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Trump Threatens North Korea with “Effective and Overwhelming” Military Force

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Peter Symonds

In the wake of North Korea’s missile launch, US President Trump and his top officials have once again threatened to use military force to end the supposed threat posed by the small, economically backward country and its limited nuclear arsenal.

Speaking at an Air Force installation outside Washington, Trump condemned North Korea and declared that the US would “defend our people, our nations, and our civilization, from all who dare to threaten our way of life.”

Against the backdrop of a nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bomber, Trump told the assembled Air Force personnel:

“After seeing your capabilities and commitment here today, I am more confident than ever that our options in addressing this threat are both effective and overwhelming.”

Trump and his top officials have repeatedly stressed that “all options are on the table” and hinted the US would use its vast nuclear capability against North Korea.

The UN Security Council has issued a statement after its emergency session on Friday condemning North Korea’s latest test of an intermediate range missile that flew over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean as “highly provocative.”

Under pressure from Washington, the UN Security Council on Monday imposed its harshest sanctions yet on North Korea over its sixth nuclear test on September 3. The latest resolution banned the purchase of North Korean textile exports, restricted the hire of its guest workers and capped its oil imports.

Yesterday’s statement called on all UN member states to “fully, comprehensively and immediately” implement all the sanctions. At the same time, it stressed the need to “reduce tension in the Korean Peninsula” and to promote “a peaceful and comprehensive solution.”

Trump, however, has already dismissed the latest UN sanctions. Speaking on Tuesday, he declared that the UN vote was “just another very small step, not a big deal,” adding that he did not know “if it has any impact.” He said that the sanctions would pale in comparison to “what ultimately will have to happen” to North Korea.

Yesterday, senior Trump officials warned that time was running out for any diplomatic solution.

At a White House briefing yesterday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster underscored the willingness of the US to use military force.

“For those who have said, and been commenting about a lack of a military option, there is a military option.”

While saying that “now it [military force] is not what we would prefer to do,” McMaster warned that time was short.

“We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” he said.

Speaking at the same briefing, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley suggested that the UN had run out of options and she would support the use of the military against North Korea.

“There is not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here when you have cut 90 percent of the trade and 30 percent of the oil to [North Korea],” Haley said. “So, having said that, I have no problem with kicking it to [US Defense Secretary James] Mattis because I think he has plenty of options.”

The provocative US threats of war are also directed at putting even more pressure on China and also Russia to strong-arm the Pyongyang regime into capitulating to US demands to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Beijing and Moscow to take “direct actions of their own.” He called on all countries to implement UN sanctions but singled out China saying that it supplied North Korea with “most of its oil” and Russia as the “largest employer of North Korean forced labour.”

“China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own,” Tillerson declared.

Earlier this week, US Assistant Treasury Secretary Marshall Billingslea accused China of circumventing UN sanctions and assisting in the trade of banned goods with North Korea. He claimed to have evidence of Chinese and Russian collusion in the smuggling of coal out of North Korea.

Billingslea said that the Trump administration had told China that if it wished to avoid further sanctions, the United States needs to “urgently” see action. The US has already imposed bans on a number of Chinese individuals and entities, including the Bank of Dandong, over their alleged business dealings with North Korea.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on that the US has “sent a message that anybody that wanted to trade with North Korea, we consider them not trading with us. We can put economic sanctions to stop people trading.”

Mnuchin’s comments echo those of Trump who threatened to cut off trade with China if it did not end all business dealings with North Korea. The threats make clear that the Trump administration’s reckless escalation of the confrontation with North Korea is part of a broader strategy aimed at undermining China, which is regarded by the US as the main obstacle to its regional and global hegemony.

China and Russia are caught in a bind. Both countries have opposed North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs because the US has exploited them to justify its military build-up throughout Asia.

Beijing is also concerned that South Korea and Japan will use North Korea as a pretext to develop their own nuclear arsenal. South Korea’s defence minister has already suggested that the US return tactical nuclear weapons to his country.

At the same time, China and Russia do not want to see either a war in their backyard on the Korean Peninsula or a political crisis in Pyongyang that could be exploited by Washington to install a pro-US regime.

