Posts filed under ‘Asia-Pacific’
U.S. Arctic Strategy
“The United States is an Arctic nation,” begins the new National Strategy for the Arctic Region, released last week by the White House.
With the apparently inevitable melting of polar sea ice, areas of the Arctic previously locked in by thick ice will be open – at least in summer months – for maritime shipping, oil and gas exploration, commercial fishing scientific research and tourism. The mineral riches beneath the Arctic Sea – which is bordered by six nations, Canada, Denmark (which controls Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Russia and the United States — have prompted concerns about a “Cold Rush” of industries, corporations, speculators and governments hoping to take advantage of resources once thought inaccessible. But there are many more nations in Europe and Asia that want a say in how the top of the world is managed. [More on that in Arctic Council item below].
The brief (12-page) document released by the White House last Friday outlines where U.S. policy should be going in the High North. It calls for three strategic priority efforts:
- Advancing U.S. security interests in the Arctic, including operating vessels and aircraft through, over and under the airspace and waters of the Arctic. Providing for future U.S. energy security is also seen as a national security issue.
- Pursuing Responsible Stewardship of the Arctic, and that includes protecting the environment, conserving its resources and considering the needs of native peoples in the region.
- Strengthening International Cooperation to advance common interest and keep the region stable and free from conflict. The eight-member Arctic Council, which includes Sweden and Finland as well as the six previously mentioned Arctic nations, approved an Arctic Search and Rescue Agreement in 2011.The opening of sea lanes through Arctic nations’ territory and the extent of the mineral riches beneath the ice has raised concerns about who owns what and who controls territorial waters. A few years ago, a Russian underwater robot placed a Russian flag beneath the North Pole to assert Russia’s stake in the region. And Canada has been gearing up its defense forces and mapping its Arctic coastline to secure sovereignty over its portion of the region. The U.S. Continental shelf claim in the Arctic region “could extend more than 600 nautical miles from the north coast of Alaska,” according to the Arctic Strategy statement.
Scientists estimate that as much as 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered but recoverable oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas deposits – as well vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore and nickel – lie beneath the waters of the Arctic Circle. Easier access has all sorts of implications. It could break the monopolies some nations like China have on resources such as rare earths (needed in advanced weapons systems and mobile devices). It could also take business away from transit points like the Panama and Suez canals and create all sorts of headaches for countries like Canada if all the world’s shipping starts taking unrestricted shortcuts through their backyard.
The United States will seek to enhance “sea, air and space capabilities as Arctic conditions change,” the new strategy says, adding that “We will enable prosperity and safe transit by developing and maintaining sea, under-sea and air assets and necessary infrastructure.”
The new Arctic Strategy also calls for eventual U.S. acceptance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States is the only Arctic state that is not a party to the convention. The complex series of agreements defines the rights and responsibilities of national governments in their use of the world’s oceans. Despite the support by Presidents Bush and Obama, the Pentagon, State Department and several major business and industry groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opponents in the Senate have blocked ratification of the treaty largely on sovereignty and national defense grounds.
Patricia F.S. Cogswell, the senior director for Transborder Security on the National Security Staff, an a special assistant to the president for Homeland Security, says administration officials will be hosting roundtable discussions in Alaska sometime next month to discuss the best ways for implementing the concepts laid out by the strategy.
Arctic Council Grows
The eight member Arctic Council held their biennial ministers meeting in Kiruna, Sweden this week and decided to admit six nations – five of them Asian – as permanent observers. Only nations with territory in the Arctic (Canada, Denmark [Greenland], Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States [Alaska] can be members. Permanent observers can’t vote or speak at the meetings but they can automatically attend, unlike non-permanent observers.
Added to the list of 26 existing observer nations were: China, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. No non-state entities, like Greenpeace, were approved. And the application of the European Union – which has a dispute with Canada’s Inuit people over trading in the skins, meat and other parts of seals – was put on hold.
Canada’s Health and Northern Development Minister Leona Aglukkaq took over the two-year council chairmanship from Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. The United States is slated to take over the chairmanship role in 2015.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the council meeting that he looked forward to filling out the details of the new U.S. Arctic strategy “with all of you over the course of the next few years.”
It is a puzzlement
Sailors organize cargo poles on the flight deck during a weapons transfer aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in the Pacific Ocean, on April 18, 2013. The Stennis is returning from an 8-month deployment to the U.S. 5th and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility — the Middle East and the Pacific. Click on the photo to see an enlarged image.
U.S. Navy Seaman Isia Washington, an aviation ordnanceman, directs an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 8 — known as the Eightballers — to land on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) underway in the Pacific Ocean, April 10, 2013.
The Stennis Carrier Strike Group has been deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.
Honoring Korean War Hero
An Army chaplain who comforted the wounded during one of the early battles of the Korean War and then elected to stay behind with them — facing certain capture or death — has been awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama at a White House ceremony this week.
Rev. Emil J. Kapuan, who died in that POW camp after inspiring his men and seeing to their medical and spiritual needs under the harshest conditions, served with the 1st Cavalry Division.
Here is the citation for Father Kapuan’s Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery by those in uniform:
“Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1st to 2nd, 1950.
On November 1st, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man’s land.
Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. However, Chaplain Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded.
After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2nd, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds as hand-to-hand combat ensued. As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American forces.
Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic to remain and fight the enemy until captured.
Chaplain Kapaun’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Calvary Division and the United States Army.”
Several Korean War vets, including some who had survived the prison camp — thanks to Father Kapuan, were present at the White House award ceremony. The medal was presented to his nephew by Obama. Here is the transcript of that ceremony.
“He was a bright light in a dark, dark tunnel,” former POW Bob Wood told the Kansas City Star. “He didn’t get the Medal of Honor for killing people or leading a brave charge, but for something even more terribly inspiring.”
