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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    jocko willink

    When Jocko Willink‏, a former US Navy SEAL who is now an author and occasional Business Insider contributor, was asked on Twitter how he would handle the North Korean crisis, he gave an unexpected answer that one expert said just might work.

    Willink's proposal didn't involve any covert special operation strikes or military moves of any kind. Instead of bombs, Willink suggested the US drop iPhones. 

    "Drop 25 million iPhones on them and put satellites over them with free wifi," Willink tweeted last week.

    While the proposal itself is fantastical and far-fetched, Yun Sun, an expert on North Korea at the Stimson Center, says the core concept could work.

    "Kim Jong Un understands that as soon as society is open and North Korean people realize what they're missing, Kim's regime is unsustainable, and it's going to be overthrown," Sun told Business Insider.

    For this reason, North Korea's government would strongly oppose any measures that mirror Willink's suggestion. 

    Sun pointed out that when South Korea had previously flown balloons that dropped pamphlets and DVDs over North Korea, the Kim regime had responded militarily, sensing the frailty of its government relative to those of prosperous liberal democracies.

    For this reason, North Korea would turn down even free iPhones for its entire population, thought to be about 25.2 million.

    Such a measure, Sun said, would also open the West to criticism "for rewarding a illegitimately nuclear dictatorship" that "we know has committed massive human rights against its people."

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reacts during a celebration for nuclear scientists and engineers who contributed to a hydrogen bomb test, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on September 10, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS

    And as North Korea puts the Kim regime above all else, any investment or aid would "be exploited first and foremost by the government," Sun said, adding: "We will have to swallow the consequence that of $100 investment, maybe $10 would reach the people."

    North Korea harshly punishes ordinary citizens who are found to enjoy South Korean media, so there's good reason to think providing internet access or devices to North Koreans could get people killed. 

    But in a purely practical sense, the US has few options. War with North Korea could start a nuclear conflict or otherwise introduce a more long-term proliferation risk.

    "They're not going to denuclearize until their regime changes and society changes," Sun said. "This approach may be the longer route, but it has the hope of succeeding."

    SEE ALSO: North Korea's thermonuclear warhead solves one of the biggest problems with its missiles

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The US conducted bombing drills with advanced warplanes as a 'direct response' to North Korea's missile launch over Japan

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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrives for a news conference at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted that the United States still had military options left for dealing with North Korea, but did not elaborate when asked for details Monday.

    Most experts believe that a military strike on North Korea would invite a devastating response from Pyongyang. The city of Seoul, South Korea, home to 25 million, is well within artillery range of the North, which would likely use conventional artillery munitions and chemical weapons.

    But, according to Mattis, the Pentagon has a few tricks up its sleeve that wouldn't involve the decimation of Seoul.

    When asked, "is there any military option the U.S. can take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk?" on Monday, Mattis responded, "Yes, there are, but I will not go into details."

    Previously, Mattis said a war with North Korea would "involve the massive shelling of an ally's capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth," in reference to Seoul.

    It's difficult to understand what the Pentagon could do to stop a North Korean nuclear program, or take out its leader Kim Jong-un, while preventing Pyongyang from fighting back. Artillery, rockets, missiles, and other munitions are scattered throughout the North — many in secret locations — and the Kim regime maintains an ironclad hold on power.

    And with every known military option — from launching Tomahawk cruise missiles to air strikes — its likely that North Korea would interpret any strike, however limited, "as a prelude to invading or overthrowing the government, even if the United States insists otherwise," Daryl Press, a scholar of nuclear deterrence at Dartmouth College, told The Atlantic.

    So what does Mattis have in mind? He wouldn't say, but he did let slip one interesting comment.

    "Just to clarify, you said that there were possible military options that would not create a grave risk to Seoul. Are we talking kinetic options as well?" a reporter asked in a follow-up.

    "Yes, I don't want to go into that," Mattis said, agreeing that his closely-held military option involved kinetic action, a euphemism to describe lethal military force.

    President Donald Trump threatened to "totally destroy North Korea"in a speech to the United Nations On Tuesday.

    "It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict," Trump said, adding that if Pyongyang didn't back down, the US would "have no choice than to totally destroy North Korea."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows the countries where the most US troops are stationed

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    special forces sniper

    The US Army celebrates its birthday as June 14, 1775, but it didn't have the special operators with their distinctive green beret until much later.

    Army Special Forces got its start on June 19, 1952 — 65 years ago Monday — and since then its soldiers have been at the forefront of fights in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and are now advising US-backed forces inside Syria.

    They call themselves the quiet professionals, and they are one of the most elite fighting groups in the world.

    Their mission is unconventional warfare — taking small teams to train and lead guerrilla forces.

