News Briefs – April 20, 2016

General says it’s cheaper for American forces to be in Korea

The four-star Army general picked to lead American forces in Korea says it’s less expensive to keep U.S. troops stationed in South Korea than in the United States.
In testimony April 19, Gen. Vincent Brooks tallied up the financial load South Korea carries in what amounted to a rebuke of Donald Trump, the GOP’s front-running presidential contender.
Trump has called for U.S. allies to pay more for their own defense.
John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, prompted Brooks’ answers.
Brooks says South Korea pays half of the annual cost, or $808 million, for U.S. troops to be stationed on the peninsula.
The general says South Korea is paying for 92 percent of a $10.8 billion construction project to build a base for U.S. troops. AP

Senators call on Obama to investigate sexual assault cases

Two senators are urging President Barack Barack Obama to investigate whether the Pentagon misled Congress with information about sexual assault cases in an effort to undermine support for a Senate bill.
In a letter sent April 19 to Obama, Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa cite an Associated Press investigation and a report by the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders that found inaccuracies and omissions in military records summarizing the outcomes of dozens of cases.
The records buttressed the Pentagon’s position against the bill sponsored by Gillibrand. It would strip commanders of their authority to decide whether to prosecute sexual assault cases.
Military representatives defended the accuracy of the information sent to Congress.
Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and he supports Gillibrand’s legislation. AP

Oregon defense contractor pleads guilty to bribery charge

An Oregon defense contractor has admitted to bribing a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers program manager to secure $171 million in contracts.
The 73-year-old man who goes by the singular name Sky faces a maximum of five years in federal prison at his Oct. 11 sentencing. Lawyers said April 18 that a sentence of around two years is more likely.
Sky and his company, Sky Research, have been under investigation since 2010. Prosecutors say a program manager for the corps in Omaha, Neb., rigged bids on nine contracts. In exchange, Sky provided him with cash, accommodations and entertainment.
The program manager has yet to be charged.
Ashland, Ore.,-based Sky Research specializes in aerial surveys of old military bombing and gunnery ranges to find old weapons debris. AP

China dispatches military plane to disputed man-made island

China’s navy dispatched a military plane to one of the country’s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea, the Defense Ministry said, in what is believed to be the first openly acknowledged mission of its kind.
A brief statement on the ministry’s website said the plane was on patrol when it was diverted to Fiery Cross Reef April 17 to pick up three injured construction workers.
The plane then flew to Sanya on China’s southernmost island province of Hainan where it landed at Fenghuang International Airport, the ministry said.
Details about the plane and where it was based were not given, although a photo accompanying the report showed a four-propeller Y-8 transport being met by an ambulance.
The Global Times newspaper said the April 17 flight marked “the first time a Chinese military plane has openly landed on Yongshujiao,” using the Chinese name for Fiery Cross Reef. The speed with which the mission was accomplished was a testament to China’s long-term policy of patrolling over the South China Sea, said the paper, a nationalist tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily.
China completed the runway on Fiery Cross Reef last year and in January flew three commercial jets to the island as a test. AP

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