28 June 2017

News Story: N. Korea is clearly advancing H-bomb development - Hecker

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea clearly has the ability to produce tritium internally, a basic element for making hydrogen bombs, although the country has yet to weaponize it, an American nuclear expert said Tuesday.

"The evidence is quite clear that North Korea is able to produce tritium, which is necessary for a hydrogen bomb to create fusion. So you need tritium when you are going to have hydrogen bombs," Siegfried Hecker, a professor at Standford University, told a group of journalists here.

During his 2010 trip to North Korea, he was allowed to take a look into the country's uranium-enrichment facility in Yongbyon.

North Korea claimed it used a hydrogen bomb when it conducted its fourth nuclear test in January last year, although it has not been proven.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: S. Korean gov't 'honors' THAAD decision - vice minister

SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- The Moon Jae-in administration of South Korea honors an "alliance decision" to deploy a high-profile U.S. missile defense system here as it strives to enhance the transparency of relevant domestic procedures, a top defense official said Tuesday.

Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk visited Seongju, where the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK)'s THAAD battery is in partial operation.

Meeting with residents there, he pointed out that the THAAD deployment is an alliance decision aimed at countering North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threats, according to his ministry.

"He clearly delivered the government's position that it honors the decision and requested active cooperation from local residents," the ministry said.

Suh was also quoted as telling them that such illicit acts as the blockade of roads can never be justified.

Seongju, a traditionally tranquil town situated some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul and known for melon farming, has become a venue for daily protest rallies since a private golf course there was picked as the site for the USFK's THAAD base in July last year.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: S. Korea begins prototype production of light armed chopper

Korean LAH developmental mock-up (File Photo)
SEOUL, June 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea said Tuesday it has started to assemble the first prototype of a light armed helicopter (LAH) with the goal of conducting a test flight in 2019.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the country's arms procurement agency, launched the development project in June 2015 to replace the aging 500MD and AH-1S choppers in partnership with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).

A preliminary design was completed in August last year and the production of prototype components began in November, according to DAPA.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: India, U.S Agree To Strengthen Ties For Peace In Afghanistan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S President Donald Trump on Monday agreed to continue strengthening coordination for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan as they expressed concern over rising instability in the war-torn country.

According to India Today, Trump thanked the Indian people for their "contributions to the effort in Afghanistan, and for joining us (the U.S) in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime."

Read the full story at TOLOnews

News Story: Pakistan deploys 15,000-strong force for Chinese security

Pakistan has deployed a 15,000-strong military force to protect Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure projects in the country, the president said Sunday, after the abduction of a Chinese couple raised safety concerns.

President Mamnoon Hussain told visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Islamabad that the protection of Chinese citizens working in Pakistan was the "top priority" of the government, according to a statement issued by the presidency.

Beijing is investing around $50 billion in its South Asian neighbour as part of a plan unveiled in 2015 to link its far-western Xinjiang region to Gwadar port in Balochistan with a series of infrastructure, power and transport upgrades.

But fears over safety arose last month when two Chinese workers were abducted in Quetta, the capital of the southwestern Balochistan province, which is at the heart of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project but racked by separatist and Islamist insurgencies.

Read the full story at SpaceWar

News Story: Indonesia police discover IS propaganda leaflets targeting children

Hanoi (VNA) - Indonesian police have found hundreds of books containing Islamic State (IS) propaganda targeting children at the home of a suspect arrested in connection with the stabbing death of an officer, a police spokeswoman said on June 26.

The books aimed at children found at the home of the arrested man were written in Indonesian and included pictures and messages supportive of dying in jihad, or holy war, said police spokeswoman Rina Sari Ginting.

A day earlier, a police officer was stabbed to death at a police station in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. Another suspected militant was shot and killed by police during the attack.

Read the full story at VietnamPlus

News Story: Southeast Asia anti-terror efforts must start in Marawi

By Patricia Lourdes Viray

MANILA, Philippines — The Southeast Asia region must deepen counter-terror efforts as ISIS-inspired local terror groups lay siege in Mindanao, particularly in Marawi City, an analyst said.

