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- 08/11/17--15:18: _Trump: 'Nobody love...
- 08/14/17--07:06: _McMaster thinks Nor...
- 08/14/17--07:53: _CIA reportedly admi...
- 08/14/17--08:12: _Smugglers may have ...
- 08/14/17--10:00: _Watch an F-35 launc...
- 08/14/17--10:04: _Iranian drone haras...
- 08/14/17--10:13: _Tillerson and Matti...
- 08/14/17--13:52: _Mattis warns we 'co...
- 08/14/17--15:19: _Kim Jong-un reporte...
- 08/15/17--10:28: _China and North Kor...
- 08/15/17--11:26: _Adviser to South Ko...
- 08/15/17--13:46: _Former Defense Secr...
- 08/16/17--09:21: _Russia's new Su-57 ...
- 08/17/17--07:33: _The US-North Korean...
- 08/17/17--08:45: _The US Navy is gett...
- 08/17/17--12:46: _Driver runs over 2 ...
- 08/18/17--08:39: _Highest-level North...
- 08/23/17--09:52: _There's an eerie qu...
- 08/24/17--08:01: _It's starting to lo...
- 08/24/17--13:21: _North Korea will be...
After a week of "fire and fury" threats from President Donald Trump, he emerged from a national security meeting stressing his hope that the North Korean crisis would be resolved peacefully.
Asked if South Korea could feel assured of Trump's handling of the situation, Trump said he thinks it's "very happy," as was Japan. Trump took the opportunity to bash former US presidents who presided over a slowly nuclearizing North Korea and failed to bring the program to a halt.
Trump said that South Korea felt "more reassured with me than with other presidents in the past," but because South Korea also has a new president, and the South Korean people have never faced a threat as evolved as today's North Korea, it would be hard to gauge the accuracy of that statement.
Though Trump repeated his refrain that if North Korea made good on its plans to fire missiles near Guam, "there's gonna be big, big trouble in North Korea," he ultimately struck a more positive note.
When asked about a threat in North Korean media, Trump said that he would not respond to North Korean media and wait for comment from Kim Jong Un, who he said has been "very quiet in the last three days."
"I think the president has made it clear he prefers a diplomatic solution" to North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chimed in during the conference. Tillerson added that Trump was making the consequences clear should North Korea attack the US.
"Hopefully it’ll all work out soon," said Trump. 'Nobody loves a peaceful solution better than President Trump."
"I support peace, I support safety, and I support having to get very tough if we have to protect America or our allies," said Trump.
President Donald Trump's national security adviser made a startling statement to ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" on Sunday.
When asked whether the US could tolerate a fully nuclear-capable North Korea, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster questioned how the military had dealt with nuclear nations for decades.
"The classical deterrence theory, how does that apply to a regime like the regime in North Korea?" McMaster said.
McMaster characterized North Korea as engaging in "unspeakable brutality against its own people" and posing "a continuous threat to its neighbors"— and now the US — with nuclear weapons. He also said the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, would imprison and murder "anyone who seems to oppose that regime, including members of his own family."
Trump's national security adviser fundamentally believing that North Korea cannot be deterred could have massive policy implications. Essentially, if the US's superior nuclear might couldn't cause North Korea to back down, it would make sense to attack before it developed full nuclear capability.
But McMaster's characterization of North Korea as a regime beyond the pale of rationality also has some issues. To varying degrees, both the Soviet Union and China engaged in similar brutality, threats, and murder and oppression of dissidents.
In 1957, during the US and Soviet Union's heated arms race, the Chinese leader Mao Zedong said: "I'm not afraid of nuclear war. There are 2.7 billion people in the world; it doesn't matter if some are killed. China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million people left. I'm not afraid of anyone."
But nuclear war never broke out. Though the US sought to contain the spread of communism during the Cold War, it never attacked China, even as it built a nuclear arsenal.
Experts contacted by Business Insider have previously said Kim is indeed a rational actor who can be expected to observe established rules of deterrence.
The consensus among North Korea watchers is that Kim seeks nuclear weapons for regime security, and while his newfound nuclear prowess could strike a US city, the US's response would leave nothing left of North Korea.
The CIA has assessed that North Korea's Hwasong-14, the intercontinental ballistic missile tested twice in July, has the capability to reach the US with a nuclear payload, according to The Diplomat's Ankit Panda.
