Posts Tagged ‘ICBMs’

Tillerson set to meet Trudeau for N. Korea crisis talks

December 11, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, outdoor

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, looks at China’s President Xi Jinping walks to his seat during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool) The Associated Press

OTTAWA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next week for talks on how to address the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear weapons, an Ottawa source said on Monday.

Canada and the United States are due to co-host a meeting of foreign ministers in Vancouver in January to discuss North Korea.

During a day trip to Ottawa on Dec. 19 Tillerson will also meet Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, said the source, who requested anonymity because the meetings have not yet been formally announced.

North Korea has fired missiles over Japan as it pursues nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of U.N. sanctions. Last week it said U.S. and South Korean military drills meant the outbreak of war was “an established fact”. [nL3N1OA05K]

No one in the offices of Trudeau and Freeland was immediately available for comment. The U.S. embassy in Ottawa declined to comment.

Freeland said last month that the Vancouver talks would show the unity of the international community in applying pressure on Pyongyang. [nL1N1NZ2GW]

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Andrew Hay

Advertisements

Russian military chief criticizes U.S., Japan and South Korea for missile defense drills

December 11, 2017

Image may contain: 1 person

Chief of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, arrives for the opening ceremony of the International Army Games 2017 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia, July 29, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov Reuters

 

TOKYO (Reuters) – Russia’s military chief warned on Monday that military exercises by Japan, the United States and South Korea aimed at countering North Korea only raise hysteria and create more instability in the region.

Russian Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces General Valery Gerasimov, issued his warning in Tokyo as the United States, Japan and South Korea began a two-day exercise to practice tracking missiles amid rising tension over North Korea’s weapons programs.

“Carrying out military training in regions surrounding North Korea will only heighten hysteria and make the situation unstable,” Gerasimov said at the beginning of a meeting with Japanese Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera.

This week’s exercise by the United States and its two Asian allies, in which they will share information on tracking ballistic missiles, comes just days after large-scale drills by U.S. and South Korean forces that North Korea said made the outbreak of war “an established fact”.

North Korea says its weapons programs are necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

On Nov. 29, North Korea test-fired its latest ballistic missile, which it said was its most advanced yet, capable of reaching the mainland United States.

China has also repeatedly called for the United States and South Korea to stop their exercises, which North Korea sees as preparation for an invasion.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked in Beijing about the latest U.S., South Korean and Japanese drills, said the situation was in a vicious cycle that if followed to a conclusion would not be in anyone’s interests.

“All relevant parties should do is still to completely, precisely and fully implement the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions toward North Korea, and do more for regional peace and stability and to get all parties back to the negotiating table. Not the opposite, mutual provocation,” Lu said.

‘IMPORTANT MEANING’

Gerasimov’s visit to Japan is the first by a senior Russian military official in seven years and follows the resumption of “two-plus-two” defense and foreign minister talks in March after Russia annexed Crimea.

Relations between Russia and Japan have been hampered for decades over the ownership of four islands north of Japan’s Hokkaido, captured by Soviet forces at the end of World War Two. Japan has declined to sign a formal peace treaty with Russia until the dispute is resolved.

Gerasimov also met Katsutoshi Kawano, the chief of staff of Japan’s Self Defence Forces.

China’s Defence Ministry said on Monday it had begun a planned joint simulated anti-missile drill with Russia in Beijing, which had “important meaning” for both countries in facing the threat from missiles. It said the exercise was not aimed at any third party.

China and Russia both oppose the development of global anti-missile systems, the ministry added in a statement.

China and Russia both oppose the deployment in South Korea of the advanced U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system.

China in particular fears the system’s powerful radar could look deep into its territory, threatening its security.

The United States and South Korea say the system is needed to defend against the threat of North Korean missiles.

It is not clear if this week’s exercise by U.S., South Korean and Japanese forces will involve the THAAD system.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Michael Martina in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel)

North Korea says war is inevitable as allies continue war game

December 7, 2017

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes.

In comments attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman, North Korea also claimed high-ranked U.S. officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have further confirmed American intent for war with a series of “bellicose remarks.”

Pompeo said Saturday that U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t have a good idea about how tenuous his situation is domestically and internationally. The North’s spokesman said Pompeo provoked the country by “impudently criticizing our supreme leadership which is the heart of our people.”

“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it, and should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened,” the spokesman said.

