31 October 2016

Think Tank: Tides and eddies of Asia power shifts

Graeme Dobell

In Asia’s slow-motion power shift, the Philippines has just lurched towards China’s orbit. Now to work out a sense of the import and meaning of the shift.

President Rodrigo Duterte goes to Beijing to declare his ‘separation’ from the US, and that he’s ‘realigned myself in your [China’s] ideological flow.’ The zero sum call is that China wins and the US loses. What, though, does this sum add up to? The scale of win and loss is in flux with a hint of farce. Duterte serves up serious stuff with scatologic sauce.

Duterte heads home from Beijing where the finessing starts: he’s not breaking off relations with the US, merely seeking a more independent foreign policy. And then the President hops on the plane and heads to Japan, announcing: ‘The alliances are alive. There should be no worry about changes of alliances.’ Initial commentary on Duterte’s separation and realigned language predicted disaster for the US, putting the pivot into a death spiral. Far too big a call, I suggest, and far too fast. Rather than the US, the big potential loser in prospect is ASEAN.

USA: Makin Island ARG, 11th MEU enter 7th Fleet

By PO2 Dennis Grube, USS Makin Island Public Affairs

USS Makin Island (LHD 8), center, USS Comstock (LSD 45), left, and USS Somerset (LPD 25) operate in the Pacific Ocean, Oct. 25.(U.S. Navy/PO2 Dennis Grube) >>

PACIFIC OCEAN - The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) arrived in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations after concluding operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet, Oct. 29.

While in 7th Fleet, the Makin Island ARG/11th MEU will participate in bilateral training exercises and conduct operations throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific. The series of scheduled bilateral engagements is meant to strengthen interoperability with allies and partners in order to enhance regional security and stability.

“This team has trained together for several months, exercising the spectrum of our amphibious capabilities, in preparation for our time in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” said Capt. Mike Crary, commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) Five. “We’re looking forward to the opportunities we will have to work with our partners and allies here, as well as experience some of the rich culture the region has to offer.”

News Report: Lashkar-e-Taiba Militants Killed by Afghan Government Airstrikes

At least 19 militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group have been killed and eight more wounded in airstrikes on the group's operating area near the border with Pakistan, the Afghan Ministry of Interior reported October 30.

The October 29 strikes in the Dangam district of Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province also destroyed a rocket launcher and a machine gun. 

The ministry's statement said a "clearance operation" in Dangam district is ongoing. 

Lashkar-e-Taiba, headquartered in Pakistan, where its founder lives freely, is focused on "liberating" the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from Indian control and establishing a South Asian caliphate. It is accused of being involved in the 2010 bombing of a bakery in Pune, India, and the 2014 attack on the Indian consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. 

News Report: Indian Army Destroys Four Pakistani Border Posts, Kills up to 20 Soldiers

The Indian army destroyed at least four Pakistan’s border posts killing up to 20 soldiers, local NDTV TV-channel reported on Sunday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The incident occurred on Saturday in the Keran sector along the Line of Control, the NDTV TV-channel reported citing the Indian army.

The Indian army said that it responded to the ceasefire violations committed by the Pakistan’s army in Kathua and RS Pura sectors.

Kashmir has been disputed between India and Pakistan since the partition of India in 1947. The two countries have gone through three wars over the region, but the conflict has not been resolved. 

The recent escalation of violence across the India-Pakistan border came after 19 Indian soldiers died as a result of the September 18 attack by armed militants on a base outside of Srinagar, the capital of India-administered Kashmir.

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

News Report: Airstrike Kills at Least 25 Taliban Militants in Eastern Afghanistan

At least 25 Taliban militants were killed by an airstrike in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The airstrike was carried out in the Sherzad district of the Nangarhar province, the Khaama Press media outlet reported Sunday citing the country’s Ministry of Defense.

The Taliban group has not commented on the report yet. 

Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with government forces fighting the continuing Taliban insurgency, while other extremist groups, such as Daesh, outlawed in many countries including the United States and Russia, have also expanded their activities both in the country and in the neighboring states.

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

News Report: Afghan Forces Suffered 15,000 Casualties in First 8 Months of 2016

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD — Afghanistan’s security forces battling the resurgent Taliban have suffered around 15,000 casualties, including 5,523 fatalities in the first eight months of 2016, says a U.S. government monitoring agency.

