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21 Mar 21. Austin Meets With Afghan, U.S., Coalition Leaders; Gathers Info to Aid Biden Decision on U.S. Effort. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met Afghan, American and coalition leaders in Kabul to better understand the situation in the country and see the way forward to a just peace in the long-troubled land.
The Biden administration is conducting a review of the agreement with the Taliban and, even in the midst of COVID-19, the secretary wanted to hear firsthand from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani; Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan; and Ambassador Ross Wilson, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
“I am here to listen and learn,” Austin said during a short meeting with reporters traveling with him. “It will inform my participation in the review we are undergoing here with the president. It’s very helpful.”
Austin said he continues to be grateful for the sacrifices made by service members, diplomats, civilian employees and contractors serving in the country.
Austin wouldn’t comment on whether the Taliban has met the necessary conditions under the Doha agreement for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. “What I will say is that it is obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country. We’d really like to see that violence come down. If it does come down it can begin to set the condition for some really fruitful diplomatic work.”
Austin did not bring or convey a message to Ghani. “I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were and see the landscape through his eyes. That’s what we did. I really had a chance to hear from him and it was very helpful to me.”
The objective is a responsible end to the conflict. American officials have been saying for years that there are no military solutions to the problems that plague Afghanistan. “I heard from all of our partners here today that everyone is really desirous of a responsible end and transition to something else.”
Austin said he has complete faith in Miller. He said he is confident that Miller can accomplish his mission with the resources he has, “and I have great confidence in his ability to protect our troops. It is the right of every commander to defend his troops. There is no question that Gen. Miller has the attributes and resources on hand to accomplish that.” (Source: US DoD)
20 Mar 21. U.S. defense secretary urges India to avoid buying Russian equipment. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed India’s planned purchase of Russia’s S400 air defence system at a meeting with his Indian counterpart on Saturday, reiterating U.S. allies should steer clear of Russian equipment to avoid sanctions.
“We certainly urge all our allies, our partners to move away from Russian equipment … and really avoid any kind of acquisitions that would trigger sanctions on our behalf,” Austin told reporters in New Delhi.
No S400 systems have been delivered to India and so the possibility of sanctions was not discussed, he said.
The United States last year imposed sanctions on Turkey for buying the S400 system.
India made an initial payment of $800m in 2019 towards the Russian purchase and the first set of missile batteries are expected later this year.
Ahead of Austin’s trip, Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked him to raise democracy and human rights concerns in his talks with the Indian government, as well reaffirm the Biden administration’s opposition to India’s planned purchase of the Russian systems.
Austin is making the first visit by a top member of U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to India as part of efforts to forge an alliance of countries seeking to push back against China’s assertiveness in the region.
The leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan – countries together known as the Quad – held a first summit last week pledging to work together for a free and open Indo-Pacific and to cooperate on maritime and cyber security in the face of challenges from China.
“India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner among today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics,” Austin said after meeting Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, during which they discussed strengthening security ties.
“We discussed opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India major defence partnership … and we’ll do that through regional security cooperation and military to military interactions and defence trade,” Austin added.
The United States has emerged as one of India’s biggest arms sellers, and the two sides are also discussing India’s plan to buy armed drones from the United States as well as a large order for over 150 combat jets for the air force and the navy to help narrow the gap with China, Reuters reported on Friday.
U.S. firms Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin are front runners for the multibillion-dollar combat jet deals.
Austin met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival in New Delhi on Friday. He leaves on Sunday.
India drew closer to the United States last year following a deadly border clash with China. Washington has helped New Delhi, leasing surveillance drones and supplying cold-weather gear for Indian troops.
22 Feb 21. Lockheed Martin evaluates 400 Saudi Arabian firms in defense review. With a recent joint agreement with Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) to enhance the Kingdom’s defense capabilities and localize its military industry, Lockheed Martin (LM) has become a vital partner in the development of the Kingdom’s defence capabilities as part of Vision 2030.
The agreement states that SAMI will own 51 percent of the joint venture with LM, which aims to establish a research and development center, to be named the KSA Defense Systems Engineering & Technology Center of Excellence (DSTC).
“The DSTC will deliver critical defense mission capabilities to meet the urgent and long-term needs of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in systems engineering, system integration and test and Research & Technology (R&T) defense domains,” Joseph Rank, the chief executive at Lockheed Martin in Saudi Arabia, told Arab News.
LM will be leveraging its defense and aerospace products and experience to support the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) and SAMI, while simultaneously providing human capital development to Saudi employees within the center and establishing a Saudi defense supply chain, he said.
Saudi Arabia’s defense budget is one of the largest in the world – reportedly $80 billion in 2018 – and LM aims to make sure more of this budget is spent at home. When SAMI was launched in 2017 only 3 percent of Saudi Arabia’s defense spending was spent locally. The Kingdom is aiming to increase this to 50 percent by 2030 with the help of LM is part of achieving this target.
“Our plan focuses on two main areas. First, we work closely with the US government to identify technologies that are releasable to our partner nations. Second, we work very closely with the Saudi authorities to identify which localization projects are economically viable and of value to the Kingdom,” explained Rank.
As part of this collaboration, LM has evaluated more than 400 companies in Saudi Arabia to gain a thorough understanding of the Kingdom’s defense needs. “The process is still ongoing, but we are on the way to helping our Saudi partners develop into world-class producers of military equipment,” Rank said.
LM is working across a variety of technologies in sectors such as aviation, cyber, naval and land systems. “The main objective is to bring capabilities that are in line with the requirements and needs of the armed services and assist in the development of these capabilities in partnership with local industrial companies. The focus is on the design, integration, training and lifetime support of military equipment and services,” he added.
The US company has witnessed “some slowdowns” during the pandemic, just like everyone else, but Rank said the impact was minimal. “We have invested heavily in protecting our global supply chains and deployed proactive measures to position ourselves for the fastest possible recovery. Here in Saudi Arabia, we have been impressed by how rapidly our partners and key stakeholders were able to transition to remote working and teleconferencing protocols,” Rank said.
Saudi Arabia’s agility and technology adoption has enabled LM and ensured many initiatives remain on track, he continued.
The Kingdom’s stance on encouraging the development of its people has pushed LM to invest in various educational programs, including funding the MBSC (Mohammed Bin Salman College) for Business in Jeddah, developing technology development curriculums with GAMI and a signed Master Research agreement with King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.
LM has signed further agreements to develop theory and on-hand training with the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, King Saud University, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and Jeddah University.
For its future endeavors, the company hopes to support the Saudi Space Commission on several programs through internships and training. The Saudi Geostationary Satellite 1 (SGS-1), manufactured by Lockheed Martin and first launched in 2019, is going to push the Kingdom forward through its space economy journey.
LM has also entered an agreement with the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA) to develop space systems, building satellite testing facilities and expecting further expansion in the future.
