Global SITREP for Tuesday, 20 February 2024 – Forward Observer

Global SITREP for Tuesday, 20 February 2024

Good morning, and welcome to the Global Situation Report for Tuesday, 20 February 2024.

  1. AUSTRALIA TO MORE THAN DOUBLE NAVY IN TEN YEARS: Australia released a plan to increase its Navy from 11 surface combatants to 26 over the next ten years, an increase of 136%.
  • “It is the largest fleet we will have since the end of the Second World War,” Defence Minister Richard Marles said at the announcement. 
  • Large unmanned surface vessels (LUSV), destroyers, and over a dozen frigates will be the final composition of the fleet.

Why It Matters: The Australian government reports that this is due to an “Asia Pacific arms race.” however, the timeline does not match with the most likely potential war in the Pacific where Australia would be involved. Australia would likely be involved in a U.S.-China war over Taiwan in the second half of the 2020s, well before this new navy could be finished. This is likely a preemptive move to increase their security in the event that neither China nor the U.S. can effectively secure the seas in the Asia Pacific after a conflict largely predicted to start between 2025 and 2027. – J.V.

  1. CHINA-TAIWAN COAST GUARD RUN-INS RISK GREATER WAR: The weekend saw several Coast Guard run-ins between China and Taiwan near Taiwan’s outlying Kinmen Islands.
  • Taiwan’s Coast Guard (TCG) attempted to inspect a Chinese civilian speedboat on 14 February. While fleeing, the speedboat flipped, resulting in the two occupants drowning.
  • China’s Coast Guard (CCG) boarded a Taiwanese tourist vessel to inspect the vessel’s route plan, licenses, and certificates. The CCG officers left after about 30 minutes.
  • The CCG announced new continuous patrols around Kinmen, stating that the People’s Republic of China does not recognize any borders with Kinmen and that all of Taiwan is China.
  • The TCG reportedly drove off a CCG vessel near Kinmen using non-lethal methods on Tuesday morning.

Why It Matters: One of the scenarios for a slowly escalating war over Taiwan is a law-enforcement-led blockade (referenced as a quarantine) of the outlying islands, which we may be seeing form now. Both sides have been escalating after two accidental deaths. We may see a short, lethal clash between the two Coast Guards in the outlying islands before China seizes the island and cuts it off from Taiwan. The deaths of any uniformed personnel risk an even greater escalation of force by the opposing sides. Additionally, if China seizes Kinmen, this may give Taiwanese President Lai and his Democratic Progressive Party enough of a mandate to declare independence from China, a red line for China. – J.V.

  1. CHINA’S RETURN OF COMPANY MILITIAS: China’s state-owned enterprises are standing up People’s Armed Forces reserve units inside the companies.
  • PowerChina Equipment Group, Wuhan Urban Construction Investment & Development Group, Wuhan Metro, Huizhou Water, and Huizhou Transport Investment Group have set up a reserve unit.

Why It Matters: The reserve units are historically for recruitment purposes but can be pressed into service if needed. Notably, a large portion of the militias is in infrastructure-focused companies. This is likely a preparation for war and internal instability to protect infrastructure from low-level threats such as foreign-backed protests and saboteurs. – J.V.

THAT’S A WRAP: This does it for today’s edition. Thank you for reading. If you know folks who would also like to receive this email, would you please forward it to them? We appreciate you spreading the word. – M.S

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