The last of the 80 Doolittle Tokyo Raiders of World War II celebrated his 102nd birthday on Thursday.
Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole has remained active, attending commemorative events in recent years including April ceremonies for the raid’s 75th anniversary at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.
“I’m holding together,” Cole said Thursday by telephone, adding with a chuckle: “The only thing is I need a lot of WD-40.”
President Donald Trump called the Ohio native in July as Cole was recovering from a fall, to check on him and thank him for his service.
“It was a nice surprise,” Cole recounted. “He was very polite and cheerful. It was very upbeat.”
Cole is originally from Dayton, and now lives in Comfort, Texas. He has a daughter who lives nearby and two sons.
He said in April he hadn’t expected to be the last Doolittle Raider survivor because he was older than most on the mission. Cole attributed his longevity to being an optimist and living a life of “moderation.”
160418-N-HI816-001 WASHINGTON (April 18, 2016) This infographic shares the history of the Doolittle Raid – how America struck back after Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy graphic by Annalisa Underwood/Released)
He was mission commander Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot in the bombing attack less than five months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The bold raid is credited with lifting U.S. spirits and helping change the tide of the war in the Pacific.
Three Raiders died trying to reach China after the attack, and eight were captured by Japanese soldiers. Three were executed, and a fourth died in captivity. Cole parachuted and he and other Raiders were helped to safety by Chinese partisans.
It seems like everything on the Korean Peninsula is going well. Rumor has it that US troops will be pulled out of South Korea if the negotiations are a success. So, get all of your soju-fueled bad decisions out of the way now before you get reassigned stateside.
Before you know it, it’ll be too late to get NJP’d for belligerently screaming, “Merica!” at the DMZ. So, make the most of your OCONUS duty station while you can.
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
It’s been right in front of our eyes this entire time.
Dennis Rodman used to be a spokesman for McDonalds. Rodman visits Kim Jong-un in North Korea. Under a year later, he opens his country. It all makes perfect sense now.
(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)
(Meme via Salty Soldier)
(Meme via USAWTFM)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Air Force Nation)
(Meme via Crusty Pissed Off Veteran)
(Meme via Five Bravo)
(Meme via Pop Smoke)
Cover: Anything that won’t be penetrated by small arms fire. Concealment: Anything that can obscure the enemy’s vision of you. This: None of the above.
It’s like this dude never played a video game in his life.
Air Force Col. Leo K. Thorsness, an F-105 pilot awarded the Medal of Honor for multiple feats of bravery in an aerial engagement who was later shot down and held as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton for six years, died May 2 at the age of 85.
His death was announced by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which did not disclose the cause of death.
The two-man crew was able to eject, but the pair was descending into hostile territory. Thorsness flew circles so that he could pinpoint where they landed to facilitate a rescue, but spotted an enemy MiG as he maneuvered.
Thorsness and his EWO were on their own when they initiated the attack against the four MiGs. Thorsness quickly downed one and engaged the other three in aerial combat for 50 minutes, outnumbered and low on ammo but flying fiercely enough to drive them off.
Thorsness spent six years in the prison, three of them under nearly constant and brutal torture before international pressure relieved the conditions somewhat. His Medal of Honor was approved during that time, but it wasn’t announced until after his 1973 release for fear that the North Vietnamese would torture him worse if they knew about the medal.
China showed off some of its latest drone models and projects at this year’s Dubai Airshow and it looks like many spectators were interested.
China has seen a dramatic increase in the amount of drones it has sold to foreign countries in recent years, and that could be a troubling development for the United States.
The global military drone market has been dominated by the US. American-made models like the MQ-1 Predator, the MQ-9 Reaper, and the RQ-4 Global Hawk have been deployed around the world in a number of countries.
In large part, China poses a threat to America’s dominance in the drone industry for its ability to make more products that are, at the very least, just as good if not better than the competition, but at a lower price.
China is building impressive and inexpensive drones
The most well-known and used Chinese drones are the CH-3, CH-4, CH-5, and the Wing Loong.
The CH-3 and CH-4 propeller-driven drones are essentially Chinese versions of the Predator and Reaper, respectively, and have similar capabilities. The CH-5 has a current range of 4400 miles over 60 hours, and a planned upgrade that will bring it up to 12,000 miles over 120 hours.
