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07 Dec 20. Japan to put new Aegis radars on warships after cancelling ground stations – Asahi. Japan will put new powerful Aegis radars on warships to upgrade its defences against possible ballistic missiles fired by North Korea after it cancelled plans to deploy them at two ground-based stations, the Asahi newspaper reported.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government is likely to approve the recommendation by the country’s National Security Council before the end of the year, although any decision on type of vessel or cost will be left until next year, the paper said, citing unidentified sources.
A defence ministry spokesman declined to comment.
Deploying the new Aegis radars could cost twice as much and take up to three years longer to complete than the ground-based versions, which were expected cost of around $2 billion to build, a source with knowledge of the proposal told Reuters earlier.
In June, then defence minister Taro Kono suspended plans for two Aegis Ashore sites, citing the possibility that interceptor missile booster rockets could fall on nearby residents.
Fitted with Lockheed Martin Corp SPY-7 radars that will have at least three times the range of older Aegis systems deployed on Japanese navy destroyers, the upgrade will allow Japan to use new interceptor missiles to target warheads in space fired by North Korea or other potential foes, including China and Russia. (Source: Reuters)
03 Dec 20. 300 British troops deploy to Mali on UN Peacekeeping Mission. A UK task force has arrived in Mali to join the UN peacekeeping mission where they will provide a reconnaissance capability. 300 UK troops have arrived in Mali as part of the UN’s peacekeeping mission, primarily drawn from the Light Dragoons alongside the Royal Anglian Regiment and supported by specialist trades from across the Armed Forces.
The UK Task Force will provide a highly specialised reconnaissance capability, conducting patrols to gather intelligence and engage with the local population to help the UN respond to threats from violent extremism, and weak governance.
The UN Mission in Mali is made up of over 14,000 peacekeepers from 56 different countries and works to support peace efforts, encourage security sector reform, protect civilians and promote human rights.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “As a permanent member of the UN Security Council this deployment is a demonstration of our firm commitment to peacekeeping and the importance we place on improving security in the Sahel by protecting local communities.
Our land forces are the best in the world, and we are one of a small handful of nations able to provide this specialist capability in a challenging environment which will help prevent the spread of conflict across the region.
The main body of troops arrived on 2nd December, and all UK personnel will have arrived by 8th December to set up the UK Headquarters. They have flown from RAF Brize Norton by A400M aircraft to the UN camp in Gao. They will be based in the newly formed Camp Bagnold, which is named after Brigadier Ralph Alger Bagnold, the desert explorer and first Commanding Officer of the British Army’s “Long Range Desert Group.”
Lieutenant Colonel Tom Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons, said, “The 300 strong Light Dragoon task group is joining over 14,000 peacekeepers from 56 Nations as part of this challenging UN mission in Mali to help protect the people from violence and support political dialogue. We bring years of experience on operations, first class equipment and exceptional people. We’ve trained hard for the last year to make sure that we are ready for this challenging mission. We’re proud to be the first British soldiers to join in this team effort to help combat instability in the Sahel. The Sahel is one of Africa’s poorest and most fragile regions. It is marked by chronic poverty, instability, high levels of gender inequality, and is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Terrorist violence and conflict is sharply on the rise. It is in all our interests that we work together to protect civilians and help build a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for the region.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “This new deployment of 300 British troops to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali is part of our ongoing work in the Sahel region to build stability, improve the humanitarian response and help protect innocent civilians from violence. British troops will reinforce our development and diplomatic work, to maximise our impact on the ground.”
The UK is one of the largest humanitarian donors to the Sahel – in 2020 the UK gave £14.65m in humanitarian aid to Mali and is currently in the process of increasing the size of the UK embassy to reinforce our diplomatic strength in the country.
