NorK triple launch; Airstrike gone awry?; China declares another no-sail zone; USAF tanker passes crucial test; and a bit more.

North Korea launched three rockets early this morning (Monday afternoon, East Coast time), probably including a medium-range No Dong ballistic missile and two SCUDs, U.S. Strategic Command said Monday evening.

South Korea’s military said that the rockets, launched from a site near the western city of Hwangju, “flew between 500 and 600 km (300-360 miles) into the sea off its east coast,” Reuters reports this morning. The Wall Street Journal notes that the SCUDs could theoretically hit any site in South Korea, while the longer-ranged No Dong could possibly strike the Japanese mainland.

“The test came six days after South Korea picked Seongju, about 180 kilometers south of Seoul, as the site for an advanced U.S. missile-defense system,” the Journal writes. “Seoul and Washington had earlier agreed to deploy the system, known as Thaad—for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense—before the end of 2017 to better protect against North Korea.”

South Korean military reax: “Our assessment is that it was done as a show of force.”

South Korean prime minister’s reax: “The threat to our national security is growing very quickly in a short period of time,” Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn told parliament this morning.

Bustin’ out the PsyOps: North Korea dusted off a Cold War-era tactic, broadcasting a seemingly random string of numbers from a state-run station, the Associated Press reports. “A female announcer at the radio station read numbers for 2 minutes on June 24 and 14 minutes on Friday, according to Seoul’s Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Service. A copy of those comments provided by the ministry included phrases such as ‘No. 35 on Page 459’ and ‘No. 55 on Page 913.’ ...Neither the Unification Ministry nor the NIS elaborated on whether South Korea believes the North's recent broadcasts were meant to send information to agents in the field. Some experts in Seoul view the messages as a North Korean attempt to wage psychological warfare.” More here.

Elsewhere in the region, the U.S. held a brief open house for the THAAD anti-missile system in Guam, requested by South Korean officials “in a bid to help the South Korean government convince its populace that the system is safe and vital to security on the peninsula,” Stars and Stripes reports. “[T]he U.S. military took a small group of Korean-based reporters, including Stars and Stripes, on a tour Monday of the only forward-deployed THAAD system, set up on the U.S. territory of Guam just over two years ago...Equipment — including the X-band radar and two truck-mounted launchers loaded with eight interceptors each — was sprawled across a rocky, shrub-covered clearing known as Site Armadillo in a remote corner of Andersen Air Force Base. Generators, which are the sole source of power for the site, roared in the background. Officials said South Korea’s THAAD will use conventional power to mitigate the noise factor. A dirt berm marks the no-man’s land extending about 330 feet in front of the radar. A blinking red light warns people when it is radiating. The military turned it off for the tour, which included senior U.S. and South Korean defense officials as well as soldiers with Task Force Talon, THAAD’s operator in Guam.” More here.

The U.S. military faces growing scrutiny over an airstrike in northern Syria this morning that an activist monitoring group says killed 56 civilians, including children, north of the ISIS-held city of Manbij. “Residents in the area blamed the U.S.-led coalition for the strikes that targeted two villages, Tokhar and Hoshariyeh, which are controlled by IS,” AP reports. “Residents believed the strikes were carried out by U.S.-led coalition planes, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It said the dead included 11 children, and dozens more people were wounded,” Reuters added.

CENTCOM “said the coalition conducted 18 strikes on Monday and destroyed 13 IS fighting positions, seven IS vehicles and two car bombs near Manbij,” AP writes, while the ISIS-affiliated “Aamaq news agency claimed 160 civilians — mostly women and children — were killed in Tokhar alone, in a series of purportedly American airstrikes around dawn Tuesday.”

For what it’s worth: June was the second-busiest bombing month for the U.S.-led coalition to date: 3,167 munitions dropped in June compared to 3,227 in November 2015. Bloomberg reported in a short, three-bullet article Monday. And by the way, the Pentagon wants “$55m to maximize production of widely used Boeing Co. Small Diameter Bomb-1,” Bloomberg adds.

