News Briefs – October 14, 2015

Philippines backs U.S. plan to sail ship near Chinese island

The Philippines has expressed support for a reported U.S. plan to challenge China’s territorial claims by deploying a Navy ship close to a Chinese-built island in the disputed South China Sea.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Oct. 13 that the U.S. plan of sending a Navy ship within 14 miles of the artificial islands “would be consistent with international law and a rules-based order for the region.”
It warned that “failure to challenge false claims of sovereignty would undermine this order and lead China to the false conclusion that its claims are accepted as a fait accompli.”
The U.S. newspaper Navy Times reported last week that the Navy may soon receive approval for the mission to sail close to the Chinese-built island, sparking Chinese concern. AP

Okinawa gov revokes approval for relocation of U.S. air base

Okinawa’s governor Oct. 13 revoked approval for work needed to relocate a U.S. air base from one area of the southern Japanese island to another, though the Tokyo government said it plans to proceed with the plan anyway.
Local residents object to living with U.S. Marine Air Station Futenma and want the base moved off Okinawa. Current plans call for moving it to a less developed area on the island.
Gov. Takeshi Onaga, elected last year on promises to fight the move, revoked the local approval given in 2013 by his predecessor on the grounds of “legal defects.” Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga rejected that, saying the base must be moved for safety reasons.
“There is no change in our plan to proceed with the work,” Suga told reporters in Tokyo. He called Onaga’s decision “very regrettable.”
“The airfield’s situation is very dangerous,” Suga said.
Okinawa houses more than half of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. AP

U.S. airdrops small arms ammunition to Syrian Arab groups

U.S. cargo planes dropped small arms ammunition to Arab groups fighting the Islamic State group in northern Syria, a U.S. military spokesman said Oct. 12.
Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman in Baghdad for the U.S. military command in charge of the anti-IS campaign in Syria and Iraq, said by email that the airdrop was conducted Sunday by Air Force C-17 cargo planes. He did not identify the Arab groups that received the supplies but said their leaders had been vetted and have been fighting to remove IS from northern Syria.
The airdrop is in line with a revamped U.S. approach in Syria. The Obama administration announced last week that instead of trying to build a new Syrian rebel force, it will provide equipment, including ammunition, to existing Syria rebel groups who share the U.S. goal of defeating IS.
Separately, a local Kurdish official in the northern Syrian city of Kobani said the U.S. had provided 120 tons of weapons and ammunition to the main Kurdish militia fighting the Islamic State in that area, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. The official, Mustafa Bali, said he did not know whether the supplies had been provided by air or over land. AP

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