30 April 2014

AUS: Assistant Minister for Defence talks LAND 400 in Adelaide

The Assistant Minister for Defence, Stuart Robert MP, together with South Australian Senator David Fawcett spent the afternoon speaking to local business and community leaders about Army’s LAND 400 Combat Vehicle program at the historic Adelaide Oval.

“The LAND 400 program is the Australian Army’s largest, most expensive and most complex combat vehicle program and will provide Army with an essential capability for future land operations,” Mr Robert said.

“I am very pleased to be in Adelaide with David to talk to over 140 local leaders, industry representatives and Defence SA about Army’s LAND 400 Combat Vehicle program and the significant opportunities it could bring to South Australia.”

LAND 400 will allow for the retirement of Australia’s current armoured vehicles including the Australian-Light Armoured Vehicles (ASLAV) and the armoured personnel carriers (M113-AS4) in line with their expected Life of Type, as well as providing new armoured manoeuvre support vehicles.

USA: MPSRON Three participates in Balikatan 2014

USNS 2ND LT John P Bobo
(Image: Flickr user Military Sealift Command)

By Ensign Ben Nichols, Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron 3 Public Affairs

SUBIC BAY, Republic of the Philippines (NNS) -- Maritime Prepositioning Ships Squadron 3 flagship USNS 2ND LT John P. Bobo (T-AK 3008) arrived in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, April 23 for Balikatan 2014.

"Balikatan is an annual Marine Corps bilateral joint exercise encompassing a staff exercise, humanitarian and civic assistance events, and joint field training exercises to improve interoperability and capacity of Armed Forces of the Philippines," said Capt. Leonard Remias, commander of MPSRON 3. "This exercise is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the squadron's ability to deliver Maritime Prepositioning Force equipment and supplies to the Philippines."

News Story: Ukraine Reassures Pakistan on Defense Orders

Al-Khalid Tank (Wiki Info - Image: Wiki Commons)


ISLAMABAD — Ukraine moved to reassure Pakistan that contracts for defense equipment will be honored despite the fallout stemming from its political instability and Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Pakistan, H.E. Volodymyr Rakomov, stressed this in a meeting here today with Pakistani Minister for Defence Production Tanveer Hussain.

According to an official Pakistani press release, Hussain raised concerns with Rakomov over the non-delivery of defense products ordered from Ukraine. The ambassador assured Hussain the contracts would be honored despite what was described as propaganda by states hostile to Ukraine.

“All factories are in full swing and there are no problems of legitimacy in Ukraine as portrayed,” he said.

He added, “All our factories and defense production industries are safe with no penetration of any sort.”

He further assured Hussain that any delays were caused by production issues themselves, not external factors.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

Editorial: US Offers $5 Million Bounty for Chinese Businessman Who Sold Iran Missile Parts

By Ankit Panda

The U.S. is pursuing a Chinese businessman in connection with Iran’s ballistic weapons program.

On Tuesday, the United States Department of State announced a $5 million bounty for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Chinese businessman Li Fangwei. The U.S. is accusing Li of supplying missile parts to Iran and for helping Iran evade weapons and oil sanctions. According to Reuters, “the U.S. Treasury Department said it was sanctioning eight of Chinese businessman Li Fangwei’s Chinese companies for allegedly procuring missile parts for Iran.” Li, also known as Karl Lee, was previously sanctioned by the United States for his alleged role as a principal supplier for Iran’s ballistic missile program.
The State Department, Treasury Department, and Justice Department of the United States are all operating in tandem to coordinate the search for Li. The Justice Department has indicted Li on charges including “conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud, and wire fraud.” In a statement on the indictment, the State Department notes, “According to the Indictment, he (Li) controls a large network of front companies and allegedly uses this network to move millions of dollars through U.S.-based financial institutions to conduct business in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, which prohibit such financial transactions.” 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: North Korea Conducts Artillery Drill Near South Korean Waters

By Ankit Panda

North Korea conducted a live-fire artillery drill near South Korea’s waters.

