Posts Tagged ‘Intercontinental Ballistic Missile’

Oil Will Keep Flowing, but UN Sanctions Hit Pyongyang Hard — North Korean textile exports are prohibited — Some call the total package a “wrist slap”

September 12, 2017

TOKYO — North Korea will be feeling the pain of new United Nations sanctions targeting some of its biggest remaining foreign revenue streams. But the Security Council eased off the biggest target of all: the oil the North needs to stay alive, and to fuel its million-man military.

Though the United States had proposed a complete ban, the sanctions by the U.N. Security Council to punish North Korea for its sixth nuclear test cap Pyongyang’s annual imports of crude oil at the same level they have been for the past 12 months: an estimated 4 million barrels. Exports of North Korean textiles are prohibited, and other nations are barred from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers, putting a squeeze on two key sources of hard currency.

The measures were approved unanimously Monday.

Image result for oil in north korea, photos

The measures to punish Pyongyang for its Sept. 3 nuclear test also ban the country from importing natural gas liquids and condensates, and limit the import of refined petroleum products to 2 million barrels a year.

That could be a significant restriction.

According to Chinese customs data, North Korea imports nearly 2.2 million barrels a year in petroleum products, but some U.S. officials believe the true number is much higher: about 4.5 million barrels. So the 2 million barrel cap could be cutting existing imports 10 percent, or slashing them by more than half.

But how much impact the oil and fuel component of the sanctions will actually have — even if strictly enforced, which is always a concern — is an open question.

David von Hippel, an energy expert with the Nautilus Institute think tank who has done extensive research on North Korea, said he doubts that oil sanctions will hit the regime very hard.

“The textile sanctions actually might have more impact, as they are probably a good source of value-added income — value added by people you don’t have to pay much — for the regime,” he said. “But I’m not sure that they will really have much effect on the nuclear weapons and missile programs, given the priority that those initiatives must have for the DPRK leadership.”

DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Von Hippel co-authored a report for Nautilus earlier this month that found even a major reduction in Chinese oil exports to North Korea would likely have only a muted impact on military activities because Pyongyang can safely be assumed to have significant stockpiles of oil. The report estimated North Korea may have enough in reserve to supply its military for a year of normal operations or a month at a wartime pace.

There have been signs, including reduced supply and skyrocketing prices, that North Korea has already started diverting oil products away from gas stations and other consumer outlets.

Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief economist for IHS Markit, also said he expects that Pyongyang can weather the import reduction.

“The new U.N. sanctions on oil exports to North Korea are relatively moderate in scope compared to the original U.S. proposal regarding oil exports, and would be unlikely to have much impact on the operations of the North Korean military,” he said.

Biswas noted, however, that the situation with China remains both crucial and complicated.

Chinese gasoline exports to the North fell sharply — to just 120 tons in July, compared to 8,262 tons in June — following a decision by China’s state-owned oil company, China National Petroleum Corporation, to cut sales due to concerns that North Korea is too high a credit risk. At the same time, however, Chinese exports of diesel to North Korea increased from 367 tons in June to 1,162 tons in July.

One metric ton is roughly equal to roughly seven barrels of crude oil.

“The North Korean regime is still getting some fuel supplies from China, which can keep its most essential operations functioning,” he said.

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For sure, the new measures will cause Pyongyang more economic pain. Textiles are one of North Korea’s major exports, with a total export value estimated at $750 million in 2016, and the tens of thousands of North Koreans working overseas send a significant portion of their earnings home to the regime. The measures also clamp down on joint ventures, which could stifle the North’s ability to trade and to acquire capital and know-how.

But what Washington failed to get was equally telling.

Along with settling for the compromise on oil, the U.S. unsuccessfully tried to get a travel ban and freezes on the assets of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Air Koryo, the North’s flagship airline. The U.S. proposed slashing projects employing North Korean workers abroad, but instead accepted sanctions aimed at gradually scaling them back.

Image result for Air Koryo, photos

The weakening of the sanctions reflects the longstanding rift between sanctions hawk Washington, and China and Russia, which advocate direct talks and more efforts to find a resolution through negotiations. The U.S. has rejected proposals from both countries that it stop joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Both Beijing and Moscow had strong words for Washington.

China’s U.N. ambassador urged the council to adopt the freeze-for-freeze proposal and urged the U.S. to pledge not to seek regime change or North Korea’s collapse. Russia’s envoy said Washington’s unwillingness to have U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres try to resolve the dispute “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds.”

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Talmadge is the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter at Eric Talmadge and on Instagram @erictalmadge.

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U.N. Security Council Adopts New Sanctions Against North Korea — No sanctions on Kim Jong Un, oil continues to flow — “But we did get a nice textile ban” — “This will encourage Iran”

September 12, 2017

Unanimous vote came after the U.S. rolled back its initial insistence on a complete oil embargo

Members of the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday that they said would reduce North Korea’s oil by 30%.
Members of the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday that they said would reduce North Korea’s oil by 30%.PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK
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UNITED NATIONS—The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted new sanctions against North Korea on Monday after U.S. officials eased their demands to convince China and Russia to approve the measure.