The agency has also warned of eroding gains the war-shattered country has made with the help of the international community.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in its quarterly report published Sunday noted the Afghan government lost 2.2 percent territorial control during this year’s fighting.

“Of Afghanistan's 407 districts, 258 districts were under government control or influence, 33 districts were under insurgent control or influence, and 116 districts were “contested.”

There were 101 insider attacks from January 1, 2015 through August 19, 2016 in which Afghan National Defense and Security Force (ANDSF) personnel turned on fellow security forces, killing 257 and wounding 125 others.

News Report: National Geographic's Famed 'Afghan Girl' Still in Pakistan Custody

Ayaz Gul

Diplomatic and legal efforts are underway in Pakistan to secure an early release from police custody of a green-eyed Afghan woman whose photograph as a young refugee was published on the cover of National Geographic in 1985.

Police arrested 46-year old Sharbat Gulla this past Wednesday at her residence in the city of Peshawar on charges of fraudulently obtaining Pakistani national identity cards for her herself and her two sons.

On Friday, Pakistani prosecutors said that Gulla was brought before a Peshawar court for the first time where she pleaded not guilty. But the court remanded her in judicial custody for further interrogation.

People caught with possessing illegal Pakistani nationality cards could face up to 14 years in prison and a financial penalty of up to $5,000 if convicted.

Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Hazrat Omer Zakhilwal, told VOA their legal team is in contact with relevant authorities and “we expect Sharbat Gulla to be released” when the court reconvenes on Tuesday (November 1)."

News Story: Chinese army vows efforts on strict Party governance

BEIJING, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Chinese military forces have pledged to closely unite around the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and vowed steadfast efforts on strict governance of the Party.

The Central Military Commission (CMC) has issued a circular urging the People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the armed police force to study and implement the spirit of the sixth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee.

The Party committees of the five theater commands agreed that the two key documents on the discipline of the Party approved at the session were new major moves on strengthening the Party building, which showcase the determination of the CPC Central Committee on strict Party governance.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Support rate in Japan for Abe's Cabinet drops amid myriad public concerns

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
TOKYO, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- The support rate in Japan for the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dropped in nationwide poll amid issues pertaining to a possible extension to Abe's term and a new mission for the Self-Defense Forces, local media reported Sunday.

According to a nationwide telephone survey conducted by Kyodo News on Saturday and Sunday, the approval rating of Abe's Cabinet stood at 53.9 percent, dropping from 55.7 percent in a poll taken in September, while the disapproval rate jumped 3.2 points to 33.2 percent.

Of concern to the public, according to the survey, was a potential extension in Abe's leadership of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), with the LDP looking to possibly change its rules to allow Abe's presidency to run for a third successive, three-year term, meaning the extension of his role as prime minister.

According to the poll, the majority of those surveyed maintained that the plan was not a good idea, with 51.8 percent saying it would be better for the ruling party to not change its rules. Under the current LDP rules, Abe's second term will run through September 2018 and is not allowed to run for another term.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 2 militants killed, 8 soldiers wounded in clashes with Islamic fighters in southern Philippines

MANILA, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine military said Sunday that two militants were killed and eight soldiers wounded in fightings between troops and Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

Army Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman for the Philippine armed forces, said in a statement that two Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed in a brief firefight in Indanan, a town in Sulu on Sunday morning, bringing the total number of dead Abu Sayyaf fighters to 38 since the new government launched a renewed offensive against the criminal group in July.

Tan said that eight soldiers were wounded in another clash that broke out in Patikul town, also in Sulu.

He said the military could not say whether there were militants killed in the incident, saying there are still sporadic fighting until around 3 p.m. Sunday.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Washington's anxieties in Asia-Pacific region

by Liu Chang

BEIJING, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- In recent days, Washington seems to be agonizing over the colorful rhetoric of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, while its "pivot to Asia" policy faces even more uncertainties.

The United States believes that it has some sort of natural rights to write what outgoing President Barack Obama called "the rules of the road" for the Asia-Pacific region. Moreover, it wants all nations in the region to observe that same playbook.

Yet without obedient partnerships underpinned by strong economic, military and security cooperation, America's such geopolitical arrangement could go nowhere.

In recent months, Washington has been troubled by a sense of worry.

