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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    marines

    • The US military has barred troops in Japan from drinking alcohol or leaving their residences after a US Marine in Okinawa was accused of killing a local man in a car crash.
    • The Japanese police said the Marine had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash.
    • The US has 50,000 troops in Japan, but drunken-driving incidents breed resentment among the local population.


    The US military has indefinitely barred service members from drinking alcohol after a US Marine fatally struck an Okinawa man in a collision of two vehicles Sunday in which "alcohol may have been a factor,"according to a statement.

    The US Forces Japan also declared all service members "restricted to base and to their residences" after the crash. A Japanese police official told Reuters the 21-year-old Marine had three times the legal level of alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash.

    US service members in Japan have bred resentment among the local population with DUI convictions and alcohol-related deaths. About half of the US's 50,000 troops in Japan live in Okinawa.

    "Commanders across Japan will immediately lead mandatory training to address responsible alcohol use, risk management and acceptable behavior. All military members and U.S. government civilians in Japan are required to attend," the statement said.

    "The Defence and Foreign Ministries have lodged a stern representation to the U.S. forces in Japan and the U.S. embassy in Japan, asking for the enforcement of discipline, prevention of recurrence and sincere response to the bereaved," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference on Monday, according to Reuters.

    The US maintains a large military presence in Japan and South Korea partially to contain North Korea and balance the regional influence of China.

    SEE ALSO: China is quietly pressing ahead with its agenda in the South China Sea

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's how easy it is for the US president to launch a nuclear weapon


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    • North Koreans are starting to get a taste for what life is like in China and South Korea, countries not stifled by isolation and socialist economics.
    • An emerging market economy in North Korea threatens to wrestle some power away from the government and give it back to the people.
    • Younger North Koreans reportedly don't always respect the country's leadership, and the highest-ranking North Korean defector ever says the country won't last 10 years under Kim Jong Un.


    The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.

    The US's nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US's relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.

    But the US's greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.

    What North Koreans really think of Kim Jong Un

    Kim Jong Un

    The Washington Post's Anna Fitfield talked to 25 North Koreans around Asia about life under Kim Jong Un, the country's dictatorial leader since 2011, and revealed a pro-market current to everyday life that threatens to undercut the regime.

    "Increasingly, North Koreans are not fleeing their totalitarian state because they are hungry," wrote Fitfield. "Now, they are leaving because they are disillusioned."

    Fitfield's interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.

    Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea's elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker's foreign correspondent Evan Osnos

    "North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market," a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. "No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive."

    With state infrastructure no longer supporting people's livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.

    A 2016 survey of 36 North Koreans found that all of them thought the country provided goods sufficient for a good life. Only one of the 36 said they did not make jokes at the government's expense behind closed doors.

    "Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s---," another student told Fitfield. "Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree."

    'Impure' attitudes among high-rank leaders

    kim jong un

    South Korea's National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having "impure" attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military's second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state's economy more than ever before.

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

    As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.

    Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in "nose cards," or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.

    Thae said that although Kim Jong Un would stamp out protests in the street with tanks, outside information and soft power could bring down the regime.

    "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 said in August. "I think that day will come within the next 10 years."

    Welcome to the free market, North Korea

    boris yeltsin shops at an american supermarket

    Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea's government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.

    "A lot of the West's vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent," Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim "overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity."

    But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.

    Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un's reign a "cruel dictatorship" and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.

    Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan's former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow

    The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.  

    SEE ALSO: The US Marines F-35 squadron is training to fight through nuclear war against North Korea

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Putin and Assad

    • Russia is getting ready to pull its military out of Syria after two blood years in the conflict.
    • Russia is trying to bring together all sides of the Syrian conflict to reach a political solution to the fighting that started in 2011.
    • Russia backs Syria's Assad, who violently shut down pro-Democracy protests in 2011 and stands accused of war crimes with Russian assistance.

    MOSCOW (AP) — Syrian President Bashar Assad was asked to come to Russia to get him to agree to potential peace initiatives drafted by Russia, Iran and Turkey as Russia prepares to scale down its military presence in the country’s 6-year war, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

    President Vladimir Putin hosted Assad in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday ahead of a summit between Russia, Turkey and Iran and a new round of Syria peace talks in Geneva. The meeting was unannounced and the Kremlin did not make it public until Tuesday morning.

    “I passed to (Putin) and all Russian people our greetings and gratitude for all of the efforts that Russia made to save our country,” Assad told Russia’s top brass.

    Assad has only ventured outside his war-ravaged nation twice since the conflict began — both times to Russia. This week’s visit to meet Putin is his second since the crisis began in March 2011 leading to a civil war that has killed some 400,000 and resulted in millions of refugees.

    The first was in October 2015, shortly after Russia launched its military campaign in Syria to shore up Assad’s forces which turned the war in favor of Assad.

    The meeting in Sochi, which lasted three hours, came ahead of a summit at the same place between the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey. Iran and Russia have been Assad’s main backers while Turkey supports the opposition.

    Putin had spoken with the leaders of Iran and Turkey to “assure them that Russia will work with Syrian leadership to prepare the groundwork for possible understandings” that could reached on Wednesday to “make sure” that agreements reached will be “viable,” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday.

    Putin Trump

    The Kremlin said Putin would phone President Donald Trump and Saudi King Salman to discuss the situation in Syria on Wednesday.

    Asked whether Putin and Assad have talked about the Syrian president’s future in post-war Syria, Peskov said “possible options for political settlement have been discussed.” Faced with pressure from other nations urging Assad to step down, Moscow has insisted that it is up to the Syrian people to vote Assad in or out.

    With the Syrian government controlling most of the country and Islamic State fighters in disarray, Putin told Assad at the Monday meeting that Moscow is about to curtail its military presence there.

    “Regarding our joint operation to fight terrorists in Syria, this military operation is indeed coming to an end,” he told Assad in televised remarks. “I’m pleased to see your willingness to work with everyone who wants peace and settlement.”

    The Kremlin has announced scale-downs and a halt in its operation in Syria before but did not follow through. Putin in March 2016 ordered that a withdrawal from Syria, saying “all the tasks have been accomplished.” In January, Russia said it is pulling out its aircraft carrier and other warships from the waters off Syria. Russia continued to operate warships off the Syrian shore as late as this fall.

    Footage and photographs released by the Kremlin press office showed Putin giving Assad a warm embrace upon his arrival at Putin’s residence in Sochi.

    Russian television showed footage of Putin and Assad entering a meeting with the top brass of Russia’s defense ministry and the General Staff.

    “I asked the Syrian president to stop by,” Putin told the Russian generals. He then referred to Assad and said: “I would like to introduce you to people who played a key role in saving Syria.”

    Assad’s office quoted him as thanking Russia and its military, which he said “gave martyrs and made efforts in Syria.” He added: “I was very happy to know that you are here since you are the officers who directly took part in the battle in Syria.”

    Assad said the Russian Air Force helped Syrian troops in the fight against insurgents, helping many Syrians to return to their homes. “In the name of the Syrian people, I greet you and thank you all, every Russian officer, fighter and pilot that took part in this war.”

    The meeting came two days after Syrian troops and their allies captured the eastern town of Boukamal, the last major inhabited area held by the IS group in Syria. Syrian troops and their Iran-backed allies marched into the town under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This animation shows how terrifyingly powerful nuclear weapons have become


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    isis militants islamic state

    • The leaders of Iraq and Iran both declared the terrorist group ISIS defeated militarily in Iraq and Syria.
    • Iraqis and Syrians, with assistance from the US and other regional militias, took their countries back from the terror group that declared its sovereign territory in the summer of 2014.
    • ISIS still has territory in countries around the world but has been brutally disrupted by a US-backed bombing campaign and advancing ground forces.


    Iraqi Prime Minister Hadir Al-Abadi declared military victory over the Islamic State in Iraq on Tuesday, just hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of Syria.

    ISIS's last Iraqi town of Rawa fell on Friday, and Abadi only awaits the clearing of a patch of desert along Iraq's border with Syria to declare final victory. Iran posted pictures of one its most famous military leaders in a Syrian border town, indicating Iranian-backed forces had driven the terror group out of the country.

    Combine, the two statements from the two leaders amount to long-awaited news: ISIS's territory in Iraq and Syria is gone; the terror group has been defeated.

    Iraqi, Kurdish, Syrian, Iranian, Afghani, Lebanese, and scores of other fighters gave their lives over more than three years since ISIS declared its caliphate, or sovereign territory, to be ruled under a brutal interpretation of Islam in the summer of 2014.

    ISIS territory

    The rise and fall of ISIS

    Initially, ISIS swept up large swaths of Iraq and neighboring Syria with a surprising military prowess and a potent brand of Sunni extremism, but on Tuesday those nations officially reclaimed their territory.

    The US and 67 other nations from around the world formed a coalition to train, equip, and provide air support for the regional forces that confronted ISIS, mostly in Iraq. The US also supported Syrian forces fighting to defeat ISIS. Russia stepped in in late 2015 to provide air support for the Syrian government and allied Iranian militias, mainly backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad against rebels threatening his rule, but also targeting some ISIS territory.

