N. Korea celebrates becoming nuclear nation with fireworks & street parties (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Soldiers and citizens of Pyongyang took to the streets in celebration to mark the successful launch of North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile.

The festivities marked the launch of the Hwasong-15 missile earlier this week, which North Korean officials claim can reach anywhere in the mainland United States. Civilians took part in dances, while soldiers marched through the streets laughing and hugging.

“The successful test-fire of the new-type ICBM Hwasong-15 has thrown all servicepersons and civilians of the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] into great joy and excitement,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a statement Thursday. “Dancing parties were displayed by working people of various circles and youth and students in different parts of Pyongyang.”

“The participants danced to the tune of songs ‘Our Leader Loved by the People’ and ‘The Country of the People,’ extending the highest glory and warmest congratulations to respected Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, who registered a great success in accomplishing the historic cause of completing the state nuclear force and brought about such spectacular victory as putting an end to the history of aggression and nuclear threat by the imperialists.”

The celebrations in Pyongyang came after Wednesday’s declaration by the government that North Korea is now a nuclear state.

“After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong-un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force, the cause of building a rocket power,” said the statement read out by a television presenter, as quoted by Reuters.

The Hwasong-15’s test launch on Wednesday was personally overseen by Kim Jong-un. The missile is larger than previous models, and its home-produced mobile launcher vehicle bypasses the need to buy the weapons system from China. Some experts, however, believe the missile can reach no further than the US West Coast if the launch is undertaken with a real payload, and not a practice dummy.

North Korea has claimed that its ICBM and nuclear capabilities are for deterrence only.

“The development and advancement of the strategic weapon of the DPRK are to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country from the US imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat, and to ensure the peaceful life of the people, and therefore, they would not pose any threat to any country and region as long as the interests of the DPRK are not infringed upon,” read an official statement in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

Recent months have seen rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula with the United States and its allies on one side and the DPRK on the other. While Pyongyang keeps pursuing its nuclear program and missile testing in spite of international condemnation, Washington and its allies continue to carry out provocative military maneuvers near the DPRK’s borders. Meanwhile, both sides have heated up the rhetoric. In November, US President Donald Trump added North Korea to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, paving the way for more sanctions.

Russia and China have proposed a road map for settling the Korean crisis through transition to negotiations, which implies rejection of any actions that fuel tensions. The proposal called for North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile tests in return for the US giving up on joint military drills with South Korea in the region, but it was rejected by Washington. A group of Russian MPs, who visited Pyongyang earlier this week, said that the North Korean side expressed readiness to engage in talks, but demanded that Moscow play a mediating role.

Courtesy: RT

Opinion: North Korea is only looking out for itself

Pyongyang claims that its rockets can now reach every corner of the United States. But is that really what Kim Jong Un wants? His sole aim is to maintain his grip on power, says Jürgen Hanefeld.

Nordkorea Kim Jong-Un (Reuters/KCNA)

Four years ago, when Kim Jong Un announced that North Korea’s missile program would be successfully completed by the end of 2017, nobody listened. He was scoffed at as a “nut,” or “unpredictable.” Others discounted his ability to govern, wondering how long he would even be in power? And when Kim announced that North Korea was on its way to becoming a nuclear power two years later, and that he was prepared to negotiate with the United States about disarmament, everyone laughed at him. Yet, now there is much less laughing and every last person must face the fact that the man should be taken seriously.

A historic day?

Jürgen Hanefeld (NDR/Christian Spielmann)Jürgen Hanefeld heads the East Asia bureau of German public broadcaster ARD in Tokyo

Of course no one knows whether his rockets are really capable of wiping out New York or Washington, DC. But do we really want to find out? Wouldn’t it make more sense to assess the risk rather than to accept it? At this point we cannot know whether Wednesday’s missile testwill go down as a historic day but it has the makings of one: North Korea has declared itself a nuclear power! That not only means an increased threat, it also presents an opening. Everyone knows that even if North Korean nuclear missiles could hit any place in the US, they could only do it once. After that there would be no more Pyongyang, nor a Korea for that matter – North or South.

So what is Kim really after? He simply wants to protect himself. He wants to cement his grip on power. And that is precisely why he wants to meet with the US as an equal. Not with South Korea, a country he knows the US has on a leash, at least militarily. And not with China, which meanders back and forthbetween its economic and strategic interests. No, Kim versus Donald Trump is the game that North Korea is putting its money on.

