North Korea Fires Short-Range Missiles, Its 2nd Test in Less Than a Week

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, the North’s second weapons test in less than a week.

The missiles were launched from near Wonsan, a coastal town east of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, the South Korean military said in a brief statement. They flew 155 miles to the northeast, reaching a height of 18 miles, before splashing into the sea, it said.

South Korean officials declined to offer further details, pending analysis of flight and other data together with their United States allies.

“North Korea’s recent series of missile tests does not help efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and we urge the North to stop this type of act,” the South Korean military said.

That was the first time South Korea had formally accused the North of testing a ballistic missile since November 2017, when the North launched the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the mainland United States. United Nations resolutions forbid North Korea to launch ballistic missiles of any kind.

Japan said the North Korean projectiles launched Wednesday had not landed in its territorial waters, indicating that they were short-range weapons.

North Korea’s resumption of weapons testing has come amid stalled efforts to resume talks with the United States on ending its nuclear weapons program.

President Trump met with the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, and both leaders agreed to resume staff-level dialogue between their governments. But such talks have yet to take place.

Weeks before Mr. Kim met with Mr. Trump in Singapore in June last year in the first-ever summit meeting between North Korea and the United States, Mr. Kim announced a moratorium on his country’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Mr. Trump has since repeatedly touted the absence of such tests as his biggest diplomatic achievement in dealing with Mr. Kim.

With North Korea’s latest tests involving short-range missiles, Mr. Kim did not abandon his moratorium. But they violated the United Nations Security Council resolutions that bar the country from developing or testing ballistic missile technologies, South Korean officials said.

Mr. Trump downplayed the significance of the North’s recent missile tests last Thursday, calling them “smaller ones” and repeating that he was still getting along “very well” with Mr. Kim.

“My relationship with Kim Jong-un is a very good one, as I’m sure you’ve seen,” Mr. Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “I like him; he likes me. We’ll see what happens.”

The Singapore meeting ended with a vague agreement in which Mr. Trump committed to building new relations and providing security guarantees for North Korea in return for Mr. Kim’s agreement to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

But when the leaders met again in Hanoi, Vietnam, in February, they failed to agree on how to implement their earlier deal.

The Hanoi talks collapsed when Mr. Kim demanded that Washington lift all major sanctions against his country in return for the dismantling of its nuclear complex in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang. Mr. Trump insisted on a more comprehensive breaking up of the North’s nuclear programs, including its nuclear weapons and missiles.

Mr. Kim has since said he would give Washington until the end of the year to return to the negotiating table with “new calculations.”

“This type of saber rattling is not threatening, but rather is intended to get the attention of North Korea’s more powerful neighbors,” Daniel L. Davis, a senior fellow with the Defense Priorities research institute in Washington, said by email about the Wednesday tests. “Kim Jong-un wants to negotiate and signal his ability to take actions the U.S. and others don’t like in an effort to speed up diplomacy.

“There’s an opening to negotiate for freezes and potentially rollbacks in exchange for limited sanctions relief,” Mr. Davis added. “But unless Washington is willing to make such trade-offs and normalize relations, expect Kim to continue developing weapons and testing them.

The Real Next War in Syria: Iran vs. Israel

Israel and Iran, at the exact same time, seem to be heading for a High Noon shootout in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn Syria into a forward air base against Israel, something Israel is vowing to never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the first time ever — Israel and Iran have begun quietly trading blows directly, not through proxies, in Syria.

And this quiet phase may be about to end.

.. Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger away from going to the next level — and if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may find it difficult to stay out.

.. Round one occurred on Feb. 10, when an Iranian drone launched by a Revolutionary Guards Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, east of Homs in central Syria, was shot down with a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter that was following it after it penetrated Israeli airspace.

.. “the aircraft was carrying explosives” and that its mission was “an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.”

