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23 Oct 20. Alliance United in Afghanistan Strategy. “In together, out together” was the mantra NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg used in discussing troop levels in Afghanistan at the conclusion of the virtual meeting of defense ministers today.
Inter-Afghan peace negotiations have begun and the next months in the nation are crucial, he said. The negotiations between the Afghan government and Taliban are fragile, “but they are best chance for peace in a generation,” Stoltenberg said. “All Afghans should seize this historic opportunity.”
NATO backs the peace process, and the reduction of NATO and partner forces in the country proves that point. The secretary general noted that just a few years ago, the alliance commanded more than 100,000 troops engaged in combat operations. “Now, we have reduced our presence to under 12,000,” he said. “We decided to go into Afghanistan together; we will make decisions about future adjustments together; and we will leave together when the time is right.”
Stoltenberg reiterated what has to happen in Afghanistan for peace. “The Taliban must reduce the unacceptable levels of violence to pave the way for a ceasefire,” he said. They must break all ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups so that Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for terrorist attacks on our countries.”
The gains made in the country since 2001 must endure, not least for women and girls, so that peace benefits every Afghan and is sustainable in the long term, he said.
In the question-and-answer section of the virtual news conference, Stoltenberg said any withdrawals will be conditions-based.
This was Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper’s sixth NATO Defense Ministerial.
During the meeting, Esper discussed challenges posed by increased Russian aggression, including concerns over their growing missile capabilities, according to a Pentagon readout of the secretary’s remarks yesterday. He also addressed the risks of depending on China for technology and critical infrastructure as they continue to undermine the international global order.
Esper reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to and confidence in the NATO alliance to confront the security challenges of the 21st century. (Source: US DoD)
23 Oct 20. Israel will not oppose U.S. sale of F-35 to UAE. Israel said on Friday it will not oppose U.S. sales of “specific weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates, in an apparent reference to the F-35 warplanes sought by Abu Dhabi.
Under a principle of preserving Israel’s “qualitative military edge”, the United States consults with it on proposed sales of advanced arms to other countries in the region.
Israel has reiterated a need to maintain its military superiority even since forging official ties with the UAE and its fellow Gulf Arab state Bahrain under deals brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump last month.
Washington agreed to consider allowing the UAE to buy F-35 stealth jets in a side deal to a normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz reached agreements in Washington this week with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a joint statement, said would significantly upgrade Israel’s military capabilities.
“Since the U.S. is upgrading Israel’s military capability and is maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, Israel will not oppose the sale of these systems to the UAE,” they said.
The statement from Israel – which uses the F-35 – did not mention the jet explicitly.
Asked about potential F-35 sales to the UAE, Trump said the “process is moving along”.
“We’ve never had a dispute with UAE; they’ve always been on our side. And that process is moving along — I think hopefully rapidly,” Trump said. He was speaking in the White House Oval Office after announcing that Sudan would be the next country in the region to forge ties with Israel.
The removal of Israeli opposition clears one important hurdle to U.S. congressional approval of F-35 sales to the UAE.U.S. lawmakers have tried to rein in the Trump administration’s plans for arms sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia over concerns over their involvement in the war in Yemen.
Israel enjoys broad support in Congress and if it opposed the deals it would be nearly impossible for them to advance.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticised the UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review and block weapons sales.
Past measures to block arms sales passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, but failed to get enough Republican backing to override Trump’s vetoes. (Source: Reuters)
24 Oct 20. Indian Air Force Bound To Reject Gripen Fighter Jets After SAAB’ Secretive Military Deal With Pakistan?
Having been ruled out of the race for Indian Air Force’s (IAF) procurement of modern fighters for their depleted squadrons under the first Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA 1.0) competition, Swedish aerospace and defence company Saab, has repeatedly pitched its Gripen jets to New Delhi.
The aerospace giants, who are based out of Stockholm in Sweden, are one of the frontrunners for the MMRCA 2.0 to cater to IAF’s need for an additional 114 fighters, having offered the Gripen E jets to provide an extra attacking impetus against the likes of China and Pakistan.
However, with reports of potential collaboration in jeopardy due to supply chain problems in the production of the fighters, there were reports that the Swedish corporation had also offered a lucrative deal for its Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to India’s fiercest rivals, Pakistan.
AWACS, also known as “Eye in the Sky”, are key systems of modern warfare as they can detect and track incoming fighters, cruise missiles and drones much before ground-based radars and direct friendly fighters during air combat with enemy jets. They also keep tabs on enemy troop build-ups and movement of warships.
According to a statement released by the company, it had secured a deal worth $165m to supply an undisclosed number of Saab 2000 Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system aircraft.
“The industry’s nature is such that due to circumstances concerning the product and customer, further information about the customer will not be announced.” as per the statement released by Saab.
With a cloud surrounding the revelation of the buying nation, it has become highly probable that the country is none other than Pakistan, who have over the years enjoyed a prosperous relationship with the firm over recent years.
Following India’s airstrike at Balakot in Pakistan under the directions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of the crucial aircraft deployed by Pakistan were the Erieye airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) system, supplied to them by Saab.
According to reports, Pakistan is understood to possess at least six Saab 2000 AWACS along with Saudi Arabia, which has two of the systems.
India had last year, protested against Sweden’s role in equipping Pakistan with AWACS, stating that the Pakistani Air Force had used the systems “extensively “in the February 27 aerial battle to direct and control 25 fighter jets towards Indian targets”.
As per a report by Jane’s Defence Weekly, a weekly magazine reporting on military and corporate affairs, “Saab delivered three sets of radar equipment to Pakistan Air Force Base Nur Khan (Chaklala) on April 9”, last year.
According to Saab, the Erieye AWACS boast the ability to fulfil multiple roles such as air and sea surveillance, intelligence gathering and command and control functions, with their active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system detecting targets up to 450km away.
A defence expert, Anand SG, stated that Pakistan equipped themselves with the significant piece of machinery from right under India’s noses.
“SAAB has quietly delivered without much fanfare three more Saab 2000 Erieye Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&C) in April to Pakistani Airforce, which comes after crucial dogfight episode with Indian Airforce in Kashmir, where both sides were actively using AWACS Aircraft to monitor airspace intrusion and also guide fighter formations,”
IAF due to the larger size of its fighter fleet will require a minimum of 20 AWACS fleet of aircraft to fight a full-fledged two-front war with China and Pakistan, but the slow pace of decision making in Government of India and also IAF’s obsession with early-warning radar systems mounted on heavy-lift aircraft over mini-AWACS like NETRA makes its AWACS fleet highly vulnerable against a combined fleet of 40 AWACS fleet which both China and Pakistan operate at present.”
According to reports, the deliveries of the AWACS are scheduled to run from a period between 2020 and 2023. Moreover, as disclosed under Pakistan military’s yearbook for 2017-2018, Islamabad also obtained three baseline Saab 2000s for a total cost of $9.3m. (Source: Google/https://eurasiantimes.com/)
22 Oct 20. Iran Plans to Export Arms with Sanctions Off. Cash-strapped Iran wants to become an arms exporter to generate much-needed income. But so far, no prospective buyers are in sight. On October 18, a 13-year UN arms embargo against Iran expired. Iranian news outlets had eagerly awaited the moment for weeks. The lifting of the embargo had been agreed in the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani heralded the step as a “diplomatic victory over the US.” After all, US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018, yet insisted the arms embargo against Iran should remain in place indefinitely. But the vast majority of the UN Security Council members states, with the exception of the US and Dominican Republic, voted against upholding the embargo.
Green light for arms exports
“Thanks to the nuclear deal, signed by my government, we are as of Sunday permitted to buy and sell weapons with whomever we want,” President Rouhani declared last week. The arms embargo was imposed in 2007, to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
The terms of the 2015 nuclear deal oblige Iran to dismantle and accept checks on its nuclear program. In return, international sanctions — such as the 2007 arms embargo — will be gradually lifted.
Arms for Armenia?
While foreign observes now wonder whether Iran might go on a weapons shopping spree, Iranian media outlets have been speculating about potential arms exports.
Iranian security expert Hossein Dalirian, who sympathizes with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, thinks Armenia could be a potential buyer. In a recent article for the Iranian daily newspaper Jam-e Jam, he says that Armenia – currently fighting Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region — might be interested in acquiring Iranian air defense systems. According to Dalirian, “Iran is the only country in the Islamic world that builds modern missile defense systems, guided rockets and drones.”
