China pushes back. A day after Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan delivered his centerpiece speech at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, his Chinese counterpart — Minister of National Defense Gen. Wei Fenghe — offered his own views.
On Taiwan: Reports Defense One’s Kevin Baron: “Wei compared Taiwan to the rebel, slave-owning American South of the 1800s. ‘Not a single country in the world would tolerate secession,’ Wei said. ‘If anyone dares to split Taiwan from China, the Chinese military has no choice but to fight at all costs for national unity.’”
On the South China Sea: As limned by Baron: “China’s not expanding because the land is already theirs, and so you can’t say they’re militarizing when they’re just building defensive bases on their own land.”
On Tiananmen: Wei surprised many by accepting a question about the PLA’s massacre of protestors in Beijing on June 4, 1989 — a subject still officially taboo inside China — and then dropped jaws with a full-throated defense. “How can we say that China did not handle the Tiananmen incident well?” Wei said. “That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence, which is a correct policy.”
From Defense One
Shanahan ‘Not Planning’ USS McCain Investigation, But Still Reviewing Facts // Katie Bo Williams: “There’s no restriction on how people can send email,” the acting defense secretary said.
Naval Task Groups Are Proliferating in the Indo-Pacific // IISS’ Nick Childs: France’s aircraft carrier is back in the region, leading a small flotilla, and it’s not alone.
Great Power Competition Spurs Arms Purchases By Smaller Asian Countries // Marcus Weisgerber: From sub-hunting planes to fighter jets, Asian nations are arming themselves in response to China’s buildup.
News from Shangri-La 2019: Shanahan on China; Biegun on N. Korea; Tokyo's concerns // Defense One Staff: A special edition of D Brief brings news and notes from the 2019 IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
News from Shangri-La 2019: Shanahan's test; DOD's INDOPAC report; UAE's tanker request // Defense One Staff: A special edition of D Brief brings news and notes from the 2019 IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
Shanahan: ‘We’re Not Going To Ignore Chinese Behavior’ // Katie Bo Williams: The speech at the Shangri-La conference was closely watched amid rising U.S.-China tensions over trade and security.
Still 'Acting' Shanahan Faces Test With China Face-off and USS McCain Scandal // Katie Bo Williams: Raising the stakes for the would-be SecDef, the White House has not yet sent formal nomination paperwork to the Senate.
Time to Abandon Denuclearization? // Eric M. Brewer, Council on Foreign Relations:
NSA Deflects Blame for Baltimore Ransomware Attack // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: An agency's policy advisor says city officials had more than two years to patch computers against the attack.
Time to Abandon Denuclearization? // Eric M. Brewer, Council on Foreign Relations: An unwavering faith in the gospel of denuclearization is not supported by its track record, and some of the fears of moving toward a new policy are overblown.
Border Disorder: Trump Can’t Figure Out How to Keep His Biggest Promise // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: The president insisted that preventing illegal immigration would be simple and easy. Through a series of increasingly desperate attempts, he’s discovering that isn’t true.
Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops // Phil Klay, The Atlantic: After nearly 17 years of war, service members have seen plenty of patriotic displays but little public debate about why they’re fighting.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. On this day in 350 AD, Julius Nepotianus usurped the throne to become Roman Emperor. His rule over the city of Rome would last just 28 days before he was killed. (For what it’s worth, about one in every five of Rome’s 82 emperors were assassinated while in power.)
Confirmed: Over the weekend, Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan said WH officials did indeed want the USS John S. McCain moved so as to not upset the president one week ago today in Japan, Agence France-Presse reported Sunday.
So who was the requesting official? “Some 23 [or] 24-year-old,” according to Trump’s chief of staff.
Said White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday: "The fact that some 23, 24-year-old person on the advance team went to that site and said, 'oh my goodness, here's the John McCain, we all know how the president feels about the former senator, maybe that's not the best backdrop, can somebody look into moving it?' That's not an unreasonable thing."
Said Acting SecDef Shanahan: “I’m not planning any IG investigation… because there was nothing really carried out,” Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reported traveling with Shanahan this weekend. “Let’s say that these facts that they said—that the directive was not carried out—that’s pretty good,” he added. Shanahan also said that name-covering tarp covered McCain’s name because of “maintenance,” and — at any rate — it was removed before Trump arrived. As well, according to Shanahan, U.S. sailors from the McCain were on a previously scheduled leave, not one designed to keep them away.
Said Shanahan's spokesman, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joe Buccino: "Secretary Shanahan directed his chief of staff to speak with the White House military office and reaffirm its mandate that the [Pentagon] will not be politicised."
So, case closed? Unlikely, since it is still doubtful Democratic members of Congress will feel the same way as Pat during Shanahan’s eventual confirmation hearing — provided the White House actually sends the nomination paperwork to Congress, which WH officials have so far not done.
Virginia Beach shooting latest: Investigators are still seeking clues for why a civil engineer killed nearly a dozen of his co-workers and wounding four others on three different floors at a municipal building Friday afternoon in Virginia Beach, Va., the Associated Press reports today. “Police said he had no specific person as a target, shooting indiscriminately, including his first victim in a vehicle in the parking lot before he went inside,” Reuters adds. “Virginia Beach Police Chief James Cervera described [the shooter] as ‘disgruntled,’ but declined to say more about what may have precipitated the attack.”
One possible clue: He declared his intent to quit his job in an email to his boss earlier in the day on Friday, police said.
Remember each victim of Friday’s shooting, via AP, here.
Authorities located silencer and “two .45-caliber pistols used in the attack,” AP writes, “and all indicators were that he purchased them legally in 2016 and 2018,” according to the ATF.
