Event Horizon - Issue 6

Update for: 1-17 April 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.

Learn more

Korean Peninsula Final (4)

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


DPRK tests hypersonic missile 

On 2 April, the DPRK conducted a flight test of the Hwasong-16Na, a two-stage solid-propellant booster armed with a hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV). Since 2021, the DPRK has developed two types of HGVs with a total of five flight tests. Despite being labelled as intermediate-range hypersonic missiles, the HGVs have yet to demonstrate true intermediate range (3000 to 5500 km). According to ROK defence minister Shin Won-sik, the HGV tested on 2 April was “unsuccessful in its last-stage glide flight.” [KCNA, 38north, Yonhap

United States holds military drills with Japan, ROK 

Japan, ROK and the United States held a series of military drills during the monitoring period, including:  

  • 2 April: trilateral aerial exercise involving a US B-52 strategic bomber and fighter jets from Japan and the ROK, conducted hours after the DPRK hypersonic missile test. [Yonhap
  • 11-12 April: trilateral maritime exercise involving US Carrier Strike Group 9 and destroyers from Japan and the ROK. [US 7TH Fleet
  • 12 April: ROK and US air forces kicked off large-scale annual air drills involving 100 combat aircraft. [Yonhap
ROK launches 2nd spy satellite 

On 8 April, the ROK launched its second spy satellite on a US Falcon 9 rocket. By 2025, a total of five spy satellites equipped with synthetic aperture radars and electro-optical sensors will be launched to provide coverage over the DPRK every two hours. Additionally, the ROK aims to launch around 60 small satellites by 2030, enabling monitoring of the DPRK at 30-minute intervals for prompt detection of potential strikes. [Yonhap, Yonhap

ROK’s national security policies unlikely to change 

The main opposition party in the ROK maintained its majority in the National Assembly following the country’s general elections. Despite this outcome, President Yoon Suk Yeol’s foreign and national security policies are unlikely to see significant changes. [Yonhap, Yonhap, The Korea Herald


China and DPRK strengthen ties 

On 13 April, a high-level Chinese delegation led by Zhao Leji, a member of the CPC Politburo Standing Committee, met with Kim Jong Un. The two sides discussed boosting “multi-faceted exchanges and cooperation...into more viable ties.” Zhao’s visit came as the two countries mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties. [KCNA, KCNA, Chinese MFA, Event Horizon Issue 3

Taiwan Strait Final (3)

Image credit: 'Taiwan Presidential Office' Flickr account.


Japan, United States bolster defence and security cooperation 

During Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s visit to the United States, the two countries announced new measures to enhance defence and security cooperation. These include the upgrade of their respective command and control frameworks, co-production of missiles, co-sustainment of forward-deployed US military vessels and aircraft, and the development of a “networked air defence architecture” between Australia, Japan and the United States. The two sides reiterated their opposition to any attempts by China to “unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion” in the East China Sea, South China Sea and across the Taiwan Strait. [White House, White House, PM Office of Japan, Event Horizon Issue 5

Australia prioritises Asia-Pacific in defence strategy 

Australia unveiled its first-ever National Defence Strategy, with the goal of allocating 2.4% of GDP to total defence spending within the next decade. The budget prioritises the acquisition of new capabilities, including those under the AUKUS partnership and long-range strike missiles. Defence Minister Richard Marles emphasised that Australia’s defence efforts should “unequivocally” focus on the Asia-Pacific region. [Australian government, ABC News

Earlier, US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell highlighted the connection between AUKUS and the Taiwan Strait, noting its significant implications in various scenarios, including cross-strait circumstances. [CNAS, Reuters

Shipbuilding gap may tip military balance in Asia Pacific  

The United States is facing delays in the delivery of key naval assets, including the lead ship of the navy’s Constellation-class frigates and other major combatants like the aircraft carrier Enterprise and nuclear-powered submarines. These delays, ranging from one to three years, are raising concerns about a growing shipbuilding gap between the China and the United States. [UNSI, Politico

