28 March 2017

Think Tank: Sea, air, land and space updates (28-Mar-2017)

Zoe Glasson, Sophie Qin, Madeleine Nyst and Patrick Kennedy

Sea State

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force’s second helicopter carrier, the Kaga, entered service last week. The warship is expected to embark Mitsubishi-Sikorsky SH-60K Seahawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters and AgustaWestland/Kawasaki MCH-101 aircraft for mine-countermeasures. That commission takes Japan’s deployment capability another step forward (see last week’s Sea State). There’s little doubt where the ship’s resources will be directed—Japan’s Vice Minister of Defence said at Kaga’s ceremony that China is ‘raising security concerns,’ and by exerting pressure ‘is altering the status quo’ in the South China Sea. And Japan isn’t the only one setting sail. Last week, the Philippine Navy sent the BRP Ramon Alcaraz to patrol Benham Rise, an underwater plateau in the Philippine’s extended continental shelf, after Chinese survey vessels performed oceanographic research in the area.

There was an interesting read in Foreign Affairs last week on ‘Why Europe is Floating Egypt’s Navy’. Egypt is being increasingly sought out as a military partner against security threats in the Mediterranean, including sea-faring terrorists and migrants.

The US Office of Naval Research posted a video last week, showing a test fire of BAE’s electromagnetic cannon. The Navy’s railgun project has been in the works since 2005, and is reportedly still expected to be in service by 2025. This article from The Drive talks pros and cons of the experimental weapon. (ASPI’s James Mugg has some views too.)

USA: Coronado Sailors strengthen relations at LIMA 2017

By MC3 Amy M. Ressler, USS Coronado Public Affairs

USS Coronado (LCS 4) pulls alongside the pier arriving in Langkawi, Malaysia, March 25. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Amy M. Ressler) >>

LANGKAWI, Malaysia - Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) participated in the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2017, March 25-26.

LIMA is the premier aerospace and maritime exhibition in Southeast Asia, and in 2017 the exhibition included 38 countries showcasing technology in sea and air systems to address the wide spectrum of security challenges being faced throughout the region.

While pierside in Langkawi, more than 900 visitors, including media from local and international news outlets, Malaysian officials, military members and members of the general public, were welcomed aboard by the Coronado crew to tour the ship.

"As a new platform, LCS prompts a significant amount of interest and curiosity amongst our maritime partners," said Cmdr. Scott Larson, commanding officer, USS Coronado. "The opportunity to build a greater sense of mutual familiarity, while also showcasing the revolutionary attributes that our ship adds to the mix, supports theater strategic objectives and lays the foundation for continued partnership and coordination in the future."

USA: U.S. Marines, Sailors work with Sri Lanka counterparts

From 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs

Sailors and Marines aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45) man the rails as the ship arrives in Colombo, March 27. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Abby Rader) >>

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), embarked aboard USS Comstock (LSD 45), arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for a theater security cooperation (TSC) engagement, March 27.

This is the second military-to-military exchange with Sri Lanka for the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 11th MEU during their multimonth deployment to both the Indo-Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions. USS Somerset (LPD 25) and embarked Marines of the 11th MEU participated in a TSC with Sri Lanka Marines and sailors at Trincomalee Naval Base in November 2016.

This iteration of ongoing U.S.-Sri Lanka military exchanges focuses on the infantry and logistical skills necessary to implement humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. The training will culminate with a full scale, bilateral humanitarian assistance mission exercise.

Industry: Commonwealth formally accepts Hobart Class Command Team Trainer

Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD)
Today marks an Alliance first, with the Commonwealth’s acceptance of the Hobart Class Command Team Trainer at HMAS Watson in Sydney, signifying the first delivery of an entire system for the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) program. This shore-based support system has been in development for nearly a decade, and it will enable the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) to train their future crew members on the combat system prior to operational deployment on the destroyers.

