Sunday, February 01, 2009

Barak Says Israel Not Planning New Gaza War

Barak Says Israel Not Planning New Gaza War
(NSI News Source Info) Jerusalem - February 2, 2009: Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that Israel does not intend to launch another broad operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip after launching air strikes on Sunday in response to rocket fire. "It is not our intention to have an Operation Cast Lead 2," Barak said in an interview with the YNet news Web site, using Israel's name for its recent 22-day offensive in Gaza.
"We said there would be a response and there was a response last night."
His comments clashed with statements on Sunday by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who said that, if necessary, Israel would mount a new offensive in the Gaza Strip to choke off cross-border rocket fire.
Both Barak, head of the centre-left Labour Party, and Livni, chairman of the ruling, centrist Kadima party, are candidates for prime minister in Israel's February 10 election.
Opinion polls forecast victory for right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud.
Israeli planes attacked a Hamas security complex and smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border on Sunday, the latest of several outbreaks of violence that have strained a ceasefire that went into effect on January 18.
There were no reported casualties in the air strikes, the Israeli military said. The attacks followed the firing of about a dozen rockets and mortar bombs into southern Israel on Sunday, which wounded two Israeli soldiers and a civilian.
"Disproportionate response"
Israeli aircraft went into action hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened a "disproportionate" response to the rockets. Israel carried out its Gaza campaign with the declared aim of ending such attacks by militants.
A wing of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a group belonging to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, said it had launched some of the rockets, but not all were claimed.
"We know that most of this fire is not from Hamas but from other, smaller groups. However, Hamas bears responsibility," Barak told Israel Radio on Monday. "Hamas has to act to stop this." Taher al-Nono, a spokesman for the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, urged all factions on Sunday to "respect the national consensus" on the ceasefire, which the Islamist group declared two weeks ago after Israel said it was halting its assault on Gaza.
With US backing, Egypt is seeking a long-term truce deal that would end Hamas weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip and also lead to a reopening of the enclave's border crossings, one of Hamas' main demands.
Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza after Hamas Islamists seized the territory from the Western-backed Abbas in 2007.
Since the truce was declared, in addition to Sunday's injuries, one Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded when a bomb exploded next to their patrol. Israeli air strikes have killed three Palestinians and wounded 10.
During Israel's 22-day offensive, at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, including 700 civilians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Russia: New Missile S-400 Triumf — NATO Designation SA-21 Growler

Russia: New Missile S-400 Triumf — NATO Designation SA-21 Growler
(NSI News Source Info) February 2, 2009: Russia is testing a new missile for its formidable S-400 Triumf air defense system that, if it performs according to its claimed specifications, is the most formidable long-range anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense system in the world. Three-star Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, the commander of the Russian air force, announced testing plans for the new missile Tuesday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. RIA Novosti described the S-400 Triumf — NATO designation SA-21 Growler — as being “designed to intercept and destroy airborne targets at a distance of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles) — twice the range of the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot and 2.5 times that of the S-300PMU-2.” The report said the S-400 was projected to remain the backbone of Russia’s theater air and missile defense systems at least until 2020, and possibly even until 2025. “The S-400 system is being successfully deployed with air defense units. At present, we are testing a new missile for this system,” Zelin said, according to the report. RIA Novosti noted that in 2007, the Russian air force announced it had carried out effective live firing tests of the S-400 air defense complex at its Kapustin Yar firing range in south Russia’s Astrakhan region. As previously reported in these columns, the Russian air force already has put into operational service a battalion of its first missile regiment armed with the S-400 to defend the Russian capital, Moscow, and its surrounding regions. The S-400 Triumf system is claimed to have the capability to intercept “stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles, with an effective range of up to 3,500 kilometers (2,200 miles) and a speed of up to 4.8 kilometers per second (10,800 mph),” RIA Novosti reported. The report said a regular S-400 battalion operates at least eight launchers with 32 missiles. The Russian government has approved funding for a state arms procurement program to produce 18 such battalions with a total arsenal of 576 missiles by 2015, it said. Russia still dangles Gabala radar for U.S. use The Kremlin got nowhere in trying to tempt the Bush administration to use its radar tracking facilities at Gabala in Azerbaijan against the threat of possible future Iranian nuclear-armed missiles instead of building a separate U.S. radar facility in the Czech Republic. However, now Moscow is renewing its offer in the hope that the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will be more accommodating. “Our proposal remains on the table. The new U.S. administration will encounter serious problems with regard to the implementation of its third missile site plan in Europe. We are not exerting any pressure on the U.S. administration here,” First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov stated Monday, according to a report from the RIA Novosti news agency. Denisov claimed the use of the Gabala radar station, which Russia leases from the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan in the Caucasus would prove to be “cost effective” compared to other proposals — presumably referring to the planned construction from scratch of an advanced U.S. radar tracking array in the Czech Republic. The Czech base is designed to guide 10 U.S. Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors to be based in Poland to intercept future Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles that may be fired at targets in Western Europe and the eastern United States. The Russian government, however, has long claimed that the real purpose of the Polish GBIs and the Czech-based radar systems would be to target any survivable second-strike Russian nuclear capability. The issue has deadlocked the Russian and U.S. governments for years. In a bid claimed to break the deadlock, the Kremlin suggested letting the United States operate radars at Armavir in southern Russia and at Gabala in Azerbaijan. However, U.S. experts say those facilities are far too close to the potential Iranian launch sites to most effectively guide the GBIs on to their targets when they are in midflight over Central Europe. Also, the Armavir and Gabala bases, of course, would remain effectively under Russian control, and Moscow therefore could eject the U.S. technicians operating radars there at any time.

F-22A Raptors Roaming Skies Over Okinawa

F-22A Raptors Roaming Skies Over Okinawa
(NSI News Source Info) KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — February 2, 2009: Air Force F-22A Raptors are surreptitiously roaming the Pacific skies to train and provide security support to the Western Pacific. Twelve of the stealthy fighters, assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, arrived at Kadena Air Base from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia last month and will be deployed in Okinawa for about three months. This is the second deployment for the squadron, which debuted the jets at Kadena in 2007. Another dozen or so Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska are participating in a similar deployment rotation at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. An F-22A Raptor shoots out a flare during an air combat training mission at Kadena Air Base. The goal this time around, said squadron commander Lt. Col. Lansing Pilch, is to focus on improving joint combat capabilities with Kadena’s fighter squadrons and Navy and Marine assets. The Raptor can perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. About 250 maintenance and combat support personnel from the 27th Fighter Squadron accompanied the aircraft, Kadena officials said. “It’s an outstanding opportunity to fly with pilots that have never flown with the F-22s before,” Pilch said. “It allows us to be a stronger fighter force.” The F-22A can cruise at supersonic speeds and evade radar detection, making it virtually invisible to threats. The Raptors, which became operational in 2005, are also the military’s most costly jets — running about $142 million each, according to an Air Force fact sheet said. The jets are eventually to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-15s. Staff Sgt. Wesley Goff, an avionics specialist with the 27th Fighter Squadron who helps maintain the F-22As, said understanding the jet’s mechanics and technology takes some adjustment. Goff has worked on F-117A, the Air Force’s first stealth fighter, and said the strides in aviation technology are impressive. A crew chief walks around an F-22 Raptor at a squad bay on the flightline at Kadena Air Base on Thursday. The 27th Fighter Squadron, based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, brought 12 Raptors to Kadena for training. “Just the nature of its (F-22A’s) capabilities is unbelievable,” Goff said. More than 100 pilots have been trained to fly the F-22A, Pilch said. Pilch, who’s flown F-15s and F-16s, said the F-22A’s design, speed and avionics technology gives him greater depth in tactical situations. “It makes the aircraft extremely capable, it has great maneuverability, and it allows me to have a great picture of what’s going on around me,” Pilch said. “Everyone wants to say their jet is the best, but this is it.”

