29 May 2017

USA: USS Ashland departs Sasebo for regional patrol

By MC3 Jonathan Clay, CTF 76 Public Affairs

USS Ashland (LSD 48) departs Fleet Activities Sasebo, May 26. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Jordan Crouch) >>

SASEBO, Japan The Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) departed its forward-deployed base of Sasebo, Japan, for a routine patrol on May 26.

Ashland and other amphibious ships of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group will embark their forward-deployed Marine counterparts, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), to conduct operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

While on patrol, Ashland and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit will provide a ready-response capability any type of contingency and work to enhance interoperability with partners and allies.

News Report: Seoul Vows to Take Strong Actions Against Pyongyang

The South Korean Foreign Ministry strongly condemned Pyongyang for launching a missile earlier in the day, vowing to take tough actions against the neighbor country.

TOKYO (Sputnik) — North Korea fired a missile from the North Korean city of Wonsan on Monday’s morning at 05:40 am local time (21:10 GMT on Sunday), which later fell into Japan's exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan.

"The government will not tolerate any kinds of provocation and take stern action … The North [Korea] should stop all provocations immediately and move toward the denuclearization path as quickly as possible," the ministry said in a statement, as quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

The ministry added that the missile is believed to be of a Scud type, according to the agency.

"This is a clear violation of the UN Security Council's relevant resolutions and poses a serious threat not only to the Korean Peninsula but also to global peace and security," the ministry stressed.

Earlier on Monday, Japan also expressed strong protest to Pyongyang’s recent missile launch, saying that the action violates the UN Security Council resolutions. The US Pacific Command said in statement that the missile did not pose a threat to the North American region as the US military forces managed to detect the missile, tracking it for six minutes before the missile fell into the sea. The command qualified the missile as a short-range.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Shinzo Abe - Japan to Take Concrete Actions With US to Suppress North Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said following the latest missile test by North Korea that Japan will join forces with the United States to supprees Pyongyang.

TOKYO(Sputnik) — Japan will take concrete actions jointly with the United States in order to respond to North Korea’s repeated provocations as the latter has fired a missile earlier in the day, which fell in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, Abe said Monday.

Earlier in day, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at press conference that Tokyo expresses strong protest to Pyongyang as the latter has fired a missile from the North Korean city of Wonsan on Monday’s morning at 05:40 am local time (21:10 GMT on Sunday). The official said that the missile launch is a violation of UN Security Council’s resolutions.

“North Korea ignores numerous warning of global community, continuing to do provocative actions. It is unacceptable. As it was said at the G7 summit, the North Korean problem is one of the most crucial in the world. In order to suppress North Korea we will take actions jointly with the United States. We will also cooperate with the global community and we will do everything to ensure security for the nation,” Abe told reporters.

Tensions around North Korea's activities with both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons have drastically escalated in recent months, after Pyongyang conducted a number of nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches in violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Mattis - War With North Korea 'Would Bring Danger to Russia and China'

US SecDef Jim Mattis
A war with North Korea would be the worst in most people's lifetimes, according to US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — A possible diplomatic failure and subsequent war with North Korea would be a disaster, posing a threat to many countries, including Russia, US Defense Secretary James Mattis told CBS News in an interview on Sunday.

"This [North Korean] regime is a threat to the region, to Japan, to South Korea. And in the event of war, they would bring danger to China and to Russia as well. But the bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we're not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means," Mattis said.

Mattis added that a possible armed conflict with North Korea would be the worst in most people’s lifetimes due to the fact that North Korea possessed "hundreds of artillery cannons and rocket launchers" within range of South Korean capital of Seoul.

Tensions around North Korea's activities with both nuclear and non-nuclear weapons have drastically escalated in recent months, after Pyongyang conducted a number of nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches in violation of the UN Security Council's resolutions.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Can Japan Convince Russia, China to Impose More Sanctions on N Korea?

Recent media reports suggest that Japan intends to convince the UN Security Council to adopt new sanctions against North Korea and is waiting for support from Russia and China. However Tokyo is aware that Moscow and Beijing, unlike the US, advocate a diplomatic dialogue with Pyongyang.

Japan has reportedly started preparing a package of its own sanctions against its neighbor after Pyongyang’s launch of ballistic missiles, in the knowledge that it will be unlikely to convince Russia and China to support further sanctions.

Tokyo however has already won the support of the US on the issue. On Friday, US President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to step up punitive measures against Pyongyang for its continued missile tests and nuclear program.

Meeting before the G7 summit in Italy that finished on Saturday, Trump and Abe dedicated most of their discussions to the issue, the White House said in a statement.

"President Trump and Prime Minister Abe agreed their teams would cooperate to enhance sanctions on North Korea, including by identifying and sanctioning entities that support North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs," the statement said.

"They also agreed to further strengthen the alliance between the United States and Japan, to further each country's capability to deter and defend against threats from North Korea."

News Report: Japan's Missile Shield Purchase Invites Hostility From China

CGI of a Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system
In an interview with Sputnik, Russian military expert Vasily Kashin specifically focused on the possible implications of Japan's plans to purchase an Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system from the United States.

Tokyo is considering installing an Aegis Ashore defense network, "a land-based version of the Aegis anti-missile system used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force," the Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported. 

The newspaper did not rule out that the possible deployment was caused by "North Korea's continued testing of missiles, fired into nearby waters."

Commenting on the matter, Russian military expert Vasiliy Kashin told Sputnik that "the planned deployment in Japan of three Aegis Ashore systems equipped with more powerful radars will mean that the missile defense problem in Asia finally comes to the fore, leaving the European missile shield-related problem behind."

"Japan is also considering the purchase of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. This will help create a multi-layered missile defense system consisting of Aegis, THAAD and Patriot PAC-3 networks to protect certain particularly valuable locations," according to Kashin.

News Report: Beijing Expresses 'Strong Protest' Over G7 Discussing South China Sea Dispute

Beijing strongly opposes the statement, made by the countries of the G7 summit in Italy, where the states expressed concern over the ongoing disputes in regards to the South China and East China seas, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Sunday.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Asia-Pacific region faces several territorial disputes in South China and East China seas, involving China, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. According to the G7 communique, the leaders expressed their opposition toward “any unilateral actions that could increase tensions.” The leaders urged all parties to conflict to start the demilitarization process.

“We noticed this situation. We express strong protest in relation to the G7 summit’s communique, where the issue of South China and East China seas was discussed under the pretext of the international law,” the spokesman said.

News Report: Foreign Firms Seek a Fair Shot at China's New Silk Road Projects

China's New Silk Road (One Belt, One Road) Map
[Click Image to Enlarge]
Jim Randle

WASHINGTON — China's planned modern version of its ancient "silk road" may bring more than one trillion dollars of infrastructure investment along trading routes that wind through emerging markets in dozens of countries throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. "One Belt, One Road" (OBOR) trade routes, which stretch from China to London and to Africa, are intended to boost the economies of China and the many nations along the routes by making trading easier and cheaper.

But so far, these road, rail, pipeline, port, power grid, telecom, and other projects offer major opportunities for Chinese companies and not so many for outside firms.

The Chinese will take “most of the highest-profile projects," said Researcher Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute.

The author of China's Asian Dream: Empire Building Along The New Silk Road, Tom Miller, said Chinese banks are financing much of the work with the goal of exporting Chinese technology and creating new demand for Chinese products. Miller said nations that use Chinese technology are more likely to buy Chinese products in the future and will work to boost Beijing's political influence abroad.

Cornell University's Lourdes Casanova, an expert on emerging markets, said China is using these investments to "gain strategic power."

Five of the largest engineering and construction companies in the world [measured by revenue] are Chinese, said Casanova, as well as four of the five largest banks [by assets]. The Cornell University researcher and senior lecturer said Chinese companies gained experience building huge infrastructure projects at home that will help them handle major projects elsewhere.

