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Putin Visits Turkey To Launch Nuclear Project, Discuss Syria |The Republican News

© Sputnik/AFP | Vladimir Putin (L) and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan have forged an increasingly close alliance, as tensions with the West grow

ANKARA (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday arrived for a visit to Russia’s increasingly close partner Turkey aimed at launching the construction of a nuclear power plant and coordinating policy on the war in Syria.Putin will hold an afternoon of talks with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the two strongmen leaders are joined on Wednesday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for a summit devoted to Syria.Putin’s visit to Turkey is his first trip abroad since he won a historic fourth presidential mandate in March 18 polls.

Putin and Erdogan — who have both led their post-imperial states out of economic crisis but also into a new era of confrontation with the West — have forged an increasingly close alliance in recent months.

Their meeting comes as ties between Russia and the West are nosediving to post-Cold War lows after the March poisoning of Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.

While EU powers have rushed to join Britain in condemning Russia and expelling diplomats over the attack on Skripal, Turkey has been much more circumspect.

Erdogan, who in 2017 held eight face-to-face meetings with Putin, has said that Ankara will not act against Moscow “based on an allegation”.

In a move that has troubled Turkey’s NATO allies, Ankara has agreed to buy S-400 air defence missile systems from Russia.

But Ankara-Moscow relations were also tested by a severe crisis from November 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria, a confrontation both sides are trying to put behind each other.

Despite being on different sides of the Syrian civil war, key regime backers Russia and Iran have joined with rebel-supporting Turkey to boost peace and also influence when the conflict ends.

Cooperation is also flourishing in other areas. Putin and Erdogan will from Ankara via video conference launch construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power station in the Mediterranean Mersin region.

The Akkuyu power station — a project costing over $20 billion (16 billion euros) and heavily disliked by environmentalists — was already launched once before in February 2015 but then put on hold due to the plane crisis.

Russia and Turkey are also building the TurkStream gas pipeline under the Black Sea that will allow Moscow to pump gas to Europe avoiding Ukraine and increase Turkey’s importance as a transit hub.           AFP

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Russia ‘Simulated Full-scale War’ Against NATO, Says Military Commander |RN

Samuel Osborne
a helicopter flying in the air: Russian war games held last September "simulated a large-scale military attack against Nato," the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces has claimed.          © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

 

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)

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North Test Fires Missiles Days After New S.Korea Leader Pledges Dialogue

Jack Kim and Ju-min Park

FILE - In this Saturday, April 15, 2017, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea.© Wong Maye-E, File/ AP Photo FILE – In this Saturday, April 15, 2017, file photo,
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during a military parade to celebrate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea fired a ballistic missile early on Sunday that flew 700 kilometers (430 miles), South Korea’s military said, days after a new leader took office in the South pledging to engage in dialog with Pyongyang.

The missile was fired from the region of Kusong, northwest of Pyongyang, where the North in February successfully test-launched an intermediate-range missile that it is believed to be developing.

Japan said the latest missile reached an altitude of more than 2,000 km (1,245 miles) and flew for 30 minutes before dropping into the sea between North Korea’s east coast and Japan. The North has consistently test-fired missiles in that direction.

Sunday’s launch, at 5:27 a.m. Seoul time (2027 GMT Saturday), came two weeks after North Korea fired a missile that disintegrated minutes into flight, marking its fourth consecutive failure since March.

The U.S. Pacific Command said it was assessing the type of missile but it was “not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile.”

“U.S. Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security,” a spokesperson said, referring to South Korea by its official name.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who took office on Wednesday, held his first National Security Council meeting as president in response to North Korea’s latest missile launch, which he called a “clear violation” of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the presidential office said.

“The president said while South Korea remains open to the possibility of dialog with North Korea, it is only possible when the North shows a change in attitude,” Yoon Young-chan, Moon’s press secretary, said at a briefing.

Moon won Tuesday’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 dialog must be used in parallel with sanctions to resolve its neighbor’s defiance of the international community.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters on Sunday that North Korea’s repeated missile launches are a “grave threat to our country and a clear violation of UN resolutions.”

