31 July 2017

USA: USS Bonhomme Richard makes Brisbane port call

From USS Bonhomme Richard Public Affairs

USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) operates in the Coral Sea, July 12, during exercise during Talisman Saber. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Cameron McCulloch) >>

BRISBANE, Australia - The amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) arrived in Brisbane, Australia, for a scheduled port visit, July 29.

Bonhomme Richard, along with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), successfully completed the biennial, bilateral exercise Talisman Saber 2017 (TS17). While in Brisbane, the Sailors and Marines will have the opportunity to enjoy the sights and rich culture of the city.

“Our blue-green team operated at the highest levels of proficiency and professionalism alongside our Australian allies during Talisman Saber, and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone who made an impact during that mission,” said Capt. Larry McCullen, Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer. “It’s great to now be in Brisbane, where those same Sailors and Marines can enjoy some well-deserved liberty and experience all that the city has to offer.”

USA: Ballistic Missile Defense System Test Successful

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2017 — The Missile Defense Agency and soldiers of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas, conducted a successful missile defense test today using the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, according to a Missile Defense Agency news release.

A medium-range target ballistic missile was air-launched by an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III over the Pacific Ocean. The THAAD weapon system, located at Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, detected, tracked and intercepted the target.

The test, designated Flight Experiment THAAD (FET)-01, was conducted to gather threat data from a THAAD interceptor in flight, the release said.

“In addition to successfully intercepting the target, the data collected will allow MDA to enhance the THAAD weapon system, our modeling and simulation capabilities, and our ability to stay ahead of the evolving threat,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, Missile Defense Agency director.

Soldiers from the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade conducted launcher, fire control and radar operations using the same procedures they would use in an actual combat scenario. Soldiers operating the equipment were not aware of the actual target launch time, the release said.

News Report: China 'Will Not Play by US Rules' Despite Growing Pressure Over N Korean Problem

The United Nations (States) and its allies continue to pressure China over the North Korean issue. According to analyst Konstantin Asmolov, such a policy is counterproductive as Beijing has an independent approach on the problem.

The United Kingdom and Australia recently urged China to do more to pressure North Korea over its missile and nuclear program.

UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop met Thursday in Sydney to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue.

"With international influence comes responsibility. It is now for Beijing to use the influence it has over the North Korean regime to get it to abandon its program," Fallon was quoted as saying by Reuters.

According to Bishop, the current uncertainty over the North Korean nuclear problem is at a level the world "has not witnessed in a very long time."

Earlier, Bishop said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp's Radio National that China "has much more leverage over North Korea than it claims."

"The export relationship with North Korea, the provision of remittance to workers, the foreign investment flows, the technology flows — these are all in China's hands," she said.

In turn, Fallon said that Pyongyang continues to receive help is developing its nuclear and missile program.

News Report: N Korea Threatens US With Decisive Actions if Sanctions to Be Toughened

Pyongyang warned Washington that North Korea would take decisive actions if new sanctions were imposed against it, media reported Sunday.

TOKYO (Sputnik) – On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill on new sanctions against Iran, North Korea and Russia, which is yet to be signed by US President Donald Trump to become a law.

If the United States tightens sanctions, Pyongyang will respond with decisive actions, a statement of the North Korean Foreign Ministry read as cited by the Kyodo news agency.

The warning comes against the background of increasing tensions on Korean Peninsula.

On Friday, North Korea fired off what it said was an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the second such test in less than a month. The move triggered protests in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul as well as in the United Nations.

Earlier on Sunday, Japanese, US and South Korean forces conducted joint military drills, with two US bombers and Japanese and South Korean fighter jets flying over the Korean Peninsula.

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

News Report: China Demonstrates New DF-31AG Intercontinental Ballistic Missile for First Time

China demonstrated at the military parade, marking the 90th anniversary of founding the People's Liberation Army (PLA), on Sunday its new DF-31AG intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time, local media reported.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The parade, in which 12,000 servicemen took part, was held at the Zhurihe military base in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Country's President Xi Jinping personally inspected the troops during the parade.

News Report: South Korean Military Mulling Nuclear Arsenal of Its Own

Seoul is now claiming that it needs its own nukes as a safeguard to warlike moves by Pyongyang.

South Korea has been seen to be making moves to increase the size and range of its ballistic missiles in the wake of increased weapons testing by North Korea.

Washington, Seoul's staunchest ally, has tacitly agreed through the intercession of US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that negotiations can begin for South Korea to extend the reach and power of its missile systems as a means to prepare for war with Pyongyang, according to The Hill.

