GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Pacific Intelligence Update


A simple explanation of this week’s military and political developments in the Pacific

China / Taiwan tension still high 

The China / Taiwan situation is still the Pacific’s biggest news story.  Throughout the week China continued a series of intimidating and threatening military exercises. Although, it is highly unlikely that these exercises will escalate into an invasion the activity is threatening and demonstrates an aggressive approach to the Taiwan issue that does not bode well for Pacific security.

Another, important point to note is French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to China this week.  On the flight home, after being feted by Xi Jin Ping he made statements to Politico reporters supporting the ‘One China’ policy and saying he felt Europe should not necessarily follow the United States into a conflict supporting Taiwan.  

The comments caused a firestorm in European diplomatic circles as officials and politicians made it clear that Macron does not speak for Europe; and that the Pacific is very much an area of interest for the European Union.

Macron’s remarks indicating the possibility of splitting European and United States foreign policy objectives.  China is disincentivised from invading Taiwan because of military and economic deterrence by nations that support a rules-based order; specifically, the United States and Europe. The unity of America, Europe and the world opposing Russia provides a strong deterrent to military action.  If there is any division; or it looks like Europe may not commit to sanctions against China or to supporting Taiwan militarily; an invasion becomes more likely.  An effective statesman does not bask in the glow of fawning parades and cups of tea with powerful leaders, instead they remember that their words are powerful and matter.  Macron’s words this week, undermine France’s position in Europe and contribute Pacific tensions. 


Pacific leaders continue to react to the AUKUS submarine deal 

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Reaction to the AUKUS submarine deal continues. This week the United States discussed the deal with the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown.  The key issue discussed was the Treaty of Raratonga, an agreement signed in 1985 that the commits Pacific Island nations to remaining nuclear weapon free.   

In March this year Brown had stated “The whole intention of the Treaty of Rarotonga was to try to de-escalate what were at the time Cold War tensions between the major superpowers. This AUKUS arrangement seems to be going against it.” After the recent discussion Brown said that he had been reassured by the United States that the AUKUS deal would honour the treaty.  

Many Pacific leaders have voiced their opposition to the deal including the influential Pacific Elders Voice a group of retired Pacific Island leaders. Pacific Nations have two key criticisms;

  • The Pacific is proudly nuclear weapon free; and has a history of opposition to nuclear weapons.  The AUKUS submarines are not nuclear armed but there is still considerable concern about their deployment in the Pacific.
  • The deal was made secretly by two major Pacific powers and the United Kingdom, without discussion or consultation with other smaller Pacific nations.  

This criticism will do nothing to change the AUKUS deal, however the ‘tone deafness’ of the AUKUS partners regarding the foreign policy objectives of smaller Pacific nations needs to be challenged. The future of the Pacific involves significant Sino-American competition and the way to maintain peace and stability is for AUKUS countries to build a coalition of Pacific nations and international powers able to work together to deter armed aggression. 

Pentagon leak reveals China has tested hypersonic missile

The recent leak of Pentagon classified documents relating to the Ukraine War provided a piece of important information relating to Pacific security.  On 25 February, China tested an experimental hypersonic missile, a DF 27 hypersonic glide vehicle.

The United States intelligence report commenting that the missile flew for 12 minutes covering a range of 2,100km. This intelligence means that both the United States and China now either have or are very close to having a hypersonic capability.  

Putting this test into a military perspective, hypersonic missiles cannot currently be intercepted and a weapon with this range based in Honiara, Solomon Islands would be able to strike Cairns, Townsville and Brisbane in Australia. Likewise, from the Chinese mainland it could engage almost all of Japan and all of the Philippines and Taiwan.  


Russian plans in the North Pacific

This week the Institute for the Study of War reports that Russia is keen to deter Japan from providing support to Ukraine by increasing its activity in the North Pacific. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stating on 14 April that Russia intends to exercise combat readiness to prevent an enemy deployment into the Sea of Okhotsk and to protect the Kuril and Sakhalin Islands. 

The islands are claimed by both Russia and Japan and are tension point in the North Pacific.

Two weeks ago, we reported that Russia’s Eastern Military District has moved Bastion missiles to Russian held islands in the area.  And; this week’s statement by Shoigu contributes to the increasing level of Russian interest in the area. 

The Institute assess that Russia’s aim is not to invade any of the islands; or even to prevent a Japanese invasion but instead to increase tension in the region forcing Japan to stop supporting Ukraine and focus its attention on the North Pacific stating that “Russia likely intends to use military posturing in the north Pacific to raise fears about military escalation with Japan in an increased effort to prevent Japan from further supporting Ukraine when it hosts the G7 meeting in Hiroshima.” 

This activity highlights the inter-connectedness of the modern world. Russia posturing in the frozen North Pacific, aiming to influence Japan’s support for a war on the other side if the globe demonstrating clearly that what happens in the Pacific; or vice versa is important internationally.  

Australian man charged with spying 

Australian IT specialist, Alexander Csergo was recently arrested by the Australian Federal Police and the charged with espionage. 

