North Korea Fires Two ‘Ballistic Missiles’ Despite Coronavirus Outbreak

This picture taken on March 20, 2020 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 21 shows an artillery fire competition between large combined units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) on the western front. STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Saturday, the latest in a series of such launches by Pyongyang as the world struggles with the coronavirus pandemic.

The South Korean military condemned the launches as “extremely inappropriate given the difficult situation the world is experiencing due to COVID-19… We urge them to stop immediately.”

North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus, which has turned into a major crisis with more than 11,000 deaths and over 250,000 infections worldwide.

There has been widespread speculation, however, that the virus has reached the isolated nation, and health experts have warned that it could devastate the country given its weak medical infrastructure and widespread malnutrition.

Japan’s defence ministry also confirmed the North Korean launches.

For decades, North Korea’s leadership has faced international criticism for prioritising spending on its military and nuclear weapons programme instead of providing for the population — even during times of famine.

Pyongyang considers its military development necessary for security in the face of what it describes as American aggression. North Korea is under multiple sets of punishing sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes.

Hopes for a thaw after meetings between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump were dented as they failed to produce any substantial progress on denuclearising the Korean peninsula, and Pyongyang has since continued to refine its military capabilities, analysts say.

With the latest launch Pyongyang “continues an international strategy of trying to normalise its missile tests”, Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, told AFP.

 ‘Draconian restrictions’ 

Shortly before the launch, North Korea’s official news agency KCNA reported that the rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, would convene on April 10.

The event would involve gathering nearly 700 officials in one place, analysts said. Such events have been banned in many parts of the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“North Korea would not risk holding such a large-scale national political event if the regime was not confident about preventing or containing the spread of the virus,” Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst at specialist website NK News, told AFP.

Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in offering “comfort” as Seoul battled what was the worst outbreak of the virus outside China at the time.

South Korea has since largely brought the contagion under control.

KCNA said Saturday Kim oversaw an “artillery fire competition” among combined units of the army on Friday, releasing photos of him along with military officers — none of them wearing face masks.

But despite North Korea’s decision to go ahead with its parliament session, Pyongyang’s “draconian restrictions on movement, mask-wearing propaganda, public punishment of ‘corrupt’ elites violating quarantine efforts, and rush to build medical facilities suggest COVID-19 has penetrated the country,” Ewha University’s Easley said.

“Pyongyang is likely struggling with a coronavirus crisis on a national scale.”

With fears swirling about an outbreak in North Korea, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana earlier this month called for Pyongyang to provide access to outside medical experts and humanitarian assistance.

The UN Security Council said last month that it would make humanitarian exemptions to sanctions on North Korea to help it fight the coronavirus.

AFP

Iran Civil Aviation Boss ‘Certain’ Ukraine Plane Not Hit By Missile

 

Iran’s civil aviation chief Ali Abedzadeh said Friday he was “certain” a Ukrainian airliner which crashed outside Tehran this week was not hit by a missile.

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“One thing is for certain, this airplane was not hit by a missile,” Abedzadeh told a news conference in Tehran after Britain and Canada both said intelligence sources suggested a catastrophic error by Iranian air defence batteries had downed the aircraft.

Nuclear: North Korea Conducts ‘Crucial Test’ – State Media

FILES) In this file photo taken on July 4, 2017, Pyongyang residents watch the news on the successful launch of the intercontinental ballistic missile “Hwasong-14.”  Kim Won-Jin / AFP

 

North Korea has conducted another “crucial test” at its Sohae satellite launch site, state media reported Saturday, as nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington remain stalled with a deadline approaching.

“Another crucial test was successfully conducted at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground from 22:41 to 22:48 on December 13,” a spokesman for the North’s National Academy of Defence Science said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

The “research successes” will be “applied to further bolstering up the reliable strategic nuclear deterrent” of North Korea, the spokesman added.

The announcement comes after the United States tested a medium-range ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had agreed to shutter the Sohae site during a summit last year with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang as part of trust-building measures.

Frustrated by the lack of sanctions relief after three summits with President Donald Trump, North Korea has vowed an ominous “Christmas gift” if the US does not come up with concessions by the end of the year.

Earlier this month the North announced it conducted a “very important test” at the same site in Sohae.

Pyongyang this week criticised Washington as “foolish” for convening a UN Security Council meeting over growing concern about short-range rockets fired from the isolated state.

