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Iran, North Korea Secretly Developing New Long-Range Rocket Booster for ICBMs

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with top North Korean official Kim Yong Nam / AP

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meets with top North Korean official Kim Yong Nam / AP

Iranian missile group delegation visited Pyongyang as Geneva nuclear talks were underway

The Washington Free Beacon

BY: Bill Gertz

November 26, 2013 5:00 am

Iranian missile technicians secretly visited North Korea as part of joint development of a new rocket booster for long-range missiles or space launchers at the same time nuclear talks took place in Geneva, according to U.S. officials.

Several groups of technicians from the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), a unit in charge of building Iran’s liquid-fueled missiles, traveled to Pyongyang during the past several months, including as recently as late October, to work on the new, 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Koreans, according to officials familiar with intelligence reports.

The booster is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to be intended for a new long-range missile or space launch vehicle that could be used to carry nuclear warheads, and could be exported to Iran in the future.

Recent U.S. intelligence assessments have said that both North Korea and Iran are expected to have missiles capable of hitting the United States with a nuclear warhead in the next two years.

The Iranian cooperation reveals that the nuclear framework agreement concluded Sunday in Geneva has not slowed Tehran’s drive for missiles that can deliver a nuclear warhead to intercontinental range.

One official described the new booster as a thruster for a “super ICBM” or a heavy-lift space launcher.

“It is completely new from what they have done so far,” the official said.

Read Fully Story: Iran, North Korea Secretly Developing New Long-Range Rocket Booster for ICBMs

North Korea reactor situation not “clear”: UN nuclear chief

Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Posted by : Asharq Al-Awsat
on : Thursday, 12 Sep, 2013
A file satellite handout image from DigitalGlobe dated March 2, 2002, shows the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea, some 90 kilometers north of the capital, Pyongyang. (EPA/DIGITALGLOBE/HANDOUT)A file satellite handout image from DigitalGlobe dated March 2, 2002, shows the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea, some 90 kilometers north of the capital, Pyongyang. (EPA/DIGITALGLOBE/HANDOUT)

North Korea had announced plans to reopen a reactor capable of making weapons-grade plutonium in April
Vienna, Reuters—The UN nuclear watchdog is aware of reports that North Korea may have restarted a reactor capable of producing plutonium for weapons, but does not yet have a “clear understanding” of the situation there, its chief said on Thursday.A US research institute and a US official said on Wednesday that satellite imagery suggested North Korea had restarted a research reactor at its Yongbyon nuclear complex.

“As we don’t have inspectors there, we don’t have anything for sure,” Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told reporters in Vienna.

The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies said a satellite image from August 31 showed white steam rising from a building near the hall that houses the plutonium production reactor’s steam turbines and electric generators.

Pyongyang announced in April that it would revive the aged Yongbyon research reactor, which yields bomb-grade plutonium, saying it was seeking a deterrent capacity.

The US ambassador to the IAEA, Joseph Macmanus, said the IAEA board of governors this week “reiterated overwhelmingly” that North Korea must cease all nuclear activities immediately and refrain from taking any steps to restart its nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.

Amano, attending a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board, declined to say whether the IAEA, which follows the North’s nuclear program via satellite images, had seen any steam coming from the site.

Asked whether it was a worrying development, he said: “As we don’t have a clear understanding [of the situation], we cannot make a comment.”

IAEA inspectors have not been allowed into North Korea to undertake verification of its nuclear activities, including the research reactor there, since April 2009, agency spokeswoman Gill Tudor said.

“The agency continues its monitoring of the [North's] nuclear activities by available means, such as satellite imagery analysis,” Tudor said in an e-mail.

The nuclear diplomacy of North Korea and Iran

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

JPost

By YONAH JEREMY BOB

08/19/2013 22:19

Analysis: A future failure with one country could embolden the other “rogue” nation to abandon talks yet again.

New North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un

New North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un Photo: REUTERS
Where to begin is a common question at the start of any project, and an investigation into the reciprocal relationship between North Korea and Iran vis-a-vis the nuclear issue is no different.