Although an Australian citizen, Csergo lived abroad and was arrested and charged on his recent return to Australia.  The Australian Federal Police allege that two years ago Csergo was approached on social media by agents that set up and in-person meeting in Shanghai. Although, the meeting was in a Chinese city there has been no statement about which country he is alleged to be working for

At the meeting in Shanghai, he was offered money for information about Australian defence, economic and national security arrangements. 

Although, there are relatively few details at this stage this case is worth following because it demonstrates that this region is not immune to the machinations of the world’s intelligence services and Pacific nations need to be vigilant. And; that the public discourse needs to acknowledge and discuss the activities of intelligence agencies in this region. 

New French offshore patrol vessel arrives in Noumea

New French patrol vessel Auguste Bénébig, arrived in Noumea last week. A new long-range patrol vessel that is the first of a class of six that the French Navy plans to deploy in the Pacific. The new patrol boats are long-range surveillance vessels designed for law enforcement and patrolling fisheries. 

Unlike other European nations France still has colonies in the Pacific; and is keen to protect them. In 2021, the International Institute for Strategic Studies reported that “France has in recent years become the main European defence and security player in the Indo-Pacific. Its presence is built on three military commands and two forces covering the Indian and Pacific oceans and several thousand personnel stationed across the region, including four infantry regiments and multiple gendarmerie units.” France maintains bases, ships and soldiers in the region and when Pacific strategy is discussed this force must be considered. 

The arrival of this vessel and its sisters demonstrates France’s commitment to being a Pacific power; and like the increasing deployment of United States Coast Guard vessels reflects an application of ‘soft power,’ these vessels being focussed on supporting enforcement of both their colonies and smaller nation’s economic zones.  The subtext being that it is a challenge to Russia, China and some other nations that operate large fishing fleets in the Pacific, often over-fishing in the poorly policed parts of the region. Supporting other nations in this way develops relationships that may be useful in any future conflict. 

France, is a ‘wild card.’ It is not part of the AUKUS alliance and is unlikely to be. France has never been willing to accept American leadership and resolutely sets its own foreign policy. A European power with a considerable military presence in the region that adds complexity to questions of Pacific security. 


Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer and TDBs military blogger 


  1. Thanks. I find your reporting useful and thought provoking.
    I know Nathan will moan.
    But some of us are not “as well informed” as others.

  2. Your assumption is that the US is defending the rule of law. Hypocrisy!
    US recognises Taiwan is part of China, yet it is rushing to war over Taiwan. Why?
    US stated objective is to stop China displacing the US as the global hegemon. Its about wealth and power nothing to do with the law.
    This coming war is the 21st century continuation of the Great Game to win Eurasia to dominate the world.
    Workers internationally have no interest in participating in inter-imperialist wars.
    We have an interest to overthrowing the warmongers and creating a peaceful world restored to nature putting an end to the threat of human extinction.

    • “US recognises Taiwan is part of China, yet it is rushing to war over Taiwan. Why?” Dave Brownz

      Talk about asking a loaded question.

      That China invading and taking over Taiwan by force would be an act of American aggression, is about as plausible as Germany invading and taking over Poland by force was an act of Franco/British aggression.

      “US recognises Taiwan is part of China, yet it is rushing to war over Taiwan. Why?” Dave Brownz

      The US is not the one rushing to invade Taiwan.

      Named Formosa by Portuguese explorers. Taiwan was first colonised by the Spanish and Dutch in 1624.

      In 1662, Ming dynasty warlord Koxinga, whose forces had been defeated on mainland China landed in Taiwan and set up a Chinese military base on the island. Eventually Koxinga’s descendants drove out the Spanish and Dutch colonisers.
      In 1895 the Chinese rulers of Taiwan ceded the colony of Taiwan to Japan. The short lived Republic Of Formosa fought the Japanese invaders in what became known as the Yiwei War.

      Ignoring the loaded content, of your question to answer your query why American imperialism recognises Taiwan as part of China?

      For the answer we have to look to the history of US Chinese relations.

      Facing inevitable defeat at the hands of Vietnamese National Liberation Front, (NLF), US imperialism sought rapproachement with the Chinese Communists.

      Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing gave Mao the Green Light to invade Vietnam after the final withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam. The official US withdrawal from Vietnam began the next year. On his visit to Beijing Nixon also gave formal US recognition to the Communist Party of China as the official ruler of China. Recognition of the Communist Party as the official ruler of China meant the US abandoning their former ally the Chinese anti-communist nationalists known as the Kuomintang (KMT). In 1976 arch US imperialist Henry Kissinger explaining this change in allegiances infamously was quoted as saying; “The US has no permanent friends or enemies only permanent interests.”
      After their defeat on the mainland, the then US backed Kuomintang set up base on the Chinese colony of Taiwan which they ran as a one party military dictatorship under martial law. The landslide election of Tsai Ing-wen as President of the Republic of Taiwan, heralded the end of the Kuomintang dictatorshp. After the downfall of the Kuomintang dictatorship, Tsai Ing-wen became the first democratically elected leader and the first indigenous President of Taiwan.

