24 April 2017

News Report: This is What China's 1st Domestically-Built Aircraft Carrier Means for its Navy

China's Type 001A while under-construction (File Photo)
China is expected to commission its first domestic-build aircraft carrier on May 23, when Beijing celebrates Naval Forces Day.

The vessel known as the 001A will be the second aircraft carrier in service with the naval forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In recent years, China's navy has transformed from a small fleet into a formidable force aimed at gaining dominance in the Pacific. In the 1990s, Beijing launched several projects to design and construct advanced submarines, destroyers, frigates and corvettes.

In 2012, China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was commissioned. The ship was originally laid down as a Soviet multirole aircraft carrier under the name Riga and then Varyag. China bought it from Ukraine for $25 million and at the time it was already 60 percent completed.

Currently, Beijing is developing its own aircraft carrier program. By 2020, the Chinese naval forces are expected to receive several domestically-built aircraft carriers.

News Report: N Korean Newspaper Vows Pyongyang Will Sink US Aircraft Carrier in Show of Force

Pyongyang vowed to sink the USS Carl Vinson in what it described as a "show of military force," Reuters reported citing the the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party.

The news comes as Japan sent two destroyers for drills with the US carrier group. Two Maritime Self-Defense Force ships have left the Sasebo naval base in Nagasaki to meet up with the USS Carl Vinson-led group for joint drills following fresh ballistic missile tests in North Korea, The Japan Times reported.

The Pentagon sent the naval group from Singapore toward North Korea earlier in April amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula. US President Donald Trump said an "armada" has been sent, but the date and time of the drill remains unknown.

After it turned out that the Carl Vinson deployed to deter North Korea did not reach the Sea of Japan reportedly because White House and Pentagon failed to communicate effectively and was spotted near Indonesia, it was reported that it will finally reach the Korean Peninsula later this month.

The armada's current location is unknown.

News Report: Japan Should Boost Military Power to Respond to N Korean Threat - MP

A senior lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan thinks that Japan should enhance its military power in order to respond possible provocations from North Korea.

TOKYO (Sputnik) — Japan should enhance its military power amid ongoing provocations from North Korea, Toshimitsu Motegi, a senior lawmaker from the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, said on Sunday.

"North Korean nuclear and missile developments reached a higher level of threat, we cannot refute the possibility of new provocations… It is necessary to boost Japan's military power not only through destroyers equipped with the Aegis tactical data system," Motegi told the NHK broadcaster.

News Report: Mattis Dismisses North Korean Threats as Watchdog Site Says Nuke Test Zone Ready

After beating the drums of war for weeks, US officials have slightly changed their tune, dismissing North Korea's latest round of threats as "not to be trusted," even as the rogue state appears to be preparing for another nuclear test.

North Korea was widely expected to launch some kind of armaments test last week, in violation of international law and sanctions. As speculation grew, the US suggested a suspected nuclear test could trigger a preemptive conventional weapons strike. North Korea threatened retaliation, the US sent a show of force toward the peninsula, and the world watched with increasing anxiety.

Now, however, after a missile test last week that barely even got off the ground, the US is using a more measured tone. Defense Secretary James Mattis dismissed North Korea's threats of a "super-mighty preemptive strike" that would reduce both South Korea and the US mainland to ashes on Friday by saying the country was full of hot air and its aggressive language was "not to be trusted."

"As far as North Korea's latest words (are concerned), I think we've all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest," Mattis told a news conference in Israel, Reuters reports.

The threats are simply "provocative," he said.

News Report: Daesh-Linked Terror Group Leader Killed in Clashes With Philippine Army

One of the leaders of the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group linked to Daesh terror group was killed in clashes with the government forces on the island of Bohol, Philippine Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said Saturday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The operation of the Philippine Armed Forces against the Abu Sayyaf was launched in January and is aimed at putting an end to the group’s terrorist activities and kidnappings.

"It is indeed Joselito Melloria and he was killed when our troops met their group in Sitio Lagsing, Barangay Bacani, Clarin, Bohol sometime 1 o'clock today," Padilla told the CNN broadcaster.

Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist group based in the southwestern part of the Philippines, is notorious for carrying out kidnappings for ransom, often targeting foreigners and sometimes beheading captives.

