Is China planning more zones?; Afg accuses coalition of withholding support; Peace talks ‘tween Af-Pak progress; The Dutch double down in Mali; The Duffel Blog, unmasked, and a bit more.
By Gordon Lubold
Is China planning more air defense zones as Biden heads over? Defense News' Wendell Minnick, Jung Sung-Ki and Paul Kallender-Umezu: "China's establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last week over the East China Sea has given the US an unexpected challenge as Vice President Joseph Biden prepares for a trip to China, Japan and South Korea beginning this week. The trip was scheduled to address economic issues, but the Nov. 23 ADIZ announcement raised a troubling new issue for the US and allies in the region. China's ADIZ overlaps the zones of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Sources indicate China's ADIZ could be part of its larger anti-access/area-denial strategy designed to force the US military to operate farther from China's shorelines. China might also be planning additional identification zones in the South China Sea and near contested areas along India's border, US and local sources say." More here.
Did the U.S. defy Japan on China's air defense zone? The WSJ's Yuka Hayashi and Andy Pasztor: "Japanese officials on Sunday played down publicly-but complained privately-that the U.S. isn't following Tokyo in rebuffing Beijing's demands for foreign airlines to file flight plans when navigating through China's new air-defense zone.
The developments came as Japan openly questioned the Chinese military's ability to police the zone. Beijing said on Friday that it had dispatched fighter jets to monitor the area after the U.S. and Japan said their jets had entered in defiance of China's demands for notification. ‘Based on our evaluations, there was no Chinese fighter jet that came into close proximity of our planes. We did not experience anything unusual,' Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said in an interview with national broadcaster NHK... While visiting a regional city on Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, ‘We have confirmed through diplomatic channels that the U.S. government didn't request commercial carriers to submit flight plans.' Speaking privately, Japanese officials said Washington has yet to coordinate views among government branches and come up with a unified stance that can be conveyed to Tokyo properly." The rest here.
For the Pivot, it's all about sea power. CNN's Paul Armstrong: "By his own admission, one of the U.S Navy's top commanders says his Pacific fleet ‘gets all the best stuff' when it comes to state-of-the-art weaponry -- an undeniable reflection of President Barack Obama's so-called pivot towards Asia.The flagship of its 7th fleet, the Nimitz-class USS George Washington aircraft carrier boasts a formidable arsenal; from the latest FA-18 fighter jets, to anti-submarine helicopters and early-warning surveillance aircraft. Add to this the fleet's numerous missile destroyers, cruisers and submarines and the statement of intent is clear to see -- Washington is serious about its role in the region. ‘It's a long-term effort for us here,' Fleet commander Vice Admiral Robert L. Thomas, told CNN aboard the giant vessel amid the muffled roar of jet engines from the flight deck directly above. ‘From a policy perspective it's a shift in balance of not only our resources but our thinking across diplomatic, information, economic and military lines to the Pacific.'" Read the rest here.
T.X. Hammes on Real Clear Defense about how to deter China, here.
Cra cra cute: the new name of the new panda is Bao Bao. It means precious or treasure, according to the WaPo's Michael Rosenwald, and it's pronounced "bough BOUGH." Rosenwald: "At a National Zoo ceremony on Sunday, complete with lion dancers and Chinese snacks, Smithsonian officials and Chinese diplomats celebrated the giant panda cub's first 100 days of life by revealing the results of an online vote to name her... ‘Ni hao! And hello,' Michelle Obama said. She stressed the panda caretaking and research partnership between China and the United States, without noting that traditional diplomatic activities remain tense."
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How Obama went nuclear. FP's David Kenner: "In the wintry days of January 2009, as Barack Obama prepared for his inauguration, he was briefed on how to unleash the weapons that could destroy the planet many times over. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright conducted the briefing on the ‘nuclear football,' the 45-pound briefcase containing the codes that allow the president to launch America's arsenal of over 5,000 nuclear weapons. In the tumult before the inauguration - not to mention a global economy heading toward meltdown - Obama wasn't certain he would remember each step to launch the world's most dangerous weapons. Shortly after taking office as the 44th president, he contacted his defense secretary, Robert Gates. ‘You know that guy who scared the shit out of me?' he said, according to James Mann's The Obamians. ‘Can I talk to him again?'
