DPRK’s 2nd ICBM launch; China unveils one of its own; Russia expels 755 US officials; WH rethinking Afghan plan; and just a bit more...
China has a new ICBM, and it made sure the world could see it on Beijing state TV Sunday, “marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the force that is now known as the People's Liberation Army,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “It is the first time a parade has been held to mark the anniversary since 1949, according to state media, and is the latest in a series of moves that analysts say are designed to boost Mr. Xi's political standing in the run-up to a reshuffle of the party leadership this year.”
What viewers saw: “State television showed at least 16 DF-31AG missiles in Sunday's parade at the Zhurihe combat-training base in northern China... The DF-31AG is mounted on an all-terrain vehicle so it is harder to track and can be fired from multiple locations, and it could have a longer range than the older DF-31A… Mr. Xi, wearing combat fatigues and a peaked cap, inspected the troops from an open-top military vehicle before the parade, which featured tanks, helicopters, stealth jet fighters and some 12,000 personnel.”
Said President Xi Jinping, in military fatigues: "The world is not peaceful... Today we are closer than any other period in history to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and we need more than any period in history to build a strong people's military." The Journal notes that "Mr. Xi also ordered troops to obey the Communist Party leadership, saying: 'Wherever the party points, march there.'"
For the record: “China has an estimated 75 to 100 intercontinental ballistic missiles, including the solid-fueled DF-31A, which has a range of more than 7000 miles and can reach most locations in the continental U.S., according to the Pentagon. Other equipment in the parade included five J-20 stealth jet fighters and several DF-21D antiship ballistic missiles, which experts say are designed to hit approaching U.S. aircraft carriers in a potential conflict.” Read the rest, here.
Two days before China carted out those ICBMs, North Korea launched another ICBM of its own — this time to test its ability to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, Pyongyang said after the Friday test. Here’s footage of the launch, via Russian state media, RT. And here’s the launch location, via the open-source intelligence sleuth, Dave Schmerler, of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
President Trump’s response, via Twitter: “I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk… We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!” (Flashback to April, when he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago and declared, “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.”)
The North is almost certain to export this technology, warn Henry Sokolski and Zachary Keck, executive director and fellow at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, respectively, in the op-ed pages of the WSJ. Their read of what lies ahead: “Pyongyang will have no trouble finding customers. While only Iran or Pakistan might consider purchasing a North Korean ICBM, 15 countries besides North Korea already possess older Scud missile systems they might want to upgrade.” The authors lay out three steps the Trump administration can take to head off this possibility, here.
In response to Friday’s North Korean ICBM test, the U.S. military conducted three exercises:
- a joint “precision fires” drill with South Korean counterparts (footage here);
- another joint mission featuring B-1Bs alongside Japanese and South Korean war planes overflying the Korean peninsula;
- and a THAAD anti-missile test of a medium-range ballistic missile off the Alaskan coast (here’s the launch and intercept footage).
From Defense One
North Korea's Latest Launch Spurs U.S. Missile Tests, Flyovers // Patrick Tucker: The United States has been ramping up exercises and diplomatic moves in response to worrying new developments out of Pyongyang.
Border State Lawmakers Propose a 'Smart' Wall // Mohana Ravindranath: The group wants radar technology, drones and cameras to make up big chunks of Trump's proposed border wall.
North Korea Appears to Have Launched Another Missile // Krishnadev Calamur: Preliminary data suggest the test vehicle can travel farther than the ICBM launched earlier this month.
Welcome to Monday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1971: Two Air Force officers take the first Moon ride in the lunar rover. Have something you want to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
Welcome, John Kelly! The retired Marine general-turned-DHS secretary whom President Trump tapped last week to replace his chief of staff is scheduled to take the oath for his new job at 9:30 a.m. EDT this morning. A half-hour later, the president will convene a cabinet meeting. Kelly will be there in his new role, and taking his place as (interim) head of DHS will be Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke, DHS press secretary Dave Lapan said Friday.
ICYMI this weekend: “Every single e-vote machine” at the annual DefCon conference in Las Vegas got hacked in less than two and a half days — “some in minutes to hackers without inside or domain-specific knowledge,” security researcher Matt Tait wrote this weekend.
