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20 Nov 23. Argentine libertarian Milei pledges new political era after election win. Argentina elected right-wing libertarian Javier Milei as its new president on Sunday, rolling the dice on an outsider with radical views to fix an economy battered by triple-digit inflation, a looming recession and rising poverty.
Milei, who rode a wave of voter anger with the political mainstream, won by a wider-than-expected margin. He landed some 56% of the vote versus just over 44% for his rival, Peronist Economy Minister Sergio Massa, who conceded.
“The model of decadence has come to an end, there’s no going back,” Milei said in a defiant speech after the result, while also acknowledging the challenges that face him.
“We have monumental problems ahead: inflation, lack of work, and poverty,” he said. “The situation is critical and there is no place for tepid half-measures.”
In downtown Buenos Aires hundreds of Milei supporters honked horns and chanted his popular refrain against the political elite – “out with all of them” – as rock music played from speakers. Some people set off fireworks as excitement spread.
“We came to celebrate this historic triumph,” said Efrain Viveros, a 21-year-old student from the province of Salta. “I’m honestly ecstatic. Milei represents change, for the better. With Massa we’d have had no future, our future has returned.”
Milei is pledging economic shock therapy. His plans include shutting the central bank, ditching the peso, and slashing spending, potentially painful reforms that resonated with voters angry at the economic malaise.
“Milei is the new thing, he’s a bit of an unknown and it is a little scary, but it’s time to turn over a new page,” said 31-year-old restaurant worker Cristian as he voted on Sunday.
Milei’s challenges are enormous. He will have to deal with the empty coffers of the government and central bank, a creaking $44 billion debt program with the International Monetary Fund, inflation nearing 150% and a dizzying array of capital controls.
Some Argentines had characterized the vote as a choice of the “lesser evil”: fear of Milei’s painful economic medicine versus anger at Massa and his Peronist party for an economic crisis that has left Argentina deeply in debt and unable to tap global credit markets.
Milei has been particularly popular among the young, who have grown up seeing their country lurch from one crisis to another.
“Perhaps not everything Milei says I agree with or can identify with but he is our future,” said Irene Sosa, a 20-year-old student celebrating outside his election bunker. “Milei represents a future for young people like me, Massa was everything that is wrong with our country.”
Milei’s win shakes up Argentina’s political landscape and economic roadmap, and could impact trade in grains, lithium and hydrocarbons. Milei has criticized China and Brazil, saying he won’t deal with “communists,” and favors stronger U.S. ties.
Despite that, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva wished Milei luck and success after the result was announced, adding that it was important democracy was respected.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Milei and said the libertarian would make Argentina great again.
Leftist Colombian President Gustavo Petro, meanwhile, said it was a “sad day” for the region.
The victory of Milei, a 53-year-old economist and former TV pundit, has broken the hegemony of the two leading political forces on the left and right – the Peronists that have dominated Argentine politics since the 1940s and its main opposition, the Together for Change conservative bloc.
“The election marks a profound rupture in the system of political representation in Argentina,” said Julio Burdman, director of the consultancy Observatorio Electoral, ahead of the vote.
The campaign of Massa, 51, an experienced political wheeler-dealer, had sought to appeal to voter fears about Milei’s volatile character and plans to cut back the size of the state.
“Milei’s policies scare me,” teacher Susana Martinez, 42, said on Sunday after she voted for Massa.
Milei is staunchly anti-abortion, favors looser gun laws and has criticized Argentine Pope Francis. He used to carry a chainsaw in a symbol of his planned cuts but shelved it in recent weeks to help boost his moderate image.
After October’s first-round vote, Milei struck an uneasy alliance with the conservatives. But he faces a highly fragmented Congress, with no single bloc having a majority, meaning that he will need to get backing from other factions to push through legislation. Milei’s coalition also does not have any regional governors or mayors.
That may temper some of his more radical proposals. Long-suffering voters are likely to have little patience, and the threat of social unrest is never far below the surface.
His backers say only he can uproot the political status quo and economic malaise that has dogged South America’s second-largest economy for years.
“Milei is the only viable option so we do not end up in misery,” said Santiago Neria, a 34-year-old accountant. (Source: Reuters)
16 Nov 23. Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Meetings in Jakarta, Indonesia for the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following readout:
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III concluded his engagements with counterparts in Indonesia today, where he attended the 10th annual ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus, one year after the United States’ elevation of its relationship with ASEAN to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
ADMM-Plus Plenary Session
The Secretary emphasized the U.S. commitment to ASEAN centrality as a key pillar of the United States’ efforts to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific and detailed how U.S. security cooperation with ASEAN partners is contributing to a more stable and prosperous region. He discussed U.S. support for a shared regional vision and outlined challenges to that vision, including coercive PRC activities in the South China Sea, the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, destabilizing DPRK proliferation activities, and the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Engagements with Allies and Partners
On the margins of the ADMM-Plus, Secretary Austin participated in a November 15 informal meeting with his ASEAN counterparts. The Secretary detailed U.S. plans to implement the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2024 and beyond, including the launch of an Emerging Leaders’ Defense Fellowship Program, a Gender Advisors Cooperative Initiative, and continued planning for a second ASEAN-U.S. maritime exercise.
Secretary Austin also met with each of his counterparts from the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
In his November 15 meeting with Philippines Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro, both leaders welcomed the historic momentum in the alliance, reaffirmed their shared commitment to support the Philippines’ right to conduct lawful maritime activities, denounced the recent PRC harassment of Philippine vessels, and discussed opportunities to strengthen bilateral coordination, interoperability, and support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In his November 15 meeting with Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense, General Phan Van Giang, both leaders celebrated the recent upgrade of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. They reaffirmed their long-standing cooperation on legacy of war issues and discussed opportunities to strengthen their defense cooperation in areas including maritime security cooperation.
In his November 16 meeting with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, both leaders signed a historic Defense Cooperation Arrangement between the United States and Indonesia. They also celebrated the recent upgrade of the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership by Presidents Biden and Joko Widodo and discussed ways to expand training opportunities, increase educational exchanges, and improve maritime domain awareness.
In his November 16 meeting with Thai Minister of Defense Suthin Klangsaeng, Secretary Austin congratulated his counterpart on Minister Suthin’s recent appointment, and the two leaders discussed reciprocal access and training, and areas of emerging cooperation, including cybersecurity and space.
Secretary Austin’s ninth trip to the Indo-Pacific region concludes at a time when the Department of Defense continues to do more than ever alongside allies and partners to deliver on a shared regional vision of peace, stability, and prosperity. Each of the Secretary’s stops — in India, the Republic of Korea, and Indonesia — underscored the longstanding U.S. commitment to strengthening the Indo-Pacific’s dynamic security architecture. (Source: U.S. DoD)
16 Nov 23. Austin Encouraged After Biden Secures China’s Pledge to Resume Mil-to-Mil Talks. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said today that he is encouraged by the White House’s announcement that China plans to return to military-to-military talks?following President Biden’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Austin welcomed the progress while in Jakarta, Indonesia – the final leg of his ninth official visit to the Indo-Pacific. The visit showcased the growing cooperation among the U.S. and its like-minded partners in the region.
“As you know, we had been open to meeting with here in Jakarta, but we’re encouraged by recent news from the White House on the planned resumption of military-to-military communications,” Austin said.
“You’ve heard me say before that there is no substitute for consistent and substantive dialogue between senior leaders,” he said. “So, we’ll continue to seek practical discussions with from a senior leader level to the working level.”
The plan to resume military-to-military talks at senior levels, including between theater commanders, was one of several agreements reached during Biden’s meeting with Xi on Wednesday in Woodside, Calif.
The two leaders also discussed the resumption of bilateral efforts to combat global illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking, including fentanyl. They also discussed the need to address the risks of advanced artificial intelligence systems and improve artificial intelligence safety.
Defense officials have repeatedly raised concerns over China’s lack of communication with U.S. military leaders, noting that Beijing has consistently denied or ignored U.S. requests for defense engagements at multiple levels.
Those concerns have been amplified as U.S. officials observe increasingly provocative and risky behavior on the part of China’s military.
Defense officials have noted a steep rise in risky and aggressive intercepts by China’s military of U.S. aircraft operating in international airspace in accordance with international law.
According to the most recent China Military Power Report, the U.S. has documented more than 180 coercive and risky air intercepts against U.S. aircraft in the region between 2021 and 2023.
That is more risky intercepts in the past two years than in the past decade, according to the report.
Austin said today that, while it is too soon to tell whether China’s pledge to resume military-to-military dialogue signals a broader intent to dial back provocations in the region, it is critical that the two countries maintain open lines of communication.
“I won’t make any predictions about China’s future behavior,” Austin said. “What I will say is that we will continue to need the mechanism to manage crises and make sure we prevent things from spiraling out of control from time to time.”
“That’s even more important if activities in the region have increased – if unhelpful things like close intercepts … have increased” he said. ” all the more reason that senior leaders need to be able to talk to each other.”
China’s increasingly provocative behavior, however, has far from derailed U.S. engagement in the Indo-Pacific as evidenced by Austin’s latest trip to the region.
Austin visited India, South Korea and Indonesia, where he engaged with counterparts throughout the region and continued what defense officials describe as historic momentum with allies and partners throughout the region.
