Tag: Military

Canadian Forces Ends Mission in Poland

The Canadian Forces wrapped up a three year-long deployment in Poland under Operation REASSURANCE. The Land Task Force (LTF) ended its mission with a parade in Drawsko Pomorskie, Poland.

OPeration REASSURANCE in Poland. 2014-2017

From May 2014 to August 2017, Canada deployed more than 1,000 soldiers from CFB Edmonton, CFB Petawawa, and CFB Valcartier. Throughout the three-year mission, the Canadian soldiers participated in more than 35 exercises in eight different countries:

  1. Bulgaria
  2. Estonia
  3. Germany
  4. Hungary
  5. Latvia
  6. Lithuania
  7. Poland
  8. Romania

According to the National Defence website: “various rotations of troops have served on Canada’s LTF in Poland since May 2014, and have participated in military exercises throughout the region to improve interoperability with Allies and demonstrate NATO’s resolve to protect Alliance territories and partners. Op REASSURANCE refers to the military activities undertaken by the CAF since 2014 to support NATO assurance and deterrence measures in Eastern and Central Europe with the aim of reassuring nations in the region of NATO’s commitment to support their stability and security.”

With the end of the Canadian deployment in Poland, Canada is now leading the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup (eFP BG) in Latvia. More than 1,000 soldiers from seven NATO countries are directly working with the Latvian Land Forces Infantry Brigade. The Canadian Forces is contributing more than 450 troops to the eFP BG, including headquarters staff, an infantry company with Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV), military police, and logistical and communications support.

Canadian Armed Forces and Italian soldiers cover their arcs of fire during a relief-in-place exercise at the training grouds of Camp Adazi, Latvia, as part of the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup’s training during Operation REASSURANCE on August 2, 2017. Image by MCpl Gerald Cormier.

The Canadian-led eFP BG in Latvia consists of soldiers from the following countries:

  1. Albania
  2. Canada
  3. Italy
  4. Poland
  5. Slovenia
  6. Spain

“Today’s ceremony marks the implementation of one of Canada’s key NATO commitments. Leading NATO efforts to deter and defeat potential aggression is a core mission in Canada’s new Defence Policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged. As the leader of an enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup, Canada is committed to ensuring a peaceful and stable Europe. We stand united with our NATO Allies and the people of Latvia,” said Harjit S. Sajjan, Defence Minister.

According to the National Defence, the eFP BG’s mission is to counter Russia’s decision to use military force against its neighbour, and its military buildup in the region. Its mission is to prevent conflict and preserve regional stability.

Russian soldiers conducting training in eastern Russia

That said, Canada’s decision to support its NATO allies is justified. As an alliance members, especially as a founding country, Canada had to show its commitment to its allies. However, justifying such a deployment due to Russian military buildup in the region is clearly unjustified.

Russia has the right to move troops and deploy them as they please in their country. As far as I know, Russia has not been actively readying its troops for a possible invasion of the Baltic States. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be madness to do so more than two years ago.

I do not believe Russia has the intention to do so. Yet, when Crimea voted to rejoin Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted, Canada openly supported Ukraine and started training Ukrainian soldiers. While Canadian Foreign Minister, Christina Freeland has been supporting the Ukrainian government through diplomatic measures, its government has been sending non-lethal equipment to Ukraine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ottawa ink a deal on lethal weaponry in the next few years. Light Armoured Vehicles would be one of the main pieces of equipment in the deal if you ask me, especially since Saudi Arabia has been using them against its own people and that Canada could very well cancel the deal over it.

Canada could very well follow in the United States footsteps and supply lethal weaponry to Ukraine.

The main concern here is that Ukraine is not part of NATO, and I believe that NATO’s move in the Baltic States is solely based on the events in Ukraine. By doing so, NATO is putting themselves in a situation where it’s using their resources to support a non-NATO country under the pretext of a possible Russian invasion of the Baltic States.

