Posts Tagged ‘Shinzo Abe’

Kim Jong-Un beams as he watches a ‘revolutionary’ new rocket being tested despite a ban on North Korea developing missiles

March 19, 2017

  • North Korea conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine
  • Kim was beaming from ear to ear as he and his generals applauded the test
  • He called it ‘an event of historic significance’ for the country’s rocket industry

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

Kim was beaming from ear to ear as he and his generals applauded the successful test at the Sohae launch site yesterday.

The trial was intended to confirm the engine’s thrust power and gauge the reliability of its control system and structural safety.

Kim hailed it ‘a great event of historic significance’ for the country’s rocket industry.

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Beaming: Kim celebrated with his generals who applauded the test at the launch site

Beaming: Kim celebrated with his generals who applauded the test at the launch site

Having a blast: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the country's Sohae launch site yesterday

Having a blast: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the country’s Sohae launch site yesterday

Kim called the test 'a great event of historic significance' for the country's indigenous rocket industry

Kim called the test ‘a great event of historic significance’ for the country’s indigenous rocket industry

Kim watched the rocket being fire from afar as he celebrated what he called a great day in his country's history

Kim watched the rocket being fire from afar as he celebrated what he called a great day in his country’s history

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also said the 'whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries'

He also said the ‘whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries’

North Korea has conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine

North Korea has conducted a ground test of a new type of high-thrust rocket engine

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

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

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

The test was conducted as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in China on a swing through Asia

The test was conducted as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in China on a swing through Asia

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China

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

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

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

North Korea put its first satellite in orbit in 2012, a feat few other countries have achieved

North Korea put its first satellite in orbit in 2012, a feat few other countries have achieved

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4328086/North-Korea-tests-newly-developed-high-thrust-rocket-engine.html#ixzz4bmpfOgSf
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U.S., China soften tone, say to work together on North Korea

March 18, 2017

Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) reach to shake hands at th end of a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/ Mark Schiefelbein
By Yeganeh Torbati and Ben Blanchard | BEIJING

The United States and China will work together to get nuclear-armed North Korea take “a different course”, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Saturday, softening previous criticism of Beijing after talks with his Chinese counterpart.

China has been irritated at being repeatedly told by Washington to rein in North Korea’s surging nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, one of a series of hurdles in ties between the world’s two largest economies.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the talks with Tillerson as “candid, pragmatic and productive”. The two sides appeared to have made some progress or put aside differences on difficult issues, at least in advance of a planned summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump.

On Friday, Tillerson issued the Trump administration’s starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying in Seoul that a military response would be “on the table” if Pyongyang took action to threaten South Korean and U.S. forces.

Tillerson took a softer line after the meeting with Wang. He told reporters both China and the United States noted efforts over the last two decades had not succeeded in curbing the threat posed by North Korea’s weapons programmes.

“We share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and that things have reached a rather dangerous level, and we’ve committed ourselves to doing everything we can to prevent any type of conflict from breaking out,” Tillerson said.

He said Wang and he agreed to work together to persuade North Korea “make a course correction and move away from the development of their nuclear weapons.”

Wang said U.N. resolutions on North Korea both mapped out sanctions and called for efforts to resume efforts for a negotiated settlement.

“No matter what happens, we have to stay committed to diplomatic means as a way to seek peaceful settlement,” he said.

Wang said he and Tillerson “both hope to find ways to restart the talks”.

“Neither of us are ready to give up the hope for peace,” he said.

Tillerson had said on Friday that any talks on North Korea could only take place after it began the process of unwinding its weapons programmes.

A U.S. official had told Reuters in Washington earlier this week that Tillerson may raise the prospect of imposing “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other firms doing business with North Korea in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

Trump said in a tweet on Friday that North Korea was “behaving very badly” and accused China, Pyongyang’s neighbour and only major ally, of doing little to resolve the crisis.

XI-TRUMP SUMMIT

However, the two sides appear to have toned down differences as they work on finalising a trip by Xi to the United States, possibly next month, for his first summit with Trump.