Public Radio of Armenia echoed Hossein Dalirian’s thinking on its website. The broadcaster writes: “Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh [the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic] can now legally buy Iran’s Khordad-3 air defense system for protection against Israeli-made and Turkish-made drones used by Azerbaijan.”
Defiant foreign minister
In June 2019, an Iranian-made Khordad-3 surface-to-air missile brought down a modern US RQ-4A Global Hawk surveillance drone. In response to US threats against countries seeking to trade arms with Iran, Iranian
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif recently took a defiant stance. He said that “Iran can meet its strategic needs through the countries it interacts with, like Russia and China, even though it is self-sufficient in many cases, and is an exporter itself.”
Iran is said to possess the largest missile arsenal in the Middle East. “Iran has a vast arsenal, ranging from artillery units to short-range missiles and medium-range cruise missiles. In addition, Iran has a large arsenal of drones which it can effectively deploy,” Mauro Mantovani of the Military Academy at ETH Zurich told DW. Iran has, for instance, been mass producing short-range missiles, like the Qiam-1, since 2011. It is capable of delivering a 750-kilogram (1,600 pound) payload and strike targets some 700 kilometers (435 miles) away.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has continued to unveil new missile systems even when the international community was still considering extending the arms embargo against the country this August. At the time, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami presented an all new surface-to-surface missile and a cruise missile with a range of more than 1,000 kilometers on Iranian television.
“Many countries want to buy our weapons,” Hatami asserted in a television interview just after the arms embargo was lifted: “We will definitely export more than we will import; our weapons are affordable and efficient.”
There is certainly no consensus on that. “There are not many countries that will want to import Iranian weapons,” as German Middle East expert Udo Steinbach told DW. “Venezuela may be interested. Despite US sanctions, the country is still importing Iranian oil and has expressed interested in Iranian missiles.”
Steinbach says Iran is very proud of its arms industry but doubts the country will become a major exporter. “Aside from a few fringe countries, few nations will be seriously interested in equipping their armed forces with Iranian weapons.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Deutsche Welle German Radio)
22 Oct 20. With KF-X Fighter Jet, S. Korea Eyes Foothold in Global Market. As South Korea gears up to reveal a prototype of its next-generation fighter jet in early 2021, Korea Aerospace Industries is pursuing a broader initiative to carve out its presence in the aerospace market, which is dominated by established players in Europe and the US.
Mass production of the Korean fighter jet, known by the project name KF-X, is expected to begin as early as 2026.
“From 2030 onwards, rival European jets will need replacement due to aging but their production cost is relatively high. America enjoys a price advantage but it doesn’t approve new jet sales to some countries,” Lee Il-woo, chief engineer of the KF-X project, told The Korea Herald in an interview.
And there lies an opportunity for Korea. “Our 4.5-generation aircraft is an ‘extreme machine,’” he said, referring to the sophisticated systems and tens of thousands of parts that make up the KF-X aircraft.
Korea plans to replace its retiring third-generation F-4 and F-5 warplanes with the KF-X model to bolster its airpower against other military powers, which mostly operate fourth- or 4.5-generation warplanes.
Fifth-generation fighters are the most advanced aircraft to date, as they are equipped with stealth technology that makes them less visible to enemy radar. But only a few countries, like the US, have made them combat-ready.
Compared with aerospace giants like Boeing and Airbus, the KAI is an underdog with less experience in jet manufacturing. But it has demonstrated remarkable progress in the $16bn project, despite early skepticism that it was a reckless and risky bet.
“We’ve seen no major disruptions in our timeline for production. That’s something to be very proud of because even top-tier defense companies often deal with delays,” Lee said, adding that the prototype jet to be unveiled next year will undergo one year of ground tests and four years of flight tests.
A ground test assesses digitally whether the jet can function under extreme conditions, because those checks cannot be made with an aircraft in flight. A flight test assesses the weapons systems to be installed on the jet.
Test launching of the weapons is set aside for some other time, with their production set to be complete by 2028.
“We’ve also come up with our own test rig that handles the ground test,” Lee said, adding that building the test rig was a chance to expand the country’s expertise in aerospace technology.
When asked how the KAI was going about localizing the software needed for the jet, the chief engineer said his team had localized key software technologies, including flight and operation control technologies.
Lee went on to say that along with the software development, Korea’s successful localization two months earlier of a key radar technology — called active electronically scanned array, or AESA — would prevent the need for outside assistance to maintain the aircraft.
“It costs roughly $1.7bn to upgrade avionics on 130 or so KF-16s,” Lee said, referring to Korea’s main fighter jets.
Advanced avionics are important because they reduce the pilot’s workload by presenting integrated information so he or she can make judgment calls more efficiently, Lee explained.
The chief engineer discussed the shortcomings he faces as well, saying his team still needs a pool of experts familiar with aerospace technologies.
“We have about 1,300 engineers on the project, but they include those with expertise in shipbuilding and not aerospace,” Lee said, maintaining that for the next five years of jet tests, his team would need more veteran aerospace engineers to pinpoint every glitch in jet performance.
Skilled professionals come first in the high-end industries like the aerospace sector, where precision is a top priority. The fact that KAI is in Sacheon, far away from Seoul, doesn’t help in its efforts to attract and retain top-quality talent, he said.
Yet Lee was optimistic about the prospects for the aerospace industry in Korea. “Korea holds a market share of less than 1 percent of the $617bn global aerospace industry,” Lee said. “Conversely, it means there is ample room for improvement on our part.”
The chief engineer proposed action to start making the aerospace industry Korea’s next chip or shipbuilding industry — one where it holds world dominance.
“Korea is one of the top 10 countries in defense spending and we continue to localize fighter and training jets. That’s good, but we still import supporting aircraft like transporters,” Lee said. “We should begin localizing those now.”
Lee explained that there could be spillover from the technology gains. They may help Korea boost production of small and midsized civilian aircraft, for instance, and expand the country’s presence there as well.
“The civilian aircraft sector is five times the military (aircraft sector),” Lee said. “The coronavirus outbreak could restructure the aerospace industry. We need a strategy to seize on the opportunity.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/ Korea Herald)
22 Oct 20. Esper Repeats U.S. Commitment to Guarantee Israel’s Qualitative Edge. During an impromptu press conference, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark. T. Esper reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative superiority in weapons sales.
Esper repeated the American commitment after meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the Pentagon. It was the second visit of the future Israeli prime minister to the Pentagon in less than a month.
“It was important for me once again to reaffirm the special relationship between our two countries, the commitment we made to Israel security that’s based on our shared values, our shared history and the commonalities between our two peoples,” Esper said. ” I want to thank you for your personal efforts in the past few weeks, and I want to state again, how committed we are to Israel’s qualitative military edge when it comes to defense sales, and our commitment to Israel security, which has been long-standing and guaranteed and ironclad.”
Gantz thanked the secretary for the guarantees and praised the bipartisan consensus around aid to Israel. “I want to thank the American administration for supporting it,” Gantz said. “Now that we are entering an era of good and positive normalization processes in the Middle East, which actually can face aggressive Iran over all the region. This … continued cooperation, I would say, is so very important.” (Source: US DoD)
22 Oct 20. Russia’s Putin says world has no future without arms control system. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the world would have no future without a system of arms control, with the future of a nuclear weapons pact between Russia and the United States hanging in the balance.
Washington last week rejected a Russian proposal for an unconditional one-year extension of the last treaty limiting U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons deployments, calling the suggestion “a non-starter”.
Speaking via video link at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, Putin said Russia’s security would not suffer if the treaty was not extended.
The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) accord, signed in 2010 and due to expire in February, restricts how many strategic nuclear warheads Russia and the United States can deploy as well as the missiles and bombers that carry them. (Source: Reuters)
22 Oct 20. The situation in and around Nagorno-Karabakh: UK statement, 22 October. Delivered by Ambassador Neil Bush at the OSCE Permanent Council on 22 October 2020.
Thank you Mr Chair.
The United Kingdom welcomed the second announcement of a humanitarian ceasefire and we are once again deeply disappointed to see that it is not being respected.
We strongly condemn the continued shelling of civilian areas. The UK continues to make our position clear: the targeting of civilian settlements is unacceptable and civilian populations must be protected. We offer our condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with those who have been displaced and whose lives are being affected.