AFP

US, North Korea Resume Talks After Nuclear Test

People watch a television news screen showing file footage of a North Korean missile launch, at a railway station in Seoul on October 2, 2019. Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

North Korean and US officials on Saturday gathered for new nuclear talks in Stockholm after months of deadlock and Pyongyang’s defiant test of a sea-launched ballistic missile this week.

North Korea’s Kim Myong Gil and Stephen Biegun, the special envoy of US President Donald Trump, are part of the teams at the talks.

The two were to meet at a heavily guarded venue on an island off Stockholm, several hundred metres from the North Korean embassy, an AFP correspondent said.

The first cars with tinted windows started arriving just after 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

“I am encouraged that US and (North Korean) working level delegations are currently in Sweden to hold talks,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Lindh tweeted.

“Dialogue needed to reach denuclearization and peaceful solution.”

Similar-level talks on North Korea’s nuclear disarmament were held in Stockholm in March 2018 and then in January this year.

North Korea frequently couples diplomatic overtures with military moves as a way of maintaining pressure on negotiating partners, analysts say, and many believe this weapons system gives it added leverage.

Pyongyang tested what it called a “super-large” rocket on Wednesday just hours after it said it was willing to resume working-level talks with Washington.

Kim Myong Gil said he was “optimistic” about the talks, speaking in Beijing on his way to the Swedish capital.

Washington has been eagerly awaiting a resumption of the dialogue, which has virtually stalled after a Hanoi meeting in late February between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea claimed to have entered a new phase in its defence capability with Wednesday’s test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile — the most provocative since Pyongyang began a dialogue with Washington in 2018.

The Pentagon said Thursday the missile seems to have been launched from a “sea-based platform” and not a submarine.

Trump has said he sees no problem with a string of short-range rocket tests conducted previously by North Korea, while insisting his personal ties with the North’s leader remain good.

‘New phase’ 

Photos carried by Pyongyang’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed a black and white missile emerging from the water and appearing to shoot into the sky.

The images also showed a small towing vessel next to the missile, which analysts said indicates the test was conducted from a submersible barge rather than an actual submarine, and that the system was in its early stages.

“The new-type ballistic missile was fired in vertical mode” in the waters off Wonsan Bay, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, identifying the weapon as a Pukguksong-3 and saying it “ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threat.”

The United Nations Security Council meanwhile is expected to hold closed-door talks early next week on the latest test, diplomats said.

Those talks were requested by Britain, France and Germany, as the European powers push for the world body to keep up pressure on Pyongyang which is under heavy US and UN sanctions over its weapons program.

North Korea is banned from ballistic missile launches by Security Council resolutions.

It is also under three sets of UN sanctions adopted in 2017 in an effort to force it to give up its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes. They limit North Korea’s oil imports and impose bans linked to its exports of coal, fish and textiles.

Since the US-North Korea talks began, Russia and China have been calling for the UN to start lifting sanctions so as to create momentum towards the North’s denuclearisation. But the United States has refused.

AFP

Security Council To Hold Talks Over North Korea Missile Test

UN Security Council meeting on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines/ AFP

 

The UN Security Council is expected to hold-closed door talks on North Korea’s test of a sea-launched missile, as European powers push for the world body to keep up the pressure on Pyongyang, diplomats said Thursday.

North Korea claimed to have entered a new phase in its defense capability with the test Wednesday of a submarine-launched ballistic missile — the most provocative since Pyongyang began a dialogue with Washington in 2018.

The demand for closed-door talks was made by Britain, France and Germany, as the United States and North Korea prepare to resume nuclear talks this week. Initially slated for Friday, the talks are now expected to take place early next week due to scheduling constraints, diplomats said.

The European nations consider the test a violation of UN resolutions, and pressed the US delegation to have the council take it up, one diplomat said.

“The Americans do not want a formal meeting” so the Europeans asked for a closed-door session, said another diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Donald Trump, who says he has a great relationship with Kim Jong Un, has shied from criticizing North Korea over its missile tests as the two sides seek an agreement for the North to give up its nuclear weapons.

“We are deeply concerned and we need to bring this back to the Security Council. This is another clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” the first diplomat said.

“This test is not neutral, and the Security Council should be able to discuss it,” the second one said.

