North Korea’s Fireworks

This image made from video of a news bulletin aired by North Korea’s KRT on Tuesday, July 4, 2017, shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile, ICBM, in North Korea’s northwest. (KRT via AP Video)

PJ Media, by Claudia Rosett, July 4, 2017:

While Americans were celebrating Independence Day, North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, with a potential range that some experts estimate could reach the United States. As The Wall Street Journal reports in an editorial headlined “The North Korean Missile Crisis“:

Tuesday’s missile, dubbed the Hwasong-14, has an estimated range of 6,700 kilometers, which puts Alaska within range. America’s lower 48 states may still be out of reach, but the test shows the North has overcome most of the obstacles to a long-range missile.

Enough, already. There is no safe way to end the North Korean menace, but the threats from Kim Jong Un’s regime are amplifying at a clip that suggests it is even more dangerous to allow the Kim regime to carry on. While the world has watched, for years — and while the United Nations Security Council has passed one sanctions resolution after another — North Korea has not only been carrying out ballistic missile and nuclear tests, but enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium to amass ever more bomb fuel. As the Journal editorial also notes, North Korea by now “has an estimated 20 nuclear warheads as well as chemical and biological weapons.”

The threat is not solely that North Korea — well versed in shakedown rackets — could target the U.S. with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, or that North Korea can add nuclear weapons to the massive arsenal with which it has long threatened Seoul.

A further danger is that North Korea could proliferate its advancing nuclear missile technology, or even the weapons themselves, to other rogue states, such as Iran — with which Pyongyang has trafficked and cooperated for decades in missile development, and according to some press accounts (please see my discussion of reporting by Douglas Frantz), in nuclear weapons development as well.

The Pyongyang regime was part of Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network, supplied taboo nuclear-related materials to Qaddafi’s Libya, and has a record of proliferating nuclear technology (the clandestine Al-Kibar reactor built with North Korean help in Syria destroyed by a 2007 Israeli air strike). It is alarmingly plausible that when Pyongyang brags up its missile and nuclear tests, the global headlines double as North Korean advertising to actors around the globe who might be interested in North Korea’s illicit wares.

A further danger, as long as the Kim regime survives, is that North Korea is setting an example all too likely to encourage other countries to pursue nuclear weapons — whether in self-defense (Japan comes right to mind) or for their own predatory purposes (for instance, Iran). Beyond that, North Korea has been setting an increasingly dangerous example worldwide, for years, of just how far a predatory regime can push the envelope of any civilized world order — and get away with it. If impoverished and bizarre North Korea, with its military and nuclear games of chicken, can force the U.S. to repeatedly blink, what ambitions might that encourage in Moscow and Beijing?

After this July 4th North Korean ICBM display, the temptation for the Trump administration will be to fall back on the standard menu of U.S. responses. These have been employed variously by three presidents, stretching back well over 20 years, to the days when the prospect of North Korea producing even a single nuclear bomb, with no functional vehicle for delivery, was considered a crisis.

These stock responses boil down to negotiations and a deal (Clinton); sanctions, more sanctions, and yet more sanctions, leading to negotiations and a deal (Bush); and sanctions, and yet more sanctions, plus a White House shrug, packaged under the fancy but meaningless label of “strategic patience” (Obama).

None of these responses (or in Obama’s case, pseudo-responses) have stopped North Korea’s nuclear missile program, nor have they made a dent in the Kim dynasty’s monstrous totalitarian grip on North Korea. Instead, what these policies — or in Obama’s case, non-policies — have achieved is to allow each of three previous American presidents, in turn, to delay the day of a high-noon showdown with North Korea, passing along the growing problem to his successor. (If you google “kick the can down the road” and “North Korea,” you’ll pull up well over one million hits).

With each kick of the can, the dangers posed by North Korea have grown worse. Deals with North Korea’s Kim regime don’t work. North Korea cheats and carries on. The Kim regime’s totalitarian control over North Korea means that verification and enforcement become impossible, while American diplomats and politicians — who become invested in such deals — are effectively left, at least for a while, running cover for Pyongyang while they try to smooth over their own failures.

Obama’s “strategic patience” was a disaster, for which he owed Trump, and the American public, not just the warning he gave about North Korea as he left office, but a profound apology for dumping on his successor a threat grown dramatically worse during his eight years in the White House. On Obama’s watch, North Korea racked up a record number of ballistic missile tests, plus four of its five nuclear tests to date — and has for some time been visibly prepared to carry out a sixth.

