Overnight Defense: North Korea conducts new weapons test | Navy says pilot in California crash died | Senate confirms top Navy admiral

Overnight Defense: North Korea conducts new weapons test | Navy says pilot in California crash died | Senate confirms top Navy admiral
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Happy Thursday 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. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

 

THE TOPLINE: North Korea has reportedly conducted its third test launch in recent weeks, firing at least one projectile into the Sea of Japan, multiple news outlets reported Thursday.

Citing a U.S. official, ABC News reported that the projectile was launched Friday local time and was similar to two launched by North Korea earlier this week.

A U.S. official also told CNN that an initial assessment was that North Korea had launched two short-range ballistic missiles.

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Officials told NBC News that the missiles landed in the sea and that there is no immediate threat to the U.S. or any of its allies in the region.

Trump's reaction: Trump told reporters when asked about the reported launch that he was unbothered given the type of reported missiles used.

"Short-range missiles, we never made an agreement on that. I have no problem," he said. "We'll see what happens. But these are short-range missiles, they're very standard."

The timing: South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff previously said that North Korea had launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday.

However, North Korea said Thursday that it had tested a new rocket system the previous day, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported

Japan's reaction: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the incident Wednesday was "no threat to Japanese national security," and the country's defense minister indicated it did not get close to the islands.

Friday's launch reportedly appears to be short-range as well. 

U.S. officials have credited the spike in tests to U.S.-South Korea joint exercises planned for later this month.

No progress: The three tests mark the first for North Korea since Trump visited the country in June.

The president has repeatedly expressed confidence in his ability to reach a denuclearization deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnBeware the 34th month of Trump's presidency The Trump doctrine: Principled realism or endemic confusion? Stockholm breakdown reflects North Korea's failure to compromise MORE but has failed to reach a deal at two summits between the leaders.

One earlier this year in Vietnam ended abruptly with no agreement reached.

And North Korea announces new test: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw a test of a new multiple rocket launcher system that could better position the country to attack targets in South Korea, including U.S. military bases there, Pyongyang officials said Thursday, according to an Associated Press report.

North Korea's state Korean Central News Agency contradicted the South Korean military's assessment that the Wednesday launches involved two short-range ballistic missiles.  

The state media outlet said the system would play a key role in the North Korean military's land combat.

 

NAVY SAYS PILOT IN CALIFORNIA FIGHTER JET CRASH HAS DIED: A Navy fighter pilot that crashed his F/A-18E Super Hornet on Wednesday in California has died, the Navy confirmed on Thursday.

The pilot, who was assigned to the "Vigilantes" Strike Fighter Squadron 151, was based at Naval Air Station Lemoore and was flying a routine training mission when he crashed in Death Valley National Park.

"The Navy mourns the loss of one of our own and our hearts go out to the family and friends affected by this tragedy," the Navy wrote on Twitter.

"In accordance with [Defense Department] policy, the identity of the pilot will be withheld 24 hours," pending next of kin notification.

The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.

The details: The fighter jet crashed around 10 a.m. local time near the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, in a gorge often referred to as Star Wars Canyon but officially called Rainbow Canyon.

Search and rescue crews searched for the pilot through the night before declaring him dead.

It was also reported that seven park visitors had minor injuries, minor burns and cuts from jet fragments after it crashed and caused an explosion.

ABC News-affiliated station KABC-TV reported that tourists said they were taking photographs when the jet appeared and hit the canyon wall.

 

SENATE CONFIRMS TOP ADMIRAL: The Senate on Thursday confirmed Adm. Michael Gilday to be the next chief of naval operations.

Gilday was confirmed by voice vote as the Senate wrapped up work before its August recess.

The confirmation came a day after Gilday's confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and hours after the committee advanced Gilday by voice vote.

Second choice: Gilday was President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE's second choice to be the top admiral in the Navy.

Trump's first choice for the job, Adm. Bill Moran, was confirmed by the Senate in May, but instead of assuming the job, abruptly retired last month after it was revealed he maintained a professional relationship with someone who had been reprimanded.

Officials said Moran's decision to maintain a relationship with the officer called into question Moran's judgment.

About Gilday: Gilday will replace Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, who is set to retire.

Gilday is currently serving as director of the Joint Staff. He previously commanded U.S. 10th Fleet and Fleet Cyber Command.

