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A curated guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Australia and the U.S. have announced increased U.S. deployment of military aircrafts to Australia. Speaking after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said that the two sides would be “significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.” As well as greater air cooperation through “rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia,” this will also include establishing “combined logistics sustainment and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities,” Dutton said. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the meeting had endorsed “major force-posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia.” Daphne Psaledakis and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.
Australia has announced that more U.S. troops will rotate through Australia and that Australia and the U.S. will cooperate on missile development. Outlining further measures on a visit to Washington, Dutton said yesterday that as well as the U.S. and Australia working together on the development of missiles and explosive ordnance, he hoped that it would be possible to increase the number of U.S. troops on rotation to Australia. “The air capability will be enhanced, our maritime capability enhanced and certainly the force posture enhanced,” he said. Al Jazeera reports.
China has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a key Asia-Pacific trade pact, as it attempts to strengthen its position in the region. The CPTPP was initially the Tans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) created by the U.S. to counter China’s influence in the region, however former President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP in 2017 and Japan then led negotiations to create what became the CPTPP. Chinese commerce minister Wang Wentao said that China had submitted its application to join the free trade agreement in a letter to New Zealand’s trade minister, Damien O’Connor. BBC News reports.
Taiwan has welcomed support from allies after a U.S.-Australia ministerial forum pledged stronger ties with Taiwan and the E.U. parliament called for a bilateral trade deal. On Friday, senior government ministers at the annual U.S. and Australian ministerial consultation stated mutual intent to “strengthen ties with Taiwan,” which they described as a “leading democracy and a critical partner for both countries.” In response Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs “sincerely thanked” the U.S. and Australia for their “firm and open” support. Yesterday the European parliament also passed a resolution which included recommendations for the European Union to “urgently” negotiate a trade agreement with Taiwan. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
Indonesia has deployed five navy vessels, assisted by an air patrol, around its Natuna islands in the South China Sea, after Chinese and U.S. vessels were detected in nearby international waters. Indonesia said that the Chinese and U.S. vessels had not caused any disturbance. “The Navy’s position on the North Natuna Sea is very firm in protecting national interests within the Indonesian jurisdiction in accordance with national law and international law that have been ratified so that there is no tolerance for any violations in the North Natuna Sea,” Indonesian Navy western fleet commander Arsyad Abdullah told reporters. Al Jazeera reports.
China has denied a German warship on a mission to the contested South China Sea entry into a harbor, a German Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said. The vessel set sail from Germany last month for a six-month mission to the South China Sea. “China has decided that it does not want a harbor visit, and we took notice of that,” the spokesperson said, not identifying the Chinese harbor. “China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, when asked about the incident, said that China hoped countries outside the region would play a ‘constructive role’ and respect regional countries efforts’ to maintain peace and stability,” Reuters reports.
President Biden’s announcement of a strategic defense deal, named “Aukus,” between the U.S., U.K. and Australia, which includes helping Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines has infuriated France and strained relations. France yesterday reacted with outrage to the announcement and that Australia was withdrawing from a $66 billion deal to buy French-built submarines. Roger Cohen reports for the New York Times.
The Aukus deal, which is being widely viewed as an effort to counter Beijing’s influence in the contested South China Sea, has also angered China and has raised fears that it could provoke China into war. The Chinese state-run Global Times warned of an arms race for nuclear submarines, adding that Australian soldiers were likely to be the “first to die” in a Chinese “counterattack.” China’s President Xi Jinping also said today that foreign powers should not be allowed to interfere in China’s affairs. “The future of our country’s development and progress should lie firmly in our own hands,” he said, according to state media. BBC News reports.
Indonesia has said today that it is worried about an arms race in the region after Australia announced plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines. In a statement, the Indonesian foreign ministry noted with caution Australia’s decision to acquire the submarines and said it was “deeply concerned over the continuing arms race and power projection in the region.” “The foreign ministry called on Australia to maintain its commitment to regional peace and stability, and reiterated its respect for international law,” Kate Lamb and Agustinus Beo Da Costa report for Reuters.
