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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    A selection of photos from some of the biggest news that you might have missed this week.

    SEE ALSO: 19 photos show a rare side of the world that aircraft servicemembers see

    State leaders take part in a group photo for the G20 Summit held in eastern China's Zhejiang province, September 4, 2016.

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally, September 6, 2016, in Greenville, North Carolina.

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, with "Today" show co-anchor Matt Lauer, left, speaks at the NBC Commander-In-Chief Forum held at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space museum aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, New York, September 7, 2016.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    kim jong un

    For the past 50 years, the world has grown used to crazy threats from North Korea that don't lead anywhere.

    But the threats have taken a decidedly sharper and more ominous tone under Kim Jong Un, the third supreme leader of the hermit kingdom.

    On Friday, North Korea carried out a fifth nuclear test that was timed to coincide with the 68th anniversary of the founding of the nation. 

    The nuclear test was the largest yet from the nation, and heralded a worrisome milestone for the secluded nation. Based on some estimates, the blast from the warhead was more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

    The nuclear test signals a commitment on the part of Kim to press forward with the armament of his nation. The test comes just four days after Pyongyang launched ballistic missiles in defiance of the UN Security Council.

    With all this attention, still relatively little is known of Kim. However, here is what we do know of how Kim Jong Un grew to be one of the world's most concerning world leaders.

    SEE ALSO: Here's the kind of damage North Korea could do if it went to war

    Kim Jong Un was born on January 8 — 1982, 1983, or 1984.

    His parents were future North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and his consort, Ko Young Hee. He had an older brother named Kim Jong Chul and would later have a younger sister named Kim Yo Jong.

    While Kim Jong Un's official birth year is 1982, various reports suggest that the year was changed for symbolic reasons, including that it was 70 years after the birth of Kim Il Sung and 40 years after the birth of Kim Jong Il.

    However, a recent move by the US Treasury Department to sanction Kim Jong Un listed his official date of birth as January 8, 1984.

    Jong Un — here with his mother — lived at home as a child.

    During this period, North Korea was ruled by "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. While Kim Jong Il was the heir apparent, Kim Jong Un's path to command was far less certain.

    Then it was off to Switzerland to attend boarding school.

    Called "Pak Un" and described as the son of an employee of the North Korean embassy, Kim Jong Un is thought to have attended an English-language international school in Gümligen near Bern.

    Kim Jong Un is described by former classmates as a quiet student who spent most of his time at home, but he had a sense of humor, too.

    "He was funny," former classmate Marco Imhof told The Mirror."Always good for a laugh."

    "He had a sense of humour; got on well with everyone, even those pupils who came from countries that were enemies of North Korea,"another former classmate told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. "Politics was a taboo subject at school ... we would argue about football, not politics."

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Retired Air Force Colonel and author of Breaking the Trust Barrier JV Venable told us the US Air Force has lost nuclear weapons.

    Follow BI Video: On Twitter

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) look toward one another during a news conference following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland where they discussed the crisis in Syria September 9, 2016.

    GENEVA (AP) -- The United States and Russia early Saturday announced a breakthrough agreement on Syria that foresees a nationwide cease-fire starting next Monday, followed a week later by an unlikely new military partnership between the rival governments targeting the Islamic State and al-Qaida.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said shortly after midnight that the plan could reduce violence in Syria and lead to a long-sought political transition, ending more than five years of bloodshed.

    He called the deal a potential "turning point" in a conflict that has killed as many as 500,000 people, if complied with by Syria's Russian-backed government and U.S.-supported rebel groups.

    The cease-fire begins at sundown Sept. 12, Kerry said, coinciding with the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.

    Kerry's negotiating partner, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, confirmed the agreement and said it could help expand the counterterrorism fight and aid deliveries to Syrian civilians. He said Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was prepared to comply.

    "This is just the beginning of our new relations," Lavrov said.

    The deal culminates months of frenetic diplomacy that included four meetings between Kerry and Lavrov since Aug. 26, and a lengthy face-to-face in China between Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin. The arrangement hinges on Moscow pressuring Assad's government to halt all offensive operations against Syria's armed opposition and civilian areas. Washington must persuade "moderate" rebels to break ranks with the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's Syria affiliate, and other extremist groups.

    Both sides have failed to deliver their ends of the bargain over several previous truces.

    But the new arrangement goes further by promising a new U.S.-Russian counterterrorism alliance, only a year after Obama chastised Putin for a military intervention that U.S. officials said was mainly designed to keep Assad in power and target more moderate anti-Assad forces.

    Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad flash victory signs as they stand at a military complex, after they recaptured areas in southwestern Aleppo on Sunday that rebels had seized last month, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on September 5, 2016. SANA/Handout via REUTERS

    Russia, in response, has chafed at America's financial and military assistance to groups that have intermingled with the Nusra Front on the battlefield. Kerry said it would be "wise" for opposition forces to separate completely from Nusra, a statement Lavrov hailed.

    "Going after Nusra is not a concession to anybody," Kerry said. "It is profoundly in the interests of the United States."

    The military deal would go into effect after both sides abide by the truce for a week and allow unimpeded humanitarian deliveries. Then, the U.S. and Russia would begin intelligence sharing and targeting coordination, while Assad's forces would no longer be permitted to target Nusra any longer; they would be restricted to operations against the Islamic State.

    The proposed level of U.S.-Russian interaction has upset several leading national security officials in Washington, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter and National Intelligence Director James Clapper, and Kerry only appeared at the news conference after several hours of internal U.S. discussions.

    At one point, Lavrov said he was considering "calling it a day" on talks, expressing frustration with what he described as an hours-long wait for a U.S. response. He then presented journalists with several boxes of pizza, saying, "This is from the U.S. delegation," and two bottles of vodka, adding, "This is from the Russian delegation."

    A general view shows the damage at a military complex, after forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad recaptured areas in southwestern Aleppo on Sunday that rebels had seized last month, Syria, in this handout picture provided by SANA on September 5, 2016. SANA/Handout via REUTER

    The Geneva negotiating session, which last more than 13 hours, underscored the complexity of a conflict that includes myriad militant groups, shifting alliances and the rival interests of the U.S. and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Turkey and the Kurds.

    Getting Assad's government and rebel groups to comply with the deal may now be more difficult as fighting rages around the divided city of Aleppo, Syria's most populous and the new focus of a war that has killed as many as 500,000 people.

