Vietnam: The first visit by a US aircraft carrier since the fall of Saigon in 1975 has occurred in Vietnam, deepening defence ties between the former enemies as China presses its claims to the disputed South China Sea. The USS Carl Vinson arrived off the central city of Da Nang for a five-day visit along with two escort ships carrying some 6000 sailors and aviators. The crew will meet with Vietnamese counterparts, visit victims of Agent Orange, and participate in a football match and a concert.
Syria: A United Nations convoy carrying lifesaving assistance entered the besieged Syrian enclave of Eastern Ghouta, aid workers said, amid a punishing government assault that has killed hundreds and created one of the worst humanitarian crises of the war. The 46-truck convoy — which includes UN agencies, the International Committee for the Red Cross, and Syrian Arab Red Crescent — is the first to reach the besieged population since a government offensive to retake the area began last month. As many as 400,000 people are trapped inside the Damascus suburb, which suffers from severe shortages of food and medical supplies. WFP was carrying enough food assistance for 27,500 people, and supplies to treat 300 children for acute malnutrition.
China: Beijing said defence spending would rise by 8.1 per cent this year, outpacing economic growth and its biggest increase in three years, even as it insists it is no threat to other countries. Chinese President Xi Jinping is attempting to modernise China's armed forces, vowing to turn them into a "world-class force" that is capable of fighting and winning wars. Defence spending is still about a quarter of US levels, but nevertheless its long-term growth, combined with a more assertive enforcement of China's territorial claims, has rattled some of China's neighbours. In a keynote address to an annual meeting of China's National People's Congress, Premier Li Keqiang said the country faced "profound changes in the national security environment," necessitating a stronger military. China's military spending is around 1.9 per cent of gross domestic product in 2016, compared with around 3.3 per cent for the US, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Niger: Isis just released a video that allegedly shows three US soldiers being attacked in Niger. The video, which has been circulating for months among journalists, reportedly shows three soldiers on the run from militants. The men have few resources to fend off dozens of militants armed with machine guns and grenades. The scene comes from an October 4, 2017, attack on US troops near the Niger-Mali border. A team of 12 US soldiers had been sent on a mission with a team from Niger. On their way back, they stopped at a village for food and water, setting off an ambush. Four US soldiers were killed in the firefight.
Britain: The military is being called in to take emergency supplies to "extremely isolated" parts of Cumbria after severe weather wreaked havoc across the area. The county council said areas including Fellside, South Stainmore and Alston had been cut off for five days - and would remain so for another 48 hours - after heavy snowfall and slow progress in clearing the roads. A Chinook helicopter has been brought in to drop supplies, including food, coal and logs for heating and electrical heating appliances.