“Chinese engineering firms perform better in difficult environments than any other firms in the world,” said Scissors, adding "they don’t necessarily have to show profits, and have accumulated experience in Pakistan, Nigeria, Ecuador, and elsewhere."

It may be difficult to operate in some OBOR nations, Cornell's Casanova said, but they will still attract investment because they need a "huge" amount of infrastructure.

New opportunities

Some foreign companies tell researchers the business climate in China is deteriorating, and they are rethinking investments, which might affect new projects like OBOR. A survey by AMCHAM (the American Chamber of Commerce in China) finds some firms slowing investment in China or moving some operations to other nations. Members complain that "inconsistent" enforcement of regulations puts foreign companies at a disadvantage while slowing economic growth is hampering opportunity.

But major U.S. firms - GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar - already do a lot of business in China and see opportunities in the new silk road/OBOR projects.

Caterpillar's revenues have been boosted by improving sales in China, and the firm says it has been "deeply involved" in the new silk road initiative which it sees as a "long-term opportunity."

Caterpillar officials said the company uses global resources to focus on solving problems for customers in China and 20 other nations along the new silk road. In the 40 years, it has been in China, Caterpillar has evolved from importing machines to China, to sharing technology with local partners, to now operating factories and other facilities within China.

Honeywell employs 13,000 people in China and earned billions of dollars in revenue there in 2016. Company spokesmen say their workforce includes a couple of thousand Chinese scientists and engineers, who are helping establish Honeywell as a local Chinese company that can address the needs of local business and consumers. The company offers a wide range of China-made products that support oil & gas operations, airports, healthcare, and other activities

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt said in a recent speech that his firm competes successfully in China and elsewhere with "local capability inside a global context." He says GE has 20,000 employees in China with "multiple factories and research centers." He said his company partners partnership with Chinese construction companies, and his firm leads in power, healthcare, avation, and petroleum.

Human rights

Human rights experts say another concern grows from the need to move some people out of the way of large infrastructure projects. Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson told VOA it is unclear what impact these large and ambitious projects will have on human rights, but she said there is reason for concern because some nations along the silk road routes "preside over widespread abuses."

Richardson said China has "heightened surveillance and repression" to prevent unrest that might impede OBOR plans in that nation's Xinjiang province. The far-western region of China is a key part of the silk road, and home to 10 million Muslim Uighurs, who differ in culture, language, and faith from China's majority population. Xinjiang has long been the scene of ethnic and political tensions and is heavily patrolled by Chinese police and military units.

Richardson said private companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, and must take steps to mitigate or avoid risks. She said these obligations are spelled out by United Nations guidelines that have been embraced by key Chinese business organizations, and firms should be judged on how they handle peaceful protests of their activities.

This story first appeared on Voice of America & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Nearly 100 Afghan Soldiers Killed in a Week

Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — A Taliban infiltrator has gunned down six government forces in southern Afghanistan, raising the number of army and police personnel killed by insurgents in the past week to nearly 100.

Afghan and insurgent officials said Sunday the overnight "insider attack" incident took place at a security outpost in Zabul province where a police guard turned his gun on colleagues.

He shot dead six police, including the commander of the post. Afghan media quoted local officials as saying the shooter later rejoined the Taliban and handed the post over to insurgent control.

The Taliban in the last week has assaulted several Afghan military bases and installations, particularly in volatile southern provinces, killing and wounding scores of security forces.

News Report: 3rd US Naval Strike Force Deployed to Deter North Korea

The United States is sending a third aircraft carrier strike force to the western Pacific region in an apparent warning to North Korea to deter its ballistic missile and nuclear programs, two sources have told VOA.

The USS Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will join two other supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, in the western Pacific, the sources told VOA's Steve Herman.

The U.S. military has rarely simultaneously deployed three aircraft carriers to the same region.