The events in Ukraine gave NATO a perfect justification to move more troops to Russia’s border and influence the regional situation — an eastward march.

Canada, in this particular scenario, has been openly talking tough to Russia and has been committed its largest number of troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War. By training Ukrainian soldiers and stationing troops in Latvia, Canada is sending a message to Russia that it will stand with its allies. However, Canada’s decision to train Ukrainian troops is only fuelling the tension in the region as Ukraine is quickly becoming a new proxy war between NATO and Russia.

A Joint Task Force – Ukraine instructor provides guidance and safety support to a Ukrainian soldier during section attack practice, part of small team training, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, Ukraine, on March 3, 2017. Photo : Joint Task Force – Ukraine

Unfortunately, all possible outcomes through diplomatic solutions have been failing and will most likely never succeed due to the ongoing proxy war in Ukraine.

With Canada leading an eFP BG in Latvia, it is taking a key leadership role in NATO’s mission to deter Russia in the region. Meanwhile, Canada has cut its diplomatic talks with Russia and keeps its interaction with the Russian Embassy in Ottawa to a bare minimum.

Honestly, I believe NATO actions in eastern Europe justify a massive military hardware modernization program and reviving the Cold War-era fear of Russian invasion of neighbour countries is a perfect justification to do so.

Canada should lead in diplomatic talks, not with troops on the ground.

 

CONFLICT OBSERVER

 

Russia readies troops for Zapad war games with Belarus

Russia and Belarus are set to stage the Zapad 2017 war games, and the operation’s size is causing concern among Western observers. Moscow’s heavy troop presence has some worrying whether Minsk’s sovereignty is at risk.

Russian troops have been gathering in Belarus since Monday. The Zapad 2017 (West 2017) war games are slated to begin in September, with roughly 12,700 Russian soldiers officially participating, according to Moscow. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg thanked Russian officials for providing them with troop information, but said the games will nonetheless be closely monitored.

Read more: What are Russia’s Zapad war games?

War games exceeding 13,000 troops require the presence of external observers, as stipulated by the Vienna Document, a security agreement among the participating states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which includes Russia. Western observers fear Russia will break the agreed limit on troop participation. Opposition voices in Belarus, a Russian ally, worry that Russian troops will remain in the country following the exercises to de facto occupy the country.

Regional concern grows

Russia’s military build up to its West is worrying Belarus’ neighbors – Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states – which were all under Moscow’s control during the Soviet era. Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis said there are 100,000 Russian troops that President Vladimir Putin wants to use to “put NATO to the test.”

The Zapad military exercises were previously held in 2013 and 2009

That number may refer to Russia’s total troop presence in the larger region for the exercises, Margarete Klein of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) told DW. The military exercises are taking place both in Russia and Belarus, she said, however a lot of speculation surrounds the operation.

“We just have to wait to see what happens,” Klein said. “It’s difficult to talk in advance about what the numbers may mean.”

Doubting the numbers

Russian military expert Alexander Golz pointed out that the Zapad war games extend beyond Belarus, as the Belarusian military announced they are to stretch from Russia’s Kola Peninsula near Finland to the western exclave of Kaliningrad in the Baltic region. Thus troops are being amassed not just in Belarus, but in Russia as well, he said, adding that Moscow has a history of playing fast and loose with troop numbers.

“Russia had a curious interpretation of the Vienna Document during the conflict in the Donbass,” Golz told DW, explaining that Moscow’s troop deployment to the country’s border with eastern Ukraine was said to be part of a military exercise so that the Kremlin could claim its soldiers’ presence did not exceed the Vienna Document’s limit.

Lukashenko, Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu coordinated for Zapad 2013

Everything above board?

Russia’s Defense Ministry has ordered about 4,000 rail cars, according to media reports, for troop transports to Belarus – more than previous exercises, including 1,000 more than for Zapad 2013, Alexander Alessin, a Belarusian military expert, told DW. Zapad 2017 would remain within the permissible limits, he said, calculating for up to 30 tons of equipment per soldier.

