SitRep: Security Night at the RNC; China Stepping Up Air Patrols
U.K. Votes On Keeping Nukes; And Lots More
The new RNC. Amid arena-wide chants calling for the jailing of Hillary Clinton and full-throated — if vague — criticisms of Obama-era foreign policy, the Republican National Convention kicked off in Cleveland on Monday night. The opening night featured a roster of disparate speakers ranging from minor 80s sitcom stars to former Navy SEALs, all making the same point: America is teetering on the precipice of chaos and a rapid slide into irrelevancy, and Hillary Clinton is to blame.
FP’s Molly O’Toole is in Cleveland, and writes that as the convention pushed the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” it “strained to hold together the kind of unconventional lineup promised by presumptive Republican nominee and reality TV host Donald Trump.” The evening was heavy on warnings about the dangers of the Islamic State, but the messy realities of strategic competition with Russia, China, and Monday’s ballistic missile tests by North Korea barely merited a mention.
China by air and sea. In the middle of a visit to Beijing by U.S. Navy chief Adm. John Richardson, the Chinese government announced it would begin conducting regular military air patrols over the South China Sea, including near disputed man-made islands that Beijing claims as its own. The first flight, featuring H-6K bombers along with fighters, and tankers took place over the past several days, the Xinhua news agency reported Monday.
Chinese navy chief Adm. Wu Shengli also said China would continue construction in the South China Sea, despite a recent ruling by an international court in The Hague that China had no legal right to do so. Lots more here on the ruling earlier this month from FP’s Dan De Luce and Keith Johnson. This much is clear: China doesn’t plan on changing its position on the territories it claims in the South China Sea. The official Chinese readout of the scheduled meeting between the admirals quotes Wu as saying China will “never stop” work on its man-made islands.
U.K. nukes, for now. A large majority of British lawmakers on Monday backed plans to replace the country’s nuclear-armed submarines with new vessels, an estimated $54 billion move that advocates argued would maintain the U.K.’s status as a major world power despite its vote to leave the European Union. FP’s Dan De Luce points out that Scottish National Party MPs “voted against renewing the nuclear arsenal, and have pledged that if Scotland seceded from the United Kingdom, it would demand London remove the Vanguard-class subs that are currently docked there.” De Luce recently did a deeper dive (see what we did there?) on the coming reckoning for the British nuclear sub fleet that’s worth reading.
Your coup. Egyptian officials watched last weekend’s attempted coup in Turkey with great interest, given the strained ties between the two governments since Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ousted the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi in Cairo in 2013. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been highly critical of Egypt’s military coup, and over the weekend even flashed the four-fingered sign associated with the 2013 massacre of hundreds of Mr. Morsi’s supporters in Cairo.
“I will not deny there was a lot of excitement,” said Dalia Youssef, the deputy chairwoman of the foreign affairs committee in Egypt’s Parliament, told the New York Times. “Many public figures,” she added, would be happy to see Mr. Erdogan removed, so that Egypt could have “a better relationship with Turkey.”
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The pace of ballistic missile testing in North Korea has not slowed down as Pyongyang launched yet more missiles off its eastern coast on Monday. The test involved two short range Scud missiles and one No Dong medium range ballistic missile. The North has set a brisk pace of ballistic missile launches this year, testing its 300mm multiple rocket launcher, a potential intercontinental ballistic missile, Musudan mobile ballistic missiles, and a submarine-launched ballistic missile. The frenetic pace led the U.S. and South Korea to agree to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense Missile (THAAD) system to the South.
Kim Jong Un is raking in cash from online gambling, UPI reports. Yu Dong-yeol of the Korea Institute of Liberal Democracy in Seoul spoke at a defense press conference last week, telling reporters that North Korea’s intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, operates gambling websites that have so far netted $866 million in profits. North Korean intelligence has been improving its cyber capabilities over the past few years, increasing the number of personnel involved in such operations to 6,800.
An Afghan refugee in Germany injured four people in an axe attack on a train in Wurzburg on Monday before being shot dead by police. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Islamic State claimed the attack through the Amaq news agency, describing the man as a “fighter” for the group. The jihadist group used the exact same language to describe Omar Mateen after the Orlando shooting, despite not having had any contact with him. Authorities found a hand-drawn Islamic State flag inside the man’s home and Bavaria’s Interior Ministry says it is “quite probable that this was an Islamist attack.”
Did former Defense Intelligence Agency chief, retired Lt. Gen Mike Flynn receive any compensation for his high profile dinner with Vladimir Putin? Yahoo News reports that the controversial Trump surrogate has put the answer to that question a little more firmly on the “maybe” side. Flynn raised eyebrows in December when he showed up at a dinner hosted by the Russian government owned RT channel sitting next to Putin. When Yahoo asked whether he was paid for the appearance, Flynn punted by saying, “you’ll have to ask my speakers’ bureau.” He told the outlet that his trip was meant to convey a message to Russia that it should “get Iran the hell out of the four proxy wars that they’re involved in in the Middle East.” FP’s Paul McLeary recently read Flynn’s new book, where he warns of the Islamic State’s desire to drink your blood.
The United States is hoping to net $2 billion in aid money for Iraq at a whip-round among two dozen donor countries, Reuters reports. The money would be used to aid war-ravaged communities in Iraq and mitigate unexploded ordnance left behind by the effort to oust the Islamic State. The $2 billion goal, however, would still fall short of Iraq’s humanitarian needs. The U.N. estimates that Iraq needs at least $4.5 billion and the U.N. itself provides just $778 million.
Photo Credit: China Photos/Getty Images
Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary