Posts Tagged ‘middle-east’

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An Afghan teenager killed anAmerican soldier in eastern Afghanistan by stabbing him in the neck while he played with a group of local children, officials said Monday.

The killing comes as the monthly U.S. death toll rose sharply in March to 14 with the start of the spring fighting season when the Taliban and other insurgents take advantage of improved weather to step up attacks.

Sgt. Michael Cable, 26, was guarding Afghan and U.S. officials meeting in a province near the border with Pakistan when the stabbing occurred last Wednesday, two senior U.S. officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The attack occurred after the soldiers had secured the area for the meeting, but one of the U.S. officials said the youth was not believed to have been a member of the Afghan security forces or in uniform so it was not being classified as an insider attack.

The official said the attacker was thought to be about 16 years old, but the age couldn’t be verified.

The Afghan and American dignitaries were attending the swearing-in ceremony of Afghan Local Police in Shinwar district in Nangarhar province, senior district official Zalmai Khan said. Afghan Local Police, or ALP, recruits are drawn from villages and backed by the U.S. military.

The soldier was playing with a group of children outside when the attacker came from behind and stabbed him in the neck with a large knife, Khan said, adding the young man had escaped to nearby Pakistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the young man was acting independently when he killed the soldier but had joined the Islamic militant movement since fleeing the scene.

The Pentagon said in a statement last week that Cable, of Philpot, Ky., died from injuries sustained when his unit was attacked by enemy forces.

At least 14 U.S. soldiers died in March, compared with four in the previous two months, according to an Associated Press tally.

The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan has dropped sharply as international forces increasingly take a back seat while preparing to end their combat mission by the end of 2014. But they continue to face dangers ranging from roadside bombs to attacks by their Afghan counterparts or insurgents disguised as government forces.

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Associated Press writers Kimberly Dozier and Amir Shah contributed to this report.

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What should the world do about North Korea? Share your thoughts on CNN iReport.

(CNN) — North Korea’s threatening rhetoric has reached a fevered pitch, but the Pentagon and the South Korean government have said it’s nothing new.

“We have no indications at this point that it’s anything more than warmongering rhetoric,” a senior Washington defense official said late Saturday.

The official was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be named.

The National Security Council, which advises the U.S. president on matters of war, struck a similar cord. Washington finds North Korea’s statements “unconstructive,” and it does take the threats seriously.

“But, we would also note that North Korea has a long history of bellicose rhetoric and threats and today’s announcement follows that familiar pattern,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for NSC.

The United States will continue to update its capabilities against any military threat from the north, which includes plans to deploy missile defense systems.

North Korea’s rhetoric

North Korea declared it had entered a “state of war” with neighboring South Korea, according to a report Saturday from the state-run Korean Central News Agency. It included a threat to “dissolve” the U.S. mainland.

“The condition, which was neither war nor peace, has ended, North Korea’s government said in a special statement carried by KCNA.”

North Korea and South Korea technically remain at war since their conflict between 1950 and 1953 ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. On March 11, the North Korean army declared the armistice agreement invalid.

Saturday’s report included a direct threat to the United States, while also asserting any conflict “will not be limited to a local war, but develop into an all-out war, a nuclear war.”

The statement made the prospect of war contingent upon “a military provocation … against the DPRK” in sensitive areas on the border between North and South.

The South: It’s not new

In a statement later Saturday, South Korea did not treat their neighbor’s latest threat as imminent danger.

Seoul noted scores of its personnel had entered the Kaesong Industrial complex — a joint economic cooperation zone between the two Koreas situated on the North’s side of the border — on Saturday morning with hundreds more set to join them later in the day, seemingly suggesting they were going about business as usual.

“The announcement made by North Korea is not a new threat, but part of follow-up measures after North Korea’s supreme command’s statement that it will enter the highest military alert” on Tuesday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said in a statement.

Map appears to show U.S. targets

A day earlier, the same official North Korean news agency reported its leader Kim Jong Un had approved a plan to prepare standby rockets to hit U.S. targets.

