Axios Sneak Peek – December 22, 2019

In his sharpest criticism yet of his old workplace, John Bolton suggested the Trump administration is bluffing about stopping North Korea’s nuclear ambitions — and soon might need to admit publicly that its policy failed badly. Bolton told me in an interview that he does not think the administration “really means it” when President Trump and top officials vow to stop North Korea from having deliverable nuclear weapons — “or it would be pursuing a different course.” Why now? The president’s former national security adviser, who served until September, is speaking…

South China Sea latest: Russia spots mystery ‘radiation incident’ as nuclear fears soar | World | News

A website run by a far-right US radio talk show host had claimed on Wednesday that military sources detected an underwater explosion. No sources were named and Gizmodo cited two scientists who dismissed the story. The watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said: “Based on data received from the Global Environmental Monitoring System, there’s an increase in background radiation in the South China Sea in connection with a radiation incident.” The Moscow body insisted that the radiation detected did not “currently threaten the Russian population” but it “has increased its radiation monitoring in the adjacent…

China ups diplomatic ante as US presses hard on ‘America First’

GENEVA—Chinese leaders have long been sensitive about their communist country’s international image. Now, they are battling back—investing in diplomacy and a courtship of hearts and minds, just as the United States digs in on the Trump administration’s “America First” mindset. A trade war and other frictions between the world’s top economic power and the fast-growing No. 2 have exposed Washington’s fears about technology, security and influence. US political leaders have derided China’s government over policies in protest-riddled Hong Kong, at detention centers in the majority Muslim Xinjiang region, and over…

Think tank warns of potential US-China clash over Taiwan

A crisis between the US and China over Taiwan could affect US interests next year, according to a survey released by a US think tank on Wednesday, although it said it was not very likely. In the annual Preventive Priorities Survey released by the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations’ Center for Preventive Action (CPA), US foreign policy experts assessed the likelihood and effect of 30 potential conflicts that could emerge or escalate next year. The CPA then categorized the scenarios under three tiers — high, moderate and low —…

The illusion of a rules-based global order

When the Cold War ended, many pundits anticipated a new era in which geo-economics would determine geopolitics. As economic integration progressed, they predicted, the rules-based order would take root globally. Countries would comply with international law or incur high costs. Today, such optimism looks more than a little naive. Even as the international legal system has ostensibly grown increasingly robust – underpinned, for example, by United Nations (UN) conventions, global accords like the 2015 Paris climate agreement, and the International Criminal Court (ICJ) – the rule of force has continued…

China’s New Aircraft Carrier Shandong: 5 Things You Need to Know

On December 17, 2019 at the sunny beach resort city of Sanya on Hainan Island, China officially commissioned its first homebuilt aircraft carrier into the PLA Navy in a ceremony attended by President Xi Jinping, following more than eighteen months of sea trials. Like her sistership Liaoning, she is named after a province in northeastern China. The commissioning of the 315-meter long vessel four years after she was laid down in Liaoning province March 2015 by Dalian Shipbuilding is another milestone achievement for the PLA Navy that must be gauged…

Can Quad be Effective against Incremental Encroachment of China in Indo-Pacific Region?

Desperate for cash, Tajikistan is about to sell yet another vital asset to China at a time that countries like Sri Lanka and the Maldives are demanding renegotiation of debt settlements that either forced them to surrender control of critical infrastructure or left them with unsustainable repayments. The pending Chinese acquisition of  a stake in Tajikistan’s aluminium smelter, coupled with earlier tax concessions to Chinese companies that would substantially reduce the trickle down effect of investments for the troubled Tajik economy, suggest that China has yet to fully take account …

How a South Pacific War Between America and China Might Begin

Celebes Sea, approximately 850 nautical miles from Fiery Cross Reef – 0030 Local “Romeo’s closed up,” came the call from the port bridge wing. Raising the red and yellow romeo flag to the top of the stays was the signal USS Omaha, an Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship, was beginning its approach to the Japanese oiler Mashu. Lieutenant Junior Grade Hassan Caterall’s hands betrayed a slight tremor as he flicked his eyes in the direction of his Executive Officer, the ship’s second-in-command. The XO, Commander Morgan Dennis, a former enlisted sailor…