Russia: Su-34 (Fullback) - Two-Seat Fighter-Bomber/Strike Aircraft

Russia: Su-34 (Fullback) - Two-Seat Fighter-Bomber/Strike Aircraft
(NSI News Source Info) February 2, 2009: The Su-34 (NATO reporting name of "Fullback") is a dedicated two-seat fighter-bomber/strike fighter version of the successful Su-27 "Flanker" fighter series. The aircraft is a product of the Sukhoi Design Bureau that has already spawned into a handful of capable roles including the Su-33 navy multi-role fighter and the Su-35 long-range, air superiority/strike fighter.
The Su-34 features some components of previous Flanker aircraft but incorporates a slew of new systems that make the system essentially an independent aircraft design consistent with its intended strike role.The Su-34 began life under the Sukhoi T-10V project designation and evolved into the Su-27IB, making its maiden flight on April 13th, 1990. This project sought to fit the air superiority Su-27 Flanker into more of a dedicated fighter-bomber role.
The Sukhoi Su-34 (export designation Su-32, NATO reporting name Fullback) is an advanced Russian 2-seat fighter-bomber and strike aircraft. It is intended to eventually replace the Sukhoi Su-24.
The aircraft differed from its predecessor in that it featured a larger cabin to accommodate a two-seat cockpit with each pilot seated side-by-side. Essentially, the entire forward fuselage is all-new when compared to the base Su-27 and its counterpart, the Su-30. Conversely, the aircraft maintains the engine nacelles (with fixed intakes), wings and tail section of the Su-27 and features forward-fitted canards for added stability. The canards are fitted between the distance of the cockpit and main wing system. The extended fuselage aft (otherwise referred to as a "stinger") houses a rearward-looking radar system to contend with any enemy aircraft in pursuit.
The large two-seat, pressurized cockpit adds many long-range bonuses for the crew made up of the pilot and weapons operator. It is reportedly spacious enough for the crew to stand upright and an in-flight lavatory makes for sustainable long flights. Unlike previous Soviet/Russian aircraft designs, ergonomics have been given a priority in the Su-34 and thus the onboard spaciousness is a byproduct of this initiative. The cockpit is made largely of glass with a split forward piece and a curved single main piece. The cockpit design and sharp down-angled nose no doubt adds to taxing and landing visibility substantially. Independent ejection seats are afforded to both crew members. The undercarriage is a conventional tricycle arrangement with each main gear utilizing two wheels.
Power is derived from twin Lyulka brand AL-35F turbofans with afterburning capability producing 30,845lbf of thrust each unit. Fuel is supplied via large onboard areas and, coupled with external fuel tanks and in-flight refueling, the Fullback can obtain impressive ranges. A top Mach speed of 1.8 is reported along with a range of 2,490 miles (ferry range). Service ceiling will top out at roughly 49,000 feet. Onboard systems propel the Su-34 into the modern age and feature real-time digital battlefield management systems, advanced targeting and tracking operations and an improved navigational suite. Cockpit system automation in the cockpit extends the usefulness of the aircraft to the point of allowing the pilots to concentrate on other facets of the mission at hand.
For standard armament, the Su-34 will feature a 1 x 30mm GSh-30-1 series cannon (as found on the Su-27 and Su-30 Flankers) sporting 150 rounds of ammunition - largely for close-range self-defense. The bread and butter of the system lies in its ability to mount up to 17,600lbs of external ordnance on 10 to 12 underside hardpoints slung about the wings and fuselage. Munition types run the gamut of air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry including guided air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles (including long-range cruise missiles), guided bombs and conventional bombs and rocket pods of varying types. Wingtip launch rails are reserved for the AA-11 "Archer" series of air-to-air missiles, presumably for self-defense - though the Su-27 air superiority roots of the Su-34 may prove it a capable fighter none-the-less.
Along with its inherent in-flight refueling capabilities, the Su-34 can also carry external fuel tanks for exponentially increased operational ranges.
The Su-27IB was unveiled several times over the decade under different guises and designations, no doubt slowly evolving as the available project funds allowed. As the money came and went, so too did the Su-34 progression and regression. Eventually, the system was officially announced with the Su-34 designation by Russian authorities and its uncertain future was now set in motion at a cost of approximately $36 million USD (1997) to produce.
The Su-34 "Fullback" is intended to replace the 500 or so Cold War-era Sukhoi Su-24 "Fencer" aircraft still in service with Russian forces, though modernization programs have been underway to extend the operational life of the Fencers until the Su-34 is fully ready. This most likely means that it will be of some duration before the Su-34 sees full operational numbers. Some 10 pre-production examples have already been delivered with an expected 200 example total by the end of this first production run. All in all, the Su-34 "Fullback" should be an impressive addition to the Russian aerial arsenal.

Russia Formally Hands Over 3 Su-30MK2 Multi-Role fighters To Indonesia

Russia Formally Hands Over 3 Su-30MK2 Multi-Role fighters To Indonesia
( NSI News Source Info) MAKASSAR - February 2, 2009: Russia and Indonesia finalized on Monday the handover of three Russian-made Russia Formally Hands Over 3 Su-30MK2 Multi-Role fighters To Indonesia multi-role fighters. The aircraft is a modernized version of the Su-27UB and has several variants. The Su-30K and Su-30MK series have had commercial success. The variants are manufactured by competing organizations: KNAAPO and the IRKUT Corporation, both of which come under the Sukhoi group's umbrella. KNAAPO manufactures the Su-30MKK and the Su-30MK2, which were designed for and sold to China and later Indonesia. Irkut makes the long-range, multirole Su-30MK series. The series includes the Su-30MKI developed for the Indian Air Force and its derivatives, the MKM, MKA and MKV for Malaysia, Algeria and Venezuela respectively. The official ceremony took place after the aircraft were delivered to Indonesia on December 26 and January 17, assembled and underwent test flights. Under the $300 million contract, signed in 2007, Russia is also due to supply three Su-27SKM fighters to Jakarta in 2009-2010. Two Su-27SK and two Su-30MK planes are already in service with the Indonesian Air Force. "We hope for further contacts in the defense sphere with Russia," a senior Indonesian Defense Ministry official said at the ceremony. The aircraft will join Indonesia's 11th Squadron and will be based at the Sultan Hasanuddin airbase on Sulawesi.

