Australia vows to keep searching to solve missing Malaysian plane mystery

admin   •   April 23, 2014   •   2247

Crew aboard the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield move the U.S. Navy’s Bluefin-21 autonomous underwater vehicle into position for deployment in the southern Indian Ocean to look for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, April 14, 2014 in this handout picture released by the U.S. Navy. REUTERS/U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair/Handout via Reuters

(Reuters) – Australia vowed on Wednesday to keep searching for a missing Malaysian plane despite no sign of wreckage after almost seven weeks, and as bad weather again grounded aircraft and an undersea drone neared the end of its first full mission.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott admitted the search strategy may change if seabed scans taken by a U.S. Navy drone failed to turn up a trace of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board.

“We may well re-think the search but we will not rest until we have done everything we can to solve this mystery,” he said.

“The only way we can get to the bottom of this is to keep searching the probable impact zone until we find something or until we have searched it as thoroughly as human ingenuity allows at this time.”

The Bluefin-21 drone, a key component in the search after the detection of audio signals or “pings” believed to be from the plane’s black box flight recorder, is due to end its first full mission, possibly on Wednesday.

The Australian and Malaysian governments are under growing pressure to show what lengths they are prepared to go to in order to give closure to the grieving families of those on board flight MH370.

In a sign of the families’ growing desperation for answers, a group purporting to be relatives of the missing flight’s passengers published a letter to Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, urging the government to investigate old media reports that the plane landed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“It is high time that the government should start thinking out of the box by exploring and re-examining all leads, new and old,” said the letter, published on Facebook on Wednesday.

Authorities suspended the air search for the second day in a row on Wednesday due to heavy rain, low cloud and big seas.

“Current weather conditions are resulting in heavy seas and poor visibility and are making air search activities ineffective and potentially hazardous,” the Joint Agency Coordination Centre said in a statement, adding 12 ships would continue to help with the operation.

Meanwhile, the Bluefin-21 was nearing the end of its first assignment scouring a 10 square kilometers (6.2 square mile) stretch of seabed where authorities traced what they believed was a black box signal two weeks ago.

Search officials have said that once the Bluefin-21’s current mission, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) north west of the Australian city of Perth, is finished, they will redeploy the submarine to other areas yet to be determined.

(Additional reporting Matt Siegel in Sydney; Editing by Michael Perry)

Trump confirms US Navy secretary forced out over SEAL case

Robie de Guzman   •   November 25, 2019

A handout file photo made available by the US Navy shows US Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer addressing the crew of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) via the ship’s 1MC during a visit to the ship at sea near Newport News, Virginia, USA, 27 October 2019 (issued 25 November 2019).

WASHINGTON – The United States president confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon has asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his management of the case of a Navy SEAL who was demoted for misconduct.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had requested Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.”

In July, Gallagher was convicted for illegally posing next to the body of the dead jihadist for photographs during his 2017 deployment in Iraq, and acquitted him of a murder charge for allegedly killing an injured captive.

The case has attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump, who last week expressed his support for Gallagher and on Sunday night confirmed Spencer had been “terminated.”

“Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday night, adding “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”

The Trident pin is the badge that marks membership to the elite Navy SEALs.

Last week, the New York Times reported that Spencer and Naval Special Warfare Commander Rear Admiral Collin Green had threatened to resign if the Navy complied with Trump’s request to revoke Gallagher’s demotion, although Spencer denied the news.

Trump said Sunday he “was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy.”

“He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank,” Trump added.

In its statement, the Pentagon said that Esper spoke with the “commander in Chief” on Friday about the Gallagher case and found out that Spencer had privately proposed to the White House, contrary to his public position, to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with the Trident pin.

The Department of Defense spokesman added that recently during a conversation between the two, Spencer never informed Esper of his private proposal to the White House.

In the statement, Esper said he is “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official.”

“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said.

Following recent events, Esper has also ordered that Gallagher retain his Trident pin.

Trump said that “Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy.” EFE-EPA

ssa /tw

U.S. warship sails near disputed South China Sea islands: U.S. official

UNTV News   •   October 1, 2018

An aerial view of uninhabited island of Spratlys in the disputed South China Sea, April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sunday, a U.S. official told Reuters, potentially angering Beijing at a time of tense relations between the two countries.

Beijing and Washington are locked in a trade war that has seen them impose increasingly severe rounds of tariffs on each other’s imports.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the destroyer Decatur traveled within 12 nautical miles of Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The operation was the latest attempt to counter what Washington sees as Beijing’s efforts to limit freedom of navigation in the strategic waters, where Chinese, Japanese and some Southeast Asian navies operate.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

“We conduct routine and regular freedom-of-navigation operations, as we have done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” the U.S. official added.

China’s foreign ministry did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The United States has criticized China’s construction of islands and military facilities in the area and is concerned they could be used to restrict free nautical movement.

The U.S. military has a long-standing position that its operations are carried out throughout the world, including in areas claimed by allies, and are separate from political considerations.

The latest move comes at a particularly tense time in relations between the United States and China.

Friction between the world’s two biggest economies is now moving beyond trade, with U.S. President Donald Trump accusing Beijing this week of seeking to interfere in congressional elections, marking a new phase in an escalating campaign by Washington to put pressure on China.

China recently denied a request for a U.S. warship to visit Hong Kong and this month Beijing postponed joint military talks in protest against a U.S. decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian fighter jets and a surface-to-air missile system.

In May two U.S. Navy warships sailed near South China Sea islands claimed by China.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by David Goodman

Malaysia says search for Flight MH370 to end next week

admin   •   May 24, 2018

FILE PHOTO: A man looks at a message board for passengers, onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, during its fourth annual remembrance event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 3, 2018. REUTERS/Lai Seng Sin/File Photo

 

A private search by a U.S. firm for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which went missing in 2014 in one of the world’s biggest aviation mysteries, will end on May 29, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said on Wednesday (May 23).

Flight MH370, carrying 239 people, disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

Malaysia had agreed in January to pay Houston-based Ocean Infinity up to $70 million if it found the plane during a 90-day search in the southern Indian Ocean.

Ocean Infinity’s search vessel, Seabed Constructor, had finished scouring its targeted search area in April and had requested an extension until May 29, Loke said.

Loke, who was sworn in as minister on Monday (May 21), said the government would release a full report on the investigation into MH370’s disappearance after the offshore search was completed, but had not yet determined a date for the report’s release. — Reuters

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