Yesterday, CNAS released a new policy brief exploring how the United States can make better use of space technologies to improve disaster warning and response.
Sentries in the Sky: Using Space Technologies for Disaster Response explores some of the challenges with sustaining America’s disaster warning and response services by relying solely on ground-bases sensors to collect information about natural disasters and other events that could threaten U.S. communities. Alternatively, space technologies – which have not yet reached their full potential in disaster warning and response services – can complement existing ground-based sensors by combining new modes of data collection and delivery from space to improve the ability of first responders and others charged with protecting the United States to respond to natural and man-made disasters.
The policy brief focuses specifically on advancing tsunami detection through space-based services as just one of many ways that space technologies can advance disaster warning and response capabilities. But despite this narrow focus on tsunami detection, the policy brief is intended to encourage policymakers and others to think more creatively about ways to leverage space technologies to enhance U.S. national security missions, particularly unconventional (but increasingly important) missions such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The policy brief builds on a broader body of work at the center on the role of Earth monitoring satellites in national security and foreign policy making. In August 2011, Christine Parthemore and I published Blinded: The Decline of U.S. Earth Monitoring Capabilities and Its Consequences for National Security. More to come from us in this research area.
Photo: An artist concept of the Ocean Surface Topography Mission/Jason 2 Earth satellite. Courtesy of NASA.
During her visit to the Asia Pacific last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to the dispute over the South China Sea, arguably one of the region’s most intractable challenges that, left unmanaged, could uproot stability in East Asia. Those countries at the heart of the dispute — particularly China, Vietnam and the Philippines — need to “establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements,” Secretary Clinton urged.
The dispute is complex. States ringing the sea are becoming increasingly assertive in their claims, driven by concerns of nationalism, sovereignty, and even the need to stake claims to the region’s lucrative (but dwindling) fish stocks. And then there are the potential petroleum resources. Estimates of the region’s energy potential ranges widely, according to the independent U.S. Energy Information Agency: U.S. estimates suggest the region could contain roughly 28 billion barrels of oil; while Chinese estimates are much more optimistic, projecting more than 200 billion barrels of oil beneath the sea.
Despite much uncertainty about the size of the region’s oil and natural gas resources, countries in the region are increasingly behaving as though access to those potential petroleum reserves is zero-sum — a winner take all and leave none for the loser approach — that is pitting countries against each other to tap into those resources first. Indeed, China, Vietnam and the Philippines are actively soliciting bids from petroleum companies to explore for oil and gas in contested waters, escalating tensions and reinforcing this zero-sum perspective. This continued competition is destabilizing and countries in the region need to take efforts to tilt the balance of behavior toward cooperation so that countries across the region can benefit from the sea’s potential resource wealth.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Afghanistan’s mineral wealth could be contributing to instability in some parts of the country, particularly areas beyond Kabul’s control.
Just two years ago, Afghanistan’s mineral wealth – estimated to be worth potentially a trillion dollars –promised hope to a torpid economy plagued by generations of war. “The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world,” The New York Times reported in June 2010.
“But the wealth has inspired darker dreams as well,” The New York Times reported yesterday. “Officials and industry experts say the potential resource boom seems increasingly imperiled by corruption, violence and intrigue, and has put the Afghan government’s vulnerabilities on display.”
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with officials of the Association of South East Asia Nations, or ASEAN, while traveling in Jakarta this week. During her visit at the ASEAN Secretariat, Secretary Clinton spoke to the regional dispute over the South China Sea and emphasized that all claimants “make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive code of conduct in order to establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements."
Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. State Department.
All eyes are on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her visit to the Asia Pacific this week.
On Tuesday, Secretary Clinton met with officials of the Association of South East Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Jakarta where she encouraged ASEAN leaders to work cooperatively with China to resolve the longstanding territorial dispute in the South China Sea. “The United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims ... but we believe the nations of the region should work collaboratively to resolve disputes without coercion, without intimidation and certainly without the use of force," Secretary Clinton said, according to a report on CBSNews.com. "That is why we encourage ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive code of conduct in order to establish rules of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements."