The U.S., which drafted the initial resolution while pledging the harshest possible sanctions yet, rolled back its initial insistence on a complete oil embargo and asset and travel freezes targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, diplomats said.

Despite the compromises, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said of the adopted resolution: “This will cut deep.”

“Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea,” she said, crediting the accord to the “strong relationship” between President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping.

“We are not looking for war. North Korea has not yet passed the point of no return,” Ms. Haley said.

Diplomats and North Korea watchers say while the new measures will add economic pressure they won’t force the regime to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The resolution targets North Korea’s export economy, sanctioning 90% of its annual revenue, diplomats said.

It will reduce oil imports by North Korea by 30%, placing an annual cap of 2 million barrels on refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel and capping crude oil at about 4 million barrels, U.S. officials said. The U.N. measure also completely bans natural gas imports.

North Korea now imports a total of 8.5 million barrels of oil a year, mostly from China, said a U.S. official.

As tensions rise around the Korean peninsula, American leaders have been openly discussing what was once unthinkable: A military intervention in North Korea. If this were to happen, here’s how specialists on North Korean security see things playing out.

The resolution also imposes an embargo on all textile trade and requires inspections and monitoring of North Korea’s sea vessels by member states. But it stops short of providing for the use of military force to gain access to the ships. The textile industry, the last big economic sector that hadn’t yet been targeted in North Korea, accounted for $760 million in 2016 revenue, U.S. officials said.

A proposed ban on North Korean foreign workers, a source of hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue to the regime, was reworded to allow countries to employ North Korean nationals if deemed vital for humanitarian reasons. Current contracts on the workers, estimated to number around 93,000 from Russia to Africa, will be phased out and not renewed, diplomats said.

China and Russia, economic and political allies of North Korea who both hold U.N. Security Council veto power, said they endorsed the new sanctions because of Pyongyang’s repeated violations of Council resolutions banning it from conducting nuclear and ballistic missile tests. But they both also criticized the U.S. and allies for not having a clear path toward diplomatic negotiations with North Korea and the ratcheting up rhetoric on military action.

“We hope that the U.S. will not seek regime change in North Korea,” the “collapse of North Korea,” or send its military into the country, said China’s Ambassador Liu Jieyi.

China is reluctant to pressure the North Korean regime to the brink of collapse fearing instability at its border, a flow of refugees and a possible American military presence. Russia and China have both said they favor direct talks and not sanctions.

Russia and China renewed their calls for North Korea to suspend nuclear and military tests in exchange for U.S. halting its military exercises on the Korean Peninsula and dismantling an American missile-defense system in South Korea known as Thaad.

“We think it’s a big mistake to underestimate this Russia and China initiative,” said Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. “It remains on the table at Security Council and we insist on it being considered.”

The U.S. has dismissed this proposal before. Ms. Haley recently called it “insulting” because she said it implied a moral equivalence between the U.S. and North Korea.

Many U.N. diplomats had considered a unanimous Security Council vote against North Korea as politically more important than a strong U.S. stand that risked division, diplomats said.

United Nations U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea on Monday.
United Nations U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley addressed a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea on Monday. PHOTO: BEBETO MATTHEWS/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Any perception of weakness on the side of the Security Council would only encourage the regime to continue its provocations and objectively create the risk of an increasingly extreme situation,” said France’s Ambassador François Delattre.

After the vote, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe praised the resolution, saying it “raises the pressure on North Korea to an unprecedented new level and expresses the clear will of the international community that we must change the policies of North Korea.”

North Korea this month conducted its sixth nuclear-weapons test and asserted that it had acquired the capacity to mount a hydrogen bomb on an intercontinental ballistic missile. Ms. Haley had warned that Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital city, was “begging for war” and spearheaded a fast-paced diplomatic response by pushing for U.N. action with a one-week timetable.

North Korea issued a statement on its official KCNA news agency on Monday warning that if the “illegal and unlawful” sanctions resolution passed, Pyongyang would inflict “the greatest pain and suffering” on the U.S.

“In case the U.S. eventually does rig up the illegal and unlawful ‘resolution’ on harsher sanctions, the DPRK [North Korea] shall make absolutely sure that the U.S. pays due price,” the spokesman of the country’s Foreign Ministry said.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at farnaz.fassihi@wsj.com

Appeared in the September 12, 2017, print edition as ‘U.N. Tightens Sanctions on North Korea.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-eases-u-n-measure-on-north-korea-to-coax-votes-from-china-russia-1505159014

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North Korea Warns U.S. Will Pay Due Price for Spearheading U.N. Sanctions

September 11, 2017

SEOUL — North Korea warned on Monday the United States would pay a “due price” for spearheading a U.N. Security Council resolution against its latest nuclear test, as Washington presses for a vote on a draft resolution imposing more sanctions on Pyongyang.

South Korean officials have said after the North’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, which it said was of an advanced hydrogen bomb, that it could launch another intercontinental ballistic missile in defiance of international pressure.

The United States wants the Security Council to impose an oil embargo on the North, halt its key export of textiles and subject leader Kim Jong Un to financial and travel ban, according to a draft resolution seen by Reuters.

The North’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the United States was “going frantic” to manipulate the Security Council over Pyongyang’s nuclear test, which it said was part of “legitimate self-defensive measures.”

“In case the U.S. eventually does rig up the illegal and unlawful ‘resolution’ on harsher sanctions, the DPRK shall make absolutely sure that the U.S. pays due price,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

DPRK is short for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The world will witness how the DPRK tames the U.S. gangsters by taking a series of actions tougher than they have ever envisaged,” the unnamed spokesman said.

“The DPRK has developed and perfected the super-powerful thermo-nuclear weapon as a means to deter the ever-increasing hostile moves and nuclear threat of the U.S. and defuse the danger of nuclear war looming over the Korean peninsula and the region.”

There was no independent verification of the North’s claim to have conducted a hydrogen bomb test, but some experts said there was enough strong evidence to suggest Pyongyang had either developed a hydrogen bomb or was getting close.

KCNA said on Sunday that Kim threw a banquet to laud the scientists and top military and party officials who contributed to the nuclear bomb test, topped with an art performance and a photo session with the leader himself.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Trump to speak with Xi Jinping about North Korea threat

September 6, 2017
  • Sep 06, 11:53 AM (IST)

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that he is open to all forms of talk with Kim Jong-un to resolve the ongoing tensions in the region, but stressed that this is not the time for dialogue.

  • Sep 06, 11:37 AM (IST)

    In an article published by Abu Dhabi-based think tank TRENDS Research & Advisory on August 31 titled “North Korea and a Return of ‘Balance of Terror'”, Scott Englund speaks about how after a long gap, there is now a new “balance of terror” where two adversaries are capable of attacking one another’s cities with the most powerful weapons ever built. Read it here.

  • Sep 06, 11:32 AM (IST)

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also planning to visit Vladivostok to talk to both Putin and Moon about North Korea. In an interaction with reporters in Tokyo, Abe said that North Korea must understand that it has “no bright future” if it continues doing what it is doing.

  • Sep 06, 11:26 AM (IST)

    “If we fail to stop North Korea’s provocations now, it could sink into an uncontrollable situation,” Moon said in his opening remarks in Vladivostok. On his part, Putin said that he welcomed the opportunity to discuss North Korea with Moon.

  • Sep 06, 11:21 AM (IST)

    South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has requested for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss how to prevent the North Korean situation from getting out of hand. Moon is currently in Vladivostok, Russia, for the Eastern Economic Forum that starts today.

  • Sep 06, 11:07 AM (IST)

    US President Donald Trump has said that he will be speaking to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the security challenges being posed by North Korea. This would be the first interaction between the two leaders since North Korea successfully test-fired its largest-ever nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile on Sunday.

  • Sep 06, 10:46 AM (IST)

    This piece, published by Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institue of International Studies on August 16, speaks about what could be done to deal with North Korea within the boundaries of diplomacy. Read it here.

  • Sep 06, 10:43 AM (IST)

    Robert Kelly, Associate Professor of International Relations at Pusan National University in South Korea, has said that the possibility of the situation in the Korean Peninsula escalating to war is remote. ““No Korea analyst of any stature has argued for war. I don’t know one person in the Korea analyst community who thinks war is likely. Nor do I know anyone serious who has advocated air strikes or other kinetic options,” Kelly wrote in his commentary on the issue on Wednesday.

  • Sep 06, 10:36 AM (IST)

    There is also increased concern that although North Korea may or may not be able to reach the US mainland with its ICBMs, it would be able to reach mainland Europe. The French defence minister on Tuesday warned that North Korea may be able to develop missiles that could reach Europe sooner than expected, and acknowledged that the possibility of the situation escalating to full-fledged conflict cannot be ruled out.

  • Sep 06, 10:27 AM (IST)

    After North Korea’s comments on Tuesday in the UN about having “gift packages” ready for the United States, Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that Russia would not be able to rush into the decision of imposing new sanctions on the rogue nation. As the situation is developing, there is more and more doubt that US would not be able to get the UN Security Council’s go ahead for imposing new sanctions on North Korea, given that both China and Russia are also members of the Security Council.

    See more:

    http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/world/north-korea-news-live-diplomat-says-ready-to-send-more-gift-packages-to-the-us-2377843.html

South Korea Seeks Bigger Warheads — North Korean ICBM Reportedly on the Move — “Sanctions won’t stop that big a weapon”

September 5, 2017

SEOUL — South Korea said on Tuesday an agreement with the United States to scrap a weight limit on its warheads would help it respond to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat after Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test two days ago.

South Korean officials believe more provocation from the reclusive state is possible, despite international outrage over Sunday’s test and calls for more sanctions on North Korea.

South Korea’s Asia Business Daily, citing an unidentified source, reported on Tuesday that North Korea had been observed moving a rocket that appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards its west coast.

Image result for north korean ICBM on TEL, moving, photos, countryside

The rocket started moving on Monday and was spotted moving only at night to avoid surveillance, the report said.

South Korea’s defense ministry, which warned on Monday that North Korea was ready to launch an ICBM at any time, said they were unable to confirm the report.

Analysts and South Korean policymakers believe North Korea may engage in another provocation on or around Sept. 9, when the North celebrates its founding day. North Korea’s fifth nuclear test fell on the same day last year, reflecting Pyongyang’s preference to conduct weapons tests on key holidays for strategic impact.

