Pence’s threat from the DMZ; Spectacle and kaput in North Korea; McMaster in Af-Pak; Dunford in the Boston Marathon; And a bit more.
Pence dons a bomber jacket and issues a threat from the DMZ. North Koreans could face U.S. military strikes like in Syria and Afghanistan if it continues with its nuclear program, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said— well, implied—from the fraught patch of turf linking North and South Korea on Sunday.
Pence: "Just in the past two weeks, the world witnessed the strength and resolve of our new president in actions taken in Syria and Afghanistan. North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region." Or else...what? Pence didn’t say.
Reminder about the VP’s mission: “Pence is on the first stop of a four-nation Asia tour intended to show America's allies, and remind its adversaries, that the Trump administration was not turning its back on the increasingly volatile region,” Reuters reports. (Tokyo on Tuesday, then Jakarta and Sydney.)
On the one hand, said Pence, “There was a period of strategic patience but the era of strategic patience is over.” On the other hand, he said the Trump administration wants to use “peaceful means” to compel the North to comply; but should that fail, “all options are on the table,” the Washington Post reported. (They’re always on the table, btw.)
Added National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster: “This is a problem that has been passed down from multiple administrations,” but Trump, Japan, South Korea, and Chinese leadership believe, he argued, “that this problem is coming to a head. And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully,” he told ABC News’ “This Week” on Sunday.
Unchanged: the decision to deploy the U.S. military’s THAAD anti-medium range missile system, Pence said Monday alongside South Korea’s acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn.
Also unchanged: China’s opposition to the THAAD system, Reuters reports.
Two other big events occurred on the Korean peninsula on Saturday: the North’s military paraded a ton of big guns and missiles for all the world to see (more on that below). And much of the defense reporting community was still sifting through the imagery from that spectacle in Pyongyang when event No. 2 happened: “A North Korean missile exploded seconds after launch Sunday - an embarrassing blow to the communist state,” Stars and Stripes reported off the North’s fifth apparent missile test since Trump took office. Here’s WaPo with a bit more on the apparent failed launch: “It blew up almost immediately, complicating efforts to identify the missile’s size and range...The missile was launched into the sea off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, where a U.S. Navy strike group is patrolling.”
The White House’s reaction, via the Pentagon for some reason: “The president and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement. “The president has no further comment.” Trump was in Mar-a-Lago for Easter weekend, relatively quiet through it all.
Take a 3D tour of North Korea’s nuclear test site, thanks to open source intelligence culled together by the folks at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Poke around for yourself—even better if you have virtual reality headgear—here.
About that parade: The North carted out “what appeared to be at least one new long-range missile” that the Wall Street Journal called a “Frankenmissile” in their review of Saturday’s big show of force from Pyongyang. The contraption appeared to be a combination of two other ICBMs—the KN-08 and the KN-14. Watch a 67-second video of the parade, produced by the Journal, here.
There was a lot to marvel (or swear) at in Saturday’s two-hour parade. We couldn’t possibly roll all of it up; but that’s why we share the better summaries with you here—summaries like this one from The Diplomat; and this one from the Washington Post, which draws on the work of @armscontrolwonk Jeffrey Lewis; or you can dive into Lewis’s Twitter thread as he observed the parade, over here.
Oh, BTW ICYMI: “China Has a Treaty Obligation Defend North Korea from an Armed Attack,” Lawfare blog reminded readers this weekend. The background: “On July 11, 1961, China and the DPRK signed the Sino-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance.” By contrast, “The U.S.-ROK treaty is thus full of limitations on U.S. obligations to defend South Korea that do not exist in the China-DPRK treaty: 1) it applies only in the Pacific; 2) it applies only to attacks on the Parties in ‘territories under administrative control’; 3) it requires only ‘act[ing]… in accordance with  constitutional processes.’ There is no specific requirement that the U.S. even provide military assistance to South Korea, much less the ‘immediate… military assistance… by all means at its disposal’ that China has promised the DPRK.”
But hold your horses, “a number of Chinese scholars have argued that China is not obligated to defend North Korea under the treaty if the U.S. launches a preemptive strike on North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs because North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons relieves China of its military obligations. This interpretation is a stretch.” Read on here to find out why.
From Defense One
What's Really at Stake for America in Yemen's Conflict // Andrew Exum, via The Atlantic: As the Trump administration navigates the risks of escalation, there's a real danger it will get the calculus wrong.
A Soldier's Dilemma // U.S. Army Capt. Nathan Smith, via The Atlantic: In 2016, I sued President Obama for issuing an order to engage in the battle against ISIS without congressional approval. Can his case clarify the debate over President Trump's strikes in Syria?
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson, Marcus Weisgerber and Kevin Baron. #OTD1961, the failed Bay of Pigs invasion began, eventually setting the stage for the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly 18 months later. Wanna subscribe to The D Brief? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll take care of you.