    Assad's government appeared to tighten its siege of the former Syrian commercial hub in the last several days, seizing several key transit points. Forty days of fighting in Aleppo has killed nearly 700 civilians, including 160 children, according to a Syrian human rights group. Volunteer first responders said they pulled the bodies of nine people, including four children, from rubble following air raids Friday on a rebel-held area.

    Kerry outlined several steps the government and rebels would have to take. They must now pull back from demilitarized zones, and allow civilian traffic and humanitarian deliveries.

    But as with previous blueprints for peace, Saturday's plan appears to lack enforcement mechanisms. Russia could, in theory, threaten to act against rebel groups that break the deal. But if Assad bombs his opponents, the U.S. is unlikely to take any action against him given Obama's longstanding opposition to entering the civil war.

    In addition to those killed, Syria's conflict has chased millions of people from their homes, contributing to Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II. Amid the chaos of fighting between Syria's government and rebels, the Islamic State group has emerged as a global terror threat.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We did a blind taste test of Bud, Coors, Miller, and Natty Light — here's the verdict

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    Israel Soldiers Riding A Tank

    In 2006, Israel sent its top-tier Merkava tanks to fight against largely unarmored Hezbollah divisions, but they still faced considerable losses owing to the proliferation of advanced anti-tank rounds, many of which originated in Russia.

    Fast forward to the 2014 Gaza conflict with Hamas. Despite Hamas having similar weapons and backing, not a single Merkava or Israeli armored fighting vehicle was lost. The reason being that Israel had perfected the Trophy Active Protection System (APS) to defend it's tanks.

    The US, on the other hand, has not faced a peer or near-peer adversary in ground combat in decades, and as a reflection of that the US's main combat tank, the M1 Abrams, lacks an APS.

    Today, limited US forces advise and assist forces in Syria, where no fewer than eight anti-tank missile systems are in play, according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service.

    The most worrisome of these systems originate in Russia, and use clever means to defeat tank armor systems. This highlights the need for the US to modernize it's armored fighting vehicle defenses.

    But finding an APS for the US Army and Marine Corps' global ground force is fraught with difficulties. Even if the US were to buy and deploy Israel's tested Trophy system, there are many additional considerations to be made.

    The Marines, for instance, need an APS that can be deployed on boats, and resist salt water corrosion. The systems, with their advanced sensors needed to detect and destroy incoming threats in the blinding speed of real time conflict, may interfere with each other or malfunction.

    active protection system tank army

    Because the systems need to operate in milliseconds, no human can deploy them. Therefore they need to be automated, and therefore collateral damage is a real risk. APS uses a hail of shrapnel to thwart incoming rockets, turning the area outside the tank into a hellscape of throbbing explosions and flying debris that could potentially shred friendly troops alongside the tank.

    Because of the US's high standards of protecting lives and property, public and private, they must come up with a satisfactory solution to these issues.

    Meanwhile Russia claims to have developed the T-14 Armata, a truly next generation tank fitted with a bigger gun, better armor, and APS all around. 

    Russian servicemen drive T-14

    While there is reason to doubt the overall capabilities of the T-14, anti-tank weapons systems are proven to be effective, and proven to be in the hands of militias around the world.

    For the US to retain its asymmetrical advantage in ground warfare, as it has done for decades, the issue of protecting armored vehicles must be addressed.

    SEE ALSO: Why Iran is 'playing with fire' in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's the high-tech military equipment Russia could use against the world

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands at the conclusion of their news conference following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland where they discussed the crisis in Syria September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Iran, a close ally and military backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, welcomed a US-Russian deal for a truce in Syria, saying on Sunday the conflict should be ended through politics.

    The agreement, by the powers that back opposing sides in the five-year-old war, promises a nationwide truce from sundown on Monday, improved access for humanitarian aid and joint military targeting of hardline Islamist groups.

    "Iran supports any ceasefire and peace plan to end the humanitarian crisis in Syria or limit it that involves a political solution ... based on the Syrian people's votes," said Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.

    "syria mapIran has always believed that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis and that it should be resolved through peaceful means," he added.

    Washington and Moscow reached the breakthrough deal early on Saturday to try to restore peace in Syria, but air strikes hours later on a busy market place that killed and injured dozens added to rebels' doubts that any ceasefire could hold.

    Russia and Iran are both providing crucial military support to President Assad against rebels and jihadi fighters in Syria's civil war. Iran has sent what it said were military "advisers" to help Assad and allowed Russian fighter-bombers to use an Iranian base to launch operations in Syria in August.


    SEE ALSO: What happened on 9/11, 15 years ago today

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    NOW WATCH: 'Well you can look on the map' — watch Hillary Clinton mock Gary Johnson over his Aleppo gaffe

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    Turkey launched a military offensive against the PKK after the Kurdish rebel group ended a unilateral two-year ceasefire in 2015

    Istanbul (AFP) - Turkey on Sunday ousted 28 mayors accused of links to Kurdish militants or US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, replacing them with state-appointed trustees in a major shake-up under emergency powers after a failed coup. 

    The mayors have been suspended from their posts on suspicion of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is waging a deadly insurgency in the southeast or Gulen, who is blamed for the July 15 failed coup, an interior ministry statement said.

    They have been replaced by state-appointed trustees, similar to how administrators are appointed to head a company that goes into bankruptcy.

    Twenty-four of the outgoing mayors are accused of links to the PKK and four of links to Gulen, the ministry said. 

    The reclusive cleric denies charges of masterminding the coup.

    The move is the most important step yet taken by new Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu since he took over from Efkan Ala in a surprise reshuffle earlier this month.

    Soylu said the move meant that local municipalities would no longer be controlled by "terrorists or those under instructions from Qandil", referring to the PKK's mountain base in northern Iraq.

    Traditionally dressed Kurdish women flash victory signs during a rally of some 30,000 Turkish Kurds pro PKK leader (Kurdistan Workers' Party) Abdullah Ocalan and and against Turkish President and AKP party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Cologne, Germany September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

    The move was taken within the three-month state of emergency imposed after the coup. The incumbents had been elected in 2014 local polls.

    The municipalities affected -- mainly in the Kurdish-dominated southeast -- include hugely important urban areas known as centres of PKK activity such as Sur and Silvan in the Diyarbakir region and Nusaybin in the Mardin region.

    The mayors of the cities of Batman and Hakkari in the southeast have also been replaced. The interior ministry said 12 of the mayors suspended are already under arrest.