While in India, Austin met with Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh amid what Austin described as a “transformative period in U.S.-India relations” as the two countries expand their defense industrial cooperation and enhance interoperability between their militaries.
Those discussions culminated in a new agreement to move forward with the coproduction of armored infantry vehicles, the leaders announced, building upon progress highlighted this summer when the two countries announced they would partner in producing jet engines.
The countries also discussed steps to strengthen supply chain security and integrate the distribution of goods from U.S. and Indian firms, Austin said following today’s talks.
While in South Korea, Austin held talks with South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and Japanese Defense Minister Kihara Minoru.
Those discussions built upon the progress made in deepening the ties among the three countries at the August summit among President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David, Maryland.
Austin also participated alongside his South Korean counterpart in the 55th Security Consultative Meeting, an annual capstone event marking the long-standing U.S.-South Korean defense relationship.
This year’s meeting built upon Biden and Yoon’s commitment to further bolstering the U.S.-South Korean alliance amid growing nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
During the session, Austin and his South Korean counterpart shared their vision for the future of the alliance, which they recognize as a “staple for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region and a stalwart protector of international norms.”
Austin also participated in the inaugural United Nations Command defense ministers’ meeting on his final day in South Korea.
In Indonesia, he attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.
The summit includes representation from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the 10 ASEAN member states and the U.S.
During the forum, Austin held bilateral discussions with his counterparts from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
The secretary also participated in an informal meeting with ASEAN counterparts where he detailed plans to implement the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
That partnership includes the emerging leaders defense program and a new gender adviser initiative that the U.S. will support alongside ASEAN partners.
Every year since becoming Secretary of Defense, I’ve attended the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.
Proud to continue our longstanding engagement with ASEAN at this year’s gathering in Jakarta. pic.twitter.com/ZeaRcKdCa9
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) November 16, 2023
“A common thread across all of my engagements here in Indonesia, in the Republic of Korea and India, has been our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Austin said. “We’ve heard our allies and partners express their support for this goal and we’re working closely with our ASEAN friends to promote a regional order based on the rule of law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
He added that the engagements mark a continuation of what has been “an historic year” of initiatives to advance defense and security cooperation throughout the region, adding that the U.S. will continue to make progress with like-minded partners throughout the region.
“We have been out in the region, throughout,” Austin said. “Even though we’re busy in Europe we’re busy in the Middle East, we’re here in the Indo-Pacific.”
“This is my ninth trip to the region as secretary of defense,” he said. “I think that sends a powerful message and reassures our allies and partners.” (Source: U.S. DoD)
16 Nov 23. A New Nuclear Arms Race? As the world faces another full-scale war in the Middle East, and the Ukraine conflict continues with little sign of conclusion, lurking beneath the international radar are new developments in nuclear weapons by the United States, Russia and China.
During the Cold War, the U.S. nuclear stockpile increased in size and varieties of weapon. In the current century, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and House of Representatives became increasingly concerned there was no reliable capability to produce a sufficient number of plutonium cores — “pits” – the central, key component of all the thermonuclear two-stage warheads that form the nation’s nuclear deterrent force.
Specifically, pits are hollow plutonium cores of the “primaries” (triggers) for the fission device that is incorporated within the thermonuclear weapon to, in simple terms, set it off.
In 2018, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) – the agency responsible for the production and maintenance of the nuclear stockpile – formulated a crash plan to build pit production lines at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, with a combined annual output of 80 pits.
A New Role For Los Alamos
On the remote Pajarito Plateau, northern New Mexico, sprawls the world’s most extensive nuclear weapons laboratory – built during World War II around the small high-desert town of Los Alamos. As the scientific research heart of the wartime Manhattan Project, the rapidly constructed facility progressed from building the first atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the war’s conclusion to – along with Lawrence Livermore NL in California – developing and refashioning warheads for the U.S. nuclear arsenal from then to the present day.
Eight decades on, LANL is being regenerated for its prime role in modernizing the United States’ nuclear warheads inventory. The biggest and most ambitious program since the Manhattan Project, the new pit production initiative has required the hiring of some 3,300 workers since 2021, upping the total workforce to over 17,270.
The lab’s main role over many years has been maintenance of the nuclear stockpile. In this new project, under the direction of the NNSA, lab workers are preparing for renewed production of at least 30 plutonium pits per year by 2030.
After the closure of the country’s prime plutonium manufacturing plant at Rocky Flats in 1992, where 1,000 to 2,000 pits were produced every year, a highly reinforced 236,000 sq-ft (21,925 sq-m) facility built at LANL earlier in 1978 became the first Department of Energy (DoE) facility capable of producing plutonium cores.
Although initially established for plutonium R&D, in 2003 the Plutonium Facility Building 4 (PF-4) at Los Alamos produced the nation’s stockpile quality (first war reserve) plutonium. The facility’s heavily reinforced concrete exterior walls, floor and roof are built to withstand extreme weather events and earthquakes.
In 2006, Congress instructed the DoE to focus on producing pits at this facility. Already being produced at LANL are “development pits,” which are pending requisite quality finalization to be incorporated in warheads.
Why Build More Pits?
The NNSA plan also includes replacing all 1,900 US SLBM (submarine-launched ballistic missile) warheads with new ones incorporating shock-resistant (“insensitive”) high explosive technology. This will make the warheads less prone to accidental detonation, which would disperse highly radioactive plutonium.
The NNSA proposes to first build 800 pits for new U.S. ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missile) warheads deployed in 400 underground silos in various locations in the northern US Great Plains.
The current Minuteman III ICBM currently carries two warhead types, the W78 and W87. This is to be replaced by a new ICBM. The labs would like to replace the older W78 with an updated version of the W87, which has improved explosive sensitivity safety features.
The first 800 pits would equip the W87-1 warheads. These would take ten years to produce by the two NNSA proposed pit production facilities operating at full design capacity. The U.S. reportedly already has 540 W87 warheads which means one warhead on each of its 400 ICBMs.
Arms Control Concerns
Arms control advocates argue these efforts would only be necessary to increase the number of warheads on each ICBM from one to three. Previous administrations regarded this increase as destabilizing – partly because increasing the number of warheads on silo-based ICBMs would make them more vulnerable targets – as well as preventing compliance with the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with Russia – assuming that this agreement is extended in 2026.
There is also the inevitable question of cost. The original NNSA estimate in 2017 for a production capacity at the Savannah River facility to manufacture 80 warhead pits per year was $3.6bn. This has since risen to $11.1bn in 2023 – but to make only 50 pits annually.
The currently installed pits in the warheads inventory are estimated as 60 years or more, bringing arms control advocates at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to recommend that LANL prove it can produce 10-20 pits in a year before committing to further expense of building more production lines.
A Return To Nuclear Testing?
Added to these concerns are fears that the NNSA designs, as they are new, would need to be tested – leading to demands to resume nuclear tests. This would end the moratorium on all forms of nuclear testing – above and below ground – that has been observed since 1998 by all NWS (nuclear-weapon states) other than North Korea. The U.S. conducted its last underground test in 1992.
For some years now, computer modelling of nuclear weapon processes has replaced testing – and NNSA believes this highly advanced expertise will enable design of improved warheads without explosive nuclear tests. They also state that differences between old, tested warhead designs and new ones are minimal. There will still, however, be calls for renewed US testing if the reliability of the US stockpile is deemed to be at risk.
There are also claims that the pits have not aged enough to be replaced. Based on research at both national nuclear labs, an independent group of science advisors (the Jason Group) advised the U.S. administration in 2006 that the plutonium in existing pits would be functional for a hundred years.
Russia’s New Missiles
In early October, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country had successfully tested an “experimental” nuclear-powered cruise missile – the Burevestnik (‘Storm Petrel’; NATO codename, Skyfall).
More alarming in terms of a new nuclear arms race, the Russian president also stated that Russia’s Sarmat heavy underground silo-based ICBM had completed its development stage. And according to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, along with the Burevestnik the ICBM had “assumed combat duty.”
The Burevestnik is believed to be able to carry a nuclear warhead or a conventional one, and potentially could stay aloft for a much longer time than other missiles and cover a far greater distance, due to its nuclear propulsion.
NATO believed that a nuclear engine on a cruise missile would be highly unreliable. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union shelved nuclear-powered rocket engines after attempting projects during the Cold War, as they were considered environmentally hazardous.
Far more recently – in August 2019 – this fear was borne out, when a Burevestnik reportedly exploded during tests at a Russian naval range on the White Sea. Five nuclear engineers and two servicemen were killed and a brief spike in radioactivity affected population in the area.
However, if the Burevestnik works as claimed by the Russians its nuclear propulsion would enable it to stay aloft far longer, and travel far further, than equivalent missiles.
A New Russian Situation
At the same time as rolling out his new missiles, Putin warned that ratification of the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty could be revoked by Russia. The U.S., unlike Russia, signed but did not ratify the CNTBT.
In April 2022, only weeks after his troops invaded Ukraine, Putin stated the Sarmat would “reliably ensure the security of Russia from external threats and make those, who in the heat of aggressive rhetoric try to threaten our country, think twice.”
