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14 Aug 20. US’s tougher stance on South China Sea undermined by Philippines. Manila’s vacillations weaken Washington in rivalry with Beijing over disputed region. When the US Navy kicks off the world’s largest maritime military exercises on Monday, one country that was not invited to the 10-nation drill will be watching with particular interest. Although Rim of the Pacific 2020 will be based in Hawaii, China will be tracking any joint manoeuvres by US friends and allies on the sidelines or after the exercise, especially in the heavily disputed South China Sea. Since last month, when US secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared as illegal China’s vast maritime claims on the South China Sea, over which other countries ranging from Vietnam to the Philippines also claim partial sovereignty, the region has become the focal point of Washington’s strategic rivalry with Beijing. But while the July 13 statement ended the US pretence of neutrality in the South China Sea, some argue it might already be too late to reverse China’s dominance in the region. Since 2012, Beijing has built and militarised a series of artificial islands in the area and, just as worrying, Washington’s oldest ally in the region the Philippines, is showing signs of wavering in the face of Chinese pressure.
“How is this rolling back the control China has established through its artificial islands?” said William Choong, an analyst at the Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “That would have worked 10 or 20 years ago but not today.” We should not involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea except in our national water, the 12-mile distance from our shores Delfin Lorenzana, Philippine defence secretary Despite this, the US is trying to match its punchy new rhetoric on the region with action. It has conducted naval operations, sometimes with partners such as Japan and Australia, much more frequently in recent months and recently held a drill involving two aircraft carriers while China’s navy was exercising nearby. Some countries in the region have supported Mr Pompeo’s July statement, such as Vietnam. But the weak spot in the tougher US strategy is proving to be the shifting stance of the Philippines.
This month, Delfin Lorenzana, Manila’s normally hawkish defence secretary, ruled the country out of participating in naval exercises in the South China Sea. “President Rodrigo Duterte has a standing order to us, to me, that we should not involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea except in our national water, the 12-mile distance from our shores,” Mr Lorenzana said. His remarks followed a laconic statement by Mr Duterte that he was unable to assert Manila’s claim to the waters because “China has the arms; we do not”. Security officials in other Asian countries said Manila’s public surrender of its right to free navigation in the contested waters came as a shock. Beijing has long demanded that rival claimants to the South China Sea commit to holding naval drills only within 12 miles of their coasts. “Having the Philippines publicly acquiesce to that raises the prospect that China is making progress towards pushing through their demand,” said one official from a US ally. Washington had been hoping for a more robust response from Manila, particularly as Mr Lorenzana and foreign secretary Teddy Locsin have until recently been using more combative language in regard to China. Mr Lorenzana has publicly endorsed Mr Pompeo’s tougher stance on the region and has called on the Chinese government to comply with a 2016 international arbitration ruling in the Philippines’ favour over the two countries’ maritime claims on the South China Sea.
Washington was also heartened after Manila suspended a plan to end an agreement governing the visits of US forces to the Philippines. For Washington, the Philippines is important for more than the South China Sea — it is also crucial to the US strategy for competing with China in the wider Indo-Pacific region. China’s development of missiles that can threaten big US bases and aircraft carriers is forcing Washington to consider a new strategy relying on smaller, mobile units. The US Marines have developed an operational concept under which they would spread out to multiple islands in Asia and the Pacific to make it harder for an enemy to find, track and target them. But that could be difficult without access to the Philippines, whose more than 7,000 islands sit between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. “The Marines need to orient themselves towards geographic reality,” said Euan Graham, a security expert at IISS, the defence and security think-tank, in Singapore. “Without the Philippines, this concept is hardly feasible.” Analysts said Manila’s seemingly inconsistent policies on the South China Sea reflected changing political realities, notably the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Duterte has been courting China and Russia to secure early access to a Covid-19 vaccine. “Duterte made the statement [on exercises in the South China Sea] at the same time he was putting all his money on China giving the Philippines the Covid vaccine,” said Jay Batongbacal, head of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. “He is trading it [claims in the South China Sea] for the vaccine.” (Source: FT.com)
14 Aug 20. RoK highlights unmanned systems interest in latest defence spending plan. The Republic of Korea (RoK) armed forces is set to receive a range of unmanned capabilities across its land, air, and naval services under the Ministry of National Defense’s (MND’s) latest ‘2021–25 mid-term defence plan’.
For example, the RoK Air Force (RoKAF) will receive the indigenously developed Mid-Altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (MUAVs) by 2025. The MUAV is a medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE)-class UAV with a length of 13 m, a wingspan of 25 m, and a height of 3 m. The type is equipped with a 1,200 hp turboprop engine that enables it to attain a maximum altitude of 45,000 ft (13,716 m) and an endurance of 24 hours.
The RoKAF plans to establish the 39th Reconnaissance Squadron by the end of 2020 in anticipation of the first serial-production reconnaissance MUAVs within the first half of 2021. The unit will operate MUAVs in reconnaissance and strike configurations, as well as the US-made Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) platform.
The defence blueprint also calls for the development of the Stealth UAV within the 2021–25 timeframe. The MND’s Agency for Defense Development (ADD) released on 5 August what could be an early design of the Stealth UAV. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Aug 20. Israel condemns U.N. decision not to extend Iran arms embargo. The U.N. Security Council’s decision not to extend an arms embargo on Iran will lead to further Middle East instability, Israel’s foreign minister said on Saturday.
“The extremist regime in Iran doesn’t just finance terrorism: it takes an active part in terrorism through its branches around the world and uses it as a political tool. This behaviour represents a danger to regional and international stability,” Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a statement. (Source: Reuters)
13 Aug 20. Russian MiG-31s Intercept Global Hawk Over Arctic Waters. The Russian military claims three MiG-31s scrambled to intercept an RQ-4B operating in neutral waters over the Chukchi Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean bound in the east by Point Barrow, Alaska, on Aug. 11.