Elliot Brennan, a research fellow at the Institute for Security and Development Policy's Asia Program in Sweden, said the siege in Marawi City must serve as a lesson for the whole region.

On May 23, President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao following a clash between government forces and the Maute group.

Brennan noted that the failure of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to act on the Maute group's attack on Marawi despite intelligence report was negligent.

"Its failings since - such as to apprehend the Malay financier of the Marawi campaign, to stop the escape of Hapilon, or simply to quell the insurgency - show a worrying lack of capacity," Brennan said in an article published by Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy.

The policy analyst noted that the fight in Marawi is not actually about the city since many of the militants and funding are from abroad, taking the conflict to a global narrative.

The key to addressing this issue on the regional level would be a disaggregation, delinking and dismantling of militants from around the world.

Read the full story at PhilStar

News Story: ‘Terrorist leadership in Marawi crumbling’

By Michael Punongbayan and Roel Pareño

Maute infighting reported as air strikes resume surrenderees executed

MANILA, Philippines - The terrorist leadership in Marawi City is reportedly unraveling as government forces resumed air strikes yesterday to flush out the followers of the Maute brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah and the Abu Sayyaf faction of Isnilon Hapilon, the military said.

Leaders and members of the Maute group are reportedly fighting among themselves and those who want to surrender to authorities were executed.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is verifying reports that Hapilon has abandoned his fighters in Marawi, causing leadership in the terrorist organization to collapse.

The report was based on the accounts of rescued civilians, captured Maute members and radio intercepts of the military from the battle zone.

Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for Task Force Marawi, said it was not clear yet when Hapilon – said to be the designated emir of the Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines – escaped.

Hapilon’s alleged escape and the reported death of Omarkhayam and terrorist financier Mahmud Ahmad left the Maute group under the command of Abdullah and the remaining ground commanders.

“Their command and control is crumbling,” Herrera said.

Read the full story at PhilStar

27 June 2017

Think Tank: Sea, air, land and space updates (27-Jun-2017)

An unpainted Chinese Y-8Q/GX-6 ASW Aircraft during testing
Zoe Glasson, Sophie Qin, Madeleine Nyst and Patrick Kennedy
Sea State
Just in time for President Modi’s visit to Washington, the Trump administration has agreed to sell 22 Guardian drones to India, in a deal that’s been described as a ‘game changer’ for US–India relations. The drones would be a ‘force multiplier’ for the Indian Navy, improving its maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Though yet to be approved in India, New Delhi reportedly sees the deal as ‘a key test of defence ties’. Defense News speculates that the sale of the unarmed Guardians could be a precursor to the purchase of armed drones—something India has sought previously but which is currently prohibited by US export laws. Finalising the deal is likely to require a fine balance between Trump’s “America First” platform and Modi’s “Make in India” policy.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) successfully test-fired its Long-Range Artillery system (LORA) on 20 June. LORA’s strength is its portability: it launches from a container that can be trucked onto the deck of a cargo ship. According to The Drive, LORA’s relative low-cost and plug-and-play nature means that a range of auxiliary ships ‘could suddenly become impromptu combatants’. IAI says ‘several deals’ for LORA are underway, but it remains to be seen who’s in the market for the platform.
And for the final Sea State reads this week, here are two great pieces: one about how noisy herrings are creating (submarine) confusion; and another about marauding orcas fleecing fisherman.

AUS: Update on HMAS Canberra and Adelaide

HMAS Adelaide and Canberra (© Australian DoD)
HMA Ships Adelaide and Canberra are due to complete their maintenance period this week after rectification of emergent issues with their propulsion systems.

HMAS Adelaide is due to leave the dry dock at Navy’s Fleet Base East today. Once undocked, HMAS Adelaide will undergo sea trials and a return to its operational capability program over the next few months.

HMAS Canberra completed initial propulsion sea trials in May, which together with advice from industry partners indicates Canberra is able to return to sea on the 29 Jun 17 and will participate in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2017.

NZ: Navy frigate to help out after US destroyer collision

HMNZS Te Kaha (Image: Wiki Commons)
The Royal New Zealand Navy frigate HMNZS Te Kaha is to extend its current deployment in Asian waters to support the United States Seventh Fleet.

