Friday, March 27, 2009

Nervous? North Korea Launching a Ballistic Missile!

US ready for possible NKorean missile launch to Hawaii: Gates
18 June 2009 WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States has concerns about a possible North Korean missile launch towards Hawaii and has taken steps to ensure the protection of US territory, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday.
"We do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile ... in the direction of Hawaii," Gates told a news conference.
Gates said he had approved the deployment of THAAD missile defense weaponry to the US state and radar "to provide support" in case of a possible North Korean missile attack.
And he said that ground-based defenses in Alaska were also at the ready.
"I would just say I think we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory," he said.
The Theatre High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weaponry is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.
US and South Korean officials have said North Korea might be readying another ballistic missile test after three previous launches in 1998, 2006 and this year.
Pyongyang said its latest April 5 launch put a satellite into orbit, while the United States and its allies labeled it a disguised test of a Taepodong-2 missile theoretically capable of reaching Alaska. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have mounted after Pyongyang carried out its second nuclear test last month.
US media reported on Thursday that the US military was tracking a flagged North Korean ship suspected of ferrying banned weapons cargo in violation of a UN Security Council resolution adopted last week.
The ship, the Kang Nam, departed a port in North Korea on Wednesday and appears to be heading toward Singapore, according to media reports.
The latest UN financial and shipping sanctions are designed to choke off revenue and disrupt transfers of arms and nuclear technology in and out of North Korea.
The measures do not authorize military force to board North Korean ships, but allow for the US Navy and its allies to ask to inspect North Korean vessels and ships flagged from other countries suspected of carrying banned cargo.
"We intend to vigorously enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874," said Admiral Mike Mullen, the top US military officer, at a joint news conference with Gates.
Mullen sidestepped a question as to whether the military was tracking the North Korean vessel.
Analysts say North Korea could get around the shipping measures by transporting banned cargo by air. However they said that the financial sanctions could prove much more effective.
On Saturday, the North vowed to build more atomic bombs and start enriching uranium for a new nuclear weapons program, in response to the UN sanctions.
The Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun meanwhile reported on Thursday that Tokyo's defense ministry believes that North Korea might now be planning to launch a two-stage or three-stage Taepodong-2 missile towards either Japan's Okinawa island, Guam or Hawaii.
But the ministry said launches toward Okinawa or Guam were "extremely unlikely" because the first-stage booster could drop into waters off China, agitating Beijing, or hit western Japanese territory, the report said.
If the missile were fired in the direction of Hawaii, the booster could drop in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) well before the missile's remaining part flies over northern Japan and towards North America.
NKorea boots inspectors, vows to restart reactorBy Jean H. Lee, Associated Press Writer
Tue, Apr 14, 2009
SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said Tuesday it was restarting its rogue nuclear program, booting U.N. inspectors and pulling out of disarmament talks in an angry reaction to U.N. Security Council condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch. Pyongyang ordered U.N. nuclear inspectors to remove seals and cameras from its Yongbyon nuclear site and leave the country as quickly as possible, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.
North Korea told the IAEA it was "immediately ceasing all cooperation" and "has decided to reactivate all facilities and go ahead with the reprocessing of spent fuel," according to a statement from the U.N. agency.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs condemned the decision, saying the international community will not accept North Korea until it abandons what Washington calls its pursuit of nuclear weapons. The North must "cease its provocative threats," he said.
Russia also deplored the move and urged its neighbor to rejoin six-nation talks, which have been held since 2003 in an attempt to get Pyongyang to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and other concessions. Britain's Foreign Office said the break with the IAEA was "completely unjustified."
China — Pyongyang's main ally and the host of the talks — called for calm on all sides.
Despite its defiance, analysts say North Korea, one of the poorest countries in the world, is unlikely to abandon the talks altogether. They suggested North Korea could be trying to draw the United States into direct negotiations, which it has long sought.
Hajime Izumi, a North Korea expert at the University of Shizuoka in Japan, said the North Korean reaction was designed to "bring the United States to the negotiating table and squeeze maximum concessions from it."
All 15 members of the Security Council, including China and Russia, agreed Monday to condemn the April 5 launch as a violation of U.N. resolutions and to tighten sanctions against the regime. The U.N. statement was weaker than the resolution Japan and the United States had pursued.
