Articles by "North Korea"

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets with his military officers. (file photo)
The United States has asked North Korea “to refrain from provocative” actions amid rising tensions between the two countries.
"We call on [North Korea] to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments and return to serious talks," US Navy Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday.
"North Korea's unlawful weapons programs represent a clear, grave threat to US national security,” he added.
The statement came a day after North Korea threatened to sink an American aircraft carrier that President Donald Trump is sending to the western Pacific Ocean.
"Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear powered aircraft carrier with a single strike," North Korea's ruling Workers' Party newspaper said in a commentary on Sunday.
The article said Pyongyang had weaponry that “can reach continental US and Asia Pacific region.”
The USS Carl Vinson is currently conducting exercises with two Japanese destroyers in the Philippines Sea.
Last week, President Trump called on China to rein in North Korea.
"China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will," he tweeted.
Trump discusses North Korea with Xi, Abe
US President Donald Trump
On Sunday, Trump spoke on the phone with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the North Korean issue.
After the phone call with Trump, Abe told reporters Monday that he and Trump had agreed to keep close contact on North Korea. He appreciated Trump’s stance of keeping “all options on the table” regarding Pyongyang.
The Trump administration has several times warned that all options, including a military strike, were being considered to halt Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear activities.
"The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is an extremely serious security threat to not only the international community but also our country," Abe told reporters.
Xi, the Chinese president, told his American counterpart during the telephone call that all sides had to exercise restraint.
China has opposed any move that runs counter to the UN Security Council resolutions already in place against North Korea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping
Tensions have increased between North Korea and the US in recent weeks. The US has been unnerved by North Korea’s advancing missile and nuclear programs and has dispatched a military strike group to the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has said it is ready for war.
The prospects of a potential military confrontation have made regional countries worried.
North Korea has threatened the US with “all-out war” and announced that Pyongyang would continue to test missiles on a weekly basis.
Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear programs act as deterrence against a potential invasion by its adversaries, particularly the US.
The US has military forces in South Korea on a permanent basis, and routinely threatens the North with military action.

Malaysia and North Korea have lifted mutual bans on nationals from each country leaving the other as part of an agreement that ends a bitter row following the assassination of the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother in Kuala Lumpur.
The nine Malaysians who had been barred from leaving North Korea in the wake of the dispute returned home after Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur reached an agreement over transferring the body of the North Korean leader’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam. Malaysia, too, started allowing North Korean nationals to leave.
In a statement on Thursday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that after “very sensitive” negotiations, Malaysia agreed to release Kim’s body, which Kuala Lumpur was refusing to hand over to North Korean officials because they had not been cooperative in the Malaysian investigation of Kim’s killing.
No next-of-kin had stepped forward to claim the body either.
“Following the completion of the autopsy on the deceased and receipt of a letter from his family requesting the remains be returned to North Korea, the coroner has approved the release of the body,” Najib said.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency also confirmed the agreement, saying the two sides had pledged to “guarantee the safety and security” of each other’s citizens.
Following the development, Malaysia put Kim’s body on a plane to be delivered to Pyongyang. Earlier, a van was seen leaving the morgue where his body was being held.
Later on Friday, China confirmed that the body had been returned to North Korea. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also said that “relevant” North Korean citizens had traveled back to their home country.
A van believed to be carrying the body of Kim Jong-nam leaves the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, in the Malaysian capital, March 30, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)
The Malaysians stuck in North Korea — three embassy workers and six family members including four children — were flown home in a government plane and greeted by Foreign Minister Anifah Aman at the airport.
The exchange effectively ended a seven-week diplomatic row between the two countries that erupted with Kim’s murder at Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport. He was killed with a banned nerve agent amid crowds of travelers at a public terminal of the airport on February 13.
Malaysia, outraged by the brazen act of murder, sought several North Korean nationals, including a diplomat, for questioning. It also said it would conduct an autopsy on the body to determine the cause of the death.
North Korean officials quickly opposed any autopsy, refused to allow access to the North Koreans sought by Malaysia, and demanded that the body be promptly handed over to them.
The dispute lingered as the two sides refused to meet each other’s demands, and a ban was subsequently put in place on nationals from leaving.
Malaysian police arrested the two women who carried out the assassination by rubbing the nerve agent on Kim’s face, which led to his death only after 20 minutes.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, claimed they were fooled into believing they were taking part in a television prank show. They face the death penalty if convicted of the murder at court.
It was not clear what would happen to the two under the deal between Malaysia and North Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) and his murdered half-brother, Kim Jong-nam (File photos)
North Korea has denied any role in the killing. But South Korean intelligence sources have been putting the blame on Pyongyang.
Kim was planning to travel to the autonomous Chinese region of Macau when he was killed.
His death is considered as the most high-profile death during the reign of his younger brother, Kim Jong-un, since the execution of Jang Song-thaek, the brothers’ once powerful uncle, in December 2013.

North Korean military forces partake in a parade. (file photo)
North Korea is capable of killing millions of Americans by launching a nuclear attack, two high ranking US intelligence officials have claimed, arguing that the secretive republic has already mastered the technology needed to fire massive atomic bombs at the US mainland.
“The mainstream media, and some officials who should know better, continue to allege North Korea does not yet have capability to deliver on its repeated threats to strike the US with nuclear weapons,” James Woolsey, a former CIA director, and Peter Vincent Pry, head of the Congressional EMP Commission, wrote in an article published by The Hill on Wednesday.
The EMP (ectromagnetic pulse) Commission is tasked with assessing the EMP threats against the US and address the country’s vulnerabilities to such threats.
“False reassurance is given to the American people that North Korea has not ‘demonstrated’ that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough for missile delivery, or build a reentry vehicle for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of penetrating the atmosphere to blast a US city,” added the article, titled How North Korea could kill 90 percent of Americans.
According to Woolsey and Pry, the CIA's top East Asia analyst publicly confirmed in 2008 that Pyongyang had successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead and tested it using the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile.
Three years later, then Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess told the Senate Armed Services Committee that North Korea “has weaponized its nuclear devices into warheads for arming ballistic missiles.”
Admiral William Gortney, then Commander of North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), repeated the same claim in 2015, warning that the North could strike the US with a nuclear-capable KN-08 mobile ICBM.
The article goes on to warn that North Korea’s KMS-3 and KMS-4 satellites have been orbiting the US “on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack.”
The authors referred to North Korea’s successful satellite launch and testing of an alleged Hydrogen bomb, warning that Pyongyang had everything it needed to cause chaos in the US.
Concluding that a large part of America’s population was vulnerable to a surprise nuclear attack, Woolsey and Pry made several recommendations to protect them.
“The US must be prepared to preempt North Korea by any means necessary—including nuclear weapons,” they wrote, adding that the US electric grid and national missile defenses should also be hardened against EMP attacks.
Tensions have been running high between the US and North Korea for months now.
Last week, Pyongyang warned Washington that a preemptive strike was always a possibility, after the US and South Korean military forces simulated attacks on North Korean targets during joint military drills that involve 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.
Washington has been sending sophisticated weapons to the South in order to prevent Seoul against what it calls the North’s “aggression.”


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears on a screen during a confetti-filled concert at the Pyongyang Arena in May 2016.

North Korea has condemned a joint military drill between South Korea and the United States and threatened a preemptive strike.
South Korean and US troops began large-scale war games on March 1 conducted annually with the participation of American warships and reconnaissance aircraft.
Earlier this month, USS Carl Vinson joined the drill. South Korean officials say US special troops are also set to take part in the joint exercises.
"As long as the US and South Korea's troops and means … remain in and around South Korea, they should keep in mind that our military will carry out annihilating attack at anytime without any prior warning," a statement read on North Korean broadcaster KCTV said on Sunday.
The war games called Foal Eagle will be continued until the end of April. Last year, it involved about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.
North Korea said in a letter to the UN Security Council earlier this month that the US was using nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the exercises.

US and South Korean soldiers fire artillery during a live-fire exercise near Rodriguez Range in South Korea as part of the Foal Eagle drill in March 2012.
North Korea has protested against the drills, calling them a rehearsal for war, and responded with a series of missile tests which the West and the UN have used as a ground to impose fresh sanctions on the country.
The United Nations said earlier this week that sanctions against North Korea were taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities in the country, where millions of women and children are reliant on donations.
Tapan Mishra, the UN’s senior resident official in Pyongyang, said North Korea was in the midst of “a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.”
North Korea has been the target of a broad array of tough sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council over its nuclear and missile tests.
Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear program is part of its self-defense measures aimed at protecting the North’s sovereignty and safety in the face of threats by the US and South Korea.
On Friday, the US said it had imposed sanctions on 30 foreign companies or individuals for allegedly violating export controls on Iran, North Korea and Syria.