Though the reentry vehicle, or the tip of the warhead that carries the nuclear device and plunges back down to earth at many times the speed of sound, disintegrated upon nearing the earth's surface, the CIA says that's only because it used a lofted trajectory, according to The Diplomat.
Basically, North Korea wanted to demonstrate the intercontinental reach of the Hwasong-14, but could not safely do so by firing it at another country. If the US saw a North Korean ICBM heading its way, it may choose to respond with a nuclear counterattack.
So instead, North Korea shot the missile nearly straight up in the air, and the missile landed just a few hundred miles away in the ocean near Japan. The CIA assessment says the reentry vehicle would have survived on a normal trajectory, and only broke up because of the extreme angle.
The CIA report comes after other US intelligence assessments said North Korea can miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit them on ballistic missiles, meaning that US now maintains that Kim Jong-un has fully developed the capability to strike the US mainland.
While the question remain about whether North Korea can accurately guide a missile to a target, much of the US's west coast is so populous that any detonation there would be devastating.
Washington (AFP) - North Korea's recent rapid progress in developing a long-range missile appears to come after it procured Soviet-designed rocket engines from a plant in Ukraine, according to an expert report published Monday.
According to Michael Elleman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the missiles used in recent North Korean tests were based on the RD-250 engine once made at a plant in the city of Dnipro.
These could have been bought from corrupt workers and smuggled to North Korea by criminal networks, the report alleges, at some point between the collapse of the Soviet Union and Ukraine's current military crisis.
During the Soviet era, the RD-250 was produced at the Yuzhnoye design bureau's Yuzhmash plant in Dnipro, a city that is today in Kiev government-held central Ukraine, around 150 kilometers (80 miles) from a frontline held by Russian-backed separatists.
Both Ukraine and the company reacted angrily to The New York Times' account of the report, insisting that Yuzhmash has not produced military rockets since Ukraine's independence and has no links to North Korea's nuclear missile program.
But the IISS report itself does not contradict this, suggesting instead that the missile motors may have remained in storage, whether in what is now Russia or independent Ukraine, after the Soviet Union broke up.
"A small team of disgruntled employees or underpaid guards at any one of the storage sites... could be enticed to steal a few dozen engines by one of the many illicit arms dealers, criminal networks, or transnational smugglers operating in the former Soviet Union," it said.
"The engines (less than two meters tall and one meter wide) can be flown or, more likely, transported by train through Russia to North Korea."
The report includes pictures issued by Kim Jong-Un's North Korean regime which appear to show similarities between the latest missiles to be tested and the RD-250 design of a liquid-fuelled rocket.
"This is not to suggest that the Ukrainian government was involved, and not necessarily Yuzhnoye executives," Elleman wrote in the IISS report.
"Workers at Yuzhnoye facilities in Dnipropetrovsk and Pavlograd were likely the first ones to suffer the consequences of the economic misfortunes, leaving them susceptible to exploitation by unscrupulous traders, arms dealers and transnational criminals operating in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere."
The Yuzhmash plant's marketing department said the company "has never before and does not have anything to do with North Korean missile programs of a space or defense nature."
And Oleksandr Turchynov, secretary of Ukraine's national security and defense council, seized on the report to attack Moscow, saying: "We believe this anti-Ukrainian campaign was provoked by Russian special services to cover their participation in North Korean nuclear and missile programs."
As the UK's new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth nears full combat readiness, pilots are testing out the F-35B for takeoff from the carrier's "ski-jump" platform.
With its massive lift fan, the US Marine Corps' F-35B can takeoff from a flat-deck carrier in a short distance and land vertically, but with the Queen Elizabeth's ski-jump platform, the F-35B can takeoff with heavier load outs and more fuel.
In rough seas, when the Queen Elizabeth may pitch and roll violently, the ski-jump platform can ad margins of safety compared to US-style flat deks, IHS Janes reports.
In the video below, watch an F-35B laden with air-to-air and air-to-ground bombs flawlessly take off from a ramp in preparation for deployment on the Queen Elizabeth.
An Iranian drone made several passes near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on Sunday, marking the second unsafe interaction between the carrier and an Iranian drone in a week.
Cmdr. Bill Urban, spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, told the Washington Examiner the Iranian QOM-1/Sadegh-1 "conducted an unsafe and unprofessional approach" of the aircraft carrier, which was operating in the central Persian Gulf.
