Posts Tagged ‘Guam’

China says not scared after reported U.S. B-52 bombers trip over South China Sea

June 6, 2018

No military ship or aircraft can scare China away from its resolve to protect its territory, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday after two U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers were reported to have flown near disputed islands in the South China Sea.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flies during the annual recurring multinational, maritime-focused NATO exercise BALTOPS 2017 near Ventspils, Latvia June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

CNN reported that the two aircraft flew within the vicinity of the Spratly Islands, where China has reclaimed land and built runways and other facilities on disputed reefs and small islands.

The United States was willing to work with China on a “results-oriented” relationship, but its actions in the South China Sea were coercive and the Pentagon would “compete vigorously” if needed, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday.

The United States and China have frequently sparred about who is really militarizing the South China Sea, where China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims.

Speaking at a daily news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she hoped the United States could clarify whether it thought sending “this type of offensive weapon” to the South China Sea counted as militarization.

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Hua Chunying

The United States should stop hyping up the issue of militarization and provoking trouble, she said.

“Running amuck is risky,” Hua said.

“China won’t be scared by any so-called military ship or aircraft, and we will only even more staunchly all necessary steps to defend the country’s sovereignty and security, to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea region.”

Last month, China’s air force landed bombers on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea as part of a training exercise, triggering concern in Vietnam and the Philippines.

Satellite photographs taken on May 12 showed China appeared to have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles at Woody Island in the disputed sea.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

Reuters

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China is not the bully in the South China Sea, the US is

June 6, 2018

China says America militarises the South China Sea by sending in carrier strike groups into a maritime area where it has no territory, makes no claims, the safety of its citizens and property has not been violated, and without invitation. Yet it labels self-defence against such unprovoked military intrusions as militarisation.

South China Morning Post

Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 7:31pm

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis wonders why it is only China that has expressed unhappiness with US freedom of navigation exercises. It is because China is the only country strong enough not to be coerced and intimidated into silence by America’s “might makes right” policy. It is also because other South China Sea countries may not want to help the US escalate tensions in the region.

Watch: China dismisses Mattis’ remarks

If its freedom of navigation operations are truly routine and do not unfairly single out China, as the US maintains, then these must first be directed against the vast rings of concrete and steel that Japan has built around the Okinotori atoll in the Pacific.

Under the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945, it only has sovereignty over its four main islands. Okinotori is not among them. That the US does not conduct sail-by operations there certainly calls into question its broader goals against China and stability in the region. Not to mention that the US is not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) under which it claims to operate the sail-by operations.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis speaks to reporters on board a US military plane en route to Hawaii on May 29. Mattis said the US will continue to confront China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP

If France and Britain also intend to engage in such operations (“France and Britain to sail into contested waters in South China Sea”, June 4), they should also sail within 12 nautical miles (territorial waters as defined by UNCLOS) of Okinotori atoll. Otherwise, their action would only vindicate Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous lambasting of the West’s hypocrisy and bullying, and make China more determined to defend its sovereignty.

http://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2149285/china-not-bully-south-china-sea-us

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US B-52s fly by contested islands amid rising tensions with China

June 6, 2018

Two US B-52 bombers flew within the vicinity of the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea on Tuesday, according to a statement from US Pacific Air Forces, which oversees air operations in the region.

