China slams Trump’s arms deal with Taiwan

ONE CHINA, BUT ALSO ONE BIG ARMS DEAL FOR TAIWAN: President Trump may have backed off his questioning of America’s “One China” policy, but his latest move to bolster Taiwan’s military firepower has drawn a strong protest from Beijing, ahead of the president’s meeting next week with Chinese President Xi Jinping at that G-20 summit. The Trump administration has formally notified Congress of a package of seven separate proposed defense sales for Taiwan, valued about $1.42 billion. Taiwan’s defense ministry says the purchases, including upgrades to existing systems, will enhance air and sea combat capability and early warning defenses.

“The notifications are consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act. It shows we believe our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “There is no change, I should point out, to our longstanding One China policy. The United States has been doing defense sales with Taiwan for 50 years or so. So nothing has changed.” The U.S. is Taiwan’s sole weapons provider.

But China’s not buying that explanation. A foreign ministry spokesman called on the U.S. to immediately stop the sale to avoid harming relations with Beijing. The spokesman said the deal would “severely damage China’s sovereignty and security interests and runs contrary to Washington’s commitment to a ‘One-China’ policy,” according to the AP.

The sales involve:

  • 50 high-speed anti-radiation missiles and 10 training missiles, for $147.5 million.
  • 16 SM-2 missiles from Raytheon, along with guidance sections for $125 million.
  • 46 Mark 48 heavy torpedoes for $250 million.
  • Conversion kits for Mark 54 lightweight torpedoes for $175 million.
  • 56 joint standoff weapon air-to-ground missiles for $185.5 million.
  • Upgrades by Raytheon to electronic warfare systems for four Keelung-class destroyers for $80 million.
  • Sustainment and logistical support for $400 million.

TRUMP PREPARES TO GO TOE-TO-TOE WITH PUTIN: Seeking what his advisers call a more constructive relationship with Moscow, Trump is preparing for his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during next week’s Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Speaking to reporters at the White House yesterday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump planned to meet with a number of leaders at the summit, including Putin.

The big question is to what extent will Trump confront the man the U.S. intelligence community has concluded tried to meddle in the 2016 election to the detriment of his opponent Hillary Clinton. “I don’t know. That’s a good question, and that’s a valid question I bet a lot of Americans will want to know the answer to,” Nauert said. “We’ve not had deep discussions about specifically what might happen in any given meeting.” McMaster told reporters that while Trump would like the United States and the entire West to develop a more constructive relationship with Russia, “He’s also made clear we’ll do what is necessary to confront Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”

That comes as the Wall Street journal reports a now-deceased Republican opposition researcher implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn in an effort to get emails from Clinton’s private server. The Journal reports that happened during the campaign when U.S. investigators began probing Russian interference in the elections. “Those investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.”

PUTIN THE MURDERER: Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain wants Trump to confront Putin on his murderous ways, specifically a Russian court’s conviction of five people for the murder of a Russian opposition leader. “The criminal who is truly responsible for the murder of Boris Nemtsov remains at large and ensconced in the Kremlin,” McCain said in statement. “Vladimir Putin may not have ordered Boris’s assassination. But what is so frightening about Putin’s Russia is that he didn’t need to. My friend Boris was killed because of the culture of impunity that Vladimir Putin has created in Russia, where individuals who dare to speak the truth about Putin’s tyranny and corruption are routinely persecuted, attacked, and often killed, but those responsible are never held accountable.”

McCain also accuses Putin of plotting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Montenegro, NATO’s newest member, and murder its prime minister. “This heinous plot should be a warning to every American that we cannot treat Russia’s interference in our 2016 election as an isolated incident,” McCain wrote in USA Today. “We have to stop looking at this through the warped lens of politics and see this attack on our democracy for what it is: just one phase of Putin’s long-term campaign to weaken the United States, to destabilize Europe, to break the NATO alliance, to undermine confidence in Western values, and to erode any and all resistance to his dangerous view of the world.”

Good Friday 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: South Korea’s newly-elected President Moon Jae-in is at the White House this morning to continue talks with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that began after a formal dinner at White House last night. In brief remarks at the dinner, Trump downplayed any divide with Moon over the best way to confront North Korea. Moon has suggested he favors more engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and wants a bigger seat at the table for South Korea, which would bear the brunt of any war on the Korean Peninsula.

“We very much respect you and we very much respect the people of South Korea,” Trump said to Moon, who he also congratulated for his election victory. “It was a great victory, and you did a fantastic job,” Trump said, adding, “A lot of people didn’t expect that, and I did expect it. I thought that was going to happen.”

Trump tweeted last night, “Just finished a very good meeting with the President of South Korea. Many subjects discussed including North Korea and new trade deal!” Moon gives a speech on U.S. on foreign policy and U.S.-Korea relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies tonight at 6 before returning home.

