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Posts tagged ‘Poilace Vivid’

NKorea nukes, missiles top concerns in Japan defense review

August 08, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — The threat to Japan from North Korea has reached a “new stage” now that the country is capable of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile and its nuclear weapons program has advanced, a defense ministry report said Tuesday.

North Korea was the main concern cited as Japan’s Cabinet approved the report, less than two weeks after the North test-fired a second ICBM that analysts say has a range that could include more of the U.S. mainland, including Los Angeles and Chicago.

The security review came just a week after Itsunori Onodera, who was defense minister in 2012-2014, resumed that job when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe revamped his Cabinet after a slew of politically costly scandals.

Onodera told reporters Friday he planned to update Japan’s defense guidelines to reflect the threat from the North, suggesting he may seek an offensive missile capability. “North Korea’s missile launches have escalated tensions both in terms of quality and quantity. I would like to study if our current missile defense is sufficient just with the Aegis destroyers and (surface-to-air) PAC 3,” said Onodera, who headed a ruling party study in March that called for beefing up Japan’s missile response capability.

The ICBM North Korea tested July 30 flew on a highly lofted trajectory and landed about 200 kilometers (120 miles) off Japan’s Hokkaido island. North Korea has been increasing the range, accuracy and versatility of its missiles and diversifying its launch sites and methods. It has conducted two nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches over the past year alone, exceeding the total of 16 missiles launched over 18 years under former leader Kim Jong Il, the report said.

“North Korea’s development of ballistic missiles and its nuclear program are becoming increasingly real and imminent problems for the Asia-Pacific region including Japan, as well as the rest of the world,” it said.

The 532-page defense report also raised concerns over China’s ongoing assertiveness in air and maritime activity in the regional seas, and raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the country’s military buildup with its budget tripling over the past decade.

While North Korea’s intentions are mainly to put the mainland U.S. in range, its weapons advancements have furthered Abe’s effort to beef up the role of Japan’s military and its missile defenses. Joint exercises with its ally the U.S., also, have dramatically increased. The Defense Ministry already plans to acquire upgraded ship-to-air interceptors SM-3 Block IIAs and mobile PAC-3 MSEs, which would double the coverage area of Japan’s current defenses.

The defense report was originally meant to be issued Aug. 1, but that was delayed by the Cabinet reshuffle. Days before that, defense minister Tomomi Inada stepped down after admitting that ministry officials had covered up information about dangers faced by Japanese peacekeeping troops while they were stationed in South Sudan.

The rise in regional tensions with both China and North Korea has raised the level of alert in Japan. Despite Onodera’s comments, the ministry’s report did not mention the possibility of installing more advanced defense systems such as the land-based Aegis Ashore or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missiles, or THAAD, or allowing Japan’s self-defense-only troops to conduct retaliatory attacks as proposed by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The THAAD system was deployed last year in South Korea, much to the irritation of China, which has opposed the installation of systems that it suspects could be used to conduct surveillance from outside its borders.

In the East China Sea, China has stepped up activity around Japanese-controlled islands claimed by both countries, expanding to the south and also elsewhere along the Japanese coast, the Defense Ministry report said.

Increased Chinese activity in the East China Sea prompted Japanese air defense troops to scramble against Chinese military aircraft a record 851 times during fiscal 2016, up from 571 times the year before.

“China, particularly when it comes to maritime issues where its interests conflict with others, continues to act in a coercive manner,” the report said. It expressed “strong concern” over China’s behavior and its impact on regional security.

Rescuers gather bodies after southwest China quake kills 13

August 09, 2017

BEIJING (AP) — Rescuers picked away rubble from around a body in an area shaken by a powerful earthquake in mountainous southwestern China, then stood silently in a row, with helmets off and heads bowed to pay their respects.

Tuesday night’s magnitude 6.5 quake killed at least 13 people and injured 175, authorities said Wednesday. It also knocked out power and phone networks, complicating efforts to locate and evacuate survivors.