There is certainly a lot of scope for potential partnership. The CEO of SAMI told Reuters this week the defense company is aiming to be one of the top 25 in the world by 2030, generating annual revenue of $5bn. (Source: Google/https://www.arabnews.com/)
20 Mar 21. India, U.S. Look at Ways to Grow Partnership to Protect Indo-Pacific. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III came away from his meetings with Indian officials in New Delhi encouraged by the response from “an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics.”
The secretary stressed the U.S. commitment to allies and partners throughout the region. India is a major defense partner to the United States. “I think working together with like-minded countries who have shared interests is the way you check any aggression in any region,” the secretary told reporters traveling with him. “And so you can look for us to continue to do that in the future.”
India is a key pillar in U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that India stands for “freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce and adherence to international law.”
So does the United States, Austin said. “As the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenges to an open and stable international system, the U.S.-India relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” he said. “And it’s clear that the importance of this partnership, and its impact [on] the international rules-based order will only grow in the years ahead.”
India – traditionally a non-aligned state – sees converging strategic interests with the United States in this regard. The U.S. and India have begun military exercises together and have worked in some operations together – most notably a counter piracy effort off the coast of East Africa and in the Gulf of Aden.
The secretary met with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh earlier in the day and discussed opportunities to elevate the U.S.-India Major Defense Partnership through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions and defense trade.
“These are all mutual agreements in terms of the directions that we’re wanting to take,” Austin said. “And clearly, in terms of increasing interoperability … more exercises are good. And so, we’ll see. But again, we can expect that there will be frequent exchanges and we look forward to the ability to work together to build greater capacity and capability going forward.”
Some of the areas the leaders agreed to work in include: information-sharing, logistics cooperation, artificial intelligence, and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber.
Singh issued a statement after his meeting with Austin that India is “keen to work together to realize the full potential of the India-US comprehensive global strategic partnership.”
Singh said the two men “reviewed the wide gamut of bilateral and multilateral exercises and agreed to pursue enhanced cooperation with the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command.”
Both men stated that the India-U.S. relationship could be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. (Source: US DoD)
18 Mar 21. Afghanistan: State of affairs. As a new round of peace talks between the Afghani government and Taliban emerge, what outcome can we expect?
Three weeks ago, Defence Connect Insights reviewed whether the West’s “forever war” in Afghanistan may come to a close in the not-too-distant future. Using assertions from former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt published in ASPI, we assessed the necessary steps for the US to create tribal consensus in the country and create regional stability.
While the Trump administration had made overtures to the Taliban to bring an end to decades – if not hundreds of years of instability in the region– will the Biden administration, which is still in its infancy, be able to execute this vision of peace?
Author of Iran rising: the survival and future of the Islamic Republic and adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia Amin Saikal examines this at length in ASPI’s The Strategist this week.
The Biden administration has approached the question of peace between the US and the Taliban considerably more sternly than the Trump administration. This was overwhelmingly evidenced by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s correspondence last week with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, strongly recommending decisive action on behalf of the Afghan government to ensure amicable resolutions with the Taliban.
“Understand the urgency of my tone,” Secretary Blinken wrote.
“The security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains.”
Secretary Blinken is seemingly aware that a premature departure could be disastrous to the Afghani government as well as the US and its allies both in the region and globally.
Initially, the US had agreed to withdraw coalition troops by 1 May provided the Taliban had undertaken peaceful co-operation with the Afghani government. Other alternatives being touted by the US now include a United Nations led conference in Turkey to mediate between the political tribes and further encourage them to approve a mutually agreeable government, constitution and Islamic Council. Turkey has agreed to host such a meeting.
“Blinken’s proposal is very much along the lines of the US-driven and UN-led Afghan Bonn peace conference of December 2001. That event, which took place following America’s toppling of Taliban rule, mapped out a political transition for Afghanistan, without the participation of the Taliban since it was designated as a terrorist group”, Saikal said.
Saikal notes that Trump preferred for a military withdrawal regardless of the outcomes of the Doha agreement or subsequent peace talks. In return for a ceasefire upon coalition forces, the Taliban would see 5,000 of its supporters released in exchange for the release of 1,000 government captives under Taliban control.
While this was a sub-optimal agreement in Saikal’s view, Blinken’s letter of demands to the Afghani government have exacerbated accusations that Ghani and his supporters are a puppet of the US.
“Speaking on behalf of the government, the first vice-president and former head of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh, criticised Blinken’s initiative as unacceptable”, Saikal writes.
Even among the anti-Taliban political class in Afghanistan, division is ripe. Whereas former minister Ismail Khan agrees with Saleh, former president Hamid Karzai support’s the Biden administration’s plan.
Saikal notes that while the Blinken’s forceful hand may encourage the government and Taliban to come to an agreement – it could also cause them to entrench themselves in their demands.
As for now – it remains unknown what direction the peace talks will head in. It also remains unknown whether there will be peace talks at all. However, it seems that the Afghani government and Taliban will have to overlook decades of bad blood to make peace in Afghanistan viable. (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Mar 21. Will the Quad usher in a ‘new dawn’ in the Indo-Pacific? Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes the Quad can lead a multi-layered recovery in the Indo-Pacific, but according to ASPI’s executive director, member nations have a “mountain to climb” before restoring regional stability.
Last week, leaders of the Quad nations — Australia, India, Japan, and the US — met virtually to explore new collaboration opportunities aimed at supporting the Indo-Pacific region’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to mounting political threats.
In a strong vote of confidence, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said this renewed commitment from the Quad would help bring about a “new dawn” in the region.
“History teaches us that when nations engage together in a partnership of strategic trust, of common hope and shared values, much can be achieved,” Prime Minister Morrison said in his opening address.
The prime minister compared the current global setting to the post-WWI era.
“When the world emerged from the Great War and our last global pandemic a century ago, it soon found a great depression and another global conflict, and it unleashed a poverty and a devastation that was unthinkable,” he added.
“As we emerge from this global pandemic, and the global recession, let us together create a different future. It is the Indo-Pacific that will now shape the destiny of our world in the 21st Century.
Morrison claimed the Quad has a new opportunity to work with regional neighbours to restore “peace, stability and prosperity”, helping to drive an “open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific”.
“To respect and support their sovereignty, independence and security by upholding our values and supporting international law and to address the many challenges we face, from COVID to climate change,” he added.
“Know friends, that Australia, while looking to our friends in all of these tasks, we never leave it to our friends. We’ll do our share of the heavy lifting to lighten the burden for us all.”
However, Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) and a former deputy secretary for strategy in the Department of Defence, does not share Prime Minister Morrison’s optimism.
“[We] would do well to remember the village folklore that ‘the darkest hour is just before the dawn’,” Jennings writes.
“The Quad has a strategic mountain to climb to bolster faltering democracies in our region, to stop COVID-19 scything through countries that are ill-equipped to respond and, above all, to push back against the predatory wolf warriors of Beijing.”