In a meeting with military leaders early Friday, Kim “said he has judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation,” KCNA reported.

The rockets are aimed at U.S. targets, including military bases in the Pacific and in South Korea, it said.

“If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, (we) should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea,” the report said.

Behind North Korea’s heated words about missile strikes, one analyst said, there might not be much mettle.

“Unless there has been a miraculous turnaround among North Korea’s strategic forces, there is little to no chance that it could successfully land a missile on Guam, Hawaii or anywhere else outside the Korean Peninsula that U.S. forces may be stationed,” James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly,wrote in an opinion column published Thursday on CNN.com.

Analysis: Just what is Kim Jong Un up to?

U.S. official: We’re ‘committed … to peace

U.S. defense officials said Friday that the North’s bantering is destructive.

“This is troubling rhetoric that disrupts the prospects for peace on the Peninsula,” the senior official said.

Some observers have suggested that Washington is adding to tensions in the region by drawing attention to its displays of military strength on North Korea’s doorstep, such as the flights by the B-2 stealth bombers.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel argued against that assertion Thursday.

Threats of annihilation normal for South Koreans

“We, the United States and South Korea, have not been involved in provocating anything,” he said. “We, over the years, have been engaged with South Korea on joint exercises. The B-2 flight was part of that.”

Washington and its allies “are committed to a pathway to peace,” Hagel said. “And the North Koreans seem to be headed in a different direction here.”

Opinion: Why North Korea regime is scary

Amid the uneasy situation, China, a key North Korean ally that expressed frustration about Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, also called for calm.

“We hope relevant parties can work together to turn around the tense situation in the region,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said Friday, describing peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula as “a joint responsibility.”

North Korea’s threat: Five things to know

Tensions have been rising for months

Tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula after the North carried out a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test last month, prompting the U.N. Security Council to step up sanctions on the secretive government.

U.S. officials concerned about North Korea’s ‘ratcheting up of rhetoric’

Pyongyang has expressed fury about the sanctions and the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises, due to continue until the end of April.

The deteriorating relations have killed hopes of reviving multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear program for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Pyongyang has declared that the subject is no longer up for discussion.

Korean nightmare: Experts ponder potential conflict

 

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ROME — Pope Francis reached out in friendship to “so many Muslim brothers and sisters” during a Good Friday procession dedicated to the suffering of Christians from terrorism, war and religious fanaticism in the Middle East.

The new pontiff, who has rankled traditionalists by rejecting many trappings of his office, mostly stuck to the traditional script during the nighttime Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum, one of the most dramatic rituals of Holy Week.

With torches lighting the way, the faithful carried a cross to different stations, where meditations and prayers were read out recalling the final hours of Jesus’ life and his crucifixion.

This year, the prayers were composed by young Lebanese, and many recalled the plight of minority Christians in the region, where wars have forced thousands to flee their homelands. The meditations called for an end to “violent fundamentalism,” terrorism and the “wars and violence which in our days devastate various countries in the Middle East.”

Francis, who became pope just over two weeks ago, chose, however, to stress Christians’ positive relations with Muslims in the region in his brief comments at the end of the ceremony.

Standing on a platform overlooking the procession route, Francis recalled Benedict XVI‘s 2012 visit to Lebanon when “we saw the beauty and the strong bond of communion joining Christians together in that land and the friendship of our Muslim brothers and sisters and so many others.”

“That occasion was a sign to the Middle East and to the whole world, a sign of hope,” he said.

Friday’s outreach followed Francis’ eyebrow-raising gesture a day earlier, when he washed and kissed the feet of two women, one a Muslim, in the Holy Thursday ritual that commemorates Jesus’ washing of his apostles’ feet during the Last Supper before his crucifixion.

Breaking with tradition, Francis performed the ritual on 12 inmates at a juvenile detention center, rather than in Rome’s grand St. John Lateran basilica, where in the past, 12 priests have been chosen to represent Jesus’ disciples.

Before he became pope, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio long cultivated warm relations with Muslim leaders in his native Argentina. In one of his first speeches as pope, he called for the church and the West in general to “intensify” relations with the Muslim world.

