Posts Tagged ‘ICBM’

Donald Trump says Russia helping North Korea skirt sanctions; Pyongyang close to long-range missile

January 18, 2018

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (Jan 17) that Russia is helping North Korea get supplies in violation of international sanctions and that Pyongyang is getting “closer every day” to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States.

“Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea,” Trump said during an Oval Office interview with Reuters.

“What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”

China and Russia both signed onto the latest rounds of United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea imposed last year. There was no immediate comment from the Russian embassy in Washington on Trump’s remarks.

With North Korea persisting as the major global challenge facing Trump this year, the president cast doubt during the 53-minute interview on whether talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would be useful. In the past he has not ruled out direct talks with Kim.

“I’d sit down, but I’m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem,” he said, noting that past negotiations with the North Koreans by his predecessors had failed to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

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“They’ve talked for 25 years and they’ve taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents,” he said.

He declined to comment when asked whether he had engaged in any communications at all with Kim, with whom he has exchanged public insults and threats, heightening tensions in the region.

Trump said he hoped the standoff with Pyongyang could be resolved “in a peaceful way, but it’s very possible that it can’t”.

Trump praised China for its efforts to restrict oil and coal supplies to North Korea but said Beijing could do much more to help constrain Pyongyang.

The White House last week welcomed news that imports to China from North Korea, which counts on Beijing as its main economic partner, plunged in December to their lowest in dollar terms since at least the start of 2014.

‘THEY GET CLOSER EVERY DAY’

But Trump said Russia appears to be filling in the gaps left by the Chinese.

Western European security sources told Reuters in late December that Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea in violation of international sanctions. Russia has denied breaching North Korea sanctions.

North Korea relies on imported fuel to keep its struggling economy functioning. It also requires oil for its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear programme.

Trump has repeatedly blamed a US investigation into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election for hindering an improvement in US-Russian relations.

“He can do a lot,” Trump said of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “But unfortunately we don’t have much of a relationship with Russia, and in some cases it’s probable that what China takes back, Russia gives. So the net result is not as good as it could be.”

Trump, who has grappled with nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches by North Korea since he took office a year ago, said Pyongyang is steadily advancing in its ability to deliver a missile to the United States.

“They’re not there yet, but they’re close. And they get closer every day,” said Trump.

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North Korea said after its last intercontinental ballistic missile launch in November that the test had put the US mainland within range. Some experts agreed that based on the missile’s trajectory and distance it had the capability to fly as far as Washington, DC.

They said, however, that North Korea had not yet offered any proof that it had mastered all technical hurdles, including development of a re-entry vehicle needed to deliver a heavy nuclear warhead reliably atop an ICBM, but it was likely that it soon would. Pyongyang could reach that milestone by the end of the year, some intelligence officials said.

Trump said he welcomed talks between North and South Korea over the Winter Olympics to be held in the South next month and said this could be an initial phase in helping defuse the crisis.

He would not say whether the US has been considering a limited, pre-emptive attack to show the North that the United States means business.

“We’re playing a very, very hard game of poker and you don’t want to reveal your hand,” he said.

US officials had spoken of Trump’s willingness to weigh a pre-emptive strike despite the risk of touching off a war. But in recent days Trump has appeared to signal more of an openness toward diplomacy.

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India tests-fires Agni-V, a nuclear-capable ICBM

January 18, 2018

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New Delhi (CNN) — India has successfully test-fired its Agni-V long-range intercontinental ballistic missile, the Indian Defense Ministry said in a tweet Thursday.

The nuclear-capable Agni-V is believed to be India’s most advanced ICBM missile. It was fired Thursday morning India time on Abdul Kalam island off the coast of the eastern state of Odisha.
The ministry called the test a “major boost” to the country’s defense capabilities.
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India is believed to have about 120 to 130 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
“This is not a new capability, so this was simply a developmental test before India inducts it into operational range,” Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT who studies nuclear proliferation, told CNN.
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Narang said it’s possible India’s armed forces were testing the canister from which the missile is fired from as well as its ejection, flight performance and accuracy — a “regular technical test in that regard.”
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“They’ve been gradually stepping up the complexity of the testing process,” said Ajai Shukla, a prominent New Delhi-based defense analyst and former Indian army colonel.
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The missile has been tested five times since 2012, with the most recent test prior to Thursday coming in December 2016. That launch drew the ire of India’s two most important geostrategic adversaries: Pakistan and China.
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The Agni-V’s range distance means all of China is now in striking distance, according to Shukla.
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“It’s range has been long known, and India needs it to be able to retaliate against China’s eastern seaboard’s high value targets,” Narang said.
While Thursday’s test may have been incremental from a technological perspective, it could have serious geopolitical ramifications. Relations between Beijing and New Delhi deteriorated significantly in 2017 following a protracted border dispute in the Himalayan region of Doklam.
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Narang called the timing of the launch very interesting, though he told CNN it’s possible the launch was scheduled far in advance of Thursday’s test date.
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Referring to Doklam, Narang said it was “hard to not wonder whether this test and its timing were meant as a signal to China on that end.”
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The launch, which comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting the subcontinent, also coincided with one of India’s flagship geopolitical conferences, the Raisina Dialogue 2018, with confirmation of the test occurring during a panel titled: “Nuclear Unpredictability: Managing the Global Nuclear Framework.”
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India, along with Pakistan and North Korea, are among the 13 countries that have not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. The United States, Russia, China and North Korea all reportedly test-fired ballistic missiles in 2017. Pyongyang is barred from doing so under UN sanctions.
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After Trump Hammers China for Oil Sales To North Korea — China Denies any Illicit Oil Products Selling — “Don’t believe those U.S. pictures…”

December 29, 2017

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BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China on Friday denied reports it has been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.

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Trump said on Twitter the previous day that China had been “caught” allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent “a friendly solution” to the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program.

“I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” Trump said in a separate interview with The New York Times.

South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that U.S. spy satellites had detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October.

U.S. officials have not confirmed details of this report.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she had noted recent media reports including suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying

“The Chinese side has conducted immediate investigation. In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port,” Hua said.

She said she was not aware if the vessel had docked at the port in other countries but the relevant media reports “did not accord with facts”.

“China has always implemented U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its international obligations. We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions,” Hua said.

“If, through investigation, it’s confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”

In the New York Times interview, Trump explicitly tied his administration’s trade policy with China to its perceived cooperation in resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis.

“When I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made — last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the interview.

“If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I‘m not happy about that.”

An official of the U.S. State Department said the U.S. government was aware of vessels engaged in such activity involving refined petroleum and coal.

“We have evidence that some of the vessels engaged in these activities are owned by companies in several countries, including China,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States says the full cooperation of China, North Korea’s neighbor and main trading partner, is vital to the success of efforts to rein in North Korea, while warning that all options are on the table, including military ones, in dealing with it.

China has repeatedly said it is fully enforcing all resolutions against North Korea, despite suspicion in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo that loopholes still exist.

‘EVADING SANCTIONS’

South Korea said on Friday it had seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in defiance of the sanctions.

A senior South Korean foreign ministry official said the ship, the Lighthouse Winmore, was seized when it arrived at a South Korean port in late November.

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“It’s unclear how much oil the ship had transferred to North Korea for how long and on how many occasions, but it clearly showed North Korea is engaged in evading the sanctions,” the official told Reuters.

South Korea’s customs service concluded that the Lighthouse Winmore had loaded about 14,000 tons of Japanese refined petroleum products in South Korea on Oct. 11, reportedly bound for Taiwan, the official said.

But instead, it transferred as much as 600 tons to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2 on Oct. 19 in international waters between China and the Korean peninsula, on the order of its charterer, Billions Bunker Group Corp., based in Taiwan, the ministry official said.

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The United States Treasury Department said that these images show the transfer of refined petroleum between the Lighthouse Winmore and the North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1

It was not immediately possible to find contact information for the company.

Of the 25 people aboard, 23 were of Chinese nationality and two from Myanmar, according to the customs office.

Employees at the office of Lighthouse Ship Management, the ship’s registered manager, in the Chinese port city of Guangzhou, declined to comment and said they had no knowledge of the situation.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman said she did not have any information about the matter.

Both ships were among 10 vessels that the United States had proposed that the U.N. Security Council should blacklist for transporting banned items from North Korea, documents seen by Reuters this month showed.

China and Russia subsequently asked for more time to consider the U.S. proposal.

Ship tracking data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows that the Lighthouse Winmore has mainly been doing supply runs between China and Taiwan since August.

Prior to that, it was active between India and the United Arab Emirates. In October, when it allegedly transferred petroleum products to the North Korean ship, the Lighthouse Winmore had its tracking transponder switched off.

The Trump administration has led a drive to step up global sanctions on North Korea in response to its efforts to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.

The U.N. Security Council last week unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, seeking to further limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil.

The U.S.-drafted U.N. resolution seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.

It also caps crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year and commits the Security Council to further cuts if North Korea conducts another nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test.

In September, the Security Council put a cap of 2 million barrels a year on refined petroleum products exports to North Korea.

Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel

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An undated photo of the Lighthouse Winmore, a Hong Kong-flagged vessel suspected of transferring oil to North Korea in violation of United Nations sanctions. Credit Iwan Afwan/MarineTraffic

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-flagged oil tanker accused of transferring 600 tons of refined oil to a North Korean ship in October in violation of United Nations sanctions, South Korean officials said on Friday.

The officials revealed that they had impounded the 11,253-ton Hong Kong tanker, the Lighthouse Winmore, and questioned its crew. The revelation came a day after President Trump accused China of letting fuel oil flow into North Korea through illicit ship-to-ship transfers on international waters.

But there was no immediate evidence of Chinese involvement in the Lighthouse Winmore’s dealings with the North Koreans. The ship was being leased by the Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group Corporation, South Korean Foreign Ministry officials told reporters on Friday.

The Lighthouse Winmore docked at the South Korean port of Yeosu on Oct. 11 to load refined petroleum from Japan, they said. Four days later, it departed Yeosu, saying it was headed for Taiwan. Instead, it transferred the refined oil to four other ships on international waters, including 600 tons transferred to a North Korean ship on Oct. 19, officials said.

That transfer between the Lighthouse Winmore and the North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1 was captured in satellite photos released by the United States Treasury Department on Nov. 21, although the department did not release the Lighthouse Winmore’s name at the time.

The Lighthouse Wimore was seized and its crew members questioned by the South Korean authorities when it revisited Yeosu on Nov. 24. It remains in South Korean custody, officials said on Friday.

United Nations sanctions resolutions require nations to inspect and impound any vessel in their ports that was suspected of illegally transporting goods to North Korea.

Word of the seizure emerged after Mr. Trump used a tweet and an interview to accuse China of letting oil flow into North Korea in defiance of United Nations sanctions, warning that there will be no “friendly solution” until this stops.

A petrol station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in July. Washington has called on the United Nations to blacklist 10 ships for circumventing sanctions intended to limit fuel shipments to North Korea. Credit Ed Jones/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Trump’s accusation came amid deepening suspicions in Washington and among its allies that Chinese oil tankers were secretly transferring petroleum to North Korean ships on the high seas despite United Nations sanctions that prohibit such trade. China insists that there was no sanctions violation.

“Caught RED HANDED — very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea,” Mr. Trump wrote in a Twitter post Thursday. “There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”

The United Nations Security Council has ramped up its efforts to squeeze North Korea’s oil supplies after the country conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and followed it with the launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, on Nov. 29.

The United Nations sanctions resolutions call for capping annual exports of refined petroleum to North Korea at a half-million barrels, an 89 percent cut from previous annual shipments. They also call for freezing crude oil shipments at four million barrels a year, committing the Security Council to further reductions if North Korea conducts another nuclear or ICBM test.

