By Paul Armstrong
The deafening roar of state-of-the-art warplanes being catapulted into the air from its huge flight deck signaled that the USS George Washington was back in combat mode after its recent detour to the Philippines to take part in the aid effort in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Barely a week on and the 90,000-ton Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is now patrolling waters off the island of Okinawa as part a huge naval exercise - AnnualEx 2013 - involving dozens of warships, submarines and aircraft from the U.S. Navy's 7th fleet and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).
The aim? To provide a stern test of their ability to effectively and mutually respond to the defense of Japan or to a regional crisis or contingency situation in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, according to the U.S. Navy.
But this year's war games have taken on an added dimension given the high-pressure atmosphere in the region at present - they take place in the shadow of a controversial new Air Defense Identification Zone announced by the Chinese last weekend.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
Two U.S. Air Force B-52 aircraft on Monday flew into China's newly claimed air defense zone over the East China Sea without identifying themselves as China would have wanted, a U.S. official confirmed Tuesday.
This follows China's move last week to announce a new air zone over islands that both China and Japan claim.
The flights of the B-52s would not be a departure from the United States' previously stated intentions. Since China declared the new air zone last week, the United States said it would continue with its own air operations in the region and not recognize China's new restrictions, which require aircraft entering the zone to identify themselves and file flight plans.
The B-52s, which flew from Guam and returned there without incident, were not armed because it was a training mission. The mission lasted for several hours, but the aircraft were in the newly declared Chinese air zone for about an hour, according to the U.S. official.FULL STORY
By Jill Dougherty
In a private ceremony Tuesday afternoon at the State Department, Caroline Kennedy was sworn in by Secretary of State John Kerry as U.S. ambassador to Japan.
The event was closed to media, but the State Department released a photo showing a smiling Kennedy dressed in a simple black dress, her right hand raised, her left resting on what looked like a Bible held by her husband, Edwin Schlossberg. Nearby, their son John "Jack" Schlossberg looked on, wearing a dark suit, hands in pockets, his shock of dark hair an uncanny reminder of his deceased uncle, John Kennedy Jr., Caroline's brother.FULL STORY
By Barbara Starr
The Marine Corps general in charge of U.S. military aid efforts for victims of Typhoon Haiyan is asking the Pentagon to urgently send a number of amphibious warships to the Philippines.
Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy tells CNN he needs the Marine Corps amphibious ships specifically because they can carry a variety of small boats, trucks, equipment and supplies needed, as well as making potable water. "They are the Swiss army knife of the U.S. military," Kennedy told CNN in a telephone interview from the Philippines. Kennedy says he believes his request will be approved by the Pentagon in the coming hours. As many as four of the warships could be headed to the Philippines.
The amphibious ships can also carry helicopters and tracked vehicles known as "assault amphibious vehicles." These vehicles can carry supplies and move over and through piles of debris to distribution points where aid is needed most.
The U.S. military will take supplies to distribution points, but it will be then handed out by Philippines forces, Kennedy said. Local forces are in the best position to know community leaders and make sure those in the most need are getting the help, he added.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea more than likely tested a long-range rocket engine late last month, according to analysis of new satellite imagery over the site.
In the photos released by 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, indicators of a probable test are seen through the presence of a probable rocket stage, propellant tanks, as well as the appearance of burned vegetation around the launch stand.
The photos were taken between August 25 and 30.
"These are not in and of themselves indicators that there is going to be a rocket test six months from now," Joel Wit, a former North Korea specialist at the State Department who is now with 38 North, told CNN about the photos.
By Jill Dougherty
The United States is hopeful that a visit to Pyongyang aimed at securing the release of imprisoned American Kenneth Bae will be "straightforward," but a U.S. official speaking on background because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue tells CNN there are "no guarantees."
Ambassador Robert King, who's President Obama's special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will join a small delegation flying to Pyongyang on a U.S. military jet Friday. They are expected to spend 24 hours on the ground, meeting with North Korean officials.
"The sole purpose of the trip is to secure Bae's release," the official says. "Our expectation is that now is the time to move forward and resolve this, to release this American."
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea may be increasing its ability to enrich uranium at its Yongbyon nuclear complex, according to an analysis of recent satellite imagery.
The Institute for Science and International Security report concluded that North Korea appears to have greatly expanded a building in the fuel fabrication complex that is used for gas centrifuges in the uranium enrichment process at the reactor facility.
The development amounts to a doubling in size of the complex from its original construction.
Construction on the building expansion appears to have preceded an announcement by the North Korean government earlier this year that it planned on restart all the nuclear facilities at the previously mothballed site.
Pyongyang, North Korea (CNN) - The new leader of this isolated country has inaugurated a new veterans' cemetery, on the first of what are expected to be several days of elaborate ceremonies celebrating the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean War.
Several thousand North Koreans, some of them elderly veterans of the Korean conflict, cheered and applauded when Kim Jong Un arrived at the sprawling new cemetery accompanied by uniformed military commanders and civilian officials.
Kim did not speak to the audience. Instead, he cut a ribbon at the entrance to the cemetery compound, which is flanked by enormous monuments and statues depicting fierce North Korean soldiers.
He departed after making a brief tour of some of the gravestones. Then the crowd, which included men in baggy, dark suits and ties and women dressed in bright puffy gowns, walked with reverence past graves decorated with medals of heroism.FULL STORY
By Jamie Crawford
North Korea appears to have stopped work on a long-range missile launch site, according to newly released satellite imagery.
The analysis by 38 North, a blog run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, shows construction at the Tonghae launch site appears to have stopped eight months ago.
But as with everything when it comes to the opaque workings of North Korea, the search for a definitive reason behind the stoppage remain elusive.
"It's almost certain they are not going to stop developing long-range missiles. I don't think that's what is going on here," says Joel Wit, a former State Department official who manages the blog and studied the images. "We have to be very careful about trying to say what is going on, because the fact is we really don't know."
By Barbara Starr
Panama has formally asked the United States for technical help to inspect Cuban weapons found on board a North Korean freighter it seized.
"The government of Panama has requested our assistance, and we intend to provide it," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman, said.
"Generally speaking, the types of technical assistance we could provide include things like identifying the material on board, as well as providing personnel who are familiar with these types of inspections," she said.
The Panamanians asked for imaging equipment and technicians to fully examine and determine what is on board, according to a U.S. official.
The official declined to be identified because the person is not authorized to speak publicly.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has publicly said he wants international inspectors to survey the ship's cargo.