The Cipher Brief: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have the technical ability to pursue nuclear weapons, but all three have refrained. What conditions would have to exist for these countries to consider nuclear programs? Tom Cynkin: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have each considered the circumstances under which they would ...

At 11:00 AM, five years ago Monday, sailors on the USS Carl Vinson watched the shrouded body of Osama bin Laden slide into the North Arabian Sea. Thus concluded a ten-year manhunt which, from the fall of the Twin Towers to the secret drama of a midnight raid in the ...

Five years ago, U.S. special operations forces killed Osama bin Laden in a raid on his hiding place in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Although al Qaeda had been dispersed from its bases in Afghanistan and its support networks had been largely dismantled, nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks al Qaeda was ...

The Pentagon announced Friday that U.S. forces have killed Abu Sayed, the leader of ISIS-Khorasan – ISIS’ affiliate in Afghanistan – in a drone strike conducted in Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar Province. In a statement released after the announcement of Sayed’s death, General John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in ...

Beijing’s “Great Wall of Sand” in the South China Sea is likely to expand: a recent report in the South China Morning Post unveiled China’s intention to turn Scarborough Shoal into another island military base. Observations by U.S. Navy vessels suggest China has been conducting survey work around the shoal, ...

If Xi Jinping is the father and China’s people are his children, then Xi’s parenting style is definitely based on discipline rather than trust.  The question is, will tightening his grip on society through restrictions of media, entertainment and free speech make China’s youth respect their father figure, or resent ...

Since 2012, President Xi Jinping has mounted an aggressive anti-corruption campaign against the so-called “tigers and flies,” corrupt officials at the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as well as local bureaucrats and businessmen throughout the country.  Over 1500 officials have been prosecuted for corruption so far, including ...

The Chinese Communist Party under President Xi Jinping is viewed more favorably by China’s youth than any previous regime in the country’s recent history. Yet there is no guarantee that Beijing will be able to meet their increasingly material expectations. If it cannot continue to grow economic opportunities, the Party ...

It takes a trained eye to spot the patterns in the grainy satellite images, but subtle changes like tire tracks and repositioned mine carts show renewed tunneling activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site. North Korea has restarted excavations. Though the evidence is far from conclusive, it does match activity ...

As we approach early May, when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is expected to hold the first Party Congress in more than three decades, Kim is determined to demonstrate to the world that his nation is strong and has achieved the status of a nuclear military power and that there ...

Despite the fact that relatives of eight of China’s most senior officials were implicated in the Panama Papers released last week, the Chinese public knows little about it. Citizens of other affected countries have been calling for investigations, even leading to the resignation of named leaders, like Icelandic Prime Minister ...

The latest devastating attack by the Taliban in Kabul raises the question about the ongoing capabilities of the insurgency.  Jeffrey Eggers, a former assistant to Presidents Bush and Obama and currently a senior fellow at New America, told The Cipher Brief that the car bombing does not mean the Taliban ...

One week after announcing the start of its annual “spring offensive” – dubbed “Operation Omari” after the late Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar – the Taliban carried out a suicide attack in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, leaving at least 28 dead and more than 300 injured. This attack demonstrates the ...

As the Taliban causes havoc on the battlefield and with terrorist attacks, The Cipher Brief asked Daniel Markey, a former State Department official and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations to weigh in on the outlook for Afghanistan.   Markey says the Taliban’s car bombing in Kabul on Tuesday ...

Despite being the wellspring for cutting-edge technology brands such as Samsung, Sony, and HTC, Asia has proven to be less adept at managing a different sort of technological challenge: cybersecurity threats. A recent Deloitte Consulting white paper identified the “Cyber Five”—the five countries whose economies had the greatest vulnerability to ...

South Korea—boasting cutting-edge digital technology, efficient computer networks, and the world’s top high-speed Internet penetration rate—has earned global renown as a “strong Internet nation.” Behind these impressive feats, however, lies an unpleasant reality: its vulnerability to cyber threats, particularly to those allegedly originating from North Korea. Beginning with a series ...