The Nimitz made repeated radio calls to establish communications with the drone, but the aircraft's controlling station did not respond, Urban said.
The drone also did not use any aircraft navigation lights when it made "several passes" near the Nimitz and its escort ships during active flight operations.
Urban said the Iranian drone flew within 1,000 feet of the aircraft carrier.
"The failure of the Iranian [unmanned aerial vehicle] to utilize standard, internationally-mandated navigation lights during a night time approach of a U.S. aircraft carrier engaged in flight operations created a dangerous situation with the potential for collision and is not in keeping with international maritime customs and laws," Urban said.
Sunday's incident comes after an F/A-18E Super Hornet that was preparing to land on the Nimitz was forced to take evasive action last week when an Iranian drone came close to the plane.
The F/A-18E was preparing to land on the aircraft carrier when the drone "executed unsafe and unprofessional altitude changes in the close vicinity" of the U.S. warplane.
As President Donald Trump lopsidedly focuses on "fire and fury" toward North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis have laid out the US's comprehensive approach to dealing with the country.
An op-ed by Tillerson and Mattis published Sunday in The Wall Street Journal stresses the US's efforts to get the international community, especially China and the UN Security Council, on board with denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
Equally as important to the US's stated goal, however, are objectives the pair say they won't pursue.
"The US has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea," they wrote. "We do not seek an excuse to garrison US troops north of the Demilitarized Zone. We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang."
These promises to respect Pyongyang's leadership and the buffer between US-influenced South Korea and Chinese-backed North Korea represent the substance of what China and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would most likely demand from the US in any negotiation.
In the face of mounting tensions between North Korea and the US, Pyongyang has been slipping de-escalatory language into statements about its nuclear posture.
Here's the most recent, highest-level North Korean statement, from Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, on the prospect of disarming (emphasis added):
"We will, under no circumstances, put the nukes and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table. Neither shall we flinch even an inch from the road to bolstering up the nuclear forces chosen by ourselves unless the hostile policy and nuclear threat of the US against the DPRK are fundamentally eliminated."
But Tillerson and Mattis suggest that things should work differently — and that North Korea should pause its illegal hostilities before the US pauses its legal military exercises with South Korea.
"Given the long record of North Korea's dishonesty in negotiations and repeated violations of international agreements," Tillerson and Mattis wrote, any negotiations would first require the country's "immediate cessation of its provocative threats, nuclear tests, missile launches, and other weapons tests."
Tillerson and Mattis call on China to reassess its interests and cut off trade with North Korea to achieve this goal, saying, "The region and world need and expect China to do more."
Still, Tillerson and Mattis end by asserting the US military's preparedness to handle North Korea with force should diplomacy fail.
If North Korea fires a missiles at the US, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters on Monday that "it could escalate into war very quickly," according to Reuters' Idrees Ali.
Mattis said the US could assess "within moments" if a missile fired from North Korea was on track to hit the US territory of Guam, and that "we will take it out," in that situation.
Mattis's comments came as several CNN reporters cited a senior US defense official as telling them North Korean mobile missile launchers have been moving around, and a possible intermediate range missile launch may be in preparation.
Mattis's statement suggests that the US would know with a high degree of accuracy if the missiles were on track to hit Guam, which differs from North Korea's stated plan to land them near Guam.
"I think if they fire at the United States it could escalate to war very quickly, yes that’s called war, if they shoot at us," said Mattis according to CNN's Barbara Starr. It remains unclear if Mattis meant that even missiles intended to land near Guam would also draw a full US retaliation.
However Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider that North Korea's unproven Hwasong-12 would struggle with accuracy, and even a slight malfunction could send the missile miles off course.
Experts contacted by Business Insider found the prospect of North Korea carrying out its plan unlikely.
Kim Jong-un has reportedly turned down the escalated tone of an earlier threat to launch missiles at the US territory of Guam, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The North Korean dictator had been previously briefed by his military on a plan to attack Guam, according to South Korea's Yonhap News, citing North Korean media reports.
North Korea celebrates "Liberation Day" on Tuesday, the anniversary of the withdrawal of Japanese occupying forces from the Korean Peninsula in 1946. North Korea frequently tests missiles or holds provocative events on holidays.
In the past days, US satellites have reportedly spotted missile movements and some submarine activity in North Korea. Both of these could possibly indicate an upcoming launch.
The North Korean military stated its intention to present a plan on firing missiles at the waters near Guam to Kim in mid-August, but it's unclear if and when North Korea will complete that plan and if and when Kim will decide to go through with it.
Experts on North Korea told Business Insider they found it unlikely that North Korea would carry out the attack.
President Trump personally called out the August 15 date on Friday, threatening "big, big trouble in North Korea," if an attack plays out. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed that sentiment, saying a North Korean launch at Guam "could escalate into war very quickly," but neither specified if launching missiles near Guam would constitute an attack on the island.
Mattis added that if the US perceived the attack to be on the US, it would shoot the missiles down. The US and Japan have a handful of advanced missile defense capabilities in the region, but none of them are proven against real world targets.
Furthermore, it would be difficult for the US to distinguish an attack from a missile test near Guam. It would also be difficult for North Korea to accurately place its missiles short of Guam, as the Hwasong-12, the missile it proposed using, has only been successfully tested once.
In light of surging tensions between North Korea, its neighbors, and the US, South Korea has decided to deploy more powerful US missile defense batteries.
South Korean President Moon Jae In, who had initially been resistant to increased US missile defense deployments, requested talks on improving his country's defensive posture in light of recent threats from North Korea.
"They're moving forward," Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, told South Korea's Yonhap News. "In early May, we got initial intercept capability and they continue to build on that capability," said Manning of the US moving the defenses into South Korea during a transitional period before Moon came to power.
The defense battery, known as the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, has the best record and widest range of any missile defense in the region, and could potentially blunt or defeat a North Korean missile attack on Seoul.
Current THAAD batteries in South Korea only protect military installations west of Seoul and do not currently cover the capital city of 26 million people.
Moon increasing THAAD deployments sends a strong signal to North Korea. Although the regime's ICBMs do not threaten South Korea, China has threatened economic retaliation towards South Korea in response.
Even though THAAD is a purely defensive weapons system that doesn't have warheads on its missiles, China fears its powerful radar. Some estimates of the radar's range place much of mainland China within the US' sights, meaning that one day the US could possibly integrate THAAD into a larger missile defense system that would neuter China's ability to launch nuclear missiles without warning, thereby eroding its nuclear deterrent and national power.
"China is not too worried that the United States might suddenly attack North Korea. It is worried about THAAD," said Sun Zhe, co-director of the China Initiative of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs told Reuters.
President Donald Trump's North Korea strategy has been all over the place.
Early in Trump's presidency, his top officials declared the Obama-era policy of "strategic patience" over, but they have since struggled to define a policy of their own.
One day, the State Department would unequivocally say that the US does not seek regime change in North Korea, but the next the CIA director comes along and drops heavy hints that taking out the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, is the goal.
Until Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis laid out a comprehensive approach in a jointly authored op-ed on Sunday, there was little coherent strategy to be found. Mattis and Tillerson's approach could be summarized as maximum pressure — leveraging diplomatic, economic, and military pressure to achieve a result.
A South Korean official may have put a point on the Trump's swirling North Korea policy with a dig at the administration.
"We are very much confused," Moon Jung In, a special policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae In, told ABC News on Sunday. "Therefore, we think that now the American development has moved from strategic patience of Obama administration into strategic confusion."
The adviser's quip about Trump's confused North Korea policy comes as Moon has reasserted South Korea's leadership role by requesting more US missile defenses and reaffirming his sovereignty.
"Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by South Korea, and no one else can decide to take military action without the consent of South Korea," Moon said in televised remarks, according to Reuters.
William J. Perry, former President Bill Clinton's secretary of defense and an adviser to every presidential administration since Dwight Eisenhower, told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday how the US could "blunder into" a possible "Korean armageddon."
According to Perry, a war with North Korea won't come from through an unprovoked attack "because they know if they do that, it will provoke a war that it will surely lose and the regime will be swept from power." Perry maintains regime security has been North Korea's main goal in its nuclear ambitions.
The danger then, is not that North Korea will blindside the US, but "that we will blunder into some sort of war, a war that can be catastrophic," said Perry.
"One way they might conduct an attack is if they believe we’re about to preempt them," Perry said of the North Koreans. "If they believe that, they may be tempted to preempt the preempt."
Another path to war, according to Perry, would be a small conventional North Korean attack on South Korea that would draw a larger response.
"All too easy for a little conflict to escalate into a big conflict," Perry said. As North Korea would definitely lose a conventional battle against South Korea, and the US and its allies would likely seize the opportunity to take out Kim Jong Un, as the North Koreans "saw the regime about to be swept from power, then they might launch the nuclear weapons in some sort of a Korean armageddon," he added.
"In both those cases, reckless statements, theatrical statements between those two countries creates an environment in which one of those is likely to happen," said Perry.
In order to combat these mutually horrific situations, Perry advised the US to not fight threats with threats, but with sincere statements of intent.
According to Perry, the US can deter North Korea "not by making theatrical statements, but by saying clearly and simply that if North Korea were to attack South Korea, or Japan, or the US, that we would reply quickly and unequivocally with force."
On August 11, Russia named its new stealth fighter the Su-57, but despite having a name, a finalized design, and a tentative date for its delivery, it already looks like a huge disappointment.
Russia first flew the Su-57 in 2010, demonstrating that it would enter the race towards fifth-generation aircraft after the US revolutionized aerial combat with the F-22, and later the F-35.
But in the years since, the Su-57 has failed to present a seriously viable future for Russian military aviation. Russia already fields some of the most maneuverable planes on earth. It has serious firepower in terms of missiles and bombs, and long-distance bombers and fighters. But what Russia doesn't have is a stealth jet of any kind.
While Russian media calls the Su-57 an "aerial ghost," a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft for the US called it a "dirty aircraft," with many glaring flaws that would light up radars scanning for the plane.
Additionally, two of the plane's most fearsome weapons, the Kh-35UEm a subsonic, anti-ship cruise missile, and the nuclear-capable BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile, can't fit in the internal weapons bay and must hang from the wings, as the Diplomat's Franz-Stefan Gady reports.
Since a stealth plane needs every single angle of the jet to perfectly contour to baffle radars, hanging weapons off the wings absolutely kills stealth.
But stealth is just one of the Su-57s problems. The other is the engine. Unlike US stealth jets that have new engines, the Su-57 currently flies with the same engine that power's Russia's last generation of fighters.
Russia plans to get new engines in the Su-57 by the end of 2017 for testing, but it likely won't be ready for use by 2025, The National Interest's Dave Majumdar reports.
Additionally, Majumdar reports that Moscow will only buy 12 of the planes by 2019 and perhaps never more than 60 in total.
Though Russian media boasts the Su-57 can be piloted remotely and handle extreme G forces, the combination of a lack of stealth and a lack of truly modern propulsion has caused critics to say the plane is fifth-generation "in name only."
Whatever the plane's performance is, the low buy numbers out of Moscow indicate that the budding Su-57 is already a flop.
North Korea's Kim Jong Un never explicitly said he would not fire missiles at the US territory of Guam, and starting on Monday the US and South Korea's massive military drill will test his resolve and measure just how bold he's willing to be.
Ulchi Freedom Guardian, one of two major military exercises carried out by the US and South Korea, involves tens of thousands of troops from both nations drilling to achieve peak readiness in the case of conflict. Each year, the exercises expand bit by bit, and each year, North Korea issues threats in response.
When North Korea announced it had presented plans to Kim Jong Un on a possible strike at Guam, it included deescalatory language that seemed to invite the US to tone down its military exercises.
But as State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Tuesday, the US has no plans of stepping them down.
Nauert repeated the US talking point on military exercises on the Korean Peninsula. "There's no equivalency," between North Korea's illegal nuclear and missile testing and the US's regularly scheduled, internationally monitored, and completely legal bilateral drills, according to Nauert.
Even in light of the recent high tensions and brinkmanship between the US and North Korea, the "double-freeze," or the idea often floated by China and North Korea whereby the US stops military exercises and limits or eliminates its presence in North Korea in exchange for denuclearization, won't budge.
While North Korean media said US military exercises test the "self restraint" of Kim, the odds of missile tests towards Guam remain slim. North Korea simply lacks the capability to execute such a test in a way that doesn't open them up to international embarrassments like having the missiles fail or be shot down by the US.
But the lack of concessions from the US side indicates that it's up to North Korea to back down at some point and offer more favorable terms for a compromise.
For North Korea, which has just a few short years to go before perfecting absolute, indisputable thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic technology, it's hard to imagine it caving to US pressure now with its goal so close at hand.
The US Navy today faces a devastating missile gap between its two biggest potential rivals, Russia and China, but a new upgrade could quite literally blow the two competitors out of the water.
The US Navy's destroyers and cruisers field advanced missile defenses and far-reaching land attack cruise missiles, but the Harpoon, the current anti-ship missile first fielded in 1977, has been thoroughly out ranged by more advanced Chinese and Russian Systems.
China's YJ-18 and YJ-12 both can fly over 240 miles just meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12, also supersonic, approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.
Russia's anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles out, and also boosts into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.
The US Navy's Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles. Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could out range and beat back some of a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy's highest-value assets.
Recognizing this serious shortfall, the US Navy will sign a deal with Raytheon to upgrade the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles aboard destroyers and cruisers to hit moving targets at sea, the US Naval Institute reports.
“This is potentially a game changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1000 mile anti-ship cruise missile,” former Secretary of Defense Bob Work said after a successful test of the upgraded TLAM in 2015, the Naval Institute notes. “It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”
With missiles out ranging China and Russia's fleets many times over, the US can engage with targets and hold them at risk far beyond the horizon. Similarly, this could help break down anti-access/area-denial zones established by Russia in the Baltics and Black Sea, and China in the South China Sea.
While China and Russia have the US beat on offensive range, don't expect their ship-based missile defenses hold a candle to the US's Aegis system in the face of a Tomahawk attack.
But don't expect the upgrade to change the balance of power soon.
“We’re signing the contract now, there will be a couple of year development effort to determine the configuration of the seeker to go into the missile and a couple of years to take it out and test it to accurately know what the performance is so the fleet will have confidence in the system,” Capt. Mark Johnson of Naval Air Systems Command told the Institute.
Overall, the Institute estimates the game-changing missiles could be in service by the early 2020s.
MADRID (Reuters) - A driver ran over two police officers at a checkpoint in Barcelona following a van attack in the city center, Catalan police said on Twitter.
Spanish media had earlier reported that at least one policeman was injured at the checkpoint.
It was not immediately clear whether the incident was linked to the van attack in the city center, which killed at least 13 people on Las Ramblas avenue.
Thae Yong Ho, the highest-ever diplomatic official to defect from North Korea, told South Korea's JoonAng Daily that while Kim Jong Un is "actually very clever," his days at the top of the regime are numbered.
As North Korean propaganda dominates outsiders' perception of its people's inner life, Thae provided a glimpse into a system that is heavily policed, but ultimately fragile.
"Over the past decades, there were a myriad of anti-Workers’ Party, anti-revolutionary events in North Korea that the South could call something close to a pro-democracy movement," said Thae.
"Ordinary citizens are very much against [the leadership]," said Thae, who added that even though the North Korean regime will execute people for watching South Korean media, virtually every North Korean does.
"The chasm between the Kim Jong-un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band. I think that day will come within the next 10 years," concluded Thae.
However, Rodger Baker the lead analyst of the Asia Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea's government may be stronger than we think.
"A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent," said Baker. The idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea will eventually sway the population against Kim "overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity," according to Baker.
But as technology and connectedness in the outside world continues to proliferate, and even China embraces free market ideals and prosperity, North Koreans become exposed to a wider spectrum of life and their government loses control over that exposure.
Just as the Soviet Union's communist regime eventually could no longer stand direct comparison to the prosperous, capitalist West, the people of North Korea will eventually have to compare their repressive, Confuscist government with modernity.
After a heated exchange earlier this month between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which each threatened the other's country with nuclear annihilation, an eerie quiet has set over the Korean Peninsula.
It has been 27 days since North Korea's latest missile launch and 14 days since a US B-1 bomber flew above the peninsula.
As much as the US condemns North Korea's missile tests, North Korea hates the frequent bomber flights from the US.
North Korea has in the past responded violently to such measures, but not this time.
But the US has de-escalated as well. The US military reversed the trend of increasing the size of its military exercises with South Korea each year when it announced a scaled-back version of this year's Ulchi-Freedom Guardian.
North Korea offered up its typically scalding rhetoric in response to the drill, but it was only talk.
The US said its de-escalation had nothing to do with its tensions with North Korea, but the timing raises suspicions.
