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Marriott Data Breach Is Traced to Chinese Hackers as U.S. Readies Crackdown on Beijing

David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, Glenn Thrush and Alan Rappeport / New York Times

The cyberattack on the Marriott hotel chain that collected personal details of roughly 500 million guests was part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering effort that also hacked health insurers and the security clearance files of millions more Americans, according to two people briefed on the investigation. The hackers, they said, are suspected of working on behalf of the Ministry of State Security, the country’s Communist-controlled civilian spy agency. The discovery comes as the Trump administration is planning actions targeting China’s trade, cyber and economic policies, perhaps within days.

 

Troops cross North-South Korea Demilitarized Zone in peace for 1st time ever

CBS News

Dozens of North and South Korean soldiers crossed over the world’s most heavily armed border Wednesday as they inspected the sites of their rival’s front-line guard posts to verify they’d been removed, part of inter-Korean engagement efforts that come amid stalled U.S.-North Korea nuclear disarmament talks. It was the first time since the Demilitarized Zone was created in 1948 to divide the two Koreas that troops from either side crossed the demarcation line peacefully, South Korea’s Ministry of Defense noted. The inspections Wednesday were mostly symbolic — the removals will leave South Korea with about 50 other DMZ posts and North Korea with 150, according to defense experts in South Korea, but they mark an extraordinary change in ties from last year, when North Korea tested a series of increasingly powerful weapons and threatened Seoul and Washington with war.

 

France ‘terror’ shooting leaves 3 dead, multiple injured with gunman on the run: officials

Elizabeth Zwirz / Fox News

A shooting in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday left three people dead, several others wounded and is being treated as an act of “terror,” police and government officials said, adding that the gunman is on the run. The suspect opened fire in downtown Strasbourg on Orfevre Street around 8 p.m. local time, government authorities Préfet de la région Grand-Est et du Bas-Rhin revealed on Twitter. The gunman is known to police and has a criminal record, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters.

 

American Competitiveness

 

Trump Says He Would Intervene in Huawei Case to Get China Deal

Justin Sink / Bloomberg

President Donald Trump said he would intervene in U.S. efforts to extradite Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou if it helped him win a trade deal with China. “If I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made, which is a very important thing — what’s good for national security — I would certainly intervene, if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said Tuesday in an interview with Reuters.

 

Asymmetric Operations

 

Attacks Across Afghanistan Leave at Least 30 Dead

Fahim Abed / New York Times

At least 12 people were killed on the outskirts of Kabul on Tuesday when explosives in a vehicle detonated near a convoy of security forces, Afghan officials said, and at least 12 others were wounded. It was the deadliest of several violent attacks across Afghanistan on Tuesday that left a total of more than 30 dead, most of them members of security forces. Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for the Kabul police, said four of those killed in the attack on the convoy were security officers and eight were civilians. “Two women and a child were among the victims,” he said.

 

House Republicans move to gut resolution pulling US from war in Yemen

Manu Raju and Caroline Kelly / CNN

House Republicans quietly moved Tuesday to give GOP leadership more power to block a resolution that would pull back US involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen, an effort that would give cover to the White House, which is strongly opposed to the plan. The GOP-led House Rules Committee, in an unusual step in its final days in power, discreetly tucked a provision into an unrelated measure that would no longer consider the Yemen plan a “privileged” resolution during this Congress. If the measure is no longer considered privileged, it would no longer move on an expedited path and GOP leaders would have more power to deny the measure from getting a vote.

 

Climate Security

 

As climate change bites in America’s midwest, farmers are desperate to ring the alarm

Chris McGreal / The Guardian

Richard Oswald did not need the latest US government report on the creeping toll of climate change to tell him that farming in the midwest is facing a grim future, and very likely changing forever. For Oswald, the moment of realisation came in 2011. The 68-year-old lives in the house he was born in and farms 2,500 acres with his son, some of it settled by his great-great-grandfather. The land sits where the Missouri river valley is about four miles wide.

 

US accused of obstructing talks at UN climate change summit

Ben Doherty / The Guardian

The United States and other high carbon dioxide-emitting developed countries are deliberately frustrating the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, Vanuatu’s foreign minister has said. His warning came as Pacific and Indian ocean states warned they faced annihilation if a global climate “rule book” could not brokered. In a bruising speech before ministers and heads of state, Vanuatu’s foreign minister, Ralph Regenvanu, singled out the US as he excoriated major CO2-emitting developed countries for deliberately hindering negotiations.

 

National Security Strategy

 

Japan plans to purchase nearly 150 F-35 fighter jets from the US

Alex Ward / Vox

Japan plans to purchase nearly 150 F-35 stealth fighter jets from the US — a move intended to revitalize the country’s aging military equipment to make it better able to defend itself against a more aggressive China and revanchist Russia. Keitaro Ohno, a leading defense official in Japan’s parliament, told me and a small group of US reporters in his Tokyo office on Tuesday that the government will announce the decision during a rollout of new defense guidelines next week. It’s a big purchase for Japan, as each F-35 costs about $100 million. The goal, Ohno said, is to replace 147 older fighter jets with the more modern planes, giving the country greater capabilities to defend itself militarily.

 

U.S.-Russia Relationship

 

Russia Wants to Extend U.S. Space Partnership. Or It Could Turn to China.

