Ruthless North Koreans leaders in Kim dynasty have made the West look ridiculous over nuclear threat

NORTH Korea’s successful test of a hydrogen bomb on Sunday has all but confirmed that Kim Jong-un has won his battle with the West. His abhorrent regime is now a nuclear threat to South Korea, Japan, Australia and the US. How has this been allowed to occur?

Firstly, Kim has absolute political power and control of his nation’s finances. He has demanded all necessary resources be diverted to his deadly ambition. Secondly, he has complete control over his population. The repressed masses of North Korea are among the most dehumanised people on Earth. While many tyrants have ruled around the globe during the past century, most come and go after a short time in power. Hitler’s 1000 Year Reich lasted 12 years, Pol Pot’s murderous utopia only four years. Kim Jong-un, his father Kim Jong-il (The Dear Leader) and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung (The Great Leader) have ruled North Korea since 1948.

The Kims are portrayed within a religious framework that includes a fable which claims that a new star and a double rainbow appeared in the sky when Kim Jong-il was born.

A carefully created cult of personality portrays the Kims as a God-like figures. The three leaders are glorified not only as national saviours, but as brilliant mathematicians, engineers and creative geniuses.

In this bizarre Marxist monarchy, there is no freedom of political or artistic expression, religion, creative thought, assembly or media. A paranoia about threats to his domination has led the current Kim to carry out many murderous purges. He ordered a former girlfriend and 11 other members of a state orchestra to be murdered by firing squad for allegedly engaging in pornography. He then ordered his uncle executed for crimes that included “dreaming alternative dreams”.

A special United Nations investigation led by former Australian High Court justice Michael Kirby described crimes including starvation, torture, forced disappearances and brutality in political prison camps.

Among the most bizarre crimes were the kidnappings of Japanese and South Koreans from the 1970s through to the early 2000s. They included teenagers kidnapped from beaches and a South Korean actor and her film director/former husband who were forced to make propaganda films for the regime until they escaped in 1989.

The three Kims have made fools of the US and the West for decades over the nuclear issue. “Talks” have been held which aimed to ensure the regime did not develop nuclear weapons. In the 1990s, the North’s economy collapsed and masses of North Koreans starved to death. The US, South Korea and Japan provided food aid and other support in exchange for promises that the North would move to end its nuclear program. But the Kims’ atomic program continued in secret while up to 500,000 people died of hunger-related illness.

Successive US presidents insisted the North would never “be allowed” to produce nuclear weapons but the rhetoric was not matched by any action.

Economic sanctions were undermined by China’s trade with Kim and its political protection of the dynasty. Recently, in reaction to news that the North may indeed be close to developing a workable nuclear-armed missile, US President Donald Trump stated: “It won’t happen.” As if.

North Korea has the required nuclear and missile technology. Fitting a nuclear warhead on to a working rocket that can survive atmospheric re-entry is all that is left. They must be very close. In short, Kim has already accomplished his atomic ambition.

Kim is not irrational and he is not about to launch anything at Guam. He makes his ridiculous comments and laughs while the world talks about it for days and takes his statements seriously.

A nuclear-armed North Korea is almost a reality and will provide what Kim yearns for most: a nuclear deterrent against a possible US pre-emptive strike. And that will provide Kim with the power to continue his tyranny and his family’s domination of his impoverished and repressed population for decades to come.

Dr Phil West is a Melbourne freelance writer whose doctoral dissertation examined US foreign policy during the Cold War

Kim Jong-un’s nuclear scientists take centre stage after missile test

Leader looking to cadre of weapons experts to realise ambition of developing missile that can carry nuclear warhead to US

Decorated by Pyongyang but blacklisted abroad, two scientists pictured with North Korea’s leader before Sunday’s nuclear test have emerged as playing vital roles in the ambitions of the rogue state’s leader, Kim Jong-un, say experts.

Photographs released by the official KCNA news agency hours before the test showed two men standing alongside Kim as he inspected a new peanut-shaped warhead, or perhaps a model of the bomb: Ri Hong-sop, the head of North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons Institute, and Hong Sung-mu, deputy director of the ruling Workers’ party of Korea’s munitions industry department.

North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sunday showed the country has either developed a hydrogen bomb – which has vastly more destructive power than atomic bombs – or is very getting close to obtaining one.

Several North Korea leadership experts say the two scientists are part of a cadre of weapons experts at the front line of Kim’s stated ambition: developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can carry a nuclear weapon to the US.

