31 May 2017

AUS: Australian-US Ministerial consultations (AUSMIN) 2017

Australia will host the United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, in Sydney on 5 June for the 2017 Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). The US delegation will include the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph F. Dunford, and Commander, US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris.

Established over 30 years ago, AUSMIN is the premier forum for Australia-US bilateral consultations on foreign affairs, defence and strategic matters. 

This will be the first AUSMIN with the new US Administration, and will build on our strong, dynamic bilateral relationship and our steadfast Alliance, which began with the signing of the ANZUS treaty in 1951.

During the meeting we will discuss our shared commitment to ensuring global peace and stability, and our mutual strategic priorities including North Korea, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and defeating ISIS. Australia-US cooperation and collaboration in the Pacific and South East Asia will also be a key focus.

Australia and the US have a substantial economic partnership. The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) has boosted growth in both countries, with bilateral trade worth nearly $70 billion in 2015-16. The US is also the largest investor in Australia, with investments of $861 billion in 2016. In the same year, Australia’s investment in the US was $617 billion.

USA: Pacific Partnership concludes in Nha Trang, Vietnam

By Lt.j.g. Emily Wilkin, Pacific Partnership Public Affairs

Lt. Cmdr. Justin Dye of Navy Medical Center San Diego examines neurological injury patients with local doctors at Khahn Hoa General Hospital, May 22. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Joshua Fulton) >>

KHANH HOA, Vietnam - Pacific Partnership 2017 departed from Nha Trang, Vietnam on May 29 after completing 10 days of disaster response training, medical and engineering subject matter expert exchanges, cooperative health engagements, and community service events.

This year marks the fourth consecutive year and the eighth time the mission has visited Vietnam in the past 11 years. In addition to the team aboard expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4), the Nha Trang mission also featured sailors from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s destroyers JS Izumo and JS Sazanami.

USA: USS Stethem completes patrol in Western Pacific

By MC2 Ryan M. Harper, USS Stethem Public Affairs

USS Stethem (DDG 63) steams alongside USS Barry (DDG 52) during a formation exercise as part of MultiSail 2017 in March. (U.S. Navy/MC2 William McCann) >>

YOKOSUKA, Japan - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) returned to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, May 28.

Stethem departed Yokosuka in January to begin its 2017 patrol in the Western Pacific.

“Over the past four months, our operations provided maritime presence in the Indo-Asia Pacific region and strengthened our relationships with key allies,” said Cmdr. Doug Pegher, Stethem's commanding officer.

While on patrol, Stethem participated in the bilateral exercise MultiSail 2017, Foal Eagle 2017, and conducted operations in the Sea of Japan, the Philippine Sea, the South and East China Seas, and the Yellow Sea.

USA: Secretary of State Tillerson Travel to Sydney and Wellington

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be in Sydney, Australia, June 5–6, with Secretary of Defense James Mattis to participate in the 2017 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations hosted by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne.

Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and their counterparts will discuss the full range of U.S-Australian cooperation on bilateral, regional, and global issues. The Secretaries will coordinate our policies and identify ways to further strengthen the alliance and deepen cooperation between our two governments.

The Secretary will then travel to New Zealand to reaffirm our strong ties and discuss coordination on shared strategic interests with Prime Minister English and Foreign Minister Brownlee.

News Report: Not for All the Tea in China - Beijing Wants ‘Active Role’ in Mideast Peace

China on Monday signaled a willingness to broker peace between Israel and Palestine, according to local sources.

Citing comments by Chinese special envoy to the Middle East Gong Xiaosheng, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Tuesday that Beijing now seeks to enter the historically fraught relations between Palestine and Israel.

While meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Monday, Gong reiterated Beijing's support for a Palestinian state while learning about Abbas's April visit to Washington, a Russian trip in early May and the Palestinian leader's meeting with US President Donald Trump in Bethlehem last week, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Following Trump's first trip outside the US as president, the White House has signaled that it also seeks to broker a peace deal between the historically opposed states.

