“Bringing the world into focus
through the lens of Scripture”

 

frosty@khouseafrica.com

 

 

 

K-House Africa

 

Banking Details

 

 

 Watch us
on YouTube

 

 

Radio 66/40

 

 

 

 Africa news

 

THE STRUGGLE FOR JERUSALEM

 

 

The Rise Of Islam

 

 

THE DECLINE OF THE USA

 

 

GLOBAL RELIGION

 

 

GLOBAL PESTILENCE

 

 

Global Government

 

 

THE RISE OF THE FAR EAST

 

 

THE RISE OF THE EUROPEAN SUPER STATE

 

 

WEAPONS PROLIFERATION

 

 

THE MAGOG INVASION

 

 

0

 

Articles

 

DVD PRICELIST

 

Price List

 

 Kings High Way Briefing Packs

 

Topical Teachings

DVD Briefing Back

Packs

 

Audio CD

 

Audio MP3 Collections

 

DVD

 Commentaries

 

Strategic Trends

 

Verse By Verse Commentaries

 

Old Testament Study Notes

 

New Testament Study Notes

 

Personal Update

 

Donations

 

New Product Notice

 

FAQ

 

Contact US

 

K-House USA

 

Comment Line

 

Time Traveller

 

Other Links

 

DEVOTIONAL

 

Words in Red

 

Prophecy News Watch

 

The Coming Prince

 

THE WITNESS 1 Audio MP3

 

THE WITNESS 2 Audio MP3

 

hawk warrior

 

 

 

 

 

Monitor The Strategic Trends

 

The Magog Invasion

 

 Introduction:

 

The ancient people called Magog are commonly believed to have been the ancestors of the Russian nation. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of an invasion of Israel by Russia, which has not yet been fulfilled. What could cause Russia to come against the tiny nation of Israel -- which has no oil and no real strategic value? This question has puzzled Bible scholars for centuries. However, recent developments in the Middle East have for the first time in history lent credence to this long-awaited prophecy.


[READ THE FULL INTRODUCTION]

Feed image

Syria Feed image  Go Direct - a  Deliberate mess

Syria - Yahoo News Search Results

Syria news - Yahoo News Search Results (Videos)

Russia News Headlines - Yahoo! News        Feed image

 

Go Direct

 

Middle East News Headlines - Yahoo! NewsFeed image
Main Page News Feeds

 

 

Beheading spurs new attacks on Islamic militants

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:54:51 AMGo to full article
FILE - This file photo posted on the website freejamesfoley.org shows journalist James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in July, 2012.In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP Photo/freejamesfoley.org, Nicole Tung, File) NO SALESWASHINGTON (AP) — The United States launched a new barrage of airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group that beheaded American journalist James Foley and that has seized a swath of territory across Iraq and Syria. President Barack Obama vowed relentless pursuit of the terrorists and the White House revealed that the U.S. had launched a secret rescue mission inside Syria earlier this summer that failed to rescue Foley and other Americans still being held hostage.
 
 

Malaysian militants bought bomb material for planned attack: official

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:17 AMGo to full article
By Stuart Grudgings and Trinna Leong KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Suspected Malaysian militants loyal to the extremist Islamic State movement bought bomb-making material ahead of a proposed attack on a Carlsberg brewery near the capital Kuala Lumpur, a top anti-terrorism official said. The plan, which the official said was at a "discussion" stage, would be the first time Southeast Asian militants inspired by Islamic State's rise have sought to launch a major attack at home, adding to officials' fears of a domestic "blowback" from Islamic State's expansion in Syria and Iraq. Ayob Khan Mydin, the police counter-terrorism division's deputy chief, told Reuters that the group of 19 suspected militants had attained aluminum powder, which is often used as an ingredient in bombs. "In terms of ideology and intention it was very clear," Ayob Khan said in an interview.
 

Foley's death isn't changing views in Congress

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:09:48 AMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — The beheading of an American journalist in Syria, for all its horror, appears unlikely to change lawmakers' minds about military intervention against Islamic State extremists. It's equally unclear whether the Obama administration will be asking them to back a new U.S. approach.
 

Obama warns of jihadist 'cancer' as US reveals failed rescue

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎05:07:44 AMGo to full article
Anti-terrorism forces wave the national flag after securing a checkpoint from Sunni militants in the village of Badriyah, Iraq, August 19, 2014US President Barack Obama demanded Wednesday the world take action against the "cancer" of jihadist extremism in Iraq, as Washington revealed it had failed in an operation to free US hostages in neighboring Syria. It came a day after the so-called "Islamic State," which has seized much of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, released a video showing a masked militant beheading US reporter James Foley, provoking worldwide revulsion and condemnation.
 
 

Obama unlikely to deepen Iraq military involvement, say U.S. officials

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎04:19:07 AMGo to full article
By Missy Ryan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite outrage at home and abroad over the grisly beheading of an American journalist, President Barack Obama is unlikely to deepen military involvement in Iraq or Syria and will instead stay the course with U.S.
 

U.S. forces tried but failed to rescue U.S. hostages in Syria

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:10:39 AMGo to full article
U.S. journalist James Foley arrives, after being released by the Libyan government, at Rixos hotel in TripoliThe mission, authorized by President Barack Obama based on U.S. The incident, in which a number of militants were killed, appeared to be the first direct ground engagement between the United States and Islamic State militants, seen by Obama as a growing threat in the Middle East.
 
 

Obama: U.S. won't stop confronting Islamic State

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎01:26:35 AMGo to full article
FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP Photo/GlobalPost, File)President Barack Obama pledged Wednesday to continue to confront Islamic State militants despite the beheading of an American journalist in Iraq, standing firm in the face of the militants' threats to kill another hostage unless the U.S. military changes course.
 
 

Beheading video puts spotlight on British jihadists

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎12:32:18 AMGo to full article
An image grab uploaded on June 19, 2014 shows Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni (C), believed to be Nasser Muthana, a 20-year-old man from Cardiff, Wales, speaking in a video from an undisclosed locationThe distinct English accent of the militant seen beheading US journalist James Foley in a grisly online video has forced Britain once again to confront the question of how it became an exporter of jihadist fighters. The video, published on Tuesday, has also left Britain nervously wondering how many potential jihadists are walking its streets and whether the return of fighters from Iraq and Syria will bring the violence home. Experts say young British men are often driven into the arms of jihadist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) by adolescent feelings of alienation, often resulting from their backgrounds as second or third generation of immigrant families, as well as poor economic prospects which they contrast with the perceived glory of bloody martyrdom.
 
 

Obama condemns killing of reporter, U.S. hits militants in Iraq

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎09:30:21 PMGo to full article
President Barack Obama expressed revulsion on Wednesday at the beheading of an American journalist by Islamist militants and vowed the United States would do what it must to protect its citizens as international condemnation of the insurgents grew. Not long after Obama called Islamic State a "cancer" with a bankrupt ideology, the Pentagon said U.S.
 

Iran moving to meet terms of extended nuclear deal: IAEA

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:35:31 PMGo to full article
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program in ViennaBy Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) - Iran has started taking action to comply with the terms of an extended agreement with six world powers over its disputed atomic activities, a U.N. nuclear watchdog report obtained by Reuters on Wednesday showed. The findings in a monthly update by the International Atomic Energy Agency - though no major surprise - may be seen as positive by the West ahead of the expected resumption next month of negotiations on ending the decade-old nuclear dispute. The IAEA document made clear that Iran is continuing to meet its commitments under the interim accord that it reached with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia late last year and that took effect in January. The IAEA is tasked with checking that Iran is living up to its part of the agreement, which was designed to buy time for talks on a comprehensive settlement of the standoff that would dispel fears of a new Middle East war.
 
 

Islamic State opens new anti-U.S. front with beheading video

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:08:02 PMGo to full article
On Tuesday night, Islamic State released a video of its fighters beheading James Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria nearly two years ago. The black-clad executioner, who spoke English with a British accent, also produced another American journalist and said his fate depends on President Barack Obama's next move.
 

Erdogan allies likely to dominate Turkey's new cabinet

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:36:38 PMGo to full article
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the party headquarters in AnkaraBy Orhan Coskun and Jonny Hogg ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish president-elect Tayyip Erdogan looks set to maintain his influence on daily politics after being sworn in next week, with close allies likely to take on cabinet posts in a new government and his economic team expected to remain largely intact. Outgoing president Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was likely to take over as chairman of the party and become the next prime minister, rekindling speculation about the shape of the new cabinet. Davutoglu, an academic who has served as Erdogan's foreign minister for the past five years, is expected to be confirmed as the ruling AK Party's nominee for chairman on Thursday before being formally voted in at an AK general assembly on August 27. Senior AK officials told Reuters that ministers responsible for the economy would remain in place under Davutoglu, and that close Erdogan allies including his top aide Yalcin Akdogan and intelligence chief Hakan Fidan might be given cabinet positions.
 
 

Austrian police arrest 9 suspected extremists

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎05:54:00 PMGo to full article
VIENNA (AP) — Austrian police have arrested nine foreigners suspected of seeking to join Islamic extremists fighting in Syria.
 

Adversaries seize chance to lecture U.S. on Ferguson unrest

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎05:50:09 PMGo to full article
By Angus MacSwan LONDON (Reuters) - Governments scolded by the United States over their human rights records have seized on racial unrest and a police crackdown in the Missouri town of Ferguson to wag their fingers back in disapproval. Adversaries and uneasy allies from Russia and Iran to China and Egypt have accused the United States of hypocrisy as images of police brandishing lethal weapons and tear-gassing protesters have been shown around the world. Many of the countries draw criticism of their own democratic credentials from independent rights group as well as the U.S. Nonetheless, activists say the events in Ferguson, where the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman has provoked 11 nights of protests, undermine the United States' credibility in criticizing others.
 

FBI believes Foley video is authentic: GlobalPost

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎05:13:20 PMGo to full article
The FBI believes the Islamic State video purporting to show the beheading of American journalist James Foley is authentic, GlobalPost reported on Wednesday. "The FBI on Wednesday morning told the Foley family they believe the video is authentic," according to GlobalPost, a Boston-based online publication that employed Foley as a freelancer. President Barack Obama, who is on vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, is likely to comment on the video later in the day, a U.S.
 

UK 'urgently investigates' suspected British executioner in Foley video

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:33:50 PMGo to full article
British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond says that the government is "urgently investigating" the identity of the apparently British executioner of US reporter James Foley, whose death was shown in a video released by members of the self-declared Islamic State in Syria. The video published overnight on YouTube shows the hooded, black-clad IS member speaking extensively in both English and Arabic before killing an orange-jumpsuited man described as "James Wright Foley, an American citizen." In what the Daily Telegraph describes as a London accent, the executioner says that the US has "been at the forefront of the aggression towards the Islamic State," before killing Foley. Foley went missing in Syria in November 2012, after militants stopped his car, reports Foster's Daily Democrat, a newspaper covering his hometown of Rochester, N.H. He had reported from several conflict zones in the Middle East, including Syria, Iraq, and Libya, where he was also briefly held by kidnappers. Foley was freelancing for Agence France-Presse and the GlobalPost when he was taken in Syria.
 

New Indian football league all set to take shape

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎11:59:43 AMGo to full article
NEW DELHI (AP) — Retired batting great Sachin Tendulkar will lead a clutch of former cricketers and movie stars in promoting the start of the Indian football league.
 

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎04:39:44 AMGo to full article
In this Friday, May 27, 2011, file photo, journalist James Foley responds to questions during an interview with The Associated Press, in Boston. A video by Islamic State militants that purports to show the killing of Foley by the militant group was released Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. Foley, from Rochester, N.H., went missing in 2012 in northern Syria while on assignment for Agence France-Press and the Boston-based media company GlobalPost. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)By Alexander Dziadosz and Oliver Holmes BAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State insurgents released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. The video, titled "A Message To America," was posted on social media websites.
 
 

Islamic State says beheads U.S. journalist, holds another

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎01:20:05 AMGo to full article
Mideast Syria JournalistBAGHDAD/BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State insurgents released a video on Tuesday purportedly showing the beheading of U.S. The video, titled "A Message To America," was posted on social media sites.
 
 

Saudi prince robbed in Paris was 'playboy son of former king'

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎09:23:29 PMGo to full article
Saudi Prince Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd fell victim to a spectacular armed raid in Paris, losing 250,000 euros in the processThe Saudi prince who fell victim to a spectacular armed raid in Paris, losing 250,000 euros in the process, was the youngest son of the former King Fahd with something of a globetrotting playboy reputation, it emerged Tuesday. Sources at Le Bourget airport, where the prince's private jet was waiting, and police sources told AFP the victim was Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd, the multi-millionaire son of King Fahd, who died in 2005. The gang stole 250,000 euros ($335,000) and documents, but released the aides and later torched the prince's Mercedes and one of their own cars in a village northeast of Paris.
 
 

Accidental US Embassy shooting in Jordan wounds 2

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:11:45 PMGo to full article
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — An accidental shooting at the U.S. Embassy in Jordan wounded two local guards Tuesday, authorities said.
 

Egypt picks consortium to draft Suez plan

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎05:09:31 PMGo to full article
FILE - In this Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014 file photo, Egyptian fishermen fish in front of a Maltese ship crossing the Suez Canal in Ismailia, Egypt. Egypt selected a consortium of Egyptian and the Persian Gulf companies to develop the government's mega project to transform the Suez Canal waterway into a hub of international investment and free trade zones, officials said on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.(AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)CAIRO (AP) — Egypt selected a consortium of Egyptian and the Persian Gulf companies Tuesday to develop the government's mega project to transform the Suez Canal waterway into a hub of international investment and free trade zones, officials said.
 
 

'No' from one Iraq villager triggered Islamic State mass killings

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:22:58 PMGo to full article
A refugee woman from the minority Yazidi sect, who fled the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, sits with a child inside a tent at Nowruz refugee camp in QamishliBy Humeyra Pamuk DOHUK Iraq (Reuters) - When Islamic State militants stormed into a northern Iraqi village and ordered everyone to convert to Islam or die only one person refused. The militants, who have seized much of northern Iraq since arriving from Syria in June, wasted no time after the village's leader, or sheikh, stood up for his ancient Yazidi faith. His account, one of the first eyewitness reports of last Friday's killings, could not be independently verified but other Yazidis and Iraqi officials have given details of Islamic State's attack on the village. We were all very afraid," said Khodede from a hospital bed in the town of Dohuk in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
 
 

Obama: Iraq has regained control of Mosul dam

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎01:28:04 AMGo to full article
President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Taking a two-day break from summer vacation, Obama met with top advisers at the White House to review developments in Iraq and in racially charged Ferguson, Mo., two trouble spots where Obama has ordered his administration to intervene. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama hailed the recapture of Mosul dam Monday as a "major step forward" as a barrage of U.S. airstrikes helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces score the biggest victory of its counteroffensive against the Islamic State militants.
 
 

Obama urges Iraqis to unite because 'the wolf's at the door'

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎12:19:45 AMGo to full article
President Barack Obama urged Iraqis on Monday to quickly form an inclusive government to unite against Islamic militants, warning "the wolf's at the door" and that U.S. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama vowed to avoid the kind of "mission creep" that could deepen the U.S. Obama emerged from talks with his top national security aides about Iraq to declare U.S. The president's meetings came on a brief stop in Washington before he returns to his two-week vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.
 

Egypt: No deal yet on Gaza cease-fire, more talks

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎11:53:14 PMGo to full article
Palestinians stand in what is left of the home of Amer Abu Aisheh, one of three Palestinians identified by Israel as suspects in the killing of three Israeli teenagers, after it was demolished by the Israeli army in the West Bank city of Hebron, Monday, Aug. 18 , 2014. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)CAIRO (AP) — Egypt late Monday announced a 24-hour extension in talks between Israel and the Hamas militant group aimed at salvaging a long-term arrangement that would allow reconstruction of the Gaza Strip following a monthlong war that killed more than 2,000 people.
 
 

Fate of Gaza truce in balance as midnight deadline looms

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:35:30 PMGo to full article
Palestinians walk in the rubble of destroyed homes in Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood on August 17, 2014Negotiators in Cairo were pushing Israel and the Palestinians to put a decisive end to weeks of bloodshed in Gaza Monday as the clock ticked down on another temporary truce. As the death toll in the war-torn Gaza Strip pushed over 2,000, Egyptian negotiators were pressing both sides to reach agreement before a midnight (2100 GMT) deadline which will mark the end of a five-day truce. As millions in and around Gaza enjoyed an eighth day of calm brought on by two back-to-back truces, tensions were once again on the rise over fears the fighting could start again. As the midnight deadline neared, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would hit back hard if Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza resume.
 
 

15 new US airstrikes in northern Iraq

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:34:14 PMGo to full article
WASHINGTON (AP) — A new round of U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq on Monday was aimed at helping Iraqi forces regain control of the Mosul dam and averting a potential dam failure, the Pentagon said.
 

Rights groups say Israeli ban hinders Gaza investigation

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:09 PMGo to full article
By Noah Browning RAMALLAH West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli restrictions have left two of the world's most prominent human rights organizations struggling to collect evidence of potential war crimes in Gaza, representatives of the groups told Reuters. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch staff have not received permits to enter Gaza despite lobbying Israel and Egypt since the early days of the conflict, which began last month. They say the years-long Israeli ban on their international staff traveling to Gaza hinders their ability to investigate the violence, but Israel says neither group has the correct paper work needed to gain access to the Palestinian enclave. Egypt's foreign ministry did not immediately comment why its own border with Gaza was apparently closed to the organizations.
 

Nigerian woman suspected of Ebola dies in UAE

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎05:09:44 PMGo to full article
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The national airline of the United Arab Emirates said Monday it has disinfected one of its planes after health authorities there announced that a Nigerian woman who died after flying in to the capital, Abu Dhabi, may have been infected with the Ebola virus.

 

 
 
Military Space News, Nuclear Weapons, Missile Defence

 

 

 

 

USAF selects GenDyn to study ICBM guidance system

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Fairfax, Va. (UPI) Aug 20, 2014
Modernization of guidance systems for next-gen U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles is to be conducted by General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems. The work, under a $6.4 million contract from the U.S. Air Force, will involve performance analyses, development of test strategies and lifecycle support plans for the next-generation missile guidance set architecture. Results
 

New F-16 configuration features AESA radar

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Fort Worth, Texas (UPI) Aug 20, 2014
The newest configuration of Lockheed Martin's F-16 Fighting Falcon has new capabilities with integration of Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar. AESA radar, with its numerous small solid-state transmit/receive modules, spreads signal emissions across multiple frequencies, increasing the capability of the aircraft using it to avoid detection. Lockheed Martin said the AESA in
 

China likens Xi to Deng Xiaoping for anniversary

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Aug 21, 2014
China's state propaganda machine is seizing Friday's 110th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's birth to highlight similarities between President Xi Jinping and the paramount leader who set the country on the road to economic prosperity while crushing dissent. A heavyweight official biography of Deng was published this week, and Chinese television viewers are being regaled with a 48-episode dramat
 

Harris' tactical manpack radio gets NSA certification

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Rochester, N.Y. (UPI) Aug 20, 2014
The U.S. National Security Agency has given its Type-1 certification for Harris Corporation's Falcon III RF-340M multi-channel manpack radio. Receipt of the certification means the commercially-developed radio system can be fielded and used for secure voice and data communications up through the Top Secret level. "NSA certification of the RF-340M is a significant milestone as the
 

British Falklands warship towed away for scrap

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
The British warship on which Argentina formally surrendered the island of South Georgia during the 1982 Falklands War began its final journey on Wednesday before being scrapped. HMS Plymouth could not be saved despite years of attempts to find a permanent home for the frigate. The ship, which entered naval service in 1961, was decommissioned in 1988. Peel Ports, which owns the dock w
 

Military sensor needs focus of Swedish symposium

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Stockholm, Sweden (UPI) Aug 20, 2014
Sensor capabilities for the Swedish military and other armed forces the next 10-15 years are to be examined next month at a symposium in Stockholm. The event is called the Sensors Symposium 2014, and is being co-sponsored by the Swedish military and the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration, or FMV. "The development of new sensor systems for a changed military environment, with
 

Taiwan's ex-China affairs official accused of leaking secrets

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
One of Taiwan's top negotiators on China policy is being investigated on suspicion of leaking secrets after resigning, his superior said Wednesday, in the latest political scandal to rock the island. Wang Yu-chi, minister in charge of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said his former deputy Chang Hsien-yao is being investigated following a tip-off he received in late July accusing the latte
 

Ukraine warplane shot down as clashes kill dozens

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Donetsk, Ukraine (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
A Ukrainian warplane was blown out of the sky over rebel-held territory Wednesday as fierce clashes between government troops and pro-Russian insurgents left dozens of civilians dead. Fighting intensified as Kiev appeared to ramp up a deadly offensive to crush the ailing rebellion in the east ahead of a fresh round of diplomacy that will see the presidents of Russia and Ukraine meet next wee
 

Critics want clear Obama strategy against IS

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 21, 2014
In calling for global action against the "cancer" of Islamic State militants, President Barack Obama puts the fight against them at the top of his agenda in a move that also raises questions about his military strategy in Iraq. Obama made it clear. The beheading of American journalist James Foley at the hands of the group that has captured swaths of Iraq and Syria shocks the world's conscien
 

Test bed demos maritime ISR technology

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
San Diego (UPI) Aug 20, 2014
A new maritime test bed is enabling Lockheed Martin to demonstrate data fusion, predictive analytics and other technologies in naval settings. The software test platform is designed to mimic different naval environments for validation of intelligence, communications and sensor systems before their introduction into an operational environment, the company said. "The Navy is confro
 

Bodies of two pilots found after fighter jets crash in Italy

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Rome (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
Italian authorities said Wednesday they had found the bodies of two pilots after a pair of Tornado fighter jets crashed following a mid-air collision, while two other crew members were still missing. The country's airforce said the death toll of Tuesday's crash in wooded countryside near Ascoli Piceno in the Marche region had "risen to two," adding that the identity of the pilots had not yet
 

Exelis wins Army Corps of Engineers support services contract

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Colorado Springs (UPI) Aug 20, 2014
Exelis reports it is to provide information management and technology support services to serve more than 3,700 U.S. Army Corps of Engineer customers. The contract for the services, issued by the USACE Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss. It is a fixed-price incentive award and includes the base year of performance and four one-year options. It carries a value of $517 mil
 

Obama warns of jihadist 'cancer' as US reveals failed rescue

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday demanded the world take action against the "cancer" of jihadist extremism in Iraq, after militants murdered an American reporter. As US jets continued to strike jihadist targets despite a threat to kill a second reporter, Obama said: "When people harm Americans anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done." Shortly after he spoke, th
 

Beheading video puts spotlight on British jihadists

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
The distinct English accent of the militant seen beheading US journalist James Foley in a grisly online video has forced Britain once again to confront the question of how it became an exporter of jihadist fighters. The video, published on Tuesday, has also left Britain nervously wondering how many potential jihadists are walking its streets and whether the return of fighters from Iraq and
 

Opinion: Do not defer action against IS

 
‎21 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:40:29 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (UPI) Aug 19, 2014
While President Barack Obama is contemplating what to do, if anything, about the Islamic State as well as recovering from the "hug-out" in Martha's Vineyard with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after her pointed criticism about the White House's lack of a strategy in Iraq, he ought to consider the consequences, intended or otherwise, of deferring or taking strong action in Iraq.
 

Ground X-Vehicle Program Aims to Break The "More Armor" Paradigm

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Washington DC (SPX) Aug 19, 2014
For the past 100 years of mechanized warfare, protection for ground-based armored fighting vehicles and their occupants has boiled down almost exclusively to a simple equation: More armor equals more protection. Weapons' ability to penetrate armor, however, has advanced faster than armor's ability to withstand penetration. As a result, achieving even incremental improvements in crew surviv
 

General Hyten takes control of AFSPC

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Peterson AFB CO (SPX) Aug 18, 2014
General John E. Hyten became the 16th commander of Air Force Space Command, in a change-of-command ceremony, replacing General William L. Shelton. General Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff, presided over the ceremony. General Hyten attended Harvard University on an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship, graduated in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in engineering and
 

Aerojet Rocketdyne To Develop Large Scale Additive Manufacturing

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Sacramento CA (SPX) Aug 19, 2014
Aerojet Rocketdyne was recently awarded a contract by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base through the Defense Production Act Title III Office for large-scale additive manufacturing development and demonstration. The contract will secure multiple large selective laser melting machines to develop liquid rocket engine applications for national security space launch services. Aerojet Rocketdyne an
 

Russia's First Exoskeleton to Help Physically Impaired

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 19, 2014
A team of Russian exoskeleton designers said Monday they were looking for disabled patients who would agree to volunteer for human tests in the country's unique ExoAtlet Project, according to Izvestia newspaper. "Preclinical trials are scheduled for autumn: we will look at how comfortable it is for different people to move around in an exoskeleton, and use the feedback to tune the control
 

World must act to halt Iraq 'genocide': Yazidi leader's son

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
The world is not doing enough to halt a "genocide" of Iraq's Yazidi, the son of the religious minority's leader said Tuesday, blaming international inaction for a recent massacre. "We call upon the free world to immediately act," said Breen Tahseen, an Iraqi diplomat based in Britain and the son of Prince Tahseen Saeed Bek, the leader of the Yazidi people. Speaking to reporters in Geneva
 

Octopus inspires new camouflage material

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
The octopus's ability to camouflage itself has inspired a new kind of thin, flexible fabric that can automatically match patterns, US researchers said Tuesday. Creatures of the ocean known as cephalopods - including cuttlefish, squid and octopuses - are naturally equipped with sensors in their skin that help in some way to mimic the look of their surroundings. By closely studying how t
 

SM-6 missile undergoes follow-on testing

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
White Sands Missile Range, N.M. (UPI) Aug 18, 2014
The U.S. Navy's new Standard Missile-6 has demonstrated its capability to intercept low-altitude, slow-moving targets in a cluttered environment. Testing of the Raytheon-made surface-to-air missile was part of a series of follow on test and evaluation events for the weapon, which obtained operational status last year following seven years of development. "This event demonstrated
 

Russia vows to strengthen navy to ward off NATO

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
Russia announced plans Tuesday to bolster its navy with more advanced weapons in response to NATO's vow to halt the Kremlin's push into Ukraine and feared expansion into eastern Europe. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told a general security meeting that he expected to hear a detailed report from Russia's navy commander about how this could be achieved efficiently over the coming six years.
 

Pope's message lost on China?

