Posts Tagged ‘Terminal High Altitude Area Defense’

North Korea fires suspected land-to-ship missiles

June 8, 2017


People watch a TV broadcast of a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, June 8, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
By Ju-min Park and Soyoung Kim | SEOUL

North Korea fired what appeared to be several land-to-ship missiles off its east coast on Thursday, South Korea’s military said, a day after the South postponed full deployment of a controversial U.S. anti-missile system designed to deter a North Korean attack.

The launches, the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying world pressure to rein in its weapons program, come less than a week after the United Nations Security Council passed fresh sanctions on the reclusive state.

South Korea on Wednesday said it will hold off on installing remaining components of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system that has angered North Korea’s main ally, China, amid early signs of easing tensions between the two countries.

The missiles were launched Thursday morning from the North Korean coastal city of Wonsan and flew about 200 km (124 miles), South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.

Under third-generation leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has been conducting missile tests at an unprecedented pace in an effort to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the mainland United States.

Compared to the different types of ballistic missiles Pyongyang has recently tested, the missiles launched on Thursday are considered to be more defensive in nature, designed to defend against threats such as enemy warships.

North Korea unveiled a number of new weapons at a massive military parade on April 15 to mark the birth anniversary of the state’s founding leader and has since tested some of them.

“What appeared to be a new type of land-to-ship missile equipped with four launching canisters was unveiled at the parade,” said Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. “I think this might be what was used today.”


Thursday’s launch is the fourth missile test by North Korea since South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office on May 10 pledging to engage in dialogue with Pyongyang. Moon says sanctions and pressure alone have failed to resolve the growing threat from the North’s advancing nuclear and missile program.

Moon had also promised to review the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea, a decision that was made by the government of his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye. On Wednesday, Moon’s office said installation of four additional launchers would be halted until an assessment of the system’s impact on the environment was completed.

Two launchers of the full six-launcher THAAD battery, as well as the system’s far-reaching radar that China worries could upset the regional security balance, have already been installed at a deployment site in the southeastern city of Seongju. The elements will stay in place, South Korea said.

The introduction of the THAAD system has sparked protests in South Korea and a backlash in China against South Korean business interests.

The Global Times, published by China’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial that no matter the outcome of the environmental study, South Korea’s announcement could reduce friction.

“Obviously, the pressure China puts on South Korea has taken effect. Seoul’s will has been shaken,” the paper said. “However, attitude is not everything. Without solving the problem of THAAD, the pain it has brought to bilateral relations will not disappear, and South Korea must swallow some of the bitter results.”

China should work with Russia on counter-measures to THAAD, the Global Times added.

There was no immediate official reaction from China to the latest missile test.

U.S. President Donald Trump has been pressing China aggressively to rein in North Korea, warning that all options, including a pre-emptive military strike, are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development.

Seoul, Tokyo and Washington were analyzing the launches for further information, officials said.

Japan’s navy and air force conducted military drills with two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Sea of Japan last week, following similar joint U.S.-South Korea exercises.

“North Korea likely wanted to show off its ability to precisely target a large warship, in relation to the joint military drills involving U.S. aircraft carriers,” Roh Jae-cheon, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman, told a media briefing.

“By testing different types of missiles, North Korea also appears to be aiming to secure the upper hand in relations with South Korea and the United States.”

The isolated country, which has conducted dozens of missile tests and tested two nuclear bombs since the beginning of 2016 in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, says the program is necessary to counter U.S. aggression.

For graphic on North Korea’s nuclear program, click:

(Additional reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

U.S. and China United To Agree To New U.N. Sanctions for North Korea

June 3, 2017

The United Nations Security Council has expanded targeted sanctions against North Korea after its repeated missile tests in defiance of a UN resolution.

Adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, it includes a travel ban and asset freeze on more bodies and officials, including the head of Pyongyang’s overseas spying operations.

The Trump administration has warned all options on the table.

“The Security Council is sending a clear message to North Korea today: stop firing ballistic missiles or face the consequences. We have never closed the door to dialogue with North Korea. But as we have said before, all options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table,” said the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley.

The US has been pressing China to rein in its neighbour. This is the first such resolution agreed by the United States and Pyongyang’s major ally – since President Trump took office.

“China is opposed to such (missile) launches conducted by the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). The resolution adopted by the council today has demonstrated the united position of the international community against the development of nuclear and missile programmes by the DPRK,” China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi told the session.

