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China poses ‘genuine and increasing cyber risk’ to UK, warns GCHQ head

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China poses ‘genuine and increasing cyber risk’ to UK, warns GCHQ head

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China poses a “genuine and increasing cyber risk to the UK”, the head of Britain’s signals intelligence agency has said.

The remarks by Anne Keast-Butler, director of GCHQ, follow a slew of alleged China-related espionage activity in the UK, including a suspected cyber attack that targeted the records of thousands of British military personnel.

Keast-Butler told a security conference in Birmingham on Tuesday that while the cyber threats from Russia and Iran were “globally pervasive” and “aggressive” respectively, China was her agency’s top priority.

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“China poses a genuine and increasing cyber risk to the UK,” she said, calling the country “the epoch-defining challenge” in a direct echo of the British government last year.

“In cyber space, we believe that the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China’s] irresponsible actions weaken the security of the internet for all,” said Keast-Butler.

“China has built an advanced set of cyber capabilities and is taking advantage of a growing commercial ecosystem of hacking outfits and data brokers at its disposal,” she added.

Her warnings came a week after a reported cyber attack on private IT contractor SSCL, which has multiple government contracts, accessed the records of up to 272,000 people on the UK Ministry of Defence’s payroll.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps told parliament last week that the attack had been carried out by a “malign actor”. He did not confirm who was behind it, but a person with direct knowledge of the incident said Beijing was thought to be the culprit.

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SSCL, which is owned by Paris-based Sopra Steria, a digital services company, holds the payroll details of most of the British armed forces and 550,000 public servants in total through its other state contracts, including with the Home Office, Ministry of Justice and Metropolitan Police.

The hack is one of a series of recent incidents that has sparked growing concern across Europe and in the US about Chinese cyber and espionage activity.

On Monday, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Britain faced threats from “an axis of authoritarian states like Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China” as three men appeared in a London court on charges of assisting intelligence services in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday, the UK government summoned China’s ambassador to Britain, Zheng Zeguang, over the case.

John Lee, Hong Kong’s chief executive, on Tuesday said his administration had demanded the British government provide an explanation about the prosecution of one of the three men, Bill Yuen, who was the office manager of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London.  

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Beijing officials have also repeatedly denied the British accusations, calling them “groundless and slanderous” in what has become a tit-for-tat series of allegations and denials.

Meanwhile, Felicity Oswald, who heads the National Cyber Security Centre, a branch of GCHQ, warned CyberUK conference attendees about the Chinese Communist party’s cyber capability, which she described as “vast in scale and sophistication”.

She said western security agencies had repeatedly raised the alarm about Volt Typhoon, a Chinese hacking network, which FBI director Christopher Wrap said this year had targeted the US electricity grid and water supply.

Oswald added that a Chinese law, introduced in recent years, that required Chinese citizens to report any cyber security vulnerabilities they identified to the government “should worry all of us”.

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Read the I.C.J. Ruling on Israel’s Rafah Offensive

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Read the I.C.J. Ruling on Israel’s Rafah Offensive

– 15 -
(a) By thirteen votes to two,
Immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which
may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical
destruction in whole or in part;
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak;
(b) By thirteen votes to two,
Maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision at scale of urgently needed basic
services and humanitarian assistance;
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak;
(c) By thirteen votes to two,
Take effective measures to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission
of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by competent organs of the
United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide;
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak;
(3) By thirteen votes to two,
Decides that the State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give
effect to this Order, within one month as from the date of this Order.
IN FAVOUR: President Salam; Judges Abraham, Yusuf, Xue, Bhandari, Iwasawa, Nolte,
Charlesworth, Brant, Gómez Robledo, Cleveland, Aurescu, Tladi;
AGAINST: Vice-President Sebutinde; Judge ad hoc Barak.

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US defence secretary seeks to woo Cambodia from China with visit to Phnom Penh

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US defence secretary seeks to woo Cambodia from China with visit to Phnom Penh

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US defence secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Cambodia next month as Washington engages the country’s new American-educated prime minister in an effort to coax the country away from China.

Austin will travel to Phnom Penh on June 4 after attending the Shangri-La Dialogue defence forum in Singapore where he will discuss challenges in the Indo-Pacific with US allies and partners and hold his first meeting with Dong Jun, the Chinese defence minister.

In Cambodia, Austin will meet Prime Minister Hun Manet, son of the former leader Hun Sen, according to three American officials. Hun Manet succeeded his father in August 2023.

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He graduated from West Point, the US military academy, and New York University. Washington hopes the emergence of a new generation of leaders will make the country predisposed to working more closely with the US.

“We remain clear-eyed about some of our concerns in Cambodia, but at the same time we see the arrival of the new leadership allowing us to explore new opportunities,” said one US official.