    Special Forces soldiers usually work together in a 12-man A-Team, with each man holding a specific job: The ranking officer is the team leader, the weapons sergeant knows just about every weapon in the world, the communications sergeant tees up ordnance or extract, and the medics can take lives as quickly as saving them.

    It may seem crazy to send only 12 guys into a hostile country, but it's not crazy when they are Special Forces.

    The US Army Special Forces are known for their exceptional skill and professionalism in modern war.

    Alongside the CIA, they were the first Americans on the ground in Afghanistan only one month after 9/11.

    There they linked up with the Northern Alliance and brought Hamid Karzai into Kabul.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Monday that the "two-faced policy" of the United States was to blame for the death of Russian Lieutenant-General Valery Asapov in Syria, the RIA news agency quoted him as saying.

    The Russian Defence Ministry said on Sunday that Asapov had been killed by Islamic State shelling near Deir al-Zor.

    Moscow has complained about what it has suggested are suspiciously friendly ties between U.S.-backed militias, U.S. special forces, and Islamic State in the area, accusing Washington of trying to slow the advance of the Syrian army.

    "The death of the Russian commander is the price, the bloody price, for two-faced American policy in Syria," Ryabkov told reporters, according to RIA.

    Ryabkov questioned Washington's intention to fight Islamic State in Syria.

    "The American side declares that it is interested in the elimination of IS ... but some of its actions show it is doing the opposite and that some political and geopolitical goals are more important for Washington," Ryabkov was quoted as saying.

    Earlier on Monday, American-backed Syrian militias said that Russian warplanes had struck their positions in Deir al-Zor province near a natural gas field they seized from Islamic State last week. Russia denied that.

    Ryabkov also said that Russia wanted to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency and had not violated the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, rejecting allegations made against it by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier this month.

    SEE ALSO: This is the Marine Corps' first female infantry officer

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    NOW WATCH: 6 details you might have missed on the season 7 finale of 'Game of Thrones'

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    kim jong un

    North Korea's foreign minister called President Donald Trump's recent tweets "at last declared war," and said they would try to shoot down US strategic bombers even if they're not in North Korea's airspace, according to Reuters' Michelle Nichols.

    North Korea Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho spoke with reporters in New York, saying that Trump's tweets — specifically one saying Ri Yong Ho, the foreign minister, and Kim Jong Un, the country's leader "won't be around much longer"—constituted a declaration of war.

    However, the US and North Korea have technically been at war since June 1950, as the Korean War ended in 1953 with a cease fire rather than a peace treaty. It's unclear what North Korea means by saying Trump declared war anew.

    "Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country," Ri said.

    The North Korean statement comes after Trump told the UN that if the US is "forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."

    Trump said in the same speech that Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, was a "rocket man" who was "on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."

    “If Trump thinks that he would bring North Korea, a nuclear power, to its knees through nuclear war threat, it is a big miscalculation and ignorance,” read North Korea's statement.

    Trump and Kim have been locked in a war of words since Trump threatened to respond to further North Korean provocations with "fire and fury" in mid August.

    US B1-B bomb over Korea

    Trump also specifically threatened Ri on Twitter, suggesting he "won't be around much longer" if he continues on a path of escalation with the US.

    Additionally, the B-1B bomber recently flown off North Korea's coast by the US Air Force is a supersonic aircraft, and it's unclear if North Korea has any capacity to down such an advanced jet. 

    North Korea has also recently threatened to fire a salvo of missiles at Guam, a US territory in the Pacific, and to fire a nuclear-tipped missile into the Pacific ocean. Both threats have gone unfilled.

    SEE ALSO: 4 reasons the US Air Force's latest show of force over North Korea is different from previous ones

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    NOW WATCH: Here's why China won't use its leverage to make North Korea give up its nuclear weapons

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    north korea rocket artillery

    SEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea appears to have boosted defenses on its east coast, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said on Tuesday, after the North said U.S. President Donald Trump had declared war and that it would shoot down U.S. bombers flying near the peninsula.

    Tensions have escalated since North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3, but the rhetoric has reached a new level in recent days with leaders on both sides exchanging threats and insults.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said Trump's Twitter comments, in which the U.S. leader said Ri and leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer" if they acted on their threats, amounted to a declaration of war and that Pyongyang had the right to take countermeasures.

    Yonhap suggested the reclusive North was in fact bolstering its defenses by moving aircraft to its east coast and taking other measures after U.S. bombers flew close to the Korean peninsula at the weekend.

    The unverified Yonhap report said the United States appeared to have disclosed the flight route of the bombers intentionally because North Korea seemed to be unaware. South Korea's National Intelligence Service was unable to confirm the report immediately.

    Ri said on Monday the North's right to countermeasures included shooting down U.S. bombers "even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country".

