Russian cargo plane crashes in Syria, 32 dead
A military cargo plane crashed as it was descending to land at a Russian air base in Syria March 6, killing all 32 people onboard, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The Russian military said an An-26, with 26 passengers and six crew members onboard, crashed just 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the runway. The military blamed the crash on a technical error.
Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, leases the Hemeimeem military base in Syria, near the Mediterranean coast.
The base is far from the front lines of the conflict, but came under shelling in December. The Russian military insisted the cargo plane did not come under fire, while saying it would conduct a full investigation. AP
Taiwan says it will beef up defense to respond to China
Taiwan will look to its domestic arms industry as well as foreign suppliers to respond to China’s continuing military buildup, but has no interest in engaging in an arms race with its cross-strait rival, the defense ministry said March 6.
The remarks from spokesman Chen Chung-ji came a day after China announced an 8.1 percent rise in its military budget for this year to $173 billion, the world’s second largest after the United States.
“Taiwan has no intention of getting involved in an arms race with China, or with neighboring countries,” Chen told reporters at a briefing. “However, we expect to strengthen our capabilities in self-developing arms, including locally built vessels and aircraft, or even information and communication warfare.”
China regards Taiwan as Chinese territory to be eventually brought under its control, by force if necessary.
Under China-imposed diplomatic isolation, Taiwan has few avenues for purchasing arms abroad apart from the United States, which despite only having unofficial ties with the self-governing island democracy, is legally bound to ensure it has a credible defense.
Under President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan has also sought to reinvigorate its domestic arms industry including in building trainer aircraft and possibly ships and submarines.
Such foreign and domestic weapon systems aimed to “satisfy the needs of defensive warfare, and assure the security of Taiwan, as well as to maintain regional stability and peace,” Chen said. AP
NATO chief plans military academies for Iraqi forces
The secretary general of NATO says the alliance plans to step up training of Iraq’s armed forces, including by setting up military academies.
Jens Stoltenberg said March 6 that the goal of training is to ensure that the extremist Islamic State group “is never able to come back in the way we have seen before.”
NATO is part of a global alliance that drove IS from large areas in Syria and Iraq.
After declaring victory over IS in December, Iraqi officials said they will focus on training the armed forces with the help of NATO and Western nations.
Despite of billions of dollars spent on training Iraqi forces after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the military suffered a humiliating defeat when IS militants swept through nearly one-third of Iraq in mid-2014. AP
U.S. Navy carrier’s visit to Vietnam puts China on notice
For the first time since the Vietnam War, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is visiting a Vietnamese port, seeking to bolster both countries’ efforts to stem expansionism by China in the South China Sea.
The March 5 visit by the USS Carl Vinson brings more than 6,000 crew members to the central coastal city of Danang, the largest such U.S. military presence in Vietnam since the Southeast Asian nation was unified under Communist leadership after the war ended in 1975.
The visit comes amid China’s increasing military buildup in the Paracel islands and seven artificial islands in the Spratlys in maritime territory also claimed by Vietnam. China claims most of the South China Sea and has challenged traditional U.S. naval supremacy in the western Pacific. AP