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
When Pope Francis sent an unprecedented message to Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, it went missing - an apparent technical glitch laden with symbolism. Communications between the Vatican and Beijing have never been easy or particularly fruitful, and the problem China poses for the Holy See's plans to expand Church membership in Asia loomed large over the pope's first visit to the re
 

Turkey seeks talks with Iraq-based Kurdish rebels: deputy PM

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Ankara (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
Turkey wants to hold direct talks with Kurdish rebels based in Iraq to help revive stalled peace talks, a senior Turkish official said Tuesday. The military headquarters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - which has waged a 30-year insurgency against the Turkish authorities for self-rule - is in the Kandil mountains of northern Iraq. Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay sai
 

Israel hits Gaza, quits Cairo talks after rocket fire

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
Israel ordered its negotiators back from talks in Cairo and warplanes hit Gaza on Tuesday after Palestinian rockets smashed into the south as the two sides were observing a 24-hour truce. Nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza came to an abrupt halt when three rockets struck southern Israel just hours before the truce was to expire at midnight local time. Israel immediately
 

Jihadists claim beheading of US journalist

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 20, 2014
Jihadist group the Islamic State on Tuesday claimed to have executed American journalist James Foley in revenge for US air strikes against its fighters and threatened to kill a second reporter. The Sunni Islamist group released a video showing a masked militant purportedly beheading Foley, who has been missing since he was seized by armed men in Syria in November 2012. A second captive,
 

Iraq forces hit militants as UN readies major aid effort

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Kirkuk, Iraq (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
Iraqi forces battled Sunni militants along a string of fronts Tuesday, including in Saddam Hussein's hometown Tikrit, as the United Nations readied a massive aid operation for displaced Iraqis. Kurdish and federal forces, who wrested back control of Iraq's largest dam, fought jihadists in the country's north, buoyed by intensifying US air strikes and Western arms deliveries. Other securi
 

China troops enter disputed India territory: sources

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Srinagar, India (AFP) Aug 19, 2014
Chinese troops have advanced in recent days into disputed territory claimed by India, echoing a similar incursion last year that raised tensions between the two rival giants, official sources said Tuesday. Chinese troops twice crossed over the border into a remote area of the western Himalayas, with some unfurling a banner that read "this is Chinese territory, go back", an official said on c
 

New ship for Royal Australian Navy undergoes sea trials

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎02:23:29 AMGo to full article
Melbourne (UPI) Aug 19, 2014
The largest ship ever built for the Royal Australian Navy is undergoing final builder sea trials, which includes testing of combat and communication systems. BAE Systems, builder of the NUSHIP Canberra, a landing helicopter dock ship, said the trials were taking place until the end of the month off the coast of New South Wales. "This is the last major element of a very complex an
 

Next gen satellite to be tested during Arctic Shield 2014

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Coast Guard Cutter Healy, At Sea (SPX) Aug 18, 2014
From studying the effects of solar activity to improve radio transmissions to enhancing the capabilities of Automated Identification Systems, the importance of having a reliable communications infrastructure in the Arctic has not been lost on researchers traveling aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy as part of Arctic Shield 2014. The ability to send and receive a clear message quickly to p
 

Antineutrino detectors could aid non-proliferation

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Blacksburg VA (SPX) Aug 13, 2014
Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and even in the fictional world of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" look to subatomic particles called neutrinos to answer the big questions about the universe. Now, a group of scientists led by a physics professor at Virginia Tech are asking whether the neutrino could provide the world with clues about nuclear proliferation in Iran and othe
 

3 SOPS bids farewell to oldest DSCS satellite

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Schriever AFB CO (SPX) Aug 18, 2014
As a cadre of 3rd Space Operations Squadron members looked on, 3 SOPS Commander, Lt. Col. Chris Todd, shut down the final remaining components of a Defense Satellite Communications System satellite here July 30. With those final commands, the vehicle known as DSCS B12 was officially deactivated after serving for more than 22 years. "As with many Department of Defense satellites, DSCS
 

Lockheed taps GenDyn unit for Space Fence ground equipment structures

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Newton, N.C. (UPI) Aug 14, 2013
Ground structures for housing the U.S. Space Fence program are to be designed and built by a General Dynamics business unit under contract from Lockheed Martin. The structures - as well as integration of mechanical systems for the project - will start next year on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. "Just like the precision radio-telescope antennas, Gener
 

Optus 10 delivered to French Guiana for Ariane 5 Sept launch

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Paris (SPX) Aug 15, 2014
The return of Optus 10 to French Guiana has set the stage for a new phase of payload preparations at the Spaceport with Arianespace's next Ariane 5 mission, which is scheduled for a September liftoff carrying this multi-mission satellite and its MEASAT-3b co-passenger. Optus 10's delivery occurred yesterday as the Space Systems/Loral-built spacecraft landed at Felix Eboue Airport near the
 

Canada's MDA receives radar antennas for satellite use

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Carpinteria, Calif. (UPI) Aug 14, 2013
Self-deploying radar antennas from Astro Aerospace are to be used on Canada's Earth observation satellites that monitor maritime activity. Astro Aerospace, a business unit of Northrop Grumman, said 13 of the antennas were delivered to Canada's MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., the prime contractor for the government's RADARSAT Constellation Mission. "We are pleased to pro
 

Russia to Develop New Satellite Communication System

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 15, 2014
Russia intends to create a new powerful satellite communication system that will provide global coverage and communication security, Izvestia newspaper reported Thursday. The development of such a system will require the launch of a space complex ordered by the Russian Defense Ministry and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The budget of the project is estimated at 65.6 billion rubles ($1.8
 

First operational Galileo GPS satellites integrated for Soyuz launch

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Paris (SPX) Aug 15, 2014
"Doresa" and "Milena" have met for the first time, paving the way for their upcoming role in advancing the European Galileo space-based navigation system. The join-up of Doresa and Milena - Europe's first two FOC (Full Operational Capability) satellites for the Galileo constellation - occurred at the Spaceport in French Guiana. These 730-kg. satellites are named for children who were among
 

ADS selected for UK Ministry of Justice electronic tagging program

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Paris (SPX) Aug 15, 2014
Airbus Airbus Defence and Space has been contracted to provide a sophisticated mapping and monitoring service for the UK Ministry of Justice's (MOJ) new Electronic Monitoring programme, supporting the UK government's objective to reduce re-offending rates and better protect the public by monitoring the movement of offenders released under licence. As part of a 3-year contract, Airbus Defen
 

Digital cockpits for UH-60L Black Hawks

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Woodland Hills, Calif. (UPI) Aug 17, 2013
Hundreds of U.S. Army UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters with cockpit analog gauge displays are to receive a digital upgrade from Northrop Grumman. The system to be supplied and integrated onto the aircraft under a contract from Redstone Defense Systems features a centralized processor with a partitioned, modular operational flight program. Northrop Grumman said it has an integrated a
 

Pope says he wants to visit China

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Aboard The Papal Plane (AFP) Aug 18, 2014
Pope Francis said Monday that he wants to visit China and called for the Catholic Church in the country to be allowed to do its "job". "You ask me if I want to go to China? Certainly, even tomorrow," he told reporters on board the papal plane as he returned from a visit to South Korea. "But the church asks for the freedom to do its job in China, there is no other condition," he said.
 

Philippines protests Chinese patrols over sea bank

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Manila (AFP) Aug 18, 2014
The Philippines said Monday it would protest to China about what it called Beijing's increasing patrols in a disputed area of the South China Sea believed to hold vast oil and gas resources. Foreign Department spokesman Charles Jose announced the protest a day after the airing of a television interview in which President Benigno Aquino raised the alarm over the Chinese vessels at Reed Bank.
 

Obama promises 'long-term' strategy against IS

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 18, 2014
President Barack Obama said Monday that the United States has embarked on a long-term mission to defeat the insurgents of the so-called "Islamic State" fighting in Iraq. Ten days after ordering air strikes against the jihadist fighters, Obama warned that IS remains a threat to Iraq and the wider region, telling Baghdad "the wolf is at the door." Previously, Obama has been at pains to des
 

US hospital firm: Chinese hackers stole patient data

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
New York (AFP) Aug 18, 2014
Community Health Systems, a major US hospital operator, said Monday that hackers likely from China broke into its systems and stole identification data for some 4.5 million patients. Community Health said the hackers infiltrated its systems in April and June this year, using "highly sophisticated malware and technology" to bypass its data security protection. The company said that, worki
 

N. Korea threatens 'merciless' strike against US-S.Korea drill

 
‎19 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:26:41 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 17, 2014
North Korea warned Sunday of a possible "merciless" pre-emptive strike as it blasted an upcoming joint US-South Korean military exercise as a rehearsal for nuclear war. South Korea vowed to go ahead from Monday with the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill, which is aimed at testing readiness to combat any North Korean invasion. Although largely played out on computers, the exercise invol
 

Dialogue not 'displays of force' key to Korean peace: Pope

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
Pope Francis said dialogue and not "displays of force" would bring peace to the divided Korean peninsula as he began a visit Thursday to South Korea that the nuclear-armed North marked with a series of rocket launches. In a speech to President Park Geun-Hye and senior officials and diplomats in Seoul, Francis said the quest for inter-Korean reconciliation was one that had implications for "t
 

India must build defences so none dares cast 'evil eye': PM

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Mumbai (AFP) Aug 16, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India must build up its military might to the point that no other country "dare cast an evil eye" on the South Asian nation. Modi made the statement at a ceremony in Mumbai for the commissioning of the country's biggest locally built warship. "Our aim is to achieve such prowess in our defence capabilities that no country dare cast an evil eye
 

Remotec upgrading Army, Marine EOD robots

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Clinton, Tenn. (UPI) Aug 15, 2013
Robots used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps in disposal of unexploded ordnance are to be upgraded by their manufacturer, Remotec Inc. The contract for the work was issued by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division in Maryland. It is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity award with a value of $8.8 million. Under the awar
 

Japanese politicians visit controversial war shrine

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 15, 2014
Dozens of Japanese politicians visited a controversial war shrine Friday in a move criticised by China and South Korea, which condemn it as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past. More than 80 politicians - including three cabinet ministers - went to the leafy Yasukuni shrine in downtown Tokyo, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stayed away, after a visit in December drew an angry reaction from Ja
 

UN Council targets jihadists in Iraq, Syria

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Aug 15, 2014
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Friday aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria with measures to choke off funding and the flow of foreign fighters. It represents the most wide-ranging response yet by the top United Nations body to the jihadists who now control large swaths of territory in both countries and have been accused of atrocities. The British-draf
 

Tensions soar as Ukraine says destroys Russian armour

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Kiev (AFP) Aug 15, 2014
Ukraine said on Friday it had destroyed part of a Russian military convoy that crossed onto its territory in an incursion that has sent cross-border tensions rocketing. NATO accused Russia of active involvement in the "destabilisation" of eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin separatists have been fighting against Kiev for four months. The two countries have also been wrangling for days ove
 

Russia 'guaranteed' no soldiers in Ukraine convoy: US

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 15, 2014
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called his Russian opposite number Sergei Shoigu on Friday and was promised that no Russian troops are assigned to a "humanitarian convoy" headed to Ukraine. "Minister Shoigu 'guaranteed' that there were no Russian military personnel involved in the humanitarian convoy, nor was the convoy to be used as a pretext to further intervene in Ukraine," the Pentagon
 

PKK conflict with Turkey 'coming to an end', says Kurdish leader

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Istanbul (AFP) Aug 16, 2014
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party's 30-year conflict with Turkey is coming to an end, the group's jailed leader said on Saturday, hailing the start of a new democratic process in the country. The PKK, which for three decades fought a bloody insurgency for self-rule for Turkey's Kurdish minority that cost 40,000 lives, launched its armed struggle on August 15, 1984. But the group's jai
 

Enforced silence at China's Cultural Revolution museum

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Shantou, China (AFP) Aug 15, 2014
No signs along the long and dusty mountain road point the way to the Cultural Revolution museum complex. And this year, no commemoration for the millions of victims of Mao Zedong's mayhem was held on the anniversary of its start. The mountaintop museum on the outskirts of Shantou chronicles an uncomfortable chapter of history that China's ruling Communist Party would rather forget. N
 

Pope pushes dialogue with Asian nations like China

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Haemi, South Korea (AFP) Aug 17, 2014
Pope Francis on Sunday championed a "creative" Catholicism in Asia that reflects the region's diversity, and urged countries like China and North Korea to respond by fostering a proper dialogue with the Vatican. In a speech to Catholic bishops from 22 Asian countries, the pope said the Church had no choice but to adapt when communicating its message across a region of dramatic contrasts.
 

N. Korea says rockets not linked to visit by 'so-called pope'

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 15, 2014
North Korea on Friday ridiculed suggestions that it had sought to upstage the visit of the "so-called pope" to South Korea by firing a series of short-range rockets as the pontiff flew into Seoul. A senior rocket scientist, Kim In-Yong, was quoted by the North's official KCNA news agency, accusing Seoul of seeking to tarnish Pyongyang's image. South Korea "is making crazy accusations to
 

New launch system for aircraft carriers in shipboard testing

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Patuxent River, Md. (UPI) Aug 15, 2013
Below-deck testing of the U.S. Navy's new system for launching aircraft from carriers has started aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, which enters service in 2016. The first sub-system of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, undergoing assessment is its launch control sub-system, the Navy said. It is one of six sub-systems that provide EMALS with the capability to launch all
 

U.S. Navy, Italy receiving more AARGM missiles

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
Arlington, Va. (UPI) Aug 15, 2013
ATK reports it will manufacture more Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles for the U.S. Navy under a third full-rate production contract. The contract is valued at $96.2 million and includes Captive Air Training Missiles. "AARGM continues to provide significant advanced capabilities to those who protect our nation each and every day," said Bill Kasting, vice president and gener
 

IS could come to streets of Britain, warns Cameron

 
‎18 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:27:01 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Aug 16, 2014
Islamic State fighters sweeping across Syria and Iraq are a direct threat to Britain and the country must use all of its "military prowess" to halt their advance, Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday. But the Conservative Party leader said he did not think British troops should be deployed in Iraq, and that he would consider working with Iran to combat the jihadist threat. Writing in
 

N. Korea fires rockets as Pope arrives in South

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
North Korea fired five short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast Thursday, just as Pope Francis arrived in Seoul for a five-day visit. The launches began at 9:30 am (0030 GMT) at a site near the North's eastern port of Wonsan, with the rockets fired into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at a maximum range of 220 kilometres (130 miles), a defence ministry spokesman said. Three were f
 

Protests call for end to US military base move in Japan

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
Demonstrators rallied in Japan's southern Okinawa island chain Thursday, calling for work to stop on the long-stalled relocation of a controversial US military base. About 200 protesters shouted and held placards that read "no new base" outside Camp Schwab, where workers started on the first phase of plans to build new runways for military planes - part of a wider relocation that is expecte
 

Israel, Gaza violence defies truce 'deal'

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
Israeli jets bombed targets across Gaza early Thursday, retaliating to Palestinian rocket attacks in spiralling violence that left a truce extension teetering on the brink of collapse. The resumption of hostilities shattered nearly three days of calm over the skies of Gaza and southern Israel, raising fears that a new ceasefire announced in the Egyptian capital could quickly unravel. Mor
 

Iraq Yazidis say neighbours enabled jihadist attack

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Fishkhabur, Iraq (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
Yazidis fleeing a jihadist onslaught in northern Iraq say neighbours took up arms alongside their attackers, informing on members of the religious minority and helping the militants take over. "The (non-Iraqi) jihadists were Afghans, Bosnians, Arabs and even Americans and British fighters," said Sabah Hajji Hassan, a 68-year-old Yazidi who managed to flee the bloody offensive by the Islamic
 

Yemen Qaeda chief praises Iraq jihadists

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Sanaa (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
An influential Al-Qaeda leader in Yemen has praised Islamic State jihadists for their "victories in Iraq" but without pledging allegiance to their self-proclaimed "caliph" or leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. "I congratulate all the mujahedeen on different fronts and all Muslims for the victories won by our brothers in Iraq against the puppets (of Shiite Iran)," ideological leader Ibrahim al-Rub
 

Navy orders laser weapon for USMC testing

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
El Segundo, Calif. (UPI) Aug 13, 2013
Raytheon is to develop a vehicle-based laser system for U.S. Marine Corps testing under an Office of Naval Research program. The contract for the Ground Based Air Defense device - capable of defeating low-flying aircraft such as drones - is worth $11 million. Raytheon said it will use its planar waveguide, or PWG, technology for the short-range weapon, which will have a 25kW mi
 

'Far fewer' stranded on Iraq mountain than thought: US

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Dohuk, Iraq (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
The United States said Wednesday its troops found "far fewer" Yazidi refugees marooned on a northern Iraqi mountain than expected, making an evacuation mission less likely, after air strikes pummeled besieging Islamic militants. The UN refugee agency has said tens of thousands of civilians, many of them members of the Yazidi religious minority, remain trapped on Mount Sinjar by jihadists fro
 

Pope sends rare goodwill message to China

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
Pope Francis sent an unprecedented goodwill message to China's leadership on Thursday, offering his blessings to a nation mired in a long-running battle with the Vatican for control of its Catholic community. The pontiff, who was flying to South Korea on his first papal visit to Asia, took advantage of protocol that sees him send messages to the leaders of any countries he flies over. "U
 

China orders 'patriotic' anti-fascist series on TV

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Aug 14, 2014
China has ordered the country's television broadcasters to air "patriotic" or anti-fascist series for two months from September, reports said, stepping up its propaganda efforts amid disputes with Japan and ahead of national holidays. Such programmes are already a staple of Chinese television, but news portal Netease, citing unnamed industry insiders, said satellite channels - which are all
 

China Sends Remote-Sensing Satellite into Orbit

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 12, 2014
China on Saturday successfully launched a Long March 4C carrier rocket with the Yaogan XX satellite, Xinhua news agency reported. The carrier lifted off at 1:45 p.m. local time (05:45 GMT) from the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country's northwestern Gobi desert. The satellite is expected "to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop
 

US Suppliers Could Lose Global Space Market Share Over Sanctions

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 13, 2014
US companies producing space-qualified components could lose some of their global market share due to Washington's sanctions, which prevent them from trading with Russia, the head of Russia's United Rocket and Space Corporation (URSC), Igor Komarov, said. "There's growing discontent in Russia, as well as globally, with the fact that the overwhelming majority... of radiation-resistant compo
 

Payload Integration Begins For Next Arianespace Soyuz Galileo Launch

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Paris (SPX) Aug 13, 2014
The first of two Galileo navigation satellites to be orbited on Arianespace's August 21 Soyuz flight has been integrated on its payload dispenser system, marking a key step as preparations advance for this medium-lift mission from French Guiana. Named "Doresa," the spacecraft was installed this month during activity inside the Spaceport's S5A integration hall. It is to be joined on the dis
 

NASA Engineers Begin Testing for SLS Liquid Oxygen Feed System

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Huntsville AL (SPX) Aug 12, 2014
Let's be honest - geysers are really cool. You've got an eruption of water and vapor that can burst to heights of 185 feet. What's not to like about that? When building propellant tanks for the world's most powerful rocket, NASA engineers want to make sure Old Faithful stays in Yellowstone. So beginning Aug. 5, anti-geyser testing is underway at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Hunt
 

On the frontiers of cyborg science

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
San Francisco CA (SPX) Aug 12, 2014
No longer just fantastical fodder for sci-fi buffs, cyborg technology is bringing us tangible progress toward real-life electronic skin, prosthetics and ultraflexible circuits. Now taking this human-machine concept to an unprecedented level, pioneering scientists are working on the seamless marriage between electronics and brain signaling with the potential to transform our understanding of how
 

China launching 'severe' cyber attacks on Taiwan: minister

 
‎17 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎07:02:38 AMGo to full article
Taipei (AFP) Aug 13, 2014
Taiwan's science and technology minister said Wednesday that China is launching frequent cyber attacks on the island despite warming ties between the two former rivals. "The Chinese cyberwar units have been engaging with Taiwan units almost every day, with some severe attacks every few months," Simon Chang said during an interview with the UFO radio network. "Many of the attacks were aim
 

US reassures China as 2,500 Marines head to Australia

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Sydney (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
The United States stressed Tuesday it welcomes the rise of China and wants to work constructively with Beijing as it signed a deal to deploy 2,500 Marines to Australia as part of its "rebalance" to Asia. China bristled when the agreement to deploy Marines to the northern city of Darwin was first announced by President Barack Obama in 2011. But after signing the deal at the Australia-Unit
 

Swiss bar Russian display team from air show due to Ukraine crisis

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
Switzerland said Tuesday that it had decided to block the participation of Russia's air display team at a military show in the neutral nation due to the Ukraine crisis. The Russian Knights, an aerobatic squadron who fly Su-27 fighters, had been due to take part in the Air14 festival starting later this month. "Even in times of crisis it is important to maintain contacts," the Swiss defen
 

US prepared to increase pressure on N. Korea: Kerry

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Sydney (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday he was prepared to improve relations with North Korea, but warned of further pressure and isolation if it chose the path of confrontation. Kerry, in Sydney for joint security talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop, said both sides had discussed hopes for a peaceful move towards a denuclearised Korean peninsula. "The United States,
 

Chinese group appeals to Japan's emperor over artefact: Xinhua

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
A Chinese organisation has appealed to Japan's Emperor Akihito to return a 1,300 year-old stele taken from China over a century ago, state media reported. The Honglujing Stele was "looted by Japanese soldiers early last century from northeastern China", the official Xinhua news agency said, and now sits in "virtual seclusion" in Tokyo's Imperial Palace. The stone monument, 1.8 metres (si
 

Britain to transport arms to Kurds as it bolsters Iraq aid

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
London (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
Britain is to transport military supplies from other states to Kurdish forces battling militants in northern Iraq and strengthen its aid mission there, the government said on Tuesday. London has "agreed to transport from other contributing states some critical military re-supplies for the Kurdish forces", a statement from Prime Minister David Cameron's office said. Downing Street did not
 

Raytheon partners with university of technology research

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Tewksbury, Mass. (UPI) Aug 12, 2013
A joint research facility to advance innovative technologies is being established by Raytheon and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Raytheon said it is committing $3 million to the Raytheon-UMass Lowell Research Institute project, with options to $5 million throughout the next 10 years. "The creation of the RURI presents a tangible opportunity to advance the research and th
 

Palestinian football pays high price for Gaza war

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
Palestinian footballer Ahed Zaqqut was a local legend. Hanging up his boots after a stellar career as a midfielder, he went on to coach in Gaza until an Israeli missile slammed into his home. The 49-year-old was killed outright, robbing Gaza of one of its best-known players and most well-respected coaches. "I heard an enormous explosion. I rushed out of the bathroom and saw a cloud of du
 

SRA wins new naval contract work

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Fairfax, Va. (UPI) Aug 11, 2013
The U.S. Navy's Standard Integrated Personnel System is being modernized by SRA International, the company announced. The modernization will be performed under a $96 million cost-plus-fee single award from the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. The award is an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with initial task orders to provide development, moderni
 

Kerry urges new inclusive government in Iraq, rules out sending troops

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Sydney (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday urged Iraqi prime minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi quickly to form an inclusive government, while ruling out sending US combat troops to the country. "We are urging him to form a new cabinet as swiftly as possible and the US stands ready to support a new and inclusive Iraqi government and particularly its fight against ISIL," he said after annual
 

Putin vows to boost arms sales to Egypt's Sisi

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday promised Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to speed up the delivery of billions of dollars in arms and invited Cairo to forge free trade ties with a Moscow-led customs bloc. The two strong-willed leaders have developed a warm working relationship since Putin gave his backing to Sisi's presidential run during the Egyptian's visit to Moscow i
 

Pentagon cites progress destroying Syria chemical arms

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
The Pentagon said Tuesday it had made progress in destroying Syrian chemical weapons, saying specialists on a US military ship had neutralized "100 percent" of a precursor used to make lethal Sarin gas. After a global outcry over deadly chemical attacks in a Damascus suburb last year that may have killed as many as 1,400 people, President Bashar al-Assad's regime agreed to an international
 

Indonesia ready to mediate in South China Sea, says Widodo: report

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
Indonesia's president-elect Joko Widodo said his country was ready to act as an intermediary to calm rising tensions over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, according to an interview published Tuesday. The Jakarta governor, who won a resounding electoral victory last month, told Japan's Asahi newspaper that he would work toward finding diplomatic - not military - solutions to the
 

Kerry calls severed head photo among 'most grotesque' ever

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Sydney (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday described the picture of an Australian boy holding a severed head in Syria as "stomach-turning" and said concerns about foreign jihadist fighters would be taken to the United Nations. The image of the Sydney-raised boy posing with the rotting head of a soldier, posted on the Twitter account of his father Khaled Sharrouf - an Australian who fled to
 

Iraq PM designate gains support as Maliki bid falters

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 12, 2014
Iraq's premier designate Haidar al-Abadi is gaining widespread support from countries hoping political reconciliation will undercut jihadists, as Iran on Tuesday further undercut Nuri al-Maliki's bid to cling to power. While the political drama unfolded, many thousands of members of minority groups in north Iraq, including Yazidis and Christians, faced a major threat from militants of the Is
 

Beijing hits out at US South China Sea proposal

 
‎14 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:02:44 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
Beijing accused the US of deliberately stoking tensions in the South China Sea as it rejected Washington's proposal for a freeze on provocative actions in the region, the foreign ministry said Monday. The remarks by Foreign Minister Wang Yi came at an ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) overshadowed by disputes over the strategically significant sea. Beijing claims it almost in its entirety, putt
 

UN Security Council takes aim at Iraq, Syria jihadists

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
The UN Security Council on Monday began fine tuning a draft resolution aimed at choking off the flow of foreign fighters and financial support to jihadists in Iraq and Syria. Fighters from the extremist Islamic State(IS) have made dramatic gains in Iraq, prompting US President Barack Obama to order air strikes to halt their advance and air drops to help tens of thousands of fleeing civilians
 

Kerry warns Iraq's Maliki not to cause trouble

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Sydney (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday warned Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki not to cause trouble as he threw his weight behind newly-elected President Fuad Masum to help fight Islamic militants. His comments came after Maliki announced Sunday on state television he would be filing a complaint against Masum and as troops and police massed in the capital Baghdad. Masum's election
 

US: No plans to expand Iraq strikes

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
The United States has no plans to expand its air campaign in Iraq beyond protecting American personnel in the city of Arbil and besieged Yazidi refugees, the Pentagon said Monday. "There are no plans to expand the current air campaign beyond the current self defense activities," Lieutenant General William Mayville told reporters at the Pentagon. Last week, US warplanes launched strikes t
 

Maliki, Iraq's rebel-turned-PM trying to cling to power

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's rebel-turned-leader who Monday saw his bid for a third term fall apart, rose from anonymous exile to powerful premier but lost support as the country's security collapsed. President Fuad Masum tasked Haidar al-Abadi, a member of Maliki's Dawa party, with forming a new government, ignoring the two-term premier's defiant insistence that he should keep the top job. Ma
 

Maliki spurned as Iraq president nominates new PM

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Baghdad (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
Iraq moved closer to turning the page on Nuri al-Maliki's controversial reign Monday when his own clan spurned him for another prime minister to save the country from breakup. The much-awaited political breakthrough in Baghdad came as Kurdish troops backed by US warplanes battled to turn the tide on two months of jihadist expansion in the north. "The country is in your hands," President
 

Iran's Rouhani blasts critics as 'political cowards'

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani delivered a broadside Monday at critics of his efforts to engage with the West and seek a nuclear deal, accusing them of political cowardice and mischief. In a speech broadcast live, Rouhani attacked the hardline factions within Iran's parliament who have consistently opposed him since he took office a year ago after a surprise electoral victory. "Some of
 

China holds man over Xinjiang 'massacre' allegations

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Aug 11, 2014
China has detained a man on suspicion of making up rumours that the Chinese military had killed thousands of people in Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority, state media said Monday. The 22-year-old Uighur uploaded an article onto overseas websites about the alleged killings in Shache county, or Yarkand in the Uighur language, the Xinjiang government web portal Tianshan reporte
 

Iran says won't accept 'toy' enrichment programme

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 10, 2014
Iran will not accept a weak uranium enrichment programme which world powers might be willing to grant the Islamic republic like a "toy" in nuclear negotiations, a top official said Sunday. The size and scale of the Islamic republic's enrichment activities remain the biggest stumbling block in efforts to clinch a long-term agreement over Iran's disputed atomic activities. Majid Takht-Ra
 

SpaceX to build world's first commercial rocket launch site in south Texas

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Aug 08, 2014
SpaceX has announced it will build the world's first commercial launchpad for orbital rockets in the south of Texas. The facility, which is expected to drag the area out of an economic hole, might become operational in 2016. The exact location chosen for the new launchpad is Boca Chica Beach east of Brownsville, near the US-Mexico border. The area, which has mostly been associated with smu
 

Russia to Give 'Tough' Response to Western Sanctions Soon

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 08, 2014
Russia will soon unveil a series of protective economic measures - including in the sensitive space industry - aimed at taking the edge off recent Western sanctions, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Wednesday. "All our measures will be aimed, primarily, at protecting our economy," Rogozin, who oversees the defense and space industry, told reporters during his visit to the Energia
 

ATK Passes Critical Design Review for NASA's Space Launch System Booster

 
‎12 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:26:42 AMGo to full article
Arlington VA (SPX) Aug 08, 2014
ATK (ATK) has successfully completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) with NASA to verify that the five-segment solid rocket booster is on track for an unmanned, first flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) in 2017. The SLS vehicle is planned to launch humans deeper into space than ever before. "Achieving this milestone is a tremendous accomplishment for ATK and NASA as we continue bui

 

 

Nuclear Weapons, Proliferation and Policy Doctrine

 

Antineutrino detectors could aid non-proliferation

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:04:31 AMGo to full article
Blacksburg VA (SPX) Aug 13, 2014 - Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and even in the fictional world of CBS' "The Big Bang Theory" look to subatomic particles called neutrinos to answer the big questions about the universe.

Now, a group of scientists led by a physics professor at Virginia Tech are asking whether the neutrino could provide the world with clues about nuclear proliferation in Iran and other political hotspots. Neutrinos are produced by the decay of radioactive elements, and nuclear reactors produce large amounts of neutrinos that cannot be shielded or disguised, which could help regulatory agencies monitor plutonium production.

Measuring neutrino emissions allows scientists to infer the plutonium content of a reactor from outside the building, according to a letter due to be released in the Physical Letters Review written by Patrick Huber, an associate professor of physics and a member of the Center for Neutrino Physics at Virginia Tech, with Thomas Shea, a 20-year veteran of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and graduate students Eric Christensen of Westminster, Maryland, a doctoral student in physics, and Patrick Jaffke of Arlington, Virginia, a doctoral student in physics and a master's student in nuclear engineering.

"By making moderate improvements in existing neutrino-detector technology, we can fit a detector system into a standard 20-foot shipping container to monitor the Iranian heavy water reactor at Arak as part of a non-proliferation measure," Huber said.

"Neutrino monitoring is non-intrusive and doesn't rely on a continuous history of reactor operations."

Monitoring antineutrinos - subatomic particles akin to the neutrino, except they spin in a different direction - also could help distinguish varying levels of fuel enrichment.

The Iranian 40 megawatt heavy water reactor at Arak has a design which is ideal for plutonium production for nuclear weapons and the International Atomic Energy Agency needs to be able to verify whether operations at the facility are for peaceful purposes.

Antineutrino detectors can provide the agency with high-level monitoring not currently offered by any other technique, the researchers say. This monitoring is based on the spectrum of antineutrinos produced by fission of uranium-235, plutonium-239, uranium-238, and plutonium-241, where the plutonium isotopes produce neutrinos with a lower average energy.