Jennings flagged the individual challenges facing Quad nations, which could hinder collective efforts to restore regional stability.
“The Quad is a grouping of countries each of which, for different reasons, is reluctantly pressed to the Indo-Pacific strategic frontline,” he observes.
“President Joe Biden’s emphasis on working with the allies means that the US, the world’s security provider of choice, is tired of the burden and wants others to take some of the load.
“Of the other Quad countries, India is only just emerging from its non-aligned mindset and beginning to craft a world view that looks beyond its immediate borders. Japan’s ‘peace constitution’, and an assumed deep public aversion to military conflict, limits Tokyo’s capacity for forthright strategic leadership.”
As for Australia, Jennings claims Canberra has “talked a big game” but has been reluctant to bear the cost of “real strategic leadership”.
“Morrison promised his Quad colleagues that ‘we’ll do our share of the heavy lifting to lighten the burden for us all’,” Jennings continues.
“Only so much heavy lifting can be done with defence spending at 2.19 per cent of GDP, overseas development assistance at $4 billion and falling (prior to COVID-19) and one of the smallest diplomatic corps among G20 countries.”
Jennings contends that while the Quad’s commitment to meet regularly is a “substantial development”, the region has “singularly failed” to provide strategic leadership in recent years.
“The most important thing the new grouping can do is for the leaders to spur each other on to bigger, more imaginative policy efforts and not be slowed by bureaucratic process,” he adds.
Among the collaboration initiatives agreed to during last week’s virtual meeting was vaccine manufacturing and delivery throughout the region, particularly to the ‘last mile’ for ‘hard-to-reach communities in need’.
Australia committed to delivering ‘last-mile’ vaccines in Southeast Asia, in addition to supporting the rollout in Timor-Leste and nine Pacific island states.
“This is vital work, but we should have no illusions about the scale of the task involved,” Jennings warns.
He claims that this commitment could “absorb every Australian Defence Force aircraft, ship and unit”, as well as commercial aircraft from Virgin Australia and Qantas.
“Recall how stretched Defence was in the early 2000s to maintain a ‘brigade-plus’ formation of several thousand personnel in Timor-Leste to stabilise a country of (then) less than a million people,” he writes.
“There will be many ways to deliver vaccines including using private contractors and volunteer non-government organisations, but when it comes to hard-to-reach communities — consider the Papua New Guinea Highlands and Bougainville — it’s hard to see how Defence won’t be deeply involved.”
Jennings is also critical of Australia’s $100m financial pledge for the provision of vaccines.
“Does this in any way meet the scale of the problem?” he asks.
ASPI’s executive director claims the vaccine strategy would help Quad member re-establish ties with regional neighbours, noting that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, China continued to build relationships with regional partners, while Australia and its allies were dormant due to travel restrictions.
“This was clearly a tactic to build Chinese Communist Party influence at our expense. The Quad vaccine strategy demands that we urgently get back into the region,” he observes.
During the virtual meeting, Quad members also established a climate working group and a critical and emerging technology working group, the latter of which, according to Jennings, would “bring the Quad most openly into competition with China”.
The analyst noted there’s a pressing need to develop technology that is not dependent on Beijing or vulnerable to intellectual property theft.
“The importance of the Quad is that it holds open the possibility that Washington will include the allies as part of critical supply chains,” he writes.
“Australia’s interest in domestic production of air- and ship-launched missiles is much more achievable if we make it part of an international effort of key democracies.”
“The arrival of the Quad leaders’ meeting shows not just that a consensus has emerged about our dire strategic situation but also that we desperately need to do something about it quickly, not in defence acquisition timeframes measured in decades.”
Jennings concludes that while the pandemic was the core topic of discussion during last week’s conference, it was not the driving factor behind the meeting.
“This meeting happened for one reason only: the aggressive and destabilising behaviour of Xi Jinping,” he writes.
“Beijing might contemplate that as it tweets out its dismissive contempt for the gathering.” (Source: Defence Connect)
18 Mar 21. U.S.-Korean Alliance is Key to Peace, Stability in Northeast Asia. The American commitment to the U.S.-Republic of Korea Treaty remains ironclad, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today following the ROK-US Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting in Seoul.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken joined Austin for talks with South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung Eui-yong and Minister of National Defense Suh Wook. The ”Two-plus-Two” meeting is part of the American delegation’s first overseas trip to meet with allies and friends. It is a clear indication of the importance the Biden administration places on reinvigorating the network of allies and partners at the heart of American strategy.
After the meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Austin and Blinken met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in who thanked the American leaders for the constructive meetings.
South Korea is an important military ally. American and South Korean forces fought together during the Korean War, and South Korean soldiers deployed to combat alongside American in Vietnam. They also supported efforts in the fight against violent extremists.
Austin noted that the interoperability among the two forces today may be the best in the world. The military is only a part of this, however. The two nations share common interests and values beyond the Korean peninsula. “With the many challenges we face, our bond — forged through shared sacrifice – is more important now than ever,” he said. “[The alliance] is critical not only to the security of the Republic of Korea and the United States, but also to the peace and stability of Northeast Asia and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Austin said the U.S. commitment to South Korea covers the full range of capabilities America brings. The alliance is defensive in nature and the two nations maintain a robust combined defense posture.
North Korea continues to act against United Nations resolutions calling on the nation to stop its nuclear weapons program. The United States and South Korea “remain committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “There is no daylight between us on this point.”
Austin stressed the importance of maintaining military readiness. “Our force remains ready to ‘fight tonight,’ and we continue to make progress toward the eventual transition of wartime operational control to a [Republic of Korea]-commanded, future Combined Forces Command.”
Combined Forces Command is currently commanded by Army Gen. Robert Abrams, but the command is truly a combined headquarters. “While meeting all the conditions for this transition will take more time, I’m confident that this process will strengthen our alliance,” Austin said.
The secretary said the United States and South Korea together must address global security challenges and engage in long-term strategic competition with China. China, more than Russia, is the Defense Department’s “pacing threat” for the years ahead, the secretary said.
The meeting served to help the leaders of the two nations to identify areas where the United States and South Korea can work together to uphold the rules-based international system that has served the region so well. The meeting also looked at how to help partner nations build capacity and capabilities to support their own sovereignty.
Although a State Department document, Austin noted he was pleased at the initialing of the Special Measures Agreement with South Korea. It is part-and-parcel of the new administration’s efforts to revitalize the network of alliances and partnerships, he said.
“That is why we also reaffirmed our commitment to the U.S.-ROK-Japan trilateral defense cooperation, because we recognize the value of ‘multilateralism’ and we value a forward-looking agenda to address both current and future shared challenges,” Austin said.
