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03 Nov 23. Weak yen forces Japan to shrink historic military spending plan. A collapse in the yen is forcing Japan to scale back a historic five-year, 43.5trn-yen defence build-up aimed at helping to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, according to eight people familiar with the matter.
Since the plan was unveiled in December, the yen has lost 10% of its value against the dollar, forcing Tokyo to reduce its ambitious defence procurement plan, which was then-calculated to cost $320bn, the sources said.
Reuters interviewed three government officials with direct knowledge of defence procurement and five industry sources, who said Japan will begin cutting back on aircraft purchases in 2024, the second year of the build-up, due to the weak yen.
Details of how Japan is paring back military procurement due to currency fluctuations have not been previously reported. The eight people, who attended numerous meetings on the purchases, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to media.
Tokyo assumed an exchange rate of 108 yen to the dollar – a rate last traded at in summer 2021 – when it began formulating purchase plans in December, the eight people said. By early November, the currency dipped to 151 to the dollar. The Bank of Japan on Tuesday took a small step toward ending the decade-long monetary stimulus, which has driven yen depreciation, by tweaking bond yield controls.
Unlike large companies that do business overseas, Japan’s defence ministry does not hedge against currency rate fluctuations, one of the government officials said, meaning it has few means to mitigate the rising cost in yen of Tomahawk cruise missiles and F-35 stealth fighters.
Any sign that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will get less bang than anticipated from his military spending binge could stir unease in Washington about its key ally’s ability to help contain Beijing, said Christopher Johnstone, Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
“For now, the impact is modest. But there is no question that a long-term depreciation of the yen would sap the impact of Japan’s build-up, and force cuts and delays to key acquisitions,” said Johnstone, a former National Security Council director for East Asia in the Biden administration.
Japan’s Ministry of Defence said it does not discuss details of procurement planning when contacted for comment.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it was unable to comment. The Pentagon did not immediately return a request for comment.
Kishida described Japan’s biggest defence build-up since World War Two as a “turning point in history.” The spending is meant gird the nation for possible conflict around its far-flung islands stretching along the edge of the East China Sea toward Taiwan, according to defence white papers. Tokyo also shares responsibility for protecting U.S. bases on its soil that Washington could use to launch counter strikes against Chinese forces attacking the self-governing democratic island.
In December, Kishida pledged to double annual defence outlays to 2% of gross domestic product. A move to transform the war-renouncing nation into potentially the world’s third-biggest military spender was seen by analysts and lawmakers as improbable until two years ago.
That changed when Russian forces rolled into Ukraine in February 2022, in an invasion that Tokyo worries will embolden Beijing to strike Taiwan.
China stoked Japanese fears again that August by firing missiles into waters close to its territory in response to then-U.S. house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. That came after months of intensifying Chinese activity in East Asia, including joint sorties with Russian forces.
China, which has not ruled out using military force to bring Taiwan under its control, has expressed concern about Japan’s military spending plans, accusing it of displaying a “Cold War mentality.”
CHINOOKS AND SEAPLANES
With the cuts in its spending power, Japan decided to prioritize spending on advanced U.S.-made frontline weapons such as missiles that could halt advancing Chinese forces, the eight people said. That means less money on support aircraft and other secondary kit, much of it made by Japanese companies, they said.
In December, defence ministry officials discussed an order for 34 twin-rotor Chinook transport helicopters at roughly 15bn yen per aircraft, two of the sources said.
In the defence budget request for the year starting April 2024, which was published in August, that order was halved to 17 because the cost of the aircraft had jumped by around 5bn yen each since December. About half that increase was due to the weak yen, said one of the government sources, who was directly involved in those discussions.
The aircraft are assembled by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (7012.T) under license from Boeing Co (BA.N). A Kawasaki spokesperson confirmed that the unit cost increase had resulted in a reduction in the Chinook order.
Japan also scrapped a plan to buy two ShinMaywa Industries (7224.T) US-2 seaplanes used for search and rescue missions after the price per aircraft almost doubled to 30bn yen compared with three years ago, said two other people familiar with the spending plans.
“The price has risen considerably, and that is because the weaker yen and inflation have significantly pushed up costs,” a company spokesperson said. She declined to comment on whether the defence ministry had dropped an order for the seaplane.
