Event Horizon - Issue 2

Update for: 1-15 February 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.


Enhanced alert for ROK maritime operations 

Under the oversight of Kim Jong Un, the DPRK conducted a test fire of a new type shore-based anti-ship missile on 14 January. Kim pledged to "thoroughly defend the maritime sovereignty by force of arms and actions, not by any rhetoric, statement and public notice." He labelled the NLL, the de facto maritime border between the two Koreas, as an illegitimate "ghost line." Although Kim's stance is consistent with previous positions, his recent rhetoric indicates an increased risk for ROK vessels operating in waters near the NLL. [YonhapKCNA]

Additional DPRK military actions

Beyond the anti-ship missile test, the DPRK has conducted tests of surface-to-air missiles, precision-guided rockets from 240 mm multiple rocket launchers (MRL), and land-attack cruise missiles that are presumed to be nuclear-capable. Furthermore, Kim Jong Un inspected the Nampho naval shipyard and a munitions factory. ROK analysts suggest that the land-attack cruise missile and precision-guided MRL rockets might serve as demonstrations to promote arms sales to Russia. [YonhapYonhap KCNA, KCNAKCNA]

DPRK cuts economic ties with ROK

Following its designation of the ROK as its "primary enemy state" in January, the DPRK abolished all agreements on promoting inter-Korean economic cooperation. These recent developments also coincide with the DPRK's deepening alignment with Russia. [KCNAONN


Scheduled third ROK-US Nuclear Consultative Meeting

The third Nuclear Consultative Meeting between the ROK and the United States is scheduled for June in Seoul. The agenda includes "information sharing, security systems, consultation procedures for a nuclear crisis and the operation of a real-time leader-level communication channel." These guidelines are planned to undergo testing during the annual Ulchi Freedom Shield military exercises in August. [Yonhap]

Ex-official: DPRK might conduct localised provocation

Kim Sung-han, former national security advisor in the current ROK administration, suggested at a forum that the DPRK might engage in "peacetime provocations" below the threshold of eliciting a US military response. Such provocations could range from firing weapons to seizing an island south of the NLL. [Yonhap

Kim Yo Jong lists conditions for improved DPRK-Japan relations

Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s sister and vice department director of the Central Committee of the WPK, said in a statement that the DPRK and Japan could "open up a new future together" if Japan makes efforts to mend bilateral relations through “courteous behaviour and trustworthy action.” She further implied that a bilateral summit is possible if Japan stops pulling up the DPRK on its “legitimate right to self-defence" and gives up the “already settled abduction issue.” Kim’s statement came days after the DPRK belittled the data-sharing mechanism on DPRK missile launches between Japan, the ROK and the United States. In early February, the DPRK also characterized Japan’s purchase of land-attack cruise missiles from the United States as a “suicidal act.” [KCNAKCNAKCNA

Japan’s Prime Minister Kishida Fumio reportedly has hoped to resume dialogue between Tokyo and Pyongyang. The Japanese government is cautiously analysing the intent of Kim Yo Jong’s statement. [NHK

Taiwan Strait Final (3)

Image credit: 'Taiwan Presidential Office' Flickr account.


Japan and United States exercise for contingency

From 29 January to 1 February, the US Carl Vinson and Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike groups (CSGs), alongside a Japanese helicopter carrier, conducted exercises east of Taiwan. Rear Admiral Carlos Sardiello, commander of the USS Carl Vinson CSG, stated that CSGs can effectively execute their missions under the threat posed by Chinese anti-ship ballistic missiles. [US 7th FleetJMSDFJMSDFNIKKEI

Subsequently, from 1 to 8 February, Japan and the United States held a biannual joint command post exercise, focusing on Taiwan contingency plans. The exercise named China as a hypothetical adversary for the first time in its history. [USINDOPACOMJapan Times, SCMP]

CIA assessment of Beijing's military objectives

CIA Director William Burns said he knew "as a matter of intelligence" that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had instructed the PLA to be ready by 2027 to conduct a successful invasion against Taiwan, though this intel does not mean a fixed timetable. Burns added that Xi is observing the war in Ukraine closely and has become "a little bit unsettled and sobered" by the performance of the Russian armed forces. [CBS]

PLA activities around Taiwan

In January, the Taiwan military reported detecting 72 PLA military aircraft, 57 balloons, and a constant presence of naval vessels around the main island of Taiwan. [Taiwan MND


Taiwan's naval and air force enhancements

Taiwan navy is to form a third shore-based anti-ship missile group in 2024 following the second group's formation in July last year. Between 2022 and 2026, Taiwan will produce around 1000 anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. A sea control missile command will also be established by the end of 2024 to manage the increase in equipment and personnel. [Liberty Times, Liberty Times

To counter missile attacks by the PLA, the Taiwan air force plans to finish widening runways at six air bases from 45 m to 60 m by 2026. The service also reportedly shortened the time needed to repair one large runway crater from 4 to 2.5 hours. [UpMediaCTS, Liberty Times]

US naval presence in Ishigaki

An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer of the US navy will reportedly make a port call at Ishigaki, Japan, on 11-14 March. If realised, this will mark the first visit by a main US surface combatant to this strategically important island. Ishigaki is about 160 km away from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, claimed by both China and Japan, and about 220 km away from Taiwan. Notably, Japan has expressed concerns about the constant presence of PLAN vessels near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. [NAVALNEWSSCMP

Scs Final (3)

Image credit: Philippine Coast Guard 'X' account.


Ongoing maritime tensions between China and Philippines

China's coast guard said it evicted a Philippine coast guard ship in waters near the Huangyan Island/ Scarborough Shoal, while the Philippines accused China of "dangerous and blocking" manoeuvres. This incident was followed by a maritime cooperation activity exercise between the US navy and the Philippine navy a few days later. Two PLAN vessels reportedly monitored the exercise. [ReutersChina Coast Guard, TaiwanPlus, INDOPACOM, Inquirer


Philippines to receive supersonic missiles, pursues submarines

Indian ambassador to the Philippines told reporters that the Philippines will receive BrahMos anti-ship missiles from India "soon," while another Indian official claimed the missiles will arrive by March. The Philippines signed a deal with India in January 2022 to buy three shore-based supersonic anti-ship cruise missile batteries. [Economic TimesInquirer]

Under the 2023 to 2028 military modernisation plan dubbed as Horizon 3, the Philippines will also acquire submarines and purchase vessels, aircraft and radars. [PNA Inquirer,NHKReuters]

Philippine military enhancements at islands facing Taiwan

The Philippine Defense Secretary, Gilberto Teodoro, has directed an increase in military personnel on the northernmost Batanes Islands, approximately 190 km south of Taiwan. The Chinese Foreign Ministry cautioned the Philippines against escalating the situation over Taiwan, advising against "playing with fire" to "avoid being manipulated and eventually hurt." In 2023, the Philippines expanded US military access to include four bases, three proximate to Taiwan, raising the total to nine bases available for US forces. [ReutersTaiwanPlusChinese FM, CNN]

Philippines and United States to conduct drills as planned

Maj Gen Marcus Evans, leader of the US Army's 25th Infantry Division, confirmed that joint military exercises with the Philippines will proceed as scheduled in 2024, despite ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. The annual Salaknib and Balikatan drills, involving thousands of troops, are set to enhance bilateral defence collaboration. [AFP

Nato Russia Final

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


Trump's NATO comments

Former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said during a campaign rally that he would encourage Russia to do "whatever the hell they want" to NATO members who do not meet their defence spending targets. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and US President Joe Biden reacted strongly, emphasising that such statements threaten the alliance's unity and collective security. Biden specifically criticised Trump's remarks as "dangerous" and contrary to American values. [The GuardianAP News]

Putin's signalling in Tucker's interview

In an interview with Tucker Carlson, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia's nuclear threat has been overstated to boost NATO defence spending. Despite Putin's assertion of Russia's disinterest in attacking NATO, he warned that the stationing of regular Western troops in Ukraine would lead to a serious confrontation. Putin reiterated that ending US military aid is his precondition for stopping hostility in Ukraine. [Tucker Carlson]

Evaluating Russian military challenges to NATO

The Danish Defence Intelligence Service predicts a 60 to 90% likelihood of Russia using military force within post-Soviet states over the long term. The Danish Defence Minister further highlighted the potential for Russia to challenge NATO's collective security measures within the next three to five years. Similarly, Estonia's Foreign Intelligence Service alerts that Russia is "probably anticipating a possible conflict with NATO within the next decade." [ReutersReutersDanish Defence Intelligence ServiceEstonian Foreign Intelligence Service]

Leadership transition in Ukraine's military forces

Oleksandr Syrskyi has been appointed as the new commander of Ukraine's armed forces, taking over from Valeriy Zaluzhnyi in a significant overhaul of the military's upper echelon. In his inaugural address as commander-in-chief, Syrskyi delineated his strategic priorities: enhancing logistical operations, achieving a balance between executing combat missions and preserving force strength, and integrating advanced technological solutions, including drones and electronic warfare capabilities. [President of UkraineUkraine MODReutersRBC-Ukraine]

EU support for Ukraine: financial and military assistance

The European Union has decided to extend a 50 billion EUR aid package to Ukraine for economic stabilization. Furthermore, the EU has pledged to deliver 520,000 artillery shells to Ukraine by March 2024 and aims to more than double this supply by year-end. [European CommissionAP News


United States flags Russian space-based anti-satellite capabilities 

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan briefed congressional leaders about intelligence, reported by ABC News from two sources, on Russia's plans to place a nuclear weapon in space aimed at satellites. White House spokesperson John Kirby confirmed the intelligence relates to Russia's ongoing development of anti-satellite capabilities but did not specify whether it involved nuclear weapons. [ABC NewsABC news, Reuters, C-Span]

Russia's plan to suspend OSCE Parliamentary Assembly participation

Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of Russia's State Duma, announced Russia's intention to suspend its involvement in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly (PA). Volodin criticized the OSCE PA as being politically biased and under the influence of Washington. He advocated for Russia to cease funding the PA and to withdraw its participation until the organization "comes to its senses." The State Duma plans to coordinate with the Federation Council to formalize the suspension of Russia's participation on 21 February. [State Duma]

Outcome of Finland's presidential election

Alexander Stubb, representing Finland's National Coalition Party, secured the Finnish presidency with 51.6% of the vote. Stubb's election may further strain Finland-Russia relations, especially with Finland's recent NATO membership positioning the alliance closer to Russian borders. He has been vocal against engaging in dialogue with Putin during the Ukraine crisis, criticized Russia's position in the UN Security Council, proposed reallocating frozen Russian assets to aid Ukraine, and expressed openness to consider the deployment of nuclear weapons within NATO's strategic framework if deemed necessary. [BBCYLEMeduza

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