CHINA SAYS “HIT THE BRAKES” As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have stepped back from his threat to fire missiles toward Guam, China today is reportedly urging everyone to back off the inflammatory rhetoric. The plea to tone down the verbal threats came in a phone conversation between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website, as reported by the AP. “The most important task at hand is for the U.S. and North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on their mutual needling of each other with words and actions, to lower the temperature of the tense situation and prevent the emergence of an ‘August crisis,’ ” Wang was quoted as saying.
CONDITIONS FOR TALKS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reiterating that the Trump administration will begin a dialogue with Kim only after the North Korean dictator stops testing missiles and taking other provocative actions. "We continue to be interested in finding a way to get to dialogue, but that's up to him," Tillerson said at the State Department yesterday.
Tillerson declined to comment on reports that Kim has backed down from his threat to fire missiles at Guam. But his remarks served to dismiss Russian and Chinese demands that the United States agree to restart talks with North Korea immediately, and on an equal footing.
THE COOKIE ANALOGY: State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. is not going to reward North Korea for threatening to attack Guam, and then taking credit for restraint. “I feel like that's sort of a question that my child might propose. You know? If my child were to say, ‘Hey, Mom, if I don't steal this cookie, will you then give me television?’ No. The answer's no on that one. I think we can all relate to that,” Nauert said at yesterday’s regular State briefing. Nauert would not specify what steps Pyongyang must take to begin a dialogue with the U.S. “This is obviously a very serious matter, cookies and children aside, a serious matter. They know what they need to do, and secretary has said we're not going to negotiate our way back to the negotiating table,” she said.
BLINK OR WINK? Longtime Korea watchers are debating whether Kim “blinked” when he announced he was not ordering his strategic forces to lob missiles toward Guam, or whether the whole affair was just another show of force that was all “show” and no “force.” "No, I don't think there is any indication at all he blinked," said Nicholas Eberstadt, a Korea expert with the American Enterprise Institute. "This is entirely according to the North Korean playbook." Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies with the Center for National Interest, agreed. “He never blinked because he never intended in the first place to fire any missiles towards Guam.”
But Ford O'Connell, an adjunct professor at The George Washington University, argued the tough talk from both President Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis effectively called Kim’s bluff. "We can debate about whether or not he was actually going to do it, but the fact that he had to change course so quickly is a pretty significant event," O'Connell said.
TACTICAL NUKES: A conservative political party in South Korea is calling for the return of U.S. “tactical” nuclear weapons to the South to send a strong signal to the North. The U.S. withdrew tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea in the 1990s. But the opposition Liberty Korea Party adopted the demand as its official party line following a meeting of its lawmakers in Seoul.
DUNFORD IN CHINA: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford is in China and signed an agreement designed to improve communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries in times of crisis. Like now, for instance. The agreement sets up “direct communication at the three-star level,” according to the Pentagon’s official news page.
"To be honest, we have many difficult issues where we will not necessarily have the same perspectives," Dunford said at the opening talks with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Fang Fenghui. “I know we share one thing: we share a commitment to work through these difficulties. With the guidance from our presidents and the areas of our cooperation, I know we will make progress over the next few days."
CONSULTING JAPAN: Tomorrow, Tillerson and Mattis meet with their Japanese counterparts Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera at the State Department. "The meeting will focus on how the United States and Japan can coordinate their response to the evolving regional security environment, and strengthen their bilateral security and defence cooperation," a State Department statement said.
Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.
HAPPENING TODAY: The U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and Syria continue to make steady progress against the last redoubts of the Islamic State, according to Army Col. Ryan Dillon, chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. Dillon provides his weekly operational update today live from from Baghdad.
SPECTER OF A CR: Mattis says his Pentagon would be hamstrung in dealing with new advances in electronic, space and drone warfare if Congress passes another stop-gap budget measure, known as a continuing resolution or CR, next month. "It just creates unpredictability. It makes us rigid. We cannot deal with new and revealing threats," Mattis told reporters this week. But lawmakers are heading into the fall with no clear path to passing proposed increases in defense spending, and analysts say it is likely they will instead pass a months-long continuing resolution at the end of September that would hold military spending to current levels.
Mattis said the military is trying to "adjust to the changing character of warfare" and would not be able to start new programs under a continuing resolution. Defense contractors would also have to "sit and idle" after starting programs because continuing resolutions leave future funding in question and make planning ahead difficult, Mattis said. "So, it's about as unwise as can be," he said.
Trade groups are already warning firms to prepare for a shutdown, Defense News reports.
IRAN’S THREAT: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told Trump not to impose sanctions on the regime, warning the Iranians could restart their nuclear program "within hours" in retaliation.
"If they are inclined to get back to those experiences, Iran would certainly return in a short time — not a week or a month but within hours — to a situation more advanced than before the start of negotiations," Rouhani told the Iranian parliament, per a semi-official domestic media outlet.