Chinese Military Chief Vows Nuclear, Conventional Build-Up

Chinese Military Chief Vows Nuclear, Conventional Build-Up
(NSI News Source Info) BEIJING – February 2, 2009: China will accelerate the build-up of its nuclear and conventional arsenal to form a credible deterrent, the general in charge of the country's strategic missile force said. "We will accelerate the building of our nuclear and conventional combat strength," said Jing Zhiyuan, the commander of the Second Artillery Corp, in an article he co-wrote for the authoritative journal Qiushi published on Sunday. File photo shows visitors walking past a nuclear missile on display at the Military Museum in Beijing. China will accelerate the build-up of its nuclear and conventional arsenal to form a credible deterrent, the general in charge of the country's strategic missile force said. "We will strengthen the build-up of combat systems and improve the training of high-quality personnel," said the article. China will also develop "a nuclear and conventional missile force corresponding to the needs of winning a war" in conditions changed by modern information technology, it said. The Second Artillery Corps is an independent branch of the armed forces directly under the control of the powerful Central Military Commission. It is armed with hundreds of strategic and tactical missiles. "The Second Artillery is the core of our nation's strategic deterrence. It is the main support pillar and backup force of our national security and development," the article said. The corps' jobs include "deterring other countries from using nuclear weapons against China, and for conducting nuclear counter-attacks and precision strikes with conventional missiles," China said in a recent policy paper. Quishi is a journal for the ruling Communist Party to publish policies and theories. The United States has long expressed concern over China's military build-up, and accused the Chinese government of not being transparent about its defence spending. China has said its military budget for 2008 was 417.8 billion yuan (61 billion dollars), a rise of 17.6 percent from the previous year.

Iran: Circumventing Arms Embargo, Risky Business

Iran: Circumventing Arms Embargo, Risky Business
(NSI News Source Info) February 2, 2009: A naturalized U.S. citizen, Hassan Keshari, recently pled guilty to violating the arms embargo on Iran. Keshari was born in Iran, and acted as a middleman between the Iranian import companies that paid for all this, and a supplier in Florida who was able to obtain spare parts for C-130 transports, F-14 fighters and AH-1 helicopter gunships. Many parts for these aircraft are fairly common items in the U.S. aviation business, but harder to get overseas, or in an embargoed country like Iran. The owner of the Florida company has pleaded innocent, and goes on trial in four months. Ever since the U.S. embargo was imposed in 1979 (after Iran broke diplomatic protocol by seizing the American embassy), Iran has sought, with some success, to offer big money to smugglers who can beat the embargo and get needed industrial and military equipment.
This is a risky business, and American and European prisons are full of Iranians, and other nationals, who tried, and failed, to procure forbidden goods. The smuggling operations is currently under more scrutiny, and attack, because of Iran's growing nuclear weapons program. Many of those caught aiding the Iranian procurement effort, are Iranian by birth. Iranian recruiters go after expatriate Iranians, especially those who have become citizens in their new countries, to help get forbidden items.
This has put over a hundred of these expatriates in jail or on the run from their adopted homes. In most cases, the Iranian recruiters offer money, but they will also invoke "love of the motherland", or even threats against kin still in Iran.

U.S. Air Force Being Deprived From Forthcoming New Technology B-3X Bomber Due To Lack Of Funding By DoD

U.S. Air Force Being Deprived From Forthcoming New Technology B-3X Bomber Due To Lack Of Funding By DoD
(NSI News Source Info) February 2, 2009: The U.S. Department of Defense has told the U.S. Air Force that there will be no more money for developing a new heavy bomber. Not for a while, anyway. That will slowdown the decade long air force effort to get a new heavy bomber, but won't stop it. Since the late 90s, the air force has been U.S. Air Force is working on a replacement for its current force of heavy bombers (19 B-2s, 67 B-1s and 76 B-52s).
Models of what the new bomber might look like have been shown, and the "B-3" (officially the NGB, or New Generation Bomber) looks like the B-2. There were two proposals (from Northrop Grumman and Boeing). Both look like the B-2. For the Northrop Grumman proposal, the main difference is that the stubby wings are "cranked" (moved forward a bit, rather than continuing in a straight line from the body of the aircraft). These derivative designs were apparently favored because the air force knew it was unlikely to get the money for a radical (and expensive) new design. Now they've been told they won't even get money for a "B-2 Lite." There was also talk of building the B-3 so it could operate with, or without, a crew. The air force had rejected suggestions that the B-3 be a UAV. But now it looks like that may change, as a B-3 UAV would be cheaper, and a future project more likely to get funded. The air force hoped to get the B-3 into service in by 2018. That is no longer possible, even though the air force has already spent several billion dollars of its money on B-3 development. All is not lost.
The B-3 spec called for a smaller and stealthier aircraft that carried a ten ton bomb load (less than half what current heavy bombers haul). This recognizes the efficiency of smart bombs, which are more than a hundred times more effective than unguided bombs. Meanwhile, the most cost-effective bombers continue to be the half century old B-52s, simply because they are cheaper to operate. The well maintained B-52s are quite sturdy and have, on average, only 16,000 flying hours on them. The air force estimates that the B-52s won't become un-maintainable until they reach 28,000 flight hours. Thus these aircraft could serve another 20 or more years.
The B-1 and B-2 were meant to provide a high tech (and much more expensive) replacement for the B-52, but the end of the Cold War made that impractical. The kinds of anti-aircraft threats the B-1 and B-2 were designed to deal with never materialized. This left the B-52 as the most cost effective way to deliver bombs. The B-1s and B-2s are getting some of the same weapons carrying and communications upgrades as the B-52, if only because these more modern aircraft provide a more expensive backup for the B-52. In the last half century, the air force has developed six heavy bombers (the 240 ton B-52 in 1955, the 74 ton B-58 in 1960, the 47 ton FB-111 in 1969, the 260 ton B-70 in the 1960s, the 236 ton B-1 in 1985, and the 181 ton B-2 in 1992.) All of these were developed primarily to deliver nuclear weapons (bombs or missiles), but have proved more useful dropping non-nuclear bombs.
Only the B-70 was cancelled before being deployed. The B-1 was delayed and almost cancelled, but proved that the air force would do anything to keep the heavy bombers coming. The way this is going, it's likely that the next heavy bomber will be smaller (60-100 tons) subsonic, stealthy, uninhabited and familiar looking. The air force will probably have to propose a substantially cheaper aircraft as well, if they ever want to get Department of Defense backing for a new heavy bomber.
In any event, initial plans for the B-3 called for heavy use of breakthrough (not invented yet) technologies, and getting the wonder bird into service sometime in the 2020s. That was quickly dropped when the cost of the B-2 (two billion dollars per aircraft) became another media feeding frenzy. The B-3 will have to be cheaper, and one way to achieve that will be to dispense with the crew. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Poland Troops May Leave Chad, Lebanon To Cut Costs

Poland Troops May Leave Chad, Lebanon To Cut Costs
(NSI News Source Info) WARSAW, Poland - February 2, 2009: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Jan. 31 that Poland may withdraw its troops from Chad and Lebanon as part of a 3.9 billion euro cost-cutting plan to help ward off the financial crisis. "We will consider whether it makes sense to continue with certain foreign missions. We will certainly take a decision about Chad and Lebanon this year," he said. The government said on Jan. 27 it is cutting spending by 17 billion zlotys ($5.06 billion) from the 321.221 billion zlotys it had planned to spend this year, in response to the global economic crisis. Poland's current 400-member mission in Chad is the second-largest in the European Union's peacekeeping force after France. Last month Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said the size of its mission could be cut to 300, when the EU's U.N.-approved mandate expires in March and the mission is passed to the world body. Poland also has nearly 500 troops in Lebanon as part of the U.N. peacekeeping force (UNIFIL), which is helping to monitor a cease-fire between Israel and the militia group Hezbollah after a monthlong war in 2006.

Iran Faces Choice On Co-Operation: Clinton

Iran Faces Choice On Co-Operation: Clinton
(NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - February 2, 2009: President Barack Obama’s intent to change the direction of US foreign policy gives Iran a “clear opportunity” to engage more productively on its nuclear program and other issues, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday. In her first remarks to reporters at the State Department, Clinton said Obama’s first days in office have made it clear that a more open Iranian approach to the international community could benefit Iran. She said this was reflected in statements Obama made in an interview Monday with an Arab TV network.
“There is a clear opportunity for the Iranians, as the president expressed in his interview, to demonstrate some willingness to engage meaningfully with the international community,” she said. “Whether or not that hand becomes less clenched is really up to them.”Obama told the Al-Arabiya news channel that he wanted to communicate to Muslims that “the Americans are not your enemy.” He condemned Iran’s threats to destroy Israel and its pursuit of nuclear weapons, but said “it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress.”
Clinton, who criticized Obama for his willingness to speak directly with leaders of rogue nations like Iran during their contest for the Democratic presidential nomination, told reporters that the administration is undertaking a wide-ranging and comprehensive survey of US policy options toward Iran. “There is just a lot that we are considering that I’m not prepared to discuss,” she added. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari, speaking in Athens, Greece, said Tuesday that it was too early to say whether relations with the United States would improve with Obama as president.“We will wait and see (if there is) actual change or just slogans,” he said.
Clinton’s comments came one day after US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the Obama administration will engage in “direct diplomacy” with Iran. Not since before the 1979 Iranian revolution are US officials believed to have conducted wide-ranging direct diplomacy with Iranian officials. Rice said Iran must meet UN Security Council demands to suspend uranium enrichment before any talks on its nuclear program.
More broadly, Clinton said her initial round of telephone calls with world leaders has yielded positive signs.
“There’s a great exhalation of breath going on around the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that’s being set and the team that’s (been) put together by the president,” said the former New York senator and first lady.
“In areas of the world that have felt either overlooked or not receiving appropriate attention to the problems they are experiencing, there’s a welcoming of the engagement that we are promising,” she said. “It’s not any kind of repudiation or indictment of the past eight years so much as an excitement and an acceptance of how we are going to be doing business.”
She dismissed suggestions that Obama’s foreign policy team will find it difficult to work together. She said all are determined to find the best way to execute the president’s foreign policy objectives. “We have a lot of damage to repair,” she said, referring to US foreign relations as they stood when President George W. Bush left office Jan 20.Clinton said she spoke by telephone Tuesday with top Iraqi officials to make clear that there will be continuity in US policy. She said her call was intended to “reinforce our commitment to a democratic and sovereign Iraq and the importance of their provincial elections.” Iraqis are scheduled to vote on Saturday in a set of elections that US and Iraqi officials hope will further solidify progress toward national political reconciliation.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the United States will “go after Al-Qaeda wherever Al-Qaeda is,” and said Washington’s position has been relayed to Pakistan.
“Both President (George W.) Bush and President (Barack) Obama have made clear we will go after Al-Qaeda whereever Al-Qaeda is, and we will continue to pursue that,” he told lawmakers.
Asked whether that decision has been transmitted to the government of Pakistan, Gates said “Yes, sir.”
As the Pentagon prepares for a major buildup of US troops in Afghanistan, Robert Gates warned Tuesday that the United States cannot become bogged down in the unrealistic goal of turning the devastated country into an economically prosperous nation.
Instead, the US must limit its focus to ensuring terrorists do not regain control of the region and use it to coordinate attacks, Gates said.
“If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there,” Gates said, referring to the mythic haven of purity, “we will lose because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience or money to be honest.”
Gates testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee as President Barack Obama considers his options for drawing down US operations in Iraq and doubling the force size in Afghanistan. Obama planned to meet Wednesday with the service chiefs.
Gates told lawmakers that the Pentagon could send two more brigades to Afghanistan by late spring and a third by midsummer in an effort to try to salvage a country besieged by corruption and increasing violence.
More troops could be sent after that but that would hinge on the Defense Department’s ability to build a larger infrastructure, he added. The secretary cautioned against sending too many troops, because he said it could send the wrong message and Afghan citizens must see their own security forces take control.
When asked by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican and frequent visitor to the region, whether he expects casualties to rise with the uptick in military operations, Gates responded that it was “likely.”
“This is going to be tough, it’s going to be difficult and in many ways more difficult than Iraq. Do you agree with that?” Graham asked Gates.
“Yes,” Gates responded.Gates said the Pentagon is preparing for Obama various scenarios for winding down the war in Iraq, including a plan that would cease US involvement in combat within 16 months. Gates said military planners are looking at later dates as well and are prepared to brief Obama on all his options and the their associated risks. “I believe the president will have had every opportunity to hear quite directly from his commanders about what they can accomplish and what the attendant risks are under different options,” Gates said.Gates said he does not expect the military buildup in Afghanistan to put an additional strain on troops. By the end of September, soldiers deployed for 12 months should be allowed 15 months at home. In the 2010 budget year, that ratio will stretch further, giving troops two years at home for every one year deployed. By 2011, they should see 30 months at home, he said.
Robert Gates vowed to reform the way the Pentagon buys weapons and said budget pressures resulting from two wars and the economic crisis would force tough choices in coming years.
“We will not be able to ‘do everything, buy everything’ ... I believe now is the time to take action,” Gates said in testimony prepared for the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Gates singled out procurement as one of the biggest challenges facing the Pentagon, and said finding a solution would require the support of industry and Congress.
“I believe that the FY 2010 budget must make hard choices. Any necessary changes should avoid across-the-board adjustments, which inefficiently extend all programs,” he said.
He said long-standing systemic problems had resulted in “the situation we face today, where a small set of expensive weapons programs has had repeated — and unacceptable — problems with requirements, schedule, cost and performance.”
Gates said the department had already begun to purchase weapons at more efficient rates, and he would work to buy larger quantities of systems that represent the ‘75 percent solution’ instead of waiting for a nearly perfect system.
The Pentagon also needed to ensure that services did not continue to add requirements once a weapons program began, and write contracts that gave incentives for good work.
“The department should seek increased competition, use of prototypes and ensure technology maturity so that our programs are ready for the next phases of development,” Gates said.
Gates meanwhile, assured lawmakers that the United States is ready to handle any Chinese military threat, even as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for increased US engagement with Beijing. Gates, speaking at a Senate hearing, said that US forces “have the capability in place to be able to deal with any foreseeable Chinese threat for some time to come.”
Clinton, meanwhile, told reporters at the State Department that the Bush administration’s dialogue with China “turned into an economic dialogue,” referring to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s Strategic Economic Dialogue, high-level discussions that have been held twice a year starting in late 2006.
“We need a comprehensive dialogue with China,” Clinton said. Economic engagement, she added, is “a very important aspect of our relationship with China, but it’s not the only aspect our relationship.”
The Obama administration is “going to be working together in the government across our agencies to design a more comprehensive approach that will be more in keeping with the important role that China is playing and will be playing,” Clinton said.

