US Drops Bombs Near North Korea Border

6:53:00 PM Add Comment

The United States Of America has dropped a bomb in the Korean border region in a show of strength to North Korea.

Both the US and South Korean military launched a mock-military attack in reaction to the North’s recent actions.

Two days ago North Korea launched a missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, with the missile landing in the sea. Pyongyang has stepped up their aggression to the United States and neighbours South Korea by threatening to launch a missile attack in Guam, where the US has its Pacific military based.

The mock-attack included a bombing drill across the Korean Demilitarised Zone, B-1 bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula in reaction to the successful missile tests from Pyongyang.

Speaking to CNN, General Terrence O'Shaughnessy of the Pacific Air Force said:

North Korea's actions are a threat to our allies, partners and homeland, and their destabilising actions will be met accordingly

Tensions are rising in the Korean peninsular. On Tuesday, South Korea dropped eight large bombs in a show of military strength.

The world waits with baited breath to see how Kim-Jong-un and the North Korea regime will react.


Joint development might legitimize China claim in West Philippine Sea: analyst

6:38:00 PM Add Comment

MANILA - A joint development venture with China in the Recto Bank, which lies within the West Philippine Sea, may legitimize Beijing's claim in the disputed waters, an analyst said Thursday.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines' Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said joint developments have been proposed and used as a means for addressing unsettled territorial disputes in other parts of the world.
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the disputed South China Sea, where China lays sweeping claims. China has ignored the Philippines' July 2016 legal victory, where an international arbitration court invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the waters.
"The problem here in our case is that we have a clearly legitimate claim, which has been validated by nothing less than the international tribunal. There is supposedly no overlap, and yet China continues to insist on its illegitimate claim," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"By accepting joint development, in essence we are accepting that illegitimate claim might have some currency, might have some substance to that," he said.
Exploration at the resource-rich Recto Bank (Reed Bank) was suspended in 2014 when Manila brought Beijing to a Hague-based arbitration court to clarify maritime entitlements in the vital waterway.
A report from the United States Energy Information Administration in 2013 said the bank could hold up to 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5.4 billion barrels of petroleum.
It was being eyed to replace the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power Platform, which supplies almost half the electricity of Luzon and is estimated to last until only ten more years.
An energy official last month said exploration at the bank may resume by the end of the year if the Department of Foreign Affairs lifts its suspension.

Batongbacal said the Philippines must ensure that "whatever we agree to does not result in an acknowledgement of China’s illegitimate claim."
"That’s why any kind of bargain with China on this has to be really very well thought of, and the terms have to be very well-written in order to prevent that kind of even an implied recognition," he said.
"It’s bad enough that we have actually the official position very loosely declared by the President. When he said that China has this historic claim, that’s almost one step closer to acknowledging officially because he is the President of the country," he added.
Batongbacal supports Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano's statement that the energy department is now focused on allowing oil and gas exploration in "areas that are not disputed."
He said this would mean that Manila is "implementing and continuing to attempt to implement" the Hague ruling.

However, he said, "there’s probably no petroleum in those areas" which are not disputed beyond the 200-nautical mile zone of the Philippines.
"That will be the ultimate test of whether we have retained our sovereignty and sovereign rights over these areas—if we still have a choice, the freedom to select other partners in any development in the West Philippine Sea," he said.
"If we find that we don’t and every development that we have there will always have to have a Chinese partner, then that means that we have lost the sovereign rights and jurisdiction to that extent," he added.


Analysis: Russia looks to bridge armour gap

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Russia announced contracts during the Army-2017 show that indicate its next generation of armoured platforms remains many years from entering service.

The Ministry of Defence announced that it had awarded contracts to Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) covering the first deliveries of an unspecified number of new T-90M main battle tanks, BMPT Terminator fire-support vehicles, and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) fitted with the Epoch turret.

The Russian Ground Forces will not require new versions of any of these types once the next-generation T-14 Armata MBT, associated T-15 Armata heavy IFV, and the Kurganets-25 IFV go into production.


Alcon develops F550 upgrade

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High-performance brake and clutch system specialist, Alcon Components, has developed an upgrade package for the Ford F550, as the company continues its push into the defence sector.

“We have for many years offered upgrade solutions for the Toyota Land Cruiser range, this is without doubt still the ‘go-to’ light platform for most armourers,” the company’s managing director, Alistair Fergusson, told Jane’s , continuing: “The equivalent ‘go-to’ chassis in the next weight class up is clearly the Ford F550, and after initially developing our upgrade package for a specific Middle Eastern client, we are now seeing a tremendous amount of interest in what is clearly a much-needed product.”



6:21:00 PM Add Comment
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs fears updated, high-precision U.S. models of nuclear bombs will lower inhibitions to use nuclear weapons in combat, Russian state news agency Itar-Tass reported on Tuesday.

The B61-12 is a weapon that the U.S. has worked on for some time, testing a mock-up in 2015. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration announced on Tuesday that it had carried out another non-nuclear test of the model 12 and would continue doing so in the next three years, hoping to clear it for service. The weapon is meant to be the first precision-guided atomic bomb, and Russia does not like the sound of it.

“The advantage of the new modification of the B61-12, according to U.S. military experts themselves lies in the fact that it will be, as they put it, ‘more ethical’ and ‘more usable,’” Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Nonproliferation and Weapons Control Department told Tass.

Referring to comments made by former undersecretary of defense James Miller and ex-President Barack Obama’s key nuclear strategist General James E. Cartwright, Ulyanov expressed fears the U.S. may develop a more laissez-faire view of nuclear arms’ use, knowing they “cause less catastrophic consequences for the civilian population.

“From this we can conclude that the clearing of such bombs for service could objectively lead to lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear arms,” Ulyanov said. “This, we can imagine, is the main negative impact of the ongoing modernization.”

The upgrade is, in the eyes of some U.S. defense experts, a needed replacement of an integral part of U.S. nuclear capabilities whose design dates back to the 1960s. Former U.S. General Cartwright defended the program in 2016, noting that increasing precision and shrinking the size of the arms means fewer will be needed to act as a deterrent in the first place.

Ulyanov, however, felt the U.S. and any of its NATO allies that may benefit from the upgrade sought the B61-12’s potential clearing in response to what they perceive as Russia’s nuclear posturing. Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have issued a handful of verbal reminders that Russia’s own nuclear capabilities exist to back up its foreign policy if needed.

North Korea’s current nuclear missile program has topped the list of concerns for the U.S. of late, with a missile test flying over Japan taking place on Tuesday morning. Though Russia formally opposes the North’s nuclear program, Moscow chose to once again condemn the U.S. for provoking the test by carrying out its annual defense drill with regional ally South Korea.


No Chinese Soldier would have walked out alive from Doklam if China attacked

6:18:00 PM Add Comment

A day after China and India ended their worst military confrontation in decades, sources said the government negotiated the settlement from a position of strength because the army had enveloped the entire area and “had made enough provisions to neutralize the Chinese forces”.

The location of the hotspot was advantageous for India because it can move its soldiers faster to the border near Sikkim than China. Yesterday, China and India withdrew troops from the remote Doklam Plateau that is disputed territory for China and Bhutan. India backs Bhutan’s claim and in mid-June, its soldiers crossed the border at Sikkim to stop China from building a new road which India saw as a serious challenge to the security of its northeastern states.

Government sources who cannot be named on account of the sensitivity of the situation said that there is wide acknowledgement of “the sheer resilience of our armed forces who refused to give up and had strategically surrounded” the flashpoint, located at least 10,000 feet above sea level. They also said that Army Chief Bipin Rawat was “extremely confident of ensuring maximum damage” which helped in getting China to agree to a settlement reached through diplomatic talks.

As China tiraded against India every day, warning of military escalation and of a repeat of the humiliating defeat of India by Beijing in 1962, the government kept its calm, insisted that both sides should withdraw their troops and said it had confidence in diplomatic dialogue.

