Philippines joins U.S. in War Games focusing on conflict with China

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:

  • US, Philippines start largest-ever war games as defense ties deepen amid China tensions
  • Nearly 9,000 Filipino and American soldiers will take part in the 12-day Balikatan drills across the main island of Luzon
  • Philippine military chief General Andres Centino said the training reflected the ‘deepening alliance’ between the two countries
  • Recent maneuvers between the two countries focused on potential conflict in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

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Tensions high as Russia conducts naval drill with140 warships

Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.

Important Takeaways:

  • Russia announced Thursday it will hold huge naval drills involving more than 140 warships and supporting vessels this month and in February, at a time of heightened tensions with Western nations.
  • The war games to be held in the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Mediterranean will involve “more than 140 warships and support vessels, more than 60 aircraft, 1,000 pieces of military equipment, and about 10,000 servicemen,” the defense ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

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Iran says it successfully tests new naval cruise missile

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on Thursday its navy had successfully fired a new locally made cruise missile during war games in the northern Indian Ocean and near the entrance to the Gulf.

The test-firing comes as the United States is seeking an extension of a U.N.-imposed arms embargo against Iran, which is due to expire in October under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Washington withdrew from that pact.

“During the exercises, short-range and long-range coast-to-sea and sea-to-sea missiles were successfully fired from the coast and from decks of ships, hitting their targets with great precision,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

The new generation cruise missiles, with a range of 280 km (175 miles) were tested during exercises by the Iranian navy in the Gulf of Oman, which lies next to the Strait of Hormuz waterway at the mouth of the Gulf, and the northern Indian Ocean, Tasnim said.

In April, Iran said it had increased the range of its naval missiles to 700 km.

Western military analysts say Iran often exaggerates its weapons capabilities but concerns about its long-range ballistic missiles program contributed to the U.S. decision to leave Iran’s 2015 deal to rein in its nuclear ambitions in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Russian warships hold drills in Bering Sea in huge military exercise

A satellite image of armored vehicles staging during the Russian military exercise known as Vostok 2018, conducted at the Tsugol training area in eastern Russia, September 13, 2018. Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company/Handout via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian warships held drills in the Bering Sea which separates Russia from Alaska, part of Moscow’s biggest military maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union, footage aired by the Ministry of Defence showed on Friday.

The Vostok-2018 (East-2018) drills, which run until Sept. 17, are taking place in Siberia and in waters off Russia’s eastern coast, involving 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft and two naval fleets.

The drills are taking place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, and NATO has said it will monitor the exercise closely, as will the United States which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

President Vladimir Putin inspected the war games on Thursday, vowing in a speech to soldiers to strengthen the Russian army and supply it with new generation weapons and equipment.

Putin said Russia was a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, but that it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.

The Ministry of Defence aired footage on Friday of the Northern Fleet’s Vice-Admiral Kulakov destroyer and the Alexander Obrakovsky landing ship taking part in a mock-up rescue operation in the Bering Sea.

Other footage showed scores of paratroopers leaping from a plane and descending from helicopters by ropes in the eastern Siberian territory of Zabaikalsk.

The ministry also broadcast clips of missiles being launched from its S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile system and its Buk medium-range missile system.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

Russia’s Putin inspects war games and vows to beef up army

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu while flying over Tsugol training range in Zabaikalsky region, Russia, September 13, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Thursday promised to strengthen the army and supply it with new generation weapons, as he traveled to watch Russia’s biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Vostok-2018 (East-2018) drills taking place in eastern Siberia close to the border with China involve 300,000 Russian troops as well as joint exercises with the Chinese army.

“This is the first time our army and fleet have undergone such a difficult and large-scale test,” Putin said in comments published on the Kremlin website.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu oversee the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) military drills at Tsugol firing range in Zabaikalsky Region, Russia September 13, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (L) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu oversee the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) military drills at Tsugol firing range in Zabaikalsky Region, Russia September 13, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky/Kremlin via REUTERS

The exercises, that involve over a thousand military aircraft as well as up to 36,000 tanks, come amid tense relations between Russia and the West that have fallen to a post-Cold War low.

Addressing a gathering of the soldiers, Putin said Russia was a peaceful country ready for cooperation with any state interested in partnership, but that it was a soldier’s duty to be ready to defend his country and its allies.

“Therefore we are going to further strengthen our armed forces, supply them with the latest generations of weapons and equipment, develop international military partnership,” Putin said.

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Keith Weir)

Russia starts biggest war games since Soviet fall near China

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia September 11, 2018. Mikhail Metzel/TASS Host Photo Agency/Pool via REUTERS

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia began its biggest war games since the fall of the Soviet Union on Tuesday close to its border with China, mobilizing 300,000 troops in a show of force that will include joint exercises with the Chinese army.

China and Russia have staged joint drills before but not on such a large scale, and the Vostok-2018 (East-2018) exercise signals closer military ties as well as sending an unspoken reminder to Beijing that Moscow is able and ready to defend its sparsely populated far east.

Vostok-2018 is taking place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, and NATO has said it will monitor the exercise closely, as will the United States which has a strong military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence broadcast images on Tuesday of columns of tanks, armored vehicles and warships on the move, and combat helicopters and fighter aircraft taking off.

In one clip, marines from Russia’s Northern Fleet and a motorized Arctic brigade were shown disembarking from a large landing ship on a barren shore opposite Alaska.

This activity was part of the first stage of the exercise, which runs until Sept. 17, the ministry said in a statement. It involved deploying additional forces to Russia’s far east and a naval build-up involving its Northern and Pacific fleets.

The main aim was to check the military’s readiness to move troops large distances, to test how closely infantry and naval forces cooperated, and to perfect command and control procedures. Later stages will involve rehearsals of both defensive and offensive scenarios.

Russia also staged a major naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean this month and its jets resumed bombing the Syrian region of Idlib, the last major enclave of rebels fighting its ally President Bashar al-Assad.

CLOSER CHINA-RUSSIA TIES

The location of the main training range for Vostok-2018 5,000 km (3,000 miles) east of Moscow means it is likely to be watched closely by Japan, North and South Korea as well as by China and Mongolia, both of whose armies will take part in the maneuvers later this week.

Analysts say Moscow had to invite the Chinese and Mongolian militaries given the proximity of the war games to their borders and because the scale meant the neighboring countries would probably have seen them as a threat had they been excluded.

The exercise – which will involve more than 1,000 military aircraft, two Russian naval fleets, up to 36,000 tanks and armored vehicles and all Russian airborne units – began as President Vladimir Putin held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Russian port city of Vladivostok.

Relations between Moscow and Beijing have long been marked by mutual wariness with Russian nationalists warning of encroaching Chinese influence in the country’s mineral-rich far east.

But Russia pivoted east towards China after the West sanctioned Moscow over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and trade links between the two, who share a land border over 4,200 km long, have blossomed since.

Russia broadcast footage of some of 24 helicopters and six jets belonging to the Chinese air force landing at Russian air bases for the exercise. Beijing has said 3,200 members of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will join in.

Some experts see the war games as a message to Washington, with which both Moscow and Beijing have strained ties.

“With its Vostok 2018 exercise Russia sends a message that it regards the U.S. as a potential enemy and China as a potential ally,” wrote Dmitri Trenin, a former Russian army colonel and director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think tank.

“China, by sending a PLA element to train with the Russians, is signaling that U.S. pressure is pushing it towards much closer military cooperation with Moscow.”

Putin, who is armed forces commander-in-chief, is expected to observe the exercises this week alongside Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who is overseeing them.

Shoigu has said they are the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981.

(Editing by David Stamp and Alison Williams)

Russia to hold biggest war games in nearly four decades

By Andrew Osborn

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will next month hold its biggest war games in nearly four decades, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday, a massive military exercise that will also involve the Chinese and Mongolian armies.

The exercise, called Vostok-2018 (East-2018), will take place in central and eastern Russian military districts and involve almost 300,000 troops, over 1,000 military aircraft, two of Russia’s naval fleets, and all its airborne units, Shoigu said in a statement.

The maneuvers will take place at a time of heightened tension between the West and Russia, which is concerned about what it says is an unjustified build-up of the NATO military alliance on its western flank.

NATO says it has beefed up its forces in eastern Europe to deter potential Russian military action after Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014 and backed a pro-Russian uprising in eastern Ukraine.

The war games, which will take place from Sept. 11-15, are likely to displease Japan which has already complained about what it says is a Russian military build-up in the Far East.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is due to attend a forum in Vladivostok over the same period, and a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said on Tuesday Tokyo always paid attention to shifts in Russian-Chinese military cooperation.

Shoigu said the war games would be the biggest since a Soviet military exercise, Zapad-81 (West-81) in 1981.

“In some ways they will repeat aspects of Zapad-81, but in other ways, the scale will be bigger,” Shoigu told reporters, while visiting the Russian region of Khakassia.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has said that Chinese and Mongolian military units will also take part in the exercise.

“A MORE ASSERTIVE RUSSIA”

When asked if the cost of holding such a massive military exercise was justified at a time when Russia is faced with higher social spending demands, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such war games were essential.

“The country’s ability to defend itself in the current international situation, which is often aggressive and unfriendly towards our country, means (the exercise) is justified,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

When asked if China’s involvement meant Moscow and Beijing were moving towards an alliance, Peskov said it showed that the two allies were cooperating in all areas.

China and Russia have taken part in joint military drills before but not on such a large scale.

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance on the planned exercise in May and that NATO planned to monitor it. Russia had invited military attaches from NATO countries based in Moscow to observe the war games, an offer he said was under consideration.

“All nations have the right to exercise their armed forces, but it is essential that this is done in a transparent and predictable manner,” White said in an emailed statement.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence.”

Shoigu this month announced the start of snap combat readiness checks in central and eastern military districts ahead of the planned exercise.

“Imagine 36,000 armored vehicles – tanks, armored personnel carriers and armored infantry vehicles – moving and working simultaneously, and that all this, naturally, is being tested in conditions as close as possible to military ones,” Shoigu said on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Katya Golubkova and Andrey Kuzmin in Moscow, Robin Emmott in Brussels and Elaine Lies in Tokyo; Editing by Alison Williams)

South Korea scraps annual government war drill as talks with North go on

FILE PHOTO - South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 27, 2018. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea said on Tuesday it has decided to scrap an annual government mobilization drill this year as part of a suspended joint exercise with the United States but will carry out its own drills to maintain readiness. The ministers of safety and defense made the announcement at a media briefing on Tuesday. The drill, called the Ulchi exercises, usually takes place every August in tandem with the joint Freedom Guardian military drill with the United States.

Seoul and Washington said in June they would halt the joint exercise after U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to end war games following his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.

Seoul’s presidential office has said the suspension of the combined exercise could facilitate ongoing nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States.

South Korea would develop a new drill model by incorporating Ulchi and the existing Taeguk command post exercises, which would be aimed at fighting militancy and large-scale natural disasters, the ministers said.

That incorporated exercise would be launched in October when the Hoguk field training drill takes place, the ministers said.

“Our military will carry out planned standalone drills this year and decide on joint exercises through close consultations with the United States,” Defence Minister Song Young-moo said.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Christine Kim; Editing by Paul Tait)

Global Banks fearing North Korea hacking, prepare defenses

Binary code is seen on a screen against a North Korean flag in this illustration photo November 1, 2017.

By Jim Finkle and Alastair Sharp

WASHINGTON/TORONTO (Reuters) – Global banks are preparing to defend themselves against North Korea potentially intensifying a years-long hacking spree by seeking to cripple financial networks as Pyongyang weighs the threat of U.S. military action over its nuclear program, cyber security experts said.

North Korean hackers have stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from banks during the past three years, including a heist in 2016 at Bangladesh Bank that yielded $81 million, according to Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer at cyber security firm CrowdStrike.

Alperovitch told the Reuters Cyber Security Summit on Tuesday that banks were concerned Pyongyang’s hackers may become more destructive by using the same type of “wiper” viruses they deployed across South Korea and at Sony Corp’s <6758.T> Hollywood studio.

The North Korean government has repeatedly denied accusations by security researchers and the U.S. government that it has carried out cyber attacks.

North Korean hackers could leverage knowledge about financial networks gathered during cyber heists to disrupt bank operations, according to Alperovitch, who said his firm has conducted “war game” exercises for several banks.

“The difference between theft and destruction is often a few keystrokes,” Alperovitch said.

Security teams at major U.S. banks have shared information on the North Korean cyber threat in recent months, said a second cyber security expert familiar with those talks.

“We know they attacked South Korean banks,” said the source, who added that fears have grown that banks in the United States will be targeted next.

Tensions between Washington and Pyongyang have been building after a series of nuclear and missile tests by North Korea and bellicose verbal exchanges between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

John Carlin, a former U.S. assistant attorney general, told the Reuters summit that other firms, among them defense contractors, retailers and social media companies, were also concerned.

“They are thinking ‘Are we going to see an escalation in attacks from North Korea?'” said Carlin, chair of Morrison & Foerster international law firm’s global risk and crisis management team.

Jim Lewis, a cyber expert with Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it is unlikely that North Korea would launch destructive attacks on American banks because of concerns about U.S. retaliation.

Representatives of the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the top U.S. banking regulators, declined to comment. Both have ramped up cyber security oversight in recent years.

 

 

(Reporting by Jim Finkle in Washington and Alastair Sharp in Toronto; additional reporting by Dustin Volz in Washington; editing by Grant McCool)

 

Belarus plays down Western fears of aggression stirred by joint war games with Russia

Tanks and an armoured vehicle take part in the Zapad 2017 war games at a range near the town of Borisov, Belarus September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko

By Andrei Makhovsky

BORISOV FIRING RANGE, Belarus (Reuters) – Belarus said on Wednesday the West had no reason to fear attack by its close ally Russia or that Moscow could leave behind forces after war games it is holding with Minsk for a possible occupation of Western neighbors.

Russia has repeatedly said the exercises, code named “Zapad” or “West” which began on Sept. 14, are purely defensive in nature and do not target a third country or group of countries.

NATO has voiced concern that Moscow could use the war games as a cover to station troops and equipment in Belarus. The U.S.-led alliance has said the drills lack transparency and the number of troops taking part could be much larger than the 12,700 servicemen declared by Moscow and Minsk.

Russia’s neighbors have said they fear Moscow could use the exercises as a rehearsal for an occupation of adjacent nations like Poland, Ukraine or the three Baltic republics – all of which were under Moscow’s rule before the Communist Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Poland and the Baltics are now members of NATO and the European Union, while Ukraine is pursuing such ties.

“The attempt to discredit the exercises is extremely unprofessional,” said Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“We won’t wage war on anyone. Do not expect any attack from us – especially on Ukraine,” he told reporters at a firing range 75 km (47 miles) east of Belarus’s capital Minsk after overseeing the last day of Zapad maneuvers.

“All the troops will be back to the sites of their permanent deployment,” he said, dressed in camouflage uniform as supreme commander. “In a week, this issue will become irrelevant.”

On an overcast and rainy day, he watched from a vantage point as allied troops of Russia and Belarus repelled a simulated attack by forces of three fictitious neighboring nations on Belarus. Aircraft zeroed in on ground targets after mock dogfighting, after which a ground offensive unfolded.

Hours earlier, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė made the exercises the centerpiece of her annual speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Even as we speak, around 100,000 Russian troops are engaged in offensive military exercise ‘Zapad 2017’ on the borders of the Baltic States, Poland and even in the Arctic,” she said.

“The Kremlin is rehearsing aggressive scenarios against its neighbors, training its army to attack the West. The exercise is also part of information warfare aimed at spreading uncertainty and fear.”

The Kremlin said on Wednesday it had provided exhaustive information on the exercises before they were held to the military attaches of all interested countries and allowed their observers to attend the event to allay any concerns.

“I think that upon receiving this information Ms. Grybauskaite will have a chance to change her point of view,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo also voiced disquiet at the exercises and said Warsaw opposed any lifting of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and role in its separatist conflict.

“We are very concerned by what is happening in Belarus, from the exercises there,” Szydlo said during a visit to Bulgaria.

(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov in Moscow and Angel Krasimirov in Sofia; writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Mark Heinrich)