North Korea is crowing about a test of a “new tactical weapon.” What weapon? State media didn’t say. But it did report that leader Kim Jong Un watched the test, making his first announced visit to a weapons facility since declaring in April that he was shifting the government’s focus to economic development. Wall Street Journal: “North Korea’s Friday report said the most recent weapons test was successful and hailed it as a significant enhancement of the military’s fighting capabilities, adding that the tactical weapon was originally developed under Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il.” WSJ has more.
The reports “threaten to sour the diplomatic atmosphere as negotiations between [North Korea] and the United States appear to have stalled,” Reuters writes.
One expert’s opinion: The attention generated by this news is “more likely aimed at reassuring the North Korean military rather than trying to torpedo diplomatic talks,” said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
And another’s: “They’re trying to signal that they are willing to walk away from talks and restart weapons testing. It is the most explicit in a series of escalating statements designed to send this message,” Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists told Reuters.
One bottom line, according to CNA’s Soo Kim, is that the report appears to put a stake through President Trump’s claims that Pyongyang has ceased its weapons tests. “A clear-eyed North Korea watcher would say there was a violation and you can no longer say they haven’t tested,” Ms. Kim told WSJ.
Defense One Summit wrap. Thanks to everyone who braved DC’s wintry mix to attend the 2018 Defense One Summit yesterday — and especially to our speakers: SecAF Heather Wilson, Amb. James Jeffrey , Rep.-Elect Elissa Slotkin, and so many more.
Couldn’t make it? Want to hear something again? We’ve got you covered with videos of all the sessions, here.
From Defense One
Senior Defense Officials Offer Dueling Pricetags for Space Force // Marcus Weisgerber: Hours after the Pentagon’s No. 2 floated a sub-$5 billion figure, the Air Force secretary stood by her $13-billion estimate.
Trump Gets NATO Backwards // Richard Fontaine, The Atlantic: The U.S. defends Europe out of self-interest.
Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: 2020 spending outlook; Record-setting F-35 deal; More secrecy at the Pentagon; and a bunch more…
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you find this stuff useful, consider sharing The D Brief with somebody you think might find it useful, too. And thanks for reading! On this day in 1831, Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz died in modern-day Poland of a cholera outbreak sweeping through Europe. He was 51 when he died. Clausewitz’s now-famous book, “Vom Kriege” (On War), was published the following year.
Afghanistan officials are not happy that America’s war envoy is talking to the Taliban without Kabul’s input, Reuters reports.
The man in question: U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad. He “met Taliban leaders in Qatar last month to try to push talks forward.”
His delicate line to walk: How to incorporate Kabul’s wishes in this process since “the Taliban have long rejected direct talks with the elected government, led by President Ashraf Ghani.” Perhaps that’s why “Two Taliban officials in Afghanistan said they would continue engagement with Khalilzad, but would not say if their leaders would accept an Afghan delegation.”
Said the Taliban: “We’re watching every diplomatic move of the U.S. officials. We’ll continue our fight until the U.S. accepts our demands,” which include — according to Reuters — “a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and the release of senior Taliban from jails in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” More here.
Two members of SEAL Team Six and two Marines “have been charged with murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar in Mali in June 2017,” ABC News reported Thursday.
Charges also include “Conspiracy, Obstruction of Justice, Hazing and Burglary.”
What apparently occurred: “The charge sheets allege that on the night of June 10, the four special operations service members obtained duct tape, broke down the door into Melgar’s sleeping quarters, bound him up with duct tape and then strangled him to death while in a chokehold.” Determining intent in the case, however, is not as laying out what appears to have happened.
A bit more about Melgar, according to his family: “Besides being a loving husband, father, son, and brother Logan was a man of integrity and honor. His morals stood larger than most. We as the Melgar family can only hope that true justice is upheld under these unthinkable circumstances. We hope to not add to the division of a nation’s views by seeking a just sentence, but appeal to the humane unified hearts of Americans, as this is a clear cut example of how we should not be battling amongst ourselves while the tyranny that lies within our control is just as dangerous as the conflicts we deem to be war worthy.” Read on, here.
America will pull about 700 troops from Africa — but slowly and over the next three years, the Pentagon announced Thursday, citing the Trump administration’s new China- and Russia-focused strategy.
On the continent now: About 7,200 U.S. troops, CNN reports.
For what it’s worth, “Defense officials said the reduction would have little to no impact on US troops conducting missions in Somalia, Djibouti and Libya.”
And the Americans in West Africa are expected to move “away from tactical-level counterterrorism missions out in the field and shift them more into advisory roles at the strategic level, farther from the front line,” as they were operating during the fatal October 2017 mission in Niger. More from Reuters or Stars and Stripes.
The U.S. Senate had a chance to put pressure on the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen but chose against it, the Washington Post reported Thursday from Capitol Hill.
Under discussion: an arms sale to Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and is “a member of the nine-country coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, that has been carrying out airstrikes and other military actions in Yemen’s civil war.”
Said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.): “For us to block sales, offensive sales to the country of Bahrain that is housing one of our most important naval bases over something that has nothing to do with them but has something to do with another country, is not a pragmatic nor a sensible step.”
Said the committee’s top Democrat, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez: “This vote is not Yemen, it is not Saudi Arabia, it is not the United Arab Emirates, it is Bahrain. And Bahrain is a critical ally to us.”
And ICYMI on Wednesday, “In the House, Republican leaders blocked a similar effort,” the Post reminds us, “tucking a rule change into a bill about managing the gray-wolf population that effectively blocked proponents of a resolution to end the war in Yemen, by nullifying a provision of the War Powers Resolution requiring expedited consideration for the specific Yemen measure.” More to all that, here.
The Pacific region is no place for “empire and aggression,” U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday at this week’s 33rd Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Singapore.
“Let me be clear,” he said, “China’s militarization and territorial expansion in the South China Sea is illegal and dangerous. It threatens the sovereignty of many nations and endangers the prosperity of the world.”
On the SCS and U.S. interests, Pence said, “the United States will continue to sail and fly wherever international law allows and our national interests are advanced.” Read the transcript in full, here; or Reuters report — including reax from Beijing’s foreign ministry — here.
Not spotted in Singapore: President Trump, who “is attending neither the ASEAN summit in Singapore nor the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation session that follows it in Papua New Guinea, opting instead to send Pence to those meetings,” NPR reported.
What was spotted in Singapore: a “white, four-wheeled… autonomous robot with a swivelling camera for a head and flashing lights,” according to Malaysia’s TheStar.com. The machine is reportedly a police prototype “which can transmit a 360° picture of the area it is patrolling.” Tiny bit more, here.
Found in Florida: A 37-year-old man with “jars of highly volatile TATP,” the same stuff used in terrorist attacks like “the 2017 bombing at a Manchester concert and the 2016 airport bombing in Brussels,” NPR reports. The story of who had this stuff is not entirely clear yet, since the police called the man behind it “highly intelligent. We’re not talking about Joe Schmo who got online and decided to do this.” More here.
And finally, in not-terribly-surprising news this week, Reuters learned Russian authorities severely slowed internet services in a restive region bordering Georgia early last month.
What preceded the slowdown: “Protests broke out in Ingushetia, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia, on Oct. 4 after a deal was agreed delineating Ingushetia’s border with the neighboring Russian region of Chechnya.” Residents of Ingushetia thought the deal gave too much land to Chechnya.
What happened next: 3G and 4G mobile Internet services were turned off in Ingushetia from Oct. 4 to Oct. 17.
The bigger picture: The Ingushetia incident appears to be “the first time such an order has been documented in Russia, indicates Russia is restricting access to social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter so they cannot be used to organize anti-government protests.”
Other countries that have done similar things in times of protest: Egypt (2011) and Iran (11 months ago). A bit more, here.
Meanwhile, in China: At least one young workers-rights protestor disappeared and others have been beaten, CNN reports. “Fear is sweeping through the campuses of China’s elite universities following a nationwide government crackdown aimed at silencing left-wing student activists, who had been campaigning for greater rights and protections for ordinary workers,” the network reports. “Under Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has increasingly cracked down on all forms of dissent, including human rights activists, labor groups and religious organizations.” More, here.