Why Does China Continue To Undergo Such Rapid Military Expansion?

Why Does China Continue To Undergo Such Rapid Military Expansion?
(NSI News Source Info) February 2, 2009: China has issued a white paper entitled "China's National Defense in 2008," tracing shifts in its defense budget since the nation first implemented its open door policy in 1978. The dramatic increase in defense spending over the past 30 years is striking. The first decade saw an average 3.5 percent rise in the defense budget. In the second decade the figure rose to an average increase of 14.5 percent, and the last decade, 15.9 percent. In recent years, the figure has exceeded Japan's overall spending on national defense -- in 2008, China's military budget was 417.7 billion yuan (approximately 5.849 trillion yen). Donated Chinese cars are displayed at the military headquarters in Lima, November 14, 2008. The government of China donated 62 cars to be used during the APEC summit in Lima in November. According to Western military experts, however, China's military spending is actually said to be two to three times the figure, once other military-related expenses designated for categories such as space exploration and foreign aid are taken into account. Why does China continue to undergo such rapid military expansion? The white paper says that, "China will never seek hegemony or engage in military expansion now or in the future, no matter how developed it becomes." But this does not amount to a rational explanation and does nothing to reassure neighboring countries. At one time, China offered an increase in military personnel costs as a result of improved labor conditions as its justification for soaring military expenses. It is more realistic to assume, however, that China's defense budget increase of recent years is due to qualitative changes made under the country's shifting military strategy. The white paper touches upon the military's pelagic and space capabilities, and as if to confirm the country's focus, the government has acknowledged its consideration of constructing aircraft carriers. China, furthermore, has succeeded in several manned spacecraft missions, has developed the missile technology necessary to shoot down satellites in orbit, and has continued launching its own positioning satellites crucial to guiding these missiles. China's aspirations are transparent. The country's goal is no longer the preservation of its land, territorial waters, and airspace, but the safeguarding of national interests, now spread across the globe. A debate has emerged within the military about replacing the protection of "territorial boundaries" with that of "boundaries of national interests." If military expansion is the purpose of this shift, how does it differ from the pursuit of hegemony? The white paper, alas, does not shed light on this question. Currently the world's third biggest economy, China obtains the oil and natural gas necessary to support its economic growth via massive pipelines running from Central Asia, Myanmar, and Russia. It has participated in oil field development in Africa and the Middle East, its tank vessels loaded with oil forming a queue in the Indian Ocean, and is hoping to explore undersea resources in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. The economic interests of the country have expanded on a worldwide scale. The Chinese Navy's deployment of cutting-edge missile destroyers to the waters off the coast of Somalia was not a mere short-term measure for dealing with pirates, but a way to establish the foundations to develop sea lane defense capabilities to Africa's coast. How will China's military buildup be affected by economic growth that has slowed drastically this year? Had this been the China of yesterday, it would have focused its budget on building the economy. Putting the brakes on military expansion once it has gained momentum is no easy task, however, and, whether there will be a shift in the relationship between the government and the military remains to be seen.

North Korea Hails 'Invincible' Army, Warns Of Conflict

North Korea Hails 'Invincible' Army, Warns Of Conflict
(NSI News Source Info) SEOUL — February 2, 2009: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has hailed his troops as "invincible" as state media on Sunday warned of a possible military conflict with South Korea amid heightened tensions between the neighbours. Kim expressed confidence in his soldiers' ability to "shatter any surprise invasion of the enemy at a single blow" as he inspected an army unit, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said. "The KPA (Korean People's Army)... has grown to be the invincible revolutionary ranks, all members of which devotedly defend the Party and the leader," it quoted Kim as saying, without giving a date for the visit. The KCNA dispatch came days after North Korea scrapped all political and military agreements with the South, further raising tensions between the two sides, which technically remain at war as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended without a peace treaty. "In Korea in the state of armistice confrontation means escalated tension and it may lead to an uncontrollable and unavoidable military conflict and a war," Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling communist party paper, said Sunday. Rodong then warned of the South's "destruction" if Seoul keeps ignoring warnings from the North. Accusing the South of pushing relations to the brink of war, the North announced Friday that all political and military agreements would be nullified, including one covering their Yellow Sea border -- the scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999 and 2002. Hours later, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak vowed to stick to what Pyongyang has called a "confrontational" policy on North Korea. Lee, who took office a year ago, rolled back the "sunshine" engagement policy of his liberal predecessors, linking Seoul's economic assistance to Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament efforts. South Korea stepped up its border monitoring and vowed to respond firmly to any violation, but said no unusual activities had been detected. "No unusual military movements have been spotted in North Korea yet," a South Korean defence ministry spokesman told AFP. US State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood said the "distinctly not helpful" North Korean comments would not affect six-party talks aimed at scrapping Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programmes. Pyongyang signed a deal with its five partners in 2007 calling for its nuclear weapons to be scrapped in return for aid, normalised relations with the United States and Japan and a formal peace pact on the Korean peninsula. But the negotiations, which involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia, are deadlocked as North Korea, which tested a nuclear device in 2006, has baulked at a written agreement detailing ways to verify nuclear disarmament.

Israel Urges Turkey To Rethink Its Ties With Hamas And Iran

Israel Urges Turkey To Rethink Its Ties With Hamas And Iran
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday warned the cabinet against deepening a schism with Turkey that was sparked by fierce Turkish censure of Israel's offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
"[I'm] very concerned by the behavior in public on the subject of Turkey," Olmert said. "Our relations with Turkey are important, and I recommend that we don't intensify our statements on the subject."
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (C), Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel (R) attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem February 1, 2009. Olmert threatened on Sunday a "disproportionate response" to the continued firing of rockets into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
The Israel Defense Forces campaign, which ended in a Jan. 18 truce, triggered protests from Turkey culminating in a shouting match last week between its Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum. Despite his warning, Olmert added that Turkey, a key ally of Israel, was "not exempt from domestic considerations... being a Muslim state on the eve of elections."
"The Turks also know that we are obliged to thwart terrorism," he said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, said on Sunday that the onus was on Ankara to get tough with Hamas, which won a 2006 Palestinian vote but has been shunned by the West for refusing to recognize Israel and stop firing rockets at Israel from Gaza.
"It must be remembered that after Hamas took power, Turkey was the first country to invite them over, so we find ourselves both in an important relationship but also in a dispute about how to conduct ourselves regionally," Livni told Israel Radio.
"Despite the street demonstrations, despite the difficult images from Gaza ... Hamas is everyone's problem. And most countries in the region, in the Middle East, have understood this more than the Turks," said Livni.
Shifting focus to Iran and its nuclear plans, Livni said other nations in the region "understand that Iran is everyone's problem" and steps need to be taken to deny it the means for making an atomic bomb. Tehran denies having any such intent.
"Turkey, in this case, has found itself in a regional position different to everyone else," Livni said.
Friendly with an Arab world over which it ruled in Ottoman times, Turkey has billed itself as a force for rapprochement, hosting indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria last year. Ankara's army is also an important Israeli defence client. Assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, Israel has held air force drills in northern Turkey which may have been designed to convey strategic reach in the face of Iran.
Some Israeli diplomats have voiced quiet concern over the direction of Turkey under Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK party. The flareup of tensions over Gaza prompted many Israeli travel agents to cancel usually sold-out packages at Turkish resorts.
Speaking from Ankara, Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy said he was working with local authorities to repair ties. He predicted improvement after next month's local elections in Turkey; some political analysts believe Erdogan's Gaza rhetoric was designed to shore up AK's popularity with a pro-Palestinian electorate.
"There is a rift in our relations. This cannot be hidden. But these relations are very important for both countries," Levy told Israel Radio, adding that "the Turkish government (is) drawing a distinction between bilateral ties and the censure they are levelling at us over the (Gaza) operation."

Sri Lanka Army To 'Free' Civilians

Sri Lanka Army To 'Free' Civilians
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: The Sri Lankan military has said it will move to "liberate" thousands of civilians in Tamil Tiger rebel areas. The announcement came after the expiry of a 48-hour government truce for civilians to leave the combat zone. International concern has grown over the safety of civilians trapped behind the lines during recent heavy fighting. Meanwhile, the government has warned it will expel diplomats, aid agencies and journalists it deems biased in favour of the Tamil Tigers. An army offensive has pushed the rebels into a 300-sq-km (110-sq-mile) corner of jungle in the north-east of the island, which aid agencies say also holds 250,000 civilians. The army secured the strategic Elephant Pass on 9 January, sandwiched between the capture of the rebels' de facto capital, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu. The agencies say the people are facing a desperate situation, with hundreds killed in combat in recent days and food supplies running low. The government says the number of civilians is closer to 120,000 and that the army has a policy of not firing at civilians. The Sri Lankan government accuses the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of not allowing civilians to leave, saying they are being used as human shields. The rebels say the civilians prefer to stay where they are under Tamil Tiger "protection". The reports can not be independently confirmed as neither side allows journalists near the war zone. 'Utmost care' Officials said about 300 civilians had crossed into government-held territory during the 48-hour truce, which expired late Saturday. "We will now have to save the civilians and move in," the spokesman, Kaheliya Rambukwella, said. "It is now very evident that [Tamil Tiger leader Valupillai] Prabhakaran is... using civilians as cover," Mr Rambukwella said. "We will take the utmost care of civilians when we move in." The military has captured the key towns of Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and the strategically important Elephant Pass to the Jaffna peninsula in recent weeks. The BBC's Ethirajan Anbarasan has been in the city of Jaffna on one of the first government-approved media trips to the city - the cultural capital of Sri Lanka's Tamil community - in months. The army captured the last remaining major rebel base of Mullaitivu on 25 January. BBC reporter Chris Morris, who was taken to Mullaitivu, says it is a ghost town, full of broken buildings. He said thousands of people had attended a rally held by a pro-government Tamil party calling for the rebels to allow civilians to leave the war zone. Meanwhile a senior government official warned that diplomats, aid agencies and media, including the BBC, will be expelled from Sri Lanka if they seem to favour the Tamil Tiger rebels. Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa said bias among some foreigners was damaging security forces as they dealt the "final blow" to the rebels. The Sri Lankan army says it is continuing to make advances in its offensive against the Tamil Tigers in the north-east. In an interview with the Sunday Island newspaper, Mr Rajapaksa accused the ambassadors of Switzerland and Germany, and news organisations the BBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera of being biased. "They will be chased away [if they try] to give a second wind to the LTTE terrorists at a time when the security forces, at heavy cost, are dealing them the final blow," he was quoted as saying. Mr Rajapaksa said the media organisations were sensationalising civilian hardships by playing video clips from Tamil Tiger websites.

Pakistan Army Has Achieved Only Limited Success In War On Terror: UK

Pakistan Army Has Achieved Only Limited Success In War On Terror: UK
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: Describing the growing insurgency within its own border as an "existential problem" for Pakistan, the head of Britain's armed forces has said that Pakistani army has achieved only "limited" success in the war against terror in the region as it is beset with "a series of very considerable problems". Acknowledging that US drone strikes in Pakistan's restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan is not helping achieve its goal, Stirrup has asked Islamabad to rein in militants on its side of the border. Soldiers of Pakistan's paramilitary force are seen in the tribal area of Khyber near Peshawar, Pakistan during an operation Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009. The Pakistani military launched an operation Tuesday in the Khyber tribal region to secure the major supply route to U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, which has been repeatedly attacked by militants. "The Taliban movement and Taliban... Is on both sides of the border. It makes no distinction between one side or the other. Some people move across. Some are based almost exclusively in Pakistan... Some are based exclusively in Afghanistan. It's impossible to distinguish between those two..," Stirrup told The Sunday Times newspaper. "I think the Pakistan army has a series of very considerable problems," he said, adding that "the growing insurgency within its own borders is an existential problem for Pakistan". Commenting upon the widely held public perception in Pakistan that presence of NATO troops in bordering Afghan has aggravated militancy in the region, Stirrup advised Pak authorities not to be driven by popular sentiment. "It's very important that the Pakistan government starts to shift that opinion," Stirrup said adding that "because, while they shouldn't be driven just by public opinion, they can't operate in the face of it. The Predator strikes don't help in that regard".