For Kishida, who must grapple with rival ruling-party factions that are sparring over whether to borrow money or hike taxes to pay for his defence build-up, pruning equipment purchases may be politically less fraught than asking lawmakers for top-ups, analysts said.
“Whether Kishida decides to increase the budget or do nothing will depend on his support rate in Japan,” said Yoji Koda, a retired Maritime Self Defense Force admiral, who commanded the Japanese fleet. He expects the Japanese leader to opt for procurement cuts or delays because it’s easier than convincing taxpayers to fork out more money.
But, by sidestepping that challenge, Kishida is also inviting a backlash from Japanese companies that worry they will bear the brunt of cuts to ensure Tokyo can afford Raytheon (RTX.N) Tomahawks and the F-35 jets it has ordered from Lockheed Martin (LMT.N).
In a sign of growing discontent, the Japan Business Federation, the country’s most influential corporate lobby, joined several defence industry associations in October to press the defence ministry for extra military procurement funds in a supplementary budget now before parliament, one of the sources said.
A ministry spokesperson confirmed the companies delivered a letter on Oct 25 to Defence Minister Minoru Kihara urging the government to proceed with the defence procurement as planned.
The business lobby declined to comment.
Defence firms will struggle to get more money because the government will want to hold off on adding to the 43trn-yen plan to see if the currency situation changes, said Kevin Maher at NMV Consulting in Washington, who headed the U.S. State Department’s Office of Japan Affairs.
“If they think it will impact capabilities then it is possible, but I think at the earliest that would be in the next to last year of the five-year plan,” he said. ($1 = 150.4000 yen) (Source: Reuters)
02 Nov 23. Colombia: Army-EMC clashes in Huila highlight civilian risks despite ceasefire. On 1 November, clashes between the Colombian army and the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) were reported in rural areas of La Plata (Huila department). Local residents recorded an intense firefight near the villages of Los Cauchos and San Miguel. No casualties have been reported. The incident comes amid a temporary bilateral ceasefire between the government and the EMC that started on 16 October and is set to last until January 2024. Officials aim for the talks to transition EMC from an armed group into political and social structures. However, while the government affirms the ceasefire requires suspending offensive actions, the clash suggests challenges in fully implementing the agreement. The incident highlights the limits of the truce and peace process given the fragmented nature of dissident guerrillas. As negotiations continue, localised violence involving factions is likely. The risk of further attacks will persist given the density of armed groups across departments like Huila. (Source: Sibylline)
01 Nov 23. Slight increase in medium term South African defence budget. South Africa’s Department of Defence (DoD) is getting slightly more funding from National Treasury, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana has revealed in his medium-term budget delivered on Wednesday 1 November. The adjusted defence budget vote allocates an extra R1.343bn to the Department of Defence for 2023/24, bringing the total defence allocation to R52.468bn.
Of the additional funds, the majority is going towards Force Employment (R680m), followed by Landward Defence (R474m), Air Defence (R289m), Military Health Support (R156m), General Support (R128m), and Administration (R122m). Maritime Defence is seeing a R508 m reduction.
The Defence vote explained that Cabinet approved reductions of R607m to the defence budget, but an additional R1.2bn was allocated to cover increased spending on the compensation of employees (CoE) in line with the 2023/24 wage agreement. “This results in a net increase of R592.72m to the department’s baseline.”
Apart from this R592 m allocation, much of the additional funds going to defence in 2023/24 come from ‘self-financing expenditure’. As detailed in the Defence vote, “revenue of R751.035m was generated through reimbursements from the United Nations and African Union for South Africa’s contribution towards peace support operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique (through Operation Vikela); and from the sale of equipment and spares procured through the Special Defence Account.”
These funds will be used for operational expenses related to the continued deployment of two Oryx and three Rooivalk helicopters in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the United Nations peacekeeping mission there, and to provide for ‘critical elements’, such as upgrading prime mission equipment, outlined in the South African Defence Review 2015.
In his medium-term budget vote speech, Godongwana said the South African Police Service, the Defence Force, the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Department of Home Affairs and the Border Management Authority have all received additional allocations as part of providing a safe environment.
Defence expert Dean Wingrin believes that “whilst an additional allocation is always welcome, most is going to the unfunded Compensation of Employees shortfall. Both the Air Force and the Navy will be very disappointed – their already chronic serviceability and availability rates will not get any better.”