The remotely piloted aircraft remained in international territory and the MiGs, which belong to the air defense forces of the Eastern Military District, returned to their bases when the Global Hawk changed directions without crossing into Russian airspace, according to state-run media, which also noted “the operation was performed in accordance with international law.”
The move comes just three weeks after the Department of the Air Force released its first-ever Arctic strategy, which acknowledges Russia’s efforts to militarize the region. Russia—one of eight Arctic nations—is refurbishing airfields and Arctic infrastructure, building new bases, and “developing an integrated network of air defense, coastal missile systems, and early warning radar to secure its northern approaches,” states the strategy, which also notes that, “No other country has as much permanent military presence above the 66th parallel.”
Interactions between U.S. and Russian aircraft also are increasing, raising the potential for dangerous miscalculations. North American Aerospace Defense Command aircraft have intercepted Russian aircraft at least 10 times this year just off the coast of Alaska, with six of those intercepts taking place in June.
Then-Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, speaking during the department’s Arctic strategy rollout last month, acknowledged that both Russia and the U.S. have increased the number of intercepts of long-range aviation assets.
“And, if I were speaking to my Russian counterpart right now, … I would tell him it’s in our best interest to ensure that we adhere to common rules of behavior, just as we have for the last 50 years as we’ve intercepted each other in the Arctic, off the shores of Alaska, off the shores of Russia,” Goldfein said. “We can’t afford a miscalculation or for one of our Airman to perform below standards. And so, as we see increasing activity that is perhaps politically or economically driven, militarily, we have to be able to … have our two professional air forces continue to operate in this area.”
Goldfein said the release of the department’s Arctic strategy provides an “opportunity” to identify “areas of common interest” with Russia “where we can collaborate, knowing full well that we are going to continue to compete.” (Source: UAS VISION/Air Force Magazine)
13 Aug 20. India announces ban on 101 imported arms. Who benefits, and who loses out? To bolster self-reliance for its defense industrial base, India on Sunday released a list of 101 weapons and platforms that will be banned from import over the next seven years.
The list incorporates major armaments such as artillery guns, assault rifles, corvettes, sonar systems, transport aircraft, ammunition, radars, conventional diesel-electric submarines, communication satellites and shipborne cruise missiles.
In announcing the move, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called it “a big step toward self-reliance in defense production in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat,’ ” or “Self-Reliant India.”
Singh added the decision will bring with it a great opportunity for the local defense industry to manufacture the items on the negative list by using domestic design and development capabilities.
“The embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement. “The aim behind the promulgation of the list is to appraise the Indian defense industry about the anticipated requirements of the [Indian] armed forces so that they are better prepared to realize the goal of indigenization.”
The items on the list, worth a total of $53.4bn, are to be manufactured in India, with local companies as prime contractors. Of these, about $17.3bn will be either Army or Air Force programs, and defense contracts worth $18.6bn will be meant for naval programs. The MoD said these orders will be placed with domestic companies within the next five to seven years.
The domestic industry will now stand a better chance to compete among itself and cater to local demand, an MoD official told Defense News.
“Foreign-origin technology transfer will be key. However, the Indian companies will be in the driver’s seat,” the official said.
Domestic private companies have welcomed the government’s move, but some defense experts doubt change will come.
Baba Kalyani, chairman of Bharat Forge Limited, said this decision is a strategic step that will “propel the Self-Reliant India narrative and bolster the Indian defense equipment-manufacturing industry.”
He added that the growth of the domestic sector will lead to self-reliance, reduced expenditure on imports, the saving of foreign currency, job creation and the revival of consumption, and that it will get India closer to its goal of a $5 trillion economy.
Jayant Patil, senior executive vice president of India’s largest private defense company Larsen & Toubro, said the defense policy reforms will provide long-term visibility, which he said is needed to drive investment.
In contract, Vivek Rae, a former MoD chief of acquisitions, said the “gradual ban on imports of 101 weapons and platforms signals the strong intent of government to boost domestic defense production. However, some of these items are already made or assembled in India, and import content is also high. Therefore, business as usual will continue unless more orders are given to the private sector and import content reduced.”
Rae also noted the cost of items manufactured or assembled locally tends to be higher than the cost of imported items. The quality of locally produced materiel is also a concern for Rae.
The embargo may not adversely affect foreign original equipment manufacturers, as they can continue involvement in MoD acquisition programs, either by way of direct product orders or through technology transfer or collaboration with the Indian companies, in respect to items not covered by the list, according to Amit Cowshish, a former financial adviser for acquisition at the MoD.
It doesn’t matter whether an embargoed item is made by a joint venture or any other entity, so long as it is designed and developed in India, Cowshish added.
Indeed, an MoD official confirmed that foreign original equipment manufacturers now can set up joint ventures with a majority control up to 74 percent. The ventures would be considered Indian companies and thus be eligible for manufacturing the embargoed items, the official explained. (Source: Defense News)
13 Aug 20. Southcom Chief: Venezuela’s Maduro at Center of ‘Vicious Circle of Threats.’ Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, aided by allies including Cuba, Russia, China and Iran, continues to serve as a threat to the democratic freedom in neighboring nations in South America, the commander of U.S. Southern Command said.
potential,” Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller said during a panel discussion today with the Atlantic Council.
South America is home to a number of democracies that share values with the United States, and are rich in resources, including human intellectual capital, Faller said. “All that is under assault. It’s under assault by a vicious circle of threats, the center of which is … Venezuela,” the admiral said.
