Korea Prepares For Another “Iranian” Nuclear Test


Visitors walk by a TV screen showing a news program with a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 22, 2017. North Korea's latest missile launch ended in failure Wednesday. The Korean letters read: "Launch a missile."

Visitors walk by a TV screen showing a news program with a file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, March 22, 2017. North Korea’s latest missile launch ended in failure Wednesday. The Korean letters read: “Launch a missile.”

North Korea has maintained readiness to conduct a nuclear test at any time, a South Korean military official said Friday, amid a report of a possible test within days as Pyongyang defies international pressure.

U.S. and South Korean military surveillance assets were closely monitoring the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site on the reclusive state’s east coast, said the official, who declined to be identified.

North ‘ready … any time’

Speaking by telephone, the official also declined to comment on whether there were fresh signs pointing to an imminent test.

“North Korea is ready to carry out a nuclear test at any time, depending on the leadership’s decision. We are keeping a close eye on its nuclear activities,” the official said.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and a series of missile launches, in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and is believed by experts and government officials to be working to develop nuclear-warhead missiles that could reach the United States.

Fox News in the United States reported Thursday that the North was in the final stages of preparing for another nuclear test, possibly within the next few days. The network cited U.S. officials with knowledge of recent intelligence.

It quoted one of the officials as saying the test could come as early as the end of the month.

Satellites show activity

The Washington-based think tank 38 North said in February satellite imagery showed the North’s nuclear site continued low-level activity in a possible sign that it could conduct another test soon. However, it said it was unclear exactly when such a test might take place.

The South Korean military has said several times since the September test that Pyongyang was ready to conduct another nuclear blast at any time, and that a tunnel was available at the site to do so.

North Korea said last year it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile and has been ratcheting up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations appear powerless to contain.

A North Korean missile appeared to have exploded just after it was launched Wednesday, the latest in a series of weapons tests that have alarmed the region.

Iran Is Already A Nuclear Horn (Daniel 8:8)

Does Iran Already Have Nuclear Weapons?

What happens to the Iran nuclear deal if Iran already has a nuclear weapon?

Both Iran and North Korea were part of the A.Q. Kahn proliferation network, and bilateral trade in oil and weapons has continued despite UN resolutions designed to stop it. Ballistic missile cooperation is documented, and nuclear cooperation has been an unspoken theme in Washington. Pyongyang helped Damascus, Iran’s ally, build a secret reactor. There are reports that North Korean experts visited Iran in May to help Iran with its missile program. Pressed by reporters on the subject of North Korea-Iran nuclear cooperation a few weeks ago, even the State Department acknowledged that it takes reports of such cooperation seriously.

In 2006, again in 2009, and more recently in 2013, North Korea carried out what appear to have been nuclear tests. The tests were all small, well below the blast that was achieved by the first Hiroshima atomic bomb and the subsequent Nagasaki explosion.

When America dropped a uranium-fueled simple bomb on Hiroshima (August 1945) it achieved a blast rated at about 15 kilotons (KT). The plutonium bomb with a sophisticated triggering system, used at Nagasaki three days later, had a yield of about 20 KT. The most recent North Korean nuclear explosion, by contrast, was approximately 6 KT, much smaller and it was detonated underground. Such a bomb is not trivial: its fireball would cover about four Manhattan blocks. It is, by itself, not sufficient to destroy the city of New York, but it would do a lot of damage.

Experts think the North Koreans have been developing small nuclear warheads, which they believe explains why the blasts were so small. DIA expressed “moderate confidence” that North Korea had mastered a nuclear weapon small enough to mount on a ballistic missile, and other senior American officials agree. But in May, an NSC representative said, ““We do not think that they have that capacity.” Both sides caveat their views with the fact that there is no direct, observable evidence — only extrapolations from events in a closed country.

If North Korea can make a small nuclear weapon, why would it?

The main threat for North Korea lies to its south. If Pyongyang wanted to use its ballistic missiles to attack South Korea with atomic warheads, U.S. spy satellites would surely pick up the preparation and preemptive action could be taken to make sure they were never launched. Thus the better nuclear option for North Korea is to do it in a more stealthy way: perhaps by using a mini submarine or a fishing boat in a key South Korean harbor. In that case, the bigger the bomb the better.

