Posts Tagged ‘US military’

Saudi-led coalition ‘frees’ Yemen’s Hodeidah airport, begins de-mining operations

June 16, 2018

Image result for Houthi, photos

Forces from the Arab Coalition entered the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Saturday, the coalition-backed Yemeni military said, in the biggest offensive of the coalition’s war against the Iran-aligned Houthis.

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Victory for the coalition in their first attempt to capture a strategic part of a well-defended city could put the Houthis in their weakest position since the conflict erupted three years ago.

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A defeat would also cut off supply lines to the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, and possibly force the movement to negotiate.

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“Army forces backed by the resistance and the Arab coalition freed Hodeidah international airport from the grip of the Houthi militia,” the media office of the pro-alliance Yemeni military said on Twitter on Saturday.

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Troops have surrounded the main airport compound but have not seized it, a Yemeni military source and residents said.

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“We need some time to make sure there are no gunmen, mines or explosive in the building,” the military source said. The military’s media office said technical teams were de-mining the surrounding area.

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Fighting in the airport area led to the closure of the northern entrance of Hodeidah, which leads to Sanaa, residents said.

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That has blocked a key exit out of the city and made it more difficult to transport goods from the port, the country’s largest, to mountainous regions.

UN envoy lands in Hodeidah

The UN envoy for Yemen arrived in the militia-held capital Sanaa for talks on the key aid port.

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Martin Griffiths is expected to propose to militia leaders that they cede control of the Red Sea port to a UN-supervised committee to avoid further fighting with advancing government troops which are backed by the Arab coalition.

Seized entrance

Yemeni forces backed by Arab states seized the entrance to the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Friday, in an offensive against the Houthi militia.

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The swift advance was an important early success for the Yemeni forces, which launched the operation in Hodeidah four days ago and says it can liberate the city quickly enough to avoid interrupting aid to millions facing starvation.

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“We saw the resistance forces in the square at the northwestern entrance to the airport,” said a Hodeidah resident, referring to Yemeni allies of the coalition. Two Yemeni military officials allied to the coalition confirmed it.

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Yemeni forces tweeted that they had also seized the airport’s southern entrance, advancing down a main road toward the seaport.

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Residents in the city, controlled by the Houthis, said battles had been fought in the Manzar neighborhood, which abuts the wall surrounding the airport.

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“There have been terrifying bombing runs since the morning when they struck Houthi positions near the airport,” said fish vendor Ammar Ahmed.

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Apache attack helicopters hovered over Manzar, firing at Houthi snipers and fighters in schools and other buildings, said another Hodeidah resident, who asked not to be identified.

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Houthi militia had entered homes overlooking the main road to go onto the roofs. Dozens of Manzar residents fled to the city center on motorcycles, the resident said.

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Streets elsewhere in the city were empty despite the Eid holiday.

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“We are at the edges of the airport and are working to secure it now,” the Arab coalition said in a statement.

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“Operational priority is to avoid civilian casualties, maintain the flow of humanitarian aid, and allow for the UN to press the Houthis to evacuate the city.”

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“I urge all parties to the conflict to meet their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and take active steps to respect international humanitarian law,” said David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Programme.

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Liberating Hodeidah would give the Arab coalition the upper hand in the war, which it has fought since 2015 to restore the internationally recognized government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. But a successful operation would require swiftly liberating a city of 600,000 people, without inflicting damage that would destroy the port.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1321981/middle-east

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French special forces on the ground in Yemen

June 16, 2018

French special forces are present on the ground in Yemen with forces from the United Arab Emirates, French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Saturday, citing two military sources.

The newspaper gave no further information about their activities. The Defence Ministry was not immediately available for comment, but its usual policy is not to comment on special forces’ operations.

A French parliamentary source recently told Reuters French special forces were in Yemen.

Forces from an Arab alliance entered the airport in Yemen’s main port city on Saturday, in the biggest battle of the coalition’s war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

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File Photo

The French Defence Ministry said on Friday that France was studying the possibility of carrying out a mine-sweeping operation to provide access to the port of Hodeidah once the coalition had wrapped up its military operations.

The ministry stressed that France at this stage had no military operations in the Hodeidah region and was not part of the Saudi-led coalition.

France, along with the United States and Britain, backs the Arab coalition in the Yemen conflict and provides weapons to both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas and John Irish; Editing by Adrian Croft

Reuters

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Saudi-led coalition claim control of airport in Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah

June 16, 2018

Forces from an Arab alliance have seized control of the airport in Yemen’s vital port city of Hodeidah, the media office of the Yemeni military allied with the Saudi-led coalition said Saturday.

© AFPTV / AFP | Image grab taken AFPTV shows Yemeni pro-government forces firing a heavy machine gun at the south of Hodeida airport on June 15, 2018.

“Army forces backed by the resistance and the Arab alliance freed Hodeidah international airport from the grip of the Houthi militia,” the media office said on Twitter on Saturday.

It said technical teams were now de-mining the area.

The Saudi-Emirati coalition began an offensive to capture Hodeidah from the control of the Yemeni Shiite Houthi militia on Wednesday amid mounting international concerns over the humanitarian situation in the world’s poorest Arab nation.