Since Duterte took office in late June, the new leader in Manila has kept flashing out signals that have perplexed the Americans, if not enraging them. Perhaps the U.S. leaders have now begun to miss the "good old days" when former Philippine President Benigno Aquino III was in power.

Now that the Philippines has vowed to send all foreign troops home, including the U.S. forces stationed in the Southeastern Asian country, many are wondering how far Manila would go to push forward its independent foreign policy.

While the Philippines seems to be pivoting away, the bleak picture for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact has also raised qualms of America's allies in the region about Washington's determination and ability to close the deal.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Myanmar to hold first national-level political dialogue next month

NAY PYI TAW , Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar's Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, has laid out the structure and work guidelines on holding the first national-level political dialogue next month.

The two-day UPDJC meeting, which ended on late Saturday, was able to make nine decisions required for the national-level political dialogue, making a step forward with the peace process, said UPDJC Vice Chairman Dr. Tin Myo Win.

The national-level political dialogue will begin in some regions and states in mid-November that are ready to host them, he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi has on the first day of the meeting proposed to hold the national-level political dialogue in three types which are outlined as those based on region, national cause and ethnic affairs.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 70 militants, 9 soldiers killed in Afghanistan within day

KABUL, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Some 70 militants were killed after Afghan army, police and intelligence agency personnel launched wide-scale operations against militants' hideouts within the past 24 hours, said the country's Defense Ministry on Sunday.

Up to 15 armed Taliban insurgents were also wounded and 20 persons were detained by the joint forces during the raids launched in 15 of the country's 34 provinces, the ministry said in a statement providing operational updates.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 7 family members killed, another injured as mortar mine hits residential area in N. Afghanistan

PUL-E-KHUMRI, Afghanistan, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Seven members of a family were killed and another injured as a mortar mine struck a house in Baghlan-e-Markazi district of the northern Afghan province of Baghlan on Sunday, a local official said.

"A mortar mine fired by Taliban militants struck a house in Baghlan-e-Markazi district at around noon leaving seven members of the family dead and injured another," district governor Gohar Khan Babiri told reporters here.

Those who have lost their lives in the deadly attack include three women and four children, the official said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Airstrikes kill 8 militants in Afghanistan northern province

MAIMANA, Afghanistan, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- Up to eight Taliban militants were killed and similar number injured as the Afghan government's aircrafts pounded militants' hideout in the northern Faryab province Saturday, police said.

The province has Maimana as its capital, which is located 425 km north of Kabul.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Indian firing injures four civilians, says Pakistani army

ISLAMABAD, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- The Pakistani military said on Sunday that at least four civilians were injured in Indian firing at the working boundary between the two bitter neighbors.

Intermittent exchange of fire continues at working boundary in Harpar, Chaprar, Pukhlian and Shakargarh sectors since Saturday, an army statement said.

"Four civilians were injured at working boundary due to unprovoked Indian firing. Pakistani troops are effectively targeting Indian posts," the statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Five killed in possible sectarian attack in Pakistan's Karachi

ISLAMABAD, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- At least five people were killed and six others injured on Saturday evening in a shooting incident in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, police said.

Police chief of Pakistan's southern Sindh province, A. D. Khawja, said that the incident took place when four unknown gunmen riding on two motorcycles opened fire at a group of Shia Muslims who were making arrangements for a religious gathering in a street in Nazim Abad area of Karachi.

A women and four men were among the deceased persons, who died on spot after the attack, while injured people include three women and two children.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Daesh Commander Killed By Taliban In Farah

A commander of Daesh militants who was in charge of training suicide attackers was killed in a Taliban attack in Farah province, local officials said on Sunday.

The commander named Abdul Razaq Mehdi, was killed in the Taliban attack while ago in Golestan district of the province and is confirmed now, district governor of Golestan, Ajmal Zahid said.

He added that Golestan shares border with southern Helmand province and therefore Taliban and Daesh insurgents can easily enter the district.

Abdul Razzaq and another Daesh leader were also recruiting insurgents to the group for the past two years.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Qadir Warns Of Rising Daesh Activity In Nangarhar

by Abdul Wali Arian 

The deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, Zahir Qadir, on Saturday warned against what he called an increase in Daesh activities in Nangarhar province and said the group will establish a Khorasan caliphate if they seize the Tora Bora area.