Something Different: Readers Choice
Over the last few weeks we’ve been bedeviled by the number of great photos taken by photographers of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. That has made it very difficult at times to pick just one for the FRIDAY FOTO. Longtime 4GWAR visitors have probably noticed we sometimes cheat and run two related photos of the same event or a FRIDAY FOTO Extra (usually a pretty picture without much back story).
This week we’ve decided to try something different. We’re going to let you, the readers, pick this week’s Friday Foto. This isn’t a contest. There are no prizes. Our budget doesn’t allow a cash prize and we have no 4GWAR ballcaps or coffee mugs to award. We just want to see if our taste is in synch with our readership’s.
Below you’ll find three recent photos from the Defense Department website with their original captions. You can pick the one you like by commenting at the bottom of the page or emailing us at 4GWARblog@wordpress.com.
We’ll announce the winner next Friday and post some of the comments we get on the photos and whether you think this was a good idea.
Photo No. 1
The Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) approaches the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) in Sattahip Bay, Thailand, on March 10, 2013. Frank Cable conducts maintenance and support of submarines and surface vessels deployed in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.
Photo No. 2
U.S. Marines and Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces move in on an enemy position together during the final comprehensive bilateral force-on-force training evolution during Exercise Forest Light 13-3 at the Hokkaido-Dai Maneuver Area, Hokkaido, Japan, March 3, 2013. The training began with the Marines and JGSDF patrolling separately on foot and by mechanized vehicles to reach a temporary position and set up a hasty defense
Photo No. 3
A soldier keeps watch from the hatch atop a M2 Bradley fighting vehicle as it maneuvers during a training mission at the National Urban Warfare Center in the Mojave Desert on Fort Irwin, Calif., Feb. 24, 2013.
O.K., so there are our three candidates. Don’t forget to click on each photo to enlarge the image (it often makes a difference in one’s appreciation).
Please comment at the bottom of this post (click on where it says comment or click on the blue headline at the top of this post to get the comment box to appear at the bottom of the post) or send us an email at 4GWARblog@gmail.com and give us your pick for next week’s Friday Foto.
Hitting the Beach
U.S. Marines and sailors speed ashore on combat rubber raiding crafts (Try saying that three times fast!) as part of exercise Cobra Gold 2013 in Hat Yao, None, Thailand, on Feb. 15.
Cobra Gold is an annual exercise that includes multilateral events ranging from amphibious assaults to non-combatant evacuation operations. The training aims to improve interoperability between the United States, Thailand and other participating countries, like South Korea. For more Cobra Gold photos click here.
For still more photos of jungle survival instruction conducted by Thai Marines, click here. Be forewarned, some of the things they have to eat are pretty gross. So don’t view this slideshow over breakfast. We warned you.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world …
Sailors on a ship boarding team race across the Atlantic Ocean on a rigid hull inflatable boat during a training exercise with the support vessel USS Prevail (TSV 1). The sailors are attached to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Carter Hall is participating in Composite Training Unit Exercise off the east coast of the U.S. in preparation for a deployment this spring.
Defense Department officials have warned that training will be among the activities that will be severely curtailed if Congress fails to reach a compromise on reducing the deficit and massive budget cuts kick in under sequestration starting March 1.
An MV-22 Osprey prepares for take off for a night low-altitude training mission at Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines.
The crew of the hybrid rotor and fixed wing aircraft, which is conducting day and night low-altitude training, is assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for the 4GWAR blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 210,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a (very) small country in Europe!
Last year 4GWAR was thrilled to receive more than 134,000 visits. This year’s visits totaled 209,970.
Most of those views came from the United States (84,926). In descending order, the top 10 foreign viewing countries were. 1. Britain (8,645); 2. Canada (7,008); 3. India (4,568); 4. Germany (4,082); 5. Australia (3,292); 6. France (3,271); 7. Brazil (2,288); 8. Poland (2,192); 9. Russia (1,984); 10. Pakistan, (1,795).
Indonesia was close behind at 1,769 views. The African country with the biggest viewership was South Africa with 840. Three of the five most viewed 4GWAR posts were about Africa.
Thanks to all who visited 4GWAR in 2012, we hope to see more of you in 2013!
Two Light Moments
There were a lot of interesting Defense Department photos to choose from for this week’s FRIFO, but with all that has gone on in the past few weeks around the world — slaughter of innocents in Connecticut, Syria and Pakistan, political anxiety in Washington and Cairo — we thought it might be better to post a couple of sweet moments captured by the department’s excellent photographers.
Four soldiers from the 6th Engineer Battalion, Combat Airborne build a snowman while waiting for a parachute drop of heavy equipment on Malamute Drop Zone at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska on Dec. 13. A heavy wet snow fell the day before at the installation just north of Anchorage and these soldiers obviously believe in the adage: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade — or at least snowmen. Please click on the photo to enlarge the image.
Paris, a coalition force military working dog, shows her gentler side interacting with village children in Afghanistan’s Farah province. Please click on the photo to enlarge the image. To see more photos of Paris and her battle buddies, click here. Dog lovers: To see more photos of Paris at work and play, click here.
A rifleman with Marine Deployment Unit 5, Maldivian National Defense Force, demonstrates throwing a grenade during a fragmentation battle station Oct. 6 as part of Exercise Coconut Grove 2012 on Gan Island. Coconut Grove, a bilateral training exercise conducted bi-annually between the Marine Corps and the MNDF., runs through Oct. 17.
The Coconut Grove exercise focuses mainly on general military skills training for the Marines and MNDF forces.
The Maldives consist of more than 1,000 islands located in the Indian Ocean about 250 miles south of India. The low-lying islands, home to 328,000 people, are expected to be one of the first countries to feel the effects of sea rise due to climate change.