Compared with his father, Kim Jong-il, and grandfather Kim Il-sung – who preferred small working groups and middle managers to deal with weapons programmes – the 33-year-old leader has been more personally involved with these scientists, experts say, citing his frequent appearances with the technocrats at state events, weapons tests and field inspections.

“It appears that Hong is spearheading the nuclear development programme as a senior party official and Ri is in charge of nuclear tests such as hydrogen bombs on a working level,” said Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean studies in Seoul, who monitors the country’s hierarchy and leadership.

Reuters could not independently confirm the precise role of the two men. The North Korean government does not provide foreign media with a contact point in Pyongyang for comment by email, fax or phone. The North Korean mission to the UN was not immediately available for comment.

However, a Reuters review of North Korean state media showed the two scientists have become increasingly high profile as Pyongyang’s weapons programmes have advanced at a rapid pace under Kim’s leadership.

In January 2016, Hong and Ri were the first and second in line to receive medals personally awarded by Kim at a ceremony to mark the country’s fourth nuclear test, state television footage showed.

Two months later, they accompanied a smiling Kim inspecting a silver-coloured sphere, which the North said was a miniaturised warhead capable of being fitted to an ICBM.

The wider group of weapons technocrats includes a trio of rocket scientists who have accompanied Kim on several crucial missile launches, including two July ICBM test launches that showed much of the US mainland was now within range.

Like the three rocket scientists, Ri and Hong have been blacklisted in recent years by the UN, the US or South Korea for their roles in Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.

The UN blacklisted Ri in 2009, citing his involvement “in the production of weapons-grade plutonium”, while an expert UN panel this year noted Hong’s “key role in the country’s nuclear programme” as it recommended he also be sanctioned.

Ri is a former director of Yongbyon nuclear research centre, North Korea’s main nuclear facility north of Pyongyang. Yongbyon operates the country’s first nuclear reactors and its only confirmed uranium enrichment facility.

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear science professor at Stanford University and one of the last Americans to visit Yongbyon, recalled meeting Ri during several visits there between 2004 and 2008. During one of these visits, Ri showed Hecker around the plutonium reactor and the radiochemical lab there.

Ri “stated with pride” that North Korea’s nuclear researchers have mastered plutonium production with no outside help, Hecker said in a 2006 report about his Yongbyon visit to Stanford’s centre for international security and cooperation. Hecker did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Ri or the North Korean nuclear programme.

Hong is a former chief engineer at Yongbyon and has been at the ruling party’s munitions department since the mid-2000s. He rose to prominence after Kim took power in December 2011 after the death of his father, according to a South Korean government database.

Hong, 75, has been seen accompanying Kim on nuclear tests and long-range missile launches since 2012, the South Korean database and pictures released by KCNA show. He was educated in central and eastern Europe and possibly in Russia as well, while Ri attended seminars abroad, said Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership.

“They are top-level officials and the last generation of those who studied in the old communist world,” he said.

South Korea moves to boost weaponry amid threats from North

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office four months ago with plans to reach out to North Korea in a way his conservative predecessors did not in the previous decade. Two ICBM launches and one nuclear test later, his government is ramping up its defenses, with some officials even considering asking the United States to bring back tactical nuclear weapons a generation after their removal from the Korean Peninsula.

Seoul’s new interest in stronger weapons received a boost Tuesday when the Trump administration agreed to remove previous restrictions on South Korean missiles.

But South Korean hunger for military strength goes beyond just missiles. Government officials also endorse the nation getting nuclear-powered submarines. And Seoul’s defense minister says the idea of bringing back U.S. tactical nukes to South Korea should be “deeply considered” by the allies.

This shift right by the liberal Moon underscores deep unease that the North’s expanding nuclear weapons arsenal will undermine the country’s decades-long alliance with the United States. Pyongyang may soon perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile that can target the U.S. mainland.

Here are some of the military capabilities South Korea is pursuing or may soon:



South Korea says stronger missiles are crucial to the so-called “kill chain” pre-emptive strike capability it wants to use to target North Korea. A pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang’s leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it’s widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.

In August, South Korea conducted the last scheduled flight test of a new missile with a range of 800 kilometers (500 miles). It will soon join the “Hyunmoo” family of ballistic missiles that currently have a maximum range of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

While Seoul’s military says its missiles are currently capable of wiping out North Korean structures on land, it says heavier warheads are needed to target North Korea’s underground facilities and bunkers.

