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Austin in unannounced visit to Ukraine

Austin “traveled to Ukraine today to meet with Ukrainian leaders and reinforce the staunch support of the United States..reports Asian Lite News

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday to reassure Ukraine that Washington will continue supporting its fight against invading Russian forces.

The United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in security aid for Ukraine and repeatedly pledged to back Kyiv for “as long as it takes,” but opposition from hard-line Republican lawmakers has raised doubts about the future of American assistance.

Austin “traveled to Ukraine today to meet with Ukrainian leaders and reinforce the staunch support of the United States for Ukraine’s fight for freedom,” the Pentagon said in a statement on the trip, which was not announced ahead of time due to security concerns.

“He will also underscore the continued US commitment to providing Ukraine with the security assistance it needs to defend itself from Russian aggression,” it said.

The trip to Kyiv — via train from Poland — is the Pentagon leader’s second since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Washington is by far the biggest donor of military assistance to Kyiv, and a cut to American aid would be a major blow to Ukraine as it readies for the second winter of the war.

Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged lawmakers during a hearing in October to sustain support for Ukraine, with the US defense chief saying that “without our support, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be successful.”

But some Republican lawmakers oppose continued aid, and new support for Ukraine was left out of a temporary deal passed by Congress last week to avert a US government shutdown.

US assistance has not however been halted and there is still previously authorized aid to draw on.

But Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said earlier this month that assistance packages “have been getting smaller because we have had to meter out our support for Ukraine.”

The United States has spearheaded the push for international support for Ukraine, quickly forging a coalition to back Kyiv after Russia invaded and coordinating aid from dozens of countries.

Ukraine’s supporters have also provided training to Kyiv’s troops, while the United States and other countries imposed tough sanctions on Russia, with targets including financial institutions, technology imports and energy exports.

ALSO READ: US Democrats discuss conditioning military aid to Israel

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Austin in Israel to meet leaders  

Austin is the second high-level U.S. official to visit Israel in two days….reports Asian Lite News

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived Friday in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv to meet with senior government leaders and see firsthand some of the U.S. weapons and security assistance that Washington rapidly delivered to Israel in the first week of its war with the militant Hamas group.

Austin is the second high-level U.S. official to visit Israel in two days. His quick trip from Brussels, where he was attending a NATO defense ministers meeting, comes a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the region on Thursday. Blinken is continuing the frantic Mideast diplomacy, seeking to avert an expanded regional conflict.

Austin is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant, and the Israeli War Cabinet.

His arrival comes as Israel’s military directed hundreds of thousands of residents in Gaza City to evacuate “for their own safety and protection,” ahead of a feared Israeli ground offensive. Gaza’s Hamas rulers responded by calling on Palestinians to “remain steadfast in your homes and to stand firm” against Israel.

Defense officials traveling with Austin said he wants to underscore America’s unwavering support for the people of Israel and that the United States is committed to making sure the country has what it needs to defend itself.

A senior defense official said the U.S. has already given Israel small diameter bombs as well as interceptor missiles for its Iron Dome system and more will be delivered. Other munitions are expected to arrive Friday.

Austin has spoken nearly daily with Gallant, and directed the rapid shift of U.S. ships, intelligence support and other assets to Israel and the region. Within hours after the brutal Hamas attack across the border into Israel, the U.S. moved warships and aircraft to the region.

The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier strike group is already in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and a second carrier was departing Friday from Virginia, also heading to the region.

Austin declined to say if the U.S. is doing surveillance flights in the region, but the U.S. is providing intelligence and other planning assistance to the Israelis, including advice on the hostage situation.

A day after visiting Israel to offer the Biden administration’s diplomatic support in person, Blinken was in Jordan on Friday for talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who has a home in the Jordanian capital of Amman.

The monarch rules over a country with a large Palestinian population and has a vested interest in their status while Abbas runs the Palestinian Authority that controls the West Bank.

Later Friday, Blinken is to fly to Doha for meetings with Qatari officials who have close contacts with the Hamas leadership and have been exploring an exchange of Palestinian prisoners in Israel for the release of dozens of Israelis and foreigners taken hostage by Hamas during the unprecedented incursion of the militants into southern Israel last weekend.

Blinken will make a brief stop in Bahrain and end the day in Saudi Arabia, a key player in the Arab world that has been considering normalizing ties with Israel, a U.S.-mediated process that is now on hold.

He will also travel to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt over the weekend.

ALSO READ: Hamas Vows Payback If Israel Enters Gaza On Foot

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Austin holds talks with Pak Army chief

The U.S. statement refrained from disclosing specifics regarding the conversation between the two officials. However, this discussion occurred at a juncture when both nations are actively working towards the restoration of their diplomatic relations….reports Asian Lite News

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin held a phone call with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, a brief statement issued in Washington announced on Tuesday night.

The US statement did not share details of the conversation between the two officials, though their exchange comes at a time when both countries are trying to rebuild relations that came under strain during the government of former prime minister Imran Khan.

The ex-premier accused the administration in Washington of orchestrating his downfall in a no-trust vote since he was trying to pursue an independent foreign policy. The US official have, however, repeatedly denied the claim.

“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke by phone today with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen. Asim Munir,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a brief statement. “Secretary Austin and Gen. Munir discussed areas of mutual interest as well as recent regional developments.”

Pakistan army media wing, ISPR, is yet to issue a statement about the phone call. However, the caretaker administration gave a deadline to all illegal immigrants, mostly Afghan nationals, to leave the country by the end of the month.

The decision was announced after two militant attacks on a mosque and a religious procession left more than 60 people dead in the country’s western provinces bordering Afghanistan.

Officials in Islamabad have frequently blamed the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose leadership is said to be based in the neighboring state, for launching such attacks.

The country’s caretaker interior minister Sarfaraz Bugti also blamed Afghan nationals for their involvement in several militant attacks during a media briefing.

“From January till now, there have been 24 suicide bombings [in Pakistan],” he said. “Of those 24, 14 suicide bombings were carried out by Afghan nationals. They were Afghans who attacked us.


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B-21 Raider: US unveils high-tech stealth bomber

Delivering his remarks at the ceremony in California, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the B-21’s edge will last for decades, reports Asian Lite News

The United States has unveiled the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, the world’s first sixth-generation aircraft that will soon be delivered to the US Air Force.

“The Northrop Grumman team develops and delivers technology that advances science, looks into the future and brings it to the here and now,” said Kathy Warden, chief executive officer of Northrop Grumman which developed the bomber. “The B-21 Raider defines a new era in technology and strengthens America’s role of delivering peace through deterrence.” Delivering his remarks at the ceremony in California, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the B-21’s edge will last for decades. Austin explained that the B-21 bomber will not be theater-based, it won’t need logistical support to hold any target at risk, and the most sophisticated air defence systems will struggle to detect the stealth aircraft.

Austin added that the B-21 will be the most maintainable bomber ever built, designed to deliver both conventional and nuclear munitions with formidable precision.

He said the aircraft will be able to gather intelligence to integrate with allies and partners. The aircraft will be able to support joint and coalition forces across the full spectrum of operations.

In a statement, Northrop Grumman described the B-21 Raider forms the backbone of the future for U.S. air power. Its sixth-generation capabilities include stealth, information advantage and open architecture.

“The B-21 Raider is a testament to America’s enduring advantages in ingenuity and innovation. And it’s proof of the Department’s long-term commitment to building advanced capabilities that will fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future. Now, strengthening and sustaining U.S. deterrence is at the heart of our National Defence Strategy,” said Austin.

“This bomber was built on a foundation of strong, bipartisan support in Congress. And because of that support, we will soon fly this aircraft, test it and then move into production,” he added.

The B-21 is capable of networking across the battlespace to multiple systems, and into all domains.

“Supported by a digital ecosystem throughout its lifecycle, the B-21 can quickly evolve through rapid technology upgrades that provide new capabilities to outpace future threats, according to Northrop Grumman’s statement,” the American multinational aerospace said.

The B-21 Raider is named in honour of the Doolittle Raids of World War II when 80 men, led by Lt. Col. James “Jimmy” Doolittle, and 16 B-25 Mitchell medium bombers set off on a mission that changed the course of World War II.

The designation B-21 recognizes the Raider as the first bomber of the 21st century, the US company adds. (ANI)

ALSO READ: US deploys B-1B bombers in Guam amid N. Korea tensions

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Russia’s hypersonic missile not a game-changer: Austin

“I think the reason he is resorting to using these types of weapons is because he is trying to re-establish some momentum,” Said Austin…reports Asian Lite News

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has said that Russia’s claim of using a hypersonic missile in Ukraine was a way to reclaim war momentum, and the weapon has not proved to be a “game changer,” media reported.

Moscow has said it has fired two hypersonic missiles in Ukraine, and while US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would not “confirm or dispute” whether Russia used such weapons, he warned that President Vladimir Putin’s invasion was undergoing a change in tactics including the targeting of civilians.

CNN earlier reported that the US officially confirmed Russia’s use of ‘Dagger’ nuclear-capable hypersonic aeroballistic air-to-ground missile during the hostilities in Ukraine.

