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US defense chief Austin asked to testify over hospitalization non-disclosure

FILE PHOTO: Austin testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

(Reuters) - The chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee on Thursday asked Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to testify before the panel over the failure to timely disclose his recent hospitalization, even to President Joe Biden.

Austin had been in a hospital receiving treatment for prostrate cancer since the beginning of the year. His failure to timely tell Biden he was hospitalized drew criticism from lawmakers and caught the White House by surprise.

He spent two weeks in the hospital due to complications from a Dec. 22 prostate cancer surgery - which was also initially kept secret - and was discharged on Monday to his Virginia home.

"Congress must understand what happened and who made decisions to prevent the disclosure of the whereabouts of a cabinet secretary," committee chairman Mike Rogers wrote in a letter to Austin on Thursday.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh and Costas Pitas)