    "The whole world should clearly remember it was the U.S. who first declared war on our country," he told reporters in New York on Monday, where he had been attending the annual United Nations General Assembly.

    "The question of who won't be around much longer will be answered then," he said.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders denied on Monday that the United States had declared war, calling the suggestion "absurd".

    Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said war on the Korean peninsula would have no winner.

    "We hope the U.S. and North Korean politicians have sufficient political judgment to realize that resorting to military force will never be a viable way to resolve the peninsula issue and their own concerns," Lu told a daily news briefing.

    "We also hope that both sides can realize that being bent on assertiveness and provoking each other will only increase the risk of conflict and reduce room for policy maneuvers. War on the peninsula will have no winner."

    While repeatedly calling for dialogue to resolve the issue, China has also signed up for increasingly tough U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

    China's fuel exports to North Korea fell in August, along with iron ore imports from the isolated nation, as trade slowed after the latest U.N. sanctions, but coal shipments resumed after a five-month hiatus, customs data showed on Tuesday.

    In Moscow, Russia's Foreign Ministry said it was working behind the scenes to find a political solution and that using sanctions against North Korea was almost exhausted.

    U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, speaking during a visit to India, said he appreciated global efforts to increase pressure on North Korea for its dangerous behavior.

    Risk of miscalculationGround crews prepare B1 bombers of the U.S. 77th Bomber Squadron at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England.

    U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by fighter jets flew east of North Korea in a show of force after a heated exchange of rhetoric between Trump and Kim.

    North Korea has been working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, which Trump has said he will never allow.

    The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.

    The Sept. 3 nuclear test prompted a new round of sanctions on North Korea after the Security Council voted unanimously on a resolution condemning the test.

    The North says it needs its weapons programs to guard against U.S. invasion and regularly threatens to destroy the United States, South Korea and Japan.

    However, the rhetoric has been ratcheted up well beyond normal levels, raising fears that a miscalculation by either side could have massive repercussions.

    Trump's threat last week to totally destroy North Korea, a country of 26 million people, if it threatened the United States or its allies led to an unprecedented direct statement by Kim in which he called Trump a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" and said he would tame the U.S. threat with fire.

    White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster defended Trump's rhetoric and said on Monday he agreed that the risk was that Kim might fail to realize the danger he and his country were facing.

    FILE PHOTO - Newly named National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

    However, McMaster also acknowledged the risks of escalation with any U.S. military option.

    "We don't think there's an easy military solution to this problem," said McMaster, who believed any solution would be an international effort.

    "There's not a precision strike that solves the problem. There's not a military blockade that can solve the problem," McMaster said.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea calls Trump's tweets a declaration of war, threatens to shoot down US bombers

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    NOW WATCH: The story of a North Korean amputee's 6,000-mile escape on crutches

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    west bank israel palestine settlement

    HAR ADAR, West Bank (Reuters) - A Palestinian man with security clearance to work at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank opened fire at a checkpoint on Tuesday, killing two Israeli security guards and a paramilitary policeman.

    Israel MapThe assailant, who was armed with a pistol and also seriously wounded a fourth Israeli, was shot dead, police said.

    The incident was unusual in that the 37-year-old man had been issued an Israeli work permit - a process that entails security vetting - unlike most of the Palestinians involved in a wave of street attacks that began two years ago.

    A police spokeswoman said the gunman approached Har Adar among a group of Palestinians who work at the settlement, and aroused the suspicion of guards at the entrance checkpoint.

    Challenged to halt, the Palestinian "opened his shirt, drew a pistol and fired at the security staff and troopers at close range," the spokeswoman said.

    Residents of the settlement told Israeli media the man worked as a cleaner. One of them, Moish Berdichev, said he had domestic problems - his wife had left him - and speculated he may have carried out the attack knowing he would not survive.

    "He was a guy with a good head on his shoulders. It's a shame. Very sad," Berdichev told Army Radio.

    The Shin Bet internal security service identified the man as Nimr Jamal and said he had "severe personal and family issues, including domestic violence".

    The man lived in the nearby Palestinian village of Beit Suriq, the police said.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in public remarks to his cabinet that the man's house would be demolished and any work permits issued to his relatives would be revoked.


    SEE ALSO: What happens if Trump trashes the Iran nuclear deal

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    NOW WATCH: Here are all the major changes coming to your iPhone September 19

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    Pat Tillman

    Marie Tillman, the widow of former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman, says that her husband's service "should never be politicized in a way that divides us."

    Marie Tillman released a statement to CNN on Monday after President Donald Trump retweeted an account referencing Pat Tillman and using the hashtag #StandForOurAnthem.

    Trump has criticized NFL players for kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest police treatment of blacks and other social injustices. More than 200 NFL players knelt or sat during the anthem this weekend.

