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11 Sep 20. Joint Press Statement for the 18th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue. The Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the United States (U.S.) Department of Defense (DOD) held the 18th Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) September 9-10, 2020. Due to ongoing travel restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the two sides held a robust exchange on a range of ROK-U.S. Alliance priorities via secure video teleconference. ROK Deputy Minister Chung Sukhwan and David Helvey performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Heino Klinck led their respective delegations.
The leaders underscored the importance of strengthening the combined readiness posture of the ROK-U.S. Alliance to address the current security environment on the Korean Peninsula as well as mutual regional security concerns. The two sides also committed to continue bilateral security cooperation including senior-level policy consultations, information sharing, and personnel exchanges to promote peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and throughout Northeast Asia.
Concurring on the importance of establishing stable access to training facilities and other critical sites and resources as essential to maintaining a steadfast combined defense posture, the two leaders also reviewed the progress made in the combined joint multi-purpose live firing range joint study and discussed the way ahead to ensure continued progress in advance of this fall’s Security Consultative Meeting (SCM).
Both sides also reaffirmed the common objectives of establishing permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula and the complete denuclearization of North Korea. The delegations agreed to continue close coordination on the implementation of the Armistice Agreement, Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), and other relevant agreements.
The two leaders additionally reviewed the progress made in relocating the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) headquarters and committed to expeditiously pursue the CFC HQ relocation.
The delegation heads affirmed the progress made in preparation for eventual wartime OPCON transition. They also concurred that the Combined Command Post Training (CCPT) in August was a step toward realizing the conditions necessary for FOC certification. Both sides recognized the importance of the ROK forces’ acquisition of critical military capabilities and committed to continue joint assessments through meetings of the special Permanent Military Committee (sPMC) to ensure a successful outcome. Both sides will provide a progress report on COTP requirements and discuss next steps at the SCM later this year.
The two sides celebrated the recent completion of the Comprehensive Joint Study on Extended Deterrence and discussed a range of issues to improve the Alliance’s effective deterrence against North Korean nuclear and missile threats. Moving forward, the two sides committed to enhancing the efficacy of the tailored deterrence strategy.
Both delegations noted that the KIDD reaffirmed the steadfast solidarity of the ROK-U.S. Alliance and further strengthened coordination between the respective defense authorities of the two countries. The leaders pledged to advance the aforementioned issues at the SCM in October, 2020. (Source: US DoD)
11 Sep 20. Emboldened on an international stage, Taliban set for first official talks with Afghan government.
After nearly 20 years of conflict, the Afghan government came face-to-face with Taliban leaders Saturday to begin what many expect will be intensely difficult negotiations to shape Afghanistan’s future.
The launch of direct, formal talks between the two sides began with an opening ceremony featuring Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Taliban held power over most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when the group, then closely aligned with al-Qaeda, was ousted in the U.S. invasion of the country in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. In the prolonged conflict that followed, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and more than 2,440 U.S. troops, Taliban militants have reclaimed control or influence over roughly half of Afghanistan.
That influence extends to the negotiating table, where Taliban militants won concessions in talks with the United States that culminated in a peace deal signed in February. After showing resilience on the battlefield and stubbornness in negotiations, the militants enter the landmark talks with many of their demands met in the U.S. deal and with leverage gained from relentless attacks on Afghan forces.
That leverage could prove advantageous as the two sides seek to merge their dramatically different visions of a postwar Afghanistan.
Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the Afghan government delegation, told reporters on the flight from Kabul to Doha on Friday that the talks are “a great opportunity” despite the differences between the two sides. But he warned that it would be a miscalculation “if one side thinks they have the upper hand.”
Any resolution will demand significant compromises from one or both sides. The Taliban has long been opposed to democratic elections, and its leaders have issued only vague statements on the group’s position on women’s rights. Delegates from the Afghan government side support keeping the country’s constitution intact and preserving advances in civil liberties.
The launch of negotiations was plagued by months of delays as the Afghan government pushed back against the conditions set for the talks by the U.S.-Taliban deal. That agreement charts a course for the full withdrawal of American troops, a central Taliban objective, but does not in exchange explicitly demand a reduction in violence — a key government request.
The deal also called for the release of thousands of Taliban prisoners ahead of direct talks, an issue so fraught that the final six high-value Taliban prisoners were transferred from Afghan custody just two days before the talks, despite strong objections from key American allies France and Australia.
Taliban leaders celebrated the deal as a victory, breaking out into chants of “God is great” at the signing ceremony. But many Afghan officials and civilians viewed the document as a betrayal. It contained no language ensuring Afghanistan would remain a democracy, made no mention of women’s rights or civil liberties, and called for the prisoner release before talks began, a move some viewed as ceding key government leverage.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, acknowledged that the Afghan government thinks the deal could have been negotiated differently to put Afghan leaders in a stronger position. One long-held desire of the Afghan government was to negotiate with the Taliban directly.
“But we tried that for God knows how many years,” Khalilzad said in an interview Friday. He defended the approach that he spearheaded to negotiate with the Taliban first and then “open the door” to peace negotiations between the government and the militants.
“There is now an opportunity to reach an end to the war,” he said.
Afghan and former U.S. officials say that opportunity might have existed earlier in the conflict but that years of missteps and squandered opportunities allowed the oppressive militant group to thrive.