China, according to Wafa, seeks to widen its role in the region, and is particularly interested in striking a peace deal between Israel and Palestine, as well as seeing an end to the ongoing Syrian civil war and its attendant refugee crisis.

News Report: Pentagon Speeds Up Work on Multi-Warhead Interceptor

The Pentagon is moving fast to develop an interceptor missile that can simultaneously take down multiple incoming warheads.

While there has been no acknowledgement from US military brass that increased ballistic missile testing by the People's Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) is the primary motivating factor for speeding the implementation of the new technology, experts observe that Pyongyang would almost certainly incorporate decoy warheads in any aggressive weapons launch of a nuclear warhead.

Said to be a response to new threats, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is now speeding the development and implementation of a new missile interceptor that can take out multiple warheads — or multiple decoys launched alongside the primary warhead — at the same time, according to Defense One. A recent budget request by the Pentagon includes a $259 million line-item to speed up the next phase of development for the Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV) program, by five years.

News Report: Pyongyang’s Missile Program Outpaces US Estimates and Intelligence

Pukguksong-2 Ballistic Missile test launch
On May 21, North Korea test-fired their Pukguksong-2 medium-range solid fuel ballistic missile, marking a major leap forward for the Hermit Kingdom’s missile capabilities – and US intelligence had no idea it was going to happen. Experts didn’t think such an advancement would appear for several more years.

Expecting a liquid fuel missile and getting a solid fuel one is a bit like expecting a pen knife and getting a greatsword: solid fuel rockets are faster, more reliable and much harder to intercept. Liquid fuel rockets need to be fueled before they launch, opening a several hour window for a tactical airstrike to take the missile out. Solid fuel has no such limitation. The US uses solid fuel technology for its own arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the Minuteman.

Aerospace engineer John Schilling, a member of North Korean analysis think tank 38 North, estimated in March 2016 that North Korea would have solid fuel missiles "within five years." After the May 2017 test, Schilling upgraded his estimate to "another year or so."

"If and when this happens, it will give North Korea a robust second-strike capability against targets in South Korea and Japan," wrote Schilling. "This will] give them the ability to retaliate if they are the victims of someone else's first strike, and to credibly threaten retaliation in order to deter an attack in the first place."

News Report: Washington Invites Beijing to Hawaii’s RIMPAC Navy Drills, Despite Tensions

Chinese Navy Warships on patrol (File Photo)
The US Navy hopes to welcome China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) at the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) drills in 2018, even though Washington and Beijing have traded pointed jabs about the latter’s island-building in the South China Sea, which the US has slammed as illegal.

"All 26 nations that participated in RIMPAC 2016 have been invited to return for RIMPAC 2018," a spokesman for the US Navy’s Third Fleet told Defense News.

Washington has adopted a more conciliatory policy toward China in the South China Sea, coinciding with US President Donald Trump’s increased reliance on Chinese leadership to mitigate the threat of a nuclear-capable North Korea. With one exception, on May 26, the Pentagon has rejected multiple admiral requests to conduct FONOPs, or freedom-of-navigation operations, in the sea.

Beijing blasted the first FONOP of 2017, however. "China expresses strong protest and has already made representation to the US side in connection with such a demonstration of military force, boost to the militarization of the region and actions that can easily lead to incidents at sea and in the air," Chinese Defense Ministry representative Ren Guoqiang said.

News Report: Slashing US Funds to Afghanistan Could Cause Country to ‘Implode,’ Experts Warn

As the Taliban makes a resurgence in Afghanistan, regional experts say that a bipartisan bill recently introduced in the US congress that seeks to cut US funding to Kabul could have a devastating impact on the ravaged country’s national security.

Regional powers – as well as militant extremists – may view the withdrawal of US dollars as a harbinger of the Afghan government’s inevitable collapse, according to Anthony Cordesman, Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

"This [legislation] would be essentially telling the entire region, as well as terrorists and insurgents, that the Afghan government has no practical chance at surviving," 

Cordesman told the Washington Free Beacon. “What would happen is the entire modern sector of the economy, which is heavily dependent on outside aid, would collapse. You're not talking about the country breaking up, you're talking about the country imploding."