Yemeni officials said dozens of pro-government fighters have been killed since the assault began, mainly from land mines and roadside bombs disguised as rocks or sacks of wheat. On the rebel side, bodies of Houthi fighters were strewn across the front lines.

‘Mouth of Yemen’

Aid workers have warned the assault on Hodieda’s port, known as the “mouth of Yemen,” could shut down the vital route for some 70 percent of Yemen’s food and humanitarian aid. Two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.

ICRC

@ICRC

Why can’t we save her life?

Hospitals, doctors, and nurses are

The Saudi-led coalition accuses the Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and missiles from Iran. The rebels have been raining ballistic missiles down on Saudi cities from across the border. The port is also a lucrative source of revenue for the Houthis, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014.

The United Arab Emirates’ minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said that the battle over Hodeida is essential to break a stalemate in the civil war, which otherwise could drag on for years.

Seizing the port “means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun,” he said in a post on Twitter. “If they keep Hodeida and its revenues and its strategic location, the war will last a long time and (add to) the suffering of the Yemeni people.”

د. أنور قرقاش

@AnwarGargash

Depriving the Houthis of their control of Hodeida port, at the Yemeni government’s request, means that the Houthis will no longer be able to impose their will at the barrel of a gun.

Hodeida, home to nearly 600,000 people, is some 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, which is under Houthi control.

Red Cross warnings

The Saudi-led coalition has imposed an air, sea, and land embargo on Yemen since March 2015, aiming to dislodge the Houthis from the territory they control, paralysing trade and access to the country. The coalition air campaign and Houthi bombardment have left more than 10,000 people dead and 2 million displaced, and devastated the country’s already fragile infrastructure, including the health sector, which has helped spawn a cholera epidemic.

In a series of tweets, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the people in Hodeida were “bracing for the worst,” and tens of thousands were expected to flee in the coming days, some for a second time.

“People live in slums in the outskirts surviving on bread crumbs they find in the garbage. With the little money they do have, they buy cooking oil in plastic bags – just enough to cook one meal a day,” the group said, citing the accounts of staffers.

France contemplates demining effort

Meanwhile, the US, which has backed the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence, logistical support and aerial refueling of fighter jets, has not publicly opposed the assault but has urged the coalition to ensure that humanitarian aid deliveries to the port continue.

Washington however rejected three requests by the UAE to increase its support to the coalition with logistics, intelligence, and mine-sweeping operations.

Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US has continued to provide aerial refueling for coalition aircraft and intelligence assistance. That aid includes information on key civilian sites that should not be targeted in order to avoid civilian casualties.

“We are not directly supporting the coalition offensive on the port of Hodeida,” Rankine-Galloway said. “The United States does not command, accompany or participate in counter-Houthi operations or any hostilities other than those authorized” against al Qaida and Islamic State (IS) group militants in Yemen.

The request for mine sweepers was diverted to France, which said it was considering minesweeping in Hodeida after the end of military operations there.

“Its purpose would be to facilitate the safe transport of humanitarian aid to the city’s population,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The rebels have planted thousands of land mines and roadside bombs on the outskirts of the airport that have killed dozens of coalition-backed fighters, Yemeni officials said.

“Nearly 95 percent of the causalities are because of land mines and roadside bombs,” said a medical official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the press.  He shared pictures of land mines and roadside bombs that were disguised as rocks and sacks of wheat.

The Conflict Armament Research Center said earlier that the bombs are similar to those used by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and by insurgents in Iraq and Bahrain.

Human Rights Watch urged the UN Security Council on Friday to warn the warring parties that they will face sanctions if they fail to provide civilians access to desperately needed aid.

In the face of international concerns over the humanitarian situation, the UAE said on Friday that it would begin sending aid by air and sea to Hodeida, the state-run WAM news agency said. At least 10 UAE ships carrying 13,500 tons of food and aid, as well as three flights, were planned for Hodeida, it said.

Quitting Syria too soon would be a ‘blunder’: Mattis

June 9, 2018

US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis warned Friday it would be a “strategic blunder” to pull out of Syria before UN-led peace efforts had made progress.

A US-led coalition is conducting military operations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Mattis said they must not leave a “vacuum” that President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies could take advantage of.

© POOL/AFP | US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis warned that coalition forces leaving Syria could create a “vacuum”

Talks in Geneva led by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura have made little headway, but Mattis said they must be given the chance to succeed.

“In Syria, leaving the field before the special envoy Staffan de Mistura achieves success in advancing the Geneva political process we all signed for under the UN security council resolution would be a strategic blunder, undercutting our diplomats and giving the terrorists the opportunity to recover,” Mattis said at a meeting of coalition defence ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

IS seized parts of a town on the Syria-Iraq border on Friday in the latest in a string of attacks that comes as the continued presence of coalition forces in Syria is coming into question.

US President Donald Trump has vowed he would pull out his troops from Syria but Mattis has pleaded for a more patient approach.

“As the operations ultimately draw to a close, we must avoid leaving a vacuum in Syria that can be exploited by the Assad regime or its supporters,” Mattis said.

AFP

South China Sea: US warns of capacity to ‘blow apart’ China’s artificial islands

June 5, 2018

 

Satellite imagery shows that China deployed new weapons, including likely missile systems, and J-11 fighter jets to Woody Island in the Paracels for live fire military exercises in May.

CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
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Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – June 1, 2018 – 12:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — Following Beijing’s deployment of new weapons to its outposts in the South China Sea, a Pentagon official warned that Washington has the capacity to take down these man-made islands.

Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., US Department of Defense joint staff director, said that the US has experience in taking down small isolated islands during World War II.

“I would just tell you that the United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific, taking down small islands,” MacKenzie said in a press briefing Thursday.

MacKenzie, however, clarified that he was not trying to send a message to China but only stating a fact.

“That’s a core competency of the US military that we’ve done before. You shouldn’t read anything more into that than a simple statement of historical fact,” he said.

Echoing US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ statement earlier this week, MacKenzie stressed that the United States would continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the region.

China, meanwhile, accused the United States of “playing up” the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying noted that US military presence in the region exceeds China’s military strength.

“We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability,” Hua said in a press briefing.

Earlier this week, the Chinese Ministry of Defense confirmed that it has deployed warships to warn US Navy warships sailing near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

The US Navy’s USS Antietam and USS Higgins reportedly sailed within 12 nautical miles of four islands in the Paracels while conducting freedom of navigation operations.

“China firmly opposes this. The Chinese army is determined to strengthen the preparations for sea and air combat readiness, raise the level of defense, defend national sovereignty and security, and maintain the determination of regional peace and stability,” Chinese Ministry of National Defense spokesperson Wu Qian said.

The Pentagon had disinvited the Chinese Navy from this year’s Rim of the Pacific Exercises as an “initial response” to Beijing’s recent actions in the South China Sea.

The US said it has strong evidence that China deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to its bases on the Spratly Islands. Washington also expressed concern over Beijing’s landing of an H-6K bomber aircraft on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracel Islands.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/06/01/1820683/us-warns-capacity-blow-apart-chinas-artificial-islands#z2hr3HQ7ZDsPtx5p.99

Trump: US ready for military action against North Korea

May 24, 2018

President Trump said Thursday that his cancellation of the much-ballyhooed summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un next month was “a tremendous setback” for the rogue regime.

“I believe that this is a tremendous setback for North Korea and, indeed, a setback for the world,” the president said in brief remarks from the White House.

And he issued a blunt warning that the US and its Asian allies were ready to respond if the North were to take military action.

“I’ve spoken to [Defense Secretary] General [James] Mattis and the joint chiefs of staff and our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world that has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know, is ready if necessary,” he said.

“Likewise, I have spoken to South Korea and Japan, and they are not only ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea, but they are willing to shoulder much of the cost of any financial burden, any of the costs associated by the United States in operations if such an unfortunate situation is forced upon us.”

Trump also said that tough sanctions would remain in place — but left the door open to rescheduling the summit.

“If and when Kim Jong Un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting,” he said.

The president paired his tough talk about military action with words of praise for the leader he had often mocked as “Little Rocket Man.”

“They want to do what’s right. I really believe Kim Jong-un wants to do what’s right, so hopefully things will work out,” he said in response to reporter’s questions.

“We have a wonderful, there’s been a very good working relationship. It started with the hostages coming back home. The hostages came home, we didn’t have to pay, we wouldn’t have paid, but they came back home. They’re now safely ensconced in their houses and they’re very happy and thrilled, and they never thought it was going to happen,” Trump said.

The chances for rescheduling the summit and reaching agreement with the North remained good, he added,
“The dialogue was good until recently. I really believe we have a great opportunity. We’ll see whether or not that opportunity is seized by North Korea. If it is, great for them and great for the world. If it isn’t, it will be just fine,” he said.

Trump had earlier abruptly canceled next month’s summit with Kim in a letter citing the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent statement by the North that called Vice President Pence a “political dummy.”

Trump said in the letter to Kim released by the White House that, based on the statement, he felt it was “inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”

Adding his own threat, he said that while the North Koreans talk about their nuclear capabilities, “ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” a remark reminiscent of his boast that his nuclear button was bigger than Kim Jong-un’s.

The abrupt cancellation of the June 12 meeting withdraws the US for now from an unprecedented summit that offered the prospect of a historic nuclear peace treaty or an epic diplomatic failure.

No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korea leader — and Trump agreed to the sitdown with scant input from the administration’s nationl security and foreign policy teams.

In the North Korean statement that Trump cited, a top Foreign Ministry official called Pence as a “political dummy” for his comments on the North, and said it was up to the US whether they would “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”

Trump — who had earlier praised the murderous dictator Kim as “honorable — said the world was losing a “great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.”

But he left the door open to the chance that the summit could yet be rescheduled.

“If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write,” he wrote in unusually personal language for a diplomatic communication with the head of an enemy state.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testifying on Capitol Hill, said North Korea had not responded to repeated requests from US officials to discuss logistics for the summit.

He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the lack of responses was an additional reason for Trump’s decision.

Pompeo said the North’s attitude had changed markedly since he returned from a trip to Pyongyang earlier this month during which he met with Kim and oversaw the release of three Americans being held there.

Pompeo had said a day earlier that he expected the summit to take place as scheduled.

The cancellation came shortly after Kim made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on.

The explosions at the test site deep in the mountains of the North’s sparsely populated northeast were supposed to build confidence ahead of the summit.