The Vatican’s relations with Islam hit several bumps during Benedict XVI’s papacy, when he outraged Muslims with a 2006 speech quoting a Byzantine emperor as saying some of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings were “evil and inhuman.” And in 2011, the pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world, Cairo’s Al-Azhar institute, froze dialogue with the Vatican to protest Benedict’s call for greater protection of Christians in Egypt.

However, Francis’ past outreach to the Muslim community in Argentina seems to have changed that. Al-Azhar’s chief imam, Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, sent a message of congratulations to Francis on his election and said he hoped for cooperation.

The Vatican’s efforts to reconcile with the Islamic world have not been welcomed by all. Italy’s most famous Muslim convert to Catholicism, Magdi Allam, announced last week he was leaving the church because of its “soft” stance on Islam. Allam was baptized by Benedict XVI in 2008 during the high-profile Easter Vigil service when the pope traditionally baptizes a handful of adults. There has been no Vatican comment on his about-face.

Thousands of people packed the Colosseum and surrounding areas for the nighttime procession, holding candles wrapped in paper globes as Francis sat in silent prayer as a giant torch-lit crucifix twinkled nearby. Some in the crowd had Lebanese flags around their shoulders in an indication of the special role Lebanese faithful played in this year’s procession.

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East – nearly 40 percent of the country’s 4 million people, with Maronite Catholics the largest sect. As civil war has raged in neighboring Syria, Lebanon’s Christian community has been divided between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Overall, Christians in the Middle East have been uneasy as the Arab Spring has led to the strengthening of Islamist groups in most countries that have experienced uprisings. Thousands of Christians have fled the region – a phenomenon that the Vatican has lamented, given Christianity’s roots in the Holy Land.

“How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children, who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die!” said one of the Good Friday meditations. “It seems that nothing can overcome evil, terrorism, murder and hatred.”

Francis picked up on that message, saying Christ’s death on the cross is “the answer which Christians offer in the face of evil, the evil that continues to work in us and around us.”

“Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the cross upon themselves as Jesus did,” he said.

At the end of the ceremony, a male choir sang a haunting Arabic hymn, a reflection of the Eastern rite influence that infused the ceremony.

On Saturday, Francis presides over the solemn Easter Vigil ceremony in St. Peter’s Basilica and on Sunday, he celebrates Easter Mass and delivers an important speech. Usually the pope also issues Easter greetings in dozens of languages.

In his two weeks as pope, Francis’ discomfort with speaking in any language other than Italian has become apparent. The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Friday “we’ll have to see” what Francis does with the multilingual greetings.

The Good Friday procession was conducted entirely in Italian, whereas in years past the core elements recounting what happens at each station would be recited in a variety of languages.

 

 

(CNN) — North Korea’s leader has approved a plan to prepare rockets to be on standby for firing at U.S. targets, including the U.S. mainland and military bases in the Pacific and in South Korea, state media reported.

In a meeting with military leaders early Friday, Kim Jong Un “said he has judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation,” the state-run KCNA news agency reported.

“If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, [we] should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea,” KCNA reported.

Analysis: Just what is Kim Jong Un up to?

Later Friday, North Korean state media carried a photo of Kim meeting with military officials. The young leader is seated in the image, leafing through documents with four uniformed officers standing around him.

On the wall behind them, a map entitled “Plan for the strategic forces to target mainland U.S.” appears to show straight lines stretching across to the Pacific to points on the continental United States.

South Korea and the United States are “monitoring any movements of North Korea’s short, middle and middle-to-long range missiles,” South Korean Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said Friday.

Kim’s regime has unleashed a torrent of threats in the past few weeks, and U.S. officials have said they’re concerned about the recent rhetoric.

“North Korea is not a paper tiger, so it wouldn’t be smart to dismiss its provocative behavior as pure bluster,” a U.S. official said Wednesday.

But Pentagon spokesman George Little said Thursday that it was important to remain calm and urged North Korea to “dial the temperature down.”