Philippine Military Urged To Prevent Kidnappings

Philippine Military Urged To Prevent Kidnappings
(NSI News Source Info) Manila - February 1, 2009: The Philippine defence secretary on Sunday told the military to strengthen its efforts against kidnapping following a series of abductions in the south, whose victims included three staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "We must react against kidnapping very, very strongly and we really have to give the kidnappers no quarter," Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said. Teodoro said the military must also step up the campaign against illegal firearms in areas affected by kidnappings. "The number one priority is to recover all loose firearms," he said. Teodoro said the military could deploy additional troops to the affected areas or intensify combat operations against suspects. In this handout photo released by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on December 4, 2008 shows a Muslim rebel displays what they believe is a US unmanned reconaissance aircraft they claimed to have shot down in Talayan town in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines island of Mindanano in this photograph taken on November 14, 2008. American troops are providing military assistance including intelligence to Philippine armed forces who are fighting Muslim rebels and Abu Sayyaf militants. MILF chief negotiator Mohager Iqbal said the the spy plane is intact and in good condition and will not be surrendered to the US military. Al-Qaeda-linked Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels area holding three ICRC staff captive on Jolo island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila. The hostages - Swiss Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba - were abducted on January 15. In nearby Basilan province, a separate group of Abu Sayyaf guerrillas abducted three Filipino teachers on January 23. Last week, a midwife working for the Lamitan City government in Basilan was also abducted by the rebels. The Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the worst terrorist attacks in the Philippines. It has also been behind high-profile kidnappings in the country. In 2000, the Abu Sayyaf abducted 21 European tourists and Asian workers from a Malaysian resort island and brought them to Jolo island. The hostages were ransomed for millions of dollars before they were freed months later. The following year, a separate band of Abu Sayyaf rebels seized 20 Filipino vacationers and three American tourists from a western Philippine resort. Most of the hostages were later rescued or ransomed, but two of the Americans were killed.

Taliban Warns U.S. About Afghan Troop Surge

Taliban Warns U.S. About Afghan Troop Surge
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: The Taliban has warned Barack Obama, the new US president, that his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan will lead to more bloodshed. In remarks broadcast on Al Jazeera on Saturday, Mullah Mohamad Rasul, a Taliban leader, said that fighters of the group were ready to take on the US troops. "Just as they are bringing more troops, so too the Taliban will have more troops," Rasul, a former governor of Nimruz province, told Al Jazeera. "During the Bush administration the suicide bombers were registering individually, but now they are coming in groups. The whole nation is ready for the fight," he said, referring to the administration of George Bush, Obama's predecessor. (Above Photo: Mullah Mohamad Rasul) "Every year our military power gets stronger and stronger and our forces are getting bigger and bigger and we are heading towards success," Rasul said. Obama campaigned for the US presidency on a promise to redeploy US troops and resources to Afghanistan from Iraq. The US has 36,000 troops in Afghanistan and the White House is expected to announce up to three new brigade-size deployments as early as next week to help meet a long-standing request for additional forces from field commanders. The plan would mean sending as many as 30,000 extra troops in the next 12 to 18 months. New strategy Oxfam, the international aid agency, has urged Obama to look beyond purely military solutions for Afghanistan, calling on the president to develop a new plan for US operations in the country. "With spreading insecurity and civilians facing critical needs, there must be a comprehensive new strategy which will avert a major crisis," Raymond Offenheiser, Oxfam America's president, said. The relief group said it had sent a memo to Obama, who took office on January 20, raising its concerns that "events have reached a critical juncture in Afghanistan". Oxfam said "conditions could deteriorate further unless the United States takes a lead in addressing failures in governance, aid and reconstruction, and protecting civilians". The US is the biggest provider of both money and troops on which the Afghan government depends to fight the Taliban and rebuild the country. But security has massively deteriorated following an upsurge in violence. Civilian deaths caused by international military operations have also stoked anger among Afghans. In this picture released exclusively to Reuters on January 31, 2009, Taliban militants pose with their weapons for pictures in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan January 30, 2009. Picture taken January 30, 2009. Oxfam estimates that about 800 civilians died last year in operations carried out by international and Afghan government forces. Security force Meanwhile, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's interior minister, announced on Saturday plans to establish a special force to boost security in areas worst hit by Taliban violence. The paramilitary-style force, to be funded by the US government, is to operate under the command of the interior ministry, the department responsible for the country's police force. "Considering the special situation in the country we've decided to ... create public protection forces with a special security mission within the interior ministry frame," Atmar said. Their tasks will include protecting communities, schools, other government installations and highways.

Chinese Sailors Received Hero's Welcome For Facing Somali Pirates

Chinese Sailors Received Hero's Welcome For Facing Somali Pirates
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: A Chinese cargo ship, the Zhenhua 4, returned to its home port of Shanghai, and the 30 man crew was lauded as heroes. Each member of the crew was given $10,000, as a reward for fighting off a pirate attack.
Last December, the ship was boarded by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The resolute crew retreated to their living quarters and called for help. As the pirates came aboard, the crew fought back with fire bombs and fire hoses, and refused to come out of the living quarters.Somali pirates in small boats are seen alongside the hijacked 'Faina' Photo: AP The Howard, a heavily armed guided missile destroyer, was in place to monitor whether Somali pirates began offloading any of the MV Faina's 33 Soviet-type T-72 tanks or their ammunition, a US Navy 5th Fleet spokesman said.
The pirates fired at the crew, and were apparently perplexed at what to do. Meanwhile, a nearby Malaysian warship dispatched a helicopter, which shot at the pirates and caused them to flee in their speedboats. The crew of the Zhenhua 4 patched up the bullet holes and resumed their voyage. The resistance on the Zhenhua 4 was no accident. The captain had worked out a drill to resist boarders, and had the crew rehearse it ten days before they were attacked. The Chinese were aware that, On October 30th, 2007, a North Korean merchant ship, the Dai Hong Dan, was boarded by pirates off the coast of Somalia.
The North Koreans managed to get off a distress message. The ship was in international waters, 108 kilometers off the coast, unloading sugar to smaller boats. This offshore unloading arrangement was supposed to protect the North Koreans from pirates. The pirates were actually armed guards hired to protect the crew from real pirates during this unloading operation. An American destroyer, the USS James E. Williams, was nearby, and rushed to the scene. When the U.S. warship got there, they demanded that the pirates surrender. Meanwhile, on the ship, part of the North Korean crew had managed to barricade themselves in the engine room, where they controlled the speed and direction the ship could move in.
But the seven pirates had taken control of the bridge, and refused to surrender. Seeing this, most of the 43 man North Korean crew stormed the bridge, killing two of the seven pirates. Three crew members were badly wounded, and the U.S. destroyer captain, using a Korean-American sailor as a translator, offered to treat them. The North Korean captain agreed, and the destroyers helicopter was sent to get the wounded men. American sailors came aboard, applied first aid, and the three wounded North Koreans were transferred to the destroyer for treatment.
Eight Chinese cargo ships have been attacked in 2008.
The attack on the Zhenhua 4 convinced the Chinese that sending two warships and a supply ship to Somalia was the right thing to do. A month before the Zhenhua 4 incident, the Chinese South Sea Fleet was seen conducting an anti-terrorism drill in which commandos flew to a merchant ship and then assaulted it by rappelling down from the helicopter and "cleared" the vessel of pirates and "rescued" the crew. The Chinese squadron arrived off Somalia on January 6th, and has been escorting merchant ships ever since. The Chinese, like the North Koreans, are determined to show the pirates that their ships are not easy marks. It's not known if the pirates have gotten the message, and are avoiding Chinese and North Korean ships.

