19 August 2017

USA: DoD Announces Start of Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2017 — South Korea and U.S. Combined Forces Command will hold the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise Aug. 21-31, defense officials announced today.

Ulchi Freedom Guardian is a computer-simulated defensive exercise designed to enhance readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula, defense officials said. About 17,500 U.S. service members will participate, with about 3,000 coming from installations outside South Korea, the officials said.

Multinational Participation

U.S. forces will join military forces from major South Korean units representing all services, as well as South Korean government participants. In addition, United Nations Command forces from seven nations, including Australia, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, will participate in the exercise.

Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission observers will monitor the exercise to ensure it complies with the 1953 armistice agreement, defense officials said. Training exercises like Ulchi Freedom Guardian are carried out in the spirit of the Oct. 1, 1953, South Korean-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty and in accordance with the armistice, the officials added.

"These exercises also highlight the longstanding military partnership, commitment and enduring friendship between the two nations, help to ensure peace and security on the peninsula, and reaffirm U.S. commitment to the alliance," the defense officials said.

News Report: China Concerned by US, Japan’s Remarks on Disputed Senkaku Islands

Beijing expressed concern over the recent joint remarks by Washington and Tokyo, which reaffirmed Japan’s control over the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands in the East China Sea, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — On Thursday, a meeting between the US and Japanese officials took place in Washington. The sides said they opposed any actions of third parties, which could undermine Japan’s control over the islands and reaffirmed that the Article 5 of the US-Japan security treaty applies to the disputed archipelago.

"The so-called the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security is a product of the Cold War and should not be used as a support for Japan's illegal claims or to undermine China's territorial sovereignty and other relevant interests … The Chinese side strongly urges the US and Japan to adopt a responsible attitude on the relevant issue, stop make erroneous remarks and do more things that are conducive to regional peace and stability," the statement, attributed to the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, read.

News Report: India Begins Major Overhauling of Country’s Coastal Security

With a coastline of more than 7500 kilometers, India aims to equip its coast guards with 175 ships & 110 aircraft in next five years.

New Delhi (Sputnik) – After a delay of more than a decade to fill the gaps in coastal security, India has finally expedited the process to add more ships, aircraft, and high-speed interceptor boats to Indian Coast Guard, the country’s smallest armed force.

On Thursday, private defense firm Larsen & Toubro (L&T) delivered two more high-speed interceptor Ships (C-433 and C-434) to Indian Coast Guard near Chennai, seven months ahead of contractual schedule. The boats are part of a $200 million deal under which the company has to deliver 54 interceptors.

“Made of aluminum alloy hull with waterjet propulsion, these ships have a speed of over 45 knots with excellent maneuverability and are ideally suited for the high interception,” L&T said in a statement.

News Report: India-China Flag Meeting Inconclusive; Beijing Won't Acknowledge Latest Scuffle

As the protracted standoff at Doklam shows no respite, fresh clash among soldiers at other areas strongly signal an escalation of conflict between the two south Asian powers.

New Delhi (Sputnik) – Senior army officials of India & China held a crucial flag meeting on Wednesday to discuss the way out of the ongoing stand-off at Doklam. The alleged attempt by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to breach the de-factor border at Ladakh was also discussed during the meeting.

Indian defense ministry officials refused to divulge details of the meeting, but sources told Sputnik that the meeting at Chusul in Leh district of Jammu and Kashmir in India was inconclusive. There was a loose agreement for “strengthening of existing mechanisms to maintain peace and tranquility.”

News Story: Japan seeks new missile defense ‘assets,’ increased cyber cooperation

CGI of an Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System
By: Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — Japan is seeking new missile defense assets in light of the North Korean threat, while also looking at ways to expand a 2015 defense agreement with the United States.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, speaking Thursday at the State Department following a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, said that the threat from Pyongyang is driving Japan to look to accelerate certain defense decisions.

Among those changes is an increased focus on missile defense capabilities. In his opening comments, Onodera, speaking through a translator, said “we will continue to promote cooperation in ballistic missile defense, including acquisition of new assets,” a signal that the Japanese government would consider adding to its defensive capabilities.

