25 May 2017

News Report: Beijing Challenged in South China Sea as US Warship Sails Near Chinese Island

Arleigh Burke class destroyer (Image: Wiki Commons)
A US Navy warship has conducted a freedom of navigation operation in South China Sea to demonstrate that Washington doesn't recognize China's maritime claims in the region.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A US Navy guided-missile destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea designed to challenge Beijing’s maritime claims, media reported citing unnamed officials.

It was the first such patrol since October and the first one conducted under President Donald Trump, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday.

A freedom of navigation patrol, by definition, must take place within 12 nautical miles of territorial waters, the report explained.

The report added, however, that a Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the operation, claiming the United States operates in accordance with international law.

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

News Report: DPRK on ‘Inevitable’ Path to Launching Nuclear Missile Against US - Official

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart told a Tuesday Senate hearing that if North Korea’s weapons development isn’t reigned in it will continue down an “inevitable” path toward finalizing a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

Stewart and US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats wouldn’t say how close they think Pyongyang is to obtaining a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) when pressed by legislators, claiming that such statements would reveal the extent of Washington’s knowledge about the North’s capabilities.

But the officials made it clear that North Korea’s continued testing presents a very real danger to the US.

Stewart said, "If left on its current trajectory, the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear-armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland," and that "While (it’s) nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is committed and is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable."

News Report: China Calls on US, Japan, South Korea to Reset Relations With DPRK

The Chinese ambassador to the United Nations Liu Zeyi urged the United States, Japan and South Korea to start a dialogue with North Korea.

According to Zeyi, North Korea's withdrawal from its nuclear program should be the outcome of negotiations, and not their precondition. This opinion was supported by the Russian political expert and research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Vorontsov.

In Vorontsov's opinion, China has a rational position on North Korea's issue.

"This is a clear appeal by the Chinese authorities to the Americans to show more flexibility, to look at the existing reality more soberly. The terms of the negotiations with the DPRK formulated by the American side under Obama, and now, under the new president, have not changed," Vorontsov said.

"The Americans are ready to start negotiations with Pyongyang only under certain conditions, which literally imply North Korea's readiness to surrender. However, life has shown that the DPRK has so far refused to negotiate on such terms and will continue to adhere to this position. It seems to me that the Chinese representative in the United Nations was trying to convey this idea to the US. Thus, he urged his colleagues, primarily the Americans, to a greater flexibility and reasonability," the expert added.

News Report: India’s Sukhoi Still Untraced, China Says Don’t Disturb Border Region

Indian Air Force Su-30MKI Flanker Fighter (File Photo)
Authorities in India have failed to locate the Sukhoi-30MKI jet of the Indian Air Force (IAF) which went missing since Tuesday morning. It is being said that weather conditions are hampering search and rescue operations.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — A C-130 aircraft with electro-optical payload, ALH and Chetak helicopters of the IAF have been tasked for this search and rescue operations. The IAF is also using SU-30 aircraft with recce capability for locating the missing aircraft.

“Apart from the aerial assets, four ground parties of IAF personnel, nine parties of Indian Army and two parties of state administration have been deployed on different axes to search the area. Till now no breakthrough has been made in locating the aircraft and its pilots,” an IAF official said on Wednesday evening.

The Sukhoi jet, with two pilots aged between 25 and 30 on board, went missing after taking off from the Tezpur air force station situated in the north-eastern part of the country. The aircraft was on a routine training sortie.

News Report: Duterte Asks Putin for 'Help and Support in Fight Against Daesh'

The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin to expand partnership and ask for assistance in arms procurement. Sputnik Radio spoke with expert Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky in an interview about how Russia should react to such a request.

According to Duterte, the Philippines needs modern weaponry to fight Daesh and expressed hope that Moscow would assist his country in obtaining arms.

“Our country needs modern weapons, we had certain orders in the US, but currently the situation is not very smooth and in order to fight Daesh divisions and its individual factions, we need modern weapons. I have come to gain your support and ask for your help,” Duterte said.

In addition, the leader of the Philippines said that the two countries should develop trade relations. “We need to develop trade exchange,” he said.

The Russian president in turn noted that Russia and the Philippines have many joint projects, including in terms of military-technical cooperation.

