U.S. aircraft carrier joins South Korea drills

North Korea warns the United States of “merciless” attacks if the carrier infringes on its sovereignty or dignity during U.S.-South Korean drills. With the USS Carl Vinson ploughing through seas off South Korea, rival North Korea has warned the United States of “merciless” attacks if the carrier infringes on its sovereignty or dignity during US-South Korean drills. F-18 fighter jets took off from the flight deck of the nuclear-powered carrier in a dramatic display of US firepower amid rising tension with the North, which has alarmed its neighbours with two nuclear tests and a series of missile launches since last year. “While this is a routine deployment for the Carl Vinson strike group, really the centrepiece for us… is this exercise we’re doing with the ROK navy called ‘Foal Eagle’,” Rear Admiral James W. Kilby, commander of the Carrier Strike Group 1, said, referring to South Korea as the Republic of Korea.
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North Korea’s secretive missile program

North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles, which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang’s programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s, to short­-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of even greater ranges are now understood to be under research and development.

Missile ranges

Short range: 1,000km or less

Medium range: 1,000-3,000km

Intermediate range: 3,000-5,500 km

Intercontinental range: Greater than 5,500km

Source: Federation of American Scientists

Short-range missiles

North Korea’s modern missile programme began with Scuds, with its first batch reportedly coming via Egypt in 1976.

By 1984, it was building its own versions called Hwasongs.

It is believed to have a variety of these short-range missiles which could target neighbouring South Korea. Relations between the two Koreas are fraught and they remain, technically, in a state of war. The Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, also known as Scud-B and C, have ranges of 300km and 500km respectively, according to the US Center for Nonproliferation Studies. These missiles can deliver conventional warheads, but may also have biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. Both these missiles have been tested and deployed, and the Hwasong-6 has also been sold to Iran.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles

North Korea is believed to be developing its longest-range missile, a road-mobile weapon which observers have dubbed the KN-08 or Hwasong-13. One of the first signs of this development was in September 2016, when the country tested a new rocket engine which some said could power an intercontinental ballistic missile. The US Pentagon believes North Korea has at least six KN-08s in its possession, which could be capable of reaching much of the United States. North Korea is believed to have also developed an upgraded version called KN-14. Neither missile has been publicly tested before.

The strange death of Kim Jong Nam

Security footage of the events leading up to the death of the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Kim Jong-nam was the eldest son of Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea. From roughly 1994 to 2001, he was considered the heir apparent to his father. In May 2001, following a failed attempt to visit Tokyo Disneyland by entering Japan with a fake passport, he was thought to have fallen out of favour with his father. Kim was exiled from North Korea around 2003, becoming an occasional critic of his family’s regime and an advocate for reform. His younger paternal half-brother, Kim Jong-un, was named heir apparent in September 2010. Kim’s death in Malaysia in February 2017 is alleged to have been a result of poisoning by 2 women, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

North Korea hosts first air show ever

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North Korea’s first air show got off the ground at Kalma Airport in Wonsan. The two-day event features North Korean Air Force planes and helicopters as well as the civilian fleet of North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo. Approximately two hundred aviation enthusiasts from around the world have flown in for the event. A crowd of thousands of North Koreans watched the air show.
A British tour company, Juche Travel Services, started organising trips years ago for plane spotters to fly around North Korea on its fleet of Russian planes.

North Korea’s largest nuclear test

North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on its 68th anniversary, with a blast more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, according to some estimates.

Could North Korea missile strike the United States?

North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang’s programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s to short­-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of greater ranges are understood to be under research and development. The country’s missile programme has mainly been developed from the Scud, itself a development from the German V2 rockets of World War II.
It first obtained tactical missiles from the Soviet Union as early as 1969, but its first Scuds reportedly came via Egypt in 1976. Egypt is believed to have supplied North Korea with missiles and designs in return for its support against Israel in the Yom Kippur War. By 1984, North Korea was building its own Scuds, the Hwasong-5. The larger, longer range Hwasong-6 followed, and eventually the Nodong – essentially a 50% larger Hwasong-6. Following these came the multiple-stage Taepodong missiles, which can potentially be configured as satellite launchers or missiles.
In 2006, it test-fired a Taepodong-2 missile, which experts say could have a range of many thousands of miles, and rockets with related technology in 2009 and 2012. All three launches ended in failure. However, North Korea made another, apparently successful, launch of a three-stage rocket on 12 December 2012. It was condemned by many in the international community as cover for a missile test. In June 2014, a North Korean propaganda film briefly showed what some experts said might be a newly developed cruise missile, believed to be similar to the Russian KH-35 anti-ship missile. It is unclear whether North Korea previously owned any cruise missiles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. sanctions North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

The United States sanctioned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time, citing “notorious abuses of human rights,” in a move that diplomats say will incense the nuclear-armed country.

