Posts Tagged ‘Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne’

Australia Suspends Air Strikes in Syria: Government — Escalation of Hostilities — Russia and U.S. in Ugly Debate Over Airspace Management

June 20, 2017

SYDNEY — Australia said on Tuesday it was suspending air strikes into Syria following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia’s subsequent threat against U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement.

Russia said on Monday it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country’s conflict in 2011.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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© ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE/AFP/File | Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation after refuelling from a KC-30A on a mission over Syria. Australia has temporarily halted air missions following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces
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Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence, via European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April.

The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war.

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“The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. President Trump has allowed military commanders more say in conducting operations against the Islamic State, urging them to surround the militants in their strongholds and “annihilate” them.

Russia’s warnings could turn out to be posturing. The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after Mr. Trump ordered April’s missile launch — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. But in the complicated and quickly unfolding situation in Syria, even bluster can risk an unintended showdown.

“Anytime we have multiple armed forces working in the same battle space without de-confliction, there is a dangerous risk of things spinning out of control,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was the United States representative to NATO until January. “Tactical incidents on the ground or in the air over Syria can be misunderstood and lead to miscalculation.”

American military officials rushed to de-escalate the situation, saying they hoped Russia could be persuaded to keep using the hotline.

“This is a delicate couple of hours,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday afternoon. He added that the United States would work both diplomatically and militarily “to re-establish de-confliction.”

But the latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry was particularly stark. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” said the Defense Ministry statement, which stopped short of declaring that the targets would be shot down.

The Pentagon also vowed to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The downing of the Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, the first time the American military had shot down an enemy plane since an F-16 took down a Soviet-era MIG-29 during the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, was the latest in a series of confrontations between the United States and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

One previously undisclosed confrontation followed a drone attack on June 8 on American-supported Syrians patrolling alongside their coalition advisers. The weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, though American officials said they do not know who directed it.

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Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo moves to rein in ‘out of control’ military chief

January 10, 2017
General Gatot Nurmantyo
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Reuters

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo reproached his military chief in a meeting last week amid concerns the commander was “out of control” after he unilaterally suspended defense cooperation with Australia, two sources briefed on the meeting said.

Widodo’s intervention highlights alarm about General Gatot Nurmantyo, who promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by “proxy wars”, in which foreign states seek to undermine the nation by manipulating non-state actors.

Analysts and some of Widodo’s aides are also concerned that Nurmantyo is laying the groundwork for an expansion of the military’s role in civilian affairs in the world’s third-largest democracy and may have political ambitions himself.

Widodo, the first president from outside the military and political establishment, needed to move quickly to demonstrate his authority as the country’s commander-in-chief, one senior government official said.

“With Gatot, the feeling is like he’s a little out of control,” he said.

Nurmantyo declared a rupture in military ties after an Indonesian officer found “offensive” teaching material while on a language training course in Australia late last year.

The material suggested that Indonesia’s Papua province should be independent and mocked the nation’s state ideology, Pancasila, according to Nurmantyo.

 

CAUGHT OFF GUARD

One of the officials told Reuters Widodo and others in the government were caught off guard when local media reported Nurmantyo’s announcement of the suspension in military ties with Australia.

While the general was not formally reprimanded, the official said, Widodo served him a warning during a meeting at a presidential palace in Bogor, outside Jakarta.

The meeting was confirmed by another senior government aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Nurmantyo declined requests to be interviewed and a military spokesman declined to comment on the meeting.

The senior government official said: “We suspect that Gatot is exploiting this incident for his own political agenda, his own political ambition.”

“He has been making many public appearances and speeches lately,” he said. “Frankly, we think many of them about proxy wars and the threat to Indonesia are absolutely ridiculous.”

In one speech, Nurmantyo predicted that a food shortage in China could trigger a flood of boat-borne refugees. He told listeners he would slaughter 10 cows and dump them into the sea to attract sharks that would devour the Chinese.

One of the officials who disclosed Widodo’s meeting with Nurmantyo said the military chief’s job was safe, downplaying speculation that the general would be relieved of his duties.

“For now, we are confident that he will not betray the president or the civilian government,” he said.

 

FOREIGN INFILTRATION

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported last week that Nurmantyo told an audience in Indonesia recently he believed the Australian military was attempting to recruit Indonesian soldiers sent to the country for training. Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne rejected the allegation.

