South Korea's Foreign Policy: Leaderless, but
Not Rudderless| Will Edwards, The
The impeachment of President Park Geun Hye has suspended her powers
as president and calls into question how effective Seoul will be in
managing its foreign policy until either Park is cleared of charges
and returns to office or a new president is elected.
U.S.-ROK Alliance: Enduring through the
Leadership Transition|J. James Kim, Director, Washington D.C. Office, Asan
Institute for Policy Studies
State visits are difficult since any agreements with the caretaker
government can be overturned by the next administration. The
Ministry of Foreign Affairs is reportedly keeping the first six
months of the 2017 calendar year entirely blank. The previously
scheduled trilateral South Korea-China-Japan summit in Tokyo has
South Korea's Political Vacuum and the Trump
Administration| Scott Snyder, Senior Fellow for Korea Studies,
Council on Foreign Relations
The December 9th impeachment of South Korean President Park
Geun-hye has created a vacuum of political leadership in South
Korea. Normally, the South Korean president would lead a full court
press to confirm President-elect Donald Trump’s commitment to the
U.S.-ROK security alliance and coordinate a consistent approach to
the growing North Korean nuclear threat.
Column: Fine Print
Deterring Moscow's Cyber Threat|Walter Pincus, The Cipher Brief
Let’s agree on one thing, when it comes to Russia’s recent
interference with the U.S. presidential election, no one yet has
found a way to deter President Vladimir Putin from doing it again –
here in this country or elsewhere.
Miss On The Cipher Brief
The Evolving Role of the National Security
Agency | Corin Stone, Executive Director,
National Security Agency
We have two sides to the NSA. We have the foreign intelligence
side, which is critical to understanding what the threats are
facing this country. Then we have the information assurance side –
our experts who help in cyber defense and know how to secure
networks and make sure that people can actually defend themselves.
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North Korea Dials Up ICBM Rhetoric
On Sunday, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman announced that
Pyongyang could launch an ICBM “anytime and anywhere determined by
the supreme headquarters…” This comes a week after Kim Jong Un’s
New Year’s Day speech in which he said North Korea was close to
testing an ICBM. Also on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash
Carter stated the U.S. was prepared to shoot down an ICBM if it
appeared to be headed towards the territory of the United States or
one of its allies. On Monday, a spokesman for South Korea’s
Ministry of Defense stated that any such provocative act would be
met with additional sanctions on North Korea.
Take: This latest
announcement could add some clarification as to which type of ICBM
North Korea might test. The mention of “anywhere” suggests this
refers to the road-mobile KN-08 which has been seen in parades
through Pyongyang, but is unclear if the KN-08 has ever actually
been tested – open sources do not reveal if the most recent tests
were the KN-08 or the intermediate range Musudan. If this indeed
refers to the KN-08, then the Kim Jong Un regime may be itching for
the opportunity to test it, even without the added provocative
value of timing a missile test to align with a presidential
transition in the United States and a presidential impeachment
trial in South Korea.
Indonesian President Reins In Military Chief Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo
reprimanded Indonesia’s Military Chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo
over his decision to suspend defense cooperation with Australia
without consulting the civilian government. Nurmantyo made the
unilateral decision after an Indonesian officer studying English in
Australia found teaching materials with content critical of the
Indonesian government. Nurmantyo has a history of paranoia over
foreign influence in Indonesia, but it appears this was one step
too far. Though the general was not formally reprimanded, Widodo
rebuked him in private, according to multiple sources.
Take: Widodo is
Indonesia’s first civilian president and therefore takes the
balance of power between civilian and military leadership very
seriously. Widodo may fear that Nurmantyo is trying to restore more
of the military’s authority over civilian affairs. The Military
Chief has openly spoken of various ‘plots’ by foreign
governments to wage proxy wars within Indonesia, Australia among
them. But by unilaterally suspending ties with such an important
regional ally, Nurmantyo appears to have crossed a line. But while
Widodo may have proven he is the commander-in-chief this time, the
road to steady civil-military relations in Indonesia is likely to
be a bumpy one.
Iranian Vessels Harass U.S. Destroyer The U.S. naval destroyer USS Mahan fired three
warning shots at four Iranian fast attack vessels after they
approached the destroyer at high speeds on Sunday. The Iranian
vessels reportedly ignored radio requests from the Mahan to slow
down, warning flares, and helicopter-dropped smoke grenades before
warning shots were fired at a distance of roughly 900 yards. This
incident is another in a string of naval confrontations between
U.S. and Iranian forces near the Persian Gulf. Roughly 35 similar
“unsafe and unprofessional” incidents were reported in 2016.
Take: Although this
type of confrontation is relatively common, Sunday’s incident is
the first significant encounter in several months. For the most
part, this kind of naval harassment from Iran has
been led by the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as an effort
to assert a military zone of influence in the Persian Gulf. The
resumption of this kind of behavior just before President-elect
Donald Trump’s inauguration may represent an effort to signal
Iranian intentions to the incoming President. In the past, Trump
has said that he would order the Navy to shoot offending Iranian
craft “out of the water.” Tehran will likely test that promise
after January 20.
