“North Korea’s not that dangerous.”
Wrong. There is no threat of war on the Korean peninsula because the United States and South Korea have deterred the regime for over six decades, or so the thinking goes. And the occasional provocation from Pyongyang — full of sound and fury — usually ends with it blowing up in its face, signifying nothing. So why worry? Two reasons. First, North Korea has a penchant for testing new South Korean presidents. A new one was just inaugurated in February, and since 1992, the North has welcomed these five new leaders by disturbing the peace. Whether in the form of missile launches, submarine incursions, or naval clashes, these North Korean provocations were met by each newly elected South Korean president with patience rather than pique.
The difference today is that South Korea is no longer turning the other cheek. After the North blew up the South Korean navy ship the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors in 2010, Seoul re-wrote the rules of military engagement. It has lost patience and will respond kinetically to any provocation, which could escalate into a larger conflict. Second, North Korea crossed a major technology threshold in December, when it successfully launched a satellite into orbit. Though the satellite later malfunctioned, the North managed to put the payload into orbit with ballistic missile launch technology that is clearly designed to reach the United States.
This development appears to validate former U.S. Defense Secretary Bob Gates’s January 2011 claim that the regime was only five years away from fielding a missile that could threaten the continental United States. To make matters worse, Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test in February, which appears to have been more successful than the previous two. Within President Barack Obama’s second term in office, North Korea could well be the third nation (after Russia and China) to field a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile targeted at the United States. Moreover, the North has sold every weapons system it has developed to the likes of Iran, Pakistan, and Syria. That’s worth losing sleep over.
If in its final hours Syria’s crumbling government unleashes a chemical barrage — and some analysts certainly think that’s possible — the regime will probably rely on an arsenal of gas- or nerve agent-tipped ballistic missiles purchased from Iran and North Korea.
But precisely how many and what mix of missiles President Bashar Al Assad controls, and therefore how deadly a chemical strike might be, both remain unclear. Equally unclear is how far the world should go to defend against such a strike.
Chances are, Syria possesses at least three types of ballistic missile that can be fitted with chemical warheads, according to Dr. Jeffrey Lewis from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California. These include Scuds and SS-21s acquired from North Korea and, less clearly, Fateh 110s transferred from Iran.
The Fateh 110s and SS-21s, both around 20 feet long, can reach just 50 and 120 miles, respectively. The Scuds, at 35 feet long, have a longer range: up to 400 miles. All the missiles are mobile — that is, they’re carried and launched by wheeled or tracked vehicles. The Scud’s so-called Transporter Erector Launcher is a heavy-duty offroad truck the size of a tractor trailer.
When North Korea tried and failed to launch a satellite into orbit last month, observers in the West paid attention mostly to the Unha-3 rocket beneath it. If the launch had worked, North Korea would likely have had a ballistic missile powerful enough to reach Alaska with a 1-ton weapon and Seattle and San Francisco with a 500-kilogram bomb (albeit with questionable accuracy).
But the power of the booster wasn’t the whole story: The third stage of the rocket mattered, too. Perched on top was North Korea’s first remote-sensing satellite, and it carried an implicit message for rival South Korea, which has not yet succeeded in launching a satellite of its own: “You may think you’re ahead technologically, but we can beat you into space.”
Amid all the US analysis of the North Korean launch, one point tended to get lost: It was just the most recent entry in Asia’s accelerating space race. China conducted 18 successful space launches last year, passing the United States in annual launches for the first time. India has increased its space budget by 50 percent this year. And Japan has abandoned decades of purely peaceful space activity to allow military missions. Newcomers like Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam are joining in as well.
Just as the rest of the world is beginning to cooperate in space, Asian countries are becoming increasingly competitive. In the West, 19 European countries are sharing technology and costs within the framework of the European Space Agency; even the United States and Russia have joined in close cooperation on the International Space Station and share a number of joint commercial ventures.
The country’s first long range inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni-5 was successfuly test-fired from Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast on Thursday.
The maiden test launch of India’s most advanced missile—Agni-V, was put off late on Wednesday evening by a day because of inclement weather conditions.
Official sources said the DRDO scientists who had been working hard for the test launch for more than two weeks decided to call off the test during the last minutes because of heavy lightning in the sky on the north Odisha coastline.
