Tuesday Defense Briefing

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel got a long-awaited look at China’s only aircraft carrier on Monday, taking a two-hour tour of the vessel at a naval base near this port city, in the first such visit by a foreign defense official, Pentagon officials said. – New York Times

The House on Monday gave voice-vote approval to legislation that would authorize the sale of four naval vessels to Taiwan. – The Hill’s Floor Action

The U.S. Navy has a new means of getting aid to military troops and Marines in the field without taking on more casualties: A software program that allows even the most novice of operators to guide an unmanned helicopter using a specially designed app and a tablet-size computer. – Washington Times

The US Navy’s top officer warned Monday that deep budget cuts have hampered the Navy’s ability to surge in a crisis, saying that the service could only surge deploy one carrier strike group and one amphibious ready group under current levels. – Defense News

As the US Navy tries to keep its crucial 1990-vintage Trident D5 nuclear-capable missile viable for decades to come, it’s working with everyone from the Royal Navy to the US Air Force to NASA to keep costs down and technology up to date. Meanwhile, the design team for the new nuclear missile submarine that will carry those Tridents after 2031 is already down in such low-tech weeds as salvaging launch tube doors from the existing Ohio-class nuclear subs as they retire from service. – Breaking Defense

Navy leaders said Monday the U.S. can’t afford to delay the Ohio-class submarine Replacement Program as China and Russia continue to develop new nuclear armed ballistic missile submarines. – Military.com

23 pounds ain’t heavy. But it sure hurts when it hits you going at seven times the speed of sound. That’s what a prototype Navy weapon called a “rail gun” can do, and it does it without a single gram of gunpowder or rocket fuel — just electricity – Breaking Defense

Finmeccanica is proposing that the OTO Melara 76mm gun be configured onto the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship as part of an effort to improve the lethality and survivability of the shallow-water , multi-mission vessel. – DOD Buzz

The U.S. Navy for the first time will begin testing its version of the F-35 fighter jet from an aircraft carrier this fall, according to the No. 2 official in charge of the program. – Defense Tech

Despite a vow of transparency from the outspoken program manager of the turbulent, nearly $400 billion F-35 fighter program, even the government is having trouble compelling its sole-source engine manufacturer to release pricing data. – Aviation Week

At least one important operating unit of the V-22 is sustaining impressive readiness rates “in the high 80s,” according to Col. Dan Robinson, the new program manager. But Robinson, asked by me and some of my colleagues, also said he didn’t have fleet-wide numbers and offered some unconvincing chatter about different units having different rates and how you can slice those numbers lots of different ways. – Breaking Defense

Boeing is touting the effectiveness of its fourth-generation EA-18G electronic attack plane over Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 stealth fighter as the lobbying battle over attack aircraft heats up. – Military.com

Navy and Marine Corps leaders see mobile, off-shore bases as the key to the U.S. military’s ability to respond to short-fuse contingency operations around the world. – Military.com

The US Navy believes it has finally worked out the solution to a problem that has intrigued scientists for decades: how to take seawater and use it as fuel. – AFP


NATO said on Monday it would limit Russian diplomats’ access to alliance headquarters in Brussels as a consequence of its decision to suspend cooperation with Moscow over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region. – Reuters

The United States will deploy F-16 fighter jets to Romania this month as part of planned joint exercises, the NATO member’s defense minister was quoted as saying, amid rising tensions in neighboring Ukraine after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. – Reuters

NATO is increasing the number of fighter jets and surveillance aircraft supporting U.S. allies in Eastern Europe, but some Republicans remain critical of the Obama administration for not taking a more proactive posture toward what they describe as Russian war-gaming in the region. – Washington Times

The defense of NATO cannot start at NATO’s borders. Collective defense means the defense of collective vital interests, wherever they may be. And that’s why, like it or not, the Ukraine crisis has landed on NATO’s front burner. The Russians have no intention of going to war with NATO. But they may well continue annexing territory until NATO stops them. – Foreign Policy

Foreign Armies East

As Russia appears moving closer to annexing more of Ukraine, the U.S. is reportedly considering stationing an additional Army brigade in Europe. – Military Times

Tensions between Russia and the West are hitting a new peak. And in this face-off, Moscow has an extraordinary piece of leverage: a super-sophisticated, bomber-killing missile that it once threatened to sell to Iran. – The Daily Beast

Pakistan’s military will protect its dignity “at all costs”, the army chief said on Monday in an apparent show of irritation over the treason trial of former army chief and president Pervez Musharraf. – Reuters

Pakistani security forces killed 30 separatist militants on Monday in an offensive in Baluchistan, a senior official said, in one of the biggest clashes in months in the gas-rich province. – Reuters



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Monday Defense Briefing

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited China’s sole aircraft carrier on Monday in an unprecedented opening by normally secretive Beijing to a potent symbol of its military buildup. – Reuters

Widespread opposition has yet to form around any single Pentagon proposal to cut a specific weapon system, indicating most could be implemented despite lawmakers’ protestations on behalf of parochial interests. – Defense News

The fleet is set to go full steam ahead with its latest fleet response plan, in hopes of locking in deployment lengths after years of long cruises and shifting schedules that have strained the fleet. – Defense News

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Thursday that sending another permanent Army brigade to Europe is one possible result of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. – DEFCON Hill

In a move with major implications for the defense budget, defense contractors, and inter-service politics, the Marine Corps is set to publish a new “capstone concept” — leaked to Breaking Defense – that will guide the entire service for the next decade. – Breaking Defense

Breaking Defense has obtained an unpublished Government Accountability Office study of Freedom‘s Singapore deployment that raises more serious questions about a long-standing worry: whether the small and highly automated LCS has enough sailors aboard to do up all the work needed, from routine maintenance to remedial training. – Breaking Defense