Trump did not create this horror. But he did inherit a scene in which his predecessors have run out the clock.

What to do? America has the firepower to obliterate Kim’s regime, but has so far declined to use it, not least because Kim holds Seoul hostage to North Korea’s guns. Defense Secretary James Mattis has warned that a hot war with North Korea could be “catastrophic.”

Nor is China likely to bail out the U.S. and its democratic allies. Revealed preference, over decades, says that while China might be happy to cash in on hosting yet more useless negotiations, China doesn’t really mind North Korea making nuclear missiles to bedevil the U.S. and its allies, and China — which has been pursuing its own confrontations with the U.S. in the South China Sea — won’t help solve this.

By the same token, yet more sanctions might count as action in Washington and at the UN in New York. But what’s the endgame? In response to North Korea’s ICBM launch, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has put out a press statement calling for “global action” and saying the U.S. will go to the UN Security Council seeking “stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable.” If the aim is to alter the character of the Pyongyang regime, such that Kim genuinely gives up his nuclear weapons program, it won’t work. The best Washington can hope for is that North Korea will return to the bargaining table, prepared to profit from, and cheat on, another nuclear deal.

The only real answer is an end to the Kim regime. Preferably by way of implosion — a coup, or collapse. That should entail the added benefit of delivering North Korea’s 25 million people from the most monstrous government on the planet. It would also send other tyrants of the 21st century, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his terrorist-sponsoring gang, the salutary message that acquiring nuclear weapons does not amount to a ticket to regime survival.

How to get there is a very tough question, made much tougher by all that can-kicking of previous administrations.

But here’s where I’d advise the Trump administration to start: Don’t aim to remold the character of a totalitarian regime. Don’t try to entice, pressure or manage Pyongyang in hope of better behavior. That will fail, at terrible cost.

Start instead with a basic mission: Get rid of the Kim regime. Start with that as the goal, and from there go through that fabled Washington toolbox — diplomatic, military, clandestine, overt, sanctions, cyber, you-name-it — seeking ways to minimize the enormous risks of bringing down the Kim regime, and coping with the wreck. North Korea’s tyranny, which needs to manufacture dire threats and enemies to justify its cruelties to its own people, has been claiming for years that the U.S. wants to take it down. Call that bluff.

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Iran-North Korea Military Link Suspected by Pentagon

(screengrab of Fox News video post)

Newsmax, by Karl Nelson, May 5, 2017:

Pentagon suspicions of a military connection between Iran and North Korea have been heightened by Tuesday’s attempted Iranian launch of a cruise missile from a type of “midget” submarine operated only by North Korea.

The missile test – which failed – provided the Pentagon with more evidence into North Korea’s influence in Iran, according to Fox News.

The same type of submarine sunk a South Korean warship back in 2010.

While others have worried about a North Korean missile capable of reaching the U.S., experts worry that if Iran or North Korea can launch nuclear warheads into Earth orbit they can knock out all power grids and communication lines below.

It’s suspected that North Korea could “place a satellite into orbit with a nuclear payload,” yet again this year, which is being viewed right now as the number one threat to U.S. security, said Henry Cooper, former director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, per The Daily Star.

“Both nations could deliver an EMP attack on the United States by simply detonating a nuclear weapon carried by one of their satellites as it passes over the United States,” said Cooper.

“I believe we have had a clear warning of the nature of this threat for years, and are collectively continuing to ignore and take ineffective countermeasures to deal with it,” he added. “We are essentially defenseless against this plausible threat.”

Adm. Harry Harris, head of American forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. has no “short- or medium-range” missiles located on any land because it endorses the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF).

However, Iran and North Korea aren’t under any such treaty.

“We are being taken to the cleaners by countries that are not signatories to the INF,” said Harris.

In January, Iran tested a ballistic missile the Pentagon believes was based on a North Korean design, and last summer Iran conducted another launch similar to a North Korean design, which was apparently successful.

“The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, per Fox News. “Over the years, we’ve seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other’s countries, and we’ve seen all kinds of common hardware.”

“In the past, we would see things in North Korea and they would show up in Iran,” Lewis said. “In some recent years, we’ve seen some small things appear in Iran first and then show up in North Korea and so that raises the question of whether trade – which started off as North Korea to Iran – has started to reverse.”