The CH-5 also has a 2,000 pound payload, and the capability to house electronic warfare systems inside it.
The CH-3 and CH-4 have price tags around $4 million, whereas the Predator and Reaper can cost $4 million and $20 million respectively. The Wing Loong, another Chinese counterpart to the Predator, is priced even lower, at just $1 million. Even the CH-5, which is currently China’s deadliest drone in service, costs “less than half the price” of a Predator.
The prices are so low in part because the Chinese drones are not as sophisticated as their American counterparts. The Chinese drones are not satellite-linked, for example, meaning they cannot conduct operations across the globe the way Predators and Reapers can.
The Chinese drones are still very capable — all are sold with the ability to carry large amounts of ordinance, and many nations have decided to turn to them in order to fill in the gap left by the US.
The US has restrictive regulations and policies
Lower prices, however, may not the only reason behind China’s increased drone sales.
A large part of China’s increased market share looks is linked to regulations and policies that have been in place in the Unites States for years.
In 1987, the US signed the Missile Technology Control Regime, a voluntary pact of 35 nations aimed at preventing the mass proliferation of missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles by requiring them to have heavy regulations and tight export controls.
Currently, under the agreement, drones that can fly over 185 miles and carry a payload above 1,100 pounds are defined as cruise missiles. The Predator and the Reaper, both of which can carry payloads of 3,000 pounds or more, are thus subject to these regulations and controls.
The US has been hesitant to sell drones with lethal capabilities to other countries — especially in the Middle East, because of a fear that they could potentially end up in the wrong hands, and challenge Israel’s dominance in the region.
In fact, the only nation apart from the US that uses armed American-made drones is the United Kingdom.
China, on the other hand, is not constrained by the Missile Technology Control Regime because it never signed it. This means that its products are not under the intense regulation and controls that American drones are.
Additionally, China has traditionally not been as cautious as the the US about selling weaponry and equipment to countries known for human rights violations or in volatile regions and has sold drones to many nations.
In Central Asia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have purchased a number of Wing Loongs, and Turkmenistan operates the CH-3. In Africa, Nigeria has used CH-3 drones against Boko Haram. Pakistan and Myanmar both operate CH-3’s as well.
By far though, the biggest market is the Middle East.
In 2015, desperate in its fight to counter ISIS gains, Iraq bought a number of CH-4s. After giving up on buying drones from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE turned to China and are using CH-4s and Wing Loongs in their campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan and Egypt have purchased Chinese drones as well.
China is even willing to set up factories overseas, which could bypass export restrictions entirely.
China’s future drone projects are even more impressive
Last year, at the Zhuhai 2016 Airshow, the public was able to get a glance at some of the newest drones China plans to build and export. Among those was the Cloud Shadow, a semi-stealth drone with six hardpoints capable of carrying up to 800 pounds of ordinance.
There was also the CH-805, and concept CK-20 stealth target drones, which are designed to help train pilots and test air defenses.
Finally, there was the SW-6, a small “marsupial” drone with folding wings capable of being dropped from larger aircraft. Its intended mission is to conduct reconnaissance, but it is considered a prime candidate for China’s drone “swarm” project; dozens, potentially hundreds of small drones linked together in a hive mind and capable of swarming and overwhelming targets.
China has also just successfully shattered the record for the highest flying drone. Previously held by the US RQ-4 Global Hawk, the bat-sized drone was able to fly at a staggering 82,000 feet- 22,000 feet higher than the Global Hawk.
Though the drone did not have a camera or any weapons, it did carry a terrain mapping device and a detector that would allow it to locate and mark ground troops, and was virtually undetectable.
In addition to all this, China is also looking to increase its satellite capabilities, something that could make China’s drones just as advanced as their US counterparts.
In an attempt to combat the loss in sales, the Trump administration, which has not been subtle in its hopes to get foreign countries to buy more American-made defense products, is trying to ease restrictions on the sale of American-made drones.
This includes things like renegotiating the Missile Technology Control Regime, and allowing a number of countries that are not deemed risky to be able to get fast tracked orders.
Though probably interpreted as a way to help the defense industry make more profits, there is actually some logic behind the push. The more China sells drones to countries that are US partners, the more they will become reliant and closer on China.