In the midst of fighting two wars, the two services poured billions of dollars into developing, then scrapping, expensive next-generation vehicles. But they both promise the investments haven’t been wasted and that, this time, they have truly learned from the mistakes of the past. – Defense News

On Friday senior congressional leaders released a string of letters they had sent to industry groups on Monday, letters that ask for input on reforming the Defense Department. – Defense News

The War

A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against top  administration officials that was filed by the parents of three United States citizens whom the government killed without trial in drone strikes, including Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric. – New York Times

In April of last year, Vice President Joe Biden called for a Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA interrogation and detention programs to be declassified. Now, the State Department told Congress in a classified letter that declassifying the report could endanger American lives abroad and harm relations with foreign countries. – The Daily Beast

When portions of the report are released, I hope the CIA’s response, pointing out its flawed analysis, is also made public. But before anything is released, authorities must ensure that we don’t make the job of my successors, who are trying to prevent future terrorist attacks, any harder. – Washington Post

House lawmakers on Monday are set to introduce a new bill that would greatly tighten economic sanctions on the terror group Hezbollah by going after its foreign assets, narcotics trafficking rings, and its media apparatus, according to information obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. – Washington Free Beacon

Last month’s capture of an Iranian arms cache in international waters south of the Red Sea’s Port Sudan is just “the tip of the iceberg” of Israeli maritime black operations conducted far beyond the horizons of hostile shores, according to a top Navy officer here. – Defense News

An explosion at a booby-trapped house, ensuing clashes with militants and roadside bombings killed 21 soldiers Saturday in Iraq, authorities said. – Associated Press

Tunisian police have arrested a group of Islamist militants who accidentally exploded a bomb they were manufacturing as part of a planned attack on the country’s commercial city of Sfax, the government said on Sunday. – Reuters

Lebanon’s military prosecutor has charged two suspected Lebanese militants with belonging to a Syrian rebel group tied to al Qaeda, judicial sources said on Friday, part of a crackdown on radical Islamists who have attacked the army this year. – Reuters

A rebel assault on the northern Syrian town of Kasab near the Turkish border has sparked a furor among Armenians worldwide and revived dark memories of the Ottoman-era genocide. – Los Angeles Times

The man who blew up a bus in a Bulgarian Black Sea resort in 2012, killing five Israeli tourists, was of Algerian origin and trained in camps in South Lebanon, the Bulgarian daily Presa said, quoting sources familiar with the investigation. – Reuters

Violence flared across Syria on Sunday, as an explosion killed more than two dozen antigovernment fighters in the central city of Homs and shells struck areas of Damascus, the capital, killing at least two people. On Saturday, a man died after a riot broke out in the crowded Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. – New York Times

Missile Defense

The military could speed up deployment of a land-based missile defense shield in Europe to hem in a resurgent Russia, the Navy 3-star in charge of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said in early April. – Defense News

Congressional auditors are advising the Pentagon to redesign and successfully test a version of the Standard Missile 3 before allowing the interceptor to be produced. – Global Security Newswire

Russia is unfazed by the U.S. announcement last week that antimissile cooperation talks have been suspended due to the events in Ukraine, Interfax reported. – Global Security Newswire

Nuclear Weapons

Pentagon leaders expect to soon give 44 a plan for specific U.S. nuclear cuts to bring the arsenal in line with arms control caps. – Global Security Newswire

A retired general chosen to explore flaws in U.S. nuclear forces signed off one year ago on a study describing the nuclear Air Force as “thoroughly professional, disciplined” and performing effectively — an assessment service leaders interpreted as an encouraging thumbs-up. – Associated Press

As long as we have these weapons, we must not neglect the people who operate them.  – Washington Post

Foreign Armies East

A Ukrainian military officer was shot and killed late Sunday night in an altercation with Russian soldiers near an air base in Crimea, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said Monday. It was a rare instance of deadly violence as Ukrainian forces continue their withdrawal from the peninsula following its annexation by Russia. – New York Times

The navies of Iran and Pakistan plan to hold joint military exercises in the eastern part of the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday, Iran’s state news agency said on Sunday. – Reuters

South Korean military said Sunday it found an unidentified drone suspected to be from North Korea, following the discovery of two similar objects near the border in recent weeks. – AFP

Japan’s defense chief has ordered the armed forces to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missiles that threaten to hit the country, according to media reports. – Defense News

The U.S. plans to bolster its missile-defense systems in Asia and counter North Korea by sending two more advanced destroyers to Japan by 2017. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)


A European Defence Agency (EDA) effort to jointly purchase and share aerial refueling tankers with a number of nations could advance the NATO strategic weapons and equipment collaboration projects pushed by US and UK leaders. – Defense News

NATO will strengthen its presence in Poland within weeks, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Saturday, a move that could help allay fears in eastern European states for their security after Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region. – Reuters

The West should take strong action, possibly including sending NATO forces to Ukraine, if Russia tries to annex the eastern part of the country, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Sunday. – Reuters

America and its allies must ask themselves where, indeed, do they draw the line? If they don’t answer these questions for themselves, then they will find new lines drawn for them. – Forbes

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Friday Defense Briefing

The Navy and Marine Corps’ top leaders will meet next week in Washington D.C. and focus on ways to speed up the rebalance of forces to the Pacific, but the Army’s part in the so-called Pacific Pivot remains in the concept phase. – DOD Buzz

The top lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee said the United States needs to continue buying Russian-made helicopters for the Afghan air force despite tensions over the annexation of Crimea. – DEFCON Hill

The United States is scrapping plans for a Navy ship to join a fleet review in China after key ally, Japan, was not invited, U.S. officials said on Thursday, in a move that came just ahead of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s trip to Japan and China. – Reuters

The head of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday warned that North Korea retains the ability to conduct an assault on the South at a moment’s notice. – Global Security Newswire

