30 November 2015

AUS: HMAS Canberra clears lower decks for FCP15

LEUT Nicholas Robinson (author), 
LS Helen Frank (photographer)

Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer speaks to the ship's company and embarked forces of HMAS Canberra during Fleet Concentration Period - East 2015 >>

Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, cleared the lower decks of HMAS Canberra as Fleet Concentration Period East 2015 got under way this week. 

The ship’s hangar provided the backdrop for an address from Rear Admiral Mayer that congratulated the ship on its efforts over the last year and highlighted the achievements of the ship’s company.

“You are ahead of the curve in introducing the biggest amphibious capability that the Australian Defence Force has ever operated,” Rear Admiral Mayer said. 

News Story: US and Japan seek unison at sea

USS Ronald Reagan underway (File Photo)

ABOARD THE USS RONALD REAGAN -- This Nimitz-class aircraft carrier has the motto of "Peace through Strength," a recurrent theme during the Reagan presidency of the 1980s. In its first joint annual exercise with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force since arriving in October at its new home in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, the carrier has remained true to its namesake.

Over 7,000 sailors, seven ships and 70 aircraft from the U.S. 7th Fleet teamed up with 25 ships from the MSDF during the joint drill, known as AE16, held from Nov. 16-25. Supersonic F/A-18 Super Hornets roared off the flight deck one after the other, moving from zero to 200kph in 2 seconds.

It was the first exercise between the two naval forces since Tokyo passed new security laws that enable the SDF to fight alongside allies far from home. It came just days after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told U.S. President Barack Obama that Japan will consider dispatching SDF ships to the South China Sea, where China has been busy building islands. 

Annual exercises take over a year to prepare, thus the itinerary did not take into account the passage of the new laws. Yet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, signaled that the two sides were conscious of the potential cooperation that the new legislative backing could bring. "For the first time, we transferred not only fuel but food and equipment between JMSDF ships and U.S. ships," he told reporters aboard the carrier, cruising in seas south of Japan.

Vice Adm. Yasuhiro Shigeoka, commander of the MSDF, addressed the media alongside Aucoin. He said that while he had not received any specific orders to sail in the South China Sea, the JMSDF was capable of conducting operations alongside the U.S. Navy if called upon. "We have been conducting training to coordinate with the U.S. Navy," he said, "so if ordered, we are ready to take such action."

Read the full story at Nikkei

News Story: US ‘Steadily Retreating’ In South China Sea Dispute


Those of us who cover the US military in detail, those in the military and those who spend lots of time around the military tend to be at least mildly obsessed with Star Trek and Star Wars. As his opening make clear, Dean Cheng is truly one of the tribe. But his topic, freedom of the seas and how the US, China and other countries cope with the difficult calculus of Taiwan, China, the South China Sea and the larger questions of international law and trade — let alone what is right — is deadly serious. Read on. The Editor.

When the Jedi Council assembled in Star Wars Episode I “The Phantom Menace,” they discussed a prophecy that they would soon be joined by one who would “bring balance to the Force.” Little did they expect that the One would achieve this balance by collapsing the old order.

Reality now seems to be mirroring fiction, as the Administration steadily obscures what it means by the “rebalance” to Asia in the six weeks leading to the next episode of the “Star Wars” franchise. American B-52s and the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier battlegroup both operated in the South China Sea recently, providing ample opportunity to conduct operations within 12 nautical miles of China’s artificial islands, and clearly sending the message to Beijing and the world of the seriousness with which the United States takes freedom of the seas.

After a stymied ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus, where China battled hard to stop the group from taking any stance on the South China Sea, Southeast Asia is clearly becoming the focal point of growing tensions between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. As China continues to challenge the United States on the competing principles of sovereignty and freedom of the seas, the reefs, spits, rocks, and islands in the Spratlys have become the center of the battle

For the Chinese, the point is simple. As a Chinese admiral observed recently in London, “The South China Sea, as the name indicates, is a sea area that belongs to China. And the sea from the Han dynasty a long time ago where the Chinese people have been working and producing from the sea.” The issue is one of sovereignty, not only over the land and submerged features, but the waters, the “blue soil” that is encompassed within the “nine-dash line,” now more prominently noted in recent Chinese maps.

For the United States, the point is almost equally straightforward. Washington takes no position on the disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea, but it is firmly committed to the principle of freedom of the seas. All states may use the high seas as they see fit, as they are free for use by all. Conversely, no state may arbitrarily seek to lay claim to swathes of the ocean—and reefs do not exert any justification for territorial claims, even if one builds an artificial island atop it.

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: PH air force returns to supersonic age - Fighter jets arrive in Clark

An F/A-50 in flight (File Photo)
The fighter jets arrive a decade after the Philippine Air Force retired the last of its US-designed fighters in 2005

MANILA, Philippines – The fighter jets have landed.