The combined meeting of foreign affairs and defense ministers reflects the U.S. belief in leading with diplomacy with backing from a strong military posture. Allies and partners are key, the secretary said, to American strategy. “Working closely with our allies and partners will allow us to meet every challenge and outmatch any competitor,” Austin said. (Source: US DoD)
17 Mar 21. Ukraine should look to US for air defenses, improved air force, says former defense adviser. The recent decision by the Biden administration to send $125m in military aid for Ukraine is a welcome site in Kyiv, but the country needs and deserves much more, according to a former chief adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister.
“It is clear that Ukraine is not unique among the list of countries who are supported by the U.S. government,” Oleksandr Danylyuk, now chairman of the Ukrainian Center for Defense Reforms think tank, said in a recent telephone interview from Kyiv. “But it is also clear that Ukraine provides a lot of security for the U.S.”
The package, announced March 1, included two Mark VI patrol boats as well as “counter-artillery radars and tactical equipment; continued support for a satellite imagery and analysis capability; and equipment to support military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures,” per the Pentagon.
That marked the first military aid to Ukraine under the Biden administration, and more could be coming; there is another $150m appropriated by Congress for the fiscal 2021 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, but that money is gated off until the U.S. Defense and State departments jointly certify there has been “sufficient progress” made by Ukraine on military reform efforts.
Danylyuk, who has advised Ukraine’s government in modernizing its armed forces, particularly its special forces, argued two key points that make Ukraine worthy of increased aid. The first is that country’s 1994 decision to remove from its soil nearly 200 intercontinental ballistic missiles and nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads in exchange for a guarantee of sovereignty from Russia.
The second, and far more current, argument he made is that by taking on Russia in the Donbas and elsewhere, Ukraine is expending its own blood and treasure to protect U.S. allies like Poland and the Baltics, and ultimately America itself.
“Ukraine deserves much bigger support from a moral point of view and from a very practical point of view,” Danylyuk said. “No disrespect, but Ukraine deserves more than Egypt or Jordan.” Those two countries receive significant military aid from the U.S.
Specifically, Danylyuk said he would like to see the U.S have more high-level military-to-military interactions to discuss mutual tactical and strategic objectives.
Luke Coffey, an international affairs expert with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation think tank, believes relations between the U.S. and Ukraine will be easier under the Biden administration than during the last 18 months of the Trump administration, when arms support for Ukraine became tied up in the first impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
“I think where we’ll see a change will be in terms of the rhetoric that’s used about Ukraine and its Euro-Atlantic aspirations in NATO and the European Union,” Coffey predicted. “But also I think we’ll see more funding and financial support” from the U.S.
While Coffey is skeptical there will be a shift toward major American military exercises in Ukraine, Ian Brzezinski, a European expert with the Atlantic Council, said such an expansion is needed, feasible and would be a strong sign of support for Ukraine.
“Right now, we basically do ship visits and tactical training for the military,” Brzezinski said. “What about sending a brigade or battalion into Ukraine for a few months? That would provide a higher-intensity level of engagement and training for the Ukrainians, and it would complicate Russian planning by demonstrating that one cannot ignore the risk of U.S. intervention in Ukraine in the event Moscow acts radically again.”
“The top officials of the Biden administration largely come from the Obama team. They’re seasoned, they have a new leader, but it’s not yet fully clear how their policies are going to differ from the Obama years. They need to articulate and demonstrate that they [are] less averse to conflict and will [be] more assertive in combatting aggression,” he added. “Some of their initial statements and actions are obviously useful in this regard but do not yet clearly distinguish the administration from the Obama years.”
Regarding the recently released military assistance package to Ukraine, Brzezinski said: “Clearly the Ukrainians need this, but there is more the U.S. can and should do.”
Equipment wish list
In terms of material items, Danylyuk said more air defense and anti-missile systems are needed. He specifically cited the Patriot and Tomahawk missiles as something Ukraine desires.
The Patriot makes sense on paper, as it would come heavily into play should Russia ever fully invade Ukraine, said Brzezinski. “The Russians are all about using missiles to shut down an adversary’s command-and-control structures, critical sensors, and logistical systems; that’s why Ukraine needs more robust air and missile defense capacities,” he said.
But he noted the level and type of missile defense capabilities the U.S. can and should provide would be in part determined by Ukraine’s capacity to afford and properly use those systems.
That same concern would exist for any high-end fighter aircraft — something Danylyuk said is another priority. The Ukrainian Air Force heavily relies on obsolete Soviet airframes, and “we need to replace them with something more modern,” he said.
When asked if Ukraine is interested in a fifth-generation fighter like the F-35, Danylyuk said the stealth fighter is on the list of air assets Ukraine would eventually like to have.
Updating Ukrainian air capabilities makes sense to Coffey, but Ukraine “shouldn’t try to be a peer-to-peer competitor with Russia in the skies.”
More directly, “there’s no way, in my opinion, that Ukraine should even remotely consider a platform like the F-35 right now,” Coffey said, given the unit cost and operational requirements for the advanced fighter. “For the type of threat that they face and are involved in right now, I don’t see how they could feasibly purchase F-35s.”
Instead, Coffey suggested Ukraine should look to alternatives for air power, including Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 unmanned systems that have proven effective against Russian equipment in Libya, in Syria and during the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Danylyuk also said he would like to see more joint U.S.-Ukraine weapons systems development programs. “That could be very useful,” he said.
(Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
17 Mar 21. IRGC unveils old base as ‘new naval missile city.’ Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced the inauguration of a new ‘missile city’ for its naval wing on 15 March. The IRGC released video footage showing its commander Major General Hossein Salami and its naval commander Rear Admiral Alireza Tangsiri inspecting equipment at a base that could be identified as one in the mountains north of Shiraz city, more than 170 km from the Gulf coast. They also inspected tunnels that may have been at the same facility.
Satellite imagery shows the base has existed since at least 2003 and is connected to tunnels that were constructed from 2009. A known ballistic missile base to the immediate northeast also has tunnels.
The equipment inspected by the IRGC commanders included anti-ship missile launchers and electronic warfare systems, as well as missiles displayed in the tunnels. Two new types of missile launch tubes were displayed mounted on mobile launchers. These had circular cross sections with differing diameters rather than the box canisters normally used for Iran’s cruise-type anti-ship missiles.
The IRGC has previously displayed Fateh-110-series tactical ballistic missiles, which are normally launched using a fixed rail, in similar launch tubes. It was stated that these were developed so the missiles could be buried in the ground. The new types differ in that they are designed to be stacked on top of each other, meaning four tubes can potentially be carried by each launcher.
Some of the circular launch tubes that were seen open in the tunnels showed the noses of missiles that did not appear to have either the electro-optical or radar seeker used on the anti-ship missile variants of the Fateh-110. (Source: Jane’s)
17 Mar 21. Iran’s final report blames air defence operator error for Ukraine plane crash. Iran’s civil aviation body blamed a misaligned radar and an error by an air defence operator in a final report into the shooting-down of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January 2020 that killed all 176 people aboard. The report on Wednesday into the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 “makes no attempt to answer critical questions about what truly happened and appears incomplete,” Canada said in a statement.
