Tuesday, March 31, 2009

North Korea Putting U.S. Journalists On Trial For Spying

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Tuesday that it would put on trial for "hostile acts" two U.S. journalists arrested earlier this month on its border with China.

The planned trial comes as tension mounts over North Korea's planned rocket launch in the next few days, which it says is to send a communications satellite into space but which the United States and others say is to test a long-range missile that could carry a warhead as far as U.S. territory.

The two women reporters were arrested two weeks ago by the Tumen River which runs along the east side of the border between North Korea and China.

"The illegal entry of U.S. reporters into the DPRK (North Korea) and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements, according to the results of intermediary investigation conducted by a competent organ of the DPRK," North Korea's KCNA news agency said.

"The organ is carrying on its investigation and, at the same time, making a preparation for indicting them at a trial on the basis of the already confirmed suspicions."
It added that while the investigation is underway, the reporters would be allowed consular access and treated according to international laws.

"We have seen (the report) and are still in the process of working diplomatically ... to achieve a favorable outcome," U.S. State Department spokesman Fred Lash said , declining further comment.
(Reporting by Jonathan Thatcher; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

Space Outpost "Colbert?"

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) - NASA's outreach to the public to drum up interest in the International Space Station started innocently enough with an online contest to name the station's new living quarters.

But Stephen Colbert, a comedian who poses as an ultra right-wing news commentator on cable television's Comedy Central, nosed into the act with a grass-roots appeal that has backed the staid U.S. space agency into a corner.

The comedian's supporters cast 230,539 write-in votes to name the new module at the $100-billion space outpost "Colbert." The top NASA-suggested name, "Serenity," finished a distant second, more than 40,000 votes behind.

Contest rules stipulate that the agency retains the right to basically do whatever it wants, but it may not be that easy.

Last week, U.S. Representative Chaka Fattah, a Pennsylvania Democrat, called on NASA to do the democratic thing and use the name that drew the most votes.

"NASA decided to hold an election to name its new room at the International Space Station and the clear winner is Stephen Colbert," Fattah said in a statement. "The people have spoken, and Stephen Colbert won it fair and square -- even if his campaign was a bit over the top."

NASA is taking some time to ponder its next move.

"We have a plan and we're working with some folks and in a couple of weeks you'll know what the answer is," NASA's associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier said.

Expert: N. Korea has several nuclear warheads

Expert: N. Korea has several nuclear warheads: SEOUL, South Korea — Nuclear-armed North Korea warned Japan on Tuesday that intervening in Pyongyang’s impending rocket launch would be considered an act of war.

North Korea says it will send a communications satellite into orbit on a multi-stage rocket between April 4 and 8. The U.S., South Korea and Japan think the communist regime is using the launch to test long-range missile technology, and they warn Pyongyang would face sanctions under a U.N. Security Council resolution banning the country from ballistic activity.

Japan has deployed battleships and Patriot missile interceptors off its northern coast to shoot down any rocket debris that the North has said might fall over the area.

Tokyo has said it is only protecting its territory and has no intention of trying to shoot down the rocket itself, but North Korea said it is not convinced and accused Japan of inciting militarism at home to justify developing a nuclear weapons program of its own.

If Japan tries to intercept the satellite, the North’s army “will consider this as the start of Japan’s war of reinvasion more than six decades after the Second World War and mercilessly destroy all its interceptor means and citadels with the most powerful military means,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.

China, North Korea’s neighbor and often-estranged ally, continued to appeal for all the powers in the region to show restraint and “refrain from any action that would further complicate the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.

But Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said he is ready to pursue punishment by the Security Council if North Korea fires the rocket, which already is on the launch pad.

“It would be crucial for the international community to make concerted action,” Aso told a news conference after both houses of Japan’s parliament passed a resolution strongly urging the North to forego the launch.

Daniel Pinkston — a Seoul-based expert for the International Crisis Group think tank, which provides detailed analysis about North Korea — said the communist nation has two underground nuclear warhead storage facilities near bases for its medium-range Rodong missiles, which are capable of striking Japan. The North is believed to have five to eight warheads, he said.

Read the full story HERE at Air Force Times.

This just in from the London Telegraph that echos the previous post:

INTELLIGENCE agencies have obtained information that North Korea has assembled several nuclear warheads for its medium-range Rodong missiles capable of targeting Japan, an analyst says.

Daniel Pinkston, senior analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said he had received the information from agencies he declined to identify.

"Intelligence agencies believe the North Koreans have assembled nuclear warheads for Rodong missiles, which are stored at underground facilities near the Rodong missile bases," Mr Pinkston said.

He said the agencies believe that probably five to eight warheads have been assembled.

Mr Pinkston said the agencies did not reveal the source of their information to him.

"It might be right, it might be wrong - but if others believe it is true, it has implications for the psychological aspects of deterrence," he said, describing the assessment as "quite significant".

In public at least, intelligence officials have not previously said that the communist North - which tested a nuclear weapon in 2006 - has the capability to manufacture nuclear warheads.

The North is preparing to test-fire its longest-range missile the Taepodong-2 within the next few days, but is not believed to have created any atomic warhead for this.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin