Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pakistan Won't Share Raid Wreckage With China

WASHINGTON - Pakistan said May 11 it would not share the wreckage of a U.S. helicopter used in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden with China, after speculation that the aircraft contained secret technology.
"Pakistan is not going to share any technology, and I don't think our friends in China have shown any interest in doing so," Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., told CNN.
Photographs of the wrecked helicopter, which malfunctioned during the raid and was deliberately blown up, fueled speculation among experts and enthusiasts that new features had been added to it to reduce noise or foil radar detection.
Some even postulated that the helicopter, which officials say was a Black Hawk, was actually a new kind of "stealth" aircraft, with technology that could fall into the hands of Pakistan's ally, China.
Defense analysts, however, have said that although the wrecked aircraft appears to be a modified Black Hawk, the technology in question is not shrouded in secrecy, and Pakistan and China would gain little from the remains.
Tensions between the U.S. and its ally, Pakistan, have run high since bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and the world's most wanted man, was found living in a garrison town near Islamabad.
Haqqani insisted, however, that the two countries were still "in close contact" and were trying to "get to the bottom of things."
"The United States and Pakistan, at the government-to-government level, the intelligence-to-intelligence level and military-to-military level, are in close contact," he told CNN. "We are not in the business of denial or contradiction right now. We are trying to get to the bottom of things, understand the intelligence and work together.
"At the same time," he added, "we continue to be concerned about unilateral actions and would prefer if the United States works with Pakistan instead of making Pakistan look like the bad guy."

Medvedev to EU, U.S.: Don't Sideline Russia on Missile Defense

MOSCOW - Systems to protect Europe from missile attack risk being ineffective and a threat to stability if they do not include Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev warned May 14.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, shown here during a May 13 speech, made his comments in a letter sent to NATO heads of state. (Kremlin pool photo via AFP)
The Kremlin said Medvedev has written a letter to NATO heads of state to make clear Russia's position on missile defense amid continued tensions with the West over the longstanding dispute.
The letter appears to be a sign of growing frustration from Moscow that it is being sidelined by the West in discussions on the issue despite signs of progress late last year.
"A European missile defense system can only be genuinely effective and viable if Russia participates in an equal way," the Kremlin quoted Medvedev as saying.
Medvedev said it was necessary to be sure that the missile defense systems placed in Europe do not "disrupt strategic stability and will not be directed against either of the sides."
Russia earlier this month reacted with concern to an agreement between the United States and Romania to place U.S. missile interceptors at a Soviet-built airbase in the EU member state.
At a summit of NATO leaders in Lisbon in November, Medvedev proposed that Europe be divided into sectors of military responsibility, including one overseen by Russia and one by NATO, to better protect the continent.
But so far the plan, which was hailed by Russian officials as a chance for a major breakthrough in Moscow-NATO ties, appears to have attracted little interest in the West.

U.S. Rolls Out Red Carpet for China Military Chief

WASHINGTON - The U.S. military will lay out the red carpet for China's military chief as Washington renews its effort to forge a defense dialogue with Beijing despite tensions and mutual distrust.
People's Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde starts a week-long visit May 15 to the United States, the first trip to America by the country's top-ranking officer in seven years, officials said.
Chen will tour four military bases, deliver a speech to American officers and hold talks with his U.S. counterpart, Adm. Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a senior defense official said.
"We've pulled out all the stops" for the visit, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Military relations between the nations have been strained and lagged behind diplomatic and trade ties, with Beijing objecting to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan while Washington has voiced concern about China's military buildup.
Gates and other U.S. officials have appealed to China to agree to a more reliable dialogue that could help defuse tensions and avoid potential misunderstandings, similar to ties that were built up between the Americans and the Soviets during the Cold War.
"What we're really looking for is a relationship that there's some mutual transparency and trust developed between us. So that if there is some incident or some disagreement, it's a relationship that we can depend on," the official said.
The Pentagon did not expect a breakthrough during Chen's visit but the official said Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, hoped to persuade Chen to agree to more regularly scheduled discussions.
"We will discuss options for more contact, with some established rhythm, periodic phone conversations, something like that," he said.
The last U.S. visit by a senior leader from the PLA was in 2009, when Gen. Xu Caihou came to Washington and toured military bases.
When the U.S. defense secretary paid a high-profile visit to Beijing in January, the Chinese military upstaged Gates with an inaugural test flight of the country's J-20 stealth fighter.
Chen was expected to offer his view of military relations at a May 18 speech at National Defense University after holding talks May 17 with Mullen and senior military staff in the Pentagon's "tank."
Over the course of the week, the Chinese general is due to get a first-hand look at U.S. naval warships at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.; a "live fire" exercise at Fort Stewart, Ga.; fighter aircraft at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.; and the military's National Training Center in California.
Chen also plans to attend a concert May 16 at Washington's Kennedy Center with bands from the U.S. Army and the PLA performing. U.S. officials said it will mark the first time a PLA band has ever played in the United States.
Chen's visit comes after the United States said May 11 that it wanted to set guidelines with Beijing on the use of space, voicing worries that the Asian power is increasingly able to destroy or jam satellites.

Taiwan President Urges U.S. to Release F-16s

TAIPEI - Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou urged the U.S. to release F-16 fighters and submarines during a speech May 12 at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
New arms will allow Taipei to negotiate with Beijing on "equal footing," he said. "This is why I continue to urge the U.S. to provide Taiwan with necessary weaponry … to keep its aerial and naval integrity intact, which is key to maintaining a credible defense."
China has not renounced the use of force to reunify Taiwan despite improved ties since Ma won the presidency in 2008. Taiwan has adopted the "one China, respective interpretations" under the "92 Consensus" in an effort to better relations with Beijing, Ma said.
Improved relations also resulted in the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2010. To dispel domestic criticism of closer ties with China, Ma has a stated "Three-No's Policy" of "no unification, no independence, and no use of force."
Though Ma has made an effort of "never rocking the boat" and implementing "full consultation" with the U.S. on Cross-Strait discussions, the U.S. is still reluctant to provide Taiwan with new arms.
In 2001, the Bush administration promised Taiwan eight diesel electric submarines, but the deal has been held up by a combination of political and manufacturing hurdles. Taiwan's request for 66 F-16C/D Block 50/52 fighters for $5.5 billion and a $4.5 billion upgrade package for 146 F-16A/B Block 20 fighters has been on hold since 2007 and 2009, respectively.
Part of the reason for the delays, analysts say, are punitive actions taken by Beijing following arms releases totaling $13 billion in 2008 and 2010. China ended military-to-military dialogue with the U.S. and threatened to retaliate economically after each release. The effort appears to be paying off. China and the U.S. just concluded the third Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) in Washington last week where China's Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
Qian Lihua, director of the Foreign Affairs Office with the National Defense Ministry, said Chen Bingde, chief of the General Staff, would meet with Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a visit to Washington from May 15 to 22. Qian was quoted by the state-controlled Xinhua News Agency on May 12 that a "new type" of China-U.S. military relations based on "mutual respect and reciprocal beneficial cooperation" was on the horizon.
Qian said there were three obstacles to improved Sino-U.S. military ties: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, frequent reconnaissance by U.S. naval ships and aircraft in Chinese waters and airspace, and restrictions imposed by U.S. domestic laws on military exchanges and technical cooperation.
Qian said the U.S. must modify or abolish the 2000 National Defense Authorization Act, the "DeLay Amendment" and the 1990-91 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which set limits on military ties with China.
Chen's visit to Washington could be the catalyst for change, said Zhu Feng, a security analyst at Beijing University's Center for International and Strategic Studies. "He might be the right person for the U.S. to take more seriously to get mil-to-mil" back on track. However, it would be unwise for the U.S. to hobble Chen's efforts with new arms sales to Taiwan, he said.
"They are hoping to build 'strategic trust' and move the ball down the court somewhat on long-standing issues of contention," said a U.S. defense analyst who specializes on China. Discussions during the S&ED for improved military ties could cost Taiwan its security blanket, said a Taiwan defense source. As China and the U.S. move closer strategically, Taipei loses its ability to negotiate with Beijing from a position of strength, he said.

