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10 Feb 23. Canada, U.S. Support NORAD Modernization.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand today discussed modernization of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and military assistance for Ukraine’s defense at a meeting at the Pentagon.
NORAD is a United States-Canada organization with the missions of aerospace warning, aerospace control and maritime warning for North America.
Aerospace warning includes the detection, validation and warning of an attack against North America — whether by aircraft, missiles or space vehicles — through mutual support arrangements with other commands.
Canada and the U.S., working through NORAD, tracked the recent Chinese surveillance balloon that violated the sovereignty of both countries, Austin said.
“That coordination underscored the importance of our alliance and the need for continued investment in NORAD modernization on both sides,” he said.
“We remain concerned by the PRC’s increasingly assertive efforts to subvert the rules-based international order that keeps us all secure,” Austin said about China’s actions.
Austin also mentioned that Canada and the U.S. are members of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which supports Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.
“I’m very grateful for Canada’s leadership on Ukraine, including your recent announcement to donate Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, and I look forward to building on that work today,” the secretary said.
On Jan. 26, Anand announced that Canada will supply Ukraine with four Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks from the Canadian armed force’s inventory.
During that announcement, the minister also said that Canada will provide ammunition and spare parts, as well as deploying Canadian forces to a third country to train Ukrainian soldiers on the use of the tanks.
“Canada’s donation is the result of extensive coordination with allies and partners, who are also planning to donate Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine among other Western battle tanks. Canada will work with like-minded allies on discussions relating to tank fleet donations and a sustainment strategy for Ukraine,” Anand said in her announcement.
Austin also thanked Anand for Canada’s support for bringing greater stability and prosperity to Haiti.
“Our neighbors in Canada are more than allies and more than friends. We consider you to be family,” he said.
Canada has committed over $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine and has trained over 35,000 members of Ukrainian armed forces, Anand said.
And Canada continues to collaborate and cooperate with the U.S. on NORAD modernization, she said.
“The United States is Canada’s closest ally. And I want to reiterate how we share more than just the border. We share common values; we share common belief in democracy, in freedom and the rule of law. And our partnership continues to grow,” Anand said. (Source: US DoD)
10 Feb 23. Growing signs Australia’s new nuclear sub will be British design.
“We need to leverage expertise from the United Kingdom and the United States to help us along our optimal pathway – and building capability with them means we are better able to shape, deter and respond within our strategic landscape,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said.
Australia’s path to obtain nuclear attack submarines expected to happen in Washington next month, speculation about the likely solution AUKUS is beginning to leak out.
The most intriguing hints center on a British boat — but not the Astute-class — based in part on rare public comments by Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles and his British counterpart, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.
Marles said Monday in Canberra that an announcement on Australia’s preferred option was “not far off,” and would be a “genuine three-way collaboration” between Australia, the UK and US. “I think when you see what is ultimately unveiled, it is the three countries working really closely together.”
Adding some detail to the discussion in a prepared Thursday speech before the Australian House of Representatives, he defended the likely high quantity of foreign content in the new subs, noting that almost all major Australian weapon systems depend on foreign content.
“Some argue that Australia’s reliance on our partners for the acquisition of naval nuclear-propulsion technology gives rise to a dependence that undermines Australia’s sovereignty,” Marles said. “Yet the reality is that almost all of Australia’s high-end capability is developed in cooperation with our partners. Submarines are no exception. And that dramatically enhanced capability dramatically enhances our sovereignty.
“We need to leverage expertise from the United Kingdom and the United States to help us along our optimal pathway — and building capability with them means we are better able to shape, deter and respond within our strategic landscape,” Marles added.
From the first announcement of the AUKUS effort, Australia has said it intends to build boats at home. However, developing the nuclear expertise from a tiny pool of a few dozen individuals to potentially thousands of people will take time, as will development of the highly skilled welders and other technical experts needed to build and maintain nuclear powered boats. Developing a new design and building a new shipyard to produce it seems unrealistic, given the lack of domestic expertise — especially if the goal is to deploy nuclear attack submarines before the conventionally powered Collins-class attack subs are retired.
That has prompted talk of America supplying Australia with refitted Los Angeles-class boats or providing Virginia-class boats that would be crewed by Australians, but both options pose many obstacles. America doesn’t seem able to build nuclear attack boats quickly enough to meet its stated requirement of 66, which prompted two top defense lawmakers in the Senate to caution President Joe Biden against committing the US to supplying Australia with nuclear boats.
Given the concerns about personnel and Marles’ comments, there is reason to think Britain’s next-generation sub, which will require a much smaller crew than do any of the American boats are in play.
Nick Childs, a naval expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, touted the prospects of the UK’s next-gen sub in a piece published on Jan. 23.
