30 May 2015

AUS: Airservices Australia and Defence strengthen collaboration on Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Heron UAS in Afghanistan
Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) today for the operation of the Heron remotely piloted Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in Australian civil airspace.
Commander of Surveillance and Response Group Air Commodore Chris Westwood and Airservices Australia’s Executive General Manager Air Traffic Control Greg Hood signed the MoA at a ceremony in Canberra.

Air Commodore Chris Westwood said the MoA formalises the partnership between Airservices Australia and Air Force and enhances Australia’s position on UAS.

“The purpose of the MoA is to set out procedures for Airservices Australia and Air Force to work within, and allows the Heron to be safely flown in civil airspace without any significant impact on civil air traffic,” Air Commodore Westwood said. 

“The MoA aids both Airservices and Air Force by facilitating the initial operation and integration of remotely piloted aircraft into civil airspace, based on Air Force’s mature and thorough airworthiness and aviation safety system.”

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the regulator of all Australian airspace, will also work with Airservices and Air Force to monitor the arrangements from a civil aviation safety perspective.

Airservices Australia Executive General Manager Greg Hood said that the agreement further reinforces the close working relationship between Airservices and the Royal Australian Air Force and ensures that UAS are operated safely in civilian airspace.

“This MoA is recognition of the changing way that airspace is being used to embrace new technologies,” Mr Hood said.

“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with Defence on the use of this type of technology safely in Australian airspace.”

The Heron is planned to fly in civilian airspace from Rockhampton Airport in late June, as part of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015. This will be the first time the aircraft has flown outside of restricted military airspace in Australia.

Air Force currently operates two Heron aircraft from RAAF Base Woomera in South Australia, as part of a plan to ensure that Australia remains at the forefront of advancing aviation technology and that Air Force pilots maintain the skills to operate UAS until the introduction of the MQ-4C Triton.

USA: Army Pacific Helps Nations Cope With Natural Disasters

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii, May 29, 2015 – Since the April 25 magnitude-7.8 earthquake in Nepal that claimed the lives of about 10,000 people and left thousands more injured or missing, U.S. Army Pacific Command has dedicated significant resources to disaster response in Nepal.

Maj. Gen. James F. Pasquarette, USARPAC’s deputy commander, said in a recent interview that of his command’s many operational, humanitarian and disaster response measures, a series of disaster management exercises and exchanges called Pacific Resilience is key to helping partner armies and various nations, including China, respond and rebound more independently after natural disasters.

This can also “build trust and confidence that U.S. Army is able to come in and work with them if invited,” the general added.

USARPAC conducted disaster response exchanges and exercises with Nepal in 2011 and 2013, with another planned for this year, Pasquarette said, but real-life events have called for real-life response.

News Story: Beijing states its construction in S China Sea is 'lawful, reasonable'

China's reclamation in the Spratlys, Gaven Reef,
April 12, 2015. (Armed Forces of the Philippines)
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Thursday reaffirmed that China's construction in the South China Sea is within China's sovereign rights and its activities are lawful, reasonable and justified.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying made the remarks after US defense secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday called for an immediate end to island-building by China and other countries near the South China Sea, urging participants to stop militarizing the dispute and find a peaceful solution.

Carter said China's island-building efforts were "out of step" with the regional consensus. "We will remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come," said Carter.

Hua said some countries have carried out illegal construction activities within China's territory in the South China Sea, but the United States has selectively failed to speak about it.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: Weapons sent to Hainan for potential S China Sea conflict

Chinese J-10 Fighter Aircraft (File Photo)
After several confrontations with US warships and aircraft in the South China Sea, the People's Liberation Army decided to demonstrate several of its most advanced weapon systems to the people living on Hainan island, which is located close to China, but still in the South China Sea, reported state-run Xinhua News Agency on May 28.

The weapons demonstrated at Haikou's Xiuying port included the J-10 fighter, WZ-10 gunship, Type 63A amphibious light tank, anti-tank missile vehicle and armoured command vehicle. Because Hainan is very likely to become the primary PLA base for operations if China enters a conflict in the South China Sea, Beijing wants to prepare the civilians of the island for military conflict through exhibiting those weapon systems, according to the Xinhua.

Read the full story at Want China Times

Editorial: Australia Speaks Plainly on the South China Sea

By Elliot Brennan

The country’s defense officials make their strongest statements yet on the disputes.

They say actions speak louder than words. So maybe Australia’s invitation to Japan to take part in U.S.-Australian war games in July and the lack of an invitation for China was a good indication of Australia’s disapproval of China’s activity in the South China Sea. But if that message didn’t get across (Beijing said it didn’t mind), in the past week officials from Australia’s Department of Defence made it clear in their strongest statements yet on the disputes.

On Wednesday, Australia’s Defence Secretary, Dennis Richardson, made the most significant statement yet against Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

Speaking at a Royal United Services Institute at the New South Wales Parliament, Richardson said, “The speed and scale of China’s land reclamation on disputed reefs and other features does raise the question of intent and purpose.” He added bluntly, “It is legitimate to ask the purpose of the land reclamation – tourism appears unlikely.”

Richardson continued that China’s increased activities in the area, including the larger presence of Coast Guard vessels and law enforcement, intensified the potential for “miscalculation.”

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor - Potential and Vulnerabilities

By Muhammad Daim Fazil

The project promises to bring prosperity to Pakistan, but much could go wrong.

A month ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Islamabad, where he unveiled a $46 billion infrastructure spending blueprint for Pakistan, to serve as a linchpin of Beijing’s drive to open new trade and transport routes across Asia and challenge the U.S. as the dominant regional power. Pakistani officials hailed the visit as a landmark and game changer.

Despite decades of mismanagement and a feeble socioeconomic infrastructure, Pakistan does enjoy a strategic location. Among its neighbors, the only one with which Pakistan has maintained cordial ties since independence is China. Enjoying genial relations with a neighbor that is also a major power is clearly a boon for an otherwise diplomatically isolated Pakistan.

For China, which has begun to build a presence in multiple regions, Pakistan is a gateway to the Gulf States and Middle East, where China seeks to showcase its soft power, and develop trade and diplomatic links. While the U.S. still dominates in the Middle East, China has certainly made ground over the past decade. It wants to continue that progress, and supplementing its energy trade, improving the balance of trade, and identifying new investment opportunities with more robust commercial links will be vital. Securing a route to the Indian Ocean via the port of Gwadar will do the job nicely, and will also help China develop its military presence in the region, while playing a role in its “String of Pearls” strategy.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Singapore Warns of Islamic State Base in Southeast Asia

By Prashanth Parameswaran

The country’s leader tells Asia’s premier security summit that the terror threat could get a lot worse.

The Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier security summit, kicked off in Singapore on Friday with a keynote speech by Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Lee’s speech addressed three issues: the balance of power; regional cooperation and terrorism. Unsurprisingly, the terrorism portion of the speech focused on the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to Southeast Asia. As The Diplomat has noted, Singapore has been calling for greater regional cooperation to combat ISIS, with the city-state even holding its own counterterrorism symposium last month (See: “Singapore Kicks Off New Counterterrorism Symposium”).

In his speech, Lee noted that Southeast Asia has emerged as a “key recruitment center” for ISIS, with more than 500 Indonesians and dozens in Malaysia joining the group and forming their own unit, the Katibah Nusantara (Malay Archipelago Combat Unit). He also listed some troubling trends in Southeast Asia, including local radical groups pledging allegiance to ISIS and attacks being plotted in Malaysia (See: “Malaysia Says New Terror Group Trying to Create Islamic State”). “The threat is no longer over there; it is over here,” Lee said.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Who Will Be Xi’s Number 2 on China’s Central Military Commission?

By Bo Zhiyue

Gen. Fan Changlong is due to retire at the 19th Party Congress. Who will replace him as China’s top military official?

General Fan Chonglong, who since November 2012 has served as the first vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee, is very likely to retire in two years. Born in May 1947, he will turn 70 in May 2017 and, according to custom, will exit the CMC at the 19th National Party Congress in the fall of that year. The question is, who will be his successor?

The first and most obvious candidate is General Xu Qiliang, the second vice chairman of the CMC. Though three years younger than Fan, Xu in fact has even more substantial political and military credentials. Xu joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1966, three years earlier than Fan; became a CCP member in 1967, two years earlier than Fan; and was admitted to the Central Committee of the CCP in 1992, a whole decade earlier than Fan.

Throughout almost his entire military career, Xu was promoted in the PLA Air Force much earlier than Fan reached equivalent positions in the PLA Army. Xu was appointed as a division commander in 1983 at the age of 33, seven years earlier than Fan, who was made a division commander in 1990 at the age of 43. Xu was promoted to army commander in 1990 at the age of 40, five years earlier than Fan, who was made an army commander in 1995 at the age of 48. Xu was promoted to chief of staff of the PLA Air Force (a position with a rank of deputy regional chief) in 1994, six years earlier than Fan, who was made chief of staff of the Shenyang Military Region in 2000.

