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Missile Defense 101: N. Korea could hit with little warning

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  • As UK, Ohanaeze, ACF, PDP warn soldiers against coup over Buratai’s alert

The scenario has become pretty familiar by now. Sometime in the early morning, a missile roars off its launcher in North Korea and flies off — to a splash zone somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. But what if Pyongyang wasn’t just testing its hardware or drilling its troops? How long would it take to hit its real-world, primary targets?

Below, two experts talk to The Associated Press about what would happen if North Korea fired at targets near and far. They are David Wright, senior scientist and co-director of the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and analyst Markus Schiller, of ST Analytics, an independent space technology and rocketry consulting company based in Germany.

Well before North Korea had a nuclear program, it realized it could hold the 10 million people of greater Seoul, the capital of South Korea, hostage with the threat of a massive, conventional artillery strike from its dug-in gun batteries concentrated just north of the Demilitarized Zone.

If it were to launch such a strike first, the first wave of shells could land with essentially no warning. Estimates vary as to how much damage such an attack could actually wreak — Pyongyang can’t, as it has claimed, reduce Seoul to a sea of ashes before a pulverizing counterattack — but it would be considerable.

It has Patriot missile-defense batteries, but they are intended to protect against short-range Scud missiles. They would not help against an artillery attack. The much-talked-about, state-of-the-art THAAD missile defense system deployed in South Korea this month also cannot protect Seoul from either artillery or incoming missiles — it isn’t designed to do that from its current site.

To make things uglier, the North could hit the South with chemical or biological warheads.

One nuclear scenario that has been raised is an attack on the city of Busan, a major port sometimes used by the U.S. Navy. That’s an option Pyongyang might consider if it believed it was under immediate threat of attack and wanted to make a show of overwhelming force to keep Washington from committing further.

Japan also has Patriot missiles it deploys, among other places, on the grounds of its Defense Ministry in downtown Tokyo.

It helped develop with the U.S. the ship-based Aegis system, which is designed to intercept medium-range missiles and potentially intermediate-range ones — that means missiles with a range of less than about 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles).

The Patriots are designed to intercept an incoming missile at its “terminal stage” — just before it hits — if the Aegis’ ship-based SM-3 missiles fail to intercept them farther out and higher up, at mid-course.

Schiller has one strong caution at this point: It remains unknown whether Pyongyang actually has a working nuclear warhead, “not just some nuclear device that goes boom in a tunnel, under laboratory conditions.”

But serious questions have been raised over whether this multilayer strategy, even when augmented by the THAAD system, would be a reliable missile shield.

One problem is whether it could be overwhelmed by a “swarm” attack — several incoming missiles at the same time.

North Korea, likely aware of that fear, simultaneously launched four medium-range Scud ER missiles into the Sea of Japan in March.

Recognizing the current shield’s weaknesses, some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are pushing for a first-strike plan of Japan’s own, using ballistic or cruise missiles, or F-35 stealth fighters.

In the meantime, regional bodies, the Peoples Democratic Party, civil rights groups and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria among others, on Wednesday, urged military officers and other individuals toying with the idea of a coup in Nigeria to perish the thought.

Among those that condemned the alleged plot of a military intervention are the United Kingdom Government; the umbrella body for the North, the Arewa Consultative Forum; the Igbo socio-political organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo; and a prominent lawyer, Alhaji Yusuf Ali (SAN).

Also, two Civil-Society Organisations – Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders – condemned the alleged romance between some Nigerians and a soldiers for political reasons.

In separate interviews with The PUNCH on Wednesday, they declared that coups were no longer fashionable.

The Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, however, warned Buratai not to turn himself to a whistle-blower.

They spoke against the backdrop of a warning by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, who alleged, on Tuesday, that some people were approaching soldiers for political reasons, warning the soldiers, who might heed such overtures of serious consequences.

A statement by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Sani Usman, on Tuesday, stated, “This is to inform the public that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. T. Y. Buratai, has received information that some individuals have been approaching some officers and soldiers for undisclosed political reasons. On the basis of that, he has warned such persons to desist from these acts.”

Although  Buratai did not elaborate on the political reasons, there had been fears by some Nigerians that such hobnobbing is a bad omen and may lead to a military intervention.

Curiously also, the COAS warning came a week after a major shakeup in the top echelons of the Army.

Abc with additional report from Punch

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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