India has welcomed the Aukus pact as a deterrent to China and the agreement should help New Delhi with its quest for a stable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. “From New Delhi’s perspective, the new coalition signals a strong political resolve in Washington to confront the growing security challenges from Beijing. In ending the long-standing taboo on transferring military nuclear propulsion technology even to its allies, the United States is also acknowledging that deterring China requires outside-the-box thinking,” C. Raja Mohan provides analysis for Foreign Policy.
U.K. Prime Minister has told U.K. lawmakers that the Aukus defense agreement was “not intended to be adversarial” to China. Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, made clear the Biden administration had chosen to close ranks with Australia in the face of belligerent Chinese behavior. He had discussed with Australian ministers “China’s destabilizing activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries, contrary to established rules and norms.” “While we seek a constructive results-oriented relationship with [China], we will remain clear-eyed in our view of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order,” Austin added. Dan Sabbagh, Julian Borger, Helen Davidson and Angelique Chrisafis report for the Guardian.
Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton has dismissed the “outbursts” from China over Australia’s decision to develop nuclear-powered submarines. Speaking after talks with the Biden administration in Washington, Dutton said that Australia was a “proud democracy in our region” and “no amount of propaganda can dismiss the facts.” Daniel Hurs reports for the Guardian.
Amid the rift between the U.S. and France over the Aukus pact, the French Embassy in Washington has canceled a Washington reception and has made “more sober” celebrations commemorating a Revolutionary War naval victory by the French that helped the U.S. to win its independence. A reception on a frigate in Baltimore has also been downsized, a senior French official has said, explaining that the changes were “to make the people more comfortable.” “It’s not anger. We are not happy but it’s the practical way of adapting ourselves,” the official said. Alex Marquardt, Jennifer Hansler and Kylie Atwood report for CNN.
The U.S. acknowledged yesterday that it only gave France a few hours’ notice of its deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines. “President Biden’s national security adviser informed France on Wednesday morning that the United States had reached the deal with Australia, revealing the plan to the top French diplomat in Washington on the same day that Biden made it public, a senior U.S. official said Thursday,” Michael D. Shear and Roger Cohen report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that France remains a “vital partner” to the U.S. on many issues, as he sought to quell France’s anger over the Aukus pact. “At a joint news conference with top US and Australian officials on Thursday, Blinken said the U.S. is looking to ‘find every opportunity’ to deepen cooperation with France, including in the Indo-Pacific region,” Al Jazeera reports.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that he had raised the possibility that Australia might scrap a 2016 submarine deal with a French company in talks with the French president in June, rejecting French criticism that it had not been warned. Clin Packham reports for Reuters.
The U.S. has imposed sanctions on five al Qaeda operatives working out of Turkey to provide financial services and travel help to the militant group, the Treasury Department said yesterday. “These targeted sanctions highlight the United States’ unwavering commitment to sever financial support to al Qaeda,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement. The list includes an Egyptian-born lawyer and an Egyptian financial courier, as well as three Turkish citizens. Reuters reports.
The U.S., Ukraine and others are to start joint military exercises in western Ukraine next week, the Ukrainian General Staff has said. Ukraine has said that the drills would involve 6,000 troops from 15 countries, Ukraine, the United States and other NATO members, and would last till Oct. 1. The military exercise will come days after Belarus and Russian also staged large-scale drills that have concerned neighboring countries. Reuters reporting.
The House Armed Services Committee has warned that the U.S.’s F-35 weapons system may struggle to keep up with other countries that are making defense improvements at a more rapid pace. In a recent committee report, accompanying its plans for fiscal 2022, the committee said that the fighter system required software updates in order to be used against threats to the United States. Though, “despite the committee’s support of the program, the report questioned how affordable it was given the ‘overly aggressive development and production schedules’ and whether the aircraft can ‘sufficiently evolve’ to operate against future threats,” Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
Both the U.S. and Egypt have recently announced moves that would put human rights on the agenda in Egypt. As well as the State Department’s notification to Congress earlier this week that it was withholding $130 million in military aid until Egypt meets specific human rights benchmarks, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has also recently announced a new human rights strategy, apparently in response to international pressure. Mona El-Naggar and Lara Jakes report for the New York Times.