The humanitarian situation continues to worsen and we are particularly concerned about the impact on children. The rising number of COVID-19 cases across the region presents a huge risk to these communities and we urge both parties to consider the humanitarian impact of their actions.
We urge the parties to the conflict to stop the violence immediately, abide by the 17th October agreement and return to substantive negotiations under the auspices of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The parties must also grant the ICRC swift and unimpeded access and support their efforts as they seek to facilitate the return of prisoners of war and the remains of the deceased. The UK continues to offer its full support to the Minsk Group Co-Chairs and welcomes their efforts so far. The Minsk Group remains the primary format through which a settlement should be reached. We urge all parties and friends of both States to redouble their efforts in support of an end to hostilities.
We continue to urge the parties to recognise that a military solution will not be forthcoming; a diplomatic, peacefully negotiated solution remains the only option. The parties must urgently return to the negotiating table to engage in substantive discussions without preconditions.
Once again I would like to reiterate the UK’s support for the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in their role in mediating negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
21 Oct 20. Oman, Pakistan Sign MoU in Military Cooperation. The Sultanate of Oman and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan signed Tuesday a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Al Murtafa’a Camp in the field of military cooperation between the two friendly countries.
The MoU was signed by Mohammed bin Nasser Al Rasbi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense, and K. K. Ahsan Wagan, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the Sultanate, Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.
The MoU aims to frame aspects of military cooperation between the Sultanate and Pakistan in a way that enhances the existing cooperation relations and serves the common interest of the two friendly countries.
The signing ceremony was attended by the Military Attaché at the Pakistani Embassy in Muscat.
In another development, activities of the 6th National Cybersecurity Drill kicked off in Muscat Tuesday.
The virtual drill is organized by the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, represented by Oman National Computer Emergency Readiness Team (OCERT) in cooperation and coordination with the Cyber Defence Centre. Thirty-two government institutions participate in the drill.
The drill aims to enhance the cyber readiness to deal with cyber incidents that governmental institutions are exposed to, by strengthening coordination and cooperation between OCERT, governmental and private institutions, and law enforcement institutions to address such security incidents. It also aims to raise awareness of the mechanisms and procedures used to deal with cyber risks and threats, and to qualify national cadres to deal with them. (Source: Al Defaiya)
22 Oct 20. Taiwan says not seeking arms race with China after new U.S. arms sale. Taiwan is not seeking to get involved in an arms race with China but does need a credible combat capability, Defence Minister Yen De-fa said on Thursday, after the United States approved a potential $1.8bn arms sale to the Chinese-claimed island.
Beijing has applied increasing pressure om democratically-ruled Taiwan to accept China’s sovereignty, including by flying fighter jets across the sensitive mid-line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial buffer.
The latest U.S. arms package includes sensors, missiles and artillery, and further congressional notifications are expected for drones made by General Atomics and land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, made by Boeing Co, to serve as coastal defence cruise missiles.
Speaking to reporters, Yen thanked the United States and said the sales were to help Taiwan improve their defensive capabilities to deal with the “enemy threat and new situation”.
“This includes a credible combat capability and asymmetric warfare capabilities to strengthen our determination to defend ourselves,” he added.
“This shows the importance attached by the United States to security in the Indo Pacific and Taiwan Strait. We will continue to consolidate our security partnership with the United States.”
China is likely to condemn the new weapons sale, as it always does, but Yen said they were not looking for confrontation.
“We will not engage in an arms race with the Chinese Communists. We will put forward requirements and build fully in accordance with the strategic concept of heavy deterrence, defending our position and defensive needs.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has made defence modernisation a priority in the face of a rising Chinese threat, particularly “asymmetric warfare” capabilities, which refers to making any attack Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example with smart mines and portable missiles.
Washington, which, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei though it is its strongest global backer, has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so it can become a “porcupine”, hard for China to attack. (Source: Reuters)
22 Oct 20. U.S. State Department approves $1.8bn in potential arms sales to Taiwan – Pentagon. The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of three weapons systems to Taiwan, including sensors, missiles and artillery that could have a total value of $1.8bn, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
Reuters reported last week that the White House was moving forward with five separate sales of sophisticated military equipment to Taiwan with a total value of around $5bn as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on China and concerns rise about Beijing’s intentions toward Taiwan.
Among other weapons systems, Wednesday’s formal notifications to Congress by the State Department were for 11 truck-based rocket launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp called a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), for an estimated cost of $436.1m.
The notifications also covered 135 AGM-84H Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) Missiles and related equipment made by Boeing Co, for an estimated $1.008bn, and six MS-110 Recce external sensor pods made by Collins Aerospace for jets, at an estimated cost of $367.2m.
Further congressional notifications are expected to follow Wednesday’s including drones made by General Atomics and land-based Harpoon anti-ship missiles, made by Boeing, to serve as coastal defense cruise missiles.
Sources have said the 100 cruise missile stations and 400 missiles would have a cost of about $2bn.
Reuters was first to report in September that sales of major weapons systems to Taiwan were making their way through the U.S. export process.
The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales, but this is unlikely given broad bipartisan support for the defense of Taiwan.
The defense and foreign ministries in Taiwan welcomed the news, saying the weapons would help improve defensive capabilities.
“This arms sale shows that the United States attaches great importance to the strategic position of the Indo-Pacific region and the Taiwan Strait, and is actively assisting our country in strengthening our overall defense capabilities,” Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.
Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province it has vowed to bring under control, by force if necessary. Washington considers it an important democratic outpost and is required by law to provide it with the means to defend itself.
The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but China’s foreign ministry said last week that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely damaged China’s sovereignty and security interests.
It urged Washington to cancel the planned sales and warned that China would “make a legitimate and necessary response according to how the situation develops.”
The U.S. administration has stepped up pressure on Beijing in the run-up to the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, in which President Donald Trump has made a tough approach to China a key foreign policy theme.
Washington has been eager to see Taiwan bolster its defensive capabilities in the face of increasingly aggressive Chinese moves toward the island.
Last week, the U.S. national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said that while China probably was not ready to invade Taiwan for now, the island needed to “fortify itself” against a future attack or any bid to isolate it through non-military means, such as an embargo. (Source: Reuters)
22 Oct 20. Japan’s plan to build missile defence system at sea faces mounting costs: source. Basing Japan’s missile defence systems at sea may cost at least twice as much to complete as its now-abandoned plans for Aegis Ashore ground-based sites and delay it to 2028, a person with knowledge of the plans told Reuters.
Fitted with powerful Lockheed Martin Corp radars, Japan’s Aegis Ashore systems are meant to intercept missile strikes from North Korea and elsewhere. In June, defence minister Taro Kono suspended plans for two land sites, which would have cost about $2bn to construct, citing the possibility that booster rockets could fall on local residents.
Instead, he suggested installing the systems on sea platforms or ships.
Defence ministry officials are considering several proposals, including putting Aegis on platforms resembling oil rigs, or on converted merchant ships or naval vessels. Kono’s successor, Nobuo Kishi, has said he will make a decision on the future of Aegis Ashore by year end.
Delays and higher costs could rekindle support for an onshore plan, as Japan’s public finances are strained by debt exacerbated by massive coronavirus economic aid spending.
A defence ministry official said he was unaware of the new cost and time estimates for missile defence at sea. The land-based Aegis Ashore batteries were scheduled to be operational in 2025.
Some of those proposals could cost more than $4bn each, not including interceptor missiles and operating expenses, which would exceed those of land stations because of fuel, maintenance and larger crews, said the person familiar with the matter, who has seen estimates being discussed by defence ministry officials.
The person declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the plans.
A destroyer has about 300 sailors, about 10 times more people than needed for a land site, according to Japan’s defence ministry.
Armed with interceptor missiles designed to hit warheads in space, Aegis Ashore’s Lockheed Martin SPY-7 radar has at least three times the range of older Aegis radars already on Japanese warships.
“We are here to support whatever Japan needs, and in our mind, there is no option that is off the table,” said Tom Rowden, the vice president responsible for Lockheed’s overseas Rotary and Mission System business, including Aegis Ashore in Japan. “Our main focus here is to give Japan the capability that they need to be able to defend their country.”
In 2019, Japan listed China as its main security threat for the first time, pointing to Beijing’s burgeoning defence spending and military manoeuvres. Japan has also said it is concerned about a resurgence in Russian activity around Japan.
