India’s Ballistic Missile Interceptor failed tests on Monday. The missile was not able to reach its target.
“It took off as planned but it did not reach the target. We are analyzing the data,” test range director M.V.K.V. Prasad.
The indigenous Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile was fired from Wheeler Island off the coast in Odisha’s Bhadrak district. About 170 km from there, the missile dropped straight into the Bay of Bengal, seconds after the liftoff.
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.”
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)
The Trump administration will roll out a new strategy for a more aggressive space-based missile defense system to protect against existing threats from North Korea and Iran and counter advanced weapon systems being developed by Russia and China.
Details about the administration’s Missile Defense Review — the first compiled since 2010 — are expected to be released during President Donald Trump’s visit to the Pentagon with top members of his administration.
The new review concludes that in order to adequately protect America, the Pentagon must expand defense technologies in space and use those systems to more quickly detect, track and ultimately defeat incoming missiles.
Recognizing the potential concerns surrounding any perceived weaponization of space, the strategy pushes for studies. No testing is mandated, and no final decisions have been made.
Missile sensors in space
Specifically, the U.S. is looking at putting a layer of sensors in space to more quickly detect enemy missiles when they are launched, according to a senior administration official, who briefed reporters Wednesday. The U.S. sees space as a critical area for advanced, next-generation capabilities to stay ahead of the threats, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details of the review before it was released.
The administration also plans to study the idea of basing interceptors in space, so the U.S. can strike incoming enemy missiles during the first minutes of flight when the booster engines are still burning.
Congress, which ordered this review, has directed the Pentagon to push harder on this “boost-phase” approach, but officials want to study the feasibility of the idea and explore ways it could be done.
The new strategy is aimed at better defending the U.S. against potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, who have been developing and fielding a much more expansive range of advanced offensive missiles that could threaten America and its allies. The threat is not only coming from traditional cruise and ballistic missiles, but also from hypersonic weapons.
For example, Russian President Vladimir Putin unveiled new strategic weapons he claims can’t be intercepted. One is a hypersonic glide vehicle, which could fly 20 times faster than the speed of sound and make sharp maneuvers to avoid being detected by missile defense systems.
“Developments in hypersonic propulsion will revolutionize warfare by providing the ability to strike targets more quickly, at greater distances, and with greater firepower,” Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress last year. “China is also developing increasingly sophisticated ballistic missile warheads and hypersonic glide vehicles in an attempt to counter ballistic missile defense systems.”
Current U.S. missile defense weapons are based on land and aboard ships. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have both emphasized space-based capabilities as the next step of missile defense.
Senior administration officials earlier signaled their interest in developing and deploying more effective means of detecting and tracking missiles with a constellation of satellites in space that can, for example, use advanced sensors to follow the full path of a hostile missile so that an anti-missile weapon can be directed into its flight path.
Implications for diplomacy
Any expansion of the scope and cost of missile defenses would compete with other defense priorities, including the billions of extra dollars the Trump administration has committed to spending on a new generation of nuclear weapons. An expansion also would have important implications for American diplomacy, given long-standing Russian hostility to even the most rudimentary U.S. missile defenses and China’s worry that longer-range U.S. missile defenses in Asia could undermine Chinese national security.
Asked about the implications for Trump’s efforts to improve relations with Russia and strike better trade relations with China, the administration official said that the U.S. defense capabilities are purely defensive and that the U.S. has been very upfront with Moscow and Beijing about its missile defense posture.
The release of the strategy was postponed last year for unexplained reasons, though it came as Trump was trying to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
While the U.S. continues to pursue peace with North Korea, Pyongyang has made threats of nuclear missile attacks against the U.S. and its allies in the past and has worked to improve its ballistic missile technology. It is still considered a serious threat to America. Iran, meanwhile, has continued to develop more sophisticated ballistic missiles, increasing their numbers and their capabilities. (VOA)