Abe said Japan will stay in close touch with the United States and South Korea.

Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment when he was asked whether the latest missile launch was a success, and whether it represented a new level of threat.

MISSILE TESTS AT UNPRECEDENTED PACE

North Korea launched the Pukguksong-2 missile, an upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), from the same Kusong site on Feb 12.

South Korean and U.S. military officials said the February launch was a significant development as it successfully tested a solid-fuel engine from a mobile launcher. The missile flew about 500 km with an altitude of 550 km.

It represented a more significant threat because of the difficulty of tracking a mobile launcher and because of the ability to keep the missile fueled in advance, unlike liquid fuel rockets.

The North attempted but failed to test-launch ballistic missiles four consecutive times in the past two months but has conducted a variety of missile tests since the beginning of last year at an unprecedented pace.

Weapons experts and government officials believe the North has accomplished some technical progress with those tests.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned in an interview with Reuters in late April that a “major, major conflict” with the North was possible, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute over its nuclear and missile programs.

On Saturday, a senior North Korean diplomat who is a veteran member of its nuclear negotiating team, said the country was open to dialog with the Trump administration under the right conditions, without elaborating.

Choe Son Hui, the North’s Foreign Ministry director general for U.S. affairs, spoke to reporters while in transit in Beijing after attending a conference with former U.S. officials in Norway.

South Korea, the United States and other regional powers have been stepping up efforts to diffuse tensions over the North’s weapons program after a sharp rise in tensions in April over concerns that it may conduct a sixth nuclear test.

North Korea has briefly reported on Moon’s election win and said conservatives in South Korea should be thrown out for good for inciting confrontation between the rival states.

There was no immediate reaction from China. Delegations from Washington, Seoul and Pyongyang are gathering in Beijing on Sunday to attend China’s new Silk Road forum, its biggest diplomatic event of the year. (Additional reporting by Linda Sieg in Tokyo; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Neil Fullick)   (REUTERS)

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Tensions Rise Between Turkey, US Along Syrian Border |The Republican News

 

In a frame taken from video, U.S. forces patrol Friday on a rural road in northern Syria.© APTV/AP In a frame taken from video, U.S. forces patrol Friday on a rural road in northern Syria.
ISTANBUL — Tensions rose Saturday along the Turkish-Syrian border as both Turkey and the United States moved armored vehicles to the region and Turkey’s leader once again demanded that the United States stop supporting Syrian Kurdish militants there.

The relocation of Turkish troops to the area came a day after U.S. troops were seen patrolling the tense border in Syria. Those patrols followed a Turkish airstrike against bases of Syrian Kurdish militia, the United States’ main ally in combating Islamic State militants in Syria.

More U.S. troops were seen Saturday in armored vehicles in Syria in Kurdish areas. Kurdish officials described U.S. troop movements as a “buffer” between them and Turkey.

But Turkey views Syria’s Kurdish People’s Protection group, known as YPG, as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdish militants who have been waging a three-decade-long insurgency against Turkey.

“The YPG, and you know who’s supporting them, is attacking us with mortars. But we will make those places their grave, there is no stopping,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Footage shot Friday night showed a long line of Turkish trucks and military vehicles driving to the border area. The private Ihlas news agency reported that the convoy was heading to southeastern Sanliurfa province from Kilis in the west. The base is 30 miles from Syria’s Tal Abyad, a town controlled by the Kurdish militia.

Just before the troop location, the agency said, Turkish officials, announced the completion of a phase of Turkey’s cross-border operation of Euphrates Shield in Syria, adding that the force may be used against Syrian Kurdish militants “if needed.”

Tensions in the border area rose last week when Turkey conducted airstrikes against YPG bases in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday. The Turkish military said that it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores more. The Kurdish group in Syria said that 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

Erdogan hinted that his country was also ready to repeat its attacks in Sinjar, Iraq, to prevent it from turning into a base for the Kurdish militia.

