Defense

North Korea Walks Out of Talks with South over Joint Drills with U.S.

North Korean state media reported on Wednesday local time that the nation’s senior diplomats would cancel scheduled high-level talks with South Korean counterparts, reportedly due to military drills Seoul had planned to execute with the United States. Pyongyang deployed high-level officials to both Seoul and Beijing this week. Ri Son-kwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, was scheduled to meet with South Korean officials on Tuesday. Another group of unnamed senior officials reportedly landed in Beijing on Monday to continue discussions in anticipation of a planned meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. On Wednesday local time (Tuesday afternoon in most of the United States), the South Korean outlet Yonhap reported that the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the government news outlet of the Kim regime, had published a report announcing that the inter-Korean talks would no longer occur. The report specifically cited the “Max Thunder” military drills being held jointly between South Korea and the United States as the reason for their backing out of the meeting. “This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea and targeting us, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” Yonhap quoted KCNA as saying. “The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities.” Yonhap added that KCNA’s brief went on to call “into question whether next month’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump can go ahead as planned.” The meeting between Kim and Trump is expected to address “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” which Kim expressed a desire to see during his meeting with Moon on the border of their two countries. American officials have stated that they will not pursue regime change in North Korea and are open to giving financial incentives to the Kim regime to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program, which it uses to threaten nuclear strikes on South Korea, the United States, and Japan on a regular basis. A report using satellite images on the website 38 North Monday found that North Korea has made significant moves towards shutting down its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, the only such site in the country. Several buildings have been dismantled, and a new platform, perhaps to accommodate journalists, has been assembled at the site. KCNA announced Saturday it will invite international journalists to watch the shutdown of the site; skeptics believe the site is inoperable and a symbolic “shutdown” would cost Pyongyang little. Adding to confusion on Tuesday was the publication of a report by South Korean newspaper Joongang Ilbo revealing that North Korea has maintained a secret uranium enrichment facility independent of the supplies found at Punggye-ri. Joongang Ilbo reports that American intelligence sources are aware of the site and will demand that its contents be part of any deal to denuclearize the country, not simply the supplies currently known to exist. “Max Thunder” is the name given to two-week-long air drills by both militaries, which is typically a drill practiced as part of the larger Foal Eagle joint exercise but was removed from the schedule reportedly as a response to Kim Jong-un’s being open to meeting with both Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Both militaries openly stated they will hold this exercise in May, as they do every year. Yonhap reported on March 21 that the “Max Thunder drill will be held for two weeks from May 11, involving more than 100 Air Force jets of the allies,” leaving significant time between then and the Panmunjom summit with Moon Jae-in for Kim Jong-un to raise objections over these exercises. Yet this is the first major step North Korea has made to object to the exercises. Update: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters during her regular press briefing on Tuesday that the KCNA report did not correspond to any private messages American officials have received: “We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”

We believe this is just posturing on the part of North Korea..  But, we’ll continue to monitor this developing story…

UFO mysteries unraveled: How the ‘real-life X-Files’ emerged from a top secret UK project

