Russia has revealed it warned the US about “red lines” it should not cross before it launched airstrikes on Syria.
Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is reported to have said that officials in Washington were contacted before last weekend’s strikes by the US, UK and France.
Mr Lavrov said: “There were military leadership contacts, between generals, between our representatives and the coalition leadership.
“They were informed about where our red lines are, including red lines on the ground, geographically. And the results show that they did not cross these red lines.”
Some 105 missiles were launched in response to a suspected chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma on 7 April that killed more than 40 people.
The Kremlin had threatened retaliatory action if strikes were launched – but it now appears there was at least some level of cooperation.
Russia, a key ally of Syria, has denied that any chemical attack took place.
International inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrived in Damascus almost a week ago but are still waiting to visit the site of the suspected attack.
Mr Lavrov says that, following the airstrikes, it is morally free to deliver S-300 missiles to the Syrian regime.
He said: “Now, we have no moral obligations. We had the moral obligations, we had promised not to do it some 10 years ago, I think, upon the request of our known partners.
“We took into consideration their claim that this could destabilise the situation. Even though it’s purely defensive. Now we don’t have this moral obligation any longer.”
Military analysts say the S-300 surface-to-air missile system would boost Russia’s ability to control airspace in Syria, where Moscow’s forces support the government of President Bashar al Assad and could be aimed at deterring tougher US action. (Sky News)
US President Donald Trump; North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un
President Donald Trump has agreed to a historic first meeting with Kim Jong Un in a stunning development in America’s high-stakes nuclear standoff with North Korea.
Standing in front of the White House, South Korean National Security Advisor Chung Eui-Yong announced the first-ever meeting between a US president and North Korean leader, which he said would take place by the end of May.
Chung had recently returned from Pyongyang, where he met Kim, who, he said: “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.”
Trump hailed “great progress” in the push to persuade Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program.
“Meeting being planned!” he tweeted. “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time.”
“Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached.”
News of the summit is the latest step in a quickening diplomatic detente that has seen North and South Korea exchange envoys.
Pyongyang also sent a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South, which Seoul had dubbed the “Peace Games” and which saw the two countries marching under a unified flag.
The thaw came after a period of extreme tension between Washington and Pyongyang that sounded like the growing drumbeat of war.
Just months ago, Trump mocked Kim by calling him “little rocket man” and Kim returned the favour by describing Trump as “mentally deranged” and a “dotard.”
The United States and North Korea were foes throughout the Cold War and fought on opposite sides of a bloody war in the 1950s.
In the last two decades, they have been engaged in what is perhaps the world’s most dangerous nuclear standoff, with 30,000 US military personnel stationed just over the border in the South.
– Paradigm shift –
Pyongyang’s decades-long race to develop a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the continental United States has proved a problem for successive administrations.
Trump’s strategy has been to ramp up sanctions, tighten the diplomatic screws and regularly threaten military force.
The White House said in a statement that strategy of “maximum pressure” would stay in place, for now.
“We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
But the prospect of a top-level meeting is a paradigm shift.
North Korean leaders have sought face-to-face talks with consecutive US presidents, who have rebuffed the idea as an effort to achieve strategic parity that does not exist.
Pyongyang now seems to have achieved its goal, while only agreeing to a temporary suspension of nuclear tests.
It is a gambit fraught with risk for Trump. On multiple occasions, Kim’s father Kim Jong Il dangled the prospect of talks and denuclearization as a means of buying time, easing sanctions and dividing South Korea from its allies.
However, his decision also carries historic echoes of Richard Nixon’s visit to communist China or Barack Obama’s overture to Cuba, both of which offered the hope of better ties.
Russian war games held last September “simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato,” the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces has…Russian war games held last September “simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato,” the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces has claimed.
Riho Terras confirmed Nato’s fears the Zapad (or “West) exercises were used to simulate a conflict with the US-led alliance and show off Russia’s ability to mass large numbers of troops at extremely short notice in the event of a conflict.
The drills, which were held in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and its Kaliningrad outpost between 14 and 20 September last year, depicted a fictional scenario concerned with attacks by militants, according to Russia’s defence ministry.
