A few security and defense links ahead of the weekend:
In case you missed it, North Korea reportedly detained Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old American citizen and Korean War veteran who was in the Hermit Kingdom on a tourist visa on a package tour. CSIS’s Korean Peninsula expert, Victor Cha, covers the big questions arising from the detention. According to Cha, “Pyongyang has made a practice of detaining journalists and missionaries – Current TV’s Laura Ling and Euna Lee on March 17, 2009 and most recently Christian missionary Kenneth Bae, the first American civilian to serve a 15-year sentence in a North Korean labor camp. But the abduction and detaining of a random American tourist is a new level of truculence, and represents a troubling trend of increasingly aggressive actions against innocent Americans who travel to the country. It is hard to fathom how an 85-year-old senior citizen could pose any threat to the regime.” Max Fisher, over at the Washington Post, sums up a profile of Newman.
Over in Geneva, the P5+1 and Iran continue to work towards a deal. I’ll be back to cover this on Monday with the results of the meeting. In the meantime, according to Twitter reports from several journalists and experts present in Vienna, based on casual encounters with diplomats in hotel corridors, Iran’s “right to enrich” and the IR-40 heavy water reactor at Arak continue to be major obstacles to a deal. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has decided to fly out again and everyone still seems to be optimistic that a deal is within reach.
Already rocky U.S.-Afghan relations ran into another road bump as Afghan President Hamid Karzai pushed back the signing of the much-anticipated Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the two sides. The agreement will set out the terms under which U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan following the broader withdrawal in 2014.
Over at Defense Tech, a report suggests that the U.S. Navy plans to load its next-generation Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft with Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs). JDAMs are precision-strike air-to-ground missiles, guided by GPS.
My colleague here at The Diplomat and our Associate Editor for all things China, Shannon Tiezzi, has a great set of links on China’s latest moves over at our China Power blog, including several pertinent to defense wonks.
The Center for International Maritime Security has a great blog post about the top 10 maritime assistance and disaster needs, and how the U.S. Navy can best fulfill them. The report offers two major takeaways: “The most cost-effective (as far as platform procurement goes) and highest capability HA/DR response group would be a LHD and LPD in combination with a USNS supply ship,” and “The future is in the JHSV, Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSB), and Mobile Landing Platform (MLP).”
If you’ve ever wondered what North Korea’s crystal meth trade looked like, a great report over at Foreign Policy answers all your questions.
Finally, also from Foreign Policy, check out Richard Langner’s piece on the famously esoteric Stuxnet virus that was used by unknown attackers (almost certainly the U.S. National Security Agency) to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. If you like the shorter Foreign Policy piece, take a look at the much longer and much more detailed report by Langner’s firm.