With a range of some 11,000 miles (17,700 km), the Sarmat is estimated by the U.S. DoD to carry as MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) ten warheads, not the 15 claimed by the Russians. Sarmat was test-fired in April 2022 in the Plesetsk region around 500 miles north of Moscow and hit targets on the far-eastern Kamchatka peninsula.
Mired in the Ukraine War with Russia’s – and Putin’s – internal solidarity somewhat weakened since the notorious Wagner Group’s attempted coup, the possibility of nuclear escalation should not be overlooked.
Russia’s defense doctrine suggests it would launch a nuclear response to a similar attack – or even an attack with conventional weapons that “threaten the very existence of the Russian state.”
NATO is stronger than any time since the end of the Cold War and has added to its membership the formerly neutral states of Finland and potentially Sweden. Russia’s additional nuclear posturing, accompanying Putin’s protracted belligerence in Ukraine and possibly beyond, is encapsulated in a statement by Russian foreign affairs advisor Sergei Karaganov. He has stated that Moscow should ramp up its nuclear threats to “break the will of the West” or even launch a limited nuclear strike on European NATO allies if the West continues to support Ukraine.
Russian Cooperation with China
Increased cooperation between Russia and China is compounding the overall threat. During the Cold War, Soviet Russia was the main enemy and nuclear rival of the U.S., with China rapidly catching up in recent times to become a true superpower.
Nuclear collaboration between the two powers dates back to when the Soviet Union provided technical help and materials to China’s nascent nuclear weapons program in the 1950s.
Beijing now has more long-range missile launchers than the U.S. and is set to hold as many nuclear weapons as the U.S. does by 2035. However, the Chinese lack the basic ingredient for building up its stockpile: plutonium.
Russian support for China’s nuclear buildup includes supplying badly needed fuel for its new fast-breeder reactors, which produce plutonium. China is thought to have already purchased more than 25,000 kg (55,000 lb) of fuel worth $384 m from Russia’s state-owned nuclear corporation, Rosatom, since September 2022.
China had doubled its stockpile eight years earlier – by 2022 – than the DoD predicted and may speed up its buildup even faster with Russian help.
Much of the renewed U.S. nuclear weapons efforts may be said to be in response to the respective buildups by Russia and China. However, the production by the U.S. of plutonium cores at LANL will only at first produce enough to replace aging warhead components, rather than increase its inventory.
To counter these accelerating and increasingly linked Russian and Chinese nuclear threats, strengthening the nuclear deterrent is the obvious U.S. response to ensure at least its strategic equality against these decades-long adversaries. This may signal a new nuclear arms race, which may be unavoidable. (This article was first posted on Forecast International’s Defense and Security Monitor blog.) (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Forecast International)
15 Nov 23. Defence Trade Controls amendment to strengthen, enhance Australia’s defence exports. The Albanese government has announced the reform of Australia’s defence export control framework, with the release of the exposure draft for the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023 as part of implementing the 2023 Defence Strategic Review.
The Commonwealth government is calling for stakeholder feedback and input on the exposure draft for the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023 as part of the Albanese government’s push to strengthen Australia’s defence export control framework.
Serving as a driving force behind this legislative and regulatory reform, the government’s exposure draft states, “The Defence Strategic Review made clear that Australia is facing the most difficult set of strategic circumstances since the Second World War. To keep pace with these emerging challenges, it is essential that Australia has a robust protective security environment. It is also critical that Australia works with like-minded partners, especially with the United Kingdom and the United States, to enhance defence trade, deepen military interoperability and enhance defence capabilities.”
The proposed bill will also provide a national exemption to the UK and the US from Australia’s export control permit requirements under the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 as part of the government’s commitment to “enhancing defence trade with likeminded partners”.
In support of the AUKUS trilateral partnership, the government is working with its US and UK counterparts to conduct a wholesale reform of their respective defence export control frameworks and legislations as a mechanism for streamlining and easing the flow of controlled technologies, knowledge, and systems between the three partners.
The exposure draft’s explanatory memorandum identifies a number of background factors that require amendment at the policy level, with an emphasis on enhancing, streamlining, and developing a robust Australian defence industrial base via amendments to include:
* Australia’s export control system is a key element of Australia’s protective security framework, this framework aims to stop military goods and technology – and goods and technology that can be used in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons – from being transferred to individuals, states or groups with interests prejudicial to Australia’s security, defence or international relations.
* This export licence-free environment will revolutionise trade among and between AUKUS partners and encourage industry, higher education, and research sectors in all three nations to innovate and cooperate with lower technology transfer barriers and costs of trade. This would provide Australia and our partners a genuine capability development edge.
* To improve the speed and scale of technology transfer between AUKUS partners, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are reviewing their export control regimes to support the creation of an export licence-free environment among and between AUKUS partners.
The government’s proposed reforms would create an export licence-free environment to support industry, higher education, and research sectors in all three countries, including by reducing barriers to technology transfer and costs of trade. (Source: Defence Connect)
15 Nov 23. Australia signs classified information exchange agreement with Europe. The Australian federal government has signed an information security agreement with European partner countries.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles signed the security agreement on the protection of classified information with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) in Canberra on 14 November.
The agreement facilitates the exchange of classified information between Australia and OCCAR to support Defence equipment programs and strengthen Australia’s ties with European partners.
“Australia’s strategic relationship with Europe continues to grow, and this arrangement is a true reflection of our strategic and industrial ties,” according to Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.
“Participation in OCCAR programs reflects the Albanese government’s emphasis on cost effective and efficient acquisition of complex Defence capabilities.”
OCCAR is a European-based intergovernmental organisation that manages defence equipment production and sustainment programs for the benefit of member states including France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Spain as well as non-member states participating in OCCAR programs such as Australia, Finland, Sweden, Turkey, and the Netherlands.
“The relationship with OCCAR provides Australia with access to European industry and supports Australia’s procurement and sustainment of leading-edge defence technology,” according to Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy.
“It provides Australia the opportunity to collaborate with European partners on advanced defence technology and integrate the Australian defence industry with European-based global primes.”
Earlier this month, representatives from Australia and the United States announced plans for a defence technology-sharing agreement at the Indo Pacific 2023 International Maritime Exposition in Sydney on 7 November.
Government representatives from the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom laid out plans for the agreement during the AUKUS Advanced Capabilities (Pillar II): Industry Update with Senior Officials briefing hosted by the Department of Defence.
Under the plans, all three partner countries would share individual and shared development capabilities, as well as pass legislation to build a system of licence-free trade for companies and institutions to share classified and unclassified technology and work on shared projects.
That development would include AUKUS capabilities such as electronic warfare, counter-EW, hypersonic technology, cyber, undersea and other critical innovations to shape the strategic environment.
Australian government representatives described the initiative as an “expanded backyard with higher fences” where workforce and programs move smoothly between the three countries.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced legislation to enable sharing of military technology and weapon systems between Australia and the United States will likely be introduced by the end of the year. (Source: Defence Connect)
16 Nov 23. Biden, Xi’s ‘blunt’ talks yield deals on military, fentanyl. U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed on Wednesday to open a presidential hotline, resume military-to-military communications and work to curb fentanyl production, showing tangible progress in their first face-to-face talks in a year.
Biden and Xi met for about four hours on the outskirts of San Francisco to discuss issues that have strained U.S.-Chinese relations. Simmering differences remain, particularly over Taiwan.
In a significant breakthrough, the two governments plan to resume military contacts that China severed after then-House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.
“We’re back to direct, open clear direct communication on a direct basis,” Biden said.
In addition, Biden said he and Xi agreed to high-level communications. “He and I agreed that each one of us can pick up the phone call directly and we’ll be heard immediately.”
But in a comment likely to irk the Chinese, Biden told reporters later that he had not changed his view that Xi is a dictator.
“Well, look, he is. I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country,” Biden said.
Xi told Biden that the negative views of the Communist Party in the United States were unfair, a U.S. official told reporters after the meeting.
Biden and Xi came into the talks looking to smooth over a rocky period in relations that took a turn for the worse after a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon transited the United States and was shot down by a U.S. fighter jet in February.
The White House said Biden raised areas where Washington has concerns, including detained U.S. citizens, human rights in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong and Beijing’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea.
“Just talking, just being blunt with one another so there’s no misunderstanding,” Biden said.
U.S. and China’s militaries have had a number of near-misses and acrimonious exchanges over the past year. After the pledge to renew communications, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet his Chinese counterpart when that person is named, a senior U.S. official said.
Biden and Xi agreed China would stem the export of items related to the production of the opioid fentanyl, a leading cause of drug overdoses in the United States. “It’s going to save lives,” Biden said, adding he appreciated Xi’s “commitment” on the issue.
Under the agreement, China will go directly after specific chemical companies that make fentanyl precursors, a senior U.S. official told reporters. He vowed to “trust but verify” Chinese actions on the drug.
The two leaders also agreed to get experts together to discuss the risks of artificial intelligence.
A U.S. official described an exchange over Taiwan, the democratic island that China claims as its territory. China’s preference is for peaceful reunification with the Chinese-claimed island of Taiwan, Xi told Biden, the U.S. official said, but Xi went on to talk about conditions in which force could be used.
