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The Paracel and Spratly Islands, two obscure archipelagos in the South China Sea with little arable land and no indigenous population, consist of coral islands, reefs, and shoals, many of which are barely above sea level -- the highest points of land are 46 feet and 13 feet respectively. We first reported on them in 1998 as "Conflict in the South China Sea" U.K. Defence Forum Research Associate Joseph E Fallon has returned to and updated the story of how they are at the centre of international disputes between China and six of her neighbours: Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines reject China's claim of legal ownership of those islands and/or their surrounding waters.

JL PHOTO--ELECTION ADDRESSIn 1945, after long experience of Anglo-Soviet anti-Nazi co-operation, the British Chiefs of Staff realised that Russia would respect only strength as the basis for any future relationship. This mirrored Lord Palmerston's view, almost a century earlier: "The policy and practice of the Russian Government has always been to push forward its encroachments as fast and as far as the apathy or want of firmness of other Governments would allow it to go, but always to stop and retire when it met with decided resistance and then to wait for the next favourable opportunity."

Not much has changed, writes Dr Julian Lewis.

nickwattsIMG 20170907 0924504Gavin Williamson, Britain's new Defence Secretary has won his first battle with the old enemy – the Treasury. He has managed to block plans for a 'fiscally neutral' review of Britain's defence and security capability. The so called National Security and Capability Review had all the hallmarks of a Whitehall led defence review. By separating Defence, he has bought his department time to put its house in order. The Modernising Defence Plan will report by July. He is the latest incumbent to face the challenge of balancing expenditure and capability to produce a credible military in a changing world, writes Nick Watts, pictured.

Williamson appeared before the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on 21st February. Julian Lewis MP the committee chairman supports an uplift to 3% of GDP to be spent on defence. Any further reductions in the UK's military capability will adversely impact its credibility as a defence partner and ally. The UK is struggling to achieve the NATO minimum level of expenditure.

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