On SA National Defence Force activity for the first half of 2023/24, National Treasury reported that 3 462 hours have been flown by the Air Force, out of 12 000 a year targeted, and the Navy has spent 1 544 hours at sea, out of 8 000 targeted. “The number of hours at sea is relatively low against an annual target of 8 000 hours. This was due to delays in the repair and maintenance of vessels. Performance is expected to improve in the second half of the year,” the Defence vote read.
While sluggish in some areas, the Department of Defence had used 1 485 059 Reserve Force man days by mid‐year against an annual target of 1 989 953. “This high achievement was due to the ad hoc deployment of the South African National Defence Force to support the South African Police Service in preventing and combating the burning of trucks in KwaZulu‐Natal, and guarding power stations across the country.” It is likely the National Defence Force will again exceed its Reserve Force man days allocation as it battles with defence cuts and members leaving through the Mobility Exit Mechanism. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
01 Nov 23. Mali: Rebel seizure of Kidal military base will almost certainly escalate clashes with security forces. On 31 October, the CSP-PSD coalition of Tuareg armed groups announced that they had seized a military base in the northern Kidal region. The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) began withdrawing from two military camps, Tessalit and Aguelhok, in the Kidal region in October. The Kidal region is largely under the control of Tuareg rebel groups, driving government security forces to deploy hundreds of soldiers and over 100 vehicles from Gao to Kidal on 2 October. However, efforts to re-establish the military’s presence have been significantly impeded by numerous attacks by CMA militants, including bombings, small arms attacks and shelling against security force locations. Further violent clashes between Tuareg rebels and the Malian security forces will almost certainly elevate threats to civilians, particularly as the security forces attempt to secure supply lines. Increasing violence will further exacerbate physical security risks for NGO staff in northern Mali, both as bystanders and as targets of lethal violence and kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) attempts. (Source: Sibylline)
31 Oct 23. Deputy PM to encourage AUKUS progress during UK, US meetings. Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines will be front of mind for Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles as he visits the US and the UK.
Marles will travel to the United States and United Kingdom this week to discuss shared security objectives with international counterparts from 30 October, following recent meetings with representatives from South Korea and Papua New Guinea.
In the US, the Deputy Prime Minister will meet with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III, US Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, senior members of the Biden administration, members of Congress, and defence industry representatives.
While in the UK, the Deputy Prime Minister will meet with newly appointed Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP; Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP; and defence industry representatives.
“This is a valuable opportunity to meet with my counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom and to build on the strong progress we have made on Australia’s acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines,” said Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
“Australia’s alliance with the United States is unprecedented in scale, scope, and significance and I look forward to building on our productive discussions at AUSMIN in July.
“The visit to the United Kingdom will be an important opportunity to meet my counterparts, Secretary of State for Defence, Grant Shapps, and Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden, to discuss increased cooperation across the breadth of our relationship.
“I look forward to attending the Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit in London and working with global leaders to discuss both the opportunities and risks surrounding this transformative technology.
“Ministers will focus on continuing to modernise the Australia–UK relationship, deepening defence and security collaboration in support of global peace and security, and realising our shared commitments under the AUKUS partnership, he said.
The upcoming meetings will build upon recent meetings attended by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, discussions made at AUSMIN 2023, progression of important legislation to improve the defence industrial base between the UK, US, and Australia.