    At its height, ISIS launched international terror attacks in Paris, London, Brussels, and across Asia. But its capability for carrying out such attacks has been hamstrung by the relentless assault on its home territory.

    "If we can keep them declining and moving they have less time to sit and prepare," for attacks, Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, said of terror groups in London last month.

    In the span of just three years, ISIS went from attracting thousands of foreign fighters to its anti-Western cause and plotting devastating terror attacks all over the world, to surrendering en masse in their own territory.

    Paris attacks

    Threat from ISIS remains

    But ISIS still controls territory in as many as a dozen other nations, as Libya, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and much of Africa battle their own ISIS cells or ISIS-linked terror groups. 

    The threat of ISIS remains far from over. Beside the many ISIS cells around the world — as well as ISIS' continued online presence — fighters from the terror group spread around the region and have threatened to return.

    In the late days of the US-backed assault on Raqqa, ISIS' Syrian capital, forces partnered with the US allowed thousands of ISIS fighters to flee the city with weapons and ammunition. The fighters, many of them foreign-born, swore to smuggle themselves across borders and commit terror attacks around the world. 

    Meanwhile, neither Iraq or Syria can count themselves as whole even with the territory reclaimed. In Iraq, the Kurdish minority in the country's northeast voted to break away from Iraq. In Syria, the six-year long civil war continues with only a shaky vision of an end in sight.

    Additionally, the preoccupation of the Syrian military with fighting its civil war in the western part of the country left a vacuum for Iranian forces to move in and fight ISIS in the east. It's likely an ISIS-free Syria will feature more Iranian influence, which will unsettle Tehran's regional rivals in Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    SEE ALSO: Syrian opposition leader abruptly quits ahead of new round of UN peace talks

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here are the dangerous and intense methods the US Navy uses to keep its warships supplied at sea


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    C-2 Greyhound

    • A US Navy plane carrying 11 crashed near Okinawa en route to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.
    • This is the latest in a string of deadly crashes for the US Navy's Pacific fleet.
    • The plane that crashed was a C-2 Greyhound.

    A US Navy plane carrying 11 passengers crashed into the sea southeast of Okinawa, while it was en route to the USS Ronald Reagan, the US's forward-deployed aircraft carrier, on Wednesday.

    The accident marks the latest in a string of deadly crashes involving the US Navy's Pacific or 7th fleet. The other crashes have involved the guided missile destroyers the USS Fitzgerald, USS John McCain, and a non-deadly crash involving the USS Benfold.

    "Personnel recovery is underway and their condition will be evaluated by USS Ronald Reagan medical staff," the Navy said in a statement.

    The downed aircraft, a C-2 Greyhound logistics plane that moves people, mail, and cargo onto the aircraft carriers, suffered engine troubles, a Japanese defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.

    The Greyhound has served with the navy for more than five decades. It will be phased out in favor of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys in the near future.

    The Navy has withheld the names of those involved in the crash pending next of kin notifications.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    An Indian soldier stands guard on Indian Navy's largest aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya at Colombo port in Sri Lanka January 21, 2016. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

    • The Trump administration is pushing an alliance with India, Japan, and Australia to counter China's influence in the Pacific, but India can't quite cooperate with the others because it has non-US style navy ships.
    • India has been reluctant to share data with the US and the other navies, so they communicate basically by texts.
    • When India's Russian-bought planes train with US planes, they don't even bother turning their radars on.

    NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Trump administration is pushing security ties between the United States, India, Japan and Australia, but the revival of the Asian "Quad" must overcome lingering mistrust in New Delhi towards its allies that hampers genuine military cooperation.

    Joint naval drills have been at the heart of a relationship that analysts widely see as a move to counterbalance China's rising power by binding the region's leading democracies more closely together.

    But while the navies of the United States, Japan and Australia can easily operate together - based on common U.S.-designed combat systems and data links - India is the outlier.

    Not only are most of its ships and warplanes Russian-made, its government and military remain deeply reluctant to share data and open up sensitive military communications systems.

    The United States has carried out more naval exercises with India than any other nation. But naval sources and experts say these are more about "cultural familiarization" than drills for joint combat.

    Because India will not sign an agreement on sharing data, naval exercises are conducted through voice and text commands with rudimentary SMS-style data exchange, Indian and Japanese military sources said.

    "Think of it as directing your friend to your house in the 1980s. Your left may be his right, neither of you have situational awareness," said Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a senior fellow at New Delhi's Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies who has tracked the military exercises.

    "What the Americans want is 2017 - drop a pin on Google maps and hit share. You know where your friend is and he knows where your house is and how to get to it."

    The Indian defense ministry did not respond to a request for a comment.