The comments were carried by the official Korean Central News Agency late Wednesday, hours after the United States flew a B-1B supersonic bomber over South Korea as part of a massive combined aerial exercise involving hundreds of warplanes. North Korean propaganda is often filled with extreme claims and threats, and the spokesman’s comments were consistent with the tone of previous statements condemning Washington and Seoul.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Guam-based bomber simulated land strikes at a military field near South Korea’s eastern coast during a drill with U.S. and South Korean fighter jets.

“Through the drill, the South Korean and U.S. air forces displayed the allies’ strong intent and ability to punish North Korea when threatened by nuclear weapons and missiles,” the South Korean military said in a statement.

B-1Bs flyovers have become an increasingly familiar show of force to North Korea, which after three intercontinental ballistic missile tests has clearly moved closer toward building a nuclear arsenal that could viably target the U.S. mainland.

The five-day drills that began Monday involve more than 200 aircraft, including six U.S. F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighters.

North Korea hates such displays of American military might at close range and typically uses strong language to condemn them as invasion rehearsals. It has been particularly sensitive about B-1B bombers, describing them as “nuclear strategic” although the planes were switched to conventional weaponry in the mid-1990s.

North Korea missile tests are ‘imminent threat’ Japan warns

December 4, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Abe answers questions during the upper house session
TOKYO (AFP) – North Korea’s missile tests are an “imminent threat” to Japan, the Japanese parliament declared Monday, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said talking to the reclusive state was meaningless.The upper house unanimously adopted a resolution protesting against the North’s firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile that dropped into the sea inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone last week.

The launch showed Pyongyang was determined to continue its nuclear and missile programmes and constituted “an unprecedented, significant and imminent threat against the safety of the region, including Japan.”

“This is a frontal challenge against the international community that must not be tolerated,” added the resolution.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula are high after last Wednesday’s missile launch. On Monday the US and South Korea began their largest-ever joint air exercise, described by Pyongyang as an “all-out provocation”.

Abe vowed to put pressure on North Korea until it changes its ways and gives up its missile and nuclear technology in a “verifiable” and “irreversible” fashion.

“In order to press North Korea into changing its policies, we shall take a resolute attitude in our diplomacy,” he told the upper house.

“Dialogue for the sake of dialogue is meaningless,” Abe said.

Global anxiety about North Korea has steadily risen this year, and Washington last week called on other UN members to cut ties with it in order to squeeze the secretive regime.

The call, however, has fallen short of persuading key North Korean backers — China and Russia — to take steps to isolate the regime.

Pentagon evaluating U.S. West Coast missile defense sites to intercept North Korean ICBMs

December 3, 2017

SIMI VALLEY, Calif (Reuters) – The U.S. agency tasked with protecting the country from missile attacks is scouting the West Coast for places to deploy new anti-missile defenses, two Congressmen said on Saturday, as North Korea’s missile tests raise concerns about how the United States would defend itself from an attack.

 Image may contain: sky, cloud and outdoor

FILE PHOTO: A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters/File Photo

West Coast defenses would likely include Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missiles, similar to those deployed in South Korea to protect against a potential North Korean attack.

The accelerated pace of North Korea’s ballistic missile testing program in 2017 and the likelihood the North Korean military could hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear payload in the next few years has raised the pressure on the United States government to build-up missile defenses.

On Wednesday, North Korea tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can fly over 13,000 km (8,080 miles), placing Washington within target range, South Korea said on Friday.

Congressman Mike Rogers, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee and chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee which oversees missile defense, said the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), was aiming to install extra defenses at West Coast sites. The funding for the system does not appear in the 2018 defense budget plan indicating potential deployment is further off.

“It’s just a matter of the location, and the MDA making a recommendation as to which site meets their criteria for location, but also the environmental impact,” the Alabama Congressman and Republican told Reuters during an interview on the sidelines of the annual Reagan National Defense Forum in southern California.

When asked about the plan, MDA Deputy Director Rear Admiral Jon Hill‎ said in a statement: “The Missile Defense Agency has received no tasking to site the Terminal High Altitude Air Defense System on the West Coast.”

The MDA is a unit of the U.S. Defense Department.

Congressman Rogers did not reveal the exact locations the agency is considering but said several sites are “competing” for the missile defense installations.

FILE PHOTO: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un inspects artillery launchers ahead of a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on April 25, 2017. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS

Rogers and Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat representing the 9th District of Washington, said the government was considering installing the THAAD anti-missile system made by aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp, at west coast sites.