A grand jury has indicted a high-profile lawyer on charges that he lied to investigators during the 2016 presidential campaign. The indictment is in connection with special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe and “charges attorney Michael Sussmann, of Perkins Coie, a law firm tied to the Democratic Party, with making a false statement during a meeting with officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shortly before the 2016 election,” Sadie Gurman and Byron Tau report for the Wall Street Journal.
Durham, who was appointed by former President Trump to probe the Russia investigation, charged Sussmann for not disclosing to investigators that he was working for multiple clients, including the Hilary Clinton presidential campaign. During a meeting between Sussmann and the then-FBI general counsel, James Baker, Sussman told Baker about suspicions relating to alleged secret communications between the Trump campaign and Russia. The suspicions were later determined to be unfounded. According to the indictment, “during the meeting, Sussmann lied about the capacity in which he was providing the allegations to the FBI. Specifically, Sussmann stated falsely that he was not doing his work on the aforementioned allegations ‘for any client,’ which led the FBI General Counsel to understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen merely passing along information, not as a paid advocate or political operative. In fact, Sussmann acted on behalf of specific clients, namely a U.S. Technology Industry Executive, a U.S. Internet Company and the Hillary Clinton Presidential Campaign.” Ken Dilanian and Tom Winter report for NBC News.
Sussmann’s attorneys, Sean Berkowitz and Michael Bosworth, have said that their client will “fight this baseless and politically-inspired prosecution.” In a statement they said that “the Special Counsel appears to be using this indictment to advance a conspiracy theory he has chosen not to actually charge.” Ryan Lucas reports for NPR.
A federal judge has ordered President Biden’s administration to stop turning back families who enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico seeking asylum, under a public-health policy implemented during former President Trump’s administration. The judge’s order is on hold for 14 days to allow the government time to appeal. The border policy was implemented by Trump in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic under a public-health law known as Title 42, which Trump officials said gave the government authority to turn back migrants crossing the border illegally to stop the spread of Covid-19. President Biden’s administration had continued the border policy and since March 2020 “about 1.1 million people have been turned back to Mexico, including roughly 118,000 people traveling as families,” Alicia A. Caldwell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan found that the Title 42 policy does not authorize the expulsion of migrants and, in turn, does not allow for those removed to be denied the opportunity to seek asylum in the U.S. The American Civil Liberties Union led the legal challenge and argued that the Biden administration should stop using the public health authority to expel migrant families. Sabrina Rodriguez reports for POLITICO.
Thousands of migrants are living in squalid conditions under a bridge in Texas, with the number of migrants at the temporary camp in Del Rio having significantly grown in recent days during a massive surge in migration that has overwhelmed the authorities. “The U.S. Border Patrol said that more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them,” James Dobbins, Eileen Sullivan and Edgar Sandoval report for the New York Times.
Human rights advocates have expressed outrage at the Biden administration for resuming repatriation flights to Haiti, despite the Haiti’s ongoing political, economical and environmental disasters. “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday expelled 86 Haitian nationals from the United States and flew them back to Haiti. ‘That ICE would continue to carry out the mass deportations of our Haitian neighbors—with Haiti in the midst of its worst political, public health and economic crises yet—is cruel and callous,’ said Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA),” Rafeal Bernal reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 ATTACK AND UPCOMING SEPT. 18 RALLY
A memo from the Department of Homeland Security has warned about the potential for violence from people involved in or opposed to the upcoming “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday. The memo also warned of potential violence on the day before the rally. “We are aware of a small number of recent online threats of violence referencing the planned rally, including online discussions encouraging violence the day before the rally,” the brief, which was shared with state and local authorities, said. Geneva Sands reports for CNN.