Almost five years later, non-proliferation has emerged as the centerpiece of Obama's agenda in the Middle East. In Syria, he signed off on a Russia-brokered agreement for President Bashar al-Assad to gradually destroy his chemical weapons. In Iran, he inked a controversial agreement that will see the Islamic Republic stall its nuclear program for six months, in exchange for roughly $6 billion in sanctions relief. Such steps represent significant victories for the president's non-proliferation agenda -- but have also disappointed those who wonder if they come at the cost of America's other interests in the world." More here.
Afghanistan's military and police say the coalition is withholding fuel and other support to coerce Karzai into signing the security agreement. The WaPo's Tim Craig, in Kabul: "...Coalition officials strongly deny the allegation, the latest disagreement between the Karzai government and U.S. military leaders. According to a statement from Karzai, the issue arose during a meeting of his national security council Sunday. Military and police commanders complained that their forces are struggling with a fuel shortage and said they suspect that the United States is using the resource as leverage over Karzai. ‘This deed is contrary to the prior commitment of America,' Karzai's statement said. ‘Afghan forces are facing interruption in conducting of their activities as a result of the cessation of fuel and supportive services.'
"But coalition officials say they are baffled by the claim. ‘There has been no stoppage in the delivery of requested fuel," the coalition said in a statement. "We remain committed to supporting our ANSF partners and will continue to do so." More here.
Amid the crisis over the security agreement between Washington and Kabul, Pakistan and Afghanistan signal headway on peace talks with the Taliban. The WSJ's Nathan Hodge: "Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Hamid Karzai claimed progress this weekend in efforts to bring Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency to the negotiating table but gave few specifics about how they planned to advance the peace process. Messrs. Karzai and Sharif met Saturday in Kabul for bilateral discussions on a range of topics, from trade ties to regional energy projects. Outreach to the Taliban leadership, however, was at the top of the agenda. The Afghan president said he and Mr. Sharif discussed ‘practical steps' to breathe new life into the peace process with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents. But the discussions appeared to leave unresolved an important symbolic issue for Afghanistan: The release of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's former second-in-command, who has been in Pakistani custody since his arrest in 2010. Afghan officials have pressed for Mr. Baradar's release, believing that he could serve as a negotiating channel between the government of Mr. Karzai and the Taliban. Mr. Sharif said Saturday during the talks he would discuss access to Mr. Baradar with the Afghan president." The rest here.
The Dutch are doubling down in Mali. FP's Colum Lynch: "The Dutch military is planning to deploy a team of dozens of military intelligence operatives in Mali in the coming weeks, part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission charged with stabilizing the terror-afflicted northern part of the country and preventing the resurgence of Islamist militants that only year ago held sway over much of the country, according to the Dutch military. The Dutch contribution -- which will also include a team of special-forces troops and four Apache attack helicopters -- marks a rare return by a European power to a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Africa, where debacles from Somalia to Rwanda triggered a retreat in the late 1990s. But what is perhaps even more striking is that the U.N.'s top brass are privately acknowledging that the U.N.'s blue helmets will be engaging in the business of spying." Read the rest here.
Unstuffing the Duffel Blog. The WaPo's Ernesto Londono: "...When the Duffel Blog launched a couple of years ago, its creators said their only ambition was to lighten the mood among a generation of war-weary veterans who felt somewhat disconnected from civilian America. But it has turned into much more, regularly attracting more than half a million unique visitors per month. Its brand of satire often conveys grievances and contrarian views that are widely held among those in uniform. The articles have also helped bridge the country's civilian-military divide, the blog's writers say, by sparking conversations and portraying troops in ways that defy stereotypes."
Who's behind it? "Paul Szoldra, a former Marine sergeant, came up with the concept almost by accident. While developing a Web site designed to help veterans succeed in college, he penned a couple of satirical posts that got far more attention than his tips for student vets. ‘When I first started it, it gave me a board to vent and be funny about things in the military that were kind of dumb,' Szoldra, 29, said in a phone interview from San Francisco, where he works for a business news site. ‘Other people started recognizing the power of that.' Szoldra soon began getting e-mails from veterans around the country who wanted to play a role, allowing him to build a group of roughly 50 regular contributors, about half of whom are on active duty."
Jim Mattis to Londono: "Duffel Blog is a beautifully crafted response to an increasingly stuffy environment in today's America... Duffel Blog reminds us of much of what we in the military fight for - the freedom to think our own way and to laugh about the absurdities without being mean-spirited. Read the rest here.
The Duffel Blog today: "North Korea Expands Air Defense Zone to Include Eastern United States," here. (And yes, dear readers, we know it's a joke! But thanks for the heads up just the same.)