Chinese fisherman shot dead by S.Korean coast guard | 2014-10-10 12:15:50 | Editor: Liu

SEOUL, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) — A Chinese fisherman was shot dead by the South Korean coast guard Friday morning in what the coast guard claimed was its crackdown on illegal fishing.

“The skipper was shot dead in the process of crackdown. Details on the incident would be announced in the near future, but not today,” a coast guard official told Xinhua by phone.

The official declined to comment on how many blank and live ammunitions the South Korean coast guard officer shot and other details on the incident.

The 45-year-old skipper Song Houmu of the 80-ton fishing boat Noyoung 50987 was found having difficulties in breathing and belly ache in what the coast guard claimed was its crackdown on the boat ‘s illegal fishing, Yonhap News Agency reported. Continue reading “Chinese fisherman shot dead by S.Korean coast guard”

North Korea cruise missile fuels proliferation concerns

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 June, 2014, 10:35am

North Korea cruise missile fuels proliferation concerns | South China Morning Post



Agence France-Presse in Seoul

North Korea appears to have acquired a sea-based copy of a Russian cruise missile, the latest step in an effort to enhance its maritime strike capability, a US think-tank said on Tuesday.

A state propaganda film disseminated on social media sites, including YouTube, provides a very brief glimpse of the missile being launched from a naval vessel.

Writing on the closely watched 38 North website of the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University, arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis said the missile would mark “a new and potentially destabilising addition” to North Korea’s military arsenal.

Lewis identified the weapon as a copy of the Russian-produced KH-35 – a sea-skimming anti-ship cruise missile developed during the 1980s and 90s.

The possibility that North Korea might sell KH-35 technology to others is not a happy thought Jeffrey Lewis Continue reading “North Korea cruise missile fuels proliferation concerns”

North and South Korean warships exchange fire in disputed area of Yellow Sea

Residents on a nearby island were evacuated to underground shelters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 May, 2014, 6:38pm

Associated Press in Seoul

North and South Korean warships exchanged artillery fire yesterday in disputed waters off the western coast of the Korean peninsula, in the latest sign of rising animosity between the bitter rivals in recent weeks.

Officials from the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and Defence Ministry said a South Korean ship was engaged in a routine patrol near the countries’ disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea when a North Korean ship fired two artillery shells. The shells did not hit the South Korean ship and fell in waters near it, they said. Continue reading “North and South Korean warships exchange fire in disputed area of Yellow Sea”

 North Korea conducts firing drills near a disputed sea border with South Korea / 100 rounds landed south of the border during that drill, prompting South Korea to fire hundreds of rounds

Ju-min Park and James Pearson,

Thomson Reuters April 29, 2014 08:45

More than 100 rounds landed south of the border during that drill, prompting South Korea to fire hundreds of rounds back into the North’s waters.

North Korea conducted live fire drills on Tuesday in two areas near a disputed sea border with South Korea that have been the scene of deadly clashes and where they fired hundreds of artillery rounds only weeks ago.

Map of Korean maritime border, language neutra...

Continue reading ” North Korea conducts firing drills near a disputed sea border with South Korea / 100 rounds landed south of the border during that drill, prompting South Korea to fire hundreds of rounds”

Satellite shows heightened N Korean nuclear activity – report

A North Korean nuclear test within days “cannot be ruled out” analysts said Saturday, after new satellite imagery showed heightened activity at the test site. The report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) chimes with other findings and suggests Pyongyang is moving towards an underground detonation.


North Korea and weapons of mass destruction

Pictures taken on Friday show an increase in movement near one entrance to a tunnel. Continue reading “Satellite shows heightened N Korean nuclear activity – report”

Anti-counterfeit ‘fingerprints’ made from silver nanowires


– fingerprints could be produced at a cost of less than $1 per single pattern, which was demonstrated in their study by synthesizing a solution containing individual silver nanowires, coating the nanowires with silica, doping them with specific fluorescent dyes and then randomly dropping them onto a transferable film made from flexible polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

A human thumbprint - a common type of biometri...

Unique patterns made from tiny, randomly scattered silver nanowires have been created by a group of researchers from South Korea in an attempt to authenticate goods and tackle the growing problem of counterfeiting. Continue reading “Anti-counterfeit ‘fingerprints’ made from silver nanowires”

South Korean military gains authority to launch pre-emptive strike against North when necessary

Updated: 2014-03-07 AM 9:17:55 (KST)

Flag of South Korea
Flag of South Korea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is eye catching about this year’s defense reform is that it includes plans to allow South Korea to pre-emptively strike North Korea if Pyongyang is about to attack.

Previously Seoul’s response was limited to local provocations, but the pre-emptive strike capability adds a whole new strategic level in dealing with Pyongyang’s provocations.

This includes striking North Korea’s missile and nuclear facilities in the early stages, using the so-called “Kill-Chain” system.

Under international law, a country that conducts a pre-emptive strike could be blamed for starting the war. Continue reading “South Korean military gains authority to launch pre-emptive strike against North when necessary”

Chinese jet in near miss with North Korean missile

Shenyang-bound flight missed shot by minutes, but could have been hit on rocket’s descent

 UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 11:13pm
 Agencies in Seoul


A China Southern Airlines airplane carrying 220 passengers passed through the trajectory of a North Korean rocket (seen on the news in Seoul above). Photos: AP, Reuters

A China Southern Airlines aircraft carrying 220 passengers passed through the trajectory of a rocket launched seven minutes earlier by North Korea, a South Korean official said.

Flight CZ628 was headed to Shenyang in Liaoning province after taking off from Narita airport in Japan when North Korea fired the missile at 4.17pm on Tuesday, South Korean defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said. Continue reading “Chinese jet in near miss with North Korean missile”

US lead in science and technology shrinking

– U.S. and Europe has decreased, respectively, from 37 percent to 30 percent and from 26 percent to 22 percent.

Press Release 14-022 

Emerging economies shifting global S&T landscape

Cover of 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators report.

Indicators is a widely-used resource, reporting on R&D trends, the STEM workforce, and more. Credit and Larger Version

February 6, 2014

The United States’ (U.S.) predominance in science and technology (S&T) eroded further during the last decade, as several Asian nations–particularly China and South Korea–rapidly increased their innovation capacities. According to a report released today by the National Science Board (NSB), the policy making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and an advisor to the President and Congress, the major Asian economies, taken together, now perform a larger share of global R&D than the U.S., and China performs nearly as much of the world’s high-tech manufacturing as the U.S. Continue reading “US lead in science and technology shrinking”

China memorial to Korean assassin sparks Japan feud

Politics Jan. 20, 2014 – 02:59PM JST

China memorial to Korean assassin sparks Japan feud
South Korean conservative activists burn placards during a protest to complain against Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting the Yasukuni war shrine, in Seoul on Dec 27.AFP


A new Asian diplomatic row broke out Monday after China unveiled a memorial to a Korean national hero who assassinated a Japanese official a century ago—with Tokyo condemning him as a “terrorist”.

In 1909, Ahn Jung-Geun shot and killed Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister and its top official in Japanese-occupied Korea, at the railway station in the northeast Chinese city of Harbin.

Ahn was hanged by Japanese forces the following year, when Korea also formally became a Japanese colony, heralding a brutal occupation that lasted until the end of World War II in 1945. Continue reading “China memorial to Korean assassin sparks Japan feud”

Attrition: Fighter Pilots Doomed By Poverty



December 30, 2013: The political battles over chronic deficit spending in the United States has led to sharp and often unexpected cuts in the military budget over the last few years. This has forced the U.S. Air force to make major cuts in the hours combat pilots fly for training. The latest cut reduces many pilots to 120 hours a year. That’s about half of what it was a decade ago. There is concern that this will threaten the domination of the air the United States has had since World War II. Moreover it’s been over 60 years since any American troops have been attacked from the air. Much of that is attributed to high number of hours American pilots spend training in the air each year. But with it costing over $20,000 an hour to keep combat aircraft in the air many military budgets can’t handle it. Continue reading “Attrition: Fighter Pilots Doomed By Poverty”

China pulls out of UN process over territorial dispute with Philippines

• Move underscores China’s tough geopolitical stance in region • Territorial claims continue to dominate visit by Joe Biden


in Washington,              Friday 6 December 2013 13.25 EST

Joe Biden in China
Fallout over China’s territorial claims has become the dominant issue for Joe Biden. Photograph: HAP/Quirky China News/Rex

China is taking the highly unusual step of refusing to participate in a United Nations arbitration process over a territorial conflict with the Philippines, one of five countries challenging Beijing’s claims of ownership over the oil-rich South China Sea.

The legal dispute underscores the tough geopolitical approach China is adopting in the Pacific region. It has adopted an aggressive approach toward neighbours over a 2,000-mile stretch that also includes the East China Sea, over which it recently declared the air defence identification zone that has inflamed tensions with Japan and South Korea.

Continue reading “China pulls out of UN process over territorial dispute with Philippines”

State media calls for ‘timely countermeasures’ against Japan over air zone “We are willing to engage in a protracted confrontation with Japan.”

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 4:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 5:56am

Agence France-Presse in Beijing


Japan and South Korea both said on Thursday that they had disregarded the air defence identification zone that Beijing declared last weekend, showing a united front after unarmed US B-52 bombers also entered the area. Photo: EPA

State media yesterday called for “timely countermeasures” to be taken “without hesitation” if Japan violates the country’s newly declared air zone, after Beijing sent fighter jets to patrol the area following defiant military overflights by Tokyo.

Japan and South Korea both said on Thursday that they had disregarded the air defence identification zone (ADIZ) that Beijing declared last weekend, showing a united front after unarmed US B-52 bombers also entered the area.

The Global Times newspaper, which often takes a nationalistic tone, said in an editorial: “We should carry out timely countermeasures without hesitation against Japan when it challenges China’s newly declared ADIZ.

Continue reading “State media calls for ‘timely countermeasures’ against Japan over air zone “We are willing to engage in a protracted confrontation with Japan.””

China scrambles military planes after US and Japan fly sorties into new zone

EEV: Read the Link to article at bottom – “japan-prime-target-chinas-new-air-zone-state-media”

Tensions rise as US and Japan fly sorties and South Korea puts contested island in its own zone


Kristine Kwok

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 10:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 November, 2013, 11:49pm

Chinese military aircraft were scrambled yesterday after US and Japanese planes flew into the mainland’s new air defence identification zone.

Earlier, South Korea announced plans to include a tiny island contested with China under its own air defence zone, potentially raising the diplomatic temperature further.

PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jianke said the air force ordered Su-30 and Qian-11 planes to verify the identity of the aircraft inside the zone yesterday morning.

The PLA identified two US aircraft and 10 Japanese aircraft. The US planes made two sorties across the zone, while the Japanese made seven.

Continue reading “China scrambles military planes after US and Japan fly sorties into new zone”

China sends warplanes to new air defence zone amid tensions

China has reacted to US and Japanese breaches by reportedly announcing it will   now carry out regular patrols

Japanese officials say the country's air force and coastguard have flown through China's air defence identification zone without meeting any resistance

A Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force surveillance plane flies over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China Photo: AP
Alex Spillius

By , Diplomatic Correspondent

5:20PM GMT 28 Nov 2013

China has dispatched war planes to a newly declared air defence zone over the   East China Sea, according to reports.

Xinhua, the state news agency, quoted an air force colonel as saying the   aircraft had carried out “routine patrols” of the zone, which covers nearly   one million square miles of airspace.

If confirmed, the move would dramatically escalate tensions already running high after the United States, Japan and South Korea all ignored the declaration, which was made at the weekend.

China had insisted that any planes traversing the area should submit flight   plans or face “emergency defensive measures”.

Washington responded by sending in two unarmed B52 bombers into the zone on   Tuesday, while Japan and South Korea yesterday flew military aircraft into   the area in defiance of Beijing.

South Korea caught in crossfire amid air defence zone row / China’s air defence zone overlaps with some 3,000 square kilometres of South Korea’s

UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 3:13pm Audrey Yoo

China’s air defence zone aimed at Tokyo puts South Korea in an awkward position


South Korea is finding itself caught in the crossfire amid growing Sino-Japanese tensions after Beijing’s declaration of a new air defence zone (ADIZ) that overlaps with those of Japan and Korea.

Local media reported that although China’s air defence zone was aimed at Japan, it turned Korea into a “piggy in the middle” as Beijing tries to expand its defence zone to the east and Tokyo to the west.

“Korea has become sandwiched [between Beijing and Tokyo] as China and Japan flex their muscles,” said a report in the conservative Seoul-based newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.

On Thursday, South Korea’s foreign minister Yun Byung-se said the issue of China and Japan’s ADIZ had emerged as a situation that further intensified tensions in Northeast Asia.

China’s air defence zone overlaps with some 3,000 square kilometres of South Korea’s and Seoul has told Beijing that it cannot accept what it sees as Beijing’s unilateral decision.

Continue reading “South Korea caught in crossfire amid air defence zone row / China’s air defence zone overlaps with some 3,000 square kilometres of South Korea’s”

Japan readies huge island war games amid YouTube PR push – Senkaku islands / Diaoyus ( Major Escalation )

By Shigemi Sato

National Oct. 24, 2013 – 05:20PM JST


Destroyers, fighter jets and 34,000 troops will take part in a huge exercise aimed at bolstering Japan’s ability to protect its remote islands, the government said Thursday, amid a territorial dispute with China.

