20 February 2017

USA: Carrier Strike Group 1 conducts South China Sea patrol

From Carrier Strike Group One Public Affairs

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Philippine Sea, Feb. 14. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Kurtis A. Hatcher) >>

SOUTH CHINA SEA - Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1, including aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1's guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), and aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, began routine operations in the South China Sea, Feb. 18.

Prior to their operations in the South China Sea, ships and aircraft from within the strike group conducted training off the islands of Hawaii and Guam to maintain and improve their readiness and develop cohesion as a strike group. The strike group recently enjoyed a port visit to Guam and after departing the Marianas, conducted operations in the Philippine Sea.

"The training completed over the past few weeks has really brought the team together and improved our effectiveness and readiness as a strike group," said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander, CSG 1. "We are looking forward to demonstrating those capabilities while building upon existing strong relationships with our allies, partners and friends in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."

USA: Mattis Meets With Singaporean Counterpart

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen on the margins of the Munich Security Conference yesterday, a Defense Department spokesperson said in a statement.

According to the statement, the two defense leaders affirmed the longstanding security partnership between the United States and Singapore and discussed a range mutual security interests, including cooperation on maritime security and countering violent extremism from terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Mattis expressed appreciation for Singapore hosting U.S. forces and emphasized the importance of its contributions to the counter-ISIS coalition, the statement said.

The two counterparts also discussed shared interest in regional stability and the rule of law and the importance of regional architecture and the relationship between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the statement said. With regard to the South China Sea, Mattis and Ng reaffirmed the importance of the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law.

Brunei: Ministry of Defence delegation boards the USS Coronado

USS Coronado (Image: Wiki Commons)
MUARA, Saturday 18 February 2017 – The Deputy Minister of Defence, First Admiral (Retired) Dato Seri Pahlawan Abdul Aziz bin Haji Mohd Tamit led a group of senior Ministry of Defence and RBAF officials to tour aboard the US Navy’s Singapore-based Littoral Combat Ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) which is on four-day visit to Brunei Darussalam. USS Coronado arrived at Muara on 16 February 2017.

Upon arrival, the Deputy Minister of Defence was welcomed by the United States Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam, His Excellency Craig B. Allen and the Commanding Officer of the USS Coronado (LCS 4) from the US Seventh Fleet, Commander Scott W. Larson.

Also in the delegation were Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), Yang Dimuliakan Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Paduka Seri Mohd Tawih bin Abdullah, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Captain (Retired) Abd Rahman bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, RBN, the Commander of Royal Brunei Navy (RBN), First Admiral Pengiran Dato Seri Pahlawan Norazmi bin Pengiran Haji Muhammad, Deputy Permanent Secretary and Senior Officers of the Ministry and the RBAF Officials.

The visit, coordinated by the United States Embassy in Brunei Darussalam, is part of the initiatives in enhancing defence relations between Brunei Darussalam and the United States of America. The visit opens an opportunity for the USS sailors to engage with their counterparts from the RBN. The ship is here for the first time and is in the region as part of its scheduled rotational deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

News Report: Malaysia Police Working With Interpol on Murder Case of N.Korea Leader’s Brother

Kim Jong-Nam (Image: Flickr User - Conecta Abogados)
Malaysian authorities confirmed on Sunday that they were working with Interpol to apprehend alleged accomplices in the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother Kim Jong-nam.

TOKYO (Sputnik) — Malaysian police representatives confirmed that they were "cooperating with international organizations, in particular with Interpol," in the first press conference since the incident, Yonhap news agency reported.

Police added that the investigation was still underway to determine the exact cause of Kim's death, although a poison is suspected to have been used.

Earlier this week, police detained four suspects, two of whom are female (in possession of Vietnamese and Indonesian passports), as well as a Malaysian man believed to be one of the female suspects’ boyfriend. A man with a North Korean passport was arrested on Friday in Kuala Lumpur in connection with the assassination.

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il and older half-brother of Kim Jong-un, was killed as he was preparing to board a flight to Macau on Monday.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Seven Countries Mull Buying Russian Su-30MKI With BrahMos Cruise Missiles

Six countries in Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East consider buying Russia’s new Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets armed with BrahMos cruise missiles, BrahMos Aerospace representative Previn Pahtak told Sputnik.

Chief executive of the Indian-Russian joint venture, Sudhir Mishra, earlier said that the test launch of an airborne version of the Supersonic BrahMos cruise missile from an Su-30MKI was slated within the next two months.

“We have requests from seven countries in Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East, which already have Su-30s. They keep a close eye on the ongoing trials and once we are through, we are going to have many new buyers,” Previn Pahtak said.

