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Outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has declared today that North Korean military ambitions are a “serious threat” to the US.
In a speech made after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, Leon Panetta likened the North to Iran, describing them as “rogue states”.
In New York, the UN Security Council “strongly condemned” the nuclear test.
The council said it would begin work on measures against North Korea, after UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the test was a “clear and grave violation”.
Earlier, Pyongyang said “even stronger” action might follow, saying its test was a response to US “hostility”.
Nuclear test monitors in Vienna say the underground explosion had double the force of the last test, in 2009, despite the use of a device said by the North to be smaller.
If a smaller device was indeed tested, analysts said this could take Pyongyang closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.
UN sanctions on North Korea were expanded after the secretive communist state launched a rocket in December, in a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.
North Korea’s latest nuclear test comes as senators in Washington prepare for the first votes on whether to confirm Chuck Hagel as successor to current Defence Secretary Leon Panetta.
In a farewell speech at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta said the US would continue to be tested by unpredictable regimes in years to come.
“We’re going to have to deal with weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation. We’re going to have to continue with rogue states like Iran and North Korea.
“We just saw what North Korea’s done in these last few weeks – a missile test and now a nuclear test. They represent a serious threat to the United States of America. We’ve got to be prepared to deal with that.”
Outgoing Pentagon chief Leon Panetta has declared today that North Korean military ambitions are a “serious threat” to the US
President Barack Obama, who is to make his State of the Union speech later, called the test a “highly provocative act” and called for “swift” and “credible” international action in response.
China, North Korea’s main ally and a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, summoned North Korea’s ambassador to Beijing to express its concern over the test.
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi delivered a “stern representation”‘ to Ji Jae Ryong and expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition” to the test, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.
Earlier, it urged the North to honor its commitment to denuclearization and “not take any actions which might worsen the situation”.
The test was condemned by North Korea’s immediate neighbors, South Korea and Japan, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a revival of talks on the North’s nuclear arms programme.
In a defiant message to the UN’s disarmament forum, the North said it would never bow to resolutions on its nuclear programme and blamed the failure of diplomacy on the US.
“The US and their followers are sadly mistaken if they miscalculate the DPRK [North Korea] would respect the entirely unreasonable resolutions against it,” the North’s envoy, Jon Yong Ryong, told the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.
North Korea confirmed the test after international monitors recorded seismic activity consistent with a powerful underground explosion at 11:57 on Tuesday.
Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.
State-run KCNA news agency said the test was “carried out at a high level in a safe and perfect manner using a miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously”.
North Korea said the nuclear test was a response to the “reckless hostility of the United States”.
“The latest nuclear test was only the first action, with which we exercised as much self-restraint as possible,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“If the US further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action.”
The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said the “explosion-like event” was twice as big as the 2009 test, which was in turn bigger than that in 2006.
It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.
Pentagon has announced that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat.
The move could open hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and elite commando jobs to women.
It overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to small ground-combat units.
But the military would have until 2016 to argue for any specific posts they think should remained closed to women.
The decision is expected to be formally announced on Thursday.
Military chiefs will be asked to report back to Leon Panetta by May 15 on their initial plans to implement the new policy.
Some jobs are expected to be opened to women this year, while others – including for special forces such as the Navy Seals and the Delta Force – could take longer.
Pentagon has announced that US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has decided to lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat
This decision could open more than 230,000 combat roles to women, many in infantry units.
Senate armed services committee chairman Carl Levin welcomed the decision.
“I support it,” he said.
“It reflects the reality of 21st Century military operations.”
Restrictions were first eased a year ago, when the Pentagon opened up 14,500 roles, closer to the front line, which had previously been off limits to female personnel.
In November, a group of four women in the military sued the defence department over the ban, arguing that it was unconstitutional.
One of the plaintiffs, Marine Corps Capt Zoe Bedell, said existing rules had blocked her advancement in the Marines.
During the Iraq and Afghan wars, US female military personnel have worked as medics, military police and intelligence officers, sometimes attached but not formally assigned to front-line units.
As of 2012, more than 800 women were wounded in those wars, and at least 130 have died.
Women comprise 14% of America’s 1.4 million active military personnel.
The White House has announced it will go ahead with the nomination of General John R. Allen as NATO commander in Europe.
The announcement comes after John Allen was cleared of allegations he had “inappropriate” communication with Florida socialite Jill Kelley.
Gen. John Allen is to relinquish command of the NATO mission in Afghanistan next month.
Unrelated harassment complaints by Jill Kelley led to the revelation of an affair between CIA chief David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell.
General Allen’s nomination to lead the NATO command in Europe was placed on hold after it was revealed last year he had communicated repeatedly with Jill Kelley, whom he met when he led US Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida.
