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19 Oct 18. US, South Korea suspend more military exercises. The Pentagon announced Friday it is suspending another major military exercise with South Korea in an effort to support denuclearization talks with North Korea, raising concerns as to how long forces on the peninsula can forgo major training opportunities before readiness is hurt.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean National Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo made the decision to suspend “Vigilant Ace,” an annual December air exercise involving more than 12,000 forces, “to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” Pentagon press secretary Dana White said in a statement.
“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces. They pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises,” she said.
It’s been almost a year since North Korea tested its last ballistic missile, after firing missiles throughout most of 2017 that proved the country had rapidly advanced its missile capabilities.
In the months of quiet since then, President Donald Trump has made repeated overtures to the North Korean government, which resulted in a summit between the two countries last summer in Singapore. At that summit, Trump pledged to suspend what he perceived as wasteful wargames that North Korea views as provocative; North Korea in the months since has re-started the repatriation of U.S. remains from the Korean War.
Mattis is in Singapore meeting with Asian ministers of defense including his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya. In the statement, White said Mattis consulted with the Japanese on the decision.
The announcement is the latest twist around the question of when, or if, the U.S. will resume the joint exercises, and with warnings that the pause in exercises will hurt the readiness of U.S. forces on the peninsula.
During a Sept. 25 hearing, Army Gen. Robert Abrams, the then-nominee to lead U.S. Forces-Korea, said of the Ulchi Freedom exercise being canceled: “That’s a key exercise to maintain continuity and to continue to practice our interoperability, and so there was a slight degradation” in readiness.
A day later, Mattis downplayed that impact, saying: “If you emphasize the word ‘slight,’ certainly if you’re not training today then you could say there’s a slight degradation. Is it notable? Is it material? … I think that’s why he [Abrams] put the word ‘slight’ in there.
“There’s nothing significant to it.”
But it’s the compounding effect of multiple cancellations — and Friday’s announcement marked the fourth canceled or suspended exercise — that will hurt U.S. forces, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, who commanded U.S. Forces-Iraq and is now a fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
“There’s already been a readiness degradation, is the truth of the matter,” Spoehr said. At this point the degradation is still probably acceptable, he said. However, the nature of the U.S. rotations in Korea — in one-year unaccompanied or two-year accompanied posts, depending on rank — means the relationships and ability to understand each other’s decision-making and operations is perishable.
“That readiness, that ability to do that [be fully interoperable] is already starting to age,” he said.
Last year’s Vigilant Ace involved 230 fighter and support aircraft, including F-22 Raptors, F-35 Lightning IIs, F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15 Eagles, F-18 Hornets and EA-18G Growlers “flying alongside ROK F-15K Slam Eagles and F-4 Phantom IIs, providing realistic air combat training and enhancing operational and tactical-level coordination through combined and joint combat training,” according to a DoD release on the December 2017 exercises. ROK stands for the Republic of Korea – another term for South Korea.
The Pentagon said that it would look for modified training opportunities to keep readiness current. That could mean that instead of a massive air wing-sized gathering of aircraft, regular missions of between squadron-sized Korean and U.S. aircraft could be stepped up, Spoehr said.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon suspended Ulchi Freeedom Guardian, an annual August-September exercise involves 17,500 U.S. forces and last year included almost two weeks of exercises with their South Korean counterparts. However, the status of two major exercises traditionally scheduled for the spring — Foal Eagle and Max Thunder, major ground and joint air exercises that help improve South Korean and U.S. interoperability — has been unclear.
On Aug. 28, Mattis told reporters there were “no plans, at this time, to suspend any more exercises” on the Korean Peninsula, adding that the department has “done no planning for suspending” future exercises.
Asked specifically if the next Foal Guardian would go forward, Mattis reiterated that “we have not made decisions on that at this time, and we will do that with consultation with [the] State [Department].”
That was seen as a sign that the Pentagon intended to resume the regular exercises come 2019. But one day later, Trump took to Twitter to make it clear exercises were still off the table.
In a “Statement from the White House” that Trump tweeted from his personal account, but then referred to himself in the third person, the president said: “the President believes that his relationship with Kim Jong Un is a very good and warm one, and there is no reason at this time to be spending large amounts of money on joint U.S.-South Korea war games.” (Source: Defense News)
19 Oct 18. US reportedly poised to abandon key arms control treaty with Russia. The Trump administration is moving to abandon the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, per multiple reports, removing a key arms control treaty between the United States and Russia. According to both The Guardian and The New York Times, national security adviser John Bolton has recommended the U.S. leave the agreement and will inform Russia of the move next week. The INF Treaty, signed between the U.S. and Russia in 1987, bans all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. While the Obama administration had accused Moscow of violating the agreement, Pentagon officials have been more vocal under the Trump administration about their concerns.
