News Briefs – December 16, 2015


Tensions test U.S.-Thai relations as strategic talks resume

The U.S. this week holds its first formal strategic dialogue with ally Thailand since a military coup.
The top U.S. east Asia envoy, Daniel Russel, is hoping for better news coverage than on his last visit to Thailand a year ago, when local media branded him an “ugly American” for public criticism of curbs on democracy.
The Dec. 16 talks in Bangkok are part of a broader Obama administration effort to build U.S. ties in southeast Asia and counter China’s rise. But the underlying problems remain. The Thai military, which seized power in May 2014, keeps delaying a return to civilian rule, and Washington keeps falling afoul of Thailand’s hyper-sensitive politics.
Police recently took up a complaint brought by hardline royalists who accused the U.S. ambassador to Thailand of defaming the monarchy. AP

Saudi Arabia forms Islamic counterterrorism coalition

Saudi Arabia says 34 Muslim-majority nations have agreed to form a new military alliance to fight terrorism with a joint operations center based in the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh.
The announcement carried early Dec. 15 by the Saudi Press Agency says the Saudi-led alliance was established because terrorism “should be fought by all means and collaboration should be made to eliminate it.”
While Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Shiite Iran, is not part of the coalition, the alliance brings together diverse Muslim countries from several continents, including Mali, Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Egypt as well as neighboring Gulf countries such as the United Arab Emirates.
The announcement comes as Saudi Arabia leads a military intervention in Yemen against Shiite rebels and is part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. AP

Turkey withdraws some troops from camp in Iraq

On Dec. 13, Turkey withdrew some of its soldiers from a camp in Iraq, its prime minister announced, days after Iraq had demanded that Turkish troops immediately leave its territory.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in an interview with A Haber news channel that a group of soldiers was pulled out as part of a “rearrangement” of troops and a “military necessity.”
Turkey has had troops near the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq since last year to help train local Kurdish and Sunni forces, but the arrival of additional troops earlier this month sparked uproar in Baghdad. Turkey subsequently halted new deployments, but has refused to withdraw its soldiers.
Davutoglu wouldn’t provide details but suggested that the group of trainers would remain near Mosul.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, quoting unnamed military officials, said a 10- or 12-vehicle convoy including tanks had left the Bashiqa camp and was heading toward northern Iraq.
It wasn’t immediately known if the Turkish troops would return to Turkey or would be stationed in Iraq’s Kurdish-controlled region. AP

Boeing boosts dividend 20 percent, lifts stock buybacks to $14B

Boeing is raising its quarterly dividend 20 percent and setting a new stock buyback plan of up to $14 billion.
The Chicago-based company said Dec. 14 the new buyback authorization replaces an existing $12 billion stock repurchase plan under which about $5.25 billion remained.
Through the first nine months of the year, Boeing spent $6 billion to repurchase 41 million shares.
The commercial airline and defense contractor will pay the higher dividend of $1.09 per share on March 4 to shareholders of record Feb. 12.
Boeing shares closed Dec. 14 at $143, down $1.62 on the day. For the year to date, the stock is up 10 percent, versus a 2 percent decline in the benchmark S&P 500 index. AP

Fire damages roof of Boeing plant under construction

No one was injured in a fire that damaged the roof of an unoccupied Boeing building in Everett, Wash.
The fire broke out the night of Dec. 12 on the roof of a wing factory under construction for the Boeing 777X.
Boeing spokesman Adam Tischler tells the Seattle Times that the damage was limited to several dozen square feet. He called the fire “pretty small.”
Fire commanders dispatched multiple crews to the scene because the structure is so large.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. AP