Continuing a series of provocations that began ahead of annual U.S.-South Korea military exercises, on Tuesday North Korea conducted a live-fire artillery drill near the disputed Northern Limit Line (NLL) that demarcates the maritime border between North and South Korea. Although no shells landed in South Korean waters, the test resembled an earlier exchange in April that prompted South Korea to return fire.
“The North’s shells fell in waters about 3km (2 miles) north of the NLL [Northern Limit Line, the disputed border],” noted a spokesman for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, quoted by Yonhap News. Furthermore, North Korea notified South Korea of its intention to conduct a live-fire drill this time. ”The South Korean military is currently monitoring North Korean artillery units, while maintaining high military readiness,” the spokesman added. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US, Japan to Boost ASEAN Maritime Security

By Scott Cheney-Peters

Hidden in the U.S.-Japan joint statement was a pledge to help Southeast Asia enhance its maritime surveillance.

For those who tracked U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia, the developments have been a mixed bag of steady progress and major agreements notable for their absence. As illustrated by the lack of a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) framework agreement during Obama’s Japan stop, comprehensive multilateral breakthroughs don’t always align with the schedules of diplomatic travels.
But while the TPP’s logjam received its share of publicity, another mooted initiative escaped much attention in the run up to Friday’s U.S.-Japan Joint Statement, except for a tantalizing hint offered by the Yomiuri Shimbun. Citing unnamed sources, the paper said that Japan and the United States had developed a “plan” to help member nations of ASEAN to “strengthen their maritime surveillance capabilities,” in a move “apparently aimed at pressuring China to curb its growing regional ambitions.” The article went on to suggest that this plan would be unveiled during the Joint Statement. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

29 April 2014

Think Tank: Why encouraging US allies in Asia to proliferate isn’t a good idea

By Rod Lyon

In a recent commentary in The National Interest, titled ‘Let Asia go nuclear’, Harvey Sapolsky and Christine Leah outlined a case in favour of the US accepting nuclear proliferation by its allies in the Asia Pacific. The core of their position is that the allies have opted for US nuclear assurances and conventional protection because those are cheaper than constructing their own nuclear arsenals. They suggest that ‘tailored proliferation’ by US allies would ease US burdens and simultaneously allow the states in question to enjoy clearer protection from their own indigenous nuclear arsenals than they do under the existing ‘extended deterrence’ arrangements. And they believe such proliferation wouldn’t be destabilising, because US allies are responsible stakeholders in the regional and global order, and none would be in any hurry to lob a nuclear weapon at anyone else.

Let’s put aside the assertion that the allies chose extended nuclear assurance because it was cheaper—though I don’t believe that was the primary motive for any of the countries. And let’s assume there’s a domestic consensus in each of the allied states to move down the nuclear path—an assumption that might be a bridge too far in the case of South Korea, is a bridge too far in the case of Japan, and several bridges too far in the case of Australia and others. I’m more interested in what happens afterwards—when, say, Japan, South Korea and Australia have proliferated. Surely, the central question must be ‘Can the proliferation chain be terminated at that point?’ Thailand and the Philippines might begin to wonder if they should proliferate too, since other US allies are doing so. And Taiwan, which enjoys a security relationship governed by the Taiwan Relations Act rather than an actual treaty, might begin to harbour similar worries. As for other countries in the region, Indonesia might look askance at Australian proliferation. And Vietnam, living on China’s border, might think it should also begin considering a nuclear option.

AUS: Japanese Minister of Defense visits Stirling and Pearce

Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston and the Japanese Minister of Defense His Excellency Mr Itsunori Onodera met today in Perth for their first official meeting to discuss ways in which the defence relationship between the two nations could deepen.

While in Western Australia, Minister Onodera also visited HMAS Stirling and RAAF Base Pearce to see first hand the operations in support of the search for missing Malaysian flight MH370.

Japan contributed two Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft to the search, as well as a Coast Guard Gulfstream Jet and support personnel to the multinational search effort.

“We are very grateful to Japan for the contribution of these air assets and support personnel to the search and Minister Onodera’s visit has allowed me to thank him personally,” Senator Johnston said.

USA: Pacific Partnership Brings New Look to Multilateral Mission

From U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

<< Lt. Cmdr. Tessica Lee works with a Cambodian Army counterpart, right, during a previous Pacific Partnership mission. (U.S. Navy file photo)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - The U.S. Navy's ninth multilateral Pacific Partnership mission will include an enhanced role for Japan, and simultaneous seaborne and airborne phases, to improve disaster response preparedness in five Southeast Asia host nations beginning in late May.