This significant milestone provides the opportunity to recognise that the AWD program has moved into a new phase focused on delivering advanced technology and capability to the RAN. 

AWD Alliance General Manager Paul Evans commented on this achievement. “We have transitioned from the theoretical architect and design phase to the actual application of this technology, further establishing industry’s role as a fundamental input into capability for Defence,” he said.

News Report: N. Korea Conducts Another Ballistic Missile Engine Test

North Korean Ballistic Missile test launch (File Photo)
North Korea conducted yet another ballistic missile engine test, media reported Tuesday citing two US defense officials.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The CNN broadcaster reported that the test took place on Friday and has become the third such test in the recent weeks. One of the officials said that such technology could be used in an eventual intercontinental ballistic missile.

On March 18, North Korean media reported that the country has conducted a successful ground jet test of a new high-thrust rocket engine at Sohae Satellite Launching Ground.

North Korea's missile and nuclear programs have been a contentious issue of concern for the neighboring countries and their allies, with every new missile launch by Pyongyang raising tensions in the peninsula.

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

News Report: Australia Could Be in Danger of DPRK Nuke Strike, US Korean Forces Warns

Vincent K. Brooks, commander of United States Forces Korea, told Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop that Pyongyang has developed a rocket that could put Canberra in danger of a nuclear strike.

North Korean threats to Australia, a US ally, are pretty new, as the isolated nation typically focuses on the US and South Korea, especially as the two nations conduct joint military drills that the North considers to be a dress rehearsal for invasion. 

Bishop spoke to the Australian newspaper about Brooks’ warning saying, “The assessment was that North Korea… was now at a point of advanced technology when it came to ballistic missiles that were capable of carrying a single nuclear warhead, that it was an increasing security risk not only to the Korean peninsula but also to our region, including Australia…It was the first time I had heard it in such stark terms."

"It is deeply concerning that North Korea has been able to take the opportunity to advance its capability."

News Report: Eyes on North Korea as Another Nuke Test Expected Soon

Speculation is swirling that Pyongyang is poised to conduct a sixth nuclear test next month, with foreign media outlets reporting increased excavation activity near the testing site at Punggye-ri.

South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted an unnamed Beijing-based functionary as saying, "It concerns me that the North is doing excavation work at two tunnels (of the site)," the diplomatic source based in Beijing told Yonhap. "Lots of analysis and evaluation will be needed to determine whether both of them, when completed, will be used to conduct nuclear tests simultaneously or at a short interval and what nuclear materials will be used."

He also speculated on when the test mike take place, suggesting, "There are chances that the North will conduct an additional nuclear test, though I cannot say for sure that it will come around the summit between the US and China (early April) or Kim Il-sung's birthday (April 15) … it could be done around April 25 when it celebrates the anniversary of the Korean People's Army." 

Over the last year and a half the DPRK has conducted over 25 missile launches and two atomic explosions as part of its effort to attach a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile. 

News Report: Abandoning Nuclear Weapons Unrealistic Today Due to N Korea Threat - US Envoy

US Ambassador to the United Nations said that abandoning nuclear weapons today would put the world at risk because of North Korean nuclear activities.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – Abandoning nuclear weapons today would put the world at risk because of North Korean nuclear activities, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated on Monday.

"As a mom, as a daughter, there is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone that believes that North Korea would agree to abandon nuclear weapons?" Haley said. "So, what you would see is the General Assembly would go through in good faith trying to do something, but North Korea would be the one cheering, and all of us and the people we represent would be the ones at risk."

Haley also announced that some 40 countries, including the United States, France and the United Kingdom, will not participate in the negotiations on a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

On December 23, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to convene negotiations on banning nuclear weapons, and decided the talks will take place in New York on March 25-31.

News Report: North Korea Likely to Conduct New Nuclear Test in April

A diplomatic source reportedly said that Pyongyang was likely to carry out another nuclear test in April.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Pyongyang may hold a new nuclear test in April, the sixth one since 2006, although the exact date is unclear, South Korean media reported on Monday.

