Those are the conclusions of a report by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), which says that although war between the great powers is not inevitable, Washington, Moscow and Beijing are now preparing for the possibility.
The IISS’s annual Military Balance 2018 report sets out at length how China’s leadership has stepped up its military programme in recent years, with huge spending on new technology that could give it an advantage on land, sea and air.
The opening of China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti will enable it to carry out missions over vast distances, and has been viewed as a major statement of intent.
While the pace of militarisation is slower in Russia, partly due to a shortage of funding and industrial capacity, the country is “benefiting from experience of real life combat in Syria and Ukraine and has shown extensive capabilities in the field of hybrid warfare including cyber attacks”, says The Independent.
The Foreign Office said last night that the Russian military was reponsible for the NotPetya cyber attack on Ukraine last year.
In a bid to combat the growing threat posed by Russia and China, reports CNN, the US Pentagon is asking for a boost in military spending for 2019, requesting Congress approve a budget of $686bn – one of the largest in US history.
The budget proposal also included cuts to international diplomacy and overseas aid.
Touting the plans earlier this week, Donald Trump said the additional spending would make the US military the strongest it has ever been, with “increasing arsenals of virtually every weapon”.
But Dr John Chipman, the chief executive of the IISS, said the US could still find itself outgunned.
“Some governments in the West will look to ‘leap-ahead’ technologies to augment and even deliver military power,” he said, “but these are no guarantee of success.” (The Week)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemingly put his country on a war footing by telling businesses that they should be ready to switch production to military needs at any time.
Putin’s words come just the day after he said his nation should aim to overtake the West in terms of military technology.
Putin was speaking at a conference of military leaders in Sochi on Wednesday (22 November) at a time when western leaders have become more suspicious of a militarily resurgent Russia.
“The ability of our economy to increase military production and services at a given time is one of the most important aspects of military security,” Putin said according to The Independent.
“To this end, all strategic, and simply large-scale enterprise should be ready, regardless of ownership.”
Although Russian military spending remains at record levels, 3 trillion roubles, or 3.3 per cent of GDP this year, just under its spending last year, Putin said that Russia needs to aim to be better than the rest of the world.
“Our army and navy need to have the very best equipment — better than foreign equivalents,” he said, according to AFP. “If we want to win, we have to be better.”
Russia’s military has been modernised since the 2008 Georgian war and it has dumped outdated Soviet equipment used by its troops.
Over the next two years, the Kremlin will spend 2.8 per cent of GDP on defence, although this is still comparatively dwarfed by the Nato budget, which is more than three times larger, The Independent reported.
Part of Russia’s new arsenal is the Iskander-M, a new short-range ballistic missile that is nuclear capable and can reach hypersonic speeds.
Capable of striking Baltic countries and Poland, a report in Popular Mechanics noted that the Iskander-M has been designed to attack land targets with a reported 635kg warhead.
Russia has been criticised in recent years for its annexation of Ukraine and repeated military exercises and army build-up on Nato’s western border near the former Soviet states.
The nation was accused of violating the airspace of European countries, including the UK, and engaged in cyber espionage, hacking the governments of Denmark and Germany by British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday.
Although Russia has denied conducting any cyberattacks, May said: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing and you will not succeed.
“Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of western nations to the alliances that bind us.” (International Business Times)
“It’s time to act with urgency and great determination,” he said.
While the US was trying to talk Kim Jong-un down from his nuclear ambitions using “all available tools short of military action”, Mr Trump said that “the US stands prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of our unmatched military capabilities, if need be”.
He made similar comments earlier in his tour of the Asia-Pacific region, when he told troops at Yokota air base near Tokyo: “Together with our allies, America’s warriors are prepared to defend our nation using the full range of our unmatched capabilities.”
Mr Moon said he and Mr Trump had finalised an earlier agreement to allow South Korea to possess more powerful missiles in the face of growing North Korean threats.