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MILITARY BUILDUP

South Korea is talking to Washington about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean peninsula, and has been ramping up its own defenses in the meantime.

South Korea’s navy held more drills on Tuesday.

“Today’s training is being held to prepare for maritime North Korean provocations, inspect our navy’s readiness and to reaffirm our will to punish the enemy,” an unidentified South Korean naval officer told a Defence Ministry briefing.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in agreed on Monday to scrap a warhead weight limit on South Korea’s missiles, South Korea’s presidential office said, enabling it to strike North Korea with greater force in the event of a military conflict. The White House said Trump gave “in-principle approval” to the move.

The United States and South Korea signed a pact in 1979, a year after the South successfully tested a ballistic missile, with Washington expressing the need for limits on ballistic missile capability over concerns that such tests could harm regional security.

South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Both sides have thousands of rockets and artillery pieces aimed at each other across the world’s most heavily armed border but the North’s rapid development of nuclear weapons and missiles has altered the balance, requiring a stronger response from South Korea, officials say.

“We believe the unlimited warhead payload will be useful in responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told a briefing on Tuesday.

Under the current guidelines, last changed in 2012, South Korea can develop missiles up to a range of 800 km (500 miles) with a maximum payload of 500 kg (1,102 pounds).

The Hwasong 14 ICBM, tested twice by the North in July, has a potential range of up to 10,000 km (6,210 miles) and is capable of carrying a 300-700 kg (660-1,540 pounds) warhead, according to the NTI.

“PATIENCE NOT UNLIMITED”

On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” and urged the 15-member U.N. Security Council to impose the “strongest possible” sanctions to deter him and shut down his trading partners.

Trump held calls with foreign leaders on Monday, including Moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the White House declared that “all options to address the North Korean threat are on the table”.

Haley said the United States would circulate a new Security Council resolution on North Korea this week and wanted a vote on it on Monday.

“War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory,” Haley said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Tuesday she felt her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, was open to additional sanctions on North Korea after they discussed the North’s sixth nuclear test.

“I cannot tell you exact details as the minister asked me not to disclose the content of our discussion, but I could sense that China could be open to more sanctions,” Kang told lawmakers in parliament after her phone call with Wang on Monday.

Diplomats have said the Security Council could now consider banning North Korean textile exports and its national airline, stop supplies of oil to the government and military, prevent North Koreans from working abroad and add top officials to a blacklist to subject them to an asset freeze and travel ban.

The sanctions imposed after July’s missile tests aimed to slash Pyongyang’s $3 billion annual export revenue by a third by banning exports of coal, iron, lead and seafood.

China accounted for 92 percent of North Korea’s trade in 2016, according to South Korea’s government trade promotion agency.

For a graphic on nuclear North Korea, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/NORTHKOREA-MISSILES/010031V7472/index.html

(Reporting by Christine Kim; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UNITED NATIONS and Tim Ahmann and David Shepardson in WASHINGTON; Writing by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Paul Tait)

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What Is North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Trying Prove With H-Bomb?

September 3, 2017

By Eric Talmadge

TOKYO — North Korea put on an extraordinary two-part show of its nuclear ambitions Sunday, releasing photos of leader Kim Jong Un next to what it described as a H-bomb for an ICBM, then actually detonating a device in its sixth and by far most powerful nuclear test to date.

The underground test, a major nose-thumb at Washington, Beijing and all of the North’s neighbors, follows an intense few months that have seen Kim launching missiles at record clip and in ways that are much more provocative than usual.

It was almost certainly intended to get under the skin of one man in particular: U.S. President Donald Trump, whose first salvo back, in a tweet, was: “North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.”

Indeed.

Here’s a closer look at what the North did Sunday, and some of the possible reasons why.

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THE MORNING TEASER

Bright and early, North Korea’s state media started posting photos of Kim visiting the country’s Nuclear Weapons Institute to see what state media described as “a signal turn in nuclear weaponization.”

A front-page story in the ruling-party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, carried photos of Kim watching a shiny, peanut-shaped device it said was a hydrogen bomb designed to be mounted into the North’s new “Hwasong-14” intercontinental ballistic missile. The North’s official news agency, KCNA, also released the photos, which were clearly intended to be seen by a global audience.

Whether the North can make a nuclear warhead small and light enough to put on top of a long-range missile has long been a matter of heated debate among foreign experts. This was clearly an attempt to address those doubts. The North in July had demonstrated for the first time that it has — or is very close to having — an operational ICBM, though experts still believe it could at best reach Chicago and will probably require another year or two to perfect.

The photos created a stir among missile and nuclear weapons experts on Twitter, with the general consensus being that the design appeared to look about right for a sophisticated thermonuclear warhead. The peanut shape is created by two rounded “stages” within the device that give it an extra boost and a far higher yield than simpler nuclear bombs.

The state media reports stressed that the bomb was made with domestic parts and workmanship, suggesting that more could be made without outside experts or imports.

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BIGGEST BLAST YET

Before North Korea watchers had a chance to digest that photo dump, the seismographs started recording a big tremor at about 12:30 p.m. North Korea time.