Biden said he stressed the need for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. official said Biden argued to maintain the status quo and for China to respect Taiwan’s electoral process.
“President Xi responded ‘Look, peace is all well and good, but at some point we need to move towards resolution more generally’,” the official quoted Xi as saying.
Xi also urged the United States to stop sending weapons to Taiwan and support China’s peaceful “reunification” with Taiwan, Chinese state media said.
Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwan expert at the Germen Marshall Fund of the United States, said Xi seemed to have conveyed both threats and assurances on Taiwan.
“The suggestion that a resolution needs to be found in the near term is a worrisome sign, even if he emphasized that there are no plans for military action against Taiwan in the coming years,” she said.
Biden said he asked Xi to use his influence with Iran to urge Tehran not to launch proxy attacks on U.S. targets in the Middle East as the Israel-Hamas conflict continues in Gaza.
RESPECT AND WARMTH
Biden welcomed the Chinese leader at the Filoli estate, a country house and well-manicured gardens about 30 miles (48 km) south of San Francisco, where they will move later for a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
APEC meets amid relative Chinese economic weakness, Beijing’s territorial feuds with neighbors and a Middle East conflict that is dividing the United States from allies.
Xi came into the meeting looking for respect from the United States as China’s economy struggles to recover from sluggish growth.
Biden, who had long sought the meeting, struck a warm, welcoming tone. Video of the two clasping hands in farewell after the meeting was posted on X by the Global Times, China’s state-backed tabloid.
“Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed,” Xi told Biden as they and their delegations sat across from each other at a long table in an ornate conference room.
Biden said the U.S. and China had to ensure that competition between them “does not veer into conflict” and manage their relationship “responsibly.”
After lunch, the leaders took a short walk together in the manicured garden of the mansion following an interaction that lasted around four hours. Biden waved to reporters and gave a two thumbs up sign when asked how the talks were going. “Well,” he said.
Xi told Biden as they began their talks a lot had happened since their last meeting a year ago in Bali, citing the impacts of the COVID pandemic, and calling the U.S.-China relationship “the most important bilateral relationship in the world.”
“For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option,” he said. “It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other.”
After the two met, Biden welcomed global leaders to the APEC meeting in San Francisco, where he said Xi regarded the visit as a homecoming given the city’s large Chinese population. (Source: Reuters)
16 Nov 23. Russia loads missile with nuclear-capable glide vehicle into launch silo. Russia’s rocket forces loaded an intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with the nuclear-capable “Avangard” hypersonic glide vehicle into a launch silo in southern Russia, according to a defence ministry TV channel broadcast on Thursday.
President Vladimir Putin announced the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle in 2018, saying it was a response to U.S. development of a new generation of weapons and a U.S. missile defence system that it could penetrate.
As it approaches its target, the Avangard glide vehicle detaches from the rocket and is able to manoeuvre sharply outside the trajectory of the rocket at hypersonic speeds of up to 27 times the speed of sound (about 21,000 miles per hour or 34,000 kilometres per hour).
The ‘Zvezda’ television channel owned by the Russian defence ministry showed a ballistic missile being transported to a launch silo, slowly raised into vertical position and then lowered into a shaft in the Orenburg region near Kazakhstan.
Russia installed its first Avangard-equipped missile in 2019 at the same Orenburg facility.
Russia and the United States, by far the biggest nuclear powers, have both expressed regret about the steady disintegration of arms-control treaties which sought to slow the Cold War arms race and reduce the risk of nuclear war.
But the United States, Russia and China are developing a range of new weapons systems, including hypersonic ones.
The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat, while U.S. President Joe Biden argues that this century will be defined by an existential contest with between democracies and autocracies. Russia says the post-Cold War dominance of the United States is crumbling and that Washington has for years sown chaos across the planet while ignoring the interests of other powers. (Source: Reuters)
15 Nov 23. Austin Applauds Strengthening U.S.-Philippine Alliance.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed the strengthening ties between the U.S. and Philippines as he met with Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. in Jakarta, Indonesia, today.
During their discussion, the secretaries applauded the “historic momentum” in the alliance, “which has upheld peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for over seventy years,” according to a joint summary of the meeting.
“The secretaries highlighted the recent progress the two countries have made to modernize the alliance, enhance interoperability and address new and emerging challenges,” the summary reads.
The two countries have made recent advances in implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. A key pillar of the alliance outlines steps to enhance combined U.S.-Philippine military capabilities.
That progress includes the recent completion of a $24 m upgrade to the runway at Basa Air Base in the Philippines.
“They committed to explore further opportunities to strengthen bilateral operations and planning, including through the upcoming Balikatan 2024 exercise, and noted their desire to expand multilateral activities with like-minded partners,” according to the summary.
The secretaries also discussed recent provocations by China during the meeting.
Those include China’s dangerous maneuvers against U.S. aircraft and ships operating in the South China Sea and the importance of “preserving the rights of all nations to fly, sail and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows,” according to the summary.
Both leaders also condemned the recent harassment of Philippine Coast Guard and resupply vessels conducting lawful resupply operations near the Second Thomas Shoal, an area in the South China Sea within the Philippines’ U.N.-sanctioned exclusive economic zone.
“Secretary Austin reiterated President Biden’s message that the U.S. defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad and emphasized that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its exclusive economic zone,” according to the meeting summary.
The two leaders met as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus. The summit includes representation from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the 10 ASEAN member states and the U.S.
Austin’s attendance at the 3-day session caps his ninth official visit to the Indo-Pacific, which also included stops in India and South Korea.
A senior defense official previewing Austin’s schedule in Jakarta said the secretary’s engagement with the Southeast Asian bloc is further proof of the United States’ commitment to the region.
The U.S., the official said, is “demonstrating that commitment through action and engagement—not just through rhetoric.”
The official added that recognition of that commitment is being met by a growing demand from countries in the region to deepen their ties with the U.S.
Those deepening ties are critical in Southeast Asia, which defense officials note ranks among the fastest growing, youngest and most diverse regions within the Indo-Pacific.
“When you look at the trajectory of where the Indo-Pacific is headed over the next two decades, Southeast Asia—and ASEAN as a collective—is becoming an increasingly important player and will continue to in the future,” a second official said.
This is a part of the world where half of the population of Southeast Asia is under the age of 30,” the official added. “If you look at the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia some of the fastest growing economies right now. And when you see what the United States is doing in terms of supply chain diversification, a lot of that is coming to this part of the world.”
The officials added that in addition to the strong economic growth, there is significant focus throughout the region on military modernization efforts.
“These are partnerships that we’re going to be continuing to invest in further, and have already invested in a lot,” the official said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
15 Nov 23. Joint Press Statement for Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Meeting With Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr.. U.S. Department of Defense and Philippine Department of National Defense spokespersons provided the following readout:
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr met in Jakarta today on the margins of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.
The Secretaries welcomed the historic momentum in U.S.-Philippine ties and discussed their mutual commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Philippine alliance, which has upheld peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region for over seventy years. They reaffirmed their countries’ shared vision of a free and open region grounded in transparency, the rule of law, respect for sovereignty, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
Secretary Austin reiterated President Biden’s message that the U.S. defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad, and emphasized that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights and jurisdiction in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
The Secretaries discussed the importance of preserving the rights of all nations to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows. In this context, they denounced the recent harassment by vessels from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) towards Philippine Coast Guard and resupply vessels conducting lawful resupply operations around Second Thomas Shoal, as well as dangerous operational PRC maneuvers against U.S. aircraft and ships lawfully operating in the South China Sea. Taking note of the concerns expressed about the PRC’s recent harassment by a growing number of foreign governments globally, they also emphasized that the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal Ruling is final and binding on the Parties and called on the PRC to abide by its obligations under international law. The Secretaries reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to both countries’ armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft—including those of its Coast Guard—anywhere in the Pacific, to include the South China Sea.