Two of a squadron of FA-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainers (LIFT) that the Philippines acquired from South Korea arrived Saturday morning, November 28, at the former US air base in Clark, Pampanga.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) flew S-211 trainer jets in a diamond formation to meet the FA-50s over Tarlac. A Water Cannon Salute – a ceremony where firefighting vehicles spray water on newly arrived aircrafts – was given to the jets while they were taxiing. Guests and the media witnessed the show.

The arrival of the fighter jets marks the return of the Philippine Air Force to the supersonic age.

The jets were flown to the Philippines by South Korean pilots and will only be formally turned over to the Philippine Air Force after a series of acceptance flights. Another ceremony is expected.

Read the full story at Rappler

Editorial: Europe Must Follow Through on Rights in Thailand

By Anthony Kleven

Brussels must enforce its newfound approach to trade with Thailand.

The European Commission is to be applauded, having recently announced a commendable new values-driven global trade and investment strategy. This fresh approach will fuse jobs and growth with human rights and sustainability. It should leave the world in no doubt that a share of Europe’s riches comes at an ethical price – respect for human dignity, liberty and democracy. The message must be clear: no freedom, no profits.

With this in mind, it is wholly appropriate that Brussels’ morality-laden business strategy comes at the same time as the Commission is poised to turn its trade focus towards what it termed “the vital Asia-Pacific region.” After all, Southeast Asia is a region on the brink, standing on the cusp of economic success while democracy hangs perilously in the balance. And none more so than in Thailand, where an authoritarian regime is suffocating the remnants of democracy while at the same time attempting to charm the international business community. Brussels has the chance to put its actions where its mouth is and enforce this newfound approach to trade with Thailand.

The Bangkok junta, headed by General Prayuth Chan-o-cha is desperately trying to fool the world. Soon after having seized power in May 2014, Prayuth personally addressed the Thai-European Business Association (TEBA), a group representing 80 Thai and European investors, pledging to do “everything” for Thailand to remain a foreign investment hub. He scoffed at suggestions of dictatorial rule. Yet by that point, Prayuth had already detained opponents without charge and outlawed freedom of assembly, by banning gatherings of more than five people. Since, he has shut down media outlets for having the temerity to criticize the regime, a trend which Human Rights Watch fears will have a “choking effect,” anathema to democracy.

Yet, despite this wholesale repression, the junta continues to court global business. Prayuth’s government recently announced an international roadshow, where investment will doubtless be handed the oxygen of incentives, while freedom continues to be strangled.The European Union (EU) has rightly been consistent in criticizing Prayuth and his henchmen. Just a month after the coup, the EU announced an end to official visits and the suspension of free trade talks with Thailand. Within the last several weeks, the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a lengthy motion demanding an end to Bangkok’s persistent abuses. But now Brussels should make good on these well-meaning statements and declarations. Europe should make the trade that Prayuth so desperately craves dependent on democratic reform.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Dealing with Pakistan’s Nuclear Breakout

By Julian Schofield

What is the best way to bring Pakistan into the non-proliferation fold?

The 2003 conquest of Iraq, disintegration of Syria, and recent nuclear deal with Iran has seemingly pushed the nuclear non-proliferation frontier to Pakistan. There is concern that at current rates of production, within ten years Pakistan will have the world’s third largest nuclear arsenal, from a count of approximately 70 boosted-fission warheads in 2008, to more than 500, and with sufficient range to reach Israel and Turkey. There is a temptation, as part of the next step to roll back nuclear proliferation, for the West to isolate Pakistan as it did with Iraq, Iran and North Korea in the 1990s.

Pakistan’s current weapons grade fissile material production is four times India’s, and Pakistan is more determined to concentrate these resources into warhead production. It possesses four operational production reactors at Khushab collectively able to manufacture 25 to 50 kg of plutonium every twelve months, which, combined with Pakistan’s ongoing highly enriched uranium (HEU) production with 20,000 centrifuges at Kahuta, gives it the capacity to produce between 14 to 27 warheads annually. Refinements at the Khushab site may double this total. India by contrast can manufacture between two and five nuclear weapons in the same period. This pace has continued unabated since 1998, and has received further stimulus from recent Indian-U.S. nuclear material agreements.

Turning international attention and pressure on Pakistan to compel it join the non-proliferation regime will not succeed. The 1968 Non-Proliferation treaty (NPT) is often advertised as a collective security framework to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. In fact, it was a bargain between two great powers, the U.S. and the USSR, to jointly promise not to permit the proliferation of nuclear weapons to their allies. In particular, Moscow was concerned that West Germany would acquire an independent nuclear arsenal. Moscow and Washington conceded their failures to reign-in China, France or Israel, and the USSR accepted the NATO framework for the sharing of U.S. nuclear weapons, including with West Germany. Huge arsenals maintained general deterrence against new nuclear weapons programs, as well as extended deterrence to insecure allies, and the deal proved a great success in arresting proliferation. With the end of the Cold War, the U.S. extended the principles of the NPT in order to neutralize former Soviet client-states.