U.S. Standardizing TCDL For Armed Forces

U.S. Standardizing TCDL For Amred Forces
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: After a decade of effort developing common data (Internet like) links for their equipment, the U.S. Army and Air Force are now developing a data standard for UAVs and aircraft sensors.
The goal is to allow army and air force aircraft, as well as soldiers and airmen on the ground, to exchange data easily. Right now, all the sensors (vidcams, radars, heat imagers) capture data at different resolutions and speeds.
The new TCDL (Tactical Common Data Link) makes this sharing possible by translating all the formats to a standard data stream.. Currently, the army can share UAV and helicopter videos with ground troops, and some air force video can be used by soldiers equipped with special equipment. TCDL is an essential piece of equipment for the ultimate goal of a true battlefield Internet, where all services can easily share data, on a network that is protected from eavesdropping.
It's not been easy to achieve this, since most sensors have, until now, been built with the idea that they would not have to share their data in real time.
To do that requires data and transmission standards. TCDL is a large step in the direction of having all the needed standards.

Taiwan Contracted For Patriot To Protect Island From China Military Aggression

Taiwan Contracted For Patriot To Protect Island From China Military Aggression
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: Despite vague Chinese promises that it might remove some of the thousand ballistic missiles aimed at it, Taiwan has signed a $154 million contract with a U.S. firm to upgrade the island nations Patriot missile systems. These hardware and software changes will make the Taiwanese Patriot batteries equal in performance to those used by the U.S. Army.
Patriot systems have been sold to the Republic of China (Taiwan), Egypt, Germany, Greece, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and Spain. The Republic of Korea is also in the process of purchasing several second-hand Patriot systems after North Korea test-launched several ballistic missiles to the Sea of Japan and went ahead with underground nuclear testing in 2006. In August of 2008, the United States and Poland signed an agreement to temporarily station a US Patriot battalion to help deter attacks from rogue states and to guard the US missile defense complex in Poland.
That is, the Taiwanese Patriot systems will be able to fire the PAC-3 anti-missile missile, and station the Patriot launchers many kilometers from the system radars. Taiwan has also ordered hundreds of PAC-3 missiles. Taiwan, increasingly anxious about China's military buildup, boosted its defense spending by about 15 percent last year (to $10.5 billion). China spends over five times as much on defense, to support about two million troops. Taiwan has only 350,000 troops, and a population of 23 million, compared to 1.3 billion on the mainland. Taiwans's GPD is $650 billion, compared to $2.7 trillion for China.
Thus the per capital income of Taiwan is more than ten times that of the mainland. Taiwans military is based on the American model, with an emphasis on quality. China based its military on the Soviet model (where quantity has a quality all its own), although for decades the emphasis was on mobilizing a huge force of guerillas. Now China is trying to develop a force that can fight on Western terms (high tech operated by well trained troops.) While many Taiwanese still see the United States as the ultimate guarantor of Taiwanese independence, they see China as increasingly capable of grabbing the island before the U.S. can intervene. So while the Taiwanese don't have to be strong enough to defeat a Chinese invasion, they do have to be strong enough to hold the Chinese back until American reinforcements can show up.

Korea: Epic Centre DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone), World Largest Landmines Field

Korea: Epic Centre DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone), World Largest Landmines Field
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: While landmines are technically "banned" weapons, there are still plenty in use, and one of the most mined areas is Korea. The Mine Ban Treaty came into force in 1999, but 42 countries did not agree to the ban on the production, stockpiling, and use of antipersonnel mines.
Countries who opted out include China, India, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea and the United States. This includes the major producers of landmines, as well as many of those still using landmines. South Korea has about a million landmines emplaced along the DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) between north and south Korea.
The U.S. and South Korea have another two million or so mines in storage, in case North Korea tries to invade again (as it last did in 1950.) North Korea won't say how many mines it has planted, but it's probably at least several hundred thousand. South Korea has to replace mines as they get too old to still work, and they are starting to do this with a new generation of command (by wire or wireless) detonated mines. Many of the more recent mines South Korea has stockpiled are of the self-destruct (a certain amount of time after planted) variety.
South Korea has been making plans for clearing all the mines it has planted over the years, largely because it appears that the communist government of North Korea will collapse soon, eliminating the need for the DMZ, and all those mines.

Malaysian Navy Joins The Era Of Submarines

Malaysian Navy Joins The Era Of Submarines
(NSI News Source Info) February 1, 2009: Malaysia has received the first of two Scorpene subs it purchased from France. The Scorpene is a modern French-Spanish diesel-electric submarine (a variant uses air-independent propulsion) that displaces 1,700 tons, has a top speed of 37 kilometers per hour, and is armed with six 21-inch torpedo tubes with eighteen torpedoes or SM.39 Exocet anti-ship missiles. Each sub has a crew of 31. In 2006, the RMN had launched a nationwide competition in order to select the names for the Malaysian first two submarines. On 26 July, RMN announced these vessels will be named after the historic people in Malaysia's history. The first hull will be named KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and the second hull KD Tun Razak. These vessels are classified as Perdana Menteri Class in service with RMN. The first vessel, KD Tunku Abdul Rahman was launched on October 24, 2007 at the DCNS dockyard, Cherbourg, France. Last year, 119 Malaysian sailors and officers completed a four year course in operating submarines. Another 143 sailors are still undergoing training. The large number of sailors are being trained to allow for those who will get out of the navy, or may not prove up to the job. Malaysia is also getting an older Agosta sub as a training boat. The Malaysian crew took possession of their Scorpene (the "Tunku Abdul Rahman"), in France, and will take the sub back to Malaysia, after several months of training on the boat, later this year. The second boat, the "Tun Razak". will be ready for its Malaysian crew before the end of the year.