While nothing official was announced during the 2+2, the Japan Times newspaperreported shortly before the event that officials expect to procure an Aegis Ashore missile defense system. The same report, citing government sources, said the Ministry of Defense is pushing to speed up planned procurement of another Aegis destroyed.

Japan currently has missile defense systems aboard its Aegis class ships, along with Patriot systems on the ground. If Japan sought the Aegis Ashore system, it would join Romania and, by 2018, Poland as partner nations using that design.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: India approves deals for Apache helicopters, maritime engines

AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter
By: Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI ― The Indian government this week cleared long-pending deals for six Boeing Apache attack helicopters and two Zorya marine engines from Ukraine.

The two projects were cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council, which is headed by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley. Formal contracts will be awarded in the next four to six months, a Ministry of Defence official said.

Under the deal, the Indian Army will acquire six Apache attack helicopters for about $650 million. They will be equipped with Hellfire and Stinger missiles.

The Army, which currently has no attack helicopters as part of its inventory, requires 39 Apache helicopters, but the Defence Acquisition Council only cleared six, the MoD official noted.

In 2012, Boeing was awarded a $1.3 billion order for 22 Apache AH-64D helicopters for the Indian Air Force. The deliveries will begin mid-2017 and will include 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles and 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: DPRK slams South Korean president for north policy

PYONGYANG, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Friday slammed South Korean President Moon Jae-in for his policy towards the north and his close cooperation with the United States.

It is the first time for DPRK to make Moon personally responsible for his handling of the north-south relations since he came to power about 100 days ago.

The official daily Rodong Sinmun criticized the South Korean leader, who in a Tuesday speech asserted that Seoul's "big challenge at present" is an "issue of the north's nukes and missile."

Moon made the speech on the occasion of marking the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule.

The newspaper accused Moon of intending to "kick the buck for the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula to the DPRK and carry out his treacherous 'north policy' with the backing of outsiders."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Japan's Abe holds talks with top U.S. military officer

TOKYO, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks Friday with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff on Japan-U.S. alliance and regional tensions.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford told Abe at the meeting that the bilateral alliance between the two countries remained solid.

"The nature of our bilateral relationship, particularly at the military level, is rock solid," Dunford was quoted as saying.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China urges Japanese ambassador to India to be discreet on Doklam standoff

BEIJING, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Friday that the Japanese ambassador to India should not wag his tongue too freely on the standoff between China and India in the Dong Lang (Doklam) area.

Spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a routine press briefing that there is no territorial dispute in that area and that the nature of the incident is that Indian troops illegally crossed the already delimited Sikkim section of the China-India boundary into Chinese territory.

Read the full story at Xinhua


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Story Quote: "Hua said, stressing that it is India, not China, that is trying to create trouble and change the status quo."

PacificSentinel: China LYING again!

News Story: China calls on U.S., Japan to stop remarks on Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands, South China Sea

BEIJING, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called on the United States and Japan to stop making incorrect remarks on the Diaoyu (Senkaku in Japan) Islands and the South China Sea on Friday.

Media reported that the United States and Japan on Thursday reaffirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty applies to China's Diaoyu Islands and expressed grave concerns about the situation in the South China Sea.

In response, spokesperson Hua Chunying said China's position on the Diaoyu Islands and the South China Sea remains consistent and clear, and the Chinese government and its people have unswerving determination and will to safeguard its territorial sovereignty.

The U.S.-Japan security treaty is a product of the Cold War, which should not be used as an excuse for Japan's illegal claims and to harm China's territorial sovereignty and related rights, she said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Military Commander Says 80 Soldiers Under Siege In Faryab

By Aref Musavi

A military commander in Faryab province – in Afghanistan’s north – on Friday said that at least 80 Afghan National Army soldiers were under siege by insurgents during the past 20 days.

Captain Farid, commander of the 3rd Battalion of 3rd Company of 209 Shaheen Military Corps in Faryab, said the soldiers’ location is in Chinaee Camp in Ghormach district.

Two of the soldiers were injured 10 days ago, but their injuries have not been treated well, he said.

He said they have not received ammunition so far and if they do not receive support, they will be arrested by the Taliban.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Turkey, Indonesia team up in defense, enhance military ties

KAPLAN MT tank
YUNUS PAKSOY

As part of its defense strategy, Ankara is enhancing cooperation with Jakarta to boost bilateral projects in defense industries and the sharing of military experience

High-level diplomatic sources in Ankara told Daily Sabah that Ankara and Jakarta have recently intensified efforts to jointly develop defense industry mechanisms and share military experience.

In this respect, a prototype for the Turkish-Indonesian tank has already been created and is set to partake in an official military parade in Jakarta in October. The sources did not provide the number of tanks that would be produced, but demand will be a determining factor.

Defense industry experts said the tank will weigh around 35 tons, and will have a 700-horsepower engine. There will be two tanks in the first leg of production, one for Turkey and one for Indonesia. The development cost for the medium-weight tank is estimated at $11.5 million. The FNSS, a subsidiary of Nurol Holding, which operates in the industry, eyes the production of 40 tanks, while that number could go up to 200 if Indonesia is satisfied.

The KAPLAN MT tank is expected to make a powerful contribution due to its firepower and large ammunition options as well as its superior agility. A CMI Cockerill 3105 tower, equipped to fire high-pressured 105mm shells, provides the tank's firepower.

One of the striking points in the joint venture is the production of submarines. The senior sources stressed that Indonesia wants to gain know-how and the deal is near completion. Experts said that the Turkish defense industry is producing six submarines in Turkey's Gölcük shipyard under the license of ThyssenKrupp. The first submarine is set to be delivered in 2021.

Read the full story at Daily Sabah

News Story: Houthi Rebels Carry Out Series of Bomb-Boat Attacks

Saudi coalition forces have been on guard in the port of Mokha after a recent series of attacks by remote-controlled, bomb-laden boats operated by Houthi rebels. The Houthi forces have had success with this tactic before: in January, they damaged the Saudi frigate Al-Madinah with a remote-controlled boat, and they nearly struck a petroleum product terminal at Jazan, Saudi Arabia in April. 

On July 29, the rebels allegedly drove another remote-controlled boat into a pier at Mokha, Yemen, according to a statement from the coalition. It detonated near berthed vessels, but did not cause any significant damage. The Saudi military claimed that the Houthi rebels had attacked the port, thereby "disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid to Yemen, in particular medicines used to fight the rampant cholera epidemic." (The United Nations asserts that an ongoing Saudi blockade of Yemeni ports is contributing to widespread famine and disease.)

The Houthi forces claimed responsibility for an attack on the same date, but gave a different account. Official Houthi outlet Saba said that a bomb boat struck a UAE naval vessel at a position off the coast of Mokha, killing 12 and wounding 23 more. According to this account, the UAE warship was disabled by the blast and by a series of secondary explosions, and will require repair before it returns to service. Saba also claimed that a UAE minesweeper was damaged in the attack. 

Read the full story at MarEx

News Story: AFP urges gov’t - Raise Chinese incursions in WPS

MANILA, Philippines - The military wants to bring Chinese incursions at sandbars in the West Philippine Sea before the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism (BCM).

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Gen. Restituto Padilla broached the idea after the military affirmed reports of the presence of Chinese vessels near Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“We will work to clarify all of these things and there is a mechanism that is built-in in our current relationship, which is called the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, that has already been initiated before,” Padilla said.

The BCM was formed by the Philippines and China to address concerns in the disputed seas.

The first BCM was held last May in Guiyang, China – the venue chosen by President Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Through the BCM, both parties can raise issues surrounding the maritime claims in a bid to avoid violent confrontation between the two countries.

“It would be best to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) what happened to this mechanism because this is the proper forum to address those issues,” Padilla said.

Earlier, the DFA reported that a second meeting is forthcoming within the year where the Philippines can further bring its concerns. 

Read the full story at PhilStar


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News Story: Trump orders elevation of cyber warfare unit

WASHINGTON, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he has ordered the military to elevate its cyber warfare unit to a stand-alone command.

Under the directive, the U.S. Cyber Command, which currently comes under the Strategic Command, will join the ranks of unified commands with oversight over military operations in the Pacific, the Middle East and elsewhere.

"I have directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations," Trump said in a statement.

