Russia and China participate in military drills

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • China sending troops to Russia in escalation of ‘no limits’ deal after Ukraine war stalls
  • CHINA will send its People’s Liberation Army into the Russian Far East to participate in military drills in the latest show of friendship between the two nations.
  • In a joint statement, the two countries said: “Friendship between the two States has no limits, there are no ‘forbidden’ areas of cooperation.”
  • The drills are expected to last from August 30 until September 5.
  • Other participating countries include India, Belarus, Mongolia, and Tajikistan.

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October drills begin with US and India in the Himalayas

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • United States and India to Hold Military Drills in Himalayas near China Border
  • Soldiers of the U.S. Army will deploy to a region of northern India’s Uttarakhand state — located 60 miles from India’s disputed Himalayan border with China — in October to participate in an annual joint military exercise with the Indian Armed Forces called Yudh Abhyas, the U.S. Army Pacific confirmed to Japan’s Nikkei Asia on Wednesday.
  • Though Yudh Abhyas has been held annually since 2004, this year’s drill holds extra significance as India and China remain engaged in an unofficial border standoff in the western Himalayas that began in June 2020. Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers ambushed an Indian Army border regiment in northern India’s Ladakh state on the night of June 15, 2020.
  • The surprise attack launched hours of brutal, hand-to-hand combat in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley that ultimately killed 20 Indian soldiers and an estimated 38 Chinese PLA troops. The melee’s repercussions continue to this day, as New Delhi and Beijing have yet to resolve the territorial dispute along their unmarked Himalayan boundary, known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), that prompted the skirmish.
  • China, for its part, has also continued to build up a pronounced military presence along its border with India in recent months, indicating that Beijing has yet to back down from the Himalayan standoff.

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China Drills encircle Taiwan and launch missiles into the sea

Revelations 6:3-4 “when he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

Important Takeaways:

  • China fires missiles near Taiwan in live-fire drills as PLA encircles island
  • The Chinese military’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement that multiple missiles had been fired into the sea off the eastern part of Taiwan. It said all the missiles hit their target accurately.
  • Chinese state media said that exercises to simulate an air and sea “blockade” around Taiwan had started Wednesday, but offered little solid evidence to back up the claim. Later Thursday, images showed military helicopters flying past Pingtan Island, one of Taiwan’s closest points to mainland China.
  • The military posturing was a deliberate show of force after Pelosi left the island on Wednesday evening, bound for South Korea, one of the final stops on an Asia tour that ends in Japan this weekend.

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Ukraine allows foreign forces to join planned 2022 military drills

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine’s parliament approved on Tuesday a draft law that allows foreign troops to take part in military exercises on the territory of the former Soviet republic in 2022, a move likely to infuriate Russia.

According to the draft law, submitted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine plans to hold 10 large military exercises next year.

Ukraine, which is not a member of NATO, has stepped up military cooperation with Western countries amid an increase in hostile activity by Russia and its proxies that has raised the risk of open war between the two neighbors.

Kyiv accuses Moscow of deploying some 90,000 troops along their long shared border. Moscow says its moves are purely defensive and that it has the right to move forces around its own territory as it sees fit.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Anatoliy Petrenko told parliament before the vote that 21,000 Ukrainians and 11,500 military personnel from the United States, Britain, Poland, Romania and other countries would participate in exercises on land, at sea and in the air.

“Conducting multinational exercises on the territory will help to strengthen national defense capabilities and support political and diplomatic efforts to maintain stability in the region,” said Petrenko.

There was no immediate response on Tuesday from Russia to the Ukrainian parliament’s approval of the draft law.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Russia and Ukraine both step up military alert with combat drills

By Alexander Marrow and Pavel Polityuk

MOSCOW/KYIV (Reuters) – Russia staged military drills in the Black Sea, south of Ukraine, on Wednesday and said it needed to sharpen the combat-readiness of its conventional and nuclear forces because of heightened NATO activity near its borders.

Ukraine, which with its ally the United States has said it believes Russia may be preparing an invasion, staged exercises of its own near the border with Belarus.

The increase of military activity on both sides follows weeks of rising tension that have raised the risk of war between the two neighbors, even though Russia denies aggressive intent and Western intelligence sources have told Reuters they do not see any invasion as imminent.

The United States and NATO have signaled their backing for Ukraine in ways that Moscow considers provocative, including through warship maneuvers this month in the Black Sea and a delivery of U.S. patrol boats to the Ukrainian navy.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Reuters on Wednesday it would be “a grave mistake from Russia” to attack Ukraine.

Russian fighter planes and ships practiced repelling air attacks on naval bases and responding with air strikes during military drills on Wednesday in the Black Sea, Interfax reported.

Separately, the news agency quoted Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying the need for Russia to further develop its armed forces was dictated by “the complicated military and political conditions in the world and the growing activity of NATO countries near Russia’s borders”.

He said raising the armed forces’ capabilities, supporting the combat readiness of nuclear forces and strengthening the potential of non-nuclear deterrence were among the priorities.

Shoigu on Tuesday complained that U.S. bombers had rehearsed a nuclear strike on Russia from two different directions earlier this month and complained that the planes had come too close the Russian border, drills the Pentagon said had adhered to international protocols.

UKRAINIAN ‘SPECIAL OPERATION’

Ukraine on Wednesday held what it called a “special operation” at the border with Belarus, including drone exercises and military drills for anti-tank and airborne units.

It has deployed 8,500 extra troops to its border with Belarus, saying it fears being drawn into the migrant crisis, which has seen the European Union accuse Minsk of flying in people from the Middle East and pushing them to enter neighboring Poland. Belarus denies fomenting the crisis.

Kyiv also worries that the border with Belarus, a close Russian ally, could be used by Russia to stage a military assault.

The head of Ukraine’s military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukraine’s borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.

Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory, said it was not threatening anyone and defended its right to deploy its troops as it wished.

Intelligence sources, diplomats and analysts say Moscow may be using the escalation of tension with Ukraine as part of a wider strategy to exert pressure in Europe, including by backing Belarus in the migrant crisis and using its influence as the continent’s top gas supplier to press for quick regulatory approval of its new Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Germany.

“It feels… more like another piece of coercive leverage that the Russians are heaping onto this strategic situation in Eastern Europe,” said Samir Puri, senior fellow in hybrid warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“It may well have value in that alone, rather than having to be followed through with a full-scale invasion which would be politically disastrous for Putin.”

(Additional reporting by Maxim Rodionov; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Alex Richardson)

North Korea rebuffs U.S. offer of December talks, urges halt in military drills

North Korea rebuffs U.S. offer of December talks, urges halt in military drills
By Hyonhee Shin and Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday it had turned down a U.S. offer for fresh talks, saying it was not interested in more talks merely aimed at “appeasing us” ahead of a year-end deadline Pyongyang has set for Washington to show more flexibility in the negotiations.

Kim Myong Gil, the North’s nuclear negotiator, said in a report carried by state media that Stephen Biegun, his U.S. counterpart who jointly led last month’s failed denuclearization talks in Stockholm, had offered through a third country to meet again.

Kim and Biegun met last month in the Swedish capital for the first time since U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed in June to re-open negotiations that have been stalled since a failed summit in Vietnam in February.

But the Stockholm meeting fell apart, with Kim Myong Gil saying the U.S. side had failed to present a new approach.

“If the negotiated solution of issues is possible, we are ready to meet with the U.S. at any place and any time,” Kim Myong Gil said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

But he called Biegun’s proposal a “sinister aim of appeasing us in a bid to pass with ease” Pyongyang’s year-end deadline. “We have no willingness to have such negotiations.”

North Korea has been seeking a lifting of punishing sanctions, but the United States has insisted Kim Jong Un must dismantle his nuclear weapons program first.

JOINT DRILLS

The North Korean statement came after General Mark Milley, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, reaffirmed that the United States was ready to use the “full range” of its capabilities to defend South Korea from any attack.

Senior U.S. defense officials are gathering in Seoul for annual meetings as the two countries face intensifying threats from North Korea to stop joint military drills.

The United States is also seeking a greater financial contribution from South Korea for hosting American troops, while urging Seoul to revoke its decision to scrap an intelligence-sharing pact with Japan known as GSOMIA, which Washington worries would undermine trilateral cooperation.

Milley met his South Korean counterpart General Park Han-ki for the annual Military Committee Meeting (MCM) on Thursday.

Both sides discussed ways to maintain solid defense posture and a planned transfer of wartime operational control to South Korea, a joint statement said, even as they have scaled back joint exercises to expedite negotiations with North Korea.

Milley reiterated the “continued commitment to providing extended deterrence”, the statement said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper was arriving in Seoul later on Thursday, ahead of a meeting with South Korean Defence Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo for the annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) on Friday.

Esper said on Wednesday he was open to changes in U.S. military activity in South Korea if it helped diplomats trying to jump-start stalled talks with North Korea.

Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean official who led negotiations in the run-up to the Vietnam summit, said late on Thursday that he hoped Esper meant to completely halt the joint drills.

Kim Yong Chol, a senior North Korean official who led negotiations in the run-up to the Vietnam summit, said late on Thursday that Esper meant to completely halt the joint drills.

“I assess his comment reflected Trump’s thinking and was part of the U.S. side’s positive efforts to revive the momentum for talks,” he said in a statement carried by KCNA.

“But if … the hostile provocation against us is carried out, we won’t help but responding with shocking punishment that the United States can’t afford.”

Pyongyang has decried the U.S.-South Korea exercises as hostile, even in the current reduced form. On Wednesday, it threatened to retaliate if the allies go ahead with scheduled drills in a rare statement from the State Affairs Commission, a top governing body chaired by leader Kim Jong Un.

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute think-tank, said the North’s statement appeared to be aimed at justifying future North Korean military actions.

Milley has hinted at raising the troop cost-sharing and Japan issues, though the joint statement did not address them directly.

Trump’s insistence Seoul take on a greater share of the cost of the 28,500-strong U.S. military presence as deterrence against North Korea has rattled South Korea. It could also set a precedent for upcoming U.S. negotiations on defense cost-sharing with other allies.

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Alex Richardson and Frances Kerry)

North Korea warns of retaliation against U.S-South Korea military drills

North Korea warns of retaliation against U.S-South Korea military drills
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea threatened on Wednesday to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea, ramping up pressure on Washington to change course as a year-end North Korean deadline for U.S. flexibility approaches.

The statement came even though Washington said last week that the joint aerial exercise planned for next month would be reduced in scope from previous drills.

“It is self-defense rights” to retaliate against any move which threatens its sovereignty and security, according to a statement from the State Affairs Commission, without elaborating.

It is rare for the commission, the supreme governing body chaired by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to release a statement.

Last week, a senior North Korean diplomat also blamed the U.S. joint aerial drill for “throwing cold water” over talks with Washington. Pyongyang opposes U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises, viewing them as a rehearsal for invasion.

In its latest statement, Pyongyang said it had taken measures to calm Washington’s concerns but that the United States had failed to reciprocate, leaving it with a “feeling of betrayal.”

Asked to comment on the North Korea statement, the U.S. State Department made no reference to the military exercises, but a spokeswoman referred to an agreement reached between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at their first summit in Singapore in June 2018.

“President Trump remains committed to making progress toward the Singapore commitments of transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearization,” she said.

Immediately following his first meeting with Kim, Trump made a surprise announcement that the United States would suspend military drills with South Korea. Since then, major exercises have been halted or scaled back.

Kim in April gave the United States a year-end deadline to show more flexibility in stalled denuclearization talks.

This statement followed the collapse of his second summit with Trump in Hanoi in February, and has raised concerns that North Korea could return to nuclear bomb and long-range missile testing suspended since 2017.

North Korea has tested the limits of engagement with a string of short-range missile launches, and analysts say it appears to have been emboldened to toughen its approach by the impeachment inquiry into Trump in Washington.

Senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers presented dueling narratives on Wednesday as the congressional impeachment inquiry threatening Trump’s presidency entered a crucial new phase with the first televised public hearing.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Gareth Jones and Jonathan Oatis)

China warns of more action after military drills near Taiwan

FILE PHOTO - China's aircraft carrier Liaoning (C) takes part in a military drill of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018. Picture taken April 18, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

By Ben Blanchard and Jess Macy Yu

BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) – A series of Chinese drills near Taiwan were designed to send a clear message to the island and China will take further steps if Taiwan independence forces persist in doing as they please, Beijing said on Wednesday, as Taiwan denounced threats of force.

Over the past year or so, China has ramped up military drills around democratic Taiwan, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the self-ruled island. Last week China drilled in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, and its hostility towards the island has grown since the 2016 election as president of Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China has been issuing increasingly strident calls for Taiwan to toe the line, even as Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo and keep the peace.

Speaking at a regular news briefing, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said the message the People’s Liberation Army was sending with its exercises was “extremely clear”.

“We have the resolute will, full confidence and sufficient ability to foil any form of Taiwan independence separatist plots and moves and to defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Ma said.

“If Taiwan independence forces continue to do as they please, we will take further steps,” he added, without giving details.

The military’s drills were aimed at protecting peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the interests of people on both sides of it, Ma said.

In Taipei, the government’s China policy-making Mainland Affairs Council said the people of Taiwan could not accept China’s military pressure and threats which it said had damaged peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“The mainland side should not attribute the consequences of misjudgment to Taiwan. This is an extremely irresponsible act,” it added.

The Republic of China is a sovereign state, the council said, using Taiwan’s formal name, and will brook no slander or criticism from China.

“We sternly warn the other side, do not create incidents again. Only by abandoning armed intimidation, facing up to the reality of the separate control on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, and having pragmatic communication and dialogue can the differences be resolved.”

Amid the growing tension with China, Taiwan’s defense ministry said on Tuesday it will simulate repelling an invading force, emergency repairs of a major air base and using civilian-operated drones as part of military exercises starting next week.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry)

North Korea warns against U.S.-South Korea military drills after Olympics

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho departs after addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2017.

By Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea has warned that if the United States goes ahead with delayed military exercises with South Korea after the Winter Olympics it will not “sit idle”, the North’s foreign minister said in a letter to the United Nations.

North Korea has not tested a missile since late November 2017 and entered into inter-Korean dialogue in January, the first talks in two years, which have eased tensions after a year of escalating rhetoric between the Pyongyang and Washington.

Whenever joint military exercises took place “the peace and security of the Korean peninsula were gravely threatened and the inter-Korean mistrust and confrontation reached the top, thus creating great difficulties and obstacles ahead of hard-won dialogues,” North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said in the letter published by the official North Korean news agency.

“We will make every effort to improve inter-Korean relations in future, too, but never sit idle with regard to sinister act of throwing a wet blanket over our efforts.”

The United States and South Korea have agreed to push back a routine early-year joint military drill until after the South holds the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The Games begin next week and run until March 18.

In the letter, Ri said the United States was misleading public opinion by claiming its pressure campaign, including “their harshest sanctions,” had brought about the inter-Korean talks, when the “dramatic turning point” was entirely thanks to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

In a commentary on Friday, North Korea’s state media said Washington was attempting to create a “stage of confrontation” at the Olympics by saying that inter-Korean talks and positive results that had stemmed from them could “disappear” after the Games.

Asked to comment, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, Mike Cavey, said: “The United States and our allies and partners in the region have long conducted routine exercises to maintain readiness. These exercises ensure we are trained for combined joint operations.”

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has warned that all options are on the table, including military ones, to resolve the crisis over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons capable of hitting the United States.

While it has repeatedly said it prefers a diplomatic solution, Trump has exchanged threats with Kim and U.S. officials have said Trump and his advisers have discussed a preventative “bloody nose” strike on North Korea, alarming experts who warn that this could trigger catastrophic retaliation, especially on South Korea.

U.S. officials have said the debate on military action has lost some momentum as a result of the intra-Korean talks, which Trump has called a “good thing” and credited to his tough stance.

Joseph Yun, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea, said on Thursday he did not think the administration was close to triggering military action.

The White House said on Friday that Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by telephone and discussed an expanded missile defense system and other efforts to boost Japan’s defenses amid the tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program.

Trump also spoke to South Korean President Moon Jae-in about human rights in North Korea and trade between the United States and South Korea, the White House said.

North Korea also criticized U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s pending visit to the Olympics, accusing Washington of halting improvements in inter-Korean relations.

Last month, a White House official said Pence planned to use his attendance to try to counter Kim Jong Un’s efforts to “hijack” the games with a propaganda campaign.

North Korea has agreed with South Korea to send a 230-strong cheering squad to the Winter Olympics, as well as an orchestra and taekwondo performance team.

A joint cultural performance planned in a North Korean mountain resort was called off this week by Pyongyang, which blamed South Korean media for encouraging “insulting” public sentiment regarding the North.

Twenty-two North Korean athletes will compete in the Olympics, including 12 who will play in a unified women’s ice hockey team. The other 10, including a figure skating pair, arrived in South Korea on Thursday.

(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and James Dalgleish)

Taiwan president says does not exclude possibility of China attack

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017.

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said that she does not exclude the possibility of China attacking the self-ruled island, amid heightened tensions between the two sides including an increasing number of Chinese military drills near Taiwan.

Beijing has taken an increasingly hostile stance toward Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, since the election two years ago of Tsai of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though she has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

In recent months, China has stepped up military drills around Taiwan, alarming Taipei. China says the exercises are routine, but that it will not tolerate any attempt by the island to declare independence.

“No one can exclude this possibility. We will need to see whether their policymakers are reasonable policymakers or not,” Tsai said in an interview on Taiwan television broadcast late on Monday, when asked whether China could attack Taiwan.

“When you consider it (Taiwan-China relationship) from a regional perspective, any reasonable policymaker will have to very carefully deliberate as to whether launching war is an option,” Tsai said.

“When our government faces resistance and pressure from China, we will find our method to resist this. This is very important,” she added.

“In terms of China circulating around Taiwan or carrying out other military activities, our military is carefully following every action and movement in the scope of its monitoring,” Tsai said. “Our military is very confident to face these situations.”

China considers proudly democratic Taiwan to be its sacred territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.

Taiwan and China have also traded accusations this month about China’s opening of new civilian aviation routes close to Taiwan-controlled islands in the Taiwan Strait.

Although China has cut off a formal dialogue mechanism with Taiwan, Tsai acknowledged that both sides currently have a method for communications to avoid misunderstanding.

Taiwan has been pressing for the United States, its main source of arms, to provide more advanced equipment, but has also been trying to bolster its own weapons programs, to avoid what Tsai termed “certain political difficulties” that come with buying weapons overseas in the teeth of Chinese opposition.

Tsai said she believed one day Taiwan would be able to produce its own submarines, an item Taipei has long pressed for to face China’s navy.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tsai’s remarks.

(Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)