The Secretaries highlighted the recent progress the two countries have made to modernize the alliance, enhance interoperability, and address new and emerging challenges. On this note, they welcomed progress in implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), including the recent completion of a $24 m upgrade to the runway at Basa Airbase, and pledged to further accelerate EDCA implementation. They committed to explore further opportunities to strengthen bilateral operations and planning, including through the upcoming Balikatan 2024 exercise, and noted their desire to expand multilateral activities with like-minded partners. The Secretaries reaffirmed their commitment to the expeditious conclusion of a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), as well as the bilateral Philippines Security Sector Assistance Roadmap. Secretary Austin welcomed the updates shared by Secretary Teodoro on the Philippines’ Horizon III modernization plan and reiterated the U.S. commitment to supporting Philippine defense modernization. (Source: U.S. DoD)
15 Nov 23. Guyana-Venezuela: Referendum over disputed territory points to increased risk of regional tensions. On 14 November, Guyana requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to intervene urgently in preventing Venezuela’s planned 3 December referendum contesting the rights over the disputed Esequiba region. The plea follows the ICJ’s ruling in April affirming its authority over the dispute; a final decision as part of this mechanism will likely take years. Following recent oil and gas discoveries near the contested area, regional tensions related to the dispute will almost certainly increase in the medium term. A Guyanese delegate highlighted the significant threat posed by the referendum to the nation’s territorial integrity (Esequiba comprises over two-thirds of Guyanese land). Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has labelled the Guyanese request as excessive and plans to proceed with the vote. The current tensions will likely further destabilise relations and impact international resource allocation. A prolonged legal and diplomatic conflict is likely. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Nov 23. Mali: Further Tuareg-armed forces clashes are likely in Kidal, sustaining elevated risks to NGO staff. On 14 November, Malian armed forces recaptured the strategic city of Kidal (Kidal region) from Tuareg rebel groups. Previous armed forces’ efforts to re-establish the military’s presence have been significantly impeded by attacks by Tuareg rebels, including bombings, small arms attacks and shelling against security force locations. The Kidal region is largely under the control of Tuareg rebel groups and forms a large part of Azawad, the territory claimed by secessionist rebels. As such, Tuareg rebels will almost certainly sustain efforts to regain Kidal in the coming weeks. The CSP-PSD coalition of Tuareg armed groups seized a military base in the Kidal region on 31 October after the UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) withdrew from two military camps there. Further violent clashes between Tuareg rebels and the Malian security forces are almost certain, elevating threats to civilians and exacerbating physical security risks for NGO staff in northern Mali. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Nov 23. North Korea-Russia: Visit highlights co-operation as Pyongyang seeks to boost arms development. On 14 November, a Russian delegation led by Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Alexander Kozlov arrived in Pyongyang (North Korea) for ‘inter-sector talks’ as part of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation. The bilateral commission last convened in 2019; its resumption is the latest sign of growing relations between Russia and North Korea. It follows a meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September. It comes days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed that Russia has been providing ‘technology and support’ for North Korea’s weapons programme in exchange for ‘military equipment’ for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. On 15 November, North Korean state media announced the successful test of a new type of solid-fuel engine for intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs). The country is also continuing with its efforts to launch a spy satellite. The continuation of this weapons programme, which we assess is being aided by Moscow, will sustain regional tensions across Northeast Asia. (Source: Sibylline)
15 Nov 23. Russian resources minister visits North Korea amid new missile development. A Russian delegation led by natural resources minister Alexander Kozlov is visiting Pyongyang, North Korean state media said on Wednesday, as the politically isolated state announced new progress in its banned ballistic missile programme.
Kozlov arrived on Tuesday, as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with U.N. member states enforcing the Korean War armistice in Seoul and said they were concerned that China and Russia are helping North Korea expand its military capabilities by enabling Pyongyang to evade U.N. sanctions.
Russia and North Korea were conducting talks on the economy, science and technology, KCNA state media reported, without elaborating.
Kozlov told a reception that Russia wants to develop “substantial cooperation” with North Korea based on the agreements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un when they met in September in Russia’s far east, KCNA reported.
He also cited North Korea’s “full support” for Russia over regional and international issues, the report said.
A delegation led by the country’s culture minister left for St. Petersburg on Tuesday to attend a cultural event, KCNA said in another article.
North Korea is in its final stages of preparation for the launch of a spy satellite, and appears to have received technical assistance from Russia, South Korea’s intelligence agency said this month.
NEW MISSILE ENGINES
North Korean state media also reported on Wednesday that the country had successfully conducted static tests of “new-type high-thrust solid-fuel engines” for intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs).
“The test provided a sure guarantee for reliably accelerating the development of the new-type IRBM system,” KCNA said.
The announcement came on the same day South Korea and the U.S. held a joint aerial exercise involving a U.S. B-52 strategic bomber alongside fighter jets as a show of force aimed at Pyongyang, South Korea’s defence ministry said.
North Korea’s General Missile Bureau attached great significance to the new IRBM, saying the recent tests are essential for enhancing the strategic offensive capabilities of the military in light of “the grave and unstable security environment facing the country” and the “vicious” collusion of its enemies, KCNA added.
Military analysts say solid-fuel missiles are easier and safer to operate, and require less logistical support, making them harder to detect and more survivable than liquid-fuel weapons.
This year North Korea tested its first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – the largest category of ballistic missile – and also uses the technology in a range of smaller weapons.
North Korea’s missile programme, as well as its nuclear weapons, have been banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions, which imposed sanctions on the country.
Washington has accused North Korea of supplying military equipment to Russia for use in its war with Ukraine, and Moscow of providing technical military support to help North Korea.
North Korea and Russia have denied any arms deals, though their leaders pledged closer military cooperation at their September summit. (Source: Reuters)
15 Nov 23. Indonesia hosts regional defence chiefs amid multiple global crises. Defence ministers in ASEAN called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a durable solution to the crisis in Myanmar during the opening of a regional meeting in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Defence ministers from the Asian bloc are attending the 2-day meeting alongside key players in the Indo-Pacific as major powers jostle for regional influence, and as conflicts deepen from Myanmar to the Middle East.
Opening the annual get-together, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto said the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation was deeply saddened by the deteriorating conditions in Gaza, particularly the “horrid” humanitarian situation.
“Indonesia’s stance is clear and firm. We push and call for immediate cessation of hostilities and the immediate setting up of corridors for humanitarian assistance,” he said in his opening remarks.
Visiting Washington this week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo pressed U.S. President Joe Biden to do more to end Israel’s war with Hamas.
Malaysian Defence Haji Mohamad bin Haji Hasan reiterated the calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, saying that Malaysia “condemns terrorism in all forms”, including taking people as hostages and the bombing of civilian homes.
As chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, Prabowo also urged his counterparts to push for concrete progress toward a peaceful solution in Myanmar, which has been riven by chaos and violence since a 2021 coup.
The annual meeting comes as conflict rages in the Middle East and Ukraine and as tensions ratchet up in disputed waters in the South China Sea, where China is accused of aggression against the Philippines, which has U.S. backing and seeks to boost its military ties with Japan.
It also comes as Myanmar’s generals are facing their biggest test this week since taking power in a 2021 coup, with insurgent groups battling the junta gathering momentum in several parts of the country, including the states of Rakhine and Chin.
In a joint declaration, the defence ministers also urged “all parties concerned” to cease all violence in Myanmar and urged “full implementation” of the ASEAN “Five-Point Consensus” peace plan agreed to in 2021.
The defence ministers also underscored the need to maintain peace in the South China Sea and to exercise “self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”
They also reiterated a commitment to implement the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, which China and ASEAN countries agreed to create in 2002.
All ASEAN defence ministers, with the exception of Myanmar’s, attended Wednesday’s forum, with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to meet counterparts later in the day.
The talks will expand on Thursday to include Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand and Australia.
ASEAN, a region of about 660 m people with a combined gross domestic product of more than $3.2 trillion, has for years been courted by Washington and Beijing, but their fierce rivalry has caused its members concern.
“Competition is good. But competition should not deteriorate into a zero-sum game,” Indonesia’s defence minister and presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto told a foreign policy forum this week, where he stressed the importance of non-alignment.
Air Lieutenant General Jing Jianfeng, deputy chief of staff of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, will represent China. The country removed its defence minister in October, raising questions about the stability of the leadership around President Xi Jinping.
Austin comes to Indonesia from South Korea, where he reiterated concerns about Russia and China helping North Korea to evade sanctions and Moscow’s closer military ties with Pyongyang.
Aaron Connelly, senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore, said conflict in Gaza and Ukraine and China’s moves to block Philippine resupply missions at a disputed reef will most likely feature at the meeting.
“This forum is not one where major geopolitical developments are really addressed or moved forward in any significant way. But we do expect discussions from the U.S. and Philippines on topics like the Second Thomas Shoal, Israel-Hamas, Ukraine,” Connelly said. (Source: Reuters)
14 Nov 23. Austin Commends U.N. Coalition’s Commitment to Peace on Korean Peninsula. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III praised the international alliance committed to securing lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula as United Nations Command member states gathered today for the coalition’s inaugural defense ministers’ meeting in Seoul, South Korea.
Austin underscored the critical role of the member states in deterring aggression in the face of growing nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
“Seventy years after the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, your presence here today makes it clear that we all share an interest in maintaining peace and stability on this peninsula,” the secretary said during a ceremony kicking off the summit.
“And that’s why the United Nations Command is so important,” he said. “It helps maintain deterrence by ensuring that we could sustain our forces in theater in the event of a crisis or conflict.”
He added that the service members from each of the countries that fill the ranks of the coalition “are standing on the front lines to defend and the rules-based international order.”
“The United States is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with you,” the secretary said.
The international coalition was formed in 1950 as the international community recognized the urgent need to restore peace and security in the face of North Korean aggression.
More than 20 countries contributed combat forces and medical assistance to the effort, and the international coalition has maintained a lasting presence on the Korean Peninsula under the United Nations flag.
The United Nations Command integrates multinational forces into the larger framework, including the Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, in place to deter North Korean aggression and respond in the event of a crisis.
“Our work together on the Korean Peninsula sends a powerful message that we stand united in the defense of peace and security,” Austin said.
He added that the international commitment to peace remains critical as North Korea continues to threaten regional security.
” continues to develop its nuclear, missile and cyber capabilities,” he said. “They threaten not just and the United States but also our allies and partners across the region.”
Austin noted growing concern that China and Russia are helping North Korea evade U.N. Security Council sanctions.
He also raised concern over the recent growth in military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, to fuel Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine.