U.S. Considers Re-Imposing All Sanctions on Iran, Dismantling Nuke Deal

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during a parade on the country’s Army Day / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 19, 2017:

The Trump administration is considering re-imposing a massive set of economic sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the Obama administration as part of the landmark nuclear agreement that gave Tehran billions in economic support, according to U.S. officials who told the Washington Free Beacon that Iran’s military buildup and disregard for international law could prompt U.S. reprisal.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Congress in a letter sent Tuesday that Iran is complying with requirements for its nuclear program imposed under the nuclear accord. However, Tillerson emphasized that Iran continues to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

Tehran’s malign activities across the Middle East and elsewhere have prompted the Trump administration to place all aspects of the nuclear agreement under critical review, which is viewed by some as a first step to nixing some controversial aspects of the accord, including the massive sanctions relief package.

U.S. officials familiar with the review told the Free Beacon that Iran’s continued support for terrorism has become a sticking point for the Trump administration as it reviews the agreement and the previous administration’s policy toward Iran.

“I think the key is what comes next,” one senior White House official familiar with the interagency review told the Free Beacon. “The question of ongoing sanctions relief will be critical—Iran has already gotten significant economic benefits from the nuclear deal and we need to take a hard look at what Iran is doing with the resources that continue to flow in.”

The Trump administration has been paying close attention to Iran’s ongoing military buildup, including its continued work on ballistic missiles and other offensive weapons aimed at interfering with U.S. operations in the Persian Gulf region.

“Yesterday was the annual Army Day celebration—also known as Death to Israel day—and they paraded some pretty serious new hardware through the streets,” the White House official disclosed. “That has to be a significant concern.”

The White House’s national security apparatus will closely monitor Iran’s behavior as it makes a decision about re-imposing sanctions lifted by the Obama administration.

Tillerson’s emphasis on Iran’s terror operation is “a first step, but we have to remain focused on the threat Tehran poses to America and our allies,” the official said.

Obama administration officials, while selling the nuclear deal to Congress, vowed that Iran would roll back its nefarious activities if it received relief from sanctions.

Tillerson informed Congress this has not happened. After receiving billions in cash assets and other economic relief, Iran invested heavily in its military and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which continues to meddle in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and a host of other countries.

“Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terror through many platforms and methods,” Tillerson told Congress. “President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”

“When the interagency review is completed, the administration looks forward to working with Congress on this issue,” Tillerson wrote.

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VP Mike Pence from Korean Demilitarized Zone: ‘Era of Strategic Patience Is Over’

Breitbart, by Michelle Moons April 17, 2017:

Speaking from Freedom House within the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Vice President Mike Pence delivered strong words to American and Republic of Korea (ROK) military troops, reassuring South Korea of U.S. commitment to denuclearization and warning North Korea that every option is on the table.

“The patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out, and we want to see change,” Pence warned.

Pence made clear that the U.S. wants to see the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), or North Korea, abandon “its nuclear program and its ballistic missile program” and that the U.S. hopes to see China take actions necessary to achieve this change.

The Vice President recalled more than a quarter-century ago, when the U.S. became aware North Korea’s attempts at developing a nuclear weapon:

We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons. And also its continual use of and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable. That clarity we hope will be received in North Korea, and that they will understand that the United States of America, the people of South Korea, our allies across the region are resolved to achieve our objectives through peaceable means or ultimately by whatever means are necessary to protect the interest, the security of the people of South Korea and to bring stability to the region.

He went on to tell the group:

We are heartened by the support of allies across the Asia Pacific, including China, who will continue to advance this objective on the Korean Peninsula. And I’m here to express the resolve of the people of the United States and the President of the United States to achieve that objective through peaceable means, through negotiations, but all options are on the table as we continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of South Korea for the denuclearization of this peninsula and for the long-term prosperity and freedom of the people of South Korea.

Pence again recalled his father’s military service in the Korean War. “People across the world should know that the bonds between our people are not simply strategic and military and economic, but they are personal, and they span generations of Americans and South Koreans,” he said.

Asked about what role China could have in denuclearizing North Korea, Pence stated that he and the President are “heartened by some initial steps that China has taken in this regard, but we look for them to do more.”

The Vice President said that he and the President hope to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “through peaceable means” with the cooperation of China, South Korea, Japan, and other allies in the region.

“All options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the security of the people of this country and the stability of this region,” said the Vice President, who was clear that the Administration stands by its policy of not talking about military tactical decisions. He also reaffirmed that the U.S. stands with the people of South Korea.