State broadcaster China Central Television showed footage of orange-suited rescuers finding the body and using detectors to search for survivors in the dark of night, carrying a girl to safety and leading other people along a rubble-strewn road.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for rapid efforts to respond to the disaster, which struck a quake-prone region bordered by Sichuan and Gansu provinces at around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. The area is on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and home to many Tibetan and other ethnic minority villages. It’s also near Jiuzhaigou, or Jiuzhai Valley, a national park known for spectacular waterfalls and karst formations that attracts visitors from China and overseas.

Among the injured, 28 were listed in serious condition on Wednesday morning, according to the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture government in Sichuan. At least five of the dead were tourists, China’s official Xinhua News Agency said. Hong Kong’s immigration department said one of the city’s residents was missing in the quake.

A Canadian woman suffered a slight head injury and a Frenchman was wounded in both legs and needed surgery to remove stone fragments, according to Xinhua. It said Frenchman Maxence Vallon, 18, was staying with his mother and brother at a hotel in Jiuzhaigou.

They were seeking shelter outside “when a big stone fell and hit my brother right in the leg,” said Romain Vallon, who studies in Beijing. The dead included a performer in an arts group who was buried in the quake and found Wednesday morning. She and others had been performing in Jiuzhaigou when the quake struck. According to the Legal Evening News, they were acting out a scene about a deadly 2008 earthquake that struck nearby and killed nearly 90,000 people. When the quake hit, the performers ran off the stage in terror and the audience thought the tremor was part of the show.

The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 6.5, striking at a shallow depth of just 9 kilometers (5.5 miles). Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage than deeper ones. The China Earthquake Networks Center said the quake had at magnitude of 7.0 and a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles).

It’s not unusual for magnitude and depth readings to vary due to different technologies in use and the timing and distance from where quakes are measured. The earthquake’s epicenter was about 39 kilometers (24 miles) from the county seat of Jiuzhaigou, which has a population of around 80,000, and was 285 kilometers (177 miles) from Chengdu, Sichuan’s densely populated provincial capital, according to the Chinese quake center.

Xinhua said strong tremors could be felt in Chengdu and other cities in the area. Jiuzhaigou county lost electricity following the quake, said a man surnamed Song who answered the phone at a local emergency office in Aba prefecture, where Jiuzhaigou National Park is located.

Xinhua said more than 30,000 tourists visiting Jiuzhaigou were relocated to safer accommodations by tourist bus and private vehicle. On Wednesday morning, another strong earthquake struck in far northwestern China, some 2,200 kilometers (1,360 miles) from Jiuzhaigou, injuring three villagers whose home collapsed, Xinhua reported. That quake was measured at magnitude 6.3 by the USGS and 6.6 by China’s agency and struck in a sparsely populated area of the Xinjiang region near the Kazakhstan border.

Earthquakes are common in China’s west, although casualties are generally low because of the sparse population density. China’s deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude 7.9 temblor in May 2008, struck the same mountainous prefecture as Tuesday’s quake, killing nearly 90,000 people.

Associated Press researcher Fu Ting contributed to this report.

Japan’s prime minister reshuffles Cabinet as support dips

August 03, 2017

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffled his Cabinet on Thursday, opting for seasoned party veterans to help restore his battered popularity. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who retained his post, announced the new lineup.

Abe’s approval ratings have suffered from a spate of scandals over alleged cronyism and other abuses and objections to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s tendency to force unpopular legislation through parliament.

The shake-up reflects Abe’s recognition that despite the Liberal Democrats’ overwhelming majority in parliament, his own once seemingly invincible position after more than four years in office may be imperiled.

But plans for the reshuffle were disclosed weeks in advance, and it was not expected to have a major impact on the foreign policy or economy of America’s biggest ally in Asia. The newly named ministers included many Cabinet veterans, including Itsunori Onodera, a former defense minister who again was named to that post.

Last week, Abe’s protege Tomomi Inada stepped down as defense minister after the disclosure that the ministry hid information about risks faced by Japanese peacekeeping troops in South Sudan. In Japan, choice Cabinet positions tend to be distributed between factions that operate almost like political fiefdoms within the ruling party. This time, the ministers appear to be chosen with factions in mind, but they went to politicians with proven expertise or track records.