Although titled an “unfunded priority list,” the US Navy’s document giving Congress options to add to the 2015 budget is neither prioritized, nor a list of unfunded programs. – Defense News

The US Army National Guard is asking Congress to find an extra $1.5 billion to meet its unfunded requirements in fiscal year 2015, primarily to fund training and operations, according to a copy of the list obtained by Defense News. – Defense News

The US Air Force has sent Congress an $8 billion unfunded priorities list, with more than $3.3 billion eyed for new procurement programs, according to a copy of the list obtained by Defense News. – Defense News

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on Thursday issued a stern warning to the Army not to try to bypass Congress to close bases. – DEFCON Hill

Isolation and disengagement have severely damaged American credibility and security, as can be seen most dramatically in Ukraine today. – Hoover Institution’s Strategika


Nato’s secretary-general has angrily defended the alliance’s stepped-up military deployments in central and eastern Europe, saying they were part of its “core task” to defend members under threat of attack. – Financial Times

Foreign Armies East

The number of Russian jets flying close enough to Baltic airspace this year to prompt NATO jets being scrambled has increased to around once a week, Lithuania said on Thursday, a concern for countries worried about an increasing assertiveness by Moscow. – Reuters

Syrian army units and other forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad stepped up their offensive on Thursday against several towns outside Damascus, after Islamist factions controlling the communities rejected the government’s truce offers. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Syria has packed 40 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal into containers to be taken outside the country and destroyed, and convoy security has been deployed to deal with violence around the port city of Latakia, the head of the mission overseeing the operation said on Thursday. – Reuters

Japan and South Korea will meet next week to seek ways to persuade North Korea to give up its atomic weapons program, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday, just days after Pyongyang warned of a “new form” of nuclear test. – Reuters

Amid rising military threats from North Korea, South Korea conducted its own missile test last week, successfully launching a newly developed ballistic missile capable of striking most of North Korea, its Ministry of National Defense said on Friday. – New York Times

The head of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula on Wednesday warned that North Korea retains the ability to conduct an assault on the South at a moment’s notice. – Global Security Newswire

South Korea wants radar systems that can spot North Korean UAVs. Its existing systems misidentify small aircraft as birds, according to a South Korean Army official quoted by the Yonhap news service. – Defense News

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday demanded improvements in the international peacekeeping force in Sudan’s western Darfur region and called on Khartoum to improve cooperation with the mission in the remote, conflict-torn territory. – Reuters

The War

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is hoping newly-crafted economic sanctions against the terrorist organization Hezbollah will put a dent in its ability to conduct operations. – Washington Times

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to make public a long-awaited report that concludes that the CIA’s use of brutal interrogation measures did not produce valuable intelligence and that the agency repeatedly misled government officials about the severity and success of the program. – Washington Post

The Pentagon is moving aggressively to establish a “network” of elite American commandos across the globe as part of its changing strategy to combat al-Qaida cells in places like North Africa. – Defense News

A Saudi Arabian court on Wednesday sentenced a top al-Qaeda strategist to death and jailed 15 others for their role in a series of attacks in the kingdom last decade, Saudi newspapers reported on Thursday. – Reuters

Officials in Iraq say fighting between government troops and al-Qaida-inspired militants has killed 40 gunmen and an army officer near the capital, Baghdad. – Associated Press

A veteran Associated Press photographer was killed and an AP reporter was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan. – Associated Press

The Pakistani Taliban have extended their March ceasefire until April 10, a spokesman said Friday, following the release of a batch of low-level prisoners by the Pakistani government. – Reuters

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Thursday Defense Briefing

Senate Appropriations Defense Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other appropriators expressed skepticism Wednesday of the Air Force’s decision to cut the entire A-10 fleet. – DEFCON Hill

A $796 million line item that would go toward the refueling and overhaul of USS George Washington (CVN-73) was removed from the Navy’s unfunded requirements list, several sources confirmed to USNI News. – USNI News

The U.S. Marine Corps is rebuilding its forces in East Asia, beefing up amphibious fighting capabilities that had been eroded during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The House Appropriations Committee is cutting spending on military construction in its first 2015 appropriations bill, while boosting funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. – DEFCON Hill

Boeing Co. is pressing lawmakers to restore funding for the Navy’s EA-18 Growler, in the latest lobbying fight between the aerospace giant and Lockheed Martin Corp. over attack aircraft. – DOD Buzz

The Army is testing new technology that will allow Apache helicopter pilots to see their targets up close, in high definition color. – Fox News

An Iraq war veteran who was grappling with mental health issues opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., in an attack that left four people dead and 16 wounded Wednesday afternoon, according to preliminary law enforcement and military reports. The gunfire sent tremors of fear across a sprawling Army post still reeling from one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. – Washington Post

Wednesday’s mass shooting by an Army specialist in Fort Hood, Texas, put the Pentagon on a dreaded, if increasingly familiar footing as officials grappled to understand how yet another insider threat went undeterred. – Washington Post

As tens of thousands of Russian troops remain along Ukraine’s eastern border, the Pentagon is sending an additional Navy ship to the Black Sea and will station 175 additional Marines in Romania along the Black Sea Coast, a defense official said Wednesday. – Military Times

The War

Two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday announced their support for declassifying parts of a long-delayed report on the C.I.A.’s defunct detention and interrogation program, all but assuring that the committee will approve the report and send it to 44 for eventual release. – New York Times

A suicide bomber killed six policemen after detonating his explosive vest at the entrance gates of the Interior Ministry headquarters on Wednesday, ministry officials said, penetrating nearly to the heart of the Afghan security establishment. – New York Times

Six soldiers and three suspected Islamist militants died during a suicide bombing and assault on the main military headquarters in Aden on Wednesday and a 10-year-old boy was killed in subsequent clashes, medics and local media said. – Reuters