McMaster is in Pakistan this morning “on an unannounced visit, a day after he hinted that Washington could take a tougher stance with Islamabad,” AFP reports.
One focus of his trip: encourage Pakistan to take a tougher line on militants that stream across the border into Afghanistan, McMaster told Afghanistan’s Tolo News in an interview Sunday. “As all of us have hoped for many many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” he said. Full interview, here.
This morning he met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Short video of that meet, here. Also tagging along with McMaster: “Lisa Curtis, whom US media have previously reported as his pick as senior director for South and Central Asia,” AFP writes. “Curtis recently co-authored a paper calling on the US to stop treating Pakistan as an ally and instead "focus on diplomatically isolating" it if it continues supporting groups linked to international terror.”
Next on McMaster’s schedule of stops: India.
Turkey is in an extended “state of emergency” following this weekend’s vote to grant President Tayyip Erdogan “sweeping new powers... [that] could keep him in power until 2029 or beyond,” Reuters reports.
See Turkey’s voting results (what’s been gathered so far, anyway) in nifty map-chart combo from Reuters, here.
The implications of this weekend’s vote: “Erdogan didn’t just win his constitutional referendum — he closed a chapter of Turkey’s modern history,” says Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, writing in Foreign Policy on Sunday.
F-35s deploy … for an exercise. F-35 Lightning IIs arrived in Europe over the weekend where they will be based for “several weeks” during a NATO exercise in the region. While jets made the jaunt across the pond for air shows last summer, this is the first time that stealth fighters the Air Force declared ready for war last summer will make the trip. Six F-35As from Hill Air Force Base in Utah touched down at RAF Lakenheath on Saturday, according to local reports. This deployment was predicted last summer when the Air Force said the jets were battle ready. Still, the deployment — part of the European Reassurance Initiative — comes amid increased tensions with Russia. More here.
Catch footage of the F-35A’s arrival at RAF Lakenheath, thanks to video from AFN, here.
Navy clears training jets to fly. The Navy is allowing some of its T-45 training jets to fly under restricted conditions while it tries to figure out why its pilots are are being deprived of oxygen. The fleet of more than 200 planes might begin flying as soon as today after being grounded for more than a week, AP reports.
New pictures of Iran’s indigenous stealth fighter prototype. Dave Cenciotti at The Aviationist has the pictures here. His take: “Although the new prototype is not a complete joke as its predecessor, it is still pretty hard to say whether it will be able to take to the air and land safely without further modifications: the intakes continue to appear smaller than normal ... the wing are small as well and feature the peculiar design with the external section canted downward whose efficiency is not clear.”
In Syria this weekend, a car bomb killed at least 125 people—at least 80 them children—in about the most merciless way you can imagine: “a man had lured children waiting near the buses over to a car with the promise of food. When several dozen had gathered a bomb was detonated, killing more than 80 children and 13 women,” The Telegraph reports.
Why the buses were gathered: “More than 3,000 people were expected to be evacuated from Foua and Kafraya, two mainly Shia towns in the northwest of the country besieged by the rebels, on Sunday as part of a larger swap with residents from two government-surrounded towns.”
Adds Reuters: “Those killed were mostly residents of the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya in Idlib province, but included rebel fighters guarding the convoy.” That evac plan is now reportedly on hold. More here.
There was quite a different scene to the west, in the mountains of Latakia this weekend: a patrol by Iraqi Shi'a militia "Kataeb Al-Sabiroun" turned into snowball fights and dancing. Scene, here.
In Iraq, Baghdad’s allied troops are going door-to-door in West Mosul as the offensive enters its seventh month today. “Heavy exchanges of gunfire and mortar rounds could be heard from the neighborhoods facing the old city across the Tigris river that bisects Mosul into a western and eastern sides,” Reuters reports on location. “Troops have had the famous centuries-old al-Nuri Mosque leaning minaret in their sights since last month, as capturing it would mark a symbolic victory over the insurgents. A police spokesman said the troops were closing in on the mosque without indicating the remaining distance.”
On the rise in West Mosul: ISIS suicide bombers on motorcycles, Reuters reports. More here.
On Saturday, ISIS used alleged chemical-filled rockets in West Mosul, but to little effect, Iraqi officials said (in Arabic), here.
In case you were curious, here’s how ISIS repurposes its leg-less fighters into the makeshift precision-guided munition that is a suicide car bomb. Involved: Crutches fixed on the gas and brake pedals.
In video: How to fight ISIS drones with the Taiwanese RAYSUN MD1 drone jammer. Watch a demo and purported footage of its use in the vicinity of Mosul, here.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, 61, is set to run in the Boston Marathon today, defense officials tell The D Brief. It’s not his first one either, we’re told. He’ll be coming out in Wave 4 with an 11:15 a.m. EDT start time. Wanna track the general? His bib number is 25284; plug that data in here and keep tabs. Or watch the livestream via CBS Boston, here.