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Nuclear talks in doubt after North Korea test-fires two new missiles
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea test-fired two new short-range ballistic missiles on Thursday, South Korean officials said, its first missile test since its leader, Kim Jong Un, and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to revive denuclearization talks last month.
South Korea, which supports efforts by North Korea and the United States to end years of hostility, urged the North to stop acts that are unhelpful to easing tension, saying the tests posed a military threat on the Korean peninsula.
The South's National Security Council said it believed the missiles were a new type of ballistic missile but it would make a final assessment with the United States.
Firing a ballistic missile would be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the North from the use of such technology. North Korea has rejected the restriction as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defense.
North Korea launched the missiles from the east coast city of Wonsan with one flying about 430 km (267 miles) and the other 690 km (428 miles) over the sea. They both reached an altitude of 50 km (30 miles), an official at South Korea's Defense Ministry said.
Some analysts said the North appeared to have retested missiles it fired in May, but two South Korean military officials said the missiles appeared to be a new design.
The launch casts new doubt on efforts to restart stalled denuclearization talks after Trump and Kim met at the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the two Koreas at the end of June.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho had been expected to meet on the sidelines of a Southeast Asian security forum in Bangkok next week.
But a diplomatic source told Reuters on Thursday that Ri had canceled his trip to the conference.
The White House, Pentagon and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the test had no immediate impact on Japan's security, according to Kyodo News.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who has taken a hard line toward North Korea, made no mention of the launches in a tweet on Thursday after a visit to South Korea. He said he had "productive meetings" on regional security.
South Korea's nuclear envoy, Lee Do-hoon, had phone calls with his U.S. counterpart, Stephen Biegun, and his Japanese counterpart, Kenji Kanasugi, to share their assessment, South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a briefing that Beijing had noted the launch, and called for North Korea and the United States to reopen negotiations "as early as possible".
After Trump and Kim met last month, the United States and North Korea vowed to hold a new round of working-level talks soon, but Pyongyang has since sharply criticized upcoming joint military drills by U.S. and South Korean troops.
North Korea's foreign ministry accused Washington this month of breaking a promise by holding military exercises with South Korea. On Tuesday, Kim inspected a large, newly built submarine from which ballistic missiles could be launched.
"By firing missiles, taking issue with military drills and showing a new submarine, the North is sending one clear message: there might be no working-level talks if the United States doesn't present a more flexible stance," said Kim Hong-kyun, a former South Korean nuclear envoy.
Kim Dong-yup, a former navy officer who teaches at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said the weapons tested on Thursday appeared to be the same as the ones tested in May, which were less of a challenge than long-range missiles but "enough to subtly pressure" Washington.
But the South Korean military believes they may be new, because they traveled further. In North Korea's previous missile test in May, the projectiles flew only 420 km (260 miles) and 270 km (168 miles) though they reached the same altitude of about 50 km (30 miles).
"We're very cautious because it's difficult to extend the range within such a short time," said one military official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Nuclear talks between North Korea and the United States stalled after a second summit between Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February broke down.
Trump has repeatedly lauded the North's freeze in weapons testing as he is keen for a big foreign policy win as he campaigns for re-election in 2020.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee, Josh Smith, Hyonhee Shin and Jane Chung; David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in WASHINGTON, and Huizhong Wu in BEIJING; Editing by Jack Kim, Robert Birsel)
While the U.S. military wants to keep roughly 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's deputy leader has just made clear that his group wants all U.S. service members to leave the country as part of any peace agreement.
"The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand," Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in a story for the New York Times on Thursday.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."
A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.
Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.
Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.
While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.