The flyover came days after Secretary of Defense James Mattis called Beijing out over its militarization of the islands, accusing China of “intimidation and coercion” in the Indo-Pacific, making clear the US has no plans to leave the region and prompting a furious Chinese response.
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Beijing claims the Spratly Islands, but those claims aren’t recognized by the US or by China’s neighbors — Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Taiwan — which also say the islands are theirs. China has used geographic features in the Spratlys to build man-made islands, some of which it has equipped with military facilities, including anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.
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A US defense official who has knowledge of the mission’s original flight plan said it called for the nuclear capable B-52 bombers to fly about 20 miles from the islands.
A spokesman for the Pentagon said the mission involved the Guam-based bombers conducting “a routine training mission,” flying from Andersen Air Force Base in the US territory of Guam “to the Navy Support Facility” in the United Kingdom’s Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia.
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On Tuesday, the bombers flew from Diego Garcia and conducted “training” in the vicinity of the South China Sea, returning back to Diego Garcia the same day, according to the statement from US Pacific Air Forces.
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CNN initially reported that the flyover took place Monday, based on information from the US defense official who later clarified that the flyover took place Tuesday and not during the initial leg of the aircraft’s journey Monday from Andersen to Diego Garcia.
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James Mattis Photographer: Paul Miller/Bloomberg
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Both flight operations were part of US Pacific Command’s “Continuous Bomber Presence” missions, which the military says are intended to maintain the readiness of US forces.
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“US Pacific Command’s CBP missions, which have been routinely employed since March 2004, are flown in accordance with international law,” said Lt. Col. Chris Logan, a Pentagon spokesman.
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Tuesday’s flyover came after Mattis used a Saturday speech in Singapore to accuse China of “intimidation and coercion” in the region and declared that the United States does not plan to abandon its role there.
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“Make no mistake: America is in the Indo-Pacific to stay,” Mattis said. “This is our priority theater.”
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Why it's so tense in the South China Sea

Why it’s so tense in the South China Sea 01:17
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Mattis specifically called out Beijing’s militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea, home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes. “We are aware China will face an array of challenges and opportunities in coming years, we are prepared to support China’s choices if they promote long-term peace and prosperity for all in this dynamic region,” Mattis said.
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The Pentagon last week ratcheted up rhetoric about China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea, even as the Trump administration presses China for cooperation on North Korea.
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When asked by a reporter about the ability of the US to “blow apart” one of China’s controversial man-made islands, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff, told reporters, “I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands.”
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His comments — a reference to US amphibious landings and capture of Japanese held islands during World War II — come amid growing tension in the hotly contested region, as the US ramps up freedom of navigation operations in response to China’s steady militarization of its artificial islands.
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The Chinese government has reacted furiously to the recent US statements. At her regular press conference on Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US accusing China of militarizing the region was “like a thief crying, ‘Stop thief!’ “
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“Why does the US choose to sail every now and then close to Chinese South China Sea islands and reefs? What is the US trying to do?” she said.
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CORRECTION: CNN initially reported the flight over the South China Sea took place Monday, but an official later told CNN the mission was actually completed on Tuesday.

CNN

Includes videos:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/04/politics/us-b52-spratly-flyover/index.html

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Is Donald Trump Ready To Succeed Where Obama failed?

April 29, 2018

Donald Trump spent his Saturday evening among fans at a rally in Michigan doing what he does best, joyously hectoring key enemies – currently the fake news media and the sacked FBI director James Comey – and heaping praise upon himself. At one point a chant broke out that had him grinning and nodding as it was picked up across the stadium. “Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!”

By Nick O’Malley

The thought that this president might be considered worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize must be as confounding to many as the sudden prospect of the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the formal end of the Korean War.

It was just four months ago that Trump and Kim Jong-un were trading insults and threats of annihilation with what appeared to be contempt for the lives of millions of civilians on the Korean Peninsula, in Japan, on Guam and, for the first time, on the continental United States.

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Donald Trump in Washington, Michigan, April 28, 2018. Reuters photo

So beyond diplomatic theatre, how much has been achieved in recent days? And how much credit is due to the Trump administration? Is he the beneficiary of this moment in history or the creator of it?

During briefings in Seoul at the height of tensions late last year,  Fairfax Media was told by a range of analysts that Trump’s tough talk – which was causing shockwaves around the world – was welcomed by many in South Korea.

In one interview, Uk Yang, a senior research fellow at the Korean Defence and Security Forum and an advisor to the Ministry of National Defence, said Trump’s rhetoric was a welcome change to that of Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience”.

According to Yang, Obama had simply maintained sanctions in order to keep North Korea’s economy ruinous so he could pass the problem on, unchanged, to his successor.

Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon at the welcoming ceremony. CreditPool photo

Yang likened Trump’s Twitter abuse of Kim Jong-un to Richard Nixon’s so-called “madman strategy”, by which the former president sought to intimidate Communist Bloc leaders by appearing to be volatile enough to use nuclear weapons if provoked.

“That kind of strategy does not work for most politicians but it might work for him,” said Yang. “I think that in some ways Trump is doing better with Kim Jong-un, by using the language of Kim Jong-un.”