The test firing of the indigenously developed ballistic missile has assumed significance because its success would push India into the elite club of the five militarily powerful nations — US, Russia, UK, France and China who have the capability to develop and launch a nuclear capable inter-continental missile.
The 17.5 metre long missile weighing 50 tonnes can travel up to 5,000 km to hit a target carrying both conventional as well as nuclear warheads of 110 kg.
If defence sources are to be believed, the prominent missile is scheduled for induction into the armed forces within the next two years. However, it had to be successfully test fired several times during the next one year before its scheduled entry into the forces.
Less than six weeks after North Korea signed an accord with the Obama administration to limit its nuclear activities, the rogue nation is poised to launch a long-range rocket — raising questions about why the North went to the trouble to negotiate in the first place.
Even more ominous than the firing of the ballistic missile equipped with a satellite, is the likelihood of a follow-up nuclear detonation that may well be a test of a new weapon built with highly enriched uranium.
In moving ahead with the launch of the rocket, which according to reports was being readied with fuel Wednesday, North Korea was in many respects behaving as usual: willfully, without regard for United Nations resolutions, and paying no heed to its biggest patron, China. Just as the former leader, Kim Jong-il, flouted the Bush and early Obama administrations, so is the new leader, his son, Kim Jung-un, defying the Obama White House.
North Korea insists that the launch is for the peaceful purpose of sending a satellite into orbit, but almost universally the test is seen as a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding North Korea refrain from firing rockets using ballistic missile technology.
But the situation looked different on Feb. 29, when North Korea promised to suspend nuclear weapons tests and allow international inspectors into the country and the United States pledged to send hundreds of thousands of North Koreans desperately needed nutritional assistance.
When the new State Department negotiator on North Korea, Glyn Davies, sat down in Beijing to talk to the North Koreans in late February, he sat opposite a veteran North Korean diplomat, Kim Kye-gwan.
According to Evans Revere, a former principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department, Mr. Davies told his North Korean counterpart that a satellite launch would be a violation of whatever agreement they made.
“Administration officials have told me that the D.P.R.K. side understood clearly and accepted the U.S. position that a satellite launch would be violation of the Feb. 29’s agreement’s ban on long range missile tests,” Mr. Revere said, using the acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
The State Department data shows the U.S. has 812 intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers deployed. Russia possesses 494.
The report also says the the military has nearly 1,740 nuclear-tipped ICBMs and sub-based ballistic missiles, and warheads “counted for deployed heavy bombers.” Russia has around 1,490.
Washington also has the edge in the number of total—meaning those that are and aren’t currently deployed—nuclear ballistic missile launchers, submarines and bomber aircraft: 1040 to Moscow’s 881.
Obama has talked of a “nuclear-free world,” and has pushed hard for nuclear weapons reductions between the Cold War foes. More pragmatic Obama administration officials simply want nuclear arsenal cuts because they feel the nation has more than enough and it would perhaps free up billions annually.
But hawkish Republicans on Capitol Hill vow to block big reductions.
As North Korea presses forward with a controversial rocket launch, journalists were granted a rare glimpse Sunday of the reclusive country’s preparations.
CNN was part of a group taken to the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, in the northwest part of the country.
North Korea announced last month that it would launch a rocket carrying a satellite between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Communist state. His birthday on April 15, known as the “Day of the Sun,” is a key public holiday in the North Korean calendar.
Pyongyang says the operation is for peaceful purposes, but Japan, the United States and South Korea see the launch as a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test.
Firing the long-range rocket would breach U.N. Security Council resolutions, and Washington has suspended a recent deal to provide food aid to North Korea as a result. Japan has said it will shoot down any part of the rocket that enters its territory.
“If you look for yourselves with your own eyes, then you can judge whether it’s a ballistic missile, or whether it’s a launch vehicle to put a satellite into orbit,” Jang Myong Jin, head of the launch site, said through a translator. “That’s why we’ve invited you to this launch site.”
Journalists — who were not allowed to take laptops or cell phones to the site, but were permitted to film — were shown the control center and the satellite that officials said would be shot into space.
The rocket itself is 30 meters, or about 100 feet, long. It was white, with some red and blue paint.
International leaders have urged North Korea to cancel the launch, but Pyongyang has refused to back down, insisting that the operation is for scientific purposes.
What America Needs to Know About EMPs: The Threat Is Real- Preparing for One Shouldn’t Be Too Difficult
In her article “The Boogeyman Bomb,” Sharon Weinberger makes several allegations about the threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons, and a congressional commission set up to investigate it, that require correction.
By way of background, a nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude will produce an electromagnetic pulse that can damage and destroy electronic systems over vast regions of the Earth’s surface. A single nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the United States would project an EMP field over the entire country, as well as parts of Canada and Mexico. Mother Nature can also pose an EMP threat by means of a solar flare that causes a geomagnetic storm.
EMP is not just a threat to computers and electronic gadgets, but to all the critical infrastructures that depend on electronics and electricity — communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water — and that sustain modern civilization and the lives of the American people.
In 2008, the congressionally mandated Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack delivered its final report to Congress, the Defense Department, and the Department of Homeland Security. The commission concluded that terrorist groups, rogue states, China, and Russia are theoretically capable of launching a catastrophic EMP attack against the United States and either had contingency plans to do so or were actively pursuing the ability. Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia have scientific and military research programs dedicated to or supportive of EMP capability, and their military doctrinal writings explicitly describe EMP attacks against the United States.
Based on eight years of research and analysis, 50 years of data from nuclear tests and EMP simulators, and never-before-attempted EMP tests, the commission found that any nuclear weapon, even a low-yield one, could potentially pose a catastrophic EMP threat to the United States, mainly because of the great fragility of the electric grid. One scenario of particular concern is a nuclear-armed Iran transferring a short- or medium-range nuclear missile to terrorist groups that could perform a ship-launched “anonymous” EMP attack against the United States. Iranian military strategists have written about EMP attacks against the United States, and Iran has successfully practiced launching a ballistic missile off a ship and flight-tested its Shahab-3 medium-range missile to detonate at high altitude, as if practicing an EMP attack.
The commission also noted credible Russian claims that they had developed what the Russians call “super-EMP” weapons — low-yield nuclear weapons specially designed to generate extraordinarily powerful EMP fields — and that the Russian Duma had raised the prospect of a disabling EMP attack against the United States during NATO’s bombing of Serbia in May 1999.
If Iran ultimately goes nuclear, the U.S. might have to move some of its own nuclear weapons into the Middle East to keep Tehran contained and deterred, according to the Pentagon’s recently departed chief of Mideast policy.
Colin Kahl, who left the Pentagon in December, argues in Foreign Affairs that bombing Iran should be a “last resort.” He wants to give sanctions and diplomacy time to convince Iran that a nuclear weapon isn’t worth the costs. If that doesn’t work, then the U.S. might need to consider drastic steps to keep Iran boxed in.
Because while Kahl thinks that all the troops and gear parked near Iran — including at least two aircraft carrier battle groups, Patriot missile batteries across the Gulf, and Aegis ballistic missile defense ships — should be sufficient to deter Iran, perhaps they should be “supplemented by a limited forward deployment of nuclear weapons and additional ballistic missile defense.” If so, that could mean that a miscalculation between the U.S. and Iran could escalate into a nuclear exchange.
The Pentagon on Thursday held a successful test flight of a flying bomb that travels faster than the speed of sound and will give military planners the ability to strike targets anywhere in the world in less than a hour.
Launched by rocket from Hawaii at 1130 GMT, the “Advanced Hypersonic Weapon,” or AHW, glided through the upper atmosphere over the Pacific “at hypersonic speed” before hitting its target on the Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands, a Pentagon statement said.
Kwajalein is about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) southwest of Hawaii. The Pentagon did not say what top speeds were reached by the vehicle, which unlike a ballistic missile is maneuverable.
Scientists classify hypersonic speeds as those that exceed Mach 5 — or five times the speed of sound — 3,728 miles (6,000 kilometers) an hour.
The test aimed to gather data on “aerodynamics, navigation, guidance and control, and thermal protection technologies,” said Lieutenant Colonel Melinda Morgan, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
The US Army’s AHW project is part of the “Prompt Global Strike” program which seeks to give the US military the means to deliver conventional weapons anywhere in the world within an hour