“However, there have recently been indications that a design based more on the UK’s planned next-generation submarine, currently dubbed SSNR, has been finding favour, and could potentially be developed further under AUKUS. This may ultimately be the foundation for the plan that eventually breaks surface,” Childs wrote.
“Among the ‘straws in the wind’ are the UK’s ambitions to rebuild its own submarine fleet. The Royal Navy would like to see a rise from the planned seven Astute-class attack submarines to perhaps 12 boats in the long term. In a speech in December 2022, the UK chief of the defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, said of AUKUS that ‘if we have the courage to do this properly’ it could help grow the UK’s own submarine numbers in the decades to come, clearly assisted in part by potential economies of scale under AUKUS.”
Australia’s conventionally powered Collins-class boats rely on a crew of 58, compared to 143 for the nuclear US Virginia-class and 98 for Britain’s Astute-class subs. Australia has found it challenging to find, train and retain sub crews for the smaller subs.
British Options On The Table
During his Feb. 1 appearance with Marles, Wallace, the UK’s defense secretary, appeared to offer some evidence for the UK next-gen sub, saying the AUKUS boats would be a: “joint endeavor. Whether that is the sharing of technology and the understanding of how to do it, the sharing of the build, or the sharing of the design — whatever option is chosen by Australia, it will be collaborative.”
Back in November 2021, the man who led the day-today work on the AUKUS boats in Australia, Vice Adm. Jonathan Mead, told an Australian Senate committee that his country intended to select a “mature design” for its nuclear submarine. “It is our intention,” Mead said then, “that when we start the build program, the design will be mature and there will be a production run already in existence.” That would appear to make the British offering a candidate.
“I think the major problem Australia has to face up to is that the infrastructure and regulatory architecture required to deliver a SSN [nuclear powered attack submarine] in the mid-2030’s means it has to collaborate with a foreign partner, initially at least,” Sidharth Kaushal, a sea power expert at the Royal United Services Institute think tank, told Breaking Defense.
“The point of friction that introduces with the UK [revolves around] the Australians operating with the US Navy primarily in the Indo-Pacific and their preference for things like prompt strike capabilities, including cruise missiles and potentially hypersonic missiles. The [US Navy] Virginia-class payload module can host those weapons but the [Royal Navy’s] Astute-class can torpedo launch cruise missiles but doesn’t necessarily offer prompt strike capabilities.”
All seven Astute-class submarines are due to be in service with the Royal Navy by 2026, each with a life cycle of 25 years.
“Even if you don’t know exactly what SSNR requirements looks like now, you know that certain modules, certain sensors, certain things would be necessary to integrate on it, so in principle you could create a sort of tri-national production line to build components of it and generate efficiencies of scale,” said Kaushal.
In September 2021, the UK MoD awarded two contracts both worth £85 million to BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce for SSNR design and concept work, intended to “inform a future decision” regarding which program development approach to take. Britain announced roughly a quarter of a billion dollar investment in the Submersible Ship Nuclear Replacement two days after the AUKUS project was announced.
So far, foreign industrial partners have not been contracted for SSNR activities but a fully collaborative approach with AUKUS partners has been touted by Wallace stretching back to September 2022.
“There’s much more work to be done when you look at areas of joint production…but for the initial project of delivering a new Australian submarine there’s going to be some compromises,” Kaushal said. “For the US, this works out quite nicely but their big challenge of course remains, that their production lines are struggling to meet US Navy requirements.”
Should the Virginia-class be selected for the Australian requirement, the US would also benefit from new basing facilities for the future submarines, he added.
“It would effectively give the US an additional SSN base separate to Guam, which is of course an inherently vulnerable location and will be more so going forward,” Kaushal explained.
Operationally, how the future Australian submarines operate in the Indo-Pacific looks to be particularly difficult to assess in light of China formidable ASW capabilities, like Type 56 Corvettes and Y-8 maritime patrol aircraft, combined with the often shallow waters of the South China Sea which can make nuclear submarine missions more difficult.
“China is investing in a pretty substantial sensor network in the South China Sea that includes under sea hydrophones, large unmanned underwater vehicles all linked up to artificial islands they have built,” Kaushal said.
On that basis, he suggested that Australia does “not necessarily” have to operate the SSN from the South China Sea in order to counter Chinese aggression, but could use the vessels as cruise missile launch platforms outside of it.
Regardless of whether the new subs come online in time to replace the Collins-class, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pledged on Dec. 7 that the US “will not allow” a capability gap to appear between Australia’s Collins class sub retirement planned for 2039 and the deployment of its first nuke powered attack subs.
Kurt Campbell, head of Indo-Pacific issues on the US National Security Council, has said the three countries will increasingly fund their forces “almost melding.”
