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US, South Korea agree early deployment of THAAD: PM Hwang
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) April 17, 2017

Peace along the border despite N. Korean threats
Dandong, China (AFP) April 16, 2017 - One soldier enjoys a cigarette, another sits reading quietly on the riverbank: seen from the Chinese side of the border, North Korea's army does not appear to be on a war footing despite all the bellicose language.

Dandong city is the main crossing point to North Korea, and every day hundreds of tourists embark on small boats for a cruise on the Yalu border river and a fleeting glimpse of another world.

The boats approach within a few metres (yards) of the Korean shore, giving residents of the world's second largest economy a view of their impoverished and sanctions-hit but nuclear-armed neighbour.

Further south, the border between North and South Korea is one of the world's most heavily fortified. But the atmosphere is a great deal more relaxed along the Yalu river, even though the North's ally China enforces a range of UN sanctions intended to curb its nuclear and missile programmes.

The sanctions have had a limited effect. After a huge military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, the North Sunday defied international condemnation to test-fire another missile.

Tensions have been rising for weeks and the US has sent a naval strike group led by an aircraft carrier to the region. The North has reiterated it is ready for war with the US, and its army Friday vowed a "merciless" response to any provocation.

But the soldiers seen Sunday appeared notably relaxed -- whether sitting on a bicycle, immersed in their reading or puffing on a cigarette next to women busily washing clothes in the river.

It's a world away from the thousands of goose-stepping troops and missiles which packed Pyongyang's Kim Il-Sung Square Saturday to mark the 105th anniversary of the birth of the nation's eponymous founder.

Unconcerned at the prospect of provoking an incident, one Chinese tourist uses a slingshot to shoot a stone into the river as the boat approaches Sinuiju, the North Korean frontier town linked to Dandong by the Friendship Bridge.

From a green wooden observation post, a North Korean soldier placidly watches the tourists through binoculars.

The river cruises are an important money-spinner in Dandong, where dozens of boats offer trips for a modest 70 yuan ($10).

The cruise vessels stop off at a boat where an enterprising trader sells North Korean products: eggs, cigarettes and alcohol.

In the wider world the tensions persist. Sunday's missile test was a failure, according to South Korea and the US military.

But it came hours ahead of a visit by US Vice President Mike Pence to the South, where the North's weapons programme will top the agenda.

The United States and South Korea agreed on the early deployment of a controversial US missile defence system in the region, the South's acting president said Monday after talks with visiting US Vice President Mike Pence.

"We have agreed to further strengthen the readiness posture of ROK-US alliance that matches the threats posed by North Korea through a swift deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense)," said Hwang Kyo-Ahn at a joint conference with Pence.

N.Korea puts 'new ICBM' on show, say analysts
Pyongyang (AFP) April 15, 2017 - North Korea unveiled what could be a new intercontinental ballistic missile at a giant military parade in Pyongyang on Saturday, analysts said.

Nearly 60 missiles rolled through Kim Il-Sung Square at an event to mark the 105th anniversary of the North's founder, in a show of strength as tensions mount over the isolated nation's military ambitions.

Its ultimate goal is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland - something President Donald Trump has vowed "won't happen".

Saturday's parade displayed devices in increasing order of range and it was four huge green missiles, rolled out on articulated trailers towards the end, that caught the attention of military specialists.

"This appears to be a new ICBM," Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified South Korean military official as saying, adding that they appeared longer than the country's existing KN-08 or KN-14 missiles.

Pyongyang has yet to formally announce it has an operational ICBM, but Chad O'Carroll, managing director of specialist service NK News, said the new rockets could be liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles, or an early prototype.

These long-range missiles would be "a big game-changer once it is deployed in service", he said but added there would be a long testing schedule ahead before a trial launch of the missile itself.

But liquid-fuel missiles also "take hours to fuel up and if there is intelligence that they were doing that it would be quite easy to stop it before it was launched", he told AFP.

Solid fuel ICBMs are a "much more difficult threat to prevent", O'Carroll said, adding that risk was still "many many years" away.

But Kim Dong-Yeop of the South's Institute for Eastern Studies said Pyongyang may have already begun developing the technology.

"Judging from the fact that it was contained in a launch tube, it is likely to be a cold-launched, solid-fuel ICBM," he told Yonhap.

- Making mock-ups? -

To achieve its ultimate aim of developing technology capable of hitting US targets, Pyongyang not only needs to improve the range of its missiles, but also miniaturise a nuclear device to the extent that it would fit on the tip of a warhead.

Experts differ on the details of Pyongyang's missile capabilities, but all agree it has made rapid strides in recent years.

The North has paraded what were thought to be KN-08 ICBMs three times since 2012, and in 2015 it unveiled a new variant, the KN-14.

None has ever been launched, although Kim said in his New Year's address that the North was in the "final stages" of developing an ICBM.

The last missiles in the parade, on giant 16-wheeler vehicles, could have been KN14s in launch tubes.

Also on display was the Pukkuksong, a white-painted device on a blue trailer, which is claimed to be a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

Submarine-launched devices could give the North the ability to strike without warning from a vessel somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

They could also reduce the effectiveness of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) defence system, which Washington and Seoul are deploying to the South, to the fury of Beijing.

But the experts sounded a note of caution.

O'Carroll pointed out that the nosecone of one of the final group of missiles "wobbled quite noticeably", raising questions about whether or not it was real.

Since only their launch tubes were visible, Lee Il-Woo, a senior analyst at the private Korea Defence Network, told AFP: "I suspect they all might be mock-ups aimed to impress the outside world."

BAE Systems to develop U.S. space, missile defense tech
Washington (UPI) Apr 12, 2017
BAE Systems received a contract to research and develop new space and missile defense technologies for the U.S. Army, the company announced Wednesday. The enterprise is one of eight contractors to compete for the $3 billion indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity deal. It was awarded by the U.S. Army's Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, or SMDC/ARSTRAT. ... read more

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