04/14/13: The Miami Herald reports the United States said Sunday that it is committed to defending Japan and opposes any coercive action by China to seize territory under Japanese control in the East China Sea. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington isn’t taking a position in the dispute over the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Japan and China have sparred over the uninhabited islands in recent years. Kerry’s strong words of support for America’s ally come just a day after he promised new levels of US-Chinese cooperation on a host of problems, most notably North Korea’s nuclear program.
03/30/13: AFP reports salvage teams on Saturday removed the last piece of a US Navy ship that was stuck on a UNESCO World Heritage-listed coral reef in the Philippines for more than 10 weeks, the coast guard said. The stern of the USS Guardian was lifted off the Tubbataha Reef after the 68-metre (223-foot) vessel was sliced into portions for easier removal, Philippine coast guard spokeswoman Lieutenant Greanata Jude said. Bad weather had earlier delayed the recovery operations but once the skies cleared, a salvage ship used a huge crane to lift the bow, the deck, the funnel and other pieces of the ship off the reef. "The salvage ship will still remain in the area. After the lifting, they will clear the area of debris. It will take three days maximum," Jude told AFP. The minesweeper ran aground on Tubbataha in a remote part of the Sulu Sea on January 17, damaging a section of the reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its rich marine life. The incident sparked widespread condemnation across the Philippines, a former US colony. The US government has apologised for the accident, which it initially blamed on faulty maps. The Philippines said it would impose fines. Due to fears that towing it to deeper waters would inflict more damage on the reef, the US government agreed to scrap and dismantle the Guardian, which was worth about $277 million.
03/24/13: Reuters reports Israeli officials said Sunday that Tel Aviv did not commit to ending its Gaza blockade as part of reconciliation with Turkey and could clamp down even harder on the Palestinian enclave if security is threatened. After a US-brokered fence-mending announcement on Friday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel had met his demands to apologize for killing nine Turks aboard a Gaza-bound activist ship in 2010. But although Erdogan has also insisted on fully ending the blockade, Israeli officials said Hamas, the Islamist faction that governs Gaza, was still trying to bring in arms, and thus “the blockade is as necessary as always.” Although Israel has relaxed curbs on overland civilian imports to impoverished Gaza, it signaled that the naval cordon, imposed during a 2008-2009 offensive, would remain.
03/18/13: The Miami Herald reports Iran’s judiciary has indicted eighteen suspects on charges of involvement in the killing of nuclear scientists. Since 2010, at least five Iranian nuclear scientists, including a manager at the Natanz enrichment facility, have been killed. Tehran has accused Israel’s Mossad, the CIA, and Britain’s MI6 of being behind the assassinations; Washington and London have denied the allegations, while Tel Aviv has not commented. Iranian state media said Sunday that authorities have issued indictments against the eighteen suspects, who will be tried in the coming months. In 2012, Iran hanged a man for the 2010 killing of a nuclear physicist.
03/17/13: The Miami Herald reports Iran on Sunday launched its domestically built destroyer in the Caspian Sea, the nation's first heavy military presence in the oil-rich sea. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the guided-missile destroyer Jamaran-2 in the port city of Anzali, about 150 miles northwest of Tehran. Iran launched a previous version of the Jamaran destroyer in 2010 in the Persian Gulf. Iran, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, the nations surrounding the Caspian, have not reached an agreement on exploitation of its resources. Iran supports equally sharing the sea, but the other four countries have reached agreements on exploiting the resources through mutual pacts, putting Iran's share at about 12% of the resources of the sea.
02/04/13: BBC News reports South Korea and the US have begun three days of naval exercises in an apparent show of force aimed at North Korea. The scheduled drills, involving a US nuclear submarine, come after Pyongyang said it may carry out its third nuclear test. Washington and Seoul have promised “significant consequences” if the North goes ahead with the underground explosion; meanwhile Pyongyang has criticized the naval drills as “war-mongering.” The exercises, taking place off the east coast of the Korean peninsula, involve live fire, naval maneuvers, and submarine detection drills. The drills were planned before the latest rise in tensions, but Jung Seung-Jo, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, said the presence of the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Francisco in the region “would itself serve as a message to North Korea.”
02/04/13: Al Jazeera reports Yemeni officials confirmed on Saturday that a ship intercepted last month off its coast was an Iranian vessel trying to smuggle explosives and surface-to-air missiles into the country. Officials in Washington said the seizure of the ship on January 23 was coordinated with the US Navy, and that the intercepted shipment was believed to have been from Iran and destined for insurgents in northern Yemen. A US official said Sunday the ship demonstrates “ever-pernicious Iranian meddling in other countries in the region.” The Yemeni government believes that Iran is supporting the Houthis, a Shi‘a insurgent group based in northern Yemen. Tehran denies any interference in Yemen’s affairs.
11/19/12: ABC News reports police on Okinawa, Japan have sent prosecutors a case involving a US airman suspected of assaulting a teenager after a drinking binge. The Japanese prosecuting authorities will now decide whether to press charges against the airman, whose name had not been released as of Monday. Police believe he entered an apartment near a bar where he had been drinking, punched the boy in the face and tried to flee through the window. The incident came shortly after all US troops in Japan were put under a curfew following an alleged rape last month that sparked outrage on Okinawa, which hosts more than half of the 52,000 US troops stationed in Japan.