In military ranks, Xu was awarded the rank of major general in 1991, six years earlier than Fan; Xu was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general in 1996, six years than Fan; and Xu was promoted to the rank of general in 2007, one year earlier than Fan.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Why Did a US Cyber Attack on North Korea Fail?

By Catherine Putz

North Korea’s near-complete isolation may have had something to do with the 2010 failure of a Stuxnet-related attack.

Reuters investigative reporter Joseph Menn reported Friday that in 2010, the United States tried to attack North Korea’s nuclear weapons program using a version of the Stuxnet virus it deployed in the same time frame against the Iranian nuclear program.

Menn reports that according to at least one U.S. intelligence source, the developers of Stuxnet made a related computer virus “that would be activated when it encountered Korean-language settings on an infected machine.” But the virus and the attack, which originated with the National Security Agency, was ultimately unsuccessful because it could not gain access to North Korean networks.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Did Thailand Just Approve a New US Aircraft Basing Request?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

The answer is more complex than it appears.

As I reported earlier this week, the United States had asked its ally Thailand for permission to use its airports as a temporary base for surveillance planes to assist in Southeast Asia’s ongoing migrant crisis (See: “Thailand Mulls New U.S. Aircraft Basing Request”).

As I noted in that piece, Thai foreign minister Tanasak Patimapragorn indicated that Thailand would be willing to consider the request provided some of its security and sovereignty concerns were addressed. In particular, Tanasak had mentioned that the Thai government would need some additional details – including the flight routes of U.S. aircraft – as well as an assurance that any U.S. mission would come under the supervision of Thai authorities.

On Friday, The Nation reported that Thailand has granted permission for Washington to fly over its sea territory – in the company of Thai planes – during search and rescue operations. Tanasak told reporters on the sidelines of a multinational meeting in Bangkok on the migrant crisis that Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan had already granted verbal permission and the message has been conveyed to the U.S. embassy.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

29 May 2015

USA: Rebalance Continues America’s Historic Role in Asia-Pacific

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2015 – America’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is a continuation of its pivotal role over the past 70 years in helping ensure prosperity in the region, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday.

Speaking to reporters as he departed Hawaii during his second visit to the region, Carter is on a 10-day international trip that will also take him to Singapore, Vietnam and India, focusing on trust-building, addressing regional challenges and further developing a strong regional security architecture in Southeast Asia.

Industry: New Boeing Avionics Facility to Enhance ROKAF Readiness, Affordability

>> Operations add to employment, show continuing investment in ROK aerospace industry

Yeongcheon, South Korea, May 28, 2015 – Boeing [NYSE: BA] today formally opened a new avionics maintenance and repair center in the Yeongcheon Industry District of Daegu-Gyeongbuk Free Economic Zone. The 10,000 square-foot facility will test and repair aircraft electrical systems, reducing repair times and yielding significant inventory cost savings for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).

The new facility underlines both Boeing’s growing role as a global enterprise and its participation in the growth of the domestic Korean aerospace sector.

“This facility will enhance readiness of the ROKAF’s F-15K fleet by allowing rapid, affordable in-country support of the aircraft’s advanced systems,” said Leanne Caret, president for Boeing’s Global Services & Support. “There is also tremendous potential to expand work performed at this facility, by serving other global customers and supporting a variety of weapon systems.”

News Story: 11 countries upgrade naval power amid South China Sea tensions

Newly built Chinese Type 056 Corvettes
No fewer than 11 countries are upgrading their navies amid escalating tensions in the South China Sea, reports our Chinese-language sister paper China Times.

As could be expected, China and the United States are leading the charge. China's submarine fleet is expected to match that of the US by 2020 — in numbers, at least — with 78 subs. Many are to be stationed at the Yulin Naval Base along the southern coast of Hainan.

Despite continuing to increase its military budget every year, China's national defense spending still pales in comparison to the United States. The latest statistics from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute say the United States remains by far the world's top military spender, with its US$665 billion defense budget equal to the total of the next seven countries behind it on the list. US military expenditure is still three times that of China, which is still considerable given the amount is equal to the aggregate spend of 24 countries in East and South Asia.

Read the full story at Want China Times

Editorial: Time for Tougher Sanctions on North Korea?