The paper is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between Huber's group at Virginia Tech's College of Science and Shea, with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment at Virginia Tech.

For being such tiny particles, neutrinos have made big Antineutrino detectors could aid non-proliferations. They travel at about the speed of light, unimpeded by electromagnetism and strong nuclear forces that affect other particles. Studying them has provided insight into Albert Einstein's theory of the Standard Model of particle physics and has astronomical information from the far reaches of the universe.

 

 

N. Korea threatens 'merciless' strike against US-S.Korea drill

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:04:31 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 17, 2014 - North Korea warned Sunday of a possible "merciless" pre-emptive strike as it blasted an upcoming joint US-South Korean military exercise as a rehearsal for nuclear war.

South Korea vowed to go ahead from Monday with the annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian drill, which is aimed at testing readiness to combat any North Korean invasion.

Although largely played out on computers, the exercise involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops.

In a statement carried Sunday by the official Korean Central News Agency, the North's military accused Washington and Seoul of planning a "dangerous" rehearsal for nuclear war.

"We declare once again that we will mercilessly open the strongest... pre-emptive strike of our own style any time at our discretion," it said.

North Korean soldiers were ready to "turn the strongholds of aggression into a sea of fire and ashes", the statement said.

"Our troops will strongly retaliate against any provocations from North Korea," the South's joint chiefs of staff warned in a statement.

Tensions have been high on the Korean peninsula following an extended series of North Korean missile and rocket tests in recent months.

UN resolutions bar the North from any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The nuclear-armed communist country has defended the tests as a legitimate exercise in self-defence.

Seoul had proposed holding high-level talks with Pyongyang to discuss family reunions for those separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and other issues of "mutual interest".

But there has been no official response from Pyongyang.

 

 

Iran won't accept nuclear restraints 'beyond IAEA rules'

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:04:31 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 17, 2014 - Iran will reject any restraints on its nuclear operations outside the international rules set by the industry watchdog, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday.

"We will only accept the legal controls of the IAEA within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty," the president said during a visit by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano.

"Any monitoring beyond those rules would be a precedent, against the interests of all developing countries," Rouhani said.

Amano made a one-day visit to Tehran ahead of an August 25 deadline for Iran to answer decade-old allegations of past nuclear weapons research.

He held morning talks with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif before meeting Rouhani, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported. He later also met with Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation.

As part of the implementation of the interim deal it struck with world powers last November, Iran handed the IAEA documents in April and May relating to its past research, the first time it had done so in six years.

The submissions were in response to a November 2011 IAEA report that it had intelligence that Iran had until 2003 and possibly since then conducted research into developing nuclear weapons.

Addressing these claims, long refuted by Iran, would be an important element in the comprehensive accord over Tehran's nuclear programme that Iran and world powers want to strike by November 24.

The IAEA has raised a number of questions relating to the submissions and Tehran has until August 25 to reply to these.

Amano had said in a May report that Iran showed information to the agency that "simultaneous firing of EBW (Explosive Bridge Wire detonators) was tested for a civilian application".

At a press conference on Sunday in Tehran, Amano broached the issue again, saying Iran had provided information and explanations to the IAEA on Tehran's decision, in early 2000, to develop safer detonators.

"Iran has also provided information and explanations to the (IAEA) on its work post-2007 related to the application of EBWs in the oil and gas industry which is not inconsistent with specialised industry practices," he added.

"The IAEA will need to consider all past outstanding issues, including EBWs, integrating all of them in a system and assessing the system as a whole."

- 'Step by step' -

Amano in his talks with Rouhani on Sunday said he hoped "cooperation will continue in this more constructive atmosphere".

"The agency's aim is to move forward step by step to resolve the outstanding issues," state television quoted him as saying.

"It has no wish to drag out the process."

Rouhani again insisted that Iran's nuclear programme was for entirely peaceful purposes only.

"Weapons of mass destruction have no place in (Iran's) defence strategy," he said.

He hoped that talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, known as P5+1, would "give the Iranian people and parliament the necessary confidence to continue discussions."

"Iran is serious in its negotiations with the P5+1 group and wants nothing beyond its rights, especially concerning enrichment of uranium for peaceful aims."

Rouhani said, however: "Iran's ballistic capability is not negotiable at any level", as the United States is seeking.

In a key deal with the P5+1 powers, Iran agreed in November to roll back its nuclear programme in exchange for some relief from biting international sanctions.

A new round of talks between the two sides is expected before the UN General Assembly starts on September 16.

After several months of talks, Iran and P5+1 powers decided last month to extend their self-imposed deadline of July 20 to strike an agreement until November 24.

Such an accord is aimed at easing fears once and for all that the Islamic republic might use its civilian nuclear programme to build an atomic bomb.

 

 

Dialogue not 'displays of force' key to Korean peace: Pope

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:04:31 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 14, 2014 - Pope Francis said dialogue and not "displays of force" would bring peace to the divided Korean peninsula as he began a visit Thursday to South Korea that the nuclear-armed North marked with a series of rocket launches.

In a speech to President Park Geun-Hye and senior officials and diplomats in Seoul, Francis said the quest for inter-Korean reconciliation was one that had implications for "the stability of the entire area and indeed of the whole war-weary world".

Acknowledging the relentless challenge of breaking down walls of "distrust and hatred", Francis voiced his appreciation of peaceful efforts to bring stability to the Korean peninsula.

"Diplomacy... is based on the firm and persevering conviction that peace can be won through quiet listening and dialogue, rather than by mutual recriminations, fruitless criticisms and displays of force," he said.

During his speech, Francis only referred to "Korea" or the "Korean peninsula" avoiding any specific mention of either the North or South, which have remained divided since the 1950-53 Korea War.

Minutes before the pope touched down at the start of his five-day visit, North Korea fired three short-range rockets into the East Sea (Sea of Japan, followed by two more later in the day.

"It is quite unseemly to fire such weapons on the day of the arrival of the pope, who comes here to give his blessing to all the people in the Korean peninsula, whether in the South or the North," said a foreign ministry spokesman in Seoul.

Speaking before the pope, President Park said his visit would help open an era of "Hope and reunification, and promised to expand humanitarian programmes to the North.

But she also stressed there could be no real progress until Pyongyang abandoned its nuclear weapons programme.

- Special 'reconciliation' mass -

The pope is expected to send a message of peace to Pyongyang when he conducts a special inter-Korean "reconciliation" mass in Seoul next week on the last day of his visit.

Church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend the event, but the North declined the offer, citing its anger at upcoming South Korea-US military drills.

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate in North Korea under extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled Korean Catholics Association.

It has no hierarchical links with the Vatican and there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

Earlier Thursday, North Korea had warned that if South Korea failed to cancel an upcoming military drill with the United States it would push the two sides "to the brink of war".

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, which tests combat readiness for a North Korean invasion, is scheduled to begin the same day as the pope's reconciliation mass.

The pope's speech also touched on the social challenges facing Asian countries like South Korea that have been transformed by rapid economic development.

"In an increasingly globalised world, our understanding of the common good, of progress and development, must ultimately be in human and not merely economic terms," he said, stressing the importance of caring for the poor, the vulnerable and "those who have no voice."

 

 

N. Korea says rockets not linked to visit by 'so-called pope'

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:04:31 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 15, 2014 - North Korea on Friday ridiculed suggestions that it had sought to upstage the visit of the "so-called pope" to South Korea by firing a series of short-range rockets as the pontiff flew into Seoul.

A senior rocket scientist, Kim In-Yong, was quoted by the North's official KCNA news agency, accusing Seoul of seeking to tarnish Pyongyang's image.

South Korea "is making crazy accusations to link our strategic rocket test with the visit to South Korea by the so-called pope", Kim said.

The North fired five short-range rockets on Thursday as Pope Francis arrived in Seoul on the first papal visit to Asia in 15 years.

A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said the timing of the launches was "quite unseemly", while local media said it was clearly aimed at upstaging the visit.

Pyongyang, however, insisted that the tests were to mark the August 15 anniversary of Korea's independence from the Japanese occupation in 1945.

Kim went so far as to suggest that any accusation of upstaging should be levelled at the pope.

"We are just curious why the pope, among all other days of this year, chose the day of our long-planned rocket launch to visit the South," he said.

The North had made no advance announcement of its rocket tests.

"We have no idea why he visits the South and have absolutely no interest in whatever plots he plans to discuss with the South," Kim added.

In an earlier despatch, KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un had personally supervised the testing of what it called an "ultra-precision high-performance tactical rocket".

Pyongyang had trumpeted the test of a missile with a similar description in June, calling it a "cutting-edge" weapon that marked a breakthrough in national defence capability.

North Korea is not known to have a tactical guided missile, but analysis of a recent propaganda film suggested it may have acquired a variant of a Russian cruise missile, the KH-35.

The United States denounced Thursday's launches and said it was studying whether they violated UN Security Council resolutions.

"We continue to call on North Korea to refrain from undertaking such provocative actions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington.

Harf also voiced concern that North Korea did not give notice to alert passing ships and aircraft.

North Korea has carried out an extended series of missile tests into the East Sea in recent months, despite UN resolutions barring it from any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The North has defended the tests as a legitimate exercise in self-defence and a response to war manoeuvres involving the US and the South.

 

N. Korea fires rockets as Pope arrives in South

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 14, 2014 - North Korea fired five short-range rockets into the sea off its east coast Thursday, just as Pope Francis arrived in Seoul for a five-day visit.

The launches began at 9:30 am (0030 GMT) at a site near the North's eastern port of Wonsan, with the rockets fired into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at a maximum range of 220 kilometres (130 miles), a defence ministry spokesman said.

Three were fired in the morning and two in the afternoon, he said.

"They are presumed to have been fired from a 300-millimetre multiple rocket launcher," he said, adding that the military had stepped up vigilance along the heavily fortified border.

The pope is expected to send a message of peace to Pyongyang when he conducts a special inter-Korean "reconciliation" mass in Seoul next week on the last day of his visit.

Church officials in the South had sent several requests to Pyongyang to send a group of Catholics to attend the event, but the North declined the offer, citing its anger at upcoming South Korea-US military drills.

The Catholic Church, like any other religion, is only allowed to operate in North Korea under extremely tight restrictions, and within the confines of the state-controlled Korean Catholics Association.

It has no hierarchical links with the Vatican and there are no known Catholic priests or nuns.

Thursday's launches came hours after North Korea warned that if South Korea failed to cancel an upcoming military drill with the United States it would push the two sides "to the brink of war".

In a statement that offered no direct response to Seoul's recent offer of high-level talks, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which handles cross-border ties, issued a long list of measures the South should implement if it was "sincere" about improving relations.

The joint military drill scheduled to begin Monday "should be cancelled unconditionally", the statement said.

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise is aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion.

Although largely played out on computers, it involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops.

North Korea has carried out an extended series of missile tests into the East Sea in recent months, despite UN resolutions barring it from any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The North has defended the tests as a legitimate exercise in self-defence and a response to the South-US war manoeuvres.

 

 

N. Korea warns South over upcoming drill with US

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 13, 2014 - North Korea warned South Korea on Thursday that failure to cancel an upcoming military drill with the United States would push the two sides "to the brink of war".

In a lengthy statement that offered no direct response to Seoul's recent offer of high-level talks, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), which handles cross-border ties, issued a long list of measures the South should implement if it was "sincere" about improving relations.

The joint military drill scheduled to begin Monday "should be cancelled unconditionally", the statement said, adding that failure to do so would push the "Korean peninsula to the brink of a war and increase the danger of a nuclear war".

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion, is scheduled to begin August 18.

Although largely played out on computers, it involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops.

Pyongyang's anger over the drill is likely to prompt some extended sabre rattling during the visit to South Korea of Pope Francis, who arrives in Seoul Thursday for five days.

The pope is due to conduct a special inter-Korean "reconciliation" mass on the same day that the Ulchi Freedom exercise begins.

"US domination and interference should be terminated on the Korean peninsula," the CPRK said, demanding the withdrawal of all US forces from South Korea.

The statement was carried by the North's official KCNA news agency ahead of the 69th anniversary Friday of the Korean peninsula's liberation from Japanese rule.

Earlier this week, South Korea had proposed a fresh round of high-level talks with the North to discuss another possible reunion for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.

But the CPRK offered no direct response, though it noted that the South Korean authorities should demonstrate their desire for improved ties "through their practical actions, not talking only".

Seoul's Unification Ministry, which handles cross-border affairs on the South side, had proposed a meeting at the border truce village of Panmunjom on August 19.

An earlier round of talks in February had marked the highest-level official contact between the two Koreas for seven years, and led to a family reunion later the same month.

But since then tensions have escalated, with the North conducting an extended series of missile tests after the South pushed ahead with other joint military drills involving US forces.

 

 

Maryam Mirzakhani first woman to win Fields Medal

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Seoul (UPI) Aug 13, 2013 - For the first time in history, the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics -- the equivalent, some say, of a Nobel Prize -- has been awarded to a woman. The winner is Maryam Mirzakhani, who was born and raised in Iran.

Mirzakhani studied math at Harvard, earning a PhD in 2004. She currently works at Stanford University as a math professor.

"This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians," Mirzakhani said in a statement released by Stanford.

The International Mathematical Union, the organization that gives the award, said Mirzakhani won the prize for her "outstanding contributions to the dynamics and geometry of Riemann surfaces and their moduli spaces."

The IMU awards the Fields Medal every four years. The winners are always announced at the opening ceremonies of the International Congress of Mathematicians annual conference, held this week in Seoul, South Korea.

Mirzakhani has stated that she was mostly interested in writing and literature as a young student, but that her brother's talk of his science learning piqued her interest in math.

"I can see that without being excited, mathematics can look pointless and cold," she said in a 2008 interview. "The beauty of mathematics only shows itself to more patient followers."

Mirzakhani was given the award for her contributions in the fields of geometry and dynamical systems. While her work is considered "pure math," her original and sophisticated impacts in these fields reportedly have implications in other areas of studies, including quantum physics, prime numbers theory and cryptography.

"Fluent in a remarkably diverse range of mathematical techniques and disparate mathematical cultures, she embodies a rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far-reaching vision, and deep curiosity," the ICM said in a statement.

Three others were also awarded the Fields Medal, including Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava and Martin Hairer.

 

 

US prepared to increase pressure on N. Korea: Kerry

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Sydney (AFP) Aug 12, 2014 - US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday he was prepared to improve relations with North Korea, but warned of further pressure and isolation if it chose the path of confrontation.

Kerry, in Sydney for joint security talks with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop, said both sides had discussed hopes for a peaceful move towards a denuclearised Korean peninsula.

"The United States, I want to make this clear, is absolutely prepared to improve relations with North Korea if North Korea will honour its international obligations. It's that simple," he said.

"But make no mistake, we are also prepared to increase pressure, including through strong sanctions and further isolation, if North Korea chooses the path of confrontation."

Last month, a top-ranking North Korean military official threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the peninsula.

"If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival... our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon -- the sources of all evil," Hwang Pyong-So, director of the military's General Political Bureau, said in a speech.

Hwang, who holds the rank of vice marshal in the Korean People's Army, said a recent series of South Korea-US military drills, one of which included the deployment of a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, had ramped up tensions.

The UN Security Council last month condemned North Korea for recently launching a series of short-range ballistic missiles.

The North often test-fires missiles and rockets into the sea as a show of force or to express anger at perceived provocations, but the frequency of recent tests has been unusual.

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology. The North has defended the launches as a legitimate exercise in self-defence and a response to US war manoeuvres.

Already under crippling sanctions since 2006, Pyongyang was hit by fresh UN punitive measures in March 2013 over its third nuclear test.

 

 

Iran president under fire for branding critics 'cowards'

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 12, 2014 - Iran's president came under fire from MPs Tuesday for branding his critics as "political cowards' and urging them "go to hell" if they insist on opposing his policies.

President Hassan Rouhani's remarks 24 hours earlier were aimed at hardline conservatives who have bridled at his efforts to improve relations with the West and secure a nuclear deal.

But denouncing his opponents prompted a backlash from dozens of MPs who signed a letter demanding that Rouhani come to parliament to explain himself.

One conservative lawmaker said that 200 of the parliament's 270 members would eventually sign the letter.

According to another MP quoted on Iranian media, parliament speaker Ali Larijani told a closed meeting that Rouhani's words were "indefensible and unacceptable".

But Larijani went on to urge lawmakers "not to make a big deal of it because the country's economic problems are significant" and more worthy of their attention.

In his fiery speech, Rouhani attacked the hardline factions within parliament who have consistently opposed him, particularly on the nuclear issue, since he took office after a surprise electoral victory last year.

"Some of them chant slogans but they are political cowards," he said of those who are sceptical or against a nuclear agreement.

"As soon as we negotiate they start shaking. Go to hell and find somewhere to stay warm," Rouhani told his opponents.

A moderate whose tenure has so far focused on economic and foreign policy, Rouhani said Iran faces three phobias abroad: Iranophobia, Islamaphobia and Shiaphobia.

But on the home front, the country must confront "Ententephobia" from those who oppose his overtures to the rest of the world for better relations after years in the diplomatic wilderness.

 

 

Iran's Rouhani blasts critics as 'political cowards'

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 11, 2014 - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani delivered a broadside Monday at critics of his efforts to engage with the West and seek a nuclear deal, accusing them of political cowardice and mischief.

In a speech broadcast live, Rouhani attacked the hardline factions within Iran's parliament who have consistently opposed him since he took office a year ago after a surprise electoral victory.

"Some of them chant slogans but they are political cowards. As soon as we negotiate they start shaking. Go to hell and find somewhere to stay warm," he told his opponents.

Rouhani, a moderate whose tenure has so far focused on economic and foreign policy rather than social reform, said Iran had to counter three phobias abroad; Iranophobia, Islamaphobia and Shiaphobia.

But on the home front, the country faces "Ententephobia" from those who continue to bridle at his overtures to the rest of the world, most notably over Iran's long-disputed nuclear programme.

Such hardliners are "50 years late" Rouhani said, warning that such trenchant opposition would result in more volatility for Iran, rather than "win-win relationships" after years in the diplomatic wilderness.

"That world is over," Rouhani said of the longstanding chill Iran has faced.

"Ententephobia is a mistake. We must change the image of the Islamic republic, which has been tarnished in recent years," he told an audience of Iran's foreign ambassadors currently visiting Tehran.

"We want closer relations with the world but we will defend our rights and our national interests."

Rouhani began his presidency by restarting nuclear talks with the West, which had broken down under his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the two sides have yet to achieve a breakthrough.

An interim deal implemented in January failed to yield a final accord by a July 20 deadline. Talks with Britain, China, France Russia, the United States and Germany have been extended until November 24.

The hold-up has re-opened potential problems for Rouhani from factions who say the limited sanctions relief received so far has been outweighed by reciprocal curbs placed on Iran's nuclear activities.

Iran has always denied that it is pursuing an atomic bomb.

Sticking to his line that a deal is needed to improve Iran's economy as well as to ensure better energy production, Rouhani insisted that there would be no turning back.

"We want to resolve the nuclear issue, which is an artificial crisis created by some," he said, alluding to the West. "The Islamic republic of Iran has never sought nuclear weapons and will never do so."

The size and scale of the Islamic republic's uranium enrichment programme remains the biggest stumbling block in efforts to clinch a long-term agreement.

The process of enriching uranium can produce fuel for reactors, which Iran says it needs for domestic energy purposes, but also the core of a nuclear bomb if purified to higher levels.

 

 

Iran says won't accept 'toy' enrichment programme

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:40:39 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) Aug 10, 2014 - Iran will not accept a weak uranium enrichment programme which world powers might be willing to grant the Islamic republic like a "toy" in nuclear negotiations, a top official said Sunday.

The size and scale of the Islamic republic's enrichment activities remain the biggest stumbling block in efforts to clinch a long-term agreement over Iran's disputed atomic activities.

Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister for American and European Affairs, made the remarks on returning to Tehran from Geneva, after five hours of talks with US officials.

"We said to the other party ... we will not accept that our uranium enrichment programme becomes something like a toy," he said, referring to last week's discussions.

"Our enrichment programme has a specific framework and we cannot accept anything outside of this framework," he added.

Iran and six world powers failed to clinch a comprehensive agreement by a July 20 deadline, which has now been extended to November 24.

The next round of nuclear talks will be held before the UN General Assembly, which starts on September 16.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- plus Germany, want to render Iran incapable of developing an atomic weapons capability.

In exchange, Iran wants an end to extensive sanctions that are choking its economy as well as sufficient enrichment capacity to guarantee fuel for its sole nuclear power plant in Bushehr after a current supply contract with Russia expires in 2021.

The process of enriching uranium can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb if purified to higher levels.

Iran has always denied that it is pursuing an atomic bomb.

 

Nagasaki marks 69th anniversary of US atomic bombing

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 09, 2014 - Tens of thousands marked the 69th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of Nagasaki on Saturday, as the city's pacifist mayor urged the Japanese government to listen to increasing concerns over controversial plans to expand the role of its military.

Crowds gathered to remember the more than 70,000 people who died in the initial blast or from after-effects in the months and years following the bombing, which hit Nagasaki at 11:02 am local time (0202 GMT).

Bells tolled as ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates observed a moment of silence at the time of detonation that turned the Japanese city into a ball of flames.

The ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, went ahead despite a powerful typhoon churning towards the region whipping up strong winds.

"I would like to act as a storyteller," Yasuhiko Yuge, a 74-year-old survivor of the bombing said. "Young people have interest but their opportunities to know about the history of the bombing are limited," Yuge was quoted as saying by Jiji Press.

Another survivor, aged 71, told Jiji: "Peace has become common and the number of stories of survivors has declined. I think we can understand each other by placing importance on peace."

In a speech at the ceremony, Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue called for a nuclear-free world and underlined concerns about the government's decision last month to allow its military to go into battle in defence of allies.

Tokyo's move to invoke the right to exercise so-called "collective self-defence" came despite widespread public opposition and fears among people in neighbouring China and South Korea, which regularly accuse Japan of failing to atone for its aggressive wartime actions.

"The oath prescribed in the Japanese Constitution that Japan shall renounce war is the founding principle for postwar Japan and Nagasaki," Taue said.

"However, the rushed debate over collective self-defence has given rise to the concern that this principle is wavering," the mayor said.

"I urgently request that the Japanese government take serious heed of these distressed voices," he said.

The ceremony was held near the spot where the US military dropped a plutonium bomb nicknamed "Fat Man" on August 9, 1945. Japan surrendered six days later, ending World War II.

The bombing of Nagasaki came three days after the first-ever atomic blast at Hiroshima, which claimed 140,000 lives.

Opinion remains divided over whether the twin attacks were justified. While some historians say it prevented many more casualties in a planned land invasion, critics have said the attacks were not necessary to end the war, arguing that Japan was anyway heading for imminent defeat.

Washington, which has been a close ally of Tokyo since the war, has never officially apologised for the bombings, however, leaked diplomatic cables from 2009 suggested that the Japanese government had rebuffed the idea of a US apology and a visit to Hiroshima by President Barack Obama.

 

 

North Korea Scales Up Yongbyon Nuclear Site's Activities

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 08, 2014 - North Korea is expanding the operations of the Yongbyon nuclear site, renovating its 5 megawatt-electric (MWe) reactor to make plutonium for nuclear weapons and expanding the centrifuge plant, Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a recent report.

"The June 30th satellite imagery, combined with procurement data obtained by ISIS, suggests that North Korea is emphasizing the production of weapon-grade plutonium as well as enriched uranium for its nuclear weapons program," ISIS said in the report.

"Additionally, movement of material, a new piece of roofing, and several other renovations have been detected at the fuel fabrication and uranium centrifuge complex located in the southern part of the Yongbyon nuclear site."

Pyongyang is also constructing and possibly installing equipment at the experimental light water reactor (LWR) which would allow to produce "several times more plutonium than the 5 MWe reactor."

Pyongyang withdrew from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in April 2003 and began developing its nuclear stockpile after a war in Iran, fearing an invasive regime change.

North Korea declared itself a nuclear power in 2005. In 2006, Pyongyang conducted its first nuclear test, followed by underground tests in 2009 and 2013. In response to North Korea's actions, the UN Security Council adopted a number of resolutions demanding Pyongyang to stop nuclear activities.

According to the Arms Control Association, North Korea currently has enough plutonium for approximately eight bombs.

 

Source: RIA Novosti

 

 

Should Iranian ballistic missiles be curbed in the nuclear deal

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
New Delhi, India (SPX) Aug 08, 2014 - As the P5+1 nuclear deal is progressing and signs of progress with the deal is reflected in Iran "neutralising" half of its higher enriched uranium, yet Western apprehensions on Iran's ability to possibly develop nuclear weapons continue. Enrichment of uranium below 20% level makes it difficult for states to develop nuclear weapons.

The deal exactly demanded that Iran should keep its uranium enrichment restricted to not more than 5%. This served as a great relief for the West. Nuclear weapons though need 90% of uranium enrichment; Iran's capability of being able to enrich uranium up to 20% could have resulted in its developing nuclear weapons.

All is well that ends well, and according to IAEA reports, Iran is showing positive signs in their nuclear program by keeping to its words of pursuing nuclear program for peaceful purposes. It would be wrong to say that such positive steps have completely taken the West into confidence, however, efforts should also be taken by the West to not to ruin the progress of the deal due to unwanted apprehensions at this juncture.

Amidst many issues that could arise during the progress of the deal, one important issue that the West has been concerned about is the issue of ballistic missile developments in Tehran. Iran has persistently continued with its ballistic missile development program which it considers vital for its self defence.

Iran claims that these missiles are to boost its conventional capabilities not only to strengthen its defence against adversaries but also as a deterrence against growing missile capabilities of other states like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in the region and with a weak air-force, Iran's main bet lies on missiles.

At present, Iran's ballistic missile arsenal includes short range, medium range and intermediate range ballistic missiles. These include Shahab1 with range of 300-750kms, Fateh with 200kms, the 750kms range Fajr the Scud category missiles, and the Chinese M-11s also called the Tondars in the short range category. Amongst medium range ballistic missiles, Iran's arsenal can boast of the Ghadr with range of 1800-2000kms, Ashura with a range of 2000kms and Shahab 3 with range of 1200-1900kms.

According to reports, Ashura is able to reach targets in Middle East, Turkey and southern Europe. Amongst intermediate range ballistic missile systems, Iran possesses the 2500-4000kms range Musudan ballistic missiles which are reported to be able to carry nuclear warheads. With Shahab 5 and Shahab 6 once developed and if nuclear capable, Iran could not only possess the capability of becoming a regional nuclear power but also allow it to have a global reach.

The issue of ballistic missiles cannot be ignored completely, since not only can these missiles carry nuclear warheads, but they could also lead to proliferation challenges in the future. UNSC Resolutions have been passed time and again to curb Iran's ballistic missiles development.

There have been five UNSC Resolutions passed till date which include 1737 in 2006, 1747 in 2007, 1803 and later 1835 in 2008, 1929 in 2010. Despite these UNSC Resolutions, Iran has defied these resolutions and has continued with its ballistic missile development program.

Thus, there was also a suggestion to raise the issue of Iran's ballistic missile development in the nuclear deal itself. At such a juncture, where the deal lies at a critical stage, such a step of including ballistic missiles as a part of the nuclear deal could seriously aggravate the progress of the nuclear deal.

It could prevent Iran from further cooperating with the P5+1 countries regarding the deal. Iran is a party to the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which does not deal with the issue of ballistic missiles. Hence, any pressure to curb Iran's missile development program could also result in Iran withdrawing from the NPT.

The issue of ballistic missiles must be kept separate from that of the nuclear deal given the seriousness of the nuclear issue in Iran. Any effort to coerce Iran to curb its missile capabilities could be taken misconstrued by Iran as an attempt to curb its military capabilities too. Therefore, there should be a separate framework which could a find a solution to the ballistic missile issue which preferably should be a regional framework.

 

 

Next Iran nuclear talks before UN General Assembly: EU

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) Aug 07, 2014 - Iran and six world powers will hold a new round of nuclear talks before the UN General Assembly, which starts on September 16, a spokesman for lead negotiator Catherine Ashton said Thursday.

"We expect to hold an EU-led/E3+3 round of talks in advance of the ministerial meetings at UNGA at a location to be determined," said Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Ashton.

"We will also likely hold a meeting on the sidelines of UNGA -- as we did last year -- possibly with ministers participating in some way," Mann said in an emailed statement. "The specific details remain to be worked out."

Last month after several months of talks Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany decided to extend their self-imposed deadline of July 20 to strike an agreement until November 24.

Such an accord is aimed at easing fears once and for all that the Islamic republic might use its civilian nuclear programme to build an atomic bomb, something Tehran has always denied.

On Thursday US and Iranian officials were due to meet in Geneva for one-on-one talks, the State Department said.

 

 

N. Korea pushing fissile material output: US think-tank

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 07, 2014 - Recent satellite images of North Korea's main nuclear complex suggest continued activity focused on the production of both weapons-grade plutonium and uranium, a US think-tank said Thursday.

The June 30 images of the Yongbyon complex show water being discharged from its ageing five megawatt reactor -- a product of the secondary cooling system, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said in a report.