    The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), whose regional politicians were the among the chief targets of the move, denounced the reshuffle as a "coup".

    In a statement, it said the move was reminiscent of the military takeover of 1980 and "ignored the will of the voters".

    But Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag denied the authorities had ridden roughshod over democracy, accusing the suspended mayors of funnelling revenues to "terror" groups.

    "Being elected does not grant a right to commit a crime," he wrote on Twitter.

    SEE ALSO: What happened on 9/11, 15 years ago today

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: IAN BREMMER: Turkey’s president wants to emulate Putin — but it’s not going to work

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    "Where were you on September 11th, 2001?"

    Each year, Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary to George W. Bush, tweets a gripping play-by-play account of the 9/11 terror attacks. His tweets focus on the president at the time, and those closest around him.

    This year, Fleischer's tweets seemed to especially focus on illuminating exactly what happened in the Florida elementary school where Bush first learned of the attacks.

    The tweets are full of details on how the president operates during a crisis. In 2001, this meant no smartphones. It also meant that even Air Force One didn't reliably have TV reception while flying.

    The account gives the backstory to the chilling moment when on live TV, Bush learned the true extent of the attacks.


    After learning of the attacks, Bush went to "the hold," or a room set up with secure lines for the president to receive intelligence and conference with his aides.

    Fleischer tweeted that the Secret Service wanted to leave immediately, but because there were no threats in Sarasota, Florida, a visibly shaken Bush took time to address the nation about an "apparent terrorist attack on our country."

    Then, the president rushed onto Air Force One. But in the motorcade on the way there, he was told of the attack on the Pentagon.

    During this time, Bush was constantly on the phone with his top advisers, like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney.

     Immediately, Bush set about getting to the bottom of the attack.

    As the president and his men flew toward Washington, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. Secret Service agents secured Bush's family. Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. 

    The paranoia reached a fever pitch when Bush turned to the military aide in charge of the nuclear football, the portable briefcase that travels with the president at all times and can launch a nuclear strike, and said that a call came in saying "Angel" is next. "Angel" is the code name for Air Force One.

    Top Bush aides feared a coordinated attack, perhaps using biological weapons, to "decapitate" the administration:

    In the end, Fleischer gave all credit to Bush, the Secret Service, and the military for their service on that day. His annual recollection of the event serves as a keen reminder of how trying it was.


    SEE ALSO: What happened on 9/11, 15 years ago today

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why you won't find a garbage can near the 9/11 memorial

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    FILE - In this Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin holds the Cabinet meeting in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia. Recent hacks of election data systems in at least two states have raised fear among lawmakers and intelligence officials that a foreign government is trying to seed doubt about - or even manipulate - the presidential race, renewing debate over when cyberattacks cross red lines and warrant a U.S. response. (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

    CIA Director John Brennan is warning that Russia has "exceptionally capable and sophisticated cybercapabilities" and that the United States must be on guard.

    Brennan was asked in a television interview Sunday whether Russia is trying to manipulate America's presidential election. Brennan didn't say, but he noted the FBI is investigating recent computer intrusions at the Democratic National Committee.

    He also cited Moscow's aggressive intelligence collection.

    Brennan said: "I think that we have to be very, very wary of what the Russians might be trying to do in terms of collecting information in a cyber-realm, as well as what they might want to do with it."

    Brennan spoke on CBS' "Face the Nation" on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    SEE ALSO: Iran welcomes US and Russian Syria deal: 'no military solution' in Syria

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's how the iPhone 7 compares to the Samsung Galaxy S7

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    Roses line the north memorial pool on the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks

    Paris (AFP) - America's response to the 9/11 attacks augmented rather than defeated the jihadist threat, with the consequences of the Iraq war now being felt in terror-scarred France, President Francois Hollande said Sunday.

    In a Facebook post commemorating the victims of the attacks Hollande echoed a famous front-page headline from Le Monde newspaper on the day after the suicide plane strikes.

    "Yes, on that day, we were all Americans," he wrote.

    But the Socialist leader, whose country has been rocked by a string of extremist attacks in the past year-and-a-half, was also fiercely critical of the US riposte.

    "The response that the American administration gave to these attacks... far from eradicating the threat, expanded it over a wider area. Namely to Iraq," he wrote.

    "And even though France, through (ex-president) Jacques Chirac, rightly refused to join the intervention (in Iraq) which it condemned, it has nonetheless been a victim of the consequences of the chaos it caused."

    Iraq War 2003

    Hollande's remarks were seen as a reference to the rise of the Islamic State group (IS) which was formed out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

    IS, which later expanded to Syria, has ordered or claimed several attacks in the West in the past year, particularly in France which it has declared a top target.

    The group ordered the November 2015 attacks in Paris which killed 130 people. It also claimed the truck massacre in Nice in July that claimed 86 lives as the work of one of its "soldiers".

    Hollande said every terror attack was like a re-enactment of 9/11, with its lot of "buried lives, broken destinies and grieving families".

    Declaring that democracy would triumph in the end, he called on people to "never give in to fear."

    SEE ALSO: The terrorist threat is worse now than it was before 9/11

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: NASA is bringing back one of its most experimental and dangerous programs

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    Kim Jong Un

    Unlike in January, when I was sipping a cocktail at Doris Day’s Cypress Inn, I learned that North Korea had conducted its fifth nuclear test while I was at home. My first thought was: Really, Kim Jong Un? On a school night?

    I have three small children. So I did interviews while an unsupervised toddler decorated the television in lotion.

    I never before understood the intuitive appeal of massive nuclear retaliation until I saw the plasma screen coated in some beurre corps super nourrissant my wife probably imported at great expense from France. Screw you, Kim Jong Un.

    So, the bomb. First, the technical details. This is the biggest test ever conducted by North Korea. There are a range of estimates, but everyone agrees this is bigger than the other ones. They just don’t agree about how big and, frankly, I could write an entire column or three just briefly summarizing debates about the best way to estimate the actual size of the explosion based on the seismic signal.

    I don’t want to write that. You don’t want to read that. Just believe me when I say the explosion is at least 10 kilotons, and probably more than that. About the same size as what the United States dropped on Nagasaki. The important thing is that it is far too large to be anything but successful. And, fortunately, too small to be a staged-thermonuclear weapon. So what is it?