The elevated command will "strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation's defense," he said. The move demonstrates "our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries," he added.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: JCS chief nominee expects air superiority to be secured in 3 days in peninsula contingency

Jeong Kyeong-doo (Image: Wiki Commons)
SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- Jeong Kyeong-doo, the nominee for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) chairman, said Friday that South Korea can secure air superiority within three days in case of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula, highlighting its war fighting capabilities amid heightened cross-border tensions.

During his parliamentary confirmation hearing, the Air Force general also dismissed growing calls for the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear arms, stressing Seoul's adherence to its long-held denuclearization principle.

"It is hard to straightforwardly explain this, but I believe air superiority can be secured within at least three days in the event of a contingency on the peninsula," Jeong said, apparently referring to the aerial power of the South Korea-U.S. security alliance.

The reclusive state has recently escalated tensions by test-firing long-range missiles last month and hardening its warlike rhetoric against Seoul and Washington. The provocations triggered fiery remarks from U.S. President Donald Trump, which stoked fears about a potential armed conflict on the peninsula.

Jeong apparently hinted that the allies' combined forces can neutralize the North's air defense system within a short span of time with their overwhelming conventional aerial combat assets such as high-end fighters and precision-guided missiles.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: (RoK) One soldier killed, six injured in blast during artillery drill

South Korean Army K9 Thunder Self-Propelled Artillery
SEOUL/CHEORWON, South Korea, Aug. 16 (Yonhap) -- One Army soldier was killed and six others were injured Friday in an explosion during an artillery firing drill, the military said.

The blast occurred on the shooting range of a front-line Army unit in Cheorwon, some 88 kilometers north of Seoul, at 3:19 p.m., according to an Army officer.

Seven servicemen were rushed to a hospital and one of them, a 27-year-old sergeant first class, died during the transport, the officer said.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Allies to conduct military drills similar to last year's - (RoK) military

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military said Friday that Seoul and Washington will stage joint military drills starting next week at a similar level to those last year, despite North Korea's warning of a "catastrophe" over the exercises.

The allies' Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises will kick off Monday and run until Aug. 31. North Korea has long denounced the drills as war rehearsal for a northern invasion. It is a computerized command post exercise (CPX) without field maneuvers.

"This year's military drills will be similar in size to those conducted last year," an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff told a press briefing.

Seoul's defense ministry said that it has not considered whether to adjust the size of the drills. But this year's exercises will involve smaller U.S. forces compared to last year.

The upcoming exercises are expected to involve about 17,500 U.S. servicemen including around 3,000 forces outside of South Korea. Last year, the drills brought in some 25,000 U.S. soldiers including about 2,500 forces from the U.S. mainland and the U.S. Pacific Command.

Some 50,000 South Korean forces will join the drills, according to the ministry.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Chinese ambassador urges back to basics for resolution to THAAD row

A THAAD Ballistic Missile Interceptor test launch
SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- China's top envoy in South Korea on Friday called for the two neighbors to get back to the basics in diplomacy in order to resolve the current row that is overshadowing the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties next week.

South Korea and China have been at odds over the deployment of a U.S. missile shield called THAAD being installed in South Korea, which Beijing claims could harm its strategic interest.

"Looking ahead, sticking to the basics, holding hands and going forward, I am sure that China-South Korea relations will be able to usher in a new and beautiful future after getting over the hurdles," Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong said at a forum in Seoul.

The forum was held to review the progress in relations since the two countries established diplomatic ties a quarter century ago.

Read the full story at YonhapNews


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Story Quote: "The ambassador said that the basics refer to respecting each other's key interests and desires"

PacificSentinel: Hey China, one of South Korea's "key interests" is national survival from North Korean aggression via it's Ballistic Missiles, so the deployment of THAAD, a Missile Defence System is an obvious move, especially since it's worked first time, every time it's been tested, SO, maybe it's time China started "respecting each other's key interests" instead of demanding South Korea do as you "desire" despite their "key interests" to the contrary.

News Story: U.S. lawmaker calls for 'massive cyber-attack' on N. Korea

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- The United States should carry out a "massive cyber-attack" on North Korea to disable its capabilities to launch missiles, an American lawmaker said Thursday.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, made the case as tensions with North Korea have spiked over its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

Just last week U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to rain "fire and fury" on Pyongyang, to which the North Korean leadership responded with plans to fire ballistic missiles towards Guam.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: S. Korea, U.S. defense ministers agree to closely coordinate against N.K. threats

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- The defense ministers of South Korea and the United States agreed to continue their close coordination in responding to North Korea's threats, the Pentagon said Thursday.

