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S-300 in Iran ‘no threat to Israel’: Putin briefs Netanyahu on defensive weapons concept

RT | April 14, 2015

Following Russia’s decision to lift a ban on supplying S-300 missile systems to Iran, the Israeli PM has called President Putin to express his “grave concerns” – and received a detailed explanation of defensive weapons and the logic behind Moscow’s move.

According to a statement released by the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin “gave a detailed explanation of the logic behind Russia’s decision…emphasizing the fact that the tactical and technical specifications of the S-300 system make it a purely defensive weapon; therefore, it would not pose any threat to the security of Israel or other countries in the Middle East.”

The assurances do not appear to have had the desired effect. In a statement released by his office, the Israeli PM expressed “grave concerns regarding the decision,” and told Russia’s president that this step “will only encourage Iranian aggression in the region and further undermine the stability of the Middle East.”

Russia signed an $800 million deal in 2007 to ship five S-300 divisions, which are composed of radars and multiple interception missile launchers, only to postpone the deal three years later, during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev.

It was done as a sign of solidarity with Western partners who were imposing increasingly tough sanctions against the Islamic Republic – the missile systems themselves were never on the international sanctions list.

The reversal comes amid major progress in the negotiation framework between Iran and six leading world powers over the regulation of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, which should produce a final deal this summer.

Moscow believes at this stage there is “no longer need for this kind of embargo,” Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said, reiterating that “from the Russian side it was unilateral and voluntary.” Russia has also started supplying grain, equipment and construction materials to Iran in exchange for crude oil under the so-called “oil-for-goods” barter deal, which had earlier sparked dissatisfaction in the West.

The US officials also seemed displeased with Russia’s latest “non-constructive” moves, with State Department spokesperson Marie Harf however admitting that it did not violate any international norms. “We don’t believe it’s constructive at this time for Russia to move forward with this,” she said, adding that Secretary Kerry had voiced his concerns too.

For its part of the future deal with Iran, the West is promising it will drop some of its sanctions against Tehran – particularly in the oil and financial sectors. However on Tuesday the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that it was important to wait until the Iranians fulfill their side of the bargain.

“I’ve told some US senators that they should not now try to unnecessarily impede further negotiations,” he told the media when asked about Russia’s contract in Lubeck in Germany on Tuesday. “But I’ll also say that it is also too early to talk about rewards at this stage.”

April 15, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Israel asks US for additional $300mn for missile defense – report

RT | March 1, 2015

Israel reportedly bypassed the White House and asked the US Congress for an extra $317 million to be added to President Barack Obama’s budget for the next fiscal year in order to fund Israeli missile defense programs, Bloomberg reported.

The requested funds would be in addition to the $158 million already proposed by the Pentagon for Israel’s security needs for the fiscal year that will begin on October 1. The new allocation will allegedly finance the ‘David’s Sling’ and ‘Arrow-3’ programs – designed to intercept medium- to long-range missiles – as well as provide an anti-ballistic missile system.

According to Bloomberg’s report on Friday, the director of Israel’s missile defense organization Yair Ramati “visited lawmakers and aides to the congressional defense committees on February 2 and 3 to outline the case for more money and thank them for past assistance.”

Ramati completely bypassed the White House and the Pentagon. The report links the move to the tense relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on March 3, which is likely to stress that the White House is pursuing a “bad deal” by negotiating to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

The report revealed that Ramati’s proposal included $250 million to start production of the David’s Sling system, in addition to Obama’s $37 million request for development. Another $35 million Ramati requested for the initial production of Arrow 3, in addition to the $55.7 million the US administration is seeking for development.

During his visit to Capitol Hill, Ramati “distributed one-page sheets naming US contractors that would benefit from production funds for each of the missile defense systems.” According to Bloomberg’s information, the list included Chicago-based Boeing Co.; Waltham, Massachusetts-based Raytheon Co.; Arlington, Virginia-based Orbital ATK Inc.; and Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp.

When contacted by Bloomberg, the Israeli embassy in the US declined to comment on the report.

The US already provides Israel with $3.1 billion a year as “foreign military financing,” which excludes other missile defense funds, according to the report.

For the current fiscal year, Congress has reportedly provided $620 million, including about $347 million for missile defense programs. US Congress has appropriated more than $1.2 billion since 2011 for the Iron Dome, which is designed to intercept and destroy rockets.