“It damages the US relationship with a close partner,” Paul Scharre, a Senior Fellow and Director at the nonpartisan Center for a New American Security told the Wall Street Journal. “It increases that partner’s relationship with a competitor nation, China. It hurts US companies trying to compete.”
For now, Israel dominates the military drone market, with 60% of international drone transfers in the past three decades coming from the small nation.
However, China sellls far more armed drones, and is gaining momentum on overall drone sales as well. If current trends continue, China could profit immensely in a market that could be worth $22 billion by 2022.
In the days leading up to the latest NATO summit, President Donald Trump was harshly critical of the contributions made by other NATO members, especially in comparison to the United States. But when called on to start a new mission in post-ISIS Iraq focused on civil-military planning, vehicle maintenance, and explosives disposal, NATO stood up.
Whether this development comes because of meetings among North American and European leaders at recent G7 and NATO summits is unclear. Coming away from June 2018’s G7 summit, President Trump criticized Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as both “dishonest” and “weak.” At the most recent NATO meeting, Trump claimed Germany was a Russian client state due, primarily, to energy partnerships with Russian gas providers.
The 2018 NATO summit was focused primarily on how the alliance would foot the bills for its actions everywhere in the world. The United States demands the members of the alliance increase their contributions to an agreed-upon two percent of GDP, while the U.S. maintains its 3.5-percent contribution.
“Because of me, they’ve raised billion over the last year, so I think the Secretary General [of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg,] likes Trump,” the President of the United States said after the summit. “He may be the only one, but that’s okay with me.”
Another result of the summit was a British pledge to double the number of UK troops in Afghanistan. Canada will also contribute helicopters to the NATO mission in Iraq.
Kandahar, Afghanistan. 12 February, 2002. For the first time since the end of the Korean War, Canadians relieve Americans in a combat zone.
(Photo by Sgt. Gerry Pilote, Canadian Armed Forces Combat Camera)
“We are proud to take a leadership role in Iraq, and work with our allies and the government of Iraq, to help this region of the Middle East transition to long-lasting peace and stability,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Canada currently spends 1.23 percent of its output on the alliance, but its commitment requires it to move up to two percent by 2024, an agreement signed by Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper. Canada’s special forces are also training and assisting Kurdish fighters still battling the Islamic State.
The number of civilians dying in Afghanistan’s protracted 16-year war dropped slightly during the first three months of this year, the United Nations reported April 27, but in a surprising twist more women and children are among the dead and wounded than in previous casualty reports.
The report blamed the hike in casualties among women and children on aerial attacks. According to U.N. figures, there were 148 casualties from aerial bombings in the first three months of this year compared to 29 last year. Casualties from unexploded ordnance, which seemed to claim mostly children, was also up slightly.
“It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in a release.
Although there was a four percent overall drop in casualties during the first three months of the year, the U.N. suggested the drop may be the result of Afghan civilians fleeing their homes. According to the report there is an unprecedented number of Afghans displaced by war living inside the country. There are another 1.5 million Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Pakistan.
The U.N. blamed 62 percent of the civilian casualties on insurgents while ordinary Afghans caught in the crossfire accounted for nearly 35 percent of all casualties.
Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are present in Afghanistan. They are fighting each other and Afghanistan’s security forces.
Earlier this week, a half dozen Taliban attacked an army base in northern Afghanistan in one of the worst attacks against the security forces, killing as many as 140 soldiers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. NATO ended its combat mission in the country in 2014, and the primary role of U.S. troops is now to assist and train, though increasingly the U.S. has been called in by Afghan Security Forces for support.
The report accused anti-government elements, without specifying Taliban or the Islamic State group, of intentionally targeting civilians.
“During an armed conflict, the intentional killing and injuring of civilians is a war crime,” Yamamoto said in the release. “Anti-Government Elements must stop this deplorable practice and everybody must apply- and respect – the definition of ‘civilian’ provided by international humanitarian law.”
The US Navy is blaming the high pace of operations, budget uncertainty, and naval leaders who put their mission over safety after multiple deadly incidents at sea.
The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker last month off the coast of Singapore, leaving 10 US sailors dead and five injured. And the USS Fitzgerald, another destroyer, collided with a container ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.
The collisions are still under investigation, but at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Sept. 19, the chief naval officer, Admiral John Richardson, said a failure of leadership throughout the service was the main contributing factor in the Navy’s lack of readiness.