    Tillman walked away from the NFL to join the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

    "As a football player and soldier, Pat inspired countless Americans to unify," Marie Tillman said. "It is my hope that his memory should always remind people that we must come together. Pat's service, along with that of every man and woman's service, should never be politicized in a way that divides us.

    We are too great of a country for that. Those that serve fight for the American ideals of freedom, justice and democracy. They and their families know the cost of that fight. I know the very personal costs in a way I feel acutely every day.

    "The very action of self expression and the freedom to speak from one's heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for. Even if they didn't always agree with those views. It is my sincere hope that our leaders both understand and learn from the lessons of Pat's life and death, and also those of so many other brave Americans."

    SEE ALSO: SOLDIERS SPEAK OUT ON KAEPERNICK: His protest 'makes him more American than anyone'

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    NOW WATCH: How the US could prevent a North Korean nuclear strike — according to a former Marine and cyberwarfare expert

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    North Korea interpreted a tweet from President Donald Trump as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers even if they weren't flying in its airspace on Monday, but such an attack is easier said than done.

    The US frequently responds to North Korea's provocative missile and nuclear tests by flying its B-1B Lancer, a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic bomber near North Korea's borders.

    Fighter jets from South Korea and Japan often accompany the bomber, and sometimes they drop dummy bombs on a practice range near North Korea's border.

    The move infuriates North Korea, which lacks the air power to make a similar display. North Korea previously discussed firing missiles at Guam, where the US bases many of the bombers, and has now discussed shooting one down in international airspace.

    On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that North Korea had been reshuffling its defenses, perhaps preparing to make good on its latest threat. 

    But North Korea's dated air defenses complicate that task.

    "North Korea's air defenses are pretty vast but very dated," Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told Business Insider.

    Lamrani said that North Korea has a few variants of older Soviet-made jets and some "knock-off" Soviet air defenses, such as the KN-06 surface-to-air missile battery that mimics Russia's S-300 system.

    Ground crews prepare B1 bombers of the U.S. 77th Bomber Squadron at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England.

    From the ground, North Korea's defenses are "not really a threat to high flying aircraft, especially if you’re flying over water," said Lamrani. 

    But North Korea does have one advantage: surprise. When aircraft enter or come close to protected airspace, intercepts are common. Very often military planes will fly near a group of jets and tell them they are entering or have entered guarded airspace and that they should turn back or else.

    Though the US, South Korea, and Japan all have advanced jets that could easily shoot down an approaching North Korean jet before it got close enough to strike, the US and North Korea are observing a cease fire, and not actively at war. 

    Therefore a North Korean jet could fly right up to a US bomber or fighter, and take a close range shot with a rudimentary weapon that would have a good chance of landing.

    North Korea would have "the first mover advantage, but if the North Korean aircraft shot them down, they would pay a heavy price," Lamrani said.

    north korea air show

    For that reason, Lamrani found the scenario unlikely. The last time the US flew B-1s near North Korea, four advanced jet fighters accompanied it. North Korea's air force is old and can't train often due to fuel constraints, according to Lamrani. The US or allies would quickly return the favor and destroy any offending North Korean planes.

    Additionally, South Korean intelligence officials told NKNews that North Korea can't even reliably track the B-1B flights. To avoid surprising the North Koreans, the US even laid out its flight path, an official told NKNews.

    At this point, even North Korea must be aware that it's largely outclassed by the US and allied air forces, and that taking them on would be a "suicide mission," Lamrani said.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea bumps up defenses after threatening to shoot down US bombers

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    NOW WATCH: How the US could prevent a North Korean nuclear strike — according to a former Marine and cyberwarfare expert

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    Ukraine military depot explosion

    KIEV (Reuters) - Massive explosions and a blaze at a military ammunition depot in centralUkraine forced authorities to evacuate 24,000 people and close airspace over the region, officials said on Wednesday.

    The blasts occurred late on Tuesday at a military base near Kalynivka in the Vynnytsya region, 270 kilometers (168 miles) west of Kiev, Ukrainian emergencies service said in a statement.

    One person was injured, it said.

    Arriving in the region hours later, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said "external factors" were behind the incident.

    SEE ALSO: Russia just finished the Zapad military exercises that freaked out NATO — Here's what we know

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    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows what would happen to Asia if all the Earth's ice melted

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    kim jong un

    • North Korea won't seriously engage in peace talks until it has satisfied itself with its missiles and nuclear warheads.
    • It doesn't really matter what the US offers right now.
    • Victory for North Korea doesn't mean battle, it means bullying and blackmailing the US into concessions.

    Heated rhetoric from President Donald Trump pointed at North Korea has dominated news coverage and headlines for months now, but no tone or type of conversation can change the fact that North Korea doesn't want peace talks right now.