In light of the large amounts of distributed funds, US lawmakers have been insisting that Israel use American-based defense contractors when spending the received money.

Last year, the Israeli government agreed to spend more than half the funds provided by the Pentagon for the Iron Dome in the US by this year. Until recently, the missile system was been built solely in Israel by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.

Iran nuclear talks have created a significant rift between Israel and the US. Last week, the White House and State Department stated that Israel inaccurately provided information and twisted the official US position in nuclear talks with Iran, and accused Tel Aviv of “selectively” leaking details of sensitive talks.

Washington has also voiced suspicion that Netanyahu’s office directly provided Israeli journalists with the leaked information, including an alleged offer to Iran to keep 6,500 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. A White House spokesman expressed frustration with the “cherry-picked” information released by the Israelis out of context.

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia and Iran sign defense deal, ‘may resolve’ S300 missile delivery issue

RT | January 20, 2015

Moscow and Tehran have signed military cooperation deal that implies wider collaboration in personnel training and counter-terrorism activities. It may also resolve the situation concerning the delivery of Russian S300 missiles, Iranian media reported.

Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and his Iranian counterpart Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, signed the document during a visit by Russia’s top brass to Iran’s capital on Tuesday.

Under the new agreement, the broadened cooperation will include military personnel training exchanges, increased counter-terrorism cooperation and enhanced capabilities for both countries’ Navies to use each other’s ports more frequently.

According to the Iranian news agency FARS, the two sides have also resolved problems concerning the delivery of Russia’s S300 missile defense systems to Iran. However, Moscow is yet to make an official comment regarding the defense system.

The $800 million contract to deliver S300 air defense missile systems to Iran was cancelled in 2010 by then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, to fall in line with UN sanctions imposed on Iran due to its disputed nuclear program. In turn, Tehran has filed a currently pending $4 billion lawsuit against Russia to Geneva’s arbitration court.

“The two countries have decided to settle the S300 issue,” Iran’s Defense Ministry said, as cited by the Interfax news agency. No further details have been provided.

The possible renewal of talks concerning missile sales has been confirmed by a former head of the Defense Ministry department of international cooperation, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

“A step has been taken in the direction of economic and military technologies cooperation, at least such defensive systems as the S300 and S400 we would probably be delivering,” Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, who is also the president of the International Center for Geopolitical Analysis, said, which was reported by RIA. Sanctions from the West have brought the two countries’ positions on defense cooperation closer, Ivashov added.

The new agreement is aimed at creating a “long-term and multifaceted” military relationship with Iran, Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu said, stressing that “a theoretical basis for cooperation in the military field has been created.”

The Iranian side believe, “durable impacts on regional peace and security” can be provided by the deal, FARS reported. “As two neighbors, Iran and Russia have common viewpoints towards political, regional and global issues,” Dehghan said, as cited by AP.

For Iran, the deal to boost military cooperation could also mean support in opposing American ambitions in the Middle East, with the two countries to “jointly contribute to the strengthening of international security and regional stability.”

“Iran and Russia are able to confront the expansionist intervention and greed of the United States through cooperation, synergy and activating strategic potential capacities,” Iran’s Defense Minister said, which was reported by AP.

Moscow has maintained close ties with Tehran for years, particularly in the field of nuclear power. The first Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr became operational, with control of the station having been handed over to Iranian specialists in September 2013. Last autumn, a deal to build more reactors in Iran was signed.

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ready-to-fire nuclear weapons pose ‘accidental launch’ risk – former defense chiefs

RT | December 8, 2014

Cross-border action to lower the risks posed by an intentional or accidental nuclear attack is “insufficient,” international military, political and diplomatic officials have warned.

Ready-to-use nuclear arms leave states vulnerable to accidental nuclear strikes, while insecurely stored stockpiles could potentially be targeted and stolen by terrorists, the European Leadership Network said.

In a letter written in the run up to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, UK signatories collectively called upon states across the globe to eradicate nuclear arms.

Former home secretary Charles Clarke, former chief of defense staff, Lord Richards and former defense secretaries Lord Browne and Lord King joined other signatories in urging states across the globe to “redouble efforts to work toward a world without nuclear weapons.”

The risks posed by nuclear weapons and current global dynamics that could prompt their deployment are underestimated and poorly understood by world leaders, the signatories warned.

In a post-Cold War era, a proliferation of nuclear arms across the globe that are ready to fire at any moment, greatly amplifies the chance of an accident, they added.

This scenario leaves world leaders who face an imminent threat of attack an insufficient period to liaise with one another and act prudently, the signatories stressed.

Former US general, James Cartwright. (Image from wikipedia.org)

Former US general, James Cartwright. (Image from wikipedia.org)

Other high profile figures who supported the call included retired US general James Cartwright, former French prime minister Michel Rocard, former vice-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and delegates from Russia, China and India.

The warning comes in the wake of reports that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) had stolen uranium compounds from Mosul University in Iraq earlier this year.

Writing to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on July 8, Iraqi UN Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said 88 pounds of uranium used for scientific research at the university had been looted.

Two days later, however, a spokesperson for the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the material was “low grade” and “would not present a significant safety, security or nuclear proliferation risk.”

The Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons began on Monday, and is due to come to a close on Tuesday evening.

The conference follows recent talks between Iran and six western governments. Although the group failed to negotiate a satisfactory deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the talks have been extended for a further seven months.

There are currently thought to be approximately 16,300 nuclear weapons in nine different states across the world.

Global negotiators are concerned that Iranian authorities are using the state’s nuclear development program as a covert means of developing arms, and have imposed sanctions on the Middle Eastern state.

But the Iranian government denies this, and argues the state is only interested in developing peaceful nuclear projects such as the production of power.

Commenting on the recent round of nuclear talks, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “considerable progress” had been made despite the fact no final agreement was reached. He added he expected the “basic principles” of a final agreement to surface within three or four months.

Reflecting on the negotiations, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond agreed “significant progress” had been achieved.

In late November, it emerged Iran had reduced its stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas to comply with the terms of an interim nuclear agreement signed with six world powers in 2013.

As talks are set to continue next month, Tehran’s access to $700 million per month by way of sanctions relief remains intact.

Earlier this month, the UN General Assembly passed an Arab-introduced resolution calling on Israel not to develop, produce or possess nuclear arms. The resolution also criticized the Israeli administration for not being part of the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Read more: UN urges Israel to renounce nuclear arms, join non-proliferation treaty

December 8, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pentagon: Missile defense ‘kill vehicle’ still plagued with problems after years of failure

RT | September 9, 2014

A Pentagon investigation of the “kill vehicle” warhead, part of a weapons system plagued with years of failed tests, found dozens of quality control problems, according to a new report.

The Pentagon’s inspector general said in the report released Monday that the “kill vehicle,” a warhead meant to intercept missiles, fell short of quality standards in 48 specific cases, including issues with software testing, supply chain demands, and design changes, making the kill vehicle “susceptible to quality assurance failures.”

The warhead, known as the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) is built by Raytheon Co. and is part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system led by Boeing Co. EKVs are launched by a Ground Based Interceptor (GBI), “which is designed to engage high-speed ballistic missile warheads in space,” according to Raytheon. The current procurement cost for each GBI is around $75 million, said Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Admiral James Syring in July 2013.

The inspector general report, the first of two on the EKV, said the US Missile Defense Agency has agreed with concerns over the interceptor warhead and has started to address 44 of the 48 issues identified.

The GMD missile defense system was deployed in 2004 even before it completed testing to be able to counter what the George W. Bush administration claimed was a looming missile threat from North Korea.

The EKV finally conducted its first successful missile intercept in June after years of failed attempts.

“A combination of cost constraints and failure-driven program restructures has kept the program in a state of change. Schedule and cost priorities drove a culture of ‘use-as-is’ leaving the EKV as a manufacturing challenge,” the report said.

“With more than 1,800 unique parts, 10,000 pages of work instructions, and 130,000 process steps for the current configuration, EKV repairs and refurbishments are considered by the program to be costly and problematic and make the EKV susceptible to quality assurance failures,” it added.

The Pentagon inspector general wrote that most quality management systems on the weapons program were in compliance, but problems were evident. The report found 15 major and 25 minor quality problems with Raytheon’s EKV work. Boeing’s work on the entire system had six major and one minor problem.

Most of the issues identified in the report have been corrected, the inspector general said, but Raytheon is still working on four issues.