First introduced by representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC) in March, the support-slashing measure would exempt only intelligence gathering entities and the US embassy. If passed the bill would take effect in October 2019.

News Report: US Military Drills at Okinawa Test the Limits of Tokyo’s Patience

The decision by the US military to hold a snap exercise near Okinawa hints at Pentagon’s apparent belief that the US troops can do as they please on the island without having to worry about the consequences.

Earlier Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada demanded the US military to cancel its parachuting drill scheduled to take place in the vicinity of Okinawa on May 31 and June 1.

It should be noted that the US has apparently failed to notify Japan seven days ahead of the drill, as stipulated by a security agreement between the two countries; Tokyo only learned of this development when the US issued Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) to the Japanese civil aviation authorities.

"We asked [the US] not to conduct the training and to delete the NOTAM. So far we have not received a response from the US site," Inada said.

This parachuting drill became the third such exercise conducted by the US military forces at Okinawa this month, even though Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 that US parachute drills must be conducted on the island of Iejima, while other sites can be used for such purposes only under exceptional circumstances.

News Report: US Pressure on North Korea 'Leads Pyongyang to Militarize Further'

Despite his tough talk, US President Donald Trump is likely to follow the same North Korea policy of the "carrot and the stick" as all his predecessors," Professor Georgii Toloraya told Radio Sputnik.

The US and Japan have agreed to increase pressure on North Korea following its latest ballistic missile launch on Monday.

According to South Korea, the Scud-class ballistic missile was launched from Wonsan and flew for about six minutes, traveling about 450 km. It landed in Japanese waters, 500 km from Sado Island in Niigata prefecture. Tokyo has lodged a protest against the test missile.

According to Japan's Kyodo news agency, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a phone conversation after the launch in which they agreed to increase pressure on Pyongyang and to call on China to play a more active role in settling issues related to tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

News Report: India Puts Itself at Risk With Untested Faith in Private Defense Firms

To curb dependency on defense imports, the Indian government has taken steps over the last few weeks to ease defense manufacturing rules for private companies. Experts wonder if the government knows the risks it runs into by rushing into privatizing defense contracts without testing the companies.

New Delhi (Sputnik) – Among the measures taken by the government, the strategic partnership policy (SPP) has been the chosen route by nominating private defense companies as “strategic partners” for building major weapons platforms including fighter jets, helicopters, submarines and armored vehicles.

The SPP envisages, “establishment of long-term strategic partnerships with qualified Indian industry majors through a transparent and competitive process wherein the Indian industry partners would tie up with global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers and manufacturing know-how to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chain.”

It is estimated the SPP alone could generate $30 billion procurement plan for the Indian private sector which does not have technological experience and minuscule research and development program. Under the policy, India’s Defense Ministry will commit purchase of submarines worth approximately $10 billion, naval utility helicopters of $4 billion, fighter jets worth $15 billion and some other projects. But lack of technological experience combined with the policy structure may reduce them to being hosts of an assembly line for a foreign firm, instead of developing technology.

News Report: China Warns India Against Infrastructure Development Along the Border

China has asked India to be cautious and maintain restraint over infrastructure development along the India-China border. The Chinese Foreign Ministry statement came after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a strategic bridge which links Assam with Arunachal Pradesh.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Chinese reaction came after the inauguration of India's longest Dhola-Sadiya bridge across the river Brahmaputra, also known as Lohit, at the easternmost tip of Assam by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The bridge connects Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory.