“No one wants there to be war on the Korean Peninsula, let me make that very clear,” he told CNN’s “Erin Burnett Outfront.”

Behind North Korea’s heated words about missile strikes, one analyst said, there might not be much mettle.

North Korea’s threat: Five things to know

“The fact is that despite the bombast, and unless there has been a miraculous turnaround among North Korea’s strategic forces, there is little to no chance that it could successfully land a missile on Guam, Hawaii or anywhere else outside the Korean Peninsula that U.S. forces may be stationed,” James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, wrote in an opinion column published Thursday on CNN.com.

North Korea’s latest threat Friday morning came after the United States said Thursday that it flew stealth bombers over South Korea in annual military exercises.

The mission by the B-2 Spirit bombers, which can carry conventional and nuclear weapons, “demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will,” a statement from U.S. Forces Korea said.

The North Korean state news agency described the mission as “an ultimatum that they (the United States) will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula.”

The North has repeatedly claimed that the exercises are tantamount to threats of nuclear war against it.

But the U.S. military stressed that the bombers flew in exercises to preserve peace in the region.

“The United States is steadfast in its alliance commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea, to deterring aggression, and to ensuring peace and stability in the region,” the statement from U.S. Forces Korea said, using South Korea’s official name. “The B-2 bomber is an important element of America’s enduring and robust extended deterrence capability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The disclosure of the B-2 flights comes a day after North Korea said it was cutting a key military hotline with South Korea, provoking fresh expressions of concern from U.S. officials about Pyongyang’s recent rhetoric.

Tensions escalated on the Korean Peninsula after the North carried out a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test last month, prompting the U.N. Security Council to step up sanctions on the secretive regime.

U.S. officials concerned over North Korea’s ‘ratcheting up of rhetoric’

Pyongyang has expressed fury over the sanctions and the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises, due to continue until the end of April.

The deteriorating relations have put paid to any hopes of reviving multilateral talks over North Korea’s nuclear program for the foreseeable future. Indeed, Pyongyang has declared that the subject is no longer up for discussion.

While Kim appears to have spurned the prospect of dialog with U.S. and South Korean officials, he met with Dennis Rodman during the U.S. basketball star’s bizarre recent visit to North Korea.

Sharp increases in tensions on the Korean Peninsula have taken place during the drills in previous years. The last time the North cut off military communications with the South was during similar exercises in March 2009.

North Korea has gone through cycles of “provocative behavior” for decades, Little said Thursday.

“And we have to deal with them. We have to be sober, calm, cool, collected about these periods. That’s what we’re doing right now,” he said. “And we are assuring our South Korean allies day to day that we stand with them in the face of these provocations.”

The recent saber-rattling from Pyongyang has included threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea, as well as the declaration that the armistice that stopped the Korean War in 1953 is null and void.

On Tuesday, the North said it planned to place military units tasked with targeting U.S. bases under combat-ready status.

Most observers say North Korea is still years away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile, but it does have plenty of conventional military firepower, including medium-range ballistic missiles that can carry high explosives for hundreds of miles.

Little said Thursday that the United States was keeping a close eye on North Korea’s missile capabilities.

“The important thing is for us to stay out ahead of what we think the North Korean threat is, especially from their missile program,” he said. “They’ve been testing more missiles, and they’ve been growing their capabilities and we have to stay out ahead.”

Korean nightmare: Experts ponder potential conflict

CNN’s K.J. Kwon in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

Kim Jong-un says missiles are poised to ‘settle accounts’, but experts say North Korea has a history of making empty threats

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s latest threat to “settle accounts with the U.S.” — while displaying a “strike plan” that shows missiles tracking toward American cities — was widely seen as another example of the young leader’s erratic bluster.

The threat to lob long-range nuclear-tipped missiles at central U.S. cities is, in the opinion of most expert observers, overblown. But while making progress on its missile capability, the regime has other ways to wreak havoc, and this is what has officials and analysts increasingly worried.

“You only need to be wrong once,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, in discussing assessments of North Korea. “I don’t know what president or what chairman or what secretary of Defense wants to be wrong once when it comes to nuclear threats.”

Officials are concerned that with the rising threats, Kim is backing his regime into a corner where it may be compelled to act in order to save face. And in the near-term, the regime has plenty of ways to do that.

It can continue to proliferate dangerous weapons to places like Iran and Syria. And, as it has repeatedly demonstrated, the regime can attack and provoke South Korea — the scenario many are worried about.

“We’re one dead fisherman away from something that could escalate quite quickly,” said Jim Walsh, an international security expert and research associate at MIT. “That’s the one I worry about.”

Walsh said despite the rhetoric, the “war fundamentals” have not changed. North Korea would be obliterated by South Korea in the event of a war, with or without U.S. military support — and the North Koreans know that.

But he said the “accidental war” — the provocation that goes too far and spirals into all-out conflict — is the real worry.

“The whole system is set up like a deck of cards right now,” Walsh said.

North Korea is infamous for testing and prodding South Korea. In 2010, under the current leader’s late father Kim Jong Il, North Korea was blamed for sinking a South Korean ship and killing 46 sailors, though North Korea denied it. That time, there were no serious repercussions for the North.

Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, suggested South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, would not let such an attack slide.

“If that were to happen again or something like it, I believe it could lead to war,” O’Hanlon said.

Walsh said that while North Korea would fall, in the best-case scenario “you still get … 1,000 artillery shells landing on Seoul.”

O’Hanlon described a scenario where South Korea retaliates and North Korea escalates — and eventually the U.S. would be faced with the question of how to get involved militarily.

Hagel said Thursday that the U.S. “will unequivocally defend and we are unequivocally committed to that alliance with South Korea.”

Back in 1984, the U.S. prepared a campaign plan that would have made possible the destruction of the entire North Korean air force in 100 hours. Retired U.S. Air Force generals say the military could do it even faster today.

The Pentagon made clear this week that it is taking the threat seriously. It flew B-2 bombers 13,000 miles to a South Korean island where they dropped inert bombs. It is the first time the U.S. has ever sent B-2 bombers to the Korean Peninsula. A tweet from the U.S. embassy in Seoul said the bombers were “demonstrating the US’s ability to conduct precision strikes at will.”

Christian Whiton, a former State Department official now with the D.C. International Advisory, told Fox News that the major threat from North Korea is that “it’s proliferated virtually every weapon system it’s ever produced.”

“There’s a real threat that North Korea will continue to do what it does best, which is to profit off of proliferating the world’s most dangerous weapons to some of the world’s most odious people,” he said.

Despite repeated nuclear and missile tests, it is believed North Korea is still years away from being able hit the U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile.

The Council on Foreign Relations projects that only North Korea’s Taepodong-2 missile could reach America. But that missile could only go as far as Alaska and has not yet been successfully tested. Its other rockets have a considerably shorter range.

While having made progress in their ballistic missile program, the North Koreans still have not mastered the technology of delivering a nuclear device by a long-range missile.

“If they ever do it, it’s going to be a while,” Walsh said of any effort to develop a missile capable of hitting the continental U.S.

Walsh also said it’s unlikely North Korea would ever send out a suicide bomber — equipped with a radioactive “dirty bomb” or some similar device — describing the move as too risky without much payoff for Pyongyang.

North Korea Says It Will Launch Nuclear Attack On America!!

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/03/29/what-kind-attack-could-north-korea-launch/#ixzz2Oy6AXqk8

North Korean Kim Jong-un meets military officials (Unverified picture released by KCNA news agency 29 March)

The North Korean situation could spiral out of control, Russia has warned, after another day of inflamed rhetoric from Pyongyang.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned of a “vicious circle” and told all sides to avoid unilateral action.

On Thursday, the North threatened to “settle accounts” and said it had put missiles on stand-by to hit the US.

The US, which flew stealth bombers over South Korea this month, condemned the North’s “bellicose rhetoric”.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the rhetoric only deepened North Korea’s isolation.

North Korean state media reported leader Kim Jong-un “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists”.