Days before Trump was due to arrive in South Korea for a state visit in November, Sang Chui-Lee, who holds the ministerial-level post of First Deputy Chief of National Security Strategies, told Fairfax Media that observers needed to look beyond Trump’s Twitter feed to his formal language and that of the State Department and military chiefs. Lee said that for Trump’s strategy to work he needed to both maintain a hard line against provocations by the regime but remain open to talks. Days later in his speech to South Korea’s National Assembly, Trump said, “I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.

“Yet, despite every crime you have committed against God and man … we will offer a path to a much better future. It begins with an end to the aggression of your regime, a stop to your development of ballistic missiles, and complete, verifiable, and total denuclearization.”

In the new year tensions rapidly eased, to the point that in January talks between north and south were held for the first time in two years. South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, was quick to praise his key ally, telling reporters at the time, “I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks. It could be a resulting work of the US-led sanctions and pressure.”

The startling sight of the two leaders shaking hands on both sides of the demilitarized zone on Friday has prompted more praise for Trump’s efforts.

Expressing her surprise at the speed of diplomatic events South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, told CNN this weekend, “I feel like someone stepped on the accelerator at the beginning of the year and it has been non-stop since then. Clearly credit goes to President Trump. He has been determined to come to grips with this from day one.”

Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull have taken the same line, with the prime minister telling reporters on Saturday, “I’ve given him that credit because Donald Trump has taken a very, very strong, hard line on the denuclearization issue and he has been able to bring in the support of the global community and, in particular, China.”

Lindsey Graham, one of the few prominent Republicans to offer (occasional and tepid) criticism of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy has also offered praise, saying “What happened? Donald Trump convinced North Korea and China he was serious about bringing about change. We’re not there yet, but if this happens, President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.”

The foreign policy specialist Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, who has highly critical of Trump’s foreign policy to date, voiced his own praise via Twitter, noting that diplomatic breakthroughs like this do not happen “without priority and pressure from [the] US president”.

Should North Korea end its nuclear program he believes Trump should share in a Nobel prize, along with leaders of the two Koreas and President Xi Jinping of China. Others have suggested, only half-joking, that the basketball star Dennis Rodman, who forged a baffling friendship with Kim in 2013, should also be recognised.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with former basketballer Dennis Rodman.

Skeptics are warning that there have been previous false dawns on the Korean peninsula, and note that while the two leaders have agreed to pursue not only denuclearisation but a peace treaty to formally end the Korean war, there has been no framework agreed on how to achieve such lofty goals. They note that North Korea has proved adept at extracting concessions from the world with overtures of peace only to resume weapons programs.

According to a report by Axios, a news outfit known for its White House sources, Trump believes this is his “great man” of history moment, and that he alone is the deal maker to bring about lasting peace when he sits down for talks with Kim in coming weeks.

Others in his orbit believe any talks with the North Korean leader are bound to be fruitless.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/is-donald-trump-set-to-win-a-nobel-peace-prize-20180429-p4zcbh.html

North Korea to Shut Down Nuclear Test Site in May

April 29, 2018

Statement from South Korea’s presidential office follows historic talks between the two sides last week — “U.S. strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war.”

South Koreans held a sign depicting of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally in Seoul on Thursday. On Sunday, the South Korean president’s office said Pyongyang would close its nuclear test site.
South Koreans held a sign depicting of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally in Seoul on Thursday. On Sunday, the South Korean president’s office said Pyongyang would close its nuclear test site. PHOTO: CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY IMAGES

SEOUL—North Korea said it would shut down its nuclear test site by May and take steps to demonstrate the closure to the world, South Korea’s presidential office said Sunday, adding to momentum for a deal on the regime’s nuclear program after last week’s historic talksbetween the two sides.

During a summit meeting Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the inter-Korean demilitarized zone, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also reaffirmed his willingness to give up his nuclear weapons in exchange for a security guarantee from the U.S., according to details of their conversations made public by the South’s presidential office.

“Why would we need to live under such difficult conditions with nuclear weapons if we’re able to build trust with the U.S. at future meetings, and the U.S. promises nonaggression and an end to the Korean War?” Mr. Kim was quoted as telling Mr. Moon by Yoon Young-chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s presidential office.

