30 Dec 16. Oman confirms it is joining Saudi-led anti-terrorism alliance
Move is praised by other Gulf Arab states as closing ranks with them against Iran. Oman, traditionally on friendly terms with Iran, confirmed on Thursday that it had joined a Saudi-led coalition of Muslim countries fighting terrorism, a move praised by other Gulf Arab states as closing ranks with them against Iran. Saudi and Gulf sources reported the development on Wednesday, saying Omani Minister for Defence Affairs Badr bin Saud al-Busaidi had informed Saudi Arabia in a letter that it would join the 40-strong grouping. On the face of it, building a 36-kilometre road might not seem like the most ground-breaking story. But when you take into account that this particular road runs through the highest mountains in the United Arab Emirates, it becomes a different. On Thursday, the Omani Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the move “comes within the common understanding of the Islamic countries and in particular the role and leadership of the sisterly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”. The ministry added, without elaborating, that Oman would also join hands with “brothers and friends” for regional security and peace. (Source: ArabianBusiness.com)
30 Dec 16. China’s Liaoning carrier group ventures into West Pacific for first time. China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has for the first time deployed its Liaoning carrier group beyond the First Island Chain. The carrier group is thought to have commenced its transit into the West Pacific on 23 December and passed through the Miyako Strait south of the Japanese island of Okinawa on 25 December. The progress of Liaoning and her supporting escorts was monitored by a frigate and Lockheed Martin P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) as well as by Taiwanese assets. The PLAN ships sailed to the east of Taiwan and subsequently passed through the Bashi Channel to the north of the Philippines before heading west to port facilities on China’s Hainan Island. Photographs posted on Chinese online forums show that the carrier was berthed alongside at the naval base south of Sanya by 28th December. During the transit Liaoning was accompanied by a Luyang III-class (Type 052D) destroyer ( Changsha ), two Luyang II-class (Type 052C) destroyers ( Zhengzhou and Haikou ) and two Jiangkai II-class (Type 054A) frigates ( Yantai and Linyi ). Before crossing the First Island Chain a Jiangdao-class (Type 056) corvette and a Type 903A replenishment ship were also in company but these appear not to have passed through the Miyako Strait. Photographs taken of aircraft on the flight deck of Liaoning prior to the transit showed that at least 13 Shenyang Aircraft Corporation J-15 fighters were embarked, as well as at least one Z-18 helicopter, though it is not clear whether this was an airborne early warning or an anti-submarine warfare variant. The JMSDF reported that a Z-9C helicopter was monitored flying in the vicinity of Miyako Island but no other flying operations were reported. Photographs taken by a JMSDF P-3C showed no aircraft on the deck of Liaoning during the transit, although they were evident after arrival in Sanya. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
30 Dec 16. Philippines may relocate naval drills with U.S. – defence minister. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has asked his defence minister to move joint naval exercises with the United States away from the disputed South China Sea as Duterte tries to repair Manila’s ties with China.
The Philippines has already decided to reduce the number of drills it holds with its long-term ally and former colonial master after Duterte announced a sudden pivot towards China.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters at a military ceremony on Friday that Duterte had advised him to seek a new location for the war games.
“We might move the naval exercises facing the South China Sea to Mindanao area to avoid annoying our neighbour, so let us