    Annual drills

    India navy INSThe so-called Quad to discuss and cooperate on security emerged briefly as an initiative a decade ago - much to the annoyance of China - and was revived recently, with an officials-level meeting this month on the sidelines of a regional gathering in Manila.

    The Trump administration has talked up cooperation with India as part of efforts for a "free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific".

    Describing the Indian and Pacific Oceans as a "single strategic arena", U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described India and the United States as regional "bookends".

    "In concrete terms, it will lead to great co-ordination between the Indian, Japanese and American militaries including maritime domain awareness, anti-submarine warfare, amphibious warfare, and humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and search and rescue," he said.

    To be sure, India and the United States have steadily been bringing more powerful ships into their annual "Malabar" drills that have been expanded to include Japan in recent years.

    This year the USS Nimitz carrier group was deployed for the maneuvers off India's eastern coast, along with an aircraft carrier from India and a helicopter carrier from Japan.

    But a Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces official said when Japan conducts drills with the Indian navy, communication is done mostly through voice transmission. There is no satellite link that would allow the two navies to access information and share monitor displays in on-board command centers.

    Communication is usually the most difficult aspect of any joint drill, he said. 

    Building blocks

    US navy

    The exercises are meant to lay the ground for joint patrols that the U.S. eventually wants to conduct with India and its allies across the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

    U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, said better interoperability was a goal of the exercises and noted that India's enhanced role as a major U.S. defense partner would help boost the relationship.

    "The designation of India as a major defense partner is significant and is intended to elevate defense trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of our closest allies and partners," he said.

    "As this relationship matures so will the level of interoperability."

    Last year, India signed a military logistics pact with the United States after a decade of wrangling, but two other agreements are stuck.

    The United States says the Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) would allow it to supply India with encrypted communications equipment and systems. The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement is the other pact that would set a framework through which the United States could share sensitive data to aid targeting and navigation with India.

    India is concerned that agreeing to the CISMOA would open up its military communications to the United States, and even allow it to listen in on operations where Indian and U.S. interests may not coincide - such as against arch-rival Pakistan, military officials in New Delhi say.

    Radars turned off

    Malabar Indian Ocean India Japan aircraft carrier

    Captain Gurpreet Khurana, executive director at the government-funded National Maritime Foundation, said India's underlying concern was having its autonomy constrained by binding its military into U.S. codes and operating procedures.

    Once, the Americans proposed a portable "suitcase" communications system called the CENTRIXS which could transmit full situational awareness data to Indian ships while the two navies practised together. India refused to allow it to be plugged in for the duration of the exercise, citing operational security, according to an Indian source briefed on the planning of the exercises.

    Even the joint air exercises that the two countries are conducting as a follow-on to Malabar are severely restricted, the source said.

    India sends its Russian-acquired Sukhoi jets to the drills, but their radars and jammers are turned off.

    David Shear, who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia under President Barack Obama, said U.S. forces, particularly the Navy, were well aware of the interoperability constraints to interacting with India.

    "They understand what the obstacles are and that this is going to be a long-term project," he said.

    SEE ALSO: US Navy plane carrying 11 crashes in the Philippine sea en route to aircraft carrier

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    US Marine and Fortune 500 CEO coach Andrew Wittman explains how he used intermittent fasting to get a lot more toned and finally see his abs. Following is a transcript of the video.

    Andrew Wittman: Back in — when I was deployed, I want to say 2010, 2011, coming up to where it was my 45th birthday, I wanted to see my abs. I'm reading all the studies on how you get your body to do that. There was a lot of research on intermittent fasting, and — course, they did the studies on soldiers. Thank you, US Army. 

    So they found out your body really doesn't go into starvation mode. You could go 3 weeks on 800 calories and you don't lose any muscle mass as long as you're working out. Well, I could do that. So I started the fasting, the intermittent fasting, consuming my calories between 4 o'clock in the afternoon, 8 o'clock at night, by 8 o'clock at night, I'm done. I don't eat again until 4 o'clock the next day at the earliest. 

    And during that time I will drink lots of water. I'll drink black coffee or unsweet tea, and that's pretty much it. I started in Kosovo — we deployed, I can tell you the dates. It was my wife's birthday, February 3. I got back on May the first, I think. I followed this routine for right about 3 months, 12 weeks, 90 days, and I saw my abs... Booyah. 

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This video was originally published on June 10, 2017.

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    • It seems like Argentina's missing submarine may have exploded.
    • The navy heard a "short, violent" explosion that would make some sense as the fate of the missing submarine.
    • The sub had 44 on board and has been missing since last week.