“I own this problem,” Richardson testified.
He vowed to make safety the most important goal of the Navy in the wake of recent events, acknowledging that commanders of vessels on forward deployments too often put the mission first, at the expense of safety.
“Only with those [safety certifications] done and the maintenance properly done can we expect to deploy effectively and execute the mission,” he said.
At the start of the Sept. 19 committee hearing, US Senator John McCain extended his “deepest condolences” on behalf of all Americans to the family members of those killed, some of whom sat in the hearing room. The USS John S. McCain was named in honor of the Arizona Republican’s father and grandfather, both of whom were Navy admirals.
John Pendleton, an expert on defense readiness issues with the Government Accountability Office, told lawmakers reductions in ship crew sizes had led to longer working hours for sailors – up to 100 hours per week in some cases.
Pendleton said he was skeptical that the Navy would be able to increase readiness until aggressive deployment schedules and other demands on the force were decreased.
Richardson said the Navy was closely investigating sleep deprivation among crews, causing McCain, the chairman of the committee, to question why the Navy was not making immediate changes.
“I think I know what 100 hours a week does to people over time,” McCain said. “I’m not sure you need a study on it.”
Richardson also warned that the increased deployment tempo frequently leaves sailors with insufficient time to prepare for missions, and it leaves the Navy with too few vessels. According to the Navy, the service has been trying to fulfill duties that require more than 350 ships with only about 275 ships available.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer likened the situation to a balloon that has been filled with too much air and cannot be stretched any further.
“If you squeeze it, it pops,” he said.
There have been two additional Navy incidents in the Pacific region this year.
The USS Antietam ran aground near Yosuka, Japan, in January, and the USS Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel in May.
Magpul officials are challenging a recent Army safety message that states that the Gen M3 PMAG polymer magazine breaks in extreme cold weather conditions.
U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command Maintenance Information Message 17-045 states that “tests demonstrate PMAG magazines crack/break in cold (below 0 degrees Fahrenheit) environments when dropped and units should use Army-standard aluminum magazines in basic to severe cold environments.”
But Magpul Vice President Duane Liptak argues that the Gen M3 – the latest version of the PMAG that has been adopted by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Air Force – will continue to function more reliably than the Army’s new aluminum Enhanced Performance Magazine after drop tests at minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We strongly feel that there is either an error in their test methodology or their criteria for what they are considering pass/fail,” Liptak told Military.com recently.
“We have absolutely seen nothing from an extensive body of cold weather testing laboratory testing as well as extensive field use in arctic conditions to suggest any lack of suitability. In fact we have significant input from both fronts that it is superior to the USGI in those environments.”
The Marine Corps, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Air Force have selected the Magpul Gen M3 PMAG over the Army’s Enhanced Performance Magazine, or EPM.
But the Army has been reluctant to follow the other services and is sticking with its EPM.
Since its 2016 adoption, the Army has fielded more than 400,000 EPMs despite a 2015 U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center report that shows the Gen M3 outperformed the EMP along with nine other commercial polymer magazines.
When developing the Gen M3, Magpul officials said one of the main goals was to pass a drop test at minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the U.S. Army standard for extreme cold weather.
“Negative 60 was the goal for the Gen M3,” Liptak said.
Magpul used test criteria of the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, Liptak said.
The test involves an M4A1 loaded with a full Gen M3 PMAG after it is kept in a special chamber at minus 60 F for 72 hours, Liptak said.
“The most violent drop is the full weapon drop test; it is five feet in various orientations onto a polished concrete surface, in free-fall” Liptak said.
“It’s dropped in normal orientation which is magazine directly down, and that is the most damaging one to every magazine because that back corner hits. There are also sideways drops, a drop on the top of the rifle, a butt first drop and a nose first drop”
Liptak acknowledges that the Gen M3 PMAG will show minor cracking after the test, but it will continue to function reliably.
Apparently, Picatinny’s criteria only tests for cracking and breakages, not functioning, Liptak said.
“There was no live-fire performance qualification required so an aluminum mag bends all to Hell, binds the follower or spring, but it doesn’t crack so therefore it’s a pass,” Liptak said.
The PMAG will suffer tiny cracks, without spreading, in the floorplate, the over-travel stop and the mag catch – “all those things combined are to some extent sacrificial surfaces where they take some damage but the magazine is completely functional and that is our biggest criteria. Our thing is no matter what happens it needs to function.”