The Russian foreign ministry yesterday joined with China in condemning North Korea’s latest missile test over mainland Japan, but at the same time criticised the US for its “aggressive” role in the crisis.

“Regrettably, aggressive rhetoric is the only thing coming from Washington,” a spokesman said.

China and Russia are continuing to push for a resumption of negotiations based on a halt by the US and South Korea on large joint military exercises, in return for North Korea suspending further nuclear and missile tests. The US has repeatedly dismissed any pause in its war games with South Korea.

In response to the latest North Korean missile test, the South Korean military fired a short-range ballistic missile into waters 250 kilometres off its east coast. The South Korean President Moon Jae-in bluntly warned North Korea that “we have the power to destroy North Korea and make it unable to recover.”

NKorea Nuclear Tests Could Trigger ‘Supervolcano’ Eruption

September 19, 2017 Leave a comment

Seismic activity has increased since NKorea’s latest nuclear test

 

After North Korea’s latest nuclear test, scientists are worried that more underground explosions in the isolated country’s rocky north could set the stage for a deadly volcanic eruption not unlike the one that NASA fears could be brewing in the Yellowstone caldera.

Following the North’s sixth nuclear test Chinese authorities have stepped up radiation monitoring and even closed part of their border with North Korea as fallout fears have intensified.

And now, as Newsweek reports, China has limited access to a nature reserve on its border with North Korea after a mysterious series of seismic shakes at the rogue nation’s nuclear test site were detected less than 10 minutes after it conducted its latest test, which also triggered a sizable tremor. The severity of the tremors prompted Beijing to close the site over fears that underground detonations by the North Koreans at a facility near Punggye-ri could lead to rockslides, or worse, trigger an eruption of the active “super volcano” Mount Paektu, according to Disclose.tv.

According to Disclose.tv, the magma and sulfur booms during a supervolcano eruption could kill millions of people in the surrounding area, and potentially endangering all of humanity.

The volcano, which is sacred to North Korea, is located right on its border with China. China’s closure is in effect for a 70-mile-radius around the detonation site. A blast from a super volcano could be catastrophic, with ash traveling thousands of miles, potentially causing hundreds of thousands of deaths

“For the safety and convenience of travelers, we have temporarily closed the southern tourist zone of Changbai Mountain,” read the message from Chinese authorities, translated by UPI. “Officials are thoroughly investigating the safety of the tourist area.” The area will remain closed to the public until “the potential risks disappear,” it said.
But besides radioactive risks, scientists are worried that North Korea’s nuclear tests could disturb could disturb mountains in the Changbai range, along with the still-active Mt. Paektu, triggering the first eruption since 1903.

A new article in scientific journal Nature’s Scientific Reports states that “an underground nuclear explosion test near an active volcano constitutes a direct threat.”

Scientists wrote that it could “disturb the magma chamber of a volcano, thus accelerating the volcanic activity,” scientists argue.

“This is an interesting mystery at this point,” Göran Ekström, a seismologist at Columbia University in New York City, told Nature.
The US Geological Survey estimated the second burst of seismic energy, only eight and a half minutes after the detonation, had a magnitude of 4.1; the detonation itself registered at 6.3. While satellite images do show signs of structural collapse, the movement of rock more closely resembles a landslide.

North Korea is hardly alone in facing a potentially deadly eruption. Recently, NASA scientists have spoken out about the threat of super volcanoes and the risky methods that could be used to prevent a devastating eruption.

Lying beneath the tranquil and beautiful settings of Yellowstone National Park in the US is an enormous magma chamber called a caldera. It’s responsible for the geysers and hot springs for which the area is known, but for scientists at NASA, it’s also one of the greatest natural threats to human civilization as we know it.

Following an article published by BBC about super volcanoes last month, a group of NASA researchers got in touch with the media to share a report previously unseen outside the space agency about the threat Yellowstone poses, and what they hypothesize could possibly be done about it. As one researcher described it, the threat from super volcanos is much higher than the risk from asteroids

“I was a member of the NASA Advisory Council on Planetary Defense which studied ways for NASA to defend the planet from asteroids and comets,” explains Brian Wilcox of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at the California Institute of Technology.