    The North Koreans issued a statement making clear that this was a “a demonstration of the toughest will of the WPK and the Korean people to get themselves always ready to retaliate against the enemies if they make provocation as it is part of practical countermeasures to the racket of threat and sanctions against the DPRK kicked up by the U.S.-led hostile forces who have gone desperate in their moves to find fault with the sovereign state’s exercise of the right to self-defence while categorically denying the DPRK’s strategic position as a full-fledged nuclear weapons state.” That’s a real quotation. These guys are colorful.

    But perhaps more to the point, North Korea said it had tested a “nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets of the Hwasong artillery units of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army.” Hwasong is the name North Korea gives to its ballistic missiles.

    north korea

    And that word, standardized, was the same word that Kim Jong Un used when he stood next to a mock-up of a compact nuclear weapon in March. Remember thatsilly photo op, Kim in glasses and fur hat, grinning widely next to something that looked like a giant disco ball of Armageddon? “The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” Kim was paraphrased as saying then, adding, “This can be called true nuclear deterrent.”

    I think the North Koreans are saying that they’ve tested the bomb that will arm their missile units. And that’s a big deal. In the past, we’ve treated North Korean nuclear tests as temper tantrums or political demonstrations. There is some of that today, of course. North Korea didn’t just decide to test a new Scud missile during the G-20 summit in China by coincidence.

    No, the North Koreans have been hopping mad since China failed to shield them from condemnation by the U.N. Security Council following the test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile in early August. So, it’s a missile test to spoil China’s big party, followed by some nuclear fireworks to end this particular cycle of provocation and condemnation. This has happened so many times in the past few years that the governments all know their roles in this sad little drama too well.

    But this test isn’t just a political statement. It has a technical purpose. And that purpose is demonstrating the reliability of that “standardized” nuclear warhead to arm the missile force.

    The fact that the warheads are “standardized” is, I think, intended to convey that they are being produced in quantity, another point made in the statement — that North Korea can now “produce at will and as many as it wants a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power with a firm hold on the technology for producing and using various fissile materials.”

    north korea missile map

    Notice that reference to various fissile materials. A lot of people have asked whether North Korea has ever stated that it is using highly enriched uranium (HEU) in its nuclear warheads. There you go. They aren’t talking about americium in their smoke detectors.

    North Korea is saying that it tested the thing that Kim Jong Un posed with back in March. And that thing isn’t just a nuclear weapon compact enough to arm North Korea’s ballistic missiles, it is a design intended to be produced in fairly large numbers and deployed with the missile units of the Strategic Rocket Forces.

    That’s OK, you might be thinking: I’ve read that North Korea has enough plutonium for only a handful of nuclear bombs. Boy, this column is going to upset you.

    Let me tell you what I think the North Koreans are testing, and why they are claiming they can produce “as many” nuclear weapons as they want.

    Yes, North Korea has stockpiled about 40 kilograms of plutonium, according to various estimates, although North Korea has also said it will continue to produce new plutonium. How many bombs is that? We used to divide the kilograms by 8, because that’s what the International Atomic Energy Agency said. That’s five bombs, then, but that’s alsotechnically silly.

    It is an unclassified fact that a bomb can be made with as little as 4 kilograms. Divide by four, that’s 10 bombs. North Korea also has an almost totally unknown stockpile of highly enriched uranium. OK, so now you may be thinking that North Korea might have some plutonium bombs and some highly enriched uranium bombs. In that case, you are overlooking an unpleasant technical possibility: composite pits.

    Yeah, you can use both in the same bomb. That’s one way to stretch a small supply of plutonium. When Kim Jong Un posed with that bomb in March, he called it a “Korean-style structure of mixed charge … adequate for prompt thermonuclear reaction.” Mixed-charge. Thermonuclear.

    It’s a bit ambiguous, but I think it is very likely the North Koreans are claiming two things. First, they use composite pits of both Pu and HEU (mixed charge) and they “boost” the yield of the explosion using a gas of hydrogen isotopes (prompt thermonuclear reaction).

    That means there might be as little as 2 kilograms of plutonium in each device. And so divide by 2. The existing stockpile of about 40 kilograms of plutonium would be enough for about 20 nuclear weapons, with more on the way. Oh, and don’t forget to add whatever uranium is left over for all those HEU bombs, if they decide to build some of those. Let that sink in.

    nuclear bomb

    This is exactly what other countries have done. The 12th Chinese nuclear test, for example, was a test of a nuclear device with a composite pit using 2 kilograms of plutonium. It was also boosted with deuterium-tritium gas. Chinese-style mixed-charge for prompt thermonuclear reaction, you might say. This device produced 15 kilotons of explosive power when it was tested on Nov. 18, 1972.

    Back then, China was doing the opposite of what North Korea is doing; it was moving from nuclear weapons based on highly enriched uranium to plutonium, while North Korea may be going the other way stretching a supply of plutonium and possibly shifting to an all-HEU stockpile. But the principle is the same.

    And, just to be clear: I am not saying that China supplied this design to North Korea — that would be silly, it was more of a science experiment as far as I can tell — but Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons designers are just as likely to have hit on the same idea as their Chinese counterparts 40-odd years ago.

    The North Koreans know what they are doing. They have now conducted five nuclear tests, which is actually quite a lot. (Oh, by the way, take a look at all the tunneling at the North Korean nuclear test site. They plan a lot more tests.)

    Kim Jong Un

    That means we don’t really know how big North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is, or will be once the “standardized” warheads are deployed to the missile forces. But its not a small number, and certainly not just a handful. It’s a nuclear force, one that poses a threat to South Korea, Japan, and U.S. forces in the region. And it’s likely to keep growing. If we do nothing, I suspect it will grow in number, grow to threaten the continental United States, and eventually grow to include very powerful staged-thermonuclear weapons.

    And all this is going to happen sooner that you think. That nuclear weapons program is going to grow quickly — much like the toddler who decorated my television in lotion. Before I know it, he’ll be off to college. I wonder how big Kim Jong Un’s nuclear arsenal will be by then.

    SEE ALSO: The only map you need to see to know North Korea is peppered with hardened nuclear facilities

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Something unprecedented is happening in the Pacific, and Hawaii could be in big trouble

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    Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte attends the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos September 7, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday called for the withdrawal of US military from a restive southern island, fearing an American troop presence could complicate offensives against Islamist militants notorious for beheading Westerners.

    Duterte, who was in the spotlight last week over his televised tirade against the United States and President Barack Obama, said special forces now training Filipino troops were high-value targets for the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf as counter-insurgency operations intensify.