"However, without more data, such as regular steam production, it is hard to determine the operational status of the reactor and thus to estimate the amount of plutonium produced," the report said.

The reactor, shut down in 2007 under an aid-for-disarmament accord, is capable of producing six kilograms (13 pounds) of plutonium a year -- enough for one nuclear bomb.

North Korea began renovating the facility after its last nuclear test in 2013, and previous satellite images suggested it became operational in October that year.

The latest imagery also showed continued construction at the complex's gas centrifuge plant.

The North says the plant is dedicated to producing low-enriched uranium for an under-construction Light Water Reactor (LWR), but experts suspect that the final goal is weapons-grade uranium.

Previous imagery showed the centrifuge building had doubled in size, and ISIS said it was likely that this year had seen the installation of centrifuge cascades inside the new section.

Overall, the latest images, combined with procurement data obtained by ISIS, suggest that North Korea "is emphasising the production of weapon-grade plutonium as well as enriched uranium for its nuclear weapons program," the report said.

Pyongyang is currently believed to have enough plutonium for about six bombs, after using part of its stock for at least two of its three atomic tests.

ISIS has estimated that the expanded centrifuge plant could produce as much as 68 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium a year -- enough for three nuclear bombs with a little left over.

 

 

China confirms new generation long range missiles: report

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Aug 01, 2014 - China has acknowledged the existence of a new intercontinental ballistic missile said to be capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads as far as the United States, state-run media reported Friday.

A government environmental monitoring centre in Shaanxi said on its website that a military facility in the province was developing Dongfeng-41 (DF-41) missiles, the Global Times reported.

The DF-41 is designed to have a range of 12,000 kilometres (7,500 miles), according to a report by Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, putting it among the world's longest-range missiles.

It is "possibly capable of carrying multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles", the US Defense Department said in a report in June, referring to a payload of several nuclear warheads.

China's military is highly secretive, and the Global Times said it had not previously acknowledged the existence of the DF-41.

The original government web post appeared to have been deleted on Friday, but the newspaper posted a screengrab.

It also quoted a Chinese military analyst as saying: "As the US continues to strengthen its missile defence system, developing third generation nuclear weapons capable of carrying multiple warheads is the trend."

China's defence ministry in January responded to reports that it had tested a hypersonic missile delivery vehicle by saying that any military experiments were "not targeted at any country and at any specific goals".

It made the same response last December when asked about reports that it had tested the DF-41.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have risen in recent months over territorial disputes with US allies in the East and South China Seas, and cyber-hacking.

Beijing has boosted its military spending by double digit amounts for several years as it seeks to modernise its armed forces, and now has the world's second biggest military outlays after the US.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month that any confrontation between the two powers "will surely spell disaster for both countries and for the world".

China's previous longest range missile was the DF-5A, which can carry a single warhead as far as 12,000 km, according to Jane's.

The DF-5A had its first test flight in 1971, and has to be fuelled for around two hours prior to firing, limiting its effectiveness as a weapon, according to analysts.

 

 

Hiroshima marks anniversary of atomic bombing

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Hiroshima, Japan (AFP) Aug 05, 2014 - Tens of thousands were to gather for peace ceremonies in Hiroshima on Wednesday, marking the 69th anniversary of the US atomic bombing of the city, as anti-nuclear sentiment runs high in Japan.

Ageing survivors, relatives, government officials and foreign delegates, including US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, were to observe a moment of silence at 8:15 am local time (2315 GMT), when the detonation turned the western Japanese city into an inferno.

An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It had killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.

Three days later, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people.

Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, bringing the war to a close.

Historians have long been at odds over whether the twin attacks brought a speedier end to the war by forcing Japan's surrender and preventing many more casualties in a planned land invasion.

The bombed cities have long been spearheading anti-nuclear movements, calling atomic bombs "the absolute evil".

Last week, US media reported the death of Theodore Van Kirk, the last surviving crewman of the Enola Gay, who passed away aged 93.

A funeral was reportedly scheduled for August 5 in his hometown of Northumberland, Pennsylvania, which would coincide with the Hiroshima anniversary in Japan.

Many atomic bomb survivors, known as "hibakusha", oppose both military and civilian use of nuclear power, pointing to the tens of thousands who were killed instantly in the Hiroshima blast and the many more who later died from radiation sickness and cancer.

Anti-nuclear sentiment flared in Japan after an earthquake-sparked tsunami left some 19,000 dead or missing and knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.

None of those deaths were directly attributed to the nuclear crisis. But reactor meltdowns spread radiation over a large area and forced thousands to leave their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Despite strong public opposition, Japan's nuclear watchdog last month said that two atomic reactors were safe enough to switch back on.

The decision marked a big step towards restarting the country's nuclear plants which were shut after the disaster, and sparked accusations that the regulator was a puppet of the powerful atomic industry.

 

 

S. Korea defence chief apologises for bullied conscript death

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) Aug 04, 2014 - South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-Koo apologised Monday and the presidential Blue House urged a full inquiry following the death of a bullied young army conscript.

"I extend my sincere apology," Han told parliament, describing the death of the 23-year-old private as "an incident that should not happen in a civilised society in the 21st century".

Five soldiers have been arrested on manslaughter charges after an initial investigation showed the private, surnamed Yoon, had been repeatedly bullied.

The five were allegedly involved in an assault on Yoon in April, during which he was struck in the chest, causing a chunk of food to get lodged in his airway. He died of asphyxiation.

The case came on the back of two separate suicides by army privates last month, and a deadly shooting spree in June in which a sergeant killed five members of his unit for taunting him.

Investigators found Yoon had been the target of regular bullying and assaults, including sessions of crude water-boarding.

He had also been forced to eat a tube of toothpaste and lick the spit of other soldiers from the ground. Investigators are also looking into allegations he was sexually molested.

President Park Geun-Hye's office called for a thorough investigation as public concern grew over barrack-room bullying.

"Priority must be put on ensuring a similar incident will not happen again," presidential spokesman Min Kyung-Wook told reporters.

Bullying has long tainted South Korea's military service, which is mandatory for all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 35.

Conscripts, most in their early twenties, account for the lion's share of the military's 690,000 active personnel.

Experts say the pressures facing the young servicemen can be daunting when, after what is often quite a cosseted childhood and teenaged youth, they are suddenly plunged into a world of harsh military discipline.

 

 

N. Korea may be closer to full ICBM test: US think-tank

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 30, 2014 - Fresh satellite images suggest North Korea might be wrapping up engine trials on an intercontinental ballistic missile, fuelling speculation of a full-scale flight test to come, a US think-tank said Wednesday.

Development of a working ICBM would be a game-changing step, bringing the continental United States into range and adding a whole new threat level to the North's regular nuclear-strike warnings.

"The rocket engine test program may wind down by the end of this year," The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its closely followed 38 North website.

"If the engine tests are concluded, the next stage in development of the KN-08 road-mobile ICBM may be full-scale flight tests of the missile," it added.

It stressed, however, that it was unclear just how successful the tests had been.

Regular satellite analysis has shown a major construction programme underway at North Korea's Sohae Satellite Launching Station since mid-2013, focused on upgrading facilities to handle larger, longer-range rockets with heavier payloads.

Although there is no doubt that North Korea has an extremely active ballistic missile development program, expert opinion is split on just how much progress it has made.

Images taken this month showed the gantry height on the main launch pad had increased to more than 50 metres, while a wider access road and rail spur capable of transporting larger rockets to the pad were either finished or nearing completion.

"These modifications could be completed by 2015," the 38 North website said.

The images also showed evidence of new engine tests, including the presence of first stage rocket motors and distressed vegetation along the edges of the flame path.

The KN08 was first unveiled at a military parade in April 2012, but many analysts dismissed the models on show as mock-ups.

In December the same year, Pyongyang demonstrated its rocket capabilities by sending a satellite in orbit on a multi-stage launch vehicle.

But it has yet to conduct a test that would show it had mastered the re-entry technology required for an effective ICBM.

Over the past month or so, North Korea has conducted a series of short and medium range missile tests, which were largely seen as a muscle-flexing exercise in response to South Korea-US joint military drills.

 

 

North Korea turns to UN over US-SKorea war games

 
‎11 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:46 AMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) Aug 01, 2014 - North Korea is asking the UN Security Council to hold an urgent session to discuss upcoming US-South Korean joint military exercises that Pyongyang described on Friday as a threat to peace.

Deputy representative Ri Tong Il told reporters that the top world body had not responded to the request contained in a July 21 letter, and vowed North Korea will keep up missile launches in response to the planned war games.

"They are disregarding us. We cannot accept this," Ri told reporters.

"If the UN Security Council turns away from this request for an emergency meeting, it will only expose itself as a UN body that has lost its principles, lost impartiality and lost its mandate of peace and security."

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion, is scheduled to begin August 18.

Although largely played out on computers, it involves tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops.

North Korea's UN envoy said his country would keep up rocket and artillery launches, which he described as "more than justifiable" to counter the threat posed by the joint exercises.

"Ongoing tactical rocket launches of all different types of artillery fire are being conducted by the DPRK," said Ri.

"It is quite natural, more than justifiable, because this is in response to the grave situation created by the large-scale joint military exercises," he said. "The war danger is being increased."

On Wednesday, North Korea fired four short-range projectiles into the sea, in the latest of a series of missile, rocket and artillery tests that the UN Security Council has condemned as illegal.

"All these kinds of rocket launches are giving great strength and encouragement to the Korean people's army and the people so that they can make steadfast progress in nation-building," said Ri.

North Korea has always protested against the staging of joint military drills in the South, but usually to little avail.

South Korea's defense ministry rejected the complaint and said the Ulchi exercise would go ahead as planned.

"North Korea's military threats and rhetoric are going too far these days," ministry spokesman Wee Yong-Sub said.

 

 

N.Korea fires four short-range 'projectiles'

 
‎07 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:47:08 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 30, 2014 - North Korea fired four short-range projectiles towards the sea Wednesday in the latest of a series of missile, rocket and artillery tests, the South's defence ministry said.

The latest launches began at 07:30 am (2230 GMT) at a site near Mount Myohyang, northeast of Pyongyang, with two fired in the morning and another two in the afternoon, all towards the Sea of Japan (East Sea), the ministry said.

"The type of the projectiles is not known," a ministry spokesman told AFP.

"The test of two projectiles launched in the morning appeared to be unsuccessful because they just flew for several seconds, while two other projectiles fired in the afternoon travelled for up to 210 kilometres (126 miles)," he said.

The last one fired at 6:00 pm may have fallen in an inland area after flying about 130 kilometres, the spokesman said.

The ministry declined to confirm a Yonhap news agency report that the North might have tested new 300-millimetre multiple rocket launchers in an effort to increase their range.

It was the first time such a projectile has travelled more than 200 kilometres, Yonhap said.

Large-calibre rockets pose a potential threat to South Korea as they could strike key facilities far south of Seoul.

North Korea, which is known to have about 5,000 launchers, has been trying to equip them with strong guidance systems and boost their accuracy, Yonhap said.

Wednesday's exercise came as cross-border military tensions run high following a series of missile, rocket and artillery launches in recent weeks.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un guided a missile-firing drill last Saturday after the United Nations Security Council condemned Pyongyang for its recent ballistic missile tests in violation of UN resolutions.

The North often fires missiles and rockets as a show of force or to express anger at perceived provocations, but the frequency of the recent tests is unusual.

Pyongyang's recent missile launches were carried out at locations increasingly close to the border with the South -- a move analysts say is aimed at stepping up threats against Seoul.

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

But the North has defended the missile launches as a legitimate exercise in self-defence and a response to US war manoeuvres.

North Korea is ready to "destroy the enemies without mercy so that not a single man can survive to sign a document of surrender when the US imperialists ignite another Korean war," its official Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary on Wednesday.

Pyongyang has been playing hawk and dove in recent weeks, mixing its tests with peace gestures that have been largely dismissed by Seoul.

The two Koreas are currently trying to sort out logistics for the North's participation in the Asian Games, which begin in September in the South Korean city of Incheon.

Talks have broken down with the North accusing the South of duplicity and arrogance, and threatening to boycott the event.

 

 

Senate debates wisdom of Iranian sanctions relief

 
‎07 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:47:08 PMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Jul 30, 2013 - Washington and its allies shouldn't extend sanctions relief for Iran's energy sector further, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.

The committee heard testimony on the effectiveness of sanctions and the diplomatic effort to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran under the terms of a November 2013 agreement secured relief from some of the sanctions targeting its energy sector in exchange for a pledge to cut back on its nuclear research activity.

The U.S. Treasury Department said last week sanctions relief on Iran, which includes oil export provisions, is extended through November.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and chairman of the committee, said he didn't feel extending relief again would trigger a change of heart in Tehran.

"I will not support another extension of negotiations," he said in his opening remarks Tuesday. "At that point [after November], Iran will have exhausted its opportunities to put real concessions on the table and I will be prepared to move forward with additional sanctions."

Iran can export around 1 million barrels of oil per day under the terms of the multilateral agreement. Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary for political affairs, testified that sanctions were having a dramatic effect on Iran's economy.

"We believe strongly that it is worth taking additional time to pursue these very complicated and technical negotiations," she added. "We wouldn't have agreed to an extension if we did not have an honest expectation that we have a credible path forward."

 

 

US slaps sanctions on two N.Korean shipping companies

 
‎07 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:47:08 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 30, 2014 - The United States imposed sanctions Wednesday on two North Korean shipping companies over their attempt to ship arms from Cuba to North Korea in violation of US and UN sanctions.

Chongchongang Shipping Company and Ocean Maritime Management Company conspired to transfer a concealed shipment of arms and related materiel from Cuba to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea aboard a North Korean-flagged cargo vessel in July 2013, the Treasury Department said in announcing the sanctions.

State-owned Chongchongang Shipping owns and operates the cargo ship, Chong Chon Gang, which was found to be carrying undeclared containers of arms hidden under tons of sugar when it was stopped in the Panama Canal in July last year.

The arms shipment included components of surface-to-air missile systems and launchers, MiG-21 jet fighters parts and engines, shell casings, rocket-propelled projectiles, and other ammunition, the Treasury said.

The cargo was falsely declared to be sugar and spare plastic sacks and was hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar.

Ocean Maritime Management played a key role by providing its captain and crew with instructions to conceal the weapons and provide false documentation to the Panamanian authorities, the Treasury said.

"North Korea uses companies like Chongchongang Shipping and Ocean Maritime Management to engage in arms trading in violation of US and international sanctions," said David Cohen, the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

"The Chong Chon Gang episode, in which the DPRK tried to hide an arms shipment under tons of sugar, is a perfect example of North Korea's deceptive activity, and precisely the sort of conduct that we are committed to disrupting."

The Treasury also blocked 18 ships in which the two companies have an interest, including the Chong Chon Gang.

The sanctions freeze any property of the designated entities that are within US jurisdiction, and bar their transactions with any US person or within the United States.

 

 

US vows strict monitoring of any Iran nuclear deal

 
‎07 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎08:47:08 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 29, 2014 - US officials pledged Tuesday that any deal struck with Iran would include a strict monitoring regime to thwart any bid by Iranian leaders to covertly try to develop nuclear weapons.

But top US negotiator Wendy Sherman would not be drawn by lawmakers on whether Washington and its partners would seek to extend the complex talks beyond a new November 24 deadline.

"Transparency and monitoring is absolutely critical and core to any agreement. As I said, one of the pathways of greatest concern is, of course, covert action," Sherman told the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

For every measure laid out in any deal with Iran to rein in its suspect nuclear program "we will decide whether in fact an additional element of transparency and monitoring is needed over the entire duration of this agreement," she insisted.

Marathon talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna ended on July 19 after negotiators gave themselves four more months to try and bridge major gaps and strike a historic nuclear deal.

But, pressed on whether the US and its allies in the so-called P5+1 group would refuse any further extension of the talks, Sherman demurred.

"I have learned in negotiations that it is very difficult to say what will happen at the end of any given period of time," the State Department's under secretary said.

"Our intent is absolutely to end this on November 24th in one direction or another."

The skilled diplomat, who has led the US negotiating team for years, revealed the talks had only been extended for four months and not the full six allowed under an interim agreement "because we thought we would just get to month five before anything would happen."

It remains unclear when the next phase of the talks will start, or where the negotiations will be held, although talks are expected on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

"I cannot tell you today that our diplomacy will succeed, because I am not sure that it will. I can tell you that in the past six months, we have made significant and steady progress," Sherman said.

"Our goal is to structure an agreement that would make any attempt to break out of such an agreement so visible and so time-consuming that Iran would either be deterred from trying or stopped before it could succeed."

If all efforts fail, "we will have very serious decisions to make," Sherman said.

"If Iran will not reach a comprehensive agreement that cuts off all of their pathways to a nuclear weapon and that gives the international community assurance we're looking for, then we will step up right with you to additional sanctions and to considering all of the options which the president of the United States says remain on the table."

 

N. Korea threatens nuclear strike on White House

 
‎29 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:25:26 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 28, 2014 - A top-ranking North Korean military official has threatened a nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon after accusing Washington of raising military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

The threat came from Hwang Pyong-So, director of the military's General Political Bureau, during a speech to a large military rally in Pyongyang Sunday on the anniversary of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Hwang, who holds the rank of vice marshal in the Korean People's Army, said a recent series of South Korea-US military drills, one of which included the deployment of a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier, had ramped up tensions.

"If the US imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival... our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon -- the sources of all evil," Hwang said in his speech broadcast Monday on state television.

It is not the first time that North Korea's bellicose rhetoric has included threats of nuclear strikes on the continental United States and US bases in the Pacific.

But most experts believe it is still a long way from developing a viable intercontinental ballistic missile with the required range.

The North has conducted three nuclear tests, but is not thought to have mastered the miniaturisation techniques necessary for mounting a warhead on a missile.

It does possess a range of short-and mid-range missiles capable of striking South Korea and Japan, and has conducted a series of test firings into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) in recent weeks.

The latest test on Saturday -- guided by the leader Kim Jong-Un -- simulated a short-range missile strike on South Korea where 28,500 US troops are stationed, the North's state media said.

It defied censure by the UN Security Council which officially condemned Pyongyang on July 17 over the recent tests as violations of UN resolutions prohibiting the North from using ballistic missile technology.

 

 

No show for North Korean defector artist in China

 
‎29 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:25:26 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) July 28, 2014 - An art exhibition in China by a North Korean defector has been cancelled, gallery staff said Monday, with reports saying the show had been dismantled on official orders.

Sun Mu, who slipped out of North Korea in 1998 and uses a pseudonym because of concerns for his safety, paints satirical imitations of Pyongyang's propaganda imagery.

An exhibition of his works had been due to open at the Yuan Dian gallery at the weekend, but China is nuclear-armed Pyongyang's key diplomatic backer and aid provider, even if their relationship has been strained by the antics of leader Kim Jong-Un.

"Chinese police blocked people from entering the museum," South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported, adding that officers "removed his paintings and ad banners hung around the museum".

"Some North Korean people who are believed to work at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing were witnessed at the scene," it said.

Chinese authorities maintain strict censorship controls in all media and online, with art also subject to restrictions.

On Monday a sign on the door of the modernist concrete, steel and glass structure in suburban Beijing read: "The exhibition opening has been suspended for some reasons. Thank you for your understanding."

A staff member declined to elaborate to AFP, saying that the show had been "cancelled for internal reasons" and that management were working on an alternative project.

Sun Mu, who is based in Seoul, told AFP that the exhibition was "not being held as planned".

"I need to figure out the situation first," he added. "I can't talk too much right now."

His works have reportedly fetched up to $20,000 each, but he does not allow himself to be photographed for fear that the relatives he left behind in North Korea could be targeted for retribution.

Posters for the exhibition available online show that it was to be called "Red White Blue".

Previews quoted the organisers as saying the artist would not be able to attend his own opening because of the risk that his true identity might be revealed.

The exhibition title, they said, was a reference to the colours of the flags of the six countries "at the heart of the very complicated situation of the Korean peninsula" -- North and South Korea, China, Japan, the US and Russia.

The group are all participants in the Six-Party Talks process that is meant to chart a way towards North Korean denuclearisation but has been suspended since Pyongyang walked out of the forum in 2009, shortly before its second nuclear test.

No references to the show could be found on the gallery's own website on Monday.

Beijing police did not immediately respond to a request for comment by AFP.

 

 

N. Korea defies UN censure to fire missile into sea

 
‎29 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:25:26 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 27, 2014 - North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un guided the military's latest rocket-firing drill, state media said Sunday, confirming the missile launch which was conducted in defiance of UN censure.

Saturday's launch was the first since the UN Security Council on July 17 officially condemned Pyongyang for its recent series of ballistic missile tests, in violation of UN resolutions.

The North's state news agency KCNA described the missile launch by the army as a "rocket-firing drill" to simulate a strike on military bases in South Korea where 28,500 US troops are stationed.

"(Kim) examined a firing plan mapped out in consideration of the present location of the US imperialist aggressor forces' bases... and under the simulated conditions of the battle to strike and destroy them before guiding the drill," it said.

The launch was intended to mark the July 27 anniversary of the ceasefire agreement at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, KCNA said.

It did not say where the drill took place.

Seoul's army said earlier the North had fired a short-range missile into the sea Saturday night -- the latest in a recent series of launches that heightened tension on the peninsula.

The North often fires missiles and rockets as a show of force or to express anger at perceived provocations, but the frequency of the recent tests -- six in the past month -- is unusual.

"The North fired... a short-range ballistic missile into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at 9:40 pm (12:40 GMT)," a spokesman for Seoul's defence ministry told AFP.

- Close to border -

The missile, with an estimated range of 500 kilometres (300 miles), was fired in the northeastern direction from Jangsan Cape in the North's western coast -- only 12 miles away from the tense sea border with the South, he said.

Pyongyang's recent missile launches were carried out at locations increasingly close to the border with the South -- a move analysts say is aimed at stepping up threats against Seoul.

The flashpoint maritime border on the Yellow Sea was a scene of several bloody naval clashes and the North's shelling of a border island in 2010 that left four South Koreans including two civilians dead.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo had lodged a "strong protest" to the North against the latest launch.

"We need to let North Korea know that development of nuclear and missiles cannot go together with economic development," Abe told reporters during his trip to Mexico.

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

The UN's latest criticism on the North met with an angry response from the North, which called it "absolutely intolerable" and defended the missile launches as a response to "madcap war manoeuvres" by the US.

The launch came as Pyongyang has been playing hawk and dove in recent weeks, mixing its tests with peace gestures that have been largely dismissed by Seoul.

The two Koreas are currently trying to sort out logistics for the North's participation in the Asian Games, which begin in September in the South Korean city of Incheon.

"Our military sees the launch by North Korea, conducted while expressing its will to participate in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games, as part of its traditional dual strategy of engagement and pressure," Seoul's military spokesman said.

 

 

For incoming US airmen in S.Korea, a 30-day ban on booze

 
‎29 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:25:26 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 25, 2014 - US airmen assigned to South Korea are banned from buying or drinking alcohol during their first 30 days in the country under a new rule underscoring the "serious mission" the troops face, officials said Friday.

The program is meant to promote "mission readiness" as well as "safety, health, welfare, good order and discipline," spokesman Captain Ray Geoffroy told AFP.

The rule is part of a "Korean Readiness Orientation" program for incoming troops issued by the 7th Air Force commander, Lieutenant General Jan-Marc Jouas.

"Airmen must understand the threat when they come here," Jouas said in a statement.

"We have a serious mission with a serious enemy, and we must be ready to contend with that by utilizing personal resiliency and a readiness orientation program," he added.

"Airmen assigned to Korea must understand what it means to be ready to fight tonight and why we must be ready."

The rules come amid concern over alcohol-fueled sexual assaults in the military as well as persistent worries over North Korea, which has conducted half-a-dozen missile, rocket and heavy artillery tests over the past month.

The new policy, which took effect his month, includes a daily curfew of 10 pm to 5 am, training for sexual assault prevention and "alcohol awareness," the Air Force said.

The orientation also strongly recommends that arriving airmen tour the demilitarized zone that separates South and North Korea.

"We are guests here and not only do our actions matter, they have strategic implications," Jouas said. "This is a fresh start to change the tone in Korea and leave a culture that is better than how we found it."

The policy was aimed at conveying to troops that times had changed and that South Korea should not be seen as an opportunity for drunken nights and visits to brothel bars, officials said.

In the past, numerous bars outside US bases were linked to prostitution rings but restrictions on troops have reduced the number of those establishments in recent years, Jouas told the Air Force Times.

 

US Republicans seek more say in Iran nuclear deal

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 24, 2014 - US Republican lawmakers on Wednesday called for greater say in any deal reached between the West and Iran over the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear program.

With negotiations to end Iran's years-long nuclear standoff with the United States and other Western powers recently extended for an additional four months, until November, five senators introduced legislation that would compel President Barack Obama to bring any final deal before Congress for its approval.

Many lawmakers have been dubious about the talks that began in late January and were supposed to have reached a deal by July 20.

The West believes Tehran is seeking to build an atomic bomb, but Iran insists its efforts are purely for civilian use.

"Any final agreement of a matter of this consequence should be reviewed by this body, should come before Congress, and should have the ability of Congress to provide oversight over it," Senator Marco Rubio told the chamber.

Failure to let US lawmakers vote on any final nuclear agreement would leave the United States vulnerable to "a terrible deal" that could put Americans in danger, Rubio said.

The legislation would prevent a further extension of negotiations, reimpose any eased sanctions if Iran showed it was cheating on its commitments under any future agreement, and block the deal's implementation if a veto-proof majority of Congress disapproves of it.

Fellow sponsor Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key architect of US sanctions on Iran that helped bring Tehran to the table, said he backed the negotiations and hopes they will ultimately bear fruit.

"But if and when they reach an agreement, let's bring all the details out in the open," Corker said.

"Let's examine the agreement in its entirety and let's determine that it's in our national security interest."

Senator Lindsey Graham said stopping Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon "is the most important foreign policy decision in generations."

"Congress played a fundamental role in enacting sanctions against Iran and should have a say whether this agreement is strong enough to lift sanctions."

A large majority of members of the House of Representatives voiced similar demands earlier this month, signing a letter to Obama saying that "any permanent sanctions relief demands congressional approval."

 

 

Iran's Rouhani says nuclear talks 'only way' forward

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 22, 2014 - More negotiations are the only solution to Iran's decade-long nuclear standoff with the West, President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday.

Rouhani's remarks were his first on the four-month extension until November of talks with world powers agreed in Vienna last week after the two sides said progress made so far was still short of a final breakthrough.

"Negotiations are the only way that is before us and we are hopeful of success in these negotiations," Rouhani was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- plus Germany, want to render Iran incapable of developing an atomic weapons capability.

In exchange, Iran wants painful sanctions choking its economy lifted, with negotiators insisting they also seek to preserve what Tehran calls its right to a civilian atomic programme.

On Sunday, influential Iranian MP Aladin Borujerdi also welcomed the four-month extension, saying it showed all sides "have the will to reach a comprehensive agreement."

The main sticking point in the negotiations is believed to be Iran's insistence on developing a uranium enrichment capacity that is far higher than what the West regards as acceptable.

Such capacity, Iran contends, would guarantee fuel for its sole nuclear power plant in Bushehr after the current supply contract with Russia expires in 2021.

The process of enriching uranium can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb if purified to higher levels. Iran has always denied that it is pursuing an atomic bomb.

The final say on Iran's nuclear activities and its negotiating decisions rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in the Islamic republic.

On Monday, the UN atomic agency said Iran had eliminated all of its most sensitive nuclear material in line with an interim deal struck with the West last November and implemented in January.

As of July 20, Tehran had cut half its stock of 20-percent enriched uranium down to five-percent purity, while the rest was converted into uranium oxide, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

Iran had also refrained from enriching above the five-percent level at any of its nuclear facilities, the IAEA report said, a finding that could lower international fears that Tehran still sought to build a bomb.

 

 

Iran complying with nuclear deal: UN watchdog

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 21, 2014 - Iran has eliminated all its most sensitive nuclear material in line with an interim deal struck with world powers, a new UN atomic agency report showed Monday.

Days after a deadline to reach a lasting nuclear deal was pushed back four months, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iran was continuing to comply with its international commitments, in a report seen by AFP.

Under a Geneva agreement with world powers reached in November, the Islamic republic vowed to freeze certain nuclear activities for six months in return for some relief from hard-hitting sanctions.

As of the July 20 deadline, Tehran had indeed cut half of its stock of 20-percent enriched uranium down to five-percent purity, while the rest has been converted into uranium oxide, the IAEA said.

Tehran has also refrained from enriching above the five-percent level at any of its nuclear facilities, the report said.

This was a significant step towards alleviating international fears that Tehran may be seeking to build a bomb, as the West has long believed and Iran has long denied.

Last week, Washington acknowledged that Iran's "track record over the last six months... has been surprisingly favourable."

Since January, Tehran has consistently stuck to its obligations as laid out under the November interim deal.

While uranium must be enriched to 90 percent to make a bomb, enriching to 20-percent purity levels is just a short step from producing weapons-grade material.

Five-percent enriched uranium, on the other hand, is commonly used in nuclear power reactors.