This is about peace

One might be inclined to scream, “What hubris!” But looked at rationally, there is no other alternative. Trump is powerless to do anything — no matter how many aircraft carriers he dispatches and despite his country’s colossal military advantage — unless he is willing to put South Korea on the line and eventually risk unleashing a third world war. Wouldn’t it be worth sacrificing a bit of his own enormous ego if the US president would sit down and speak with Kim rather than tweeting about him? It would not be the first time that a US president had to sit down with a dictator to get them to behave. Most of the time such meetings with despots are about oil, arms or cash. This time it is about something much more important: Peace.

 

Courtesy: DW

North Korea fires new version of ballistic missile

North Korea has launched what appears to be a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, claiming it has the ability to strike anywhere on the US continent. China responded by urging Pyongyang not to raise tensions.

A North Korean rocket test launch (Getty Images/AFP/STR)North Korea has conducted numerous missile tests in 2017, including this test launching of an intermediate-range Hwasong-12 rocket in August

North Korea conducted its first ballistic missile launch test in more than two months early on Wednesday morning local time, South Korean and US officials said.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the missile was launched from Sain Ni in the South Pyongyang Province and flew eastwards towards Japan. Those reports were quickly confirmed by South Korea’s military and US government officials — on condition of anonymity.

In a statement on North Korean television, Pyongyang said it had launched a new type of long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called a Hwasong-15. It claimed the missile was superior to the previous Hwasong-14 and was capable of striking the entire US continent.

It said the new rocket meant Pyongyang had “realized the great historic cause of completing a state nuclear force.” The report claimed the missile was capable of carrying a “super-large, heavy warhead.” Pyongyang has yet to prove itself capable of carrying a nuclear warhead back into the earth’s atmosphere aboard such a missile, but experts believe it is not far off.

Read more: North Korea’s ‘ballistic submarine’: Will Kim’s gamble pay off?

Watch video01:51

Trump warns that era of patience with North Korea is over

Probably a long-range missile

US, Japanese and South Korean officials all agreed it was probably an ICBM, saying it rose to an altitude of about 4,500 km (2,800 miles) and flew 960 kilometers (600 miles) over about 50 minutes before landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone — the area off the country’s coast where it has jurisdiction over nautical resources.

The trajectory was largely confirmed by the North Korean announcement.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the missile traveled higher than any other Pyongyang has ever fired.

It was Pyongyang’s first ballistic launch since September 15, when it fired a missile over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and into the Pacific Ocean. It also conducted its most powerful nuclear test ever that month, when it supposedly detonated a hydrogen bomb.

On Wednesday’s broadcast, North Korea described itself as a “responsible nuclear power,” but warned it intended to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity from “the US imperialists’ nuclear blackmail policy and nuclear threat.”

Infographic of the Pyongyang nuclear tests timeline ENG

Trump: US ‘will take care of it’

Addressing the missile launch, US President Donald Trump told reporters that “it is a situation that we will handle,” without providing further detail.

The White House said that the president had been briefed on the North’s ICBM test while the missile was still in the air. Trump was meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill at the time.

His defense chief Mattis said North Korea was endangering world peace, regional peace and “certainly the United States.”

China, Russia warn against heightened tensions

North Korea’s most powerful ally, China, voiced “grave concern” over the launch and asked Pyongyang not to “aggravate tensions related to the peninsula situation.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also urged talks and said the best way to easing tensions was Beijing’s proposal for North Korea to freeze weapons tests in return for the US suspending military drills.

Russia denounced Pyongyang’s launch and joined China in calling for calm.

“Undoubtedly, another missile launch is a provocative action that provokes a further increase of tensions,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We condemn this launch and hope that all relevant sides keep calm.”

Japan, Korea vow to maximize pressure

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to maximize pressure on North Korea.

“An outrageous act like this is absolutely intolerable as it trampled on the international community’s united strong will to seek a peaceful solution,” Abe told reporters.

He called for the international community to unite and fully implement sanctions against North Korea. A Japanese government spokesperson also said the US and Japan had agreed that China had to play an increased role regarding North Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in strongly condemned the latest launch but said it had been anticipated. Minutes after the missile launch, Seoul conducted its own “precision strike” missile firing test in response to the North’s provocations, South Korea military officials said.

Watch video02:56

N Korea launches another ballistic missile: Carsten von Nahmen from Washington

Germany summons North Korean ambassador

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel strongly criticized Pyongyang’s action and said he will summon North Korea’s ambassador.

“North Korea has again breached international law. North Korea’s reckless behavior is an enormous threat to international security,” he said.

A spokeswoman for European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini described North Korea’s ICBM launch as a further unacceptable violation” of its international obligations. “This launch represents a further grave provocation and a serious threat to international security,” she added.

The United Nations Security Council said it will hold an urgent meeting Wednesday to discuss the test.

