Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan

News Desk,
Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan, Photo collected.

Biden and Xi to Talk Taiwan, Photo collected.

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease


U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping today (Friday) for the fifth time since taking office at a time when tensions have ratcheted up once again over Taiwan.

On the other hand, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to visit the island—which China claims as its own territory—has been met with both public and private admonitions from Chinese officials. So great is the potential for missteps, the U.S. military is reportedly preparing multiple scenarios to cover potential security risks that go with the trip.

Pelosi has shown no signs of scrapping the trip (which, considering the precarious position of the Democratic Party ahead of the November midterm elections, could be her last as Speaker).

On the contrary, she’s begun extending invitations to other lawmakers to join her. Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has been asked to come, as has Rep. Michael McCaul the most senior Republican on the committee (McCaul has already declined, citing prior engagements).

Although Biden has not publicly remarked on whether Pelosi should travel, he has hardly been circumspect on the issue of Taiwan. In May, he said the United States would defend the island if it came under attack from the Chinese military in remarks that received the now customary walking back from U.S. national security officials.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund, said that the timing of Pelosi’s Taiwan trip particularly risks a Chinese response: Nationalistic sentiment will be higher in August, when China celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army, as will party politics, as senior Chinese officials make their annual pilgrimage to the resort town of Beidaihe. It’s all part of a lead-up to the 20th Party Congress in October, where Xi is expected to be named to a third term.

“There’s still jockeying for various personnel selections and Xi Jinping cannot be seen as weak on an issue like Taiwan,” Glaser said.

Writing in Foreign Policy Journal on Tuesday, Mike Chinoy questioned the merits of a trip that seems “very much symbolism over substance.”

And in Wednesday’s China Brief, FP’s James Palmer highlighted Pelosi’s trip from the perspective of Beijing, where officials and media nurse a strong dislike for the House speaker.

As well as geopolitics, Biden and Xi are likely to discuss economic competition, including whether to end some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese goods. On Tuesday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby described the 2020 U.S.-China agreement as “a shoddy deal,” but Biden is still undecided on what to do instead. The U.S. president is in the process of “working this out with his team,” Kirby said.

It also comes as U.S. lawmakers are trying to take a leaf out of China’s book and roll out state support for key industries. The CHIPS act, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday, plans to invest $54 billion in U.S. semiconductor manufacturing and research. Its supporters say it will help reduce U.S. reliance on China, as well as boost U.S. competitiveness in a strategically important area of the global economy.

Meanwhile, climate change policy, one of the bright spots of cooperation between the countries, is also on the agenda, but how much Biden can bring to the table is questionable considering his signature climate bills have so far failed in Congress.

That may be about to change, however, as late last night, Sen. Joe Manchin seemed set to reverse his opposition to climate spending and said he would back $369 billion of climate and energy funding as part of the freshly-minted Inflation Reduction Act.

The two sides have maintained a high-level engagement on the subject. Environment Minister Huang Runqiu visited Washington earlier this month for talks with the U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, EPA chief Janet McCabe, and California governor Gavin Newsom. Huang’s visit made him the most senior Chinese official to visit the U.S. capital since Biden became president.

Expert Glaser listed some positive developments to look out for once both sides publish their readouts, including progress on risk reduction efforts between the two countries, statements from both sides about wishing to avoid a military crisis, as well as any movement on strategic stability talks—which have so far remained stagnant.

Although Glaser doesn’t expect today’s call to solve Taiwan’s anxieties in one go, it might reignite efforts to calm tensions and reduce the chances of U.S.-China military conflict. “There seems to be a lack of appreciation for how potentially dangerous this is,” Glaser said. “I hope this is a real wake up call.”

China Investing in Open-Source Intelligence Collection on the U.S.

International Desk,
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

A new report outlines Chinese efforts to mine public information from the Pentagon, think tanks and private companies to gain insight on the American military.

China’s intelligence agencies are investing deeply in open-source intelligence to learn more about the capabilities of the American military in the Pacific and beyond, according to a new report.

The analysis, by the threat intelligence company Recorded Future, details efforts by China’s government and companies to collect publicly available data from the Pentagon, think tanks and private firms — information Beijing’s military can use to help plan for a potential conflict with the United States.

ImageAmerican service members wearing green uniforms and headphones inside the cockpit a Navy plane, with lots of screens and controls.

Why It Matters: Beijing’s open-source intelligence collection could give it an advantage.