Following North Korea’s second test of an ICBM in July, Moon ordered his military to schedule talks with the United States to increase warhead weight limits on South Korea’s maximum-range missiles. Moon’s office didn’t announce any changes to the range limit on Tuesday.

South Korean missile developments have been constrained by a bilateral guideline between the allies since the late 1970s, when Washington sought to check Seoul’s missile development under military dictator Park Chung-hee, a staunch anti-communist who ruled South Korea in the 1960s and ‘70s. The restrictions have been eased over the years.



Several South Korean government officials, including Prime Minster Lee Nak-yon, the country’s No. 2, have been calling for South Korea to acquire a nuclear-powered submarine. South Korea’s navy is planning a feasibility study over getting such vessels, although some experts see the possibility as low.

Supporters say such vessels are critical for coping with North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile system because they can operate much longer than conventional diesel-powered submarines without refueling. That gives them a better chance to find and track North Korean subs, they argue.

In August last year, the North successfully test-fired for the first time a submarine-launched ballistic missile that flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles). Such technology in the hands of North Korea is an alarming thought for South Korea and Japan because such weapons are harder to detect before launch.

If South Korea makes a real push for nuclear-powered subs, critics say it may never overcome political and technical hurdles. Washington may also balk at Seoul’s acquisition of the enriched uranium needed to operate such submarines. Critics also argue that Washington already provides its ally a nuclear umbrella of protection and can easily ship in assets to detect and contain North Korean submarines when needed.



Experts say South Korea would have an even harder time persuading the United States to re-introduce tactical nukes to the Korean Peninsula. These were withdrawn in the 1990s.

Even so, that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from South Korea’s largest conservative party from demanding the return of the weapons. Song Young-moo, Seoul’s defense minister, told lawmakers Monday that the allies should consider the issue.

South Koreans who support the return of U.S. tactical nukes often raise fears of rifts in the decades-old security alliance between Washington and Seoul because of North Korea’s expanding nuclear weapons program.

If North Korea obtains a fully functional ICBM, the United States might hesitate using its nuclear weapons to defend South Korea because of worries that North Korea might then strike a U.S. city, they say. Placing U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea would make clear the intent to use nukes in a crisis.

Critics say it’s highly unlikely the United States would ever agree because it now relies on homeland and sea-based military assets to provide its allies extended nuclear deterrence. Some South Korean military experts say the nukes wouldn’t meaningfully improve the South’s defense and would only provide North Korea more targets to destroy or even attempt to steal.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Europe shakes off North Korea jitters


Traders work in front of the German share price index, DAX board, at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Staff/Remote


By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Europe’s financial markets seemed on Tuesday to have shaken off jitters prompted by North Korea’s biggest nuclear test yet, with stocks pushing higher and investors reversing out of bonds, gold and other safe-haven assets.

As with many political risk plays over the past couple of years, market moves suggested a reluctance to price in tail risks on every possible bad outcome and more of a focus on the prosaic but upbeat global economic picture.

Confirmation that euro zone business activity remained robust last month helped the pan-European STOXX 600 (.STOXX) to claw back most of the 0.5 percent it lost on Monday amid international condemnation of the previous day’s nuclear test [.EU].

The euro (EUR=) and European government bond yields [GVD/EUR] also tiptoed higher as risk appetite tentatively returned and the data, which also showed rising inflation pressures, put the focus back on Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting. [/FRX]

Gold – the traditional go-to for traders when political concerns escalate – eased too, dipping back from a one-year high in its first drop in four days. [GOL/]

“What the recent episodes have shown is that you should not really try to follow these things as they tend to fade quickly,” said ING’s chief EMEA FX and rates strategist, Petr Krpata.

“It is less and less surprising for markets every time, so for us it is not a reason to change our constructive view on carry currencies.”

Wall Street, which was closed on Monday, was expected to edge down around 0.2 percent when it reopened to bring it in line with the previous day’s global dip. [.N]


Overnight China’s Caixin/Markit services purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a forward-looking economic indicator, rose to 52.7 in August, the highest reading in three months.

The market reaction to that was muted, however, with sentiment in Asian equity markets still subdued. Chinese bourses eked out small 0.2-0.3 percent gains [.SS] but Seoul (.KS11) and Tokyo (.N225) remained red.

