25 April 2017

USA: CSG-1, JMSDF ships refine maritime skills while transiting Western Pacific

From Carrier Strike Group 1 Public Affairs

In this file photo, ships of the JMSDF and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group steam in formation at the conclusion of a bilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea in March. (U.S. Navy/MC3 Kurtis A. Hatcher) >>

PHILIPPINE SEA - Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) commenced an at-sea bilateral exercise in the Philippine Sea, April 23 (local).

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy DDG (112) were joined by JMSDF destroyers JS Samidare (DD-106) and JS Ashigara (DDG-178), both out of Sasebo, Japan, as the San Diego-based strike group continued its northern transit in the Western Pacific.

The routine exercise is designed to improve combined maritime response and defense capabilities, increase combined maneuvering proficiency, and ensure maritime forces remain ready to defend the region when called upon.

News Report: Australian Prime Minister Visits Afghanistan, Iraq Amid Commemorative Anzac Day

PM Malcolm Turnbull
(Image: Wiki Commons)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has visited Afghanistan and Iraq in the light of Australia’s national Anzac Day in commemoration of country’s servicemen, who died in military conflicts

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — The Anzac Day commemorations are being held across Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday in order to pay respect to the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Turkish Gallipoli peninsula against the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

“The Prime Minister has marked Anzac Day with a visit to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Turnbull’s office said on Twitter.

News Report: US, South Korea Conduct Joint Air Combat Exercises Amid North Korea Tensions

Amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, US and South Korean military forces have conducted joint air exercises in order to improve combat coordination between the two nations.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US and South Korean military forces recently executed a joint air-to-air combat exercise at Kunsan Air Base in South Korea, US Pacific Command said in a press release on Monday.

"VMA-311 [US Marine Corps] AV-8B Harrier pilots combined forces with [South Korea] and US Air Force pilots and were split between two sides, red air and blue air, where they conducted a defensive counter air mission set," the release stated. "Blue air pilots were the allies and red air pilots played their invading adversaries."

The pilots fired simulated missiles against each other in a realistic dogfighting scenario requiring air combat fire and maneuver, with the "red air" pilots attacking friendly territory protected by the "blue air" pilots, the release explained.

Pacific Command said the April 17 exercise mixed South Korean and US military forces as an opportunity to fly co-op missions to improve combat coordination between the two nations.

The ongoing exercises are occurring amid tensions with North Korea, which most recently threatened to sink a US Navy strike group led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson.

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Nuke Shelters, Air Purifiers Sell Out in Japan Amid Fears of Nuclear War

Demand for family-grade nuclear shelters and stationary air purifiers is skyrocketing in Japan, amid fears of a North Korean nuclear or chemical attack.

Oribe Seiki Seisakusho, a company that specializes in building fallout shelters, mostly underneath private homes, received eight orders in April alone, compared to about six orders in a typical year, according to the Japan Times. The company has also reported having sold out of its stock of Swiss-made air purification systems, designed to protect against radiation and poisonous gases, and is currently looking to obtain more.

Another company, Earth Shift, also reported a tenfold increase in underground fallout shelter sales. According to the company director, Akira Shiga, orders have been on the rise since February, and are coming in from across the country.

The reason for the surging demand is obvious: Pyongyang's increasingly frequent missile tests. In March, North Korea launched a missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload, which fell in the waters of Japan's exclusive economic zone, some 300 to 350 km off the country's coast.

News Report: Australia Buying Triton Surveillance Drones to Monitor Oceans

Australia is planning to buy surveillance drones for maritime patrol of its economic exclusion zone that is considered to be the third largest zone of a kind in the world.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The government of Australia is buying up to seven long range MQ-4C Triton surveillance drones to boost its capability to enforce the maritime exclusion zone across Indian and Pacific Oceans, Northrop Grumman announced in a press release on Monday.

"Per the nation’s 2016 Defense White Paper, the Commonwealth of Australia plans to acquire up to seven Triton unmanned aircraft systems for maritime patrol and other surveillance roles," the release stated.

