Tag Archives: South Korea

North Korea’s Kim says country has miniaturized nuclear warhead

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country has miniaturized nuclear warheads to be mounted on ballistic missiles and ordered improvements in the power and precision of its arsenal, its state media reported on Wednesday.

Kim has called for his military to be prepared to mount pre-emptive attacks against the United States and South Korea and stand ready to use nuclear weapons, stepping up belligerent rhetoric after coming under new U.N. and bilateral sanctions.

U.S. and South Korean troops began large-scale military drills this week, which the North calls “nuclear war moves” and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive.

Kim’s comments released on Wednesday were his first direct mention of the claim, previously made repeatedly in state media, to have successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead to be mounted on a ballistic missile, which is widely questioned.

“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” KCNA quoted him as saying as he inspected the work of nuclear workers, adding “this can be called true nuclear deterrent.”

“He stressed the importance of building ever more powerful, precision and miniaturized nuclear weapons and their delivery means,” KCNA said.

Kim also inspected the nuclear warheads designed for thermo-nuclear reaction, KCNA said, referring to a hydrogen bomb that the country claimed to have tested in January.

North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 claiming to have set off a miniaturized hydrogen bomb, which was disputed by many experts and the governments of South Korea and the United States. The blast detected from the test was simply too small to back up the claim, experts said at the time.

The U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the isolated state last week for the nuclear test. It launched a long-range rocket in February drawing international criticism and sanctions from its rival, South Korea.

On Tuesday South Korea announced further measures aimed at isolating the North by blacklisting individuals and entities that it said were linked to Pyongyang’s weapons program.

China also stepped up pressure on the North by barring one of the 31 ships on its transport ministry’s blacklist.

But a U.N. panel set up to monitor sanctions under an earlier Security Council resolution adopted in 2009 said in a report released on Tuesday that it had “serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime.”

North Korea has been “effective in evading sanctions” by continuing to engage in banned trade, “facilitated by the low level of implementation of Security Council resolutions by Member States,” the Panel of Experts said.

“The reasons are diverse, but include lack of political will, inadequate enabling legislation, lack of understanding of the resolutions and low prioritization,” it said, referring to the incomplete enforcement of sanctions.

 

 

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S. Korea president condemns ‘murderous’ actions of ferry crew as four more held

April 21, 2014: A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol shouts the name of her missing family member as she waits for their return at a port in Jindo, South Korea.

South Korea’s president described the actions of a sunken ferry’s crew as “unforgivable” and “murderous” Monday as a prosecutor said that four more crew members had been detained on charges that they had allegedly failed to protect the stricken vessel’s passengers.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye made the comments Monday at a Cabinet briefing, saying that the captain and crew “told the passengers to stay put but they themselves became the first to escape, after deserting the passengers.” Park added that “legally and ethically, this is an unimaginable act.”

Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don told reporters Monday that two first mates, one second mate and a chief engineer had been accused of abandoning the ship. Ahn says prosecutors are considering whether to ask a court for a formal arrest warrant that would allow for a longer period of investigation. South Koreans can only be detained for 48 hours without a court-issued formal arrest warrant. The ferry’s captain and two other crewmembers were previously formally arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

The announcement came as the confirmed death toll from Wednesday’s sinking reached 64, with approximately 240 of the ship’s 476 passengers, many of them high school students on a holiday trip, still missing. Divers gained access to the ship over the weekend and are expected to find more bodies trapped below decks, where passengers had remained, obeying the captain’s initial order not to evacuate the vessel. Efforts to reach the capsized vessel had been thwarted for three days by bad weather and strong currents.

The discovery of bodies has dashed the faint hopes of some families who have gathered on the island of Jindo, near the site of the wreck. Relatives have been asked to identify their loved ones using the slimmest of clues. Many favored hoodies and track pants. One girl painted her fingernails red and toenails black. Another had braces on her teeth.

Meanwhile, a newly released transcript shows the ship was crippled by confusion and indecision well after it began listing Wednesday. The transcript suggests that the chaos may have added to a death toll that could eventually exceed 300.

According to the transcript released by South Korea’s coast guard, about 30 minutes after the Sewol began tilting a crew member asked a marine traffic controller whether passengers would be rescued if they abandoned ship off South Korea’s southern coast. The crew member posed the question three times in succession.

That followed several statements from the ship that people aboard could not move and another in which someone said that it was “impossible to broadcast” instructions.

An unidentified official at Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center told the crew that they should “go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.”