South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke by phone Wednesday to discuss issues related to the countries' alliance, according to Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White.

Mattis congratulated Song on his confirmation as defense minister. The two will be meeting in Washington later this month.

"Both Secretary Mattis and Minister Song strongly condemned North Korea's second intercontinental ballistic missile test on July 28 and resolved to continue to closely coordinate responses to the North Korean threat," White said.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Mattis vows 'immediate, specific' actions to intercept N.K. missile

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis 
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- The United States would take immediate and specific actions to take down a North Korean missile should it be fired toward any of its allies, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday.

Mattis made the remark during a press conference following a so-called "2+2" meeting involving the foreign and defense ministers of the U.S. and ally Japan.

"We would take immediate, specific actions to take it down," he said in response to a question about what the U.S. would do if North Korea launched ballistic missiles toward the territory of its allies.

Just last week, the communist regime threatened to fire four intermediate-range ballistic missiles over Japan into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam. After U.S. President Donald Trump warned the military was "locked and loaded," North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suspended the plan Tuesday.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: New US envoy, Abe vow to fortify alliance amid N. Korea threat

U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty
(Image: Wiki Commons)
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- New U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday, with both expressing the will to work to strengthen the countries' alliance in light of heightened concern over North Korea.

Hagerty said after the meeting that he is convinced Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump are on the same page on North Korea, which last week threatened to fire ballistic missiles across Japan to waters near the U.S. territory of Guam in the western Pacific.

"I think that the prime minister and President Trump see the situation identically," Hagerty told reporters after his "very constructive dialogue" with Abe at the latter's office.

"We are working together very closely, and we're examining every option that we have to contain the (North Korean) regime," Hagerty said.

At the outset of the meeting, Abe told Hagerty of his hope that "we will be able to work together to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance."

Read the full story at The Mainichi

News Story: US Osprey takes part in joint drill in Japan despite safety fears

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- A controversial U.S. military Osprey aircraft took part Friday in a joint exercise between the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

The MV-22 tilt-rotor transport aircraft joined the exercise despite local opposition, after the central government withdrew an earlier request to the United States to stop flying the plane for a period of time following a fatal crash of an Osprey off Australia.

The accident record of Ospreys, which take off and land like helicopters but cruise like airplanes, has raised concern in Japan.

Friday's exercise, open to the press, is the first time an Osprey has participated in Japan-U.S. joint drills since one of the aircraft based in Okinawa was involved in the Aug. 5 deadly crash in waters off Australia.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Tuesday that up to six Ospreys would join the exercise.

Read the full story at The Mainichi

News Story: Japan to provide $500 mil. for Indo-Pacific maritime security

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono
WASHINGTON (Kyodo) -- Japan will provide a total of $500 million in aid for coastal states in the Indo-Pacific in the three years to 2019 to help boost maritime security there, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Thursday.

The measure was apparently in response to China's aggressive pursuit of extensive maritime claims.

Kono made the announcement during a joint news conference after a meeting of the foreign and defense ministers of Japan and the United States in Washington.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said separately that aid recipients include the Philippines and Vietnam, both of which are embroiled in territorial disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea.

Read the full story at The Mainichi

18 August 2017

USA: Pacific commanders discuss advancing Indo-Asia-Pacific maritime security

By Lt. Timothy Gorman, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

Pacific Warfighter Symposium participants gather for a group photo with Adm. Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, Aug. 14. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Phillip Pavlovich) >>

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Twenty-five commanding officers from throughout the U.S. Pacific Fleet convened Aug. 14-15 during the second annual Pacific Warfighter Symposium (PWS) held at U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters.

Originally called the Far East Commanders' Conference, this by-commanders, for-commanders forum provides an opportunity to discuss how best to advance Indo-Asia-Pacific regional maritime security while broadening operational perspectives across aviation, surface, submarine, and SEAL leadership.

“The expansive Pacific theater and the dynamic growth of technologies makes this face-to-face gathering as important as ever,” said symposium director, Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass. “Other navies aren’t standing still and our combat unit leadership needs to understand winning battles in an increasingly competitive maritime environment demands our best.”

News Report: Pyongyang - Upcoming US-Seoul War Games Will Result in ‘Catastrophe’

The US and South Korea are planning to move forward with annual military exercises called Ulchi Freedom Guardian early next week despite warnings issued by North Korea’s KNCA news agency that the drills will “will further drive the situation on the Korean Peninsula into a catastrophe.”

The war games are not taken lightly in Pyongyang, Radio Sputnik Loud & Clear host Brian Becker said Tuesday. Indeed, the South Korean defense minister told legislators in Seoul that there’s a "great possibility" the UFG drills will prompt the North to "carry out strategic or tactical provocations to protest the latest UN sanctions and the UFG exercises."

The war of words between North Korea and the US will not interfere in US Forces South Korea’s plans to conduct the routine training operation, which involves tens of thousands of US and South Korean personnel. Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the country’s top ranking military adviser, told reporters in Beijing on Thursday that the UFG exercises were not up for debate "at any level" and that he has advised the White House not to halt them because of North Korean threats.

News Report: Pakistan Slams US for Declaring Anti-India Kashmir Group as 'Terrorist'

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan has criticized the United States for designating Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest militant group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Kashmir region, as a “foreign terrorist” organization.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria told reporters Thursday that Islamabad is “disappointed” at the U.S. decision. He said that Kashmir is an internationally recognized territorial dispute between Pakistan and India, and there have been U.N. Security Council resolutions pending implementation for decades.

“The 70-year-old indigenous struggle of Kashmiris in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir remains legitimate. The designation of individuals or groups supporting the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination as terrorist is completely unjustified,” Zakaria said.

The U.S. State Department added Hizbul Mujahideen to its list of global “terrorist” organizations on Wednesday, saying the action is a bid to deny the group “the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks.” It said the group has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including a bombing in Kashmir more than two years ago that injured 17 people.

News Report: Taliban Letter to Trump Is Tactic to Counter Pressure

Afghan Taliban Terrorist's
Nazrana Ghaffar

The Afghan Taliban's "open letter" to President Donald Trump calling for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, is aimed at taking pressure off the group as Washington presses Pakistan to crack down on the allied Haqqani terror network, analysts say.

The letter, which was made public Tuesday, comes as Trump continues to cobble together his Afghan policy. There had been strong speculation the policy would be released at the NATO summit in late May, but it has yet to be finalized. U.S. commanders have said the military situation has ground to a "stalemate."

The White House says Trump plans to meet Friday with his security team and Vice President Mike Pence at Camp David to examine the options, which range from a troop surge, as requested by General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to a complete pullout. Other options include turning over the mission to private contractors.

Forced out of power by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban has remained a destabilizing force in the international effort to foster reconstruction in a country plagued by extremism. The group is an important player that can't be overlooked, but it has failed to come to the negotiating table, instead pursuing attacks and intimidation, while increasing the territory that it holds over the past year.

News Report: US Close to Long-term Commitment to Afghan War, Top US General Says

General Joe Dunford (Image: Wiki Commons)
Carla Babb

BEIJING — The top U.S. general says the Trump administration is very close to a long-term policy commitment to Afghanistan that will address a call by General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for more international troops to end the stalemate between Afghan forces and the Taliban.

The comments come from General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a day after a U.S. soldier was killed and another American and Afghan soldier were injured during a military operation against Islamic State militants in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

A military spokesman in Afghanistan told VOA the incident happened Wednesday during a joint operation against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. This is the 10th death of a U.S. military member in Afghanistan this year, most of them killed during operations against Islamic State.

President Donald Trump heads to Camp David Friday to discuss a new strategy on the war in Afghanistan with his national security team.

News Story: US should consider no-fly zone for North Korea missile tests [Commentary]

A THAAD Interceptor missile test launch (File Photo)
By: Hans Binnendijk  and Robert Bell

North Korea’s July 4 and 28 missile tests indicating a potential intercontinental ballistic missile capability have prompted an urgent U.S. debate over a range of response options. However, none of the approaches advocated to date show much promise in achieving the goal of preventing North Korea from acquiring ICBMs without starting a major war.

