I copied this Article in “theguardian”, Australia edition, from Monday, 4 September 2017

5 Sep

I find of special interest the figures about military spending in this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/04/south-korea-simulates-attack-kim-jong-un-north-korea-nuclear-test-site

South Korea holds live-fire drills and warns of more launches by North

South Korea has carried out a simulated attack on North Korea’s nuclear test site in a huge show of force after Pyongyang detonated what it claimed was a hydrogen bomb.

Seoul has also approved the complete deployment of a US anti-missile system in another sign it intends to address North Korean provocations with reminders of its own military firepower, while keeping the door open to dialogue.

South Korean intelligence officials said there were indications that the North was preparing to test fire another ballistic missile, though they did not say when they believed the launches would take place.

The army and air force drills, held at an undisclosed location on Monday morning, involved launching ballistic missiles in a simulated strike against North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site – the scene of Sunday’s controlled detonation of what Pyongyang claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb capable of being loaded on to an intercontinental ballistic missile.

South Korean forces conducted the drill alone, but further joint exercises are planned with the US in an attempt to remind the North of the firepower ranged against it, according to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff.

In addition, Seoul and Washington are considering the deployment of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, strategic bomber and other military hardware to the Korean peninsula in response to Sunday’s test.

Monday’s live-fire drills were held hours after James Mattis, the US defence secretary, said there would be a “massive military response” if North Korea threatened the US or any of its allies.

“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam or our allies, will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” he said after meeting Donald Trump and his national security team.

Mattis added: “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea. But as I said, we have many options to do so

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Switzerland, which has troops deployed in the demarcation zone between South Korea and North Korea, offered to help as mediator in the crisis, including by hosting ministerial talks. “It is really time now to sit down at a table,” Swiss president Doris Leuthard said. “Big powers have a responsibility.”

In a sign that South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, is hardening his stance towards Pyongyang, his government approved additional deployments of a controversial US missile defence system, possibly as early as this week.

Moon had initially opposed the introduction of terminal high-altitude area defence, or Thaad, which had been agreed to by his conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye.

He appears to have dropped his objections in light of North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests, and a dramatic rise in tensions on the peninsula since he took office in May.

Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea national diplomatic academy in Seoul, said Sunday’s nuclear test had convinced Moon to respond with a show of military might.

“He is getting tougher and tougher because the nuclear test showed that North Korea is moving closer to the ‘red line’,” Kim told the Guardian. “Moon will be flexible, but he knows that this is not the time for talks with North Korea.”

That red line would be crossed if Pyongyang perfected a long-range missile with the ability to carry a nuclear warhead to the US mainland, Kim said, adding that North Korea’s emergence as a genuine nuclear state would increase pressure on Seoul and Tokyo to develop their own nuclear deterrents.

“The US’s ability to defend Japan and South Korea is at the core of its alliances in the region, but if North Korea becomes a de facto nuclear state, then those countries would face pressure to develop nuclear deterrents independent of the US,” he said.

North Korea’s military spending is less than 1.3% that of the US

$7.5bn

North Korea

$299 per person

 

$44bn

South Korea

$860 per perso

 

$44bn per person

Japan

$346 per person

$162bn

China

$118 per person

$588bn

US annual defence budget

$1,817 per person

 

The first two Thaad batteries went operational, amid widespread opposition, in the central village of Seongju in late April. The deployment of a further four batteries was suspended pending the outcome of an environmental impact assessment.

South Korea’s environment ministry had approved Thaad’s “temporary” deployment after a government assessment concluded that the system’s powerful X-band radar posed no danger to the environment or the health of local people.

The new launchers will also be deployed in Seongju, about 190 miles ((300km) south of Seoul. Each Thaad battery comprises six launchers and a radar system. China has angrily opposed Thaad deployments, saying the system’s powerful radar could be used to spy on its missile programme and so represents a threat to its national security.

Moon and Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, will push hard for further sanctions against North Korea when the UN security council meets later on Monday.

Abe told Moon in a phone call on Monday that Sunday’s nuclear test was “a head-on challenge to the international community”, according to Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, Yasutoshi Nishimura.

Abe said the international community should bring the “strongest possible pressure” to bear on Pyongyang, including additional sanctions. He said Japan would urge China and Russia to do more to pressure the North Korean regime to halt its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.

Moon said South Korea vowed to maintain a strong bilateral security alliance with the US to counter provocations from the North, after Trump chastised Seoul for talking about “appeasement” towards Pyongyang.

That description is likely to have caused consternation in South Korea, where officials have maintained that they are combining economic and military pressure while not ruling out dialogue – essentially the stance being taken by Washington.

The US has reiterated that it is “100%” committed to defending South Korea and Japan – where it has tens of thousands of troops – under bilateral security treaties.

On Sunday, Trump hinted that Washington and Seoul were drifting apart on how to deal with the North Korean threat. The South, he tweeted, “is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing”.

Patrick Cronin, an Asia expert with the Center for a New American Security, said Trump’s comment was probably “intended to stiffen the spine of an ally”.

“I think Washington is very serious about showing some unexpected resolve,” Cronin told the Associated Press. “We need our ally and we need to remain ironclad. But at the same time, we can’t afford South Korea to go weak in facing down this growing danger.”

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said land-based Hyunmoo-2A missiles and SLAM-ER long-range missiles fired by F-15K fighter jets had hit designated targets in the East Sea, the Korean name for the Sea of Japan.

Under an agreement with the US, South Korea is banned from developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 800km (497 miles) and a payload exceeding 500kg (1,102lb).

Seoul is reportedly seeking double the warhead weight limit, according to media reports. The JoongAng newspaper quoted a spokesman at the presidential Blue House in Seoul as saying the two countries had agreed “in principle” on the need to improve South Korea’s missile defences.

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