.. Israeli jets launched a predawn missile raid on the Iranian drone’s T4 home base last Monday. This would have been a huge story — Israel killed seven Iranian Quds Force members, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit — but it was largely lost in the global reaction to (and Trump tweets about) President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons two days earlier.

.. the Iranians not only openly announced their embarrassing losses through the semiofficial Fars news agency — they have played down previous indirect casualties from Israeli strikes in Syria — but then publicly vowed to take revenge.

.. Israeli defense officials have let it be known that if the Iranians were to strike back at Israeli targets, Israel may use the opportunity to make a massive counterstrike on Iran’s entire military infrastructure in Syria, where Iran is attempting to establish both a forward air base, as well as a factory for GPS-guided missiles that could hit targets inside Israel with much greater accuracy — inside a 50-meter radius

.. Iran claims it is setting up bases in Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel has no designs on Syria; it actually prefers the devil it knows there — Assad — over chaos.

.. it has not intervened in the civil war there except to prevent the expansion of Iran’s military infrastructure there or to retaliate for rebel or Syrian shells that fell on Israel’s territory.

.. Tehran’s attempt to build a network of bases and missile factories in Syria — now that it has helped Assad largely crush the uprising against him — appears to be an ego-power play by Iran’s Quds Force leader Suleimani to extend Iran’s grip on key parts of the Sunni Arab world and advance his power struggle with President Hassan Rouhani.

Suleimani’s Quds Force now more or less controls — through proxies — four Arab capitals: Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana.

.. Iran has actually become the biggest “occupying power” in the Arab world today. But Suleimani may be overplaying his hand, especially if he finds himself in a direct confrontation with Israel in Syria, far from Iran, without air cover.

.. even before this, many average Iranians were publicly asking what in the world is Iran doing spending billions of dollars — which were supposed to go to Iranians as a result of the lifting of sanctions from the Iran nuclear deal — fighting wars in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

.. Iran’s currency is collapsing back home.

.. The rial has lost one-third of its value just this year

.. Israeli military officials believe Russian President Vladimir Putin and Suleimani are no longer natural allies. Putin wants and needs a stable Syria where his puppet Bashar Assad can be in control and Russia can maintain a forward naval and air presence and look like a superpower again — on the cheap.

.. Iran’s President Rouhani probably also prefers a stable Syria, where Assad has consolidated his power and that is not a drain on the Iranian budget.

But Suleimani and the Quds Force seem to aspire to greater dominance of the Arab world and putting more pressure on Israel.

Unless Suleimani backs down, you are about to see in Syria an unstoppable force — Iran’s Quds Force — meet an immovable object: Israel.

Release the Memo That Really Matters 

Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the Constitution grants Congress the power to “declare war.”

.. In practice, however, it seems as if the rule is observed mainly in the breach. In the post–World War II era, American forces have been committed time and again even in offensive military actions without even the slightest effort to obtain congressional authorization.

.. The latest example occurred on April 6, 2017, when President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike on Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons

.. Unless there is classified information we don’t yet know, a strike of this nature is exactly the kind of military action that should require congressional approval.

.. We were not at war with Syria. We were not acting in immediate self-defense of our nation. We were not fulfilling a Senate-ratified treaty obligation.

.. Shrugging off the Constitution is a bipartisan practice.

  • Who can forget President Obama’s strikes against Libya? He ordered offensive military action against a sovereign nation without a declaration of war.
  • While George W. Bush obtained congressional authorization for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his predecessor,
  • Bill Clinton, launched extended aerial campaigns in the former Yugoslavia with no congressional vote.

years of presidential overreach, congressional inaction, and partisan bickering have jeopardized our constitutional structure. We are steadily moving away from the separation of powers and toward an unconstitutional legal regime that places sole war-making authority in the hands of an increasingly imperial presidency.

.. There are widespread reports that the president is considering launching a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea — a strike designed to send the strongest possible message, short of all-out war — that its ICBM program has to end.