“We will have more British sailors serving on our naval vessels, Australians and the like on more of our forward-deployed assets in Australia. This leads to a deeper interconnection and, almost a melding in the new respects of our services and working together on common purpose that we couldn’t have dreamed about five or 10 years ago,” Campbell said in November 2021.
(Source: News Now/Breaking Defense.com)
10 Feb 23. Nigeria and DRC among conflict areas to watch in 2023 – ACLED.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Nigeria are, along with Ukraine, the Sahel, Mozambique and Ethiopia, some of the conflict regions that have been flagged as likely to evolve for better or worse in the coming year, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
The organisation has identified a range of crisis areas in its new Conflict Watchlist that examines some of the world’s most complex conflicts, where a combination of subnational, regional, and international dynamics are likely to produce major shifts in each case’s trajectory in 2023.
Countries and regions covered in ACLED’s special report on conflicts to watch in 2023 include Ukraine, the South Caucasus and Central Asia, the Sahel, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, the Kurdish Regions of the Middle East, Myanmar, Colombia, and Haiti.
Not surprisingly, the invasion of Ukraine is highlighted as having cast a shadow of uncertainty on global security. “Russian President Vladimir Putin defied the expectations of many and attacked a sovereign country at its borders after a years-long military build-up. To this day, Ukrainian forces, backed by Western political and military aid, have prevented Russian troops from capturing Kyiv and taking control of the entire country. Yet, Moscow’s actions – which include indiscriminate bombings, summary executions, and enforced disappearances, likely amounting to war crimes – have killed tens of thousands and devastated the country’s infrastructure. With millions forced to flee Ukraine, the war’s consequences have stretched far beyond Europe, prompting dramatic shifts in other crisis areas around the world, from Africa to the Middle East,” ACLED notes.
“And the war in Ukraine was just one of the conflicts that escalated in 2022. Overall, political violence increased by 27% globally last year, with an estimated 1.7 billion people exposed to its effects. A wide range of actors contributed to the spike in violence, including state forces, government-backed militias, non-state armed groups, criminal organizations, and mercenary outfits, which have perpetrated violence against other armed actors as well as civilians – often with the promise of impunity. These conflict agents share a common desire to maximize power, either globally or locally, and do not operate in a vacuum. The proliferation of violent actors represents a failure to create governance structures that can nurture stability and prosperity, and promote peaceful resolutions for the world’s most severe conflicts,” ACLED’s report read.
The organisation notes that while Russia is embroiled in Ukraine, it is simultaneously seeking to enlarge its political and military influence in the Sahel, where regional governments grapple with a decade-long Islamist insurgency.
“Mercenaries of the Russian private military company Wagner Group began operating in Mali in December 2021, while calls to replace French troops with Russian operatives were also heard in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. Local and foreign troops, however, have failed to deter the rise of the local franchise of the Islamic State, which has emerged as the dominant actor in the Liptako-Gourma. Its attempt to establish a pseudo-state in the tri-state border area will likely continue to intensify in 2023.”
This year, elections in Nigeria and the DRC are due to take place amid increasing violence. Nigeria will go to the polls this month in an election whose run-up has been marked by widespread electoral violence, including attacks on election offices and staff, candidates, and political party supporters. “This violence comes against the backdrop of multiple security crises that threaten local communities in the north and the south of the country. Taken together, these crises could depress voter turnout and affect the regular conduct of the elections,” ACLED believes.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, political violence has raised concerns about a postponement of the December election, as with the 2018 vote. “The conflict in the east of the country experienced yet another violent escalation, as the Rwanda-backed March 23 Movement launched a new offensive against Congolese and United Nations forces in North Kivu. Rwanda is under mounting pressure to cut off its support to the rebels, but regional mediation efforts have thus far failed to subdue the conflict,” ACLED states.
Elsewhere across the globe, the return of all-out war in Yemen remains a possibility until negotiations between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia are concluded, while the Kurdish Regions have been a hotbed of violent tensions due to Turkish military operations as well as Iranian attacks. Resistance to military rule in Myanmar continued in 2022, with the junta resorting to increasing levels of violence against civilians. In Colombia, a lull in the conflict between the national government and the myriad armed groups active in the country did not bring lasting peace, with violence continuing. And Haiti continues to face a political vacuum and a rapidly deteriorating security situation.
“Ongoing conflicts in the Horn of Africa, heightened gang warfare in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, rising tensions in the occupied Palestinian territories and East Asia, and instability in South America and Afghanistan underscore the widespread and complex threat of political violence worldwide,” ACLED stated. “These contemporary conflicts are often transnational in nature, combining local competitions over political, territorial, and economic authority with international influence.”
