Event Horizon - Issue 1

Update for: 13-31 January 2024

The 'Event Horizon' provides regular updates on developments that could impact the risk of conflict escalation. Our core objective is to bring attention to developments that could escalate to strategic level conflicts, including those that might lead to nuclear weapon use. 

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Korean Peninsula Final (4)

Image credits: KCNA, 'Republic of Korea' Flickr account.


  • DPRK’s aggressive stance towards ROK
    Kim Jong Un, leader of the DPRK, has officially declared the ROK as the "primary enemy state." He has called for a constitutional amendment stating the DPRK's intent to occupy and annex ROK territory in the event of war. Additionally, Kim Jong Un criticized the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border between the DPRK and ROK, as intolerable. Following these statements, DPRK state media altered its representation of the Korean Peninsula, highlighting only the northern part in red. Furthermore, the Arch of Reunification, located south of Pyongyang, has been dismantled. [KCNA, Yonhap, CNN
  • DPRK’s further alignment with Russia 
    During her visit to Russia, DPRK Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui met Russian president Vladimir Putin and her counterpart Sergei Lavrov. According to the DPRK readout, the DPRK government warmly welcomes Putin to visit Pyongyang as "the Korean people's closest friend." Moscow stated that the two countries will develop relations in all areas, including in "sensitive areas." [KCNA, TASS, Yonhap

    Ukrainian military intelligence reports indicate that the DPRK has become a key arms supplier to Russia in the Ukraine conflict. According to the ROK, by the end of 2023, the DPRK reportedly shipped around 5,000 containers to Russia, equivalent to about 2.3 million 152 mm calibre artillery shells. Additionally, Russia has allegedly used short-range ballistic missiles, almost certainly produced by the DPRK, against Ukraine. [FT, Yonhap, CAR
  • DPRK continues weapon testing 
    In January 2024, the DPRK claimed successful tests of various weapons, including a boost-glide vehicle atop a two-stage solid rocket booster, an underwater nuclear attack drone, and multiple potentially nuclear-capable cruise missiles. [KCNA, ONN, KCNA, KCNA, KCNA, Yonhap, KCNA


  • United States warns of lethal actions by DPRK 
    The US government has assessed that the DPRK may consider lethal actions against the ROK in the upcoming months, provided it can avoid rapid escalation. However, the likelihood of a full-scale war is currently deemed low. [NYT
  • Pyongyang’s approach to economic hardship
    DPRK leader Kim Jong Un admitted that the country’s regional economy is "in a terrible situation without elementary conditions" and the "failure to satisfactorily provide the people in local areas with basic living necessities" has become as "a serious political issue." As a solution, he directed the Workers’ Party of Korea to implement the "20 x 10 policy", a plan to construct modern regional industry factories in 20 counties annually for the next 10 years. [KCNA, KCNA]

Taiwan Strait Final (3)

Image credit: 'Taiwan Presidential Office' Flickr account.


  • Taiwan's 2024 Presidential election outcome 
    Vice President Lai Ching-te and his running mate, Hsiao Bi-khim, the then-Representative to the United States, won the 2024 presidential election. With their victory, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) became Taiwan’s first ruling party to secure a third consecutive presidential term since direct elections began in 1996. However, the failure to achieve a legislative majority in the Legislative Yuan could potentially impede the DPP's agenda, including its defence policies.  [CNA, UDN

    Beijing has labelled the DPP as "Taiwan independence" separatists and warned Lai’s election could trigger cross-Strait conflict. In a meeting between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and CPC Politburo Member Wang Yi in Bangkok, Sullivan underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. [Taiwan Work Office of CPC, Chinese FM, White House
  • Military activities around Taiwan 
    From 13 to 31 January, the Taiwan military reported detecting 190 PLA military aircraft, 26 ballons and constant naval vessel presence around the main island of Taiwan. The PLA described these operations as "routine joint combat-ready patrols" to enhance combat capabilities. Concurrently, the US Navy maintained two to three carrier strike groups and one amphibious ready group in the East China Sea and Taiwan Strait vicinity. Additionally, a US Navy destroyer transited the Taiwan Strait on January 24. [Taiwan MND, China MoD, USNI, US 7TH Fleet