The outlines of a second grand bargain took place between China and the U.S. in the 1990s, with China imposing firm export controls on dual-use technology to the developing world. China agreed to cut-off Iran, but was determined to maintain its relationship with Pakistan, on which it depends to draw-off Indian security efforts. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program has, since 1974, received important assistance from China, including warhead designs, HEU, scientific testing and training, and missiles technology and production capacity. Although China has reduced its support to Pakistan, primarily because the latter has attained an adequate level of strategic self-sufficiency to deter India, this could be reversed promptly if India were to obtain some technological breakout capacity.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Nepal’s New Challenge

Image: Flickr User - S Pakhrin
By Maximillian Mørch

The adoption of the new constitution is not the end of the struggle for equality, fairness and tolerance.

The recent chaos and political turmoil in Nepal, which followed the promulgation of that country’s new constitution in September, shows what can happen when post-conflict societies attempt to move too fast following conflict. By not investigating war crimes and wartime abuses of power, Nepal risks disrupting its long term future as an equal post-conflict state.

The much heralded new constitution in August was naturally a moment of celebration, welcomed by political leaders as the dawn of a new Nepal. However, ever since the constitution was adopted, Nepal has been in the grip of protests, fuel blockades, and continuing insecurity. With protests in the Terai highlighting the unequal constitution, it is time for Nepal to address underlying ethnic and political tensions so that the country can move forward. While for many the passing of the new constitution was a time of celebration, for others it was a signal to take to the streets. The blockades in the Terai have been highly damaging to Nepal’s economy, and suggest that the promulgation of the new constitution is not the end of the struggle for equality, fairness and tolerance, but rather just the beginning.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

28 November 2015

USA: Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose Travel to China

Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Frank A. Rose will travel to Beijing, China, November 30 – December 3 to attend an ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on space security. 

Additionally, he will meet with senior officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss issues of mutual concern.

Industry: Thomas Global Systems signs contract to assist with upgrade of Australian Submarine platform training simulator

Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Collins class Submarine
Sydney, Australia – Thomas Global Systems (Thomas Global) has signed a contract with Thales Australia to design and manufacture the complex user interface panels for the Platform Training Simulator (PTS) used to train crews operating the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins Class submarines.

The PTS emulates the demanding submarine operating environment, ensuring the safe handling of critical systems including manoeuvring, propulsion and diving safety. The system is operated by the Submarine Training and Systems Centre (STSC) based at HMAS Stirling, Rockingham, Western Australia.

Thales is upgrading the Platform Training Simulator to align to the Collins Class submarine current configuration and selected Thomas Global as the major sub-contractor for the project.

Thomas Global CEO, Angus Hutchinson, said – “We are pleased to again be partnering with Thales, this time on the important Collins PTS upgrade program. Thomas has a long history of applying our engineering capabilities to key naval programs, working with partners such as Thales to provide world-class in-country capabilities in support of critical defence assets.”

Industry: Lockheed Martin Continues to Bring World-Class Innovation to South Australia

$3 million investment confirms South Australia as a submarine combat systems integration global centre of excellence

Adelaide, Australia, Nov. 27, 2015: Lockheed Martin today opened a new high-tech laboratory to support the design, delivery and sustainment of Australia’s future Submarine Force, bringing world-class defence innovation to South Australia.

Leveraging significant international expertise, the submarine combat system laboratory will create a collaborative environment where the best minds from industry, academia and government come together openly to create a world-best design that meets Australia’s unique national security and defence challenges.

In recognition of the laboratory’s contribution to future defence projects and the local South Australian economy, today’s opening was attended by the Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science the Hon Christopher Pyne MP and the South Australian Defence Industries Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith MP.

Industry: Navantia delivers landing crafts to Australia

Landing craft delivered earlier by Navantia
Navantia has the pleasure in delivering to the Commonwealth in Sydney the final batch of four LLCs. This is a major achievement, where Navantia has played an important role – that of Prime Contractor for the first time in an Australian program. Since 2007, Navantia has been working in three important programs for the ADF, namely the Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs), Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), and the LHD Landing Craft (LLCs), under different contractual schemes to deliver to the best of its ability. 

On 16th December 2011, Navantia signed a contract with the then Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) under JP 2048 Phase 3 to build and deliver twelve LHD Landing Craft (LLCs) to the Commonwealth. All twelve have now been delivered to HMAS WATERHEN in Sydney on or ahead of schedule and to budget. The LLCs were built and tested in Cádiz, Spain, and shipped out to Australia. 

Industry: DCNS delivers proposal for (Australian) Future Submarines

A Model of the Shortfin Barracuda submarine
DCNS today lodged its final deliverables to the Australian Government’s Competitive Evaluation Process to select an International Program partner for the SEA1000 Future Submarine Program.  