    While Trump's threats may have fanned the flames of today's North Korean crisis, the driving force is North Korean missile and nuclear tests that clearly pose a threat to the region and the US mainland. 

    "Trump's method is perhaps not the best, but at the same time we shouldn't mix up the responsibilities," Jean-Yves Le Drian, France's foreign minister said, according to Reuters. "The country that is breaking with nuclear international agreements is North Korea."

    International observers have urged the US to pursue diplomacy and talks with North Korea, but Pyongyang doesn't seem interested. Denuclearization is a non-starter for negotiations. At best, North Korea may accept the US and South Korea from stopping their legal, above board, military drills in exchange for them freezing their illegal nuclear program.

    But being coerced to stop a legal activity by another actor's illegal activity is called blackmail, and no US president has seriously entertained it.

    North Korea stands a short sprint from achieving full nuclear capability, and several experts contacted by Business Insider do not believe Pyongyang would lay down its arms so close to its goal.

    Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14. The North Korean leader said the test completed his country's strategic weapons capability that includes atomic and hydrogen bombs and ICBMs, the state KCNA news agency said.

KCNA/via REUTERS"I think they will first want to demonstrate their capacity to have an ICBM … that could reach the United States" before negotiating, Suzanne DiMaggio, a director and senior fellow at the New America think thank who directs unofficial talks between the US and the North Koreans, told Axios.

    To demonstrate this capacity, North Korea needs to test more. Pyongyang has learned all it can from laboratory tests, simulations, and lofting missiles halfway to space instead of around the globe.

    North Korea needs to keep firing missiles, probably over Japan, to demonstrate a credible ICBM in real world conditions. This need exists independently of Trump's threats.

    "North Korea will complete its remaining tests before softening" its negotiating position, Tong Zhao, a leading North Korea expert with the Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program in Beijing, told Business Insider. 

    In short, experts say nothing short of total unilateral US surrender will bring North Korea to the table right now. Only after North Korea has satisfied itself with its nuclear and missile technologies will it talk with the US on anything close to acceptable terms.

    donald trump oval office

    North Korea does not want to initiate a war that will bring about its certain destruction and the death of many thousands.

    North Korea wants recognition as a nuclear arms state. It wants national and international prestige. It wants the US to forgive and forget the torture and death of Otto Warmbier. It wants to have the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan and the death of the 46 South Koreans on board swept under the rug. It wants its countless shellings and murders along the DMZ not to matter.

    North Korea wants to intimidate and bully the US into concessions and guarantees of its safety while it disregards international law and violates the human rights of its citizens.

    "We are adequately protected against the current threat" from North Korea, Gen. Joseph Dunford told the Senate on Tuesday. But, he admitted, the current estimate that Pyongyang will have an ICBM capable of accurately hitting the US mainland by late 2018 is accurate.

    "In terms of a sense of urgency today, North Korea poses the greatest threat today.”

    SEE ALSO: The mysterious life of Kim Jong Un's wife, Ri Sol-ju, who probably has 3 children and frequently disappears from the public eye

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    NOW WATCH: Watch an F-35 fighter jet use a ski jump as a runway

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    Smoke and flames rise over a warehouse storing ammunition for multiple rocket launcher systems at a military base in the town of Kalynivka in Vinnytsia region, Ukraine September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

    MOSCOW (AP) — Ukraine's chief military prosecutor has ruled out a foreign sabotage plot in a massive fire at an ammunition depot that forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

    The fire at the warehouse at a military base in Ukraine's central Vinnytsia region began late Tuesday and explosions at the site are continuing.

    Anatoliy Matios, the country's chief military prosecutor, on Thursday denied earlier statements from authorities suggesting that a group of foreign saboteurs may have set the depot on fire. Matios said investigators were looking into possible negligence, abuse of power or sabotage by those who were authorized to handle the munitions.

    Matios also said the investigators discovered that the fire alarm at the depot wasn't working and that its security force was understaffed.

    SEE ALSO: Russia just finished the Zapad military exercises that freaked out NATO — Here's what we know

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    NOW WATCH: Hurricane Irma is hammering Florida and headed to Georgia — here are the latest updates on the massive storm

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    afghan policemen

    KABUL (Reuters) - At least 12 Afghan police were killed and four wounded when a Humvee packed with explosives drove into their checkpoint in the southern province of Kandahar late on Wednesday, a government official said.

    Abdul Bari Baryalai, a spokesman for the provincial government, said the attack took place in Maruf district, bordering Pakistan.

    The attack, in one of the Taliban's heartlands, underlines the threats faced by Afghan security forces, notably police units on the front lines of the battle against insurgents who control or contest about 40 percent of Afghanistan.