“These activities do not just threaten ,” he said. “They also erode the rules-based international order that has brought prosperity and peace for the past 70 years.”
“So today, we come together to shore up our security for the next 70 years,” Austin said. “And our shared commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and to the peace and stability on this peninsula will remain vital.”
The U.N. Command’s meeting capped Austin’s three-day visit to the South Korean capital. The visit is part of his ninth official visit to the Indo-Pacific, which also includes stops in India and Indonesia.
While in Seoul, Austin held talks with South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik and Japanese Defense Minister Kihara Minoru at the South Korean Ministry of National Defense headquarters.
Those discussions built upon the progress made in deepening the ties between the three countries at the August summit between President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at Camp David, Maryland.
Austin also participated alongside his South Korean counterpart in the 55th Security Consultative Meeting, an annual capstone event marking the long-standing U.S.-South Korean defense relationship.
This year’s meeting built upon President Joe Biden and Yoon’s commitment to further bolstering the U.S.-South Korean alliance amid growing nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
During the session, Austin and his South Korean counterpart shared their vision for the future of the alliance, which they recognize as a “staple for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region and a stalwart protector of international norms.”
Austin will visit Indonesia for the final leg of his tour through the region.
While there, he will attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministerial Meeting-Plus. That includes representation from China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand in addition to the 10 ASEAN member states and the U.S. Timor Leste will attend in an observer capacity for the first time. (Source: U.S. DoD)
14 Nov 23. SA Defence budget cuts impact Reserve Force capability, JSCD told. The reserve component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is seen as a valued contributor to the “one force” concept and continues to do so notwithstanding factors ranging from age through to call-up fraud and a diminishing number of budgeted for mandays.
The cut in service days for part-time soldiers is further evidence of how less defence funding is hamstringing the SANDF in execution of its constitutional mandate. This includes, among others, border protection (Operation Corona) and assistance to the SA Police Service (SAPS) as per the standing Operation Prosper tasking as well as humanitarian aid when natural or other disasters strike (Operation Chariot). Reserves have also been deployed continentally to the Democratic Republic of Congo (Operation Mistral) as part of the UN peacekeeping mission there and Mozambique (Operation Vikela) with the Southern African Development Community mission.
The Reserves were again under the spotlight at last week’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting where Brigadier General Zoleka Niyabo-Mana (in the absence of Major General Stephen Marumo) went into some detail on the plight of the part-time soldiers.
One aspect commented on by the JSCD was age with the average currently 46 and “ever increasing”, according to JSCD co-chair Cyril Xaba. Strategies for rejuvenation and ways to “enhance” the viability of the Reserve Force are needed and were discussed at the recent Reserve Force indaba II.
The oversight committee called for an “urgent determination” of the status of Reserve Force personnel not called up for duty in the past five years. This number has decreased and currently stands at 5 233. In this regard the JSCD recommends the Reserve Force Command and Department of Defence (DoD) work with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to ensure its personnel system – PERSOL – is “functional”.
A properly functioning personnel system, a public representative preferring anonymity said, would have prevented the personnel problems during the call-up of Umzimvubu Regiment in 2021 for Operation Prosper duties in KwaZulu-Natal. Two boards of inquiry (BOIs) as well as 25 deaths and – as of now – no payment for the call-up are at least partially the fault of a personnel control system not functioning as it should.
On reserve numbers there are around 19 000 registered part-timers with the majority (12 000) in the SA Army Reserve. The remainder are split between the SA Military Health Service (SMHS) (2 400), DoD Logistics Division (1 000), SA Navy (SAN) (670) and SA Air Force (SAAF) (650).
From a 2021 budgeted manday allocation of 2.6m, Reserve Force call-ups shrunk to 1.9m. This, according to Niyabo-Mana’s presentation means “not all force employment goals can be fulfilled”, although Reserve mandays are regularly exceeded in spite of a lack of budget for them.
The issues affecting the part-time component of the national defence force, the JSCD believes, need a permanent leader who can drive the strategic role of the Reserve Force with an eye on the current SANDF review process on its “role, cost and rejuvenation”. The Reserve Force has been without a permanent Chief for some time, with Niyabo-Mana currently acting. (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
14 Nov 23. Islamic-Arab summit calls for halt in arms sales to Israel.
Israeli weapons companies were absent at the Dubai Airshow following accusations of “war crimes” by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran.
The exhibition stands of Israeli defence companies Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) were empty at the opening of the weeklong Dubai Airshow on 13 November, as reported by Reuters, amid rising pressure to stop arms sales into Israel.
No explanation has been given for the unmanned stands. Rafael, IAI and the Dubai Airshow did not respond to requests for comment.
On 11 November, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed-bin Salman convened Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh to issue a joint communique condemning “the war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing” in the Palestinian territories.
Leaders including Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) actions in Palestine.
Saudi Arabia shifts diplomatic efforts from Israel to Iran
In a move contradicting (US-brokered) attempts to normalise Israel-Saudi relations in September, Bin-Salman affirmed Riyadh’s “condemnation and categorical rejection of this barbaric war against our brothers in Palestine”.
The Crown Prince also demanded an “immediate halt to military operations” in his address at the summit.
The summit marked a seismic shift in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Bin-Salman and Raisi met for the first time since Riyadh and Tehran officially restored relations in April, in talks brokered by Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang.
“We kiss the hands of Hamas for its resistance against Israel”, Raisi said in his address at the summit. A long-time adversary of Israel, Iran has provided Hamas with weapons in the past. (Source: army-technology.com)
14 Nov 23. Ethiopia: Peace talks are unlikely to be effective, sustaining threats to overland movement in Oromia. On 13 November, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebel group announced its participation in the second round of peace talks with the federal government in Tanzania, which began last week. Since the first round of talks ended without an agreement in May, the government’s armed forces have been accused of making arbitrary arrests and conducting extrajudicial killings of civilians deemed to be associated with the OLA. The government has likely heightened its security posture to pressure the group into re-entering negotiations and making considerable concessions. However, as long as the government’s armed forces remain preoccupied with fighting against the Fano ethno-nationalist militia group in Amhara region, they are unlikely to be able to re-launch a sustained offensive in Oromia; this will reduce the government’s leverage in negotiations. The government is unlikely to meet OLA demands over land rights, undermining peace negotiations, as well as sustaining conflict risks and elevating the threat of attacks against overland movement in Oromia state. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Nov 23. Gabon: Announcement of election timeline will mitigate short-term risks of domestic opposition. On 13 November, the transitional government announced plans to hold elections by August 2025 and a referendum on a new constitution in November-December 2024. However, the transitional government has cautioned that the dates are subject to possible revision. In September, the transitional government outlined plans for a national dialogue between April and June 2024 involving government officials and civil society groups. The announced timeline is likely to mitigate the risk of an escalation in domestic opposition towards the junta in the short term. However, delays to the national dialogue and the election process remain a realistic possibility; any such delays would likely increase scepticism over the junta’s commitment to reform. Delays would also almost certainly prolong the suspension of Gabon’s membership from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union (AU), sustaining the economic challenges facing the country. In addition, the possibility of delays will sustain the risk of domestic unrest into 2024, particularly in urban centres like the capital Libreville. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Nov 23. Australia: Defence bill proposal will highly likely heighten restrictions on technology sharing. As of 13 November, stakeholders are now able to provide feedback on the recently released Exposure Draft of the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023. The bill outlines plans to introduce a new law to enhance restrictions on sharing defence technology with foreign nations, except for Canberra’s AUKUS allies (the UK and the US). The law, a response to US scrutiny over Australia’s defence secrets protections, aims to facilitate the sale of Virginia-class submarines and enhance AUKUS defence technology sharing. It introduces three criminal offences and tightens sharing regulations. However, it allows unrestricted sharing between the AUKUS partners. Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles emphasised the need to streamline Australia’s defence industry with the UK and the US. However, the law will likely impact scientific collaboration, especially with countries like China. This shift will possibly alter the landscape of international research partnerships significantly, affecting fields like AI, quantum computing, cybersecurity and semiconductors. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Nov 23. Armenia-Azerbaijan: Increased EU monitoring is unlikely to prevent Azerbaijani aggression. The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated on 13 November that the bloc must remain highly vigilant for any attempts to destabilise Armenia internally or externally. Borrell stated that if Azerbaijan were to violate Armenia’s territorial integrity, this would be considered unacceptable and would result in ‘serious consequences’ for Baku-EU relations. Borrell disclosed that the EU has expanded its border civilian monitoring mission in Armenia to include more observers and patrols in sensitive areas along the frontier. No further specifics were provided. While the announcement demonstrates the EU’s efforts to bolster its presence in volatile border areas and to monitor for signals of an impending provocation, the mission is unlikely to be able to deter an Azerbaijani incursion. Although an Azerbaijani invasion is unlikely in the immediate term, we assess that a military offensive in the coming months is possible. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Nov 23. Russia: Oil cap enforcement will raise compliance risks for Western insurance, shipping companies. On 13 November, Reuters reported that the US Treasury Department is investigating around 100 vessels suspected of assisting Russia in circumventing the oil price cap. In December 2022, the EU and G7 countries imposed a USD 60 per barrel (pb) price cap on Russian crude oil shipments. On 14 November, the Financial Times reported that Moscow has almost been able to circumvent the price cap fully by building a fleet of ageing oil tankers and by decreasing its reliance on Western insurance companies. EU and US officials are reportedly discussing how to reinforce co-operation with the oil cap; this will possibly increase compliance risks for Western insurance and shipping companies still involved in Russian oil shipments. Western officials are looking at how to restrict Moscow’s access to used oil tankers, though such a measure will be more difficult to implement in the short term; as such, Russia is likely to continue to evade the price cap. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Nov 23. Myanmar: Fighting along border with India will likely disrupt trade as junta continues to struggle. According to local reports, fighters associated with the Chin National Front (CNF) took control of two military outposts in Chin state along the border with Mizoram state (India) on 13 November. They also claim to control the border town of Reh Khaw Da. According to a spokesperson, the CNF is looking to expand its control along the border. Continued fighting in this region will likely disrupt trade; timber trade routes (both legal and illegal) currently pass between Chin and Mizoram. Fighting spiked in Shan state at the end of October following the launch of Operation 1027 against the junta by ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) near the border with China, disrupting cross-border trade. As well as Chin, fighting has also intensified in Rakhine state in recent days; the collapse of the informal ceasefire has resulted in a curfew being implemented in the state capital Sittwe. Fighting will highly likely continue to intensify, disrupting overground trade and transport within the country and with its neighbours. (Source: Sibylline)
14 Nov 23. Russia, India discussing joint production of aircraft weapons -RIA news agency. Russia’s sate-controlled arms exporter Rosoboronexport is discussing with Indian enterprises the joint production of aircraft weapons for the Indian Air Force, Russia’s RIA state news agency reporter early on Tuesday.
