SEOUL: North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a US carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific.
US 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. US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days” but gave no other details.
“Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US 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.
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.
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.
US Defence 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 US 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.
US 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”.
On Friday, the news media were so sure North Korea would conduct a nuclear test over the weekend to celebrate the 105th birthday of Kim Il-Sung that they almost started a countdown clock. The test never happened. Some experts said this was because President Trump caused North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to “blink.”
While I believe the above explanations of both events are unlikely, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs still pose serious and growing threats because they represent an unstable regime developing and testing increasingly advanced WMDs based on poor engineering and badly inadequate R&D. This is why a new U.S. approach to the threat from North Korea is long overdue.
I did not believe a nuclear test would occur as part of North Korea’s weekend celebration. I was not convinced by commercial-satellite imagery cited by some experts as evidence of an imminent nuclear test, since there is constant activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site that often leads to predictions of nuclear tests that do not occur. On the other hand, when North Korea actually conducts nuclear tests, these same experts are usually caught off guard.
Predicting North Korean nuclear tests is difficult, because Pyongyang is aware it is being watched by U.S. spy satellites. North Korea probably engages in subterfuge at its test site to make the world think nuclear tests are imminent when they are not, and to conceal preparations for actual tests.
North Korean nuclear tests during major celebrations like the 105th birthday of Kim Il-Sung are unlikely because, as North Korea’s nuclear program becomes more sophisticated, the chances of failed tests increase. North Korean leaders probably wanted to avoid the humiliation of a failed nuclear test on an important holiday when the eyes of the world were fixed on the Hermit Kingdom.
There also is a more likely and simpler explanation for North Korea’s April 15 missile test and its subsequent failure.
North Korean officials probably decided to conduct a missile test as a demonstration of their nation’s military might that had a higher likelihood of success than a nuclear test.
It goes without saying that the world’s leading experts in rocketry and physics are not flocking to North Korea to work on the WMD programs of an evil totalitarian regime with a serious job-security problem — Leader Kim may have you executed if your project encounters failures or setbacks.
North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs prove the old adage “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” The research-and-engineering deficiencies of these weapon programs make them more dangerous and unpredictable, since this unstable rogue nation is rapidly developing increasingly advanced WMD technologies that its scientists may not fully understand and have been poorly designed. This increases the chances of a catastrophic accident, possibly when an ICBM test goes off course and strikes a neighboring country.
Moreover, more powerful North Korean underground nuclear tests could accidentally release large amounts of radioactive gases that could threaten neighboring states. According to former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory Siegfried Hecker, “one of the risks Pyongyang takes in trying to demonstrate a [nuclear] test at a higher level is that they may produce fissures that allow radioactive seepage or possibly cause a major blowout from the tunnel.”
Only North Korea’s leaders know exactly how advanced their nuclear-weapons program is. It does appear, based on seismic data after previous North Korean nuclear tests, that its nuclear devices are increasing in yield. The world must assume the worst: that North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program is making rapid advances in developing more powerful nuclear warheads that will eventually be mounted on missiles, including ICBMs capable of hitting the United States.
Similarly, despite setbacks in its ballistic-missile program, there are signs that Pyongyang is accelerating this effort and making significant progress. While the parade of missiles and missile canisters displayed over the weekend in Pyongyang may have included mockups of missiles that are not operational or empty canisters, the parade included what appeared to be two brand-new ICBMs and solid-fueled intermediate-range missiles that can be launched quickly and are easy to hide. The submarine-launched KN-11 missile also was displayed; it could pose a serious threat to Japan and South Korea.
Despite setbacks in its ballistic-missile program, there are signs that Pyongyang is accelerating this effort and making significant progress.
The short- to medium-term risks from North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs probably will not be ICBMs carrying nuclear warheads fired at the United States. They are more likely to stem from catastrophic failures of missile or nuclear tests.
North Korean long-range missile tests will be especially provocative, since the United States and regional states may try to shoot them down out of concern that these missiles could accidentally strike a neighboring state and because they cannot be sure they are not North Korean attacks. This could spark North Korean retaliation and a dangerous military confrontation.