Many of the victims killed in the crash were Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
“There will be no solace for the families because the whole story, the complete story with the hard evidence to back it up is not being provided,” added Ralph Goodale, an advisor to Canada’s prime minister on PS752.
Ukraine’s foreign minister also criticised the report, calling it a cynical attempt by the Islamic Republic authorities to cover up the true reasons for the crash, which Ukraine suspects was intentional.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight on Jan. 8, 2020 shortly after it took off from Tehran Airport.
The Iranian government later declared that the shooting-down was a “disastrous mistake” by forces who were on high alert during a regional confrontation with the United States.
The Iranian report said: “The plane was identified as a hostile target due to a mistake by the air defence operator…near Tehran and two missiles were fired at it,” according to the agency’s website.
“The flight’s operation did not have a role in creating the error by the air defence battery,” the report added.
Iran was on edge about possible attacks after it fired missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the killing days before of its most powerful military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in a U.S. missile strike at Baghdad airport.
As in a preliminary report issued last June, Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization said the error arose from a misalignment of a battery’s radar and a lack of communication between the air defence operator and his commanders.
“Following a tactical relocation, the relevant ADU (air defence unit) failed to adjust the system direction due to human error, causing the operator to observe the target flying west from IKA (airport) as a target approaching Tehran from the southwest at a relatively low altitude,” the final report said.
“Without receiving a go-ahead or response from the command centre, he (operator) came to identify the target as a hostile one and fired missile(s) at the aircraft against the procedure planned,” it said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba lambasted the report in a post on Facebook. “What we saw in the published report today is nothing more than a cynical attempt to hide the true reasons for the downing of our plane,” he said.
Kuleba said Iran’s investigation did not follow international practice, ignored evidence supplied by Ukraine and drew selective conclusions.
Ukraine and an independent United Nations investigator have previously raised questions about whether the downing of the airliner was intentional rather than accidental.
The U.N. last month also said the Iranian government’s explanations contained inconsistencies.
Separately Ukrainian prosecutors have launched their own investigation into possible wilful killing in connection with the crash. Canada said it will soon disclose the results of its own investigations.
The Tehran government has allocated $150,000 for damages to be paid to families of the crash victims and said several people have been put on trial over the disaster.
Ukraine has said the compensation should be set through talks, taking into account international practice, once the causes of the tragedy are established and those responsible are brought to justice.
Habib Haghjoo, an Iranian-born Canadian who lost his daughter and granddaughter in the crash, said by phone the report failed to answer key questions and didn’t say anything new.
“It’s unacceptable.” (Source: Reuters)
17 Mar 21. U.S., South Korean Defense Leaders Consult on Issues, Plan for Future of Alliance. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III reiterated America’s ironclad commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea in his first face-to-face meeting with South Korean Minister of National Defense Suh Wook today in Seoul.
The alliance was signed in 1953. South Korea had endured invasion and combat on its soil with millions of its citizens killed.
The United States as part of the United Nations effort came to the aid of the nation. The peace and security that followed the armistice enabled the Republic of Korea to rebuild its nation and forge ahead to become a democracy and an economic powerhouse.
Austin said South Korea is “the linchpin” of peace, security and prosperity for Northeast Asia. “Our alliance is founded on shared interest and values and is among the most combined, interoperable, capable and dynamic bilateral alliances in the world,” he said at the beginning of the meeting. “The ROK is also a critical partner for our shared priorities in the region. The principle among them is upholding the rules-based international order. You have become a key provider of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and for that we are grateful.”
The two defense leaders met on the eve of a larger meeting called the “Two-plus-Two” with Austin and Suh being joined by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Minister of Foreign Affairs Chung Eui-yong. It is a measure of the importance of the region and the friendship between the two countries that these meetings take on added significance, said a senior defense official. This is the first official overseas trip by both Blinken and Austin.
Today’s meeting concentrated on the military portion of the alliance. The two leaders reviewed the situation with North Korea, including the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, said the senior defense official. Both men agreed that this threat requires the continued vigilance of the alliance.
The alliance grew out of the Korean War and in the initial part of its history, was almost totally focused on deterring North Korea. While North Korea remains a threat, as South Korea rebuilt and became a regional power, the focus of the alliance has expanded to include the region. The two leaders spoke about the regional security environment beyond the Korean peninsula. These included China’s actions to overturn the current rules-based system that has served the region so well since World War II, the official said.
This broader regional focus means increasing the contact and interaction between the US-South Korea Alliance and other like-minded partners. The defense leaders spoke about the trilateral relationship among the United States, South Korea and Japan. They also spoke about cooperation with nations such as Australia, India, Malaysia and others. Engaging in multilateral relationships would allow the nations of the region to build a network dedicated to supporting the rule-based system in the Indo-Pacific, the official said.
Austin also spoke frankly with his South Korean counterpart about the administration’s Korean policy review. He wanted to consult with Suh because the secretary wants to get his observations, thoughts and input into that process.
The two men discussed the readiness of the forces in South Korea especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. They discussed ways to increase readiness overall, and looked at the exercise program.
The North Korean border is just miles from the heart of Seoul. Long-range artillery, alone, could reach this vibrant city of 10 million.
There are 28,000 American service members assigned in South Korea ready to help that country “fight tonight” if need be. There are many, many more on call, if the North tries to duplicate 1950. (Source: US DoD)
17 Mar 21. Taiwan bolsters South China Sea deployments, gets U.S. submarine parts approval. Taiwan’s newly-appointed defence minister said on Wednesday it has strengthened deployments in the disputed South China Sea and that the United States has approved the export of sensitive technology to equip Taiwan’s new submarine fleet.
China, which claims democratic Taiwan as its own territory, has increased its military activity near the island in recent months seeking to pressure Taipei to accept Beijing’s sovereignty. Taiwan has vowed to defend itself.
Speaking in parliament, Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, who took up his post last month, said Taiwan has increased personnel and armaments on Itu Aba, the main island Taiwan occupies in the South China Sea.
Itu Aba, also known as Taiping island, is the largest naturally occurring island in the Spratleys and is garrisoned by Taiwan’s Coast Guard.
“They are capable of starting a war,” Chiu told the parliament when asked by a lawmaker on whether China could attack Taiwan. “My goal is for us to be ready at all times.”
Chiu said Taiwan was bolstering its position there due to China’s “expansionism” in the region, though it was not currently considering a return to a permanent army garrison.
China has built man-made islands in the South China Sea and air bases on some of them. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims in the strategic waterway.
Separately, Chiu said that the United States had approved export permits for all of the sensitive equipment needed by Taiwan’s indigenous submarine fleet, which it started building last year.