In late August, Britain, France and Germany sought a meeting of the Security Council after North Korea tested a new “super large” multiple rocket launcher.

But in the end those three members of the council simply issued a statement calling for continued international sanctions against Pyongyang.

North Korea is under three sets of UN sanctions adopted in 2017 in an effort to force it to give up its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

The sanctions limit North Korea’s oil imports and impose bans linked to its exports of coal, fish and textiles.

Since the US-North Korea talks began, Russia and China have been calling for the UN to start lifting sanctions so as to create momentum towards the North’s denuclearization. But the United States has refused.

Israel Accuses Iran Of Building Precision Missiles In Lebanon

File Photo of a missile being fired at an undisclosed location.

 

The Israeli army on Thursday accused Iran of collaborating with Lebanon’s Hezbollah to assemble precision-guided missiles that could cause “massive” human casualties in Israel.

Tehran and the Shiite movement plan to convert “stupid rockets into precision-guided missiles”, Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus told journalists in a conference call.

He said Iran had tried between 2013 and 2015 to transport precision-guided missiles to Hezbollah through war-torn Syria, where both back the Damascus regime.

But that strategy failed due to “Israeli operations”, said the army, without elaborating.

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Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah targets.

Conricus said that in 2016, “Iran and Hezbollah changed their strategy… (to one of converting) existing rockets into precision-guided” projectiles.

He accused Tehran of planning to smuggle in the required components.

Conricus estimated that Hezbollah currently has some 130,000 rockets, an arsenal he said does not by itself amount to “accurate” weaponry, even if such projectiles constitute a “threat”.

“However if they are able to produce a precision-guided arsenal… that will create a different and much more dangerous situation,” he added.

Conricus accused Hezbollah of being “willing to strike civilians and strategic facilities… in order to create a massive amount of casualties and damage in Israel”.

“Hezbollah does not yet have an industrial capability to manufacture precision guided missiles” but continues to work towards that goal, he added.

The allegations come after Hezbollah — with which Israel has fought several wars — accused the Jewish state of carrying out a drone attack Sunday on its Beirut stronghold.

Israel’s military did not confirm whether it was behind the weekend attack, which saw one drone explode and another crash without detonating.

The Shiite movement’s chief Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday that an armed  drone had “hit a specific area,” without elaborating.

According to the UK’s Times newspaper, the drones fell near Iranian installations manufacturing a fuel used by precision missiles.

The Beirut attack came after Israel on Saturday launched strikes in neighbouring Syria, saying it was to prevent an Iranian attack on the Jewish state.

 ‘Be warned’ 

The Israeli army said that Mohammed Hussein-Zada Jejazi — head of the Lebanese branch of the Quds Force — was the mastermind of the alleged Iranian-Hezbollah missile plot.

The Quds Force is an elite organisation that runs the external operations of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The Israeli army also released a photo that it said showed Jejazi.

It accused Lebanese citizen Fouad Shokr — a high-ranking Hezbollah commander — and two other Iranians, Majid Nua and Ali Asrar Nuruzi, of also being involved.

Israel’s military said Majid Nua was an engineer with specialist knowledge of surface-to-surface missiles.

Netanyahu on Thursday said Israel was “determined to stop our enemies from possessing destructive arms.”

“Today I tell them: ‘dirbalak’,” he said — Arabic for “be careful”.

AFP

North Korea Fires ‘Short-Range Ballistic Missiles’

This picture taken on August 16, 2019 and released on August 17 by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows the test-firing of a new weapon, presumed to be a short-range ballistic missile, at an undisclosed location.  KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea Saturday fired what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles  into the sea after vowing to remain the biggest “threat” to the United States and branding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “toxin.”

It was the latest in a series of short-range missile tests the nuclear-armed nation has carried out in recent weeks in protest against US-South Korean military exercises, which it sees as a rehearsal for invasion. The latest joint drill wrapped up on Tuesday.

“The military detected two unidentified projectiles presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff in a statement Saturday after the latest launch.

The missiles flew about 380 kilometres (240 miles) and reached an altitude of 97 kilometres at a top speed of Mach 6.5 before landing in the East Sea, also known as Sea of Japan, it said.

“Our military is tracking the movement in the North in case of additional launches, with firm readiness,” it added.

