U.S. sees indications of possible North Korea missile test-launch Yahoo News, By James Pearson and Phil Stewart January 20, 2017 SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea may be preparing for a new missile test-launch, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday, after South Korean media reported movement of what could be components of an upgraded prototype of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States was seeing activity in North Korea indicating a possible ballistic missile test, including positioning of two mobile missile launchers.
Still, the timing of the test and precise type of missile remained unclear, the officials said.
In his New Year’s speech, leader Kim Jong Un said North Korea was close to test launching an ICBM, and state media has said a launch could come at any time. Experts on the isolated and nuclear capable country’s missile program believe the claims to be credible.
The Pentagon declined comment on its intelligence about the North Korea threat, but spokesman Peter Cook assured reporters that Washington’s readiness would be not be diminished during the U.S. presidential transition, due to take place on Friday.
“I can’t get into intelligence matters. I can’t confirm what’s been reported there,” Cook told a news briefing.
“We would once again encourage North Korea not to engage in provocative actions that do nothing but destabilize the region.”
South Korean media said a test could potentially coincide with the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Friday, South Korean media said.
Trump on Jan. 2 tweeted, “It won’t happen!” about North Korean ICBMs, although his precise meaning was unclear. The Pentagon has said it would not necessarily strike a test-launched ICBM if it did not pose a threat.
NEW TYPE OF MISSILE?
South Korean intelligence agencies reported on Wednesday that they had recently spotted missile parts being transported, believed to be the lower-half of an ICBM, raising fears that a test-launch may be imminent, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing unidentified military sources…….https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-sees-north-korea-activity-signaling-possible-missile-160137245.html
North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Under Kim Jong Un, Plutonium Stockpile Has Reached Unprecedented Levels, International Business Times, BY ON 01/12/17 In the past two years, North Korea has steadily increased its supply of plutonium and now has enough for 10 nuclear warheads, according to a report this week from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. In all, South Korea’s 2016 Defense White Paper found that the North had increased its supply of weapons -grade plutonium to 50 kilograms, up from 40 kilograms two years ago, the Korea Times reported. The plutonium was obtained by reprocessing spent fuel rods.
Under the dictatorial rule of leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has focused on developing its nuclear arsenal. More recently, North Korea has worked toward developing a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The increased stockpile comes amid continued threats from Kim. In a New Year’s speech, Kim provoked the West — the United States and South Korea especially — and claimed an ICBM was nearing completion…….
Should the North develop a reliable ICBM, it would likely have the capability of reaching the United States. A working ICBM could still be a ways off, however…….http://www.ibtimes.com/north-koreas-nuclear-weapons-under-kim-jong-un-plutonium-stockpile-has-reached-2474439
US Rejects North Korea’s Nuclear Claim Amid Growing Concerns http://www.voanews.com/a/us-rejects-north-korea-nuclear-claim-amid-growing-concerns/3665388.html, 5 Jan 17, Amid speculation surrounding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, the U.S. government said this week that Pyongyang has yet to acquire the ability to outfit an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
The latest assessment came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement that the preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile had “reached the final stage.” His claim, in a New Year’s Day address, immediately sent ripples across the world’s capitals, prompting President-elect Donald Trump to tweet, “It won’t happen!”
Despite the U.S. rejection of North Korea’s purported capability, experts are raising concern about the threats emanating from the regime. Continue reading
North Korea ‘racing ahead’ on nuclear plan, defector says By KJ Kwon, CNN December 27, 2016 CNN)Political uncertainty in the United States and in South Korea could give North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “an apt time” to develop nuclear weapons “at all costs by the end of 2017,” a high-profile North Korean diplomat who recently defected to South Korea said Tuesday.
Coal sanctions newest move to block North Korean nuclear efforts SBS World News Radio: The United Nations Security Council has imposed new sanctions on North Korea in response to its latest round of nuclear and ballistic missile tests.By Gareth Boreham, 1 Dec 16
Diplomatic outreach from Trump. Xi and Putin could persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons expansion
Under Trump, America can defuse the Korean nuclear crisis – with help from China and Russia http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/2048641/under-trump-america-can-defuse-korean-nuclear-crisis-help
Charles K. Armstrong and John Barry Kotch say North Korea may well be willing to give up its nuclear plans if both Xi and Putin can be convinced to add their weight to the diplomatic outreach Charles Armstrong , 24 November, 2016, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said recently at a Council on Foreign Relations forum that dissuading North Korea from continuing its nuclear development was “a lost cause”. The remark is itself a cause for alarm. North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and increasing delivery capability could render East Asian stability itself a lost cause, substantially raising the risks of regional nuclear proliferation and disarray in America’s alliances with Japan and South Korea – as well as posing a direct threat to the US homeland. It is a principal reason that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought an early meeting with President-elect Donald Trump last week.
Throughout most of its tenure, the Obama administration has put its stock into increasingly intrusive sanctions based on a strategy of so-called “strategic patience”, but this has not brought a resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis any closer. On the contrary, Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons and missiles at an ever-increasing rate.
Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, one could envisage such an initiative led by two former US presidents – Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – who have negotiated or held substantive discussions with North Korea’s leader himself or at the top leadership echelon. And while previous agreements reached with Kim Jong-un may have rejected the agreements his father and grandfather made in the 1990s, avowing not to go down the nuclear path via plutonium reprocessing or uranium enrichment, one thing the younger Kim could not have done was spurn the legacy of his father and grandfather in meeting with two former US presidents.
Carter’s negotiations with Kim Il-sung in 1994 led to a shutdown of the nuclear plant at Yongbyon for eight years and the resumption of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. A bilateral framework established the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation, with the goal of providing light-water reactors to meet Pyongyang’s energy needs. Unfortunately, the agreement fell apart during the first George W. Bush administration.
Towards the end of the Clinton administration, the US moved towards recognising North Korea as a legitimate state actor. The momentum towards diplomatic recognition was symbolised in 2000 by the visit of North Korea’s Marshall Jo Myong-rok to the White House and secretary of state Madeline Albright’s meeting with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. The two sides discussed a missile agreement, to be finalised by a presidential visit to North Korea.
Trump now has an opportunity, at the start of a new relationship with Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) and Vladimir Putin respectively, to work with China and Russia in making clear to Kim Jong-un that a North Korean nuclear capability is incompatible with the stability of Northeast Asia. As Stanford University professor Siegfried Hecker has noted, the North’s strategy has evolved from a nuclear deterrent as a bargaining chip to a strategic force, and a 2020 reality of a fully fledged intercontinental ballistic missile capability.
And what of the argument, according to Clapper, that North Korea will never give up this capability, which it views as the sole guarantor of its survival? In effect, this is a false choice – unless one accepts Pyongyang’s proposition that it is faced with an existential threat from the US, making a nuclear deterrent essential for its security. Just the reverse is true: North Korea’s nuclear capability itself puts the country’s survival at risk, because no American president can tolerate the threat a nuclear-armed North Korea would pose to the US homeland.
Given the above, now is the time for China and Russia, both neighbouring states that would be directly affected by a potential US pre-emptive strike on North Korea, to embrace high-level “pincer” diplomacy vis-à-vis North Korea. To date, Beijing has argued that squeezing too hard would force a North Korean collapse, which is China’s worst-case scenario. But clearly the sanctions that China has enforced have been insufficient to deter North Korea. A non-nuclear North Korea would offer Beijing the best of both worlds: a buffer on its eastern border that is not a rogue nuclear state or a threat to regional stability.
President Xi has said to President-elect Trump that “facts have shown that cooperation is the only correct choice” for the United States and China. To gain Beijing’s acquiescence to a diplomatic approach, the first step would be for the US to delay the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea. THAAD was to be deployed in response to Pyongyang’s testing an intermediate-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead into space, on a trajectory that could reach Guam or the Aleutian Islands. China has been adamantly opposed to THAAD; dropping or delaying the deployment of the system opens the door to a positive diplomatic role for China, to complement sanctions-based coercive diplomacy. Once the North Korean threat was removed, there would be no need or justification for THAAD.
Russia, similarly, has a vested interest in the denuclearisation of North Korea. Engaging Moscow in resolving the nuclear impasse is both logical, given the Soviet role in providing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the principal driver of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, and would take advantage of the political leverage enjoyed by Putin, the only current leader to have successfully engaged with a North Korean leader, in persuading Kim Jong-il to observe a three-year missile moratorium in 1999. He has similarly agreed with Trump to “normalise relations and pursue constructive cooperation on the broadest possible range of issues”. The upside for Putin is an opportunity to bolster his standing in the West by making an important contribution to international peace and security.
Trump will have the opportunity for a fresh diplomatic approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue with the cooperation of the most important nuclear powers in the region – an opportunity that should be grasped sooner rather than later. The test for both Putin and Xi will be their willingness, with the full backing of Trump, to intercede directly with the North Korean leader.
Charles K. Armstrong is professor of Korean Studies at Columbia University and John Barry Kotch is a research scholar and Columbia PhD in political science
China, U.S. agree on new sanctions to punish North Korea for nuclear test, but Russia ‘trying to hold it up’, National Post Michelle Nichols, Reuters | November 24, 2016 UNITED NATIONS — The United States and China have agreed on new U.N. sanctions to impose on North Korea over the nuclear test it conducted in September, but Russia is delaying action on a draft resolution, a senior Security Council diplomat said on Wednesday.
The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believed China could persuade Russia to agree to the new sanctions and that the 15-member Security Council could vote on the draft resolution as early as next week.
Since North Korea’s fifth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 9, the United States and China, a close ally of North Korea, have been negotiating a new draft Security Council resolution to punish Pyongyang.
That draft text was recently given to the remaining three permanent council veto powers, Britain, France and Russia.
“The (permanent five members) are getting very close to agreement on a draft resolution,” the diplomat said. “The key thing is that China and the U.S., who have led this, have got to a position that they agree on. So the issue now is Russia…….http://news.nationalpost.com/news/world/china-u-s-agree-on-new-sanctions-to-punish-north-korea-for-nuclear-test-but-russia-trying-to-hold-it-up
NUCLEAR WARNING: North Korea planing another nuke test on Donald Trump’s INAUGURATION http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/735831/North-Korea-nuke-test-Donald-Trump-president-inauguration-US-Lee-Su-seok-Kim-Jong-un NORTH Korea could launch another devastating nuclear test on the same day Donald Trump is inaugurated into the White House in a chilling show of strength, security experts have warned. By WILL KIRBY Nov 24, 2016 The secretive state has launched 20 missiles this year alone as it aims to develop a long-range weapon, capable of hitting the US mainland.
“In early 2017, it is highly likely that Pyongyang will detonate another nuclear device and launch a long-range ballistic missile to reiterate its status as a nuclear power.”
With President-elect Trump set to be inaugurated on January 20 next year, these latest claims have sparked fears the ceremony could become a target.
Trump is not believed to consider the communist state a high priority at the moment, but this recent speculation about the country’s nuclear capabilities could spark increased efforts for dialogue and negotiations between the two countries.
He said: “Inter-Korean relations will remain frosty and strained until the first half of 2017 due to the North’s continued military provocations. Any dialogue with North Korea, if any, will be possible some time after Trump takes office in January.”
The director said: “The Kim Jong-un regime will continue its verbal and military threats in efforts to urge the nearly paralysed Seoul government to change the current strict policies toward Pyongyang”. South Korea’s scandal-plagued president Park Geun-hye has recently been caught up in a corruption case involving her longtime confidant, Choi Soon-sill, who has been accused of using high-ranking connections to wield inappropriate influence inside the government.
As a result, Kim Jong-un’s loyal followers are expected to exploit the unrest in South Korea and create internal conflicts within the country.
US strike on North Korea would spark world war with China, think-tank warns https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2090813/crushing-crazy-kims-nuke-bid-will-spark-war-with-china/
U.S. warned against nuking nutty North Korea because it risked war with neighbouring China BY PATRICK KNOX 1st November 2016,
On Thursday (October 27) a US military spokesperson confirmed the exercise had been carried out in a rare public announcement.
They said: “Troops of South Korean Air Force’s combat control team, an infiltration commando unit, and the US Air Force’s 353rd Special Operations Group staged a joint exercise at Gunsan Air Base recently.”
Part of the operation saw military transport aircraft practising flying low – something that has been done since the 1990s to test infiltrating North Korea.
These aircraft are apparently used to transport special forces who are on a mission to destroy Kim Jong-un’s missiles and nuclear weapons.
According to a South Korean news network, the 353rd Special Operations Group, which is based at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, completes missions to send commandos into the closed country.
“It’s different from a decapitation strike operation targeting the North Korean leadership.”
There have been calls in the US to launch pre-emptive strikes in North Korea following numerous incidents of despot leader Kim Jong-un testing his countries nuclear power.
Just this week officials confirmed he tested nuclear-capable missile which has the potential to reach the US military base in Guam.
South Korea’s March Toward a Strike-First Nuclear Policy An increasingly provocative North Korea and wavering U.S. support leave Seoul scrambling for more forceful defense options. WSJ By DONALD KIRKOct. 25, 2016 Seoul
After years of hesitation, South Korean defense officials and members of President Park Geun-hye’s ruling Saenuri Party are openly discussing the possibility of pre-emptive strikes on North Korean missile and nuclear facilities. Increasingly, political figures are urging both their own government and the U.S. to go beyond the level of study promised by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and enshrine the right to respond to North Korean threats at least with the heaviest conventional weapons in their arsenal as a formal tenet of U.S. and Korean policy.
Nor is “strike first” the only demand gaining common currency among conservative Koreans. While North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, orders missile and nuclear tests, voices are rising within the Saenuri for South Korea to develop its own nuclear deterrent. The U.S. has opposed proliferation ever since physicists at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute were discovered looking into it during the presidency of Ms. Park’s father, Park Chung-hee………
Calls for a South Korean nuclear submarine are rising in tandem with North Korean missile testing. The North has a large submarine fleet—and has spread alarm by testing a ballistic missile fired from one of its subs.
One South Korean assembly member, Won Yoo-chul, derided longtime U.S. guarantees of a “nuclear umbrella” since the withdrawal of U.S. nuclear weapons from the South 25 years ago. “We cannot borrow an umbrella from a neighbor every time it rains,” he warned. “We need to have a raincoat and wear it ourselves.”
U.S. and South Korean officials are talking openly about “decapitation” of the North Korean leadership in a quick strike at Pyongyang. If the word seems hyperbolic to Americans, North and South Koreans alike take it seriously. North Korea has said the term clearly shows why the North has to have a nuclear program “for self-defense” while many South Korean officials see “decapitation” as the ultimate solution—with or without nuclear weapons.
“Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation” was the name the Koreans gave a massive exercise this month in the Yellow Sea in which the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan led a joint U.S.-South Korean strike force. Their mission was more sharply defined than in previous war games. This time, said a Korean defense official, ships and planes focused specifically on imaginary North Korean nuclear and missile facilities, command headquarters—and Kim Jong Un…..http://www.wsj.com/articles/south-koreas-march-toward-a-strike-first-nuclear-policy-1477414963
Unofficial US-N. Korea talks held in Malaysia https://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/32991266/unofficial-us-n-korea-talks-held-in-malaysia/#page1 October 24, 2016 Seoul (AFP) – A group of former US diplomats held closed door talks at the weekend with senior Pyongyang officials, even as international efforts gather pace to further isolate North Korea, diplomatically and economically.
The two-day meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which was confirmed by the South Korean and US governments, was the latest in a series of unofficial talks commonly referred to as Track 2 that are closely monitored in the absence of any official contact between Washington and Pyongyang.
In July, the North cut off its only remaining official channel of diplomatic communications with the United States in retaliation for American sanctions against its leader, Kim Jong-Un.
The so-called “New York channel” had previously served as a key point of contact between North Korean and US diplomats at the United Nations.
American participants at the talks in the Malaysian capital included Robert Gallucci, who had led the US negotiating team that brokered a 1994 deal with Pyongyang on freezing its nuclear weapons programme.
Among those on the North Korean side was vice foreign minister Han Song-Ryol, who previously served as deputy ambassador to the UN.
The meeting came after North Korea on Thursday test-fired a powerful new medium-range missile and Leon Sigal, an academic specialising in the Koreas who attended the talks, said the North’s nuclear weapons programme had dominated the discussion.
Sigal told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency that the North had reiterated the need to sign a peace treaty with the United States before moving on its weapons programme.
The US side stressed that the moves to scrap the nuclear programme had to come first, said Sigal. Under President Barack Obama, the United States has eschewed an official dialogue with the North, but with a looming change in the White House, there is growing speculation as to whether a new administration might adopt a different track.
Critics of the current policy say sanctions and non-engagement have done nothing to prevent the North’s accelerated drive towards a credible nuclear deterrent that could directly threaten the US mainland.
South Korea, which has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the US hardline on Pyongyang, stressed that the talks with North Korea had no governmental involvement.
“We are aware that the US government maintains a firm stance that rushing into dialogue in the absence of North Korea’s will to denuclearise will only justify their wrong behaviour,” a foreign ministry official told AFP.
The UN Security Council is currently discussing a new resolution to punish North Korea over its fifth nuclear test in September — having already imposed tough economic measures after a fourth test in January.
The Track 2 talks have been taking place sporadically for years, with meetings in Singapore, Berlin, Beijing and elsewhere.
North Korean Missile Reportedly Explodes Soon After Liftoff North Korea failed in attempt to launch a midrange Musudan missile, U.S. and South Korea Say Associated Press WSJ, Oct. 16, 2016 WASHINGTON—South Korea and the U.S. said Sunday that the latest missile launch by North Korea ended in failure after the projectile reportedly exploded soon after liftoff.
The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the military believed the North unsuccessfully attempted to fire a midrange Musudan missile. It said the failed launch occurred near an airport in North Pyongan province.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency said that the missile was believed to have exploded soon after liftoff. Yonhap cited no source for this information.
North Korea has claimed technical breakthroughs in its goal of developing a long-range nuclear missile capable of reaching the continental U.S. However, South Korean defense officials have said the North doesn’t yet have such a weapon.
The failed launch was the latest in a series of moves by North Korea apparently aimed at displaying a show of force. As recently as last month, it fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast, timed to get the attention of world leaders including President Barack Obamawho were visiting the region for a series of summits. The U.N. Security Council subsequently condemned those North Korean launches and threatened “further significant measures” if it refused to stop its nuclear and missile tests.
North Korea also conducted its fifth nuclear test last month and in all has launched more than 20 ballistic missiles this year, part of its program aimed at improving the delivery system for nuclear weapons. Earlier this year, North Korea successfully launched a Musudan missile in June after several failed attempts…….. http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-detects-failed-north-korean-missile-launch-1476572239
US Pentagon detects a failed North Korean nuclear test launch, news.com.au 16 Oct 16 THE US military has detected a failed North Korean test launch of an intermediate ballistic missile near the northwestern city of Kusong, the Pentagon says.
“We strongly condemn this and North Korea’s other recent missile tests,” said US Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman.
“We intend to raise our concerns at the UN to bolster international resolve in holding the DPRK accountable for these actions.” Ross said the US commitment to the defence of its allies in the region, including South Korea and Japan, was “iron-clad” in the face of such North Korean actions.
There had been speculation that Jong-un could mark the 10 October anniversary of the founding of its Workers’ party with a sixth detonation. http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/us-pentagon-detects-a-failed-north-korean-nuclear-test-launch/news-story/849a066713be509ffd775b0cc0462aff
US think tank warns North Korea could develop up to 100 nuclear weapons by 2020 http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/us-think-tank-warns-north-korea-could-develop-100-nuclear-weapons-by-2020-1585557 Rand Corporation says Pyongyang is testing nuclear missiles that can threaten targets across the Pacific Ocean. By Ananya Roy October 10, 2016 A US-based think tank has estimated that given the pace of North Korea’s nuclear programme, Pyongyang could have enough fissile material to develop up to 100 nuclear weapons by 2020. The organisation has warned ahead of the US presidential elections that the new administration would face major challenges from the East Asian country, highlighting the need to review its policy on Pyongyang.
In its latest report, Rand Corporation – an American nonprofit global policy think tank – said that Japan and South Korea are “losing faith in the US nuclear umbrella”. The think tank warned that it was upset as Washington failed to constrain North Korea’s nuclear programme, which has led to the two US allies to call for “independent nuclear arsenals”. Rand Corporation noted that the new administration that takes charge in Washington following the 8 November election would have to focus on tackling the growing security threats in the Korean peninsula.
“During the next four to six years, Pyongyang will possess a nuclear force of sufficient size, diversity, reliability, and survivability to invalidate our regional military posture and war plans by holding at risk key bases and amplifying the risk to allies.
“The most recent open-source estimates suggest North Korea may already have enough fissile material to build between 13 and 21 nuclear weapons; by 2020, it could possess enough for 50 to 100. The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea] can already deliver nuclear weapons by aircraft or ship and perhaps by theater ballistic missiles; it is now testing nuclear-capable missiles that could threaten targets across the Pacific Ocean, including the continental United States. “Current estimates suggest a number of these nuclear-tipped missiles—long-range, road-mobile, and submarine-launched—could be operational between 2020 and 2025,” the report warned.
It further stated: “A DPRK nuclear force approaching 100 weapons with multiple delivery means likely poses an unacceptable threat to US and South Korea [or the Republic of Korea, ROK] security, as well as a serious proliferation threat.”
The foreign policy think tank stressed that the incoming US administration will have to face “critical policy questions” involving what measures need to be taken to stop North Korea’s Kim Jong-un from pursuing their nuclear programme; what should the US do if provocation continues and what should be done if South Korea initiates a counterforce attack or begins developing its own nuclear force.
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