The proposal includes a Government to Government Agreement from The French Ministère of Defence’s Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA) to the Commonwealth of Australia’s Department of Defence and a binding written commitment on key aspects of the deliverables.

This milestone has been achieved on schedule and marks the beginning of the Commonwealth of Australia’s evaluation phase.

CGI of the Shortfin Barracuda Submarine
Mr Sean Costello, CEO DCNS Australia, said “DCNS acknowledges the dedication from hundreds of people in France and Australia to the development of the Shortfin Barracuda Block 1A and a sovereign industry in Australia.”

“We have worked as a team to create the best possible solution for Australia’s future.”

Editorial: Turkey-Russia Tensions Put Caspian States in a Bind

By Evan Gottesman

Moscow’s broader international military engagements might worry its Caspian neighbors.

Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War is leaving the former Soviet republics on the Caspian Sea littoral in an uncomfortable place. Caught between their historic relationships with Moscow and concerns for their own security, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan are clearly in an unenviable political position. Moreover, unprecedented Russian military action risks destabilizing otherwise steady diplomatic ties.

A November 4 security agreement concluded by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan is one indication that something is amiss in the Caspian Sea. The plan notably provides for joint Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan naval exercises on the inland sea.

Emerging Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan defense cooperation is likely derived, at least in part, from anxiety over Moscow’s use of the Caspian Sea in its Middle East operations. Russia’s Caspian Sea Flotilla fired cruise missiles at targets in Syria in October and November. While Astana has tempered its own statements on Russian military activity in the Caspian, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov spoke for his northern neighbors during a November 23 meeting with President Vladimir Putin. There, Berdimuhamedov indicated to his Russian counterpart that, “Our Kazakh colleagues are allegedly worried over what is going on over the Caspian Sea, which is linked with military issues.”

While Berdimuhamedov claimed to convey Kazakh fears, Turkmenistan may also be troubled by Russian operations on the Caspian. Turkmenistan maintains a distinctly neutral foreign policy platform. Still, the Turkmen government has lent rhetorical support to Ukraine in Kiev’s conflict with Russia. Turkmenistan expressed its apprehension over Moscow’s 2008 invasion of Georgia by conducting military drills in the Caspian—not unlike Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan’s planned exercises.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: South Korean President Compares Protesters to ISIS

A South Korean Protest (Image: Wiki Commons)
By John Power

South Korea’s Park Geun-hye warns that anti-government protests could be infiltrated by “terrorist elements.”

According to Godwin’s law, the pop culture tenet of the Internet age, the longer a discussion goes on, the more likely someone will invoke a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis. This week, South Korean President Park Geun-hye may have provided an opportunity to update the maxim for the times by comparing local anti-government protestors to ISIS (also known as Islamic State).

Referring to a mass demonstration that took place in Seoul 10 days earlier, Park compared protesters who hid their faces by wearing masks or other facial coverings to members of the infamous extremist group, calling for a ban on masks at rallies. The protests, directed at government plans to take over the publication of school history books and reform the labor market, saw violent clashes between police and demonstrators, some of whom covered their faces.

“Given that the extremists of the Islamic State (IS) group hide their faces, we should ban demonstrators from wearing masks in the future,” Park is reported to have told a Cabinet meeting.

Alluding to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Park warned of the risk of protests being infiltrated by “terrorist elements,” reported the AFP.

Park’s remarks attracted a backlash from various quarters, not least of all those involved in the protest. The Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, which was involved in organizing the protest, said it was left “speechless” by Park’s comments.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The Security Implications of China's Belt and Road

By Kerry Brown

How China’s OBOR might creep from economics to security issues.

The “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) concept has remained frustratingly vague since it appeared in late 2013. One of the few things that can be said about it with any confidence is that it outlines the possibilities of a common economic zone among the 65 or so diverse member states. The heart of OBOR is an invitation for all the countries included to focus on benefits to be gained from engaging more with the Chinese economy. In that sense, it has proved to be a subtle, but very evident, gambit by China for a large number of countries linked to it by geography or logistics to factor Beijing more into their external thinking. A ploy for primacy perhaps, but initially in the economic, not the geopolitical, realm.

Despite this emphasis on economic links, there are inevitable questions about the ways in which the creation of a highly diverse, loose and abstract international common market centered on China bleeds into the area of security. The central, southeast and northeast Asian neighbors of China have significant security issues, many of them linked to their economic ones. Would a framework like OBOR ever allow these states to talk in a more shared way about these security issues, and involve China in their discussions? After all, economic success is of little lasting value without some kind of sense of sustainable security. The two are inextricable.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The Consequences of China's Obsession With Stability

By David Volodzko

Last week China accused the European Union of prejudice and ignorance for pronouncing concerns about the rights of Chinese lawyers. Stavros Lambridinis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, visited China, and in a subsequent press release expressed “strong concern about the recent arrests, detentions and summons of hundreds of human rights lawyers and activists.”

Among these is the case of a middle-aged woman named Wang Yu.

