MOON TO BEIJING: South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is visiting Beijing today to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping as China appears to be softening a bit in its objection to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system last year.

South Korea delayed the deployment, which was pushed by the U.S. for months, because of China’s objection that the missile defense system’s powerful radar could see far into China. But as North Korea continues with increasingly aggressive and successful missile tests, Moon agreed to let the deployment proceed because of the need to protect both South Korean and U.S. troops on the peninsula.

As a result, China has punished South Korea economically and continued to call on Seoul to remove the system. Observers believe Moon’s visit means China may be willing to accept a pledge from Moon not to expand the system beyond the six THAAD launchers now operational in the south.

HIGH CONFIDENCE: The U.S. has very high confidence in the THAAD, Rear Adm. Jon Hill said yesterday at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event. “THAAD is an incredible system,” Hill said of the Lockheed Martin program. “I think it was the right decision to deploy it to where it’s deployed today. It has the capability to deal with the threats in that region.”

Hill, who is deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, also confirmed that Japan is considering obtaining the Aegis Ashore system from the U.S. The Lockheed Martin system, described as the top half of an Aegis destroyer placed on land, would provide the same kind of defense as the ship-based system that uses a standard missile to shoot down enemy projectiles. Aegis Ashore is now operational in Romania, and about to come online in Poland. Japan would be the third site, but Hill said Japan has not made a final decision to acquire the system.

THE THREAT IS CHANGING: Even as Hill said the U.S. has multilevel defenses that are capable of countering today’s missile threat, that threat is quickly changing. In the near future, he warns, ballistic missiles may not traveling on a clear parabolic trajectory that makes it a relatively simple math problem to track their path and calculate with accuracy where they will land.

“There are now capabilities that will allow these kind of threats to do a range extension in space, which means it's really no longer ballistic, and once it enters the atmosphere, if it goes into a maneuver, that’s a different kind threat, different from what we have dealt with historically,” Hill said.

USE OF FORCE: “Congress needs to decide what role it wants to have in the decision to use military force and reach a mutual understanding with the president,” former George W. Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley told a Senate panel yesterday. Hadley was one of three witnesses testifying before the Foreign Relations Committee on the increasingly urgent question of when does the president need the approval of Congress to begin what could be a world war. “It is now established practice that there is some level of use of military force the president can take without prior congressional approval,” Hadley said. “My own view is that for a major military operation that carries a risk of American military casualties, a high risk of civilian casualties, especially among U.S. friends and allies, has major geopolitical implications for American interests and position in the world and in which American friends and allies have a major stake, prior congressional approval would be the wiser course.”

“There isn't an established rule or set of criteria for when a potential use of force crosses the threshold requiring the president to come to Congress in advance,” said Christine Wormuth, former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration. “The Constitution gives both branches of government important roles in decisions about the use of force to include giving Congress the power of the purse.

“At the same time, when a president is contemplating a major or prolonged use of force, the president generally has come to Congress in advance. President Bush did so before he sent the military into Afghanistan and Iraq, President Obama sought congressional approval when it came to strikes in Syria in 2013, and in the context of North Korea's continued effort today to develop a capability to strike the United States with a nuclear ICBM, military options to fully address that threat would likely rise, in my view, to the level that has typically triggered presidents to seek advanced congressional authorization,” Wormuth said.

Good Thursday 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 — CONFRONTING IRAN: The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is ready to present hard evidence to back up America’s accusation that Iran is flagrantly violating U.N. resolutions by providing missiles to Houthi rebels, according to several reports. NBC and CNN are reporting that Nikki Haley will do a show and tell at the headquarters of the Defense Intelligence Agency as soon as today. The evidence includes parts of a missile that were fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia.

Last month, Haley accused Iran of “repeatedly and brazenly” violating UN Resolution 2231, which bans the transfer of conventional weapons from Iran. “Yet today we see Iran identified as a source of weapons in conflicts across the region, from Yemen to Syria and Lebanon,” Haley told the U.N. Security Council. “The Iranian regime has been a key source of arms and strategic military support to the Houthi rebels, both directly, through its military, and indirectly, through its Hezbollah proxy forces.”