Wang said the two countries were in “close communication” on arranging the meeting, but gave no details.

The state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times said on Saturday that it was in China’s interests to stop North Korea’s nuclear ambitions but to suggest China cut the country off completely was ridiculous as it would be fraught with danger.

“Once there is chaos in North Korea, it would first bring disaster to China. I’m sorry, but the United States and South Korea don’t have the right to demand this of China,” it said in an editorial.

A former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, Tillerson will meet Xi on Sunday.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since the beginning of last year.

Last week, it launched four more ballistic missiles and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.

Washington has been pressing Beijing to do more to stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

China has called for a dual track approach, urging North Korea to suspend its tests and the United States and South Korea to suspend military drills, so both sides can return to talks.

China has also been infuriated by the deployment of the THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, missile defence system in South Korea, which it says will both harm China’s own security and do nothing to ease tensions.

China says the system’s powerful radar will extend into the country’s northeast and potentially track Chinese missile launches, and maybe even intercept them. Russia also opposes THAAD, for the same reasons.

There are other tricky issues too, including the self-ruled island of Taiwan which China claims as its own.

The Trump administration is crafting a big new arms package for Taiwan that could include advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to defend against China, U.S. officials said, a deal sure to anger Beijing.

Wang said Saturday’s talks included discussions on THAAD and Taiwan but did not give details.

(Additional reporting by Elias Glenn; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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China: Rex Tillerson urged to be ‘cool-headed’ over North Korea

March 18, 2017

BBC News

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, on 18 March2017

Relations are tense almost a month before an expected summit between the two countries’ leaders. AFP photo

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has urged the US to remain “cool-headed” over North Korean tensions.

The situation was at a “crossroads”, but must not be allowed to develop into a conflict, he said after hosting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mr Tillerson spoke of “dangerous levels” of tension, a day after suggesting the US might launch a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.

North Korea is working to develop nuclear missiles that can reach the US.

Last week, it launched four ballistic missiles – defying United Nations resolutions.

Mr Tillerson is in Beijing in the final leg of his East Asia tour, which has been dominated by anxieties over North Korea.

In South Korea on Friday, he said a US military response would be on the table if North Korea threatened South Korea or US forces.

President Donald Trump tweeted that North Korea was “behaving very badly”.

He added that China – Pyongyang’s main ally – had done “little to help”.

Mr Wang defended the Chinese position, saying all parties were duty-bound to implement UN sanctions against Pyongyang, but also to seek dialogue and diplomatic solutions.

“We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” Mr Wang said.

The US has deployed its Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad) in South Korea in a move it says is designed to protect against threats from North Korea.

But China has claimed the system goes “far beyond” the defence needs of the Korean peninsula.

Mr Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday.

Mr Xi is scheduled to visit the United States next month for his first meeting with President Trump.

Some commentators expect Mr Tillerson to downplay any tensions between the two countries ahead of that encounter.

The timing is hardly auspicious, says the BBC’s China editor Carrie Gracie.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-39313654

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China, U.S. Hold ‘Candid’ Talks on North Korea, Taiwan

March 18, 2017

BEIJING — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday he held “candid, pragmatic and productive” talks with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which included North Korea, Taiwan and bilateral trade.

Tillerson said both sides renewed their determination to convince North Korea, which has a fast-developing nuclear and ballistic missile program, to choose a better path.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Tom Hogue)

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U.S. Signals New Tack on North Korea — China not happy with the criticism

March 18, 2017

By Richard Haas

President, Council on Foreign Relations
March 17, 2017

There is a growing consensus that the first genuine crisis of Donald Trump’s presidency could involve North Korea and, more specifically, its ability to place a nuclear warhead on one or more ballistic missiles possessing sufficient range and accuracy to reach the continental United States. A crisis could stem from other factors as well: a large increase in the number of nuclear warheads that North Korea produces, evidence that it is selling nuclear materials to terrorist groups, or some use of its conventional military forces against South Korea or US forces stationed there.