Nearly 19 years ago, the Taliban was all but defeated as a military organization. Scattered by an intense U.S. bombing campaign, low- and mid-level fighters abandoned their posts, melting into the population, and the group’s senior leadership fell back across the border into Pakistan.
A former senior U.S. military commander previously stationed in Afghanistan said that in the years after the U.S. invasion, he had the impression that “everything was possible.”
“I’d visit these bases that didn’t have a single strand of concertina [barbed] wire around them. And we were out in these remote areas,” he said. The former commander spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing U.S. diplomatic efforts.
“It was a period of opportunity,” he said.
But that was before the Taliban regrouped.
By 2005, the Taliban was carrying out devastating attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces and the Afghan military. And in the years that followed, despite surges in the number of U.S. and coalition troops deployed to Afghanistan, the militants continued to demonstrate remarkable resilience, keeping up their recruiting despite heavy losses.
Ashley Jackson, an expert on the Taliban with the Overseas Development Institute, attributes the Taliban’s military successes to its ability to “shape shift,” adjusting to changes in U.S. military tactics and “the fact that they are able to come back from the dead so many times.”
A senior Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan said he remembered how the initial heavy waves of American airstrikes ripped through the ranks of his fighters. But he said he never feared for the future of his movement.
“Our leaders told us the enemies will come, and they will destroy some of us, but they will not destroy all of us,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Over the course of the war that would define his adult life, the commander said he saw a direct correlation between increased violence by the United States and its allies and increased support for his movement. As the United States ramped up the war against the Taliban with heavier use of airstrikes and more frequent night raids in 2009, men from his town and neighboring villages began to approach him, asking how they could help the Taliban.
“The basic thing was the cruelty of the Americans and the cruelty of the Afghan government toward civilians,” he said. “American airstrikes killed civilians, and American troops brutalized them in other ways, and it was because of this that people began supporting us.”
U.S. officials have said that they use tools to try to avoid civilian casualties when conducting airstrikes.
“We always knew that we would win either militarily, or they could come to us asking for peace,” the senior Taliban commander said.
The United States first approached Taliban leaders about peace talks in 2011, under President Barack Obama, to negotiate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country. Since then, talks were launched and collapsed several times. Coalition troop numbers have surged and waned. But public rhetoric that the war was not winnable emboldened the Taliban.
Under President Trump, who campaigned on bringing all U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, Khalilzad was appointed special representative to lead the peace effort and was granted unprecedented autonomy. He abandoned an approach used during the Obama administration that certain conditions, such as requiring the Taliban to pledge to respect the Afghan constitution, be met before talks, and he rarely briefs Congress.
A deal appeared within reach a year ago as rumors swirled about a potential gathering of all the parties. Then Trump abruptly scuttled talks, announcing on Twitter that he had canceled a planned summit between U.S., Afghan and Taliban leaders at Camp David in September 2019 because an American had been killed in Afghanistan.
All told, Khalilzad worked for over a year to reach the deal signed in February. “One shouldn’t underestimate them as negotiators, in my judgment,” Khalilzad said of the Taliban team. “Their advantage, in my view, is they are united.”
Taliban demands have remained steady. During the first meetings with U.S. officials nearly 10 years ago, the group was narrowly focused on prisoner releases, the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and gaining a substantial role in the Afghan government.
Asked what advice he would give Afghan negotiators preparing for the first round of talks this week, Khalilzad said, “They should take [the Taliban] seriously.”
Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, described the Taliban’s negotiating style more bluntly: “They’re very stubborn but also clever.” (Source: Washington Post)
12 Sep 20. Afghanistan: UK statement on historic talks.
Foreign Secretary urges parties to ‘seize opportunity’ in historic Afghan peace talks.
- Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says talks starting today could lead to “real, positive change”
- He urges Afghan leaders and the Taliban to work towards an inclusive and sustainable peace
- UK military, diplomatic and development support has improved countless lives in Afghanistan
The Foreign Secretary welcomed the start of Afghan peace talks in Doha today (Saturday 12 September) and called for both sides to seize the opportunity to end decades of conflict in Afghanistan.
The UK’s military and diplomatic efforts have been critical in supporting Afghanistan over the past 19 years, as it strives to become more stable and prosperous.
In addition, the UK’s world-leading aid expertise has helped millions of children go to school and provided life-saving food to those in need.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “Today is a moment that I hope leads to real, positive change in Afghanistan. All sides need to seize this opportunity to work towards an inclusive and sustainable peace. A comprehensive ceasefire should be agreed quickly for the sake of the Afghan people who have suffered for too long. The UK, as the third largest troop contributor to the NATO mission, plays a vital role in Afghanistan, most recently supporting the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) with training, mentoring and financial assistance.”
Over the last three years the UK has pledged up to £750m of humanitarian and development support, which has:
- Helped more than 6.4 million children attend school, including over 300,000 girls who can now go to primary school through the Girls’ Education Challenge Fund. The second phase of this programme, which launched last year, is supporting more than 70,000 marginalised girls access primary and secondary education and skills training.
- Provided life-saving assistance to hundreds of thousands of people during one of the worst droughts the country ever faced in 2018.
- Given over six million people access to electricity over the last 15 years.