This is in response to the recent collision between a Philippines’ container ship and the destroyer USS Fitzgerald, Defence Minister Mark Mitchell says. Seven US sailors were killed and the Fitzgerald sustained significant damage in the 17 June collision.

Announcing the deployment, Mr Mitchell extended the Government’s condolences on the tragedy.

“Our thoughts are very much with the bereaved families and the crew of the USS Fitzgerald after this terrible event,” he says.

USA: Mattis Meets With India's Prime Minister

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 26, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi met here today to discuss the importance of the U.S.-India relationship and the role of both nations in cooperating to foster democratic laws and principles, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said. 

In a statement summarizing the meeting, White said Mattis applauded India's long-term efforts to promote stability in the Indian Ocean region.

"The two pledged to continue the strong defense partnership between both nations and broaden military to military engagements," she added.

USA: Possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia for Gulfstream G550 Aircraft with Airborne ISR and EW (AISREW) mission systems

A G550 with an AISREW system installed under the fuselage
WASHINGTON, Jun. 26, 2017 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia for Gulfstream G550 Aircraft with Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) mission systems. The estimated cost is $1.3 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on June 23, 2017.

The Government of Australia requested the possible sale of up to five (5) Gulfstream G-550 aircraft modified to integrate Airborne Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Electronic Warfare (AISREW) mission systems, Global Positioning System (GPS) capability, secure communications, aircraft defensive systems; spares, including whole life costs of airborne and ground segments; aircraft modification and integration; ground systems for data processing and crew training; ground support equipment; publications and technical data; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; flight test and certification; and other related elements of logistical and program support. The total estimated program cost is $1.3 billion.

USA: Possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of India for C-17 transport aircraft

An Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster in flight (File Photo)
WASHINGTON, Jun. 26, 2017 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of India for C-17 transport aircraft. The estimated cost is $366.2 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today.

The Government of India has requested the possible sale of one (1) C-17 transport aircraft with four (4) Turbofan F-117-PW-100 engines. The sale would also include one (1) AN/AAR-47 Missile Warning System, one (1) AN/ALE-47 Countermeasures Dispensing System (CMDS), one (1) AN/APX-119 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Transponder, precision navigation equipment, spare and repair parts, maintenance, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, warranty, Quality Assurance, ferry support, U.S. Government and contractor engineering, logistics and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $366.2 million.

News Report: Cargo Ship Captain: USS Fitzgerald Ignored Warnings Before Deadly Crash

USS Fitzgerald after the collision with ACX Crystal (File Photo)
According to the captain of the Filipino cargo ship the ACX Crystal, which collided with the destroyer USS Fitzgerald on June 17, the American warship failed to respond to warning signals or take evasive action before the collision which killed seven US seamen.

The statement came by way of Dainichi Investment Corporation, the Japanese company that owns the Crystal. According to them, Captain Ronald Advincula stated that he signaled at the USS Fitzgerald with flashing lights after the warship "suddenly" changed course to cross his cargo ship's path.

Advincula says that the Fitzgerald then failed to change direction, while the cumbersome cargo ship in vain veered right to avoid it. The collision between the 9,000-ton destroyer and the 29,000-ton cargo vessel tore a hole in the underside of the Fitzgerald, flooding two sleeping compartments. Seven Americans were killed, making it the most fatal incident to befall a US Navy vessel since the al-Qaeda terrorist attack against the USS Cole in 2000 that killed seventeen.

In addition, three sailors including the ship's captain, Navy Commander Bryce Benson, were injured and had to be medivaced to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. Benson and one of the sailors have since been discharged, while the third remains in the hospital. 

News Report: North Korean, Russian, Chinese Missile Tech Advances Raise Threat to US

The development of ballistic and cruise missile technology around the world has raised the potential threat level faced by Washington, even if the projectiles don’t carry nuclear warheads, according to a new US Defense Department report.

Missiles have seen “dramatic improvements” in location targeting, which “allows them to be used effectively with conventional warheads,” according to a National Air and Space Intelligence Center assessment shared with Bloomberg News prior to its public release. The aerial weapons are widely viewed internationally as “cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” the report said.