North Korea has learned over the last 25 years that developing, testing, and threating to attack with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is a successful strategy to extort concessions from the international community in exchange for pretending to halt these programs. I believe the Trump administration understands that the Kim regime’s missile and nuclear programs are becoming too dangerous to allow this pattern of appeasement to continue. Hopefully China also realizes this too, and will begin cooperating with the United States to implement more aggressive steps to pressure Pyongyang to halt these programs and work with Washington on the only real solution to the North Korean problem: regime change.
— Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs with the Center for Security Policy. He worked in national-security positions for 25 years with the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee. Follow him on Twitter @fredfleitz
Last Thursday, NBC News issued an anonymously sourced report claiming that the Trump administration was poised to carry out a preemptive strike against North Korea if Pyongyang conducted another nuclear test, as many expected would happen in the next few days.
Luckily, it seems the report was wrong — defense and intelligence officials aggressively downplayed the possibility of a preemptive strike, calling the report “wildly wrong,” “crazy,” and “extremely dangerous,” according to Fox News’s Jennifer Griffin.
But while the report was wrong, the idea wasn’t out of the realm of possibility — indeed, during his March trip to Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson refused to rule out a preemptive strike against North Korea, telling reporters, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons programs to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.”
This all raises a troubling question: What would happen if the US really decided to do it?
I spoke with Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in US strategy in Asia and the Pacific, to gain a better sense of how it would work. He’s skeptical that the US would ever carry out a preemptive strike except in the most dire circumstances — he believes North Korea would have to be on the cusp of either actually using nuclear weapons in an attack or taking other steps that would pose a very serious threat to South Korean, Japanese, or US forces. But he said that if it ever happened, one thing is clear: It would likely spark a war that would wreak havoc in the region and visit destruction on millions of innocents.
What follows is a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.
What would the US actually target in the case of a preemptive strike?
If you’re in an all-bets-are-off scenario, then you’re going to utilize every capability that you have, you’re going to mobilize every warplane. If North Korea is about to embark on something that is so extreme and so dire that it must be prevented at all costs, you must: 1) do so by whatever means you have [to] prevent that attack from occurring, and 2) deny North Korea any plausible means to retaliate for the attack that would be initiated against them. Those two are very tall orders.
But this is also analyzed to death, and when we look at it, we come to the same conclusion every time: We would “win a war,” but the price our allies [would pay] far exceeds whatever the gains would be. This is why they call [North] Korea “the land of no good options.”
What would the North Korean response be?
If, for sake of argument, the US decides to embark on a preemptive attack — which I do not in any way, shape, or form endorse or anticipate — then we had better get ready for a very big war.
If you go in and think you’re just going to do the equivalent of a “surgical strike” — we’re just going to take out their testing site — and assume that nothing else bad is going to happen, that’s very bad planning.
It would be a very big war. It would have to be, if you want to prevent something really, really bad from happening as a consequence of your initiating a war, given the kinds of capability that North Korea demonstrably has — hundreds of missiles, thousands of artillery pieces, nuclear weapons, special forces, you name it.
What could happen to Japan and South Korea?
The risk would be that Japan would be the only country in the history of civilization to have been attacked yet again with a nuclear weapon. You would see devastation of all kinds directed against South Korea. You could assume, for example — and you don’t even need nuclear weapons to do it — direct attacks on South Korea’s nuclear reactor complex. South Korea has one of the most developed nuclear energy components of any country in the world.
You’re talking about Seoul, a city which, including its environs, is more than 20 million people that is within artillery range of North Korea. You’re quite possibly talking about use of chemical weapons. The North is very serious about war. They plan for war, they train for war, they have huge armed forces. And under circumstances of a direct attack by the US on their territory, I don’t think they would have a lot of incentives for restraint.
Pyongyang can fire nuclear warheads that would reach Japan?
