Event Horizon - Issue 7

Update for: 18-30 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.

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Korean Peninsula Final (4)

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


North Korean military activities
  • 20 April: Test of cruise missiles with super-large warheads and anti-aircraft missiles. [KCNA] 
  • 23 April: Kim Jong Un oversaw a nuclear counter-attack drill with 600 mm multiple rocket launchers (MRLs) and a “nuclear weapon combined management” system. [KCNA] 
  • 26 April: Kim Jong Un supervised a test fire of guided 240 mm MRL rockets. [KCNA] 

On 24 April, Kim Yo Jong, Kims sister and WPK official, stated North Korea will build an overwhelming and most powerful military muscle to defend sovereignty, citing recent US-South Korea joint exercises. [KCNA, Event Horizon Issue 6, KCNA] 

Deepening North Korea ties with China, Iran, Russia

North Koreas External Economic Relations Minister, Yun Jong-ho, visited Iran, marking the first such visit by a North Korean ranking official since 2019. Meanwhile, North Korea and Russia are further expanding cooperation, as indicated by an ongoing series of exchanges and ministerial-level meetings across various sectors. Notably, North Korea has confirmed its participation in Russias upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, signalling deeper bilateral economic ties amid isolation from the West. [KCNA, TASS, TASS, Rus Ministry of Healthcare, TASS, TASS] 

In a separate development, North Korean state authorities published several commentaries condemning US arms aid to Ukraine and criticising what they describe as anti-China activities by the United States. [KCNA, KCNA, KCNA] 

UN Report links North Korea to missile debris in Ukraine

A report submitted to the UN Security Councils North Korea sanctions committee confirms that missile debris found in Kharkiv, Ukraine, following a strike on 2 January 2024 originated from a North Korean Hwasong-11 ballistic missile. [Reuters] 

In March, Ukraines Prosecutor General stated that Russia has launched approximately 50 North Korean ballistic missiles against Ukraine, with around 80% failing to hit their intended targets. Ukrainian officials assert North Korea is using Ukraine as a missile testing ground. [Kyodo] 


Two Koreas continue rivalry in space

On 24 April, South Korea and the United States conducted a joint space drill as part of the large-scale annual air drills Korea Flying Training. The space drill simulated scenarios to resist, locate and destroy North Korean GPS jammers. Framing the space drill and the launch of South Korean spy satellites as preparations for pre-emptive strikes, North Koreas National Aerospace Technology Administration vowed to enhance its space reconnaissance capabilities through launching more satellites. Concurrently, a US think tank reported increased construction activity at North Koreas satellite launch site, although no signs of imminent launch were observed. [Yonhap, Event Horizon Issue 6, KCNA, 38North] 

Taiwan Strait and SCS Final

Image credit: 'Taiwan Presidential Office' Flickr account, Philippine Coast Guard 'X' account.


China building up pressure ahead of Taiwans new government inauguration 

Tsai Ming-yen, head of Taiwans National Security Bureau, stated that China is expected to persist in applying pressure to influence the cross-Strait policies of the new government, which will take office on 20 May. According to Tsai, the PLA has started conducting joint naval-air combat-readiness patrols at night, involving aerial refuelling aircraft, mine sweepers and amphibious landing ships. [PTS, CNA] 

In April, the Taiwan military reported detecting 253 PLA military aircraft and a constant presence of naval vessels around Taiwans main island. On 29 April, Chinese military aircraft flew unusually close to the main island of Taiwan. Additionally, China recently shifted a commercial flight path closer to the Straits median line and introduced new routes connecting to this flight path. [PTS, TVBS, Reuters, VOA, TaiwanPlus, CNA, Taiwan MND, DPP] 

US approves aid to Taiwan 

On 24 April, US President Joe Biden enacted a comprehensive 95 billion USD aid package, which encompasses military support for Ukraine, Israel, and the Indo-Pacific region. Out of the total, 8 billion is designated for assisting US allies in the Indo-Pacific and to counter China. Of this amount, 1.9 billion is specifically allocated for restocking US armaments dispatched to Taiwan and other regional allies. [Focustaiwan, AP] 

South China Sea: latest developments 

Throughout the monitoring period, the Philippines continued to enhance its defence capabilities amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea: 

