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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What's going on in the World Today 180314


China’s Long Arm Reaches Into American Campuses

Beijing is stepping up efforts to inject party ideology into student life. Some Chinese students are crying foul.

When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Washington on Sept. 24, 2015 on a state visit, hundreds of Chinese students lined the streets for hours, carrying banners and flags to welcome him. It was a remarkable display of seemingly spontaneous patriotism.

Except it wasn’t entirely spontaneous. The Chinese Embassy paid students to attend and helped organize the event. Working with Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSAs) at local universities — a Chinese student organization with branches at dozens of schools around the country — government officials from the office of educational affairs at the Chinese Embassy in Washington collected the contact information of about 700 students who had signed up to attend. Embassy officials communicated with students via WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, during the event and into the night, responding to messages as late as 3 a.m.

According to a Chinese student at George Washington University who attended the event, participants each received about $20 for their effort, distributed through the CSSA a few months later...

F-35 Finally Can Use All Its Weapons In Combat

The newest U.S. Air Force F-35s, both stateside at Hill AFB, Utah, and overseas in the Pacific, finally can employ the stealth fighter’s full suite of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons in combat.

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) has delivered the flight clearances, simulators, threat information, and logistics system required for the Air Force’s F-35As equipped with the latest software load to employ all of its weapons throughout the full flight envelope, according to the JPO, Lockheed Martin and Air Force officials.

This milestone gives the Block 3F-configured F-35As assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron stationed at Hill and those forward-deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan—on North Korea’s doorstep—some lethal capabilities. The aircraft now can fire Raytheon’s short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, the GAU-22 25mm gun, and Boeing’s precision-guided Small Diameter Bomb, all while flying up to 9Gs at 1.6 Mach.

The F-35A touched down in Kadena for its first operational deployment to the Pacific in November, a highly anticipated milestone that underlines the U.S. military’s commitment to allies in the region amid tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The “Rude Rams” F-35As join the “Green Knights” F-35Bs of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, which is permanently stationed at Iwakuni, Japan, significantly increasing the number of stealth F-35s in the region...

...Meanwhile, the U.S. Marine Corps short takeoff, vertical-landing F-35B and U.S. Navy F-35C carrier variant configured with the 3F software will be able to deploy with their full operational capability in May and June, respectively, F-35 Program Executive Officer (PEO) Vice Adm. Mat Winter said during a Feb. 28 media roundtable. For the F-35Cs, this means the aircraft will be able to deploy Raytheon’s AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW) in combat...

Boeing’s KC-46 Tanker Delayed Again
The U.S. Air Force is predicting that Boeing won’t deliver the first KC-46 tanker until late 2018, casting doubt on the defense firm’s ability to meet a contractual deadline that, if missed, likely would result in significant penalties.

Boeing’s master schedule currently pegs first aircraft delivery to the fleet in the second quarter of calendar year 2018—already months behind schedule. But after a joint schedule risk assessment, the Air Force now believes delivery is more likely to occur in late 2018, according to spokeswoman Capt. Emily Grabowski.

“The Air Force will continue to work with Boeing to develop schedule mitigations, where appropriate, to expedite the program,” Grabowski said. “These potential delays will not result in additional program cost to the taxpayer.”

Boeing is on tap to deliver 18 full-up tankers to the Air Force by October, a longstanding contractual deadline. Boeing likely will suffer significant penalties if it misses the deadline, adding to the $2.9 billion in pretax fees, or about $1.9 billion after tax, the firm has already racked up on the program...

F-16s In Battle Talk Via Commercial Space Internet?

What if warfighters could install an antenna on their F-16s, much like homeowners do on their roofs, and establish a commercial internet connection, allowing them to send critical battlefield information rapidly to the rest of the force?

The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is about to find out.

The Air Force is finally catching on to a revolution in the commercial small satellite world. Feb. 22 SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying two experimental satellites from Vandenberg AFB, California, to test out technologies for a megaconstellation of small satellites that would provide high-speed internet and other communications services directly to consumers, businesses and other subscribers. And SpaceX is just one of many commercial firms that are starting to experiment with such a service. OneWeb is scheduled to begin launching its 720-satellite broadband constellation later this year.

Defense Agency To Begin Moving Classified Data to Amazon's Secret Cloud After Protest
Microsoft withdrew a bid protest that allows U.S. Transportation Command to begin migrating data to Amazon’s secret cloud region.

For the first time, the Defense Department will begin moving classified data and applications to Amazon Web Services’ Secret Region—the same cloud environment developed for the CIA and intelligence community several years ago.

U.S. Transportation Command—the part of the department responsible for moving troops and equipment around the globe—announced its intent to make use of AWS’ Classified Secret Commercial Cloud Services in December after the company expanded its capabilities and availability to non-intelligence agencies.

The Defense Department’s sole-source decision—a contract awarded without a full and open competition—was protested by Microsoft, which itself offers a variety of cloud services to the federal government. The company withdrew its protest March 8, allowing TRANSCOM to begin migrating data to the AWS Secret Region. In a statement to Nextgov, Microsoft said it withdrew its protest “because the issues involved were resolved” to the company’s satisfaction...