Kurdish officials said that the U.S. patrols are monitoring the Turkish-Syrian border to prevent an increase in tensions with Turkey, a NATO member, and U.S. ally.

On Saturday, more U.S. troops in armored vehicles arrived in Kurdish areas, passing through the town of Qamishli, close to the border with Turkey. The town is mostly controlled by Kurdish forces, but Syrian government troops hold pockets of territory there, including the airport.

The convoy was followed by another of YPG militia. Some footage posted online showed Kurdish residents cheering U.S.-flagged vehicles as they drove by.

U.S. officials say the troop movement is part of its operations with the Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

Ankara sent its troops into Syria last August in a military operation triggered in large part by the Kurdish group’s expansion along its borders.

The issue has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington that threatens to hamper the fight against the Islamic State. Instead of working with the Syrian Kurds, Turkey is pressing the United States to let its army join the campaign for Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.

Erdogan is due in Washington on May 16 for his first meeting with President Trump.

Claiming that his country is leading the most effective campaign against the Islamic State, Erdogan said: “Let us, huge America, all these coalition powers and Turkey, let us join hands and turn Raqqa to Daesh’s grave,” using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces.

Redur Khalil, a spokesman for the YPG in Syria, said that Turkey is reinforcing its border posts opposite Tal Abyad as well as others.

“We hope that this military mobilization is not meant to provoke our forces or for another purpose linked to entering Syrian territories. We don’t want any military confrontation between us since our priority is to fight Daesh in Raqqa and Tabqa,” Khalil told the Associated Press in cellphone text messages.

Khalil said that his forces were not building up in the area.

(Associated Press)

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U.S. Highlights Sanctions, Diplomacy As North Korea Threat Escalates

 

Nick Wadhams, Tony Capaccio and Steven T. Dennis
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., talks with reporters after an all Senators briefing on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, Washington, Wednesday, April, 26, 2017.© AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., talks with reporters after an all Senators briefing on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, Washington…

 

U.S. national security leaders emphasized economic sanctions and diplomacy to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, even as the Pentagon ramps up its military presence in the region with an aircraft carrier battle group and submarine.

“North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority,” according to a joint statement Wednesday by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. “The United States seeks stability and the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We remain open to negotiations towards that goal.”

The statement followed warnings by the Pentagon’s top commander in the Pacific that Pyongyang is making steady progress toward developing ballistic missiles that can hit the U.S. Kim Jong Un’s regime is testing those missiles and nuclear devices with growing frequency and aggressiveness, Admiral Harry Harris said in testimony Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee.

“The words and actions of North Korea threaten the U.S. homeland and that of our allies in South Korea and Japan,” Harris said in his prepared testimony. The U.S. “must be prepared to fight” on short notice, he said.

North Korea is high on the Trump administration’s agenda this week and has been a key topic of discussion between the president and Chinese leader Xi Jinping this month. Following Harris’s testimony on Wednesday, President Donald Trump stopped by a White House briefing to which the entire Senate was invited. While Trump has urged China to help rein in the North Korean regime, he’s vowed the U.S. will stop the country’s weapons program with or without Beijing’s help.

Lawmakers’ Reaction

“The military is obviously planning for a number of contingencies, a number of options, as well they should, running the full range from a more minimal military action to a far more significant military action,” Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said after the White House briefing. “It is the hope of the administration, the hope of Congress, that military action does not prove necessary, that economic and diplomatic pressure will cause a change in behavior of the regime.”

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware called the White House briefing “sobering,” adding that the North Korean threat “should be the top priority of the administration.”

Senator Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, told reporters a military strike should be well down the administration’s list of alternatives.

“There’re so many options that we need to be taking that are a long ways away from a strike,” he said. Gardner said diplomatic steps should include “secondary sanctions on Chinese individuals, entities and companies that are doing business with the North Korean regime.”

The U.S. is working with allies in Asia to further isolate North Korea economically and block imports used in its nuclear program, according to a Trump administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday. Many components of military equipment come from outside the country, and even the tires on vehicles in North Korea’s military parades are imported, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tillerson is heading to New York on Friday to chair a session on North Korea at the United Nations Security Council.