Alongside this, the MoD currently has 3 Chinook helicopters and 100 personnel in a logistics role supporting the French-led Counter-Terrorist mission, Operation BARKHANE. This is entirely separate from the UN mission, but they will be operating in the same region. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
02 Dec 20. RoK’s Defense Budget Rises 5.4 % to 52.8trn Won in 2021. South Korea’s defense budget for next year rose 5.4 percent on-year as the country strives to boost its self-defense capabilities amid growing security uncertainties and non-traditional challenges, such as infectious diseases, the defense ministry said Wednesday.
According to the budget plan approved by the National Assembly, military spending for 2021 was set at 52.8trn won (US$48bn), up from this year’s 50.15trn won.
The approved amount is slightly lower than the 52.9trn won the ministry asked for, as some plans for arms procurement have been postponed and their budgets dropped from the original request, officials said.
Of the total, the government will spend 17trn won on arms purchases and other projects to boost defense capabilities, up 1.9 percent from 2020.
“As major arms procurement projects, such as the introduction of F-35A fighter jets, are at their final stage, the rate of increase has slightly slowed compared to last year,” the ministry said in a release.
Still, the government has allocated all necessary budget spending to counter threats from North Korea’s nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, to secure capabilities to retake wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean troops from the United States and to achieve defense reform, the ministry said.
Major businesses include 61.7bn won allocated for research and development projects on improving the country’s surveillance aircraft and 46.9bn won earmarked for the military’s communications satellite.
Around 35.8trn won was set aside for managing military assets and forces, marking an on-year growth of 7.1 percent. The ministry said 48.8bn won was allocated to distribute three face masks per week to service personnel amid the coronavirus pandemic, up from the current two per week.
“Based on thorough preparations, we will use next year’s budget effectively as much as possible to establish a strong defense posture and to achieve defense reform,” the ministry said.
The national defense budget has been on a constant rise, from 20.8trn won in 2005 to 31.4trn won in 2011 and 40.3trn won in 2017. It surpassed the 50trn-won mark for the first time in 2020. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Yonhap news agency)
03 Dec 20. UK statement on Afghan peace talks. The UK welcomes progress in peace talks. The two sides have reached an agreement which will allow the start of more substantive negotiations to take place.
Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for the Commonwealth and South Asia, said, “I commend the perseverance and effort of the two negotiating sides in reaching common ground after decades of conflict. This is an important step in the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace talks.
I hope this development leads to a political settlement and a comprehensive ceasefire that the Afghan people want and deserve. For talks to stand a real chance of success, there is a pressing need for a significant reduction in violence: the people of Afghanistan have suffered for too long. While there is a still a long way to go, this agreement shows both sides are able to work together in the pursuit of lasting peace. Only an inclusive political settlement negotiated between Afghans will end this conflict. The UK will continue to support Afghanistan on this journey towards stability and security.” (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
02 Dec 20. Japan protests against Russian missile deployment on disputed islands. Japan’s government has lodged a protest after Russia’s military deployed a number of its new S-300V4 missile defence systems for combat duty on a disputed chain of islands near Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said on Wednesday.
A territorial row over the islands, which the Soviets seized at the end of World War Two, has prevented the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty. Japan calls the islands the Northern Territories and Russia calls them the Kurils. (Source: Reuters)
01 Dec 20. Russia deploys advanced S-300 missiles to disputed islands near Japan. Russia said on Tuesday it had deployed a number of its new S-300V4 missile defence systems for combat duty on a disputed chain of islands near Japan, a move that is likely to anger Tokyo.
The Russian Defence Ministry’s Zvezda TV station said the mobile air defence system designed to counter ballistic and aerial attacks was on Iturup, one of four islands held by Russia that Japan claims and calls the Northern Territories.
“Short-range anti-aircraft missile systems are already on duty on the island of Iturup in Sakhalin Region. Now the air defence ‘heavy artillery’ has arrived. The so-called large air defence system: the S-300V4,” Zvezda said.
The Soviets seized the islands, known as the Southern Kuriles, at the end of World War Two and a territorial row over them has prevented the two sides signing a formal peace treaty since and strained relations for years.