  • Five-year outlook on cross-Strait conflict 
    A recent survey conducted by a US think tank, which included American and Taiwanese experts, indicates that China currently has the ability to enact a quarantine or blockade against Taiwan. However, the survey findings suggest that China does not possess the capability to successfully conduct an amphibious landing on Taiwan's main island within the next five years. Additionally, approximately 67% of the American experts and 57% of the Taiwanese experts surveyed anticipate a likely crisis in the Taiwan Strait in 2024.  [CSIS
  • Projections of China's nuclear arsenal 
    A study estimates China's current nuclear arsenal at 440 warheads. Depending on the armament of China's three new missile silo fields, this count could rise to between 700 and 1500 by 2035. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
  • China and Taiwan build new frigates 
    Taiwan's navy began constructing an air-defense light frigate in December 2023 and an anti-submarine warfare variant in January 2024. These 2500-ton frigates, expected to be operational by 2026, are part of a plan to replace six aging frigates and enhance naval capabilities, including monitoring PLA vessels.[CNA, CNA

    Meanwhile, China continues to expand its world’s largest navy with sea trials of its first 6000-ton class frigate. [Naval News, SCMP]

Scs Final (3)

Image credit: Philippine Coast Guard 'X' account.


  • Diplomatic tension between China and the Philippines over Taiwan 
    A congratulatory message from Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Taiwan's President-elect Lai Ching-te triggered a war of words between China and the Philippines. Commenting on Marcos’ message, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson suggested Marcos Jr to "read more to develop a proper understanding of the ins and outs of the Taiwan question." In response, the Department of National Defense of the Philippines criticised the Chinese spokesperson for resorting to "gutter level talk." President Marcos Jr later said he was surprised by the Chinese reaction and that his country’s One China Policy has not changed. [Philippine President, Chinese FM, Philippine Department of National Defense, RFI
  • Philippines' airdrop operations in the SCS 
    The Philippines conducted an airdrop of supplies to its troops on the Sierra Madre, a landing ship grounded in 1999 to serve as a military outpost in the Spratly Islands (also known as Nansha Islands). The China Coast Guard claimed that it permitted the airdrop as a "special temporary arrangement." The Philippine government has refuted this assertion, stating its sovereign right to resupply its troops without external authorization. This supply mission occurred just three days after reports emerged of an agreement between the two countries to improve management of their disagreements in the SCS. [CCG, Newsweek, Reuters, AP

    Over the past year, the Philippines and China have experienced frequent maritime confrontations in the South China Sea. China has persistently demanded the removal of the Sierra Madre by the Philippines. [AP, BBC, China News]


  • Philippines to strengthen security cooperations 
    On January 19, the Philippines and Canada formalized a memorandum of understanding (MoU) focusing on military education, training, information sharing, peacekeeping, and disaster response. Another MoU was signed with Vietnam on January 30 to bolster maritime cooperation between their coast guards in the South China Sea. President Marcos Jr. also noted significant progress with Vietnam in developing a bilateral Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. [Reuters, Inquirer, Daily Tribune

    Furthermore, the Philippine Secretary of National Defense indicated the possibility of signing a reciprocal access agreement with Japan within the first quarter of 2024, facilitating greater bilateral security cooperation. In 2023, Japan provided the Philippines with large patrol boats and air surveillance radars. [VOA, Daily Tribune]

Nato Russia Final

Image credits: Kremlin official website, 'President Of Ukraine' Flickr account, and 'Joe Biden' Flickr account.


