Daily Archives: Oct 23, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meet on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 2017. REUTERS/Saul Loeb, Pool - RC1581BF52B0

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty with Russia could give the Pentagon new options to counter Chinese missile advances but experts warn the ensuing arms race could greatly escalate tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

U.S. officials have been warning for years that the United States was being put at a disadvantage by China’s development of increasingly sophisticated land-based missile forces, which the Pentagon could not match thanks to the U.S. treaty with Russia.

President Donald Trump has signaled he may soon give the Pentagon a freer hand to confront those advances, if he makes good on threats to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which required elimination of short- and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles.

Dan Blumenthal, a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute, said a treaty pullout could pave the way for the United States to field easier-to-hide, road-mobile conventional missiles in places like Guam and Japan.

That would make it harder for China to consider a conventional first strike against U.S. ships and bases in the region. It could also force Beijing into a costly arms race, forcing China to spend more on missile defenses.

“It will change the picture fundamentally,” Blumenthal said.

Even as Trump has blamed Russian violations of the treaty for his decision, he has also pointed a finger at China. Beijing was not party to the INF treaty and has been fielding new and more deadly missile forces.

These include China’s DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), which has a maximum range of 4,000 km (2,500 miles) and which the Pentagon says can threaten U.S. land and sea-based forces as far away as the Pacific island of Guam. It was first fielded in 2016.

“If Russia is doing it (developing these missiles) and China is doing it and we’re adhering to the agreement, that’s unacceptable,” Trump said on Sunday.

John Bolton, White House national security advisor, noted that recent Chinese statements suggest it wanted Washington to stay in the treaty.

“And that’s perfectly understandable. If I were Chinese, I would say the same thing,” he told the Echo Moskvy radio station. “Why not have the Americans bound, and the Chinese not bound?”

GROWING THREAT

U.S. officials have so far relied on other capabilities as a counter-balance to China, like missiles fired from U.S. ships or aircraft. But advocates for a U.S. land-based missile response say that is the best way to deter Chinese use of its muscular land-based missile forces.

Kelly Magsamen, who helped craft the Pentagon’s Asian policy under the Obama administration, said China’s ability to work outside of the INF treaty had vexed policymakers in Washington, long before Trump came into office.

But she cautioned that any new U.S. policy guiding missile deployments in Asia would need to be carefully coordinated with allies, something that does not appear to have happened yet.

Mismanagement of expectations surrounding a U.S. treaty pullout could also unsettle security in the Asia-Pacific, she cautioned.

“It’s potentially destabilizing,” she said.

Experts warn that China would put pressure on countries in the region to refuse U.S. requests to position missiles there.

Abraham Denmark, a former senior Pentagon official under Obama, said Guam, Japan and even Australia were possible locations for U.S. missile deployments.

“But there are a lot of alliance questions that appear at first glance to be very tricky,” he cautioned.

Still, current and former U.S. officials say Washington is right to focus on China’s missile threat. Harry Harris, who led U.S. military forces in the Pacific before becoming U.S. ambassador to Seoul, said earlier this year that the United States was at a disadvantage.

“We have no ground-based (missile) capability that can threaten China because of, among other things, our rigid adherence … to the treaty,” Harris told a Senate hearing in March, without calling for the treaty to be scrapped.

Asked about Trump’s comments, China’s foreign ministry said a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would have a negative impact and urged the United States to “think thrice before acting.”

“Talking about China on the issue of unilaterally pulling out of the treaty is completely mistaken,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; additional reporting by Idrees Ali, David Brunnstrom and Eric Beech; Editing by James Dalgleish

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday there were strong signs Jamal Khashoggi’s “savage” killing was planned and attempts to blame it on intelligence operatives – Riyadh has suggested it was a rogue operation — “will not satisfy us”.

In a speech to parliament, Erdogan did not mention Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who some U.S. lawmakers suspect ordered the killing. But he said Turkey would not complete its investigation into Khashoggi’s death until all questions were answered.

“Intelligence and security institutions have evidence showing the murder was planned…. Pinning such a case on some security and intelligence members will not satisfy us or the international community,” he said.

Erdogan said the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body were still unknown and he demanded Saudi Arabia reveal the identity of a “local cooperator” who purportedly took the body.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, disappeared three weeks ago after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by Saudi agents.

Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the killing of the 59-year-old. Erdogan made no reference to any audio recording in his speech.

Riyadh initially denied knowledge of his fate before saying he was killed in a fight in the consulate. That version of events was greeted skeptically by several Western governments, straining relations with the world’s biggest oil exporter.

Erdogan said three operatives arrived in Istanbul the day before his killing on an apparent reconnaissance mission.

The next day 15 people came to the consulate.

“Why did these 15 people meet in Istanbul on the day of the murder? We are seeking answers to this. Who are these people receiving orders from?” Erdogan said.

Following the global outrage prompted by the journalist’s disappearance, U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments have varied from playing down Riyadh’s role to warning of possible economic sanctions.

Trump has also repeatedly highlighted the kingdom’s importance as a U.S. ally and said Prince Mohammed was a strong and passionate leader.

For Saudi Arabia’s allies, the question will be whether they believe that Prince Mohammed, who has painted himself as a reformer, has any culpability. King Salman, 82, has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to the 33-year-old prince.

 

    This image provided by NOAA on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, shows Hurricane Willa in the eastern Pacific, on a path to smash into Mexico's western coast. (NOAA via AP)

    (Mexico) -Thousands of people were evacuated, buildings boarded up and classes canceled on Mexico’s Pacific coast as Hurricane Willa threatened to batter tourist resorts with high winds and heavy rains on Tuesday.

    Residents on Monday night sealed off windows and doors with large wooden planks on hotels facing the historic downtown boardwalk of Mazatlan, a popular coastal city in the state of Sinaloa, as tourists strolled nearby and palm trees swayed in a light breeze.

    Forecast to be one of the most powerful hurricanes to enter Mexico from the Pacific in recent years, Willa is expected to strike a few miles south of Mazatlan as soon as Tuesday afternoon.

    At a gas station on the city’s outskirts, a steady line of cars queued up to refuel and shop at the neighboring convenience store.

    Station attendant Zulema Pardo said residents had been streaming through for hours to stock up on basic items, buying enormous jugs of water and gasoline, and leaving the bread shelf completely empty.

    “People are really scared,” she said. “People are crazy and worked up.”

    Late on Monday the storm was advancing about 80 miles (130 km) west of Las Islas Marias islands opposite Nayarit, the state south of Sinaloa, according to the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC).

    Several other tourist getaways in Nayarit, as well as the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta in Jalisco state, also lie near the path of the storm, which is forecast to bring a “life-threatening storm surge, wind and rainfall,” the NHC said.

    Willa, which was a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, was blowing maximum sustained winds of near 140 miles per hour (225 kph) on Monday night with higher gusts, the NHC said.

    Headed northward, Willa is forecast to weaken after hitting the coast, the hurricane center said.

    Antonio Echevarria, governor of Nayarit, said more than 10,000 people were being evacuated and schools would be closed. He warned locals not to defy the storm.

    “Let’s not play the macho. Let’s not act like superheroes,” he said. “It’s a very strong hurricane, very potent, and we don’t want any tragedies.”

    Sinaloa also canceled classes in much of the state.

    Up to 18 inches (45 cm) of rainfall could pummel the storm zone, the NHC said. Even buildings up to 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the coastline could lose power and suffer physical damage, Mexico’s National Meteorological Service (SMN) said.

    Despite the looming threat, some tourists appeared unfazed.

    “It doesn’t ruin the pleasure of being here,” said vacationer Angel Avelar, popping open a beer while dangling his feet off the boardwalk.

    “Maybe things will be different tomorrow.”

     

    STAY CONNECTED

    WP Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com