US Navy dismisses commander after deadly warship collisions

This file photo taken on June 18, 2017 shows Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, speaking during a press conference in front of the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald at the US Navy's Yokosuka Base, southwest of Tokyo. (AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi)
Updated 23 August 2017
0

US Navy dismisses commander after deadly warship collisions

TOKYO: The US Navy confirmed Wednesday it had sacked the commander of its Seventh Fleet after a deadly collision between a destroyer and a tanker off Singapore, the latest of several accidents involving an American warship in Asian waters.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin was relieved “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” a navy statement said.
The navy is undertaking a fleet-wide global investigation after Monday’s incident involving the USS John S. McCain, which left 10 sailors missing and five injured after a gaping hole was torn in the warship’s side.
The Seventh Fleet, headquartered at Yokosuka in Japan, is the centerpiece of the US military presence in Asia, undertaking sensitive missions such as operations in the South China Sea and around the Korean peninsula.
Aucoin, who had held the post since September 2015, had been in the navy for almost four decades and US media reports said he had been due to retire in weeks.
He was replaced by Rear Admiral Phil Sawyer.
Monday’s accident was the second fatal collision in two months — both involving ships from the Seventh Fleet — after the USS Fitzgerald collided with a cargo vessel off Japan in June, leaving seven sailors dead.
There have been four accidents in total in the Pacific this year involving American warships, sparking concerns the US Navy could be overstretched as it tackles China’s rising assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
The latest happened before dawn in busy shipping lanes around the Strait of Singapore, leaving a big hole in the hull of the warship and flooding it with water.
A massive search involving planes and aircraft was launched and US Navy divers joined the hunt Tuesday, scouring the ship’s flooded compartments.
The divers had found remains of some of the sailors, the commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, said Tuesday without giving further details.
Malaysian authorities, which have deployed 10 ships and two helicopters for the search, also said they found a body and a US Navy helicopter collected it on Wednesday.
Five countries — the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia — are now involved in the search covering an area of about 2,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles).
The accident happened as the McCain headed for a routine stop in Singapore after carrying out a “freedom of navigation operation” in the disputed South China Sea earlier in August, sparking a furious response from Beijing.
On Monday the Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson ordered commanders within a week to set aside time, perhaps “one or two days,” for crews to sit down together for discussions.
A “comprehensive review” of practices would also begin.
The admiral did not rule out some kind of outside interference or a cyber-attack being behind the latest collision, but said he did not want to prejudge the inquiry. His broader remarks suggested a focus on “how we do business on the bridge.”
The damaged vessel is named after US Senator John McCain’s father and grandfather, who were both admirals in the US navy.
The tanker involved in the collision, which was used for transporting oil and chemicals and weighed over 30,000 gross tons, sustained some damage but no crew were injured and it did not leak oil.


Britain condemns Israel bias at UN rights council

Updated 18 June 2018
0

Britain condemns Israel bias at UN rights council

  • British foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories.
  • Johnson noted however that the council had an important role to play in “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the right agenda item.”

GENEVA: Britain on Monday urged the UN Human Rights Council to reform its treatment of Israel, joining the United States in demanding an end to the body’s alleged bias against the Jewish State.
Addressing the opening of the 38th council session, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson criticized the council’s controversial Agenda Item 7, a permanent fixture on the schedule exclusively devoted to discussing rights abuses in the Palestinian Territories.
“We share the view that the dedicated Agenda Item 7 focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace, and unless things change we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.
Israel is the only country with a dedicated council item.
Washington, some European countries and Australia have sided with Israel in condemning Item 7 as prejudiced, noting that countries with arguably worse rights records in recent years, like Syria are spared such intense scrutiny.
While previous US administrations have criticized Item 7, President Donald Trump’s government has raised the prospect of withdrawing from the council unless it is scrapped.
Johnson noted however that the council had an important role to play in “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict under the right agenda item.”
Each council session includes an agenda item on so-called country specific situations, known as Agenda Item 4, where debates on the crises in Syria, Burundi and others typically take place.