As the relationship between the United States and China has become more adversarial, both countries are investing more in their intelligence collection capabilities.

With Beijing’s investments in big data management, mining publicly available sources of information could give China an advantage in collecting intelligence on the United States and its allies.

While autocratic countries like China hide information about their military, the United States — as a democracy that tries to be responsive to its public — puts out a plethora of information about its military capabilities, doctrine and planning.

China can mine that information, looking for material it can use to its own military advantages. For example, the report details some of the work one prominent Chinese open-source intelligence company has done to analyze publicly available insights from the Office of Net Assessment, the Pentagon’s in-house think tank. Recorded Future also outlined how China has tried to gather information put out by the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

“The U.S. Naval War College has a China Maritime Studies Institute, and it produces a lot of open-source research on China,” said Zoe Haver, a threat intelligence analyst with Recorded Future. “This is done in an academic setting, but ultimately foreign governments consider this valuable intelligence.”

Military officials did not immediately comment on the report’s findings.

Background: China is mining information on the U.S. military.
China’s secret intelligence-gathering abilities have grown in leaps and bounds in recent decades, and Beijing’s investment in open-source information has intensified over the last decade.

The definition of open-source intelligence is broad, but Recorded Future looked at information that the intelligence agencies of China’s People’s Liberation Army were using to help them make plans and develop the military.

Recorded Future has examined contracts that the army has issued to private Chinese companies to gather a range of open-source information, including material about the U.S. military and its work on the defense of Taiwan.

“The P.L.A. very much assumes the United States will in some form intervene in a Taiwan conflict, and they work very hard to prepare for that type of scenario,” Ms. Haver said.

Much of what Beijing is mining from open-source data may well be available in one Chinese spy agency or another. But China’s intelligence agencies are walled off from one another and do not share information, according to Recorded Future’s analysts. And it may be easier for parts of the P.L.A.’s intelligence arms to develop open-source information about American capabilities than to request classified information from a sister spy agency.

What’s Next: Open-source collection presents a challenge for democracies.
Recorded Future acknowledges there are security concerns given the information the United States and its allies make public, but cutting off broad access to the data may not be the answer.

Instead, Ms. Haver said Recorded Future hoped awareness of Chinese open-source intelligence gathering would help private-sector companies, the military and other government agencies better manage that risk and make it harder for automatic web crawlers to scrape information from public databases or websites. She also encouraged private companies to conduct due diligence about Chinese firms trying to purchase access to their information.

“At the end of the day, we don’t expect Western countries to close off their information environments,” Ms. Haver said. “That would not even be a good thing. We value openness.”

Source: New York Times



Sikkim: Army develops road along Nathula Pass to boost tourism, trade

International Desk,
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

Indian army personnel deployed under Project SWASTIK of the defence ministry’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) undertook the task of improving quality and safety of the 74KM Jawahar Lal Nehru Marg (JNM) in Sikkim.

The JNM is a strategic road that is pivotal to armed forces deployed in East Sikkim along the China border. This road is also used for tourism around Nathula Pass and Harbhajan Baba Mandir, for Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and for conducting trade with China.

After the formation of BRO, in May 1964, JNM was handed over from CPWD to BRO. Due to its strategic and socio-economic importance, BRO has been working relentlessly to upgrade it from C1-5 to Cl-9, and subsequently to NHDL specification.

In order to avoid landslides, this stretch of the road has been modified to realign away from vulnerable spots. The riding surface of this road which had deteriorated over time owing to heavy rainfall has also been fixed by the ‘Brave Karmyogis’ of Project SWASTIK.

According to army sources, future plans for the JNM include curve improvement, installation of various road safety measures, cautionary road marking, installation of dynamic caution boards and resurfacing work.

The tasks of road improvement were divided into two. The completed Phase-I tasks improved the road stretch between Tashi view point and Mandakini waterfall. The remaining work to be completed includes the stretch between Madakini waterfall and Sherathang stretch and has started as Phase II of the project.

The road improvement has resulted in a reduction of travel time for tourists around Nathula Pass. Notably, Project SWASTIK, led by Lieutenant General Rajeev Chaudhry, VSM, Director General Border Roads, has helped boost the influx of tourists towards East Sikkim.


