Turkey supports Iran’s nuclear rights

Turkish President Abdullah Gul says Turkey supports Iran’s nuclear rights and will play a constructive role in Iran’s nuclear program in the future.

The visiting Turkish president made the remarks in an exclusive interview with Press TV in Tehran on Tuesday.

“We want to see this dispute solved in a peaceful way… through diplomacy and dialogue,” he said.

Commenting on Turkey’s military cooperation with the United States in NATO, he said that the US cannot use bases on Turkish soil for military purposes, such as for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unless Ankara gives official approval.

He stated that every military facility in Turkey is under the control of Turkish commanders, noting that “without our knowledge, nothing can happen there.”


Turkey, Azerbaijan to discuss military cooperation

Turkish delegation led by Turkish Gendarmerie Commander, General Necdet Ozel is on a visit to Azerbaijan.

Turkish delegation was hosted at the Headquarters of Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan on Tuesday, Internal Troops’ press service reports.

Guard of Honour stood in a row at the Headquarters of Internal Troops to welcome General Ozal. He visited the monument erected in memory of martyrs and wrote his cordial word to the Memory Book.

Then Gendarmerie Commander met with Azerbaijani Deputy Interior Minister, Commander of the Internal Troops, Lieutenant-General Zakir Hasanov. They discussed the current state and perspectives of cooperation between the relevant organizations of both countries.

Ozel’s visit to Azerbaijan started on January 17. Turkish delegation will meet with the leaders of Azerbaijani organizations. General will also visit the military unit of Internal Troops and Gala Educational Center.

Necdet Ozel: “Turkey will make all efforts for development of Azerbaijani Army and Internal Troops”

Interior Minister of Azerbaijan, Colonel-General Ramil Usubov met with delegation led by Turkish Gendarmerie Commander, General Necdet Ozel, who is on a visit to Azerbaijan, press service of the Interior Ministry said.

Reminding the existing business relations between interior bodies of both countries and material- technical aid to Internal Troops given by Turkish Gendarmerie, the Minister noted that much work had been done in this sphere in accordance with 1997, October 31 – Intergovernmental Protocol on Cooperation between Gendarmerie Headquarters and Internal Troops General Office. Moreover, he spoke about the activity of training center of Internal Troops built in Gala settlement.

The Minister said that this visit would positively impact on development of relations and that potential opportunities of the relevant bodies would be used effectively.

General Ozel highly assessed productive cooperation between the organizations. He added that Turkey would make all efforts for development of Azerbaijani Army and Internal Troops.


Russia To Pay Almost $2B For French Warships

Mistral-class Landing Helicopter Dock (LGD) ship, France

Russia will pay France 1.37 billion euros ($1.81 billion) for two Mistral-class assault warships that Moscow agreed to purchase from the NATO member last week, news reports said Dec. 30.

“The first ship will cost 720 million euros and the second 650 million euros,” the RIA Novosti news agencies cited a source close to the negotiations as saying.

The deal, which involves joint construction of the vessels, is the first sale to Russia of such naval high-tech by a NATO country.

It has been condemned by Alliance members from the three Baltic nations, with leaked cables showing that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates also raised the issue while on a visit to Paris this year.

The helicopter carrier costs about 500 million euros ($650 million) and it was not immediately clear why Russia was paying a premium.

Moscow had sought to purchase the craft together with their sensitive equipment and the December 24 announcement in Paris made no mention of whether Russia had got its way.

The source close to the negotiation said Moscow was paying a higher price for the first craft because most of it would be produced in France, with Russia’s share in the project growing by the second vessel.

“If Russia’s share of construction on the first ship is 20 percent, it may reach up to 40 percent for the second ship,” the source told RIA Novosti.

The source said the third and fourth ships would be fully manufactured in Russia as per agreement, but gave no time frame of when the craft would be built.

A Mistral-class ship can carry up to 16 helicopters, four landing craft, 13 battle tanks, around 100 other vehicles and a 450-strong force. It has facilities for a full command staff and is equipped with a 69-bed hospital.


Pakistan Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Missile

The military said in a statement that Ghauri Hatf 5, with a range of 800 miles, could carry conventional and other warheads.

Pakistan on Tuesday successfully test fired a medium-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads, the military said.

The military said in a statement that Ghauri Hatf 5, with a range of 800 miles, could carry conventional and other warheads.

The launch was conducted by the Army Strategic Force command’s strategic missile group at the end of a field-training exercise aimed at testing the force’s operational readiness, the statement said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman General Khalid Shahmeem Wyne and other senior military officers and scientists witnessed the tests, it said.

“You have made the nation proud and we salute you for your outstanding work,” Gilani told the scientists and engineers.

Gilani said Pakistan could be proud of its defense capability and the reliability of its nuclear deterrence. This capability, he added, formed the bedrock of Pakistan’s security policy and will continue to be enhanced.

