After Pakistan successfully test-fired Ghauri Missile System carrying nuclear warheads up to 1300 km on Wednesday, India, without delay tested its nuclear-capable Agni-III ballistic missile with a strike range of more than 3,000 km, today.
The army test fired the surface-to-surface developed missile from a mobile launcher at complex-4 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Wheeler Island off Odisha coast.
The Agni-III missile is powered by a two-stage solid propellant system with a length of 17 meters, diameter of 2 meters and launch weight of around 50 tones. It can also carry a warhead of 1.5 tones which is protected by carbon heat shield.
“The trial, carried out by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC of the Indian Army), was fully successful,” said ITR Director MVKV Prasad.
Logistic support for the test was provided by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
“It was the third user trial in the Agni-III series carried out to establish the ‘repeatability’ of the missile’s performance,” a DRDO official said.
The trial was monitored through various telemetry stations, electro-optic systems and sophisticated radars located along the coast and by naval ships anchored near the impact point for data analyses.
The missile equipped with hybrid navigation, guidance and control systems along with advanced on board computer, is already inducted into the armed forces.
“The electronic systems connected with the missile are hardened for higher vibration, thermal and acoustic effects,” said a DRDO scientist.
Multiple sources have reported that North Korea has restored part of a missile launch site it had begun to dismantle after pledging to do so at the Singapore summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last year.
38 North, a Washington-based North Korea project, says satellite images depicted structures on the launch pad at the Tongchang-ri launch site, also known as Sohae, had been rebuilt between February 16 and March 2.
Furthermore, South Korea’s Yonhap News said that the country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) briefed lawmakers that the work was taking place and involved replacing a roof and a door at the facility.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) also concluded North Korea is “pursuing a rapid rebuilding.”
The CSIS report added, “Activity is evident at the vertical engine test stand and the launch pad’s rail-mounted rocket transfer structure.”
Following his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last year, President Trump told reporters at a press conference that the North Korean leader promised to destroy a major missile engine testing site.
The president didn’t identify the site at the time, but Reuters was later informed by a U.S. official the facility was located at Tongchang-ri.
Neither the U.S. State Department, the White House, nor South Korea’s Unification Ministry has commented on the report. South Korea’s presidential office, the Blue House, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
In addition, International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano revealed in a quarterly report that North Korea’s Yongbyon uranium-enrichment facility remains active.
Amano also stated North Korea is continuing work on building an experimental light-water reactor at the facility.
It’s unclear what effect the news surrounding developments at Tongchang-ri and Yongbyon will have on diplomatic efforts with North Korea, but U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton said Tuesday the United States would look at increasing sanctions against Pyongyang if Kim did not end its nuclear weapons program.
Speaking on the Fox Business Network, Bolton said Washington was waiting to see if Pyongyang was committed to abandoning its “nuclear weapons program and everything associated with it.”
“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear … they’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact,” Bolton said.
U.S. lawmakers, however, aren’t delaying in trying to ramp up sanctions on North Korea.
Tuesday, Republican Senator Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen introduced a bill to impose sanctions on any bank that does business with its government.
The measure had the added endorsement of the parents of Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student who died after being imprisoned in the reclusive country as a result of the treatment he received during captivity.
Dubbed the “Otto Warmbier Banking Restrictions Involving North Korea (BRINK) Act,” Otto’s parents said they believed the legislation would provide helpful in eliciting change in North Korea.
“We continue to support the bill and appreciate them honoring our son’s memory,” the Warmbiers said.
The measure unanimously passed the Senate Banking Committee last year, but did not advance further.
To become law, the bill needs to pass both houses of the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by President Trump.
Resumption of talks
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has ordered his cabinet to pursue all avenues to facilitate a resumption of discussions between Washington and Pyongyang.
“We look forward to continuing the dialogue between the two countries, and I expect that the two leaders will meet again in the near future and achieve the settlement this time,” Moon said earlier this week while presiding over a National Security Council meeting.
After the Hanoi summit resulted in no agreement being signed between President Trump and Kim, Moon said South Korea’s role has become important and directed ministers to take action.
Moon said he wanted officials to “confirm the differences in the positions of the two sides” and “look for ways to narrow the gap.”
“I believe that the North American dialogue will eventually be settled, and it’s very undesirable to have a vacuum and deadlocked stage for a long time, so please work hard together for the resumption of the North American dialogue,” Moon said.
He added, “I would like to find out the best ways to help North American dialogue through the development of inter-Korean relations within the framework of sanctions.”
The countdown for the flight Thursday night of an Indian rocket carrying the Microsat R imaging satellite of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Kalamsat student satellite will begin later on Wednesday, an Indian space agency official said.
“The countdown for the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket launch will start today (Wednesday).
“The countdown duration and its starting time, the time of rocket launch would be announced later,” an official of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) told IANS.