South Korea’s presidential Blue House convened a National Security Council meeting and expressed “grave concerns” in a statement, pointing out Pyongyang had carried out the launch after the joint US-South Korea military drills had ended.

“NSC members agreed to continue diplomatic efforts with the international community to bring the North back to negotiation table with the US to achieve the goal of complete denuclearisation in the Korean peninsula.”

Tokyo also believed North Korea had fired “ballistic missiles” in violation of UN resolutions, Japanese Defence Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters.

“It can’t be overlooked no matter what the size and distance are,” he said.

Washington was monitoring the situation following reports of a missile launch, a senior US official said.

“We are consulting closely with our Japanese and South Korean allies.”

 ‘Biggest threat’ 

South Korea’s military said it would share intelligence on the launches with Japan despite Seoul saying earlier this week that it was terminating such exchanges amid a growing diplomatic and trade spat with its neighbour, which had raised concern it could weaken tracking of Pyongyang’s actions by the US allies.

Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington have been gridlocked since a second summit in Hanoi in February collapsed without an agreement over the extent of denuclearisation in the North and a sanctions relief.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to kick start working-level talks during an impromptu meeting at the Demilitarised Zone on June 30 but no contacts have been held since with the North repeatedly expressing anger at the war games.

Earlier this week, Stephen Biegun, the US special envoy for North Korea, said during a visit to Seoul that Washington was “prepared to engage” as soon as it hears from Pyongyang.

But on Friday, the North vowed to “remain as the biggest ‘threat’ to the US” if Washington persisted with sanctions, in a statement by Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Ri also launched a scathing attack on Pompeo, calling him a “diehard toxin” after the top US diplomat said Washington would continue to keep the “toughest” sanctions on the North until the reclusive state denuclearises.

AFP

North Korea’s Latest Missile Test Undermines International Peace Efforts – EU

(FILES) This early August 6, 2019 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on August 7, 2019, shows the launch of an alleged new-type of tactical guided missiles from an undisclosed western part location of the country. KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

The European Union on Saturday condemned North Korea for the latest in a series of missile launches, saying the tests undermined international efforts to achieve peace on the peninsula.

Defence officials in Seoul said what appeared to be two short-range ballistic missiles were fired at daybreak from near the northeastern city of Hamhung, flying 400 kilometres (250 miles) before splashing down in the sea.

It was the fifth round of launches in two weeks, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un labelling them a “solemn warning” over the joint US-South Korean military drills.

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“With the launching of two short range ballistic missiles today, a fifth such test in recent weeks, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continues to undermine international work for building trust and establishing lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, free of nuclear weapons,” a spokesperson for the EU said in a statement.

“We expect the DPRK to refrain from any further provocations, abide by its stated commitments, and fully implement its international obligations as determined by multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions.”

The statement urged Pyongyang to take “concrete and credible” steps towards abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and called for more talks.

AFP

Putin Meets Erdogan Over S-400 Missile Deal Amid US Concern

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) ahead of a meeting at The Kremlin in Moscow on April 8, 2019. Maxim SHIPENKOV / POOL / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart on Monday discussed a missile deal slammed by the US as well as closer military cooperation during a visit by Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Moscow.

The two sides must “strengthen cooperation in the military-technical sphere,” Putin told Erdogan as they met in the Kremlin.

“This regard first of all the completion of the contract to supply S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems to Turkey,” he said.

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“There are other promising projects on the agenda related to the supply of modern Russian military products to Turkey,” Putin added.

NATO member Turkey’s missile deal has tested its already soured relations with Washington.

The US has put a freeze on its joint F-35 fighter jet programme with Turkey in protest.

Last week, US acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he was confident Turkey would drop the plan and buy the US Patriot system instead.

Erdogan has said the S-400s are needed to protect Turkey’s borders. He said he turned to Russia because no acceptable US missile deal was available at the time.

The first S-400 delivery is expected in July.

The pair also discussed Syria, where they have backed opposite sides in the eight-year conflict but have been working closely to end the fighting.

Putin said they were unable to reach an agreement to set up a monitoring centre in Syria’s jihadist-held Idlib region, agreed at a summit in Sochi in February.

“We have so far not been able to create the monitoring centre,” Putin said. “But I am sure that we will do this.”

Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and rebel backer Turkey in September inked a buffer zone deal to prevent a massive regime offensive on the Idlib region, near the Turkish border.

