China prepping for Korean war?; Navy gunners test augmented-reality headset; Iraq readies assault on Tal Afar; Swedish IT disaster; and just a bit more…

Is China preparing for war with North Korea? “Beijing also appears to be enhancing its capability to seize North Korean nuclear sites and occupy a swath of the country’s northern territory if U.S. or South Korean forces start to advance toward the Chinese border,” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. But such plans, if fully and truly pursued, the Journal writes, “would require a much larger Chinese operation than just sealing the border, with special forces and airborne troops likely entering first to secure nuclear sites, followed by armored ground forces with air cover, pushing deep into North Korea.”

For its part, “China’s Defense Ministry didn’t respond directly when asked if the recent changes were connected to North Korea, saying only in a written statement that its forces ‘maintain a normal state of combat readiness and training’ on the border. It has denied previous reports of thousands of extra Chinese troops moving into border areas.” More here.

The next North Korean ICBM test? Observers expect it any day now. The Diplomat has the latest on the potentially very deadly waiting game, here.

China has warned Vietnam to stop oil exploration in the Spratlys, lest Beijing resort to force. More on the petrol-scouting, hostility and intrigue, also via The Diplomat, here.

A U.S. Navy spy — er, surveillance plane nearly collided with a Chinese fighter jet Sunday in the East China Sea, Pentagon spox Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday. “Two Chinese fighter planes intercepted the Navy EP-3 surveillance plane, approaching at high speeds from beneath the American plane,” The New York Times reported off Davis’s media briefing on the event yesterday. “When the planes were only a few hundred feet apart, one of the Chinese planes slowed down and flew directly in front of the Navy plane, prompting the American pilot to take what Captain Davis described as ‘evasive action’… in international airspace between the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea, west of the Korean Peninsula.”

Added Davis of the incident: “This is uncharacteristic of the normal safe behavior we see from the Chinese military.” More here.

The Chinese navy are also keeping a close eye on ongoing U.S.-Australian drills “off the Australian state of Queensland where Exercise Talisman Saber is being held,” Defense News reported Monday.


From Defense One

US Navy Gunners Are Testing A Wearable Heads-Up Display // William Morris: A service lab has turned a lieutenant’s brainstorm into a testable prototype dubbed the GunnAR augmented-reality headset.

‘Dunkirk’ Should Remind Us What Wars Are Like (And That We’re Still Fighting Them) // Allison Jaslow: After our veterans screened Dunkirk’s powerful and familiar portrayals of combat, we think Americans should be talking more about our endless presence in Afghanistan and the multi-front war against ISIS.

The Dangerous Politicization of the US Military // Andrew Exum: By asking active duty personnel to lobby Congress in their own self-interest, President Trump crossed an important line.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1946: The U.S. detonates a test nuclear bomb underwater at Bikini Atoll. Have something you want to share? Email us at the-d-brief@defenseone.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)


In Iraq, Baghdad is amassing security forces for a coming offensive on ISIS-held Tal Afar. Hundreds of Iraqi military vehicles are staging at Badosh, some 35 miles east of Tal Afar, according to Iraqi news.
Where ISIS still is: Here’s a map showing regions where the group persists across Iraq and Syria.
In re-runs: See the fight for Mosul — nearly 9 months of combat — in just 82 seconds. Via Digg, here.

Week 7 SitRep on the Raqqa offensive inside Syria: It’s suddenly gotten ugly fast, with militants pouring out of tunnels and tossing grenades, snipers, human shields; and amid escalating fears that U.S. airstrikes are killing a large number of civilians, the Associated Press reported recently from the city.
Review the battle lines in Raqqa as of this morning, courtesy of hobbyist cartographer Lucio Cienfuegos, here. And here’s another good one, via another mapmaker.
For your eyes only: How Russia views who controls what in Syria as of Monday, via open-source sleuth Christiaan Triebert of Bellingcat.

Don’t miss this view into how ISIS instructs its jihadis abroad, via Bjorn Stritzel of the German newspaper Bild. He pretended to be a potential terrorist — with the knowledge of authorities — to find ISIS’s external operations division. It was a bit easier than he thought it’d be. Read his account of the process, here. And if you want to test your German, you can read his account in Bild, here.
Extra reading: Check out this #LongRead on the “hidden culture of poetry, music and storytelling that sustains [jihadist] ideology” today, via The Guardian. It previews a new book on the topics by Norwegian academic Thomas Hegghammer.

In photos: A window into the war in Yemen, via the International Committee for the Red Cross’s Middle East Director Robert Mardini, who’s been traveling to the hotly contested southeastern city of Taiz.
What you’ll see: decimated buildings and open desert (here); driving in rivers because the roads are bombed (here); the austere beauty of remote Yemen (here); and the decimated city of Taiz, (here and here) where there’s been — in Mardini’s words — “Non-stop fighting, no security, no public services, no jobs, no hope.”
Extra viewing: Mardini spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Monday. And you can catch that seven-minute discussion, here.
Did the Houthis hit a Saudi oil refinery with a missile about 560 miles up the Red Sea coast, north of the border with Yemen? The Houthis says so; “Saudi Arabia, in the meantime, blamed the July 22 explosion at the facility on an overheated electrical transformer,” STRATFOR writes. Read their analysis of the evolving Houthi missile threat, here.
And Yemen’s cholera outlook? Not good. Cases are expected to double to more than 600,000 by the end of the year, the ICRC said Monday.
Want more on Yemen? PBS’s Frontline producers immersed themselves in the conflict to produce a 60-minute extended look. It was posted last week, here.

Sweden has just stumbled into “what is now considered to be one of the worst government IT disasters ever,” the International Business Times reported Monday. Allegedly leaked: “Names, photos and addresses of air force pilots, people under witness relocation, SEAL team operators [Sweden’s equivalent, anyway] and more.”
IBT: “The leak occurred after the Swedish Transportation Agency (STA) decided to outsource its database management and other IT services to firms such as IBM and NCR. However, the STA uploaded its entire database onto cloud servers, which included details on every single vehicle in the country. The database was then emailed to marketers in clear text message.”
And the hush-hush aspect of it all: “the leak occurred in 2015, Sweden’s Secret Service only discovered the breach in 2016 and began investigating the incident.” Full story, here.

Leadership update: 6 of 44 top DOD political jobs are filled. Six months since Trump took office, his administration has about one-quarter as many Senate-confirmed top officials in place as his three predecessors did at that point. Washington Post lays it out with lots of charts, here.

And finally today: The U.S. Navy has its first female SEAL candidate, Military.com first reported late last week. “One woman is in the pipeline to be a SEAL officer, and another is on the path to becoming a special warfare combatant crewman,” NPR adds. “The SEAL officer program has a higher rate of success: 65 percent of candidates make it through. The officer program isn’t easier, though — the Navy attributes the differing success rates to a larger number of candidates in the enlisted program.”
Don’t expect to find out their real names anytime soon; but if you want an entertaining diversion while we wait to see if the two women pass their perhaps biggest professional challenges to date, you can check out the new series coming to CBS this fall, called, “SEAL Team.” (Because there weren’t enough ways for this elite force to gain a higher profile, right?) CBS’s promo page for the show can be found, here.

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