'Significant' consequences if China takes key port in Djibouti: U.S. general

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. general for Africa told lawmakers on Tuesday that the military could face “significant” consequences should China take a key port in Djibouti, as Beijing becomes increasingly muscular in Africa in an effort to expand its influence.

Last month, Djibouti ended its contract with Dubai’s DP World, one of the world’s biggest port operators, to run the Doraleh Container Terminal, citing failure to resolve a dispute that began in 2012.

DP World called the move an illegal seizure of the terminal and said it had begun new arbitration proceedings before the London Court of International Arbitration.

During a U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday, which was dominated by concerns about China’s role in Africa, lawmakers said they had seen reports that Djibouti seized control of the port to give it to China as a gift.

China has already built a military base in Djibouti, just miles from a critical U.S. military base...



UK convenes emergency meeting over Russian spy's apparent poisoning

London (CNN)The British government was set to hold an emergency, top-level meeting Wednesday to discuss the apparent poisoning of a former Russian spy, as the country's top diplomat warned that the UK would respond "robustly" if the Kremlin was found to be involved.

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd will chair the cabinet-level COBRA meeting to discuss the investigation into the case of Sergei Skripal -- a former Russian military official convicted of spying for the UK -- and his daughter, who were found unconscious Sunday on a bench in southern England...




Partner Perspectives: China's Staggering Demand for Commodities

Partner Perspectives are a collection of high-quality analyses and commentary produced by organizations around the world. Though Stratfor does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here — and may even disagree with them — we respect the rigorous and innovative thought that their unique points of view inspire.

By Jeff Desjardins for Visual Capitalist

It's said that in China, a new skyscraper is built every five days.

China is building often, and they are building higher. In fact, just last year, China completed 77 of the world's 144 new supertall buildings, spread through 36 different Chinese cities. These are structures with a minimum height of 656 feet (200 meters).

For comparison's sake, there are only 113 buildings in New York City's current skyline that are over 600 feet...

China Space-Station Launcher, Long March 5B, To Fly In 2019

BEIJING—The second version of China’s Long March 5 rocket, intended mainly for building the country’s planned space station, will fly in mid-2019, about a year later than previously ...








Kim to Trump: Let’s Make a Deal

Washington got just what it wanted from the pressure campaign. Now what?

North Korea’s surprising offer Tuesday to hold talks with the United States, holding out the eventual prospect of abandoning its nuclear weapons, throws the diplomatic ball dramatically back into Washington’s court.

While the overture is a seeming triumph of the “sunshine” diplomacy of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the Trump administration’s increased pressure, the big question remains whether the White House is willing or able to grab the opportunity.

“The Trump administration has been all about applying maximum pressure, with the whole purpose to bring North Korea back to the table to talk about denuclearization,” says Jenny Town, assistant director of the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies...

In Nuclear Dialogue, North Korea Leaves U.S. With the Next Move


North Korea will continue to use inter-Korean dialogue to break out of the constraints of the U.S. relationship.

But Pyongyang's apparent outreach to the United States could be contingent on changes to U.S. forces in the Korean Peninsula —
concessions the United States is unlikely to give.

While China and Russia will push for a continued easing of tensions, U.S. ally Japan will be wary of a sudden shift in the U.S. position.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has set late April as the date for the third inter-Korean summit, to be held in Panmunjom. Kim said he would be willing to hold talks with the United States geared toward normalization of relations and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and is willing to suspend nuclear and ballistic missile tests while engaged in dialogue. Kim said denuclearization was his father's dying wish, and something for which he also strived..


EU: Russia Wins a Battle in Its War of Pipelines

The Nord Stream 2 offshore natural gas pipeline project — of which Russia's Gazprom is the sole shareholder — is the most politically divisive pipeline for Europe. In fact, several European Union member states have been calling for it to either be stopped altogether or at least heavily regulated. According to new information, it appears that their calls will not be met. A leaked opinion issued by the legal department of the EU Council of Ministers says that the bloc's regulations do not extend to pipelines in exclusive economic zones off the coasts of EU member states. The opinion will ruffle feathers across the Continent, which Russia will surely welcome, given that it sees such internal conflict as useful in Moscow's bid to rid itself of EU sanctions.






Performance Enhancers: From Battlefield to Playing Field
Thomas M. Hunt
In the modern era, discussions about performance-enhancing technologies tend to take place primarily in the context of sports. Indeed, it is within that context that we have covered the issue in previous columns. But as technologies evolve, the subject merits attention beyond the athletic fields.

From the very beginning, a link has existed between the battleground and the playing field on the issue of performance enhancement. The amphetamines that helped soldiers push beyond their human limits during World War II soon made their way into athletics. Whether on the gridiron or at the baseball park, postwar athletes turned to amphetamines whenever they needed a pickup. And this is just one example in a very long relationship between sports and the military that remains today. During the recently concluded Pyeongchang Olympics, Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for a banned substance that had been developed for Soviet-bloc soldiers during the Cold War...

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