When asked today if China has abandoned its plans to build the road in Doklam, a government spokesperson said “We will make an overall assessment of the weather conditions and all related factors, and according to the actual circumstances complete construction plans.” She reiterated that Chinese border troops were continuing their patrols in the area that is disputed by Beijing and Bhutan.

The Doklam crisis ended barely a week ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to china for a summit of BRICS which apart from India and China includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa.


North Korea Has 300 Stealth Nuke Carriers and They’re Ancient

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Tensions on the Korean Peninsula escalated on Monday, Aug. 29, after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan.

President Donald Trump said that all options are on the table following the incident, but the possibility of an armed conflict is still low, since most experts believe that North Korea does not have the technology to accurately deliver a nuclear warhead over a long distance.

But photos from a recent military exercise of an ancient aircraft are creating an alarm, since these tiny biplanes are nearly undetectable by air defense systems and can be used to carry a nuclear warhead directly into enemy territory without the need of a rocket.

North Korea has 300 Antonov An-2 biplanes, which were introduced in the Soviet Union in 1948. Designed as crop dusters, these slow-moving airplanes were largely ridiculed and disregarded when North Korea showcased them in 2015, but a recent article by The Drive points out their unique strengths against conventional defense systems.

Since the An-2 biplanes can move slowly at a low altitude, they can play tricks on doppler radars—their filters are designed to disregard slow moving objects.

Meanwhile, surface-to-air missiles would have a hard time engaging an An-2 plane, since it can hug terrain hovering at a very low altitude.

The An-2 can also can take off and land from virtually any location, making it a devious and versatile war tool.

“The reason the An-2 still flies is that there is really no other aircraft like it,” aviation writer Bernie Leighton, who has flown in an An-2 in Belarus, told the BCC, according to Fox News.

“If you need an aircraft that can carry 10 soldiers, people or goats, that can take off from anywhere and land anywhere—it is either that or a helicopter,” Leighton added.

Even Washington, with its sophisticated air defense system, completely missed a gyrocopter that flew into the heart of the capital in 2015 and landed on the National Mall.

In addition to the possibility of an An-2 being used as a nuke carrier, the North can use its swarm of 300 of these planes to deliver shock troops deep into South Korean territory.

This kind of assault could take place at night. Even if missile defense systems engaged these planes and fighter jets were scrambled to attack them, the sheer number of the aircraft would overwhelm anything South Korea can currently muster.

Once deep inside South Korea, these planes can deliver teams of commandos who could wreak havoc among the populace and attack key infrastructure. The fear of such an attack is why South Korea’s forces are perpetually prepared for instant response.


Saab Expands its A26 Submarine Offer with now Three Variants to Choose From

6:15:00 PM Add Comment

During its Submarine Seminar 2017 held this morning, Saab Kockums announced that the A26 next generation submarine is now a family with three model range: Pelagic, Oceanic and Oceanic (Extended Range).

A26 Pelagic
The new Pelagic variant is a smaller version of the A26 designed for the Swedish Navy. A26 Pelagic measures less than 50 meters in length with a surfaced displacement of about 1,000 tons. Its range is 4,000 nautical miles at 10 knots and its endurance at patrol speed is over 20 days thanks to the AIP module. It standard crew complement is 17 to 25 sailors.

A26 Oceanic
The Oceanic variant is pretty much the "baseline" A26 designed for the Swedish Navy. A26 Oceanic measures 65 meters in length with a surfaced displacement of 2,000 tons. Its range is over 6,500 nautical miles at 10 knots and its endurance at patrol speed is over a month (30 days) thanks to the AIP module. It standard crew complement is 17 to 35 sailors.

A26 Oceanic (Extended Range)
The new Oceanic (Extended Range) variant is a larger/stretched version of the A26 designed for the Swedish Navy. A26 Oceanic (Extended Range) has a length in excess of 80 meters and a surfaced displacement of over 3,000 tons. Its range is over 10,000 nautical miles at 10 knots and its endurance at patrol speed is over 50 days thanks to the AIP module. It standard crew complement is 20 to 50 sailors.

All variants are fitted with a Stirling AIP and diesel electric propulsion system. Saab also says all three variant may be fitted with "sea/air/land weapon systems up request". The A26 family can be fitted with VLS modules for cruise missiles. All three variants have been designed for both tropical and arcic operational environments.

According to Saab, the A26 is a unique submarine with proven modular design, silent long-endurance Saab’s A26 uses the latest stealth technology and advanced tactical communication to allow submarines to integrate their communications with those of other defence forces and civilian agencies. Operational flexibility, together with a comprehensive weapons suite, enables it to carry out a wide variety of missions. The A26 submarine is designed for the following missions: Maritime security operations, Intelligence operations, Covert mine countermeasure operations, Special operations by carrying, deploying and retrieving special forces along with equipment and underwater vehicles, Underwater work, Anti-submarine & anti-surface warfare, Mine-laying in covert mode.

Saab Kockums is under an FMV (The Swedish Defence Material Administration) contract to deliver two A26 submarines to the Swedish Navy by 2022. Saab is also marketing the A26 to the navies of Poland, Netherlands and India.


Beyond Doka La: India finally breaks free of China's 1962 prison; this may change Asia's power matrix

6:12:00 PM Add Comment

There is a always a degree of risk involved in interpreting media commentaries as official narrative but the disclaimer comes with its own disclaimer, especially when it involves China's state-controlled media. Erring on the side of caution could be a mistake because Beijing uses the press as an essential part of coercive diplomacy.

It was interesting to note two recent articles carried by The Global Times which had been at the forefront of China's psy-war against India. In Wednesday's editorial, the newspaper termed the Doklam resolution as a "victory for Asia" and showed a magnanimity that was singularly missing during the 10-week standoff.

In an op-ed piece carried in the same edition, the newspaper heaped praise on Hinduism — the religion followed by a majority of Indians — calling it the deciding factor behind radical Islamism not taking root in India.

The article, written by Ding Gang of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, raises a rhetorical question: "Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalisation that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world?" before adding that "the answer may lie in the facets of the country's other major religion: Hinduism." For good measure, it adds: "India is sure to continue to stand out in geopolitical significance when it comes to increasing religious and ethnic conflicts around the world."

What's happening here? The timing seems decidedly odd for a 'Hindi Chini bhai-bhai' redux, that too, at a time when the crisis hasn't ended the way China would have hoped for. Stray murmurs of dissent are escaping even a uncomfortably closed society. Some analysts suggest Xi Jinping may cop considerable flak during the 19th Party Congress for botching up the operation.

Conspiracy theorists may see a game of smoke and mirrors. Indeed, China's propensity to use deception as part of its assertive diplomacy cannot be ruled out. It is possible that China plans to reassert itself and is luring India into a false sense of security.

Even so, China's real concern may be the trajectory of the bilateral relationship, which has taken a massive beating after the Doka La impasse. The face-off has ended in a way that is not only unsatisfactory for Beijing, it has simultaneously increased India's stature as the net security guarantor in Asia — at a time when many smaller nations are feeling the heat of China's not-so-peaceful rise.

Global Times's behavior post-Doklam, therefore, may appear to be counter-intuitive but is actually a pragmatic move. It's important to remember that China does not benefit from an adversarial relationship with India. Mending of fences with a neighbour who gives access to one of the largest markets for its finished goods is the smart thing to do.

To a certain extent friction between the two nations is inevitable as they fight for respective spheres of influence. Yet frequent skirmishes arising out of mutual, simmering hostility serves no one's interest. Much less China's. It is not a question of trade imbalance alone. India's ability to stitch alliances in Asia without resorting to chequebook diplomacy puts China at a distinct geopolitical disadvantage.

China wouldn't have failed to notice that for all the efficiency of its propaganda machinery, no one except Pakistan (little more than Beijing's vassal state) was willing to buy its version of the story.

India, on the other hand, received unequivocal support from Japan, Australia and tacit backing from many nations including the US. That the US did not go beyond urging the both countries to sort out their differences through dialogue (India's stated position) could be because New Delhi wanted it that way.

In their marvellous essay 'Countering Chinese Coercion: The Case Of Doklam', scholars Oriana Skylar Mastro and Arzan Tarapore write in War on The Rocks: "India thwarted China’s coercion through denial — blocking China’s attempt to seize physical control of the disputed territory. By physically denying China’s bid to change the status quo, India created a stalemate, which suited its strategic policy… India was able to do this because of a local military advantage and its broader policy of standing up to China.

Beyond the immediacy of the event, this could be New Delhi's biggest gain — one that promises to change the perception about India and more importantly, may alter the way India sees itself vis-à-vis China.

In many ways, 1962 remains a sore point in India's collective memory, one that has defined its relationship with China. The slight has been institutionalized despite a valiant attempt at suppression, and perhaps also because of it. India had, so far, found it impossible to break out of the redolent prison — a condition that China fully tried to exploit during the standoff by frequently referring to it.

While reviewing a collection of essays on the 1962 conflict, former NSA Shivshankar Menon, in The Wire, wrote "we have internalised a narrative or story of the war that is powerful and lasting… It is a story of betrayal and defeat with an unsatisfactory end that needs to be re-written. It is a strong narrative, deeply felt by Indians."

It is here that Doka La may initiate a tectonic change in India's collective psyche. That we stared down a nation much stronger than ourselves adds to confidence, that we did it against China even more so.

India also conducted its role admirably as Bhutan's ally, and this subsequently increases its chance of extending regional influence. India must seize the chance and broker a greater coordination between ASEAN. China has been able to exploit the differences between south-east Asian nations to forge ahead with its militarization of South China Sea, ensuring greater naval capacity. Any successful counter-strategy must be collective in nature. A confident India can ensure stability in the region by leading such an alliance.


Military Sealift Command’s MV Ocean Jazz Treks Through the Pacific Supporting Multiple Exercises

5:55:00 AM Add Comment

CHUK SAMET, Thailand (Aug. 29, 2017)—Heavy-lift vessel MV Ocean Jazz arrived in Thailand to backload equipment from exercise Hanuman Guardian 2017 (HG 17), continuing its voyage in support of six back-to-back exercises.

Hanuman Guardian is a U.S.-Thailand army-to-army exercise designed to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response, stability operations and soldier skills.

During the two-day backload operation, members of the Royal Thai Navy and U.S. service members loaded about 150 end items onboard the Ocean Jazz, which is currently on an MSC time-chartered contract to support U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC).

The Ocean Jazz most recently retrieved USARPAC equipment from Australia, which supported exercise Talisman Saber 2017 (TS 17). After the TS 17 backload, the Ocean Jazz continued the voyage to backload gear from Thailand in support of HG 17.

“What’s interesting about this operation is that the Ocean Jazz is carrying the equipment that will support six separate USARPAC exercises,” said Christopher M. Cassano, plans director, Military Sealift Command (MSC) Far East. “During a single voyage plan, the Ocean Jazz will have traveled to six ports in six countries, while supporting six exercises: Talisman Saber in Australia, Tiger Balm in Singapore, Keris Strike in Malaysia, Garuda Shield in Indonesia, Hanuman Guardian in Thailand, and Orient Shield in Japan.”

The Ocean Jazz is engaged in a mobility operation for USARPAC called Pacific Pathways 17-2 and 3, where the ship hops around the Pacific region supporting these follow-on missions.

Pacific Pathways is an innovation that links a series of U.S. Pacific Command-directed Security Cooperation exercises with allied and partner militaries to a single MSC charter vessel on a single voyage plan that delivers U.S. Army equipment to support the various exercises. The Pacific Pathways concept commits a designated task force and their force package equipment to the entire duration of a pathway.

Reserve-component Sailors of MSC’s Expeditionary Port Unit 112 (EPU 112), from Little Rock, Ark., were in Thailand during their two-week annual training to support the backload. EPUs are highly mobile units that can quickly deploy anywhere in the world to establish port operations, even when port infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

“The biggest benefit that we get out of this type of scenario as an EPU is familiarizing and gaining an understanding of what the various players are doing in the operation,” said Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Gillespie, operations officer, EPU 112. “We learn to understand the vocabulary and how their processes work so we can better support the operation, if we’re ever mobilized.”

The Ocean Jazz is a member of the Maritime Security Program, a listing of American-flag ships that are assets the U.S. military can draw upon during contingencies. Ocean Jazz is a time-chartered commercial container ship that is contracted by MSC for USARPAC to support the Army’s transportation requirements.

MSC operates approximately 120 non-combatant, civilian-crewed ships that replenish U.S. Navy ships, conduct specialized missions, strategically preposition combat cargo at sea around the world and move military cargo and supplies used by deployed U.S. forces and coalition partners.


Japan Demonstrates PAC-3 Hours After Missile Flies Over Hokkaido

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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Japan's air force demonstrated a Patriot missile-defense system at Yokota in western Tokyo Tuesday, just hours after a North Korean missile flew over Hokkaido.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force is deploying Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air systems to several U.S. bases in Japan to test their ability to quickly respond to Pyongyang's missile threats, a U.S. Forces Japan statement said.

A convoy of trucks carrying PAC-3 components arrived at Yokota, headquarters of USFJ and the 5th Air Force, Tuesday morning. The planned deployment happened soon after North Korea test-fired a missile over Japanese territory, prompting alerts in a dozen prefectures before falling into the ocean east of Hokkaido. It was the latest in a string of missile tests this year, including one that appeared to simulate a nuclear attack on U.S. forces in Japan.

Reporters were brought onto the installation to observe Japanese troops setting up the equipment in a matter of minutes. RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, C-130J cargo planes and other military aircraft were parked nearby on the tarmac.

Lt. Gen. Hiroaki Maehara, head of Japan's Air Defense Command, told reporters the training helps Japan test its ability to maneuver and deploy its Patriot batteries and leads to deterrence.

"It is most important to keep up such efforts," he said. "[The JASDF] will continue [Patriot] deployment training across the country to develop the feelings of security and safety among Japanese citizens and to strengthen the alliance," he said.

Maehara said the Yokota training marked the first time Japan has deployed its system to a U.S. base. PAC-3s also trained Tuesday at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and are slated to visit Misawa Air Base on Sept. 7.

"We did not foresee North Korea launching a missile right before our … press conference," he said, adding that Pyongyang's missile didn't impact the training. Similar training has been conducted since June at Self-Defense Force bases from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, Maehara added.

The one-day deployments allow for on-site assessments of firing locations and give Japanese troops a chance to test rapid deployment of their air-defense assets, U.S. officials said in a statement. "Bilateral engagements like this one demonstrate the enduring strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance and the determination of both our nations to address the security challenge posed by North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs," Lt. Gen. Jerry Martinez, commander of U.S. Forces Japan, said in the USFJ statement.

"We welcome these training deployments and look forward to working with our Japanese partners to make them a success" he added.


A Pacifist Japan Starts to Embrace the Military

5:52:00 AM Add Comment

GOTEMBA, Japan — The Japanese soldiers jumped out of the jeeps, unloaded the antitank missiles and dropped to the ground. Within minutes, they aimed and fired, striking hypothetical targets nearly a half-mile away.

The audience of more than 26,000, crammed into bleachers and picnicking on camouflage-patterned mats on the ground, clapped appreciatively, murmuring “Sugoi!” — or “Wow!” — during live-fire drills conducted over the weekend by Japan’s military here in the foothills of Mount Fuji.

Pacifism has been a sacred tenet of Japan’s national identity since the end of World War II, when the United States pushed to insert a clause renouncing war into the country’s postwar Constitution. But there are signs that the public’s devotion to pacifism and its attitude toward the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, have begun to change, in part at the urging of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr. Abe’s slow, steady efforts to remove pacifist constraints on the military may have gotten help Tuesday, when North Korea fired a ballistic missile that sailed over Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, prompting the government to issue television and cellphone alerts warning residents in its path to take cover. It was the first time North Korea had flown a missile over Japanese territory without the pretext of launching a satellite. The missile landed harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean, but Mr. Abe called it an “unprecedented, grave and serious threat.”

North Korea Fires Missile Over Japan AUG. 28, 2017

Shinzo Abe Announces Plan to Revise Japan’s Pacifist Constitution MAY 3, 2017

Looming War Games Alarm North Korea, but May Be a Bargaining Chip AUG. 16, 2017
“We have been living in peace for such a long time that we believe this peace is going to last forever,” said Ichiro Miyazoe, 74, walking in the Ikebukuro neighborhood of Tokyo after the latest test from Pyongyang on Tuesday. “Japan has had a weak attitude, like a losing dog. We must have a stronger military.”

Although the Japanese public has long been ambivalent about Mr. Abe’s agenda — polls show that about half or more of respondents disagree with his efforts to revise the pacifist clause of the Constitution — its fascination with the military has been growing.

Applications for tickets to attend the Fuji drills were oversubscribed by a factor of nearly six to one this year. According to polls by the prime minister’s cabinet office, the share of those who say they are interested in the Self-Defense Forces has risen to 71 percent in 2015, up from about 55 percent in the late 1980s.

Manga comics and anime television shows like “Gate,” which feature the Self-Defense Forces fighting against supernatural creatures, have grown popular, while online matchmaking sites offering dates with soldiers have become trendy.

Of course, such activities do not necessarily translate into a desire for a more assertive national defense policy. The most important function of the Self-Defense Forces is disaster relief, and support for the forces soared in the wake of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, when troops rescued victims and restored disaster-ravaged zones.

But at events like the live-fire drills near Mount Fuji, some members of the public are starting to consider the possibility that their military could be called upon to perform more than live exercises or disaster relief.

“Once the U.S. or South Korea engages in a war, Japan will also have to take part,” said Masaaki Ishihara, 60, a manager at a construction company in Yokohama who attended the Sunday drills with his wife, 9-year-old son and a friend. “Japan will be forced to get involved.”

Despite the festival-like atmosphere, with people eating flavored shaved ice and snapping up T-shirts, model tanks and military-themed cookies at souvenir stands, Mr. Ishihara’s wife, Takako, 49, said the exercises felt “like a real battle.”

“I got scared watching it,” Ms. Ishihara said. “Will peace really continue?”

With the rising threats in the region, Mr. Abe has repeatedly called for a constitutional revision to allow Japan to expand its military capabilities. Japan is protected by its alliance with the United States, but Mr. Abe and his supporters believe the country needs to do more on its own.

Two years ago, Mr. Abe pushed through security laws that permit Japan’s troops to participate in overseas combat missions. The Japanese government has also proposed military spending increases for six years running, and the Defense Ministry recently announced it would request funds to purchase an American missile defense system, known as Aegis Ashore, that can intercept missiles midflight above the atmosphere.

Even as they have grown anxious about the threats, the Japanese people, as citizens of the only country to have experienced the horrors of nuclear war, have remained steadfastly committed to Japan’s war-renouncing charter. Before the security laws were passed in 2015, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Tokyo to oppose them.

Protesters also regularly show up at American bases in Okinawa to object to the United States military presence. There are about 54,000 United States troops in Japan.

Analysts said members of the public had yet to reckon with just how far they were willing to go in the name of national security.

“I think that ordinary people tacitly want to avoid thinking about a potential contradiction between the notion of the pacifist clause of the Constitution and the reality of changes in Japanese defense policies,” said Jiro Yamaguchi, a professor of political science at Hosei University.

Shinobu Mori, 52, who drove 120 miles with her daughter to attend the annual military rite near Mount Fuji, said she enjoyed the display but hoped the firepower would never actually be used. “I grew up in a peaceful era,” she said. “So I would like to pass that on to the next generation.”

Tuesday’s missile launch generated a sense of mild panic, with some private train lines halting service for about 20 minutes. An announcement at Tokyo station around 6 a.m. warned commuters that a missile from North Korea was flying over Japan and told them to take cover in a train car or waiting room.

On social media, one Twitter user described “a red pillar of fire” falling from the sky toward Hokkaido. “The only thing I can do is self-defense in this world,” he wrote. “It’s important to be ready. We cannot deny that World War III might be close.”

Japan has long interpreted its pacifist Constitution to allow it to conduct self-defense operations, and it has more than 225,000 active-duty troops and advanced armaments like naval destroyers equipped with sophisticated missile defense and fighter jets.

But over time, the government has nudged the definition of self-defense into a more assertive posture. Recently, it has quietly discussed the possibility of acquiring cruise missiles allowing it to pre-emptively strike a missile launch site if it detected signs of an imminent attack.

Some analysts say Japan’s notion of pacifism has always contained contradictions.

“It is faux pacifism, and it always has been,” said Grant Newsham, a retired United States Marine colonel and a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies. “It is predicated on the perspective that Japan faces no threats.”

Indeed, from the moment it was inserted into the Constitution, the pacifist clause has been fluid, with the historian John W. Dower calling it “a miasma of ambiguity.”

Most experts say that it would be politically difficult to change the Constitution but that a debate needs to move from mainly political and academic circles to include the wider public.

“I don’t think it’s going to change, but the general public’s sentiment may be moving towards that direction if this threat continues to increase,” said Masako Toki, a research associate with the Nonproliferation Education Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Liberals continue to oppose a military buildup in Japan, but some analysts say younger people don’t understand the dangerous stakes of tilting toward militarism.

“I think there is a whole generation that has basically not done a good job of going beyond embracing pacifism,” to explain to younger people why it is important, said Sabine Frühstück, professor of modern Japanese cultural studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of “Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan.”

“It’s one of these things that has become a black box in Japan,” Ms. Frühstück said of pacifism, “in the sense of ‘this is just what we got and how things are supposed to be.’”

Miyuki Nakayama, 23, a student leader of the Public for the Future, a group that opposes military action, said people had simply forgotten the lessons of World War II. “They don’t imagine a war might be real in the future,” Ms. Nakayama said.


US may send more military might to Korean Peninsula, including F-35s and warships

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More U.S. military might could be headed for the Korean Peninsula as tensions grow following several North Korean missile launches in the past week.

Also, there is speculation the secretive North Korean regime led by Kim Jong Un may be preparing to conduct its sixth nuclear test.

"It's always difficult to predict what the North Koreans will do, but they've been talking about things that would almost certainly require more nuclear testing – including talking about hydrogen bombs," said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear proliferation expert and professor of practice at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Experts say fine tuning the nuclear warhead miniaturization on the missiles is one reason the North Koreans want to continue testing nuclear weapons. They say it's possible the regime could do the test on a national holiday such as Sept. 9, the communist state's independence day.

"The North Korean government has in the past has tended test its missiles and nukes on days of historic significance in North Korean state history or alternatively to thumb their nose at the United States and do it on July 4 or do it on a South Korean national holiday," said Nicholas Eberstadt, who holds the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Defense Secretary James Mattis is scheduled to hold a previously scheduled bilateral meeting on Wednesday at the Pentagon with Song Young-moo, South Korea's defense ministry.

South Korean media are reporting the two will discuss South Korea's request to double its ballistic missile firepower to counter the rising threat from nuclear-armed North Korea.

Also, there is a report from the Korea Times quoting an unnamed South Korean presidential official that the U.S. is considering sending more military equipment to the Korean Peninsula, including stealth fighters, B-1B and B-52 bombers, as well as warships such as U.S. Navy destroyers and submarines.

The U.S. Marine Corps has F-35B variant stealth fighters stationed in Japan, and eight previously went to South Korea for training exercises. The nearest B-1B bombers are stationed at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.

A U.S. defense official told CNBC on Tuesday the military is continuing to closely monitor the developments on the Korean Peninsula, but the official provided no confirmation on the reports that more military hardware could be headed to the region.

In a statement Tuesday, President Donald Trump blasted Pyongyang and said its "threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime's isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table."

On Monday, North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. In response, the South Korean government said four fighter jets from its air force staged live-bomb drills in a show of force near the border.

"No country should have missiles flying over them like those 130 million people in Japan," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told reporters Tuesday.

Haley said the dynastic regime led by the 33-year-old dictator has "violated every single U.N. Security Council resolution that we've had and so I think something serious has to happen."

Monday's missile firing over Japan followed North Korea firing a series of missiles on Saturday. The U.S. military indicated there were at least three missiles, including on that appears to have blown up immediately.

David Wright, co-director and senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a blog posting Tuesday that the ballistic missile fired Monday appeared to be a Hwasong-12, similar to one tested May 14. He said the range of the missile is about 4,800 kilometers (3,000 miles), but given it only flew a distance of about 1,700 miles might indicate the regime used a heavier payload than the previous test.

According to Wright, another reason the missile may have flown a shorter distance is due to the North Koreans purposely reducing the range or the "possibly due to a mechanical problem."

The missile firing comes as the annual joint U.S.-South Korean Ulchi-Freedom Guardian military exercises continued this week. The military exercises, which started Aug. 21, are scheduled to continue through Thursday. More than 20,000 forces are participating in the war games, including some U.S. service members brought in for the exercises from off-peninsula.

Earlier this month, North Korea threatened to lob its Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles toward U.S. military bases on the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam. Experts said the test that flew over Japan was more proof the regime's Hwasong-12 can strike Guam.

At the same time, some believe the North may have felt they had to do something given the huge military exercises that are underway right now in South Korea.

"We have ongoing large-scale exercises that they don't like," said Joel Wit, senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and co-founder of Washington's 38 North think tank. "To think that they will remain totally silent and totally quiet while that's happening is just ridiculous."

Wit said missile firings and another nuclear test are just some of the ways Pyongyang may vent its anger. He said they also have resorted in the past with other actions, including demilitarized zone landmine provocations.

"The administration is trying to maintain the appearance that a military option is viable," said Wit. "The dirty little secret is it's not viable – and I think Steve Bannon sort of let that secret out before he left."

In an interview published August 16, Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, reportedly told the American Prospect that: "There's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it." The White House announced August 18 that Bannon no longer worked in the administration.

The Trump administration has been relying on a policy of "maximum pressure" on North Korea, including economic sanctions, as well as leaving the door open to engagement with the hermit regime. But some critics suggest the sanctions still are insufficient and more should be done.

"What they won't stop despite engagement, or with engagement, is the march towards nuclear option," said AEI's Eberstadt. "The idea that we can charm Kim Jong Un out of his nuclear arsenal I think is a little far fetched."

Eberstadt said secondary sanctions maybe needed on Chinese financial institutions and others to further tighten the screws on Pyongyang.

"The U.S. still has a lot of leverage that we can put on China, Russia and other governments whose entities traffic with North Korea," he said. "Because we can just say you can't do dollar-denominated commerce and that's more than a trivial inconvenience."


Indonesia, Singapore Conduct Mine Countermeasure Military Drills

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Last week, the Singapore and Indonesian navies conducted a bilateral mine countermeasure exercise in just the latest defense interaction between the two Southeast Asian states as they commemorate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship this year.

As I have pointed out before in these pages, the security relationship between Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest state, and Singapore, the subregion’s smallest, has tended to be prickly historically speaking. It took nearly a year for Indonesia to even officially recognize Singapore’s independence from Malaysia following Jakarta’s violent opposition to the creation of Malaysia, known as Konfrontasi. Even over the past few years, disagreements have tended to simmer from time to time, whether around traditional issues such as air space or non-traditional security matters like the annual haze problem.

Nonetheless, the two countries have still maintained a cordial defense relationship that includes the usual components, including visits, exchanges, and exercises. They have also made efforts to better manage lingering challenges, with one recent significant milestone being the conclusion of a landmark maritime boundary treaty that came into force in February as the two countries commemorate the 50th anniversary of their relationship this year.

From August 22 to August 26, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL) conducted another iteration of their bilateral mine-countermeasure (MCM) exercise. The Joint MINEX, now in its seventeenth iteration, has been hailed by both sides over the years as an important means to enhance professional knowledge and interoperability between the two navies.

This year, the seventeenth iteration of Joint MINEX saw the participation of more than 300 personnel from the RSN and TNI-AL, according to a statement by Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF). MINDEF added that the exercise consisted of shore-based planning and simulation training, breakthrough operations where the two navies ensured that waters were cleared of mines for the safe transit of international merchant shipping, and live gunnery-firings and joint MCM operations against simulated mine threats off the eastern coast of Bintan, Indonesia.

The RSN participated in the exercise with two Bedok-class Mine-Countermeasure Vessels (MCMVs), the RSS Bedok and RSS Punggol, while the TNI-AL sent two Pulau Rengat-class MCMVs, the KRI Pulau Rengat and KRI Pulau Rupat, and a Kondor-class Minesweeper, KRI Pulau Rangsang.


China’s quantum submarine detector could seal South China Sea

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On 21 June, the Chinese Academy of Sciences hailed a breakthrough – a major upgrade to a kind of quantum device that measures magnetic fields. The announcement vanished after a journalist pointed out the invention’s potential military implications: it could help China lock down the South China Sea.

“I was surprised by the removal,” says Stephen Chen of the South China Morning Post, who raised the issue. “I have been covering Chinese science for many years, and it is rare.”

Magnetometers have been used to detect submarines since the second world war. They are able to do this because they can measure an anomaly in Earth’s magnetic field – like one caused by a massive hunk of metal.

But today’s devices can only detect a submarine at fairly short range, so tend to be used to home in on the location once the sub has already been spotted on sonar.

Superconducting fix
You could widen their range if you had a magnetometer based on a superconducting quantum interference device, or SQUID. Superconducting magnetometers are exquisitely sensitive, but their promise has been limited to the lab. Out in the real world, they are quickly overwhelmed by background noise as minuscule as changes in Earth’s magnetic field caused by distant solar storms.

Given that level of sensitivity, you can forget about mounting such a sensor on an airplane, for example. The US Navy gave up work on superconducting magnetometers to pursue less sensitive but more mature technologies.

The new magnetometer, built by Xiaoming Xie and colleagues at the Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology, uses not one SQUID but an array of them. The idea is that by comparing their readings, researchers can cancel out some of the extra artefacts generated by motion. This “would be relevant to an anti-submarine warfare device”, says David Caplin at Imperial College London, who works on magnetic sensors.

Although the announcement concerning Xie’s work has been removed, several of the previous papers culminating in this breakthrough are still available.

The achievement points to an airborne device that can detect submarines from several kilometres away rather than just a few hundred metres. This would be catastrophic for NATO submarines, which have been honed to run ever more quietly, using clever technology that prevents them from being heard or detected on sonar. Their magnetic signature is much harder to eliminate.

Noise problem
Could China soon have the most sensitive submarine detector in the world? No Western navies are known to have SQUID detectors.

Researchers estimate that a SQUID magnetometer of this type could detect a sub from 6 kilometres away, and Caplin says that with better noise suppression the range could be much greater.

Not everyone is convinced the Chinese magnetometer is ready for deployment. Cathy Foley at CSIRO, the Australian government research agency, says there are several difficulties with turning a SQUID into a sub-hunter – for example dealing with background magnetic noise. Nobody has yet solved all of these problems, although she says the rate of Chinese progress means they may well be first to succeed.

SQUIDs are only one of the ways that China has been upgrading its anti-submarine capability over the last few years. The “Underwater Great Wall”, a string of submerged sensors, buoys and drone submarines, is thought to be close to completion. The project will help China extend its offshore surveillance zone.

Beijing has long wanted to change the rules of engagement in its waters. Earlier this year it drafted new laws requiring any foreign submarine to get approval before entering Chinese waters, and once there, to stay surfaced and display its national flag. “Can the Chinese make these systems work reliably while in motion in the air or underwater? We’ll be watching their progress closely,” says Foley.


China To Build Methane Hydrate Venture In South China Sea

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The contested South China Sea will soon be home to the Chinese government’s new methane hydrate venture, according to a new report by Rigzone.

The project, a joint venture between the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), will make use of “flammable ice” found in the Shenhu areas of the South China Sea, after initial tests proved their utility in May.

The financial scale and scope of the project have not been made public so far, but any energy derived from the new energy source is not expected to be commercial until after 2030.

Gas hydrate, methane hydrate in particular, is a cage-like structure of crystallized ice, inside of which are trapped molecules of methane, the chief constituent of natural gas. If methane hydrate is either warmed or depressurized, it reverts back to water and natural gas.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), global estimates vary, but the energy content of methane in hydrates is “immense, possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels”. But no methane production other than small-scale field experiments has been documented so far.

In May, the China Geographical Survey said that it managed to collect samples from the Shenhu area in the South China Sea in a large-scale test.

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China is not the only country that is testing ‘fire ice’ deposits discovered in their waters. Japan, for example, has been studying for years the potential recovery of methane hydrate, and launched last month preparations to carry out a second production test to extract methane gas from gas hydrates with two wells.

The U.S. also has a methane hydrate program to develop technologies that could allow safe methane production from arctic and domestic offshore hydrates.


China exploits the Philippines' soft-pedalling in South China Sea

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Duterte's conciliatory stance on Beijing's territorial claims is backfiring. 

Just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ended a series of ministerial meetings in Manila in early August the Philippines faced a fresh and daunting challenge in the South China Sea.

In what one prominent Filipino official described as an "invasion," a flotilla of Chinese civilian and military vessels gathered within a few nautical miles of the Philippine-occupied Thitu Island, a prized land feature in the area. There are growing concerns that China will gobble up other contested land features in the Spratly chain of islands and tighten the noose around other claimant states as a prelude to full domination of the South China Sea.

The "invasion" was a shocking development for Manila, which has used its one-year term as the rotating chair of ASEAN to shield Beijing against criticism of its maritime assertiveness in the South China Sea. The Philippines has also recently proposed resource-sharing agreements in contested areas to break the impasse among claimant states.

In exchange, Manila was hoping to reach a mutually acceptable modus vivendi with Beijing, leading to expanded trade and investment ties. China's latest action, however, has exposed Beijing's naked opportunism as it exploits the strategic acquiescence of some other ASEAN countries and waning U.S. influence in the region.

Beijing's assertiveness also casts doubt on the conciliatory policy pursued by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte toward China, and boosts hawks who are urging a tougher stance. Duterte and his Foreign Secretary (and former vice-presidential running mate) Alan Cayetano have sought to play down the issue, but the Philippine defense establishment and media are outraged.

At the recent ASEAN meetings, Philippine officials exercised the country's prerogative as the group's chair to tone down any criticism of China's massive reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

Cayetano claimed that Beijing had not engaged in any reclamation activities in recent months, while indirectly criticizing other claimant states such as Vietnam for engaging in similar activities. But satellite imagery released by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a monitoring program set up by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, has revealed China's relentless expansion and upgrading of disputed land features such as the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi reefs in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea.

The Philippine foreign secretary admitted that he wanted to avoid issues that China consider sensitive in ASEAN's post-summit joint statement, so as to facilitate dialogue. He also expressed skepticism over the wisdom of pursuing a "legally-binding" Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, a key demand of rival ASEAN claimant states such as Vietnam, suggesting that a more symbolic document would be sufficient.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department is grappling with policy paralysis under President Donald Trump and a series of naval collisions that have diminished the aura of U.S. invincibility and forced the resignation of Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, head of the U.S. 7th Fleet, the U.S. Navy's largest overseas force.

To China's delight, the Duterte administration has also dangled the option of resource-sharing with China in contested waters, particularly the energy-rich Reed Bank. This way, Manila hopes to avoid conflict and develop new energy resources to feed its booming economy. In effect, the Philippines is legitimizing China's excessive claims, which extend well into the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone.

Duterte's conciliatory stance on Beijing's territorial claims is backfiring

But Beijing's blatant display of force risks undermining its newfound rapprochement with the Philippines, where the defense establishment and public are already highly critical of China.

Suspicious movements

Intelligence reports on suspicious movements of Chinese vessels near Thitu Island were leaked by Philippine defense officials to Gary Alejano, a prominent opposition lawmaker. The information was corroborated by satellite imagery released by CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

Alejano, a decorated former soldier with strong ties to the military, reported that Chinese frigates and coast guard vessels sailed close to Thitu Island from Aug. 11 to 15. He also suggested that China is intent on occupying Sandy Cay, a low-tide elevation within Thitu's territorial waters.

Rocky Thitu Island, which is the second largest naturally-formed feature in the area, has been under effective Philippine occupation for more than 40 years. It has a mayor, a civilian community, an airstrip that dates to the 1970s and a regular contingent of Philippine marines and other military personnel.

In April, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and military chief of staff Eduardo Ano made a high-profile visit to Thitu to demonstrate Manila's resolve to protect its territory. They promised to upgrade local facilities, including the airstrip, and improve basic services and accommodation for civilians living on the island. These plans are now in jeopardy due to the growing presence of Chinese vessels in the area.

There are also growing fears of encirclement and additional reclamation activities by China in the Spratly Islands, which are contested by China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. Beijing already occupies nearby Subi Reef, which it has transformed it into a fully-fledged island with a large airstrip and advanced military facilities. A Chinese flag was reportedly planted on a sandbar next to the Philippine-controlled Kota Island. Such actions suggest that Beijing is intent on encircling and squeezing out other claimant states from the area.

Alejano has cautioned the Duterte administration against "denial or silence and inaction" in response to Chinese actions. Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, a prominent hawk on the South China Sea issue, described the episode as an "invasion of Philippine territory," and has urged Duterte and Cayetano to stand up to China. He suggested invoking a mutual defense treaty with the U.S. in the event of clashes with Chinese vessels.

Both Duterte and his foreign secretary have sought to play down the Thitu issue by claiming that China was engaged in routine maritime activities in the area. In a dramatic break with protocol, however, the Philippine military has openly encouraged the government to take a tougher stance. the foreign ministry to raise the issue in the China-Philippines Bilateral Consultative Mechanism, a negotiating forum established by the two countries, which met for the first time in May. It serves as the primary platform for dialogue on sensitive bilateral issues.

However, unless China significantly eases its assertiveness in the South China Sea, the Duterte administration is expected to come under growing domestic pressure to revise its policy toward Beijing. While Duterte is still popular, he cannot afford to continue to ignore public sentiment as well as the concerns of top military officers.

China's aggressive actions underline the perils of Manila's overly conciliatory policy, which is based on the naive notion that acquiescence will tame Beijing's territorial appetite. The latest episode in the South China Sea highlights the necessity for ASEAN countries and the U.S. to actively resist Chinese maritime ambitions. Otherwise, Beijing will continue to push its luck at the expense of regional security and the interests of smaller claimant states.

Richard Heydarian is a Manila-based academic and columnist. He is the author of "Asia's New Battlefield: US, China and the Struggle for the Western Pacific," and of the forthcoming" Rise of Duterte."


Austria’s rift with Airbus hampers helicopter acquisition

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On 21 August, the Austrian Ministry of Defence (MoD) launched a request for information (RFI) to manufacturers for 12 twin-engined light multirole helicopters, with a 26 September deadline. The planned budget for the long-delayed procurement of new helicopters is EUR30–50 million (USD35–59 million).

The RFI was issued to Leonardo for a skid-equipped AW109 ‘Trekker‘, to Bell-Textron for a militarised version of the Bell 429 modified in a similar way to the NorthStar Bell 407MRH for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and to Airbus Helicopters for either the H135M or H145M. The MoD’s air materiel department confirmed to Jane's the requirement for a twin-engined helicopter with full instrument flight rules (IFR) and weaponisation.