“The test amply demonstrates the credibility of our minimum deterrence strategy, which is the cornerstone of our security policy and ensures peace in the region,” he said.

“It also sends the right signals internationally that Pakistan’s defense capability is impregnable and should never be challenged.”

Gilani said Pakistan was a responsible nation with an extremely reliable nuclear capability and did not harbor any aggressive designs against anyone.

South Asian rivals India and Pakistan – which have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir – have routinely carried out missile tests since both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability in 1998.

Pakistan’s arsenal includes short-, medium- and long-range missiles named after Muslim conquerors.

“Let there be no doubt that Pakistan’s armed forces are highly professional, motivated and fully capable of safeguarding Pakistan’s security against all types of aggression,” Gilani added.


China warns of escalating arms race in Asia

Japan unveiled a sweeping update of its national defence polices on December 17, 2010 (Photo: Reuters)

China is warning that it will be forced to stoke up a dangerously escalating arms race in Asia in response to Japanese plans to build a missile-defence system designed to protect the country from North Korean attacks.

Japan said last week that it planned to purchase Patriot PAC3 interceptors, which are meant to shoot down incoming short and medium-range ballistic missiles, and to step up work on Aegis – a US-led sea-based system to protect ships and troops from ballistic missile attack.

Beijing fears that these acquisitions, though targeted at North Korea’s rogue nuclear programme, will threaten the balance of power. “Japan’s new military investments are going to transform the military balance in the region,” a Chinese diplomat said. “China will have no choice but to respond by enhancing its own capabilities.” Jiang Yu, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, described Japan’s plans as “irresponsible”.

Experts fear that other countries will respond as well as China. India, for example, could grow its own missile arsenal in response to a Chinese move and Pakistan would soon follow.

“China depends heavily on both conventional and nuclear-armed ballistic missiles to offset the technological weaknesses of its armed forces,” said Ashley Tellis, a US strategic expert, “so a more robust Japanese missile defence system is a real threat to its clout.”

Japan is the second Chinese adversary to invest in US missile defence systems. In January, the US administration said anti-ballistic missile defence equipment would form part of an $6.4 billion (£4.1 billion) arms sale to Taiwan.

China, unlike the other four original nuclear-weapons states, has been rapidly expanding its much-smaller nuclear arsenal – by over 25 per cent in the last five years, Pentagon estimates claim.

Much of the expansion has been driven by fears that new US ballistic missile defences could undermine the deterrent value of Beijing’s nuclear forces. Experts estimate that China deploys some 130 land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, each capable of delivering a single warhead. Missiles like the medium-range Dong Feng-3A and DF-4 are in the processes of being replaced the more modern DF 21.

The new DF-41 missile that China is developing is expected to be capable of carrying multiple independently-targeted warheads, which are also hard to intercept.

China is simultaneously expanding its fleet of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, which can lurk underwater for extended periods of time and are almost undetectable.

Praveen Swami, Telegraph

NH-90 First Flights for French, Spanish Tactical Helos

France has ordered 34 NH90 aircraft to partly replace aging Puma and Cougar transport helicopters flown by the Army Aviation Corps. (NHIndustries)

French and Spanish NH90 tactical transport helicopters (TTHs) made maiden flights Dec. 17 at Eurocopter’s Marignane facility in southern France, prime contractor NHIndustries said in a statement.

The head of the Direction Générale pour l’Armement (DGA), Laurent Collet-Billon, told the French parliament’s defense committee Oct. 20 that the French Army is due next year to receive its first NH90 TTH helicopter and the French Navy its first Nato Frigate Helicopter (NFH), the naval version of the NH90. The DGA is the French government’s defense procurement office.

France ordered 34 NH90 TTH aircraft to partly replace aging Puma and Cougar transport helicopters flown by the Army Aviation Corps.

The Spanish NH90 flew for the first time with the General Electric CT7-8F5 twin-engine set specified by the Spanish authorities, NHIndustries said. The standard engines offered on the NH90 are the Rolls-Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 or the GE T700.

Spain has ordered 45 NH90s, with the first helicopter to be delivered in 2012. The first two Spanish aircraft will be built at Marignane, with the remaining 43 assembled at the Albacete facility of Eurocopter Spain.

The first Spanish NH90 will be sent to Albacete next year to complete development flights to allow certification by Spain’s Ministry of Defense.

The NH90 program is managed by NHIndustries, a consortium held 62.5 percent by Eurocopter, a subsidiary of EADS; 32 percent by AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italy’s Finmeccanica group; and 5.5 percent by Fokker Aerostructures, a unit of Fokker Aerospace of the Netherlands. Fourteen European countries have ordered 529 NH90s to equip 19 armed forces.