By So Yeon Kim

In both South Korea and the United States, there’s little patience for North Korea’s duplicity and threats.

While there is a lot of commentary on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, there are other storms brewing in East Asia, posing a fresh threat to the security of the United States and its allies. North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom, has been boasting about its nuclear breakout in recent weeks.

Last week, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) claimed that it had successfully miniaturized nuclear warheads to fit on the head of a missile, meaning that it can produce smaller and more diversified nukes. The statement comes days after North Korea reported that it had successfully carried out an ejection test of its KN-11 ‘Polaris-1’ submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) earlier this month.

Although both U.S. and South Korean officials appear to downplay the announcement and raise questions about the reliability of the Kim Jong-un regime, they acknowledge that North Korea is working on nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile development program, which could eventually threaten the United States and its partners in East Asia.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: What Is North Korea's Nuclear Strategy?

By Van Jackson

A look at how Pyongyang views — and might use — its nuclear weapons.

While there can be no certainty about how North Korea views its nuclear arsenal and how it might be employed, I have growing doubts about many contemporary arguments advanced by North Korea and nuclear experts. The collective conventional wisdom seems to point to a peacetime nuclear first-use strategy (dubbed “asymmetric escalation”) or a “catalytic” strategy intended for the principal purpose of scaring China into intervening on North Korea’s behalf.

There are numerous reasons to be skeptical about either of these strategies. Instead, evidence and logic seem to support the idea that North Korea is seeking an assured retaliation capability in peacetime, and a wartime strategy of asymmetric escalation.

In his recent book, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era, Vipin Narang suggests three types of nuclear strategies facing nascent nuclear states: catalytic; asymmetric escalation; and assured retaliation. Nuclear posture can serve other types of purposes, but Narang makes a strong case that these are the three most relevant to politico-military strategy. In a catalytic strategy, nuclear weapons serve the purpose of bringing a patron closer to its nuclear weapon-wielding client. Asymmetric escalation relies on nuclear first-use as a way of compelling de-escalation in a crisis or conflict, or to reap political benefit. And an assured retaliation strategy deploys nuclear weapons with the aim of ensuring its nuclear force can survive any first strike on it to launch nuclear second-strikes in turn.

Surprisingly, Narang does not take up the case of North Korea in his mostly well-conceived book, but he obliges us with a spinoff article applying his book’s framework to North Korea. His argument, in effect, is that we should expect North Korea to choose a catalytic nuclear strategy that would scare China into joining a conflict on its side, assuming North Korea believes China would be reasonably likely to do so. If North Korea does not see China as a likely or reliable patron, then North Korea would likely move to an asymmetric escalation posture. The historical basis for this logic is most closely found in the case of South Africa, whose nuclear posture was intended to draw the United States into protecting it against a potential Soviet threat during the Cold War. I find this line of reasoning to be completely rational, and completely wrong.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Strategic Warning and China’s Nuclear Posture

Chinese Road Mobile ICBM (File Photo)
By Tong Zhao

What the 2015 Defense White Paper tells us about China’s nuclear policy.

China’s last national defense white paper – the most authoritative document on its defense and security policy – caused quite a stir when it was released two years ago. Some foreign analysts were concerned that China was changing its long-standing policy of No-First-Use (NFU) of nuclear weapons because this policy was not mentioned in the document. Chinese experts quickly pointed out that the absence of NFU pledge from that white paper did not imply a weakened Chinese commitment to NFU. They argued that, starting in 2013, China changed the format of its defense white papers from a comprehensive format to a thematic approach which focuses on a specific topic. The 2013 paper focused on “The Diversified Employment of China’s Armed Forces” and therefore was not designed to thoroughly delineate China’s nuclear policy.

This explanation seems to be confirmed now as the newest 2015 white paper – which was released on May 26, 2015 – again uses the thematic format and focuses on “China’s Military Strategy,” instead of offering a comprehensive review of every aspect of China’s defense policy. But, having learned lessons from last time, China made sure to include its NFU commitment in this year’s document. China also reaffirms in this white paper that its nuclear weapons are only for two purposes – “strategic deterrence and nuclear counterattack.” It essentially removes any doubt that China might use nuclear weapons in conventional scenarios. This should put the debate about whether China has changed its NFU policy to an end.