South Korea’s Asia Business Daily, citing an unidentified source, reported North Korea had been observed moving a rocket that appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) possibly in preparation for a launch.

Speaking at a summit of the world’s biggest emerging economies in China, Russian President Vladimir Putin again warned that threatening military action against North Korea could trigger “a global catastrophe”.

“Russia condemns North Korea’s exercises, we consider that they are a provocation … (But) ramping up military hysteria will lead to nothing good,” he told reporters.

In commodity markets, U.S. WTI oil prices edged higher, while U.S. gasoline prices (RBc1) slumped to pre-Hurricane Harvey levels, as oil refineries and pipelines in the U.S. Gulf Coast slowly resumed activity, easing supply concerns. [O/R]

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures (CLc1) ticked up 0.2 percent to trade at $47.38 per barrel, though global benchmark Brent prices barely budged at $52.37.

The reassuring China PMI data helped copper (CMCU3) hit a three-year high in industrial metals markets, and nickel hovered near a 14-month peak. [MET/L]

Meanwhile, bitcoin (BTC=BTSP) dropped further from Saturday’s all-time high of $4,979.9 to trade at $4,012.

China said on Monday it was banning the practice of raising funds through launches of token-based digital currencies, known as initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Vladimir Putin warns North Korea it could become like Iraq

(CNN)Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged North Korea to learn from the demise of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and warned it could face a similar fate unless it turns away from its nuclear program.

Putin, speaking at the close of the BRICs summit in China on Tuesday, warned against “military hysteria” in solving the crisis on the Korean peninsula, claiming it could lead to a “global catastrophe with a lot of victims.”
North Korea has come under increased pressure since launching its sixth test of a nuclear weapon on Sunday with seismological data indicating the weapon was the most powerful ever to be detonated by Pyongyang, according to nuclear experts.
Putin says Pyongyang should take a lesson from history, invoking the tale of Hussein’s demise as dictator of Iraq in 2006 and the military onslaught that ravaged the country in the aftermath of his death.


“Saddam Hussein rejected the production of weapons of mass destruction, but even under that pretense, he was destroyed and members of his family were killed,” Putin said.
“The country was demolished and Saddam Hussein was hanged. Everyone knows that and everyone in North Korea knows that.
“Do you really think due to some sanctions that North Korea will turn away from the path they’ve undertaken to create weapons of mass destruction?
“Russia condemns this action from North Korea. We think these actions take a provocative character, but we should not forget and North Koreans should not forget what happened in Iraq.”
North Korea has faced global condemnation since Sunday when state media claimed it detonated a hydrogen bomb, also known as a thermonuclear weapon, which could be fitted atop a long-range missile capable of striking the United States.
Weapons experts say it’s almost impossible to verify if the warhead and missile could be successfully paired unless North Korea were to actually fire a nuclear-tipped ICBM.

‘Begging for war’

North Korea has test-fired a number of missiles this summer, including two long-range ones in July and an intermediate-range one in August that overflew the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
On Monday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Kim was “begging for war” and urged the UN Security Council to adopt the strongest sanctions measures possible to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
But Putin told reporters Tuesday that imposing any kind of sanctions on North Korea would be “useless and ineffective,” adding Kim would rather starve his people than see regime change.
“They will eat grass but they will not turn away from the path that will provide for their security,” he said.
“We know that North Korea has nukes, we also know that North Korea has long range artillery and it has other types of weapons and there are no weapons against long range artillery — and these weapons can be difficult to locate.
“So we think that this military hysteria will not lead to good results. It could lead to global catastrophe with lots of victims.”
Posted in CNN

North Korea Crisis: Russia’s Putin Warns of ‘Global Catastrophe’

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Tuesday that ramping up the “military hysteria” around North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile tests could lead to a “global catastrophe.”

He also questioned the effectiveness of tightening sanctions, as the U.S. has suggested, saying that they will not change the behavior of Kim Jong Un and his regime.

North Korea “would rather eat grass” than abandon its nuclear program “as long as they do not feel safe,” Putin said.

The Russian leader urged dialogue with Pyongyang.

“In this situation pressing on military hysteria will not bring anything, this may end up in a global catastrophe and huge amount of human life lost,” Putin told reporters during a visit to China.

His comments came two days after Kim’s government detonated its sixth and largest nuclear test.