Thanks to breach disclosure regulations in the U.S. and U.K., we regularly learn about the latest capers from the headlines. Without a doubt, these countries still face daunting cyber security challenges. One way to make those challenges look almost manageable is to compare them with the state of cyber awareness ...

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced a “…regular periodic presence [in the Philippines] of American forces,” something that has not occurred since the Philippines voted to expel U.S. forces in 1991. The announcement in Manila is an important milestone in the resurrection of one of the U.S.’s ...

Over the past decade, the Philippines has gradually shifted from an equi-balancing strategy vis-à-vis the United States and China in favor of a more explicit tilt into the American strategic orbit. Bilateral relations with America have been rapidly blossoming, while Sino-Philippine relations have wilted. Today, the Philippines is among the ...

The newly reinvigorated U.S. – Philippines alliance has assumed a central role in the developing regional strategic competition with China. Less than 25 years ago, the U.S. – Philippine alliance was moribund, with both sides paying no more than lip service to the notion of mutual defense. That era gave ...

Defense Secretary Ash Carter left India on Tuesday after a three-day trip focused on deepening ties to the country that has been eyed as the significant counterweight to China in the region. With the US and India agreeing to strengthen maritime security cooperation and in principle to share military logistics, ...

Sri Lanka’s many harbors and its location amidst major shipping routes bestow strategic importance on the island nation and have also made it one of the many sites where India and China are competing for influence. In an effort by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s government to increase cooperation with ...

If there was one way to emphasize the grave problem of nuclear security to the international community, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s recent visit to Washington summed up the issue pretty well. On the fringes of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), Park met with President Barack Obama and the leaders ...

On April 3rd, Cam Ranh International Port (CRIP) hosted an erstwhile enemy. A group of Japanese naval ships docked at a port the country once occupied in World War II. The opening of CRIP signals Hanoi’s commitment to reconciling with former enemies in order to expand, not only its foreign ...

Vietnam is experiencing its highest level of international attention in nearly a decade. The country is going through a major leadership transition, starting with the Communist Party Congress that took place in January. The all-important political event saw the surprising departure of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, arguably one of ...

In early March, the Cam Ranh International Port (CRIP) was inaugurated with much fanfare, marking the beginning of its revitalization following decades of post-Cold War neglect as well as quelling speculations as to whether Cam Ranh Bay will become yet another foreign naval base – like it was until the ...

North Korea watchers knew what to expect following Pyongyang’s 4th nuclear test on January 6th, 2016: a new round of United Nations sanctions. Known as UNSC Resolution 2270, this latest group of sanctions increases inspections on cargo vessels, limits the import of North Korean raw materials such as coal, gold, ...

In the wake of a 4th nuclear test, a satellite launch, and, most recently, a KCNA film portraying a North Korean ICBM striking Washington, DC, the question has been raised yet again about whether the U.S. is doing enough to curb North Korean provocations. While the notion that North Korean ...

Future prosperity, security, even the realization of its full nationhood all depend on South Korea’s relationship with the isolated, rigid, fellow Korean nation to the north.  North Korea may cooperate with the South for enhanced security and economic and development advances, but it will not accept anything that suggests surrender ...

In the aftermath of the North Korean nuclear weapon test in January and its satellite launch/ICBM test in February, the United States and South Korea announced that they would begin formal talks on deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea. The THAAD System  THAAD would join ...

After years of slow democratic reform, Myanmar celebrated a momentous achievement this week when Htin Kyaw was sworn in as President, making him the first democratically elected civilian president in over half a century.   Led by Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi, the ...

If you attend a Congressional hearing on the state of U.S.-Pakistan relations, you’ll probably hear one of the lawmakers refer to Pakistan as a “frenemy,” sometimes friend, sometimes enemy.   It is one of the more contentious relationships the United States has with a nation that is ultimately so critical to ...

For over six decades, the United States and Pakistan have suffered through a tormented and often tumultuous relationship, one defined at its apex by wartime alliance and at its nadir by stiff U.S. sanctions. In many ways, the period since 9/11 has mirrored that longer history, with expectations inflated and ...

