Since the time of the first kinetic attack by an unmanned aircraft in October of 2001, the United States has relied heavily on drone technology for its relatively inexpensive loitering capabilities and the geographical reach it enables. Persistent surveillance and targeted drone strikes have become a central tenet of the ...

In just the past several weeks, China has sent troops to its first overseas base in Djibouti, intercepted a U.S. surveillance plane over the East China Sea, reinforced its border with North Korea, and declared it will not back down from a border dispute with India. Beyond that, its militarization ...

When Chinese President Xi Jinping took office in 2013, he set out to tackle rampant corruption and reinvigorate a slowing economy, but he also set the stage for the modernization and expansion of the country’s military.    In recent years, Xi has consolidated his control over the armed services as the ...

China is investing heavily in its military modernization program as it aims to extend its power, not only in the region, but globally.   This has been a key focus of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the run up to the Communist Party Congress later this year, where he is expected ...

China continues to deploy military equipment to contested islands in the South China Sea, raising concerns among regional players and U.S. forces stationed in the Pacific.    A Chinese government strategy document published last month by China’s state-owned news agency Xinhua signals that Beijing is building up its military cyber ...

China is a burgeoning great power. It is continually figuring out the various dimensions of power – not least of which is power in cyberspace – and putting them to use. Like other great powers dealing in an unknown medium, it is, to quote Deng Xiaoping, crossing the river by ...

The South China and East China Seas present flashpoints for maritime conflict, though the assembled experts at The Cipher Brief’s Georgetown Salon Series could not agree which was a more pressing issue for the United States. Retired Admiral John Greenert was joined by Greg Poling Director of the Asia Maritime ...

President Donald Trump and his cabinet are now responsible for U.S. policy on one of Asia’s most contentious regions: The South China Sea. While China’s intentions to militarize the islands it claims have grown clearer—recent satellite imagery shows emplacements for anti-aircraft weaponry on the Spratly Islands— U.S. policy after the ...

Few security challenges are as vexing as the South China Sea. With multiple claimants and murky claims, the contours of the conflict can be difficult to grasp. In recent years, China has used ambiguity, asymmetry, and incrementalism to assert control over parts of the South China Sea. Meanwhile, the Obama ...

Since China undertook a massive artificial island building program in 2013 with the intention of militarizing the islands, the U.S. has grown increasingly worried about freedom of navigation through this economically important waterway. The Cipher Brief spoke to Admiral Jonathan Greenert, former Chief of Naval Operations, to understand how the ...

Compared to China, ISIS amounts to a nasty swarm of gnats.  Compared to China, Russia comes across as a cranky old man (with a shotgun). However, neither ISIS, nor Putin’s Russia, nor any other world power can rival or possibly displace the U.S. as the major power in the world: ...

Editor’s Note: Over the coming days, The Cipher Brief presents some of our most incisive coverage on key issues of 2016 and a look ahead at what is yet to come in 2017. The oppressive smog that overtook China in late December covered 3.9 million square miles, put 24 cities ...

Since becoming President in June, Rodrigo Duterte has used his forceful personality to take Filipino policy in new directions. For Western allies like the U.S., this has led to confusing public statements that have forced them to question the strength of their partnerships. The Cipher Brief spoke with political scientist ...

Chinese rivalry with the U.S. for regional dominance will be central to U.S. East Asia policy for the incoming administration.  China’s aggressive use of economic leverage, its mercantilism and revanchism will continue to complicate U.S. relations with its main rival - and potential partner - in East Asia.  This is ...

As the G20 summit in China came to a close, something far more worrisome than Air Force One’s stairway gaff overshadowed the summit. The Philippines announced that eleven Chinese dredging vessels and barges had been observed in the waters off of Scarborough Shoal. This, Manila suggested, is an indication China ...

U.S. – China relations have deteriorated appreciably over the past few years.  The prospect for improved relations are bleak, with a strong likelihood that bilateral relations will continue to worsen.  Although there’s no simple answer, it’s apparent that more must be done to restore trust in this important bilateral relationship. ...

In Asia, there is now a “whiff of 1914,” a reference by Australian University Professor Hugh White to the lead up to World War One. The South China Sea, as the International Crisis Group has noted, is “the cockpit of geopolitics in East Asia.” Scholar Robert Kaplan even called it ...

Demonstrations in China against the U.S. in the wake of The Hague Court’s ruling against China in the South China Sea are reminiscent of the demonstrations in China when the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on May 8, 1999.  The only difference now is that China, aware ...

Although the United States participated in the negotiations that culminated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which came into force in 1994, it has not yet ratified the treaty. While it is true that the U.S. recognizes UNCLOS as a codification of customary international ...

