News Briefs – September 5, 2018


Vietnam War casualty from Bakersfield identified

Remains found at an underwater site have been identified as those of a naval aviator from Bakersfield whose aircraft vanished during a Vietnam War mission on Sept. 21, 1966.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency says Navy Cmdr. James B. Mills was accounted for this month after years of investigation.
Mills was a radar intercept officer aboard an F-4B piloted by Capt. James R. Bauder, whose remains were identified earlier. They departed the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea with another aircraft, lost contact and did not return to the ship.
A possible crash site off Vietnam was identified in 2006 and a series of excavations occurred over ensuing years.
Mills’ sister, Ann Mills Griffiths, tells The Bakersfield Californian she was astounded by the news after all the time that passed. AP

Trump says Korea military drills could be restarted

President Donald Trump is leaving open the possibility that he could “instantly” restart military exercises with South Korea, following his suspension of major drills as a goodwill gesture to North Korea.
Trump made the comment in a series of tweets Aug. 29 that primarily took aim at China, blaming it for lack of progress on getting North Korea to end its nuclear program.
He says China is pressuring the North and providing it aid, which he says is not helpful.
But he is signaling that the U.S. has its own means of exerting pressure on Pyongyang. Trump says that while there’s no reason to be spending on military exercises at this time, he could restart them if he chooses, and if he does, “they will be far bigger than ever before.” AP

Russia to hold Mediterranean drills as Syria tensions rise

Russia has announced major military drills in the Mediterranean Sea amid growing tensions over a rebel-held enclave in Syria.
The Defense Ministry told Russian news agencies on Aug. 30 that Russia will deploy 25 ships, including a missile cruiser, and 30 jets for the maneuvers in the first week of September. The military says the drills will focus on anti-air and anti-submarine defense.
It says Moscow has notified international organizations of the drills, which may make it dangerous for aircraft and ships to operate in the area.
The drills were announced after NATO reported a Russian naval buildup in the Mediterranean.
Russia has provided crucial military support for Syrian government forces, which are expected to mount an offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in the country. AP

China says no plans to deploy troops to Afghanistan

China is denying reports that it plans to deploy troops to Afghanistan.
Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Wu Qian said Aug. 30 that reports that hundreds of People’s Liberation Army soldiers are to man a base in eastern Afghanistan are “simply not true.”
China shares a narrow border with Afghanistan and is wary of the country’s violence and chronic instability overflowing into its restless Xinjiang region.
However, Wu said China, like other nations, was helping Afghanistan increase its defense capabilities, particularly in the area of counterterrorism.
Wu said the two have “normal military and security cooperation.”
Afghanistan’s ambassador to China, Janan Mosazai, said Beijing is helping Afghanistan set up a mountain brigade to bolster counterterrorism operations, but that no Chinese troops would be involved in this process on Afghan soil. AP

Egypt to host war games with U.S. for second straight year

Egypt’s military says it will host war games with U.S. troops next month for the second straight year.
The Aug. 30 statement from the military’s spokesman says the “Bright Star” exercise will run from Sept. 8-20.
U.S. Central Command said in a Aug. 30 statement that approximately 800 U.S. troops will participate.
The first “Bright Star” exercise took place in 1980, but the Obama administration postponed them in 2011, following the uprising that toppled longtime President Hosni Mubarak, and scrapped them in 2013, after Egyptian security forces killed hundreds of protesters while breaking up a mass sit-in.
Last September, Egypt held the war games with U.S. troops for the first time in eight years.
The exercise is typically biannual. It was unclear why it will be held two years in a row. AP

Japan would boost missile defenses in record military budget

Japan’s Defense Ministry is seeking a record-high budget for fiscal 2019 that would more than double spending on missile defense, including purchases of costly American arsenals.
The 5.3 trillion yen ($47 billion) request approved by the ministry Aug. 31 is up 2.1 percent from last year. Japan’s military spending has risen seven consecutive years under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The overall government budget plan is to be submitted for Cabinet approval later this year.
The ministry request related to missile defense rises to 424 billion yen ($3.8 billion) from about 180 billion yen last year. Part of the funds would buy land-based Aegis Ashore interceptors and ship-to-air SM-3 Block IIA.
Japan wants to bolster its missile defenses, saying North Korea hasn’t made substantial moves to denuclearize and remains a serious threat. AP

U.S. general assumes NATO command in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Gen. Austin Miller has assumed command of the 41-nation NATO mission in Afghanistan following a handover ceremony.
Miller took over Sept. 2 from Gen. John Nicholson, who held the post for more than two years, at a ceremony attended by senior Afghan officials and foreign ambassadors.
The handover comes at a time when Afghan forces are struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban and an increasingly powerful Islamic State affiliate. The Taliban control several districts across Afghanistan, and both groups have launched a relentless wave of attacks in recent months.
The NATO mission began with the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks. The U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014 but still routinely come to the aid of Afghan forces. AP

Senate Democrats want Boeing to negotiate with union in SC

Nearly two dozen Democratic U.S. senators are calling on Boeing to negotiate with a union now representing some employees at a South Carolina plant.
On Aug 29, 23 Senate Democrats penned a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg, asking the company to recognize the International Association of Machinists, as the company has at its facilities in the state of Washington.
“Boeing’s accomplishments would not have been possible without the skills, dedication, and ingenuity of the IAMWA workers that build your planes,” wrote the lawmakers, which include both senators from Washington, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
South Carolina’s U.S. senators, both Republicans, are not signatories to the letter.
Flight-line employees at Boeing’s North Charleston plant decided in May to join the Machinists. The aerospace giant campaigned against the organizers, losing a last-minute request to delay the election after an anti-union social media campaign.
At the time, a company spokesman said Boeing believed the “micro-unit” was illegal, arguing that it was too difficult to set different rules for the smaller group and that any union vote should include all 3,000 production employees at the sprawling North Charleston campus. In a March hearing, Boeing said that work done by the flight-line employees is so intertwined with the rest of the facility that the small group can’t be parsed out for collective bargaining.
Boeing has appealed the vote, asking the National Labor Relations Board to toss it out because flight-line workers aren’t a distinct group from the rest of the plant. Last month, South Carolina’s governor also asked federal officials to overturn the vote, saying that allowing the union would threaten the state’s economy.
The same union failed to attract enough support to represent all of the plant’s hourly workers last year, losing by a three-to-one margin. The Machinists, the country’s largest aerospace union, already represents more than 35,000 Boeing employees at 24 locations nationwide. AP