North Korea’ first hypersonic missile makes first test flight

North Korea’ first hypersonic missile makes first test flight
The newly developed hypersonic missile Hwasong-8 is test-fired in Toyang-ri, Ryongrim County of Jagang Province, North Korea. (Korean Central News Agency via Reuters)
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Updated 29 September 2021

North Korea’ first hypersonic missile makes first test flight

North Korea’ first hypersonic missile makes first test flight
  • The missile test early Tuesday was North Korea’s third round of launches this month
  • North Korea’s weapons displays could also be aimed at shoring up domestic unity

SEOUL: North Korea said Wednesday it successfully tested a new hypersonic missile it implied was being developed as nuclear capable, as it continues to expand its military capabilities and pressure Washington and Seoul over long-stalled negotiations over its nuclear weapons.
The missile test early Tuesday was North Korea’s third round of launches this month and took place shortly before North Korea’s UN envoy accused the United States of hostility and demanded the Biden administration permanently end joint military exercises with South Korea and the deployment of strategic assets in the region.
A photo published in North Korea’s state media showed a missile mounted with a finned, cone-shaped payload soaring into the air amid bright orange flames. The official Korean Central News Agency said the missile during its first flight test met key technical requirements, including launch stability and the maneuverability and flight characteristics of the “detached hypersonic gliding warhead.”
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff assessed the missile to be at an early stage of development and said North Korea would need “considerable time” to be able to deploy it operationally.
The North’s announcement came a day after the South Korean and Japanese militaries said they detected North Korea firing a missile into its eastern sea. The US Indo-Pacific Command said the launch highlighted “the destabilizing impact of (North Korea’s) illicit weapons program.”
In a separate report, KCNA said the North’s rubber-stamp parliament opened a session on Tuesday and discussed domestic issues such as economic policies and youth education and that the meetings would continue. Some experts speculate the North might use the session to address the deadlock on nuclear diplomacy, but the state media report did not mention any comments made toward Washington and Seoul.
At a ruling party meeting in January, leader Kim Jong Un named hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding into a target, among a wish-list of sophisticated military assets. KCNA described the new missile as an important addition to the country’s “strategic” weaponry, implying that the system is being developed to deliver nuclear weapons.
The report also said the test confirmed the stability of the missile’s fuel capsule, indicating a technology to add liquid propellant beforehand and keep it launch-ready for years. And a North Korean official said the North planned to expand the system to all its liquid-fuel missiles.
Liquid-fuel missiles are more vulnerable than solid-fuel missiles because they need to be fueled separately and transported to launch sites using trucks that can be seen by enemy satellites or other military assets.
Kim Dong-yub, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said North Korea is trying to improve the mobility of these weapons.
North Korea last week made offers to improve relations with South Korea under certain conditions, apparently returning to its pattern of mixing weapons demonstrations with peace overtures to wrest outside concessions.
Negotiations over its nuclear program have been in a stalemate since February 2019. North Korea has demanded the lifting of US-led sanctions while insisting it has the right to nuclear weapons. US officials have made it clear the sanctions will stay in place until the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Kim Jong Un in recent political speeches has vowed to bolster his nuclear program as a deterrent to the US His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s offer to resume talks without preconditions, saying that Washington must abandon its “hostile policy” first, a term North Korea mainly uses to refer to sanctions and joint US-South Korea military drills the North considers to be an invasion rehearsal.
Kim’s influential sister reached out to Seoul twice last week, saying her country was open to resuming talks and reconciliatory steps if conditions are met.
Analysts say North Korea is using the South’s desire for inter-Korean engagement to pressure Seoul to extract concessions from Washington on Kim’s behalf as he renews an attempt to leverage his nuclear weapons for badly needed economic and security benefits.
North Korea’s weapons displays could also be aimed at shoring up domestic unity as Kim faces perhaps his toughest moment nearing a decade in rule, with pandemic border closures unleashing further shock on an economy battered by sanctions and decades of mismanagement.
Experts say the North will likely continue its testing activity in the coming months as it dials up its pressure campaign, at least until China begins pushing for calm ahead of the Beijing Olympics early next year.


Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana

Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana
Updated 4 sec ago

Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana

Kabul roadside blast injures five, says TV station Ariana

KABUL: A roadside bomb blast in the Afghan capital of Kabul caused at least five casualties, television station Ariana News said on Tuesday.
The target of the attack appeared to have been an open-backed vehicle like a Toyota Hilux, it added, but there were no further details and no official confirmation of the figures.