He said the two had agreed to lift the warhead payload limits on South Korean ballistic missiles and that the allies are also cooperating on strengthening South Korea’s defence capabilities through the acquisition or development of advanced weapons systems. (The Independent)
The US Air Force is preparing to put nuclear bombers back on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the Cold War.
B-52 planes loaded with nuclear weapons would be positioned to take off at any moment, with crews on standby at a base in Louisiana.
The move comes amid rising tensions between the US and North Korea, with President Donald Trump saying that Washington is “prepared for anything” when it comes to Kim Jong-un’s regime.
There are fears that a new war could break out as the hermit state tries to develop a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.
Gen David Goldfein, the US Air Force chief of staff, told Defense One that his branch was preparing to put the B-52 bombers back on 24-hour ready alert for the first time since the Cold War ended in 1991.
He downplayed any suggestion that it was due to any particular conflict, such as tensions with North Korea.
The general said: “This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared.
“I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”
Former US presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, on Wednesday, said “cavalier” threats to start war on the Korean peninsula were “dangerous and short-sighted”.
Clinton, however, urged the US to get all parties to the negotiation table.
Clinton also called on China to take a “more out-front role” in enforcing sanctions against North Korea aimed at curbing its missile and nuclear development.
“There is no need for us to be bellicose and aggressive over North Korea,” Clinton told the World Knowledge Forum in Seoul, stressing the need for more pressure on North Korea and diplomacy to bring Pyongyang to talks.
Tension between Pyongyang and Washington has soared following series of weapons tests by North Korea and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“Picking fights with Kim Jong Un puts a smile on his face,” Clinton said, without mentioning Trump by name.
Clinton also indirectly referred to Trump’s social media comments on North Korea, saying, “the insults on Twitter have benefited North Korea, I don’t think they’ve benefited the United States”.
The war of words has seen Trump call the North Korean leader “little rocket man” on a suicide mission, and vow to destroy the country if it threatens the US or its allies.
In turn, the North called Trump “mentally deranged” and a “mad dog”.
Talks between the adversaries have long been urged by China in particular, but Washington and its ally, Japan have been reluctant while Pyongyang continues to pursue a goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile to hit the U.S.
On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of State, John J. Sullivan, said the U.S. did not rule out the eventual possibility of direct talks with North Korea.
The situation on the Korean peninsula was now touch-and-go point and a nuclear war may break out any moment”, North Korea’s Deputy UN Amb. Kim In Ryong had told a UN General Assembly committee, on Monday.
In Seoul, the vice foreign minister said South Korea was considering levying its own sanctions on the North, although no decision had yet been made. (NAN)
Britain is reportedly preparing for the possibility of war breaking out with North Korea as concerns rise that another provocative missile test could trigger a military response by the US.
North Korea is being closely watched amid fears it could launch another long-range missile test on Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the founding of its ruling party.
Bellicose rhetoric from Donald Trump has heightened tensions in the region in recent months, prompting British officials to draw up military plans for a response to a break out of hostilities, it was reported.
Among the plans disclosed by the Daily Mail is the deployment of the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, before it has undergone flight trials.
“We have plenty of ships to send… the Type-45 destroyers, the Type-23 frigates. Britain’s new aircraft carrier could be pressed into service early if things turn south,” a senior Whitehall source told the newspaper
HMS Queen Elizabeth, which arrived at its home in Portsmouth in August after extensive sea trials, is not due to enter service until 2020.
The possible move to deploy it ahead of schedule drew comparisons with the start of the Falklands War.
“In the Falklands, we had to react to an event and HMS Illustrious was accelerated to respond,” a Navy source told the Mail.
“This was a reaction to protect British territory, however. In this case [North Korea], the UK would be part of a united global coalition. We would see what support we could give.”
The US president hinted on Saturday at taking military action against Kim Jong-un’s regime, saying “only one thing will work” in dealing with the country.
Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……
The president has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies from Pyongyang’s nuclear threats.
Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, said last week that the UK should increase its military spending in the face of growing threats from states such as North Korea.
Last month, Sir Michael told the BBC that Britain was at risk from Pyongyang’’s long-range nuclear missile programme.
“The US is fully entitled to defend its own territory, to defend its bases and to look after its people, but this involves us, London is closer to North Korea and its missiles than Los Angeles,” he said. (Telegraph)
And after more than a decade flying unchallenged over Afghanistan and Iraq, most American pilots won’t have much experience evading a North Korean anti-aircraft missile, increasing the likelihood they’d get shot down.
Their unguided gravity bombs would be notoriously inaccurate, increasing the probability they’d miss their targets and cause collateral damage. Meanwhile, it could take as long as a year before stocks of smart bombs and missiles could be replenished, prolonging the fighting.
In such a scenario, North Korea could be expected to unleash artillery and missile barrages against Seoul, South Korea’s capital. The city and its suburbs have a population of 25 million.
Seoul lies only 35 miles south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, according to retired Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L. Davis, a military analyst with Defense Priorities, a think tank in the Washington, D.C., area that focuses on national security issues. According to some estimates, the death toll from such a war could reach 1 million, assuming neither side escalates the conflict and uses nuclear weapons.
Pentagon planners must wrestle with this scenario as President Donald Trump continues to trade threats and personal insults with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Many U.S. officials fear this sparring could lead to an otherwise avoidable war. On Sunday, Trump appeared to undercut Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s latest effort to reach out directly to North Korea to defuse the situation, tweeting that Tillerson was “wasting his time” negotiating with North Korea and again mocking Kim, calling him “Little Rocket Man.”
During a visit to Beijing on Saturday, Tillerson disclosed that the Trump administration was in direct contact with North Korea. “We can talk to them,” he told reporters. “We do talk to them.” Asked if China, a close ally of North Korea, was acting as the intermediary for these communications, Tillerson said, “We have our own channels.”
Later, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert issued a statement saying, “North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or ready for talks regarding denuclearization.”
In September, after the North tested what it said was a hydrogen bomb and missiles that could reach the U.S., Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, calling Kim “Little Rocket Man” for the first time.
Pyongyang responded by calling Trump a “mentally deranged dotard,” an outdated term for a senile old fool, and threatened to test another hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean, which would spread radioactivity into the air. The North also said it had the right to shoot down U.S. warplanes in international airspace.
This is not the first time the U.S. has come to the brink of war with North Korea. In 1994, on the orders of President Bill Clinton, the U.S. military drew up plans to send cruise missiles and stealth bombers to take out a small nuclear reactor at Yongbyon to prevent North Korea from recovering spent fuel and enriching it to weapons-grade uranium.
Although the Pentagon was convinced such an attack could destroy the Yongbyon reactor with little risk of spreading radiation, Clinton ultimately rejected the military option, believing an attack would spark an all-out war. Instead, he opted to seek tougher United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.
Today, with Trump kneecapping Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts, the threat of war seems more urgent. In September, Defense Secretary James Mattis urged Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and ballistic missile testing. He also warned the U.S. would destroy North Korea if it launched a nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies. “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea, but as I said, we have many options to do so,” Mattis said.
Presumably, he was referring to the various way the U.S. could respond with its own nuclear weapons. But the Pentagon also has military options that fall short of such apocalyptic scenarios. In the event of a conventional North Korean missile attack on America’s regional allies, the Pentagon is considering using missile defence batteries in South Korea, Japan and aboard U.S. Navy ships, although experts have questioned their effectiveness against North Korea’s high-flying missiles.
U.S. intelligence agencies are also exploring ways to use cyberweapons to sabotage Pyongyang’s nuclear program, much as the U.S. and Israel reportedly used the Stuxnet virus to set back the Iranian one in 2010.
If U.S. intelligence detects preparations for an atmospheric nuclear test, another option would be an airstrike against the country’s missile-launching sites. Such an attack would involve the use precision-guided munitions—the laser-, radar-, thermal- and GPS-guided smart bombs and missiles that have become the weapons of choice for the U.S. military because of their accuracy.
But the Pentagon is struggling with a shortage of these weapons partly because of the accelerated pace of their use in the air campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. U.S. officials won’t comment on the record about how the munitions shortage would affect the Air Force’s ability to carry out any air war against North Korea. But others, speaking anonymously to discuss such sensitive issues, say if such a conflict erupted, the impact of the shortage soon would become evident. “We would likely very quickly exhaust stockpiles of all different kinds of precision-guided munitions and slip back into the use of dumb gravity bombs,” a congressional expert on munitions says.
Asked if Pacific commanders would run through their smart bomb and missile stocks in less than a week, this expert adds: “It wouldn’t surprise me at all, because, first, we shifted a lot of our PGM [precision-guided munition] stocks to places where we’re actively dropping them right now, and second, there’s just not that many. And all of a sudden, you’re going to find yourself without that stuff.” Several other analysts agree with this assessment.
Not everyone, however, thinks a smart bomb shortage is imminent. A recently retired senior Air Force officer, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to address the smart bomb shortage, questions whether Pacific commanders would run out of the munitions in only a week. “I don’t know whether that’s true or not,” the retired officer says. “We have the capability to move weapons from where they are to where we need them.”
But in recent public appearances, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has been speaking out with growing urgency about the shortage of smart bombs and missiles. In Iraq and Syria, U.S. warplanes are now running through 100 to 200 of these munitions every day, Wilson told a Washington defence conference on September 27. “But we are not replacing those weapons at the same rate,” she said.
To maintain the pace of the strikes, the Pentagon has been forced to draw smart bombs and missiles from other regional commands around the globe, leaving their stockpiles depleted. Since the air campaign against ISIS began in August 2014, U.S. warplanes have used more than 54,000 smart bombs and missiles. “When it comes to [smart] munitions,” said Wilson, a former Air Force officer who has served in Congress, “we are stretched.”
The military has seen this problem coming for a while. In its 2018 budget request, the Pentagon proposed doubling production of Lockheed Martin’s Hellfire missile, from about 1,500 in 2017 to 3,600 in 2018, and boosting production of the Boeing and Raytheon versions of the Small Diameter Bomb, from 4,500 in 2017 to more than 7,300 in 2018. The 250-pound bombs, which use variations of the laser, radar, GPS and infrared systems to guide them to their targets, are commonly used against ISIS.
The main reason for the smart bomb shortage, Wilson said, is the dysfunction of Congress. Over the past few years, lawmakers have been paralyzed by partisan bickering and unable to pass a budget. Instead, Congress has signed off on a series of temporary spending measures that have frozen government funding at lower levels. The latest was a continuing resolution Trump signed on September 8 that funds the Pentagon for the first three months of fiscal 2018, which started on October 1, at 2017 levels.
What defence firms need, Wilson argued, is a budget certainty to make the investments needed to boost production. Still, assuming a budget is in place, a 2016 Pentagon report says defence industries would need at least a year to ramp up munitions production to alleviate the shortage.
If Trump’s latest tweets are any indication, however, he appears ready to escalate the confrontation with North Korea. Even if his top commanders and diplomats would prefer more time—and prudence. (Source: Newsweek)
Tensions between the United States and North Korea are now so high that war is “a real possibility” that Britain must prepare for, a respected defence think tank has warned.
Such a conflict would result in “hundreds of thousands” of casualties, severely disrupt the global economy, and have profound implications for the political and diplomatic landscape of East Asia, the report for the Royal United Services Institute said.
US bombers accompanied by fighter jets flew off the east coast of North Korea on September 23, in a show of force
“This report is not saying that war is likely. But the probability of war is an uncomfortably real prospect,” said Professor Malcolm Chalmers, who authored the report.
Tensions between North Korea and the US have escalated over the past year as Pyongyang pursues a nuclear weapons programme that it says is intended to achieve a “balance of power” with the US and deter an American-led regime change operation of the kind that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
A series of missile and nuclear tests this year have left US officials concerned that Pyongyang is closer than previously thought to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting America.
Donald Trump, the US president, has threatened to use military force to halt Kim Jong-un’s weapons programme.
Other senior US officials have made clear that Washington would not accept a North Korean nuclear deterrent similar to that possessed by Russia or China and that all options, including military force, would be considered to prevent it.
On Thursday, China ordered all North Korean businesses and ventures operating on its territory to close within 120 days, after the United Nations imposed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang.
China is North Korea’s main trading partner and North Korean firms operating there provide the country with a crucial source of foreign currency.
Adam Smith, a former staffer on Barack Obama’s National Security Council, warned Thursday that the US had “reached the end of its diplomatic tether” and that this round of sanctions may be the last.
“We can only hope, then, that the economic ramifications for North Korea of these sanctions will be sufficient enough to help avoid an otherwise globally destabilising conflict,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
Professor Chalmers said he believed a “deterrent relationship” between the US and North Korea remained the most likely outcome of the crisis, despite the rhetoric.
But he warned war could erupt as the result of a limited preemptive US attack aimed at disrupting Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, or a North Korean attack on South Korea, Japan, or the US.
Either scenario would likely escalate to a full-scale war culminating in a US invasion of North Korea, accompanied by a massive cyber and air campaign to destroy and disrupt communications and command and control, the report says.
What analysts believe may be a North Korean Hwasong 12 missile was seen during a military parade in Pyongyang in April
North Korea would likely launch a barrage of artillery and tactical missiles in the direction of Seoul, the South Korean capital, resulting in high civilian casualties.
Technologically superior US and South Korean forces would probably defeat North Korea’s “million men” army in pitched battle, and North’s generals would likely resort to partisan-style “asymmetric” tactics and possibly use nuclear weapons to counter that imbalance of power, the report says.
Professor Chalmers called on the British government to urge the US against considering a preventive first strike against North Korea and to consult with regional allies, including South Korea, Japan, and Australia, about how best to handle the crisis.
The warning came as North Korea escalated a war of words with the US by calling Donald Trump an “old lunatic.” In a statement, North Korea’s foreign ministry accused Mr Trump of “slander” and exploiting the memory of the dead after he said an American student who died after being held in North Korea for over a year had been tortured.
Otto Warmbier, who was arrested and imprisoned for stealing a propaganda poster while visiting the North as a tourist in January 2016, died in June this year days after he was released from custody and sent home in a mysterious coma.
Warmbier’s parents said in a television interview on Wednesday that their son was returned to the US blind, deaf, and that it looked like “someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth”.
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier died after more than a year in North Korean custody
Mr Trump tweeted afterwards: “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
North Korea has denied torturing Mr Warmbier and said it provided him with medical care.
“The fact that the old lunatic Trump and his riff-raff slandered the sacred dignity of our supreme leadership, using bogus data full of falsehood and fabrications, only serves to redouble the surging hatred of our army and people towards the U.S.,” the ministry said in a statement issued by the KCNA news agency yesterday.
An Ohio coroner on Wednesday said her office was unable to determine what caused the brain damage that led to Warmbier’s death, other than it stemmed from oxygen deprivation more than a year before his death.
“Could that have been torture at the time? We don’t know,” Dr Lakshmi Sammarco said.
Donald Trump says that the US is ready with a “military option” to end the escalating crisis with North Korea that would be devastating for Pyongyang.
“We are totally prepared for the second option, not a preferred option,” Mr Trump said at a White House news conference alongside Spain’s prime minister. “But if we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea. That’s called the military option. If we have to take it, we will.”
The President proceeded to say that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho – who said over the weekend that it was “inevitable” that North Korean rockets would hit the US mainland – was acting “very badly, saying things that should never be said.” (The Independent)