While the joint statement emphasized diplomacy, the U.S. continued to move a battle group led by an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, toward the region. At the same time, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine capable of carrying 154 Tomahawks, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan this week. The move was was described by the Pentagon, which typically doesn’t discuss submarine movements, as part of a routine patrol.

Pressed by lawmakers, Admiral Harris wouldn’t discuss publicly scenarios for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, though he did address the risk that U.S. action could be met by a response that would kill many South Koreans, Japanese and U.S. troops in the region.

“A lot more Koreans and Japanese and Americans die” if Kim’s regime reaches its nuclear arms goals, Harris said.

China has also sought to calm tensions on the Korean Peninsula by emphasizing diplomacy. Speaking by phone with Trump on Monday, Xi urged all parties to avoid actions that might make the situation worse, and to work within the framework of UN Security Council resolutions, according to state broadcaster China Central Television.

The Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party-affiliated newspaper known for its nationalist views, said North Korea stands to lose the most in a conflict.

“The game of chicken between Washington and Pyongyang has come to a breaking point,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial published Tuesday.

Amid the heightened tensions, U.S. forces have begun installing a more advanced system for tracking and intercepting ballistic missiles than South Korea’s current network of shorter-range Patriot batteries can hit. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, known as Thaad, should be operational by the end of the year, according to South Korea’s defense ministry. American forces are working with Korea to complete the deployment “as soon as feasible,” the U.S. Defense Department said in an emailed statement.

South Korean Election

The introduction of Thaad has angered China, which is concerned it could be used to spy on its own facilities. The anti-missile system also has become a campaign issue ahead of South Korea’s May 9 presidential election, with frontrunner Moon Jae-in denouncing the expedited deployment while his closest rival Ahn Cheol-soo says it must take place.

In his testimony, Harris also endorsed Trump administration statements that the U.S. goal isn’t to topple Kim’s regime. “We want to bring Kim Jong Un to his senses, not to his knees,” he said.

“We’re all concerned that the decades of self-imposed isolation of North Korean leaders, and especially the cruel, erratic behavior of its current leader, make confrontation potentially more likely,” Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said in opening Wednesday’s hearing. “We must increase our military presence and capability in the region.”

(Bloomberg)

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North Korea Stages Big Artillery Drill As U.S. Submarine Docks In South Korea

 

By Ju-min Park

SEOUL, April 25 (Reuters) – North Korea conducted a big live-fire exercise on Tuesday to mark the foundation of its military and a U.S. submarine docked in South Korea in a show of force amid growing concern over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

The port call by the USS Michigan, which is designed to carry ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, came as a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group steamed towards Korean waters in an effort to deter North Korea from a sixth nuclear test or more missile launches in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

Instead of a nuclear blast or a big missile test, North Korea marked Tuesday’s 85th anniversary of the founding of its military by deploying a large number of long-range artillery units on its east coast for a live-fire drill, South Korea’s military said.

South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was monitoring the situation and “firmly maintaining readiness.”

South Korea’s navy said it was conducting its own live-fire exercise with U.S. destroyers in waters west of the Korean peninsula and would soon join the approaching U.S. carrier group.

North Korea was defiant, saying its military was prepared “to bring to closure the history of U.S. scheming and nuclear blackmail.”

“There is no limit to the strike power of the People’s Army armed with our style of cutting-edge military equipment, including various precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and submarine-launched ballistic missiles,” the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a front-page editorial.

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting U.S. President Donald Trump. He has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

Trump sent the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group for exercises off the Korean peninsula as a warning to Pyongyang, but U.S. officials say sanctions, not military strikes, are the preferred option.

On Monday, Trump called North Korea a global threat and “a problem that we have to finally solve” and said the U.N. Security Council must be prepared to impose new sanctions.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will chair a ministerial meeting of the Security Council on Friday to discuss tougher sanctions, which U.S. officials say could include an oil embargo, banning North Korea’s airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese and other foreign banks doing business with Pyongyang.