There is no time to lose: any of these developments could occur in a matter of months or at most years. Strategic patience, the approach toward North Korea that has characterized successive US administrations since the early 1990s, has run its course.

One option would be simply to accept as inevitable continued increases in the quantity and quality of North Korea’s nuclear and missile inventories. The US, South Korea, and Japan would fall back on a combination of missile defense and deterrence.

The problem is that missile defense is imperfect, and deterrence is uncertain. The only certainty is that the failure of either would result in unimaginable costs. In these circumstances, Japan and South Korea might reconsider whether they, too, require nuclear weapons, raising the risk of a new and potentially destabilizing arms race in the region.

A second set of options would employ military force, either against a gathering North Korean threat or one judged to be imminent. One problem with this approach is uncertainty as to whether military strikes could destroy all of the North’s missiles and warheads. But even if they could, North Korea would probably retaliate with conventional military forces against South Korea. Given that Seoul and US troops stationed in South Korea are well within range of thousands of artillery pieces, the toll in lives and physical damage would be immense. The new South Korean government (which will take office in two months) is sure to resist any action that could trigger such a scenario.

Some therefore opt for regime change, hoping that a different North Korean leadership might prove to be more reasonable. It probably would; but, given how closed North Korea is, bringing about such an outcome remains more wish than serious policy.

This brings us to diplomacy. The US could offer (following close consultations with the governments in South Korea and Japan, and ideally against the backdrop of additional United Nations resolutions and economic sanctions) direct negotiations with North Korea. Once talks commenced, the US side could advance a deal: North Korea would have to agree to freeze its nuclear and missile capabilities, which would require cessation of all testing of both warheads and missiles, along with access to international inspectors to verify compliance. The North would also have to commit not to sell any nuclear materials to any other country or organization.

In exchange, the US and its partners would offer, besides direct talks, the easing of sanctions. The US and others could also agree to sign – more than 60 years after the end of the Korean War – a peace agreement with the North.

North Korea (in some ways like Iran) could keep its nuclear option but be barred from translating it into a reality. Concerns over North Korea’s many human-rights violations would not be pressed at this time, although the country’s leaders would understand that there could be no normalization of relations (or end of sanctions) so long as repression remained the norm. Full normalization of ties would also require North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons program.

At the same time, the US should limit how far it is willing to go. There can be no end to regular US-South Korean military exercises, which are a necessary component of deterrence and potential defense, given the military threat posed by the North. For the same reason, any limits on US forces in the country or region would be unacceptable. And any negotiation must take place within a fixed time period, lest North Korea use that time to create new military facts.

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USS Carl Vinson refuels USS O’Kane

Could such an approach succeed? The short answer is “maybe.” China’s stance would likely prove critical. Chinese leaders have no love for Kim Jong-un’s regime or its nuclear weapons, but it dislikes even more the prospect of North Korea’s collapse and the unification of the Korean Peninsula with Seoul as the capital.

The question is whether China (the conduit by which goods enter and leave North Korea) could be persuaded to use its considerable influence with its neighbor. The US should offer some reassurances that it would not exploit Korea’s reunification for strategic advantage, while warning China of the dangers North Korea’s current path poses to its own interests. Continued conversations with China about how best to respond to possible scenarios on the peninsula clearly make sense.

Again, there is no guarantee that diplomacy would succeed. But it might. And even if it failed, demonstrating that a good-faith effort had been made would make it less difficult to contemplate, carry out, and subsequently explain to domestic and international audiences why an alternative policy, one that included the use of military force, was embraced.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

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All Eyes on China as U.S. Signals New Tack on North Korea

BEIJING — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson signaled on Friday that the Trump administration was prepared to scrap nearly a decade of United States policy toward North Korea in favor of a more aggressive effort to eliminate the country’s nuclear weapons program. Whether that means pre-emptive action, which he warned was “on the table,” will depend a great deal on how China responds.

North Korea relies on Chinese trade and aid to keep its economy afloat, and China has long been unwilling to withdraw that support. Up to 40 percent of the North’s foreign currency — essential for buying goods abroad — comes from a network of about 600 Chinese companies, according to a recent study by Sayari Analytics, a Washington financial intelligence firm.