Image result for China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi, photos

China’s UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi

The measures adopted by the UN could have been agreed behind closed doors but Washington convinced China to back a public vote on the blacklist.

The US has struggled to slow North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programmes. The matter has become a security priority given Pyongyang’s vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.




U.N. expands North Korea blacklist in first U.S., China sanctions deal under Trump

June 3, 2017


By Michelle Nichols | UNITED NATIONS

The U.N. Security Council on Friday expanded targeted sanctions against North Korea after its repeated missile tests, adopting the first such resolution agreed by the United States and Pyongyang’s only major ally China since President Donald Trump took office.

The Trump administration has been pressing China aggressively to rein in its reclusive neighbor, warning that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development programs.

The United States has struggled to slow those programs, which have become a security priority given Pyongyang’s vow to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

“The United States will continue to seek a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to this situation,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council after the vote.

But she added: “Beyond diplomatic and financial consequences, the United States remains prepared to counteract North Korean aggression through other means, if necessary.”

Adding names to the U.N. blacklist – a global travel ban and asset freeze – was the minimum sanctions measures the Security Council could have taken and comes after five weeks of negotiations between Washington and Beijing.

“The Security Council is sending a clear message to North Korea today – stop firing ballistic missiles or face the consequences,” Haley said.

The resolution, adopted unanimously by the 15-member council, sanctions four entities, including the Koryo Bank and Strategic Rocket Force of the Korean People’s Army, and 14 people, including the head of Pyongyang’s overseas spying operations.

North Korea’s Koryo Bank handles overseas transactions for Office 38, a shadowy body that manages the private slush funds of the North Korean leadership, according to a South Korean government database.


The United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution to expand its North Korea blacklist after the Asian state’s repeated missile tests, at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The measures adopted on Friday could have been agreed by the council’s North Korea sanctions committee behind closed doors, but Washington convinced China to back a public vote on the blacklist, amplifying the council’s unhappiness with Pyongyang’s defiance of a U.N. ban on ballistic missile launches.

The U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on Pyongyang in 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs and has ratcheted up the measures in response to five nuclear tests and two long-range missile launches. North Korea is threatening a sixth nuclear test.

“There is a critical window of opportunity for the nuclear issue of the peninsula to come back to the right track of seeking a settlement through dialogue and negotiations,” Chinese U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi told the council.

“It is incumbent on all parties concerned to exercise restraint and to do more to help ease the tension and build mutual trust.”

He again proposed a simultaneous freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and South Korea and the United States’ joint military exercises. Russia said the suggestion merits “serious consideration.”

Haley said: “We want a negotiated solution, but North Korea must fulfill its basic obligations by first stopping all ballistic missile launches and nuclear weapons testing and taking concrete steps toward getting rid of its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Security Council on April 28 that it needed to act before North Korea does. Just hours after the meeting – chaired by Tillerson during his first visit to the United Nations as the top U.S. diplomat – Pyongyang launched yet another ballistic missile.


Within days the United States proposed to China that the Security Council strengthen sanctions on North Korea over its repeated missile launches. Traditionally, the United States and China have negotiated new sanctions before involving the other council members.

Pyongyang has launched several more ballistic missiles since then, including a short-range missile on Monday that landed in the sea off its east coast.

Diplomats said it appeared China was still only likely to consider additional strong new U.N. sanctions measures, such as an oil embargo, a ban on Pyongyang’s airline or tougher economic sanctions, if North Korea conducted a long-range missile launch or another nuclear test.

The last round of complex sanctions imposed by the Security Council took three months to negotiate following Pyongyang’s fifth nuclear test in September. Those measures aimed to cut North Korea’s annual export revenue by a quarter.

China has also been infuriated by the U.S. deployment of an advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea, saying it was a threat to its security and would do nothing to ease tension with Pyongyang.

Security Council veto power Russia backed the U.N. measures on Friday. Moscow’s support had been unclear after the United States imposed its own sanctions on Thursday on Russian firms for their support of North Korea’s weapons programs.

“This step is something that is very puzzling and deeply disappointing,” Deputy Russian U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said of the U.S. sanctions amid battered U.S.-Russia relations.

“Instead of trying to work through the bilateral backlog in our work, Washington is doing exactly the opposite and undertaking unfriendly steps, which make it more difficult to normalize our dialogue and make it more difficult to cooperate in international affairs,” he told the Security Council.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday voiced support for the unanimous U.N decision and called on North Korea to refrain from repeated nuclear tests and missile launches.

