As usual, some curated links focusing on geopolitics, defense, and security issues for the middle of the week:
Kim Jong-un is back in full swing. Speaking at an outdoor rally in Pyongyang, Kim slammed U.S. officials as cannibalistic “aggressors.” Kim’s denouncement of the United States comes less than two weeks after U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper retrieved two U.S. citizens who had been imprisoned in North Korea. According to KCNA, Kim was speaking at a Sinchon, the site of a major Korean War skirmish that resulted in mass civilian casualties. According to Kim, “the massacres committed by the U.S. imperialist aggressors in Sinchon evidently showed that they are cannibals and homicides seeking pleasure in slaughter [sic].” The remarks also come as North Korea embarks on a diplomatic “charm offensive” amid calls from the United Nations for its leadership to be tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Court.
Speaking at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Kathmandu, Nepal, Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, cautioned against a “proxy war” in Afghanistan between India and Pakistan. As U.S. and NATO troops prepare to withdraw, Afghanistan’s neighbors and mutual rivals will vie for influence. “We will not allow our territory to be used against any of our neighbors. But we will not permit anybody to conduct proxy wars on our soil either,” Ghani told the region’s leaders.
Speaking of South Asia, the Council on Foreign Relations has a new special report on nuclear weapons which paints a troubling if unsurprising picture of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The report corroborates other similar analyses in noting that Pakistan possesses the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal. The report highlights South Asia as a potential nuclear tinderbox amid an unresolved India-Pakistan rivalry and growing nuclear arsenals. According to the report, Pakistan is on track to have enough fissile material for 200 nuclear devices by 2020.
Over at CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative blog, Matthew Waxman reflects on China’s East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) a year down the line, focusing specifically on legal issues.
In a major defense procurement decision — the first since it got its new full-time defense minister — India will purchase 814 mounted gun systems for its army for a total cost of $157.5 billion.
The big news in U.S. national security/defense this week, of course, is Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s sudden decision to resign. There’s a lot of commentary making the rounds. Our very own Naval Diplomat, James Holmes, looks to Machiavelli to explain some of the very political reasons Hagel failed to stick around. Also, if you missed it, I proffer some thoughts on what Hagel’s departure could mean for the U.S. Pivot to Asia.
Also, the Wall Street Journal ponders the fate of Kim Jong-un’s aunt, Kim Kyong-hui. She was married to Jang Song-thaek, Kim’s uncle-by-marriage who was executed late last year. Since then, her whereabouts have been unknown. Citing a defector with a track record of securing information from within North Korea, the Journal notes that Kim Kyong-hui likely killed herself last December following her husband’s execution.