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ROCKET SCIENCE
N.Korea rocket test shows 'meaningful progress': South
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 20, 2017


Israel says it foiled Syrian ballistic missile threat
Jerusalem (AFP) March 20, 2017 - A senior army officer said Monday that Israel had fired its Arrow missile at a Syrian rocket which posed a "ballistic threat" during clashes over the weekend.

Israeli warplanes struck several targets in Syria on Friday, drawing retaliatory missile fire, in the most serious incident between the two countries since the start of the Syrian war six years ago.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the air strikes targeted weapons bound for Lebanon's Shiite militant group Hezbollah, and that Israel would do the same again if necessary.

Syria's military launched anti-aircraft missiles at the attackers and said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they carried out pre-dawn strikes near the desert city of Palmyra.

Israel denied any of its aircraft was hit.

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defence systems "without the slightest hesitation" if they fired on Israeli planes in future.

During the sortie, Israel threw its Arrow interceptor into the fray to take out what the officer said Monday was believed to have been a Russian-made SA 5 missile.

"It was a ballistic threat focused on the state of Israel," he said, speaking in English to foreign media on condition of anonymity.

"Our mission is to defend the state and the people of Israel," he added. "That was exactly the case last week."

Former prime minister and defence minister Ehud Barak has questioned the wisdom of the Arrow launch, saying it may have escalated tensions with Syria in too public a manner.

Missile fragments fell in Jordan, which borders both Israel and Syria, without causing casualties.

But the Israeli officer said Monday that the Syrian missile, weighing "tonnes and carrying hundreds of kilos of explosives" had posed a threat that could not have been ignored.

"Try to imagine the meaning if this kind of threat would hit the cities and towns of Israel," he said.

Launching the Arrow, jointly developed by the United States and Israel, was "a correct and effective solution", he added.

Russia's foreign ministry on Monday said it had summoned Israel's ambassador over the strikes and "expressed concern".

Israel and Syria are still technically at war, though the border had remained largely quiet for decades until 2011 when the Syrian conflict broke out.

Iranian-backed Hezbollah has been fighting inside Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels.

While Israel has largely avoided getting sucked into the conflict directly, it has repeatedly struck Syrian territory, particularly targeting alleged Hezbollah weapons convoys.

North Korea's latest rocket engine test showed "meaningful progress" in its missile capabilities, Seoul said Monday, as the nuclear-armed state steps up its controversial weapons development programmes.

The North's leader Kim Jong-Un oversaw the "successful" test of the powerful new rocket engine, state media said Sunday, in a move apparently timed to coincide with a trip to Asia by new US Secretary State Rex Tillerson.

It was the latest in a series of moves by Pyongyang, which have recently included the firing of four missiles to its east in what it described as practice for an attack on US army bases in Japan.

"The latest test is believed to have made some meaningful progress in engine functions," Seoul's defence ministry spokesman told reporters.

"But we need more analysis on its exact propulsive power and applicable use," said Lee Jin-Woo.

The North's last ground test of a high-powered rocket engine -- which can be used in missiles -- was in September last year, and also observed by Kim.

The weekend's experiment came as the top US diplomat wrapped up his trip to Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing, having declared Washington would drop the "failed" approach of "strategic patience" with Pyongyang.

In Seoul, Tillerson also warned that US military action against Pyongyang was possible -- a sharp divergence from China's insistence on a diplomatic approach to its neighbour, which it has long protected.

Late Monday, the North's state news agency KCNA boasted that Tillerson had "admitted the failure" of US policy to denuclearise the nation.

Repeating its regular claim that it needs nuclear and missile weapons for self-defence, the statement said the US would not "frighten" Pyongyang.

"The world will soon witness what eventful significance" its most recent rocket engine test would have, the report added.

The North has conducted five nuclear tests since 2006 -- three under Kim Jong-Un -- and launched a number of missiles as it seeks to develop a weapon capable of reaching the US mainland.

Expert opinions vary on how advanced the North's missile capabilities are, but most agree it has made significant progress in recent years.

A growing threat from the North has prompted Seoul and Washington to begin installing a powerful US missile defence system in the South -- angering Beijing, which views it as a threat to China's own missile capabilities.

The deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) has prompted angry protests in China and boycotts of South Korean businesses, and further strained ties between Beijing and Washington.

ROCKET SCIENCE
N. Korea's Kim hails engine test as 'new birth' for rocket industry
Seoul (AFP) March 19, 2017
North Korea has tested a powerful new rocket engine, state media said Sunday, with leader Kim Jong-Un hailing the successful test as a "new birth" for the nation's rocket industry. The test was apparently timed to coincide with the visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Beijing Saturday, where he warned that regional tensions had reached a "dangerous level". State news agency sa ... read more

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