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MISSILE DEFENSE
Russia takes swipe at US missile defence in South Korea
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 20, 2017


North Korea nuclear programme in 'new phase': IAEA
Seoul (AFP) March 21, 2017 - North Korea's uranium enrichment facility has doubled in size over the last few years, the UN's atomic watchdog chief has warned, as global tensions grow over Pyongyang's burgeoning nuclear weapons programme.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told the Wall Street Journal that the isolated state's nuclear capacities are being ramped up.

"The situation is very bad... It has gone into a new phase," Amano said, in the report published Monday. "All of the indications point to the fact that North Korea is making progress, as they declared."

International alarm over Pyongyang's military ambitions has risen after a series of missile launches and nuclear tests last year, and earlier this month it fired four rockets in what it described as practice for an attack on United States military bases in Japan.

The North, which also tested a powerful new rocket engine at the weekend to coincide with a trip to Asia by US Secretary State Rex Tillerson, has long coveted a missile capable of hitting the US mainland with a nuclear warhead.

Pyongyang has rapidly expanded its facilities for enriching uranium and plutonium production in recent years, Amano told the Journal, expressing doubt over the potential for a diplomatic solution.

During his visit to South Korea last week, Tillerson declared Washington would drop the "failed" approach of "strategic patience" with Pyongyang and warned that US military action was possible.

That marked a sharp divergence from China's insistence on a diplomatic approach to its neighbour, which it has long protected.

In January, South Korea said the North had enough plutonium to make 10 nuclear bombs, as well as a "considerable" ability to produce weapons based on highly-enriched uranium.

The North has boosted plutonium supplies by reactivating its once-mothballed nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

Russia on Monday criticised the deployment of a US anti-missile system aimed at North Korea, saying it poses "serious risks" to the region.

The US this month began installing the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea in response to the North's intensifying ballistic missile development.

Allies Washington and Seoul say it is for purely defensive purposes. China fears it could undermine its own nuclear deterrent and has lashed out, imposing measures seen as economic retaliation on South Korea.

Russia, meanwhile, took advantage of diplomatic and defence talks with US ally Japan to criticise the development.

"We drew attention to the serious risks posed by the deployment of elements of the American global anti-missile system in the Asia-Pacific region," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a press conference, saying Moscow raised the issue in the talks.

"If this is meant to counter threats coming from North Korea, then the deployment of this system and accumulating armaments in the region is a disproportionate reply," he added, apparently referring to THAAD.

Russia last year also expressed worries over plans for the deployment in South Korea.

Lavrov's comments came after so-called two-plus-two talks between the foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Japan.

They also followed a high-profile visit to the region by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who warned that American military action against the North was an option "on the table."

North Korea did come in for criticism at the Russia-Japan meeting for its nuclear and missile development.

"We shared the view that we will strongly urge North Korea to exercise self-restraint over further provocative actions and follow UN Security Council resolutions," said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.

North Korea is banned by the international community from pursuing nuclear and missile programmes but has defiantly ploughed ahead.

It staged its two latest nuclear tests last year and recently fired off missiles which it described as practice for an attack on US bases in Japan.

Japan and Russia also tried to further bridge differences over a long-standing territorial dispute dating from World War II but achieved no major breakthroughs.

The Soviet Union seized four islands off Japan's northern coast in 1945 in the closing days of the war and the dispute has prevented a peace treaty to formally end the conflict.

The foreign and defence ministers' meeting, the first since late 2013, followed a December summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin that focused on the territorial row.

Kishida announced that Abe will visit Russia in late April to continue their discussions on efforts to finally conclude a peace treaty ending the war.

MISSILE DEFENSE
Saudi intercepts Yemen rebel missile as camp toll rises
Riyadh (AFP) March 18, 2017
A Yemeni rebel missile was intercepted over Saudi Arabia late Friday, a Saudi-led coalition said, as the death toll from a rebel attack on a Yemeni army camp rose to 32. The rebels' Saba news agency said the missile was aimed at offices of Saudi oil giant Aramco in the town of Jizan. The coalition, which has been fighting the rebels in support of government forces for the past two years, ... read more

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