North Korea fires fresh missiles in response to US sanctions

This picture taken on January 14, 2022 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 15 shows a firing drill of railway-borne missile regiment is held in North Pyongan Province. (AFP)
This picture taken on January 14, 2022 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 15 shows a firing drill of railway-borne missile regiment is held in North Pyongan Province. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 15 January 2022

North Korea fires fresh missiles in response to US sanctions

This picture taken on January 14, 2022 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 15 shows a firing drill of railway-borne missile regiment is held in North Pyongan Province. (AFP)
  • The Treasury Department sanctions targeted five North Koreans over their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs in its response to the North’s missile test this week

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea on Friday fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles in its third weapons launch this month, officials in South Korea said, in an apparent reprisal for fresh sanctions imposed by the Biden administration for its continuing test launches.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missiles were fired 11 minutes apart from an inland area in western North Pyongan province, where North Korea is known to operate key missile bases and has frequently conducted test launches in recent years.
The missiles flew 430 kilometers (267 miles) cross-country on a maximum altitude of 36 kilometers (22 miles) before landing in the sea, the military said.
Japan’s coast guard urged vessels to pay attention to falling objects, but Chief Cabinet Secetary Hirokazu Matsuno said there were no reports of damage to vessels or aircraft.
Hours earlier, North Korea issued a statement berating the Biden administration for imposing fresh sanctions over its previous missile tests and warned of stronger and more explicit action if Washington maintains its “confrontational stance.”
The Treasury Department sanctions targeted five North Koreans over their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programs in its response to the North’s missile test this week. The State Department ordered sanctions against another North Korean, a Russian man and a Russian company for their broader support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities.
The Biden administration also announced it will seek UN sanctions, and a senior official from the US Mission to the United Nations said Friday that Washington will seek targeted measures against five individuals tied to North Korea’s weapons development and is working with its allies on additional designations.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said there has been no response from North Korea to the US offer some months ago to sit down without preconditions to talk about ways to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, and the possibility of US humanitarian assistance. The only response from Pyongyang has been renewed missile tests which are “pretty destabilizing, dangerous and most importantly contravene a whole host of UN Security Council resolutions,” the official said.
The test-launch of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday — the second in a week — was overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said it would greatly increase his country’s nuclear “war deterrent.”
North Korea has been ramping up tests of new, potentially nuclear-capable missiles designed to overwhelm missile defenses in the region. Some experts say Kim is going back to a tried-and-true technique of pressuring the world with missile launches and outrageous threats before offering negotiations meant to extract concessions.
Following an unusually provocative run in nuclear and long-range missile tests in 2017 that demonstrated the North’s pursuit of an arsenal that could target the American homeland, Kim initiated diplomacy with former President Donald Trump in 2018 in an attempt to leverage his nukes for economic benefits.
But the negotiations derailed after Kim’s second summit with Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected his demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities.
Kim has since pledged to further expand a nuclear arsenal he clearly sees as his strongest guarantee of survival, despite the country’s economy suffering major setbacks after it shut its borders during the pandemic as well as persistent US-led sanctions.
His government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s open-ended offer to resume talks, saying Washington must abandon its “hostile policy” first — a term Pyongyang mainly uses to describe the sanctions and joint US-South Korea military drills.
South Korea’s presidential office said National Security Director Suh Hoon and other senior officials convened an emergency National Security Council meeting, expressed “strong regret” over the continued launches and urged Pyongyang to recommit to dialogue.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said North Korea appears to be signaling it will not be ignored and will respond to pressure with pressure.
“North Korea is trying to lay a trap for the Biden administration,” Easley said. “It has queued up missiles that it wants to test anyway and is responding to US pressure with additional provocations in an effort to extort concessions.”
The timing of the launch and detection of multiple missiles suggest North Korea demonstrated weapons that were already operational, rather than some of its other missiles under development, as it sought to signal Washington, said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies.
He said the North may have tested a solid-fuel missile apparently modeled after Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic system, or another short-range weapon that looks similar to the US MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System.
Both missiles, which the North has tested since 2019, are designed to be maneuverable and fly at low attitudes, which potentially improves their chances of evading and defeating missile defense systems.
In a statement carried by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Friday defended the North’s previous launches as a righteous exercise of self-defense.
The spokesperson said the new sanctions underscore hostile US intent aimed at “isolating and stifling” the North. The spokesperson accused Washington of maintaining a “gangster-like” stance, saying that the North’s development of hypersonic missiles is part of its efforts to modernize its military and does not target any specific country or threaten the security of its neighbors.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds in excess of Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound, could pose a crucial challenge to missile defenses because of their speed and maneuverability.
Such weapons were on a wish-list of sophisticated military assets Kim Jong Un unveiled early last year along with multi-warhead missiles, spy satellites, solid-fuel long-range missiles and submarine-launched nuclear missiles.
Still, experts say North Korea would need years and more successful and longer-range tests before acquiring a credible hypersonic system.
In an interview with MSNBC, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the North’s latest tests “profoundly destabilizing” and said the United States was deeply engaged at the UN and with key partners, including allies South Korea and Japan, on a response.
“I think some of this is North Korea trying to get attention. It’s done that in the past. It’ll probably continue to do that,” Blinken said. “But we are very focused with allies and partners in making sure that they and we are properly defended and that there are repercussions, consequences for these actions by North Korea.”


Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
Updated 12 sec ago

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
KABUL: The Taliban’s first official talks with the West on European soil since seizing power in Afghanistan will help to “transform the atmosphere of war” after a two-decade insurgency against NATO forces, the group’s top spokesman told AFP Saturday.
The hard-line Islamists stormed back to power in August as US and foreign troops began their final withdrawal from the country following a stalemate on the battlefield.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban’s government — notorious for human rights abuses during a first stint in power between 1996 and 2001 when they were ousted by a US-led invasion.
“The Islamic Emirate has taken steps for meeting the demands of the Western world and we hope to strengthen our relations through diplomacy with all the countries, including European countries and the West in general,” Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Saturday.
The Taliban want to “transform the atmosphere of war... into a peaceful situation.”
Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since the Taliban’s takeover. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in Afghan central bank assets held overseas.
Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The visit from Sunday to Tuesday will see meetings between the hard-line Islamists, Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries including Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, the Norwegian foreign ministry statement said.
The Taliban delegation is also expected to meet Afghans from civil society, including women leaders and journalists, at a time when the freedoms of those living in Afghanistan are being increasingly curtailed.
“These meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Friday.
“But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.”
The Taliban delegation, led by foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, was due to leave for Oslo on Saturday.
Ali Maisam Nazary, the foreign relations chief for the National Resistance Front (NRF) — an opposition group that bills itself as the last bastion against total Taliban control — condemned Norway over the talks.
“We all must raise our voices and prevent any country from normalizing a terrorist group as the representative of Afghanistan,” Nazary, who is based in Paris, tweeted on Friday.

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia
Updated 22 January 2022

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia
  • There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s second most powerful leader was heading to Ethiopia on Saturday, a rare visit by an official from Khartoum that comes amid border tensions, state media said.
Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Hemeti, who is number two in Sudan’s ruling council, will be in Ethiopia on a two-day official visit to meet “several Ethiopian officials,” the SUNA news agency reported.
Daglo is head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a much feared and powerful paramilitary unit that is accused of atrocities in the western region of Darfur.
Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa deteriorated due to a territorial conflict over the disputed Al-Fashaqa border region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.
There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years.
Al-Fashaqa also borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, and tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan fleeing fighting.
In November, Sudan’s armed forces said six soldiers were killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military, a report denied by Addis Ababa, who blamed rebels from Tigray.
Sudan, along with Egypt, is also locked in a bitter dispute over Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile.
The two downstream countries, dependent on the river for most of their water, see Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam as an existential threat.
Both Khartoum and Addis Ababa are mired in crises.
Sudan has been rocked by weeks of mass demonstrations since an October 25 military takeover that derailed the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule, with at least 73 anti-coup protesters killed in a bloody crackdown.
Ethiopia still seeks to end a conflict that broke out in November 2020 following months of mounting rancour between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the former ruling party of the northernmost Tigray region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The fighting has displaced millions, and, according to UN estimates, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.


Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital
Updated 22 January 2022

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad admitted to hospital
  • Mahathir Mohamad was admitted to the cardiac care unit at the National Heart Institute but gave no details

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been admitted to hospital, a spokesperson for him said on Saturday.
The spokesperson said Mahathir was admitted to the cardiac care unit at the National Heart Institute but gave no details.


Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time
Updated 49 min 38 sec ago

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time

Tokyo hits record 10,000 COVID cases, Japan over 50,000 for first time
  • Case count jumps nearly 2.5 times from 4,561 lodged a week before

TOKYO: Tokyo recorded its fourth record number of daily COVID-19 infections on Saturday, breaking above 10,000, while Japan’s exceeded 50,000 for the first time as the omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.
The capital had 11,227 new coronavirus cases, the local government said a day after it reinstated curbs on mobility and business activity through Feb. 13.
Tokyo’s case count, exceeding Friday’s 9,699, were more than double the 4,561 logged a week earlier.
Three people in Tokyo died of COVID-19 and 12 were in serious condition on Saturday, the Tokyo government said.
Some 34.3 percent of hospital beds in the capital were being used by coronavirus patients. A rise in the occupancy rate to 50 percent would warrant a state of emergency with more severe restrictions, local officials have said.
Osaka prefecture announced 7,375 infections, a second consecutive record, and two deaths.
Infections nationwide totalled at least 50,200 as nearly 30 of Japan’s 47 prefectures set records, broadcaster FNN reported.
As of Friday, 78.7 percent of Japan’s population had been fully vaccinated, but only 1.5 percent had received a booster shot, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
The health ministry on Friday approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 in an effort to ramp up the vaccination rate. 


Fire in residential building kills 6, injures 15 in Mumbai

Fire in residential building kills 6, injures 15 in Mumbai
Updated 22 January 2022

Fire in residential building kills 6, injures 15 in Mumbai

Fire in residential building kills 6, injures 15 in Mumbai
  • The fire was caused by a short-circuit in an air conditioner in one of the apartments
  • Nearly two dozen fire engines extinguished the blaze and controlled the smoke after a two-hour effort

NEW DELHI: A major fire in a 19-story residential building killed at least six people and injured 15 others on Saturday in Mumbai, India’s financial and entertainment capital, officials said.
The fire was caused by a short-circuit in an air conditioner in one of the apartments, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar said.
Residents said the fire started on the 15th floor and a big column of black smoke soon enveloped the building. More than 90 people escaped the building on their own or helped by neighbors, they said.
Ganesh Purnaik, a spokesman for the city government, said the fire left six people dead and 15 hospitalized with injuries.
Four of the injured were in critical condition, said police officer Saurabh Tripathi.
Nearly two dozen fire engines extinguished the blaze and controlled the smoke after a two-hour effort, media reports said. Firefighters rushed the injured to two nearby hospitals.
Pednekar said some of the injured needed oxygen support because they had inhaled smoke.
Fires are common in India, where building laws and safety norms are often flouted by builders and residents.
In August, a fire killed eight coronavirus patients at a hospital in Ahmedabad, a major city in Gujarat state. In December 2018, a late-night fire in a Mumbai restaurant killed 15 people.

Related