The Deputy Prime Minister will also represent Australia at the Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit Leaders’ level discussions, alongside Minister Husic attending ministers’ level discussions and meet the Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP to thank him for his personal leadership and commitment to the bilateral relationship during his time as the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Defence. (Source: Defence Connect)
31 Oct 23. Ethiopia: Fighting in Amhara underscores sustained risks facing staff, assets in region. On 30 October, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that drone strikes and extra-judicial killings by the federal armed forces in Amhara region killed thousands of civilians in October. The EHRC also reported that government forces have arrested civilians for providing information and/or weapons to ethno-nationalist Fano militias, with which they have been engaged in conflict since July. The targeting of ethnic-Amharans underscores the heightened threats of arbitrary arrests facing local staff depending on their ethnicity or alleged political affiliation in Amhara. Government forces have claimed significant gains against the Fano militia, recapturing urban areas across the region and pushing militiamen into the countryside. Despite these gains, urban areas are likely to remain highly contested spaces, sustaining the likelihood of further airstrikes and heavy fighting in towns. As such, heightened bystander risks to staff and assets will persist across the region. (Source: Sibylline)
31 Oct 23. Myanmar: Elevated fighting in Shan state highlights junta’s inability to establish nationwide control. On 30 October, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated that more than 6,000 people had been displaced from Shan state since fighting significantly escalated on 27 October between junta forces and an alliance of ethnic armed organisations (EAOs). ‘Operation 1027’ launched by the ‘Three Brotherhood Alliance’ has reportedly overrun several junta military outposts; various other EAOs and civilian militias aligned with the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) have declared their support for the operation. The developments underline the junta’s continued inability to maintain control over significant portions of the country following the 2021 coup. It faces opposition from various EAOs and civilian groups; the military admitted earlier in the year that it did not control nearly a third of townships nationwide. However, opposition groups also lack the resources to remove the junta at present, sustaining the instability which has severely undermined the operating environment since 2021. (Source: Sibylline)
30 Oct 23. South African Air Force Chief highlights challenges of underfunding. In a candid interview after officiating at a Medal Parade held at Air Force Base Ysterplaat on Friday 27 October, Mbambo emphasized the far-reaching consequences and risks of insufficient financial support for the Air Force and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) as a whole.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise recently revealed in an answer to a Parliamentary question that approximately 85% of the SAAF’s aircraft fleet is currently out of action, with most airframes awaiting servicing, spare parts and/or repairs.
“The challenge,” she explained, “is the severe unavailability of funds to place contracts.”
For the Chief of the Air Force, the primary concern revolves around the mandate of the SAAF and its ability to fulfil its obligations effectively. These obligations include participating in peacekeeping operations, safeguarding national borders and combating illegal activities.
Mbambo stressed that the significant responsibilities of the SANDF extended beyond traditional military roles. He highlighted their involvement in societal duties like responding to natural disasters and fires.
“All of this requires soldiers, it requires equipment and those equipment and soldiers need money for them to be maintained and sustained. So this is a big national question which our Minister of Defence and our top leadership is attending to,” he said.
The SANDF, Mbambo said, plays a pivotal role in maintaining the nation’s security and assisting in various domestic and international situations and a lack of adequate funding poses significant challenges.
Drawing a parallel between a household budget and the Defence Force’s financial situation, Mbambo pointed out that when funds are scarce, difficult decisions must be made to manage within those constraints and unpopular choices become a necessity.
Both he and the Chief of the National Defence Force find themselves in a challenging position due to the current budget constraints. Mbambo expressed the hope that ongoing discussions and appeals to government bodies, led by the Minister of Defence, will prompt a positive response in terms of increased funding for the defence sector.
While awaiting responses to their funding requests, the military is adopting innovative approaches to address the financial limitations. Just as a household must cut back on expenses during tough times, the SAAF is implementing cost-saving measures and striving to stay within its budget. Aviation safety must be maintained during this process, Mbambo affirmed.
He emphasized the importance of investing in in-house capabilities, investing in personnel training and fostering a culture of innovation and seeking efficiencies to ensure essential tasks are managed effectively within constrained budgets. This approach allows the SAAF to make the most of limited resources and maintain its readiness.
Mbambo acknowledged the difficulties and complexities of the current situation but emphasized the commitment to maintaining the readiness and serviceability of the SAAF for the country. He also highlighted the need for other relevant departments, like Armscor, to fulfil their mandates, particularly in successfully placing essential contracts for the benefit of the Defence Force.
At the medal parade, the South African Air Force honoured 41 airmen and women with various medals, recognizing their dedication and years of service.
“A medal parade,” Mbambo told invited guests, “is a reflection of our diligent and professional behaviour This parade is in line with the military culture to recognize all those who have provided extraordinary and professional service to the South African National Defence Force.”
The recipients include those receiving the South African Medal (Azanian People’s Liberation Army or Umkhonto We Sizwe), Tshumelo Ikatelaho (General Service) Medal and Bar to the Good Service Medal (20 years).