“Rosoboronexport is working with Indian private and public enterprises to organise joint production of aviation weapons and integrate them into the existing aviation fleet in India,” RIA cited Rosoboronexport’s General Director Alexander Mikheyev as saying.
No details were provided about which Indian companies would be involved or when potential production would start.
Russia continues to be India’s largest arms supplier with its share of Indian defence imports at 45% in 2022, according to this year’s report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Mikheyev said that Rosoboronexport and Indian partners has provided the Indian Ministry of Defence with Su-30MKI fighter jets, tanks, armoured vehicles, and shells. India and Russia have also started at the beginning of the year joint production of the AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifles. (Source: Reuters)
14 Nov 23. Republic of Korea and United Nations Command Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting Joint Statement.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of National Defense Shin Wonsik hosted the “Republic of Korea – United Nations Command Member States Defense Ministerial Meeting” in Seoul on November 14, 2023. Defense ministers and representatives from 17 United Nations Command (UNC)Member States participated, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States (U.S.).
The meeting was held at the invitation of the ROK Ministry of National Defense in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement signed on July 27, 1953. For the first time, defense ministers and representatives from all the UNC Member States and the host nation of the ROK convened in Seoul to discuss matters related to security on the Korean Peninsula.
During the meeting, the defense ministers and representatives discussed the continuing role of the UNC in fulfilling its mandates under United Nations Security Council Resolutions and the 1953 Armistice Agreement.
Furthermore, the leaders reminded the international community that the UNC defended the ROK during the Korean War by successfully integrating many nations together and commanding the combat and support forces voluntarily sent by the United Nations Member States to defend the ROK from armed attacks by the DPRK.
The UNC Member States reaffirmed that the promise and spirit of the 1953 Armistice Agreement continues to be necessary for the protection of peace and democracy on the Korean Peninsula today as it was in the past.
In particular, the defense ministers and representatives recognized the function of all Member States and the host nation of the ROK in managing, implementing, and enforcing the terms of Armistice. They recognized the utility of the Armistice in providing mechanisms for preserving the cessation of hostilities on the Korean Peninsula.
In doing so, the defense ministers and representatives discussed ongoing security challenges. They strongly condemned the DPRK’s unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs which violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. The leaders emphasized the important role that the international community plays in ensuring the full implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions relating to the DPRK’s UNSCR-prohibited programs, as well as the DPRK’s responsibility to cease any unlawful behavior. They also discussed the utility and necessity of dialogue as the path to an enduring peace on the Korean Peninsula.
The UNC Member States declared that they will be united upon any renewal of hostilities or armed attack on the Korean Peninsula challenging the principles of the United Nations and the security of the Republic of Korea.
In managing persistent security challenges, the defense ministers and representatives determined to continue increasing mutual exchange and cooperation between the ROK-U.S. Alliance and UNC Member States to inform our combined training and exercises.
ROK Minister of National Defense Shin Wonsik, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Australia Minister of Defense Industry, Thailand Chief of Defense Forces, Philippines Undersecretary for Capability Assessment and Development, ambassadors from Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and South Africa political counsellor paid their respects to the noble sacrifice of the UNC Member States’ veterans who protected the ROK from armed aggression during the Korean War and fought ‘Under One Flag’ to restore international peace.
The participating defense ministers and representatives assessed that the UNC has effectively contributed to deterring war on the Korean Peninsula for the past 70 years. They expressed their gratitude to the leadership of Minister Shin for providing the meaningful opportunity to strengthen cooperation and solidarity in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement. (Source: U.S. DoD)
13 Nov 23. Austin Affirms ‘Ironclad’ U.S. Commitment to Deterrence on Korean Peninsula. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III underscored the United States’ unwavering commitment to maintaining peace and security on the Korean Peninsula during talks today with South Korean Defense Minister Shin Won-sik in Seoul, South Korea.
The two leaders met alongside their respective delegations at the South Korean Ministry of National Defense headquarters as part of the 55th Security Consultative Meeting, an annual capstone event marking the long-standing U.S.-South Korean defense relationship.
“We have been tested time and again, and we have met every challenge,” Austin said. “Together, we’ve built one of the most robust, capable and interoperable alliances on earth. We have deterred greater conflict on the Korean Peninsula for seven decades. If necessary, we remain ready to fight tonight.”
“Our extended deterrence commitment to remains ironclad,” he said.
This year’s meeting comes on the heels of a commitment by President Joe Biden and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to further bolstering the U.S.-South Korean alliance amid growing nuclear threats posed by North Korea.
The Washington Declaration, unveiled during Yoon’s official visit to Washington in April, outlines the two countries’ commitment to engage in deeper dialogue and information sharing to strengthen nuclear deterrence efforts on the peninsula.
The document announced the establishment of a nuclear consultative group and further underscores the United States’ commitment to extended deterrence backed by the full range of U.S. capabilities, including nuclear capabilities.
The U.S. also pledged, as part of the declaration, to enhance regular visibility of strategic assets on the Korean Peninsula.
Austin noted during today’s talks that, in the months following the declaration, a U.S. ballistic missile submarine conducted a port visit in South Korea for the first time in 40 years. The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike also recently completed a port visit, and, last month, the U.S. landed a B-52 Stratofortress bomber on the Korean Peninsula for the first time this century.
“We will continue to do the things we promised to do,” Austin said in a news conference following the daylong talks. “In the past 12 months, we’ve transformed our posture in the region. We are more forward deployed and more capable to respond to anything that could happen.”
The defense ministers built upon the priorities outlined in the Washington Declaration during their meeting, as they endorsed an update to the 2013 Tailored Defense Strategy.
The updated document reflects the current security environment, North Korea’s advancing capabilities, and guidance from the most recent U.S. and South Korean national defense strategies.
During today’s session, the leaders also codified their vision for the future of the alliance. In a joint vision statement, they recognized the alliance as a “staple for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region and a stalwart protector of international norms.”
“In recognition of the changing security environment, the alliance must adopt a forward-looking posture that is responsive to its foundational and most pressing threat— —while also contributing to the security of the region and the world,” according to the statement.
Austin and Shin outlined three key priorities driving the future of the alliance. Those include: deterring strategic attacks from hostile actors in the region, modernizing each nation’s capabilities to strengthen the combined defense architecture of the alliance, and strengthening solidarity and defense cooperation with like-minded partners in the region.
“Our vision is that of a peaceful Korean Peninsula and a free and open Indo-Pacific region in which the United States and stand together at the forefront of tackling the most significant and consequential security challenges,” the document reads.
The defense leaders lauded the strength of the longstanding U.S.-South Korea alliance following the talks and committed to further strengthening the two countries’ defense ties.
“For the past 70 years, the -U.S. alliance has developed into the linchpin of peace, stability and prosperity of not only the Korean Peninsula, but the world—and one of the strongest alliances in history,” Shin said. (Source: U.S. DoD)
13 Nov 23. Parliament wants to know what’s happening with Chief Defence Reserves. The non-appearance of Major General Stephen Marumo, the last permanent Chief Defence Reserves, at last week’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting raised eyebrows and questions.
Marumo was, according to the Reserve Force Volunteer quarterly publication, appointed effective September last year. However, Brigadier General Zoleka Niyabo-Mana has been Acting Chief Director for some time, with little seen nor heard of Marumo.
