Today's D Brief: China expands live-fire plan around Taiwan; Senate OKs Finland, Sweden's NATO bids; New Pentagon spox; And a bit more.

Saber-rattling, extended. China’s military added a day and a live-fire zone to its previous four-day plan with six danger zones for nearby aircraft and naval vessels, according to Taiwan’s Maritime Port Bureau and reporting by Taiwan’s Liberty Times. The new plans would make China’s drills “the largest ever around Taiwan,” according to the Japan Times.

Already, China has launched nearly a dozen missiles into the waters around Taiwan, including to the southwest and northeast of the island, according to Taiwan’s military. In an apparent new first, Japan’s defense ministry said five of those ballistic missiles landed near Hateruma Island, in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (extending 200 nautical miles off the coast). Four of the missiles allegedly flew over Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei, according to the Japan Times, reporting separately on Thursday. Tokyo’s military chief Nobuo Kishi condemned the launches as “extremely coercive,” and called them “a grave issue that concerns our national security and the safety of the people,” according to Japan’s Kyodo News

Why it matters: It could be a practice for a future invasion. And indeed, one Chinese general, Maj. Gen. Meng Xiangqing, said nearly as much in a televised interview Wednesday, according to the New York Times. “It should be said that although this is an exercise resembling actual combat, it can at any time turn into real combat,” he warned. Wider considerations include the possibility that the next time China’s military extends what appears to be its current short-term blockade of Taiwan that “it will last weeks,” Dmitri Alperovitch tweeted Thursday morning. China could again extend those drills, effectively closing off Taiwan’s ports for “months or until they get concessions or invade. This is how [an invasion of Taiwan] begins.” 

“This is one of the scenarios that is difficult to deal with,’’ former Pentagon official Bonny Lin, currently with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Times separately on Thursday. “If a military exercise transitions to a blockade, when does it become clear that the exercise is now a blockade? Who should be the first to respond? Taiwan’s forces? The United States? It’s not clear.”

G7 members and the EU called China’s drills an “escalatory response” that “risks increasing tensions and destabilizing the region,” according to a statement Thursday. “We call on the [People’s Republic of China] not to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the region, and to resolve cross-Strait differences by peaceful means,” they write, and emphasize at the end “our shared and steadfast commitment to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and encourage all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, act with transparency, and maintain open lines of communication to prevent misunderstanding.”

Several major shipping lanes are at risk because of China’s five-day drills, but no one is freaking out yet since the nearby strait isn’t fully closed for traffic, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

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From Defense One

Senate Votes To Add Finland, Sweden to NATO // Jacqueline Feldscher: Twenty-three NATO members have now ratified the accessions. Seven still need to act.

Cyber Ambassador Pick Wants to Bring 'Coherence' to Tech Diplomacy Efforts  // Lauren C. Williams: Nathaniel Fick, the former Marine and head of Center for a New American Security, also wants more deterrence efforts in cyberspace.

Can a Fitness App Ease the Military’s Recruitment Crisis? // Patrick Tucker: App gives recruiters a tool to monitor how their recruits are shaping up before shipping out.

Robot Ships Debut at RIMPAC, Helping US Navy Sail Toward a Less-Crewed Future  // Caitlin M. Kenney: Four unmanned surface vessels sailed with manned ships, sharing data and testing how they would operate with the larger U.S. fleet.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 2020, more than 200 people were killed and another 7,000 were injured when almost 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been sitting in storage for years suddenly ignited during a warehouse fire in the Lebanese port city of Beirut.

The U.S. Senate did its part ratifying NATO’s Nordic expansion on Wednesday, which would add Finland and Sweden to the 30-member alliance—provided all members’ parliaments approve the requests. The measure passed in a resounding 95-1 vote in the upper chamber; Missouri Republican Josh Hawley was the lone no-vote, as he said he would do in an op-ed published earlier this week in the National Interest.
“This is a slam dunk for national security that deserves unanimous bipartisan support,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“This historic vote sends an important signal of the sustained, bipartisan U.S. commitment to NATO, and to ensuring our alliance is prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow,” President Biden said in a statement shortly afterward.
Next up: Seven NATO members’ parliaments still need to ratify the application to make it final, according to NATO. That includes the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and—the nation many expect to be last in this process, should its embattled president not object at decision time—Turkey. 
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The Pentagon is about to get a new face. CNN’s Barbara Starr reported Wednesday that U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Director Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder is about to be named the new press secretary for the Defense Department—and sure enough, on Thursday morning, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin made it official.
Ryder has been a frequent public voice for the military, especially when he worked at the Tampa-based Central Command during the first several years of the war against ISIS. But Ryder has more recently served as the spokesman for former Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, who retired in 2019.
Ryder “will spend the next few weeks closing out his Air Force and Space Force responsibilities before assuming his new role later this month,” Defense Secretary Austin said in a statement Thursday morning. “I am confident that I will benefit from his counsel, and that the American people will benefit from his ability to clearly and consistently communicate our efforts to protect the United States and its interests around the world, take care of our people, and strengthen our unrivaled alliances and partnerships,” Austin said. Read more at CNN, here

The U.S. Army is developing a bra it’s calling the “Army Tactical Brassiere,” Military Times reports. Though the prototypes—there are four different styles—look like normal sports bras, the designers “are evaluating options such as the inclusion of flame-retardant fabrics and expertly layered compression, structural, and protective materials,” according to the Army. Officials say they’re also trying to take things like comfort and “accurate sizing” into consideration.
The bras are being tested by the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command Soldier Center, with plans to present them to the Army’s uniform board this fall. If approved, the Army Tactical Brassiere would become a program of record. More, here.

Have a safe rest of the week, everyone. We’ll be out of the office on Friday, so we’ll catch you again on Monday!