The US and its allies have repeatedly called on North Korea to halt its ballistic missile research and development, but Pyongyang has rejected any suggestions of this sort. A recent op-ed circulated through the North Korean media indicating that, regardless of convening diplomats of North and South Korea, Pyongyang would push forward on its quest to achieve intercontinental ballistic missile capability, Sputnik reported on Sunday.

News Report: Ex-South Korean President Park Reportedly Had Plot to Bring Down Kim Jong-un

The administration of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye had several scenarios drawn up to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to a report by Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Park, who was succeeded by newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in in May following a corruption scandal and subsequent impeachment, had plans drawn up detailing several scenarios in which the leader of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) could be brought down.

The scenarios included staged automobile accidents, train derailments and the staging of a coup, according to Asahi Shimbun.

Documents signed in 2015 by the previous South Korean president referred to the plans for an extrajudicial killing of Kim Jong-un as “regime change,” RT reported.

News Report: Tension Erupts as Chinese Troops Enter Indian Territory, Destroy Bunkers

A major scuffle has erupted along the India-China border as Chinese troops entered the Indian state of Sikkim and destroyed two Indian bunkers. Chinese troops also engaged in a fight with Indian troops, who are guarding the border at the location.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Ever since newly-appointed Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat took charge, India has expedited work related to building movable modern bunkers along the border shared with China. Sputnik reported in January this year that the Indian Army was using hollow block structures for building hundreds of bunkers near Sikkim.

“The face-off has been going on in Doka La general area in Sikkim for the past 10 days and the Chinese troops have also stopped a batch of pilgrims proceeding on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra,” Indian defense ministry told to news agency PTI. Doka La is located at the tri-junction of Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet. The situation remains tense despite a flag meeting held between senior army officers of both sides on June 20.

News Report: Trump Hosts India’s Modi to Discuss Enhancing Security, Economic Cooperation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make a two-day trip to the United States starting Sunday to discuss military and economic cooperation with officials including US President Donald Trump.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Modi was once denied a US diplomatic visa over accusations he was involved in religious rights violations, but he built good relations with former US President Barack Obama.

The visit comes after Trump invited Modi for an official visit when the two spoke by phone in January.

India's The Hindu newspaper noted this week that Trump has criticized India's import tariffs and accused the country of taking "billions and billions" of US aid dollars to find its commitments under the Paris climate agreement.

The Trump administration also restricted H1B visas, which have affected Indian software companies, compounding a broader stagnation. The country's information technology sector is growing at its slowest pace in a decade.

News Report: Growing Nuclear Arsenals Increase Concerns About Possible Pakistan-India War

Pakistani NASR nuclear capable missiles (File Photo)
Shabbir Gilani

India and Pakistan have fought three wars and have been on the brink of another several times, a worrying prospect given that both have growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons and questions about how secure they are.

The arms race between the South Asian neighbors has moved to enhancing the delivery systems for the warheads, which could annihilate the subcontinent several times. India's recent launch of more than 100 satellites with a single rocket foreshadows the capability of sending up a missile with multiple nuclear weapons.

The volatility of the situation is further exacerbated because neither country has a national missile defense system, and it likely would take several years to get one in place.

While the policy of mutually assured destruction has kept hostilities from overheating so far, experts believe that a misunderstanding or misadventure could escalate to a full-fledged war with nuclear weapons in play.

And there are plenty of risks.

News Report: Modi Confident in 'Convergence' of US, Indian Interests

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is "confident in the growing convergence" between India and the U.S. as he prepares to meet with President Donald Trump at the White House.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Modi stated his optimism for economic growth and increased bilateral trade between the two countries.

"In an uncertain global economic landscape, our two nations stand as mutually reinforcing engines of growth and innovation," he wrote.

On Sunday, Modi met with top American business executives and members of the Indian diaspora on his first visit to the U.S. since Trump was elected president.

Meeting with tech leaders 

At a hotel meeting in Washington with leaders of some of the top American technology companies, the prime minister extolled the virtues of doing business in India where he said there was "minimum government," making it easy to do business in the South Asian nation.