Earlier this month the Foreign Secretary announced a new aid package to tackle the combined threat of coronavirus and famine in developing countries and protect the poorest people. Part of this funding will help vulnerable Afghans – who have faced shortages because of conflict, drought and the economic impacts of coronavirus – have enough money to be able to buy food for their families. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
11 Sep 20. The Maldives and U.S. Sign Defense Agreement. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Reed Werner and Maldivian Minister of Defense Mariya Didi signed the “Framework for U.S. Department of Defense-Maldives Ministry of Defence Defense and Security Relationship” in Philadelphia on September 10.
The Framework sets forth both countries’ intent to deepen engagement and cooperation in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean, and marks an important step forward in the defense partnership.
DASD Werner and Minister Didi also discussed U.S. support for the Maldives’ response to COVID-19 and areas for future cooperation, and agreed to work toward scheduling the first Defense and Security Dialogue. Both sides reiterated their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that promotes the security and prosperity of all nations in the region. (Source: US DoD)
11 Sep 20. Abe plan for land-attack counterpunch could mark major military shift for Japan. Months before he announced his resignation, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set in motion a policy change that could for the first time allow Japan’s military to plan for strikes on land targets in China and other parts of Asia. Japan’s Self Defence Forces are geared toward stopping attackers in the air and the sea. The policy change would direct the military to create a doctrine for targeting enemy sites on land – a mission that would require the purchase of long-range weapons such as cruise missiles.
If adopted by the next government, the policy would mark one of the most significant shifts in Japan’s military stance since the end of World War Two. It reflects Abe’s longstanding push for a more robust military and Tokyo’s deepening concern about Chinese influence in the region.
The Japanese government is worried by China’s increased military activity around disputed East China Sea islets.
“The main reason for our action is China. We haven’t really emphasised that too much, but the security choices we make are because of China,” Masahisa Sato, a lawmaker from Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party who has served as a deputy defence minister and a deputy foreign minister, said in an interview.
Japan renounced its right to wage war after World War Two, making the issue of striking targets on land – which would entail attacks on foreign soil – contentious for its Asian neighbours, particularly China.
Abe said last month he was stepping down because of worsening health. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is seen as less hawkish than Abe but is closely aligned with him, is expected to win the race to replace him as party leader and become premier.
Abe instructed senior defence policymakers in June to come up with LDP proposals for the military that included a land-attack, or strike, doctrine.
That proposal will become government policy if it is included in a revised national defence strategy, which appears likely, according to two insiders, including LDP acting Secretary General Tomomi Inada.
“I don’t think there is much opposition to it in the LDP,” Inada told Reuters. “That direction doesn’t change even with a new prime minister.”
The military can already use long-range missiles to strike ships. It considers such plans justified because it needs to be able to destroy weapons threatening Japan. The land-attack proposal is framed using the same reasoning, according to former defence minister Itsunori Onodera.
Therefore, proponents say, Japan’s laws will not need to change. During his eight years in office, Abe pushed for but failed to achieve his goal of revising the post-war constitution’s pacifist Article 9.
Japan’s National Security Council, which Abe leads and includes key cabinet officials, including Suga, convened on Friday and said in a statement it would formulate a new national security strategy by the end of the year.
“There is a question of whether intercepting attacks alone is sufficient to protect peace, lives and people’s livelihoods,” it said in the statement.
U.S.-made BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles would be an option for land-attack weapons, said Katsutoshi Kawano, who until last year was Japan’s most senior military officer, the Chairman of Self Defense Forces Chief of Staffs.
Tomahawks can hit targets 2,500 kilometres (1,553 miles) away. That would put most of China and much of the Russian Far East within range.
“Japan could probably have strike capability within five years,” Kawano said. “A full strike package including targeting satellites and electronic warfare components would, however, be far more expensive and take more than 10 years to acquire.”
In the meantime, Japan would have to rely on the United States for intelligence and surveillance.
To move the proposal forward, the next government will need to complete a midterm procurement plan as well as the revised defence strategy promised by the NSC by the end of December, before the defence ministry submits its annual budget request.
That could meet resistance from the LDP’s coalition partner, the Buddhist-backed Komeito, which worries such a move would antagonise China and threaten Japan’s war-renouncing constitution.
“It could spark an arms race and raise tension. It would be technically difficult and would require huge investment,” Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi said in an interview. “This is something that has to be thought seriously about under the new Prime Minister.”
Even some LDP’s security hawks, including one of Suga’s leadership rivals, former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, see a potential downside to acquiring long-range cruise missiles.
“What happens if the United States asks Japan to fire them, and we don’t want to?” he asked. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Reuters)
10 Sep 20. US unleashes drone armada to confront China. The US navy is planning to run its first unmanned war games in the Pacific next year, using warships without crews along with underwater drones and pilotless aircraft.
The operation is the latest manifestation of concerns in the Pentagon about China’s ability to threaten America’s carrier strike forces in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing’s navy has long-range anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, developed specifically to keep US warships out of the region.
An unmanned battle line-up will not replace the firepower of the carriers. However, the exercise by the US navy’s Pacific Fleet is aimed at discovering the right mix of manned and unmanned weapon systems to confront China in any future regional conflict.
The unmanned systems on the surface, underwater and in the air will come under a command-and-control network operated from crewed warships and land bases in the region.
A range of different weapon systems are likely to be involved, including the Sea Hunter, a 132ft autonomous anti-submarine vessel. It can patrol for months at a fraction of the cost of a manned surface ship. The Sea Hunter, which has a trimaran design, is the largest uncrewed ship in the world and was developed at a cost of just $20m.
