29 April 2017

USA: Possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Australia for Anti-Radiation Missiles

WASHINGTON, Apr. 28, 2017 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Australia for Anti-Radiation Missiles. The estimated cost is $137.6 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on April 27, 2017.

Australia has requested a possible sale of up to seventy (70) AGM-88B High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) Tactical Missiles; up to forty (40) AGM-88E Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGM) Tactical Missiles; up to sixteen (16) CATM-88B HARM Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM); up to sixteen (16) CATM-88E AARGM CATM; up to twenty-five (25) AGM-88B Control Sections; up to twenty-five (25) AGM-88B Guidance Sections; up to twenty (20) AGM-88E Control Sections; up to twenty (20) AGM-88E Guidance Sections; up to forty eight (48) Telemetry/Flight Termination Systems; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other associated support equipment and services. The total estimated cost is $137.6 million.

News Report: South Korean Foreign Minister Urges UN to Mull Expelling North Korea

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se suggested Saturday the UN should "seriously consider" expelling North Korea for its violations of UN nuclear and missile bans, local media reported.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The UN Security Council held an urgent meeting in New York earlier in the day after the North fired off another ballistic missile on Saturday. The projectile fell apart over land minutes after the liftoff.

"We could take potent measures such as halting the export and supply of crude oil to North Korea… and seriously consider whether North Korea, a serial offender, is qualified to be a member of the United Nations as well as downgrading diplomatic relations with North Korea," he said, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

The minister stressed the measures were intended "not to bring North Korea to its knees, but to it bring it back to the negotiating table for genuine denuclearization." He said, however, talks for the sake of talks were not an option as Pyongyang had first to prove its goodwill.

North Korea, a UN member state since 1991, has been conducting regular ballistic missile tests in an attempt to build a weapon that could hit the United States. It accuses Washington of destabilizing the Korean peninsula, including by giving the South a missile (defense) system called THAAD.

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

News Report: US State Dept. Approves $1.46 Billion Sale of P-8A Patrol Planes to New Zealand

New Zealand will buy four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft from the United States to replace its retired P-3K maritime patrol aircraft.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The US Department of State has approved a $1.46 billion sale of four P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and associated support to the government of New Zealand, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a press release on Friday.

"The Government of New Zealand intends to use these defense articles and services to continue its Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) capability, following retirement of its P-3K maritime patrol aircraft," the release stated.

The agency said the sale of the Boeing aircraft will enhance regional and global contributions by New Zealand.

The P-8A Poseidon is designed for long-range anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It is based on Boeing's 737-800 aircraft.

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

News Report: Pyongyang Reportedly Fires Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile

The projectile that Pyongyang tested on Saturday was a KN-17 intermediate ballistic missile capable of hitting ships, US media reported.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The projectile fired by North Korea was apparently a KN-17 intermediate ballistic missile, a type of Scud that can be used to target ships, local media reported.

The CNN television channel said the missile had traveled hundreds of miles before plunging into the Sea of Japan.

But an unnamed US official told the broadcaster later that the missile had disintegrated over land after flying approximately 20 miles and did not reach the sea.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reportedly said it was launched from a location north of Pyongyang at around 5:30 a.m local time (20:30GMT). The initial assessment is that the launch failed.

"It is estimated to have failed," the South Korean military said, as quoted by the national news agency Yonhap.

The military said it was analyzing launch data.

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

News Report: Chinese Warships to Arrive in Philippines on Sunday for 1st Time in Decade

Chinese Warships (File Photo)
Three Chinese warships are heading toward the Philippines shores for the first time in a decade.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — A group of China's warships is expected to arrive in the Philippines on Sunday paying the first visit of the Chinese Navy to the Philippine port in a decade, Chinese media reported.

According to the South China Morning Post newspaper, the group comprising three ships, namely Changchun, Jingzhou and Chaohu, would arrive in the port of the Davao City located on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The newspaper added that the naval group would leave the port on Tuesday and would move forward within the framework of its international maritime mission.

The incumbent Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has already made a number of moves aimed at rapprochement between Manila and Beijing and announced that his country was distancing from the United States.