The emails between the two first came to light as part of a wider investigation into email harassment against Jill Kelley, who knew both Gen. John Allen and David Petraeus, a former general, through social contacts at the base.
When the FBI investigated, it traced the emails to David Petraeus’s biographer Paula Broadwell, bringing to light her affair with the CIA chief.
The White House has announced it will go ahead with the nomination of General John R. Allen as NATO commander in Europe
Earlier reports suggested Gen. John Allen had exchanged over 3,000 emails, some described as inappropriate and flirtatious, with Jill Kelley.
The Afghanistan commander had also written a letter to a judge in support of Jill Kelley’s twin sister in a messy child custody dispute.
A spokesman for Gen. John Allen said the general was “obviously pleased” to be cleared of the charges he had violated the prohibition against conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
“From the outset, the general placed his faith in – and fully supported – the investigative process,” Maj. David Nevers said.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the defence department “was pleased to learn that allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated”, adding that Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had “complete confidence in the continued leadership” of Gen. John Allen.
Defence officials told the Washington Post that the full investigation had shown that there were in fact only several hundred emails exchanged between Gen. John Allen and Jill Kelley, mostly notes on current news topics and social matters or compliments on General Allen’s television interviews.
“Some of the messages are not the sort of things you would print in a family newspaper,” the official said.
“But that doesn’t mean he violated military regulations by sending and receiving them.”
General John R. Allen has been cleared of misconduct by the Pentagon for more than 3,000 emails exchanged with Florida socialite Jill Kelley and revealed during David Petraeus scandal.
John Allen’s nomination to head NATO commander in Europe had been put on hold amid reports the emails were inappropriate.
He is due to relinquish command of his Afghanistan post in February.
Harassment complaints by Jill Kelley led the FBI to unmask an affair between CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. He later resigned.
Defence officials told the Associated Press that the White House had not decided whether to go forward with General John Allen’s nomination to Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the defence department “was pleased to learn that allegations of professional misconduct were not substantiated”, adding that defence secretary Leon Panetta had “complete confidence in the continued leadership” of Gen. John Allen.
The emails first came to light as part of a wider investigation into email harassment against Jill Kelley, who knew both Gen. John Allen and David Petraeus, a former general, through social contacts on the Florida army base where US Central Command is headquartered.
When the FBI investigated, it traced the emails to David Petraeus biographer Paula Broadwell, bringing to light her affair with the CIA chief.
General John R. Allen has been cleared of misconduct by the Pentagon for more than 3,000 emails exchanged with Florida socialite Jill Kelley and revealed during David Petraeus scandal
Earlier reports suggested Gen. John Allen and exchanged thousands of emails, some described as inappropriate and flirtatious, with Jill Kelley.
The Afghanistan commander had also written a letter to a judge in support of Natalie Khawam, Jill Kelley’s twin sister, in a messy custody dispute.
After being contacted by the FBI, Leon Panetta announced the inquiry into Gen. John Allen and put the commander’s nomination on hold.
Defence officials told the Washington Post that the full investigation had shown that there were in fact only several hundred emails exchanged between the two, mostly notes on current news topics, social invites or compliments on Gen. John Allen’s television interviews.
“Some of the messages are not the sort of things you would print in a family newspaper,” the official said.
“But that doesn’t mean he violated military regulations by sending and receiving them.”
In addition to the inquiry into Gen. John Allen, Leon Panetta asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to review ethics training after a series of misconduct cases.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has not released the results of his review but has said he found that ethics training for senior leaders should begin earlier in an officer’s career and be reinforced more frequently.
President Barack Obama is to pick maverick former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as defence secretary later, amid a political backlash over the nomination.
Chuck Hagel would replace Leon Panetta at the Pentagon, but Hagel’s fellow Republicans have voiced criticism over the Nebraskan’s views towards Israel.
White House officials also say Barack Obama will pick his counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan as director of the CIA.
Both appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.
The nominations are expected to be formally announced at the White House on Monday afternoon.
Along with Senator John Kerry, whom Barack Obama nominated last month to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, Chuck Hagel and John Brennan would help shape the president’s second-term national security agenda.
But analysts say the choice of Chuck Hagel, a 66-year-old decorated Vietnam veteran, could prompt a Senate confirmation battle. Opponents say he is hostile to Israel and soft on Iran.
Chuck Hagel has criticized discussion of a military strike by either the US or Israel against Iran and has advocated including Iran on future peace talks in Afghanistan.
Although no Republican lawmakers are threatening to block Chuck Hagel’s nomination, two influential senators have attacked him.
President Barack Obama is to pick maverick former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as defence secretary later, amid a political backlash over the nomination
Chuck Hagel made critical remarks against the Israel lobby in the US capital, quoted in a 2008 book by former state department official Aaron David Miller.
“The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” Chuck Hagel was quoted as saying.
“I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator.”
Top Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN on Sunday: “This is an in-your-face nomination of the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel.”
US Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told NBC there would be “a lot of tough questions” for Chuck Hagel.
But White House officials say Chuck Hagel’s positions on these issues have been misrepresented, saying he voted to send billions in military assistance to Israel and has supported the imposition of multilateral sanctions on Tehran.
The Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said the appointment of Chuck Hagel would be “a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel”.
But the pro-Obama National Jewish Democratic Council adopted a softer tone, saying it trusted that Chuck Hagel would “follow the president’s lead of providing unrivalled support for Israel”.
Chuck Hagel has also been criticized by some Democrats for saying in 1998 that a nominee for an ambassador post was “openly, aggressively gay”. He has since apologized for those comments.
If John Brennan is confirmed to lead the CIA, he will replace General David Petraeus, who resigned last year after admitting to an affair with his biographer.
A CIA veteran, John Brennan is currently Barack Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser. The 57-year-old was heavily involved in the planning of the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Although put forward for the role in 2008, John Brennan withdrew his name amid questions about his connection to interrogation techniques used during the administration of George W. Bush.
“Brennan has the full trust and confidence of the president,” a White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP news agency.
“Over the past four years, he has been involved in virtually all major national security issues and will be able to hit the ground running at CIA.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has spoken out for the first time about the allegations against General John R. Allen, that he had “inappropriate communications” with Florida socialite and military social liaison Jill Kelley.
General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is under investigation for his correspondence with Kelley, who is also embroiled in the David Petraeus sex scandal.
Investigators are looking at 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Jill Kelley and John Allen, some of which have been described by Pentagon officials as “flirtatious”. General John Allen has denied any wrongdoing.
Leon Panetta, speaking at a news conference in Perth on Wednesday, cautioned against reaching early conclusions about the veracity of allegations against General John Allen, which have added a new dimension to the Petraeus matter.
“No one should leap to any conclusions here,” Leon Panetta said in his first public comments on the matter when a reporter asked what John Allen might have done wrong.
Leon Panetta said he supports John Allen, who has been in command in Kabul since July 2011. He took over that summer for David Petraeus, who retired from the Army to head the CIA.
“He certainly has my continued confidence to lead our forces and to continue the fight,” Leon Panetta said.
Leon Panetta has spoken out for the first time about the allegations against General John Allen, that he had inappropriate communications with Jill Kelley
The Pentagon chief declined to explain the nature of John Allen’s correspondence with Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite connected to the scandal that led to David Petraeus’ resignation last week as director of the CIA.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appeared with Leon Panetta and their Australian counterparts at Wednesday’s news conference, declined to comment on the Allen case except to suggest it has not harmed the war effort.
Jill Kelley, the woman at the center of the David Petraeus sex scandal, is facing the prospect of being blackballed by the military establishment.
Jill Kelley, a 37-year-old Tampa socialite who hosted parties for the nation’s top brass, has been told today that she is no longer welcome at military HQ near her Florida home.
Her complaint over threatening emails triggered an FBI investigation that led to CIA director David Petraeus’ resignation when it came to light that he was having an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell.
In an increasingly tangled sex scandal, Jill Kelley is now at the center of an investigation over alleged “inappropriate communications” between her and General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Jill Kelley and her identical twin sister Natalie Khawam rose from humble beginnings as daughter of Lebanese immigrants in Pennsylvania, to prolific networkers on the Tampa social scene close to Central Command.
However, her role in a sex scandal that may have heavy repercussions for national security led to a military official calling Jill Kelley to revoke her access pass while an investigation into the 30,000 “flirtatious” emails is carried out.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the inquiry while President Barack Obama has given his backing to Allen while the investigation takes place.
“She did have base access but does not currently because of her involvement in an ongoing investigation,” a military official told the Tampa Tribune.
Jill Kelley, the woman at the center of the David Petraeus sex scandal, is facing the prospect of being blackballed by the military establishment
Jill Kelley was a frequent visitor to the sprawling military base. The doctor’s wife courted four star generals and other senior military figures as an unpaid liaison officer – describing herself as an “honorary consul” of South Korea – a position she achieved one official said “last August thanks to her good connections and network”.
In fact, the position of honorary consul is symbolic and has no official duties. Jill Kelley held lavish parties at her $1.3 million home overlooking Tampa Bay where the General’s and their wives were feted.
Both generals, David Petraeus and John Allen, met Jill Kelley, who friends have described as a “ferocious social climber”, when they were in charge at U.S. Central Command in 2008.