    People walk behind an Argentine national flag displayed on a fence, in support of the 44 crew members of the ARA San Juan submarine who are missing at sea, at an Argentine naval base in Mar del Plata, Argentina, November 22, 2017. The words on the flag read:

    BAHIA BLANCA, Argentina (Reuters) - An abnormal sound detected in the South Atlantic ocean around the time that an Argentine navy submarine sent its last signal last week was "consistent with an explosion," a navy spokesman said on Thursday.

    Spokesman Enrique Balbi described the blast in the morning of Nov. 15 as "abnormal, singular, short, violent" and "non-nuclear."

    The navy did not have enough information to say what the cause of the explosion could have been or whether the ARA San Juan could have been attacked, Balbi told reporters.

    A huge sea and air hunt is being conducted for the vessel, which had 44 crew on board when it went missing last week. The disappearance has plunged relatives of the crew members into an anguished wait for news and transfixed the South American country.

    The information about the explosion received on Thursday morning was consistent with a separate report received on Wednesday of an "acoustic anomaly" in the same area and around the same time the vessel gave its last signal, Balbi said.

    "This is very important because it allows us to correlate and confirm the acoustic anomaly from the U.S. report yesterday," he said.

    "Here, we're talking about a singular, short, violent, non-nuclear event, consistent with an explosion."

    The site of the abnormal sound was close to where the German-built vessel gave its last location, about 430 km (270 miles) off the coast.

    Earlier on Thursday, a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said an object detected by a U.S. Navy plane near the area where the submarine sent its last signal turned out not to be the missing vessel. The plane, a P-8A Poseidon, was one of dozens of Argentine and foreign boats and planes involved in the hunt.

    ARGENTINA SUBMARINE 01

    Concerns are growing that the submarine could be near the last of its seven-day oxygen supply.

    Relatives of the crew members have gathered at a naval base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, some 400 km (250 miles) south of Buenos Aires, where the search is being coordinated.

    The submarine was en route from Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, to Mar del Plata when it reported an electrical malfunction shortly before disappearing last week.

    The submarine was launched in 1983 and underwent maintenance in 2008 in Argentina. Its four diesel engines and its electric propeller engines were replaced, according to specialist publication Jane's Sentinel.

    SEE ALSO: There's been no contact with a missing Argentine submarine, and the search is entering a 'critical phase'

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    A Russian warplane takes off at Hmeymim air base in Syria

    • Russia's military, mainly its air force, has been bombing in Syria in support of Bashar Assad's government since late 2015.
    • Russia has been trying to round up the heads of all political and military sides for peace talks in Syria lately.
    • Russia plans to significantly reduce its troop levels in Syria by the year's end.

    SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The size of Russia's military force in Syria is likely to be significantly reduced and a drawdown could start before the end of the year, the chief of the Russian military general staff said on Thursday.

    Russia's military support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, notably through air strikes, has been crucial in defeating Islamic State and Syrian opposition forces.

    "There is very little left to do before the completion of military objectives. Of course, a decision will be made by the supreme commander-in-chief and the deployment will be reduced," Valery Gerasimov told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting between President Vladimir Putin and military top brass in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

    Gerasimov said forces would likely be "substantially" reduced but leave Russia with two military bases, a ceasefire-monitoring center and "a number of necessary structures to support the situation which has developed" in Syria.

    Putin hosted Assad in Sochi on Monday and discussed moving from military operations to a search for a political solution to Syria's conflict. [nL8N1NR0K3]

    On Wednesday, Putin won the backing of Turkey and Iran to host a Syrian peace conference, taking the central role in a major diplomatic push to finally end Syria's civil war, now in its seventh year. [nL8N1NS5RQ]

    In March last year Putin said Russia had achieved its goals in Syria and ordered the withdrawal of the "main part" of its forces. However, a U.S.-led coalition operating in Syria said that after that statement Russia's combat power was largely intact.

    SEE ALSO: ISIS has been militarily defeated in Iraq and Syria

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    • President Donald Trump spoke to members of the US military on Thanksgiving and said that since he became president, the US military is "really winning."
    • Trump cited progress about ISIS and the Coast Guard's response to several hurricanes this year.
    • Trump bragged about the F-35 stealth fighter jet and cautioned that US allies can turn on America.

    trump military bomber japanPALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump thanked U.S. troops for their service on Thursday, assuring them "we're really winning" against America's foes as he celebrated Thanksgiving at his private club in Florida and provided lunch for Coast Guard men and women on duty for the holiday.

    Using the occasion to pat himself on the back, Trump told deployed military members via a video conference that they've achieved more progress in Afghanistan and against the Islamic State group under his watch than had been made in years of the previous administration.

    "Everybody's talking about the progress you've made in the last few months since I opened it up," he told the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division, whose members are conducting operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan. "We're being talked about again as an armed forces — we're really winning."