One could start with North Korea’s seeming readiness in recent days to reopen the joint Kaesong industrial complex with South Korea, which had been offline since April, and generally move back toward negotiations and away from the high-stakes provocations that characterized the first half of 2013.

Why is Pyongyang switching course yet again, having changed direction between engagement and provocation many times over the last 20 years? There are obvious North Korea-specific reasons.

The country is in a perpetual state of having millions of its people starve for lack of food.

Its two main goals in negotiating with the US and its neighbors in the “six-party talks” have generally been described as: the receipt of large amounts of food aid to avoid mass starvation and collapse of the state; a broad treaty ensuring the US and other nations’ respect for its permanent sovereignty; and concrete guarantees that they will not attempt a regime change.

Another mitigating factor is a June high-level summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barack Obama.

The one country North Korea cannot ignore is China, and with many areas of American-Chinese disagreement set, China likely wanted North Korea to become a more stable and less distracting issue – and applied pressure toward that end.

There have been inconclusive reports about internal factions fighting over a more provocative or more engaging policy under still relatively new ruler Kim Jong-un.

However, Iran could also be part of the formula.

Interestingly enough, North Korea’s first step in proclaiming it was ready to return to negotiations about reopening the joint industrial complex and toward engagement was not merely timed to coincide with the China-US Summit, but was also the same day that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected.

While nothing concrete has materialized, Rouhani was an Iranian nuclear negotiator from October 2003 to August 2005, and is widely viewed as ready to take a more moderate stance in nuclear negotiations than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Beyond the immediate short-term tactical situation, many view Iran and North Korea’s return to negotiations and engagement after the US’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 (and Libya’s dismantling of its nuclear program) as a sign that each viewed the American aggression as a reason both to press forward with a nuclear program for self-preservation and to show greater readiness to negotiate, fearing possible action by Washington.

There is also evidence over the years that sometimes Iran has retreated from possible concessions after watching North Korea “get away” with various provocations, such as missile launches and its three nuclear weapons tests.

Commentators debate how much reciprocal impact there is between the countries. Some note that Iran’s main reason at this point for developing nuclear weapons may be to achieve greater regional hegemony, while North Korea is much weaker than its neighbors – if one were to discount the nuclear issue – and does not appear to have ambitions toward unseating or replacing other powers in the region.

But it is hard to argue, in the age of globalization, that the two “rogue” states do not watch each other’s tactics and the subsequent reactions from the West.

Moreover, while their negotiating strategies with the US and other countries urging them to end their nuclear programs have differed, both in their own ways have succeeded in extracting various concessions over the years while continuing to advance their nuclear programs – whatever the costs in sanctions.

To the extent that there is a pattern, the tone of how the two negotiating tracks are currently viewed by most in the West is once again cautiously optimistic.

But both tracks are again back to only the preliminary stages of sending positive vibes, and as numerous failed negotiations have shown, a future failure with one country could embolden the other “rogue” nation to abandon talks yet again.

Panama intercepts N. Korea ship with suspected arms

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Panama intercepts N. Korea ship with suspected arms

france24.com

Panama on Monday stopped a North Korean vessel that President Ricardo Martinelli said had sailed from Cuba and tried to illegally sneak suspected sophisticated missile material through the Panama Canal.

Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli on Monday said authorities there had seized a North Korean-flagged ship travelling from Cuba with suspected sophisticated missile material.

“The world needs to sit up and take note: you cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal,” Martinelli told Radio Panama.

“We had suspected this ship, which was coming from Cuba and headed to North Korea, might have drugs aboard, so it was brought into port for search and inspection,” he said, describing a dramatic scene in which the ship’s captain tried to kill himself.

“The captain  tried to commit suicide, and the crew also rioted,” when police moved in, Martinelli said. “So we are holding this vessel for further investigation.”

“When we started to unload the shipment of sugar we located containers that we believe to be sophisticated missile equipment, and that is not allowed,” Martinelli said.

Missile history

Cuba is the only one-party Communist regime in the Americas, and a rare ally of North Korea.

North Korea defiantly carried out its third nuclear weapons test in February and threatened to attack the United States, in language that was shrill even by the usual standards of the reclusive state’s bombastic rhetoric.

Cuba’s coast lies just 90 miles from the United States’ southeastern flank.

In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war at the height of the Cold War.

US and Soviet leaders had a 13-day political and military standoff in October 1962 over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuban soil.

Disaster was avoided when Washington agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s offer to remove the missiles in exchange for a US pledge not to invade Cuba.

Then US president John F. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove US missiles from Turkey.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The John Batchelor Show

Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re:  Green Chariot + Silk Cocoon – programs to create ICBMs and deliver nuclear warheads.

July 01, 2013

Listen Here

Revealed: Iran’s secret nuke deal with China, N. Korea

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

07/02/2013

Collaboration aims for warheads capable of striking U.S.

WND

By: REZA KAHLILI

Iran is well launched on two programs with North Korean and Chinese help to develop nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems with the goal of having both ready in less than a year, according to an intelligence officer of the regime.

The first program, code-named “Green Chariot,” a joint Iran-North Korea effort begun in 2008, seeks to complete the Islamic regime’s nuclear bomb program, said the source, who cannot be named for security reasons. The secret agreement, which would confront perceived threats from America and Israel, expanded collaboration on developing uranium nuclear warheads, producing and assembling centrifuges for enrichment, establishing underground facilities and working on mobile enrichment facilities.

The second program, code-named “Silk Cocoon,” expands the first program by developing intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads and with a capability to strike at the United States, England and France; other ballistic missiles could target Israel.

This collaboration, agreed to by North Korea and elements in the Chinese military, exported parts and new technology to Iran along with anti-missile batteries and surface-to-air batteries.

The agreement was signed by a “Mr. K.Y-N” of North Korea and by a “Maj. Gen. Z.C.” of China and witnessed by Iranian officials as investors in the project. Only nine individuals were involved in the agreement. Trusted contacts have been used through various international commercial and banking channels without knowledge of the agreement’s details.

Become a part of the investigative reporting team uncovering the truths about Iran, and get author Reza Kahlili’s “A Time to Betray” about his life as a double agent inside Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

Three North Korean officials, including former premier Choe Yong-rim, and three Chinese officials, including a former chief of China National Nuclear Corp., joined these three Iranian officials in signing the agreement:

• Ahmad Vahid Dastjerdi, a Revolutionary Guard commander and major general and head of the protection of intelligence unit in the supreme leader’s office.

• Ahmad Vahidi, a former commander of the Quds Forces and current defense minister. He is wanted by Interpol for his involvement in the Jewish Community Center bombing of Buenos Aires in 1994.

• Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, the father of the Iranian nuclear bomb program.

The cost of the programs, which consist of three phases, has been estimated at $3.8 billion with 68 percent of the budget going to exports of technology and equipment from China and 32 percent for North Korean assistance. The first two phases were completed respectively in 2010 and 2012, according to the source.

One Chinese official, as the representative for the Chinese general, received $97 million in five transactions from Iran through banking channels in Malaysia; other transactions took place with collaboration of the Islamic Investments Bank. Another part of the financial transactions took place openly in 2010 through oil and drilling contracts with the Iranian company Hava Kish, located and registered on the Persian Gulf’s Kish Island, with Chinese petroleum companies. Part of that payment ensured the transfer of plans for miniaturizing nuclear bombs and in building nuclear warheads with guarantees on accuracy and the capability to arm such warheads on the Iranian Shahab 3 and North Korean No-Dong ballistic missiles. The nuclear program consisted of three phases:

Phase 1: Completion of infrastructure for uranium enrichment facilities and equipment, production of parts and then the assembly for newer cascades to enrich uranium both in Iran and North Korea. The intention was to have the capacity to produce up to 75,000 centrifuges. An Iranian official then invested $640 million in four companies related to the Chinese nuclear industry.

