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North Korea Protecting Nuclear Missiles, U.N. Monitors Say, Ahead of Summit Talks



North Korea is working to ensure its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities cannot be destroyed by military strikes, U.N. monitors said ahead of a meeting between U.S. and North Korean officials to prepare a second denuclearization summit.

The U.S. special envoy for North Korea, Stephen Biegun, will meet his North Korean counterpart on Wednesday in Pyongyang to prepare for a summit later this month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the U.S. State Department said on Monday.

Biegun has said he hoped the meeting with new North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol would map out “a set of concrete deliverables” for the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

Biegun, who held talks with South Korean officials in Seoul on Sunday and Monday, said he would be aiming for “a roadmap of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcomes of our joint efforts”.

South Korean officials said they and the United States could be looking at a compromise that could expedite North Korea’s denuclearization – the dismantling of the North’s main Yongbyon nuclear complex, which could be reciprocated by U.S. measures including formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War and setting up a liaison office.

But U.N. sanctions monitors said in a confidential report, submitted to a 15-member U.N. Security Council sanctions committee and seen by Reuters on Monday, said it “found evidence of a consistent trend on the part of the DPRK to disperse its assembly, storage and testing locations”, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The North Korean mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report, which was submitted to Security Council members on Friday.

The first summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un last June in Singapore yielded a vague commitment by Kim to work toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, where U.S. troops have been stationed since the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Vietnamese resort town of Danang is seen as the most likely location for the next summit.

Trump last Thursday hailed “tremendous progress” in his dealings with North Korea, but the view in the United States is that it has yet to take concrete steps to give up its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has complained the United States has done little to reciprocate its freezing of nuclear and missile testing and dismantling of some nuclear facilities.

It has also repeatedly urged a lifting of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, a formal end to the war, and security guarantees. The U.N. report said sanctions were proving ineffective.

“The country continues to defy Security Council resolutions through a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal,” the sanctions monitors found.

“These violations render the latest U.N. sanctions ineffective.”

The monitors said they had evidence of one unprecedented prohibited petroleum product transfer of more than 57,600 barrels, worth more than $5.7 million.

North Korea has said it will never unilaterally give up its nuclear weapons unless the United States first removes any threat to it. North Korea has long demanded U.S. troops be withdrawn as a condition for peace.

The Korean War ended with an armistice that left the two Koreas technically still at war.

The United States has stressed that U.S. troops are not a bargaining chip and South Korea has said U.S. troops in the South were unrelated to any future peace treaty and that American forces should stay even if such an agreement is signed.

The U.S. State Department said on Monday that Washington and Seoul had reached an agreement “in principle” on sharing the cost of stationing U.S. troops in the Asian country.

CNN quoted a State Department official as saying that under the revised agreement, South Korea would boost its contribution to nearly $1 billion.

A 2014 deal that expired last year required South Korea to pay about 960 billion won ($848 million) a year for keeping some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea. The allies had appeared unable to strike an accord to renew the deal despite 10 rounds of talks since March. REUTERS

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France’s air force is shooting for the stars






A new name, a new raison d’être.

The French Air Force is aiming high, very high.

On Sept. 11, it became the French Air and Space Force, completing a process initiated by President Emmanuel Macron in July 2019 when he announced the creation of a space command, Defense News reported.

A new logo, revealed Friday, accompanies the new name. The logo features a thin, curved line that runs above the word “armée” and then behind the word “air.”

It represents the surface of the world, above which soars the stylized sparrow-hawk, which has been the logo for the Air Force for a decade, the report said.

The bird’s position has been very slightly modified to make it look more like a hunter. And the phrase “& espace” has been added.

The Air and Space Force says the reason for the discreet changes in the logo is to underline the continuity of the mission rather than a revolution in the mission, the report said.

“Today aviators must look higher, further, towards space, this new field of confrontation that is highly strategic and increasingly connected,” Air and Space Force Chief of Staff General Philippe Lavigne said to service members.

French Air and Space Force logo, established Sept. 11, 2020. Credit: Handout.

“Your qualities enable you to master the skies. They will now lead you to conquering space.”

In a statement, the Air and Space Force said given “the vital implications for military operations,” France had defined space as being “a major stake” for its strategic independence, and so the Space Command — locally known as CDE, or Commandement de l’espace — was created on Sept. 3, 2019.

The command is led by Brigadier General Michel Friedling, who reports to Joint Chief of Staff General François Lecointre where cooperation, capabilities and military operations are concerned, and to Lavigne when training and force preparation are involved, the report said.

Based in Toulouse, the Space Command should reach full operational capacity in 2025 with a staff of almost 500.

There are currently 220 men and women working on developing capabilities to protect military satellites from being approached by satellites operated by foreign powers.

The command has already set up LISA, a laboratory dedicated to military innovation in space, and it is also preparing for AstérX, the first European military space exercise planned for November 2020.

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Gunfire Sends Conflict Shockwaves in Ladakh Border



The Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army have exchanged gunfire for the first time at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on Monday as Beijing claimed that Indian troops crossed the border in Ladakh. AP Photo/Mukhtar Khan

The first shots fired in Ladakh in more than four decades have reverberated from Beijing to New Delhi with a chilling message that peace can no longer be taken for granted in the region if the India-China standoff is not resolved soon.

It also seems to mark the demise of agreements to desist from using firearms to prevent any escalation.

Each country had its versions of the evening gunfire on Monday, albeit just warning shots in the air.

India says Chinese troops fired in the air to signal their own troops to hold back from proceeding towards Indian positions on a high point. According to China, Indian troops fired to threaten patrolling border guards.

Either way, the first shots since 1975 at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) of the disputed border seem to be loaded with messages.

