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Pentagon Chief Reassures NATO Allies on Collective Defense
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has told European allies that American security is tied to that of Europe, describing NATO's principle of collective defense as a 'bedrock commitment'.
He made the comments at the Munich Security Conference, where heads of state and delegates from across the world are gathered at a time of global uncertainty.
"Transatlantic unity buttresses European unity. A fact we recognize in the context of cooperation between NATO and the European Union," Secretary Mattis told delegates, adding that "American security is permanently tied to the security of Europe. Done correctly, European initiatives and NATO unity are mutually reinforcing."
WATCH: Mattis remarks at on adapting to threats
U.S. President Donald Trump last month labeled NATO as obsolete. But Mattis said the president had now thrown his full weight behind the alliance - although he repeated the demand that Europe shares more of the financial burden.
Preserving international order
"Standing on the bedrock of our NATO alliance, 28 democracies help preserve the rules-based international order," Mattis said.
It is that international order that many delegates in Munich say is at risk - and many pin the blame mainly on Moscow.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will speak at the Munich conference Saturday. NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed further dialogue.
"Russia is our biggest neighbor and especially in times with more military activity along our borders, with high tensions, I strongly believe that there is the need for dialogue between NATO and Russia," he told reporters Friday.
More U.S. troops and military hardware arrived in Latvia and Romania this week, part of the biggest NATO reinforcement since the end of the Cold War.
European allies have been reassured by the warm words that Secretary Mattis had for the transatlantic alliance. But many delegates also say that they would like to hear those same words from President Trump himself.
1. Taliban Urges Afghans to Plant Trees
The Taliban group in Afghanistan used a rare public statement Sunday in the name of its leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, to call on Afghans to plant more trees for worldly and other-worldly good.Official Taliban outlets released the "special message" under Akhundzada's name, an uncommon move for the group that has recently published unsigned statements on a range of issues such as civilian casualties, upcoming military operations, and the anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops in the 1980s.Akhundzada, a cleric, is believed to have been in hiding since becoming Taliban leader in May 2016 following the death of his predecessor in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan.Beautify the earthIn the statement, he urged Afghan civilians and Taliban fighters to "plant one or several fruit or non-fruit trees for the beautification of Earth and the benefit of almighty Allah's creations."The Taliban has been waging an insurgency against the government in Kabul and its NATO coalition backers since be
2. China Likely to Keep Spending More on Its Navy
China's navy is likely to secure significant new funding in the country's upcoming defense budget as Beijing seeks to check U.S. dominance of the high seas and step up its own projection of power around the globe.Beijing's navy has been taking an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising-star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and new Chinese warships popping up in far-flung places.Now, with President Donald Trump promising a U.S. shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot-button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy."It's opportunity in crisis," a Beijing-based Asian diplomat said of China's recent naval moves. "China fears Trump will turn on them eventually as he's so unpredictable, and it's getting ready."Beijing does not report how much it spends on the navy, and the overall official defense spending figur
3. Health Care Discussions Raise Tensions Among US Governors
A proposal by U.S. Republican state governors to overhaul Medicaid, the federal program that provides insurance to more than 70 million low-income Americans, triggered tensions at a national gathering of state leaders in Washington on Saturday.The National Governors Association (NGA) was in the second day of its annual winter meeting, with policy discussions so far focusing on health care reform, education and cybersecurity.In addition to their talks on domestic issues, a number of state executives spoke to VOA about immigration controversies that have gained widespread attention nationwide in recent weeks.Governors from both major political parties said they want to see immigrants and refugees newly arrived in America succeed in making new lives for themselves; they also stressed that everyone should be treated with compassion and in a reasonable manner as laws are enforced.Medicaid proposalThe Republican governors' Medicaid proposal, a draft of which was obtained by The Associated Pr
4. Australia and Indonesia Restore Military Ties, to Cut Some Tariffs
Australia and Indonesia said Sunday that full military ties between the two countries had been restored, after Indonesia's military suspended cooperation in January because of "insulting" teaching material found at an Australian base.Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement alongside Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who arrived in Australia Saturday for his first visit as president."President Widodo and I have agreed to full restoration of defense cooperation, training exchanges and activities," Turnbull said at a news conference in Sydney.Ties suspended in JanuaryWidodo's visit to Australia comes less than two months after military ties were suspended, an event that sparked a minor diplomatic spat and led to an apology from Australia's army chief in February. Military cooperation between the two countries has ranged from joint training and counter-terrorism cooperation to border protection.The "insulting" material suggested that Indonesia's Papua province should be indep