According to a 2012 bilateral missile treaty between Washington and Seoul, however, South Korea must first gain permission from the US before it can increase its arsenal, cited by the New York Times.

In a move to increase the likelihood of Washington cooperating with Seoul's desires — and contrary to election campaign indications — South Korean President Moon Jae-In will increase the US implementation of the high-tech Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system currently installed on South Korean territory.

News Report: South China Sea is in Epicenter of Int'l Brawls Making ‘Co-Existing’ Impossible

The calm in the South China Sea, as many had warned, was illusory. Moreover, in the summer the situation in the region has become further aggravated. To add fuel to the fire, recently Hanoi has struck back following calls from Beijing to stop oil exploration in Block 136-03 of the South China Sea. Sputnik spoke to an analyst about this issue.

"Vietnam’s petroleum-related activities take place in the sea entirely under the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Vietnam established in accordance with international law," Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said Friday.

However, Beijing reportedly threatened to attack Vietnamese positions in the Spratly/Nansha Islands of the sea if an oil discovery operation led by Spanish oil firm Respol was not called off on July 15.

This incident clearly shows that the tensions that arose after the abolition of joint Chinese-Vietnamese exercises this June are still quite strong. 

News Report: Taliban Militants Blow Up Dam in Southern Afghanistan

Member of the Taliban terrorist group, banned in Russia, have blown up a dam in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar leaving a swathe of agriculture land without water, local media reported Saturday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The incident took place in the district of Shorabak in Kandahar province, the Khaama Press news agency reported.

Farmers fear that the land and the plants will be damaged since the dam provided water for the local irrigation system, a policeman told the news agency.

Afghanistan has long been suffering from unstable political, social and security situation due to the activity of Daesh (banned in Russia) and the Taliban.

Taliban's activity, particularly in southern Afghanistan, has been on the rise recently. On Wednesday, 26 soldiers were killed in an assault launched by Taliban in Kandahar.

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

News Report: Top US Officials Say Talking to N. Korea Fruitless, Action Necessary

Senior U.S. officials said Sunday the time for talking about the diplomatic consequences of North Korea's latest missile test is over, since the danger to international peace that Pyongyang poses is now clear to all nations.

U.S. bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula to demonstrate military strength Sunday, and Vice President Mike Pence noted that the United States has "all options ... on the table" for responding to North Korea. Pyongyang said its latest test, of a missile believed to be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, was a "stern warning" to Washington not to increase sanctions, but Pence rejected that as "unacceptable."

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States is not even asking for an emergency meeting of the Security Council, as it has on previous occasions, because the Western powers are "done talking" about North Korea. China, as North Korea's principal ally and supporter, must now decide if it will act more directly to rein in Pyongyang, Haley added.

Pence was in Estonia, one of the United States' NATO allies, when he was asked about the North Korea situation.

"The era of strategic patience is over," the vice president said, and he added pressure will continue until North Korea "permanently abandons" its nuclear and ballistic missile program.

News Story: U.S. forces in Afghanistan confirms killing four IS advisors

KABUL, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Four senior advisers of Islamic State (IS) have been killed following a U.S. forces airstrike in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province, U.S. forces in Afghanistan said in a statement released here on Sunday.

"U.S. Forces-Afghanistan has confirmed the death of four senior advisers of the IS in a strike that also killed Abu Sayid, a senior IS leader, in Kunar province on July 11 this year," the forces said in the statement.

The four eliminated IS elements were identified as Sheik Ziaullah, Mulawi Hubaib, Haji Shirullah and Assadullah, said the statement, adding that all of the four had played crucial role in Afghanistan.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: U.S. VP expresses support to Afghan peace process

KABUL, July 29 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has said he would support the peace efforts initiated by the Afghan government, according to a statement of the Presidential Palace posted on its website on Saturday.

In a video conference with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani late Friday, Pence commended Afghanistan's achievements over the past more than two years, the statement said.

It added that both sides agreed on cooperation for the development of the security sector, bringing reforms and campaign against corruption.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Afghan police repel Taliban attack, killing 11

Afghan Police Officer (File Photo)
KABUL, July 30, (Xinhua) -- The Afghan National Police (ANP) repelled a Taliban militants' attack in eastern province of Paktika on Saturday, killing 11 militants, the country's interior ministry said Sunday.

The ministry said in a statement that a group of Taliban militants attacked police checkpoints in Sarobi district in the province, 155 km south of Kabul late on Saturday evening, but faced a harsh response from the police forces.