Asked what message he had for the “people on the other side of this line,” Pence responded, “We seek peace, but America has always sought peace through strength. And my message here today standing with U.S. Forces Korea, standing with courageous soldiers from the Republic of Korea, is a message of resolve.”

“The alliance between South Korea and the United States is ironclad.  We will fulfill that alliance for the sake of our people and the people of South Korea,” Pence continued. He went on to say, “As the President has made very clear, either China will deal with this problem or the United States and our allies will.”

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 

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US nukes at Turkey base at risk of seizure: report

US Air Force tanker planes sit on the tarmac of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey (AFP Photo/Tarik Tinazay)

US Air Force tanker planes sit on the tarmac of Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey (AFP Photo/Tarik Tinazay)

Yahoo News, by Thomas Watkins, Aug. 15, 2016:

Washington (AFP) – Dozens of US nuclear weapons stored at a Turkish air base near Syria are at risk of being captured by “terrorists or other hostile forces,” a Washington think tank claimed Monday.

Critics have long been alarmed by America’s estimated stockpile of about 50 nuclear bombs at Incirlik in southern Turkey, just 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the border with war-torn Syria.

The issue took on fresh urgency last month following the attempted coup in Turkey, in which the base’s Turkish commander was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the plot.

“Whether the US could have maintained control of the weapons in the event of a protracted civil conflict in Turkey is an unanswerable question,” said Monday’s report from the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank working to promote peace.

Incirlik is a vital base for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, with the strategically located facility affording drones and warplanes fast access to IS targets.

But the Pentagon in March ordered families of US troops and civilian personnel stationed in southern Turkey to quit the region due to security fears.

“From a security point of view, it’s a roll of the dice to continue to have approximately 50 of America’s nuclear weapons stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey,” report co-author Laicie Heeley said.

“There are significant safeguards in place. … But safeguards are just that, they don’t eliminate risk. In the event of a coup, we can’t say for certain that we would have been able to maintain control,” she told AFP.

– ‘Avoided disaster so far’ –

While the Pentagon does not discuss where it stores nuclear assets, the bombs are believed to be kept at Incirlik as a deterrent to Russia and to demonstrate America’s commitment to NATO, the 28-member military alliance that includes Turkey.

The Incirlik nuke issue has been the subject of renewed debate in the United States since the coup attempt.

“While we’ve avoided disaster so far, we have ample evidence that the security of US nuclear weapons stored in Turkey can change literally overnight,” Steve Andreasen, director for defense policy and arms control on the White House National Security Council staff from 1993 to 2001, wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times last week.

Kori Schake, a fellow at the California-based Hoover Institution, noted in a written debate in the New York Times that “American nuclear forces cannot be used without codes, making the weapons impossible to set off without authorization.”

“The fact that nuclear weapons are stationed in Turkey does not make them vulnerable to capture and use, even if the country were to turn hostile to the United States,” she argued.

The Pentagon declined to comment on questions arising from the Stimson study.

“We do not discuss the location of strategic assets. The (Department of Defense) has taken appropriate steps to maintain the safety and security of our personnel, their families, and our facilities, and we will continue to do so,” it said in a statement.

The Incirlik concerns were highlighted as part of a broader paper into the Pentagon’s nuclear modernization program, through which the United States would spend hundreds of billions of dollars to update its atomic arsenal.

The authors argue that a particular type of bomb — the B61 gravity bomb — should be immediately removed from Europe, where 180 of the weapons are kept in Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey.

A secret group bought the ingredients for a dirty bomb — here in the U.S.

radioactive

Washington Post, by  Patrick Malone, Aug. 4, 2016:

The clandestine group’s goal was clear: Obtain the building blocks of a radioactive “dirty bomb” — capable of poisoning a major city for a year or more — by openly purchasing the raw ingredients from authorized sellers inside the United States.

It should have been hard. The purchase of lethal radioactive materials — even modestly dangerous ones — requires a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a measure meant to keep them away from terrorists. Applicants must demonstrate they have a legitimate need and understand the NRC’s safety standards, and pass an on-site inspection of their equipment and storage.

But this secret group of fewer than 10 people — formed in April 2014 in North Dakota, Texas and Michigan — discovered that getting a license and then ordering enough materials to make a dirty bomb was strikingly simple in one of their three tries. Sellers were preparing shipments that together were enough to poison a city center when the operation was shut down.