Ground motion is a great indicator of an underground nuclear test, and sometimes the only one. North Korea has proven itself adept at masking other telltale signs, such as the leakage of radioactive materials. The power of the blast, its location at the North’s nuclear testing site and the shallow epicenter left little doubt.

North Korea has repeatedly stated that it will continue to pursue nuclear weapons and long-range missiles capable of reaching the U.S. because it sees that strategy as its only protection against what it believes is a hostile superpower bent on regime change or possibly outright invasion.

To that end, it must test its weapons to both perfect technologies and dispel doubts. Sunday’s test went a long way toward doing that.

Although it doesn’t prove a nuclear warhead can be fitted onto the Hwasong-14, thermonuclear devices can be lightweight and still produce tremendously high yields. The device that was detonated on Sunday is believed to have a much bigger yield than anything the North has ever demonstrated before — possibly 70 kilotons according to Japan’s defense minister.

That’s far more than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima (15 kilotons) and Nagasaki (around 20).

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A CURTAIN RAISER

Starting with the launches of two ICBMs in July that are believed to have the range to strike the U.S. mainland, North Korea has been far more aggressive in its military activities over the past few months than usual.

It’s possible Kim Jong Un — feeling either threatened or emboldened by Trump — has decided to hurry to get that nuclear deterrent his country is after.

But tensions on the Korean Peninsula rise every year in the spring and late summer, when the U.S. and South Korea hold annual military exercises.

North Korea has stated it is, at least in part, responding to Washington’s decision to hold the exercises, which ended last week. It has also protested a new round of sanctions recently approved by the U.N. and the repeated dispatch of B-1B bombers from the island of Guam to the skies of South Korea — a show of force from Washington to reassure allies in Seoul and Tokyo.

North Korea’s state media reported that Kim said the launch of an intermediate range missile over Japan just a week ago was a “curtain-raiser” for more activity ahead.

Sunday’s test would certainly fit that bill.

But it will almost certainly raise the curtain on something else — a tougher response, either in sanctions, diplomatic isolation or a bolstered U.S. military presence — that Kim and his top lieutenants will have to take into consideration as well.

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Talmadge has been The AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief since 2013. Follow him on Twitter at EricTalmadge and on Instagram @erictalmadge.

See also:

What Motivations Lie Behind North Korea’s Nuclear Arsenal (The New York Times)

North Korea Claims Test of Hydrogen Bomb for Long-Range Missile a Success

September 3, 2017

Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test came after Kim Jong Un showed off what he described as a hydrogen bomb for an ICBM

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un discusses the nation’s nuclear weapons program in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Sunday.
KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS

Updated Sept. 3, 2017 10:13 a.m. ET

SEOUL—North Korea said it conducted a sixth and significantly larger nuclear test Sunday, stepping up pressure on President Donald Trump in what is shaping up to be his biggest foreign policy crisis.

In a televised statement, North Korea described the underground explosion, which triggered a large earthquake, as a “perfect success in the test of a hydrogen bomb for an ICBM.” Pyongyang said “the creditability of the operation of the nuclear warhead is fully guaranteed.”

The test came just hours after leader Kim Jong Un showed off what he described as a hydrogen bomb capable of being mounted on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The explosion at the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri in North Korea’s mountainous northeast triggered an initial magnitude-6.3 earthquake, followed by a magnitude-4.1 temblor that was possibly caused by a structural collapse, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

While it was unclear what set off the second quake, satellite imagery has captured evidence of tunneling activity at the nuclear test site in recent months. Any structural collapse might have been related to that.

Estimates of the size of Sunday’s initial earthquake varied among different agencies, but the USGS said it had a magnitude of 6.3. According to the logarithmic scale used to measure earthquakes, a 6.3 quake would be 10 times bigger than the one triggered by the North’s previous nuclear test in September 2016, which the USGS said had a magnitude of 5.3.

The latest nuclear test was estimated to have a yield of as high as 100 kilotons—about 10 times the power of the North’s previous test and roughly five times that of the atomic bomb that the U.S. dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945, according to Kim Young-woo, a South Korean lawmaker who is chairman of the legislature’s defense committee and received a briefing from military authorities.

A spokesman for the defense ministry declined to comment.

Norsar, a Norwegian nonprofit foundation with a focus on seismology, estimated the explosive yield at 120 kilotons, based on a 5.8-magnitude assessment of the explosion.

South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said after a 90-minute emergency meeting of the National Security Council that Seoul would consider the possible deployment of what he described as the “most powerful strategic assets that the U.S. possesses,” without elaborating, according to a statement from the presidential Blue House.

The phrase “strategic assets” typically refers to stealth bombers, aircraft carriers or possibly nuclear weapons. The U.S. withdrew the last of its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991.

Mr. Chung, who also spoke by phone with Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his counterpart at the White House, said that Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, had called for the “strongest punitive measures” against Pyongyang. That includes diplomatic measures and a new United Nations Security Council resolution to “completely isolate North Korea.”

North Korea has conducted a major Nuclear Test. Their words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States…..

..North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.

South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!

In Sunday morning tweets, Mr. Trump said North Korea’s “words and actions continue to be very hostile and dangerous to the United States.” He added: “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.” He also added: “South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

“The national security team is monitoring this closely,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday morning. “The president and his national security team will have a meeting to discuss further later today. We will provide updates as necessary.”