The Congressmen said the number of sites that may ultimately be deployed had yet to be determined.

THAAD is a ground-based regional missile defense system designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and takes only a matter of weeks to install.

In addition to the two THAAD systems deployed in South Korea and Guam in the Pacific, the U.S. has seven other THAAD systems. While some of the existing missiles are based in Fort Bliss, Texas, the system is highly mobile and current locations are not disclosed.

A Lockheed Martin representative declined to comment on specific THAAD deployments, but added that the company “is ready to support the Missile Defense Agency and the United States government in their ballistic missile defense efforts.” He added that testing and deployment of assets is a government decision.

In July, the United States tested THAAD missile defenses and shot down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The successful test adds to the credibility of the U.S. military’s missile defense program, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent years due in part to test delays and failures.

Currently, the continental United States is primarily shielded by the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system (GMD) in Alaska and California as well as the Aegis system deployed aboard U.S. Navy ships. The THAAD system has a far higher testing success rate than the GMD.

The MDA told Congress in June that it planned to deliver 52 more THAAD interceptors to the U.S. Army between October 2017 and September 2018, bringing total deliveries to 210 since May 2011.

North Korea’s latest missile test puts the U.S. capital within range, but Pyongyang still needs to prove it has mastered critical missile technology, such as re-entry, terminal stage guidance and warhead activation, South Korea said on Friday.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Simi Valley, Calif.; Editing by Chris Sanders, Michelle Price and Michael Perry

After anti-Americanism, Iran heightens anti-European policies

December 1, 2017

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh | 

The Arab News

First, the US was the prime target. After former US President Barack Obama reached the nuclear deal with Iran and helped lift four rounds of UN sanctions, Tehran immediately paid back the favor by heightening anti-Americanism. Every concession the US made afterward cost more. Despite the nuclear deal, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has made clear in his speeches that the US remains Tehran’s primary enemy.

.
For example, American sailors were detained soon after the agreement. In order to project its power, Iran broadcast videos humiliating them. More Americans were arrested, most recently Xiyue Wang. Iran aired emotional footage of him to pressure the US. In addition, Tehran began to harass US ships in the Gulf more frequently.

.
Some European politicians believed that Tehran’s animosity was only directed toward the US because of their history, so the EU increased trade and business deals with Iran, ignoring its alarming behavior. The UK also reopened its embassy in Tehran.

.
But Iran’s regime is founded on being anti-Western, not only anti-American. Khamenei has characterized Western beliefs and actions as “world arrogance, with America being the complete symbol of it.” This is echoed in the slogan: “Neither the West nor the East, only the Islamic Republic (of Iran).”

.
Iran’s ruling clerics oppose and resent any cultural, political or social element linked to the West. Khamenei repeatedly says in his speeches that the biggest threat to Iran is the infiltration of Western culture and ideology. He and senior cadres of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fear that Western culture, lifestyle and ideology will cause Iranian youths to resist the regime and push against the boundaries set by it.

.
That is why Tehran is ratcheting up anti-European policies, with new waves of arrests and harsher punishments of EU citizens. For example, instead of releasing British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency — Tehran fabricated new allegations that she wanted to topple the regime, and aired them on state TV.

The objective of targeting EU citizens and taking them hostage is to pressure their governments to hand Iran millions of dollars for their release, and to adopt policies of appeasement.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The objective of targeting EU citizens and taking them hostage is to pressure their governments to hand Iran millions of dollars for their release, and to adopt policies of appeasement. In the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Tehran is pressuring the UK government to pay $530 million. The mullahs are also trying to keep Iranian society as confined as possible, in order to close any door that could lead to Western “infiltration.”

.
Tehran recently threatened to upgrade its missile capabilities to hit any city in Europe if it takes any action against Iran. This threat came despite several European countries pursing appeasement policies and giving Tehran billions of dollars via trade deals. Several experts believe that Iran is on the verge of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with North Korean assistance. ICBMs are guided missiles that can carry nuclear warheads.

.
The least the EU can do to protect its citizens, and to halt Iran’s human rights abuses and threats, is to change its appeasement policies and trade partnerships with Tehran. These policies only embolden and empower Iranian forces such as the IRGC and the Quds Force, which pursue militaristic goals and ambitions. Such engagement with Tehran only increases its human rights violations against its own citizens and Westerners.

