Kenneth Braithwaite (Wikipedia Commons/U.S. Department of State)

President Donald Trump's latest nominee to lead the U.S. Navy has deep Philadelphia ties: Kenneth Braithwaite was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, once served as a Ridley Park Councilman and worked at the Philadelphia Naval Base.

Trump announced early Monday that he was nominating Braithwaite, a retired Rear Admiral and the current ambassador to Norway, to replace the ousted Richard Spencer.

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SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pressed South Korea on Friday to pay more for the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the country and to maintain an intelligence-sharing pact with its other Asian ally, Japan, that Seoul is about to let lapse.

Speaking after a high-level defense policy meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Jeong Kyeong-doo, Esper also said the two countries must be flexible with their joint military drills to back diplomatic efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program.

But he stopped short of announcing any new reduction in military exercises that North Korea has sharply condemned.

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday he was open to new alterations in U.S. military activity on the Korean Peninsula if it helped enable diplomats, who are trying to jump-start stalled peace efforts with North Korea.

Esper did not predict whether he might end up "dialing up or dialing down" such activity, as he spoke to a small group of reporters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on his way to South Korea after North Korea threatened to retaliate if the United States goes ahead with scheduled military drills with South Korea.

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U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse will introduce legislation Monday to award former Defense Secretary James Mattis the Congressional Gold Medal.

The award has previously been bestowed on George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur and Harry S Truman.

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DoD/Lisa Ferdinando

The U.S. is hoping to deploy new ground-based intermediate-range missiles to Asia "sooner rather than later," U.S. defense chief Mark Esper said of a move that could have huge ramifications for regional security.

Esper's remarks were likely to raise already-soaring tensions with Beijing and add to fears of a new arms race involving the U.S., China and Russia.

"Yes I would like to," Esper said late Saturday when asked if the United States was considering deploying new medium-range conventional weapons in Asia now that Washington is no longer bound by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which the U.S. formally withdrew from a day earlier.

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An otherwise sleepy confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary nominee Mark Esper was jolted from its legislative stupor after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) grilled the former Raytheon lobbyist on ethical issues regarding his involvement with his former employer.

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