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SitRep: China Reacts Angrily to Defense Secretary Carter’s Comments

Iraqi Shiite Militias Want to Fight; U.S. Bombs AQAP in Yemen; Russian Subs Moving Out; and Lots More

China's Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), delivers his speech during a plenary session at the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 5, 2016. / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN        (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
China's Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), delivers his speech during a plenary session at the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 5, 2016. / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
China's Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), delivers his speech during a plenary session at the 15th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 5, 2016. / AFP / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

 

“I’m not, you are!” Adm. Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Chinese military’s Joint Staff Department put the Pentagon on full blast over the weekend, flatly rejecting Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s repeated assertion that Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea were isolating it from the world community.

“We were not isolated in the past, we are not isolated now, and we will not be isolated in the future,” Adm. Sun said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. He added that many countries maintain a “Cold War mentality” when dealing with China, saying they may only “end up isolating themselves.” The comments were a direct response to Carter’s accusation last month that China was building “a Great Wall of self-isolation” in the South China Sea. Carter repeated the line on Saturday in Singapore. "We do not make trouble, but we have no fear of trouble," the Chinese officer said.

 

“I’m not, you are!” Adm. Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the Chinese military’s Joint Staff Department put the Pentagon on full blast over the weekend, flatly rejecting Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s repeated assertion that Beijing’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea were isolating it from the world community.

“We were not isolated in the past, we are not isolated now, and we will not be isolated in the future,” Adm. Sun said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. He added that many countries maintain a “Cold War mentality” when dealing with China, saying they may only “end up isolating themselves.” The comments were a direct response to Carter’s accusation last month that China was building “a Great Wall of self-isolation” in the South China Sea. Carter repeated the line on Saturday in Singapore. “We do not make trouble, but we have no fear of trouble,” the Chinese officer said.

South China Sea Trouble, again. In a related bit of news, Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said Monday that Taiwan won’t recognize Chinese air defense zone over the South China Sea.

Fallujah. Shiite militias want in on the fight for Fallujah, and things are getting tense. The Iraqi army’s assault on the city has stalled, and head of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, Hadi al-Amiri, insisted over the weekend, “no one can stop us from going there.” Amiri gave civilians in the Islamic State-held city 10 days to flee before he said his men would go in. He also criticized American advice that has prioritized the eventual assault on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in the north, which also appears to be stalled. The Iraqi army has been struggling to fix its broken equipment and sustain troops in the field without massive amounts of American planning, and help.

Droning. On Friday, the U.S. Central Command announced it had taken three airstrikes on al Qaeda targets in Yemen in February and March, killing what the military claims were 81 militants. That brings the total of publicly acknowledged U.S. strikes on the group in Yemen this year to nine — but wait! According to the Long War Journal, there have been a total all 16 U.S. strikes in Yemen this year including several either carried out by the CIA, or not acknowledged by the Pentagon just yet. And those strikes? Looks like they killed about 107 alleged militants.

As Bobby Chesney writes over at the Lawfare blog, “this would seem to put us on pace for the highest number of US airstrikes there since 2012. It is certainly possible this is just the luck of the draw, with actionable intelligence arising unusually often of late. But it’s also possible that something has changed in terms of policy constraints or available resources.” Just recently, FP’s Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary wrote as much when they reported on President Obama’s still very active “signature strike” drone tactic.

Moving on. Recently retired U.S. Army General John Campbell might not be commanding American and NATO forces in Afghanistan any more, but he has been appointed to the board of directors for defense behemoth BAE Systems. In a statement, Michael Chertoff, chairman of the company’s board of directors — who is also founder of the Chertoff Group, a D.C. advisory firm, senior counsel of mega law and lobbying firm Covington & Burling LLP, and former secretary of the Homeland Security Department — said Campbell’s “knowledge and perspective on the U.S. military’s needs around the world will be highly valuable.” BAE employs over 32,000 people in the U.S., UK, Sweden, and Israel, and had sales of over $10 billion in 2015.

Good morning again from the Sitrep crew, thanks for clicking on through for the summer 2016 edition of SitRep. As always, if you have any thoughts, announcements, tips, or national  security-related events to share, please pass them along to SitRep HQ. Best way is to send them to: paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or on Twitter: @paulmcleary or @arawnsley

David Gilkey, Zabihullah Tamanna, RIP

On Sunday, NPR Photographer David Gilkey was killed in Afghanistan along with his Afghan interpreter Zabihullah Tamanna while they were embedded with an Afghan army unit that was attacked by the Taliban in Helmand province. They were traveling with NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman and producer Monika Evstatieva, who were riding in another vehicle, but were unhurt.

China

In the wake of what the U.S. Navy says was a risky intercept by Chinese fighter jets of a U.S. spy plane this spring, U.S. Pacific Command chief Adm. Harry Harris is saying that China’s fighter pilots have been minding their manners better over the past few months. Harris made the comments during the Shangri-La dialog, according to Bloomberg, and cited recent “positive behavior” from Chinese military personnel. The incident, in which two Chinese fighter jets reportedly came within in 50 feet of a U.S. Navy E-P3, is “rare,” according to Harris.

Russia

There’s a new undersea “Battle of the Atlantic,” according to Navy 6th Fleet commander Vice Adm. James Foggo III. Foggo writes in the latest issue of Proceedings that Russian submarine activity has grown more active after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea. Foggo draws a parallel to U.S.-Soviet undersea jousting during the Cold War, as well as between the U.S. and the Germans in both World Wars, to highlight what he labels as Russia’s increasingly aggressive attempts to probe and challenge American naval defenses.

Syria

Russian airpower is getting more involved in the fight against rebels seeking to topple the Assad regime, Reuters reports. The London-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says Russian and Syrian jets carried out at least 50 strikes on targets in Aleppo and locals tell Reuters that both countries’ warplanes have also struck in Idlib. The uptick in air operations follows a purported withdraw from Syria by some Russian forces in March, after which Moscow brought home some of the aircraft it had deployed to its base in Latakia. Russia agreed to a cessation of hostilities in February, proscribing attacks against rebel groups other than the Nusra Front and the Islamic State.

Syrian army troops have ventured into Raqqa province, home to the capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, Al Jazeera reports. Syrian forces haven’t been in Raqqa for the past two years. The troops are reportedly headed to Tabqa, where U.S.-backed forces are currently duking it out with the Islamic State.

The Islamic State

The Islamic State is tearing itself apart on a mole hunt in search of spies tipping off the United States, according to the AP. The group killed at least 38 of its own members in an attempt to find the culprit (or culprits) who leaked information that may have lead to the death of Abu Hayjaa al-Tunsi, a senior commander in the jihadist group who was killed in a drone strike. Islamic State members have accused those killed of dropping small “chips” which can be used to mark locations for airstrikes and have tried to flush out spies by strategically leaking information about the movements of group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and checking to see if U.S. airstrikes align with the false information.

Afghanistan

It’s not just opium that fuels the Taliban’s war in Afghanistan. A new study by the anti-corruption group Global Witness says the illicit mining of Afghanistan’s valuable minerals is filling both the Taliban’s coffers and enriching corrupt Afghan officials. The group says that the trade in deep blue lapis lazuli is particularly valuable for the militant group and the mineral should be considered a conflict mineral. Global Witness officials say that half of illegal mining proceeds go to the Taliban.

Cuba

The U.S. and Cuba may be working on a prisoner swap, according to NBC News. The talks are reportedly still tentative and no firm commitments have been made but the U.S. has reportedly considered trading convicted Cuban spy Ana Montes in exchange for Joanne Chesimard, who fled to Cuba after being convicted of killing a New Jersey state trooper in 1979. Montes was sent to prison in 2002 after federal authorities discovered that the high-ranking Defense Intelligence Agency analyst had been secretly working for Cuba and funneling classified information to the communist country.

Japan

A U.S. Navy sailor allegedly involved in a car accident has been arrested and accused of drunk driving. The incident follows the high-profile arrest of a U.S. military contractor in May, accused of killing an Okinawan woman. Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter have offered apologies for the incident, but tensions between local community and U.S. military personnel remain high, and the U.S. Navy says its trying to do something about it. On Monday, the Navy slapped a drinking ban on all 18,600 personnel in Japan, and canceled all off-base liberty.

 

Photo Credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Adam Rawnsley is a Philadelphia-based reporter covering technology and national security. He co-authors FP’s Situation Report newsletter and has written for The Daily Beast, Wired, and War Is Boring.

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