The Daily Brief for Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The DailyBrief

Wednesday September 13, 2017

Pyongyang’s low-tech arsenal: The world is justifiably worried about North Korea’s development and testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, but it should not overlook the regime’s other mass destruction options, Robert E McCoy writes. Pyongyang has low-tech weaponry it can wheel out in a conflict with the US and its allies, such as its air force’s 300 An-2 biplanes. Designed in 1946, the aircraft, which is used in other countries for crop dusting, is made largely from wood with a small engine and is difficult to detect by radar. The planes can carry as many as 10 paratroops for low-level incursions, but their most unnerving application would be in dispersing biological or chemical weapons. With the ability to carry more than 900 kg of cargo, the An-2 has the capacity to release large amounts of biological or chemical agents over South Korean targets.

Philippines drug scandal: Accusations that President Rodrigo Duterte’s family is directly involved in the narcotics trade, now under Senate inquiry, have raised new questions about the underlying motivations of his deadly drug war, Jason Castaneda writes. The big problem for Duterte is that his strongest critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes, a former naval officer, has political credibility. He has accused the president of bold-faced duplicity in overseeing a campaign of mass murder of suspected drug dealers while turning a blind eye to his son Paolo’s alleged drug trade activities in his own hometown. Paolo, who was questioned on September 7 on drug smuggling accusations heard by a Senate inquiry committee, and his sister Sara serve respectively as mayor and vice-mayor of Davao, the city where Duterte served as mayor for over two decades.

Najib in Washington: Aiming to bolster bilateral ties with the Trump administration, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak began a three-day visit to the US capital on Tuesday, Nile Bowie writes. US Department of Justice-led court cases into the US dealings of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund created and until recently overseen by Najib had threatened to cast a cloud over the meeting, but the two leaders focused on areas in which they could agree. Prior to meeting with the US president, Najib said he would press for bilateral trade negotiations in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. At the White House, Najib announced his government’s intention to purchase over 30 US-made Boeing 737 MAX jets and 787 Dreamliners, a deal the premier said would be worth more than US$10 billion over five years.

European death wish? The court of the European Union has ruled that no member country has the right to close its borders to illegal immigrants if doing that is contrary to EU policy. There is nothing the court could have done that would be more likely to trigger more withdrawals from the Union, Norman A Bailey asserts. Every member country knew that by joining the EU it would be giving up part of its sovereignty, but the primordial duty of any government is to protect the state and its citizens, and if a member country is denied the fulfillment of that duty it will have no choice but to refuse to accept that ruling, and if necessary, withdraw from the Union. Poland and Hungary have already declared that they will not recognize the ruling and it remains to be seen if other countries will follow suit and, if they do, what the bureaucrats in Brussels will do about it.

PLA aims high: China is building an array of high-technology space arms – anti-satellite missiles, lasers, GPS jammers and killer satellites – that Beijing says will give its military a strategic advantage in a future conflict with the US, Bill Gertz writes. The People’s Liberation Army now has the capability of attacking, destroying or disrupting the 500 US satellites circling the earth at heights of between 1,200 miles and 22,000 miles, according to a new study by a US think tank, the National Institute for Public Policy. The report, “Foreign Space Capabilities,” also reveals that China’s military has discussed plans for using space detonations of nuclear weapons to create electronics-killing electromagnetic pulse attacks against orbiting satellites used by militaries for precision weapons targeting navigation and communications.

Asia Times app: Asia Times has launched an app for both iOS- and Android-based devices that delivers the publication’s regular daily news, commentary, blogs and live coverage while also bringing readers added functionality. As we report here, the app, launched on July 25, includes content notification, share and save functions and is free to download from both the Apple Store and Google Play.