On Monday, South Korea responded by firing missiles into the sea to simulate an attack on the North with more military drills being held on Tuesday.

Putin also suggested that Kim’s government had learned lessons from the U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein, pointing out that after that dictator “abandoned weapons of mass destruction everyone remembers how he ended up. North Korea remembers this too.”

North Korea has stated in public statements that it wants an official end to the Korean War — which was halted by a 1953 armistice but no peace treaty has been signed. It also wants nothing short of full normalization of relations with the U.S. and to be treated with respect and as an equal in the global arena.

China has warned North Korea against launching another ballistic missile, saying it should not worsen tensions.

On Monday, the U.S. urged the United Nations to step up pressure on Kim and accused him of “begging for war.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said: “Enough is enough … we must adopt the strongest possible measures.” She added: “We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left.”

On Sunday, President Donald Trump tweeted that he was considering stopping all trade with any country doing business with the secretive regime.

North Korea imports or exports from more than 100 nations. However, around 90 percent of Pyongyang’s trade is with Beijing and Trump has often said the Chinese should take more steps to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

Experts told NBC News that Trump’s suggestion would strip consumer goods from the shelves of American stores, jeopardize hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs and spark a meltdown across the global economy.

Taylor Griffin, a former Treasury spokesman and White House staffer under President George W. Bush, warned that such a policy would result in a “very painful lesson in economics” for Americans.

He added: “There would be ripple effects everywhere. People talk about a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a tornado on the other side of the world. This wouldn’t be a butterfly — it would be a 747 taking off.”

Kim has been very open about his regime’s ambitions. North Korea regularly issues apocalyptic warnings to the U.S. and its allies.

Last month, the regime’s official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the U.S. would be “catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire” if it imposed more sanctions or threatened military action. In May, the paper said the North was “waiting for the moment it will reduce the whole of the U.S. mainland to ruins” after Trump dispatched a naval strike group to the region.

Such threats have been a staple of Kim’s regime since he took power after his father’s death in 2011.

In October, top North Korean official Lee Yong Pil told NBC News that “a preemptive nuclear strike is not something the U.S. has a monopoly on.” He added: “If we see that the U.S. would do it to us, we would do it first.”

North Korea nuclear crisis: Putin calls sanctions useless

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said pursuing further sanctions against North Korea is “useless”, saying “they’d rather eat grass than give up their nuclear programme”.

The US said on Monday it would table a new UN resolution on tougher sanctions in the wake of the latest test of a nuclear bomb by the North on Sunday.

Mr Putin also said that the ramping up of “military hysteria” could lead to global catastrophe.

He said diplomacy was the only answer.

China, the North’s main ally, has also called for a return to negotiations.

What did Vladimir Putin say about sanctions?

The Russian leader was speaking at the meeting of the Brics group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in Xiamen, China.

Although he condemned the North’s test as “provocative”, Mr Putin said: “Sanctions of any kind would now be useless and ineffective.

“They’d rather eat grass than abandon their [nuclear weapons] programme unless they feel secure. And what can establish security? The restoration of international law. We should promote dialogue among all interested parties.”

Citing a “humanitarian aspect”, Mr Putin said millions of people would suffer under tougher measures, adding: “Sanctions have been exhausted.”

On Monday, at the United Nations in New York, US envoy Nikki Haley argued that only the strongest sanctions would enable the problem to be resolved through diplomacy.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed that stance on Tuesday, saying more sanctions were urgently needed to counter the North’s “flagrant breach of international conventions”.

Where are we with sanctions?

Last month, the Security Council voted unanimously to ban North Korean exports and limit investments in the country.

Ms Haley did not spell out what additional measures might be taken, but diplomats have suggested an oil embargo would have a crippling effect.

There could also be a ban on the North’s national airline, curbs on North Koreans working abroad, and asset freezes and travel bans on officials.

On Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said after a conversation with her Chinese counterpart that she believed Beijing “could be open to more sanctions”.

Mr Putin said Russia’s trade with North Korea was negligible and did not violate current international sanctions.

  • How should Trump handle North Korea?

What about the military situation?

After telling the UN Security Council that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “begging for war”, Nikki Haley said: “War is never something the United States wants.

“We don’t want it now but our country’s patience is not unlimited.”

In talks overnight, US President Donald Trump and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in agreed in principle to scrap a warhead weight limit on the South’s missiles, which are currently capped at 500kg (1,100lb), giving it a greater strike force against North Korea.