Abe also chose several popular lawmakers known to differ from him on key issues such as nuclear power and revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution. The new foreign minister, Taro Kono, 54, is known to be liberal-leaning and has opposed nuclear energy, though he toned down his stance while serving as reform minister in an earlier Abe Cabinet.

A politics graduate of Georgetown University, Kono is fluent in English. He is probably best known for being the son of Yohei Kono, a former speaker of the lower house who also served as foreign minister.

The senior Kono is known for making an apology in 1993 to Asians who were forced to serve Japanese troops as “comfort women” before and during the world War II. Kono’s predecessor, Fumio Kishida, opted out of this Cabinet to become the policy chief for the Liberal Democrats. He is widely thought to be aiming to become prime minister after Abe’s term ends or if he steps down.

S. Korea’s president seeks talks with Kim Jong Un

July 07, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s new liberal president said he’s willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid heightened animosities in the wake of the North’s first intercontinental ballistic missile test-launch.

During a speech Thursday ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Moon Jae-in also proposed the two Koreas resume reunions of families separated by war, stop hostile activities along their heavily fortified border and cooperate on the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Moon’s statement reiterated his push to use both dialogue and pressure to try to resolve the standoff over North Korea’s weapons programs. But it’s unclear that North Korea would accept any of Moon’s overtures as South Korea is working with the United States and others to get the country punished for the ICBM launch Tuesday.

President Donald Trump said Thursday he’s considering unspecified “pretty severe things” in response to the North’s ICBM launch. A pre-emptive military strike may be among Trump’s responses, but analysts say it’s one of the unlikeliest options the U.S. can take because North Korean retaliations would cause massive casualties in South Korea, particularly in Seoul, which is within easy range of North Korea’s artillery.

“The current situation where there is no contact between the relevant officials of the South and the North is highly dangerous,” Moon said. “I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea at any time at any place, if the conditions are met and if it will provide an opportunity to transform the tension and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon said he and Kim could put all issues on the negotiating table including the North’s nuclear program and the signing of a peace treaty to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War. An armistice that ended the war has yet to be completed with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war.

Since taking office in May, Moon has been trying to improve ties with North Korea, but his efforts have produced little, with the North testing a series of newly developed missiles including an ICBM. “I hope that North Korea will not cross the bridge of no return,” Moon said in Thursday’s speech. “Whether it will come out to the forum for dialogue, or whether it will kick away this opportunity of dialogue that has been made with difficulty is only a decision that North Korea can make.”

The North’s ICBM launch, its most successful missile test to date, has stoked security worries in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo as it showed the country could eventually perfect a reliable nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. Analysts say the missile tested Tuesday could reach Alaska if launched at a normal trajectory.

After the launch, Kim said he would never put his weapons programs up for negotiation unless the United States abandons its hostile policy toward his country. Kim’s statement suggested he will order more missile and nuclear tests until North Korea develops a functioning ICBM that can place the entire U.S. within its striking distance.

In a show of force against North Korea, South Korea and the United States staged “deep strike” precision missile firing drills on Wednesday. In North Korea’s capital, thousands of people rallied Thursday in Kim Il Sung square to celebrate the launch.

N. Korea launches possibly most successful missile test yet

July 04, 2017

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea conducted what may be its most successful missile test yet on Tuesday, firing an intermediate-range weapon that could be powerful enough to reach Alaska. It’s Pyongyang’s latest step in a push for nuclear weapons capable of hitting any part of the United States.

While some details are still unclear, the launch seems designed to send a political warning to Washington and its chief Asian allies, Seoul and Tokyo, even as it allows North Korean scientists a chance to perfect their still-incomplete nuclear missile program. It came on the eve of the U.S. Independence Day holiday, days after the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of South Korea and the United States, and ahead of a global summit of the world’s richest economies.

Officials say the missile fired from North Phyongan province, in the North’s western region, flew for about 40 minutes, which would be longer than any other similar tests previously reported, and covered about 930 kilometers (580 miles). South Korean analysts say it’s likely that it was a retest of one of two intermediate-range missiles launched earlier this year.

Once U.S. missile scientist, David Wright, estimated that the missile, if the reported time and distance are correct, could have a possible maximum range of 6,700 kilometers (4,160 miles), which could put Alaska in its range if fired at a normal trajectory.