      Like their Chinese Communist enemies on the Mainland, the Kuomintang military dictators had declared Taiwan part of China. The rise to power of Indigenous Taiwan leaders has challenged that notion.

      While not challenging the One China policy of the Chinese Communists and the Kuomintang directly, Tsai Ing-wen has championed the Taiwanese Localisation Movement.

      Since you support the brutal invasion of Ukraine by the Putin regime, it doesn’t surprise me that you would also support a forcible invasion and recolonisation of Taiwan by the Xi regime.

      No Pasaran.

      • Liar.
        I don’t support the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
        Russia is imperialist.
        Nor do I support the invasion of Taiwan by China.
        China is imperialist and I am in favour of the self-determination of Taiwan and of any other part of China where significant national minorities are oppressed.
        That means hands off Taiwan by both sides you fuckwit.

        • You call me a liar and a fuckwit because I caught you red handed asking a loaded question that favours Chinese Imperialism, and which is a carbon copy of China’s pro-war propaganda.
          Now you are trying to back away for your partisan support for one imperialist bloc over another.

          You have made a lot of unsubstantiated and frankly ridiculous comments that favour Russian and Chinese imperialism that have no relation to reality or even an understanding of what drives, what Lenin called the “the have not imperialists” to war against the existing dominant imperialist powers. While you may slyly avoid coming out directly siding with these imperialist aggressors you continually paint them as victim and their crimes against peace as justified, because y’know, the US.

          “US stated objective is to stop China displacing the US as the global hegemon.” Dave (red) Brownz

          Let me correct your pro-Chinese imperialist, pro-war rhetoric.
          China’s stated objective is to replace the US as the global hegemon.

          I suspect that you will be one of those quietly cheering when Chinese missiles are slamming into Taiwan civilian apartment buildings. Y’know because the US.

  3. This whole column is predicated on the assumption of Chinese emnity and expansion. I’m not seeing that, those lovely Chinese keep our stores full and export receipts flowing. So this can only be propaganda and warmongering.

  4. ….the way to maintain peace and stability is for AUKUS countries to build a coalition of Pacific nations and international powers able to work together to deter armed aggression.

    We are building up our armed forces to deter the enemy is a lie.

    Countries building up their armed forces are preparing for war, not peace.

    Aukus is a nuclear military pact. New Zealand is nuclear free state. The armed forces that are part of the Aukus nuclear pact, including Australia, need to be greeted with the same protests and blockades that greeted the nuclear navies of the past if they dare come here.

  5. That Map you showed sums it all up? Whose really the aggressor here? It’s pretty obvious from the many Military Bases surrounding China that it’s the Terrorist State of the US!

    • I would agree that the US is an aggressive imperialist state. Occupying the role of global hegemon once occupied by the British imperialists. The number of US overseas military bases makes the US a successful imperialist terrorist state.
      But it’s not its success in occupying a number of foreign bases that make the US am imperialist terrorist state.
      The number of bases or territories an imperialist country occupy is not a measure of a country’s imperialist ambition, only a measure of its success.

      For instance Nazi Germany had no bases outside its territory before it started invading its neighbours beginning WWII. This doesn’t excuse Nazi aggression. Neither does having few military bases outside their territory excuse the aggression of Russian or Chinese imperialism.

    • Talking of foreign military bases:'s%20Liberation%20Army%20Support,cost%20of%20US%24590%20million.

      The People’s Liberation Army Support Base in Djibouti is a military base operated by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), located in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. It is the PLAN’s first overseas military base and was built at a cost of US$590 million.[1] The facility is expected to significantly increase China’s power projection in the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean, as well as the PLAN’s blue water capabilities.[2][3][4]

      Russian and Chinese foreign military bases are not as numerous as US bases, for sure. But the same intent to project military power and imperial control is there.

      Capitalism is an expansionist economic system.
      To one extent or another every capitalist country is imperialist, either imperialist in their own right, or a junior partner of imperialism, or a subject colony of an imperialist power. And so the world is divided up between the various imperialist blocs facing off against each other. Capitalist economic expansion is only constrained by their rivals and the holding limits of the planet. As the environmentalists say; ‘endless growth on a finite world is impossible’. As the various capitalist imperialist blocs vie for control of markets, trade routes, and sources of raw materials, war between them becomes increasingly inevitable.

      To expand their economies the rising imperialist powers China and Russia are desperate to expand their economic and military spheres of influence and challenge the US and Western imperialist powers.

      When you understand the baked in need for capitalist economies to expand, even against all natural or imposed boundaries, the dangerous idiocy of Dave Brownz apologia for Chinese and Russian imperialism becomes clear.

      “Historically, when a dominant imperialist power is in decline, or suffers defeat, it goes to war against its main rivals.” Dave Brownz

      History actually shows the opposite. It is the rising imperialist power whose expansion is being constrained, that is more likely to be the aggressor against its main rivals.


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