Raytheon has a $636 million development and sustainment contract to produce the EKV, though the Pentagon is seeking one of the major defense contracting firms to develop a more reliable, second generation EKV, Reuters reported. Weapons giants Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin Corp. are all in the running.

September 9, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

US missile defense system proves to be useless after $40 bln spent

RT | June 17, 2014

Despite a decade of testing and tens of billions of dollars’ worth of research, a major missile defense program in the United States has proven to be anything but successful, a new investigation suggests.

Nevertheless, the Missile Defense Agency, or MDA, plans on conducting next week its ninth exercise of that costly system since 2004, and the outcome of the drill is expected to influence whether or not more than a dozen new interceptors are added to the United States’ arsenal.

According to a recent investigation by the Los Angeles Times, however, that system has so far been marred by mistakes that raise questions about its ability to thwart any major attack and the cost incurred during the last decade.

The results of the Times probe, published by the paper on Sunday this week, show that Pentagon officials with inside knowledge of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, say the program has suffered from mishaps more often than the US government would have expected.

“[A] decade after it was declared operational, and after $40 billion in spending, the missile shield cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack would be,” David Willman wrote for the Times over the weekend.

“Official pronouncements about the GMD system, The Times found, have overstated its reliability.”

Results have been mixed to say the least since as far as 1999 when GMD testing first began — half of the first 16 tests of the system’s ability to intercept a mock enemy warhead failed, the Times acknowledged. The system was finally upgraded to “operational” in 2004, but five of the eight tests held in the last decade have failed as well.

The GMD system is expected to intercept incoming missiles, like hypothetical attacks waged by adversaries such as Iran or North Korea. Even when US officials have scripted test drills to try out this ability, however, the GMD program has hardly acted as expected. The last successful intercept occurred five-and-a-half years ago, and the last three attempts — two in 2010 and one last July — all were unsuccessful.

“The tests are scripted for success,” Philip E. Coyle III, a former director of operational testing and evaluation for the Pentagon, told the Times. “What’s amazing to me is that they still fail.”

Because of this tainted track record, all eyes are expected to be on a drill later this month on June 22. MDA Director Navy Vice Adm. James Syring told Congress recently that the upcoming intercept flight test remains his “highest priority,” and with good reason:14 new intercepts could be added to a MDA system currently composed of 30 if the upcoming test is a success, but Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hinted that failure would mean a halt in funding.

Speaking before Congress, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) said “not just friends of the United States but even our enemies” will monitor the next round of testing in order to gauge the current abilities of the MDA program.

“I’m also optimistic we have identified the cause of the intercept failure involving our first-generation EKV last July when the CE-1 failed to separate from the booster’s third stage,” Syring said. “We have accounted for this issue in the upcoming flight test and we are working toward a correction for the entire fleet before the end of the year.”

Regardless, Syring is appealing to Congress for $99.5 million to begin what he described Wednesday to the Times as “redesign improvement” that would stop short of a complete overhaul, sources familiar with the matter told the paper.

June 17, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

Russia threatens to quit START as US deploys Aegis destroyer to Spain

RT | February 2, 2014

The US has deployed a ballistic missile defense destroyer to Spain to boost NATO’s anti-missile shield in Europe. The move, allegedly aimed at curbing the Iranian threat, has sparked talks about Russia possibly scrapping the START nuclear treaty.

The deployment of the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook, equipped with the Aegis shipboard integrated combat weapons system, was announced by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

“An important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran,” Hagel said, adding that the US is committed “to deploying missile defense architecture there,” as a part of Phase 3 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA).

Hagel also said that over the next two years, three additional Aegis-enabled missile defense-capable destroyers will join the effort to protect NATO countries on the European continent.

“Despite fiscal constraints, the budget that we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense,” Hagel said, reiterating views he also expressed on a visit to Poland earlier last week.

“There are some capabilities that the United States military will continue to invest heavily in,” Hagel told the Munich conference. “We will continue to be the world leader in those kinds of capabilities.”

In his Munich speech, Hagel also mentioned that China and Russia “are rapidly modernizing their militaries and global defense industries, challenging our technological edge and defense partnerships around the world.”

The USS Donald Cook will become the first of four ballistic missile defense (BMD)-capable ships based in Europe. It will be joined by the destroyer Ross in a few months, while Carney and Porter will reach European waters in 2015.