In this May 20, 2013 photo, North Korean nurses and representatives from foreign humanitarian agencies are seen during a UN and North Korean government program to give vitamin supplements to children at a school in Pyongyang. (Photo by AP)
The United Nations has warned that sanctions against North Korea are taking a serious toll on humanitarian aid activities in the country, where millions of women and children are reliant on donations.
A report by Tapan Mishra, the UN’s senior resident official in Pyongyang, says the bans slapped on the North over its nuclear and missile activities are causing a “radical decline” in donations among the needy in the Asian state.
Such donations, the report said, are badly needed by “18 million people, or 70 percent of the population, including 1.3 million children under five.”
North Korea has been the target of a broad array of tough sanctions by the US and the UN Security Council over its nuclear and missile tests.
Pyongyang says its missile and nuclear program is part of its self-defense measures aimed at protecting the North’s sovereignty and safety in the face of threats by the US and South Korea.
Mishra, who coordinates UN development program and other activities in the country, said North Korea is in the midst of “a protracted, entrenched humanitarian situation largely forgotten or overlooked by the rest of the world.”
The report said “chronic food insecurity, early childhood malnutrition and nutrition insecurity” continue to be widespread in North Korea.
The sanctions, it said, also have a psychological impact on the donors, making them reluctant to provide funds for projects in the country.
Residents receive emergency goods, including kitchen sets and blankets, distributed by North Korean Red Cross officials in Pyongyang Province. (Photo by AP)
“This is reflected in the radical decline in donor funding since 2012,” it said. “As a result, agencies have been forced to significantly reduce the assistance they provide ,” it added.
Forty-one percent of the population in North Korea or two in five people are undernourished, while 70 percent depend on the Public Distribution System (PDS) for rations, according to the report.
With international sanctions in effect, health service delivery remains inadequate with many areas not equipped with sufficient facilities, equipment or medicines to meet people’s basic health needs, it added.
On Monday, Reuters quoted a US official as saying that Washington was considering more sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures against North Korea.
Reacting to the report, a senior North Korean diplomat at the UN, said his country has no fear of tighter US bans and is determined to pursue the “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea is irked by joint wargames held annually by the US and South Korea on the volatile Korean Peninsula, saying the drills are practices for a war on the country.
Washington has recently angered Pyongyang by starting the installation of an advanced missile system at an air base in South Korea.

Official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released this photo on February 13, 2017, showing the launch of a surface-to-surface medium long-range ballistic missile. (Via AFP)
South Korea says the North has attempted to launch another missile, but the test appears to have ended in a failure.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that Pyongyang fired a missile from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan on Wednesday.
“South Korea and the United States are aware of the North Korean missile launch and suspect it was a failure," said a spokesman for Seoul’s military.
The report did not give the number of the missiles put to test or their type.
A spokesman for US Pacific Command, Commander Dave Benham, also said that they detected “a failed North Korean missile launch attempt... in the vicinity of Kalma.”
“A missile appears to have exploded within seconds of launch,” Benham added.
Kyodo News also quoted a source in the Tokyo government as saying that the North may have test-fired several missiles from an area on its east coast, but Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga later said the government has not confirmed Pyongyang’s missile launch towards the country.
Angered by the annual joint war games currently being carried out by the US and South Korea on the restive peninsula, North Korea has in recent weeks stepped up its missile tests.
Pyongyang rejects claims by Washington and Seoul that the military drills are defensive in nature, saying the maneuvers are a rehearsal for a war against the North.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released this undated photo on March 19, 2017, showing leader Kim Jong Un as watching the ground jet test of a Korean-style high-thrust engine. (Via AFP)
The North’s state media on Sunday reported that Pyongyang had conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station, with leader Kim Jong-un hailing the successful test as “a new birth” of the country’s rocket industry.
Kim said that “the whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.”
Washington has further infuriated Pyongyang by starting the installation of an advanced missile system at an air base in South Korea earlier this month.
The missile system, known as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), is equipped with a powerful detection system known as an X band radar, which experts say would destabilize regional security and upset the region’s current military balance.
The US also occasionally deploys nuclear-powered warships and aircraft capable of carrying atomic weapons in the region.
North ‘not afraid of more US bans’
Pyongyang has been subjected to international pressure, including US sanctions and Security Council resolutions, to abandon its arms development and nuclear programs. Yet, it says the programs are meant to protect the country from US hostility.
On Monday, Reuters quoted a US official as saying on Monday that Washington is considering sweeping sanctions as part of a broad review of measures to counter what is called North Korea’s nuclear and missile “threat.”
Reacting to the report, a senior North Korean diplomat at the UN said his country has no fear of tighter US bans and is determined to pursue the “acceleration” of its nuclear and missile programs.
“Even prohibition of the international transactions system, the global financial system, this kind of thing is part of their system that will not frighten us or make any difference,” said Choe Myong Nam, deputy ambassador at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
The official censured the existing restrictive measures against North Korea as “heinous and inhumane.”
“We strengthen our national defense capability as well as pre-emptive strike capabilities with nuclear forces as a centerpiece,” Choe said.
He added that the North has been under sanctions for “half a century” but the state survives by putting emphasis on “self-sufficiency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) is seen during the test of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at Sohae Space Center. (Photo by Reuters)
The United States is reportedly weighing tough sanctions against North Korea to bar its access to the global financial system.
US government officials said the sanctions are meant to build up economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile tests, Reuters reported.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, added that the punitive measures are part of proposals being drawn up by the US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and could be finalized within weeks.
The sanctions would particularly target Chinese banks and firms that do the business with North Korea, according to the administration officials familiar with the deliberations.
Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Pyongyang of military action, saying Washington’s policy of strategic patience on the North is over.
In response, the North Korean government said it’s prepared for “any war” the US wants.
US President Donald Trump (C) walks away after naming US Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster (L) as his national security adviser and Keith Kellogg (R) as McMaster's chief of staff at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on February 20, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
"The nuclear force of (North Korea) is the treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence to defend the socialist motherland and the life of its people," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.
The unidentified spokesman said the US should accept that North Korea is a nuclear-capable nation that "has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the US would like to ignite."
"If the businessmen-turned US authorities thought that they would frighten (North Korea), they would soon know that their method would not work," the official was quoted as saying.
State media on Sunday reported that North Korea had conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station and leader Kim Jong-un said the successful test marked "a new birth" of the country’s rocket industry.
North Korea has so far conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile launches.
This photo, released on February 13, 2017 by North Korea’s KCNA, shows the launch of a Pukguksong-2 ballistic missile.
The US military has just begun deploying an advanced missile system in South Korea known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), raising the ire of North Korea, China, and Russia.
Washington and Seoul claim that the missile system is for defense against North Korea, which has conducted numerous ballistic missile tests in the past, including most recently on March 6.