ACLED has dedicated ongoing coverage of the conflict in Mozambique and Ethiopia, where violence continues on a weekly basis. Since 2017 Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province has been facing an insurgency that has displaced a million people and resulted in 4 000 deaths and in spite of the deployment of Southern African Development Community and Rwandan forces, insurgent attacks continue.
In Ethiopia, the war in the northern Tigray region has calmed since the signing of a peace deal in November 2022, but a separate conflict is intensifying further south in Oromia, where civilians are suffering as anti-government rebels step up attacks.
10 Feb 23. India strengthens regional power projection with new carrier capabilities. While many have claimed the aircraft carrier is dead, many powers seem to have missed the memo recognising the growing importance of fleet-based air power. India is the latest regional power to expand its aircraft carrier capabilities, enhancing their avenues for regional power projection. At the end of the Second World War, the aircraft carrier emerged as the apex of naval prestige and power projection. Unlike their predecessor (the battleship), aircraft carriers in themselves are relatively benign actors, relying heavily at their attached carrier air-wings and supporting escort fleets of cruisers, destroyers, and submarines to screen them from hostile action.
In recent years, nations throughout the Indo-Pacific have begun a series of naval expansion and modernisation programs with traditional aircraft carriers — and large-deck, amphibious warfare ships serve as the core of their respective shift towards greater maritime power projection.
Driving this change is an unprecedented period of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and the growing capabilities of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), which has seen the Chinese fielding or preparing to field a range of power projection capabilities, including aircraft carriers and supporting strike groups, fifth-generation combat aircraft, modernised land forces, area-access denial, and strategic nuclear forces, combined with growing political and financial influence throughout the region.
India, a well-established aircraft carrier power, with major economic, political, and strategic interests across the Indian Ocean and well-publicised animosities with the People’s Republic of China, has increasingly moved to modernise and expand its own carrier capabilities, embarking on a period of what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described as Indian self-reliance or “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”.
Today, strategic sea lines of communication support over 90 per cent of global trade, a result of the cost effective and reliable nature of sea transport. Indo-Pacific Asia is at the epicentre of the global maritime trade, with about US$5 trillion worth of trade flowing through the South China Sea (SCS) and the strategic waterways and choke points of Southeast Asia annually. For the Indian Ocean and its critical global sea lines of communication, are responsible for more than 80 per cent of the world’s seaborne trade in critical energy supplies, namely oil and natural gas, which serve as the lifeblood of any advanced economy — including Australia’s. (Source: Defence Connect)
10 Feb 23. Indonesia and Australia promise new defence cooperation agreement despite AUKUS tensions.
Indonesia and Australia have promised to strike a new defence cooperation agreement, despite lingering tensions over the federal government’s push to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
- Australia and Indonesia’s defence ministers agreed to look at elevating the existing defence cooperation pact
- A joint statement says they want to create an agreement that is “binding under international law”
- Indonesia responded angrily when it was blindsided by the AUKUS announcement in 2021
Defence Minister Richard Marles and his Indonesian counterpart Prabowo Subianto made the announcement after holding talks in Canberra.
In a joint statement, the two ministers said they had instructed officials to begin negotiations to “elevate” the existing defence cooperation pact between the two countries to “an agreement that is binding under international law”.
They said the new agreement would “bolster our strong defence cooperation by supporting increased dialogue, strengthening interoperability, and enhancing practical arrangements”.
The statement also flags that Indonesian and Australian armed forces could be given reciprocal access to training ranges, as well as being granted easier access for joint military activities.
The two defence ministers called the announcement an “important message of our shared commitment to a region that embraces ASEAN centrality and the objectives and principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, where sovereignty is respected”.
The announcement indicates that Indonesia remains willing to continue building deeper police, intelligence and military ties with Australia, even though the bilateral relationship has been tested by Australia’s nuclear submarine plan. (Source: News Now/https://www.abc.net.au/news)
09 Feb 23. Japan to replace attack, observation helicopters with drone fleet.
Japan has indicated it will give up its “obsolete” attack and observation helicopters in favor of unmanned systems, according to its defense buildup plans.
They will be replaced by “attack/utility,” “miniature attack” and “surveillance” unmanned aircraft systems, according to the English-language version of Japan’s defense buildup strategy released by the Defense Ministry in January.
That document did not provide further specifics about helicopter replacements. However, a Japanese-language summary showed graphical representations of what appears to be loitering munitions and medium-altitude, long-endurance drones as replacements.
It added that existing Japan Ground Self-Defense Force helicopters will be armed to maintain the minimum required capability. Japan currently operates about 50 Bell AH-1 Cobra and 12 Boeing AH-64D Apache attack helicopters. It’s observation helicopter fleet includes 37 Kawasaki OH-1s and approximately 100 Hughes OH-6D Cayuse light helos.