A big part of the threat, he said, is a drastic increase in narcotics trafficking coming out of Venezuela, which he said not only threatens lives throughout North and South America, but also corrupts the institutions critical to the maintenance and development of the young democracies that surround Venezuela.
“At the heart of the threat, it’s the lives that are we’re losing unnecessarily, and it’s the undermining of democracy,” Faller said. “That was a choice Maduro made to take the once thriving state into the current dictatorship that it is.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed Maduro to even further lock down Venezuela and increase his power, Faller said. At the same time, he added, organizations such as FARC, and the National Liberation Army of Colombia are able to expand territory in the country.
“All those threat vectors are headed in a negative direction, which is a significant reason why we have upped the amount of engagement we’re doing with our partners and launched our enhanced counternarcotics operation,” Faller said.
One tool to fight narcotics trafficking, Faller said, includes Southcom’s Joint Interagency Task Force South and Key West, which has the involvement of 22 partner nations behind its efforts.
“They’re all aligned there under the common threat of narco trafficking,” Faller said. “The connection to Maduro is his complicity in that threat. The nations that go there, they go there for their national interest, but working together for the good of the hemisphere. It’s been a success. And we have actually seen an increase in partner nation involvement, year to year, last year to this year.”
Faller said that about half of Southcom’s counternarcotics operations include the involvement of partner nations. He also cited as a success the U.S.-Colombian Action Plan, in which Colombians train partners across Central America to conduct operations against narcotics trafficking and terrorists. He also pointed out the Central America Regional Security Initiative and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative as being important investments for the United States.
“The United States’ time and financial resources will pay forward for enhanced stability,” he said. “That’s part of the solution set here, … making sure we have it right in those investment areas to keep the democracies that have made progress in Central America and South America and the Caribbean [in] keep them moving forward against this vicious circle of threats.” (Source: US DoD)
13 Aug 20. Israel and the UAE have established ‘full normalization of relations,’ Trump says. As part of the deal, Israel will “suspend” plans to annex parts of the West Bank, according to a joint Israel-UAE-US statement that Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
Trump told reporters in the Oval office that he had a call with the leaders from both countries who had agreed to exchange embassies and ambassadors and “begin cooperation across the board.” He said he expected other countries to follow the UAE’s lead on normalizing relations going forward.
“We are already discussing this with other nations,” Trump said. “So you will probably see other of these.”
Trump tweeted out a lengthy joint statement between the US, UAE and Israel, calling the agreement to “full normalization of relations” between Israel and the UAE a “historic diplomatic breakthrough.”
The statement said that the normalization of relations “will bring together two of America’s most reliable and capable regional partners” and the nations will join together with the US to launch a strategic agenda for the Middle East on diplomatic, trade and security cooperation.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in on the announcement with a tweet, quoting Trump’s tweet and writing, “A historic day” in Hebrew.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman congratulated the President on the agreement in the Oval Office.
Trump said he wanted it to be called the Donald J. Trump Accord. He then asked Avi Berkowitz, a White House adviser and special representative for international negotiations, to speak. Berkowitz said: “Peace is a beautiful thing.”
Trump said his adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has done a “great thing” and “people don’t always understand what he’s able to do.” Kushner then spoke and said Trump instructed him to take “an untraditional approach.” He spoke at length about the agreement.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien added that the Middle East was a “mess” when Trump took office and this is another step to fix that. (Source: CNN)
12 Aug 20. Centcom Chief: Enduring ISIS Defeat Requires Plans for Refugees, Local Security. While ISIS no longer has the ability to hold ground, the terrorist organization isn’t completely defeated. An enduring defeat, the commander of U.S. Central Command said, will require, in part, plans for refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war and for local security forces to be able to handle ISIS on their own.
“One of the very highest priorities I have at Central Command is dealing with displaced persons and refugees,” Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said during a discussion today with the U.S. Institute of Peace. “I think it’s an unfortunate byproduct of the conflict in the region.”
Displaced people now in camps may be radicalized and susceptible to influence later on by ISIS, McKenzie said. Those men, women and children will need to be returned home, and they need to be deradicalized, the general said, noting that it’s a strategic problem for those most interested in keeping ISIS at bay perpetually.
“Unless we find a way to repatriate, to deradicalize, to bring these people that are at grave risk in these camps back — preferably to their nations that they came from or to stay in Syria where appropriate, but with some form of deradicalization — we’re buying ourselves a strategic problem 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road,” he said. “Young people grow up, and we’re going to see them again, unless we can find a way to turn them in a way that will make them productive members of society.”
An enduring defeat of ISIS, McKenzie said, also depends on the strength and capabilities of local and state-level security — home-grown, organic security. It’s something he said both Centcom and coalition forces will support.
“We need sufficient security capacity at the local and state level to prevent ISIS remnants from posing a threat to stabilization efforts and governance,” he said. “Where authorized, Centcom and coalition forces will support the development of operational and institutional capacity to sustain … hard-won partner gains at the tactical level.”
Victory against ISIS, McKenzie said, will not involve a clear-cut military victory. What it will involve, he said, is trained, capable local security forces in support of legitimate local governments.
“The future, particularly in Syria, is not going to be bloodless, or in Iraq, either. But we can look to a future where security forces, local security forces, answerable to local elected leadership or appointed leadership, are going to be able to handle it without extensive outside help. That’s what we need to aim for.” (Source: US DoD)
13 Aug 20. Op-Ed: Why Australia, the UK and Japan need closer security co-operation. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised that the post-Brexit UK will be vastly different to its predecessor, with the once global power returning to the world stage, with the Indo-Pacific and key allies like Australia and Japan key focal points for enhanced partnerships, explains Dr John Bruni of SIA.