Prospects for Belarusian sovereignty

A post-operation occupation of Belarus is unlikely, Alessin said, because “occupying [Russia’s] only ally would undermine faith in the Kremlin, including with its potential partners.” It would also undermine Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s credibility – at home and abroad, which is in neither side’s interest. Alessin cited Belarus’ denial of Russia’s 2013 request to maintain airbases there.

Lukashenko is unlikely to allow Russian troops to remain in the country following the September maneuvers, Alexander Golz said. For 20 years, Lukashenko has been receiving money from Russia, he said, and therefore has always underscored Belarus’ strategic importance to Russia as an outpost. “As far as Russian military bases in Belarus go,” Golz added, “Lukashenko turned 180 degrees. Interestingly, Putin had to swallow that.”

 

 

 

Sweden to Boost Defense Spending

Swedish army Srtidsvagn 122

The government and two parties in the center-right opposition have agreed to increase the defence spending with SEK 8,1 billion until 2020.

In 2015, five parties reached an agreement over defence and defence spending until 2020. But in the beginning of this year, those parties reopened talks to increase that budget, as a result of what was referred to as “the worsening security situation”.

The talks were supposed to have been finalized before the summer, but have been dragging on. After the parties met in the beginning of this week, the Christian Democrats announced that they were not happy with where the negotiations were going, and so would leave the talks.

Now, the government, made up of the Social Democrats and the Green Party, has reached an agreement with the biggest opposition party in parliament, the conservative Moderate Party, and the Centre Party to increase the defence spending by SEK 2,7 billion per year between 2018 and 2020.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Bydén told the government that another SEK 9 billion would be needed until 2020, in order to fulfill the task set by the defence agreement from 2015.

At a press conference on Wendesday, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist thanked the Moderates, the Greens and the Centre Party for good co-operation during the negotiations.

“Continuity in Swedish defence and security policy is crucial,” said Hultqvist at the press conference.
The defence spokesperson of the Moderate Party, Hans Wallmark (M), said that this agreement is in line with what the Supreme Commander had demanded earlier this year. Wallmark said that it was thanks to his party that the increased spending was as high as it was.

“The alternative would have been zero or significantly lower sums,” Wallmark said.

In a comment on twitter on Wednesday, the leader of the Liberal Party, Jan Björklund, said: “The defence decision of 2015 was a) under-financed b) insufficient. Now the decision is fully financed, but Sweden’s defence is still insufficient.”

The Liberal Party left the talks already in 2015, in protest against the direction the talks were taking.

 

 

 

Estonia yet to receive an invitation from Russia to observe Zapad

Russian Embassy, Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia has not received an invitation from Russia to observe Zapad, a large-scale joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise to take place in September. Russian authorities, however, will present the exercises to military attaches accredited to other countries’ diplomatic missions in Moscow at a separate event.

“Military attaches accredited to Moscow have been invited to attend an event at Luga Training Camp on Sept. 18-19, in the course of which Russia will present the Zapad joint military exercise,” Ministry of Defence spokesperson Susan Lilleväli told BNS on Wednesday. “The Estonian defense attaches are ready to take part in the event.”

The joint Russian-Belarusian military exercise will be held in the territory of both countries from Sept. 14-20. The exercise has sparked concern in other countries as, in similar exercises in 2009 and 2013, Russia, among other things, allegedly rehearsed an attack on its neighbors.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in mid-July that, “based on previous experiences related to previous exercises, we have every reason to believe that substantially more troops are participating than the official reported numbers.” He encouraged Russia to allow NATO observers to monitor the maneuvers.

Minister of Defence Jüri Luik has expressed the same concern, telling weekly Maaleht in July that Russia should declare the exercise on the basis of the Vienna Document, according to which any exercise involving more than 9,000 participants should be declared. Russia has stated that 13,000 troops will be participating in the September exercise.