“I came to the conclusion during that study that the supervolcano threat is substantially greater than the asteroid or comet threat.”
So, the agency has devised a plan that could ameliorate the volcano threat. The plan, which has yet to be authorized or implemented, would drill up to 10km down into the super volcano and pump down water at high pressure. The circulating water would return at a temperature of around 350C (662F). Thus, slowly day by day, extracting heat from the volcano. And while such a project would come at an estimated cost of around $3.46 billion, it comes with an enticing catch which could convince politicians (taxpayers) to make the investment.

“Yellowstone currently leaks around 6GW in heat,” Wilcox says. “Through drilling in this way, it could be used to create a geothermal plant, which generates electric power at extremely competitive prices of around $0.10/kWh. You would have to give the geothermal companies incentives to drill somewhat deeper and use hotter water than they usually would, but you would pay back your initial investment, and get electricity which can power the surrounding area for a period of potentially tens of thousands of years. And the long-term benefit is that you prevent a future supervolcano eruption which would devastate humanity.”
Of course, drilling into a super volcano comes with its own risks – in fact, it could inadvertently cause the eruption scientists are trying to prevent.

Talk about a volcanic irony…

North Korea’s Longest Missile Flight Ever Shows Guam Is in Range

September 17, 2017 Leave a comment

(CNSNews.com) – The ballistic missile fired over Japan on Friday traveled further than any previously launched by the North Korean regime – about 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) – before splashing down in the northern Pacific.

That’s roughly 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) further than the Hwasong-12 medium-range missile Pyongyang fired over Japan 17 days ago. It’s also a longer flight than those of the first two rockets ever fired over Japan – by Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, in 1998 and 2009, both of which were described by the regime as attempt to put a satellite into space.

In the 1998 launch, the second of the two stages of a Taepodong-1 rocket landed some 200 miles east of Japan, or about 930 miles from the launch site. The projectile fired in 2009, a three-stage Unha carrier rocket, traveled just under 2,000 miles.

(Two intercontinental ballistic missiles tested in July have a longer range than the one fired on Friday, but both were launched in a steep upward trajectory, and so did not fly as far from their launch sites as the latest one.)

Like the Hwasong-12 launched on August 29, the latest one flew over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island, home to 5.5 million people.

If the missile fired on Friday was, as suspected, also a Hwasong-12, it carried a little short of the missile’s estimated maximum range of 2,484 miles (4,000 kilometers).

If confirmed, the 2,300 miles that it did travel demonstrates that the missile is capable of striking the U.S. territory of Guam, which lies roughly 2,110 miles (3,400 kilometers) south-east of Pyongyang.

Guam is the location of two strategic military bases, the Andersen Air Force base and Naval Base Guam. The island is also home to 163,000 people and there are about 6,000 military personnel stationed there.

The nearby Northern Mariana islands, a separate U.S. commonwealth that includes Saipan and Tinian, have a population of some 54,000.

North Korea last month threatened to fire ballistic missiles into “areas around Guam” in order to “neutralize” what it said was a U.S. military threat.

Guam’s homeland security office said Friday’s launch posed no immediate threat to the island or the Marianas.

“Our office will continue to work closely with our military and federal partners to monitor the situation and provide information in a timely manner,” said Guam homeland security advisor George Charfauros.

Fifteen hundred miles to the north, however, air raid sirens sounded and people were warned to take cover while early morning train services were suspended. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch an “outrageous act” and the Japanese and U.S. governments agreed to call for an emergency Security Council meeting later Friday.

It will be the third emergency council meeting on North Korea in 17 days. Previous ones were held on August 29 after the last time a missile was fired over Japan, and on September 4 in response to its nuclear test a day earlier.

A day before the latest launch, North Korea threatened to “reduce the U.S. mainland into ashes and darkness” and said Japan should be “sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb” for spearheading and supporting U.N. Security Council resolution 2375 on Monday, imposing new sanctions in response to the nuclear test.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday’s launch was “the second time the people of Japan, a treaty ally of the United States, have been directly threatened in recent weeks.”