The South on Tuesday also carried out further live-fire exercises at sea, following missile drills on Monday that simulated the targeting of the Punggye-ri nuclear site where North Korea carried out its bomb test.

Seoul has said there will be more live-fire drills this month.

South Korea’s Asia Business Daily quoted sources on Tuesday as saying the North had been observed moving a rocket towards its west coast.

The rocket, which appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), was moved overnight to avoid surveillance, it said.

The reports followed South Korean defence ministry statements on Monday that the North was preparing more missile tests.

The South has also said it is deploying four more launchers of the US Thaad (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence) missile defence system to join two already at a site in Seongju, south of Seoul.

But Mr Putin said that “ramping up military hysteria will lead to nothing good. It could lead to a global catastrophe. There’s no other path apart from a peaceful one.”

He said that given the North’s range of weaponry, including long-range artillery, simply setting up missile defence systems made no sense.

China also demanded a peaceful resolution.

China’s envoy to the UN, Liu Jieyi, said: “China will never allow chaos and war on the peninsula.”

  • Can the world live with a nuclear North Korea?
  • Have North Korea’s missile tests paid off?

Talks about what?

By Jonathan Marcus, BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

President Putin’s comments underline the closeness of the positions of Russia and China on the North Korean crisis, making a further punitive sanctions resolution from the UN Security Council unlikely.

Moscow and Beijing are pushing for a diplomatic opening but their “roadmap” has been rejected by Washington and it is far from clear what the Pyongyang regime’s attitude is to potential talks.

More significantly, what would talks be about? Reducing tensions certainly, but would Pyongyang be willing to halt or give up its nuclear and missile programmes? What kind of grand bargain might be struck if any?

Mr Putin’s comments also reflect Russia’s own position as the target of US and EU economic sanctions, imposed in the wake of its seizure of the Crimea and its wider behaviour in eastern Ukraine.

Read more from Jonathan

How big was the latest test?

On Sunday, the North tested a bomb underground, which was thought to have had a power range from 50 to 120 kilotonnes. A 50kt device would be about three times the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

It was North Korea’s sixth nuclear test to date.

Kim Jong-un was pictured on camera being shown what state media said was a new type of hydrogen bomb.

  • Kim inspects ‘nuclear warhead’: A picture decoded
  • ‘Tunnel collapse’ at nuclear site may provide clues
  • China mutes discussion of North Korea bomb

South Korea said it was now presumed that the North had reduced its nuclear warhead in size to below 500kg, and would be able to attach one to an ICBM.

But analysts have said the North’s claims about miniaturisation should be treated with considerable caution.

  • What’s at North Korea’s nuclear site?
  • Can we work out the power of the tested bomb?
Posted in BBC

North Korea nuclear crisis: Putin warns of planetary catastrophe

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has warned that the escalating North Korean crisis could cause a “planetary catastrophe” and huge loss of life.

“Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end,” he told reporters in China. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”

On Sunday North Korea carried out its sixth and by far its most powerful nuclear test to date. The underground blast triggered a magnitude-6.3 earthquake and was more powerful than the bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the second world war.

Putin was attending the Brics summit, bringing together the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Speaking on the final day of the summit in Xiamen, China, he said Russia condemned North Korea’s provocations but said further sanctions would be useless and ineffective.

Foreign interventions in Iraq and Libya had convinced the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, that he needed nuclear weapons to survive, Putin said.

“We all remember what happened with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. His children were killed, I think his grandson was shot, the whole country was destroyed and Saddam Hussein was hanged … We all know how this happened and people in North Korea remember well what happened in Iraq.

“They will eat grass but will not stop their [nuclear] programme as long as they do not feel safe.”

Putin’s warning came as South Korea refused to rule out redeploying US tactical nuclear weapons on its territory – a move that could seriously harm efforts to ease tensions as signs emerged that Pyongyang was preparing to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Seoul has routinely dismissed the option of basing US nuclear weapons on South Korean soil for the first time since the 1990s, but the country’s defence minister, Song Young-moo, said “all available military options” were being considered to address the growing threat from North Korean missiles.

On Tuesday, South Korean warships conducted live-fire drills, with more exercises planned this week. “If the enemy launches a provocation above water or under water, we will immediately hit back to bury them at sea,” said Capt Choi Young-chan, commander of the 13th Maritime Battle Group.