Mr. Tillerson will be in China on Saturday, a day after saying in Seoul, South Korea, that the United States would not negotiate with North Korea on freezing its nuclear and missile programs. His interactions with his hosts in Beijing, and whether he takes a hard line with China over its support for North Korea, will be closely watched — as will be China’s response.

A sign of the administration’s stance came on Friday as President Trump criticized both North Korea and the Chinese government. “North Korea is behaving very badly,” he said on Twitter. “They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”

The Chinese leadership is likely to bristle at such criticism, but it may be reviewing its options, given the collision course that North Korea and the United States seem to be on.

Last month, Beijing showed a new willingness to punish its longtime ally when it suspended imports of North Korean coal, saying it had reached the annual limit allowed under United Nations sanctions. Customs figures later showed that China had in fact imported only about 30 percent of the quota for 2017.

Yang Xiyu, a veteran Chinese diplomat involved with North Korea, said Mr. Tillerson may be able to persuade Chinese leaders to do more when he meets with them in Beijing this weekend, particularly against Chinese companies that do business with the North.

Mr. Yang cited as a potential model the case that United States officials built last year against a Chinese executive accused of selling North Korea a chemical that can be used in nuclear-enrichment centrifuges. While Beijing was not happy about the case, it eventually accepted it. “It wasn’t easy, but it was the right way to push the issue to a solution,” he said.

Source/Read the rest: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/17/world/asia/all-eyes-on-china-as-us-signals-new-tack-on-north-korea.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fasia&_r=0

Rex Tillerson begins tense China meeting with Wang Yi — US ‘policy of strategic patience has ended’

March 18, 2017

BBC News

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, on 18 March2017

Relations are tense almost a month before an expected summit between the two countries’ leaders. AFP photo

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing in the final leg of his East Asia tour, which has been dominated by anxieties over North Korea.

On Friday, Mr Tillerson warned Pyongyang that a military response would be on the table if it threatened South Korea or US forces.

President Donald Trump tweeted that North Korea was “behaving very badly”.

He added that China – Pyongyang’s main ally – had done “little to help”.

Beijing is likely to express its anger at being told to rein in nuclear-armed North Korea during Mr Tillerson’s visit.

Media captionHow do you solve a problem like North Korea?

It will also voice its opposition to a new US missile defence system installed in South Korea earlier this month.

Collision course: By Carrie Gracie, BBC China editor

Recent North Korean missile tests have only raised the stakes for Mr Tillerson’s talks in Beijing.

President Trump has again suggested China is not doing enough to help.

But the Chinese government insists it already observes UN sanctions against Pyongyang and bristles at the deployment of a new American anti-missile system in South Korea.

Beijing says all players on the Korean peninsula are like accelerating trains on a collision course. It warns that the only way to make North Korea disarm is through dialogue… which is something the US secretary of state has already ruled out.

As the first senior Trump administration official to visit China, Mr Tillerson will also discuss plans for a possible presidential summit next month. The timing is hardly auspicious.

China’s global gamble in era of Trump

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The US says the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad) is designed to protect against threats from North Korea.

But China has claimed the system goes “far beyond” the defence needs of the Korean peninsula.

Mr Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, is scheduled to meet China’s two most senior diplomats on Saturday. On Sunday, he will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Mr Xi is scheduled to visit the United States next month for his first meeting with President Trump.

Some commentators expect Mr Tillerson to downplay any tensions between the two countries ahead of that encounter.

However, a US official told Reuters that Mr Tillerson may raise the prospect of imposing “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other firms that do business with North Korea in defiance of sanctions.

North Korea launched four ballistic missiles last week, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the US.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-39313654

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Rex Tillerson calls for ‘new approach’ to North Korea — “China must do more”

March 16, 2017

Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida before their meeting at the foreign ministry’s Iikura guest house in Tokyo, Japan, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai
By Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka | TOKYO

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday the escalating threat from North Korea’s nuclear program showed a clear need for a “new approach,” although he stopped short of detailing what steps the Trump administration would pursue.