Meanwhile, the MoD is considering excluding Airbus Helicopters from bidding early on. On 22 August, Defence Minister Hanspeter Doskozil’s political spokesman, Stefan Hirsch, was quoted in the Austrian media as saying, “It is only normal that we do not want to have any new business relationship with a company with whom we have a legal dispute … and in our view, Airbus cheated us.“

Hirsch was referring to the lawsuit that the MoD and Finance Ministry have brought against Airbus and its chief executive officer, Tom Enders, in February for “fraud and deceit“ in Austria‘s 2002–2007 Eurofighter Typhoon acquisition. The lawsuit, worth up to EUR1.1 million, alleges delayed delivery, exorbitant operating costs, and failure to itemise the costs of the 200% offsets, which have since been fulfilled.

‘Overwhelming force’: South Korea conducts bombing drill in response to Pyongyang’s missile test

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Demonstrating its “overwhelming” military force to North Korea, South Korea conducted bombing drills just hours after Pyongyang launched what appeared to be an intermediate range ballistic missile that reportedly fell in Japanese waters.
The show of force, ordered by South Korean president Moon Jae-in, involved four F15K fighter jets dropping MK84 multipurpose bombs on a shooting range near the inter-Korean border in Taebaek, the presidential press secretary told reporters, according to Yonhap.

Moon’s chief press secretary, Yoon Young-chan, said the bombing drill was ordered immediately after the National Security Council meeting convened to discuss possible counter measures Seoul could take against Pyongyang’s ballistic missile provocation.

“We assessed North Korea’s provocations as extremely severe and decided to maintain a vigilant posture in preparation for the possibility of additional provocations by North Korea,” the chief of the National Security Council added.

Shortly after the NSC meeting, South Korea's national security director, Chung Eui-yong called president Donald Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster to discuss the incident, Yonhap reports. During the conversation, McMaster noted that “president Donald Trump has fully supported Mr. Moon's policy toward North Korea and the Korean government’s response to North Korean provocations.”

South Korea's foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, has meanwhile discussed the incident with the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The diplomats agreed to pursue additional UN sanctions against Pyongyang, Yonhap reported.

The UN Security Council is reportedly scheduled to meet Tuesday, but the time of the meeting has not yet been confirmed.

“South Korea, the US, and Japan jointly requested the UNSC hold an emergency meeting to address an emergence of threats to the peace and security,” an official at S. Korea's foreign ministry, told Yonhap.

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Both Russia and China supported the last round of UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang – although Moscow and Beijing have been offering their own roadmap out of the crisis. The “double freezing” Chinese-Russian initiative, welcomed by Germany but firmly rejected by Washington, proposes that North Korea stops its ballistic missile and nuclear activities while the US and its allies simultaneously halt their war games in the region.

As South Korea responded to Pyongyang's latest provocation, the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) staged a pre-planned Patriot surface-to-air missile battery training exercise.


Here Is What China Wants to See Happen in Asia (and America May Not Like It)

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The fast development of China’s capacity to project power overseas has raised serious concerns and anxiety in Southeast Asia. Virtually all countries in the region were once in the hands of imperialist powers and went through brutal struggles for independence. It is only natural for them to fear a fast-growing China, a country for which the nature of state power remains undetermined despite Beijing’s ‘peaceful rise’ rhetoric.
Thus, Southeast Asian nations welcome, to varying degrees, US military presence in Asia. This is not just because the United States has been widely deemed a benign hegemon. Many in Southeast Asia also see US presence as an effective way to maintain regional strategic balance.
In contrast, China is often seen as a revisionist power that intends to reshape the regional order and security arrangements. Its assertive behaviour in the South and East China Seas seems to confirm Southeast Asian perceptions that China is trying to reinvent the regional order on its own terms.
What kind of Southeast Asia, then, is desirable for China, given its national aspirations and interests?
First and foremost, it does not want to see an anti-China coalition in the region, especially one led by the United States. Second, China does not want a politically divided and unstable Southeast Asia. That would provide convenient justifications for an outside power — like the United States — to intervene in Southeast Asian affairs.
From China’s perspective, any substantial involvement of a ‘foreign power’ in its neighbourhood would be seen as a potential threat. As history has shown, political turmoil in Southeast Asia can provoke waves of anti-Chinese activity, where overseas Chinese become scapegoats for internal socioeconomic conflicts. Not only would this pose a diplomatic challenge to Beijing, but anti-Chinese activity overseas could also stir up nationalistic resentment in China, undermining political stability at home.
An economically underdeveloped and fragmented Southeast Asia is not desirable for China, the largest trading nation on earth. As a beneficiary and leading promoter of economic globalisation, China can gain enormously from a prosperous Southeast Asia. That’s why China offered tremendous help to the Southeast Asian countries during the Asian financial crisis of 1997–98. As regional economic development revitalised, China’s trade with ASEAN surged, increasing by over 880 per cent between 2000 and 2015.
Obviously it is unrealistic to expect China to ‘win over’ Southeast Asia entirely. Instead, Beijing’s top priority is to prevent the region as a whole from siding with the United States and its ally Japan.
The United States simply could not sustain a massive confrontation with China in the region without a Southeast Asian country willing to provide a solid base for military operations. Provided Southeast Asia remains neutral in the US–China contest, China can eventually prevail in the region, given its rapidly growing economic and political weight and geopolitical proximity. A politically united and neutral Southeast Asia therefore serves China’s interests.
Meanwhile, China has endeavoured to promote economic integration with Southeast Asia, a focal area in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As President Xi Jinping has pointed out, joint economic development through the BRI can help to develop common ground between China and Southeast Asian countries, where everyone has a stake in maintaining regional peace and stability.
Yet Southeast Asian countries remain unconvinced that China’s approach would bring about peace and prosperity in the region.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have become the crux of the challenges to China’s approach towards Southeast Asia. Despite repeated statements that the United States does not take sides in these disputes, the Obama administration seized on opportunities created by emerging tensions and intervened, citing its interest in maintaining regional peace and freedom of navigation. Southeast Asian countries welcomed, to varying degrees, US involvement, enabling Washington to effectively take the strategic initiative and put China on the defensive in its own neighbourhood.
China’s leaders have keenly realised that a confrontation with the mighty United States would not serve China’s interests. While Beijing tends to be accommodating with Washington, it strives to increase its military capabilities in the South China Sea. The aim is not necessarily to prevail in a military confrontation, but to increase the costs the United States would have to bear in confronting China such that Washington would rather drive a bargain than go to war.
There is also the competition between China and the other claimant countries in the South China Sea. Like China, these countries have vital stakes of national security and sovereignty in these disputes. How the disputes are solved could substantially affect their economic development, as China aims to offer incentives to countries which cooperative and put pressure on those which are defiant. Here the asymmetry of force is overwhelmingly in China’s favour and time is on China’s side.
China wants to keep these two games separate and is firmly against ‘internationalisation’ of the South China Sea disputes. Instead, it has adopted a two-track strategy, taking a multilateral approach to manage tensions and promote joint development of contested territories, while insisting on a bilateral approach to resolving the disputes.
Meanwhile, Beijing has skilfully manipulated the ‘friendly countries’ in Southeast Asia to prevent a unified ASEAN position on the issue. The Sino-Philippines rapprochement and improving relationship with Malaysia and Vietnam suggest this strategy is already working.
Still, given the rapid, ongoing changes in strategic balance throughout the region, it remains to be seen whether China’s strategic diplomacy in Southeast Asia can really deliver what Beijing desires.
Huang Jing is Lee Foundation Professor on US–China Relations at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
This article originally appeared on East Asia Forum and is in the most recent edition of East Asia Forum Quarterly, ‘Strategic diplomacy in Asia’.


China’s PLA readying missiles to counter Indian air power

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Every summer the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducts a major air defense exercise at its western theater command’s air force experimental training base. The anti-aircraft brigade of the 79th group army was the main participant in this year’s drill, on August 22.