In early February, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab took a post-Brexit tour of some key Indo-Pacific countries, reflecting London’s desire to attract alternative commercial relationships so it can more readily adapt to life outside the European Union.
Visiting Australia, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, Secretary Raab was well received by all – each country sensing economic opportunity to be had from his visit. Secretary Raab himself sought to play on Britain’s historical ties to these countries in order to facilitate this reconnection with them.
In his meeting with Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Tokyo, Secretary Raab emphasised the importance of Japan’s market size and its centrality in the Indo-Pacific region.
Both agreed to seek an “ambitious, high standard trade accord”, similar to Japan’s agreement with the European Union. Prior to his Japan visit, while in Australia Secretary Raab had commented that the UK was “ready to reinvigorate our ties with old friends” and called Australia “a natural partner”.
While economic connections are undoubtedly important, there was one aspect to Britain’s ‘self-liberation’ from the EU that has not come to the fore – security.
Here it is not simply about enhancing Britain’s defence export and import regime, though this will no doubt be part of reorientating the country’s overall security posture.
Creating new security relationships will strengthen Britain’s independent role in the world, without sacrificing its existing ties to either the US or NATO.
Indeed, a relationship that can be both innovative and yet complementary to these ties.
For this to occur, London has to select allies that themselves are complementary to the UK’s existing strategic role and culture. Among the countries that Secretary Raab visited, two clearly fit the bill perfectly: Australia and Japan.
Australia because of its former status as a dominion of the British Empire and Japan because of a long tradition of amity and shared values: Britain’s Royal Navy formed the template for the creation of the modern Japanese Navy during the Meiji Restoration and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902-23.
Furthermore, all three countries are island-states, dependent on the security of the seas to maintain trade. All these countries share security treaties with the US and base elements of American military power on their soil; and all three countries are in the midst of deepening their bilateral security relations to each other.
And, importantly, all three countries are strong, established democracies deeply invested in the ideas of the liberty of the individual, freedom of navigation, rules-based international order and of protecting and enhancing liberal capitalism.
In a global strategic environment where the US under President Donald Trump is demanding its allies to do more for their own defence and security and where the long-established security consensus no longer seems to fit the current environment, the Indo-Pacific is becoming a region of more acute security issues – here we argue that a ‘UK, Australia, Japan’ (UKAJ) security ‘soft alliance’ would greatly assist the US in shoring up shared strategic values and interests in the Atlantic-Indo-Pacific maritime space.
This troika’s military forces are highly interoperable, sharing a lot of American military technologies, operational doctrine and logistic supply chains. Growing bilateral security ties between Britain and Japan, Japan and Australia, and Britain and Australia make for a compelling case that these countries pool together their respective experiences, resources, and kinetic and non-kinetic capabilities.
The purpose of this new alliance structure would be essentially to work in partnership with the US and other like-minded countries in freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the Atlantic-Indo-Pacific whereby British, Australian and Japanese assets can be more properly co-ordinated, shared and deployed wherever necessary in a timely manner, and provide a positive presence in the region for humanitarian and disaster relief in the face of a global pandemic, changing climate and rising seas.
Such a structure would also enable the troika to explore new and novel ways of co-operation among themselves to create an independent strategic role, hedging against the possible increase of American global retrenchment while also pushing back against more assertive Chinese and Russian naval manoeuvres in or near critical international maritime chokepoints and areas of contention.
And, in a new strategic environment where complex ‘grey zone’ threats are increasing, a small collective where each country minds its own resource limitations, might be expected to formulate innovative approaches to common security dilemmas out of shear necessity.
All three countries in this proposed trilateral security network are currently dealing with anxieties due to old strategic certainties unravelling.
The post-war US order is no longer as strong as it once was. The biggest stakeholder, the US, is itself divided over preserving the alliance relationships as they are or redefining them, so allies are not as dependent on promises of US military support for their sovereign defence and security needs.
Australia, Britain and Japan can each wait for the axe to drop and seek out independent solutions to their defence and security requirements, costing each country billions more to shore up their independent force structures.
This is especially true during this time of COVID-19 where the primary aim should be to alleviate the suffering of those afflicted by this disease as well as to find a way to eliminate it.
Arguably, Australia has already taken a step in the direction of creating an independent solution with the release of the 2020 Defence Update that promises to modernise and expand the size of Australia’s order of battle, especially with regard to semi-autonomous vehicles, aircraft and vessels.
Or, all three countries could see the logic of deeper co-operation, which would ultimately be a lesser economic burden for all and more effective in dealing with international uncertainties and shared concerns.
The beauty of such an arrangement is that it would not necessitate a great departure from each country’s existing security postures. The UK government has already committed the Royal Navy to operations into the Indo-Pacific as part of its emergence from Brexit as ‘Global Britain’, recommitting the British armed forces to operations east of Suez.
The creation of two Royal Marine Littoral Response Groups, one focusing on the ‘High North’ Atlantic and the Mediterranean and the other in the Indo-Pacific, gives the UK more than just a token presence in either theatre. Neither of the other members of the troika would expect Japan to rescind its public policy of supporting the post-World War II Peace Constitution, since overturning it would cause all sorts of political problems in Tokyo. But recent developments in Japan’s defence policy followed by the Japan Self-Defense Forces’ (JSDF) improved and modernised force structure will allow it to co-operate more robustly with countries in the collective defence of the Japanese home islands, including the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
Over the past three decades, successive Japanese governments have quietly eroded the absolute constraints on deploying JSDF units so that Tokyo can play a more active role in resolving international crises and supporting its principal ally’s objectives.