One word sums up U.S.-Pakistan relationship: necessity.  The United States and the world have seen the instability that resulted from non-engagement in the 1990’s: Afghanistan became a safe haven for terrorist groups from which to plan the attacks on 9/11 and Pakistan became a nuclear power in the region. Pakistan ...

Since Russia’s “pivot to the East” was launched amid great fanfare in 2013, much commentary has been devoted to its significance, its scale, and indeed what if anything has actually happened beyond the official rhetoric. I have been commuting between Russia and China for the last two years for my ...

The foreign ministers of China and Russia met last week amid North Korean aggression and the potential for a U.S. deployed THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. While the threat of a nuclear North Korea is “unacceptable” to both, they are at least equally concerned about the potential for ...

The Western perceptions of China-Russia relations tend to be polarized. In the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, the pessimists see another Sino-Russia alliance emerging with strategic and political ambitions in Eurasia against the democratic free world.  The optimists are suspicious of any genuine friendship between two assertive powers with too ...

Although the Taliban organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan share the same name, they operate as independent organizations under separate leadership structures. Jeffery Eggers, former Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, pointed out to The Cipher Brief that the Afghan Taliban uses Pakistan as a safe haven for ...

A negotiated peace settlement in Afghanistan in 2016 is unlikely. Negotiations have succeeded in other insurgencies when each side determined that victory was not possible and that a significant portion of their goals could be achieved through negotiations.  That situation does not currently exist in Afghanistan. Since the public acknowledgement ...

On May 1, 2003, U.S. President George W. Bush delivered his infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech declaring, “In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed the Taliban, many terrorists, and the camps where they trained.” Yet almost 13 years later, the Taliban (meaning “the students”) remains alive and well, threatening Afghanistan’s security ...

The United States and its allies believed their policy of “strategic patience” would allow them to wait for North Korea to denuclearize on its own, assuming sanctions and international pressure would ultimately force Pyongyang’s hand. However, five years later, with the most recent test of a nuclear bomb and the ...

In the wake of North Korea’s January nuclear test, White House spokesman Josh Earnest described U.S. goals for the Korean peninsula. “We want the North Koreans to end their provocative acts,” he said, “both in the form of missile tests and nuclear tests, to commit to denuclearization, and to demonstrate ...

The recent North Korean nuclear test and the subsequent disguised long-range missile test have seriously cornered China. The world community, especially the United States and South Korea, have urged China to take decisive actions to “punish” Pyongyang’s flagrant challenges to international norms and rules. Beijing, however, is reluctant to impose ...

With the delivery of Australia’s latest defense White Paper last week, the necessity of a long haul and regional capacity building commitment to counter-terrorism was apparent. Unquestionably, the Southeast Asia threat scenario is informed by global considerations. With the re-emergence of violent extremism since June 2014 and a realization of ...

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull plans to almost double his country’s annual defense spending by 2026. The move comes as China threatens peace in the Asia Pacific, and ISIS continues to wreak terror at home and abroad. The 2016 Defense White Paper released last month will require Australia to “ride ...

The publication on February 25 of the 2016 Defense White Paper by the Australian government highlights Canberra’s response to evolving trends in the Asia-Pacific region.  The white paper, released by the government of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after a long gestation, outlines an ambitious modernization program for the Australian Defense ...

China’s less discussed territorial dispute is one that has the greatest potential for the United States to be drawn into conflict. While China has been more aggressive in building up military power in the South China Sea, for the past three years the Chinese have slowly been seizing control over ...

As the world pays attention to the recent Chinese militarization of the South China Sea islets, China is establishing a “new normal” with more frequent military and paramilitary presence in the East China Sea. China is taking necessary steps to make the South China Sea a Chinese lake with surveillance ...

China’s militarization of the South China Sea includes beefing up its military facilities on Woody Island in the Paracel chain – occupied by China but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam – where the Chinese reportedly just deployed eight batteries of its advanced, long-range HQ-9 air defense system.  This is ...

The January 14 attack in Jakarta that left four civilians and four terrorists dead serves as a reminder that Indonesia remains vulnerable to groups that would resort to violence and terrorism to achieve their Islamist aspirations. The previous major terrorist attack in the country had been the twin bombings that ...