But the closing of the site was not an irreversible move and would need to be followed by many more significant measures to meet the demand for real denuclearization.

The president had agreed to the historic sit-down in March after months of trading insults and nuclear threats with the North Korean leader.

But after criticism from North Korea, Trump cast doubt this week on whether the meeting would happen.

White House officials had privately predicted for weeks that the summit could be canceled once or twice before actually taking place, owing to the hard-nosed style of the two leaders.

Trump has seemed to welcome chatter of a Nobel Peace Prize — claiming that “everyone” thought he should get the coveted award.

The commander-in-chief’s allies in Congress predictably applauded the president, saying he was justified in pulling out.

“North Korea has a long history of demanding concessions merely to negotiate. While past administrations of both parties have fallen for this ruse, I commend the president for seeing through Kim Jong Un’s fraud,” said Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton.

Critics were less impressed.

New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, called the development “another embarrassment for the country,” adding “This is not ding dong school. It’s serious.”

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China Has Harsh Words for U.S. After China Kicked Out of U.S. Military Exercise

May 24, 2018

The Pentagon’s withdrawal of the invitation was ‘an initial response’ to what it called China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea

South China Morning Post
Thursday, 24 May, 2018, 6:15am

China’s top diplomat denounced a rebuke by the US military while in Washington, the latest test of a bilateral relationship already damaged by recriminations on the economic front.

The US military said it had disinvited China from a multinational military exercise to be held this summer in the Pacific as “an initial response” to what it called “China’s continued militarisation of the South China Sea”.

News of the withdrawn invitation, which broke shortly before China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, prompted Wang to accuse the US of having a “negative mindset”.

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During the Obama administration, China repeadedly promised not to militarize the South China Sea. Then U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with China’s Wang Yi.

“China’s continued militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilise the region,” Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a spokesman at the US Defence Department, said in a statement explaining the withdrawal of China’s invitation to the 2018 Rim of the Pacific naval drills.

“China’s behaviour is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the Rim of the Pacific exercises.”

The US’s move comes just days after the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force disclosed that its highly advanced H-6K strategic bomber landed for the first time on an island reef in the South China Sea, which the US Defence Department immediately denounced.

The inclusion of China in the Pacific naval drills was “designed to help with misunderstandings and to build upon cooperation, which was supposed to help deal with the most contentious issues”, said Oriana Skylar Mastro, assistant professor of security studies at Georgetown University and the Jeane Kirkpatrick Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The logic behind these military exchanges has weakened,” Mastro said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

“The US position was that through engagement, China would come to understand that they were better off when the US is in charge,” she said. “I thought that was naive from the very beginning, but now I think many areas of the US government are coming to that conclusion.”

In its statement, the Pentagon said the US had “strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands (Nansha in Mandarin) region of the South China Sea”.

“China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island (Yongxing in Mandarin) has also raised tensions,” the statement said.

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Speaking in a joint press conference with Pompeo, Wang said: “We find the Pentagon’s decision today of dis-invitation a very non-constructive move. It is also a decision that’s taken lightly. It’s unhelpful to the mutual understanding between China and the US.”

Pompeo said in the briefing that he had raised the US “concern” about China’s activities in the South China Sea with Wang, and that he would leave decisions about international military exercises up to the Defence Department.

Hong Kong-based military observer Song Zhongping said that China’s landing of the H-6K bomber on Woody Island was aimed at strengthening China’s military presence in the region after US B-52 bombers flew there during a so-called routine training mission in April, flights described by Beijing as a “provocative move”.

The US has called on China to remove the military systems immediately and reverse course on the militarisation of disputed South China Sea features, the Pentagon said.

China is “using techniques and tools below the threshold of armed conflict as a way to coerce the behaviour of other countries and ultimately be able to establish its claims [in the South China Sea], whether or not they are consistent with international law”, Evan Medeiros, the managing director of Asia at the Eurasia Group, said this week in a panel discussion organised by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

“That has generated a lot of reaction on the part of America and East Asia and it’s intensified the security dilemma,” said Medeiros, who served as special assistant to former president Barack Obama and as an Obama-era senior director for Asian affairs at the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

“While I’ve often thought the US-China security relationship was best characterised as a low-intensity security dilemma, I think it’s inevitable that it’s moving into a period of high-intensity security dilemma and that’s only going to increase in the next five to 10 years,” he said.

The PLA Navy had been invited in May 2017 to take part in this year’s Rim of the Pacific exercises. The world’s largest international naval exercise, it is held biennially in the summer months of even-numbered years in the waters around the Hawaiian islands and southern California.

Twenty-six nations originally were to participate in the drill, which usually lasts a couple of weeks. China has taken part twice. In 2016, its navy dispatched five ships and 1,200 personnel to the exercises.

Earlier this month, the White House had said it was prepared to take measures against the militarisation of the South China Sea, after Beijing reportedly installed new missiles on outposts in the Spratlys, which are also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.

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In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.

Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File

“We’re well aware of China’s militarisation of the South China Sea,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time. “We’ve raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this, and there will be near-term and long-term consequences.”

US network CNBC had reported that the Chinese military had installed anti-ship and air-to-air defences on the islands, citing sources close to US intelligence.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying would neither confirm nor deny the deployment.