Several explosive devices detonated near the campus of Cairo University on Wednesday, killing a senior police official and wounding several officers in the first major attack in the capital since the beginning of Egypt’s presidential campaign just days ago. – New York Times

Foreign Armies East

Moscow’s highest-ranking officials are demanding that NATO explain its recently announced plans to bolster military presence in Eastern Europe. – Washington Times

Russia has reportedly begun fielding an updated ballistic missile on some of its submarines that is thought capable of carrying up to 10 warheads. – Global Security Newswire

NATO’s top commander said on Wednesday that the 40,000 troops Russia has within striking distance of Ukraine are poised to attack on 12 hours’ notice and could accomplish their military objectives within three to five days. – New York Times

Russia has fielded more strategic nuclear weapons over the past six months, but a longtime U.S. analyst suggests the development is unremarkable. – Global Security Newswire

The United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons arsenal is crucially dependent on U.S. actions, as a key bilateral agreement is up for renewal, reports the London Guardian. – Global Security Newswire

Indonesia’s military is concerned that a rebalancing of power in the Asia-Pacific is driving an arms race in the region and that increasingly tetchy territorial disputes could trigger conflict, its armed forces chief said. – Reuters

South Korean officials said Wednesday they suspect that two unmanned drones that crashed recently near the border with rival North Korea were flown by the North on possible surveillance missions. – Associated Press

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government and ruling party are close to a consensus on the need to ease the pacifist constitution’s constraints on the military’s ability to fight alongside allies abroad, but have yet to persuade their junior coalition partner to agree to the historic change. – Reuters

China’s top generals on Thursday issued an unusually lavish declaration of support for President Xi Jinping as he moves to consolidate his power with a crackdown on corruption in the military. – Associated Press

In a bid to boost its aerial surveillance, India will buy six aircraft that can be used for supporting its indigenous Airborne Warning and Control System (Awacs). – Aviation Week

NATO’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia will affect their cooperation in countering the flow of Afghan opium and keeping Afghan military helicopters flying, a NATO official said on Wednesday. – Reuters


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Wednesday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon says there were no U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan in March — the first zero-fatality month there since January 2007. – Associated Press

The Marines are about to move out sharply with their once-stalled Amphibious Combat Vehicle, the smallest service’s biggest program. After years of uncertainty and a last-minute change of course that came too late to make it into the administration’s budget request for 2015, the Marines will soon announce their new strategy for something they’re calling an ACV. But it will be much more modest than the revolutionary vehicle once envisioned. – Breaking Defense

There is little support on Capitol Hill for beefing up the U.S. military presence in Europe, despite Russia’s buildup of troops along Ukraine’s border. – DEFCON Hill

The Navy may send a warship to the Black Sea and take other steps to reassure anxious allies in Eastern Europe after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, a defense official said Tuesday. – AFP

One of the most screwed up programs in Pentagon history, the airborne tanker, may have turned a corner, with the KC-46 program cutting more than half-a-billion dollars from its projected costs, with $386.9 million of those savings coming in fiscal 2015. – Breaking Defense

Navy leaders are refining their concepts of operations for the Littoral Combat Ship on the heels of wide ranging criticism that led to the decision to cut the ship’s fleet size from 52 to 32, Navy leaders said. – DOD Buzz

An F-35A training pilot took off March 24 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for the joint strike fighter’s first night training sortie. Previously, the service’s training syllabus explicitly prohibited the advanced stealthy fighter from flying at night or during adverse weather because of the different air worthiness standards in the various services flying the plane. – Defense News

General Dynamics Land Systems cannot and will not compete for the Army’s largest surviving weapons program, the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, unless the service changes how it is handling the program – Breaking Defense

The War

A prominent Kenyan Islamist, accused by the United States and U.N. Security Council of supporting the Somali militant group al Shabaab, was shot dead on Tuesday, police said. – Reuters

Fighting involving Christian militias, Muslims and foreign troops has killed more than 60 people and wounded more than 100 in the past 10 days in Bangui, Central African Republic, United Nations officials said Tuesday, warning that security was deteriorating and appealing for more peacekeeping troops and police officers. – New York Times

For U.S. prosecutors, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the [Abu Graith] case is proof positive of how much more swift and severe the federal courts are when compared to military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the trials of suspected terrorists continue to play out in seemingly endless procedural hearings. – Washington Post

The CIA’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on foreign terror suspects – a practice that has provoked international condemnation – was more widespread than the agency has publicly acknowledged, Senate investigators have learned. – McClatchy

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on interrogation techniques employed by the CIA in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks includes a number of “chilling” stories of the use of torture by American officials that have not yet been released to the public, Sen. John McCain said Tuesday. – National Journal

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday he still believes Manhattan is the right place to put the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on trial but he won’t revisit the decision to have his fate decided by a military tribunal instead. – Associated Press

Monday’s front-page Washington Post article about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the 43rd administration’s enhanced-interrogation program has received a lot of favorable press coverage despite the fact that it is a remarkably biased piece of journalism that omits many crucial facts. – Washington Post

At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year-old civil war, a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Tuesday. – Reuters

A series of attacks north of Baghdad killed eight soldiers on Tuesday as Iraq’s election campaign officially kicked off ahead of the April 30 nationwide vote. – Associated Press

A suicide bomber tried to storm the main gate of the Yemeni army’s southern command headquarters in the port city of Aden on Wednesday, a security source said, in the latest attack by Islamist militants exploiting the turmoil in the country. – Reuters

Two Yemeni soldiers and two al-Qaeda militants were killed on Tuesday during clashes in Yemen’s western province of Al-Hadida, ministry of interior said on its website. – Reuters



NATO’s foreign ministers vowed on Tuesday to strengthen the alliance’s military presence on the territory of its Eastern European members because of Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine. – New York Times

The top military commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said Wednesday he will submit a “reassurance package” to NATO representatives by April 15 aimed at enhancing the alliance’s response to Russia’s recent aggressive positioning. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk called Tuesday for a bigger presence of NATO forces in the country in order to strengthen the alliance’s eastern border amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine. – WSJ’s Emerging Europe Real Time

Foreign Armies East

Romania’s president says the United States has asked to increase the number of troops and aircraft it has stationed at a Black Sea air base in eastern Romania. – Associated Press

Israeli military officers are crediting a shadowy C4I unit as the unsung heroes of Operation Full Disclosure, a months-long mission that led to the high-seas capture of an Iranian arms cache some 1,500 kilometers from the Israeli coast. – Defense News

Media reports that Pakistani Taliban splinter group Ahrarul Hind is planning attacks on Pakistani airbases in retaliation for punishing airstrikes carried out in February have raised questions about the adequacy of security at Air Force facilities. – Defense News

A barrage of artillery fire between North and South Korea across disputed maritime borders on Monday marked an annual show of force by North Korea intent on sending a message to the US as it conducts military exercises nearby. – Defense News

North Korea has declared a no-sail area in the East Sea, suggesting another missile launch is in the works, the Yonhap News Agency reported on Tuesday. – Global Security Newswire

A South Korean military inquiry into a drone found on a border island has concluded that North Korea flew the unmanned aircraft to conduct reconnaissance missions, a South Korean media report said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The European Union formally launched a peacekeeping force for Central African Republic on Tuesday, overcoming delays due to shortages of soldiers and equipment thanks to last-minute offers of help from EU governments. – Reuters


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Tuesday Defense Briefing

The most expensive conventional weapons program in history just scored a major win, with the F-35 program’s estimated acquisition costs plunging $11.5 billion. This is no program estimate that critics might savage. This comes from the Government Accountability Office’s definitive annual Assessment of Selected Weapons Report. – Breaking Defense

The Pentagon improved its buying power on 51 of its 80 programs in 2013, resulting in $23 billion of procurement savings, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. – Defense News

The 2015 Pentagon budget submission dealt a $15 billion blow to the U.S. Navy relative to the planners’ forecast, which has forced the sea service to adjust priorities to maintain readiness. – Military.com

The Pentagon is proposing dramatic increases in spending for underwater pods to store drone submarines and a variety of other seaborne drones and surveillance technology, another example of the military’s shift toward the Pacific, newly released budget documents show. – Defense News

The Air Force is considering several new consortium arrangements with European partners as a way to pool resources for a collective advantage, lower operating costs and decrease travel time for U.S. platforms, service officials said. – DOD Buzz

The United States is trying to sell or dispose of billions of dollars in military hardware, including sophisticated and highly specialized mine resistant vehicles as it packs up to leave Afghanistan after 13 years of war, officials said Monday. – Associated Press

The War

A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques. – Washington Post

Federal agents are actively seeking out a former Army recruit they believe is plotting a “Fort Hood-inspired jihad against U.S. soldiers,” they said. – Washington Times

Taliban gunmen abducted a candidate running for a seat in a provincial council in northern Afghanistan and seven members of his entourage, officials said Monday. – Associated Press

Afghan security forces have seized more than 22 tons of explosives, enough to make hundreds of bombs, the interior ministry said on Tuesday, four days before a presidential election.- Reuters

The Taliban have launched a violent onslaught on Kabul and other Afghan cities in recent days, trying to disrupt the historic election. But, so far, the Taliban intimidation has failed to tamp down the enthusiasm of ordinary Afghans like Mr. Ghazanfar for the election, in which the country will pick a new leader after 13 years under President Hamid Karzai. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Today, as sectarian tensions spike in Lebanon, it’s increasingly difficult to imagine a different trajectory for Lebanon’s armed forces. – Los Angeles Times

Former U.S. embassy workers held hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981 are outraged that Tehran has selected a new U.N. envoy who may have played a role in the 444-day crisis and want him barred from U.S. territory, lawyers for the ex-hostages said on Monday. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday against any support or facilitation of violence by armed groups in Central African Republic after Chadian troops were accused of opening fire on civilians and killing at least 10 people at the weekend. – Reuters

China accused the Philippines on Monday of illegally occupying Chinese territory after a Philippine vessel outmaneuvered the Chinese Coast Guard and resupplied a ship that has been stranded for 15 years on the Second Thomas Shoal, a tiny reef in the South China Sea. – New York Times

China is wary of Japan’s plutonium-stockpiling plans, despite new efforts to ship some of the material to the United States. – Global Security Newswire

Japan’s navy has not been invited to join an international flotilla of warships taking part in a ceremonial event in China, an official said Monday, the latest snub in a row between Asia’s two largest economies. – AFP

Taking his nation another step away from its postwar pacifism, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discarded a half-century ban on the export of weapons and military hardware on Tuesday, in a move aimed at helping Japan assume a larger regional security role in order to offset China’s growing military might. – New York Times

A day after exchanging artillery fire across their disputed sea border, North and South Korea hurled insults at each other on Tuesday, with the North rejecting an ambitious overture from the South’s president, Park Geun-hye. – New York Times

An unmanned drone crashed on a South Korean island near a disputed maritime border with North Korea, a South Korean defense ministry official said on Tuesday, triggering an investigation into whether the aircraft was from the North. – Reuters


NATO foreign ministers will gather in Brussels on Tuesday as the defense alliance seeks to reinforce its eastern frontier against a resurgent Russia emboldened by the annexation of Crimea. – AFP



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Monday Defense Briefing

Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said Sunday that Russian troops amassing on the border with Ukraine could take “perhaps a third” of the country if the Kremlin decided to expand its incursion into the former Soviet republic. – The Hill’s Global Affairs