Although Japan usually pays for big U.S.-built military projects through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales programme, it is buying SPY-7 directly from Lockheed and has paid half of the $300m contract already.
The possibility that Aegis Ashore will be based at sea has spurred Raytheon Technologies Corp, which lost the contract to Lockheed in 2018, to promote its SPY-6 radar for Japan instead.
Defence ministry officials say they prefer the SPY-7 and are sticking with it. But some influential lawmakers from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, such as former deputy defence minister and deputy foreign affairs minister Masahisa Sato, favour SPY-6 because the U.S. Navy plans to use it on new Aegis Ashore destroyers. (Source: Reuters)
21 Oct 20. No matter the president, US Indo-Pacific strategy is going to change. With a little over two weeks to go until election day, one thing is for sure – no matter the victor on 3 November, America’s strategic policy approach to the Indo-Pacific is going to change, dramatically. For Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Centre at the Heritage Foundation, the fall out of the election and its impact on Congress and the White House provides interesting alternatives.
For many, the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016 was an aberration, an anomaly that would wreak disaster for the US, its economy, its populace, the nation’s standing as the “Leader of the Free World” and importantly, its alliance networks in an era of global disruption.
While both sides of the political spectrum, both within the US and increasingly around the world have taken up arms against one another, as is evidenced by mounting social, economic and political tensions in the aftermath of the 2016 election, the President has largely stood true to his word, he has moved to hold Communist China more accountable for the economic manipulations, strategic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific, while seeking to make long dependent US allies across Europe more accountable and invested in their collective security.
In doing so, President Trump has drawn the ire of many political, media and strategic pundits who have seen his actions akin to taking an axe to the post-Second World War order established by the US and which has in large part encultured a sense of dependence upon the US for strategic security, while emboldening many, particularly in Europe to criticise the US for taking unilateral action, an ironic response to a President who has actively, albeit rather confrontationally sought to withdraw American troops from foreign wars and limit America’s costly expeditionary, interventionist doctrines.
Opposing the bombastic, billionaire political upstart is a former vice president, who has spent nearly five decades within the halls of power and for even the most objective observer appears to be struggling with the cognitive pressures of the Presidential campaign before he encounters the round the clock demands of life in the White House.
Former vice president Joe Biden is viewed by many as a return to the status quo of America’s post-Cold War political, economic and strategic establishment, committed to increasing levels of free trade and globalisation, seemingly a firm believer in the US at the apex of the global power structure and the intricate web of alliances designed to encircle and limit the disruptive potential rivals like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.
In recognising the two vastly different approaches of both men to the international order and, critically for Australia, the Indo-Pacific in particular, Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Centre at the Heritage Foundation, has detailed a closer look at the potential impact on America’s strategic and economic policy approach to the region, regardless the winner on 3 November.
Lohman establishes the precedent, explaining the differing approaches of both men competing to be the leader of the most powerful nation in history, stating:
“The first term of President Donald Trump, while stylistically unsettling, produced many conventional national security and foreign policy outcomes in the Indo-Pacific. The US military is still forward-deployed. The Trump administration has maintained US alliances throughout the region and diplomatic commitments to south-east Asia. It has undertaken new diplomatic initiatives as well, in places like the South China Sea and the Mekong.
“Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s consistent focus on its Indo-Pacific strategy has helped catalyse similar conceptual frameworks as far afield as Berlin.
“As for his opponent, former vice president Joe Biden is the definition of the bipartisan Washington establishment. He is proposing no big changes in America’s traditional Asia policy, beyond repairing the damage he estimates has been done to it by Trump. A Biden administration’s national security strategy would more resemble the Trump administration’s 2017 document than anything produced during Barack Obama’s administration.”
What are the possibilities?
Setting aside the blow-for-blow results from across the battle ground states and the arguments surrounding popular vote results versus the electoral college results, the 2020 presidential election is shaping up to be one of the most scrutinised and closely observed US elections in living memory.
As Lohman states, regardless of the winner, there will be a dramatic shift in America’s approach to foreign and strategic policy, however, the impact of the election will depend heavily upon a number of factors, namely, who wins the White House, and the nature of the split between Democrats or Republicans in the race to control the House and Senate.
Accordingly, Lohman breaks down a number of options.
Looking to a returned Trump presidency, with Republican Senate and Democrat dominated House, Lohman believes this outcome would see a continuation of the past four years of America’s approach to the Indo-Pacific and broader global security framework as a whole.
Lohman states, “Trump will continue a forceful line on China, and this competitive dynamic will guide American foreign policy generally throughout the region. There will continue to be bipartisanship in Congress around the need to confront China. The difficulty will come in reconciling inevitable overall budget cuts with a hawkish China policy.
“The choices will be to maintain defence spending at the considerable cost of domestic programs; to attempt the China competition on the cheap — most significantly, cutting into military readiness and shipbuilding plans; or to prioritise the Indo-Pacific theatre over other global interests. There will be a similar set of choices with State Department and development assistance funding.”
Shifting focus to a Biden presidency, with a Republican Senate and Democrat dominated House, Lohman believes there would be an internal battle of priorities for the heavily divided Democrat party, with the battle lines drawn between those more focused on competing with Beijing, and those reminiscent of Obama’s conciliatory approach to managing a rising and increasingly assertive China.
Lohman expects that the Senate Republicans in this instance will present a consistent roadblock to Biden’s designs, no matter the outcome of the internal Democrat policy disputes, building on this Lohman explains the impact upon defence spending and related foreign and national security policy mechanisms in order to support a domestic recovery, at least in theory.
“A Biden presidency will provoke persistent charges of appeasement from Republicans in Congress. No approach he takes to China will be strong enough in their estimation. This will invigorate hardliners in the Biden administration and seed the ground for ever-firmer policies down the road. Trading off domestic spending to maintain defence spending will be off the table,” Lohman said.
“The government will, therefore, be left with even starker versions of the other two options, cutting into military and diplomatic capacity or downsizing commitments elsewhere. It will seek to make up the difference with a renewed focus on leveraging alliances and partnerships, as well as plurilateral and multilateral organisations.”
Finally, Lohman details what he expects of a Democrat clean sweep, of the White House, Senate and House, which would be a disastrous outcome for the Republicans and see their legislative and policy presence decimated across the executive and legislative branches of the US government.
While Lohman predicts that this outcome would be disastrous for the Republicans, this result would also trigger a major shift in the Democrats, with Lohman explaining, “This outcome favours the conciliatory side of Biden’s China team. There is no returning to the comprehensive Obama-era emphasis on US–China co-operation, but prospects of co-operation in specific areas like climate change and pandemic management will take the edge off US-China competition.
“In some areas, like the Trump administration’s very active schedule of freedom-of-navigation patrols in the South China Sea or its increased support for Taiwan, co-operation with China will on occasion take precedence.”
The trade debate
When he was first elected in 2016, President Trump took to the global trade system with a sledgehammer, focused on overturning what he saw as unfair trade deals with friend and foe alike, many pundits summarised it as nationalist, protectionist and isolationist in nature and a threat to the global order.
Nevertheless, the President’s approach appears to have gained degrees of favour from many former critics, particularly in Europe as the full impact of COVID-19 and its devastating impact upon both national and global economies has seen many nations scramble for the protective life boat of the ‘nation-state’ to prioritise their own economic, political and strategic national interests to protect their populations.
Despite this global shift, Lohman believes regardless the outcome on 3 November, US trade policy will be broadly focused on the domestic politics of trade, as opposed to the broader grand strategy dimensions of trade policy, in particular, Loham explains: “Unlike in previous eras, particularly during the presidency of George W. Bush, where the balance of political forces favoured free trade, the balance now has turned heavily in the direction of protection and industrial policy. This will constrain the economic component of any US Asia policy.”
Building on this, Lohman believes both sides of the aisle will continue to focus on the increasingly effective and politically popular tariff measures, particularly against China, a nation long believed to manipulate its currency and leverage interests in key international trade institutions to benefit its own economic development to the detriment of other trading nations.
“But while there may be adjustments in the target set — expect less pressure on Canada and Japan in a Biden administration, for instance — neither administration will move off of America’s new found enthusiasm for punitive tariffs as an instrument of trade policy. Tariffs on China in particular will be exceedingly difficult to remove,” Lohman said.
