Security Brief: North Korea Summit Aftermath; Cyber Authorities
The real work of implementing the agreement quickly spun up after the summit.
Welcome to the week after. U.S. President Donald Trump emerged from his history-making visit to Singapore with a declaration from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he would work toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for American security guarantees. But given the document’s complete lack of details, the real work of implementing the agreement quickly spun up after the summit.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo immediately left Singapore for a fence-mending trip with American allies in Tokyo and Seoul, who were taken aback by Trump’s announcement that he would suspend American military exercises with South Korea.
While the United States and South Korea have not confirmed that they will suspend the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise scheduled for August, reports over the weekend indicate that a pause will likely be formally announced shortly. Writing on Twitter Sunday, Trump again called the exercises “very expensive” and “provocative.”
“Can start up immediately if talks break down, which I hope will not happen!” Trump added.
On Thursday, an unnamed U.S. official told AFP that “major military exercises have been suspended indefinitely on the Korean Peninsula.” The same day, Harry Harris, the former head of Pacific Command who has been tapped as the Trump administration’s envoy to Seoul, told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that “we should give major exercises a pause to see if Kim Jong Un is serious about his part of the negotiations.”
Meanwhile, South Korean officials continue to maintain their diplomatic initiative vis-à-vis the North, and have so far notched the most concrete post-summit achievement. On Thursday, North and South Korea reopened their lines of military communications and discussed ways to demilitarize the border village of Panmunjom, according to Yonhap.
South Korean officials may be pushing the North for more and have asked that North Korean artillery positions on the DMZ be moved further north, out of range of Seoul, Yonhap reports. The South Korean defense ministry denied the report.
Hello and welcome to this Monday-morning edition of Security Brief, in which we attempt to make sense of last week’s North Korea news and its fallout — and also cover the rest of the week’s security news.
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Unleash the cyber hounds of war. The Pentagon has given U.S. Cyber Command additional authority to carry out offensive operations, a move that grants commanders greater authority over a type of weaponry that previous administrations have tried to keep under tight control. “In the spring, as the Pentagon elevated the command’s status, it opened the door to nearly daily raids on foreign networks, seeking to disable cyberweapons before they can be unleashed, according to strategy documents and military and intelligence officials,” the New York Times reports.
Next on the horizon. Fresh off a history-making summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump wants more — a sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “President Trump is expected to meet with [Putin] next month while he is in Europe for a NATO summit, according to a senior administration official and two diplomats familiar with his schedule,” the Washington Post reports.
The authoritarian style. Trump knows he can count on the propagandists at Fox News to go to bat on his behalf, but the time he has spent with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convinced the U.S. president that Rupert Murdoch’s television news empire could learn some things from Pyongyang.
“After watching North Korean television, which is entirely state-run, the president talked about how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim, according to two people familiar with his remarks,” the Washington Post reports “He joked that even the administration-friendly Fox News was not as lavish in its praise as the state TV anchor, one of the people added, and that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television, instead.”
Mr. President, some inspiration for you. Korean Central Television aired an extraordinary 45-minute documentary on Kim Jong Un’s trip to Singapore and the summit there. The documentary features extensive footage of Kim’s night-time journey around Singapore, which included a stop at the Port of Singapore in what appears to be an extended advertisement for economic reform.
Kushner connection. The only thing missing from Trump’s jaunt to South Korea has been a subplot featuring an extra apparently pulled from the set of “American Psycho,” and now we have it: An American businessman named Gabriel Schulze — complete with a back slick to rival Patrick Bateman — contacted Jared Kushner in an attempt to set up a back channel last summer between Washington and Pyongyang, the New York Times reports.
Full Moon rising. The summit meeting between Trump and Kim has left South Korean president riding high on historic poll numbers and victories in local elections. “On Wednesday, Mr. Moon’s ruling progressives dominated local elections, consolidating his political position. His approval rating sits at 79%, according to Gallup Korea — the highest for any of the country’s democratically-elected leaders at this stage of their presidency,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
What about that test site? President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed on Twitter in recent days that North Korea is already implementing the agreement struck in Singapore by blowing up missile test sites, but there’s no evidence that those sites have been dismantled, 38 North reports.
Meanwhile…. The epidemic of diplomatic good feelings in East Asia haven’t quite reached Tokyo and Seoul. “On Monday, South Korea will begin two days of war games in which navy, air force, coast guard and marine units will practise defending Dokdo, a collection of tiny islets off its east coast that are controlled by Seoul but claimed by Tokyo,” the Financial Times reports.