At his genial confirmation hearing, Gilday talked to senators about U.S. plans for a naval coalition to protect commercial ships in the Gulf region amid tensions with Iran. He said the U.S. proposal would see foreign partners and allies do the bulk of the work, with the United States providing intelligence.

Vacancies filling fast: The Senate's confirmation of Gilday is the latest in a series of swift votes to fill several high-ranking vacancies at the Pentagon.

Last week, the Senate confirmed Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCastro: Trump 'is caging kids on the border and effectively letting ISIS prisoners run free' White House, Pentagon, Giuliani reject House subpoenas 281 lobbyists have worked in Trump administration: report MORE and Gen. Mark Milley, who will become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

On Tuesday night, the Senate confirmed Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist. 

On Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee also advanced Gen. John Hyten's nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a 20-7 vote despite continuing controversy stemming from sexual assault allegations against him. The full Senate is expected to vote on Hyten after recess.

 

GABBARD ACCUSES TRUMP OF DECEIVING COUNTRY ON AFGHANISTAN: In night two of the Democratic debates in Detroit foreign policy and defense questions were minimal and left nearly to the end. But they did yield one interesting exchange.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE (D-Hawaii) accused President Trump of deceiving the American people in his pledge to quickly pull troops from Afghanistan and end the 18-year war in the country.

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, for the second Democratic presidential debate in a row vowed a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan if elected president.

She pointed to the Iraq War, a conflict that began after the George W. Bush administration asserted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein harbored weapons of mass destruction -- a claim that turned out to be false.

"We were all lied to. This is the betrayal. ... The problem is that this current president continues to betray us," Gabbard said during Wednesday night's Democratic debate.

The details on Afghanistan: The U.S. military has roughly 14,000 troops in Afghanistan for a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan troops in their fight against the Taliban as well as conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Fourteen U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year, including two on Monday, reportedly in an insider attack.

What the administration wants: Trump has long expressed a desire to withdraw from Afghanistan but has repeatedly walked back his plans after pushback from military leaders and lawmakers who fear that a sudden emptying of troops would create a vacuum for malign groups.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Graham: Erdoğan pledged to Trump to stay away from Kurdish territory in Syria Trump honors Stanley Cup champions, talks impeachment, Turkey MORE on Monday said Trump's latest desired timeline for a drawdown is before the 2020 presidential election, but the administration is currently negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban that has yet to be solidified.

Gabbard's argument: Gabbard, the only veteran on stage Wednesday night, spoke of her time deployed in Iraq in 2005 and of her cousin, who she said is currently deployed as one of 14,000 service members in Afghanistan.  

Withdrawing from Afghanistan is "not about arbitrary deadlines, this is about leadership," Gabbard said.

"The leadership I will bring to do the right thing -- to bring our troops home within the first year in office. We have to do the right thing and end the wasteful regime change wars and bring our troops home."

She also said the cost of the Afghanistan war was $4 billion a month and claimed the continued use of such dollars is the reason Americans have become disenchanted with politics.

"Every single month we are spending $4 billion on a continuing war in Afghanistan, $4 billion dollars every single month, rather than ending that war, bringing our troops home and using those precious resources into serving the needs of the people here in this country."

Other candidates' views: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a veteran of the Afghanistan War, the previous night vowed to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country during his first year in office if elected.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Warren leads in speaking time during debate Democrats wrangle over whether to break up Big Tech in debate first MORE (D-N.J.), who also was on stage Wednesday, said he will bring troops home "as quickly as possible" but will not set "an artificial deadline."

"I will make sure we do it, we do it expeditiously, we do it safely, not create a vacuum that's ultimately going to destabilize the Middle East," he said.

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will hold a "press point" on the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty at 6:15 a.m. eastern time at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The event will be streamed live at https://www.nato.int/

Retired Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Michael Mullen; retired U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. Vincent Brooks; retired Japanese chief of staff Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki; retired Japanese chief of staff Gen. Ryoichi Oriki; retired Japanese chief of staff Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano; former director of national intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair; and Yoichi Funabashi, chairman of the Asia Pacific Initiative, will speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies "Japan-U.S. Military Statesmen Forum 2019," at 2:30 p.m. in Washington, D.C. 

 

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