Members of the Louisiana National Guard’s 256th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team conducted search and rescue operations near Carville, Louisiana after Hurricane Isaac made landfall earlier this week. The National Guard units used high-water vehicles to evacuate residents stranded in floodwaters.
Photo: Courtesy of the Louisiana National Guard.
The Associated Press’s epitaph for one of America’s most memorable pioneers appropriately captures Neil Armstrong’s place in history.
For several generations of Americans, the pioneering spirit and adventurism that helped carry Neil Armstrong to the moon also characterize a period of American history when our collective imagination seemed boundless. With outstretched fingers Americans reached for the stars and in less than a decade went from just terrestrial beings to lunar explorers. It is a period of American history that, sadly, seems almost unimaginable today as we increasingly look away from space.
In remembering Armstrong, we have an opportunity to reflect not only on one of America’s greatest accomplishments, but also to re-imagine America’s role in space and to search the stars for new opportunities for advancement.
The United States has enduring interests in space, from maintaining remote sensing satellites that help scientists understand and track environmental change, to networks of communications satellites that serve as the connective tissue of an increasingly globalized world. And though federal space programs continue to be squeezed in this fiscally constrained environment – and by all accounts we are increasingly pressed to confront challenges here at home, on Earth – we should spend some time thinking about America’s role in space, and how the United States can wield this cosmic domain to further its interests.
To help spur some reflection on U.S. interests in space, I’m reaching back to a piece my colleague Christine Parthemore and I wrote last year exploring the decline of Earth monitoring satellites and its consequences for U.S. national security: Blinded: The Decline of U.S. Earth Monitoring Capabilities and Its Consequences for National Security.
You can expect more from me in the weeks ahead on how U.S. policymakers should be thinking about using space to confront a range of unconventional challenges.
Photo: Neil Armstrong’s walk on the lunar surface. Courtesy of NASA.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Henry Blake recently conducted a 3,500 nautical mile trip from Puget Sound to Juneau, Alaska on a 50-50 blend of conventional petroleum and algae-based alternative fuel.
According to Defense News, the demonstration was driven in part by the Coast Guard’s need to understand how well its platforms operate on alternative fuels, given that officials anticipate that the military may be increasingly using blends of synthetic fuels in the future. “The Blake evaluation could be especially important, since the vessel’s mission encompasses so many variables. For example, the cutter moves at full throttle through open water, but also maneuvers at slow speeds for buoy tending duties,” Defense News reported.
Coast Guard officials will compare their performance data with the Navy’s demonstration data to look for any differences. “All the other tests that have been done by the Navy have seen no discernible difference, and we fully expect this to be the same thing,” Sam Alvord, energy fuel section chief for the Coast Guard’s office of energy management, told Defense News. “There were no leaks, no uneven wear, nothing that would raise any eyebrows. It was very short and sweet.”
Photo: The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Henry Blake travels through the Puget Sound on August 22, 2011.
The New York Times published a report this morning differentiating between the underlying issues driving competition in the East and South China Seas.
As readers of this blog know well, concerns over access to natural resources are an important driver of competition in the South China Sea. States ringing the sea are competing for territorial claims to potentially rich reserves of oil, natural gas and other mineral deposits.
But in the East China Sea, other issues are in play. The New York Times reminds us: “Unlike in the South China Sea, where the frictions center on competition for natural resources, the East Asian island disputes are more about history, rooted in lingering — and easily ignited — anger over Japan’s brutal dominance decades ago.”
The latest dispute over the uninhabited island group near Taiwan – known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China – began in earnest earlier this year when Tokyo’s Governor Shintaro Ishiara announced that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was negotiating with private landowners to purchase the islands by the end of 2012. “Under pressure not to look weak in advance of elections, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda quickly said the central government would buy the islands instead,” The New York Times reports. “That set off a tit-for-tat between activists from both countries.”
In July, the Obama administration barred Iraq’s Elaf Islamic Bank from doing business with the U.S. banking system due to alleged ties to illegal financial transactions with Iran that threaten to undermine the effectiveness of Western sanctions against Tehran’s illicit nuclear program, according to The New York Times.