The United States is encouraged by China’s efforts to restrain North Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in Singapore on Saturday, adding the threat from North Korea was “clear and present”.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO; Editing by James Dalgleish and Kim Coghill)

U.S. Tests Missile-Defense System Amid North Korea Tensions

May 31, 2017

Successful test was previously scheduled but comes amid elevated concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear program

A test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system launches Tuesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

A test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense element of the U.S. ballistic missile defense system launches Tuesday from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. PHOTO: LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS

Updated May 30, 2017 9:49 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon on Tuesday conducted a successful test of a system designed to shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile, U.S. defense officials said, a demonstration that came amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The successful missile-defense test marked the second U.S. military display in as many days, following a joint U.S. and South Korean exercise on Monday in which U.S. B-1B bombers flew near the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea. The Monday flyover came just hours after North Korea test-launched a short-range missile, its third launch in less than three weeks and one that it claimed was more precise than any it has fired.

Both the B-1 bomber flyover and Tuesday’s U.S. missile-defense test were previously scheduled, but have taken on an air of urgency and immediacy in light of North Korea’s continued testing of missiles and warheads with a goal of reaching the continental U.S.

South Korea conducts joint drill with US supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber (file picture) after North Korea's latest ballistic missile test

B-1 bomber flyover

The Pentagon said that in Tuesday’s test, it successfully intercepted a mock weapon launched from a site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. A U.S. “interceptor” was fired from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., interrupting the flight of the mock ICBM over the Pacific Ocean, according to defense officials.

Officials said Tuesday marked the first live-fire test on a target closely resembling the characteristic of an ICBM.

“This test demonstrates that we have a capable, credible deterrent against a very real threat,” said Vice Adm. Jim Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, in a statement.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that while the test wasn’t timed to the current tensions in North Korea, “in a broad sense, obviously, North Korea is one of the reasons why we have this capability.” He also named Iran as a concern.

President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea won’t achieve the capability of launching a nuclear missile able to reach the U.S. He has turned to China in a diplomatic effort to head it off, while also establishing an increasing American military presence in the region.

However, the Trump administration’s strategy of pressure and military threats has run into complications from South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in. The new leader has said he wants to seek greater engagement with the North and has questioned some of Seoul’s cooperation with Washington.

On Tuesday, Mr. Moon said he was demanding an investigation of a mobile missile-defense system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, installed by the U.S. in South Korea. Mr. Moon said during the presidential campaign in the spring that he would review the process under which the previous administration agreed to install Thaad, which is fiercely opposed by China, but he appears to have softened his view amid continued North Korean missile launches.

The U.S. military said its test of a missile-defense system on Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force base in California was successful.

The U.S. military said its test of a missile-defense system on Tuesday at Vandenberg Air Force base in California was successful. PHOTO: GENE BLEVINS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Moon said that his defense ministry didn’t inform him that four more launchers had been brought into South Korea in addition to two existing ones that had been previously announced, calling the discovery “very shocking,” according to a spokesman for the presidential office.

U.S. officials didn’t respond to a request for comment on Mr. Moon’s assertion, but Capt. Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that the Thaad deployment process had been “very transparent.” Similar U.S. mobile systems contain six launchers.

Separately, Mr. Moon said in a phone call with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he supported more pressure and sanctions on North Korea after the latest missile test and that “now is not the time for dialogue” with Pyongyang, according to his spokesman. The message was an apparent hardening of his position on North Korea.

Two weeks ago, Pyongyang test-fired a missile that it later called the Hwasong-12, which analysts said could fly 2,800 miles—considerably farther than its previous missiles and far enough to reach the U.S. military base on Guam. About a week later came the Polaris-2 missile, fueled by a solid rather than a liquid fuel—meaning it requires much less time to prepare for launch, giving Pyongyang more flexibility and stealth. That could pose more of a challenge to missile-defense systems.

Tuesday’s U.S. exercise tested what is known as the ground-based midcourse defense system, or GMD, one of four main antimissile system components. Others include U.S. Aegis warships, the Thaad mobile launchers and Patriot batteries.

Officials said initial indications were that the test “met its primary objective,” but that experts would more closely evaluate the system’s performance.

The test drew praise from a key lawmaker. “This is a tremendous success for Adm. Syring and his team,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s subpanel on strategic forces. “The dictator in North Korea surely understands that the United States will not allow itself or its allies to be subject to his threats.”