That said, the most important part about China’s nuclear posture in this white paper is not the reaffirmation of NFU policy, but its mentioning for the first time that China seeks to “improve strategic early warning” for its nuclear forces.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Protecting Freedom of Navigation in the South China Sea

By Douglas Gates

If America wants to stand up for international law, it should start by ratifying the treaty.

American foreign policy is at its best when it builds up international norms and structures that deter aggression and maintain stability for everyone over the long term. In that vein, the United States, like Great Britain before it, has demonstrated an unshakeable commitment to the free navigation of the seas by warships and commercial vessels alike in order to facilitate international trade. This effort has fostered, in part, the greatest period of global economic development in history and has perhaps benefited China more than any other state. However, China now seems intent on upsetting that order for its own parochial gains by aggressively consolidating its territorial claims in the South China Sea, in violation of international law and to the dismay of its neighbors. In its response to this campaign, it is critical that the United States maintain its commitment to international law and encourage the Chinese Communist Party to abide by the long-standing rules of the system for the benefit of the entire region.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently floated a proposal to challenge Chinese territorial claims using American warships and aircraft under the broad umbrella of the Navy’s Freedom of Navigation program. The U.S. Navy has been conducting maneuvers in East Asia and around the world for decades, capitalizing on its command of the sea to challenge the excessive claims of allies and rivals alike by driving through a contested area and treating it as international waters. These missions demonstrate a deep commitment on America’s part to the foundational principles of maritime law expressed in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It has done so despite the fact that the U.S. has yet to ratify the 1982 treaty because of domestic opposition in the Senate, a point of contention for the countries on the receiving end of those challenges and a point of embarrassment for the American officials charged with carrying them out.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Top US Officials Heat Up Rhetoric on China's South China Sea Behavior

US SecDef Ashton Carter
By Ankit Panda

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter minced no words: the U.S. is here to stay in Asia.

Speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii—the United States’ Pacific outpost—U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter remarked that China’s attempts to spread its influence and change the status quo in the South China Sea would backfire, leaving it a pariah in the region. Carter delivered the remarks at a ceremony marking a change of command for U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM)—Admiral Samuel Locklear ceded command to Admiral Harry Harris. The statements are notable for their relative directness about the United States’ future intentions for its own role in the Asia-Pacific, and how the Pentagon’s top leadership sees China’s prospects for influence in Asia. As ties between the U.S. and China heat up over the South China Sea and cyber issues, Carter’s comments could prove to draw a sharp response.

“We want a peaceful resolution of all disputes, and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant,” Carter said in his prepared remarks. “We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features.” He continued: ”And there should be no mistake: The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.”

“China is out of step with both international norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific’s security architecture, and the regional consensus in favor of non-coercive approaches to this and other long-standing disputes,” Carter added. In a sharp rebuke to China’s rising status in Asia, Carter noted that the United States intended to remain “the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.”

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Does The U.S. Need to Revive Its Nuclear Strategy?

By Francis P. Sempa

“It may be time to blow the dust off of some old books and articles written by the nuclear strategists of the Cold War.”

The Pentagon’s latest annual report to Congress on “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” states that the PLA is arming its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with as many as three independently targetable nuclear warheads (multiple independent reentry vehicles or MIRVs). According to a May 16 New York Times article by David Sanger and William Broad, this decision represents a break with previous Chinese nuclear arms policy. “[T]he technology of miniaturizing warheads and putting three or more atop a single missile,” they explain, “has been in Chinese hands for decades. But a succession of Chinese leaders deliberately let it sit unused; they were not interested in getting into the kind of arms race that characterized the Cold War nuclear competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to develop and deploy MIRVed missiles, at the same time that China is increasing its naval power and taking aggressive steps to dominate the South China Sea, according to Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “is obviously part of an effort to prepare for long-term competition with the United States.”

The Pentagon report notes that China fields 50-60 silo-based and road-mobile ICBMs. China is also developing a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with a range of 7,400 kilometers. MIRV capability will therefore enable China to at least triple the number of nuclear warheads it can launch at U.S. or other targets. Sanger and Broad point out that currently the U.S. has an eight-to-one lead over China in nuclear forces.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

28 May 2015

AUS: The 14th Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore

I (Minister for Defence: Kevin Andrews) will visit Singapore from 28-31 May 2015 with the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, to attend the 14th annual Shangri-La Dialogue. This is my first visit to Singapore as Defence Minister.

The Shangri-La Dialogue is the foremost gathering of Defence leaders in the Indo-Pacific; bringing together Defence Ministers, Service Chiefs, senior defence officials, industry representatives and academics.