A summer of saber-rattling

The launch comes just a week after Trump re-designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, allowing the US to impose even stricter sanctions on the rogue regime. The president said the terror designation and sanctions were part of his “maximum pressure campaign” against the North’s regime.

Pyongyang denounced Trump’s move, calling it a “serious provocation and violent infringement.”

Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traded a series of insults over the summer, which saw the US president use his maiden speech before the United Nations to warn Pyongyang that the US would have no choice but to  “totally destroy” North Korea if it were forced to defend itself or its allies from a missile attack.

amp, aw, dm/sms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

Courtesy: DW

US bomber drills anger North Korea as Donald Trump heads to Asia

North Korea has again accused the US of wanting to start a nuclear war after US bombers flew drills over the South. The drills come just days before the US president visits the region amid high tensions with Pyongyang.

Japanisches Meer U.S. Air Force B-1B Langstreckenbomber (Reuters/US Air Force)

Two US strategic bombers staged an exercise over the Korean Peninsula on Thursday, provoking protest from Pyongyang shortly before US President Donald Trump starts his first trip to Asia as his country’s leader.

North Korea’s news agency KCNA reported on Friday that the B-1B bombers had staged a “surprise nuclear strike drill targeting the DPRK North Korea.”

“The reality clearly shows that the gangster-like US imperialists are the very ones who are aggravating the situation of the Korean peninsula and seeking to ignite a nuclear war,” KCNA said.

Watch video00:49

South Korea conducts anti-aircraft guided missiles drill

The US Air Force confirmed that the drills had taken place, saying its aircraft had been joined by Japanese and South Korean jets. Broadcaster CNN quoted an Air Force spokeswoman as saying that the mission was planned in advance and was “not in response to any current event.”

The exercise took place as three US aircraft carrier groups are in the Asia-Pacific region, the first time Washington has deployed such forces to the region in a decade. US officials said earlier this week that the three carriers might conduct a joint exercise to coincide with Trump’s trip.

Trump’s biggest international challenge so far

The drills and Trump’s visit come as tensions continue to run high between Washington and Pyongyang after North Korea this year conducted a series of missile tests and its sixth and largest nuclear test.

North Korea's Kim Jong Un looking out at runway (Reuters/KCNA)North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants his country to be a major nuclear power

Trump, who is to travel first to Japan, then on to South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, will be seeking to promote international support for moves to cut off the supply of resources to North Korea.

A South Korean presidential official has said that Seoul might announce unilateral sanctions against Pyongyang ahead of Trump’s arrival.

The US has already approved a variety of sanctions against North Korea, and has pressed China, Pyongyang’s most important ally, to do more to force it to renounce nuclear weapons. Trump has warned that he will “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatens the United States.

Read more: South Koreans to protest against ‘war maniac’ Trump

Call for patience

But White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster has struck a more circumspect note.

“I think we have to be a little patient here for at least a few months to see what more we and others can do, including China,” McMaster told reporters in Washington.

South Korea’s spy agency said on Thursday that a recent increase in activity at the North’s missile research facilities in Pyongyang could indicate another imminent launch.

North Korea in July launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles apparently capable of reaching the US mainland. They were described by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a gift to “American bastards.”

tj/ng (dpa, Reuters)

Courtesy: DW

North Korea: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says US goal not war

US Defense chief Jim Mattis said America favored a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear program. Mattis is on his second visit to South Korea as Pentagon boss amid rising tensions between US and the North.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Demilitarized Zone on the border between the Koreas

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday visited the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

Mattis reiterated that the United States’ goal was not to wage a war with North Korea but to diplomatically convince its leader to halt the country’s nuclear program.

“North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council,” Mattis said in prepared remarks.

“As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Watch video28:31

Kim Jong-un: North Korea’s dangerous leader

Standing alongside Mattis, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Pyongyang would face a strong retaliation from the combined force of South Korea and the US if it chooses to use its nuclear and ballistic missiles.

“We together will continue to defend peace through strong will and strong might,” he said.

Tensions between the US and North Korea have remained high after a series of weapons tests and threats by Pyongyang, which sparked a chain of threatening verbal exchanges between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, where Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on the North.

This is Mattis’ second visit to the Korean peninsula as Trump’s defense chief and comes ahead of Trump’s visit to Seoul next month.

Read more: North Korea to return South Korea’s fishing boat

‘Oppressive regime’

Mattis accused Pyongyang of building a nuclear arsenal to “threaten others with catastrophe,” and termed the North “an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Infografik Haltung zu Nordkorea ENG

Mattis said while the US was in favor of a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear program, it was prepared to take military action if the North did not rein in its nuclear ambitions.