The US Navy estimates that 1,239 military personnel will move to Spain’s port of Rota as part of the EPAA plan, according to the Congressional Research Service. The move will cost $92 million, with another $100 million being spent annually on maintaining the ships in Spain.

The Obama administration claims this deployment will serve to protect US allies in Europe from Iranian and possibly North Korean missile threats.

The movement of the four destroyers to Spain and a creation of a ground-based radar is Phase 1 of the EPAA. Phase 2 is the installation of the Aegis Ashore armed with Standard SM-3 IB interceptor missiles in Romania. Phase 3 of EPAA is the creation of Polish Aegis Ashore installation, armed with SM-3 IIA missiles. Phase 4, involving deployment of SM-3 IIB missiles, was canceled by the US in March 2013.

The destroyers in Spain are known as “forward deployed naval forces” (FDNF), as they enable the US Navy to provide more forward-based presence with fewer ships, and also cut down on the transit time when tackling a wide range of threats.

“Permanently forward-deploying four ships in Rota will enable us to be in the right place, not just at the right time, but all the time,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said, Defense News reported.

Russia may consider withdrawing from START treaty

In the meantime, if the US continues boosting its anti-missile capabilities through developing its missile defense system in Europe, Russia may eventually be forced to withdraw from the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), the Russian Foreign Ministry’s top disarmament official, Mikhail Ulyanov, has warned.

“We are concerned that the US is continuing to build up missile defense capability without considering the interests and concerns of Russia,” Ulyanov told Interfax. “Such a policy can undermine strategic stability and lead to a situation where Russia will be forced to exercise [its] right of withdrawal from the [START] treaty.”

Ulyanov said that the legal basis for Moscow to scrap the START treaty is legislated for within the text of the agreement, which Russia says it has so far fully implemented. In certain exceptional cases, involving a known threat to national security, both Russia and the US have the option to quit the treaty.

“The statement on missile defense made by the Russian side on April 8, 2010, at the signing of the START Treaty, explicitly states that such exceptional circumstances include the build-up of missile defense systems by the United States, which threatens the potential of Russian Federation’s strategic nuclear forces,” Ulyanov said. “A similar [regulation] is contained in the Federal Law on the Ratification of the New START treaty.”

Ulyanov said that “at the current stage” Russian experts estimate that the US missile defense system “has not yet reached a level that would represent a threat to the efficiency of Russian strategic deterrence forces.”

Moscow hopes to eventually come to terms with Washington on the issue of European missile shield, Ulyanov said. “Such a chance, of course, remains, but everything depends on the political will of the US.”

The New START Treaty was signed between US and Russia in April 2010 and entered into force after ratification in February 2011. It is planned to last until at least 2021.

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , | Leave a comment

Unilateral missile defence plans great challenge to non-nuclear world – Russian envoy

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Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva Alexei Borodavkin
EPA/Salvatore Di Nolfi
ITAR-TASS | January 21, 2014

GENEVA – Unilateral plans for creating a global missile defense are the strongest challenge to the idea of ridding the world of nuclear weapons, Russia’s permanent representative at the UN office and other international organizations in Geneva, Alexei Borodavkin, told the conference on disarmament on Tuesday.

“Russia’s and the United States’ experience of implementing a number of agreements on the reduction of nuclear arsenals indicates that a short way towards a common goal simply does not exist,” he said. “Also, the situation in the modern world to my deep regret by no means promotes the conclusion of more agreements in the nuclear disarmament sphere.”

According to the diplomat, “some negative factors that undermine strategic stability” have been gaining strength.

“Unilateral plans for creating a global missile defense system are the strongest challenge on the road to a nuclear-weapons-free world,” Borodavkin said. They are fraught with an anti-destabilizing potential. They contradict the fundamental principle of impermissibility of strengthening one’s own security to the detriment of others.

“Abuse of this principle, in view of the inseparable link between the defense and strategic offensive weapons, may have extremely negative consequences in various spheres, including the disarmament agenda,” the Russian envoy said.

Borodavkin said that alongside the missile defense one should remember plans for the implementation of the concept of an instant global strike, imbalances in conventional armaments, and insufficient progress towards the enforcement of the NPT treaty.

“We are certain that all countries having nuclear potentials should join the efforts in the field of nuclear disarmament,” he said.