North Korea Says It Will Launch Nuclear Attack On America!!

Analysis

Charles ScanlonBBC News

Bluff has long played a fundamental role in North Korean strategy. The regime in Pyongyang needs its much more powerful neighbours and antagonists to take its threats seriously. By threatening potential chaos and war in the heart of the world’s most dynamic economic region, it has in the past been able to transcend its own weakness and extract diplomatic concessions.

But the United States may be about to call North Korea’s bluff. The US treasury department is taking steps to squeeze North Korea financially, and the Pentagon has flown B-52 and B-2 bombers over the Korean peninsula – moves that are guaranteed to provoke a hostile reaction.

Washington’s tough stance presents Kim Jong-un with a dilemma. He wants to show his generals and the North Korean people that he can force concessions from the United States – in the same style as his father and grandfather. He could now be tempted to take brinkmanship to a new level, to try to convince the US and the region that confrontation does not work and carries too many risks.

He was said to have condemned US B-2 bomber sorties over South Korea as a “reckless phase” that represented an “ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula”.

US mainland and bases in Hawaii, Guam and South Korea were all named as potential targets.

North Korea’s most advanced missiles are thought to be able to reach Alaska, but not the rest of the US mainland.

‘Increasing military activity’

State media in the North showed thousands of soldiers and students at a mass rally in Pyongyang supporting of Kim Jong-un’s announcement.

China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, immediately reiterated its call for all sides to ease tensions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news conference that “joint efforts” should be made to turn around a “tense situation”.

He made similar remarks on Tuesday.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov went further, voicing concern that “we may simply let the situation slip out of our control and it will slide into a spiral of a vicious circle”.

“We are concerned that… unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity,” he said.

Continue reading the main story

Timeline: Korean tensions

  • 12 Dec: North Korea fires three-stage rocket, in move condemned by UN as banned test of long-range missile technology
  • 12 Feb: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test, its third after tests in 2006 and 2009
  • 7 Mar: UN approves fresh sanctions on Pyongyang; North Korea says it has the right to a “pre-emptive nuclear strike” on the US
  • 11 Mar: US-South Korea annual joint military drills begin; North Korea says it has scrapped the Korean War armistice (the UN says the pact cannot be unilaterally scrapped)
  • 19 Mar: US flies B-52 nuclear-capable bombers over Korean peninsula, following several North Korean threats to attack US and South Korean targets
  • 20 Mar: Broadcasters and banks in South Korea hit by cyber attack, the origin of which remains unknown, days after North Korea says some of its sites were hacked
  • 27 Mar: North Korea cuts military hotline with South, the last official direct link between the two
  • 28 Mar: US flies stealth bombers over Korean peninsula; showcasing ability for precision strike “at will”

In an earlier statement, the US military said that the B-2 stealth bombers demonstrated America’s ability to “provide extended deterrence” to its allies and conduct “long-range, precision strikes quickly and at will”.

“The North Koreans have to understand that what they’re doing is very dangerous,” US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters on Thursday.

“We must make clear that these provocations by the North are taken by us very seriously and we’ll respond to that.”

The US had already flown nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over South Korea earlier this month, in what it called a response to escalating North Korean threats.

Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been high since North Korea’s third nuclear test on 12 February, which led to the imposition of fresh sanctions.

North Korea has made multiple threats against both the US and South Korea in recent weeks, including warning of a “pre-emptive nuclear strike” on the US and the scrapping of the Korean War armistice.

While North Korea has issued many threats against the US and South Korea in the past, this level of sustained rhetoric is rare, observers say.

On 16 March, North Korea warned of attacks against South Korea’s border islands, and advised residents to leave the islands.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

When you look at occasions where something really did happen, such as the artillery attack on a South Korean island in 2010, you see there were very clear warnings”

Professor John Delury, Yonsei university

In 2010 it shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island, causing four deaths.

On Wednesday, Pyongyang also cut a military hotline with the South – the last direct official link between the two nations.

A Red Cross hotline and another line used to communicate with the UN Command at Panmunjom have already been cut, although an inter-Korean air-traffic hotline still exists.