This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 19, 2017 shows leader Kim Jong-un (C) inspecting the ground jet test of a newly developed high-thrust engine at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in North Korea. (Photo by AFP)
North Korea has downplayed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's warning of a possible military strike against the country, stressing its full readiness to respond to any war. 
The state-run television KRT on Tuesday cited the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman as saying that North Korea has the will and capability to fully respond to any war which the US wants.
"The nuclear force of (North Korea) is the treasured sword of justice and the most reliable war deterrence to defend the socialist motherland and the life of its people," the official Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.
KCNA quoted the unidentified spokesman as saying the US should accept that North Korea is a nuclear-capable nation that "has the will and capability to fully respond to any war the US would like to ignite."
"If the businessmen-turned US authorities thought that they would frighten (North Korea), they would soon know that their method would not work," the official was quoted as saying.
Last week, Tillerson issued the Trump administration's starkest warning yet to North Korea, saying a military response would be "on the table" if it took action to threaten South Korean and US forces.
Tillerson wrapped up his first Asian trip as the US Secretary of State in Japan, South Korea and China on Sunday with a main focus on finding a "new approach" on North Korea after what he described as two decades of failed efforts to denuclearize the nation.
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrive for a joint press conference at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
State media on Sunday reported that North Korea had conducted a test of a new high-thrust engine at its rocket launch station and leader Kim Jong-un said the successful test marked "a new birth" of the country’s rocket industry.
North Korea has so far conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile launches.
Meanwhile, the UN's atomic watchdog chief has warned that North Korea's uranium enrichment facility has doubled in size over the last few years.
Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the Wall Street Journal that Pyongyang’s nuclear capacities are being ramped up.
The United Nations and the European Union have already imposed an array of crippling sanctions on the North over its missile and nuclear programs. Pyongyang says the programs are meant to guarantee security against potential US military aggression.
Despite the sanctions and other forms of international pressure, Pyongyang declared itself a nuclear power in 2005, and has pledged to strengthen its military capability.
The North Korean leader accuses the US of plotting with regional allies to topple his government.