He added that Taiwan’s arms purchases from the United States – the island’s main source of weapons – had not been impacted by the new Biden administration taking office in Washington and were continuing.
Taiwan is modernising its armed forces, especially as it face almost daily challenges from China in the airspace and waters near the island, including frequent Chinese air force missions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone.
Chiu said these missions were part of China’s war of attrition against Taiwan, whose forces are dwarfed by Beijing’s, and defence forces were already adjusting on how to deal with such incursions, though did not give details.
“If we match them one for one, it costs a lot,” he said. (Source: Reuters)
16 Mar 21. U.S., Japanese Leaders Agree Chinese Behavior Endangers Peace. U.S. and Japanese defense and foreign affairs leaders agreed today that China’s behavior has become more aggressive, and the U.S. and Japan will work together to counter China’s destabilizing efforts.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III traveled to Tokyo as the first trip outside the United States by Biden administration officials. They met with Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi in the so-called “two-plus-two” meetings hosted by Motegi. They later met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
All four men said they were pleased by the talks and stated that the alliance is strong and that their decisions will further strengthen it.
Austin emphasized the teamwork inherent in the alliance, and said the alliance system is the best way to confront China’s “coarsening” behavior. “I was pleased with our discussions on how we can further strengthen our bonds to seize the opportunities and address the challenges that we face together,” he said during a press conference following the meeting. “We spoke on a number of issues to include our commitment to the denuclearization of North Korea, and enhancing alliance capabilities across all domains, and addressing aggressive and coarsened behaviors from China — especially in the South and East China Seas.”
Japan shares the U.S. concerns about China’s destabilizing actions. “China is the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense,” he said. “And we know that competing in today’s shifting global dynamics can only be done through the spirit of teamwork and cooperation, which are the hallmarks of our alliance with Japan.”
Motegi said the strategic situation in the region is completely different from what it was just a few short years ago. It makes the U.S.-Japan Alliance, signed in 1960, even more important.
The Japanese are concerned about China’s aggressive actions in the Taiwan Strait and brought up the situation in the meeting, said a senior defense official. The Japanese are also concerned about a recent Chinese law authorizing the Chinese coast guard to patrol the Senkaku Islands, which both China and Japan claim. U.S. officials reiterated that the Senkakus come under Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan treaty mandating America’s defense of Japan.
“We remain opposed to any unilateral action that seeks to change the status quo, including in the eastern South China Seas,” Motegi said.
Blinken and Motegi called the U.S.-Japan alliance the very foundation of regional peace and stability. “We agree that Japan and the United States will continue to collaborate with like-minded nations — including Australia and India — to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Motegi said. “Further, we reconfirmed that the strong commitment of the United States regarding defense of Japan using all types of U.S. forces, including nuclear.”
It has been two years since the last set of meetings, and the ministers addressed new topics, which included COVID-19, climate change, cybersecurity and more. Each issue affects the citizens of both nations, Blinken said. “We’re also standing together in support of our shared values,” the secretary said. “We believe in democracy and human rights [and] the rule of law because we’ve seen how our own countries are stronger because we adhere to those values — and because they’re under threat in many places, including in this region.”
Blinken said China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang province and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law.
“We’re united in the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region where countries follow the rules, cooperate whenever they can, and resolve their differences peacefully,” Blinken said. “We will push back, if necessary, when China uses coercion and aggressions, to get its way.”
The region is the priority theater for the Defense Department. In addition to China, Defense officials said North Korea is still trying to build up its military and developing nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Blinken said it is becoming the center of global geopolitics. “It’s where so much of the history of the 21st century is going to be written,” he said. “There are competing visions for how that story should go. Japan and the United States, together with our allies and partners, will be strong advocates for our shared approach, grounded in our values and our joint commitment to the security and well-being of all our people.”
For U.S. service members in Japan, the discussions will mean more exercises with Japan’s self-defense force. “In order for the U.S. forces and the self-defense force to serve the missions, we agreed on the notion of the necessity to engage in more sophisticated bilateral, as well as many multilateral exercises,” Defense Minister Kishi said.
“Today, our alliance forges on, resolute and resilient in the face of our shared challenges,” Austin said. “Without question, the U.S.-Japan alliance remains a cornerstone in addressing today’s and tomorrow’s challenges as we work together to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific. I am confident that working together we can meet any challenge and outmatch any competitor in the years ahead.” (Source: US DoD)
15 Mar 21. Update: air strikes against Daesh. The RAF are continuing to take the fight to Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
- Wednesday 10 March – RAF Typhoons struck Daesh terrorists based inside caves in northern Iraq.
- Thursday 11 March – Typhoons conducted further attacks on Daesh in northern Iraq.
- Friday 12 March – Typhoons struck Daesh targets in caves in northern Iraq.
- Sunday 14 March – Typhoons again attacked Daesh-held caves in northern Iraq.
The Royal Air Force has continued to conduct strikes, as part of the global coalition’s support for the Iraqi Security Forces, as they conduct operations to prevent the Daesh terrorist group from re-establishing its presence in the country.
The Iraqi forces recently identified a significant number of Daesh fighters using cave complexes south-west of Erbil. The caves identified were assessed to be particularly difficult targets and two RAF Typhoon FGR4s were therefore tasked to conduct strikes in support of ground forces from the highly-capable Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service.
On Wednesday 10 March they conducted surveillance of the area to confirm that there were no signs of civilians who might be placed at risk, before conducting the first attack using Storm Shadow missiles, which had been selected as the most appropriate weapon for the task. Following the mission, the Typhoon’s weapons were confirmed to have struck their targets precisely.
Further surveillance efforts confirmed two additional locations in the same area were also occupied by Daesh. Two Typhoons conducted precision attacks on the extremists at both locations on Thursday 11 March, using six Paveway IV guided bombs.
RAF aircraft were again in action on Friday 12 March, when they struck another group of caves used by Daesh, with eight Paveway IV bombs; and again on Sunday 14 March, when six Paveway IVs were employed against Daesh-held caves in the same remote, mountainous area.
On each occasion, our aircrew have exercised their utmost care in checking there were no signs of civilians in the area before conducting the strikes and subsequent surveillance to ensure their successful completion.
The UK Armed Forces have once again conducted air strikes in support of the Iraqi security forces, as the Global Coalition against Daesh continues to prevent a terrorist resurgence in Iraq. On Thursday 11 February, two Royal Air Force Typhoon FGR4s were tasked to conduct strikes against terrorists who had been identified occupying two dispersed encampments on the banks of the Tharthar River, west of the city of Bayji.
A preceding check of the area revealed there were no signs of any civilians who might be placed at risk and the RAF aircraft proceeded to conduct the strikes using Paveway IV guided bombs. Further surveillance of both sites confirmed that the series of different targets within the encampments were struck and the mission had been a success. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
15 Mar 21. DOD Officials Describe Conditions in Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific has always been a region of superlatives, but the terms have changed over the past decades.