"There are chances that the North will conduct an additional nuclear test, though I cannot say for sure that it will come around the summit between the U.S. and China (in early April) or [late Supreme Leader of North Korea] Kim Il-sung's birthday (on April 15)… It could be done around April 25 when it celebrates the anniversary of the Korean People's Army," a diplomatic source told Yonhap news agency.

North Korea has conducted a total of five nuclear tests, with the last one having place on September 9, 2016.

Since the beginning of 2016, North Korea carried out a number of missile launches, with the latest one conducted last Wednesday and possibly having failed.

North Korea's nuclear program has been a contentious issue of concern for the neighboring countries and their allies, with every new missile launch by Pyongyang raising tensions in the peninsula.

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

News Report: Not So Black as Painted - China-S Korea Spat Over THAAD 'Largely Exaggerated'

What's being called "China's retaliation" against the deployment of elements of the US THAAD missile defense system in South Korea is largely exaggerated and has been instigated by the South Korean media, Kim Haeseon, a South Korean expert on China, told Sputnik.

In an interview with Sputnik Korea, Kim Haeseon, a South Korean expert on China specifically drew attention to China's so-called ‘retaliation’ against the deployment of elements of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea.

According to him, Beijing’s response has been wildly exaggerated due to South Korean media outlets, which misinterpret the Chinese media reports about the Chinese politicians' security concerns over THAAD.

Earlier this month, Chinese media quoted retired Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Gen. Wang Hongguang as saying that China is preparing countermeasures against the THAAD system in South Korea, which involve anti-missile equipment, intended to neutralize signals from THAAD radars.

News Report: China Protests Visit of Most Senior Japanese Official to Taiwan in 45 Years

China voiced protest aimed at Japan following the visit of Japanese State Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Jiro Akama to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Monday.

BEIJING (Sputnik) — On Saturday, Akama took part in the opening ceremony of the Japanese tourism exhibition in Taiwan, marking the visit of the highest ranking Japanese official to the country since 1972.

"The Taiwan issue is the most important and principle matter of the political basis of Chinese-Japanese relations. China's stance regarding Taiwan is clear and consecutive. The Chinese side strongly opposes it and has already voiced its objection to the Japanese party," Hua said at a press briefing.

News Report: Japanese Politician - Trump Message on Defense Should Spark Wake Up Call in Tokyo

By: John Grady

President Donald Trump’s message to Tokyo to pick up more of the burden in the defense alliance “should be a trigger for us” to examine “our own thoughts of security,” a founder of the Japan Innovation Party told an audience at a Washington, D.C., think tank Monday.

Toru Hashimoto, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Trump was correct in saying Japan needed to strengthen its Self-Defense Force to better defend itself. The former governor of Osaka Prefecture and mayor of Osaka city said Japan’s political leadership needs to explain especially to the younger generation what the treaty alliance means in terms of Tokyo’s commitment to respond in case the United States is attacked as well as what the American obligations are.

“We are not in the situation now to fight for the United States,” Hashimoto said, either in military terms or with the strong support of the Japanese public. “Japan needs to contribute to the defense of the United States.”

“This is the kind of change we need to bring about in the third generation,” but it will not be an easy sell among the youngest segment of Japan’s population.

News Report: Will Trump Administration Increase Drone Strikes in Pakistan?

Masood Farivar

On March 2, a suspected U.S. drone strike inside Pakistan killed two Taliban militants in the country's tribal region — the first drone attack in the country since Donald Trump became president.

The strike ended a nine-month pause in the CIA's long-running drone war in Pakistan, raising expectations that the Trump administration will increase the targeted killings of militants in the Pakistani tribal areas. But with the administration focused on defeating the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, few expect a large expansion in the Pakistan drone campaign, let alone a return to 2010 when the U.S. carried out a record 122 drone strikes in Pakistan.

