News Briefs – March 15, 2019

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New Pentagon transgender rule sets limits for troops

The Defense Department has approved a new policy that will largely bar most transgender troops and military recruits from transitioning to another sex, and require most individuals to serve in their birth gender.
The new policy comes after a lengthy and complicated legal battle, and it falls short of the all-out transgender ban that was initially ordered by President Donald Trump. But it will likely force the military to eventually discharge transgender individuals who need hormone treatments or surgery and can’t or won’t serve in their birth gender.
The order says the military services must implement the new policy in 30 days, giving some individuals a short window of time to qualify for gender transition if needed. And it allows service secretaries to waive the policy on a case-by-case basis. AP
 

Pakistan air force says fighter jet test-fired smart missile

Pakistan’s air force says one of its fighter jets successfully test-fired a locally developed missile, described as a “smart weapon.”
The announcement follows recent skirmishes with rival India over disputed Kashmir during which Pakistan said it shot down two Indian planes and captured a pilot, who was later returned to India.
An air force statement says a JF-17 multi-role fighter aircraft on March 12 fired the new missile, which has “day-and-night capability to engage a variety of targets with pinpoint accuracy.”
A “smart” weapon is typically military language for a guided missile.
Air Force chief Mujahid Anwar was quoted as saying that “Pakistan is a peace-loving nation but if subjected to aggression by adversary, we will respond with full force.”
There was no further information on the type of missile fired. AP
 

U.S. Navy flagship visits Manila after sailing in disputed sea

A U.S. Navy flagship has sailed through the South China Sea with its commander renewing an American vow to “sail, fly and operate wherever the law allows us to” amid China’s objection to U.S. military presence in the disputed sea.
Capt. Eric Anduze, commander of the USS Blue Ridge, told reporters on board the U.S. 7th Fleet’s command and control ship, which anchored at Manila Bay March 13, that the visit was the latest affirmation of the strong U.S.-Philippine alliance.
“We have a long history … we’re here to let you know that that partnership is stronger than ever,” Anduze said.
Asked if his contingent has encountered the Chinese navy in the region, Anduze said without elaborating that it has, adding that “all of our interactions were safe and professional.”
“We sail, fly and operate wherever the law allows us to,” he said.
Navy Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, said in a statement the Blue Ridge’s Manila visit strengthens “our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to Manila early this month that the United States is committed to ensuring the South China Sea remains open to all kinds of navigation and that “China does not pose a threat” of closing the disputed sea lanes.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang reacted in Beijing by saying that China and countries around the South China Sea are committed to maintaining regional peace and stability, citing efforts to negotiate a “code of conduct” aimed at preventing disputes from escalating.
“If countries outside the region, such as the United States, really keep in mind the peace and well-being of the regional people, they should not stir up troubles in the region,” Lu said. AP
 

NATO chief says Afghan mission future depends on peace talks

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the future of the military alliance’s 15-year presence in Afghanistan will depend on the outcome of peace talks involving Taliban insurgents.
The longest direct talks ever held between the United States and the Taliban concluded this week with both sides claiming progress has been made.
The U.S. envoy said they reached “draft agreements” covering the withdrawal of U.S. troops and guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for terrorists once a settlement is found.
Stoltenberg told reporters March 14 that “the future force level of NATO troops is very much dependent of course on the outcome of those talks.”
But he added: “It’s too early to pre-empt the outcome of the talks.”
Few allies can conduct NATO’s Afghan security training operation without U.S. support. AP
 

Germany’s Lufthansa orders 40 Boeing 787, Airbus A350 planes

Germany’s Lufthansa says it is ordering dozens of new Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 long-haul jets, and will sell six of its Airbus A380 superjumbo aircraft in the coming years.
Germany’s biggest airline said its supervisory board on March 13 approved the purchase of 20 Boeing 787-9 planes and 20 Airbus A350-900s. The new planes will be delivered from late 2022 to 2027.
Though it didn’t disclose the purchase price, Lufthansa said it negotiated a “significant” reduction on the $12 billion list price.
CEO Carsten Spohr said “by replacing four-engine planes with new models, we are laying a sustainable foundation for our future.”
The company said it plans to sell six of its 14 A380 planes to Airbus, with the planes leaving Lufthansa in 2022 and 2023. The price wasn’t disclosed. AP