    "These special forces, they have to go," Duterte said in a speech during an oath-taking ceremony for new officials.

    "I do not want a rift with America. But they have to go."

    He added: "Americans, they will really kill them, they will try to kidnap them to get ransom."

    The comment by Duterte, a former southern mayor known for his terse words and volatile temperament, adds to uncertainty about what impact his rise to the presidency will have on one of Washington's best alliances in Asia.

    Duterte wants an independent foreign policy and says close ties with the United States are crucial, but he has frequently accused the former colonial power of hypocrisy when criticized for his deadly drugs war. He denied on Friday calling Obama a "son of a bitch".

    Some US special forces have been killed in the southern Philippines since 2002, when Washington deployed soldiers to train and advise local units fighting Abu Sayyaf in Operation Enduring Freedom, part of its global anti-terror strategy.

    ash carter Voltaire Gazmin us philippines pacific allies aircraft carrier

    At the height of that, some 1,200 Americans were in Zamboanga City and on Jolo and Basilan islands, both strongholds of Abu Sayyaf, which is known for its brutality and for earning huge sums of money from hostage-taking.

    The US program was discontinued in the Philippines in 2015 but a small troop presence has remained for logistics and technical support. Washington has shifted much of its security focus in the Philippines towards the South China Sea.

    In his speech to officials on Monday, Duterte repeated comments from last week when he accused the United States of committing atrocities against Muslims over a century ago on Jolo island.

    SEE ALSO: China and Russia will stage joint military drills in the South China Sea

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    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview with NBC News in this handout picture provided by SANA on July 14, 2016. SANA/Handout via REUTERS

    An emboldened President Bashar al-Assad vowed on Monday to take back all of Syria, hours before the start of a ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia, which Assad's opponents described as stacked in his favor.

    In a gesture loaded with symbolism, state television showed Assad visiting Daraya, a Damascus suburb long held by rebels but recaptured last month after fighters there surrendered in the face of a crushing siege.

    The Syrian leader performed Muslim holiday prayers alongside other officials in a bare hall in a Daraya mosque.

    "The Syrian state is determined to recover every area from the terrorists," Assad said in an interview broadcast by state media, flanked by his delegation at an otherwise deserted road junction.

    He made no mention of the ceasefire agreement, but said the army would continue its work "without hesitation, regardless of any internal or external circumstances".

    The ceasefire is due to take effect at sundown, and includes improved humanitarian aid access and joint U.S. and Russian targeting of hardline Islamists. But it faces big challenges, including how to separate nationalist rebels from the jihadists.

    The rebels say the deal benefits Assad, who appears stronger than at any point since the early days of the war, with military support from Russia and Iran.


    The capture of Daraya, a few kilometers (miles) from Damascus, followed years of siege and bombardment and has helped the government secure important areas to the southwest of the capital near an air base.

    Backed by Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, the army has also completely encircled the rebel-held half of Aleppo, Syria's largest city before the war, which has been divided into government and opposition-held zones for years.

    In the footage of his visit to Daraya, Assad, 51, appeared to be driving his own vehicle, a silver SUV, as he arrived at the mosque. He smiled and waved as he entered.


    syria map

    Daraya was evacuated following a local agreement between the army and rebels that let fighters escape to a rebel stronghold while civilians were sent to another government-held area. The U.N.'s aid chief, Stephen O'Brien, voiced "extreme concern", emphasizing the harsh conditions that led to the surrender. The government has sought similar deals in other besieged areas.

    Russia's intervention in the Syrian war a year ago has tilted it in Assad's favor, after rebel advances had posed a growing threat to his rule. It has also given Russia decisive leverage over international diplomacy that has thus far failed to make any progress towards a political settlement.

    The Russia-U.S. deal is the second attempt to bring about a ceasefire this year, after an agreement concluded in February collapsed as each side blamed the other for violations.

    Washington, which supports some rebel factions, has been seeking to refocus the fighting in Syria on the Islamic State group, which still controls swathes of the country and has not been included in any ceasefires.

    Fighting raged on several key frontlines on Monday, including Aleppo and the southern province of Quneitra.

    "There are no signs we are going to a truce so far," said Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict.

    The Syrian war has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced 11 million people from their homes in the world's worst refugee crisis. The new truce has official support from countries on both sides, including both Iran, Assad's ally, and Turkey, a major sponsor of the insurgency against him.


    Under the agreement, Russian-backed government forces and opposition groups, which are supported by the United States and Gulf States, would halt fighting for a while as a confidence building measure.

    During this time, opposition fighters will have the chance to separate from militant groups in areas such as Aleppo.

    But distinguishing rebels protected by the ceasefire from jihadists who are excluded from it is tricky, particularly with regards to a group formerly called the Nusra Front, which was al Qaeda's Syria branch until it changed its name in July.

    The group, which now calls itself Jabhet Fateh al-Sham, is playing a vital role in the battle for Aleppo allied with other rebel factions, but is still outside the ceasefire.

    Jabhat Fateh al-Sham Syria

    The United States has said the deal includes agreement that the government will not fly combat missions in an agreed area on the pretext of hunting fighters from the former Nusra Front. However, the opposition says a loophole would allow the government to continue air strikes for up to nine days after the ceasefire takes effect.

    Nationalist rebel groups, including factions backed by Assad's foreign enemies, wrote to Washington on Sunday to express deep concerns over the truce. The letter, seen by Reuters, said the opposition groups would "cooperate positively" with a ceasefire but believed the terms favored Assad.

    It said the ceasefire shared the flaw that allowed the government to scupper the previous truce: a lack of guarantees, monitoring mechanisms or sanctions against violators.

    It also said Jabhet Fateh al-Sham should be included in the truce, as the group had not carried out attacks outside Syria despite its previous ties to al Qaeda. Jabhet Fatah al-Sham said the deal aimed to weaken the "effective" anti-Assad forces, and to "bury" the revolution.

    The government has made no comment on the agreement, but Syrian state media quoted what it called private sources as saying the government had given its approval.

    The previous cessation of hostilities agreement resulted in a U.N.-led attempt to launch peace talks in Geneva. But these broke down before getting started in earnest.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said a new round of talks between the Syrian government and opposition may be held in early October, the RIA news agency said.

    "I think that probably at the very beginning of October (U.N. Syria envoy Staffan) de Mistura should invite all the parties," Bogdanov was quoted as saying.