.. The discussions are apparently so serious that the administration pulled its nominee for ambassador to South Korea, Victor Cha, because he opposed the strike. He then immediately took to the pages of the Washington Post to express his opposition

.. We are not facing the necessity of immediate self-defense. Oh, and in both countries, military action carries with it risks of dangerous escalation. With Russian boots on the ground in Syria, miscalculation risks a great-power conflict. With immense North Korean forces clustered near the border of South Korea, miscalculation risks a truly terrible war.

.. New military action in Syria and new military action in North Korea represent textbook cases for congressional authorization.

.. So why did the administration feel that it had the legal authority to order its Syria strike?

Well, it turns out there’s a memo.

.. Prior to the Syria strike, the administration generated a classified document by an “interagency group of attorneys” that analyzed the “legal basis for potential military action.

.. We cannot sustain and protect our constitutional structure if we delegate arguments against the unconstitutional abuse of presidential authority exclusively to members of whichever party is out of power.

.. it’s time for Senator Corker to insist on a public debate and congressional authorization before we launch any new military action against North Korea.

.. While the facts supporting the argument may well be legitimately classified, the legal analysis itself — which will turn on questions of constitutional, statutory, and international law — should be a matter of open inquiry.

I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again.

Fifteen years ago this week, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, spoke at the United Nations to sell pre-emptive war with Iraq. As his chief of staff, I helped Secretary Powell paint a clear picture that war was the only choice, that when “we confront a regime that harbors ambitions for regional domination, hides weapons of mass destruction and provides haven and active support for terrorists, we are not confronting the past, we are confronting the present. And unless we act, we are confronting an even more frightening future.”.

.. President George W. Bush would have ordered the war even without the United Nations presentation, or if Secretary Powell had failed miserably in giving it. But the secretary’s gravitas was a significant part of the two-year-long effort by the Bush administration to get Americans on the war wagon.

.. the Trump administration is using much the same playbook to create a false impression that war is the only way to address the threats posed by Iran.

.. Nikki Haley, said that the administration had “undeniable” evidence that Iran was not complying with Security Council resolutions regarding its ballistic missile program and Yemen.

.. It’s astonishing how similar that moment was to Mr. Powell’s 2003 presentation on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction — and how the Trump administration’s methods overall match those of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

.. Iran, a country of almost 80 million people whose vast strategic depth and difficult terrain make it a far greater challenge than Iraq, would be 10 to 15 times worse than the Iraq war in terms of casualties and costs.

.. The strategy positions Iran as one of the greatest threats America faces, much the same way President Bush framed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

With China, Russia and North Korea all presenting vastly more formidable challenges to America and its allies than Iran, one has to wonder where the Trump team gets its ideas.

..  a campaign built on the politicization of intelligence and shortsighted policy decisions to make the case for war.

.. It harks back to the C.I.A. director George Tenet’s assurances to Mr. Powell that the connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was ironclad in the lead-up to his United Nations presentation. Today, we know how terribly wrong Mr. Tenet was.

.. Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime changein Iran.

.. It seems not to matter that 15 of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 were Saudis and none were Iranians. Or that, according to the United States intelligence community, of the groups listed as actively hostile to the United States, only one is loosely affiliated with Iran, and Hezbollah doesn’t make the cut.

.. the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.

.. these seemingly disconnected events serve to create a narrative in which war with Iran is the only viable policy.

.. it didn’t seem to matter to us that we used shoddy or cherry-picked intelligence; that it was unrealistic to argue that the war would “pay for itself,” rather than cost trillions of dollars; that we might be hopelessly naïve in thinking that the war would lead to democracy instead of pushing the region into a downward spiral.

What made North Korea’s weapons programs so much scarier in 2017

If the higher estimate is true, that would mean that North Korea has a bomb almost 17 times the size of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

.. David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he believes that the Sept. 3 bomb was a “real H-Bomb” — suggesting that North Korea wasn’t lying when it said it had created a two-stage thermonuclear device shortly before this test. If this is true, it shows that North Korea has now mastered the more complicated technology that entered the U.S. and Soviet arsenals in the 1950s after the first wave of nuclear weapons.