Directly assisting host nations Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Republic of the Philippines, a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship will serve as this year's primary mission platform, marking the first time Pacific Partnership will be led from a partner nation's ship.

A simultaneous airborne phase - also a first for the U.S. Pacific Fleet's annual humanitarian and disaster response-focused mission - will fly assistance into host nations Indonesia and Timor-Leste.


NAY PYI TAW, MYANMAR, Monday 28 April 2014 – The ASEAN Defence Senior Officials' Meeting (ADSOM) commenced its two days meeting today at the Hotel Royal Ace, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The Meeting was chaired by Colonel Nyein Chan, Director General, Department of International and Internal Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Myanmar / Myanmar's ADSOM Leader.

The Meeting received and discussed the progress of the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) cooperation, namely The Use of ASEAN Military Assets and Capacities in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief; ASEAN Defence Establishments and Civil Society Organizations Cooperation on Non-Traditional Security; ASEAN Peacekeeping Centres Network; ASEAN Defence Industry Collaboration; ASEAN Defence Interaction Programmes; and Establishment of Logistics Support Framework.

Malaysia has volunteered to host the 2nd ASEAN Defence Interaction Programmes in 2015. The Meeting also discussed and considered thoroughly the draft ADMM Three-Year-Work. Program 2014 - 2016 and the draft Joint Declaration of the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting.


CHAOCHUNGSAO PROVINCE, THAILAND, Sunday 27 April 2014 - Brunei Darussalam contributed a contingent of 13 personnel from Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) specializing in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Explosive (CBRE) and Medical Specialist in ASEAN Humanitarian And Disaster Relief Exercise (AHEx14) held in ChaoChungSao Province, Thailand.

The contingent safely arrived at Don Mueang AirForce Base, Thailand and were greeted by the Base Commander.

The scenario for AHEx14 that is currently happening in ChaoChungSao Province, Thailand that on 24 April 2014 (Day-1), Category 4 Tropical Revolving Storm (TRS) Typhoon “CHABA” made landfall bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds. The devastation caused was massive. Affected areas stretch from Patcha Buri Province, Western Thailand up to ChaoChungSao Province, Eastern Thailand. Building collapsed utility supplies cut-off and Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) infractures leaked due to landslide.

The Government of Thailand have declared State of Emergency and seeked assistance from ASEAN Member States, ASEAN Allied Countries and other NGO Locally and Internationally for initial Humanitarian and Disaster Relief phase  before going onto recovery phase. End Stat by The Government of Thailand was for Initial HADR Phase to commence immediately and Recovery Phase will only resume by 3 May 2014.

Industry: Vertical Launch System Installed in First (Australian) Destroyer

Mk 41 VLS (Wiki Info - Image: Wiki Commons)

Six strike-length missile modules for the Hobart Class Vertical Launch System (VLS) were this week installed into Ship 1 Hobart, marking a significant Combat System load out achievement for the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) project.

The VLS MK41 modules are a critical part of the Hobart Class Combat System which will enable the Navy’s new DDG guided missile destroyers to execute air warfare and ship self-defence tasks. It is the first major Combat System element to be loaded into the ship following consolidation.

Each ship will be fitted with six VLS modules, each containing eight cells, giving a total of 48 cells per ship.  Each cell is capable of accepting, storing, preparing for launch, and launching either a single SM-2 Missile or four Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles.

AWD Alliance CEO Rod Equid said the VLS load out is the first multi-module VLS load out and has built on the in-country expertise developed through the Navy’s FFG Upgrade Project which involved installing a single-module VLS.

Industry: Second (Australian) Cape Class Patrol Boat Officially Named

First Cape Class Patrol Boat - Cape St George (File Photo)

Austal Limited is pleased to announce the second-in-series Cape Class Patrol Boat has been officially named Cape Byron during a ceremony held at Austal’s Henderson shipyard in Western Australia today.

Cape Byron is the second of eight boats being built by Austal for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) under a design, construct and in-service support contract. The vessel was launched at Austal’s Henderson shipyard in January 2014 and has since undergone final fit out and sea trials, with final crew familiarisation to be completed prior to delivery to ACBPS in the next few weeks.