The U.S. now has conducted 17 tests of the ground-based missile defense system, and nine have succeeded, according to the Missile Defense Agency.

There was no immediate reaction from North Korea, but Pyongyang condemned Monday’s B-1 bomber flight by the U.S. and South Korea.

“The U.S. imperialists’ ever-more reckless military provocation clearly proves that their talk about ‘dialogue’ is nothing but hypocrisy to disarm the DPRK and their wild ambition to eliminate the DPRK with nukes remains unchanged even a bit,” it said, using the acronym for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korea accused the U.S. of staging a “nuclear-bomb-dropping drill” with the bombers, which it sees as a new provocation in addition to the presence of the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, two aircraft carriers that are operating near the Korean Peninsula.

Tuesday’s missile-defense test came as Mr. Trump and his foreign policy and national security team grapple with how to counter North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s behavior.Mr. Kim has launched a series of test missiles into the Pacific, but has yet to test an intercontinental-range missile capable of reaching the continental U.S.

The last test of the ground-based system, in June 2014, was successful, but three tests before that—in July 2013, December 2010 and January 2010—all failed.

The causes of the failures, according to the missile agency, ranged from technical problems involving software and sensors to major faults such as a rocket booster failing to separate from the “kill vehicle,” the term for the part of the interceptor that zeroes in on the incoming missile, according to defense officials.

The Defense Department has logged better results from tests involving the ship-based system and Thaad launchers. A compilation earlier this year showed that, overall, the military succeeded in 75 of 92 missile-defense tests since 2001.

Write to Gordon Lubold at and Jonathan Cheng at




South Korea: ROK defense ministry failed to report controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system increase to President Moon Jae-in’s top aides

May 31, 2017

South Korea defense ministry ‘intentionally dropped’ THAAD units in report: Blue House

By Jack Kim | SEOUL

South Korea’s Defense Ministry “intentionally dropped” mentioning that four more launchers had been deployed for the controversial U.S. THAAD anti-missile system in a report to President Moon Jae-in’s top aides, his office said on Wednesday.

Moon has ordered a probe at the defense ministry, saying it was “very shocking” the launchers had been brought in without being reported to the new government or to the public, presidential Blue House spokesman Yoon Young-chan said on Tuesday.

The Defense Ministry intentionally omitted details about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system battery (THAAD) in a report last week, when the new government was preparing for Moon’s summit with U.S. President Donald Trump next month, Yoon told a briefing.

“The Blue House has confirmed that the Defense Ministry has intentionally dropped the introduction of four more launchers in its report,” Yoon said.

Moon took office on May 10 without a transition period because a snap presidential election was held just two months after his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, was ousted in a corruption scandal. Moon inherited his defense minister along with the rest of his cabinet from the previous administration.

The THAAD battery was initially deployed in March in the southeastern region of Seongju with just two of its maximum load of six launchers to counter a growing North Korean missile threat.

An earlier version of the defense ministry report specified the total number of launchers being prepared for deployment and the name of the U.S. military base where the four were being kept, but the reference was removed in the final version delivered to the Blue House, Yoon said.

The Pentagon said it had been “very transparent” with South Korea’s government about THAAD deployment.


During his successful presidential campaign, Moon called for a parliamentary review of the THAAD system, the deployment of which has infuriated China, North Korea’s lone major ally. Moon had also called for more engagement and dialogue with Pyongyang.

But North Korea has conducted three ballistic missile tests since Moon took office, maintaining its accelerated pace of missile and nuclear-related activities since the beginning of last year in defiance of U.N. sanctions.

In Washington, the U.S. military said on Tuesday it had staged a successful, first-ever missile defense test involving a simulated attack by an intercontinental ballistic missile.

“The intercept of a complex, threat-representative ICBM target is an incredible accomplishment … a critical milestone for this program,” Vice Admiral Jim Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement.

Moon’s order of a probe over the THAAD deployment came amid signs of easing tensions between South Korea and China, a major trading partner.

China had been incensed over the THAAD deployment, saying it would do little to deter the missile threat from North Korea while allowing the U.S. military to use its radar to look deep into its territory and at its own missile systems.

Beijing is also troubled by the possibility the THAAD system would open the door to a wider deployment the U.S. missile defense systems, possibly in Japan and elsewhere, military analysts say.

South Korean companies have faced product boycotts and bans on Chinese tourists visiting South Korea, although China has denied discriminating against them.