    The incident came on the same day that militants attacked Kabul airport while U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was visiting the Afghan capital.

    SEE ALSO: 5 Marines in critical condition after their vehicle bursts into flames at Camp Pendleton

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    NOW WATCH: Here are all the major changes coming to your iPhone September 19

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    USS Abraham Lincoln turn

    A group of 145 House Democrats said Wednesday the Defense Department response to the disaster in Puerto Rico has been inadequate and they urged President Trump to send an aircraft carrier to help relieve the territory's suffering residents.

    A carrier's additional military aircraft and engineers are needed to help clear roads, rescue stranded residents and deliver emergency supplies to isolated parts of the island after it was slammed by Hurricane Maria last week, the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.

    "To fulfill DOD's mission, we believe the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, should be sent to the region, similar to its deployment to Miami following Hurricane Irma," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.

    The lawmakers also cited reports of looting in the aftermath of Maria as evidence of the need for a larger military presence.

    "We were recently informed of armed gangs ransacking a warehouse that distributes food and supplies," they wrote in the letter.

    The military could assist local law enforcement in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and ensure that supplies get to needy residents who do not have to "fear for their lives" when getting fuel or food.

    "The U.S. military has unique capabilities that can help alleviate this situation, and the president must exercise the proper leadership to make that happen," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee.

    People line up to buy gasoline at a gas station after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 22, 2017. Picture taken September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

    The Democrats also called for Trump to send a senior general to Puerto Rico to coordinate the relief effort.

    The Pentagon said it sent Brig. Gen. Richard Kim, who is deputy commanding general of operations for U.S Army North, to set up an operational headquarters and coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rico authorities as the military ramps up its efforts on the island.

    SEE ALSO: Hurricane Maria weakens into a tropical storm, not expected to hit the US

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    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows what would happen to Asia if all the Earth's ice melted

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    Kim jong un

    Defense officials at the highest levels of South Korea's government told Yonhap News on Wednesday that the US would deploy "strategic assets" to the peninsula amid tensions with North Korea.

    "The US has pledged to expand the rotational deployment of its strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula," Chung Eui-young, the chief of the National Security Office said according to Yonhap.

    While "strategic assets" can refer to nuclear weapons, it can also mean nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, or stealth aircraft. Chung said the deployment could happen as early as the end of 2017.

    Another South Korean publication, Chosun, reported on Tuesday that a government source said the US may send an aircraft carrier, B-2 stealth bombers, and the world's stealthiest and most lethal combat plane, the F-22 Raptor.

    The talk of increased US firepower in South Korea comes after North Korea interpreted some of President Donald Trump's tweets as a declaration of war, and announced it would try to shoot down US bombers flying anywhere near its airspace.

    As it stands, the US has B-1B Lancer bombers stationed in Guam that frequently respond to North Korean missile or nuclear tests by doing flybys near its borders accompanied by advanced US, Japanese, or South Korean jets.

    But the B-1B isn't nuclear capable, nor is it stealth. The B-2, however, has both.


    Although the US already has F-22 and F-35 stealth aircraft stationed nearby in Japan, placing them on the Korean Peninsula could spur further escalation of an already-tense situation.

    The B-2 can carry 16 nuclear warheads as well as massive ordnance penetrators — bunker-busting bombs that would be the US's best bet for hunting North Korea's leadership as they hide in underground caves.

    NK News recently reported that the US had to tell North Korea about the last flight of the B-1 near its borders, because Pyongyang couldn't really track the supersonic bomber jet. If North Korea struggled with the non-stealth B-1, then it has little hope of spotting a B-2 and virtually no chance of spotting the F-22 on its radar screens.


    Still, the move could backfire and destabilize the situation in North Korea, as the US' asymmetrical advantage over North Korea's aging forces could cause an uneasy Kim Jong Un to think he has no choice but to strike first.

     "Often times when we think we’re sending very clear signals, we can’t be sure they’re being interpreted that way," Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute, told Business Insider of the US's attempts to show its strength towards North Korea.

    "In South Korea they’ve talked about trying to scare North Korea into changing their behavior," Town said, referring to the deployment of US military assets to South Korea. But, "the way they change their behavior is not necessarily the way we want them to."

    SEE ALSO: Here's what could happen if North Korea tried to shoot down a US bomber

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    Steve Warren

    A former Pentagon spokesman took President Trump to task on Sunday for issuing directives to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on North Korea via Twitter, undermining the diplomatic efforts between Washington and Pyongyang.

    "What a way to run foreign policy. What a way to run international affairs," said Steve Warren on CNN.

    "Maybe pick up the telephone and call the secretary of state might be a better way to go about passing out your guidance on how to deal with this rogue nuclear nation."