“If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?” the unidentified crew member asked.

“At least make them wear life rings and make them escape!” the traffic-center official responded.

“If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?” the crew member asked again.

“Don’t let them go bare — at least make them wear life rings and make them escape,” the traffic official repeated. “The rescue of human lives from the Sewol ferry … the captain should make his own decision and evacuate them. We don’t know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you’re going to evacuate passengers or not.”

“I’m not talking about that,” the crew member said. “I asked — if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?”

The traffic official then said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, though another civilian ship was already nearby and had told controllers that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known, but prosecutors have said the ship made a sharp turn before it began to list.

More than 170 people survived the sinking of the Sewol, which had been on its way from the South Korean port city of Incheon to the southern tourist island of Jeju. The captain took more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order, which several passengers have said they never heard.

Dozens of relatives have started camping out at the port in Jindo to be closer to where the search was taking place, sleeping in tents in the open. Volunteers provided food and drinks and ran cellphone charging stations. A Buddhist monk in white robes stood facing the water and chanted in a calm monotone as several relatives stood behind him, their hands pressed together and heads bowed in prayer.

Anguished families, fearful they might be left without even their loved ones’ bodies, vented rage Sunday over the government’s handling of the crisis.

About 100 relatives attempted a long protest march to the presidential Blue House in Seoul, about 250 miles to the north, saying they wanted to voice their complaints to President Park Geun-hye. They walked for about six hours before police officers in neon jackets blocked a main road.

“The government is the killer,” they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.

“We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done,” said Lee Woon-geun, father of 17-year-old missing passenger Lee Jung-in. “They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others.”

He said relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition.

“After four or five days, the body starts to decay. When it’s decayed, if you try to hold a hand, it might fall off,” he said. “I miss my son. I’m really afraid I might not get to find his body.”

The Sewol’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested Saturday, along with one of the ship’s three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate. The third mate was steering at the time of the accident, in a challenging area where she had not steered before, and the captain said he was not on the bridge at the time.

Senior prosecutor Yang Jung-jin said the third mate has refused to tell investigators why she made the sharp turn. Prosecutors have not named the third mate, but a fellow crew member identified her as Park Han-kyul.

As he was taken from court in Mokpo on Saturday, the captain explained his decision to wait before ordering an evacuation.

“At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold,” Lee told reporters, describing his fear that passengers, even if they were wearing life jackets, could drift away “and face many other difficulties.”

He said rescue boats had not yet arrived, and there were no civilian vessels nearby.

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‘We are to see severe destruction of Western economic system’

With $1.7 quadrillion debt and the present bailout policy that will inflate prices, we’ll see the West collapsing while China and Russia will not be responsible for it or able to help, Lawrence Freeman from Executive Intelligence Review Magazine told RT.

RT: The EU and the US are once again considering sanctions against Russia over mass protests in eastern Ukraine. Can Europe and the States actually afford to lose billions of dollars worth of contracts with Russia?

Lawrence Freeman: No, in fact the real victim is going to be the American and the European people because the Western financial system based in the city of London and Wall Street is going through a bailing, collapse, bankruptcy, and therefore the conditions in the West are horrible and will get far worse as a result of these kinds of economic policies imposed on Russia.

RT: If Europe and America freeze trade with Russia, Moscow will likely just turn to its biggest trading partner, China. Who’s going to win in such a scenario?

LF: I think I would look at it a bit more strategically. There is actually an alliance – very deep alliance – between Russia and China, together with India, South Korea to actually go forward with economic development and especially space exploration, nuclear energy and high-speed rail infrastructure. This alliance, which Russia and China are the leaders of, is what is terrifying the Western countries, which is driving this confrontation, which could go all the way to the thermo-nuclear war because the Western system is collapsing and accelerate rate in Russia-China alliance with others is moving forward in a completely different direction.

So really Russia and China will form greater ties and cooperation. You’ll see this with a visit of Lavrov to Beijing on Wednesday and President Putin next month.

RT: How much will China benefit from this, considering that all the sides will be forced to step up their co-operation Beijing?

LF: I don’t look at this in that way. If you look at the remarks that President Obama has made concerning China and the recent visit of Secretary of Defense Hagel through the China Pivot policy, they are beginning to make the same threats against China that they are making against Russia and in fact the State Department for Asia, a fellow by the name of Daniel Russel, threatens China to not try a Crimea by allegedly taking over territory in the China Sea.