“The little-known bank singled out by the United States, the Elaf Islamic Bank, is only part of a network of financial institutions and oil-smuggling operations that, according to current and former American and Iraqi government officials and experts on the Iraqi banking sector, has provided Iran with a crucial flow of dollars at a time when sanctions are squeezing its economy,” The New York Times reported on Sunday.
Iraq and Iran have steadily increased economic ties since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, with trade estimated at around $11 billion a year, according to The New York Times report. “Just last week, an Iraqi delegation that includes the deputy prime minister and top officials from the ministries of finance and trade and the central bank met in Tehran with their Iranian counterparts for talks about further increasing economic ties.”
While the United States and other countries in the Western Hemisphere are poised to become major energy producers over the next decade, the shift in global energy production from the Middle East to the Americas will be gradual and stability in the Persian Gulf will remain import to U.S. energy security.
Higher average temperatures in the United States continue to take a toll on U.S. energy infrastructure, raising concerns about the impact of long-term climate trends and U.S. energy security.
In June, the journal Nature Climate Change published a study that found that energy production from thermoelectric power plants (such as nuclear power stations) could become increasingly constrained as a result of climate change, largely from higher average temperatures warming rivers and other water resources that these facilities rely on for cooling. “During recent warm, dry summers in 2003, 2006 and 2009 several thermoelectric power plants in Europe were forced to reduce production, because of restricted availability of cooling water,” the study found. “In the US a similar event in 2007–2008 caused several power plants to reduce production, or shut down for several days owing to a lack of surface water for cooling and environmental restrictions on thermal discharges.”
That trend is continuing, according to a recent report in The New York Times. On Monday, the Times reported that a nuclear reactor at the Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, Connecticut was shut down because that water in Long Island Sound was too warm to cool one of the reactors. “Under the reactor’s safety rules, the cooling water can be no higher than 75 degrees. On Sunday afternoon, the water’s temperature soared to 76.7 degrees, prompting the operator, Dominion Power, to order the shutdown of the 880-megawatt reactor,” according to the report.
While the potential reserves of oil and natural gas are important drivers of Beijing’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea, access to the sea's energy resources is not the only issue behind China’s outsized claim to the area. According to a Sunday report in The New York Times, China's upcoming leadership transition may also be shaping Beijing’s behavior in the region.
“The leadership in Beijing appears to have fastened on to the South China Sea as a way of showing its domestic audience that China is now a regional power, able to get its way in an area it has long considered rightfully its own,” The New York Times reported. “Some analysts view the stepped-up actions as a diversion from the coming once-a-decade leadership transition, letting the government show strength at a potentially vulnerable moment.”
Of course, Beijing’s concerns about domestic politics and access to energy resources are not mutually exclusive. After all, China’s interest in the potential oil and natural gas in the South China Sea is in part driven by concerns over its vulnerability elsewhere, particularly the Strait of Malacca, through which up to 80 percent of China’s Persian Gulf and African oil imports travels. A closure of the strait could have an immediate impact on the Chinese economy and domestic stability. “[I]f the Malacca Strait were closed for just one day, the disruption in energy supplies might cause social unrest in China, according to a well-placed officer of the People’s Liberation Army,” wrote Patrick M. Cronin and Robert D. Kaplan in a January 2012 CNAS study, Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea.
On Monday, the Departments of Defense and Interior formalized a partnership to develop renewable energy at or near DOD facilities aimed in part at strengthening the military’s resiliency to disruptions in the electric grid.
“Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have signed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] that encourages appropriate development of renewable energy projects on public lands set aside for defense-related purposes and other onshore and offshore areas near military installations,” American Forces Press Service reported on Monday. “Each of the military services has committed to deploy 1 gigawatt of renewable energy on or near its installations by 2025.”
The DOD-Interior MOU comes on the heels of a warning by a top U.S. government official about the vulnerability of the U.S. electric grid. Last month at the Aspen Security Forum, Paul Stockton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs, cautioned that the U.S. electric grid is vulnerable to disruption, particularly from a terrorists attack that could cause a “long term, large scale outage.”
Defense officials are acutely aware of this vulnerability and the implications for DOD’s readiness. The Department of Defense relies on many domestic installations to serve as command and control centers for critical operations abroad, such as drone missions in Afghanistan. “And to make those operations function, we depend on the electric grid,” Stockton said.