Of course, the North Korean ambition does not stop at South Korea and perhaps it wants a nuclear capability to threaten the United States and Japan, two archenemies.

On the other hand, North Korea desperately needs cash to prop up a regime that has been teetering for a long time.  A good part of that cash comes from abroad, and outside of illicit activities the big money seems to be from Iran.

Given relations between the two and North Korean capabilities, it is quite possible that the North Korean tests have either been of Iranian-made warheads or of warheads made for Iran by North Korea. Which may mean Iran is shipping uranium (and possibly plutonium) to North Korea and the North Koreans are developing the warheads and testing them.

If Iran already has nuclear weapons, the agreement with the United States, Europe, and Russia is a canard, enabling Iran to bring in a lot of cash and technology while continuing to expand its nuclear program outside its borders. Ending the UN arms embargo against Iran would also allow it to ship items (warheads?) into the country without international inspection.

There is nothing new about Iran operating outside its borders. On September 5, 2007, Israeli aircraft and commandos attacked and destroyed Deir al-Zor in Syria and the nearby complex of Kibar. The complex was confirmed by the IAEA as a nuclear weapons development site, operated by Iran with the participation of North Korea.

It was not the only nuclear site in Syria. Marj as-Sultan, a facility near Damascus, is believed to be a uranium enrichment facility. With fighting taking place around this town, the German magazine Der Spiegel reports that the uranium and other material and equipment have been moved “to a well-hidden underground location just west of the city of Qusayr, not even two kilometers from the border with Lebanon.” And Der Spiegel believes that yet another nuclear facility was built this year at a secret location. According to Der Spiegel, Assad’s goal is nuclear capability, but how would this help him deal with the civil war raging in Syria? A more likely explanation is that this is an Iranian operation supported by North Korea.

Countries developing nuclear weapons often follow multiple tracks and build significant redundancy into their program so that a single point of failure won’t block progress in development. The U.S. pursued both uranium and plutonium weapons and created multiple facilities and different processes to get to its goal. Ditto for Russia, Britain, France, Iraq, India, and Pakistan. Iran is pursuing multiple paths to weaponization, but it is doing it with a twist. Because it needs a deal for sanctions relief, Iran is pursuing both domestic and extraterritorial nuclear weapons development. There is no doubt about its close ties to North Korea, and Syria provides concrete evidence of the convergence of the main players.

The nuclear deal with Iran does not consider these external relationships, or even officially recognize that they exist. Nor does it take into account that the explosions in North Korea could have been Iranian bombs. Although American intelligence is not completely confident on the matter, it is clear that the administration has heard voices of concern from within its own establishment.

This is another example of the ardor with which the Obama administration has pursued the Iran nuclear deal without regard for Iranian behavior before and during the negotiation.

What happens to the Iran nuclear deal if Iran already has a nuclear weapon?

Both Iran and North Korea were part of the A.Q. Kahn proliferation network, and bilateral trade in oil and weapons has continued despite UN resolutions designed to stop it. Ballistic missile cooperation is documented, and nuclear cooperation has been an unspoken theme in Washington. Pyongyang helped Damascus, Iran’s ally, build a secret reactor. There are reports that North Korean experts visited Iran in May to help Iran with its missile program. Pressed by reporters on the subject of North Korea-Iran nuclear cooperation a few weeks ago, even the State Department acknowledged that it takes reports of such cooperation seriously.

In 2006, again in 2009, and more recently in 2013, North Korea carried out what appear to have been nuclear tests. The tests were all small, well below the blast that was achieved by the first Hiroshima atomic bomb and the subsequent Nagasaki explosion.

When America dropped a uranium-fueled simple bomb on Hiroshima (August 1945) it achieved a blast rated at about 15 kilotons (KT). The plutonium bomb with a sophisticated triggering system, used at Nagasaki three days later, had a yield of about 20 KT. The most recent North Korean nuclear explosion, by contrast, was approximately 6 KT, much smaller and it was detonated underground. Such a bomb is not trivial: its fireball would cover about four Manhattan blocks. It is, by itself, not sufficient to destroy the city of New York, but it would do a lot of damage.