The issue became public due to March 2017 comments from Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying Russia’s deployment of a ground-based cruise missile violated the agreement. Russia denied that, but since Selva’s speech, Defense Department officials have been increasingly outgoing with their concerns. To those officials, if Russia is violating the agreement while the U.S. is holding to its standards, it harms America’s defensive posture. With those concerns in mind, since coming to office, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has been publicly ambivalent about the value of the treaty, particularly when asked about the agreement on Capitol Hill. During an Oct. 2 NATO meeting, Mattis seemed to hint that a decision on America’s role in the INF agreement was coming.
“I want the advice from the NATO nations, what do we do with a treaty that two nations entered into, one is still living by — that’s us, the United States — and Russia is not,” Mattis told media. “So I’m going to lay out the situation, which we’ve discussed before here at NATO. But I want their advice as I return to Washington, D.C., and enter into these discussions. I cannot forecast where it will go. It’s a decision for the president. But I can tell you that both on Capitol Hill and in the State Department, there’s a lot of concern about the situation. And I’ll return with the advice of our allies and engage that discussion to determine the way ahead.”
Two days later, Mattis underscored his comments, saying: “Russia must return to compliance with the INF Treaty, or the U.S. will need to respond to its cavalier disregard of the treaty’s specific limits.
“Make no mistake: The current situation with Russia in blatant violation of this treaty is untenable, and we discussed this situation at length during this ministerial meeting among trusted allies.”
Whether leaving the INF Treaty could imperil negotiations on the New START nuclear reduction treaty is unclear. Early in his presidency, Donald Trump was a vocal critic of the agreement, calling it “one-sided” and “bad.”
Pros and Cons
Rebecca Heinrichs, an analyst with the Hudson Institute, said: “It makes no sense to remain party to treaties of which the United States is the only one complying.”
“Treaties are not ornament pieces to be collected; they’re supposed to be tools that serve U.S. interests. The Russians have been on notice to become compliant for years now. The Obama administration tried to force them to comply and so has the Trump administration,” Heinrichs added. “For Bolton, the tolerance for being treated as suckers is exceptionally low.”
But Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists believes that leaving the treaty would send a powerful signal to nations like China that developing ground-based cruise missiles is acceptable, signaling “a new dynamic phase where countries would compete to deploy and counter-deploy INF weapons.”
In addition, he worries that withdrawing from the INF goes hand in hand with deploying such weapons to Europe, which could “trigger widespread political disputes in Europe and within NATO. Trump would further divide NATO, rather than strengthen the alliance, and thus grant Putin one of his most important foreign policy objectives.”
“Overall, defense hawks in Moscow and Washington appear to have hijacked foreign policy and thrown the arms control baby out with the bath water instead of trying to repair relations and repair treaties and strengthen international security,” Kristensen said.
Even before today’s news, the U.S. was working to fund research and development on a ground-based cruise missile, a system banned under the INF agreement. The line from the Pentagon throughout 2018 has been that such a weapon would be designed but not deployed, staying with the treaty boundaries while providing a potential threat or trade-off for negotiations with Russia.
The threat of upgraded nuclear capabilities has a public topic of discussion by Pentagon officials as part of a broader negotiation to try and force Russia back into compliance on the treaty.
Greg Weaver, then deputy director for strategic stability on the Joint Staff J5 directorate, said during a Feb. 1 meeting with media that he viewed the announced development of a new sea-launched nuclear cruise missile, allowed within the INF Treaty boundaries, as part of a potential trade-off.
“Were Russia to agree to return to verifiable arms control measures to address that imbalance in nonstrategic nuclear forces, the U.S. might agree to limit or forgo [acquiring] a nuclear SLCM,” Weaver said then. “This is a response to Russian expansion of their capability and the nature of their strategy and doctrine. The United States is not arms racing. We are responding to Russian initiative.”