Other likely participants in the exercise will be the Unmanned Undersea Vehicles Squadron One which operates drones to gather intelligence on enemy ships and submarines and to clear mines. The US navy already has a number of unmanned aircraft and helicopters, such as the MQ-25 Stingray, an aerial refuelling drone, the MQ-8C Fire Scout, a helicopter, and the MQ-4C Triton, a long-range signals intelligence drone. All could be tested in the Pacific war game.
A Triton, which is a derivative of the US air force’s high-altitude Global Hawk drone, landed at the American base at Andersen on the Pacific island of Guam in April.
“We’re shooting for early 2021 to be able to run a fleet battle problem [the US navy term for naval exercises] that is centred on unmanned,” Rear Admiral Robert Gaucher, director of maritime headquarters at US Pacific Fleet, told a virtual international conference on unmanned systems.
“It will be on the sea, above the sea and under the sea. I want to create dilemmas for the adversary and I want to increase lethality. I want to be able to put an unmanned surface ship inside the adversary’s denied areas.”
He added: “If I lose it I’m losing a much less expensive ship and I’m not losing American lives. But I’m still creating a problem, whether I’m making them shoot it and I’m finding out where they are, or I’m making them waste a weapon on it or I’m getting a couple of shots off before I lose it.”
The US navy is spending billions of dollars on unmanned systems and recently awarded contracts for the development of ten large crewless surface vessels over the next five years. (Source: The Times)
11 Sep 20. UK Defence Secretary announces investment in strategic Omani port. The Defence Secretary has announced a further £23.8m investment in the UK logistics hub at Duqm port, as part of a visit to Oman and Qatar to discuss shared security challenges and future collaboration. The investment in the Omani port will triple the size of the existing UK base and help facilitate Royal Navy deployments to the Indian Ocean. It also has a dry dock facility which could support the UK’s two aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The port was used in 2018 for Exercise Saif Sareea 3 and the expansion will further support British Army training in Oman. On the Qatar leg of the visit the Defence Secretary offered support to the Football World Cup in 2022, with the UK ready to provide advice and guidance needed to deliver a safe and successful event.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The long standing friendships between the UK and the Gulf states are more important than ever. With shared defence and security interests, it is vital we work together for both regional and global stability. Our trade links are just as strong, too – from cotton to aerospace. Whether tackling Daesh, or making our streets in the UK safer thanks to our intelligence networks, these are hugely valuable relationships that I am pleased to be able to renew this week.”
The UK and many of the Gulf states work closely together on counter-terrorism, sharing information and resources to tackle violent extremism. Oman and Qatar and are all members of the Global Coalition against Daesh alongside the UK, where they work together to combat the violent ideology and network of terrorist fighters.
The Defence Secretary was able to see this first-hand when he visited the Combined Air Operations Centre in Qatar where strikes are coordinated from as part of Operation Shader, the name for the UK’s military contribution to the Global Coalition.
The importance of the Gulf region to global security was also demonstrated last year when the Royal Navy helped to protect freedom of navigation by escorting cargo vessels through the Straits of Hormuz, a vital shipping channel for international trading.
The details of two strikes by RAF Reaper unmanned aircraft against Daesh have also been released today by the Ministry of Defence that were co-ordinated by the RAF’s No.83 Expeditionary Air Group in Al Udeid, Qatar. (Source: U.K. MoD)
10 Sep 20. Houthi Drones, Missiles Strike Saudi Capital; Iran Eyes Israelis In UAE. A delegation of Israeli and Emirati intelligence officers arrived and examined locations for establishing planned intelligence bases on Socotra Island, designed to collect intelligence across the region, particularly from Bab Al-Mandab and south of Yemen, along with the Gulf of Eden and the Horn of Africa.
Iran, expecting creation of an Israeli “outpost” in the UAE as part of the normalization agreement, has threatened the US and Israel if that happens. Israeli officials refuse to speak openly about the plan but it can be understood that the normalization agreement will have some major strategic benefit for Israel.
Israeli officers have reportedly already visited the planned location for this base. One such report was published in JForum, the official site of the Jewish and French-speaking community. Israel and the UAE have already undertaken steps to install a base on Socotra Island, strategically located in the Arabian Sea some 350 kilometers south of Yemen, which is controlled by the UAE. A delegation of Israeli and Emirati intelligence officers arrived and examined locations for establishing planned intelligence bases designed to collect intelligence across the region, particularly from Bab Al-Mandab and south of Yemen, along with the Gulf of Eden and the Horn of Africa.
Yoni Ben Menahem, a Middle East expert in Jerusalem, says “the Iranians may try to harm the new relations between the UAE and Israel by attacking Israeli targets in the Emirates.”
The first strikes against Arab states receptive to relations with Israel may have begun already. Iran’s proxy force, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, attacked targets in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital, yesterday. They used armed drones and the Zulfiqar short-range ballistic missile, a variant of the Fateh-110 family. The solid-fueled missile has a range of 700km and carries a cluster munition warhead. Such an attack on the Saudi capital is very rare.
On top of such attacks, Iran plans to increase its military hardware export in October when the embargo ends and they will be able to buy parts for their locally made weapons systems.