IRANIAN ASSETS: Treasury Department officials must publish a report chronicling the financial assets of Iran’s top leaders, under a bill that passed the House yesterday. The legislation, which passed 289-135, must still clear the Senate before President Trump can sign it into law. It’s a potential boon to Iranian dissidents, who stand to gain insight into corruption by top officials.

“Iran’s top regime leaders — the Supreme Leader and the country’s top political and military brass — have amassed huge wealth through their tyrannical rule and corrupt and covert structure,” Rep. Bruce Poliquin said when he introduced the bill. “Reports have indicated these funds are being used to support and sponsor terrorism around the region and to undermine our own national security interests. Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, cannot be trusted and it’s important for the security of the region and for the United States for these secret funds to be exposed publicly to the world.”

ALSO TODAY: According to the public White House schedule, Trump is lunching with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

LIP SERVICE ON CLIMATE CHANGE: While the Pentagon says climate change poses a risk to its overseas operations, it is doing little to assess the costs of those effects such as sea-level rise and weather issues, a federal watchdog agency said Wednesday.

"The expected impacts of weather effects associated with climate change pose operational and budgetary risks to overseas infrastructure according to the Department of Defense, but DOD does not consistently track the impacts’ estimated costs," the Government Accountability Office said in a report. The "operational risks" from climate change include training and mission interruptions, as well as the costs associated with repairing damage.

"Without a requirement to systematically track such costs, DOD will not have the information it needs to integrate climate-related impact resource considerations into future budgets," the report stated.

ALABAMA ELECTION AFFECTS DEFENSE INDUSTRY: “Tuesday’s election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate means aerospace powerhouse Alabama is due to lose a strong voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee for the first time in 20 years,” reports Defense News.

“There are 300 aerospace companies in Alabama, and aerospace manufacturing accounts for about 12,500 jobs there, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. Fort Rucker is home to the Army’s helicopter training center.

“The jewel in the crown is Huntsville, home to Redstone Arsenal, a major research, engineering and test center that houses the Pentagon’s critical missile defense and the Army’s aviation managers. It’s also home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. government’s civilian rocketry and spacecraft propulsion research center.” It’s also home to Austal USA, one of the two makers of littoral combat ships for the Navy.

MOSCOW’S INF DENIAL: The U.S. is making “baseless allegations” about Russia’s alleged violation of the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the Kremlin insisted yesterday. "The Americans have failed to provide hard facts to substantiate their accusations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, according to state-run media. “They just cannot provide them, because such evidence essentially does not exist.”

State Department officials marked the 30th anniversary of the INF Treaty last week by once again accusing Russia of violating the 1987 pact by secretly deploying land-based cruise missiles. The charge was first leveled in 2014 by when Barack Obama was president, but the evidence has only grown since then. “We have a firm belief, now, over several years, that the Russians have violated the INF, and our effort is to bring Russia back into compliance. It is not to walk away from the treaty,” Mattis said last month at a NATO defense ministers meeting. “The bottom line is you have to have respect for other nations' sovereignty. When you make agreements, when you sign treaties, you have to live up to those treaties,” he said.

TURKEY’S DISPLEASURE WITH McMASTER: Trump’s national security adviser has made “astonishing, baseless and unacceptable” allegations about Turkish support for terrorism, according to Turkey’s top diplomat. In remarks Tuesday, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster identified Turkey as a key source of funding for “extremist ideologies” around the world, a rebuke that angered the Turkish government. “The allegations made by Mr. McMaster, who is best placed to judge Turkey's ceaseless combat against terrorism and radicalism in all its forms and manifestations, are astonishing, baseless and unacceptable,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

It’s the latest source of friction in the deteriorating U.S. relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally led by the increasingly-authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. McMaster didn’t blame the Turkish government directly, instead suggesting Turkish sources have financed groups around the world, from the Balkans to western Africa and southeast Asia.

GET OVER IT: A standard trope in the world of Hollywood spy thriller is the uber-tech savvy computer nerd whose hacking skill provides the action hero with real time intelligence to defeat the bad guys. That’s not a bad model, the top general at the U.S. special operations command suggested yesterday at an Association of the U.S. Army event. “The best person may not be a marathon runner or a CrossFit fanatic,” said Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, urging his fellow warfighters to embrace a pilot program that allows the military to recruit cyber experts directly from the civilian tech world, even if they look more comfortable in hoodies than BDUs.