He added that BrahMos Aerospace could simultaneously supply airborne cruise missiles for the Indian Air Force and customers abroad.

News Report: Pakistan’s Main Port City Harboring Anti-India Jihadists - Int'l Crisis Group

The report by International Crisis Group points at active collaboration between Pakistani security establishment and anti-India jihadist groups, a claim that New Delhi has long pursued at many international forums.

NEW DELHI (Sputnik) — What may please New Delhi, the Brussels-based think-tank, International Crisis Group (ICG), has declared Karachi, the port city of Pakistan, a hub of anti-India jihadist groups and criminals. In its recently published report, the ICG says these anti-India jihadist groups and criminals more than often work at the behest of the Pakistani army, the country’s most powerful and an alternate power center.

The report comes at a time when Pakistan is facing a series of terror attacks, including the latest Islamic State suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine (Islamic mysticism) near Karachi, which has reportedly killed over 75 people.

The ICG report says terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, its parent organisation Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Maulana Masood Azhar led Jaish-e-Mohammad and anti-Shia group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have “umbilical links with Karachi's large, well-resourced madrassas”.

News Report: US Navy Strike Group Begins Patrol in South China Sea

WASHINGTON — A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group has begun patrols in the South China Sea, despite a warning from China on Wednesday not to interfere with Chinese sovereignty in the area.

The U.S. Navy announced the group began routine patrols Saturday. The group includes Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

The area where the U.S. group is patrolling is a disputed area; China has been asserting its rule over the waterway despite territorial claims from a number of other east Asian nations.

Nations competing with China for claims to parts of the South China Sea include, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Vietnam. Taiwan also claims part of the area.

The U.S. strike group trained off the coasts of Hawaii and Guam in preparation for the patrols.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Latest Terror Attack Deepens Divide Between Pakistan, Afghanistan

Paul Alexander

Pakistan has closed its border with Afghanistan, fired a barrage of artillery into its neighbor’s territory and staged a major domestic crackdown on militant groups, reportedly killing more than 100 suspects, in response to the deadliest terror attack in the country in years.

It was the latest in a series of deadly attacks in both nations that have been claimed by Islamic State. That could provide grounds for a united fight against terrorism but instead seems to be pushing the two countries apart in a flurry of accusations that each side is harboring groups responsible for cross-border attacks.

Thursday’s suicide bombings hit one of Pakistan’s most revered Sufi shrines, killing at least 72 people and injuring scores more.

Scenes of the carnage in Sindh province sent shock waves up through the Pakistani government. It blamed the Jama-ul-Ahrar group, operating out of Afghanistan, for being “behind these barbaric acts of terrorism,” according to a statement from the office of Sartaj Aziz, adviser to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on foreign affairs. Pakistan said it lodged a strong protest with Afghanistan.

The two countries have swapped accusations that not enough has been done to root out extremists launching cross-border attacks from both sides.

According to the statement from his office, Aziz spoke by phone with Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar, saying the fight against terrorism requires close cooperation, particularly in policing the border.

Aziz expressed “serious concern” that Afghanistan had not paid heed to Pakistan’s repeated calls for action against Jama-ul-Ahrar.

News Story: Lotte should avoid playing with fire in letting THAAD in

BEIJING, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- The proposed deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in the Republic of Korea is a threat to regional security and stability, and Lotte Group is one decision away from becoming an accessory to the act.

In the ROK government-proposed deal, a golf course, currently owned by Lotte, would be used for the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, according to ROK media reports.

The Lotte Group board of directors has yet to make its final decision on the land swap deal: Rightly so, they are playing with fire that could inflame regional relations.

Washington and Seoul argue that THAAD is purely a defense system; a protective measure for potential threats from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

China objects for two reasons.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Five facilitators of shrine suicide bombing arrested in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- At least five alleged facilitators involved in Thursday's fatal suicide bombing at a Shrine in south Pakistan have been arrested, local police authority said Sunday.

Inspector General A.D Khawaja, the Police Chief of Pakistan's southern Sindh province, said that three more alleged facilitators of the blast at the Lal Shahbaz Qalanadar shrine were nabbed in ongoing intelligence based operations, increasing the number of arrests to five on Sunday.

Thursday's suicide bombing has so far killed 88 persons and left over 200 others injured.

"Law enforcement agencies have conducted operations along the borders of Sindh and Balochistan provinces arresting three alleged facilitators belonging to Hafeez Barohi Group, a militant group tasked to organize Islamic State (IS) in Sindh," Khawaja said.

The police chief also said that security agencies have also identified the alleged bomber through recording of CCTV cameras installed at the Shrine, however, he declined to share any further details about the bomber and the investigation into the incident.

Read the full story at Xinhua