Australian nuclear sub decision driven by technology and Chinese assertiveness

by Julian Kerr

Four of the RAN's six Collins-class submarines in close formation while transiting Cockburn Sound in Western Australia. These conventionally powered boats will now be replaced by a fleet with nuclear propulsion. (Lt C Prescott/Commonwealth of Australia)

Australia's far-reaching strategic decision to procure a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with the assistance of the United States and United Kingdom was driven by three convergent situations, according to sources familiar with the background to the surprise 16 September announcement.

These included cost blowouts, delays, and friction in the now-cancelled AUD90 billion (USD68 billion) programme for the design and construction in Australia by French shipbuilder Naval Group of 12 conventionally powered Attack-class submarines to replace the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) six Collins-class boats.

Frustration over issues with the French contract converged with concern over China's rising assertiveness in the South China Sea and a dramatic deterioration in relations between Beijing and Canberra, the sources said.

Most importantly, discreet enquiries triggered by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2020 had ascertained that submarine technology that was not previously available had evolved to a point where a nuclear-powered fleet did not require the support of a civil nuclear infrastructure.

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Taiwan faces widespread cyber attacks as tensions rise with China

by Oishee Majumdar

Taiwan says it has been subject to a series of intensified cyber attacks since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island nation on 2 August.

The attacks come amid rising US and Taiwan tensions with China, which has voiced “strong opposition and serious representations” against Pelosi's visit.

According to the Taiwan government, the attacks were targeted at its official websites and online infrastructure including those of the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense (MND), the presidential office, and the foreign ministry.

Taiwan's MND said on 4 August that its website “was paralysed in the middle of the night” after enduring an attack. It added that part of its network had been subjected to “distributed denial-of-service attacks”.

The connection was restored after nearly one and a half hours after traffic cleaning and blocking of malicious relay stations, the MND added.

Taiwan's presidential office endured a similar attack ahead of Pelosi's visit, temporarily ceasing its operation, while the island's foreign ministry reportedly said on 2 August that its website had been hit with up to 8.5 million traffic requests per minute from computers based in China, Russia, and other places.

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US lawmakers advance bill to boost chip making

by Marc Selinger

The US Capitol building in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

The US Senate on 27 July passed a Pentagon-backed bill that would provide USD76 billion to shore up domestic production of semiconductor chips.

The Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act, which the Senate approved by a 64–33 vote, heads to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass the bill on 28 July. President Joe Biden has indicated he will sign the legislation into law when it reaches his desk.

Proponents say the bill, which has been in the works for years, is needed to reduce US reliance on foreign, potentially unreliable sources of chips used in military weapon systems, automobiles, consumer electronics, and household appliances. The US share of global semiconductor manufacturing capacity plunged from 37% in 1990 to about 12% in 2020 and is forecast to fall to 10% in 2030, according to the Washington, DC-based Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

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US lawmakers raise security concerns about Chinese logistics system

by Marc Selinger

The US Capitol building in Washington, DC. (Janes/Marc Selinger)

The US House of Representatives has backed a proposal that would prohibit the US Department of Defense (DoD) and its contractors from using a Chinese system that enables cargo shippers to share data.

Proponents of the legislation argue that the National Public Information Platform for Transportation and Logistics (LOGINK), which is overseen by China's Ministry of Transport, could enable the Chinese government to track US military equipment sent through commercial ports. Representative Michelle Steel, a California Republican, offered the measure.

The House approved the legislation on 14 July as part of a package of amendments to the fiscal year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It is unclear if the LOGINK language will ultimately become law, as the House NDAA will have to be reconciled with the version that is pending in the Senate.

In an 18 July statement provided to Janes

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