The war games, which will include live-firing, come as Tokyo steps up its global PR campaign by posting online videos it hopes will swing world opinion behind its claims to two archipelagos that are disputed with China and South Korea.

The air-sea-land drill from November 1-18 will involve amphibious landings on the uninhabited atoll of Okidaitojima, 400 kilometers southeast of the main Okinawan island, a defense ministry official said.

Live-fire exercises involving destroyers and F-2 fighter jets will also be conducted, he said.

The island is a considerable distance from the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims as the Diaoyus.

However, defense force chiefs are considering deploying short-range land-to-sea missiles on the island of Ishigaki, which lies 150 kilometers from the disputed islands, the Asahi and Fuji TV networks said. Both broadcasters said there were no plans to fire weaponry there.

Chinese state-owned ships have sparred with Japanese coastguard boats repeatedly in waters around the Senkakus since Tokyo nationalised three islands in the chain last year.

Beijing’s boats have frequently been warned off after sailing into waters Japan considers its preserve.

Fighter jets and warships from both sides have also been in the area on numerous occasions, leading some observers to warn of the danger of an armed conflict that could draw in the United States and have disastrous consequences for the region.

November’s drill is aimed at “maintaining and improving the joint operational abilities of the Self-Defense Forces in armed-attack situations”, the Self Defense Forces joint staff said in a statement.

It will feature “a series of actions in defending islands” including joint operations in island landings, it said.

There have been similar drills in the past, including one in November 2011 that involved 35,000 troops.

In November last year, U.S. and Japanese forces held a joint drill involving 47,400 troops, the vast bulk from the Japanese side. But they reportedly cancelled an exercise to re-take a remote island in a bid to avoid irritating China.

Since Shinzo Abe became prime minister in December, however, Japan has taken a more robust stance.

In its latest volley, the foreign ministry has produced two 90-second videos stating its case for ownership of the two disputed island groups and posted them on its YouTube site.

Both videos are currently only in Japanese, but the ministry plans to provide versions in 10 other languages including Chinese and Korean.

“We are also preparing three other short movies on the Senkaku islands and one on the issue of Takeshima,” a ministry spokesman told AFP, referring to a pair of islets that South Korea controls as Dokdo.

“The new ones will be just 30 seconds in length and we hope they will be watched by smartphone and tablet users.”

The ministry has earmarked 120 million yen this fiscal year for the films and creating a YouTube channel, he said.

“It is important that the international community obtain correct understanding over situations surrounding Japan including territories,” he said.

Beijing and Seoul reacted angrily to the move, with Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeating the assertion that the East China Sea islands belong to Beijing.

“Whatever propaganda tools Japan employs to support its illegal claim, it will not change the fact that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China,” she said.

“We strongly urge the Japanese side to correct its attitude, stop all provocative words and actions and make concrete efforts for the proper management and resolution of the question of the Diaoyu Islands.”

South Korea lodged a formal protest over the video, calling in a senior Japanese embassy official to register disapproval on Wednesday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-Young said the protest noted the Japanese government’s attempt “to undermine our sovereignty over Dokdo by spreading groundless claims over the internet”.

Japan’s latest move, officials say, is in part a reaction to advertising efforts by China.

Two-page color ads saying “Diaoyu islands belong to China” appeared in the New York Times and the Washington Post last year.

(C) 2013 AFP


South Korean Cyber Unit Probed Over Election Meddling

Oct. 22, 2013 – 07:26PM   |
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye attends the 16th ASEAN-Korea summit in Brunei on Oct. 9. The country's defense ministry has acknowledged that four members of the cyber unit had posted comments online prior to last year's election.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye attends the 16th ASEAN-Korea summit in Brunei on Oct. 9. The country’s defense ministry has acknowledged that four members of the cyber unit had posted comments online prior to last year’s election. (Roslan Rahman / AFP)

SEOUL — South Korea’s Defence Ministry said Tuesday that senior members of its cyber warfare unit had been questioned over their possible involvement in a widening scandal over state interference in elections.

Areas of the unit’s headquarters were searched and several of its commanders questioned, a ministry official said.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) has accused the unit of posting online comments prior to last year’s presidential election, smearing opposition candidate Moon Jae-In and extolling his ruling party rival — and eventual winner — Park Geun-Hye.

Similar accusations against members of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) have already resulted in the arrest of the former head of the domestic spy agency.

The defense ministry has acknowledged that four members of the cyber unit had posted such comments, but insists they acted alone and not as part of any coordinated campaign.

The defense ministry set up the 400-member special unit in 2010 as part of efforts to expand the military’s cyber warfare capability to counter hacking threats from North Korea.

The accusations of meddling by state agencies in the electoral process has been simmering away for months, but has gained traction in the past week, with a senior prosecutor investigating the affair saying his team had been pressured to go slow with the probe.

Kimsuky And The Secret Menace

October 21, 2013: Internet security researchers recently announced they had identified a new group of hackers operating out of North Korea. Calling this group Kimsuky, it has been active for about six months and has targeted universities, shipping companies and groups encouraging Korean unification. What made Kimsuky stand out was the amateurish behavior of its personnel. The malware (to secretly steal passwords and other ID data) were crudely done and the group was sloppy (or just new to all this) in how they carried out their attacks. This sloppiness made it possible to track the attacks back to North Korea. Kimsuky may be a team formed from newly graduated Cyber War specialists who are out to show they can produce. They can, but not very effectively and not with the stealth required to carry out the most effective attacks.

Earlier this year South Korean security researchers concluded that nearly all the Internet based attacks since 2009 were the work of one group of 10-50 people called DarkSeoul. Given the extent of the attacks, the amount of work required to carry them out, and the lack of an economic component (no money was being stolen) it appeared to be the work of a national government. That coincides with earlier conclusions that North Korean, not Chinese, hackers were definitely responsible for several attacks on South Korean networks. The most compelling bit of evidence came from an incident where a North Korean hacker’s error briefly made it possible to trace back to where he was operating from. The location was in the North Korean capital at an IP address belonging to the North Korean government. Actually, very few North Korean IP addresses belong to private individuals and fewer still have access to anything outside North Korea.

Kimsuky and DarkSeoul appear unrelated other than both coming from North Korea. This indicates that the North Korean Cyber War effort has become so large that several organizations are now planning and carrying out attacks. North Korea appears to be grooming its Cyber Warriors to be major operatives in any future war. More likely the North Korean Cyber War efforts are leading up to some very damaging attacks that North Korea will deny responsibility for and that, if done right, cannot definitively be traced back to North Korea. The South Koreans may not put up with that, in which case the north can play the victim and gain some more enthusiasm for a war from its bedraggled people, and substantial military aid from China.


North Korean army placed on high alert

ВМС США USS George Washington Джордж Вашингтон авианосец корабль сша прибывает в юго-восточный портовый город Пусан Южная Корея

USS George Washington

Photo: EPA

The North Korean army is placed on alert to be ready to begin combat actions at any time in response to the US-South Korean manoeuvres that begin in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, North Korea’s central news agency reports.

0The Korean People’s Army is ordered to attentively watch actions of American and Japanese aggressors and the South Korean regime to be ready to begin combat actions at any moment, a North Korean general staff official said in a statement published on Tuesday in response to the US, Japanese and South Korean manoeuvres in the Sea of Japan with the participation of the George Washington aircraft carrier.

0Voice of Russia, TASS

North Korea puts army on high alert, warns U.S. of “horrible disaster”

Source: Reuters – Mon, 7 Oct 2013 11:41 PM

Author: Reuters


SEOUL, Oct 8 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday its military would be put on high alert and be ready to launch operations, stepping up tension after weeks of rhetoric directed against the United States and South Korea, who it accuses of instigating hostility.

Reclusive North Korea has often issued threats to attack the South and the United States but has rarely turned them into action. Such hostile rhetoric is widely seen as a means to perpetuate its domestic and international political agenda.

In the latest outburst, a spokesman for the North’s military warned the United States of “disastrous consequences” for moving a group of ships, including an aircraft carrier, into a South Korean port.

“In this connection, the units of all services and army corps level of the KPA received an emergency order from its supreme command to reexamine the operation plans already ratified by it and keep themselves fully ready to promptly launch operations any time,” the spokesman said, referring to the Korean People’s Army (KPA).

“The U.S. will be wholly accountable for the unexpected horrible disaster to be met by its imperialist aggression forces’ nuclear strike means,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

In March, the North declared it was no longer bound by the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War signed with the United States and China, threatening to use nuclear weapons to attack U.S. and South Korean territories.

The North has defied international warnings not to build  nuclear and long-range missiles and is believed to have enough fissile material to build up to 10 nuclear bombs.

Most intelligence analysis says it has yet to master the technology to deploy such weapons.

The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in the South, regularly engages in drills with its ally, and has said the aircraft carrier USS George Washington was leading a group of ships to visit South Korea in a routine port call.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry said on Monday the ships were taking part in a routine maritime search and rescue exercise and said any criticism by North Korea was “wrong”.

The impoverished North’s large but ageing conventional military is considered unfit to fight an extended modern battle but it staged surprise attacks against the South in 2010 that killed 50 people in aggression unprecedented since the war.

An attempt at dialogue in August led to the reopening of a jointly run factory park that was shut amid high tensions in April. However, talks have since hit a stalemate.   (Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait)


DoD to Award Contracts Throughout Shutdown, But Won’t Announce Them

Oct. 1, 2013 – 03:45AM   |

US Defense Department lawyers are working 'to see if there's any margin here or widening in the interpretation of the law regarding exempt versus non-exempt civilians,' said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is traveling in South Korea.

US Defense Department lawyers are working ‘to see if there’s any margin here or widening in the interpretation of the law regarding exempt versus non-exempt civilians,’ said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is traveling in South Korea.   (Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Shutdown fallout

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will continue to award hundreds of millions of dollars in acquisition, services and other types of contracts despite a government-wide shutdown, but don’t expect to hear about them.

The US Defense Department will not publicly announce contracts during the shutdown, Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an email.

But that should not stop the military services and defense agencies from signing pacts for equipment, supplies and other items.

The Pentagon will do “one big announcement” of the contracts awarded during this period when the shutdown ends, Christensen wrote.

So how is this possible? It is because the money being used to sign the deals was appropriated by Congress in prior years.

At the same time, the Pentagon is looking to widen the number of civilian employees allowed to work despite the first government-wide shutdown in 17 years, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said.

Hagel, who is traveling in South Korea, said DoD lawyers are working “to see if there’s any margin here or widening in the interpretation of the law regarding exempt versus non-exempt civilians.”

About 400,000 civilian workers are facing furloughs until Congress passes a fiscal 2014 appropriation. Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House were unable to strike a budget deal before the fiscal year ended at midnight on Monday, causing a shutdown.

“Our lawyers believe that maybe we can expand the exempt status,” Hagel said. “We don’t know if that’s the case, but we are exploring that, so that we could cut back from the furloughs some of the civilians that had to leave.”

Most DoD civilian workers have already been furloughed six days this year, the result of the Pentagon cutting $37 billion from its 2013 budget due to sequestration.

“This is going to impact the future of a lot of our employees,” Hagel said. “I’ve had a number of senior civilian employees in DoD talk to me last few months about their futures. Their spouses are not happy. They have families.”

It is still not entirely clear which civilian employees will continue to work during the shutdown. For example, civilians supporting activities such as combat operations in Afghanistan are exempt. Also, some civilians at military headquarters were still in their offices Tuesday because their salaries are paid through working capital funds.

The funding in those accounts — which are typically used by DoD to pay for services — is likely leftover 2013 money, said Gordon Adams, a professor at American University and former White House budget official.

Congress passed, and President Barack Obama signed, into law on Monday a bill that pays active-duty military throughout the shutdown.

Andrew Tilghman contributed to this report|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

North Korea suspected of restarting Yongbyon nuclear reactor

Satellite imagery shows reactor capable of producing plutonium for weapons is likely to be operating, says US research institute


  • Tania Branigan in Beijing
  •,              Thursday 12 September 2013 05.09 EDT

North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear complex seen in a satellite image taken last year. Photograph: Geoeye Satellite Image/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea appears to have restarted a reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, according to analysis of satellite imagery and a US official.

White steam can be seen rising from a building near the hall housing steam turbines and electric generators at Yongbyon nuclear complex in an image taken on 31 August, said the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Pyongyang announced it would restart the reactor this spring, amid high tensions on the peninsula. Relations have since improved, with North and South Korea saying on Wednesday that their joint industrial complex at Kaesong, closed in April, would reopen on a trial basis on Monday.

The US-Korea Institute said the gas-graphite reactor was capable of producing 6kg of weapons-grade plutonium a year. It believes that the North already has 34-36kg, sufficient for around a dozen weapons.

“The white coloration and volume are consistent with steam being vented because the electrical generating system is about to come online, indicating that the reactor is in or nearing operation,” wrote Nick Hansen and Jeffrey Lewis on 38 North, the website of the Washington-based institute.

Previous images had shown that the North was repairing the reactor, which was mothballed in 2007 as part of a six-party aid-for-denuclearisation deal that subsequently broke down.

A US official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that he believed the North Koreans had restarted the reactor, saying that the amount of steam suggested it was being tested.

