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December 14-20, 2023 | Issue 45 - PACOM and Weapons/Tactics

Nicholas Novak, Martina Sclaverano, Mateo Maya, Agathe Labadi

Alya Fathia Fitri, Editor; Elena Alice Rossetti, Senior Editor


Date: December 14, 2023

Location: Myanmar

Parties involved: Myanmar; Myanmar military junta; junta regime leader Min Aung Hlaing; junta troops; junta deserters; junta defectors; former junta captain, Htet Myat; Myanmar Correction Department; anti-junta forces

The event: The Myanmar military junta released hundreds of jailed deserters, with the non-commissioned officer (NCO) ranks of sergeant and below, to serve on the frontlines. An unnamed Correction Department source stated that most jailed deserters were “unfit to fight,” and a former junta captain who defected in 2021 said Hlaing is recruiting fighters to increase his military support.[2] The junta troops have suffered heavy casualties along with hundreds of surrender and desertion instances since anti-junta forces started Operation 1027 in northern Shan State on October 27.[3]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Anti-junta forces will very likely recruit released junta deserters, likely focusing on non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to strengthen leadership capabilities. Defectors will almost certainly enlist to fight for anti-junta forces, fearing the junta’s punishment following their release and subsequent service. The NCOs will very likely share their knowledge of the junta's small team’s tactics, with anti-junta forces likely using them to train recruits. Bolstered anti-junta forces will very likely overwhelm junta forces and increase the likelihood of further junta members’ defections, with a roughly even chance of the junta surrendering to anti-junta forces.

  • The release of former deserters will likely accelerate the conflict toward its conclusion. Deserters enlisted by the junta will likely be unmotivated to fight and not use their best abilities in combat. Conscripted deserters' low morale will very likely weaken the junta's frontline units’ combat effectiveness, likely increasing the anti-government forces' battlefield advances. Military clashes will likely grow in the short term, likely leading to a significant weakening of the junta.

Date: December 17, 2023

Location: Near Keelung, Taiwan

Parties involved: Taiwan; Taiwanese government; Ministry of National Defense of Taiwan; Taiwanese National Institute of Cyber Security (NICS); Taiwanese people; pro-China candidates; China; People's Liberation Army (PLA); USA; US military; South Korea; Japan

The event: Taiwan spotted two suspected Chinese weather balloons flying across the Taiwan Strait. Taiwanese authorities detected the balloons at 0903 and 1443 local time at 203 km northwest of the Taiwanese port city of Keelung. These balloons, which the Taiwanese military identified as weather balloons, were flying at 3,230 meters due east before disappearing at 0936 and 1635 local time. The Ministry of National Defense of Taiwan underlined that this balloon’s sighting is the second episode in one month. Taiwan is on high alert for Chinese military and political intervention ahead of its presidential and parliamentary election on January 13, 2024.[4]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Taiwan will likely increase its security and safety measures until the end of the elections, likely expanding physical, informative, and cyber protocols to reduce Chinese influence. The Taiwanese government will likely launch awareness campaigns to inform the Taiwanese people of China’s threats and attacks against the island, likely diminishing Chinese impact on the elections. The NICS will very likely continue its investigations into illegal Chinese contributions to pro-China candidates. The USA, South Korea, and Japan will likely support Taiwan and provide shared intelligence and cybersecurity expertise if the tensions escalate around the election period. 

  • China will likely reinforce its military presence in the Keelung area to discourage foreign military interference with its balloon operations over Taiwan. The PLA will likely conduct military maneuvers in the Taiwan Strait to deter Taiwanese and US military presence by limiting their range for potential military action. China will likely use military presence in contested areas to divert both countries’ civilians’ attention from the upcoming elections, with a roughly even chance of the Chinese military deploying a carrier group. The Chinese carrier group will likely use the Dongfeng aircraft carrier deterrence capabilities to support conducting high-altitude reconnaissance training in the Taiwan Strait and elude Taiwan’s monitoring.    

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[2] Myanmar Military Putting Jailed Deserters Back on Frontlines, The Irrawaddy, December 2023, 


[4] Taiwan reports more suspected Chinese weather balloons crossing Taiwan Strait, Reuters, December 2023,



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