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

News Story: Carried away - The inside story of how the Carl Vinson's canceled port visit sparked a global crisis

By: David B. Larter

In early April, officials at U.S. Pacific Command were developing plans to respond to a sharp rise in tensions with North Korea. Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered PACOM Commander Adm. Harry Harris to come up with “robust and sustainable” options for North Korea if President Trump ordered a strike on the rogue regime, according to four defense officials who spoke on background. 

Harris was traveling in Washington away from his Hawaii base of operations, something that he dislikes because, in his view, something always seems to happen when he’s not in his office. At one point that week, top PACOM officials called Harris to recommend that Vinson cancel its upcoming trip to Australia and make its way back to the waters near North Korea where the carrier had just been in March, thus serving as one of the responses to Mattis’s directive that they explore military options for the Trump administration. 

The plan was to truncate a secretive exercise with the Australians near Indonesia, to cancel Vinson’s visit to Perth and then head the direction of the Korean Peninsula — meaning Vinson would be off North Korea by the end of the month. 

Changing an aircraft carrier’s schedule is not a small muscle movement. Host nations expecting a visit from the mighty U.S. big decks have to do a fair amount of leg work to prepare for the visit. Furthermore, a good number of sailors had family flying out to Australia to meet their sailors. An Australia port visit is the holy grail for sailors on a Western Pacific deployment. 

The easiest thing to do, PACOM officials decided, would be send out a press release announcing the canceled port visit — making it easier for families to get their money back from airlines and letting all parties know why the Vinson wouldn’t be visiting the Land Down Under. 

And it would have another effect: it would put North Korea on notice by announcing the plans in a press release, which included language that not-so-subtly dropped that Harris had “directed the Carl Vinson Strike Group to sail north and report on station in the western Pacific Ocean after departing Singapore April, 8,” roughly the direction North Korea lies from Singapore. A press release, PACOM officials thought, was the perfect solution to wrap up all the loose ends from the carrier’s schedule change.

Read the full story at NavyTimes

News Story: Japanese warships join with carrier Vinson on exercises

Image: Flickr User - Official U.S. Navy Page
By: Christopher P. Cavas

WASHINGTON – Two Japanese destroyers joined up with the Carl Vinson carrier strike group in the Philippine Sea Sunday for renewed bilateral exercises, the Japan-based U.S. Seventh Fleet announced. The Vinson is headed north for the Sea of Japan in an expression of U.S. resolve as North Korea continues to develop offensive ballistic missiles with nuclear capability. 

The Vinson, with the cruiser Lake Champlain and destroyer Michael Murphy, was joined June 22 by the Ashigara and Samidare of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, Seventh Fleet said in a press release. The Ashigara, like the U.S. escort ships, is equipped with the Aegis combat system. 

Seventh Fleet, in the release, said the joining of forces was a “routine exercise designed to improve combined maritime response and defense capabilities, increase combined maneuvering proficiency, and ensure maritime forces remain ready to defend the region when called upon.” 

It’s the fourth time since deploying from San Diego on January 5 that the Vinson has operated with Japanese ships. The carrier most recently exercised with Japanese warships in late March, also in the Philippine Sea, just after concluding three weeks of exercises with South Korean forces during Exercise Foal Eagle. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Four soldiers killed, three injured in Pakistan's bomb blast

ISLAMABAD, April 23 (Xinhua) -- At least four paramilitary troops were killed and three others injured when a bomb hit their convoy in Pakistan's southwest Kech District Sunday night, local media reported.

Dawn News said that Frontier Corps personnel were on their way to Mand area when their convoy was hit by a remote controlled device in the Kech District of the southwestern Balochistan Province.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Abu Sayyaf militants behead kidnapped Philippine soldier

MANILA, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Abu Sayyaf militants had beheaded a Filipino soldier who was abducted Thursday, a military general said Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said in a statement that troops found the body of Army Sergeant Anni Siraji in a remote village around 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The decomposed state of the body of the victim suggested that he had been beheaded for at least three days and his body was found some 2.5 km from where he was abducted, the general said, adding the severed head was found some 50 meters away from the decomposed body.

"They attempted to bring the head but they eventually left it behind. You can see that the beheading was hastily done maybe because they were running away from us."

Siraji is a member of the Tausug tribe, an ethnic group in southern Philippines. He was kidnapped on Thursday morning at the height of the military operations against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf in Patikul town in Sulu.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Chinese FM urges voice of peace, reason over Korean Peninsula issue

ATHENS, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi here on Sunday urged all sides to make voices of peace and reason on the Korean Peninsula issue, and reiterated China's consistent and definite stand on denuclearizing the Peninsula.