In 2008 Tianjin train officials barred Wang from boarding a train, despite her having already purchased a ticket. When she remonstrated, they beat her. Months later it was she, rather than her attackers, who was sent to jail for two and a half years.

The torture and slavery she witnessed in prison inspired her to become a defender of human rights, but to defend the legal rights of Chinese citizens is to become an enemy of the Chinese state. Last July her electricity was cut and she quickly texted friends that she could hear someone trying to break into her home.

State police had come in the night, presumably in boots and black shirts, and stolen her away without informing relatives whether she was alive or dead. They also lied to neighbors about their activity, telling them they were arresting a drug addict.

When Wang’s boss, Zhou Shifeng, requested an explanation, police arrested him too, along with his associates, and hundreds of other human rights lawyers. State media claimed police had successfully destroyed “a major criminal gang.”

What had Wang done that was so harmful?

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: What Is China's Plan for Fighting Global Terrorism?

By Shannon Tiezzi

After the Paris attacks, China pledged to support the international fight against terrorism. But how?

On November 13, gunmen and bombers affiliated with Islamic State (ISIS) attacked Batalcan Theater, cafes, restaurants, and the Stade de France in Paris, killing 129. A week later, armed gunmen took 170 hostages in the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako. In between, ISIS announced that it had executed two hostages, a Norwegian and a Chinese citizen.

Each of these events impacted China directly. One Chinese citizen was shot but survived the Paris attacks; three Chinese were killed in the Mali hotel attack; and hostage Fan Jinghui’s murder was confirmed by China’s Foreign Ministry.

After the events of the past two weeks, China has being facing more pressure – both domestically and internationally – to clarify its contributions to the fight against terrorism. Government officials, from ministry spokespeople to Xi Jinping himself, have been clear cut about China’s revulsion toward terrorism. The question is how China plans to fight it.

One thing is clear: an American-style “war on terror,” with military operations overseas designed to attack and overrun terrorist strongholds, is not in the cards for Beijing. China’s non-interventionist foreign policy wouldn’t necessarily prevent China from sending its military to help fight terrorist groups like ISIS, if (and only if) the host country requests it. But even countries that have openly asked for China’s aid, such as Iraq, have received only promises of personnel training and other support. China simply isn’t interested in placing boots on the ground (or missile in the air, for that matter) to fight international groups like ISIS. And given how little effect military strikes against ISIS have had so far (and the mixed results of the long-standing U.S. operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan), it’s easy to understand how Beijing reached that decision.

But the question remains: if China doesn’t subscribe to a literal war on terror, how does it propose to contribute to the global effort to eradicate terrorism, which Chinese leaders vocally supported over the past two weeks?

Read the full story at The Diplomat

27 November 2015

Think Tank: The Port of Darwin as a ‘grey zone’ situation

Patrick Cronin and Phoebe Benich

Protecting national security equities is a tricky business in an era of globalisation. Four years ago President Obama unveiled Marine rotational training in Darwin as the single most tangible security action to mark America’s long-term Asia-Pacific rebalance. While Australian Army counterparts initially relished this idea of introducing US troops to the crocodiles and harsh environs of the Northern Territory, the modest military step carried great political significance. In the face of Chinese criticism of the move as containment, many wondered how Canberra would balance its growing economic ties to China with its long-term security alliance with the US. The most recent move by Beijing to purchase a lease on the Port of Darwin pushes the seams of those two seemingly contradictory demands.

By putting up US$366 million for an 80% ownership stake in the Port of Darwin, Landbridge Group has just acquired nearly a century of access to one of the alliance’s strategic neighborhoods. Even if the private Chinese company’s transaction was simply for commercial benefit, does anyone believe it will take long for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Ministry of State Security intelligence operatives to acquire privileged access—a permanent VIP pass?

No wonder some prominent American and Australian critics pounced on potential Chinese motivations and argued that the deal facilitates a ‘Chinese renaissance.’ The deal also took most of Washington by surprise, as it came immediately on the heels of high-level alliance consultations. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who holds an honorary Order of Australia (AC), was nonplused about the apparent breakdown in alliance communications. Yet defenders of the lease, mostly in Australia, noted the obvious economic benefits of the deal and dismissed detractors as ‘xenophobic.’

AUS: Joint Strike Fighter opens up a world stage for Australian industry

Brisbane-based company, Heat Treatment Australia, has been named Commercial Heat Treater of the Year 2016 by the prestigious United States based Metals Technology Institute, following its contribution to the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Minister for Defence Materiel and Science, the Hon Mal Brough MP, today acknowledged both Heat Treatment Australia’s success and the global opportunities the Joint Strike Fighter program is providing Australian industry.

“Heat Treatment Australia has recently qualified to provide a vacuum brazing process for the Joint Strike Fighter. This highly skilled process, undertaken in Brisbane, makes the aircraft stronger and lighter by using a high-end technology to bond metal together and reduce the need for nuts and bolts,” Minister Brough said.