“China’s peaceful construction in the Spratly archipelago, including the deployment of necessary national defence facilities, is aimed at protecting China’s sovereignty and security,” she said. “Those who don’t intend to violate [this sovereignty] have no reason to worry.”

The US Navy itself frequently sends warships and aircraft carriers to patrol the area.

“China has to realise that they’ve benefited from the free navigation of the sea, and the US Navy has been the guarantor of that,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said. “We will continue to do our operations. ”

Washington and Beijing are already engaged in high-level dialogues to resolve disputes over a record trade deficit China has with the US, restrictions that foreign companies in the country face in terms of market access, and forced transfers of technology to Chinese companies.

A second round of negotiations between the two countries’ top economic advisers last week helped stave off an all-out, bilateral trade war.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers are pushing legislation that would tighten scrutiny over Chinese acquisitions of US companies, citing concerns that such activity is undermining America’s national security.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2147482/us-disinvites-china-pacific-rim-military-exercise

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

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Above: China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier

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The Philippines says it “owns” Mischief Reef, but there is not one known Filipinos living there. China has militarized the South China Sea — even though they have no legal claim. This is Mischief Reef, now an extensive Chinese military base — one of seven Chinese military bases near the Philippines
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US: We have strong evidence China deployed missiles, bombers in Spratlys near the Philippines

May 24, 2018

Image may contain: ocean, sky, water, outdoor and nature

Above: Philippine Coast Guard on Patrol.

Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) – May 24, 2018 – 11:07am

MANILA, Philippines — Citing strong evidence that Beijing has deployed weapons and jammers in the Spratly Islands, Washington called out Chinese President Xi Jinping for violating his promise not to militarize the South China Sea.

The Pentagon withdrew its invitation for China to participate in the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RimPac), a multinational naval exercise that the US hosts every year.

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said in a statement.

China’s landing of bomber aircraft on Woody Island in the Paracel Islands has also raised tension, the Pentagon noted.

Logan pointed out that China’s behavior in the South China Sea was inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RimPac Exercise, which the US military considers the largest international maritime exercise.

The Pentagon said that the decision to disinvite China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy from the maritime exercise was an “initial response” to China’s militarization of the disputed waterway.

“China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region,” Logan said.

Beijing has insisted that the construction of artificial islands were meant for non-military functions but the installment of weapons on the islands is for military use, the Pentagon said.

“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands,” the Pentagon spokesman said.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meanwhile, said that the decision was “unhelpful to mutual understanding” between the two countries and urged the US to change its “negative mindset.”

In a joint news conference with US State Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington, Wang described the deployments as necessary defense of China’s sovereign territory. He compared China’s defense facilities to US military presence in Hawaii and Guam.

Image result for wang Yi photos
During the Obama administration, China repeadedly promised not to militarize the South China Sea

Washington’s decision to disinvite Beijing from RimPac comes a week before the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense summit which will be held in Singapore.

Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at Rand Corporation, said that disinviting China shortly before the defense summit was “pretty cold” and “embarrassing” for Beijing.

“[US Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis now has real momentum going into [Shangri-La Dialogue] as most participants agree with US position,” Grossman said in Twitter.

China had insisted that the deployment of an H-6K bomber on Woody Island, its largest base in the Paracels, were a normal training of Chinese military.

“The South China Sea Islands are China’s territory. The relevant military activities are the normal training of the Chinese military and there is no need for other parties to over-interpret that,” Chinese Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said in a press briefing Monday.

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PENTAGON, SOUTH CHINA SEA, US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
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In this undated file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The China Daily newspaper reported Saturday, May 19, 2018 that People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.

Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File
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China Disinvited from Participating in 2018 RIMPAC Exercise

The People’s Republic of China Chinese Navy multi-role frigate Hengshui (572) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) transit in formation during Rim of the Pacific 2016 on July 28, 2016. US Navy photo.

The U.S. military has disinvited China from participating in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific exercise in Hawaii, a Defense Department spokesman announced.

Citing actions in the South China Sea that run counter to international norms and a pursuit of free and open seas, Department of Defense spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan said the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) would not be participating in the exercise despite its participation in submarine safety and other non-warfighting components of the exercise in previous years.

“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region. As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise,” Logan said.

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions,” he continued.
“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands.”

U.S. 3rd Fleet spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Julie Holland told USNI News that China had been scheduled to be part of the Combined Task Force (CTF) 175, led by U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL-750) and joined by ships from several nations’ navies, as well as in CTF 171, led by U.S. naval expeditionary dive and salvage forces. PLAN would have brought four ships total, including its hospital ship Peace Ark, as well as a salvage diving team.

China participated in the 2016 exercise despite tensions at the time. Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in April 2016, “Our approach to security in the region, as I indicated there, has always been to try to include everyone, so that’s our basic approach. So even as we stand strong and improve all of our systems and stand strong with our allies – and develop new partnerships with countries like India and Vietnam that we don’t have decades of experience with, like the Philippines; they’re all coming to us, in part because they’re concerned about China – but we’re still taking the approach of, everybody ought to work together here. So if the Chinese want to participate, I think it’s the right place for us to be. Come on, and instead of standing apart from everybody and isolating yourself and excluding yourself, try to be part of the system of cooperative nations that have made, as I said, the Asian miracle possible.”

In 2012 China was invited to participate in the 2014 exercise – where the PLAN sent four invited ships and one uninvited spy ship – and soon afterwards the U.S. invited China to rejoin them again in 2016. Despite South China Sea tensions and other friction between the two countries, naval leaders have long spoke of the importance of rehearsing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drills together, communicating at sea to avoid collisions, and practicing safe ship handling and rescue drills in case of an emergency.

Russia, however, was not allowed to participate in 2016 due to its annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine. Still, the Russian Navy sent a destroyer to follow USS America (LHA-6) and a spy ship to monitor the exercise.

 

The following is the complete statement by Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Logan: 

“The United States is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific. China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serve to raise tensions and destabilize the region. As an initial response to China’s continued militarization of the South China Sea we have disinvited the PLA Navy from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise. China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principles and purposes of the RIMPAC exercise.”

“We have strong evidence that China has deployed anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, and electronic jammers to contested features in the Spratly Islands region of the South China Sea. China’s landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island has also raised tensions.”

“While China has maintained that the construction of the islands is to ensure safety at sea, navigation assistance, search and rescue, fisheries protection, and other non-military functions the placement of these weapon systems is only for military use.”

“We have called on China to remove the military systems immediately and to reverse course on the militarization of disputed South China Sea features.”

“We believe these recent deployments and the continued militarization of these features is a violation of the promise that President Xi made to the United States and the World not to militarize the Spratly Islands.”

https://news.usni.org/2018/05/23/china-disinvited-participating-2018-rimpac-exercise

As US Military Effectiveness And Diplomacy Fade, Many Countries Start Ignoring Washington

May 6, 2018

Diplomatic work continues in some of the areas with the highest geopolitical tensions in the world. In recent days there have been high-level meetings and contacts between Turkey, Iran and Russia over the situation in Syria; meetings between Modi and Xi Jinping to ease tensions between India and China; and finally, the historic meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. The common component in all these meetings is the absence of the United States, which may explain the excellent progress that has been seen.

By Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation
Zero Hedge

 

The meeting between Modi and Xi Jinping in China offered a regional example, confirmed by the words of Wang Yi, member of the State Counsel of the People’s Republic of China:

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“Our [India and China] common interests outweigh our differences. The summit will go a long way towards deepening the mutual trust between the two great neighbors. We will make sure that the informal summit will be a complete success and a new milestone in the history of China-India relations”.

Given the tensions in August 2017 in the Himalayan border area between the two countries, the progress achieved in the last nine months bodes well for a further increase in cooperation between the two nations. Bilateral trade stands at around $85 billion a year, with China as India’s largest trading partner. The meeting between Modi and Xi also serves to deepen the already existing framework between the two countries in international organizations like BRICS, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in which they are integral participants. It is imaginable that negotiations on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be in full swing, with Beijing keen to involve New Delhi more in the project. Such a prospect is particularly helped by three very powerful investment vehicles put in place by Beijing, namely, the New Development Bank (formerly the BRICS Development Bank), the AIIB, and the Silk Road Fund.

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Xi Jinping will be seeking to ​​progressively entice India closer to the BRI project through attractive and mutually beneficial commercial arrangements. However, this objective remains complicated and difficult to implement. Beijing is aware of this and has already expressed its intention not to impose the BRI on the neighboring country. With much of the future global and regional architecture depending on these two countries, the good understanding shown between Xi Jinping and Modi bodes well, especially given the commonly aligned objectives represented by the multitude of international organizations and frameworks on which China and India sit side by side.

Another bit of important news for the Asian region has been the meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un, which was recently examined in an article published in Strategic Culture Foundation. As discussed in that article, the intention of the two leaders is to reunite the two Koreas, to denuclearize the peninsula, and to sign a peace treaty between the North and South, whose unprecedented implications entail such questions as whether there is a future role of for the United States on the peninsula. As stated before, the rapprochement between the two Koreas does not play into Washington’s favor, which relies on the South as a strategic foothold to contain China, justifying its presence on the purported need to confront North Korea. With an all-encompassing peace agreement, this justification would cease to exist. It seems that the goal for US policy-makers will be to find an opportunity to sabotage the North-South agreement and blame Kim Jong-un for its failure. Without engaging in a diplomatic tiff with its South Korean ally, the deep state in Washington does not intend to surrender one inch of its military presence on the peninsula, and would even look favorably on the negotiations failing to further damage Trump and his administration.

This is an internal deep-state war that has been going on for years. Obama wanted to abandon the Middle East in order to focus on containing China, altering the military’s structure accordingly to return to a more Cold War stance. This explains the agreement with Iran in order to free the US from its Middle East involvement so as to be able to focus mainly on Asia and to promote it as the most important region for the United States. This strategic intention has met with enormous opposition from two of the most influential lobbies in the American political system, the Israeli and Saudi Arabian. Without the United States, these two countries would be unable to stop Iran’s peaceful but impressive ascent in the region.