Among those attending the meeting were Google's Sundar Pichai, Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Shantanu Narayen of Adobe Systems, who are all Indian Americans. Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and Apple's Tim Cook also attended the meeting.

News Report: Vietnam Faces New Oil Dispute With China After Beijing Cuts Visit Short

Ralph Jennings

TAIPEI — China and Vietnam face a stiff new test in avoiding a showdown over undersea oil drilling after Beijing cut short a high-level meeting last week, but experts say the two sides will eventually patch things over.

Fan Changlong, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission left early from a “defense border meeting” in Vietnam Thursday due to “working arrangements,” the official Xinhua News Agency in Beijing reported. Fan had met earlier in the week with Vietnam’s Communist Party general secretary, president and prime minister.

Talks cancelled

Neither side is saying officially whether something else led to the cancelation. Analysts who track Vietnam believe it comes down to a disputed South China Sea oil exploration tract in Vietnam’s hands as well as Hanoi’s recent contact with Chinese rivals Japan and the United States.

“Most analysts believe China was either sending Vietnam a signal about its deepening ties with the U.S. and Japan or pressing it to stop exploring for oil near China’s nine-dash line or maybe both,” said Murray Hiebert, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

News Story: India, Australia net big FMS offers

An Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster in flight (File Photo)
By: Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Washington, he is walking away with a new offer for a C-17 aircraft. 

Australia, too, got good news today, as the State Department cleared the sale of up to five Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR, aircraft worth an estimated $1.3 billion. 

The C-17 sale, worth an estimated $366.2 million, adds to India’s existing fleet of transport aircraft. This likely represents the final C-17 sale to India, as Boeing ended production on new aircraft in 2015.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Hijacked Thai oil tanker returns safely from Malaysia

BANGKOK, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Thai navy on Monday confirmed that a Thai oil tanker which was hijacked by a pirate vessel in Malaysian waters had returned to Thailand.

"The hijacked oil tanker C.P. 41 is safe now," said Thai Navy spokesman Admiral Jumpol Lumphikanont.

Jumpol said the oil tanker were sailing on the right route when it was attacked and Thai navy sent patrol boat HTMS Takbai there to save them after being informed.

C.P. 41, carrying 17 crew and some 3,800 tons of diesel oil, was attacked by six armed pirates, while en route from Singapore to Songkhla Friday night.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: China urges India to withdraw border guards crossing the boundary

BEIJING, June 26 (Xinhua) -- China urges India to immediately withdraw its border guards that have crossed the boundary and have a thorough investigation of this matter, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Monday night.

According to spokesperson Geng Shuang, Indian border guards crossed the boundary in the Sikkim section of the China-India border and entered the territory of China, and obstructed normal activities of Chinese frontier forces in the Donglang area recently, and the Chinese side has taken counter-measures.

The Sikkim section of the China-India boundary has been defined by treaties, Geng said, noting that the Indian government has repeatedly confirmed in writing that there is no objection.

Read the full story at Xinhua

Related Link: Tension Erupts as Chinese Troops Enter Indian Territory, Destroy Bunkers (Note: link won't be active until [2:08PM Aus time] 80min after this post)

News Story: 8 killed as Afghan army launches raids to trace militants in restive provinces

KABUL, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Eight militants were killed and five others wounded amid operations conducted by the Afghan army in two restive provinces, the country's Defense Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said in a statement that four Taliban militants were killed and five others wounded after the Afghan National Army (ANA) launched a search operation in Chora district, southern Uruzgan province on Sunday.

"A Taliban local commander named Toor Khan was detained and an army Ranger vehicle seized by militants earlier was recovered during the raid," the statement read.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Terror-gripped Bangladesh celebrates Eid amid tightened security

DHAKA, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Bangladeshi Muslims celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr with religious fervor amid unprecedented tight security to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Dressed in traditional clothes, Muslims offered special prayers Monday morning, seeking divine blessings, peace, progress and prosperity in Eid congregations across the country.

The main Eid congregation in the capital of Dhaka was held at the national Eidgah (open-air enclosure reserved for Eid prayers) where Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid and ministers, lawmakers and elite of the society prayed.

Like past years, the country's largest Eid congregation was held at Sholakia in Kishoreganj district, some 117 km northeast of Dhaka, which came under a deadly militant attack during last Eid occasion.