On Sunday, 13 civilians died in a bombing in Idlib.

Along with Iran, Russia and Turkey have positioned themselves as key foreign players in Syria’s long-running war.

Erdogan is on his third visit to Russia since the beginning of this year.

AFP

Russia Must Develop New Types Of Missiles In Next Two Years – Defence Minister

File Photo

 

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday the country must develop new types of missile systems in the next two years after Washington and Moscow ripped up a key arms control treaty.

“During 2019 and 2020 we have to develop a land-based version of the seaborne Kalibr system equipped with a long-range cruise missile,” Shoigu told defence officials.

“Over the same period we will also have to create a land-based missile system with a long-range hypersonic missile.”

Kim To Visit South Korea, Shuts Down Missile Site

North Korean leader Kim Jong agreed to close a missile testing site in front of international inspectors, as a rare inter-Korean summit unfolded in Pyongyang. Pyeongyang Press Corps / AFP

 

 

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un agreed to make a historic visit to Seoul soon and close a missile testing site in front of international inspectors at a summit with the South’s President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang Wednesday.

Progress on the key issue of the North’s nuclear arsenal was limited, but the two signed a document to strengthen ties between the two halves of the divided peninsula.

Building on a growing rapprochement, they agreed to create a facility to hold family reunions at any time, work towards joining up road and rail links and mount a combined bid for the 2032 Olympics.

The agreement “carries the people’s fresh hope and the people’s strong, flaming desire for reunification”, Kim said.

His trip to Seoul would be the first by a Northern leader since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, when hostilities ceased with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving them technically in a state of war.

Moon added that the visit could happen this year and would be a “monumental milestone in inter-Korean relations”.

In their agreement, the North also agreed to “permanently close” a missile engine testing site and launch facility in Tongchang-ri “in the presence of experts from relevant nations”.

Moon, who brokered Kim’s historic summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore in June, had hoped to bring fresh momentum to stalled talks between his hosts and Washington.

Whether that would happen remained unclear.

In Singapore, Kim declared his backing for denuclearization of the peninsula but no details were agreed. Washington and Pyongyang have since sparred over what that means and how it will be achieved.

Trump welcomed Wednesday’s declaration, tweeting that Kim had “agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations” and adding: “Very exciting!”

But experts were skeptical.

– ‘Short of expectations’ –

The North — whose ballistic missile programme is banned under UN Security Council resolutions — has carried out several long-range rocket launches from the site, also known as Sohae, but has also used many other locations including Pyongyang airport.

Satellite pictures in August suggested workers were already dismantling an engine test stand at Sohae.

“Kim is playing this brilliantly: verify that I dismantle a single site that I no longer need anyway while I mass-produce the missiles the site helped me develop,” said Vipin Narang of MIT.

Moon also said the North could close its Yongbyon nuclear plant if Washington takes “corresponding measures” — a significant caveat.

Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis said the consensus view was that the uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon “was built for (the) express purpose of being sacrificed”.

After the high symbolism of Moon and Kim’s first meeting in April in the Demilitarized Zone, and the Singapore summit, progress has largely stalled.

Washington is pressing for the North’s “final, fully verified denuclearisation”, while Pyongyang wants a formal declaration that the Korean War is over and has condemned “gangster-like” demands for it to give up its weapons unilaterally.

Ahead of the Pyongyang summit there had been speculation Moon could secure a promise from Kim of a list of the North’s nuclear assets, but no such document was mentioned.

“On the denuclearization issue, the agreement fell short of expectations,” Korea University political science professor Yoo Ho-yeol told AFP.

Wednesday’s declaration came 13 years to the day after the North committed at the Six-Party Talks to “abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programmes”.

– Mass applause –

But the two Koreas have been pressing ahead with their own rapprochement, with Kim looking to secure economic cooperation from the far wealthier South, and Moon trying to reduce the risk of a US-North Korean conflict that would devastate his country.

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling party, has carried dozens of photos of the two leaders embracing on Moon’s arrival Tuesday, parading together through the streets of the capital, enjoying a concert and toasting at a banquet.

On Wednesday evening Moon’s party will dine at a new fish restaurant in Pyongyang opposite Mansu hill, where giant statues of Kim’s predecessors — his grandfather Kim Il Sung and father Kim Jong Il — look out over the city.

