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30 May 20. China indigenous aircraft carrier begins sea trials. China’s Defense Ministry said the navy’s only entirely home-built aircraft is carrying out sea trials to test weapons and equipment and enhance training of the crew.
Ministry spokesperson Ren Guoqiang said Friday the exercises were being conducted as planned, apparently unaffected by the country’s coronavirus outbreak.
The Shandong’s commissioning last year by Chinese President Xi Jinping underscored the country’s rise as a regional naval power at a time of tensions with the U.S. and others over trade, Taiwan and the South China Sea.
It is the second Chinese aircraft carrier to enter service after the Liaoning, which was originally purchased as a hulk from Ukraine and entirely refurbished.
Both are based on a Soviet design with a ”ski jump” style flight deck for takeoffs rather than the flat decks used by much larger U.S. aircraft carriers. It is powered by a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant, compared to the nuclear fuel American carriers and submarines use.
China is seen as striving to overtake the U.S. as the dominant naval power in Asia and already boasts the world’s largest navy in numbers of vessels.
Beijing says aircraft carriers are needed to protect its coastline and trade routes, but they are also seen as backing up its claims to self-governing Taiwan and the South China Sea.
The highly secretive Chinese military was credited with aiding in the response to the epidemic in the epicenter of Wuhan earlier this year, but no information has been released about cases among military personnel or any change in the armed forces’ readiness status.
The U.S. Navy, in contrast, saw a public controversy over the spread of the coronavirus aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the firing of the aircraft carrier’s skipper in April.
The Roosevelt was operating in the Western Pacific when the first crew members fell sick in late March. About 1,100 crew members eventually tested positive for the cornonavirus and one died. The ship was sidelined on Guam for nearly two months. (Source: News Now/https://www.dailysabah.com/)
30 May 20. China’s ‘nervous’ Xi risks new Cold War, last Hong Kong governor says. Chinese President Xi Jinping is so nervous about the position of the Communist Party that he is risking a new Cold War and imperiling Hong Kong’s position as Asia’s preeminent financial hub, the last British governor of the territory told Reuters.
Chris Patten said Xi’s ‘thuggish’ crackdown in Hong Kong could trigger an outflow of capital and people from the city which funnels the bulk of foreign direct investment into mainland China.
“What does it mean? It means serious question marks not just about Hong Kong’s future as a free society but also about Hong Kong’s ability to continue as probably the premier international financial hub in Asia,” Patten said in an interview.
“A lot of people will try to leave Hong Kong,” Patten said, adding that he feared capital would also flow out of the territory which Britain handed back to China in 1997.
The West, he said, should stop being naive about Xi.
“We have long since passed the stage where, without wanting another Cold War, we have to react to the fact Xi seems to want one himself, seems to want to be able to bully his way to whatever he thinks China wants,” Patten said.
Patten, now 76, watched as the British flag was lowered over Hong Kong when the colony was handed back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War.
Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. (Source: News Now/Reuters)
30 May 20. U.S. eyes use of security brigade in Tunisia amid Russia concerns. The United States is looking to use one of its Security Force Assistance Brigades in Tunisia, its military said on Friday, amid concern over Russian activity in Libya.
Libya’s civil war has drawn in regional and global powers, prompting what the United Nations has called a huge influx of weapons and fighters into the North African nation, in violation of an arms embargo.
“As Russia continues to fan the flames of the Libyan conflict, regional security in North Africa is a heightened concern,” the United States Africa Command said in a statement.
“We’re looking at new ways to address mutual security concerns with Tunisia, including the use of our Security Force Assistance Brigade,” it added.
Russian military personnel have delivered 14 MiG 29 and Su-24 fighter jets to the Libyan National Army’s Jufra air base, the U.S. military said on Wednesday, despite denials by the LNA and a Russian member of parliament.
Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates support the eastern-based Khalifa Haftar’s LNA, which launched an offensive last year to seize the capital Tripoli.
In a statement, Tunisia’s defense ministry said the United States was a main partner in the effort to build the Tunisian army’s operational capability. (Source: Reuters)
29 May 20. China says opposes U.S. THAAD defence system in South Korea. China’s foreign ministry said on Friday it firmly opposes the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system in South Korea and urged the U.S. not to harm bilateral relations between Beijing and Seoul.
American and South Korean troops brought replacement THAAD missiles to a base in South Korea overnight, Yonhap news agency reported, citing unnamed officials who described it as a routine resupply operation.
