Los Angeles: An off-duty California police officer managed to slip through security at the Los Angeles airport with a gun she unwittingly left in her hand luggage and has been detained in Taiwan, officials said Thursday.
Officer Noell Grant, who was traveling on vacation to Thailand with her family, alerted authorities about the weapon on arrival on April 13 in Taiwan, during a layover, Lieutenant Saul Rodriguez, of the Santa Monica police department, told AFP. He said Grant mistakenly left her personal handgun in a carry-on bag and has been barred from leaving Taiwan until the matter is resolved, although she was free to move about. Federal officials on Thursday acknowledged that proper security procedures at Los Angeles airport were clearly not respected given that Grant was able to board the flight with her gun without anyone stopping her.
Nico Melendez, of the Transportation Security Administration, said authorities had “determined standard procedures were not followed and a police officer did in fact pass through the (airport) checkpoint with a firearm.”
He added that the agency in charge of security at US airports “expects every employee to follow procedures and holds its workforce appropriately accountable.”
Rodriguez said it was unclear whether Grant would face disciplinary measures on her return to California.
“We’re just working on getting her home safely right now,” he said.
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An off-duty police officer managed to fly out of Los Angeles International Airport with a gun in her carry-on luggage last week. Officer Noell Grant of the Santa Monica Police Department said she only realized she d accidentally brought her personal firearm along when she was about to change planes in Taipei. The gun and six bullets had made it through security at LAX undetected, a fact confirmed by the Transportation Security Administration on Thursday. Nico Melendez of the TSA was quoted by the BBC as saying that authorities determined standard procedures were not followed and a police officer did in fact pass through the [airport] checkpoint with a firearm. We ll hold those responsible appropriately accountable, he said. Grant informed local authorities in Taiwan of the blunder and has been told to stay in the country, though she hasn t been charged with anything.
China plans to strengthen defences but remains tight lipped on exact budget for military. Scarlett Cvitanovich reports.
Chinese marines rush up a beach during military exercises. Beijing has announced a significant increase in numbers of the highly trained, highly mobile force of soldiers. Photo: Xinhua
BEIJING is boosting its offensive force of rapid-deployment marines by 400 per cent amid plans to dramatically increase its military presence in the Indian Ocean.
Chinese media is reporting the People s Liberation Army s ambitious new plans following the announcement of a 7 per cent increase to $AU200 billion in defence spending last week. Among the details to emerge is a move to boost China s marine corps highly trained and well equipped troops intended for rapid deployment and offensive missions launched from the sea from an existing 20,000 troops to more than 100,000. Chinese officials have stated this is to protect arterial maritime trade routes and enforce its growing overseas interests.
This includes plans to deploy detachments to secure the ports of Djibouti, on the strategically significant Horn of Africa maritime chokepoint, and Gwadar in southwest Pakistan.
Chinese marines salute the flag while aboard a warship. These naval assault troops form the core of ready-reaction units. Photo: XinhuaSource:Supplied
The PLA marines will be increased to 100,000, consisting of six brigades in the coming future to fulfil new missions of our country, it reports one anonymous source as saying. It adds the size of the navy would also grow 15 per cent to help accommodate the new force.
China is a maritime country and as we defend our maritime rights and develop our interests, the status of the navy will be more important, former naval commissar Liu Xiaojiang told the annual Chinese People s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing last week.
Besides its original missions of a possible war with Taiwan, maritime defence in the East and South China seas, it s also foreseeable that the PLA Navy s mission will expand overseas, including protection of China s national security in the Korean peninsula, the country s maritime lifelines, as well as offshore supply deports like in Djibouti and Gwadar port in Pakistan, Li said.
However, the current size of the marines and its equipment are very limited and not enough to cope with the upcoming new challenges. Balancing the growth in the marine corps is a cut of 300,000 troops from China s land army, in what Beijing calls a strategic shift away from strength in raw numbers through to higher quality fighting forces.
Chinese amphibious tanks and marines storm a beachhead in an assault drill during a Sino-Russian joint military exercise in Shandong province. Photo: XinhuaSource:Supplied
ONE BELT, ONE ROAD
China s growing interest in what it declares to be its traditional overland and maritime silk roads has been increasingly evident in recent years. These routes which extend from the South China Sea, across India and Pakistan and through to Europe have become the focus of significant Chinese diplomatic, economic and now military influence.
Chinese warships have carried out several military exercises in the Indian Ocean in recent years, including three in waters Australia regards as its own backyard. Two missile destroyers and a supply ship were seen undertaking combat drills Indonesia s Java and Australia s Christmas Island, between the shipping-route choke-points of the Sunda and Lombok straits, earlier this month.
Visits by such warships and submarines to Indian Ocean ports have been on the rise. And it is investing in the construction of two strategically significant naval bases on two of the worlds busiest shipping routes. One, in the small African nation of Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, is positioned close to the narrowest point of the Red Sea through which shipping from Europe via the Suez Canal must pass. Djibouti also hosts US and French military bases.
The other, at Gwadar in southwest Pakistan, is at the entrance to the Gulf of Oman and the oil shipping choke-point of the Straight of Hormuz. Beijing maintains the bases are to provide logistic support for its forces undertaking anti-piracy, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in the area.
Chinese marines salute a passing warship while on exercise. Photo: XinhuaSource:Supplied
EMERGING ARMS RACE
China s announcement of a 7 per cent rise in military spending for the year came shortly after President Donald Trump called for a 10 per cent increase in America s defence budget, prompting renewed scrutiny of how the two countries capabilities compare. While the US military remains the dominant force in Asia and the world, China has been moving from quantity to quality and is catching up quickly in equipment, organisation and capability, and is increasingly able to project power far from its shores.
Rapid economic growth, lavish spending and a desire to regain China s historical role as East Asia s leading power are helping drive the moves. But it s producing fallout for nations such as Australia and India, both of which have recognised a growing need to improve surveillance and counterbalance Chinese activities in the Indian Ocean.
Below is a comparison of the present state of the US and Chinese militaries, based on figures found in recent US government research on China s capabilities and information from defence think tanks and government websites. Some figures are estimates or approximations.
A Chinese guided missile destroyer takes part in a week-long China-Russia navy exercise. Annual percentage increases in China s defence budget have been fuelling a top-to-bottom modernisation drive that has brought in new equipment and vast improvements in living conditions for the People s Liberation Army s 2.3 million members. Picture: China ColourSource:Supplied
THE BIG PICTURE
China s People s Liberation Army has a total of 2.3 million personnel under arms, constituting the world s largest standing military. It provides only partial information about its order of battle, the PLA s mission and future plans, although outside analysts have produced detailed estimates. U.S. troop strength varies depending on need, but as of Jan. 31, there were 1.4 million active service members spread throughout the services.
BUDGETS: China announced this week that defence spending would rise by 7 per cent this year to 1.044 trillion yuan ($US151 billion, $A200 billion). While China has the world s second-largest defence budget, it s just a fraction of what the US spends, even if analysts estimates of hidden additional spending are taken into account. Trump s request for an additional $US54 billion in spending would bring the US defence budget to a record $US603 billion, and that s before including tens of billions of dollars for overseas military operations. If approved, the increase would mean the US was spending 3.4 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence, up from 3.2 per cent of GDP last year. China says its budget this year would equal 1.3 per cent of GDP.
GROUND FORCES: Owing to the PLA s origins as a guerilla army and former tensions along its land border with Russia, the ground forces continue to dominate, with 1.6 million personnel and a weighty emphasis on armoured vehicles (9150) and heavy artillery (6246). The US army boasts 460,000 personnel with another 182,000 in the Marines. It has a smaller emphasis on artillery (1299) and armoured vehicles (8848), but places a greater emphasis on air support and special forces operations.
AIR POWER: The US can boast more than 13,000 aircraft of all types to China s nearly 3000. The gap is especially great in helicopters, where the US has more than 6000 to China s 802. Despite having fewer aircraft, some of which are under the Chinese navy, China s air force has 398,000 personnel to 308,000 for the USAF. Both air forces are seeking to upgrade their aircraft, although the introduction of the fifth generation F-35 jets could keep the US several years ahead. China s stealth fighters are now beginning to enter active service, although it has managed to replace more than half of its fighter fleet with fourth-generation aircraft.
NAVY: China s navy has many more vessels (714 to 415), but the US has more where it counts in terms of power projection. The US has 10 aircraft carriers to China s one (although more are being built), 62 destroyers to China s 32, and 75 submarines to China s 68. The US Navy has 323,000 personnel to China s 235,000, reflecting the breadth and depth of a service that operates worldwide. China s navy has made strides in that direction since it established a permanent overseas presence by joining in multinational anti-piracy patrols off Somalia in 2008, and has begun exercising in the Western Pacific beyond the first island chain that blocks its access to open seas.
MISSILE COMMAND: The PLA has a completely separate branch, the Rocket Force, to operate its formidable arsenal of short-, medium- and long-range missiles, including those capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Estimates say China has a stockpile of approximately 260 nuclear warheads for delivery by nearly 150 land- based ballistic missiles, 48 sea-based ballistic missiles as well as bombers. The US has an estimated 1740 nuclear warheads deployed for delivery by the same means. China s development of the DF-21D ballistic missile that is thought capable of threatening aircraft carriers has garnered much attention, although it remains untested in a conflict.
OVERSEAS PRESENCE: China hasn t fought a conflict outside its borders since it invaded Vietnam in 1979 and officially eschews overseas alliances. Nonetheless, the PLA has been expanding abroad, from garrisons atop man-made islands in the South China Sea, to UN peacekeeping operations, joint naval exercises with Russia in the Mediterranean and the construction of its first overseas base in the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti. The US military, in comparison, currently operates in more than 100 countries, maintains a worldwide network of alliances and is engaged in major conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and, increasingly, Syria.
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