North Korea’s launch on Sunday of its most-sophisticated missile yet offered new clues into how serious the country is in its nuclear ambitions
In the past three years, North Korea has launched more major missiles than in the three previous decades combined. That acceleration is one of the most dramatic signs of leader Kim Jong Un’s push to overhaul the country’s weapons program since he took power in late 2011. He has modernized production of nuclear and missile parts, upgraded the program within the military hierarchy and overtly pampered engineers, forcing Western leaders to worry more about Pyongyang’s intentions than ever before.
On Sunday, North Korea launched a newly developed intermediate-range missile, its 10th missile firing this year. Mr. Kim attended the test of the nuclear-capable missile and described it as a “perfect weapon system,” according to a state media report. Initial projections from several experts suggested it would be able to reach U.S. military forces in Guam.
Even apparent failed missile launches, like one that blew up within minutes on April 28, are now seen by independent experts as signs of North Korea’s progress. Learning from those failures would move the regime closer to its ultimate goal of mastering a long-range missile that could threaten the U.S. with nuclear attack.
North Korea warns that nuclear-armed missile can strike U.S. territory:
For decades, Mr. Kim’s father and grandfather used the country’s missile program to gain leverage in diplomatic talks and revenue from weapon exports. Technological advances came slowly. That changed when Kim Jong Il died and was succeeded by his youngest son, believed to be 33 years old.
The dictator has shown no interest in negotiating with the U.S. about the missile program, and North Korea’s nuclear ambition and skill are advancing much more quickly.
The country is conducting missile tests with the frequency needed to ensure the weapons can be reliably used in conflict. A range of recent breakthroughs has forced the U.S. and its allies to review their missile defenses.
Could North Korea trigger a nuclear war?
“Kim Jong Un very much wants to reach out and touch the homeland,” Gen. Lori Robinson, head of the U.S. Northern Command, the part of the military responsible for defending the U.S. mainland, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April.
Tackling the threat could become an early point of tension between U.S. President Donald Trump, who is trying to pressure Pyongyang into changing course, and new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who favors diplomacy and economic engagement with North Korea. North Korea has said through state media that it has no choice but to advance its nuclear and missile development to defend itself from attack. It has said its weapons program is impervious to sanctions and is already capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile. source
U.S. special operations forces are set to conduct operations against North Korean nuclear, missile, and other weapons of mass destruction sites in any future conflict, the commander of Special Operations Command told Congress Tuesday.
Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas stated in testimony to a House subcommittee that Army, Navy, and Air Force commandos are based both permanently and in rotations on the Korean peninsula in case conflict breaks out.
The special operations training and preparation is a warfighting priority, Thomas said in prepared testimony. There are currently around 8,000 special operations troops deployed in more than 80 countries.
North Korea says they’re ready to face the American military:
“We are actively pursuing a training path to ensure readiness for the entire range of contingency operations in which [special operations forces], to include our exquisite [countering weapons of mass destruction] capabilities, may play a critical role,” he told the subcommittee on emerging threats.
“We are looking comprehensively at our force structure and capabilities on the peninsula and across the region to maximize our support to U.S. [Pacific Command] and [U.S. Forces Korea]. This is my warfighting priority for planning and support.”
Disclosure of the commander’s comments comes as tensions remain high on the peninsula. President Trump has vowed to deal harshly with North Korea should another underground nuclear test be carried out. Test preparations have been identified in recent weeks, U.S. officials have said.
Trump said on Sunday that China appears to be pressuring North Korea but that he would be upset if North Korea carries out another nuclear test.
“If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy,” he said on CBS Face the Nation. Asked if his unhappiness would translate into a U.S. military response, Trump said: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”
Gen. Thomas’ testimony did not include details of what missions the commandos would carry out.
A spokesman for the Special Operations Command referred questions about potential operations in Korea to the Pacific Command.
Special forces troops would be responsible for locating and destroying North Korean nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems, such as mobile missiles. They also would seek to prevent the movement of the weapons out of the country during a conflict.