Iran has always insisted its nuclear programme is solely for peaceful purposes, and that its enriched uranium was meant as fuel for its nuclear power plant in Bushehr and for others to come.

- Preventing 'breakout' -

The IAEA report came after Iran and the so-called P5+1 -- the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany -- agreed to give themselves until November 24 to reach a lasting nuclear agreement.

The initial deadline had been July 20, but after a sixth round of marathon talks in Vienna, lead negotiator and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said early Saturday that "significant gaps on some core issues" remained, although there had been "tangible progress".

The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections.

This would expand the time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, while giving the world ample warning of any such "breakout" push.

A senior Western diplomat said Saturday that the main text "is there, all aspects are addressed, we don't expect any surprise," adding that "the gaps are not unbridgeable."

"But we need to solve the core issues," the diplomat added.

The head of Iran's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, Aladin Borujerdi, on Monday welcomed the new deadline, noting that: "The message of this extension... is that the negotiating sides have the will to reach a comprehensive agreement."

Talks were due to resume in the coming weeks, but at which level, where and when had yet to be decided, diplomats said in Vienna.

The European Union meanwhile announced on Monday that it would extend by four months the suspension of a series of sanctions against Iran, following the decision to continue the negotiations.

Brussels had already suspended these sanctions while Iran was negotiating a nuclear deal with the world powers. The suspension means Tehran can continue to export crude oil.

 

 

N. Korea defends missile tests, warns 'gangster' US

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 21, 2014 - North Korea's top military body Monday defended its recent missile tests as a legitimate exercise in self-defence, and said South Korean and US charges of provocation were malicious and hypocritical.

The North has conducted half-a-dozen missile, rocket and heavy artillery tests over the past month, earning a verbal slap on the wrist from the UN Security Council.

The launches included a number of ballistic missile tests, which North Korea is banned from conducting under existing UN resolutions.

The National Defence Commission (NDC) said condemnation of the tests was absurd given the large-scale military drills the South Korean and US forces conduct every year south of the border.

The military allies carried out a joint naval exercise last week, and a separate two-day "search and rescue" maritime drill kicked off Monday with Japan also participating.

The response of Seoul and Washington was akin to a burglar rudely criticising the owner of the house he is trying to rob, an NDC spokesman said in a statement carried on the North's official KCNA news agency.

"The real provocations and threats made to the Korean peninsula are the whole gamut of political and military moves being pushed forward by the US," the spokesman said, citing the annual joint drills in South Korea.

"The more desperately the US and South Korean authorities resort to gangster-like hostile acts, the more deadly retaliatory actions they will face," the spokesman said, warning that any North Korean response would come "like a bolt from the blue".

Pyongyang has been playing hawk and dove in recent weeks, mixing its tests with peace gestures that have been largely dismissed by Seoul.

The two Koreas are currently trying to sort out logistics for the North's participation in the Asian Games, which begin in September in the South Korean city of Incheon.

Talks last week broke down with the North accusing the South of duplicity and arrogance, and threatening to boycott the event.

Despite the failure of the talks, North Korean state media on Sunday quoted leader Kim Jung-Un voicing "great expectations" for the North's athletes at the Asiad.

 

 

North Korea blasts UN over missile condemnation

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 19, 2014 - North Korea hit back at the UN Security Council Saturday over its recent censure of Pyongyang for launching several rounds of short-range ballistic missiles.

In a statement carried on North Korean official media the foreign ministry described the UN criticism as "absolutely intolerable" and defended the missile launches as a response to "madcap war manoevres" by the United States.

North Korea regularly fires off missiles and rockets, but the frequency of the recent tests -- six in less than three weeks -- is unusual.

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

On Thursday the UN Security Council officially condemned North Korea for the launches, and urged it to "fully comply" with UN restrictions.

But Pyongyang has shown little appetite for backing down over the launches.

"All the military measures taken by the Korean People's Army including tactical rocket firing are an exercise of the right to self-defence" to protect the country from US aggression and nuclear threats, the foreign ministry said, according to the report.

The statement added that the reclusive state was determined to "bolster up its muscle" to protect itself.

"No matter how fair-minded and just one may be, one is bound to fall victim to big powers if one is weak, and it is possible to protect genuine peace only when one builds its muscle strong enough to deter any force from provoking one," it said.

North Korea often conducts tests and drills as a show of displeasure, and the latest missile launches on Sunday were fired after Pyongyang denounced an upcoming South Korean-US naval exercise.

Previous tests had preceded Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Seoul, and were seen by some analysts as a show of pique at his decision to make Seoul rather than Pyongyang his first stop on the peninsula.

In between the recent launches, Pyongyang has also made several peace overtures to Seoul, including a proposal for both sides to halt all provocative military activity.

The South dismissed the offer as "nonsensical" in the light of the North's nuclear weapons programme and reiterated that the annual joint military drills with the US are non-negotiable.

 

 

Iran nuclear talks end as deadline extended by four months

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 19, 2014 - Marathon talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna ended Saturday after negotiators gave themselves four more months to try and bridge major gaps and strike a historic nuclear deal.

New rounds of talks were expected in the coming weeks, with the date and place yet to be decided, diplomats said.

"While we have made tangible progress on some of the issues and have worked together on a text (for a deal)... there are still significant gaps on some core issues," lead negotiator and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told journalists in the early hours of Saturday.

The talks will now continue until November 24, she added.

Under the terms of the extension, the United States said it would unblock some $2.8 billion (2.1 billion euros) in frozen funds, in return for Iran converting a quarter of its 20-percent enriched uranium stocks -- which can be used to make a bomb -- into fuel.

American officials spoke of resuming talks, perhaps at expert level, in August, with the UN general assembly in September also expected to provide a stage for the next phase of negotiations.

In a statement repeated in Farsi by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Ashton said the parties would "reconvene in the coming weeks... with the clear determination to reach agreement... at the earliest possible moment".

Last November, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany agreed an interim deal under which the Islamic republic froze certain nuclear activities for six months in return for some sanctions relief.

The deadline for a lasting deal was July 20, with the sides having the option of extending.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who also tried to broker a breakthrough in Vienna earlier this week, said Friday that the extension was "warranted by the progress we've made."

"To turn our back prematurely on diplomatic efforts when significant progress has been made would deny ourselves the ability to achieve our objectives peacefully," Kerry said.

"A lot of work has been done and we've agreed... that we would like to try and complete this process and to take this extra time in order to do that," Ashton also said in a statement Saturday.

"We are determined to make sure that the agreement is a very good one."

- Extending breakout -

The final deal would ease fears that despite its denials Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons after a decade of atomic expansion.

But it is highly ambitious and fiendishly complex.

The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections.

This would expand the time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, while giving the world ample warning of any such "breakout" push.

The two sides are believed to have narrowed their positions in recent weeks on a few issues such as the Arak reactor, which could give Iran weapons-grade plutonium, and enhanced inspections.

But they remain far apart on the key issue of Iran's capacities to enrich uranium, a process which can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb.

- Unlocking of funds -

The terms of the extension call for Iran to turn medium-enriched uranium into reactor fuel, which will make it "very difficult for Iran to use this material for a weapon in a breakout scenario," Kerry said.

Although Washington will unblock some of Iran's funds, "the vast majority of its frozen oil revenues will remain inaccessible," he added.

Over the past six months, Iranian oil sales have brought in a further $25 billion, on top of the about $100 billion already frozen in accounts around the world, according to US officials.

But both the US and Iran face tough domestic pressure.

US lawmakers, widely supportive of Iran's arch enemy Israel, have threatened to ramp up sanctions without a sufficiently rigorous agreement.

Iran's negotiators in turn face pressure from hardliners, who view the United States as the ultimate enemy and oppose any agreement seen as a concession.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, on a visit to Cairo, said Saturday he hoped that with the new deadline, Iran will "at last make the necessary choices that we expect to reach a complete, credible and lasting agreement."

His German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for Iran to "show it is ready to dispel all doubts" about its nuclear intentions.

The next few months "could be the last and best chance for a long time to end this nuclear argument peacefully," he warned.

The Iranian exiled opposition in Paris meanwhile slammed the extension as "providing time to the mullahs for further deception."

 

 

After extension, hope remains for Iran nuclear talks

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 19, 2014 - If Iran and world powers couldn't clinch a nuclear deal after five hard months of bargaining, what hope is there that yet more time will help?

Quite a lot actually, experts told AFP.

Even though Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany remain far apart on key issues, some progress has been made, the analysts said.

"The chances are better than ever that there will be a final deal," said Richard Dalton, Britain's former ambassador in Tehran, now at the Chatham House think-tank.

"But hard work on the politics of it has to be done in Washington and Tehran," Dalton told AFP.

On Friday the parties announced an extension until November 24 of their July 20 deadline to reach a deal, prolonging and augmenting the terms of an interim accord struck last November.

This came after a 17-day, sixth and final round of negotiations in Vienna that saw US Secretary of State John Kerry jet in but fail to secure a breakthrough.

The mooted deal is aimed at dispelling fears that Iran might develop nuclear weapons, after a decade of rising tensions, Iranian nuclear expansion and bellicose rhetoric.

Iran, which denies wanting the bomb in the first place, in return wants the lifting of painful UN and Western sanctions strangling its economy.

- Two steps forward -

But the hoped-for agreement is both extremely ambitious and fiendishly complex.

Iran appears to have given ground on two things: the future of the Arak reactor, which could provide Iran with weapons-grade plutonium, and more stringent UN inspections.

Tehran has proposed changing the design of Arak so that much less plutonium can be extracted from the reactor's spent fuel rods.

More UN oversight of Iran's nuclear facilities would give the world added confidence that Iran is not secretly building a nuclear weapon.

But two problematic issues remain.

The first is how, and at what pace, to ease sanctions. Some are UN Security Council ones, others EU and still others US, making lifting them tricky.

The major sticking point however is uranium enrichment, a process which makes uranium suitable for peaceful purposes but also, when highly purified, for a nuclear weapon.

Iran wants to expand drastically its enrichment programme.

It says its needs to enrich for Bushehr, its only current nuclear power plant, once a deal with Moscow to supply fuel for Russian-built plant expires in 2021.

Iran also says it needs to make fuel for more nuclear power plants that it plans to build around the country.

But with years until the Russian contract expires, and any new facilities years if not decades away, the powers say Iran has no need for enrichment on a major scale.

They fear Iran's covert aim is to enrich uranium to weapons-grade, so the powers want cuts in Iran's capacities, and for a "double digit" number of years, a senior US official said this month.

- 'Innovative proposal' -

In an attempt to break the deadlock on this issue, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif aired in the New York Times this week what he called an "innovative proposal".

It includes Iran agreeing to freeze its enrichment capacities at current levels, and for between three and seven years.

For Siavush Randjbar-Daemi, an Iranian lecturer at Manchester University, Zarif "cannot go back home and say he has agreed a freeze on all aspects related to enrichment."

While Zarif's proposal still remains unacceptable to the West, analysts said that it constitutes an opening gambit which could form the basis for serious negotiations.

Farideh Farhi, Iranian specialist at University of Hawaii, called the idea a "frame for what a final deal might look like."

Mark Fitzpatrick at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said the proposals fell short of what is needed but that it was "noteworthy and positive that Iran is exploring various options".

"The key question is whether the supreme leader would allow the cut-backs to the enrichment programme that would be necessary for a deal," Fitzpatrick told AFP.

"He seems to have said that maintaining current capabilities is a redline. If so, I don't see how a final deal can be possible."

 

 

UN Council condemns N.Korea over missile launches

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
United Nations, United States (AFP) July 17, 2014 - The UN Security Council on Thursday condemned North Korea for recently launching several rounds of short-range ballistic missiles.

"The members of the Security Council condemn these launches as violations of Security Council resolutions," said Eugene Richard Gasana, the Rwandan chair of the 15-member council.

North Korea on Sunday fired two missiles in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) that followed similar launches over the past two weeks, despite UN resolutions barring Pyongyang from carrying out such tests.

"The members of the Security Council noted that the DPRK has launched three rounds of Scud short-range ballistic missiles in late June and early July," Gasana told reporters.

The council urged North Korea to "fully comply" with UN demands to stop the launches, said Gasana, but he did not specify whether it would consider further steps.

Already under crippling sanctions since 2006, Pyongyang was hit by fresh UN punitive measures in March 2013 over its third nuclear test.

 

 

Obama, seeing Iran progress, hints at more time

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 16, 2014 - US President Barack Obama signaled Wednesday that talks with Iran on its nuclear program may need to extend beyond a weekend deadline, saying negotiations have shown a "credible way forward."

Obama said he was consulting with Congress -- where there is strong criticism of his quest for a diplomatic deal with Iran -- as negotiators meet in Vienna ahead of Sunday's expiration of a temporary deal.

"It's clear to me that we have made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward. But as we approach a deadline under the interim deal, there are still significant gaps between the international community and Iran and we have more work to do," Obama told reporters.

"So over the next few days, we'll continue consulting with Congress and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations."

- Iran has 'met its commitments' -

Iran has "met its commitments" under the interim agreement, including halting progress of its nuclear program and allowing more inspections, Obama said.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest earlier appeared to prepare the political ground for an extension of talks, saying that many people had been "pretty skeptical" about Iran but found "legitimate discussion and constructive engagement."

"It is clear that their track record over the last six months, I think many people would acknowledge, has been surprisingly favorable," Earnest said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has led criticism of the nuclear deal, accusing Iran of insincerity and not ruling out an attack.

US lawmakers, who are widely supportive of Israel, have threatened to ramp up sanctions without a rigorous agreement.

Senator Robert Menendez, a member of Obama's Democratic Party who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called for an accord that dismantles Iran's nuclear program in a way that is verifiable for 20 to 30 years.

"The fact is Iran's nuclear aspirations have been a long and deliberate process. They did not materialize overnight, and they will not end simply with a good word and a handshake We need verification," Menendez said Tuesday.

"In my view, through its history, through its actions, through its false words and deeds for decades, Iran has forgone the ability for us to shake on a deal that freezes their program."

- Hardliners on both sides -

Iran's negotiators in turn face pressure from hardliners, who view the United States as the ultimate enemy and oppose any agreement seen as a concession.

Obama was speaking after he met with Secretary of State John Kerry, who reported progress after he joined the talks in Vienna to speak with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Zarif, a member of President Hassan Rouhani's reform-minded administration, is looking for a historic agreement that would relieve Western sanctions that have severely impacted the Islamic republic's economy and perhaps start to repair Iran's fraught relationship with the United States.

Iran insists it is not seeking the atomic bomb but has stayed firm on its right to peaceful use of nuclear energy in the talks with six powers -- Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

Under an interim agreement reached in November, Iran froze its uranium enrichment in return for about $7 billion in sanctions relief.

Tehran and Washington have pursued exhaustive talks on the nuclear deal -- itself a dramatic turnaround in relations for two countries that had virtually no official communication since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution, which toppled the Western-oriented shah.

 

 

S. Korea-US naval drill begins in face of North's anger

 
‎25 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎05:00:38 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 16, 2014 - South Korea and the United States on Wednesday launched a five-day joint naval exercise in the face of angry North Korean protests and warnings backed by missile tests.

Two separate drills began simultaneously in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) and off the southern port of Mokpo, South Korean military officials said.

The drill off Mokpo was led by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, which will also take part in a search and rescue exercise next week with South Korean and Japanese maritime forces.

The presence of the carrier has been especially galling for Pyongyang, which denounced it as a "reckless" act of provocation and a modern-day example of "gunboat diplomacy".

The joint exercise follows an unusually extended series of artillery, rocket and missile tests by North Korea, which fired 100 shells into the East Sea on Monday.

There have also been several short-range ballistic missile tests by the North in recent weeks, including the firing of two Scud missiles on Sunday.

South Korea and the United States hold a series of army and navy drills every year that are habitually condemned by Pyongyang as rehearsals for invasion.

Seoul and Washington insist they are defensive in nature.

The recent North Korean missile tests have coincided with various peace overtures to Seoul, including a proposal to halt all provocative military activity.

Officials from both sides are due to hold rare talks on Thursday to discuss North Korea's participation in the upcoming Asian Games in the South Korean port city of Incheon.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has accused Pyongyang of adopting a "two-faced attitude" by proposing a lowering of tensions while continuing its missile launches.

In a meeting Wednesday with Defence Minister Han Min-Koo and top military commanders, Park called for swift retaliation for any provocation by the North.

"If there is any provocation, I expect you to retaliate strongly in the initial stages," she said, adding the Korean peninsula faces a serious situation due to the North's "unpredictable" attitude.

"The gravity of the situation does not allow for the least bit of carelessness in maintaining our defence posture," Park said.

 

Russia's Angara rocket not to be used as ICBM

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Jul 16, 2014 - Russia's new Angara launch vehicle will not be used as an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) First Deputy Head Alexander Ivanov said on Monday, July 14, reports ITAR-TASS. "This will not be done. This is a space vehicle only. Because of its characteristics, it cannot be used as an intercontinental ballistic missile," he said when asked whether Angara can be used for this purpose in the future.

The lightweight Angara-1.2PP rocket successfully blasted off from the northern Plesetsk Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk Region on July 9. Twenty-one minutes after the liftoff the test weight reached the designated area at the Kura range in Kamchatka, 5,700 km from the launch site.

A heavy version of the rocket is scheduled to go on its first flight in December from Plesetsk. In the future, the rocket will be launched from the Vostochny spaceport in the Far Eastern Amur Region.

Angara was initially scheduled to lift off from Plesetsk on June 27 but its launch was automatically cancelled and postponed for one day, but never took place. The rocket was not supposed to carry any payload. Its second stage with a test weight was to land at the Kura range in Kamchatka, 5,700 kilometres from the cosmodrome.

Angara is one of the priorities in the development of the Plesetsk spaceport. In November 2013, a full-scale mock-up of the rocket was for the first time put up on the launch pad. It was a fully operational rocket but intended for ground testing only, not for launching.

Work to create the ground infrastructure for the new rocket and prepare an Angara launch is part of the federal program for the development of Russia's cosmodromes in 2006-2015.

A super-heavy lift launch vehicle will be able to carry a payload of 80 tones to low-earth orbits. In the future, its capacity can be increased to 160 tones and more.

Angara will allow Russia to launch all kinds of spacecraft to any orbit. Now Russia can launch heavy satellites only aboard Proton rockets from Baikonur, which it leases from Kazakhstan for about 115 million US dollars a year.

According to Khrunichev, a big advantage of the new rocket carrier is that "it is a universal space rocket system" capable of taking three types of rockets into space: light with a payload of up to 3.5 tones, medium with a payload of up to 14.6 tones, and heavy with a payload of up to 24.5 tones.

Medium lift and heavy lift launch vehicles can take payloads to the geostationary orbit as well.

The vehicle uses a unique engineering solution: the carrier can be assembled of the same modules. Their maximum number is five in a heavy version, three in a medium version, and one in a light version. They can all be launched form the same pad, not like now at Baikonur where each carrier requires its own launching pad.

The Angara class of rockets comprises four types of vehicles, with payload capacities ranging between 3.7 tones (light class, intended for low orbits) and 28.5 tones.

Angara rockets will not use aggressive and toxic heptyl-based fuel, which will make them much more environmentally friendly.

Russia launched four space rockets from three spaceports within a week, a source in the rocket and space industry told Interfax-AVN.

"The busy launch schedule of the past few days demonstrates that things are far from being too bad in the rocket and space industry," he noted.

A Rokot LV put into orbit three satellites from the Plesetsk spaceport on July 3.

A Soyuz-2.1b LV carrying the Meteor-M2 weather satellite and several micro-satellites blasted off from Baikonur on July 8.

A test launch of the brand new Angara LV was performed from Plesetsk on July 9.

A Soyuz-ST rocket was launched from the Kourou space center in French Guiana, South America, early on Friday morning to position British O3b satellites in orbit.

Source: Voice of Russia

 

 

S. Korea warns North over missile tests

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 15, 2014 - South Korea on Tuesday warned North korea it was playing a dangerous game with a series of missile, rocket and artillery tests that appear to be inching ever closer to their joint border.

In the latest incident on Monday, the North fired 100 shells into the sea from multiple rocket launchers in a live-fire drill close to the eastern maritime boundary.

"Some civilian tourists at the east coast even saw the water splash after the shells fell in the sea, which is very threatening to our country," said ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok.

North Korea regularly fires off missiles and rockets, but the frequency of the recent tests -- six in less than three weeks -- is unusual.

They have included artillery shells, short-range rockets and Scud missiles with a range of 500 kilometres (310 miles) -- all fired into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) from various locations.

Most have been personally monitored on-site by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Kim Min-Seok stressed that a stray missile or shell risked triggering a serious confrontation.

"Our stance is clear," he told a press briefing.

"We will retaliate without hesitation if the North sends any of its missiles or shells to the south of the border."

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology, but the response to the recent tests has so far been limited to verbal protests from Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.

Analysts see numerous possible motives behind the tests: pique over Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to South Korea, anger over joint South Korean-US military drills, and a general effort at some attention-seeking muscle flexing.

While guiding Monday's live-fire exercise, Kim Jong-Un was quoted by the North's official KCNA news agency as saying hostile forces were becoming more blatant in their moves to "isolate and stifle" North Korea.

Later the same day, US President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping had a telephone call during which they discussed the need to ensure North Korea complies with demands to dismantle its nuclear program.

The North Korean tests have coincided with various peace overtures to Seoul, including a proposal to halt all provocative military activity.

Officials from both sides are due to hold rare talks on Thursday to discuss North Korea's participation in the upcoming Asian Games in the South Korean port city of Incheon.

South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has accused Pyongyang of adopting a "two-faced attitude" by proposing a lowering of tensions while continuing its missile tests.

 

 

US, Iran lay ground for nuclear talks extension

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 15, 2014 - US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart laid the groundwork Tuesday for an extension of a Sunday deadline to strike a historic nuclear deal after intense talks in Vienna.

A Western diplomat went as far as to say that it was now "highly probable" Iran and world powers would agree to such a move, and that the extension would be months not weeks.

"As it's highly improbable that we will finalise in Vienna before the weekend, it is highly probable that there will be a wish to continue to negotiate in the coming months," the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

After a decade of rising tensions, the mooted accord between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is aimed at easing concerns that Iran might develop nuclear weapons and silencing talk of war.

Kerry said he would return to Washington to discuss with President Barack Obama "the prospects for a comprehensive agreement, as well as a path forward if we do not achieve one by the 20th of July, including the question of whether or not more time is warranted".

He told a news conference after two days of talks with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that there had been "tangible progress on key issues, and we had extensive conversations in which we moved on certain things", although "very real gaps" persisted between the two sides.

Zarif, in a separate news conference, said that although he still hopes a deal would be possible by Sunday, he believed enough progress has been made to justify a continuation.

"As we stand now, we have made enough headway to be able to tell our political bosses that this is a process worth continuing," Zarif said. "This is my recommendation. I am sure Secretary Kerry will make the same recommendation."

An interim accord struck in November between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany expires on July 20.

Extending the deadline has always been a possibility in order to keep the parties talking, but Washington in particular has stressed it will not agree to such a move without key concessions from Iran first.

- Intense domestic pressure -

Iran denies seeking the atomic bomb and wants the lifting of crippling UN and Western sanctions.

The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce in scope its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections.

This would greatly expand the time needed for the Islamic republic to develop a nuclear weapon, should it choose to do so, while giving the world ample warning of any such "breakout" push.

Iran on the other hand has stated it wants to expand its nuclear facilities, insisting they are for purely peaceful purposes and that it has the perfect right to nuclear activities under international treaties.

Both sides are also under intense pressure from hardliners at home -- midterm US elections are due in November -- and both are wary of giving too much away after several months of talks.

- 'Innovative proposal' -

The key sticking point is uranium enrichment.

This activity can produce fuel for the country's sole nuclear plant or, if further enriched, the material for an atomic bomb.

Zarif however outlined a possible compromise in an interview with the New York Times published on Tuesday.

This "innovative proposal" would see Iran essentially freeze its enrichment capacities at current levels for between three and seven years.

But Kerry stuck to his guns on Tuesday, saying that nothing short of a reduction in Iran's enrichment capacities was acceptable.

"We have made it crystal clear that the 19,000 (centrifuge enrichment machines) that are currently part of their programme is too many," Kerry said.

The Western diplomat said that Iran's position on enrichment has in fact shifted "very, very, very little" during the recent months of talks.

"An extension appears inevitable at this stage. The parties are neither prepared to sign the dotted line nor to walk away," Ali Vaez, International Crisis Group analyst, told AFP.

 

 

North Korea fires 100 artillery shells into sea

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 14, 2014 - North Korea fired 100 artillery shells into the sea Monday in a live-fire drill near the eastern maritime border with South Korea that followed a recent series of missile tests.

The drill began shortly before midday (0300 GMT) using land artillery units based at the eastern tip of the Demilitarised Zone that bisects the Korean peninsula, the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said.

It lasted for 30 minutes and about 100 shells, some with a range of around 50 kilometres (30 miles), fell into waters north of the eastern sea boundary, a JCS spokesman said.

None of the shells crossed into South Korean waters.

South Korean border troops were already on heightened alert after a series of short-range ballistic missile tests by the North in recent weeks, including the firing of two Scud missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) on Sunday.

UN resolutions bar North Korea from conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology.

"Today's exercise was seen as a show of force towards our side," a South Korean defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

North Korea often conducts tests and drills as a show of displeasure, and Sunday's missiles were fired after it denounced an upcoming South Korean-US naval exercise.

The annual drill, from July 16-21, involves the US aircraft carrier George Washington, which arrived in the southern port of Busan on Friday.

Previous tests had preceded Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Seoul. They were seen by some analysts as a show of pique at his decision to visit the South rather than the North.

In between the recent launches, Pyongyang has also made several peace overtures to Seoul, including a proposal for both sides to halt all provocative military activity.

The South dismissed the offer as "nonsensical" in the light of the North's nuclear weapons programme and reiterated that the annual joint military drills with the US are non-negotiable.

"The North is showing a two-faced attitude," South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said in a meeting with her advisers on Monday.

Park noted that Pyongyang had kept up the missile tests even while setting up talks with the South on sending athletes to the upcoming Asian Games in the South Korean port city of Incheon.

The talks will be held Thursday at the border truce village of Panmunjom.

"We have to establish a solid defence posture that can resolutely respond to any provocations by the North," Park's office quoted her as saying.

There is no dispute over the eastern maritime boundary, unlike its western counterpart in the Yellow Sea, which Pyongyang refuses to recognise because it was unilaterally drawn by US-led United Nations forces after the 1950-53 Korean War.

Each side complains of frequent incursions by the other across the western border and there were naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

In November 2010 North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong island, killing four South Koreans and briefly triggering concerns of a full-scale conflict.

 

 

Days before deadline, Kerry in 'very tough' Iran talks

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 14, 2014 - Iranian nuclear talks were hanging in the balance six days before a deadline to get a historic deal, after intensive talks on Monday described by US Secretary of State John Kerry as "very tough".

"We are in the middle of talks about nuclear proliferation and reining in Iran's programme, it is a really tough negotiation I will tell you," Kerry said during a second day of high-stakes discussions in Vienna.

He said later: "We are working, we are working very hard. Serious discussions. (It was a) good meeting."

Kerry was due to give a news conference on Tuesday morning, a US official said, and it was unclear whether he would hold any more discussions with Zarif.

Egyptian state media reported that Kerry would leave Vienna on Tuesday to visit the country in an effort to broker a truce in Gaza.

The mooted nuclear accord would kill off for good fears that Iran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian programme after a decade of rising tensions and threats of war.

Iran denies seeking the atomic bomb and wants the lifting of crippling UN and Western sanctions.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have been negotiating almost non-stop for months, after sealing an interim accord in November under which Iran froze its uranium enrichment in return for about $7 billion in sanctions relief.

But the talks to nail down a full treaty have met major sticking points, particularly on how much of Iran's nuclear programme to dismantle.

Both sides are also under intense domestic pressure.

Zarif will have to come up with a deal that satisfies Iran's hardline Islamic leaders, while Kerry is under pressure from Congress ahead of November mid-term elections not to concede too much.

- No breakthrough Sunday -

Kerry, along with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain and the deputy foreign minister of China jetted into the Austrian capital on Sunday seeking to inject some momentum.

But the three European ministers left with no apparent breakthrough.

"It is now up to Iran to decide to take the path of cooperation... I hope that the days left will be enough to create some reflection in Tehran," Germany's Frank-Walter Steinmeier said before leaving Vienna.

"The ball is in Iran's court."

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was "very important for Iran to be more realistic".

Hague said there had been no "decisive breakthrough" on Sunday and a "huge gap" remained on the key issue of uranium enrichment.

This activity can produce fuel for the country's sole nuclear plant or, if further enriched, the material for an atomic bomb.

The six powers want Iran to reduce dramatically the scope of its enrichment programme, while Tehran wants to expand it.

Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear armed state and which together with Washington has refused to rule out military action, is opposed to any enrichment by Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that any deal leaving Iran with the capability to pursue enrichment activity would be "catastrophic".

Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi was Sunday publicly sticking by Iran's position on enrichment which he called "clear and rational".