Experts think the North Koreans have been developing small nuclear warheads, which they believe explains why the blasts were so small. DIA expressed “moderate confidence” that North Korea had mastered a nuclear weapon small enough to mount on a ballistic missile, and other senior American officials agree. But in May, an NSC representative said, ““We do not think that they have that capacity.” Both sides caveat their views with the fact that there is no direct, observable evidence — only extrapolations from events in a closed country.

If North Korea can make a small nuclear weapon, why would it?

The main threat for North Korea lies to its south. If Pyongyang wanted to use its ballistic missiles to attack South Korea with atomic warheads, U.S. spy satellites would surely pick up the preparation and preemptive action could be taken to make sure they were never launched. Thus the better nuclear option for North Korea is to do it in a more stealthy way: perhaps by using a mini submarine or a fishing boat in a key South Korean harbor. In that case, the bigger the bomb the better.

Of course, the North Korean ambition does not stop at South Korea and perhaps it wants a nuclear capability to threaten the United States and Japan, two archenemies.

On the other hand, North Korea desperately needs cash to prop up a regime that has been teetering for a long time.  A good part of that cash comes from abroad, and outside of illicit activities the big money seems to be from Iran.

Given relations between the two and North Korean capabilities, it is quite possible that the North Korean tests have either been of Iranian-made warheads or of warheads made for Iran by North Korea. Which may mean Iran is shipping uranium (and possibly plutonium) to North Korea and the North Koreans are developing the warheads and testing them.

If Iran already has nuclear weapons, the agreement with the United States, Europe, and Russia is a canard, enabling Iran to bring in a lot of cash and technology while continuing to expand its nuclear program outside its borders. Ending the UN arms embargo against Iran would also allow it to ship items (warheads?) into the country without international inspection.

There is nothing new about Iran operating outside its borders. On September 5, 2007, Israeli aircraft and commandos attacked and destroyed Deir al-Zor in Syria and the nearby complex of Kibar. The complex was confirmed by the IAEA as a nuclear weapons development site, operated by Iran with the participation of North Korea.

It was not the only nuclear site in Syria. Marj as-Sultan, a facility near Damascus, is believed to be a uranium enrichment facility. With fighting taking place around this town, the German magazine Der Spiegel reports that the uranium and other material and equipment have been moved “to a well-hidden underground location just west of the city of Qusayr, not even two kilometers from the border with Lebanon.” And Der Spiegel believes that yet another nuclear facility was built this year at a secret location. According to Der Spiegel, Assad’s goal is nuclear capability, but how would this help him deal with the civil war raging in Syria? A more likely explanation is that this is an Iranian operation supported by North Korea.

Countries developing nuclear weapons often follow multiple tracks and build significant redundancy into their program so that a single point of failure won’t block progress in development. The U.S. pursued both uranium and plutonium weapons and created multiple facilities and different processes to get to its goal. Ditto for Russia, Britain, France, Iraq, India, and Pakistan. Iran is pursuing multiple paths to weaponization, but it is doing it with a twist. Because it needs a deal for sanctions relief, Iran is pursuing both domestic and extraterritorial nuclear weapons development. There is no doubt about its close ties to North Korea, and Syria provides concrete evidence of the convergence of the main players.

The nuclear deal with Iran does not consider these external relationships, or even officially recognize that they exist. Nor does it take into account that the explosions in North Korea could have been Iranian bombs. Although American intelligence is not completely confident on the matter, it is clear that the administration has heard voices of concern from within its own establishment.

This is another example of the ardor with which the Obama administration has pursued the Iran nuclear deal without regard for Iranian behavior before and during the negotiation.

Korea Increases Its Nuclear Arsenal (Daniel 8)

North Korea has expanded its enriched uranium facility, U.N. nuclear inspector says

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un looks at a rocket warhead tip in this undated handout photo.
WASHINGTON — North Korea has doubled the size of its facility for enriching uranium in recent years, according to the United Nations’ top nuclear inspector, who voiced doubt that a diplomatic agreement can end leader Kim Jong Un’s weapons programs.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Monday, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, described North Korea as rapidly advancing its capacity to produce nuclear weapons on two fronts: the production of plutonium at its Yongbyon nuclear facility and the enrichment of uranium.

Amano played a leading role in negotiating the landmark nuclear agreement reached between world powers and Iran in 2015 to scale back Tehran’s nuclear program.