Andrew E. Kramer / New York Times

Russia’s Museum of Cosmonautics displays with rightful pride artifacts from its early years of storied achievements in space exploration: the first satellite, the first dog in space, the first man and, soon thereafter, the first toolbox. Labeled in blocky Cyrillic writing a “panel with instruments for technical service and repair,” the toolbox held an array of handy items like pliers, two wooden-handled files and a hacksaw, spare blade included. Russian space officials are trumpeting this history of grit and ingenuity in orbit as they hope to persuade Washington to continue joint piloted exploration in the next decade rather than split into separate paths. They face significant hurdles.

 

Ignore or intercept: Two ways to respond to Russian bombers in Venezuela

Tom Rogan / Washington Examiner

Russia’s deployment of two Tu-160 strategic bombers to Venezuela is unlikely to pose a threat to the United States. But those bombers should meet U.S. Air Force intercepts if they are flown toward U.S. air identification zones in the Gulf of Mexico or off Florida’s east coast. The key here is calibration. If Russia keeps the Tu-160s in the Caribbean Sea or to airspace off Venezuela’s coast, the U.S. should ignore them. To launch fighter intercepts in this scenario would be to give easy propaganda to Russia and Venezuela. The possibly psychotic Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, is constantly whipping up his base with warnings of imminent “Yankee aggression.” As such, any U.S. military intercept off Venezuela’s territory would assist the despot rather than counter him. Instead, the U.S. should work alongside regional actors such as Colombia and Brazil to escalate diplomatic pressure on Maduro’s regime.

 

Energy Security

 

Oil rises to $61 on Libyan supply cut, U.S. inventories

Alex Lawler / Reuters

Oil rose to about $61 a barrel on Wednesday, supported by an industry report showing a drop in U.S. crude inventories, a cut in Libyan exports and an OPEC-led deal to trim output. Oil has been supported this week by the supply loss in Libya, which declared force majeure on exports from the country’s largest oilfield on Sunday after tribesmen and state security guards seized the facility.

 

Nuclear Security

 

U.S. and Iran Clash at UNSC Over Tehran’s Nuclear Program

Michael Wilner and Josh Axelrod / Jerusalem Post

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in New York today to address a UN Security Council meeting on Iran, at which he is expected to ask its permanent members to “hold Tehran to account,” according to US officials. The Trump administration has waged a “maximum pressure” campaign on the Islamic republic over the last year, withdrawing from a nuclear pact with Iran endorsed by the Security Council and applying a broad set of sanctions on the state.

 

Recently Published

 

Perspective – Underwater and Underrated: Coral Reefs and Climate Change

Rachel Hagen

Climate change is a complex, intersectional issue that has international security implications. Climate change threatens one of the world’s greatest ecologic resources, coral reefs. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports the near-complete destruction of coral reefs due to climate change will be much sooner than previously assumed. This report highlights the importance of coral reefs around the world, describes potential consequences of climate in-action, and provides recommendations on how to save corals before they are gone.

Issue Brief – Corporate Foreign Policy and Social Responsibility

Matthew Wallin

Corporations around the world have long exercised their own brand of foreign policy. Recent months have seen several high-profile moves by prominent companies to reconcile their corporate reputations with their investment decisions. The risk of public backlash and subsequent lost profits has driven some companies to take stances on political issues. This issue brief documents several recent case studies of international corporate foreign policy decisions that can largely be seen as acts of corporate social responsibility.

 

On Our Flashpoint Blog

 

New Developments in Guyana’s Oil Production Directly Challenge Venezuela

Andrew Holland

The small country of Guyana, perched along the northern coast of South America, continues to be the most important new oil territory in the world, with ExxonMobil announcing its 10th discovery of significant recoverable oil in less than four years. They now estimate that there is more than 5 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the country’s offshore Stabroek Block. Commercial production could begin as soon as the last quarter of 2019, rising to perhaps 750,000 barrels of oil per day by 2025.

 

Deforestation Suffocates the Lungs of the Planet

Rachel Hagen

The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest rainforest and one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. It absorbs more carbon than it produces, making it one of the planet’s largest carbon sinks. NBC News reports, “The Amazon takes in as much as 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year and releases 20 percent of the planet’s oxygen, earning it the nickname ‘the lungs of the planet.’”

 

The USGCRP Report Explained

Rachel Hagen

The White House recently released a 1,600 page report by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) on the significant threats of climate change to the United States. It is the second volume of the fourth assessment in its series mandated by Congress, and comes just a month after the groundbreaking report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In contrast to the IPCC which is comprised of hundreds of international scientists, the USGCRP is a federal organization composed of 13 federal agencies.

 

Biodiesel Production: Protecting our National Security, Economy and Climate

William Lucier

A new study released today by FTI Consulting provides fresh insight into the biodiesel industry.  Although when many people hear the word biodiesel they think of corn-based ethanol, the term encompasses much more. Biodiesel is produced from a variety of natural oils such as soybean oil, soy oil, animal fats such as chicken fat and waste cooking oils and greases. Since the fuel is made from natural organic material, biodiesel is both renewable and biodegradable.

 

Is the Switch to Renewables Impossible? These Countries Think Not

Rachel Hagen

Climate change is a national and international security threat. It is known to cause resource depletion, weather instability, and socioeconomic instability in communities, regions, and countries around the world. To mitigate the existing and future threats of climate change, global carbon emissions must be reduced. Achieving this would require a global transformation in energy consumption towards renewable energy. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) latest report, emissions must be curbed on unprecedented levels. The Paris Climate Agreement already set ambitious goals, but the IPCC recommends more must be done. Are those objectives impossible to reach?

 

About the American Security Project: The American Security Project is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy and research organization dedicated to fostering knowledge and understanding of a range of national security issues, promoting debate about the appropriate use of American power, and cultivating strategic responses to 21st century challenges.

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