30 Oct 23. SA Navy chief grateful for efficient new inshore patrol vessels, but says more are needed. Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Monde Lobese, has expressed gratitude that the Navy is receiving new inshore patrol vessels, which are far more efficient to operate than the four frigates, but has cautioned that three are not enough to secure South Africa’s waters.
Speaking during the naming and handing over ceremony of the second multi-mission inshore patrol vessel (MMIPV) SAS King Shaka Zulu in Durban on Friday, Lobese said “today is a good day for not only the South African Navy, but also the South African National Defence Force and the country as a whole,” especially as Damen Shipyards Cape Town is building the three vessels on time, in budget and to specification.
“As you can imagine, the SA Navy is very excited to have these MMIPVs, because they will greatly enhance our capabilities, due to their versatility,” his prepared remarks read. “As you can imagine, once all three ships are fully commissioned and operational, they will be very busy. I must however make the following position very clear. If you only have three vessels of the same class, the best you can do is to have one at a high level of capability, one at a lower level of capability and one in a maintenance cycle. If you do not do this, and try to operate these ships permanently, at some stage you will have none operationally available, because they will be all in maintenance at the same time.”
Lobese categorically stated that although the Navy is “very glad to have these ships,” it “will need money to operate them effectively. How much money, you ask. Well, my answer to that is, it depends. It depends on the sea conditions, it depends on how fast they sail and it depends on how many people they have onboard,” he explained: sailing at an economical speed of 12 knots, the MMIPVs use seven tons of diesel. At today’s diesel price that is approximately R200 000 per day. This is coupled with a full complement of 60 people, which means allowances, salaries and rations. But, when compared with a frigate of 180 people sailing at an economical speed of 18 knots, that uses 25 tons of diesel at this speed. “This costs about R730 000 per day in fuel alone,” Lobese pointed out, meaning that the MMIPVs cost only a third as much to operate. This is well and good for fishing patrols, but “if you want to send a naval warship into a hostile situation like we currently have in the north of Mozambique, then you send a frigate and not a MMIPV.”
Lobese told guests at Naval Base Durban that as the Navy, “we are very grateful to the Government for procuring these ships. However, we cannot do our work effectively with three of these ships. Like I explained to you, we will only ever have two of these ships at some level of operational capability at the same time, provided we get sufficient money. Our land area is 1.2 m square kilometres. However, our Exclusive Economic Zone is 1.5 m square kilometres, of which 466 000 square kilometres surround the Prince Edward Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
“If we take our maritime security seriously, and if we want to protect our maritime economy, we need at least another 12 ships, of which six must be the larger offshore patrol vessels. I am absolutely convinced of the fact that over a 30 year period, the investment in these ships, and the overall benefit to our economy in preventing theft of our marine resources, as well as criminality on our oceans, makes the procurement of an additional 12 vessels, a very logical and rational choice.”
Lobese’s comments tie in with what Defence Minister Thandi Modise said in Parliament in May this year during the defence budget vote debate. She said the Department of Defence will lobby for the acquisition of larger warships once the three multi-mission inshore patrol vessels are delivered under Project Biro.
The SA Navy originally called for three multi mission offshore patrol vessels (MMOPVs) and three multi mission inshore patrol vessels to fulfil certain roles in ensuring the maritime security of the country. “Unfortunately, due to a shortage of funds, the original request of three MMOPVs was removed from the project and only the three MMIPVs were funded,” Lobese explained.
Multiple vessels are required to ensure maritime security and meet South Africa’s three international obligations pertaining to ships that sail in South African waters. “Firstly, as a country we must ensure that the waters are safe from criminal elements who can attack these vessels, like the scourge of piracy we have seen recently off the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea,” Lobese explained. “Secondly, should these ships occur in distress, our country has the obligation to conduct search and rescue missions from our coastline all the way to the coast of Antarctica. Thirdly, our country has the obligation to conduct professional hydrographic services to these ships, by accurately charting the depth of our waters so that these vessels know where to sail safely.”
There are other roles the SA Navy must conduct, and these include constabulary roles such as inspecting fishing vessels to determine whether they have the required permits, inspecting vessels who may be suspected of smuggling illegal goods and people etc. Other roles such as defence diplomacy, exercises with other navies, and specific roles for the Navy itself are also conducted, Lobese explained.