The missiles were to replace older ones and the number of weapons at the base did not increase, the report said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during a daily briefing that Beijing and Seoul have reached a clear consensus on a phased resolution to the THAAD issue and said China hopes Seoul will adhere to that agreement. (Source: Reuters)
29 May 20. PLA Expels US Warship Illegally Trespassing into S. China Sea. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday expelled a US warship that trespassed into Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, and the US operation amid the COVID-19 pandemic showed the US is the source that sabotages peace and stability in the South China Sea, a Chinese military spokesperson said on Thursday.
US provocations like this proved China’s increased defense budget is well justified, analysts said.
The PLA Southern Theater Command organized naval and aerial forces to follow the US guided missile destroyer USS Mustin when it illegally trespassed into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands on Thursday without authorization from the Chinese government, said Senior Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesperson of the PLA Southern Theater Command, on Tuesday.
The PLA Southern Theater Command troops followed and monitored its course, identified the ship, warned and expelled it, Li said.
This provocative move, a naked hegemonic navigational action, seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security interests and related international law and norms, and seriously sabotaged peace and stability in the South China Sea region, the spokesperson said.
This is not the first time the PLA has expelled a US warship from the South China Sea this year. Similar incidents occurred in late January with the littoral combat ship USS Montgomery near the Nansha Islands; in early March with the destroyer USS McCampbell near the Xisha Islands and in late April with the destroyer USS Barry also near the Xisha Islands.
While the US is attempting to make such operations routine, the PLA has showed it is ready and able to stop these US military actions, a Chinese military expert who asked not to be named told the Global Times on Thursday.
In a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is still ravaging the world, the US is disregarding its people’s safety and not focusing on domestic epidemic control, nor is it contributing to global pandemic control, but sending warships over a great distance to the South China Sea to show off its strength and cause trouble, spokesperson Li said.
This shows the US’ hypocritical nature of talking in one way and acting in another, and fully demonstrated that the US military is the source of disaster sabotaging peace and stability in the South China Sea, Li said.
China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea and nearby waters, and Chinese troops are always on high alert and will take any necessary measure to resolutely fulfil their duty, safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea, Li said.
China just announced a 6.6 percent rise in its defense budget for 2020 on May 22.
China takes both its economic situation and national defense demands into account when setting the scale and allocation of its military expenditure, and repeated US military provocations near China and some even into Chinese territory have obviously threatened China’s national security, the anonymous expert said.The moderate and steady increase in the nation’s defense expenditure is right, proper and necessary, Wu Qian, spokesperson for the PLA and People’s Armed Police Force delegation to the 3rd session of the 13th National People’s Congress, said on Tuesday.
Hegemony and power politics grow from time to time, as some countries are practicing unilateralism, geopolitical risks are rising, and the international security system and order are being challenged, and China’s homeland security and overseas interests are also facing some real threats, Wu said, noting that China must have a clear mind when it comes to national defense and be prepared for danger in peace time. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Global Times)
29 May 20. As India snubs Trump offer, China steps up border presence. As world leaders wrestle with the coronavirus outbreak, squabbles have once again erupted along India’s north-east. What started off as isolated incidents of fist-fighting between soldiers now threatens to snowball into a serious stand-off between the world’s two biggest countries.
Reports of scuffles along the Sino-Indian border are nothing new. Troops have sporadically engaged in fighting along the mountainous Ladakh region for years; one high-profile example being the 2017 Doklam stand-off. The incident resulted in Delhi directing 270 soldiers to block Chinese construction of a road that cut through territory claimed by both the Middle Kingdom and Indian ally, Bhutan.
While the situation was undoubtedly tense at the time, analysts across the globe generally understood it to be one of diplomatic posturing more than anything else – while the incident gave rise to several casualties through informal fighting, it was never expected to escalate to a full-scale conventional war.
This time, however, it’s different. Tensions are ratcheting up along the border, at the same time as China is tied up in a war of words with the West over the origins of the COVID-19 crisis.
While it is probably irrational to suggest, as several media sources have done, that conventional war is on the cards, it should be noted that President Xi Jinping is looking to reassert the country’s presence on the global stage at all costs. Unpredictable at the best of times, his patriotic brand of gunboat diplomacy could see these skirmishes escalate, costing lives on both sides.