“Heat Treatment Australia’s involvement in the global Joint Strike Fighter program has given the Australian company the opportunity to demonstrate its capability to international customers.

“The Joint Strike Fighter program is opening doors internationally for industry participation and Australian companies are seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the capability, innovation, and value that Australia can provide.

Editorial: What Now for the Peacebuilding Process in Myanmar?

By David Hale

The NLD must maintain progress and broaden its focus.

The impending transition of power from President Thein Sein to Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) has significant implications for Myanmar’s nascent peace process. Having failed to institutionalize the peacebuilding effort since the process was reinvigorated through a series of bilateral agreements in 2011, there remains an immediate concern that political capital will continue to be the compass and barometer for negotiations. While NLD’s overwhelming majority imbues a mandate to compromise that the USDP lacked, its predisposition towards populist sentiment may yet prove a liability in negotiations. More than anything, Myanmar must begin to broaden the scope of the peacebuilding initiative to lessen its reliance on ever-fragile high-level talks.

Myanmar’s political transition and the military’s escalating offensives in Northern Shan State have added uncertainty amid recent progress in technical negotiations. The October 15 signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement was an important milestone and a critical platform for progressing discussions, albeit with only eight of the 15 armed groups who entered negotiations. From this, the establishment of the trilateral Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) on November 22 and Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JCMC) has created a path to negotiate a more substantive agenda. While these have notionally been established as non-partisan bodies, there is little doubt NLD’s sweeping electoral victory will dramatically alter the pace and scope of talks. With so much of the peacebuilding effort to date intrinsically linked directly to the President’s Office, a readjustment and realignment will be inevitable. Technical advisors will be replaced, and new relationships – from the president down – will take time to cement.

Given the length of time inevitably required to transform violent intrastate conflict, Myanmar’s peace processes inevitably must survive further political transitions and military upheavals. In one of his more pessimistic, but perhaps often realistic observations, peacebuilder and scholar John Paul Lederach often observes that getting out of a conflict takes as long as it takes to get into it. So as Myanmar enters its fifth year of negotiations, the road ahead to resolve the country’s six decade civil war, is likely to be long and winding.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The Importance of the Joint Statement on the US-ASEAN Strategic Partnership

By Ben Schreer and Sheryn Lee

The elevated relationship sends a clear message to China.

At the 3rd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Kuala Lumpur, both sides elevated their relationship to the “ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership.” While “strategic partnerships” abound in the Asia-Pacific, this one is symbolically important for several reasons. It comes amidst growing tensions over China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea (SCS). Two ASEAN states, the Philippines and Vietnam, are engaged in fierce territorial claims with China. Moreover, Indonesia and Malaysia are increasingly concerned about China encroaching on their maritime sovereignty. And Beijing’s massive “land reclamation” activities in the SCS has all too clearly demonstrated to Southeast Asian littoral countries that China seeks to change the regional security order with blatant disregard for their strategic interests and sovereignty.

China’s challenge to Southeast Asia’s order has put considerable stress on ASEAN. Primarily designed to deal with economic and political issues rather than questions of hard power and security, ASEAN runs a real risk of being “divided and conquered” by China, whose large checkbook seems particularly irresistible for smaller, land-locked members. Beijing’s participation in “ASEAN plus” forums has also provided it with the power to veto criticism of its maritime behavior. For instance, the recent ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting’ Plus (ADMM Plus) in early November ended without a joint declaration after China blocked a push by some ASEAN nations, the United States, and Japan to include concerns over the SCS.

Against this background, the conclusion of the ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership can be seen as sending some clear messages to China. Hitherto largely unthinkable, the relationship agenda with the U.S. now not only includes security issues but the joint statement also implicitly acknowledges the critical role played by Washington in upholding the principles of the regional security order. It states that both sides are “committed to a rules-based approach in Asia, respect for international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes.” It also emphasizes “ASEAN Centrality in the evolving rules-based architecture of the Asia-Pacific” and reaffirms “the importance of maintaining peace and stability, ensuring maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation including in and over-flight above the South China Sea.” Finally, it stresses the resolution of disputes in “accordance with universally recognized principles of international law.”

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Saving Taiwan's Marine Corps

Republic of China (Taiwan) Marine Corps Flag
(Image: Wiki Commons)
By Grant Newsham and Kerry Gershaneck

Taiwan’s amphibious capabilities are becoming dangerously weak.

While other Asia/Pacific nations are building amphibious capabilities, Taiwan (the Republic of China) is going the other way – at its great peril. Taiwan’s slow self-destruction of its Marine Corps creates a dangerous gap in its defense, and undermines both deterrence and the confidence of its friends.

Rather than continue to eviscerate this strategically vital force, with vision and relatively modest investment Taiwan’s leaders must re-forge it to make it a decisive national asset for its “asymmetric defense” plans.