This forum is an opportunity for Defence Ministers and Defence Chiefs from around the world to discuss critical security challenges affecting the Indo-Pacific region and promote the value of building defence relationships through practical cooperation.

USA: Adm. Swift Takes Command of Pacific Fleet

By Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Tamara Vaughn

<< Adm. Scott H. Swift reads his orders as he assumes command of U.S. Pacific Fleet from Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. on Wednesday. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Diana Quinlan)

PEARL HARBOR - Adm. Scott H. Swift returned to his home state and relieved Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. as commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet during a change of command ceremony on Joint Base Pearl Harbor, May 27.

"The magnitude of this moment is not lost on me, especially given my personal and professional history here in Hawaii and the Pacific," said Swift, who became the 35th commander since the Pacific Fleet moved to Hawaii in 1941. "No one is selected for responsibility such as that of the Pacific Fleet based on personal merit or performance alone. It is a reflection of the collective success of many, not one individual, and I am no exception."

Swift also spoke of his fond connection to Hawaii, where he was born when his father was stationed at Pearl Harbor.

USA: Carter Meets With Philippine Counterpart in Hawaii

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2015 – The United States stands by its pledge to defend the Philippines, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told his Philippine counterpart during their meeting in Hawaii today, according to a DoD news release.

During Carter's meeting with Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, the two leaders reaffirmed the strong and enduring ties between the two nations, the release said.

Carter welcomed the opportunity to discuss regional security issues with one of America’s closest allies in the Asia-Pacific, the release said, and stressed that the U.S. commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad.

News Report: Carter - US Will Remain Top Security Power in Asia-Pacific

US SecDef Ash Carter
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the United States would be the primary security power in the Asia-Pacific region for years, and he demanded that China immediately stop island building in the South China Sea.

Carter said during a visit to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that all countries in Asia, including China, must stop militarizing their dispute over an island chain and settle it peacefully.

"China's actions are bringing countries in the region together in new ways," he said. "They're increasing demand for American engagement in the Asia-Pacific. We're going to meet it."

Carter said the U.S. would "fly, sail and operate" wherever international law allows.

China has been reclaiming land and building artificial islands in the Spratlys, a group of islands over which several Asian countries claim sovereignty, including China, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

But China, with its powerful military, has been much more aggressive in asserting its claim.

Last week, China ordered a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flying near the islands to leave the area. The Pentagon said the jet was flying over international waters and it refused to leave.

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

News Story: Keeping 9-dash line vague in China's best interests - Duowei

The United States will never be able to force China to clarify its controversial nine-dash line because keeping it vague is in Beijing's best interests, says Duowei News, a US-based political news outlet run by overseas Chinese.

Since the start of last year, Washington has renewed its push in denying the legitimacy of the U-shaped nine-dash line, the demarcation used by both Taiwan and China for their claims of the major part of the South China Sea.

Last February, Daniel Russel, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a congressional committee that there are "growing concerns" that China's "pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects incremental effort...to assert control over the area... despite objections of its neighbors."

Read the full story at Want china Times

News Story: Rival claimants in S China Sea will not leave Beijing unchallenged

Tensions are high in the South China Sea with the US stating that it may patrol disputed areas in the region after a P8 Poseidon aircraft patrolled the skies over Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys, leading to an exchange of words between Beijing and Washington, according to Duowei News, a media outlet run by overseas Chinese.

Other claimants are also building up their naval forces, leading to fears that open conflict may be imminent in the region. The most vocal rival to China is the Philippines, which has openly requested military aid from the US and has discussed joint action with Japan on the South China Sea issue as well as taking its case to the UN for arbitration.

Read the full story at Want china Times

News Story: South China Sea reclamation a 'test of will' for Beijing

Fiery Cross Reef/Island
China's land reclamation in the South China Sea are a test of its strategic will in the face of increasing pressure from the United States, according to a commentary in Hong Kong magazine Yazhou Zhoukan.

Tensions are escalating in the South China Sea, where China has continued to build new land to strengthen its control over disputed islands it claims as its sovereign territory. Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys in particular has been expanded via reclamation to become the largest island in the group. With a new runway and a significant build-up of military facilities on the reef, Fiery Cross has been dubbed "China's unsinkable aircraft carrier" by some US media.