Egyptian Police Killed in Attack in Sinai At least seven Egyptian policemen were killed in a
car bomb attack at a checkpoint in the northern Sinai city of
al-Arish. The attackers, a group numbering around 20 individuals,
reportedly planted a bomb in a street cleaning vehicle they had
Take: Several militant
groups roam the Sinai, most notably the ISIS affiliate Ansar Bait
al-Maqdis. In November, the group claimed responsibility for an
attack on a security checkpoint that killed 15 Egyptian soldiers.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has spearheaded an
initiative to uproot militants from the area and has bolstered security cooperation with
Israel in light of this endeavor.
Israeli Prime Minister Links Jerusalem Attack to
ISIS Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that an
attack in which a Palestinian terrorist rammed a truck into a group
of Israeli soldiers, killing four, was likely inspired by ISIS.
Police shot the truck driver dead and several others, including
various Hamas members, have been arrested on suspicion of aiding
Take: To date, attacks
inspired by ISIS in Israel have been rare, but Israel does face
threats from ISIS affiliates in the Sinai as well as on its
northern border with Syria. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip,
praised the assault but stopped short of claiming responsibility.
Theresa May Softens Brexit Comments On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May sought
to clarify comments she made on Sunday that Britain might have to
abandon “bits” of its membership in the European Union. These
comments were widely interpreted to mean that the UK would pursue a
“hard” exit from the Union – rather than attempt to salvage key
trade provisions – leading the British pound to slide one percent
against the dollar. May says that she does not “accept the terms
hard and soft Brexit,” maintaining that she will only try to “get
the best possible deal for the United Kingdom” after the government
triggers Article 50 to begin the exit process.
frustration at the way her interview been interpreted is
understandable, but the market’s reaction to her comments is hardly
unexpected. From the beginning, May has insisted on keeping the
details of her Brexit plan secret, saying only that her government
plans to trigger Article 50 this March. The Prime Minister claims
that this secrecy will bolster London’s negotiating position during
exit talks. However, it also means that her every word has the
potential to fuel speculation and even sway markets. Especially
following the resignations of a series of perceived pro-European
government officials, May is finding it increasingly difficult to
convince Europe-watchers that a “hard” Brexit is not in the cards.
British Intelligence First Notified U.S. Officials
of DNC Breach The New York Times reported that, according to
two individuals with access to the classified report that assesses
Russian activity in the recent U.S. elections, British intelligence
was the first to notify its U.S. counterparts of Russia’s breach of
the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The British, likely
through signals intelligence obtained by the UK’s Government
Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), seemingly provided the initial
tipoff regarding the Russian intrusion into the DNC’s networks,
leading the FBI to notify the organization.
Take: The role of
British intelligence in identifying and notifying the U.S.
government of Russia’s breach of the DNC would suggest the
attribution of the attack to Russia is not necessarily a partisan
issue, as the incoming Trump administration has repeatedly hinted.
For the GCHQ to be aware of such a breach, it would likely require
the collection of signals intelligence, such as the interception of
computer traffic like emails and other data traveling out of the
U.S. to known Russian command and control infrastructure; this
intelligence would then be given to the United States. While this
report portrays the benefits of strong alliances and
intelligence-sharing agreements, it also potentially demonstrates
the ability of a foreign intelligence service to monitor the
computer traffic of a U.S. political organization and then share
that intelligence with U.S. officials—a technicality which raises
concerns about protections against domestic surveillance.
UK's Domain Registrar Victim of DDoS Attack Over the weekend, the UK’s largest domain registrar
service, 123 Reg, fell victim to a distributed denial of service
(DDoS) attack, flooding the organization’s servers with false
Internet traffic so that users were unable to access their email
accounts as well as a variety of websites. Last year, 123 Reg was
also targeted on two separate occasions—in April and
August—massively disrupting their operations. Similarly, the
French-based OVH hosting service also suffered a DDoS attack,
highlighting the use of the Mirai botnet malware.
Take: Domain registrars
maintain records of domain names that are effectively IP addresses
translated into natural language so that when you type in a site,
it can connect you with the server where the website is hosted.
Without a service to connect the domain name you type in with the
IP address you wish to connect to, the website becomes
inaccessible. Much like the Mirai-based DDoS attack on the domain
hosting service Dyn—which temporarily halted access to websites
like Twitter, CNN, Netflix, The New York Times, and others late
last year—the DDoS attack on 123 Reg was an attack on the
infrastructure of the Internet. While it is yet unconfirmed if the
attack was facilitated by the Mirai malware, which turns everyday
devices like routers and webcams into bots to amplify the attack,
such a conclusion would be consistent with previous attacks of this
Cipher Brief Events
The President and Intelligence: Tension and Trust -
An Exclusive Briefing and Book Signing with Former CIA Briefer and
Author, David Priess|
Wednesday, January 18, Washington, D.C.
Please join us for a conversation and book signing with David
Priess, author of The
President's Book of Secrets. Priess served
as an award-winning intelligence officer, manager, and daily
intelligence briefer at the CIA. Limited space available.