But the impact of sanctions depends largely on how faithfully they are enforced by China, which handles 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade, including nearly all of its oil imports, analysts say. If the reports of ship-to-ship oil transfers are true, it could mean that much more oil is flowing secretly into North Korea than allowed under United Nations sanctions, with or without the Chinese authorities’ knowledge.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly urged President Xi Jinping to use China’s economic leverage to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. But analysts warn that Beijing is unlikely to push North Korea to the brink of collapse, still cherishing its neighbor as a buffer against the influence of the United States and its closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea.

In an interview with The New York Times published Thursday night, Mr. Trump explicitly said for the first time that he has “been soft” on China on trade in the hopes that its leaders will pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. He hinted that his patience may soon end, signaling his frustration with the reported oil shipments.

“Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn’t my deal!” he exclaimed, raising the possibility of aggressive trade actions against China. “If they don’t help us with North Korea, then I do what I’ve always said I want to do.“

Despite saying that Mr. Xi “treated me better than anybody’s ever been treated in the history of China” when he visited in November, Mr. Trump said Thursday that “they have to help us much more.”

The United States Treasury Department said that these images show the transfer of refined petroleum between the Lighthouse Winmore and the North Korean ship Rye Song Gang 1 in October. Credit U.S. Department of Treasury

“We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China,” he said.

When it blacklisted several Chinese trading companies and North Korean shipping companies and their vessels in November, the United States Treasury Department said that North Korea was “known to employ deceptive shipping practices, including ship-to-ship transfers,” a practice banned under a United Nations sanctions resolution adopted on Sept. 11.

Mr. Trump’s criticism of China came after the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, quoting anonymous sources, reported that American spy satellites have spotted 30 ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other products since October in international waters between North Korea and China.

The report said the “smuggling” took place between North Korean vessels and ships believed to be from China.

In its latest sanctions, adopted on Dec. 22, the Security Council expressed concern that North Korea was “illicitly exporting coal and other prohibited items through deceptive maritime practices and obtaining petroleum illegally through ship-to-ship transfers.”

Washington has called on the Security Council to blacklist 10 ships — including the Lighthouse Winmore — for circumventing sanctions by conducting ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels or transporting North Korean coal, Reuters reported, citing United Nations documents. China and Russia subsequently asked for more time to consider the proposal, it said.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry refused to confirm the Chosun report, saying that the matter was being discussed at the Security Council’s sanctions committee.

But Chinese officials disputed the news media reports.

“I would like to know whether the relevant media could specify which ship or ships were involved in the situation?” Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on Wednesday. “What made them conclude that these ships violated the Security Council resolutions? Any solid evidence?”

Ms. Hua insisted that China has been “comprehensively, accurately, faithfully and strictly implementing” the United Nations sanctions.

Ren Guoqiang, a spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, was more categorical in denial: “The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist,” he told reporters on Thursday.

North Korea preparing to launch satellite

December 26, 2017

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile. Credit Reuters

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea is preparing to launch a satellite, a Seoul newspaper said on Tuesday (Dec 26), as outside observers warn that the nuclear-armed regime’s space programme is a fig leaf for weapons tests.

Pyongyang is under multiple UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests and is prohibited from carrying out any launch using ballistic missile technology, including satellites.

“Through various channels, we’ve recently learned that the North has completed a new satellite and named it Kwangmyongsong-5”, the Joongang Ilbo daily reported, quoting a South Korean government source.

“Their plan is to put a satellite equipped with cameras and telecommunication devices into orbit,” he said.

Pyongyang launched their Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite in February 2016, which most in the international community viewed as a disguised ballistic missile test.

A spokesman for the South Korean military joint chiefs of staff said there was “nothing out of ordinary at this moment”, but added that Seoul was watching out for any provocative acts, “including the test of a long-range missile disguised as a satellite launch”.

The report came as the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reasserted the regime’s right to launch satellites and develop its space technology.