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

News Report: Thailand to Investigate Government-Planned Purchase of Chinese Submarines

Thailand’s Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) will launch investigation on the Royal Thai Navy’s plans to purchase three submarines from China after a petition which demanded for the audit of the purchase.

BANGKOK (Sputnik) — Thailand’s Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) will launch a probe into the Royal Thai Navy’s plans to purchase three submarines from China due to the strong criticism which came after the deal was struck, local media reported Friday.

The decision to launch the investigation was made after Srisuwan Janya, an activist and secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, filed a petition with the OAG which demanded for the audit of the purchase, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper.

News Report: Tricky Politics - Is President Trump After Any Deal on South China Sea?

On Wednesday, US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, the four-star commander of US Pacific Command said that the US might soon conduct new freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and warned that the US military would be taking steps to push back against China. Chinese foreign affairs analyst Dr. Su Hao has commented to Sputnik on the remarks.

On Wednesday, top US commander in the Asia Pacific region, Admiral Harry Harris said that the US will likely carry out new freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea soon.

The US Pacific Command Chief offered no further details. However, he added that the US military "would be taking steps to push back against Chinese actions in the South China Sea and would be urging other regional partners to do the same."

He also said that the US needs to encourage South China Sea neighbors such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam "to stand up to China" and to "backstop them where we can, especially with countries we’re allied with."

News Report: Trump Gives Into Chinese Pressure On Taiwan

US President Donald Trump has rejected an offer by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen to have another official phone call. The first in December 2016, was vehemently condemned by China, which considers Taiwan a rogue province. Trump has pledged to consult with Beijing before any further dialogue with Tawian.

Marking his first 100 days in office on April 29, in an interview, Donald Trump acknowledged that his presidency thus far has not been an easy one. 

One of his first foreign policy controversies happened in early December 2016, when, as President-elect, he took a phone call with President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen.

Those ten short minutes caused a diplomatic firestorm.

China reacted furiously to the news that diplomatic channels between Washington and Taipei, which had been cut off since 1979, had been opened.

News Report: At Least 45 Daesh Militants Including Senior Figure Killed in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's security forces killed at least 45 members of the Daesh in the eastern Nangarhar province, including a senior figure, local media reported Friday citing the Afghan Defense Ministry.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Khaama Press said that among the killed militants was Qari Nafiz, an Daesh leader in charge of communications and relations. Nafiz was killed along with 36 other militants during the airstrikes and ground clearance operations in Achin district, while nine other militants were killed during a separate operation in the district of Haska Mina.

The security forces also destroyed a number of hideouts and tunnels operated by the terrorist group, according to the media outlet.

Afghanistan has long been suffering from unstable political, social and security issues due to the activity of the Daesh terrorist group and Taliban radical group, which is also outlawed in Russia. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are currently conducting joint offensive operations to combat terrorism across the country.

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

News Report: US Seeks Permanent Deployment of Strategic Assets in South Korea

The US and South Korean military have agreed on measures prescribing permanent deployment of US strategic weapons in South Korea amid a growing threat from North Korea, the South Korean Defense Ministry said Friday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Earlier in the week, the US Department of Defense and the South Korean Defense Ministry held a so-called Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) meeting, a format of comprehensive defense consultations between the allies, which is being held on the biannual basis.

The sides came to an agreement to push for "measures available in all aspects including the regular deployment of U.S. strategic assets," the ministry said as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

News Report: Australian Prime Minister Fears Nuclear Strike From North Korea

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted Friday that North Korea could potentially launch a nuclear strike on nations in the region and his government took this threat seriously.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The North has recently threatened to sink the US aircraft carrier when it was expected to be deployed to the waters off the Korean peninsula. It also warned it would target Australia if it remained a US ally.

"There is the possibility and the risk that North Korea could launch an attack on its neighbors… The North Korean government has nuclear weapons. They regularly threaten to use them. So if they carried out that threat that would involve a nuclear attack," Turnbull told 3AW radio.

The prime minister stressed that, although Pyongyang acted "theatrically" at times, the Australian government took the threat of North Korea "very, very seriously."

He added China had the greatest economic and political leverage over North Korea, and Beijing needed to work with other nations in the region to bring the reclusive Communist state to its senses.

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

News Report: Chinese Navy Holds Routine Drills in Western Pacific

The Chinese Navy ships have sailed through the Miyako Strait that lies between the two Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa as a part of routine exercises, local media reported.

BEIJING (Sputnik) — The Chinese Navy conducted a routine exercise in the Western Pacific on Thursday to drill rescue operation and increase capabilities, according to reports.

The ships sailed through the Miyako Strait that lies between the two Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The outlet said exercises were purely peaceful in nature and aimed at training communication, search-and-rescue action and anti-piracy operation.

The drills come days after China launched its second aircraft carrier this Wednesday. It will reportedly enter service by 2020, augmenting the Navy’s capacity to operate far from home.

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

News Report: US - Top Islamic State leader in Afghanistan Likely Dead

Jeff Seldin

The emir of the Islamic State terror group in Afghanistan is likely dead, targeted in a U.S.-Afghan raid on a cave-and-tunnel complex that left two U.S. special operations forces soldiers dead.

Pentagon officials said Friday that they suspected IS Khorasan province leader Abdul Hasib was killed in a brutal, three-hour firefight in the Mohmand Valley, in the Achin district of Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

Officials said another 35 IS fighters also had been killed, and that they were investigating the possibility the dead U.S. soldiers were victims of friendly fire.

"This was a dangerous mission and we knew this going in," Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters. "We knew he [Hasib] was going to be well-protected and that they were going to fight very hard to prevent from being captured or killed. And that is indeed what happened."

News Report: North Korea Test-fires Ballistic Missile

The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump had been briefed on the latest North Korean missile test, which failed shortly after launch and broke up over an inland region of the country.

A brief statement issued by the office of the press secretary said only that the Trump administration was aware of the test.

But Trump soon tweeted his reaction: "North Korea disrespected the wishes of China and its highly respected president when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!"

News Report: US Official- North Korea Is Biggest Threat to Nuclear Weapons Treaty

Lisa Schlein

GENEVA — A senior U.S. official is warning that the North Korean regime poses the greatest threat to the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT). The U.S. position on the treaty was released in advance of next week's meeting in Vienna of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 NPT review conference.

Robert Wood, the U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, said his main goal at the two-week NPT PrepCom would be to get the international community to stand together in condemnation of North Korea's provocations, threats and actions.

News Report: South Korea Rejects Trump’s $1 Billion THAAD Demand

THAAD Interceptor missile test launch
Brian Padden

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — The South Korean government has quickly refuted U.S. President Donald Trump’s call for Seoul to pay $1 billion for the THAAD missile defense system.

The Defense Ministry put out a statement Friday saying, “There is no change in South Korea and the United States’ position that our government provides the land and supporting facilities and the U.S. bears the cost of THAAD system’s deployment, operation and maintenance.”

The deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile battery was agreed to last year by the administrations of then U.S. President Barack Obama and then South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Park was able to evade demands that she seek National Assembly approval for the deal by claiming no additional funding would be required for the THAAD deployment.

But during an interview Thursday with Reuters in Washington, President Trump said he wants South Korea to pay for the system.

A former U.S. State Department official estimated the cost of the system at $1.2 billion, but said the United States would not want to sell THAAD to Seoul.

Trump also said in the Oval Office interview he wants to resolve the crisis peacefully, possibly through the use of new economic sanctions, but added, “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.”

China has told Washington it has warned Pyongyang of new Chinese sanctions if it conducts another nuclear test, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a Fox News interview Thursday . That would be a departure for Beijing, which has until now been unwilling to impose sanctions beyond those ordered by the United Nations.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman declined to confirm or deny Tillerson's statement Friday, dismissing the question at a briefing as "hypothetical," the Associated Press reported.

News Report: Taliban Unleashes ‘Spring Offensive’ in Afghanistan

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD — The Taliban has unleashed its annual so-called “spring offensive” in Afghanistan, saying it will mainly target U.S.-led foreign “occupation” troops to force them to quit the country.

In a formal announcement released Friday, the Islamist insurgency claimed “Operation Mansouri” went into action early Friday morning across all 34 Afghan provinces.

It explained the offensive has been named after Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed by an American drone last year.