"We hope India adopts a cautious and restrained attitude on the issue before the final settlement of the border issue with China to jointly control disputes, safeguard peace and tranquility in the border areas," a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

News Report: Indian Army to Get Indigenous Short Range Surface-to-Air Missile for $2.7 Bn

The Indian defense ministry has approved a major contract worth $2.7 billion for the purchase of Akash missile systems for the Indian Army developed by the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

New Delhi (Sputnik) – Last week, the Defense Acquisition Council, the apex defense procurement body, preferred the indigenous missile system over a foreign-made one which is in line with the country’s ‘Make in India’ program. The Akash missile is an indigenously developed supersonic short range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) system with multi-target engagement capability. It uses high-energy solid propellant for the booster and ram-rocket propulsion for the sustainer phase.

News Report: Japanese Defense Minister Demands US to Cancel Parachute Drills in Okinawa

Japan's defense minister urged the US military at the Okinawa island to scrap their parachute drills slated for May 31 - June 1.

TOKYO (Sputnik) – Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada on Tuesday demanded for US troops deployed on the Okinawa island to cancel their parachute drills scheduled for May 31 – June 1.

“We asked the United States to cancel the drills and cancel notifications for aircraft. At the moment we have not got a US answer,” Inada said, as quoted by the NHK broadcaster.

Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 that US parachute drills must be conducted on the island of Iejima, while other sites can be used for such purposes only under exceptional circumstances.

News Report: 'Defensive Play' - Pyongyang's Nuclear Umbrella Almost Ready in Face of US Threat

Commenting on North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch, Russian experts noted that it reflects Pyongyang's drive to complete the creation of a multi-layer nuclear umbrella in order to tackle what Pyongyang sees as a regional threat emanating from Washington and its allies.

On Monday morning, South Korean media reported that the country's military had detected what was believed to be a missile launch by North Korea.

It was later confirmed by the US as a short-range ballistic missile, which flew about 450 kilometers before landing in the Sea of Japan, approximately 300 kilometers off the coast of Japan.

South Korea' Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the projectile is "estimated to be a Scud type [missile]," and that the South Korean President "was immediately notified of the situation".

News Report: Beijing Calls On Japan to 'Be More Cautious' in South China Sea Statements

Japan should be careful in its statements related to the disputed South China Sea, China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi said, as quoted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

BEIJING (Sputnik) — On Monday, Yang held a meeting in Tokyo with Shotaro Yachi, the head of the Japanese National Security Council's secretariat, within the framework of the fourth round of high-level political dialogue between the two states.

"We hope that the Japanese side would be cautious in its statements and actions related to the South China Sea issue and would play a constructive role in the settlement of the dispute between the relevant regional countries," Yang said.

The official added that mutual trust was necessary for stable development of relations between states and expressed hope that Tokyo would make steps to improve bilateral relations.

China has a number of territorial disputes with its neighbors, including in the South China Sea. Japan, which has a dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, called the Diaoyu Islands by China, sometimes makes statements about Beijing's relations with other states on the issues, attracting Beijing's criticism.

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

News Report: Swell of Philippine Violence Will Rally Support for President

President Rodrigo Duterte
Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI — A sudden surge of deadly violence in the ever restive Philippine southland is likely to further endear common people to once controversial President Rodrigo Duterte as they see the strife as fallout from his effort to resolve five decades of strife, experts and polls indicate.

Filipinos are accustomed to violence in the far southwest, including parts of the giant island Mindanao where troops have been fighting militants in the city of Marawi over the past week, leaving more than 100 dead, including 24 civilians.

But they resent that Mindanao has been left out of the Philippines’ overall quick economic development, partly because of security risks.

“This is not an easy fight. Our enemy is terrorism,” said Vice President Leni Robredo, who was elected separately from the president last year and often critical of his policy. “This is a time for us to unite,” she told reporters last week at the military’s headquarters. “This is the time we need to protect the security of our nation. This is not the time for divisiveness.”

News Story: GMD Missile Defense Hits ICBM Target, Finally

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

WASHINGTON: Two days after North Korea’s latest missile launch, the US conducted a successful test of its homeland missile defense system for the first time in almost three years. Codenamed FTG-15, today’s event was also the system’s first test ever against an “ICBM-class” target, as opposed to lesser surrogates, the Missile Defense Agency announced. The painful history of Ground-based Mid-course Defense (GMD) — which, as GAO notes, has cost $123 billion since 2002 — now stands at nine successful tests out of 18 since 1999, exactly 50 percent.