China is under the gun and under attack as well because the Western economies are going to collapse. China is not, Russia is not. The amount of debt $1,7 quadrillion in derivative gambling debt cannot be sustained in the present bailing policy, it is going to inflame prices massively, we are going to see a very severe destruction of the Western system. China and Russia are not going to be responsible for that, nor can they save the West from that.

RT: Experts predict China will become the world’s biggest economy in just over a decade. Do you think what’s happening in Ukraine and similar situations will bring it about?

LF: Well, certainly. If fact you have these comments from the official Dmitry Rogozin who said, “Look, the 21st century is going to revolve round Russia, China, South Korea, Japan and India. This is going to be the pivot for the future of the 21st century.” And that is going to take place. But the problem is that the Western financial system, the British financial empire, doesn’t want to give up its power, it doesn’t want to allow this other political bloc control the planet. That is why they are committed to go to war to prevent Russia and China and others from moving for real economic development and prosperity on the planet, but their system is in a state of collapse.

That’s the friction that is leading to this confrontation in Ukraine. It is not Ukraine, that is not even Russia, it’s breaking the back of this commitment by Russia and China for economic development while the West is collapsing.

 RT Op-Edge.

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US sending 2 warships to Japan to counter NKorea

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera participate in a joint news conference at the Japanese Ministry of Defense headquarters Sunday April 6, 2014 in Tokyo, Japan

TOKYO (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered a two-pronged warning to Asia Pacific nations Sunday, announcing that the U.S. will send two additional ballistic missile destroyers to Japan to counter the North Korean threat, and saying China must better respect its neighbors.

In unusually forceful remarks about China, Hagel drew a direct line between Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the ongoing territorial disputes between China, Japan and others over remote islands in the East China Sea.

“I think we’re seeing some clear evidence of a lack of respect and intimidation and coercion in Europe today with what the Russians have done with Ukraine,” Hagel told reporters after a meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera. “We must be very careful and we must be very clear, all nations of the world, that in the 21st century this will not stand, you cannot go around the world and redefine boundaries and violate territorial integrity and sovereignty of nations by force, coercion and intimidation whether it’s in small islands in the Pacific or large nations in Europe.”

Hagel, who will travel to China later this week, called the Asian nation a “great power,” and added, “with this power comes new and wider responsibilities as to how you use that power, how you employ that military power.”

He said he will talk to the Chinese about having respect for their neighbors, and said, “coercion, intimidation is a very deadly thing that leads only to conflict. All nations, all people deserve respect no matter how large or how small.”

Still, he said he looks forward to having an honest, straightforward dialogue with the Chinese to talk about ways the two nations and their militaries can work better together.

The announcement of the deployments of additional destroyers to Japan came as tensions with North Korea spiked again, with Pyongyang continuing to threaten additional missile and nuclear tests.

In recent weeks the North has conducted a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches that are considered acts of protest against annual ongoing springtime military exercises by Seoul and Washington. North Korea says the exercises are rehearsals for invasion.

North and South Korea also fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other’s waters in late March in the most recent flare-up.

Standing alongside Onodera at the defense ministry, Hagel said they discussed the threat posed by Pyongyang. He said the two ships are in response to North Korea’s “pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions” that violate U.N. resolutions and also will provide more protection to the U.S. from those threats.

On Friday, North Korea accused the U.S. of being “hell-bent on regime change” and warned that any maneuvers with that intention will be viewed as a “red line” that will result in countermeasures. Pyongyang’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Ri Tong Il, also said his government “made it very clear we will carry out a new form of nuclear test” but refused to provide details.

The two additional ships would bring the total to seven U.S. ballistic missile defense warships in Japan, and it continues U.S. efforts to increase its focus on the Asia Pacific.

The ships serve as both defensive and offensive weapons. They carry sophisticated systems that can track missile launches, and their SM-3 missiles can zero in on and take out short- to medium-range missiles that might be fired at U.S. or allied nations. They can also carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can be launched from sea and hit high-value targets or enemy weapons systems from afar, without risking pilots or aircraft.

Hagel is on a 10-day trip across the Asia Pacific, and just spent three days in Hawaii meeting with Southeast Asian defense ministers, talking about efforts to improve defense and humanitarian assistance cooperation. Japan is his second stop, where he said he wants to assure Japanese leaders that the U.S. is strongly committed to protecting their country’s security.