Two people, including a policeman and an attacker, were killed and 10 others, including several police personnel, were injured in several bomb explosions followed by exchange of gunfires between law enforcers and miscreants during last Eid day on July 7, 2016 at the entrance of Sholakia Eid prayer ground.

Against the backdrop of the attack, Bangladesh security authorities have taken unprecedented security measures for the country's largest Eidgah Sholakia, where hundreds of thousands of people offer prayers on the Eid day.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: Aussie gov't plans to weed out terrorists on social media gains widespread support

CANBERRA, June 26 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government has said it is prepared to make it legal for social media websites to hand over vital information about suspected terrorists or terrorist operations, a plan which has on Monday been applauded by the opposition and a former army chief.

On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had met with leading social media websites, telling them they "cannot continue to allow terrorists and extremists to use the internet and the big social media... to spread their poison", hinting that he would head to the upcoming G20 meeting in Germany to back a world-wide agenda which would ensure social media sites pass on dangerous information to authorities.

On Monday, Australia's former army chief Peter Leahy told Sky News that governments deserved more from big social media companies when it comes to clamping down on terrorism, saying it was not only a government problem, but a social obligation for the online giants to pitch in.

"There are many levels to this. Firstly, I think the tech giants deserve to show some social responsibility. They're letting this (terror-related content) on their sites," Leahy said.

"The government is more interested in the encrypted information on the net, the way terrorists are talking, so Facebook, Messenger, Viper, WhatsApp... the encryption on these, we can't break."

"The government needs to say we need some information from you to prosecute criminals, but I think we need to go further."

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: S. Korean president's approval rating stays high despite controversy over security issues

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (File Photo)
SEOUL, June 26 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in kept his approval rating at a relatively high level despite controversy over security issues, a survey showed Monday.
According to local pollster Realmeter, Moon's support rate was 74.2 percent last week, down 1.4 percentage points from a week earlier.

The support scores fell for the second consecutive week, but Moon's rating was higher than his predecessors tallied in an early presidency. Moon came into office on May 10.

The result was based on a poll of 2,531 voters conducted from last Monday to Friday. It has 1.9 percentage points in margin of error with a 95-percent confidence level.

The fall in support for Moon came amid controversy over comments, which made in Washington by Moon Chung-in, the president's special advisor on security, unification and foreign affairs.

The presidential special advisor said on June 16 that if the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) stops any nuclear and missile provocations, the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises and the deployment of the U.S military strategic assets in South Korea could be scaled down through discussions with the U.S. side.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party denounced the advisor's comments, worrying about the weakening of the U.S.-South Korea alliance.

Read the full story at Xinhua

News Story: USFK adds long-range air-to-ground missiles to its munitions - sources

AGM-158 JASSM (Image: Wiki Commons)
SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) has more than 10 long-range, precision-guided missiles capable of hitting major facilities in Pyongyang even when fired south of the inter-Korean border, multiple defense sources in Seoul said Monday.

The USFK recently deployed the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, at Kunsan Air Base, some 180 kilometers south of Seoul, for use by F-16 fighter jets, they said.

Lockheed Martin's JASSM with a range of over 300 kilometers is designed to engage high-value fixed targets, equipped with a penetrating blast-fragmentation warhead.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: 3 out of 5 S. Koreans optimistic about relations with U.S. - survey

SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- More than three out of five South Koreans expect that the relations between South Korea and the United States will improve under the President Moon Jae-in government, a survey showed Monday.

The survey disclosed by the Asan Institute showed that 67 percent of those polled said that South Korea-U.S. relations will get better going forward, with 20.7 percent saying the opposite.

The survey was conducted via phone on 1,000 adults aged 19 or older during June 1-3. It was unveiled days before President Moon is to meet his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in Washington later this week.

"This is a very significant change compared to the previous survey done in November last year in which as much as 64 percent of those polled expressed concerns about the bilateral relations," the research said in a report.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: U.S. senators call on Trump to use summit with S. Korea to find way to quicken full THAAD deployment

By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Yonhap) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators have called on President Donald Trump to use the upcoming summit with South Korea President Moon Jae-in to reaffirm the firmness of the alliance and to expedite a full deployment of the THAAD missile defense system.