Liptack maintains that the Army’s EPM in many will be unable to function after the same drop tests.
“So what you will see is the base of the magazine will bend to a degree that impinges on the spring or the follower; sometimes the body itself will buckle sideways and that will impinge on the spring or the follower,” Liptak said.
Military.com reached out to the Army about this story but did not receive comment by deadline.
Magpul maintains that there are surfaces on the Gen M3 that are expected to have “small cracks when you drop it at minus 60, which is brutal,” Liptak said. “It’s a tough test. Like I said ‘the USGI doesn’t fair very well nor does anything else.
“Our criteria is function; the only thing we care about is function, so if the magazine fires 30 rounds after the drop it is considered a pass.”
North Korean officials did not show up to meet US officials to discuss returning the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War on July 12, 2018, and it’s essentially a slap in the face to President Donald Trump.
But one thing Kim agreed to in writing was “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”
“The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations,” Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University told Business Insider. “It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic. “
But North Korea did not immediately repatriate any bodies. By blowing off the meeting, as South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, North Korea has shown it can be difficult even over symbolic gestures of kindness.
Thousands of 100-year-olds asked Trump to get the bodies back?
After the summit, Trump really pressed the idea that returning the bodies was a significant achievement by making some dubious claims.
Trump said “thousands” of parents of Korean War soldiers asked him to get the remains back, but the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, meaning those parents would have been born around the 1920s, and approaching 100 years old today; it seems likely this figure includes surviving relatives of the deceased who are still seeking closure.
Later in June 2018, he claimed 200 bodies had been returned, but provided no evidence. North Korean officials have said they have identified the remains of about 200 US soldiers, so it’s unclear why North Korea would still be meeting if it had returned the bodies.
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.
The US Navy’s Arctic muscles have atrophied over the years, so the service is working to relearn how to operate in this increasingly competitive space.
One way the Navy is doing that is by working with US allies and partners with the necessary knowledge and skills, picking their brains on how best to operate in this unforgiving environment.
Lt. Samuel Brinson, a US Navy surface warfare officer who took part in an exchange program aboard the Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec as it conducted Arctic operations, recently talked to Insider about his experiences.
Although he declined to say exactly where he went, Brinson said that he “didn’t know anyone who had been as far north” as he traveled on his Arctic mission.
The US Navy’s 2nd Fleet was reactivated last summer to defend US interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic waterways, as great power rivals like Russia and even China are becoming increasingly active in these spaces.
But there’s a learning curve.
“2nd Fleet is a newly-established fleet, and we just haven’t been operating in the Arctic as a navy much recently,” Brinson told Insider.
HMCS Ville de Quebec.
“We need to get up there. We need to practice operating. We need to practice operating with our allies. We need to get up there and experience it for ourselves as much as possible.”
That’s exactly what he did. He went on a one-month fact-finding mission in the Arctic.
Brinson, who had previously deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations (Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf), was approached by 2nd Fleet for this opportunity, which involved reporting on how the Canadian navy carries out its activities in the Arctic effectively.
“The most striking difference [between the Arctic and other deployment locations] is how remote it is,” he explained to Insider. “There are just not many towns. You go forever without seeing other ships. You go forever without seeing other establishments. The distance is a lot further between the places we were operating than it looks on a map.”
From an operations perspective, that makes logistics a bit more difficult. “The biggest challenge for going into the Arctic is logistics,” Brinson said.
“You have to have a plan where you are going and really think about where you are going to get fuel, where you are going to get food, and if you need to send people or get people from the ship, how and where you are going to do that. Everything is pretty far apart.”
“You don’t have a lot of refueling points, resupply stations,” he added. “When you get up into the Arctic, there is not really anything there, and if someone had to come get you, like if they had to send tugs to come get us, it was going to take days, like lots of days.”
The emptiness of the Arctic isn’t just a problem from a resupply standpoint. It also creates navigational problems.
“Because it’s less developed up there, it’s also been less charted,” Brinson told Insider. “We spent a lot of time switching between electronic charts, paper charts, you know, Canadian charts, Norwegian charts, etc. to navigate around where we were going. You have to use whichever chart was most complete and most up to date.”