The team’s members could have been anyone — a terrorist outfit, emissaries of a rival government, domestic extremists. In fact, they were undercover bureaucrats with the investigative arm of Congress. And they had pulled off the same stunt nine years before. Their fresh success has set off new alarms among some lawmakers and officials in Washington about risks that terrorists inside the United States could undertake a dirty bomb attack.

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Obama says nuclear terrorist attack would ‘change our world’

Peace, man: Surrounded by world leaders, President Barack Obama gave the peace sign at the end of a nuclear security summit today

Peace, man: Surrounded by world leaders, President Barack Obama gave the peace sign at the end of a nuclear security summit today

Fox News, April 1, 2016:

Addressing the last nuclear security summit of his administration, President Obama warned that despite measurably reducing the risk of a devastating attack, the prospect of a terror group like the Islamic State obtaining nuclear weapons is “one of the greatest threats to global security.”

“There is no doubt that if these mad men ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many people as possible,” the president said, opening the last day of the international summit in Washington on Friday.

Though Obama was determined to end the summit on a hopeful note, discussions among the dozens of world leaders that took place Friday were focused on Islamic terrorism, which followed Thursday’s conversations about the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Obama also used the controversial deal with Iran to promote a “carrot and stick” approach to nuclear diplomacy, saying that while it has not swept away all of the other issues the U.S. and other nations still have with Iran, it’s been an effective way to address the narrower issue of nuclear proliferation with Iran.

“This is a success of diplomacy that hopefully we will be able to copy in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are pledging to remove highly enriched uranium from a Japanese research reactor to reduce the risk of theft and nuclear terrorism. Fuel from the Kyoto University Critical Assembly will be sent to the United States to be down-blended, and the reactor converted to use low-enriched uranium instead. The allies made the announcement Friday.

Their statement does not say when this process would be complete. Japanese media reports that more than 300 kilograms of plutonium is en route to the Savannah River Site, a federal government facility, despite objections from South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.

This is just one thread in an overall concern about the accessibility of bomb-making material across the globe.

The International Panel on Fissile Material stated last year that the stockpile of accessible fissile material such as highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium remains around 1700 metric tons. What worries security officials is the lack of oversight and utter insecurity of many of these stockpiles, and the potential of “dirty bombs” in the world’s most insecure places.

“It is plausible that certain (terrorist) organisations could attack transports of nuclear material or civilian installations and try to steal radioactive material,” said Benjamin Hautecouverture, a senior fellow at Foundation for Strategic Research in France.

“There is a black market where such material is available coming from central and eastern Europe.”

The absence of nuclear states like Russia at the summit this week underscore the reality that not all governments are on the same page on this issue.

The White House called the absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin a “missed opportunity.” Russia’s stockpile is only rivaled by the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Moscow consequently, has scoffed at the Washington summit, complaining that the U.S. wanted merely to control the process and take power away from international agencies.

Nawaz Sharif, prime minister of Pakistan, another nuclear state, canceled his trip to the event following an Easter Sunday bombing that killed 72 people in Lahore. Pakistan is reported to have a nuclear stockpile of roughly 120 weapons, making it one of the most nuclear-equipped states in the world.

Furthermore, Obama stated that Latin America and the Caribbean are now “free of highly enriched uranium.”

The White House also praised Argentina’s commitment to converting the rest of its stockpile of radioactive material into a less dangerous material. Since the 1980’s, Argentina has cooperated with American authorities to dispose of its uranium stockpile.

With the removal process now complete, the White House has stated that no Latin American state possesses more than one kilogram of highly enriched uranium, labeling Latin American and the Caribbean as a “region free of the material.”

That does not include North America, though according to newly declassified data, the amount of highly enriched uranium held by the U.S. government is dropping.

Statistics indicate its own national inventory of the material has dropped from 741 metric tons two decades ago to 586 metric tons as of 2013.

Despite all of the good news, less than half of the governments attending the summit agreed to secure their radioactive sources – mainly those available in academic institutions and in research hospitals.

The earlier sessions focused on stopping North Korean provocations. Obama discussed steps to deter further North Korean missile tests with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In another session with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, he called for vigorous implementation of stepped-up U.SN. sanctions. In January, North Korea reportedly detonated its fourth nuclear bomb.

Fox News’ Rich Edson, Daniel Lativa and The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Chairman of FDD’s Leadership Council Jim Woolsey comments on the nuclear summit and proliferation.

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