“Meanwhile, trade remedies that the Trump administration has made ample use of — anti-dumping and safeguard provisions — will continue to receive a great deal of attention. Remedies that appear to most contradict US commitments to the World Trade Organization, like restrictive tariffs, will receive less attention in a Biden administration. New comprehensive trade liberalisation initiatives — including joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership — will be nearly impossible in either administration.”(Source: Defence Connect)
20 Oct 20. The world cannot afford another conflict in the Gulf region. Statement by Ambassador Jonathan Allen, UK Chargé d’Affaires to the UN, at the Security Council debate on security in the Gulf region.
Thank you, Mr. President, and I want to start by thanking the Russian Presidency for holding this debate. The issue under consideration today is one of great importance. And as I start, let me just also say in response to Rob Malley, that I want to echo my German colleague on the case of Michael Kovrig, which causes us deep concern.
Mr. President, the United Kingdom remains concerned by the trajectory of violence, instability and hostile state-activity in the Middle East and Gulf region. Heightened tensions and insecurity serve no one’s long term interest and instead put all at risk. We continue to call for de-escalation, dialogue and peace. The world cannot afford another conflict in the region.
As we have said repeatedly in this chamber, our commitment to the JCPoA remains resolute and it is at the forefront of our policy to support regional stability. Iranian nuclear armament would have catastrophic implications for the security of the region and beyond, and the JCPoA is the only vehicle currently available to prevent this. Nevertheless, while we remain committed to the nuclear deal, systematic Iranian non-compliance with its JCPoA commitments is putting it at risk. Iran must engage constructively with the Dispute Resolution Mechanism and Iran must implement its commitments under the deal. This is critical for security across the Middle East.
We have also frequently expressed our concern about Iran’s wider activity in the region. Iran has consistently carried out arms transfers to regional non-state actors in violation of Security Council resolutions. There can be no doubt that such proliferation destabilises the region and escalates already high tensions. That is why we regret the expiry of resolution 2231’s conventional arms restrictions. We will therefore continue to build our security cooperation with allies and partners and work to find a sustainable solution to Iranian proliferation. And we will redouble our efforts to ensure implementation of other Security Council resolutions, which prohibit arms transfers to regional non-state actors, including resolution 1546 in Iraq, resolution 1701 in Lebanon and resolution 2216 in Yemen. We will also ensure that the remaining provisions of resolution 2231, in particular the restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, are rigorously enforced.
Mr. President, for too long the region has been scarred by terrorism, war and other conflict. But though instability has increased, we must not lose hope. So we welcome the announcements of normalisation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and we welcome the suspension of Israeli annexation plans. They must stay that way. The Abraham Accords demonstrate the potential for and the power of Jewish and Arab peoples in the region, breaking with the resentment and enmity of the past. Nelson Mandela once said, “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” The antidote to resentment and enmity is reconciliation and as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, we hope that other states will follow the UAE and Bahrain’s example and thereby secure a more peaceful Middle East. So we must build on the momentum of the Abraham Accords in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which remains a wellspring for tension across the region. There is ultimately no substitute for direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians towards the ultimate objective of a two state solution. Here, as with many of the region’s conflicts, mistrust can only be countered by measures to rebuild confidence and facilitate dialogue.
Conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Iraq continue to be sources of instability in the region. On Syria, the United Kingdom continues to support an inclusive Syrian-led political process, as provided for in resolution 2254. Following the latest Constitutional Committee talks, we again implore all parties to engage properly with the process. A political settlement is the only way to bring long term stability to Yemen and to address the worsening humanitarian crisis. We fully support the peace process led by the UN Special Envoy and we urge all parties, particularly the Yemeni parties, to engage constructively.
We remain committed to supporting a peaceful and prosperous Iraq, able to promote stability in the region. We are proud to work with Iraq within the global coalition to counter Daesh, a clear example of shared cooperation, effectively addressing one of the region’s biggest security concerns.
Mr. President, we welcome the Secretary-General’s participation in this debate and the United Nations’ role working to resolve each of the aforementioned conflicts and sources of tension in the region. The Secretary-General can continue to rely on the United Kingdom’s full support in each theatre.
However, as the concept note for today’s debate suggests, there is a need to look beyond current crises and to engage on wider issues. In the longer term this will require a process within the region, which includes confidence building measures leading to a wider dialogue. The United Nations has a potential role to play as a trusted mediator and indeed, OP8 of resolution 598 makes provision for the Secretary-General to examine, with states of the region, measures to enhance regional security and stability. And while we hope that today’s debate is a step in the right direction, we must be honest that an open debate in the Security Council, however well-intentioned, is not the forum for such conversations. Progress can only ultimately be made through candid conversations between all parties.
We are also not convinced that launching into security focused working groups will result in meaningful dialogue. We must remain realistic about the current level of regional mistrust. The issues involved are complex and sensitive, and an incremental approach is needed to build confidence and cooperation. More critically, as Russia points out, any dialogue needs to be shaped by regional participants. I want to welcome the commitment to regional security expressed by Iran in its letter of the 15th of October to the Council covering the Hormuz Peace Endeavour. But as a party to conflicts across the region, Iran is not an impartial actor, and it would not be appropriate for any initiative to be Iranian-led. More consultation is needed within the region to avoid another failed regional security initiative. We should learn from the many failed attempts in order to make a future initiative a success. The Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe that led to the 1975 Helsinki Accords provide both positive and negative lessons, which we can draw on.
Mr. President, in conclusion, it is vital that we hear from all regional states and we would welcome discussions beyond the Council that could help identify political and practical steps to reduce mistrust within the region. Such discussions could include a potential mediation role for the United Nations. As I said at the outset, tensions and insecurity in the region ultimately serve none.
I thank the Russian Federation again for organising this debate on such an important issue. Thank you, Mr. President. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 Oct 20. Australia, Japan to ramp up engagement in South China Sea. The regional partners have agreed to enhance maritime activities in the South China Sea amid mounting concerns over “destabilising and coercive unilateral actions”, which threaten to “alter the status quo”, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has revealed.
Australian Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds met with Japan’s newly appointed Minister of Defense Kishi Nobuo in Tokyo on Monday (19 October) to discuss the nations’ ongoing commitment to building close bilateral defence and security ties in the Indo-Pacific, as part of the Japan-Australia Special Strategic Partnership.
According to the Department of Defence, the ministers acknowledged the strategic benefits of bilateral defence and security co-operation, including training exercises, defence science and technology, and defence industry co-operation, as well as co-ordination on regional issues of shared interest.
Among the issues raised, was the continued response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ministers committing to working closely with partners to support regional recovery and security.
However, the discussion centred on developments in the East China Sea, the South China Sea and North Korea.
“The ministers reinforced their strong opposition to any destabilising or coercive unilateral actions that could alter the status quo and increase tensions in the East China Sea,” Defence noted in a statement.
“They expressed their intention to continue to coordinate closely on the security environment in this region.
“The ministers reinforced their strong opposition to any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by coercion in the South China Sea, and reaffirmed the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight.”
According to Defence, the ministers reaffirmed “serious concern” about recent incidents in the region, including the continued militarisation of disputed features, dangerous or coercive use of coast guard vessels and “maritime militia”, and efforts to disrupt resource exploitation activities.
“They emphasised the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” Defence added.
Concerns were also expressed over North Korea’s repeated violation of multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs), including launches of short-range ballistic missiles.
The ministers renewed calls for the “complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement” of all of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, other weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges.
Ministers Reynolds and Kishi noted shared efforts to “deter, disrupt, and ultimately eliminate” the evasion of sanctions by North Korea, including illicit ship-to-ship transfers and direct shipments of sanctioned goods.
In accordance with concerns raised during their meeting, the ministers agreed to forge deeper relations across a range of defence and security interests by:
- enhancing regular bilateral and multilateral co-operative activities in the Indo-Pacific, including maritime activities in the South China Sea;
- strengthening interoperability between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defence Force through increasing the complexity and sophistication of bilateral exercises and operations, including testing of air-to-air refuelling;
- continuing to enhance the mutual understanding between the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Australian Defence Force through people-to-people exchanges, including placement of the Australian Liaison Officer at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force;
- driving bilateral space and cyber co-operation in areas of mutual benefit;
- deepening defence science and technology collaboration, including new possible joint research in the areas of hydroacoustics and ground vehicle autonomy; and
- growing industry-to-industry engagement to support capability for our respective defence forces.