That threat likely will be tested as Trump implements a new sanctions law recently passed by Congress in response to Iranian aggression beyond the nuclear weapons program. Rouhani accused the United States of breaking the nuclear pact and portrayed Trump as an unreliable and belligerent leader.
"The world has clearly seen that under Trump, America has ignored international agreements [negotiated by former President Barack Obama's administration] and ... has shown to the world and even its allies that the United States is no good partner or reliable negotiator," Rouhani said.
BOEING STAYS ON TRUMP COUNCIL: Boeing says CEO Dennis Muilenburg will remain on Trump's national manufacturing council after a series of defections by other corporate executives this week over racist violence in Charlottesville, Va. "Dennis feels and the company feels staying engaged with business leaders and policymakers is important," Boeing spokesman John Dern said. Trump yesterday tweeted criticism of the executives who have left the council, saying they could be easily replaced.
There was no word on the status of Lockheed Martin CEO Marilynn Hewson, who also sits on the manufacturing council created by Trump in January to hear from top business leaders on ways to stimulate industry. A spokesman said the country’s largest defense contractor had no comment. Meanwhile, General Electric, which makes components for military aircraft and vehicles, said it has no tolerance for "hate, bigotry or racism" and condemned the violence in Charlottesville, Va., but said its Chairman Jeff Immelt will remain. CEO Michael Dell, head of Dell Technologies, which supplies hardware and components for defense, would continue to engage with the Trump administration on "policy issues that affect our company, customers and employees," Dell said in a released statement.
Trump tweeted a warning to any other potential defectors. “For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place. Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”
CHIEFS SPEAK OUT: “The Army doesn't tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It's against our Values and everything we've stood for since 1775,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley tweeted this morning. He joins Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller who tweeted a similar message yesterday and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson who put his message out Saturday.
MARINE ON A MISSION: Check out our video about former Marine Cpl. Cole Lyle, who’s working with Rep. Ron DeSantis to provide veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress with a service dog. "I'm here for the men and women that like myself, have had to go it alone and acquire their service dogs at extraordinary financial burden to them," Lyle said.
SALTY MAD DOG: Mattis reverted to some battlefield vernacular while addressing sailors last week at Naval Base Kitsap, Washington. The reason we know about it is that the secretary’s remarks were dutifully and accurately transcribed in the official DoD transcript. In the pep talk to crew members of the Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine USS Kentucky, Mattis thanked them for “sticking with the Navy,” and said they would miss it when their service is over, according to the unexpurgated transcript.
“You'll miss it like the dickens, and you'll be changed for the better for the rest of your life. So you'll never regret, but you will have some of the best days of your life and some of the worst days of your life in the U.S. Navy, you know what I mean? That says – that means you're living. That means you're living. That means you're not some pussy sitting on the sidelines, you know what I mean, kind of sitting there saying, ‘Well, I should have done something with my life.’ Because of what you're doing now, you're not going to be laying on a shrink's couch when you're 45 years old, say ‘What the hell did I do with my life?’ Why? Because you served others; you served something bigger than you.”
New York Times: South Korea’s Leader Bluntly Warns U.S. Against Striking North
Wall Street Journal: U.S., China Militaries Establish New Ties
Washington Post: U.S.-Korea War Game Presents Sensitive Balancing Act
AP: Shipyard repays $9.2M to US government to settle overbilling
USA Today: Not so fast: Russia claims new jet will be faster than U.S. F-22 fighter
Reuters: War room 2.0? U.S. Air Force upgrades Middle East command center
UPI: DJI announces pending fix for drones following Army ban
DefenseTech: New pilot on navigating F-35 comms: ‘It is extremely simple’
Wall Street Journal: The ‘fire and fury’ crisis: Trump risks a backfire over China and North Korea
Marine Corps Times: Marines want 50,000 more Infantry Automatic Rifles to replace M4
Task and Purpose: This retro F-14 Tomcat spin-test video will make your stomach churn
Foreign Policy: The supreme art of war on the Korean Peninsula: Regime change through targeting the mind of Kim Jong Un
WEDNESDAY | AUG. 16
8 a.m. 1201 M St. SE. NDIA Systems Engineering Division meeting. ndia.org
8:30 a.m. 2121 Crystal Dr. Trusted micro electronics workshop. Ndia.org
11 a.m. Pentagon Briefing Room. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman, Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve briefs the media live from Baghdad to provide an update on counter-ISIS operations. Streamed on www.defense.gov/live.
MONDAY | AUG. 21
1 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Options and ways to respond to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. atlanticcouncil.org
WEDNESDAY | AUG. 23
12:30 p.m. 1152 15th St. NW. Reddit ‘ask me anything’ on artificial intelligence and global security. cnas.org