Wang made the statement when asked about the situation of the Korean Peninsula at a joint press conference with his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias.

Wang said that there were already enough shows of force and confrontation at present and that "we need to make peaceful and rational voices."

China's stand on the issue of the Korean Peninsula is constant and definite, and will not change, which means adherence to realizing denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and adherence to maintaining peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, peaceful means must be applied to solve the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula, Wang noted.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Chinese navy fleet begins half-year friendship visits

SHANGHAI, April 23 (Xinhua) -- A fleet of three Chinese naval ships left Shanghai Sunday morning for public relations visits to more than 20 countries.

The fleet, composed of missile destroyer Changchun, missile frigate Jingzhou and supply ship Chaohu, will tour Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania for nearly 180 days.

The visits will convey friendship, deepen military communication and cooperation and show a good image of the Chinese navy, according to Miao Hua, Political Commissar of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, who saw the fleet off.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China pushes for all-round cooperation with Iran - vice premier

TEHRAN, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong said here Saturday that China is willing to strengthen all-round cooperation with Iran and achieve tangible results in various sectors.

The vice premier made the remarks during a meeting with Iranian Vice President Sorena Sattari in Iran's capital Tehran.

Liu said that the relations between China and Iran, which provide mutual support at crucial moments and on major issues, have maintained steady momentum of development.

In January 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Iran and formulated a strategic plan with Iranian leaders on China-Iran relations, she said.

"Over the past year, the two sides have achieved significant progress in their cooperation in politics, trade, energy, agriculture and culture," Liu said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Xi inspects PLA Southern Theater Command, vows to build strong army

Chinese President Xi Jinping
NANNING, April 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Southern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Friday and stressed building a strong army.

Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), urged all military personnel to resolutely safeguard the authority of CPC Central Committee and unswervingly follow the Party's leadership.

He asked all military personnel to greet the 19th CPC National Congress scheduled for later this year with outstanding achievements.

Noting that 2017 is of great significance for the Party and the country, Xi urged the PLA to strengthen ideological building, combat preparation and reform implementation.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China, Australia pledge to further deepen bilateral relations

SYDNEY, April 22 (Xinhua) -- China and Australia have pledged here to further deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.

While meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Friday, Meng Jianzhu, head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, said that China and Australia have scored great achievements in developing bilateral ties, with leaders of the two countries exchanging successful visits and reaching important consensus on developing the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two sides.

As two major countries in the Asia-Pacific, China and Australia have common interests in many aspects and the prospects for future cooperation between the two countries are promising, Meng said.

Meng said as bilateral economic and trade ties are growing stronger and personnel exchanges between the two sides become more frequent, it is necessary for the two countries to establish a high-level security dialogue mechanism so as to lift the level of bilateral security cooperation.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: U.S. vice president discusses Korean Peninsula with Australian PM

SYDNEY, April 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday, as U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson steamed toward the Korean Peninsula.

"The (U.S.) president wanted me to be here early in this administration to reaffirm the strong and historic alliance between the United States of America and Australia," Pence told Turnbull.

Pence thanked Turnbull for his support on the highly contentious situation on the Korean Peninsula.

"While all options are on the table, let me assure you the United States will continue to work closely with Australia, our other allies in the region and China" to bring pressure on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Pence said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: U.S. VP says aircraft carrier Carl Vinson steams toward Sea of Japan

SYDNEY, April 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said here on Saturday that an aircraft carrier strike group led by USS Carl Vinson was steaming toward the Sea of Japan.

"Our expectation is that they will be in the Sea of Japan in position in a matter of days, before the end of this month," he told a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

USS Carl Vinson has continued to steam toward the Korean Peninsula, after confusion from the Trump administration earlier this week as to the location of the aircraft carrier.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: DPRK says U.S. sending nuclear carrier taskforces to Korean Peninsula

PYONGYANG, April 23 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said on Sunday that the United States is sending nuclear carrier taskforces to waters off the Korean Peninsula around April 25, the 85th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK army.

The official Minju Joson Sunday, published by the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, quoted unspecified military sources as saying that the U.S. plans to "hurl several nuclear carrier taskforces, including Carl Vinson and Nimitz, into the operational theater of the Korean Peninsula around April 25."