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    NOW WATCH: 'Well you can look on the map' — watch Hillary Clinton mock Gary Johnson over his Aleppo gaffe

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    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shake hands at the conclusion of their news conference following their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland where they discussed the crisis in Syria September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    Two major players in Syria have signaled their intention not to cooperate just 48 hours after the US signed a ceasefire deal with Russia.

    US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the ceasefire deal with his Russian counterpart in Geneva Saturday morning. The agreement stipulates that beginning Monday morning, all parties in Syria will begin a “genuine reduction of violence,” for a period of one week. If the ceasefire holds for a week, then the US will open a joint operations center with Russia meant to target the Islamic State and al-Qaida elements in Syria.

    The largest rebel group in Syria stated unequivocally Sunday it would not cooperate with the ceasefire agreement. The rebel group maintains deep ties to al-Qaida, and said a ceasefire would only benefit the Assad regime. The lack of cooperation from one of the biggest battlefield forces in Syria will make it difficult for a “genuine reduction in violence” to occur.

    Assad’s rhetoric in the hours before the ceasefire began also calls into doubt his willingness to abide by the agreement. Assad appeared in a symbolic neighborhood Monday and vowed to “retake every inch of Syria.” Assad painted any group who opposed his rule as “terrorists” and said “After five years, some people still haven’t woken up from their fantasies.”

    Kerry and Obama’s first ceasefire deal in Syria fell apart after after Russia, Syria, and several rebel groups consistently violated the agreement. Despite this Kerry pledged at the deal’s announcement, “We believe the plan, if implemented, if followed, has the ability to provide a turning point, a change.”

    Assad’s position will pose a challenge to Russia, who under the agreement must restrain him from striking rebel targets. Restraining Assad will be especially difficult when one of his biggest battlefield foes has already signaled it will continue attacking regime targets.


    Even if the ceasefire agreement holds for a week, US defense officials are deeply skeptical of cooperating with Russia in counter-terrorism targets. Under the deal both parties must agree that a group is a legitimate terrorist target before it can be bombed. Russia has established a consistent pattern of labeling any group that opposes Assad as “terrorists.”

    The deal also does not deal in any way with the myriad of extra-national forces fighting for the Assad regime in Syria. These forces include Iranian backed Hezbollah fighters, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps paramilitary forces, and unacknowledged Russian ground mercenaries.

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    john kerry

    Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the cease-fire deal brokered by the US and Russia "may be the last chance we have to save a united Syria,"CNN reported on Monday, hours after the truce started.

    The Obama administration believes a truce leading to negotiations "is the only realistic possible solution," Kerry told reporters at the State Department.

    Kerry acknowledged the temporary peace deal is "less than perfect" but said the situation in Syria before the deal was "worse than flawed," according to CNN.

    Kerry said it was too early to evaluate the effectiveness of the cease-fire, and cast no doubt that some violence would be reported "here and there,"according to Reuters.

    As part of the ceasefire, the Syrian army has announced a halt to military operations for seven days. The ceasefire, if it manages to remain in effect, will allow the delivery of aid and humanitarian assistance to besieged areas of the nation.

    Early reports demonstrate some reduction of violence in Syria but there's also mounting evidence showing how hard it will be to ensure that the ceasefire remains intact.

    The Free Syrian Army, according to the BBC, has said that it will "co-operate positively" with the ceasefire. However, the group also voiced concerns that the deal will ultimately benefit the Syrian government at the expense of rebel held areas.

    And Ahrar al-Sham, a major Islamist group operating in the country, initially announced via an online statement that it would not respect the ceasefire as the group “is not bound by the truce and won’t abide by it."

    Like the Free Syrian Army, the group also doubted the ceasefire and said a truce would only benefit Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, making it difficult for a "genuine reduction in violence" to occur, according to Daily Caller.

    Ahrar al-Sham

    Ahrar al-Sham also called out the ceasefire for the provision that, should the deal hold for seven days and humanitarian aid flows unimpeded, Russia and the US would begin joint strikes against the al Qaeda Jabhat Fatah al-Sham affiliate and would share intelligence through a Joint Implementation Center (JIC).

    "We're going to measure [the situation in Syria] every single day, and we'll see where we are," Kerry said about the possible implementation of the JIC.

    A later statement from State Department Spokesperson John Kirby stated that the purpose of the (JIC) was to coordinate with Russia, and that Syria would have no role in the effort.

    "A primary purpose of this agreement, from our perspective, is to prevent the Syrian regime air force from flying or striking in any areas in which the opposition or Nusra are present. The purpose of the JIC, if and when it is established, would be to coordinate military action between the US and Russia, not for any other party," said Kirby.


    Ahrar al-Sham said that ultimately, the  ceasefire was an "unjust agreement" that signaled the lack of seriousness on the international community's part to end the multi-year Syrian conflict.

    Another major sticking point that the opposition has with the ceasefire is the lack of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that all parties abide by the truce. However, The Washington Post reports that Kerry said the situation will be constantly closely monitored and that if the peace process is not met then the US will refuse to participate in the JIC with Russia. 

    The ceasefire is also on rocky ground due to luke warm support from the Syrian government. Hours before the start of the cease-fire, President Assad vowed to "retake every inch of Syria," adding that the army would continue its work "without hesitation, regardless of any internal or external circumstances" without mentioning the truce agreement explicitly, Reuters reported.

    Additionally, neither Assad nor the rebel groups have officially accepted the ceasefire. However, both sides have said signaled that they will comply with the agreement, The Washington post reports.

    SEE ALSO: Syrian cease-fire brokered by US and Russia goes into effect

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    NOW WATCH: EX-PENTAGON CHIEF: These are the 2 main reasons ISIS was born

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    IS spokesman and head of external operations Abu Muhammad al-Adnani is pictured in this undated handout photo, courtesy the U.S. Department of State. The United States carried out an air strike in Syria's town of al-Bab targeting a senior Islamic State official, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on August 30, 2016.  U.S. Department of State/REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY - RTX2NNYQ

    The Pentagon confirmed on Monday that Islamic State leader Abu Muhammad al-Adnani was killed in a U.S. air strike on Aug. 30 in Syria.

    The United States had said on Aug. 30 that Adnani had been targeted in a strike, but it stopped short of confirming his death. Russia's Defense Ministry said on Aug. 31 that a Russian air strike had killed Adnani.

