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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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Putin Sends Troops And Equipment To Russia’s Border With North Korea

Putin sends troops to Russia’s border with North Korea after China also sends soldiers to its boundary over fears Trump will attack Kim Jong-un, sparking a tidal wave of refugees

  • The Russian President has sent troops and equipment to his North Korea border
  • Footage shows trains carrying tanks to 11-mile frontier in Russia’s south east
  • Comes after China sent 150,000 troops to its own frontier with North Korea
  • There are fears of a mass exodus of North Korean refugees if war breaks out

Vladimir Putin is sending troops and equipment to Russia‘s border with North Korea over fears the US is preparing to attack Kim Jong-un.

The Russian President fears there will be a huge exodus of North Korean refugees if his American counterpart, Donald Trump, launches military action against Pyongyang.

It comes days after it emerged that China is also sending 150,000 soldiers to its southern frontier to cope with the tidal wave of North Koreans Beijing fears would flee across the border if war breaks out.

This morning, footage emerged appearing to show how Putin is reinforcing his 11-mile border with North Korea by relocating troops and equipment.

Reinforcements: Vladimir Putin is sending troops and equipment to Russia's border with North Korea over fears the US is preparing to attack Kim Jong-un. Footage shows a train carrying Russian tanks to the border in the country's far south east

Vladimir Putin is reinforcing his border with North Korea by relocating troops and equipment
Vladimir Putin is reinforcing his border with North Korea by relocating troops and equipment

Vladimir Putin is reinforcing his border with North Korea by relocating troops and equipment, including helicopters (left) and tanks (right)

Russia is sending troops to its tiny border with North Korea while China is also understood to have sent 150,000 soldiers to its southern frontier amid fears of a refugee crisis in the event of war

Russia is sending troops to its tiny border with North Korea while China is also understood to have sent 150,000 soldiers to its southern frontier amid fears of a refugee crisis in the event of war

A video purports to show one of three trains loaded with military equipment moving towards the 11 mile-long land frontier between Russia and the repressive state.

Another evidently highlights military helicopter movements towards the North Korean border and manoeuvres across rough terrain by army combat vehicles.

Other reports suggest there have been military moves by road as well.

There have been concerns that if a conflict breaks out Russia could face a humanitarian exodus from North Korea.

But Putin has been warned, too, that in the event of a US strike on Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities, contamination could swiftly reach Russia.

‘Railway trains loaded with military equipment moving towards Primorsky region via Khabarovsk have been noticed by locals,’ reported primemedia.ru in the Russian far East – linking the development to the North Korean crisis.

‘The movement of military equipment by different means of transport to southern areas is being observed across Primorsky region over the past week,’ said military veteran Stanislva Sinitsyn.

Putin (pictured) has reportedly been warned that in the event of a US strike on Kim Jong-un's nuclear facilities, contamination could swiftly reach Russia

Putin (pictured) has reportedly been warned that in the event of a US strike on Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities, contamination could swiftly reach Russia

Another clip highlights military helicopter movements towards the North Korean border and manoeuvres across rough terrain by army combat vehicles

Another clip highlights military helicopter movements towards the North Korean border and manoeuvres across rough terrain by army combat vehicles

The movements of troops and equipment have been described as 'a preventive but necessary' measure.

The movements of troops and equipment have been described as ‘a preventive but necessary’ measure.

‘Many relate this to the situation in the Korean peninsula.

‘The video shows artillery systems that either support troops in assault or meet the aggressor.’

He said: ‘The movement of military equipment means that authorities of our country are keeping up with the situation – and take appropriate measures.’

The movements were ‘a preventive but necessary’ measure.

‘If the situation worsens, especially related to military events, the armed forces of all the neighbouring countries obviously monitor it more closely, and we are no exception.

‘It is not the first time that North Korea has broken the peace in the region, that’s why this situation deserves attention.’

Russian military spokesman Alexander Gordeyev declined to give the exact reasons for the troop and equipment movements but said exercises had recently ended in the TransBaikal region of Siberia.

