US dead come home; Russia targets US senator; China continues economic spying; Bidding opens for giant war cloud contract; and just a bit more...

The repatriation of deceased U.S. soldiers from North Korea has begun, the White House announced Thursday evening. The process — part of what was agreed upon when President Trump met Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit — moved forward hours ago as some 55 initial cases of alleged remains passed from North Korea’s possession to the UN at Osan Air Base in South Korea this morning, CNN reports on location and on the 65th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement.

“It may take months of detailed DNA analysis to determine how many American service members can be identified,” writes CNN. “US forensic specialists are to conduct a more in-depth assessment of the remains as well as an examination of any military uniform, identification tags or documentation at Osan Air Base. That review could take up to five days.”

For the record, South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reported in late June North Korea received 100 wooden transit caskets that it planned to use for returning remains. And “Since 1990, North Korea has repatriated the remains of 340 US troops,” CNN writes.

According to the Washington Post, “The North Korean government is believed to have somewhere between 120 and 200 sets of U.S. military remains in its possession and ready to deliver, but there are thousands more still in the North Korean countryside.”

From the WH’s POV: “Today's actions represent a significant first step to recommence the repatriation of remains from North Korea and to resume field operations in North Korea to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who have not yet returned home.”

Next up: A formal repatriation ceremony is expected Wednesday, and will be hosted by U.S.-Forces Korea Commander Gen. Vincent K. Brooks. More from The New York Times, here.

DPRK ruling party: no de-nuking. Radio Free Asia: “The Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party has decreed that North Korea will not relinquish its nuclear arsenal, which it termed a ‘precious legacy’ of the country’s late leaders, according to local sources, despite an earlier pledge by party chairman Kim Jong Un to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

FWIW, RFA cites two sources “from North Korea’s North Hamgyong province, along the border with China.” Said one of the sources: “The high-ranking party officials were listening to the speakers at the meeting because they were trying to determine whether Kim Jong Un really doesn’t intend to give up nuclear weapons or if it was just part of a ploy to gain leverage in [international] negotiations over the denuclearization process.” Read on, here.

From Defense One

China Is Still Stealing America’s Business Secrets, US Officials Say // Patrick Tucker: The 2015 agreement between Xi and Obama produced only a lull in Beijing’s economic espionage.

Pentagon Accepting Bids for Its Controversial $10 Billion War Cloud // Frank Konkel, Heather Kuldell, and Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: The Defense Department will stick to a single cloud provider for its JEDI cloud contract.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Curing the Farnborough hangover with earnings; Saudi ships, 3D-printed satellites and a lot more.

A ‘Sudden Burst of Movement’ on the Afghan Peace Process // Krishnadev Calamur: The reported U.S. offer of direct talks with the Taliban is adding to rare optimism in Afghanistan.

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.

This morning at the Pentagon, SecDef Mattis is meeting with Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yusuf bin Alawi — a man whose country Mattis last visited back in March. At the time, the UN’s chief negotiator for the war in Yemen has just left his post.

Now the war in Yemen — happening just west of Oman — is even more fraught than it was when Mattis visited Oman. That, anyway, would seem to be the read after we learned Thursday that the Saudis — spearheading that war in Yemen — had closed oil shipping through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait after the Houthi rebels reportedly attacked two tankers in those waters this week. Add to that these reports Thursday that the Houthis had flown a drone of some kind to an airport in Abu Dhabi, possibly disrupting operations for a brief time. Or possibly not.

From the region: Just a little strange, apocalyptic chatter from Iran’s Quds force leader, Qassem Soleimani. To President Trump, he said, “We are near you, where you can’t even imagine ... Come. We are ready. If you begin the war, we will end the war.” That, via Reuters, here.  

Happening today at the White House — and on the two-year anniversary of his hacking request to Russia: POTUS45 chairs a meeting of the National Security Council on election hacks. Trump, whose many denials of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia attacked the 2016 election came to something of a head in his July 11 summit in Helsinki, will host a meeting on election vulnerabilities facing the midterm elections. Speaking of...

Russia’s latest target: Missouri’s Democratic senator. The Daily Beast: “The Russian intelligence agency behind the 2016 election cyberattacks targeted Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign in earnest, a Daily Beast forensic analysis reveals. That makes the Missouri Democrat the first identified target of the Kremlin’s 2018 election interference.” More, here.

Shipping out: The U.S. Army on Thursday announced a new round of deployments and rotations.

To Afghanistan: 4th Infantry Division HQs and the 2nd BCT/10th Mountain Division in the winter.

To Korea: 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team in the winter as well.

Kids these days:Millennials are so over US domination of world affairs,” reads the headline for a new piece over at The Conversation, citing the work of a new report from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Some short takeaways:

  • “Only 44 percent of millennials believe maintaining superior military power is a very important goal, much less than the other generations. They also are less supportive of increasing defense spending.”
  • “Millennials also were much less inclined to embrace the idea that America is ‘the greatest country in the world.’ Only half of millennials felt that way, compared to much higher percentages of the other three generations.”
  • There’s also this: “Millennials are especially supportive of NATO, at 72 percent. In this measure, they are close to the other generations’ levels of NATO support.” Read the rest of The Conversation’s write up, here. Or read the Chicago Council’s full report, here.

And lastly today, farewell to the U.S. Navy’s oldest active submarine. The attack sub Bremerton, which has sailed more than a million underwater miles since it first deployed in 1981, is pierside for the last time at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Navy Times reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz has a nice piece that describes a crew’s fondness for their boat and their shipmates, Navy traditions (the Bremerton carries the cribbage board of a legendary WWII sub skipper), and even a bit of customization (the boat has a working klaxon from a World War II-era diesel sub). Read on, here.