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Meanwhile, in North Korea....


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Kiwithrottlejockey
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« on: September 09, 2016, 07:42:09 pm »


from The Washington Post....

North Korea fires 3 missiles as G-20 continues in China

By ANNA FIFIELD | 4:37AM EDT - Monday, September 05, 2016

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang in August. — Photograph: KCNA/Reuters.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured during a test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile in this undated
photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang in August. — Photograph: KCNA/Reuters.


TOKYO — North Korea fired three medium-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, landing close to Japan, in a show of force that coincided with the meeting of leaders of the world's 20 largest economies in neighboring China.

North Korea launched the missiles, believed to be Rodongs, from a site south of Pyongyang at 12:14 p.m. local time, South Korea's military said. They flew about 600 miles and landed well inside Japan's air defense identification zone, the area in which Tokyo controls aircraft movement.

The launches, coming as the G-20 meeting continued in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou and just days before North Korea marks the 68th anniversary of the formation of its government, constituted an “armed protest,” a South Korean military spokesman said.

“We are fully prepared to fight tonight in case North Korea makes any provocative moves,” an official from South Korea's joint chiefs of staff added, according to the Yonhap News Agency, using the catch-phrase of the American and South Korean military allies.

Japan's Defense Ministry added that the missiles landed between 120 and 160 miles west of Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan's four main islands.

At the G-20 meeting, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met immediately and agreed to cooperate against North Korea.

Monday's launches were just the latest salvo in a steady series of missiles coming from North Korea. Last month, Kim Jong Un's regime claimed a “great success” in launching a ballistic missile from a submarine about 300 miles towards Japan, on top of making progress on its medium-range Musudan missile technology.

This is a particularly tense time in the region because of frictions over the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile battery that the United States will deploy to South Korea, part of their defense against North Korea.

Beijing has protested strongly against the plan, viewing it as part of an American effort to restrain a strengthening China, and worrying that the system will hone in on China's military activities.

The issue has helped close the gap between China and its erstwhile client state, North Korea, after the provocations of a nuclear test and long-range missile launch earlier this year. Beijing and Pyongyang have traditionally been “as close as lips and teeth,” as they saying goes, but Xi Jinping, China’s president, has made his disdain for the young Kim clear.

Earlier in the day, during a bilateral meeting at the G-20 with Xi, Park said she hoped Seoul and Beijing would be able to unite together against North Korea.

I “hope that through earnest communication, our two countries can turn this challenge into an opportunity to further strengthen and move forward our bilateral relationship,” Park said during a bilateral meeting with Xi, according to Yonhap.

But Xi reiterated his strong objections to Park's decision to accept the THAAD battery onto South Korean soil.

“Mishandling the issue is not conducive to strategic stability in the region and could intensify disputes,” Xi told Park, according to a report from the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.


• Anna Fifield is The Washington Post's bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related stories:

 • North Korea hails ‘greatest success’ of submarine-launched ballistic missile

 • U.S. policy on North Korea relies on China — and provokes it at the same time

 • North Korea's deputy ambassador to Britain defects from London

 • North Korean missile lands perilously close to Japan

 • North Korean missile test a failure, Seoul says


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/north-korea-fires-missiles-as-g-20-continues-in-china/2016/09/05/267c9537-738a-47ef-9a9a-87b49449174a_story.html
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« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2016, 07:42:23 pm »


from The Washington Post....

North Korea conducts fifth nuclear test
as regime celebrates national holiday


By ANNA FIFIELD | 12:24AM EDT - Friday, September 09, 2016

Japan Meteorological Agency official Gen Aoki speaks to reporters as screens display shock waves recorded earlier in the day during a news conference in Tokyo. — Photograph: Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency.
Japan Meteorological Agency official Gen Aoki speaks to reporters as screens display shock waves recorded earlier in the day
during a news conference in Tokyo. — Photograph: Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency.


TOKYO — North Korea conducted its fifth atomic test Friday morning, South Korean officials said, as Kim Jong Un's regime continues to defy international pressure aimed at making it abandon its nuclear and missile programs.

The test, which analysts said appeared to be of a large nuclear device, came at exactly 9 a.m. local time on Friday, the 68th anniversary of the formation of the communist regime by Kim Il Sung, the current leader's grandfather, and a national holiday.

It underscores North Korea's continued defiance but also the ineffectiveness of even the most recent waves of tough sanctions imposed after the nuclear test in January, analysts said.

“The whole expectation eight or nine months ago was that sanctions were finally going to bring North Korea to heel, but clearly that is not the case,” said David Kang, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California. “Clearly they respond to pressure with pressure of their own.”

Still, the international community would look for ways to inflict more pain on North Korea to punish the regime for its continued defiance, said Park Geun-hye, the South Korean president.

“North Korea's nuclear test is a grave threat to the international community and we strongly condemn it,” Park said Friday from Laos, where she had been attending the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN meeting. She cut short her trip to return immediately to South Korea.

“We will use all possible measures to increase pressure on the North,” she said, according to the Yonhap news agency. “North Korea's desperate dependence on nuclear development is testimony to Kim Jong Un's fanaticism and recklessness. North Korea's provocations will do nothing but accelerate its self-destruction.”

After the U.S. Geological Survey reported a 5.3-magnitude earthquake near Punggye-ri, the location of North Korea's previous nuclear tests, on Friday morning, South Korea’s defense ministry said it believed the Kim regime had ordered another nuclear test.

Analysts said the earthquake was artificial. “USGS is calling it an explosion because it has all the hallmarks: The waveform is sudden, unlike an earthquake, the depth is shallow, the location is the North Korean test site, and it happened on the half-hour,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia nonproliferation program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California.

“This is clearly a nuclear test,” Lewis said, estimating the size at between 10 and 20 kilotons, a size that, if confirmed, would make this the biggest of North Korea's five tests.

The governments in both South Korea and Japan convened emergency meetings to discuss the test.

In Washington, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement: “We are aware of seismic activity on the Korean Peninsula in the vicinity of a known North Korean nuclear test site. We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional partners.”

Scientists are now working to determine what kind of test it was, with Japan immediately sending two “sniffer” planes into the air. “Let's see if any gases escape the test tunnel that would give away the nature of the device,” said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review. This test seemed to have both a domestic and an international purpose, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

“Domestically, KJU wants to present himself as a strong leader standing strong against the U.S.” he said, suggesting this could be because Kim, at 32, is so young but also perhaps because recent high-level defections have raised speculation of cracks in the regime.

“Internationally, this test is designed to show that sanctions imposed against North Korea and international pressure are not working. They're urging the world to accept its failure and revise its North Korea policy,” Yang said.

Indeed, this latest test will cause consternation and hand-wringing in international capitals.

The U.N. Security Council imposed tough new sanctions in March to punish North Korea for its January nuclear test — which the regime claimed was of a hydrogen bomb — and a long-range ballistic missile test in February.

It ordered a ban on mineral exports from North Korea, a major source of income for the regime, and strict inspections of all cargo going in and out of the country. The United States followed with new financial sanctions and by designating Kim Jong Un by name for human rights abuses. South Korea has also taken a strident approach, closing an inter-Korean industrial park that had been a major source of revenue for the regime.

Still, Kim has become increasingly defiant, testing a range of missiles this year and apparently making some technological progress, including on a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

In its most recent salvo, North Korea launched three medium-range missiles on Monday as China, which had joined the international condemnation of last month's submarine-launched ballistic missile, was hosting the Group of 20 meeting. The rockets flew 620 miles, falling inside Japan's air defense identification zone.

A day after those launches, the Security Council issued its latest condemnation of the Kim regime’s activities.

“The members of the Security Council deplore all the Democratic People's Republic of Korea’s ballistic missile activities, including these launches, noting that such activities contribute to [its] development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension,” the council said in statement on Tuesday, using North Korea's official name.

Analysts expect another round of discussions on ways to put pressure on North Korea, despite the fact that the latest efforts have not had an impact.

“There's now obvious progress in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. They seem to be making precisely the technical progress that people don't want,” said Euan Graham, a security expert at the Lowy Institute in Sydney who once served as a British diplomat in Pyongyang. “North Korea is obviously prepared to take the economic pain and is able to conintue to materially supply the two programs. We're in a race to the bottom.”


Yoonjung Seo in Seoul and Ellen Nakashima and Missy Ryan in Washington contributed to this report.

• Anna Fifield is The Washington Post's bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.