The exercise evaluated the unit’s radar system, command and control network, intercept capabilities, electronic and cyber warfare abilities, mobility and logistics. The batteries engaged a variety of aircraft, including the J-10, J-11, Mil Mi-171, Harbin Z-9 and an assortment of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

Reporting, Chinese state media gave particular attention to the Hongqi-16 (HQ-16), one of the PLA’s most prized surface-to-air missiles.

Earlier this month, video and photographic evidence surfaced online that shows China moving trainloads of HQ-16 and HQ-17 missiles to Tibet as the standoff with India at Doklam continues.

The HQ-16 is a third-generation medium-range air defense missile system. Inspired by the Russian Buk, the HQ-16 has a 40 km maximum range of fire. Cold-launched vertically, it takes 13 minutes for a moving HQ-16 to load and fire missiles armed with 70kg warheads.

The HQ-16 can lock-on eight targets and engage four simultaneously. Its missile has a claimed maximum flight speed of Mach 2.8, with a single-hit probability rate of between 70% and 98%. In 2016, an upgraded version known as the HQ-16B was unveiled with a greater range of fire at 70 km.

A battery of HQ-16 consists of four launch vehicles, a target searching radar vehicle, a tracking and guidance radar vehicle, a command and control vehicle, missile transport and reloading vehicles and power supply trucks. The HQ-16 is generally used to defend stationary assets.

The HQ-17, however, is highly mobile. Sitting on an all-terrain tracked chassis, the HQ-17 usually accompanies fast-moving armored units. An improved version of the Russian Tor-M1, the HQ-17 has a 12 km range of fire.

Like the HQ-16, the HQ-17 uses vertical cold launchers against enemy jets, helicopters, smart bombs, cruise missiles and UAVs. But unlike the former, one HQ-17 vehicle combines all functions of an HQ-16 battery, empowering it with greater mobility. It takes ten seconds for a moving HQ-17 to engage an enemy. Carrying eight 9M331 missiles with a maximum flight speed of Mach 2.3, an HQ-17 can engage two targets simultaneously.

The HQ-17’s claimed hit probability against cruise missiles is between 56% and 99%; against fighter jets it’s between 45% and 93%; and against helicopters 82% and 98%.

The transporting of HQ missiles to Tibet shows the PLA is reinforcing its layered air defense arrangement in anticipation of Indian air power. The systems’ suitability for operating on the high plateau was confirmed at an exercise, in May, in Tibet’s Tanggula Mountains.

When reflecting on the 1962 war with China, Indian generals often blame their country’s defeat on its misuse of air power. Many believe the war’s outcome would have been quite different had India’s air force participated in an offensive role.

A recent Vayu Aerospace study concluded that the PLA air force would be at a disadvantage in a future war due to Tibet’s extreme climate, which would will limit the payload and combat radius of Chinese aircraft.

Last year, India deployed supersonic BrahMos missiles to Arunachal Pradesh near Tibet. In June, the Indian army announced its plans to send a squadron of HAL Dhruv helicopters to the Chinese border. More recently, the Indian defense ministry approved a deal to purchase six US-made AH-64 Apache attack helicopters for the army aviation corps and announced that it is looking to procure 234 naval helicopters, at a cost of US$5 billion. On August 24, the Indian air force added six C-130J Super Hercules strategic aircraft to its Arjan Singh base in Panagarh, 470 km from Doklam.

The Chinese high command understands India’s assumption of achieving air supremacy in the next war. However the PLA is quietly putting together a neat little surprise for India’s flyboys.


Party leader talks defence ties with Myanmar military chief

6:50:00 PM Add Comment

Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng (R) meets Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services of Myanmar, Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Trí Dũng
NAYPYIDAW — Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng said yesterday that he wanted stronger defence co-operation with Myanmar during a reception for Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services of Myanmar, Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw yesterday.

The Party chief, who is on a State visit to Myanmar, said the two nations were close neighbours in Southeast Asia and shared many similarities in history and cultural traditions as well as common interests. Their potential and strengths are also complementary, the Party leader said.

He noted that the Việt Nam-Myanmar relations have continuously been consolidated by the two nations’ leaders, particularly since the establishment of diplomatic ties in May, 1975.

General Secretary Trọng lauded the co-operation between the two defence ministries and armies, particularly after the signing of the agreement on defence co-operation in 2011, saying that Sen Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s official visit to Việt Nam in March this year had opened up numerous avenues for bilateral co-operation in training, military medicine and the defence industry.

He expressed his hope that co-operation between the armies and military forces of the two countries would grow further, contributing actively and effectively to bilateral relations in line with the spirit of the Comprehensive Co-operative Partnership newly established during the ongoing visit.

For his part, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing briefed General Secretary Trọng on co-operation between the two nations’ armies and concurred with the Party leader’s evaluation of defence ties between the two countries.

He affirmed that there was great potential and room for the two nations to bolster their co-operation, adding that the armed forces of Myanmar would work hard to raise bilateral defence relations to the level of the Comprehensive Co-operative Partnership. — VNS


US Approves New Thailand Military Sale Under Trump

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Last week, the United States moved a step toward approving a new possible arms sale to Thailand. Though the sale of Harpoon missiles is just the latest defense deal between the two longtime allies and has long been on the cards for Bangkok, it nonetheless speaks to the ongoing development of ties in the defense realm during the Trump era.

As I have noted before, since U.S. President Donald Trump took office last November, there has been speculation about a boost for the U.S.-Thailand alliance, which had initially grown frostier following a coup and the rise of a junta-led government in May 2014 (See: “A US-Thailand Alliance Boost Under Trump and Prayut?”).

Though a summit meeting between Trump and junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha is still yet to take place, the two sides did hold the sixth iteration of the U.S.-Thailand Strategic Dialogue last month, an indicator of the continuation of a slow normalization of ties in the post-coup period that was in fact already ongoing toward the end of the Obama administration (See: “Exclusive: Managing the Strained US-Thailand Alliance”).

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Thailand as part of his recent swing through Southeast Asia this past week, and Trump is also expected to visit Thailand (See: “Tillerson’s First ASEAN Voyage: What’s on the Agenda?”).

In the post-2014 coup period, both sides have also tried to make some gains in a few areas of their relationship, particularly the defense side, even though irritants remain in other areas (See: “What’s Next for US-Thailand Military Relations Under Trump?”). On arms sales, for instance, by U.S. official estimates, U.S. sales to Thailand since the coup have amounted to around $380 million, and particular sales like Black Hawk helicopters have recently been making headlines under the Trump administration in recent months.

On August 10, the United States took a step forward in approving another defense sale to Thailand. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the State Department had made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale (FMS) to Thailand for RGM-84L Harpoon Block II Surface Launched Missiles for $24.9 million, with Boeing being the principal contractor.

The request from Thailand, the DCSA said, was for the sale of up to five RGM-84L Harpoon Block II Surface Launched Missiles and one RTM-84L Harpoon Block II Exercise Missile, with other equipment such as containers, spare and repair parts, publications and technical documentation, personnel training, and technical assistance, engineering, and logistics support services also being included.

The missiles will be placed on Thailand’s DW3000-class frigate (HTMS Tha Chin) being built by South Korea’s DSME under a $410 million contract signed in August 2013 (previously, Thailand had bought Harpoon missiles for the HTMS Rattanakosin and HTMS Sukhothai as well). HTMS Tha Chin, launched in South Korea in January 2017, is expected to be delivered to Thailand next year after completing trials as scheduled.

Apart from news of the sale itself, the initial confusion surrounding the response of Thai officials following the sale did not go unnoticed in local media outlets. Asked about the sale following DSCA’s notification on August 10, the initial statements from Prayut as well as Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan seemed to indicate that there was no final approval yet on the Thai side as there were some remaining issues to be worked out.

But Royal Thai Navy (RTN) spokesman Jumpol Lumpikanon later clarified to The Bangkok Post that the confusion may have arisen because the proposed procurement of Harpoon missiles was part of the contract agreed with South Korea before Prayut or Prawit had taken their current positions.

He also said that the RTN is planning to buy another round of Harpoon missiles to equip the HTMS Trang, though he offered few additional specifics.