On Wednesday, Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs chairman General Joseph Dunford, are to hold a rare briefing on North Korea at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate.

The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarine, arrives at a naval base in Busan

The USS Michigan, an Ohio-class nuclear powered submarine, arrives at a naval base in Busan

SENATOR IMPRESSED BY TRUMP RESOLVE

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said he and fellow Republican John McCain had dinner with Trump on Monday and discussed North Korea. Graham told Fox News he was impressed by Trump’s resolve.

“He’s not going to let this nut-job in North Korea develop a missile with a nuclear weapon on top to hit America,” Graham said, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“He (Trump) doesn’t want a war any more than I do. But he’s not going to let them get a missile. That’s where they’re headed and China needs to up their game to stop this before it’s too late.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said North Korea had become a “front and center front-burner issue” and Tillerson would be “very vocal” on Friday about his concerns that countries were not doing enough to implement sanctions.

“We need to move more quickly and with greater determination to convince North Korea either to pursue denuclearisation or to apply enough pressure that it stops those activities,” Toner told a telephone news briefing.

Japan’s envoy on North Korea, Kenji Kanasugi, said he and his U.S. and South Korean counterparts agreed in talks in Tokyo on Tuesday that China should take a concrete role to resolve the crisis and could use an oil embargo as a tool.

The U.S. envoy for North Korea policy, Joseph Yun, said China had “a very, very important role to play” and South Korea’s envoy, Kim Hong-kyun, said they had also discussed how to get Russia’s help.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on April 27, the Kremlin said. It did not elaborate.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally which nevertheless objects to its weapons development, has repeatedly called for calm, and its envoy for Korean affairs, Wu Dawei, was in Tokyo on Tuesday.

“We hope that all parties, including Japan, can work with China to promote an early peaceful resolution of the issue,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

North Korea’s foreign ministry said the meetings called by U.S. officials reflected U.S. pressure that could “ignite a full-out war” and showed that Pyongyang’s decision to become a nuclear power was correct.

The official China Daily newspaper said it was time to step back from harsh rhetoric.

“Judging from their recent words and deeds, policymakers in Pyongyang have seriously misread the U.N. sanctions, which are aimed at its nuclear/missile provocations, not its system or leadership,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

“They are at once perilously overestimating their own strength and underestimating the hazards they are brewing for themselves.”      (REUTERS)

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North Korea Says Ready To Strike U.S. Aircraft Carrier |The Republican News

 

By Nobuhiro Kubo and Tim Kelly
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Sunda Strait          © REUTERS The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Sunda Strait  

SEOUL, April 23 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a U.S. aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a U.S. carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies.

The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days” but gave no other details.

North Korea remained defiant.

“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary.

The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a “gross animal” and said a strike on it would be “an actual example to show our military’s force.”

The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm.

North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.

It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions.

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump.

He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.

WORRY IN JAPAN

North Korea says its nuclear program is for self-defense and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea’s recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted.

“We’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly, their word has not proven honest,” Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier.

Japan’s show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads.

Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack.

Japan’s navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China’s.

The two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will “practice a variety of tactics” with the U.S. strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement.

The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place but by Sunday the destroyers could have reached an area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be waters east of the Philippines.

From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean peninsula. Japan’s ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against.

South Korea has put is forces on heightened alert.

China, North Korea’s sole major ally which nevertheless opposes Pyongyang’s weapons programs and belligerence, has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension.

Last Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea,” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”               (REUTERS)

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South Korea In Heightened Alert As North Prepares For Army Anniversary

 

By Ju-min Park and Ben Blanchard
Video by Fox News

SEOUL/BEIJING, April 21 (Reuters) – South Korea said on Friday it was on heightened alert ahead of another important anniversary in North Korea, with a large concentration of military hardware amassed on both sides of the border amid concerns about a new nuclear test by Pyongyang.

North Korea said late on Friday the state of affairs on the Korean peninsula was “extremely perilous” because of “madcap American nuclear war maneuvers aimed at trampling on our sovereignty and right to survival.”