The naming ceremony was attended by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Senator Michaelia Cash, and Her Excellency Professor the Honourable Marie Bashir, Governor of NSW, who officially named the vessel after Cape Byron in that state.

News Story: Legislator - Taiwan Stages Largest Drill Since 2000 in Spratlys

TAIPEI — Taiwan this month mobilized hundreds of marines for its largest military exercise since 2000 near disputed islands in the South China Sea, a legislator said Monday.

Lin Yu-fang said the landing drill was held on the Taiwan-administered island of Taiping, part of the Spratlys — a chain which is also claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei.

Lin, a member of parliament’s defense and diplomacy committee, said the task force from two marine companies, armed with mortars and anti-tank rockets, boarded some 20 amphibious assault vehicles for the landing on Taiping on April 10.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Australian Buy Comes at Key Time for F-35 Program


MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA, AND WASHINGTON — When Australia announced it would purchase 58 F-35A joint strike fighters last week, it agreed to the single largest batch of F-35s acquired by an international partner to date — an important milestone for a program that appears headed to smaller domestic buys than planned.

The deal, worth AUS $12.4 billion (US $11.5 billion), also is one of the largest purchases of defense equipment in Australian history.

The latest batch is in addition to the purchase of 14 of the stealth jets previously approved by the Australian government, bringing the total order to 72 aircraft, enough to completely replace the country’s Boeing F/A-18A/B Hornets. Australia has a total requirement of up to 100 F-35As.

The large order is helpful to the F-35 program, which recently had to push some US procurement out to the future.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: PH to buy more planes for Air Force—Aquino

By TJ Burgonio

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday unveiled a plan to acquire more aircraft to boost the capability of the Philippine Air Force.

Presiding over the Air Force change of command in Lipa City, the President said the Armed Forces would purchase eight combat utility helicopters, six close air support aircraft, two-long range patrol aircraft, and radar systems.

“We intend to buy also full-motion flight simulator to improve the training of our pilots,” he said in a speech aired over state-run dzRB radio.

These are on top of the new FA50 from South Korea that will be delivered to the Air Force next year, Mr. Aquino said.

Read the full story at The Inquirer

Editorial: China Is Fine With Obama’s Trip to Asia - Except for Japan

By Shannon Tiezzi

China’s official response to Obama’s Asia trip has been restrained – except for comments on U.S.-Japan relations.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia is drawing to a close this week. Obama arrived in the Philippines, the last stop on his tour, today. As expected, Obama’s trip to Manila was accompanied by the formal signing of a new defense agreement that will give U.S. troops access to certain Philippine military bases. Despite numerous protestations by Obama and Aqunio that the new deal was not targeting China, that’s exactly how popular perceptions paint the new agreement: as a counter-measure to China’s rise. In fact, to many, that’s the entire purpose of the U.S. “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia.
However, despite a flurry of commentary and op-eds on this subject in advance of Obama’s trip, Chinese media and officials are currently reserving judgment on the broader implications. In Monday’s press conference, when asked about China’s take on Obama’s visit to Asia, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang offered a wait-and-see approach. “Whether [the trip] is to counter China or not,” Qin said, “we will tell based on what the U.S. says and does.” Qin expressed China’s hope that U.S. engagement in Asia will follow the Asia-Pacific “trend” of “peace, development and win-win cooperation.”
Even with regards to the new U.S.-Philippines defense cooperation agreement, Qin’s response was restrained. He noted Obama’s repeated reassurances that the U.S. does not intend to contain China, and again said that China will be watching “what the U.S. says and does” to evaluate this claim. Qin also added that the U.S. and China share “a wide range of common interests in the Asia-Pacific,” a more optimistic note than might have been expected after the U.S. inked a defense agreement with one of the most vocal parties in China’s maritime disputes. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: 4 Reasons Why Japan (Still) Doubts US Security Assurances

By Dingding Chen

Japan has plenty of good reasons to remain skeptical of the United States’ commitment to its security.