But in an interview with Germany’s top-selling newspaper, Bild, Mr Terras said: “Let me be clear: With the exercise Zapad 2017 Russia simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato.
“It was not targeted towards the Baltic states only as it was a theatre-wide series of exercises spanning from high North to the Black Sea.”
He added: “The scale and extent of the entire exercise was far greater than officially stated.”
Instead of being a “purely defensive” exercise as Russia claimed, Zapad was used to simulate a “full-scale conventional war against Nato in Europe,” the newspaper previously reported, citing two analysts from a western intelligence service.
They claimed the drills involved far more troops than the 12,700 Russia’s defence ministry claimed took part. Another 12,000 Russian soldiers took part in exercises in regions “near the Estonian borders” and more than 10,000 in the area near the north of Finland and Norway, the sources said.
Under the Vienna document, a Cold War-era treaty which sets out rules for military exercises, war games numbering more than 13,000 troops should be open to observers who can fly over the drills and talk to soldiers. Nato sent one expert to a visitor day in Russia and two to a visitor day in Belarus.
The intelligence analysts also told the paper the drill rehearsed a “shock campaign” against Nato countries such as Germany and the Netherlands, but also Poland and the non-Nato states of Sweden and Finland.
It practised “neutralising or taking under control air fields and harbours” in the Baltic states as well as simulating bombings of “critical infrastructure” such as “air fields, harbours, energy supplies” in western Europe.
“The number of troops participating in the exercises significantly exceeded the number announced before the exercise, the scenario was a different one and the geographical scope was larger than previously announced,” Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. (The Independent)
North Korea is believed to be preparing to launch another ballistic missile in retaliation for an upcoming joint naval drill by the US and South Korea, it emerged today.
The US Navy said on Friday that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will lead the drill in the coming week, as another show of force against dictator Kim Jong-un’s ongoing nuclear and weapons programme.
A riled Pyongyang immediately renewed its threat to fire missiles at the US Pacific territory of Guam, warning that “reckless moves” by the US would compel it to take action.
North Korea first threatened Guam in August after US President Donald Trump warned the pariah regime would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen”. Kim backed down temporarily but said he would watch for US provocation. Tensions have only escalated since.
A fresh missile test may also be on the cards. The Donga Ilbo daily, citing a government source, reported on Saturday that satellite images showed ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Pyongan Province.
The source said US military officials believe the move could indicate preparation for a test launch of a missile comparable to the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM).
Another probability could be the testing of the new Hwasong-13 ICBM (solid engine) that has a longer maximum range than the Hwasong-14.
Initially, it was expected that North Korea would carry out a provocative test last Tuesday, to mark the anniversary of its ruling party’s foundation.
However, speculation is now rising that the deployment of the US carrier strike group and nuclear-powered submarine to the Korean Peninsula may provide a fresh trigger for action.
“The North may carry out a simultaneous launch of ICBM and IRBM within a few days, in protest against the US’s show of military might,” a source told the Donga Ilbo.
The USS Ronald Reagan will conduct the ten-day joint drills in waters east and west of South Korea. Starting on Monday, the exercise will check the allies “communications interoperability and partnership,” the US Navy’s 7th fleet said in a statement.
As many as 40 navy vessels, including the Aegis destroyer and attack helicopters, will be deployed.
Meanwhile, the USS Michigan, an 18,000-metric ton submarine, which arrived in the South Korean port of Busan on Friday, is also expected to join the exercise.
Although Washington and Seoul insist that regular joint drills are defensive in nature, North Korea considers them to be rehearsals for an invasion and has lashed out with weapons tests in the past.
The deployment comes at a time of heightened tension between the US and North Korea, with both President Trump and Kim Jong-un trading regular insults.
“The US military action hardens our determination that the US should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the trigger for taking the toughest countermeasure,” said a North Korean foreign ministry official, reported by state-run news agency KCNA on Friday. (The Telegraph)
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea called a meeting of his top security officials for later Monday morning to discuss the missile launch, coming a week after the North last tested a ballistic missile, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan condemned the launch as a provocation.
“We absolutely cannot accept North Korea’s repeated provocations despite repeated warnings by the international community,” Mr. Abe said Monday morning. He added that leaders at the recent Group of 7 meeting in Taormina, Sicily, had confirmed that deterring North Korea’s nuclear ambitions was a “top priority” and that Japan would work closely with the United States and South Korea to “make the utmost efforts to ensure people’s safety.”
The missile fired on Monday appears to have landed in the sea between Korea and Japan, inside Japan’s so-called exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the coast. There were no immediate reports of damage to any ships or aircraft in the area, said Yoshihide Suga, Mr. Abe’s chief cabinet secretary.
The missile was fired from Wonsan, on North Korea’s east coast, and flew for 280 miles, the South Korean military said in a statement. The United States Pacific Command said in its own statement that the short-range ballistic missile was tracked from North Korea for six minutes before it landed in the sea. It was the seventh time the North has tested a ballistic missile in two months.
In March, when North Korea launched four missiles at once, three of them landed within Japan’s economic zone. Those launches raised concerns that the North Korean government, led by Kim Jong-un, had developed the ability to pose a greater threat to its neighbors and potentially overwhelm missile defense systems.
The United States has been planning to conduct a test Tuesday of the Pentagon’s multibillion-dollar missile defense system designed to intercept a North Korean warhead. The United States has struggled to make the antimissile system work for decades.
North Korea has deployed a fleet of short- and medium-range missiles, despite a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting Pyongyang from testing ballistic missiles.
Still, the Pukguksong-2, first tested in February, represents key strides in the North’s missile technologies. It is fired from a mobile launch vehicle. And unlike the missile fired on Monday, it uses solid fuel, rather than liquid, which means it can be prepared ahead of time in secret and fired quickly, making it difficult for the North’s enemies to detect an attack.
North Korea, which said it would start mass-producing the Pukguksong-2, has been known to test missiles to improve their accuracy and efficiency, and when the government comes under growing international pressure.
Over the weekend, the G-7 leaders issued a statement saying the North Korean government “increasingly poses new levels of threat of a grave nature to international peace and stability.” The statement also called on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a manner that would be “complete, verifiable and irreversible.”
On Monday, the South Korean military said it was closely monitoring North Korea “for signs of additional provocations.” (The New York Times)
SEOUL, May 22 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Monday it has successfully tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile to confirm the reliability of the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead, indicating further advances in the ability to hit U.S. targets.
The North‘s KCNA news agency said leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test which also verified the functioning of the solid-fuel engine for the Pukguksong-2 missile and ordered it for deployment in field action.
North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for legitimate self-defense. The North last conducted a ballistic missile test a week ago.
“Saying with pride that the missile’s rate of hits is very accurate and Pukguksong-2 is a successful strategic weapon, he approved the deployment of this weapon system for action,” KCNA said, quoting leader Kim Jong Un.
The launch verified the reliability and accuracy of the solid-fuel engine’s operation and stage separation and the late-stage guidance of the nuclear warhead which was recorded by a device mounted on the warhead, KCNA said.
“Viewing the images of the Earth being sent real-time from the camera mounted on the ballistic missile, Supreme leader Kim Jong Un said it feels grand to look at the Earth from the rocket we launched and the entire world looks so beautiful,” KCNA said.
The missile flew about 500 kilometers (310.69 miles), reaching an altitude of 560 km, and landed in waters off the North‘s east coast, South Korea‘s military said on Sunday.
The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland. On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the U.S. mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.
On Monday, KCNA said the latest test follows the successful test last week of another missile that has put Hawaii and Alaska within range.
Experts say solid fuel engines and mobile launchers make it more difficult to detect signs of launch preparations.
“For military purposes, solid-fueled missiles have the advantage that they have the fuel loaded in them and can be launched quickly after they are moved to a launch site,” David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a blog post.
“Building large solid missiles is difficult,” he said, adding it took decades for major superpowers such as France and China to go from a medium-range missile to an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“So this is not something that will happen soon, but with time North Korea will be able to do it,” Wright said.
An official traveling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the latest launch and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous missiles that North Korea had tested.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue to be applied to North Korea.
The two missile tests in a week complicate plans by South Korea‘s new President Moon Jae-in to seek ways to reduce tension on the peninsula.
Moon took office on May 10 after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict. (REUTERS)
SEOUL, May 21 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, South Korea and Japan said, a week after it tested an intermediate-range missile which experts saw as an advancement in the reclusive state’s weapons programme.
The missile was launched at 0759 GMT from a location near Pukchang, 60 km (36 miles) northeast of the capital Pyongyang, an area where North Korea attempted to test-launch another missile last month but failed, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missile flew about 500 km (310 miles), it said. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and no damage to ships or airplanes was reported.
An official travelling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the launch and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous tested by North Korea.
China had no immediate comment while both South Korea and Japan called emergency meetings of top officials.
“The flight range was 500 km and South Korea and the United States are closely analysing additional information,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
It was the second missile test by North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office 11 days ago. The two sides remain technically at war despite a truce ending their 1950-1953 conflict.
Last Sunday, the North tested-fired an intermediate range missile that flew further and higher than those previously tested.
Moon won this month’s election on a platform of a moderate approach to North Korea and has said he would be willing to go to Pyongyang under the right circumstances, arguing dialogue must be used in parallel with sanctions.
North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programmes, even from China, its lone major ally, calling them legitimate self-defence.
It has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the U.S. mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.
“The U.S. mainland and the Pacific operational theatre are within the strike range of the DPRK and the DPRK has all kinds of powerful means for annihilating retaliatory strike,” North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said in a commentary on Saturday.
North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Jeff Mason in Riyadh; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Stephen Coates) (REUTERS)
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea said on Monday that the missile it launched a day earlier was a new ballistic missile that can carry a large, heavy nuclear warhead, warning that the United States’ military bases in the Pacific were within its range.
North Korea launched what American officials called an intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday from the northwestern town of Kusong. The missile, believed to have a longer range than any other North Korean missile tested so far, landed in the sea between the North and Japan, sparking angry comments from President Trump, as well as from President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Monday that the new ground-to-ground missile, Hwasong-12, hit the targeted open water 489 miles away after soaring to an altitude of 1,312 miles. The missile was launched at a deliberately high angle so it would not fall too close to a neighboring country, the news agency said.
The flight data announced by the North roughly matched that released by Japanese and South Korean officials hours after the launch.
David Wright, a director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in a blog post that if the same missile was flown on a standard trajectory, it would have a maximum range of 2,800 miles.
That would qualify the projectile as an intermediate-range ballistic missile, which could fly far enough to target key American military bases in the Pacific, including those in Guam. The North on Monday used the unfamiliar term “medium-long range” to describe the missile.
The missile test was conducted to verify “the tactical and technological specifications of the newly developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size, heavy nuclear warhead,” the state news agency said, adding that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, watched the launch.
“He declared that the D.P.R.K. is a nuclear power worthy of the name whether someone recognizes it or not,” said the agency, using the acronym of the North’s official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
If the United States provokes North Korea, Mr. Kim said, it will not escape “the biggest disaster in history” because “its mainland and Pacific operation region are in the D.P.R.K.’s sighting range for strike,” according to the news agency.
“The coward American-style fanfaronade militarily browbeating only weak countries and nations which have no nukes can never work on the D.P.R.K., and is highly ridiculous,” Mr. Kim said, without naming Mr. Trump. “If the U.S. dares opt for a military provocation against the D.P.R.K., we are ready to counter it.”
Although North Korea has vowed to develop the ability to attack the United States with nuclear warheads and has tested missiles that can reach throughout the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity, it has never tested a long-range missile that could fly across the Pacific. Missile experts say North Korea may still be years away from mastering the technologies needed to build a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile, although Mr. Kim warned in his New Year’s Day speech that his country had reached a “final stage” in preparing to conduct its first ICBM test.
The new missile “may represent a substantial advance to developing” an ICBM, said John Schilling, a missile expert, in an analysis posted on 38 North, a United States-based website that specializes in North Korea.
“This missile would allow North Korea to conduct at least some of the testing necessary to develop an operational ICBM, without actually launching ICBMs, particularly if it includes the same rocket engines,” Mr. Schilling said.
Under a series of United Nations Security Council resolutions, the country is banned from developing or testing ballistic missiles.
The North’s launch took place as its biggest supporter, China, was hosting delegations from around the world at its “One Belt One Road” forum in Beijing. It also came only days after Mr. Moon, the South Korean leader, took office with a call for dialogue with the North.
Analysts say North Korea has often raised tensions to test new leaders in Washington or in Seoul or to increase its leverage when its foes propose negotiations. (The New York Times)
North Korea is “throwing” missiles up — some still experimental — to show the Trump administration the country is a “serious” international player, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. Two officials said it doesn’t seem to matter to the Kim Jong Un regime whether the tests succeed or fail, and most have failed.
On Friday, a missile capable of striking targets in South Korea detonated minutes after launch, scattering debris over land and sea. The missile, called the NK-17, is among those the officials said the North has launched knowing they might not be ready.
“They want to show they can,” said one official. “They believe they learn something new from every launch, success or failure.”
In fact, the Musudan, the most advanced missile the North has tested, has failed six out of the eight times it’s been fired in the past year (leading one CIA analyst to say it “comes equipped with its own fire extinguisher.”)
Some of the tests have broken new ground, like the successful February 12 test of a mobile, solid-fueled missile that can be launched from a submarine.
But most important to the North Koreans, said a second official, is the political symbolism, and the message intended for Donald Trump. The North Koreans are “setting a baseline with the new president … [They are] serious and want to make sure he knows.”
The U.S. has also noticed an increase in the tempo of North Korean launches, again attributing the change to the inauguration of President Trump. In the first four months of 2016, North Korea launched five missiles. None succeeded. This year, 10 missiles were launched. At least five succeeded.
There were no launches between the election of Donald Trump as president and his inauguration. Then, during the next six weeks, Pyongyang launched seven, including the spectacular four-missile display in early March that North Korean media described as simulating a nuclear strike on U.S. bases in Japan. It was meant to be a five-missile display, but one of the missiles failed.
As two of the officials noted, launching missiles is far less in-your-face than a sixth nuclear test.
However, officials said there is no guarantee Pyongyang will not test another device. And on Monday, Pyongyang announced it was stepping up its nuclear testing program “to the maximum.” (NBC News)
UPDATE: North Korea launched a missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, the U.S. military’s Pacific Command said in a statement on Tuesday.
Initial assessments indicate it was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile, the statement said. It was launched from a land-based facility near Sinpo, North Korea.
EARLIER: SEOUL, April 5 (Reuters) – North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Wednesday from its east coast into the sea off the Peninsula, South Korea’s military said, ahead of a summit between U.S. and Chinese leaders who are set to discuss Pyongyang’s arms program.
The launch was from Sinpo, a port city on the North’s east coast, and the missile flew about 60 km (40 miles), South Korea’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a short statement. Sinpo is the site of a North Korean submarine base.
The launch comes just ahead of a summit meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping this week where adding pressure on the North to drop its arms development will take center stage.
Any launch of objects using the ballistic missile technology is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions but the North has defied the ban as infringement of its sovereign rights to self defense and pursuit of space exploration.
North Korea attempted to launch a ballistic missile two weeks ago from its east coast and earlier in March fired four missiles towards Japan, some of which came as close as 300 km (190 miles) to Japan’s coast.
The reclusive state has also conducted two nuclear weapons tests since January 2016.
The North is believed to be developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can hit the United States and its leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed to test-launch one at any time.
Experts and officials in the South and the United States believe Pyongyang is still some time away from mastering all the technology needed for an operational ICBM system, such as re-entry of the atmosphere and subsequent missile guidance.
Topping the agenda of the U.S.-China summit in Florida will be whether Trump will make good on his threat to use crucial trade ties with China to pressure Beijing to do more to rein in the nuclear-armed North.
A senior U.S. White House official said Trump’s meeting with Xi was a test for the U.S.-Chinese relationship and that Trump wants economic ties that are fair, balanced and based on reciprocity. (Editing by Lincoln Feast) (REUTERS)