News Briefs – May 21, 2018


China lands bomber on South China Sea island for first time

The Chinese air force has landed long-range bombers for the first time at an airport in the South China Sea, a state newspaper said May 19, in a move likely to further fuel concerns about Beijing’s expansive claims over the disputed region.
The China Daily newspaper reported that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted takeoff and landing training with the H-6K bomber in the South China Sea.
China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes in the South China Sea over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves.
A statement from the Defense Ministry late May 18 said the exercise was conducted on an island reef, but it did not specify when or where, saying only that it took place recently at a “southern sea area.” It involved several H-6Ks taking off from an air base and making a simulated strike against sea targets before landing, the ministry said.
Wang Mingliang, a military expert, was quoted in the statement as saying that the takeoff and landing exercises will help the air force improve its “real combat ability against all kinds of marine security threats.”
The U.S. criticized the move.
“The United States remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” a Pentagon spokesman, Marine Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, said in an email. “We have seen these same reports and China’s continued militarization of disputed features in the South China Sea only serves to raise tensions and destabilize the region.” AP

Putin: New nuclear weapons to enter duty in next few years

President Vladimir Putin says the Russian military will start receiving new nuclear weapons in the coming years.
Speaking at a meeting May 18 in Sochi, Putin said delivery of the new Avangard hypersonic vehicle will begin next year while the new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile will enter duty in 2020.
The Avangard and the Sarmat were among an array of new nuclear weapons Putin presented in March, saying that they can’t be intercepted. They also included a nuclear-powered global range cruise missile and an underwater drone designed to strike coastal facilities with a heavy nuclear weapon.
Putin said two other new systems unveiled in March — the Kinzhal hypersonic missile and the laser weapon called Peresvet — have already been put on duty with the units of Russia’s Southern Military District. AP

Air Force base missing explosives now also looking for gun

An Air Force base in North Dakota that is missing some military explosives is now also searching for a machine gun.
The M240 machine gun was discovered missing during a routine weapons inventory at Minot Air Force Base May 16. Lt. Col. Jamie Humphries says no ammunition is missing.
Air Force Global Strike Command leaders have directed an inventory of weapons in response.
The base also is missing a container of ammunition for an automatic grenade launcher. It fell off a vehicle on an American Indian reservation on May 1, and searches failed to turn up any trace of it. The military has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to recovery. AP

Pentagon: No planned changes to Korea military exercises

The Pentagon says there are no plans to change or reduce the scope of the ongoing military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea that triggered an angry reaction from North Korea, casting doubt on the planned summit with President Donald Trump next month.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White says the schedule of exercises hasn’t changed. She says the annual exercises are long-planned, are defensive in nature and are meant to ensure the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces.
Exercise Max Thunder began May 14 and concludes May 25. It includes aircraft from across the U.S. military services. Last year’s exercise included roughly 1,200 U.S. personnel and about 640 South Koreans. This year’s drill is similar.
Pyongyang has said it won’t return to talks with Seoul due to the exercises. AP