According to the US Office of Naval Intelligence, China’s overall shipbuilding capacity is about 200 times greater than that of the United States. In late February, Carlos Del Toro, Secretary of the US navy, toured shipyards in Japan and the ROK, inviting the two Asian allies to invest in US naval shipbuilding facilities. [CNN, The War Zone, US navy, US navy

China - United States talks 

During a phone call on 2 April, Chinese President Xi Jinping conveyed to US President Joe Biden that trade restrictions and sanctions against Chinese companies create risks between the two countries. Biden reaffirmed the US commitment to safeguarding national security by preventing advanced US technologies from being misused. [Xinhua, White House

On 17 April, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a video call with his Chinese counterpart for the first time in nearly 18 months. Austin underscored the “importance of respect for high seas freedom of navigation” and reiterated the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea. Dong Jun, China’s newly appointed Defense Minister, stated that the “Taiwan question” is at the “core of China’s core interests” and urged the United States to recognise China’s “firm stance” on the South China Sea. [Xinhua, US DoD

Also on 17 April, a US Navy P-8A anti-submarine aircraft transited the Taiwan Strait in international airspace. The PLA Eastern Theater Command deployed warplanes to “follow, monitor and deal with the trespassing US aircraft.” [Xinhua, US DoD, US 7TH Fleet, Chinamil

Scs Final (3)

Image credit: Philippine Coast Guard 'X' account.


Trilateral summit between Japan, Philippines and United States 

The first-ever trilateral summit between Japan, the Philippines, and the United States took place on 11 April in Washington, DC. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and US President Joe Biden confirmed their countries’ opposition to any “unilateral attempts by China” to change the status quo by force in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. They pledged to enhance cooperation in defence, maritime security and economic development. Ahead of the summit, Biden stated that any attack on Philippine aircraft or vessels in the South China Sea would invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty. [White House, Philippine Presidential Communications Office, PM Office of Japan, USNI

First Australia-Japan-Philippines-United States exercise in SCS 

With six warships and four aircraft, the first quadrilateral maritime exercise between Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States was carried within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone on 7 April. Two Chinese vessels reportedly tailed the exercise. On the same day, PLA Southern Theatre Command stated that it had conducted a combat-readiness patrol in the South China Sea. [AFP, USNI, Inquirer, China Daily]  

In addition, on 9 April, vessels from Australia, France and the United States sailed together in the South China Sea. [US 7th Fleet

Philippines, United States conduct joint drills 

Armed forces of the Philippines and the United States commenced a series of annual bilateral exercises in the Philippine, including: 

  • 8-19 April: The Philippine Marine Exercise, involving approximately 350 Filipino Marines and 40 US Marines.[DVIDS
  • 8 April: The Salaknib 24, involving three infantry divisions from the Philippine and US armies, was kicked off. [DVIDS]  
  • 8-19 April: Cope Thunder-Philippines 2024, involving approximately 700 personnel from Philippine and US air forces. [PNA, PAF

Notably, the US Army sent its Mid-Range Capability (MRC) missile system overseas for the first time to participate in the Salaknib 24. The MRC can launch the Tomahawk cruise missile, which has a range sufficient to cover the entire South China Sea and a significant portion of China, as well as the SM-6, a long-range air defence missile with anti-ship and anti-ballistic missile capabilities. [US Army Pacific, The War Zone

