Archive for the ‘North Korean nukes’ category

North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests

April 25, 2018

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 South China Morning Post

Source Link: North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed … and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests

{Remember when the NORKS destroyed a reactor and pledged an end to their nuclear program? Remember seeing the Clinton’s and Madeleine Albright sipping champagne with Kim’s father with big smiles of accomplishment on their faces? Disgusting, wasn’t it. Well, not this time Rocket Boy. There’s a new sheriff in town. I suggest you don’t screw with him. He’s no Clinton. – LS}

North Korea’s mountain nuclear test site has collapsed, putting China and other nearby nations at unprecedented risk of radioactive exposure, two separate groups of Chinese scientists studying the issue have confirmed.

The collapse after five nuclear blasts may be why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared on Friday that he would freeze the hermit state’s nuclear and missile tests and shut down the site, one researcher said.

The last five of Pyongyang’s six nuclear tests have all been carried out under Mount Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea’s northwest.

One group of researchers found that the most recent blast tore open a hole in the mountain, which then collapsed upon itself. A second group concluded that the breakdown created a “chimney” that could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air.

A research team led by Wen Lianxing, a geologist with the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, concluded that the collapse occurred following the detonation last autumn of North Korea’s most powerful thermal nuclear warhead in a tunnel about 700 metres (2,296 feet) below the mountain’s peak.

The test turned the mountain into fragile fragments, the researchers found.

The mountain’s collapse, and the prospect of radioactive exposure in the aftermath, confirms a series of exclusive reports by the South China Morning Post on China’s fears that Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test had caused a fallout leak.

Radioactive dust could escape through holes or cracks in the damaged mountain, the scientists said.

“It is necessary to continue monitoring possible leaks of radioactive materials caused by the collapse incident,” Wen’s team said in the statement.

The findings will be published on the website of the peer-reviewed journal, Geophysical Research Letters, likely next month.

North Korea saw the mountain as an ideal location for underground nuclear experiments because of its elevation – it stood more than 2,100 metres (6,888 feet) above sea level – and its terrain of thick, gentle slopes that seemed capable of resisting structural damage.

The mountain’s surface had shown no visible damage after four underground nuclear tests before 2017.

But the 100-kilotonne bomb that went off on September 3 vaporised surrounding rocks with unprecedented heat and opened a space that was up to 200 metres (656 feet) in diameter, according to a statement posted on the Wen team’s website on Monday.

As shock waves tore through and loosened more rocks, a large section of the mountain’s ridge, less than half a kilometre (0.3 mile) from the peak, slipped down into the empty pocket created by the blast, leaving a scar visible in satellite images.

Wen concluded that the mountain had collapsed after analysing data collected from nearly 2,000 seismic stations.

Three small earthquakes that hit nearby regions in the wake of the collapse added credence to his conclusion, suggesting the test site had lost its geological stability.

Another research team led by Liu Junqing at the Jilin Earthquake Agency with the China Earthquake Administration in Changchun reached similar conclusions to the Wen team.

The “rock collapse … was for the first time documented in North Korea’s test site,” Liu’s team wrote in a paper published last month in Geophysical Research Letters.

The breakdown not only took off part of the mountain’s summit but also created a “chimney” that could allow fallout to rise from the blast centre into the air, they said.

Zhao Lianfeng, a researcher with the Institute of Earth Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said the two studies supported a consensus among scientists that “the site was wrecked” beyond repair.

“Their findings are in agreement to our observations,” he said.

“Different teams using different data have come up with similar conclusions,” Zhao said. “The only difference was in some technical details. This is the best guess that can be made by the world outside.”

Speculation grew that North Korea’s site was in trouble when Lee Doh-sik, the top North Korean geologist, visited Zhao’s institute about two weeks after the test and met privately with senior Chinese government geologists.

Although the purpose of Lee’s visit was not disclosed, two days later Pyongyang announced it would no longer conduct land-based nuclear tests.

Hu Xingdou, a Beijing-based scholar who follows North Korea’s nuclear programme, said it was highly likely that Pyongyang had received a stark warning from Beijing.

“The test was not only destabilising the site but increasing the risk of eruption of the Changbai Mountain,” a large, active volcano at China-Korean border, said Hu, who asked that his university affiliation not be disclosed for this article because of the topic’s sensitivity.

The mountain’s collapse has likely dealt a huge blow to North Korea’s nuclear programme, Hu said.

Hit by crippling international economic sanctions over its nuclear ambitions, the country might lack sufficient resources to soon resume testing at a new site, he said.

