North Korea says new long-range missile can carry heavy nuke

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un watches a military drill marking the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this handout photo by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made available on April 26, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 15 May 2017
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North Korea says new long-range missile can carry heavy nuke

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea said Monday the missile it launched over the weekend was a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead. A jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the US mainland and Pacific holdings.
North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness — Pyongyang has threatened for decades to reduce Seoul to a “sea of fire,” for instance — but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the US mainland. Some experts, including officials in Tokyo, estimate that Sunday’s launch successfully tested a new type of missile in Pyongyang’s arsenal.
The test is also an immediate challenge to South Korea’s new leader, Moon Jae-in, a liberal elected last week who expressed a desire to reach out to North Korea. Pyongyang’s aggressive push to boost its weapons program also makes it one of the Trump administration’s most urgent foreign policy worries, though Washington has struggled to settle on a policy.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency called the missile a “new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket,” and said the “Hwasong-12” was “capable of carrying a large, heavy nuclear warhead.” Kim Jong Un was said to have witnessed the test and “hugged officials in the field of rocket research, saying that they worked hard to achieve a great thing,” according to KCNA.
The missile flew for half an hour and reached an unusually high altitude before landing in the Sea of Japan, the South Korean, Japanese and US militaries said.
The rocket, “newly designed in a Korean-style,” flew 787 kilometers (490 miles) and reached a maximum altitude of 2,111.5 kilometers (1,310 miles), the North said, and “verified the homing feature of the warhead under the worst re-entry situation and accurate performance of detonation system.”
North Korea is not thought to be able yet to make a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, though some outside analysts think they can arm shorter range missiles with warheads; each new nuclear test is part of the North’s attempt to build a nuclear-tipped long-range missile.
Kim said the North would stage more nuclear and missile tests in order to perfect nuclear bombs needed to deal with US “nuclear blackmail.”
State media paraphrased Kim as saying that “the most perfect weapon systems in the world will never become the eternal exclusive property of the US, ... strongly warning the US should not ... disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in (North Korea’s) sighting range for strike.”
The launch complicates the new South Korean president’s plan to talk to the North, and came as US, Japanese and European navies gather for joint war games in the Pacific.
“The president expressed deep regret over the fact that this reckless provocation ... occurred just days after a new government was launched in South Korea,” senior presidential secretary Yoon Young-chan said. “The president said we are leaving open the possibility of dialogue with North Korea, but we should sternly deal with a provocation to prevent North Korea from miscalculating.”
Moon, South Korea’s first liberal leader in nearly a decade, said as he took his oath of office last week that he’d be willing to visit the North if the circumstances were right.
The UN Security Council will hold closed consultations about the launch on Tuesday afternoon, according to the UN Mission for Uruguay, which holds the council presidency this month.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley said on ABC television that the United States has been working well with China, Pyongyang’s closest ally, and she raised the possibility of new sanctions against North Korea, including on oil imports.
The Security Council has adopted six increasingly tougher sanctions resolutions against North Korea.
President Donald Trump’s administration has called North Korean ballistic and nuclear efforts unacceptable, but it has swung between threats of military action and offers to talk as it formulates a policy.
While Trump has said he’d be “honored” to talk with leader Kim Jong Un under favorable conditions, Haley seemed to rule out the possibility. “Having a missile test is not the way to sit down with the president, because he’s absolutely not going to do it,” she told ABC.
The US Pacific Command said the flight of Sunday’s test “is not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile,” a technology the North is believed to have tested clandestinely by launching rockets to put satellites in orbit.
David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the missile could have a range of 4,500 kilometers (about 2,800 miles) if flown on a standard, instead of a lofted, trajectory — considerably longer than Pyongyang’s current missiles. He said Sunday’s launch — the seventh such firing by North Korea this year — may have been of a new mobile, two-stage liquid-fueled missile North Korea displayed in a huge April 15 military parade.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the launch was “absolutely unacceptable” and that Japan would respond resolutely.
The White House took note of the missile landing close to Russia’s Pacific coast and said in a statement that North Korea has been “a flagrant menace for far too long.”
Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said the G-7 summit his country is hosting later this month would discuss how to deal with the risk North Korea’s missile launchings pose to global security.
“It’s a serious problem for global stability and security, and I’m convinced that the upcoming G-7, in friendship, will contribute to resolving this issue,” he said in Beijing.
The launch came as troops from the US, Japan and two European nations gather near Guam for drills that are partly a message to North Korea. The USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft supercarrier, is also engaging with South Korean navy ships in waters off the Korean Peninsula, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.