Special operations missions are said by military experts to include intelligence gathering on the location of nuclear and chemical weapons sites for targeting by bombers. They also are likely to include direct action assaults on facilities to sabotage the weapons, or to prevent the weapons from being stolen, or set off at the sites by the North Koreans.
A defense official said U.S. commandos in the past have trained for covert operations against several types of nuclear facilities, including reactors and research centers. Scale models of some North Korean weapons facilities have been built in the United States for practice operations by commandos.
The most secret direct action operations would be carried out by special units, such as the Navy’s Seal Team Six or the Army’s Delta Force.
Thomas said the command in January took over the role of coordinating Pentagon efforts to counter weapons of mass destruction from the Strategic Command. The mission includes stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction and dealing with the aftermath of such weapons’ use.
North Korea is believed to have around 20 nuclear devices and is developing nuclear warheads small enough to be carried on long-range missiles. It also has stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological warfare agents.
Many of North Korea’s nuclear facilities are believed to be located underground in fortified locations spread around the country.
The last rotation of special operations forces to South Korea took place in February when parts of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the 75th Ranger Regiment joined South Korean troops for training.
The United States has a message for North Korea:
A great video of the US Military sending it’s most deadly message to the leadership of the North Korean Military in Military exercise. “This exercise is yet another example of the strength and resolve of the combined U.S. and the ROK naval force,” said Rear Adm. James Kilby, commander, Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. “The U.S. and the Republic of Korea share one of the strongest alliances in the world and we grow stronger as an alliance because of our routine exercises here in South Korea and the close relationship and ties that we forge from operating at sea together.”
The training took place in mountainous parts of South Korea in a bid to simulate the rough terrain commandos would experience during operations in North Korea. Other training took place on the seas.
Gen. Thomas, in his testimony, identified North Korea as one of five “current and enduring” military threats outlined in a new military strategy produced by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The four other threats are terrorism, Russia, Iran, and China.
Asked about the new strategy, a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said the latest national military strategy is secret. “A classified [National Military Strategy] will make it more difficult for adversaries to develop counter-strategies and also enables the chairman to give the best military advice to the president and secretary of defense,” Navy Capt. Greg Hicks said.
The command “has recently focused more intently on the emerging threat that is of growing concern to us as well as most of our DoD teammates—the nuclear threat of an increasingly rogue North Korea,” Thomas said.
“Although previously viewed as a regional threat, North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles, facilitated by a trans-regional network of commercial, military, and political connections, make it a threat with global implications,” the four-star general added.
South Korea’s special operations forces are said to be highly trained but lack the advanced equipment used by American commandos, such as stealth helicopters and aircraft as well as other high technology and advanced weaponry.
A Pentagon report on North Korea’s military published in February 2016 states that North Korea continues to advance its nuclear program.
The North Koreans announced in September 2015 that the nuclear facilities at Yongbyon including a uranium enrichment plant and a reactor that were upgraded for the purpose of building nuclear forces, the report said.
Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris said in congressional testimony last week that North Korea is an immediate threat to the security of the United States and the Asia Pacific region.
“With every test, Kim Jong Un moves closer to his stated goal of a preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities, and he’s not afraid to fail in public,” Harris said. source
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.
Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedeviled multiple U.S. presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.
“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.
Donald Trump: “Major, major” conflict with North Korea possible
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday a major conflict with North Korea is possible in the standoff over its nuclear and missile programs, but he would prefer a diplomatic outcome to the dispute. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
In other highlights of the 42-minute interview, Trump was cool to speaking again with Taiwan’s president after an earlier telephone call with her angered China.
He also said he wants South Korea to pay the cost of the U.S. THAAD anti-missile defense system, which he estimated at $1 billion, and intends to renegotiate or terminate a U.S. free trade pact with South Korea because of a deep trade deficit with Seoul.
Asked when he would announce his intention to renegotiate the pact, Trump said: “Very soon. I’m announcing it now.”