He warned that the sanctions imposed on Pyongyang under resolution 2375 – described as the most far-reaching ever – “represent the floor, not the ceiling, of the actions we should take.”

Tillerson also challenged China and Russia, North Korea’s biggest economic partners, to take unilateral measures in response to the latest provocation.

“China supplies North Korea with most of its oil. Russia is the largest employer of North Korean forced labor,” he said. “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.”

China and Russia are both opposed in principle to unilateral sanctions, arguing that only those imposed by the Security Council have international legitimacy.

North Korea Offers To Give Up Their Nukes – Media Blackout?

September 17, 2017 1 comment

North Korea has offered to completely freeze its nuclear program amid a total mainstream media blackout in the West. 

As the corporate controlled media continue beating the drums of war against Pyongyang, they are ignoring one crucial detail about the North Korean crisis: Kim Jong-un has offered to end its nuclear program and thus neutralize the threat of war.

Realnews24.com reports: However, prominent media outlets such as the Washington Post continue to tell a different story, namely that:

“[North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un] has shown no interest in talks — he won’t even set foot in China, his biggest patron. Even if negotiations took place, the current regime has made clear that ‘it will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table, as one envoy recently put it.”

As the Intercept explains, this is a false assertion:

“There’s, of course, a significant difference between North Korea saying it will never negotiate to halt or eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and that it will never negotiate as long as the U.S. continues to threaten it…The reality is that North Korea is saying that, under certain conditions, it will put its nuclear weapons on the table.” 

Not only does the media continue to misinform the public on this issue, but as Noam Chomsky explained in an interview with Democracy! Now, the United States continues to categorically reject North Korea’s proposal:

“There is one proposal that’s ignored. You see a mention of it now and then. It’s a pretty simple proposal. Remember the goal is to get North Korea to freeze its weapons systems – weapons and missile systems. One proposal is to accept their offer to do that. Sounds simple, they’ve made a proposal – China and North Korea – proposed to freeze the North Korean missile and nuclear weapons systems and the U.S. instantly rejected it. And you can’t blame that on Trump, Obama did the same thing, a couple of years ago. The Same offer was presented – I think it was 2015 – the Obama administration instantly rejected it.”

Why would they do that? Why fear North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities but then reject a proposal to freeze their production? As Chomsky explains further:

“The reason is that it calls for a quid pro quo. It says in return the United States should put an end to threatening military maneuvers on North Korea’s borders, which happen to include under Trump, sending of nuclear-capable B-52s flying right near the border. Maybe Americans don’t remember very well but North Koreans have a memory of not too long ago when North Korea was absolutely flattened – literally – by American bombing. There was literally no targets left.” 

In the early 1950s, the U.S. relentlessly bombed North Korea, destroying over 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and eventually killing off as much as 20 percent of the country’s population. As the Asia Pacific Journal has noted, the U.S. did, indeed, drop so many bombs that they eventually ran out of targets to hit and bombed the irrigation systems, instead:

“By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.” 

Despite the people and leadership of North Korea knowing this history and the history of other like-minded states who became easy targets for the U.S. military upon dismantling their weapons programs, North Korea is still to this day offering this proposal to freeze its program.

As the Intercept explained at the end of August:

“North Korea’s proclamations have been closely tracked by Robert Carlin, currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and formerly head of the Northeast Asia Division in the State Department’s intelligence arm. Carlin has visited North Korea over 30 times.

“Via email, Carlin described how it is difficult but critical to accurately decode North Korean communications. ‘Observers dismiss as unimportant what the North Koreans say,’ Carlin writes, and ‘therefore don’t read it carefully, except of course if it is colorful, fiery language that makes for lovely headlines. Some of what the North says is simply propaganda and can be read with one eye closed. Other things are written and edited very carefully, and need to be read very carefully. And then, having been read, they need to be compared with past statements, and put in context.’”