Japan is highly sensitive to military moves by Russia on the strategically important chain of islands that stretch northeast from Japan’s Hokkaido to the Russian Far East region of Kamchatka.
Russia said in October it planned to deploy the missile system on the islands for the first time, but that the move would be part of military drills and not for combat duty.
The deployment comes not long after former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who mounted a push to resolve the dispute and tried to win over Russian President Vladimir Putin, announced he was stepping down in August. (Source: Reuters)
01 Dec 20. Details Revealed in Trump’s Lame-Duck Pentagon Budget Draft. Some of the numbers are “fabricated,” says one official. But they shed light on GOP lines of attack awaiting Biden.
Despite losing reelection, President Trump is plowing ahead with plans to release this month a detailed Pentagon budget for the next fiscal year, plumping up proposed 2022 funding for its key defense priorities in what budget analysts say is an obvious and unorthodox effort to box in President-elect Joe Biden.
Most of the additional funds that administration officials at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, are demanding that the Pentagon add to its budget request, are “fabricated,” if not outright impossible given America’s modest GDP growth and growing national debt, said one defense official involved in crafting the budget plans who was not authorized to speak publicly. Biden will submit his own budget once he is in office, and the Trump administration’s will be mooted, officially.
The lame-duck administration’s unusually detailed request instead “is designed to create a fake appearance of generosity to fund Defense priorities” that will “set [the Trump administration] up to be able to heckle the Biden administration from the sidelines for all of the inevitable reductions that will be made when we redo the budget in January [or] February, and in subsequent years,” that person said.
Building a Pentagon budget is a year-long process. The Pentagon submits multiple drafts to the White House, and OMB replies with the president’s desired edits, known as “passbacks,” which are incorporated into the final budget request eventually submitted to Congress. In presidential transitions dating back to at least 1992, the outgoing administration would turn over the prior years’ work to the incoming team, without publicly releasing it, in what is a bit of a gentleman’s agreement to let the new president tailor it to his own priorities. In early 2020, the Pentagon moved up its internal planning deadlines in an effort to improve the yearly process. After Trump’s apparent Election Day loss, the White House defiantly directed the Pentagon and other federal agencies to proceed with planning next year’s budget request anyway.
A copy of the most recent passback, obtained by Defense One, sheds light on specific avenues of attack Trump officials and supporters may launch when Biden submits his budget request early next year. The total budget — $722bn — is in line the Trump administration’s five-year defense spending projections released earlier this year. But many of the most controversial defense spending and policy choices of the Trump administration are specifically addressed.
Among other things, the document shows a White House demand to “zero out” all funding for the counter-ISIS fight by 2022. It calls on the Defense Department to allocate funding to “determine new sites for EUCOM, SOCEUR, AFRICOM, SOCAF, and any other NATO moves” — referencing combatant and component commands for troops in Europe and Africa, currently located in Germany, where Trump controversially ordered a withdrawal of U.S. troops earlier this year, and where the Army last month ordered its commands to be combined and reorganized. It calls for a military pay raise, a favored, if exaggerated, political boast of the president’s. And it would grow the Space Force, the newest service branch of the military created under Trump.
“It’s a ludicrous exercise, but its purpose is political, not planning,” said Gordon Adams, who ran defense budgeting during the Clinton administration and worked on President Barack Obama’s transition team. “What it allows the Republicans on the Hill to do is to claim that whatever Biden comes up with is a reduction from what the Pentagon should have. So they’re really setting up a political argument.”
A key architect of this budget maneuvering is National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, defense and administration officials say. Many of the OMB directives offer deeply specific prescriptions for Navy funding, a pet interest of O’Brien, who authored a series of wonkish columns on Navy policy gathered in his 2016 book While America Slept.
Longtime watchers of the budget process say the administration is taking an unprecedented step — at least in recent years — by creating such a detailed budget plan on its way out of the door. None of the last four presidents — George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — submitted a budget in the waning days of their presidency.