Retiring all of its U-2 spy planes and replacing them with Global Hawk UAVs won’t save as much money as the US Air Force had said it would, since the unmanned systems will need upgrades to handle the mission, according to experts and service data. – Defense News

U.S. Army leaders told lawmakers that the service will have to spend less on live-fire maneuver training as a result of the deep cuts to defense spending under sequestration. – Military.com

The U.S. Army’s top leaders defended their proposal to strip the Army National Guard of its AH-64 Apaches attack helicopters as part of a cost-saving move. – DOD Buzz

U.S. Army field artillery is preparing for future wars by returning to Cold War-era tactics supplemented by modern, mobile technology, a U.S. general says. – Military.com

Defense officials have ordered a review of options that include consolidating commissaries and exchanges, as well as having commissaries adopt an “Exchange-like business model,” according to information obtained by Military Times. – Military Times

Federal spending is about making choices on priorities. Washington can reverse this slide by reinvesting in order to match U.S. military power with the commitments that America’s military is expected to keep. – U.S. News and World Report’s World Report

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will return to the Pacific [this] week for his fourth trip to the region with plans to address the growing tensions between China and its neighbors over the Spratly Islands. – Military.com

The US military is disputing media reports that it plans to give Pakistan excess American military equipment that is currently in Afghanistan. – Defense News

The U.S. military chief has kicked off a visit to Israel at a time of heightened tensions with Israel’s defense minister. – Associated Press


The White House issued a statement Friday welcoming the selection of former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as NATO’s next secretary-general. – DEFCON Hill

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Sunday that the Ukraine crisis underscored the need to protect the right of nations to map out their own future. – Defense News

Germany is considering offering military support to some eastern European members of the NATO defense alliance in response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, news magazine Der Spiegel reported at the weekend. – Reuters

With the Ukraine crisis raising concerns in the Baltics, Lithuania will bring its military spending in line with NATO requirements of 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2020, up from 0.8 percent of GDP planned for this year. – Reuters

It is impossible to know whether [Putin and his former KGB colleagues] believe that NATO membership is a threat to Russia, or whether Putin is upset because the Alliance prevents him from expanding the empire back to its 1990 borders. In any case, blaming NATO for Russia’s tradition of imperial expansion is terribly wrong. – CEPA

The War

The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have secretly agreed to focus on carrying out operations in Afghanistan, with Pakistani militants announcing a ceasefire with their government in order to preserve militant bases used to stage cross-border attacks. – Reuters

Both the amount of time drones spend over Afghanistan and the number of total coalition airstrikes are in steep decline, and that trend is likely to accelerate as the U.S. withdraws most of its remaining troops in the months ahead. – Foreign Policy’s The Complex

Nigeria’s war against Islamic militants erupted near the president’s house on Sunday, when a prison break sparked hours of gunfire in the capital and raised questions over the military’s capacity to protect the country’s most sensitive areas. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Nearly three years after the  administration’s plans to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged 9/11 plotters in civilian court touched off a political firestorm, a lower-key approach to such prosecutions is beginning to bear fruit. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney late Thursday said he did not regret pushing enhanced interrogation techniques under the Bush administration. – The Hill’s Briefing Room

A hotly disputed Senate torture report concludes that waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods provided no key evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, according to congressional aides and outside experts familiar with the investigation. The CIA still disputes that conclusion. – Associated Press

Foreign Armies East

Japan and the United States plan to create a permanent consultative body to coordinate the operations of the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military in the face of China’s highhanded actions over the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japanese and U.S. government sources said. – Yomiuri Shimbun

North Korea conducted extensive live-fire military drills off its southern coast on Monday, some of its artillery shells falling south of the disputed sea border with South Korea, in a military provocation that came a day after the North threatened to conduct more nuclear tests. – New York Times

North Korea threatened on Sunday to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test, a year after its third nuclear test raised military tensions on the divided Korean Peninsula and prompted the United Nations to tighten sanctions against the North. – New York Times

South Korea will ask Lockheed Martin to invest in the country’s KF-X fighter jet development project as part of offset deals over its selection of the F-35 joint strike fighter. – Defense News


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Friday Defense Briefing

Eight soldiers from 3rd Special Forces Group were honored March 27 with the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor, for their actions in Afghanistan. – Military Times

The Fifth Fleet’s $580 million base expansion in Bahrain will extend the U.S.’ operational tenure in the gulf well into the middle of the century, according to Vice Adm. John Miller. – Military Times

The Air Force announced Thursday that it has relieved nine mid-level commanders assigned to safeguard the nation’s nuclear arsenal following a wide-ranging probe into a test cheating scandal that implicated scores of airmen. – Washington Post

Former US Defense Secretary James Schlesinger has died, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he served as a counselor and trustee. He was 85, serving 3 presidents. – Defense News

The U.S. military’s gradual, 20-year drawdown in Europe looks to be abruptly ending as the Russian invasion of Crimea casts a spotlight on U.S. European Command and fuels calls for reshaping the military mission there after decades of post-Cold War calm. – Military Times

US Senate Democratic leaders have stripped from their legislative agenda efforts to further ease or eliminate the remaining eight years of across-the-board defense and domestic spending cuts. – Defense News

Army and Marine Corps officials told Congress on Thursday that they will need at least three years of overseas contingency funding after the last troops leave Afghanistan, to pay for repair and reset of equipment. – Military Times

The U.S. Army and the Marine Corps could fight a war with North Korea, but not without exhausting their combined ground forces leaving nothing in reserve, senior Army and Marine officials told Congress Wednesday. – Military.com