A former official at the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence has shed new light on the circumstances surrounding a secret government UFO study that was conducted during the 1990s. In 1996, the MoD commissioned a defense contractor to produce a comprehensive report on U.K. UFO sightings. The report was compiled at a time of huge public interest in UFOs fueled by the wildly popular “X-Files” TV series and 1997’s 50th anniversary of the purported UFO incident in Roswell, New Mexico. Careful to avoid using the term UFO, the report described sightings as Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Code-named Project Condign, the report analyzed a database of sightings between 1987 and 1997 and was delivered to officials in 2000. The study, entitled ‘Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) in the UK Air Defence Region,’ found that that sightings could be explained by a variety of known phenomena, both man-made and natural. The incidence of relatively rare natural phenomena was also noted. “No evidence exists to associate the phenomena with any particular nation,” it said. Project Condign has been compared to Project Blue Book, a U.S. Air Force effort to investigate UFOs that closed in 1969. Nick Pope, a former MoD UFO investigator who is now an author and journalist, told Fox News that he was involved in setting up the study with his counterpart in the Ministry’s Defence Intelligence Staff. “The reason for the study was that while we’d been investigating UFO sightings on a case-by-case basis for decades, we’d done very little trend analysis,” he explained, via an emailed statement. “Project Condign was supposed to rectify this and be a proper intelligence assessment that would look for patterns in data we already had.” “We were trying to draw everything together and say in relation to UFOs: ‘OK, what’s our best assessment of what we’re dealing with, what are the threats, and what are the opportunities?’,” he added. Initial discussions about the study started in 1993, according to Pope, who was no longer involved in the Ministry’s UFO investigations by the time work on the report itself started. Pope, who left the MoD in 2006, has been quoted extensively in the media as a result of his links to what remains a highly controversial topic. His involvement in MoD UFO investigations lasted from 1991 to 1994, according to his website. “The study was highly classified and extremely sensitive, not least because the MoD consistently told parliament, the media and the public that UFOs were of limited interest and ‘no defense significance’,” Pope said. “Our concern was that if the existence of the study became known, it would have exposed an internal position on the phenomenon that was different from our public position.” The report only entered the public domain in 2006 following a Freedom of Information request from academic Dr. David Clarke. The identity of the report’s author has not been revealed. A new set of previously-unseen documents recently obtained by Clarke, a principal research fellow at the U.K’s Sheffield Hallam University, have thrust Project Condign into the spotlight once again. The records show how over-worked MoD officials were keen to reduce their commitment to investigating reports of UFO sightings. With its findings, Project Condign duly laid the foundations for the MoD to start scaling back its UFO-related operations. The Ministry’s DI55 department, which had secretly collected data on potential UFO sightings since 1967, closed at the end of 2000. The MoD’s UFO Desk closed in 2009. Pope found the final Project Condign report disappointing. “In places it looked like a conclusion-led study where data had been used to support a personal opinion,” he said, but acknowledged the challenges involved in compiling such a confidential report. “The problem with an intelligence study like Project Condign is that it’s so secret and sensitive that those involved don’t reach out to subject matter experts outside the intelligence community,” he explained, adding that consultation with the U.K.’s Met Office weather service, other scientists and academics would have been helpful. The report also suggested that atmospheric plasma may account for some UFO sightings, which Pope sees as confusing. “In speculating about exotic atmospheric plasma phenomena the report’s author had made the classic mistake of trying to explain one mystery in terms of another,” he said. The former MoD employee was also surprised by the discussion of “novel military applications” that could be supported by greater understanding of the UFO phenomenon. “This was essentially a reference to weaponization, including the construction of a directed energy weapon,” he said.

‘Adversaries’ jamming Air Force gunships in Syria, Special Ops general says

The head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command said Wednesday that Air Force gunships, needed to provide close air support for American commandos and U.S.-backed rebel fighters in Syria, were being “jammed” by “adversaries.” Calling the electronic warfare environment in Syria “the most aggressive” on earth, Army Gen. Tony Thomas told an intelligence conference in Tampa that adversaries “are testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, etc.” Thomas’ remarks, which were first reported by the website The Drive, come on the heels of reports that Russian forces are jamming U.S. surveillance drones flying over the war-torn nation. An Air Force AC-130 gunship was among the U.S. military aircraft used to kill dozens of Russian mercenaries in Syria in early February. The Pentagon said the mercenaries attacked an outpost manned by American commandos and U.S.-backed fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprising Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters. Wednesday was not the first time General Thomas has been so forthcoming about Syria in a public setting. Last summer, speaking on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum hosted by Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Thomas said he had told Kurdish-led fighters battling the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria that they needed to change their “brand” from YPG — a group Turkey considers a terrorist organization — to something else. Thomas called it “a stroke of brilliance” for the Kurdish fighters to add “democracy” to their name. Today, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is the U.S. military’s best ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria, helping to take back 90 percent of territory formerly held by ISIS. It consists of well over 50,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters. There are currently about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.

Chinese Phones Identified as Security Risk Sold at U.S. Military Bases

Stars & Stripes reports that smartphones made by the Chinese company Huawei are being sold to U.S. military personnel at exchanges on military bases in Germany. Defense officials explained that until Huawei products are explicitly banned by statute or regulation, they will remain available. A bill that would bar U.S. government contractors from using Huawei equipment is currently making its way through Congress. In a February briefing for the Senate Intelligence Committee, the heads of six U.S. intelligence and security agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and NSA, advised all American citizens to avoid using Huawei electronics. They expressed similar reservations about Chinese telecom company ZTE. “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” said FBI Director Chris Wray. “That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure. It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage,” Wray said. Huawei figures prominently in a new report on cyber espionage risks commissioned by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Huawei executives rejected the concerns expressed at the Senate hearing, accusing American government agencies of conspiring to provide U.S. companies with an unfair advantage by keeping Chinese companies out of the market. “Where is U.S. President Donald Trump’s belief in fair trade when he keeps shutting out Chinese companies and products from the U.S. market?” said China’s state-run Xinhua news service in February. “Setting up trade barriers at the excuse of national security might be the worst option to build a prosperous and free market.” Huawei maintained its products are employed by governments around the world, a point echoed by critics of the U.S. intelligence advisory who noted that security-conscious Europeans appear to be as comfortable with using equipment from the Chinese company as they are with suppliers from the U.S., Japan, and South Korea. Huawei has grown into the second-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, surpassed only by Samsung. Also, in a point that would later be echoed by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review report, critics pointed out that Chinese chips can now be found in so many cell phones that it’s difficult to tell which are potentially compromised and which are relatively “clean.”

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US can’t stop hypersonic weapons, Air Force General says

Missiles that spit out warheads traveling up to 20 times the speed of sound and with the ability to perform elusive acrobatics may be too much for U.S. defenses to block. That’s according to the head of the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday (March 20). When asked by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., what kind of defenses the U.S. has against hypersonic weapons, Hyten replied: “We have a very difficult — well, our defense is our deterrent capability. We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us, so our response would be our deterrent force, which would be the triad and the nuclear capabilities that we have to respond to such a threat,” Military.com reported. Hyten is referring to the triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, which are bomber aircraft designed to fly into enemy territory and destroy strategic targets. Ballistic missiles, both hidden underground and in secret submarines, can travel huge distances at whirring speeds. But weapons that can travel well above the speed of sound seem to be a real threat, as both Russia and China are “aggressively pursuing” such hypersonic weapons, Hyten also said, as reported by CNBC. On March 1, during an annual address, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a new class of weapon delivery systems designed to evade NATO’s ballistic missile defenses. Speaking on Russian television, Putin indicated the country was building a new hypersonic missile and a cruise missile with “unlimited range” that could avoid adversaries’ detection technologies. This nuclear-powered cruise missile could travel unlimited distances, and, unlike ballistic missiles, it could cruise low to the ground where it would be obscured by other objects — meaning it would evade radar detection, Live Science previously reported. “In theory, a cruise missile carrying a nuclear bomb could slip under American defenses and detection systems, and detonate before Americans could mobilize a response,” Live Science reported. Modern technology available today wouldn’t be able to stop such an attack, nor could it defend against missile-deploying warheads at hypersonic speeds, Philip Coyle, a nuclear weapons expert, previously told Live Science’s Rafi Letzter. Even so, Gen. Hyten assured the Senate Committee that U.S. defenses are prepared for such a battle. “The first, most important message I want to deliver today is that the forces under my command are fully ready to deter our adversaries and respond decisively, should deterrence ever fail. We are ready for all threats,” Hyten said in his opening remarks, according to a Department of Defense statement. Other generals have suggested supplementing the U.S. defense arsenal with low-yield nukes, or those that pack less power. In addition, space-based detection systems could theoretically detect and track hypersonic missile threats, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said on March 6, according to Military.com. “To maintain military superiority in this multipolar, all-domain world, we must out-think, out-maneuver, out-partner and out-innovate our adversaries,” Hyten said. “Deterrence in the 21st century requires the integration of all our capabilities, across all domains, enabling us to respond to adversary aggression anytime, anywhere.” Just this week, President Donald Trump said the U.S. needs a “space force,” Live Science’s sister site Space.com reported.