Listening to four-star generals like Robert Neller (Commandant of the Marine Corps) and others less distinguished, one comes to appreciate the extent to which the US military is in strategic chaos. The military has been the victim of epochal changes with each presidency. Pentagon planners would like to simultaneously confront countries like Russia, China and Iran, but in the process only decrease effectiveness due to imperial overstretch. Other politicians, especially from the neocon area, argue for the need to transform the US armed forces from a force suitable for fighting small countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria), Middle Eastern insurgencies, or terrorist groups (a pretext originating from the 1990’s and the first Gulf War), to a military able to face its peer competitors with all weapons available. Such a realignment does not occur over a short period of time and requires an enormous amount of money to reorganize the armed forces.

In this struggle between components of the deep state, Trump lumbers into a policy that stems from his electoral campaign rather than a considered strategy. Trump showed himself in his campaign to be strongly pro-Israel and strongly pro-armed forces, which has had the practical result of increasing military spending. Tens of billions of dollars worth of agreements have been realized with the richest country in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, for arms purchases, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is viewed negatively. Trump’s interventions in Syria confirm that he is under the strong influence of that part of the deep state that is adamant that the United States should always be present in the Middle East, should openly oppose Iran, and, above all, should prevent the Shiite arc from extending its influence to cover Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The reasoning employed by Trump and his administration confirms this direction in Washington’s strategy, involving greater cooperation with Beijing to solve the Korean issue; less of an effort to decrease Moscow’s influence in Syria and in the Middle East in general; and greater belligerence towards Iran, with a general shift away from Asia and towards the Middle East, backtracking away from Obama’s pivot to Asia.

Trump seems to give the impression of wanting to face China from an unprecedented direction, with a trade war that would inevitably end up damaging all sides.

In this ad hoc strategy, the European allies play an important role in Washington’s intention to cancel or modify the Iranian nuclear agreement. Following the meetings in Washington between Trump and Macron, and then with Merkel, both European leaders seem more or less open to a modification of the JCPOA, provided that Trump backs away from placing tariffs on European countries, an appeal to which the English premier Theresa May adds her name. It seems a desperate tactic, given that one of the issues Trump is pinning his 2020 campaign on is being able to fix the trade imbalances between the US and the EU, without which he will be unable to claim to have kept his promises.

The United States has many cards to play, but none is decisive. In Korea, the peace process depends very little on Trump’s intentions and more on the willingness of the two key parties to reach a historic agreement to improve the lives of all citizens of the peninsula. I predict the deep state will try to blame the DPRK for a failure of the negotiations, thereby bringing to Asia the chaos in international relations that the US has successfully brought to other parts of the world. The People’s Republic of China will therefore try to replace the United States in negotiations in order to bring the two negotiating parties closer together.

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In the same way, an attempt to sabotage the JCPOA will only drive Russia, China and Iran into a strategic triangle, about which I was writing more than a year ago. A unilateral exit from the nuclear agreement will help delegitimize Washington’s international role, together with the sabotage by the deep state of the peace agreement in Korea. It will be a pincer effect resulting from the chaos and the internal struggle of North American and European elites.

Success in the negotiations in Korea could pave the way for a protection umbrella for the DPRK guaranteed by China and Russia, in the same way the two could grant Iran all the diplomatic support necessary to resist the American and European pressure to cancel the JCPOA. Ultimately, the rapprochement between India and China, in view of important agreements on the BRI, could seal comity and cooperation between the two giants, leading the Eurasian area under the definitive influence of India, China, Russia and Iran, and guaranteeing a future of peaceful economic development to the most important area of ​​the globe.

The United States finds itself divided by a war within the elite, where Trump’s presidency is continually attacked and de-legitimized, while the coordinated assault on the dollar continues apace through gold, the petroyuan, and blockchain technology. US military power is showing itself to be a paper tiger unable to change the course of events on the ground, as seen recently in Syria. The loss of diplomatic credibility resulting from the sabotage of the JCPOA, and Washington’s inability to sit down and sincerely negotiate with the DPRK, will deliver the final coup de grace to a country that is struggling to even remain friendship with her European allies (sanctions imposed on Russia, sanctions on European companies participating in the North Stream 2, and tariffs in a new trade war).

The US deep state remains on this path of self-destruction, perennially torn between opposing strategies, which only accelerates Washington’s unipolar decline and the emergence in its place of a multipolar world order, with New Delhi, Moscow, Beijing and Tehran as new poles over an immense area  comprising the Middle east and all of Eurasia.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-05-05/us-military-effectiveness-and-diplomacy-fade-many-countries-start-ignoring

Related:

US, UK, France launch strikes on Syrian chemical weapons capabilities

April 14, 2018

In retaliation for a chemical weapons attack in Douma, US President Donald Trump has said the US military launched strikes on Syrian chemical weapons capabilities. Russia has warned of “consequences” for the strikes.

US military strike on Damascus
  • The US, UK and France have launched precision airstrikes on military and chemical research sites in Syria in retaliation for the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians last week.
  • Both the Syrian government and its ally Russia have condemned the attack as a violation of international law.
  • The US has said that any future strikes would depend on whether or not further chemical attacks are carried out but that the country does not seek an “indefinite presence” in Syria.

