(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
North Korea fired four anti-ship missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula Thursday, according to US and South Korean military sources.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
North Korea fired four anti-ship missiles into the sea east of the Korean Peninsula Thursday, according to US and South Korean military sources.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters off its east coast on Sunday, its second missile test in a week, which South Korea said dashed the hopes of the South’s new liberal government for peace between the neighbors.
A South Korean military official said the missile appeared to be an upgraded, extended-range version of the North’s solid-fuel submarine-launched missile. The missile fired a week ago flew was liquid-fueled, and flew further.
North Korea has defied all calls to rein in its nuclear and missile programs, even from China, its lone major ally, saying the weapons are needed for legitimate self-defense.
The reclusive state has been working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the U.S. mainland. On Saturday, it said it had developed the capability to strike the U.S. mainland, although Western missile experts say the claim is exaggerated.
The United Nations Security Council is due to meet on Tuesday behind closed doors to discuss the latest test at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea, diplomats said on Sunday.
An official traveling with U.S. President Donald Trump in Saudi Arabia said the White House was aware of the latest launch and noted that the missile had a shorter range than the three previous missiles that North Korea had tested.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said economic and diplomatic pressure would continue to be applied to North Korea.
“The ongoing testing is disappointing, disturbing and we ask that they cease that,” he said in an interview with “Fox News Sunday”.
The two missile tests in a week complicate plans by South Korea’s new President Moon Jae-in to seek ways to reduce tension on the peninsula. Moon took office eleven days ago after winning an election on a platform of a more moderate approach to the North, with which the South is still technically at war since no peace treaty was signed at the end of their 1950-1953 conflict.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said the tests were “reckless and irresponsible actions throwing cold water over the hopes and desires of this new government and the international community for denuclearization and peace on the Korean peninsula”.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the latest missile test by the reclusive North was “a snub and a challenge to international efforts for a peaceful resolution”.
Abe told reporters after a meeting of Japan’s National Security Council that he wanted to raise the issue of North Korean missile launches at the Group of Seven leaders’ summit in Italy this month. China had no immediate comment.
Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies in Seoul, said the North appeared to be testing and perfecting both solid and liquid-fueled missiles, which might help explain why the pace of its tests had increased.
“I think the team to develop liquid fuel missiles are being pitted against the solid fuel team,” Kim said. “The liquid fuel team succeeded on May 14 so the solid fuel team went for another round to achieve success. That is why the speed of North Korea’s missile development is going beyond imagination.”
Sunday’s missile was launched at 0759 GMT (3:59 a.m. ET) from a location near Pukchang, 60 km (36 miles) northeast of the capital Pyongyang, an area where North Korea attempted to test-launch another missile last month but failed, South Korea’s Office of Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
The missile flew about 500 km (310 miles), it said. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the missile landed outside Japan’s exclusive economic zone and no damage to ships or airplanes was reported.
“The flight range was 500 km and South Korea and the United States are closely analyzing additional information,” South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
On Saturday, North Korea’s KCNA state news agency said in a commentary: “The U.S. mainland and the Pacific operational theater are within the strike range of the DPRK and the DPRK has all kinds of powerful means for annihilating retaliatory strike.” North Korea’s full name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
For a graphic on North Korea missile launch, click here
(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Tim Kelly in Tokyo, Jeff Mason in Riyadh and Michele Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Peter Graff and Sandra Maler)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Friday that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile development could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences,’ while China and Russia cautioned Washington against threatening military force.
Washington has recently lavished praise on Beijing for its efforts to rein in its ally Pyongyang, but Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made clear to the U.N. Security Council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.
“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the 15-member council in remarks contradicting the White House belief that it does wield significant influence.
The ministerial meeting of the council, chaired by Tillerson, exposed old divisions between the United States and China on how to deal with North Korea. China wants talks first and action later, while the United States wants North Korea to curtail its nuclear program before such talks start.
“It is necessary to put aside the debate over who should take the first step and stop arguing who is right and who is wrong,” Wang told the council. “Now is the time to seriously consider resuming talks.”
Tillerson responded: “We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea, we will not reward their violations of past resolutions, we will not reward their bad behavior with talks.”
North Korea did not take part in the meeting.
In Tillerson’s first visit to the United Nations he scolded the Security Council for not fully enforcing sanctions against North Korea, saying if the body had acted, tensions over its nuclear program might not have escalated.
“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he said.
The United States was not pushing for regime change and preferred a negotiated solution, but Pyongyang, for its own sake, should dismantle its nuclear and missile programs, he said.
“The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson repeated the Trump administration’s position that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development, but Wang said military threats would not help.
Wang said dialogue and negotiations were the “only way out.”
“The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov cautioned on Friday that the use of force would be “completely unacceptable.”
“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” he told the council. “One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening and lamentable consequences.”
Gatilov said North Korea felt threatened by regular joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises and the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula.
China and Russia both also repeated their opposition to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea. Gatilov described it as a “destabilizing effort,” while Wang said it damaged trust among the parties on the North Korea issue.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the council that to bring North Korea back to the table the international community “must send a strong message that provocation comes at a high price.”
“There is no doubt that dialogue is necessary … however under the current situation where North Korea continues to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, meaningful dialogue is clearly not possible,” he said.
The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this month.
Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions aimed at impeding the development of its nuclear and missile programs. The council has strengthened sanctions following each of North Korea’s five nuclear tests.