The jointly run Kaesong industrial park is still in operation.

North Korea missile ranges map

Is North Korea Steps Up Its Threats, Drawing U.S. Rebuke?…!!

Read the Full story below—

nn_03iwi_korea_130328.vmodv4

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean state media said Friday that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had ordered his missile units to be ready to strike the United States and South Korea, which South Korean officials said could signal either preparations for missile tests or just more blustering.

The United States criticized the North Korean threat, which came one day after American forces had carried out an unusual practice bombing exercise with advanced aircraft across South Korea.

“The United States is fully capable of defending itself and our allies,” said Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokeswoman in Washington.”North Korea’s bellicose rhetoric and threats follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others.”

The back-and-forth was viewed with worry by China and Russia. China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated its calls for restraint. Russia was more explicit, with its foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, telling reporters in Moscow that he was increasingly concerned about a situation that could “get out of control — it will descend into the spiral of a vicious cycle.”

Mr. Kim’s order, which North Korea said was given during an emergency meeting early Friday, was similar to the one issued Tuesday when the North’s top military command told all its missile and artillery units to be on the “highest alert” and ready to strike the United States and South Korea in retaliation against their joint military exercises.

But by attributing such an order to its top leader, North Korea tried to add weight to its threat.

“We believe they are taking follow-up steps,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the South Korean Defense Ministry, referring to increased activities of the North Korean military units. “South Korean and American intelligence authorities are closely watching whether North Korea is preparing its short, medium, and long-range missiles, including its Scud, Rodong and Musudan.”

He did not elaborate. But government officials and South Korean media said that there had been a surge in vehicle and troop movements at North Korean missile units in recent days as the United States and South Korea has been conducting joint military drills. The national news agency Yonhap quoted an anonymous military source as saying that North Korean vehicles had been moving to Tongchang-ri near the North’s western border with China, where its Unha-3 rocket blasted off in December.

North Korea might be preparing for an engine test ahead of a long-range rocket test, the source was quoted as saying. Scud and Rodong are the North’s mainstay short- and medium-range missiles. The Musudan, deployed around 2007 and displayed for the first time during a military parade in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in 2010, is a road-mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of more than 1,900 miles, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

In an angry reaction to the sanctions that the United Nations imposed after North Korea’s launching of a three-stage rocket in December and its third nuclear test last month, the North has repeatedly threatened to strike Washington, as well as the American military bases around the Pacific and in South Korea, with nuclear-armed long-range missiles.

A photo released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday showed Mr. Kim conferring with his top generals on what the agency called “plans to strike the mainland U.S.” A military chart behind them showed what appeared to be trajectories of North Korean missiles hitting major cities in the United States.

North Korea also said its leader, Mr. Kim, “finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the K.P.A., ordering them to be standby for fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland, its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea.” K.P.A. stands for the Korean People’s Army.

Kim Min-seok, the South Korean spokesman, said the North’s “unusual” public announcement of such plans was partly “psychological.” Many experts and South Korean officials doubted that North Korea has such long-range missiles, much less the know-how to make a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on such rockets.

But other analysts believed that the North’s new KN-08 missiles, which were put on public display last April, were indeed intercontinental ballistic missiles, although they and Musudan have never been test-launched before. They wondered whether North Korea might use the current tensions as an excuse to launch them.

The country is barred from launching ballistic missiles under United Nations sanctions. North Korea’s development of the KN-08 was one of the reasons the Pentagon cited last Friday when it announced a $1 billion plan to add more missile interceptors in Alaska to better protect the United States against a potential North Korean missile attack.

Although North Korea issued strident threats and stirred up fears of American invasion during previous joint American-South Korean military drills, Mr. Kim has been far more aggressive in issuing such threats personally than his late father, Kim Jong-il, was. Unlike his father, who had expanded his power base from his youth, Mr. Kim was catapulted into top leadership after his father’s sudden death in 2011 and must build his credentials as head of his “military-first” government, South Korean analysts and officials said.