"They [Daesh] have taken control of a very sensitive and strategic area. They have decided to enter Tora Bora and if they enter Tora Bora, they will build a Khorasan caliphate," Qadir said.
Washington also warned that Daesh after being suppressed in Iraq and Syria is trying to find its footprint in other areas where there is little government control.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: BRP Andres Bonifacio home bound on Tuesday

Gregor Del Pilar (Hamilton) Class Frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz
The Philippine Navy (PN)’s third Hamilton-class cutter, which is now known as the BRP Andres Bonifacio (FF-17), is tentatively scheduled to sail home bound on November 1. (American time). The ship and its Filipino crew is currently docked at the US Coast Guard Base in Alameda, California where they are undergoing (training) on the various systems of the vessel.

This include damage control, gunnery training and emergency drills and evolution.

Read the full story at Update.PH

News Story: PH, US forces conclude mine search, underwater search-and-retrieval training

Philippine Navy (PN) special operations operatives and their US counterparts recently concluded another exercise called the “Humanitarian Mine Action Assistance Training” which was held last Oct. 17 to 26 in Palawan. This was confirmed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo Thursday.

The nine-day training activity took place at the Western Command’s Tide Pool Pier at Naval Station Apolinario Jalandoon, in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

“It was a small unit subject matter expert engagement that has long been prior scheduled and participated in by only eight PN Special Operations personnel and four US counterparts,” Arevalo said.

Read the full story at Update.PH

News Story: Air Force to convert another ‘Sokol’ helicopter into SAR platform

In line with its disaster response missions, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it is converting another of its W-3A “Sokol” combat utility helicopter, this time tail number 922, into a search-and-rescue (SAR) aircraft. It has allocated PHP31,451,000 for the acquisition of spareparts and other materials needed for the SAR reconfiguration project.

Bid submission and opening is on Nov. 8, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Read the full story at Update.PH

29 October 2016

AUS: Australia, Japan, U.S. Sign Trilateral Information Sharing Arrangement

Today, representatives of the Australian Department of Defence, Japan Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense signed a Trilateral Information Sharing Arrangement (TISA) to further strengthen defence cooperation.

Officials of defence authorities of the three countries met in Honolulu, Hawaii together with representatives of diplomatic authorities, for the eighth trilateral Security and Defence Cooperation Forum where the TISA was signed.

The TISA will further enhance the strategic trilateral relationship and support peace and stability in the Asia Pacific by expediting information sharing to enable higher capability defence exercises and operations among the three nations, taking into account situational awareness in the region.

At the trilateral dialogue, officials pledged to enhance trilateral defence cooperation on maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and continue to conduct high capability military exercises. The officials reaffirmed their strategic goals and commitment for trilateral cooperation to further peace and security in the Asia Pacific.

USA: Bonhomme Richard ESG returns to Okinawa for Marines offload

By PO2 Sarah Villegas, Expeditionary Strike Group 7 Public Affairs

An MV-22B Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 departs USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as part of an offload of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. (U.S. Navy/P02 William Sykes) >>

OKINAWA, Japan - The last two ships of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Group (BHR ESG) arrived in Okinawa, Japan, to offload the embarked Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Oct. 28.

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Germantown (LSD 42) arrived Oct. 28, following USS Green Bay (LPD 20), which arrived on Oct. 26, as the three amphibious ships wrapped up more than two months of joint operations with the 31st MEU Marines in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

During the deployment, the Sailors and Marines of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group worked together to complete exercise Valiant Shield, Philippine Amphibious Landing Exercise 33 (PHIBLEX), integration with the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG), and their amphibious integration training (AIT) and certification exercise (CERTEX).

USA: Makin Island ARG, 11th MEU conduct Sustainment Training in Hawaii

USS Makin Island (Image: Wiki Commons)
From USS Makin Island and 11th MEU Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted amphibious sustainment training on Oahu and the island of Hawaii, Oct. 19-23, after departing Naval Base San Diego, Oct. 14, for a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 3rd, 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility.

"As we head into the Western Pacific and then to the Middle East, this training opportunity in Hawaii proved crucial to sustaining our combat readiness," said Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. "Whether we're bringing food and supplies to people in need or conducting a helo-borne raid to remove a high-value individual from the battlefield, the Makin Island ARG/11th MEU provides our nation with an on-call, forward deployed crisis response force."