U.S. President Barack Obama just finished a state visit to Japan last week. In a delayed joint statement released on Friday, the United States, for the first time, clearly said that America’s “commitments under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security … extend to all the territories under the administration of Japan, including the Senkaku Islands. In that context, the United States opposes any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands.” This, perhaps, is the only achievement for Japan as a trade agreement was not reached by the two sides.
Since the U.S. has given Japan a clear assurance in writing to help Japan defend the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, shouldn’t Japan feel reassured? But from a Japanese perspective, Obama’s state visit just makes  the U.S. commitment to Japan’s security less credible. Some scholars contend that such worries are unfounded and irrational. That view is flawed. Actually there are four good reasons why Japan still feels  insecure. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement Bolsters 'Pivot to Asia'

By Ankit Panda

The US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is a boon to the “Pivot to Asia.”

U.S. President Barack Obama returns from Asia with a major deliverable on the security side of the “pivot to Asia”: the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines, signed Monday. Under the agreement, the U.S. military will enjoy greater access to bases across the Philippines archipelago for a 10-year term. The agreement does not amount to a formal basing agreement nor does it imply that U.S. troops or other assets will be stationed in the Philippines permanently. The constitution of the Philippines forbids the country from hosting a permanent U.S. military presence or base.
The agreement was signed by U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. The signing was timed with President Obama’s arrival in Manila— the last leg of his four-nation Asia tour, following visits to Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. According to the Associated PressU.S. troops would be deployed ”on temporary and rotational basis” to the Philippines. Goldberg noted that the agreement will “promote peace and security in the region,” particularly by allowing U.S. and Philippine forces to respond quickly to disasters in the region. For example, last year’s deadly Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines resulted in the U.S. Navy deploying several assets to assist the Philippines. With this new agreement, the Navy’s response time would be increased. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US Pacific Command Plans Responses for Unilateral Chinese Coercion

By Ankit Panda

In order to boost its credibility, the US is gearing up to respond in kind to unilateral Chinese provocations in Asia.

The United States has a vested interest in maintaining the strategic status quo in the Asia-Pacific given that its position as a power in the region could be undermined should China succeed in changing the regional security landscape. As anxiety has grown about China’s intentions following an increase in tensions over the Senkaku/Dioayu dispute between it and Japan, and a host of territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the U.S. military has set up several symbolic responses to possible Chinese moves. A report in the Wall Street Journal highlights the U.S. military’s broad contingency planning for responding to Chinese provocations in the East and South China Sea where territorial disputes abound with several important U.S. allies.

According to the report, the plans comprise everything from a symbolic show force by flying B-2 bombers to more provocative aircraft carrier exercises in the waters around China. The WSJ‘s sources noted that the U.S. response to the Russian annexation of Crimea has unnerved important allies in the region and that this new action plan for the Asia-Pacific strives to make U.S. intentions known to China, which may continue to attempt to coercively change the status quo. The issue driving U.S. planning seems to be credibility — ensuring that the United States’ presence in the Asia-Pacific remains a credible deterrent for China as it strives to pursue its claims to territorial disputes.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: India Looks Far East

Beach in Fiji (Image: Wiki Commons)

By Kailash K. Prasad

A growing presence in the Pacific Islands could have significant benefits for India.

“Five trillion dollars of commerce rides on the sea lanes of the Asia-Pacific each year, and you people sit right in the middle of it.” That was the Commander of the United States Pacific Command, Samuel Locklear speaking of the 8 million people who call 14 islands in the South Pacific home.
As the Pacific Islands, spectators to so many events that have come to define geopolitics since World War II – move out of the periphery of international relations, many powers have been seeking a more comprehensive presence in the region. And as China, through its maritime silk road strategy, and the U.S., through its pivot to Asia, attempt to garner goodwill and influence in the Pacific Islands, India, with its steadily broadening economic and geostrategic interests, seems curiously eager not to be left behind.
Fortunately for New Delhi, a growing development assistance program (PDF) has allowed it to put more meat into what Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahmed termed an “extended ‘Look East Policy’” – which has largely guided New Delhi’s engagement with its eastern neighbors since the early 1990s.
Between joining the Pacific Islands Forum as an observer in 2002 and last year, India committed over $11 million as grants to the Pacific Islands. In 2009, Delhi announced it would increase the annual grants (PDF) it extends to each of the 14 pacific island nations from $100,000 to $125,000. India also gave a $50.4 million credit line to Fiji to help the island nation revamp some of its sugar mills. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: India - Urgent Defense Reforms Needed

By Nitin A. Gokhale

After years of bungling, India’s next prime minister will need to move quickly on both foreign policy and defense reforms.