The country originally planned to acquire a new attack helicopter to replace its AH-1s, although that was subsequently canceled.
The elimination of the attack and observation helicopters would come with a reduction in required personnel by about 1,000. The plan comes amid efforts to reorganize the force’s aviation component, which includes the reassignment of air assets to regional army groups instead of the current structure, which attaches aviation squadrons at the division and brigade levels.
Japanese documents did note there will be exceptions, although it did not offer more specifics.
The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force operates Boeing CH-47 Chinook, Fuji UH-1 and Sikorsky UH-60 helicopters. Japan is introducing the Subaru UH-2 utility helo to replace its UH-1s, with plans to procure 77 between now and 2027. The UH-2 is based on the Bell 412EPI design.
The defense buildup plan also lists other obsolete systems that the country will replace, including nine Asagiri-, Hatakaze- and Abukuma-class destroyers and training ships of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Twelve Mogami-class frigates with leaner crewing requirements will replace that fleet.
The naval force will also look to reduce its planned number of Kawasaki P-1 maritime patrol aircraft in favor of an unmanned wide-area maritime surveillance capability.
Japan has ramped up its defense spending to record levels in recent years in response to what it sees as increased threats from China and North Korea, and it recently committed to raising its defense budget to 2% of its gross domestic product, up from the current level of just over 1%.
(Source: Defense News)
09 Feb 23. DOD Is Focused on China, Defense Official Says.
A Defense Department official today stressed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that China remains the pacing challenge for the U.S. government.
This is embedded in the National Defense Strategy, and DOD officials are constantly working to ensure the strategic competition with China does not veer into conflict, Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said.
China is actively seeking to overturn the rules-based infrastructure that has kept peace in the Indo-Pacific since the end of World War II. “The is combining its economic, diplomatic, military and technological might as it pursues a sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and seeks to become the world’s most influential power,” Ratner said.
China’s army is central to the aims of President Xi Jinping and “in recent years, the PRC has increasingly turned to the PLA as an instrument of coercive statecraft in support of its global ambitions, including by conducting more dangerous coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
The U.S. government is working to counter these aims, and Ratner detailed what DOD is doing with allies and partners to advance a “free and open Indo-Pacific vision that is widely shared throughout the region in the world.”
DOD is specifically working to strengthen alliances and capabilities in the Indo-Pacific, he said. The department is also developing a more distributed and resilient force posture and building stronger networks of like-minded allies and partners, Ratner said.
“These efforts will play an essential role in sustaining and further strengthening deterrence in the years and decades ahead,” the assistant secretary said.
He noted that 2023 has already been a groundbreaking year for U.S. alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.
In the U.S.-Japan alliance, U.S. officials support the Japanese decision to acquire new capabilities to strengthen regional deterrence, especially counterstrike capabilities.
As part of the Australia, United Kingdom, United States agreement, “we remain encouraged by the significant progress we’ve made on developing the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire a conventionally armed nuclear powered submarine capability,” he said.
The United States is making significant investments in defense ties with India “to uphold a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
Ratner told the senators that the United States will fulfill commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act. This includes “providing Taiwan with self-defense capabilities, and maintaining our own capacity to resist any use of force that jeopardizes the security of the people of Taiwan,” he said.
On force posture, the department recently announced major upgrades throughout the region that will make U.S. forces more mobile, more distributed, more resilient and lethal, he said. This includes moves made with Australia and Japan.
“Just days ago, Secretary Austin was in Manila where the United States in the Philippines announced four new sites at strategic locations across the country,” Ratner said.
DOD is also looking to develop partners in the region. “Despite efforts to divide the United States from our allies and partners, DOD is focused on developing a constellation of coalitions to address emerging threats,” he said.
This means enhanced cooperation with Japan and Australia, and with Japan and South Korea. It also includes outreach to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; “the Quad” partnership among India, Australia, Japan and the United States; and European allies that are increasingly worried about China’s actions. (Source: US DoD)
09 Feb 23. UK remains committed to global fight against terrorism as threat from Daesh and its affiliates continues to grow: UK Statement at UN Security Council.
Statement delivered by Political Coordinator Fergus Eckersley at the UN Security Council briefing on counter terrorism.
Thank you, Under Secretary General Voronkov, Acting Executive Director Chen and Franziska Praxl, for your informative briefings. We are grateful to the UN for all its efforts in the fight against terrorism.
Last year, the Daesh terror campaign was dealt a severe blow by the death of two of its leaders.
But despite this, the threat from Daesh and its affiliates continues to grow and to evolve as we’ve heard today.
A resurgence of Daesh core in Syria and Iraq remains a significant danger. We need to maintain our resolve, including through the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh.