News Report: Pakistan Says India Fired at UN Observers in Kashmir

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says U.N. military observers visiting its side of the disputed Kashmir border came under attack Wednesday from the Indian troops, but were not hurt.

The world body has stationed its mission in the region called U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, or UNMOGIP, which observes and reports cease-fire violations across the Line of Control that divides the Himalayan territory between the two nuclear-armed rival nations.

A Pakistan army statement said a vehicle “with blue UNMOGIP flag hoisted as per procedure” was carrying two officers of the mission, from the Philippines and Croatia, on a visit to LoC when Indian forces fired at them.

“Both officers remained safe ...” it added.

News Report: Twin Bombings Hit Jakarta Bus Terminal

Two suspected suicide bombings rocked a bus terminal in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, Wednesday, killing at least three police officers.

Five other officers and five civilians were wounded in the attacks.

“Tonight, to Indonesian citizens and all of us who are here at the scene, I express very deep concern. A bomb explosion has occurred and for now it is believed to have been a suicide bombing,'' Vice National Police Chief Syafruddin, who uses one name, told reporters.

The blasts occurred near Kampung Melayu terminal, a station serving minivans and buses, in a working class district of eastern Jakarta not popular among tourists or foreigners.

East Jakarta Police Chief Andry Wibowo said the damage in the area was “pretty big.”

It is not clear who was responsible for the attacks. In the past, Islamic State has claimed responsibility for terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim country.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Call for Martial Law Bares New Snags in Philippine Fight Against Terrorists

Philippine Armed Forces (PAF)
Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has stepped up a campaign over the past year to control Muslim violence in the country's south, but two of the top terrorist groups are suspected of joining forces with possible support from Islamic State.

President Rodrigo Duterte asked Tuesday for martial law on the 21 million-person island of Mindanao, as well as outlying islets, shortly after militants from the Maute Group laid siege to the town of Marawi, leaving at least two soldiers and one policeman dead and several wounded.

The violence began when troops began searching for Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State. The insurgents burned down several buildings, including a church, and took a local Catholic priest and others hostage after forcing their way into a cathedral. Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the hostages included 10 worshippers and three church employees, and that the militants were demanding the government withdraw its forces from the area.

News Report: Myanmar to Open More Inclusive Peace Talks

Aung San Suu Kyi
Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will open a new round of peace talks Wednesday that will include three previously barred rebel groups.

The conference, in the capital of Naypyidaw, aims to end fighting that has continued since the nation gained independence from Britain in 1948.

Seven ethnic rebel groups have yet to sign a cease-fire deal with the government, but now plan to attend the Union Peace Conference.

Suu Kyi's stated No. 1 priority is ending decades of near-perpetual civil war — which she sees as key to unlocking the resource-rich country's potential and guaranteeing basic development for its more than 50 million people.

When she took charge of the peace process last year, Suu Kyi dismantled a peace center set up by the previous government that was leading talks with the rebels. Some observers say the move undermined the trust built up over the years.

Several conflicts have reignited since then, displacing an estimated 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: THAAD Missile Defense System Expected to Top U.S.-South Korea Summit Agenda

Jenny Lee

WASHINGTON — In the face of North Korea's escalating nuclear weapons threat, the leaders of the United States and South Korea are expected to bridge their differences on the North during a summit next month, experts say.

Last week, a spokesman for South Korea's recently elected President Moon Jae-in, of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea, said a summit with President Donald Trump was arranged for late June in Washington, but the White House has not confirmed the meeting.

South Korea has been alarmed by several ballistic missile tests by Pyongyang, with the latest being the launch of a new intermediate-range solid-fuel rocket, conducted Sunday.

North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, says the missile that traveled about 500 kilometers (310 miles) in the direction of the Sea of Japan and reached an altitude of 560 kilometers (348 miles), satisfied all technical requirements and can be mass produced, suggesting progress in its ambition to be capable of striking the United States.

“There clearly are some issues that will need to be addressed early in the tenure of President Moon Jae-in,” Alexander Vershbow, who was U.S. Ambassador to Seoul between 2005 and 2008, told VOA's Korean Service. “The Moon Jae-in visit will focus, first and foremost, on how to ensure a unified approach, on the question of how to engage Pyongyang, what mix of carrots and sticks.”