"The clashes left 11 armed Taliban fighters dead and 17 others wounded, but no ANP member was harmed in the clashes," the statement said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Local leader killed in roadside bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, July 30 (Xinhua) -- An Afghan local leader was killed in a roadside bomb blast in eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday, the latest in a string of targeted attacks, a provincial government spokesman said.

"Malik Shirin Aqa was martyred after his vehicle was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) along a road in Khogyani district around 07:30 a.m. local time Sunday," Attahullah Khogyani told Xinhua.

Two other people aboard the vehicle were injured. They were shifted to a hospital where one of the wounded remained in critical condition, he said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 2 militants killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir gunfight

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, July 30 (Xinhua) -- Two militants belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant outfit were killed Sunday in a fierce gunfight with troops in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said.

The gunfight between militants and government forces broke out at village Tahab of Pulwama district, about 43 km south of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.

"A gunfight triggered here today in which two militants were killed," Brigadier Harbeer Singh, an Indian army officer told media on spot.

"Soon after the cordon we offered the militants to surrender but they fired upon our troops, which was duly retaliated, resulting in their killing."

Police officials said the duo was inside a residential house and tried to break the cordon and escape, however, they could not find safe passage.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Pakistan's ruling party PML-N names Shehbaz Sharif as country's new PM

ISLAMABAD, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan's ruling party PML-N decided Saturday to name Shehbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, as the country's new prime minister.

The decision was announced by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after a meeting of the PML-N's parliamentarians, which was held here.

The meeting also decided to name former Petroleum Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as the country's interim prime minister before the nomination of Shehbaz Sharif is approved by the National Assembly (NA), the lower house in Pakistan.

According to Pakistani laws, the prime minister must be a member of NA. Currently, Shehbaz Sharif is not a NA member and he must first contest for a seat in the NA before he can be voted by the parliament for the PM.

Read the full story at Xinhua

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News Story: China, Sri Lanka ink Hambantota Port deal

COLOMBO, July 29 (Xinhua) -- China Merchants Port Holdings and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority signed an agreement here on Saturday to develop the Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka.

Under the deal, the Chinese side will hold a 70 percent stake in two joint ventures to be launched to take charge of the commercial and administrative management operations of the port respectively.

After 10 years, the Sri Lankan side will gradually purchase an additional 20 percent stake, resulting in the two sides owning an equal share of 50 percent each, according to the agreement, which is valid for 99 years.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China urges ROK, U.S. to stop THAAD deployment

BEIJING, July 29 (Xinhua) -- China on Saturday strongly urged the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States to respect China's concerns and stop the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remarks in response to reports that ROK President Moon Jae-in on Saturday ordered his aides to consult with their U.S. counterparts about the deployment of four more THAAD mobile launchers after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) test launch of a ballistic missile.

"The Chinese side is deeply concerned about the situation," Geng said, noting that China's position on THAAD is clear and consistent.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China military parade marks PLA 90th birthday

The following are Xinhua stories about China's military parade in Inner Mongolia on Sunday, to celebration the 90th birthday of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

News Story: Parties divided over Moon's countermeasures against N.Korean ICBM test

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- On the liberal Moon Jae-in government's countermeasures against the latest North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test, the ruling party voiced its consent, but opposition parties called for tougher ones, criticizing the president's Berlin peace initiative that puts more weight on dialogue with the North than pressure on it.

In an emergency National Security Council meeting convened right after the North's new ICBM test Friday night, Moon proposed a set of countermeasures, including the temporary deployment of four additional THAAD interceptor launchers, and ordered consultation with the United States on ways to bolster strategic deterrence against the recalcitrant North. The presidential office said later that the provisional deployment does not mean the retraction of a declared environmental impact assessment on the deployment site.

At present, two THAAD launchers are in operation at a former golf course in Seongju, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, with four others stored at a nearby U.S. military base due to local residents' opposition.

"We understand the (provisional deployment) this time as the security on the Korean Peninsula, as well as in Northeast Asia, has become very serious due to the North's ballistic missile launch," said Rep. Woo Won-shik, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party.

The full-dressed deployment of the THAAD launchers, however, should be prudently examined after the environmental assessment is done as planned, Woo said in a complete agreement with the stance of the presidential office.

