Trump heads to Asia; Navy collisions and robot ships; Can hybrid threats finally get NATO, EU to team up? A crazy helo-truck; and just a bit more…

President Trump’s Asia trip begins today, taking him first to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, before setting off to Japan on Sunday and South Korea two days later. The president will be visiting troops on each stop until he makes it to China next Wednesday.

The agenda for his trip is an ambitious one, yet the White House has “little to offer” as the president makes his longest official visit yet, and one that was originally envisioned as two trips, the New York Times reports.

The main themes, according to White House National Security Adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster: denuclearize North Korea; sell the region on a “free and open Indo-Pacific”; and pursue “fair, reciprocal trade and economic practices” in America’s interests.

One option on the table re: nukes, according to McMaster: the White House is considering putting North Korea on the U.S. government’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Watch McMaster spell these goals out a bit more fully, here.

For their part, “Asian leaders are sparing no fanfare for Mr. Trump,” the Times writes. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo “Abe has invited him to play golf in Tokyo on Sunday, reciprocating for a round at Mr. Trump’s resort in Palm Beach, Fla., in February.” And China’s Xi Jinping “is throwing him what officials characterize as a ‘state visit-plus,’ with a tour of the Forbidden City and an inspection of troops.”  

In addition, “Mr. Trump is bringing 29 chief executives to Beijing, where the administration hopes to announce billions of dollars of new deals for American industry. But officials are playing down expectations that China will agree to any meaningful opening of its markets.”

After his two days in China, Trump will spend two days in Vietnam and then two more in the Philippines. Quartz has a “cheat sheet” of what he’ll be seeing when and where, here.

Attn: Pyongyang. U.S. bomber drills continue near North Korea. “Two B-1B Lancers from Anderson Air Force Base in Guam rendezvoused with the Japanese and South Korean jets as part of the planned “bilateral integration” exercise — at one point flying over South Korea,” CNN reported. “The ‘continuous bomber presence mission’ was planned in advance and was ‘not in response to any current event,’” according to Air Force spokesperson Capt. Candice Dillitte.

Adds Reuters: “News of the Thursday’s drills was first reported by North Korean state news agency KCNA on Friday, which said the exercises involving South Korean and Japanese fighter jets were a ‘surprise nuclear strike drill.’” More here.


From Defense One

How Robots Will Help the US Navy Avoid Future Collisions // Patrick Tucker: The Navy’s problems are very human in nature. The solution is less human.

Russia’s Hybrid Attacks Should, At Long Last, Force the EU and NATO to Team Up // Franklin D. Kramer and Lauren M. Speranza: Five ways these largely congruent yet poorly coordinated organizations could start putting their collective capabilities to best use.

Global Business Brief, the Budget Edition // Marcus Weisgerber: Countdown to Dec. 8, nuke spending, rocket motors, and a lot more.

Three-Star General Wants AI in Every New Weapon // Jack Corrigan: The department’s Project Maven uses machine learning to go through drone video feeds but that’s just the beginning, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan said.

DHS Wants Tech to Scan Your Face as You Drive to Mexico // Mohana Ravindranath: The department is opting for a faster procurement option for the technology.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. OTD1931: The dirigible USS Akron carries 207 people on a 10-hour flight, setting an air-travel record.


The war on ISIS is still going strong as Syrian troops have reportedly retaken portions of Deir ez-Zor from ISIS and Iraqi troops have entered ISIS’s last stronghold in that country, near al-Qaim bordering Syria.
From Syria: “the government victory at Deir al-Zor, on the west bank of the Euphrates, ends a two month battle for control over the city, the center of Syria’s oil production,” Reuters reports. “Government forces are still about 40km from the border at Albu Kamal, where they are preparing for a final showdown” with the remaining ISIS fighters in the vicinity.  
In Iraq: “the military’s Joint Operations Command said on Friday the army, along with Sunni tribal fighters and Iran-backed Shi‘ite paramilitaries known as Popular Mobilisation, had captured the main border crossing on the highway between al-Qaim and Albu Kamal,” according to Reuters. “They had also entered the town of al-Qaim itself, which is located just inside the border on the south side of the Euphrates. The offensive is aimed at capturing al Qaim and another smaller town further down the Euphrates on the north bank, Rawa.” A little bit more, here.

Weekend reading: Syria is sliding toward partition, Alexander Bick, former director for Syria at the National Security Council, writes in War on the Rocks. The way he sees it, the U.S. has three options: one “is simply to muddle through, as both the Obama and Trump administrations have done up to this point.” Or, the U.S. could “embrace a partition strategy and work to mitigate the risks.” Or, the Trump administration “could try to reverse Syria’s slide towards partition by redoubling (and probably reshaping) diplomatic efforts in Geneva, encouraging the SDF to reconcile with the central government, and recognizing that any comprehensive deal will involve multiple, painful compromises — including learning to live with Assad in place and negotiating any residual presence of U.S. forces with his government.” Read on, here.

AF-PAK changes at the White House? “[S]enior Trump aides have discussed resurrecting the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was previously based in the State Department, as a White House-based operation,” Politico reported Thursday, writing, “well after Trump laid out his Afghanistan strategy in August, his aides are still calibrating their diplomatic approach to the 16-year-old conflict, even as they forge ahead with a tougher military posture there.”
Among the names being tossed around: “former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.”
Another name tossed around in the context of this decision: Erik Prince, who “continues to push an alternative model for Afghanistan that relies largely on private contractors and the appointment of a ‘viceroy.’” Read on, here.

The ICC may soon be looking into war crimes in Afghanistan, with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announcing this morning she will “seek approval to open a formal investigation” in the allegations, Reuters reports.
The scope is apparently quite remarkable, covering alleged “war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed since 1 May 2003 on the territory of Afghanistan as well as war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1 July 2002 on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute.” Read her full statement, here.

Read the CNO’s memo on the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions through a retired ship driver’s eyes. In a lengthy, detailed post, naval blogger Cmdr. Salamander goes through the Chief of Naval Operations’ 17-page memo, noting various items, putting them into context, and citing other documents as he explores what happened and what comes next. It’s hardly the final word, but it’s an outstanding companion piece to the Navy’s own reports. Read it, here.

More atomic test images. Topic’s Anna E. Holmes offers “A collection of images, some never seen before, of atmospheric nuclear-weapon detonations—the last such tests done before the United States moved its efforts underground.” Go see some crazy colors, here.
New details on a 1964 nuclear accident. Working on a Minuteman missile in its silo 60 miles northwest of Ellsworth Air Force Base, N.D., a technician used the wrong tool, causing a short-circuit in faulty wiring that blew off the nose cone. The thermonuclear warhead inside plummeted seven stories and crashed onto the silo’s concrete floor. The incident was kept secret for years. Now the Rapid City Journal has used FOIA requests to bring the full (terrifying) story to light. Read on, here.

Lastly this week: Remember this flying truck one company pitched to the military not that long ago? You can buy it on eBay now, Business Insider reports in a video. California-based manufacturer Advanced Tactics pitched the Black Knight Transformer back in 2014. “With its eight foldable rotor blades, the Black Knight Transformer was built to function as a casualty evacuation vehicle in not only adverse weather, but also in chemically or radioactively contaminated environments similar to what first responders faced after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan,” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reported. If you want one for yourself, you’ll need about a million dollars.
And oh yeah, there’s one catch: You can’t fly the thing (pesky legal issues prohibit that one here stateside). But you can watch how cool it would be if you could fly it, over here.  

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