News Story: Steep price rise hits Indo-Russian 5th-gen fighter project

Russian T-50 PAK FA Prototype, basis for the Indian FGFA 
By: Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI — Just when its production was about to take off, the Indo-Russian fifth-generation fighter aircraft appears to be "lost" because Russians are demanding an "unaffordable price for the aircraft," according to a senior Indian Air Force official.

The Russians are demanding more than $7 billion as part of India's share in the development of the FGFA. The Russian side argues that the higher price is justified because the aircraft's development will include transfer of technology of several high-tech systems.

"India is not in a position to pay this kind of money, and the aircraft project appears to be lost " the official said.

The Indian version of the FGFA, known as the Perspective Multi-role Fighter, is being jointly designed and developed by India and Russia. State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited from the Indian side and Rosoboronexport from Russia are the designated lead agencies. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: OMB ‘Supports’ Extra LCS, But Where’s The Money?

By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

UPDATE: Source Says WH Will Fund LCS Add; CRS Naval Expert Comments 

CAPITOL HILL: In a startling turnabout, the Trump Administration now “supports” adding a $541 million Littoral Combat Ship to yesterday’s 2018 budget request, Navy officials told Congress this afternoon. What, exactly, does that mean? The Navy doesn’t know.

Minutes before Navy witnesses were to testify before the House seapower subcommittee, they were given new language from the White House Office of Management & Budget: “The Administration recognizes the criticality of our industrial base and supports funding a second LCS in FY18.” OMB gave them no information, however, about whether “supports” is a promise of new money or just a vague sentiment that Congress should feel free to increase the Navy budget.

UPDATE BEGINS: The money will come, promised a source familiar with the administration’s discussions. “The administration’s going to support two (Littoral Combat) ships in the budget in FY18, and we’re figuring out the mechanism to do that,” the source assured me. “There will be a document of some sort, some sort of statement indicating that the administration is going to include in its budget request two LCS in ’18.” The administration will also probably urge the Hill to add a third LCS, leaving it up to Congress to find the funding for that ship.

Where’s the money coming from for the second LCS, the one the administration isfunding? “That is a question for which I do not have an answer,” the source admitted. “OMB and DoD are going to have to sort that out. All I can say is, it will be there.”

Land of Confusion

This was a pretty confusing way to get something in the budget, I said.

“Yeah. I don’t disagree,” said the source, chagrinned. “I wish that it had been done differently the whole way, (but) LCS is a controversial ship, and there are plenty of people who have concerns about it. (At DoD), I think they viewed LCS as a bill payer for other priorities.”

Ultimately, “the senior people in the administration said, we’re going to make the industrial base for our navy…a priority,” the source said, but by that point, “it was too late to put it in the physical budget document that were printed…The decision to include came rather late in the process and communicating that to the Navy and DoD writ large was a little delayed.” UPDATE ENDS

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: SASC Will ‘Help’ Trump On Navy’s 355-Ship Fleet - Sen. Wicker

Image: Flickr User - Greg Bishop
By SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR.

CAPITOL HILL: Presidents propose; Congress disposes. President Trump’s shipbuilding budget for 2018 is a placeholder that legislators can increase, the chairman of the Senate seapower subcommittee told me this morning.

After Sen. Roger Wicker chaired a hearing with shipbuilding executives, following a classified hearing with Navy leaders, I asked him about Trump’s budget. Despite Trump’s campaign pledge for a 350-ship fleet, his budget adds no ships to the Obama plan for FY18 and actually cuts the shipbuilding account. Is this a disappointment, a placeholder, or — given that it takes time for the shipyards to ramp up — a reasonable delay?

“Option B,” Wicker told me with a slight smile. “It’s a placeholder.

“We’re going to work with the administration,” Wicker said. “We’re going to try to help the president get to his goal of more than 350 ships.”

“We take the leadership of the Navy’s recommendations seriously, as a matter of national security,” Wicker continued. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, released a new Force Structure Assessment last fall calling for a 355-ship fleet.

“The president has endorsed that concept in broad terms,” Wicker said, “and we aim to work with him to make the budget” — a thoughtful pause — “consistent.”

In other (less politic) words, if Trump won’t put his money where his mouth is, Congress can do it for him.

“I’m going to take it one year at a time,” Wicker told me. “I think what we heard today is an eminently doable lift for this year, this next fiscal year (2018).”

So what did Wicker hear?

