the location, Lewis told CNN.

Researchers have been monitoring this site in recent months and satellite images taken by commercial satellite imaging company Planet over the summer showed cargo ships visiting this location and supplies piling up at a support area, according to Lewis. More recently, Russia issued a “notice to mariners” warning of hazardous operations to be conducted between August 15 to 20 near the known Burevestnik test site near Pankovo on Novaya Zemlya. 

A high-resolution radar image taken on August 16 showed “Russian personnel had erected a large environmental shelter to protect the missile and the crews preparing the launch from the harsh weather,” according to Lewis. 

“This shelter was retracted, revealing a large object on the launch pad, which is a possible SSC-X-9 Skyfall launcher,” he said. “There are also a significant number of objects next to the launch pad that are likely vehicles and shipping containers. None of these signatures were present the last time the site was imaged optically in June.”

Russia has been modernizing its strategic nuclear weapons and delivery systems to counter US and NATO and bolster its claim to be a major military power, raising fears of another nuclear arms race as the US also sets about upgrading its nuclear arsenal. 

While Moscow and Russia renewed the New START Treaty in February, shortly after President Joe Biden took office, the US has withdrawn from two landmark arms control treaties with Russia, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, and the Open Skies Treaty in 2020. CNN’s Nicole Gaouette and Oren Liebermann contributed reporting

The Growing Chinese nuclear horn: Daniel 7

China’s new silos: Nuclear arms control more urgent than ever

Over the last few weeks, evidence has emerged that China may be expanding its arsenal of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) on a much larger scale than previously believed. Commercial satellite imagery analysed in June and July showed two huge missile silo fields, each capable of housing up to 120 ICBMs, under construction in the deep interior, in Gansu and Eastern XinjiangProvinces. And the Pentagon this month reportedly discovered a third field of similar size under construction in Inner Mongolia.

It’s not news that in recent times China’s nuclear weapons arsenal has been growing and modernising, and its delivery systems diversifying. But its stockpile has been seen as still comparatively small, thought to be no more than 350 weapons (with just 100 ICBMs to carry them) as against the 5,600 in the United States’ hands and 6,300 in Russia’s. And these developments, while not comforting, were regarded until now by most analysts as no more than could be expected in a regional environment of growing volatility, not necessarily inconsistent with Beijing’s longstanding “minimal deterrence” and “no first use” nuclear posture.

But the news of the huge new silo fields has certainly set off alarm bells, with the US Strategic Command, for example, referring to “the growing threat the world faces”.

Some of the fears may be misplaced. In particular, it should not be assumed that every new field of 120 silos means 120 new missiles. As the Monterey Institute’s Jeffrey Lewis points out, “it could very easily be 12”. The layout of the silos under construction, spread out across the 1,800 square kilometres or so of each site, closely resembles the planned US “shell game” site of the 1970s, where 23 silos were to be built for every MX missile to shuttle between, with the aim of forcing the Soviet Union to target them all.

And of course it should not be assumed that any new missiles will be acquired for aggressive first use. China may want a much expanded arsenal to give matching status to its new superpower self-image. It may be genuinely concerned about America’s evolving ballistic missile defence capability, and the need for more effective deterrence of new hypersonic and autonomous weapons systems. It may simply be, as New York Times columnists William Broad and David Sanger have put it, “a creative, if costly, negotiating ploy”, creating collateral to be traded away if China is ever persuaded to enter into arms control negotiations with the United States and Russia (very unlikely, but maybe not impossible, as a Stimson Centre analysis out this week interestingly suggests).

It has never been more important for nuclear policymakers everywhere to step back from the brink. 

But, even on the most optimistic view, the new developments are troubling. The potential for a full-scale new global nuclear arms race is clearly there. India and Pakistan are increasing their arsenals, as is North Korea with denuclearisation negotiations completely stalled. Even the UK has – extraordinarily – announced a 40 per cent increase in the cap on its own stockpile.

