One of North Korea’s missile test-firings in May suggests that the country’s ballistics development program is nearly complete.
On May 14, Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range missile, what it calls a Hwasong-12. The projectile reached an altitude of more than 2,000km — well out of the Earth’s atmosphere, which is about 480km thick — then hit the Sea of Japan while traveling at least Mach 15.
Mach 1 is the speed of sound. Mach 2 is twice that.
That the missile did not disintegrate upon its re-entry into the atmosphere shows that it is capable of carrying and delivering a warhead.
Furthermore, it is believed that the missile’s electronics were able to keep measuring the inside temperature, flying speed and perhaps other data — and send the information back to ground control.
Sometime later, a national security source who is familiar with Japan’s missile defense circumstances told me, “North Korea appears to have completed the development of a Japan-targeted nuclear missile.”
Two weeks ago, in our latest comparison of Bitcoin and its up and coming competitor, Ethereum, we said “step aside bitcoin, there is a new blockchain kid in town.” Actually, we said that for the first time back in February when Ethereum was still trading in the low teens (the return on ETH since then is roughly 3000%), but the most recent glance provided some perspective on where the competition between the two largest cryptocurrencies may culminate, because according to at least two venture capitalists, the market cap of Ethereum – currently roughly $35 bilion – and whose share of the market has been soaring, will surpass that of Bitcoin, at ~$43 billion although it changes by the second, sometime before the end of 2018.
Two things: first, at the current rate of gains in Ethereum market share (and loss in Bitcoin’s), the inflection point between the two will come not in months, or weeks, but perhaps days.
Group of Seven leaders on Saturday managed to project a united front in fighting protectionism as they closed a two-day annual meeting here. But the meeting also highlighted a divide between the U.S. and the four European countries in the group.
In the joint communique released after the meeting, the leaders reiterated their commitment “to fight protectionism.” This wording was initially opposed by the U.S. But the “to fight protectionism” phrase is followed by a comma, and the rest of the sentence goes on to say, “while standing firm against all unfair trade practices.”
It is believed the wording was added at the behest of the U.S.
their “strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement.”
The communique also notes North Korea’s “new levels of threat of a grave nature to international peace and stability.”
In a separate statement, the leaders condemned Monday’s suicide bombing in Manchester and called for reinforcing anti-terrorist measures, including the involvement of internet service providers in counter-terrorism operations.
To the extent that Donald Trump had a case for becoming America’s president and commander-in-chief, it was that his business success would position him to make better international deals for his country. The argument was that Trump as a master negotiator would drive a harder bargain with adversaries than his conflict-averse predecessor, Barack Obama, by bringing more credibility and unpredictability to the table, while using his leverage and deal-making skills to gain concessions.
Where North Korea was concerned, this meant putting down a marker that Obama’s failed policy of “strategic patience” had ended, that the U.S. would not tolerate the further development of Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear capability, and that if China did not join the U.S. in pressuring North Korea, it would also pay a major price.
The approach sounds good in theory, but it is highly unlikely to work in reality. By proclaiming ambitious goals he is almost certainly unable to reach, making threats he is almost certainly unwilling to carry out, and signaling to China and others how badly he wants their help, Trump is setting himself up for an embarrassing climb down — one that will undermine his credibility not only with North Korea but with other global powers. Pyongyang further upped the ante with its latest missile test, on May 14, by launching what it claims is a new type of rocket capable of carrying a large nuclear warhead.
Marine Le Pen has repeatedly underscored her desire to mend fences with Russia so that Europe has a peaceful future ahead. She lashed out at the Western sanctions against Russia as “stupid” and recognizes Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.
She believes that France should maintain equally good relations with both the US and Russia, that it has no reasons for waging a cold war with Moscow and needs closer diplomatic, trade and strategic relations with Russia, which she calls “a great country.”
Emmanuel Macron also wants to rebuild relations with Russia and engage into intense and frank dialogue, even though Paris’ vision does not totally correspond with that of Moscow.
Unions and alliances
France’s possible exit from the European Union was the centerpiece of Le Pen’s agenda ahead of the first round vote in April. She has since softened her anti-EU rhetoric a bit and now says she wants to supplant the EU with a “European alliance of free and sovereign states.”
Marine Le Pen said her first order of business on setting foot in the Elysee Palace will be to propose negotiations to radically overhaul what she described as “a totalitarian union,” and announce referendums on EU membership and on withdrawing from the European Union.
Whether China is right about North Korea conducting a nuclear test on April 25 remains to be seen, but for now Kim Jong-Un is content with merely escalating the verbal warfare and overnight North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” following the latest round of comments by Rex Tillerson who said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words: “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes” it said according to Reuters.