Tillerson was speaking at a news conference following talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, the start of his first trip to Asia as secretary of state. It was the first time Tillerson, a former oil executive with no prior diplomatic experience, had taken questions from the media since coming into office in early February.

Two decades of diplomatic and other efforts, including aid given to North Korea by the United States, had failed to achieve the goal of denuclearizing Pyongyang, he said.

“So we have 20 years of failed approach,” Tillerson said. “That includes a period where the United States has provided $1.35 billion in assistance to North Korea as an encouragement to take a different pathway.”

He added: “In the face of this ever-escalating threat, it is clear that a different approach is required. Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach.”

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A Japanese foreign ministry official said U.S. officials had discussed potential new approaches regarding North Korea, but he declined to elaborate.

Tillerson visits South Korea and China later in the week. The New York Times reported on Wednesday he will warn Chinese officials that the United States would increase missile defenses in the region and target Chinese banks if Beijing does not constrain North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Wednesday that Tillerson will have “substantive, hard” talks with U.S. partners in Asia on next steps in dealing with North Korea, but his visit was not likely to produce an immediate specific response.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s proposal last week that North Korea should stop its nuclear and missile tests and South Korea and the United States should stop joint military drills and seek talks instead.

“We welcome all parties, including the United States, to come up with their own proposals,” Hua told a daily news briefing. “As long as these proposals are conducive to ameliorating the present tense situation on the Korean peninsula and are beneficial to maintaining regional peace and stability … China will have an open attitude.”

Tillerson made it clear he expected China, North Korea’s sole major ally, to do more.

“We will be having discussions with China as to further actions we believe they might consider taking that would be helpful to bringing North Korea to a different attitude about its future need for nuclear weapons,” he said.

SEEKING CLUES

Tillerson had not previously answered questions from reporters during his six weeks in office, and his comments in Japan were eagerly watched by international observers for indications as to what they meant for the Trump administration’s foreign policy.

Japan is seeking clues to Washington’s policies both on North Korea and China’s increasing military and economic clout while hoping to steer clear of trade rows.

During his stop in Tokyo, Tillerson also held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and had dinner with Kishida.

U.S. President Donald Trump made it a hallmark of his presidential campaign to call on U.S. allies, including Japan, to pay more for hosting U.S. forces and other elements of American protection.

During the joint news conference with Kishida, Tillerson issued a far gentler version of that message, first underscoring the “long-standing” U.S.-Japanese alliance.

“While the security environment in this region can be challenging, the United States is committed to strengthening our role, and we welcome an increased Japanese commitment to their roles and responsibilities in our alliance,” he said.

Tillerson is the second member of Trump’s cabinet to visit Japan. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited last month, and Vice President Mike Pence is due to visit in April, underscoring U.S. concerns surrounding North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. Abe was the first foreign leader who met Trump after his November election win.

North Korea last week launched four more ballistic missiles and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States, in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions.

Washington has previously said all options, including military, are on the table in its review of policies toward North Korea and Japanese officials are keen to know more details. In the final months of the Obama administration, U.S. officials warned China it would blacklist Chinese companies and banks that do illicit business with North Korea, if Beijing failed to enforce U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.

Tillerson’s trip to Asia also comes as the United States has begun deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea, a move that China strongly objects to because it sees the system’s radar as a threat to its security.

Pak Myong Ho, a North Korean embassy official speaking in Beijing on Thursday, said the THAAD deployment “will destroy the balance in Northeast Asia and the Pacific region.”

“The radar is not aimed at just us,” Pak said. “It is also aiming for China and Russia.”

China’s assertiveness in the East China Sea, where it has a territorial row with Japan, and the South China Sea, where it has disputes with the Philippines and several other Southeast Asian nations, were also on the agenda during Tillerson’s visit.

