U.S. Raises Stakes in South China Sea Naval Exercises

U.S. Raises Stakes in South China Sea Naval Exercises

The U.S. Navy conducted massive drills in the South China Sea on Saturday, with two aircraft carriers involved in the exercises. According to The Wall Street Journal, hundreds of jets, helicopters, and surveillance planes took off from the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan in Washington’s largest military drills in the region in recent years.

“The Nimitz Carrier Strike Force celebrated Independence Day with unmatched sea power while deployed to the South China Sea conducting dual carrier operations and exercises in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet said in a statement.

The exercise is a show of force aimed at Beijing, who held its own drills over the weekend near the Paracel Islands, a disputed archipelago that China, Vietnam, and Taiwan all lay claim to. China’s build-up of military and research facilities on the Paracel Islands and the Spratly islands, another contested archipelago, has drawn the ire of Washington.

Since 2015, the U.S. has run what it calls Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOP) in the South China Sea, increasing tensions in the region. The FONOPs usually involve sailing a warship near the contested archipelagos and always draw sharp condemnation from Beijing.

“The fundamental cause of instability in the South China Sea is the large-scale military activities and flexing of muscles by some non-regional country that lies tens of thousands of miles away,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on Friday.

The Bashi Channel, a waterway just south of Taiwan, has turned into another flashpoint for the US and China. Friday marked the 13th day in a row that US military aircraft flew over the Bashi Channel. The South China Morning Post reported that the U.S. sent six large reconnaissance aircraft and two refueling tankers on Friday’s mission. The planes were reportedly searching for Chinese submarines in the area.

Dave DeCamp is the assistant news editor of Antiwar.com. Follow him on Twitter @decampdave.This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Saudi Airstrike Kills 13 Yemeni Civilians, Including Children

Saudi Airstrike Kills 13 Yemeni Civilians, Including Children

An airstrike from the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition hit a vehicle carrying civilians in north Yemen on Monday. The airstrike killed 13 people, including four children. The same day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres removed the Saudi coalition from a global list of parties who have harmed children in conflicts.

The international humanitarian group Save the Children said the victims were on their way home from a local market when the vehicle was suddenly bombed. The Houthi’s Health Ministry identified eleven of the victims, which included one woman and four children, ages 12-14.

The coalition often targets civilian infrastructure, which is why Guterres’s move to remove them from the “blacklist” drew sharp condemnation from human rights groups. Saudi warplanes have hit schools, hospitals, water treatment plants, markets, weddings, and other civilian targets.

The UN special representative for children in armed conflict said Guterres made the decision to remove the Saudis from the blacklist following “sustained, significant decrease in killing and maiming due to airstrikes.” While it is true the worst of the bombing took place in the early days of the war, bombs still fall on civilians in Yemen regularly.

Saudi Arabia’s effort to drive out the Houthis and reinstate President Hadi started in 2015 with the full support of the United States, the UAE, and other Gulf allies. The airstrikes, blockade, and siege on the country has always been a war on civilians.

Dave DeCamp is assistant editor at Antiwar.com and a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave. This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission. 

Defense Secretary Esper Calls on States to ‘Dominate the Battlespace’

Defense Secretary Esper Calls on States to ‘Dominate the Battlespace’

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper used the term “battlespace” to describe protests in US cities in a phone call with governors on Monday. “I think the sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace, the quicker this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal,” Esper said.

Over 17,000 troops in 24 National Guard jurisdictions have been activated to deal with the civil unrest sparked by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The troops are also being used to enforce curfews across the country. More than 40 cities have set curfews in place.

President Trump also spoke with the nation’s governors on Monday and called on the states to “dominate.”

“The president says he wants to dominate the streets with National Guard, with a police presence,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said at a briefing on Monday, explaining the president’s comments.

In the phone call, Trump also said he was putting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley “in charge” of the protest response. Gen. Milley is technically the highest-ranking military official in the country. It is not yet clear exactly what his role will be.

“General Milley is here who’s head of Joint Chiefs of Staff, a fighter, a warrior, and a lot of victories and no losses. And he hates to see the way it’s being handled in the various states. And I’ve just put him in charge,” Trump said.

Taking things a step further than bringing in the National Guard, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) called on President Trump to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, which would allow the president to deploy active-duty troops to cities across the country. The act was last invoked in 1992 as a response to protests and looting in Los Angeles after the Rodney King incident.

“If local law enforcement is overwhelmed and needs backup, let’s see how tough these Antifa terrorists are when they’re facing off with the 101st Airborne Division,” Cotton said on Twitter. President Trump retweeted Cotton and said, “100% Correct. Thank you Tom!”

Press Secretary McEnany said the Insurrection Act is an option for Trump. “The Insurrection Act, it’s one of the tools available, whether the president decides to pursue that, that’s his prerogative,” McEnany told reporters.

Speaking at the White House Monday evening, President Trump said, “if a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

Trump went on to address his plan to deal with protests in Washington DC, demonstrations that drove the president to seek shelter in an underground bunker on Friday. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property,” Trump said, speaking of measures he is taking in Washington.

This article was originally featured at Antiwar.com and is republished with permission.

Julian Assange Breaks Into Tears as He Is Denied Delay in Extradition Trial

Julian Assange Breaks Into Tears as He Is Denied Delay in Extradition Trial

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in court today in London in hopes of delaying his US extradition case. The judge told Assange he will not have any extra time to gather evidence to help his case, and the hearing will start in February as planned.

Reports of the trial sounded grim, Assange was holding back tears while he spoke and told the court that he could not “think properly.”

Assange was taken from the Ecuadorian embassy in April, charged with skipping bail and sentenced to 50 weeks in Belmarsh prison. His sentence was up September 22nd but a judge ordered him to remain in prison while he awaited his extradition trial.

The US wants to extradite Assange and charge him with 18 counts under the espionage act, which could total 175 years in prison. The allegation is that Assange helped former Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning break into a Pentagon computer. Manning was pardoned under President Obama but now sits in jail for refusing to testify against WikiLeaks in front of a grand jury.

Assange was asked if he understood the events in the court, that’s when he said, “Not really. I can’t think properly.” Then he appeared to make his case the best he could, “I don’t understand how this is equitable. This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t access my writings. It’s very difficult where I am to do anything but these people have unlimited resources.

“They are saying journalists and whistleblowers are enemies of the people. They have unfair advantages dealing with documents. They [know] the interior of my life with my psychologist. They steal my children’s DNA. This is not equitable what is happening here.”

Since Assange has been held in Belmarsh there have been reports that he experienced psychological torture. Just last week, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and two medical professionals told reporters, “We came to the conclusion that he had been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. That’s a medical assessment.”

Monday morning before the hearing Amnesty International released a statement that urged the British government to not extradite Assange. “The British authorities must acknowledge the real risks of serious human rights violations Julian Assange would face if sent to the USA, and reject the extradition request,” the statement read. “The UK must comply with the commitment it’s already made that he would not be sent anywhere he could face torture or other ill-treatment.”

Republished from Anti-War.com.

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