That’s one of the great debates — whether they’ve miniaturized a warhead sufficiently to be able to put it atop a missile and reach targets in Japan and maybe beyond. And a lot of Americans are very seized by the idea that North Korea plans an intercontinental ballistic missile, but the reality is their threat right now, whatever capabilities they do have of this sort, they’re regional; they’re not intercontinental.
That’s worrisome enough to me at least, and to many others. But it’s a very hard thing to prove. North Korea would like us to believe they have these capabilities, but they have never tested a nuclear weapon on a missile. That’s an international norm they have yet to violate.
But an argument in many circles is that that’s not a risk you can take lightly — you have to make assumptions as if they have that kind of capability.
And how would China and Russia feel about a preemptive attack?
China has a 1,400-kilometer shared border with North Korea, and you have ethnic Koreans living in northeastern China. Russia’s border with North Korea is tiny, but they have interests of their own as well. Both Russia and China would see this as a profound failure of the [nuclear] nonproliferation system if the US is prepared, by definition of its own interests, to undertake these kinds of attacks in the face of opposition from just about everybody else, to do it unilaterally.
So I’m pretty sure you think a preemptive strike wouldn’t be a good idea.
I understand that some people see North Korea as such an inherent danger that we can’t rule out them doing something so extreme that we have to therefore act before they act. And I don’t trivialize the North: These are people who are heavily armed, they put enormous resources into these programs, and the consequences for their own people — their livelihood, their well-being — are pretty substantial.
But a lot of it boils down to whether or not you believe that a nuclear weapon would be a usable capability. If I’m just reacting to what the North Koreans say — and I’m not saying I therefore accept it — most of their arguments are that they’re claiming these nuclear weapons are for deterrence — in essence, the same thing we say all the time.
A lot of people wouldn’t believe that; they look at the government’s cruelty toward its own citizens, they look at it assassinating a family member in a foreign airport, they look to when North Korea shot down a South Korean aircraft trying to prevent the Olympics from going to Seoul in 1988. The argument would go [that] there’s no lengths to which these guys won’t go if presented the opportunity.
So first things first, you have to make clear to them, and I think we do make clear to them, that if they cross a range of thresholds, they will have destruction heaped upon them on a scale that is unimaginable. We can only hope that that really keeps them in the box they are in, because the box is one of their own making, frankly.
I readily accept that this does not come cheaply, but I don’t know that we or anyone else has alternatives. Some people would say you could negotiate with them, and that’s tried from time to time, but I’m also familiar enough with what they expect from that process, and it’s not a price that any American president would be prepared to pay.
You say there are no good options. What’s the least worst option for handling North Korea?
The least worst options are what we’re doing. Number one, we are reinforcing our military presence on the peninsula and the surrounding areas to make it abundantly clear that we will respond to anything severe that North Korea undertakes.
Not that I’m a huge believer in missile defense, but we’re augmenting those kind of capabilities like THAAD with the hopes that, in the unlikely event that North Korea would use missiles against the South, you shoot them down before they hit South Korean or Japanese territory.
Number two, give absolute assurance to your Korean and Japanese allies that we’re going to be with them through thick and thin, that we won’t cut side deals that will disadvantage them. They’ve got to know that — if they don’t know that, what you’re going to see is a sentiment over time, in both Korea and Japan, that says, “You know, maybe we really can’t rely on the US; maybe we need some of these weapons of our own.”
The US and China have compelling shared interests — neither China nor the US wants to see in perpetuity a nuclear-armed North Korea. And the other core shared conviction of the US and China is that we don’t want another Korean War on the peninsula; it would be a disaster of unimaginable proportions.
We have to be prepared that this is going to be a longer-term effort to constrict what North Korea does, to make life as difficult as we can for them, to deny them external economic opportunities, to not legitimate in any way the nuclear weapons they possess. All of this is going to be tough and demanding and long term.
North Korea has consistently issued threats of war toward the United States in recent decades, but the Trump administration’s announced end of a “strategic patience” policy with Pyongyang has upped the ante in terms of warnings and bellicose rhetoric. North Korea’s UN deputy representative, Kim In Ryong, on Monday unleashed at a hastily called UN press conference a torrent of threats, war scenarios and rhetoric aimed at the United States.