While North Korea has made steady advances in both its nuclear and missile programs over the course of decades, Mr. Kim has greatly accelerated the pace of testing as the isolated country nears the ability to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile to the continental U.S.

Just this year, it has conducted a string of successful missile tests that have extended the proven range of its arsenal and introduced new capabilities that allow Pyongyang to fire missiles more quickly and with less warning. In July, it test-fired two ICBMs that experts say they believe are capable of reaching many parts of the U.S. mainland.

“The Kim regime made the strategic decision to develop a nuclear armed ICBM that can strike the United States,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “It is in a sprint to deploy that capability, because it wants the world to recognize it before returning to diplomatic talks, and before sanctions become unbearable.”

However, analysts have been divided on whether North Korea could shrink a nuclear warhead to fit on the tip of a missile. Many also remain skeptical about whether a North Korean warhead can survive the strain of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

In an earlier statement Sunday, which followed a meeting between Mr. Kim and his top nuclear scientists, North Korea claimed it had already mastered the ability to mount a hydrogen bomb atop a long-range missile.

Mr. Kim was quoted as saying all of the components of its hydrogen bomb were homemade, insulating the nuclear-weapons program from sanctions and “enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons, as many as it wants.” The bomb’s explosive power has a range up to hundreds of kilotons, the North Korean report said.

The claims couldn’t be immediately verified and the report didn’t specify the date of Mr. Kim’s visit. North Korea conducted a pair of nuclear tests last year, including one a year ago this week, that Pyongyang claimed involved hydrogen bombs.

North Korea’s September 2016 test had an estimated yield of about 10 kilotons, higher than in any of its previous four tests but likely too low to have come from a hydrogen bomb.

In photos published by North Korean state media before Sunday’s nuclear test, Mr. Kim gestured toward a bulbous silver device that appeared capable of holding the two nuclear devices that would be necessary for a thermonuclear blast.

A hydrogen bomb—technically known as a thermonuclear weapon—typically uses a smaller, primary atomic explosion to ignite a secondary, much larger blast. The first stage is based on nuclear fission—the splitting of atoms—and the second on nuclear fusion, which combines atoms, smashing them together and unleashing more energy. Additional stages can be added to increase its destructive force.

That makes the H-bomb more powerful than early nuclear weapons that typically used a single-stage blast based only on nuclear fission. Those weapons are known as “pure fission” devices and are thought to have been used in all of North Korea’s first three nuclear tests, which it said involved atomic bombs.

Sunday’s nuclear test came just before Chinese President Xi Jinping was set to give a speech at a summit of the five so-called Brics countries, including Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa, being held in the southern Chinese coastal city of Xiamen.

China’s environmental ministry posted online Sunday evening that it has initiated emergency protocol for possible radiation from North Korea at 11:46 a.m. local time (11:46 p.m. EDT), and is currently monitoring radiation on the northeast border.

Zhao Tong, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, said North Korea may have chosen to conduct the nuclear test ahead of China’s leadership reshuffle set for next month, knowing Beijing will emphasize stability before the critical meeting.

“It appears North Korea wants to complete the final step toward perfect nuclear deterrence before the 19th party congress because China wants to prioritize stability ahead of it,” he said. The twice-a-decade Communist Party gathering is expected to start Oct. 18 in Beijing.

If North Korea has achieved the capability to test a thermonuclear weapon, it gives it a more “credible nuclear deterrence,” as it no longer needs very accurate missiles to hit its targets, he said. “That’s a real concern.”

China’s Foreign Ministry condemned the latest North Korean nuclear test in a statement, vowing to “comprehensively implement” U.N. Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang.


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Lee Mi-Seon, a director of South Korea’s National Earthquake and Volcano Center, shows a map of a North Korean location during a briefing about the ‘artificial earthquake’ in North Korea, at the Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul on Sunday. The ‘artificial quake’ in North Korea on Sunday, thought to be its sixth nuclear test, was five to six times more powerful than the tremor from Pyongyang’s fifth test, the weather agency said.
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People in North Korea react to the news of their country’s latest nuclear test, at the Mirae Scientists Street in Pyongyang on Sunday.
KWANG HYON/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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South Korean soldiers sit on the top of a military armored vehicle on the road in the border city of Paju on Sunday.
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during an emergency National Security Council meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul on Sunday. He called for the ‘strongest punishment’ against North Korea, including new United Nations sanctions, after Pyongyang said it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb on Sunday.
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Pedestrians in Tokyo look at a TV screen showing Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaking to reporters after North Korea’s latest nuclear test on Sunday.
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“We strongly urge the DPRK to face up to the firm will of the international society on the issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula” and to return to “the track of dialogue,” the ministry said, referring to North Korea by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country would work together with the U.S., South Korea, China and Russia on a response to the nuclear test.

“We can never accept it. We will need to make a strong protest,” Mr. Abe said.

In North Korea’s statement before the nuclear test, Mr. Kim also threatened to detonate a nuclear device at a high altitude above the U.S. The detonation could emit a brief but powerful electromagnetic signal capable of disrupting swaths of the U.S. electrical grid, experts say.

