3 missing in Navy plane crash; Russia undermines killer-robot talks; Airstrike in Somalia; N. Korean dashes to freedom across DMZ; and just a bit more…

Three sailors are missing after a U.S. Navy transport plane crashed en route to the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan about 500 miles southeast of Okinawa on Tuesday, CNN reports. The other eight aboard the prop-driven C-2 Greyhound were fished from the water around 3:20 p.m. local time, some 40 minutes after the plane went down, and were taken to the carrier to recover. Search-and-rescue operations are underway for the missing sailors, 7th Fleet officials said.

The C-2 was “conducting a routine transport flight carrying passengers and cargo from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni to Reagan,” Military Times reported.

No word yet on the cause. The fact that at least eight of the 11 people aboard got out suggests that the plane ditched in a controlled manner. The crash will be investigated.

From Defense One

Russia to the United Nations: Don’t Try to Stop Us From Building Killer Robots // Patrick Tucker: UN efforts to limit or regulate military AI may be failing before they even begin.

America Shouldn’t Take Sides in the 1,400-Year-Old Sunni-Shia Conflict // Willis L. Krumholz: The Iran-vs.-Saudi Arabia proxy war isn’t worth getting our military involved.

It Takes a Nuclear Weapons Lab to Find a Nuclear Weapons Lab // Nancy Jo Nicholas: That’s why the US needs to continue to support cutting-edge science.

Welcome to this Wednesday 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.

North Korea violated a UN armistice when one of their soldiers defected on Nov. 13. The harrowing footage from DMZ cameras, which the Associated Press calls “Cold war drama caught on video,” lasts about a minute after editing. And it follows a soldier who stole a jeep in a mad dash for the border, trailed quickly behind on foot by his comrades — before the chase turns to a highway sprint. The variety of angles begins to make the scene appear choreographed, with DPRK grunts hustling from the Joint Security Area building steps to fire shots (violating the UN armistice) at the soldier, who eventually crawled across the border and was rescued by South Korean troops.
The UN had something to say about that violation, and why: “North Korea’s actions during the defector’s escape at the Panmunjom border village violated the armistice agreement ending the Korean War because North Korean soldiers fired across and physically crossed the border in pursuit of the soldier, U.S. Col. Chad Carroll, a spokesman for the U.N. command, told reporters in a live TV briefing Wednesday,” AP writes.
The bigger picture: The soldier’s “escape is a huge embarrassment for the North, which claims all defections are the result of rival Seoul kidnapping or enticing North Koreans. Pyongyang has said nothing about the defection so far.” More here.
What do we know about the defector? “Doctors repairing the unidentified soldier’s digestive tract found dozens of parasites in his intestines. One of the suspected roundworms was nearly a foot long,” the Washington Post reported. These parasites “tell a story of the humanitarian and health crisis gripping North Korea even as it expends significant resources in its effort to become a global nuclear power.” Read on, here.

One airstrike. More than 100 militants killed. That’s the line from U.S. Africa Command following a new airstrike on al-Shabab fighters Tuesday about 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu. The statement was customarily short on specifics; but it said the target was a Shabab camp at about 10:30 a.m. local, “killing more than 100 militants.”
FWIW: Recall in March 2016 the U.S. said it killed “about 150” Shabab fighters about 120 miles north of the capital. That, the New York Times wrote at the time, was “the deadliest attack on the Shabab in the more than decade-long American campaign against the group… and a sharp deviation from previous American strikes, which have concentrated on the group’s leaders, not on its foot soldiers.”

More U.S. airstrikes in Yemen. They hit alleged al-Qaeda positions in central Yemen’s Bayda governorate on Sunday and Monday, Military Times reported Tuesday off a CENTCOM statement. Perhaps most notable is the quiet statistic that these strikes add up to “more than 100” inside Yemen since January. A bit more, here.
By the way: Take a look at two turf maps of the war in Yemen (April 2016 and November 2017) 20 months apart, from the analysts at Risk Intelligence. Viewed side-by-side, there is less al-Qaeda territory. But hardly any change in Houthi turf… so it would seem.

The war on ISIS is largely a wrap in Iraq and Syria. So what better time to join the coalition? Cameroon is finally in, coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon announced Tuesday on Twitter.

The New York truck attacker charged with terrorism in a U.S. civilian court. The Washington Post breaks down the charges, here.  

Russia’s Arctic plans include robot submarines that recharge at unmanned underwater nuclear reactors, according to a BBC report on Project Iceberg, a centerpiece of Moscow’s efforts to find and secure vast natural resources at the top of the world. According to the experts who talked to BBC, its linchpin will be the largest nuclear submarine ever built, the 600-foot Belgorod, built for underwater surveys, telecom cables — and acting as a mothership for smaller, robotic subs.
The subs are to make pit stops at the world’s first underwater nuclear power plants, “said to be at an advanced stage of development, with the aim of having the first one operational by 2020.”
Warning: “Russia has a poor record on nuclear safety at sea, having lost seven nuclear submarines since 1961, some of them because of reactor problems. Accidents on board vessels operated by the former Soviet Union account for 14 of the most deadly nuclear incidents to have occurred at sea.” Read the whole thing, here.

There’s a nuclear leak over Europe that appears to be coming from Russia. How worried should we be? Not very, but precedents are just as concerning, writes Cheryl Rofer at Nuclear Diner.

“Little green men” are back amid an alleged power struggle in separatist-held Ukraine. “Unidentified armed men in green uniforms took control of key administrative buildings, patrolled the center of Luhansk, and have reportedly replaced a local leader,” the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Lab reported Tuesday after images of convoys rolling into Luhansk began appearing on social media accounts.
What to make of it: “The exact reason for the sudden ‘invasion’ of little green men in Luhansk is not clear, but the event is likely related to a power struggle between Plotnitsky and Kornet after the former fired the police chief. This conflict is not just between the two strongmen of Luhansk, but also serves as a proxy war between Russian and Donetsk authorities.”
The apparent bottom line: “The internal strife between the separatist strongmen in Luhansk and Donetsk and among their Kremlin backers shows that while Russia is clearly a guiding influence and active participant in the creation and management of the separatist republics, it does not have complete control over their patrons in the Donbas.” Read on, here.

Trump and Putin talk for an hour. Their globe-trotting conversation topics: North Korea, the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, the conflict in Ukraine, and terrorism, according to CNN, with few additional details.

Javelins to Russia’s doorstep (not Ukraine). American stockpiles of the anti-tank missile are headed to Eastern Europe, DoDBuzz reported Tuesday. “The State Department notified Congress it has approved a potential $75 million sale of more than 410 Javelin missiles… from the U.S. Army stockpile to the government of Georgia in Eastern Europe.”
According to the announcement, “The Javelin system will provide Georgia with increased capacity to meet its national defense requirements. Georgia will have no difficulty absorbing this system into its armed forces.” More here.

DARPA wants to rapidly map underground spaces, “an element of U.S. military operations from World War II and Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan.” Why? “As above-ground commercial and military intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities continue to grow more capable and ubiquitous, adversaries are increasingly heading underground to circumvent detection.” Wanna help? Read on, here.  

For your ears only: A new podcast from the Iran-watchers at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. FDD’s Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn break down the recent trove of CIA documents on Osama bin Laden in a 34-minute chat you can find, here.

And finally: Three developments this week remind us justice and closure hardly ever proceed at the pace we’d prefer, but they do on occasion close the chapter on some unsavory characters. This week it was Bosnian war criminal Ratko Mladic (sentenced to life in prison), Zimbabwe dictator Robert Mugabe (finally resigned on Tuesday), and serial killer Charles Manson (dead at the age of 83).

The D Brief is back again on Monday. Be safe, don’t eat too much, and we’ll see you next week!

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