Belarus has sent invitations to Estonia and other countries, which Estonia has already chosen to accept, to observe the exercise on its territory. It has not offered any details, however.

 

1,000 Baltic Sea Fleet marines take part in wargame in Russia’s northwest

The 336th Guards Marines Brigade of the Baltic Fleet

About 1,000 marines of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet take part in a wargame that simulates action to protect the seacoast, fleet spokesman Roman Martov told TASS on Wednesday.

He said the active phase of the tactical exercise involving Baltic Sea Fleet’s marines is underway at the firing ground Khmelevka in Russia’s north-western enclave Kaliningrad region. “About 1,000 military, 150 pieces of weapons and military hardware take part,” Martov said.

Acting on alert, marines marched from the site of their permanent stationing to the area of the military drill. On the march, they trained tasks of battle defense, passage through contaminated terrain, action to counter subversive and reconnaissance groups. Air defense units acted to rebuff airstrikes of an imaginary enemy.

 

 

 

 

At least 20 ships take part in Baltic Fleet military drills

Vitaliy Nevar/TASS

About 20 combat and supply ships and one thousand officers and men are participating in the ongoing military exercise of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, the fleet’s spokesman Roman Martov told TASS.

“About 20 combat ships, boats and logistics ships and 50 pieces of military and special equipment, as well as one thousand men are involved in command staff training of the Baltic Fleet,” he said.

Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Nosatov is in charge of the exercises. The main task is to enhance officers’ skills and competence and cooperation by command centers, as well as to practice coordination with other units.

The exercise is being held in accordance with the Baltic Fleet’s combat training schedule for 2017.

 

 

UK’s new £3bn warship HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in Portsmouth [VIDEOS]

HMS Queen Elizabeth is being described as “a demonstration of British military power and commitment to a bigger global role”.

Britain’s biggest-ever warship has arrived at its base in Portsmouth for the first time. 

Hundreds of people lined Portsmouth Harbour to welcome HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier which cost more than £3bn to build.

The 280m (918ft) vessel set sail in June from the Rosyth dockyard where it was built, and since then has been undergoing tests at sea.

Technically, it remains a civilian rather than a military ship until it is commissioned later this year.

It is also an aircraft carrier which does not yet have fixed-wing aircraft on board. F-35B Lightning II jets are still being built and tested in the US, and the ship won’t be fully operational until 2020.

Those on board and watching from the shore were treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters, the first featuring a Sea King, two Mk2 Merlins and two Mk3 Merlins, which were then joined by two Hawk jets for the second.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.

“The thousands of people across the UK who have played a part in building her and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, should be immensely proud as our future flagship enters Portsmouth.”

The behemoth aircraft carrier sailed into the Solent before heading into Portsmouth, where, at its narrowest point, there was less than 20m (66ft) clearance on each side.

The band of the Royal Marines played as the ship slowly navigated into the harbour, which has had to be dredged to make room.

HMS Queen Elizabeth manoeuvred towards a new extended and reinforced jetty under her own power before tugs nudged her gently into position.

An 820ft (250m) exclusion zone, enforced by armed police in small boats, meant the port was effectively closed to the flotilla of boats that had turned out to greet the ship.

Lt Cdr Neil Twigg, a fast jet pilot responsible for integrating the F-35 fighter jet into the carrier group, said: “We are very ready, there is still a lot more work to be done, the aircraft is still going through its testing programme in America and the ship has still some more sea trials but we are on the right track.”

But Admiral Chris Parry, a former senior Royal Navy officer, told Sky News that HMS Queen Elizabeth offers “real military power” to deter rogue states – as well as terrorist groups such as Islamic State.

