North Korea tests new missile engine, US officials say

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40377543?ocid=socialflow_twitter

  • 23 June 2017
  • From the sectionAsia
North Korean military paradeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionNorth Korea hopes its military arsenal will be a deterrent against the US

North Korea has tested a new rocket engine as part of its efforts to build a missile capable of reaching the American mainland, US officials said.

The news comes amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyangover the North’s nuclear ambitions.

The Trump administration has made the issue one of its top priorities.

Despite international condemnation, North Korea has increased its missile tests, with the aim of developing an intercontinental nuclear-armed rocket.

The US Defense Intelligence Agency warned last month that North Korea was on an “inevitable” path to achieving this.

US officials speaking anonymously to several news agencies said the latest engine test, on Thursday, could be one stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) engine that would be able to reach the US.

Due to the secretive nature of all of North Korea’s military activity, it is hard for experts to assess how close the country is to building a reliable ICBM.

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North Korea’s missiles – what do we know?

  • North Korean missiles can already reach South Korea or Japan, both countries have a US military presence.
  • A missile to reach the US mainland is in development but it’s not clear what stage the project is at.
  • North Korea has conducted several successful nuclear tests.
  • But it’s thought they have not yet managed to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a missile.
North Korean missile range
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US-ally South Korea on Friday tested a missile of its own and President Mon Jae-in said dialogue with the North was possible only when backed by a strong defence able to “overwhelm the North”.

The South’s military does not have nuclear weapons but is backed by strong support from US troops troops stationed in the country.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday urged China to use more diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang “if they want to prevent further escalation in the region”.

China is seen as North Korea’s main ally and the US hopes Beijing can have greater influence on the totalitarian state to stop both its missile tests and nuclear programme.

US President Donald Trump has said he would like to solve the North Korea crisis diplomatically, but has previously warned that a “major, major conflict” is possible.

Tensions spiked once again last week when US student Otto Warmbier, who was serving a hard labour sentence in North Korea for stealing a propaganda sign, died shortly after returning home in a coma.

The US regularly conducts drills with Japan as well as South Korea, and is installing a controversial missile defence system in South Korea, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad).

But South Korea recently said it was suspending the further deployment of the system until an environmental assessment was completed.

Thinking the Unthinkable With North Korea

Photo

The United States and South Korean militaries taking part in drills at a multiple exercise range in Pocheon, South Korea, in April. CreditSeung-il Ryu/NurPhoto, via Getty Images

President Trump has promised the world that he will “solve” the North Korean nuclear crisis before the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, can screw a nuclear weapon onto a missile that can reach San Francisco or Los Angeles, a grim feat that experts say he is on track to achieve during Mr. Trump’s first term. The president is right to point out that his predecessors succeeded only at kicking this problem down the road. But Mr. Trump hasn’t said how he plans to solve the problem.

History suggests that as Mr. Trump comes to understand the risks involved, he will settle for constraints on North Korean testing to stop it from being able to reach the American homeland with a nuclear-tipped missile. President Xi Jinping of China pointed him in that direction at the Mar-a-Lago summit meeting in April, proposing a freeze on United States military activity on the Korean Peninsula in exchange for suspending North Korea’s long-range missile tests.

An approach that requires the United States to accept what it longed deemed “unacceptable” will strike many people in Washington as irresponsible. Is United States national security really strengthened if a 33-year-old dictator with a record of executing his enemies and defying red lines is left with an arsenal of 20 warheads and missiles that can deliver nuclear strikes against Seoul and Tokyo? It would be a hard pill to swallow, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged in South Korea two months ago, when he noted that such a freeze was “premature” since it does not readily solve anything.

But as Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson review the choices that Mao Zedong made in 1950, and John F. Kennedy made in 1962, they will come to appreciate the risks of cornering an adversary — and find the clearest clues for a deal that Washington and Beijing could support.

Photo

U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Carl Vinson about 30 kilometers south of Tsushima island in a north-northeasterly direction headed toward waters off the Korean Peninsula as part of moves to exert pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear and missile development programs. CreditThe Asahi Shimbun, via Getty Images

Start with Mao. In the Korean War, American policy makers assumed that if the United States went to the defense of South Korea, a China exhausted by years of civil war would not respond. They were wrong. Mao did not hesitate to unleash a huge counterattack on a nuclear superpower when United States soldiers in Korea neared the Chinese border. Overwhelmed, Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s men retreated.

Could that happen again? Maybe. The United States intelligence community believes that American military strikes against North Korea would almost certainly trigger retaliation that would kill up to a million citizens in Seoul. The South Korean government would respond with a full-scale attack on the North. The United States is committed to support South Korea. But would Mr. Xi ever allow the Korean Peninsula to be reunified by a government allied with the United States?