On April 2, India’s outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, told a conference that: “As a responsible nuclear weapon state that remains committed to non-proliferation, India supports the idea of a nuclear-weapon-free world because we believe that it enhances not just India’s security, but also global security.”
Less than a fortnight later, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), largely expected to lead the next government, sprung a surprise by declaring in its election manifesto that it will “study in detail India’s nuclear doctrine, and revise and update it to make it relevant to [the] challenges of current times.”
That was a surprise, because India’s 15-year old nuclear doctrine that decrees “no-first use” of nuclear weapons was put in place by the last BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. If the BJP indeed comes to power and then delivers on its promise, it would mark a major shift in India’s nuclear policy.
Tweaking or changing the course of India’s nuclear doctrine will surely alter India’s foreign policy too. The challenge for the new government will be to balance India’s own national interest with the current – and fast-changing – geopolitical situation in Eurasia. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

28 April 2014

USA: Bonhomme Richard Offloads 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit

Landing operations during Exercise Ssang Yong 2014

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam D. Wainwright

WHITE BEACH, Okinawa (NNS) -- The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) offloaded Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) after conducting joint-force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, April 24.

During the patrol, Bonhomme Richard and the 31st MEU participated in Exercise Ssang Yong 2014 with their counterparts from the Republic of Korea (ROK).

The exercise was the first to include a joint, combined command and control headquarters which was led by Rear Adm. Hugh Wetherald, commander, Amphibious Forces 7th Fleet; ROK Rear Adm. Chun, Jung-soo, commander, Flotilla Five; Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, commanding general, 3d MEB; and ROK Brig. Gen. Cho, Kang-jae, deputy commander landing force.

News Story: With New Radar, Japan Sends Message to China


TOKYO — With a high-profile groundbreaking ceremony for a small radar station on Yonaguni Island, Japan has drawn a line in the sand about its strategic intent to defend its Nansei Shoto (southwestern island chain) against China, effectively telling Beijing to back off.

The deployment of the “coastal observation unit,” as the Defense Ministry here calls it, will see the deployment of only about 100 troops on a 60-acre site during 2015. But the April 19 groundbreaking ceremony, which included Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, was the top news in newspapers and for the state broadcaster, quite an event for the 11-square-mile subtropical island, population 1,500, hitherto known for its sugar cane production and scuba diving.

Politics and positioning are behind the fanfare for the event, said Masaaki Gabe, professor of international relations and director of the International Institute for Okinawan Studies at the University of the Ryukyus. Yonaguni is only 67 miles east of Taiwan and 93 miles south of the Senkaku Islands, a major source of friction between Japan and China.

Planting boots on an island at the very extremity of Japanese territory — effectively China’s backyard — makes great public relations domestically for the nationalist administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, serving notice of Japan’s determination to push back against China, he said.

“The radar base [set up] by the Ground Self-Defense Forces [GSDF] is not strategically military important now, but politically, it’s extremely important to the Abe administration,” he said.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Indian naval ships visit Thailand

BANGKOK (PTI): Four Indian naval ships visited Thailand's Phuket island as part of a professional exchange cooperation programme, signalling a further boost in defence ties between the two countries which astride one of the strategic international maritime shipping lanes.

Naval exchanges form an important component of the overall bilateral cooperation between India and Thailand.

"The visit of the ships of the 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy to Royal Thai Navy has further enhanced the close cooperation and friendship that exists between the two navies," India's Ambassador to Thailand, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, told PTI.

The four-day visit to Phuket, home to Thailand's Third (Andaman) Naval Command, is significant, said Shringla, who hosted a reception onboard INS Sujata on Wednesday.

Read the full story at Brahmand

Editorial: Pacific Partnership - Can an Expensive Exercise Deliver More Value?

Pacific Partnership 2012 (Image: Flickr user Andrea Guthrie)

By Eileen Natuzzi

Eight years in, it is time to reassess the program, its strengths and its weaknesses.