Now people talk about the Indo-Pacific being a “region of consequence,” “the priority theater,” or the “global economic engine.”
For decades, the U.S. military has recognized the importance of the theater. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command covers 51 percent of the globe. The region has 60 percent of the world’s population. The United States and China are the world’s largest economies. The most soldiers, the biggest navies, the longest distances, most endangered and much, much more. There are hundreds of languages and cultures and environments.
China is the pacing challenge for the United States military, and service members must respond — but it’s not the only challenge in the region.
“We’ve all had these concerns for decades — the rising China, [North Korea], Russia, violent extremist activities — but their scope, volume, scale are much more problematic,” said a senior defense official.
Added to all this is the issue of climate change, which touches fundamentally on many of the island nations of Oceania. Also a problem is that this is the Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide causing volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Top it off with COVID-19 and the global pandemic, and there is a complex brew of problems and issues.
China, Russia, North Korea and violent extremism are in the Indo-Pacific and operate there every day. The threats are a direct challenge to the mission of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command to provide freedom and mobility for commerce in the region, to support good governance, and to deter aggression.
The best weapon in the arsenal is the U.S. network of allies and partners. Unlike Europe where NATO and the European Union have inured the nations to working together multilaterally, the Indo-Pacific doesn’t have that architecture, a senior defense official said.
The United States has treaty allies in the region: the Republic of Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
While the United States works bilaterally with many nations in the region, leaders would like to see more multilateral engagement. “The Quad” call that President Joe Biden participated in with the leaders of Australia, India and Japan is promising, officials said. The Quad is not a security pact, but it could grow into an arena that allows the countries to cooperate more.
China’s behavior in the region — from fighting with India at the line of control, to increasing efforts and patrols in the Indian Ocean region — is worrisome to India. “They are aware of that and the traditionally non-aligned country is starting to do more with the United States, with Australia and with Japan,” the official said. “India is not going to sign a mutual defense treaty with us any time soon, but they are a major defense partner of the United States and they are trying to become more interoperable with the U.S. military in their military capabilities, their command and control, their information sharing.”
This is important because the region is so vast and so varied that no one country can do it alone. The United States will need allies and partners to defend the rules-based architecture that has benefited so many — including China.
The U.S. center of gravity is the friends and allies who want a free and open Indo-Pacific. China and Russia really do not have a network even close to this.
U.S. government officials will study the basing of U.S. troops in the region. This doesn’t mean bases, but spaces. “We are not looking to reposition large numbers of troops, in large vulnerable concentrations,” the official said. “We want to get the virtues of massing without the vulnerabilities of concentration.”
This means troops positioning in many different countries in episodic and dynamic ways. The U.S. military doesn’t require new and permanent bases in Indonesia and Malaysia, for example. “What we need is episodic places that support operations with our allies and partners,” the official said.
Also, officials do not know China’s plans, “and anyone who says they do, is probably being a little disingenuous,” officials said.
China has built islands in the South and East China Seas and plunked missiles on top. Chinese leaders talk of unifying Taiwan under Chinese rule, but Taiwan was never part of China.
With Taiwan in particular, Defense Department officials look at Chinese capacity. “Do they have sufficient numbers of the right pieces of equipment necessary to execute what … they would believe would be a successful operation?”
China has fielded scores of new and modern systems. “Just in 2020, in the midst of all the COVID related stuff, China still commissioned 25 major new ships,” the official said.
A second part of this is that while the U.S. military was fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, “China went to school on us: We’re their pacing threat,” the official said.
The Chinese army has training centers similar to those the U.S. has at Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Polk, Louisiana. “They’re trying to become joint interoperable,” he said.
All this leads to an erosion of U.S. conventional deterrence. Leadership processes are weak. “We believe in decentralized execution,” the official said. “The American GI or Marine fights best when there are hand grenades being thrown at them, and nobody’s around to tell them what to do.”
China has nothing comparable. Chinese leaders can write excellent plans, but once they confront the unexpected, there will be trouble for them.
(Source: US DoD)
15 Mar 21. Japan Visit Aims to Cement Cornerstone Alliance. The visit of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to Japan is all about consulting on shared concerns and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific, a senior defense official said today.
The official told reporters traveling with Austin that the meetings in Tokyo signify the importance the new administration places on U.S. relationships in Northeast Asia.
Blinken and Austin will meet with Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.
The trip is about investing in the U.S.-Japan relationship, “which is our cornerstone alliance for Indo-Pacific strategy,” the official said. “It’s about maintaining peace and stability across the priority theater for the department and for our country.”
Diplomacy is at the center of U.S. foreign policy. The Defense and State department secretaries making the visits by cabinet-level leaders in the Biden administration to Northeast Asia sends an unmistakable signal of the importance that America places on the relationship. The official said Austin wants to engage in a deepened, sustained discussion about the regional security environment. He will get the Japanese perspective of the region, including the situation in North Korea, the rise of China and adventurism by the Russians.
Japan and the United States are treaty allies. But beyond that both nations share the commitment to defending the rule-based international order, the official said.
Finally, Austin wants to discuss ways to increase military interoperability with Japanese leaders. “We’ve got a very strong alliance with Japan, and we’re going to be looking at ways where we can make it stronger,” the official said.
He noted that just as the United States military is looking at a strategic posture review, so, too, are the Japanese. “So, this is an opportunity for us to talk about how we can build interoperability within the alliance to strengthen the interoperability within our alliance, what kind of capabilities we need to invest in, [and] how we can work together to better advance our shared goals and common objectives,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
12 Mar 21. Myanmar’s first satellite held by Japan on space station after coup. Myanmar’s first satellite is being held on board the International Space Station following the Myanmar coup, while Japan’s space agency and a Japanese university decide what to do with it, two Japanese university officials said.
The $15m satellite was built by Japan’s Hokkaido University in a joint project with Myanmar’s government-funded Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University (MAEU). It is the first of a set of two 50 kg microsatellites equipped with cameras designed to monitor agriculture and fisheries.
Human rights activists and some officials in Japan worry that those cameras could be used for military purposes by the junta that seized power in Myanmar on Feb. 1.
That has put the deployment on hold, as Hokkaido University holds discussions with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the two Hokkaido University officials said.
“We won’t get involved in anything that has to do with the military. The satellite was not designed for that,” one of the officials, a manager of the project, told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
“We are discussing what to do, but we don’t know when it will be deployed. If it is halted, our hope is that the project could be restarted at some point.”
The manager did not say when the satellite was meant to be deployed, or when a decision would have to be taken by JAXA either to go ahead or delay it.
The second Hokkaido University official said the contract with MAEU did not specify that the satellite cannot be used for military purposes. However, data from the spacecraft would be collected by the Japanese university and cannot be independently accessed by Myanmar officials, the second official said.