Pakistan Military Chief Cancels U.S. Visit

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's senior military officer, General Khalid Shameem Wynne, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, on May 13 canceled a scheduled visit to the U.S., a military official said.
Alluding to the fallout from a unilateral U.S. commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2, the senior official said the visit had been canceled "in view of the prevailing environment."
"General Khalid Shameem Wynne contacted his counterpart in the U.S., Admiral Mike Mullen, and informed him about the cancellation of his visit to the U.S. that was scheduled from May 22 to 27," the official said.
Wynne is the ceremonial head of Pakistan's powerful military establishment that is effectively run by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.
The Pakistani official said the visit to the U.S. had been at the invitation of Mullen and was scheduled a couple of months ago.
Wynne informed Mullen by telephone that he would not be coming, the official added, but declined to give any further details.
Under growing domestic pressure to punish Washington for the bin Laden raid, Pakistan's civilian government said May 12 it would review counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S.
It was unclear whether the move was intended as a threat.
Washington said it did not inform Islamabad that an elite team of Navy SEALs had helicoptered into the garrison town of Abbottabad until the commandos had cleared Pakistani airspace, carrying with them bin Laden's corpse.
Pakistanis have been outraged at the perceived impunity of the U.S. raid, while asking whether their military was too incompetent to know bin Laden was living close to a major forces academy, or, worse, conspired to protect him.

U.S. Rethinks Mideast Arms Sales

Due to the recent political upheaval in the region, the U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense are reviewing its defense trade relationships with countries in the Middle East and even putting some of them on hold.
The United States has put "on pause" some of its planned transactions with countries in the region, James Miller, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs during a May 12 hearing.
Longer term, the administration is looking at the implications for defense trade on a country-by-country basis, as well as assessing the region as a whole, he said.
"Historic change of this magnitude will inevitably prompt us, as well as our colleagues throughout government, to reassess current policy approaches to ensure they still fit with the changing landscape," Andrew Shapiro, the assistant secretary at the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, said during a May 3 speech.
"While the impact on our defense relations and the defense trade is uncertain, changes in the region may lead to changes in policy and therefore changes in how we do business," he said.
The majority of U.S. military aid to the region goes to Israel. The United States also provides military financing to Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen.
In Bahrain, where the United States maintains a naval headquarters, the Shiite majority continues to demonstrate against the distribution of power and its lack of inclusion in the government. Early on in the protests, which erupted in February, the government used force against the demonstrators. In March, it invited foreign forces into the country to help manage the unrest.
The United States has financed the Bahrain Defense Force and the country is eligible to receive "excess defense articles," which in the past have included an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided missile frigate, according to the Congressional Research Service. Recent foreign military financing has gone toward improving the country's air defenses, upgrading the avionics of its F-16 fleet and improving its counter-terrorism capabilities.
The government in Yemen is also using force to crack down on civilian protesters.
According to a Congressional Research Service report, the Obama administration requested $106 million in U.S. economic and military assistance for Yemen in 2011. For 2012, it has requested $116 million in State Department and USAID-administered economic and military aid.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee expressed concern that arms sales to certain countries may no longer advance U.S. foreign policy interests.
Committee Chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., wanted assurance that all sales to the region comply with the Conventional Arms Transfer Policy.
Each sale goes through review before any deal is made, responded Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary for arms control and international security at the State Department.
During his speech to the Defense Trade Advisory Group at the State Department, Shapiro emphasized that arms transfers are used as tools to advance U.S. foreign policy goals.
"And therefore, when U.S. foreign policy interests, goals and objectives shift, evolve and transform over time, so will our arms transfer policy," he said.
Along these lines, Shapiro's office is re-examining the Conventional Arms Transfer policy.
"This policy has suited the United States well since it was enacted just after the end of the Cold War, but it is time to dust off its pages and make sure that it reflects the reality of today," he said. "We don't know yet what specific changes, if any, are needed. But in light of sweeping transformation it is essential that we, as well as our colleagues in other government agencies, assess current processes and procedures toward the region."