Proliferation pressures are growing in North East Asia, and in the Middle East with the Iran situation still potentially explosive. Major bilateral agreements between the really crucial players, the United States and Russia, are either dead (ABM, INF, Open Skies) or on life support (New START) and it remains hugely uncertain whether the recent Putin-Biden agreement to resume strategic dialogue on these issues will bear fruit.

A major new breakout by China will not help the restoration of sanity on any of these fronts.

It has never been more important for nuclear policymakers everywhere to step back from the brink. True, the risk of deliberate, aggressive use of nuclear weapons by any state may well be no greater than ever, with even the most obdurate leaders well aware that nuclear homicide is likely to mean nuclear suicide.

But the prospect of nuclear catastrophe flowing from system error, human error or miscalculation, now compounded by miscommunication or system breakdown born of cyber-sabotage, and the growing entanglement of nuclear with conventional weapons, is greater than it has ever been. This was reflected by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists placing the hands of its Doomsday Clock at 100 seconds to midnight, closer than ever before. Neither statesmanship nor inherent system integrity explain our escape from disaster so far. Just sheer dumb luck, which cannot be assumed to continue.

The Doomsday Clock, created in 1947, to symbolise the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons (Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images)

The coming into force earlier this year of the UN-negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons offers some cause for celebration, but not much. It is not going to get buy-in, now or perhaps ever, from any of the nuclear armed states, and those such as Australia who want to believe they gain shelter from their protection. And this for reasons that are not just ideological, geopolitical or psychological, but technical as well: the treaty has real problems when it comes to safeguards, verification and, above all, enforcement.

There is a realistic path forward, and the 2009 report of the Australia-Japan sponsored International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament remains one of the most useful guides to it – I hope a claim justified by more than my co-authorship of it. Like it or not, we have to accept that nuclear disarmament is only ever going to be achievable on an incremental basis, building into the process a series of staging-points. The immediate efforts of activists, and the policymakers they are seeking to influence, should be focused not on elimination but on “minimisation”, or risk reduction.

Priority here should be given to the “4 Ds”.

Doctrine – getting a universal buy-in to No First Use, which is already supported at least notionally by China and India, and a path which President Joe Biden, like Barack Obama before him, would clearly like to go down.

De-alerting – buying time by taking every possible weapon (now some 2,000) off launch-on-warning status.

Deployment – drastically reducing the number of weapons, now around 4,000 globally, actively operational.

Decreased numbers – drastically reducing overall stockpile numbers to around 2,000, down from the more than 13,000 now in existence globally.

A world with much lower numbers of nuclear weapons, with very few of them physically deployed, with practically none of them on high-alert launch status and with every nuclear-armed state visibly committed to never being the first to use them, would still be very far from being perfect. No one should dream of settling for that as the endpoint. But, with the latest wake-up call from China, it is a start the world now increasingly desperately needs.

The newest horizon for nuclear war: Revelation 16

The era of space warfare and the growing threat of EMP

By Steve Kates/Dr. Sky
August 18, 2021 at 2:30 pm

A very unique satellite was launched on May 1, 2017 with the help of SpaceX.

This satellite was part of a classified mission that took a new type of payload into space, identified as USA 276 (known officially as NROL 76 and COSPAR No. 2017-022A).

This launch is part of an ever-growing number of spacecraft thought to be associated with the National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.

The satellite was placed into an orbit that brings it as close to Earth as 395.3 kilometers (perigee) and 415.8 kilometers (apogee), with an inclination of 50 degrees.

Ground-based observers noted the small spacecraft was placed in an orbit very similar to that of the International Space Station, but why?

Space experts feel the satellite is new technology that could be used to observe — up close and personal — the activity of other nations’ satellites in the event of a military or political crisis.

After it was launched, some observers said an object appeared to following and orbiting the ISS before it was placed either above or below the space station.

At its closest, USA 276 was within 6.4 kilometers of the ISS on June 3, 2017, somewhere of the south Atlantic Ocean.