__________________________________________________________________________

Related stories:

 • North Korea fires 3 missiles as G-20 continues in China

 • North Korea hails ‘greatest success’ of submarine-launched ballistic missile

 • North Korean missile lands perilously close to Japan


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/north-korea-conducts-fifth-nuclear-test-as-regime-celebrates-national-holiday/2016/09/08/9332c01d-6921-4fe3-8f68-c611dc59f5a9_story.html
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« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2016, 02:19:57 am »

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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2016, 12:58:12 pm »


from The Washington Post....

With each test, North Korea inches closer to being
able to send a nuclear-tipped missile to the U.S.


By ANNA FIFIELD | 12:35PM EDT - Friday, September 09, 2016

In this undated image made from video distributed on September 6th, 2016, by North Korean broadcaster KRT, a missile is launched during a drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. — Picture: Associated Press.
In this undated image made from video distributed on September 6th, 2016, by North Korean broadcaster KRT,
a missile is launched during a drill at an undisclosed location in North Korea. — Picture: Associated Press.


TOKYO — North Korea has taken a key step toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the mainland United States, analysts said on Friday after Kim Jong Un ordered yet another nuclear test.

The test, which Pyongyang said was a “nuclear warhead explosion,” appeared to be North Korea's biggest yet.

“It's a clear indication of progress towards developing a miniaturized nuclear warhead for North Korea's ballistic missiles,” said Alison Evans, a North Korea analyst at IHS Markit, a consultancy.

“We estimate that North Korea has an inventory of 15 or 20 nuclear weapons and that they could be put on a truck or a short-range missile. But what North Korea is aiming for is to put them on an intercontinental ballistic missile,” she said.

North Korea was officially founded 68 years ago on Friday — the day of the nuclear test — with opposition to the United States as its raison d'etre. Its propaganda lauds the protection the Kim family has provided from the “hostile” Americans.

Since early 2014, Pyongyang has also noticeably stepped up its missile testing, launching a variety of vehicles, including some long-range missiles. Last month, it successfully launched a ballistic missile from a submarine.

On Monday, North Korea launched three extended-range Scud missiles in quick succession, apparently to try to outsmart U.S. and Japanese missile-defense systems in the region.

Then, on Friday, it said it had “standardized” nuclear warheads so that it could produce “a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.”

The test showed that North Korea is “ready to retaliate against the enemies” and has “practical countermeasures to the racket of threat and sanctions” against Pyongyang, the official Korean Central News Agency said.

It is impossible to verify North Korea's claim to have mastered the technology to fit warheads to missiles, as that proof would come only with a test. And Pyongyang does have a habit of exaggerating its abilities, with its claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb in January immediately dismissed as fanciful.

But Kim's regime has clearly been working toward being able to deliver a nuclear-tipped missile on target.

In March, state media announced that North Korean scientists had miniaturized a nuclear warhead, and photos were published of Kim examining what was described as a miniaturized weapon — a mirrored device that looked like a disco ball.

While there is still considerable skepticism that North Korea has been able to make such a breakthrough, there is also an increasing assumption among military officials in South Korea and the United States that it's only a matter of time until North Korea gets there.

“Twenty years ago, the idea of North Korea being able to deliver a nuclear warhead to the U.S. seemed far-fetched,” said Sharon Squassoni, director of the proliferation prevention program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They're not there yet, but with each round of tests, they inch a little bit closer.”

But the countries in North Korea's neighborhood are already at risk, Squassoni said. “This nuclear material could be put on a boat or an airplane or even a wheelbarrow and delivered to North Korea's neighbors.”

Indeed, the way North Korea described its capabilities — linking them to an artillery unit — suggests that it is focused closer to home, said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Nonproliferation Review.

“They described this as a step that was necessary for them to mass-produce warheads for the theater, underscoring that regional powers ought to be taking this seriously,” he said.

North Korea has been hinting of more provocations to come. In an angry statement released after the U.N. Security Council condemned its submarine-launched ballistic missile test late last month, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Pyongyang warned of “deadly strikes to be made by the enraged people” of North Korea.

“Now that the U.S. posed threats to the dignity and the right to existence of the DPRK, defying its serious warning, it will continue to take a series of eventful action steps as a full-fledged military power,” the spokesman said, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.