A major delay in the shipment of new F-35 fighter jets is expected to diminish U.S. “warfighting capabilities” across the globe and force the Pentagon to significantly boost funding for the plane at a time when military leaders say they cannot afford to, according to a new government report. – Washington Free Beacon

The Navy is testing several new next-generation cruise missiles as potential replacements for the battle-tested Tomahawk, service leaders told lawmakers Wednesday. – DOD Buzz

The U.S. Army is moving forward with plans to develop upgraded versions of the M109 self-propelled howitzer in one of the service’s few bright acquisition spots. – DOD Buzz

The War

Over the past 18 months, drones piloted by Hezbollah—but almost certainly built and supplied by its patron, Iran—have penetrated Israeli airspace, coming unnervingly close to key infrastructure sites and major population centers. Soon, they may be joined by others sent by Hamas…The events have set off alarms within the Israeli Defense Forces – The New Republic

The conviction of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law on terrorism charges in civilian court is fueling the partisan divide over how terrorism suspects should be detained and prosecuted. – DEFCON Hill

A U.N. panel has found serious shortcomings in the United States’ civil rights record, with experts citing Thursday a lack of adequate oversight and transparency in national security programs dealing with everything from electronic surveillance to targeted drone killings and secret detentions. – Associated Press

Living in fear and hunger, some quarter million Nigerians forced from their homes this year by an Islamic uprising are surviving in the bush, overcrowded with relatives and friends or in squalid camps where 500 share one latrine, a new report says. – Associated Press

The Philippine government signed a peace accord with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group on Thursday, the culmination of years of negotiations and a significant political achievement for President Benigno Aquino III. – Associated Press

An influx of almost 1 million refugees from Syria into neighboring Lebanon poses a serious threat to the already fragile country, but donor nations may not grasp the potential impact of further destabilization, a U.N. official said on Thursday. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

Egypt’s army is taking charge of billions of dollars of development aid from the United Arab Emirates, an army official said, raising further doubts over the narrow separation of powers with the military backed administration in place since July. – Reuters

European Union governments are expected to pledge soldiers and equipment on Friday allowing the EU to launch its delayed peacekeeping mission to the Central African Republic, the EU’s top military officer said. – Reuters

South Korea on Friday repatriated the remains of 437 Chinese soldiers killed during the Korean War six decades ago, making a gesture symbolic of warming ties between the two nations. – New York Times

Turkey has removed Murad Bayar, Defence Ministry undersecretary for the state-run defence industries, from his post with immediate effect, the official gazette showed on Thursday. – Reuters

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Thursday Defense Briefing

U.S. intelligence agencies warned Congress late Wednesday that Russian military forces are massing near Ukraine’s borders and appear ready to launch an invasion with little or no warning. – Washington Free Beacon

The first two of an initial team of 11 U.S. soldiers arrived in Libya this week to help lay the groundwork for upcoming training of Libyan forces in Bulgaria, which is expected to begin in July, a U.S. military official told Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

The head of the U.S. government’s F-35 fighter program on Wednesday said efforts to trim costs on the world’s most expensive weapons contract hinged in part on looming procurement decisions by Italy, Turkey and Canada. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

The general in charge of the F-35 told a US House panel Wednesday he sees more delays ahead — four to six months — for the often-troubled fighter jet program. – Defense News

After several years of appearing to dislike the F-35C, or at least appearing lukewarm to buying it, the Navy today finally revealed why it wants to buy more F-18Gs from Boeing. – Breaking Defense

More than any other military service, the US Air Force depends on a constant stream of technological improvements and scientific breakthroughs. But according to the service’s chief scientist, a “perfect storm” of personnel issues is endangering the retention and recruitment of top scientific talent. – Defense News

The ongoing deployment of the Navy’s first Joint High Speed Vessel, or JHSV, is leading the service to think more broadly about the ship’s mission set and expand it from a purely transport vessel to one that can conduct special operations and humanitarian assistance missions, Navy leaders said. – DOD Buzz

Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale pleaded with Senate lawmakers Wednesday not to undo money-saving personnel changes in the fiscal 2015 budget proposal, saying such a move would devastate spending plans for years to come. – Military Times

A leading Republican senator in Congress is asking his colleagues to find $2 billion in the federal budget to offset proposed reductions to troop pay and benefits. – Military.com

Military advocacy groups appear divided over a Pentagon proposal to consolidate Tricare health programs, but all agree that active-duty families should not have to pay higher medical costs just because they don’t live near a military hospital. – Military Times

The US Senate Armed Services Committee advanced seven high-profile Defense Department nominees Wednesday, including Robert Work, to be deputy defense secretary and Vice Adm. Michael Rogers to be the head of US Cyber Command. – Defense News

The top U.S. Army officer told lawmakers on Tuesday that a return to deep budget cuts as required by law beginning in 2016 would make it difficult for the military to carry out even one extended ground war. – Reuters

It is up to the other branch of government and the opposition party to do what they can — start the process of rearmament — when the commander-in-chief will not. – NRO

Missile Defense

The U.S. and British defense chiefs agreed Wednesday on the need for bolstering missile defense systems in Eastern Europe while stressing that the planned NATO shield was not aimed at Russia. – Military.com

A senior Pentagon official told Congress this week that the  administration has halted years of unsuccessful missile defense talks with Russia that had included numerous concessions and an offer to provide classified missile interceptor information to Moscow. – Washington Times’ Inside the Ring

The War

More than a dozen years after the Sept. 11 attacks, a man who came to speak for Osama bin Laden in a series of impassioned videotaped messages that praised the attacks and promised more, was convicted by a federal jury on Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans and of other terrorism charges. – New York Times

Members of a special panel examining the FBI’s counterterrorism efforts over the past decade say they will “push hard” for an answer to why the bureau has never revealed information about a human asset it reportedly had in direct contact with al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden during the early 1990s. – Washington Times

