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SitRep: Pentagon Moving Missile Defense Money, Seoul Wants More Control in Event of War

  By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley Scrambling for missile defense money at the Pentagon. The Pentagon is preparing to ask Congress to transfer $416 million from Army operations and maintenance accounts, and dump it missile defense programs that would help deal with the threat from North Korea. If approved, $136 million would go toward ...

PYEONGTEAK, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 25:  South Korean soldiers stand with Hyunmu-3 missile during the media day of the 65th South Korea Armed Forces Day ceremony on September 25, 2017 in Pyeongteak, South Korea. The anniversary ceremony is to mark that South Korean Army crossed the 38 parallel on October 1, 1950 during the Korean War.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
PYEONGTEAK, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 25: South Korean soldiers stand with Hyunmu-3 missile during the media day of the 65th South Korea Armed Forces Day ceremony on September 25, 2017 in Pyeongteak, South Korea. The anniversary ceremony is to mark that South Korean Army crossed the 38 parallel on October 1, 1950 during the Korean War. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Scrambling for missile defense money at the Pentagon. The Pentagon is preparing to ask Congress to transfer $416 million from Army operations and maintenance accounts, and dump it missile defense programs that would help deal with the threat from North Korea.

 

By Paul McLeary with Adam Rawnsley

Scrambling for missile defense money at the Pentagon. The Pentagon is preparing to ask Congress to transfer $416 million from Army operations and maintenance accounts, and dump it missile defense programs that would help deal with the threat from North Korea.

If approved, $136 million would go toward building 20 new silos and 20 new missiles for the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GBMD) system based in Fort Greely, Alaska. The rest of the money would fund upgrades for four U.S. Navy Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense ships, and work on radar systems in Hawaii and Alaska.

Missile defense issues. Just last month, President Donald Trump said his administration would “be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea…We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars.”

Missile defense expert Kingston Reif tweeted Wednesday evening that the GBMD system has a spotty record at best, and pointed out that there are “serious concerns about the technical viability of this system, which was rushed into service in 2004 by the Bush administration. The system has a flight intercept test record of less than 50 percent.”

More bombers for Seoul. South Korean officials are saying the United States is also preparing to send more “strategic” military assets to their country. Chung Eui-young, national security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, told lawmakers in Seoul that the help could start flowing by the end of the year. Chung didn’t spell out what might be on its way, but “strategic assets” normally refers to long-range bombers, nuclear-capable submarines, stealth aircraft, and aircraft carriers.

Beefing up. President Moon said on Wednesday that South Korea’s military would speed up efforts to strengthen its pre-emptive strike, missile defense and retaliatory capabilities against North Korea.

Taking charge in Seoul. The South Korean government also wants to take back control of its own forces in the event of a war. While the Republic of Korea controls its own military during peacetime, the United States retains “operational control” over their forces in the event of war. There have been several attempts to move that authority back to the Koreans, but for various reasons the plans have been delayed.

Taliban control 45  percent of Afghanistan. According to a new study by the Long War Journal.  

Navy goes back to compasses. “Urgent new orders went out earlier this month for United States Navy warships that have been plagued by deadly mishaps this year,” the New York Times reports.

“More sleep and no more 100-hour workweeks for sailors. Ships steaming in crowded waters like those near Singapore and Tokyo will now broadcast their positions as do other vessels. And ships whose crews lack basic seamanship certification will probably stay in port until the problems are fixed.

All seemingly obvious standards, military officials say, except that the Navy only now is rushing the remedies into effect after two collisions in two months left 17 sailors dead, despite repeated warnings about the looming problems from congressional watchdogs and the Navy’s own experts dating to 2010.”

Today in horrific numbers. Almost half of the respondents to a recent poll “either strongly supported or somewhat supported the notion of the U.S. taking military action against North Korea in an effort to end that country’s nuclear program. Thirty-three percent either somewhat opposed or strongly opposed such action with 19 percent reporting no opinion.” More concerning for us — who are the 19 percent who have no opinion?!

Price tag. As of this week, Defense One tells us, “the average American taxpayer will have paid nearly $7,500 to fund the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria since the 9/11 attacks, according to previously unreported Pentagon budget data sent to Congress this summer. This fiscal year, each U.S. taxpayers will pay about $289 for both wars, according to the Defense Department data.”

Yemen and the UAE. The United Arab Emirates is playing a major role i the Saudi-led war in Yemen. And the small Gulf nation has also been a big recipient of American arms transfers over the years, points out the Center for International Policy’s William Hartung in a new report.  

“More than one-quarter of major U.S. arms offers to the UAE since 2009 – valued at $7.2 billion – were for bombs such as the Paveway and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and tactical missiles such as the Hellfire that have been used in the war against ISIS and in the Saudi/Emirati-led intervention in Yemen.”

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary.

Sanctions. The AP reports the Chinese government is moving to shut down all North Korean businesses and joint Chinese-North Korean business in China as part of its efforts to implement United Nations sanctions. The move follows criticism of Chinese imports of North Korean coal. China has defended the coal trade as part of a tapering off period before full implementation of international sanctions.

Facebook drama. Russian operatives created a fake Muslim political group on Facebook, buying ads to spread inflammatory memes about John McCain and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, according to The Daily Beast. In a separate scoop, CNN reports that covert Russian ad buyers targeted residents of Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, both the scene of protests against police violence, posing as advocates of the Black Lives Matter movement in an apparent bid to stoke civil unrest.

Mea sort of but not really culpa. The almost daily drip of stories about Russian influence in the 2016 election through Facebook appears to have pushed company founder Mark Zuckerberg to try and catch up with the brewing controversy. Zuckerberg posted a statement to his own Facebook page on Wednesday, writing that “After the election, I made a comment that I thought the idea misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election was a crazy idea. Calling that crazy was dismissive and I regret it. This is too important an issue to be dismissive”.

Post mortem. Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea, showed no signs of torture, according to the coroner who examined his remains. Dr Lakshmi Sammarco said “We don’t know what happened to him and that’s the bottom line.”

Cancel the timeshare. Malaysia is joining the small but growing club of countries announcing their own programs of diplomatic retaliation against North Korea for its rash of missile and nuclear tests, banning Malaysian citizens from traveling to the country. Other countries, including Peru, Spain, and Kuwait have expelled North Korean ambassadors from their countries.

Two hats. Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov, the Russian general killed in Deir ez-Zour last week in an attack by the Islamic State, was serving as a commander in the Syrian army’s Fifth Corps, which the Russian military has been training and equipping since 2016. Russia’s chief of general staff Valery Gerasimov revealed Asapov’s role in a statement made at Asapov’e funeral on Wednesday.

Krexit. Iraq is putting the screws to Iraqi Kurdistan in retaliation for its controversial independence referendum, telling international airlines they’re forbidden to land at airports in Kurdistan. Baghdad claims the region is suffering from a “technical issue” preventing the regional government from issuing new passports. Ninety-three percent of participants voted “yes” for independence, but Baghdad is refusing to recognize the results or negotiate with Kurdish officials for a separation agreement.

Afghanistan. The Defense Department once again suggests that both Russia and Iran are arming the Taliban. CNN defense correspondent Barbara Starr tweets that military briefers, speaking on background say that “weapons given to the Taliban by Russia and Iran have probably been used to attack US and coalition forces.”

Hoverbike by Kalashnikov. A Return of the Jedi-style hover bike, brought to you by the people who make the world’s most popular killing instrument.

 

Photo Credit: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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