The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol confirmed yesterday that it is reviewing the actions of Chair of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and other Pentagon officials, following recent reports examining Milley’s manoeuvring during former President Trump’s final days in office. The announcement follows reports that Milley moved to limit Trump’s ability to call for a military strike or launch nuclear weapons after the Jan. 6 attack, as well as calling his Chinese counterpart to reassure him. “The facts surrounding steps taken at the Pentagon to protect our security both before and after January 6th are a crucial area of focus for the Select Committee. Indeed, the Select Committee has sought records specifically related to these matters and we expect the Department of Defense to cooperate fully with our probe,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said in a statement. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Federal officials warned law enforcement agencies last April that domestic extremists had used TikTok in the lead-up to the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol, including by promoting bringing guns to Washington that day. In the April 19 briefing, “the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis said American extremists used the Chinese-owned social media platform to recruit people to their causes, as well as share ‘tactical guidance’ for terrorist and criminal activities,” Betsy Woodruff Swan and Mark Scott report for POLITICO.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee have secured a commitment to hear testimony from the inspector general tasked with reviewing U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and are demanding a hearing to evaluate the U.S. exit from the country. “According to a letter obtained by The Hill, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko and all three inspectors general from the departments of Defense and State as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development have all agreed to appear before the committee. The request to schedule a hearing comes after Republicans asked Sopko to declassify the annexes of the watchdog’s most recent quarterly reports on the Afghanistan reconstruction,” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
China’s President Xi Jinping has urged the “relevant parties” in Afghanistan to eradicate terrorism and has promised to provide more help to the nation, Chinese state news agency Xinhua said today. Reuters reporting.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia needs to work with the Taliban government in Afghanistan and that that world powers should consider unfreezing Afghanistan’s assets. Putin made the comments speaking via video-link at a conference held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, of the China- and Russia-led security bloc, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Reuters reporting.
Speaking at the SCO conference, Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev urged other nations to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets kept in foreign banks so as to facilitate dialogue with the Taliban. Mirziyoyev called for talks between the SCO and the Taliban government in Kabul and for efforts to prevent the rise of extremism. Reuters reporting.
New satellite images have revealed that North Korea is expanding a facility capable of enriching uranium for nuclear weapons, changes that could allow North Korea to increase production of weapons-grade nuclear material by as much as 25 percent. Images captured by commercial imaging company Maxar show construction is underway at a uranium enrichment plant located within the Yongbyon Nuclear Research Facility complex and likely indicate the country plans to significantly ramp up production, according to experts who analyzed the photos. Zachary Cohen reports for CNN.
North Korea’s state media has accused the U.S. of double standards over military activities and pursuing a hostile policy towards North Korea, that is hampering the restart of talks on North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
An Iranian official yesterday called the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), “unprofessional” and “unfair” ahead of talks between Iran and the IAEA about undeclared uranium particles found at old sites. The issue is to do with the particles suggesting that Iran previously had undeclared nuclear materials at three different locations, and Iran has not yet provided a satisfactory explanation for the particles to the IAEA. “The statement of the Agency in its report is completely unprofessional, illusory and unfair,” Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi said in a statement. Francois Murphy reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The office of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has issued its first public statement about evidence authorities say they have of phone calls between Henry and a former Ministry of Justice worker Jospeh Badio, a key suspect in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. The office stated that Henry received countless calls from people concerned for his safety following the assassination. “After an act of such gravity, many people naturally wanted to inquire about his situation,” the office said, adding that “conversations with individuals against whom charges are laid cannot, in any case, be used to incriminate anyone.” Evens Sanon and DÁnica Coto report for AP.
After initially denying responsibility, Nigeria’s air force has admitted to conducting airstrikes in a village in northeast Nigeria where at least 10 civilians have been reported killed. The air force confirmed that there was an airstrike targeting a branch of the Islamist group Boko Haram in the area and that they had received reports that civilians were killed, but were investigating and could not say definitely. Rachel Chason and Ismail Alfa report for the Washington Post.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo will travel to Guinea today to meet its new military junta leaders, after the regional bloc he chairs sanctioned them yesterday for ousting Guinea President Alpha Conde and demanded a swift return to constitutional rule. Reuters reporting.
India has told China that the two countries’ relations will only improve when both countries pull their troops back from a confrontation on their disputed Himalayan border, Indian foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has said. Jaishankar shared India’s position when he met his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, on the sidelines of a regional conference in Dushanbe yesterday. Al Jazeera reports.
Zuma has lost his bid in the South Africa’s top court to have his 15-month jail sentence for failing to testify at a corruption inquiry overturned. BBC News reports.
The coronavirus has infected over 41.78 million and has now killed over 670,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 227.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.67 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.