News Report: US Conducts Drills in Okinawa Violating Agreement on Relocation to Ioto

US military forces conducted on Monday paratrooper drills over a military base in Japan's Okinawa prefecture despite the agreement prohibiting parachute drop exercises in this area, local media reported.

TOKYO (Sputnik) — Nearly 30 US paratroopers practiced parachute jumps out of MC-130 special mission aircraft with all of them landed on the Okinawa territory, what violated the agreement of 1996 stipulating relocation of paratrooper exercises to the island of Ioto, Kyodo news agency reported.

The Japanese Defense Ministry informed the authorities of the Okinawa's Kadena city about the drills only late on Sunday, the news agency specified.

News Report: Chinese President Calls for Restraint on North Korean Issues in Talks With Trump

Chinese President discussed the tensions on the Korean peninsula in a phone conversation with his US counterpart and called on the parties concerned to exercise restraint.

BEIJING (Sputnik) — Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the tensions on the Korean peninsula in a phone conversation with his US counterpart Donald Trump on Monday and called on the parties concerned to exercise restraint to avoid escalation of the situation in the region.

"The Chinese side decisively opposes actions violating the UNSC resolutions. At the same time we hope that the parties concerned would exercise restraint to avoid escalation of the situation on the Korean Peninsula," Xi said as quoted by the China Central Television (CCTV).

This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.

News Report: Top US Military Officials 'Not Refuting' Russia Arming Afghan Taliban

Carla Babb

KABUL — Days after the brazen Taliban attack on an Afghan military base, top U.S. military officials are "not refuting" reports Russia has been arming the insurgent group.

"We continue to get reports of this assistance and, of course, we had the overt legitimacy lent to the Taliban recently by the Russians that really occurred late last year," said U.S. General John Nicholson, the ground commander for international forces in Afghanistan.

Nicholson made the comments Monday in Kabul alongside U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who made a previously unannounced visit to Afghanistan, after stops in Qatar and Djibouti.

Mattis noted Russia is choosing to be a strategic competitor in a number of areas, including in the war-torn South Asian country.

"We will engage with Russia diplomatically, we will do so where we can, but we will have to confront Russia when what they are doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries," Mattis told reporters in the Afghan capital, where he also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.

News Report: US Senators to Get Rare Briefing at White House on North Korea Threat

Steve Herman

WHITE HOUSE — All 100 U.S. senators have been invited to the White House on Wednesday for a classified briefing that will primarily concern North Korea, the administration announced Monday.

The briefing will be conducted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joe Dunford.

While lawmakers often receive classified briefings on Capitol Hill, it is rare for them to take place at the White House and for the entire Senate to be involved in one event.

During a White House lunch with ambassadors of United Nations Security Council member states on Monday, the U.S. president called unacceptable the "status quo in North Korea."

Trump said the Security Council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"North Korea is a big world problem, and it's a problem we have to finally solve," the president added. "People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it's time to solve the problem."

News Report: US and China Intensify Pressure on North Korea

Brian Padden

Tensions are again flaring up between the United States and North Korea as concerns grow that the communist state will celebrate another important national holiday with a nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On the eve of the 85th anniversary of the founding of the (North) Korean People’s Army, there are reports of renewed activity at the North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, although analysts caution it is unclear whether a test is imminent.

Strike force

Meanwhile, two Japanese destroyers joined a military exercise with the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group that is en route to the Korean peninsula region. South Korea said on Monday it was in talks with Washington about holding its own joint drills with the U.S. naval strike force.

In early April, U.S. officials sent out confusing messages that the Carl Vinson group was heading toward Korea in advance of the April 15 birthday of North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, which is often celebrated with a provocative weapons test. Instead of a nuclear test, Pyongyang held a military parade and attempted a mid-range missile test that failed. And the aircraft carrier was, until last week, actually in the Indian Ocean, where it was engaged in training exercises with Australia.

North Korea Sunday responded defiantly to the renewed U.S. military show of force, saying it is “combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” in a commentary in the North's ruling Workers' Party Rodong Sinmun newspaper.