    Trump tweeted on SundaySecretary of State Rex Tillerson "is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"

    Trump had told the United Nations in a speech last month the U.S. would completely destroy North Korea if it launched an attack with ballistic missiles, dubbing country's leader Kim Jong Un for the first time as "Rocket Man."

    Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis have meanwhile said they have been reaching out to the government in Pyongyang to find a diplomatic solution that would not require military intervention.

    Warren said Mattis and Tillerson are "providing the stability, the thoughtfulness, kind of the sober reasonableness that we need right now."

    The former Pentagon spokesman said the situation is a "nuclear crisis," which "requires a high level of diplomacy ... And I think we see the secretary of defense, secretary of state working closely."

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he holds a joint news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    Warren said the "alternative" to diplomacy "is far worse and we see them trying to move this into the right place."

    Warren was tapped by Mattis to serve as his media adviser back in March. Warren later left the Pentagon to become a CNN contributor in August.

    Warren was originally booked to talk about press receiving less access at the Pentagon. He did respond to that issue, saying the complaints have stemmed from fewer reporters being invited to accompany the secretary of defense on trips, and fewer opportunities to hear from the secretary at formal press conferences.

    He said Mattis has a tough line to walk given Trump's criticism of the press as the "enemy of the people."

    "The secretary of defense is in a very tight spot, he's walking a very tight rope," Warren said.

    "On one hand, his boss, the president, has declared the press is the enemy of the people. And so, for him to speak to the press and to engage heavily with the press theoretically makes him colluding with that enemy."

    SEE ALSO: A Homeland Security memo painted a rosy picture of Puerto Rico's recovery as Trump blasted San Juan's mayor

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    French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb attends a news conference in Paris, France, July 12, 2017, to present their plan to improve asylum processes in France as the country faces continued migrant influx.  REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

    PARIS (Reuters) - France's interior minister said on Tuesday police had arrested a number of people after the discovery of an explosive device outside a residential building in Paris last weekend.

    One of those arrested was "radicalized", he said, a likely reference to Islamist militancy.

    Minister Gerard Collomb, speaking on public radio station France Inter, said the discovery of the device in the affluent 16th district of western Paris highlighted that France was as much as ever at risk of terrorist attacks.

    "(Police) services are investigating," Collomb said. "What I can tell you is that among the people who were arrested, one was ... radicalized"

    More than 230 people have been killed in attacks by Islamist militants over the past three years. The Islamic State militant group whose bases in Syria and Iraq are being bombed by French war planes has urged followers to attack France.

    Soldiers shot a knifeman dead on Sunday after he killed two young women at a train station in the southern French port city of Marseille.

    A judicial source said the explosive device found late last Friday night was made of four gas cannisters.

    "We've foiled numerous attacks since the start of the year that would have involved many deaths," Collomb said. "We are still in a state of war."

    SEE ALSO: Why the Las Vegas shooting isn't being called terrorism

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    javad zarif

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has bashed President Donald Trump ahead of what looks certain to become a showdown over the legacy of former President Barack Obama's top foreign policy achievement — the Iran deal.

    Zarif, a key architect of the 2015 accord, gave an interview to Politico that shed light on the fraught multilateral discussions the US, Europe, and Iran hold over the continued recertification of the Iran deal — and according to Zarif, Europe is taking his side.

    Trump campaigned vigorously on the idea of ripping up the 2015 deal that prohibits Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, but since he came into office he has paid relatively little attention to the agreement, instead focusing on North Korea's burgeoning, unchecked nuclear advances.

    But Trump has not forgotten his convictions. 

    Every 90 days the US has to confirm that Iran has complied with the terms of the deal. For the first six months of Trump's presidency, he has gone through with the procedure, albeit begrudgingly, according to the Associated Press

    Reports, citing sources in the administration and the State Department, said Trump has been looking for a way out of the deal by drumming up "foolproof intelligence" that Iran has violated the deal. 

    But Trump and his understaffed State Department have reportedly strained relationships in Europe, and weakened the US's credibility. Trump himself announced his intention to exit the deal even without evidence of wrongdoing on Iran's part.

    "If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago," Trump told the Wall Street Journal of the Iran deal.

    Iran Missiles Exhibition Commemoration

    Now Zarif, who is by all accounts very good at his job, seems to have capitalized on Trump's haste.

    "The Europeans have made it very clear to us and to the United States that they intend to do their utmost to ensure survival of the deal," Zarif told Politico.

    Even beyond Europe, who may differ with the US on certain issues but shouldn't be expected to drift too far out of the US's sphere of influence, Zarif pointed out that exiting the Iran deal could have major consequences for the US around the world.