“Today’s intercept means that hit-to-kill deniers are going to have an even harder time contending that homeland missile defense doesn’t work,” said Thomas Karakomissile defense director at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “This is an important day for homeland missile defense, and a bad day for Kim Jung-un.”

How bad a day? If that 50 percent hit rate carried over into real-world operations — and critics like the Union of Concerned Scientists say the tests have been unrealistically easy — it means the current inventory of 36 Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) could shoot down 18 incoming ICBMs before coming up empty. That’s probably enough to cope with North Korea or Iran, at least in the near term. US policymakers have emphasized for years that this “limited” missile defense system is not designed — or powerful enough — to be used against China or Russia, which have vastly more missiles.

The Missile Defense Agency will build up to 44 GBIs by year’s end, a marginal improvement, but it’s well aware that “two interceptors to stop one incoming” is ugly math. That’s why MDA has accelerated development of a Multi-Object Kill Vehicle (MOKV), which turns each interceptor into a kind of precision-guided shotgun, firing multiple warheads at multiple incoming targets from a single GBI rocket. Originally scheduled to enter service around 2030, the MOKV will now go on GBIs in 2025. Funding requested for 2018 is $259 million, out of a $7.9 billion MDA budget.

Read the full story at BreakingDefense

News Story: Gunmen assassinate Afghan politician in NW Pakistan - police

ISLAMABAD, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Unidentified gunmen shot dead an Afghan politician in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, according to local reports.

The killed, Ustad Fareed, was a close aide of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, chief of the Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan, or the Islamic Party.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Japan's Okinawa eyes taking fresh legal action over contentious U.S. base relocation

A map showing the current & future locations of the US Marine Air Station
TOKYO, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Prefectural officials in Japan's southern-most prefecture of Okinawa are gearing up to take fresh legal action against the central government in an effort to block relocating a controversial U.S. military base within the prefecture, local media said Tuesday.

Japan's public broadcaster NHK said that while work is already underway in the coastal Henoko area in Nago, Okinawa, to build a replacement facility for the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station and move it from a densely populated area, Okinawa officials may look to block the issuance of a permit needed by the central government to proceed with the work.

The Okinawa prefectural government has indicated it may ask the prefectural assembly's approval to file a lawsuit seeking the central government's immediate cessation of the work.
Local media also reported Tuesday that Okinawa government officials also plan to seek a court injunction ordering the construction work remain suspended until the court has ruled on the situation.

The injunction may be filed for even before the court hands down its ruling, local media also said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Philippine president cancels trip to Japan next month

President Rodrigo Duterte
MANILA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano announced on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to cancel his trip to Japan next month in the wake of the ongoing security crisis in southern Philippines.

Duterte is scheduled to visit Japan from June 5 to 7 to attend an international conference in Tokyo.

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced late Tuesday that Duterte's trip to Japan "will be rescheduled".

"Secretary Cayetano announced that President Duterte will not proceed with his scheduled visit to Japan to address the 23rd Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia," the department said in a statement.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Indonesian military urged to play bigger role in tackling terrorism

By Abu Hanifah

JAKARTA, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Indonesia planned grant the military the power to act on increasing threats from terrorism activities in the country through revision of anti-terrorism law now being discussed in the parliament.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has urged the parliament to immediately process the law revision so as to give more power for the police and military in anticipating and preventing terror attacks in the future.

The president's instruction was made after the deadly terror attacks at an bus terminal in Jakarta that killed three policemen, injured several others last week.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Pipe bomb found near metro station in downtown Bangkok

BANGKOK, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officers on Tuesday found a pipe bomb near the exit 1 of metro station Thailand Cultural Center in capital Bangkok.