The DPRK army will hit back "whether they are on the peninsula, at military aggression bases in the Pacific or in the U.S. mainland across the ocean" if provoked, the newspaper said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: DPRK seeks closer cooperation with Turkmenistan, Russia's Far East

PYONGYANG, April 22 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has called for stronger economic cooperation with Turkmenistan and Russia's Far East Region amid tightening economic sanctions by the United Nations after its nuclear and missile tests.

Turkmenistan and Russia, both oil producers, could see their supplies of crude oil affected by the sanctions.

A working delegation of the DPRK Foreign Ministry recently visited Turkmenistan, where the two sides talked on "matters of further developing the DPRK-Turkmenistan friendly and cooperative relations" and "exchanged views on the regional and international issues of mutual concern," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Saturday.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 8 killed in crude bomb explosion in eastern India

NEW DELHI, April 22 (Xinhua) -- At least eight people were killed and more than four others injured in a crude bomb explosion in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Saturday, a police official said.

"The incident took place when the victims were making the bombs in a house at Tarka village in the state's Birbhum district in the afternoon. The death toll may go up as some of the injured are in critical conditions," the official said on condition of anonymity.

According to police, the bombs were being made for mafia gangs that were attacking each other at neighboring Darbarpur village.

"These groups have been hurling crude bombs at each other in a turf war over illegal sand mining. Most villagers fled the area because of the attacks. The victims were making bombs for one of the two groups locked in the so-called turf war," the police official said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Troops kill 2 militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir gunfight

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Two militants were killed in a fierce gunfight in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir, military officials said Sunday.

The gunfight broke out Saturday evening at Hayatpora village of Budgam district, about 23 km south of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

"Two militants were killed in a gunfight at Budgam," said an Indian military official. "The gunfight broke out after militants attacked a patrolling party of army in the area."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Security Agencies Slammed For Not Preventing Attacks

By Tamim Hamid

Former head of the National Directorate of Security, Rahmatulalh Nabil, and former head of the National Security Council, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, on Saturday criticized security agencies for their “security lapses and intelligence failures” in preventing deadly attacks on public and military facilities such as Friday’s attack on the Afghan National Army 209 Shaheen Corps Headquarters in Balkh.

As many as 135 soldiers were killed in this attack.  

The officials said changes should immediately be made in the leadership structure of security agencies.

“Unnecessary casualties are rooted in poor management and it is not acceptable. The people who are involved in many coups in the past are appointed at in the leadership ranks of security and defense agencies for two reasons: first because of ethnic issues and second because of ideology trends.

Therefore, they are not loyal to the people and to the Afghan soil. They are only loyal to the people who have appointed them because of ethnic and ideology issues,” the former National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta said. 

“Contradictory messages are being sent from the capital to provinces from time to time because of political disagreements in the central government. It has its effects. And secondly, interventions in security and defense issues from tribal, geographical and  political points of view and creating different decision making layers is a reason behind poor management in security departments,” said Rahmatullah Nabi, the former head of the National Directorate of Security. 

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: That's what Xi said - S.Korea outrage over Trump's China comment

By Jung Ha-Won

Buffeted by the currents of diplomacy, South Korea is sometimes described as a "shrimp between two whales", and US president Donald Trump has touched nerves with remarks that the peninsula "used to be part of China".

The comments came after Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida.

As the pair discussed ways to curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions amid mounting tensions, Trump told the Wall Street Journal, Xi "went into the history of China and Korea.

"And you know, you're talking about thousands of years... and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China," Trump went on.

Beijing is Pyongyang's sole major ally and Washington wants it to do more about the North's nuclear and missile programmes, while the US has a security alliance with Seoul and stations more than 28,000 troops in South to defend it.

The exact details of what Xi said and whether Trump accurately represented him are not known, but South Koreans are wary of Chinese expansionism, and politicians, historians and citizens have been outraged.

The Korean peninsula has been heavily influenced by China politically and culturally for centuries.

But while its ruling kingdoms sometimes paid tribute to their giant neighbour, South Korean historians stress they did not come under its territorial control, despite repeated invasions.

Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman countered: "The fact that Korea was not part of China for thousands of years... is a clear historical fact acknowledged by the international community."

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: Over 100 killed, wounded in Taliban attack on Afghan military base & Survivors recall carnage of Taliban attack on Afghan base

By Hamid FAHIM

More than 100 Afghan soldiers were killed and wounded in a Taliban attack on an army base in northern Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Saturday, the latest in a string of deadly assaults against Afghan military sites.

The ministry did not give a breakdown of the casualties, many of whom were young recruits in training, in the hours-long attack near Mazar-i-Sharif city on Friday.

The US military has said that "more than 50" Afghan soldiers were killed, while an Afghan army source who was on the base at the time put the death toll as high as 150, with dozens more wounded.

"They entered the compound using two army trucks with machine guns on top of them. They opened fire on everyone. And then they entered the mosque and dining room, killing everyone indiscriminately," Mohammad Hussain, an army officer wounded in the attack, said as he was treated in hospital.

"Their leader came in and shouted 'aim for their heads'. I jumped out of the window, my friends were killed," one 19-year-old soldier, Mohammad Qurban, told AFP from hospital where he was being treated for hand and stomach injuries.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani flew to Mazar-i-Sharif on Saturday to pay a "courtesy visit" to wounded soldiers, as grieving families reached the base to collect flag-draped coffins bearing their loved ones.

Read the full story at SpaceWar (2nd story on same page)

News Story: (New Zealand) Air Force effectively grounds NH90 fleet after engine failure

RNZAF NH-90 (Image: Wiki Commons)
Lloyd Burr

All eight of the Air Force's NH90 helicopters have been all but grounded after a mid-air engine failure near Blenheim on Sunday.

Newshub understands the $630 million fleet isn't allowed to fly over water or dangerous terrain, and cannot carry VIPs. 

The restriction comes after the left engine of an NH90 failed while flying over Cook Strait on Sunday, forcing it to make an emergency landing at a private aerodrome at Cloudy Bay.

Read the full story at NewsHub

News Story: Four gunmen killed in hunt for Abu Sayyaf

MANILA, Philippines — Four gunmen have been killed on a Philippine tourist island as government forces pursue remnants of an Islamic militant group behind a foiled mass kidnapping attempt there, authorities said Sunday.

The government said the dead suspects were stragglers from a boatload of southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf gunmen who sailed to the central island of Bohol early this month as part of a plot to kidnap tourists.

The raid had signalled an escalation of the kidnapping threat from the Abu Sayyaf, who are based on remote islands and also blamed for beheadings and deadly bombings.

"Terrorism has no place in the Visayas (central) region," said a joint military and police statement announcing the death of four of the suspected kidnappers in Bohol on Saturday.

Six other Abu Sayyaf members had been killed in earlier clashes on the island on April 11, when three soldiers and a policeman were also slain, the authorities said.

The military said they had been pursuing up to seven of the remaining gunmen.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: (Philippines) DND chief’s island visit alarms China

By Janvic Mateo

MANILA, Philippines - China has expressed alarm over the visit of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año to Pag-Asa Island last Friday, saying it ran counter to an “important consensus” reached between the leaders of the two countries.

“Gravely concerned about and dissatisfied with this, China has lodged representations with the Philippine side,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing before the weekend.

Lu said China’s President Xi Jinping and President Duterte had reached a consensus “to properly deal with the South China Sea issue.”

“We hope that the Philippine side could cherish the hard-won sound momentum of development the bilateral relations are experiencing, faithfully follow the consensus reached between the two leaderships, maintain general peace and stability in the South China Sea, and promote the sound and steady development of China-Philippine relations,” he added.

But Lu said they are still verifying the facts regarding the visit, and that Manila and Beijing have been in constant communication on how to manage maritime issues since Duterte’s visit to China last year.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: FVR backs Noy on SCS complaint vs China

By Rhodina Villanueva and Delon Porcalla

MANILA, Philippines - Former president Fidel Ramos has expressed support to former president Benigno Aquino III in relation to the latter’s stand to bring to international court the complaint against China concerning the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

“This submission to the international tribunal under the United Nations to me is a correct step. We must protest not only directly to the country involved but also to the (UN) for any violations of (the) United Nations Covenant on international law,” Ramos said following the launch of his commemorative book in Quezon City Friday afternoon.

Earlier, former president Gloria Arroyo said that Aquino’s arbitration suit had provoked China, which in a show of protest began building structures on islets and outcrops in the disputed Spratlys.

Though Ramos agreed with Arroyo that the submission of the case might have actually provoked China, he stressed: “The submission of the Philippine position on the West Philippine Sea is correct and, well, it may have provoked actions by China to reclaim that, and the protest must be addressed to China. I agree with her. She is correct but that is not the proper target,” Ramos said.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: Defense cooperation eyed between Philippines, Russia

Russian Cruiser Varyag (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Alexis Romero

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines and Russia are expected to forge a defense cooperation agreement during President Duterte’s visit to Moscow next month, his national security adviser said yesterday. 

“Defense cooperation will be finalized when the President visits Moscow by the end of May,” national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters after Duterte’s visit to Russian ship Varyag in South Harbor, Manila. 

“Defense cooperation will come in the form of training, probably some exchange of information,” he added. 

Asked if the Philippines and Russia would hold joint military exercises, Esperon said: “That’s a long way to go but it can come to that later on.”

“We don’t really intend to go into alliances, which is a tighter agreement. But we can go into partnerships in mutually beneficial activities,” he added. 

Esperon said Duterte’s planned visit to Moscow was mentioned during his visit to the guided missile cruiser Varyag.

“(Russia) ambassador (to the Philippines Igor) Khovaev is here… When the President was about to come down, ‘Mr. President, we will see you in May for the trip to Moscow,’” he said. 

Duterte is scheduled to visit Russia on May 25 to strengthen ties between Manila and Moscow.

In November, Duterte and Russia President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meet in Lima, Peru to discuss ways to enhance the ties between their countries.  

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: Ordinary citizens could be investigated under 'anti-conspiracy' bill - state minister

Regular citizens may be subject to government investigation under "anti-conspiracy" legislation, State Minister of Justice Masahito Moriyama said during an April 21 House of Representatives Judicial Affairs Committee debate.

"It is not necessary the case that the general public would not be subject to preliminary investigation, but such cases would be very limited," Moriyama said in reply to a question from opposition Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Seiji Osaka.

Osaka had cited the government's previous claims that regular people would not be subject to punishment under the legislation, which would criminalize "act of preparations to commit crimes such as terrorism" by changing the conditions that constitute a conspiracy.

Opposition legislators also questioned the definition of "organized crime groups" to which the bill applies.

Read the full story at The Mainichi

News Story: Japanese destroyers start drill with U.S. carrier Carl Vinson

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and the United States started a joint naval drill in the Western Pacific on Sunday involving two Japanese destroyers and the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, which is headed for waters off the Korean Peninsula, the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force said.

The Japanese vessels and the Carl Vinson carrier strike group are conducting strategic maneuver and communication drills for a few days. The exercises come at a time when North Korea is continuing to aggressively pursue the development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

The joint drill is "designed to improve combined maritime response and defense capabilities, increase combined maneuvering proficiency and ensure maritime forces remain ready to defend the region when called upon," according to a posting on the Carl Vinson's Facebook page.

Read the full story at The Mainichi

22 April 2017

USA: Taliban Attack Targets Afghan Government Personnel

By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2017 — A Taliban attack on a mosque and a dining facility today at Camp Shaheen outside Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan has killed “probably more than 50” friendly Afghan forces and civilians, a U.S. Central Command spokesman said here today.

Air Force Col. John J. Thomas briefed the Pentagon press corps by telephone from Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida, noting that information about the attack, which had occurred just hours before the press call, still was being gathered.

“The attack was apparently against a mosque and a dining facility where there were Afghan government forces and probably Afghan civilians who work at the base,” Thomas told reporters. “What we know is that the Afghan national forces have responded, and they know that they have killed several enemy [fighters] in response to the attack.”

Thomas said that officials from the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan will follow up later in the day with more information.

The spokesman said there was “no indication” that coalition forces were harmed in the attack.

USA: U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea Trilateral Meeting in Tokyo

On April 25, the United States Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun will travel to Tokyo for a trilateral meeting with Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs Kenji Kanasugi and Republic of Korea Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Hong-kyun. 

The three plan to discuss the evolving situation in North Korea as part of the three parties’ regular consultations on North Korea to exchange views and coordinate actions. 

They last met on February 27 in Washington, D.C. Special Representative Yun will also meet bilaterally with both Director General Kanasugi and Special Representative Kim.

News Story: Trump’s Flub Sparks Anger on Korean Peninsula, But Not Where You’d Expect

A recent interview conducted by the Wall Street Journal with US President Donald Trump quoted the powerful leader as saying, “Korea actually used to be a part of China.” South Koreans are not happy, to say the least, about Trump’s attempt to rewrite a foreign country’s history.

