News Briefs – June 7, 2019

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U.S. officials: Arctic thawing poses national security concern

Senior U.S. and military officials are warning Congress about the potential threat to national security from melting ice in the Arctic.
Officials from the Office of National Intelligence and the Pentagon say climate change will open the Arctic to more ship traffic and commercial activities by Russia and China and create potential sources of conflict.
Peter Kiemel, counselor to the National Intelligence Council, says Russia and China are dramatically increasing their investment there.
Jeff Ringhausen, a Navy official, says that though Arctic shipping is likely to increase, it’ll still amount only to a small portion of overall global shipping.
He says the Russian government is “overly optimistic” regarding the increased shipping and investment in the Arctic.
The witnesses spoke at a hearing on climate change impacts on national security. AP
 

Putin: No intention to deploy Russian troops in Venezuela

President Vladimir Putin has told reporters that Moscow has no intention to deploy its troops or set up military bases in Venezuela.
He added that Russian experts have been in Venezuela to service Russian-made weapons bought by Caracas.
Putin, who was meeting June 6 with the head of international news agencies, was responding to a question about a tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump earlier this week that said Moscow had informed Washington it had pulled out its personnel from Venezuela.
“We aren’t creating any bases or sending troops there,” Putin said. “But we will be keeping our obligations in the sphere of military and technical cooperation.”
The Russian leader said the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela have hurt ordinary people and warned Washington against using force. AP
 

NATO chief: Ready to welcome North Macedonia as 30th member

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance is ready to welcome North Macedonia as its 30th member, after the country ended a decades-long dispute with Greece.
Stoltenberg spoke after meeting the country’s top leaders June 3, the last day of a two-day visit accompanied by 29 ambassadors to the alliance’s top decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council.
NATO member states and North Macedonia signed an agreement clearing the way for membership after the country officially changed its name from “Macedonia” in February. Greece had blocked its neighbor’s NATO membership since 2008, saying use of “Macedonia” implied territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name and usurped ancient Greek heritage.
Fourteen NATO members have ratified the accession. The country can join once the remaining 15 also do so. AP