(Reporting by Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

U.S. Pacific commander visits Japanese East China Sea listening post

May 18, 2017


Wed May 17, 2017 | 4:41pm EDT


Saudi Arabia, U.S. in talks on billions in arms sales

May 6, 2017


Fri May 5, 2017 | 7:15pm EDT

By Mike Stone | WASHINGTON


Washington is working to push through contracts for tens of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, some new, others in the pipeline, ahead of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trip to the kingdom this month, people familiar with the talks told Reuters this week.

Saudi Arabia is Trump’s first stop on his maiden international trip, a sign of his intent to reinforce ties with a top regional ally.

The United States has been the main supplier for most Saudi military needs, from F-15 fighter jets to command and control systems worth tens of billions of dollars in recent years. Trump has vowed to stimulate the U.S. economy by boosting manufacturing jobs.

Washington and Riyadh are eager to improve relations strained under President Barack Obama in part because of his championing of a nuclear deal with Saudi foe Iran.

Lockheed Martin Co (LMT.N) programs in the package include a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system with several batteries, the sources said. The THAAD system, like the one being made operational in South Korea, costs about $1 billion. Also being negotiated is a C2BMC software system for battle command and control and communications as well as a package of satellite capabilities, both provided by Lockheed.

Combat vehicles made by BAE Systems PLC (BAES.L), including the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and M109 artillery vehicle, are also under consideration as part of the Saudi package, people familiar with the talks said. Both vehicles are in the Saudi inventory. British defense company BAE has 29,000 employees in the United States.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations, which also include previously reported contracts or items under discussion for years. One such deal, an $11.5 billion package of four multi-mission surface combatant ships and accompanying services and spares, was approved by the State Department in 2015. Talks followed to hammer out capabilities, configuration and design for the complex warships but the deal has never gone to final contract.

The next step for the ships is likely a letter of agreement between the two countries, the sources said.

Versions of the ship used by the U.S. Navy, the Littoral Combat Ship, are built by Bethesda, Maryland-based weapons maker Lockheed Martin and Australia’s Austal Ltd (ASB.AX). If a deal goes through, it would be the first sale of a new small surface warship to a foreign power in decades. Any major foreign weapons sale is subject to oversight by Congress. Lawmakers must take into consideration a legal requirement that Israel must maintain its qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

Also, more than $1 billion worth of munitions including armor-piercing Penetrator Warheads and Paveway laser-guided bombs made by Raytheon Co (RTN.N) are in the package, the sources said. The Obama administration suspended the planned sale because of concerns over the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen and civilian casualties.

A U.S. administration official said the proposed Raytheon sale was still undergoing interagency review. Representatives for BAE and Raytheon declined to comment on the sales. A Lockheed representative said such sales are government-to-government decisions and the status of any potential discussions can be best addressed by the U.S. government.

A representative for the Saudi embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Shares of both Raytheon and Lockheed closed up 0.9 percent. Both stocks hit session highs following the Reuters report.


One of the people with knowledge of the sales said that as planning for Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia intensified in recent weeks, the arms negotiations also accelerated. Two U.S. officials said a U.S.-Saudi working group met at the White House Monday and Tuesday to negotiate the trip, as well as financing for military equipment sales and stopping terrorist financing.

Image result for Adel al-Jubeir and donald trump, photos

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir and other Saudi officials met with lawmakers at the Capitol on Thursday, including Senators Bob Corker and Ben Cardin on the foreign relations committee.

The Pentagon declined to comment. White House and State Department officials said it was U.S. policy not to comment on proposed U.S. defense sales until they had been formally notified to Congress.

The Obama administration had offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons. Most of the Obama-era offers, which are reported to Congress, became formal agreements though some were abandoned or amended.

Washington also provides maintenance and training to Saudi security forces.

(Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed, John Walcott, Warren Strobel, Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and James Dalgleish)

Trump Keeps Options Open on North Korea; Calls Kim Jong-un a “Smart Cookie”

May 1, 2017

Answering a question about whether another nuclear test by North Korea would mean a military response by the US, Mr Trump appears to be undecided

By Foster Klug, Kim Tong-Hyung Seoul

President Donald Trump has said that he believes China’s president has been putting pressure on North Korea as it pursues its missile and nuclear weapons programmes – but when asked about whether another nuclear test would mean a military response from the US, Mr Trump said “I don’t know…we’ll see”.

In an interview with CBS programme Face the Nation Mr Trump said he won’t be happy if North Korea conducts a nuclear test and that he believes Chinese President Xi Jinping won’t be happy, either.