Watch video02:15

US and North Korea in dangerous war of words

Mattis, who arrived in South Korea earlier Friday, will meet with South Korean officials as part of annual ministerial talks on defense issues on the Korean peninsula.

In a bid to continue building pressure on Pyongyang, the US on Thursday imposed sanctions on 10 North Korean officials and organizations for “flagrant” human rights abuses, including a diplomat in China accused of forcing North Korean asylum seekers home.

ap/ng (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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North Korea: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says US goal not war

US Defense chief Jim Mattis said America favored a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear program. Mattis is on his second visit to South Korea as Pentagon boss amid rising tensions between US and the North.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Demilitarized Zone on the border between the Koreas

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday visited the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates the two Koreas.

Mattis reiterated that the United States’ goal was not to wage a war with North Korea but to diplomatically convince its leader to halt the country’s nuclear program.

“North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council,” Mattis said in prepared remarks.

“As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Watch video28:31

Kim Jong-un: North Korea’s dangerous leader

Standing alongside Mattis, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said Pyongyang would face a strong retaliation from the combined force of South Korea and the US if it chooses to use its nuclear and ballistic missiles.

“We together will continue to defend peace through strong will and strong might,” he said.

Tensions between the US and North Korea have remained high after a series of weapons tests and threats by Pyongyang, which sparked a chain of threatening verbal exchanges between US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, where Trump threatened to rain “fire and fury” on the North.

This is Mattis’ second visit to the Korean peninsula as Trump’s defense chief and comes ahead of Trump’s visit to Seoul next month.

Read more: North Korea to return South Korea’s fishing boat

‘Oppressive regime’

Mattis accused Pyongyang of building a nuclear arsenal to “threaten others with catastrophe,” and termed the North “an oppressive regime that shackles its people, denying their freedom, their welfare and their human dignity in pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Infografik Haltung zu Nordkorea ENG

Mattis said while the US was in favor of a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear program, it was prepared to take military action if the North did not rein in its nuclear ambitions.

Watch video02:15

US and North Korea in dangerous war of words

Mattis, who arrived in South Korea earlier Friday, will meet with South Korean officials as part of annual ministerial talks on defense issues on the Korean peninsula.

In a bid to continue building pressure on Pyongyang, the US on Thursday imposed sanctions on 10 North Korean officials and organizations for “flagrant” human rights abuses, including a diplomat in China accused of forcing North Korean asylum seekers home.

ap/ng (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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Putin signs decree imposing restrictions on N. Korea as Pyongyang delegation is in Russia

Putin signs decree imposing restrictions on N. Korea as Pyongyang delegation is in Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree imposing restrictions on North Korea in order to comply with a UN Security Council resolution.

The decree specifically refers to the UN Security Council resolution on restrictions imposed against North Korea in November 2016. The document, spanning almost 40 pages, specifies certain punitive measures that were introduced in 2007. It also refers to 11 North Korean individuals, who have been linked with the country’s nuclear program.

The move comes as a North Korean delegation arrived in St. Petersburg for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly.

The decree will also affect cooperation in the area of science and technology, while collaboration in “nuclear science and technology, air-and-space machine engineering or state-of-the-art industrial technology and methods” will still be permitted in cases where it does not contribute to the North’s nuclear- and ballistic-missile program.

President Putin has also ordered that sea vessels linked to the nuclear program be stripped of their Russian registration and banned from entering Russian ports, except in emergencies. The Russian sanctions also cover delivery of new helicopters and ships to North Korea.

Pyongyang has also been slapped with restrictions on ‘luxury’ items, such as carpets and porcelain worth more than $500 and $100 respectively.

Among other things, North Korea won’t be able to use any property in Russia, except diplomatic and consulate facilities.

On Monday, the EU also adopted a new range of sanctions against Pyongyang, which are designed to punish the North for its “continued and accelerated nuclear- and ballistic-missile programs.”

The decision taken on Monday made changes to penalties that were introduced earlier in response to the North Korean ballistic launches. These prohibited the import, sale or transfer of petroleum by the state, as well as transactions involving crude oil to Pyongyang. The fresh range of restrictions also extends to the transfer of funds.

READ MORE: N. Korea threatens Guam with ‘salvo of missiles’ as US gears up for drills with Seoul

In the meantime, the Pyongyang representative called the US sanctions “state terrorism” in a speech at the IPU session. “Sanctions against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] are aimed at a complete halt of our foreign trade, including the areas which affect the survival of our people,” the delegation head said, as cited by Interfax. “It’s state terrorism.”

Courtesy: RT