More DPRK missiles and mischief; Drone makers look to replace police helicopters; Troops helping out in Texas, La.; Russian subs off Syria; and just a bit more...
North Korea launched a missile over Japan on Monday, the U.S. military announced at about 6 p.m. EDT. “The missile—the first Pyongyang has fired over Japan’s main islands since 2009—prompted a fiery response from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” The Wall Street Journal reported. “Mr. Abe called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. He said he spoke by phone with President Donald Trump for 40 minutes and that the president gave a ‘strong commitment’ to Japan’s security.”
The South Korean military said “the missile was fired from near Sunan, a suburb of North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, where the city’s international airport is located. They said the missile flew almost 1,700 miles and reached a maximum altitude of 342 miles,” the Journal writes.
And it’s path: “The missile passed over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific Ocean about 14 minutes after its launch early Tuesday morning, Japan’s chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said, splashing down in the Pacific 733 miles east of Hokkaido’s Cape Erimo.”
This was "perfectly calibrated to create political mischief," writes Stephen Haggard of the University of California San Diego. He explains why, here.
The South Korean reax: Test a new ballistic missile with an alleged 800-km range. And carry out a notional bombing raid with four F-15 jets with the goal of "completely destroying 'the enemy's leadership.'" Both those stories from RoK’s Yonhap News agency.
More Japanese reax: With a bit of unintentional timing, its “air force demonstrated a Patriot missile-defense system at Yokota in western Tokyo Tuesday, just hours after a North Korean missile flew over Hokkaido,” Stars and Stripes reports. “We did not foresee North Korea launching a missile right before our … press conference,” Lt. Gen. Hiroaki Maehara, head of Japan’s Air Defense Command told reporters Monday. More here.
President Trump said in response that “all options” remain “on the table,” according to a statement this morning from the White House.
For what it’s worth: All options have been on the table, as U.S. presidents have said, since at least 1998, Just Security’s Ryan Goodman tweets this morning — linking to times when the last three presidents said as much.
Related Q: “Is North Korea winning deterrence war with US?” That analysis, via the Associated Press, here.
Reminder: Missile defense can't protect the U.S. from North Korea, says Kingston Reif of Arms Control Now, writing back in May for War on the Rocks.
From Defense One
Look for Military Drones to Begin Replacing Police Helicopters by 2025 // Patrick Tucker: General Atomics is working hard to put a close cousin of its Reaper anti-terrorism drone in the hands of local law enforcement.
Ordered to Ban Transgender Troops, Pentagon Plans A New Look at Three Factors // Caroline Houck: The courts will take their own look, thanks to a trio of lawsuits filed in the wake of Trump's Friday-night memo.
DARPA Wants Bots To Protect Us From Cyber Adversaries // Mohana Ravindranath: The military research unit is looking for technology and software that can identify networks that have been infiltrated—and neutralize them.
How James Mattis Tried to Explain Trump to the World // James Kitfield: Just as Mattis sought to reassure nervous allies, back home there were numerous reminders that the populist and intemperate impulses of his boss will not be tamed.
Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. OTD1949: The Russians test their first nuke, a 22-kiloton device referred to by the U.S. as “Joe-1,” after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Have something you want to share? Email us at email@example.com. (And if you’re reading this on our website, consider subscribing. It’s free.)
We have a more complete picture of the U.S. military’s Hurricane Harvey response, thanks to the Washington Post’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff. "On Monday, Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) announced he was ordering the entire Texas National Guard — about 12,000 troops — to assist those affected by the storm... Thirty-nine [U.S. Coast Guard] helicopters and seven planes are spread between operating bases in Houston and New Orleans, according to a tweet by the service. The Coast Guard’s primary helicopters are the MH-60T Jayhawk, a Black Hawk variant, and the MH-65 Dolphin. Its primary cargo aircraft is the four-engine C-130."
And the Texas National Guard "is completely mobilized," the Post writes. "Rescue efforts have involved 200 Humvees, 218 high-water vehicles, 15 wreckers and 19 fuelers, according to the Pentagon. The Texas National Guard also has 16 aircraft supporting rescue operations all along the coast. Those are 10 UH-60 Black Hawks, four UH-72 Lakotas and two CH-47 Chinooks, according to the Pentagon. The New York Air National Guard has also sent one C-130, three HH-60 Black Hawks, two C-17 cargo planes and 104 airmen from the 106th Rescue Wing. Six helicopters from the Utah, Nebraska and North Carolina Army National Guards are also headed to the area... the Navy will [also] begin preparing the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and the landing ship USS Oak Hill for operations to support Harvey rescue efforts."
ISIS strikes a deal on the Lebanon-Syria border. “Lebanon began transporting an estimated 400 armed Islamic State fighters and family members from its northern border to the militants’ stronghold in eastern Syria on Monday," The New York Times reported, "as part of a deal between the Islamic State… and its Syrian and Lebanese enemies. Under the agreement, the bodies of eight people believed to be Lebanese soldiers were to be returned, while Islamic State militants were to receive 17 air-conditioned buses, 11 ambulances and a free pass through territory held by the Syrian government."