The official suggested Pyongyang was showing it would not abandon its nuclear programmes, rather than trying to force major powers to resume nuclear talks so that it could extract concessions.

He said the North “wants to create a fait accompli and be accepted as a [nuclear] power and nuclear weapons state.” The only way to counter it would be to “raise the cost to them of taking this path, and increasing multilateral pressure, with China an active participant”.

Andre Lankov, of Kookmin University in Seoul, said: “If the US behaves as if North Korea does not exist, they will become even more of a problem. Neglect, also known as strategic patience, is not, on balance, a bad approach, but cannot be sustained for a long time.

“The North Koreans won’t just sit and beg or enjoy visits from eccentric basketball players. They are going to develop their nuclear capabilities.”

Pyongyang announced in April that it would reopen the nuclear complex, which also includes a uranium enrichment facility. Experts had predicted it would take up to six months to restore operations at the reactor.

Although the North destroyed the Yongbyon cooling tower in 2008 as a confidence-building step, the US-Korea Institute had already said that it would not need to reconstruct the tower and could instead connect the reactor to a new pump-house.

Repeated attempts to use carrot and stick to halt the North’s nuclear programme have faltered. While some have called for a return to multinational negotiations, Glyn Davies, the US special representative for the North, said on Monday that it was “very hard to imagine how the six-party [talks] could be fruitful at the moment”.


Kim Jong who? Meet the cabal that really runs North Korea

August 1, 2013 06:01

Legend aside, the boy despot doesn’t do everything himself. Here’s the power pantheon he shares power with.

North korea delegates 20130731

The Workers’ Party of Korea includes the other power players in North Korea. (Korean News Service/Getty Images)

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SEOUL, South Korea — There’s more to North Korea than its pudgy and easily parodied dictator, Kim Jong Un.

Since the 1940s, the Kim dynasty has survived three generations, largely by cultivating a bizarre cult of worship among its long-suffering citizens.

But within this apparatus of near-total control, a pantheon of power players works quietly to run the country.

In a nation known for sudden swings and vicious purges, these elites know how to work the system. Of course, power is always a game of push and pull. To stay on top, the Supreme Leader needs the loyalty of his lieutenants, which gives them more clout than you might imagine.

Michael Madden, who runs North Korea Leadership Watch, the most exhaustive blog tracking the whereabouts of North Korean leaders, explained these inner workings to GlobalPost.

Here are five leading figures to watch:

The man behind the throne

As vice president of the National Defense Commission, General Jang Sung-taek heads the all-powerful body that controls the military. That makes him nation’s second most influential leader. Predictably, Kim Jong Un is his immediate supervisor, holding the post of chairman.

Jang Sung-Taek (L).Youtube.

The four-star general is among the most experienced faces in Kim Jong Un’s circle. He rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s by cultivating close ties with Kim Jong Un’s father, deceased despot Kim Jong Il; he may have even taken control behind the scenes when the Dear Leader fell into poor health.

Under the previous autocrat, Jang was so influential that one top-ranking North Korean official, who fled to Seoul, predicted that he would succeed Kim Jong Il. Jang’s status is aided by his marriage to Kim Jong Un’s aunt.

The power aunt

General Jang’s wife is North Korea’s most powerful woman, General Kim Kyong-hui. She is the Moscow-educated daughter of founding father Kim Il Sung. An ardent but pragmatic revolutionary, Kim is known for wielding sway within the ruling family and for being a principle regime supporter. In the 1980s, she oversaw the office that trafficked narcotics and weapons overseas.

Kim Kyong-Hui (C).Youtube.

She serves as a top secretary in the ruling Korean Workers’ Party, giving her a hand in state policy.

Politics aside, Kim has one eclectic item on her resume. She opened the nation’s first hamburger joint in 2010. North Korea has renamed the classic Western dish “minced meat and bread.”

Reportedly a heavy drinker, the 67-year-old has survived repeated rumors of her imminent death.

The protege

The Clintons may have Huma Abedin as their favored up-and-comer. Likewise, North Korea’s celebrity political couple, Jang and Kim, are mentoring a rising official, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae. Choe holds two key posts in the ruling party that give him sway over ideology and defense issues.

Choe Ryong-hae (R).Youtube.

Some analysts doubt whether Choe has the spine to survive the ruling scrum, and point to his supposed lack of army experience as a dire liability. A track record of noble revolutionary valor is pretty much a prerequisite for success in North Korea (although experts debate whether it’s becoming less important under Kim Jong Un).

Madden says that Choe has been on the ascent for longer than many believe. Choe was demoted last year, only to reemerge just as powerful months later.

And what purpose does he serve his mentors? Madden thinks that North Korea’s power couple is using Choe as a generational link to the youthful and inexperienced Kim Jong Un.

The hardliner

Decorated general Kim Kyok-sik has “excellent street cred in Pyongyang as a hardliner,” explains Madden. His eclectic CV includes service in Syria the 1970s, where he may have also aided Middle Eastern and African revolutionary movements. More recently, he was the defense minister.

Kim Kyok-sik (R).Youtube.

Kim has gained momentum lately. It all started in 2010, when he supposedly commanded the shelling of the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing four people.

In early 2013, Kim was heavily involved in a bout of saber-rattling between North Korea and the world. In February, the United Nations imposed a round of sanctions on Pyongyang as punishment for a nuclear test. In response, the garrison state spent two months spewing war threats and broadcasting military exercises — all aimed at Washington and Seoul, of course.

Kim proved himself further during this time, but not without hiccups. In May 2013, he was suddenly relieved of his duties, but made a comeback as the new army chief of staff, giving him wide-ranging power over the nation’s war machinery.

The reformer

In a break from fire-and-brimstone militarism, Pak Pong-ju is one of few reformers with influence. In April 2013, the businessman, known for his progressive views, took the post of prime minister.

Pak Pong-ju (C, smiling). Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images.

As the premier, Pak pays special attention to the economy. Even some North Korean defectors in Seoul say they’re optimistic about his policies and demeanor.  “He is a very humble person and is a self-made man,” Madden said.

In the mid-2000s, Pak tried his first stint as premier. He relaxed the government’s socialist system of rationing food — a way of easing shortages — and gave state firms greater autonomy. These were part of a push toward a more open market.

But remember, this is North Korea, so idealistic Pak didn’t last long. In 2007, he was rebuked and fired.

It’s truly amazing that he got a second try. If North Korea ever opens up, he’ll be the man to call.

Airport landing system off when plane crashed in San Francisco

Sunday Jul 07, 2013   |    Peter Henderson, Dan Levine for Reuters

The San Francisco skyline is seen in the background as an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 plane lies off the runway after it crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport in California

Credit: Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A navigation system that helps pilots make safe descents was turned off at San Francisco airport on Saturday when a South Korean airliner crashed and burned after undershooting the runway, officials said.


The system, called Glide Path, is meant to help planes land in bad weather. It was clear and sunny, with light winds, when Asiana Flight 214 from Seoul, South Korea crashed just before noon, killing two passengers and injuring more than 100.


Aircraft safety experts said Glide Path was far from essential for routine landings, and it was not unusual for airports to take such landing systems off line for maintenance or other reasons.


But pilots have grown to rely on the decades-old technology, which is designed specifically to prevent runway misses, so investigators are likely to look closely at the issue.


“The pilots would have had to rely solely on visual cues to fly the proper glide path to the runway, and not have had available to them the electronic information that they typically have even in good weather at most major airports,” said Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the former US Airways pilot who gained fame with a successful crash landing on the Hudson River in 2009.


“What that means is that then the automatic warnings that would occur in the cockpit when you deviate below the desired electronic path wouldn’t have been available either. So we don’t know yet if that’s a factor in this particular situation, but that’s certainly something they’ll be looking at,” he told the local CBS News affiliate.


Glide Path is a computerized system based at an airport that calculates a plane’s path of descent and sends it to pilots in real time.


San Francisco International has turned off the system for nearly the entire summer on the runway where the Asiana flight crashed, according to a notice from the airport on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Web site. It showed the system out of service June 1-August 22 on runway 28 Left.


Kevin Hiatt, chief executive of the Flight Safety Foundation and a former Delta pilot, said it was common for airports to take instrument landing systems offline for maintenance on clear days. Pilots use several other instruments and visual cues to land in clear conditions, Hiatt said.


“All of those are more than adequate to fly an aircraft down for a successful landing on the runway,” he said.


Sullenberger said the San Francisco runway safety area had been increased to avoid short landings.


Airport spokesman Doug Yakel told reporters there had been construction on the runway recently, but not on Saturday.


“Given that we had clear visibility today, we were operating under what’s called visual flight rules,” when good weather allows a pilot to see well to operate the plane, he added. He did not take further questions on the instrument landing technology.


Former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Schiavo said pilots had become increasingly dependent on instruments for flying. But she added that modern planes had plenty of systems for landing safely, down to a pilot watching the lights on the runway.


(Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in San Francisco and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Andrew Heavens)

Asiana Crash incoming airplane’s glide path was not working on Saturday

EEV: This is not likely the cause, but is worthy of investigation…

Investigators seek cause of deadly plane crash San Francisco

Credit: Reuters/Xu Da

By Sarah McBride

SAN FRANCISCO |          Sun Jul 7, 2013 11:02am EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – U.S. officials examined flight information recorders and began investigating the crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 that burst into flames upon landing in San Francisco, killing two teenaged Chinese students and injuring more than 180 people, officials said on Sunday.

There was no immediate indication of the cause of Saturday’s accident but Asiana said mechanical failure did not appear to be a factor. The airline declined to blame either the pilot or the San Francisco control tower.

Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the plane’s “black boxes” – the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder – had been recovered and were sent to Washington for analysis. The Federal Aviation Administration also was investigating and Asiana Airlines said on Sunday that Korean accident investigators were on their way to San Francisco.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said on Sunday there was no indication of a criminal act but it was too early to determine what went wrong.

“Everything is still on the table,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Investigators in coming days will interview the pilots and look at data from the black boxes, radar equipment and other information to determine the cause of the crash, she said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It’s really important to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together,” Hersman said.

The plane was coming in from Seoul when witnesses said its tail appeared to hit the approach area of a runway that juts into San Francisco Bay. One witness said the plane appeared to be coming in too low and too fast.

The impact knocked off the plane’s tail and the aircraft appeared to bounce violently, scattering a trail of debris before coming to rest on the tarmac.


Pictures taken by survivors showed passengers hurrying away from the wrecked plane. Thick smoke billowed from the fuselage and TV footage later showed the aircraft gutted and blackened by fire. Much of its roof was gone.

Interior damage to the plane also was extreme, Hersman said on CNN.

“You can see the devastation from the outside of the aircraft, the burn-through, the damage to the external fuselage,” she said. “But what you can’t see is the damage internally. That is really striking.”

The dead were identified as Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Lin Jia, both 16-year-old girls and described as Chinese nationals who are students, Asiana Airlines said. They had been seated at the rear of the aircraft, according to government officials in Seoul and Asiana.

The crash was the first fatal accident involving the Boeing 777, a popular long-range jet that has been in service since 1995. It was the first fatal commercial airline accident in the United States since a regional plane operated by Colgan Air crashed in New York in 2009.

“For now, we acknowledge that there were no problems caused by the 777-200 plane or (its) engines,” Yoon Young-doo, the president and CEO of the airline, told reporters on Sunday at the company headquarters on the outskirts of Seoul.

Asiana on Sunday said the flight, which had originated in Shanghai, had carried 291 passengers and 16 crew members. The passengers included 141 Chinese, 77 South Koreans, 64 U.S. citizens, three Indians, three Canadians, one French, one Vietnamese and one Japanese citizen.

Dale Carnes, assistant deputy chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, said 49 people were hospitalized with serious injuries. Another 132 suffered moderate and minor injuries.

Five people were in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital, according to spokeswoman Rachael Kagan. She said a total of 52 people were treated for burns, fractures and internal injuries. Three people were critical at Stanford Hospital.


Survivor Benjamin Levy told a local NBC station he believed the Asiana plane had been coming in too low.

“I know the airport pretty well, so I realized the guy was a bit too low, too fast, and somehow he was not going to hit the runway on time, so he was too low … he put some gas and tried to go up again,” he said in a telephone interview.

“But it was too late, so we hit the runway pretty bad, and then we started going up in the air again, and then landed again, pretty hard.”

Levy said he opened an emergency door and ushered people out. “We got pretty much everyone in the back section of the plane out,” he said. “When we got out there was some smoke. There was no fire then. The fire came afterward.”

Vedpal Singh, a native of India, was on board the flight along with his wife and son when the aircraft struck the landing strip.

“Your instincts take over. You don’t know what’s going on,” said Singh, who had his arm in a sling as he walked through the airport’s international terminal and told reporters he had suffered a fractured collar bone.

Asiana, South Korea’s junior carrier, has had two other fatal crashes in its 25-year history.

A senior Asiana official said the pilot was Lee Jeong-min, a veteran pilot who has spent his career with the airline. He was among four pilots on the plane who rotated on two-person shifts during the 10-hour flight, the official said.

A San Francisco airport spokesman said that a component of the facility’s instrument landing system that tracks an incoming airplane’s glide path was not working on Saturday.

Pilots and air safety experts said the glide path technology was far from essential for a safe landing in good weather.

(Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin, Alistain Barr, Sarah McBride, Ronnie Cohen, Poornima Gupta, Laila Kearney, Dan Levine, Gerry Shih, Jonathan Weber, Peter Henderson, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Jonathan Allen and Barbara Goldberg in New York.; Editing by Bill Trott and Doina Chiacu)

Report: N. Korea Deploys New Guns Along Border

Jun. 30, 2013 – 12:37PM   |

SEOUL — North Korea has deployed new rocket launchers along its border capable of hitting targets beyond Seoul, a report said Sunday.

Artillery units from the North were spotted replacing older multiple rocket stations with an upgraded version of the 240mm guns, Yonhap news agency said.

The agency quoted an unnamed government official as saying the new multiple rocket launchers with a maximum range of 70 kilometers (42 miles) could extend their reach beyond the South Korean capital.

The South’s defense ministry declined to confirm the report.

North Korea has 5,100 multiple rocket launchers, according to military data.

It has been eager to upgrade its mainstream multiple rocket launchers, which pose a serious security threat to South Korea.

Residents in Seoul and neighboring satellite cities, together home to nearly half the South’s 49 million people, have always lived under threat of attack from the North’s rockets and long-range artillery.

In 2010, North Korea using multiple rocket launchers shelled a South Korean island near the disputed Yellow Sea border, killing four people.|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|p

US genetically modified wheat stokes fears, Japan cancels tender

Reuters — May 31


A strain of genetically modified wheat found in the United States fuelled concerns over food supplies across Asia on Thursday, with major importer Japan cancelling a tender offer to buy U.S. grain.


Other top Asian wheat importers South Korea, China and the Philippines said they were closely monitoring the situation after the U.S. government found genetically engineered wheat sprouting on a farm in the state of Oregon.The strain was never approved for sale or consumption.

Asian consumers are keenly sensitive to gene-altered food, with few countries allowing imports of such cereals for human consumption. However, most of the corn and soybean shipped from the U.S. and South America for animal feed is genetically modified.

News source: Reuters

N. Korea fires 4th short-range missile in 2 days – Seoul

 Published time: May 19, 2013 09:01   Edited time: May 19, 2013 11:36                                                                             
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) (Reuters / KCNA)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) (Reuters / KCNA)

North Korea has fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, a Seoul military official said, one day after firing three short-range guided missiles. Meanwhile, South Korea has deployed precision-guided missiles on its border islands.

Seoul has placed Israeli precision-guided missiles capable of hitting North Korean targets on its Yellow Sea border islands, Yonhap news agency reported Sunday.

“Dozens of Spike missiles and their launchers have recently been deployed on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands,” an official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said. “They can destroy [North Korea’s] underground facilities and can pursue and strike moving targets.”

The satellite-guided Spike missile has a range of about 20km (12.4 miles) and weighs 70kg (154lbs), according to military officials.

Yeonpyeong is situated just 11km (6.8 miles) from North Korean shores.

North Korea's artillery sub-units (Reuters / KCNA)

North Korea’s artillery sub-units (Reuters / KCNA)


South Korea moved to place the Israeli missiles after Seoul confirmed that North Korea on Saturday had launched three short-range guided missiles off its east coast into the Sea of Japan.

Japan confirmed the report of the launches, saying its military had detected them as well.

Two launches were fired on Saturday morning and another one in the afternoon, the Yonhap news agency reported.

Media reports speculated that the projectiles were likely shore-based anti-ship KN-2 Toksa missiles, North Korea’s version of the Soviet-made OTR-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missile, which Pyongyang is believed to have reverse-engineered.

“The missiles traveled about 120 km and in the North Korean arsenal, only the modified KN-02 or multiple rocket launchers of 300 mm or larger in caliber can go that far,” a source in the South Korean government said.

Seoul condemned North Korea’s latest short-range missile launches as “provocative.”

North Korea has not commented on the launches.

While the latest test launch only involves short-range missiles, it poses security threats to the region and should be “stopped immediately,” said the Seoul ministry that is charged with cross-border affairs.

“We find it deplorable that the North does not stop provocative actions such as the launch of guided missiles yesterday,” said Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok.

“We call on the North to take responsible actions for our sake and for the sake of the international community.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern over the missile launches and urged Pyongyang to return to talks on the nuclear issue in the six-party format.

“We are very concerned about North Korea’s provocative actions,” Ban told reporters in Moscow on the weekend. “I hope that North Korea will refrain from any further such actions.”

The UN Secretary General said hopes that Russia “will continue to use their contacts to reduce tensions and intensify the dialogue with North Korea.”

He said that he had discussed this subject matter in a meeting on Friday in Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin.


A South Korean navy destroyer (Reuters / South Korean Navy)

A South Korean navy destroyer (Reuters / South Korean Navy)


Meanwhile, the US State Department Saturday called on the North to exercise restraint, without specifically mentioning the launches.

The US stations around 28,500 troops in South Korea, a carry-over from the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, between the warring sides.

The Korean Peninsula is emerging from the latest episode of tensions, which began February 12, 2013, when Pyongyang announced it had conducted an underground nuclear test, its third in seven years.

The test was met with harsh international condemnation and a new round of sanctions by the UN Security Council.

South Korea and the US responded with large scale naval maneuvers, which Pyongyang called a provocation and threatened to use its nuclear arsenal if attacked.

Japan confirms report N. Korea fires 3 short-range missiles

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©с-sa 3.0

Japan confirmed the report of the launches, saying its military had detected them too.

 The South’s military says it is maintaining high level of readiness amid the developments.

 The Korean Peninsula is emerging from the latest period of high tension, which started after the North conducted its third nuclear test in February. The test was met with condemnation and a new round of sanctions by the UN Security Council.

 South Korea and the US conducted massive war drills shortly after the test, with the US sending some of its most powerful military hardware in a demonstration of strength. Pyongyang called the buildup a provocation and threatened to use its nuclear arsenal, if attacked. The North says the aggressive stance of Washington and Seoul justifies its development of nuclear weapons.

 South Korea detects three launches of short-range missiles by North

 South Korea’s Ministry of Defense has detected three launches of short-range guided missiles by North Korea, it said.

 Two launches were fired on Saturday morning and another one in the afternoon, reports Yonhap news agency.

 The missiles were fired from the east coast into the Sea of Japan, the report says.

 The South’s military says it is maintaining high level of readiness amid the developments.

 Voice of Russia, RT


North Korea launches short-range missiles, South says

кндр ракета кндр северная корея ракета северная корея спутник запуск

© Photo: «Vesti.Ru»

South Korea’s Ministry of Defense has detected three launches of short-range guided missiles by North Korea, it said.

 Two launches were fired on Saturday morning and another one in the afternoon, reports Yonhap news agency.

 The missiles were fired from the east coast into the Sea of Japan, the report says.

 The South’s military says it is maintaining high level of readiness amid the developments.

 Japan confirmed the report of the launches, saying its military had detected them too.

 The South’s military says it is maintaining high level of readiness amid the developments.

 The Korean Peninsula is emerging from the latest period of high tension, which started after the North conducted its third nuclear test in February. The test was met with condemnation and a new round of sanctions by the UN Security Council.

 South Korea and the US conducted massive war drills shortly after the test, with the US sending some of its most powerful military hardware in a demonstration of strength. Pyongyang called the buildup a provocation and threatened to use its nuclear arsenal, if attacked. The North says the aggressive stance of Washington and Seoul justifies its development of nuclear weapons.


Bill Gates ‘casual’ handshake has South Koreans up in arms



Microsoft founder accused of disrespecting the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye

Rob Williams

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Body language experts would have us believe that you can tell a lot about a person from their handshake.

What to make then of the casual approach employed by billionaire philanthropist and King of Silicon Valley, Bill Gates?

The Microsoft founder has been accused of disrespecting the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye, after he was pictured shaking hands with her – with his other hand firmly in his pocket.

“Disrespectful handshake? Casual handshake?” wrote South Korea’s largest newspaper, The Dong-A Ilbo beneath a photograph of the meeting on Tuesday morning.

Although there was no formal comment from the Presidential office social networks were awash with comments on just how offensive, or not, the handshake was.

“Even considering the cultural difference, there is an appropriate manner for certain occasions . . . how can he put his hand in his pocket when meeting a leader of the state?” tweeted msryu67.

According to AFP previous photographs of Mr Gates in 2008 with Ms Park’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak, show him adopting a similarly casual handshake.

However an image from 2001 in which he is pictured with then-president Kim Dae-jung showed him adopting a two-handed shake.

“Gates is a casual man who’s not bound by customs so he shakes hands in this manner even when meeting heads of international organisations or top political figures.” Dong-A Ilbo quoted an unnamed friend of his in Seoul as saying.


N.Korea deploys more missiles on east coast

баллистическая ракета Scud Скад Корея Сеул вооружение ядерные испытания ядерное испытание

Photo: EPA

North Korea has moved two mobile SCUD missile launchers to the country’s eastern coast, in addition to seven missile complexes it deployed there early this month, South Korean military officials said on Saturday.

 Right now there are nearly a dozen ballistic missiles there, including the Musudan missiles with an effective range of up to 4,000 km, which means they can reach targets in Japan and Guam.

 Japanese and South Korean armed forces have been on heightened alert since April 10 in anticipation of more missile launches by the North.

 Voice of Russia, TASS


North Korea on Wednesday barred a delegation of South Korean businessmen from delivering food and supplies to 200 of their staff inside the closed Kaesong joint industrial zone.

N. Korea bars South delegation from joint zone

South Korean trucks arrive from North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex.

AFP Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013

SEOUL – North Korea on Wednesday barred a delegation of South Korean businessmen from delivering food and supplies to 200 of their staff inside the closed Kaesong joint industrial zone.

Ten representatives of the 123 South Korean firms in Kaesong had applied for permission to visit the zone, two weeks after the North blocked all access amid soaring military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

“Moments ago, North Korea informed us that the request for a visit by 10 representatives of the business companies at Kaesong had been turned down,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-Seok said.

“It is very regrettable that the North has rejected the request and disallowed a humanitarian measure,” Kim said.

Kaesong, which lies 10 kilometres (six miles) inside North Korea, was established in 2004 as a shining symbol of inter-Korean cooperation.

Of the nearly 900 South Koreans who were in the zone when the North first cut off access on April 3, around 200 have opted not to leave in an effort to keep their companies running.

But the North’s action has left them without supplies of daily necessities, as well as raw materials.

“We again strongly urge the North Korean authorities to take responsible measures for meeting the most basic needs of the staff at Kaesong,” Kim said. The North withdrew all its 53,000 workers and suspended operations in Kaesong on April 8.

Seoul’s offers of dialogue to resolve the situation have been dismissed by the North as a “crafty trick”.

On Tuesday, North Korea said the South was seeking to shift responsibility for Kaesong’s closure, which Pyongyang insists was forced by Seoul’s policy of “confrontation” and its “war-mongering” statements.

“The puppet regime can never escape from the criminal responsibility for putting Kaesong in this grave situation”, the North’s state body in charge of special economic zones said in a statement.

The South is “clinging to sanctions against the North, while bringing in massive volumes of new war machines and madly engaging in exercises for a war of aggression while prattling about dialogue,” the statement said.

Neither of the Koreas has allowed previous crises to significantly affect the complex, which is seen as a bellwether of stability on the Korean peninsula and is a key source of hard currency for the North.


N. Korea issues ‘ultimatum’ to the South, warns of ‘immediate retaliation’ – reports

  Published time: April 15, 2013 18:44    Edited time: April 15, 2013 20:28                                                                            

AFP Photo / Files / KCNA VIA KNS

AFP Photo / Files / KCNA VIA KNS

North Korea’s military supreme command has issued an ultimatum to South Korea demanding apologies for “all the major and minor hostile actions.” It has also threatened an immediate military response to any “insulting” action the South undertakes.

“The supreme command of the Korean People’s Army Tuesday issued an ultimatum to the South Korean puppet group,” South Korean Yonhap agency cites Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA.

The ultimatum consists of three clauses, RIA reports also citing KCNA, in which the North demands an apology for all the hostile actions in the past and a “practical demonstration” of good intentions from the South, saying it is the condition for starting any sort of discussion or dialogue.

Should the South Korean state undertake any action considered “insulting” to North Korea’s “supreme dignity,” there would be an “immediate retaliatory action without warning,” demonstrating the country’s military might, the second clause of the ultimatum says as cited by RIA.

Earlier on Monday there was a brief break in the bellicose rhetoric from the North, as the country celebrated the ‘Day of the Sun’ – the 101st birthday of the country’s founder Kim Il-sung. Not only did the North Korean government refrain from the much-discussed symbolic missile launch, it also decided not to stage a traditional massed military parade to demonstrate the county’s power.

However, as the clock struck Tuesday local time, there was a resumption of North Korean war threats, which recently included warning of a “thermonuclear war” for the South, notions of Tokyo “consumed in nuclear flames” for Japan, and ratification of a nuclear strike against the USA. All these threats would be triggered in the event of the “slightest move” of armies or any “provocative intervention” in North Korean manoeuvres and affairs, the KCNA news agency has warned.

North Korea has also repeatedly blamed its neighbors, but ultimately the USA for the escalating tension, and explained the recent proposal to all foreign embassies to evacuate by “the increasing threat from the United States.”

Amid the warnings, North Korea on Sunday said it seeks peaceful relations with every world nation – but only “as a responsible nuclear-weapon state.”

