Think again, North Korea tells US; Dollars flowed to Afghan warlords; New law would reframe command at sea; Let’s talk about food; and just a bit more...
"The land of morning surprise." That's what America's military chief in Korea, Gen. Vincent Brooks, called the peninsula in the wake of President Trump cancelling the big U.S.-North Korean summit in mid-June.
"We all had high expectations that there will be a successful summit on the 12th of June," Brooks told a seminar in Seoul on Friday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News agency. “Korea remains not the land of morning calm, but the land of morning surprise.”
The warrior ethos: "I am not worried about it because the opportunity is not lost. It is just delayed,” Brooks continued. “Don't worry about what happened last night because it may have been too early to celebrate, it is also too early to quit. Never quit."
North Korea’s reax: “The U.S. side’s unilateral announcement of the cancellation of the summit makes us think over if we were truly right to have made efforts for it and to have opted for the new path. But we remain unchanged in our goal and will to do everything we could for peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and humankind, and we, broad-minded and open all the time, have the willingness to offer the U.S. side time and opportunity. The first meeting would not solve all, but solving even one at a time in a phased way would make the relations get better rather than making them get worse. The U.S. should ponder over it.”
And so it would seem the door is not closed, yet. Continuing, North Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan added, “We would like to make known to the U.S. side once again that we have the intent to sit with the U.S. side to solve problem regardless of ways at any time.” Read Pyongyang’s statement in full over at Quartz.
You can game out how a confrontation could go between the U.S. and North Korea in this remarkable interactive op-ed from Mark Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Institute for International and Strategic — Americas, writing in The New York Times.
And: “Kim Jong Un doesn’t need to dance with Trump. He’s got his own nuclear weapons.” Read how Melissa Hanham, an expert in the use of open-source data to assess WMD capabilities and verify treaties, experienced Thursday’s remarkable events, here.
From Defense One
Trump’s Reckoning Arrives // David Frum, The Atlantic: The president’s unpredictability once worked to his advantage—but now, it is producing a mounting list of foreign-policy failures.
WTF: A Few Morning Thoughts on US-North Korea Relations // Melissa Hanham: Kim Jong Un doesn’t need to dance with Trump. He’s got his own nuclear weapons.
The Word That Derailed the Trump-Kim Summit // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: The Americans and the North Koreans were all set for a historic meeting. Then they started talking about Libya.
Dance party at a defense firm; New B-52 engines; Is the defense bubble bursting? and a lot more. // Marcus Weisgerber’s Defense Business Brief
Show of Unity: US’ NATO Ambassador Says ‘We Are One’ // Caroline Houck: Working to ease continental worries deepened by Trump’s Iran-deal decision, a top U.S. diplomat says America is as committed as ever to the alliance.
Let’s Talk about Food — and What Happens In a Crisis // Elisabeth Braw: Sweden is telling its citizens to be ready to feed themselves for a week. Other nations should follow suit.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1953: The U.S. performs its only test-firing of a nuclear artillery shell.
House legislators passed the FY19 National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday in a 351-to-66 vote, U.S. Naval Institute News reported from Capitol Hill.
Broadly speaking, the House version of the authorization bill includes “several provisions intended to increase the Navy’s warfighting ability. Recently added amendments include increasing the pace of new aircraft carrier procurement and allowing the Pentagon to purchase more F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters if the price per jet continues to decrease. The NDAA also includes language reforming how surface warfare officers are trained and how forward-deployed forces are organized.”
ICYMI: A former destroyer skipper argues that the requirement to force U.S. Navy surface-warfare officers to specialize — as the Royal Navy does—would undermine the command-at-sea philosophy that has helped turn the American fleet in the world’s dominant naval force. Read that, here.
Next item of business: “The Senate Armed Services Committee wrapped up its subcommittee and full committee markups on its version of the NDAA this week. Following a full Senate vote to approve that bill, the two chambers will have to work out the differences between their defense bills and pass the compromise language on both sides of the Hill.” A bit more, here.
And the Senate’s plan? It includes “only half of President Donald Trump’s [requested] military end-strength increase for fiscal 2019,” Military Times’ Leo Shane III reported Thursday.
About those differences: “The White House had asked for an end strength of 15,600 troops across all four services, a plan that House lawmakers officially agreed to in a vote earlier on Thursday.” Currently, "[T]he Senate committee’s plan — which still must be adopted by the full chamber in coming months — calls for an increase of only about 8,600 new service members."
That means "The Army would see a boost of about 2,200 soldiers, as opposed to the 4,000-person increase in the White House plan. The Navy would see 3,000 more instead of the president’s 7,500-person request. The Air Force would get only 600 more airmen instead of the 4,000 the administration wants.|
Notable: "In all three plans, the Marine Corps will see a boost of only 100 troops," Shane reports. Read the rest, here.
Surprise: American money empowered Afghan warlords “who were just as bad as the terrorists themselves,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report released Thursday.
The core of the problem: “More money went to communities whose local political dynamics were poorly understood, which often exacerbated conflicts, enabled corruption, and bolstered support for insurgents,” SIGAR’s John Sopko told a crowd at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Thursday. Added Sopko: The “sheer amount of money spent … had no correlation with outcome.”
And the solution? A long view from the beginning — and a longer attention span throughout the process, according to USNI’s write-up of Sopko’s talk. USNI: “Stabilization of conditions in war-torn countries, like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, is ‘going to take a long time. Be honest’ with the president seeking advice, cabinet officials, agency heads, Congress and the public, [Sopko] said. ‘We tend to think in the appropriation cycle’ of one or two years even in assessing long-term commitments and that leads to seeking fast solutions. By doing that, ‘we give [DoD, State, USAID] a box of broken tools.’” Stars and Stripes has a bit more, here.
India and Russia are teaming up in Afghanistan, The Indian Express reported Thursday amid a bit of gushing about how the two countries’ leaders are quite chummy with one another.
But teaming up on what? Something "possibly in the development sector." However, "India took up the issue of countering terrorism and made a veiled reference to Pakistan supporting terrorists across the world," and "forcefully argued that the international community needs to differentiate between victims of terrorism of their own making, and others."
Also notable: According to an unnamed New Delhi source, TE writes, “The two sides decided to discuss the issues related to defence, nuclear and trade areas during the annual summit in the latter half of this year.”
Oh, and about that chumminess: “The two leaders shared lot of chemistry, and that was evident when Putin — impromptu — decided to come to the airport to see off Modi. What became interesting was that they reached the airport in the car, and kept talking for almost 15 minutes, while everyone else was waiting for them to emerge from the vehicle. This just signifies the comfort level between the two countries,” the unnamed source said. Read on, here.
China’s reax to being dis-invited by the U.S. to its annual RIMPAC military exercises: That is “unconstructive,” and won’t alter China’s (stated) intent to “play a role in maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.” That’s all according to a statement from the defense ministry, posted on its website Thursday, the Associated Press reports.
Reading the tea leaves, AP writes, “The U.S. move raises the prospect of a renewed chill in military relations between the two countries amid high-stakes maneuvering over North Korea’s nuclear program.” Read on, here.
Still in operation: The U.S. Marines’ base in northern Australia, near the city of Darwin, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday on location.
The quick read: “The U.S. and Australia have begun a multibillion-dollar improvement of air bases in northern Australia to accommodate stealth warplanes and long-range maritime patrol drones, and are building wharves and refueling points for visiting warships in Darwin—part of a $150 billion upgrade of Australia’s military.”
The current U.S. troop count there comes to “almost 1,600 Marines,” the Journal writes. That number “will grow to 2,500 in the next few years.”
In the next few months, “the Marines will embed for the first time on Australian amphibious assault ships and practice humanitarian-disaster operations and combat skills… joining troops from the Philippines, Japan and Pacific island countries here and on Australia’s east coast.”
The view from locals: “People here don’t think China is a threat—unless they’re in defense,” said the Mayor of Darwin, Kon Vatskalis. A bit more (paywall alert), here.
Back stateside, the Marine Corps apparently does not kick out neo-Nazis easily. A recent investigation by ProPublica — with the help of a former Marine — found "Vasillios Pistolis — a current Marine — is a neo-Nazi who was at Charlottesville" during the bloody protests last year.
The former Marine with ProPublica then “armed himself with evidence,” presented it to the Corps, and… Pistolis is still serving under the presumed banner of protecting and defending the Constitution. Story, here.
Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you again on Tuesday!
NEXT STORY: The Word That Derailed the Trump-Kim Summit