Jill Kelley has refused to speak publicly about her involvement with David Petraeus, who turned 60 last week, and General John Allen.
John Allen, 58, has denied any wrongdoing and insisted his relationship with Jill Kelley was purely platonic.
Jill Kelley has remained at her colonial style mansion during the scandal, appearing briefly in bold designer dresses for the media who have gathered outside her home.
The mother-of-three has been bombarded with offers from TV networks to conduct a sit down chat about her relationship.
Jill Kelley is the most sought after person to be named in a Washington sex scandal since Monica Lewinsky and has hired a DC lawyer. A producer from CBS TV flew from New York to Jill Kelley’s Tampa home to drop off a request for a sit down.
The producer said the aim was to “get Kelley” to New York as the bids from other networks roll in.
Friends believe Jill Kelley will agree to talk – because she desperately needs the money.
It has been revealed that Paula Broadwell has taken refuge at her brother’s Washington D.C. home as she hides away from the fall-out of her affair with disgraced former CIA boss David Petraeus.
The 40-year-old mother-of-two is staying in the Petworth suburb of the capital as the scandal she set off by sending threatening emails to alleged love rival Jill Kelley blew up publicly on Friday – causing David Petraeus’ resignation.
This was confirmed this evening when the Associated Press released a photograph of Paula Broadwell standing in the kitchen wearing a pink top with a glass of red wine in hand looking like any other housewife on a weekday evening.
It was Paula Broadwell’s threatening emails to Jill Kelley, a Florida socialite who is a Petraeus family friend that led to the FBI’s discovery of the affair between the biographer-turned-mistress and the nation’s top spy-chief.
And in another jaw-dropping development it has been claimed that Paula Broadwell also sent emails to General John Allen under the pseudonym “KelleyPatrol” – calling the unpaid social liaison for the military a “seductress”, warning the general about becoming entangled in a relationship with her.
This in turn led to a dramatic twist when sources close to the internal investigation into the scandal said that the commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan General John Allen exchanged emails likened to “phone sex” with 37-year-old Jill Kelley.
Paula Broadwell has taken refuge at her brother’s Washington DC home as she hides away from the fall-out of her affair with David Petraeus
General John Allen, who is married who two daughters and leads U.S. troops in Afghanistan denies any wrongdoing.
Officials claim his emails to Jill Kelley, who is also married with children, were simply friendly and not “inappropriate” or flirtatious.
However, sources have told Fox News that the emails between the pair were so explicit that they could be compared to “the equivalent of phone sex over email”.
Another official said that the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would not have referred this matter to an internal investigator without being sure that he had to – such would be the effect on John Allen’s family and the U.S. war effort.
“This was a serious enough matter that those who examined the emails thought it should be referred to the secretary of defense, and the secretary made the decision to turn it over to the inspector general,” the official said to Fox News.
“He would not have thrust this into the limelight without good cause.”
Sources are reviewing between 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails between Jill Kelley and General John Allen which date from between 2010 to 2012.
The investigation into the burgeoning sex scandal is ongoing – on Monday evening FBI agents searched Paula Broadwell’s Charlotte, North Carolina home and left with electronic equipment.
And further deepening the mire is news that the FBI agent who began the investigation into David Petraeus was taken off the case after it was found that he sent shirtless pictures of himself to Jill Kelley.
He is facing an internal investigation.
General John R. Allen, a second top military official, was dragged in to the David Petraeus sex scandal early this morning after being accused of sending thousands of “inappropriate” emails to socialite Jill Kelley, who was responsible for exposing the former CIA director’s extra-marital affair.
General John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, is under investigation by the FBI after the agency discovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communication between him and 37-year-old housewife Jill Kelley.
Jill Kelley entered the public eye when she was the target of threatening emails from Paula Broadwell, which the FBI used to uncover the affair between Broadwell and David Petraeus, leading to the former general’s resignation from the CIA.
John Allen, who succeeded David Petraeus in Afghanistan, was due to take over as NATO’s top commander, but his appointment has been suspended while his relationship with Jill Kelley is investigated.
Barack Obama had nominated John Allen to take over as chief of the military’s European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, but that nomination is now on hold as the Pentagon investigates Allen’s relationship with Kelley, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters.
He had been expected to take that new post in early 2013 if confirmed by the Senate, as had been widely expected.
The FBI notified the Pentagon of its investigation into John Allen’s communications with Jill Kelley on Sunday evening, an unnamed senior defence official said. Leon Panetta said he immediately notified the White House and top leaders in Congress of the investigation.
Leon Panetta said John Allen would remain as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for now, “while the matter is under investigation and before the facts are determined”.