A warning shot from India would be sending a loud message that India means business. After being on the back foot for more than four months, and having regrouped and positioned itself well and gained ascendance in some parts of the embattled region, India is in a position to send a bold message.

“India, while is committed to disengagement and de-escalating the situation on the LAC, China continues to undertake provocative activities to escalate,’’ the Defense Ministry in New Delhi said.

“At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to use of any aggressive means, including firing.’’

For China, it could be an excuse to escalate to come closer to achieving its objectives, foreign policy experts say. China has been incensed at being pushed back to a disadvantageous position around Pangong Lake in Ladakh, rendering useless years of planning for a stealth encroachment into Indian territories.

India’s actions seriously violated the relevant agreements and agreements between China and India, pushing up regional tensions and easily causing misunderstandings and misjudgments,’’ PLA spokesman Zhang Shuili said. “They are serious military provocations and are of very bad nature.’’

While China still holds on to the gains it made from the incursions from late April to early May in other areas across Ladakh, it can see for sure its image of invincibility being shattered along with its position of dominance and intimidation over India.

To make matters worse for China, it lost the crucial position on commanding heights on surrounding mountains that has tilted the balance of power. India now has its battle tanks, artillery guns, and its troops battle-ready with a clear view of Chinese positions and can react swiftly to prevent any further aggression.

Helping India gain the critical positions was a mission by soldiers from a special forces unit on the night of August 29. The unit comprises soldiers whose origin is Tibet. Elders of these soldiers took refuge in India after being ousted by China in 1950 as it invaded the plateau and annexed the roof of the world, leaving them seething and bitter.

Ryan Clarke, a visiting senior research fellow at the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore, writes in a new analysis that the stakes for both the countries are much higher than they were in 1962, when the two last had a war.

“What drives today’s tensions are likely much broader strategic and environmental considerations, and not short-term tactical considerations or ephemeral factors, such as nationalism,’’ Clarke wrote in his report on India-China conflicts.

Last night’s incident carries several messages for China before the September 10 meeting of foreign ministers of India S. Jaishankar and China’s Wang Yi, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Moscow.

A similar meeting between defense ministers of the two countries in Moscow on September 5 ended with both reiterating their positions. India sought talks to help defuse and de-escalate the situation, China declined to cede any land it occupied. China’s Defense Minister Wei Fenghe accused India of unilaterally altering the status quo.

Soon after last Friday, in a seemingly unrelated but significant development, Chinese President Xi Jinping cancelled his visit to Pakistan, giving Covid-19 as a reason, but triggering speculation.

Since the Moscow meeting, India’s Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary have said the border dispute and overall relations can’t be separated and that it can’t be business as usual until China restores the status quo as it existed in March-April before its incursions.

It is possible to sense a change in sentiment and determination. Since the incursions, more than half a dozen meetings of Special Representatives haven’t yielded India much, except to be prepared for any eventuality.

China yesterday fired another warning shot, stating it never recognized the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of India, describing it as South Tibet instead. The statement added concern in India with its 3,488km mountainous and largely un-demarcated border with China.

In a major boost to its military, India yesterday successfully tested a hypersonic missile and joined the small club of the United States, Russia and China that have this technology. A clear message is India can fire at six times the speed of sound and fire beyond Asia, including all of China. Nuclear-armed India at present has a wide range of missiles.

In New Delhi, the army chief today briefed the defense minister and the chief of defense staff held meetings with the chiefs of all the three services. The army chief was also scheduled to meet the top commanders.

On September 10, France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly will arrive in India in a special aircraft for the induction of Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force. The Rafales are expected to give greater teeth and maneuverability to the air force.

>(Asian Times)

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Indonesia-Russia Military Ties in Focus With Defense Ministers Meeting



The high-level meeting spotlighted some of the activities both sides are exploring for their future military ties.

Earlier this week, Russia’s defense minister paid a visit to Indonesia in the first such interaction of 2019. The trip spotlighted some of the ongoing activity within the military aspect of ties between the two sides and how they are looking to develop it further for the rest of the year and into the future more generally.

As I have noted before in these pages, Russia and Indonesia have long had a defense relationship that they have looked to continue to develop over the years. While most of the attention tends to be focused around areas such as new arms purchases, there are also a range of others such as exchanges and dialogues, along with discussions about technology transfer and even joint development and production amid challenges that remain.

This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Indonesia. Shoigu was on his first scheduled trip to the Southeast Asian state of 2019.

The visit consisted of a series of interactions between the two sides, including a meeting between Shoigu and Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu. The visit was framed generally as being an opportunity for both sides to help strengthen ties between the two defense ministries as part of their broader effort to enhance high-level political and military relations.

The meeting between the two defense ministers and their delegations touched on various existing aspects of defense collaboration as well as future areas too. According to Indonesia’s defense ministry, Ryacudu suggested that increased cooperation be sought in fields such as information exchange, joint training, and annual dialogues between the two sides, in addition to current collaboration in areas like procurement and counterterrorism. Shoigu, for his part, discussed some of Russia’s intended areas for future collaboration and also invited Indonesian participation in various upcoming for a in the country, including conferences and parades.

Beyond defense issues, the two sides also discussed the future direction of their overall relationship as well. Per TASS, Shoigu pointed out that the top priority for both sides was to implement agreements reached by the two leaders at their Sochi meeting in May 2016 and then at the East Asia Summit in November 2018, and he also made reference to broader developments, including the fact that Indonesia’s position as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2019-2020 period which offered an opportunity to collaborate on wider regional and global issues.

Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of specifics were publicly disclosed about the exact details of how the two sides aim to solidify their defense relations moving forward through 2019 and into 2020. Nonetheless, the relationship will continue to be important to monitor amid wider developments, including the 70th anniversary of the bilateral relationship in 2020 which both sides have already been highlighting this year as well. DIPLOMAT


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