Israeli experts down play the Iranian threats. Amos Gilead, former head of the Military Intelligence Research Division, told BD that the Iranians are “vicious but smart” and that will restrain them from acting against U.S interests: “The best proof is that the maritime activity in the Gulf has not been disturbed to the Iranians.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
10 Sep 20. China’s Africa Investments Could Benefit All if International Rules Are Obeyed. Recently, during a closed-discussion facilitated by the African Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C, U.S. defense officials joined African, European and U.S. scholars to discuss China’s involvement in the world’s second-largest continent. One takeaway was that China’s investments and involvement there can be beneficial and welcome — so long as China plays by established global norms.
“The expectation is that China will be in Africa for a long time — and that’s OK,” said Chad L. Sbragia, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China. But, Sbragia explained, the U.S. and African partners want China to conduct itself fairly.
“The expectations are that when the United States or China engages in Africa, it’s done so in accordance with the practices that we all hold, including African nations, most dearly,” Sbragia said. “That’s with transparency and an understanding of meeting international standards.”
Transparency, Sbragia said, means being open and honest about how and why activities are being conducted and also fully publicizing what’s being done.
“There’s a lot of issues that revolve around debt, loan transfers, investments that are made, monies that are paid out,” he said. “Those should all be done in the most illuminated way possible.”
That straightforward approach, Sbragia said, is something the U.S. brings to the table during its negotiations with partners, both in Africa and elsewhere.
“That’s part of what I think our greatest contribution is from the United States, is to showcase and help underscore the best practices of the international system,” Sbragia said. “We help screen foreign investments, ensure that all those are done with high quality, that they’ll support long-term development in support of Africans’ interests and don’t undermine the sovereignty of those nations or the global system that we are all stakeholders in.”
Ronald W. Meyers, acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, added that African nations face an array of challenges, so it should not be surprising that they are seeking to diversify their partnerships. “On the security front, they want partnerships to address local concerns over insecurity from violent extremist organizations (VEOs) and foreign intrusion into sovereign spaces, such as in the maritime space, among other priorities,” Meyers said. “These are areas where we share common concerns, already work closely together, and have a vested interest in seeing international rules obeyed.” The Department’s security cooperation efforts are one way we advance mutual interests.
“U.S. Africa Command oversees many of these efforts for the Department under the valuable stewardship of General Stephen Townsend and his team” Meyers noted. The United States offers its partners in Africa quality training and equipment, with an emphasis on support that increases the accountability and resiliency of African defense institutions. U.S. assistance works towards long-term stability — as our training is often multi-year and requires consistent U.S. investment – a reflection of the U.S. enduring commitment to our partners, Meyers explained.
Meyers stated the U.S. has mutually-beneficial partnerships on the continent today and, in some cases, those relationships date back more than 60 years. “African nations are global security exporters,” he said. “They are the biggest contributor to peacekeeping missions in the world. They are trying to do things their way. And they’re committing their own personnel to address our shared mutual interests.”
African nations play an important role in international politics and in the global economy. With a booming youth population, rapidly expanding markets, and occupying the biggest United Nations voting bloc, many experts predict that African voices will only grow louder going forward — and the U.S. is ready to listen. Meyers said, “We want to work more with African nations on issues relating to global security. We want to know how we can better work together to jointly see stability not just in Africa. We have a lot to learn from each other.”
With 54 nations on the African continent, there are opportunities to strengthen and grow U.S. security partnerships there, said the acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, James H. Anderson, who’s also Sbragia and Meyers’ boss.
“As China makes potential useful contributions in peacekeeping and anti-piracy, it is important that we look closely to understand which contributions truly advance African interests, and which mask harmful intentions,” said Anderson.
“China has expanded its global military presence as a means of protecting investments and exerting economic leverage over host countries. Notably, China is seeking to build overseas logistics and basing infrastructure beyond the People”s Liberation Army (PLA) base it established in Djibouti in 2017,” Anderson elaborated.
Both Meyers and Sbragia say that African partners have said they don’t want to have to choose between the U.S. and China – but they have already made a choice about the world they want to be a part of.
“You hear this from some countries, not just in Africa, which is, don’t make us [choose] choice between China or the United States,” Sbragia said. “But when they talk about the choices they have already made, it’s clear they support the same type of system the U.S. advocates for — a system built on good governance. We all have a stake in the system the way it is, not in the one that the Chinese are trying to impose upon us.” (Source: US DoD)
10 Sep 20. Chinese Navy flexes muscles with dual carrier operations. With global tensions rising and the war of words between Beijing and Washington escalating, the rising power has sought to flex its growing military capabilities, conducting joint carrier operations for the first time in a direct challenge to the US Navy.
For the first time in nearly a century, two great powers stare across the vast expanse of the Pacific, the incumbent heavyweight champion – the US, tired and battle-weary from decades of conflict in the Middle East – is being circled by the upstart – China, seeking to shake off the last vestiges of the ‘Century of humiliation’ and ascend to its position as a world leader.
In the Indian Ocean, these two titans continue to jockey for access and primacy over some of the most lucrative sea lines of communication (SLOC) and access to critical markets, strategic resources and of course prestige amid the slowly developing Cold War 2.0 transforming the global and regional balance of power and competition.
By far the most contentious flash point is the heavily travelled South China Sea and the massive land reclamation efforts Beijing has initiated over the past decade to expand its territorial claims and access to resources in the strategically vital SLOC.