Phase 2: Transfer of Chinese plans, equipment, material and technology for forming, placing and making operational facilities to build uranium nuclear warheads, which was done through North Korea beginning in 2010 with construction work started by the Iranians at three secret locations.

Phase 3: This phase, already well underway, would develop nuclear warheads and marry them up with missiles and, according to the source, is scheduled to be completed by January 2014 to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and the Decade of Fajr.

The source said two Pakistani technicians and members of the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science entered Iran several months ago to help with uranium 235 pushers, graphite shock absorbers, electrical detonators and molding and placement of uranium 235.
Phase 3 calls for Iran and North Korea to conduct uranium nuclear bomb tests in the 50-kiloton range while Iran showcases its intercontinental ballistic missiles. The plan calls for making at least 10 nuclear warheads per year.

Bill Gertz of the Washington Beacon reported on June 28 that U.S. intelligence agencies had recently detected Iranian tests of a large rocket motor. One U.S. official said, “This engine could be used for an ICBM.”

Despite the Islamic regime being under crippling U.N., U.S. and EU sanctions, it has refused to stop its illicit nuclear program. Over a decade of negotiations with talks as recent as April with the 5+1 world powers have failed.

Iran’s nuclear energy chief, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, speaking to journalists in Russia on June 28, stated that nuclear fuel enrichment would “continue in line with our declared goals” and “the enrichment linked to fuel production will also not change.” Iran has declared that its nuclear activity is for peaceful purposes only.

A March WND exclusive revealed Iran’s latest secret nuclear site, named Quds (Jerusalem), which consists of 380 missile depots and facilities for regime scientists to work on nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles.

A U.S. nuclear weapons-effects test expert, who could not be named but who served at the U.S. Defense Nuclear Agency and who inspected more than 200 tunnel structures of Russian nuclear test sites as well as Russian operational facilities and silos, viewed the imagery of Iran’s new secret facility.

“The site is similar to a common approach by several other nuclear-capable countries which have used advanced design in hardening these types of tunnels or garages for a quick deployable system,” he said. “I understand exactly what Iran has at the site … the overheads indicate there are many apparent tunnel portals designed to hold a weapon and/or an operational controlling element (support system) for the weapons, an indication of an advanced design for a quick deployable nuclear weapons system capable of surviving retaliation. … This layout is very scary because it is … ready for the operational weapon systems to be installed, and then they are ready to take on the world.”

Watch video on the revelation of Iran’s secret nuclear site “Quds”:

Reza Kahlili, author of the award-winning book “A Time to Betray,” served in CIA Directorate of Operations, as a spy in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, counterterrorism expert; currently serves on the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, an advisory board to Congress and the advisory board of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran (FDI). He regularly appears in national and international media as an expert on Iran and counterterrorism in the Middle East.

Obama: North Korea’s crisis-for-concession days ‘over’

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

 7 May 2013 Last updated at 16:55 ET

President Obama: North Korea will no longer be rewarded for provocative behaviour.

North Korea will no longer be rewarded for provocative behaviour, US President Barack Obama has said at a joint news conference with South Korea’s leader.

Flanked by President Park Geun-hye, Mr Obama told a White House briefing North Korea was more isolated than ever.

Ms Park is on her first foreign trip since taking office in February.

Ahead of their meeting, US officials said North Korea had moved two medium-range missiles from a coastal launch site, lowering tensions.

‘Deterrent’

“Start Quote

The international community must consistently send the message with one voice, to tell them… that they have no choice but to change”

Park Geun-hyePresident, South Korea

“The days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions, those days are over,” Mr Obama told Tuesday’s briefing after meeting privately with Ms Park in the Oval Office.

He added: “President Park and myself very much share the view that we are going to maintain a strong deterrent, we’re not going to reward provocative behaviour, but we remain open to the prospect of North Korea taking a peaceful path.

“So far, at least, we haven’t seen actions on the part of the North Koreans that would indicate they’re prepared to move in a different direction,” he said.