It is unclear how the engagements began, although previous Sino-Indian border clashes have largely come about as a result of troops taking matters into their own hands. On the eve of 5 May, local media began to report physical altercations between the two sides in an area called “Finger 5” in the eastern Ladakh theatre, one of the better-known battlegrounds in the 1962 Sino-Indian war. According to sources in the country, as many as 400 troops clashed; engaging in hand-to-hand fighting and stone-pelting.
Five days later and some 1,200 kilometres away, Indian and Chinese troops clashed once again in north Sikkim (Naku La). While reports issued by the Indian Army fail to detail the number of troops engaged in this instance, they do note that 11 Indian troops were left injured.
Though unverified as yet, Indian media claims that thousands of Chinese troops are operating inside Indian territory, which is delimited by the so-called “line of actual control” (LAC). As many as 10,000 Chinese troops have been sent to the border, as President Xi issued an instruction to top military leaders to “prepare for the worst”.
On its part, India has reaffirmed a commitment to resolving the issue diplomatically. Sidestepping an offer from US President Donald Trump to mediate the dispute, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has doubled down on diplomatic plays to reach out to Beijing.
“The two sides have established mechanisms both at military and diplomatic levels to resolve situations which may arise in border areas peacefully through dialogue and continue to remain engaged through these channels,” said India’s Foreign Ministry.
But the issue lies at the heart of the matter; the treaty which purports to regulate the China-India border doesn’t actually do so at all. Like many international covenants (including ANZUS), it is couched in vague, nebulous language that fails to provide clarity to either party.
“The whole region of Ladakh is undefined, there is no agreed LAC, in some areas they respect each other’s position, and in some areas they don’t, which is the crux of the problem,” said Professor Srikanth Kondapalli, of Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
LAC in a global context
As is all too clear in the South China Sea (and, for that matter, Hong Kong), sovereignty disputes are likely to come to the fore in the years to come. The rise and rise of China must be tempered against an appreciation of the means by which these issues can be defused effectively, to avoid what some analysts call the “Thucydides Trap”. Even if China and India fail to come to blows over these incidents, a close analysis of how this dispute plays out could well offer up some insight for the future.
Professor Kondapalli also adds that China’s ambitions in the region are largely linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key point of the broader Belt and Road Initiative. That is to say, the country is unlikely to back down from a strictly strategic standpoint – but many would add that it is even less likely to do so now, as its standing on the world stage is called into question by factions in the US, the UK and Australia.
One Bangalore-based policy analyst suggests that from a practical standpoint, both sides could currently benefit from stability, and that the current situation is unlikely to help either of them in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
“Beijing is facing challenges on many fronts, an economic slowdown, tensions with the US, international anger amid the pandemic, protests in Hong Kong, etc,” said Manoj Kewalramani, of the Takshashila Institution. “Likewise, New Delhi’s interests lie in managing the COVID-19 outbreak at home and focusing on reviving the economy.” (Source: Defence Connect)
27 May 20. China criticises latest US sales to Taiwan. The Chinese military has criticised the US decision to sell approximately $180m of military equipment to Taiwan and has urged Washington to break military ties with the island nation, which Beijing refuses to recognise as a sovereign state.
Speaking at a press conference on 24 May, Senior Col Wu Qian, Director General of the Information Office at the MND, said: ‘The US act is a grave violation of the One China principle and the three China-US joint communiques. It seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs.’
‘The new-round US arms sales to Taiwan sends out seriously wrong signals to the Democratic Progressive Party authorities and Taiwan independence secessionist forces, seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and security, the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, as well as the China-US military relations’, Qian warned.
The comments reflect the increasingly bellicose stance adopted by Beijing towards Taiwan and the US in recent weeks. However, Beijing frequently protests against US arms sales to Taiwan: in July 2019, for instance, China criticised a $2.22bn package for M1A2 Abrams tanks and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. (Source: Shephard)
27 May 20. Latin American projects face COVID-19 problems. The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will affect future defence procurement projects in Latin America, as regional governments and militaries restructure their priorities.
One of the first structural casualties occurred in Argentina, as the acquisition of FA-50 Fighting Eagle light attack aircraft, built by Korea Aerospace Industries, has been cancelled.
Other defence forces are in the same situation. For example, the commandant of the Belize Coast Guard stated that due to the pandemic and its effects on the national economy, ‘our emoluments will be affected, [and] our material supply, maintenance and to a certain degree our operating cost will be affected’.