Dominating and controlling foreign access to the South China Sea, through which approximately US$5trn worth of maritime trade passes annually, serves as a potent strategic deterrent to potential adversaries and a major extension of their already formidable anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) system as a buffer for expanding China’s designs for south-east Asia.
As part of this, Beijing has launched the growing deployment of force projection capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) and the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in particular have prompted increased concern from established regional powers, including Japan, Korea and Australia.
Additionally, smaller regional nations with competing territorial claims and ancient fears of Chinese expansion, namely Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, have all raised growing concerns about China’s militarisation and reclamation programs in the South China Sea.
Today, the way in which the US and its Western allies conduct warfare is the distillation of almost 500 years of perfecting the art of war, as if guided by a myriad of ancient war gods, the skill at arms and perfect synthesis of technology, manpower, administrative and command and control efforts have made them peerless, but is that all about to end as our own hubris leaves us vulnerable to an ancient power?
Beijing has watched and learned closely over the past three decades, focused on not only countering the core capabilities that have served as strategic force mulitpliers for the US and its allies, but also emulating them, with as Mao would describe “Chinese Characteristics” – first and foremost is the power projection capabilities of aircraft carriers and their supporting strike groups.
The primary driving force behind this pursuit is the Taiwan Strait crisis in the mid-1990s, which saw the US deploy two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait as a potent reminder of its capacity to enforce its will around the world, without peer. Learning from this humiliation, Beijing is now beginning to flex its muscles and return the favour, deploying two aircraft carriers for the first time.
A sign of the times
Beijing’s pursuit of a credible aircraft carrier capability has been a decades-long endeavour, with various triggers since the end of the Cold War adding further fuel to the fire, and the ever present notion of national prestige playing an equally critical role.
The rising superpower’s inability to respond to the US deployment during the 1995-96 crisis demonstrated the nation’s need for a credible aircraft carrier force – to this end, in recent days the PLAN deployed the Liaoning and its first domestically-built carrier Shandong for carrier operations in the Bohai and Yellow Seas.
A Chinese naval expert recently told the state-run Global Times newspaper, “China’s two carriers will become key forces at a time when China has been facing military pressure from countries like the US in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, and potentially from India on China’s key maritime transport lanes.”
Beijing’s growing tensions with both the US and its allies, including Australia, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mounting war of words and attempted economic coercion all served to enhance the symbolism of the historic deployment.
Recognising China’s growing willingness to directly coerce and flex its muscles, retired US Navy Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt recently shed light on the growing capabilities of the Chinese Navy as the naval arms race between the world’s pre-eminent superpower – the US – and China’s rising position continues to gather pace.
McDevitt’s analysis for the US Naval Institute, China’s Navy will be the World’s largest in 2035, paints a startling picture for both the US and key allies like Australia, which will be increasingly called upon to supplement the US Navy as it seeks to maintain the post-Second World War regional and global order, stating:
“He [President Xi Jinping] wants the naval modernisation associated with becoming world-class ‘to be largely completed by 2035’, just 15 years away. China has yet to publish its intended navy force structure objective, which remains a state secret,” McDevitt explained.
“To speculate on what the PLAN will look like in 15 years, a good starting point is to assess what it has done in the past 15 years. In this short decade and a half, China launched and/or commissioned 131 blue-water capable ships and built approximately 144 other warships destined for operations only in China’s near seas, for a grand total of approximately 275 new warships.
“During several of these years China’s most modern shipyards were not yet in full production, so it is not unreasonable to forecast that over the next 15 years it could commission or launch 140 more blue-water ships to grow its far-seas capacity and to replace some of today’s blue water ships that were commissioned between 2005 and 2010. In sum, I predict the PLAN’s blue water capable ships in 2035 will number around 270 warships.”
Focusing the modernisation on countering Western strengths
As previously mentioned, the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been focused on countering and emulating the US model, something Chinese military expert Harry Kazianis explained: “China has studied with great interest the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Balkans over the last two decades as well as Beijing’s own clashes with Washington (namely the 1995-1996 Taiwan crisis and 2001 Hainan Island controversy).”
Expanding on this, Kazianis explained the Taiwan focus of the Chinese military modernisation, adding that the driving force is “to raise the cost of [US] entry into a conflict in places like the South China or East China Seas as well as near and around Taiwan. To deter America just as much as win if a kinetic conflict ever occurred”.
This dual-carrier deployment comes following a series of complex and high-intensity combat scenarios designed to prepare the PLAN to counter a peer competitor threat attempting to intervene in the “re-unification” of Taiwan.
In particular, there was a series of training scenarios, which the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has identified the increased assertiveness of the PLA during these troubling times, with the SCMP stating, “The People’s Liberation Army has resumed regular military drills at home and overseas, moves that military experts say are a show of strength and control over the COVID-19 outbreak.
“On Saturday, one of the large-scale drills resumed. A six-ship flotilla, led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier, sailed through the Miyako Strait – just 330 kilometres (205 miles) due east of the northernmost tip of Taiwan – on its way to the western Pacific.”
Beijing’s defiance despite increasing global pressure in the ensuing fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have fallen on deaf ears in Beijing, with Chinese Navy spokesperson saying, “In the future, the Chinese Navy will continue to organise similar training schedules to accelerate and improve the combat capability of its aircraft carrier strike groups.”
The reappearance of Liaoning is the first since the US Navy’s four Pacific-based aircraft carriers have been caught amid a combination of COVID-19 lockdowns, scheduled maintenance and the like marking a major escalation in the great power competition between Washington and Beijing.