.
European governments can also sanction the IRGC and affiliated groups for sponsoring terrorism. In order to survive and strengthen their social base, Khamenei and his gilded circle will continue to view the West as their primary enemy, regardless of how much Europe pursues friendly policies toward them.

— Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1201686/columns

North Korea dashes hopes of talks as it races to build up nuclear muscle — Did China Stall The U.S. Into a Trap? Will Iran Be Next? — North Korea Helping Iran…

November 29, 2017

By Chang May Choon

SEOUL – Hopes of a sustained lull leading to dialogue were dented Wednesday (Nov 29) when North Korea ended two months of tranquility by launching what it claims is a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of striking all of the United States.

The test of the new Hwasong-15 missile – which North Korean state media claimed to mark the “completion” of its nuclear programme – drew condemnation from South Korean President Moon Jae In, who vowed to ramp up sanctions and pressure on the North while ordering military readiness to retaliate against provocations.

Mr Moon also spoke with United States President Donald Trump over phone and discussed the allies’ joint response. They agreed that nuclear weapons “only serve to undermine North Korea’s security and deepen its diplomatic and economic isolation”, according to the White House.

South Korean analysts said the missile test came as no surprise as radio signals and movements indicative of a missile launch had already been detected the previous day. The regime last lobbed a missile over Japan on Sept 15.

Sogang University’s international relations professor Kim Jae Chun said the 75-day gap between the tests could suggest that the North had been ironing out technical issues in its ICBM development. “The wishful thinking that there were no provocations in the past 75 days because North Korea was reassessing the situation from a different angle and leaning towards negotiation is not true,” he added.

Dr Park Jee Kwang from Sejong Institute think tank said Pyongyang took a longer time to prepare a missile that is “a little bit more advanced” than the previously-tested Hwasong-14. “They will launch missiles whenever they are ready. I don’t think international response or the response from South Korea or Japan will have any influence on their missile schedule.”

Launched at 3.17am (Korea time) from Pyongsong in the western South Pyongan province, the missile flew nearly 960km over 53 minutes and reached an altitude of 4,500km before landing in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone. If fired at a normal trajectory, it could have flown more than 10,000km.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) then announced the country has successfully tested a Hwasong-15 ICBM that is capable of carrying a “super large” nuclear warhead and striking the whole US mainland. Leader Kim Jong Un, who observed the test, declared the completion of “state nuclear force”.

The KCNA also said that North Korea, as a “responsible nuclear power and peace-loving state”, will make “every possible effort” to defend global peace and stability.

While some experts view the declaration as a prelude to a possible freeze in provocations, others expect more missile or nuclear tests in the lead-up to South Korea hosting the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics next February.

Citing previous examples of North Korea sabotaging international events hosted by the South, like blowing up a Korean Air plane months before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Dr Bong Young Shik of Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean Studies said it would not be a surprise for Pyongyang to try to undermine the upcoming winter games.

Dr Bong urged the global community to unite in “continuously putting substantial pressure” on North Korea so it will return to the negotiation table. “It’s a foot race whether North Korea would complete its second strike nuclear capability first, or the regime would crack under pressure first and… choose survival itself by abandoning nuclear weapons.”

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/north-korea-dashes-hopes-of-talks-as-it-races-to-build-up-nuclear-muscle

Did China Stall The U.S. Into a Trap? Will Iran Be Next?

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, suit

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago — January 2017

No automatic alt text available.

.

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and outdoor

Related:

Image may contain: 1 person, beard and hat

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on May 2, 2016. Reuters file photo

************************************************

Report: High-Level Meetings, Covert Contacts Between Iran and North Korea Stoke Concerns in U.S.

Officials warn apparent efforts to deepen military ties may extend to weapons of mass destruction

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, (R) shakes hands with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam, on his first official day in office, Aug. 3, 2013 / Getty

By 

Washington Free Beacon

The U.S. government is becoming increasingly concerned about the depth of military cooperation between Iran and North Korea, with officials warning that high-level meetings between Iranian and North Korean contacts indicate efforts to deepen ties that may extend to weapons of mass destruction, according to a new report.

The report from the Washington Institute, an American think tank focused on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, details the extensive military cooperation between Tehran and Pyongyang and how recent developments have made the issue a top priority for the Trump administration.