Tillerson’s visit to Tokyo came as Abe’s government battles a domestic scandal over a nationalist school. Following weeks of questions in parliament about the affair, support for Abe fell five points to 50 percent, a weekend poll by the Mainichi newspaper showed, off highs hit after he met Trump in Washington last month.

(Additional reporting by Christine Kim in Seoul, David Brunnstrom in Washington and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie)

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Rex Tillerson, in Japan, Says U.S. Needs ‘Different Approach’ to North Korea

TOKYO — At a time of multiplying tensions in Asia, Rex W. Tillerson, the American secretary of state, began his first major foreign trip in Japan and said on Thursday that the United States needed a “different approach” to North Korea’s escalating nuclear threat, though he declined to give specifics.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo after talks with Japan’s foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, Mr. Tillerson said that “the diplomatic and other efforts of the past 20 years to bring North Korea to a point of denuclearization have failed,” noting that during those 20 years, the United States had provided $1.35 billion in assistance to North Korea to encourage it to abandon its nuclear program.

“Part of the purpose of my visit to the region is to exchange views on a new approach,” Mr. Tillerson added, saying he would highlight the issue in Seoul and Beijing, the next stops on his trip.

On the eve of President Trump sending a federal budget to Congress that proposes a 29 percent cut in the State Department’s budget, Mr. Tillerson, who took questions only from reporters who had been preselected by one of his press advisers, said he would take on the challenge of the cutbacks “willingly.”

“The level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking, particularly in the past year, is simply not sustainable,” Mr. Tillerson said, explaining that current spending reflected the “level of conflicts that the U.S. has been engaged in around the world as well as disaster assistance.”

He said the department would undergo a review of programs and would “be much more effective, much more efficient, and be able to do a lot with fewer dollars.”

The most pressing issue for the United States and its allies in Asia is the advancing threat from North Korea, which has launched ballistic missiles twice in three weeks and has said that it is close to testing a missile that could reach the United States.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/world/asia/rex-tillerson-asia-trump-us-japan.html?action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront&_r=0

Obama launched cyberwar to sabotage NKorea missile program: report

March 4, 2017

AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Former US president Barack Obama in 2014 launched a cyberwar against North Korea’s missile program but it has failed to make significant gains, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The United States still cannot effectively counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, the newspaper said following a months-long investigation, based on interviews with officials in the Obama and Donald Trump administrations as well as “a review of extensive but obscure public records.”

North Korea’s threats remain so dangerous that when Obama left office he warned Trump that this would likely be the most urgent problem he’d face, the Times said.

Three years ago Obama ordered the Pentagon to increase cyber and electronic attacks against North Korea to try to sabotage its missiles before launch or just as they lift off, the report said.

The program appeared to be successful, as several of the North’s rockets and missiles failed soon after launch.

Advocates of the US program claimed success, believing that they had delayed for years North Korea’s ability to mount a nuclear weapon on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and threaten a US city.

Skeptics however said the failures could have resulted from shoddy manufacturing, disgruntled insiders and simple incompetence.

Kim Jong-Un’s isolated regime has continued to thumb its nose at the world with a series of missile launches over the years.

It has conducted three successful medium-range rocket launches in the past eight months and two nuclear tests in 2016 in its quest to build an ICBM that could reach the United States.

North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from any use of ballistic missile technology.

The UN Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions since Pyongyang first tested an atomic device in 2006.

Kim boasted in January that Pyongyang was in the “final stages” of developing an ICBM in an apparent attempt to pressure the incoming US president. Trump shot back on Twitter, saying, “It won’t happen.”

On February 12 North Korea fired what appeared to be a modified intermediate-range Musudan missile, which landed in the ocean.

The Musudan has a range of 2,500-4,000 kilometers (1,550-2,485 miles), meaning it could threaten both Japan and US bases on Guam.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the test “absolutely intolerable.”

Days later, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged that Washington would use the full range of its arsenal, including nuclear weapons, to defend allies Japan and South Korea against North Korea.

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Trump Inherits a Secret Cyberwar Against North Korean Missiles

WASHINGTON — Three years ago, President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches in their opening seconds.

