US sanctions won't impact India-Russia defence ties: minister

India's defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Tuesday that US sanctions on Russia military exports would not impact long-standing ties between New Delhi and one of its key arms suppliers Moscow.

US President Donald Trump in August signed a law threatening sanctions on any country doing business with Russia's defence and intelligence sectors.

The sanctions regime affects American allies like India, which has purchased Russian military hardware and expertise for decades.

India, the world's top defence importer, had been in talks with Russia to buy S-400 long range surface-to-air missile systems when the sanctions were announced.

There had been speculation last year when the sanctions were signed into law that the $6 billion weapons deal could be scuttled.

But Sitharaman said the long-running negotiations "have reached the final stage".

"I like to make it clear here that in all our engagements with the US, we have very clearly explained how India and Russia's defence cooperation is something which has been going on for a very long time," she told reporters on Tuesday when asked about the sanctions.

"It is a time tested relationship. And India has got quite a lot of defence assets from Russia. Assets, spares, servicing -- we have a continuous relationship with Russia.

The sanctions "cannot be impacting on us on this particular characteristic of India's Russia defence co-operation".

India has increasingly turned to the United States and France for arms purchases in recent years, but is still reliant on Russia hardware and expertise to maintain its existing arsenal.

US Marines commander at Japan base sacked
Tokyo (AFP) June 5, 2018 - The commanding officer at a US Marine base on the Japanese island of Okinawa has been fired over a "loss of trust", the US Marines said Tuesday.

A brief statement said Colonel Mark S. Coppess had been relieved of duty as commanding officer of the Futenma base "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead his command."

There was no immediate comment or further detail from the Marines on why Coppess had been dismissed, but a US defence official told AFP it had nothing to do with a string of accidents that have plagued military aircraft in Japan.

In February, the commander of the Marines' Japan-based Osprey squadron was fired after several accidents involving the hybrid aircraft.

The most serious, in 2017, involved the crash of an MV-22 Osprey off the east coast of Australia.

The issues involving US military aircraft in Japan have stoked tension over the US military presence in the country.

Okinawa hosts the bulk of some 47,000 US troops based in Japan, and their presence has been a source of friction with residents.

The prefecture was the site of a major World War II battle that was followed by a 27-year US occupation of the island, and it would serve as a launchpad for any American military activity in Asia.


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