The media’s insistence that North Korea will never give up its weapons systems is completely disingenuous when one reads the entire context of the statements offered by Kim Jong-un’s government. On July 4, Kim’s statement read as follows:

“[T]he DPRK would neither put its nukes and ballistic rockets on the table of negotiations in any case nor flinch even an inch from the road of bolstering the nuclear force chosen by itself unless the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat to the DPRK are definitely terminated.” 

Quid pro quo.

This is a deal-breaker for the U.S. even though it would undoubtedly diffuse the entire situation and provide the region with at least a brief period of stability.

The U.S., together with South Korea, simulates an invasion of North Korea every year. In Donald Trump’s first six months in office, he dropped over 20,650 bombs in approximately seven countries, which killed thousands of civilians. By comparison, Kim Jong-un bombs the ocean.

No matter how objectively you look at it, North Korea has a genuine reason to want to be prepared in the face of American aggression. But a military strike option to counter any potential North Korean threat is not the only option and, further, is almost certainly the worst option on the table.

After the failures and crimes of U.S. politicians and the military in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Afghanistan — to name a few — we should be demanding that our world leaders try the diplomatic option advanced by the North Korean regime to the fullest extent in order to avoid a potential nuclear holocaust and the deaths of millions of innocent civilians.

What Japan Is Asking: Where Did North Korea Get All Its Missiles From?

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

North Korea has shown itself to be a canny state that can get what it wants, whether by pressing its citizens to the maximum or by utilizing a carefully cultivated network of overseas contacts to surreptitiously import banned weapons—all with the goal, of course, of ensuring the regime’s survival. The presence of advanced weapons in the Korean People’s Army’s arsenal is proof the country is not without resources of its own, and will do what it can to survive.

In the quarter century since the end of the Cold War, much of North Korea’s conventional-weapons capability has quietly aged into obsolescence. Abandoned by the now-defunct Soviet Union and China, Pyongyang’s arsenal of tanks, ships, planes and artillery appears trapped in the 1980s—or earlier. A few weapons, however, including a new antiship missile fired just last week, are fairly new, prompting questions as to exactly where they came from.

After the Korean War, the Korean People’s Army was rebuilt with Soviet and Chinese weapons. Wartime T-34 tanks were replaced with Soviet-built T-62 and T-55 tanks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and a large fleet of seventy-seven Romeo-class submarines was purchased from China. Pyongyang bought from both countries, favoring one over the other as the political winds blew. One of the country’s last major purchases was a fleet of seventeen MiG-29 “Fulcrum” multirole fighters and thirty-six Su-25 Frogfoot attack jets.

The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the East Asian dictatorship without a patron that dispensed weapons on easy credit terms, and the lack of modern gear is telling. North Korea’s latest tanks are still based on the T-62, and Romeo-class submarines, one of which Kim Jong-un famously took for a ride in 2014, are still in active service. Occasional upgrades, such as the addition of Bulsae (“Firebird”) antitank missiles to the Chonma-ho main battle tank, do little to upgrade the combat effectiveness of what is in reality an obsolete tank.

Certain weapons, however, stand in stark contrast to the rest of North Korea’s aging weapons collection. One is what appears to be a copy of the Russian Kh-35 antiship cruise missile. Known in Russia as the Kh-35 Uran and to NATO as the SS-N-25 “Switchblade,” the Kh-35 has a range of seventy nautical miles and a 320-pound high-explosive warhead, flying above the wavetops to stay undetected as long as possible. Guided by active radar, the subsonic missile is roughly comparable to the American Harpoon antiship missile, earning it the nickname “Harpoonski.”

Although the Uran’s development predated the end of the Cold War, the missile never entered Soviet service, joining the Russian Navy only in 2003. The missile first surfaced in North Korea in June 2014, when it briefly appeared in a North Korean propaganda video. The missile, which appeared to be launched from a ship, was identical to the Uran, although the shipboard mounting hardware appeared different from Russian hardware. North Korea launched a volley of four Kh-35s on June 7 from the vicinity of Wonsan into the Sea of Japan.

Another weapon that has shown up in North Korean hands, seemingly out of thin air, is Pon’gae-5 long-range surface-to-air missile system. Designated KN-06 by the U.S. intelligence community, the Pon’gae-5 appears be be a clone of the Russian S-300 missile or the Chinese Chinese HQ-9 surface-to-air missilewhich itself is likely a S-300 clone.