CNet walks us through what happened, here.
VP Pence is in the Baltics today. He landed in Estonia on Sunday bearing this message: “Russia’s destabilizing activities, its support for rogue regimes, its activities in Ukraine, are unacceptable,” the Washington Post reports. “Pence’s long-planned, 3½-day trip to Estonia, Georgia and Montenegro was originally intended to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to NATO... But in the wake of Trump’s decision to sign the legislation — which passed the Senate on Thursday on an overwhelming 98 to 2 vote — the vice president’s trip has taken on a clear Russia focus, senior administration officials said.”
In response to those sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Sunday that the U.S. must remove 755 diplomats from Russia. WSJ, here.
Are there even that many? Diplopundit does the math, and concludes: “The only way the reported numbers make sense is if President Putin is actually talking about the entire mission staff and not just American diplomats.” Read, here.
Meanwhile, Pence is still walking the admin’s delicate line on alleged election meddling last year by Moscow, telling reporters, “The president has confirmed repeatedly that we believe Russia did meddle in U.S. elections. I think he has also said it could have been other actors as well.”
And Pence’s message for allies during this trip: “While our policy is America-first, it’s not America-alone, and that our allies in Eastern Europe can be confident that the United States of America stands with them. We are committed to NATO, we are committed to our common defense.” Read the rest, here.
From April: “In Lithuania, NATO Troops Set Up Near A Potentially Hostile Border” by the Atlantic Council’s Magnus Nordenman.
Hezbollah optics, in response to President Trump. The Iranian-sponsored militant group took reporters on a weekend tour of the “recent fight against Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate in barren mountains near the northeastern Lebanese town of Arsal,” WaPo reports.
The reason for the tour appears to have a been as a response to President Trump’s remarks last week, alongside Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, that “Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.”
Writes the Post, “The arduous trek into the rocky terrain underscored the sway the Iran-backed Hezbollah exerts in Lebanon, where it remains the most effective and best-armed military force and retains the ability to strike at will almost anywhere in the country. It also illuminated the complexity of the political and military landscape in Lebanon — a U.S. ally, whose government includes Hezbollah, which is in turn branded a terrorist organization by Washington.”
Setting the scene, the Post’s Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous write, “Guided by a vanguard of Hezbollah officials in black-windowed armored vehicles, a convoy comprising over 40 journalists’ four-wheel-drive vehicles set out Saturday from the nearby Bekaa Valley and trundled slowly up a rocky mountain into the area where the battles took place. There were frequent mishaps.” Worth the click, here.
Also this weekend in Lebanon: an exchange of the bodies of fighters between Hezbollah and the on-again-off-again, al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front. More on that scene from the Middle East Eye, here.
In Afghanistan this morning, militants attacked the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, to apparent little effect, Tolo News reports. Three of the attackers — the first was reportedly a suicide bomber who blew himself up at the embassy gate — were killed by Afghan security forces after a four-hour gunfight in which no one else was apparently harmed. “One source said the insurgents were wearing police uniforms when they launched the attack.” Tolo reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. More here.
The White House is reportedly looking into “scaling back” its troop presence in Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal reported this weekend. “Unable to agree on a plan to send up to 3,900 more American forces to help turn back Taliban advances in Afghanistan, the White House is taking a new look at what would happen if the U.S. decided to scale back its military presence instead, according to current and former Trump administration officials.”
The broad contours of one approach looks an awful lot like what had come to be called the “Biden Plan” not so many years back, the Journal writes. “With discussions bogged down, administration officials are taking a new look at pulling out most U.S. forces and focusing on a more limited counterterrorism strategy that might allow the U.S. to reduce its military presence by relying more on drone strikes and special forces to target extremists.”
There’s also a plan put forward by Blackwater founder, Erik Prince. “The goal is to provide a clear exit lane and provide a clear end to the longest war in U.S. history,” Prince told the Journal. Adds WSJ: “So far, Mr. Prince has yet to generate enough interest among key officials, who view his plan with skepticism.” Read on, here.
Speaking of stagnated wars, take a detailed look at what trench warfare looked like in World War I, via this display from model maker Andy Belsey. He’s spent four years hand-crafting nine different scenes from the trenches. Check them out here; or read a bit more about each, here.