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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    kim il-sung kim jong-il

    • North Korea has reportedly had to increase security around monuments to the Kim dynasty as dissent grows among ordinary citizens.
    • Experts say citizens are getting tired of the Kim regime because of harsh economic and social circumstances.
    • North Korea's highest-level defector predicted that citizens would overthrow Kim within 10 years.

    The North Korean government has ordered security forces to keep a close watch on monuments and paintings of the Kim dynasty, as they fear "hostile elements" within the country may vandalize them, according to South Korea's Daily NK.

    Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reports that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.

    The Kim dynasty, currently led by Kim Jong Un, has presided over North Korea for more than 70 years.

    During this time, the country has seen famine and hardship unimaginable in the developed world. Lately, under Kim Jong Un, the country's economy has shifted from strict socialism to a slightly more open market, but a drought earlier this year hurt harvests.

    All the while, North Korea has prioritized expensive missile and nuclear-weapons programs.

    “Orders have been handed down to increase attention towards 'eternal life' towers, oil paintings, and wall murals located all over the country. Public security officers (police) have been mobilized for night patrols," a Pyongyang source told Daily NK.

    In North Korea, all men older than 16 are expected to wear a pin honoring the Kim dynasty, and nearly every home in the country bears the portraits of the three Kim leaders. Citizens can be killed or sentenced to work in labor camps if they're caught with outside media, and even folding a picture of one of the Kims so that it puts a crease on the leaders face is a punishable offense.

    Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and an expert on North Korea, told the Telegraph that he's seen reports of North Koreans targeting monuments that honor Kim, "particularly in the more remote areas of the country."

    "Younger generations of North Koreans have little respect for Kim Jong-un and we are beginning to see that come to the surface," he said.

    Though North Korea tightly controls its messaging and pushes propaganda to the outside world, citizens of the country often defect and tell different tales.

    North Korea

    Only the most fit and patriotic citizens can live in Pyongyang, the country's capital, but outside the city in less productive areas, experts say dissent has remained persistent but in check.

    Thae Yong Ho, the highest-level diplomatic official to defect from North Korea, told South Korea's JoongAng Daily in August that "over the past decades, there were a myriad of anti-Workers' Party, anti-revolutionary events in North Korea."

    Thae said "ordinary citizens" were "very much against" the leadership.

    "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," Thae added. "I think that day will come within the next 10 years."

    SEE ALSO: North Korea is apparently demanding the US take 'literally' its threat to nuke the Pacific

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The mysterious life of the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

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    North Korea

    • North Koreans are trained by propaganda and military service not to fear incredible hardships like nuclear war.
    • North Korean officials say their country could destroy the US, but they would survive because Pyongyang has many bunkers and shelters.
    • US citizens view their lives and comfort much more dearly, but the US's nuclear superiority limits North Korea's advantage to psychology only.

    When the New Yorker's Evan Osnos went to North Korea, the "most telling moment" for him came when his minder, Pak Sung Il, a father of two, told him that "nuclear war with the United States would be survivable."

    Asked why North Korea would entertain the idea of nuclear war with the US if it would totally wipe out their country, Osnos' minder gave a chilling answer.

    “We’ve been through it twice before" he said of national devastation, referring to the Korean War and the "Arduous March," or the famine of the 1990s that killed up to 3.5 million.

    “We can do it a third time,” he said.

    “A few thousand would survive,” Pak said. “And the military would say, ‘Who cares? As long as the United States is destroyed, then we are all starting from the same line again ... A lot of people would die. But not everyone would die.”

    Nicholas Kristof wrote of his trip to North Korea in The New York Times and reported a "ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it."

    “If we have to go to war, we won’t hesitate to totally destroy the United States,” a teacher at an amusement park told Kristof.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

    But when Western journalists travel to North Korea, they only see and hear state-approved narratives. While officials and official propaganda may unanimously state that North Koreans think they can destroy the US and survive the conflict, regular citizens may not feel the same way.

    "This is a government script that everybody studies and repeats," Kristof told Business Insider of North Koreans' attitude toward nuclear war. But "people often buy the government propaganda especially if they are in Pyongyang," said Kristof.

    Average North Koreans may or may not believe the official propaganda that they could destroy the US, but their lives revolve around politics and ideology in a way to which the US could never compare.

    In Pyongyang, all 16 metro stops are buried deep underground and have been designed to double as bomb shelters. Much of Pyongyang's infrastructure doubles as bomb shelters, as the memory of the Korean War from 1950 to 1953 — when more bombs were dropped in Korea than in the entirety of World War II — looms large.

    korean war

    The last time the US was attacked by a foreign country was Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The US hasn't lived in fear of nuclear annihilation since the close of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

    The vast majority of US citizens never serve in the military, and many do not even know anyone who has. North Korea has mandatory military service for all men and women.

    Even if average North Koreans aren't as fearless in the face of nuclear exchanges as their top officials are, they have a built-in cultural and psychological advantage in facing down such a conflict.

    But the advantage is entirely limited to perspective.

    North Korea is still trying to produce a single, credible nuclear missile that can reach the US, and the US has enough nuclear weapons to completely destroy North Korea, China, and Russia in about a half hour.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea is apparently demanding the US take 'literally' its threat to nuke the Pacific

    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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    Ukraine car bombing Ihor Mosiychuk

    • Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who was known to insult Russian politicians, was wounded in a car bomb. 
    • The bomb killed two people and wounded two more, including a political analyst. 
    • Mosiychuk has blamed Russia for the assassination attempt, but Ukrainian authorities have yet to determine who is behind the attempt. 

    Ukrainian lawmaker Ihor Mosiychuk, who routinely insulted Russian politicians, was wounded in a car bomb in Kyiv on Wednesday. 

    The explosion happened about 10 p.m. when Mosiychuk, a member of the populist opposition Radical Party, which is fiercely anti-Russian, was leaving the Espresso TV station after giving an interview, according to the Kyiv Post. 

    Mosiychuk did not suffer life-threatening injuries, but his bodyguard and a former Ukrainian Interior Ministry employee who was passing by were killed, the Kyiv Post reported. Two others were also wounded, including political analyst Vitaliy Bala. 

    It was unclear on Wednesday if the bomb was placed in a motorcycle or car, according to the New York Times, but the video below captured the explosion. 

    Warning the video below shows the blast that killed two:

    Ukrainian authorities have yet to offer an official motive for the incident, but Ukraine’s State Security Service has categorized it as a terrorist act, Kyiv Post reported. 

    Mosiychuk, however, has since blamed the bombing on Russian agents, according to RFERL. “I believe that the initiators are in Moscow, the executors are in Kiev,” Mosiychuk wrote on Facebook, according to Reuters. 

    Radical party leader Oleg Lyashko told Pravda that it was politically motivated and was the "work of enemy special services," most likely referring to Russia. 

    Deputy Kyiv prosecutor Pavlo Kononenko said that Mosiychuk could have been targeted by Russia, or by someone in Ukraine for political or personal reasons, Reuters reported. 