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: Australian hostage released after seven-month ordeal in Yemen

Yemen (Image: Wiki Commons)
CANBERRA, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has praised the Sultan of Oman for his efforts to free an Australian soccer coach who was kidnapped in Yemen last October.

The Australian man, Craig McAllister, had been coaching an under-16 soccer team in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa for two years before his kidnapping.

Omani authorities reported on Wednesday an Australian citizen had been located in Yemen after negotiations with local tribes, and had been transferred to Oman.

"I deeply appreciate the efforts of officials from across government who continue to provide the family assistance and of many other parties in Australia and overseas," Bishop said in Canberra on Thursday.

"I particularly thank His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said, the Sultan of Oman, for Oman's work to locate and receive the Australian national into Oman."

Bishop's office said the Australian government would make no further comments on the issue.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: ASEAN, partners to enhance cooperation in combating transnational crime

VIENTIANE, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and dialogue partners on Wednesday committed to enhance their cooperation efforts in combating transnational crimes in a bid to maintain security at and across borders in the region.

The 17th Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) and its related meetings kicked off Wednesday in Lao capital Vientiane in support of ASEAN-centered regional and international cooperation efforts.

The meeting was attended by delegates from 10 ASEAN member countries and dialogue partners including China, Japan, South Korea, India, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Canada and the United States.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Philippines' Duterte mulls declaring martial law in entire country

MANILA, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned on Wednesday that he is considering placing the entire country under martial law, saying the militants might continue to sow more terror not only in southern Philippines but also in other parts of the country.

Duterte declared on Tuesday night martial law for 60 days on the island of Mindanao and nearby island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi after clashes between the army and militants with alleged links to Islamic State (ISIS) in Marawi, provincial city of Lanao del Sur on the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines.

Duterte made the declaration while on an official visit to Russia, which he was forced to cut short after the Marawi City violence broke out around Tuesday afternoon.

At a news conference shortly after arriving from Russia, Duterte said that he is considering expanding the scope of martial rule to nearby Visayas region and even the entire country, including the main Luzon island.

"If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people," Duterte said.

"I may decide to expand the area to include Visayas because it is a walking distance actually," Duterte said, referring to the proximity of the Visayas region to Mindanao.

He added he might also decide to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in the Visayas. "Remember that this is not intended for the law-abiding citizens. We are the least of your worries," he said.

Visayas region is a group of island provinces in the central Philippines, just above Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Xi calls for "strong, modern" navy

Chinese Navy Type 052D Destroyer (File Photo)
BEIJING, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for efforts to build the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy into a strong and modern force to lend support for the realization of the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation and the dream of 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), made the remarks during an inspection of the PLA Navy headquarters.

Xi expressed congratulations on the 12th Party congress of the PLA Navy,met delegates to the congress and conveyed greetings to all navy members.

Noting that the navy is a strategic military service concerning national security and overall development, Xi asked naval authorities to build a world-class force by promoting political awareness, reforms and rule of law.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Xi says both sides across Strait share their destiny

BEIJING, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, has called both sides across the Taiwan Strait a community of shared destiny that cannot be prised apart.

Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory letter, made public Wednesday, to the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland (ATIEM) on its 10th anniversary.

The Chinese mainland has gradually become a popular destination for Taiwan compatriots to invest, start businesses and make their home since the 1980s when the door between the two sides was reopened, Xi said.

"The economies of each side are both parts of the economy of the Chinese nation," he said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China voices support for Myanmar to achieve national reconciliation

BEIJING, May 24 (Xinhua) -- China voiced support for all the efforts of Myanmar to achieve peace and national reconciliation, as a peace conference opened in Naypyidaw Wednesday.

China hoped all parties would adhere to dialogue and consultation and make the conditions for lasting peace in the Southeast Asian country, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a daily press briefing.

The second meeting of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference of Myanmar attracted about 1,400 representatives from the government, parliament, military, political parties, ethnic armed organizations and civil society.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 2 Chinese nationals kidnapped in Pakistan's Quetta, embassy confirms

ISLAMABAD, May 24 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese embassy in Pakistan on Wednesday confirmed that two Chinese nationals were kidnapped by unknown gunmen in the country's southwest Quetta city earlier in the day.

An official from the embassy told Xinhua that they are trying to know more details about the incident as well as about the abducted persons, adding that they have urged the Pakistani side to rescue the abductees as quickly as possible.

The kidnappers forced the abductees into a vehicle on gunpoint and drove away, local media quoted Deputy Inspector General of Quetta police as saying.

The kidnapped including a man and a woman were returning from a restaurant when the incident happened in Jinnah Town area of Quetta, the capital city of the country's southwestern Balochistan Province, local Urdu TV Aaj reported.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Pakistan executes two hardcore terrorists - army

ISLAMABAD, May 24 (Xinhua) -- The Pakistan military said on Wednesday that two more hardcore terrorists involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism have been executed.

Eight were sent to gallows last week as executions of the convicts in terrorism-related cases have been stepped up after the Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa signed execution orders of 30 hardcore terrorists last month.

An army statement said the terrorists were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, including attack on the 2014 Army Public School Peshawar, killing of innocent civilians, attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies.

The statement identified convict Taj Muhammad as an active member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), who was found guilty of "harbouring suicidal bombers, which were later on used in attack on Army Public School Peshawar, causing death of 151 persons including 125 children, injuries to 147 persons and killing a civilian."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Pakistani, Indian troops shell each other's posts along LoC

ISLAMABAD, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani army said late Tuesday that it has shelled Indian posts and caused "substantial losses" on the Indian troops and their posts along the Line of Control (LoC), dividing Kashmir.

The Indian army had also earlier said it has shelled at and damaged Pakistani posts along the LoC, to stop militants from crossing into the Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: India denies reports of air space violation by Pakistan

NEW DELHI, May 24 (Xinhua) -- The Indian Air Force on Wednesday denied reports of any air space violation by Pakistan over the Siachen Glacier in the disputed region of Kashmir.

According to Pakistani media, its head of Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, visited the Qadri Airbase in Skardu near the Siachen Glacier earlier in the day, where war games were being held by Pakistani fighter jet squadrons.

But senior defense sources in Delhi said that there has been no air space violation by Pakistan over the Siachen Glacier.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Indian military intensifies search to trace missing Sukhoi fighter jet

An Indian Air Force Su-30MKI Flanker Fighter (File Photo)
NEW DELHI, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Indian military Wednesday intensified search operations to trace missing Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jet with two pilots on board.

As the search enters second day on Wednesday, rescuers have not been able to find out the missing jet so far.

The fighter jet belonging to Indian airforce went missing Tuesday after taking off from the Tezpur Indian airforce base in northeastern state of Assam.

According to officials, the fighter jet was on a routine training sortie and lost radio contact with the airbase.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Philippine militants abduct residents including priest, college professor

MANILA, May 24 (Xinhua) -- The Maute group of Philippine militants, which occupied and torched a Roman Catholic cathedral, a city jail and at least two schools in southern Philippine Marawi city on the island of Mindanao since Tuesday, has abducted a number of residents, including a priest and a college professor, media reports said on Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Mindanao and nearby island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Taw-Tawi in the southern Philippines under martial law, and vowed to be "harsh" in dealing with the local militant group.

The militants took priest Teresito Soganub, professor Maria Luisa Colina, parish secretary Wendelyn Mayormita, two working students and some parishioners on Tuesday, bishop Edwin dela Pena of the Prelature of Marawi said in an interview with radio DzBB.

"We have not heard anything about them," Dela Pena said, adding there might be more people have been kidnapped.

Media reports also said that many residents have fled the city.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Philippines' Duterte asks Putin for arms support

MOSCOW, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for arms to fight Islamic militants in the Asian country.

"Our country needs modern weapons to fight against ISIS. We had certain orders in the U.S., however, the situation is not very good now. I came to Moscow to ask for your help and support," the Kremlin quoted Duterte as telling Putin in a meeting on Tuesday.

Duterte stressed that Russia is a reliable partner, and he offered to continue their friendship.

"We need to improve trade exchange between the two countries," the Philippine leader said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China's skepticism may open up new chance to denuclearize North (Korea) - scholar

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) -- China is increasingly suspicious of North Korea trying to get in the way of China's ascent as a global power and the resulting decay in China-North Korea relations may open unprecedented opportunities to mobilize China's cooperation in denuclearizing the North, a historian said Wednesday.