The visit by Ms Park, South Korea’s first female president, came as the US and South Korea mark 60 years of their military alliance.

Tension

Ms Park said her country would not tolerate what she called North Korean aggression and escalation.

“Instead of just hoping to see North Korea change, the international community must consistently send the message with one voice, to tell them and communicate to them that they have no choice but to change,” she said.

Pyongyang was believed to have been preparing for a missile launch last month, having threatened attacks in the region.

The threats followed tough new UN sanctions imposed on North Korea in March after its third nuclear test.

North Korea has also been angered by wide-ranging annual US-South Korea military drills, which ended a week ago.

Meanwhile, the state-owned Bank of China said it was halting transactions from North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank on Tuesday.

It is thought to be the first time that a Chinese entity has made a move against North Korean interests following the recent tension.

Iranian troops face Israel from Syria. US video shows upgraded bunker buster

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

DEBKAfile Special Report May 3, 2013, 3:12 PM (GMT+02:00)

Iranian Basij militiamen land in Syria

Iranian Basij militiamen land in Syria

US officials recently gave Israel a video demonstration of the new features which enable its biggest bunker buster bomb (Massive Ordnance Penetrator) to destroy Iran’s underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordo near Qom, in a bid to dissuade Israel from a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

This is reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The video displayed the improved bomb, which Israel does not have, as hitting the ground near its target and setting off a massive underground explosion.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report that this videotaped demonstration was in line with the Obama administration’s latest campaign to convince Israel that the US is getting ready to strike Iran itself.

In actual fact, the improved American MOP is not news – any more than the Israeli Air Force’s possession of bombs capable of penetrating the Fordo underground plant.  This capability has given Israeli officials the confidence to assert that Israel can destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities on its own.

What Washington has in common with Jerusalem is that while both make no secret of their capabilities – and Israeli leaders are also free with threatening rhetoric – neither is actually exercising them.

The only parties on the move are Iran and Hizballah.

At the end of the week, DEBKAfile’s military sources report that both established a military presence in Syria and Lebanon, just across Israel’s two northern borders. An Iranian airlift placed Iranian boots on the ground in Syria for the first time in more than two years of its civil war. It was also the first time Israel had ever seen uniformed Iranian soldiers present at close quarters on the soil of a close neighbor.

The arrivals are members of the violent Basij volunteer militia which is trained in urban combat tactics for suppressing anti-regime unrest in Iranian cities. They are the first Iranian troops to confront Syrian rebels in combat. Roughly 6,000-8,000 militiamen have arrived so far – a figure comparable to the size of the Hizhballah elite units fighting for Bashar Assad in Syria.

The Basij militiamen were stationed in Damascus and sent to guard Syrian Shiite border villages situated opposite Hizballah-controlled South Lebanon. This deployment has placed Iranian troops opposite the intersection of the Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese borders.

Iran’s expanding military intervention in Syria accounts partly for this week’s surprise call-up of thousands of Israeli reservists for duty on the country’s northern borders. Although they were sent home after 24 hours to disguise their mission and calm rising tensions, they were in fact ordered to report back Sunday, May 5. These reservists will then pick up the gear and weapons needed for real combat, and take up positions along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon.

Sirens blared over parts of the Golan Friday, May 3, their sensors touched off by the preparations for these military movements. The official pretext offered of a “technical glitch” was about as convincing as the Israeli military spokesman’s attempt to deny knowing who sent a drone from Beirut towards Israel on April 25.

The sirens on the Golan were apparently not loud enough to be heard in Washington and Jerusalem.

U.S. calls for shutting down Iran, North Korea arms networks

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

A rocket is carried by a military vehicle during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang April 15, 2012 in this picture released by North Korea's KCNA on April 16, 2012. South Korea's YTN TV later cited military sources and analysts as saying the rocket is a new long-range missile, presumed to be a ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 km (3,700 miles). REUTERS/KCNA

A rocket is carried by a military vehicle during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang April 15, 2012 in this picture released by North Korea’s KCNA on April 16, 2012. South Korea’s YTN TV later cited military sources and analysts as saying the rocket is a new long-range missile, presumed to be a ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 km (3,700 miles).