Opposition parties reprimanded Moon's dialogue-oriented North Korea policy in unison.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Two B-1B bombers train in Korea after N. Korea's ICBM launch

B-1B (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- Two B1-B U.S. bombers flew over South Korea on Sunday in a show of force against North Korea after its launch of another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the allies' armed forces announced.

The strategic bombers from Guam conducted a joint "air interdiction operation" with four F-15K fighter jets, said South Korea's Air Force.

It came in response to North Korea's repeated ballistic missile launches and nuclear weapons development.

"Our Air Force maintains the precision-strike capability and readiness to burn the enemy's missile base and its key facilities, including its leadership stronghold to the ground," South Korea's Air Force Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Won In-cheol said in a statement. "If the enemy provokes, we will respond immediately and retaliate powerfully."

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Trump very 'disappointed in China' for doing nothing to stop N. Korea's provocations

SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump expressed frustration over what he believes is China's reluctance to rein in North Korea's increasing provocations on Saturday (U.S. time), after the regime's second launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a month.

"I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk," he wrote on his Twitter account.

"We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!" he said.

On Friday night, North Korea conducted its second test of an ICBM, which flew 998 kilometers before landing off the northwestern coast of Japan.

The United Nations Security Council has been working on a new resolution on North Korea for its ICBM test on July 4. The Friday test will further accelerate the discussion at the U.N.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: China condemns N. Korea's missile launch, urges it to stop escalating tension

A North Korean Hwasong-14 Ballistic Missile Launcher
BEIJING, July 29 (Yonhap) -- China joined South Korea and the United States on Saturday in condemning North Korea's latest launch of an intercontinental-range ballistic missile, urging the North to stop provocative acts.

"China is closely watching the development of the latest situation. ... United Nations Security Council resolutions have clear regulations on North Korea's ballistic missile technology development activities," China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in a response to the midnight launch.

"China is opposed to North Korea's (latest) launch activities, which defied UNSC resolutions and the common wish of the international community," he also said.

China urged North Korea to "abide by the UNSC resolutions, stop any act that escalates security tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and join efforts to maintain peace and security in the region," he also added.

Around the midnight before Saturday, North Korea fired what it later announced was the Hwasong-14 ICBM. It soared to an altitude of around 3,700 kilometers and flew for more than 1,000 km before landing in the waters between Korea and Japan, according to the South Korean military.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: S. Korea, U.S. agree to open negotiations on missile guideline after N.K. missile launch

A South Korean Hyunmoo-2A Ballictic Missile Launcher
SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States have agreed to open negotiations to revise a bilateral ballistic missile guideline to allow the former to develop a more powerful missile amid North Korea's continued provocations, Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Saturday.

President Moon Jae-in instructed his government to begin bilateral consultations to rewrite the guideline that bans Seoul from developing ballistic missiles with a range of over 800 kilometers and a payload exceeding 500 kilograms, said Yoon Young-chan, his chief press secretary.

In a phone call, Chung Eui-young, top presidential security adviser, made an official proposal to his U.S. counterpart H.R. McMaster to open negotiations over the revision, and McMaster agreed, Yoon said.

The agreement came hours after the North fired off what it claims to have been an intercontinental ballistic missile in a stinging blow to Moon's pursuit of dialogue and rapprochement with the wayward regime.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Parties condemn N.K. provocation, welcome additional THAAD deployment

A THAAD Interceptor test launch (File Photo)
SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling and opposition parties on Saturday strongly condemned North Korea for its surprise launch of a second intercontinental range ballistic missile, its second in three weeks.

The ruling Democratic Party said North Korea's sudden launch of an intercontinental range ballistic missile late Friday night was a "reckless" act, warning the North will pay the price for it.

"If North Korea continues to conduct its reckless provocations, it will surely repent for them," Baek Hye-ryeon, the ruling party's spokeswoman, said in a commentary.

"Now is the time for the international society to take reciprocal punishment against North Korea for its provocations. The late-night missile provocation cannot be justified on any grounds, and the North has to pay a dear price for the recklessness," Baek said.

She then urged Pyongyang to immediately stop missile provocations and all other behaviors that threaten the peace of the world, as well as the Korean Peninsula, and comply with resolutions of the United Nations Security Council for its own "survival."

The ruling party then welcomed President Moon Jae-in's decision to deploy additional THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) launchers in Seongju, southeast South Korea, as well as his instructions for additional anti-North sanctions.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) also strongly denounced North Korea over its latest missile provocation, while calling for speedier deployment of the THAAD missile system in Seongju.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: S. Korea unveils new powerful ballistic missile

SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea made public a more powerful ballistic missile with improved precision-strike capability Saturday, warning North Korea against miscalculating its firepower.