The drills came hours after Donald Trump and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, agreed to remove restrictions on the size of Seoul’s missile warheads and approved a deal to sell it “many billions of dollars’” worth of US military weapons and equipment.

Song raised the possibility of redeploying US nuclear weapons after the North’s nuclear test in remarks to the South’s national assembly, according to the Yonhap news agency.

But his remarks were later clarified, with spokesman Moon Sang-gyun saying there was “no change” in Seoul’s principle of working towards the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula.

Moon said Song had simply been stressing the need to “review all available options from the military perspective, and find a realistic way forwards”.

Kim Hyun-wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in Seoul, said: “No one in South Korea is seriously proposing that the US reintroduce strategic assets [such as nuclear weapons]. That’s something they might discuss further down the line, but there are no plans for that to happen right now.”

Calls have also been growing in South Korea for the country to develop a nuclear deterrent independent of the US.

Song’s comments came amid reports that North Korea may be preparing to launch another ICBM from a site on its west coast.

North Korea has been observed moving what appeared to be a long-range missile towards its west coast, according to South Korea’s Asia Business Daily. The newspaper claimed the missile had been transported towards the launch site overnight on Monday to avoid surveillance.

South Korea’s defence ministry said it was unable to confirm the report, although ministry officials told parliament on Monday the Pyongyang regime was preparing to launch more missiles.

In the past, North Korea has displayed its military capability to coincide with significant national anniversaries. That is fuelling speculation that an ICBM launch could come as early as this Saturday, when the country marks the 69th anniversary of its founding. The regime’s fifth nuclear test came on the same date, 9 September, last year.

Washington appears to have moved to ease South Korean doubts about US commitment to its security after Trump openly accused its east Asian ally of “appeasing” Pyongyang by holding out for a negotiated solution to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

The agreement from the US to remove warhead restrictions on South Korean missiles will allow Seoul to develop more powerful weapons that would increase its pre-emptive strike capabilities against the North.

Trump’s appeasement comment, together with his reported threat to take the US out of a free trade agreement with South Korea, have triggered calls for Seoul to win stronger security assurances from Washington.

In an editorial published on Tuesday, the Korea Herald said: “The Seoul government’s most urgent job is to secure – based on a tight alliance with the US – defence and deterrence capability against possible nuclear and missile attacks from the North.”

The newspaper called for the quick deployment of the last four of six terminal high altitude area defence (Thaad) systems, but said that was only a first step.

The diplomatic focus is expected to shift to the UN security council later on Tuesday, with a vote expected on a resolution condemning the North’s latest nuclear test.

One drastic measure reportedly under consideration by US officials – a ban oil exports to North Korea – is likely to be opposed by Russia and China.

Beijing supplies roughly 500,000 tonnes of crude oil to North Korea every year as well as 200,000 tonnes of oil products, according to South Korean and UN data.

China opposes any measure that could cause instability and topple the regime of Kim Jong-un, sparking a refugee crisis and potentially allowing tens of thousands of South Korean and US troops to move north as far as the Chinese border.

On Monday, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, accused North Korea of “begging for war”, adding that the time had come for the security council to impose “the strongest possible” sanctions after Sunday’s test of what Pyongyang claimed was a hydrogen bomb that could be loaded on to an ICBM.

North Korea News LIVE: Vladimir Putin terms new sanctions on N Korea “useless”

South Korean Defense Ministry handout: South Korean Vessels taking part in a naval drill off the east coast on September 4, 2017.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has said that North Korea is believed to be moving an ICBM. It said that the missile’s projectile and how it was being transported was unclear.

British Conservative politician William Hague said that Kim Jong-un is probably a prisoner of his own dictatorship. “Born the third son of Kim Jong-il, he has always faced a choice of getting absolute power for himself or facing the dire consequences of not doing so,” Hague wrote in the Telegraph, adding that were Kim to dismantle the brutal North Korean regime, or even relax his grip on power, he could easily be assassinated.

Russian President Putin also warned that the escalating North Korean crisis could cause a “planetary catastrophe” and huge loss of life.

“The world is stunned by news that the DPRK’s intermediate-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 crossed the sky over islands of Japan along the preset flight track and accurately hit the preset target waters in northern Pacific.
The U.S. and Japan, the sworn enemies of the Korean nation, are struck with horror in face of the mettle of the DPRK which took the toughest counteraction against the U.S. insensible war drills. In the meantime, the Korean people feel relieved, their towering grudge settled,” KCNA had reported on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that new sanctions imposed on North Korea would be “useless” and “ineffective”, adding that imposing tougher sanctions on the regime of Kim Jong Un over its nuclear missile programme would not change the leadership in Pyongyang, but could lead to large-scale human suffering.