A jury’s conviction of the al-Qaida spokesman who warned Americans that the “storm of airplanes” would not stop after the Sept. 11 attacks prompted Attorney General Eric Holder to claim victory for the civil court system, signaling terror suspects arrested in the future in the U.S. or abroad will routinely face justice in civil courts rather than military tribunals. – Associated Press

Islamist fighters from an al Qaeda splinter group bombed a large Shi’ite Muslim shrine in the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on Wednesday, activists said. – Reuters

Israeli forces shot three Palestinian militants dead on Saturday in a raid on a home in the occupied West Bank to capture a wanted Hamas Islamist militant, Israeli military and Palestinian officials said. – Reuters

A Lebanese army officer was shot dead in the country’s second city of Tripoli during fighting between rival sects on Thursday, a security source and state media said. – Reuters

Foreign Armies East

Large numbers of Russian paratroopers along Ukraine’s border have been conducting military training exercises geared toward taking over airfields and airports, U.S. Air ForceGen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said Wednesday. – Washington Times

Col. Gen. Mikhail Koval has replaced retired Adm. Ihor Tenyukh as Ukraine’s minister of defense. Koval was appointed by the country’s parliament March 25 following his predecessor’s dismissal. – Defense News

China is waging political warfare against the United States as part of a strategy to drive the U.S. military out of Asia and control seas near its coasts, according to a Pentagon-sponsored study. – Washington Free Beacon

Pakistan has condemned the killing by Sunni Muslim militants of one of five Iranian border guards they have been holding hostage for the past six weeks, the foreign office said on Wednesday. – Reuters


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Wednesday Defense Briefing

The Pentagon said Tuesday that its work to comply with the six congressional investigations into the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, has cost the military millions of dollars and thousands of man hours. – DEFCON Hill

More Marines will be tapped to deploy south of the border as their Mexican counterparts look toward expanding the training mission between the two militaries, building on their recent successes in counter-narcotics operations. – Military Times

Pentagon is thinking about putting missiles on crop dusters and sending them to Yemen. And yes, they look as strange as they sound. – Foreign Policy’s The Complex

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said a “trained ape” could get a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan, which the  administration has yet to do. – DEFCON Hill

Senior US Army leadership has doubled down on its support for another round of shuttering and shrinking domestic installations, with Army Secretary John McHugh telling a congressional committee Tuesday morning that the service could save about $1 billion a year by undertaking a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC.) – Defense News

Navy leaders say they support the Pentagon’s push for a new round of base closures in 2017 — but that the Navy doesn’t need its bases cut. – DEFCON Hill

The head of U.S. Pacific Command believes America does not possess the capacity to conduct amphibious assaults in the wake of a crisis, as it did during World War II. – Washington Times

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee pressed the leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps [yesterday] about how they could meet the national security challenges with shrinking budgets, questioning the survivability of the Littoral Combat Ships, the status of the costly and controversial Joint Strike Fighter and the Navy’s plan to take seven cruisers and possibly an aircraft carrier out of service. – Breaking Defense

The U-2 spy plane currently gives better early warning of a potential attack from North Korea than its proposed Global Hawk drone replacement, the commander of U.S. Forces-Korea said Tuesday. – DOD Buzz

The Pentagon’s pay and benefits proposals for fiscal 2015 would be crippling for troops and their families, and potentially a disincentive for many to continue serving, according to House lawmakers who oversee personnel programs in the annual defense budget. – Military Times

The U.S. Defense Department is poised to approve the first trans-Atlantic flight of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter jet in July, when the new warplane is expected to take part in two international air shows near London, according to multiple sources familiar with the issue. – Reuters

The admiral in charge of all US military forces in the Pacific says some of his needs for attack submarines are going unmet. – Defense News


Nato has stood the test of time; Mr Putin has just ensured it will continue to do so. – Financial Times

The War

Jurors weighing the case of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former top adviser to Osama bin Laden who later married his daughter, were sent home on Tuesday after deliberating for half a day without reaching a verdict. – New York Times

Dozens of seasoned militant fighters, including some midlevel planners, have traveled to Syria from Pakistan in recent months in what American intelligence and counterterrorism officials fear is an effort to lay the foundation for future strikes against Europe and the United States. – New York Times

Rebels seized a coastal area in north-western Syria on Tuesday, activists said, part of a fresh offensive on President Bashar al-Assad’s Mediterranean stronghold where rebels have made several surprise victories in recent days. – Financial Times

The FBI takes about 44 days to place on its terrorist watch list suspects referred to it by other agencies and averages about 78 days to remove cleared former suspects from the list, according to an audit of bureau practices. – Washington Times

The Senate Intelligence Committee has pushed back a vote on its controversial report on Bush-era interrogation techniques until next week, Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. – The Hill’s Global Affairs

The Marine Corps is booting counter-improvised explosive device (C-IED) responsibilities out of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and shifting those matters back to the Combat Development Directorate. – Military.com

Foreign Armies East

China’s newest class of submarines appear to be getting a special upgrade for the first time: long-range nuclear missiles. – Washington Times

For a country aspiring to be a modern military power in a volatile region, a sequence of fatal accidents aboard its submarines has demonstrated why India’s next government needs to straighten out its defence priorities. – Reuters

The leader of a military coup that plunged Mali into chaos two years ago, allowing Islamists to seize its desert north, has abandoned a hunger strike to protest against the conditions of his detention, military sources said. – Reuters

South Africa’s cash-strapped armed forces are in a “critical state of decline” that will take at least a decade to fix even with urgent action, according to a military strategy review seen by Reuters. – Reuters

North Korea demonstrated its ballistic missile capabilities by launching two midrange missiles on Wednesday, after the leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea gathered in the Netherlands to discuss the North’s nuclear threats. – New York Times


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