Today’s D Brief: N. Korea expels US private; Mixed reviews for NATO training; Proposed arms sales to Taiwan, Poland, Indonesia; And a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

North Korea has expelled the U.S. Army private who illegally crossed over the demilitarized zone from South Korea this summer, leading to his detention in the Communist state. Authorities in Pyongyang publicized the move after concluding their “investigation” into the matter, state-run KCNA news agency announced Wednesday.

Travis King was transferred to American custody in China, one U.S. official told the Associated Press. The two U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss King’s status ahead of a White House announcement. The 23-year-old “is being taken to Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, according to another U.S. official. He is expected to arrive overnight,” AP wrote. 

North Korea repeated one of its classic gripes against the U.S.: “King confessed that he illegally intruded into the territory of [North Korea] as he harbored ill feeling against inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. army and was disillusioned about the unequal U.S. society.” As a result, the North has “decided to expel” King, whom KCNA reiterated, had “illegally intruded” when he crossed the border at the Panmunjom joint security area on July 18. 

ICYMI: King faced legal trouble while he was stationed in South Korea before he crossed over to the North. “On Oct. 8, South Korean police apprehended King for suspected violence at a nightclub in western Seoul,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports. King was later “detained in a South Korean prison workshop from May 24 to July 10 after failing to pay a fine for damaging a police patrol car” during that October apprehension, according to Yonhap.

From the region: The U.S. is about to sell Taiwan a $100 million arms package to update Taipei’s Patriot missiles. That involves “legacy and PAC–3 missile stockpile reliability testing, to provide quantitative reliability assessments of the deployed missile round” over a five-year period, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency. U.S. lawmakers could object; but that doesn’t seem likely. 

Indonesia also wants to buy nearly $14 billion in F-15ID aircraft, as well as lots of sensors and associated gear for the aircraft, U.S. officials announced Wednesday. 

The deal would help Indonesia “provide increased deterrence and air defense coverage across a very complex air and maritime domain,” thereby “improving the security of an important regional partner that is a force for political stability, and economic progress in the Asia-Pacific region,” DSCA said separately on Wednesday. Boeing is the sole contractor involved in that deal. 

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Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1956, U.S. Air Force Capt. Milburn Apt became the first person to exceed Mach 3 when he piloted Bell Aircraft’s experimental, rocket-powered X-2 plane over California’s Mojave Desert after launching mid-flight from a B-50 bomber. Apt eventually reached 2,098 miles per hour, which is more than three times the speed of sound, before he tried to turn back to Edwards Air Force Base. However, his X-2 then began spinning out of control after inertial coupling, and the 32-year-old Apt was killed attempting to bail out.

Mixed reviews for NATO’s training of Ukrainian units. Three months into Ukraine’s counteroffensive, the Kyiv Independent asked assault troops about the alliance training they received last winter. “The Latvians were great instructors,” one said, “they took us step by step, from basic awareness of what war is to using weapons, grenades, I really liked the program, it was always interesting.”

And U.S. instructors? “What I didn’t like about the training, is that the Americans have no idea what the war is like here,” said another. “They give us exercises to climb to the top of a building, shoot down a helicopter with a Stinger, and abseil back down on ropes. We told them, ‘Are you out of your mind? Any buildings will be demolished by tanks and air-dropped bombs as soon as we enter.'” Read on, here.

France, the UK, and the U.S. have all sent or pledged long-range missiles to Ukraine. But Germany, with its Taurus long-range precision missiles, has not, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday from Berlin. What gives? According to German officials, “Chancellor Olaf Scholz had stalled the move because of concerns that German personnel would have to travel to Ukraine to help service and operate the complex weapon.” 

Scholz reportedly wants parliament to vote on the question. But even if the decision receives quick approval, “Ukraine’s fleet of Soviet-era warplanes will have to be retrofitted to be able to carry the missile,” the Journal reports. Read on, here. 

Developing: Washington is on the verge of selling Poland 250 Abrams tanks, more than two dozen M88A2 HERCULES Combat Recovery Vehicles, almost 14,000 High Explosive Anti-Tank rounds, and more in a package worth about $6 billion, the Pentagon’s arms export agency said Wednesday. 

The contractors involved in that deal include General Dynamics Land Systems, out of Sterling Heights, Michigan; BAE Systems in York, Pennsylvania; Leonardo DRS in Arlington, Virginia; Honeywell Aerospace out of Phoenix; Raytheon in McKinney, Texas; and Lockheed Martin, based in Orlando. Details, here. 

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The U.S. could soon sell Jordan a package of F-16s worth about $4 billion. That includes a dozen F–16 C Block 70 aircraft, and four F–16 D Block 70 aircraft—along with lots of related equipment, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. 

“These aircraft will modernize the Jordanian fighter aircraft fleet and support operational requirements associated with regional U.S.-coalition goals, such as countering violent extremist organizations, countering malign state and non-state actors, and border defense,” DSCA said Wednesday. Jordan is also asking for 114 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems worth about $70 million.  

And for Saudi Arabia, the U.S. authorized $500 million in “common spares/repair parts” for Abrams tanks, M-60 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, mortar carriers, Combat Engineer Vehicles, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles, Light Armored Vehicles, howitzers, and more, according to DSCA. 

The U.S. also cleared Kuwait to buy 30 Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missiles for about $150 million. That authorization was announced lasst week as well. Details, here. 

Making moves: Retired U.S. Army Col. Chris Costa just joined the board of directors at the New York-based foreign policy research organization known as the Soufan Center. 

Costa is a 34-year veteran of the Army who served in the first year of the Trump administration as the special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. He’s also executive director of the International Spy Museum, in Washington, D.C. 

If his name sounds familiar, you may have read some of Costa’s opinion columns published here at Defense One. Review those nearly half-dozen essays here. 

And lastly: Many shuttered U.S. military bases remain a “toxic menace,” the New York Times reports, with “poisonous stockpiles of unexploded ordnance, lead fragments, industrial solvents and explosives residue.” Their dim prospects for cleanup are another blow to cities and towns that had hoped to repurpose the facilities and thereby undo some of the economic damage caused by their closure. Read on, here.



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