A motorcycle taxi driver told police officers of Bangkok's Huai Khwang District Tuesday afternoon that there was a suspicious item hidden in a black plastic bag near the metro station, while it was testified by EOD officers that it is a improvised explosive device, Thai media Komchadluek reported.

Officers have removed the bomb, according to photos taken at scene.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: S.Korean president orders investigation into THAAD launchers delivery

SEOUL, May 30 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday ordered a thorough investigation into the unauthorized delivery of four more mobile launchers of the U.S. missile shield to the country.

Yoon Young-chan, chief presidential press secretary, told a press briefing that Moon said it was "very shocking" after he was briefed on the unauthorized transportation.

Top presidential security advisor Chung Eui-yong reported to Moon that four more THAAD mobile launchers were secretly transported to South Korea in addition to two launchers already installed here.

Moon ordered the security advisor and the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs to thoroughly look into the secret delivery.

The security advisor is in charge of defense, security and foreign affairs. The civil affairs secretary is tasked with overseeing prosecutors, police and the intelligence agency.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Moon, Abe agree on need for more sanctions on N. Korea

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- The leaders of South Korea and Japan agreed Tuesday on the need for more sanctions and pressure on North Korea, saying now is not the time for dialogue with the recalcitrant state, according to the South's presidential office.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe reached the conclusion during a 20-minute phone conversation one day after the North's new ballistic missile test, Moon's spokesman Park Soo-hyun said.

"I agree with the prime minister's words that now is not time for dialogue with North Korea, but a time to heighten sanctions and pressure," Park quoted Moon as saying.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: President orders probe into 'undisclosed' entry of THAAD rocket launchers

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday ordered a special probe into what the presidential office called the secret or undisclosed entry of four rocket launchers into the country under the U.S. missile defense program deployed here, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

"President Moon was briefed on such facts by National Security Office (NSO) chief Chung Eui-yong and said it was very shocking," Moon's chief press secretary Yoon Young-chan said at a press briefing.

The president then called Defense Minister Han Min-koo to confirm the delivery of the four rocket launchers into the country, Yoon added.

Han confirmed, also admitting he had prior knowledge.

The Cheong Wa Dae official said the equipment in question came in addition to two launchers that have been authorized and deployed as part of the THAAD missile defense system.

The defense ministry, however, failed to disclose the entry of the additional equipment to the new government despite its report to Moon's de facto power transition team last week, Yoon noted.

"President Moon ordered his senior secretary for civil affairs and the NSO chief to find the truth behind the unauthorized entry of the four rocket launchers," he said.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: N. Korea claims U.S. nuclear threat using B-1B bombers

B-1B Lancer (Image: Wiki Commons)
SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Tuesday accused the United States of flying B-1B strategic bombers close to its territory and triggering a nuclear war crisis.

A formation of B-1B bombers from Guam flew over Korea on Monday, staging a nuclear bomb dropping drill, Pyongyang's state news agency said.

The bombers even approached an area 80 kilometers east of Gangneung, an eastern city near the Military Demarcation Line, which serves as the border between the two Koreas, it added.

They were joined by warplanes from the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier operating in the East Sea for the "frantic" drill, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

A government source in Seoul confirmed that two B-1Bs arrived in the airspace over the East Sea at around 10:30 a.m., five hours after the North test-fired a short-range ballistic missile.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: (US) House bill calls for $2.1 billion defense investment in Asia-Pacific, including THAAD

WASHINGTON, May 29 (Yonhap) -- The chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee has introduced a bill that would authorize the spending of US$2.1 billion on enhancing U.S. defense capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region, including $1 billion for procuring THAAD or other missile interceptors.

The office of Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) said the lawmaker submitted the Strengthening Security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Act (H.R. 2621) last week in an effort to increase critical capabilities so as to support U.S. military readiness, deter aggression and respond rapidly to crises in the region, while bolstering alliances and partnerships.

"No one needs reminding of the escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific. It is essential that the United States reassure our allies and friends that we are committed to stability and security in that region now and in the future," Thornberry said in a statement.

