News Briefs – November 25, 2019

Esper doesn’t regret delaying drills, despite N. Korea snub

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he does not regret postponing a U.S.-South Korean military air exercise, even though the gesture was rejected by North Korea as not enough to restart nuclear diplomacy.
Esper spoke to reporters Nov. 21 morning shortly before boarding his plane in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a flight to Washington.
He described North Korea’s response to the offer as being “not as positive as we would have liked.” In Esper’s words: “I don’t regret taking the high road.”
Esper and his South Korean counterpart had announced Sunday the allies indefinitely postponed the annual Vigilant Ace training in an “act of goodwill” toward North Korea. The moves were effort to convince North Korea to revive the nuclear talks that largely have stalled since the February collapse of a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol said on Nov. 19 the U.S. must scrap that military drill completely and abandon its hostility against his country if it wants to see the resumption of the nuclear negotiations.
Esper also said he does not believe there is a rift in the U.S.-South Korean alliance, despite a breakdown this week in negotiations over a U.S. demand for a five-fold increase in what Seoul pays to keep 28,500 American troops on its soil.
Jeong Eun Bo, a South Korean negotiator on those talks, told reporters Nov. 20 that another round of talks was scheduled but didn’t specify when. AP

U.S. military loses drone over Libyan capital

The U.S. military says it has lost an unmanned drone aircraft over the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
Rival armed groups have been fighting there for control of the city since April.
The U.S. Africa Command said late Nov. 22 that the drone was lost a day earlier while assessing the security situation and monitoring extremist activity.
AFRICOM did not give a reason for the drone’s loss, but said it was investigating.
In September, the U.S. military said it carried out several airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Libya, killing 40 militants. Those were the first U.S. strikes in the North African country in over a year.
Oil-rich Libya remains fractured after descending into chaos in 2011, when an international military coalition helped rebels overthrow longtime autocrat Moammar Gadhafi. AP

Boeing settles half of lawsuits tied to Indonesian crash

Boeing has settled about half of the lawsuits filed in federal court over the October 2018 crash of a 737 Max jet off the coast of Indonesia.
A Boeing spokesman said Nov. 22 that the company has settled 63 cases tied to the crash of a plane flown by Indonesia’s Lion Air.
The company did not disclose terms of the settlements.
A lawyer for Boeing revealed the pace of negotiations with families of passengers during a hearing in federal district court Thursday in Chicago.
Many of the lawsuits blame Boeing for not telling pilots about a new flight-control system that repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down before it crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 aboard.
Boeing faces dozens of additional lawsuits over a second Max crash four months later in Ethiopia that killed 157.
Max jets have been grounded worldwide since March, but that didn’t stop the company from showing off the newest version of the plane — at up to 230 seats, it’s bigger than current models — at a factory near Seattle on Friday. Boeing said thousands of employees attended the event. The first flight of the Max 10 is planned for next year.
After Max 8s and 9s were grounded, Boeing received no new Max orders for several months. The Chicago-based company got a boost this week, however, when Turkey’s SunExpress announced it will buy 10 more Max jets and a startup budget carrier in Kazakhstan said it plans to order 30 Max jets. AP