According to the CNN report, this was the first recorded case of the use of such missiles during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

But “I would not see it as a game changer,” Austin told CBS talk show “Face the Nation.”

“I think the reason he is resorting to using these types of weapons is because he is trying to re-establish some momentum,” he added. “And again, we’ve seen him attack towns and cities and civilians outright (and) we expect to see that continue.”

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal, also known as ‘Dagger’, has a claimed range of more than 2,000 km, Mach 10 speed, and an ability to perform evasive manoeuvers at every stage of its flight.

It can carry both conventional and nuclear warheads and can be launched from Tu-22M3 bombers or MIG 31 K interceptors.

It entered service in December 2017 and is one of the six new Russian strategic weapons unveiled by President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

Russia’s use of the hard-to-intercept hypersonics would mark a dramatic escalation of its campaign to force Ukraine to abandon hopes of closer ties with the West.

On Saturday, Russia’s Ministry of Defence had announced the use of the Dagger missiles to strike an underground warehouse in Ukraine’s Ivano-Frankivsk region.

The US Department of Defence was able to track missile launches in real time. Weapons were used to fire on military personnel in the region’s Delyatyn village.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence believes that the offensive of the Russian forces in Ukraine has slowed down due to the inability to take control of the airspace.

“Russia has failed to gain control of the air and relies mainly on short-range weapons, which fire from the relative security zone in Russian airspace to hit targets within Ukraine,” it said.

At the same time, it is noted that gaining control of the airspace in Ukraine was one of the main goals in the first days of the conflict and the constant inability of the Russians to achieve this “significantly blunted their operational progress”, the Ministry added.

ALSO READ: Putin moving to ‘Plan B’ in Ukraine

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Rajnath, Austin vow to boost India-US defence ties

With Austin’s visit to India and plan to enhance defence cooperation with India, US is sending a strong signal to China against its growing military activities in South China Sea region, reports Asian Lite News

The bilateral meeting between Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and US Defence Secretary Lloyd James Austin on Saturday focussed on defence cooperation, expanding military-to-military engagement across services, information sharing, cooperation in emerging sectors of defence, and mutual logistics support.

“We had a comprehensive and fruitful discussion with Secretary Austin and his delegation. We are keen to work together to realise the full potential of the India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership,” Singh said after the meeting.

Austin is on a three-day visit to India starting Friday. Upon arrival, he had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Also Read – Austin meets Modi in New Delhi

Singh said that they reviewed the wide gamut of bilateral and multilateral exercises and agreed to pursue enhanced cooperation with the US Indo-Pacific Command, Central Command and Africa Command.

“Acknowledging that we have in place the foundational agreements, LEMOA, COMCASA and BECA, we discussed steps to be taken to realise their full potential for mutual benefit,” he said.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin to Guard of Honour at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi on Saturday 20 March,2021. (Photo:IAN/Qamar Sibtain)

The minister pointed out that the recent Leaders’ Summit of India, the US, Japan and Australia under the Quad framework emphasised on the resolve to maintain a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

“We discussed the need for enhanced capacity building to address some of the non-traditional challenges such as oil spills and environmental disasters, drug trafficking, illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing and others,” Singh said.

India is committed to further consolidate robust defence partnership with the US, the minister said.

Also Read – Quad to up India’s vaccine output focusing Indo-Pacific

After the meeting, Austin first expressed condolences for the tragic accident that killed an Indian Air Force pilot earlier this week.

“Our hearts go out to his family and friends. His death reminds us of the risks our brave service men and women take each day to defend our democracies, our people, and our way of life,” Austin said.

The US Defence Secretary said that he had a productive discussion on a number of security issues which are important to both the countries.

India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a meeting with US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin in New Delhi

“And at the top of my agenda, I wanted to convey the Biden-Harris administration’s message of our strong commitment to our allies and partners,” he said.

India, in particular, is an increasingly important partner amid today’s rapidly shifting international dynamics, he said.

“I reaffirmed our commitment to a comprehensive and forward-looking defense partnership with India as a central pillar of our approach to the region. As the world faces a global pandemic and growing challenges to an open and stable international system, the US-India relationship is a stronghold of a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Austin said.

Also Read – Blinken ,Japanese FM discuss free ‘Indo-Pacific’

He added that Prime Minister Narendra has stated that India stands for “freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, and adherence to international law”.

“This is a resounding affirmation of our shared vision for regional security in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday (Photo: @narendramodi)

“Our work today is grounded in our shared values and converging strategic interests. We discussed the opportunities to elevate the US-India Major Defence Partnership, which is a priority of the Biden-Harris administrationa, through regional security cooperation, military-to-military interactions, and defence trade,” Austin said.