    Russian President Vlaidimir Putin denied accusations of Russia's involvement, Reuters reported. “Beyond all doubt, these are new signs of this anti-Russian campaign which has unfortunately swept across Ukraine and Kiev,” Dmitry Peskov, a Putin spokesman, said.

    Mosiychuk was well known for insulting and baiting Russian politicians, and even posted a video on YouTube threatening to kill Ramzan Kadyrov, who is Putin's hand-picked leader of Chechnya. 

    Kadyrov has been implicated in a number of other assassinations, including the high-profile killing of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian opposition leader who was shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015, and most recently, the car bomb that killed Timur Mahauri, a Georgian citizen who fought with a volunteer Ukrainian battalion in the Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine. 

    Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and war broke out in the Donbas, at least 13 other assassinations and many more attempts have occured in Ukraine.

    In late June, a Ukrainian colonel reportedly investigating Russia for an international court case was killed in a car bombing in Kyiv. 

    And on June 1, a Chechen assassin posing as a French journalist tried to kill a married couple, Amina Okuyeva and Adam Osmayev, in Kyiv. The Kremlin had accused the couple of trying to assassinate Putin in 2012.

    When the Chechen assassin, Artur Denisultanov-Kurmakayev, was interviewing the couple in a car, he pulled out a gun and shot Osmayev. Okuyeva then pulled out her gun and shot the assassin four times. All three survived, and the Ukrainian government has accused Russia of ordering the hit. 

    The car bombing on Wednesday was the fifth in Ukraine in the last year.

    SEE ALSO: A car bombing in Kyiv that killed a Ukrainian volunteer soldier was captured on video

    SEE ALSO: A Ukrainian officer killed in a car bomb was reportedly investigating Russia for international court case

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    NOW WATCH: The wives of high-level cocaine traffickers reveal how their husbands took down 'El Chapo'

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    • US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis visited the demilitarized border zone between North and South Korea.
    • South Korea's defense minister warned him that North Korea's artillery can't be stopped.
    • Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea from being able to hit the US with nuclear weapons, but taking any action towards that end risks war.

    U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo visit the truce village of Panmunjom, South Korea October 27, 2017. Yonhap/via REUTERS

    By DEMILITARIZED ZONE, South Korea (Reuters) - As U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis peered into North Korea from a lookout post on Friday, he was given a blunt reminder by his South Korean counterpart of the vast amount of North Korean artillery within range of Seoul.

    Above the faint sound of North Korean propaganda music being blasted from across the border, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo suggested that U.S. and South Korean missile defenses simply could not stop all of them.

    "Defending against this many LRAs (long-range artillery) is infeasible in my opinion," Song told Mattis, citing a need for strategies to "offensively neutralize" the artillery in the event of a conflict.

    Mattis replied: "Understood."

    The brief exchange at the inter-Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) - where U.S .President Donald Trump may visit in coming days - spoke volumes about the risks of any miscalculation as tension soars over Pyongyang's rapidly advancing nuclear weapon and missile programs.

    Last week, CIA chief Mike Pompeo said North Korea could be only months away from developing the ability to hit the United States with nuclear weapons, a scenario Trump has vowed to prevent.

    U.S. intelligence experts say Pyongyang believes it needs the weapons to ensure its survival and have been skeptical about diplomatic efforts, focusing on sanctions, to get Pyongyang to willingly denuclearise.

    But, as the DMZ trip highlighted, North Korea's conventional weaponry poses such a risk to South Korea that any attempt to denuclearize the North by force could easily escalate into a devastating conflict.

    North Korea artillery

    Mattis was keen to emphasize efforts to peacefully resolve the crisis, including at the DMZ, as he addressed reporters with his back to the dividing line between North and South.

    "Our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Mattis said, as North Korean soldiers kept watch.

    Mattis said he and Song also made clear their mutual commitment "to a diplomatic solution to address North Korea's reckless, outlaw behavior," when they met this week at a gathering of Asian defense chiefs in the Philippines.

    He carried that same message after his helicopter flight back to Seoul, where he addressed a small group of U.S. and South Korean soldiers.

    "It comes down to you to make it work, my fine young troops ... and we'll buy time for our diplomats to solve this problem," he said.

    The emphasis on diplomacy came before Trump departs next week on a trip to Asia. He has declined to say whether he will visit the DMZ when he stops in South Korea, telling reporters on Wednesday: "You'll be surprised."

    Trump, in a speech last month at the United Nations, threatened to destroy North Korea if necessary to defend the United States and its allies. Kim has blasted Trump as "mentally deranged."

    North Korea artillery test

    The bellicose verbal exchanges have stoked fears of a military confrontation, but White House officials say Trump is looking for a peaceful resolution.

    At the same time, the U.S. and South Korean militaries are looking for ways to deter Pyongyang, and bolster its defenses.

    As Mattis at one point met some of the roughly 28,000 American forces stationed in South Korea, he said the role of U.S. and South Korean troops was essential.

    "We're doing everything we can to solve this diplomatically, everything we can. But ultimately our diplomats have to be backed up by strong soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, so they speak from a position of strength," he said.

    "So thanks for standing watch, for holding the line."


    (Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Lincoln Feast)

    SEE ALSO: New study reveals horrid conditions in North Korean prison camps

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    NOW WATCH: Meet the three women who married Donald Trump

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    • President Donald Trump says he hopes "to get just about everything to the public" eventually regarding JFK's assassination.
    • Trump backtracked on releasing the full files just a day earlier.
    • An expert doubts the reasoning that the records threaten national security and speculates that the records may contain embarrassing details for the US's intelligence agencies.

    FILE PHOTO: President John F. Kennedy in an undated photograph courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  REUTERS/JFK Presidential Library and Museum/Handout/File Photo via REUTERSA day after backing down from releasing the full US government files on President John F. Kennedy's assassination, President Donald Trump said he hoped "to get just about everything" released eventually.

    "JFK Files are being carefully released. In the end there will be great transparency. It is my hope to get just about everything to public!"Trump tweeted on Friday morning.

    On Thursday, Trump allowed only the partial release of a trove of documents that a law passed 25 years ago dictated must be made public, citing "potentially irreversible harm" to national security if he had released all the records.

    The decision to limit the release of documents apparently came down to a last-minute decision, with US intelligence agencies scrambling to postpone the release that Trump had promised earlier on Twitter.

    Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post journalist who edits, told BBC News that the delay of the JFK files showed that it's a "very live and sensitive issue."

    But according to Morley, the idea that 50-year-old documents could imperil current national security "doesn't pass the test of common sense."

    Morley suggested that the agencies may be trying to avoid something "embarrassing," like potential incompetence in preventing or investigating Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination of Kennedy.

    While few expect any of the myriad conspiracy theories about Kennedy's death to be validated, Morley said the new trove of documents could lead to a "significant new understanding of what caused the death of John F. Kennedy."

    SEE ALSO: Lee Harvey Oswald called the KGB department in charge of 'sabotage and assassination' before killing JFK

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Construction has started on a prototype of Trump's border wall

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    Putin Missile

    Russian President Vladimir Putin recently oversaw the launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and apparently pulled the trigger on four of them himself, the Associated Press reports.