MATTIS BACK FROM NATO: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews last night just after 11 p.m., and the secretary is back at his Pentagon desk this morning. Mattis spent a long day at NATO headquarters in Brussels yesterday conferring with the allies over his promised overhaul of the Afghanistan strategy, after his public admission this month that the U.S. is “not winning” there. NATO’s top civilian leader, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, confirmed that NATO would be sending “several thousand” additional military trainers to augment the Resolute Support mission, which currently has 13,500 troops from 39 NATO and non-NATO nations operating in Afghanistan.

At a late-night new conference before departing Brussels, Mattis would not be drawn into predicting how long the war would go on or providing any details of the makeup of the additional troop deployments, saying only that they would address “gaps” in the military requirements of the NATO mission. “We filled 70 percent of those gaps right now, and I’m very, very optimistic that based on what I heard here, we’ll be filling the rest,” Mattis said. “When I return to Washington and talk to the chairman [Gen. Joseph Dunford], I’ll finalize my recommendations on the strategy going forward to take to President Trump as we determine what our government strategy will be.

“I don’t put timelines on wars. It’s that simple,” Mattis said. “War is a fundamentally unpredictable phenomenon. And every effort to try to create a pat answer to something like that is probably going to fail.” Pressed about Senate testimony last month from the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats who said that Afghanistan “will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners,” Mattis said tersely, “They’re entitled to their assessment.”

But Mattis argued NATO should not, and cannot abandon Afghanistan almost 16 years after the Sept. 11 attacks. “You can’t say, ‘Well, I got tired of it, so I’m going to come home,’ and then wonder why you get hit again,” Mattis said. “You have got to align your effort, align your resources, and put the right people in charge, and you keep going. So, the most important answer to that is what is the price of not fighting this war? And in that case, we’re not willing to pay that price.”

THE END OF ISIS? NOT YET: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Thursday that the Islamic State is at its end, but a U.S. military spokesman cautioned that the group remains a threat in Iraq and Syria. “We will continue to fight Daesh until every last one of them is killed or brought to justice,” Abadi tweeted on Thursday, using another word for ISIS. “We are seeing the end of the fake Daesh state, the liberation of Mosul proves that. We will not relent, our brave forces will bring victory.”

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In Iraq, U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told Pentagon reporters via a video teleconference that the defeat of ISIS in Mosul is “imminent” thanks to “a lot of sacrifice, a lot of effort from the Iraqi security forces and coalition members.” He said defeating ISIS “in their largest population center that they’ve ever been able to hold, and their Iraqi capital will be a significant day,” but hasn’t quite happened yet. “It will be a significant announcement that will be made by the government of Iraq,” which Dillon said should come in a “short amount of time.” This morning the AP reports Iraqi troops are essentially conducting “mop-up operations ” in the western part of the city.

THE CALIPHATE IS “CRUMBLING” That’s the assessment of Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, who has just done a quick tour of the the war zone in Syria. “Spent last two days in #Syria with local leaders in #AinIssa & #Tabqa. #ISIS “caliphate” crumbling. More to follow,” McGurk tweeted. Part of McGurk’s portfolio is post war reconstruction, including establishing basic security, restoring essential services, and making sure the U.S. and other coalition partners support the U.N. and NGOs who are working to provide humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations. “In all of his meetings, Mr. McGurk emphasized the importance of unity of effort and local control of liberated areas following the ‎defeat of ISIS,” according to a State Department readout.

LCS UPS AND DOWNS: The acting Navy secretary’s budget testimony in May about the need for a single littoral combat ship came back to bite the service Thursday. “We found that testimony compelling,” a Senate Armed Services aide said. And so the committee has proposed giving the Navy just one LCS in its 2018 defense policy bill. The problem for the Navy is it immediately revised Secretary Sean Stackley’s comments, after the White House reportedly intervened, and said it actually wanted two of the ships. But Armed Services is chaired by McCain, a longtime LCS critic, and the bill includes a smaller ship request that he telegraphed this month during a hearing. Now the proposal is on a collision course with House Armed Services over its budget plan for three LCS in 2018.

SPEAKING OF LCS: Remember last month when the Navy added an LCS to the budget request the day of the budget? Well, part of the mystery has been solved now that the White House has officially sent the amendment explaining how they rummaged through the couch cushions and found $500 million in the budget to pay for it. The money came from three areas:

  • $375 million from the “other procurement” account that had been set aside for an aircraft carrier reactor core. The core is “not needed in FY 2018,” the amendment said. It also cuts $40 million meant for dock landing ship modernization, due to “recently identified opportunities to save on contract costs,” and $10 million from the SPQ-9B radar that’s available “due to program underexecution.”
  • $100 million from the F/A-18 Infrared Search and Track system “due to the cancellation of the Block I version of the system,” which has “limited capability compared to the more advanced Block II variant.” The document says the Navy will equip the rest of the Hornets with the Block II system.
  • $25 million from the Navy energy account “due to a change in program strategy, which maintains energy funding at previous execution levels.”