From Defense One

Beijing announces new plans to break international law in South China Sea. Amid a three-day visit from the U.S.’s top admiral, Chinese officials said they would enforce a no-go zone during an upcoming naval exercise. China appears to have timed military activities to take place in the days both before and after a ruling that largely invalidated its sweeping claims to the strategic waterway. Via Quartz, here.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1945, USAAF B-29 Superfortresses dropped 4,000 tons of bombs on the Japanese cities of Choshi, Hitachi, Fukui, and Okazaki. Send your friends this link: And let us know your news:

Ax attack aboard a German train garners more press for ISIS. The group took credit this morning for “a 17-year-old Afghan who came to Germany as a migrant [and] attacked passengers on a regional train with an ax before he was killed by the police [on Monday],” The New York Times reports, in “a development that is likely to intensify fears that the huge influx of migrants poses a security threat.”

The teenager “started attacking his passengers with an axe and a knife around 9 p.m. local time as the train was approaching its last stop, the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg,” German officials told Reuters. “The attacker, who came to Germany as an unaccompanied minor two years ago, fled into the town of Heidingsfeld after the emergency brake was pulled. He was pursued by a police unit and shot dead after attacking a woman and trying to assault the police officers.”

A piece of cloth was all it took to stir up allegations of ISIS collusion: “a hand-painted IS flag was found among his belongings when police searched his home, as well as a text that included references to Islam and the ‘need to resist’, according to an initial translation from the Afghan language of Pashto.”

Note of caution: “Just because I.S. is claiming this attack does not mean there is anything to it,” Alexander Gross, superintendent criminal detective of the Bavarian State Office of Criminal Investigations, said. “Right now, we have to examine in great detail who he knew and with whom he was in contact in order to create a complete picture” of what motivated him. More from the Times, here.

The Air Force’s new KC-46 tanker refuels an A-10. In a July 15 test, the Boeing-made tanker offloaded 1,500 pounds of fuel into the Warthog, completing the last of the six flight tests required before Pentagon officials decide whether to buy more planes. The test follows the successful gassing up of a C-17 cargo plane a week ago using new hardware and software that fixed problems with the tanker’s refueling boom that have delayed the project several months. See pictures of the A-10 test, here.

Lockheed’s earnings beat estimates. The world’s largest defense firm recorded $12.9 billion in sales in the second quarter, up $1 billion over the same period last year, beating analysts’ estimates. “Our strong performance enabled us to increase our financial guidance for sales, profit, earnings per share and cash from operations, and positions the company to deliver more value to our customers and shareholders,” read a statement from Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chairman, president, and CEO. More, here.

In Mali, “armed men in four-wheel drive vehicles and on motorcycles attacked Malian forces,” killing ten soldiers and wounding at least 38 others before taking “control of an army base in the central Malian town of Nampala” this morning, Reuters and AP report.

A bit of context, via Reuters: “French forces intervened in Mali in 2013 to drive back Islamist fighters who had hijacked a Tuareg uprising to take over the desert north. But despite the presence of an 11,000-strong peacekeeping force, militants have reorganized and continued to launch attacks across Mali and the wider West Africa region.”

The Taliban are on the offensive today in Afghanistan, launching attacks in the northern Kunduz and eastern Parwan provinces, AP reports from Kabul. In Kunduz, “local police commander Nabi Ghichi said that hundreds of Taliban gunmen have been attacking the Qalay-i-Zal district since before dawn on Monday and have not yet been completely pushed back. The assaults have been coming in waves, he said, adding that he has only 85 men and little logistical support.”

Closer to Kabul, in Parwan, police commander Mohammad Ayaz said fighters were pushed back after attacking the Salang Pass tunnel in the Hindu Kush mountains, a “Soviet-era 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) -long tunnel, between Parwan and Baghlan provinces, [that] links the country's north and south.” More here.

GOP convention wrap: “Republican speakers used the first night of their party’s convention to argue that America is in imminent danger from a host of looming threats that can be controlled only if Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton in the presidential election this fall,” wrote Military Times. The NYT’s headline was even more succinct: “Takeaways: Message Is Clear, Doom Is Near.” Read on, here.

Lastly today, watch retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Kettles receive the Medal of Honor for his actions on May 15, 1967, during the Vietnam War. Kettles led six UH-1D helicopters to reinforce embattled U.S. troops and evacuate the wounded. Amid a hail of bullets from automatic weapons, he stayed until all helos were full of casualties. Kettles returned to the site for a third time, leading six more evacuation flights. He then came back for a fourth time, fending off mortar and small arms fire to load eight more U.S. troops. Here’s a profile of Kettles and his actions, from the U.S. Army.