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March 7, 2014

News Briefs March 7, 2014

U.S. general pleads guilty to three counts in sex case

A U.S. Army general accused of sexual assault is pleading guilty to three lesser charges, but maintains his innocence on five remaining counts.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair pleaded March 6 in a military courtroom at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His primary accuser is a female captain who claims Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her family if she told anyone about their three-year affair.

Sinclair is admitting to having improper relationships with two other female Army officers and to committing adultery with the primary accuser, which is a crime in the military. He also is admitting violating orders by possessing a cache of pornography in Afghanistan and to conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.

Sinclair will now face trial on the remaining charges. AP

NATO airstrike kills five Afghan soldiers

A provincial government official says an early morning NATO airstrike in Afghanistan’s central Logar province killed 5 Afghan National Army soldiers and wounded another 17.

The official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk to the media, says the strike occurred at 2 a.m., March 6.

He said government officials were in meetings to decide their response and to conduct a further investigation into the incident.

There was no immediate response from NATO to requests for comment.

If it turns out that a NATO strike killed ANA troops, it is likely to set Afghan President Hamid Karzai on another attack against U.S. and NATO soldiers in his country. The president has been deeply critical of civilian deaths by international forces. AP

U.S. questions China intentions, amid budget hike

The U.S. Pacific commander voiced concern March 5 over China’s intentions as the Asian power announced its latest double-digit hike in defense spending.

Several lawmakers questioned Adm. Samuel Locklear about U.S. ability to contend with a rising China and sustain a “pivot” to Asia amid growing pressure on the U.S. defense budget.

China announced March 5 a 12.2 percent increase in military spending to $132 billion – likely a considerable underestimate of actual spending, but still far less than the $600.4 billion the U.S. spent last year.

Locklear noted China’s spending increase, and added that the 12.2 percent rise is “just what we can see.”

He told the House Armed Services Committee that there has been a slow and steady growth in the U.S.-China military relationship, and that the U.S. wants China to provide a positive contribution to regional security. But he said China’s recent activities were calling into question how it will proceed.

“What’s frustrating is what’s happening in their own backyard as it relates to their relations with some of our allies,” Locklear said, citing China’s “ambiguous” territorial claims in the South China Sea and its declaration of an air defense information zone over the East China Sea, in an encompassing airspace above Japanese-controlled islands also claimed by China. “This all complicates the security environment and makes us wonder, Locklear said.

“Whether the (Chinese) military will rise, I think that’s a given. It will. The question is: is it transparent, what is it used for, is it cooperating in the larger security environment with neighbors?” he said.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also told reporters that the U.S. was urging greater transparency from China, and encouraging it to use its military capabilities for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

House and Senate committees March 5 were quizzing U.S. military commanders about budget requests for 2015, against the backdrop of tensions between China and its neighbors in East and Southeast Asia, and the Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The Obama administration is looking to develop a smaller, more modern military force, but some in Congress worry that could weaken U.S. capabilities in a period of growing uncertainty in Europe and Asia.

Republican Sen. John McCain took aim at the administration for presenting a budget “that constrains us in a way which is unprecedented since previous times.” He cited remarks reportedly made by a senior defense official Tuesday that budget cuts mean the “pivot” can’t happen – comments the administration quickly rolled back.

While Locklear acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining the naval presence the U.S. needs, he predicted China would not be able to threaten American global military pre-eminence for a long time. He said he was most concerned by China’s introduction of military capabilities apparently aimed at thwarting the U.S. ability to defend its allies in the region. AP




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