“All of these contacts need to be better understood,” one senior U.S. official working on the Middle East told the report’s author, Jay Solomon, a visiting fellow at the institute and a former Wall Street Journal reporter. “This will be one of our top priorities.”

President Donald Trump in September ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct a review of any potential nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea.

Officials in the U.S., Asia, and the Middle East who track the bilateral relationship indicate that Pyongyang and Tehran have “already signaled a commitment to jointly develop their ballistic missile systems and other military/scientific programs,” Solomon writes. But a series of high-level meetings and secretive contacts have raised fears that cooperation between the two U.S. adversaries is only growing stronger.

Most notably, Kim Yong-nam, North Korea’s No. 2 political leader and head of the country’s legislature, visited Tehran in early August for up to 10 days. The official reason for the trip was to attend the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but the length of his stay “raised alarm bells in Washington and allied capitals.”

The visit was about more than Rouhani’s inauguration, according to North Korean and Iranian state media. Kim and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Hui-chol inaugurated their country’s new embassy in Tehran and held several bilateral meetings with foreign leaders, many from countries that have purchased North Korean weapons in recent decades—including Cuba, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Image may contain: 1 person, sky and outdoor

Iran — A Revolutionary Guard missile, the Shahab-3, under a picture of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. Credit Hasan Sarbakhshian, AP

Iran and North Korea also “presented a united front against Washington during Kim’s stay,” according to Solomon. After meeting with Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani on Aug. 4, Kim said, “Iran and North Korea share a mutual enemy [the United States]. We firmly support Iran on its stance that missile development does not need to be authorized by any nation.”

Both Iran and North Korea have conducted ballistic missile tests in recent months, flouting United Nations Security Council resolutions and condemnation from the United States.

China and Russia appeared to support Kim’s trip, according to Solomon. On his way to Iran, Kim first flew to Vladivostok, a city in eastern Russia, on Air Koryo, the North Korean airline that the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned in December 2016 for financially aiding the North Korean regime and its ballistic missile program. He then flew to Tehran via Russia’s state carrier, Aeroflot, passing through Chinese airspace.

Kim had previously visited Tehran in 2012, when he skipped most of the scheduled events to sign a bilateral scientific cooperation agreement with then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That agreement, according to U.S. intelligence officials, looked similar to the one Pyongyang signed with Syria in 2002.

“Five years later,” Solomon notes, “Israeli jets destroyed a building in eastern Syria that the U.S. and U.N. believe was a nearly operational North Korean-built nuclear reactor.”

One of the Iranian officials who attended the 2012 meeting with Kim was Atomic Energy Organization chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani, who the U.S. and U.N. sanctioned for his alleged role in nuclear weapons development. The U.N. has accused him and Iranian general Mohsen Fakhrizadeh of working closely together on nuclear weapons research.

The Washington Institute report also details a series of covert contacts that U.S. and South Korean intelligence services have tracked, describing a “steady stream of Iranian and North Korean officials visiting each other in a bid to jointly develop their defense systems.” U.S. intelligence agencies, for example, have spotted Iranian defense officials in Pyongyang over the past year, the same period in which North Korea has significantly expanded its nuclear and long-range missile capabilities.

“Last year, U.S. authorities reported that missile technicians from one of Iran’s most important defense companies, the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group, had traveled to North Korea to help develop an eighty-ton rocket booster for ballistic missiles,” the report adds. “One of the company’s top officials, Sayyed Javad Musavi, has allegedly worked in tandem with the Korea Mining Development Trading Corp. (KOMID), which the United States and U.N. have sanctioned for being a central player in procuring equipment for Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

All of these connections have raised concern in Washington and in allied capitals that Iran and North Korea may share dangerous technologies with each other.

Solomon goes on to describe how North Korea has emerged as a critical partner in Iran’s so-called “Axis of Resistance,” its alliance of states and non-state actors to challenge U.S. power in the Middle East. Pyongyang has supplied Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with weapons and, according to current and former U.S. officials, has given arms to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The report calls on the U.S. government to closely scrutinize known contacts between Iran and North Korea.

“Going forward, the most pressing question is whether a smoking gun will emerge proving direct nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea,” Solomon writes. “The U.S. government and the International Atomic Energy Agency say they have yet to see such conclusive evidence. But Iranian opposition groups allege that senior regime officials have visited North Korea to observe some of its six nuclear weapons tests.”

