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Okinawa’s Burden

, China project manager and senior analyst

The author with Gov. Masahide Ota in his office at the Okinawa Peace Research Institute in April, 2017

China isn’t the only country tearing up precious coral reefs to build new military outposts in the Pacific. Just before the new year holiday, in order to fulfill obligations to the US military, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began covering the coral reefs of Henoko Bay with landfill.

It’s the latest move in a decades old struggle between the people of Okinawa, who don’t want another US military base on their tiny island, and the central government of Japan, which agreed to construct the massive new Henoko facility under the terms of a controversial agreement with the United States. US military bases already occupy nearly a quarter of the 466 sq. mi island, which is home to approximately 1.5 million people. Three quarters of all US military bases in Japan and over half of the US military personnel stationed in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, which accounts for less than 1% of Japan’s total land mass.  Read more >

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Record Number of Satellites in Orbit

, senior scientist

An updated version of the UCS Satellite Database has been posted. Including launches and deactivations through November 30, 2018, the Database includes information on about 1,957 active satellites. That is 71 more than our previous release last July. Read more >

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Memo to Congress: America Already Has Low-yield Nuclear Warheads

, co-director and senior scientist

The Trump administration plans to build new “low-yield” nuclear weapons that would be launched from Trident submarines. Its rationale? It insists they are needed to counter Russia’s low-yield weapons.

This plan has resulted in a lot of confused—or perhaps deceptive—verbiage on the part of some of our elected officials. They seem not to know or neglect to mention that the United States already deploys a wide array of low-yield nuclear weapons.

Or it could be that they have their own set of alternate facts? Read more >

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China in Focus #22: Whither Engagement?

, China project manager and senior analyst

Chinese Astronaut Yang Liwei discusses international cooperation in space exploration at the 2018 Galaxy Forum in Beijing.

US China policy is changing. One well-informed observer put it this way in a recent conversation on Twitter: “There’s currently a great deal of consensus in the US for not just more competition with, but also separation from, China.”  Read more >

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Nuclear Weapons, President Trump, and General Mattis

, co-director and senior scientist

Many people trusted that Secretary of Defense Mattis would be able to rein in the dangerous impulses of his erratic boss who, as commander-in-chief, has the authority to order the use of military forces—including nuclear weapons.

Indeed, General Mattis may have privately assured some members of Congress that he would get into the loop to restrain President Trump if it looked like a nuclear crisis was brewing. So people are naturally worried that Mattis’ resignation will put Trump back in full control of US nuclear weapons.

But regardless of what Mattis may or may not have told members of Congress, the secretary of defense is not in the decision chain for a nuclear launch and has no ability to stop a launch order from going through. Perhaps Mattis could have talked Trump out of ordering an attack in the first place, assuming he knew the president was considering such an attack, but he had neither the legal authority nor the ability to prevent one from being carried out. Read more >

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