Expert: U.S. Military ‘Over a Decade’ Behind China, Russia on Space Defense

U.S. military satellites used to warn of a missile strike or to deploy nuclear weapons are vulnerable to attacks by the Chinese and Russian armed forces, which have eclipsed their American counterparts in developing some significant space warfighting capabilities, experts cautioned lawmakers. Specifically, the United States is “over a decade” behind in developing a system to counteract the advancements made by China and Russia in the anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons domain, Douglas Loverro, the former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy, warned a House panel. Echoing the U.S. intelligence community in written testimony prepared for a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, the former Pentagon official noted: While China and Russia are driving through generations of ASAT systems every three to five years, it is taking us over a decade to even begin to field a system responsive to their first-generation threat. Stated more clearly, when it comes to strategic missile warning and nuclear command and control, the evolved US response to the ASAT threat we see being deployed today will be ready near the end of the next decade; meanwhile, the threat will have [leaped] forward two more generations, and likely made our response moot. The U.S. armed forces consider “maintaining space superiority” one of its primary goals, top American military officials have recently stressed, noting that “space is now a warfighting domain.” William Carter from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) warned lawmakers in January that China is “rapidly closing the gap” with America in developing “cyber capabilities, anti-satellite weapons, electronic warfare tools, hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies.” Carter pointed out that China has deemed satellites to be the U.S. military’s “Achilles heel.” While testifying before the House panel on Wednesday, Todd Harrison, another CSIS expert, reiterated that the American armed forces’ “dependence on space across the full spectrum of conflict” renders the U.S. vulnerable to its top ASAT domain rivals, Russia and China. “Adversaries can use forms of attack against our space systems that are difficult to detect, attribute, and deter. … Much remains to be done to improve the readiness of our national security space forces for the wide range of threats,” Harrison noted in his written testimony. Two of the three witnesses flat out told House lawmakers on Wednesday that the American military is not ready to take on adversaries like Russia and China in space. Retired Gen. Robert Kehler, who served as the head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM)—charged with overseeing America’s space warfighting capabilities—testified: “The United States is perilously close to losing the significant advantages that come from being the world’s leading spacefaring nation, and time is not on our side…”

Indeed..  Space WILL be the next high ground in our next major military conflict.  And, our politicians need to support funding for our military space programs accordingly.  For more, click on the text above.

U.S. commanders forecast 10,000 American casualties in war with North Korea

As many as 10,000 U.S. service members would end up wounded or dead in the opening days of a potential war with North Korea, with civilian casualties possibly reaching into the hundreds of thousands, says a recent U.S. military assessment of a future conflict on the peninsula. The casualty assessment was one of several generated during a large-scale vitrual wargame, known as a tabletop exercise in Pentagon parlance, conducted by several service and combatant commanders including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and U.S. Special Operations Command chief Gen. Tony Thomas, The New York Times reported Thursday. The wargame, held at U.S. Pacific Command’s headquarters in Hawaii, put on stark display the devastating cost of engaging in all-out war with the North Korean regime. “The brutality of this will be beyond the experience of any living soldier,” Gen. Milley reportedly said after seeing the results of the exercise, according to The Times. Results of the recent wargame come as the White House continues raising tensions in the region, touting the fact that all options — including military action — remain on the table in an effort to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Officials within the Trump administration have also suggested a series of non-nuclear, preemptive strikes dubbed the “bloody nose”option to force the North to ratchet down their actions. Goodwill generated between Pyongyang, Seoul and the U.S. as a result of the recent Olympic games prompted Mr. Trump to suggest his administration would be open to some form of talks with the North Korean regime. That said, Washington remains intent on moving forward with this year’s Foal Eagle exercises, in spite of claims by Pyongyang that such a move could have a chilling effect on those seemingly warming relations. U.S. and South Korean commanders are in the process of zeroing in on a start date for the exercise, known as Foal Eagle, after being forced to postpone the drill due to the Olympics, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told reporters Monday. He declined to comment on what dates both countries were considering for the exercise, one of the largest military drills in the world, but noted “it will be an alliance decision when that [exercise] will occur,” Col. Manning told reporters at the Pentagon. Officials in Pyongyang warned that any military drills set to take place after the games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, “seriously threatened, and hard-won atmosphere for reconciliation and cooperation between the north and the south were spoilt in a moment,” according to a statement issued on state-run media outlet Korean Central News Agency last week.