North Korea claims it launched a communications satellite as part of a peaceful bid to develop its space program as Kim Jong Il embarked on his third term as leader. The U.S. and others call the launch an illicit test of the technology used to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, even one eventually destined for the U.S.
A Security Council resolution passed in 2006, days after North Korea carried out an underground nuclear test, prohibits Pyongyang from engaging in any ballistic missile-related activity — including launching rockets that use the same delivery technology as missiles mounted with warheads, Washington and other nations say.
Under a 2007 six-party deal, North Korea agreed to disable its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon north of Pyongyang in return for 1 million tons of fuel oil and other concessions. In June 2008, North Korea famously blew up the cooling tower at Yongbyon in a dramatic show of its commitment to denuclearization.
But disablement came to halt a month later as Pyongyang wrangled with Washington over how to verify its 18,000-page account of past atomic activities. The latest round of talks, in December, failed to push the process forward.
On Tuesday, North Korea said it would restart nuclear facilities, an apparent reference to its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea already is believed to have enough plutonium to produce at least a half dozen atomic bombs.
But David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security tracks suspected secret proliferators, said restarting a reactor isn't so simple, and kicking out the inspectors could be posturing.
"Worse things have happened. It's the easiest thing North Korea can do to express its anger," he said.
"You can't just turn on a reactor in a couple weeks. They could test a nuclear device, but it would be such an escalation that the parties-that-be internationally would have to respond negatively. Kicking out the monitors is something that easily can be reversed and not cause that much harm."
He said it would take fuel-deficient North Korea six months to a year to restart the reactor.
Nuclear expert Whang Joo-ho of Kyung Hee University in South Korea estimated it could take even longer to get Yongbyon's reactor and reprocessing facilities running again. He described the Soviet-designed reactor as "functionally outdated," saying it may not even pose a security threat if fully restored.
However, the threats could be enough to get President Barack Obama's attention, especially with two American reporters — Euna Lee and Laura Ling of Current TV — still in North Korean custody since last month. Pyongyang has threatened to put them on trial for illegal entry and "hostile acts."
Japan says ready to shoot down NKorea missile
by Kyoko Hasegawa Kyoko Hasegawa – Thu Mar 26, 11:45 pm ET;_ylt=AtveAC3SQifc3HoHaQkeQhHZn414 TOKYO (AFP) – Japan gave its military the green light on Friday to shoot down any incoming North Korean rocket, with tensions high ahead of a planned launch that the US and allies say will be an illegal missile test.
Japanese and US warships have already deployed ahead of the April 4-8 window, when the secretive North has said it will launch a communications satellite.
Pyongyang has said any move to shoot it down would be an act of war.
But South Korea, Japan and the United States have all warned the North that any launch would be unacceptable, amid fears the regime is actually intending to test a long-range missile that could reach North America.
The security council in Japan, where pacificism has been official policy since the end of World War II, decided ahead of time to shoot down any incoming missile that could hit its territory rather than wait until a launch.
"The security council this morning decided to issue a destruction order in advance," said Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada.
"We will do our best to handle any flying object from North Korea."
The North said Thursday that even referring a launch to the United Nations would ruin the long-running and erratic six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, during which North Korea has already tested one missile and an atomic bomb.
US National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said the North wanted to show it had the technology to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The North is believed to be preparing to test a Taepodong-2 that could hit Alaska.
"North Korea is attempting to demonstrate an ICBM capability through a space launch," Blair said. "That's what they are up to."
Pyongyang has reportedly already put a rocket onto one of its launch pads, raising the stakes in a delicate diplomatic stand-off that has come just two months into the new US administration of President Barack Obama.
Enigmatic North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il was reported to have suffered a stroke in August, and some analysts speculate he is trying to demonstrate he remains firmly in control of the country.
Though a recent photo showed him looking thin, the North's official media have reported more than three times as many public appearances by Kim so far this year than over the same period in the previous year.
The six-nation talks -- grouping North and South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan -- have offered the North aid and security guarantees in exchange for dismantling its nuclear programme.
North Korea said Thursday that bringing any launch to the United Nations would be a "hostile action" that would end the negotiations.
The United States, which says the launch would violate a UN Security Council resolution, has vowed to do so.
"The six-party talks will become non-existent," a spokesman for the North's foreign ministry told official media.
Senior US, Japanese and South Korean negotiators were to meet in Washington later Friday to discuss the situation. Japan's order for a shoot-down is the first since the nation revised its defence law in 2005.
Asked whether Japan was capable of such an intercept, Defence Minister Hamada said: "We have obviously prepared to be able to do it. I have no doubt we can do it."
North Korea readies missile, makes new threat
By Jonathan Thatcher Jonathan Thatcher – Thu Mar 26, 9:48 am ET
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Thursday that if the international community punishes it for next month's planned missile launch it will restart a nuclear plant that makes weapons grade plutonium.
The secretive state this week put a long-range missile in place for a launch the United States warned would violate U.N. sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for past weapons tests.
The planned launch, seen by some countries as a disguised military exercise, is the first big test for U.S. President Barack Obama in dealing with the prickly North, whose efforts to build a nuclear arsenal have long plagued ties with Washington.
North Korea warned that any action by the U.N. Security Council to punish it would be a "hostile act."
" ... All the processes for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula ... will be brought back to what used to be before their start and necessary strong measures will be taken," the North's foreign ministry spokesman said in comments carried by the official KCNA news agency.
North Korea has frozen its aging nuclear reactor and started to take apart its Yongbyon atomic plant under a deal signed by regional powers in 2005 that called for economic aid and better diplomatic standing for the isolated North in return. Despite the agreement, the North carried out a nuclear test in 2006.
The South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo quoted a diplomatic source as saying the North could fire its Taepodong-2 missile, which has the range to hit U.S. territory, by the weekend.
This is earlier than the April 4-8 timeframe Pyongyang announced for what it says is the launch of a satellite.
"Technically a launch is possible within three to four days," the Chosun Ilbo quoted a diplomatic source in Seoul as saying.
South Korea said the launch would be a serious challenge to security in north Asia, which accounts for one sixth of the global economy. Japan urged North Korea to refrain from action that would destabilize the region.
"We strongly urge the North to immediately stop the launch of a long-range missile, which would be a clear violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution 1718," South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Won Tae-jae told reporters.
Rocket on the PadOn Wednesday, a U.S. counter-proliferation official told Reuters that North Korea appeared to have positioned the rocket on its launch pad.
Another U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said North Korea had placed together two stages of what is expected to be a three-stage rocket.
Once it has been positioned, North Korea will need several days to fuel the rocket which could, in theory, carry a warhead as far as Alaska. The only previous test of the rocket in 2006 ended in failure when it blew apart seconds after lift-off.
South Korea plans to dispatch an advanced destroyer capable of tracking and shooting down missiles to waters off the east coast, Yonhap news agency quoted government sources as saying.
The planned launch and growing tension on the Korean peninsula are beginning to worry financial markets in the South, although so far there has been only minor impact.
"If they really fire something, it would definitely shake the financial markets, but only briefly, as has been the case in many previous cases of provocation and clashes," said Jung Sung-min, a fixed-income analyst at Eugene Futures.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Mexico, said the launch would deal a blow to six-party talks to end Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.
Those talks sputtered to a halt in December over disagreement on how to check the North was disabling its nuclear facilities.
"This provocative action ... will not go unnoticed and there will be consequences," she told reporters, repeating earlier warnings it could put the issue before the U.N. Security Council for additional sanctions.
Pyongyang repeated its threat on Thursday to quit the six-party talks, which also involve South Korea, Russia, Japan, the United States and China, if it was punished.
China to Block More Sanctions?North Korea faces a range of U.N. sanctions and many analysts doubt new ones would get past China -- the nearest Pyongyang has to a powerful ally -- in the Security Council.
China, sticking to its low-key approach, said it hoped all "relevant parties will remain restrained and calm."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned the international community against making rash decisions.
"Do not try to make evaluations before events have occurred," he said in Moscow, while noting U.N. Security Council resolutions should be adhered to.
A successful launch would be a huge boost at home to leader Kim Jong-il, whose illness last year -- widely thought to have been a stroke -- has raised questions over his grip on power.
North Korea has given international agencies notice of the rocket's planned trajectory that would take it over Japan, dropping booster stages to its east and west.
The U.S. military has said it could with "high probability" intercept any North Korean missile heading for U.S. territory, if ordered to do so. Pyongyang says any attempt to shoot down the rocket would be an act of war.
(Additional reporting by Randall Mikkelsen and Paul Eckert in Washington, Arshad Mohammed in Mexico City, and Jack Kim, Jon Herskovitz, Yoo Choonsik and Seo Eun-kyung in Seoul; Editing by Dean Yates)
U.S. Ready to Respond to N.Korea MissileAdmiral Keating Tells ABC News U.S. Prepared to Shoot Down Missile If Obama Gives OK
By Martha Raddatz and Lauren Sher
Feb. 26, 2009
In an exclusive interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Commands, said that the military is prepared to shoot down any North Korean ballistic missile -- if President Obama should give the order.
"If a missile leaves the launch pad we'll be prepared to respond upon direction of the president," Keating told ABC News. "I'm not a betting man but I'd go like 60/40, 70/30 that it will, they will attempt to launch a satellite. There's equipment moving up there that would indicate the preliminary stages of preparation for a launch. So I'd say it's more than less likely."
"Should it look like it's not a satellite launch -- that it's something other than a satellite launch -- we'll be ready to respond."
Intelligence reports suggest that North Korea is preparing a long-range missile test. Earlier this week, North Korea announced its plans to send a satellite into orbit as part of its space program.
However, many in the international community assert that North Korea's satellite test is simply a means of concealing a long-range missile test -- a move that would flare existing tension in the region.
Keating said that the military is ready to respond with at least five different systems: destroyer, Aegis cruiser, radar, space-based system and ground-based interceptor. All of these work in conjunction with one another to protect against any missile threat.
Destroyers are fast, multi-purpose warships that can be used in almost any type of naval operation. They would likely play a defensive role, helping to repel an air attack and offering a platform for gunfire and missiles to hit airborne objects.
The Aegis cruiser is part of the Navy's computer-based command and control system that integrates radar and missiles to fight against land, air and sea attacks. For Keating, the Aegis combat system can tracks threats and counter any short- or medium-range missiles.
Radars vary in type and design, but the military would likely employ a range of sea-based and early warning radars to detect the presence of a North Korean missile, track warheads' movement and more easily home in on the position of a missile to knock it down.
Space-based infrared system is a defense system that provides warning of any missile launches, detecting the threat and employing other tools to obliterate it.
Ground-based interceptor is a weapon that seeks and destroys incoming ballistic missiles outside of the earth's atmosphere. Its sensors give the military the ability to locate and obliterate a North Korean missile.
"We will be fully prepared to respond as the president directs," Keating said. "Everything that we need to be ready is ready. So that's ready twice in one sentence, but we're not kidding, it doesn't take much for us to be fully postured to respond."
In the U.S. arsenal is a "very sophisticated and complex, but effective ballistic missile-defense system," Keating says, which would provide a line of attack against any kind of ballistic missile or warhead that springs from a North Korean launch pad.
Ground-based interceptors, he says, will be able to take down an object other than a satellite. And while they have not moved ships into place yet, Keating says he is prepared to do so at a moment's notice.
Experts say that North Korea's announcement of its satellite launch is an attempt to put Pyongyang on President Obama's radar.
"It's a fairly stern test early of President Obama and his administration," Keating said.
Members of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of [North] Korea, a state body, chastised critics Thursday, saying it would retaliate against those who attempt to disrupt its satellite plan. Keating says the U.S. military is keeping a close eye on the launch pad, but does not want to jump the gun.
"We're intentionally being a little more cautious and a little more reserved as to not stimulate unnecessary activity in North Korea," he said. "We want to do no harm, if you will."
Nevertheless, Keating says that his priority first and foremost is defending the United States.
"If that means we detect a missile that is a threat to U.S. territory, then we are going to defend U.S. territory. And [if] we hit what we're aiming at that should be a source of great confidence and reassurance to our allies and partners."