Pentagon officials have declined to comment on the nature of the relationship between Jill Kelley and John Allen, who is married, except to say that it was “potentially inappropriate”. Officials have not said whether any national security secrets were breached.
Adultery is classified as a crime in the military.
Jill Kelley has been in the news this week after it emerged that she was the target of harassing emails from Paula Broadwell, a 40-year-old mother of two from Charlotte, North Carolina who was engaged in an affair with David Petraeus.
Paula Broadwell sent Jill Kelley a half dozen emails from anonymous accounts earlier this year warning her to stay away from Petraeus. Paula Broadwell perceived Jill Kelley as a threat to her relationship with David Petraeus, which began in the summer of 2011 and ended the following summer.
Jill Kelley notified a friend of hers who worked for the FBI of the emails, and he referred the case to a cyber crimes unit.
That agent was later banned from the FBI’s investigation into the source of the emails when officials discovered that he was sending shirtless photographs to Jill Kelley and seemed to become “obsessed” with the case, the Wall Street Journal reported.
General John R. Allen was dragged into the David Petraeus sex scandal early this morning after being accused of sending thousands of inappropriate emails to Jill Kelley
Jill Kelley is a volunteer who organizes social events for military families in the Tampa area. She often hosts the events at her million-dollar Bayshore Boulevard home, which is located only a couple miles from MacDill Air Force base, where Allen served from July 2008 to June 2011.
John R. Allen, a four-star Marine general, succeeded David Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011.
A senior official told the Associated Press that 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other documents from Allen’s communications with Jill Kelley between 2010 and 2012 are under review.
He would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorized disclosures of classified information. He said he did not know whether David Petraeus is mentioned in the emails.
“General Allen disputes that he has engaged in any wrongdoing in this matter,” the official said. He said John Allen currently is in Washington.
The FBI’s decision to refer the Allen matter to the Pentagon rather than keep it itself, combined with Leon Panetta’s decision to allow John Allen to continue as Afghanistan commander without a suspension, suggested strongly that officials viewed whatever happened as a possible infraction of military rules rather than a violation of federal criminal law.
John Allen was Deputy Commander of Central Command, based in Tampa, prior to taking over in Afghanistan. He also is a veteran of the Iraq war.
Leon Panetta said Barack Obama was consulted and agreed that John Allen’s nomination to the NATO post should be put on hold.
John Allen was to testify at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Leon Panetta said he asked committee leaders to delay that hearing.
Leon Panetta also said he wants the Senate Armed Services Committee to act promptly on Barack Obama’s nomination of General Joseph Dunford to succeed John Allen as commander in Afghanistan. That nomination was made several weeks ago. Joseph Dunford’s hearing is also scheduled for Thursday.
The US is lifting its ban on New Zealand naval ships in its ports.
The move was announced by Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who is in New Zealand to discuss ways of improving military co-operation.
Leon Panetta is the first Pentagon chief to visit since New Zealand banned nuclear weapons from its territory in 1985.
Since then, US warships have been unable to use its ports. Washington suspended its defence treaty with New Zealand in 1986.
Leon Panetta told reporters: “While we acknowledge that our countries continue to have differences of opinion in some limited areas, today we have affirmed that we are embarking on a new course in our relationship that will not let those differences stand in the way of greater engagement on security issues.”
The US is lifting its ban on New Zealand naval ships in its ports
The ”policy change”, Leon Panetta said, would make it easier for the military of both countries to ”engage in discussions on security issues and to hold co-operative engagements”.
He was speaking in Auckland at a joint news conference with New Zealand Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman.
Earlier, Jonathan Coleman said his country welcomed stronger ties, although he said New Zealand’s anti-nuclear position remained unchanged.
The relationship between the two countries began thawing after New Zealand sent troops to Afghanistan in 2003.
Leon Panetta also visited Tokyo and Beijing this week as part of a regional tour.
The trip, one of several to the region this year, is seen as central to the US effort to rebalance its forces to the Asia Pacific area as part of a new military strategy.
US defence secretary Leon Panetta has warned territorial disputes in East Asia have the potential to become wider conflicts if provocations are not reduced.
“A misjudgement on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” Leon Panetta said at the start of an Asian tour.
His comments came as anti-Japanese protests continue to sweep China over a disputed island chain.
Demonstrators gathered in cities across China for a second day on Sunday.
Riot police used tear gas and water cannon in the southern city of Shenzhen to break up an angry crowd.
China is reasserting its claim to sovereignty over the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea, in the wake of a Japanese government decision last week to purchase the islands from their private Japanese owners.
US defence secretary Leon Panetta has warned territorial disputes in East Asia have the potential to become wider conflicts if provocations are not reduced
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has urged Beijing to take steps to protect Japanese nationals, but added that the authorities in both countries should “remain calm”.