The Pon’gae-5’s uncertain provenance makes determining its capabilities tricky. The S-300 is a long-range missile system capable of intercepting targets at all altitudes and is roughly similar to earlier models of the American Patriot missile. It also appears to have a phased-array radar similar to the FLAP LID radar used by the S-300. A test launch was conducted the weekend of May 24, during which North Korea’s KCNA state news agency reported “defects” uncovered in previous testing were “perfectly overcome.” According to the news agency, the Pon’gae-5 is now considered operational.

Finally, a new rocket artillery system recently emerged in North Korea. Known as the KN-09 multiple-rocket launcher, the system consists of eight three-hundred-millimeter rocket-launcher tubes on a 6×6 HOWO 6×6 All-wheel Drive Cargo Truck chassis. The presence of fins on the rocket’s nose suggests each rocket is precision-guided, using either China’s Baidu or Russia’s GLONASS satellite-based global positioning systems.

Where did these mystery weapons come from? There are several theories, and there are almost certainly different origins for different weapons.

In the case of Uran and the Pon’gae-5, one theory is espionage. North Korean agents were known to have contacted ex-Soviet military scientists and engineers after the breakup of the USSR, and may have traded cash for expertise. North Korea may have been unable to act on this information in the 1990s, when the economy crashed, but the country’s slow rebound may have freed up the resources to pursue a precision-guided tactical-rocket program.

Another possibility is that these weapons are the result of indirect technology transfers from third parties. Uran missiles could have come from Myanmar’s former military government, which had strong ties to North Korea. Myanmar was known to have purchased Uran missiles from Russia, and could have transferred them to North Korea. Another possibility is Iran. Pon’gae-5 could have come from Syria, a S-300 missile operator, and KN-09 multiple rocket launchers could be based on Chinese A-100 systems provided to Pakistan.

In each case, the North Korean version of the weapon is likely a homebrewed version. North Korea has an unknown number of Uran knockoffs, but it does apparently have enough to place on surface ships and shore batteries—including the four launched last week. This lack of concern about running out of Urans suggests the missiles are domestically manufactured. Another curious detail: South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff reported the missiles flew for 124 miles, which is forty-four miles longer than the reported range of the Kh-35. This suggests the North Koreans increased the missile’s liquid fuel supply, something they have experience in with the much larger Scud platform.

A third and final theory is that the weapons indeed came from China or Russia, with a blind eye turned to their export. Like all conspiracy theories, it’s impossible to prove or disprove. Both countries ceased selling arms to North Korea a long time ago, and the political dangers of selling arms to a country that will promptly point them at the United States outweighs the risks. While the reclusive state is a useful diversion for both, Pyongyang already has nuclear weapons to attract Washington’s attention.

North Korea has shown itself to be a canny state that can get what it wants, whether by pressing its citizens to the maximum or by utilizing a carefully cultivated network of overseas contacts to surreptitiously import banned weapons—all with the goal, of course, of ensuring the regime’s survival. The presence of advanced weapons in the Korean People’s Army’s arsenal is proof the country is not without resources of its own, and will do what it can to survive.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

This first appeared in June. 

Image: Reuters. 

North Korea bomb power estimate increased to 250 kilotons and fires another ICBM over Japan

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization at first estimated the earthquake from last weeks North Korea’s bomb test at 5.8 magnitude, but later revised to 6.1. The higher estimate would indicate North Korea exploded a 250 kilotons of bomb instead of a 100-120 kiloton bomb.

The UN Security Council unanimously imposed an eighth set of sanctions on the North Monday, banning it from trading in textiles and restricting its oil imports, which US President Donald Trump said was a prelude to stronger measures.

The resolution, passed after Washington toned down its original proposals to secure backing from China and Russia, came just one month after the council banned exports of coal, lead and seafood in response to the ICBM launch.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile Friday morning (Asia time- Thursday in North America) that flew over Japanese airspace before crashing into the Pacific Ocean, South Korean and Japanese officials said.