Singapore to hold off further reopening to evaluate omicron variant

Singapore to hold off further reopening to evaluate omicron variant
Updated 40 min 17 sec ago

Singapore to hold off further reopening to evaluate omicron variant

Singapore to hold off further reopening to evaluate omicron variant
  • ‘This is a prudent thing to do for now, when we are faced with a major uncertainty’

SINGAPORE: Singapore will hold off on further reopening measures while it evaluates the omicron COVID-19 variant and will boost testing of travelers and frontline workers to reduce the risk of local transmission, authorities said on Tuesday.
“This is a prudent thing to do for now, when we are faced with a major uncertainty,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told a media briefing on Tuesday, adding the variant had not yet been detected locally.


Moderna CEO says vaccines likely less effective against omicron — FT

Moderna CEO says vaccines likely less effective against omicron — FT
Updated 28 min 46 sec ago

Moderna CEO says vaccines likely less effective against omicron — FT

Moderna CEO says vaccines likely less effective against omicron — FT
  • Drugmaker CEO warns of “material drop” in vaccine effectiveness, mutations mean existing vaccines likely need modifying

SYDNEY: The head of drugmaker Moderna said COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to be as effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus as they have been previously, sparking fresh worry in financial markets about the trajectory of the pandemic.
“There is no world, I think, where (the effectiveness) is the same level . . . we had with Delta,” Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times.
“I think it’s going to be a material drop. I just don’t know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to . . . are like ‘this is not going to be good.’“
Vaccine resistance could lead to more sickness and hospitalizations and prolong the pandemic, and his comments triggered selling in growth-exposed assets like oil, stocks and the Australian dollar.
Bancel added that the high number of mutations on the protein spike the virus uses to infect human cells meant it was likely the current crop of vaccines would need to be modified.
He had earlier said on CNBC that it could take months to begin shipping a vaccine that does work against omicron.
Fear of the new variant, despite a lack of information about its severity, has already triggered delays to some economic reopening plans and the reimposition of some travel and movement restrictions.

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Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race
Updated 30 November 2021

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race

Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s preferred successor quits presidential race
  • Making the ‘supreme sacrifice for the good of the country and for the sake of unity among our supporters and leaders’

MANILA: Philippine Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, the preferred successor of Rodrigo Duterte, said on Tuesday he was withdrawing his candidacy for presidency.
Go, President Duterte’s long-time aide, had recently hinted he may drop out of the race and his withdrawal leaves the administration without a presidential candidate. It was not clear yet who Duterte will now support. “I and President Duterte are ready to support whoever will truly serve and can continue and protect Duterte’s legacy toward a more comfortable and safe and prosperous life for our children,” Go said in a short speech streamed on Facebook.
Go said he was making the “supreme sacrifice for the good of the country and for the sake of unity among our supporters and leaders.” Duterte’s daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is running for the deputy post alongside the son of late Philippine dictator and namesake, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has emerged as an early frontrunner. The Southeast Asian nation of 110 million people holds elections in May 2022 for positions from president down to governors, mayors and local officials.
Duterte, 76, is barred by the constitution from seeking re-election but he will run for a seat in the senate next year.


Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec. 6

 Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
Updated 30 November 2021

Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec. 6

 Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
  • Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: A court in military-ruled Myanmar deferred on Tuesday verdicts in the trial of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Dec. 6, a source familiar with the proceedings said.
The court had been due to rule on charges of incitement and violations of a law on natural disasters, accusations that Suu Kyi has rejected.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not give a reason for the deferral.
The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals ousted her government in the early hours of February 1, ending the Southeast Asian country’s brief democratic interlude.
More than 1,200 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
Suu Kyi faces three years in prison if found guilty of incitement against the military — although analysts say it is unlikely she will be taken away to jail on Tuesday.
Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the military-built capital Naypyidaw and Suu Kyi’s lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.
The courtroom will remain off-limits to reporters for the verdict, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun recently said.
Days after the coup Suu Kyi was hit with obscure charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, and for violating coronavirus restrictions during elections her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in 2020.
The junta has since added a slew of other indictments, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud.
Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health.
Suu Kyi’s long spells of house arrest under a previous junta were spent at her family’s colonial-era mansion in Yangon, where she would appear before thousands gathered on the other side of her garden fence.
Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has confined her to an undisclosed location in the capital, with her link to the outside world limited to brief pre-trial meetings with her lawyers.
At her first court appearance, she used them to send a message of defiance, vowing the NLD would endure and asking the party faithful to remain united.
But in October her team were hit with a gag order after they relayed vivid testimony from deposed president Win Myint describing how he rejected a military offer to resign to save himself during the coup.
In recent weeks the trials of other ranking members of Suu Kyi’s NLD have wrapped up, with the junta doling out harsh sentences.
A former chief minister was sentenced to 75 years in jail earlier this month, while a close Suu Kyi aide was jailed for 20.