Asked if that means military action, Mr Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”

Asked about the failure of the recent missile tests, Mr Trump said: “Perhaps they’re just not very good missiles. But eventually, he’ll have good missiles.”

Refusing to elaborate on US military options because “we shouldn’t be announcing all our moves”, Mr Trump added: “It is a chess game. I just don’t want people to know what my thinking is.”

He called the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un “a pretty smart cookie” for being able to hold onto power after taking over the reclusive Asian nation at a young age.

“People are saying, ‘Is he sane?’ I have no idea…. but he was a young man of 26 or 27… when his father died, ” Mr Trump said. He’s dealing with obviously very tough people, in particular the generals and others.

”And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I’m sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he’s a pretty smart cookie,“ Mr Trump added.

On Saturday, a North Korean mid-range ballistic missile apparently failed shortly after launch, the third test-fire flop this month but a clear message of defiance. North Korean ballistic missile tests are banned by the United Nations because they’re seen as part of the North’s push for a nuclear-tipped missile that can hit potentially the US mainland.

The launch comes at a point of particularly high tension in the region. Mr Trump has sent a nuclear-powered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to Korean waters and North Korea last week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast. The U.S. and South Korea also started installing a missile defence system that is supposed to be partially operational within days and their two navies are staging joint military drills.

Residents in the village of Seongj, where the missile defence system is being installed, scuffled with police on Sunday. About 300 protesters faced off against 800 police and succeeded in blocking two US Army oil trucks from entering the site, local media reported. A few residents were injured or fainted from the scuffle and were transported to a hospital.

The Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD), remains a controversial topic in South Korea and presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in even has vowed to reconsider the deployment if he wins a presidential election in May. He has said that the security benefits of THAAD would be offset by worsened relations with China, which is the country’s biggest trading partner and is opposed to its deployment.

Mr Trump raised eyebrows in South Korea last week when he said would make Seoul pay $1 billion for the missile defence system. Seoul’s presidential Blue House said on Sunday that White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster confirmed that the U.S. will not be seeking money for the system.

North Korea didn’t immediately comment on its latest missile launch, though its state media has reiterated the country’s goal of being able to strike the continental U.S.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry denounced the launch as an “obvious” violation of United Nations resolutions and the latest display of North Korea’s “belligerence and recklessness.”

“We sternly warn that the North Korean government will continue to face a variety of strong punitive measures issued by the UN Security Council and others if it continues to reject denuclearisation and play with fire in front of the world,” the ministry said.

Related video: Donald Trump warns ‘major, major conflict’ with North Korea is ‘absolutely’ possible

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the missile flew for several minutes and reached a maximum height of 44 miles (71 kilometres) before it apparently failed.

It didn’t immediately provide an estimate on how far the missile flew, but a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said it was likely a medium-range KN-17 ballistic missile. It broke up a few minutes after the launch.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking after a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council, said the missile is believed to have travelled about 30 miles and fallen on an inland part of North Korea.

Analysts say the KN-17 is a new Scud-type missile developed by North Korea. The North fired the same type of missile on 16 April, just a day after a massive military parade where it showed off its expanding missile arsenal, but US officials called that launch a failure.

Some analysts say a missile the North test-fired on 5 April, which US officials identified as a Scud variant, also might have been a KN-17. That missile is said to have spun out of control and crashed into the sea.

Moon Seong Mook, a South Korean analyst and former military official, says that the North would gain valuable knowledge even from failed launches as it continues to improve its technologies for missiles. The South Korean and Japanese assessments about Saturday’s launch indicate that the North fired the missile from a higher-than-normal angle to prevent it from flying too far, he said.

“They could be testing a variety of things, such as the thrust of the rocket engine or the separation of stages,” Mr Moon said. “A failure is a failure, but that doesn’t mean the launch was meaningless.”

The two earlier launches were conducted from an eastern coastal area, but Saturday’s missile was fired in the west, from an area near Pukchang, just north of the capital, Pyongyang.

Pope Francis warned that “a good part of humanity” will be destroyed if tensions with North Korea escalate, and he called for diplomacy and a revived United Nations to take the lead in negotiating a resolution.

Pope Francis was asked as he travelled back to Rome from Egypt about North Korean ballistic missile tests and U.S. warnings of “catastrophic” consequences if the world fails to stop them.

