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In first under Trump, U.S. warship sails near China-claimed man-made island in South China Sea

The U.S. Navy has sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of China s man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea the first so-called freedom of navigation patrol under the administration of President Donald Trump a report said Thursday. The operation, which involved the USS Dewey, a guided-missile destroyer, was conducted Wednesday around Mischief Reef in the Spratly chain of the strategic waterway, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous U.S. officials. Freedom of navigation patrols (FONOPS) represent a challenge to excessive maritime claims, according to the U.S. Defense Department. The significance of 12 nautical miles marker derives from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over a 12-nautical mile territorial sea emanating from a coast.

In a statement to The Japan Times, the Pentagon refused to confirm or deny the report. However, photos posted to an official social media account of the USS Dewey appeared to show the vessel transiting the South China Sea.

We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future, Defense Department spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross said. Summaries of these operations will be released publicly in the annual FONOPS report, and not sooner. The most recent annual FONOPS report was published in February.

Ross said U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea, adding that these operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allow. The move is likely to anger China, which despite a pledge to the contrary, has continued to militarize the waters as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. China has built seven man-made islets in the hotly contested Spratlys, with three boasting military-grade airfields including Mischief Reef despite a 2015 vow by Chinese President Xi Jinping not to further militarize them. Beijing has called the moves purely defensive.

Ross, however, said any operation was not focused on a single nation.

FONOPS are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements, Ross said. In FY 2016, we conducted FONOPS challenging excessive maritime claims of 22 coastal states, including allies and partners. A think tank reported in late March that major construction at three of China s large man-made islands in the Spratly s had wrapped up, allowing Beijing to deploy fighter jets and mobile missile launchers to the area at any time. The building of military and dual-use infrastructure on the so-called Big 3 islands in the contested Spratly chain Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs had reached the final stages, with the naval, air, radar and defensive facilities largely complete, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

All three islands boast hangers that can accommodate 24 fighter jets and four larger planes, including surveillance, transport, refueling or bomber aircraft. Hardened shelters with retractable roofs for mobile missile launchers have also been built on the three.

China has also constructed significant radar and sensor arrays on all three islands, positioning them close to point defense structures to provide protection against air or missile strikes.

The Latest: 71 Syrians stopped trying to reach Greece by sea

The Latest on migration issues in Europe (all times local):

2:05 p.m. Turkey’s coast guard says it stopped 71 Syrian migrants attempting to reach Greece. The migrants were stopped in a rubber dinghy early Tuesday in Izmir province, on the Aegean sea, as they began their journey to the Greek island of Lesbos.

Turkey and the European Union struck a deal in March 2016 to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey’s western coasts. In the year before the deal, an estimated 1 million people crossed to Greece and nearly half landed on Lesbos. Hundreds drowned. According to Turkish coast guard statistics, more than 5,000 migrants have been stopped so far this year, a fifth of the total number in 2016.


12:25 p.m. Romanian border police have detained 14 Syrian and Iraqi migrants in western Romania who are suspected of illegally trying to cross the border and head to the Schengen zone.

Police said in a statement they discovered the group of six men, six women and two minors early Tuesday on a field close to the Hungarian border. They said the group was unable to “justify their presence in the area” and were taken for questioning. The adults are aged 18 to 60, accompanied by a 3-year-old and a teenager. They told police they were trying to reach the Schengen visa-free travel zone. Romania isn’t in the Schengen zone, but Hungary is.

They are being questioned for attempted illegal border crossing.


10:55 a.m. Germany’s highest court has upheld a complaint by a Syrian whose asylum claim was rejected because he’d already been granted asylum in Greece. The man, whose name wasn’t released, arrived in Germany in 2015. He told officials he had already been granted protection in Greece but had been living on the street there and received no support from the Greek government.

The man’s claim in Germany was rejected, meaning that he risked deportation to Greece. Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court said Tuesday that a lower court had wrongly failed to take account of a lack of welfare payments for refugees in Greece and to check whether there were assurances that the man would be given at least temporary housing.

Judges sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider.

Sectoral Presentation by Attorney General, Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte

Mr Speaker- As the representative of the people of the St James West Central Constituency in this Hounourable House, entrusted with the additional role of principal legal adviser to the Government of Jamaica, I remain humbled by the votes of confidence and the trust resposed in me by my constituents and by our Party Leader and Prime Minister -the Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, MP.

2. I am deeply indebted to all my companions on this amazing journey. To my friends and family, especially my husband Ian, I say thank you for your love, support and understanding. To my constituency team, I say thank you for helping me to better serve the constituents. To the staff of the Attorney General s Chambers, headed by the Solicitor General, and especially my secretary and personal assistant, I also say thank you. Although our workload at the Chambers is very heavy and our resources are inadequate, our collective commitment is without question.

3. The Honourable Delroy Chuck, QC, MP, Minister of Justice is most congenial and collegiate. It is a delight to have him as my Minister. Within the Cabinet, I appreciate
his fierce defence of the people who work within the various departments of the Ministry of Justice. It is a real pleasure to work alongside him.

4. I also want to express my gratitude to the Close Protection Officers (CPOs) assigned to me. I commend them for the high level of professionalism with which they discharge their duties, and for going beyond those duties, to ensure my safety and comfort on our regular commutes between the constituency in St James and the Chambers and Parliament here in the Corporate Area.

5. Mr Speaker- My last presentation gave rise to numerous questions in the court of public opinion about the role of the Attorney General and in particular, how I, as current holder of the office, discharge my duties. I was even depicted in cartoon-land as the gun-wielding vigilante, on the verge of shredding the Constitution to pieces.

Those who harbour doubt about my personal unwavering commitment to ensure that the machinery of Government acts lawfully and legitimately really should get
to know me better.

6. Admittedly, as a non-minister, the Attorney General is in a somewhat anomalous place in these debates. Notwithstanding, I welcome the opportunity to speak to pertinent issues relating to the Chambers. I should very much like to use it to shed further light on the role of the Attorney General, beyond what is generally accepted and readily understood.

The Role of the Attorney General:

7. The role of Attorneys General was specifically addressed at a meeting of Law Ministers and Attorneys General of Small Commonwealth Jurisdictions, which I attended, in September 2016, in London, England.

See Full Statement Here[1]

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