The rocket launch was expected to happen at about 11.40 p.m. on Thursday.
“We will be launching the 700-kg Microsat R and Kalamsat with a new PSLV variant.
“To reduce weight and increase the mass, an aluminium tank is being used for the first time in the fourth stage,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan had told IANS earlier.
He said Kalamsat is a payload developed by students and Chennai-based Space Kidz India.
The PSLV is a four-stage engine expendable rocket with alternating solid and liquid fuel.
In its normal configuration, the rocket would have six strap-on motors hugging the its first stage. However, the PSLV that would be flying on January 24 with Microsat R and Kalamsat will be a two strap-on motors configuration and is designated as PSLV-DL.
The rocket PSLV-C44 is the first mission of PSLV-DL and is a new variant.
About 14 minutes into the flight the rocket would eject Microsat R at an altitude of about 277km. This would start functioning at an altitude of 450km in about the 103th minute after lift-off.
The Kalamsat would be the first to use the rocket’s fourth stage as an orbital platform. The fourth stage would be moved to higher circular orbit so as to establish an orbital platform for carrying out experiments, ISRO had said.
“The Kalamsat is a 10cm cube nano-satellite weighing about 1.2kg. The satellite’s life span is about two months and its cost is about Rs 12 lakh,” Srimathy Kesan, Founder-CEO of Space Kidz India, told IANS.
Space Kidz India is working towards promoting art, science and culture for students in India.
According to Kesan, Kalamsat will be the first satellite of Space Kidz India to be in a proper orbit as its earlier satellites were suborbital ones. (IANS)
A report released on Monday by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) about a previously undisclosed North Korean missile site may have caught some casual North Korean observers by surprise. But Nam Sung-wook, professor at Korea Unification, Diplomacy and Security at Korea University, said the Sino-ri facility was previously known to both the United States and South Korean intelligence services.
“Last year the U.S. made a report about Sakkanmol and Sino-ri this January. Those are not fresh discoveries,” he said.
Archived South Korean news reports dating back to 1998 acknowledge the Sino-ri site as a facility for Nodong missiles.
The CSIS report declared that one of 20 undeclared ballistic missile bases in North Korea serves as a missile headquarters facility and the “Sino-ri missile operating base and the Nodong missiles deployed at this location fit into North Korea’s presumed nuclear military strategy by providing an operational-level nuclear or conventional first strike capability.”
Kim Dong-yub, the head of the Office of Research at the Institute for Far East Studies (IFES) at Kyungnam University, added, “Although the North has not declared the site officially, it does not mean that it is new. No countries openly announce all the military bases.”
Nam notes that the United States focuses on small details regarding denuclearization, like the dismantling of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to reduce the threat to the to the U.S. “For [President] Trump, he can use this to boast about his achievement during the second summit,” Nam said.
Implications for upcoming North Korean Summits
The CSIS report came days after the White House announced that U.S. President Donald Trump would meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late February and that he “looks forward” to the denuclearization talks.
In its report, CSIS said the Sino-ri base was not previously declared by Pyongyang and “does not appear to be the subject of denuclearization negotiations.”
Speaking to Reuters news agency, one of the report’s authors, Victor Cha, said “The North Koreans are not going to negotiate over things they don’t disclose. It looks like they’re playing a game.”
Nam assesses Trump’s focus on the talks with Kim is about eliminating threats, like ICBMs.
“It is hard to achieve complete denuclearization, so including dismantling ready-made weapons from the past, which arouse the strong opposition remains the focus on the present and the future talks. These include ICBMs and missile test sites,” said Nam.
He added that Seoul does not regard the Sino-ri facility as one that imposes a direct threat to South Korea, citing the September 19 Pyongyang Declaration and its efforts to de-escalate tension on the peninsula.
Kim Dong-yub said the CSIS report focuses too much on a connection between the missile facilities and denuclearization.
“The North already announced denuclearization and they took some steps, although some require verification,” said Kim, “So it is not proper to judge their willingness by their possessions of military bases.”
Kim said some groups opposing talks with North Korea and may try to leverage the news to press Pyongyang for more concessions, but he says the upcoming talks between the United States and North Korea should not include these types of missile facilities, for if they do, they could detract from progress on denuclearization.
In an email to VOA, Bruce Klinger, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, wrote, “During a second summit, Trump must insist on tangible steps toward North Korean denuclearization, including a data declaration of the regime’s nuclear and missile programs. Trump shouldn’t offer more concessions nor agree to reduce U.N. and U.S. sanctions until Kim moves beyond the symbolic gestures it has taken so far.”
The White House has not commented on the CSIS report and neither Washington nor Pyongyang has yet to officially announce the date or location of the second U.S. – North Korean summit, although some speculate it may take place in Vietnam.
In addition, local media reports in South Korea have indicated the Moon administration may attempt to host Kim in Seoul during the 100th anniversary of the March 1 independence movement. (VOA)