Another theory as to the recent close encounter is that they may be testing a spacecraft autopilot system known as RAVEN. This system will help to create smoother rendezvous and docking platforms for future missions to the ISS.

One final note: On the day of the launch, live coverage of the spacecraft was cut 2:48 after launch as the rocket headed to space.

It was just after the first stage separated from the rocket. Sounds like they were trying to preserve some of the trajectory secrets.

Here is a video on the future of the topic of space warfare.

China and Russia have made great progress on the development of space warfare technologies. The sad fact is that space is the growing battlefield of the near future.

The United States has established the newest branch of its military, the Space Force.

Here is additional information on the Space Force.

Here is the latest information on the U.S Space Command.

The threat of warfare moving to the next realm, space, is a very serious concern for all.

The other related area of concern for all of us, is the subject of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and how that can wipe out our national electric grid, space-based GPS systems and the threat to our own way of digital life.

The work of Dr. Peter Vincent Pry should be made available to all, as he is one of the best experts on the subject matter of how EMP will damage or destroy our way of life, from a surprise attack from a low or high altitude detonation of a nuclear weapon in space.

Here is an excerpt from some of Pry’s work on the subject:

Nuclear HEMP 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 HEMP.

Significantly, because HEMP attack entails detonating a nuclear weapon at such high altitude that no blast or other prompt effects injurious to humans are delivered, only the HEMP that immediately damages only electronics, potential adversaries do not appear to regard nuclear HEMP attack as an act of nuclear warfare.

Ignorance of the military doctrines of potential adversaries and a failure of U.S. strategic imagination, as noted in military writings of potentially hostile powers, is setting America up for a HEMP Pearl Harbor.

Russia, China, North Korea and Iran appear to regard nuclear HEMP attack as the ultimate weapon in an all-out “Cyber War” aimed at defeating U.S. and allied military forces on the battlefield, in a theater of operations, and as a means of defeating entire nations by blacking-out their electric grids and other critical infrastructures.

Russia, China, and North Korea presently have the capability to make a HEMP attack that would blackout the U.S. electric power grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures. Iran may have clandestinely developed capabilities to make a HEMP attack against the U.S. or may soon be able to do so.

Russia, China, and North Korea have developed “Super-EMP” nuclear weapons that can generate extraordinarily powerful HEMP, exceeding hardening standards for the best protected U.S. military forces.

Contrary to biased “junk science” studies by the electric power industry lobby, a nuclear HEMP attack on the U.S. would not affect only a few states, be quickly recoverable, comparable to localized blackouts caused by hurricanes. HEMP attack would cause protracted blackout of electric grids and life-sustaining critical infrastructures, imperiling national existence.

HEMP attack by a single nuclear weapon can collapse the U.S. national electric power grid.

A more likely scenario for HEMP attack by Russia, China, or North Korea might focus HEMP peak fields on U.S. nuclear forces and C3I to paralyze U.S. nuclear retaliatory capabilities, with blacking-out the U.S. national electric grid and other critical infrastructures an important additional objective, which would inevitably result from such an attack.

The HEMP threat is not merely theoretical, but well-established empirically, including by real world blackouts: “With few exceptions, the U.S. national electric grid is unhardened and untested against nuclear EMP attack. In the event of a nuclear EMP attack on the United States, a widespread protracted blackout is inevitable.” (EMP Commission Chairman, Dr. William R. Graham)

Here is more on Pry, who will be my special guest at the Dr. Sky Film Festival. The event, a screening of George Lucas’ futuristic thriller, “THX1138.”will be held at 4 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Chandler Alamo Drafthouse. 

Here is more information.

