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South China Sea Awaits A Fearsome US-China Clash Ahead Of US Presidential Elections?

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The South China Sea has long been a bone of contention between the US and China. The Chinese military recently claimed that it “expelled” a U.S. navy vessel from the South China Sea this week adding to US-China tensions over COVID-19 pandemic.

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Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, in the latest incident in the ongoing dispute over the control of the South China Sea (SCS), two United States airforce B-1 Lancer bombers conducted a 32- hour round-trip sortie over the SCS infuriating Beijing.

The latest move by the US follows the earlier naval destroyer, USS Barry, sailing through waters near the Chinese claimed Islands in the Sout China Sea challenging China’s claim to the area.

Using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse, the Chinese are taking bold and provocative actions in the South China Sea and the sea near Taiwan to forward their regional interests, experts talking to the EurAsaian Times have warned.

Following the sortie, the US Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement: “This operation demonstrates the US Air Force’s dynamic force employment model in line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability with persistent bomber presence, assuring allies and partners.

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A week earlier, a B-1 participated with six US Air Force F-16s and 15 Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15s for CONUS-based bomber bilateral training near Japan.

The Chinese were quick to slam the American sortie and Naval passage in the South China Sea. ‘’The People’s Liberation Army will remain highly vigilant and keep monitoring foreign navies’ activities in the region,’’ ministry spokesman Senior Colonel Wu Qian said in a news release.

“Reality has proved once again that the US is the biggest facilitator of the militarization of the South China Sea, and is a troublemaker for the region’s peace and stability,” Wu added.

The South China Sea   

The South China Sea is a key commercial sea passage connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, and its seabed is rich with natural resources such as oil and gas. A third of global shipping, or a total of US$3.37 trillion of international trade, passes through the SCS.

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The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia hold different, sometimes overlapping, territorial claims over the sea, based on various accounts of history and geography. China claims more than 80 per cent and uses the ‘nine-dash line” as a geographical marker used to back its claim.

It stretches as far as 2,000km from the Chinese mainland, reaching waters close to Indonesia and Malaysia

On April 25, China established administrative districts on the Paracel Islands and Spratly islands, the site of overlapping ownership claims. Vietnam was quick to respond to the provocative move and demanded Beijing to ‘’abolish its wrongful decisions.

In the same week, A Chinese vessel was caught tailing a Malaysian state oil company drillship, just north of Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone. This drew criticism from the US, but the Chinese foreign ministry accused the Americans of smearing Beijing and said the vessel was conducting normal activities.

In response, the US deployed a ‘’freedom of navigation operation” in the SCS. The Navy also released a statement which said that the US sought to assert the “rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law.’’

“Unlawful and sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea pose an unprecedented threat to the freedom of the seas, including the freedoms of navigation and overflight and the right of innocent passage of all ships,” it said

Chinese officials called out US actions in the South China Sea. The PLA accused the United States of “provocative acts” that “seriously violated international law and China’s sovereignty and security interests.” The US action was “also incompatible with the current joint efforts of the international community to fight against the COVID-19,” it said.

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Apart from the SCS, another region that has seen an increase in Chinese presence, is Taiwan. China and Taiwan are entangled in a decade-old dispute which sees both countries claiming to be the true representatives of Chinese people.

Taiwanese diplomatic recognition has been dwindling with only 15 countries officially recognizing Taiwan. For Beijing, Taiwan is a no-compromise situation and seek to control the country. In recent weeks, the Chinese have been flexing their muscles to test the defence of its adversaries.

In mid-March, the People’s Liberation Army sent warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait and briefly approached Taiwan. The move, which according to analysts was at least partly to intimidate Taiwan, prompted the country to scramble fighter planes to intercept. The PLA air force also reportedly conducted its first night mission in earlier last month.

China started sending military flotillas past Taiwan and Japan on a semi-regular basis. In Mid April, a six-vessel strike group led by China’s only aircraft carrier, Liaoning, sailed through the Miyako Strait and past Taiwan, under watch by the Taiwanese and Japanese defence forces.

Speaking to Reuters, Lo Chih-cheng, a senior legislator with Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said China was showing that its military capabilities were once again active and had not been affected by the pandemic.

“The other aspect is, of course, to test whether the combat strength of the U.S. military has been reduced due to the impact of the epidemic,” he said.

Another senior Taiwanese official said that the recent Chinese incursions in Taiwan were being carried to boost President Xi Jinping’s image at home. Due to the mismanagement of pandemic, Chinese reputation has taken a hit all over the world and is facing boycotts from many countries sending the Chinese economy and relations with Washington tumbling.

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The Sino-American relationship has taken a turn for the worse since the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Trump administration blames the Chinese for the spread of the virus while Beijing denies any wrongdoings.

Experts in conversation with the EurAsian Times have warned that it is not only Taiwan and the South China Sea, but the crisis in North Korea could also be much more serious than you would think. If Kim Jong Un is dead or not in a position to control the country, the world should be ready for an overt or covert battle between the US and China in the region.

With provocative moves in the South China Sea and near Taiwan, Beijing is escalating the ongoing tensions further. For peace and stability to prevail in the region, diplomacy holds the key, not battleships and aircraft. The last thing the world needs right now is an all-out war.

Americas

F-35 vs F-35: Israel To Further Upgrade Stealth F-35 Jets, Could Even Outgun The US Fleet – Experts

Israel became the first country to select the F-35 through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales process when a Letter of Agreement was signed in October 2010. On June 22, 2016, the Israeli Air Force received the first F-35A Adir for Israel at a ceremony at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 factory

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Israel is looking to upgrade its fleet of F-35s into high-tech electronic warfare machines, a move that would bring the stealth F-35 jets to the next level. With Lockheed Martin developed F-35s upgraded to next level, Israel will be able to dominate the skies over the Middle East with relative ease.

