By Laura Koran
Syria carried out "egregious human rights violations" last year, according to a State Department assessment released on Thursday that also singled out abuses in Russia and the Ukraine.
The 2013 Human Rights Report, based on assessments from America's embassies abroad, reserved its strongest language for the Syrian government, which allegedly gassed its own people last August in an atrocity linked to the ongoing civil war.
"Hundreds were murdered in the dead of night when a disaster occurred at the hands of a dictator, who decided to infect the air of Damascus with poisonous gas," Secretary of State John Kerry said in presenting the report.
"And many more have been, unfortunately, confined to die under a barrage of barrel bombs, scud missiles, artillery and other conventional weapons," he said.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States has transferred the final three ethnic Chinese Uyghur captives from the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper were sent to Slovakia where they were "voluntarily" resettled, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
"The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," he added.
By Barbara Starr
A confrontation between the U.S. and Chinese navies led to a tense moment in the South China Sea, CNN has learned.
The incident last Friday, which was resolved peacefully, was the latest sign of Chinese military aggression in international waters and airspace.
A U.S. Navy warship was forced to come to a sudden stop when a Chinese military ship crossed dangerously close in what sources described as a deliberate maneuver.
No weapons were fired and the incident was resolved.
By Michael Pearson. Holly Yan and Mariano Castillo
The United States has "deep concerns" over China's newly declared East China Sea air defense zone, Vice President Joe Biden privately told Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing on Wednesday, according to a pool report citing senior administration officials traveling with the delegation.
According to the pool account of a background briefing by the officials, Biden also told Xi that the United States doesn't recognize the zone - which includes uninhabited islands that have been the site of tense disputes between China and Japan, both of which claim the lands for their own.
"President Xi was equally clear in laying out their view of the zone and of territorials disputes in the region," one of the officials said, according to the pool report. "Ultimately, President Xi took on board what the vice president said. It's up to China, and we'll see how things will unfold in the coming days and weeks."
Biden had assured Japanese leaders on Tuesday that he would raise the issue with Xi, but it was not mentioned publicly by either leader.
By Jamie Crawford
The U.S. Navy has deployed two of its next-generation reconnaissance aircraft to Japan, a long-planned move that comes amid controversy over Chinese air defenses.
Designed to enhance the Navy's long-range maritime patrol capability, the P-8A Poseidon's specialty is submarine detection, the Navy said. The planes flew from Norfolk, Virginia, to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, in recent days.
The P-8A Poseidon also is part of the Navy's effort to phase out the P-3C Orion. It is more technologically advanced than its predecessor and can fly higher with a crew of up to nine. It also can carry torpedoes, cruise missiles, bombs and mines.
While the Navy rebalances resources in the Pacific, the arrival of the aircraft comes at a time of heightened tension in the region with China's imposition of an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea.
By Tim Hume, Jethro Mullen and Yoko Wakatsuki
China sent fighter jets into its newly claimed air defense zone Thursday, as Japan and South Korea sounded notes of defiance by declaring they would continue to fly through disputed airspace without notifying Beijing.
South Korea announced yesterday it had already sent a military flight into China's newly claimed "air defense identification zone" (ADIZ) on Tuesday without alerting China, while Japan appeared to claim it had also flown into the territory since China's announcement Saturday that it was unilaterally establishing the zone.
The flights have raised the stakes in a rapidly escalating dispute over contested territory in and above the East China Sea. They follow U.S. flights into the territory earlier in the week, when two unarmed B-52 bombers passed uncontested through the zone, in what the Pentagon described as a pre-planned military exercise.
Col. Shen Jinke, spokesman for the People's Liberation Army Air Force, said the Chinese warplanes, including Su-30 and J-11 fighters and an airborne radar early warning system, were flown Thursday into the ADIZ in what he described as a "defensive measure ... in line with international practices."FULL STORY
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
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories and opinion pieces previewing the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 17-20 in Aspen, Colorado. Follow the event on Twitter under @aspeninstitute and @natlsecuritycnn #AspenSecurity.
By Jamie Crawford
Edward Snowden's fate and the possible damage he has done to U.S. relations with close allies still commands attention of the Obama administration.
The situation shows the degree to which "the United States and Europe define privacy in different ways," former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told CNN’s Security Clearance.
That tension was apparent following revelations from Snowden, the admitted leaker of national security documents, that the United States had been using electronic intercepts to monitor various European government offices.
While the threat of international terrorism has decreased over the past decade because of "significant" cooperation between the United States and Europe, Crowley said he is "confident" the situation will eventually "work its way through the political situation on both sides of the Atlantic."
By Peter Bergen, Special to CNN
There is a one-word subtext to President Obama's trip to Africa: China.
After 9/11, the United States became embroiled in more than a decade of wars in Asia and the Middle East. As a result, U.S. engagement in Latin America and Africa largely atrophied.
Meanwhile, China saw an opportunity. China has now displaced the United States as the largest trading partners of two key Latin American countries, Brazil and Chile.
China's economic rise is particularly marked in Africa; it quietly surpassed the United States as the continent's largest trading partner four years ago.
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and a director at the New America Foundation.FULL STORY