Instead, many experts see a more modest escalation even as strikes elsewhere pick up more dramatically.

"I'd expect the campaign to be escalated at some point and probably get back to somewhere at the levels of the middle to the height of the Obama administration," said Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

News Report: Taiwan Tapping US, Itself for New Weapons

Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.

Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.

Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.

Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.

Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.

The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.

“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”

News Story: India to buy Spike anti-tank missiles from Rafael

Spike missile launcher (Image: Wiki Commons)
By: Vivek Raghuvanshi

NEW DELHI — India is moving forward with a $1 billion purchase of Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel, overlooking the single-vendor situation in the deal, according to an Indian Ministry of Defence official. 

The MoD postponed the purchase because it would be made with a single vendor, which has been discouraged multiple times under India's defense procurement policy, according to news organization IHS Jane's 360.

Apart from the single-vendor situation, the Spike deal since 2014 has also been deferred over costs, which has now been cleared, the MoD official said.

"MoD has now forwarded the deal to the Cabinet Committee of Security, which is likely to clear the same (deal) this week" on March 29, the official said. "The deal could then be signed after next month." 

The Cabinet Committee of Security, which is headed by the prime minister and which deals with weapons purchases, is the highest body in the Indian government. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Senators press Mattis, Tillerson on India defense deals

CGI of the F-16IN developed for India's MMRCA Competition
By: Joe Gould

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan pair of key senators are pressing the Trump administration to approve two defense deals between the U.S. and India, arguing that U.S. jobs hang in the balance. 

Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Mark Warner, D-Va., jointly sent letters to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The lawmakers pressed, in one letter, to approve co-production of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 in India and, in the other letter, to approve the export of General Atomics’ Guardian, a nonlethal maritime version of the MQ-9 Reaper. 

The two lawmakers co-chair the U.S.-India caucus, while Cornyn is the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and Warner is vice chairman on the Senate Intelligence Committee. For the defense industrial base, the F-16 deal would help sustain the existing fleet, they argue, while the potential Guardian sale is worth $2 billion. 

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: ‘Very Significant Security Concerns’ On China’s Djibouti Base - AFRICOM

By COLIN CLARK

WASHINGTON: For the first time, an important United States military base, one where a great deal of highly classified communications, intelligence and operations occur, sits within a few miles of a military competitor.

Where? Djibouti, the tiny African state that sits on the Horn of Africa across from Yemen and sits astride the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. It is one of the world’s most strategic locations. The US base there supports highly classified operations by Joint Special Operations Command, especially in and around Somalia, as well as a host of intelligence and support functions for US and allied forces throughout the region. The Chinese have declined to admit their location is a military base, instead calling it a “logistical support” facility to help supply China’s anti-piracy efforts. The head of Africa Command (AFRICOM), Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, put paid to China’s soft-pedaling of the base’s nature this morning when he told me that the yet-to-be-finished facility China is building is, simply, a “military base.”

Read the full story at Breaking Defense

News Story: Four militants killed in raid in NE Bangladesh, death toll rises to 10

DHAKA, March 27 (Xinhua) -- An assault by army commandos on a militant hideout in the Sylhet city, some 240 km northeast of capital Dhaka ended Monday, killing four militants holed up there.

Brigadier General Fakhrul Ahsan, a spokesperson of the operation, told journalists at a press briefing on Monday night that they found four bodies inside the building.

"We've recovered two bodies and contemplating options to recover the two other bodies with suicidal vests."

A huge cache of explosives has been found scattered inside the building, Ahsan said, adding that a portion of the building may collapse if they explode.

"So we need to move very carefully," he said.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: United States, Tajikistan conduct military exercises

ASTANA, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Defence and the Armed Forces of Tajikistan launched joint military exercises on Monday, according to local media,

About 150 American and 100 Tajik experts will take part in the exercises that will last till April 7.