News Story: Chinese Vessels No Longer in Disputed Shoal – Philippines’ Defense Chief

Philippines’ Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday that Chinese coast guard ships have left the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

Filipino fishermen are back in the area of the shoal, territory that is claimed by Manila as Panatag, and can return to the traditional way of making their living, four years after China seized control of the region. 

"Since three days ago there are no longer Chinese ships, coast guard or navy in the Scarborough area," Lorenzana told reporters, referring to the departure of the vessels as a "welcome development." 

He added, however, that the report required verification and that the Philippine air force was preparing to conduct aerial surveillance of the shoal on Saturday.

News Report: Tensions Boil - Beijing Accuses Japan of Endangering Chinese Aircraft

On Thursday the Chinese Defense Ministry accused Japan of targeting and endangering the safety of Beijing’s military aircraft. Tokyo and Beijing are in the midst of a long-standing dispute over a group of islands in the East China Sea, called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku in Japan.

Fighter jets and patrol ships from both countries have been hounding each other near the small, uninhabited islets, seemingly setting the stage for an impending confrontation. Beijing’s planes have been chased 407 times by Japanese fighter jets in the six months preceding September. This marks a roughly 75 percent increase from 231 incidents over the same period last year, according to the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. 

Wu Qian, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman, maintains that Japan is interfering with training exercises and beefing up its surveillance while Beijing’s air force acts in compliance with international law.

News Report: Modi Embarks on PR Tour for Forces Deployed at Chinese Border

Disputed Arunachal Pradesh located in shaded box top right
A war of words between India and China has increased over exiled Tibetan leader's visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — India has increased its activities along the Indo-China border amid China's strong opposition to a recent visit of the US ambassador and exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama to Tawang, an area which the Chinese claim is disputed. The Indian Army Chief also reviewed the operational preparedness along the border.

"The Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Dalbir Singh reviewed the operational preparedness along the Indo-China border in areas of Puh & Sumdo in Himachal Pradesh on 28 October 2016. He also interacted with troops on ground & expressed satisfaction at the high operational standards achieved," reads a statement released by the Indian Ministry of Defense. 

News Report: NATO Mission Dismisses Taliban Claims of US Casualties in Afghanistan

Claims of the Taliban Islamist movement about US military casualties in Afghanistan are not true, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission announced on Friday.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On Tuesday, Afghan authorities dismissed claims of US casualties near Bagram.

"Taliban claims of US casualties are false. There have been no US casualties in Afghanistan in the last 24 hours," the mission said. 

Afghanistan is in a state of political and social turmoil, with government forces fighting the continuing Taliban insurgency. The instability in the Asian country is supported by regular terror attacks and killings of civilians.

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

News Report: North Korean Leader Orders Full-Fledged Probe Into Failed Missile Launch

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered to create a special investigation team to examine the causes of the recent missile launch failure, media reported on Friday, referring to the head of a North Korean dissident group.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The North Korean leader reportedly accused US and South Korean spies of the failed test of the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile, claiming they had damaged some of missile parts.

"Kim has instructed the special investigation team to implement a probe into the national defense sector starting on Nov. 1 to make the causes for the launch failures clear," Kim Heung-kwang, the executive director of Seoul-based dissidents' group North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency. 

The investigation team is expected to include about 60 experts, while all the people involved in missile construction would be subject to the probe. 

On October 14, North Korea carried out a failed test of the Musadan intermediate-range ballistic missile near the northwestern city of Kusong. 

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula intensified in September after the North claimed to have successfully exploded a nuclear warhead, having previously detonated a hydrogen bomb in January. 

The September 9 test is believed to be the fifth and largest blast since Pyongyang began pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The UN Security Council condemned it as a repeated violation of its resolutions.

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

News Report: US to Go Beyond THAAD Deployment in S Korea if N Korea Threat Persists

US will further promote the THAAD missile systems deployment in South Korea in case North Korean threat persists, US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Friday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The United States will take more "defensive" steps aside from the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile systems in South Korea if the North Korean threat persists, US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said Friday.

"Every single day that goes by, North Korea becomes more and more acute threat to South Korea, Japan, countries in the region and the U.S. And it gets closer to the day when it can actually put a nuclear weapon and an inter-continental ballistic missile that can reach the continental U.S. That's not acceptable for us … We have been very clear with China and others that we will have to continue to take defensive steps to protect ourselves and protect our allies and partners," Blinken said at a lecture at Seoul National University, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency. 