The Chilean Navy in April received two used Adelaide-class frigates to replace its L-class ships, and the service also plans to construct amphibious landing vessels to replace ageing ships such as the transport vessel Aquiles, which was built in the 1980s. However, it is likely that the government’s new COVID-19 economic plan – in which funds will be diverted to protect citizens, businesses and industries – will delay this building plan.
Argentina has cancelled procurement of FA-50 Fighting Eagles from Korea. Shephard understands that the coronavirus pandemic is causing Peru to further delay plans to acquire new tanks and other hardware for the army, even though its T-55 tank fleet is in dire need of replacement. Nevertheless, the armed forces will continue to procure spare parts for the maintenance and repair of their equipment, including their Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft and helicopters.
Some procurement initiatives are too far advanced to be cancelled. These include the ambitious PROSUB submarine programme in Brazil; the construction of a second landing platform dock (BAP Paita) by the Peruvian shipyard SIMA; and Chile’s domestically manufactured icebreaker, which is scheduled for completion by 2023. The Ecuadorian shipyard Astinave is continuing construction of a multipurpose vessel, though the pandemic is causing construction delays.
Additionally, in spite of putting on hold the acquisition of FA-50 aircraft, the Argentine air force will reportedly carry on with other projects, such as acquiring a B-737-300 transport aircraft.
It must be emphasised that not all delays and cancellations can be blamed solely on COVID-19. For example, the construction for Brazil of four Scorpène-class submarines and one nuclear-powered boat has experienced several delays, due to the various economic crises since Brazil and France signed an agreement in 2008.
One option is to delay construction of four Tamandaré-class corvettes in order to divert funds for the submarines, which are a higher priority for the Brazilian Navy.
Brazil plans to acquire four new Tamandaré-class corvettes but its submarine Internal politics also play a part. In Argentina, for example, Andrei Serbin Pont, director of the regional think tank CRIES and member of the Fundación Argentina Global, explained to Shephard that the pandemic will allow the government of Alberto Fernandez to cancel some projects inherited from the Macri presidency.
Pont mentioned the FA-50 deal as a prime example, given its lack of support from defence minister Agustín Rossi. He added that it is very unlikely that the government will a acquire new or second-hand submarine to replace ARA San Juan, which was lost in a 2017 accident, given that the COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating pre-existing economic problems in Argentina.
In the same vein, an analyst associated with the Mexican Navy explained to Shephard that he does not foresee the service acquiring any major vessels, such as additional long-range oceanic patrol (POLA) vessels, in the next four years.
This is due not only to the effects of coronavirus but also reflects an overall lack of interest from the Obrador presidency in major defence acquisition programmes. Only one POLA ship (Benito Juárez) has been completed for the navy to date. (Source: Shephard)
26 May 20. War rhetoric surrounds COVID surveillance. Deployments of technology to help tackle the coronavirus are taking hold around the world, from London to Moscow, from Singapore to Seoul, from New Delhi to Beijing. Governments and companies, separately and cooperatively, are offering digital approaches to unprecedented times. Yet the design, use, and post-pandemic sunsetting of these technologies aren’t the only critical points of discussion.
Important as well is the language used to frame these surveillance measures — which in many countries is rhetoric of war.
This may seem entirely benign, and perhaps it’s intended that way, a mere articulation of the crisis’ unprecedented speed and scale. But governments framing COVID-19 responses in the language of war risks citizens blindly accepting pandemic surveillance as necessity—and it obscures important questions about public health data collection in particular.
Let’s begin across the Atlantic. At the podium of his Jerusalem office, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in March that the government was deploying counterterrorism surveillance tools against coronavirus carriers. Netanyahu cited a go-ahead from Israel’s Justice Ministry to use these measures without consent — specifically, retrieval of cellular metadata on citizens—to contain the outbreak.
Coupled right alongside this announcement? Talk of the coronavirus as a “war” facing society. “We are at war with an enemy: the coronavirus,” Netanyahu said. He then branded COVID-19 an “invisible enemy that must be located.”
This rhetoric is unlikely a coincidence. “Security requirements have always been a strong argument which may easily trump other considerations,” Limor Shmerling Magazanik, the managing director of the Israel Tech Policy Institute, told me. “The dominance of the Defense Ministry and the defense agencies is felt in budget debates annually, in the influence on market development in industry and high-tech sectors.” While privacy was raised during internal government debate on COVID-19 surveillance, she added, this rhetoric of war is worth contemplating “in an instance that involves extreme risks to civil liberties.”
