Pentagon Mulling Drone Strikes in Philippines; Better Missiles for South Korea

 

With Adam Rawnsley

New front. The Pentagon is reportedly considering whether to carry out drone strikes against Islamic State terrorists in the Philippines, proving yet again that when it comes to ISIS, Washington appears ready to act whenever it feels it must.

For months, militants from Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino terrorist group that switched its loyalty from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, have been fighting a fierce battle for the city of Marawi, testing the limits of President Rodrigo Duterte’s pledge to expel American special operations forces. There is already a small U.S. military presence on the ground supporting the counter-ISIS fight, called Joint Special Operations Task Force Trident, but the new mission would go well beyond their training and advising operation.

New North Korean threats. Elsewhere in the region, North Korea on Monday pledged to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. if provoked, adding it would “under no circumstances” negotiate on its nuclear and missile weapons programs. The new threat comes after the United Nations, led by Washington, slapped a new round of economic sanctions on the North Korean economy. Just for good measure, U.S. spy satellites have picked up signs that Pyongyang is preparing to test an anti-ship cruise missile for the first time in three years. Fox News reports that the U.S. intelligence community noticed the North loading up boats with two cruise missiles off the coast of Wonsan.

Rethinking missiles. The Pentagon on Monday acknowledged that it’s reviewing bilateral ballistic missile guidelines with South Korea that could allow Seoul to acquire more powerful missiles. The review comes at a time when the North has been testing longer range and more advanced missiles.

“There is currently a limit on the warhead size and missiles that South Korea can have and yes, it is a topic under active consideration here,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters. “I would tell you that we would be favorably inclined to do anything which furthers the defense capabilities of South Korea and we certainly have seen our alliance change and adapt over time before,” Davis added.

Welcome to SitRep. As always, please send any tips, thoughts or national security events to paul.mcleary@foreignpolicy.com or via Twitter: @paulmcleary and @arawnsley.

Stealth drone with Chinese characteristics. China watchers have spotted an aircraft that looks very much like China’s stealth Sharp Sword armed drone on satellite…

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