Earlier this month, the USS Blue Ridge, the lead ship of the US Navy's two Blue Ridge class of command ships, was reportedly confronted by two Chinese warships in the South China Sea. Last week, a US Navy P-8A reconnaisance aircraft swooping over Chinese-controlled islands was reportedly warned eight times by the People's Liberation Army to leave China's "military alert zone." The US side insisted that they were over international waters.

On May 16, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, reiterated his government's firm stance on its activities in the South China Sea following a meeting with the visiting US secretary of state, John Kerry.

"The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock, and it is unshakable," he said.

Read the full story at Want china Times

News Story: SASC Pushes Bigger Army Role In Pacific Vs. China

Harpoon coastal missile defense system truck,
Danish Navy 1988–2003. (Image: Wiki Commons)

WASHINGTON: The Senate Armed Services Committee has joined the push to give the Army a much larger role in the Pacific. The hard part, ironically, may be getting the Army to go along.

Why should soldiers do more in the Pacific, a theater traditionally dominated by pilots, Marines, and, above all, sailors? The Pacific, obviously, is full of water. But it’s also full of islands — and some of the larger islands signed treaties with the US: Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. The Army’s potential role there isn’t limited to defending against invasion. The Army already has missile defense radars in Japan (the Raytheon AN/TPY-2) and may deployTHAAD anti-missile batteries to South Korea.

But why stop at defensive systems, ask lawmakers like House seapower chairman Randy Forbes. China’s Second Artillery Force already has long-range land-based missiles that can attack US and allied ships far out at sea. What if the US and its allies fielded land-based anti-ship systems of their own? That might deter — or in the last resort, defeat — a Chinese land grab for disputed islands like the Senkakus or the Spratlys.

Pushed by Forbes, the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act requires a Pentagon report “as to the feasibility, utility, and options for mobile, land-based systems to provide anti-ship fires.” That’s an idea endorsed by former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The Senate’s version of the bill goes much further.

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: Australia To Reform Defense Acquisition

HMAS Hobart, 1st of the AWD's shortly after it's launch
By Nigel Pittaway

MELBOURNE, Australia — The long-awaited Australian defense white paper will likely be released in July, fulfilling a promise made when the Liberal government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott took office in late 2013. The document will spell out Australia's strategic defense priorities for the foreseeable future and the attendant Defence Capability Plan (DCP) will include new acquisition projects over the coming decade.

The DCP likely will include new frigates and submarines for the Royal Australian Navy, an armed unmanned aerial system and VIP aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), and follow-on orders of armored fighting vehicles for the Australian Army — capabilities the white paper probably will underscore.

The new equipment will be in addition to current acquisition projects, which include three air warfare destroyers (AWDs), 72 joint strike fighters and the first tranche of the Land Combat Vehicle System (LCVS) program of mounted combat reconnaissance vehicles.

But the defense organization as a whole is facing reorganization, with far-reaching implications for future procurement, following the First Principles Review, a report on the acquisition process released April 1 by Defence Minister Kevin Andrews.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Tankers, Helos Top S. Korean Projects

Airbus Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT)

SEOUL — The selection of a foreign contractor to supply the South Korean Air Force with four aerial refueling tankers is just around the corner.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said April 14 that it started price bidding for the 1.48 trillion won (US $1.36 billion) program. Competitors are Boeing, Airbus Defence and Space, and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

Boeing offers the KC-46 Pegasus, while Airbus pitches the A300-based multirole tanker transport. Israel is proposing the 767-300ER aircraft.

"The evaluation will go through the end of May before selecting a final contract in June," a DAPA spokesman said, adding that two tankers are to be put into service in 2018 and the remainder the following year.

Price may be the most important factor, according to observers.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Carter - China Isolating Itself in Pacific

US SecDef Ash Carter
By Aaron Mehta

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR, Honolulu – US Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned China Wednesday that attempts to expand its influence in the South China Sea will ultimately lead to isolation for the Pacific power.

Speaking in Honolulu at the change of command for US Pacific Command, Carter reaffirmed that the US does not respect Chinese attempts to broaden their sovereign territory through the development of man-made islands in the region.

China has claimed those lands, which the Pentagon estimates to be about 2,000 acres in size, as part of its territory, a move other nations in the region believe is a power grab to increase its control of the region. About 1,500 of those acres have been developed since January, showing the rapid acceleration of China's activities.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

Editorial: US, South Korea, Japan Coordinate Trilaterally on North Korea

By Ankit Panda

The United States, South Korea, and Japan agreed to pressure North Korea over its nuclear program.