The ballistic missile was launched at 6:57 a.m. Friday Seoul time (5:57 p.m. Thursday ET) from the Sunan area of Pyongyang in an eastern direction nearly around 2,300 miles, and passed over Japanese airspace, a South Korean military official said.

The missile launch comes weeks after North Korea in late August fired a missile that traveled over Japanese air space.

Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis: We are not scared of N. Korea

September 16, 2017 Leave a comment

Source: Horn News

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent a message to North Korea that should have madman Kim Jong-Un shaking in his boots.

A subtle but powerful message was sent recently by Mattis’ visit to this nuclear weapons base Wednesday — and it was heard loud and clear in North Korea.

America is a mature nuclear power not intimidated by threats from an upstart North Korean leader who flaunts his emerging nuclear muscle.

Mattis was quietly reminding North Korea that it has no match for a U.S. nuclear arsenal that, while old, is still capable of sudden and swift destruction if Kim were to throw the first nuclear punch.

In his only public comments, Mattis cast his visit as part of an effort to ensure that the U.S. maintains the kind of nuclear firepower that convinces any potential nuclear opponent that attacking would be suicidal.

“You can leave no doubt at all,” he told reporters traveling with him. “Don’t try it. It won’t work. You can’t take us out.”

 

Mattis was taking such a restrained approach that he barred reporters from his town hall-style exchange with airmen on this base that hosts nuclear-capable B-52 bombers as well as the 91st Missile Wing, which has nearly 150 nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles standing ready for launch at a moment’s notice.

On Thursday, Mattis was getting classified briefings at Strategic Command, just outside of Omaha, Nebraska. Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the head of Strategic Command, would be in command of nuclear forces in the event President Donald Trump ordered them into combat.

Mattis said his visits to Minot and Strategic Command are intended to inform his “nuclear posture review,” a top-to-bottom reassessment of U.S. nuclear weapons policy. He said the review is nearly complete but he would not cite a target date. A major question posed in the review is how big the U.S. nuclear force needs to be to remain a deterrent to nuclear war.

 

Mattis said Wednesday he has become convinced that the United States must keep all three parts of its nuclear force, rather than eliminate one, as he once suggested. In congressional testimony in January 2015, while he was a private citizen, Mattis said eliminating the ground-based component – intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs – would “reduce the false alarm danger.” He was referring to the argument made by some nuclear policy experts that because ICBMs are postured to be launched on warning of incoming missiles, a false warning might trigger nuclear war.

Mattis has called the submarine-based component “sacrosanct” and has said it is necessary to retain the ability to fire nuclear weapons from planes. Together, those three prongs constitute what the military calls its nuclear triad.

“I’ve questioned the triad,” Mattis told reporters flying with him to Minot Air Force Base, a nuclear base in North Dakota. He said his view has now changed.

compelling message, I have been persuaded that the triad in its framework is the right way to go,” Mattis said.

Mattis has previously indicated this evolution in thinking, but his statements Wednesday were emphatic.

The key to avoiding nuclear war, he said, is maintaining a nuclear arsenal sufficient to convince a potential enemy it could not win a nuclear war with the U.S. and thus should not start one.

“You want the enemy to look at it and say, this is impossible to take out in a first strike, and the (U.S.) retaliation is such that we don’t want to do it,” Mattis said. “That’s how a deterrent works.”

 

Thus the U.S. will keep nuclear missile submarines, land-based nuclear missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft, he indicated.

Mattis also said the Trump administration is reviewing the value of the New Start treaty negotiated with Russia by the Obama administration in 2010. The treaty, already in effect, requires reductions by both sides to a maximum of 1,550 strategic nuclear warheads by February.

“We’re still engaged in determining whether it’s a good idea,” Mattis said, adding that the question is linked to adherence by others to separate but related arms treaties. That was an apparent reference to U.S. allegations that Russia is violating the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty from 1987.

 

Mattis declined to discuss the matter further, except to say the administration is not considering withdrawing from New Start. It’s an open question whether it will seek to extend the treaty, which expires in February 2021.

The Associated Press contributed to this article

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