"As the supreme guide said, the enrichment programme has been planned with the real needs of the country in mind, meaning our need to ensure reactor fuel."

If no agreement is reached by next Sunday when the six-month interim accord runs out, all sides can agree to extend the talks for a further six months.

Washington however insists it will only consider such a move if Iran makes serious concessions first.

"We have a few days left and our efforts are to narrow the gaps and get an agreement by then," Michael Mann, spokesman for lead negotiator and EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton, said Monday.

"We're still aiming for July 20. We still have some time."

 

 

Ministers fail to broker Iran talks breakthrough

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 13, 2014 - Western foreign ministers appeared Sunday to have failed in their mission to inject momentum into talks with Iran in Vienna, seven days before the deadline to strike a momentous nuclear deal.

The talks were set to continue, however, with US Secretary of State John Kerry remaining in the Austrian capital for further discussions on Monday.

The sought-after accord is aimed at killing off once and for all worries that Iran might develop nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian programme, and silence talk of war.

Iran denies seeking the bomb and wants the lifting of all UN and Western sanctions, which have caused it major economic problems.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have been negotiating almost constantly for months, but the talks have come up against major problems -- as expected.

Kerry and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany arrived Sunday in Vienna seeking to press Iran to make key concessions.

The three European ministers left late Sunday however saying no breakthrough had been made, although Kerry remained for likely further discussions with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday.

Zarif told reporters that "some important headway" had been made but that it "didn't solve any problems".

Russia and China sent only lower-ranking officials, with Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Li Baodong urging both sides "to show flexibility".

Kerry said on arrival that "very significant gaps" remained, while Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi said that on all the important issues, no narrowing of positions was evident.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who like the others held one-on-one talks with Zarif, was the most downbeat, warning that "the ball is in Iran's court".

"It is now up to Iran to decide to take the path of cooperation ... I hope that the days left will be enough to create some reflection in Tehran," he said.

Britain's William Hague said that no "decisive breakthrough" was achieved and that there remained a "huge gap" on the key issue of uranium enrichment -- an activity that can produce fuel for the country's sole nuclear plant or, if further enriched, the matter for an atomic bomb.

The six powers want Iran to reduce dramatically the scope of its enrichment programme, while Tehran wants to expand it.

- Israeli pressure -

Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear weapons state and which together with Washington has refused to rule out military action, is opposed to any enrichment by Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that any nuclear deal leaving Iran with the capability to pursue this activity would be "catastrophic".

"It would be a disaster for the United States and for everyone else," he told Fox News, adding that "a bad deal is actually worse than no deal".

Araqchi said: "Concerning enrichment, our position is clear and rational. As the supreme guide said, the enrichment programme has been planned with the real needs of the country in mind, meaning our need to ensure reactor fuel."

On Saturday, Araqchi said Iran was ready to walk away from the talks if the world powers pushed on with "excessive" demands.

- Extension -

If no agreement is reached by next Sunday when a six-month interim accord with Iran runs out, both sides can decide to extend the pact for longer and keep talking.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that if a deal was not struck, "we either extend, a so-called rollover, or we will have to say that unfortunately there is no perspective for a deal".

But such an extension is possible only if both sides agree, and the United States in particular is opposed to such a move unless Tehran first offers major concessions.

Hague said Sunday that such a move "will only be discussed if no progress can be made. It is still too early."

 

 

N. Korea fires two more missiles into sea

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 13, 2014 - North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the sea Sunday, Seoul's military said, in an apparent show of anger at an upcoming joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States.

The North fired the two ballistic missiles into the East Sea (Sea of Japan) at 1:20 and 1:30 am local time, the South's defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

"Their range appeared to be around 500 kilometres (311 miles)," he said, adding Seoul's military had stepped up monitoring for additional launches.

The move -- the latest in a series of similar launches in recent weeks -- came a day after Pyongyang condemned an upcoming Seoul-Washington naval joint exercise.

The annual drill, from July 16-21, involves the US aircraft carrier George Washington, which arrived in the southern port of Busan on Friday.

The North bristled Saturday at the nuclear-powered carrier visiting the port, calling it a "reckless" act of provocation.

"The US should properly understand that the more persistently it resorts to reckless nuclear blackmail and threat, the further (the North) will bolster up its cutting-edge nuclear force for self-defence," said the North's top military body, the National Defence Commission.

The North has habitually slammed joint military exercises south of the border and often responded with missile test-launches.

UN resolutions bar it from conducting any ballistic missile tests. Sunday's launch -- the fifth in just over two weeks -- took place in a sensitive area near the heavily-fortified border with the South, the defence ministry spokesman said without elaborating.

Yonhap news agency said the missiles were launched only about 20 kilometres north of the Demilitarised Zone that has divided the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice.

The North appears to have moved them from a military base about 50-60 kilometres away by using mobile launchers, Yonhap said, citing an unnamed Seoul army official.

- Kim wants to look 'bold' -

The launch area may fall within the range of South Korean artillery, said Kim Jung-Bong, a political science professor at Hanzhong University, adding the move was aimed at portraying the North's leader Kim Jong-Un as a "bold leader with guts".

"The North appears to be stepping up its threats by showing that it can fire missiles at any time and any place it wants," said Kim.

The North has often fired short-range missiles or rockets into the sea to express anger at perceived provocations.

Previous tests had preceded Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Seoul, and were seen by some analysts as a show of pique at his decision to make Seoul rather than Pyongyang his first stop on the peninsula.

Japan protested to North Korea over Sunday's launch via its embassy in Beijing, Japan's Kyodo News and Jiji Press said.

But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the launch would not affect ongoing talks to try to solve the issue of Japanese abductees in the North, according to Jiji.

In between the recent launches, Pyongyang has also made several peace overtures to Seoul, including a proposal for both sides to halt all provocative military activity.

The South dismissed the offer as "nonsensical" in the light of the North's nuclear weapons programme and reiterated that the annual joint military drills with the US are non-negotiable.

But it accepted another offer by Pyongyang to send a delegation of cheerleaders to support North Korean athletes during the September 19-October 4 Asian Games at Incheon in the South.

 

 

Iran warns could walk away from nuclear talks

 
‎16 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎07:27:29 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 12, 2014 - Iran's chief negotiator in nuclear talks in Vienna warned Saturday that Tehran is ready to walk away if "excessive" Western demands cause a failure, a day before foreign ministers try to inject momentum.

Eight days before a deadline for a deal, Abbas Araqchi said however that he hoped that the attendance from Sunday of foreign ministers including US Secretary of State John Kerry would help overcome "deep differences" that remain.

"If we see that the excessive demands (of Western powers) persisting and that a deal is impossible, this is not a drama, we will continue with our nuclear programme," Araqchi said.

"The presence of ministers will have a positive influence," he told Iran state television from the Austrian capital. "There are questions that ministers need to take decisions on."

Iran's talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany are aimed at a grand bargain reducing in scope Iran's nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

Such a deal is meant to quash for good concerns about the Islamic republic getting the bomb after more than a decade of failed diplomacy, threats of war and atomic expansion by Iran.

Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons. The deadline for an accord is July 20, when an interim accord struck by foreign ministers expires, although this can be put back if both sides agree.

Kerry was expected late Saturday or early Sunday in Vienna where he will be joined by his British, French and German counterparts William Hague, Laurent Fabius and Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Hague said on Saturday that the Western ministers would also discuss how to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza. Kerry and Steinmeier were also to talk about a US-German spat over spying.

Skipping the meeting however is Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and it remains unclear who will represent China.

- Critical choices -

Kerry "will gauge the extent of Iran's willingness to commit to credible and verifiable steps that would back up its public statements about the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme," the State Department said.

He will "assess Iran's willingness to make a set of critical choices at the negotiating table" and then "make recommendations" to US President Barack Obama on the next steps.

Some progress has been made in drafting the actual deal, with Araqchi saying that both sides saw eye to eye on "60-65 percent" of issues.

But he added that there were still "deep differences" on the "fundamental issues".

The main problem area is uranium enrichment, a process which can produce nuclear fuel -- Iran's stated aim -- but also in highly purified form the core of an atomic weapon.

On Tuesday Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, gave a speech indicating that Tehran intends to greatly increase its enrichment capacities to fuel a future fleet of nuclear power stations.

The six powers want a sharp reduction, however.

This, coupled with increased surveillance, would extend the so-called "breakout time" -- the time Iran would need to make enough highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, if it choose to do so.

"We have made some progress but on some key issues, Iran has not moved from their ... unworkable and inadequate positions", a senior US official said Saturday.

"There is no question that we have heard about Iran's aspirations for its nuclear programme in very specific terms and very specific numbers, and that remains far from a significant reduction in their current programme."

Iran sees 'no benefit' in nuclear weapon: FM
Washington (AFP) July 12, 2014 - Iran's top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran has no interest in building an atomic bomb, despite Western powers' claims otherwise.

Zarif's comments, in a television interview due to be broadcast Sunday, when Iran engages in talks with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany aimed at a grand bargain reducing in scope the Islamic republic's nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

"I will commit to everything and anything that would provide credible assurances for the international community that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, because we are not," Zarif told NBC's "Meet the Press" from Vienna, where the talks are taking place.

"We don't see any benefit in Iran developing a nuclear weapon."

Zarif rejected "calculations" suggesting the Shiite country would seek to develop nuclear weapons to guard itself against its Shiite neighbors.

"We need to go out of our way in order to convince our neighbors that we want to live in peace and tranquility with them," he said.

"The politics of geography -- the fact that we're bigger, the fact that we're stronger, that we're more populous, the fact that we have a better technology, the fact that our human resources is by far more developed than most of our neighbors -- all of these provide us with inherent areas of strength that we don't need to augment with other capabilities."

Calling the principle of nuclear deterrence "simply mad," the foreign minister insisted that Pakistan was not considered stronger than Iran simply because it has nuclear weapons.

"The fact that everybody in the international community believes that mutual assured destruction -- that is the way the United States, Russia and others, seek peace and security through having the possibility of destroying each other 100 times over is simply mad," he added.

"I do not believe that you need to inculcate this mentality that nuclear weapons makes anybody safe. Have they made Pakistan safe? Have they made Israel safe? Have they made the United States safe? Have they made Russia safe? All these countries are susceptible," Zarif said.

"Now you have proof that nuclear weapons or no amount of military power makes you safe. So we need to live in a different paradigm. And that's what we are calling for."

 

'No decision' on ministers attending Iran talks: EU

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 09, 2014 - EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, leading ongoing nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna, is considering asking foreign ministers to attend but no decision has been made, her spokesman said Wednesday.

Ashton "is thinking about when to engage ministers as we move forward but no decisions have been made as yet. It would be an opportunity for them to take stock of where we are in the process," spokesman Michael Mann told AFP.

On Tuesday Iranian news agency IRNA reported that foreign ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- Ashton is the chief negotiator -- would arrive in Vienna later this week.

It quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying that they would travel to the Austrian capital "probably" on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but that this "does not mean we have reached an agreement".

The talks, which began last week, are aimed at reaching a potentially historic accord under which Iran would reduce in scope its nuclear programme in order to kill off once and for all concerns that Tehran will one day get the bomb.

The deadline to reach an accord is July 20 when an interim accord struck in Geneva expires, although this can, if both sides agree, be extended by up to six months.

Foreign ministers including US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia's Sergei Lavrov twice descended on Geneva in November to broker the interim deal, and their presence in Vienna at some stage is widely expected.

A senior US official said after the last round on June 20 that foreign ministers "may well" travel to Vienna.

She said this would happen when both sides have "reached the narrowing of the gaps to the place where very tough political decisions need to be made and need to be made at the level of a minister."

 

 

S. Korea condemns North missile test as 'serious provocation'

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 10, 2014 - South Korea on Thursday condemned a series of missile launches by nuclear-armed North Korea as a "serious provocation" that threatened stability on the peninsula.

The South's defence ministry expressed particular concern over the launch Wednesday of two short-range ballistic missiles from a front-line base near the western section of the heavily guarded border.

"We see the recent series of North Korean missile launches as a serious provocation toward South Korea and the international community as it endangers stability on the Korean peninsula and violates UN resolutions," ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.

UN resolutions bar the North from conducting any ballistic missile tests.

Wednesday's test was "unusual", the spokesman said, because the missiles were fired from a sensitive location close to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) which has bisected the peninsula since the 1950-53 Korean war ended in a fragile armistice.

"It appeared to be aimed at delivering a message... that South Korea could be the target of surprise attacks by North Korean ballistic missiles anytime and from any place," Kim said.

The test was personally monitored by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, who was quoted by the official KCNA news agency as urging all missile units to maintain heightened combat readiness.

Wednesday's launch was the fourth in less than two weeks.

Previous tests had preceded Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to South Korea, and were seen by some analysts as a show of pique at his decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang.

China is North Korea's sole major ally, but while Xi has met four times with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye he has yet to sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

As Xi arrived in Seoul on July 3, Pyongyang announced its intention to continue the tests, despite protests from Seoul and Tokyo.

One of the previous launches was hailed by the North's state media as that of a new "cutting-edge" guided missile marking a "breakthrough" in the country's military capabilities.

North Korea is not known to have a tactical guided missile capability, but analysis of a recent propaganda film suggested it may have acquired a variant of a Russian cruise missile, the KH-35.

In between the launches, the North has extended a number of apparent olive branches to the South, including a proposal for both sides to halt all provocative military activity.

Seoul dismissed the offers as "nonsensical" in the light of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

 

 

Iran's supreme leader reveals demands in nuclear talks

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 08, 2014 - Iran's supreme leader revealed Tuesday his country's demands for a massive long-term increase in its nuclear enrichment capability, laying bare huge gaps between Tehran and world powers negotiating a deal.

The comments, published on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's website, represent a dramatic intervention in the talks currently taking place in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 group of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany, for a nuclear accord.

His remarks relate to the enrichment process of producing fuel from centrifuges for nuclear power stations, which the West and Israel says, in highly extended form, could be used to develop an atomic bomb.

Iran currently has about 19,000 centrifuges -- of which only 10,000 are working -- but says more powerful machines will be needed to develop enough nuclear energy in the future.

Khamenei said the required enrichment capability would be 19 times higher than the West currently wants to allow under a comprehensive agreement.

Uranium enrichment and centrifuge numbers are the most sensitive topic in the negotiations, which aim to conclude a deal by July 20.

But with less than two weeks until that deadline, the supreme leader's remarks exposed a gulf that still exists between Iran and the leading nations, who are seeking to curb Iran's nuclear activities.

Referring to the machine used in uranium enrichment, Khamenei, who has the final word on all matters of state, said: "Their aim is that we accept a capacity of 10,000 separative work units, which is equivalent to 10,000 centrifuges of the older type that we already have.

"Our officials say we need 190,000 (SWU). Perhaps not today, but in two to five years that is the country's absolute need."

- Differences with Russia -

An Iranian diplomat, quoted anonymously by the official IRNA news agency, said foreign ministers from the P5+1 countries would travel to Vienna this week, probably on Friday, to help clinch an accord.

But France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, on Tuesday indicated divergences have emerged between Russia and the Western powers involved in the negotiations to secure an agreement, without specifying what they were.

"Whereas until now the P5+1 had a very homogeneous attitude, in the past days representatives in the negotiations have put forward a certain number of different approaches between part of the 5+1 and our Russian partners," he said.

Fabius said that, while negotiations on the accord had begun, "none of the main issues" have so far been resolved.

Any nuclear deal would involve a framework and years of monitoring, but Khamenei's open declarations throw into doubt the room for compromise.

According to American media reports, the United States may accept Iran having 2,000-4,000 low-powered, first generation centrifuges.

France's Fabius said last month Iran could retain "several hundred centrifuges" but he disclosed that the Iranians were asking for "hundreds of thousands".

The accord being sought by the P5+1 aims to finally end talk of possible US or Israeli military action against Iran. The Islamic republic has always denied seeking an atomic bomb.

In exchange for an agreement, Iran wants punishing Western sanctions to be lifted.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, a leader of Iran's negotiating team, welcomed the supreme leader's comments and tweeted that he and his colleagues "would not give up any of our nuclear rights."

With Sunni Arab insurgents overrunning large parts of Iraq, and Syria in chaos from civil war, a nuclear deal could help Tehran and the West normalise ties at a particularly explosive time.

- 'Unique opportunity' -

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described the talks as a "unique opportunity to make history", saying success would allow both sides to address "common challenges" like Iraq.

The talks have been aiming to secure an agreement by July 20, when an interim deal struck in November expires.

The six powers want Iran to drastically reduce its nuclear activities to render any drive for a weapons capability all but impossible.

The deadline could potentially be extended by up to six months, and many analysts believe this is already being negotiated.

But US President Barack Obama, facing midterm elections in November, is wary of doing anything that could be construed by his Republican opponents as giving Iran more time to get closer to having the bomb.

This is the longstanding accusation of Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state.

 

 

Architect of N. Korea nuclear weapons programme dies

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 09, 2014 - North Korea announced Wednesday the death of retired General Jon Pyong-Ho, a chief architect of Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes and an individually named target of international sanctions.

Jon, who retired from public life in 2011, died of a heart attack on Tuesday, the official KCNA news agency reported. He was 88.

He will be given a state funeral, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un leading the funeral committee, said KCNA, which noted that Jon had "devoted all his life to the defence industry".

A close adviser of former leader Kim Jong-Il, Jon was credited with directly managing North Korea's first nuclear test in October 2006.

According to the NK Leadership Watch website, Jon supervised the development of medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1990s, and offered the designs to Pakistan in exchange for detailed information on gas centrifuge technology and uranium enrichment.

In 2008 and 2009 Jon supervised the North's second major long-range missile test and its second nuclear test.

According to US intelligence reports, he was a key figure in the North's international weapons trade that involved shipping components for long-range missiles, nuclear reactors and conventional arms to countries including Iran, Syria and Myanmar.

Over the years, he was individually named in sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations, United States and European Union.

In its tribute, KCNA noted Jon's "special contribution" to turning North Korea into a "satellite producer and launcher and a nuclear weapons state".

The announcement of his death coincided with the North test firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

 

 

N. Korea makes fresh call for improved ties with South

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 07, 2014 - North Korea issued another call Monday for a lowering of military tensions with South Korea, even as leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw firing drills on an island near the sensitive maritime border.

A government statement carried by the official KCNA news agency said it was time to end "reckless hostility and confrontation" and called on Seoul to scrap its annual joint military drills with the United States.

Last week the North's top military body had called for both sides to halt all hostile military activities -- a suggestion Seoul dismissed as "nonsensical" in the light of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

The latest offer is also likely to receive short shrift, as South Korea has repeatedly made it clear that the annual joint drills are non-negotiable.

North Korea makes periodic peace proposals which are mostly seen as rhetorical devices for international consumption.

The latest statement came as Kim continued a tour of front-line islands with a visit to an islet in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) where, according to KCNA, he watched a firing drill.

On Saturday, Kim had monitored an apparently large-scale army, navy and air force exercise involving a mock assault on a South Korean island.

 

 

Nuclear team 'will defend Iran's rights': Khamenei

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Tehran (AFP) July 07, 2014 - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday the country's nuclear negotiating team at talks in Vienna will defend "the rights of the nation" in negotiations with world powers.

"We trust the negotiating team and are sure they will not allow anyone to harm the nation's nuclear rights," said Khamenei who has the final say on major issues, his official website said.

He was speaking after receiving the country's leaders to break the Ramadan fast.

Ultra-conservative groups in Iran regularly criticise the country's nuclear talks team, saying it has ceded too much to the so-called P5+1 group of the United States, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany.

A decisive final round of negotiations on the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear programme began on Thursday in the Austrian capital ahead of a July 20 deadline.

The aim is to reach an agreement guaranteeing the peaceful nature of Iran's programme, after a decade of international tensions.

The accord being sought by both Iran and the P5+1 would finally ease fears of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and silence talk of war.

In exchange, punishing economic sanctions against Tehran would be lifted.

"The future needs of the country must be taken into account in the talks," Khamenei said.

Iran seeks to continue enriching uranium at an industrial level to produce fuel for nuclear power plants.

It currently has one nuclear power station, but is currently negotiating with Russia to build at least another four.

The United States and Israel accuse Iran of seeking to acquire atomic weapons, using civilian nuclear power as a cover, but Tehran has always denied this.

Khamenei also said that the great powers will eventually give in on Iran's nuclear ambitions.

 

 

Russia sees 'political will' for Iran nuclear accord: official

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Moscow (AFP) July 04, 2014 - Russia signaled Friday that a deal could be clinched in Iran nuclear negotiations, as there is "political will" and a sense of urgency among participants for an accord before a July 20 deadline.

"One feels political will of the participants, and a certain fear that we may not be quick enough -- that is a good sign in this situation. There is not much time left. But there are chances," Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov told Kommersant newspaper.

The most recent round of the negotiations is "different from the previous in that there is some static energy being accumulated that will have to be freed and turn into kinetic energy," he added.

The so-called P5+1 talks are now in the decisive final stretch as Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council seek to reach an accord before a July 20 deadline to ease fears of Tehran obtaining nuclear weapons. In exchange, punishing sanctions on Iran would be lifted.

Ryabkov said that Moscow's current standoff with the West over the crisis in Ukraine will not hurt talks over Iran's nuclear programme.

"In my opinion, there is no grounds for worrying that the situation surrounding Ukraine will be the bomb set under the talks over Iran's nuclear programme, that it will prevent them from proceeding effectively," he said.

 

 

Xi's South Korea visit reflects a region in flux

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 04, 2014 - China's president on Friday wrapped up a state visit to South Korea that was heavier on symbolism than substance, but also exposed the slowly but steadily shifting bedrock of historical, Cold War alliances in East Asia.

Xi Jinping's trip had been seen as a pointed snub to North Korea -- his decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang a sign of Beijing's growing frustration with its wayward, unpredictable nuclear-armed ally.

Mao Zedong once declared China and North Korea to be as close as "lips and teeth" -- a bond forged in the 1950-53 Korean War against the South and US-led UN forces.

But Beijing's patience with the North's relentless nuclear brinkmanship has worn thin and Xi's visit was a clear reflection of the common ground it now shares with the South -- economically and, to a growing extent, diplomatically.

If South Korea hoped this might all translate into a joint, strongly-worded warning to the North over its nuclear programme, it was disappointed.

The statement that emerged from Xi's summit with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Thursday didn't even reference "North Korea" directly, calling instead for the "denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" -- a formulation long-favoured by Beijing.

Rather than North Korea, Xi ended up expressing common cause with South Korea over an older regional rival -- Japan.

In a speech at Seoul National University on Friday, he recalled the "barbarous wars of aggression" Japan had waged against China and Korea and the suffering inflicted by occupation and colonial rule.

Such rhetoric plays well in the South where relations with Japan are at their lowest ebb for years, mired in disputes related to Japan's 1910-45 rule over the Korean peninsula.

The rift is a source of increasing anxiety for the United States, whose strategic "pivot" to Asia is on a more fragile footing with its two main military allies in the region barely on speaking terms.

For China, however, it's an opportunity, according to Lee Shang-Hyun, a senior researcher on security and international relations at the Sejong Institute think-tank in Seoul.

- Exploiting rifts -

"A prolonged rift between Japan and South Korea will obviously help China extend its influence over the Korean peninsula, and its diplomatic goal of driving a wedge into the trilateral alliance involving Seoul, Tokyo and Washington," Lee said.

"There won't be any fundamental change in the diplomatic landscape in the short term, but the situation is more fluid than it was, with countries like Japan and South Korea seeking to maximise their own interests as China and the US compete for influence in the region," he said.

And Japan showed this week that it had some cards to shuffle in any new geopolitical deck.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a highly contentious shift in Japan's pacifist military policy, asserting its right to go into battle in defence of its allies -- a move viewed with deep suspicion in Beijing and Seoul.

And two days later, even as Xi arrived in Seoul, Japan announced the unilateral lifting of selected sanctions on North Korea as the result of progress in talks with Pyongyang over its Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals.

North Korea and Japan are unlikely partners -- anti-Japanese sentiment in the North is almost as high as it is in the South -- but Pyongyang, like Beijing, is always happy to shake the Tokyo-Seoul-Washington alliance.

In the end, a lot of messages were sent around the region and beyond this week, reflecting the more nuanced and complex geopolitical landscape being laid over the old certainties and alliances of the Cold War.

There was one nod to diplomatic tradition though, as China announced it was marking Xi's visit to South Korea with the gift of two panda bears.

But even gifts are subject to changing fortunes.

After China made a similar present of two pandas in 1994, South Korea was forced to return them four years later when the Asian financial crisis struck and it was unable to afford their costly upkeep.

 

 

Final push in 'historic' Iran nuclear talks

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) July 03, 2014 - Iran nuclear talks enter the decisive, dangerous endgame Thursday with a marathon final round of hardball negotiations potentially going all the way to the July 20 finish line.

The deal being sought by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany would finally ease fears of Tehran getting nuclear weapons -- and silence talk of war for good.

With insurgents overrunning large parts of Iraq and Syria in chaos after years of civil war, this could help Tehran and the West normalise relations at an explosive time in the Middle East.

But failure could return both sides to the path of confrontation and even war, with neither Israel nor Washington ruling out military action.

"In this troubled world, the chance does not often arise to reach an agreement peacefully that will meet the essential and publicly expressed needs of all sides, make the world safer, ease regional tensions and enable greater prosperity," US Secretary of State John Kerry said this week.

"We have such an opportunity, and a historic breakthrough is possible. It's a matter of political will and proving intentions, not of capacity. It's a matter of choices. Let us all choose wisely," Kerry wrote in the Washington Post.

"In the next three weeks, we have a unique opportunity to make history," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a video message released ahead of the talks.

"To forge a comprehensive agreement over Iran's nuclear energy programme and to end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of the past few weeks in Iraq."

After five rounds of talks in Vienna seeking to secure a deal by July 20 -- when an interim deal struck in November expires -- the differences appear considerable, however.

The last meeting from June 16-20 saw both sides begin drafting the accord, but haggling over language concerning the thorniest problems was put off until later.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany want Iran to reduce drastically in scope its nuclear activities in order to render any Iranian drive to assemble a weapon all but impossible.

This would include in particular Iran slashing its capacities to enrich uranium, a process producing nuclear fuel but also at high purities the core of a nuclear weapon.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said last month Iran has to slash the number of centrifuge enrichment machines to several hundred from almost 20,000 at present.

But Iran rejects this, saying it even needs to expand the number of centrifuges to fuel a fleet of nuclear power plants -- facilities that it is however years if not decades away from having.

Demands that Iran's programme be "radically curbed" rest on a "gross misrepresentation of the steps, time and dangers of a dash for the bomb", Zarif said.

Writing in French daily Le Monde, Zarif said Iran "will not abandon or make a mockery of our technological advances or our scientists."

- Final whistle or extra time? -

In theory, the July 20 deadline could be extended by up to six months, and many analysts believe that such a move is already being discussed.

But US President Barack Obama, facing midterm elections in November and Republican accusations of weakness, is wary of doing anything that could be construed as simply giving Iran more time to get closer to having the bomb.

This is the long-standing accusation of Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state.

But Kelsey Davenport from the Arms Control Association believes that Washington should not shy away from pushing back the deadline if necessary and if Iran is "negotiating in good faith".

"The alternative to no deal is far worse for the international community -- a constrained, unlimited Iranian nuclear programme," she told AFP.

Iran says 'chance to make history' with nuclear deal
Tehran (AFP) July 02, 2014 - Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday his country and world powers have a "unique opportunity to make history" by agreeing on a nuclear deal, as talks enter a crucial final round.

Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking as the five permanent members of the United Nations, plus Germany, prepare to sit down with Iran in Vienna Thursday in a bid to reach a historic deal by a July 20 deadline.

The world powers want Iran to scale down its nuclear activities in order to ease long-held fears that Tehran might develop atomic weapons.

Iran, subject to damaging UN and Western sanctions, insists its nuclear programme is purely peaceful and even wants to expand key parts of it.

Speaking a video uploaded on YouTube, Zarif said forging a deal would "end an unnecessary crisis that has distracted us from addressing together our common challenges, such as the horrifying events of past few weeks in Iraq."

He claimed an agreement could have been reached in 2005 when he had been nuclear negotiator, but that the administration of then US president George W. Bush "torpedoed the deal".

They then opted for pressure and sanctions. For eight years."

But he said sanctions "didn't bring the Iranian people to kneel in submission. And it will not now nor in the future."

"We are trying to reach a deal," he added. "Not a good deal or a bad deal, but a doable and lasting deal."

A sixth round of talks starts officially on Thursday. It could potentially last until July 20 when an interim deal from November expires, although this could be extended by up to six months.

Without elaborating, Zarif said "we are willing to take concrete measures to guarantee that our nuclear programme will always remain peaceful.

"We still have time to put an end to the myth that Iran is seeking to build a bomb."

Western powers and Israel have long suspected Iran of using its civil nuclear energy programme as a cover for developing weapons capability, which Tehran has consistently denied.

 

 

Clock ticking on Iran nuclear talks: Kerry

 
‎11 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:33 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) July 01, 2014 - Time is running short to reach a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, and negotiations will not be extended merely as a foot-dragging ploy, top US diplomat John Kerry warned Tuesday.