“We have to be OK with this, because the most effective manning of our cyber force will ensure that SOF and other maneuver forces conduct their mission more effectively with less loss of life and less collateral damage,” Thomas said. “It is somewhat heretical but we need to resist our institutional tendency to disincentivize these experts by imposing the same requirements we have for our maneuver forces.”

MAYBE A HASHTAG WILL WORK: Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee are crying foul over a plan in the works to fully fund the Defense Department yet hold off on domestic priorities for fiscal 2018. “For months, it has been clear a new budget agreement is needed to enact responsible funding at home and abroad.  Yet Rs now, 2.5 months late, Rs pushing irresponsible #Puntagon - take care of only defense while punting domestic needs.

“We can't risk damage that shutdown or cuts would cause to health care, schools, homeland security, veterans, preparedness, infrastructure & much more.  #Puntagon would just hold back growth and investment that American families and communities need.”

McCAIN HOSPITALIZED: Sen. John McCain is being treated for “normal side effects” from his cancer therapy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, according to a statement from his office.

“Senator McCain is currently receiving treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center for normal side effects of his ongoing cancer therapy,” the statement read. “As ever, he remains grateful to his physicians for their excellent care, and his friends and supporters for their encouragement and good wishes. Senator McCain looks forward to returning to work as soon as possible.”

THE RUNDOWN

Wall Street Journal: Western Criticism Bolsters Putin at Home

USA Today: U.N. official: North Koreans agree on importance of avoiding war

The Cipher Brief: Trump’s North Korea Policy? Tillerson, McMaster Diverge

War on the Rocks: How Many Battles Can the Pentagon Fight in Washington At Once?

AP: US commander orders new probe into deadly Somalia raid

UPI: Jet-powered drone tested by BAE Systems

Marine Corps Times: Marines plan to experiment with autonomous helicopters

Fox News: Joe Biden consoles daughter of ailing John McCain on 'The View'

Army Times: Report: Lax security allowed suicide bomber to kill 5 on Bagram Airfield

Reuters: U.N. expert says torture persists at Guantanamo Bay; U.S. denies

New York Times: Philippines Extends Martial Law in South for Another Year

Foreign Policy: Trump Administration Seeks to Slash Counterterrorism Funding

Defense One: The National Security Strategy Commits the US to a Lonelier and Less Generous Course

Military Times: Health experts warn concussions present major challenges to military health

Calendar

THURSDAY | DEC. 14

7 a.m. 901 17th St. NW. Science & Engineering Technology executive breakfast. Jeremy Muldavin, deputy director, Defense Software & Microelectronics Activities, speaks at 7:45 a.m. at the Army and Navy Club. ndia.org

9:30 a.m. 1501 Lee Highway. Mitchell Hour on the operational National Guard, a unique and capable component of the joint force with Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. mitchellaerospacepower.org

10 a.m. Dirksen G-50 U.S. Policy and strategy in the Middle East. armed-services.senate.gov

10 a.m. Senate Visitor Center 217. Closed briefing on new counter-terrorism guidance with Maj. General Albert Elton II, Joint Staff deputy director for special operations and counterterrorism, and Andrew Knaggs, deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and counterterrorism. foreign.senate.gov

11:30 a.m. 1250 S. Hayes St. Aerospace Industries Association media luncheon. aia-aerospace.org

12:30 p.m. 525 New Jersey Ave. NW. CNAS event: Toward a common North Korea strategy with Rep. Ami Bera. cnas.org

6:30 p.m. 1777 F St. NW.D.C. Foreign Affairs November/December Issue Launch Guest Event: America's Forgotten Wars. cfr.org

FRIDAY | DEC. 15

11 a.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Defeating terrorism in the age of Trump with Sebastian Gorka. heritage.org

6:30 p.m. 1301 S. Joyce St. Military Reporters & Editors Association networking event with Brig. Gen. Seely, Marine Corps communications director. militaryreporters.org

TUESDAY | DEC. 19

9 a.m. 15th St. NW. Making Peace in Donbas? The Role of a Peacekeeping Mission with Ambassador Kurt Volker. atlanticcouncil.org

10 a.m. Dirksen 419. U.S. strategy for Syria after ISIS with Ambassador David Satterfield. foreign.senate.gov