“There’s a lot of headway that could be made on that in the future,” he added. “The more we operate up there, the more we know that, but before we send ships in to some of these places, we probably need to just survey it first.”
Views of a U.S.-Canada joint mission to map the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean in 2011.
There’s also frigid temperatures and ice to worry about.
Brinson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was in the Arctic in August, a warmer period when the daytime highs were in the low 30s. “It was cold to me, but [the Canadians] all thought I was being silly,” he said.
In the spring, fall, or winter, the temperatures are much lower, and there is a risk of getting iced in while at port. “Right now, you pretty much only want to be up there June, July, August, and then as it starts getting into September, it starts getting too cold,” Brinson told Insider.
Even though the temperatures were higher when Brinson was there, ice was still a bit of problem. “There is enough around that you need to be extra careful, especially if it’s nighttime or foggy. There were icebergs that were bigger than the ship,” he said.
“If you were to hit something like that, it’s a huge problem,” Brinson added, recalling that he saw a polar bear roaming about on one of the icebergs with plenty of room to move around.
From the Canadians, Brinson learned how to deal with cold temperatures and ice, how to keep your water supply from freezing, which side to pass an iceberg on if there are pieces coming off it, and how to sail through an ice flow, among other things.
“Working with partners like Canada is key because they’ve never stopped operating up there,” he said. “They know things like that.”
Brinson told Insider that the US Navy has fallen behind and lost a step when it comes to Arctic operations. “What we need to do is just get back to doing it,” he said. “We need to start getting the level of knowledge back.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China is preparing to lock down potential oil and gas assets in the resource-rich, but hotly contested South China Sea by effectively banning exploration by countries from outside the region.
The Nikkei Asian Review reports that China, as part of a longer-term strategy that seeks to divide its South East Asian neighbors on the issue, has embedded the proposal in part of a long-awaited code of conduct for the contested waters.
Beijing’s proposal, which is helping drag out tense negotiations over the code with southeast Asian nations, is a likely deterrent targeting US oil interests from securing access to the seas claimed by a host of nearby Asian powers.
China hopes its talks with southeast Asian nations on a code of conduct in the South China Sea will bear fruit in about three years, visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in Singapore on Nov. 13, 2018.
Xinhua reports that Li said in a speech at the 44th Singapore Lecture, titled “Pursuing Open and Integrated Development for Shared Prosperity (“在开放融通中共创共享繁荣”) that China reckons it would like to draw a line under talks on the COC by 2021.
According to a report in the Nikkei on Nov. 11, 2018, people close to the COC negotiations said China inserted the oil exploration ban into a working document proposal in August 2018.
With officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including US vice president Mike Pence gathering this week in Singapore, calls have grown for the language’s removal, suggesting the ban is at odds with standard international maritime laws.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Codie Collins)
The South China Sea is a critical commercial gateway for the world’s merchant shipping, and consequently an important economic and strategic flashpoint in the Indo-Pacific.
Moreover it is the growing focus of several complex territorial disputes that have been the cause of conflict and angst.
China, as it continues to develop its energy technologies and oil extraction infrastructure has in all likelihood inserted the latest sticking point language knowing full well that any delay suits its long-game strategy.
Knowing that a bloc of ASEAN members can and will not accept the proposal, secures China more time ahead of a finalized code of conduct while Beijing’s power in the South China Sea grows and its influence among sympathetic ASEAN nations grows.
ASEAN members are already split when it comes to making space for China and on its role in the region, particularly the South China Sea.
Cambodia and Laos have in recent years fallen further and further under Beijing’s dynamic influence as China has invested heavily in supporting public works that secure the regimes in Phnom Penh and Vientiane.
Meanwhile, firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte, has enjoyed his role as a regional disrupter, at once isolating the US while hedging on Beijing.
Filipino President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte.
Duterte has embraced the confusion apparent in ASEAN waters as leverage for Manila, leaving a fractured bloc at the table with US and Chinese negotiators ahead of the East Asia Summit in Singapore.
The South China Sea comprises a stretch of roughly 1.4 million square miles of Pacific Ocean encompassing an area from the strategically critical passage though Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan, spanning west of the Philippines, north of Indonesia, and east of Vietnam.
Countries as diverse and numerous as Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, China are all connected to the South China Seas, which goes some way to explain the waters’ inherent dangers to regional security.