On Wednesday, South Korea, the United States, and Japan agreed to increase pressure and sanctions on North Korea. The meeting came shortly after North Korea announced that it had tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and that it had also miniaturized a nuclear device (both claims have come under scrutiny and remain externally unverified).

Recently, while in South Korea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the United States and South Korea would unite to increase sanctions on the North. Japan’s inclusion at Wednesday’s meeting highlights increasing trilateralism between Japan, South Korea, and the United States on the North Korean issue. While Japan and South Korea both enjoy bilateral alliances with the United States, relations between the two are otherwise cool, in part due to historical tensions and a territorial dispute over the sovereignty of the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands.

This trend toward trilateralism began late last year when the three countries signed a memorandum of understanding on sharing intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear program. In March 2015, the top U.S. defense official for Asia noted that the U.S. would pursue more trilateral defense cooperation.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Thailand Mulls New US Aircraft Basing Request

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Washington wants to use Thai airports to base planes assisting in the ongoing migrant crisis.

Thailand is considering allowing its ally the United States to use its airports as a base for planes assisting in the ongoing migrant crisis in Southeast Asia.

The United States has asked Thailand for permission to use its airports — likely either Phuket or U-Tapao airports — as a temporary base for planes assigned to monitor the movement of thousands of migrants stranded in the sea. According to Thai foreign minister Tanasak Patimapragorn, Thailand is still considering the request and has asked the United States to provide more details about its proposed mission, since Bangkok has “to take national security into consideration.”

Tanasak did not spell out exactly what these national security considerations were. But the issue of basing has at times been a prickly one in U.S.-Thai relations. U-Tapao, a base used during the Vietnam War as well as during relief operations following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and after Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar in 2008, is a case in point. For example, in June 2012, NASA was forced to cancel a climate study because of Thailand’s failure to grant approval to use U-Tapao Airbase. A hodgepodge of rationales were cited by opponents of the plan in Thailand, including concerns about how China would perceive it, the threat to national sovereignty, and even worries about U.S. espionage activities. Washington had also wanted to use U-Tapao as a center for humanitarian research and rescue operations in the region.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Could the South China Sea Cause a China-US Military Conflict?

By Bo Zhiyue

It’s in neither country’s interests to have a conflict — but they’re headed in that direction all the same.

Contrary to the idea of “a new type of great power relationship” defined by mutual respect, mutual benefit, and win-win cooperation proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, China and the United States have been recently engaged in a war game over the South China Sea.

In response to China’s active construction of islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon surveillance plane flew near the construction site on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands on May 21, 2015 and received eight warnings from a Chinese military dispatcher. This incident came less than a week after a U.S. warship sailed through the Spratly Islands.

From China’s point of view, the construction work in the South China Sea is lawful, necessary, and on its own territory. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated in March 2015, China is merely building facilities in its own yard. “We have every right to do things that are lawful and justified,” he said.

From the United States’ perspective, however, China’s construction work poses threats not only to its immediate neighbors such as Vietnam and the Philippines — a U.S. treaty ally — but also to the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea — one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. In Washington’s view, a robust response is urgently needed.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: China and the US - Clashing Visions for the South China Sea

By Jin Kai

The U.S. and China have different goals — and thus clashing approaches — for resolving the South China Sea issue.

Since the 1990s, there have been three symbolic incidents between China and the United States that still spark disapproval in China: the 1993 Yinhe Incident (where the U.S. held a Chinese cargo ship at sea under accusations — later proven false — that it was carrying chemical weapons to Iran), the 1999 bombing of Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, and the 2001 Hainan or EP-3 incident in the South China Sea, where a collision between a U.S. EP-3 plane and a Chinese jet killed the Chinese pilot. Still, no major conflict or stand-off happened between these two great powers after these incidents, thanks to careful and skillful handling of the situation by both sides.

Given this history, the most recent fly-over of the South China Sea by a U.S. P-8 surveillance plane made the Chinese uncomfortable. The truth is that although this time the U.S. acted rather dangerously in the Chinese view, similar patrols by U.S. ships and spy planes have been going on for decades. There is virtually no substantial difference between this latest patrol and countless others, although the situation probably will turn extremely dangerous should the United States actually decide to send warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the disputed islands in the South China Sea without China’s permission.

The Americans claim a legal right to conduct such surveillance, but the Chinese warn against it by describing such acts as irresponsible and dangerous, with the possibility of causing military misjudgments. So why do it?

Read the full story at The Diplomat