The threat will hardly come as a surprise: the reclusive communist nation regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States “and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.”
The comments come in response to Tillerson statement in Washington on Wednesday when he told reporters that “we’re reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held,”
According to a report by Korea JoongAng Daily, China appears to be preparing measures in case North Korea tests a nuclear device or performs another provocation, including possibly suspending oil to the regime, and adds that relations between Beijing and Pyongyang appear frostier than ever before.
Additionally, the Korea publication references the Chinese-language Boxun News, which cites a Beijing source, according to whom Chinese President Xi Jinping attempted to send Wu Dawei, China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, to Pyongyang after his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, but North Korean leader Kim Jong-un allegedly rejected Wu’s visit.
Boxun adds that it was unclear if North Korea did not conduct a sixth nuclear test last Saturday because of Beijing’s warning not to do so, however it adds that according to “analysts” there’s a high likelihood of a provocation on the 85th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean People’s Army next Tuesday and the days leading up to the South Korean presidential election on May 9.
Citing its Chinese source, Boxun said that “China believes there is the “highest possibility” of a nuclear test on April 25, but “does not leave out the possibility it might take action in early May.”
One assumes the Carl Vinson, wherever it may be in the world currently, will eventually make it to North Korea by then.
Meanwhile, South Korean officials cited by JoongAng Daily confirmed that Wu, China’s top nuclear envoy, during a visit to Seoul last week said he proposed to visit Pyongyang in person to persuade the North to refrain from further provocations but he was spurned.
Gorbachev says the current situation on the international arena is showing all signs of a new Cold War and an ongoing arms race.
“The language of politicians and the top-level military personnel is becoming increasingly militant. Military doctrines are formulated increasingly harshly. The mass media pick up on all of this and add fuel to the fire. The relationship between the big powers continues to worsen. This creates the impression that the world is preparing for a war. So all the indications of a Cold War are there,” Gorbachev told the German Bild newspaper on Friday.
He pointed out that while in the second half of the 1980s, the USSR and the United States reached a number of important agreements and started reducing their nuclear arsenals, the situation changed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with Russia’s once devoted allies now standing in opposition to Moscow, and imposing anti-Russia sanctions.
Gorbachev stressed that an arms race is already underway.
“It is not merely imminent. In some places, it is already in full swing. Troops are being moved into Europe, including heavy equipment such as tanks and armoured cars. It was not so long ago that NATO troops and Russian troops were stationed quite far away from each other. They now stand nose-to-nose,” the former Soviet leader told Bild.
Last week, Gorbachev said at a meeting with lawmakers of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Moscow that there was a need to return to the idea of a “common European home.”
Four election promises/statements reversed within an hour
Trump just reversed his position on NATO.
“NATO is not obsolete,” he said at a press conference today.
He had previously said: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems,” Trump said during the interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild. “Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.”
Yellen is ‘toast’, he had said. He railed against Yellen and Federal Reserve in one of the debates but now he’s having second thoughts, saying he likes Yellen and is open to extender her term.
Low rate policy. “They’re not doing their jobs,” by keeping rates low at the Fed, he said in the debate. Today: “I like low rate policy.”
“China isn’t manipulating it’s currency,” he said today. That’s a 180-degree turn from what he was saying in the final weeks of the campaign, when he promised to label China a currency manipulator.
To top it off, he just said “Right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low” in the relationship. He also said that going it alone against North Korea means going at it with other nations. “Going it alone means going it with lots of other nations.”
In addition to presenting a strategy on Syria that appeared to be the opposite of what Rex Tillerson said earlier, when on Sunday the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told CNN that regime change is now a key priority for Trump (on Saturday, Tillerson said that Washington’s first priority is the defeat of Islamic State), Haley also said that Trump is considering implementing new sanctions against Russia and Iran.
“I think that’s conversations that he [Trump] will be having and have started to have, going forward. But I think he will have to look at the situation,” Haley told CNN’s Jake Tepper when asked whether Trump “wants tougher sanctions on Russia and Iran.”
Nothing “is off the table at this point,” she added and said that “the discussions are linked to the situation in Syria.”
“You saw this terrible tragedy on innocent people, a lot of them children, and the first reaction from Russia wasn’t ‘how horrible,’ it wasn’t ‘how could they do this,’ it wasn’t ‘how did this happen,’ it was: ‘Assad didn’t do it.’ Why was that the reaction?” Haley said.
The US ambassador to the UN went on to suggest that such a reaction from Moscow prompted “the investigation on Russia.”
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said “no evidence whatsoever” has been presented by Washington to prove that the Shayrat airfield had any chemical weapons. Not so according to Haley who said that “we’ve seen the evidence on Assad, we know exactly what happened.”