    "Look at the message that you are sending to the world," Zarif said. Withdrawing from the Iran deal "would make it tougher for anybody to believe and rely upon the United States—anybody, not just North Korea. You’ve seen US allies saying that the United States is not a reliable partner.”

    SEE ALSO: Turkey's purchase of Russian missiles has ratcheted tensions up to a new level

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    Stephen Paddock Eric Paddock file photo AP

    The deadliest shooting in modern US history took place on Sunday night in Las Vegas in part thanks to a perfectly legal device that allows any gun owner to circumvent gun laws.

    Stephen Craig Paddock, the 64-year-old retiree who opened fire from the window of his 32nd-story Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel room on the Route 91 Harvest Festival, possessed 23 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition that he had procured legally.

    In Nevada, where Paddock lived, anyone over 18 years of age can own a firearm.

    Nevada does not license gun owners, require guns to be registered, limit the number of guns a person can purchase in one sale, or impose a waiting period on gun purchases.

    Nevada allows the sale of high capacity magazines, high-caliber weapons and ammunition, and military-style weapons, though they are prohibited in other states.

    But one of Nevada's few restrictions is on the sale or manufacture of automatic weapons, and the Associated Press reports that Paddock used a perfectly legal device to effectively circumvent that.

    The device, known as a "bump stock," replaces the shoulder rest of a rifle with a device that bounces the weapon back into the shooter's trigger finger. Effectively, the weapon still fires one bullet for every pull of the trigger, but the bump stock automates the trigger pull process allowing shooters to fire 400-800 rounds per minute.

    Gun owners can achieve a similar, though less controlled effect by sticking their finger through their belt loop or simply holding a stick between the trigger and the trigger guard.


    Additionally, simple but highly illegal after-market modifications can change semi-automatic, or one trigger pull, one shot weapons into automatic weapons.

    Paddock rattled off hundreds of shots over a five minute period. The bullets peppered a crowd of 22,000 leaving more than 500 injured and 59 dead.

    Audio from the attack clearly portrays extended bursts of rapid-fire, uniform fire that an unaltered semi-automatic weapon simply couldn't replicate while firing accurately. 

    SEE ALSO: Las Vegas gunman was a millionaire with a penchant for guns, high-limit poker, and real estate

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    NOW WATCH: 'It was an act of pure evil': Watch Trump's statement about the Las Vegas shooting — the deadliest shooting in modern US history

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    Stephen Paddock Eric Paddock file photo APStephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds out of a 32nd story window in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Sunday night, police have said, killing 59 and injuring over 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history

    Paddock had no military training. According to Paddock's family and the ongoing police investigation, he had a penchant for guns and some experience hunting. But there is no indication he had formal training.

    Nevertheless, he managed to kill dozens and wound hundreds from 32 stories above the ground and a distance of three to five football fields between him and his victims.

    The reason he was able to carry out the massacre lies largely with the tools at his disposal and the completely helpless nature of his targets.

    Police recovered 23 guns from Paddock's hotel room. Audio of the shooting demonstrates a weapon with a high rate of fire.

    Some of the weapons had scopes to increase his effective range. The length of the bursts of fire suggest Paddock likely used extended magazines to store many times a firearm's normal capacity in ammunition.

    Las Vegas Mandalay Bay shooting graphic BI in house

    All of Paddock's guns legally belonged to him. Nevada, where Paddock lived, allows the sale of high-capacity magazines, high-caliber weapons and ammunition, and military-style weapons, but it doesn't allow fully automatic weapons. 

    Paddock got around the limitation of government-mandated semi-automatic weapons by using something called a "bump stock," which effectively turns a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic, according to The Associated Press.

    The other factor in Paddock's rampage was the nature of the target. In recent memory, never has so heavily armed an attacker, from such a concealed, elevated vantage, unloaded with such fury on such an unsuspecting, helpless crowd.

    las vegas candlelight memorialFrom 300 to 500 yards away, the crowd of 22,000 were essentially "fish in the barrel," which is how country singer Jake Owens, who was on stage in Las Vegas, described that night. It wouldn't take a military operative or master marksman to inflict grievous damage on a crowd with the tools Paddock had available.

    Paddock simply rained down bullets on an unsuspecting crowd that was focused on the stage. Because bullets from high-powered rifles travel at supersonic speeds, the first shots probably hit the victims before the sound of the rifle even rang out.

    Another force that began to drive casualties was the resulting chaos that ensued.

    "It was a wide range of injuries, from gunshots to shrapnel wounds, to trample injuries, to people trying to jump fences,” said Greg Cassell, chief of the Clark County Fire Department.

    SEE ALSO: More than 24 hours after the Las Vegas massacre, nobody understands Stephen Paddock's motive

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 'It was an act of pure evil': Watch Trump's statement about the Las Vegas shooting — the deadliest shooting in modern US history

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