Shortly after the North's announcement of another successful long-range missile launch, the Ministry of National Defense released a brief video clip of a test of the new weapon system in development led by the state-run Agency for Defense Development.

It shows two missiles being fired back-to-back from a launcher. The first one accurately hit a simulated target, with the other destroying a bunker.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Pakistan Interim Prime Minister To Be Elected Tuesday

Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain has called for a session of the National Assembly on Tuesday in order to elect an interim prime minister, Dawn News reported.

Hussain’s decision follows a Supreme Court ruling on the Panama Papers case involving Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in which he was disqualified after being deemed unfit to hold office.

According to Dawn News, the National Assembly will be convened at about 3pm on Tuesday.

The Supreme Court on Friday disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from holding public office. Within hours of the ruling Sharif stepped down as Prime Minister.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Hizb-e-Islami Commander Ready To Support ANDSF Against Taliban

By Sharif Amiri

A local commander of Hizb-e-Islami in Baghlan has said that he is ready to support the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) against the Taliban in the central province.

Mirwais Jihadyar, who has at least 1,000 fighters, said from now on, he will fight against those groups which threaten the national interests of Afghans.

He claimed that he controls the areas that are out of government’s control in Baghlan, especially in Baghlan-e-Markazai district.

The Hizb-e-Islami commander said they have local courts where they address peoples’ judicial problems.

According to him, he has control over 150 villages in the province.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Kabul Hopes Next Pakistani Prime Minister Will Fight Terror

By Samim Faramarz

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Saturday said Afghanistan hopes that the next Pakistani prime minister would fight terror and take practical steps to remove terrorists’ safe havens in Pakistan.

Afghanistan wants friendly relations with Pakistan, the MoFA spokesman Shekib Mustaghni said, adding that Islamabad must take action against terrorists.

“We hope that Pakistan will take serious, honest and practical steps in the fight against terrorism and will uproot their (terrorists’) safe havens and training camps, and also remove their funding and equipping centers on the Pakistani soil,” Mustaghni told TOLOnews.

Afghan analysts said Islamabad’s policy towards Kabul would not change. The analysts said Pakistani military control’s Pakistan’s foreign policy – which will not allow the civilian government to amend its policy towards Kabul.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: MoD Assures To Retake Paktia’s Janikhail District Soon

By Karim Amini

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Friday that the Afghan forces are advancing in Janikhail district in Paktia province and that the district will be retaken from the Taliban in the near future.

The district was captured by the Taliban on Tuesday.

MoD deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanish said security forces have cleared many roads leading to Janikhail during their military operation.

“About Janikhail, I can tell you that we have good achievements and we will clear the area of the enemy in the near future,” Radmanesh said.

An Afghan Commando spokesman Abdul Qayum Nuristani, said at least 59 Taliban fighters including four commanders of the group were killed and 45 others have been wounded in military operations in Ghor’s Taywara district in the country’s west.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Civilians Pay Heavy Price In Baghlan War

By Sharif Amiri

At least five civilians were killed, 125 others were wounded and houses of many of them were damaged in the eight-day war between Afghan forces and the Taliban in Baghlan-e-Markazai district in the west of Baghlan province, local officials said.

Hospital officials said at least 125 wounded civilians were taken to Baghlan-e-Markazi Hospital in the past eight days.

“125 wounded have been registered and also five bodies were brought here (to the hospital),” said Khalilurrahman Narmgoi, head of the hospital.

According to Baghlan-e-Markazi residents, Taliban had used their houses as their strongholds.

They said they had left the district following the battles.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: U.S. Black Hawks To Replace Russian Helicopters In Afghanistan

Blackhawk Helicopter (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Samim Faramarz

Afghan and U.S. officials said efforts are underway to replace Russian MI-35 strike aircrafts with American Black Hawks within the next three months as part of the government’s plans to increase the number of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) aircrafts to 260 from a total of 120 within the upcoming seven years.  

Statistics by the Afghan Air Force reveal that there are four MI-35 Russian strike aircrafts and 26 MI-17 lift aircrafts in Afghanistan. Two of the MI-35 Russian helicopters need repairing.

The statistics reveal that Afghanistan has 120 aircrafts in total including 56 strike planes, 60 lift planes and 71 helicopters.

The number, official said, will be increased to 260 in total including 175 strike planes, 89 lift planes and 214 helicopters.