In July, South Korea and the United States agreed to deploy the anti-missile system in the Seongju County amid growing regional tensions, spurred by North Korea’s recent ballistic missile tests and two nuclear tests over the past year. 

China and Russia have both opposed the THAAD deployment, arguing the system could be applied beyond deterring North Korea and affect Chinese and Russian interests in the region.

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

News Report: Facing Pressure at Home, Islamic State Focuses on SE Asia

Ron Corben

BANGKOK — As the Islamic State terror group faces territorial losses in the Middle East, there are signs that the group is increasing its cooperation with local militant groups in Southeast Asia.

A new report from researchers at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), warns that supporters of the terrorist group are networking in Southeast Asia and law enforcement agencies appear unprepared for the new threat.

“Over the last two years, ISIS has provided a new basis for cooperation among extremists in the region,” said IPAC director Sidney Jones, using an acronym to describe the Islamic State, which is also known as IS, ISIL, and Daesh.

News Report: Security Experts - China Tried to Hack US-Taiwan Defense Conference

Tina Chung

U.S. network security experts say Chinese hackers recently launched a network attack targeting people attending a U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference.

Officials say the attempted attack took place this month at the conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, attended by defense officials, defense industry representatives, defense security experts and think-tank scholars.

Steven Adair, founder of Washington-area network security company Volexity, said the hacking attempt was based on a Chinese phishing email, asking recipients to open the message. The email contained malicious software that would have allowed the hackers to enter all systems connected to that computer network.

Lotta Danielson, vice president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Association, which sponsored the conference, told VOA the association has been a target of hacking for years, and has been vigilant about hacking attacks. She said she immediately notified all participants of the conference when she saw the suspicious email.

Danielson said the email "was directed at Taiwan’s defense industry. Some recipients were attending the conference, some not. I immediately found it suspicious.” She said she forwarded the email to security experts.

News Story: US reassures Asian allies no policy change on N.Korea

The United States on Thursday reassured its key Asian allies Japan and South Korea that its policy seeking North Korea's nuclear disarmament remains unchanged, after its intelligence chief called it a "lost cause".

Washington has always maintained it cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear state and, under President Barack Obama, has made any talks with Pyongyang conditional on the country first making some tangible commitment towards denuclearisation.

But in remarks to a think-tank earlier this week, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper suggested that such a policy was based on wishful thinking, saying: "The notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearise is probably a lost cause."

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken took issue with that view in Tokyo after a trilateral meeting with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts.

"Our policy has not changed," he told reporters at a joint news conference.

"We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state, we will not accept North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons. Period."

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: India expels Pakistani visa official for 'espionage'

by Richard Tomkins

India announced Thursday it was expelling a Pakistani visa official for suspected spying after he was briefly detained carrying sensitive defence documents, with tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours already running high.

New Delhi police said the official had been recruiting Indian nationals for two and a half years to spy for Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in return for cash.

"Delhi police crime branch has busted an espionage racket run by a kingpin working in the Pakistan high commission," said Ravindra Yadav, joint commissioner of police on crime.

The official, named as Mehmood Akhtar, was detained on Wednesday with documents in his possession on Indian troop deployment along the border, Yadav told a press conference in Delhi.

"They used to meet once in a month at a pre-decided place to exchange documents and money," he said.

Akhtar was later released, he added.

India's foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar summoned Pakistan's high commissioner to inform him of the decision to expel the official within 48 hours.

Read the full story at SpaceWar

News Story: Carter, Roper Unveil Army’s New Ship-Killer Missile: ATACMS Upgrade

ATACMS Tactical Missile (Image: Wiki Commons)

UPDATED with William Roper comments WASHINGTON: The Army’s long-range artillery rocket, ATACMS, will get upgraded to strike moving targets on land and at sea, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced today. After at least two years of pressure from Congress and vague promises from Pentagon leaders, and for the first time since the Coastal Artillery Corps was disbanded 66 years ago, the Army is officially back in the business of killing ships. That gives the largest service a big new role in countering Russian aggression in the Baltic and Black Seas or defending allies like the Philippines against China.

The project to upgrade the Lockheed-built ATACMS is sponsored by the Strategic Capabilities Office, created by Carter back in 2012 and headed by his protégé, Will Roper. (Our exclusive interview with Roper is here and here). SCO’s involvement, incidentally, explains why no one in the Army or industry told me this was happening, despite countless queries: SCO keeps secrecy locked tight — its very existence was classified at first — unless and until they decide the deterrent value of letting adversaries know about a weapon in peacetime outweighs the tactical value of surprising them with it in wartime.

“How you offset the adversaries trying to offset your offset? It’s very simple to do that, you just don’t talk about your best capabilities,” Roper said today at a Center for Strategic and International Studies panel. “We are keeping our best ideas behind the door and probably always will.”

“We thought it was important to come out (in public) with ATACMS for the Army because there’s been a lot of writing, a lot of speeches, on the need for the Army to go cross-domain,” Roper elaborated to reporters after the panel. Army leaders from Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on down, and even other services’ leaders like Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris, have publicly called for the Army to extend its reach out to sea, crossing traditional boundaries between what Pentagon doctrine calls the land and sea domains. So, said Roper, “it’s time for us to show it isn’t just a theoretical idea, it’s something we can potentially get to quickly with something that we already have.”

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News Story: India slams Pakistan for expelling Indian High Commission official

NEW DELHI, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- India Friday slammed Pakistan for expelling an officer posted in its High Commission in Islamabad, a day after New Delhi asked a Pakistani High Commission official to leave the country on charges of espionage.

"Government notes with regret the government of Pakistan's decision to declare Surjeet Singh, Assistant Personnel and Welfare Officer in the High Commission of India in Islamabad, persona non grata and expel him and his family members," the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

"No justification has been provided by the government of Pakistan except for the completely baseless and unsubstantiated allegation that his activities were not in keeping with diplomatic norms. The government condemns Pakistan's step," it added.

Islamabad's action in the wake of India Thursday expelling 35-year-old Mehmood Akhtar, who worked in the visa section of the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi, after claiming to have caught him and two Indian nationals with some "sensitive defense documents and maps."

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News Story: Pakistan army rejects Indian claim of killing soldiers

ISLAMABAD, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan army on Friday rejected Indian military's claim that they have killed several Pakistani soldiers in the cross-border shelling.

The Pakistan military spokesman said that the Indian claim of killing any Pakistani soldier at working boundary is absolutely baseless and untrue.

The Indian Border Security Force has claimed that 15 Pakistani soldiers were killed on Friday along the international border in Jammu and Kashmir since Thursday.

"The Indian baseless claim is part of their propaganda campaign aimed to hide their losses at working boundary and also divert world attention from the Kashmir issue," an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) news release said.

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News Story: Former chief minister of Indian-controlled Kashmir meets Modi

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Former chief minister of Indian-controlled Kashmir Farooq Abdullah Friday called on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to discuss the prevailing situation in the restive region.

The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, the party of which Abdullah is the president, revealed in a statement.

Reports said Abdullah urged Modi to initiate a dialogue with all the stakeholders in the region to end the ongoing the stalemate.

"I am sure that the Prime Minister will urgently address all the issues that have been flagged by me and others from the state," India's semi-official news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted Abdullah as having said.

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News Story: China opposes India's invitation to Dalai Lama for activities in disputed border areas

Arunachal Pradesh in shaded Box upper right of map
BEIJING, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- China is firmly opposed to any visit by the Dalai Lama to the disputed border region between China and India, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Friday.

According to Indian media reports, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit a disputed zone in the eastern part of the China-India border area in March next year at the invitation of the so-called "Arunachal Pradesh" government.

"China is very concerned about these recent reports," said spokesperson Lu Kang at a routine press briefing.

Lu said the Dalai Lama has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities with the aim to split Tibet from China and has behaved disgracefully on the China-India border issue.

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News Story: S. Korean opposition party voices against intelligence sharing with Japan

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- South Korean main opposition Minjoo Party on Friday expressed its strong objection to the resumption of talks with Japan to share military intelligence on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the party, said at a supreme council meeting that it can never be accepted to militarily join hands with Japan which has yet to sincerely repent over its past atrocities during the World War Two and its colonization of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

He said the adoption of the military intelligence-sharing accord between Seoul and Tokyo will prop up Japan's militaristic ambition, urging the South Korean government to stop the talks which will make people enrage again.

Seoul will reportedly resume talks soon with Japan to ink the deal, called General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), to share intelligence on the DPRK's nuclear and missile programs.

Read the full story at Xinhua