Mattis picked that thread up during a Feb. 6 House Armed Services Committee hearing, saying: “I want to make certain that our negotiators have something to negotiate with, that we want Russia back into compliance. We do not want to forgo the INF [Treaty], but at the same time we have options if Russia continues to go down this path. (Source: Defense News)
19 Oct 18. RoK Navy Pushes to Create Task Fleet for Blue-Water Operations. South Korea’s Navy said Friday that it will push to create a task fleet capable of broader-range operations beyond its shores, in another show of its desire to build blue-water capabilities. During a parliamentary audit at the Gyeryongdae military headquarters, 160 kilometers south of Seoul, it also said that it would pursue the creation of an aviation command in line with its pursuit of expanded maritime operations. The Navy envisions a task fleet consisting of three task squadrons that carry high-tech assets, such as its Aegis-equipped destroyers. It hopes to establish the fleet by the mid-2020s. The task fleet will be part of a “second operational command” that the Navy seeks to create to handle potential and non-military threats. The Navy also plans to reorganize its Busan-headquartered fleet command into a “first operational command” tasked with countering North Korean threats, officials said.
“The task fleet will contribute to securing maritime traffic routes and ensuring the free maritime operations and safety of our citizens through the expansion of our operational areas into far seas,” the Navy said.
“The envisioned aviation command that will run maritime patrol aircraft and choppers will ensure the completeness of various maritime aviation operations,” it added.
The Navy started to use the blue-water slogan in the mid-1990s in a show of its desire to expand the scope of its operations beyond the peninsula to protect sea lines of communication and maritime peace in the region and beyond. But with Pyongyang’s repeated attacks, such as its sinking of the corvette Cheonan in March 2010, the Navy was forced to look inward for some time to avoid criticism that it was neglecting its coastal defense against the North. However, ongoing efforts for inter-Korean rapprochement and potential maritime threats from surrounding powers, such as China and Japan, have highlighted the need for the Navy to refocus on its blue-water capabilities. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Yonhap News Agency)
19 Oct 18. Renegotiations for Jet Fighter Project Aim to Ease Burden on State Budget. Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) head Thomas Lembong stressed that renegotiations for a joint jet fighter development project with South Korea were aimed at easing the burden on the state budget amid uncertainty in the global economy.
“We want to renegotiate the terms of payment,” Thomas said after a meeting at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Security and Legal Affairs Minister in Jakarta on Friday.
Minister Wiranto said it was decided in the meeting that renegotiations would be sought with South Korea on the development of the Korean Fighter Xperimenalt /Indonesia Fighter Xperimental (KFX/IFX), the funding sources for which would be the state budgets of the two countries. Thomas said Indonesia was seeking renegotiations because under the current agreement, Indonesia would spend hundreds of trillion of rupiah on the project.
According to Thomas, South Korea had agreed to renegotiations during President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo visit to the country. However, South Korea required Indonesia to complete renegotiations within one year.
Thomas said that while renegotiations were under way, Indonesia would disburse funds for the project to assure that Indonesia was committed to proceeding. The House of Representatives has approved the project, for which Indonesia has agreed to contribute 20 percent of its total needed investment. Indonesia has spent US$ 10m on the research stage of the project since 2016. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/The Jakarta Post)
19 Oct 18. Southeast Asia hails world’s first multilateral air encounter code. Southeast Asian countries agreed on Friday to guidelines to manage unexpected encounters between their military aircraft, with host Singapore calling the pact a world first and saying they would encourage their international partners to join. The agreement, signed by defence ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a conference in Singapore, includes a region-wide pact on the exchange of information on terrorism threats. The voluntary, non-binding guidelines on air encounters build on an existing code to manage sea encounters adopted last year by ASEAN and its “plus” partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
“I am happy to announce the first multilateral guidelines for air encounters between military aircraft have been adopted,” Singapore’s defence minister, Ng Eng Hen, told a news conference.
“This is a significant achievement.”
The ASEAN ministers will meet their eight international partners on Saturday and Ng said they would “seek their agreement” on the guidelines.
The framework for the guidelines said a pact was needed because Asia’s rising growth and prosperity had spurred an increase of maritime and air traffic in the region.
The United States and China in 2015 signed a pact on a military hotline and rules governing air-to-air encounters.
But even with the existing guidelines, tensions remain, especially in the hotly contested South China Sea.
China claims almost all of the busy waterway while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the potentially energy-rich maritime territory.
Taiwan also claims the sea.
This month, China expressed anger after a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands it claims, saying it resolutely opposed an operation that it called a threat to its sovereignty.
