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
The deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned Europe that if it threatens Tehran, the Guards will increase the range of missiles to more than 2,000 kilometres, the Fars news agency reported on Saturday.France has called for an “uncompromising” dialogue with Iran about its ballistic missile programme and a possible negotiation over the issue separate from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Iran has repeatedly said its missile programme is defensive and not negotiable.
“If we have kept the range of our missiles to 2,000 kilometres, it’s not due to lack of technology. … We are following a strategic doctrine,” Brigadier General Hossein Salami said, according to Fars.
“So far we have felt that Europe is not a threat, so we did not increase the range of our missiles. But if Europe wants to turn into a threat, we will increase the range of our missiles.”
The United States accused Iran this month of supplying Yemen’s Houthi rebels with a missile that was fired into Saudi Arabia in July and called for the United Nations to hold Tehran accountable for violating two UN Security Council resolutions.
Iran has denied supplying Houthis with missiles and weapons.
The head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said last month that Iran’s 2,000-kilometre missile range could cover “most of American interest and forces” within the region, and Iran does not need to extend it.
Gen Jafari said the ballistic missile range was based on the limits set by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the head of armed forces.
Iran has one of the Middle East’s largest missile programmes and some of its precision-guided missiles have the range to strike Israel.
The United States says Iran’s missile programme is a breach of international law because the missiles could carry nuclear warheads in the future.
Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons and says its nuclear programme is for civilian uses only.
The United States has imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, saying its missile tests violate a UN resolution that calls on Tehran not to undertake activities related to missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. (The Telegraph)
Tensions between the United States and North Korea are now so high that war is “a real possibility” that Britain must prepare for, a respected defence think tank has warned.
Such a conflict would result in “hundreds of thousands” of casualties, severely disrupt the global economy, and have profound implications for the political and diplomatic landscape of East Asia, the report for the Royal United Services Institute said.
US bombers accompanied by fighter jets flew off the east coast of North Korea on September 23, in a show of force
“This report is not saying that war is likely. But the probability of war is an uncomfortably real prospect,” said Professor Malcolm Chalmers, who authored the report.
Tensions between North Korea and the US have escalated over the past year as Pyongyang pursues a nuclear weapons programme that it says is intended to achieve a “balance of power” with the US and deter an American-led regime change operation of the kind that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.
A series of missile and nuclear tests this year have left US officials concerned that Pyongyang is closer than previously thought to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting America.
Donald Trump, the US president, has threatened to use military force to halt Kim Jong-un’s weapons programme.
Other senior US officials have made clear that Washington would not accept a North Korean nuclear deterrent similar to that possessed by Russia or China and that all options, including military force, would be considered to prevent it.
On Thursday, China ordered all North Korean businesses and ventures operating on its territory to close within 120 days, after the United Nations imposed fresh sanctions against Pyongyang.
China is North Korea’s main trading partner and North Korean firms operating there provide the country with a crucial source of foreign currency.
Adam Smith, a former staffer on Barack Obama’s National Security Council, warned Thursday that the US had “reached the end of its diplomatic tether” and that this round of sanctions may be the last.
“We can only hope, then, that the economic ramifications for North Korea of these sanctions will be sufficient enough to help avoid an otherwise globally destabilising conflict,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
Professor Chalmers said he believed a “deterrent relationship” between the US and North Korea remained the most likely outcome of the crisis, despite the rhetoric.
But he warned war could erupt as the result of a limited preemptive US attack aimed at disrupting Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme, or a North Korean attack on South Korea, Japan, or the US.
Either scenario would likely escalate to a full-scale war culminating in a US invasion of North Korea, accompanied by a massive cyber and air campaign to destroy and disrupt communications and command and control, the report says.
What analysts believe may be a North Korean Hwasong 12 missile was seen during a military parade in Pyongyang in April
North Korea would likely launch a barrage of artillery and tactical missiles in the direction of Seoul, the South Korean capital, resulting in high civilian casualties.
Technologically superior US and South Korean forces would probably defeat North Korea’s “million men” army in pitched battle, and North’s generals would likely resort to partisan-style “asymmetric” tactics and possibly use nuclear weapons to counter that imbalance of power, the report says.
Professor Chalmers called on the British government to urge the US against considering a preventive first strike against North Korea and to consult with regional allies, including South Korea, Japan, and Australia, about how best to handle the crisis.
The warning came as North Korea escalated a war of words with the US by calling Donald Trump an “old lunatic.” In a statement, North Korea’s foreign ministry accused Mr Trump of “slander” and exploiting the memory of the dead after he said an American student who died after being held in North Korea for over a year had been tortured.
Otto Warmbier, who was arrested and imprisoned for stealing a propaganda poster while visiting the North as a tourist in January 2016, died in June this year days after he was released from custody and sent home in a mysterious coma.
Warmbier’s parents said in a television interview on Wednesday that their son was returned to the US blind, deaf, and that it looked like “someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth”.
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier died after more than a year in North Korean custody
Mr Trump tweeted afterwards: “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
North Korea has denied torturing Mr Warmbier and said it provided him with medical care.
