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US Navy to run rare 3-carrier military exercise in Pacific

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…As China, US sign another $206.6B in deals during Trump visit***

Three U.S. military aircraft carriers are heading to the same part of the world at the same time, to take part in a rare military exercise not seen in a decade.

The USS Ronald Reagan, based in Japan; the USS Theodore Roosevelt, based in San Diego; and the USS Nimitz, based at Naval Base Kitsap at Bremerton, Washington, will commence the strike force exercise in the Western Pacific Saturday through next Tuesday.

Units assigned to the strike force will conduct coordinated operations in international waters to demonstrate the U.S. Navy’s unique capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.

The three aircraft carriers are expected to link up in the Sea of Japan later this week off the Korean Peninsula, a U.S. defense official tells Fox News.

“It is a rare opportunity to train with two aircraft carriers together, and even rarer to be able to train with three,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, Adm. Scott Swift. “Multiple carrier strike force operations are very complex, and this exercise in the Western Pacific is a strong testament to the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s unique ability and ironclad commitment to the continued security and stability of the region.”

While at sea, the strike force plans to conduct air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers, and other training.

This is the first time that three carrier strike groups have operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam. Both exercises focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation. Ronald Reagan took part in Valiant Shield 2006 and Nimitz took part in Valiant Shield 2007.

More recently, U.S. Navy aircraft carriers have conducted dual carrier strike group operations in the Western Pacific, including in the South China Sea, East China Sea and Philippine Sea. These opportunities typically occur when strike groups deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations from the west coast of the United States are joined with the forward deployed carrier strike group from Japan.

According to The Associated Press, officials have said recently that the exercise is intended to demonstrate U.S. resolve with allies Japan and South Korea during the ongoing crisis with North Korea.

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Hawaii in late October, before the dates of the exercise had been made public, that the three carriers were not targeting North Korea. He called their convergence in the area a “routine demonstration of our commitment to the region.”

For more than 70 years, the U.S. Pacific Fleet has been a persistent and stabilizing presence conducting operations throughout the region. The fleet is just as committed to maintaining those security commitments for the next 70 years.

The announcement made no mention of the exercise coinciding with President Donald Trump’s Asia trip, but the maneuvers are connected with a string of U.S. moves to showcase U.S. military strength as Washington and its allies put diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program and cease the testing of ballistic missiles.

In the meantime, China on Thursday signed business deals it said totaled $253.4 billion with American companies during President Donald Trump’s visit in a tradition aimed at blunting criticism of Beijing’s trade policies.

The agreements, some of which were less than firm contracts, signed at a ceremony attended by Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, included the purchase of U.S.-made chipsets, jetliners and soybeans. The two sides agreed to cooperate on a gas project in Alaska they valued at $43 billion and a shale gas demonstration project valued at $83.7 billion.

Chinese Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said deals signed Thursday totaled $253.4 billion. That was on top of $9 billion in agreements signed Wednesday at an event attended by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Such contract signings are a fixture of visits to Beijing by foreign leaders and are intended to defuse foreign complaints about China’s trade surpluses and market barriers. They often represent purchases Chinese mobile phone makers, airlines and other customers already planned to make that are collected for the visit, which would mean they do little to change the trade balance.

Trump has made narrowing the U.S. trade deficit with China — $347 billion last year — a priority. Ross said Wednesday that was a “central focus” of his talks with Xi.

The American Chamber of Commerce in China said ahead of Trump’s visit that it welcomed such contracts but expressed concern Trump’s focus on trade in goods might mean he pays less attention to equally important issues such as complaints about restrictions on access to finance, health care and other industries in China’s state-dominated economy.

Following the signing ceremony, Xi promised a more open business environment for foreign companies after Trump vowed to change unfair trade relations.

Xi said China is committed to further opening its economy to foreign investment, though he gave no details.

“China will not close its doors and will open even wider,” said Xi. He said American and other foreign companies would find China’s market “more open, more transparent and more orderly.”

Previous administrations have celebrated similar market-opening promises only to be left disappointed.

Contracts signed Thursday included the Chinese purchase of Boeing Co. jetliners for $37 billion, mobile phone chipsets from Qualcomm for $12 billion, $1.6 billion of soybeans and vehicles and parts from General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. for a total of $11.7 billion.

Other agreements included memoranda of understanding on liquefied natural gas sales and industrial development cooperation.

Contracts signed Wednesday included a commitment by China’s biggest online retailer, JD.com., to buy $1.2 billion of American beef and pork.

China’s trade surplus with the United States in October widened by 12.2 percent from a year earlier to $26.6 billion. The total surplus with the United States for the first 10 months of the year rose to $223 billion.

China is the No. 3 export market for the United States after Canada and Mexico. U.S. exports to China rose 77 percent from 2007 to 2016 but Washington reported a $347 billion trade deficit with China last year.

Trump’s administration also is investigating whether Beijing improperly pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Xi said China is willing to expand imports of LNG, crude oil and other U.S. energy products and would explore “the potential” of more imports of American beef, cotton and other agricultural products.