A total of 18 senators, led by Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), made the request in a joint letter to Trump on Friday. The letter came after a separate group of 19 senators introduced a resolution welcoming Moon's visit. The resolution and the letter underscore the high interest the United States has in Moon's summit with Trump set for Thursday and Friday.

"We ask you to offer a firm assurance to President Moon that the bonds of our historic alliance are unbreakable and that the U.S. is fully committed to our defense treaty obligations with South Korea," the letter said, according to a full text released by Gardner's office.

"We also ask you to reiterate to President Moon that the United States is committed to working with the ROK to implement a full range of multilateral sanctions against the DPRK -- and to intensify those sanctions, if necessary and as merited by DPRK's behavior," it said.

Trump's "maximum pressure" policy can only be effective with full cooperation from Seoul, it said.

The senators also called for a fully deployment of the THAAD battery in the South at an early date. Two of the six THAAD launchers have already been installed, but the South suspended the deployment of the remaining four pending an environmental review.

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Suspension of joint military exercises could weaken U.S.-Korea alliance - Hill

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Yonhap) -- Suspending annual joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea could lead to a weakening of the alliance, a former chief U.S. nuclear negotiator with North Korea said.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill made the point in a recent Project Syndicate article, expressing concern about the "freeze-for-freeze" idea that calls for the U.S. freezing or scaling back the exercises in exchange for the North freezing nuclear and missile testing.

"Advocates of this so-called 'freeze for freeze' approach say that such a tradeoff is only fair: The North cannot be expected to suspend its efforts to strengthen its defensive capabilities if the U.S. and South Korea are pursuing supposedly hostile military cooperation in its near abroad," Hill said.

"But this argument has it backward. In fact, it is the North whose activities are inherently hostile, and the South, along with the U.S., that is focused on defense. Indeed, planning for the annual U.S.-South Korea spring exercises is always based on the premise that North Korea has invaded the South, not vice versa," he said.

Hill also stressed, "Without joint exercises, a military alliance becomes weak and hollow."

Read the full story at YonhapNews

News Story: Nawaz Confident Of Better Ties With Afghanistan

PM Nawaz Sharif (Image: Wiki Commons)
Prime Minis­ter Nawaz Sharif said on Sunday that he was confident bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan would improve after the  implementation of certain decisions that had been reached when he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. 

Speaking to reporters in London Sharif referred to his recent meeting with Ghani on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Astana and said that both sides had settled certain issues, Dawn News reported. 

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News Story: US defense contractor accused of spying for China

A US defense contractor and former State Department security officer was arrested by American counterintelligence officials on Thursday and charged with spying for China.

The Justice Department said Kevin Mallory of Leesburg, Virginia had sold classified documents to Chinese intelligence agents on trips to Shanghai in March and April.

He could face up to life in prison if found guilty.

The source and content of the documents in question was not divulged, but was characterized as "defense information" for which he received $25,000.

"Your object is to gain information, and my object is to be paid," he told the Chinese in a May 5 message, according to an indictment.

Mallory, 60, is a fluent Mandarin speaker who had served in the US army, then as a special agent for the security service of the State Department, before becoming a contractor to various government agencies.

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News Story: In blow to Britain, UN votes to seek legal opinion on Chagos (Diego Garcia) fate

Diego Garcia (Image: Wiki Commons)
By Carole LANDRY

In a diplomatic blow to Britain, the United Nations voted Thursday to ask the International Court of Justice to rule on the fate of the British-ruled Chagos islands, which host an important military base.

The Indian Ocean archipelago has been at the center of a decades-long dispute over Britain's decision to separate it from Mauritius in 1965 and set up a joint military base with the US on Diego Garcia, the largest of the islands.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution presented by Mauritius and backed by African countries asking the ICJ to offer an opinion on the island chain's fate.

The measure was approved by a vote of 94-15 with 65 abstentions, notably from many European countries including Germany and France.

The vote was seen as a test of Britain's ability to rally support at the United Nations from fellow Europeans after it voted to leave the European Union.

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