More attention should be paid to America’s growing missile defense capability, which, to his credit, U.S. President Donald Trump has said he plans to accelerate. If this capability has developed as significantly as we believe, then the U.S. might already be in a position to expand Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ pledge to shoot down any North Korean missile headed toward Guam. The U.S. might, if this capability is verified, declare its intention to intercept any further North Korean ICBM flight tests, regardless of trajectory.

The other options under discussion are unlikely to achieve both elements of this goal. Threatening “fire and fury” retaliation might deter a North Korean attack, but it is unlikely to halt further testing. Tougher sanctions to stimulate negotiations should be continued, but North Korea’s past negotiating record makes this option a long shot. And while military preemption could halt North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the risk of catastrophic war is unacceptable.

By contrast, a new “no fly” policy for ICBM flight tests would be defensive in nature. The U.S. would not be the first to fire a missile. It would only respond to further North Korean ICBM testing — testing that the U.N. Security Council member states, including China, have implored Pyongyang not to continue. Such an “active denial” policy would protect our vital national security interests by precluding the testing successes North Korea would need to have adequate confidence to operationalize its ICBMs and have confidence in their precision.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: India mine-sweeper program hits another roadblock

By: Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI ― Goa Shipyard Limited’s quest to build 12 high-tech mine countermeasure vessels for $5 billion, which is already delayed, has hit a roadblock over the selection of propulsion engines.

According to a source in India’s Ministry of Defence, the Navy supports a multi-vendor tender process for the engine selection, but Goa Shipyard, citing reservations from Kangnam Corporation of South Korea, prefers a single-vendor nomination of German MTU engines.

Goa Shipyard of India, which is state-owned, was nominated by the MoD to make 12 MCMVs for the Indian Navy. Kangnam was selected to provide the technology needed to build the vessels because India does not possess the required technology.

The Kangam-built MCMVs for the South Korean Navy are fitted with German MTU engines, and the company is offering the same to India. However, the Indian Navy is skeptical about the suitability of German MTU engines for Indian MCMVs because of the differences in geographical location and areas of operation.

India’s coastline is about 7,500 kilometers ― larger than that of South Korea.

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News Story: Netherlands, Australia selected to house F-35 parts

By: Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — The Netherlands and Australia will serve as regional centers of F-35 equipment as part of the fifth-generation fighter’s global footprint, the Pentagon announced Wednesday.

The move is part of a broader plan, launched in 2014, to create service hubs around the world for the various F-35 users. Countries have bid on the right to host parts of the sustainment program — such as Italy having a final assembly and check-out facility, or Japan having a heavy maintenance facility — because of the impact such facilities could have on local economies.

This particular aspect of the sustainment network will handle inventory management for Europe and the Pacific. Parts and supplies will be held and organized at these hubs, then shipped to various nations in the region, as opposed to those parts being shipped from manufacturers around the globe in what the program office says will be a cost-saving measure.

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News Story: General Atomics targets first big international Avenger drone sale

General Atomics Avenger (Image: Wikipedia)
By: Valerie Insinna

POWAY, Calif. — Fewer than a dozen Avenger drones have been purchased since the product first flew in 2009, but General Atomics believes it may be able to sell about 90 aircraft in the next few years to a single international buyer, its president said Wednesday.

General Atomics has struggled to find a major customer for the Avenger, also called the Predator C, since the collapse of the U.S. Air Force’s MQ-X program and the U.S. Navy’s UCLASS program, both of which sought out UAVs that could survive contested environments.

But speaking to reporters on Aug. 16, GA president David Alexander said the company was engaged with an unnamed foreign nation on a potential Avenger purchase.

“A quantity of 90. It would be a big program,” he said.

Robert Walker, senior director of strategic development, added that “a lot of work” needs to be done to refine the requirements and that details were still being ironed out.

Although GA officials would not spell out which country is interested in the UAV, all signs point to India. In April 2016, Reuters reported that India’s Air Force had inquired about the potential procurement of up to 100 Predator Cs.

Even if India decides to press on with the sale — which is especially uncertain given the country’s fondness for rapidly changing weapons acquisition plans — it is unclear whether the United States would agree to export the armed UAVs. Unmanned aircraft are currently subject to the Missile Technology Control Regime, which spells out a “presumption of denial” for Category I systems like the Avenger.

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