Overnight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters

Overnight Defense: US, South Korea cancel another military exercise | Dozen sailors injured in chopper crash on aircraft carrier | Navy vet charged with sending toxic letters

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. And if you don't get our newsletter, CLICK HERE to subscribe.


THE TOPLINE: The U.S. and South Korea have suspended another joint military exercise on the Korean Peninsula this year to allow for more negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program, the Pentagon's top spokeswoman said Friday.

The Vigilant Ace exercise, planned for December, has been canceled "to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue," Dana White said in a statement.

Mattis in meetings: The cancellation comes after Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisShanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report Pentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report MORE met with South Korean Minister of Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo on Friday in Singapore at a regional security conference.

White said Mattis and Jeong are "committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces."

The Associated Press reported that Mattis also met with his Japanese counterpart on the cancellation -- both in the meeting with Jeong and then separately after -- and they "reaffirmed their commitment to regional security."

What's already been canceled: Following his June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE announced that he was suspending joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, calling them expensive and provocative.

The announcement caught the Pentagon and U.S. allies by surprise, but the Defense Department later announced that it was canceling the summer Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise and two Korean Marine Exchange Program exercises.

Mattis at an August press briefing said the Pentagon had "no plans at this time" to suspend any future military exercises with South Korea. A day later, he clarified that there has been "no decision" on future exercises.

And Mattis calls for cooperation: Mattis on Friday called for further cooperation among the U.S., Japan and South Korea in combating the growing Chinese militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

"I think that all of us joining hands together, ASEAN allies and partners, and we affirm as we do so that no single nation can rewrite the international rule to the road and expect all nations large and small to respect those rules," Mattis said. 

"The United States, alongside our allies and partners, will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated, and we will not stand down, for we cannot accept the PRC's militarization of the South China Sea or any coercion in this region," he added.


DOZEN INJURED IN CHOPPER CRASH ON CARRIER: Numerous sailors were injured Friday when a Navy helicopter crashed on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in the Philippine Sea, according to a service statement.

An MH-60 Seahawk "made an emergency landing and crashed" shortly after takeoff on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan at approximately 9:00 a.m., the Navy's 7th Fleet said.

"Service members injured in the crash are in stable condition for non-life threatening injuries that ranged from minor abrasions and lacerations to fractures," the Navy notes. 

"The most seriously injured were medically evacuated off the ship to a hospital in the Philippines, while remaining injured are under evaluation by Ronald Reagan medical staff."

Stars and Stripes reported that 12 people were injured, with four air crewmembers aboard the helicopter when it crashed.

The cause of the incident is under investigation.

At the time of the accident, the country's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier "was conducting routine operations in the Philippine Sea."

A string of accidents: The U.S. military has had a string of recent crashes, including a Navy transporter plane crash last November in the Pacific Ocean near Japan, leaving three dead.

In March, four Marines were killed in a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crash in Southern California. 

And in April, a Marine AV-8B Harrier jet crashed at Djibouti Ambouli International Airport, with the pilot ejecting. Hours later, a Marine CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter suffered structural damage during a landing. 


NAVY VET CHARGED IN SENDING TOXIC LETTERS TO PENTAGON: A former Navy sailor accused of sending toxin-filled letters to the Pentagon and White House was indicted on seven counts Thursday by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City.

William Clyde Allen III, 39, was charged with one count of knowingly threatening to use a biological agent as a weapon, one count of mailing a threat against the president, and five counts of mailing threatening communications to an officer or an employee of the United States, the Justice Department said.

Who he sent the letters to: Allen mailed letters filled with castor beans -- used to make the toxin ricin -- to Defense Secretary James Mattis, Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson, FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, according to the Justice Department.

He's also accused of mailing President Trump a letter filled with "castor bean material" and containing the words "Jack and the Missile Bean Stock Powder."

Allen was arrested Oct. 3 and will remain in jail until the Dec. 26 trial. He pleaded not guilty to all charges Thursday.

The jail time: The maximum penalty for threatening to use a biological toxin as a weapon is life in prison, while mailing a threat against the president carries a five-year maximum penalty. Sending threatening communications to an officer or an employee of the United States via mail has a potential 10-year sentence.

The Justice Department said Allen bought 380 castor beans in December 2017 through eight separate purchases.

Ricin, an easy-to-produce powder that has been used in terror plots, is potentially deadly if made into a pure powder form that can be inhaled or injected.


ON THIS WEEK'S DEADLY AFGHANISTAN ATTACK: Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Friday he does not believe he was the target of an attack in Kandahar on Thursday that killed two Afghan officials and wounded two Americans.

"My assessment is that I was not the target. It was a very close confined space. But I don't assess that I was the target," Miller told Afghanistan's Tolo News TV in an interview.

What happened: The attack occurred when a gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on participants meeting with Gen. Miller at Kandahar palace. The attack killed Gen. Abdul Raziq, the region's police chief, and intelligence chief Gen. Abdul Momin.

The Taliban said the attack was directed at Miller and Raziq.

Guns drawn: Miller reportedly drew his sidearm during the deadly attack this week on top U.S. and Afghan military leaders.

A coalition member told CNN in an article published Friday that Gen. Scott Miller drew but did not fire his gun.

U.S. military officials said they could not immediately recall another case in which a senior military officer was required to draw their weapon.



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