Asked if the sea guidelines were working, Ng said, “In a way they are like seatbelts, not completely protected, but at least they provide some protection.”
At a lunch meeting with his ASEAN counterparts,
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States wanted a “constructive relationship” with China but remained concerned by what it saw as the militarisation of the South China Sea.
In August, Southeast Asian nations and China adopted a negotiating framework for a broader code of conduct in the South China Sea.
That framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.
The ASEAN states also agreed to adopt the “our eyes” initiative as a platform to exchange information on “terrorism, radicalism, and violent extremism, and other non-traditional threats”.
They also agreed to set up a “virtual” network of chemical, biological and radiological defence experts to “better share best practices and make quick contact during crises”. (Source: Reuters)
18 Oct 18. Responding to Australia’s increasingly dangerous predicament of proximity. Australia’s once insulating ‘tyranny of distance’ is rapidly being replaced by a dangerous ‘predicament of proximity’ to the fastest growing economies and militaries in an increasingly volatile part of the world. Australia has long had a tough relationship with the ‘tyranny of distance’. On one hand, the nation’s populace has treated it with disdain and hostility, while Australia’s political and strategic leaders have recognised the importance of geographic isolation. The rise of Indo-Pacific Asia means the ‘tyranny of distance’ has been replaced by a ‘predicament of proximity’. China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and several other regional nations are reshaping the economic and strategic paradigms with an unprecedented period of economic and arms build-up, competing interests and rising animosity towards the post-World War II order Australia is a pivotal part of in the region.
The growing proliferation of key force projection capabilities, ranging from aircraft carriers, fifth-generation combat aircraft, advanced conventional and nuclear-powered submarines to area-access denial systems and advanced ground forces, high-speed, precision munitions, space and cyber capabilities, is at the core of this paradigm shifting reality.
Additionally, the increasing instability of the US administration and its apparent apprehension to intervene or at least maintain the global rules-based order following the radical shift in US politics, also forces Australia to reassess the strategic calculus.
For Australia, these radically shifting sands spell trouble. No longer able to hide behind the tyranny of distance and the long-celebrated sea/air gap, as identified by Professor Paul Dibb, responsible for producing the Dibb report of the 1980s, the nation requires a radically different approach to these mounting challenges.
Both Michael Wesley and John Birmingham in the latest issue of Australian Foreign Affairs, titled Defending Australia, provide an analysis of Australia’s diminishing geo-strategic depth and technological advantages in the Indo-Pacific Asian century.
Wesley, in a piece titled ‘Dangerous Proximity: The collapse of Australia’s defences in a contested Asia’, goes to great lengths not only to identify and detail the rapidly changing geo-strategic reality, but also the increasingly risky strategic thinking that has governed Australian strategic policy making since the earliest days of European settlement.
“We have always felt we are too small a population to defend such a vast landmass and such a long coastline. In the two centuries since the last invasion, Australians have never felt insecure for long enough to change that equation.”
National strategic anxiety
In contrast, Wesley is quick to highlight the nation’s willingness to engage in conflict abroad: “Yet for a nation that doubts its ability to defend its territory, Australia has been remarkably willing to send its soldiers overseas to fight. It is because Australia can’t protect itself that it has always extended its security interests far beyond its coastlines.”
These two conflicting ideas contradict the nation’s insecurity and the way in which it responds to the emerging challenges, raising important questions about Australia’s response to this ‘predicament of proximity’.
Wesley articulates these challenges well, saying “the certainties that have underpinned Australia’s defence outlook have shifted further and faster than its planning or procurement processes have been able to factor in.”
In his response to these challenges, Wesley echoes some of the calls made by leading Australian strategic policy makers including Peter Jennings, Professor Dibb and Malcolm Davis.
Of particular concern for Wesley is the rise of ‘coercive statecraft’ supported by the proliferation of advanced weapons systems being fielded by potential adversaries. Particularly long-range, precision guided missiles, anti-ship weapons and electronic warfare.
Plugging the gaps
Both Jennings and Davis directly recognise the need to respond to these developments, with Jennings telling Defence Connect, “We need to be placing more effort into developing the long-range strike capability, this includes things like cruise missiles which can launched by platforms across the ADF.
“We also need to place greater emphasis on upgrading the capability provided by Collins, not just as a stop-gap, but as an imperative, as these submarines will continue to form the point of our deterrence spear for some time yet.”