Since the coup, university officials had been unable to contact the rector of MAEU, Prof Kyi Thwin, the second official added.
Officials at JAXA could not be reached for comment. MAEU did not respond to calls seeking comment, nor did a spokesman for Myanmar’s junta.
The satellite was launched by NASA on Feb 20 as a small part of a large and varied payload of supplies to the International Space Station 400 km (250 miles) above the earth. It has since been kept by JAXA inside Japan’s Kibo experiment module. JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi is one of the seven crew members now on board the space station.
Japan has close ties to Myanmar and is one of its biggest aid donors. While condemning the violence, it has not taken as hard a stance against the coup as the United States and some other Western countries which have applied sanctions.
While the spacecraft has not been built to military specifications, Teppei Kasai, Asia programme officer for Human Rights Watch, said it would be easy for Myanmar’s army rulers to appropriate the technology for military use.
“So the involved Japanese universities should suspend the project and urgently review it for potential human rights risks,” Kasai said. (Source: Reuters)
14 Mar 21. Major arms sales flat in 2016-20 for first time in more than a decade. International deliveries of arms were flat in the period 2016-2020, ending more than a decade of increases, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) said in a report on Monday.
The United States, France and Germany – three of the world’s biggest exporters – increased deliveries, but falls in exports from Russian and China offset the rise, SIPRI said.
It was the first time since 2001–2005 that the volume of deliveries of major arms between countries – an indicator of demand – did not increase from the previous five year period, SIPRI said.
While the pandemic has shut down economies across the world and pushed many countries into deep recessions, SIPRI said it was too early to tell whether the slowdown in arms deliveries was likely to continue.
“The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could see some countries reassessing their arms imports in the coming years,” Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, said in a statement.
“However, at the same time, even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, several countries signed large contracts for major arms.”
The United Arab Emirates, for example, recently signed an agreement with the United States to purchase 50 F-35 jets and up to 18 armed drones as part of a $23bn package.
Middle Eastern countries accounted for the biggest increase in arms imports, up 25% in 2016–20 from 2011–15.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest arms importer, increased its arms imports by 61% and Qatar by 361%.
Asia and Oceania were the largest importing regions for major arms, receiving 42% of global arms transfers in 2016–20. India, Australia, China, South Korea and Pakistan were the biggest importers in the region.
“For many states in Asia and Oceania, a growing perception of China as a threat is the main driver for arms imports,” said Siemon Wezeman, Senior Researcher at SIPRI, said. (Source: Reuters)
12 Mar 21. Seoul reveals ‘Buy Korea Defense’ plan. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has revealed plans to introduce a defence procurement policy that formally prioritises local sourcing over imports.
DAPA said that the ‘Buy Korea Defense’ (BKD) scheme was consistent with the objectives of the recently introduced Defense Industry Development Act. Details of the BKD, it said, were presented at an 11 March meeting of a new DAPA council set up to push through reforms under the legislation.
DAPA said that the BKD policy would mandate the evaluation of the benefits that local research, development (R&D), production, and procurement programmes would provide to the domestic economy.
South Korea has outlined plans to prioritise the acquisition of locally made components and systems on key platforms such as the KF-X fighter aircraft. (Korea Aerospace Industries)
It said that the BKD plan was a policy to “prioritise domestic development when determining the acquisition method and related comparisons of domestic R&D and overseas purchases”. DAPA did not disclose a schedule for introducing the plan, but indicated that it would be applied in procurements of components, systems, and subsystems.
Commenting on related BKD processes, DAPA said, “First, when deciding a project implementation method, the acquisition costs and life-cycle costs of domestic procurement and overseas purchases will be considered in reflection of the domestic industrial and economic ripple effects.”
It added, “In the case of projects that cannot be decided by overseas purchases, regulations will be amended so that domestic companies must participate [in the bidding process].”
DAPA said that once the BKD plan was introduced the “possibility of domestic R&D of weapons systems increases and opportunities for excellent domestic small and medium-sized enterprises to enter the global supply chain are expected to expand”. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Mar 21. France and Indonesia pursue defence relationship in Indo-Pacific. France and Indonesia seek to improve their defence and strategic relationship in the Indo-Pacific. Writing for ASPI’s The Strategist this week, executive director of Verve Research Natalie Sambhi shines a spotlight on the growing relationship between France and Indonesia, a pairing that has many analysts scratching their heads.
Indonesia provides France with the opportunity to protect and strengthen their overseas territories in the Indo-Pacific. Indeed, as Sambhi notes, 93 per cent of France’s exclusive economic zone lies in the Indo-Pacific, and the French are the only members of the European Union to have a military presence in the Indian Ocean. Simply, reaching out to nations such as Indonesia is crucial move for the protection over French overseas territories.
Indonesia ticks all of the boxes for French outreach. Sambhi points out that not only does Indonesia pursue a policy of nonalignment, but they possess similarly aligned policies regarding defence strategy in the region. Sambhi continues, how far can the two nations pursue this growing love affair?
Defence procurement underpins much of this burgeoning relationship. Sambhi points out that the Indonesian Ministry of Defense expressed their intention to pursue the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets and five customised Scorpène submarines. Recently, French and Indonesian officials even began the process of looking into joint military exercises.
France and Indonesia’s naval needs also fulfill each other. Indonesia needs a strong navy. It is an archipelago after all. France has a strong defence building industry and a strong navy. Meanwhile, both countries are members of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean naval symposia and would find use in mutual naval dialogue. It seems that the duo naturally fulfils one another’s needs.
Sambhi notes that Canberra is likely to see this burgeoning relationship in a positive light.
“From Canberra’s perspective, closer ties between Paris and Jakarta are undoubtedly a positive thing. For one, Australia supports France’s involvement in the Indo-Pacific. The 2018 vision statement on the France–Australia relationship supports closer bilateral cooperation with like-minded partners to bolster regional maritime security, particularly in the Indian Ocean,” Sambhi notes.
Better military equipment will further allow the Indonesians to position themselves with greater confidence in the region.
Sambhi continues that the Indonesian and French co-operation would provide an opportunity for Australia to expand its international co-operation in the Indo-Pacific.
“Ties between Australia, India and France expanded further last year with the first virtual senior officials’ meeting, undoubtedly with an eye to further Indian Ocean co-operation. There’s certainly potential to find niche areas of overlap between that grouping and the more established Indonesia–Australia–India trilateral, which is currently developing a new maritime exercise,” Sambhi argues.
Australian defence relies on building co-operative networks of nations for our security. French and Indonesian co-operation will open up a new avenue to pursue this regional stability. While Sambhi notes that the Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo may be pursuing this to strengthen his claim for the presidency in 2024, it nevertheless establishes links across the Indo-Pacific with helps Australia’s security. (Source: Defence Connect)
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