North Korea tensions
The press event was held hours after US Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Pence warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the United States “or the strength of our military forces.”
In New York, North Korea returned verbal fire. North Korea’s UN ambassador condemned the US naval buildup in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, plus the US missile attacks on Syria.
While reporters at the United Nations have heard similar rhetoric from North Koreans before, Monday’s forceful wording was on a higher level.
The deputy ambassador, reading from a statement, told reporters, “The US is disturbing the global peace and stability and insisting on the gangster-like logic that its invasion of a sovereign state is ‘decisive, and just, and proportionate’ and contributes to ‘defending’ the international order in its bid to apply it to the Korean Peninsula as well.”
Kim said his country is ready to react to any “mode of war” from the United States. Any missile or nuclear strike by the United States would be responded to “in kind,” said the North Korea representative.
The USS Carl Vinson carrier-led Navy strike group was sent to the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s UN representative said the maneuvers show the “US reckless moves for invading the DPRK (North Korea) have reached a serious phase.”
The United Nations is clearly worried. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told journalists, “We’re obviously deeply concerned about the rising tensions that we’ve seen in the Korean Peninsula. We call on all to redouble their diplomatic efforts. “
The North Korean deputy ambassador was asked to respond to President Donald Trump’s comment that North Korea should “behave better.” He declined, instead wrapping up numerous questions about US policy and Pence’s visit to the DMZ into a long series of criticisms of the United States.
He denounced the United States for introducing into the Korean Peninsula — what he called “the world’s biggest hotspot” — its “huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the Peninsula and pushing the situation there to a brink of war.”
North Korea staged a failed missile launch over the weekend. Dujarric said, “I think the latest launch that we saw over the weekend from the DPRK was troubling. We call on the DPRK to take all the steps necessary to deescalate the situation and return to a dialogue on denuclearization.”
North Korea is upset that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation later this month, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presiding.
Pyongyang again said it has sent letters demanding its own hearing at the Security Council for alleged US abuses, but they have been ignored by a council which has seen numerous council resolutions violated by North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
“An Air Force F-16 aircraft released an inert B61 nuclear bomb in a test recently, demonstrating the aircraft’s capability to deliver the weapon and testing the functioning of the weapon’s non-nuclear components, including the arming and fire control system, radar altimeter, spin rocket motors and weapons control computer. The F-16 from the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, released the weapon over the Nellis Test and Training Range Complex in the first test use of the upgraded B61, known as the B61-12, with the F-16 aircraft,” the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center said in a statement.
The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said that the test was the first in a series of similar events necessary to qualify the upgrade for service.
The $11 billion program, aimed at improving the bomb’s safety, security and reliability, will help to extend the life of the aging B61 nuke by two decades. According to the NNSA, the upgraded modification of the weapon designed in 1963 is expected to enter the production stage in 2020.
The latest version of the bomb will replace four previous modifications, known as Mod 3, 4, 7, and 10.
The test of the B61-12 was carried out on March 14, but the announcement was made on April 13, the same day that Washington dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) in Afghanistan. The mission marked the first time the weapon, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs,” was used in combat. The GBU-43/B is the largest non-nuclear weapon in the Pentagon’s arsenal.
North Korea has warned the US not to take provocative action, after holding a military parade that showed off new intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.Officials from the despotic regime have said that the country will “hit back with nuclear attacks” if necessary.There is mounting speculation that current leader Kim Jong-un will soon order a new nuclear test.This comes after a US aircraft carrier group continues to move towards the region.
GETTY North Korea has warned the US not to take provocative action in the region
GETTY Fears growing North Korea could become the trigger for a conflict involving US and China
President Donald Trump has already pledged to remove the threat from the Korean peninsula.China has pleaded for the US and North Korean to back down from the war-footing.On Friday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned that “conflict could break out at any moment”.He said: “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage.”Air China, owned by the Chinese government, decided to end its service between Beijing and Pyongyang, amid fears of an escalation.