Track satellites in space in real time here

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

The China Horn will claim Taiwan: Daniel 7

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. | Zabi Karimi/AP Photo

U.S. commitment to Taiwan under scrutiny after Afghanistan’s fall

Welcome, China Watchers. Phelim Kine, your regular host, is on vacation this week. Your guest host is Tong Zhao, senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. His research focuses on strategic security issues, such as nuclear weapons policy, deterrence, arms control, nonproliferation, missile defense, hypersonic weapons, and China’s security and foreign policy. He is the author of “Tides of Change: China’s Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarines and Strategic Stability” and “Narrowing the U.S.-China Gap on Missile Defense: How to Help Forestall a Nuclear Arms Race.” Over to you, Tong. — John Yearwood, global news editor

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban may not have immediate implicationsfor the credibility of U.S. commitment to Taiwan. But the Afghan National Army’s rapid collapse and the American military’s hasty withdrawal highlight an important fact for decision makers in Washington, Taipei and Beijing: The U.S.’ future commitment to defending Taiwan is inherently interconnected with Taiwan’s own commitment to defending itself.

If Taiwan will not fight for its own independence, neither will Washington; similarly, if Washington shows hesitation, Taiwan’s resolve may also break down. This reminds Beijing of some of the key vulnerabilities in the U.S.-Taiwan security relationship.

To some extent, the withdrawal from Afghanistan demonstrates the U.S. seriousness in meeting the security challenges from the great power competition with China. On the other hand, as Washington recognizes Beijing as a rising peer competitor, the importance of working with Beijing to maintain bilateral strategic stability and avoid catastrophic conflicts and mutual destruction also becomes more obvious, not to mention the increasing need for cooperation to address urgent global challenges, such as the pandemic and climate change.

In this sense, the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 provides a more relevant precedent than the current Afghan crisis. The fundamental challenge to the U.S. commitment to Taiwan is the growing tension between maintaining bilateral strategic stability with China and fighting China over Taiwan in a violent military conflict that has every potential to escalate into an all-out major power war.

Beijing has not been shy about its thinking of how to undermine the resolve of both Taipei and Washington. Believing that the relative balance of power ultimately determines the future geopolitical landscape, China has been focused on establishing military advantages against Taiwan and American forces at the theater level in the Asia-Pacific region. By the time Beijing can demonstrate clear military advantages, neither Taipei nor Washington would have the resolve to put up a fight that is doomed to fail. Indeed, as China moves the military balance increasingly to its favor, it feels vindicated to see a debate in Washington about whether the United States should cut loss in its failing military assistance to Taiwan.

In recent months and years, China dispatched air and naval patrols near Taiwan, conducted military drills in the region, and practiced new force mobilization and projection capabilities. In doing so, it signaled that China is not only accumulating greater military advantages but also better prepared and more willing to employ its newly gained power to achieve the goal of unification.

There is growing domestic discussion about the necessity for China to take the initiative and forcibly achieve unification sooner rather than later, although the government has so far remained silent on its position. The appearance of China pushing a more assertive and ambitious agenda could help the Chinese paramount leader secure a third term in 2022. But the growing ambiguity over the real Chinese intention also makes it harder for Washington and Taipei to coordinate and prepare. The risk of misjudgment and escalation of tensions will inevitably grow.

In the mid- to long-term, Taiwan likely sees the solution in its development of asymmetric military capabilities to deny China the ability to launch a blitzkrieg. However, to acquire such capabilities will take time and will require substantial and sustainable assistance from the United States and other partner countries. Meantime, China will certainly utilize its full economic, diplomatic and political leverage to block any foreign attempts to assist Taiwan. Beijing, Washington and Taipei will repeatedly test each other’s resolve in this constant arm wrestling, with implications for the rest of the world. 

And now, back to your regular China Watcher programming…

— A tech update from Protocol | China. Protocol | China, backed by Robert Allbritton, publisher of Protocol and POLITICO, tracks the intersection of technology and policy in the world’s largest country. Sign up for the newsletter and learn more about Protocol’s research here. This week’s coverage includes a look at a new report showing how Apple exports mainland censorship to Taiwan and Hong Kong, why Chinese e-commerce sellers are taking on the world without Amazon, and who Chinese web users now consider the country’s “Steve Jobs.” (Hint: it’s not Jack Ma.) 