South Korea to hold firing drills despite North Korea threat

South Korean marines unload their supplies from a ferry at a port on Yeonpyeong island, South Korea, on Saturday. (AP photo)

South Korean troops geared up Saturday for artillery drills on a border island shelled by North Korea last month despite Pyongyang’s threat to retaliate again, as Russia and China expressed concerns over rising tensions on the divided peninsula.

The North warned Friday that it would strike even harder than before if the South went ahead with its planned drills. Four people died last month in the North’s attack on Yeonpyeong Island near the tense sea border.

The U.S. supports South Korea, saying the country has a right to conduct such a military exercise. But Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed its “extreme concern” Friday over the drills and urged South Korea to cancel them to prevent a further escalation of tensions.

China, the North’s key ally, also said it is firmly opposed to any acts that could worsen already-high tensions on the Korean peninsula. “In regard to what could lead to worsening the situation or any escalation of acts of sabotage of regional peace and stability, China is firmly and unambiguously opposed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement Saturday.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said Saturday that marines would go ahead with the drills as scheduled and that the military was ready to respond to any possible provocation.

“We have a right to conduct our own military drills,” a Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said.

The North’s threat and the Chinese and Russian concerns will not affect the timing of the exercise, said the officer, who spoke anonymously, citing department rules.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said the drills are defensive in nature and are not aimed at stoking regional tensions.

The artillery drills were not expected to be held over the weekend because of bad weather and will be conducted either Monday or Tuesday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff officer said.

Marines carrying rifles conducted routine patrols Saturday morning on Yeonpyeong, and no warning for residents to evacuate to underground shelters had been issued. About 300 residents, officials and journalists remain on Yeonpyeong, but officials from Ongjin County, which governs the island, said they had no immediate plans to order a mandatory evacuation to the mainland.

“North Korea said it will deal the powerful … blow at us if we go ahead and fire artillery. So residents are getting more restless,” said Yoon Jin-young, a 48-year-old islander.

Later Saturday, activists launched balloons containing about 200,000 propaganda leaflets toward the North from the island, which is only about seven miles (11 kilometers) from North Korean shores. The balloons also carried 1,000 $1 bills and DVDs containing information on the North’s artillery barrage last month.

Several bloody naval skirmishes occurred along the western sea border in recent years, but last month’s assault was the first by the North to target a civilian area since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The North does not recognize the U.N.-drawn sea border in the area.

The North claims South Korea fired artillery toward its territorial waters before it unleashed shells on the island last month, while the South says it launched shells southward, not toward North Korea, as part of routine exercises.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Friday that North Korea should not view South Korea’s upcoming drills as a threat.

“A country has every right to train and exercise its military in its own self-defense,” Crowley said. “North Korea should not use any future legitimate training exercises as justification to undertake further provocative actions.”

Still, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, voiced worry of a potential chain reaction if the drills are misunderstood or if North Korea reacts negatively. “What you don’t want to have happen out of that is for us to lose control of the escalation,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.

A flurry of regional diplomacy was under way to defuse the tensions, with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson visiting the North.

A frequent unofficial envoy to the reclusive country, Richardson said he wanted to visit the North’s main nuclear complex and meet with senior officials during his four-day trip, though details of his schedule were unclear.

“My objective is to see if we can reduce the tension in the Korean peninsula,” Richardson said Thursday at the airport in Pyongyang, according to Associated Press Television News.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg held closed-door meetings Thursday with Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Beijing’s top foreign policy official returned last week from talks in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. China has come under growing pressure to push North Korea to change its behavior.

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the Nov. 23 attack on Yeonpyeong “one of the gravest provocations since the end of the Korean War.”

Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, urged North Korea to show restraint and called on both Koreas to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.


France ready to transfer warship tech to Russia: PM

Mistral-class LHD of the French Navy.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on a visit to Moscow on Thursday that France was ready to transfer military technology if it won a tender to supply Russia with Mistral warships.

“There is no question about the technology transfer, no problem regarding technology transfers,” Fillon said at a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Russia had been in exclusive talks with France to buy two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships but in August the defence ministry announced an international tender.

Putin stressed that the price and the possibility of technology transfer to allow Russia to subsequently learn to build its own warships of the same class, would be key criteria in Russia’s choice.

“The price is important. Russia is also interested in technology transfers. This is important for our ship building,” Putin said.

Fillon complained jokingly that Putin was a hard bargainer in price negotiations.

“We are discussing the price and Vladimir Putin is not the easiest person to talk to about this question,” he said.

Over several months, talks with Moscow have stalled on the question of technology transfer.

France has been negotiating with Russia since 2009 on a possible deal to sell Moscow the Mistral, a powerful warship capable of carrying helicopters and tanks, costing around 500 million euros.

If agreed, the deal would be the first sale to Russia of such technology by a NATO country and France’s NATO allies have expressed concern about arming Russia with modern Western weaponry.

AFP/Defence Talk