Both the US and its allies in the region made it clear they “cannot allow North Korea in any way to possess nuclear weapons.” China also said it is “firmly committed to upholding peace and stability and advancing the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula.”

Russia has agreed denuclearization was a “mutual task” of all the nations involved in multilateral talks on the Korean crisis, but stressed only a political and diplomatic settlement of the situation is possible. “No one should intimidate anyone with any military manoeuvres,” Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said on the sidelines of the recent G8 summit. Earlier, the ministry also stressed North Korean “provocative and bellicose” behavior was “unacceptable.”

N. Korean missile launchpad moved into firing position – report

Published time: April 11, 2013 01:38   Edited time: April 11, 2013 03:45                                                                            

AFP Photo / Ed Jones

AFP Photo / Ed Jones

A North Korean missile launcher has moved into the firing position with rockets facing skyward, Kyodo reports, citing a Japan defense official.

The Japanese government is on high alert, citing indications that Pyongyang might soon launch ballistic missiles at its island neighbor.
Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Thursday morning that so far Tokyo was responding by “gathering a variety of information … with a sense of tension,” according to Kyodo.

Several Patriot Advance Capability-3 missile interceptor units have been deployed in Japan over the last few days to defend key military units and the country’s capital city, Tokyo. One of the units was set up at the Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Ichigaya, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

The Patriots’ deployment followed Japan’s deployment of Aegis destroyers equipped with SM-3 interceptor missiles.

Japan authorized its forces to shoot down anything fired at it from North Korea.

A Japan Self-Defence Forces soldier stands near units of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo April 10, 2013. Japan has deployed ground-based PAC-3 interceptors, as well as Aegis radar-equipped destroyers carrying Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors in response to North Korea's threats and actions, according to its government.(Reuters / Issei Kato)

A Japan Self-Defence Forces soldier stands near units of Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missiles at the Defence Ministry in Tokyo April 10, 2013. Japan has deployed ground-based PAC-3 interceptors, as well as Aegis radar-equipped destroyers carrying Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptors in response to North Korea’s threats and actions, according to its government.(Reuters / Issei Kato)

The indication of the new North Korean readiness follows South Korean and US forces’ announcement of an upgrade of their surveillance alert status to the highest possible level before coming into a state of war.

It also comes amid revelations from South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, with a government source saying Pyongyang is preparing multiple launches of shorter-range Scud and Rodong missiles. “There are clear signs that the North could simultaneously fire off Musudan, Scud and Nodong missiles,” an anonymous military source was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

The military alert status is now at Watchcon 2, reflecting a perceived “vital threat” from North Korean missiles after the North warned of a ‘thermonuclear’ war and asked foreigners to leave South Korea.

To counter the threat, two Aegis destroyers with SPY-1 radar have been placed on standby by the South along the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean military is also operating early warning aircraft Peace Eye and ground-based missile defense radar system Green Pine to counter a potential rocket launch from the north.

On Tuesday, the commander of US Pacific Command said that the US is ready capable of countering the missile threat.

Allied forces on high alert amid NK missile threats ( Moved to Watchcon LVL 2 )

Song Sang-ho

The Korea Herald

Publication Date : 11-04-2013

Seoul officials say Pyongyang is ready for multiple missile launches; Washington calls threat ‘unhelpful

South Korea and the US stepped up their intelligence and surveillance activities on Wednesday amid growing signs of North Korea’s imminent multiple missile launches.

The allied forces raised the Watch Condition, or Watchcon, by one notch to level 2, and bolstered their intelligence personnel. Intelligences indicated Pyongyang has finalized preparations to launch its Musudan intermediate-range missiles from its east coast. Seoul officials said.

“North Korea can fire missiles at any time now, if it has the political determination to do so,” a military source said, declining to be named.

Seoul officials believe Pyongyang could launch multiple missiles such as its Musudan, Scud and Rodong missiles on the same day.

“In addition to the two Musudan missiles spotted in the Wonsan area of (the North’s) Gangwon Province, we identified four to five transporter-erector-launchers (mobile launchers) around the Donghan bay spanning South Hamgyeong Province and Gangwon Province,” a senior government official told reporters.

The mobile launchers are known to be used to carry the North’s Scud or Rodong missiles.

Scud missiles with ranges of 300-500 km put South Korea within striking range while Rodong missiles with ranges of some 1,300 km and Musudan missiles with ranges beyond 3,000 km can strike Japan and Guam, respectively.

All three missiles have been deployed before while Taepodong-2 missiles with ranges of longer than 6,700 km are still under development. The intercontinental missiles are capable of striking the US mainland.

In the past, Pyongyang launched multiple missiles in the same day. On July 5, 2006, it launched a Taepodong-2 missile, four Scud missiles and two Rodong missiles while on July 4, 2009, it fired five Scud missiles and two Rodong missiles.

Mobilising their core intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance assets including South Korea’s Aegis-equipped destroyers, the South Korean and US militaries here kept closer tabs on North Korean movements.

The South Korean military ran a taskforce, consisting of some 10 senior officers, to prepare for the possible missile launch.

To better handle ballistic missile threats, Seoul seeks to establish the “Air and Missile Defence-Cell” by July. The AMD-Cell tasked with analyzing missile information gleaned from early warning satellites and radars, is a key part of the low-tier missile shield Seoul plans to build.

During a parliamentary session, Seoul’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se confirmed the possibility of North Korea launching missiles was “considerably high”.

“Based on our and US intelligence, the missile could be the Musudan missile. Its range is around 3,500 km, but how far it will travel hinges on North Korea’s intentions,” he said.

Experts said the range of the missile can be adjusted according to the amount of the fuel, the angle at which it flies, and other factors.

Stressing its nuclear and missile capabilities had reached a “considerable level,” Yun warned another missile launch would constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban any missile tests by the provocative state.

“Upon any additional launch, the UNSC would immediately convene. As we all need to thoroughly analyse the nature of the missile launch, it is yet difficult to predict what kinds of measures the UNSC would adopt for another launch,” he said.

The minister also underscored that Washington would not hold talks with Pyongyang should it continue to set off provocations and refuse to show sincerity in the multilateral efforts to denuclearise it.

“The US stresses that inter-Korean talks should precede any talks between Washington and Pyongyang, (though be held) in close coordination with Washington,” he said.

During a Senate Armed Services Committee session, Adm. Samuel Locklear, the commander of US Pacific Command, said the US military has the ability to intercept a North Korean ballistic missile. But he added that a decision on whether a missile should be intercepted would be based on where it is aimed and expected to land.

“I believe we have the ability to defend the homeland, Guam, Hawaii and defend our allies,” said Locklear, pointing out that the reclusive state’s nuclear weapons and missiles posed a “clear threat” to the US and its regional allies.

The Pentagon plans to deploy a land-based “terminal high-altitude area defence system” to Guam in the coming weeks as a precautionary move to counter a possible missile attack.

It has also unveiled its plan to strengthen missile defence against the North by installing 14 additional ground-based interceptors at its bases in Alaska and California by September 2017.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney characterised North Korea’s nuclear war threat as “unhelpful, concerning and provocative”, noting it was a pattern of combative statements and behaviour that the leadership in Pyongyang has shown for years.

Another US official said North Korea’s test missile launches could occur without Pyongyang issuing a standard warning to commercial aviation and maritime authorities.

“We hope they issue a notification, but at this point we don’t expect it. We are working on the assumption they won’t,” the anonymous official was quoted by CNN as saying.


North Korea deploys seven mobile missile launchers

кндр северная корея баллистическая ракета мусудан Musudan

Photo: EPA

Up to seven mobile units with ballistic missiles of various range, from 300 km to over 3,000 km have been detected on the east coast of North Korea. They can be launched simultaneously or in succession over several days, starting from today, military sources said in Tokyo.

 Besides the two mobile launchers with medium-range Musudan missiles detected on the east coast of the country, missile units have been moved to the coast of Hamgyong Province in the northeast of the country, with “Scud” ballistic missiles with a range of up to 500 km, and “Nodong” missiles with a 1.3 thousand kilometer range mounted on about five mobile launchers.

 Border crossing between N.Korea and China shut to tourists

 A key border crossing between North Korea and China been closed to tourist groups, a Chinese official said Wednesday as nuclear tensions mounted, but business travel was allowed to continue.

 An official at the Dandong Border Office, who declined to give his name, told AFP: “Travel agencies are not allowed to take tourist groups to go there, since the North Korean government is now asking foreign people to leave. As far as I know, business people can enter and leave North Korea freely.”

 Earlier, Pyongyang advised all foreigners to “consider leaving South Korea”, warning that the Korean peninsula was headed for “thermo-nuclear” war.

 An AFP photographer at the border on Wednesday saw cars and a larger vehicle passing over the bridge crossing the Yalu River that marks the frontier, in both directions.

 China is North Korea’s sole major ally and the provider of the vast majority of its trade and aid, with most of the business passing through Dandong.

 North Korea could test fire missiles at any time – U.S. officials

 The U.S. administration says that based on recent intelligence it’s likely North Korea may test fire mobile ballistic missiles at any time, reports CNN. Earlier it was announced that a missile might be launched in the direction of Japan. Pyongyang has most probably completed launch preparations, said a U.S. official Tuesday.

 Most of the information comes from satellite imagery, so it’s impossible to reach a definitive conclusion because the U.S. has no means to gather information on the ground.

 On Tuesday Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, confirmed that Pyongyang had loaded a medium-range ballistic missile onto mobile launchers at an “unidentified” facility near the east coast.

 He said the Pentagon would shoot down such a missile if its calculated flight trajectory would be potentially threatening for the U.S. or its allies.

 Meanwhile, South Korea does not exclude the likelihood that North Korea might test-launch several such missiles from a number of diverse facilities in the country.

 Moscow presses for calming the situation on the Korean Peninsula

 Moscow will seek to normalize the situation on the Korean peninsula, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. “We are confident that the situation is serious. Nuclear tests and missile launches are not jokes.”

 However, the rhetoric also plays as just harmful role because mutual accusations, threats and warnings might reach a critical level when people drive themselves into a corner, and they will have to show something to the public opinion, Lavrov said in an interview with RTVi TV channel.

 He urged not to escalate emotions over the situation linked with North Korea and diplomatically try to reach an agreement on the resumption of six-country talks.

 At present, Russia is working with other countries of the group of six, Lavrov said.

 Earlier this month, North Korea nullified Armistice with South Korea.

 N. Korea wraps up missile launch preparations

 North Korea has wrapped up preparations for a ballistic missile launch which could be carried out on Wednesday, Yonhap reports.

 South Korean and American military are planning to track the missile’s flight using two destroyers fitted out with the Aegis Combat System.

 Japan has deployed two warships provided with identical missile tracking systems and SM-3 missiles in the Sea of Japan to intercept the North Korean missile or its fragments should they fall on the territory of Japan.

 According to experts, Pyongyang is planning to launch a Musudan-class missile with a range of 3,000-4,000 km that can hit targets in Japan and on Guam Island in the Pacific.

 North Korea warns foreigners to evacuation measures in South Korea – KCNA

 North Korea warned foreigners in South Korea to take evacuation measures on Tuesday in case of war, in the latest escalation of warnings from Pyongyang.

 “We do not wish harm on foreigners in South Korea should there be a war,” its KCNA news agency, citing the spokesperson for its Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.

 S.Korea president says no company will invest in N.Korea if Pyongyang shuts down Kaesong complex

 South Korean President Park Geun-hye said on Tuesday North Korea would hurt its credibilty as a place to do business if it shut down the Kaesong industrial zone and no company from any country would want to invest in the country.

 “Investment is all about being able to anticipate results and trust and when you have the North breaking international regulations and promises like this and suspending Kaesong while the world is watching, no country in the world will invest in the North,” Park told a cabinet meeting.

 US praises Russia, China over Korea mediation

 The US Administration hails Russia’s and China’s effort aimed at defusing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

 White House spokesman Jay Carney said in Washington on Monday that the United States kept working with its partners in Russia, China and other countries to make Pyongyang abide by its international commitments.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier voiced alarm over the situation on the divided peninsula. China, too, expressed “serious concern” about the growing tensions between the two Korean states.

 Voice of Russia, TASS, AFP, IF, RIA, Reuters, Yonhap News Agency, Interfax

North Korea to consider closing Kaesong complex after worker recall

Pyongyang’s suspension of operations at complex it runs with South Korea is yet another ‘foolish gesture’, says expert

  • Tania Branigan in Beijing
  •,   Monday 8 April 2013 11.19 EDT
A South Korean security guards the road leading to the Kaesong complex in Paju

A South Korean security official guards the road leading to the Kaesong industrial complex, in the border city of Paju. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has said it will recall more than 50,000 workers from the industrial park it runs with the South and consider shutting it permanently, spelling an end to inter-Korean co-operation.

Pyongyang has engaged in weeks of angry rhetoric in response to a UN security council resolution expanding sanctions following its third nuclear test and to ongoing joint exercises by South Korean and US forces.

But analysts noted that while the latest move by Pyongyang was substantive, it was also a non-military one made amid concerns that the North might be planning another missile or nuclear test.

The Kaesong industrial complex has been a much-needed source of income for the impoverished North and a cheap source of workers for labour-intensive South Korean firms.

The statement from a senior party Workers’ party official, carried by the KCNA state news agency, warned that operations would be suspended while the future of Kaesong was reviewed.