January 22, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Preemptive strike rationale deepens North Korean status quo

BY Nile Bowie | RT | October 7, 2013

Seoul and Washington have signed a new military pact that provides for carrying out preemptive strikes on North Korea, a move that will only deepen mutual distrust and damage inter-Korean cooperation.

In stark contrast to the hardline saber-rattling that ensued following Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February, ties between the two Koreas have simmered significantly in recent months with the reopening of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in September after five months of closure.

Still, diplomatic exchanges always seem go nowhere, and often end in finger-pointing. Since coming to power earlier this year, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has further entrenched the policies of her deeply unpopular predecessor, Lee Myun-bak, with a harder military stance on Pyongyang. Seoul’s posturing recently culminated in a massive military parade showcasing homemade cruise missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere within North Korea, as well as Israeli-made Spike missiles that have been deployed right on the tense Northern limit line separating the two countries. Seoul plans to spend nearly $1 billion dollars on enhancing its missile defense capabilities over the next year.

Following a recent meeting between Chuck Hagel and the South Korea’s Defense Ministry, the so-called “Tailored Deterrence Strategy” has been rolled out, detailing the protocol for a preemptive strike on North Korea in the event of Pyongyang’s impending usage of WMDs.

According to the doctrine, Seoul can employ not only conventional strikes and missile defense capabilities, but also the American nuclear umbrella. Starting from 2014, the US Air Force will begin flying surveillance drones near North Korean borders to gather intelligence data.

Pyongyang hasn’t exactly applauded this news, and has fired back, promising to preempt any strike by attacking first. The scenario is a familiar one – Seoul and Pyongyang armed to the teeth, promising mutually assured destruction and war in one of the world’s most densely populated and economically productive regions.

Looking through the North’s eyes

Considering that North Korea is viewed as a belligerent and irrational actor, coupled with its self-imposed isolation, the views of North Korean people themselves are seldom taken into account in the outside world.

If these views were considered through the eyes of Pyongyang, they would be truly puzzled by the perception of “the North Korean threat” espoused by the West.

It would be irresponsible to dismiss the premise of the North’s tangible destructive capacity to the South, but in relative terms, Pyongyang’s aged military arsenal and nascent nuclear capability absolutely pales in comparison to the South’s sophisticated modern arsenal, America’s nuclear umbrella, and thousands of US troops just across the border.

The introduction of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers in joint military exercises earlier this year was perceived by Pyongyang as a dress rehearsal for a nuclear strike on the North. Not to mention the elaborate annual joint military drills that often see the firing of live rounds in disputed territorial waters.

To borrow John F. Kennedy’s terminology, the Korean Peninsula today lives under “a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness” – and it would be disingenuous to place the blame for this situation on a single actor.

North Korea’s shortcomings are highly publicized and well known to everyone, but it is logical that under the ever-palpable threat of destruction and conventional, missile, or nuclear first strikes, Pyongyang becomes more deeply-isolated and more inclined to act forcefully.

As Russian FM Sergey Lavrov alluded to in his recent UN speech, the unnecessary use of military force is counterproductive in that it works to promote the necessity of WMDs as a method of self-defense. It should be apparent that the approach taken by South Korea and the United States is clearly not the most effective method to address the inter-Korean problems – to the contrary – these tactics can hasten a deterioration of the situation with staggering consequences.

Imminent collapse?

The main component of Pyongyang’s foreign policy approach could be categorized as ‘survival diplomacy,’ whereby provocative language or actions are used for the dual purpose of staving off foreign military interference and positioning itself in negotiations for concessions.

While seemingly irrational, there is an element of careful Machiavellianism in these maneuvers that has prevented the situation from spiraling out of control. If one reads North Korean newspapers like the Rodong Sinmun and others, there is a noticeable focus on economic development that should not be overlooked by outside actors. Pyongyang’s central priorities are three-pronged; ensuring domestic political stability; modernizing its economy and military capabilities; and leadership survival.

Contrary to the predictions of doomsday analysts, North Korea is not on the verge of collapse; in fact its economy expanded for a second successive year in 2012 with GDP figures of 1.3 percent, a meaningful shift from its previous years of negative growth figures.