“But there are other sites suitable for testing,” Hu said. “They must be closely monitored.”

Guo Qiuju, a Peking University professor who has belonged to a panel that has advised the Chinese government on emergency responses to radioactive hazards, said that if fallout escaped through cracks, it could be carried by wind over the Chinese border.

“So far we have not detected an abnormal increase of radioactivity levels,” Guo said. “But we will continue to monitor the surrounding region with a large [amount] of highly sensitive equipment and analyse the data in state-of-the-art laboratories.”

Zhao Guodong, a government nuclear waste confinement specialist at the University of South China, said that the North Korean government should allow scientists from China and other countries to enter the test site and evaluate the damage.

“We can put a thick layer of soil on top of the collapsed site, fill the cracks with special cement, or remove the pollutants with chemical solution,” he said.

“There are many methods to deal with the problem. All they need [to do] is ask.”

Moon: N. Korea Wants Peninsula Without Nukes

April 19, 2018


A U.S. Army soldier stands guard in front of the Peace House at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, April 18, 2018.

April 19, 2018 5:31 AM Reuters via VOA News

Source Link: Moon: N. Korea Wants Peninsula Without Nukes

{Even though the outcome is unknown at this point, you have to admit this is historic. Of course, the MSM will never give Trump any credit. Besides, imagine the impact on Iran if the North Koreans disarmed and made peace with the USA and South Korea. – LS}

North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as U.S. troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday.

Moon said big-picture agreements about normalization of relations between the two Koreas and the United States should not be difficult to reach through planned summits between North and South, and between the North and the United States, in a bid to rein in the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

“North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization,” Moon told reporters. “They have not attached any conditions that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea. All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”


Workers plant flowers in the shape of the Korean Peninsula on the lawn to wish for a successful inter-Korean summit at Seoul Plaza in Seoul, South Korea, April 13, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in April 27 at the border.

Armistice change

North Korea has defended its weapons programs, which it pursues in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions, as a necessary deterrent against perceived U.S. hostility. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has said over the years that it could consider giving up its nuclear arsenal if the United States removed its troops from South Korea and withdrew its so-called nuclear umbrella of deterrence from South Korea and Japan.

South Korea announced Wednesday that it is considering how to change a decades-old armistice with North Korea into a peace agreement as it prepares for the North-South summit this month.

Reclusive North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically still at war because the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Moon also said he saw the possibility of a peace agreement, or even international aid for the North’s economy, if it denuclearizes.


South Korean President Moon Jae-in attends a luncheon in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, March 27, 2018. Moon said agreements on big-picture issues between the Koreas should not be difficult to reach.

‘A lot of constraints’

But he also said the summit had “a lot of constraints,” in that the two Koreas could not make progress separate from the North Korea-United States summit, and could not reach an agreement that transcends international sanctions.

“So first, the South-North Korean summit must make a good beginning, and the dialogue between the two Koreas likely must continue after we see the results of the North Korea-United States summit,” Moon said.

U.S. CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea last week and met leader Kim Jong Un, with whom he formed a “good relationship,” U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday, ahead of a summit planned for May or June.

North Korea meanwhile will hold a plenary meeting of its ruling party’s central committee Friday, state media KCNA said Thursday. The meeting was convened to discuss and decide “policy issues of a new stage” to meet the demands of the current “important historic period,” KCNA said.

 

 

U.S. Monitoring Possible North Korean Military Base in Syria

March 14, 2018

By: Adam Kredo March 14, 2018 12:20 pm Free Beacon

Source Link: U.S. Monitoring Possible North Korean Military Base in Syria

{Kim must need a place for his nukes since he says he wants to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. – LS}

The United States is monitoring information indicating that North Korea may be running a large underground military base in Syria that could be used for advanced weaponry and nuclear-related work, according to regional reports and U.S. officials tracking the situation.

Regional reports have begun to surface indicating North Korea has neared completion of the construction of an underground military base located near Qardaha in Syria, the hometown of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“According to … satellite images and a military source the underground facility has been under construction for seven years, started by the beginning if the Syrian revolution in March 2011,” Zaman Al Wasl, a Syrian news outlet, reported earlier this month. “The high level of secrecy and tight guard in the North Korean base raise speculations whether it’s a nuclear facility or overseas depot for North Korean weapons.”

U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon they are monitoring these reports and efforts by North Korea to help Assad rebuild Syria’s chemical weapons factories.

