“Our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said today from the demilitarized zone on the Korean peninsula. North Korean soldiers were up to their usual photobombing tactics, this time (as before) breaking out the binos to gaze at U.S. military personnel, even though they were mere meters apart.
Tough talk: “Behind me, to the north — an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means of delivery in order to threaten others with nuclear catastrophe,” Mattis said. Hear audio of Mattis’s remarks, via NPR, here.
However, as The New York Times reports from the DMZ, “for all the talk of military options, there really aren’t any — at least, none that wouldn’t put the sprawling city of Seoul, with its population of 10 million, in the cross hairs of thousands of Pyongyang’s artillery installations.”
A note on optics: South Korea’s defense minister reportedly wanted Mattis to join him this morning wearing their old military uniforms. The Times writes Mattis wasn’t into that, so it was nixed.
And South Korea wants command of its military in case war breaks out with the North, “but the Americans are concerned that Seoul isn’t ready,” U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal this morning in Seoul.
Background: “South Korea has day-to-day control of its own military, but under an agreement in place since the Korean War in the 1950s, the U.S. would assume operational control of both the U.S. and South Korean militaries in the event of a major conflict on the peninsula.”
What’s changed? “Now, Seoul’s first left-leaning government in a decade, loath to be dragged by the U.S. into what it may see as an unnecessary conflict, is turning the tables and asking to accelerate transfer of what is known in military shorthand as ‘op-con.’ Washington isn’t inclined to relinquish control.” Read on, here.
What lies ahead: The Pentagon is “planning military exercises next month involving three of the Navy’s aircraft carrier strike groups in the Asia-Pacific region,” the Times adds. “The exercise, scheduled while Mr. Trump is traveling through the region, will undoubtedly be interpreted as another warning toward Pyongyang.”
On Dunford’s docket while meeting with South Korean military officials: missile defense and cyber espionage, the Washington Post reports from Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford’s stopover in Seoul.
Short read: The U.S. Navy wants to grow its presence in the Asia-Pacific, and Singapore is on board.
And another one: China wants to “deepen mutual trust and cooperation” with the U.S. military, Reuters reported Thursday from Beijing and just weeks ahead of President Trump’s visit to the country in early November. That other short hit, here.
This week in frightening visualizations, the NYT editorial board teamed up with their graphics folks to show us “The Damage Trump Can Do With 4,000 Nuclear Warheads,” including killing one-quarter of North Korea’s population with just 32 warheads. Doing the same in six more countries would still leave the U.S. nearly 3,000 nuclear weapons. All that, here.
BTW, Russia “just exercised its Strategic Nuclear Forces triad,” Joseph Dempsey of the International Institute for Strategic Studies wrote on Twitter Thursday — and shared video of a launch to back it up. The tests included an ICBM, three submarine-launched ballistic missiles and “an unknown number” of air-launched cruise missiles.
From Defense One
How NATO Is Preparing to Fight Tomorrow’s Information Wars // Patrick Tucker: As members fight off cyber attacks from Russia, here’s a deep dive into spending goals, partnerships, and policy debates about going on the offensive.
Dunford: Time to Cut the Connections that Link ISIS’ Global Network // Caroline Houck: With the extremist group on its heels, coalition members must block its paths to Africa, Southeast Asia and elsewhere, the top US officer said.
The Pentagon’s IED-Hunters Have a New Target: Drones // Caroline Houck: After a decade of ups and downs, JIDO has added the counter-UAV mission.
The Video Game That Could Shape the Future of War // Adin Dobkin: The U.S. Army is developing a new way to test technologies and tactics—but first they have to get tens of thousands of soldiers to play it.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: The old tech at the bottom of an ICBM control capsule; Northrop no-bid; M&A madness; and a lot more.
The Border-Wall Prototypes Are Up — Now What? // Priscilla Alvarez: As the administration assesses the projects, both the purpose and effectiveness of a barrier are in question.
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. OTD1962: U-2 pilot Maj. Rudolf Anderson is shot down, becoming the only casualty of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Ceasefire announced in Iraq. That is, a ceasefire between Iraqi forces, the Associated Press reports this morning from Baghdad. “The cease-fire comes after more than two weeks of largely low-level clashes and warnings from the coalition that the dispute was distracting from the IS fight… Clashes broke out between Baghdad-led forces and Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga earlier this month when Iraq’s military retook the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.” More here.
UPDATE: Cancel that ceasefire — coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said he misspoke, in a tweet shortly after the AP story broke. “Both parties talking [with] one another, but not an official ‘ceasefire.’ [The coalition is] encouraging dialogue [without] further conflict,” he added.
SecState Tillerson says Assad must go. The problem (as before) is how, NYTs reports from Geneva.
Rex T: “The United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government. The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end. The only issue is how that should that be brought about.”
Context: “The comments came after Mr. Tillerson met in Geneva with the United Nations special envoy on the Syrian crisis — the last stop on a weeklong visit to the Middle East and South Asia in which he dashed among capitals in the region, often spending only a few hours on the ground before getting back into his motorcade and heading to the next stop.”
The Times adds this win-some-lose-some note to cap Tillerson’s latest overseas jaunt: “While he came home with no major accomplishments, the trip was also not interrupted by tweets from President Trump contradicting his efforts, as happened early this month with the secretary’s efforts on North Korea.” More here.
ICYMI: a UN panel says Syria gassed its own people. Specifically, “The Syrian Air Force was responsible for a lethal sarin chemical attack on a northern rebel-held village on April 4,” NYTs reported separately Thursday.
And Russia pushed back hard on this one, the BBC reported earlier this week when Moscow vetoed an extension of the chemical weapons inquiry conducted by the UN. That, here.
More U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, this time reportedly killing a whopping 60 “terrorists” in a 10-day span — targets the U.S. military believes to be linked to ISIS, Military Times reported. And FWIW: “The U.S. has launched more than 100 strikes against terrorist targets in Yemen, according to Pentagon officials. However, the majority of airstrikes in Yemen have targeted one particular group, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.” Read on, here.
Two warships are leaving Puerto Rico. Dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) and amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1). “Both ships provided helicopter support to the hurricane relief effort and logistical help. Civilian and military officials determined they now have a sufficient number of land-based helicopters and tilt-rotor lift aircraft to continue relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” USNI News reports.
The USAF’s $2B bill tab for its new B-21 bomber covers some personnel and some folks who can draw (presumably) very well, Bloomberg reported Thursday. “While the items listed by Air Force Undersecretary Matt Donovan were predictable for early work on a major weapons system, it provided a peek behind the curtain of plans for the new bomber that could become an $80 billion program for at least 100 of the aircraft.”
Recall that “The Air Force hasn’t publicly disclosed the value to Northrop of the development contract it was awarded in 2015 or the fee amount set aside to reward the company for good performance. But it has provided information such as how much has been spent to date and the projected research, procurement and per-jet costs.” Read on, here.
And finally, a weekend #longread: China’s Xi Jinping laid out some new foreign-policy directions at the recent Communist Party congress. “His speech provides crucial insights into how China’s strongman leader seeks to advance his country’s role in the world,” write CSIS’ Bonnie S. Glaser and Matthew P. Funaiole. “The main takeaway for the international community is that Xi Jinping is extremely confident in China’s growing national power and sees international trends working in China’s favor.” Read on, here.