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/report-meetings-contacts-iran-north-korea-stoke-conerns-u-s/

What now for ‘nuclear’ North Korea?

November 29, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Pyongyang residents watched news of the landmark missile test on a screen near the city’s railway station
SEOUL (AFP) – 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un declared his country had achieved its long-cherished goal of full-fledged nuclear statehood after successfully testing a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday.

The United States and its allies have always maintained they would never accept a nuclear North Korea, but have been forced to watch from the sidelines as Pyongyang pursued an accelerated weapons drive.

But what did the latest test actually achieve and does the North’s claim to have completed its nuclear deterrent open the door to diplomatic negotiations?

– A new missile? –

The North said Wednesday’s test was of a new ICBM — called a Hwasong 15 — that was capable of carrying a “super-large heavy warhead” to any target in the continental United States.

The North provided no images from the test for outside experts to analyse, but initial flight data suggested it was indeed a more powerful missile — with some estimating a range of around 13,0000 kilometres (nearly 8,100 miles).

“Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington DC, and in fact any part of the continental United States,” said US-based arms control expert David Wright.

Some questions will likely remain over the North’s mastery of the technology required to guarantee any warhead would survive atmospheric re-entry — the key element it has not yet demonstrated.

– A new nuclear state? –

Much is already being made of leader Kim Jong-Un’s declaration after the test that the North had finally realised “the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Whether that means no more nuclear or missile tests in the future remains to be seen, but the clear suggestion is that Pyongyang now believes it has a nuclear arsenal that amounts to a credible, working deterrent.

“To me, ‘completing’ sounds pretty robust, not just about quality, but quantity,” said Melissa Hanham, senior research associate with the East Asia Nonproliferation Program of the Middlebury Institute.

It is likely that the US and its allies will continue to refuse to recognise North Korea as a nuclear state, but US Defence Secretary James Mattis conceded that Wednesday’s test was a step towards ballistic missiles that can “threaten everywhere in the world, basically.”

The North’s end goal has always been a nuclear strike threat against the United States and it often refers to its nuclear weapons as a “treasured sword” to protect itself from potential invasion by its US “imperialist enemy.”

– What next? –

While some countries will shudder at Kim’s declaration of nuclear statehood, others might see a diplomatic opening.

The North has always said its nuclear weapons are not up for negotiation, and that it will only deal with the United States from a position of equality — which it now suggests it has attained.

Significantly, the official statement on the missile test included a “solemn declaration” that the North would always be a “responsible nuclear power” and pose no danger to any other country as long as it did not come under threat itself.

But sitting down with a “nuclear” North Korea that only achieved its status by defying multiple UN resolutions would represent an enormous climbdown — not just for the US, but the international community at large.

Then again, global pressure has proved remarkably ineffective in reining Pyongyang in so far, and the calls for dialogue are likely to grow stronger.

The UN Security Council was due to meet in emergency session later Wednesday and, as always with North Korea, much of the focus will be on China and how it reacts.

The North’s sole major ally has grown increasingly frustrated with Pyongyang’s provocations. But China has a strategic interest in avoiding any regime collapse in the North which could bring about a reunified Korea allied to the United States.

China has pushed for a “dual track approach” which would see the US freeze its military drills in South Korea in exchange for the North halting its weapons programmes.

Washington has repeatedly rejected such a quid pro quo, but if the North’s claims are true, Wednesday’s test might have rendered such a trade-off obsolete anyway.

China to Send Envoy to North Korea After Trump’s Visit to Beijing

November 15, 2017

U.S. president pushed for more action from Beijing to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear program

Song Tao, wearing a headset, will leave for North Korea on Friday.Photo: Astafyev Alexander/Zuma Press

China said it would send a special envoy to North Korea, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, days after U.S. President Donald Trump pushed for more action from Beijing to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear program.

Song Tao, a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, will leave for North Korea on Friday, Xinhua said. It said the visit would include briefings on last month’s Communist Party congress, citing a Wednesday announcement by the international department of the party’s Central Committee.

The U.S. has repeatedly pushed Beijing to do more to pressure North Korea to slow its development of nuclear weapons, and Mr. Trump did so again during his summit with Mr. Xi in Beijing.

It wasn’t clear from the Xinhua report whether Pyongyang’s nuclear program would be on the agenda during Mr. Song’s visit, or how long he would be in North Korea.