The exercises aim at improving coordinated capacity in antiterrorist fight in the region and promoting long-term regional stability, said local media.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 18 Taliban militants surrender in eastern Afghan province

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Eighteen members of Taliban renounced violence and surrendered to the government in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar, said the provincial government on Monday.

"Following efforts by National Directorate of Security, or national intelligence agency, to convince a group of Taliban to join peace process, the 18-member group renounced the violence and joined national reconciliation process," it said in a statement.

Among them, who handed over their weapons to security authorities during a ceremony hold in provincial capital Jalalabad city, was their commander named Bakhto Khan, according to the statement.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: PLA Daily vows strict discipline for Chinese army

BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) -- A total of 4,885 military officials were punished for disciplinary offenses in 2016, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) flagship newspaper reported Monday.

The PLA Daily said in a commentary that the graft cases of Guo Boxiong and Xu Caihou, both former senior military officials convicted for corruption, had caused tremendous problems in the army.

"The negative impact of Guo and Xu's cases should be fully eradicated, and the combat capacity of the army should be continuously enhanced," it said. "All military members should learn lessons from these cases and bear in mind that loyalty to the Communist Party of China is vital to PLA development."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Japan's GSDF launches new amphibious training unit in southwest of country

US Marines come ashore with an AAV-7 during an exercise
TOKYO, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) on Monday held a ceremony to launch a new training unit at a camp in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan.

The amphibious brigade will use AAV-7 vehicles that can transport GSDF personnel and equipment on water and deploy them on land, where it can be used as a regular vehicle, GSDF officials said.

Preparations for this new unit at the GSDF's Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, Nagasaki, have been in place since 2015.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Vietnamese naval ship to visit China, Philippines, Brunei

HANOI, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The Vietnam Navy's sailing ship 286 Le Quy Don left for China, the Philippines and Brunei on Monday with final-year students of the Vietnam Naval Academy on a training trip.

The trip is aimed at realizing international integration and foreign defense, enhancing friendship, cooperation, mutual trust and understanding between navies between Vietnam and China, the Philippines and Brunei, reported local Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Myanmar defense chief pledges to achieve lasting peace

NAY PYI TAW, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services said on Monday that the armed forces will meke lasting peace under the peace principles laid down by the military under supervision of the government.

Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing made the remarks in his address at a military parade in Nay Pyi Taw to mark the 72nd anniversary Armed Forces Day.

He called for building the armed forces to achieve success in the 21st modern warfare, keeping in touch with military strategies and tactics.

The defense chief reiterated that Myanmar adopts independent, active and non-aligned foreign policy aimed at achieving world peace and friendly relations with nations and upholds the principles of peaceful coexistence among nations.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Combat to flash out Bangladeshi militant hideout enters 4th day, 8 dead

DHAKA, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Operation Twilight to flash out a militant den by joint forces led by Bangladesh Army Para-Commando Battalion on Monday spilled into its fourth day since Friday, leaving so far eight people including police officers and two militants dead.

Commandos have been continuing the operation at a suspected militant den in the country's Sylhet city, some 240 km northeast of capital Dhaka

Bangladeshi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told journalists Monday in Dhaka that commandos are taking time because of the high risk involved.

He said the militants have planted a huge stash of Improvised Explosive Devices in the building, mostly on the ground floor and the staircase.

Sporadic gunshots were heard since Monday morning around the militant hideout and was underway in regular intervals.

Against this backdrop, restriction net was even wider as the law enforcers formed a five-km secured area around the five-story building "Atia Mahal".

Hundreds of people reportedly left the area on Monday fearing more volatility. Eighty-six residents including six on Monday from adjacent houses have so far been evacuated to safe areas.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: New Zealand military chief attempts to refute Afghanistan raid claims

WELLINGTON, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The commander of New Zealand's armed forces on Monday refuted claims that special forces killed civilians in a botched raid in Afghanistan but questions remained about the accusations.

Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Tim Keating told a live broadcast press conference that the claims made by two investigative journalists in the book "Hit and Run" appeared to have confused a raid led by New Zealand's Special Air Service (SAS) with an unrelated action 2 km away.

Keating conceded that civilians might have been killed in the SAS-led raid, dubbed Operation Burnham, on the village of Tirgiran in August 2010.

However, he said, the premise of the book was incorrect, and New Zealand troops had never operated in the two villages named in the book - Khak Khuday Dad and Naik.

The book, released last week claimed the Special Air Service led U.S. and Afghan forces in a raid that killed six civilians including a 3-year-old girl in the two villages in Afghanistan's Baghlan province.

Another 15 civilians were wounded in the villages where the SAS mistakenly believed they would find insurgents who had attacked a New Zealand patrol 19 days earlier, killing a New Zealand officer, in neighboring Bamiyan, the book claimed.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Afghan parliament summons top security officials over increasing security incidents

KABUL, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Afghan Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of parliament on Monday summoned top security officials including Minister for Defense Abdullah Habibi, Minister for Interior Taj Mohammad Jahid and Mohammad Masoom Stanikzai the head of National Directorate of Security (NDS) or the country's national spy agency to seek clarification over increasing security incidents in the country.

Questioning the top security officials by the legislators is taking place in the wake of deteriorating security situation in parts of the country, increasing security incidents and above all the infiltration of armed insurgents into the main military hospital in Kabul on March 8 which claimed 50 lives and injured scores of others.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: 33 IS militants killed in fresh airstrikes in Afghanistan

KABUL, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Some 33 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed after Afghan air force warplanes struck their positions in Koot district of eastern Nangarhar province in the past 24 hours, the country's Interior Ministry said Monday.

In addition, three Taliban militants were killed after Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) conducted a joint security operation in Gadi village, Nangarhar province over the same period, the ministry said in a statement.

The mountainous province with Jalalabad city as its capital, 120 km east of Kabul, has been the scene of heavy clashes between security forces and IS militants since the emergence of IS there in early 2015.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Indian naval ship arrives in Colombo on training visit

INS Darshak (Image: Wiki Commons)
COLOMBO, March 27 (Xinhua) -- The hydrographic survey ship INS Darshak of the Indian Navy arrived in the Port of Colombo on Monday on a training visit, the navy media unit said here.

The ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy in compliance with naval traditions on her arrival.

The Commanding Officer of Darshak Captain Peush Pawsey met the Commander Western Naval Area, Rear Admiral Niraja Attygalle at the Western Naval Command Headquarters where both held cordial discussions.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Russia Hopes India to Join Initiative on Non-Deploying Weapons in Space

Russia hopes India will join the Russian initiative on non-deployment of weapons in outer space, Russian Foreign Ministry's Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department Director Mikhail Ulyanov said on Thursday.

Ulyanov reminded that in 2004, Russia took a unilateral decision not to be the first to place weapons in outer space, setting a good example for other countries to follow suit.

"A total of 16 countries, including Brazil, Sri Lanka, Cuba and Argentina, have already joined this initiative. Each year, we submit a draft resolution for the UN General Assembly's consideration. We are grateful to India for voting for it. We hope that India would fully join this initiative in a form of bilateral statement or in a different manner. At this stage, as we see, Indian colleagues are not ready to do that," Ulyanov said at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi.

The diplomat pointed out the Russian intention to prevent arms race in outer space.

Read the full story at SpaceDaily

News Story: PM confirms Thai Navy to get three Chinese submarines

It’s finally Chinese submarines for Thailand. But the government would pay for only two as the third one was “a free gift”, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha revealed at his weekly press briefing yesterday.

The announcement by the PM ends a wait of over two decades for the Navy.

Thailand had four submarines in 1937, the first country in Asean to have submarines and only the second in Asia.

Made in Japan, they became damaged over time and were beyond repair. Following the defeat of Japan in World War II, the submarines were discharged in 1951.