The Japanese diplomat, who was tapped this month to serve a third term as the IAEA’s chief, played down the chances for a similar diplomatic approach with Kim and his military government. “This is a highly political issue. A political agreement is essential,” Amano said, but added. “We can’t be optimistic. The situation is very bad. We don’t have the reason to be optimistic.”

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

 

North Korea Ready to War

N. Korea says it’s not afraid of US threat of military strike

North Korea said Monday it is not frightened by U.S. threats of possible pre-emptive military action to halt its nuclear and missile buildup.

A spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry slammed U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent talk of tougher sanctions, more pressure, and possible military action, and said the North would not be deterred in its nuclear program.

“The nuclear force of (North Korea) is the treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence to defend the socialist motherland and the life of its people,” the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

Tillerson recently visited Japan, South Korea and China on trip that focused on North Korea’s nuclear program. On Friday, he signaled a tougher strategy that left open the possibility of pre-emptive military action.

“Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended,” he said after visiting the heavily militarized border between the rival Koreas. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table.”

A day earlier, in Japan, Tillerson had described the past 20 years of U.S. policy toward North Korea as a failure and vowed a comprehensive policy review under U.S. President Donald Trump.

KCNA quoted the unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying the U.S. should accept that North Korea is a nuclear-capable nation that “has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the U.S. would like to ignite.”

“If the businessmen-turned U.S. authorities thought that they would frighten (North Korea), they would soon know that their method would not work,” he said.

On Saturday, North Korea conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine that leader Kim Jong Un called a revolutionary breakthrough for the country’s space program, KCNA reported earlier.

North Korea has accelerated its weapons development, violating multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions without being deterred by sanctions. It conducted two nuclear test explosions and 24 ballistic missile tests last year. Experts say it could have a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland within a few years.

Korea Continues To Push Nuclear Threshold

By Stephanie Nebehay | GENEVA

North Korea has nothing to fear from any U.S. move to broaden sanctions aimed at cutting it off from the global financial system and will pursue “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs, a North Korean envoy told Reuters on Tuesday.

This includes developing a “pre-emptive first strike capability” and an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), said Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.

Reuters, quoting a senior U.S. official in Washington, reported on Monday that the Trump administration is considering sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat. (For Monday’s story, click reut.rs/2n9HZ5a)

“I think this is stemming from the visit by the Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) to Japan, South Korea and China…We of course are not afraid of any act like that,” Choe told Reuters.

“Even prohibition of the international transactions system, the global financial system, this kind of thing is part of their system that will not frighten us or make any difference.”

He called existing sanctions “heinous and inhumane”.

North Korea has been under sanctions for “half a century” but the communist state survives by placing an emphasis on juche or “self-sufficiency”, he said. His country wants a forum set up to examine the “legality and legitimacy of the sanctions regime”.

He denounced joint annual military exercises currently being carried out by the United States and South Korea on the divided peninsula and criticized remarks by Tillerson during his talks with regional allies last week.

“All he was talking about is for the United States to take military actions on DPRK,” Choe said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea rejects claims by Washington and Seoul that the military drills are defensive. They involve strategic nuclear bombers and a nuclear submarine, Columbus, that recently entered South Korean ports, he said.”In the light of such huge military forces involved in the joint military exercises, we have no other choice but to continue with our full acceleration of the nuclear programs and missile programs. It is because of these hostile activities on the part of the United States and South Korea.”

PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE CAPABILITY

“We strengthen our national defense capability as well as pre-emptive strike capabilities with nuclear forces as a centerpiece,” Choe said.

Asked to comment on Choe’s remarks, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Anna Richey-Allen, called on North Korea “to refrain from provocative actions and inflammatory rhetoric…and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments and return to serious talks.”

Choe declined to give technical details of North Korea’s latest rocket engine test on Sunday – seen as a possible prelude to a partial ICBM flight – calling it a great historical event that would lead to “fruitful outcomes”.

“I can tell you for sure that the inter-continental ballistic rockets of the DPRK will be launched at any time and at any place as decided by our Supreme Leadership,” Choe said, recalling leader Kim Jong Un’s pledge in a New Year’s address.