During his almost two weeks in Asia, Mr. Trump emphasized his personal rapport with regional leaders and several times called for China’s help on North Korea, including in an address before South Korea’s National Assembly. As he left the region on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he thought he had secured a commitment from Mr. Xi on the issue.

Related

  • A North Korean Defector’s Dash to Freedom
  • In China, Trump Employs Tough Talk, Flattery With Xi (Nov. 9)
  • China Orders Shutdown of North Korea-Connected Businesses (Sept. 28)
  • China to Cut Oil Exports to North Korea (Sept. 23)

Mr. Xi and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have never met, and relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have grown tense this year as the Kim regime has advanced its weapons program.

While wary of enacting measures that could bring about North Korea’s collapse, Beijing has moved to enforce United Nations sanctions on its neighbor, including bans on North Korean trade in coal, iron ore and textiles, and curbs on oil trade.

High-level meetings between Chinese and North Korean officials have taken place about once a year in recent years. Mr. Xi met with North Korean officials, including Mr. Song’s counterpart, Ri Su Yong, in Beijing in 2016, and Mr. Song visited North Korea in October 2015 as part of a delegation that met with Mr. Kim.

Since the conclusion of the party congress, Mr, Song has also visited Laos and Vietnam and briefed them about the congress, according to Xinhua reports.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency also announced the planned visit from Mr. Song.

Song Tao, wearing a headset, will leave for North Korea on Friday.Photo: Astafyev Alexander/Zuma Press

Separately on Wednesday, North Korea lashed Mr. Trump as an “old lunatic” and “human reject” in its first direct response to the U.S. president’s National Assembly speech in Seoul last week.

Mr. Trump devoted much of his 35-minute-long speech before the legislature to listing North Korea’s human-rights abuses in unusual detail. He also appealed directly to Mr. Kim to choose a different path and referenced Mr. Kim’s grandfather, the founder of the North Korean state who in death remains the country’s “eternal president.”

On Wednesday, a commentary in North Korea’s main party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, accused Mr. Trump of attacking the country’s supreme leadership and having “painted a black picture of the DPRK,” using shorthand for the country’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It added that Mr. Trump’s remarks “cannot but be viewed as the final confirmation of the White House’s policy hostile to the DPRK…and an open declaration of war not to allow the existence of the Korean people any more.”

“He will be forced to pay dearly for his blasphemy any moment,” the commentary read. It didn’t specify what kind of countermeasures it would deploy.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-to-send-envoy-to-north-korea-after-trumps-visit-to-beijing-1510719531

Trump Administration and the “Iran Nuclear Deal” — Bipartisan consensus forming in U.S. Congress against taking any legislative action — “Keep the United States in compliance with the agreement.”

November 10, 2017
BY MICHAEL WILNER
 NOVEMBER 9, 2017 21:01

U.S. Democrats and Republicans both seem intent on satisfying Trump’s appetite for action, cognizant that their failure to pass anything by the new year will likely incur his wrath and blame.

Missiles and a portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran

Missiles and a portrait of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Baharestan Square in Tehran, Iran. (photo credit:NAZANIN TABATABAEE YAZDI/ TIMA VIA REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – A top Senate Republican is shelving draft legislation that would have triggered nuclear-related sanctions back on Iran over its ballistic missile activity, acknowledging it cannot garner the 50 votes required for passage and would ostracize foreign allies, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continues to work with members of his own party, Democrats, European envoys and the Trump administration hoping to construct legislation that will send a message of toughness to Tehran while keeping the nuclear accord intact. But the amendment he initially previewed one month ago with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), alongside President Donald Trump’s national address on Iran policy, will not advance as planned.

It is a setback for the Trump administration, which in its rollout of a comprehensive policy approach to Iran characterized Corker and Cotton’s bill as a “legislative remedy” to its concerns with the Iran nuclear deal. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requested a vote on it within 90 days.

Thirty days into that time frame, Trump administration officials have not yet engaged with any of the moderate Democrats they would need to pass relevant legislation. They have not yet brought on board their European allies, who were represented in Washington this week lobbying lawmakers against taking any dramatic action. And foreign policy leadership in the House of Representatives is entirely in the dark on what’s to come. One top Republican aide characterized the talks as three-way negotiations among Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats and European diplomats, with the president and his aides taking a back seat.