Now that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China over sovereignty in the South China Sea, Manila should immediately set the tone of what is to follow. In the days ahead, the country should continue to advocate that all states, ...

With a ruling imminent in the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines against China over claims in the South China Sea, officials around Asia are bracing for the results, while analysts are busy handicapping the potential fallout. As I wait for the verdict, I prefer to abide by Yogi Berra’s ...

As the deadline for the landmark international court ruling on the South China Sea territorial dispute draws near, a recent editorial in a Chinese state run newspaper proclaimed that China should prepare for “military confrontation” in the South China Sea. While the foreign ministry was quick to reiterate China’s commitment ...

Predictions are a tricky business, especially with something as complicated as the outcome of Manila’s arbitration case against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. A tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, will rule on the case on July 12. Given the complexity of the ...

Fiery Cross Reef, a contested geographic feature in the South China Sea, is the latest site for the growing maritime tensions between China and the United States. Early on Tuesday, the U.S.S. William P. Lawrence, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, transited within 12 miles of the reef for what ...

China sent a major signal to the U.S. last week, when it turned away the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels from making a routine port call in Hong Kong – the first time in nearly a decade that China has refused entry to an American military ...

China’s President Xi Jinping has committed himself to the country’s development as a maritime power and to protecting its sovereignty. One can reasonably assume that China’s long-term objective in the South China Sea is the establishment of strategic pre-eminence. That ambition probably extends within the entirety of the so-called ‘”first ...

China’s neighbors are gravely concerned about what they see as a clear and determined strategy being implemented by Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and now Commander in Chief of the People’s Liberation Army.  They believe Xi is committed to leveraging China’s indisputable economic power to force ...

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, ...

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 ...

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 ...

Understanding China and its future ambitions is a fundamental first step in assessing the U.S.’ options on how to best engage China as an important strategic and economic partner.  We asked former Acting Director and Deputy Director of the CIA John McLaughlin to lay out the framework for understanding the challenges of China, which provides the context for the differing perspectives ...

The U.S. rebalance policy in the Asia-Pacific has led to a deterioration of China’s security environment, with increasing tensions in the East China Sea, including the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkakus Islands, and the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and ...

The rocky relationship between the U.S. and China was in full view last year, highlighted by President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Navy challenging China’s claims in the South China Sea. Known for his frank comments on current U.S. policy towards China, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) ...

The United States rebalance to Asia has drawn mixed reviews from members of Congress. Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) discussed with The Cipher Brief the strengths and weaknesses of current U.S. policy towards China. Rep. Bordallo emphasized the need for a strong U.S. response to aggressive actions taken by China, while ...

Less than a month after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, leaders from 150 nations have convened in the French capital to discuss ways to reduce the effects of climate change on a global scale. The conference is the largest gathering ever of world leaders. The goal of the historic, ...

One of the critical adverse effects of climate change is the impact it will have on water in terms of both quantity and quality. Marcus King, a former negotiator for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told The Cipher Brief, competition for water resources is likely to lead to ...

World political leaders have gathered in Paris this week to negotiate a new universal climate change agreement. There is a need for unified commitment from national governments to cut greenhouse emissions to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming and climate change. According to the Fifth Assessment Report by the ...

In 2014, 19.3 million people were forced to leave their houses and were displaced within their countries due mostly to floods and storms but also to earthquakes and volcano eruptions—almost twice as many as those newly displaced by violent conflicts. Evidence shows that climate change is leading to human mobility ...

One country’s patrol is another’s provocation. Chinese state-run media has reacted with outrage to a U.S. Navy destroyer sailing within the 12 nautical mile claim Beijing asserts over five Chinese made, artificial islands.  On Monday, the U.S.S. Lassen, sailed off the coast of Subi Reef, where the Chinese People’s Liberation ...

As President Xi Jinping tours the western world advocating Chinese businesses, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues incrementally asserting dominance over territory in the South China Sea. Territorial claims in the South China Sea have been contentious for centuries, but recent land reclamation attempts by China have made it a ...

Republican Congressman Randy Forbes believes China’s assertive behavior in Asia is destabilizing the region. Forbes explained why he takes this position in an interview with The Cipher Brief. The Cipher Brief: How would you assess the current state of the U.S.-China relationship, especially following President Xi Jinping’s visit?  Rep. Randy ...

The South China Sea is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous places on earth. Beijing has long claimed most of the sea as its sovereign territory, although neighbors Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan have rival claims. Since late 2013, China has sought to consolidate its control over the ...

As some Asia energy experts have noted, the South China Sea (SCS) is like a thin donut with a very large hole: all of the hydrocarbons in oil and gas form are located along the periphery, while the large hole in the center, which includes the bulk of islands contested ...