According to reports in National Interest Magazine, Israeli engineers are planning to upgrade the already quite advanced Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) Electronic Warfare (EW) system of the Lockheed Martin-produced F-35 fighter jets.

Israel became the first country to select the F-35 through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales process when a Letter of Agreement was signed in October 2010. On June 22, 2016, the Israeli Air Force received the first F-35A Adir for Israel at a ceremony at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 factory

While specifics regarding EW technologies, particularly with the U.S. F-35, are often unavailable due to security reasons, aspects in which EW could substantially contribute to the aircraft’s combat power include emitting electronic signals and perform critical defensive functions.

An advanced EW system on the F-35 can likely contribute to the aircraft’s Mission Data Files threat data library,i.e, it could detect the electronic signature of approaching enemy aircraft or even ground-based air defences and alert the aircraft’s sensor targeting and surveillance systems.

The F-35’s Mission Data Files includes profiles of known enemy threats, such as a specific sensor or electronic data related to particular enemy threats likely to emerge in certain geographical areas.

The F-35s sensors, including cameras, infrared targeting systems or on-board Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, can detect the existence and trajectory of enemy targets and bounce the information off of the Mission Data Files to inform pilots regarding the specifics of the threat.

EW can function as a fundamental part of this equation, thus shedding further light upon why Israel is likely to seek EW upgrades for its fleet of F-35. Advanced EW could potentially help detect and “jam” or disable Iranian air defences mostly built on Russian platforms.

Additionally, the range and fidelity of on-board sensors can give the F-35 new dimensions of targeting and surveillance technology. The aircraft’s Distributed Aperture System (DAS), which includes a 360-degree display of surrounding cameras, can find threats at great distances.

The DAS system is networked with the F-35s Electro-Optical Targeting system. That Electro-Optical Targeting system is a high-fidelity, long-range sensor intended to find enemy targets before the F-35 itself can be seen by any enemies.  Merging this sensor system with advanced EW is a likely focus of Israel’s F-35s upgrades.

According to aviation experts at EurAsian Times, with upgraded F-35s, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) would not only dominate the skies of Middle-East with relative ease but the Israeli version of the F-35s could even surpass American F-3s when it comes to Electronic Warfare (EW) system.

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Americas

China Imposes Sanctions On US Defence Giant Behind F-16s, F-22 Raptors

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China has threatened to impose sanctions on US defence giant Lockheed Martin – the makers of Stealth F-22 Raptors, in response to US approving of a possible deal for Taiwan to buy parts to refurbish defensive missiles built by the company.

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Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made announced at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, adding that the US should cut defence ties with Taiwan “so that it doesn’t do further harm to bilateral relations and damage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

“China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan,” Zhao said, adding: “China decides to take measures to protect national interests. We will impose sanctions on the main contractor of this arms sale Lockheed Martin.”

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The US State Department last week approved a possible $620 million foreign military deal for Taiwan to buy parts of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles so that they can last 30 years.

Beijing’s actions come amid growing tensions between the US and China tensions over various issues including trade war, South China Sea dispute, COVID-19 pandemic, new security law in Hong Kong, 5G network and hostilities against key US allies including India and Australia.

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Despite it being a strategic American ally, the US has no official embassy in Taiwan nor does Australia, Canada, the UK or Germany. China calls Taiwan a ‘renegade province’ and has vowed it to merge it with mainland China, at all costs.

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Americas

Comet Neowise in India: Rare Neowise Comet will be visible in North-West India from Today – NASA

NASA Comet Neowise India: NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet on 27 March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about five kilometres across and its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

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The Comet Neowise, or C/20202 F3  will be noticeable in the northwest sky in India from 14 July onwards. As per NASA, Neowise should be visible just before and around the time of first light till 11 July. It will again start to be visible in the evening between 15 and 16 July.

“From July 14, C/2020 F3, a comet discovered on March 27, will be clearly visible in the north-western sky. It will be visible after sunset for around 20 minutes for the next 20 days. People can observe it from naked eyes,” said Subhendu Pattnaik, deputy director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium in Bhubaneswar told ANI.

“In the evenings to follow, the comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky and will be visible for a longer period,” he added.

Comet Neowise swept within Mercury’s orbit a week ago. Its close vicinity to the sun caused dust and gas to burn off its surface and create an even bigger debris tail. According to CNET, Neowise passed a critical point when it survived its closest brush with the sun without cracking up from the heat last week.

NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet on 27 March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about five kilometres across and its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Soon after, numerous amateur photographers began sharing stunning images of the comet just above the horizon during predawn hours. Twitter user Jeremy Perez shared the image shot from close to the Wupatki National Monument showcasing the bright celestial body.

According to the CNET report, as the comet moves farther away from the sun and closer to Earth, it will be visible in the evening sky and not before dawn. As per NASA solar system ambassador Eddie Irizarry, Neowise should be visible just before and around the time of first light till 11 July. It will again start to be visible in the evening between 15 and 16 July.

While it’s visible with the naked eye in dark skies with little or no light pollution, binoculars are needed to see the long tail, according to NASA. It will be about 7,000 years before the comet returns, “so I wouldn’t suggest waiting for the next pass,” said the telescope’s deputy principal investigator Joe Masiero of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Recently, astronauts from the International Space Station managed to get a stunning glimpse of a natural light show from a comet this weekend. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken shared a tweet highlighting Neowise. He captioned the post, “Last night’s fireworks, for real. Because Science.”

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