Royal Malaysian Police Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar addresses journalists on March 7, 2017. (AFP photo)
Malaysian authorities have announced that the hunt is continuing for more suspects in the controversial case related to the killing of the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Police said Sunday that more people have been added to the list of suspects that Malaysia had been hunting in relation to the poisoning to death on February 13 of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport.  
Malaysia has already been seeking seven North Koreans in the case as officials believe four of them are now back in Pyongyang and three could have fled to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
In a briefing with reporters, the national police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, would not give further details on the identity and whereabouts of the new suspects in the case, but said that an "important person" was among those being pursued.
A man watches news reports of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Seoul on February 14, 2017. (AFP photo)
“I do not want to say more than that. If I do, they may run ... but we believe there is an important person too,” said Bakar, adding, “I do not deny that there are more North Koreans involved in the murder of Kim Jong-nam. We will follow the legal channel to get them.”
Kim died within 20 minutes after two women, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, smeared his face with the banned VX nerve agent. This comes as Malaysia’s investigation into the case badly affected relations with North Korea. The two countries have decided to expel ambassadors while scrapping visa-free travels for each other's citizens. The two countries' nationals have also been barred from exiting the other’s territory.
Malaysia has not directly accused Pyongyang of orchestrating the murder but many say the agent used in the deadly poisoning was a product of a sophisticated state weapons laboratory.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) is seen during the test of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at Sohae Space Center. (Photo by Reuters)
North Korea has conducted a ground test of a new high-performance rocket engine, state media have said, branding the successful test a breakthrough in the country’s space program.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Saturday test was intended to gauge the reliability of the “new-type” engine’s control system and structural safety, adding that the engine would help Pyongyang achieve world-class satellite launch capability.
“The development and completion of a new-type high-thrust engine would help consolidate the scientific and technological foundation to match the world-level satellite delivery capability in the field of outer space development,” the agency said.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who appeared at the country’s Sohae satellite-launching site, where Pyongyang had previously conducted long-range rocket tests, hailed the test as “a new birth” of its rocket industry.
Calling the test “a great event of historic significance” for the country’s indigenous rocket industry, Kim said, “The whole world will soon witness what eventful significance the great victory won today carries.”
Kim also said the test marked what will be known as the “March 18 revolution” in the development of North Korea’s space and satellite-launching program.
US ‘to exercise no more patience’
The test was conducted as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in China after visiting US allies Japan and South Korea, focusing on concerns over how to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
In China, Tillerson said Washington would no longer go after the “failed” approach of patient diplomacy with Pyongyang, warning that US military action against North Korea was an option “on the table.”
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, however, called on all sides to exercise rationality and seek a diplomatic solution to the issue. China is North Korea’s main ally.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a joint press conference in Beijing, March 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
North Korea has so far conducted five nuclear tests and numerous missile launches.
The United Nations and the European Union have already imposed an array of crippling sanctions on the North over its missile and nuclear programs. Pyongyang says the programs are meant to guarantee security against potential US military aggression.
Despite the sanctions and other forms of international pressure, Pyongyang declared itself a nuclear power in 2005, and has pledged to strengthen its military capability.
The North Korean leader accuses the US of plotting with regional allies to topple his government.

Japan has launched a new spy satellite into space in an apparent mission to enhance the monitoring of North Korea.
The IGS Radar 5 satellite was launched into orbit on a Japanese H-2A rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan on Friday.
Japan currently has three optical satellites for daytime surveillance and three radar satellites for nighttime monitoring. Two of those are backups.
The new satellite will replace one of the three radar satellites that had been launched in 2011.
The mission of the satellites is officially declared as “information-gathering” — a euphemism for spying — but they are also used to monitor damage in the wake of natural disasters. Japan started putting “information-gathering” satellites into orbit in 2003.
Paving the path to war?
The new launch comes at volatile times in the region. North Korea has attracted much attention with its increased missile and nuclear activities. On March 6, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles, three of which landed into the Sea of Japan, in an area that Tokyo claims as its sovereign territory. Japan reacted with rhetorical anger but took no action.
The United States, meanwhile, has been stirring regional tensions by holding military drills with South Korea and Japan that are meant to be a signal to North Korea.
North Korea interprets the maneuvers as rehearsals for a possible invasion of the country. It has been technically at war with South Korea for decades; a war between the two Koreas in the early 1950s ended in a ceasefire only and not a peace agreement.
Amid the military maneuvers, missile launches, and mutual pledges of strong action, the risks are high for the US, Japan, South Korea, and the North to stumble into war. While the joint drills between the US and South Korea are an annual occurrence, they can be particularly provocative this year.
This handout photo, taken on March 6, 2017, shows the first elements of the US-built Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system arriving at the Osan US Air Base in Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul, South Korea. (Via AFP)
The US has just begun deploying an advanced missile system in South Korea in a declared mission to counter threats from the North. The installment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) has angered Pyongyang, as well as its main ally Beijing.
The THAAD is equipped with a powerful detection system known as an X band radar, which experts say would destabilize regional security and upset the region’s current military balance.
China has warned that a war is likely and has been repeatedly calling on all parties to try to de-escalate the tensions to avoid conflict.
Just on Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said two decades of US policies had failed to deter North Korea from advancing a military nuclear program, calling for “a new approach.” He did not explain.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with acting South Korean President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn prior to their meeting at the government complex in Seoul on March 17, 2017. (AFP photo)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned that military action against North Korea would be "on the table" if Pyongyang elevated the threat level.
A US policy of strategic patience with North Korea has ended, Tillerson, who is on a multi-nation tour in Asia, said in South Korea on Friday.
"Let me be very clear: The policy of strategic patience has ended. We are exploring a new range of security and diplomatic measures. All options are on the table," Tillerson told a news conference in Seoul.
He said any North Korean actions that threatened the South would be met with "an appropriate response."
"If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table," Tillerson said when asked about military action.
Tillerson will travel to China on Saturday, where he is expected to try to convince Chinese leaders to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. China is North Korea’s main ally.
Tillerson, who had never served in the US’s diplomatic corps before becoming the country’s top diplomat, visited the Demilitarized Zone earlier on Friday, and looked across the heavily fortified border at armed North Korean guards.
The US military has just begun deploying an advanced missile system in South Korea known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), raising the ire of North Korea, China, and Russia.
Washington and Seoul claim that the missile system is for defense against North Korea, which has conducted numerous ballistic missile tests in the past, including most recently on March 6.