London and Canberra would need to work within these Japanese constraints. Unencumbered by Japan’s geographically set defensive posture, however, the combined maritime forces of Britain and Australia are powerful enough to support Japanese forces in case the Japanese home islands are ever threatened.
Furthermore, and critical to this thought experiment is that Britain is a nuclear power and a member of the United Nations Security Council. British and Australian maritime forces with logistical and supply support from Japan, as well as the occasional deployment of a Japanese naval or air unit, could adequately cover many contingencies in the Indo-Pacific short of a major great power war, in which case the US (unless fully isolationist) would take the lead.
The year 2020 looks far less stable than 2019. The Indo-Pacific is at the international forefront of many critical security challenges. All Indo-Pacific states must contend with the People’s Republic – what it is currently doing to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus, how it is asserting itself in the South China Sea, how it is dealing with internal political dissent from East Turkestan to Hong Kong and how it is seeking to extend its strategic influence through commercial deals and, of course, through its Belt and Road Initiative.
All Indo-Pacific states also have to contend with the disruptions surrounding the rise of ‘America First’ and what that means for the US-led post World War II international order.
For key American allies wanting to hold on to their existing relationship to Washington, the best way can only be through adapting to the times, and, to do so collectively and semi-independently from Washington, while at the same time not hurting Washington’s interests in the region.
From a wider strategic perspective, a UKAJ alliance would see the creation of a maritime network with the following at its disposal: a combined strength of six aircraft carriers; 37 submarines (including four RN SSBNs); an estimated 79 surface combatants (including amphibious warfare, destroyers, destroyer escorts and frigates); and approximately 640 fighter planes.
Running up-gunned, sovereign national security regimes can only add to each country’s economic burden at a time when burning through national fiscal resources would be the height of folly.
And while the troika being proposed is not a ‘neat and tidy’ geographically or culturally centred grouping, meeting the criteria of ‘Asia’ or ‘Pacific’, it does meet the requirement of all being island-states and important maritime powers. In other words, a conceptualised and consequential ‘Oceanic’ grouping whose principal aim is to keep maritime-based trade free in co-operation with or independent from the direct involvement of US forces. (Source: Defence Connect)
13 Aug 20. Taiwan to boost defence spending 10% in face of China pressure. Taiwan’s defence spending next year is set to grow 10.2% compared with this year, according to Reuters calculations, as the government ramps up military investment in the face of increased pressure from China.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s Cabinet on Thursday proposed T$453.4bn (11.81bn pounds) in military spending for the year starting in January, versus T$411.3bn budgeted for this year, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics said in a statement.
China has stepped up its military activity around Taiwan, including flying fighter jets, since Tsai won re-election by a landslide in January on a platform of standing up to Beijing.
Tsai has made modernising Taiwan’s armed forces and increasing defence spending a priority.
China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, and has denounced the United States for arms sales to the island. Washington is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
Taiwan is in discussions with the United States to acquire sea mines to deter amphibious landings as well as cruise missiles for coastal defence, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to United States said on Wednesday.
Last year, the U.S. State Department approved arms sales worth US$10bn for Taiwan, including 106 M1A2 Abrams tanks and 66 F-16V fighter jets. ($1 = 29.3990 Taiwan dollars) (Source: Reuters)
12 Aug 20. Taiwan says discussing purchase of U.S. mines, cruise missiles. Taiwan is in discussions with the United States on acquiring underwater sea mines to deter amphibious landings as well as cruise missiles for coastal defense, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to United States said on Wednesday.
Speaking to the Washington’s Hudson Institute think tank, Hsiao Bi-khim said Taiwan was facing “an existential survival issue,” given China’s territorial and sovereignty claims over the island and needed to expand its asymmetric capabilities.
“What we mean by asymmetric capabilities is cost effective, but lethal enough to become deterrence – to make any consideration of an invasion very painful,” she said.
Hsiao said Taipei was currently working with the United States on acquiring a number of hardware capabilities, including cruise missiles that would work in conjunction with Taiwan’s indigenous Hsiung Feng missile system to provide better coastal defense.
Other systems under discussion included “underwater sea mines and other capabilities to deter amphibious landing, or immediate attack,” she said.
Earlier, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told the online event she had made expanding accelerating development of Taiwan’s asymmetric defense capabilities its number-one priority.
Hsiao said Taiwan also wanted to strengthen defenses on islands its controls in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
“For Taiwan, our priority in our survival involves building up the defense of Taiwan itself, but also of the islands that Taiwan currently controls in the South China Sea,” she said.
Taiwan has been bolstering its defenses in the face of what it sees as increasingly threatening moves by Beijing.
It said in May it plans to buy land-based Boeing-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles and U.S. sources said last week Washington was negotiating the sale of at least four sophisticated aerial drones to Taiwan for the first time.
Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favor of Beijing but is still Taiwan’s biggest arms supplier and is bound by law to provide it with the means to defend itself.
The Trump administration has emphasized its support for Taiwan as U.S. relations with Beijing sour over issues including human rights and trade.
This week, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar became the highest-level U.S. official to visit Taiwan in four decades, a trip condemned by China, which routinely denounces U.S. arms sales to Taipei. (Source: Reuters)
12 Aug 20. Indian MoD approves procurements worth USD1.17bn. India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has approved the procurement of indigenously developed platforms and weapon systems worth INR87.22bn (USD1.17bn) for the country’s three military services, including basic trainer aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Indian government’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) announced on 11 August that the MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which is headed by Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, agreed to acquire an initial 70 Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 (HTT-40) aircraft from public-sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) following their certification.