It was chosen after Moon expressed interest in dining at a local restaurant with ordinary citizens. However, a retail shop there sells North Korean caviar at $50 for a 50-gram jar — a luxury far beyond the reach of most North Koreans.

Afterward, Moon will attend a performance of the “Mass Games” — North Korea’s spectacular propaganda display featuring tens of thousands of performers against an ever-changing backdrop, made up of 17,490 children turning the colored pages of books in sequence.

The premiere of the latest version of the show, called “The Glorious Country”, earlier this month featured video footage of Moon and Kim together at their first summit in Panmunjom — prompting the unusual sight of tens of thousands of North Koreans applauding images of the South’s president.

Before returning home on Thursday, Seoul said, Moon will travel to Mount Paektu, the spiritual birthplace of the Korean nation on the Chinese-North Korean border.

AFP

False Alert Of Incoming Missile Rattles Hawaii

 

False Alert Of Incoming Missile Rattles Hawaii
A morning view of the city of Honolulu, Hawaii is seen on January 13, 2018. PHOTO: Eugene Tanner / AFP

Hawaii officials swiftly confirmed a cell phone alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile was a “false alarm” Saturday, but not before the ominous message unnerved residents and stirred confusion across the US state.

The emergency alert urging Hawaiians to “seek immediate shelter” came after months of soaring tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, with North Korea saying it has successfully tested ballistic missiles that could deliver atomic warheads to the US volcanic island chain.

“There is NO missile threat to Hawaii,” the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency quickly tweeted, as social media ignited with screenshots of the cell phone emergency warning.

US military spokesman David Benham said US Pacific Command “has detected no ballistic missile threat to Hawaii. Earlier message was sent in error.”

A corrected message was sent about 40 minutes later indicating that “there is no missile threat or danger to the state of Hawaii.”

The warning — which came across the Emergency Alert System that authorities nationwide use to deliver vital emergency information — read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Governor David Ige was to meet with Defense Department senior officials and the state’s EMA to pinpoint why the message, which was also broadcast on some local television stations, was sent.

“While I am thankful this morning’s alert was a false alarm, the public must have confidence in our emergency alert system,” the governor said in a statement.

“I am working to get to the bottom of this so we can prevent an error of this type in the future.”

Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii called the mistaken notification “totally inexcusable,” blaming it on “human error.”

“There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fixed process,” he tweeted.

The Federal Communications Commission said it was launching a “full investigation” into the incident.

Though the alert was quickly deemed false many Hawaii residents heeded the nerve-wracking warning, taking refuge in hallways and basements.

Lauren McGowan, on holiday in Maui with family members and friends, was on her way to breakfast when her phone blared the alert.

She and her family quickly returned to their hotel, where staff ushered them along with some 30 people to a basement cafeteria and distributed water and food.

‘Jarring’

The alert and rush to shelter caused “confusion,” McGowan said, particularly for the children in the group.

“No one had any idea what was really going on,” the 28-year-old from New York told AFP, explaining they had no cell service underground.

“It was a bit jarring for sure,” she said of the experience.

However, McGowan added, “I’m not going to let it ruin the rest of my vacation” and it’s “definitely good to know that the system works.”

Several golfers participating in the US PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Honolulu also reacted to the alarming episode.

“Under mattresses in the bathtub with my wife, baby and in-laws,” American golfer John Peterson tweeted. “Please lord let this bomb threat not be real.”

After news spread that there was no inbound missile fellow golfer Talor Gooch also took to Twitter, writing: “Welp this was quite a ‘mistake’ made by someone. Birdies didn’t seem too important for a few minutes.”

“Let’s make sure this one doesn’t happen again POTUS,” Gooch added.

US President Donald Trump — who in the past has deployed bombastic rhetoric at North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-Un — had yet to react to the warning.

The US leader recently said he would be willing to speak directly with Kim, with whom he has traded sharp words over Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, raising fears of attacks.

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, blamed Trump for not taking nuclear threats from North Korea seriously.

“We’ve got to achieve peace, not play politics,” she told MSNBC television. “This is literally life and death that is at stake.”

She said that for Hawaiians, Saturday’s episode was “a true realization that they’ve got 15 minutes to find some form of shelter” in the event of a missile attack, “or they’re going to be dead.”

AFP