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Report: Advanced US drone set to watch over N. Korea
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Sept 15, 2011

S. Korea to put more women soldiers in frontline
Seoul (AFP) Sept 15, 2011 - South Korea's military will put more women in the frontline as part of efforts to expand their opportunities in the armed forces, an official said Thursday.

Boo Jae-Won, head of the defence ministry's personnel planning bureau, said 12 combat branches will be opened up to female soldiers between 2012 and 2014.

"We will open up artillery and armour branches of the army to women," Boo was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying. The air force's air defence and the navy's fire control would also be opened.

The plan was to have women making up seven percent of all officers and five percent of non-commissioned officers by 2015 and 2017, respectively, he said.

As of the end of last year, about five percent of commissioned officers and three percent of NCOs were female.

The ministry said 6,957 women currently serve in the army, navy, air force and Marine corps but the total was expected to reach 11,500 by 2020.

All healthy South Korean men between 18-30 face conscription into the military for about two years. Women are exempt but can volunteer to serve as commissioned or non-commissioned officers.

In March the navy and air force announced plans to select female cadets for the Reserve Officer Training Corps programme. The army opened the corps to women last year for the first time since it started in 1963.

The main mission of the South's 650,000-strong armed forces is to deter any attack from North Korea's 1.2 million-strong military, but they also serve in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

The United States is close to deploying an advanced unmanned spy plane over South Korea which could provide a much more detailed view of North Korea's military activities, a report said.

The US military newspaper Stars and Stripes said Washington is negotiating with Seoul to fly a Global Hawk drone near the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

"I think we are very close," the paper quoted Lt. Col. Terran Reneau, chief of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the 13th US Air Force in Hawaii, as saying.

Another air force officer, Lt. Col. David Gerhardt, was quoted as saying in the article published Monday that the Global Hawk "will likely fly over land in Korea as soon as agreements have been solidified to do that".

South Korean defence ministry spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment.

The United States, which bases 28,500 troops in the South, already keeps watch over the North with satellites and piloted U-2 spy planes.

The Global Hawk can stay in the air longer, flying at an altitude of about 20 kilometres (12 miles) for up to 40 hours, with a line of sight to targets some 550 kilometres away.

This means that a drone flying just south of the DMZ could keep watch over all North Korea and over Chinese territory north of the Yalu border river.

The deployment could provide an "unprecedented view of goings-on in reclusive North Korea and draw the ire of China", Stars and Stripes said.

The Hawks carry long-range and infrared cameras, radar and listening devices that can intercept foreign military signals.

North Korea tested nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009 as well as long-range missiles in 1998, 2006 and 2009, incurring United Nations sanctions.

Inter-Korean relations have been tense since Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 lives.

The North denied involvement in the sinking but shelled a South Korean border island last November, killing four people.

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Russia-NKorea exercise shouldn't alter message: US
Washington (AFP) Sept 15, 2011 - The United States said Thursday that Russia's planned joint military exercises with North Korea should not be done in a way that undercuts international concern about its nuclear program.

The State Department said in a written response to journalists' questions it was "aware from press reports that Russia and North Korea have announced their intention to hold joint naval exercises next year."

"Any engagement with the North Koreans should be conducted in a way that does not detract from the international communitys clear message of concern about the Norths weapons programs, and the necessity for Pyongyang to do what is necessary to return to the Six Party talks," the statement said.

The Six Party talks, which includes Russia, China, Japan, the United States and the two Koreas, is aimed at scrapping the North Korean nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang quit the talks in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later.

The decision to stage the unprecedented joint search and rescue naval operations was reached during a late August visit to Pyongyang by Russia's Eastern Military District commander, Igor Muginov, Interfax reported.

"The idea is to hold the joint rescue maneuvers next year," Muginov said in reference to a Japanese press report suggesting that the exercises could begin later this year.

Muginov's visit to Pyongyang for talks with one of the Stalinist state's top army commanders came less than a week after strongman Kim Jong-Il held rare talks in Siberia with President Dmitry Medvedev that focused on trade and economic assistance.

North Korea rarely stages joint maneuvers with other nations and Russia's involvement is expected to be watched closely by the United States and South Korea, which conduct regular war games in the region.

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War on terror: Drone strikes vs. capture
Washington (UPI) Sep 13, 2011
If every dark cloud has a silver lining, then perhaps the converse is true when it comes to human endeavors, especially in a time of war. Take the case of using unmanned aerial vehicles - so-called drones - in decimating the leadership and lower-echelon ranks of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and in the lawless tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan, where they maintain headquarters, training ... read more

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