Researcher captures first ever pictures of Himalayan marmot in Arunachal

International Desk,
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

What do you know about Marmots? For many, they are yet another animal whose ‘cuteness’ has taken over the internet. For researchers, it is an animal whose habitat is spread across the world in one way or the other. But few, if any, know that these furry creatures are found in India too. This is why the work of research scholar Hiranmoy Chetia, born and brought up in Arunachal Pradesh, assumes so much significance.

Chetia has collected the first photographic evidence of the Himalayan Marmot (Marmota himalayana) in the state.

Himalayan Marmots are rare ground squirrel species previously sighted in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim. Although there were reports of sightings in Arunachal Pradesh, there were no images.

Chetia, a PhD scholar under Dr Murali C Krishna at Noida’s Amity University, has been studying this species for the past four years. His study has been published in The Journal of Threatened Taxa.

From a makeshift tent at Zithang in Tawang district, he waited patiently for the squirrels to appear so he could take the first-ever pictures of the Marmota himalayana in Arunachal Pradesh. The Marmota himalayana is one of the largest among the marmots, about the size of a house cat. It has dense, woolly fur, which is rufous grey on the back and rufous yellowish on ears, belly and limbs.

“My research aims to understand the diversity, distribution, and threats to the squirrels in this region. To do this, I travel to different locations and document the diversity and distribution of squirrel species. I also investigate the relationship between squirrels and various communities or tribes in the state, especially how some squirrel species are used by them,” Chetia told EastMojo.

The mammalian family of Sciuridae includes squirrel species adapted to different habitats. Based on their adaptations, they are classified as tree squirrels, gliding squirrels, and ground squirrels. The particular tribe Marmotini, which includes the burrow-dwelling ground species, has 13 genera comprising 95 species.

One of Chetia’s interest areas was the Himalayan marmot, which had been reported from the higher elevations of western Arunachal Pradesh but was never documented. So, in September 2022, he visited Tawang and then proceeded to Mago, a small village under the Thingbu tehsil of the Tawang district.

The species Marmota himalayana has a large range that extends over a vast area in the mountains of southern Asia, including the Kuenlun, Arkatag, Altyn Tagh, and Nan Shan mountain ranges, the Tibetan Plateau, Sikkim, and Bhutan. In India, the species occurs in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.

The present study was carried out in high-altitude grasslands near Mago village of Thingbu Tehsil of Tawang district Arunachal Pradesh. Mago is situated at around 3,600 m elevation and the grasslands are at around 4,000 m elevation, where the marmots occur. This particular observation was carried out at Zithang.

“I travelled to Mago via Jang. The road to Mago was incomplete at that time, so I had to ride my bike to Jhanda Point and then trek for about an hour to reach the village. I rested there for a day and then trekked for another three hours to Zithang, the base camp for the Gorichen peak. I stayed in a makeshift tent at Zithang and waited for the marmots to emerge from their burrows. After half an hour, I was rewarded with the sight of these elusive animals,” Chetia, recounting the journey, tells EastMojo.

Throughout the year, there is no absolute frost-free period and undulating mountains surround the whole area. The river that flows in the region is locally known as Yechum. The grasslands are used as grazing lands by the yak-herders of the Brokpa community (Brokpa are a sect of the Monpa people, who rear livestock such as yak, dzo and sheep, and live a nomadic lifestyle).

Once there, visual observations were made using binoculars and recorded using a camera. Chetia observed that the marmots did not like to venture out in gloomy weather, but spent most of their time foraging, grooming, and playing when the weather was clear.

“We have documented the Himalayan Marmots foraging on grass, coming out from the burrows, taking a mouthful of grass, and again going back to the burrows. This is also indicative of their preparedness in view of the harsh winters,” he says.

The Himalayan Marmot is locally known as the ‘Gomchen Chikpa’ (Gomchen meaning hermit) in the Dirang Monpa language. When asked about why it is called so, they said that since they are not seen during the winters (because they hibernate), they are thought to be meditating in the burrows, like a hermit. As the inhabitants of the region predominantly follow Tibetan Buddhism, they usually do not hunt.

But there are reports of using marmots in the preparation of ethnomedicines.

The fat of the animal is used as a pain reliever. The fat is melted and rubbed in the area of pain. The skin of the animal is also used as a pain-relieving belt and wrapped around the area of pain to get relief from pain. The high-altitude grasslands are used as grazing places for livestock by the Brokpa people.

While discussing squirrels, tree squirrels, and flying squirrels are commonly thought of. “But this new addition of ground squirrels from the state lifted the status of Arunachal Pradesh as one of the few states of India where all three adaptations of squirrel species are found,” Chetia says.