U.S. officials said there was a higher-than-usual level of activity by Chinese bombers, signaling a possible heightened state of readiness by reclusive North Korea’s sole major ally, although the officials played down concern and left open a range of possible reasons. Beijing denied its aircraft were on an increased level of alert.

In Russia, the RIA news agency said a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on media reports Russia was moving military hardware and troops towards the border with North Korea.

U.S. and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test in violation of United Nations sanctions, something both the United States and China have warned against.

North Korea marks the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday, an important anniversary that comes at the end of major winter military drills, South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Lee Duk-haeng said.

Top envoys from the United States, South Korea and Japan are due to meet on Tuesday, South Korea’s foreign ministry said, to “discuss plans to rein in North Korea’s additional high-strength provocations, to maximize pressure on the North, and to ensure China’s constructive role in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue.”

South Korea and the United States have also been conducting annual joint military exercises, which the North routinely criticizes as a prelude to invasion.

“It is a situation where a lot of exercise equipment is amassed in North Korea and also a lot of strategic assets are situated on the Korean peninsula because of the South Korea-U.S. military drills,” Lee told a briefing.

“We are closely watching the situation and will not be letting our guards down.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea,” after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea’s rhetoric was provocative but he had learned not to trust it.

“UNUSUAL MOVES”

The North’s foreign ministry said in a statement that its military was ready to respond to American aggression.

“Now that we possess mighty nuclear power to protect ourselves from U.S. nuclear threat, we will respond without the slightest hesitation to full-out war with full-out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike, and we will emerge victor in the final battle with the United States.”

In a tweet, Trump said: “China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will.”

The president told a news conference “some very unusual moves have been made over the last two or three hours,” and that he was confident Chinese President Xi Jinping would “try very hard” to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

Trump gave no indication of what the moves might be. None of the U.S. officials who told Reuters about the heightened level of activity by Chinese bombers suggested alarm or signaled that they knew the precise reason for such activity.

China’s Defence Ministry said its forces on the border with North Korea were maintaining a state of normal combat preparedness and training.

Asked earlier about Trump’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Xi and Trump had had a full and deep discussion about North Korea when they met this month.

“I can only say that via deep communications between China and the U.S. at various levels including at the highest levels, the U.S. now has an even fuller and more correct understanding of China’s policy and position and has a more rounded understanding of China’s efforts,” Lu said. “We feel very gratified about this.”

An official Chinese newspaper said there was optimism about persuading the North to end its pursuit of a nuclear program without the use of force, “now that even the once tough-talking Donald Trump is onboard for a peaceful solution.”

“Beijing has demonstrated due enthusiasm for Washington’s newfound interest in a diplomatic solution and willingness to work more closely with it,” the state-run China Daily said in an editorial.

In Russia’s Far East, some media have cited residents as saying they have seen military hardware being moved towards North Korea, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said deployment of Russian troops inside Russia was not a public matter.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent months after North Korea conducted two nuclear weapons tests last year and carried out a steady stream of ballistic missile tests. Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile.

“RED LINE”

North Korea has said it will test missiles when it sees fit and a South Korean analyst said he believed the country would do so.

“Without crossing the red line such as a nuclear test or a test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, until the April 25 anniversary of the Korean People’s Army, North Korea is expected to continue to launch mid-range missiles,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at Sejong Institute outside Seoul.

The joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises are due to finish at the end of April.

A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, is heading towards the Korean Peninsula, Trump’s administration has said.

North Korea test-fired what the United States believed was a mid-range missile on Sunday. It blew up almost immediately.

The failed launch came a day after the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather.

There is concern the North will use the next big day on its calendar, April 25, to show off its strength.

“Although North Korea attempted a missile launch but failed on April 16, considering the April 25 anniversary of the Korean People’s Army, there are concerns that it can make another provocation again at any time,” South Korea’s acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn told top officials on Thursday.

He called on the military to maintain readiness. (Addtional reporting by Polina Devitt in MOSCOW, Idrees Ali in TEL AVIV; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel and Alex Richardson

(REUTERS)

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