Analysts say North Korea has likely mastered the technology to power the different stages of an ICBM and may show it off soon, but is likely still a long way from being able to hit the mainland United States.

“The United States has been talking about launching pre-emptive strikes at North Korea,” Choe said. “And we have been prepared to deter, to counter-attack such attacks on the part of the United States.

“We would utilize every possible means in our hands and the inter-continental ballistic rocket is one of them.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; editing by Ralph Boulton and Jonathan Oatis)

US Solution To Korea Will Be Economic

Bombing North Korea is not an option. The best ways of dealing with Pyongyang are economic and diplomatic, not military The two sides are like accelerating trains coming towards each other with neither side willing to give way.” That was how Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, described the tension between the US and North Korea. The fact that the drivers of the two trains are Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump will not reassure those of a nervous disposition. 

Last weekend, the American train gave a toot on its whistle, as Rex Tillerson announced that the era of American “strategic patience” with North Korea is over. The US secretary of state made a point of emphasising that America is considering all options, including military strikes. Mr Tillerson’s statement reflected a bipartisan consensus in the US that North Korea’s nuclear ambitions must be stopped. 

The Kim Jong Un regime is widely believed to be closing in on developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could threaten the west coast of the US. It is conventional wisdom in Washington that no president could tolerate such a situation. 

The implication of Mr Tillerson’s statement is that, if the US cannot stop North Korea through diplomatic or economic pressure, it will have to take military action. But the idea of bombing the North Korean nuclear programme is dangerous folly. For the past 20 years, the US has repeatedly considered the idea and repeatedly dismissed it — for good reason. 

The North Korean nuclear and missile programmes are widely dispersed, including underground and underwater. It is unlikely that the whole programme could be destroyed in a single wave of strikes, which would immediately raise the prospect of nuclear retaliation by the North. Even if the US was miraculously able to take out the whole nuclear programme in one swoop, the North Koreans still have formidable conventional artillery. They could launch devastating barrages aimed at Seoul, the South Korean capital, a city of 10m people 35 miles from the North Korean border. Japan would also be vulnerable to missile strikes, as would US bases in the region. For that reason, the US would be unlikely to have the support of its key Asian allies if it staged a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. Tokyo and Seoul know that a war on the Korean peninsula could cost more than 1m lives. It could also draw in China, which is both a neighbour and a formal treaty ally of North Korea. 

It is worth remembering that the last time American and Chinese troops fought each other was on the Korean peninsula in the 1950s. So the idea that America “cannot tolerate” a North Korean nuclear ICBM needs to be challenged. Ever since the 1960s, the US has lived with the knowledge that Russia has nuclear missiles that could annihilate much of the country. Today, America and its allies have to live with the knowledge that Pakistan, a country that is the base for some of the most dangerous Islamist movements in the world, is churning out nuclear weapons. 

Some argue that the North Korean case is different because Kim Jong Un is “mad”. But claims that a foreign leader is crazy are a sure sign of lazy thinking — of the kind that led the west to disaster in Iraq and Libya. Mr Kim is evil, ruthless and isolated. But there is a consistent thread that runs through his actions, and that is an absolute determination to ensure the survival of his regime. It is this that explains the murder of any possible rivals, the relentless drive to secure a nuclear deterrent and the willingness to impose economic privation on his people. Given that survival is the North Korean leader’s absolute priority, there must be considerable doubt that even intensified economic sanctions can persuade him to abandon his nuclear programme. In fact, the threat of regime collapse might make North Korea even more dangerous. None of that suggests that the US should fatalistically accept that North Korea will acquire a nuclear capability that can threaten California. But the best ways of dealing with that threat are diplomatic and economic, not military. 

The Trump administration thinks that China holds the key to North Korea. It is certainly true that the regime in Pyongyang is economically dependent on its neighbour to the north. The Chinese have also shown some recent willingness to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea by stopping imports of coal. It might make sense to apply economic pressure on North Korea in the short term. But the better route, in the long run, would be to search for a deal that freezes the country’s nuclear programme, in return for economic assistance and a guarantee that the US will not seek to overthrow the regime. This is what John Delury, a leading academic specialist on North Korea, has termed a “grand bargain”. 