The comments were just one example of the conspiracy theories Nurmantyo peddles as part of his ‘proxy war’ narrative.

In a booklet released in 2015, he wrote that foreign powers were seeking to infiltrate Indonesia’s media, education system, Islamic organizations, corporations and political parties to weaken the nation, and seize control of its security apparatus and strategic industries.

Foreign powers are also trying to weaken Indonesia’s youth by trafficking drugs and inculcating a permissive culture, he wrote.

According to Al Araf, director of the human rights advocacy group Imparsial, Nurmantyo’s objectives are twofold: to promote his own political ambitions and to garner support for an expanded role for the military.

As the proxy war narrative identifies foreign powers behind a host of Indonesia’s challenges, from terrorism and drugs to even homosexuality, the implicit solution is that only the military that can solve them, said Araf.

“These are all problems due to proxy war so the military must become involved in all these problems,” he added.

Asian nations turn to Australia to combat China threat in South China Sea

March 19, 2016

By 

SOUTH-EAST ASIA CORRESPONDENT FOR FAIRFAX MEDIA

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has emphasised Australia’s position that freedom of passage through the South China Sea is essential. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Bangkok: South-east Asian nations are turning to Australia to seek closer defence ties amid rising concerns over China’s military build-up in the flashpoint waters of the South China Sea.

The move comes as the United States warned that a ruling of an international court in a case brought by the Philippines over its South China Sea claims in the coming weeks could trigger Beijing to declare an exclusion zone in the waters through which 30 per cent of world trade passes.

Malaysia’s Defence Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, is scheduled to meet Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne next week to discuss China’s placement of military equipment on disputed islands, in a sign that Malaysia is considering a tougher stand against Beijing, its largest trading partner.

“If the reports we’ve received from various sources regarding the build-up and placement of military assets in the Spratlys are true – this forces us in a pushback against China,” Mr Hishammuddin said, adding he would also hold talks with the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Spratlys are a chain of atolls in the South China Sea where China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims.

Malaysia has in the past shied away from taking a confrontational stand against China over the disputed waters, balancing its foreign policy against its relationship with Beijing.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is also planning to visit Australia in May for discussions that will seek to forge a series of new agreements between the two countries, including a deal to enhance defence cooperation.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and her Singapore counterpart, Vivian Balakrishnan, declared after a meeting in Sydney on Friday that both countries are committed to the rights of states to conduct freedom of navigation and airspace of the South China Sea.

“That’s what Australia has done in the past and what we’ll continue to do,” Ms Bishop told reporters.

Dr Balakrishnan said though Singapore was a tiny city state, its trade was three times its GDP, and hence security of passage through the South China Sea was “essential”.

“So we totally subscribe to the concept of freedom of navigation and over-flight and we would highlight the South China Sea as important for both Australia and Singapore, because so much of our trade flows through that,” he said.

Under a 1971-signed pact called the Five Power Defence Arrangements Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, the UK and New Zealand are already committed to “consult” each other in the event or threat of an armed attack on Malaysia or Singapore.

The five nations hold defence exercises each year.

China’s aggressive pursuit of its claim over almost all of the South Chian Sea has already pushed other countries including the Philippines and Vietnam to look to closer defence ties with Australia and the United States.

The head of US naval operations, Admiral John Richardson, told Reuters he was struck by how China’s increasing militarisation of the South China Sea had increased the willingness of other countries in the region to work together, pointing to joint naval exercises between the US, Japan and India and unprecedented defence cooperation between the US, Japan and South Korea.

Admiral Richardson said the US would welcome the participation of other countries in joint patrols of the South China Sea.

He said the US saw good opportunities to build relationships with countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and India, which he said have all realised the importance of safeguarding freedom of the seas.

Asked whether China could respond to the upcoming ruling by the court of arbitration in the Hague by declaring or air defence identification zone, as it did farther north in the East China Sea in 2013, Admiral Richardson said: “It’s definitely a concern. We will just have to see what happens … we think about contingencies and responses.”

Admiral Richardson said the US plans to continue carrying out freedom-of-navigation exercises within 12 nautical miles of disputed geographical features to underscore its concerns about keeping sea lanes open.