An additional 36 tandem-seat HTT-40s are expected to be acquired thereafter, once the IAF has operationalised the first lot of trainers. A HTT-40 prototype powered by a Honeywell TPE331-12B turboprop engine made its maiden test flight in June 2016, following a six-year delay, but the aircraft has yet to enter series production.
The HTT-40 was developed to replace the HAL-designed HPT-32 Deepak, which was grounded in July 2009 following recurring accidents. Once inducted, the HTT-40 is meant to supplement 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mk II basic trainers that have been in IAF service since 2013.
The DAC also cleared the procurement of an unspecified number of upgraded 127 mm/64 cal ‘super rapid’ guns from state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) for fitment onto Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Coast Guard (ICG) vessels.
Industry sources told Janes that the IN plans to arm an initial 13 frontline warships – including the indigenously designed and built Shivalik-class frigates and Delhi-class destroyers – with these guns.(Source: Jane’s)
10 Aug 20. Russia warns it will see any incoming missile as nuclear. Russia will perceive any ballistic missile launched at its territory as a nuclear attack that warrants a nuclear retaliation, the military warned in an article published Friday.
The harsh warning in the official military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) is directed at the United States, which has worked to develop long-range non-nuclear weapons.
The article follows the publication in June of Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy that envisages the use of atomic weapons in response to what could be a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.
Putin on Tuesday endorsed Russia’s nuclear deterrent policy, which allows him to use atomic weapons in response to a conventional strike targeting the nation’s critical government and military infrastructure.
In the Krasnaya Zvezda article, senior officers of the Russian military’s General Staff, Maj. Gen. Andrei Sterlin and Col. Alexander Khryapin, noted that there will be no way to determine if an incoming ballistic missile is fitted with a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and so the military will see it as a nuclear attack.
“Any attacking missile will be perceived as carrying a nuclear warhead,” the article said. “The information about the missile launch will be automatically relayed to the Russian military-political leadership, which will determine the scope of retaliatory action by nuclear forces depending on the evolving situation.”
The argument reflects Russia’s longtime concerns about the development of weapons that could give Washington the capability to knock out key military assets and government facilities without resorting to atomic weapons.
In line with Russian military doctrine, the new nuclear deterrent policy reaffirmed that the country could use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or an aggression involving conventional weapons that “threatens the very existence of the state.”
The policy document offered a detailed description of situations that could trigger the use of nuclear weapons, including the use of nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction against Russia or its allies.
In addition to that, the document states for the first time that Russia could use its nuclear arsenal if it receives “reliable information” about the launch of ballistic missiles targeting its territory or its allies and also in the case of “enemy impact on critically important government or military facilities of the Russian Federation, the incapacitation of which could result in the failure of retaliatory action of nuclear forces.”
U.S.-Russia relations are at post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis, the accusations of Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election and other differences.
Russian officials have cast the U.S.-led missile defense program and its plans to put weapons in orbit as a top threat, arguing that the new capability could tempt Washington to strike Russia with impunity in the hope of fending off a retaliatory strike.
The Krasnaya Zvezda article emphasized that the publication of the new nuclear deterrent policy was intended to unambiguously explain what Russia sees as aggression.
“Russia has designated the ‘red lines’ that we don’t advise anyone to cross,” it said. “If a potential adversary dares to do that, the answer will undoubtedly be devastating. The specifics of retaliatory action, such as where, when and how much will be determined by Russia’s military-political leadership depending on the situation.” (Source: Defense News)
11 Aug 20. South Korean government pivots to outline post-COVID economic plan. One of the common denominators of the post-COVID world is the disastrous economic impact. In response to these challenges, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s government has launched the ‘Korean New Deal’ to help the nation navigate the choppy waters to prosperity.
In the aftermath of the Korean War both the freshly divided North and South stood devastated by the ferocity of the fighting and the utter destruction wrought upon what little infrastructure remained standing post the brutal Japanese occupation of World War II.
While the communist North took one route and isolated itself from the world, the South approached the need for post-war reconstruction and economic growth with gusto, leveraging public policy, political commitment and direct national investment to build national resilience, sovereignty and a world leading industrial base.
This ‘combined arms’ strategy of national development post-war has seen the nation rapidly industrialise, with world leading industrial powerhouses like Hyundai and Samsung leading the path forward, driving technological innovation and millions of jobs to grow the economy and the middle class.
As a result, South Korea rapidly established itself as an indispensible US ally in the post-Second World War economic, political and strategic order and important buffer state to curtail further Soviet, Chinese or North Korean aggression in the western Pacific.
In doing so, South Korea has emerged as a credible industrial, political and military middle power in the post-Cold War era and one of the world’s rapidly developing economies and industrial powerhouses.
South Korea’s foundation of industrial and economic development, an economic concept called ‘Export Oriented Industrialisation’ (EOI), which focused upon export-led growth designed to speed up the rate of national industrialisation by focusing on the sectors in which the nation has a comparative advantage.
One thing that is often overlooked in the debates about the implementation of such a policy is the fact that prior to its implementation, Korea was still a largely agrarian society and economy, with little-to-no major modern industrialisation or manufacturing capacity, thus requiring significant government investment in education and training to establish said comparative advantage.
Despite its position as a global manufacturing hub and export oriented economy, buoyed by global supply chains and consumer demand for high-quality, low-cost goods across the developed and developing world, growing soft power influence throughout the Indo-Pacific driven by the likes of K-Pop, TV and cinema, COVID-19 has laid the nation low.
Like many of its contemporaries, including Australia and the broader developed world, COVID-19 has had a disastrous impact upon the South Korean economy as increasingly vulnerable global supply chains are threatened by nations scrambling to secure their own national interests and access to critical resources and materials.
