North Korea Says Seeking Military ‘Equilibrium’ with US

North Korea

North Korea said Saturday it aims to reach military “equilibrium” with the United States which earlier hinted its patience for diplomacy is running out after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan for the second time in under a month.

North Korea successfully fired a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, responding to a new round of UN sanctions over its sixth nuclear test with its furthest-ever missile flight.

“Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the US and make the US rulers dare not talk about military option for the DPRK,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to a report carried by the official KCNA news agency.

Kim said the country was close to the goal of completing its nuclear ambitions and should use all power at its disposal to finish the task, saying it had “nearly reached the terminal”, the official KCNA news agency reported.

“The combat efficiency and reliability of Hwasong-12 were thoroughly verified,” said Kim.

The UN Security Council condemned Friday’s launch as “highly provocative” and US President Donald Trump scheduled talks with the leaders of Japan and South Korea to address the crisis.

“We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters, referring to Pyongyang’s repeated missile tests in defiance of international pressure.

Seoul’s defence ministry said it probably travelled around 3,700 kilometres (2,300 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 770 kilometres.

Yang Uk, an analyst with the Korea Defence and Security Forum, told AFP that Kim’s stated ambition of achieving a military balance was some way off.

“It’s too unrealistic for North Korea to reach equilibrium in nuclear force with the US,” he said.

Also on Friday, the U.N. Security Council condemned the “highly provocative” missile launch by North Korea.

It had already stepped up sanctions against North Korea in response to a nuclear bomb test on Sept. 3, imposing a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capping its imports of crude oil, according to Reuters.

Russia’s Putin, Iraqi VP Discuss Tanks Supply Deal

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki discussed supplies of Russian T-90 battle tanks at a meeting in St Petersburg on Tuesday, according to a Russian military official present at the meeting.

Russia’s Izvestia newspaper cited the Kremlin last week as saying Iraq had agreed to buy a “big” order of the tanks, which have been used in the Syria conflict.

Maliki had told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Monday that Baghdad wants Russia to play a bigger role in Iraq so that there is a balanced policy that does not allow a “foreign political entity” to impose its agenda in Iraq.

Russian military analyst Ruslan Pukhov told the paper the deal could cover deliveries of several hundred T-90 tanks, and that the contract may exceed $1 billion.

When asked if the deal was discussed on Tuesday, Dmitry Shugaev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said: “It was touched upon.”

Iraq and Russia have a $4.2 billion outstanding arms deal that was signed by the then PM Maliki on a visit to Moscow in 2012.

The deal was put on hold amid a corruption and bribery scandal involving senior Iraqi defense officials

Iraqi-Iranian ‘Wide-Range’ Agreement to Boost Military Cooperation

Iraq

Baghdad, Tehran- Iraq and Iran signed on Sunday several deals aimed at boosting their military cooperation during the visit of Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali to Tehran where he met with his Iranian counterpart minister Hossein Dehghan.

“Extending cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism and extremism, border security, and educational, logistical, technical and military support are among the provisions of this memorandum,” IRNA reported after the signing of the accord in Tehran.

Also during his stay in Tehran, Al-Hiyali, who was leading a military delegation, met separately with parliament speaker Ali Larijani and Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, AFP reported on Sunday.

Larijani and Shamkhani both emphasized the importance of “unity” between the two countries, while Larijani informed al-Hayali about the importance of preserving Iraqi unity “because if it wasn’t for the emergence of political differences, ISIS would not have been able to penetrate there.”

For his part, Shamkhani warned that “secessionist approaches can become a platform… to prepare the ground for insecurity and instability,” in a reference to the decision of Iraq’s Kurdistan region to hold an independence referendum next September.

Iran opposes that an Iraqi Kurdish region become an independent state.

And contrary to the echoes left by the visit of Iraqi Interior Minister Qassem al-Araji to Saudi Arabia lately, observers noticed that the Iraqi defense ministry has not issued an official statement on its website concerning the visit of its minister to Iran.

Hakem al-Zameli, head of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee, said on Sunday that al-Hayali informed members of the Committee that his visit aims at improving relations between both countries considering that Iran is an axial state in the region.

Al-Zameli said he believes that the visit of the defense minister to Iran aims at providing logistic support for the Iraqi forces rather than being related to the war against ISIS.

Insider Attack Kills One Afghan, Wounds Seven US Soldiers in Afghanistan

One Afghan soldier was killed while seven American soldiers were wounded in an “insider attack” at a base in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, a US military official said.

A spokesman for the US military command in Kabul confirmed that seven soldiers had been evacuated after being wounded in the incident at Camp Shaheen, the headquarters of the Afghan army’s 209th Corps in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

At least one Afghan soldier was killed and another wounded, the US official said. He could not immediately say if the suspected shooter was among the dead or wounded.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said an Afghan commando loyal to the militant group had opened fire on foreign “invaders”, killing four and wounding four others.

The German military heads the multinational advising mission based in Mazar-i-Sharif. A spokeswoman for the German forces at the joint missions command in Potsdam said: “According to what we know right now, no Germans were affected.”

Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when militants breached security at Camp Shaheen, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.

Coalition countries, led by the United States, are considering sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan to help advise and assist Afghan forces struggling against Taliban and ISIS hardliners.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday he would present options on Afghanistan to President Donald Trump “very soon”.

Fueling Onslaught, Syria’s Regime Constrains Draft Rules to Increase Youth Conscription

Syria's long-time despot Bashar al-Assad chats with military personnel during his visit to a military site in the town of Daraya, southwest of Damascus REUTERS/SANA/Handout via Reuters

Damascus- In an effort to escape the Syrian regime’s compulsory military drafting, which would see him tossed at frontlines of bloody battles fought by authoritarian Bashar Al-Assad against his people, a young male self-mutilated in a vivid public display which left Syrians in shock.

A young man, in his 20’s, hurled naked into the streets of Aleppo and single-handedly maimed his genitals while loudly renouncing his manhood. “I’m not a man, I’m a woman!,” he cried at the top of his lungs with blood gushing down his thighs.

The horrific incident followed recently passed string of stringent drafting measures ordered by the regime as it aims to fortify its fronts in the brutal civil war ripping Syria apart. After six-years of onslaught, losing troops, and with an exhausted artillery, Assad’s regime deploys young recruits to fight at frontlines.

Andrew Tabler, an expert on Syrian affairs, says Assad seems to have failed to increase numbers. One indication is a string of failures on the battlefield, and the huge push to get more cannon fodder. The other is the extent to which draft-dodging has helped fuel the refugee crisis as men try to escape conscription.

Social media platforms were set on fire with footage circulated of the 20 year-old’s actions, jumping around the streets covered in blood while bystanders stood in shock at what was happening before them.

A number of assumptions were cast around the motive which led to the accident– the young man was a university student allegedly suffering from psychological disorders and who had completely collapsed when stopped by a military patrol to be taken to serve in the military reserve .

Apparently, the university student found no alternative way to escape the situation but the sever lengths he resorted to.

The majority of Syrians feel Assad’s regime is engaged in a futile and vicious war and is indiscriminately sending their children to fuel it. Some concerned parents phrased the current regime actions of being directly responsible for “serving their children to a free death”.

Every day there are merciless new measures to conscript youth and amend draft laws to include a wider array of the social fabric.

The last of these amendments was the forced drafting of university students, who formerly were exempted from military service until they complete their academic studies.

In a letter issued last month by the directorates, official requests were made on narrowing down the criteria on legal absolution for youths serving at the military reserve. One of the requests was annulling scholastic immunity which provides a leeway for students to postpone serving at the army.

Russia Denies Plans for New Military Bases in Syria

Russia does not plan to open new military bases in Syria, the defense ministry said on Monday, after the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said it had reached a deal with Moscow for a new military base in northwestern Syria.

“There are no plans to deploy new Russian military bases on the territory of Syria,” the defense ministry statement read. It added that a section of its “reconciliation center”, which Russia says helps negotiate local truces between the warring sides in Syria, was located in Aleppo province near Afrin for the prevention of ceasefire violations.

YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told Reuters that Russian troops had already arrived in the northwestern region of Afrin with troop carriers and armored vehicles as part of an agreement concluded on Sunday.

One of the major forces in the Syrian conflict, the YPG is also a military ally of the United States and is playing a major part in US-backed operations against ISIS in areas of Syria further to the east.

On the other hand, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus aid that Turkey will not accept a “region of terror” in northern Syria and the ethnic structure of the area should be kept intact.

His comments at news conference in Ankara came after the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia said Russia was setting up a military base in northwestern Syria and would help train YPG fighters.

Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).YPG forces control over swathes of northeastern Syria and the Afrin region of its northwest is of great concern to Turkey.

US President Promises Historic Increase in Military Budget

US President Donald Trump.

Washington – US President Donald Trump promised a “historic” $54bllion increase in the US military budget for 2018, which includes a nearly 10 percent increase in defense spending.

Trump told state governors at the White House his budget plan included a “historic increase in defense-spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America.”

He said his proposal was a “landmark event” and would send a message of “American strength, security and resolve” to other countries.

He said during the meeting with state governors at the White House on Monday: “I saw a chart the other day — as of about a month ago, $6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East — $6 trillion. And I want to tell you, that’s just unacceptable. And we’re nowhere. Actually, if you think about it, we’re less than nowhere. The Middle East is far worse than it was 16 to 17 years ago.”

However, Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, said the plan would bring the Pentagon’s budget to $603 billion in total, just 3% more than the $584 billion the agency spent in the most recent fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, 2016.

The rise would be slightly higher than the country’s current 2.5 percent rate of inflation.

For her part, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in an interview with ABC News Sunday that, “practically speaking, Donald Trump has done nothing other than stir up drama during the first month of his administration. No infrastructure bill, no health care fix, no tax reforms.”

Pelosi stated that it’s “a normal thing” for House Democrats to bring “guests” to Trump’s address, taking place Tuesday evening.

“I myself would bring a guest who is a dreamer,” she explained. “I would bring a guest who has lost her son to gun violence. I’ll bring a guest who is a symbol of the freedom of press, which the president, in his authoritarian manner, is attacking.”

Trump has said previously he would expand the Army to 540,000 active-duty troops from its current 480,000, increase the Marine Corps to 36 battalions from 23 – or as many as 10,000 more Marines – boost the Navy to 350 ships and submarines from 276, and raise the number of Air Force tactical aircraft to 1,200 from 1,100.

He has not said where he would place the extra hardware and forces or made clear what they would be used for.

On the other hand, Trump is planning to outline an ambitious first-year agenda tackling everything from immigration to infrastructure when he delivers his first address to a Joint Session of Congress Tuesday night, the White House said.

The White House detailed Trump’s highly anticipated address on Monday, outlining what will be the president’s biggest speech since his inauguration.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump will push a “bold agenda,” while another White House official described it as an “optimistic” look toward the next four years.

Trump Seeks 9 Percent Increase in Military Budget

President Donald Trump is seeking what he called a “historic” increase in military spending of more than 9 percent, a huge rise even as the United States has wound down major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and remains the world’s strongest military power.

Trump will seek to boost Pentagon spending in the next fiscal year by $54 billion in his first budget proposal and
slash the same amount from non-defense spending, including a large reduction in foreign aid, a White House budget official said on Monday.

The president does not have the final say on federal spending. His plan for the military is part of a budget proposal
to Congress, which, while it is controlled by his fellow Republicans, will not necessarily follow his plans. Budget negotiations with lawmakers can take months to play out.

Trump told state governors at the White House that his budget plan includes a “historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America.”

“This is a landmark event and message to the world in these dangerous times, of American strength, security and resolve. We must ensure that our courageous servicemen and women have the tools they need to deter war and when called upon to fight in our name, only do one thing: Win,” he said.

Officials familiar with Trump’s proposal said the defense increase would be financed partly by cuts to the State
Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defense programs.

“We’re going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people,” Trump said.

Such a military spending hike would be unusual given that the United States is not engaged in a major war, although its special forces and Air Force are active against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

An official familiar with the proposal said Trump’s request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and establishing “a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke points” such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea.

That could put Washington at odds with Iran and China. The United States already has the world’s most powerful fighting force and it spends far more than any other country on defense.

Spending in the most recent fiscal year was $584 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, so Trump’s planned $54 billion increase would be a rise of 9.2 percent. The next fiscal year starts in October.

Arctic..New Contact Line in Cold War with NATO

NATO

Moscow – On the military level, the North Pole is the intersecting point of the Russian border with that of the NATO, especially U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway. This region is of high importance to Russia since the Soviet Union age, namely that the greatest part of this frozen area falls in the Russian territory.

Russian military interest in the polar region came to surface since 2013 when the Russian Ministry of Defense decided to reestablish military bases and airfields in the region.

In the same year, Russian forces conducted several training sessions that included landing of special unites before announcing the formation of the independent strategic leadership operations in the North Pole.

On Oct. 22 2015, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced a plan to create a special force grouping that will be fully ready by 2018. Also, the Russian defense minister is planning for the completion of constructing more than hundred military infrastructure establishments in the Arctic in 2017.

International interest in the Arctic increases, especially after disclosing the presence of enormous natural resources including the oil – initial estimates point out that the region contains around 15% of the international oil reserve and 30% of the gas reserve regardless of other minerals – plus, the region represents a naval commercial passage to Russia from the north.

As for the special landing forces and the operating forces in the Arctic, in general, the Russian defense ministry was keen to provide them with military costumes that suit the tough climate consequences and the cold there.

Al-Shabaab Attacks a Kenyan Military Base in Somalia

The militant group Al-Shabaab yesterday launched an attack on a Kenyan military base in southern Somalia. This is the second attack that the group that has links to Al-Qaeda has carried out this week.

The attack on the Kulbiyow base where Kenyan soldiers are deployed as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) began when Al-Shabaab fighters used a vehicle packed with explosives to try to blast their way into the camp of the Kenya Defence Forces.

A spokesman for Al-Shabaab, which often launches attacks on troops of the African Union’s AMISOM force, said its fighters killed at least 65 Kenyans and seized different kinds of military equipment. He added that they “seized control of the base and the entire area of Kulbiyow after they killed the Kenyan infidels.”

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna said in a statement that Kenyan soldiers resisted “a group of Al-Shabaab fighters who tried to attack the base before dawn”. Njuguna continued by saying that “the information that the terrorists provided on social media networks is incorrect and is part of their propaganda” and that “an operation to guarantee security in the region is ongoing and is supported by forces in the air and on the ground”.

The Kulbiyow base is located near the Kenyan border in Somalia’s Lower Juba region. Al-Shabaab frequently overstates the death toll from its attacks while Kenya commonly underplays its losses. No independent sources were able to provide a death toll for the attacks on Friday.

The group has also claimed responsibility for killing 28 people and injuring 43 others when two cars exploded in front of a popular hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on Wednesday. Militants then stormed inside exchanging gunfire with security guards. The attack began when an explosives-packed car was rammed into the entrance of Dayah Hotel, near the headquarters of the Somali parliament and government.