"Great powers, particularly rising great powers ... what they cannot easily tolerate is friends and allies getting in the way of larger pictures. This is what I think has changed with regard to the relations" between Beijing and Pyongyang, Odd Arne Westad, a Harvard University history professor specialized in Asia, said in a lecture arranged by the Korean Foundation for Advanced Studies.

Traditionally, China has long preferred the status quo on the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, preserving the situation involving North Korea, primarily because of its fears over Korean reunification under the control of the United States and instability that could follow a rapid collapse of the North Korean regime, according to the professor.

But the China-North Korea relations have never been "as bad as they are today and they seem to be getting worse very quickly," the professor noted.

China increasingly deems North Korea trying to get in the way of China's ascendancy rather than being a geographical asset to buffer its borders.

China is also aware North Korea's internal discussion portraying China as an enemy in the North Korean nuclear project, according to the professor.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Sopko Says ‘U.S Has Wasted A Lot Of Money In Afghanistan’

By Mir Aqa Popalzai

John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar), said in an address on Monday that over 50 percent of fuel purchased for the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) was not reaching its intended destination. 

“We have heard, we haven’t documented it exactly because it’s so difficult but that over 50 percent of the fuel we purchase for the Afghans never reaches the intended people. The fuel just gets diverted,” he said. 

He went on to say that NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson is working on the problem. 

Speaking to the Washington Journal, which provides a forum for lawmakers and journalists to discuss key topics surrounding today's legislation, Sopko said: “We have wasted a lot of money in Afghanistan.”

He said security and corruption were both big issues in the country. “We have problems with intense corruption in the Afghan military and police so a lot of the money we are spending never ends up in the hands of the soldiers or the police who need it.”

“We have documented cases where corrupt officials have stolen the fuel, sold it to the Taliban, stolen weapons we have provided, sold it to the bad guys. That’s the big issue we are facing.”

He said however that it was difficult to do oversight in a war zone but that President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah “were trying to clean house” in terms of ending corruption. He also said he was “cautiously optimistic” that these efforts would pay off. 

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: 20 Taliban Insurgents, 11 ANA Soldiers Killed In Kandahar Attack

By Abdullah Achekzai

At least 20 Taliban insurgents were killed on Monday night when a group of Taliban carried out an attack on a military base in Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, said 205 Atal military Corps in Kandahar.

In addition 11 Afghan National Army soldiers were killed and nine others were wounded, the Ministry of Defense said.

The military base is located in Achakzai village of Shah Wali Kot district.

“The enemies of the people of Afghanistan attacked the camp in Shah Wali Kot, it was a coordinated attack, but our units bravely defended their camp, unfortunately 11 of our soldiers were martyred and nine others wounded ” said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish.

According to the Ministry of Defense the base fell to the Taliban after heavy clashes lasting a couple of hours.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Taliban Attack Baghlan-Mazar Highway, Clashes Ongoing

By Hamid Shirzai 

The Taliban insurgents attacked Baghlan-Mazar highway on Tuesday night and closed the highway to traffic, security forces confirmed.

The officials said the attack started at about 10pm local time after insurgents stormed the highway. 

Clashes between security forces and insurgents are still ongoing.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: 16 Suspects Appear In Court Over Military Hospital Attack

By Anisa Shaheed

At least sixteen people suspected of being involved in the deadly attack on Sardar Daud military hospital in Kabul in March appeared in court on Tuesday, the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed Tuesday.

Those who were negligent in terms of ensuring security at the hospital were among those who appeared in court, defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said.

The hearing was however conducted behind closed doors.  

But, the fact finding committee has said that they will not accept the trial unless high level officers who are accused of conspiring over the incident are also prosecuted.

“You should be confident that anyone who committed negligence while on duty will go on trial and will be investigated according to the plan. There are 24 suspects, so far sixteen of them have appeared in court,” said MoD spokesman Mohammad Radmanish.

The hearing comes after a recent announcement by government that it had arrested over 24 individuals in connection with the attack, including some high ranking officers.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Trump calls N. Korea's Kim Jong-Un 'madman with nuclear weapons'

North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un
President Donald Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un a "madman with nuclear weapons" during a telephone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to a transcript of the conversation released by US media Tuesday.

A White House readout of the April 29 call characterized it as a "very friendly conversation." Days after the conversation, Trump said publicly that he would be "honored" to meet with Kim.