  • 19 April: The Philippines took delivery of the initial batch of BrahMos land-based supersonic anti-ship missiles procured from India. [Inquirer, The Hindu] 
  • 22 April to 10 May: The Philippines and the United States conducted their largest annual bilateral exercise, Balikatan 2024. Concurrently, naval vessels from the Philippines, United States, and France participated in a Multilateral Maritime Exercise (MME) within the Philippine exclusive economic zone. Chinese naval vessels were reported to have monitored the MME. [INDOPACOM, DVIDS, Inquirer] 
  • 29 April: The Philippines received its first land-mobile air-surveillance radar system ordered from Japan. [Inquirer] 
  • 30 April: Chinese Coast Guard ships employed water cannons against Philippine maritime authority vessels near Scarborough Shoal/Huangyan Island. [Inquirer, PCG, CCG] 


China’s third carrier to start sea trial

The Fujian, China’s third aircraft carrier and the first to be equipped with catapults, is expected to start sea trials on 1 May. [X, Naval News, CNA] 

Nato Russia Final

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


War in Ukraine: latest developments 
  • Ukraines military chief, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, updated international allies on the complex and potentially escalating front-line situation. He emphasised the urgent need for continued and timely deliveries of munitions to Ukraine. [Syrskyi Telegram Channel, Meduza] 
  • Russian forces have taken control of the village of Ocheretino along the Avdiivka front, posing a significant threat of a general defeat for Ukrainian forces in the western and southern parts of the Donetsk region. [Meduza] 
  • Russia is advancing on the eastern Ukrainian town of Chasiv Yar with an estimated 20,000-25,000 troops attempting to storm the town and surrounding villages. The capture of Chasiv Yar could enable Russian forces to launch offensives against several key fortress cities in the Donbas region, critical to Ukraines eastern defence. [Event Horizon Issue 6, Reuters] 
  • On 24 April, Biden signed a 95 billion USD national security package into law, with 61 billion USD earmarked for Ukraine. This clears the way for the United States to resume arms shipments to Kyiv. Utilising the Ukraine aid, the United States nears awarding 6 billion USD in contracts to defence firms for producing weapons and equipment, though production of the weaponry is likely to take years. Simultaneously, Biden rushed 1 billion USD in needed air defence munitions, artillery, rockets, and armoured vehicles immediately upon signing the aid package. Also, the State Department confirmed delivering 300km-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine in April. [Reuters, RFERL, Politico, UPI, The Hill, Politico, AP] 
US and NATO urge China to halt support for Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasised during his visit to China that the United States would take actions against China should it continue its support for Russia. Similarly, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the necessity of China ending its support to maintain “good relations with the West.” In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin labelled the US accusations as hypocritical and highly irresponsible, criticising the United States for condemning Chinas normal trade and economic exchanges with Russia while extensively supporting Ukraine. [Reuters, Financial Times, US DOS, US DOS, Chinese MFA] 

Russia blocks UN Security Council Resolution on nuclear arms in space

Russia exercised its veto power against a UN Security Council resolution co-sponsored by the United States and Japan. This resolution sought to bolster commitments under the Outer Space Treaty by ensuring that states do not position nuclear weapons in Earths orbit. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that Russia “would not have vetoed the resolution” if it had no intention to deploy nuclear weapons in space, highlighting ongoing concerns over Russias development of a satellite equipped with a nuclear device. Conversely, Russian representatives argued for a more comprehensive prohibition of space-based weaponry and announced plans to propose their own resolution to the Security Council. [White House, AP, Kommersant, Tass] 


Putin to visit China in May

Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed plans to visit China in May, though the exact dates of the trip have not been disclosed. The announced presidential visit comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov travelled to China in April to lay the groundwork for high-level talks between the two countries. [Kommersant, Kommersant] 

Belarus to strengthen military support for Russia and CSTO allies

Belarus has updated its military doctrine to include a provision that reaffirms the nations commitment to providing military support to Russia and its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in the event of aggression. [Kommersant, National Legal Internet portal of the Republic of Belarus] 

Poland expresses willingness to join NATO nuclear sharing

Polish President Andrzej Duda has declared Polands readiness to host nuclear weapons as part of NATOs nuclear sharing if deemed necessary to strengthen its eastern defences against Russia. However, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO has no plans to expand its nuclear sharing arrangements or to deploy additional nuclear weapons to other NATO member states. [Politico, Defence News] 

US senators advocate for Deterrence Act against Russia and China

A cohort of US senators is advocating for the incorporation of the Restoring American Deterrence Act into the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2025. This proposed legislation is designed to create a new position at the Pentagon to oversee deterrence policy and to formulate strategies for the deployment of additional intercontinental ballistic missiles. These measures aim to bolster deterrence against US nuclear adversaries such as China and Russia. [Defense News] 

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