While it is easy to dismiss North Korea's florid rhetoric as exaggeration, analysts carefully parse such statements for clues as to what Pyongyang might do next and have found that they sometimes bear out.

Dealing with North Korea will be a major challenge for the next U.S. administration, regardless of who wins the presidency. The Obama administration has generally followed a policy of “strategic patience”, trying to wait out North Korea, which, under Kim, has shown very little interest in negotiating away its nuclear program.

The international community should try to stymie North Korea's progress before it reaches its goal, Squassoni said. “It's still a little way off in the future until that capacity emerges, but we should not wait until this is a real threat before we try to deal with it.”

One immediate effect of North Korea's latest nuclear test is that it could bolster calls for South Korea to have its own nuclear weapons, said Euan Graham, a security expert at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney who once served as a British diplomat in Pyongyang.

As North Korea has made advances in its nuclear weapons technology, a small but growing number of prominent politicians and academics have been openly advocating for South Korea to have nuclear weapons, too.

“Some people in South Korea might question if the U.S.'s nuclear deterrence is enough,” Graham said, “and wonder if they should have weapons, too, or if they should be pushing for the U.S. to bring nuclear weapons back to South Korea.”

That idea was gaining traction on social media during Friday.

“I strongly support South Korea's nuke armament,” one commenter said in a forum on the Naver Internet portal, according to the Yonhap News Agency. “As I should know how to protect myself, we should defend our own country. An independent defense is the answer.”


• Anna Fifield is The Washington Post's bureau chief in Tokyo, focusing on Japan and the Koreas. She previously reported for the Financial Times from Washington DC, Seoul, Sydney, London and from across the Middle East.

__________________________________________________________________________

Read more on this topic:

 • Everything you need to know about the North Korean nuclear test

 • North Korea conducts fifth nuclear test, claims it has made warheads with ‘higher strike power’

 • These North Korean missile launches are adding up to something very troubling


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/with-each-test-n-korea-inches-closer-to-intercontinental-nuclear-capability/2016/09/09/b6823c0c-768e-11e6-9781-49e591781754_story.html
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« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2016, 04:29:20 pm »


from the Associated Press....

U.S. flies bombers over South Korea in show of force against North

By LEE JIN MAN | 10:24PM EDT - Monday, September 12, 2016

U.S. B-1 bomber, center, flies over Osan Air Base with U.S. jets in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on Tuesday, September 13th (local time). The United States has flown nuclear-capable supersonic bombers over ally South Korea in a show of force meant to cow North Korea after its fifth nuclear test and also to settle rattled nerves in the South. — Photograph: Lee Jin-man/Associated Press.
U.S. B-1 bomber, center, flies over Osan Air Base with U.S. jets in Pyeongtaek, South Korea on Tuesday, September 13th (local time).
The United States has flown nuclear-capable supersonic bombers over ally South Korea in a show of force meant to cow North Korea
after its fifth nuclear test and also to settle rattled nerves in the South. — Photograph: Lee Jin-man/Associated Press.


OSAN AIR BASE, SOUTH KOREA — The United States on Tuesday sent two nuclear-capable supersonic bombers streaking over ally South Korea in a show of force meant to cow North Korea after its recent nuclear test and also to settle rattled nerves in the South.

The B-1B bombers, escorted by U.S. and South Korean jets, were seen by an Associated Press photographer as they flew over Osan Air Base, which is 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the border with North Korea, the world's most heavily armed. The bombers were likely to return to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, without landing in South Korea.

Such flyovers are common when always high animosity rises on the Korean Peninsula, which is technically in a state of war as there has never been a peace treaty to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War.

South Korea does not have nuclear weapons and relies on the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” as a deterrent to North Korea. Washington also stations more than 28,000 troops in the South, and tens of thousands more in Japan.

North Korea is keenly aware of the U.S. presence on the peninsula and of what it considers the U.S. nuclear threat. It uses such flyovers and the American military influence in the South in its propaganda as alleged proof of U.S. hostility that it claims as the reason it needs a nuclear bomb program.

Last week's nuclear test, the North's fifth, was its most powerful to date. Pyongyang's claim to have used “standardized” warheads in the detonation makes some outsiders worry that it is making headway in its push to develop small, sophisticated warheads that can be mounted on missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland.

Nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker, who has regularly visited the North's nuclear facilities, estimates the North may have enough nuclear fuel for about 20 bombs by the end of 2016 and the ability to add about seven new bombs a year.

“Left unchecked, Pyongyang will likely develop the capability to reach the continental United States with a nuclear tipped missile in a decade or so,” Siegfried wrote on the North Korea-focused website 38 North. He said that more troubling was the recent test successes may give Pyongyang a false sense of confidence.

International diplomatic efforts to rid the North of its bombs have been stalled since the last round of meetings in late 2008. Since then, Pyongyang has ramped up both its ballistic missile and nuclear bomb development, despite an increasing raft of sanctions.

After the test, the North's nuclear weapons institute said it will take unspecified measures to further boost its nuclear capability, which analysts said hinted at a possible sixth nuclear test.

South Korea's Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said Monday that South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities believe North Korea has the ability to detonate another atomic device at any time at one of its tunnels at its main Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where the five previous atomic explosions took place.

Moon refused to say what specific evidence pointed to another possible nuclear test. But the South's Yonhap news agency, citing unidentified Seoul government sources, reported on Monday that there were signs the North had finished test preparations at one tunnel that has never been used. Yonhap did not elaborate.

Seoul, Washington and their allies have vowed to apply more pressure and sanctions after the test, the second this year.

"The United States and (South Korea) are taking actions every day to strengthen our alliance and respond to North Korea's continued aggressive behavior," Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, said in a statement.


Associated Press writers Foster Klug and Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this story.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_KOREAS_TENSIONS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2016-09-12-22-24-15
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2017, 03:15:03 am »


from The Washington Post....

As North Korea's arsenal grows, experts
see heightened risk of ‘miscalculation’


U.S. officials are no longer seeing North Korea's weapons tests as amateurish,
attention-grabbing provocations. Instead, they are viewed as evidence of
a rapidly growing threat — and one that increasingly defies solution.


By JOBY WARRICK | 8:53PM EST - Saturday, March 11, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises the launching of four ballistic missiles during a recent military drill in North Korea. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervises the launching of four ballistic missiles during a recent military drill in North Korea.
 — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.


ON THE day of North Korea's first atomic test in 2006, aides to President George W. Bush began phoning foreign capitals to reassure allies startled by Pyongyang's surprising feat. The test, aides said, had been mostly a failure: a botched, 1-kiloton cry for attention from a regime that had no warheads or reliable delivery systems and would never be allowed to obtain them.

“The current course that they are on is unacceptable,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said publicly at the time, “and the international community is going to act.”

A decade later, that confidence has all but evaporated. After a week in which Pyongyang successfully lobbed four intermediate-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, U.S. officials are no longer seeing North Korea's weapons tests as amateurish, attention-grabbing provocations. Instead, they are viewed as evidence of a rapidly growing threat — and one that increasingly defies solution.

Over the past year, technological advances in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs have dramatically raised the stakes in the years-long standoff between the United States and the reclusive communist regime, according to current and former U.S. officials and Korea experts. Pyongyang's growing arsenal has rattled key U.S. allies and spurred efforts by all sides to develop new first-strike capabilities, increasing the risk that a simple mistake could trigger a devastating regional war, the analysts said.

The military developments are coming at a time of unusual political ferment, with a new and largely untested administration in Washington and with South Korea's government coping with an impeachment crisis. Longtime observers say the risk of conflict is higher than it has been in years, and it is likely to rise further as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seeks to fulfill his pledge to field long-range missiles capable of striking U.S. cities.




“This is no longer about a lonely dictator crying for attention or demanding negotiations,” said Victor Cha, a former adviser on North Korea to the Bush administration and the Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “This is now a military testing program to acquire a proven capability.”

Pyongyang's ambition to become an advanced nuclear-armed state is not new. North Korea began building its first reactor for making plutonium more than three decades ago. Over the years, it has shown ingenuity in increasing the range and power of a stockpile of homemade short- and medium-range missiles, all based on Soviet-era designs.

Often, in the past, the new innovations have been accompanied by demands: a clamoring for security guarantees and international respect by a paranoid and nearly friendless government that perceives its democratic neighbors as plotting its destruction. After the first atomic test in 2006, then-leader Kim Jong Il threatened to launch nuclear missiles unless Washington agreed to face-to-face talks.

North Korea has been slammed instead with ever-tighter United Nations sanctions meant to cut off access to technology and foreign cash flows. Yet, despite the trade restrictions, diplomatic isolation, threats and occasional sabotage, the country's weapons programs have continued their upward march, goaded forward by dictators willing to sacrifice their citizens' well-being to grow the country's military might.

And now, in the fifth year of Kim Jong Un's rule, progress is coming in leaps.


‘A living, breathing thing’

Pyongyang's fifth and latest nuclear weapons test occurred on September 9th on the 68th anniversary of North Korea's founding. Seismic monitoring stations picked up vibrations from the underground blast and quickly determined that this one was exceptional.

Scientific analyses of the test determined that the new bomb's explosive yield approached 30 kilotons, two times the force of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. The device was twice as powerful as the bomb North Korea tested just nine months earlier, and it was 30 times stronger than one detonated in 2006 in a remote mountain tunnel. More ominously, North Korea last March displayed a new compact bomb, one that appears small enough to fit inside the nose cone of one of its indigenously produced missiles.




Regardless of whether the miniature bomb is real or a clever prop, North Korea does finally appear to be “on the verge of a nuclear breakout,” said Robert Litwak, an expert on nuclear proliferation and director of International Security Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He said Pyongyang's arsenal is believed to now contain as many as 20 nuclear bombs, along with enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to make dozens more.

“When I got into this field,” Litwak said at a symposium on North Korea this month, “I couldn't have conceived of North Korea acquiring a nuclear arsenal approaching half the size of Great Britain's.”

The country's missiles also have grown more sophisticated. Last year, North Korea's military conducted the first test of a two-stage ballistic missile that uses solid fuel — a significant advance over the country's existing liquid-fueled rockets because they can be moved easily and launched quickly. Also in 2016, North Korea broadcast images of engineers testing engines for a new class of advanced missiles with true intercontinental range, potentially putting cities on the U.S. mainland within reach.




The provocations have continued in the weeks since the inauguration of President Trump, who, just before taking office, appeared to taunt Pyongyang in a Twitter post, saying that North Korea's plan for building intercontinental ballistic missiles “won't happen”.

A month later, Kim launched one of the country's new solid-fuel missiles, interrupting Trump's Mar-a-Lago dinner with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Last week's coordinated launch of four intermediate-range missiles appeared intended to showcase the country's ability to fire multiple rockets simultaneously at U.S. military bases in Japan, increasing the likelihood that some will penetrate anti-missile shields.

North Korea's state-run media has occasionally shown propaganda footage of Kim huddling with his generals over what some analysts have jokingly called the “map of death”: a chart that portrays Japanese and U.S. mainland cities as potential targets.

The laughter has now stopped, said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korean weapons systems. “This idea that these things were just bargaining chips — something that was true years ago — is superseded by the fact that there is now a rocket force … with a commander and a headquarters and subordinate bases, all with missiles,” said Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. “This is now a living, breathing thing.”

There have been notable failures as well. Numerous test rockets have drifted far off course, and others never made it off the launchpad. Many analysts say it could still be several years before Kim can construct a true ICBM that could reliably reach the U.S. mainland, and perhaps longer before he can demonstrate an ability to incorporate a nuclear payload into his rocket design. Yet, already, the basic components for a future arsenal of long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles are in place, Lewis said.

“The ICBM program is real,” Lewis said. “They've showed us their static engine test. They showed us the mock-up of the nuclear warhead. They have done everything short of actually testing the ICBM. When they do test it, the first time it will probably fail. But eventually it will work. And when it works, people are going to freak out.”


Danger of miscalculation

For decades, the United States and its East Asian allies have tried an array of strategies to blunt North Korea's progress, ranging from diplomacy to covert operations to defensive anti-missile shields. Lately, the search for solutions has taken on an intensity not seen in years.

As diplomatic initiatives have stalled, U.S., Japanese and South Korean officials have broadened the search for measures to ensure that Pyongyang's missiles remain grounded, or — in the event of a launch — can be brought down before they reach their target. The efforts have proved to be partly successful at best.