– With agencies

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Top Admiral For China’s Navy Says He Will Express China’s “Solemn Position” on The Seas — What About Long-Standing International Law? “China’s military will take all necessary measures in response to any future U.S. Navy incursions”

October 29, 2015
 
Fiery Cross reef, located in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, is shown in this handout Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative satellite image taken September 3, 2015 and released to Reuters October 27, 2015.
REUTERS/CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE/DIGITALGLOBE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
 Reuters

The Chinese and U.S. navies are set to hold high-level talks over tension in the South China Sea after a U.S. warship challenged China’s territorial assertions in the disputed waters this week.

U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, would hold an hour long video teleconference on Thursday, a U.S. official said.

Admiral Wu Shengli

A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Defence said Wu would present China’s “solemn position on the US vessel’s entry without permission” into waters in the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.

Both officers initiated the meeting to discuss recent operations in the South China Sea as well as naval ties, the U.S. official said. It will be the third such video teleconference between the countries’ naval chiefs.

Beijing rebuked Washington for sending a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago on Tuesday, saying it had tracked and warned the USS Lassen and called in the U.S. ambassador to protest.

“”We would urge the US side not to continue down the wrong path,” Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular briefing. “But if they do, we will take all necessary measures in accordance with the need.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping will next week visit Vietnam, another vocal claimant in the South China Sea, and Singapore, while Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan will attend a meeting of Southeast Asian defense ministers in Malaysia.

The patrol was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to territorial limits China claims around its artificial islands in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

“Neither the U.S. nor China desires a military conflict, but the key problem is that the core interests of both sides collide in the South China Sea,” said Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

“It’s hard to see either side backing down.”

Separately, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported that Admiral Harry Harris, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, would visit Beijing next week. It cited an unnamed source and gave no further details.

Admiral Harry Harris,

Ministry spokesman Yang said the plan was for Harris to visit before the end of the year, and that both sides remained “in communication” about it. He did not elaborate.

A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment.

Harris has been highly critical of China’s island building in the Spratlys. This year he said China was using dredges and bulldozers to create a “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea.

China rotates a large number of naval and coastguard vessels through the South China Sea, both for patrols and training missions, security experts say.

Chinese state media said on Thursday a “guided-missile destroyer flotilla” under the navy’s South China Sea Fleet carried out a “realistic confrontation training exercise” involving anti-aircraft firing and firing at shore at night.

A state-owned news website carried photos from the drills, saying they took place recently in the South China Sea. One picture showed three warships sailing in a row.

MILITARY EXERCISES

Despite criticism of China’s action in the South China Sea, foreign navies from the United States to Europe have sought to build ties with their Chinese counterparts.

A French frigate docked at China’s main South China Sea base of Zhanjiang in the southern province of Guangdong on Wednesday on a four-day visit. It will participate in a maritime exercise about accidental encounters at sea.

Two Australian warships will also hold exercises with the Chinese navy in the South China Sea next week, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday.

“There have been no changes or delays to the schedule of the HMAS Arunta and HMAS Stuart since the United States activity in the South China Sea on 27 October 2015,” Payne said in a statement that gave no details on the precise location for the exercise.

Australian media said it would include live-fire drills.

Australia, a key U.S. ally in the region, expressed its strong support for freedom of navigation this week, while stopping short of welcoming the USS Lassen’s patrol.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington, John Ruwitch in Shanghai, Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Dean Yates, Robert Birsel)

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China’s military will take all necessary measures in response to any future U.S. Navy incursions

The Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — China’s military will take “all necessary” measures in response to any future U.S. Navy incursions into what it considers its territorial waters around islands in the South China Sea, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

The statement by Col. Yang Yujun followed the sailing of a U.S. guided missile destroyer within the 12-nautical mile (22-kilometer) territorial limit of one of the islands newly created by China in the strategically vital region. The U.S. refuses to recognize the man-made islets as deserving of sovereign territory status.

The Chinese side took no forceful action during the USS Lassen’s sail-by on Tuesday, but strenuously protested the maneuver. China’s reaction fits the pattern in similar such incidents in recent years. Yang offered no details on how Beijing might respond differently in the future.

USS Lassen

“We would urge the U.S. not to continue down the wrong path. But if the U.S. side does continue, we will take all necessary measures according to the need,” Yang said. China’s resolve to safeguard its national sovereignty and security interests is “rock-solid,” he added.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and its islands, reefs and atolls as its sovereign territory, an assertion challenged by five other regional governments.

While the U.S. takes no formal position on sovereignty, it insists on freedom of navigation and has urged China to cease its ambitious project to construct new islands complete with buildings, harbors and airstrips.

Yang reiterated Beijing’s claim that the USS Lassen violated Chinese sovereignty and international law, although the sail-by appeared to fall under internationally allowed “innocent passage” rules. Yang gave no details of China’s claims.

Yang said a pair of Chinese navy ships had shadowed the Lassen, monitored its actions and issued warnings.

The spokesman said China supported the right to freedom of navigation and overflight, but accused the U.S. of abusing those for its own interests.

“We are strongly against any kind of effort in the name of freedom of navigation that might damage the interests and security of the littoral states,” Yang said.

Yang said that the commander of the Chinese navy, Adm. Wu Shengli, would present China’s “solemn position” on the issue in a video conference later Thursday with the U.S. head of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson.

However, he indicated that the incident wouldn’t disrupt official exchanges between the sides, saying that planning was still underway for a visit by Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, later this year. Harris recently stated that the South China Sea is no more China’s than the Gulf of Mexico is Mexico’s.

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China, U.S. Top Admirals To Discuss South China Sea — “Neither the U.S. nor China desires a military conflict.” — “Two Very Thoughtful Guys. We’re Lucky.”

October 29, 2015

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U.S. Chief of naval Operations Admiral John Richardson

By Megha Rajagopalan and Andrea Shalal

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Chinese and U.S. navies are set to hold high-level talks over tensions in the South China Sea after a U.S. warship challenged Beijing’s territorial assertiveness in the disputed waterway this week.

The U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart Admiral Wu Shengli would hold an hourlong video teleconference on Thursday, a U.S. official said.

Both officers initiated the meeting to discuss recent operations in the South China Sea as well as naval ties, the official said. It will be the third such video teleconference between naval chiefs from the United States and China.

Beijing rebuked Washington for sending a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of one of China’s man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago on Tuesday, saying it had tracked and warned the USS Lassen and called in the U.S. ambassador to protest.

People’s Liberation Army Navy Admiral Wu Shengli meeting then U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert in 2014

The patrol was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to territorial limits China claims around its artificial islands in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes.

“Neither the U.S. nor China desires a military conflict, but the key problem is that the core interests of both sides collide in the South China Sea,” said Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law. “It’s hard to see either side backing down.”

Separately, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported that Admiral Harry Harris, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, would visit Beijing next week. It cited an unnamed source and gave no further details.

A U.S. embassy spokesman declined to comment.

Harris has been highly critical of China’s island building in the Spratlys. Earlier this year he said China was using dredges and bulldozers to create a “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea.

China rotates a large number of naval and coastguard vessels through the South China Sea, both for patrols and training missions, security experts say.

Chinese state media on Thursday said a “guided-missile destroyer flotilla” under the navy’s South China Sea Fleet carried out a “realistic confrontation training exercise” involving anti-aircraft firing and firing at shore at night.

A state-owned news website carried photos from the drills, saying they took place recently in the South China Sea. One photo showed three warships sailing one after the other.

MILITARY EXERCISES

Despite criticism of China’s actions in the South China Sea, foreign navies from the United States to Europe have sought to build ties with their Chinese counterparts.

A French frigate docked at China’s main South China Sea base of Zhanjiang in the southern province of Guangdong on Wednesday on a four-day visit. It will participate in a maritime exercise about accidental encounters at sea.

Two Australian warships will also hold exercises with the Chinese navy in the South China Sea early next week, Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday.

“There have been no changes or delays to the schedule of the HMAS Arunta and HMAS Stuart since the United States activity in the South China Sea on 27 October 2015,” Payne said in a statement that gave no details on the precise location for the exercise.

Australian media said it would include live-fire drills.

Canberra, a key U.S. ally in the region, expressed its strong support for freedom of navigation this week, while stopping short of welcoming the USS Lassen’s patrol.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington, John Ruwitch in Shanghai, Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing and Lincoln Feast in Sydney; Editing by Dean Yates)

A Senior Naval Officer told Peace and Freedom, “There are two very thoughtful guys. We are lucky.”

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