“These multi mission inshore patrol vessels will largely focus on the constabulary roles, defence diplomacy and roles for the Navy itself,” according to Lobese, with the MMIPVs also taking on mine hunting, deep diving support and torpedo recovery duties (the deep diving support and torpedo recovery capabilities used to be conducted by the SAS Fleur, which was decommissioned in 2003).
The new 62 metre long vessels are too small to carry out offshore patrol duties, however, as the South African coastline is notorious for some of the roughest seas in the world. The seas hundreds of kilometres out at the edge of South Africa’s exclusive economic zone “are very rough, and although these MMIPVs may look very impressive, they are simply not large enough to effectively patrol our waters in these conditions. Thus, we simply must have larger multi mission offshore patrol vessels to work in these conditions,” Lobese maintains.
The first Project Biro vessel, SAS King Sekhukhune I (P1571), was handed over to the SA Navy in May last year, while SAS Chief Adam Kok (P1573) will be delivered in the third quarter of 2024. It is 55% complete, with crew training in progress.
Since SAS King Sekhukune I was commissioned last year, it has been busy with operational test and evaluation, testing functions like deep diving support, torpedo recovery, boarding operations etc. Some testing, such as towing another vessel of the same class, could not be completed, but now the SAS King Shaka Zulu has been received, these types of exercises can be completed.
“I must congratulate Damen Shipyards Cape Town, Armscor, the Defence Materiel Division and the SA Navy who all formed part of the Integrated Project Team for their absolutely sterling work of building these ships on time, in budget and to specification,” Lobese told those gathered at Naval Base Durban on 27 October. “This was indeed a monumental task, and serves as a testament to the willingness of various companies and organisations to come together to produce something that will benefit the people of South African for many years.” (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
30 Oct 23. Taiwan: Opposition coalition will drive government stability, policy risks ahead of legislative and presidential elections. On October 30, Taiwan’s primary opposition parties, the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), announced their collaboration for the upcoming parliamentary elections in January. Historically, Taiwan’s elections have primarily been a contest between the KMT and the incumbent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). However, the emergence of the TPP, led by former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je, has introduced unprecedented complexity to elections. The announced coalition will likely alter the balance of power in the Legislative Yuan. Additionally, the KMT and TPP are still in discussion for a unified ticket for the presidential election, having been unable to reach an agreement yet. With recent polls revealing a decline in support for the DPP, a KMT-TPP coalition could potentially challenge the DPP’s presidential bid, driving government stability and policy risks. (Source: Sibylline)
30 Oct 23. China and Russia take aim at US at Chinese military forum. Chinese and Russian military chiefs targeted the United States for criticism at a security forum in Beijing on Monday, even as China’s second-most-senior military commander vowed to boost defence ties with Washington. The lack of regular communications between the U.S. and Chinese militaries has been a persistent worry for Washington amid tensions between the countries and the risk of an accidental clash in the South China Sea or near Taiwan.
The Beijing Xiangshan Forum, China’s biggest annual show of military diplomacy, began Sunday without the country’s defence minister, who typically hosts the event, but included a U.S. delegation amid roiling regional tensions.
Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warned the West that its involvement in the Ukraine war created grave danger.
“The Western line of steady escalation of the conflict with Russia carries the threat of a direct military clash between nuclear powers, which is fraught with catastrophic consequences,” Russia’s TASS state news agency cited Shoigu as saying at the forum.
Shoigu also said the West intends to inflict “strategic defeat” on Russia in a “hybrid war”, and praised the model of Russia-China relations as “exemplary”, Russian state media reported.
Zhang Youxia, vice chairman under President Xi Jinping on China’s Central Military Commission, delivered veiled criticism of the United States and its allies, accusing “some countries” of trying to undermine the government. (Source: Reuters)
27 Oct 23. Joint Press Statement for Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s Call With Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr. U.S. Department of Defense and Philippine Department of National Defense spokespersons provide the following readout: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr spoke by phone yesterday. Secretary Austin reinforced U.S. support for the Philippines following the PRC Coast Guard and maritime militia’s dangerous obstruction of a Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal on October 22.
The Secretaries discussed the incident on October 22, particularly the PRC’s dangerous and unlawful maneuvers that caused collisions with Philippine resupply and Coast Guard ships, putting the safety of Philippine vessels and crew at risk.