Three years ago, alarmed by North Korea's advances on missile systems, the Obama administration ordered the Pentagon and intelligence agencies to deploy highly classified cyber and electronic measures against North Korea, largely aimed at undermining the country's nuclear and missile programs, two former senior administration officials said. Aspects of the initiatives were described in a recent report by The New York Times. The effort was further intensified last year, the officials said, in response to new intelligence assessments showing North Korea inching closer to its goal of fielding long-range ballistic missiles.

The clandestine effort begun under President Barack Obama appears to have borne fruit, judging from a rash of missile failures in the past year, said one former official familiar with the program. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret operations.

“We're stopping shipments. We're making sure things don't work the way they're supposed to,” one former official said. “We've been able to delay things, in some cases probably by a lot. It's a cat-and-mouse game.”

But the second official, familiar with the Pentagon's cyberwarfare efforts, acknowledged that North Korea remains an exceptionally difficult target because of its isolation and limited digital infrastructure. The official suggested that at least some of the recent missile failures were probably caused by North Korean errors. “I would be wary of claiming too much,” he said.

“We were trying to use all the tools that were available to us in order to degrade as much of their capabilities as possible,” a second former official said. “But we just did not have nearly as much game as we should have.”

In handoff meetings with Trump, Obama described the gathering threat in stark terms, calling it the most serious proliferation challenge facing the new administration, according to aides familiar with the discussions. The Trump White House has since convened three deputies' committee meetings on North Korea and ordered a new, top-to-bottom threat assessment. White House officials say that Trump is weighing all options, from a new diplomatic initiative to enhanced military capabilities, possibly including a highly controversial return of tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea for the first time since the early 1990s.

The administration is dispatching Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to East Asia this week to confer with counterparts in Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. And the White House is defending its decision last week to send anti-missile batteries to South Korea despite vehement opposition from China.

The initiatives have failed to calm tensions in the region. As more missiles streak across North Korea's eastern coast, Japanese and South Korean officials are pledging increased investments in defensive shields and highly accurate, conventionally armed missiles designed to pre-emptively destroy North Korean launch sites and command centers if an attack seems imminent. North Korea has responded with similar threats, describing its recent missile launches as a dry run for a pre-emptive attack on U.S. bases in Japan, the presumed staging ground for forces preparing to come to South Korea's aid if war breaks out.

In the past, such a strike would be seen as suicidal, as it would certainly result in a devastating counterattack against North Korea that would probably destroy the regime itself. But Kim is betting that an arsenal of long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles would serve as an effective deterrent, said Cha, the former Bush administration adviser.

“That's why they want to be able to reach the continental United States, so they can effectively hold us hostage,” Cha said. “Do we really want to trade Los Angeles for whatever city in North Korea?”

Such an attack on the U.S. mainland is not yet within North Korea's grasp, and U.S. officials hope they can eventually neutralize the threat with improvements in anti-missile systems. But in the meantime, each new advance increases the chance that a small mishap could rapidly escalate into all-out war, Cha said. In a crisis, “everyone is put in a use-it-or-lose-it situation, in which everyone feels he has to go first,” he said.

“The growing danger now,” he said, “is miscalculation.”


Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

• Joby Warrick joined The Washington Post's national staff in 1996. He has covered national security, the environment and the Middle East and currently writes about terrorism. He is the author of two books, including 2015's Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS, which was awarded a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction.

__________________________________________________________________________

More on this topic:

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 • VIDEO: What is THAAD and why doesn't China want it deployed in South Korea?

 • China's awkward position after North Korea's missile test

 • Defying skeptics, Kim Jong Un marks five years at the helm of North Korea


https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/as-north-koreas-arsenal-grows-experts-see-heightened-risk-of-miscalculation/2017/03/11/0a0b5cd2-05be-11e7-ad5b-d22680e18d10_story.html
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« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2017, 12:19:37 am »

look at that commie fat idiot
he eats like a pig while most his people go hungry typical commie

if he makes one silly move he will get removed from the map
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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2017, 12:21:08 am »


Meanwhile, Trump is full-of-shit.

Not only that, but he is a gutless wonder who turned into a draft-dodger when his country needed him.

His spine must be so yellow that it glows in the dark!
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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2017, 10:47:17 am »

Glad Trump was not silly enough to be cannon fodder in a war the US lost

Obama armed ISIS with help from the CIA in Syria what an arsehole

I liked the left much more when they were anti war in the 60s before they all went mad

did you ever go and fight for your country?

I bet your a pussy
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