Regardless of what you may think about social media, it remains a global microphone for people like Yeonmi Park to tell their stories.
Park escaped North Korea when she was 13 years old with her mother. She has become a spokeswoman for the rights of North Koreans escaping the "unimaginable country".
Park spoke at The One Young World 2016 Summit two years ago. But it is now that 65 million people have heard her story.
Park's heartwrenching, eloquent and truly personal speech at the summit, which had attendees in tears, was recently shared on Facebook and in less than a week it has been watched 65 million times and shared more than a million times.
When you watch it you will see why.
Her speech will leave you in awe of the hell she went through and how North Koreans are being terrorised.

"North Korea is the only country in the world that executed people for making unauthorised international phone calls" she said.Through tears she relays several harrowing moments during her time in North Korea including at nine years old watching her friend's mother being publicly executed "her crime - watching a Hollywood movie".
She was born in 1993 and was abducted at birth. Her father died in China after they escaped North Korea.
"I had to bury him, at 3am in secret. I was 14 years old, I couldn't even cry, I was afraid to be sent back to North Korea" she sobs.
"The day I escaped North Korea, I saw my mother raped. The rapist was a Chinese broker. He targeted me, I was 13 years old. There is a saying in North Korea: 'Women are weak, but mothers are strong'. My mother allowed herself to be raped in order to protect me."
The most harrowing part of her speech is the story of her escape.
"Mongolia was our freedom moment. Death or dignity. Armed with knives, we were prepared to kill ourselves if we were going to be sent back to North Korea. We wanted to live as humans.
"No humans deserve to be oppressed just because of their birthplace."

This US navy photo obtained February 7, 2017 shows the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson participating in a replenishment-at-sea in the Pacific Ocean on February 3, 2017. (Via AFP)
North Korea has warned Washington of “merciless” retaliatory attacks if a US navy aircraft carrier strike group violates its sovereignty during joint war games with South Korean forces.
“If they infringe on the DPRK’s sovereignty and dignity even a bit, its army will launch merciless ultra-precision strikes from ground, air, sea and underwater,” Pyongyang’s state news agency KCNA announced on Tuesday.
The DPRK is an acronym for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the official name of North Korea.
The statement came after the arrival of the strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, which has 5,500 crew members and includes the destroyer Wayne E. Meyer as well as military aircraft.
The deployment, which was also slammed in the statement as a “scheme to attack” North Korea, comes amid annual joint Washington-Seoul war games that began on March 1.
“On March 11 alone, many enemy carrier-based aircraft flew along a course near territorial air and waters of the DPRK to stage drills of dropping bombs and making surprise attacks on the ground targets of its army,” the KCNA report added.
The annual military maneuvers, which are billed as defensive in nature, involved nearly 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans last year. South Korea has said this year’s war games would be of a similar scale without elaborating on the number of forces taking part in the ongoing exercise.
This is while a US Navy spokesman said the Carl Vinson aircraft carrier was on a pre-planned regular visit to the region, during which it would also take part in the joint military drills with South Korean troops.
Pyongyang slams the annual drills as a rehearsal for attacking the North, repeatedly calling on its southern neighbor to stop the provocative exercises.
Meanwhile, the US military has begun the deployment of “Gray Eagle” attack drones to South Korea as announced by a Pentagon spokesman on Monday.
Moreover, the US military has further deployed an advanced missile system in South Korea known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), raising the ire of North Korea, China and Russia.
However, Washington and Seoul claim the missile system is for defense against North Korea, which has successfully conducted numerous ballistic missile tests in past months.
Pyongyang’s military also fired four ballistic missiles into the sea near Japanese territory last week in response to the joint US-South Korea drills.
Reacting to Pyongyang’s missiles tests, Washington’s ambassador to the United Nations said last week President Donald Trump’s administration was re-evaluating its North Korea strategy, threatening that “all options are on the table.”
    This is while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also due to make his first official visit to South Korea next Friday.
    Adding to the mounting tensions, China has also slammed the joint war games by US and South Korean forces. China’s influential state-run Global Times daily said the USS Carl Vinson was taking part in a simulation of a preemptive strike against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.
    “The US and South Korea often accuse China of being uncooperative, but the reality is they are uncooperative over China’s mediation,” it said, referring to claims that China does not do enough to rein in Pyongyang.