Developing renewable energy projects on DOD facilities can help mitigate this vulnerability by helping the military rely less on the civilian electric grid. The effort – known as “islanding” – is intended to insulate DOD facilities from a disruption to the civilian electric grid by generating enough power on base to sustain critical functions for an indefinite period of time.
The state-run China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) is becoming an increasingly important element in Beijing’s South China Sea energy strategy.
According to The Times of India, CNOOC recently made a $15 billion bid to acquire Canada’s Nexen Inc., a company with deep expertise in offshore drilling that Beijing would like to tap into in order to exploit potential oil and natural gas resources in the South China Sea.
Beijing’s drive to develop advanced offshore drilling capability is seen in many ways as a cornerstone of its strategy to exploit the potential energy reserves beneath the South China Sea. According to some Chinese media reports, an estimated 70 percent of oil and natural gas reserves lie in deep-water reserves, at depths of over 300 meters. To date, however, China’s energy companies have lacked the technical capability to exploit these reserves, often drilling in shallower waters. In particular, CNOOC’s expertise in advanced offshore drilling has fallen behind other privately-held international oil companies that can drill to depths beyond 10,000 meters.
But that could all be changing. In May, CNOOC began operating China’s first-ever deep-water drilling rig that some observers say could prepare China to begin drilling to depths of between 10,000 and 12,000 meters, possibly eclipsing the record set in 2009 by the Deepwater Horizon rig that drilled to 10,683 meters. And CNOOC’s bid for Nexen Inc. may help the state-run company acquire additional technological expertise that it needs to successfully exploit the South China Sea’s deep sea resources.
In July, the U.S. Coast Guard launched “Arctic Shield,” an operation intended in part to assess the service’s Arctic capabilities, including those related to search and rescue and disaster response and environmental protection.
The U.S. Coast Guard expects that demand for search and rescue response will increase as the Arctic becomes increasingly crowded, from energy companies exploring for offshore petroleum, commercial shippers plying the opening sea lanes to eco-tourists exploring the Arctic landscape.
In this photo, a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prepares to launch a search and rescue mission from Coast Guard Forward Operation Location Barrow, Alaska on July 25, 2012.
Photo: Courtesy of Petty Officer 2nd Class Elizabeth H. Bordelon and the U.S. Coast Guard.
From food production to electricity generation, the recent spate of extreme weather is taking a toll on U.S. infrastructure, affecting communities on the home front and countries abroad.
The United States is in the midst of the worst drought since 1956, according to the National Climatic Data Center. According to the center, 55 percent of the United States is experiencing some form of moderate to extreme drought, which is expected to continue for much of the year and is already affecting corn, soybean and other agricultural harvests. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that U.S. consumers could expect to pay 3 to 4 percent more for groceries next year as a result of agricultural decline.
The U.S. agricultural forecast could be particularly damming for global food prices and countries that rely heavily on agricultural imports. America is still considered the world’s breadbasket, and agricultural decline in the United States may lead to price spikes in countries abroad, particularly in developing countries that rely increasingly on agricultural imports, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. This could worsen food trends (e.g. famine and malnutrition) in these countries as families are forced to spend a higher percentage of their income on groceries, and may, in some places, exacerbate existing social grievances and provoke violence.
In 2008, for the first time, the world’s urban population exceeded its rural population. According to theUnited Nations estimates, urbanization will grow from about 50 percent of the world’s population today to about 60 percent by 2030. More importantly, urbanization – and its accompanying pressures – will not be evenly distributed. As illustrated in Figure 1, the urban population as the percentage of the total population has grown around the world over the last three decades; however, the urban population as a percentage of total population has risen more quickly in Latin America & the Caribbean the Middle East & North Africa, and East Asia and the Pacific.
More than 90 percent of projected urban growth will continue to occur in developing nations, fueled by increasing population and rural to urban migration.