Out of that tragedy: Tales of selflessness and sacrifice, like this one from NPR about the now-deceased Ryan Keith Cox, who helped direct colleagues to safety before taking at least one bullet from the gunman and dying. Other survivors thought the attack was a drill, AP reports separately today.
What to do — or consider — from here? “Right now I feel that every city office should have metal detector doors," one of the survivors told NPR. "They should have security guards. I would be happy to go through a search every single day if it kept from this ever happening again.” Read on, here.
A senior Mexican delegation is in Washington today to head off a possible economic calamity with the U.S. after President Trump’s Thursday threat to hike tariffs on America’s southern neighbor if the flow of immigrants isn’t slowed by early July, Reuters reports.
The quick outlook from AP: “It’s unclear what more Mexico can do — and what will be enough — to satisfy the president.” Meanwhile, “Republicans on Capitol Hill and GOP allies in the business community have expressed serious unease with the tariffs. Some see this latest threat as a play for leverage and doubt Trump will follow through. Earlier this year Trump threated to seal the border with Mexico only to change course.”
Trump’s dilemma: “Republicans have repeatedly tried to nudge Trump away from trade wars and have specifically questioned the White House’s ability to rely on executive authorities to impose some of them as national security issues,” AP writes. “At the same time, Trump’s efforts to revamp immigration laws have drawn little support in the Congress.” Ergo the current tensions and drama. Read on, here.
Otherwise, markets are still fretting over what lies ahead, the Wall Street Journal reports this morning.
Trump arrived in London this morning, after he and other administration officials ruffled feathers by making public statements of unusual reach into UK internal affairs. U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson suggested that a new trade deal should allow “US private sector involvement” in Britain’s National Health Service, the Guardian reports.
Trump also took an unusual stance on the political battle to replace outgoing Prime Minster Teresa May, backing “renegade Brexiteer Nigel Farage, whose new party's strong showing in EU elections is posing an existential threat to the Conservative Party. That from CNN, here.
The dis- and misinformation from POTUS45 is piling up. Over the past couple days, Trump has spoken publicly about veterans’ care, Iran, the Russia investigation, trade, North Korea, the U.S. economy, and Duchess Meghan Merkle of the UK — and the president of the United States has lied about each and every one of those topics in the process, according to a lengthy “Fact Check” from the Associated Press dedicated to identifying many of the recent incorrect statements this morning.
Spotted this weekend: One North Korean envoy who was reportedly moved to a hard labor camp after March’s “failed” Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. The man — Kim Yong Chol — was seen with the country’s leader over the weekend. “North Korean publications on Monday showed Kim Yong Chol sitting five seats away from a clapping Kim Jong Un in the same row along with other top officials during a musical performance by the wives of Korean People’s Army officers,” AP writes.
For the record: One of the men allegedly murdered — Kim Hyok Chol — has still not been seen publicly.
From the peninsula: Shanahan told reporters enroute to Seoul today that he doesn’t believe it is necessary to resume suspended joint military exercises with South Korea, Reuters’ Idrees Ali tweeted while traveling with the SecDef.
BTW: A UN agency was about to present a deal to curb North Korea’s missile program, but the U.S. objects — suggesting the deal may violate sanctions against Pyongyang. More from Reuters here.
Seeing Tokyo by helicopter: Our own Katie Bo Williams, traveling with the ASecDef, offers a short video clip from the window.
Attackers used a magnet to attach a bomb to bus in Kabul before detonation, killing five and wounding 10 others, Reuters reports from the Afghan capital. As well, “On Sunday, two people were killed and 24 wounded by bombs targeting a bus carrying university students in Kabul. The blasts were claimed by Islamic State militant group.”
Collateral damage is returning as a point of contention between the U.S. military and Afghan civilians, the New York Times and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported today from Kabul.
At issue: An airstrike last September in Wardak Province, which is believed to have killed at least eight civilians.
Can’t stop, won’t stop. Trump on Sunday asked Russia to stop bombing Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. That request, via Twitter: “Hearing word that Russia, Syria and, to a lesser extent, Iran, are bombing the hell out of Idlib Province in Syria, and indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians. The World is watching this butchery. What is the purpose, what will it get you? STOP!”
Today the Kremlin’s spox, Dmitri Peskov, said the bombing will not cease.
Back stateside, it would seem Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., wants everyone’s attention, because he went on a podcast show to tell how his unit "killed probably hundreds of civilians" during his 2004 tour in Fallujah, Iraq.
Context: “Hunter defended his support of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL facing a premeditated murder charge in the stabbing death of an injured person in Iraq,” CNN reports. “President Donald Trump is considering pardoning Gallagher.” More, here.
Or hear the podcast — “Zero Blog Thirty” — for yourself, here.
And finally today: Wanna track someone in Russia using their cell phone? It’s wicked easy, the BBC reported last week from St. Petersberg.
The quick read: “The market for purchasing personal data in Russia is growing. For a modest fee, you can gain access to mobile phone records, addresses, passport details and even bank security codes.”
Case in point: “BBC Russian contacted one online forum and requested the personal data of one of its correspondents. Within a day, and for less than 2,000 roubles, a file was emailed containing extracts not only from his current passport but from every passport he had held since the age of 14.”
But that’s not all: “BBC Russian ordered information about the correspondent's wife, an EU citizen, and was given data including phone records, date of birth and passport information.”
According to the seller of that information, the seller’s work is like that of a "detective agency… It's not something that can really be stopped," he told the BBC. Read on, here.
You can also listen to how information of this sort was used to unmask a few GRU agents last year by the open-source sleuths at Bellingcat. Defense One Radio spoke to Aric Toller, who can tell the story himself, here.