Though the Himalayan Marmot is listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the species faces threats from habitat loss, hunting, predation from feral dogs, and climate change.

The researchers suggest that more studies are needed to assess the population status and distribution of this species in India, especially in Arunachal Pradesh where it has been overlooked so far.

The researchers expressed their gratitude to Divisional Forest Officer Tawang Sange Tsering, Range Officer Tage Haniya, and Supriyo Roy, the Divisional Forest Officer, Tawang, for their support during the study.

“In order to organise and control large numbers of livestock and to protect them from potential predators, herding dogs are used. During our visit to the grasslands, we have reported instances of dogs predating on marmots,” he said.


Kashmiri entrepreneurs introduce radio frequency transmission system for emergency vehicles

International Desk,
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

  • Font increase
  • Font Decrease

A group of five entrepreneurs from Kashmir has successfully developed a groundbreaking radio frequency (RF) transmission alert system prototype to tackle the challenges posed by traffic congestion on main highways and busy intersections in the Union Territory.

This system, specifically designed for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire tenders, aims to ensure their smooth navigation through traffic jams, ensuring prompt response times and safe passage.

The team of innovators consists of Engineer Manan Sajad Malik, a former student of the Institute of Technology, along with Farhana Fayaz Batoo, Mueed Ahmad Chishti, B-tech 7th-semester students from IOT Zakura campus, and Abdul Mueed Hafiz and Rouf Ul Alam Bhat, assistant professors from the same campus at the University of Kashmir.

Er Malik, during an interaction with local media, emphasized the growing problem of urban traffic congestion and the limitations of existing traffic control measures.

“The increasing number of vehicles and the lack of road expansion contribute to severe traffic congestion, particularly impacting the transportation of emergency vehicles,” he explained.

Malik pointed out the challenges faced in countries like India and Thailand, where the dimensions of roads make it impractical to allocate separate lanes for emergency vehicles.

“Congestion poses a significant problem for the transportation system, especially when emergency cases arise at busy traffic light junctions,” he noted.

To overcome these challenges, the team developed a congestion control system that activates upon receiving a signal from an ambulance through RF transmission. The system utilizes a microcontroller to make announcements, which are displayed on an LCD screen installed at the junction. Simultaneously, traffic is rerouted away from alternate roads, providing a clear path for the emergency vehicle and ensuring safe passage.

“The system is designed to reduce accidents that often occur at traffic light intersections when vehicles gather to make way for emergency vehicles. By implementing wireless communication, specifically RF transmission, into the traffic light control system, we have achieved success in facilitating the movement of ambulances,” Malik expressed with confidence.

The primary objective of the project is to create a comprehensive system capable of making announcements and displaying them on the LCD screens placed at junctions. The system triggers an announcement and illuminates a green light for the designated route while displaying a red light for other routes at the junction.

Explaining the technical details, Malik elaborated on their proposal for detecting ambulances approaching junctions by making announcements in advance. The system is based on a Radio Frequency module, with the receiver placed at junction points and connected to a loudspeaker, LCD screen, and green and red signal lights. The transmitter is positioned 1 kilometre away from the junction and connected to an RF reader, which detects the chip installed on the ambulance. Once the ambulance enters the 1-kilometre range of the junction, the RF reader detects the chip and wirelessly signals the junction point via the RF module.

“The announcement is then made at the junction, simultaneously displayed on the LCD screen. The green light illuminates the designated route, while the red light indicates other routes. Traffic police are promptly notified through the announcement and signal lights, which significantly aids in reducing traffic congestion at specific points,” Malik explained.

The versatile system developed by these innovators can be applied to a range of emergency vehicles, including fire tender vehicles, essential services, VIP convoys, and delegates. The fully functional prototype is ready for deployment and can be seamlessly incorporated into the Srinagar Smart City Projects.

It is worth mentioning that this same group of innovators had previously devised a method for detecting and ventilating carbon monoxide from enclosed spaces. The gadget’s potential applications extend to addressing life-threatening situations in places like coal mines and tunnels, where elevated levels of carbon monoxide pose significant risks.

With their remarkable contributions to improving emergency response systems and their commitment to innovation, these Kashmiri entrepreneurs are setting a commendable example for others to follow. Their RF transmission alert system prototype stands as a testament to the power of local ingenuity and the potential for technology to address critical challenges faced by society. (ANI)