    The large-scale military drill exercised Russia's land, air, and sea-based nuclear capability with test launches from submarines, supersonic bombers, and a launch pad.

    "The goal of the launch was to test advanced ballistic missile warheads," a Russian defense ministry spokesman said. And the missiles, as well as the warheads, were very advanced.

    Not only does the land-based missile boast a range of over 6,000 miles, enough to hit anywhere in the US with hundreds of kilotons of explosive force, but it has been tailor-made to evade US missile defenses.

    Russian media reports that the Yars ICBM tested by Russia flies in a jagged pattern to evade missile defenses. Once the missile breaks up, it carries multiple reentry vehicles and countermeasures to confuse and overwhelm missile defenses.

    yars icbm russia missile

    Even in test conditions, US missile defenses struggle to intercept ICBMs, but the US doesn't even stock a sufficient number of interceptors to repel a Russian attack.

    Russia's ministry of defense reported that all missiles hit their targets. Russia last launched the Yars in September during a massive military drill near its border with Eastern Europe.

    Watch the ICBM launch below.

    SEE ALSO: Trump may be dangerously overconfident in US missile defenses against North Korea

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    NOW WATCH: The 4 longest range missiles in the world

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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens to a question during a joint news conference in New Delhi, India September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea on Friday and made clear the US's mission in dealing with Pyongyang: to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

    "North Korean provocations continue to threaten regional and global security despite unanimous condemnation by the United Nations Security Council," Mattis said near North Korea's border, according to Reuters.

    "As Secretary of State Tillerson has made clear, our goal is not war, but rather the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," Mattis continued.

    But North Korea has repeatedly made it clear that it would not denuclearize and would even go to war to prevent outside forces from disarming them.

    The stalemate between North Korea and the US is well known, but Mattis' statement took on new weight in North Korea's border with three US aircraft carriers in or heading to the Pacific.

    While Mattis said clearly that war is not the US's intention, military strength has taken an increasingly prominent role in the struggle.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in praised the "aggressive deployment" of US strategic assets like aircraft carriers to the country, saying it helped deter North Korea.

    A separate statement from the US military's top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, said that "any attack" from North Korea would be met with an "overwhelming and effective" response, "using the full range of US military capabilities."

    USS Ronald Reagan Navy

    President Donald Trump is due in South Korea in November and may visit the DMZ, where his vice president, secretary of state, and secretary of defense have already visited.

    North Korea on Thursday backed down from a potential flashpoint with the South by returning a fishing ship it had apprehended for allegedly fishing illegally in its waters.

    SEE ALSO: Why North Korea has a cultural and psychological advantage against the US in nuclear warfare

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Watch The US and South Korea show off their air force jets in a defense exhibition amid tensions with North Korea

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    Intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 is pictured during its second test-fire in this undated picture provided by KCNA in Pyongyang on July 29, 2017. KCNA via Reuters

    • Experts recently told Congress that a North Korean electromagnetic-pulse attack on the US could wipe out 90% of the population.
    • EMP attacks are unproven, and the academic community finds this claim ridiculous.
    • Even if North Korea did pull off the attack, it wouldn't hurt the US's nuclear systems that are hardened against EMPs.

    A report to congress on the dangers of a North Korean electromagnetic-pulse attack against the US electrical grid recently made headlines for claiming that the rogue nation could kill off 90% of the US population with a single blast.

    Every nuclear blast creates an electromagnetic pulse that can short out electronics. A large nuclear blast outside the atmosphere above the US could short out electric systems across the continent and cause airliners in flight to crash, according to the report.

    But according to experts, the idea of North Korea using an EMP to attack the US is ridiculous, laughable, and totally unlikely. The US's own Defense Technical Information Center concluded in 2008 that an EMP in reality couldn't actually even stop a car from driving more than three times out of 37.

    "If you have the required level of capability to conduct some sort of very high level exo-atmospheric EMP, you’d get more effect out of using that as a nuclear-strike capability," Justin Bronk, a research fellow specializing in military technology at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider.

    Because an EMP is "quite an unpredictable effecter," according to Bronk, North Korea would take a huge risk using an unproven technology to attack the US when it could simply bomb a city.

    But if North Korea did try a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack on the US with the intent of killing as many people as possible, the result "would be exactly the same in terms of response from the US as actually a ground detonation," said Bronk.

    ICBM LGM-30G Minuteman III

    The nuclear infrastructure the US would use to respond to such an attack has been hardened against EMPs. As soon as the blast in space was detected, US nuclear missiles would streak across the sky and obliterate North Korea.

    Additionally, a North Korean bomb detonating in space wouldn't just hurt the US electrical grid, it would destroy all nearby satellites. Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and other satellites would become useless. The resulting EMP blast would fry electronics all over the western hemisphere in a truly international attack against humanity.

    Not only would the US retaliate, but the attack would likely turn the world against North Korea, creating unprecedented international support for the use of force against its leader Kim Jong Un.

    So while North Korea detonating a nuclear bomb in space could devastate the US, it's unlikely the entire world would rest until Kim had been dug out of a bunker and made to pay for his crime against humanity.

    SEE ALSO: Why North Korea has a cultural and psychological advantage against the US in nuclear warfare

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This US plane doubles as Mission Control during nuclear war— take a look inside

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    niger special forces

    • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will press State Secretary Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the Trump's administration's ability to wage war without asking Congress.
    • The recent death of four US Special Forces soldiers led some in Congress to realize that the depth of US military involvement in Africa and around the world was deeper than they knew.
    • Congress initially authorized the broad use of military force for the executive branch after the 9/11 attacks, but now US forces are fighting enemies like the Islamic State that did not exist in 2001.

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's national security brain trust faces Congress on the need for a new war authorization as the deadly ambush in Niger is igniting a push among many lawmakers to update the legal parameters for combat operations overseas.

    Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday. They told the panel behind closed doors three months ago that a 2001 law gave the military ample authority to fight terrorist groups.

    But that's a position that won't wash with a growing number of congressional Republicans and Democrats, many of whom were startled by the depth of the US commitment in Niger and other parts of Africa. They've argued that the dynamics of the battlefield have shifted over the past 16 years and it's well past time to replace the post-9/11 authorization with a law that reflects current threats.

    Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, said last week that he thought most Americans would be surprised by the extent of the operations in Africa that US forces were involved in. Kaine and Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, are sponsoring legislation to install a new war authority for operations against the Islamic State group, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban.

    US Army Special Forces Niger exercise training Africa

    "I don't think Congress has necessarily been completely kept up to date, and the American public, I think, certainly has not," Kaine said after leaving a classified briefing conducted by senior Pentagon officials on the assault in Niger that killed four American soldiers.

    Roughly 800 US service members are in Niger as part of a French-led mission to defeat the extremists in West Africa. Hundreds more American forces are in other African countries.