    (Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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    north korea

    The radioactive dust from North Korea's fifth and most powerful nuclear weapons test had barely settled Friday when the calls to slap more sanctions on Kim Jong-un's regime began.

    Republicans in Congress howled about the need to punish Pyongyang and crack down on its Chinese allies, and President Barack Obama vowed that the fallout would include "additional significant steps, including new sanctions, to demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions."

    But if history is any indication, imposing more sanctions will do virtually nothing to stop North Korea from continuing to detonate nukes and launch missiles. After the regime's last nuclear test in January, the UN Security Council's Panel of Experts on North Korea published a report that found, despite more than a decade of increasingly harsh sanctions, "no indications that the country intends to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

    The report, which raised "serious questions about the efficacy of the current United Nations sanctions regime," detailed the myriad ways the Kim regime has repeatedly managed to make a mockery of international efforts to prevent money, luxury goods, and weapons components from getting into the country. In the months after the report was published, prior to the latest nuclear test, VICE News spoke with numerous experts who further explained how Pyongyang evades sanctions and why additional restrictions are unlikely to make much difference.

    "On the finance side, they've adopted a number of techniques," said Bill Newcomb, a former US State Department official and ex-member of the UN Security Council's Panel of Experts on North Korea. "They're the same sorts of techniques that a narcotics operation would use to launder their profits and so forth, but North Korea has an advantage because it's a state and so it's able to use its embassies abroad with diplomats."

    The latest nuclear test, which occurred on the 68th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's government, created a 5.3 magnitude earthquake. Judging from the seismic data, nuclear weapons experts estimated that the blast was roughly equivalent to the 20-kiloton bomb the US dropped on Nagasaki during World War II. The question now is whether the North is capable of putting its nuke on top of a missile. Analysts remain skeptical, but North Korean state media claimed on Friday that the country now has a functional warhead that is "standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets."

    north korea

    After a string of North Korean missile tests earlier this year, South Korea agreed to let the US install an advanced missile defense system in a rugged area about 135 miles southeast of Seoul. The move upset China, North Korea's closest ally and largest trading partner, which feels uneasy about having a powerful American weapon its backyard.

    The Chinese have strongly condemned North Korea's nuclear tests, and Beijing promised in January to play ball with the US and its allies by helping enforce the latest round of sanctions. But even before the missile defense system upset the Chinese, the experts who spoke with VICE News were skeptical about whether China would keep its word.

    "China will use the sanctions as a convenient justification or rationale for occasionally cracking down on North Korea as it sees fit," said Marcus Noland, a specialist in Korean issues at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. "North Korea will do something, the Chinese will be annoyed, they'll crack down and say, 'Hey, look, we're good global citizens.'"

    One of the key sanctions issues involves restrictions on exports of North Korean coal and other minerals. While there's evidence that North Korea's state-owned mining companies have funneled money to the country's weapons program, coal shipments are often exempt from sanctions because of rules that are designed to shield the North's civilian population from bearing the brunt of the punishment.

    "The sanctions have to be targeted at military and illicit activities, not quote-unquote civilian activities," said Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to the website 38 North. "They're specifically designed not to hurt ordinary people. That really kind of limits the kind of entities that can be sanctioned, the breadth of industries that can be sanctioned."

    North Korea

    Chinese banks with nothing to lose are another problem. In addition to the UN sanctions, the US has imposed its own slew of restrictions on doing business with North Korea. If banks are caught taking money from blacklisted North Korean entities, the Treasury Department can cut off their access to the dollar system, a crippling blow to institutions that want to do business overseas.

    According to Joshua Stanton, an attorney who helped US lawmakers craft sanctions on North Korea in 2013, sometimes Chinese banks are "more worried about our Treasury Department than their own government."

    "I don't want to say US sanctions are greater than UN sanctions," Stanton said. "I think they need each other, but if you have US sanctions without UN sanctions you get Cuba — no one follows it except us, and there are too many holes in the net."

    The problem, according to Noland, is that some Chinese banks don't care about maintaining access to the dollar system. And with the North Koreans desperate for a place to stash their cash, the banks can charge a premium for their services.

    "There is going to be a fringe of small Chinese financial institutions, small Chinese trading companies, small Chinese whatevers, who don't do any business in the US, and given North Korea's isolation, they could be a high-margin, highly profitable business," he said. "Some obscure Chinese company is going to step into the breach."

    Even if Beijing decided to crack down on North Korea's Chinese partners, it's possible the Kim regime could still find a way to import banned items. The UN Security Council's Panel of Experts report from earlier this year is littered with examples of incidents where North Korea used foreign-flagged ships and front companies to dodge sanctions.

    north korea

    Incredibly, Pyongyang was even able to import a fleet of armored Mercedes-Benz limousines from a US company in New Jersey. The limos, which were obtained via a North Korean shipping agency that disguised itself as a Chinese logistics company, were last spotted cruising through the North Korean capital during a military parade in October 2015.

    Newcomb, the former Panel of Experts member, noted that the burden of complying with sanctions and inspecting cargo often falls on unsuspecting businesses and undermanned or poorly trained customs offices at ports around the world.

    'They're using the same systems that giant companies or plutocrats are using to hide their money overseas.'

    "They don't have the customs officials to inspect the cargo and recognize things that could be parts of a missile system, or analyze a shipment of metal to see if it's military or arms-related goods," Newcomb said, adding that North Korea tends to seek out countries with loosely regulated financial systems or places where bribery is rampant. "Wherever they can operate or there's less oversight, they tend to find it."

    North Korea has also been linked to counterfeit currency and cigarettes,methamphetamine production, and the smuggling of ivory, rhino horn, and other exotic animal parts. These lucrative enterprises are reportedly controlled by Office 39, describedby the US Treasury Department as "a secretive branch of the government... that provides critical support to [the] North Korean leadership in part through engaging in illicit economic activities and managing slush funds."

    North Korea

    Michael Madden, a visiting scholar at the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University and the author of the website North Korea Leadership Watch, said the Kim regime is ingenious when it comes to finding ways to earn — and conceal — hard currency.

    "They're using the same systems that giant companies or plutocrats are using to hide their money overseas," Madden said. "They're not hiding from taxes, but from international scrutiny."

    Of course, the sanctions have had some economic impact on North Korea. While elites in 'Pyongyhattan' live lavishly, people outside the capital still face shortages of food, medicine, and other basic necessities. But it seems clear that the Kim regime has no qualms about letting its citizens suffer while it continues to develop nuclear weapons, and growing recognition of this reality has led to calls to end the sanctions.

    On Friday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for Pyongyang to "reverse its course and commit to a path of denuclearization," but he also stressed the need to "urgently break this accelerating spiral of escalation," perhaps signaling a change of tack. And while Obama promised to impose new sanctions, Secretary of State John Kerry said the US remained open to "credible and authentic" talks with North Korea.

    But judging by a statement issued by North Korean state media on Friday, the Kim regime has no intention of giving up its nukes any time soon. The message blasted the existing sanctions as a "desperate" move by the US to block North Korea's "right to self-defense," and vowed to "take further measures to bolster the state nuclear force in quality and quantity."

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    U.S. Navy Admiral John Richardson (L), the U.S. chief of naval operations, waits for Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before their talks at Abe's official residence in Tokyo October 15, 2015. U.S. naval vessels sailing through international waters in the South China Sea, including areas claimed by China, cannot be considered provocative, the U.S. Navy's most senior uniformed officer said on Thursday, while a Chinese newspaper called for a firm response to any

    At a recent conference at the Center for American Progress, Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson discussed at length naval operations in Asia and the Pacific, touching on how he'd like to deal with the Iranian navy, which has made a habit of harassing US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.

    Throughout the conference, Richardson praised the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) that has helped Chinese and US naval vessels operate safely and at a distance in the South China Sea.

    However, the US and Iran have no such agreements, or even a diplomatic relationship for establishing them.

    In fact, Iran seems rather content to provoke the US.

    In January of this year, Iranian fast attack craft surrounded a broken down US Navy ship and captured 11 sailors. The incident was shown on Iranian TV and has been consistently milked for propaganda purposes. Reports indicate that Iran plans to build a statue commemorating the incident as a tourist attraction.

    Iran has threatened, though not credibly, to close the Strait of Hormuz, and thereby access to the Persian Gulf. The country has threatened to shoot down US surveillance aircraft flying near Iran. Most recently, Tehran unveiled a new 180 foot naval vessel with a banner that read"America should go to the Bay of Pigs, the Persian Gulf is our house."

    While Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group and an expert on Iran, told Business Insider that Iran's naval posturing and provocations are "one of the ways the Iranian political system lets off steam," the threat of miscalculation, fatalities, and escalation remains very real.

    How the Navy wants to deal with Iran

    strait of hormuz

    When asked what the Navy is prepared to do when being harassed by Iranian vessels, and if there were any limits on the way it could respond, Richardson responded unequivocally.

    "Nothing limits the way they can respond," said Richardson, leaving kinetic, or shooting solutions to this problem firmly on the table.

    As far as capabilities go, the US wields the greatest Navy in the world, which Iran couldn't really hope to challenge in a conventional fight.

    "Is our navy ready to respond? Yes. In every respect."

    "In some super dynamic situations, and you've seen some of these unfold in video, the decisions are often made in extremely short periods of time," said Richardson, referencing videos that have been released of close encounters at sea with swarming and harassing Iranian speedboats.

    "We always strive to make sure that our commanders have the situational awareness, the capability, and the rules of engagement that they need to manage those situations."

    So essentially, in any given incident, if a ship's commander makes the choice to sink an Iranian vessel, he's well within his rights to do so, as the fast, unexpected incidents don't "allow time to phone home to get permission."

    However, sinking and likely killing Iranians at sea doesn't represent a diplomatic or stabilizing solution, and as such it isn't Richardson's preferred route.

    iranian ship

    In this case, what the US Navy can do and what it would like to do couldn't be more starkly different. Richardson repeatedly stressed the need for the US and Iran to come to an understanding about encounters at sea, like the US and China have established.

    The incidents at sea are "destabilizing things, and risking tactical miscalculations," that could result in injury, the loss of ships, and the loss of life, Richardson said.

    "Nothing good can come from it," Richardson said of the incidents. "This advocates for the power of a leader to leader dialogue, we're working to see our way though to what are the possibilities there."

    SEE ALSO: Why Iran is 'playing with fire' in the Persian Gulf against US Navy ships

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    Screen Shot 2016 09 13 at 12.51.41 PM

    On Monday, three Russian surface ships, two supply ships, two helicopters, 96 marines, and a handful of amphibious armored vehicles arrived at China's Zhanjiang port for a joint military exercise in the South China Sea, China's Ministry of Defense reports.

    China says the drills will include the "highest ever level of standardization, combat and digitalization in recent China-Russia drills."

    The Chinese and Russian ships will practice "joint air defense, anti-submarine operations, landing, island-seizing, search and rescue, and weapon use," according to the statement.

    For their part, China states they will deploy a total of ten ships, including destroyers, frigates, landing ships, supply ships, submarines. In addition, 11 fixed-wing aircraft, eight helicopters, and 160 marines will participate.

    Though the statement claims the drills do not intend to target any third party, the placement of the drills in the heavily disputed South China Sea raises eyebrows. This is particularly true as China has staged military drills explicitly training to take the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, territories that Japan and China have long argued over.

    The announcement of the drills in July, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled against China's nine-dash line claims in the region, could be seen as a response to the rising international pressures on China to comply with international law and the wishes of neighboring nations.

    The South China Sea is the site of several overlapping territorial claims from China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei.

    map south china sea

    SEE ALSO: China is exploiting weakness in the South China Sea with its deceptive ‘second navy'

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    NOW WATCH: A couple got married dangling underneath a glass bridge above a 590-foot canyon

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    USS Eisenhower

    The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carries out airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria from the Mediterranean, but in the early morning hours of September 11 a baby was delivered on board, the Navy Times reports.

    Normally, a pregnant woman would not deploy in any branch of the military under any circumstances, but the third class petty officer said she was unaware that she was carrying a 7 pound baby girl.

    “Both the mother and the baby are healthy and are doing well,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban told the Navy Times.

    The moment the medical staff aboard the Eisenhower knew she was expecting, a helicopter flew out for diapers, formula, and other necessary baby supplies. For a moment, the attention of the Eisenhower turned from fighting ISIS to ushering in a new life.

    As the baby was born to a US Navy sailor aboard a US aircraft carrier at sea, she's a US citizen through and through.

    SEE ALSO: How the US Navy wants to handle Iran's naval provocations in the Persian Gulf

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    NOW WATCH: This incredible time-lapse shows what a day is like on an aircraft carrier

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