Host L Todd Wood speaks with Col John Mills (USA, Ret) who is a former Pentagon planner on the military situation in the Pacific and the coming kinetic conflict with China.

USS Milius

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In the early hours of Thursday morning, the Chinese military said that it drove away a U.S. guided missile destroyer that had "illegally" enter Chinese-claimed waters in the South China Sea.

According to the Southern Theatre Command of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), the USS Milius entered waters near the disputed Paracel Islands before being warned by the PLA and allegedly driven away by the Chinese military. The U.S. and its Western allies have long denied that the waters belong to China after Beijing militarized several island chains in the region years ago.

Paracel Islands

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While China's account of Thursday's incident indicates that the PLA forced the U.S. destroyer to leave the waters, the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet denies the claims.

Lt. j.g. Luka Bakic referred to the destroyer's actions as part of a routine operation in international waters and said of the incident, "USS Milius is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea and was not expelled" and added that "The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows."

The Chinese continue to disagree with a PLA spokesman calling the event an "illegal incursion into Chinese territorial waters... without permission from the Chinese government, harming peace and stability" in the region.

"The theatre forces will maintain a high state of alert at all times and take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security and peace and stability in the South China Sea," the spokesman concluded.

The Parcel Islands are claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, both U.S. allies, which has caused encounters with rival vessels to quickly escalate into intense standoffs.

The U.S. for years has consistently maintained that incidents that the PLA is calling "illegal incursions" are really 'innocent passages' that follow international maritime law, which means that permission is not needed to transit through the disputed waters. Beijing, however, has always challenged Washington's stance on U.S. intrusions into waters the Chinese see as theirs.

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While North Korea has been conducting smaller missile tests for days in response to the U.S. and South Korea holding their largest joint military exercises in several years, Pyongyang announced Monday that it launched a ballistic missile over the weekend as part of a simulated nuclear attack on South Korea.

According to state media, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the drill, which was held to push back "aggression" from the country's enemies. The ballistic missile launch was symbolically held on the same day that U.S. B-1B strategic bombers joined the aerial military drills with Seoul.

North Korea said that the ballistic missile launch was "carried out under the tense situation in which a large-scale war drill is being frantically scaled up by the U.S.-South Korean allied forces to invade the DPRK and U.S. nuclear strategic assets are massively brought to South Korea."

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Many in the U.S. see the missile launch as being in response to the U.S. bombers joining the joint military exercises. While some reports indicate that the ballistic missile included a mock nuclear warhead, North Korea has claimed that it had "no adverse effect on the security of the neighboring countries."

The missile reached an altitude of 50km (31 miles) and flew approximately 800km (497 miles), according to Japan's Defense Ministry. The mock warhead was launched from the North Pyongan province in North Korea and landed in the ocean between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, where it exploded roughly 800 meters above the water.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) have noted that it is remaining alert and is prepared for additional missile launches from Pyongyang, "while maintaining a full readiness posture through close cooperation with the U.S."

South Korea is not the only concerned country in the region, with Japan's Defense Ministry saying in a statement that North Korea's continued missile launches "threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community."

Pyongyang previously warned that it was ready to initiate the "toughest counteraction against the most vicious plots of the U.S. and its followers," in response to the 11-day Freedom Shield joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul. The exercises have been called the largest joint drills between the two countries in 5 years.

Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden, and Rishi Sunak

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Beijing has not wasted any time expressing its discontent with the new AUKUS nuclear submarine deal between the U.S., Australia, and the UK that was announced by Joe Biden on Monday at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego alongside Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Biden emphasized during the announcement that the agreement to provide nuclear submarine technology to Australia is not "a challenge to anybody" and added that "These boats will not have any nuclear weapons of any kind."

However, China disagreed as its foreign ministry accused the U.S. and its allies of having a "Cold War mentality," which sets them on a "dangerous path" and will "only motivate an arms race." Beijing spokesperson Wang Wenbin also noted that the submarine deal for Australia's military will "damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace."

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During a daily briefing, Wang added, "The latest joint statement issued by the U.S., U.K., and Australia shows that the three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community."

Beijing's recent comments are not the first time that China has accused Australia of violating its own 'nuclear weapons free' policy by securing nuclear-powered subs. Wang reaffirmed China's long-held assertion that it poses a "serious risk of nuclear proliferation and violating the object and purpose of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons."

Wang went on to accuse the 3 nations of "coercing" the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) into granting them an endorsement, saying, "The three countries claim that they will abide by the highest nuclear non-proliferation standards, which is pure deception."

Australia also garnered China's attention when Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles commented in a press conference on Tuesday that "the biggest conventional military build-up... seen since the end of the second world war," is happening in the region. While Marles did not name China specifically, his remarks clearly referenced Beijing.

Also, much to China's chagrin, recent reports have surfaced indicated that the U.S. Navy is planning a full-service submarine base in Australia, which would be a major hub capable of overseeing all submarine deployments in the Asia-Pacific region. The base would have the capabilities to not only oversee sub deployments but also to produce and repair boats as well.

ICBM Launch from Submarine

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In a rare move on Sunday, North Korea launched at least one missile in the Sea of Japan from a submarine in response to large-scale joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. While Pyongyang has conducted a smattering of land-based launches over the past year, it is rare for North Korea to launch missiles at sea.