    Speaking from a gilded room at his Mar-a-Lago club, Trump said: "We're not fighting anymore to just walk around, we're fighting to win, and you people are really, you've turned it around over the last three to four months like nobody's seen, and they are talking about it, so thank you very much."

    Turning to the 74th Expeditionary Fighters Squadron based at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, Trump suggested the Obama administration hadn't allowed soldiers on the ground to do their jobs.

    "They say we've made more progress against ISIS than they did in years of the previous administration," he said. "And that's because I'm letting you do your job."

    Throughout the day — at events and on Twitter — Trump boasted about the economy's performance since he took office, pointing to recent stock market gains and the unemployment rate, along with his efforts to scale back regulations and boost military spending.

    "So you're fighting for something real, you're fighting for something good," he told the service members

    Trump and his wife, Melania, also made a trip to a nearby Coast Guard station in Riviera Beach, Florida, where they delivered a lunch of turkey sandwiches, giant muffins, heaping baskets of fruit, chips and cookies to men and women on duty for the holidays.

    During his remarks, Trump, singled out the service for its hurricane relief efforts during Harvey and the other storms that battered the country earlier this year.

    "There's no brand that went up more than the Coast Guard," Trump told them "What a job you've done."

    Trump praised the superiority of U.S. military equipment, too, yet said he tries to make sure that equipment the U.S. sells abroad — even to allies — is not quite as good as that kept at home.

    "I always say, make ours a little bit better," Trump said. "Keep about 10 percent in the bag." He added: "You never know about an ally. An ally can turn."

    Among the equipment admired by Trump is the F-35 stealth fighter jet, which he recalled asking "Air Force guys" about once.

    f 35

    "In a fight, you know a fight like I watch on the movies ... how good is it?" he recalled asking. "They said, 'Well, it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it, even if it's right next to it,'" Trump recounted, prompting laughs.

    The F-35, plagued by development problems and cost overruns, is in fact not invisible to people nearby. Its stealth technology is designed to evade detection by radar and other sensors.

    At the earlier video conference, Trump cleared the room of press after about 10 minutes so he could have "very confidential, personal conversations" with those on the line. Borrowing a line from his "Apprentice" days, he told the reporters "You're fired," then wished them a happy Thanksgiving, too.

    On the Trumps' own Thanksgiving menu for family and friends at Mar-a-Lago: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, red snapper, Florida stone crab, baked goods, local produce and cheeses, and a selection of cakes and pies for dessert.

    SEE ALSO: The US Marines F-35 squadron is training to fight through nuclear war against North Korea

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    • The Philippines have struggled with communist rebels for almost half a century, and President Rodrigo Duterte just decided to scrap peace talks with them.
    • Duterte will consider the rebels terrorists because hostilities continued during negotiations.
    • The Philippines is also fighting an Islamist insurgency and a drug war that has resulted in thousands of deaths.

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during the APEC CEO Summit, taking place ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit in the central Vietnamese city of Danang November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

    MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday he has terminated intermittent peace talks with Maoist-led rebels and would consider them "terrorists" because hostilities had continued during negotiations.

    Ending the nearly half-century long conflict with the communists, in which more than 40,000 people have been killed, was among Duterte's priorities when he took office in June last year.

    Duterte said he would consider the political arm of the Maoists a "terrorist group" and was demanding that dozens of rebel leaders he freed last year in order to restart talks turn themselves in.

    "I am ordering those I have released temporarily to surrender or face again punitive action," Duterte in a speech to soldiers.

    "Let it not be said that I did not try to reach out to them," he said.

    Duterte on Thursday signed a proclamation ending the peace talks, which started in August last year and were brokered by Norway. Talks have been intermittent since 1986.

    "We find it unfortunate that their members have failed to show their sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peaceful negotiations," Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, said in a statement late on Thursday.

    In May, government negotiators canceled a round of formal talks with the Maoist-led rebels in the Netherlands as the guerrillas stepped up attacks in the countryside.

    The rebels had no choice but to intensify guerrilla warfare in rural areas, Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF), said in a statement.

    The NDF, the political arm of the Maoist guerrillas, said it regretted the unilateral cancellation of talks on such vital social and economic reforms.

    Government troops were advised to stay alert on the movements of the estimated 3,800 leftist guerrillas, said military spokesman Major-General Restituto Padilla.

    Government forces are also battling Islamist fighters in the south of the largely Christian country, some of whom recently occupied a town for several months in the biggest battle in the Philippines since World War Two.

