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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINA
U.S. intelligence officials believe that the Chinese spy balloon shot down on Saturday was part of an extensive surveillance program run by the Chinese military. The surveillance program, which has operated for several years, has collected information on military assets in regions of emerging strategic interest to China, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The U.S. has begun to brief allies and partners which it believes have been targeted. Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris, John Hudson and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
China rejected a request from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to speak with his Chinese counterpart on Saturday, the Pentagon said yesterday. The request came after an American fighter jet shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina. Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen Patrick S. Ryder said that the U.S. would keep trying to make contact with the Chinese defense minister. Helene Cooper reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. military has notified Congress that China now has more land-based intercontinental-range missile launchers than the U.S.. The notification came in a letter from the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees nuclear forces, to the Senate’s and House’s Armed Services Committees. In the letter Strategic Command also notified Congress that the U.S. continues to have more intercontinental-range missiles based on land, and more nuclear warheads mounted on those missiles, than China. Michael R. Gordon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Despite deteriorating relations between the two countries, trade between the U.S. and China reached an all-time high in 2022. This is according to numbers released yesterday by the Commerce Department. While some of the increase in last year’s trade figures may be due to historic levels of inflation, they still demonstrate the extent to which the U.S. and China remain commercially intertwined, despite the years-long U.S. tariff campaign on Chinese imports and new efforts to stop the flow of U.S. tech to Beijing. Doug Palmer reports for POLITICO.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
During his trip to the Middle East last week Secretary of State Antony Blinken asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to temporarily “pause” certain contentious actions in the West Bank. The U.S. wants the “pause” to last several months, and include an Israeli commitment to postpone settlement activity, as well as a commitment from the Palestinian Authority that it will postpone taking any further steps against Israel at U.N. institutions and other international bodies. Both sides have expressed some willingness to enter such a “pause” but discussions remain ongoing. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
A former Mexican official has accused Mexico’s former president Felipe Calderón of instructing governing officials to support the Sinaloa drug cartel. Edgar Veytia, the former attorney general from the Mexican state of Nayarit, who has himself been convicted of drug trafficking, made his accusation while testifying in a New York court yesterday. His testimony formed part of the federal corruption trial of Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s former top security official. Alan Feuer and Maria Abi-Habib report for the New York Times.
President Biden made his first State of the Union address before a newly divided congress yesterday. During the annual speech, which was widely viewed as a test run for his reelection announcement, Biden focused on his economic accomplishments and called for renewed bipartisanship. Biden was interrupted by Republican hecklers when he spoke about the fentanyl crisis and when he accused Republicans of threatening Social Security and Medicare. Andrew Restuccia and Tarini Parti report for the Wall Street Journal.
A full annotated transcript of Biden’s State of the Union address is provided by CNN.
The Defense Department has lifted a Trump-era ban on the release of artwork made by prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. Under the new policy, detainees are allowed to take “a practicable quantity of their art” when they leave the facility, pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Cesar H. Santiago said. However, the Defense Department still considers the artwork to be “the property of the U.S. government,” he added. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss a challenge to ending the pandemic-era immigration measure, Title 42, saying that the government’s announcement that the health emergency would expire on May 11 would make the case moot. The court in December blocked a trial judge’s ruling that would have lifted the measure, which allowed migrants, including those who may have otherwise qualified for asylum, to be expelled at the southern border. The justices are scheduled to hear arguments in the case on March 1. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is believed to have landed in the U.K. this morning. During his surprise visit Zelenskyy will meet U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak along with Ukrainian troops being trained by British forces, and address Parliament, U.K. officials said. The U.K. also announced today that it would send more military equipment to Kyiv to help counter a possible Russian spring offensive. Sophie Tanno, Mick Krever and Radina Gigova report for CNN.
President Biden may visit Poland later this month, around the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Reports of the potential presidential trip come following the announcement of a $10 billion deal to provide Poland with advanced rocket launchers and other weaponry. Doug Cameron and Sabrina Siddiqui report for the Wall Street Journal.
Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands announced a joint initiative yesterday to send around 100 Leopard 1 tanks to Ukraine, some of which could arrive “within a few months.” The new plan, announced as Germany’s defense minister met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, comes in addition to Germany’s agreement last month to send 14 of its more modern Leopard 2 tanks. Erika Solomon reports for the New York Times.
The death toll from the earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria has reached at least 11,104, according to authorities. The death toll is expected to rise even further with many people still trapped under the rubble, and freezing weather conditions hampering rescue efforts. Live reporting is provided by CNN.
The E.U. plans to launch a new platform to counter disinformation campaigns by Russia and China, E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said yesterday. The platform, which will sit within the E.U.’s foreign service – the European External Action Service – will seek to track information manipulation by foreign actors and coordinate with the 27 E.U. countries and the wider community of non-governmental organizations. Clothilde Goujard reports for POLITICO.
A newly released set of photos provides the clearest signal yet that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is positioning his daughter as his successor, analysts say. The photos, released today by the state Korean Central News Agency, show Kim Ju Ae, who is believed to be about 10 or 11 years old, holding center stage in a banquet hall full of military leaders. Min Joo Kim reports for the Washington Post.
Iran yesterday revealed an underground air force base, the first of its kind large enough to house fighter jets. The base, called “Eagle 44” is capable of storing and operating fighter jets and drones, the official IRNA news agency said. The report did not elaborate on the location of the base. Reuters reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 102.647 million people and has now killed over 1.12 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 672.114 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.85 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.