“The zone is now in the grip of a serious crisis,” Kim Yang Gon said. “It is a tragedy that the industrial zone, which should serve purposes of national reconciliation, unity, peace and reunification, has been reduced to a theatre of confrontation between compatriots and war against the North.”

He did not mention the 475 South Korean managers still at Kaesong. The North has prevented personnel and supplies from entering from the South since last week.

North Korean workers at the South-owned Shinwon clothes company in Kaesong industrial park

North Korean workers at the South-owned Shinwon clothes company in Kaesong industrial park. Photograph: Lee Jae-Won/ReutersAccording to Associated Press, about a dozen of more than 120 South Korean companies at Kaesong have halted production owing to lack of supplies.

“The temporary suspension is likely to become the final sigh of the sunshine policy as we knew it,” said Leonid Petrov, an expert on the North at Australian National University.

“It’s understandable that as they proclaimed war it would be inconsistent with the desire to produce sneakers and LCDs at the same time … North Korea is sending a strong message to prove that money means nothing for the regime and its nuclear missile programmes are not for sale and not negotiable.”

Seoul’s policy of free-flowing aid and engagement was ended by South Korea‘s previous president, Lee Myung-bak, who took office in 2008. Petrov argued future attempts at co-operation would have to start from scratch, adding: “It is unlikely it will happen under Park Geun-hye given the conservative origins of her party.

“Many people blamed the sunshine policy for being ineffective, but that’s not correct: it was too successful for its time. It achieved a lot but was too dangerous for the North and too expensive for the South.”

James Hoare, the former British chargé d’affaires in Pyongyang, said: “It may be that among the military there are those who never liked [Kaesong] and saw it as a Trojan horse. It may be they’ve decided they won’t carry on with it, but they could still row backwards. It is not militarily threatening. It’s a gesture which to me looks foolish from the North Korean point of view, but it isn’t firing rockets or doing a nuclear test.”

He pointed out that attempts at engagement with the North had often stumbled, from the early 1970s onwards. But he added: “It’s very unfortunate for the workers, who will lose their wages and other perks.”

Stephan Haggard of the Washington-bade Peterson Institute, an expert on North Korean economics, wrote last year: “For North Korea, [Kaesong] is a cash cow that even hardliners have been loath to push the way of the Mount Kumgang project. Since 2004, total wage payments for North Korean workers in the KIC has totalled $245.7m, rising from $380,000 in 2004 … to $45.93m in the first half of 2012. For Pyongyang, even hardliners can see that this is a no-brainer.”

One possibility is that the North believes it must threaten a clearly valuable asset to send the message that it is serious in its stance. Another possibility mooted by experts is that it could hope to expropriate the factories and hand them over to members of the elite, bolstering domestic support for the regime.

S Korean government source: N Korea allegedly preparing fourth underground nuclear test

Северная Корея ядерные испытания Северная Корея кндр ядерные испытания ядерные испытания

Photo: EPA

North Korea could perform a fourth underground nuclear weapons test at Punggye-ri, the site of its previous test. Pyongyang appeared to be making preparations for the test, according to a South Korean government source speaking to the country’s Joong Ang Daily newpaper.

 This comes on the heels of the South’s defense ministry reports that Pyongyang could perform a mid-range missile test-launch by Wednesday – also the deadline it has given to foreign diplomats to evacuate, as their safety would reportedly no longer be guaranteed by the government.
“We have detected increased activity of labor forces and vehicles at the southern tunnel of the test site in Punggye-ri, where the regime has worked on maintenance for facilities since its third nuclear test in February,” one of South’s top government officials said. He added that “the activities appear to be similar to those before the third test, so we are closely monitoring the site.”

 The official went on to say that the South Korean government “were also tipped off that Pyongyang would soon carry out an additional nuclear test… but we are analyzing if it is indeed preparation for an additional test or if it is just to pressure Seoul and Washington.”

 Voice of Russia, RT


North Korea readies missile launch as fears of a covert cyberwar grow

As Pyongyang moves ballistic weapons to the coast, it may also be planning to disable computer networks in the US

South Korean soldier at border.

A South Korean soldier patrols at the crossing to the jointly managed Kaesong industrial complex on the border. Photograph: Lee Jae-Won/Reuters

South Korea is bracing for a protracted standoff with the North that could include at least one missile test-launch and a border skirmish.

On Friday, North Korea attempted to heighten fears of military conflict when it told embassies in its capital, Pyongyang, that it could not guarantee the safety of their staff in the event of war. In another sign that it is determined to increase the pressure, Pyongyang extended a ban preventing South Korean officials from entering the Kaesong industrial complex – which it operates jointly with the South – for a fourth day.

A government official in Seoul said there was no indication of an exodus of foreign diplomats from the North, despite the warning. “We don’t believe there’s any foreign mission about to leave Pyongyang,” the official told the Yonhap news agency. “Most foreign governments view the North Korean message as a way of ratcheting up tension.”

The message to embassies came as US officials confirmed media reports that North Korea had moved two medium-range missiles to its east coast. The Musudan missiles, with a range of 1,865 miles, are capable of striking South Korea, Japan and US bases in the Pacific. Possible launches are expected to be tests rather than targeted strikes, and may be timed to coincide with the 101st anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founding father, Kim Il-sung, on 15 April.

In response, South Korea has sent Aegis destroyers equipped with advanced radar systems to both of its coasts. The US had earlier said it would speed up the deployment of missile defence systems to Guam, a US Pacific territory whose military bases Pyongyang has identified as targets. Officials in Washington offered a measured response to confirmation that the North had mounted two missiles on mobile launchers. “We’ve obviously seen the reports that North Korea may be making preparations to launch a missile and we’re monitoring this situation closely,” the White House  press secretary Jay Carney said. “And we would not be surprised to see them take such an action. It would fit their current pattern of bellicose, unhelpful and unconstructive rhetoric and actions.”

US attempts to lower the diplomatic temperature come after a prolonged display of its naval and air power in the region during joint military exercises with South Korea. Pyongyang has condemned the annual drills, which run to the end of the month, as preparations for an invasion.

The North Korean media continued to describe the standoff in dramatic terms at the weekend, accusing the US and South Korea of “waging madcap nuclear war manoeuvres”.

“This is aimed at igniting a nuclear war against it through a pre-emptive strike,” the Minju Joson, a government daily newspaper, said. “The prevailing situation proves that a new war, a nuclear war, is imminent on the peninsula.”

The prospect of a North Korean missile test is causing concern in Japan, which is easily within range. In Tokyo, Yoshihide Suga, a government spokesman, said that Japan was preparing for a “worst-case” scenario, and urged China and Russia to play “significant roles” in defusing tensions. Experts and officials have dismissed Pyongyang’s threats to launch nuclear strikes against the US, given the rudimentary state of its weapons capability. But it could cause widespread disruption with a cyberattack, according to a defector who worked for the regime’s 3,000-member cyberwarfare unit.

The regime’s next move could be to break into US computer networks to steal information and spread viruses, Jang Se-yul, who defected to the South in 2008, told the Observer. North Korea’s hackers are suspected of being behind recent cyberattacks that paralysed computer networks at several South Korean banks and broadcasters.

“It would demonstrate that North Korea is a strong cyberpower,” Jang said. “Their prime target is the US, and they’ve been preparing for something like this for years, including when I was there in the 1990s. I can’t say how successful they would be, but it’s a possibility.”

The barrage of threats have failed to unnerve people in Seoul, just 54km from the demilitarised zone – the strip of heavily guarded land that has separated the two states since they agreed on a ceasefire, but not a peace treaty, at the end of the 1950-53 Korean war. Streets were packed with cars and shoppers as usual on Saturday, despite rain and chilly weather.

The South Korean media have also been measured in their coverage. When North Korea vowed last week to restart its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, South Korean newspapers devoted more space to government plans to grant tax breaks to home buyers. On Naver, the country’s most popular web portal, the most read news item last week was about Ryu Hyun-jin, a South Korean baseball pitcher who made his debut for the LA Dodgers. The relaxed mood would quickly change in the event of a localised attack on a South Korean military asset or one of the frontline islands near the disputed maritime border.

Last week the South’s new president, Park Geun-hye, said that the military would hit back hard if provoked. Her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, was criticised for his slow response to attacks in 2010 on a naval ship and island, in which 50 people died.

An editorial in the Korea Times said those living in both the North and South had reason to be vigilant. “Not a single expert can say for sure what will be the unpredictable regime’s next move,” the newspaper said. “One thing seems certain, however: it will be Koreans, especially South Koreans, who will have to shoulder the risks of any misjudgment or miscalculation to be made by either Koreas.” There was consternation, too, that the North had disrupted operations at Kaesong for four days, although it has not closed the facility. Last week it prevented South Korean workers from crossing the border into the complex, located just inside North Korea. About 100 South Koreans who had stayed at Kaesong last week were due to return yesterday, with 500 more remaining.

The Korea Herald noted that the £56bn that the North earns from the complex every year was “no small amount”, adding that the country “does not have many comparable or better sources of hard currency”.

Political tensions have briefly disrupted operations at Kaesong several times since it opened in 2004, but a complete and prolonged shutdown would be a sign that cross-border ties were near to collapse.

“South Korea takes this situation very seriously,” a senior government official in Seoul told the Observer. “We must watch even the smallest moves by North Korea. At the same time, we will continue to send signals that we want to build trust with Pyongyang in the hope that it will cooperate and dialogue can begin.”

North Korea ready for cyberwar

Posted By Josh Peterson On 1:10 PM  04/05/2013 In Tech

Despite the popular impression that North Korea is technologically inept, the regime boasts a significant and effective cyber arsenal, in addition to what is currently known about its nuclear arsenal.

Not only has the country been able to jam GPS signals, it has also reportedly conducted cyber terrorism operations against South Korean media and financial institutions.

As recently as late March, Agence France-Presse reported that the websites of North Korean defectors also were under attack.

North Korea’s cyberwarfare history includes the use of a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack — which overwhelms a system’s web servers with traffic, forcing it to crash — against U.S. and South Korean government websites.

Its cyberterrorism unit — Unit 121, which is a project of the North Korean intelligence agency, Reconnaissance General Bureau — boasts an estimated 3,000 hackers.

“Defectors from the unit told South Korean intelligence officials that North Korea sends hackers to other countries for training as well as to conduct undercover operations,” Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told The Daily Caller.

“The hackers never operate within North Korea since the country’s limited computer network would make it too easy to identify the source of the attack,” Klingner said, noting that North Korea has “very strong cyberterrorism capabilities.”

Steven Bucci, Director of Heritage’s Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, echoed Klingner’s sentiments.

“Just as with their nukes, their lack of predictability makes them dangerous beyond their capabilities (compared to others),” Bucci told The Daily Caller in an email.

The U.S. and South Korea have been the targets of North Korean cyberterrorism dating as far back as 1999, when several government sites were hit by a DDoS attack. The DPRK’s tactics have since become increasingly more sophisticated.

In 2011, for example, an attack on South Korea’s Nonghyup Bank was attributed to the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The disabling of the South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo’s news production system that same year was also traced back to a North Korean telecommunications center.

The U.S. government has expressed increasing concern over the potential of a devastating cyber attack by state-sponsored hackers against the country’s critical infrastructure for several years, even acknowledging the sophistication of North Korea’s cyber arsenal.

In 2007, CIA analyst Stephen C. Mercado wrote that North Korea had engaged in serious efforts to development its science and technology since the country’s inception in 1948 — largely under the influence of the Soviet Union and China.

The Internet further “enhanced” the abilities of North Korean researchers to acquire foreign data, Mercado observed — contrary to a common misconception that the country has maintained complete technological isolation from the outside world.

President Obama recently signed a cybersecurity executive order as part of his plan to address the threat, but lawmakers have yet to agree upon any meaningful legislation.

What kind of damage a cyber attack from North Korea could cause, however, seems uncertain.

“While it is possible that attempts against U.S. infrastructure could occur sporadically, [North Korea] does not yet seem to have the scale of highly skilled ‘wicked’ actors able to implement a long-running campaign necessary to really hurt U.S. infrastructure,” Dr. Chris Demchak, Co-Director for the Center for Cyber Conflict Studies at the U.S. Naval War College, told The Daily Caller

Demchack’s own research is from public sources and she does not speak for the U.S. government or the U.S. Navy.

“They would need friends in the cyber fight to close the distance to the U.S. effectively,” said Demchak, stating that North Korea’s focus has been on nearby neighbors like South Korea and Japan.

The federal government’s own concern about the disruptive impact of the activities of hacktivist groups like Anonymous demonstrates that even a low level of technical ability can inflict damaging.

South Korean information security professor Lee Dong-hoon told Business Insider in July 2012, however, that he believed that North Korea’s investment in cyber warfare over the past 30 years has given it capabilities behind only the United States and Russia.

The Pentagon’s own capabilities are estimated to be quite sophisticated. An April 2012 Washington Post report announced that the U.S. military was fast-tracking the acquisition of new cyberweapons that would enable it to respond to “urgent-mission critical” needs.

The U.S., which is believed to have been involved in the development of the Stuxnet worm that disrupted the Iranian nuclear enrichment program at the Nataanz nuclear facility in 2009, also not denied involvement in that effort.