    US troops also are battling an enemy — Islamic State militants — that didn't exist 16 years ago in a country — Syria — that the US didn't expect to be fighting in. Nor did the 2001 authorization anticipate military confrontations with the Syrian government. Trump in April ordered the firing of dozens of Tomahawk missiles at an air base in central Syria, and American forces in June shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet.

    Beyond that, Trump approved a troop increase in Afghanistan, the site of America's longest war, and the US backs a Saudi Arabia-led coalition carrying out airstrikes in Yemen.

    "As we face a wide array of threats abroad, it is perhaps more important than ever that we have a sober national conversation about Congress' constitutional role in authorizing the use of military force," Sen. Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, the committee chairman, said in a statement.

    ISIS Near Abroad SEP isw isis world map

    But previous attempts to ditch the old authorization and force Congress to craft a new one have failed. Democrats in the House complained that Speaker Paul Ryan used underhanded tactics after an amendment was stripped from a military spending bill that would have repealed the 2001 war authorization 240 days after the bill was enacted. Proponents of the measure said eight months was enough time to approve new war authority.

    GOP leaders said voting to rescind existing war authority without a replacement in hand risked leaving US troops and commanders in combat zones without the necessary legal authority they need to carry out military operations.

    A similar effort in the Senate led by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also came up well short. Paul, a member of the committee who is a leader of the GOP's noninterventionist wing, has accused his colleagues of surrendering their war-making power to the White House.


    Follow Richard Lardner on Twitter.

    SEE ALSO: Here's why the United States is in Niger

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    • Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish people in Iraq, has resigned following violence at Kurdish parliament.
    • Kurdistan's recent troubles started after Kurdish forces expelled ISIS from the region and held a referendum during which they overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence.
    • Barzani blamed the US for providing arms to Iraqi forces, which violently pushed Kurdish forces out of the territory they gained during the anti-ISIS offensive. 
    • The Kurds were a key US ally in the fight against ISIS.

    FILE PHOTO: Iraq's Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani gestures during a joint news conference with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (not pictured) in Erbil, Iraq April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari/File PhotoERBIL/BAGHDAD Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said he would give up his position as president on Nov. 1, after an independence referendum he championed backfired and triggered a regional crisis.

    There was high drama at the Kurdish parliament, which was stormed by armed protesters as it met to approve the veteran leader's resignation as Kurdish president. Some MPs were barricaded in their offices on Sunday evening.

    In a televised address, his first since Iraqi forces launched a surprise offensive to recapture Kurdish-held territory on Oct. 16, Barzani confirmed that he would not extend his presidential term after Nov. 1 "under any conditions".

    "I am the same Masoud Barzani, I am a Peshmerga (Kurdish fighter) and will continue to help my people in their struggle for independence," said Barzani, who has campaigned for Kurdish self-determination for nearly four decades.

    The address followed a letter he sent to parliament in which he asked members to take measures to fill the resulting power vacuum.

    The region's parliament met in the Kurdish capital Erbil on Sunday to discuss the letter. A majority of 70 Kurdish MPs voted to accept Barzani's request and 23 opposed it, Kurdish TV channels Rudaw and Kurdistan 24 said.

    Demonstrators, some carrying clubs and guns, stormed the parliament building as the session was in progress.

    Gunshots were heard. Some protesters outside the building said they wanted to "punish" MPs who they said had "insulted" Barzani. Some attacked journalists at the scene.

    A Kurdish official had told Reuters on Saturday that Barzani had decided to hand over the presidency without waiting for elections that had been set for Nov. 1 but which have now been delayed by eight months.


    The region, which had enjoyed unprecedented autonomy for years, has been in turmoil since the independence referendum a month ago prompted military and economic retaliation from Iraq's central government in Baghdad.

    In his address, Barzani vigorously defended his decision to hold the Sept. 25 referendum, the results of which "can never be erased", he said. The vote was overwhelmingly for independence and triggered the military action by the Baghdad government and threats from neighboring Turkey and Iran.

    He added that the Iraqi attack on Kirkuk and other Kurdish held territory vindicated his position that Baghdad no longer believed in federalism and instead wanted to curtail Kurdish rights. 

    US condemned

    special forces YPGBarzani condemned the United States for failing to back the Kurds. "We tried to stop bloodshed but the Iraqi forces and Popular Mobilization Front (Shi'ite militias) kept advancing, using U.S. weapons," he said.

    "Our people should now question, whether the U.S. was aware of Iraq's attack and why they did not prevent it."

    Asked for reaction to Barzani's resignation, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said: "I would refer you to Kurdistan officials for information on President Barzani. Also, we are not going to get into any private diplomatic discussions."

    Barzani has been criticized by Kurdish opponents for the loss of the city of Kirkuk, oil-rich and considered by many Kurds to be their spiritual home.

    His resignation could help facilitate a reconciliation between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Iraq's central government, whose retaliatory measures since the referendum have transformed the balance of power in the north.

    Barzani has led the KRG since it was established in 2005. His second term expired in 2013 but was extended without elections being held as Islamic State militants swept across vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

    U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces, Iranian-backed paramilitaries and Kurdish fighters fought alongside each other to defeat Islamic State but the alliance has faltered since the militants were largely defeated in the country.

    After the Kurdish vote, Iraqi troops were ordered by the country's prime minister Haider al-Abadi to take control of areas claimed by both Baghdad and the KRG.

    Abadi also wants to take control of the border crossings between the Kurdish region and Turkey, Iran and Syria, including one through which an oil export pipeline crosses into Turkey, carrying Iraqi and Kurdish crude oil.

    The fall of Kirkuk - a multi-ethnic city which lies outside the KRG's official boundaries - to Iraqi forces on Oct. 16 was a major symbolic and financial blow to the Kurds' independence drive because it halved the region's oil export revenue.

    Iraqi security forces advance in military vehicles in Kirkuk, Iraq October 16, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

    Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga started a second round of talks on Sunday to resolve a conflict over control of the Kurdistan region's border crossings, Iraqi state TV said.

    A first round was held on Friday and Saturday, with Abadi ordering a 24-hour suspension on Friday of military operations against Kurdish forces.

    He demanded on Thursday that the Kurds declare their referendum void, rejecting the KRG offer to suspend its independence push to resolve a crisis through talks, saying in a statement: "We won't accept anything but its cancellation and the respect of the constitution."

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    • Seoul and Beijing have agreed to mend relations after the Chinese protested the deployment of US missile defenses in South Korea.
    • South Korean shares are up as China seems to abandon its concerns that the missile defenses posed a threat to its national security.
    • The move comes just weeks before President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit both countries.

    Moon Jae inSEOUL/BEIJING (Reuters) - Seoul and Beijing agreed on Tuesday to work swiftly to get relations back on track following a year-long standoff over the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea which pummeled South Korean business interests in China.

    The installation of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system had deeply angered China and spilled over into tourism, trade and even cultural ties with South Korea.

    "Both sides shared the view that the strengthening of exchange and cooperation between Korea and China serves their common interests and agreed to expeditiously bring exchange and cooperation in all areas back on a normal development track," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

    The unexpected detente comes just days before U.S. President Donald Trump begins a trip to Asia where North Korea will again take center stage.