“These operations will involve conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom (suicide) attacks, insider attacks, and use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to achieve their objectives,” said the statement by the Taliban’s so-called leadership war council.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanesh dismissed the insurgent announcement as just another name terrorists are using for propaganda purposes and attacks against innocent civilians. He told VOA that Afghan forces are fully prepared and, as they did in the previous year, will defeat the Taliban’s so-called new “Operation Mansouri.”

News Story: Sea power underpinning US response to Korea

By: Christopher P. Cavas

WASHINGTON — The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is operating in the Philippine Sea and, according to the head of U.S. Pacific Command, is within about two hours' flying time to the Korean Peninsula. 

Adm. Harry Harris declared to Congress this week that “the Carl Vinson carrier strike group is back on patrol in Northeast Asia,” apparently putting an end to widespread confusion in mid-April about the carrier’s whereabouts. 

World reaction to news on April 17 that the Vinson was not nearing Korea but was in fact still more than 3,000 miles south showed that the symbolism of a carrier is as strong as ever. PACOM announced April 8 the ship would cut short several planned activities and return to Korean waters, but no timeline was given. And in the absence of further, detailed official information, media and pundits in many cases assumed the Vinson and its strike group were already heading north. 

The confusion “was quite detrimental,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Harris in a hearing Thursday. “Not only here, but as you know, in South Korea particularly, where there was a great deal of concern. And in some quarters, they felt that they had been misled indeed.” 

Reed’s comments echoed similar reactions Wednesday when Harris testified before the House Armed Services Committee on the Korean situation. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: US anti-missile system in South Korea has limits

By: Foster Klug

SEOUL, South Korea — Neat certainties are rare in the North Korean nuclear crisis, which for decades has simmered and occasionally boiled over, without resolution. 

So it was jarring to see the absolute confidence with which America's top Pacific commander described the ability of a contentious U.S. missile defense system, scheduled to be up and running in days in South Korea, to shoot down North Korean missiles. 

"If it flies, it will die," Adm. Harry Harris told U.S. lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday. 

Like nearly everything associated with the world's last Cold War standoff, the truth is muddier. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, has its limits and unknowns. 

However, Harris does have some data to back up his bold statement. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Two U.S. soldiers possibly killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan - Pentagon

WASHINGTON, April 28 (Xinhua) -- The Pentagon said on Friday that two U.S. servicemen killed on Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan may have been struck by friendly fire.

"We are investigating the circumstances of the combat deaths of the two Army Rangers in the beginning of what was an intense three-hour fire fight," Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told reporters here.

"It is possible these Rangers were struck by friendly fire," he said.

According to the Pentagon, the two U.S. soldiers were killed during an operation in southern Nangarhar, Afghanistan, during an operation against the Islamic State's (IS) Afghanistan affiliate ISIS Khorasan.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Chinese FM calls for non-proliferation efforts, peace talks on Korean Peninsula

UNITED NATIONS, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Friday that efforts on non-proliferation and promotion of peace talks have to be strengthened so as to bring the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula to a peaceful settlement.

Due to the recent actions by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the international community should step up efforts of non-proliferation, Wang told reporters here ahead of a UN Security Council ministerial meeting on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.

Due to the heightened tension on the Peninsula, China proposes at the same time to step up efforts to promote peace talks, he added.

Wang expressed the hope that the Security Council will have a thorough discussion and reach new consensus at the meeting on how to fully and comprehensively implement Security Council resolutions related to the DPRK, to ease the current tension on the peninsula as soon as possible, and to identify effective channels to peacefully address the issue.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: DPRK test-launches ballistic missile but fails & White House says aware of latest DPRK missile test

DPRK test-launches ballistic missile but fails

SEOUL, April 29 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Saturday test-fired a ballistic missile, which exploded after liftoff, according to South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

Read the full story at Xinhua


White House says aware of latest DPRK missile test

WASHINGTON, April 28 (Xinhua) -- The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump is aware of the latest missile test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a statement that the president has been briefed on the test.

Pyongyang test-fired a ballistic missile which coincides with a UN Security Council ministerial level meeting to discuss the nuclear activities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Japanese destroyer arrives in Nagasaki, likely to join new amphibious unit

JS Ise (Image: Wiki Commons)
TOKYO, April 28 (Xinhua) -- A Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer arrived at the Sasebo base in Nagasaki, southwestern Japan, on Friday, where it will likely become part of an new amphibious unit to be stationed there next year.