‘If it ever happens.’ Israeli diplomats aren’t particularly impressed by the deal struck in Singapore, Axios reports. “Our assessment is that regardless of President Trump’s statements about quick changes that are expected in North Korean policy, the road the real and substantive change, if it ever happens, will be long and slow,” reads the Israeli report, which was obtained by Axios.
Behind the scenes in Singapore. Last week’s summit in Singapore presented a host of logistical challenges for its hosts — in no small part because of the immense secrecy surrounding Kim Jong Un’s plans for his visit. “Mr. Kim’s flights to and from Singapore featured roundabout routes and unusual midflight call-sign changes apparently aimed at minimizing security threats. Parts of the dictator’s schedule in the city-state were a mystery to his hosts until the 11th hour, forcing last-minute logistical scrambles to accommodate his plans,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The coming choco pie rush. While the punishing sanctions regime on North Korea remains in place, South Korean firms are lining up to cash in on business north of the DMZ. At the front of the line: the maker of Choco Pies. “Orion Corp. has something the others do not: the original Choco Pie and its status as a treat so coveted in the North that it can be peddled on the black market for many times its price,” the Washington Post reports.
The end of BMD patrols? Chief of Naval Operations Am. John Richardson said in a speech last Tuesday that he wants to shift the Navy’s current ballistic missile defense patrols from surface combatants to shore-based facilities, Defense News reports. Richardson’s unusually forward request comes at a time when the Navy is stretched thin by BMD patrolling and could not send more ships to contain threatening advances from Russia and China.
Next round of the crypto wars. Police won’t be happy about Apple’s latest security update. The company will now require a password to be input every hour in order to transfer data. Police agencies had used data transfer systems to access the encrypted content of Apple phones, but such devices will now need a password to access the device. The move by Apple is the latest in its ongoing arms race with hackers and the feds to keep user data locked down.
Cyber deterrence holds. As much as the concept of deterrence in cyberspace has been maligned, recent history has provided an example of how it can work, argues cybersecurity scholar Jay Healey. “As more information spills out about the Obama administration’s reaction to Russian cyber-based interference in the 2016 U.S.elections, a picture has emerged that cyber deterrence is not just theoretical and the United States was the one deterred,” Healey writes.
‘We’re America, Bitch.’ In an attempt to elucidate the Trump Doctrine, a senior White House official explained to the Atlantic that the president’s worldview is best boiled down to: “We’re America, Bitch.” The president’s governing approach, which essentially aims to invalidate all Obama-era policies, actively undermines rules-based international order and boosts countries like Russia and China.
Consequences. Increasingly wary of Russia after the annexation of Crimea, Norway announced last Tuesday that it would request to increase the number of U.S. Marines stationed in the country from 330 to 700, the Reuters reports. The Russian government responded that this move would not be “free of consequence.”
Getting the boot. The Vietnamese National Assembly voted earlier this month to cut 80 percent of businesses owned by the Vietnam People’s Army, a legislative decision that Asian Times reports may symbolize the ruling Communist Party’s wish to assert dominance over the military.
Predicting the future. DARPA is paying more than $4 million for software that could predict potentially destabilizing events and formulate contingency plans, Fifth Domain reports. The software will operate by aggregating information ranging from intelligence reports to social media posts and feeding the data into algorithms to simulate reality.
Chip wars. According to South China Morning Post, the Chinese government has cleared the final hurdle for U.S. semiconductor company Qualcomm’s $44-billion proposal to buy NXP, the Dutch semiconductor manufacturer. Depending on the result of Beijing’s ongoing trade talks with Washington, however, it’s still up in the air when the Chinese Ministry of Commerce will announce its approval.
Gangsters’ paradise. An investigative report released last week revealed that Dubai has become the ideal destination for money launderer and corrupt politicians due to the UAE’s lax regulation of its financial and real-estate markets. The UAE has failed to booster its law enforcement to combat money laundering schemes, despite years of international criticism.
‘Cybersecurity.’ Vietnamese lawmakers passed a controversial cybersecurity law on Tuesday that has raised concerns among experts that it may hurt the economy and impede freedom of expression, the Associated Press reports. The new law, citing national security reasons, will allow the government to closely monitor and possible interfere with user activities on sites such as Facebook and Google, human rights advocates argue.
Confirmed. Christopher Krebs, Trump’s nominee for the cybersecurity and infrastructure protection unit head, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last Tuesday. The National Protection and Programs Directorate, now under Krebs’s leadership, is tasked to protect critical facilities like the states’ digital voting systems from foreign cyberattacks.