“Today, a wider war will destroy not a small part of humanity, but a good part of humanity and culture. Everything. Everything, no? It would be terrible. I don’t think humanity today could bear it,” he said.

Associated Press


South Korea says U.S. reaffirms it will pay THAAD costs; Trump calls Asia allies

May 1, 2017


By Ju-min Park and James Pearson | SEOUL

South Korea said the United States had reaffirmed it would shoulder the cost of deploying the THAAD anti-missile system, days after President Donald Trump said Seoul should pay for the $1 billion battery designed to defend against North Korea.

In a telephone call on Sunday, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, reassured his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, that the U.S. alliance with South Korea was its top priority in the Asia-Pacific region, the South’s presidential office said.

The conversation followed another North Korean missile test-launch on Saturday which Washington and Seoul said was unsuccessful, but which drew widespread international condemnation.

Trump, asked about his message to North Korea after the latest missile test, told reporters: “You’ll soon find out,” but did not elaborate on what the U.S. response would be.

Trump stepped up his outreach to allies in Asia over the weekend to discuss the North Korean nuclear threat and make sure all are “on the same page” if action is needed, a top White House official said.

The president spoke on Sunday to Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who heads a military government that took power in a 2014 coup, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and invited both of them to Washington. He talked on Saturday night with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who was also invited for talks. The White House defended the Duterte call, saying his cooperation was needed to counter North Korea, even as the administration faced criticism for its overture to Manila. Duterte has been accused by human rights groups of supporting an anti-drug campaign of extrajudicial killings, which his government denies.

“There is nothing right now facing this country and facing the region that is a bigger threat than what is happening in North Korea,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told ABC’s “This Week.”

Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that he wanted Seoul to pay for the THAAD deployment perplexed South Koreans and raised questions about his commitment to the two countries’ alliance.

South Korean officials responded that the cost was for Washington to bear, under the bilateral agreement.

“National security adviser H.R. McMaster explained that the recent statements by President Trump were made in a general context, in line with the U.S. public expectations on defense cost burden-sharing with allies,” South Korea’s Blue House said in a statement, adding that McMaster requested the call.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor (R) is seen in Seongju, South Korea, April 26, 2017. Lee Jong-hyeon/News1 via REUTERS

Major elements of the advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system were moved into the planned site in Seonjgu, in the south of the country, in the past week.

The deployment has drawn protests from China, which says the powerful radar that can penetrate its territory will undermine regional security, and from local residents worried they will be a target for North Korean missiles.

About 300 residents rallied on Sunday as two U.S. Army trucks tried to enter the THAAD deployment site. Video provided by villagers showed protesters blocking the road with a car and chanting slogans such as “Don’t lie to us! Go back to your country!”

Police said they had sent about 800 officers to the site and two residents were injured during clashes with them.

South Korea and the United States say the sole purpose of THAAD is to guard against North Korean missiles.

Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to South Korea’s security but said on NBC that Trump would “continue to call on the prosperous nations that the United States provides security and protection for to do more in their own defense.”

The United States is seeking more help from China, the North’s major ally, to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development. Trump, in the Reuters interview, praised Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as a “good man”.


The North has been conducting missile- and nuclear weapons-related activities at an unprecedented rate and is believed to have made progress in developing intermediate-range and submarine-launched missiles.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks over fears the North may conduct a long-range missile test, or its sixth nuclear test, around the time of the April 15 anniversary of its state founder’s birth.

In excerpts of an interview with CBS News released on Saturday, Trump said the United States and China would “not be happy” with a nuclear test, but gave no other details.

U.S. officials have said privately that while military options remain on the table, the Trump administration is focusing for now on pressuring North with both unilateral and international sanctions and getting China to do more to restrain Pyongyang.

In an address to a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Saturday, Duterte urged the United States to show restraint after North Korea’s latest missile test and to avoid playing into the hands of leader Kim Jong Un, who “wants to end the world”.

Two-month long U.S.-South Korean joint military drills were due to conclude on Sunday, U.S. and South Korean officials said.

The exercise, called Foal Eagle, was repeatedly denounced by North Korea, which saw it as a rehearsal for war.

In a further show of force, the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group arrived in waters near the Korean peninsula and began exercises with the South Korean navy late on Saturday. The South Korean navy declined to say when the exercises would be completed.

The dispatch of the Carl Vinson was a “reckless action of the war maniacs aimed at an extremely dangerous nuclear war,” the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary on Saturday.

The carrier group has just completed drills with the Japanese navy.

Japanese Defence Minister Tomomi Inada, in an apparent show of solidarity with Washington, has ordered the Izumo, Japan’s biggest warship, to protect a U.S. Navy ship that might be going to help supply the USS Carl Vinson, the Asahi newspaper said.

Graphic – Ranges of North Korea’s missiles:

(Additional reporting by Yuna Kim and Minwoo Park in SEOUL, Nobuhiro Kubo, Linda Sieg in TOKYO and Jason Lange and Doina Chiacu in WASHINGTON; Editing by Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

There is a way to neutralise North Korea without a war, but China needs to be on board

April 21, 2017

Image may contain: outdoor

Missiles are paraded in Pyongyang on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung. North Korea showed off what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile, seen here in an image taken from North Korean TV footage, at the military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, April 15, 2017. PHOTO: YONHAP NEWS/ZUMA PRESS


By Charles Krauthammer

The crisis with North Korea may appear trumped up. It’s not.

Given that Pyongyang has had nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles for more than a decade , why the panic now? Because North Korea is headed for a nuclear breakout. The regime has openly declared that it is racing to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States — and thus destroy an American city at a Kim Jong Un push of a button.

The North Koreans are not bluffing. They’ve made significant progress with solid-fuel rockets, which are more quickly deployable and thus more easily hidden and less subject to detection and preemption.

At the same time, Pyongyang has been steadily adding to its supply of nuclear weapons. Today it has an estimated 10 to 16. By 2020, it could very well have a hundred. (For context: The British are thought to have about 200.)

Hence the crisis. We simply cannot concede to Kim Jong Un the capacity to annihilate American cities.

 Image result for Kim Jong-un, nuclear, photos

Some will argue for deterrence. If it held off the Russians and the Chinese for all these years, why not the North Koreans? First, because deterrence, even with a rational adversary like the old Soviet Union, is never a sure thing. We came pretty close to nuclear war in October 1962.

And second, because North Korea’s regime is bizarre in the extreme, a hermit kingdom run by a weird, utterly ruthless and highly erratic god-king. You can’t count on Caligula. The regime is savage and cultlike; its people, robotic. Karen Elliott House once noted that while Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a prison, North Korea was an ant colony.

Ant colonies do not have good checks and balances.

If not deterrence, then prevention. But how? The best hope is for China to exercise its influence and induce North Korea to give up its programs.

For years, the Chinese made gestures, but never did anything remotely decisive. They have their reasons. It’s not just that they fear a massive influx of refugees if the Kim regime disintegrates. It’s also that Pyongyang is a perpetual thorn in the side of the Americans, whereas regime collapse brings South Korea (and thus America) right up to the Yalu River.

● They don’t mind tension but they don’t want war. And the risk of war is rising. They know that the ICBM threat is totally unacceptable to the Americans. And that the current administration appears particularly committed to enforcing this undeclared red line.

● Chinese interests are being significantly damaged by the erection of regional missile defenses to counteract North Korea’s nukes. South Korea is racing to install a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system. Japan may follow . THAAD’s mission is to track and shoot down incoming rockets from North Korea but, like any missile shield, it necessarily reduces the power and penetration of the Chinese nuclear arsenal.

● For China to do nothing risks the return of the American tactical nukes in South Korea, withdrawn in 1991.

● If the crisis deepens, the possibility arises of South Korea and, more importantly, Japan going nuclear themselves. The latter is the ultimate Chinese nightmare.

These are major cards America can play. Our objective should be clear. At a minimum, a testing freeze. At the maximum, regime change.

Because Beijing has such a strong interest in the current regime, we could sweeten the latter offer by abjuring Korean reunification. This would not be Germany, where the communist state was absorbed into the West. We would accept an independent, but Finlandized, North Korea.

During the Cold War, Finland was, by agreement, independent but always pro-Russian in foreign policy. Here we would guarantee that a new North Korea would be independent but always oriented toward China. For example, the new regime would forswear ever joining any hostile alliance.

There are deals to be made. They may have to be underpinned by demonstrations of American resolve. A preemptive attack on North Korea’s nuclear facilities and missile sites would be too dangerous, as it would almost surely precipitate an invasion of South Korea with untold millions of casualties. We might, however, try to shoot down a North Korean missile in mid-flight to demonstrate both our capacity to defend ourselves and the futility of a North Korean missile force that can be neutralized technologically.

The Korea crisis is real and growing. But we are not helpless. We have choices. We have assets. It’s time to deploy them.

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