"One of the best ways to do that is to increase our military presence and enhance our readiness there. To do that, we need to invest in a broad range of defense capabilities and this legislation does just that," he said.

The bill authorizes more than $2.1 billion for the coming fiscal year and Thornberry intends to include the measure in the upcoming annual defense bill, which is currently scheduled to be considered in the Armed Services Committee in late June, the office said.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Residents Flee Kunduz Village Over Brewing Insecurity

Kunduz city (Click Image to Enlarge)
By Tamim Hamid

Scores of residents from Mullah Sardar village on the outskirt of Kunduz city have fled their homes to avoid a possible war.

They said that Taliban snipers have taken up positions inside residential areas.

But local officials have rejected the claims and said security forces have cleared the village of insurgents.

“The people have been displaced, they are affected and face a lot of problems, their agriculture has been affected, the government must address their plight, but it does not mean that Mullah Sardar village was not cleared during the operation,” said the police Kunduz governor's spokesman Sayed Mahmoud Danish.

Meanwhile a number of Kunduz farmers have said that the war and violence has had a negative impact on agriculture.

Mullah Sardar village is located three kilometers from Kunduz city.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Trump's Developing Strategy 'Will Lead To Victory In Afghanistan'

John McCain
(Image: Wiki Commons)
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, has said that U.S President Donald Trump's national security team is developing a strategy that will lead to victory in Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

He said Trump has great confidence in that team.

"I do believe that most of the time he accepts their advice and counsel. Can I tell you that he does all the time? No. And yes, does it bothers me? Yes, it bothers me," he said.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Philippines warns Islamist militants to surrender or die

Philippine authorities on Tuesday warned Islamist militants occupying parts of a southern city to surrender or die, as attack helicopters pounded the gunmen's strongholds where up to 2,000 residents were feared trapped.

More than 100 people have been confirmed killed in the conflict, which began last week when gunmen waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group rampaged through the mostly Muslim-populated city of Marawi.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao, home to roughly 20 million people, in response to the crisis as he warned that local militant groups were uniting behind IS and becoming a major security threat.

But the militants, initially estimated by the nation's defence chief to number just 100, have withstood eight days of intense air assaults and street-to-street combat, prompting the government's threats on Tuesday.

"We call on the remaining terrorists to surrender while there is an opportunity," military spokesman Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said in a statement.

"For the terrorists, not surrendering will mean their sure death."

Padilla also told AFP the surrender call warning was aimed at limiting the loss of more lives and property.

Read the full story at SpaceWar

News Story: Thailand - 50 suspects arrested in military hospital bombing

Bangkok (VNA) – Thailand’s authorities have detained 50 suspects in the Phra Mongkutklao military hospital bombing last week for investigation, said Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. 

The suspect included staff of the hospital, the minister said on May 29.

The hospital blast took place on May 22, which was the day when the military seized power from the Yingluck government three years ago.

Read the full story at VietnamPlus

News Story: Malaysia tightens border security after attacks in neighbouring countries

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Security at all entry points nationwide, including rat trails, will be enhanced to ensure terrorists on the run from the authorities of the neighbouring countries do not infiltrate into Malaysia, said Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, who is also Minister of Home Affairs, said on May 28 that the country will ensure that security at entry points and territorial waters is at the highest level with the engagement of the Marine Police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Royal Malaysian Navy and Eastern Sabah Security Command.

The move was being taken following a series of recent terror attacks in the Philippines, Indonesia and Bangkok recently, forcing these countries to step up counter-terrorism campaigns. 

Read the full story at VietnamPlus

News Story: Martial law shows Duterte's strong-arming, says analyst

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
By Patricia Lourdes Viray

MANILA, Philippines — The declaration of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao represent President Rodrigo Duterte's "inevitable strong-arming," a political analyst said.