JSCD co-chairs Cyril Xaba and Mamagase Nchabeleng used a Parliamentary Communication Service statement to call for a permanent appointment to “drive the strategic implementation” of decisions taken at the October Reserve Force indaba. The statement makes no mention of why Marumo was not on hand with defenceWeb reliably informed his place was taken by Niyabo-Mana. The tone of the statement indicates there is currently no-one permanently heading the Reserve Force component of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
One who interpreted the non-appearance as Marumo no longer being Chief Defence Reserves is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais. “While the meeting was in progress, I formulated and forwarded a question on who and what is happening to Minister Thandi Modise,” he told defenceWeb.
In the summer 2023 edition of the Reserve Force Volunteer, a foreword penned by Marumo has it the two-star commits to avail his experience and know-how “every step of the way”. This is in the light of Reserve Force capability and participation in operations being “a critical requirement”.
The joint JSCD chairs, as per the Parliamentary Communication Service statement, have it: “The SANDF is currently undergoing a review process on the role, cost and rejuvenation of the reserve force and this process should have included the ideas and foresight of a permanent Chief Defence Reserves to ensure that in the medium to long terms the incumbent implements a strategic outlook they would contributed to shaping”.
On last month’s indaba, appreciation was expressed for the event that “sat and engaged to develop the reserve’s strategic role and direction in delivering on the SANDF mandate”. The JSCD requested the “final product to be adopted at the Reserve Force Indaba lll be tabled to enable the committee to make its own contribution”. The first indaba was in September four years ago and reports on the second give no date indication as to when number three might take place.
On the current state of the Reserve Force, the JSCD noted concern about the average age – 46 “and increasing” – of South Africa’s part-time soldiers with strategies needed for rejuvenation and to enhance viability.
“Also concerning,” according to the statement, is the reduction in budgets which could see “further decline in the reserves”.
“These concerns would be best driven and solved by a permanent Chief Defence Reserves.” (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
13 Nov 23. US hints at more strikes unless Iran-linked groups halt attacks. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday left open the possibility of more strikes against Iran-linked groups if attacks against American forces in Iraq and Syria don’t stop, hours after overnight U.S. air strikes in Syria.
The U.S. military carried out its third air strike in as many weeks in Syria late on Sunday, targeting a training facility near the city of Albu Kamal and a safe house near the city of Mayadeen.
The strikes came after at least 40 attacks against U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq and Syria by Iran-backed forces in recent weeks, as regional tensions mount over the Israel-Hamas war. At least 45 U.S. troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries or minor wounds.
“These attacks must stop, and if they don’t stop, then we won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary, again, to protect the troops,” Austin told reporters at a news conference in Seoul.
Austin said the latest air strikes in eastern Syria targeted facilities used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and related groups.
“These strikes are intended to disrupt and degrade the freedom of action of these groups, which are directly responsible for attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria,” Austin said.
The United States has 900 troops in Syria, and 2,500 more in neighboring Iraq, to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, which in 2014 seized large swathes of both countries but was later defeated.
There is growing concern that the Israel-Hamas conflict could spread through the Middle East and turn U.S. troops at isolated bases into targets of heavier weaponry than the smaller rockets and one-way drones seen so far.
The United States has deployed additional air defenses and sent warships and fighter aircraft to the region since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted on Oct. 7, including two aircraft carriers, to try to deter Iran and Iran-backed groups.
The number of troops added to the region is in the thousands.
Reuters has reported that the U.S. military was taking new measures to protect its Middle East forces during the ramp-up in attacks by suspected Iran-backed groups, and was leaving open the possibility of evacuating military families if needed.
The measures include increasing U.S. military patrols, restricting access to base facilities and boosting intelligence collection, including through drone and other surveillance operations, officials say.
It was still unclear whether anyone was killed in the latest U.S. strikes in Syria. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a U.S. review was under way. (Source: Reuters)
13 Nov 23. South Korea’s move to build FFX Batch-III frigates aimed at effectively deterring North Korean submarines, says GlobalData.
Following the news that Hanwha Ocean signed a $600m contract with the South Korean state defense procurement agency to build two next-generation frigates;
Tushar Mangure, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view: “The construction of the next-generation FFX Batch-III frigates is part of South Korea’s naval modernization strategy, which is mainly aimed at countering the increasing threat posed by North Korea’s new ballistic missile-armed submarines. The new FFX Batch-III frigates will also help South Korea increase its military presence and counter the Chinese naval expansion in the East Asia region. The new frigates will be built by Hanwha Ocean to replace the Ulsan-class vessels that were inducted in the early 1990s.
“According to GlobalData’s Global Naval Vessels and Surface Combatants Market 2023-2033 forecast, South Korea is estimated to spend approximately $19.4bn on the procurement of various categories of naval vessels over the next ten years. The contribution of the frigate segment to the country’s overall naval vessel market is expected to be around 25%. The high level of indigenization due to the presence of a robust shipbuilding infrastructure has proven South Korea to be a major exporter of naval platforms worldwide, with domestic companies like Hanwha at the forefront.
“Over the last decade, North Korea has significantly strengthened the operational capabilities of its missiles and naval force. Even though North Korea tends to exaggerate the capabilities of its military, devising an effective strategy to detect and neutralize the submarines is of utmost importance for South Korean policymakers. The FFX Batch-III frigates will be equipped with a wide range of indigenous sensors and weapon systems to effectively undertake anti-submarine roles and deter underwater threats originating from North Korea.
“The incorporation of a state-of-the-art hybrid propulsion system consisting of electric and gas turbine modes will enable the frigates to achieve a high degree of acoustic stealth essential for conducting anti-submarine warfare. They may also be integrated with unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) for conducting anti-submarine operations. These specifications clearly indicate South Korea’s focus on safeguarding its territorial waters against complex and varied underwater threats by deploying modern naval platforms.” (Source: GlobalData)
13 Nov 23. Chinese Ships Chase Philippine Vessels; US Renews Warning to Defend Manila. As a U.S. Navy surveillance plane flew in circles, keeping a close watch, dozens of Chinese coast guard and accompanying ships chased and encircled Philippine vessels in the latest confrontation in one of the most dangerous flashpoints in the South China Sea.
At the height of Friday’s four-hour faceoff in the high seas, a Chinese coast guard ship blasted a water cannon toward a Philippine motorboat delivering food and other supplies to Filipino forces on a marooned, rusting warship that serves as the country’s fragile territorial outpost at Second Thomas Shoal.
China has steadfastly stood by its claim to virtually the entire strategic waterway, clashing with its smaller neighbors and drawing in the United States, Manila’s treaty ally and China’s main rival in the Asia-Pacific region. Washington and its allies have deployed navy ships and fighter aircraft to promote freedom of navigation and overflight, build up deterrence and reassure allies such as the Philippines.
There are fears that the recurring confrontations at Second Thomas Shoal, which lies within the U.N.-sanctioned Philippine exclusive economic zone but is claimed by China and surrounded by its flotilla, could ignite an armed conflict pitting the United States against China. Philippine officials said Saturday they would never take any step that could ignite a larger conflict but would not be deterred in defending the country’s sovereign rights in the South China Sea.
Despite the Chinese blockades and coercive maneuvers, the Philippine contingent managed to deliver supplies to the handful of Filipino marines aboard the BRP Sierra Madre and left without incident. The slightly listing Philippine warship, donated by the U.S., has been crumbling with age but is still actively commissioned, meaning an armed attack would be considered by Manila as an act of war.
Two Associated Press journalists and several other members of the media who were invited on board three Philippine coast guard ships securing two supply boats witnessed the dangerous cat-and-mouse maneuvers in rough waves. It’s part of a shame campaign Philippine officials said they would press on to expose China’s growing aggression in one of the world’s most important trade routes.
A Chinese national looks out from aboard a Chinese vessel identified by the Philippines as “maritime militia” during the Philippine coast guard’s mission to deliver provisions at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on Nov. 10, 2023.
A Chinese national looks out from aboard a Chinese vessel identified by the Philippines as “maritime militia” during the Philippine coast guard’s mission to deliver provisions at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea on Nov. 10, 2023.
Filipino forces would continue to adhere to the rule of law and would not be provoked by China’s strong-arm tactics, Philippine coast guard Commodore Tarriela said.
“Regardless how dangerous the maneuver that they’re going to throw at us, whether they use water cannon, whether they use military-grade laser, we are not going to allow them to make Philippine coast guard personnel on board our vessels to escalate the tensions,” Tarriela said.
At least 38 Chinese ships were spotted in Second Thomas Shoal’s vicinity Friday, including a Chinese navy fast assault craft and a hospital ship, the Philippine coast guard said.
One of the Philippine coast guard ships, the BRP Cabra, was surrounded five times by the Chinese coast guard and other ships, but managed each time to move away until it was hemmed in near the shoal.
“We grow more confident each time we steer past through the Chinese blockades,” the Cabra’s commander, Emmanuel Dangate, told AP. “We feel all the more the need by all to follow the international regulations to prevent collisions.”
The campaign to expose China’s aggression at sea would continue, Tarriela said in a news conference, where photographs, video and drone shots of Friday’s confrontations were shown.
“I believe that our effort in transparency initiative has been very successful in rallying support from the international community to condemn the illegal actions of China and to make the Filipino people aware of what’s happening,” Tarriela said. (Source: https://www.defense-aerospace.com/ Voice of America News)
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