Deepening Global Insecurity: Kim Jong-Un’s Russian visit, Sri Lankan Bombings and Huawei’s 5G Politics

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António Guterres

Global insecurity is deepening in various ramifications with different state and non-state actors shopping for bombs and particularly with global incapacity to contain effectively nuclear proliferation. Global insecurity is largely emerging essentially as a conflict between Islamic jihadists, on the one hand, and all other members of the global community, on the other. Before now, emphasis used to be placed on nuclear arms, conventional weapons, climate change, gender violence, cyber crimes, bio-weapons, crimes against humanity, etc. As at today, even though terrorism became more pronounced as from 1991 with 9/11 twin tower saga, there is no disputing the fact that the accentuation of terrorism is being globally witnessed. But why is this so?

It is not clear whether the lack of peace, and particularly deepening of insecurity in the world is a resultant of biblical injunction or not. The Bible, the Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 12, Verse 51, stipulates that Jesus Christ asked His followers this question: do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.’ If this biblical stipulation is that peace is not meant to exist in the world, why is the whole international Community making efforts to establish an environment of peace that we all know, cannot be achieved? Put differently, will there ever be peace in the world before the second coming of Jesus Christ?

For example, the future of the political crisis in Venezuela is not certain. What is currently certain is that there is political lull, a stalemate in which the opposition leader, Juan Guaido, supported by the United States and its allies and the incumbent President, Nicolás Maduro, with the support of Russia and China, cannot lay any good claim of being able to undo the other. The resultant situation is that the people of Venezuela are made to suffer from the conflicting policies of both sides.

In Africa, the new political trend is that the people of Africa are increasingly taking up the courage to challenge their sit-tight leaders to step aside. The style of the courage is to organise a prolonged sit-down and street protests insisting on resignation of their leaders and not minding government’s brutalities. Two most recent examples are those of Algeria and Sudan. In both cases, leadership changes have been made in such a way as to respond to public demands. In Sudan, the president was completely removed, but the public is still insisting on a complete change in which all the associates of the former President, Al-Bashir are also sent packing. In Algeria, a new government was set up, the President, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, accepted not to contest in the April 2019 presidential elections.

There is also terrorism-driven insecurity. As noted above, it is largely influenced by Islamic extremism to which the non-Islamic disciples are also now bracing up to fight in self-defence. The cases of Australia and Sri Lanka are good illustrations of this observation. You will recall that, in the case of Australia, terrorist attacks have been occurring from time to time. In 1990, there were four terrorist attacks without casualty, both in terms of death and injury.

The following year, there were again four terrorist attacks, but this time with casualties: one dead and four cases of injury. The year 1993 witnessed no attack but in 1994, the number of terrorist attacks increased sharply to nine, with three cases of death and eight of injury. The number of attacks reduced to five in 1995 and 1996 without casualty in 1995 but two cases of death and one casualty in 1996. In 1997, the number reduced to four with 23 cases of injury. The recidivist character began to show more clearly as from 1998 when six attacks were recorded and no attack in 1999.

In the period from 2000 to 2005, there were no attacks apart from one case in 2000 and two cases in 2001. From two cases in 2006 and three in 2008, terrorism appeared to have taken its root in the country thereafter, and for that matter, on an increasing basis: one attack in 2013, eight in 2014, seven in 2015 and nine in 2016. In 2017, Casey Quacken Bush noted on December 21 that ‘at least a dozen people were hurt on Thursday when a driver in a white SUV plowed through pedestrian(s) at a busy intersection in Melbourne, Australia. Police have not confirmed whether the motive is terrorism-related, but Victoria Police told media that the incident was believed to be a deliberate act.’

In the same vein, Luke Henriques-Gomes reported on Saturday, 10 November, 2018 that ‘Australian police have declared a terrorist attack in the centre of Melbourne a “reality check” and a “wake-up call,” as the city mourns a popular restaurant owner who was stabbed to death by the ISIS-inspired attacker on Friday.’ More important, ‘the event yesterday for us is a reality check, even with the fall of the ISIS caliphate… the threats continues to be real,’ Ian McCartney, the Acting Deputy Commissioner for National Security, has said.

The aftermath of the fall of the ISIS Caliphate is the new source of fear. It is, indeed, the new threat with the potential of the returning battle-hardened and not weary-experienced terrorists to the country that not only remains the most critical security challenge for the Government of Australia but also to the global community.
Perhaps more disturbingly too, is the most recent terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka where 359 people were reportedly killed in a wave of blasts on Easter Sunday. What is particularly disturbing is the nature and reported cause of the attacks: there were reports of advanced intelligence advice on the likelihood of the attacks but to which little or no attention was paid. In other words, the security agencies cannot rightly claim that they were cut unawares. In fact, there is the Indian early warnings on the potential attacks ahead of the Easter Sunday bombings given to Sri Lanka. Most unfortunately, the security warnings appeared not to have been taken seriously.

Now that the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka himself, Ranil Wickremesinghe, has said that ‘police and security forces are rounding up those involved, but they’re also rounding up the sleepers, those used on second and third rounds of attacks… The danger has come down drastically, but we do have to pick up some more sleepers, which we will do in the next few days.’

True enough, the Government of Sri Lanka has told all the Muslims not to stay at home for Friday prayers. In the words of the Sri Lankan president, Maithripala Sirisena, ‘every household in the country will be checked… The lists of permanent residents of every house will be established to ensure no unknown persons could live anywhere.’ In fact, Catholic Sunday masses have been suspended until further notice’ in Sri Lanka. It is useful to also note that both Muslims and Christians are in the minority, each with less than 10% of the population. Majority of the population are Buddists.

The import of the foregoing is that terrorist threats are no longer those witnessed in a dream. They are real, meaning that the environment of political governance in Sri Lanka is necessarily that of insecurity. But what is again noteworthy about terrorism is the likelihood of its nature being changed to state-driven terror. Without doubt, state terrorism exists already. However, States that are the targets of terrorists cannot but be compelled in the spirit of legitimate self-defence seek to use what is available to them to fight back, with or without bearing in mind the rules of humanitarian law. Thus the world is gradually inching towards a more disorderly situation. It is within this context that the recent visit of the North Korean leader, Kim Jung-Un, to Russia and the banning of the Huawei’s 5G telecommunication equipment should be explicated and understood. The two cases also have the potential to seriously threaten global security.

Kim Jung-Un’s Visit
The first summit visit of North Korean leader, Kim Jung-UN, to Russia last week Wednesday, 24th April, raises many speculations, especially in terms of the objective of the visit and implications for global security. The organisation of the visit, which took place in Vladisvostok, was shrouded in secrecy. But because the visit came after the June 2018 Singaporean and 2019 Hanoi (Vietnam) Donald Trump-Kim Jung-Un summits, both of which could not achieve the set aims, some logical speculations are that Kim Jung-Un might have gone to Russia to not only further brief Russia about the implications of global trends but also to seek Russian support. It is from this perspective that the State visit is considered strategic and important.

First, the meeting clearly suggests the non-dependentist attitudinal disposition of North Korean president. In other words, North Korea is saying that it is neither dependent on the United States nor on Beijing. The clear message to the United States, which is seeking to stop any nuclearisation effort of North Korea, is non-preparedness to dance to the American tunes. In other words, there is no readiness to subject the sovereignty of North Korea to the whims and caprices of the United States.

In the same vein, Russia is equally sending a strong message to the United States and its allies that, in any quest to resolve the Korean Peninsula conflict, the Russian interest cannot and must not be ignored. In this regard, Russia is also indicating that North Korea can begin to rely on Russian friendship in its US foreign policy defence and calculations. Thus, the visit is that of mutual solidarity. And true enough, during the summit meeting, President Vladimir Putin did not fail to indicate Russia’s interest in possibly mediating Kim Jung-Un’s dispute with the United States. One point that emerged from the summit following Kim Jung-Un’s quick return home, that is four and a half hours earlier than scheduled is that President Donald Trump unilaterally negotiated in bad faith with him in the February summit held in Hanoi. This means that the North Korean leader was aggrieved, a situation which probably prompted his visit to Russia.

And perhaps more importantly, the visit might have been particularly organised to firm up alternative strategies to the South Korea-United States consultations. In other words, how should Russia and North Korea respond to the South Korea-United States consultations since their relationships with North Korea are largely predicated on mutual suspicions. Russia has different grouses with the United States. There is the US allegations of Russian intervention in the processes of the 2016 US presidential elections which had led to the taking of sanctionary measures by the United States against Russia. The European Union allies of the United States have differences with Russia as well.

The critical problem in the relationships is the attempt by the United States and its allies to impose their national interests by manu militari to which North Korea has vehemently refused to subscribe and the reason cannot be far-fetched. The United States is strongly opposed to North Korea having nuclear weapons but North Korea is capitalising on the fact that other nuclear weapons states, including the United States, are legally allowed to have nuclear arms. To North Korea, this is an expression of unfairness. North Korea wants to acquire the nuclear weapons for purposes of national security and strategy. This is a clear case of conflict of national interests.

Another point of significance of the visit is that it clearly points to the changing of the current global balance of power. The United States is currently adjudged the leading power of the world even if President Donald Trump gives the impression that the United States is on the path of decline and that there is the need to put in place an ‘America First’ policy. The truth of the matter is not really that the US power is declining but the fact that other countries of the world have also had good scientific breakthrough while the United States is looking at the Chinese ascendancy simply as Chinese stealing its technology, hence the issue of intellectual theft as an issue in the Sino-US trade war.

What is noteworthy is that China is riding high on the ladder of global leadership and Russia is indirectly laying claim to global leadership as well. So a review of the global leadership structure is also in the making. Three permanent Members of the UN Security Council (United States, France and Britain) are not in support of North Korea, while the two others, Russia and China, give active support to North Korea, meaning two versus three. Although the ratio of 3 to 2 meant that the balance of power tilts in favour of the Americans and their allies, the bitter truth is that the casting of only one vote can neutralise whatever decision that might have been taken at whatever level.

Meanwhile, Russian President Putin has announced his intention to brief the United States and China about the highlights of the meeting. According to Vladimir Putin, he would relay the concerns of North Korea to the two countries: that North Korea needs its nuclear arsenal as an antidote to possible US aggression, and in the absence of this, there must be concrete assurances or guarantees of the safety of North Korea. More important, North Korea is insisting on the removal of US nuclear threat as an integral part of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

This is to suggest that the position of North Korea has not changed. Whether the United States that had been listening to the same sets of arguments and reasons in the past, would now want to listen to Russia is another moot question entirely. What is most likely in this type of situation is that Russia cannot but seek to take advantage of North Korea’s misunderstanding with the United States to foster its own interests, that is, secure concessions. A nuclear-powered North Korea cannot but be in the long-term interest of Russia. This also bring us to the interest of China to whom Russia intends to send North Korea’s concerns.

Huawei’s G5 Ban
Huawei and ZTE are two Chinese companies registered in the United States. President Donald Trump directed the US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthier, to investigate Chinese policies under Section 301 of the US Trade Act. One rationale for the investigation was the suspicion that the Chinese might have been stealing US technology, hence the need to seek to protect intellectual property. The targeted suspects are Huawei and ZTE, both of which are on record to be doing well internationally. In fact, Huawei is among the G5 in the world of telecommunications (Huawei and ZTE from China, Nokia from Finland, Ericsson from Sweden, and Samsung from South Korea). 5G is a short form for Fifth Generation Wireless Networks which are currently the leaders in the current world of telecommunications.

The fight against the two Chinese companies constitute a major dynamic of the trade war with China, as first declared by Donald Trump.
In this regard, President Donald Trump has been discouraging all US allies from the use of Huawei 5G gear equipment for their networks. The US wants the 5G gear to be supplied by friendlier countries. The American rationale is that Huawei and ZTE owe the Beijing authorities obligations, and therefore, there is the likelihood of Huawei and ZTE serving as intelligence gathering instruments for the purposes of the Government of China.

The issue that is noteworthy is not, strictly speaking, the placement of ban on the G5 gear offered by the two Chinese companies, but on the fact that the United States has been overtaken by other countries in terms of leadership in the telecom industry. This is why efforts are severally made to sanction Chinese institutions. For instance, the United States is reported to be planning to send away Chinese scientists from the Cancer Centre, an action which the South China Morning Post says ‘it will backfire on US,’ as China could retaliate ‘in a necessary way.’’ The United States is also examining academic exchanges between China and the United States, especially in the areas of issuance of visa.

As observed by the South China Morning Post of 22 April, 2019, the US is leaning on the coastguards to help counter China. In other words, ‘with navy oversubscribed, ‘as the Defense Department shifts its focus to competing with Russia and China, the coastguard find itself increasingly dealing with realties in the South China. This observation raises the extent of admissibility of the American allegation. It is quite true that the United States used to be the leader of the telecommunications world. The new truth is that the US has been overtaken by Huawei whose 5G gear is in vogue in South East which is not in the interest of the United States. This is unbelievable but true, or ‘incroyable mais vrai’ to borrow the French words.

In fact, Bengt Nordstrom, the Chief Executive of a Stockholm-based Consultancy, has it that ‘the United States vendors were not convinced that GSM would become a global standard. Instead, they supported all the technical standards in the US for their customers there. In many aspects, the era from the early 1990s to mid 2000s was lost time for the US mobile industry.’ Perhaps more interestingly, from a United States perspective and mentality, it is hard to understand why a technology not coming from the United States should be better. Bengt Nordstrom noted further. This observation is quite apt in understanding the foreign policy attitudinal disposition of the United States under Donald Trump. This is one major reason for the US-China ongoing trade war. Most unfortunately, however, if we admit the US hypothesis of intellectual theft, how do we explain the fact that the Huawei has surpassed the US telecommunications earlier feats?
The banning of the Huawei and ZTE only has the potential to strengthen the companies. The likelihood of American companies recovering from the technological setbacks is remote under Donald Trump simply because of his mania of political governance which has largely not been helpful to the well-earned good international image of Americans before the advent of Donald Trump.

For instance, even though Donald Trump capitalised on the support of US allies, particularly the Five Eyes Alliance (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States) in carrying the battle to the door steps of the Chinese, response to the placement of ban has been mixed: while Australia has banned the two Chinese companies, the United Kingdom has actually awarded a contract for the supply of non-core component parts from Huawei, in spite of many security warnings. Huawei could not have emerged as one of the 5G if it has not added value to whatever is alleged to have been stolen. In terms of the Chinese companies being used as instruments for intelligence gathering, the history of international relations is replete with cases of intelligence gathering by multinational and transnational corporations. The cases of Huawei and ZTE cannot be an exception. Americans are only left with one option: healthy competition. It is by so doing that the deepening of global insecurity can be nipped in the bud and that political stability and security can begin to be restored globally.