Kim Jong-un has threatened the US with a 'super-mighty preemptive strike' and warned America: 'Don't mess with us'

Thousands of goose-stepping troops paraded through Pyongyang in a show of strength on Saturday

Chilling: An enormous missile drives past troops during the Day of the Sun military parade on Saturday

However, a number of local sources appear to believe the movements are linked to the Korean crisis.

The naval port of Vladivostok – where Russia has huge military forces – is less than 100 miles from North Korea.

Expert on the repressive state, Konstantin Asmolov, said: ‘Should the US strike with missiles at North Korea’s nuclear facilities, a radioactive cloud will reach Vladivostok within two hours.’

Asmolov, from the Russian Far Eastern Institute, warned that in the event of full-scale war ‘hungry asylum seekers will flood into Russia.’

Russia on Wednesday blocked UN Security Council condemnation of Pyongyang’s latest missile test – even though China, which has a major frontier with North Korea had backed the strongly-worded statement put forward by the United States.

The proposed statement would have demanded that North Korea ‘conduct no further nuclear tests’ and halt missile launches .

Pyongyang carried out a failed test on Sunday.

Russia wanted to include language contained in a previous statement stressing the need to achieve a solution through dialogue, according to council diplomats.

Moscow’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said: ‘Unfortunately, we have to admit that the risk of a serious conflict in this region has substantially increased.’

He called for a ‘demonstration of responsibility’ from all sides to avoid escalation.

(MailOnline)

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U.S. Missile Defense System May Not Work Against North Korean Missiles, Say Experts

 

Ken Dilanian
Image: A flight test of the exercising elements of the GMD system launched at the Vandenberg AFB© A flight test of the exercising elements of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is launc… Image: A flight test of the exercising elements of the GMD system launched at the Vandenberg AFB  

Top generals have been insisting for years that if North Korea launched a missile at the United States, the U.S military would be able to shoot it down.

But that is a highly questionable assertion, according to independent scientists and government investigators.

In making it, the generals fail to acknowledge huge questions about the effectiveness of the $40 billion missile defense system they rely on to stop a potential nuclear-armed ballistic missile fired by North Korean or Iran, according to a series of outside reviews.

“They are leading political leaders to believe that they have a military capability that they don’t, in fact, have,” says physicist David Wright, who has studied the program for years as co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Chris Johnson, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, said the Pentagon “is confident in our ability to defend the homeland against ballistic missile threats.” While the program had reliability challenges early in its development, “we have made significant improvements over the last several years to ensure the system is able to operate as designed,” he added.

The missile defense system relies on 60-foot-tall, three-stage rockets of its own to knock the enemy projectiles out of space, a task that has been compared to shooting a bullet with a bullet. The system is known as the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD.

There are 36 interceptors in operation, according to the Missile Defense Agency — four at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and 32 at Ft. Greely, Alaska. Eight more are due online by year’s end. In contrast to the Iron Dome system in Israel, which is designed to counter shorter range missiles and artillery, the GMD is made to hit missiles above the earth’s atmosphere — a more difficult proposition. It is among the heirs to the Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called Star Wars program launched under Ronald Reagan.

Related: United States Has ‘No Defense’ For Russian Missiles, Says Top General

The missiles are based in Alaska and California because the West Coast is the best place from which to intercept missiles that would travel the shortest routes from both Iran and North Korea. Congress has pushed for a third site on the East Coast.

Intelligence agencies don’t assess that North Korea is yet capable of firing a nuclear-armed missile at the U.S., but analysts believe it is on course to reach that goal.

But even through the system has been fielded, it hasn’t been proven to work.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the agency that runs the missile defense system “has not demonstrated through flight testing that it can defend the U.S. homeland.”

In nine simulated attacks since the system was deployed in 2004, interceptors have failed to take out their targets six times, even though the flight tests were far less challenging than an actual attack, according to The Los Angeles Times, which published an investigation of the missile defense system last year that uncovered a previously unknown test failure.

“Despite years of tinkering and vows to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has gotten worse, not better,” The Times concluded.