Nato Russia Final

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


War in Ukraine: latest developments 

  • Ukraine’s military chief, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, warns the battlefield situation in the east has “significantly worsened in recent days” and stressed the importance of troop training and the use of high-tech weapons. [AP] 
  • The top US commander in Europe, General Christopher Cavoli, cautions that Ukraine could lose the war unless it receives continued military aid, as Russia has replenished losses faster than expected. [Politico] 
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urgently appeals for more long-range air defence systems as Russia escalates missile and drone strikes targeting Ukraine’s power infrastructure. Zelenskyy warned that Ukraine’s air defence missile reserves could be depleted if Russia’s airstrikes persist. [Politico, Bloomberg
  • Russian paratroopers have reached the eastern edge of the strategically important town of Chasiv Yar, which Moscow aims to capture by 9 May, according to Oleksandr Syrskyi. Analysts warn that the fall of Chasiv Yar could allow Russia to launch offensives against several “fortress cities” in the Donbas region crucial to Ukraine’s defence in the east.[Reuters] 
  • The Ukrainian parliament passed a law to increase conscription, sparking controversy by omitting limits on service durations. [NYT] 
US officials: China enables Russia’s military industry expansion 

Several senior US officials alleged that China had been providing Russia with materials such as machine tools, microelectronics, drone engines and guncotton, essential for Russia’s weapon production. They claimed that about 90% of Russia’s microelectronics, used to make missiles, tanks and aircraft, are sourced from China. Moreover, nearly 70% of Russia’s machine tool import in the last quarter of 2023 originated from China. The Chinese assistance has enabled Russia to undertake what is described as the most ambitious military manufacturing expansion since the Soviet era. In response, during her visit to China, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned of serious consequences for Chinese banks and companies if they persist in supporting Russia’s war efforts. [Financial Times, AP News, The Hill

During their first direct meeting since 2018, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a “thorough exchange” of views in Beijing on various “hot topics,” including the war in Ukraine. Xi told Lavrov that China and Russia have embarked on a new path of “harmonious coexistence” and “win-win cooperation”. [Kommersant, Financial Times

Attacks on Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant 

A series of drone attacks struck the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. This incident marks the first direct military action against Europe’s largest nuclear power plant since November 2022. Rafael Grossi, Director General of the IAEA, confirmed the attacks and stressed that such actions “greatly heighten the risk of a major nuclear accident and must cease immediately.” While the IAEA did not attribute responsibility to any specific party, it reported that critical systems for nuclear safety and security remained intact. [Reuters, IAEA, Kommersant, AP


Revisiting early Russia-Ukraine peace talks 

An article in Foreign Affairs discussed the initial negotiations between Russia and Ukraine that culminated in Istanbul shortly after Russia’s invasion in February 2024. According to the article, during these early talks, both sides exhibited a “mutual willingness to consider far-reaching concessions to end the war.” Recently, Russian officials have expressed interest in reviving the aborted Istanbul negotiations. They have specified that any new discussions would focus on the general principles of the original document rather than the specific terms. However, according to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, the negotiations that took place in Istanbul did not have the potential to halt the ongoing war. [Foreign Affairs, Kommersant, Kommersant, Kommersant, Reuters]

NATO’s inaugural strategy on biotechnology and human enhancement in defence 

NATO released its first strategy to guide the responsible development and use of biotechnologies and human enhancement technologies (BHE) in defence and security. This strategy aims to harness the advantages of BHE while safeguarding against their malicious use by state and non-state actors. The strategy highlights Russia’s substantial investments in BHE and its efforts to disrupt global norms on weapons of mass destruction. It expresses NATO’s grave concerns over the potential future use of chemical or biological weapons by Russia. [NATO

Undersea hybrid warfare 

According to Vice Admiral Didier Maleterre, the deputy commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command, underwater infrastructure vulnerabilities pose a security threat to nearly one billion people in Europe and North America. The network of underwater infrastructure, including wind farms, pipelines, and power cables, upon which Europe’s power and communications depend, was not built to withstand the “hybrid warfare” coming from Russia and other NATO adversaries. [The Guardian

Subscribe to Event Horizon
One Earth Future

Open Nuclear Network (ONN) is a programme of One Earth Future, an incubator of innovative peacebuilding programs in which they design, test and partner to scale programs that work hand in hand with communities to eliminate the root causes of war.

We use cookies to provide the best possible User experience. You can read more about our usage of cookies in our Privacy Policy