Someone in the high-profile position of president of the United States “should not distort the precious history of another country,” said college student Ahn Hong-seok, apparently dropping lessons in diplomacy for Washington’s top dog before even matriculating from university. 

No word, action, trip to Florida or golf stroke by a sitting US president is bound to go unnoticed. But the comments touch a special nerve for South Koreans at a time when they could understandably be expected to already on edge over their northern neighbor’s frequent threats and displays of military might. And they’ve got more than North Korea to worry about: tensions between Seoul and Beijing have simmered since a major air-defense system was deployed by the US in South Korea.

Trump’s remark cannot have helped overcome the two nations’ long-standing differences.

News Report: China Refutes Reports of Increased Military Aircraft Activity

Chinese H-6 Bomber (File Photo)
The Chinese Defense Ministry denied on Friday media reports alleging escalated activity of state military aircraft.

BEIJING (Sputnik) – On Thursday, Reuters news agency reported on an increased level of activity of Chinese bombers, citing US officials who wished to remain anonymous and did not specify the reason for the activity. The news outlet suggested that the move might be linked to concerns over the threat of North Korea.

"These reports do not reflect the reality. Chinese forces maintains the regular level of operational readiness and conduct ordinary trainings on the border with North Korea," the ministry said in a statement.

News Report: Japan Sends Destroyers for Drills With US Carrier Group Amid Korea Tensions

Image: Flickr User - Official U.S. Navy Page
Japan has sent two destroyers to join the US carrier strike group en route toward the Korean peninsula for joint drills, local media said Friday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Two Maritime Self-Defense Force ships have left the Sasebo naval base in Nagasaki to meet up with the USS Carl Vinson-led group for joint drills following fresh ballistic missile tests in North Korea, The Japan Times reported.

Washington sent the naval group from Singapore toward North Korea earlier in April amid raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula with ballistic missile and nuclear tests expected from Pyongyang. US President Donald Trump said an "armada" has been sent, but the date and time of the drill remains unknown. The armada's location is also uncertain.

On April 14, media reported that Trump might order a strike against Pyongyang in case of yet another North Korean nuclear test which was expected to mark the country's founder Kim Il Sung's 105th birth anniversary the next day. The North Korean general staff responded with threats of a strike against US military bases in Japan and South Korea, as well as the presidential residence in Seoul in case of US aggression.

North Korea ended up carrying out a failed ballistic missile test on the anniversary, according to South Korean statements.

The situation on the Korean peninsula has been tense with North Korea testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, while the United States decided to deploy a Terminal-High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system to South Korea despite protests from neighboring China and Russia.

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

News Report: F-18 Jet From USS Carl Vinson Heading to N Korea Crashes Near Philippines

A US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet Fighter (File Photo)
According to the US Navy, a F/A-18E jet based on the US Carl Vinson aircraft carrier crashed near the Philippines.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A pilot flying an F/A-18E combat aircraft ejected safely from his cockpit on landing approach to the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson and was recovered unharmed by a helicopter rescue crew, the US Navy said in a press release on Friday.

"A pilot safely ejected and was quickly recovered by a helicopter assigned to [helicopter squadron] HSC-4 aboard USS Carl Vinson while conducting routine flight operations during a transit in the Celebes Sea," the release explained.

The incident took place in the Celebes Sea in the western Pacific. The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia border the body of water. The distance from the Celebes Sea to the South Korean port of Busan is about 2300 miles.

News Report: US Drags S Korea, Japan Into Conflict With Asian Powers

Washington is drawing South Korea into an alliance with the US and Japan, which is becoming a major irritant for both North Korea and China, a prominent South Korean scholar told Sputnik.

“While previously, the US-South-Korean alliance was used to contain a possible aggression by North Korea <…> and ensured South Korea’s defense, we have recently been facing the danger of negative consequences on this cooperation,” Lee Yeonjae, a professor at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul and an adviser to the Justice Party, said in an interview with Sputnik Korea.

When asked whether promotion of a dialogue between the two Korean states aimed at denuclearizing the divided peninsula was part of the party’s program, professor Lee said that inter-Korean dialogue alone was not enough to resolve the problem of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

“Our party believes that denuclearization is possible only through a dialogue between North Korea and the US. [South Korea] should either act as a go-between or actively support the process,” Lee Yeonjae noted.