Fears of such an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, attack by North Korea have circulated for years among some U.S. policy makers, though others have openly dismissed the possibility that Pyongyang could launch such a strike.

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

North Korea Says Hydrogen Bomb Test Was ‘Perfect Success’

September 3, 2017

SEOUL — North Korea said on Sunday it has successfully tested a hydrogen bomb designed to be mounted on its newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile, producing a greater yield than any of its previous nuclear tests.

The hydrogen bomb test ordered by leader Kim Jong Un was a “perfect success” and was a “meaningful” step in completing the country’s nuclear weapons programme, state television said.

The announcement came hours after a large earthquake that appeared to be man-made was detected near the North’s known nuclear test site, indicating that the reclusive country had conducted its sixth nuclear test.

(Reporting by Jack Kim and Soyoung Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Related:

Signs of earthquake suggests North Korea has conducted sixth nuclear test

September 3, 2017

AFP and Reuters

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© STR/KCNA via KNS/AFP | This undated picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 3, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) looking at a metal casing with two bulges at an undisclosed location.

To View Video go here: http://www.france24.com/en/20170903-north-korea-earthquake-suggests-sixth-nuclear-test

Video by Marios SOFOS

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-09-03

A shallow, 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook North Korea on Sunday, suggesting it had detonated a sixth nuclear device, hours after it said it had developed an advanced hydrogen bomb that possesses “great destructive power”.

The earthquake struck 75 km (45 miles) north northwest of Kimchaek. Previous recent tremors in the region have been caused by nuclear tests, which if the case this time round, is bound to increase the tension hours after U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked by phone about the “escalating” nuclear crisis.

The quake was only 10 km deep, the U.S. Geological Survey said, again suggesting a nuclear device.

Witnesses in the Chinese city of Yanji, on the border with North Korea, said they felt a tremor that lasted roughly 10 seconds, followed by an aftershock.

FRANCE 24’S BRIAN KOPCZYNSKI REPORTS FROM BEIJING ON N. KOREA’S APPARENT NEW NUCLEAR TEST

To view Video go here: http://www.france24.com/en/20170903-north-korea-earthquake-suggests-sixth-nuclear-test

The hydrogen bomb report by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency comes amid heightened regional tension following Pyongyang’s two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) in July that potentially could fly about 10,000 km (6,200 miles), putting many parts of the mainland United States within range.

Under third-generation leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been pursuing a nuclear device small and light enough to fit on a long-range ballistic missile, without affecting its range and making it capable of surviving re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

North Korea, which carries out its nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions, “recently succeeded” in making a more advanced hydrogen bomb that will be loaded on to an ICBM, KCNA said.

“The H-bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens kiloton to hundreds kiloton, is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals,” KCNA said.

“All components of the H-bomb were homemade and all the processes … were put on the Juche basis, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

Juche is North Korea’s homegrown ideology of self-reliance that is a mix of Marxism and extreme nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather. It says its weapons programmes are needed to counter U.S. aggression.

North Korea offered no evidence for its latest claim, and Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, was sceptical.

“Referring to tens to hundreds of kilotons, it doesn’t appear to be talking about a fully fledged H-bomb. It’s more likely a boosted nuclear device,” Kim said, referring to an atomic bomb which uses some hydrogen isotopes to boost explosive yield.

A hydrogen bomb can achieve thousands of kilotons of explosive yield – massively more powerful than some 10 to 15 kilotons that North Korea’s last nuclear test in September was estimated to have produced, similar to the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

Hourglass-shaped device

Kim Jong Un, who visited the country’s nuclear weapons institute, “watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM” and “set forth tasks to be fulfilled in the research into nukes,” KCNA said.

Pictures released by the agency showed Kim inspecting a silver-coloured, hourglass-shaped warhead in the visit accompanied by nuclear scientists, with a concept diagram of its Hwasong-14 long-range ballistic missile seen hanging on the wall.

The shape shows a marked difference from pictures of the ball-shaped device North Korea released in March last year, and appears to indicate the appearance of a two-stage thermonuclear weapon, or a hydrogen bomb, said Lee Choon-geun, senior research fellow at state-run Science and Technology Policy Institute.

“The pictures show a more complete form of a possible hydrogen bomb, with a primary fission bomb and a secondary fusion stage connected together in an hourglass shape,” Lee said.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high since last month when North Korea threatened to launch missiles into the sea near the strategically located U.S. Pacific territory of Guam after Trump said Pyongyang would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

North Korea further raised regional tensions on Tuesday by launching an intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan, drawing international condemnation.

Trump and Abe spoke by phone and said that in face of an “escalating” situation with North Korea that close cooperation between their countries and with South Korea was needed, Abe told reporters.

Trump told Abe that the United States, as an ally, was 100 percent with Japan, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters.

“The two leaders reaffirmed the importance of close cooperation between the United States, Japan and South Korea in the face of the growing threat from North Korea,” the White House said in a statement. “President Trump noted that he looks forward to continued trilateral coordination on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.”

The United States has repeatedly urged China, the North’s sole major ally, to do more to rein in its neighbour.

