Kerry swings through Asia; US arms exports rise; Carter faces a revolt; Yemen: even worse off than we know?; and a bit more.

One step forward for U.S.-China photo ops—but no movement on South China Sea tensions or what exactly to do about North Korea. Four hours of discussions between U.S. State Secretary John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart does not appear to have brought the two nations any closer toward resolving the long-standing territorial disputes in the South China Sea or how best to reprimand Pyongyang, the Associated Press reports from Beijing.

Despite U.S. wishes, China has no interest in simply sanctioning the North over its alleged nuclear test in early January, and—as before—it definitely has no interest in halting land reclamation in the disputed waters off its southeastern coast. The result? More U.S.-China talks will resume in the future.

Before visiting Beijing, Kerry hit up Laos and Cambodia, the AP writes, “where he called on the two members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to present a united front in dealing with increasing Chinese assertiveness over the South China Sea claims. His visits to Vientiane and Phnom Penh come ahead of a summit with the leaders of all 10 ASEAN nations that President Barack Obama will host next month in California.”

U.S. officials are none too pleased with a planned visit by Taiwan’s outgoing president to contentious SCS island. “Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s planned [Thursday] trip to the Taiwanese-held island of Itu Aba in the disputed South China Sea is ‘extremely unhelpful’ and won’t do anything to resolve disputes over the waterway,” according to Reuters’ correspondence with “the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei,” the American Institute in Taiwan.

And while that plays out, Taiwan’s military carted out eight warships while “elite frogmen” stormed a beach on “a Taiwan-controlled outpost island near China’s southeastern Xiamen city,” Agence France-Presse reported. It’s all part of an annual Taiwan tradition celebrating the Lunar New Year. More on the scene, which also featured a fleet of F-16s scrambled for a show of force on Tuesday, right here.

The global threats posed by ISIS and nations like Iran are continuing to fuel the sale of American-made arms around the world, Defense One’s Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber writes. “Despite slower domestic sales in the U.S., the foreign market remains ripe. Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, reported that foreign orders made up 21 percent of the company’s $46.1 billion in 2015 sales. That’s a six percent jump in foreign sales over the previous year.”

Beyond ISIS, Middle Eastern countries have stocked up on missile defenses in fear of Iran’s ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons program. Lockheed makes a host of missile defense equipment, including THAAD and PAC-3 interceptors. Weisgerber lays out the implications for the months ahead, here.

While we’re on weapons: the F-35 is vulnerable to hackers. That’s according to a leaked memo from the Pentagon’s weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, that revealed the long-awaited Joint Strike Fighter jets’ “digital maintenance and logistics system could be vulnerable to cyber attacks,” according to IHS Janes. More here.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is facing an open revolt in his own ranks, Politico reports, drawing together various threads of discontent that have surfaced in unusually public ways. Perhaps most apparent is the Navy’s pushback on Carter’s late-2015 order to trim its planned order of littoral combat ships. That undercut one of Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ proudest accomplishments: getting on track to boost the size of the fleet. But the Army also has its problems with Carter’s approach, and then there’s Congress…Read on, here.


From Defense One

That “wasteful” task force? You’re not getting the full story, says Daniel Fisher, a soldier-turned-Harvard Business School student. In Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations fostered helpful investment — and pioneered an essential component of future missions. Read his argument, here.

When it comes to Iran, Bernie Sanders is less naive than you might think. In his call to end America’s cold war with Iran, Sanders is challenging the bipartisan foreign-policy consensus in the same way Obama did in 2008, writes The Atlantic’s Peter Beinert, here.

From China, an expansive and dangerous view of cyber deterrence. One military researcher suggests pursuing it in ways that could prove destabilizing, reports the Council on Foreign Relations’ Adam Segal, here.

Get up to date on the latest defense technology trends by reading “Best of Defense One: Tech Trends,” an ebook that brings together the most-read technology stories recently published on Defense One. Get that, here.

Welcome to the our Wednesday edition of the The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Get your friends off on the right foot in 2016 by telling them to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different this year? Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


One-stop shopping for all things CSIS-defense-analysis: The Center for Strategic and International Studies is rolling out Defense 360, a new site that brings together its various defense commentaries, studies, and projects. It’s launching today with the first of its Defense Outlook 2016 reports on strategy, budgets, forces, and acquisition. Get a taste at Defense One with “What to Watch for in 2016” by Todd Harrison, Mark Cancian, Kathleen Hicks, and Andrew Hunter, then head over to the CSIS site for more.

Yemen under the microscope. A UN sanctions-monitoring panel says the Security Council should investigate human rights abuses on all sides of the war in Yemen, AP reports after getting their hands on an embargoed copy of an upcoming report. At issue are allegations that starvation is used as a deliberate tactic—e.g., 80 percent of the country is in “dire need of food,” AP writes—and the reported use of cluster bombs in densely-populated areas.

The report also fingers Saudi Arabia’s coalition for allegedly bombing refugee camps, The Guardian reports, adding the panel “documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations of international humanitarian law.” Many more unsavory details from that 51-page report, here.

Iran’s navy warned a U.S. warship to vacate the Strait of Hormuz so Tehran can test “submarines, destroyers and missile launchers,” Reuters reports, noting “there was no immediate reaction from Washington” on the request lodged just this morning.

Lastly today—the U.S. has six big gaps it must fill if it really wants to be prepared for the next Big War, write retired 3-star David Barno and Dr. Nora Bensahel of American University. They include: developing plans for each service to rapidly ramp up the necessary troops for such a wide-scale contingency; maximizing munitions production lines; girding for the sheer psychological stamina required—and three others over at War on the Rocks, here.

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