North Korea must review its policies

Despite the tough new UN sanctions, North Korea has been conducting several long- and short-range missile tests. North Korea seems to have antagonised even its close allies like China through its actions. China, it may be noted, has not used its veto power in the UN Security Council to block the new sanctions against Pyongyang. The missile tests are not going to benefit North Korea in any way at all despite its tall claims. They will result only in more sanctions and sterner policy towards it from the international community. Although the global community is tightening sanctions to punish North Korea for its continuing nuclear and missile development, Pyongyang appears to be defiant. The North has ramped up its threats against South Korea and the US and continues to fire more missiles following the UN’s adoption of a fresh resolution expanding sanctions against it.

Last Friday, North Korea issued new threats against South Korea, further escalating tensions between the two sides. North Korea’s state media said Kim Jong-un ordered the country’s military to be on high alert and ready for an attack against South Korean leaders. Due to aggressive polices of the Kim regime, the country remains isolated among the world community and the people of the country are suffering badly. Families in the communist state, according to reports, struggle to secure everyday essentials. Despite the widespread poverty, the country’s military spending is quite high. The powerful military seems to control the country’s entire resources. The freedom of speech is restricted. Full Internet access is not allowed and political activities are very rare. The country is facing tough challenges on economic, political and foreign-policy fronts. It is high time for North Korea to rethink its policies towards the rest of the world and join the international community as a full-fledged and responsible member. Isolation is not the answer to today’s problems.

Khawaja Umer Farooq

Disputed South China Sea

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of suspected crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea; and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.
Shangri-La Dialogue serves as the “Track One” exchange forum on the security issues surrounding Asia-Pacific region including Territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific is the “Track Two” dialogue on security issues of Asia-Pacific.
In February 2016, President Obama initiated the “U.S.-ASEAN Summit” at Sunnylands for closer engagement with ASEAN, The territorial disputes in the South China Sea was a major topic, but its joint statement, the “Sunnylands Declaration” did not name the South China Sea, instead calling for “respect of each nation’s sovereignty and for international law”. Analysts believe it indicate divides in the grouping on the approach in responding to China’s maritime strategy.
The area may be rich in oil and natural gas deposits; however, the estimates are highly varied. The Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining of the People’s Republic of China estimate that the South China Sea may contain 17.7 billion tons of crude oil (compared to Kuwait with 13 billion tons). In the years following the announcement by the ministry, the claims regarding the South China Sea islands intensified. However, other sources claim that the proven reserve of oil in the South China Sea may only be 7.5 billion barrels, or about 1.1 billion tons. According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s profile of the South China Sea region, a US Geological Survey estimate puts the region’s discovered and undiscovered oil reserves at 11 billion barrels, as opposed to a Chinese figure of 125 billion barrels. The same EIA report also points to the wide variety of natural gas resource estimations, ranging from 190 trillion cubic feet to 500 trillion cubic feet, likely located
in the contested Reed Bank”.
The Philippines began exploring the areas west of Palawan for oil in 1970. Exploration in the area began in Reed Bank/Tablemount. in 1976, gas was discovered following the drilling of a well. However, China’s complaints halted the exploration. On 27 March 1984, the first Philippine oil company discovered an oil field off Palawan, which is an island province bordering the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea. These oil fields supply 15% of annual oil consumption in the Philippines. The nine-dotted line was originally an “eleven-dotted-line,” first indicated by the then Kuomintang government of the Republic of China in 1947, for its claims to the South China Sea. After, the Communist Party of China took over mainland China and formed the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The line was adopted and revised to nine as endorsed by Zhou Enlai.
Vietnam and Japan reached an agreement early in 1978 on the development of oil in the South China Sea. As of 2012, Vietnam had concluded some 60 oil and gas exploration and production contracts with various foreign companies. In 1986, the “White Tiger” oil field in the South China Sea came into operation, producing over 2,000 tons of crude oil per year, followed by the “The Bear” and “Dragon” oil fields. As of 2011, Vietnam was the sixth-largest oil producer in the Asia-Pacific region although the country is now a net oil importer; in 2009 while petroleum accounted for 14 percent of government income, this was down from 24 percent in 2004.
The position of China on its maritime claims based on UNCLOS and history has been ambiguous, particularly with the nine dash line map. For example, in its notes verbales in 2011, the first phrase stated that China has undisputed sovereignty over the islands and the adjacent waters, suggesting China is claiming sovereignty over its territorial waters, a position consistent with UNCLOS.  However, the second phrase in its notes verbales stated that China enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters along with the seabed and subsoil contained in this region, suggesting that China is claiming sovereignty over all of the maritime space (includes all the geographic features and the waters within the nine dash line). The third phrase indicates support for basing their claims on historical basis as well. Recently in its notes verbales in 2011, China has explicitly stated that it claims the territorial waters and all of the islands in which each island has its own exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. A major problem with this claim is that it fails to distinguish between geographic features considered as “islands” or “rocks” under UNCLOS. The vast majority of international legal experts have concluded that China’s claims based on historical claims is invalid. Many ambiguities arise from the notion of historical claims as a basis for claiming sovereignty and is inherently ambiguous.