Since 2006, the U.S. Navy has been conducting Pacific Partnership, a U.S. Defense Department forward readiness humanitarian aid program in the Asia Pacific Region. This program costs U.S. taxpayers roughly $20 million per mission. Captain Jesse Wilson, the 2011 mission commander sees responses to natural disasters in the Pacific as part of Pacific Partnership’s mission. They are a constant reminder that the United States must “be ready and trained to operate collectively and effectively with our partner nations throughout the Pacific.”
Image: Flickr user Official U.S. Navy Page
Over the past year there have been a number of significant natural disasters in the Pacific Region. In January, category 5 Tropical Cyclone Ian slammed into Tonga’s Ha’apai islands, destroying homes and taking down vital communications. Just over a year ago, the Solomon Islands suffered an 8.1 earthquake followed by a deadly tsunami that left many homeless and to this day still living in tent cities. This year, on April 4, the entire island of Guadalcanal experienced devastating flooding after days of rain dumped meters of rainfall on the island, causing rivers to swell and forge deadly new paths through villages. More than 20 percent of the Solomon Island population has been adversely impacted by this latest disaster.
The U.S. Navy and Pacific Partnership did not mobilize to assist with any of these disasters, despite significant on-the-ground logistical issues in delivering relief. This raises some questions: What is the commitment of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Partnership to the Pacific Island region? And is the United States taxpayer getting true value for money? 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Washington’s Flawed Myanmar Policy

Kachin Independence Army (KIA) troops

By David Brenner

Many of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities are growing increasingly disillusioned with America and may turn to China instead.

“The water stays cool inside even if the bottle sits in the sun for the whole day.” Tu Ja proudly explains the virtue of storing water in his 1943 U.S. Army stainless steel flask, one of the few belongings he could save when fleeing his village from the advancing Myanmar army in 2011. The internally displaced person (IDP) holds the bottle against a sun beam entering the dim communal cooking space in one of the countless makeshift camps in Kachin State. The smoke from open fires in the cramped space makes it hard to breath. Yet, Tu Ja goes on telling the story of a water bottle which seems to be as displaced as himself in this remote corner of northern Myanmar. It was given to him by his grandfather who fought with the Kachin Rangers for Detachment 101 of the American Office of Strategic Services against the Japanese on one of the Second World War’s most vicious battlefields. The Kachin, an ethnic minority group, have earned a reputation for being skilled mountaineers without whose courageous and fierce fighting abilities the Allied forces could not have driven the Japanese out of Burma. U.S. soldiers have long left these rugged borderlands in between Myanmar and China. Sadly, war has stayed.
For many decades this area has witnessed various ethnic armed groups struggling for minority rights and political autonomy against central government control. After the breakdown of a 17-year long ceasefire in 2011, conflict escalated again between Naypyidaw and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). Since then, large-scale army offensives against rebel-held positions have displaced more than 100,000 civilians. While this conflict is largely ignored by the international media, international affairs are closely followed in the tea houses of Laiza, a small town nestled on the border of China’s Yunnan province and headquarter of the KIO. “One of our long-term mistakes was to think that we can be allies of the U.S.,” an officer of the 10,000 man-strong Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – the armed wing of the KIO – explains over dinner. “You know, we helped the Americans in the past and we identify with them. After all they brought us Enlightenment: our script and the Bible,” he continues by referring to the Swedish-American missionary Ola Hanson, who spread the gospel in Myanmar’s borderlands and developed an orthography for the Kachin language in the late 19th century. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat

26 April 2014

USA: Boxer ARG, 13th MEU Return from Deployment

From Boxer Amphibious Ready Group Public Affairs

<< USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits San Diego Bay, April 25. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Derek A. Harkins) Image: Flickr user U.S. Pacific Fleet

SAN DIEGO - More than 4,500 Sailors and Marines of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) completed an eight-month deployment April 25 when the ships arrived at Naval Base San Diego.

While deployed, the Boxer ARG/13th MEU served in the U.S. 5th, 6th and 7th Fleet Areas of Responsibility (AOR), providing maritime security operations, crisis response capability, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence.

The Boxer ARG (BOXARG), led by Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1, is comprised of PHIBRON 1 staff, multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), amphibious dock-landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and Fleet Surgical Team 3. Additional detachments included Tactical Air Control Squadron 11, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21, as well as Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 1 and 5, and Beachmaster Unit 1.