The helicopter-carrying destroyer called Ise is replacing the retired destroyer Kurama at the Sasebo base.

The Ise, which is capable of handling the take-offs and landing of up to three helicopters simultaneously. Its flattop desk is 197 meters long and 33 meters wide and it is capable of carrying the controversial V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

These "offensive" weapons are in contravention of Japan's pacifist Constitution, a key clause of which reads that "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained."

At a ceremony held on Friday, the skipper of the Ise vowed to work hard to ensure the ship would serve at the core of maritime missions.

Read the full story at Xinhua


Story Quote: "These "offensive" weapons are in contravention of Japan's pacifist Constitution"

PacificSentinel: These ships were designed to carry Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Helicopters to patrol the sea's around Japan & keep them clean of Chinese, Russian & North Korean Attack Submarines, they are therefore "Defensive" in nature, with a humanitarian capability for disaster relief missions, can they be used to support beach landings, yes, were they designed for that role, no, so this is just more Chinese overacting.

News Story: Joint exercise held between Japanese, U.S. carrier-based jets - ASDF

TOKYO, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) said Friday that it conducted a joint drill east of Okinawa with U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, according to local media reports.

Defense Minister Tomomi Inada told a press briefing that the exercise was held to further strengthen the deterrence power of the Japan-U.S. alliance and to "show our country's commitment to the region's stability."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: S. Korea denies Trump's comments on THAAD costs

SEOUL, April 28 (Xinhua) -- South Korea on Friday denied U.S. President Donald Trump's comments about the cost of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system that was deployed in the nation's southeast region earlier this week.

An official at Seoul's defense ministry told Xinhua that there has been no change made in its basic principle that South Korea provides land and infrastructure while the U.S. side pays the cost to deploy and operate the THAAD system.

It came in response to Trump's comments made in an interview with Reuters, in which he said he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system, which he estimated at 1 billion U.S. dollars.

A senior South Korean government source was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying the principle, in which the U.S. side pays the cost for the THAAD's operation, was already agreed upon between the two countries.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Trump says he prefers diplomatic approach to solving Korean Peninsula issue

WASHINGTON, April 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he would prefer a diplomatic approach to solving the Korean Peninsula issue, but warned that a major conflict with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is possible.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," Trump told Reuters in an interview, adding that "there is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea (DPRK). Absolutely."

Senior officials of the Trump administration on Wednesday briefed members of the U.S. Congress on Washington's policy towards the DPRK.

Trump aims to use economic sanctions and diplomatic measures to pressure the DPRK into dismantling its nuclear and missile programs, U.S. officials said in a statement after the briefing.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: DPRK condemns U.S. test-launch of ICBM as simulated strike on Pyongyang

PYONGYANG, April 28 (Xinhua) -- The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Friday condemned the test-launch of a Minuteman-III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Wednesday by the United States, which it said was a simulated strike on Pyongyang.

"The test-fire, timed to coincide with the earlier-than-scheduled deployment of THAAD equipment and the arrival of the Carl Vinson nuclear aircraft carrier at the East Sea of Korea (Sea of Japan), makes the world see once again who is to blame for the deteriorating situation on the Korean peninsula," said the official Korean Central News Agency in a commentary.

Read the full story at Xinhua


PacificSentinel: Maybe if the DPRK didn't threaten to nuke South Korea and the USA on a reoccurring basis, the US wouldn't feel the need to "test" their ICBM's or send their Carriers for Military Exercises with Japan/South Korea, the North Koreans really need to stop pissing in the pool if they also want to swim in it.

News Story: China hopes UNSC meeting on Korean nuclear issue sends "positive, balanced message"

BEIJING, April 28 (Xinhua) -- China hopes the open ministerial meeting on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, currently being held by the UN Security Council, will send a positive and balanced message to the outside world.

"If the meeting simply focuses on enhancing sanctions and building up pressure, it will lose a rare opportunity, cause more confrontations between relevant parties, and hamper efforts for talks," spokesperson Geng Shuang said Friday at a daily press briefing.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: One Civilian Killed As Taliban Infighting Intensifies In Herat

By Jawed Ziaratjayee

At least one civilian was killed and more than 10 others including women and children were wounded in ongoing clashes between two rival Taliban groups in Shindand district in Herat province, local officials confirmed on Friday.