Following Russia’s decision to send its troops to Ukraine in 2015, the U.S. and the European Union agreed on sanctions against Moscow.  Since then, the repairing of Russian helicopters has become complex issue for Afghanistan.

Ahead of the sanctions, the Russian helicopters were sent to Ukraine and Czech Republic for repairing.

“The intention is not to keep those MI-35s going; it is to replace that capability with the Black Hawks, they also can perform the mission,” Colonel Sean C. Mclay, a former advisor to Afghan Air Force, told TOLOnews.

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: China Woos ASEAN to Resolve Disputed Sea Without Outsiders

By Noel Tarrazona

The Chinese government has called on Southeast Asian countries to prevent non-Asian countries from intervening in the resolution of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Manila last week to discuss the framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea between and among ASEAN nations. China has claimed ownership of a large part of the South China Sea  despite the Hague’s Arbitration Court having denied its sovereign claim.

Wang announced through an Chinese-English interpreter that “external players do not want to see stability in the region. Thus, we need to stand together and say 'no' to them.”

Telling his country that he is not ready for war with China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last week that the Philippines and China will start joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea. Many of his advisers believe this is the best option for easing diplomatic tensions between the two Asian neighbors.

Wang welcomed the development for the joint exploration of the South China Sea and said the partnership will involve much consultation so that “we could come up with a common goal or agreement.”

However, Wang also warned that while China is open to the idea of joint exploration, they are against “unilateral development” conducted by other claimant countries in the South China Sea.

Read the full story at MarEx

News Story: Rody orders aggressive drive vs NPAs in Negros

New People’s Army (NPA)
By Gilbert Bayoran

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – President Duterte ordered the military to intensify operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Negros island region, after a series of atrocities committed by the communist rebels, including the killing of six policemen and a civilian in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said President Duterte gave the order when he met with military officials in the Visayas led by Lt. Gen. Oscar Lactao, AFP Central Command chief, last Thursday night in Dumaguete City.

Aying said the President told them that security operations would focus on the NPA once the military has cleared Marawi City of members of the Maute group. More than 100 soldiers and policemen have been killed since the terrorists attacked the city last May 23.

Ka Oris, spokesman of the NPA, lauded the successful rebel attacks in Negros and in other parts of the country against government forces. The rebels claimed that they recovered at least 300 firearms in the operations.

Aying said that one battalion of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division deployed in Mindanao is expected to return to Negros within one month to resume the fight against communist guerrillas.
On Thursday, Duterte conferred posthumous awards on the six police officers killed by NPA rebels.

Duterte presented the awards and P100,000 cash assistance to the relatives of the slain policemen during their wake at the Guihulngan City Hall.

The President also distributed new handguns, cell phones and medals to three injured policemen who survived the NPA ambush.

The Special Investigation Task Force headed by Senior Supt. Henry Binas, police director of Negros Oriental, is now investigating the killing of the six policemen.

Aying said police units are the main targets of recent NPA operations.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: US help for AFP proves robust ties with Philippines

By Jaime Laude

MANILA, Philippines - The delivery by the United States of new weapons and ammunitions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is proof of the enduring military alliance between the two countries, AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año said yesterday.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the Philippines-US alliance “remains robust to this day,” citing the turnover last week by the US of two Cessna-208B surveillance and monitoring aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

“These aircraft would bolster the capability and readiness of our Air Force to help address terrorism and support our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations,” Abella added.

President Duterte has repeatedly castigated the US for the latter’s criticizing his deadly war on drugs. He earlier announced his “separation” from the US and pivot to China and Russia.

But Año said the Philippines is grateful for the US assistance. “We appreciate the assistance and grants provided by the US government. They remain our number one ally, especially in the fight against terror,” Año said.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: US delivers weapons for PAF amid Marawi siege

By Roel Pareño

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — The US military transferred rockets and munitions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as support to its counterterrorism operations in Marawi against the ISIS-aligned groups, the US embassy said Saturday.

In a statement provided to the press, the transfer was made by the Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) through the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) with the AFP.

The US embassy reported that officials from the JUSMAG delivered recently 1,040 2.75 inches rocket motors and 992 rockets to the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Through the MLSA, the AFP is able to receive select munitions and equipment from US military stock in an accelerated process reserved for allies and close partners of the United States.

“These timely transfers greatly enhance the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counterterrorism efforts,” the statement read.

"The munitions and weapons deliveries will enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism capabilities, and directly support AFP members actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines, including Marawi,” it added.

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