In a commentary published on Monday and titled “peaceful space programmes are sovereign countries’ legitimate rights”, the daily said Pyongyang’s satellite launches “absolutely correspond” with international laws concerning space development.

At a UN General Assembly committee meeting in October, North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador Kim In Ryong said his country has a 2016 to 2020 plan to develop “practical satellites that can contribute to the economic development and improvement of the people’s living”.

He stressed North Korea’s right to produce and launch satellites “will not be changed just because the US denies it”.

North Korea is believed to have successfully put a satellite into orbit in December 2012 after years of failures dating back to 1998, when it launched a pilot satellite and named it Kwangmyongsong-1.

Earlier this month, the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaia Gazeta quoted a Russian military expert, Mr Vladimir Khrustalev, as saying that North Korea was expected to launch two satellites – an Earth exploration satellite and a communications satellite – in the near future.

Mr Khrustalev made the remark after returning from his week-long trip to North Korea in mid-November, when he met with representatives of the country’s National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA), the Russian daily said.

Tensions have soared as the isolated regime has staged a series of atomic and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, most recently on Nov 29.

Japan approves introduction of Aegis Ashore missile defense system amid North Korea threat

December 21, 2017
BY 

STAFF WRITER

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday approved the installation of two land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense systems to defend against North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats, highlighted by a test of what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile last month.

The approval will allow the Defense Ministry to buy two Aegis Ashore systems to add to Japan’s current two-step missile defense system consisting of Patriot batteries and Aegis-equipped destroyers.

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 A ballistic missile interceptor is fired from the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex in Kauai, Hawaii, in December 2015. REUTERS

Defense Ministry officials said the government plans to deploy the systems in two places, by 2023 at the earliest, but that the locations are yet to be decided. The cost of each system could be more than ¥100 billion, they said.

Noting that North Korea’s nuclear and missile development poses a “new level of threat” to Japan’s security, the government said in a document endorsed by the Cabinet that Japan needs “to fundamentally improve our ballistic missile defense abilities to protect our country at all times and in a sustainable manner.”

Aegis Ashore, a U.S.-made land-based version of the Aegis combat system developed for warships, is a collection of radars, computers and missiles.

Acquiring Aegis Ashore would protect the entire country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa Prefecture, the government says. The government had also considered a different U.S. system, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), but it would require six sites to cover the nation. Aegis Ashore is more cost effective, according to the Defense Ministry.

The new system would reduce the workload of the Self-Defense Forces in preparing for missile intercepts compared with the sea-based operations of Aegis destroyers, according to ministry officials.

To expedite the introduction of Aegis Ashore, the ministry plans to earmark ¥2.8 billion for information-gathering activities in the supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March. It is also seeking ¥730 million in next year’s budget to cover design costs and research fees.

“We cannot say what the final costs will be, but we will move ahead (to introduce Aegis Ashore) on the fastest possible schedule, given public calls that the government should deal as swiftly and urgently as possible with the ballistic missile defense issue,” Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a news conference on Tuesday.

In the ministry’s initial budgetary request for fiscal 2018 made in August, which came to a record-high ¥5.26 trillion, the ministry said it was seeking funds to introduce a new missile shield system, while leaving the actual sum unspecified.

Japan’s current missile shield comprises two layers. The first is Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers that can stop missiles in the outer atmosphere using the Aegis combat system and Standard Missile-3 interceptors. The second layer is the Air Self-Defense Force’s ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles, designed to counter attacks in the lower atmosphere.

Aegis Ashore, to be equipped with newly developed Standard Missile-3 Block IIA interceptors, will be an addition to the two layers to defend wider areas, and will be operated by the Ground Self-Defense Force.

The government plans to start selecting areas for the facilities, but the deployment could trigger concern among residents living nearby as the system’s radars emit strong radio waves.