He also pointed out that both the countries are continuing to advance new areas of collaboration, including information sharing, logistics cooperation, Artificial Intelligence, and cooperation in new domains such as space and cyber.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in New Delhi on Friday (Photo: @SecDef/Twitter)

“We also discussed engagement with like-minded partners through multilateral groupings such as the Quad and ASEAN. As the Indo-Pacific region faces acute transnational challenges, such as climate change, and challenges to a free and open regional order, cooperation among like-minded countries is imperative to secure our shared vision for the future.

“Despite today’s challenging security environment, the partnership between the US and India — the world’s two largest democracies — remains resilient and strong,” he said.

Later in the day during a presser at the US Embassy in the national capital, Austin said that they never thought India and China were at the threshold of a war due to the tensions in Ladakh.

Also Read – US, S.Korea reach cost-sharing deal

“India and US will continue to work with like-minded countries and that is the way to counter any challenge,” he said.

Austin also said that he has discussed human rights issues with Indian Cabinet ministers.

India and the US share close defence cooperation with Washington authorising over $20 billion in defence sales to India.

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Austin meets Modi in New Delhi

The visit is seen as a strong commitment of Biden administration to its strong allies in the Indo-Pacific, reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has met with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and stressed the commitment to the strategic partnership between the two countries amid rising tensions in the region and around the world with China.

Modi tweeted after their meeting on Friday, “Pleasure to meet U.S. @SecDef Lloyd Austin today. Conveyed my best wishes to @POTUS @JoeBiden. India and US are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good.”

Austin also met with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, according to the US embassy.

Soon after his arrival, Austin tweeted that his discussions in India would centre on cooperating to face “most pressing challenges” in the Indo-Pacific region where China’s aggressive actions, from the Himalayas to the South China Sea are on the rise.

Also Read – Quad to up India’s vaccine output focusing Indo-Pacific

He is scheduled to meet Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the delegations from the two countries are to hold discussions during his visit.

The first visit by a member of US President Joe Biden’s Cabinet to India came as leaders of the US and China clashed at a meeting in Alaska symbolising the growing aggressiveness of China.

It is particularly highlighted in the Indo-Pacific region and the US is responding by working closely with allies and partners.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin meets India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in New Delhi on Friday (Photo: @SecDef/Twitter)

Austin tweeted, “Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defense partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region.”

Outlining Austin’s agenda in India, Acting Assistant Defence Secretary for Indo-Pacific, David F. Helvey, said that he will “discuss operationalising the major defence partnership that we have with India, including through enhanced information sharing, regional security cooperation, defence trade, and cooperation in new domains.”

The Indian Defence Ministry said that Singh and Austin “are expected to discuss ways to further strengthen bilateral defence cooperation and exchange views on regional security challenges and common interests in maintaining a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.”

Also Read – Blinken ,Japanese FM discuss free ‘Indo-Pacific’

It added, “Discussions regarding defence cooperation would also focus on how both countries could consolidate military-to-military cooperation and defence trade and industry cooperation.”

The US designated India as a major defence partner by the US in 2016 allowing it access to some defence hi-tech that would normally be available only to allies.

The visit reflects President Joe Biden’s focus on the Indo-Pacific region to meet the Chinese challenge.

Last week Biden held a virtual summit with other leaders of the Quad nations, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Scott Morrison of Australia and Yoshihide Suga of Japan, at which they discussed security issues in the face of Chinese aggressive actions.

While on his way to India, Austin spoke to Australia’s Foreign Minister Maria Payne, who also holds the defence portfolio.

Also Read – US, S.Korea reach cost-sharing deal

Helvey said that Austin spoke to her about the “Quadrilateral process” of the four nations.

Before coming to India, Austin had visited two US treaty allies, Japan and Korea, on the frontlines of Chinese aggressiveness at sea in the region, and the military headquarters of the Indo-Pacific headquarters in Hawaii.

He and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held 2+2 ministerial meetings with their counterparts in Seoul and Tokyo.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin with President of South Korea Moon Jae-in (Photo: @SecBlinken)

The meeting of Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan with senior Chinese officials, State Councilor Wang Yi and Communist Party Foreign Affairs Director Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Wang Yi, opened yesterday in Anchorage, Alaska, with open hostility.

Blinken said: “We will always stand up for our principles for our people, and for our friends.”

Yi retorted that the US was trying to “obstruct normal trade exchanges, and incite some countries to attack China” — a veiled reference to India, which hs defended itself against a by Beijing’s army along the Line of Actual Control.

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