In 2022, for the first time in Daesh’s history, the majority of Daesh attacks took place outside their core focus of Syria and Iraq.
We have a collective responsibility as UN members to use all the legal tools and levers at our disposal to counter this threat.
In Afghanistan, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) continues to show it has the capacity to carry out high profile attacks on civilian and international targets inside the country, and to use it as a base to encourage attacks abroad.
This Council must continue to demand of the Taliban that Afghan territory does not provide a shelter for terrorist groups.
We are also deeply concerned about the spread of the Daesh through its affiliates across Africa.
Instability, famine and climate-related crises are creating conditions that are being exploited by terrorist groups.
We must rally the UN system behind an approach that tackles the drivers of these conditions.
The Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace is an opportunity to galvanise this work.
We must also use UN sanctions regimes rigorously to prevent the proliferation to terrorist groups and to choke off their access to finance.
There is one other point to note in all of this: the Secretary-General’s report is clear that the presence of non-state armed groups is a destabilising factor. Groups like Wagner are not the answer.
As the Secretary General also notes in his report, we must ensure all counter terrorism efforts involve civil society, are gender sensitive and anchored in human rights.
President, in closing, please allow me to underscore the UK’s commitment to working together, including in this Council, to continue the global fight against all forms of terrorism and violent extremism
09 Feb 23. RDM could face criminal prosecution over 2018 explosion. Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) may face criminal prosecution over the September 2018 explosion at its Somerset West facility that claimed eight lives.
The Department of Employment and Labour (DEL) subsequently launched an investigation into the explosion, and this was completed several months ago. However, it will not be a public document but its outcomes will be shared with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the DEL’s chief inspector.
The DEL ran an investigation into the explosion alongside an internal RDM one with 26 witnesses testifying at the government department’s investigation. They included technical experts, former employers, current staff and numerous investigators.
The Cape Times last week said that the report was delayed after it slipped its July 2022 deadline, and was finalised in August last year. The publication saw a copy of the report, which details several occupational health and safety contraventions, but it’s not clear if this is the final version of the report.
Some of the findings the Cape Times reported include the “failure to conduct the risk assessment when installing a new iris valve which is deemed as the modification by the employer”, leading to inquiry chairperson, Mphumzi Dyulete, recommending criminal prosecution.
“The incident was caused by an act of omission of criminal nature on the part of Rheinmetall Denel Munition (Pty) Ltd, as represented by Norbert Schultze the chief executive officer at the time of the incident,” Dyulete stated.
The report will be evaluated and processed before further action is taken, the Cape Times reported.
Responding to queries on the 2018 explosion report, RDM last week said it welcomed the news that the report has been finalised. “It has been more than four years since the incident occurred and our priority has always been to help the families find answers and closure. RDM has cooperated fully with all legal and statutory processes since the incident- and continues to do so.”
The company added that it is “aware that the Section 32 inquiry report has been finalized by the Department of Labour but at this stage, the report and the contents thereof has not been shared with RDM. Once we have received the copy we will review the contents thereof – we are therefore unable to comment at this stage.”
“It has been a long and painful process for the families of those lost in 2018, and as we have done throughout this process, we will continue to provide counselling and support services as required,” RDM concluded.
09 Feb 23. North Korea shows off largest-ever number of nuclear missiles at nighttime parade. Nuclear-armed North Korea showcased its missile production muscle during a nighttime parade, state media reported on Thursday, displaying more intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) than ever before and hinting at a new solid-fuel weapon.
The country has forged ahead with its ballistic missile programme, test-launching dozens of advanced missiles last year despite United Nations Security Council resolutions and sanctions.
“This time, Kim Jong Un let North Korea’s expanding tactical and long-range missile forces speak for themselves,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “The message Pyongyang wants to send internationally, demonstrating its capabilities to deter and coerce, will likely come in the form of solid-fuel missile tests and detonation of a miniaturised nuclear device.”
Imagery released by state media outlet KCNA of the Wednesday night parade showed as many as 11 Hwasong-17s, North Korea’s largest ICBM, which are suspected to be able to strike nearly anywhere in the world with a nuclear warhead.
Eleven missiles could be enough to overwhelm current U.S. missile defences, Ankit Panda of the United States–based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said on Twitter.
“This is cumulatively more ICBM launchers than we’ve ever seen before at a North Korean parade,” he said in a tweet.
The Hwasong-17 was first tested last year. Alongside them at the parade were what some analysts said could be a prototype or mockup of a new solid-fuel ICBM in canister launchers.
Developing a solid-fuel ICBM has long been seen as a key goal for the country, as it could make its nuclear missiles harder to spot and destroy during a conflict.