Any diplomatic feelers to the North Korean regime would have to be made in secret, initially, and might involve enlisting Chinese support. Efforts at striking a “grand bargain” with the Kim regime might still fail. But if diplomacy fails, the right alternative is not to launch a war. America would just have to live with the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons, as it has lived with similar threats in the past. Otherwise, we may indeed be heading for a deadly train crash.

Korea Prepared To Fire Nukes At US

Trump says Kim Jong-un ‘acting very, very badly’ as North Korea ready to fire NUKES at US

Donald Trump said North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un was ‘acting very, very badly’ Mr Trump hit out at the hermit nation’s leader as he departed his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida where he spent the weekend.

He revealed North Korea’s actions this weekend, which has seen it claiming to test a new nuclear-enabled rocket, have been the focus of meetings at the “southern White House” over the past few days, among other issues.

Earlier today the North’s foreign ministry released a statement saying its army will “reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes” with its “invincible” rockets tipped with nuclear warheads to defend its “people’s happiness”.

Statements from dictator Kim Jong-un’s government often do not name countries specifically, but in a bid to show he is serious, the foreign ministry said the US and the South Korean “puppet forces” will be hit before they can “fire even a single bullet” at North Korea.

In a statement, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said: “The Korean People’s Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads and reliably defend the security of the country and its people’s happiness in case the US and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK.”

Fears Kim Jong-un is ready to launch a nuclear weapon are increasing as statements from the country have become more direct and aggressive following an announcement on Friday by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the period of diplomatic patience with the dictatorship is officially over.

In a total switch from previous policy, Mr Tillerson said: “Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table.

“If they elevate the threat of their weapons programme to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table.”

Tillerson demands for North Korea to ‘abandon’ nuclear projects

Kim Jong-un wasted no time in retaliating, and last night said he had tested a new rocket launch station which is the “new birth” of North Korea’s missile industry.

Satellite images this afternoon revealed “substantial” tunnel excavation at the country’s nuclear test site, suggesting a bigger blast is being prepared.

North Korea’s watchdog, 38 North, said the deeper the tunnel goes beneath Mount Mantap, the bigger the blast which can be contained there during testing.

The newly developed high-thrust engine will help the country achieve world-class satellite launch capability, according to the country’s official media service KCNA.

North Korea has claimed to be testing more and more nuclear warheads

The barbaric leader has claimed the country is close to testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, and news of the rocket engine test indicates North Korea could be close to developing effective long-range missiles.

KCNA reported: “He [Kim] noted that the success made in the current test marked a great event of historic significance as it declared a new birth of the Juche-based rocket industry.”

Korea Launches Breakthrough ICBM

North Korea says it has conducted a ground test of a high-thrust rocket engine that leader Kim Jong Un is calling a revolutionary breakthrough for the country’s space program

North Korea tests newly developed high-thrust rocket engine

Eric Talmadge

TOKYO (AP) — North Korea has conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine that leader Kim Jong Un is calling a revolutionary breakthrough for the country’s space program, the North’s state media said Sunday.

Kim attended Saturday’s test at the Sohae launch site, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which said the test was intended to confirm the “new type” of engine’s thrust power and gauge the reliability of its control system and structural safety.

Kim called the test “a great event of historic significance” for the country’s indigenous rocket industry, the KCNA report said.

He also said the “whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries” and claimed the test marks what will be known as the “March 18 revolution” in the development of the country’s rocket industry.

The report indicated that the engine is to be used for North Korea’s space and satellite-launching program.

North Korea is banned by the United Nations from conducting long-range missile tests, but it claims its satellite program is for peaceful use, a claim many in the U.S. and elsewhere believe is questionable.

North Korean officials have said that under a five-year plan, they intend to launch more Earth observation satellites and what would be the country’s first geostationary communications satellite — which would be a major technological advance.

Getting that kind of satellite into place would likely require a more powerful engine than its previous ones. The North also claims it is trying to build a viable space program that would include a moon launch within the next 10 years.

The test was conducted as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in China on a swing through Asia that has been closely focused on concerns over how to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

It’s hard to know whether this test was deliberately timed to coincide with Tillerson’s visit, but Pyongyang has been highly critical of ongoing U.S.-South Korea wargames just south of the Demilitarized Zone and often conducts some sort of high-profile operation of its own in protest.