Speaking in Tokyo, Leon Panetta said: “I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgement on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict.”
“And that conflict would then have the potential of expanding,” he warned.
The US defence chief stressed that during his talks in Tokyo and later in Beijing he would appeal for restraint.
Leon Panetta also said that Washington did not take a position with regard to the territorial disputes in Asia.
He will also visit New Zealand as part of his tour.
On Sunday, hundreds of Chinese protesters again faced off against riot police at the Japanese embassy in Beijing.
In Shenzhen, police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration, while in the nearby city of Guanghzhou angry crowds burned Japanese flags.
One eyewitness in the city of Xi’an described how his camera was snatched from him and damaged because it was a Japanese brand.
“Japanese-made cars were randomly stopped, their drivers grabbed and thrown out… and the cars smashed and burned. The police and army seemed to do little to stop the riot,” he said.
Tensions have been heightened this week after the purchase of some of the islands by the Japanese government from their private Japanese owners.
China briefly sent six surveillance ships into waters around the islands on Friday in response.
The islands are also claimed by Taiwan and have been a long-running source of friction in the region.
Analysts see Japan’s decision to buy the islands as damage limitation in response to a much more provocative plan by the nationalistic governor of Tokyo, who wanted to purchase and develop the islands.
And yet there is virtually no mention of the protests in China’s state media, and attempts have been made to control discussion on the internet.
This reflects the Communist leadership’s ambivalence about such displays of nationalist fury: they can be useful to send a message to Japan, but could easily get out of control and spark wider expressions of discontent.
There is plenty of scope for miscalculation in the coming days: Chinese fishing fleets are set to return to the disputed waters, and nationalists could try to provoke Japan by landing on the islands.
In Japan, the government seems unlikely to back down with election looming.
There is talk in the Japanese press that some on both sides could be willing to risk a limited naval clash in defence of the conflicting claims.
Further complicating matters, Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to China, 60-year-old Shinichi Nishimiya, died on Sunday, the foreign ministry said.
The envoy – who had been due to take his post in October – collapsed several days earlier near his Tokyo home and was taken to hospital.
The foreign ministry has not publicly commented on what caused his death.
US top military officer General Martin Dempsey has claimed that Iran is helping to build and train a militia in Syria to prop up embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
General Martin Dempsey said the militia was intended to take the pressure off battle-weary Syrian regime forces.
Iran has described Syria as part of a vital regional alliance that Tehran will not allow to be broken.
Meanwhile, a summit of Islamic countries is due to suspend Syrian membership, despite Iranian objections.
The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation is expected to endorse the decision of its foreign ministers at the summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi state TV showed King Abdullah welcoming leaders with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at his side. They were shown talking and laughing together.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Syrian regime forces would be “taxed” after fighting for almost 18 months.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Syrian regime forces would be "taxed" after fighting for almost 18 months
“They are having re-supply problems, they are having morale problems, they are having the kind of wear-and-tear that would come of being in a fight for as long as they have,” he said.
He said Iran was training a militia “made up of Syrians, generally Shia and some Alawite,” a reference to the minority Shia Islam offshoot to which President Assad belongs.
It was called “jaish ashaabi” or “army of the people”, Gen. Martin Dempsey said.
The mainly Sunni Muslim rebels in Syria are being backed by Sunni-ruled Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Turkey.
Speaking at the same news conference, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said it had become obvious that Iran was providing assistance and training for the Syrian regime.
“We do not think that Iran ought to be playing that role at this moment in time,” he said.
“It is adding to the killing that’s going on in Syria, and it tries to bolster a regime that we think ultimately is going to come down.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey said Washington had held talks with Syria’s neighbors Jordan and Turkey about the possible need for a safe zone, amid an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting.
“With a safe haven would probably come some form of no-fly zone, but we are not planning anything unilaterally,” he said.
Gen. Martin Dempsey also said it appeared that rebels had recently shot down a Syrian warplane, despite Damascus insisting that it had suffered a technical fault.
However, he said there was no indication that the rebels were armed with heavy weapons or surface-to-air missiles.
He said the jet could have been brought down with small-arms fire.
The American soldier who shot dead 16 civilians, including women and children, in Afghanistan on Sunday has been flown to Kuwait, US officials say.
Afghan MPs have demanded that the man be tried in Afghanistan, but the scenario is very unlikely.
Meanwhile an Afghan man who crashed a lorry at an airfield as the US defense secretary’s plane was arriving has died of his injuries, officials say.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was not at risk at any time, US officials said.
Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti said the man had apparently tried to ram the stolen vehicle into a group of US Marines at Camp Bastion in Helmand.