    SEE ALSO: ISIS has been militarily defeated in Iraq and Syria

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    A policeman separates Dmitry Prokhorov (R) a local deputy of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, and opposition deputy Vadim Korovin (L) during a session of a Moscow municipal council, in this still image taken from a video in Moscow, Russia November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Maria Tsvetkova

    • Russian President Vladimir Putin's party, United Russia, lost an election in western Moscow, but it has reverted to using physical violence to maintain power.
    • A councilor from the opposition party trying to sit in the chairman's seat at a meeting had his microphone cut and was body-checked.
    • Though Russia's constitution bars him Putin from running for president again, it's widely expected that he will do so.


    MOSCOW — More than 10 weeks after losing a local council election in western Moscow, Vladimir Putin's party is clinging to power there — by fair means or foul.

    The standoff over control of Filyovsky Park Council came to a head when an opposition councilor, Vadim Korovin, tried to sit in the chairman's seat at a meeting on Tuesday. A councilor from the Russian president's United Russia party cut his microphone cable and then body-checked him as he tried to reach the seat.

    "This is a violent occupation and seizure of power!" Korovin told the United Russia representative, Dmitry Prokhorov, who pushed him from his way as a police officer stepped in to prevent a fight.

    All four United Russia members on the council then walked out. Soon afterward, the electricity in the building, including all the lights, went off.

    Using flashlights of mobile phones to see, the six opposition members of the 10-seat council continued the meeting. They elected Korovin as deputy chairman and, in effect, caretaker leader, but the United Russia members later refused to recognize the vote.

    The battle to control the council, witnessed by a Reuters correspondent who attended Tuesday's meeting, shows how difficult some of Putin's allies find it to surrender power when confronted with the unfamiliar experience of an election defeat.

    Moscow is not typical of Russia, as support for Putin and his allies across the country is high. Opinion polls suggest he will easily win next year's presidential election if, as is widely expected, he runs.

    But Putin, 65, is barred under the constitution from holding the position for more than two consecutive terms, so the question of who will succeed him — and how his allies will act when he leaves the political stage — will loom large in coming years.

    United Russia representatives have refused to cede power in 10 districts of Moscow where they suffered defeats in local elections on September 10, according to the organizers of the opposition campaign in the Russian capital.

    Dmitry Gudkov, a former lawmaker who runs what is known as the United Democrats project, said the Moscow administration, which controls the building where Tuesday's meeting was held, was in a position to play spoiling tactics.

    "If they want to disrupt our work, they will do it," he said.

    Alexander Semennikov, a United Russia deputy in the Moscow city Parliament who heads a commission that deals with relations with local councils, said any decisions made by the six Kremlin opponents on the council would have "close to zero" legitimacy.

    He described Tuesday's events as part of a "stormy stage in the evolution of municipal institutions in Moscow" and urged the two sides to reach an agreement to resolve the situation.

    A spokesman at the Moscow mayor's office referred questions to the city administration's western region, which includes Filyovsky Park. A spokesman for the western region declined to comment.

    Contradictory laws

    russia kremlin putinUnited Russia defeated the opposition in most of the 125 Moscow districts where voting took place on September 10, but Kremlin opponents increased their share of the vote.

    Since the election, opposition councilors in some districts have been stymied by contradictory provisions in the legislation that governs how the councils are organized.

    The law states that a council's chair stays in the post until replaced after an election and must be elected by a two-thirds majority. It does not explain what happens if control of the council changes hands but, as in Filyovsky Park district, no party has a two-thirds majority.

    In Filyovsky Park, a district with 90,000 inhabitants, Tigran Mkrtchyan, a United Russia member who was appointed interim chairman in August, was among officials who lost their seat on September 10.

    But because no side has the two-thirds majority required to elect a new chair, Mkrtchyan, who runs a shopping mall, has continued carrying out his duties.

    Official documents issued by the council since the election bear his signature, and the Moscow prosecutor's office supported Mkrtchyan's stance in October.

    A document seen by Reuters says former heads of municipal districts can keep running a council until a replacement is elected, even if they have lost their place on the council. It cited a 2003 law in support of its argument.

    Tuesday's meeting, the council's second since the election, had been intended by the opposition councilmember to break the impasse. But after leaving the meeting, Mkrtchyan told Reuters he would keep the position of temporary head of the council until a new leader is elected.

    He and his associates still appeared to be in charge on Friday. When Reuters placed a call to the council, a member of Mkrtchyan's team picked up the phone.

    SEE ALSO: Theresa May warns that 'hostile' Russia will tear Europe apart

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    C-2 Greyhound

    • A pilot flying a US Navy C-2 Greyhound saved eight of 11 passengers and crew members on board by making a heroic landing at sea on Wednesday.
    • The plane had no ejection seats or parachutes, so a landing on the water was the only option.
    • The US Navy's swift pace of operations in the Pacific may have contributed to this crash landing, as it has to other crashes that have left 17 sailors dead late this year.