The ministers also agreed to continue to exchange views to promote regional peace and security, including by:
- sharing lessons learned from HA/DR operations during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- exploring new opportunities for capacity building with like-minded partners to build regional resilience;
- sharing information and exchanging views on reinforcing the rules-based international order, including working together to counter disinformation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, the ministers have instructed military officials to commence necessary co-ordination to create a framework to protect ADF assets under Article 95-2 of the SDF Law, and noted the importance of finalising a reciprocal access agreement.
The nations also reaffirmed their commitments to working with other regional parts, including the Pacific island countries in the fields of capacity building, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, particularly under the Boe Declaration on Regional Security.
“The ministers recognised that Japan and Australia would continue to coordinate closely in defence-related fora, including through their respective involvement in the Japan Pacific Islands Defense Dialogue (JPIDD) and the South Pacific Defence Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) and other relevant regional dialogues,” Defence concluded. (Source: Defence Connect)
20 Oct 20. Indonesia rejected U.S. request to host spy planes – officials. Indonesia rejected this year a proposal by the United States to allow its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes to land and refuel there, according to four senior Indonesian officials familiar with the matter.
U.S. officials made multiple “high-level” approaches in July and August to Indonesia’s defence and foreign ministers before Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, rebuffed the request, the officials said.
Representatives for Indonesia’s president and defence minister, the U.S. State Department press office and the U.S. embassy in Jakarta did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the U.S. Department of Defence and Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi declined to comment.
The proposition, which came as the U.S. and China escalated their contest for influence in Southeast Asia, surprised Indonesia’s government, the officials said, because Indonesia has a long-standing policy of foreign policy neutrality. The country has never allowed foreign militaries to operate there.
The P-8 plays a central role in keeping an eye on China’s military activity in the South China Sea, most of which Beijing claims as sovereign territory. Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei have rival claims to the resource-rich waters, through which $3 trillion worth of trade passes each year.
Indonesia is not a formal claimant in the strategically important waterway, but considers a portion of the South China Sea as its own. It has regularly repelled Chinese coast guard vessels and fishing boats from an area to which Beijing says it has a historic claim.
But the country also has growing economic and investment links with China. It does not want to take sides in the conflict and is alarmed by growing tensions between the two superpowers, and by the militarisation of the South China Sea, Retno told Reuters.
“We don’t want to get trapped by this rivalry,” Retno said in an interview in early September. “Indonesia wants to show all that we are ready to be your partner.”
Despite the strategic affinity between the U.S. and Southeast Asian states in curbing China’s territorial ambitions, Dino Patti Djalal, a former Indonesian ambassador to the United States, said the “very aggressive anti-China policy” of the U.S. had unnerved Indonesia and the region.
“It’s seen as out-of-place,” he told Reuters. “We don’t want to be duped into an anti-China campaign. Of course we maintain our independence, but there is deeper economic engagement and China is now the most impactful country in the world for Indonesia.”
Greg Poling, a Southeast Asia analyst from the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said trying to get landing rights for spy planes was an example of clumsy over-reach.
“It’s an indication of how little folks in the U.S. government understand Indonesia,’ he told Reuters. “There’s a clear ceiling to what you can do, and when it comes to Indonesia that ceiling is putting boots on the ground.”
The U.S. recently has used military bases in Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia to operate P-8 flights over the South China Sea, military analysts said.
China has ramped up military exercises this year, while the U.S. has increased the tempo of naval freedom of navigation operations, submarine deployments and surveillance flights.
The P-8, with its advanced radar, high definition cameras and acoustic sensors, has been mapping the islands, surface and underwater realms of the South China Sea for at least six years.
When carrying sonobuoys and missiles, the planes can detect and attack ships and submarines from long range. It also has communications systems that allow it to control unmanned aircraft.
In 2014, the U.S. accused a Chinese fighter jet of coming within 20 feet and executing a barrel roll over a P-8 patrolling the South China Sea. China described the U.S. complaint as “groundless”. (Source: Reuters)
20 Oct 20. Minister hails “strongest ever UK-Gulf ties” on first visit to the region. The Minister for the Middle East, James Cleverly, has highlighted the significance of the UK-Gulf partnership on his first official visit to Oman and Qatar since he took up the post.
The UK and Gulf states are working in partnership to tackle coronavirus and save lives, Middle East Minister James Cleverly said following a visit to the region.
During his three day visit to Qatar and Oman, the Minister championed the UK’s strong and historic ties between the respective Governments as well as their leadership in preventing the spread of the deadly disease. At a meeting with His Excellency Qais Al-Yousef, Minister of Trade for Oman, the Minister set out the UK’s high ambition to grow our trade and investment with the Gulf, already our third largest trading partner outside the EU.
At a meeting with His Excellency Soltan bin Saad Soltan Al-Muraikhi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar, Minister Cleverly thanked Qatar for its help in repatriating British Nationals throughout the pandemic.
In Qatar, he also visited the Education City Stadium for the Fifa World Cup 2022, offering the UK’s full support to ensuring a safe tournament for fans travelling from all around the world.
Minister for the Middle East, James Cleverly, said, “The UK and the Gulf are working in partnership to stop the spread of coronavirus and save lives, demonstrating our strongest ever UK-Gulf ties. On my visit to Oman and Qatar, I have seen the true strength of the bilateral relationships between our great countries. From co-operation on security, to strengthening our trade links, to sharing our unique development expertise, our ties are helping to improve our mutual prosperity.”
In Muscat, Minister Cleverly met Houthi representative Mohammed Abdul Salam. He urged the Houthis to work constructively with UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, and agree to his peace proposals to end the conflict and alleviate the suffering of those in need.
He also raised concerns about restrictions in northern Houthi-controlled areas which are preventing aid from reaching millions of those most in need and called for safe, rapid, and unhindered access for aid workers and supplies, particularly given the risk of famine this year.
The Minister also met His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, to discuss new regional routes into the UK, which are helping to drive economic growth in the UK beyond London. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
20 Oct 20. British Chief of Defence Staff visited Pakistan. British Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter visited Pakistan on Monday 19 October highlighting the very best of international friendship that exists between the UK and Pakistan – UKPakDosti.
General Carter addressed the National Defence University underlining the enduring relationship between the UK and Pakistan. He described how both countries had worked together to tackle Covid-19 and highlighted the close UK-Pakistan defence partnership. He stressed the UK’s full commitment to backing Pakistan’s prosperity and potential.
General Carter welcomed the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and Pakistan’s important contribution to it. He acknowledged the important opportunities that the peace process represents for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, including from the potential for greater economic connectivity between the two countries.
He noted that this was an historic opportunity and that we must work together to prevent spoilers and reduce violence markedly, leading to a ceasefire and towards securing peace. The Chief of Defence Staff was accompanied by the British Prime Minister’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gareth Bayley.
British High Commissioner, Dr Christian Turner said, “I am pleased to welcome General Carter to Pakistan. His visit recognises the important role Pakistan has played in the Afghanistan Peace Process. The UK is committed to working with Pakistan for a more peaceful and stable region and prosperous future for all.”
The Chief of Defence Staff was accompanied by the British Prime Minister’s Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gareth Bayley. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
20 Oct 20. Defence to ‘advance’ bilateral ties in Indo-Pacific. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has announced plans to meet with regional counterparts to discuss bilateral defence engagement and regional security challenges.
Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds has travelled to the Indo-Pacific to meet with counterparts from Japan, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, in a bid to to “advance” bilateral defence partnerships and discuss emerging challenges in the region.
Drawing from sentiment expressed in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, Minister Reynolds said the Indo-Pacific is in the “midst of the most consequential strategic realignment since World War II”.
“I will use my visit to deepen bilateral engagement with these important partners and friends, who share our vision of an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific,” Minister Reynolds said.
“Our partnerships with regional countries have a long history and we are focused on further strengthening these relationships through expanding defence diplomacy, cooperation and capacity building activities.
“Increased engagement will focus on working with our partners to shape an Indo-Pacific region that is stable, secure and sovereign and where international rules and norms are respected.”
In Japan, Minister Reynolds will meet with newly-appointed counterpart Minister of Defence Kishi Nobuo, to discuss joint efforts to address shared challenges, and “set the direction” for the next phase of bilateral defence and security co-operation, which forms part of the nations’ ‘Special Strategic Partnership’.