Erin Cook, who covers Southeast Asia politics, said in analysis released by a Sydney-based think tank that the siege in Marawi City the past week can also be regarded as the peak of heightening violence between government forces and ISIS-inspired militants.

"The declaration of martial law amid the bloody insurgency has found far more supporters than critics, and raises questions about the immediate future for the archipelago," Cook said in an article published by Lowy Institute for International Policy.

The clash between government forces and the Maute terror group started with the manhunt for Isnilon Hapilon, a former leader of both the Moro National Liberation Front and terror group Abu Sayyaf.

On May 23, Duterte declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao after members of Maute group seized Marawi City in direct retaliation for the so-called surgical strikes against them and Abu Sayyaf.

Such proclamation prompted Duterte to cut his visit to Russia as he immediately flies home to oversee the situation in Mindanao.

The last president to declare martial law was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who did so in Maguindanao province on Dec. 4, 2009 in the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre. Martial law was lifted in the province on Dec. 12, 2009.

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News Story: Marawi clash fuels fear of ISIS foothold in Mindanao

By Jim Gomez 

MARAWI, Philippines (UPDATE 1 10:49 a.m.) — Inside this lakeside city dotted with hundreds of mosques, a powerful militant designated by the Islamic State group as its leader in the Philippines has managed to unify a disparate group of gunmen under a single command.

Over the past week, his fighters have shown their muscle, withstanding a sustained assault by the Philippine military and increasing fears that the Islamic State group's violent ideology is gaining a foothold in this country's restive southern islands, where a Muslim separatist rebellion has raged for decades.

The Army insists the drawn-out fight is not a true sign of the militants' strength, and that the military has held back to spare civilians' lives.

"They are weak," Gen. Eduardo Año, the military chief of staff, said of the gunmen, speaking at a hospital where injured soldiers were being treated. "It's just a matter of time for us to clear them from all their hiding places."

As of Tuesday morning, he said the military working house-by-house had cleared 70 percent of the city and the remaining militants were isolated.

Still, the fighters have turned out to be remarkably well-armed and resilient.

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News Story: G7 seeks demilitarization of ‘disputed’ sea features

By Pia Lee-Brago

MANILA, Philippines - The Group of Seven (G7) or the seven richest countries in the world have issued a joint communiqué expressing concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas and calling for a demilitarization of “disputed features.”

The joint statement was released following the May 26 and 27 meetings in Taormina, Italy attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump.

The leaders strongly opposed any unilateral action that could increase tensions.

They expressed their “commitment to maintaining a rules-based order in the maritime domain based on the principles of international law.”

The joint communiqué voiced support for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and for the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes “through diplomatic and legal means, including arbitration.”

China was “strongly dissatisfied” with the mention of the East and South China Sea issues in the G7 statement as Beijing called on G7 allies to stop making “irresponsible” remarks.

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News Story: 5,000 MNLF fighters to help AFP

By Roel Pareño

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – President Duterte has accepted the offer of Moro National Liberation Front chief Nur Misuari to deploy MNLF fighters in Marawi City and help the military defeat the Maute terror group.

During a visit to wounded soldiers in Jolo on Saturday, Duterte urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  and the New People’s Army (NPA) to do the same.

Duterte cited a letter that Misuari sent him, offering 5,000 MNLF fighters in the fight against the terrorists.

In the letter, Misuari said the Marawi incident is an opportunity for them to show their mettle in helping the President and the people restore peace in Mindanao, particularly in Marawi.

The President was considering a suggestion to enlist the MILF and MNLF fighters as well as the NPA in the fight against the Maute.

In return, the government will give the secessionist fighters and guerrillas pay and privileges similar to what the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) receive.

“I am announcing to all forces of the MI, MN, if this conflict will take long and if you want to join, cast your lot with the Republic… I will take you in as soldiers, same privileges, and I will build houses for you in some areas,” Duterte said.

He called on the NPA rebels to leave their leaders who are waging conflict at the expense of civilians, to leave the ranks and join forces with the military in fighting the Islamic State terrorists.

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