Credit: Reuters/KCNA

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA | Fri May 3, 2013 8:42am EDT

(Reuters) – The United States said on Friday that Iran and North Korea were trying to obtain high-tech materials linked to their nuclear programs in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Iran was also sending weapons and ammunition to Syrian government forces despite a ban, said Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation.

“Both Iran and North Korea have developed channels that enable them to continue to export and continue to procure the items they need for their weapons industry,” he told a news briefing in Geneva.

In comments to Reuters, he made clear he was referring to high-tech materials related to nuclear and other programs, including conventional weapons.

Iran and North Korea are under U.N. sanctions banning sales of nuclear, missile and related high-tech material to them as well as the export of any military material, Countryman said.

There was a determined international effort to enforce the U.N. sanctions and prevent such trade, he said.

Regarding Iran’s alleged efforts, he said: “Certain Iranian procuring agents in high-tech places like China push very hard.”

Asked about any cooperation between Iran and North Korea in nuclear matters, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of not being identified, said: “They have contacts. We are watching it.

Western experts say the two countries have cooperated on ballistic missile development and there is concern that cooperation may extend to the nuclear field, though no such link has been proven.

North Korea, which conducted a third nuclear test in February, continues development of nuclear technology and long-range ballistic missiles that will move it closer to its stated goal of being able to hit the United States with an atomic weapon, a Pentagon report said on Thursday.

Countryman led the U.S. delegation to a two-week session that reviewed progress in implementing the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that aims to prevent the spread of atomic weapons. The Geneva talks end on Friday.

“Obviously, more needs to be done in order for the regime in Iran to hear the message that it must seriously address its non-compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said.

Critics say Iran is trying to achieve the ability to make nuclear bombs. Tehran denies this, saying it needs nuclear power for energy generation and medical purposes.

Negotiators from the European Union and Iran will meet in Istanbul this month to discuss future diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Pentagon report: North Korea could eventually reach U.S. with nuclear arms

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

The Pentagon. (AFP)

Friday, 3 May 2013

Reuters, Washington -

North Korea’s continuing development of nuclear technology and long-range ballistic missiles will move it closer to its stated goal of being able to hit the United States with an atomic weapon, a new Pentagon report to Congress said on Thursday.

The report, the first version of an annual Pentagon assessment required by law, said Pyongyang’s Taepodong-2missile, with continued development, and might ultimately be able to reach parts of the United States carrying a nuclear payload if configured as an intercontinental ballistic missile.

North Korea launched a multi-stage rocket that delivered a satellite into orbit in December, an advance that “contributes heavily” to the country’s development of a long-range ballistic missile capability, the report said.

It is also continuing to refine its atomic weapons capability, including with a nuclear detonation in February, and is capable of conducting “additional nuclear tests at any time,” the report said.

“These advances in ballistic-missile delivery systems, coupled with developments in nuclear technology … are in line with North Korea’s stated objective of being able to strike the U.S. homeland,” the report said.

“North Korea will move closer to this goal, as well as increase the threat it poses to U.S. forces and allies in the region, if it continues testing and devoting scarce regime resources to these programs,” it said.

The document characterized North Korea as one of the biggest U.S. security challenges in the region because of its effort to develop nuclear arms and missiles, its record of selling weapons technology to other countries and its willingness to “undertake provocative and destabilizing behavior.”

The report comes at a sensitive time in the region, with friction between Washington and Pyongyang only now beginning to ease following two months of increasingly shrill rhetoric that seemed to edge the Korean peninsula close to war.

Tensions between the two countries rose sharply after North Korea put the satellite into space in late December and conducted the nuclear test in February. The test triggered new U.N. sanctions, which led to a barrage of threats from Pyongyang.
North Korea went so far as to warn of nuclear strikes on the United States and South Korea, as its new leader, Kim Jong-un, marked his first year in office following the death of his father.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries went ahead with a long-scheduled military exercise despite the threats and Washington sending stealth bombers and other planes to the region in a show of force.