Last July, the highly regarded Union of Concerned Scientists, which is often skeptical of military programs, weighed in with a 47-page report calling the U.S. approach to missile defense “disastrous.” Of the GMD, it concluded: “Its test record is poor and it has no demonstrated ability to stop an incoming missile under real-world conditions.”

A 2012 National Academy of Sciences study called the GMD “deficient” and recommended a complete overhaul of the interceptors, sensors, and concept of operations. No such overhaul has happened.

Realted: North Korea’s Display Of New Missiles Is Worrying-Analysts

A senior Congressional aide who regularly receives classified briefings on the system told NBC News Tuesday: “None of this stuff works reliably. Nothing. Their interceptor programs are not working. They shoot down targets some of the time, but it’s not reliable enough that we would want to risk the catastrophic failure of a miss.”

The Pentagon and its Missile Defense Agency strongly disagree. Officials have repeatedly assured lawmakers and the public that the system, despite its testing failures, is up to the task of protecting the United States.

“Today we have exactly what we need to defend the United States of America against North Korea,” Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 6.

Sen Lindsey Graham asked: “So if a missile were launched from North Korea in the next year we could knock it down?”

“Yes sir,” Robinson replied.

There is no basis for such certainty, Wright and other experts say.

The Pentagon has spent more than $40 billion to field a system that has not been proven in a real world scenario.

The system has failed about half the time in tests that are scripted, Wright says — meaning those operating the missile defense system have information about the target they would not have in real life. In 2002, the program was exempted from normal testing and procurement standards so that it could be deployed faster.

The system has still not been tested against realistic targets such as tumbling warheads, warheads accompanied by credible decoys, or warheads traveling at speeds and from distances similar to that of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs),” the Union of Concerned Scientists report said. “Nearly 15 years after the GMD system was put on the fast track, the Pentagon’s own testing officials have said the system has not demonstrated an operationally useful capability to defend the U.S. public from a missile attack.”

Johnson, the missile agency spokesman, disputed that, asserting that the system had relied on “operationally realistic intercept tests.”

Image: Television pictures in South Korea showed file footage of a North Korean ballistic missile.© Television pictures in South Korea showed file footage of a North Korean ballistic missile. Image: Television pictures in South Korea showed file footage of a North Korean ballistic missile.  

Military officials have acknowledged that the technology is not where they would like it to be. One of the ways they would seek to improve their odds is to fire four or five interceptors at any one missile, under what is known as “shot doctrine.”

“Today the shot doctrine, or number of (interceptors) launched at one incoming long range ballistic missile to ensure success, would be a high number,” says the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a group of contractors that build the systems, on its web site.

Related: JUST IN: North Korea Launches Medium-Range Ballistic Missile-U.S. Military

However, the Union of Concerned Scientists has calculated that if five warheads were headed to the U.S., and each interceptor had a 50 percent chance of hitting its target, there would be a 28 percent chance that one warhead would get through. Those are not odds a president would want to rely on in the case of a nuclear weapon.

Moreover, those odds leave aside the potential use of decoys and countermeasures, which has bedeviled missile defense for years. The GMD relies on heat sensors to distinguish between the real warhead and decoys, Wright said, but that could be defeated by something as simple as using liquid nitrogen to cool the warhead before launch.

Supporters of the program argue that failed tests are part of the learning process.

“In the space business, that’s how you go fast,” said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in a recent appearance before Congress.

“Von Braun, in the early days of the rocket business, he had a 60 percent failure rate; maybe the greatest rocket scientist of all time,” he added, referring to German scientist Wernher von Braun, who is credited with inventing the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany before being secretly spirited to the U.S., where he developed the Saturn V, which propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the moon.

But the problem, Wright and other critics say, is that the generals aren’t leveling with Congress and the American people about the uncertain state of the current technology. And they are spending billions fielding a system that may not work.