“All [administrations] come in and get a finished budget handed to them, which they then make changes to. It’s just normally one doesn’t see the ‘draft’ one,” said a congressional aide, who called the move a “stunt.”
What Does OMB Want?
Even prior to Election Day, the Pentagon was pushing to finish the 2022 budget earlier than normal.
The draft OMB passback, dated Nov. 27 with a deadline for responses of Dec. 1, is hardly the final word on what Trump’s parting-shot budget may include. Pentagon officials are now preparing responses to specific OMB requests. And much of it is likely dead on arrival come Jan. 20 when Biden is inaugurated.
The proposed budget “seeks to achieve Administration objectives within the topline guidance by protecting strategic priorities and identifying savings and offsets to reallocate to higher priorities,” the document states. “[The proposal] recommends increases for key Administration priorities, including shipbuilding, missile defense, the defense industrial base, and other investments focused on Great Power competition and, in particular, countering China.”
Trump’s proposed $722bn for the Pentagon is 2 percent higher than the military requested in current fiscal 2021, according to other internal documents reviewed by Defense One, but in line with what defense officials projected earlier this year when they sent their fiscal 2021 spending request to Congress. That total does not include additional national security money within the Energy Department and other federal agency budgets.
In the passback, the White House orders the Pentagon to spend bns of dollars more on missile defense and to “accelerate development and testing” of interceptors that could counter fast-flying hypersonic weapons.
It also called for the Pentagon to spend at least $150m to demonstrate the “Mobile Intermediate Range Missile.”
The OMB document includes several spending increases to Navy projects. O’Brien has pushed for a larger Navy, largely to bolster American forces in the Pacific to deter China, as had Mark Esper during his tenure as defense secretary. The Trump administration directs the Navy to overhaul five guided missile cruisers and two fast-attack submarines that it had planned to retire over the next five years. In all, the overhauls would cost the Navy $2.6bn over that same period. The White House also directed the Navy to “assess all Large Surface Combatants for maximum life extension opportunities.” It also wants the Navy to spend $5m “for a feasibility study to place naval activities on American Samoa.”
The Pentagon should increase spending on artificial intelligence, biotechnology and quantum information science research and development, OMB said in the passback.
It also instructs the Pentagon to conduct “site surveys to determine new sites” for troops based in Europe and Africa.
“In order to assess the underutilized domestic infrastructure which could support the accelerated return of 6,400 personnel to U.S. bases with minimal military construction investments, please provide [the Office of Management and Budget] a copy of the force structure plans and infrastructure capabilities…no later than December 7, 2020,” the document states.
OMB also orders a cap on F-35 stealth fighter buys at 85 jets per year. If the program needs more money due to cost increases, the Pentagon must cut the number of jets it intends to buy, the budgeting office said. The White House also asks for an analysis of how the F-35 and other warplanes would fare in a war with China between 2030 and 2040.
“[R]eductions to the planned fleet must be based on a strategic risk and capability analysis of the need for the F-35 in the most stressing contingency and that such an analysis is vital to obtain support for any proposed reductions to the fleet,” the document states.
OMB also ordered $2.3bn in cuts to the Army and $2.5bn in cuts to Air Force operations and maintenance. The proposal also includes a 2.7 percent military pay raise in fiscal 2022 and proposes boosting the size of the Space Force, while cutting 5,000 active-duty Army soldiers.
“The Army should adjust its end strength levels in accordance with reductions in presence that the Administration has made in [the Middle East] and [Europe],” the document states.
The passback also gives previously unreported insight into the Pentagon’s priorities, some of which may outlast Trump. It reveals that, under Trump, the Pentagon wants to reduce its role in counter-drug support to other federal agencies and local law enforcement.