North Korea last year conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests, saying the fourth in January 2016 was a successful hydrogen bomb test, although outside experts say the claim has not been proved.

Impoverished North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The North regularly threatens to destroy the South and its main ally, the United States.

(REUTERS)

http://www.france24.com/en/20170903-north-korea-earthquake-suggests-sixth-nuclear-test

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North Korea: Kim Jong Un observes missile-ready hydrogen bomb

September 3, 2017

Updated 11:04 PM ET, Sat September 2, 2017

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) — North Korea’s regime has “succeeded in making a more developed nuke,” according to the country’s state news agency.

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During a visit to the country’s Nuclear Weapons Institute, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “watched an H-bomb to be loaded into new ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile),” the Korean Central News Agency reported.
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There was no independent confirmation of the claims.
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Kim Jong Un visits the country's Nuclear Weapons Institute in a photo released Sunday by KCNA.

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“The H-bomb, the explosive power of which is adjustable from tens kiloton to hundreds kiloton, is a multi-functional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for super-powerful EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack according to strategic goals,” KCNA reported in English.
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Electromagnetic pulse is an intense wave of electrical energy generated by the detonation of a nuclear weapon.
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“Nuclear EMP has the demonstrated potential to disrupt, damage, or destroy a wide variety of electrical and electronic equipment,” according to the US Department of Energy.
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EMP waves can disable all sorts of electrical devices, but their biggest threat is to the electrical grid and long-haul communications, an Energy Department report says. One blast could knock out power and communications over hundreds or even thousands of kilometers, the report says.
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North Korea has launched two missiles this year that demonstrated intercontinental capabilities, according to analysts. A launch on July 28 showed a missile that North Korea claimed could reach any part of the United States, though analysts said it might fall a bit short of New York, Washington and other East Coast cities.
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Pyongyang last tested a nuclear device in September 2016, at that time saying its test of a 10-kiloton weapon would enable it to produce “a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.”
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Hydrogen bomb vs atomic bomb
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Atomic bombs use a process called fission. They split plutonium and/or uranium into smaller atoms in a chain reaction that releases massive amounts of energy.

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The A-bombs dropped by the US military on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 killed more than 200,000 people.

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Hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs use fusion, the same process that powers the sun. In a hydrogen (thermonuclear) bomb, “heavy” isotopes of hydrogen are forced together to release a much bigger punch — hundreds or even thousands of times more powerful than the only nuclear weapons that have been used in warfare.

It was the country’s fifth nuclear test and produced twice as much explosive power as the previous test earlier in the year.
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Despite the successful tests, analysts have been uncertain about the ability of Pyongyang to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile and get that warhead to survive the tremendous heat generated on the missile’s re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
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But North Korea boasted about its nuclear missile program in Sunday’s report, saying it has the know-how and materials to make as many weapons as it wants.
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“All components of the H-bomb were 100 percent homemade and all the processes ranging from the production of weapons-grade nuclear materials to precision processing of components and their assembling were indigenously developed, thus enabling the country to produce powerful nuclear weapons as many as it wants,” the report said.
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Sunday’s KCNA report on the new nuclear capability follows a week of escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
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North Koreans Watch Launch pkg ripley_00021327

 http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/02/asia/north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuke-lab-visit/index.html
North Koreans watch missile launch 02:19
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Tuesday, Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range missile, identified by the North Koreans as the Hwasong-12, over Japan.
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North Korean state media claimed a day later that the missile launch was a prelude to more military operations directed at the US island of Guam in the Pacific.
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South Korea responded to that test by staging a live-fire bombing drill simulating the destruction of North Korea’s leadership. Four F-15K jet fighters dropped eight 2,000-pound bombs designed to take out hardened targets in northeastern South Korea.
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South Korea's explosive response to North Korea missile

 http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/02/asia/north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuke-lab-visit/index.html
South Korea’s explosive response to North Korea missile 01:14
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US President Donald Trump warned after the Tuesday launch that “all options are on the table” concerning North Korea’s nuclear and missile program.
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“This regime has signaled its contempt for its neighbors, for all members of the United Nations, and for minimum standards of acceptable international behavior,” Trump said.
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“Threatening and destabilizing actions only increase the North Korean regime’s isolation in the region and among all nations of the world. All options are on the table.”
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Thursday, the US military sent its most-advanced fighter jets, Marine Corps F-35Bs, in a flyover of the Korean Peninsula along with US B-1 bombers and South Korean fighter jets.
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In a statement, US Pacific Command said the flyover was a “direct response to North Korea’s intermediate range ballistic missile launch.”
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North Korea calls bombing drill a 'rash act'

 http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/02/asia/north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuke-lab-visit/index.html
North Korea calls bombing drill a ‘rash act’ 02:28
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North Korea called the flyover a “wild military act” by enemies flustered by the progress Pyongyang has made in its missile program.
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Saturday, the US and South Korea announced they have agreed “in principle” to revise a bilateral treaty that limits the weight and range of the South’s ballistic missiles.
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The move could give South Korea more independence from the United States to react to the threat from North Korea, analysts say.
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North Korea has been test-firing missiles at a rapid pace all year. With each launch, experts say Pyongyang can further refine and perfect its missile technology.
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Includes videos:

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