Hours after Mr. Kim’s call to arms, thousands of North Koreans turned out for a 90-minute mass rally at the main square in Pyongyang, chanting “Death to the U.S. imperialists” and “Sweep away the U.S. aggressors,” according to The Associated Press, which has a bureau in Pyongyang. Soldiers and students marched through downtown Pyongyang.

On Thursday, the American military carried out a rare long-range practice bombing run over the Korean Peninsula, sending two nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on a practice sortie over South Korea, underscoring Washington’s commitment to defend its ally amid rising tensions with North Korea.

“The reaction to the B-2 that we’re most concerned about is not necessarily the reaction it might elicit in North Korea, but rather among our Japanese and Korean allies,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a news conference at the Pentagon. “Those exercises are mostly to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict.”

North Korea puts rockets on standby as US official warns regime is no ‘paper tiger’

By Courtney Kube and Ian Johnston, NBC News

North Korea put its rocket units on standby Friday to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea and the Pacific, after repeated threats and one day after two American stealth bombers flew over the Korean Peninsula in a military exercise.

A U.S. official warned that the isolated communist state is “not a paper tiger” and its reaction should not be dismissed as “pure bluster.”

According to the North Korea’s official KCNA news agency, the country’s leader Kim Jong Un “judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation” at a midnight meeting of top generals, Reuters reported.

The latest threat comes one day after two nuclear-capable stealth bombers flew from Missouri to drop inert munitions on a range in South Korea as part of a major military exercise.

KCNA via EPA

Kim Jong Un, seen at what was described as an urgent meeting overnight, has ordered his rocket forces to be on standby to strike U.S. and South Korean targets at any time.

The U.S. official emphasized the danger posed by North Korea’s military and the unpredictable nature of its 30-year-old leader.

“North Korea is not a paper tiger so it wouldn’t be smart to dismiss its provocative behavior as pure bluster. What’s not clear right now is how much risk Kim Jong Un is willing to run to show the world and domestic elites that he’s a tough guy,” said the official, who asked not to be named. “His inexperience is certain — his wisdom is still very much in question.”

There was a mass demonstration in support of Kim involving tens of thousands of people in the main square of North Korean capital Pyongyang Friday, The Associated Press reported.

Placards read “Let’s crush the puppet traitor group” and “Let’s rip the puppet traitors to death!”

‘War for national liberation’
The state-controlled KCNA also published an article that said the “opportunity for peacefully settling the DPRK-U.S. relations is no longer available as the U.S. opted for staking its fate. Consequently, there remains only the settlement of accounts by a physical means.” DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name.

“A battle to be fought by the DPRK against the U.S. will become a war for national liberation to defend the sovereignty and dignity of the country and, at the same time, a revolutionary war to defend the human cause of independence and the justice of the international community,” the article by “news analyst” Minju Joson said.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted a South Korean military official as saying that there had been “increased movement of vehicles and forces” at missile launch sites in the North. “We are closely watching possibilities of missile launches,” the unnamed official said.

North Korea routinely issues hostile statements but analysts have noted recent remarks have become more belligerent. In December, the North carried out a long-range rocket test and then detonated a nuclear bomb in a test earlier this year.

 

At a daily news briefing Friday, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said China was calling for an easing of tensions.

But some fear the situation could be getting out of control.

“It seems that Kim Jong Un is in the driving seat of a train that has been taken on a joyride,” Lee Min-yong, an expert on North Korea at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul, told Reuters.

Russia, meanwhile, appeared to criticize the U.S. over Thursday’s bomber mission.

“We are concerned that alongside the adequate, collective reaction of the U.N. Security Council, unilateral action is being taken around North Korea that is increasing military activity,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow, according to Reuters.

“The situation could simply get out of control; it is slipping toward the spiral of a vicious cycle,” he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 

Collected from-http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/30/world/asia/kim-jong-un-of-north-korea-orders-missile-readiness.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0
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http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/29/17513218-north-korea-puts-rockets-on-standby-as-us-official-warns-regime-is-no-paper-tiger?lite