As tensions mount, Mattis seeks more resilient US ties with China’s military

Updated 14 min 5 sec ago
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As tensions mount, Mattis seeks more resilient US ties with China’s military

  • Making military-to-military ties with China less brittle would be crucial to helping reduce the chances of a devastating conflict — analyst
  • In a recent reminder of the risks amid rising tensions, the Pentagon this month accused China of an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the South China Sea

SINGAPORE: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told his Chinese counterpart on Thursday that the world’s two largest economies needed to deepen high-level ties so as to navigate tension and rein in the risk of inadvertent conflict.
Mattis saw firsthand last month how mounting Sino-US friction can undermine military contacts when Beijing up-ended plans for him to travel to China in October to meet Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
It was retaliation for recent US sanctions, one of a growing number of flashpoints in relations between Washington and Beijing that include a bitter trade war, Taiwan and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.
Mattis and Wei made no remarks as they shook hands at the start of their talks on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Singapore. The meeting ended without any public statements.
Randall Schriver, a US assistant secretary of defense who helps guide Pentagon policy in Asia, said Mattis and Wei largely restated differing views on thorny security disputes but agreed on the need for durable ties.
“Both acknowledged that the meeting itself was significant and that high-level communication can help,” Schriver said. “So I think it was productive in that regard.”
Schriver said making military-to-military ties with China less brittle would be crucial to helping reduce the chances of a devastating conflict.
“Two nuclear-armed powers with regional, if not global, interests — we need to make sure that when we step on one another’s toes, it doesn’t escalate into something that would be catastrophic,” Schriver told reporters traveling with Mattis.
Wei has a standing invitation to visit the United States but no date was agreed for his trip, Schriver said.

Managing crises
Military-to-military ties have long been one of the more fragile parts of the overall US-China relationship, with Beijing limiting contacts when tensions run high. That has been a source of major concern for years among US officials, who fear an accidental collision or mishap could quickly escalate.
“What we want in terms of stability are regular interactions at senior levels so we have a good understanding of one another’s intentions, that we have confidence-building measures that will help us prevent an unintended accident or incident,” Schriver said.
“And, should one occur, that we have the ability to manage that, so it doesn’t worsen.”
China has been infuriated by the United States putting sanctions on its military for buying weapons from Russia, and by what Beijing sees as stepped-up US support for self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its sacred territory.
In a recent reminder of the risks amid rising tensions, the Pentagon this month accused China of an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the South China Sea that brought a Chinese ship dangerously close to a US Navy destroyer in international waters.
Mattis, speaking to reporters as he flew to Asia this week, rejected Chinese claims that the United States was acting aggressively and pointed the finger at Beijing.
“When the Chinese ships are putting bumpers over the side ... You don’t do that when you’re out in the middle of the ocean, unless you’re intending to run into something,” Mattis said.
But tensions between the United States and China have already extended well beyond naval maneuvers and even the bitter trade war.
US President Donald Trump last month accused China of seeking to meddle in Nov. 6 congressional elections, a charge almost immediately rejected by Beijing.
Vice President Mike Pence, in what was billed as a major policy address, renewed that and other accusations this month and added that Chinese security agencies had masterminded the “wholesale theft of American technology,” including military blueprints.
The Pentagon’s top concerns have been China’s rapid military modernization and simultaneous creation of military outposts in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway vital for international trade. The Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to a multinational exercise earlier this year in protest.
China expressed disappointment to Mattis on Thursday over that decision, Schriver said.
“Minister Wei said that he did hope that there’d be future opportunities. And if the relationship progresses that way, I’m sure we’ll entertain it,” Schriver said.
“But we’re not there right now.”