.. Such a device dramatically increases the damage that could be inflicted on a city. It also could mean that North Korea’s missile systems can afford to be significantly less accurate when used in a real-life attack because the blast itself would be so much bigger.

.. After failed tests in 2016, North Korea appears to have shut down the Musudan program and replaced it with something better.

.. In just one year, Cotton said, Kim Jong Un has unveiled six new missile systems. In contrast, his father, Kim Jong Il, tested only two new missiles during his time as leader, and North Korean founder Kim Il Sung tested three.

.. North Korea could probably build up to a bigger event: what has been called the “Juche bird,” a test of a missile loaded with a live nuclear weapon, probably above the Pacific Ocean. “A lot of folks in the U.S. have said North Korea still lacks the capability to put it all together,” Cotton said. “North Korea has made several statements suggesting they think they might need to show us once and for all that they do have that capability.”

Japan Missile Plans Put North Korean Bases Within Range

Japan plans to make its first purchase of missiles that could target North Korean military bases from long distance, a major military upgrade as a rising nuclear threat from Pyongyang sparks a regional arms race.

The decision, announced Friday, includes the potential purchase of missiles from Lockheed Martin Corp. and is likely to be welcomed by President Donald Trump. During a visit to Tokyo in November, Mr. Trump called for Japan to buy “massive” amounts of military equipment from the U.S.

Under Mr. Trump, the U.S. has sought to push Japan to upgrade its military capabilities and shoulder more of the burden of its defense. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is largely in agreement as he seeks to loosen restrictions on the Japanese military.

 .. Last year, South Korea deployed a U.S.-built missile defense system and is currently working on a new ballistic missile capable of destroying North Korea’s underground military facilities. Japan also intends to purchase a new land-based missile defense system from the U.S.

Aides warned Trump not to attack North Korea’s leader personally before his fiery U.N. address

Senior aides to President Trump repeatedly warned him not to deliver a personal attack on North Korea’s leader at the United Nations this week, saying insulting the young despot in such a prominent venue could irreparably escalate tensions and shut off any chance for negotiations to defuse the nuclear crisis.

.. Some of Trump’s top aides, including national security advisor H.R. McMaster, had argued for months against making the attacks on North Korea’s leader personal, warning it could backfire.

But Trump, who relishes belittling his rivals and enemies with crude nicknames, felt compelled to make a dramatic splash in the global forum.

.. A detailed CIA psychological profile of Kim, who is in his early 30s and took power in late 2011, assesses that Kim has a massive ego and reacts harshly and sometimes lethally to insults and perceived slights.

It also says that the dynastic leader — Kim is the grandson of the communist country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and son of its next leader, Kim Jong Il — views himself as inseparable from the North Korean state.

.. As predicted, Kim took Trump’s jibes personally and especially chafed at the fact that Trump mocked him in front of 200 presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and diplomats at the U.N.

.. John Park, a specialist on Northeast Asia at Harvard’s Kennedy School, said the tit-for-tat insults have created a “new reality” and probably have shut off any chance of starting talks to curb North Korea’s fast-growing nuclear arms program.
.. U.S. experts assess that North Korea is six to eight months away from building a small nuclear warhead robust enough to survive the intense heat and vibrations of an intercontinental ballistic missile crossing the Pacific and reaching the continental United States.
.. “There is no one on the North Korean side who is going to entertain or pursue discussion about a diplomatic off-ramp, because that individual would be contradicting the leader, which is lethal,” Park said.
.. Trump has returned to rhetoric he’d used during the campaign, when he called Kim a “madman playing around with nukes” and a “total nut job.”
.. But Trump also praised Kim at the time, saying during a Fox News interview last year that Kim’s “gotta have something going for him, because he kept control, which is amazing for a young person to do.”