The comments build on a diplomatic detente between the Koreas ahead of a planned summitbetween Mr. Kim and President Donald Trump, aimed at convincing the regime to relinquish its nuclear arsenal.

During Friday’s meeting, Mr. Kim said that he believed Washington was “inherently hostile” to the North Korean regime, but that he was confident U.S. officials would be convinced he isn’t the “kind of person to launch nuclear weapons towards the U.S.,” according to Mr. Yoon.

The North Korean leader also said at Friday’s summit that “there should never be another war on the Korean Peninsula,” according to Mr. Yoon.

In regard to the North’s nuclear test site, Mr. Kim indicated that his pledge to close the Punggye-ri facility wasn’t because it had become unusable, Mr. Yoon said. Two recent reports by Chinese seismologists concluded that a large part of the test site was unusable due to the collapse of a cavity inside the mountain after the last blast there in September 2017.

“You will see when you come, but there are two bigger tunnels at the site. Those tunnels are fine and well,” Mr. Kim was quoted as saying by Seoul’s presidential Blue House.

What Would Peace Look Like on the Korean Peninsula?

The two Koreas have technically been at war for more than six decades. That’s about to change, say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in. But what would peace on the peninsula look like?

Mr. Kim said he would discuss with South Korea the possibility of inviting experts and journalists from the U.S. and South Korea to demonstrate the closure of the site, Mr. Yoon said.

Separately, the North also indicated that it would align its time zone with that of South Korea. Three years ago, Pyongyang shifted its clocks back 30 minutes to send a political message to Seoul and Tokyo.

Mr. Kim said that the time zone decision came to him during his summit with Mr. Moon at the Peace House in the demilitarized zone. “There were two different clocks in the reception hall at Peace House. One was for Seoul time and the other for Pyongyang time, which made my heart heavy,” Mr. Kim said, according to the South. “Let’s first unify the two different times of the two Koreas.”​

Messrs. Trump and Moon spoke by phone for 75 minutes Saturday, with both leaders reaffirming their insistence on the North’s “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” according to a White House readout of the call.

The two leaders agreed to closely coordinate policy ahead of the U.S.-North Korea summit, to be held in the coming weeks at a venue yet to be determined. South Korea and Mr. Trump have said the possible venues have been narrowed down to two or three locations.

Mr. Trump said the declaration of the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula at the inter-Korean summit last week was welcome news for the world, according to Seoul’s readout of the phone conversation.

How the Historic Inter-Korean Summit Unfolded

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in met in the demilitarized zone separating their countries, planting a tree and committing to pursuing a peace deal. Other scenes from the summit included North Korean security guards jogging alongside their leader’s limousine.

Speaking at a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Mich., Mr. Trump said he expected to meet with Mr. Kim in the next three or four weeks.

“I’m not going to give you what’s going to actually happen because we don’t really know, but I’ll tell you one thing—we’re not playing games,” he said.

“If we would have said where we are today from three or four months ago, remember they were saying ‘he’s going to get us into nuclear war’,” Mr. Trump said. “Strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war; it’s not going to get us in.”

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Andrew Jeong at andrew.jeong@wsj.com

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North Korea’s Kim promises transparency in nuclear site shutdown as Trump presses for full denuclearization

April 29, 2018

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to close the country’s nuclear test site in May in full view of the outside world, Seoul officials said on Sunday, as U.S. President Trump pressed for total denuclearization ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with Kim.

Image result for Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong un photos

Reuters

On Friday, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula in the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade, but the declaration did not include concrete steps to reach that goal.

North Korea’s state media had said before the summit that Pyongyang would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace.

Kim told Moon that he would soon invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea to “transparently open to the international community” the dismantling of the facilities, the Blue House said.

“Kim said if the United States holds dialogue with the North, they would realise that he’s not the kind of person who would fire a nuclear missile toward the South, over the Pacific or targeting the United States,” Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young-chan told a news briefing.

“If the United States meets often and builds trust with us and promises an end of war and non-aggression, why would we lead a difficult life?” Yoon reported Kim as saying.

Kim said there were two additional, larger tunnels that remain “alive and well” at the Punggye-ri test site beyond the existing one, which experts have said had collapsed after repeated explosions, rendering much of the site useless.