    South Korea's President Moon Jae-in will also meet with China's President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of an upcoming summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in Vietnam on Nov. 10-11, South Korea's presidential office said.

    The two heads of state are likely to discuss North Korea's missile and nuclear program as well as ways to develop bilateral ties, a senior South Korean presidential Blue House official later told reporters, declining to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

    Pyongyang has undertaken an unprecedented missile testing program in recent months, as well as its biggest nuclear test yet in early September, as it seeks to develop a powerful nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States.

    The moves have angered China, North Korea's only major ally, and drawn further tough sanctions from the United Nations and the United States.

    The recent deterioration in ties between China and North Korea may have contributed to Tuesday's agreement, the Blue House official said.

    THAAD missile test Alaska

    The head of NATO on Tuesday urged all United Nation members to fully and transparently implement sanctions against North Korea, which he said has emerged as a global threat able to fire ballistic missiles as far as Europe and North America.

    "North Korea's ballistic and nuclear tests are an affront to the United Nations Security Council," North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tokyo, where he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    Separately, a South Korean lawmaker said North Korea probably stole South Korean warship blueprints after hacking into a local shipbuilder's database last April. 

    Announcement welcomed, shares rally

    A view of the Ciputra World 1, Lotte Shopping Avenue, shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia June 26, 2016. Picture taken June 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Iqro Rinaldi

    In a statement coordinated with South Korea's announcement, China's foreign ministry said the two countries would get relations back onto a normal track "at an early date".

    South Korea recognized China's concerns on the THAAD issue and made it clear the deployment was not aimed at any third country and did not harm China's strategic security interests, China's foreign ministry said.

    China reiterated its opposition to the deployment of THAAD, but noted South Korea's position and hoped South Korea could appropriately handle the issue, it added.

    South Korean companies operating in China have suffered since the spat erupted last year, although Beijing has never specifically linked its actions to the THAAD deployment.

    "China repeated this stance during discussions, saying difficulties faced by South Korean companies were prompted by individual Chinese citizens angered by the THAAD deployment," the Blue House official said, adding that improvements for South Korean companies would come slowly.

    Lotte Group, which provided the land where THAAD was installed, has suffered most. It faces a costly overhaul and is expected to sell its Chinese hypermarket stores for a fraction of what it invested.

    A spokesman for Lotte Corp, the holding company of Lotte Group, expressed hope South Korean firms' activity in China would improve following the announcement.

    thaad range

    South Korean tourism and retail shares rallied, with Lotte Tour surging more than 18 percent and Lotte Shopping up as much as 5.7 percent.

    Shares of Asiana Airlines gained as much as 4.6 percent.

    Hopes have been growing for a thaw in the frosty bilateral ties following China's recently completed Communist Party conclave, during which President Xi Jinping cemented his status as China's most powerful leader after Mao Zedong.

    Earlier this month, South Korea and China agreed to renew a $56 billion currency swap agreement, while Chinese airlines are reportedly planning to restore flight routes to South Korea that had been cut during the spat.

    Tuesday's agreement came after high-level talks led by Nam Gwan-pyo, deputy director of national security of the Blue House, and Kong Xuanyou, assistant foreign minister of China and the country's special envoy for North Korea-related matters.

    SEE ALSO: Why a purely defensive, unarmed US missile defense system scares the pants off of China

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    NOW WATCH: The US's most advanced missile system is operational in South Korea — and it has China and Russia alarmed

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    Punggye ri north korea test satellite image

    • Japanese media reports that about 200 North Koreans died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site.
    • In September, North Korea tested a powerful nuclear weapon that experts say rocked the mountain and made it unstable.
    • If the test site is compromised, the hazardous radioactive material could spread across the region.

    Japan's TV Asahi reports that about 200 North Koreans have died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in North Korea's northeast.

    In early September, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test there, detonating a nuclear device under a mountain. Experts have said it was a hydrogen bomb about 10 times as powerful as the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.

    Satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides and seismic aftershocks thought to have resulted from the blast.

    North Korean sources told TV Asahi that a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers and that an additional 100 who went in to rescue them also died under the unstable mountain.

    The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing them to resume nuclear testing.

    If the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out.

    If that debris were to reach China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.

    SEE ALSO: 3 US carriers are now in the Pacific amid tensions with North Korea — here's what they bring with them

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    mattis tillerson

    • Defense Secretary James Mattis laid out the US's response to a North Korean nuclear missile attack.
    • The US would try to shoot it down, and it has rehearsed its offensive response many times.
    • Both Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended President Donald Trump's capability to launch a nuclear first strike without consulting Congress.

    Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee how the US would respond to a North Korean nuclear missile attack.

    "What happens if somebody knocks on the door of the Oval Office and says, 'Mr. President, they've launched'?" Sen. Jim Risch said.

    Mattis replied: "Our ballistic-missile-defense forces at sea and in Alaska and California ... the various radars would be feeding in, and they would do what they're designed to do as we make every effort to take them out."

    The US has recently tested and improved its missile-defense systems, but the threat from a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile remains a serious question, as experts have said the US wouldn't fare well against a salvo of missiles or those with decoys or countermeasures.

    But the bulk of US deterrence has never rested in missile defense, but rather in offensive capability.

    "The response — if that's what you're referring to — would, of course, depend on the president," Mattis said. He explained that the president would see a "wide array" of options that included cooperation with US allies.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang July 5, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS

    "Defenses will go," Mattis said. "The president will be woken up or whatever, but our commands are — we rehearse this routinely."

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added: "Some judgment would be made over whether a necessary and proportionate response is required."

    But neither Tillerson nor Mattis would categorically rule out a nuclear first strike on North Korea. Both made statements to the effect that if the US knew a North Korean nuclear attack on the US was imminent, President Donald Trump reserved the right to preempt it with a launch.

    "The fact is that no president, Republican or Democrat, has ever forsworn the first-strike capability," Tillerson said. "That has served us for 70 years."

    SEE ALSO: A tunnel collapsed at a North Korean nuclear test site, reportedly killing 200 people

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    • President Donald Trump has reportedly decided not to visit the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea.
    • Trump's secretary of state, secretary of defense, and vice president have all visited the DMZ.
    • One official reportedly said the trips had become "cliche."
    • Trump would have come face to face with armed North Korean guards amid record high tensions on the peninsula if he went.

    President Donald Trump will not visit the demilitarized border zone between North Korea and South Korea during his November trip to Asia, multiple sources have reported.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and Vice President Mike Pence have all visited the DMZ within the last few months.

    "It's becoming a bit of a cliche, frankly," a White House official said, according to Washington Post reporter David Nakamura.

    Every president except for George W. Bush has visited the DMZ since Ronald Reagan, but no president has ever taken such a vocally hostile line towards North Korea as Trump has. Trump has threatened to "totally destroy" the country with "fire and fury," far more colorful statements than any of his predecessors.