The Times calls it “the first time the group is known to have negotiated a settlement to stop fighting involving a large number of militants and to give up territory.”
The context: "Just over a week ago, the Lebanese Army launched an offensive in the border area to pressure Islamic State militants into negotiating the soldiers’ release. Simultaneously, Hezbollah and their allies in the Syrian government began an offensive in the same area, from the Syrian side of the border. That the operations coincided was unplanned, they said. Both sides declared a cease-fire with the Islamic State on Sunday to allow for the recovery of the service members." More details and logistics, here.
ISIS carried out a car bomb attack in Baghdad on Monday, killing at least a dozen people, the Associated Press reports from the Iraqi capital. “The explosives-laden car went off at the wholesale Jamila market in Baghdad's Shiite district of Sadr City, a police officer said. The explosion also wounded 28 other people, he added, saying the death toll was expected to rise further.”
That bombing came on the same day other ISIS fighters in Tal Afar put up a “fight to the death” against approaching Iraqi forces, Reuters reported. “Iraqi forces have in recent days recaptured almost all of the northwestern city of Tal Afar, long a stronghold of Islamic State. They have been waiting to take al-’Ayadiya, 11 km (7 miles) northwest of the city, before declaring complete victory.”
Where the battle may be shifting to next: al-’Ayadiya, seven miles north of Tal Afar. Adds Reuters: “Many motorcycles carrying the Islamic State insignia had been abandoned at the side of the road outside al-’Ayadiya.” More here.
President Trump on the Baltics: “We are very protective of that region. That’s all I can say. We are very, very protective. We have great friends there,” he told reporters at a joint news conference with visiting Finland President Sauli Niinisto in Washington on Monday. A bit more on the importance of NATO cooperation from Niinisto, and some vague words of support from Trump on the same topic, here.
Russia just sent two upgraded subs to its naval base off Syria’s western coast, AFP reports. Russia's defense ministry said in a statement: "The Black Sea fleet's new large diesel and electric submarines, Kolpino and Veliky Novgorod... have arrived in the Mediterranean."
Reuters: "The stealth submarines, which entered service in 2016 and have a speed of 20 knots under water, are intended to boost the Russian navy's permanent presence in the Mediterranean. The submarines, both with crews of 50 and built in the northwestern city of Saint Petersburg, are classified by NATO as 'Improved Kilo' class. They are fitted with new navigation systems, fully automatised control systems, high-precision missiles and powerful torpedo equipment, the defence ministry said." Story, here.
Trump restarts transfers of military surplus to police. Reversing a ban put in place by the Obama administration after police snipers and armored cars met protesters in Ferguson, Mo., the new plan allows the transfer of armored vehicles, large-caliber weapons, ammunition, and other heavy equipment, USA Today reports: “Included in the gear are such things as rocket-launchers and bayonets. According to the Trump plan, the bayonets would likely be re-purposed as utility knives and the launchers used to shoot tear gas canisters, instead of lethal ammunition.”
The drive to lift the ban was led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who suggested in a Monday speech that Obama's directive was “a concession to political pressure applied by civil rights advocates. ‘We will not put superficial concerns above public safety,’” Sessions said. Read the full story, here.
Even after the ban on heavy arms and gear went up, the 1033 transfer program had loopholes that allowed other arms and military gear to potentially flow to bad actors. A GAO investigation revealed earlier this year that investigators posing as a fictitious federal agency had purchased arms and gear worth $1.2 million. Read that, here.
And did the ban work? That is, did it reverse the militarization that shocked television viewers during Ferguson? Quartz put the question to Peter Kraska, a professor at Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies, who said, “There was a lot of fanfare — what should we do with the 1033 program, should the police become ‘guardians’ instead of ‘warriors’? It was a lot of hand-wringing, and some introspection about where the police institutions should head and where they’ve been. But in terms of that resulting in anything that ratcheted back police militarization, I would say absolutely not...The White House convened a commission on the 1033 program, but the assumption was that police militarization was caused exclusively or even primarily by the Department of Defense giving police departments military goods. This just simply is not the case.” Read that, here.
And finally: “All questions will be addressed” at (or soon after) an online all-hands call with the U.S. Navy’s top officer and enlisted leader. That’s the promise from Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven Giordano, who will go live on the Navy’s Facebook page on Wed., Aug. 30, at 3:10 p.m. Eastern time. “Sailors are encouraged to send their questions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org both prior to the event and during the all hands call,” a Navy statement said, adding that even questions that don’t get answered live will get an answer later on the Navy Live blog. That’s a heck of a promise; we have a feeling a lot of staff are going to be typing for a long time.