 

Cultural Diversity is Enduring in Canada’s NATO Mission

Canadian Armed Forces members from NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Latvia arrive at Riga International Airport as part of Operation Reassurance on June 10.   Photograph By MCpl True-dee McCarthy

When artillery Sgt. Jayden Cormier gets his morning coffee, the Victoria man, now on a mission in Latvia, stands in a United Nations mix of grinds and brews.

Spanish soldiers show up with a fine-ground coffee, the Italians with something dark and the Canadians with a coarse grind of Tim Hortons’ brand. And every country seems to have a different coffee-making device.

“Everyone comes out in the morning and seems to have their own little method of brewing their coffee,” said Cormier in a telephone interview from Latvia. “But everyone still seems to bond over that morning cup.”

The 28-year-old reservist from the Victoria-based 5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment is one of 450 Canadians leading a multinational battle group in Latvia. It’s a posting expected to last into 2018.

Most of the Canadians are mechanized infantry drawn from the Edmonton-based 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and are part of a mission the Department of National Defence has called Operation Reassurance.

It’s part of a NATO effort to demonstrate a resolve to stand against any Russian incursions into neighbouring Baltic nations Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and Poland. It was a demonstration agreed at a NATO summit in 2016 in response to Russian interference in Ukraine and a 2008 incursion into Georgia.

Canada leads one of four battle groups in the Baltic states and Poland. The U.K. leads in Estonia, Germany in Lithuania and the U.S. in Poland.

But Canada’s 1,200-strong battle group is the most culturally diverse, with troops from Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia and Albania. Only the German-led group comes close, and its members are all from or closely allied with the European Union: Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway.

For soldiers such as Cormier, officers and analysts, it’s Canada’s ability to accommodate various ethnic groups and languages that makes it one of the most valued and trusted in the world today.

“We are a multicultural nation, and I think that’s one of our strengths,” said Cormier. “We can bring that multiculturalism we have learned as Canadians to the table and strengthen NATO with that experience.

Christopher Kilford, a military analyst with the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy now living in Victoria, said despite any controversy about military spending, Canada remains a bulwark welcomed all over the world.

Kilford noted Saudi Arabia and South Korea spend more on their armed forces. But neither country is ever asked to lead overseas missions.

Also, besides a reputation for honour and trustworthiness, Canada’s armed forces in particular have always been an expeditionary force.

Other nations will concentrate on missions closer to home; South Korea looks to match North Korea, for example. But Canada’s forces have long expected and been prepared to undertake or support missions overseas.

So Kilford said the Canadian Armed Forces are good at what he calls “exporting security,” a feat that usually comes with more than just arms. It can require analysts, diplomats and aid workers, often non-governmental.

“There are only a handful of countries that can go around the world and make a difference,” he said. “We are able to get people out and in the door just about anywhere, and we do it with a minimum of fuss.

“So when the world needs someone to take charge of a battle group, they will come to Ottawa.”

Kilford also said Operation Reassurance is something of a return to NATO’s traditional role of watchdog on the Russians.

It’s mostly about deterrence.

That Canada leads a force made up of so many different nations adds to the deterrent value: any country that engages with the group risks offending six countries, as well as the NATO alliance.

Kilford speculated any move by Russia would be covert instead of a direct military invasion — economic embargoes, closed borders or clandestine gifts of weapons or explosives to sympathetic forces inside Latvia.

He noted even to be stationed in Latvia will require a level of cultural sensitivity from Canadians. Many Latvians speak Russian, some as their first language. And many might find the presence of NATO to be objectionable.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the Canadian defence staff, warned in February that troops should be on guard against any misinformation or propaganda. At the time of Vance’s warning, a false report had already been circulated in Lithuania contending four German soldiers had raped a teenage girl.

“There are a million ways the Russians could cause problems in Latvia without ever sending a single soldier across the border,” said Kilford.

Canadian Air Force Capt. Dan Mazurek, information officer for the battle group in Latvia, said in a phone call he is aware of the local ties to Russia.

“The other day, I got to see a movie and there was Latvian and Russian subtitles,” said Mazurek. “But I haven’t seen any animosity.”