This is further supported by Davis, sought to redefine the nation’s long-range strike capabilities, saying, “The capability provided by the future submarines will be delivered too late, that means we need to work with the US on developing a potent air-based long-range strike capability.”
Wesley’s concerns about a contested Asia, particularly strategic choke points like the Strait of Malacca, are echoed by the calls made by Professor Dibb in his recent speech at ANU.
He said: “First, we need to focus more on our own region of primary strategic concern, which includes south-east Asia (including the South China Sea), the eastern Indian Ocean, the south Pacific and the Southern Ocean.”
Expanding on this, Wesley identifies, as Davis does, the declining presence of the US and the need for Australia to enact a more assertive, independent defence posture and key regional alliances playing a pivotal role in the nation’s ‘defence of the indefensible’.
“The consequence of these challenges is that Australia’s two dominant approaches to defence planning are inadequate. For significant periods, Australia has structured its armed forces primarily for the task of protecting its territory and maritime approaches,” Wesley said.
“Where it has drawn its defensive perimeters has varied, often stretching outwards to the boundary between continental and maritime Asia. At other times, Australia has tooled up to fight alongside its allies, in the Middle East, Europe and Africa, and sometimes in Asia,” Wesley further correctly identifies the increasingly complex environment Australia finds itself in.
A return to ‘Forward Defence’?
Wesley’s prominent point, that Australia is no longer a strategic backwater, meaning the traditional, often reserved approach to defence planning, strategy, planning and procurement requires radical shifts in thinking and feeds directly into the thesis of John Birmingham in ‘Weapons of Choice: Rearming Australia for its offshore ambitions’.
Birmingham begins his thesis by recounting the role technology, multi-domain dominance and what has been defined as the ‘violence of action’ continues to play in modern combat operations, albeit in an asymmetric field of combat: Afghanistan.
However, this launching point leads to a catalogue of Australia’s largest defence procurement projects, across the three major domains of air, land and sea, and the role these platforms, and the new doctrines of Plan Bersheeba and Plan Jericho for example, will play in ensuring that Australia has a credible sovereign capability in event of peer conflict.
“Australia, alarmed by China’s growing might and the reshaping of the regional power balance, is building a capability that extends beyond its traditional focus of on protecting and controlling the continent and its surrounds. It is an ambitious change, fraught with the potential for failure,” Birmingham said, laying the foundation for a proactive and confronting conversation regarding the future structure, organisation, doctrine and capability requirements of the ADF.
At the core of Birmingham’s argument is a growing focus on uniting the ADF to provide what amounts to a not only a return to the ‘Forward Defence’ policy of the early Cold War years, but also an assertive increase in the expeditionary and conventional deterrence capabilities of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Key force multiplying platforms, like the Army’s new armoured vehicles under LAND 400 Phases 2 and 3, Hobart Class destroyers and Hunter Class future frigates, and fifth-generation air combat capabilities in the F-35, P-8A Poseidon and EA-18G Growler electronic attack fighters, form the basis of this renewed focus.
While each of these platforms provides a leap in the capability and offensive hitting power of the ADF, Birmingham identifies key capability gaps, including:
- The hardening and networking of the Army with key new platforms and the shifting focus toward amphibious combat operations;
- Provide indigenous, fixed wing air support as a central component for establishing a layered defence for key naval platforms in the Canberra Class LHDs and associated escort vessels when conducting expeditionary roles;
- Increasing the technological edge of the Air Force, through investment in key capabilities like the F-35, F/A-18F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-7A Wedgetails and P-8A Poseidon as part of an integrated, long-range strike force; and
- The development of robust, offensive and defensive cyber, AI and unmanned aerial and sea combat capabilities to enhance traditional platforms.
These calls are further supported and expanded upon by both Professor Dibb, who calls for increased self-reliance in order to “maintain a margin of military advantage over our region” with specific focus on key long-range strategic deterrent forces.
“The two most obvious delivery options are ballistic missiles launched from a nuclear-powered submarine, or a long-range nuclear cruise missile carried by a strategic bomber,” Professor Dibb wrote in his recent ASPI piece, ‘Should Australia develop its own nuclear deterrent?’
Australia’s position and role in the region is rapidly evolving, while the geo-strategic situation appears to be degrading, our nation’s material, strategic and doctrine response to the challenges needs to evolve as well.