North Korea held the parade in Pyongyang to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its army, KCNA said. Leader Kim Jong Un attended with his daughter, who is seen as playing a possible future leadership role in the hereditary dictatorship.
South Korea’s foreign ministry criticised North Korea for holding the event when it is facing a worsening food crisis and economic difficulties.
“We urge North Korea to immediately stop illegal nuclear and missile development, and reckless nuclear threats, and promptly return to the denuclearisation negotiations,” South Korea’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Lim Soo-suk, told a regular briefing.
North Korea has said its missile programme and nuclear weapons development fall under its sovereign right to self defence, and are necessary because of hostile policies by the United States and its allies.
In December North Korea conducted the first static ground test of a large solid-propellant rocket motor at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, but at the time it was unclear whether it was solely for the country’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) programme, said Dave Schmerler, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS).
North Korea has not launched its new missile submarine, however, so the parade weapon suggests intentional signalling that Pyongyang is pursuing a complex, land-based ICBM deterrent, he said.
“The general takeaway is that we should expect to see North Korea test a large land-based solid-fuel ICBM,” Schmerler said.
Most of the country’s largest ballistic missiles use liquid fuel, which requires them to be loaded with propellant at their launch site – a time-consuming process.
It is unclear how close the suspected new missile could be to testing. North Korea has sometimes displayed mockups at the parades. (Source: Reuters)
08 Feb 23. Pakistan: Escalated risk of retaliatory attacks by TTP after security forces conduct operations. On 8 February, Pakistani security forces neutralised 12 Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) terrorists in a counter-terrorism (CT) operation in Lakki Marwat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Pakistani forces found weapons as well as Afghan currency indicating the TTP continue to operate out of Afghanistan, despite the Afghan Taliban government’s insistence against the claims. While the operation shows Islamabad’s intelligence and CT operational capabilities at a time when the TTP has been carrying out several significant targeted attacks, it will likely instigate a counter offence from the group. As a result, security installations including police stations will remain high-risk areas, particularly in the border provinces of KP and Baluchistan. The security environment will increase the risk of attacks against organisations operating in border provinces, though the risk also extends to other cities as the TTP had earlier indicated a desire to launch attacks across Pakistan. (Source: Sibylline)
08 Feb 23. Philippines-China: Growing coast guard presence in South China Sea will sustain elevated regional tensions The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has increased its number of patrols and overflights over the South China Sea to protect its territory and civilian vessels amid intensifying assertiveness by the China Coast Guard (CCG) (see Sibylline Global Weekly Review – 18 January), the PCG commandant reported in a media interview on 6 February. Despite agreeing to establish a bilateral communication mechanism to manage territorial disputes in January, China-Philippines confrontations in the area have increased. To bolster its security, on 2 February the Philippines agreed to resume joint patrol with the US, previously halted in 2016 and to grant US forces access to four additional military bases (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 2 February), raising the risk of confrontations with Chinese vessels and military incidents. Moreover, Philippines-Japan security relations, including security cooperation to counter China in the South China Sea, are expected to be bolstered following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s visit to Japan on 8 February. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Feb 23. Assad has been actively rebuilding chemical weapons in Syria.
Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the Security Council meeting on Syria.
On behalf of the UK, I give my condolences to those people affected by the earthquake in Turkiye and Syria. Our thoughts are with those families still searching for answers and loved ones from the rubble and those in mourning in the aftermath of the earthquake and its aftershocks and with those helping them in any way. The UK is contributing immediate support and stands ready further to support humanitarian efforts.
Madame President, I start by thanking High Representative Nakamitsu, Director-General Arias and IIT Coordinator Oñate for their briefings.
We welcome the publication of the OPCW Investigation and Identification Team’s latest report which has decisively found the Assad regime responsible for the 2018 chemical weapons attack on Douma, which killed 43 men, women and children and injured dozens more, in horrifying circumstances.
Yet again, we are faced with undeniable evidence that the Syrian state has used chemical weapons to murder its own citizens.
This is the ninth such finding of Syrian regime responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in investigations by the UN and OPCW. We welcome this report, and once again commend the expertise, independence, dedication and professionalism of the OPCW’s staff.
We owe it to the victims of Douma and the thousands of other victims of chemical weapons attacks across Syria to hold the Syrian regime to account.
Moreover, President, today we are gravely concerned that the Assad regime has been working actively to rebuild its chemical weapons stockpile since at least 2018 – in flagrant violation of its obligations and the commitments 193 states parties have made under the Chemical Weapons Convention in pursuit of a world free from chemical weapons.
This is why it remains vital that we support the OPCW in efforts to resolve inconsistencies and discrepancies with Syria’s Chemical Weapons declaration. The Syrian regime must now change its behaviour on chemical weapons, and must provide this Council with concrete assurance that it has destroyed all stockpiles and no longer possesses the capability or intent to use chemical weapons anywhere, under any circumstances.