The Secretaries reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to both countries’ public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces—to include the Coast Guard—anywhere in the Pacific, to include the South China Sea. Both Secretaries committed to redouble efforts to strengthen bilateral coordination, interoperability, and support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Secretary Austin reiterated the ironclad U.S. commitment to the Philippines and our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
The Secretaries commended recent bilateral military cooperation, including the bilateral sail last month off the coast of Palawan, and committed to increase the pace and scope of U.S.-Philippines engagements. The Secretaries look forward to meeting in person in Jakarta on the margins of the upcoming ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus. (Source: U.S. DoD)
27 Oct 23. Russia’s Spending on Defense will Total $117bn in 2024 — Finance Minister. Russia’s spending on national defense will be almost 11trn rubles ($117bn) in 2024, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov at a plenary meeting of the State Duma, lower house of parliament.
“The total amount of spending on national defense next year will be almost 11trn rubles. To be precise, 10.8trn rubles. And it will increase significantly compared to previous years,” Siluanov said.
He recalled that the key task and priority is strengthening the country’s defense capability and supporting participants in the special military operation.
“Next year, we focus the state’s resources to achieve the main goal of our victory. The resources planned for 2024 have been determined jointly with the departments of the security bloc and will allow us to solve the tasks set as part of the special military operation, including the supply of weapons and military equipment, material and technical support for military personnel,” he noted.
The Finance Minister stated that today 29% of all budget expenditures are aimed at this main task. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/TASS)
27 Oct 23. Niger: US withdrawal of troops remains unlikely, moderately mitigating security threats. On 26 October, the US Senate rejected a proposal to withdraw all US troops from the US base in Agadez (Agadez region). The proposal comes after the US formally recognised the military’s July takeover of the government as a coup on 10 October. This recognition triggered the suspension of US military co-operation with Nigerien forces and halted the distribution of USD 500 m in aid. Nevertheless, the senate’s rejection of this proposal indicates that a withdrawal of US troops over the coming weeks is highly unlikely, underscoring the US’s significant interest in maintaining a troop presence in the Sahel to combat rising jihadism and widespread organised criminal activity, including drug and human trafficking. However, the continued suspension of training and co-operation measures will likely undercut Nigerien security forces’ capacity to address elevated security and criminal threats to individuals and assets within Niger, particularly in the Tillaberi region. Moreover, there remains a realistic possibility that the US will pursue a gradual withdrawal in 2024, further undermining long-term security conditions across the Sahel. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Oct 23. Syria: US air strikes unlikely to significantly reduce security, bystander risks in the near term. On 27 October, US air strikes targeted facilities near Abu Kamal in eastern Syria with identified links to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iranian-backed militias. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has stated that the strikes were ‘separate and distinct’ from the Israel-Hamas war. However, they mark the first proactive engagement of the Biden administration since the start of the conflict, with the last similar strike in north-east Syria in March. Developments also come amid a significant uptick in rocket and drone attacks targeting US forces in bases across Syria and Iraq since 18 October, which have injured 23 servicepersons. The air strikes underscore Washington’s reinforced security and military posture in the Middle East and increased efforts to deter Iran from further involvement in the hostilities. However, there is a realistic possibility that the strikes will increase the likelihood of an escalation in the ongoing fighting. Security and bystander risks in Syria and Iraq near locations associated with US forces will remain heightened in the near term. (Source: Sibylline)
27 Oct 23. Russia-Palestinian Territories: Hamas delegation’s visit will moderately strain relations with Israel in short term. A Hamas delegation visited the Russian capital Moscow on 26 October for negotiations on the release of foreign hostages in Gaza and the evacuation of Russian and other foreign citizens. The delegation met with Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov. Russian state media reported that senior Hamas member Abu Marzouk attended the talks. Israel’s Foreign Ministry condemned the visit of Hamas’ representatives and called for their immediate expulsion from Russia. Moscow has repeatedly cited the conflict as a failure of Washington’s diplomacy and endeavoured to balance relations with both sides. However, on 23 October, Israeli media reported that Israel’s foreign ministry expressed dissatisfaction with Russia over its stance on the Israel-Hamas war. The visit of Hamas representatives will likely moderately strain Israeli-Russian relations in the short-to-medium term. However, Moscow may possibly host further delegations in the coming weeks to position itself as a potential peace broker. (Source: Sibylline)
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