And history is working against us. A Harvard study I led found 16 cases over the past 500 years when a rising power threatened to displace a ruling power. In 12 of them, the outcome was war. Today, as an unstoppable rising China rivals an immovable reigning United States, this dynamic — which I call Thucydides’s Trap — amplifies risks.

What we see unfolding now is a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion. In the most dangerous moment in recorded history, to prevent the Soviet Union from placing nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba, John F. Kennedy was prepared to take what he confessed was a one-in-three chance of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. What risk will Mr. Trump run to prevent North Korea acquiring the ability to strike the United States?

As Kennedy approached the final hour in which he would have to attack, risking nuclear war, or acquiesce to a Soviet nuclear presence in America’s backyard, both he and Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, began to examine previously unthinkable options. In the popular American narrative, Khrushchev capitulated. But we now know that both sides blinked. Kennedy agreed secretly to remove American missiles from Turkey, an option he and his advisers had earlier rejected because of its impact on NATO — and because he would look weak.

Kennedy’s central lesson from the crisis still offers wise counsel for Mr. Trump. “Above all,” Kennedy said, “while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war.”

At Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Xi reportedly urged Mr. Trump to accept “suspension for suspension.” For Mr. Kim’s freeze on additional ICBM tests, the United States could postpone or modify military exercises in the region. Some people in Mr. Xi’s circle have even proposed that the United States and China consider a new East Asian security architecture.

Indeed, they note that America’s presence in South Korea is an accident of history. Had North Korea not attacked the South in 1950, the United States would never have intervened. So if China were to assume responsibility for removing the Kim regime, denuclearizing the country, and reunifying the peninsula under a government in Seoul friendly to Beijing, would the United States remove all its bases from the South and end its military alliance?

For most American presidents, the idea would be a nonstarter. But Mr. Trump is nothing if not original. Will the necessity of avoiding nuclear war, in this case, become again the mother of invention?

THE ONION: A Timeline Of U.S.–North Korean Relations

FROM THE ONION!:

http://www.theonion.com/infographic/timeline-usnorth-korean-relations-55847?utm_content=Main&utm_campaign=SF&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMarketing

As tensions mount between North Korea and American allies, The Onion looks back at key moments in the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea.

  • 1948

    God decides to come to Earth in the form of 36-year-old Korean man Kim Il-sung

  • 1950

    The outbreak of the Korean War marks the high point of U.S.–North Korean relations

  • 1973

    Henry Blake’s plane is shot down, sending Hawkeye and the 4077th into drunken despair

  • June 1994

    Kim Il-sung meets with one-term U.S. Supreme Leader Jimmy Carter

  • July 1994

    After considering a record number of talented sons, Kim Il-sung ultimately designates Kim Jong-il as his successor

  • 1996

    Three million patriotic North Koreans agree to starve to death for the good of their country

  • 2003

    North Korea withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, indicating that the country has developed the capabilities to lie

  • 2008

    George W. Bush removes North Korea from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list after officials agree to focus solely on acts of domestic terror

  • 2013

    Dennis Rodman severely botches assassination attempt of top North Korean officials

  • 2016

    North Korean missile successfully takes out U.S. allied mackerel in Sea of Japan

  • November 2016

    After years of watching North Korea with jealousy, the U.S. electorate decide to try out an erratic strongman with nuclear capabilities for themselves

North Korea tension: China ‘seriously concerned’ about nuclear threats

Missile at military parade in Pyongyang (North Korean state news agency KCNA) - 16 AprilImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionNorth Korea showed off military hardware at a parade in honour of the anniversary of founding father Kim Il-sung’s birth

China says it is seriously concerned about North Korean nuclear development, in the wake of a BBC interview with a top official from the North.

North Korea’s vice-foreign minister told the BBC Pyongyang would continue to test missiles and would launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike if it thought the US was planning an attack.

Foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China opposed words or actions that could further raise tension.

North Korea-US tension is growing.

There has been heated rhetoric from both sides in recent days. US Vice-President Mike Pence, who has been visiting the region, warned the North not to test Washington and said the US “era of strategic patience” with Pyongyang was over.

The BBC’s Stephen McDonell in Beijing says the Chinese government appears to be becoming increasingly frustrated with North Korea, its traditional ally.

Media captionThe BBC’s John Sudworth asks North Korea’s vice-foreign minister what message he has for Donald Trump

“I have noted the recent report,” Mr Lu said, referring to the BBC interview.

“China expresses serious concern with recent trends about North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.

“China is unswerving in its commitment to realising the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, maintaining the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula, and continue to solve matters through dialogue and negotiations.”

Mr Lu added that tension was already high in the region before the latest comments from Pyongyang.