On the eve of the most intensive round of talks yet, Kerry called on Iran to make the right choices and prove to the world its claims that its nuclear energy program is peaceful by closing what he called "substantial gaps" in the negotiations.

"We have worked closely with Iran to design a pathway for a program that meets all of the requirements for peaceful, civilian purposes," Kerry wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

"There remains a discrepancy, however, between Iran's professed intent with respect to its nuclear program and the actual content of that program to date."

Western nations have long accused Tehran of seeking to develop an atomic bomb -- something the leaders of the Islamic republic have vehemently denied.

Talks between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group to strike a deal disabling any Iranian nuclear military program will resume on Wednesday in Vienna and are set to last until July 20 -- the deadline for reaching a full treaty.

Under an interim six-month deal struck in Geneva in November, cash-strapped Iran agreed to halt uranium enrichment and eliminate its stockpiles in return for limited sanctions relief.

The pact also contains a provision for a one-time six-month extension of the talks, if all sides agree. The P5+1 group includes the five permanent members of the UN -- Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany.

"Our negotiators will be working constantly in Vienna between now and July 20," Kerry vowed.

"There may be pressure to put more time on the clock. But no extension is possible unless all sides agree, and the United States and our partners will not consent to an extension merely to drag out negotiations," he warned.

- Substantial gaps -

"Now Iran must choose," he said, adding that "time is running short."

"What will Iran choose? Despite many months of discussion, we don't know yet. We do know that substantial gaps still exist between what Iran's negotiators say they are willing to do and what they must do to achieve a comprehensive agreement."

The last round of talks in June were reportedly strained, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has lashed out at world powers for making "excessive demands" on his country.

But Kerry countered that they had "proposed a series of reasonable, verifiable and easily achievable measures that would ensure Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon," and in return the Islamic republic "would be granted phased relief from nuclear-related sanctions."

"The world is simply asking Iran to demonstrate that its nuclear activities are what it claims them to be," Kerry added.

He acknowledged that Iranian negotiators had been "serious" so far throughout the talks, and that Iran had met obligations by working to eliminate its stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium, not installing additional centrifuges and allowing international inspections.

He argued there were not often chances to "make the world safer, ease regional tensions and enable greater prosperity."

"We have such an opportunity, and a historic breakthrough is possible. It's a matter of political will and proving intentions, not of capacity. It's a matter of choices. Let us all choose wisely."

 

 

China, S. Korea summit pushes North over nuclear weapons

 
‎08 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:04:33 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 03, 2014 - China and South Korea issued a joint call for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula at a summit in Seoul Thursday that was seen as a pointed snub of nuclear-armed North Korea by chief ally Beijing.

In a joint statement after their talks, the Chinese and South Korean presidents, Xi Jinping and Park Geun-Hye, reaffirmed their "firm opposition" to the development of nuclear weapons on the peninsula, but seemed divided on how best to persuade the North to give up its bombs.

While Park told reporters that the two sides had agreed to use "all means" possible to bring denuclearisation about, Xi stressed that "dialogue and negotiation" were the best way forward.

"There was certainly a difference in perspectives, but that has always been there," said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.

"South Korea might have liked Xi to say something more direct towards the North, but that was wishful thinking," Yang said.

If the joint statement marked no departure from established Chinese and South Korean policy towards North Korea, the fact that it was released at a summit in Seoul carried significant symbolic weight.

It was Xi's first trip as head of state to the perennially volatile Korean peninsula, and his second summit with Park, who visited China last year.

- A calculated rebuff -

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is still waiting for an invitation to Beijing and Xi's decision to visit Seoul before Pyongyang was seen as a calculated rebuff that spoke to the strained relationship between Pyongyang and its historic and most important ally.

"No previous Chinese leader has put South Korea before and above the North like this," said Aidan Foster-Carter, a Korea expert at Britain's Leeds University.

In what some saw as a display of pique at Xi's visit, North Korea had conducted a series of rocket and missile launches over the past week and pledged further tests in the future.

Seoul had been hoping that Thursday's joint statement would include a strongly-worded warning to Pyongyang, but analysts had forecast that Beijing was unlikely to up the rhetorical ante by any significant degree.

It made no mention of North Korea's nuclear tests, although in her comments afterwards Park said both sides had reaffirmed their "resolute opposition" to any further testing.

The statement did stress the importance of finding a way to get the long-stalled six-party talks on North Korea up and running again.

Beijing has pushed for a resumption of the six-party process -- involving the two Koreas, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

But Seoul and Washington insist that Pyongyang must first make a tangible commitment to abandoning its nuclear weapons programme.

As the North's diplomatic protector and chief economic benefactor, China has repeatedly been pressured by the international community to use its leverage to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

- China wary of N. Korea collapse -

But while Beijing has become increasingly frustrated with the North's missile and nuclear tests, it remains wary of penalising the isolated state too heavily.

It is especially anxious to avoid any regime collapse that would result in a unified Korea with a US troop presence on its border.

Washington has played up Xi's two-day visit as evidence of Pyongyang's deepening diplomatic isolation.

"The symbolism of a visit by a Chinese leader to Seoul against the backdrop of tensions between North Korea and its neighbours... is pretty striking," US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told AFP.

But Pyongyang scored a diplomatic victory of its own Thursday, as Japan announced it was revoking some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea after progress in talks on the Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals.

Japan and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic ties, and the announcement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a significant step forward for a relationship that has been testy for decades.

The wider background to Xi's trip includes China's response to the US "pivot to Asia" and the battle between the two major powers for regional influence.

China is currently South Korea's largest export market and two-way trade stood at around $275 billion last year, but analysts say Beijing wants to move beyond economic ties and promote political and security links.

This leaves Seoul with a difficult balancing act, given its historic military alliance with the United States.

There are currently around 29,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, which is also protected by the US nuclear umbrella.

 

 

China's Xi visits South Korea in snub to North

 
‎08 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:04:33 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 03, 2014 - China's president flew to Seoul Thursday for a state visit focused on nuclear developments in North Korea, which has spent the past week playing hawk and dove with threats, missile tests and peace offers.

It will be Xi Jinping's first trip as head of state to the perennially volatile Korean peninsula, and his second summit with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye who visited China last year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un is still waiting for an invitation to Beijing -- a perceived snub that speaks to the strained relationship between Pyongyang and its historic and most important ally.

"No previous Chinese leader has put South Korea before and above the North like this," said Aidan Foster-Carter a Korea expert at Leeds University.

In what some saw as a display of pique at Xi's visit, North Korea conducted a series of rocket and missile launches into the Sea of Japan (East Sea) over the past week, triggering protests from Seoul and Tokyo.

The North has been in particularly mercurial rhetorical form of late, one day threatening a "devastating strike" against the South and the next proposing a suspension of all hostile military activities.

South Korea on Tuesday rejected the peace offer as "nonsensical" and suggested that Pyongyang show its sincerity by dumping its nuclear weapons.

Xi and Park will hold their summit after Thursday's official welcoming ceremony, and the two leaders are then expected to sign a joint communique.

- Strong line on North Korea? -

Seoul will be hoping for a strong statement on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, but analysts said Beijing was unlikely to up the rhetorical ante by any significant degree.

"That would go against China's traditional diplomatic pattern," said Kim Joon-Hyung, professor of politics at Handong Global University.

"Xi will probably keep to the general line of urging the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, rather than criticising the North directly," Kim added.

As the North's diplomatic protector and chief economic benefactor, China has repeatedly been pressured by the international community to use its leverage to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

But while Beijing has become increasingly frustrated with the North's missile and nuclear tests, it remains wary of penalising the isolated state too heavily.

It is especially anxious to avoid any regime collapse that would result in a unified Korea with a US troop presence on its border.

Washington has played up Xi's visit as evidence of Pyongyang's deepening diplomatic isolation.

"The symbolism of a visit by a Chinese leader to Seoul against the backdrop of tensions between North Korea and its neighbours ... is pretty striking," US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told AFP.

The wider background to Xi's trip includes China's response to the US "pivot to Asia" and the battle between the two major powers for regional influence.

China is currently South Korea's largest export market and two-way trade stood at around $275 billion last year, but analysts say Beijing wants to move beyond economic ties and promote political and security links.

This leaves Seoul with a difficult balancing act, given its historic military alliance with the United States.

There are currently around 29,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, which is also protected by the US nuclear umbrella.

So how far would South Korea be willing to go in developing its ties with China beyond the economic sphere?

"Partly it depends who holds power in Seoul," Foster-Carter wrote on the NK News website.

"Conservatives like Park will ensure the US alliance is not weakened, especially while North Korea continues to snarl.

"But South Korean presidents change every five years. If liberals return to power in 2018, the left's neutralist and Yankee-bashing tendencies might come to the fore," he said.

The military ambitions of the other main US ally in the region, Japan, is also likely to figure in Thursday's summit talks, with both China and South Korea concerned by the recent change to its pacifist constitution.

Xi's visit to Seoul 'important milestone,' says US
Washington (AFP) July 02, 2014 - A visit to South Korea this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping marks "an important milestone" in warming ties and is in stark contrast with Beijing's "chilly" relations with Pyongyang, a US diplomat said Wednesday.

Xi is due to visit Seoul on Thursday for talks with his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-Hye on a closely watched state visit which will include discussions on North Korea's nuclear program.

Beijing however, despite being the North's traditional ally, has not had a summit with Pyongyang since the December 2011 death of its then-leader Kim Jong-Il.

"Clearly the net effect of a visit by the Chinese president to the Republic of Korea, that showcases the dramatic warming of relations and the broadening of practical cooperation, stands in pretty stark contrast to the chilly relationship between Beijing and Pyongyang," Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told AFP in an interview.

Beijing and Washington are seeking "to persuade North Korea that its only viable option is to take steps to come into compliance with its international obligations," Russel said.

Six-party talks with Pyongyang on reining in its nuclear program have been stalled since 2009, and the North has carried out a series of rocket launches denounced by the United States as provocative.

On Wednesday North Korea fired two short-range rockets off its east coast, marking the third such test by the North in the past week -- all three involving firing into the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

North Korea is set to be the focus of some "in-depth discussions" when top Chinese and US leaders meet in Beijing next week for annual strategic and economic talks.

Both China and the United States want to achieve de-nuclearization "through negotiations and we have been refining an approach that would ensure that North Korea comes to the table with convincing evidence that it's prepared to truly negotiate."

"No one wants to go back to the merry-go-round of talks for talks' sake," Russel said.

Washington has long been pushing Beijing to use its sway with Pyongyang to bring it back to the negotiating table, and has increased sanctions against the isolated communist-run state.

"The symbolism of a visit by a Chinese leader to Seoul against the backdrop of tensions between North Korea and its neighbors... is pretty striking," Russel said.

"The Chinese have increasingly moved in the direction that denuclearization is more than just a slogan, it is an objective that needs to be implemented, and implemented on a credible and rapid timeline."

 

 

Seoul warns Japan against going it alone on N. Korea

 
‎08 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:04:33 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 03, 2014 - South Korea warned Japan on Thursday against undermining efforts to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, after Tokyo announced the lifting of selected sanctions on Pyongyang.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said a number of unilateral sanctions would be revoked after progress in talks with the North over its Cold War kidnapping of Japanese nationals.

In a statement, the South Korean foreign ministry said it recognised the "humanitarian" nature of Japan's concern over the kidnapping issue.

But it also stressed that any discussions between Japan and North Korea on pending issues, including the lifting of sanctions, had to be done in a "transparent" fashion.

"And any measures taken by the Japanese government should not hurt international coordination among South Korea, the United States and Japan over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes," it added.

The United States and its two main military allies in Asia have generally kept up a united front on the North Korean nuclear issue.

But a deepening rift between Seoul and Tokyo -- related to disputes dating back to World War II and Japan's colonial rule over the Korean peninsula -- has made the alliance look increasingly fragile.

South Korean officials say Pyongyang is using the kidnapping issue to exploit that fragility and push Tokyo towards a more independent North Korea strategy.

N. Korea vows further tactical guided-missile tests
Seoul (AFP) July 03, 2014 - North Korea vowed Thursday to push ahead with further strategic guided-missile tests, defying international calls to curb its weapons programme as the Chinese president arrived in Seoul for a visit seen as a snub to Pyongyang.

"(North Korea) will continue to hold drills of launching high-precision tactical guided missiles," said a spokesman for the Korean People's Army (KPA) Strategic Force, calling the tests a "legitimate exercise" of sovereignty.

North Korea has conducted a series of missile tests in the past week -- seen by some a display of pique with Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day state visit to Seoul.

China is North Korea's sole major ally, but while Xi has met four times with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye -- including two summits -- he has yet to sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The United States criticised the recent missile launches as "problematic" and "destabilising", while Seoul and Tokyo also lodged protests.

The first in the series of tests last Thursday was hailed by the North's state media as that of a new "cutting-edge" guided missile which marked a "breakthrough" in the North's military capabilities.

The South said the second test on Sunday was of two short-range Scud missiles with a range of about 500 kilometres.

On Wednesday the North fired two rockets with a range of around 180 kilometres (110 miles).

The South said there were a number of possible motives for the multiple tests, ranging from a display for domestic consumption, to a show of strength for the international community or a warning to Seoul.

 

 

N. Korea vows further tactical guided-missile tests

 
‎08 ‎July ‎2014, ‏‎09:04:33 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) July 03, 2014 - North Korea vowed Thursday to push ahead with further strategic guided-missile tests, defying international calls to curb its weapons programme as the Chinese president arrived in Seoul for a visit seen as a snub to Pyongyang.

"(North Korea) will continue to hold drills of launching high-precision tactical guided missiles," said a spokesman for the Korean People's Army (KPA) Strategic Force, calling the tests a "legitimate exercise" of sovereignty.

North Korea has conducted a series of missile tests in the past week -- seen by some a display of pique with Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day state visit to Seoul.

China is North Korea's sole major ally, but while Xi has met four times with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye -- including two summits -- he has yet to sit down with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

The United States criticised the recent missile launches as "problematic" and "destabilising", while Seoul and Tokyo also lodged protests.

The first in the series of tests last Thursday was hailed by the North's state media as that of a new "cutting-edge" guided missile which marked a "breakthrough" in the North's military capabilities.

The South said the second test on Sunday was of two short-range Scud missiles with a range of about 500 kilometres.

On Wednesday the North fired two rockets with a range of around 180 kilometres (110 miles).

The South said there were a number of possible motives for the multiple tests, ranging from a display for domestic consumption, to a show of strength for the international community or a warning to Seoul.

 

New technique calls nuclear blind-man's-bluff

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Paris (AFP) June 25, 2014 - Scientists in the United States claim to have devised a novel technique to test the viability of nuclear warheads, a tool that could be useful for disarmament inspectors.

The method uses a neutron scanner to confirm whether a nuclear warhead is what its owners say it is, without divulging any classified secrets about the device -- a major obstacle in weapons verification, they said on Wednesday.

The technique, currently in the early stages of testing, should be able to test whether rogue states or groups claiming to have a nuclear bomb are telling the truth.

It could also be a useful tool in the programme to dismantle US and Russian nuclear warheads under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), they said.

"The goal is to prove with as high confidence as required that an object is a true nuclear warhead while learning nothing about the materials and design of the warhead itself," said Robert Goldston, a professor of astrophysics at Princeton University, New Jersey.

Weapons inspectors already have an array of diagnostic instruments on hand, but using them can be a problem in itself.

Gamma-ray spectroscopy, for instance, can reveal whether there is sufficient plutonium 239 to make a bomb, but measuring this would reveal warhead-design information that could help weapons proliferation.

Other procedures are likely to require opening up the warhead to verify it -- a process that is long, complex and laden with suspicions that this is an attempt to spy on or tamper with secret material.

To get around this, Goldston's team conceived of an approach called "zero knowledge," inspired in part by software designed to check computer passwords safely.

It entails aiming a high energy beam of neutrons through the warhead, rather like an X-ray.

The tally of neutrons detected on the other side of the warhead thus provides a signature of the contents.

This signature has to match a signature provided by the host to be confirmed as a bomb.

Because the host preloads his own signature into the detectors, the inspector requires no access to secret data or material, hence "zero knowledge" of what lies in the box.

The idea, reported in the science journal Nature, is still in its infancy and problems have to be ironed out, the scientists admit.

But it has secured funding of $3.5 million (2.57 million euros) from the US National Nuclear Security Administration to take it further at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

The researchers are using a harmless dummy made of polystyrene and tungsten, about the same size and weight as a warhead, to test the neutron scan.

 

 

Army closes in on killer S. Korean conscript

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) June 23, 2014 - South Korean troops closed in Monday on a cornered fugitive conscript whose parents urged him to surrender after he killed five fellow soldiers in a shooting spree on the border with North Korea.

Thousands of soldiers backed by special forces units and army helicopters were surrounding the 22-year-old sergeant after a night-long standoff in a small forested area south of the heavily militarised frontier.

"We are closing in on him and he was close enough to be able to pick up a cell phone we threw," defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told a briefing.

Kim said the sergeant, identified by his family name Lim, had spoken to his father who had urged his son to give himself up.

An army officer who requested anonymity told Yonhap news agency that Lim had been in tears when he asked troops to hand the phone over to his father. "He talked to his parents for several minutes, and they pleaded with him to surrender," the officer was quoted as saying.

Lim, who had not eaten for two days, was also thrown some bread and water.

Armed with a K-2 assault rifle and a stash of ammunition, Lim went on the run Saturday night after killing five fellow soldiers at a frontline border outpost.

He traded fire with his pursuers late Sunday before digging in for the night in a section of forest outside a village some 10 kilometres (six miles) away.

Kim said there were further sporadic exchanges of fire during the night, and Lim was still considered extremely dangerous.

"We don't plan to immediately move to capture him because we don't want to trigger any extreme behaviour," he said.

"We are encouraging him to surrender," he added.

Seven others were wounded in Lim's shooting spree on Saturday, during which he detonated a grenade and fired multiple rounds.

Lim was due to be discharged in the next few months after completing his compulsory military service.

The motive behind the shooting was unclear, but army sources said he had difficulty adapting to the military, and psychological evaluators had advised senior officers to pay him special attention.

The incident triggered a massive military manhunt involving more than 4,000 soldiers, including special forces backed by army helicopters.

After a night on the run, Lim was finally cornered near Myungpa-ri village in eastern Gangwon province.

In the initial exchanges of fire one platoon leader was wounded in the arm, and Kim said another soldier was wounded Monday by friendly fire.

Around 500 residents, most of them elderly, were evacuated from their homes to a school building as a precaution.

- Bullying in the barracks -

Lim's deadly shooting spree occurred at a guard post next to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) -- a buffer strip that runs the full length of the 250-kilometre (155-mile) inter-Korean frontier.

Because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.

Many of the South Korean soldiers on border duty are young male recruits doing their mandatory two-year military service.

These young men make up a large part of the South's 691,000-strong troop presence, compared with 1.17 million in the North.

Most of the victims in Saturday's shooting were conscripts, aged from 19 to 23.

The defence ministry issued a "sincere apology" over the incident.

"We pray for the souls of the victims and express our deepest regret for the victims, the injured and their families," it said.

Bullying and cruelty in the barracks have long tarnished the armed forces, and been blamed for suicides and similar shooting incidents.

In July 2011, a 19-year-old marine conscript killed four colleagues in a shooting spree on Ganghwa island near the border.

In June 2005, eight soldiers were killed and two seriously wounded when a 22-year-old conscript threw a grenade and sprayed bullets over sleeping colleagues at a frontline guard post north of Seoul.

 

 

'Tough' Iran nuclear talks leave a mountain to climb

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) June 20, 2014 - Iran and six world powers left themselves with a lot to do by a July 20 deadline after a difficult fifth round of nuclear talks ended on Friday in Vienna.

The aim of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany is to secure a mammoth deal by next month to reduce in scope Iran's nuclear programme and ease fears the Islamic republic will get atomic weapons.

Iran denies seeking to make a bomb and wants punishing UN and Western sanctions lifted. Neither Israel nor the United States have ruled out military action to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

The parties had "begun the drafting process" and would start the next round of talks on July 2, said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, chief negotiator for the six powers.

"We have worked extremely hard all week to develop elements we can bring together when we meet for the next round," said the spokesman, Michael Mann, after five days of discussions.

Officials on both sides said the drafting process had begun, but that haggling over language concerning the thorniest problems was being put off until later.

"We have not reached agreement on the main issues. In some cases, we can see light for agreement but in some others, there is none yet," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Iran's media in the Austrian capital.

He said the draft document contained "more brackets than words", implying that many sections were far from finalised.

The senior US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, said that the talks had been "very tough but constructive" but that the draft document was still "heavily bracketed".

She added it was "still unclear whether Iran is really ready to take all the steps necessary to assure the world that its nuclear programme is and will remain exclusively peaceful."

"It has been another really tough round," said a diplomat from one of the "P5+1" powers late on Thursday, although he said this "doesn't surprise me or particularly dismay me".

Another diplomat said earlier this week that Iran was refusing to budge on most issues, calling this "worrying" and saying that there remained "major" differences on the key issue of uranium enrichment.

This process can make nuclear fuel for civilian purposes but also, when highly purified, for a nuclear weapon. It has been the main sticking point in negotiations with Iran for the past decade.

Western countries want Iran to slash the number of centrifuge enrichment machines in order to make it harder for Iran to process enough material for a bomb in a short period of time, if it chose to do so.

Other thorny issues include the duration of the mooted accord, the pace of any sanctions relief and a reactor being built at Arak that might give Iran weapons-grade plutonium.

- Extension -

The negotiations can be extended by up to six months beyond July 20, when an interim deal struck in November expires, but for now both sides were still aiming to get a deal by that date.

US President Barack Obama is particularly keen to ensure the deadline is met. He faces US midterm elections in November and hopes to silence accusations that the talks are merely giving Iran time to inch closer to the bomb.

This has been the long-standing accusation of Israel, the Middle East's sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state.

"We are absolutely focused on July 20 ... We are not interested in talking about a rollover," the P5+1 diplomat said, adding it would be a "long time" until such an extension is even discussed.

Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said it was "not surprising" that difficult topics were being put off until later.

"If there is going to be a breakthrough on the key issues, it won't come until the last moment," Fitzpatrick told AFP.

 

 

Standoff with S. Korean soldier who killed five comrades

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Seoul (AFP) June 22, 2014 - South Korean troops traded fire in a standoff Sunday with a cornered conscript soldier who went on the run after shooting dead five members of his unit on the border with North Korea.

The 23-year-old army sergeant, surnamed Lim, had opened fire on fellow soldiers at a guard post on the eastern section of the heavily guarded frontier Saturday night.

The shooting spree left five dead and seven wounded -- and triggered a massive manhunt after Lee fled the scene armed with a K-2 assault rifle and a stash of ammunition.

A defence ministry spokesman said Lim, who apparently had a record of instability, had been tracked and cornered just before 2:30 pm (0530 GMT) Sunday near an elementary school around 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border.

"He shot at the pursuing troops and they returned fire," the spokesman said, adding that one officer had been wounded in the arm.

Local media reported that Lim's parents had been brought to the scene and had pleaded with their son to surrender.

As night fell, Lim was believed to be holed up in a small section of forest on a hill behind the school.

Some 500 residents of a nearby village, most of them elderly, were evacuated from their homes to another school building as a precaution.

"I've never known anything like this in my life," one 60-year-old villager told the Yonhap news agency.

"I stayed up all of last night. My children live far away and they're very worried about me," she said.

According to the military, Lim was due to be discharged in the next few months after completing his compulsory military service.

The conscript detonated a grenade immediately after finishing his six-hour guard duty at about 2:00 pm (0500 GMT) Saturday, then opened fire, Yonhap reported.

All those killed or wounded in the incident were members of the 22nd infantry division, in the eastern province of Gangwon.

Thousands of soldiers took part in the search for the fugitive, including special forces units, as army helicopters scanned the area from above.

- Shooter had trouble adapting -

Lim had difficulty adapting to the military, and past psychological evaluators had advised senior officers to pay him special attention, a defence ministry official who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.

This is not the first time the 22nd infantry has been involved in such an incident.

In 1984 a private belonging to the same division opened fire and threw a grenade at fellow soldiers in their barracks, killing 15.

The soldier, Cho Jun-Hee, then crossed the border to defect to the North, a move that Pyongyang's state media later confirmed.

The site of Saturday's shooting is just south of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) -- a buffer strip that runs the full length of the 250-kilometre (155-mile) frontier.

The four-kilometre-wide DMZ -- known as the world's last Cold War frontier -- features guard posts manned by the rival armies, barbed wire and roads bisecting minefields.

Because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, the two Koreas technically remain at war.

Many of the South Korean soldiers on border duty are young male recruits doing their mandatory two-year military service.

These young men make up a large part of the South's 691,000-strong troop presence, compared with 1.17 million in the North.

Most of the victims in Saturday's shooting were conscripts, aged from 19 to 23.

The defence ministry issued a "sincere apology" over the incident.

"We pray for the souls of the victims and express our deepest regret for the victims, the injured and their families," it said.

Bullying and cruelty in the barracks have long tarnished the armed forces, and been blamed for suicides and similar shooting incidents.

In July 2011 a 19-year-old marine conscript killed four colleagues in a shooting spree on Ganghwa island near the border.

In June 2005 eight soldiers were killed and two seriously wounded when a 22-year-old conscript threw a grenade and sprayed bullets over sleeping colleagues at a frontline guard post north of Seoul.

In both those cases the men were court-martialled and sentenced to death, although the penalty was not carried out.

The armed forces have in recent years taken steps to stamp out bullying, which they called part of a "distorted military culture".

 

 

Title agreed, but not much else, in Iran nuclear talks

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Vienna (AFP) June 19, 2014 - Racing against the clock, nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers appeared tough going Thursday with both sides warning of major differences as they tried to draft an accord.

The hoped-for agreement would see Iran scale back its nuclear programme, in order to ease fears Iran wants atomic weapons, and avert a conflict in the Middle East.

Iran, which has seen its relations with the West thaw somewhat since the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, wants painful UN and Western sanctions lifted. It denies wanting the bomb.

On a fourth day of talks in Vienna, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have started haggling over the wording of a deal, officials said.

But beyond agreeing a title for the accord, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that "fundamental differences" were dividing the two sides.

On Wednesday negotiations "slowly" began to draft the final agreement, "but there are still many differences" over the text, ISNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying from Vienna.

He added that the talks had been "very difficult".

A Western diplomat said that Iran was refusing to budge on most issues and that drafting language in the text on the "complex issues" had not begun.

"It is worrying that there is no evolution on the part of the Iranians on most subjects," the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Differences between the two sides on uranium enrichment, the central issue not only in this fifth round of talks but for the past decade, remain "major," the envoy said.

Enrichment is front and centre of Western concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, as the process can produce both fuel for nuclear power plants and, when highly purified, the core of an atomic bomb.

The West wants Iran to slash the number of centrifuges, the machines that enrich uranium, from the current 20,000, but Tehran wants to install many more in order, it says, to fuel a future fleet of nuclear plants.

Other thorny issues include the duration of the mooted accord, the pace of any sanctions relief and a reactor being built at Arak that might give Iran plutonium, the alternative to highly-enriched uranium for a bomb.

"Bearing in mind the limited time that is left and the differences remaining, the progress is slow" in writing the draft, a senior Iranian diplomat at the talks told ISNA.

- No catastrophe -

Iran's top negotiator Abbas Araqchi told IRNA on Wednesday that choosing to push back the July 20 deadline -- when an interim deal struck in November expires -- "won't be a catastrophe".

But US President Barack Obama is not seen as keen, seeking ahead of November midterm US elections to silence accusations that the talks are merely giving Iran time to inch ever closer to the bomb.

Complicating the process is the shared interest of Washington and Shiite Iran in seeing a lightning onslaught by Sunni rebels in Iraq stopped in its tracks.

On Monday US and Iranian officials briefly discussed the crisis on the sidelines in Vienna, although Washington said this would not be repeated.

On Wednesday a senior aide to Rouhani, his chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian, appeared to say that any US-Iranian cooperation in Iraq depended on progress in the nuclear talks.

"If that comes to a final resolution, then there might be opportunities for other issues to be discussed," Nahavandian said in Norway.

In Israel, assumed to have nuclear weapons itself and which has not ruled out bombing Iran, a minister on Thursday expressed fears that the crisis may prompt Washington to make concessions in Vienna.

But US State Department Jen Psaki spokeswoman said Wednesday that any discussion of Iraq would be "entirely separate" from the nuclear negotiations.

"Any effort to connect the two is a nonstarter for the United States," Psaki told reporters.

Tehran, world powers 'begin drafting nuclear deal'
Tehran (AFP) June 18, 2014 - Iran and world powers started drafting Wednesday a comprehensive nuclear agreement but still face many sticking points, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

"Today we have slowly begun to draft the final agreement... but there are still many differences" over the text, ISNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying from Vienna.

"This does not mean we have reached an agreement," said Zarif, according to IRNA news agency.

"Fundamental disagreements" continue to divide Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- he said.

But Zarif said the two sides have agreed on a title for the text, which will be known as the "General Joint Plan of Action."