More vetting problems. Trump will attend his first public meeting with the National Space Council today to bolster support for joint industry-government space explorations. But, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and retired Air Force Gen. Simon “Pete” Worden, two vocal advocates of commercial space ventures, have been removed from an advisory panel to the Council due to vetting difficulties, the Wall Street Journal reports.
NATO frontiers. After a decades-long dispute, Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has reached an agreement with Greece to change his country’s name to the Republic of North Macedonia. The decision, which has prompted outrage in both countries, may light Macedonia’s path to NATO after Greece blocked it for years.
Anti-drone tech. The Los Alamos National Laboratory, the country’s leading nuclear weapons research facility, is now equipped to disable drones or other unmanned flying aircrafts flying over its airspace, according to the Associated Press. This counter-unmanned aircraft system may be replicated to protect other nuclear labs, such as the Pantex Plant in Texas, the Y-12 facility in Tennessee, and the National Nuclear Security Site in Nevada.
Ramjet artillery. Nammo, or the Nordic Ammunition Company, unveiled the designs to its latest creation, the 155mm Solid Fuel Ramjet, which has attracted attention from the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The ramjet-powered artillery shell is potentially groundbreaking because the projectile could hit targets more than 60 miles away after being fired from any standard 155mm howitzer, the Drive reports. That range is almost triple the current distance of a standard high-explosive shell.
Meet the Lynx KF41. Germany’s automotive and defense company, Rheinmetall, unveiled its latest venture, the Lynx KF41 infantry fighting vehicle, last week at the Eurosatory Exhibition. According to Jane’s, the Lynx KF41 can be designed to carry various survivability packages and mission kits without diminishing mobility. The German defense contractor is trying to gin up both American and European business with the offering.
The Bone remains grounded. A week after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pledged that the Air Force’s B-1 bomber fleet would be quickly up and running again after being grounded because of a problem with its ejector seats, the big bombers remain at American air bases for maintenance.
A new nuke sniffer. Faced with a limited number of WC-135 Constant Phoenix nuclear detecting planes and a rising threat from countries like North Korea, the Air Force is now strapping C-130 Hercules with modular kits that could detect nuclear particles, according to Defense News. The Harvester Particulate Airborne Collection System kits, which cost around $5 million each, does not have the full capacity of a Constant Phoenix, but will increase aircraft availability.
SOCOM needs more glide bombs. Dynetics was awarded a $475-million contract with the U.S. Air Force to deliver upward of 1,000 small glide bombs annually between fiscal year 2018 and 2022, in addition to support services, FlightGlobal reports. The new contract is supplementary to last year’s $93-million deal in which Dynetics would deliver as much as 900 SGMs. The U.S Special Operations Command, who favors this 27-kilogram warhead, is following a recent directive from the defense secretary to maximum munition production.
An engine upgrade for the F-35. Pratt & Whitney, which manufactures the F135 engines used in all three models of F-35 fighter jets, announced last Tuesday that the company would upgrade the F135’s power and thermal management system, Defense News reports. This is the second upgrade in two years: Pratt & Whitney placed a greater emphasis on thrust and fuel use in 2017.
Apaches to India. The State Department approved India’s purchase of six Boeing AH-64E Apache helicopters last Tuesday, FlightGlobal writes. Along with the $930-million deal are other various U.S.-manufactured weapons and systems, as well as personnel training and support services. India already placed an order for 22 helicopters of the same model back in 2015.
Heron to Germany. Germany’s parliament is moving forward with its proposal to lease five Heron TP drones from a state-owned Israeli company, a decision that received a warm welcome from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense News writes. The deal, amounting to more than $1 billion, will upgrade the current Heron 1 unmanned aircraft to a weapons-capable model.
Whoops. A Marine standing guard at the home of the Marine Corps Commandant was shot and critically wounded last Friday due to a self-inflicted negligent discharge of firearms, the Washington Post reports. Five years ago, a 19-year-old Marine fatally shot himself at the Marine Barracks Washington after negligent discharge.
Hiring spree at Skunk Works. Skunk Works, the cutting-edge design unit within Lockheed Martin, has bumped up the number of its employees by 33 percent, an increase that hints toward a new major program launch, FlightGlobal writes. The company, however, has given no indication what its latest undertaking may be.
F-35 to Turkey. Lockheed Martin will host a ceremony this Thursday to deliver the F-35 stealth fighter to Turkey, FlightGlobal writes. American lawmakers and diplomats object to this deal after Turkey purchased an advanced surface-to-air missile system from Russia. In the face of opposition from the U.S. government, Erdogan did not back down and instead announced that he may work with Russian President Vladimir Putin to produce a newer generation of missile system.
Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace, its conflicts, and controversies. @eliasgroll