News Briefs – December 28, 2015

Saudi Air Force says it intercepts rebel missile from Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition battling rebels in Yemen says Saudi Arabia’s Air Force has shot down a ballistic missile directed at the kingdom’s southern border.
The coalition statement said Dec. 27 that Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, fired the missile overnight from Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa toward Saudi Arabia’s southwestern border city of Najran.
The coalition said the Saudi Air Force reacted immediately and destroyed the launching pad inside Yemen. It was the second time in under a week that Saudi Arabia says Houthis have fired scud missiles toward its territory.
Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies in the Gulf have been bombing the Houthis since late March after the rebels overran the capital and other major Yemeni cities, forcing the internationally-backed government to temporarily flee the country. AP

Pakistani army chief leaves for Kabul to discuss peace talks

Pakistan’s powerful army chief left for Kabul Dec. 27 amid efforts to revive peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Military spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said Sunday that army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif travelled to Afghanistan with “sincerity and optimism” to discuss the Afghan peace process and plans for better border management between the two neighbors.
Sharif’s visit comes two weeks after a regional conference held in Islamabad called for the resumption of the Afghan-Taliban peace negotiations. The conference was attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The talks between the Taliban and Kabul have been on hold since July, when Afghanistan announced the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. AP

Navy using 3-D printers on ships to produce custom parts

The U.S. Navy is using 3-D printers on some ships to produce parts needed during deployment.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that fabrication labs have been placed on the aircraft carrier Truman and amphibious assault ship Kearsarge. Both ships are based out of Norfolk and currently deployed to the Middle East.
The labs consist of two 3-D printers, a desktop computer and a flat-screen monitor with a wireless keyboard and mouse. Sailors on the Truman, which deployed in November, have already created custom dust caps and a wrench using the equipment.
Cmdr. Brady Drennan says the goal is to make the Navy more self-sufficient when at sea. Petty Officer 2nd Class Raymond Lee says the possibilities for the printer are “endless.” AP

Japan says armed China ship infiltrates off disputed islands

Japanese authorities said that for the first time Dec. 26, an armed Chinese coast guard vessel entered its territorial waters off islands claimed by both countries that are a flashpoint of disputes between the neighbors.
Japan’s coast guard said the ship, armed with what appeared to be four gun turrets, was one of three Chinese coast guard vessels spotted inside Japanese waters in the East China Sea. It was the only one that was armed.
Chinese vessels regularly sail around the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku in Japanese and the Diaoyu in Chinese. But Japanese coast guard official Nanako Uehara said it was the first time an armed Chinese vessel had been sighted in Japan’s waters.
The three vessels have since left the area.
The armed ship also was spotted Dec. 22 in the area, but Japanese officials said it didn’t infiltrate Japan’s waters at that time.
The latest development could trigger concerns in Japan that China may be escalating its activities in the disputed parts of the East China Sea.
Last month, a Chinese navy ship took its time traversing the waters. Japan earlier this year protested China’s unilateral exploration of undersea oil and gas deposits in the East China Sea, posting photos online of Chinese drilling equipment.
Relations between the two countries also have been strained over wartime history, though there have been signs of improvement recently. AP

Japan Cabinet OKs record defense budget amid China concern

Japan’s Cabinet approved a record-high military spending plan Dec. 24, endorsing plans to purchase pricey U.S. surveillance drones and F-35 fighter jets as Tokyo steps up cooperation with Washington amid China’s increasingly assertive activity in regional seas.
The 5.1 trillion yen ($42.1 billion) proposal is part of a 96.7 trillion yen ($800 billion) national budget plan for the year beginning April 2016, also an all-time high. The entire package requires parliamentary approval.
Military spending would rise 1.5 percent from this year, the fourth annual increase under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who ended a decade of defense budget cuts.
The defense budget is the first since Japan enacted new security legislation in September enhancing the country’s military role and since Japan revised its bilateral defense guidelines with the U.S. earlier in the year to allow broader cooperation between the two allies.
Japan is bolstering surveillance and defense of its southern islands, where it has a territorial dispute with China. The budget plan also includes the purchase of an advanced Aegis radar-equipped destroyer with missile-defense capability, submarine construction and sonar development. AP

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