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the United States, United Kingdom and France had launched precision strikes on Syrian military sites believed to be housing chemical weapons facilities following last week’s chemical weapons attack in Douma, which the US said was carried out by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air,” Trump said of the attack. “These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”

Read more: Syria: US claims it has proof Assad regime behind Douma chemical attack

Reports of loud blasts were heard in the Syrian capital of Damascus during Trump’s speech. The airstrikes began around 4 a.m. local time in Syria (0100 UTC), turning the sky over eastern Damascus orange. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor, the strikes struck a number of military bases and a scientific research center.

Department of State

@StateDept

Tonight, @POTUS Donald J. Trump addressed the nation to announce a combined operation- with the and – of precision strikes against sites associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of the regime in .

Russia’s ambassador the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said “such actions will not be left without consequences” and that “all responsibility for them rests upon Washington, London and Paris.”

Russia in USA 🇷🇺

@RusEmbUSA

Statement by the Ambassador Antonov on the strikes on :
A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.
All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.

The Russian Foreign Affairs Committee also added that the Syria strikes were an attempt to block a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was scheduled Saturday to begin looking into the alleged poison gas attack. Moscow also condemned the airstrikes as a violation of international law.

Read more: What does the chemical weapons watchdog OPCW do?

Syrian state media slammed the strikes as a “flagrant violation of international law” and “doomed to fail.” It added that three civilians had been injured during the attack on the military base in Homs, while another strike on a scientific research center was restricted to material losses.

Over the last few days, Trump had met with military advisers and conversed with allies to decide how to respond to the use of chemical weapons in the eastern Ghouta city of Douma outside of the capital.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said, adding that he did not want to maintain an “indefinite” US presence in the region.

“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”

May: ‘No alternative’

Following Trump’s announcement, British Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement saying the UK had “no alternative” but to use force in Syria. “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized — within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world,” the statement read.

May said the strikes were specifically aimed at destroying Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, and that the three-way coalition did not intend to intervene in the Syrian civil war or force regime change.

Read more: Macron: Assad regime used chemical weapons on Syria’s Douma

Macron: Assad has crossed ‘red line’

French President Emmanuel Macron said the joint operation would target the Syrian government’s “clandestine chemical arsenal.”

Last week’s attack on Douma had “crossed a red line for France,” Macron added. “We cannot tolerate the trivialization of the use of chemical weapons which presents an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security.”

Emmanuel Macron

@EmmanuelMacron

Dozens of men, women and children were massacred using chemical weapons in Douma on Saturday, 7 April.
The red line has been crossed.
I have therefore ordered the French armed forces to intervene.http://www.elysee.fr/communiques-de-presse/article/press-statement-by-the-president-of-the-french-republic-on-the-intervention-of-the-french-armed-forces-in-response-to-the-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-syria/ 

All three Western allies had said this week that they had evidence Bashar al-Assad’s government was responsible for last Saturday’s attack and that the regime would have to pay a price for using chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime and Russia have denied any use of banned weapons.

Read more: The German stance on Syria: Ready to help, but not militarily

70-minute air strikes a ‘one-time shot’

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a Pentagon press briefing that Friday night’s targets were hit harder than last year’s single hit on a Syrian airfield, which is estimated to have wiped out around 20 percent of the Assad regime’s air power. He added that the time had come for “civilized nations” to unite to end the Syrian war.

Mattis said forces used around the double amount the missiles in the latest attack, compared to last year. In all, three main Syrian military sites were targeted — a research facility in Damascus connected to the production of weapons, a chemical weapons storage facility in Homs, and a weapons storage and command post near Homs.

Dana W. White – DoD

@ChiefPentSpox

This evening’s statement by Mattis on from the : http://go.usa.gov/xQbe2 

Statement by Secretary James N. Mattis on Syria

Good evening. As the world knows, the Syrian people have suffered terribly under the prolonged brutality of the Assad regime.On April 7th, the regime decided to again defy the norms of civilized

defense.gov

Unlike the president, US military officials said the current wave of strikes were over after just 70 minutes and that any future strikes would depend on whether the Assad regime conducts any future chemical attacks. “Right now this is a one-time shot,” Mattis said.

US Joints Chief of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said he had not been aware of any response from the Assad regime in terms Syrian air defense.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that none of the strikes in Syria had hit areas near its naval and air bases, though news agencies reported that the Syrian government had responded to the air attack with surface-to-air-missiles. Syrian state television reported that the regime’s air defense managed to shoot down around 13 missiles over Damascus..

Read more: What foreign powers want from the Syrian war

Trump addresses Russia and Iran

Trump also used his speech to directly address Assad’s key backers, Russia and Iran.

“What kind of a nation wants to be associated with a mass murderer of innocent men, women and children?” the president said, adding that “nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.”

Trump also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of failing to keep his promise to see that the Syrian regime destroyed its stockpile of chemical weapons.

Ahead of the western allies’ strikes on Syria, several officials raised concerns over the prospect of a broader conflict in the region between the world’s powers. However, Dunford said that the Russian military had been told in advance of the incoming airstrikes, but not where the targets were. The targeted sites were also chosen to limit the loss of life and avoid hitting Russian forces altogether, Dunford added.

cmb,dm/jlw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

Includes videos:

http://www.dw.com/en/us-uk-france-launch-strikes-on-syrian-chemical-weapons-capabilities/a-43384179