  • NATO's largest military exercises and Baltic Sea presence enhancement 
    NATO is conducting its most extensive military exercises since the Cold War, titled "Steadfast Defender 2024," which will continue until May 2024. These exercises, involving approximately 90,000 troops, are designed to evaluate NATO's defense strategies. Participants include NATO members, as well as Sweden, which is nearing alliance membership contingent upon Hungary's approval, following Turkey's recent endorsement. In anticipation of joining NATO, Sweden has declared an increase in its Baltic Sea military presence, marked by the construction of two A26 submarines – the nation's first new submarine development since the mid-1990s. [NATO NewsReutersVOAPoliticoSVT
  • Enhanced military support to Ukraine 
    Ukraine is set to receive an initial shipment of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs from Boeing. This provision is expected to significantly enhance Ukraine’s capabilities in projecting force deep into territories occupied by Russia. [Reuters
  • US nuclear warhead redeployment to the UK
    Reports indicate that the United States plans to redeploy B61-12 nuclear warheads to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. This move, the first of its kind since 2008, comes in response to escalating threats from Russia. Accompanying this redeployment will be the stationing of F-35 fighter jets capable of deploying nuclear arms. Russia has previously expressed concerns that such actions could escalate tensions. [The Telegraph
  • Russia's rejection of US strategic dialogue proposal 
    Russia has deemed the United States' non-paper proposal for strategic stability discussions as "unacceptable." The rejection is based on the proposal's exclusion of non-nuclear strategic elements and prevailing geopolitical tensions. The White House, acknowledging Russia's shifted priorities, reaffirmed its openness to multilateral arms control dialogues.  [CSISKommersantRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs


  • Speculation over Zaluzhnyi's tenure 
    Recent reports from various media outlets suggest that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contemplated relieving Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, of his duties. However, it appears this decision was reconsidered due to military and international influences. Despite official denials from the Ukrainian government regarding any pending dismissal, Western media continue to speculate on the potential ramifications of Zaluzhnyi's removal, noting possible impacts on Ukraine’s military leadership stability and its international reputation during the ongoing conflict. [NYTWPEconomist
  • Switzerland to facilitate Ukraine peace summit  
    Switzerland has consented to hosting a global peace summit on Ukraine, following a request from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The aim is to seek a peaceful end to the Ukrainian conflict. President Zelenskyy, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, emphasized Ukraine's openness to participation from nations that respect its sovereignty. However, according to Russia’s ambassador to Switzerland, Swiss mediation for Ukraine peace talks is " out of the question, " due to Bern’s " anti-Russian line." Furthermore, Kremlin spokesperson Peskov criticized Zelenskyy's approach to peace, highlighting flaws in seeking a resolution without Russian involvement. [ReutersReuters, Kommersant
  • IAEA Chief's planned visit to Zaporizhzhia NPP 
    IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi is scheduled to visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and meet with officials in Kyiv and Moscow, amidst growing safety concerns at the plant. In December 2023, IAEA experts faced restricted access to some reactor halls at ZNPP. However, in mid-January, they were granted access to the reactor hall of Unit 6, though certain areas continued to be off-limits. The IAEA has also reported recent landmine placements by Russia around ZNPP’s perimeter. IAEA teams on-site continue to monitor and report various issues, including explosions and boric acid leaks at the facility. [IAEAIAEAIAEA, UN YouTube
  • EU discusses new sanctions against Russia 
    The European Commission is currently deliberating the details of a 13th package of sanctions against Russia. These discussions, taking place in informal high-level meetings, are considering the expansion of the sanctions list, additional trade restrictions, and measures to combat sanctions evasion. The sanctions package is anticipated to be finalized by 24 February, coinciding with the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. [BloombergReuters
  • NATO unveils quantum strategy 
    NATO has introduced its inaugural quantum strategy, focusing on preparing the Alliance for the implications of quantum technologies in security and warfare. This strategy highlights the potential applications of quantum technology across various domains, including advanced sensing, imaging, navigation, timing precision, submarine detection, and the development of quantum-resistant cryptography for secure data communications. [NATO News]
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