“Critical to the bits-to-bolts weapon like Stuxnet is developing considerable knowledge of how systems disconnected from the web can be infected reliably and precisely, and a testbed to check if the infection will work,” said Demchak.

“Both take time and a level of ground knowledge that is very hard to obtain about [North Korea],” she said.

“Having said that, barring an identified attack by [North Korea], even if the U.S. had all this in place, it would be a violation of international law at this point to use it destructively and unambiguously,” she said.

The Pentagon told The Daily Caller that it does not comment on matters of intelligence.

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North Korea warns Britain to evacuate embassy in Pyongyang and moves mid-range missiles to coast sparking fears of imminent strike

In response to the continued threats South Korea deployed two warships that have missile-defence systems

Rob Williams

Friday, 5 April 2013

North Korea has advised Britain to evacuate its embassy in Pyongyang saying it will not be able to guarantee the safety of staff in the event of conflict from April 10th.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the British Embassy in Pyongyang had received a communication from the North Korean government and said it was “considering next steps”.

A spokesman said the Pyongyang regime had responsibilities to protect embassies under international conventions and claimed the latest move was “part of their continuing rhetoric” that the United States poses a threat.

Earlier today it emerged that Russia had also been asked to consider evacuating staff from its embassy in Pyongyang because of the increasing tension on the Korean peninsula.

A spokesman said Russia was examining the request but was not planning an evacuation at this stage, and there were no outward signs of increased tension in the North Korean capital itself.

North Korea moved two missiles to its east coast and loaded them onto launchers, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has said.

In response to the continued threats South Korea deployed two warships that have missile-defence systems.

The news came as fears of an imminent missile strike from the North unsettled financial markets in South Korea.

Military officials in South Korea said that two warships were to be deployed on the east and west coasts of the country. Despite anxiety in the region over continuing tensions, Seoul has been keen to play down the threat – stating today that the missile moves could be tests.

A senior official was quoted by Yonhap saying: “It has been confirmed that North Korea, early this week, transported two Musudan mid-range missiles by train to the east coast and loaded them on vehicles equipped with launch pads.”

Musudan missiles have an range of 4,000km, putting Japan, Guam and South Korea within its range.

The news came after a further day of tension, during which the Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that North Korea now possessed the capability to launch a nuclear strike against Britain.

The Prime Minister pointed to the escalating threats from the regime in Pyongyang as evidence of the need for the United Kingdom to retain the Trident nuclear deterrent.

The bellicose rhetoric from North Korea has escalated in recent weeks and months after sanctions were imposed on the country following a nuclear test in February.

Tensions were further inflamed last week when South Korea and the US carried out joint military drills in the region using nuclear-enabled B-2 stealth bombers.

Intelligence officials from the US, Japan and South Korea were said today to be monitoring the movement of the weapons.

The United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said today that daily reports from Pyongyang were “alarming and troubling”.

He urged North Korea to ease tensions.”Nuclear threat is not a game, it is very serious,” he said.

Today Asia experts speculated that North Korea’s latest outburst of nuclear and military threats has given the US a rare opportunity to build bridges with China and revitalize the Obama administration’s flagging policy pivot to Asia.

The architect of the administration’s Asia policy described a subtle change in Chinese thinking as a result of Pyongyang’s recent nuclear tests, rocket launches and abandonment of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war with South Korea.

Pyongyang has taken similar actions in the past, prompting Washington to increase military readiness in the region to soothe allies South Korea and Japan. But in an unusual rebuke this week, Beijing called North Korea’s moves “regrettable” — amounting to a slap from the country’s strongest economic and diplomatic supporter.

“They, I think, recognize that the actions that North Korea has taken in recent months and years are in fact antithetical to their own national security interests,” former Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told a panel Thursday at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“There is a subtle shift in Chinese foreign policy” toward North Korea, said Campbell, who retired in February as the administration’s top diplomat in East Asia and the Pacific region. “I think that they have succeeded in undermining trust and confidence in Beijing.”

Australia prepares withdrawal from South Korea

Written by 

North Korea_Kim_Jong_Un_13_March_2013

There is no indication as yet, that the New Zealand government will replicate Australia’s moves to ensure the safety of its people in South Korea.

Australia’s ‘Herald Sun’ says Defence officials are working on plans to evacuate thousands of Australians from South Korea as North Korea threatens war.

Approximately 7,000 Australians are believed to be in South Korea.

According to the Herald Sun, Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, leave for China tomorrow and will urge Beijing to take stronger action against its ally, North Korea.

Pyongyang has threatened missile and nuclear strikes against the US and South Korea in response to UN sanctions and joint military drills.

However the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not changed its advisory in terms of travel and safety in South Korea.

Despite its increasing level of rhetoric, analysts believe North Korea has no intention of starting a war.

‘The Australian’ reports that analysts consider the ominous warnings as efforts to provoke more lenient policies from South Korea; win diplomatic talks with Washington and strengthen young North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un’s image.

European diplomatic sources in the North Korean capital say there is nothing there to suggest war is imminent – no sign of conscripts being signed up, or unusual troop movements.

North Korea’s missiles may have considerable range – but they still cannot reach the US.

Nevertheless, US Secretary of Defence, Chuck Hagel, is taking the regime’s threats of a nuclear strike seriously, saying North Korea’s bellicose and dangerous rhetoric poses a real and clear danger to America and its allies, South Korea and Japan.

The Pentagon is sending ground-based THAAD missile-interceptor batteries to protect military bases on Guam, US territory that is home to 6,000 American military personnel.

Yesterday both South Korean spotted Pyongyang moving one of its Musudan mid-range missiles to the east coast – towards the coast of the Sea of Japan. The missile has an estimated range of up to 4,000 kilometres and can hit targets in South Korea, Japan and the US controlled island of Guam

According to ‘The Australian’, the Yonhap news agency reported speculation the missile may be “test fired” on April 15, the birthday of the nation’s founder Kim Il-sung.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron, told defence workers in Scotland that if North Korea can reach the US, it can also reach Europe.

He said his country would be left defenceless against the highly unpredictable and aggressive North Korean regime if it eased its own nuclear deterrent program.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cameron says the recent actions of North Korea, coupled with concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme, mean it would be foolish to scrap their fleet of nuclear missile submarines.

He says Britain needs its nuclear deterrent as much now as it did when a previous British government embarked on it over six decades ago.

Cameron says while the Soviet Union no longer exists, the nuclear threat has not gone away.

China, Russia and the UN have issued repeated calls for restraint as tension builds.

The Global Post says Chinese forces have reportedly been at the highest level of alert since March 19.

In an interview with Interfax News on Wednesday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Igor Morgulov, said Moscow is worried – and that in the current heated atmosphere, it would only need an elementary human error or mechanical failure for the situation to go out of control and plunge into a critical dive.


US warns North Korea may launch ballistic missile soon

Ынха-2 Млечный путь-2 КНДР ракета-носитель КНДР

Photo: EPA

The US intelligence says it has evidence of North Korea preparing to launch a road-mobile ballistic missile in a matter of days or weeks, according to CNN reports.

 North Korea, which unleashed another round of scathing rhetoric accusing the United States of pushing the region to the “brink of war,” could be planning a missile launch soon, a US official said Thursday.

 Communications intercepts in recent days indicated that Pyongyang could be planning to launch a mobile ballistic missile in the coming days or weeks, the official first told CNN. It’s unknown whether it would be a test or a strike.

 Seoul earlier alerted the world to Pyongyang moving a ballistic missile to North Korea’s southern border. They suspect it can be used for a missile test or war games.

 North Korea is moving its mid-range ballistic missiles to its east coast, in a series of recent moves to demonstrate its combat readiness in connection with mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. According to US and South Korean intelligence reports, the Musudan missiles are being transported towards the Sea of Japan. A statement circulated by the Korean People’s Army says Pyongyang has given a ‘final approval’ for a nuclear strike and is ready to counter threats coming from the United States by ‘striking at them with contemporary nuclear weapons’.

 Experts in Seoul say the re-deployment of North Korea’s Musudan missile is but a demonstration of strength ahead of the anniversary of the birth of the founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, celebrated on April 15th .

 But the Pentagon is taking it seriously. Speaking at the National Defense University, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the current situation precludes any mistakes.

 Musudan-class missiles have a range of about 3,000 kilometers. They can hit targets in South Korea and in neighboring Japan and are thought able to reach the island of Guam in the Pacific. Up to 50 such missiles were displayed during a military parade in Pyongyang in October 2010. Military experts say, however, that these missiles are raw and need testing.

 Nevertheless, the US plans to deploy elements of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system on Guam within the next two weeks. Washington has also sent two destroyers with missile defense systems to the South Korean coast and is moving back the chemical warfare battalion that was pulled out of South Korea in 2004.

 Meanwhile, Pyongyang has said it is withdrawing all 53,000 North Korean workers from the Kaesong joint industrial zone and has barred South Korean experts from entering the zone. US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland says such a measure will only make things worse for the North.


PAF readies evacuation plan for 40,000 Filipinos in South Korea


MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Air Force has an evacuation plan for the 40,000 Filipinos in South Korea should tensions with North Korea escalate.

“The Philippine Air Force has contingency plans in place for the repatriation and evacuation of our countrymen in foreign lands,” Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol said in a statement Tuesday.

He said there are two C-130 transport planes that could be used in the evacuation. Each plane can carry up to 120 people.

“We just finalize details like the air route, ground handling, other support systems plus DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] efforts to secure diplomatic clearance. Then we tailor it to a specific area or country as the need arise,” he added.

The last time the Air Force made a similar the same mission was in 2003, when it helped evacuate Filipinos in Myanmar.

Military buildup in China near North Korean border continues as tanks, armored vehicles spotted / Troop buildup may be a signal to Pyongyang that China will abide by its defense commitment to North Korea

Risky Business

Chinese Internet photo of a truck carrying a tank en route to an area near North Korea

Chinese Internet photo of a truck carrying a tank en route to an area near North Korea

BY:   April 3, 2013 4:59 am

China continued moving tanks and armored vehicles and flying flights near North Korea this week as part of a military buildup in the northeastern part of the country that U.S. officials say is related to the crisis with North Korea.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, sought to play down the Chinese military buildup along the border with Beijing’s fraternal communist ally despite the growing danger of conflict following unprecedented threats by Pyongyang to attack the United States and South Korea with nuclear weapons.

According to U.S. officials with access to intelligence reports, both intelligence and Internet reports from the region over the past week revealed the modest military movements in the border region that began in mid-March and are continuing.

The buildup appears linked to North Korea’s March 30 announcement that it is in a “state of war” with South Korea after the United Nations imposed a new round of sanctions following the North’s Feb. 12 nuclear test and because of ongoing large-scale joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troop and tank movements were reported in Daqing, located in northeastern Heilongjiang Province, and in the border city of Shenyang, in Liaoning Province.

Officials said one key military unit involved in the mobilization is the 190th Mechanized Infantry Brigade based in Benxi, Liaoning Province. The brigade is believed to be the PLA’s frontline combat unit that would respond to any regional conflict or refugee flows. Troops and tank movements also were reported in Dandong, in Liaoning Province.

Fighter jets were reported flying in larger numbers in Fucheng, Hebei Province, and in Zhangwu, in Liaoning Province, and Changchun, in Jilin Province.

One of China’s Russian-made Su-27 jets crashed on Sunday in Rongcheng, a city directly across the Yellow Sea from the Korean peninsula. The accident may have been part of the increased warplane activity related to the military mobilization, officials said.

The PLA movements were first reported Monday by the Free Beacon.

The buildup likely serves two goals, the officials said. One is to bolster border security in case a conflict sends large numbers of refugees from the impoverished state into China.

Additionally, the troop buildup is a signal to Pyongyang that China will abide by its defense commitment to North Korea in the event of renewed conflict.

China’s military maintains a mutual defense treaty with North Korea. The last time Chinese troops defended North Korea was during the Korean War.

U.S. officials also said there were signs of increased movement inside North Korea, specifically movement of road-mobile missile systems. One official said activity was seen at the long-range missile launch complex at Tongchang-ri on the west coast.

Pentagon press secretary George Little was asked about possible North Korean missile launches and said test flights were possible.

“We can’t rule out the possibility, obviously, that they may conduct some kind of tests or engage in some kind of provocative behavior that would cause problems,” he said. “We hope that doesn’t happen, but if history’s any guide, it could. So we really need to be ready to respond, and that’s our goal.”

Asked about the Chinese military buildup near the border, Little did not deny reports of the mobilization but referred reporters to the Chinese military for comment.

“I have seen those reports,” Little said of news reports of the Chinese border buildup. “But I would refer you to the Chinese military or the Chinese government for comment.”

Little said he was unaware of any communication between the Pentagon and the Chinese military regarding the Korean situation.

Two U.S. missile defense warships, the destroyers USS Decatur and the USS McCain, were deployed in the western Pacific to deal with any North Korean missile threats, he said. A large sea-based x-band missile defense radar also could be moved closer to Korea, he said.

“Missile defense is an important priority for us in the Asia-Pacific and elsewhere, and we are postured to protect our allies and our own interests in this region and other regions of the world,” Little told reporters at the Pentagon.

Chinese military and civilian spokesmen in Beijing made no mention of the northeast troop buildup in remarks to reporters at two briefings on Tuesday. The officials called for calm.

Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun described the current situation on the Korean peninsula as “extremely complicated and sensitive.” He said all sides should seek to ease tension and maintain regional peace and stability.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters Tuesday that “we regret” Pyongyang’s announcement that it will restart a five-megawatt nuclear reactor.

Asked if recent Chinese military exercises could increase tensions, Hong said, “We believe that war on the Korean Peninsula would not serve the interest of any party. The parties concerned have a common interest in and a joint responsibility for maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia at large. We hope that the parties concerned will act in the overall interest, remain calm, show restraint, resume dialogue and negotiations, improve relations, promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and maintain enduring peace and stability in Northeast Asia.”

However, a senior Chinese military official said Tuesday that the PLA should strengthen combat readiness to ensure victory in wars.

Gen. Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), made the comments during a visit to PLA troops in eastern China’s Jiangsu, Fujian, and Zhejiang provinces, the state-run news outlet reported.

“Military officers and soldiers must be absolutely loyal, pure and reliable and firmly follow the directions of the Central Committee of the CPC, Central Military Commission and chairman Xi [Jinping],” Fan said.

Additionally, North Korea’s government announced it would step up nuclear weapons development by adopting what Pyongyang called a “new strategic line” that seeks to bolster both economic and nuclear development together.

The government issued a decree that sought to place the position of nuclear weapons for self-defense as a higher national priority.

One step is to restart the Yongbyon reactor that had been reportedly destroyed by North Korea in 2007 under international pressure.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Monday that the U.S. government does not recognize North Korea as a nuclear weapons state.

Gen. James Thurman, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, told ABC News that the situation on the divided peninsula was as “volatile” and “dangerous” as he has seen in two years as commander.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced on Monday that it has adopted new contingency plans called “active deterrence” that would permit the military to carry out preemptive attacks against the North in the face of an imminent nuclear or missile strike.

One sign that relations had not reached a tipping point toward conflict despite the growing tensions on the peninsula is the fact that the North-South special economic zone at Kaesong remains open with South Korean workers traveling to the zone without disruption.

South Korea’s Daily NK newspaper, known for contacts inside North Korea, reported on Tuesday that a source in the country said orders for the entire country to go to a war footing were issued March 26, but only two days of lectures, rallies, and meetings for soldiers and civilians were held.

The North Korean government since then appears to have backed off the war preparations.

“They had the PSM (People’s Safety Ministry; the North Korean police force), people’s unit heads, and NSA (National Security Agency) all out there in meetings telling people they needed to stay vigilant, but people responded indifferently,” the source told the newspaper. “It was because the measures had been going on for months; nobody had any further interest in them.”


North Korea blocks access to key joint industrial zone

  • Apr 3, 2013
    • Online: Apr 03, 2013
    • Print: Apr 04, 2013
    • Last Modfied: Apr 03, 2013
SEOUL – Pyongyang told Seoul on Wednesday that it was banning access to their Kaesong joint industrial park, but said South Koreans in the complex would be allowed to leave, officials said.“The North this morning notified us that it will only allow returning trips from Kaesong and will ban trips to the complex,” Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung Suk told reporters.Kim said the North had not specified how long the ban would remain in effect.Describing the North’s move as “very regrettable,” Kim said his government’s first priority was the safety of the estimated 861 of its citizens currently in Kaesong.“We expect our people currently in the North to return safely,” he said.

The industrial complex, which lies 10 km inside the North, was established in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border cooperation.

The Kaesong industrial complex is a crucial source of hard currency for the regime in Pyongyang and seen as a bellwether of inter-Korean relations, beyond all the military rhetoric that regularly flies across the border.

The latest North Korean move fitted into a cycle of escalating tensions that prompted U.N. chief Ban Ki Moon to warn Tuesday that the situation had “gone too far” as the U.S. vowed to defend itself and regional ally South Korea.

The last time the border crossing was blocked was March 2009 in protest at a major U.S.-South Korean military exercise. It reopened a day later.

Tensions have been soaring on the Korean Peninsula since February since the North conducted its third nuclear test, having launched a long-range rocket in December.

In a rare show of force in the region, Washington has deployed nuclear-capable B-52s, B-2 stealth bombers and two destroyers to South Korean air and sea space.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, standing side-by-side with his South Korean counterpart,  Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se, denounced Tuesday an “extraordinary amount of unacceptable rhetoric” from North Korea in recent days.

“Let me be perfectly clear here today: The United States will defend and protect ourselves and our treaty ally, the Republic of Korea,” Kerry said.

He was speaking after the North triggered renewed alarm by warning it would reopen its mothballed Yongbyon reactor — its source of weapons-grade plutonium.

The recent posturing by new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “dangerous and reckless,” Kerry said.

Earlier, Ban had warned the situation was veering out of control and stressed that “nuclear threats are not a game.”

“The current crisis has already gone too far. . . . Things must begin to calm down,” the former South Korean foreign minister said, adding that negotiations were the only viable way forward.

The North shut down the Yongbyon reactor in July 2007 under a six-nation aid-for-disarmament accord, and destroyed its cooling tower a year later.

Experts say it would take six months to get the reactor back up and running, after which it would be able to produce one bomb’s worth of weapons-grade plutonium a year.

North Korea revealed it was enriching uranium at Yongbyon in 2010 when it allowed foreign experts to visit the centrifuge facility there, but insisted it was low-level enrichment for energy purposes.

The North has substantial uranium ore deposits which provide a quick route to boosting reserves of fissile material, while plutonium has the advantage of being easier to miniaturize into a deliverable nuclear warhead.

Many observers believe the North has been producing highly enriched uranium in secret facilities for years, and that the third nuclear test it conducted in February may have been of a uranium bomb.

Its previous tests in 2006 and 2009 were both of plutonium devices.

NKorea delays SKorea entry to Kaesong industrial park – May Carry out Shutdown


03   Apr   2013

North Korea on Wednesday delayed the entry of South Koreans to a joint industrial complex in a rare move amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula, the South’s Unification Ministry said.

“North Korea has not yet given us the daily permission for the entry of 484 South Koreans into Kaesong today,” a South Korean Unification Ministry spokeswoman told AFP.

The border crossing usually takes place at 8:30 am (2330 GMT), but there has been no word from the North’s officials for almost an hour, she said.

The delay sparked fears the North could carry out its threatened shutdown of the Seoul-invested industrial estate, which has continued to run during previous crises on the peninsula.

Border crossings for Kaesong, which lies 10 kilometres (six miles) inside North Korea, have been functioning normally despite soaring tensions in recent weeks between the North and the South.

The operating stability of the complex is seen as a bellwether of inter-Korean relations, and its closure would mark a clear escalation of tensions beyond all the military rhetoric.

North Korea secrecy fuels suspicions of bomb design

  • Rallying the troops: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at military officers after inspecting the Wolnae Islet Defense Detachment, near the country's western sea border with South Korea, on March 11.
    Rallying the troops: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves at military officers after inspecting the Wolnae Islet Defense Detachment, near the country’s western sea border with South Korea, on March 11. | AP
The Washington Post




  • Apr 1, 2013
    • Online: Apr 01, 2013
    • Print: Apr 02, 2013
    • Last Modfied: Apr 01, 2013
SEOUL, KYODO – U.S. officials and independent experts say North Korea appears to have taken unusual steps to conceal details about the nuclear weapon it tested in February, fueling suspicions that its scientists shifted to a bomb design that uses highly enriched uranium as the core.

At least two separate analyses of the Feb. 12 detonation confirmed that the effects of the blast were remarkably well contained, with few radioactive traces escaping into the atmosphere where they could be detected, according to U.S. officials and weapons experts who have studied the data.

U.S. officials anticipated the test and monitored it closely for clues about the composition of the bomb, which was the third detonated by North Korea since 2006. The first two devices were thought to have used plutonium extracted from a dwindling stockpile of the fissile material that North Korea developed in the late 1990s.

A successful test of a uranium-based bomb would confirm that Pyongyang has achieved a second pathway to nuclear weapons, using its plentiful supply of natural uranium and new enrichment technology. A device based on highly enriched uranium will also deepen concerns about cooperation between the hermetic regime and Iran.

North Korea’s belligerent threats in recent weeks have increased concerns among American and South Korean officials and ratcheted up worries about the level of progress on long-range missiles and nuclear weapons by Pyongyang.

There are two paths to a nuclear weapon. The bomb that the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 used highly enriched uranium as its core, and the one dropped three days later on Nagasaki was a plutonium device. North Korea has long possessed plutonium, but its enrichment of uranium is a more recent development. Iran has been concentrating on uranium enrichment, which it says is for civilian purposes.

Although North Korea and Iran have cooperated on missile technology, U.S. officials said there is no direct evidence of nuclear cooperation.

“We’re worried about it, but we haven’t seen it,” said a former senior White House official, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence assessments. “They cooperate in many areas, especially missiles. Why it hasn’t yet extended to the nuclear program is frankly a mystery.”

The prospect of a third nuclear test prompted heightened scrutiny of the Korean Peninsula by intelligence agencies from the United States and other countries. Despite the intense focus, U.S. analysts acknowledged that they did not pick up enough physical evidence to draw firm conclusions about the fissile material used in the device.

In fact, in the days following the detonation, U.S. and South Korean sensors failed to detect even a trace of the usual radioactive gases in any of the 120 monitoring stations along the border and downwind from the test site, the officials said. A Japanese aircraft recorded a brief spike of one radioactive isotope, xenon-133, but it was seen as inconclusive, the analysts said. Xenon-133 is released during nuclear weapons tests but is also given off by nuclear power plants.

The absence of physical data could suggest a deliberate attempt by North Korea to prevent the release of telltale gases, presumably by burying the test chamber deep underground and taking additional steps to prevent any radioactive leakage, according to two U.S. analysts briefed on assessments of the tests.

“There’s very little information, which suggests that the North Koreans are doing a good job of containing it,” one of the officials said.

A second analyst familiar with the data said it appears that North Korea “went to some length to try to contain releases. One possible reason to try to contain releases is secrecy, so we don’t know very much about their nuclear testing.”

The second analyst added that North Korea also appears to be worried about the reaction from China, its most important ally, in the event radioactivity drifts across the border and causes panic among residents.

Analysts said North Korea’s second nuclear test, which occurred in 2009, also left no detectable traces. Some experts pointed out that finding evidence of a nuclear blast is often a matter of luck because of the dependence on air currents and geological features at the test site. Still, it would not be surprising for North Korea to take extra steps to prevent outsiders from gaining insights into its nuclear capability, said a third U.S. official with access to classified data on the tests.

“Any country conducting a nuclear test works hard to contain it,” the official said.

U.S. intelligence agencies had positioned special aircraft in the region in hopes of picking up two or more types of radioactive isotopes from the blast. Comparing ratios of isotopes can help determine the material used in the device.

Seismology readings confirmed that the explosion occurred under a mountain near North Korea’s border with China. The readings indicated it was roughly as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Statements released by U.S. intelligence agencies have described the Feb. 12 event as a “probable” nuclear test.

North Korea’s state-run news agencies said the country had “diversified” its nuclear stockpile with the new test. The declaration underscored concerns that the North had mastered a design that uses the country’s ample supply of uranium. North Korea’s plutonium stockpile consists of only a few dozen kilograms of the gray metal, enough to build a handful of bombs. But recent visits to North Korea by U.S. nuclear experts confirmed that Pyongyang operates at least one uranium-enrichment factory, described by visitors as large, sophisticated and fully operational.

The United States was already concerned about an agreement between North Korea and Iran pledging technical and scientific cooperation. The pact was signed in Tehran in September at a ceremony attended by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Fereydoun Abbasi, the head of Iran’s nuclear energy program.

Representing the North Koreans at the signing was Kim Yong Nam, the country’s second-highest-ranking official. A decade earlier, Kim signed a similar pact with the government of Syria, an agreement that U.S. officials think led to the construction of a secret plutonium-production reactor near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour. The nearly finished reactor was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in 2007.

Although Iran and North Korea have signed technical pacts before, the September accord was seen as particularly worrisome because it appeared to imply nuclear cooperation.

In the past, North Korea and Iran assisted each other in missile development, sharing parts and data and perhaps even conducting surrogate tests for one another at times when either nation was under international pressure, said Leonard Spector, a former Energy Department official who has studied technical ties between the two countries.

Further, both countries bought black-market enrichment technology from A.Q. Khan, the rogue Pakistani scientist accused of selling nuclear secrets to foreign governments. The two countries would almost certainly benefit from exchanging data on nuclear subjects ranging from centrifuge design to uranium metallurgy, said Spector, deputy director of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Unlike sharing missile technology, which would require the movement of actual hardware, Olli Heinonen, a former senior U.N. nuclear official who inspected the programs of both countries, said the sharing of enrichment knowhow would be harder to spot.

“It would be meetings between individuals, with very little hard evidence,” said Heinonen, now a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

U.S. deploys stealth jets

U.S. F-22 stealth jets stationed in Japan participated in South Korea-U.S. joint military drills over the weekend, an official at U.S. Forces Korea said Monday.

F-22 Raptors were sent from Kadena Air Base, in Okinawa Prefecture, to South Korea’s Osan Air Base on Sunday to take part in the training, the official said.

The development comes as North Korea continues to ratchet up its bellicose rhetoric.

North Korean state media said Saturday that inter-Korean relations have entered into a state of war and that all cross-border issues will be dealt with in a wartime manner.