Chinese warship came within 45 yards of USS Decatur in South China Sea: US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

 

Chinese warship came within 45 yards of USS Decatur in South China Sea: US

PHOTO: The guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) returns to its homeport, Naval Base San Diego, after completing a seven-month deployment.Seaman Trenton Kotlartz/US Navy
WATCH Flying with the US Navy as it keeps tabs on China over the South China Sea

The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Decatur had to maneuver to avoid a collision on Sunday after a Chinese warship came within 45 yards of its bow as the American ship transited a disputed island chain in the South China Sea on Sunday, U.S. defense officials said.

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The close encounter that the U.S. Navy characterized as “unsafe and unprofessional” comes at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China.

“At approximately 0830 local time on September 30, a PRC LUYANG destroyer approached USS DECATUR in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” said Capt. Charlie Brown, a U.S. Pacific Fleet Spokesman.

Gaven Reef is located in the Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea where China claims seven man-made islands as its own.

The close encounter with the Chinese warship occurred as the American destroyer was carrying out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOPs) in the Spratlys, the U.S. said.

The U.S. Navy routinely undertakes FONOP missions worldwide to challenge excessive territorial claims of international shipping lanes.

USS Decatur had sailed within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands when it was approached by the Chinese destroyer.

The Chinese Navy “destroyer conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for DECATUR to depart the area,” Brown added.

“The PRC destroyer approached within 45 yards of DECATUR’s bow, after which DECATUR maneuvered to prevent a collision,” said Brown.

A U.S. defense official characterized the close encounter as having been of short duration.

According to another U.S. official, the Chinese warship was initially about 500 yards on the Decatur’s port side then moved ahead of the Decatur and cut across the American destroyer’s bow at a distance of 45 yards (135 feet).

To help visualize that distance, a baseball catcher throwing the ball to second base to throw out a runner throws the baseball a distance of 127 feet.

Chinese vessels have approached U.S. Navy ships during previous FONOPs in the South China Sea, but Sunday’s encounter appears to the be the closest one yet.

“U.S. Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” said Brown. “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

There was no immediate comments from China.

Over the last week, the U.S. and Chinese military relationship has deteriorated as both countries are engaged in a bitter trade dispute.

Last week, a U.S. Air Force B-52 flew a mission through the East China Sea and two other B-52 flights were carried out through the South China Sea.

Also last week, China refused a port of call in Hong Kong to the U.S. Navy ship USS Wasp slated for October and pulled a top admiral from a scheduled meeting with his U.S. Navy counterpart.

On Monday, a U.S. official confirmed that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had canceled a planned trip to China in October after China had downgraded the level of officials he was to meet.

Trump Flip Flops On Iran Sanction-Again

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Despite threats, Trump to extend sanctions relief for Iran — sources

US president likely to link decision with new, targeted sanctions on businesses and people connected with regime

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, right, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, January 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, right, listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, January 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — US President Donald Trump is expected this week to extend relief from economic sanctions to Iran as part of the nuclear deal, citing progress in amending US legislation that governs Washington’s participation in the landmark accord, according to US officials and others familiar with the administration’s deliberations.

But Trump is likely to pair his decision to renew the concessions to Tehran with new, targeted sanctions on Iranian businesses and people, the six people briefed on the matter said. The restrictions could hit some firms and individuals whose sanctions were scrapped under the 2015 nuclear agreement, a decision that could test Tehran’s willingness to abide by its side of the bargain.

The individuals — two administration officials, two congressional aides and two outside experts who consult with the government — weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity. They cautioned that Trump could still reject the recommendation from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster and that no final decision had been made. They said heated discussions were going on within the administration and with key Republican lawmakers.

The State Department and White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Trump must decide by Friday to extend the nuclear-related sanctions relief for Iran’s central bank or re-impose the restrictions that President Barack Obama suspended two years ago.

An Iranian man reads a copy of the daily newspaper ‘Omid Javan’ bearing a picture of US President Donald Trump with a headline that reads in Persian ‘Crazy Trump and logical JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action),’ on October 14, 2017, in front of a kiosk in the capital Tehran. (AFP Photo/STR)

The old, central bank sanctions largely cut Iran out of the international financial system, and are considered to be the most powerful of the penalties imposed by the US during the Obama era, along with global penalties for buying Iranian oil. Some Iran hawks want to see both sets of restrictions return, but the six people with knowledge of Trump’s plans say the president isn’t planning to reinstate either at this point.

The individuals said Trump’s top national security aides appear to have successfully made a different case to the president: Waiving anew for 120 days the nuclear-linked sanctions while simultaneously imposing new measures to punish Iran’s ballistic missile testing, alleged terrorism support and human rights violations.

Such a balance could satisfy Trump’s demand to raise pressure on Iran, while not embarking on a frontal assault on the most central trade-offs of the nuclear agreement. While the US and other world powers rolled back economic restrictions on Tehran, the Iranians severely curtailed their enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activity. Trump has complained that many of the Iranian restrictions expire next decade and has vacillated between talk of toughening the deal and pulling the US out entirely.

A senior State Department official told reporters Wednesday that Tillerson and Mattis would be meeting with Trump on the matter before an announcement Friday. Trump, Tillerson and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to have lunch Wednesday at the White House after a formal Cabinet meeting.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Dec. 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The decision coincides with the administration’s efforts to secure a face-saving fix from Congress on the requirement for Trump to address Iran’s compliance every three months. In October, Trump decertified the nuclear deal under US law, saying the sanctions relief was disproportionate to Iran’s nuclear concessions, and describing the arrangement as contrary to America’s national security interests.

Tillerson told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he and others were working with Congress on ways to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, to resolve concerns Trump has with the deal. That will be coupled with diplomacy with European government on addressing Iran’s missile testing and support for the Hezbollah militant movement, Shiite rebels in Yemen and Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“The president said he is either going to fix it or cancel it,” Tillerson said of the overall deal. “We are in the process of trying to deliver on the promise he made to fix it.”

On the INARA law, it’s unlikely Congress could move fast enough to codify changes by Friday. So Tillerson and others are hoping to convince the president there’s enough momentum to warrant another extension of sanctions relief and not jeopardizing the entire agreement. The goal would be for Congress to make the changes sometime before May, when Trump is next required to address the sanctions.

The new Iranian long-range missile Khoramshahr is displayed during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of its devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, on September 22,2017 in Tehran. (AFP/str)

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the Iran deal, one of Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements, as the worst ever negotiated by the US He has particularly bristled at having to give Iran a “thumbs up” every few months by acknowledging that it is meeting the requirements to invest in foreign banks, sell petroleum overseas, buy US and European aircraft, and so forth.

Iran hawks in Congress and elsewhere worry the changes being discussed don’t strengthen the nuclear deal enough.

One would automatically re-impose, or “snap back,” suspended sanctions if Iran commits certain actions, possibly including things unrelated to its nuclear program. Currently, Congress must act for the sanctions to snap back.

Another proposal would require snapback if Iran refuses a request from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s atomic watchdog, to inspect a military site not currently being monitored. Iran hawks worry the IAEA, fearing a confrontation with Iran, won’t even ask for such an inspection.

Other debates center on Iran’s missile testing. Hardline Republican senators Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz want sanctions back if Iran launches any ballistic missiles capable of targeting territory outside of Iran, such as Israel or Saudi Arabia, and not just an intercontinental missile.

Senate Democrats, generally more supportive of the nuclear deal, are pushing their own suggestions. One would let a simple House and Senate majority stop any effort to snap back sanctions, unless the president vetoes the block. While such a mechanism is unlikely to threaten Trump in the short term, some anti-deal Republicans fear it could be used against them under a future Democratic president.

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