    Hospital workers move a body cart through the gate of the forensics wing at Hospital Kuala Lumpur, where the body of Kim Jong-nam lies, in Kuala Lumpur on March 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
    Malaysia says it will give the relatives of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother two to three weeks to claim his body before deciding what to do with it.
    Malaysian authorities say Kim Jong-nam died after two women smeared his face with the banned VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur's airport on February 13, but North Korea rejects the findings.
    Pyongyang has demanded the body back from day one and objected to Malaysia's autopsy. It also has refused to acknowledge that Kim Jong-nam was the victim and has referred to him as Kim Chol, the name on the passport Kim was carrying when he was attacked in a crowded airport terminal.
    On Friday, Malaysian police confirmed that Kim Chol and Kim Jong-nam was the same person, but refused to say how they identified Kim. The body is being kept at a morgue at a Kuala Lumpur hospital.
    This file photo shows Kim Jong-nam, Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother, in the southern Chinese city of Macau.
    Since Kim's death, relations between the two countries have steadily deteriorated, with each expelling the other’s ambassador.
    Last Tuesday, North Korea blocked all Malaysians from leaving the country until a "fair settlement" of the case was reached.
    Malaysia then barred North Koreans from exiting its soil. Both countries have also scrapped visa-free travel for each other’s citizens.
    Four of the seven North Korean suspects being sought by Malaysia are believed to have left the country the day Kim was killed. Police say the other three suspects, including a North Korean diplomat, are believed to be in hiding at the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
    The attack was caught on surveillance video that showed two women going up to Kim and apparently smearing something on his face. He was dead within 20 minutes, authorities say.
    Two women - one Indonesian, one Vietnamese - have been charged with murder but say they were duped into thinking they were playing a harmless prank.

    Nuclear-armed North Korea this week pushed the world's patience once again after test firing ballistic missiles into Japan's waters.
    The act was condemned across the world and raised simmering tensions in the region with Seoul and Tokyo blasting the provocative move.
    The US has condemned the secretive state and demanded to see some sort of positive action from Pyongyang, while labelling leader Kim Jong-un as an "irrational attention seeker".
    But when it comes to dealing with the North Korean problem, some say it doesn't appear to be a huge priority for the new president.
    Speaking to news.com.au earlier this week after news emerged that Barack Obama tried to warn Mr Trump that North Korea presented his biggest diplomatic challenge, cyber security expert Dr Greg Austin, said the President had bigger issues on his plate.
    "North Korea simply isn't on his radar, politically or ideologically," Dr Austin, a Professor in the Australian Centre for Cyber Security at the University of New South Wales in Canberra, said.
    However, on Thursday the US issued an ultimatum to North Korea over its missile program.
    US Ambassador Nikki Haley demanded to see "some sort of positive action" from North Korea before the US will take Kim Jong-un's regime seriously, blasting the leader as an irrational attention seeker.
    "We have not seen any goodwill at all coming from North Korea," Ms Haley said. "I appreciate all my counterparts wanting to talk about talks and negotiations (but) we are not dealing with a rational person."
    Defending the upcoming deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea - strongly opposed by China - she said America would not leave its ally facing the threat of North Korea without help.
    She said the US was re-evaluating how it's going to deal with North Korea "and we are making those decisions now and will act accordingly."