Leon Panetta was in Helmand to address US troops, as fears mount that they could be the target of a backlash against foreign forces.
He also met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an effort to rebuild relations rocked by incidents such as the massacre in Kandahar and the burnings of Korans at a US military base last month.
The attack in Kandahar province has caused outrage across Afghanistan and protests in several areas. On Thursday about 2,000 people demonstrated in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, the second major protest outside Kandahar this week.
NATO has insisted that the detained man carried out the killings on his own.
But the head of an Afghan parliamentary delegation said he has heard evidence from local villagers which suggests as many as 20 US soldiers were involved.
About 2,000 people demonstrated in the southern Afghan province of Zabul after the US soldier shot dead 16 civilians in Kandahar
Sayed Ishaq Gillani, a leading Afghan MP, also claims that helicopters were heard overhead, and that they were seen dropping chaff – a measure designed to protect aircraft from ground attack.
Sayed Ishaq Gillani said local people believe the killings were carried out in revenge for an attack a week earlier in which several US troops were hurt.
The victims were shot in their homes in the remote Panjwai district of Kandahar, which is also the spiritual homeland of the Taliban.
According to the NATO version of events, the staff sergeant, who has not been named or charged, allegedly left his base in southern Afghanistan before dawn on Sunday, entered several houses in the area and shot men, women and children at close range.
The soldier was held by the US military in Kandahar until Wednesday evening, when he was flown out of the country “based on legal recommendation”, a Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby said.
“We do not have appropriate detention facilities in Afghanistan,” Captain John Kirby said.
A NATO official later confirmed that the suspect had been flown to Kuwait.
Members of the Afghan parliament had demanded that he should be put on trial in their country.
But this was never going to happen. The US has always insisted that charges of wrongdoing by its soldiers be dealt with within the American military legal system.
US officials say the soldier handed himself in. Leon Panetta has said that if found guilty, he could face the death penalty.
Officials said the soldier had completed several tours in Iraq but was on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan.
NATO and the US administration have insisted that there will be no change of strategy in Afghanistan. The issue has been at the top of the agenda as the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron makes a state visit to Washington.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) plans to withdraw all of its combat forces by the end of 2014. American troops are also following that timetable.
President Hamid Karzai called for NATO troops to leave Afghan villages and confine themselves to major bases after 16 civilians were shot dead by a U.S. soldier.
In a near-simultaneous announcement, the Afghan Taliban said it was suspending nascent peace talks with the United States seen as a strong chance to end the country’s decade-long conflict, blaming “shaky, erratic and vague” U.S. statements.
Hamid Karzai, in a statement after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul, said as a consequence of the weekend massacre, “international security forces have to be taken out of Afghan village outposts and return to (larger) bases”.
In advance of his visit an Afghan man who apparently targeted U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in a suicide attack at Britain’s main base in Afghanistan died of his injuries.
The civilian had sustained severe burns after driving on to a runway at Camp Bastion at the same time as Leon Panetta was landing for a visit to U.S. troops and local political leaders.
International security forces have to be taken out of Afghan villages, said President Hamid Karzai after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Kabul
The US soldier accused of carrying out the shooting was attached to a small special forces compound similar to others around the country which underpin NATO’s anti-insurgent strategy ahead of a 2014 deadline for Western combat forces to pull out.
The incident has harmed relations between Afghanistan and the United States and “all efforts have to be done to avoid such incident in the future”, Hamid Karzai said on Thursday, warning it also had hurt the trust Afghans had in foreign forces.
The Sunday killings in Kandahar province on Sunday have raised questions about Western strategy in Afghanistan and intensified calls for the withdrawal of foreign combat troops.
The Taliban decision to suspend the talks was a blow to NATO hopes of a negotiated settlement to the war, which has cost the United States $510 billion and the lives of over 1,900 soldiers.
Taliban militants in Afghanistan have suspended preliminary peace negotiations with the United States.
The militants blamed the Americans’ “ever-changing position”. One key stumbling block was reported to be US efforts to involve the Afghan authorities.
The group has objected to this, as they regard the Kabul government as illegitimate.
Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai has called on NATO forces to leave Afghan villages after a US soldier killed 16 civilians.
According to officials, the priority for Afghan government was to avoid civilian casualties at any cost.
President Hamid Karzai told the visiting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Afghan troops should take the lead for nationwide security in 2013.
President Hamid Karzai has called on NATO forces to leave Afghan villages after a US soldier killed 16 civilians
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Taliban said the talks should focus on a political office being established in Qatar and on a prisoner exchange.
They said they were suspending the talks because of “the shaky, erratic and vague standpoint of the Americans”.
