News Briefs – March 4, 2019

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China denies speculation of military presence in Afghanistan

China’s defense ministry is defending military cooperation with Tajikistan following a report of a sizeable Chinese troop presence at a base in the Central Asian state.
Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang told reporters at a monthly briefing Feb. 28 that cooperation between the two was “in line with” international law and related resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council.
However, Ren says there is no Chinese presence in the adjacent Wakhan Corridor belonging to Afghanistan.
China had apparently sought to keep its Tajikistan base manned by members of the paramilitary People’s Armed Police a secret. However, the Washington Post in February reported on the sizeable Chinese military complex first-hand, although it remains unclear what the troops’ mission is and Ren provided no details.
The area borders China’s restive Xinjiang region. AP
 

Space Force would be by far the smallest military service

The Trump administration’s proposed Space Force would be the smallest military service — by far.
In a legislative proposal sent to Congress last week, the Pentagon estimated that Space Force would have about 15,000 people, including an unspecified number of civilians.
Currently the smallest branch of the armed forces is the Coast Guard, which has about 40,000 active-duty members in uniform. The second-smallest, the Marine Corps, has 186,000.
Details of the Pentagon’s proposal to create a Space Force were made public March 1. The plan requires congressional approval.
Critics have questioned the need to create a Space Force as a separate military service, noting that there are relatively small numbers of people required to carry out space-related missions.
The Pentagon would phase in the force starting in 2020. AP
 

Stoltenberg: NATO doesn’t want a new Cold War

NATO’s secretary-general has warned that Russia’s violation of a key Cold War-era treaty is one of the most pressing security challenges for the alliance.
Jens Stoltenberg urged Russia to return to compliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which has been the cornerstone for arm control for decades.
Stoltenberg said March 1 after talks with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in Sofia that “NATO does not want a new cold war, we don’t want a new arms race and we call on Russia to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty.”
He added that at the same time NATO needs to be prepared for a world without the INF Treaty and with more Russian missiles.
Stoltenberg was in Bulgaria for the 15th anniversary of the country joining NATO. AP
 

Singapore says it will buy 4 F-35 jets in fleet upgrade

Singapore plans to buy four F-35 fighter jets from the U.S. with the option of purchasing eight more to replace its fleet of F-16s.
Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen said March 1 that the city-state will put in a request for the Lockheed Martin jets, which would be subject to U.S. congressional approval. He says the price has not been determined.
Ng notes the cost of the jet has been steadily falling due to healthy orders from the U.S. and other countries, with the current unit price ranging from $90 million to $115 million.
Singapore plans to retire its older F-16 fleet soon after 2030.
The F-35 completed its first flight in 2006. Its buyers include Britain, South Korea, Israel, Italy, Australia, Canada, Turkey and Japan. AP