Netanyahu certainly painted a portrait of necessity: “In all my years as prime minister, I have avoided using these means among the civilian public,” he said, “but there is no choice.”
Israel isn’t the only country invoking war language as the state ramps up surveillance. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is widely employing digital surveillance to track those violating quarantine, likened containing the pandemic to fighting medieval invasions. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (whose government is also upping surveillance) called the country’s lockdown measures part of waging “war against coronavirus.” “It is a battle of life and death,” he said, “and we have to win it.”
In the United States, similar proclamations are plentiful. The phrase “all-out war” in particular appears to be the government line: President Trump said as much in a White House briefing last month; the same day, a U.S. military commander echoed the “all-out war” verbiage. Trump had made other war-metaphor comments multiple other times in April and March as well. This all took place as private companies introduce contact tracing apps and as the US government considers its own surveillance measures.
Deeming this rhetoric “surprising” would be a far cry from the truth. All too familiar to Americans are the numerous public crises that are also, apparently, wars: the war on drugs, the war on crime, the war on poverty, the war on science. Technology policy has itself been warped by an overuse of misleading Cold War analogies.
But it’s worth asking what happens when language of national security necessity enters public conversation about surveillance in the middle of a pandemic.
Thinking in terms of armed conflict skews the conversation about who should determine the surveillance’s potential effectiveness in containing the virus. Battlefield imagery might suggest the military. Big Tech’s eagerness to act might suggest technologists without infectious disease expertise. Yet the real answer in a pandemic should be doctors (and that’s medical doctors who understand pandemics, not just anyone with a doctorate).
Such framing also obscures questions about what may or may not be different about surveillance for public health purposes compared to, say, surveillance for purposes of counterterrorism. For instance, it’s possible — given the right privacy protections and oversight — that citizens may be more willing to have their data used by the government to contain a pandemic than to stop a crime. It’s also possible citizens are more concerned about use of their health data, especially when involving private companies like Google who already hoard health information.
There are additional differences between data collection for public health purposes and surveillance in an armed conflict. It’s not happening on a literal battlefield. It should be focused on citizens within one’s country. And its effectiveness is arguably helped by transparency, not secrecy.
Blurring these lines is part of why wartime framings can precipitate paradigms of “security versus X”—often false dichotomies with dangerous effects. Stacey Gray, senior counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum, articulated this fact in recently submitted answers to a Senate hearing on big data and pandemic containment.
“Privacy versus effectiveness of data-based solutions against the spread of COVID-19 is a false trade-off,” she wrote. “Thoughtful, sophisticated solutions can provide effective solutions that also protect personal data.” Articulations of an app’s purpose and design are imperative for judging these characteristics of effectiveness and privacy protection—further grounds to not hastily launch surveillance programs.
And if Washington does roll out its own surveillance “solutions” — in addition to private-sector efforts like the recent Apple-Google partnership — does invoking language of war make it more likely the American public accepts government surveillance measures uncritically, while eschewing questions of false paradigms? Quite possibly.
This would be a problem because there are many factors that public dialogue shouldn’t just blow past: legislative oversight like executive branch reporting to Congress; judicial oversight like reviewing government requests for health data; transparency requirements like clearly communicating data collection with the American people; “sunset provisions” that curtail the surveillance after a given amount of time. Policymakers might even contemplate setting up an external privacy advisory board.
Technology could help contain the pandemic. Yet expanding government surveillance in a crisis, particularly in cooperation with a relatively unregulated private sector, also prompts important questions. As citizens worldwide scrutinize expanding surveillance measures like contact tracing phone apps and facial recognition, and witness more broadly the creeping expansion of state authorities, we should scrutinize the rhetoric of war used to frame our thinking as well. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
26 May 20. Israel, Pressed By US, Blocks First Big Chinese Deal. The strict U.S warning to Israel to limit ties with China has its first result as the Chinese failed to win a tender for the construction of the giant desalination plant in central Israel. The Palmahim site is in close proximity to Israel’s missile test and satellite launch facility.
The Soreq 2 facility, with the capability to process 200 million cubic meters of water per year, is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world, increasing the state’s desalination capacity by about 35%. The new desalination plant joins five facilities already operating in Israel. Two weeks after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warned against further Chinese involvement in projects in Israel the Chinese company lost and an Israeli company, IDE.
That may lead to a confrontation with the Chinese. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu told Pompeo that the issue was under discussion by the Foreign Investment Committee at the Treasury. The US fears Chinese investments could create dependencies on China’s companies and countries, and is working to prevent them.