Kim’s promise shows his willingness to “preemptively and actively” respond to inspection efforts to be made as part of the denuclearization process, Yoon said.

To facilitate future cross-border cooperation, Kim pledged to scrap the unique time zone Pyongyang created in 2015. He said the North would move its clocks forward 30 minutes to be in sync with the South, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Kim also reaffirmed that he would not use military force against the South and raised the need for an institutional mechanism to prevent unintended escalations, Yoon said.

NEXT STEPS

Late Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump told Moon in a phone call that he was pleased the leaders of the two Koreas reaffirmed the goal of complete denuclearization during their summit, Seoul officials said on Sunday.

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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (L) steps with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in (R) across the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries ahead of their meeting at the official summit Peace House building at Panmunjom on April 27, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South’s President Moon Jae-in sat down to a historic summit Friday after shaking hands over the Military Demarcation Line that divides their countries in a gesture laden with symbolism.

Moon and Trump agreed on the need for an early summit between Trump and Kim, and explored two to three potential locations, the Blue House said.

A senior U.S. official has said Singapore is being considered as a possible venue for the Trump-Kim summit.

“Trump said it was good news for not only the two Koreas but the whole world that they affirmed the goal of realising a nuclear-free Korean peninsula through a complete denuclearization,” South Korea’s presidential Blue House said. “Trump was looking forward to talks with Kim and there would be a very good result.”

Trump, who called the 75-minute chat “a long and very good talk” on Twitter, said his summit with Kim would take place sometime in the next three to four weeks.

“It’s going be a very important meeting, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said at a campaign rally in Washington, Michigan, on Saturday.

The White House said Trump and Moon during the call “emphasized that a peaceful and prosperous future for North Korea is contingent upon its complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

Trump had also informed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would urge North Korea to promptly resolve its abductions of Japanese citizens, the White House said.

Most of the specific commitments outlined in the official declaration signed by Kim and Moon focused on inter-Korean relations and did not clear up the question of whether Pyongyang is willing to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

North Korea’s state media on Saturday released the joint statement as part of a multi-page spread with more than 60 photos from the visit, lauding Friday’s summit as a turning point for the peninsula.

It made rare mentions of the denuclearization discussion, but did not go into detail, instead highlighting the broad themes of peace, prosperity, and Korean unity.

‘AMICABLE ATMOSPHERE’

“At the talks both sides had a candid and open-hearted exchange of views on the matters of mutual concern including the issues of improving the North-South relations, ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula and the denuclearization of the peninsula,” KCNA said.

It added that the night wrapped up with a dinner that had an “amicable atmosphere overflowing with feelings of blood relatives.”

The declaration earned guarded but optimistic praise from world leaders, including Trump, who said on Friday that only time would tell, but that he did not think Kim was “playing.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Peace House. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

“It’s never gone this far. This enthusiasm for them wanting to make a deal … We are going to hopefully make a deal.”

Still, Trump said he would maintain pressure on North Korea and “not repeat the mistakes of past administrations.”

In Sydney on Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Trump’s negotiations on North Korea and said he helped bring the two Korean leaders together.

“I have given him that credit because Donald Trump has taken a very, very strong, hard line on the denuclearization issue and he has been able to bring in the support of the global community and, in particular, China,” Turnbull told a televised news conference, referring to “overwhelming” economic ties between China and North Korea.

“What we’ve now got to do is not relent on the economic pressure until that goal is achieved,” he said.

Australia will send a military aircraft to monitor North Korean vessels suspected of transferring illicit goods in defiance of U.N. sanctions, he said.

Iran, facing a possible U.S. exit from its nuclear deal with world powers, welcomed the inter-Korean summit, but said Washington was not a “qualified” partner in the negotiations.

Slideshow (2 Images)

“Iran sees (the summit) as an important step in the right direction that can contribute to lasting regional and global peace and security,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state media.

“The U.S. government is not a credible actor, doesn’t comply with its international obligations and doesn’t qualify to take part in arrangements between countries,” Qasemi added.

An editorial in the official China Daily on Saturday said denuclearization could end hostilities between the two sides and “usher in a new era of development” on the peninsula, but noted Friday’s declaration lacked a plan for achieving the goal.