In response, the South Korean government has moved swiftly to develop an integrated and truly national approach to securing Korea’s economic prosperity, employment opportunities, national security and competitiveness in the post-COVID economic order, with what South Korean President Moon Jae-in describes as the ‘Korean New Deal’.
A national strategy for a great transformation
As part of this national strategy, South Korean President Moon establishes rather lofty ambitions for the implementation of this Korean New Deal stating, “The Korean New Deal will set the foundation for Korea’s next 100 years.”
The new strategy identifies a number of key focuses for the structural transformation of the nation’s economy and shifting focus as the nation, like many others, including Australia seeks to navigate the “severe economic recession”, particularly as it faces two major challenges.
“In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Korean economy has encountered two major challenges: aiding recovery from a severe economic recession while addressing the structural transformation,” the Korean government’s strategy document articulates.
“The unforeseen shock of the pandemic has resulted in the worst economic downturn that the world has seen since the Great Depression. Border closures and travel restrictions have affected economies and job markets around the world, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has predicted that the income loss by the end of 2021 will exceed that of any previous recession over the last 100 years outside wartime.”
Further to this, the Korean government has recognised the following: “The unparalleled challenges of the pandemic have completely changed the world’s overall economic and social structures. In addition to the increased use of ‘untact’ services accelerating the transition towards a digital economy, there has also been a growing demand for a green economy, making it a common consensus in the international community.
“Delayed action against such structural changes, therefore, may hurt productivity and result in a lower growth path.
“Against such backdrop, the Korean New Deal was introduced as a national development strategy to support the country’s recovery from the pandemic crisis and lead the global action against structural changes. Its three main objectives are as follows:
- First: The Korean New Deal aims to minimise the economic shock by creating jobs. It creates not only government-supported jobs for low-skilled workers, but also jobs that support the structural transition towards a digital and green economy;
- Second: This strategy supports the Korean economy’s quick return to its normal growth path by building the necessary infrastructure for a digital and green economy that will restore investments and support job creation; and
- Third: It sets the groundwork for Korea not only to adapt to the structural changes but also to lead the global community in the post COVID-19 era.”
Building on these factors, the Korean New Deal focuses on three important shifts within the nation’s strategy, namely focusing on developing:
- A smart country – that is at the centre of a digital transition based on data, network and artificial intelligence (DNA) infrastructure;
- A green country – that achieves a balance among people, nature and growth through a green transition towards net-zero emissions as a responsible member of the global community; and
- A safe country – that invests in human resources for a strong employment and social safety net.
The Korean model leverages the full breadth of national power, with a growth focused design, focused on building a robust, competitive and resilient nation and economy for the next century, not one simply focused on the next election cycle as is so often the criticism of many of Australia’s political leaders.
Perhaps most promisingly, this model provides an opportunity for Australia to learn the lessons of the economic impact of COVID-19 and prepare the nation for the future in a similar way.
Industrial decline has had a dramatic impact on national security
While we are far from the end Australia’s first recession in nearly three decades, the impacts are beginning to be felt and despite the best efforts of state, territory and Commonwealth governments, it will force a major restructuring of the national economy and Australia’s relationships with both the broader global community and, more critically, its Indo-Pacific partners.
This predicament is further reinforced by a recent report conducted by the Australia Institute has revealed that the nation ranks last in manufacturing self-sufficiency among the membership of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states.
Explaining this, Tom McIlroy, writing for The Australian Financial Review, reveals some rather troubling details about the nation’s declining economic and industrial diversity and, critically, its impact upon Australia’s national security and sovereignty:
“As the COVID-19 pandemic highlights problems with global supply chains and gaps in Australia’s manufacturing capability, the report released by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work shows renewal of the sector could generate as much as $180bn in new sales, $50bn in additional GDP and more than 400,000 jobs.
“It blames failures of trade and industrial policy for undermining domestic manufacturers’ success in doing business with key global markets, producing ‘dangerously lopsided patterns’ in overseas trade.
“Manufacturing jobs make up about 6.9 per cent of Australia’s workforce, but more than 26.4 per cent of all research and development spending. Total employment in the sector has dropped by 9.6 per cent since 2010, the report shows.”
McIlroy added, “With manufacturing output worth US$270bn ($378bn), Australia ranks below all other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development economies, including countries producing more manufactured output than they consume, such as Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden and Japan.”
The growing importance of local, competitive manufacturing capabilities was further explained by author of the Australia Institute report, Dr Jim Stanford, who said, “As Australian governments and business leaders realise the importance of manufacturing in rebuilding the national economy after COVID, this research shows that Australia now has the smallest manufacturing industry relative to domestic purchases of any OECD country.”
While this economic, political and strategic turmoil is in some ways ‘unprecedented’, the favoured catchphrase of many a media personality seeking to describe anything from the bushfires that devastated swathes of the landmass, the economic impact of COVID-19 or the societal upheaval sweeping the West, Australia does its best work when its chips are down.
Follow the Korean model: Think long-term, plan, communicate, manage expectations and deliver
It is often said that much of Australia’s public policy-making decisions are based on the comparatively short election cycles across the various jurisdictions and this is a challenge faced across the democratic world – however, the grand irony is, if governments and oppositions planned for the long term they’d be more likely to be returned.
In light of this, it is time for Australia to plan for the next 15 to 20 years, not the next term of state, territory or federal government, providing policy consistency, vision for the public and surety in a period of global and regional turmoil.
This approach requires more than vanity programs, which can be best left to local government or private developers, rather it requires a strategic approach to a number of highly visible, big impact public policy areas, including:
- Infrastructure development: Addressing the critical links between hubs of economic prosperity including regional hubs and metropolitan centres – such as improved, faster and more reliable road, rail and air transport links.