Researchers note that, traditionally, the largest drivers of urbanization are primarily natural disasters (and increasingly ecological degradation). War and conflict have also caused populations to flee into urban areas. Climate change and the increasing desertification of once-arable lands have also fueled rural to urban movements in recent years, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Certainly, urbanization may be the result of conflict. But it is also the case that urbanization may be associated with poor security conditions in countries. The (rapid) movement of people from rural areas to more urban (or even peri-urban) cities may exacerbate underlying ethnic and religious tensions, place pressures on weak infrastructure that is already being pushed beyond capacity, increase distributional pressures, and demand governance and better planning from governments too weak to sustain themselves.
Continue reading at GT2030.com.
On Sunday, The New York Times published a report that outlines some of the key issues that the U.S. Coast Guard must grapple with as it assumes greater responsibility in the Arctic, including how it will conduct search and rescue missions, as well as oil spill response.
According to The New York Times report, the Coast Guard began a pilot project in July known as Arctic Shield, “combining search and rescue responsibilities with disaster response and maritime safety enforcement,” a likely first step towards increasing its presence in the region.
Perhaps one of the most pressing challenges that the Coast Guard must face is the lack of physical infrastructure in the Arctic Circle, particularly its own shore-based infrastructure from which it can conduct a range of missions. Most of the Coast Guard’s personnel and equipment in the region is based in Kodiak, Alaska, almost 1,000 miles south of Barrow, Alaska – the northern most U.S. town – from which the Coast Guard will presumably be operating from.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Navy began a demonstration of the “Great Green Fleet,” with three warships and 71 aircraft running on a 50-50 blend of biofuel and conventional petroleum fuel. According to a Reuters report, 90 percent of the biofuel used in the demonstration was refined from cooking oil waste, while the remaining 10 percent was synthesized from algae.
The Navy purchased 450,000 gallons of biofuel last year – the largest purchase to date – to use for the demonstration, at a cost to the Navy of about $26 a gallon (down from $424 gallon for a 20,055 gallon purchase in 2009). When mixed with conventional petroleum for the 50-50 blend, the combined cost to the Navy is approximately $15 a gallon, according to U.S. Navy officials.
The 2012 demonstration is a milestone of the Navy’s broader goal to deploy a “Great Green Fleet” in 2016, a taskforce that will be made up of nuclear-powered vessels, hybrid electric ships and aircraft run on a 50-50 blend of biofuel and petroleum-based fuel.
Photo: The Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser delivers a 50-50 blend of fuel to the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton during the "Great Green Fleet" demonstration portion of the international exercise, Rim of the Pacific 2012. Courtesy of Chief Mass Communication Specialist Sam Shavers and the U.S. Navy.
Beijing is flexing some more muscle to protect its energy interests in the South China Sea.
Last week, China began combat-ready patrols in the waters around the potentially resource rich Spratly Islands that both China and Vietnam have disputed claims to. And on Friday, China Daily reported that Beijing may develop a military presence in Sansha – a newly incorporated city located on one of the disputed Paracel Islands that was stood up to administer Chinese authority over the country’s South China Sea territories. (The city was established in response to a recent Vietnamese law that claimed sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.)
The deployment of combat-ready patrols and discussions of developing forces at Sansha comes on the heels of an announcement from the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) that it will accept bits from foreign energy companies to explore and develop nine new blocs of the South China Sea that fall within Vietnam’s 200-nautcial mile Exclusive Economic Zone. (See the map here.) It is unlikely, though, that foreign energy companies will cooperate with CNOOC in these disputed blocs given the amount of risk the companies would have to assume in operating there. Regardless, Beijing is putting itself in a better position to protect its energy interests: “the announcement of these blocks reflects another step in China’s effort to strengthen its jurisdiction over these waters,” according to MIT Professor M. Taylor Fravel.
Making a Play for Resources
This recent activity joins a string of other incidents by China to protect its claims to the region’s potential hydrocarbon resources. Estimates of oil and natural gas in the South China Sea vary widely, from U.S. estimates of 28 billion barrels of oil to Chinese estimates of 213 billion barrels of oil. Yet no country knows what really lies beneath the seabed. Officials in Beijing appear to be placing bets that the South China Sea could turn out to be a “second Persian Gulf,” driving up strategic competition over potentially energy rich territory. But for years, efforts to conduct surveys to produce better measurements of the region’s resources have been impeded by Chinese vessels obstructing survey ships and others conducting seismic measurements.