It was also unclear if these pledges extend beyond a U.S.-China trade agreement announced in May that featured LNG and beef exports to China, which trade experts called a modest fulfillment of past assurances made by China.

Fox with additional report from ABC

Economy

Sanitary Pads: Reps Query Minister Over N65m Spent On New Year Party, Others

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 The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Uju Kennedy-Ohaneye has drawn the ire of the House of Representatives following the unguarded manner she allegedly spent monies which included expenditures of N45 million for a New Year party and, N20 million for sanitary pads.

The House of Representatives which has now queried the minister, also frowned on her other unrelated expenditure which includes N1.5 million for vehicle fuel.

Rep. Kafilat Ogbara, Chairman, House Committee on Women Affairs, led the interrogation of the Minister, over the non-payment of N1.5 billion to contractors despite the fund release in Abuja.

She said that the investigative hearing was aimed at uncovering the truth and not witch-hunting the Minister and the officials of the ministry.

The committee also investigated the alleged diversion of funds meant for contractor payments, following a petition from contractors.

The committee also sought clarification on funds appropriated for the African First Lady’s mission and the whereabouts of the N1.5 billion meant for contractor payments.

The minister however denied the allegations of misappropriation, overspending, and non-payment to contractors.

The procurement officer confirmed contractors’ claims, and the Director of Finance and Administration acknowledged only paying approved contracts.

It would be recalled that the committee had at its last sitting summoned the minister to appear before it to explain the rationale behind the non-payment.

The committee also ordered the stoppage of all 2024 contract processes by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs until the whereabouts of the money for the said contracts are determined

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Economy

LASU: Town, Meets Gown Next Tuesday, To Make Rails Transportation More Meaningful

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LASU: Town, Meets Gown Next Tuesday, To Make Rails Transportation More Meaning

…NRC Boss, Engr. Okhiria is Pointman

The Town and the Gown will on Tuesday converge at the Lagos State University (LASU), in a mutual fusion of quality and sustainable ideas, as the Managing Director, Nigeria Railways Corporation speaks on where the eggheads necessarily need to intervene, for the overall benefit of the nation.

NRC Boosts Passenger- Safety With  Strong Armed Forces Collaboration 
Engr. Fidet-Okhiria

Prof. Bamidele Badejo who is now back in LASU, confirmed this to the Maritime First, highlighting that Engr. Freeborn Okhiria would meticulously dissect a critical issue, titled: ‘From Exclusive Clause To Concurrent List: Potency for sustainable rail infrastructure development in Nigeria and the Lagos State example.

Oluwaseun Osiyemi, the Lagos State Commissioner of Transport, will be in attendance; at an event which will flag off by noon prompt, Tuesday 16th, July 2024, at the Femi Gbajabiamila Conference Centre.

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Economy

Reps Probe Cbn’s N1.12trn Anchor Borrowers Scheme, NIRSAL’s N215b Loan

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Reps Probe Cbn’s N1.12trn Anchor Borrowers Scheme, NIRSAL’s N215b Loan

The House of Representatives has ordered probes into the N1.12 trillion anchor borrowers scheme, an initiative of the Federal Government’s interventions and agricultural funding through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Also included in the probe are the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Bank of Industry (BoI) and other agencies.

The resolution followed the adoption of a motion by Rep. Chike Okafor (APC-Imo) on the floor of the House in Abuja on Tuesday.

Presenting his motion, Okafor linked the growing food scarcity and malnutrition in Nigeria to the alleged mismanagement of agricultural funds intended for agricultural development in the country.

He said the Federal Government had expended N8 trillion in 8 years on various schemes and interventions in the last eight years with the view of making food available for millions of Nigerians.

He added that the alleged mismanagement, misapplication of funds and abuse of the programmes had left Nigeria with the twin challenges of food scarcity and malnutrition.

Okafor said that funds advanced to end users of the various Federal Government interventions had also been allegedly misused, misapplied and channelled to non-farming and non-agricultural purposes.

This, he said, was responsible for the current acute scarcity of food in the country.

Adopting the motion, the House mandated the Committee on Nutrition and Food Security as well as the Committee on Agricultural Production and Services; Agricultural Colleges and Institutions and Finance, to probe

The Committees were mandated to thoroughly investigate CBN’s alleged mismanagement of the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) for which ₦1.12 trillion was to be disbursed to 4.67 million farmers.

The farmers were said to be involved in either maize, rice or wheat farming through 563 anchors.

The committees are to look into NIRSAL’s disbursement of ₦215,066,980,274.52, to facilitate agriculture and agribusinesses.

The House gave the committees four weeks to report back to the House.

The house also mandated the committees to equally assess how the Bank of Industry (BOI) disbursed N3 billion to 22,120 smallholder farmers through the Agriculture Value Chain Financing (AVCF) Programme.

The committee is also to investigate the handling of the N5 billion loan facility to the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) for livestock farmers across the country.

This will include the management of the National Agricultural Development N1.6 billion Recovery Fund for the Ginger Blight Epidemics Central Taskforce (GBECT).

This is for the control of Blight disease in Ginger, among other interventions. 

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