News Briefs – June 20, 2016

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Massive protest on Okinawa opposes U.S. military after killing

Tens of thousands of Japanese are protesting the presence of U.S. military bases on the southwestern island of Okinawa, where an American contractor and former Marine is accused of raping and killing a local woman.
The rally June 19 calls for a review of the U.S.-Japanese security agreement, which burdens Okinawa with hosting the bulk of U.S. troops in Japan. The killing set off outrage on Okinawa, where tensions periodically run high over crime.
Also contentious is a plan to relocate a Marine Corps air station to a less-populated part of Okinawa, which developed after public anger erupted in 1995 over a rape of a girl by three American servicemen. Protesters want the Marines to leave and the overall military scaled back. AP
 

German FM warns against ‘saber-rattling’ toward Russia

Germany’s foreign minister has warned against relying on “saber-rattling” in the wake of military exercises aimed at demonstrating NATO’s resolve to defend members in eastern Europe against Russia if that becomes necessary.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted by the Bild newspaper’s website June 18 as saying that a “symbolic tank parade on the eastern border of the alliance” would not ensure security.
He argued for “embedding Russia in an international partnership of responsibility” through cooperation on arms control, the Middle East, and efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Some 31,000 troops from 24 NATO and partner nations last week rehearsed defensive operations in Poland and Lithuania. German troops were among them.
Russia’s conflict with non-NATO member Ukraine has led to financial sanctions against Moscow and more attention to military readiness, but Western governments sometimes differ on how tough a stance to take.
The 28 European Union member countries last week extended for another year sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region barring imports from there. A different and tougher set of sanctions limiting Russian companies’ access to Western capital markets is up for renewal in coming days. The EU and U.S. have said lifting the sanctions depends on implementation of a peace deal agreed in 2015.
Alexey Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Russian parliament, the State Duma, hailed Steinmeier’s comment as a “voice of reason” amid what he called anti-Russian hysteria promoted by NATO and its secretary-general, former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
“Steinmeier spoke against Stoltenberg’s course for scaring Russia. Some voices of reason could be heard from behind the curtain of threats and hysterics,” Pushkov tweeted.
President Vladimir Putin, speaking June 17 at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, said that the U.S. and its allies have used the Ukrainian crisis to “justify the existence of the North Atlantic bloc.”
“They need an external adversary, an external enemy, otherwise what’s the purpose of this organization?” he said. “There is no Warsaw Pact, no Soviet Union, so whom is it directed against?” AP
 

Iran aviation official says Boeing sale involves 100 planes

An Iranian aviation official says his country is negotiating the purchase of 100 planes from Boeing.
Chicago-based Boeing declined to discuss the talks, but did not deny the details reportedly offered by Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.
The state-run IRAN newspaper quoted Abedzadeh June 19 as saying Boeing is waiting for the U.S. Treasury’s permission for the sale. He said there wasn’t a firm price set yet for the airplanes.
In April, Iranian officials said Boeing offered to sell the country 737, 787 and 777 model aircraft.
Iranian airlines have some 60 Boeing airplanes in service, but most were purchased before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
After reaching a nuclear agreement with world powers last year, Iran inked a 118-plane deal with Airbus. AP

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