News Briefs – August 12, 2016

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Ukraine puts troops along Crimean border on combat alert

Ukraine’s president ordered the army to be on combat alert Aug. 11 on the country’s de-facto border with Crimea and on the front line in eastern Ukraine following Moscow’s accusations that Ukraine sent in “saboteurs” to carry out attacks in Crimea.
Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in March 2014 following a hastily called referendum. The move sparked Russia-backed separatists to begin fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine, where deadly battles are still ongoing.
The Russian intelligence agency FSB Aug. 10 said one of its officers and an army soldier were killed over the weekend in two separate incidents while fending off what Moscow described as a series of attacks by Ukrainian “saboteurs.”
Ukraine rejected the claims as “fantasy” and “a provocation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin upped the ante when he directly accused the Ukrainian government of plotting the attacks and called a meeting of the country’s top brass on Thursday to discuss boosting security in Crimea following reports of the foiled attacks.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on his official Twitter account Aug. 11 that the army will be put on combat alert not only on the de-factor border with Crimea but also the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, where both sides were supposed to have pulled back heavy weapons.
Like Putin, Poroshenko also held a meeting with the country’s top security agencies earlier Aug. 11. The Ukrainian government did not immediately specify what further steps it was taking after putting forces on combat alert. AP
 

U.S. seeks to ease Chinese anger over missile defense plans

A senior U.S. military official said Aug. 11 that an advanced U.S. missile defense system that is to be deployed in South Korea will only target North Korea, not China.
China has grown increasingly angry over the plan to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system, believing it is capable of tracking missiles inside China. Chinese state media have published daily attacks against the U.S. and South Korea, and China has reportedly canceled events involving South Korean entertainers.
During a group interview with South Korean media including Yonhap news agency, Vice Adm. James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the THAAD system will never be used against China.
We don’t defend against China as a threat,” he said in the interview at Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff building, according to Yonhap.
Syring said the system is strictly defensive in nature and had successfully intercepted targets in 13 out of 13 tests.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry confirmed the substance of Syring’s reported comments.
Seoul and Washington announced last month that they will deploy the THAAD system in southern South Korea by the end of next year to better deal with North Korean threats. North Korea responded by warning of unspecified consequences and conducting several missile launches.
Residents at the South Korean deployment site have launched protests over fears that the electromagnetic waves emitted by THAAD radar systems could possibly harm health.
Syring said in the interview that the systems have no adverse environmental effects, Yonhap reported. AP
 

Air National Guard hails court decision on fighter jets

The Vermont Air National Guard is hailing a federal judge’s decision that appears to give a green light to allowing a new generation of fighter jets to be based in the Burlington, Vt., area.
U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford ruled Aug. 10 that a U.S. Air Force environmental impact statement is sufficient to allow F-35 fighter jets to be based in the Burlington area beginning in 2019.
The Stop the F-35 Coalition and six area residents, later joined by the city of Winooski and backed by South Burlington, sued to challenge the adequacy of the environmental review.
Major Gen. Steven Cray, Vermont’s adjutant general, says he’s glad the lawsuit has been resolved in the Air Force’s favor.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says the decision secures Air-Guard-related jobs in the Burlington area. AP