“OMB denies the proposed elimination of funding for the National Guard [counter-drug] Schools and reserve personnel intelligence analysis support to Federal law enforcement agencies,” the document reads. “If DOD would like to continue to pursue the elimination or transfer of CD activities in future budget cycles, OMB encourages DOD to fully coordinate proposals with impacted Federal agencies and submit such proposals to OMB in advance of agencies’ annual budget submissions to OMB.” (Source: Defense One)
01 Dec 20. Australian MINDEF announces launch of Defence Transformation Strategy. Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds has announced the launch of the ‘Lead the Way: Defence Transformation Strategy’, a new framework to evolve Defence’s strategic purpose, performance and accountability, building on the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan announced earlier in the year.
Lead the Way: Defence Transformation Strategy will build Defence’s capacity to identify and seize opportunities to transform the Defence enterprise, and improve how quickly and effectively Defence delivers against its strategic objectives, this strategy outlines a number of initiatives that are designed to build a continuous improvement culture, institute an enduring transformation system and focus the Defence enterprise on priority focus areas for reform.
The strategy outlines a number of initiatives that are designed to build a continuous improvement culture, institute an enduring transformation system and focus the Defence enterprise on priority focus areas for reform.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds explained that the Defence Transformation Strategy will fundamentally change the way the Department works to evolve and adapt as One Defence, particularly as Australia faces an increasingly contested, challenging Indo-Pacific.
Minister Reynolds explained to reporters at the launch of the strategy: “The fact for us all today is this, is that changing circumstances are a reality for all Australians, and not just for Defence. We are all having to recalibrate our thinking, our systems, our institutions, and indeed our very lives. History has shown over and over again humanity’s capacity to adapt and to evolve. A fast moving world means more demands are being placed on this capacity. Making it even more challenging to do all the things that we must as a society and also as a Defence.
“This year our nation’s attention has rightly been focused on the challenges of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, our strategic circumstances were changing and deteriorating well before then. You’re all very well aware of what’s happening in our region, the Indo-Pacific: Countries are modernising their militaries and accelerating their preparedness for conflict.
“New weapons and new technologies are transforming the characteristics of warfare. Some nations are increasingly employing coercive tactics in the grey-zone, which [are] directly impacting on our sovereignty. Great power competition is causing the most consequential strategic realignment since the end of World War Two.”
Those areas of focus are:
* Driving improved build and delivery of vital military capability;
* Strengthening Defence’s approach to Australian industry capability, including innovation, export and harnessing opportunities from Australian science and technology;
* Adopting a strategic approach to enhancing Defence enterprise resilience and supply chain assurance;
* Improving Defence’s strategic workforce planning, learning and management;
* Improving performance measurement and reporting framework; and
* Improving our engagement and communications.
“Defence must continue to improve its ability to deliver on its current commitments while retaining the organisational capacity to anticipate and respond effectively to strategic challenges. On becoming Minister, I set Defence leaders three key priorities – strategy, capability and reform,” Minister Reynolds said.
The Defence Transformation Strategy builds on the strong foundations of the 2015 First Principles Review, and refocuses Defence’s enterprise efforts from creating One Defence, to ensuring it is now fundamentally embedded as a guiding concept throughout the entire enterprise.
Minister Reynolds added, “These priorities are the pillars that support, guide and ensure agility and adaptability in Defence culture and thinking, strategic performance, and organisational structure. In July, the Prime Minister and I announced the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, which addresses strategy, by outlining this government’s response to the challenges Australia faces while setting out adjustments to Defence planning.”
Additionally, the launch of the Defence Transformation Strategy enhances the frameworks, force structure priorities and capability focus identified in the Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan respectively and aims to fulfil the reform agenda identified by Minister Reynolds as Defence and government respond to the myriad traditional and asymmetric challenges facing Australia in the region.
Minister Reynolds explained, “Reform – the third priority, keeps Defence organisationally fit to implement its strategic and capability priorities. Lead the Way: Defence Transformation Strategy acknowledges that large-scale transformation requires cultural change and that our Defence people will be the source of, and reason for, our success.