Minister Reynolds will then be hosted by Singapore’s Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, with the pair to review ongoing defence engagement efforts and discuss the maintenance of regional stability and security under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
“My visit will provide an important opportunity to mark the 30th anniversary of Singapore’s military training in Australia,” Minister Reynolds added.
The trip will also involve discussions with Brunei’s Second Minister of Defence Pehin Halbi, ahead of the country’s stint as ASEAN chair in 2021.
According to Minister Reynolds, the regional counterparts will discuss recent developments in the region, and the nations’ co-chairmanship of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Military Medicine.
Minister Reynolds’ tour of the Indo-Pacific will conclude in the Philippines, where she will meet with Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon to discuss respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program, and the progress of defence industry engagement.
Minister Reynolds stressed that all aspects of the tour would be conducted with “strict adherence” to safety and health protocols to mitigate COVID-19 risks.
“I am grateful to the governments of Japan, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines for the conscientious COVID-19 measures put in place to facilitate a safe visit,” the minister said.
Minister Reynolds’ tour follows her meeting with the Five Eyes, in which the intelligence partners committed to strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s also recently met with her counterparts from the US, Japan and India for the second Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting (the Quad).
The Quad addressed emerging challenges that threaten to “undermine” the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, with Minister Payne acknowledging that the region is “becoming more complex”.
Minister Payne and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo specifically noted concerns regarding the People’s Republic of China’s “malign activity” in the Indo-Pacific.
As such, the Quad has agreed to “enhance co-operation” to promote a “strategic balance” and support “a region of resilient and sovereign states”, which engage on the basis of rules, norms and international law. (Source: Defence Connect)
19 Oct 20. Japan to export defense tech to Vietnam under new agreement. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, in his first overseas summit since taking office last month, agreed with his Vietnamese counterpart to step up defense and security cooperation in the face of China’s expanding influence in the region.
In talks in Hanoi on Monday, Suga and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc set a basic agreement allowing Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Japan has been pursuing such pacts in recent years to bolster ties with Southeast Asian countries and sustain its own defense industry.
Suga said his four-day trip to Vietnam and later Indonesia was key to pursuing multilateral economic and security cooperation to counter China’s growing power and protect sea lanes in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
“Vietnam is crucial to achieving our vision of ‘the Free and Open Indo-Pacific,’ and our valuable partner,’” Suga told a news conference after his meeting with Phuc. “Japan, as an Indo-Pacific nation, will continue to contribute to the peace and stability in this region.”
Suga said Vietnam, at the center of the region, was the most suitable destination for his first trip abroad as Japan’s leader.
Neither of the two leaders mentioned China by name in their news conference. Phuc said the peace and stability of the South China Sea should be protected by the rule of law, not unilaterally by force or threats.
“Vietnam appreciates that Japan, one of the world’s leading powers, is actively contributing its efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region and in the world,” Phuc said.
In a speech later Monday at Vietnam-Japan University, Suga said that Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” concept and “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” formulated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2019, share values such as rule of law, openness, transparency and freedom.
Suga expressed strong support for their vision, and said together Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.
“Unfortunately in this region, there is a move in the South China Sea that goes against the rule of law and openness stated in this ASEAN Outlook, and Japan strongly opposes any attempt that escalates tensions in the South China Sea,” Suga said in his speech, hinting at China’s growing assertiveness in the area.
Japan already has defense equipment transfer deals with the U.S., Britain and Malaysia, among other countries. Vietnam is a 12th partner, while Japan is still negotiating deals with Indonesia and Thailand. In its first actual delivery of such exports, Japan in August exported a radar surveillance system to the Philippines.
Details of possible equipment sales were not mentioned, but Suga called the agreement “a major step” for a bilateral defense cooperation, saying he expects further developments.
Japan partially lifted its ban on military equipment and technology transfer in 2014 as part of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to build Japan’s defense capabilities.
Suga and Phuc signed other agreements to cooperate in a range of economic fields and on anti-terrorism measures.
The two sides also agreed to ease entry bans and allow short-term business visits and reopen flights between Vietnam and Japan. Such travel has been very tightly restricted due to the pandemic, but both countries have managed to somewhat stabilize COVID-19 outbreaks.
Suga also promised to provide support for Vietnamese workers in Japan affected by the pandemic’s hit to the economy. Vietnamese accounts for more than half of the foreign workers Japan has accepted in recent years to make up for its declining and aging population.
Japan is one of Vietnam’s top trading partners with two-way trade of $28.6bn so far this year. Japan is also Vietnam’s largest overseas aid donor, providing $23bn as of 2019 and accounting for more than a quarter of Vietnam’s foreign loans.
The government has been trying to entice Japanese companies to invest in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to lessen Japan’s dependence on manufacturing and other businesses in China.
On Monday, Japan and Vietnam agreed on the need to cooperate on diversifying supply chains — a lesson Japan learned from its dire shortages of surgical masks and protective gowns earlier this year due to heavy dependence on Chinese imports.
In August, Vietnam agreed to buy six coast guard patrol boats worth $345m from Japan. The country is seeking to improve its maritime defenses amid China’s continuing development and militarization of artificial islands in contested waters of the South China Sea.
Progress in talks between ASEAN and China over the disputes appears to be at a standstill.
Suga’s predecessor Abe also chose Vietnam as the first country he visited after taking office. Suga is the first foreign head of a state to visit Vietnam since the country closed its borders to contain COVID-19. (Source: Defense News)
16 Oct 20. China practises area denial operations in Tibet. An engineering and chemical reconnaissance brigade within the Tibet Military District (MD) of China’s People’s Liberation Army Ground Force (PLAGF) has practised area denial operations through the use of multiple rocket launcher (MRL)-deployed mines, according to video footage released by the district on 14 October via its WeChat account.
Several examples of the MRL were shown in the footage being used during live-firing exercises carried out on what the Tibet MD said was a plateau at an altitude of more than 4,300 m above sea level. The state-owned Global Times newspaper described the system as the MD’s “latest truck-based multiple rocket-propelled mine launcher”, but an analysis of the images indicates that it appears to be a Type 90A MRL: an analogue of the Soviet BM-21 Grad MRL.
The Type 90A is a 122 mm MRL based on a six-wheeled truck with an extended load tray that allows for a second reload of 40 rockets to be carried.
According to the Tibet MD, the test achieved its goal of remotely setting up obstacles and placing mines across a whole area. It also served to comprehensively examine and improve the troops’ capability to set up obstacles with advanced weapons and equipment in an environment where temperatures and oxygen levels are low.
The PLAGF is known to have access to the Type 84 mine-laying rocket, often fired by the tracked Type 89 MRL, which is also operated by the Tibetan MD. The Type 84 122mm rocket can carry either eight anti-tank mines or 198 anti-personnel mines. (Source: Jane’s)
18 Oct 20. Rumored PLA Deployment of DF-17 Hypersonic Missiles Near Taiwan Straits Could Deter US Meddling In China’s Internal Affairs: Analysts. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed its most advanced hypersonic missile, the DF-17, to the Chinese mainland’s southeast coast near the island of Taiwan, Hong Kong media reported on Sunday, sparking fear on the island. Although the reports are merely speculation, the PLA missile that is impossible to be intercepted can effectively deter Taiwan secessionists, control the Taiwan Straits and keep foreign interventions away, Chinese mainland analysts said on Sunday.
Citing an anonymous source, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said on Sunday that the PLA has deployed DF-17 missiles to the area that would gradually replace the older DF-11 and DF-15 missiles, which have shorter ranges and less accuracy.
The DF-17 has a maximum range of 2,500 kilometers, the report said.
This report has aroused fear on the island of Taiwan, with media including the Taipei-based newspaper the Liberty Times reporting that the DF-17 could enable the PLA to directly attack Taiwan air force bases in Taitung and Hualien in the east of the island. Taiwan media also noted that the PLA has been deploying J-20 stealth fighter jets and Marine Corps units to the coastal region in preparation of a possible reunification-by-force operation.
Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Sunday that Hong Kong and Taiwan media have been paying close attention to the movements and development of the Chinese mainland’s strategic weapons, but most of their reports are pure speculation. The DF-17s are highly mobile and information about their deployments is not available to the general public.