The North held a show of military might in a parade over the weekend and tested another missile on Sunday, which the Pentagon said blew up almost immediately after launch.

Media captionMike Pence calls North Korea ‘most dangerous threat’

Pyongyang said it may test missiles on a weekly basis, and warned of “all-out war” if the US takes military action.

“If the US is planning a military attack against us, we will react with a nuclear pre-emptive strike by our own style and method,” Vice-Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol told the BBC on Monday.


Timeline of recent tensions


Later Mr Pence vowed to “defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response”.

The US Navy’s Carl Vinson strike group – consisting of an aircraft carrier and other warships – is on its way to the Western Pacific, Pacific Command said on Tuesday, following an order from President Donald Trump last week.

The USS Carl Vinson (left) and other warships in the Indian Ocean. Photo: 14 April 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionThe USS Carl Vinson (left) and other warships were in the Indian Ocean over the weekend

It has emerged that when the original announcement of the group’s movement was made it was travelling in the opposite direction.

It is not clear whether this was a deliberate deception, a change of plan or simple miscommunication, the BBC’s Korea correspondent Stephen Evans says.

North Korean crisis averted, but tensions remain dangerously high

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/04/16/north-korean-crisis-averted-but-tensions-remain-dangerously-high/100542870/

by , USA TODAYPublished 10:31 a.m. ET April 16, 2017

A feared military confrontation between North Korea and the United States didn’t materialize over the weekend, but tensions between the two countries remain dangerously high for the indefinite future.

A failed test of a medium-range ballistic missile that blew up almost immediately Sunday did not provoke a U.S. military response. Even so, North Korea has made progress with its nuclear weapons and missile programs and is led by an unpredictable dictator, Kim Jong Un, who views America’s new president as a threat. That won’t change anytime soon.

President Trump has vowed that he will not allow North Korea to develop a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon that can strike the United States, and Kim has vowed to pursue that very goal to prevent a pre-emptive U.S. strike. Last week, North Korea warned that the two countries were edging toward nuclear war.

The U.S. military was watching North Korea intently Saturday as it marked the 105th birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong Un. The North traditionally marks the occasion with shows of military strength, including nuclear or missile tests. This time, it paraded its latest missile hardware through the capital Pyongyang, showing off many new weapons. They included a new short-range missile and the country’s latest submarine-launched missile.

The North Koreans did not conduct a nuclear weapons test, which would have been its sixth since 2006, a far more provocative move than a missile test, which the U.S. military confirmed proved to be a dud.

Still, the United States showed no sign of backing down in the face of North Korea’s increasingly belligerent rhetoric and actions. Vice President Pence, who arrived Sunday in Seoul as part of a 10-day Asian trip, said, “Our resolve has never been stronger, our commitment to this historic alliance with the courageous people of South Korea has never been stronger, and with your help and God’s help, freedom will ever prevail on this peninsula.”

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, said on ABC’s This Week  that the missile test “fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the North Korean regime. He added that “there’s an international consensus now — including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership — that this is a situation that just can’t continue.”

The U.S. has nearly 30,000 troops stationed in South Korea, and recently began installing a missile defense system to protect the country — including 20 million people living in Seoul — from a North Korean attack on the capital city, which is the region’s biggest fear.

Sunday’s ballistic missile test was a humiliating failure for Kim, and may only spur him to accelerate his nuclear program.

David Albright, a nuclear expert with the Institute for Science and International Security, estimated that through 2020, North Korea will have enough plutonium and weapons-grade uranium for about 25-50 nuclear weapons, according to a report provided to the Associated Press.

Political tensions between the United States and North Korea also are heightened because Trump is in the first months of his presidency, and North Korea may be testing him to see how he reacts. Trump’s answer: He is willing to unleash military power to eliminate any threat to the U.S. homeland. But Trump hasn’t ruled out non-military pressure by urging China — North Korea’s economic lifeline — to rein in its volatile neighbor to the south.

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that China is “working with us on the North Korean problem.”

Why would I call China a currency manipulator when they are working with us on the North Korean problem? We will see what happens!

Last week the United States dropped one of the biggest conventional bombs in its arsenal — a 22,000-pound behemoth — on an Islamic State cave and tunnel network in Afghanistan, an action that captured worldwide attention.

Before that, the U.S. military fired 59 cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria in retaliation for President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on civilians in a rebel-held city.

The Pentagon said the Afghanistan and Syrian strikes were not meant to send a broader message, but North Korea surely was watching closely and drawing lessons from Trump’s willingness to use military power.

It doesn’t appear to have cooled the rhetoric or actions of North Korean leaders. North Korea Vice Minister Han Song Ryol told the Associated Press on Friday that his country has determined the Trump administration is “more vicious and more aggressive” than that of President Barack Obama, and is preparing for war.