“The denuclearization of the peninsula, written into the Panmunjom Declaration, is only a prospect with no specific plan. That is because such specifics can be reached only between the US and North Korea, and South Korea has only limited authority to bargain,” it said.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Christine Kim and Josh Smith in SEOUL, Amanda Becker in WASHINGTON, Michigan, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Alison Bevege in SYDNEY, and Dubai newsroom. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Susan Thomas

U.S. air force says trains in vicinity of South China Sea

April 27, 2018

U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers have carried out training in the vicinity of the South China Sea and the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, the Air Force said on Friday, in what a Chinese newspaper linked to China’s drills near Taiwan.

The U.S. Air Force said the B-52s took off from Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island of Guam and “transited to the vicinity of the South China Sea” on Tuesday.

“The B-52Hs conducted training and then transited to the vicinity of Okinawa to conduct training with USAF F-15C Strike Eagles, before returning to Guam,” it said.

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File Photo

Reuters

“Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) missions are intended to maintain the readiness of U.S. forces. The U.S. Pacific Command’s CBP missions, which have been routinely employed since March 2004, are in accordance with international law.”

An Air Force spokeswoman said: “This was a routine mission”.

The exercise was reported in Taiwanese media this week, which speculated it could have been a warning from the United States to China following China’s stepped-up military presence around Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Wu Qian was asked about the U.S. bombers at a news briefing on Thursday but would only say Chinese armed forces had the situation under control and would defend the country’s sovereignty, as always.

On Friday, the ministry referred Reuters to Wu’s previous statement, without elaborating.

China has been issuing increasingly strident warnings to Taiwan to toe the line and has been flying military aircraft around the island in what China calls “encirclement patrols”.

Beijing fears Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, wants to push for the island’s formal independence. Tsai says she wants to maintain the status quo and peace with China.

The widely read Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times said in an editorial on Friday if the U.S. bombers were meant to send a message to Beijing about Taiwan it would not work.

“The U.S. cannot prevent the mainland exerting military pressure on Taiwan,” it said.

“Mainland military aircraft will fly closer and closer to Taiwan and in the end fly above the island,” the paper said.

“If the Taiwan authorities openly promote the ‘Taiwan independence’ policy and cut off all official contacts with the mainland, the mainland will deem Taiwan a hostile regime and has endless means to deal with it.”

Taiwan and the South China Sea are two major faultlines between Washington and Beijing.

China has been angered by U.S. “freedom of navigation” patrols in the disputed South China Sea, where China has reclaimed land for military bases, and by U.S. support for democratic Taiwan.

part of China’s military modernization, its new aircraft carrier could soon begin sea trials, according to images on Chinese news portals this week of the vessel leaving its dock in the northern city of Dalian.

On Friday, the government warned shipping to keep away from an area off Dalian for a week, for what it called military activities, but gave no further explanation.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez)

China, not North Korea, to dominate Japan military planning

March 20, 2018

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FILE PHOTO: A Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) soldier takes part in a drill to mobilise their Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile unit in response to a recent missile launch by North Korea, at U.S. Air Force Yokota Air Base in Fussa on the outskirts of Tokyo, Japan August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File PhotoREUTERS

BY TIM KELLY AND Nobuhiro Kubo

TOKYO (Reuters) – North Korea’s growing missile arsenal might be the most obvious and immediate military threat facing Japan, but defense planners in Tokyo are focused on a much larger and more challenging foe as they prepare for the years ahead.

China has stepped up military spending and already dominates the South China Sea, through which Japan’s trade with major markets including Europe and the Middle East flows.

Now, Japanese military experts are worried Beijing may be on the brink of opening access to the Pacific through a Japanese island chain that has marked the limit of China’s military influence for decades.

Tokyo sees unfettered passage for Chinese warships and warplanes through the Okinawan island chain as a threat to vital sea lanes. For China that access is part and parcel of becoming a global superpower.

“Now, we are evenly matched but the reality Japan faces is that it is becoming the underdog,” said Nozomu Yoshitomi, a professor at Nihon University in Tokyo who advised Japan’s government as a Self Defence Forces military analyst.

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CHINESE AMBITION

In addition to having Asia’s second-largest military, Japan is also defended by U.S. forces that have used the country as their main Asia base since the end of World War Two. Under a security treaty, Washington is obliged to aid Tokyo if its territory is attacked.