“We are aware of reports regarding possible DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] assistance to Syria to rebuild its chemical weapons capabilities,” a State Department official, speaking on background, told the Free Beacon. “We take these allegations very seriously and we are working assiduously to prevent the Assad regime from obtaining material and equipment to support its chemical weapons program.”

The Trump administration has been engaged in efforts to counter North Korea’s proliferation in Syria, particularly its efforts to supply Assad with chemical weapons.

“The United States has long expressed its deep concerns about both the assistance the DPRK provides to Syria’s weapons programs and Syria’s ongoing possession and use of chemical weapons—both activities in defiance of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions,” the State Department official said.

The underground North Korean military base could be hiding more than just chemical weapons, according to regional reports indicating that the sheer size of the base, which is mostly situated within a mountain, raises concerns of nuclear work.

Purported satellite images of the base circulating on the internet indicate that only a small portion of the facility is visible from above ground.

“Long tunnels have been built during the last seven years in a deep valley in Qardaha under the supervision of North Korean experts,” the Zaman Al Wasl outlet reported.

The United Nations recently cited North Korea for its increased efforts to meddle in Syria and provide the Assad regime with new caches of chemical weapons.

This has fueled U.S. concerns about the hermit nation at a time when the Trump administration is pursuing diplomatic talks regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

Evidence that North Korea is working to bolster the Assad regime is likely to fuel further international tensions as Iran and Russia undertake similar efforts. The newest underground facility may facilitate further Iranian and North Korean military collaboration.

The Trump administration is continuing efforts to crackdown on this military collaboration and is urging allies to apply similar pressure.

“North Korea is a significant threat to international security and the Assad regime’s ongoing use of chemical weapons is a similar affront to international law,” the State Department official said. “We work with all our partners to uphold U.N. Security Council Resolutions and prevent North Korea and Syria from further threatening international peace and stability.”

Nikki Haley to UN on North Korea Jan 18, 2018 UN Security Council meeting on non proliferation of Mass Destruction

January 18, 2018

Nikki Haley to UN on North Korea Jan 18, 2018 UN Security Council meeting on non proliferation of Mass Destruction via YouTube, January 18, 2018

U.S. moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Winter Olympics

January 15, 2018

U.S. moves ships, bombers toward Korea ahead of Winter Olympics, CBS News, January 15, 2018

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

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TOKYO — The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier and a new amphibious assault ship to the region. Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.

“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.

Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Monday near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.

The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials. Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.

(Video at the link. –DM)

CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy reported that the meetings were a fairly stunning turn of events; the South has been trying to engage North Korea for months, but Kim Jong Un’s regime wasn’t interested in talking.

Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.

The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”

But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.

Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order. The B-2 is more threatening.

It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram, about 30,000-pound, FGBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.

(Video at the link — DM)

The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.

The Marines announced on Sunday the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.

The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

How Russia is Helping North Korea Build the Bombs that Could Start World War III

December 29, 2017

How Russia is Helping North Korea Build the Bombs that Could Start World War III, Newsweek, December 28, 2017

But the greatest evidence of this Russian-North Korean collaboration is reportedly the similarities observed between features in missiles recently tested by Pyongyang and Soviet-era designs. In June 2016, for example, North Korea tested the Hwasong-10, or Musudan, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, which apparently had distinct similarities to the R-27 Zyb, or Ripple, manufactured by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau––including using the same engine. Subsequently, in August 2016, North Korea tested a submarine-launched missile that also had similar features to the Ripple––the Pukguksong-1. Joshua Pollack, an analyst at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told The Washington Post both of these North Korean missiles are “generally regarded as derived from the designs of the Makeyev Bureau’s R-27.”

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Some of the more advanced missile technology recently put on display for the wider world by North Korea was acquired by the rogue state with the help of Russia, according to new documents acquired by The Washington Post from one of the top Soviet-era missile manufacturers.

In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, U.S. investors reportedly attempted to work with Russian scientists, who were largely unemployed and desperate for money, to acquire advanced Soviet military technology. But the investors ran into a number of legal hurdles, which reportedly provided an opportunity for North Korea to swoop in. Pyongyang was apparently willing to pay some of the scientists, who previously worked for Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau, more than 200 times what they made at home to provide it with Soviet missile designs.