Japan and China have been engaged in a long, bitter dispute over remote islands in the East China Sea. The U.S. has said it takes no side on the question of the disputed islands’ sovereignty, but it recognizes Japan’s administration of them and has responsibilities to protect Japanese territory under a mutual defense treaty.

Onodera said he and Hagel talked about the islands, known as Senkaku by Japan and Diayou by China, and the concerns about any changes to the status quo there.

Hagel said the U.S. wants the countries in the region to resolve the disputes peacefully. But he added that the United States would honor its treaty commitments.

The ships are just the latest move in America’s effort to beef up Japan’s defenses. Last October, the U.S. and Japan agreed to broad plans to expand their defense alliance, including the decision to position a second early warning radar there by the end of this year. There is one in northern Japan and the second one would be designed to provide better missile defense coverage in the event of a North Korean attack.

The U.S. will begin sending long-range Global Hawk surveillance drones to Japan this month for rotational deployments. They are intended to help step up surveillance around the Senkaku islands.

AP

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North & South Korea exchange artillery fire across sea border

U.S. and South Korean marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014

North Korean shells have landed in South Korean waters, prompting Seoul to open fire across a disputed border zone. North Korea announced plans early on Monday morning to conduct military exercises along the western maritime boundary.

The North fired several artillery shells in territory north of the North Limit Line in the Yellow Sea at 12:15pm local time (03:15 GMT), reports South Korean news agency Yohap. After several shells landed south of the border, South Korean military opened fire with K-9 self-propelled howitzers.

“Some of the shells fired by North Korea dropped in our area and our side responded with fire,” a military spokesman told AFP news agency, adding that for the moment both sides were firing into the sea.

Earlier on Monday, the North Korean People’s Army warned their southern counterparts that military drills would be conducted in seven border regions.

“North Korea demanded South Korea control its vessels in seven regions north of the NLL before it holds the live-fire drills,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea said in a statement. “We have banned vessels from entering the training zone for the safety of residents and sailors.”

The North has drawn international condemnation over the last couple of weeks over its ballistic missile tests. Last week the UN Security Council warned Pyongyang that there would be consequences if it continued testing its missile technology. The Security Council passed a resolution in 2006 that prohibits the testing of ballistic missile technology by Pyongyang.

Pyongyang regards its missile tests as an act of protest against South Korea’s ongoing joint military drills with the US, which it calls a rehearsal for an invasion.

‘New form’ of nuclear test

Pyongyang stepped up its bellicose rhetoric on Sunday and threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test. Giving no further information as to the nature of the new tests, the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement, decrying the UN’s condemnation of its ballistic missile tests which it considers as purely “defensive.”

In response, Pyongyang said it will employ “more diversified nuclear deterrence,” which would be used for hitting medium- and long-range targets “with a variety of striking power.”

“We would not rule out a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up our nuclear deterrence,” said the Foreign Ministry in an official statement published on the KNCA news agency website.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February of last year, prompting Washington to ratchet up the economic sanctions on the Asian nation. Pyongyang also carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 allegedly using a small stockpile of plutonium. The North also claims to be running a uranium enrichment program, fueling fears in the region that it will be able to produce fuel for atomic bombs.

RT News.

 

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​Software problems will set back F-35 joint strike fighter another year – report

Delivery of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be more than a year behind schedule due to ongoing software problems, according to a US government report. The delay marks the latest snag in the ongoing saga of the world’s most expensive aircraft.

According to a new Government Accountability Office report, the F-35’s mission management system software needs a vast debugging effort to meet the plane’s various requirements.

“Challenges in development and testing of mission systems software continued through 2013, due largely to delays in software delivery, limited capability in the software when delivered, and the need to fix problems and retest multiple software versions,” the GAO auditors wrote.

“The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) predicts delivery of warfighting capabilities could be delayed by as much as 13 months. Delays of this magnitude will likely limit the warfighting capabilities that are delivered to support the military services’ initial operational capabilities—the first of which is scheduled for July 2015—and at this time it is not clear what those specific capabilities will be because testing is still ongoing.”

The GAO said the plane needs eight million new lines of software code to overcome the current functionary glitches.

The report added that only 13 percent of the Block 2B segment of software had been tested as of last January. The target for this prime operational component of the plane was 27 percent.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon‘s chief weapons tester, Michael Gilmore, provided an in-depth report to Congress on the F-35’s technical features, emphasizing what he calls the “unacceptable” characteristics of the aircraft’s Block 2B software, according to a draft obtained by Reuters in January.

