News Briefs – December 17, 2018

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Turkey conducts airstrikes against PKK targets in Iraq

Turkey’s Defense Ministry says the military has conducted airstrikes against Kurdish rebel targets in Iraq’s Sinjar and Mount Karajak regions.
A ministry statement, carried by state-run Anadolu Agency, said jets on Dec. 13 targeted shelters, caves, tunnels and depots used by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which sent fighters to Sinjar to help Iraqi Kurds fight the Islamic State group there.
It said the operation aimed to secure Turkey’s border and prevent terror attacks, adding that care was exercised to prevent civilian casualties.
The attack came a day after Turkey’s president said the military would launch a new operation in northern Syria, to force U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia out of a region east of the Euphrates River.
Turkey considers the militia group to be an extension of the PKK. AP
 

Japan begins reclamation at disputed U.S. base despite protest

Japan’s central government has started main reclamation work at a disputed U.S. military base relocation site on the southern island of Okinawa despite fierce local opposition.
Construction workers started dumping a truckload of sediment into the sea at Henoko on Okinawa’s east coast Dec. 14.
Opponents of the relocation say the plan to move U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from a crowded neighborhood to a less populated coastal site at Henoko would not only be an environmental debacle but also ignore local wishes to remove the base.
Dozens of people in rubber boats protested the move.
Okinawans say the presence of so many U.S. troops on the tiny island is already a burden and they want the base off the island entirely. AP
 

Kosovo parliament votes to form new army, angering Serbia

Kosovo’s parliament Dec. 14 overwhelmingly approved the formation of an army, angering Serbia which talked up the possibility of an armed intervention in response. NATO’s chief called Kosovo’s move “ill-timed” and called for dialogue to maintain peace in the war-scarred region.
The 120-seat parliament voted with all present 107 lawmakers in favor of passing three draft laws to expand an existing 4,000 Kosovo Security Force and turn it into a regular lightly armed army. Ethnic-Serb community lawmakers boycotted the vote.
Serbia insists that the new army violates a U.N. resolution that ended Kosovo’s 1998-1999 bloody war of independence. It has warned bluntly that it may respond to the move with an armed intervention in the former province, with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic saying it was “one of the options on the table.”
On Dec. 14, Nikola Selakovic, an adviser to the Serbian president, said the county could send in Serbian armed forces or declare Kosovo an occupied territory.
Any Serbian armed intervention in Kosovo would mean a direct confrontation with thousands of NATO-led peacekeepers, including U.S. soldiers, stationed in Kosovo since 1999, when Serbia lost control of its former province after a bloody crackdown against Kosovo Albanians. AP
 

Spain plans to spend $8 billion on military hardware upgrade

Spain’s government has announced a plan to spend 7.3 billion euros ($8.2 billion) over the next 10 years on improving its military defense capabilities.
Defense Minister Margarita Robles said Dec. 14 the money will be used to build five new navy frigates and, in a first phase, develop and build 348 new armored personnel carriers. It will also enable the latest technological upgrades to be installed in its fleet of 69 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft.
Robles says the spending, which is an addition to the defense budget, will help create more than 7,000 jobs in areas of high unemployment.
Spain’s six-month-old minority government is keen to build a track record of accomplishments before it faces an election, possibly as early as next year. AP