An award for drone operators that drew an angry response from lawmakers was downgraded to a lesser distinction Monday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.
The Distinguished Warfare Medal, which was approved last month by Hagel's predecessor, Leon Panetta, was to recognize "extraordinary direct impacts on combat operations." But the honor denotes that the action is not bound by a "geographic limitation," meaning operators on unmanned drones would have been eligible.
Some lawmakers expressed concern the medal would be placed above those for battlefield valor, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. In March, the production of the medal was halted so Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey could conduct a review.
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff, with the concurrence of the service secretaries, have recommended the creation of a new distinguishing device that can be affixed to existing medals to recognize the extraordinary actions of this small number of men and women," Hagel said Monday. "I agree with the Joint Chiefs' findings, and have directed the creation of a distinguishing device instead of a separate medal."
By Jethro Mullen and Melissa Gray
As North Koreans celebrated the birthday on Monday of their country's late founder, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the regime in Pyongyang to ditch its nuclear program and put a lid on its fiery threats if it wants to hold talks.
"The United States has made clear many times what the conditions are for our entering talks and they haven't changed," Kerry said during an interview with CNN's Jill Dougherty in Tokyo.
"The conditions have to be met where the North has to move towards denuclearization, indicate a seriousness in doing so by reducing these threats, stop the testing, and indicate it's actually prepared to negotiate," he said.
Kerry was speaking at the end of a three-day trip that focused on securing fresh commitments from South Korea, China and Japan to try to persuade Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table and renounce nuclear weapons.