This is articulated by the SCMP, which spoke to two China-specialists, Hong Kong-based military analyst Song Zhongping and Beijing-based military expert Zhou Chenming, who state “that the COVID-19 pandemic had hit the US Navy and left a power vacuum in the region but that the PLA would not use the chance to attack Taiwan”. (Source: Defence Connect)
09 Sep 20. Pakistan outlines plans to revive defence industrial base. Pakistan is planning several new initiatives to reinvigorate the country’s military-industrial complex, which is likely to have suffered due to the impact of Covid-19.
The country’s Ministry of Defence Production (MoDP) said in a report in August 2020 that it is planning new policies for defence production and defence offsets, and also restructuring internally to “make it more efficient and viable”. It is seeking to enhance the role of the country’s private sector in defence manufacturing.
The ministry said it is also reorganising Pakistan’s most prominent state-owned defence enterprises to give them greater independent control.
The MoDP said in its newly published ‘Two years performance report’ that in line with government targets it is committed to supporting the development of an “internationally competitive defence production sector”.
This move is prompted by growing requirements to locally source the capability needs of the Pakistan Armed Forces, to reduce foreign reliance, generate revenues, and increase job opportunities, it said. All these requirements are likely to have intensified during the Covid-19 crisis.
Pakistan’s new defence production policy is currently in draft form and is expected to be issued soon with the aim of outlining manufacturing capabilities and targets, according to the report. The offset policy is also in draft form, it said, and has been issued to MoDP stakeholders for input.
The offset policy is likely to be a second version. The MoDP issued in late 2014 the country’s initial defence offset policy. The policy is promulgated by Pakistan’s defence procurement agency, the Directorate General Defence Purchase (DGDP), which operates as a department of the MoDP. (Source: Jane’s)
08 Sep 20. Extending the New START nuclear pact will help stabilize US-Russia relations. There aren’t many bright spots in U.S.-Russia relations these days. But just as arms control negotiations had a stabilizing impact on the geopolitical rivalry between Washington and Moscow during the Cold War period, strategic stability talks today could help arrest the yearslong degradation in this critical, bilateral relationship.
Last month, U.S. and Russian national security officials met in Vienna for follow-up discussions on nuclear doctrine, transparency and verification. Moscow describes previous talks in July as “professional,” a word you don’t usually hear expressed by the Kremlin.
The dialogue comes at an especially tense time in the broader U.S.-Russia relationship, with the trust deficit the highest it has been since the early 1980s. Weeks ago, U.S. and Russian ground forces engaged in an altercation in northeast Syria. U.S. and Russian pilots continue to intercept one another from the Black Sea and Mediterranean to airspace off the Alaskan coast.
Fortunately, there is still time for both nuclear superpowers to reintroduce some guardrails in their relationship. However, none of this is likely if the Trump administration continues to tie the extension of the New START accord to a more ambitious and unrealistic arms control agreement between Washington and Moscow. And it will be impossible if Washington insists on China’s participation.
With the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty dead and buried, and the Open Skies Treaty on life support (Washington signaled its intent to withdraw from Open Skies in May after months of internal debate), the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is the only mechanism keeping the world’s two largest nuclear powers from expanding their arsenals. The Russians are on record supporting an extension of the agreement for an additional five years, and it is not hard to see why.
New START caps the number of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550, and limits the number of deployed nuclear-capable bombers and land-based and submarine-launched missiles to 700 apiece.
Just as important, the accord also provides the U.S. and Russia with significant access and information about one another’s strategic arsenals, a transparency that enhances each nation’s confidence about compliance.
With a COVID-19 pandemic affecting the lives of tens of millions of people worldwide and the global economy suffering its most serious shock in over a decade, the last thing the world needs is a new arms race between two powers that already possess over 90 percent of the global nuclear stockpile. This, however, is precisely what the result could be if the Trump administration continues to hold out and waste time.
There are two main problems with the administration’s current approach.
The first is practical: There is simply not enough time to negotiate a new strategic stability agreement — trilateral or otherwise — before New START expires in February 2021. To believe U.S. negotiators could entice a reluctant China to the table and negotiate the highly complicated military technicalities associated with nuclear transparency and verification as well as dispute resolution mechanisms in six months is to believe the impossible can happen. It took Washington and Moscow nearly three years and more than a few headaches before U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev signed the IMF Treaty — an accord that consisted of only one class of missiles. The probability of negotiating a nuclear agreement that includes more weapons systems, more participants and more stringent verification protocols in less than one-fifth of the time is about as great as winning the Powerball jackpot.
The second is China. Over the past year, Chinese officials have been persistent in their opposition to a trilateral U.S.-Russia-China arms control accord and have described it as a transparent bid to kill New START. This is anything but a surprise; with a nuclear arsenal one-twentieth the size of Washington’s and one-twenty-second the size of Moscow’s, it makes absolutely no sense for Beijing to join such a negotiation. The nuclear disparity is too lopsided for China to even consider putting its own stockpile on the table.
The longer Washington persists with this delusional negotiating position, the more unnecessary risk it is choosing to accept.