“More money to buy more bad stuff is not the answer,” the senior Congressional aide said. “More for research and development is the answer.”       (NBC NEWS)

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North Korea’s Display Of New Missiles Is Worrying-Analysts

Anna Fifield

 

TOKYO — North Korea put on a huge military spectacle Saturday to celebrate its founder’s birthday, parading its series of new and technologically advanced missiles in front of Kim Jong Un, and in a defiant show of force in front of the world.

North Korea did not, however, carry out another nuclear test or ballistic missile launch, against widespread speculation that it would seek to celebrate Kim Il Sung’s 105th birthday with a bang.

April 15 is the most important day in the North Korean calendar, and Kim Jong Un has celebrated his grandfather’s birthday with great fanfare as a way to boost his own legitimacy as the successor to the communist dynasty.

North Korea presented two of its newest model missiles at the parade in Kim Il Sung Square on Saturday, including the submarine-launched ballistic type it successfully fired last year and the land-based version it launched last month.

“And there were a lot of them,” said Melissa Hanham, an expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. “The signal that they’re trying to send is that they are moving ahead with solid-fuel missiles.”

North Korea has been working on solid fuel — which, unlike liquid fuel, can be preloaded into missiles — as a way to fire missiles quickly to avoid prior detection by satellites.

Analysts were working to identify all the missiles that were shown off on Saturday, many of which appeared to have new paint jobs or be variants of known missiles.

One of the missiles looked similar to the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile that North Korea had included in previous parades. This missile has a theoretical range of about 7,500 miles, which is enough to reach all of the United States from North Korea, said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review.

It also put two ICBM canisters, which protect solid-fueled missiles from the effects of the environment, on the trucks that had carried the ICBMs previously. One may have been a KN-14, another missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, although it has a slightly shorter range.

The trucks that carried the missile canisters were Chinese ones that have been exported to North Korea’s Forestry Ministry but have shown up in military parades like this one.

Saturday’s display was worrying, Hanham said.

“They have an indigenous tank system now, so they have more launchers, and they have solid fuel, which means they can launch a lot more of these things in quick succession without having to refuel,” she said.

The overall message to the world was that North Korea was pressing ahead with its missiles and making technological progress.

The parade took place amid stern warnings from the outside world and mounting fears about some kind of military action in the region. China has been particularly vocal in warning both sides to remain calm.

The United States has sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean Peninsula region, and President Trump has repeatedly tweeted that if China will not use its leverage to rein in North Korea, the United States will act.

Vice President Pence arrives in Seoul on Sunday on the first leg of an Asia tour, and he will underscore Washington’s strong alliances with South Korea and Japan and its determination to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Trump administration officials describe the situation as more dangerous than in the past, because of the progress North Korea has made in its nuclear weapon and missile programs and because of the hostility on both sides. But U.S. officials said no decision has been made about how to respond to any new test — nuclear or ballistic — by North Korea.

A North Korean navy truck carries the 'Pukkuksong' submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15, 2017.© REUTERS/Damir Sagolj A North Korean navy truck carries the ‘Pukkuksong’ submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, April 15…

 

While officials do not rule out other actions, they also stress their desire to ensure that the situation does not escalate out of control. Pentagon officials denied recent media reports that the Trump administration is ready to launch a preemptive strike if North Korea appears to be about to conduct a nuclear test.

North Korea has a habit of fueling tensions to increase the rewards it might extract from the outside world if it desists. Previously, the North has agreed to return to denuclearization talks in return for aid or the easing of sanctions.

But with his approach, Trump is tearing up the old playbook of how to deal with North Korea, analysts said.

“This approach to North Korea is relatively new,” said James Kim of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. “The approach in the past has been very calculated.”

That has gone out the window with talk about military options, he said. “We always knew all these options were there, but no one was bold enough to go down that path. It’s a new approach.”

Right now, Trump has some cards to play, said Kim of the Asan Institute.

“He might say: ‘If you want one less battleship in the region, what are you going to give me?’ ” he said — a reversal of the usual situation, in which North Korea asks what it can get from its adversaries in return for changing its behavior.  (The Washington Post)

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