“This strategy, which was foreshadowed back in July in the Defence Strategic Update, will ensure Defence is able to adapt to meet the challenges arising from our changing strategic environment into the future.” (Source: Defence Connect)
27 Nov 20. Philippines Looking to Reverse Course on Scrapping US Military Pact. The Philippines, an old American ally in Asia, is changing its view on whether to scrap a key U.S. military pact, as it explores new ways of benefiting from U.S. defense aid without isolating its newer superpower friend, China, analysts and officials say. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte this month announced that cancelling the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) would be suspended for another six months, which lets U.S. troops access Philippine soil for military exercises aimed at regional security as well as local humanitarian work. Philippine presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday that in six more months “we will know” the president’s decision.
The first suspension was announced in June, four months after Manila said it would fully withdraw from the 21-year-old pact.
Duterte hopes the suspensions will prompt the United States – which wants to keep the agreement so its military personnel can easily reach Asia – renegotiate the two-way defense relationship with a focus not just on warding off China but also on quelling armed rebels at home, analysts believe.
Shortly after taking office in 2016, the leader surprised his citizens by seeking a friendship with China despite a maritime sovereignty dispute that shook the two sides from 2012 to 2016. That year, a world court said Chinese claims in the contested waterway, the South China Sea, were illegal.
The Philippines president has expressed anti-American views while in office, but domestic opinion polls show that much of the public still favors close ties with Washington. Duterte’s government has acknowledged this year that China remains a threat at sea despite Chinese economic aid offered since 2016.
“For the Duterte government’s perspective, there’s too much focus from the United States on U.S.-China great power competition and arming the Philippines to deal with China, rather than arming the Philippines so that the Philippines can do other missions as well,” said Derek Grossman, senior analyst with the U.S.-based Rand Corp. research institution.
“By delaying the VFA further, they are keeping the agreement intact but also putting some pressure on negotiators to come up with a better deal,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. sent in February a “notice of termination” of the Visiting Forces Agreement to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, following through on an order from Duterte. He hinted later that the president was having a rethink.
“Why did he change his mind? A man who does not change his mind cannot change anything,” Locsin tweeted June 3 in announcing the first suspension. “And he ran on the slogan: Change is coming.”
Washington and Manila separately signed a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951. The Visiting Forces Agreement is seen as a way to execute the 1951 deal through arms sales, exchanges of intelligence and new discussions on military cooperation.
Duterte probably hopes the government of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will renegotiate military ties so the Philippines can tone down maritime defenses against China and instead focus on anti-terrorism campaigns around the restive southern Philippine island Mindanao, experts say. Expect more suspensions of the VFA cancellation, they add.
“It’s going to be like this until the two sides really find an agreement to better the alliance based on mutually acceptable terms,” said Aaron Rabena, research fellow at the Asia-Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation in Metro Manila.
About 20 Muslim rebel groups operate in Mindanao and the adjacent Sulu Sea. Mindanao is a stronghold too for the Philippine communist party’s armed front.
Duterte ultimately wants a superpower-neutral foreign policy like those crafted by Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, some experts say.
The United States had governed the Philippines for more than five decades before granting it independence after World War II. For Washington today, the Philippines represents one in a Western Pacific chain of political allies that work together as needed to stop Chinese maritime expansion.
Beijing resents U.S. military activity near the resource-laden, 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea. China, better armed than any other country in East Asia, calls 90% of the sea its own despite protests from the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
“The Philippines will be friends with both sides, but it will not be taken for a ride and I think the six-month, short-term leash is also seen in the context that the Philippines and the U.S. [are] still discussing revisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty,” said Eduardo Araral, associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.
Duterte’s government values its U.S. ties as well as others, Jose Manuel Romualdez, Philippines ambassador to the United States, said November 18 in a videoconference with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall.
“It’s not fair to say Duterte is really just cozying up to China and it’s a zero-sum game,” the ambassador said. “We would like to have relations with all countries. We feel that our interests will be best protected by reaching out to major countries like China and even Russia to do what is best for our country.” (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Voice of America News)
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