Sri Lanka: Two Japanese Naval Ships arrive at the Port of Colombo

Two Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) ships, Samidare DD-106 and Sazanami DD-113 arrived at the Port of Colombo for a goodwill and supply visit on 25th April 2014. The ships are en route for Counter Piracy Operations off the Coast of Somaliya and in the Gulf of Aden. They were welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy in accordance with naval traditions on arrival. 

Head of the mission, Commander Escort Division iv, Captain Hiroaki Tajiri and Ships’ Commanding Officers, Commander Takashi Saito and Commander Yasihiro Hayashi paid a courtesy call on Commander Western Naval Area, Rear Admiral Sirimevan Ranasinghe of the Sri Lanka Navy at the Western Naval Command Headquarters in Colombo. They held cordial discussions and exchanged mementos as a gesture of goodwill.

“Samidare” and “Sazanami” are both destroyers, which are 151 meters in length. “Samidare” has a displacement of 4,550 tons while “Sazanami” has a displacement of 4,650 tons. Each consists of a complement of 190 naval personnel onboard.

The ships’ complements will participate in a special programme organized by the Sri Lanka Navy during their stay in Sri Lanka. The visiting Japanese ships will stay in Sri Lanka until 27th April.

News Story: China splurging on military as US pulls back

PLA Navy Ships (File Photo)

QINGDAO, CHINA (AP): China's Navy commissioned 17 new warships last year, the most of any nation. In a little more than a decade, it is expected to have three aircraft carriers, giving it more clout than ever in a region of contested seas and festering territorial disputes.

Those numbers testify to huge increases in defence spending that have endowed China with the largest military budget behind the United States and fuelled an increasingly large and sophisticated defence industry. While Beijing still lags far behind the US in both funding and technology, its spending boom is attracting new scrutiny at a time of severe cuts in US defence budgets.

Beijing's newfound military clout is one of many issues confronting President Barack Obama as he visits the region this week. Washington is faced with the daunting task of fulfilling its treaty obligations to allies such as Japan and the Philippines.

China's boosted defence spending this year grew 12.2 per cent to 132 billion USD, continuing more than two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit percentage increases that have afforded Beijing the means to potentially alter the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific.

Read the full story at Brahmand

Editorial: The Crisis of Confidence in US Hegemony

<< Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stands with Republic of Korea Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-jin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel Locklear, outgoing commander of United States Forces Korea commanding general General Robert Thurman, and incoming commanding general General Curtis M. Scaparrotti at a change of command ceremony in Seoul, Republic of Korea October 2, 2013. Hagel and Dempsey attended the ceremony where Thurman handed over command of the U.S. Forces Korea to Scaparrotti. Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo (Released) Image: Flickr user Chuck Hagel

By Chen Jimin

New constraints on US power create their own risks for the international community.

The 21st century is still young, but it has already presented the United States with a series of internal and external challenges. In the very first year, the U.S. faced a major security threat from non-state actors manifest in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which completely changed Americans’ traditional view of their homeland as a safe haven.
Following the attacks, the Bush administration launched its global war on terrorism. Rather than achieve its stated objective, however, the war placed the U.S. under fiscal pressure and damaged its international standing. Meanwhile, America now faces a new challenge: the rise of non-Western countries, a development likely to have a much more far-reaching impact on U.S. hegemony.
When U.S. President Barack Obama took office, he found that global power had subtly but irreversibly shifted in a way that reflected the new features of the international system. Thus, in the U.S. National Security Strategy(2010) (PDF), the administration acknowledged that the international system needed to adjust to accommodate the interests of new centers of power.
Even as the United States was trapped in two wars, the U.S. domestic economy was  facing its own crisis: the meltdown that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Out of the recession that followed, new political and social movements emerged. The rise of Tea Party in 2010 produced a rupture in domestic politics. Late in September 2011, Occupy Wall Street targeted injustices in American society. Political squabbles on domestic issues such as health care, immigration reform, and the debt ceiling have had repercussions for U.S. diplomacy. For instance, Obama was absent from the APEC summit last year largely because of the government shut-down.
In the name of fiscal austerity, the U.S. Department of Defense was required to cut military spending by $487 billion over the next decade. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was prompted to complain: “these cuts are too fast, too much, too abrupt, and too irresponsible,” asserting that they would seriously restrict America’s readiness and ability to respond to challenges. 

Read the full story at The Diplomat