The next challenge: the Chinese and the power companies. In coming days, a decision will be made whether to award the Chinese government company China Harbor’s bid for the power plant of Ramat Hovav, part of the huge reform of Israel’s once government-owned electricity sector.
“The fact that the (Pompeo) visit takes place in these problematic times proves its urgency ” an Israeli source told BD. Pompeo came to Israel with a very strict message – stop all Chinese investment in Israel, either in high tech companies or infrastructure.
Israeli officials said the message relayed during Pompeo’s visit included a very specific political warning – Israel must stop any action that strengthens the Chinese Communist Party, even if that means canceling planned projects. For context, think of the numerous times President Trump has called the coronavirus the Chinese virus and blamed China for supposedly hiding the truth about the virus’ origins. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
26 May 20. Downward trend: Southeast Asian countries cut defense spending. A study says Southeast Asian countries are cutting defense spending as a result of the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, potentially opening up room for China to further assert its claims in the region.
Aristyo Rizka Darmawan, a maritime security expert at the University of Indonesia, writes that slashing defense spending is seen as a relatively easy way to cut costs when countries are facing pressure on their budgets.
“Indonesia, for example, has announced it will slash its defense budget this year by nearly US$588m. Thailand has likewise reduced its defense allocation by $555m. Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines all face similar pressure,” Darmawan wrote in the online journal of the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank. “Less defense spending will invariably mean less patrols at sea.”
China recently announced it will increase its defense spending by 6.6 percent in 2020, despite a major downturn in the country’s economic growth due to the pandemic. The increase is the lowest in years, but will still allow China to expand its ability to enforce its territorial claims in the South China Sea and grow its military presence in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans. Another key priority is maintaining a credible threat against Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy that China considers its own territory, to be brought under its control by military force if necessary.
China has maintained its presence in the South China Sea throughout the virus outbreak. Recent frictions include Chinese ships shadowing Malaysian mineral exploration operations and the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat by a Chinese maritime security vessel.
However, China’s foreign minister dismissed claims that the country is exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to expand its regional footprint, labeling such accusations as “sheer nonsense.”
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that China is cooperating closely on anti-virus efforts with Southeast Asian countries, several of whom have overlapping territorial claims with China in the strategically vital waterway.
While China has long been stepping up its presence in the region, Wang said other countries — likely meaning the United States and its allies — have been creating instability with military flights and sea patrols.
“Their ill-intentioned and despicable moves are meant to sow discord between China and [Southeast Asian countries] and undermine the hard-won stability in the region,” Wang said. (Source: Defense News)
26 May 20. Russia Deploys Military Fighter Aircraft to Libya. Russia recently deployed military fighter aircraft to Libya to support Russian state-sponsored private military contractors, or PMCs, operating on the ground there, U.S. Africa Command officials said.
Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fires for the Wagner Group PMC, which is supporting the Libyan National Army’s fight against the internationally recognized government of national accord, Africom officials said in a news release. The Russian fighter aircraft arrived in Libya from an air base in Russia after transiting Syria, where Africom officials assess they were repainted to camouflage their Russian origin.
”Russia is clearly trying to tip the scales in its favor in Libya. Just like I saw them doing in Syria, they are expanding their military footprint in Africa using government-supported mercenary groups like Wagner,” said Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, Africom’s commander. ”For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way. Neither the LNA nor private military companies can arm, operate and sustain these fighters without state support — support they are getting from Russia.”
Russia has employed state-sponsored Wagner in Libya to conceal its direct role and to afford Moscow plausible deniability of its malign actions, the Africom release said, adding the command’s assessment that Moscow’s military actions have prolonged the Libyan conflict and exacerbated casualties and human suffering on both sides.
Townsend said Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, who commands the Libyan National Army, had made his intentions clear. “The world heard Mr. Haftar declare he was about to unleash a new air campaign,” the general said. “That will be Russian mercenary pilots flying Russian-supplied aircraft to bomb Libyans.”
Russia is not interested in what is best for the Libyan people, but is working to achieve its own strategic goals instead, Africom officials said.
“If Russia seizes basing on Libya’s coast, the next logical step is they deploy permanent long-range anti-access area-denial capabilities,” said Air Force Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa. “If that day comes, it will create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank.” Russia’s destabilizing actions in Libya also will exacerbate the regional instability that has driven the migration crisis affecting Europe, officials said. (Source: US DoD)
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