WAR DRUMS : Map reveals where WW3 could break out in 2021 as experts warn about next big frontier of warfare

SPECULATION is growing about where the next world war may break out in 2021 as global powers modernize their nuclear arsenals and tensions between nations mount.

It comes as a Council on Foreign Relations paper revealed that Taiwan is becoming a “dangerous flashpoint” for the US but the threats posed by Iran, North Korea, and Turkey have not disappeared.

Admiral John Aquilino told Senators that he thinks a possible invasion of Taiwan by President Xi is “much closer than we think”.

The Sun takes a look at where a potential conflict could erupt over the next year.

CONFLICT WITH CHINA

Taiwan — broke away from China in 1949 — but the Chinese ruling party regards the island as a “renegade state”  and has repeatedly vowed to take it back by force if necessary by 2050.

Washington has pursued a strategy of “strategic ambiguity” – where it has persuaded pro-separatist Taiwanese forces not to declare independence while deterring Beijing not to seize the island by force, according to the Daily Beast.

It’s thought that the formal declaration of independence would be the likely trigger for a potential conflict.

Beijing continues to stage war games off the coast of the island in what is widely seen as a dress rehearsal for an invasion.

Navy vessels have intensified drills in the Taiwan Strait and aircraft carriers regularly stalk US vessels in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, Washington is modernizing its nuclear fleet while the likes of China are developing and expanding their arsenal.

Beijing is estimated to have around 250-350 warheads as its nuclear capabilities double, sparking concern.

Beijing continues to stage war games as concerns about a conflict mount

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Beijing continues to stage war games as concerns about a conflict mountCredit: AFP

Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association, told The Sun: “There’s concern to go all around – certainly the development about China rapidly constructing additional silos for intercontinental ballistic missiles is a concern.

“The continued lack of transparency from China about its nuclear force, policies, and plans, and future plans is a concern.”

Beijing is starting to become a prominent player in drone warfare as the country has demonstrated its ability to innovate.

Expert and author Seth J Frantzman said: “China has a real opportunity because it’s a country that is a rising power. It has a lot of resources and it’s willing to innovate.

“It’s entered the scene in a way that’s willing to be flexible – it borrows technology but it also willing to build a whole series of military drones and kind of see what works.”

He referred to China’s dominance of the commercial drone market and suggested that their next step would be to invest in the technology for a military purpose.

Concern about China’s dominance comes as the Biden administration called its rivalry with Beijing the “biggest geopolitical test” of this century.

But, the White House appears determined to strengthen partnerships rather than escalate fears of a potential conflict.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “You’ll hear me talk a lot about partnerships and the value of partnerships. My goal is to strengthen relationships.”

A PROBLEM LIKE KOREA

Ever since 1948, North Korea has framed itself in opposition to Washington and is intent on driving wedges between Joe Biden and his allies.

There have been flashpoints of escalating conflict particularly during the 1990s and when the rhetoric between Kim-Jong Un and Donald Trump escalated.

Edward Howell, an expert on US-North Korean relations at Oxford University, said the DPRK remains a threat to US security as the country tries to create tensions between Washington and its allies.

He said Pyongyang appears to show “very little intention” of abandoning its nuclear program, warning the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula appears “extremely unrealistic and unlikely”.

He said the international community must find an alternative way how to address the nuclear threat.

Dr Jeffrey Lewis, of Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies, once said: “We’re going to have to live with North Korea’s ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons.”

Last month, Kim Jong-un reportedly said he is preparing for a “military confrontation” with the US.

He said Pyongyang should be ready for both dialogue and confrontation with Washington.

THE IRANIAN HEADACHE

Prof. Stephen Zunes, of the University of San Francisco, told Al-Jazeera that the conflict in Iraq between Iranian and American forces “intensified” after  Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in 2018.

And, Joe Biden has shown he’s not reluctant to launch drone strikes when it comes to protecting the safety of US troops.

The president ordered strikes on two targets in Syria and one in Iraq last month.

Pilots targeted their drone facilities that were used to attack US troops in Iraq.

The sites were used by the militia groups including Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, according to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

The airstrikes were blasted by Iraq’s Ministry of Defense as officials accused Washington of an “unacceptable violation” of Iraqi sovereignty.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said Washington was taking the wrong path.

The US should change its behavior and let the regional people establish security without Washington’s interference.”

Saeed Khatibzadeh, Iranian Foreign Ministry

He said: “Instead of emotional actions and creating tensions and problems in the region, the U.S. should change its behavior and let the regional people establish security without Washington’s interference.”

Biden pledged that Iran wouldn’t get a nuke “on his watch”.

Reviving the nuclear pact is arguably one of Biden’s most important foreign policy missions.

Tensions between the US and Iran have slowly deteriorated since the late 1970s and the death of top general Qasem Soleimani potentially pushed the countries to the brink of war.

Iran was incorporated into George W Bush’s “Axis of Evil” in 2002.

Tehran announced that it would be stepping out of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal in July 2018 branding it “horrible” and “one-sided”.

Soleimani was killed in a targeted attack – ordered by Trump after Iranian-backed militias had fired rockets at US targets – outside Baghdad’s airport in January 2020.

NOT-SO TURKISH DELIGHT

The Biden Administration inherited a deteriorating set of relations with Turkey.

President Erdogan described relations with the White House as “more tense” than they had been under the three previous Administrations.

Biden is sympathetic to the Kurds in Syria which Ankara views as a “terrorist organization”.

It marks a continuation of Barack Obama’s approach who supported the Kurdish population in the fight against ISIS.

Max Hoffman, of The Center for American Progress, said: “Syria remains the bloodiest and intractable conflict of the past decade and a major source of U.S.-Turkish tension.”

Biden irritated Erdogan more when he recognized the massacres of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in 1915 as “genocide”.

The Turkish president branded the labeling “baseless, unjust and harmful to ties”.

And in May, Erdogan accused Biden of “writing history with bloody hands” after Washington approved weapon sales to Israel during its conflict with Hamas.

Differences between Washington and Ankara remain but Nicholas Danforth, of the Brookings Institute, said: “Rather than appear over-eager to improve relations Washington should simply leave the ball in Ankara’s court.

“This means staying the course while minimizing Turkey’s ability to disrupt U.S. and European interests.”

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