“Initial results with the new increment of Block 2B software indicate deficiencies still exist in fusion, radar, electronic warfare, navigation, electro-optical target system, distributed aperture system, helmet-mounted display system, and datalink,” Gilmore’s report said.

Due to the high number of technical problems, the 2B software overhaul would not be finished until November 2015 – 13 months later than originally planned, the report predicted. This scenario would delay release to the F-35 fleet until July 2016, a year after the Marine Corps anticipated having “initial operating capability” with its version of the joint strike fighter.

The all-in-one plane, designed for a host of potential missions, is to have similar versions for the US Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.

GAO auditors questioned whether the US government can still afford the F-35 program. Plans are for the purchase of 2,457 planes for the US military by 2037. Development and acquisition costs are estimated to be about $400 billion.

To remain on schedule for 2037, the Pentagon must “steeply” increase spending on the program over the next five years, the GAO said, to the tune of $12.6 billion per year for the next 23 years for only research and acquisition costs. Pentagon brass has called the $1 trillion estimated operation and maintenance costs “unaffordable,” the GAO reported.

In response to the GAO findings, the F-35 program’s head, Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, said in a statement that “software continues to remain our number one technical risk on the program, and we have instituted disciplined systems engineering processes to address the complexity of writing, testing and integrating software.”

The report, released Monday, detailed only the latest problems with what some have dubbed “the jet that ate the Pentagon,” plagued with chronic cost overruns and delayed deliveries.

The Lockheed Martin fighter jet’s price tag is estimated to end up costing US taxpayers more than $1 trillion, factoring in maintenance expenses. Though, the Pentagon said in August that the program’s estimated cost was “slashed” to a trim $857 billion.

Critics of the plane’s many functions say it’s too loaded down to be any more capable than the older, less-expensive F-16 fighter jet, which the F-35 is to replace along with F/A-18s, and A-10s.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which started in 2001, is 70 percent over initial cost estimates and years behind schedule. Despite its fantastic price tag, the F-35 has even failed to generate the number of jobs its proponents had originally promised to Congress.

In January, the Center for International Policy said Lockheed had “greatly exaggerated” its claim that the F-35 program will sustain 125,000 American jobs in 46 US states in an effort to win support for the program.

In addition to the US, Lockheed is making F-35 versions for Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey. Israel and Japan have placed orders for the fighter jet. South Korea ordered 40 joint strike fighters on Monday – the same day as the release of the GAO report.

Despite the myriad problems in the F-35’s development, the first trans-Atlantic flight of an F-35 fighter jet is set for July, as the plane will take part in two international air shows near London, Reuters reported.

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US maintaining Pacific fleet to ‘deter North Korean provocations’ – report

North Korea’s determination to acquire long-range missiles and nuclear weapons has rendered the Pacific country an increasing threat to the United States, according to a Pentagon report that describes the small nation as “closed and authoritarian.”

The Pentagon released its Quadrennial Defense Review this week, an update to the Defense Department’s international outlook in which it warned that North Korea constitutes “a significant threat to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia and is a growing, direct threat to the United States.”

The report came mere days after South Korean officials said the North fired short-range missiles into the sea on at least two occasions in what observers maintain is a method of protesting the US and South Korean military drills.

“We believe this is an intentional provocation to raise tensions,” the South Korean ministry spokesman said this week of the tests.

Military officials maintained in the Defense Review that the two nations would continue to work together “to deter and defend against North Korean provocations,” as quoted by AFP.

The Defense Department strategy guide included a stipulation that the American military would maintain a sizable presence in the Asian Pacific region in an attempt to promote “stability” in the region.

Some have criticized the US strategy for being high on bravado and low on substance. However, this new report includes mention of plans to enhance the Naval fleet and send Marines to Australia, as well as intentions to continue military drills despite objections from Pyongyang.

“We will continue our contributions to the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to preserve peace and stability in a region that is increasingly central to US political, economic, and security interests,” it said.

North and South Korea have been bitterly divided since the Korean War ended in 1953. Nearly 30,000 American troops are on standby in South Korea in an attempt to discourage any aggression from the North. The US and South Korea, two close allies, have consistently maintained that they do not plan to launch any military action into the North and that their annual military tests are only conducted to prepare for an emergency.

Before launching the SCUD missiles into the ocean, the North pledged “to create an atmosphere of reconciliation and unity” if the South canceled the planned military drills with the US.

via US maintaining Pacific fleet to ‘deter North Korean provocations’ – report — RT News.

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