— Sherman calls out “coercive” China: Deputy Secretary of StateWendy Sherman on Friday criticized the Chinese government’s “coercive behavior” toward Lithuania in response to China’s umbrage at the name of a new Taiwanese diplomatic outpost in Vilnius. The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Lithuania and demanded that Lithuania do likewise in reprisal for allowing Taiwan to christen its new representative office in Vilnius the “Taiwanese Representative Office.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Friday dismissed U.S. and European Union criticism of China’s diplomatic targeting of Lithuania as “wanton comments.”

— Biden’s “Democracy Summit” causes blowback for Taiwan: President Joe Biden’s announcement last week of a virtual “Summit for Democracy” on Dec. 9-10 has raised hackles in Beijing about Taiwan’s possible participation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in March that the U.S. would invite a Taiwan representative to the event. The rabidly nationalistic Chinese state media platform Global Times on Thursday foreshadowed a looming sharp Chinese Foreign Ministry response to that possibility by warning that China “will definitely not accept the US to invite Taiwan [President] Tsai Ing-wen to participate in the meeting.”

— Chinese Ambassador: Taiwan “most important” issue: Newly arrived Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang informed the State Department’s Sherman in a meeting on Thursday that “the Taiwan question is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations.” The two held what Qin described as “candid and in-depth discussions.” Sherman said her focus in the meeting was to “review the issues I raised with PRC officials last month.” Those issues included human rights concerns as well as Beijing’s blocking of the World Health Organization’s ongoing probe into the origin of Covid-19

— Yellen mulls Beijing trip: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is considering a trip to China later this year, Bloomberg reported last weekVariables affecting the possibility and timing of that trip, which would likely include meetings with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, include safety considerations linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

— U.S. Customs seizes fake vaccination cards: U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Memphis, Tennessee, reported on Friday that they have seized 121 shipments containing 3,017 fake blank Covid-19 vaccination records from China since the beginning of the fiscal year. Michael Neipert, Memphis CBP area port director, was not amused. “If you do not wish to receive a vaccine, that is your decision,” he said of the U.S. market for fake vaccine records. “But don’t order a counterfeit, waste my officer’s time, break the law, and misrepresent yourself.”

Hot from the China Watchersphere

— The fall of Afghanistan heightened security fears in China, POLITICO’sStuart Lau reported Wednesday from Brussels: “Afghanistan looms larger in the mindset of China’s leadership than you’d imagine from the countries’ mere 47-mile stretch of shared border — a curly line that you’ll easily miss if Google Maps is not sufficiently zoomed in. … For China, the nightmare is Islamist terror attacks, plotted across that short border. Before Beijing turned to its more recent draconian policies like internment and forced sterilization against the Uyghur Muslims in the region of Xinjiang, which neighbors Afghanistan, Chinese anti-terrorism officials accused the Taliban of supporting Uyghur militants who they said plotted ‘thousands’ of attacks inside its territory since the 1990s.” More from Lau here. 

— Big business crackdown to continue: China’s State Council and the Communist Party’s Central Committee indicated on Thursday that they will subject the country’s business sector to increasingly tighter government scrutiny and control over the next five years. The 10-point plan will tighten regulation on “important fields,” including technological innovation and science and seek to reduce the influence of “foreign-related rule of law.” The announcement suggests that Beijing’s recent anti-monopoly initiatives against large domestic technology companies and a crackdown on the educational tutoring sector have just been opening shots in a possible long-term campaign to neuter the power of the country’s corporate sector.

— Online gaming gets regulatory scrutiny warning: Official state broadcaster China National Radio dropped a hint on Saturday that the online gaming industry may be the next target of the government’s regulatory attacks on various business sectors. In an online commentary, CNR urged regulators to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to games that “distort history.” That move is an extension of the government’s criminalization of what it call “historical nihilism,” an umbrella term that applies to any historical accounts that contradict the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s historical narrative.

— China accuses Canada of “megaphone diplomacy”: China’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday accused the Canadian government of “megaphone diplomacy” in its criticism of recent prosecutions and convictions of Canadian citizens by Chinese courts. Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that Canada “is ganging up with a handful of countries to confuse right with wrong in disregard of facts” by criticizing recent court judgments against Michael Spavor and Robert SchellenbergCanadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last weekderided as “unacceptable and unjust” a Beijing court sentencing of Spavor, an entrepreneur, to an 11-year prison term for espionage.

— China calls WHO coronavirus probe “political”: The Chinese government doubled down on its refusal to cooperate with a World HealthOrganization’s proposal for a second investigation into the origins of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu dismissed that effort as “political tracing” and indicated that China will not cooperate with such a probe. 

— China fears accelerate Japan defense planning: The Japanese government will accelerate revision of its “Medium Term Defense Program” due to concerns about a worsening threat by Chinese military forces, the Japan Times reported Friday. The updated timetable of the revised plan is designed “to counter China’s growing assertiveness in surrounding waters and prepare for contingencies in the Taiwan Strait.” 

— Carbon targets reap hot air warning: Chinese investments in new heavily polluting coal-fired power plants and steel factories severely undermine the country’s “carbon neutrality” targets, a research report released Friday concludes. The report by the nongovernmental Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air warned that 18 new steel blast furnace projects and 43 new coal-fired power plants announced earlier this year will upon completion emit “an estimated 150 million tons of CO2 a year.”

Translating China

— Weibo tiptoes around Taliban victory: What Chinese social media users don’t or can’t say online is often as important as what they do say. That’s the lesson of the muted online commentary regarding the implications of the Taliban overthrow of the Afghanistan government of President Ashraf Ghani. The hashtag “Where will the situation in Afghanistan go” had accrued a relatively anemic 5.9 million shares by early in the week considering the topic relates to the spectacular collapse of the government of a country on China’s sensitive western border. Commentary ranged from Schadenfreude chortlings on the fate of “pro-U.S.” forces to anodyne musingson how Afghanistan “once again stands at the crossroads of its destiny.” Conspicuously absent in the commentary was any mention of the implications of the Taliban’s ascendancy for China, reflecting the Chinese government’s fraught wait-and-see attitude to how that victory might affect China’s interests. For more on that, here’s China Watcher from two weeks ago. 

— Celebrity excoriated for Yasukuni Shrine selfie: The actor/singer Zhang Zhehan likely regrets the cheerful selfiehe took last week at Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine, which includes tributes to convicted Japanese war criminals. Repercussions so far have included Sina Weibo on Sunday shutting down Zhang’s account, dozens of brands including Coca Cola and Maybelline that have cut sponsorship ties, and China’s Association of Performing Arts demanding a public boycott of all Zhang-related products. Zhang has apologized, sparking the hashtag “What do you think of Zhang Zhehan’s apology for ignorance,” which has accrued more than 57 million shares. “Not all mistakes can be forgiven,” one Weibo user growled about Zhang’s selfie indiscretion. Zhang’s pillorying also spawned the hashtag “What exactly is the Yasukuni Shrine” which had garnered more than 720 million shares.

— Romantic “break-up” fee draws online fire: Weibo’s abuzz over the costs of romantic love. Literally. The alleged demand by Chen Lu, jilted longtime girlfriend of singer Henry Huo Zun, for a 9 million yuan (US$1.4 million) “break-up” fee has mobilized even the hardest of online Chinese hearts. The hashtag “Does Chen Lu’s 9 million break-up fee constitute extortionracked up more 500 million shares. Commentary was mostly scathing, with Weibo users alternately exhorting Huo to “sue the blackmailing woman” to bemoaning how a “break-up fee” exposes “the horror and sadness of human nature.”

Thanks to: Ben Pauker, Luiza Ch. Savage, Matt Kaminski and editor John Yearwood.