North Korea has a reliable arsenal of shorter-range missiles, but is still trying to perfect its longer-range missiles. Some analysts believe North Korea has the technology to arm its short-range missiles with nuclear warheads, but it’s unclear if it has mastered the technology needed to build an atomic bomb that can fit on a long-range missile. It has yet to test an ICBM, though it has previously conducted long-range satellite launches that critics say are covers meant to test missile technology.

President Donald Trump responded on Twitter: “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

“This guy” presumably refers to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. China is North Korea’s economic lifeline and only major ally, and the Trump administration is pushing Beijing to do more to push the North toward disarmament.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga suggested the altitude of this missile might have been higher than earlier tests. He did not give further details, including the distance of the flight and where the missile landed.

Just last week South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump met for the first time and vowed to oppose North Korea’s development of atomic weapons. Japan’s government said the missile was believed to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone in the Sea of Japan, but no damage to ships or aircraft in the area was reported.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sharply criticized North Korea for the launch. “The latest launch clearly showed that the threat is growing,” Abe said. Abe, who talked by phone with Trump on Monday, said the two leaders plan to seek cooperation from world leaders when they attend a G20 summit in Germany.

Lee Illwoo, a Seoul-based military commentator, said the missile traveled for a far longer period of time than if it would have been fired at a normal angle. A North Korean scud-type missile, with a range of 800-900 kilometers, would land in its target site within 10 minutes if fired at a standard angle of 45 degrees. Lee said it’s likely that North Korea fired either Hwasong-12 missile or a solid-fuel Pukguksong-2, both of which were tested in May.

On May 14, North Korea launched the Hwasong-12 missile, which its state media later said flew as high as 2,111 kilometers (1,310 miles) and landed in a targeted area in the ocean about 787 kilometers (490 miles) from the launch site. On May 21, North Korea also tested the Pukguksong-2, which traveled about 500 kilometers (310 miles).

China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, warned Monday that further escalation of already high tensions with North Korea risks getting out of control, “and the consequences would be disastrous.” The Korean Peninsula has been divided between the American-backed South and the authoritarian North since before the 1950-53 Korean War. Almost 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

Tuesday’s launch is the first by the North since a June 8 test of a new type of cruise missile that Pyongyang says is capable of striking U.S. and South Korean warships “at will.” Since taking office on May 10, Moon has tried to improve strained ties with North Korea, but the North has continued its missile tests. Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons and powerful missiles to cope with what it calls rising U.S. military threats.

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Japan leader Abe vows Arctic, Russia cooperation in Finland

July 10, 2017

HELSINKI (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pledged to increase cooperation with Finland in Arctic issues and on furthering Russian relations, after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Abe noted that Finland is currently chairing the Arctic Council and said his country would increase its role in the agency by “positively contributing more than in the past to (its) activities.” “We will be enhancing our cooperation in the area of the environment regarding the Arctic regions,” Abe said in prepared statements by the two leaders.

Niinisto said that the two countries signed several agreements, including on developing environmental cooperation. Abe congratulated Finland on this year’s 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, with which it shares a 1,300 kilometer (800 mile) border, noting that Russia is “an important neighbor for both of our nations.”

“We reaffirmed our close collaboration in our relationship with Russia,” he said. Neither leader gave any details of the content of their talks. Before arriving in Finland, Abe met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven in Stockholm, where the two leaders demanded that North Korea halt missile tests, and pledged increased cooperation in the U.N. Security Council. They also agreed to combat terrorism together.

Chinese president meeting Merkel, visiting pandas in Berlin

July 05, 2017

BERLIN (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — and to check in on two giant pandas his country just sent to a Berlin zoo on loan. Xi’s visit Wednesday comes ahead of both leaders’ participation in the Group of 20 summit that begins Friday in Hamburg.

The leaders planned to talk over issues like trade and climate change and have lunch before heading to the zoo to see pandas Meng Meng and Jiao Qing, who arrived June 24. China on Tuesday also announced that it would allow liver cancer experts from Germany, the U.S. and other countries to join a medical team treating imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo — another issue that was likely to come up between Merkel and Xi.

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