Trump also said he was considering adding stops to Israel and Saudi Arabia to a Europe trip next month, emphasizing that he wanted to see an Israeli-Palestinian peace. He complained that Saudi Arabia was not paying its fair share for U.S. defense.
XI ‘TRYING VERY HARD’
Trump said North Korea was his biggest global challenge. He lavished praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese assistance in trying to rein in Pyongyang. The two leaders met in Florida earlier this month.
“I believe he is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.
“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something, perhaps it’s possible that he can’t,” Trump said.
Trump spoke just a day after he and his top national security advisers briefed U.S. lawmakers on the North Korean threat and one day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press the United Nations Security Council on sanctions to further isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
The Trump administration on Wednesday declared North Korea “an urgent national security threat and top foreign policy priority.” It said it was focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure, including Chinese cooperation in containing its defiant neighbor and ally, and remained open to negotiations.
U.S. officials said military strikes remained an option but played down the prospect, though the administration has sent an aircraft carrier and a nuclear-powered submarine to the region in a show of force.
Any direct U.S. military action would run the risk of massive North Korean retaliation and huge casualties in Japan and South Korea and among U.S. forces in both countries.
‘I HOPE HE’S RATIONAL’
Trump, asked if he considered North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to be rational, said he was operating from the assumption that he is rational. He noted that Kim had taken over his country at an early age.
“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age.
“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational,” he said. source
North Korea has warned “nuclear war could break out at any moment” as the country vowed to test missiles weekly
The country’s foreign minister threatened the US with an “all out war” if Trump is “reckless enough to use military means” in a terrifying show of force from the hermit state.
Han Song-Ryol said: “We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.”
US weighing options after North Korea missile test:
Speaking in a press conference from Pyongyang, Song-Ryal said it is “crystal clear” Trump is “hell bent” on prompting war with North Korea.
He added: “A nuclear war could break out at any moment on the Korean Peninsula.
“The United States are disturbing the peace and global stability, insisting in a gangster logic.”
North Korea “on the brink of war” with the U.S.?
It was earlier revealed most of North Korea’s military bases are buried deep underground and in mountains.
Experts says it is the most heavily-fortified country in the world. source
North Korea has attempted to fire a missile it introduced just hours ago at a military parade – but the launch was an embarrassing failure after the weapon blew up almost immediately.
EDITOR’S NOTE: North Korea made good on their threat to launch a “game changer” missile this weekend, but a funny thing happened on the way to the launch. Seconds after the missile was fired, it blew up. Was that because the United States sabotaged the launch, or because of failure on the part of the North Korean military? We may never know, but either way Kim Jong-Un has egg foo young all over his face.
It is thought to be one of the country’s new ‘game-changer’ intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) which was revealed to the world in a display of military might yesterday.
The South Korean defence ministry said it had detected a failed launch from Sinpo – where North Korea’s biggest submarine base is located.
According to a military official the weapon is ‘presumed to be a new ICBM’ as it is longer than the existing KN-08 or KN-14 missiles.
The South Korean defence ministry said in a statement: ‘North Korea attempted to test an unidentified type of missile from Sinpo area in the South Hamkyong Province this morning, but we suspect the launch has failed.’
In a statement, the US military said: ‘U.S. Pacific Command detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:21 a.m. Hawaii time April 15.
‘The launch of the ballistic missile occurred near Sinpo.
‘The missile blew up almost immediately. The type of missile is still being assessed. ‘U.S. Pacific Command is fully committed to working closely with our allies in the Republic of Korea and in Japan to maintain security.’
It comes just hours after North Korea unveiled new weapons during a display of the country’s military might as Kim Jong-Un warned of an ‘annihilating strike’ if the US attacks.
President Donald Trump had previously pledged to ‘take care’ of the issue following his surprise cruise missile attack on Syria over its use of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile Pyongyang threatened ‘catastrophic consequences’ when Trump sent an armada of warships to the Korean Peninsula.
At the same time, China has moved 150,000 troops to its border to deal with a possible influx of North Korean refugees amid fears Trump may strike Kim following the surprise US missile attack on Syria last week. source