On the verge of explosion outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

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Gaza on Verge of Explosion, as Egyptian, Qatari Mediation Yields Progress

Palestinian students clean up a classroom at a school destroyed during the recent 11-day war between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement, on the first day of the new academic year in Gaza City, on Aug. 16, 2021. (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Sanaa Alswerky


‘Palestinian resistance parties ready for all scenarios including military confrontation with Israel,’ Hamas official says

[Gaza City] Three months after the fourth war between Israel and Hamas since 2008 ended, concerns that a renewal of large-scale violence is near are rapidly mounting as Palestinians accuse Israel of ignoring its commitments and the understandings reached in the truce that entered into force on May 21.

Israel has not allowed the entry of Qatari cash in to Gaza and insists on tying reconstruction of the strip to the release of two soldiers’ bodies held by Hamas since the 2014 war and of two Israeli civilians who entered the coastal enclave on their own initiative who also are held by Hamas.

This infuriates Palestinians, who live under inhuman conditions exacerbated by the pandemic and an economic crisis, and outrages Hamas, the ruler of the Gaza Strip, which warns of escalation if nothing changes.

“Our resistance is serious about its threats [of military escalation] if Israel continues procrastinating and violating the rights of Gaza residents. All [Israeli] attempts are doomed to failure the way they did in May’s fight. We are ready for all scenarios,” Hamas spokesperson Mohammed Hamada told The Media Line.

Local media outlets on Monday reported the intention of Palestinian factions in Gaza to gradually escalate their actions, including resuming the border protests, launching incendiary balloons into Israel and reactivating the nightly “confusion units” as a way to reject Israel’s tightening policies regarding the blockaded strip, which is seen by many as a step closer to another round of fighting.

I don’t think that we are nearing a military confrontation because the humanitarian, social and economic conditions of the strip can bear no more devastation and Hamas and the Palestinian factions know very well that going to such an option would exacerbate the crisis

In the past, the nightly confusion units composed mostly of young men burned tires to create smoke and threw improvised bombs, in an effort to harass Israeli soldiers and communities near the border.

However, Mansour Abu Krayyem, a Gaza-based political analyst, rules out a renewed war, telling The Media Line: “I don’t think that we are nearing a military confrontation because the humanitarian, social and economic conditions of the strip can bear no more devastation and Hamas and the Palestinian factions know very well that going to such an option would exacerbate the crisis.”

He considers Hamas’ escalatory measures “political maneuvering” designed to pressure Israel rather than a “real escalation.”

“Palestinian movements are aware of the change in the Israeli equation. With the rivals of [former Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu in power, the suffocation and tightening policies against the Gaza Strip are back, leaving behind Netanyahu’s approaches of buying calm with cash,” Abu Krayyem explained.

Since the beginning of the week, the Egyptians and Qataris have upped their tireless efforts to contain the situation and to push Israel to relax its strictures on the Gaza Strip.

Maj. Gen. Ghasan Alyan, head of the Israel Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, announced on Friday a series of orders easing restrictions imposed on commercial and economic relations with the Gaza Strip, including allowing 1,000 merchants and 350 senior businessmen, provided they are vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, to enter Israel through the Erez border crossing for the first time in some 18 months, since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Israel.

It seems the mediators’ efforts are paying off after all.

Abbas Kamel, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, visited Ramallah and Tel Aviv on Wednesday and, according to unconfirmed reports, all Palestinian escalatory activities were subsequently ordered suspended until further notice, in a sign of progress in the mediators’ talks on achieving significant amelioration of Israeli measures regarding the Gaza Strip.

Yet for many reasons, no prospective Israeli actions will be enough to satisfy Hamas, Abu Krayyem claimed.

“The Israeli easement of restrictions on Gaza is limited to [allowing the entry of] goods related to the humanitarian aspects and certain kinds of basic needs. There is absolutely no talk about allowing in the construction materials, or about the reconstruction process itself,” he said.

Given that “more than 20,000 housing units were destroyed during May’s 11-day war, and the majority of the strip’s infrastructure was targeted and is in dire need of rehabilitation, Hamas and other Palestinian parties are under heavy pressure and have no choice but to take risks in order to achieve some kind of breakthrough,” Abu Krayyem said.