Soon a large number of the North’s military rockets began to explode, veer off course, disintegrate in midair and plunge into the sea. Advocates of such efforts say they believe that targeted attacks have given American antimissile defenses a new edge and delayed by several years the day when North Korea will be able to threaten American cities with nuclear weapons launched atop intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But other experts have grown increasingly skeptical of the new approach, arguing that manufacturing errors, disgruntled insiders and sheer incompetence can also send missiles awry. Over the past eight months, they note, the North has managed to successfully launch three medium-range rockets. And Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, now claims his country is in “the final stage in preparations” for the inaugural test of his intercontinental missiles — perhaps a bluff, perhaps not.

An examination of the Pentagon’s disruption effort, based on interviews with officials of the Obama and Trump administrations as well as a review of extensive but obscure public records, found that the United States still does not have the ability to effectively counter the North Korean nuclear and missile programs. Those threats are far more resilient than many experts thought, The New York Times’s reporting found, and pose such a danger that Mr. Obama, as he left office, warned President Trump they were likely to be the most urgent problem he would confront.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/04/world/asia/north-korea-missile-program-sabotage.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=span-ab-top-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Why Trump presidency remains a risk for global order

February 28, 2017

By Hugh White

Professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra

Is it time to stop worrying about America’s global role under Mr Donald Trump? Maybe it is.

In the weeks since his inauguration, the new US administration has taken several steps to reassure a nervous world that it will not abandon longstanding allies and overturn the foundations of key relationships.

Some commentators and even some governments have eagerly concluded that Mr Trump’s America can, after all, be relied upon to keep US foreign policy on an even keel and sustain the global order which has, for so long, relied on the deft and principled exercise of American power. Are they right? Can we trust the Trump administration to conduct a coherent and responsible foreign policy?

The evidence that we can is quite substantial. In Europe over the past few weeks, senior administration officials, including Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis, have unambiguously reaffirmed America’s commitment to Nato and their willingness to stand up to President Vladimir Putin of Russia. In Mexico last week, Mr Tillerson and new Homeland Secretary John Kelly reassured their hosts about Mr Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

In Asia, General Mattis has made his first trip in his new job to Japan and South Korea, during which he explicitly reassured a nervous Tokyo of US support, including over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. This message was reinforced when the new President himself hosted Japanese PM Shinzo Abe for what seemed like a successful visit, which included a stay at a Trump resort in Florida.

 

Perhaps most importantly, the new President has conducted a successful phone call with his Chinese counterpart, during which Mr Trump reportedly abandoned his earlier threat to reconsider America’s One-China policy, and thus removed a very serious danger to the future of the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

And the administration seemed to step back from Mr Tillerson’s ill-considered threat in his Senate confirmation hearings last month to block Chinese access to its island bases in the South China Sea, which raised real fears about the risk of a military clash.

If these were normal times in Washington, and Mr Trump was a normal president, we might well be justified in interpreting all this as business as usual. Even the untidy resignation of General Michael Flynn as Mr Trump’s first national security adviser might be seen to fit this pattern. Any new administration takes a little time to settle into office, abandon the extreme positions that are an inevitable part of electioneering, stop thinking like a political campaign and start acting like the government of the world’s most powerful state.

So is this what we are seeing here? Is the most “unpresidential” candidate in US political history now starting to think and act like a president? Are his advisers starting to function as a cohesive, disciplined team capable of making and implementing good policy decisions – and decisions that will sustain, rather than undermine, the US contribution to peace and prosperity? Alas, too much of the evidence points the other way. There are three big sets of reasons not to stop worrying.

SELF-CONTRADICTING

First, there is the new administration’s way of doing business and, indeed, its approach to its task.

There seems little doubt that the most influential figures around the President today are people like Mr Steve Bannon, whose whole aim seems to be to prevent the White House settling down into a routine of stable, predictable and effective government. He seeks instead to make the Trump presidency an era of perpetual revolution.