Although North Korea claims to have launched two cruise missiles from a submarine, the South Korean military only tracked one missile fired from the sub, which was located near the North Korean port city of Sinpo.

The missile launches come as a warning to the U.S. and South Korea as the two countries begin 11 days of joint military drills, which are the largest in 5 years. The North Korean launches came within the first 24 hours of the U.S. drills.

According to North Korean state media, Pyongyang vowed to take "the toughest counteraction" against the joint military exercises and said that the "strategic cruise missiles" were launched Sunday morning from an "8.24 Yongung" submarine in the Sea of Japan. It is the same submarine that was used to test North Korea's first submarine-launched ballistic missile in 2016.

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While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has recently warned of "unprecedented strong responses" to the joint exercises if they took place, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, has warned that "the frequency of using the Pacific Ocean as our shooting range depends on the nature of the U.S. military's actions," according to a statement published on the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

With the U.S. government stretched thin between assisting Ukraine in its defense against Russia and Beijing ramping up its threats of reunification with Taiwan while strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally in the Middle East, the last thing the U.S. or its military needs right now is a conflict with North Korea.

Virginia Class Submarine

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In an effort to expand and overhaul its navy, Australia has signed a deal with the U.S. to purchase 5 Virginia-class nuclear submarines beginning in the next decade. Both U.S. and European officials have disclosed the deal as part of a landmark defense agreement between the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. in an effort to counter China.

The agreement is central to the newly formed AUKUS partnership. The sub deal is expected to be announced on Monday when President Joe Biden meets with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in San Diego.

At the time of the partnership's formation 18 months ago, Biden said, "We all recognize the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term," adding that "We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve."

The Virginia-class submarines cost $3 billion each and will be built in Virginia and Connecticut. Some sources, however, have said that the subs will be built in the UK and Australia using U.S. technology and assistance.

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While the AUKUS partnership has many defense components, one of the most critical is the development of Australia's nuclear submarine capability.

While Western leaders have been careful never to call out China directly, it's clear that the AUKUS partnership is aimed at countering China's influence in the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, Beijing has accused Australia of violating prior commitments to provide nuclear weapons or technology to its military.

Image by Łukasz Golowanow

A four-star Air Force general has told his officers to prepare for war with China within two years — instructing them to drill service members “with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most.”

“I hope I am wrong,” Mike Minihan, head of the 50,000-member Air Mobility Command, wrote in the chilling Friday memo, NBC News reported. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”

The Department of Defense sought to downplay the memo. “These comments are not representative of the department’s view on China,” a spokesperson said...

To read more visit the New York Post.

Volcano Anti-Tank Mine System

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The State Department announced this week that it has approved the sale of $180 million worth of arms for Taiwan pending Congressional approval. The order is mostly comprised of Volcano anti-tank systems. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry has said that the sale should take approximately a month to complete and that the volcano mine systems would increase the country’s “asymmetric warfare” capabilities.

The announcement of the sale came days after China sent 30 aircraft into Taiwan’s airspace Monday in the largest show of force that China has conducted thus far. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry called the US’s sale of military assets to the country the “cornerstone of maintaining regional stability and peace.” The Defense Ministry cited China’s military exercises as the reason for the buildup of anti-tank systems, saying, “The Chinese Communist Party’s frequent military activities near Taiwan have posted severe military threats to us.”

American companies Northrop Grumman and Oshkosh Corporation are listed as the principal contractors for the Volcano anti-tank mine systems to be sent to Taiwan.

The purchase of the anti-tank mine system is part of Taiwan’s efforts to step up its capabilities to protect its shores from a possible Chinese invasion using amphibious landing craft.

After multiple shows of force from the Chinese PLA in recent weeks, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to increase the country’s civil defense systems saying, “The more preparations we make, the less likely there will be rash attempts of aggression. The more united we are, the stronger and safer Taiwan would become.”

The massive show of force on Monday appears to be retaliation for the US including $10 billion in loans in its 2023 National Defense Authorization Act for Taiwan to purchase US-made weapons and equipment. China has made it clear that it will keep pressure on Taiwan by conducting military exercises and drills near the island as well as sending aircraft and warships across the Taiwan Straight median line.

Military Drones Like Those Japan Hopes to Acquire

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After almost 80 years of essentially not having a military, on Friday, Japan announced a $320 billion plan to build up its deterrence in the face of rising tensions with China.

Japan's military buildup would take 5 years to complete under the current plan. Its planned military expenditures would make it the third largest country behind the United States and China in terms of its budget. The plan calls for expanding the country's transport capacity, developing cyber warfare capabilities, and stockpiling munitions and spare parts.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will spearhead the development of Japan's longer-range missiles and will also build the country's next fighter jet in conjunction with BAE Systems and Leonardo SPA. The fighter jet project has already received an allocation of $5.6 billion.

Also included in Japan's buildup are ship-launched U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles, attack and reconnaissance drones, interceptor missiles, helicopters, F-35 stealth fighters, satellite communications equipment, warships, heavy-lift transport jets, and submarines.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that Japan is at a "turning point in history" and the military buildup is "my answer to the various security challenges that we face."

Japan has expressed growing concern in recent months that Russia's invasion of Ukraine will set a precedent that will support China's attacking Taiwan. Japan recently flagged China as a "strategic challenge" in its most recent national defense document and updated its national defense policy with major revisions for the first time since 2013.

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