(Editing by Frances Kerry and James Dalgleish)
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWSWEEK)
Two very different dialogue proposals are on the table for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, one from a historic enemy, Israel, proposed in conjunction with a crucial partner, the United States. The other is from a historic rival, Iran, which shares the same neighborhood and faith.
The choice the Arab countries ultimately make could determine the future peace and prosperity of the region.
On February 15, President Donald Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and during a press conference, both leaders hinted at an approaching Arab-Israeli cooperation.
A few days later, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated Iran’s previously proposed regional platform for dialogue between the Islamic Republic and its Persian Gulf neighbors during a speech at the Munich Security Conference.
The U.S.-Israel proposal encompasses almost all Arab States, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as Egypt, Jordan and possibly Lebanon and Tunisia.
This proposal’s principal objective is a wider Arab-Israeli peace agreement and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the key selling point behind this initiative is mutual concerns regarding Iran, and the proposal has a goal to present a unified front against the Islamic Republic.
Netanyahu stated during the press conference that “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” He further stated that “the great opportunity for peace comes from a regional approach involving our newfound Arab partners in the pursuit of a broader peace with the Palestinians.”
While there has been no official confirmation of back channel talks between Israel and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Trump and Netanyahu’s statements indicate that previous reports alleging secret direct interactions between high-level Israeli and GCC officials have indeed taken place in the past six years if not longer.
The perception left by the Barack Obama administration, that the United States is leaving the region and that an increasingly emboldened Iran is exerting power across the Middle East after the implementation of the 2015 nuclear agreement, has revived longstanding hostilities between Arabs and Persians, and presented an opening to realize mutual interests and foster cooperation between Arabs and Israelis.
Israel has long seen Iran as its major adversary because of Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and nuclear advances.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia along with its GCC partners were alarmed when Iran took advantage of the US invasion of Iraq to become influential in Baghdad. The GCC states also grew intolerant of Iran’s perceived links to the uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as well as Iran’s support for the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and for the Houthis in Yemen.
At the Munich conference, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted without naming him an old remark by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis that “in the Middle East we are facing three challenges: Iran, Iran and Iran…and I can only repeat and confirm this approach.” Lieberman reiterated that Israel would continue efforts to hinder the Islamic Republic’s reintegration into the international community in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir also reaffirmed his country’s objections to Iranian actions across the region. “The Iranians do not believe in the principle of good neighborliness or non-interference in the affairs of others,” Jubeir told the Munich conference. “This is manifested in their interference in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan.”
While the prospect for Iran-Saudi détente looks dim at present, it is crucial to remember that the future of Palestine is an issue that not only unites Iran and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, but all people in the Muslim world. The outlook for the US-Israeli proposal to solve the Palestinian issue is unclear and most likely not possible to be implemented.
If the United States goes forward with plans to move the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or gives a carte blanche for further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, while abandoning the goal of a two-state solution, there will be no domestic support for Arab rapprochement with Israel.
Countering the US-Israeli proposal, Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic’s proposition for creation of a regional platform for dialogue between Iran and its Persian Gulf neighbors, or as he called them “brothers.”
“Countries in the Persian Gulf region need to surmount the current state of division and tension and instead move in the direction erecting realistic regional arrangements,” Zarif told the Munich conference. To implement this proposal, he said it must start with a regional dialogue forum that encompasses the littoral neighbors of the Persian Gulf, and under the framework of shared principles and objectives.
The primary goal of Iran’s proposal is to decrease tensions and increase cooperation between neighbors.
“The forum can promote understanding under a broad spectrum of issues, including confidence and security building measures, and combating terrorism, extremism, and sectarianism,” Zarif said. “It could also encourage practical cooperation in areas ranging from the protection of the environment to join investments and tourism. Such a forum could eventually develop into a more formal non-aggression and security cooperation arrangements.”
This proposal is not new. Zarif put it forward shortly after finalizing the nuclear deal in an article on Al-Monitor titled “Choose your neighbors before your house,” and traveledto Qatar and Kuwait shortly afterward.
More recently, on January 24, the foreign minister of Kuwait met with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to deliver a letter on behalf of the GCC. While the details of the letter have not been made public, Rouhani followed with state visits to Oman and Kuwait on February 15, coincidentally the same day Trump and Netanyahu held talks.
Oman and Kuwait, which historically have had less troubled relations with Iran than other GCC members, have indicated a desire to take part in the dialogue forum with Iran, and have repeatedly attempted to mediate tensions between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.
The disagreements between rival powers should not preclude comprehensive and inclusive arrangements that address mutual concerns, and that benefit all participating countries. The Iranian proposal will ensure a sustainable relationship between neighboring states based on mutual respect, and eventually, the cooperation could facilitate an end to the civil wars in Yemen and Syria.
The Israeli proposal might lead to a wider peace agreement between Arab states and Israel. However, it will most definitely exacerbate tensions with Iran and increase the chances of a wider military conflict.
There has been no substantial conflict between the Arab States of the Persian Gulf and Israel in the past decade or more, and while a wider Arab-Israeli peace would undoubtedly have a positive impact in the region, it is contingent on a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.
Meanwhile, the rise in contention between some GCC states and Iran in the past decade has arguably had more dire consequences for the region than the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Agreeing to sit at the same table with Iran for dialogue based on a mutually acceptable and beneficial outlook will lead to greater peace in the region and beyond. It is crucial for the Arab states of the Persian Gulf to weigh the rewards and consequences of each proposal before going forward with either approach.
Mehran Haghirian is an Iranian Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C., and he is currently a Project Assistant at Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.
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