In some cases, some of these Russian scientists were prevented from going to North Korea to provide it with Soviet military technology. But U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials have confirmed that Makeyev scientists ultimately did indeed obtain employment as consultants to North Korea, The Washington Post reported.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a Hwasong-10 missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea on June 13, 2016. GETTY IMAGES

But the greatest evidence of this Russian-North Korean collaboration is reportedly the similarities observed between features in missiles recently tested by Pyongyang and Soviet-era designs. In June 2016, for example, North Korea tested the Hwasong-10, or Musudan, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, which apparently had distinct similarities to the R-27 Zyb, or Ripple, manufactured by the Makeyev Rocket Design Bureau––including using the same engine. Subsequently, in August 2016, North Korea tested a submarine-launched missile that also had similar features to the Ripple––the Pukguksong-1. Joshua Pollack, an analyst at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told The Washington Post both of these North Korean missiles are “generally regarded as derived from the designs of the Makeyev Bureau’s R-27.”

In 2017, North Korea has made major leaps in its missile technology. The reclusive nation tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet in late November, which reached an altitude of 2,800 miles (over 10 times higher than the International Space Station) and traveled for 50 minutes before crashing into the Sea of Japan. The more advanced missile technology Pyongyang has put on display over the course of the year could be a sign it has more access to Soviet-era designs and blueprints than previously thought, according to The Washington Post report.

This photo taken on November 28, 2017 and released on November 29, 2017 by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un signing an order document of a test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15. GETTY IMAGES

North Korea’s missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States have led to major tensions across the world over the course of the year. As the United Nations has sought to pressure North Korea to give up on its nuclear ambitions via harsh economic sanctions, President Donald Trump has issued boisterous threats toward Kim Jong Un’s regime––leading some to fear war is on the horizon. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee and often plays golf with the president, recently said there’s a 30 percent chance Trump takes military action against North Korea. A strike would have an array of consequences and would almost undoubtedly lead to a response, in some capacity, from China and Russia, who both share a border with North Korea.

North Korea is believed to have as many as 60 nuclear weapons. If war broke out, it could potentially use them on South Korea or Japan and millions could die. A November report from the Congressional Research Service concluded a conflict between the U.S. and North Korea would lead to roughly 300,000 deaths in the first few days alone, even without the use of nuclear weapons.

U.S., South Korea begin massive military drill in wake of North Korea missile launch

December 5, 2017

U.S., South Korea begin massive military drill in wake of North Korea missile launch, Washington TimesCarlo Muñoz, December 4, 2017

(China and Russia, not to mention Kim Jong-un, will not like it. Good.

— DM)

A U.S. Air Force EA-18G Growler fighter jet prepares to land at the Osan U.S. Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. Hundreds of aircrafts including two dozen stealth jets began training Monday

Among the various combat scenarios both forces are expected to play out during the weeklong drill, several will focus on “enemy infiltration and precision strike drills with South Korean jets,” Air Force officials told the Military Times.

Ahead of Monday’s kickoff of the U.S.-South Korea wargames, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster warned that Pyongyang’s continued aggression on the peninsula was inching the region closer to war.

“I think it’s increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem,” Gen. McMaster said Sunday during a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

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Over 200 American and South Korean warplanes took to the skies above the Korean peninsula on Monday in one of the largest military drills between the two allies in recent history and a massive show of force against the North Korean regime.

The annual exercise, dubbed Vigilant Ace, comes less than a week after Pyongyang carried out a successful test launch of its newest intercontinental ballistic missile. The test launch of the new Hwasong-15 weapon traveled longer and farther than any North Korean intercontinental missile to date.

The launch, carried out from a North Korean weapons facility in Sain Ni, forced Japanese officials to put the country’s northern provinces located along the missile’s trajectory on high alert.

The Nov. 6 missile test was further proof that the North Korean regime remains committed to the “effort to build a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace and threatens the United States,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said shortly after the missile test.

The Pentagon says the large-scale wargames between Washington and Seoul over the weekend were part of annual military drills routinely conducted between the allied nations. That said, the exercise featured several pieces of U.S. military hardware — such as the stealth-capable F-22A Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as long-range B-1 bombers — that could be used in potential strikes against North Korean targets should war break out on the peninsula.

Among the various combat scenarios both forces are expected to play out during the weeklong drill, several will focus on “enemy infiltration and precision strike drills with South Korean jets,” Air Force officials told the Military Times.

Ahead of Monday’s kickoff of the U.S.-South Korea wargames, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster warned that Pyongyang’s continued aggression on the peninsula was inching the region closer to war.

“I think it’s increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really, we are in a race to be able to solve this problem,” Gen. McMaster said Sunday during a speech at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.