“The fact that the old lunatic Trump and his riff-raff slandered the sacred dignity of our supreme leadership, using bogus data full of falsehood and fabrications, only serves to redouble the surging hatred of our army and people towards the U.S.,” the ministry said in a statement issued by the KCNA news agency yesterday.
An Ohio coroner on Wednesday said her office was unable to determine what caused the brain damage that led to Warmbier’s death, other than it stemmed from oxygen deprivation more than a year before his death.
“Could that have been torture at the time? We don’t know,” Dr Lakshmi Sammarco said.
North Korea launched a ballistic missile from its western region into the sea off its east coast on Tuesday, South Korea’s military said, ahead of a summit of leaders from the Group of 20 countries in Germany later this week.
The missile flew for about 40 minutes and may have landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Japanese government said, adding that it had strongly protested what was a clear violation of UN resolutions.
The missile was launched at 0040 GMT from an airfield in Panghyon, about 100 km (60 miles) north-west of the North’s capital, Pyongyang, the South Korean military said.
The North’s missile launch is the last since Pyongyang fired several cruise missiles in early June and comes ahead of the leaders of the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are expected to discuss efforts to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile tests the G20 summit on July 7 to 8.
Pyongyang has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.
Earlier this week, North Korea was a key topic in phone calls between U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of China and Japan. Leaders of both Asian countries reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Tuesday’s missile launch also comes ahead of July 4 Independence Day celebrations in the United States. North Korea has previously fired missiles around this U.S. holiday.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House said President Moon Jae-in called a national security council meeting for 0230 GMT after being informed of the North’s missile launch.
Last week after his first summit with Moon, Trump called for a determined response to North Korea, stressing the importance of the alliance between the two countries. (REUTERS)
North Korea’s missile programme is progressing faster than expected, South Korea’s defence minister said on Tuesday, after the UN Security Council demanded the North halt all nuclear and ballistic missile tests and condemned Sunday’s test-launch.
Han Min-koo told South Korea’s parliament the test-launch had been detected by the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system, whose deployment in the South has infuriated China.
The reclusive North, which has defied all calls to rein in its weapons programmes, even from its lone major ally, China, said the missile test was a legitimate defence against U.S. hostility.
The North has been working on a missile, mounted with a nuclear warhead, capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has called for an immediate halt to Pyongyang’s provocations and has warned that the “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over. U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood said on Tuesday China’s leverage was key and it could do more.
Han said Sunday’s test-launch was “successful in flight”.
“It is considered an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile) of enhanced calibre compared to Musudan missiles that have continually failed,” he said, referring to a class of missile designed to travel up to 3,000 to 4,000 km (1,860 to 2,485 miles).
Asked if North Korea’s missile programme was developing faster than the South had expected, he said: “Yes.”
Han said the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile unit deployed by the U.S. military in the South detected the North Korean missile, marking the first time the controversial system has been put to use since its deployment last month.
China has strongly opposed THAAD, whose radar it fears could be used to spy into its territory, despite assurances from Washington that THAAD is purely defensive. South Korean companies, from automakers to retailers and cosmetics firms, have been hit in China by a nationalist backlash over Seoul’s decision to deploy the system.
The North’s KCNA news agency said Sunday’s launch tested its capability to carry a “large-size heavy nuclear warhead”. Its ambassador to China said in Beijing on Monday it would continue such test launches “any time, any place”.
The test-launch was a legitimate act of self-defence and U.S. criticism was a “wanton violation of the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK”, a North Korean diplomat told the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday.
DPRK are the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The DPRK will bolster its self-defence capabilities as long as the United States continues its hostile policies towards the DPRK and imposes nuclear threats and makes blackmail,” diplomat Ju Yong Choi said.
The missile flew 787 km (489 miles) on a trajectory reaching an altitude of 2,111.5 km (1,312 miles), KCNA said.
Pyongyang has regularly threatened to destroy the United States, which it accuses of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war by conducting recent military drills with South Korea and Japan.
Trump and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet in Washington next month, with North Korea expected to be high on the agenda, the South’s presidential Blue House said.
Moon met Matt Pottinger, overseeing Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, on Tuesday and said he hoped to continue to have “sufficient, close discussions” between Seoul and Washington, the Blue House press secretary told a briefing.
“FURTHER SANCTIONS POSSIBLE”
In a unanimous statement, the 15-member UN Security Council on Monday said it was of vital importance that North Korea show “sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action and stressed the importance of working to reduce tensions”.
“To that end, the Security Council demanded the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conduct no further nuclear and ballistic missile tests,” the council said, adding that it was ready to impose further sanctions on the country.
The North’s foreign ministry rejected the statement, saying it infringed on its right to self-defence, particularly as the missile was test-launched at a sharp angle to ensure safety of neighbouring countries.
The UN statement also condemned an April 28 ballistic missile launch by Pyongyang.
Following that launch, Washington began talks with China on possible new U.N. sanctions. Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new measures before involving remaining council members.
The United States sees China as key, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Wood told reporters on a conference call.
“I’m not going to talk about various policy options that we may or may not consider, but I will say this: we are certainly engaged right now in looking at a number of measures – political, economic, security – to deal with these provocative acts by the DPRK, and dangerous acts in many cases,” he said.
“So we are going to be raising the level of engagement with China on this issue. China really is the key in dealing with the North Korea issue. Ninety percent of the DPRK’s trade is with China, so clearly there is a lot more leverage that China has, and we would like China to use.”
The Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea in 2006 and has stiffened them in response to its five nuclear tests and two long-range rocket launches. Pyongyang is threatening a sixth nuclear test.
Trump warned in an interview with Reuters this month that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible. In a show of force, the United States sent an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan.
Admiral Harry Harris, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific, said continued missile launches by North Korea showed the importance of the alliance between Japan and the United States and called the North’s actions unacceptable.
Harris met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also said China could apply more pressure to rein in North Korea.
“Now is the time to put pressure on North Korea,” Abe said. “Japan and the United States must coordinate and put pressure.”
The U.S. Seventh Fleet carrier, the Ronald Reagan, left Yokosuka in Japan on Tuesday on its regular spring patrol and will be out for around three to four months, a Seventh Fleet spokesman said.
Besides worries about North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes, cyber security researchers have found technical evidence they said could link the North with the global WannaCry “ransomware” cyber attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers in 150 countries since Friday. (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)
PALM BEACH, Fla./WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) – President-elect Donald Trump called for an expansion of the United States’ nuclear capabilities on Thursday, in a tweet that alarmed nonproliferation experts who said that a boost to the U.S. arsenal could fuel global tensions.
In his Twitter post, Trump said, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” but gave no further details.
It was not clear what prompted his comment. However, earlier on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia needed to “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces.”
Asked about the tweet, Trump spokesman Jason Miller later said Trump was “referring to the threat of nuclear proliferation and the critical need to prevent it – particularly to and among terrorist organizations and unstable and rogue regimes.”
Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, also has “emphasized the need to improve and modernize our deterrent capability as a vital way to pursue peace through strength,” spokesman Jason Miller said.
Miller told Reuters that Trump was not advocating the use of nuclear weapons, and said Trump’s comments were not meant to be read as a new policy proposal.
Experts wondered whether Trump’s brief tweet meant he wanted to breach limits imposed on U.S. strategic weapons and delivery systems by the 2011 New START treaty with Russia – or planned to expand the non-deployed stockpile.
“It is completely irresponsible for the president-elect or the president to make changes to U.S. nuclear policy in 140 characters and without understanding the implications of statements like ‘expand the capacity,'” said Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, a leading proponent of arms control based in Washington.
“He must have leaders around the world trying to guess what he means,” Kimball said in an interview. “This is bush league.”
Putin, who has said that Trump has confirmed to him that he is willing to mend ties between the two countries, also spoke on Thursday of the need to enhance Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems,” he said in a speech in Moscow.
If Trump and Putin both want to expand nuclear weapons, that would effectively end arms control efforts underway since the Nixon administration, said Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that works to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons.
“This is how arms races begin – with a battle of words,” Cirincione said, urging Trump, a real estate mogul, to “make the biggest deal of his life” and negotiate cuts to the nuclear arsenal with Russia.
“Neither side needs to be spending hundreds of billions of dollars on nuclear weapons we don’t need,” Cirincione said.
The United States is one of five nuclear weapons states allowed to keep a nuclear arsenal under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The others are Russia, Britain, France and China.
Trump’s “farcical” tweet failed to communicate a “rational deterrence policy” and risks fueling arms race dynamics with Russia and China, said Miles Pomper, Senior Fellow at the Washington-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
The United States needs to do more to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands, rather than creating more materials, Pomper told Reuters.
“Expanding our nuclear arsenal will do nothing to prevent nuclear proliferation or prevent nuclear terrorism. We have more than enough nuclear weapons as it is,” Pomper said.
Trump, who was elected on Nov. 8, campaigned on a platform of building up the U.S. military but also pledged to cut taxes and control federal spending.
Most of the U.S. arsenal was built between 25 and 62 years ago during the arms race with the former Soviet Union, and has been patched and otherwise refashioned many times to extend its lifespan.
During the next decade, U.S. ballistic missile submarines, bombers, and land-based missiles – the three legs of the nuclear triad – are expected to reach the end of their useful lives. Maintaining and modernizing the arsenal is expected to cost at about $1 trillion over 30 years, according to independent estimates.
Trump’s tweet came the day after meeting with a dozen Pentagon officials involved with defense acquisition programs.
He also met with the chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, the country’s two largest defense contractors, about high-profile projects he said cost too much.
Late on Thursday, Trump said on Twitter that he had asked Boeing to “price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet” because of the “tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35.”
(Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay in Washington, Lewis Krauskopf in New York and Emily Stephenson in Honolulu; Writing by Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Frances Kerry) (REUTERS)