Despite being one of the world’s poorest countries, UNICEF reported in 2012 that chronic malnutrition levels in North Korea amounted to only 5 percent of the population, while 35 percent remain undernourished – these figures reflect the general standards of other Asian countries, with North Korea actually showing more favorable figures than countries like India and Indonesia.

After an assessment in 2010, the World Health Organization chief claimed that Pyongyang’s healthcare system has improved considerably to the past decade, and that its condition was something “most other developing countries would envy.”

Although it officially denies having a network of gulags throughout the country for political prisoners, recent reports by human rights organizations put the number of inmates at somewhere between approximately 80,000 to 120,000. If these reports are to be believed, it would amount to roughly 0.08% of the population, a reasonably low figure by international standards.

The need to compromise

Finding an answer to the Korean question will require ample flexibility by all sides, and requires adopting both new solutions and more vigorously reviving policies that have reduced tension previously.

There is tremendous potential for economic exchange between the two Koreas, and it would be in the interests of all players in the region to promote joint economic, manufacturing and industrial projects with North Korea. Of course, this would only be acceptable to Pyongyang with respect to its own terms and central objectives of sustaining the leadership.

Russia’s initiative to create an ‘Iron Silk Road’ connecting South Korea to the Trans-Siberian Railway through a border freight railway traversing North Korea is an example of a mutually beneficial project that helps improve Pyongyang’s infrastructure in the process. It’s clear North Korea would certainly like to channel more resources into developing its economy and national industries, but spending on military affairs takes priority for obvious reasons.

North Korea is the only state to have withdrawn from the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in open pursuit of nuclear weapons, in defiance of UN resolutions. If any possibility still exists for nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula, it would have to come with major economic concessions, gradual disarmament, and a reduction of US troops in South Korea, which the North has repeatedly called for.

In a recent speech to the UN, North Korean Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Pak Kil Yon maintained, “nuclear disarmament negotiations should commence without further delay to work on universal instruments legally codifying the negative security assurances and the prohibition of use of nuclear weapons.” Although the suggestion is seemingly at odds with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions at face value, this statement implies that some comprise is possible if compatible with Pyongyang’s central priority of leadership survival.

North Korea’s nuclear program is universally opposed, and China has recently banned a list of equipment and chemical substances for export to North Korea that can be used to develop a nuclear-capable ICBM. Beijing has also pushed for restarting the Six-Party Talks, which can serve a favorable function if North Korea can be convinced that its security and territorial integrity will not be infringed upon.

One of the most famous of the ancient Greek fables of Aesop tells of a rivalry between the Wind and the Sun competing to make a passing wanderer remove his cloak. When the Wind blew, the wanderer only wrapped his cloak tighter, but when the Sun glimmered and warmed the air, the wanderer found the coat to be unnecessary and removed it. The superiority of persuasion over force is a virtue worth remembering.

Nile Bowie is a political analyst and photographer currently residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He can be reached on Twitter or at nilebowie@gmail.com

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US missile defense test fails: Pentagon

The News | July 6, 2013

WASHINGTON: America’s missile defense system failed on Friday in a test over the Pacific, with an interceptor failing to hit an incoming ballistic missile, the Pentagon said.

The miss represented yet another setback for the costly ground-based interceptors, which have not had a successful test result since 2008.

The test’s objective was to have an interceptor, launched from Vandenberg air base in California, knock out a long-range ballistic missile fired from a US military test site at Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands.

But “an intercept was not achieved,” US Missile Defense Agency spokesman Richard Lehner said in a brief statement.

“Program officials will conduct an extensive review to determine the cause or causes of any anomalies which may have prevented a successful intercept,” it said.

The anti-missile weapon has run into repeated technical problems, with tests delayed after two failures in 2010.

The United States has 30 of the ground-based interceptors in Alaska and California, at a cost of about $34 billion.

They are supposed to counter the potential threat posed by North Korea, which has tried to develop long-range ballistic missiles.

The Pentagon wants to deploy an additional 14 ground-based interceptors to bases in Alaska, at a cost of about $1 billion, also in response to what Washington deems a growing threat from North Korea.

Some lawmakers also are pushing to open a new missile defense site on the country’s East Coast, in case Iran or other adversaries obtain long-range missiles.

Critics of the missile defense program are sure to seize on the test result as further proof that the system faces insurmountable technical hurdles.

July 6, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , | 1 Comment