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China plans to build four nuclear aircraft carriers to challenge American might

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…As Pentagon report says ISIS regrouping in Iraq***

In a bid to make proverbial waves in international waters, China has plans of having six aircraft carriers – four of them with nuclear capabilities – by 2035 in a bid to challenge US Navy.

According to a report in South China Morning Post, China – already on the fast track towards modernising its military – has set an ambitious goal to put its naval fleet at par with that of the US. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy is being ramped up and the addition of more aircraft carriers is being seen by Beijing as a logical step in keeping the Americans at bay. The country currently has one aircraft carrier while it commissioned another in April of 2017.

With a volatile South China Sea where several countries have challenged China’s claims over a number of islands, Beijing may deploy a number of these planned aircraft carriers here. “China’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with [EMALS-like systems] are expected to join the navy by 2035, bringing the total number of carriers to at least six – although only four will work at the front line,” Wang Yunfei, a naval expert, was quoted as saying in the report.

China has maintained that the urgent pace of modernising its navy stems from the need to secure its trade routes and maintain peace in international waters. It further claims that its military is devoted to peace and that its naval fleet in international waters is for patrolling purposes. Several countries – including the US and Japan – are, however, not buying the Chinese explanation and see the country as adopting an aggressive posture.

Military and economic experts – both in China and elsewhere – believe Beijing is likely to maintain its expenditure on modernising its military and that the country’s navy may well expect big gains. This despite an economic slowdown that China currently faces. “Even if the economic downturn has an effect, we can adjust proportions in total military expenditure to make sure naval modernisation keeps going,” Wang said, adding that in case of a war or war-like situation, it is likely that funding for infrastructure projects are cut rather than cuts in military expenditure.

While China has indeed ramped up its efforts to expand and modernise its military, there is an increasing concern within that human-training exercises must keep pace as well. For President Xi Jinping, the priority appears to have China compete with the likes of US and Russia not only in terms of economic might but military strength and for this, he may well invest in training exercises for the military in the immediate future.

In the meantime, the Islamic State group is regrouping in Iraq faster than in Syria, according to a new Pentagon report, underscoring the fluid nature of the security threat in the Middle East.

The assessment of the efforts by ISIS to reestablish a foothold in the region comes as the U.S. military is moving forward with a plan to pull out of Syria.

Citing the ongoing threat posed by the terror group, several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and former defense officials have sharply criticized President Donald Trump’s plan to draw down troops in Syria, as well as in Afghanistan.

The report, which was released Monday, confirms an NBC News story published last week that said a draft version had warned that ISIS could regain territory in six to 12 months in the absence of sustained military pressure.

“If Sunni socioeconomic, political and sectarian grievances are not adequately addressed by the national and local governments of Iraq and Syria, it is very likely that ISIS will have the opportunity to set conditions for future resurgence and territorial control,” according to the Department of Defense Inspector General Quarterly Report about Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Currently, ISIS is regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria, but absent sustained.

pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to 12 months and regain limited territory in the [middle Euphrates River valley].”

The report covers the three months from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018. Trump announced Dec. 19 that the U.S. military would be leaving Syria.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria,” he said via Twitter, “my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency.”

Monday’s report describes ISIS as a “battle-hardened force” that attracts an estimated 50 new foreign fighters per month and still generates revenue in Syria through “oil smuggling operations, taxation, and criminal activities such as extortion and kidnapping in areas they do not control.”

It says the group retains strength in rural swaths of Iraq but has devolved into a decentralized insurgency in Syria.

“ISIS’ loss of territory (in Syria) has put increased pressure on its leadership, who have fewer places to hide, according to media reports,” the report says. “As a result, more high-profile ISIS members have been captured or killed in recent months, although the seniormost members of the group have continued to elude death or capture.”

In recent days, the number of U.S. troops in Syria has spiked to around 3,000 as more troops have moved in to help with the withdrawal, according to defense officials. Logistical support and security forces are in the country to help move out equipment and eventually troops.

The U.S. military remains under orders for a complete withdrawal in 120 days, ending the U.S. presence there in mid-spring. Roughly 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq. In an interview that aired Sunday, Trump said it was vital to keep a military presence in the country to monitor Iran.

Iraqi President Barham Salih pushed back against the president Monday. “Those forces do not have the right to monitor many things, including watching Iran,” Salih said. “We will not allow this.”

Zee News with additional report from NBC

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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