It’s quite a minefield.
The major contested island and reef formations throughout the seas are the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Pratas, the Natuna Islands, and Scarborough Shoal.
The islands are mostly uninhabited and have never been home to or laid claim by an indigenous population, making the issue of historical sovereignty a tricky one to resolve —China for example likes to say it has historical roots to the region established sometime back in the 15th century.
But their are many other aggravating maritime and territorial factors in this increasingly dangerous part of the world.
As ASEAN’s economic intensity has continued to build under the shade of China’s decades-long economic boom, so has the waterway become a critical channel for a growing percentage of global commercial merchant shipping.
China itself still depends heavily on access through the Malacca Straits to satiate its appetite for energy and resources.
Nearby Japan and South Korea, both net importers, also depend enormously on free access to the South China Sea for unhindered shipments of fuel, resources and raw materials for both import and export.
On top of that, these are oceans rich and unregulated when it comes to natural resources. Nations like Vietnam and China furiously compete through fleets of private fishing vessels organizedwith state backing in a rush to exploit fishing grounds in dire need of governance.
Yet, the source of the most intense friction is the widely held belief that the South China Seas are home to abundant, as yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves.
China and ASEAN have been discussing changes to a 2002 declaration on the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea that would give the rules legal force.
As it stands, the declaration has proved wholly unable to stop Chinese island-building in the waters.
The Spratly Islands, where China has been reclaiming land and building strategic assets, 2016
South China Sea nations including China, Vietnam and the Philippines seek opportunities to develop the plentiful reserves of energy that the sea is thought to hold.
But with the notable exception of China, backed by its heaving state-owned behemoths, like Sinopec and CNOOC these countries independently lack well-developed oil industries.
Which is where the US enters the frame.
Beijing has obvious and probably well founded concerns that the US will seek to engage and then use joint oil development projects with ASEAN countries to build a legitimate commercial toehold and thus a greater presence in the sea.
The Nikkei Review noted that the South China Sea’s lack of clear maritime boundaries makes it a difficult place to ban oil exploration by outside countries, according to a specialist in international law.
As part of the code of conduct, China has also proposed barring outside countries from taking part in joint military exercises with ASEAN countries in the South China Sea.
ASEAN members including Singapore have not agreed to this provision, creating another obstacle to concluding the negotiations.
ASEAN is moving to strengthen ties with China, as shown by October’s first-ever joint military exercises. At the same time, the Southeast Asian bloc plans to hold naval exercises with the US as early as 2019.
Meanwhile, this week Chinese president Xi Jinping will travel to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea to meet with the leaders of the eight Pacific islands that recognise China diplomatically and welcome Chinese investment.
Beijing warned no country should try to obstruct its “friendship and cooperation” with Pacific nations that have already received over billion in Chinese investment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Russian Su-27 Flanker came within five feet of an American reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. The incident came shortly after a major multi-national exercise concluded.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the advanced Russian fighter armed with air-to-air missiles buzzed an Air Force RC-135. Since June 2, there have been 35 encounters between American and Russian aircraft, but this incident was notable due to how close the Flanker came to the American plane.
It was not immediately clear which version of the RC-135 was intercepted by the Russians in this incident. The Air Force has three variants of the RC-135. The RC-135S Cobra Ball specializes in ballistic missile tracking. The RC-135U Combat Sent is an electronic intelligence aircraft that specializes in locating emitters for radar systems. The RC-135V/W Rivet Joint specializes in electronic intelligence – and is even capable of intercepting communications.
Five suspected members of a drug-trafficking ring were arrested in Argentina and Russia as part of a joint police investigation that was launched more than a year ago after 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentinian officials say.
Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said that the probe led to the arrest, on Feb. 22, 2018, of a naturalized Russian who was a member of the police force in Buenos Aires and another citizen of the South American country.
The investigation started in December 2016, when Russia’s ambassador to Argentina reported to Argentinian authorities that they had suspicions about luggage found in an annex of the embassy.
Once authorities confirmed that traffickers were trying to move 16 bags of cocaine from the embassy by way of a diplomatic flight, “a tracking device was placed in the suitcase that was to be used to make the shipment to Russia, which was its destination,” Bullrich told reporters.
The luggage was flown to Russia in 2017, and Bullrich said three Argentinian customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the delivery.