There is clearly a robust, mounting debate on the role of Australia as a military power in an increasingly contested Indo-Pacific Asia, and what its future looks like. Have your say in the comments section below, or get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org. (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Oct 18. U.S. opposed to Koreas’ plan for no-fly zone over border – sources. The United States opposes a plan by South and North Korea to set up a no-fly zone over their heavily fortified border, the latest sign of a rift between Seoul and its top ally, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters. Washington and Seoul both publicly insist they are on the same page about dealing with Pyongyang. But behind the scenes, there are growing signs of disagreement as South and North Korea forge ahead with plans to defuse military tensions and rebuild economic ties. The military accord, sealed during last month’s summit in Pyongyang, is one of the most concrete agreements between the neighbours this year. But U.S. officials have raised concerns that it could undermine defence readiness and comes without substantial progress on denuclearisation.
The pact includes a halt in “all hostile acts,” a no-fly zone around the border and a gradual removal of landmines and guard posts within the Demilitarised Zone.
U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo expressed “discontent” with the agreement during a phone call, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said last week in a rare disclosure of discord between the allies.
The United States was not likely to openly protest against an inter-Korean initiative, Seoul officials said, but its deep involvement in sanctions enforcement and military operations give it leverage to delay or change the policy.
The no-fly zone is a key sticking point for the U.S. because it would effectively prevent close air support drills, the sources said, adding that Pompeo raised the issue during the call with Kang. Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The zone, effective Nov. 1, will extend 40 kilometres north and south from the Military Demarcation Line in the East and 20 kilometres in the West for fixed-wing aircraft.
The agreement also bars live-fire drills involving fixed-wing aircraft and air-to-ground guided weapons in the no-fly area. South Korea and the United States had held such drills regularly until halting joint exercises in June.
There are different restrictions on helicopters, drones and balloons, with exemptions for commercial and non-military operations such as medical, disaster and agricultural uses.
In close air support, airplanes provide firepower for troops who may be operating near enemy forces. Most fighter jets that U.S. forces operate in South Korea, such as the F-16, can play that role, one of the sources said.
An official at Seoul’s foreign ministry said Pompeo had not been “fully briefed” when he complained about the inter-Korean deal, and called back that day to wish Kang good luck with the summit.
The U.S. State Department declined to comment.
Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan declined to comment on the agreement but said the Department of Defense backs efforts to reduce military tensions.
The department “remains in full support of our diplomats as they work to achieve the verified denuclearisation of the DPRK as agreed to by Chairman Kim (Jong Un),” Logan said, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
A spokesman at South Korea’s defence ministry said Seoul cooperates closely with Washington and the U.S.-led United Nations Command (UNC).
SIGNS OF DISCORD
South Korea has held more than 50 rounds of talks this year with the UNC, which oversees affairs in the DMZ, to facilitate the inter-Korean commitments but has not yet secured its full support, according to Baek Seung-joo, a lawmaker of the opposition Liberty Korea Party.
On Tuesday, North and South Korea held their first three-way talks with the UNC to discuss “practical” steps to facilitate the military pact, but did not announce any concrete measures, Seoul’s defence ministry said.
“They’re not even close to an agreed definition of ‘hostile acts’”, said Baek, who served as a vice defence minister in 2013-15.
“The agreement would make it impossible to carry out air cover and overall exercises, and it would hurt the alliance’s reconnaissance capabilities,” Baek said.
But the UNC is taking a cautious approach so as not to kindle anti-U.S. sentiment among a public supportive of the two Koreas’ push for peace, Baek said.
While maintaining that it remains in lockstep with Washington, the administration of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in has forged ahead with efforts to engage with the North, even as critics accused Moon of focusing on feel-good theatrics at the expense of progress.
Kim vowed to work toward denuclearisation during his unprecedented June summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. But Pyongyang’s actions have fallen short of U.S. demands for irreversible steps to scrap its arsenal, including a full disclosure of nuclear facilities and materials.
“The alliance is being undercut for the sake of confidence-building with the North, while there is little progress on the nuclear issue, which is the root cause of the longstanding tensions,” Baek said. (Source: Reuters)
12 Oct 18. Saudis OK Billions in Arms Sales, Congress Not So Sure. Even as Congress inches toward cutting off arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Riyadh’s grinding war in Yemen, the United States is preparing to ship $14.5bn worth of arms to the increasingly embattled kingdom.
Those weapons include “helicopters, tanks, ships, weapons, and training,” a Pentagon spokesman said, confirming they were part of the $110bn worth of arms the Trump administration pledged to sell Saudi over the next decade. While defense and diplomatic officials declined to put a timetable on the delivery of the equipment — or offer specifics as to what was included — they confirmed Saudi Arabia had signed Letters of Offers and Acceptance to take deliveries in the coming years.