This means that the more sensible advisers are already looking sidelined and ineffectual. The starkest example is former ExxonMobil chief Tillerson who, despite his South China Sea comments, seems to add steadiness, experience and judgment to the team around Mr Trump. But since the inauguration, he has been almost invisible, taking little part in major meetings such as with Mr Abe. His pick for his own deputy was rejected by the White House, and his department has been muzzled. The State Department’s daily press briefings, a fixture of world diplomacy since the 1950s, have not been held for weeks.

Mr Trump himself routinely undermines the authority of his more responsible advisers and the credibility of US policy by freely, and even gleefully, contradicting them – and often himself, as well. Just last week he insisted that America’s deportation of illegal immigrants to Mexico would be a military operation, just as General Kelly was in Mexico saying categorically that it would not be.

Worst of all, Mr Trump himself routinely undermines the authority of his more responsible advisers and the credibility of US policy by freely, and even gleefully, contradicting them – and often himself, as well. Just last week, he insisted that America’s deportation of illegal immigrants to Mexico would be a military operation, just as General Kelly was in Mexico saying categorically that it would not be.

There is no reason to think these are just teething troubles. They reflect the kind of person Mr Trump is, the kind of people he likes to have around him and the kind of administration he intends to run.

A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE

Second, there are real problems of substance, as well as style and process. Look, for example, at the question of America’s key alliances in Europe and Asia. What real value can we put on the reassurances offered to Nato and Japan over the past few weeks? The problem is not just that Mr Trump is more than likely to turn around and say the opposite at any moment.

The much deeper question is whether, whatever he or his advisers say, can America really be counted on to back up its allies in a crisis if that means risking an escalating war with a major nuclear power like China or Russia? That depends not on the much-discussed question of whether allies spend enough on their own defence.

It depends on whether Mr Trump’s America really believes that US interests are so deeply engaged in Asia and Europe today as to warrant such a risk. So sustaining these alliances requires much more than a few nice speeches. It requires a major strategic argument backed by real and substantive commitments.

The new administration needs to show how and why it would be willing to confront major rivals when it is really necessary, as well as reassure us that it will avoid pointless confrontations with them over trivial questions when it is not. Nothing we have heard from Washington since the inauguration provides that kind of reassurance.

ORDER IN AMERICA

And thirdly, there is the question of what the Trump presidency might mean for America itself.

Serious people in Washington, like ex-president George W. Bush’s former speechwriter David Frum, worry that his style of government and politics might come to threaten America’s constitutional order. We’d be unwise to dismiss that as entirely fanciful, and we’d be unwise to underestimate what that would mean for the rest of the world if it happened.

So we’d be unwise to stop worrying about Mr Trump.

The writer is a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University in Canberra.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline ‘Why Trump presidency remains a risk for global order’.
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Japan protests Russian military buildup plan in decades-old islands dispute

February 23, 2017

Reuters

Thu Feb 23, 2017 | 2:20am EST

Japan has protested to Russia over its plan to boost troop strength on disputed islands, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Thursday, the latest move in a territorial row that has overshadowed ties since World War Two.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the government was closely monitoring Russia’s actions and analyzing information.

“If the move leads to the reinforcement of Russian military on the islands, it would be incompatible with Japan’s stance and it is regrettable as they are inherently our territory,” he said.

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Suga made the comment after media reports that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu talked about a plan to deploy a military division to the islands, including areas Japan claims as its territory, this year.

The islands in the Western Pacific, called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kuriles in Russia, were seized by Soviet forces at the end of World War Two when 17,000 Japanese residents were forced to flee.

Suga said Russia’s military plan would be on the agenda when defense and foreign ministers from the two countries are due to meet in Tokyo on March 20.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last December and struck numerous economic deals but failed to achieve a breakthrough on the islands.

Abe is expected to visit Russia this year to speed up talks to resolve the dispute and try to conclude a peace treaty officially ending World War Two hostilities.

He has pledged to resolve the dispute in the hope of leaving a significant diplomatic legacy and building better ties with Russia to counter a rising China.

(Reporting by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Nick Macfie)