Corker Discusses Senate Consideration of Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. (YouTube/senatorcorker)

Corker and Cotton’s legislation would have amended the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act – itself co-authored by Corker back in 2015 – to effectively extend provisions of the Iran nuclear deal indefinitely in the eyes of US law. The amendment would have instituted triggers for US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted by the deal, targeting not only Iran’s obligations under the accord but also matters not addressed in the deal itself.

Republicans believe that Iran’s ballistic missile work is inherently tied to its nuclear program, as these delivery vehicles are uniquely designed to carry nuclear payloads. But the six world powers that negotiated the deal with Iran – the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – left ballistic missiles out of the agreement after Iran argued the technology was in fact a conventional weapons system.

Immediately upon its public release, the Corker-Cotton amendment was roundly condemned by European governments and Democrats as an effort to unilaterally renegotiate the closed, two-year-old agreement.

“Corker has now admitted that he has shelved it, because it was a non-starter,” said one top Senate aide intimately involved with the negotiations. “ICBMs [intercontinental ballistic missiles] won’t be a part of it, relevant to any JCPOA legislation.” The top aide was referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the 2015 nuclear accord.

Corker’s office did not deny claims that he has moved on from the amendment: “Sen. Corker continues to talk with Sen. [Ben] Cardin [D-Maryland], Sen. Cotton, and the administration about the appropriate path forward,” said the chairman’s communications director.

But Cotton’s communications director said that claims they had moved on from legislation that included automatic triggers are “categorically inaccurate.”

“Senator Cotton and Senator Corker are very much still working together on a bill that reflects the same framework laid out last month,” she said.

Republican and Democratic aides both say that a bipartisan consensus has formed against taking any legislative action that would materially breach the agreement, or that would institute a structure sure to trigger a breach of the agreement. Democrats are specifically opposed to any linkage of Iran’s ICBMs with the nuclear deal, or the adoption of any automatic triggers that would impose new sanctions without executive order or congressional debate.

On the Hill this week, the European Union’s top foreign policy envoy, Federica Mogherini, said she witnessed this consensus in her meetings.

“We are exchanging views with the legislators on the need to make sure, before a bill is presented, that its contents do not represent a violation of the agreement,” she said. “I got clear indications that the intention is to keep the United States in compliance with the agreement.”

Lawmakers are working against two time lines, both of which may prove arbitrary.

The first is a formal 60-day review period legally prompted by Trump’s decision not to “certify” Iran’s performance in the nuclear deal last month. The law requests Congress now consider “qualifying legislation” that would reimpose sanctions on Iran. But no action is required, and no party – neither Hill Republicans nor the Trump administration – wants to take this path.

The second timeline is a 90-day period proposed by Tillerson, motivated by the president’s desire to avoid publicly “certifying” Iran’s compliance to the nuclear deal every 90 days – another legal requirement. But the Senate parliamentarian – the official adviser to the chamber on the interpretation of its standing rules and procedures – has been asked by Republican lawmakers whether, after decertifying once in October, Trump will have to take action yet again in two months’ time.

“It’s not clear under the law if one non-certification clears him for future certifications, or if he’ll have to issue a certification decision again,” one aide said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on this report.

Despite the “lack of paper,” or progress, Democrats and Republicans both seem intent on satisfying Trump’s appetite for action, cognizant that their failure to pass anything by the new year will likely incur his wrath and blame.

In the words of one Democratic aide, the president’s threat to pull out of the deal wholesale absent legislative action “does have some weight, in that Congress does not want to be the president’s scapegoat here.”

“There’s a bipartisan sense that they want to approach INARA together,” the aide said, referring to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. “But it’s the administration’s job to bring Europe along.”

Three congressmen said that the entire negotiation comes down to Corker and his Democratic counterpart on the Foreign Relations Committee, Cardin, who last month affirmed that a bipartisan consensus had formed against any action that would torpedo the nuclear deal and harm the transatlantic alliance.

Legislative fixes to INARA will have to proceed through that committee, where Corker sets hearings and votes.

But Cotton and his allies are still insisting on tough action that shows Iran the US will not accept the nuclear deal as it is. And this faction of the Republican Caucus is warning against a legislative approach that ultimately legitimizes the nuclear accord – the very opposite effect Trump was hoping for when he threw the fate of the deal to Congress last month.

“It’s like when [then-secretary of state] John Kerry said no deal is better than a bad deal,” said one Republican consultant closely working with Cotton’s team. “In this case, no legislation is better than bad legislation.”

.