Speaking of the recent missile strike against the Sha’irat airbase in the Homs province of Syria ordered by Trump, the official said that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies responded to the move with “understanding”.
It turns out that wielding power – as opposed to criticizing it – can change your outlook.
In a further irritant to Moscow, Trump signed off Tuesday on Montenegro joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation next month, expanding the alliance’s footprint in the Balkans.
Economist Dean Baker of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research says the timing of Trump’s change of views was likely related to an annual report on trade manipulators that is due from the Treasury this weekend.
Although Trump was highly critical of central bank chief Yellen during the campaign, and indicated he would not nominate her to another four-year term as chair, he backed away from that position. This week’s reversals follow his shift on Syria last week, when Trump fired cruise missiles at an airbase after repeatedly saying he opposed US involvement in the country’s civil war.
“They were all sounding much tougher on Russia, much more like the Obama administration, and the outlier was the White House”, said Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. Last year, at the height of tensions between China and the incoming USA president, Shen called on Beijing to close its U.S. embassy if Trump continued to engage with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after taking up office. And Thursday, the president tweeted that he had “great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea”.
There’s foolishness in Trump’s hurtling from position to opposite position, yet there’s cleverness too.
“And we made a determination to do it”, he continued.
Indeed, it is hard to tell what the policy of the administration is in regard to Syria.
“The Syrian strikes last week hasten the interest, but what I am working on with my colleagues is not with respect to action in Syria”, said Sen.
‘You have no idea how many people want to hear the answer to this.
That hope’s been around for a long time, and has done little but provide the North with time and space to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
China has sought to portray last week’s summit – which came after months of tension between Trump’s administration and Beijing – as a resounding triumph, said a Guradian report on the Fox interview.
After hearing the news, the Chinese president was speechless for 10 seconds, Trump said.
Zhou Qi, the director of Tsinghua University’s National Strategy Institute in Beijing, said it was logical for China to do more to curb Kim’s nuclear program if actions were taken within the United Nations framework.
“North Korea is looking for trouble”. If not, we will solve the problem without them!
“They want the government involved in certain financial deals”, Scissors says.
“Now, I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject”, he told a group of governors at the White House in late February. “We’ll see whether or not he does”. “We look forward to meeting together many times in the future”.
SOUTH Korea says North Korea’s latest missile launch threatens the entire world but US President Donald Trump is with ‘the boys’ for a long Easter weekend.
Trump flew down to his golf course at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach on Thursday afternoon, without his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus or other key advisers.
In an Instagram picture the US president is dressed in a white Trump polo shirt with a matching Make America Great Again hat in a group photo.
‘Saturday is still in fact for the boys,’ the caption read.
Pence arrived in Seoul this afternoon for the start of a four-nation Asia-Pacific tour, seeking to reassure allies in the face of a belligerent North Korea.
North Korea launched the ballistic missile less than a day after threatening the US with ‘nuclear justice’.
Both the US Pacific Command and South Korea’s military said on Sunday the North had attempted to fire a ballistic missile and failed.
The failed launch was at 7.21am AEST.
“US Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at
11.21am Hawaii local time April 15,” the statement read.
“The launch of the ballistic missile occurred near Sinpo.
“The missile blew up almost immediately. The type of missile is still being assessed.
“US Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our allies in the Republic of Korea and in Japan to maintain security.
US President Donald Trump and Mike Pence have been briefed on the situation.
“The president and his military team are aware of North Korea’s most recent unsuccessful missile launch, a statement from US Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis read.
“The president has no further comment.”
South Korea’s military also detected the failed launch.
“North Korea attempted to test an unidentified type of missile from Sinpo area in the South Hamkyong Province this morning, but we suspect the launch has failed,” South Korea’s defence ministry said in a statement.
Sinpo is on the east coast of North Korea.
South Korea’s military said they would continue to analyse the test for more details.
The launch attempt came after North Korea held a huge parade displaying nearly 60 missiles, including what is suspected to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile, for the 105th anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung, his grandson Kim Jong-un has threatened “nuclear justice”.
One of Kim’s top spokespeople, Choe Ryong Hae, today vowed North Korea would “beat down enemies with the power of nuclear justice”.
As scores turned out to celebrate what would be Kim’s 105th birthday, Mr Choe told the packed-out square: “If the United States wages reckless provocation against us, our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full out war with full out war and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare.”
North Korea paraded its intercontinental ballistic missiles in a massive military display in central Pyongyang.
The parade, the annual highlight of North Korea’s most important holiday, came amid growing international worries that North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a major missile launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM capable of reaching US shores.
North Korea’s vice foreign minister said that US President Donald Trump’s tweets — he recently tweeted, for example, that the North is “looking for trouble” — have inflamed tensions.
“Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han Song Ryol said.
US officials said that the Trump administration had settled on a policy that will emphasise increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of China, North Korea’s only major ally, instead of military options or trying to overthrow Kim’s regimen.
“I don’t think a strategy that relies on pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons is going to work,” he told Fox News. “Look, we’ve tried for 25 years across Republican and Democratic administrations to persuade the North Koreans to give up their quest for nuclear weapons.
“It’s in their interest to see North and South Korea reunited in a sensible way, that would end the North Korean nuclear weapons program and in my view that’s the only way it’s going to happen,” he said.
A US military official, who requested anonymity to discuss planning, said the United States doesn’t intend to use military force against North Korea in response to either a nuclear test or a missile launch.
Kim, wearing a suit and tie, was greeted Saturday with thunderous — and extensively practised — applause as he stepped into view on a large podium, clapping to acknowledge the thousands of soldiers and civilians taking part in the parade at Kim Il Sung Square.
A series of what appeared to be KN-08 missiles were among the weapons rolled out on trucks. Analysts say the missiles could one day be capable of hitting targets as far as the continental United States, although North Korea has yet to flight test them.
Kim Jong Un, a 30-something leader who took power in late 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, emphasises nuclear weapons as the foundation of his national defence strategy. Under his watch, North Korea has aggressively pursued a goal of putting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM capable of reaching the US mainland.
In his annual New Year’s address, Kim said North Korea’s preparations for an ICBM launch had “reached the final stage.”
Work on the B61-12 has been ongoing for years, and government officials say the latest tests using mock versions of the bomb will be vital to the refurbishing effort.
An F-16 from Nellis Air Force Base dropped an inert version of the weapon over the Nevada desert last month to test its non-nuclear functions as well as the plane’s ability to carry the bomb.
With a mere puff of dust, the mock bomb landed in a dry lake bed at the Tonopah Test Range.
North Korea shows off missiles that may be able to reach U.S.
“It’s great to see things all come together: the weapon design, the test preparation, the aircraft, the range and the people who made it happen,” Anna Schauer, director of Sandia’s Stockpile Resource Center, said in a statement.
Scientists are planning to spend months analyzing the data gathered from the test.
Tracking telescopes, remote cameras and other instruments at the test range recorded information on the reliability, accuracy and performance of the weapon under conditions that were meant to replicate real-world operations.
More test flights are planned over the next three years, and officials with the National Nuclear Security Administration said the first production unit of the B61-12 — developed under what is called the Life Extension Program — is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The weapon is much different than the non-nuclear “mother of all bombs” used in Afghanistan this week to attack an Islamic State stronghold near the Pakistani border. The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, isn’t designed to penetrate like the B61-12 but rather create a large blast over the surface and it has to be ferried by a much larger plane given its size.
In Nevada, it took two passes before the pilot could drop the mock B61-12. A herd of wild horses had to be chased away on the first go-around.
With the run commencing, people gathered on balconies at the range despite knowing they would see only dust rising from the target miles away. A video feed showed the test bomb fall through the air after being released by the F-16.
Officials said it left behind a rather neat hole. Crews were able to dig the mock weapon out of the dirt so it could be packed up and returned to Albuquerque for further study.
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