How Taiwan’s Marines Got to This Point

The Ma Administration shrank the Taiwan Marine Corps (TMC) from 16,000 to 9,000 troops in recent years, and even considered disbanding it – at a time when its militarily powerful, increasingly aggressive adversary across the Taiwan Strait is openly advertising its ability to take Taiwan by force.

These decisions were nominally linked to an overall decline in defense spending. More accurately, however, they reflect a glaring failure by Taiwan’s defense establishment to recognize the TMC’s essential role in national defense, and the vital role it can play in making Taiwan “too tough a nut to crack.”

The Taiwan Marine Corps was established on Mainland China as an amphibious assault force. When the Nationalist government fled to Taiwan following the Communist victory in the civil war, the TMC’s main mission shifted over time from amphibious assault to retake the mainland to a more static defense of Taiwan and its few outlying islands.

Tough and disciplined, the Taiwan Marines mastered that particular role, particularly the difficult maneuvers designed to disrupt PRC amphibious assaults. But the TMC suffered increasingly serious deficiencies.

Much like species on the Galapagos Island cut off from outside contact and influence, the TMC has been cut off from most interaction with foreign militaries. As a result, it resembles a 1979 version of the U.S. Marine Corps. Although TMC’s ethos and professionalism are superb – indeed, the best in the Taiwan Armed Forces – the Taiwan Marines “froze” in time where the U.S. Marines were 35 years ago: relatively heavy, mechanized, and not particularly mobile.

Eventually its skillsets did not seem to match Taiwan’s defense requirements, as the PRC’s strengthened military and offensive capabilities altered the regional security environment. Consequently, the TMC has fared badly in bureaucratic resource battles.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

26 November 2015

Think Tank: A 5th generation Royal Australian Navy

HMAS Canberra and Adelaide
Tim Barrett

2015 is the year that saw Government announce that Continuous Shipbuilding will be a permanent feature in the nation’s industrial landscape – surely, this is not an outlandish notion for a maritime nation.

To understand why that decision marks the beginning of a new maritime and naval era, I want to briefly look back over the century of the RAN’s existence.

Let me start by reflecting on the writing of my learned colleague Rear-Admiral James Goldrick.

In a speech to the Australian Naval Institute in 2011, he spoke of the Australian Navy and the way that its capabilities have developed.

He suggested that the last century saw the progressive evolution of four generations of Australian ‘fleet units’. Each fleet unit was designed to meet fundamental changes in both the strategic environment and in the contemporary technology of naval warfare.

He opined that we were now at the start of a fifth generation of national naval capability. This assessment, though fundamentally simple and obvious, is of profound importance. Four years on, I contend we are well advanced in the move to this new, fifth ‘fleet unit’.

AUS: Iraqi soldiers graduate from Australia and New Zealand training course

Iraqi Army soldiers graduating from the NCO Academy applaud during the graduation ceremony at the Taji Military Complex, Iraq. Australian and New Zealand forces are assisting the Iraqi Army NCO Academy to enhance the ability of Iraqi soldiers to combat Daesh. (Image: Australian Defence Image Library) >>

Another 230 Iraqi soldiers have graduated from the Australia and New Zealand’s Task Group Taji (TG Taji) Military Complex’s Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy.

TG Taji’s Australian Commander, Colonel Matt Galton, said the graduation was the second NCO academy course supported by TG Taji and brought the total number of NCOs trained to some 430.

“The first NCO academy course with about 200 junior leaders graduated in late September. This latest graduating course of 230 was drawn from around 50 battalions from across the regular Iraqi Army,” COL Galton said.

Iraqi Minister of Defence, Doctor Kaled al-Obeidi and senior Iraqi Defence personnel attended the ceremony.

USA: Japanese Minister of Defense Visits USS Port Royal

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jeffrey Troutman

Gen Nakatani, center, the Japanese Minister of Defense, speaks with Capt. Adolfo Ibarra, second from left, commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), and staff members of Nakatani's cabinet during a tour of the ship as part of Nakatani's visit to Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Jeff Troutman) >>

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - Gen Nakatani, the Japanese minister of defense, visited and toured the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), and spoke with the ship’s commanding officer and personnel about the U.S. Navy’s ballistic missile defense systems, Nov. 23.

The ship tour was part of Nakatani’s visit to Pearl Harbor to engage with naval officials and learn more about the U.S. Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (ABMD).

“I want to thank you for having me and my staff aboard your ship, and taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us about AMBD,” said Nakatani through a translator. “I’m here to visit with you to learn more about your missile defense systems and how they help keep our countries safe from enemy threats.”

News Story: Tech transfer, budget still matter to KF-X

A model of one of several possible KFX designs
By Jun Ji-hye

Korea's tentative deal with Indonesia to share the costs of the KF-X project, reached Sunday, bodes well for the nation's indigenous fighter program.