The stepped up engagement comes amid US concerns about the expansion of a naval base at Ream being built by China. Washington believes China is building a permanent naval base at the strategic location off the Gulf of Thailand. Those concerns have been heightened by the presence of two Chinese warships docked at Ream since December.

Cambodia denies the facility is a Chinese base, saying the warships are there for joint military exercises. The US official said Washington would continue to raise concerns about the naval base.

A second official said Washington also saw an opportunity to work more closely with Cambodia as China has less money to spend on its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure programme. “Over the past few years, and especially since the pandemic, BRI funding has dried up. Cambodia is one of the countries feeling the drawdown the hardest,” the official said.

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At the Shangri-La Dialogue, Austin will give a speech outlining US efforts to bolster alliances and partnerships as the US shifts from a “hub and spoke” security arrangement in the Indo-Pacific to a “latticed” security architecture that increasingly involves US allies, such as Japan, Australia, the Philippines and South Korea, working more with each other.

The Pentagon chief will also hold his first meeting with Dong, who was named defence minister in December. US officials said he would express concern to Dong about several issues, including China’s assertive military activity around Taiwan.

Austin is also expected to raise concerns about the Second Thomas Shoal, a contested reef in the South China Sea that lies inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. In recent months, Chinese coast guard ships have used water cannons to try to prevent Manila from supplying troops stationed on the Sierra Madre, a ship grounded on the reef.

The Second Thomas Shoal is expected to feature heavily at the three-day defence forum sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, particularly because President Ferdinand Marcos Jr of the Philippines will speak at the event on Friday evening.

Austin will also meet Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s new prime minister. He will also hold a trilateral meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea, in addition to holding engagements with many of his counterparts from south-east Asia.

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Legendary U.S. World War II submarine located 3,000 feet underwater off the Philippines

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Legendary U.S. World War II submarine located 3,000 feet underwater off the Philippines

The final resting place of an iconic U.S. Navy submarine that was sunk 80 years ago during World War II was located 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, the Naval History and Heritage Command said Thursday.

The USS Harder – which earned the nickname “Hit ’em HARDER” – was found off the Philippine island of Luzon, sitting upright and “relatively intact” except for damage behind its conning tower from a Japanese depth charge, the command said. The sub was discovered using data collected by Tim Taylor, CEO of the Lost 52 Project, which works to locate the 52 submarines sunk during World War II.

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4D photogrammetry model of USS Harder (SS 257) wreck site by The Lost 52 Project. The Lost 52 Project scanned the entire boat and stitched all the images together in a multi-dimensional model used to study and explore the site. 

Tim Taylor and the Lost 52 Project.


The USS Harder, led by famed Cmdr. Samuel D. Dealey, earned a legendary reputation during its fifth patrol when it sunk three destroyers and heavily damaged two others in just four days, forcing a Japanese fleet to leave the area ahead of schedule, the command said. That early departure forced the Japanese commander to delay his carrier force in the Philippine Sea, which ultimately led to Japan being defeated in the ensuing battle.

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But Harder’s fortunes changed in late August 1944. Early on Aug. 22, Harder and USS Haddo destroyed three escort ships off the coast of Bataan. Joined by USS Hake later that night, the three vessels headed for Caiman Point, Luzon, before Haddo left to replenish its torpedo stockpile. Before dawn on Aug. 24, Hake sighted an enemy escort ship and patrol boat and plunged deep into the ocean to escape.

Japanese records later revealed Harder fired three times at the Japanese escort ship, but it evaded the torpedoes and began a series of depth charge attacks, sinking Harder and killing all 79 crewmembers.

harder-photo-1716497988210.jpg
USS Harder (SS 257)

Naval History and Heritage Command


The “excellent state of preservation of the site” and the quality of the data collected by Lost 52 allowed the Navy’s History and Heritage Command to confirm the wreck was indeed Harder.

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“Harder was lost in the course of victory. We must not forget that victory has a price, as does freedom,” said NHHC Director Samuel J. Cox, U.S. Navy rear admiral (retired). “We are grateful that Lost 52 has given us the opportunity to once again honor the valor of the crew of the ‘Hit ’em HARDER’ submarine that sank the most Japanese warships – in particularly audacious attacks – under her legendary skipper, Cmdr. Sam Dealey.”

Harder received the Presidential Unit Citation for her first five patrols and six battle stars for World War II service, and Cmdr. Dealey was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. During his career, Dealey also received a Navy Cross, two Gold Stars, and the Distinguished Service Cross.

dealey-1716498024023.jpg
Commander Samuel D. Dealey

Naval History and Heritage Command


Taylor, the Lost 52 Project CEO, previously located other submarines lost during World War II, including the USS Grayback, USS Stickleback, and USS Grunion. Taylor received a Distinguished Public Service Award from the Navy in 2021 for his work.

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Last September, deep-sea explorers captured images of three shipwrecks from World War II’s Battle of Midway, including the first up-close photos of a Japanese aircraft carrier since it sank during the historic battle in 1942.

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