China has “essentially established de facto control over the South China Sea and the East China Sea is next,” said a retired senior U.S. military commander on condition he wasn’t identified. “The United States, for its part, has been in relative retreat in the Western Pacific for a decade.”

Beijing is ramping up military spending to build a world-class fighting force by 2050 with advanced kit, including stealth jets and, according to state-run media, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

In 2018, Beijing plans to spend 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) on its armed forces, more than three times as much as Japan.

That would also be around a third of what the United States pays for the world’s most powerful military, including 30,000 marines in Okinawa and a navy carrier attack group based near Tokyo.

“The pace of Chinese activity in waters around Japanese territory has expanded and accelerated,” Japan’s Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera said this month. “China is building the capacity to operate in distant seas and that can be see with China’s acquisition of its first carrier and its construction of a second flat top.”

China says its military is for defensive purposes and its intentions in the region are peaceful. China’s Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

HUNKER DOWN

Japan’s defense outlays for the past five years have risen by just 1 percent a year. It will likely grow at around the same pace over the next five year plan as health and welfare spending on an aging population takes priority, a government defense official said.

“Finance is our weakness, but our strength is the resilience of our society,” said another defense ministry adviser, who also asked not to be identified. If Japan is able to hunker down long enough, he explained, the threat from China should recede as future internal strife, economic woes or other events prompt a retreat.

To restrain Beijing in the meantime, Japan needs advanced weaponry and new munitions able to strike targets further away, said the sources with knowledge of the plans.

Japan’s defense reviews, which will likely be released in December, may propose it establish its first joint command headquarters to coordinate air, ground and naval forces and strengthen cooperation with Washington, the sources said.

New equipment may include amphibious ships along with aerial drones to monitor Chinese activity and potentially target missiles in the boost phase of any launch.

Japan’s military will get new air and ground missiles able to hit shipping and land targets at greater ranges. It will also place fresh orders for Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealth fighters including vertical take off and landing versions, the sources said.

The review will lay out plans to train more Ground Self Defence troops (GSDF) in marine fighting tactics and for their wider deployment to Okinawa. The GSDF’s unit there will grow to division strength from a battalion, said former defense minister Gen Nakatani.

Image result for Gen Nakatani, photos

Gen Nakatani

CHINESE PRESSURE

Yet as Tokyo formulates those plans, Beijing is already testing Japanese defenses.

In a maneuver in January that Japan protested as a “serious escalation”, a Chinese submarine entered waters contiguous to disputed islands in the East China Sea claimed as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

That followed a series of longer range sorties by People’s Liberation Army Air Force bombers and fighters.

China can “test the readiness and response of Japanese forces, to better understand Japanese defenses, and, over time, to engage in peacetime attrition,” said Toshi Yoshihara, a professor and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “If Chinese operations become routine, they force Japan to accept the PLA’s growing presence as a fact of life.”

Tokyo was especially alarmed in November when six Xian H-6 bombers flew through a 290 km (180 mile) gap in Japan’s island chain between Okinawa and Miyakojima, accompanied by an electronic warfare TU-154 and a Y-8 monitoring plane.

Image result for Xian H-6 bombers, photos

H-6 bomber

One senior defense official said the exercise “looked like a practice strike package on Guam”, another major U.S. military base.

China’s Defence Ministry did not respond to request for comment on the exercise.

“The pace of Chinese activity is faster than we anticipated,” Nakatani said at his Tokyo office, where an arrow scribbled on a map of Japan on the wall highlighted the breach in the island chain. “Japan’s security environment has not been this harsh since World War Two.”

(Reporting by Tim Kelly and Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

Nuclear-capable B-52 bombers join B-2s, B-1Bs on Guam amid tensions with North Korea

January 16, 2018

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U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber lands at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam on Tuesday. U.S. AIR FORCE photo

BY 

STAFF WRITER

JAN 16, 2018

The U.S. Air Force announced Tuesday that it has deployed six of its powerful B-52 strategic bombers to Guam amid tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea.

The six planes, accompanied by 300 airmen, join three of the air force’s B-2 stealth bombers that were also recently dispatched to the U.S. island territory, home to Andersen Air Force Base, a key American outpost in the Pacific.