    Trump's time in office has marked a sharp increase in tensions between the US and North Korea, two nations still technically at war since 1950. North Korea's accelerated pace of nuclear and missile testing and Trump's often inflammatory rhetoric have stoked the flames.

    The White House's decision follows reports that some advisers feared for Trump's safety at the border, where armed North Korean guards stand around the clock and countless episodes of violence have broken out over the decades.

    Other advisers reportedly feared that Trump would engage in more fiery rhetoric, which could cause an incident at the tense border.

    SEE ALSO: A tunnel collapsed at a North Korean nuclear test site, reportedly killing 200 people

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    kim jong un submarine North Korea

    A South Korean lawmaker says North Korean hackers broke into a shipyard and stole plans for naval technologies as Pyongyang seeks its own submarine fleet armed with nuclear missiles.

    Kyeong Dae-soo, a lawmaker from South Korea's hawkish Liberty Korea Party, made public the claim that North Korea stole the plans less than a month after a "ridiculous mistake" allowed the US and South Korea's war plans to be hacked by Pyongyang.

    "We are almost 100 percent certain that North Korean hackers were behind the hacking and stole the company's sensitive documents,"Kyeong told Reuters. Defense industry officials corroborated Kyeong's story to The Wall Street Journal.

    Sixty "classified documents including blueprints and technical data for submarines and vessels equipped with Aegis weapon systems" made their way into North Korean hands, according to The Journal.

    The news of the theft comes as US intelligence assesses that North Korea has begun construction of a new class of 2,000-ton submarine — likely the largest ever attempted by the small country, The Diplomat reports. The submarine appears to follow North Korea's tradition of attempting to field an undersea leg of its nuclear deterrent, mimicking the US.

    Basically, by deploying nuclear weapons on land and at sea, North Korea makes it nearly impossible for any one attack from the US or any other adversary to remove its nuclear capabilities.

    Kyeong said that the information hacked also contained details on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which North Korea has tried and failed to perfect in the past.

    Though the US and South Korea enjoy a massive edge in submarine technology over North Korea, the shallow coastal waters around the Korean Peninsula are noisy with irregular currents, meaning even the best submarine hunters might struggle to hunt down and destroy their targets. North Korea is thought to operate about 60 submarines, but none of those can likely launch a ballistic missile yet.

    North Korea submarine photo

    Additionally, Aegis technology, also leaked in the hack, is used by the US and its allies to fend off incoming missiles or missiles fired overhead, like North Korea's frequent long-range missile tests.

    Though North Korea likely can't duplicate the technology, Aegis is the world's most advanced at-sea missile defense, and any leaks could compromise the safety of the US Navy.

    Earlier in October, the news came out that North Korea had hacked the US and South Korea's war plan by exploiting a lapse in security. Experts estimate that the cyber threat from North Korea is growing and could seriously complicate any conflict.

    SEE ALSO: A tunnel collapsed at a North Korean nuclear test site, reportedly killing 200 people

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    • Though President Donald Trump has said his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is "wasting his time" by trying diplomacy with North Korea, the State Department has pressed on.
    • The US and North Korea are having quiet talks despite Trump's threats, a senior department official told Reuters.
    • But the talks aren't making great progress, and Tillerson has said he will continue "diplomatic efforts ... until the first bomb drops."

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, October 22, 2017.  REUTERS/Alex Brandon/Pool WASHINGTON — The United States is quietly pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korea, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday, despite US President Donald Trump's public assertion that such talks are a waste of time.

    Using the so-called New York channel, Joseph Yun, the US's negotiator with North Korea, has been in contact with diplomats at Pyongyang's United Nations mission, the official said, at a time when an exchange of bellicose insults between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has fueled fears of military conflict.

    While US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on October 17 said he would continue "diplomatic efforts ... until the first bomb drops," the official's comments were the clearest sign the United States was directly discussing issues beyond the release of American prisoners, despite Trump having dismissed direct talks as pointless.

    There is no sign, however, that the behind-the-scenes communications have improved a relationship vexed by North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, the death of the US university student Otto Warmbier days after his release by Pyongyang in June, and the detention of three other Americans.

    Word of quiet engagement with Pyongyang comes despite Trump's comments, North Korea's weapons advances, and suggestions by some US and South Korean officials that Yun's interactions with North Koreans had been reined in.

    "It has not been limited at all, both in frequency and substance," said the senior State Department official.

    Among the points that Yun has made to his North Korean interlocutors is to "stop testing" nuclear bombs and missiles, the official said.

    FILE PHOTO: 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

    North Korea this year conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear detonation and has test-fired a volley of missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that, if perfected, could in theory reach the United States mainland.

    The possibility that Pyongyang may be closer to attaching a nuclear warhead to an ICBM has alarmed the Trump administration, which in April unveiled a policy of "maximum pressure and engagement" that has so far failed to deter North Korea.

    At the start of Trump's presidency, Yun's instructions were limited to seeking the release of US prisoners.

    "It is [now] a broader mandate than that," said the State Department official, declining, however, to address whether authority had been given to discuss North Korea's nuclear and missile program.

    In Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said China welcomed any dialogue between the United States and North Korea.

    "We encourage North Korea and the United States to carry out engagement and dialogue," Hua told reporters, adding that she hoped talks could help return the issue to a diplomatic track for resolution.

    Sanctions and engagement

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (not pictured) deliver joint statements to the media at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Eric VidalNATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has urged all United Nations members to fully and transparently implement sanctions against North Korea, which he said has emerged as a global threat.

    Speaking at the United Nations on September 19, Trump vowed to "totally destroy" North Korea if it threatened the United States or its allies, raising anxieties about the possibility of military conflict.

    Twelve days later, after Tillerson said Washington was probing for a diplomatic opening, Trump said on Twitter that his chief diplomat was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," his mocking nickname for the North Korean leader.

    Democratic US senators on Tuesday introduced a bill they said would prevent Trump from launching a nuclear first strike on North Korea on his own, highlighting the issue days before Trump's first trip to Asia as president.

    A high-ranking North Korean defector said in Washington on Tuesday that he backed the Trump administration's policy of pressuring Pyongyang through sanctions, coupled with "maximum engagement" with the leadership and increased efforts to get information into North Korea to educate its people.

    "I strongly believe in the use of soft power before taking any military actions," Thae Yong Ho, who was the chief of mission at Pyongyang's embassy in London until he defected in 2016, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    The New York channel is one of the few conduits the United States has for communicating with North Korea, which has made clear it has little interest in serious talks before it develops a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the continental United States.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (not pictured) guides the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated combination photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS

    The State Department official said the last high-level contact between Yun and the North Koreans was when he traveled to North Korea in June to secure the release of Warmbier, who died shortly after he returned home in a coma.

    The Trump administration has demanded North Korea release three other US citizens: Kim Dong Chul, a missionary, and Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song, who are academics.

    Warmbier's death was a factor in the chilling of US-North Korean contacts around that time, but the biggest was Pyongyang's stepped-up testing, the official said.