So far, the government is considering Akita and Yamaguchi prefectures as candidate sites, sources said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/12/19/national/politics-diplomacy/japan-approves-introduction-aegis-ashore-missile-defense-system-amid-north-korea-threat/#.Wjt5Ct-nGUk

US, Japan and South Korea launch two-day ‘missile tracking’ drills

December 11, 2017

RT — Russia Today

US, Japan & S. Korea launch two-day ‘missile tracking’ drills

USS Stethem © US Navy

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have have begun joint “missile tracking” drills, South Korea’s military said. The new round of military exercises comes just days after the US and its allies concluded the largest ever air maneuvers over the peninsula.

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The exercises kicked off Monday amid speculation that North Korea may soon test launch a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), South Korea’s military announced, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Two US Aegis destroyers – USS Stethem and USS Decatur – are leading the war games along with South Korea’s Seoae Ryu Seong Ryong Aegis destroyer, and Japan’s Chokai Aegis vessel. During the exercises, the three navies aim to polish their skills at detecting and tracking potential ballistic missiles using a computer-simulated training module.

The drills which are hosted by Japan will conclude Tuesday, December 12, and are aimed at increasing the allies’ ability to respond to the North Korean threat, Japan’s Navy said in a press release.

The allied navies will be “practicing tracking an object and sharing information on it among the three countries,” a Japanese defense official told AFP, adding that the simulations “will translate into a measure against ballistic missiles.”

The S. Korean and Japanese military said the current activities are the sixth of its kind to take place in the last two years.

“(We) are keeping a close eye on North Korea’s missile facilities,” a South Korean defense official told Yonhap. “There has been no indication detected of any imminent provocation, but we are fully prepared for a response.”

The new round of military exercises near N. Korean borders began just days after the US-S.Korean Vigilant Ace drills concluded Friday. A total of 12,000 personnel and over 230 military aircraft took part in the maneuvers which also included the deployment of a B-1B bomber as well as F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. The exercises have been slammed by Pyongyang, which said it proves that US President Donald Trump is “begging” for nuclear war.

North Korea has repeatedly criticized the joint drills between the US and South Korea. Last month, the North’s ambassador to the UN ruled out negotiations with Washington, citing America’s “hostile policy” against his country and the continuing joint activities of Washington and Seoul. Russia and China have long urged the US and North Korea to accept their proposed “double freeze” plan which would see Pyongyang suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a pause in joint US-South Korea drills. That proposal, however, has firmly been rejected by the US.

https://www.rt.com/news/412675-japan-us-skorea-missile-tracking/

See also:

North Korean Submarine Missile Threat Prompts U.S.-Led Military Drills

Source:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/10/world/asia/north-korea-submarine-missile.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

A photo released by North Korea’s state news agency in April 2016 purported to show a submarine-launched ballistic missile test. Credit Korean Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency

China and Russia Express Pessimism About North Korean Tensions — Can’t Trust the U.S.

December 9, 2017
 Updated on 
  • Foreign minister ‘not optimistic’ about standoff with U.S.
  • North Korea says UN delegation agreed on regular communication

China expressed pessimism about bringing the North Korean standoff to a peaceful resolution, even as Kim Jong Un’s regime touted new United Nations support for “regular” talks.

Chinese Foreign Minster Wang Yi said Saturday that “the outlook is not optimistic” on the Korean Peninsula and urged both sides to end what he said was a “vicious cycle” of confrontation. Wang’s remarks — part of a broad foreign policy speech in Beijing — came hours after North Korea said that a departing UN delegation had agreed to communications to help ease tensions.

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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi

Wang said there was still hope for a diplomatic solution and reiterated a Chinese proposal for both sides to build trust by suspending military drills and weapons tests. “The first step to pull the situation on the peninsula out of the current ‘black hole’ of confrontation is to create the conditions and atmosphere to restart dialogue,” Wang said.

The UN’s top official for political affairs, Undersecretary General Jeffrey Feltman, left North Korea on Saturday after a visit that sought to ease tensions over the country’s nuclear weapons program. The U.S. sent B-1B bombers to join massive aerial drills with South Korea after Kim tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach any American city.