F-35's Range Falls Short of Predictions

The U.S. Air Force's F-35A Lightning II appears to be unable to fly as far as once predicted, according to a Pentagon document.
The aircraft is currently estimated to have a combat mission radius of 584 nautical miles, just short of the required 590 nautical miles, according to a Selected Acquisition Report dated Dec. 31.
Program officials had previously estimated that the aircraft, unrefueled, would be able to strike targets 690 nautical miles away.
The report says the shortfall is caused by increased use of engine bleed air and fuel capacity issues "that are not yet fully known."
"This estimate is based on preliminary data," the report reads, and more testing will reveal whether it is close to the truth.
The report says the range estimates have also been cut for the Marine Corps' short take-off B-model and the Navy's carrier-base C-model. But those planes' ranges still exceed the requirements.
The B-model has a radius of 469 nautical miles and a requirement of 450; the C-model, 615 and 600.

Selex Buys UAV Firm Utri

Finmeccanica unit Selex Galileo has purchased Utri, an Italian small UAV firm, Selex said May 12.
Trieste-based Utri, which was founded in 2003, has previously teamed with Selex, offering its designs for marketing by Selex.
Selex said it can now directly market Utri electric UAV products, including the Asio, a 6.5-kilogram Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) UAV, the fixed-wing, hand-launched Crex-B weighing 2 kilograms and the ducted-fan VTOL Spyball.
Selex already markets the Falco tactical UAV, which it says is the only European-built UAV to be exported. The cost of purchasing Utri was not given.

U.S. CNO: Carrier Move to Fla. Still a Priority

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The transfer of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier from its current base in Norfolk, Va., to Mayport, Fla., remains a top priority for Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations (CNO) said here May 12.
"I need to do what's best for the Navy," Roughead told reporters after speaking at the AFCEA/U.S. Naval Institute joint warfare conference. The strategic advantage of having two carrier bases on the East Coast is too important, he stressed.
Pressed by a reporter about the "emotional" responses of some Tidewater-region residents to the loss of the carrier, Roughead declared he needed to be unemotional about the matter.
"For me, it's purely a strategic issue," he said. "I'm obliged to do what's in best interests of the nation."
Virginia's congressional delegation has been fighting the move, which has been approved by the Pentagon.
This week, Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, stripped out $30 million in the 2012 defense authorization bill, money needed to begin road improvements at Mayport to support the transfer.
Few non-Virginia lawmakers have raised objections to moving one of Norfolk's five carriers to Florida, scheduled to take place in 2019. The specific ship has yet to be identified by the Navy.
During his address, Roughead had another message for Congress. Asked about the effects of climate change, Roughead cited the warming of Arctic waters and the increasing access to the region.
Before too long, he said, "you're likely to have a reliable and routine sea route across the top of the world." Increased access will bring more disputes, he predicted.
"The vehicle for the adjudication of those disputes will be the Law Of The Sea," the CNO said, referring to an international treaty that has not been ratified by the Senate.
"We are not a party to that," Roughead lamented. "Decisions will be made that we will have no influence on. Myself and every one of my living predecessors have strongly endorsed becoming a party to that treaty. I think the time to do it is now.
"Nations are looking to us for leadership, and we are not there. We should agree to that treaty without delay," Roughead urged.

U.S. to Bolster Security for SEAL Team: Gates

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern May 12 about the safety of the U.S. Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden and said security would be stepped up for the commandos.
"When I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families," Gates told U.S. Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
He said he could not divulge details publicly but that "we are looking at what measures can be taken to pump up the security."
The raid against bin Laden's compound less than two weeks ago has sparked an avalanche of media attention around the secretive Navy SEAL "Team Six" that carried out the operation.
Reporters have traveled to Virginia to try to uncover more details of the SEAL team, which is based at Dam Neck, and retired SEALs are in high demand as guests for television news broadcasts.
"I think there has been a consistent and effective effort to protect the identities of those who participated in the raid. I think that has to continue," said Gates, whose remarks were carried live on the Pentagon's television channel.
He joked about how details of the raid leaked out even though there had been an understanding among the president's top deputies at a White House meeting to keep information about the operation secret.
"Frankly a week ago Sunday, in the (White House) situation room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden," he said. "That all fell apart on Monday, the next day."
The role of the more than 20 SEALs who carried out the helicopter assault on bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan was first publicly confirmed by CIA Director Leon Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden in the days after the raid.
Team Six is an elite unit drawn from the already elite ranks of the SEALs, an acronym for sea, air and land.
The unit is so secret that the military does not openly acknowledge its existence, but its reputation has taken on near mythic proportions and features in books, films and video games.