One of the groups is led by Mullah Samad who supports Taliban’s leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada while another group is led by Mullah Nangiyalai who supports Mullah Rasul, leader of Taliban’s divided faction.

Herat governor’s spokesman Jailani Farhad confirmed the report and said government forces are responsible to protect the people in its military operations.

“Protecting civilians is in the top priority of government. The Herat governor has directed relevant offices to protect civilians in any kind of situation,” Farhad said.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Taliban Launches Its Summer Offensive

The Taliban on Friday officially announced its launch of this year’s fighting season and said its “Mansouri Operation will differ from previous ones in nature and will be conducted with a twin-tracked political and military approach.”
The group said in a statement that politically they will pay attention to establishing mechanisms for social justice and development and that “apparatus will be set up to help those deceived by the enemy.”

On the military front, the Taliban said in areas where they do not have full control the “enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed or captured until they are compelled to abandon their few remaining posts.”

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Katawazai To Face Prosecution After Deadly Army Base Attack

By Karim Amini

The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Thursday announced that General Mohmand Katawazai, the former of commander of 209 Shaheen Army Corps in Balkh, will be prosecuted for alleged negligence following Friday’s Taliban attack on the base.

Last Friday, at least 10 insurgents gained access to the heavily fortified base and attacked mostly unarmed soldiers, which resulted in a bloodbath.

Government has so far failed to give the actual casualty toll but based on information gathered by TOLOnews, over 250 soldiers appear to have been killed.

However, the MoD has said that a number of intelligence officials and some officers from the corps garrison were also under investigation.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Seoul rejects Trump demand it pays for missile system

By Park Chan-Kyong

Seoul on Friday brushed aside US President Donald Trump's suggestion it should pay for a $1 billion missile defence system the two allies are installing in South Korea to guard against threats from the North.

The first parts of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system have already been delivered to a former golf course in the South -- infuriating China -- at a time of heightened tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.

Top US officials have said THAAD will be operational "within days".

"I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. It's a billion-dollar system," Trump was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency. "It's phenomenal, shoots missiles right out of the sky."

The two countries have been in a security alliance since the 1950-53 Korean war, and more than 28,000 US troops are stationed in the South.

Seoul retorted that under the Status of Forces Agreement that governs the US military presence in the country, the South would provide the THAAD site and infrastructure while the US would pay to deploy and operate it.

"There is no change to this basic position," South Korea's defence ministry said in a statement.

The row comes with tensions high on the Korean peninsula following a series of missile launches by the North and warnings from the Trump administration that military action was an "option on the table".

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: New China fears in Taiwan after Trump snub

Taiwan's fears that it will become a bargaining chip between China and the United States worsened Friday after a snub by President Donald Trump, who said he would not do anything to upset Beijing.

Trump rattled China in December after taking a congratulatory call from the self-ruling island's new Beijing-sceptic president Tsai Ing-wen after his election, smashing decades of diplomatic precedent.

But after Tsai suggested another call could take place in an interview with Reuters Thursday, Trump said he did not want to risk his newfound "personal relationship" with China's president Xi Jinping.

"I think he's doing an amazing job as a leader and I wouldn't want to do anything that comes in the way of that. So I would certainly want to speak to him first," Trump told Reuters in a separate interview.

Ties between Trump and Xi seem to have warmed recently after they met at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida earlier this month.

Since then, Trump has praised China for helping pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programmes.

Taiwan's presidential office stepped back from the idea of a call after Trump's comments.

"We understand the priority of the US side in handling regional issues and have no current planning (for another call) at this stage," it said in a statement Friday.

Opposition lawmaker Chiang Wan-an called Trump's reaction an "embarrassment" for Taiwan.

"Trump and Xi appear to have established very good relations. Taiwan needs to tread very carefully and be alert," he told AFP.

Read the full story at SinoDaily

News Story: Pakistan Gives China a 40-Year Lease for Gwadar Port

On April 20, Pakistan’s minister for ports and shipping announced that his ministry has given a Chinese firm a forty-year lease for the strategic Port of Gwadar. 