The UN visit was part of a flurry of efforts involving countries from Canada to Germany to help facilitate talks between Kim’s regime and U.S. President Donald Trump. North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that the visit contributed to a deeper understanding and that they agreed to communicate at “various levels.”

“The UN secretariat’s side expressed its readiness to make a contribution to the relaxation of the tension on the peninsula under the UN Charter, which stipulates the mission of the UN based on the guarantee of international peace and security,” KCNA said in it’s English-language report. The report said Feltman paid a “courtesy call” on North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and held talks with a vice minister of foreign affairs.

Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said by email Saturday that the delegation had a “broad policy dialogue” in Pyongyang and that the body might have further comment later.

‘Not Meaningful’

“I don’t believe this in itself is meaningful,” said Shin Beomchul, a professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy. North Korea wanted to use the UN to gain legitimacy and get the U.S. to the negotiating table and acknowledge it as a nuclear state, he said.

The U.S. has refused to consider negotiations while Kim tests increasingly powerful nuclear bombs and lobs missiles into the sea around Japan. In an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said that the Trump administration would be ready for talks if North Korea renounced further nuclear or missile tests.

Any UN mediation effort would require approval from the UN Security Council, where the U.S. wields veto power. The Security Council has called for the resumption of the so-called six-party talks, which included China, Japan, Russia and South Korea and broke off in 2009.

North Korea Defies the World With Nuclear Ambitions: QuickTake

Weapons tests by North Korea have prompted the Security Council to pass two sets of sanctions blocking about 90 percent of that nation’s reported exports, including coal and seafood, as well as imports of some oil products. The KCNA report said the UN’s Feltman acknowledged the negative effect of sanctions and showed an intention to seek cooperation in keeping with body’s humanitarian mission.

Trump has sought to pressure China to rein in its ally and neighbor before it acquires a nuclear arsenal advanced enough to deter a U.S. attack. Kim said the test showed that North Korea’s nuclear program was complete because it could deliver an atomic warhead anywhere in the U.S.

While Kim hasn’t yet proven he has the technology to put a warhead on an ICBM and deliver it safely to a target, the test has put new pressure on the U.S. and its allies to find a solution. By declaring his weapons program complete, Kim may have created a path to resume negotiations from a position of strength.

“North Korea’s effort to strengthen relations with the UN is an extension of its announcement it completed its nuclear program last month in that both aim for negotiations with the U.S.,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Wang, the Chinese foreign minister, said that all avenues must be pursued to avoid conflict.

“Hope for peace has not yet been eliminated,” Wang said. “The prospect for negotiations still exists. The choice of using force is absolutely unacceptable.”

— With assistance by Kambiz Foroohar, Gareth Allan, and Janet Ong

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-09/north-korea-says-un-expressed-willingness-to-ease-korea-tensions

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Lavrov: U.S. Threats To Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal Make North Korea Wary

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said U.S. threats to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran are hampering efforts to end the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

Lavrov said at a summit in Vienna on December 8 that in his talks with Pyongyang, he’s found North Korea is willing to negotiate a de-escalation of the crisis with the United States, but it has doubts about whether Washington will abide by any deal in light of what happened with Iran.

The question is “how to convince North Korea that a deal won’t be rejected in a year or two by a new American administration,” Lavrov said, according to a translation of his remarks on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

“North Korea needs security guarantees, especially when Washington is about to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal,” he said.

With both sides escalating the conflict this year through a series of missile and nuclear tests by North Korea and U.S. and South Korean military drills, Lavrov said, “now, of course, it will be more difficult to create conditions for the resumption of the dialogue.”

After a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on December 7, Lavrov had said Moscow was ready to try to mediate talks between Washington and Pyongyang at the same time he accused the United States of contributing to increased tensions.

“We know that North Korea wants foremost to discuss security guarantees with the United States. We’re ready to support, to participate in these negotiations,” Lavrov said at the time.

“We are convinced of the need to end the vicious cycle of confrontation, carelessness, and provocations.”