"I think the scale of the exercise has been deliberately toned down," Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Institute, told Business Insider, adding that she found the drill less threatening "not only in terms of the troops involved but also in terms of the military equipment."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised North Korea's de-escalation on Tuesday, saying he was "pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint" and that continued quiet could lead to "having some dialogue" sometime in the "near future."
"Kim Jong Un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us," Trump said at a rally on Tuesday. "I respect that fact very much."
While experts on North Korea had expected more danger and a potential flashpoint between the US and Pyongyang in August, the "fire and fury" seems to have faded, and a window to make peace could be opening.
Sun said that "between September and March, there is this window of opportunity for five or six months where there won't be any joint military exercises to interfere" with possible diplomatic engagement.
After August, all the pieces will be in place for the US and North Korea to start talking about peace, now that the US appears to have somewhat backed off the military drills.
But North Korea's goal for decades has been to build a thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile. The US has assessed that North Korea's ICBMs work more often than not, but the country lacks a hydrogen bomb, which is many times as powerful as a regular atomic bomb.
Sun said North Korea had "a pattern of surprise provocation or surprise tests" that could catch the US off guard and reveal the de-escalation as a ruse, which could lead to graver escalation down the road.
"One speculation is that North Korea's quietness at this point is paving the way for the sixth nuclear test in September," Sun said.
Sun said North Korea would have maximum leverage in negotiating once it achieved full, undisputed nuclear capabilities, and that it was unlikely to lay down its arms and embrace the US with its goal of world-ending nuclear might so close at hand.
When Kim Jong Nam was killed with a deadly nerve agent in an airport in Malaysia in February, it may have thwarted an attempt backed by the Chinese government to overthrow his half-brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Citing three sources, Nikkei Asian Review reported on Monday that top government officials in China and North Korea in 2012 seriously considered a plot to remove Kim Jong Un.
Nikkei reports that Hu Jintao, China's president at the time, met with Kim Jong Un's uncle, who floated the idea of replacing him with his half-brother, a politically unmotivated gambler.
But because of a recent scandal involving the death of the son of one of Hu's advisers, the Chinese leader did not immediately act.
According to the report, a top adviser to Jiang Zemin, Hu's predecessor and rival, caught wind of the plot and informed Kim Jong Un, who in 2013 had his uncle executed and purged several officials with ties to China.
Kim Jong Nam's death this year, after North Korea had severed most meaningful ties with Beijing, foiled any possibility of such a coup. Two women have been charged with murder, and South Korean officials have accused North Korea of orchestrating the killing.
The Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea for more than half a century — only a decapitation of the country's leadership could change that. Kim Jong Nam offered a chance, however slim, for a bloodless revolution in Pyongyang.
But now China — and the world — is stuck with Kim Jong Un, a 33-year-old leader who has shown hostility and cunning in isolating North Korea.
While North Korea feverishly works to perfect intercontinental ballistic missile technology, the US and its allies are putting the finishing touches on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that will soon be patrolling the Pacific.
Japan and South Korea, the US's principal allies the region, will both deploy over 100 F-35s by 2021, according to Aviation Week.
This follows the US choosing Japan as the site of its first-ever deployment of operational F-35Bs, which are particularly well-suited to combat in the Pacific region.
The F-35, with its stealth characteristics and ability to improve the performance of the legacy jets it flies with, presents technical challenges that even the world's best air forces can't yet overcome. Against North Korea's rudimentary air force and air defenses, the F-35 would dominate and lead South Korean, Japanese, and US legacy fighter jets to total air supremacy.
But the F-35 isn't just an upgrade to conventional weapons systems. The F-35A Air Force variant will eventually deploy to the Pacific, as the Diplomat reports, and it's slated to become a delivery system for tactical nuclear weapons.
The US has around 200 B-61 tactical nuclear weapons with adjustable yields from 3 to 150 kilotons stored in various locations around the world. In the later software blocks of F-35s, the Joint Strike Fighter will be equipped to deliver these weapons while being virtually undetectable to North Korean radar.
Some in the arms control community have warned against small-yield nuclear weapons like the B-61, as they feel smaller nuclear weapons may seem more usable, thereby opening up the possibility of nuclear war. But with the F-35's advanced capabilities, nuclear weapons hardly represent the US's only option.