- Water security: Australia is a continent of extremes, “droughts and flooding rains” yet we do little to adequately channel and store the vast quantities of water that falls – now is the opportunity to promote economic stimulus through infrastructure investment while supporting Australia’s agricultural industry and drought-proofing the continent.
- Energy and resource security: Addressing the nation’s lack of strategic resource and energy supplies has come to the fore during COVID-19, preparing the nation for such challenges whether natural or man-made should be of paramount priority – this requires less ideology and more pragmatism.
- Strategic industry development: COVID has stirred many within the Australian public to question why Australia isn’t manufacturing more of the critical – it is clear that Australia requires a concerted policy initiative in the form of a Strategic Industries Act to develop a robust, globally competitive Industry 4.0 oriented manufacturing base.
Each of these contribute to the nation’s sovereignty and security at a time when many of the principles that Australia’s post-Second World War public and strategic policy is based upon coming under threat – serving to make Australia a more reliable economic, political and strategic partner amid a period of great power competition.
Furthermore it serves to make Australia more resilient to man-made and natural shocks, resistant to coercion, economically competitive and robust at a time when the Australian public are calling for leadership, forward planning and vision. (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Aug 20. India to halt 101 military imports in push for defence self-reliance: minister. India will stop importing 101 items of military equipment in an effort to boost domestic defence production, defence minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday.
Singh said the move follows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for defence self-reliance. India is one of the world’s top arms importers.
India has accelerated military purchases in the wake of a June border clash between Indian and Chinese troops, with the government approving the purchase of 33 Russian fighter jets and upgrades to 59 other planes in July.
Tensions between India and China are at their highest in years following the clash in a disputed stretch of border in the western Himalayas in which India lost 20 soldiers.
Military experts say India is short of combat planes, helicopters and field guns because of years of low funding.
“The embargo on imports is planned to be progressively implemented between 2020 to 2024,” Singh wrote in a series of tweets.
“Our aim is to apprise the Indian defence industry about the anticipated requirements of the Armed Forces so that they are better prepared to realise the goal of indigenisation.”
India traditionally buys military equipment from Russia, but is increasingly purchasing from the United States and Israel. Modi has repeatedly called for cutting the military’s dependence of expensive imports.
Between April 2015 and August 2020, the Indian defence services had contracted around 3.5trn rupees worth of items that are now on the hold list.
The government estimates around 4 trn rupees worth of orders will now be placed with the domestic industry over the next five to seven years.
The list of embargoed items includes high technology weapon systems, artillery guns, sonar systems, transport aircrafts, light combat helicopters (LCHs), Singh said.
The defence ministry has also split the capital procurement budget for 2020/21 between domestic and foreign procurement routes, he added.
“A separate budget head has been created with an outlay of nearly 520bn rupees for domestic capital procurement in the current financial year.” (Source: Reuters)
10 Aug 20. China sends fighter jets as U.S. health chief visits Taiwan. Chinese air force jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait on Monday and were tracked by Taiwanese missiles, Taiwan’s government said, as U.S. health chief Alex Azar visited the island to offer President Donald Trump’s support.
Azar arrived in Taiwan on Sunday, the highest-level U.S. official to visit in four decades.
China, which claims the island as its own, condemned the visit which comes after a period of sharply deteriorating relations between China and the United States.
China, which had promised unspecified retaliation to the trip, flew J-11 and J-10 fighter aircraft briefly onto Taiwan’s side of the sensitive and narrow strait that separates it from its giant neighbour, at around 9 am (0100 GMT), shortly before Azar met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s air force said.
The aircraft were tracked by land-based Taiwanese anti-aircraft missiles and were “driven out” by patrolling Taiwanese aircraft, the air force said in a statement released by the defence ministry.
China’s defence ministry did not immediately comment.
A senior Taiwan official familiar with the government’s security planning told Reuters that China was obviously “targeting” Azar’s visit with a “very risky” move given the Chinese jets were in range of Taiwan’s missiles.
The incursion was only the third time since 2016 that Taiwan has said Chinese jets had crossed the strait’s median line.
The Trump administration has made strengthening its support for the democratic island a priority, amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing, and has boosted arms sales.
“It’s a true honour to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from President Trump to Taiwan,” Azar told Tsai in the Presidential Office, standing in front of two Taiwanese flags.
Washington broke off official ties with Taipei in 1979 in favour of Beijing.
Azar is visiting to strengthen economic and public-health cooperation with Taiwan and support its international role in fighting the novel coronavirus.
“Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture,” he told Tsai.
Taiwan’s early and effective steps to fight the disease have kept its case numbers far lower than those of its neighbours, with 480 infections and seven deaths. Most cases have been imported.
The United States, which has had more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country, has repeatedly clashed with China over the pandemic, accusing Beijing of lacking transparency.
Tsai told Azar his visit represented “a huge step forward in anti-pandemic collaborations between our countries”, mentioning areas of cooperation including vaccine and drug research and production.
Taiwan has been particularly grateful for U.S. support to permit its attendance at the World Health Organization’s decision-making body the World Health Assembly (WHA), and to allow it greater access to the organisation.
Taiwan is not a member of the WHO due to China’s objections. China considers Taiwan a Chinese province.
“I’d like to reiterate that political considerations should never take precedence over the rights to health. The decision to bar Taiwan from participating in the WHA is a violation of the universal rights to health,” Tsai said.
Azar later told reporters that at Trump’s direction, he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had sought to restore Taiwan’s status as an observer at the WHA.
“But the Chinese Communist Party and the World Health Organization have prevented that. This has been one of the major frustrations that the Trump administration has had with the World Health Organization and its inability to reform.” (Source: Reuters)
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