The base is also currently hosting several B-1B heavy bombers. While both the B-52 and B-2 are capable of carrying nuclear payloads, the B-1B has been modified to carry conventional ordinance only.

The deployment, conducted “in support of U.S. Pacific Command’s (PACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission,” according to a U.S. Pacific Air Forces statement, is likely to raise eyebrows in North Korea, which last year threatened to fire missiles near Guam.

The B-52s were last deployed to the region in July 2016, during which they conducted a variety of joint and bilateral training missions with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force.

The move, widely seen as a show of American military muscle, was likely intended to reassure Asian allies nervous amid the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“The B-52Hs return to the Pacific will provide U.S. PACOM and its regional allies and partners with a credible, strategic power projection platform, while bringing years of repeated operational experience,” the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said in its statement.

“This forward deployed presence demonstrates the U.S. continued commitment to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” it added.

It was unclear how long the base, some 3,400 km from North Korea, would play host to all three bombers.

Overflights of the Korean Peninsula by heavy bombers such as the B-52, B-2 and B-1B have incensed Pyongyang. The North sees the flights by what it calls “the air pirates of Guam” as a rehearsal for striking its leadership and has routinely lambasted them as “nuclear bomb-dropping drills.”

In November, the U.S. Pacific Air Forces confirmed to The Japan Times that it had flown two B-52s for a rare joint mission with the ASDF in the skies near North Korea in August.

The North has ramped up its threats to the U.S. and its allies in recent months in both words and deeds — including with successful tests of what the country claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb and the separate test of an intercontinental ballistic missile believed capable of striking the American mainland.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/16/asia-pacific/nuclear-capable-b-52-bombers-join-b-2s-b-1bs-guam-amid-tensions-north-korea/#.Wl4OPqinGUk

U.S. deploys three powerful B-2 stealth bombers to Guam amid cooling tensions on Korean Peninsula

January 11, 2018

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BY 

STAFF WRITER

JAN 11, 2018

The U.S. Air Force has sent three B-2 nuclear-capable stealth bombers to Andersen Air Force Base on the island territory of Guam amid cooling tensions with North Korea.

Around 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri were recently deployed to Andersen in support of the U.S. Pacific Command’s Bomber Assurance and Deterrence mission.

“During this short-term deployment, the B-2s will conduct local and regional training sorties and will integrate capabilities with key regional partners, ensuring bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness and crew proficiency,” the U.S. Pacific Air Forces said on its website.

The U.S. Strategic Command regularly rotates bombers through the Indo-Pacific region to conduct Pacific Command-led air operations, “providing leaders with deterrent options to maintain regional stability,” the Pacific Air Forces said.

It was unclear how long the powerful stealth bombers would be deployed to Guam, a strategically important base amid Pyongyang’s tests of increasingly powerful missiles and nuclear bombs.

North Korea has ramped up its threats to the U.S. and its allies in both words and deeds, including successful tests of what the country claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb and the separate test of an intercontinental ballistic missile believed capable of striking the American mainland.

Tensions on the peninsula have cooled somewhat after the first intra-Korean talks in over two years were held Tuesday. North Korea said at those talks that it would attend the Winter Olympics in the South, while both sides agreed to work to resolve problems between them via dialogue and to revive a military hotline and consultations to prevent accidental conflict.

For his part, U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to play down the possibility of conflict, reportedly telling South Korean President Moon Jae-in that there would be no military action of any kind while the two Koreas continue to hold dialogue.

Still, Trump has repeatedly said that “all options remain on the table” — including military action — to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear drive.

Andersen Air Force Base, from which heavy bombers would be dispatched and logistics support could be centered, would play a key role in the event of conflict erupting on the Korean Peninsula.

In late October, the U.S. military sent a B-2 from Whiteman on a long-range mission to the Pacific area of operations after Pentagon chief Jim Mattis highlighted rival North Korea’s “accelerating” atomic weapons program during a visit to South Korea.

The last time one of the stealth bombers flew near the Koreas was during a rare show of force over the peninsula in 2013. Military experts say that any U.S. strike on North Korea would almost certainly involve the powerful bombers.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/01/11/asia-pacific/u-s-deploys-three-powerful-b-2-stealth-bombers-guam-amid-cooling-tensions-korean-peninsula/#.WldZ06inGUk