09/29/2017, 17.27
NORTH KOREA
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Pyongyang's missile programme getting better in range and payload, and is now a "global threat"

Tensions with the United States continue. More than 4 million people enlist for war with the US. China closes North Korean firms.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The speed with which the Pyongyang’s nuclear program progresses is a new "global threat", said Amano Yukiya, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reacting to North Korea's latest nuclear test.

As experts warn that the latest tests are greater in range and payload, tensions with the United States remain. At the same time, China is stepping away from its ally, ordering North Korean firms or joint ventures in China to shut down.

David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), looked at North Korea’s latest tests. The missile launched on 28 July had a range of about 1,000 kilometres, which put it in Japanese territorial waters; however, it could be much worse as Pyongyang seems capable of reaching the US West Coast.

Reports suggest that the maximum altitude of the launch was 3,700 kilometres. “If those numbers are correct, the missile flown on a standard trajectory would have a range 10,400 km (6,500 miles), not taking into account the Earth’s rotation,” the UCS said in a press release.

This means that Los Angeles (9,500 km), Denver (9,800 km), and Chicago (10,400 km) would be within range. New York (10,750 km) might be just outside by 350 km.

According to Wright, however, the missile launched on 15 September, which flew over Japanese waters, followed a standard trajectory. The same goes for the one in late August. However, this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with a range of five to ten kilometres.

“Even assuming the missile carried a 150-kiloton warhead, which may be the yield of North Korea’s recent nuclear test, a missile of this inaccuracy would still have well under a 10% chance of destroying the air base,” Wright wrote in September.

Another worrying thing is the magnitude of recent tests. On 3 September 2017 at noon, local time, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear explosion at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test site. The explosion was powerful enough that changes to the environment could be detected.

Radar satellite imagery revealed the subsidence of the peak of Mount Mantap.  This suggests that the explosion occurred within the tunnel complex at the mountain where North Korea also conducted its most recent four nuclear tests in 2009, 2013 and 2016.

According to Frank V Pabian, Joseph S Bermudez Jr and Jack Liu in 38 North, “New commercial satellite imagery confirms earlier 38 North analysis identifying numerous landslides throughout the test site, including additional slippage in pre-existing landslide scars and a possible subsidence crater.

For the scientists, this could mean that North Korea has tested a hydrogen bomb, but it still unclear whether there have been any leaks and radioactive pollution.

Meanwhile, tensions between Pyongyang and Washington continue. Two days ago, US President Donald Trump accused North Korea of ​​torturing Otto Warmbier, a US student convicted and jailed in 2016 who died shortly after his release and return to the United States.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded by calling Trump an "old dotard" who used Wambier's death for propaganda against the regime.

North Korea claims 4.7 million of its citizens have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military to stand up to the United States, local media report.

This is not the first time that Pyongyang has claimed that North Koreans have volunteered to join the military as part of propaganda campaigns to boost solidarity, this according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.

More significantly, Beijing has ordered North Korean firms and joint ventures in China to close within 120 days of the UN decision, which was announced on 12 September.

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