Since then, Thailand has never had any submarines. The Thai Navy revived its quest for some submarines to be deployed in the Thai waters, especially in the Gulf of Thailand, in 1995. 

Read the full story at The Nation

News Story: Nine arrested in Malaysia over IS links

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Malaysian police have arrested nine men for suspected involvement in activities related to the Islamic State (IS) group.

Malaysia’s Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar stated on March 24 that all the arrested were Malaysian citizens aging between 26 and 46. 

They were detained during counter-terrorism operations across the states of Selangor, Perak, Kedah, Kelantan and Johor from March 15-21, he added. 

Read the full story at VietnamPlus

News Story: Australia - IS may declare caliphate in Mindanao

By Audrey Morallo

MANILA, Philippines — Australia warned over the weekend that the so-called Islamic State (IS) might declare an Islamic caliphate in Mindanao as the group is already being pushed out of the Middle East.

Speaking to Sky News Australia, Julie Bishop, the country’s foreign minister, said that Canberra was concerned about IS fighters returning from the Middle East back to their home countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.

Bishop, who has just returned from the United States for talks with countries about eradicating IS, said that around 600 Southeast Asian fighters were monitored to have been on their way home after fighting for IS in the Middle East.

“So there’s concern that ISIS may well seek to declare a caliphate, an Islamic caliphate in southern Philippines,” she said.

Bishop said that Australia had relayed its concern to President Rodrigo Duterte when she visited the Philippines recently.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: 3 kidnapped Malaysians rescued in Sulu

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines military says they have rescued three more Malaysian tugboat crewmen held hostage by Muslim militants for eight months in the south of the country.

A brief military report Monday said troops rescued Zulkipli Bin Ali, Mohammad Ridzuan Bin Ismail and Fandy Bin Bakran late Sunday in southern Sulu province. They were taken to a hospital for check-ups.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: Closer ties with US allies seen to benefit Philippine military

By Patricia Lourdes Viray

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines under the Duterte administration should foster closer security ties with the United States and its security partners including Japan, South Korea and Australia, an analyst said.

This would strengthen the territorial defense capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the face of the South China Sea dispute with China.

Renato De Castro, a professor at the De La Salle Universitiy and trustee of the Stratbase ADR Institute, recently released a study titled "The Role of America's Alliances in the Philippines' Balancing Policy on China: From the Aquino to the Duterte Administration."

In his study, De Castro said that despite the administration's efforts to rekindle ties with China, it is also crucial and urgent to engage the US and its other bilateral allies diplomatically and strategically.

"Dynamic partnerships enable the Philippines to strategize its territorial/maritime defense," De Castro said.

The country's strategic relations have helped the military overcome inadequacies such as in conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations during and after natural calamities.

"As the Duterte administration pursues its economic alliance with China, it should also take note of how these bilateral security partners have helped the Philippines in its times of need," the professor said.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: (Philippines) Senate sets Benham Rise hearing

By Paolo Romero

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee on economic affairs will resume on Wednesday its hearings on Benham Rise to tackle security and environmental concerns following reports of suspicious Chinese activities in the area.

“We have found it prudent to conduct another hearing in order to paint a clearer picture of the facts as we explore long-term strategies to uphold and defend our sovereign rights over Benham Rise,” said committee chairman Sherwin Gatchalian.

He plans to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and defense department for details on the Chinese incursion as well as the diplomatic exchanges between Philippine and Chinese officials on the matter.

The scheduled hearing will also tackle issues on biodiversity conservation and management of marine and energy resources.

“There is an urgent need to conduct extensive scientific research in Benham Rise to fully discover how its development will benefit the Filipino people. These plans must be put into place now so that future generations of Filipinos will be able to reap the benefits of the area’s ecological wealth and unexplored energy resources,” Gatchalian said.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: Non-nuclear nations to push for int'l nuclear weapon ban treaty at U.N. confab

NEW YORK -- A United Nations conference to negotiate a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons is set to open at U.N. Headquarters here on March 27, with a tug-of-war expected between nuclear powers and non-nuclear countries, and Japan's presence as the world's only atomic-bombed country thrust into the spotlight.