    President Donald Trump. Photo / Getty Images














    "We're not ruling anything out and we're considering every option that's on the table," she said.
    In February US Defense Secretary James Mattis reassured Washington's Asian allies and said any nuclear attack by North Korea would trigger an "effective and overwhelming" response following President Trump's inauguration.
    IS CRISIS BEING IGNORED?
    The United States currently has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea, and 50,000 in Japan, as a deterrent against a potential aggression from the North.
    And when it comes to official US policy in dealing with North Korea, Washington doesn't deal with Pyongyang, full stop.
    Dr Leonid Petrov, a Korean Studies researcher at the Australian National University, said the US didn't deal with Pyongyang on a diplomatic level.
    De Petrov said the US was, however, clear in its support for South Korea and the idea of reunification.
    "But it's a hands off policy in regards to North Korea," he said.
    TRUMP ON NORTH KOREA
    According to Brendan Thomas-Noone, a research fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, the Trump Administration is currently doing a top-to-bottom review of its policy towards North Korea.
    He said the US would continue to enforce UN Security Council sanctions while deterring North Korean provocation through military exercises, putting in place ballistic missile defences like THAAD and supporting South Korea.
    But Mr Noone said this review could go much further.
    "A full policy review will also likely include 'all the options on the table' like pre-emptive military strikes and putting further pressure on Beijing through sanctioning Chinese businesses that continue to operate in North Korea," he said.
    "Pre-emptive strikes or sanctions will not result in North Korea restricting its nuclear program or its reach for ICBM technology in the long-term."
    MESSAGE TO PYONGYANG
    Mr Noone said the US sent North Korea a clear message this week and Pyongyang should have noted its meaning.
    "The rushed deployment of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile battery earlier this week is one way for the US to signal that it is prepared to take further measures to deter North Korea's missile tests," he said.
    "More importantly, it is a way for the Trump Administration to apply pressure on China to take further action in reigning in North Korea."
    He warned this could backfire as China may find the deployment of THAAD as a reason to increase spending on its own nuclear weapons program.
    Mr Noone stressed war in the region was something to be avoided at any cost and said North Korea was the most pressing flashpoint in the region today.
    "A conflict on the Korean peninsula would end up engulfing the entire region," he said.
    "It's unpredictable how a conflict or crisis could unfold, and with so many overlapping alliances and US defence commitments in the region, a stable Korean peninsula is in the interest of the entire region, including Australia."
    OBAMA'S 'STRATEGIC PATIENCE'
    Mr Obama had a policy of strategic patience with North Korea during most of his two terms, Mr Noone said.
    "This meant in practice growing the international sanction regime arrayed against North Korea and pressuring other countries to enforce it," he said.
    "The hope was that this economic sanction regime would force North Korea to come to the table and negotiate over its nuclear program. But this didn't really work."
    However, he said the reality was the policy of strategic patience was a failure as North Korea evaded sanctions while advancing its nuclear program and its economy.
    According to The Council on Foreign Relations, hopes were high when Barack Obama first came to power in 2008 that he might pursue direct talks with North Korea over its nuclear program.

    North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. Photo / Getty Images


    In his inaugural address, Mr Obama offered an outstretched hand to those who will unclench their fists.
    But "North Korea responded to this offer with a multistage rocket launch and a nuclear test" and the US then settled on a "strategic patience approach" which meant Washington wouldn't negotiate with Pyongyang until it denuclearised.
    SECRET CYBER WAR
    While Mr Trump was warned that North Korea's missile program would remain his biggest international challenge, it also emerged that the new President has inherited a secret cyber war.
    Revelations from the New York Times investigation showed Mr Obama undertook a series of cyberattacks against North Korea's missile program as he believed antimissile systems were inadequate to protect the US from a potential threat.
    Mr Obama reportedly chose to target missiles before test launches took place, ultimately sabotaging them within seconds.
    Mr Trump's advisers are now considering whether to continue with the cyber attacks, which the Obama administration began in 2014.
    Dr Austin told news.com.au the Obama administration had publicly stated it would retaliate against a North Korean missile launch for its past cyber attacks on US targets, especially against Sony pictures.
    But Dr Austin said the reality was North Korea didn't fit neatly in the President's simplistic world view.
    He said any action or policy would ultimately be guided by Mr Trump's intelligence and military advisers who would probably take similar action to what Mr Obama did.
    He said Mr Trump hasn't given clear guidance on what exactly his policy is on North Korea and the New York Times story was simply reminding him of the problem he has inherited.

    MKRdezign

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