The signing is expected to ease concerns over the feasibility of the 8.5 trillion won project that were raised after Seoul failed to receive four core technologies related to the F-35 stealth fighter from Lockheed Martin in April.

However, the transfer of the remaining 21 technologies from the U.S. defense giant and the budget issue still remain major obstacles to completing the project on time. The project is aimed at building new fighter aircraft by 2025 to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.

Whether or not Lockheed Martin will hand over all of the remaining technologies to Seoul is cited as the biggest matter now. Company officials visited the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) last week to discuss and check on the progress of the U.S. government's inspection of the transfer.

The transfer of 25 technologies, including the four, was included in the offset deal in return for Korea's purchase of 40 F-35s, which was signed in September last year.

Read the full story at Korea Times

News Story: Singapore pursues expansion of military training space in Australia

By Kelvin Wong

Defence training agreements and co-operation between Singapore and Australia look set to be expanded under the Singapore-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) framework following the latest round of discussions between the defence leaders of both countries.

Singaporean defence minister Ng Eng Hen called on his Australian counterpart, Marise Payne, in Sydney on 19 November before travelling to the country's northeastern Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) - near the city of Rockhampton in Queensland - to observe Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) troops participating in Exercise 'Wallaby' 2015: an annual drill conducted there since 1990.

According to a statement by the Singapore Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), Ng and Payne reiterated their governments' commitment to enhance the bilateral defence relationship between both countries and to finalise a number of initiatives under the recently renewed Memorandum of Understanding for Cooperation in Defence Science and Technology.

Read the full story at IHS Jane's 360

Editorial: R.I.P., India’s Influence in Nepal

By Vishal Arora

India will pay a diplomatic price for its reaction to Nepal’s new constitution.

India’s “unofficial” blockade of goods on its side of the Nepal border has successfully shown New Delhi’s muscles to its neighbor. However, this act of punishing Nepal for not addressing India’s concerns in its new constitution appears to be the first act in a diplomatic suicide.

Nepal’s border with India has been blocked for more than two months, and is being referred to as another “disaster” following the April 25 earthquake, which killed more than 10,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of houses. The blockade has choked imports of not only petroleum, but also medicines and earthquake relief material.

New Delhi has blamed violent protests by Nepal’s ethnic Madhesi activists over their displeasure with federal boundaries and representation in parliament and public office, as provided for in the new constitution. The Madhesh region in southern Nepal is home to people of Indian origin, many of whom still have relatives and friends across the border in India.

New Delhi had told Kathmandu, through a leaked document, that it wanted Nepal’s constitution to address the concerns of the Madhesi people. India was also hoping that Nepal would either be reinstated as a Hindu nation or drop the word “secular” from its charter. But Nepal’s lawmakers didn’t oblige, and believe they are now being “disciplined” by “big brother.”

The blockade is fuelling anti-India sentiment across the country, barring Madhesh. This growing aversion to India is not just a social phenomenon, it also becoming a political reality.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US B-52 Bombers to Get New Long-Range Cruise Missile

JASSM (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Franz-Stefan Gady

The B-52 “Stratofortress” will be armed with a new conventional long-range cruise missile.

The B-52H long-range heavy bomber will be armed with Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158B Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) in a deal announced this November estimated to be worth $9.1 million, Flight Global reports.

According to the article, the B-52H long-range heavy bomber will be outfitted with a new digitized rotary launcher to carry the turbofan engine-powered cruise missile internally as well as externally on its pylons.

The B-52H bomber is already configured to carry the shorter-range standard JASSM on its pylons. Adding the extended range variant will more than double the bomber’s JASSM strike distance to 500 nautical miles (926 kilometers), Flight Global explains.

“JASSM-ER has more than two-and-a-half times the range of the baseline AGM-158A JASSM, meaning it can be launched from outside of defended airspace and the coverage of long-range surface-to-air missiles, and is intended for use against high-value, well-fortified, fixed and re-locatable targets,” according to IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: China Tests New Hypersonic Weapon

WU-14/DF-ZF HGV (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Franz-Stefan Gady

China has conducted yet another test of a hypersonic glide vehicle designed to defeat U.S. missile defenses.

This week, the People’s Republic of China successfully conducted a sixth flight test of its DF-ZF (previously known as WU-14) hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Bill Gertz of The Washington Free Beacon reports.

The DF-ZF is an ultra-high-speed missile allegedly capable of penetrating U.S. air defense systems based on interceptor missiles.

The launch of the DF-ZF took place at the Wuzhai missile test center in central China’s Shanxi Province. A ballistic missile transported the DF-ZF HGV near the edge of the atmosphere, where it separated from its launcher and then glided to an impact range a few thousands kilometers away in western China, according to The Washington Free Beacon.

“The DF-ZF flight was tracked by U.S. intelligence agencies and flew at speeds beyond Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound,” Gertz notes. Previous tests of the DF-ZF took place on June 7, January 9, and August 7, 2015, and December 2, 2014.

Read the full story at The Diplomat