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and dpa

https://www.rferl.org/a/lavrov-us-threats-withdraw-iran-nuclear-deal-make-north-korea-wary-negotiating-nuclear-crisis/28906403.html

N. Korea blames US for tensions in rare UN talks

December 9, 2017

AFP

© KCNA VIS KNS/AFP | The North’s leader Kim Jong-Un has ramped up his impoverished nation’s missile and nuclear programme in recent years

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea blamed US “nuclear blackmail” for soaring tensions over its weapons programme following rare meetings with a senior UN official, but agreed to regular communication with the organisation, state media said Saturday.Jeffrey Feltman arrived in Beijing Saturday after wrapping up a five-day visit to Pyongyang aimed at defusing the crisis, just a week after North Korea said it test-fired a new ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States.

His trip — the first by a UN diplomat of his rank since 2010 — saw him meet Foreign Minister Ri Yong-Ho and vice foreign minister Pak Myong-Kuk as well as medical facilities supported by the UN, the North’s state news agency KCNA said.

“At these meetings, our side said the US policy of hostility toward the DPRK (North Korea) and its nuclear blackmail are to blame for the current tense situation on the Korean peninsula,” the report said.

It added that the North had agreed with the UN “to regularize communications through visits at various levels”.

The report did not mention any meetings with leader Kim Jong-Un, who has ramped up his impoverished nation’s missile and nuclear programme in recent years in order to achieve Pyongyang’s stated goal of developing a warhead capable of hitting the US mainland.

Feltman, the UN’s under secretary general for political affairs, visited the country just after the United States and South Korea launched their biggest-ever joint air exercise.

Pyongyang reiterated its view that these manoeuvres were a provocation on Saturday, accusing the drills of “revealing its intention to mount a surprise nuclear pre-emptive strike against the DPRK”, using the acronym for the country’s official name.

The UN Security Council has hit the isolated and impoverished North with a package of sanctions over its increasingly powerful missile and nuclear tests, which have rattled Washington and its regional allies South Korea and Japan.

Early Saturday Feltman flew to Beijing, a key transit point with the North, and left the city’s airport without speaking to reporters.

China, which is Pyongyang’s sole major diplomatic and military ally, has called on the United States to freeze military drills and North Korea to halt weapons tests to calm tensions.

The Chinese foreign ministry on Saturday published a speech from four days ago by foreign minister Wang Yi in which he warned that the Korean Peninsula “remains deeply entrenched in a vicious cycle of demonstrations of strength and confrontation.”

“The outlook is not optimistic,” Beijing’s top diplomat added.

– ‘Emotion-charged days’ –

Pyongyang ramped up already high tensions on the Korean Peninsula at the end of November when it announced it had successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which it says brings the whole of the continental United States within range.

Analysts say it is unclear whether the missile survived re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere or could successfully deliver a warhead to its target — key technological hurdles for Pyongyang.

US President Donald Trump has engaged in months of tit-for-tat rhetoric with Kim, pejoratively dubbing him “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy”.

The North on Saturday released photographs of Kim on the summit of the country’s highest peak, the fabled 2,750-metre Mount Paektu, which he climbed to ponder recent successes in his drive for nuclear weapons statehood.

State media said the young leader, who was pictured strolling across the snow covered peak sporting a heavy black coat, fur hat and buffed leather shoes, had climbed the “sublime mountain of revolution”, which is on the border with China.

Described in the fulsome language of Pyongyang’s mouthpiece as “the peerlessly illustrious commander who controls the nature”, Kim was particularly pleased with the inclement weather and used the opportunity to muse on his recent military feats.

“The respected Supreme Leader gave a familiar look for a while at the dizzy cliffs and the sea of trees,” the report said, describing him dwelling on the “emotion-charged days when he realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force without yielding even a moment”.

Mount Paektu is considered a sacred place in Korean folklore and plays a central role in the propaganda glorifying the Kim family.

Officially, Kim’s father Kim Jong-Il was born on its slopes in 1942, though independent historians say he was actually born a year earlier and in the Soviet Union, where his own father was in exile.