US diplomatic sources say the Taliban were told by US negotiators that the Afghan government had to be a part of any negotiations.
The Taliban statement reiterated that the group “considers talking with the Kabul administration as pointless.”
Other conditions reportedly set by the US in the talks include accepting of the Afghan constitution – which the Taliban have rejected – and publicly denouncing al-Qaeda.
The Taliban’s suspension of the talks is a significant setback for efforts to begin peace talks with the insurgents.
It was thought that a deal to exchange five Taliban fighters currently held at Guantanamo Bay for a kidnapped American soldier was only weeks away.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in Afghanistan in a surprise visit after a NATO soldier shot dead 16 civilians.
According to the officials, Leon Panetta’s trip to Afghanistan was planned before 16 Afghan civilians were shot dead by an American soldier on Sunday.
Leon Panetta is due to have talks with President Hamid Karzai, provincial leaders and senior officials.
Correspondents say his visit has taken on a new meaning as political pressure mounts on Afghan and US officials over the unpopular war.
Leon Panetta is also due to speak with US troops in Afghanistan as fears mount that they could be the victims of a Taliban-led backlash over the killings of villagers, including nine children, by the rogue US soldier.
His arrival at Bastion Airfield in Helmand province came a day after protests over the massacre flared in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has arrived in Afghanistan in a surprise visit after a NATO soldier shot dead 16 civilians
Leon Panetta is the most senior US official to visit Afghanistan since the shootings.
He told reporters ahead of his trip that he believed that American strategy in Afghanistan was working and would withstand repercussions from the killings.
“I think we’re on the right path now and what we’ve got to do is convince people that despite these kinds of events we ought not to allow [them] to undermine that strategy,” Leon Panetta said on Monday.
“It’s important that we push on, and that we bring this war to a responsible end and achieve the mission that all of us are embarked on,” he said.
Leon Panetta’s trip coincides with discussions in the US between UK Prime Minster David Cameron and President Barack Obama over a possible “endgame” to the war in Afghanistan.
The leaders are expected to agree that Afghan forces should take over a lead combat role by mid-2013 – earlier than planned – but the US president has said there will be no “rush for the exits”.
Correspondents say that anti-Americanism was rampant in Afghanistan even before the shootings.
Last month there was outrage over US troops inadvertently burning Korans on an American base.
Fury also followed the posting of a video on the internet in January apparently showing four US marines urinating on Taliban corpses.
Afghan militants have launched an attack on a government delegation visiting the site where a US soldier killed 16 civilians.
Two of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers and several top security officials are in the delegation in Panjwai in Kandahar province.
Afghan forces are returning fire and it is unclear whether there are any casualties.
The US soldier who allegedly carried out Sunday’s attacks is under arrest.
The unnamed 38-year-old staff sergeant is being held at an undisclosed location.
A senior Afghan official said: ”I can confirm that the Taliban have launched an attack from several directions against a government delegation. The delegation was there to meet villagers and tribal elders. This is an area where the Taliban exist and operate. At this stage, our forces are returning fire.”
The US soldier’s attack in Kandahar has severely strained relations between Afghans and foreign forces.
Anti-US sentiment was already high after soldiers burned some copies of the Koran at a NATO base in Kabul last month, sparking deadly riots across the country.
On Tuesday morning, some 600 students took part in a rally in the eastern city of Jalalabad, condemning the Kandahar attack and chanting “Death to America! Death to Obama!”.
Afghan militants have launched an attack on a government delegation visiting the site where a US soldier killed 16 civilians
US President Barack Obama said the shooting was “absolutely heartbreaking and tragic”.
But he said international forces must be withdrawn from Afghanistan in a responsible way, and would not “rush for the exits”.
Barack Obama said the international forces had to make sure Afghans could secure their borders and stop al-Qaeda from getting back into the country.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the soldier in question could face the death penalty, if found guilty.
The Taliban has renewed threats of revenge attacks, saying it would behead “sadistic” American soldiers.
Details about Sunday’s shootings are still unclear, but the American soldier left his base in Kandahar in the early hours and went on a rampage in nearby villages.
Locals told reporters how they cowered in fear as the man made his way from door to door, trying to get into their houses.
“I saw a man, he dragged a woman by her hair and banged her head repeatedly against the wall. She didn’t say a word,” one witness said.
The soldier broke into three houses and killed 16 people, most of them women and children. He then burned their bodies, according to reports.
The US defence secretary said the soldier “came back to the forward operating base and basically turned himself in, told individuals what had happened”.
Pentagon officials said they would not release his name while the investigation was going on.
Reports said the soldier, who has three children, had been deployed to Afghanistan in December for his first tour of duty there after serving three times in Iraq.