North Korea Tests New ‘Ultramodern Tactical Weapon’

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on November 16, 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has supervised the testing of a “ultramodern” new weapon, Pyongyang’s state media reported on November 16, in a move that raises the temperature over denuclearisation talks.  KCNA VIA KNS / AFP


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has overseen the testing of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon”, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Friday, a move seen by analysts as more of a political message than a serious provocation.

It marked the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea since it began a delicate diplomatic process with Washington over its nuclear and missile programme.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified government source, said the weapon could be a long-range cannon that the North has been developing for many years.

“Kim Jong Un… visited the test ground of the Academy of Defence Science and supervised a newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test,” said the official Korean Central News Agency.

It said the test was successful but did not specify the type of device involved.

Pyongyang’s suspension of testing for atomic weapons and ballistic missiles has been key to this year’s rapid diplomatic developments and North Korea-US negotiations, and has been repeatedly praised by President Donald Trump.

Trump and Kim met at a historic summit in Singapore in June, where they signed a vaguely worded document on denuclearisation of the peninsula.

Hours after the KCNA report, the US State Department said it was “confident” the process remained on track.

“At the Singapore Summit, President Trump and Chairman Kim made a number of commitments regarding final, fully verified denuclearisation and creating a brighter future for North Korea,” a statement said.

“We are talking with the North Koreans about implementing all of those commitments. We remain confident that the promises made by President Trump and Chairman Kim will be fulfilled.”

Progress since Singapore has stalled as Washington and Pyongyang spar over the document’s meaning. A return to testing would cast grave doubts over the future of the process.

But analysts all but ruled out the North having broken its promise to suspend nuclear or missile launches while negotiations are underway with the US.

There was no immediate indication any such test had been detected by the South.

“We don’t see it as a military provocation of any significance”, a defence ministry official told journalists without saying what the device was.

 ‘Political message’ 

Shin Beom-chul, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, said the test was likely aimed at sending “a political message” to Washington about the current stalemate.

“Generally, tests of new high-tech weapons are conducted in secret,” Shin said. “But North Korea announced it publicly to show its frustration.”

KCNA released only one photograph to accompany its report, showing uniformed men taking notes as Kim talked. The background gave few clues to what kind of weapon was involved.

Kim expressed “great satisfaction” and said the test marked a “decisive turn in bolstering the fighting capacity” of the North’s military, KCNA said.

The weapon had been developed over a long period and its “great success serves as another striking demonstration of the validity of the Party policy of prioritising defence science and technology and the rapidly developing defence capability”, it added.

The news, which came almost a year after Pyongyang’s last test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, recalled the repeated announcements of 2017.

Those included by far North Korea’s most powerful nuclear blast to date and rockets that brought the whole of the US mainland into range.

Soon afterwards Kim declared the development of his nuclear arsenal — which Pyongyang has long said it needs to defend itself against a possible invasion by the US — complete.

The Winter Olympics in the South then triggered a rapid diplomatic rapprochement on the peninsula, heralding the Singapore meeting and three summits between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A second encounter between Kim and Trump is expected in the new year.

But Pyongyang is demanding sanctions imposed against it over its weapons programmes are eased and has condemned US demands for what it calls its “unilateral” disarmament as “gangster-like”.

Washington insists the measures should stay in place until the North’s “final, fully verified” denuclearisation.

Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP the test was “a signal to the US sent ahead of the high-level talks that its own patience is also wearing thin”.


North Korea’s Chilling New Weapon, ICBM Made Of Ice

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attending the Second Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang.

North Koreans attending Pyongyang’s ice sculpture festival have been treated to a chilling glimpse of the country’s latest weaponry — an ICBM in frozen form.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper ran a report on Wednesday showing smiling spectators dressed in thick winter coats posing in front of the replica on New Year’s Eve, waving cameras and smartphones to grab a shot.

Pyongyang says the weapon depicted in the sculpture, a Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, which it tested in November, is capable of hitting the US mainland.

“The ice sculpture recalled the November incident which had caused tremendous excitement for tens of millions of soldiers and people,” the paper said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un used his annual New Year address to warn he has a “nuclear button” on his table, but reached out to Seoul and appealed for warmer ties, in a move that could presage something of a thaw in relations between the two.

Pyongyang said on Wednesday it would reopen a hotline with Seoul to discuss attending the Winter Olympics in the South.

Kim’s comments came after a year that saw multiple missile launches by the North and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test — purportedly of a hydrogen bomb.

Other sculptures on display at the Pyongyang Ice Sculpture Festival, which opened on Kim Il-Sung Square on Sunday, included North Korean landmarks, dolphins, a fishing boat and a tractor.


Ukraine Crisis: Obama Warns Vladimir Putin

putinUS President, Barack Obama has warned the Russia President, Vladimir Putin, that the cost of Russia will rise if it continues its “aggressive actions” in Ukraine.

Mr Obama in a telephone statement, urged Vladimir Putin to seize the opportunity to find a peaceful solution to the war that has raged since April last year.

Mr Putin is to meet with the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine at a summit in Belarus on Wednesday. The summit in Minsk, Belarus capital, is expected to focus on securing a ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons, as well as the creation of a demilitarized zone.

A statement from White House says, “If Russia continues its aggressive actions in Ukraine, including by sending troops, weapons, and financing to support the separatists, the costs for Russia will rise.”

President Obama called  Mr Putin on the eve of the talks to reiterate US support for Ukraine, just days after he refused to rule out supplying “lethal defensive weapons” to Kiev if diplomacy fails.

Russia, however, has warned the West that sending arms to Ukraine would worsen the crisis.

On Tuesday, four soldiers and at least eight civilians were killed in rocket attacks on a key military base and a residential area in Kramatorsk. Government officials said the rockets were fired from a rebel-held area, but separatists denied being behind the attack.

Unconfirmed number of persons was killed and several injured when a shell hit a bus station in rebel-controlled Donetsk early on Wednesday. The body of a man was seen behind the wheel of a minibus after a shell fell through the roof of the station, burning up the vehicle and another beside it.

Emergency services at the scene said another person had died in hospital following the attack, while two people were seriously wounded. There was no immediate comment from rebel authorities or the Kiev-controlled regional administration.

More than 5,400 people have died since the conflict began and civilian casualties have risen in recent weeks.

Kerry To Hold Talks In Ukraine

kerryAs fighting intensifies in Ukraine, the Unites States Secretary of State, John Kerry, is expected to arrive in the country to hold talks with President Petro Poroshenkom, and his Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk.

A superior source said that Kerry would offer U.S. support for efforts by Ukraine to negotiate a new ceasefire.

The issue of weapon deliveries to Ukraine and other U.S. assistance is expected to be one of the main items on the agenda.

Kerry also intends to provide an additional $16.4 billion in humanitarian aid to help civilians in eastern Ukraine, U.S. officials said.

Earlier, Ashton Carter, the White House’s choice for Defence Secretary, said that he was “inclined” to start supplying arms.

The U.S. has so far only provided “non-lethal” assistance to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, NATO is set to unveil what the bloc’s chief says are “the biggest reinforcement” of its “collective defense since the end of the cold war”.

However, Russia denies accusations by Ukraine and the west that it is arming the rebels in Eastern Ukraine and sending its regular troops across the border.