A new round of negotiations between Iranian diplomats and those of the six powers, which opened Monday in Vienna, had been "very difficult" so far.

The talks, which run through Friday, are aimed at clinching a comprehensive nuclear deal by a July 20 deadline set up by an interim agreement.

Iran's top negotiator Abbas Araqchi earlier told IRNA news agency that Iran hoped to settle all differences with the six powers by the target date.

The main sticking points are the timetable for a full lifting of crippling US and EU sanctions, and the scale to which Iran would be allowed to continue uranium enrichment, he said.

Enrichment is the sensitive process at the centre of Western concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, as it can produce both fuel for nuclear power stations and, in highly extended form, the core of an atomic bomb.

The P5+1 want Iran -- which insists its nuclear drive is purely for civilian use -- to drastically reduce its uranium production capacity, and keep only a few hundred centrifuges active.

They want to ensure that Iran's nuclear activities are purely peaceful. In return, Iran wants the removal of international sanctions that have choked its economy.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday Iran's economy remained in a "state of distress" despite limited sanctions relief.

"Iran sanctions are the toughest the world community has imposed on any country, and its economy is suffering a serious blow as a result -- an impact that is not being reversed," Lew said at a meeting in Jerusalem of the Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG).

- 'Still a long way to go' -

In the remarks to IRNA, Araqchi said "it won't be a catastrophe" if the July 20 target date is not met.

"We hope to start work on Wednesday on drafting the text of a final agreement, not the big issues but the general framework and the introduction," Araqchi said.

"There is a still a long way to go before we reach an agreement acceptable to all sides."

An interim deal struck last November led the six powers to release $7 billion from frozen funds in return for a slowdown in Iran's controversial uranium enrichment.

Iran began implementing the November deal in January.

Tehran said Wednesday that successful nuclear talks could lead to co-operation with the US over their shared interest in Iraq -- where Sunni militants have seized large swathes of territory in a lightning offensive.

President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian told reporters in Oslo that the nuclear talks were a "test for confidence building".

"If that comes to a final resolution, then there might be opportunities for other issues to be discussed."

 

 

Iran says could work with US in Iraq if nuclear talks succeed

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Oslo (AFP) June 18, 2014 - A top Iranian official said on Wednesday that Tehran could consider working with the United States over the crisis in Iraq if talks on its nuclear programme are successful.

Asked about possible cooperation in Iraq, President Hassan Rouhani's chief of staff Mohammad Nahavandian told reporters in Oslo that the nuclear talks were a "test for confidence building".

"If that comes to a final resolution, then there might be opportunities for other issues to be discussed."

The rise of the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has made sweeping gains in northern Iraq in recent days, has raised speculation over cooperation between Washington and Tehran to help stop the insurgency.

And on Monday, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns held a brief meeting with Iranian officials in Vienna on the sidelines of the nuclear talks.

Nahavandian said he was opposed to any foreign intervention in Iraq unless it was requested by the government, but also criticised US inaction.

"The outside world should just respond to what the government of Iraq wants (and) should not intervene in the management of the situation.

"With regards to the United States, we have not seen any serious action from them against this wave of terrorism inside Iraq."

Rouhani said Wednesday that Iran would do whatever it takes to protect revered Shiite Muslim holy sites in Iraq against the Sunni ISIL militants.

Meanwhile, Nahavandian said he believed a July 20 deadline for Iran and world powers to reach a deal on Tehran's nuclear drive could be met.

"There are many people around the world who look optimistically to the ongoing negotiations and I am not an exception to that rule," he said.

Tehran, world powers begin drafting nuclear deal: Iran FM
Tehran (AFP) June 18, 2014 - Iran and world powers started drafting Wednesday a comprehensive nuclear agreement but still face many sticking points, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

"Today we have slowly begun to draft the final agreement... but there are still many differences" over the text, ISNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying from Vienna.

"This does not mean we have reached an agreement," said Zarif, according to IRNA news agency.

"Fundamental disagreements" continue to divide Iran and the P5+1 powers -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany -- he said.

But Zarif said the two sides have agreed on a title for the text, which will be known as the "General Joint Plan of Action."

A new round of negotiations between Iranian diplomats and those of the six powers that opened Monday in Vienna had been "very difficult" so far.

The talks, which run through Friday, are aimed at clinching a comprehensive nuclear deal by a July 20 deadline set up by an interim agreement.

Iran's top negotiator Abbas Araqchi earlier told IRNA news agency that Iran hoped to settle all differences with the six powers by the target date.

The main sticking points are the timetable for a full lifting of crippling US and EU sanctions, and the scale to which Iran would be allowed to continue uranium enrichment, he said.

Enrichment is the sensitive process at the centre of Western concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions, as it can produce both fuel for nuclear power stations and, in highly extended form, the core of an atomic bomb.

The P5+1 want Iran -- which insists its nuclear drive is purely for civilian use -- to drastically reduce its uranium production capacity, and keep only a few hundred centrifuges active.

They want to ensure that Iran's nuclear activities are purely peaceful. In return, Iran wants the removal of international sanctions that have choked its economy.

In the remarks to IRNA, Araqchi said "it won't be a catastrophe" if the July 20 target date is not met.

"We hope to start work on Wednesday on drafting the text of a final agreement, not the big issues but the general framework and the introduction," Araqchi said.

"There is a still a long way to go before we reach an agreement acceptable to all sides."

An interim deal struck last November led the six powers to release $7 billion from frozen funds in return for a slowdown in Iran's controversial uranium enrichment.

Iran began implementing the November deal in January.

 

 

UN monitor urges China to bring North Korea to heel

 
‎26 ‎June ‎2014, ‏‎09:57:02 PMGo to full article
Geneva (AFP) June 18, 2014 - A UN monitor Wednesday urged China to bring ally North Korea to heel over its record of systemic human rights abuse, likening Beijing's clout to that of Washington with Israel.

"How are we going to persuade China that they are in a position to do this? They don't accept that they have any kind of influence on the North Koreans," Marzuki Darusman told reporters.

"This is the kind of denial that the United States has, that it has no hold on Israel. It's an analogy, but nevertheless, it's substantive," said Darusman, a former chief prosecutor of Indonesia.

He said it was also up to the entire international community to step up efforts to call Pyongyang to account.

"North Korea is isolated. But that saddles us all with the problem," he said.

Darusman has monitored North Korea since 2010 for the UN Human Rights Council, despite a refusal to cooperate by the closed Stalinist nation.

He is also part of a UN-mandated inquiry team that earlier this year issued a damning 400-page report detailing endemic abuses by North Korea.

It spotlighted rape, torture and enslavement, saying they could amount to crimes against humanity and comparing them to the actions of Nazi Germany.

The inquiry team has called for North Korea to be hauled before the International Criminal Court -- potentially to prosecute dictator Kim Jong-un and other regime figures.

"What is happening in North Korea cannot just be attributed to one single person at the top, although that single person at the very top is culpable," said Darusman.

But referral to the ICC requires approval by the UN Security Council, where China wields a veto.

- North Korea's "facade" -

Simply pointing the finger is no longer enough, Darusman said.

"It doesn't do justice to the enormity and range of issues that prevail there in the country," he said.

Barred from North Korea by Pyongyang, the UN monitors have interviewed defectors in South Korea and other countries, and used satellite imagery to build an idea of North Korea's network of concentration camps.

North Korea has dubbed the witnesses "human scum" and, in regular attacks at the UN Human Rights Council, charged that probes are part of a "vicious, hostile policy" piloted by Washington.

Darusman blasted that position.

"It's a convenient facade that the North Koreans are adopting, by continuing with their denials but at the same time seeming to engage by being present at the UN Human Rights Council sessions and responding to the findings by continuing with the theme that all the findings are fabricated," he said.

The United Nations plans to deploy a full-time North Korea human rights team that would be based in the South Korean capital Seoul.

Pyongyang has threatened that anyone involved will be "ruthlessly punished".

Darusman said there was no room for such rhetoric.

"We just need to go back to the basics. The country is part of the UN and therefore it's bound by the practices and norms of the United Nations," he said.

 

 
 

News About Wars On Planet Earth

 

 

Israel hits Gaza, quits Cairo talks after rocket fire

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:14 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 19, 2014 - Israel ordered its negotiators back from talks in Cairo and warplanes hit Gaza on Tuesday after Palestinian rockets smashed into the south as the two sides were observing a 24-hour truce.

Nine days of relative quiet in the skies over Gaza came to an abrupt halt when three rockets struck southern Israel just hours before the truce was to expire at midnight local time.

Israel immediately ordered a military response, with warplanes striking targets across the battered Gaza Strip, although there were no immediate reports of casualties, Palestinian security sources and witnesses told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the rockets fired at Beersheva, which is home to around 200,000 Israelis.

An Israeli official said the negotiating team had been ordered back from Cairo where Egypt has been pushing for a decisive end to the Gaza bloodshed, which has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.

However, there was no immediate confirmation the team had left.

"The Cairo process was based on the premise of a total ceasefire," another official told AFP. "If Hamas fires rockets the Cairo process has no basis."

Israel has repeatedly said it would not negotiate under fire and on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned there would be "a very strong response" should there be any resumption of fire.

Hamas dismissed his remarks as having "no weight".

- 'Sabotaging the talks' -

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied the Islamist movement had fired rockets over the border Tuesday, accusing Israel of trying to sabotage the truce talks.

"We don't have any information about firing rockets from Gaza. The Israeli raids are intended to sabotage the negotiations in Cairo," he told AFP.

The talks in Cairo centre on an Egyptian proposal that meets some of the Palestinian demands, such as easing Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza, but defers debate on other thorny issues until later.

The aim is to broker a long-term arrangement to halt more than a month of bloody fighting, although both sides have largely silenced their guns since August 11 thanks to a series of temporary truces.

Talks at the headquarters of Egyptian intelligence resumed at around 0800 GMT, a Palestinian official told AFP.

Although the back-to-back truce agreements have brought relief to millions on both sides of the border, the drawn-out waiting and the fear of a resumption of fighting was beginning to test people's patience.

"No one here has any hope," said Riyad Abul Sultan, a father of 10 with thick curly hair, smoking as he sat on a flimsy mattress at a UN school in Gaza.

"Maybe they'll finish the war for two hours, maybe Israel will start bombing again."

The Palestinians say agreement over a long-term arrangement in Gaza has been delayed by Israeli foot-dragging over key issues.

"The negotiations failed on Monday evening because the Israelis refused to include a port or an airport in the agreement," a Palestinian source close to the talks said, on condition of anonymity.

"The Egyptians then added a clause allowing for the postponement of talks on this issue in order to avoid Israel raising the issue of (ridding Gaza of) rockets and missiles," he said.

Israel has repeatedly demanded that Gaza be demilitarised although the subject is not overly mentioned in the Egyptian proposal as seen by AFP.

- Hamas shift -

Islamic Jihad on Tuesday accused Israel of "intransigence" while Hamas's Abu Zuhri said the Jewish state was "playing for time" at the talks.

Hamas had repeatedly warned it would not extend the temporary ceasefire again, pressing for immediate gains that would allow it to claim concessions from Israel after the devastating four-week war, which began on July 8.

But a senior official within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) said the Islamist movement appeared to have changed its position following a meeting at the weekend between exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat.

"It looks like Hamas and Islamic Jihad will agree to the Egyptian paper," he told AFP.

Egypt's proposal calls for both sides to immediately cease fire and includes provisions relating to opening the borders to allow for free movement of people, goods and construction materials, as well as a clause on regulating the financial crisis within the enclave.

But crucially, it postpones discussions on the thorniest issues, such as a port and airport, for another month "after calm and stability returns," along with talks over exchanging the remains of two Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Meanwhile, Jordan's national carrier confirmed Tuesday it had resumed flights to Tel Aviv after suspending them for a month due to rocket fire near the runway of Israel's main airport.

Royal Jordanian, which operates 20 flights a week to Tel Aviv, said it resumed normal operations on Sunday.

The rocket strike had prompted major US and European airlines to halt flights to Israel for several days in July over safety fears.

burs-hmw/hc

 

 

Battle of the boycott plays out in Israel, W.Bank shops

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:14 AMGo to full article
Ramallah, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 19, 2014 - In Gaza, Israelis and Palestinians are battling it out with rockets and air strikes. But in Israel and the West Bank, the two sides have found a new weapon: boycotting.

Local products are flying off the shelves in the occupied West Bank while Israeli goods are being left untouched.

And in Israel, Arab shops are deserted -- even on shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, when Arab Israeli businesses have always made their biggest takings.

"These days I have changed my habits. Because of the Israeli war against Gaza, we stopped buying any Israeli products," said Salah Mussa, a Ramallah resident.

"Now we are only buying Palestinian products. This is not only my decision, it's a family decision."

Overseas, a Palestinian-led boycott campaign has seen growing success in recent years.

Known as the BDS movement -- boycott, divestment and sanctions -- it aims to put political and economic pressure on Israel over its occupation of the Palestinian territories in a bid to repeat the success of the campaign which ended apartheid in South Africa.

Now, spurred on by the recent bloodshed in Gaza, the campaign is making its first inroads in the West Bank where locals have had little alternative to Israeli products due to import restrictions.

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights activist and co-founder of the BDS movement, believes the deaths of more than 2,000 people in Gaza has changed the picture and will lead to a sustained boycott campaign.

"The massacre committed by the Israeli regime ... in Gaza has triggered almost unprecedented popular campaigns of boycott against Israeli companies and institutions," he told AFP.

The movement, he says, is working to ensure the boycott lasts "well after the end of the current phase" of the Gaza war.

- Product warnings -

To boost the campaign, the boycott is being widely publicised through television ads as well through social media.

And in shops across the West Bank, Israeli products have been slapped with labels reading: "Boycott Israel" and "For your information: in buying this product, 16 percent of the price goes to the Israeli army."

Other shops have gone even further and taken Israeli products off the shelves.

"We have completely removed Israeli products from the supermarket and replaced them with local substitutes," explained Nidal Hamerani, manager of a Ramallah supermarket.

Boycotting Israeli products is also a way of strengthening the Palestinians economy which has been badly stifled by restrictions imposed by the Jewish state, says campaigner Riyad Hamad.

"We need to make people aware of the damage they cause to the Palestinian economy when they buy Israeli products: a high unemployment rate and a ravaged economy," he told AFP.

The boycott has already paid dividends for some Palestinian businesses.

Pinar, a Ramallah-based firm which manufactures diary products, has already had to increase its number of employees, who are working round the clock to meet the surge in demand.

Managing director Muntasser Bedarna says production had increased by "between 30 and 40 percent".

He believes that Palestinian dairy producers now hold "a 60 to 65 percent market share of the milk market in the West Bank and Gaza.

"Before the boycott, Israel controlled 60 percent while the Palestinians shared the remaining 40 percent," he told AFP.

Avi Nudelman, former head of the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce, says the boycott is unlikely to have much of an effect on Israel's economy.

"It's a nice idea but it won't last long," he said. "The Palestinian sector is only a tiny part of the overall market for Israel."

Data from Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics show that in the first quarter of 2014, the Jewish state exported $816 million worth of goods to the Palestinian Authority.

The overall volume of Israeli exports in the same period was $12.9 billion, meaning trade with the PA accounted for around 6.3 percent of the total.

- Arab Israeli shops struggle -

On the Israeli side, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, known for his bellicose anti-Arab statements, called on the public to boycott Arab businesses after the community staged a one-day solidarity strike early on in the war with Gaza.

At the Arab market in the northern port city of Haifa, William Rahil who runs the Mama Pita eatery says he has lost "100 percent" all of his Jewish customers.

Next to his restaurant, someone has put up a sign requesting donations for medicine for the children of Gaza, which he says has sparked calls to boycott his restaurant and even extreme postings calling for the air force to "blow up Mama Pita," he told AFP.

At a cafe nearby, Fawzi Hanadi said he'd lost "50 percent" of his customers since the beginning of the Israeli offensive which began on July 8.

Effects of the boycott can also be seen on the roads where Jewish taxi drivers display Israeli flags in order to attract customers who don't want to pay an Arab driver.

For Arab Israeli MP Bassel Ghattas, the boycott is reason to reflect on the economic contribution of Israel's Arab minority who represent about 20 percent of a population of around 8 million people.

The descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948, Arab Israelis account for around $14 million of consumer spending every year, he said.

 

 

Syria bombs jihadist positions in Raqa for second day

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:14 AMGo to full article
Beirut (AFP) Aug 18, 2014 - Syrian warplanes bombed positions belonging to the jihadist Islamic State group in the northern province of Raqa for a second day on Monday, a monitoring group said.

On Sunday, regime planes killed 31 jihadists and eight civilians in an unprecedented wave of aerial bombardment against the group in its Raqa bastion.

The bombing continued on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, with at least 16 raids targeting jihadist positions.

It said three civilians were killed.

Three raids targeted the area around the town of Tabqa in western Raqa and four hit near the Tabqa military airport, the only remaining regime-held position in the province.

The other nine strikes hit sites inside Raqa city, the provincial capital.

The raids involved the use of precision weapons rather than the explosive-packed barrel bombs that the regime has deployed to deadly effect in Aleppo province and elsewhere.

Barrel bombs have been criticised for being indiscriminate and killing civilians.

In Aleppo province on Monday, warplanes targeted several IS-held positions, with eight civilians reported killed at Menbej.

In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor bordering Iraq, IS militants executed a woman dentist after accusing her of setting up a pro-regime espionage cell, the Observatory said.

It said she was abducted from her clinic at Mayadeen along with four friends, whose fate remains unknown.

The Syrian air raids come as the United States carries out air strikes against the Islamic State just across the border in neighbouring Iraq.

The US strikes are intended to limit the advance of IS militants who have seized large swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria, declaring an Islamic "caliphate".

The group emerged from Al-Qaeda's one-time Iraq affiliate, but has since broken with that organisation and grown into a cross-border militant group.

It has been battling rival opposition fighters in Syria since early January, after a backlash because of the group's abuses against civilians and rebels, and its bid to dominate captured territory.

Obama hails Syria arms destruction, vows vigilance
Washington (AFP) Aug 18, 2014 - US President Barack Obama hailed the completion Monday of the destruction of Syria's chemical weapon stockpile, but said Washington would seek to ensure that Damascus fulfills all its commitments.

"Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria's declared chemical weapons stockpile," Obama said in a statement.

He said the destruction, carried out aboard a US Navy ship on the Mediterranean Sea, sent "a clear message that the use of these abhorrent weapons has consequences and will not be tolerated by the international community."

After a global outcry over deadly chemical attacks in a Damascus suburb last year that may have killed as many as 1,400 people, President Bashar al-Assad's regime agreed to an international plan to destroy its stockpile.

"Going forward, we will watch closely to see that Syria fulfills its commitment to destroy its remaining declared chemical weapons production facilities," Obama said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated that "much more work must be done" as he marked what he said was "a milestone in our unrelenting work to ensure the end of the Assad regime's deadly chemical arsenal."

"The United States will continue to provide political, financial and other support to the moderate opposition because we are committed to help those who seek the right of all Syrians to choose a future of peace and oppose the violent extremists who exploit the chaos and ruin that Assad has brought to Syria," Kerry said in a statement.

With no country ready to accept shipments of Syria's most lethal chemical agents, the United States proposed destroying the chemicals at sea using two "portable" hydrolysis units.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called the captain of the MV Cape Ray earlier in the day to congratulate the crew on "their unprecedented work of neutralizing, at sea, the most dangerous chemicals in Syria's declared stockpile," the Pentagon said.

The process called for mixing the chemicals in sealed containers with thousands of gallons of hot water along with sodium hydroxide or other "reagents" that help break down their toxicity.

Officials have said none of the chemicals or waste will be dumped at sea.

 

 

India must build defences so none dares cast 'evil eye': PM

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:14 AMGo to full article
Mumbai (AFP) Aug 16, 2014 - Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said India must build up its military might to the point that no other country "dare cast an evil eye" on the South Asian nation.

Modi made the statement at a ceremony in Mumbai for the commissioning of the country's biggest locally built warship.

"Our aim is to achieve such prowess in our defence capabilities that no country dare cast an evil eye on India," Modi told naval officers and other dignitaries.

India, the second most populous nation in the world, is in the midst of a $100-billion defence upgrade programme.

Modi's new government has raised the foreign investment cap on India's defence industries to speed up modernisation of the military.

India has fought three wars with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

The country has also been seeking to shore up its defence capabilities to counter a military build-up by an increasingly assertive China.

Modi said India must stop relying so heavily on defence imports and focus instead on local research, design and manufacture.

India is the world's largest arms importer with the United States recently overtaking Russia as the biggest arms supplier, followed by France and Israel.

"This warship has been built by India's engineers, technicians and defence experts," the premier, considered a hardline nationalist, said in Mumbai.

"It is the biggest example yet of what we can make in India," Modi said.

"It is the aim of this government to take India from its position of importing every little piece of military hardware to a position where we can export equipment."

Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in May after a landslide general election win.

The 6,800-tonne INS Kolkata is fitted with the most advanced weapons systems, sensors and communication technology.

It is expected to strengthen to India's maritime capabilities and help secure its huge strategic interests in the region stretching from the Gulf to the Malacca Strait.

 

 

Japanese politicians visit controversial war shrine

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:14 AMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 15, 2014 - Dozens of Japanese politicians visited a controversial war shrine Friday in a move criticised by China and South Korea, which condemn it as a symbol of Tokyo's militarist past.

More than 80 politicians -- including three cabinet ministers -- went to the leafy Yasukuni shrine in downtown Tokyo, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stayed away, after a visit in December drew an angry reaction from Japan's neighbours.

It also earned Abe a diplomatic slap on the wrist from the United States, a key ally, which said it was "disappointed" by the decision, with regional relations already strained over territorial disputes and vastly different views of history.

On Friday, the premier sent a donation to the shrine through an aide in an apparent bid to mend ties with Beijing and Seoul.

But both South Korea and China reacted with renewed anger to the latest annual pilgrimage by lawmakers.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Beijing was "firmly opposed" to both the visits and Abe's donation, while South Korea called on Japan's leadership to "abandon their revisionist attitudes".

The 145-year-old Shinto shrine honours some 2.5 million citizens who died in World War II and other conflicts, including 14 indicted war criminals such as General Hideki Tojo, who authorised the attack on Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into the war.

Visits by Japanese politicians every August 15 -- the anniversary of Japan's WWII surrender -- enrage neighbouring nations, which view them as an insult and a painful reminder of Tokyo's aggression in the first half of the 20th century, including a brutal 35-year occupation of the Korean peninsula.

Abe has been trying to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a regional meeting in Beijing in November.

The leaders, both nationalists, have not held a bilateral summit since they came to power more than 18 months ago. Abe has also not held talks with his South Korean counterpart.

- Lost lives -

On Friday, for the second year in a row, Abe broke with two decades of tradition by omitting any expression of remorse for Tokyo's past aggression in Asia during a remembrance ceremony speech.

"By sincerely facing history and retaining those lessons deeply in our minds, we will open the way to the future of the country for the present and next generations," he said, with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko in attendance.

Japan's hawkish premier, who has moved to expand the country's military since he swept to power in late 2012, defends the visits to Yasukuni as being no different than politicians going to war memorials in other countries.

But key ministers, including Abe's deputy Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, have stayed away.

Keiji Furuya, chairman of the National Public Safety Commission, was the first minister to pay homage at the site Friday -- the 69th anniversary of Japan's surrender.

"It is natural to express my sincere condolences for the souls of those who sacrificed their lives for the country," he told reporters at the shrine.

Soon after Furuya, internal affairs and communications minister Yoshitaka Shindo also visited.

Shindo's grandfather was General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, the figure sympathetically depicted by actor Ken Watanabe in Clint Eastwood's film "Letters from Iwo Jima".

Also attending was Tomomi Inada, minister for administrative reforms, media reports said.

Under scorching sunshine, the shrine was also crowded with hundreds of ordinary people, including veterans in army uniforms carrying Japan's "rising sun" national flags and former military flags.

Other visitors released white doves -- a symbol of peace.

The annual August ceremonies also coincide with the Obon summer holiday, when many Japanese visit their hometowns and pay respects to ancestors.

"My grandfather's brother is here," said Katsuhiro Komatsu.

"I don't know what kind of person he was, I never knew him. But he lost his life during the war at a very young age, so I feel gratitude and respect towards him."

 

 

Long-neglected Gaza heritage wilts in war

 
‎20 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎03:05:14 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 14, 2014 - The Israeli missile tore through the vaulted ceiling and pulverised age-old sandstone. One direct hit destroyed the Omari mosque in Jabaliya and dealt another blow to Gaza's beleaguered heritage.

The site is believed to have housed a mosque since the seventh century and parts of the mosque were said to date back to the 14th century.

A modern building was added several years ago, but the Omari had been one of Gaza's few remaining historic buildings. Now it stands in ruins.

The muezzin was killed after he had given the call to prayer, residents said.

The narrow sliver of territory tucked into the eastern Mediterranean between Egypt and Israel has been home to settled communities since at least 3,300 BC, historians say, governed by the Canaanites, pharaohs, Greeks, Romans and Byzantines before the arrival of Islam in the seventh century AD.

It was ruled by the Mamluk dynasty in the 13th century, and three centuries later joined the Ottoman Empire, which held sway until the British took the area in 1917.

But Gaza has relatively little to show for its history.

Centuries of conquest and conflict, and rapid population growth since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 have hit the enclave's cultural heritage badly. Squat apartment blocks built line many of the city's streets.

"It's not a priority for anyone," said Yasmeen al-Khoudary, who helps curate a private museum set up by her engineer father Jawdat.

"When you think of Gaza you never think of history, or ancient Gaza or archaeology, you always think food, medicine, refugee camps, Hamas."

To compensate for the lack of state-funded museums, her father started collecting artefacts from the Canaanite era up to World War I that he unearthed while working as an engineer.

He set up the private museum on Gaza City's seafront in 2008 to showcase the ancient pottery, coins, bronze work and weapons.

He added a restaurant and hotel, incorporating historic items into the centre: the pillars on the verandah at the restaurant were originally part of the tracks of the railway running through Gaza.

Yasmeen said her family planned to expand the collection and renovate the museum, and two French archaeologists visited in April to help.

One returned to continue her work in early July, but was forced to leave when the war started.

- Indirect damage -

Stood in the rubble of the Omari mosque, Ahmed al-Barsh, from the tourism and antiquities ministry, says the fighting has caused both direct and indirect damage to Gaza's heritage since it broke out on July 8.

"Indirect damage since it was impossible for visitors, foreigners, students and scholars to enter," he said.

Even before the war, the Israeli blockade imposed in 2006 made his work nearly impossible, he said.

Israeli authorities restrict the entry to Gaza of key construction materials, including cement and steel, on grounds Hamas could use them to build bunkers and other fortifications, making renovations difficult.

"Israel banned the entry of materials for renovation, and international foundations and organisations working in the field cut support," Barsh said.

Another site obliterated in the latest fighting was the 15th century Al-Mahkamah mosque in Shejaiya, in Gaza City, one of the neighbourhoods worst hit by shelling.

All that remains of the original structure is the Mamluk-era minaret, its intricately patterned masonry still intact in a pile of rubble.

The Palestinian minister for tourism and antiquities Rola Maayah said the "intentional destruction" of some sites in Gaza was a "great loss for humanity", in a statement.

The acting head of UNESCO's offfice in Ramallah on the West Bank, Lodovico Folin-Calabi, admitted the priority for the government would be humanitarian work but added restoring cultural heritage was an "essential component of a back-to-normal life".

His team had been unable to assess damage during the conflict, but was ready to assist when needed, he said.

Gaza City's Darraj neighbourhood is home to some of the strip's oldest buildings, including the Grand Omari Mosque and the Church of Saint Porphyrius, both of them still in relatively good condition.

The Hamam al-Samara, Gaza's only remaining Turkish bath, has served the residents of Darraj for more than 1,000 years, and had more recently become a tourist attraction for the few who visited.

Mohamed al-Wazeer's family has run the baths for nearly 100 years, but they shut when the conflict began.

"The war happened to everyone. Everyone who had a business shut it," he shrugged as he smoked a cigarette under the domed ceiling of his empty bath house.

He plans to reopen as soon as a permanent truce is reached. Despite the financial damage caused by the war, he plans to use the hammam to offer Gazans a respite from the war.

He said he would encourage people to return and relax in the baths by cutting entry from 20 shekels to 10, "out of solidarity with the people, because of the situation we have just been through".

 

Israel, Gaza violence defies truce 'deal'

 
‎15 ‎August ‎2014, ‏‎06:41:19 AMGo to full article
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Aug 14, 2014 - Israeli jets bombed targets across Gaza early Thursday, retaliating to Palestinian rocket attacks in spiralling violence that left a truce extension teetering on the brink of collapse.

The resumption of hostilities shattered nearly three days of calm over the skies of Gaza and southern Israel, raising fears that a new ceasefire announced in the Egyptian capital could quickly unravel.

More than 1,950 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side have been killed since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive to destroy Hamas rockets and attack tunnels burrowing under the Jewish state.

After days of shuttle diplomacy, the agreement clinched by