Despite the latest overwhelming evidence of Syria’s chemical weapons use, we have heard again today Russia’s usual barrage of lies, denials, disinformation and unfounded criticism of the OPCW. But the OPCW’s painstaking report, which considers the ‘alternative scenarios’ put forward by Russia, specifically, comprehensively and credibly rejects them on the basis of evidence.
If the Assad regime, and its protector Russia, prevent progress, block accountability and deny justice for the victims, they also risk further erosion of the global norm against the these abhorrent weapons. All of us here today have a responsibility to support the OPCW, to uphold the Chemical Weapons Convention, insist on compliance with the resolutions of this Council, and continue to seek accountability for the victims of these heinous attacks. Thank you. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
07 Feb 23. Colombia: Security patrols increased around Cauca and Narino after incursions by FARC dissidents. On 6 February, the Director of the Colombian National Police Service announced the deployment of special operations forces and air support in Cauca and Narino departments. The measure was taken after police acknowledged a lack of rapid response planning in recent high-profile cases where FARC dissidents have patrolled towns and villages. Armed men belonging to FARC dissident fronts, under the pretext of providing school kits, have reportedly been seen indoctrinating children in Yarumal (Antioquia) as well as several other areas. There is significant uncertainty surrounding ongoing demobilisation efforts by the government and the willingness of groups to refrain from entering urban areas and recruit minors. It is likely that incursions by FARC dissidents will continue to occur, underpinning the risk of attacks in the region. (Source: Sibylline)
07 Feb 23. Haiti: Transitional council for elections installed; security risks remain elevated. On 6 February, Prime Minister Ariel Henry formally installed a transitional council designed to start preparing for elections in Haiti. The country has been without major elected representatives since early January, having last held a presidential vote in 2016. The High Transition Council (HTC), composed of three members representing Haiti’s political, business and civil sectors, is expected to choose members of a provisional electoral council as well as a committee to revise the country’s constitution. The country is going through a multi-year crisis, with hundreds of people having been killed and tens of thousands displaced since the assassination of former president Jovenel Moise. Criminal gangs have spread across several urban centres, compromising the functioning of the country’s basic infrastructure such as ports and hospitals. The risk of further domestic unrest and armed attacks will remain elevated in the short term despite the announcement. (Source: Sibylline)
03 Feb 23. Austin Notes Progress on Development of Australia’s Nuclear-Powered Sub. The U.S. and Australia signaled their continued commitment to AUKUS, which is the trilateral security pact among Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., formed in 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today.
“We’ve already made significant progress on developing the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability at the earliest possible date. Our discussion today will help us to make further progress in our alliances and trilateral reach with AUKUS,” the defense secretary said as he hosted an honor cordon and meeting at the Pentagon, welcoming Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles.
Austin said that in his December meeting with Marles, they agreed to deepen defense cooperation and force posture and to strengthen coordination on regional priorities. At that meeting they also agreed to increase resilience in the face of climate change and better integrate the defense industry.
“We also pledged to find new ways to work closely with Japan, as we pursue a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, as a region where all countries can chart their own course and all states respect international rules and norms and where all disputes are resolved peacefully,” he said.
“All of this is yet another reminder that our unbreakable alliance is capable of great things. It has, indeed, endured for generations, and it remains vital to regional peace and security,” Austin said.
The two leaders also exchanged views on the upcoming public release of the Australian Defense Strategic Review.
Marles said it’s great to be back in the Pentagon again. He and Austin met here Dec. 7, along with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
Marles echoed Austin’s comments on a shared vision and appreciation for democracy and a rules-based order, as well as commitment to regional security through AUCKUS. (Source: US DoD)
03 Feb 23. Israel-Palestinian Territories: Limited cross-border rocket fire will sustain physical security risks in Israel’s southern cities. On 2 February at approximately 0230hrs (local time), Israel confirmed the launch of at least seven airstrikes targeting Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip, including training centres. The attacks took place hours after Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system intercepted one rocket from Gaza targeting the south-western town of Sderot (Israel). The developments come amid elevated ethno-religious tensions. Last week, nine people were killed in Jenin (West Bank) during clashes with the Israeli security forces. This was followed by several attacks in Jerusalem. Additional Israeli security force operations in the West Bank and incidents involving the storming of the Al Aqsa Mosque by Israeli settlers will sustain the threat of further clashes and attacks against hard and soft targets in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as well as cross-border rocket fire targeting Israel’s southern cities (see Sibylline Situation Update Brief – 27 January 2023). This will sustain physical security risks to personnel, though a major cross-border escalation remains unlikely in the coming days.
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