North Korea signed a deal to get rid of its nuclear program in exchange for aid in 2005 but later backed out of the pact and now says it will not give up its atomic weapons program.

The United States has firmly rejected North Korean demands that it be recognized as a nuclear-armed state. Washington has stepped up its diplomacy with China over the issue.

Rogers: Iran and North Korea Are Watching Obama’s Red Line on Syria

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

nationalreview.com

By  Patrick Brennan

April 28, 2013 11:14 AM

On ABC’s This Week, Representative Mike Rogers argued that the president’s presentation of a “red line” on Syria’s use of chemical weapons — which Rogers and other congressmen argue has been confirmed this week — has put him in a serious bind, because “more than just Syria, Iran is paying attention to this, North Korea is paying attention to this. The options aren’t huge, but some action needs to be taken.”

“It can’t be a dotted line; it can’t be anything other than a red line,” Rogers said.

North Korea: Detained American Tourist to Face Trial

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

In this March 20, 2013 photo, a North Korean flag hangs inside the interior of Pyongyang’s Supreme Court. (AP PHOTO)

Posted by : Asharq Al-Awsat
on : Saturday, 27 Apr, 2013

In this March 20, 2013 photo, a North Korean flag hangs inside the interior of Pyongyang’s Supreme Court. (AP PHOTO)

“Crimes” committed by Korean-American tourist may further tensions with the United States.

Seoul, Reuters—North Korea said on Saturday a Korean-American tourist, jailed by the reclusive state since late last year, will face trial for “committing crimes” against the North, a move that could further stoke tensions with the United States.

The move comes amid a diplomatic standoff between the North and the United States, and as Pyongyang has threatened to attack U.S. military bases in the Pacific and the South.

A number of U.S. citizens of Korean descent have run into trouble in the North over the years, and Pyongyang has tried to use their detention to extract visits by high-profile American figures, most notably former President Bill Clinton.

In the latest case, Kenneth Bae, 44, has been held by police since arriving in the northeastern city of Rajin on November 3. He was among a group of five tourists.

“In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it,” KCNA state media reported, using the North’s official title of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“His crimes were proved by evidence,” it said, adding he would soon be taken to the Supreme Court “to face judgment”. It did not provide further details.

South Korean rights workers said that the North’s authorities may have taken issue with some of his photographs, including those of homeless North Korean children.

A South Korean newspaper published by an evangelical family said he may have been carrying footage of North Korea executing defectors and dissidents. It was impossible to verify this.

According to North Korean law, the punishment for hostile acts against the state is five to 10 years of hard labor.

Clinton flew to Pyongyang in 2009 and met then-leader Kim Jong-il before securing the release of two American media workers who had been charged with entering the North illegally.

Former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson has made numerous trips to North Korea that have included efforts to free detained Americans. He delivered a letter regarding Bae to officials during a trip to North Korea in January, although he was unable to meet Bae.

Tensions between North Korea and South Korea and its ally the United States have spiraled in recent weeks since the United Nations tightened sanctions after the North’s third nuclear weapon test in February.

The toughening of those sanctions led to the North threatening nuclear strikes against South Korea and the United States.

North Korea has a long record of making threats to secure concessions from the United States and South Korea, only to repeat the process later. Both the United States and the South have said in recent days that the cycle must cease.

On Friday, Pyongyang rejected a call for formal talks to end a standoff that forced operations at a joint industrial complex shared by the North and South to be halted.

South Korea in turn said it would pull out all its remaining workers from the Kaesong factory complex, which is just inside North Korea and is one of the North’s few sources of ready cash.

Of the 175 remaining South Korean workers, 126 workers left the factory zone on Saturday. The rest are scheduled to return on Monday.

A representative of the South Korean firms at the complex urged the government to hold inter-Korean talks and to authorize their visit to North Korea on Tuesday, South Korea’s news agency Yonhap said.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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