The lessee, state-owned China Overseas Port Holding Company, has been building out the port’s infrastructure since 2013. Under its new long-term contract, it will retain over 90 percent of revenue from Gwadar’s marine operations, plus 85 percent of the revenue from the management of an adjacent free zone. It will also benefit from the deep tax exemptions that Pakistan has granted to Chinese companies for projects related to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a network of transportation infrastructure stretching from the Arabian Sea to the Chinese border. 

“We hope to create a new economic development model for the port by transplanting China’s experience in building special zones or economic development areas to Pakistan, in a bid to drive the country’s industrial transformation,” said COPHC CEO Zhang Baozhong, in comments to China Daily. 

Read the full story at MarEx

News Story: Jemaah Islamiyah militant group regains strength - experts

Hanoi (VNA) – The Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has regained strength in Indonesia and could make a new generation of extremists, warned the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) on April 27.

The group is blamed for major attacks, including the bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in 2002.

It does not pose an immediate threat and its leaders have rejected violence to form an Islamic state, said a report of the institute.

However, the group is also building a clandestine armed force in Indonesia, and there is a risk that a militant faction could emerge from the wider organisation as it steps up recruitment.

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News Story: Vietnam, Indonesia air forces enhance ties

Hanoi (VNA) –  Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang, Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army and Deputy Defence Minister, hosted a reception in Hanoi on April 27 for visiting Air Force Chief of Staff of Indonesia General Hadi Tjahjanto. 

During the meeting, Giang highlighted the traditional friendship between the two countries, which was founded by President Ho Chi Minh and President Suharto, and nurtured by generations of leaders of the two countries. 

He lauded the cooperation between Vietnam's Air Defence-Air Force Service and the Indonesian National Air Force over the past time, with the maintenance of all-level visits, the sharing of experience, and meetings on the sidelines of multilateral forums. 

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News Story: ASEAN ministers ask North Korea to exercise self-restraint

MANILA, Philippines — The foreign ministers of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have expressed concern over the escalation of tension on the Korean Peninsula.

This follows North Korea's two nuclear tests in 2016 and subsequent ballistic missile launches.

"ASEAN strongly urges the [North Korea] to comply fully with its obligations arising from all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and international laws in the interest of maintaining international peace and security," the ASEAN foreign ministers said in a statement released Friday.

The foreign ministers also called on North Korea and other concerned parties to exercise self-restraint and to refrain from actions that will further escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula.

The ministers noted that the instability on the Korean Peninsula impacts the region and beyond.

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News Story: Philippines to get South Korea anti-sub warship

Pohang-class ASW Corvettes (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Jaime Laude

MANILA, Philippines - South Korea will transfer a used Pohang-class anti-submarine warship to the Philippines this year in return for a token $100, the defense department said yesterday, boosting its capability to patrol vast maritime borders.

Outside long-time treaty ally the United States, South Korea has been the largest source of Philippine military hardware, from fighters and patrol ships to armored vehicles and army trucks.

Manila received two FA-50 light fighters from Seoul Wednesday and two more will be delivered next month to complete the 12-aircraft, P18-billion deal.

The Philippines has expressed interest in acquiring six more similar planes.

“We are hoping to receive the vessel within the year,” defense spokesman Arsenio Andolong said of the warship.

“The transfer will be in the form of a donation. We will pay a token $100, but the corvette will still undergo refurbishment,” Andolong said.

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News Story: North Korea seeks ASEAN help in row with US

MANILA, Philippines - North Korea has appealed to Southeast Asian countries for support in its row with the United States to prevent what it warned could be a “nuclear holocaust,” according to a letter obtained by AFP.

In the letter to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ secretary general, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho warned the situation on the Korean Peninsula was “reaching the brink of war” because of Washington’s actions.

He urged the ASEAN chief to inform the 10-nation organization’s foreign ministers “about the grave situation” on the peninsula “and give them a proper proposal,” while criticizing at length US-South Korean military exercises.

Tensions have soared in the region in recent weeks in the wake of a series of North Korean missile tests and tough rhetoric from Washington on the isolated nation’s rogue weapons program.

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