In an article published in KCNA, the state-owned news agency in North Korea, Kim Myong Gil, an officer of the Korean People’s Army, said:

“Another thrilling nuclear thunder of Songun Korea is heavy punishment and sledgehammer blows to the US imperialists who are bringing the worst touch-and-go situation on the Korean peninsula while being carried away by ill-advised bravery.

Neglecting the strategic position of our country as a Juche-oriented nuclear power and a military power, they are bent on brigandish sanctions and stifling manoeuvres and hysteric war exercises. Today’s triumph deals another heavy blow to them, but fills us service personnel with the inexhaustible might and courage.”

Fires rage through West; California governor declares state of emergency

Hundreds of people in California evacuated from their homes this weekend to escape a monster inferno being described as the largest in Los Angeles’ history.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Sunday, the Los Angeles Times reported. Brown’s declaration, which allows for state and federal assistance to be provided to Los Angeles County quickly, came after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a similar declaration.

Firefighters battled flames that chewed through nearly 8 square miles of brush-covered mountains as authorities issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders for more than 700 homes in Los Angeles, Burbank and Glendale.

The wildfires, just north of downtown L.A., had grown Saturday to the largest in city history, Garcetti said. Three structures had burned, at least two of them homes, but fire officials were confident they could extinguish the fire unless winds picked up.

Wildfires also entered a 2,700-year-old grove of giant sequoia trees near Yosemite National Park and have driven people from their homes in Washington State, Oregon, Montana and other areas struggling with a weeklong heat wave that’s gripped Western states.

San Francisco, meanwhile, set a heat record for the day, hitting 94 degrees before noon. By mid-afternoon, it was 101 in the coastal city — hotter than Phoenix. With an all-time high of 106 on Friday, it became just the third time since the 1870s that San Francisco had back-to-back triple-digit days.

Temperatures reached 115 south of the city. It was a rare heat wave at a time of year that San Francisco residents usually call “Fogust” for its cloudy chill.

The region was so hot that officials with the Bay Area Rapid Transit system ordered trains to slow down on rails that were exposed to sun, expecting the heat would expand and possibly shift the metal track slightly, spokeswoman Alicia Trost said.

In Montana, a fire sweeping the Lolo Peak and Florence areas of the state grew to more than 41,300 acres as it continues to burn, KPAX reported.

The fire, sparked by a lightning strike in mid-July, is being handled by 575 people assigned to the blaze.

“So yesterday the fire got established in the bottom of One Horse Creek and then started moving up the mountain and got up toward the top of the ridge. And then last night weather conditions became more favorable for burnout operations,” said Lolo Peak Fire Information Officer Derek Ibarguen. “And we conducted a burnout operation of about 50 to 60 acres that connected with the other burn blocks that have been in the past, to help shore up that eastern side of the fire.”

In Oregon, dozens of wildfires were sending up large plumes of smoke, causing disruptions in holiday travel as roads close and shutting down camping areas.

The wildfires forced about 140 hikers to shelter in place overnight Saturday on a popular trail about 90 miles east of Portland after they got stuck between two blazes.

The hikers were led 14 miles by search-and-rescue teams toward Wahtum Lake, and made it out by Sunday morning.

Many of the hikers were traveling along the Eagle Creek Trail Saturday, but a blaze on the trail made it difficult for the hikers to leave, so officials had them shelter overnight near Tunnel Falls.

Fire spokeswoman Mary Huels said a crew of about 18 firefighters who had been assigned to the south end of the older fire as lookouts were keeping track of the people in the area and getting them to safe areas.

Three other hikers in a different areas nearby were rescued by helicopter Saturday evening.

In the Pacific Northwest, high temperatures and a lack of rain this summer have dried out vegetation that fed on winter snow and springtime rain. Officials warned of wildfire danger as hot, dry, smoky days were forecast across Oregon and Washington over the holiday weekend.

A fire about 80 miles southeast of Seattle has burned more than 23 square miles and led to new evacuation notices Saturday. About 3,800 homes were threatened, authorities said.

The weeklong heat wave was generated by high pressure over the West, the National Weather Service said.