Earlier this month, it fired off four ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, reportedly reaching within 200 kilometers (120 miles) of Japan’s shoreline.

Japan, which was Tillerson’s first stop before traveling to South Korea and China, hosts tens of thousands of U.S. troops.

While building ever better long-range missiles and smaller nuclear warheads to pair with them, North Korea has marked a number of successes in its space program.

It launched its latest satellite — the Kwangmyongsong 4, or Brilliant Star 4 — into orbit on Feb. 7 last year, just one month after conducting what it claims was its first hydrogen-bomb test.

It put its first satellite in orbit in 2012, a feat few other countries have achieved. In 2013, rival South Korea launched a satellite into space from its own soil for the first time, though it needed Russian help to build the rocket’s first stage.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Iran May Break Nuclear Deal

Iran suggests it is unwilling to honour nuclear deal

Image of meeting discussing Iran's nuclear programme on 30th March 2015 [United States Department of State/Wikipedia]

Foreign Ministers and other officials of P5 +1 meet with Iranian delegates to Iran’s nuclear programme on 30th March 2015 [US Department of State/Wikipedia]

The challenge raises the prospect of a confrontation with the new US administration of President Donald Trump because diplomats say Iran is only months away from reaching that cap.

The 2015 deal restricts Iran’s atomic activities in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against Tehran. One restriction is on its stock of heavy water, a moderator used in a type of reactor that can produce plutonium, like an unfinished one at Arak that had its core removed under the accord.

Iran has already exceeded the 130-tonne limit on its heavy water stock twice, including under the Obama administration. The latest standoff with Washington over the issue was only defused in December when Iran shipped the excess amount to Oman, who has good relations with Iran, where the heavy water is being stored until a buyer can be found.

In a letter to the UN nuclear watchdog circulated to member states on Thursday and posted on the agency’s website, however, Iran argued that the deal does not require it to ship excess heavy water out of the country.

“Nothing in the [agreement] requires Iran to ship out the excess heavy water which is made available to the international market but has not yet found an actual buyer to which the heavy water needs to be delivered,” Iran said.

The deal says all excess heavy water “will be made available for export to the international market based on international prices and delivered to the international buyer”.

Trump is a vocal critic of the deal who has said he wants to “police that contract so tough they [the Iranians] don’t have a chance”. His administration has stuck to the previous US position thus far.

“Any excess heavy water in excess of the firm cap of 130 metric tons cannot remain in Iran,” the United States said in a statement to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting last week.

Western officials say they are concerned that Tehran continues to produce heavy water far more quickly than it is consuming or selling it. It had 124.2 tonnes of heavy water on its territory a month ago.

The IAEA, which is policing the deal, told member states at a meeting on 28 February that if Iran kept producing heavy water at the current rate, it would reach the 130-tonne limit by May, several diplomats who attended the meeting said.

A possible maintenance shutdown at its production plant might delay the timing slightly, some added. One diplomat said June was a more likely time for Iran to hit the cap.

Pakistan and India Approach Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

maxresdefaultIndia-Pakistan tensions and the threat of nuclear war

Shalini Chawla

For more than five decades, the strategic situation in the South Asian region continues to be dominated by the strained India-Pakistan relationship. While the intensity of the tensions between the two neighbours has varied, the current decade has witnessed escalation in tension levels, increasing mistrust and inability to communicate between the two nations.

Recently, General Joseph L Votel, Commander US Central Command, in his statement before the Senate Armed Services Committee, raised concerns about the tensions between the two countries.

He said: “India remains concerned about the lack of action against India-focused militants based in Pakistan and even responded militarily to terrorist attacks in India-held territory earlier this year. We assess that these types of attacks and the potential reactions, increase the likelihood for miscalculation by both countries.”

Commenting on India’s stance on Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation, General Joseph said: “India’s public policy to ‘diplomatically isolate’ Pakistan hinders any prospects for improved relations. This is especially troubling as a significant conventional conflict between Pakistan and India could escalate into a nuclear exchange, given that both are nuclear powers.”

General Joseph’s statement caught ample media attention which was not unexpected. No doubt, the situation in the region is risky with two nuclear states sharing a hostile relationship. The question here is: Is New Delhi expected to absorb continued terror attacks without any response?

 

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi.