News Briefs – August 23, 2019

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U.S. Marines chief acknowledges worries on Japan-Korean ties

Gen. David Berger, the new U.S. Marines commandant, says he is concerned about deteriorating relations between Japan and South Korea, both key regional allies.
Berger told reporters in Tokyo Aug. 21 that Japan and Korea have common interests despite their differences, such as the threat posed by China, and he hoped politicians will work out a resolution.
Berger spoke during his first trip to Japan after being appointed, which includes visiting Okinawa, where most of the U.S. forces here are based.
He heads to South Korea later this week.
Bilateral relations have worsened after Tokyo removed Korea’s preferential trade status.
Seoul sees it as retaliation for South Korean court rulings that Japanese companies compensate South Koreans forced into labor during World War II. Japan says it is a security issue. AP
 

Australia joins U.S.-led mission to protect Hormuz shipping

Australia has joined Britain and Bahrain in signing onto a U.S.-led maritime security mission to protect international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Aug. 21 that Australia will contribute troops, a surveillance plane and a Navy frigate to protect shipping lanes off the coast of Iran.
He says it’s a “modest, meaningful and time-limited” contribution in Australia’s national and economic interests.
At least 15 percent of crude oil and up to 30 percent of refined oil destined for Australia transits through the Persian Gulf.
The warship will be redirected from an anti-piracy operation in the Middle East, while the Australian troops will be based in the headquarters that are coordinating the U.S.-led maritime security mission.
Initially, Australia will be involved for at least six months. AP
 

Putin says U.S. missile test raises new threats to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the test of a new U.S. missile banned under a now-defunct arms treaty has raised new threats to Russia and will warrant a response.
The Pentagon said it tested a modified ground-launched version of a Navy Tomahawk cruise missile, which accurately struck its target more than 310 miles away. The Aug. 18 test came after the U.S. and Russia withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that banned such weapons.
Speaking after talks Aug. 21 with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, Putin argued that the quick test indicated the U.S. had begun work on the missile long before declaring its intention to withdraw from the pact.
He said that for Russia the test means “the emergence of new threats, to which we will react accordingly.” AP
 

Pentagon cancels billion-dollar missile defense project

The Pentagon is pulling the plug on a billion-dollar project to build a better weapon to destroy incoming missiles by slamming into them in space.
Officials said Aug. 21 the decision to cancel the contract for a new “kill vehicle” could signal a new direction for an important aspect of missile defense.
Mark Wright, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said the Boeing contract is terminated as of Aug. 22. He said the decision to cancel it was “due to technical design problems.”
The device known as a “redesigned kill vehicle” was to replace the existing “kill vehicle” used on rockets that are based mainly in Alaska to intercept intercontinental-range missiles launched from North Korea.
In May, Boeing was ordered to stop work on the project, pending a new way forward. AP