THE ARMY SIZE QUESTION: The Army and members of the House Armed Services Committee seemed to be on the same page this week when the committee proposed adding 17,000 soldiers to the ranks in 2018. The $3.1 billion increase was part of an Army wish list of unfunded priorities given to Congress this month. But the number does not represent realistic growth for a single year, Senate Armed Services staff said Thursday.

The committee’s annual defense policy bill instead proposes 6,000 more soldiers in the coming year — nearly two thirds less — setting up a difference of opinion with House lawmakers that could lead to a showdown when the defense legislation is finalized later this year. “Pushing far beyond that, at least [in] this committee’s view, was not a place they want to go,” a Senate committee aide said. The House and Senate proposals are still above Trump’s request for zero growth in the service for 2018.

A WARTHOG WE CAN AGREE ON: Lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol were staking out divisions in the defense budget bills, but the A-10 Thunderbolt II was not one of them. The venerable close-air support aircraft, known as the Warthog, appeared likely to survive another fiscal brush with retirement after Senate and House committees approved bills with proposed funding to keep several squadrons flying. The $103 million would begin replacing wings on 110 of the aircraft. Rep. Martha McSally revealed this month that the service was heading toward grounding three of its nine squadrons due to a lack of money for the repairs and spearheaded the funding proposals in the House. The Air Force has agreed to keep the A-10 flying for at least the next five years after unsuccessfully tussling with Congress over a proposed retirement.

WIN-T NOT WINNING: The Army’s effort to build a wireless communication network for the battlefield ran into more trouble this week on Capitol Hill. Senate Armed Services wants to pause funding for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical system, or WIN-T, a program that the Army chief of staff said might not work and McCain claims has wasted $6 billion. It would lose $448 million in 2018 under the committee’s annual defense policy bill. “We think it is going to take some time for them to think through this thing,” a Senate aide said Thursday. The push comes as the Pentagon’s Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation was expected to release its review of the WIN-T program Friday, findings that will likely mirror the concerns raised by the Army chief in May, according to the committee.

APROPOS OF APPROPS: House Republicans took another step toward a major increase in defense spending, as a key panel approved a spending package to increase Pentagon funding by $60 billion.

“Congress’s number one responsibility is to provide for the defense of this nation,” Rep. Kay Granger, who leads the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, said Thursday. “It is this bill that fulfills that most fundamental constitutional duty.”

The defense bill provides $658 billion in funding for the military next year, a figure that exceeds Trump’s request by $28 billion. That extra funding will be devoted to a “defense readiness fund” that gives Mattis broad power to use to finance military programs that lost funding due to recent budget fights.

SURPRISE SUPPORT FOR AUMF: The surprise adoption of an amendment to require Congress to vote on new military authorization for the president may well end up being sidelined by GOP leaders, but their doing so would still require the first House vote on presidential military authority in 15 years, Susan Ferrechio writes. Rep. Barbara Lee, an anti-war progressive California Democrat, proposed the amendment to revoke the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, which Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump have utilized to carry out military missions overseas. Lee’s amendment sets a 240-day deadline for Congress to pass a new authorizing measure.

House appropriators passed the amendment at the committee level on Thursday in a voice vote, catching the rest of the GOP conference off guard and pleasantly surprising anti-war Democrats. But top Republicans Thursday wouldn’t promise to include the provision when the defense spending measure makes it to the House floor. They could move to rule the provision out of order, using the argument that spending bills are prohibited from changing existing law. But even if they do, that will require a roll call vote, the first on an Authorization for Use of Military Force in years.

HUTCHISON TO NATO: And the White House announced that Kay Bailey Hutchison is the president’s pick for U.S. ambassador to NATO, ending weeks of speculation that the former senator from Texas was the leading contender. As a moderate Republican who represented Texas in the Senate from 1993 to 2012, she might expect to receive a warmer welcome from her former colleagues than many of Trump’s other nominees, who had their nominations delayed or attacked by the Democratic minority.

NOMINATION UPDATE: The nomination of Matthew Donovan to be undersecretary of the Air Force was officially sent to the Senate yesterday, along with Ellen Lord to be undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.


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9:30 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. South Sudan: When war and famine collide.

6 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts host South Korean President Moon Jae-in for an address on foreign policy and U.S.-Korea relations.

7 p.m. 8th and I Sts. SE. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is the guest of honor at a Marine Barracks reception and evening parade.


9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The fight against corruption in Colombia with the country’s Inspector General Fernando Carrillo Flórez and Comptroller General Edgardo Maya Villazón.