About 40 countries, including nuclear powers and countries that are under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, are expected to boycott the conference on the Nuclear Weapons Convention, while non-nuclear nations are seeking to introduce a ban treaty at an early date.

"It will be an historic treaty," said one member supporting the global pact, as survivors of the 1945 U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as members of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and other citizens groups arrived in New York ahead of the conference.

At a U.N. General Assembly meeting in December last year, it was decided that the conference will be held in two parts, the first of which is scheduled for March 27-31. The first round of talks is expected to focus on the purpose, content and format of the treaty, and will apparently be led by Austria, Mexico and other countries underlining the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons. By banning nuclear weapons under international law and creating a global norm that the use of nuclear weapons is a crime, countries rallying behind the treaty are hoping it will apply pressure on nuclear powers.

Opinions are, however, divided over the scope of the nuclear weapons ban under the treaty. Issues include whether only the use of nuclear arms should be prohibited, or if the ban should be extended to their possession, development, production and transfer.

Read the full story at The Mainichi

27 March 2017

USA: USS Louisville completes Western Pacific deployment

By MC2 Michael H. Lee, Submarine Force Pacific Public Affairs

USS Louisville (SSN 724) approaches the submarine piers at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, March 23. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Michael H. Lee) >>

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - The crew of Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Louisville (SSN 724) was welcomed home by friends and family awaiting their return on the historic submarine piers of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, March 23.

Louisville successful completed a six-month Western Pacific deployment while conducting operations in support of national security.

"I am exceptionally proud of the crew's efforts to prepare for, sustain and successfully execute every phase of this deployment - from our initial training more than a year ago, to the final transit home," said Cmdr. David S. Cox, Louisville's commanding officer and native of Dallas, Texas. "As commanding officer, it has been my privilege to lead such a fine group of professional young men in carrying out our nation's most important taskings, and I could not be prouder of their accomplishments."

While on deployment, 28 submariners earned the right to wear the submarine warfare insignia, also known as "dolphins."

USA: U.S. Strike Kills High-Profile Terrorist Leader

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2017 — A U.S. counterterrorism airstrike conducted March 19 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, resulted in the death of Qari Yasin, a well-known al-Qaida leader, the Defense Department confirmed in a news release yesterday.

"The death of Qari Yasin is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in the release.

Yasin, a senior terrorist figure from Balochistan, Pakistan, had plotted multiple al-Qaida attacks, including the Sept. 20, 2008, bombing on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed dozens of innocent people -- among them U.S. Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew J. O’Bryant.

Yasin, who had ties to Tehrik-e Taliban, was also responsible for the 2009 attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, Pakistan, the release said. In that attack, six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed, and six members of the team were injured.

News Report: North Korea Warns of Attack ‘Without Warning’ as Western War Games Continue

In the midst of ongoing joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has stated that it may attack without warning against what it claims are preparations for an enemy invasion by the West.

As the militaries of both Seoul and Washington cooperate in the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve drills, Pyongyang has stridently voiced its opposition to the maneuvers by threatening an attack.

North Korean news agency KCNA, citing the general staff of the Korean People's Army, stated on Sunday that, "They should be mindful that the [North Korean Army] will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as troops of the US and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation' and ‘preemptive attack' targeting the DPRK remain deployed in and around South Korea."

The DPRK, which regularly claims that it is under incipient attack from the West and its regional allies, has conducted ongoing ballistic missile and underground nuclear weapons testing, in violation of several international treaties sponsored by Moscow and Washington, including the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

The latest threats from Pyongyang occur as ongoing large-scale military drills take place within sight of the increasingly insulated northern state, resulting in rising tensions on the peninsula that could, according to critics, result in hair-trigger military moves.

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