“So far I’ve enjoyed what I can only describe as a warm welcome,” he said.

He said the battle group is training regularly and maintaining a high level of readiness.

But at the same time, in a spirit of multiculturalism, regular language classes are put on by volunteers from various national units within the battle group, even if English is NATO’s default language.

“It’s been a great feeling out here, right across the battle group,” said Mazurek.

And enlisted people such as Victoria’s Master Cpl. Kathryn Holmberg, a reservist with 39 Signal Regiment, who volunteered for Latvia, is doing what soldiers overseas always do: missing family, hers in Nanaimo.

“I’m having a good time over here,” said Holmberg, 27, in a telephone interview. “But I always miss my mom when I go away.”

 

 

2 US troops killed, more wounded in Iraq

IRBIL, Iraq — Two Americans were killed and five others wounded Sunday while conducting combat operations in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

In a statement, the U.S.-led international coalition Operation Inherent Resolve said initial reports indicated the incident was not due to contact with enemy forces. It is under investigation.
The statement did not name the slain soldiers, deferring identification to national authorities.

U.S. troops have been helping support Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group — “a truly evil enemy” in the words of Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Operation Inherent Resolve commander.

“The entire counter-ISIS coalition sends our deepest condolences to these heroes’ families, friends and teammates,” Townsend said in a statement. “There are no words to describe the respect I have for you and sorrow I have for your loss. I hope there is some small solace in knowing their loss has meaning for our country and all the nations of the coalition.”

After a nine-month battle to oust ISIS from its last urban stronghold in Mosul, Iraqi forces – closely supported by the U.S.-led coalition – are preparing to retake the ISIS-held town of Tal Afar west of the city.

The latest deaths bring to nine the number of Americans killed supporting Operation Inherent Resolve this year, including noncombat deaths. Nearly 50 Americans have been wounded in action since the anti-ISIS campaign began in August 2014, according to Pentagon data.

 

Guam, Japan prepare for possible North Korea missile launch

SANTA RITA, Guam. An aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam. Naval Base Guam supports the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Hagatña, Guam (CNN) North Korean military figures are putting the final touches on a plan to fire four missiles into the waters around the US-territory of Guam, to be presented to leader Kim Jong Un within days.

In a statement last week, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army, said the plan to fire “four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets … to signal a crucial warning to the US” would be ready by “mid-August.”

Recent days have seen a significant escalation of tensions in the region as preparations are put in place for a possible launch in Guam, Japan and South Korea.

A notice put out by Guam’s Joint Information Center Saturday warned residents how to prepare “for an imminent missile threat.”

“Do not look at the flash or fireball — it can blind you,” the note said. “Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.”

Guam’s Homeland Security Adviser George Charfauros said Friday it would take 14 minutes for a missile fired from North Korea to reach Guam.

Japan missile defense deployed

On Saturday, some of Japan’s land-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile interceptors began arriving at Japanese Self Defense Forces (SDF) bases in three of the four prefectures any North Korean missiles would likely fly over en route to Guam.

Pyongyang identified three of those areas — Shimane, Hiroshima and Kochi prefectures — in its statement last week.

A spokesman for SDF said the missiles were being deployed not to intercept missiles, but rather “just in case.” He did not elaborate.

Sim Tack, a senior analyst for private intelligence firm Stratfor, said the Japanese batteries are designed for protecting the area where they are deployed, “(they are) not meant to shoot missiles out of the sky as they pass over Japan at high altitude.”

“So unless those North Korean missiles were to fall short, the Patriots shouldn’t have a function to serve in this particular case,” he said.
Japanese Ballistic Missile Defense Scenario

The SDF spokesman said the country’s Aegis ballistic missile defense system was deployed in the waters between Japan and the Korean Peninsula, but would not give a specific location.

Aegis is able to track 100 missiles simultaneously and fire interceptors to take out an enemy’s ballistic projectiles.

In South Korea, where both the military and civilians are used to facing threats from North Korea, Defense Minister Song Young-moo warned the country’s armed forces “to maintain full readiness” to “immediately punish with powerful force” any action against the South.

“Recently, North Korea made its habitual absurd remarks that it will turn Seoul into a sea of fire and that it will strike near Guam,” Song said according to ministry official. “North Korea raising tension (on the Peninsula) is a serious challenge against the South Korean-US alliance and the international community.”

Meanwhile, US-South Korean joint military exercises are due to begin later this month. The annual exercises, called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, are expected to run from August 21 to 31.

Calls for calm

Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders have called for calm as both Pyongyang and Washington upped their saber-rattling rhetoric.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump doubled down on his statement that he would unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued its threats, saying in a tweet that “military solutions” were “locked and loaded” for use against North Korea.

According to a statement from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xi told Trump in a call between the two leaders Saturday all “relevant parties parties should exercise restraint and avoid words and actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described escalation as “the wrong answer,” while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Trump’s statements were “very worrying.”

Last week, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English criticized Trump’s “fire and fury” comments as “not helpful in an environment that’s very tense.”

French President Emmanuel Macron called for the international community to work with North Korea to “resume the path of dialogue without conditions,” following a call with Trump Saturday.

Washington has previously said it will consider talks with Pyongyang if it agrees to give up its nuclear weapons program, a pre-condition North Korean officials have described as a non-starter.

Guam waits for news

At a church in central Guam Sunday, parishioners sang “Lord, we pray for world peace” after discussing the potential North Korean threat.

“There’s a lot of disbelief going on, there’s a lot of anxiety,” Father Paul Gofigan told CNN after the mass.

Gofigan said there is not a lot of panic in Guam, and that people’s faith — the island has been overwhelmingly Catholic since the arrival of Spanish missionaries in the 17th century– has been on display in recent days.

“Faith is so deeply rooted into our culture,” he said.

The territory’s governor, Eddie Baza Calvo, said he spoke with Trump and the President’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Saturday.

“Both assured me that the people of Guam are safe,” Calvo wrote on Facebook. “In the President’s words they are behind us ‘1,000 percent.’ As the head of the Government of Guam, I appreciate their reassurances that my family, my friends, everyone on this island, are all safe.”

As an unincorporated US territory, citizens of Guam cannot vote in general elections. The island is also home to a large US military presence, a fact that has led to tension with some local residents, particularly those of the indigenous Chamorro community.

“Nobody really deserves to be caught in the middle of these games,” said Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, an activist who campaigns for a lowered military presence.

“You’re playing with people’s lives. We just want peace, we just want to continue to enjoy our lives here.”

 

Russian Aerospace Force to get over hundred aircraft in 2017

Russian Sukhoi Su-35S Multi-role Heavy Fighter

Russia’s Aerospace Force will get over 70 aircraft and helicopters, as well as more than 40 air defense missile systems until the end of this year, Aerospace Force Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Viktor Bondarev told Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Friday.

“Over 70 aircraft, more than 40 air defense missile systems and about 70 radar stations will arrive for Aerospace Force units until the end of the year,” he said.

Russia’s Aerospace Force has already received about 50 new aircraft this year: Sukhoi Su-34, Su-35S, Su-30SM, Yak-130 planes, Kamov Ka-52 combat helicopters, Mil Mi-8 AMTSh and Mi-8MTV-5-1 military transport helicopters and also over 20 standby and alert radar stations, the commander said.

Russian Sukhoi Su-34 Multi-role Attack Aircraft

“Besides, the industry is finalizing and delivering satellites, military carrier rockets and radars characterized by the high degree of their readiness for ensuring a closed field of missile attack warning.

Let me note that special attention during the planning of the Aerospace Force’s hardware upgrade was paid to constant alert units and formations where armament and military hardware had considerably used up their potential,” Bondarev said.