There is no question China is a rising power, seeking to enlarge the quantity of its arsenal and modernize the quality of its nuclear deterrent. The U.S. Defense Department’s projection that Beijing will double its nuclear arsenal in the next decade could very well come to pass. It is also an indisputable fact that Russia is continuing to diversify its own nuclear capability and relying on its missile program to an even greater degree for external defense. All of these difficult issues will eventually need to be addressed in what will inevitably be long, arduous, extremely frustrating diplomacy.
The job, however, would be infinitely more complicated if Washington allowed the last remaining nuclear accord between the U.S. and Russia to wither on the vine.
A straightforward, unconditional extension of New START won’t please everyone — particularly those who hope to establish a new arms control system that accounts for the 21st century weapons platforms and technology. But it’s likely the best outcome the U.S. could expect in the short term.
Saving New START from expiring would add time to the clock, preserve a portion of an otherwise decaying strategic stability regime, and help Washington and Moscow put the brakes on a struggling bilateral relationship before it falls over the cliff. (Source: Defense News)
05 Sep 20. Images suggest North Korea may be preparing launch of submarine missile -think tank. Satellite imagery of a North Korean shipyard on Friday shows activity suggestive of preparations for a test of a medium-range submarine-launched ballistic missile, a U.S. think tank reported on Friday.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said the images it published on its website of North Korea’s Sinpo shipyard showed several vessels within a secure boat basin, one of which resembled vessels previously used to tow a submersible test stand barge out to sea.
It said the activity was “suggestive, but not conclusive, of preparations for an upcoming test of a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile from the submersible test stand barge.”
North Korea said last October it had successfully test-fired a Pukguksong-3, a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), from the sea as part of efforts to contain external threats and bolster self-defense.
That launch was seen by analysts as the most provocative by North Korea since it entered dialogue with the United States over its nuclear weapons and missile programs in 2018.
North Korea has suspended long-range missile and nuclear tests since 2017, but efforts led by U.S. President Donald Trump to persuade it to give up its nuclear and missile programs have achieved little.
Trump is seeking reelection in November and a North Korean missile test before that would highlight the lack of progress despite Trump’s unprecedented meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department or the Pentagon on the CSIS report.
At news conference earlier on Friday, Trump hailed his relationship with North Korea, saying that when he was elected people had predicted he would be at war with the country within a week.
“In the meantime, we’ve gotten along with them. We didn’t get to war,” he said.
Trump has held up the absence of intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear tests by North Korea since 2017 as a success from his diplomacy and has sought to play down numerous shorter-range tests in the period.
“North Korea already tested a PKS-3 SLBM last October. And it didn’t cross Trump’s redline then, and is unlikely to this time. Trump won’t care,” Vipin Narang, a non-proliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote on Twitter.
South Korea’s military said the Pukguksong-3 tested last year flew 450 km (280 miles) and reached an altitude of 910 km (565 miles) and would have had a range of about 1,300 km (800 miles) on a standard trajectory.
News of the activity at Sinpo comes amid signs that North Korea may be preparing for a major military parade in October, which some analysts believe could be used to show off new missiles as the country has done at such events in the past. (Source: Reuters)
04 Sep 20. Indonesian defence minister proposes to receive USD20bn in foreign credit for 2020–24. Indonesia’s Minister of Defence, Prabowo Subianto, has forwarded a proposal for the country to receive up to USD20bn in defence-related foreign credit and assistance schemes for the period spanning 2020–24.
The proposal was sent to the Indonesian Minister of National Development Planning, and Head of the National Development Planning Agency, Suharso Monoarfa, on 13 July 2020. A copy of the letter was received by Janes in early September 2020.
The foreign credit and assistance schemes will be used to fund acquisition programmes for all three branches of the Indonesian Armed Forces between 2020–24, the defence minister indicated.
Among possible big-ticket acquisitions that may be funded with the foreign credit include 24 Lockheed Martin F-16V fighter aircraft and two follow-on warships to the Indonesian Navy’s (Tentara Nasional Indonesia – Angkatan Laut: TNI-AL) Martadinata (SIGMA 10514)-class frigates.
The request was made against the backdrop of a nearly IDR9trn (USD588m) cut to the country’s defence budget for 2020. The reduction has been made partly in response to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, which has severely damaged the country’s economy. (Source: Jane’s)
03 Sep 20. Lockheed Martin looks to expand partnerships in Australia and New Zealand. Lockheed Martin is looking to expand its engagement with businesses in Australia and New Zealand through a recent series of ‘online sessions’ aimed at supporting the Australian Defence Force (ADF), the company said on 3 September.
Lockheed Martin Australia said that the engagement with local companies will be focused on “development and collaboration opportunities [on] next-generation technologies across defence multi-domains”.
It added that the online sessions covered capability themes including integrated air and missile defence, battle management systems, strike weapons, precision fires, and close combat systems and sensors. About 230 attendees from local industry attended the sessions, it said.
Major Australian defence programmes that Lockheed Martin is involved in include the production and support of F-35 fighter aircraft; the development and integration of combat systems onboard Australia’s next-generation Attack-class submarines; and support for MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multirole naval helicopters, C-130J Hercules transport aircraft, and P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.
The company is also supplying Australia with AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs), providing training services for pilots through the Air 5428 programme, and is bidding for Australia’s Air 6500 ‘joint air battle management system’ programme.
The latter of these projects was the focus of a series of work packages recently published by Lockheed Martin on the Industry Capability Network (ICN) portal, an Australian business networking facility supported by the government. (Source: glstrade.com/Jane’s)
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