    The official said, however, that "the preferred endpoint is not a war but some kind of diplomatic settlement" and that suggestions that Washington was setting up a binary choice for Pyongyang to capitulate diplomatically or military action were "misleading."

    Diplomacy, the official said, "has a lot more room to go."

    But Trump's threats against North Korea are believed to have complicated diplomatic efforts.

    SEE ALSO: North Korea reportedly stole South Korean submarine tech as it looks to field its own undersea nuclear force

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    kim jong un

    The Congressional Research Service has prepared a briefing for Congress that reveals the seven US military options for dealing with the growing threat from North Korea.

    The options, often hinted at by President Donald Trump and members of his cabinet, represent the full range of US military might and strategy, but sometimes in unexpected ways.

    For example, not every option has to do with use of force. In some cases, the US may just continue business as usual. In other cases, the military may withdraw completely from South Korea. 

    In the slides below, you can see the same information that Congress has on the US's military options in North Korea.

    SEE ALSO: Trump says the military is 'locked and loaded' to strike North Korea — Here's how it would go down

    Maintain the status quo

    Simply put, the US military could just continue regular activities and military drills while the State Department works on sanctions and diplomatic solutions to the problem.

    If this sounds familiar, it's because former President Barack Obama spent eight years doing it to limited effect.

    On the plus side, this course of action presents a lower risk of elevating the tense situation into a full-blown crisis or warfare. Those against this policy of "strategic patience," as the Obama administration dubbed it, point out that it has failed for years to stop North Korea from gaining a nuclear weapon or creating long-range missiles.

    So far, Trump has stuck to the basic principals of strategic patience but supplemented it with more deployments of aircraft carriers and sometimes frightening threats to "totally destroy" the country with "fire and fury."

    Arm the region to the teeth and watch North Korea like a hawk

    This option takes the status quo and jacks it up with the US's scariest, most capable platforms coming to the region and closely monitoring North Korea to make it feel its nuclear program is unwise.

    US stealth jets and bombers, aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, guided-missile destroyers, and even tactical nuclear weapons could deploy to South Korea and Japan on a more permanent basis to step up the US presence in the area. 

    Meanwhile, an increased cyber and naval presence would seek to interdict any shipments to North Korea that could further Pyongyang's weapons program.

    Skeptics of this approach point out that North Korea hates US military deployments to the peninsula and could easily see such a move as further justification to continue its weapons program at any cost.

    Furthermore, the US can't simply place these assets in the region — it needs to credibly threaten using them. What happens if a North Korean ship opens fire on US Navy sailors trying to board and inspect its cargo?


    Shoot down every medium- to long-range missile North Korea fires to restrict its testing

    This approach disregards the long-stated US goal of denuclearizing North Korea and goes straight for a more realistic goal of freezing its nuclear-missile program.

    Basically, North Korea has to keep testing its missiles to achieve a credible nuclear threat to the US, but to do so it has to test missiles that fly beyond its borders.

    If the US and allies shot down North Korea's test fires, it would deny Pyongyang the testing data it needs to have confidence in its fleet.

    But this would require US ballistic-missile-defense assets, like its Navy destroyers, to constantly commit to the region, limiting resources available elsewhere.

    Additionally, North Korea could still test shorter-range missiles that put US forces in the region at risk, and it's unknown how Pyongyang would respond to having its missiles shot down.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    On Wednesday, the CIA released a trove of documents recovered from the 2011 raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, including the former Al Qaeda leader's personal journal.

    The CIA said it released the documents in "an effort to further enhance public understanding" of Al Qaeda, but the agency cautioned that they may contain disturbing, copy written, or adult content, and there "is no absolute guarantee that all malware has been removed."

    Included in the CIA release are scans of Bin Laden's personal journal, videos, audio files, his correspondence, and hundreds of other documents almost exclusively in Arabic, which have been revealed an attempt to "provide material relevant to understanding the plans and workings of terrorist organizations."

    The documents released on Wednesday represent just the latest portion released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Find the past documents here.

    Bin Laden and Al Qaeda's other senior leadership orchestrated the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack that was the deadliest ever perpetrated on US soil.

    In 2011, the US Navy's SEAL Team 6 raided his compound in darkness and killed Bin Laden on the scene.

    SEE ALSO: Trump blames Chuck Schumer-backed law for New York attacker's entry to the US, pushes immigration changes

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    • The hackers who meddled in the US election didn't just target Hillary Clinton, US Republicans, figures in Ukraine, Georgia, and virtually anyone who opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin was targeted.
    • The hackers targeted the inboxes of 4,700 Gmail users around the globe. Even accessing a small fraction of these accounts could yield huge hauls of compromising data.
    • During the debates, President Donald Trump said the hacks may have been done by "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds," but the amount of effort in this hack proves that can't be the case.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to meet with members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia October 30, 2017. REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool WASHINGTON (AP) — The hackers who upended the U.S. presidential election had ambitions well beyond Hillary Clinton's campaign, targeting the emails of Ukrainian officers, Russian opposition figures, U.S. defense contractors and thousands of others of interest to the Kremlin, according to a previously unpublished digital hit list obtained by The Associated Press.

    The list provides the most detailed forensic evidence yet of the close alignment between the hackers and the Russian government, exposing an operation that stretched back years and tried to break into the inboxes of 4,700 Gmail users across the globe — from the pope's representative in Kiev to the punk band Pussy Riot in Moscow.

    "It's a wish list of who you'd want to target to further Russian interests," said Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Cambridge, England, and one of five outside experts who reviewed the AP's findings. He said the data was "a master list of individuals whom Russia would like to spy on, embarrass, discredit or silence."

    The AP findings draw on a database of 19,000 malicious links collected by cybersecurity firm Secureworks, dozens of rogue emails, and interviews with more than 100 hacking targets.

    Secureworks stumbled upon the data after a hacking group known as Fancy Bear accidentally exposed part of its phishing operation to the internet. The list revealed a direct line between the hackers and the leaks that rocked the presidential contest in its final stages, most notably the private emails of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

    The issue of who hacked the Democrats is back in the national spotlight following the revelation Monday that a Donald Trump campaign official, George Papadopoulos, was briefed early last year that the Russians had "dirt" on Clinton, including "thousands of emails."

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the notion that Russia interfered "unfounded." But the list examined by AP provides powerful evidence that the Kremlin did just that.

    "This is the Kremlin and the general staff," said Andras Racz, a specialist in Russian security policy at Pazmany Peter Catholic University in Hungary, as he examined the data.

    "I have no doubts."

    The new evidence

    fancy bear website

    Secureworks' list covers the period between March 2015 and May 2016. Most of the identified targets were in the United States, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia and Syria.

    In the United States, which was Russia's Cold War rival, Fancy Bear tried to pry open at least 573 inboxes belonging to those in the top echelons of the country's diplomatic and security services: then-Secretary of State John Kerry, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, then-NATO Supreme Commander, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, and one of his predecessors, U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark.

    The list skewed toward workers for defense contractors such as Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin or senior intelligence figures, prominent Russia watchers and — especially — Democrats. More than 130 party workers, campaign staffers and supporters of the party were targeted, including Podesta and other members of Clinton's inner circle.

