North Korea Fires Suspected Ballistic Missile Into Sea

File photo used to illustrate the story.

 

North Korea fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile into the sea on Wednesday, South Korea and Japan said, in the first such launch by Pyongyang this year.

In the decade since Kim Jong Un took power, North Korea has made rapid progress in its military technology at the cost of international sanctions.

The nuclear-armed nation’s first apparent weapons launch of 2022 follows a year of major arms tests despite the severe economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.

The South Korean military said the North fired what is “presumed to be a ballistic missile” towards the sea east of the peninsula at around 8:10 am (2310 GMT Tuesday) from Jagang province, which borders China.

After an emergency meeting, South Korea’s national security council “expressed concerns over the launch”, according to a statement by the president’s office.

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida described it as a “possible ballistic missile launch”.

“It is truly regrettable that North Korea has continuously launched missiles since last year,” he told reporters.

Kishida said the Japanese government was analysing details, including how many missiles may have been launched.

“There have been no reports of damage to Japanese aircraft and vessels so far,” Japan’s top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

“We are continuing analysis, but if it took a normal orbit, it is expected to have travelled about 500 kilometres and fallen outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone.”

The launch followed a speech by Kim last week in which he said North Korea would continue to build up its military capabilities.

“I expect North Korea to continue refining its arsenal as a way to improve its strategic position at a time of political change in the region,” Jean Lee, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center, told AFP.

In 2021, North Korea said it successfully tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile, a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon, and what it described as a hypersonic warhead.

 Stalled Dialogue 

The dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, following the collapse of talks between Kim and then-president Donald Trump in 2019.

Under Trump’s successor Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives, while saying it will seek denuclearisation.

But Pyongyang has so far dismissed the offer, accusing Washington of pursuing “hostile” policies.

At the end of a key meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party last week, Kim did not mention the United States at all.

Instead of the policy positions on diplomacy for which Kim’s New Year statements have been closely watched in recent years, he focused on food security and development in an extensive speech.

But he said Pyongyang would continue to boost its capabilities, keeping in mind “the military environment of the Korean peninsula” and the changing international situation.

“Pyongyang is sending the message to the US that it will not change and therefore Washington must give in,” Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told AFP.

North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The impoverished nation has also been under a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade that has hammered its economy.

The worsening economic situation during the pandemic, however, has not blunted those programmes, and North Korea has continued to pursue weapons development, a UN report said in October.

Concerns have grown about a full-blown food crisis in North Korea, and a United Nations human rights expert warned in October that the most vulnerable were “at risk of starvation”.

AFP

North Korea Slams UN Over Meeting On Missile Test

 

North Korea on Sunday slammed the UN Security Council for holding an emergency meeting over the country’s latest missile tests, accusing the member states of toying with a “time-bomb”.

Pyongyang said Friday it had successfully fired an anti-aircraft missile, the latest in a series of tension-raising steps by the nuclear-armed state, which had until recently been biding its time since the change in US administrations in January.

In September, it launched what it said was a long-range cruise missile, and earlier this week tested what it described as a hypersonic gliding vehicle, which South Korea’s military said appeared to be in the early stages of development.

The tests prompted UN Security Council member states to convene an emergency meeting on North Korea on Friday, called by the United States, Britain and France.

The meeting was originally due to take place on Thursday but was delayed. It lasted just over an hour and ended without a statement.

But it nonetheless angered Pyongyang, which called it a “wanton encroachment” on its sovereignty and a “serious intolerable provocation”.

“Demanding that we renounce our right to self-defence means an expression of its intention not to acknowledge the DPRK as a sovereign state,” said Jo Chol Su, director of the Department of International Organisations at the foreign ministry, using the abbreviation for the country’s official name.

“I express strong concerns over the fact that the UNSC amused itself with the dangerous ‘time-bomb’ this time,” he added in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

North Korea has a long history of using weapons tests as part of a carefully calibrated process to try to forward its objectives.

On Wednesday, the country’s leader Kim Jong Un decried Washington’s repeated offers of talks without preconditions as a “petty trick”, accusing the Biden administration of continuing the “hostile policy” of its predecessors.

Under President Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives, while saying it will seek denuclearisation.

N. Korea Fired Two Missiles In First Test Under Biden  – US, South

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about Monday’s mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado, in the State Dining Room at the White House on March 23, 2021 in Washington, DC.

 

North Korea fired two short-range missiles just days after a visit to the region by the top US defense and diplomatic officials, but President Joe Biden said they were not a serious provocation.

It was nuclear-armed North Korea’s first launch since his inauguration — Pyongyang has been biding its time since the new administration took office, not even officially acknowledging its existence until last week.

Washington is reviewing its approach to Pyongyang after a tumultuous relationship between president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which went from trading insults and threats of war to a diplomatic bromance and several meetings, but made no substantive progress towards denuclearization.

North Korea on Sunday fired two short-range, non-ballistic missiles, US administration officials said Tuesday, but downplayed them as “common” military testing and said they did not violate UN Security Council resolutions.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said they appeared to be cruise missiles and were fired over the Yellow Sea, known as the West Sea in Korea — so towards China, rather than US ally Japan.

The launches followed joint exercises by the US and South Korean militaries earlier this month and came just days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Tokyo and Seoul to discuss alliance and security issues in the region, with the North seen as a central threat.

But it was an unusually restrained response by Pyongyang, which has so far not announced them in state media.

Asked by reporters about the tests, Biden said: “According to the Defense department, it’s business as usual. There’s no new wrinkle in what they did.”

A senior US administration official told reporters the launches were “on the low end” of the spectrum of North Korean actions, and nothing like the nuclear weapon tests or intercontinental ballistic missile launches with which Pyongyang has previously provoked Washington.

“It is common practice for North Korea to test various systems,” an official added. “We do not respond to every kind of test.”

– Reigniting talks –
While Blinken and Austin were in Seoul on March 18, North Korean first vice foreign minister Choe Son Hui accused the United States of a “lunatic theory of ‘threat from North Korea’ and groundless rhetoric about ‘complete denuclearization.'”

President Joe Biden’s two-month-old administration hopes to reignite negotiations with the Kim regime on its nuclear arsenal after Trump’s headline-grabbing efforts stalled.

Initial outreach from Washington to Pyongyang has turned up empty, but US officials are hopeful they can reconnect, while working in coordination with allies Japan and South Korea.

Trump held two summits with Kim, in Singapore and Vietnam, and the United States pulled back on some joint training activities with South Korea’s military while North Korea froze ballistic missile tests.

But their February 2019 meeting in Hanoi broke up over sanctions relief and what the North would be willing to give up in return. Communications then dried up, despite a third encounter in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the Korean peninsula.

Biden officials are now finalizing a strategy to restart talks that the White House will discuss with Japanese and South Korean security officials next week, an administration official said.

“We have taken efforts and we will continue to take efforts” to communicate, they added.

But they said that Pyongyang cannot expect concessions — such as cutting back on bilateral military exercises — from Biden.

“Some of the efforts that were taken previously to turn off necessary exercises were actually antithetical to our position.”

– Coronavirus blockade –
North Korea is more isolated than ever after imposing a strict border closure to protect itself from the coronavirus, blockading itself more effectively than any sanctions regime.

The move has hit its already moribund economy and analysts say its authorities are likely to be focused on those domestic issues.

Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in Seoul, told AFP: “We shouldn’t identify every North Korean missile test as a provocation since the South also carries out such tests in regular military exercises.”

But he added: “Pyongyang could elevate the intensity of missile tests from short-range to medium-range in the months ahead if it thinks Washington is doubling down on punitive policy against it.”

AFP

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