U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Wednesday accused China of using coercion and intimidation against smaller Asian nations to impose its will in the South China Sea. He urged Vietnam and others in the region to push back.
"We will not accept attempts to assert unlawful maritime claims at the expense of law-abiding nations," Esper said in a speech to the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, a government university.
Vietnam is one of the region's most vocal critics of China's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea and has accused Beijing of encroaching into its waters.
"The United States firmly opposes intimidation by any claimant to assert its territorial or maritime claims, and we call for an end to the bullying and unlawful activities," Esper said.
Later, in remarks at Vietnam's Communist Party headquarters, Esper said, "We strongly oppose violations of international law by China and excessive claims in the South China Sea."
As part of a long-term effort to forge closer relations with Vietnam, Esper announced that the U.S. will provide Vietnam's coast guard with a surplus American ship. He said it would be provided next year, but he gave no details on payment or exact timing.
Esper met with several top government officials and paid a visit to the city's Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the "Hanoi Hilton" by American servicemen held there during the Vietnam War. The late Sen. John McCain was held there after he was shot down in his Navy jet over Hanoi in 1967.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the United States is providing Vietnam with a surplus American ship for its coast guard.
Esper made the announcement during a speech Wednesday at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, a government university in Hanoi. He said it would be provided next year, but he gave no details on payment or exact timing.
Esper also was meeting in Hanoi with senior Vietnamese government officials. It is his first visit to the country since becoming defense secretary in July.
Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea and has accused Beijing of encroaching into its waters.
A Chicago police officer was shot in the head during a shootout on the city's Northwest Side that left a suspect dead and a teenage bystander wounded.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said at a press conference that the 46-year-old officer was wounded Tuesday evening as police responded to a vehicle pursuit involving a bank robbery suspect and officers from the suburb of Des Plaines.
After the chase ended, Johnson said, the 32-year-old suspect exited his vehicle and entered a music store, where he was fatally shot by a Des Plaines police officer.
Chicago police said a 15-year-old boy who was taking piano lessons at the music shop was shot in the arm and stomach. He was hospitalized in stable condition.
While Johnson said the 17-year police veteran suffered graze wound to the head, Dr. Marius Katilius of Illinois Masonic Medical Center added the officer suffered a skull fracture and had blood on the brain. Katilius said he was in serious but stable condition.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted before the press conference that the bullet "did penetrate and exit" the officer's skull.
Des Plaines Police Chief Bill Kushner said the incident began Tuesday afternoon when two men robbed a bank in Des Plaines. One suspect was arrested a short time later, but Kushner said the second man was able to elude capture and steal a car. An ensuing chase ended near the music store in Chicago.
Neither the suspect nor the officer and teenager have been identified. The FBI and local police are investigating different aspects of the incident.
The Latvian Trade Union of Health and Social Care Employees (LVSADA) on Tuesday called for Health Minister Ilze Vinkele's resignation and announced a plan to initiate the dissolution of the Baltic country's parliament, public media reported.
The union will also ask President Egils Levits not to sign Latvia's 2020 budget into law and to instead send it back to parliament for revision.
The union announced a fresh protest for Nov. 28 outside the parliament building in Riga. On the same day, the union plans to submit its proposal for the dissolution of parliament to the Central Election Commission.
Commenting on a separate petition launched to dismiss parliament, LVSADA Chairman Valdis Keris said the developments proved that the public was greatly discontented with the lawmakers' performance.
Medical workers in Latvia have staged a series of protests because only about half of the 120 million euros (133 million U.S. dollars) originally allocated for raising their salaries has been set aside for this purpose in the country's 2020 budget.
Although their salaries will go up on Jan. 1, 2020, teachers might also join the medical workers' protests since no money has been earmarked for further pay increases, which are due next September.
"It's Lt. Col. Vindman."
With that, the Iraq War veteran, his chest flush with ribbons and commendations, tersely reminded Republican lawmakers questioning his judgment and loyalty just whom they were trying to discredit as the impeachment drive against President Donald Trump veered into the personal.
Alexander Vindman: Purple Heart recipient, career diplomat, Army infantry officer. And this: ``I am an American."
Vindman, a Soviet Jewish immigrant, felt it necessary to state his allegiance as he batted away Republican questions about the offers he got to work for Ukraine's government. "I immediately dismissed these offers," he said. Still, the queries carried an implicit suggestion of disloyalty.
When the senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, looked down from the dais Tuesday and addressed the witness as "Mr. Vindman," the pushback was unmistakable.
"Ranking member, it's Lt. Col. Vindman please," he said.
The exchange highlighted the extent to which identity politics are playing a role in the impeachment investigation against the 45th president on the cusp of the 2020 election year. Trump has fueled the who-are-you nature of American politics ever since he announced his candidacy in 2015 with a declaration that some Mexicans are criminals and rapists.
Trump and his allies tried to identify Vindman and fellow witness Jennifer William, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, as "Never Trumpers."
"I'm not sure I know an official definition of a 'Never Trumper,'" Williams said, but she rejected the label.
"I'd call myself never partisan," Vindman said.
Vindman, with his military bearing and increasingly confident performance, presented a special challenge for Republicans struggling to defend Trump's pressure campaign to get Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Trump's Democratic rival Joe Biden. Some GOP lawmakers thanked Vindman for his service even as they questioned his loyalty, to the president and the nation.
Even Trump seemed somewhat restrained Tuesday.
"I don't know him. I don't know, as he says, 'Lieutenant Colonel.' I understand somebody had the misfortune of calling him 'Mister' and he corrected them," Trump said. "I never saw the man."
But before Vindman finished testifying, the White House was raising fresh questions about him on its official Twitter feed.
Vindman was 3 years old in 1979 when his family fled Ukraine for the U.S. Earlier in his Army career, Vindman served as an infantry officer and did tours in South Korea, Germany and Iraq. In October 2004, he was wounded by a roadside bomb and awarded the Purple Heart.
Since 2008, he's served as a foreign area officer specializing in Eurasia, leading him to stints in Kyiv and Moscow. Vindman also served as a political-military affairs officer for Russia for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He moved to the Trump White House in July 2018 after being tapped to serve on the National Security Council. Voting records show Vindman was previously registered as a Democrat.
"Dad, I'm sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol talking to our elected professionals ... proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family," Vindman said in his opening statement. "Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth."
Testifying in full uniform, he was unafraid to call out his commander in chief: Trump's lean on Ukraine to gain information on a Democratic rival was "improper," Vindman said.
"Without hesitation, I knew I had to report this," Vindman testified. "It was inappropriate, it was improper for the president to demand an investigation into a political opponent."
As Republicans questioned his dedication and his service, Vindman shifted from visibly nervous to steady and even defiant.
Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, a retired Air Force pilot, brought up Vindman's uniform and his exchange with Nunes.
"Lt. Col. Vindman, I see you're wearing your dress uniform," Stewart said, thanking Vindman and his brothers for their service. "Do you always insist on civilians calling you by your rank?"
Vindman said he wore his uniform because he had been subjected to Twitter "attacks" that seemed to "marginalize me as a military officer."
"I just thought it was appropriate to stick with that," Vindman said of his uniform.
Stewart replied that Nunes "meant no disrespect to you."
But Democrats weren't ready to let the matter go.
"Your loyalty is being questioned ... because you are an immigrant," said Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., himself an immigrant.
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., said the questions echoed an old trope about Jews having "dual loyalty."
"There's been a lot of complaints and there's been a lot of insinuations and there's been a lot of suggestions maybe that your service is somehow not to be trusted," Maloney said. "We've had a lot of dust kicked up."