But in the call, Trump hinted at a possible dramatic escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

"We can't let a madman with nuclear weapons let on the loose like that. We have a lot of firepower, more than he has, times 20 -- but we don't want to use it," the US leader said, citing "two nuclear submarines" the Pentagon sent to the area last month.

Transcribed by the Philippine government, the conversation was released by The Washington Post and The Intercept.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: Trump Budget Reduces Funds for Naval Shipbuilding

Image: Flickr User - Greg Bishop
On Tuesday, the Trump administration released its proposed budget for FY2018, including $639 billion in defense spending. The Navy would receive $171.5 billion of this amount, $6.5 billion more than in 2017. 

As expected, the budget would fully fund all planned ship depot maintenance, long under-resourced due to sequestration. This would would help clear a severe backlog of deferred maintenance on the attack submarine fleet, and would give the Navy ten more vessel maintenance availabilities than in the prior year. It also funds the continuation of a controversial refit for the Navy's aging Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruisers, the so-called "2/4/6" plan. In addition, the budget would fund aviation maintenance depots to their maximum current capacity. In a statement, the Navy said that these investments reflect the "importance of restoring wholeness in order to build capacity and improve lethality in the future."

Navy leaders have warned for years that underinvestment in maintenance is reducing readiness. In January, vice chief of naval operations Adm. Bill Moran cautioned that extended deployments and cost-cutting were a risky combination. “This long war we’re in and emerging or re-emerging threats have raised the stakes and kept us on the field longer than our bullpen is able to stay healthy . . . Deferred maintenance is insidiously taking its toll on the long-term readiness of our fleet.” 

However, the proposed budget would not provide as much for naval shipbuilding as some had hoped. A shipbuilding procurement budget of $20 billion would go towards one Ford-class carrier, two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class subs and only one Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This list mirrors the Obama administration's plan, and it reduces funding for shipbuilding by about $1 billion compared with the enacted budget for FY2017.

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News Story: Vietnamese Forces Block Indonesian Coast Guard

On Tuesday, Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries claimed that a Vietnamese coast guard vessel aggressively interfered with the arrest of a group of Vietnamese fishermen near the Natuna Islands. 

On Sunday, an Indonesian patrol boat detained five Vietnamese fishing vessels on suspicion of illegal fishing, and it got under way to bring the arrested fishermen back to shore. According to the Indonesian account, a Vietnamese coast guard vessel approached and blocked the patrol boat’s path.

Three more Vietnamese coast guard vessels approached the scene, and one of them rammed one of the detained fishing vessels, causing it to sink. Indonesian servicemember D. Gunawan Wibisono was on board the stricken vessel, and he was rescued and allegedly detained by a Vietnamese coast guard crew. 

After capturing Wibisono, the Vietnamese forces demanded the return of all of the fishermen and the four remaining fishing vessels. The Indonesian patrol crew gave up 44 of the fishermen, but the Vietnamese coast guard did not release Wibisono. 

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News Story: Chinese Navy Conducts First Drills With Myanmar

Chinese Navy Warships on patrol (File Photo)
Three Chinese naval vessels are making a goodwill tour of 20 nations along the route of China's "21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” and last Thursday, they arrived in Yangon for the PLA(N)'s first-ever naval exercise with the Myanmar Navy.

According to Chinese state-owned media, the destroyer Changchun, the frigate Jingzhou and the auxiliary vessel Chaohu were in Myanmar's waters for four days. They conducted a variety of exercises with the Myanmar Navy, focusing primarily on communications and search and rescue. 

The Chinese vessels' next port of call is Chittagong, Bangladesh, and they will continue on for a six-month tour of Asia, Europe and Africa. It will be the longest goodwill tour that a PLA(N) task force has ever undertaken.

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News Story: Roundtable discusses challenges facing Asia – Pacific

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) - The Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia convened its 31st Asia-Pacific Roundtable (APR) in Kuala Lumpur on May 22.

Themed “The Future of the Asia-Pacific: Issues and Institutions in Flux”, the three-day event is gathering regional experts to discuss and suggest policies to address challenges arising from the US’s Trump administration and the Brexit.

Subjects tabled were set to include Asian views on the US’s role in the region, tensions in cyber security, the East Sea issue, and Mekong cooperation.

In his opening speech at the function, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stressed the role of ASEAN and its people.

Read the full story at VietnamPlus