It would be difficult for lawmakers to block the delivery of that equipment, since Congress had earlier signed off on the deals, but experts say that Congress can step in at any time to hold up sales to foreign governments.
There are some clues what might be included in that $14.5bn.
In 2015, the Obama administration kicked off the $11.2bn Multi-Mission Surface Combatant program with Saudi Arabia, which consists of four ships modeled on the Freedom variant of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.
Since March, Lockheed Martin has been awarded over $930m in contracts to “begin the detailed design and planning for construction” of the four ships, which feature the Mk41 missile launching system derived from the Aegis system used by US and allied navies, and boasts a range of 5,000 nautical miles.
In August 2016 — again under the Obama administration — Saudi initially agreed to a $1.5bn deal for 115 M1A2S tanks made by General Dynamics Corp. But not everything is coming together as planned. One of the biggest items on the May 2017 list — the $15bn letter of intent to buy the THAAD anti-missile system — has run into trouble as Saudi officials have let the Sept. 30 deadline to agree to the purchase slip by, as the government considers buying the Russian S-400 system instead.
The THAAD negotiation began with an astonishing episode in which Jared Kushner, the presidential son-in-law with an expansive and elastic portfolio within the administration, called Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson during a meeting with the Saudis to ask her to cut the price on the system, which she eventually did by some 20 percent.
The passing of the deadline means the initial terms of the agreement will have to be renegotiated, and the price reset.
That kind of personal deal making has done little to impress Congress, which is seeing a growing number of Republican and Democratic lawmakers voicing their objections to Saudi conduct in its fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen, where at least 6,600 civilians have been killed since 2015, most by Saudi-led coalition air strikes, according to the U.N.’s human rights office. The Khashoggi disappearance, and reports he has been murdered by Saudi agents, have only made matters worse.
Republican Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker told reporters Thursday he had recently warned an unnamed defense contractor to stay away from any new deals with the Saudis. “I shared with him before this happened, please do not push to have any arms sales brought up right now because they will not pass. It will not happen. With [the Khashoggi investigation] I can assure it won’t happen for a while,” Corker said.
There are currently no new arms sales in front of Congress that lawmakers can object to, but there are four current holds on sales.
It is unclear what the four holds entail. Sen. Robert Menendez, the top Foreign Relations committee Democrat, has for months blocked the sale of tens of thousands of Raytheon-made precision guided munitions kits due to concerns over US support for the Saudi war in Yemen. Pentagon officials say the United States provides aerial refueling of Saudi and Emirati jets and training of pilots, but American-made munitions are involved in many of the strikes.
Asked about reports that Saudi agents murdered Khashoggi, Trump said Thursday, “we don’t like it even a little bit,” but “as to whether or not we should stop $110bn from being spent in this country, knowing they have four or five alternatives, two of them very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.”
While the Saudis have said they’re looking at the Russian air defense system, doubts remain over whether they would go through with it, or look to Russia and China for weaponry should Washington balk.
“It’s more likely that the Saudis would look to the UK or Spain” in the event of Congress clamping down, said Rachel Stohl, director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center in Washington. Since the Saudi military has been buying planes, tanks, and munitions from NATO member countries for so many years, to all of a sudden change gears to buying from the East would wreak havoc on its military, she added.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement certifying that the Kingdom is “undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments,” in an effort to deflect criticism from Congress and human rights groups.
The certification has itself sparked Congressional pushback. On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican Todd Young and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen sent a letter to Pompeo expressing “serious doubt” over the certification.
The senators pointed to the “dramatic increase in civilian casualties and deaths from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes over the last few months,” including the “death of dozens of children in successive Saudi airstrikes in August.”
Worryingly for the Trump administration, in June 2017, 47 Senators voted to block the sale of roughly $500m in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, just missing achieving a majority.
Earlier this week, heads of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and 18 other senators delivered a letter to the White House warning of more sanctions against Riyadh if it was found Saudi agents killed the dissident Saudi journalist.
Committee chairman Bob Corker and ranking member Bob Menendez called for a probe whether Saudi Arabia was responsible for “an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression” under the Global Magnitsky Act. The lawmakers gave the administration 120 days to report back. (Source: glstrade.com/Breaking Defense.com)
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