Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper delivers remarks before ringing the closing NASDAQ bell for Veterans Day in New York, New York, November 11, 2019. Picture taken November 11, 2019. (DoD/Lisa Ferdinando/Handout via Reuters)

LONDON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that any future troop drawdowns in Afghanistan were "not necessarily" linked to a deal with Taliban insurgents, suggesting some lowering of force levels may happen irrespective of the ongoing peace push.

The remarks by Esper in an interview with Reuters came on the heels of a Thanksgiving trip last week to Afghanistan by President Donald Trump, who spoke of potential troop reductions and said he believed the Taliban insurgency would agree to a ceasefire in the 18-year-old war.

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BANGKOK (Reuters) - China on Monday called on the U.S. military to stop flexing its muscles in the South China Sea and to avoid adding "new uncertainties" over Taiwan, during high-level talks that underscored tension between the world's two largest economies.

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(Associated Press photo)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.

Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.

Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."

"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.

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In this March 12, 2016, file photo, Marines of the U.S., left, and South Korea, wearing blue headbands on their helmets, take positions after landing on a beach during the joint military combined amphibious exercise, called Ssangyong, part of the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea. (Associated Press/Yonhap/Kim Jun-bum)

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.

The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.

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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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Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman (U.S. Army photo(

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman should not fear retaliation over his testimony to the U.S. Congress in its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday.

Vindman, now detailed to the White House National Security Council, has been targeted by Trump following his Oct. 29 congressional testimony. Trump tweeted that Vindman was a "Never Trumper witness," raising questions about potential fallout on his military career.

"He shouldn't have any fear of retaliation," Esper told a small group of reporters during a flight to New York, adding that he had reinforced the "no retaliation" message in a conversation with the secretary of the Army.

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