Retired Admiral and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis called into the Cats Roundtable to offer some solutions and predictions for the Hong Kong protests, North Korean nuclear negotiations and heightening Saudi Iranian Middle East tensions.
Stavridis began by highlighting the latest phase of violence and surveillance against the anti-China protests in Hong Kong, including the announcement Friday by Chief Executive Carrie Lam that banned face masks at public gatherings.
“That’s extremely meaningful,” Stavridis told the Roundtable, noting China is using facial recognition and artificial intelligence to target and identify leaders of the protests.
“They will put huge fines on them,” Stavridis explained, “tens of thousands of dollars, or they will send them to jail for five to ten years.”
“This is big brother at its worst,” Stavridis observed.
He found one thing certain. “It’s going to continue to get worse because frankly, Chinese patience is running out with these protests,” he noted.
Moving on from Hong Kong, Stavridis shared his concerns with the North Korean nuclear talks, following the announcement from Pyongyang of a test launch of an underwater missile ahead of a planned meeting between the US and North Korean officials this past weekend, which have since broken down.
Though he doesn’t think the North Koreans can conduct an attack on the United States, Stavridis cautions alertness.
“Let’s face it,” he admitted the Roundtable, “it’s a pretty short step to go from the capability of launching it from underwater to putting that capability on submarines.”
Stavridis went on to confide the launch was an “indicator of the degree to which China and Russia are supporting North Korea.”
“That kind of technology does not grow on trees in North Korea,” Stavridis said.
He believes even with the best options, the road to nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula will “take years.”
“Under the current set of circumstances,” he expressed to the Roundtable, “it’s hard to envision North Korea ever giving up those nuclear weapons.”
Next Stavridis and the Roundtable moved onto the escalating tensions with Iran, following a drone attack last month on a Saudi Arabian oil refinery.
“Was it the Iranians in your opinion that actually committed the strike on the Saudi Arabian refinery?” Catsimatidis asked Stavridis.
“There is no way a bunch of Houthi rebels down in Yemen had the capability to launch that kind of sophisticated, multi GPS driven series of attacks,” Stavridis replied, also commenting the attack was “much closer to launchers Iranians could operate.”
“I would say 95 plus percent this was Iranian activity,” he concluded.
At the moment, Stavridis rejects overt military action, but emphasizes the need for military preparation and intelligence gathering, as well as cyber and diplomatic pressure from US partners such Britain, France, and Germany to bring Iran to the bargaining table, calling it “the only path forward here that avoids a significant military conflict.”