    The AP also found a handful of Republican targets.

    Podesta, Powell, Breedlove and more than a dozen Democratic targets besides Podesta would soon find their private correspondence dumped to the web. The AP has determined that all had been targeted by Fancy Bear, most of them three to seven months before the leaks.

    "They got two years of email," Powell recently told AP. He said that while he couldn't know for sure who was responsible, "I always suspected some Russian connection."

    In Ukraine, which is fighting a grinding war against Russia-backed separatists, Fancy Bear attempted to break into at least 545 accounts, including those of President Petro Poroshenko and his son Alexei, half a dozen current and former ministers such as Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and as many as two dozen current and former lawmakers.

    The list includes Serhiy Leshchenko, an opposition parliamentarian who helped uncover the off-the-books payments allegedly made to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort — whose indictment was unsealed Monday in Washington.

    Russian exile, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, delivers a speech at Chatham House in central London, February 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Toby MelvilleIn Russia, Fancy Bear focused on government opponents and dozens of journalists. Among the targets were oil tycoon-turned-Kremlin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison and now lives in exile, and Pussy Riot's Maria Alekhina. Along with them were 100 more civil society figures, including anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny and his lieutenants.

    "Everything on this list fits," said Vasily Gatov, a Russian media analyst who was himself among the targets. He said Russian authorities would have been particularly interested in Navalny, one of the few opposition leaders with a national following.

    Many of the targets have little in common except that they would have been crossing the Kremlin's radar: an environmental activist in the remote Russian port city of Murmansk; a small political magazine in Armenia; the Vatican's representative in Kiev; an adult education organization in Kazakhstan.

    "It's simply hard to see how any other country would be particularly interested in their activities," said Michael Kofman, an expert on Russian military affairs at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. He was also on the list.

    "If you're not Russia," he said, "hacking these people is a colossal waste of time."

    Working 9 to 6 Moscow time

    red square russia moscow

    Allegations that Fancy Bear works for Russia aren't new. But raw data has been hard to come by.

    Researchers have been documenting the group's activities for more than a decade and many have accused it of being an extension of Russia's intelligence services. The "Fancy Bear" nickname is a none-too-subtle reference to Russia's national symbol.

    In the wake of the 2016 election, U.S. intelligence agencies publicly endorsed the consensus view, saying what American spooks had long alleged privately: Fancy Bear is a creature of the Kremlin.

    But the U.S. intelligence community provided little proof, and even media-friendly cybersecurity companies typically publish only summaries of their data.

    That makes the Secureworks' database a key piece of public evidence — all the more remarkable because it's the result of a careless mistake.

    Secureworks effectively stumbled across it when a researcher began working backward from a server tied to one of Fancy Bear's signature pieces of malicious software.

    He found a hyperactive Bitly account Fancy Bear was using to sneak thousands of malicious links past Google's spam filter. Because Fancy Bear forgot to set the account to private, Secureworks spent the next few months hovering over the group's shoulder, quietly copying down the details of the thousands of emails it was targeting.

    The AP obtained the data recently, boiling it down to 4,700 individual email addresses, and then connecting roughly half to account holders. The AP validated the list by running it against a sample of phishing emails obtained from people targeted and comparing it to similar rosters gathered independently by other cybersecurity companies, such as Tokyo-based Trend Micro and the Slovakian firm ESET.

    The Secureworks data allowed reporters to determine that more than 95 percent of the malicious links were generated during Moscow office hours — between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday.

    The AP's findings also track with a report that first brought Fancy Bear to the attention of American voters. In 2016, a cybersecurity company known as CrowdStrike said the Democratic National Committee had been compromised by Russian hackers, including Fancy Bear.

    Secureworks' roster shows Fancy Bear making aggressive attempts to hack into DNC technical staffers' emails in early April 2016 — exactly when CrowdStrike says the hackers broke in.

    And the raw data enabled the AP to speak directly to the people who were targeted, many of whom pointed the finger at the Kremlin.

    "We have no doubts about who is behind these attacks," said Artem Torchinskiy, a project coordinator with Navalny's Anti-Corruption Fund who was targeted three times in 2015. "I am sure these are hackers controlled by Russian secret services."

    The myth of the 400-pound man

    trump clinton debate

    Even if only a small fraction of the 4,700 Gmail accounts targeted by Fancy Bear were hacked successfully, the data drawn from them could run into terabytes — easily rivaling the biggest known leaks in journalistic history.

    For the hackers to have made sense of that mountain of messages — in English, Ukrainian, Russian, Georgian, Arabic and many other languages — they would have needed a substantial team of analysts and translators. Merely identifying and sorting the targets took six AP reporters eight weeks of work.

    The AP's effort offers "a little feel for how much labor went into this," said Thomas Rid, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

    He said the investigation should put to rest any theories like the one then-candidate Donald Trump floated last year that the hacks could be the work of "someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds."

    "The notion that it's just a lone hacker somewhere is utterly absurd," Rid said.



    SEE ALSO: NY publicist says Manafort wanted to pay him for Ukraine work via offshore accounts — to make 'way more money'

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    FILE PHOTO - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS/File photo

    • South Korea's spy agency says North Korea looks like it's getting ready for a missile or nuclear test.
    • North Korea has threatened to detonate a nuclear missile over the Pacific, which could poison the ocean or lead to a strong US response.
    • North Korea's usual test site for nuclear devices seems damaged, but still accessible.

    South Korea's intelligence service warned on Thursday that it saw "active movement" at North Korea's missile research facility and that the world should expect more nuclear and missile testing from Pyongyang, according to Yonhap News.

    "The North will carry out additional nuclear tests and continue to push for the development of miniaturized, diversified nuclear warheads," South Korea's National Intelligence Service said, according to lawmakers who spoke to Yonhap.

    Additionally, the spy agency noted that North Korea has had some trouble with its nuclear test site, that a recent thermonuclear blast rocked so hard that landslides and cave-ins have apparently restricted access to the site.

    On Tuesday, Japan's Asahi TV quoted a North Korean source as saying that cave-ins in tunnels at the nuclear test site caused the death of up to 200 workers.

    South Korea's NIS, however, maintained that North Korea still had access to the site via an alternate tunnel, and North Korea denied the death of the workers.

    North Korea has recently floated the idea of conducting above-ground, or atmospheric testing instead.

    A CNN reporter quoted a North Korean official as saying the US should take "literally" its threat to detonate the "strongest hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean."

    Separately, North Korea has threatened to launch a salvo of missiles at the US territory of Guam.

    To do so, North Korea would have to fire a medium to long-range missile. North Korea hasn't tested a missile in over a month, it's longest pause since it began launching missiles in February.

    The US maintains a large naval presence in the Pacific with advanced ballistic missile defense capabilities.

    Experts have told Business Insider that if the US assesses North Korea may fire a ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, the military may look to shoot it down.

    SEE ALSO: These are the 7 military options Congress has been given to deal with North Korea

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