The DF-17 is a newly developed short- to medium-range hypersonic missile that was showcased at the National Day military parade on October 1, 2019 in Beijing for the first time. Thanks to its capability to change trajectory in mid-flight at a very high speed, the enemies have a minimal chance of intercepting it, Yang Chengjun, a Chinese mainland missile expert, told the Global Times at that time.
US air defense systems including THAAD, SM-3 and Patriot missiles deployed in South Korea, Japan, the island of Taiwan and on US warships will not work against the DF-17, experts said.
Wei said that if the DF-17 is forward-deployed near the Taiwan Straits, it can effectively control the region, deter Taiwan secessionists and keep foreign interventions away.
The PLA Rocket Force’s older generation missiles are already sufficient to wipe out most of Taiwan’s key military installations, and the island is not capable of intercepting them, so it is not necessary to use the DF-17 against the island’s military, Chinese mainland experts said, noting that the DF-17 will play a more significant role in stopping forces from the US, Japan, South Korea, Australia and other locations, should they attempt to militarily interfere in China’s internal affairs.
The PLA operates the DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles capable of sinking aircraft carriers. Taiwan media said that the DF-17 could also serve this purpose. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Global Times)
16 Oct 20. Putin proposes Russia, U.S. extend New START arms control treaty for one year. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed on Friday that Russia and the United States extend their New START arms control treaty that expires in February for at least a year without imposing any conditions.
The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) accord, signed in 2010, limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy. [nL8N2H5387]
A failure to extend the pact would remove all constraints on U.S. and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, fueling a post-Cold War arms race and tensions between Moscow and Washington.
Putin, speaking at a meeting by video link with Russia’s Security Council that was broadcast on state television, said the treaty had worked effectively until now and it would be “extremely sad” if it were to stop working.
“In this regard, I propose… extending the current treaty without any conditions for at least a year so that meaningful negotiations can be conducted on all the parametres of the problems…” he said.
Russia and the United States, which has called for China to be included in the arms control treaty, have appeared at odds over extending the pact despite several months of talks. On Wednesday, Moscow denied U.S. assertions that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle. (Source: Reuters)
16 Oct 20. Iran sees no arms buying spree as it expects U.N. embargo to end. Iran said it was self-reliant in its defense and had no need to go on a weapons buying spree as a United Nations conventional arms embargo was due to expire on Sunday despite strong U.S. opposition.
“Iran’s defense doctrine is premised on strong reliance on its people and indigenous capabilities … Unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms have no place in Iran’s defense doctrine,” said a Foreign Ministry statement carried by state media.
The 2007 Security Council arms embargo on Iran was due to expire on Sunday, as agreed to under the 2015 nuclear deal among Iran, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France and the United States that sought to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons in return for economic sanctions relief.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have soared since U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew from the deal, however.
In August, the Trump administration triggered a process aimed at restoring all U.N. sanctions, after the U.N. Security Council rejected a U.S. bid to extend the conventional arms embargo on the country.
“Today’s normalization of Iran’s defense cooperation with the world is a win for the cause of multilateralism and peace and security in our region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.
Days after triggering the process, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Russia and China not to disregard the reimposition of all U.N. sanctions on Iran which Washington has demanded.
When asked whether the United States would target Russia and China with sanctions if they refuse to reimpose the U.N. measures on Iran, Pompeo said: “Absolutely.”
“We have already done that, where we have seen any country violate … the current American sanctions, we’ve held every nation accountable for that. We’ll do the same thing with respect to the broader U.N. Security Council sanctions as well,” he said.
Iran has developed a large domestic arms industry in the face of international sanctions and embargoes that have barred it from importing many weapons.
Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities, although concerns about its long-range ballistic missile program contributed to Washington leaving the Iran nuclear deal. (Source: Reuters)
16 Oct 20. Iran hails ‘momentous day’ as UN arms embargo expires. Symbolic victory deals blow to US but Trump administration threatens sanctions over any weapons deal with Tehran. A UN arms embargo on Iran expired on Sunday, in a blow to the Trump administration that failed in its attempts to extend it. The lifting of the embargo, part of the nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers in 2015, is a symbolic victory for the Islamic republic, which has been under intense pressure from Washington since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord two years ago. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, said the expiration of the embargo was a “momentous day” for the international community, which had defied the US’s “malign” efforts and protected the nuclear accord. Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said Washington would sanction “any individual or entity that materially contributes to the supply, sale, or transfer of conventional arms to or from Iran”. “Every nation that seeks peace and stability in the Middle East and supports the fight against terrorism should refrain from any arms transactions with Iran,” Mr Pompeo said in a statement. “Providing arms to Iran will only aggravate tensions in the region.”
The Trump administration had sought to extend the embargo but suffered a defeat at the UN Security Council in August, when Russia and China voted against the move and 11 powers, including the UK, France and Germany, abstained. The following month, the US imposed more sanctions and Mr Trump claimed that all UN sanctions on Iran had been restored and the arms embargo extended. While sharing some of the US’s concerns, Washington’s European allies said that the US could not take such measures because it had already withdrawn from the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA. “In the short term, the impact of the expiry will be limited. Iran’s financial position means we don’t expect them to be able to make large purchases of arms,” said a European diplomat. “We share the US objectives; where we differ is on whether you should collapse the JCPOA to achieve them. For us it’s really important to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapon and we still believe the JCPOA is the best vehicle.”
The UK, Germany and France opposed Mr Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the deal in 2018 and impose swingeing sanctions on the republic. Iran increased its nuclear activity in response but Tehran and the other signatories, including Russia and China, have remained committed to the 2015 deal. The expiration of the embargo, which the UN Security Council imposed in 2007, was agreed as one of the so-called sunset clauses in the accord. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, said this week that Tehran could import and export arms to “whoever we like as of Sunday”. But potential buyers will be wary of being targeted by secondary US sanctions. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani (third from left) chairs a meeting in Tehran on Sunday © Ebrahim Seydi/Iranian Presidency/dpa Analysts said it was unlikely that Iran would embark on large arms purchases because its economy has been crippled by the US sanctions, coronavirus and the slump in oil prices. However, Ellie Geranmayeh, an Iran specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, said Russia and China were likely to announce arms agreements with Iran “to poke the Trump administration in the eye” and show that “the US was the loser in the game”. But she added: “US sanctions on the financial sector and recent measures targeting Iran’s defence industry will make Russian and Chinese companies think twice, both in terms of coming under US pressure and if they can get paid by Iran.”
The lifting of the embargo is unlikely to alter the balance of military power in the region, as Iran’s regional rivals, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, spend tens of billions of dollars on US weapons. Iran has been under varying degrees of international sanctions since the 1979 Islamic revolution, which forced it to develop an indigenous defence industry. It produces an array of weapons, including drones and ballistic missiles, that are considered core to its national security. It has also built up a network of militant groups across the region that act as proxies as part of its defence strategy, aware that it cannot compete with its rivals in terms of conventional weapons. “Iran has neither the resources, the personnel, the doctrine or the eager sellers to grow into a conventional power rapidly,” said Emile Hokayem, Middle East expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “But there are discrete capabilities that would threaten US dominance, such as anti-ship missiles.” (Source: Reuters)
16 Oct 20. Putin proposes Russia, U.S. extend New START arms control treaty for one year. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin takes part in a video conference call with members of the Security Council in Moscow, Russia October 16, 2020. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed on Friday that Russia and the United States extend their New START arms control treaty that expires in February for at least a year without imposing any conditions.
The New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) accord, signed in 2010, limits the numbers of strategic nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers that Russia and the United States can deploy. [nL8N2H5387]
A failure to extend the pact would remove all constraints on U.S. and Russian deployments of strategic nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, fueling a post-Cold War arms race and tensions between Moscow and Washington.
Putin, speaking at a meeting by video link with Russia’s Security Council that was broadcast on state television, said the treaty had worked effectively until now and it would be “extremely sad” if it were to stop working.
“In this regard, I propose… extending the current treaty without any conditions for at least a year so that meaningful negotiations can be conducted on all the parametres of the problems…” he said.
Russia and the United States, which has called for China to be included in the arms control treaty, have appeared at odds over extending the pact despite several months of talks.
On Wednesday, Moscow denied U.S. assertions that the two sides had reached an agreement in principle. (Source: Reuters)
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