Continue reading at ConsumerEnergyReport.com.
The National Intelligence Council (NIC) recently launched a new blog in advance of Global Trends 2030, which will be published after the presidential election this fall. The NIC releases a new edition of Global Trends after every presidential election in part to inform the incoming administration about important trends that will shape the global security environment in the decade ahead. The new blog features experts’ commentary on a range of global trends that are expected to shape the future security environment, such as the rise of major non-western economies and the competition over natural resources, trends that readers are likely to read about in the new edition this fall.
This week’s discussion is focused on the dynamics of urbanization. And today’s entries are focused in particular on urbanization’s national security implications, with commentary from David Kilcullen and Kori Schake. I also had an opportunity to weigh in with a post on urbanization and climate change. In it, I argue that national security practitioners must view urbanization and climate change as two interlinked phenomena. Below is an excerpt of that post.
Urbanization and climate change may be the two most important trends to shape global development in the decades ahead. On the one hand, urban cities have the potential to serve as engines of change, driving economic growth in some of the world’s least developed countries and pulling more people out of poverty than at any other time in history. On the other hand, climate change could undercut all of this by exacerbating resource scarcity and putting vulnerable communities at risk from sea level rise and more frequent and intense storms.
Today, roughly 80 percent of economic growth comes for urban centers. Much of this comes from what experts refer to as the “urban advantage:” cities typically concentrate the full spectrum of economic opportunities that are not readily available in rural areas. This includes everything from social services such as education and healthcare, more reliable access to water, sanitation services and electricity, to industries and transportation hubs that are lynchpins for commercial development.
Simply put, countries have more opportunities for economic growth as they urbanize. According to a 2010 study from United Nations Human Settlements Program, “The prosperity of nations is intimately linked to the prosperity of their cities. No country has ever achieved sustained economic growth or rapid social development without urbanizing (countries with the highest per capita income tend to be more urbanized, while low-income countries are the least urbanized).” Of course, how much a country benefits from urbanization depends on policies developed at the local level. Indeed, urban politics can make or break the benefits of urbanization if local policymakers fail to adopt policies that break down socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic and religious barriers.
Continue reading at GT2030.com.
While there has been a lot of attention given to China’s territorial contests with its Asian neighbors in the South China Sea, just as important is the dispute between Japan and China in the East China Sea, where both countries lay claim to an uninhabited island group near Taiwan – known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China – that are rich with fish stocks, as well as potentially undersea energy and mineral resources.
Until recently, Japan has managed to avoid drawing Beijing into a more aggressive dispute over the island group. Although the islands are technically administered by Tokyo, the government has promoted a strategy that avoids the perception that Japan is attempting to nationalize the islands by renting them from a private landowner and avoiding commercial or private development on the islands.
But this “hands off” strategy has been criticized by nationalist leaders in Japan who are looking to change the current arrangement. According to an April report in the Japan Times, Tokyo’s Governor Shintaro Ishiara said that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government was negotiating with the landowners to purchase the islands by the end of 2012. “Tokyo will protect the Senkaku Islands. No matter which country dislikes it, no one should have a problem,” Governor Ishiara said in April. Since then, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government “has set up a bank account to collect donations for the purchase,” according to The Washington Post, which by some reports collected nearly a billion yen ($13 million) in one month.
As we in the United States are struggling with massive heat waves, others are moving to cooler temperatures – including the Chinese. Last week, the Chinese icebreaker, Xue Long, (“Snow Dragon”) departed on a three month Arctic expedition (its fifth Arctic expedition). Along the way, the Xue Long will conduct scientific experiments and study the effects of changes in the Arctic ecosystem on climate. The fifth voyage of the Snow Dragon will be its longest and farthest to date and its first attempt through the Northern Sea shipping route. According to the Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition (CHINARE), scientists will be studying sea ice in and around the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, the Bering Strait, Canada Basin, and the Mendeleev Ridge. After traversing through the Arctic Ocean, Xue Long will sail to Iceland for a research visit which underscores the growing cooperation between Iceland and China. (During Premier Wen Jiabao’s April visit to Iceland, the two countries signed a geothermal energy accord.)