    The US Navy has called off its search for three missing sailors after a C-2 Greyhound aircraft crashed on approach to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier at sea near Okinawa, Japan, on Wednesday — but the plane's pilot has emerged a hero for saving eight of the 11 crew members and passengers on board.

    The Greyhound, a twin-engine plane entered into service in the 1960s, may have crashed because of an engine failure, CBS News reported, citing the Japanese minister of defense, who had spoken to Navy officials.

    Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain, told Business Insider, "Greyhounds are not equipped with ejection seats or parachutes."

    The air crew's only choice was to land at sea.

    "This must have been particularly challenging after one engine failed, reportedly on approach to the carrier," Brennan said.

    C-2 Greyhound

    "The Greyhound was landed in the open ocean so that it remained afloat for a sufficient time to allow the majority of the people on board to escape," Brennan said. "The sacrifice, skill, and professionalism that he and his aircrew demonstrated should be considered for recognition by the award of a Distinguished Flying Cross."

    Though the Greyhounds have all served for decades, the Navy regularly maintains them. Brennan said that the last casualty involving a Greyhound was in 1973, but that the swift operational tempo of the US Navy in the Pacific may have contributed to the crash landing on Wednesday. That was found to be the case in two collisions this summer involving the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain that the Navy has concluded were preventable.

    SEE ALSO: US Navy grounds air crew after pilot draws penis in the sky over Washington

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    thaad missile lockheed martin

    • Russia's foreign minister complained that the North Korea crisis is causing Japan and South Korea to more heavily arm themselves.
    • South Korea and Japan have expressed interest in getting more US missile defenses.
    • Russia fears that with a global network of missile defenses, the US could one day launch a nuclear attack on Russia that Russia could not retaliate against.

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is concerned that Japan is allowing Washington to use its territory as a base for a U.S. military build-up in north Asia under the pretext of countering North Korea, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

    "We are expressing deep concern, with facts to back it up, that Japan along with South Korea is becoming a territory for the deployment of elements of the U.S. global missile defense system which is being rolled out in that region under the pretext of the North Korea threat," Lavrov said.

    "We have no problems directly with Japan, we do not see risks there. We see risks because of the proliferation of a global U.S. missile defense system on the territory of countries that neighbor Russia, including Japan."

    Lavrov was speaking at a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, after talks between the two men in Moscow.

    "We are alarmed that in the last two months when North Korea conducted no tests or rocket launches, it seemed that Washington was not happy about that, and tried to do things that would irritate and provoke Pyongyang," Lavrov said.

    He mentioned that in that period the United States had been conducting military exercises in the region, and had adopted additional sanctions against Pyongyang.

    Referring to U.S. officials, he said: "It's as if they are hoping that they (the North Koreans) will lash out again, and then it would be possible to engage in military options."

    "As you know, the U.S. leadership has said many times that all options are on the table, including military options, and we note that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, at a meeting with President Trump in early November, said that he supports the American position 100 percent," Lavrov said.

    Faced with North Korean missile tests, and threats from Pyongyang, Japan is considering buying the U.S.-designed Aegis Ashore missile defense system, according to government sources in Japan.

    Lavrov said Moscow was especially concerned that the Aegis Ashore system could be adapted to fire Tomahawk missiles. He said that would be in violation of a U.S.-Russian arms control treaty.

    Washington and its regional allies deny they are seeking a military build-up, saying that they are taking the minimum steps necessary to protect themselves from possible aggressive acts by North Korea.

    SEE ALSO: A US Navy pilot pulled off a heroic landing that saved 8 after engine failure en route to aircraft carrier

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    F 22

    • The US and South Korea have one last military exercise planned in 2017, and it's likely to put the fear into North Korea.
    • The US will send F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, which North Korea cannot detect or track.
    • North Korea considers US and South Korean drills as practice for invading their country, and stealth jets are exactly what the US would use to kick off an invasion.

    The US and South Korean militaries will join together for a final military exercise to close out a heated 2017 with F-22 and F-35 stealth jets training right off North Korea's borders.

    The exercise, called "Vigilant Ace," will run from December 4-8 and involve 12,000 military personnel between the US and South Korea, as well as 230 aircraft, a defense official told the Wall Street Journal.

    It will also be the first time six F-22 Raptors will visit South Korea, and it will focus on enemy infiltration and precision airstrikes, according to Yonhap news.

    The drill will close out a heated 2017 where President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have exchanged vicious threats of destroying each other's countries.

    With the emphasis of stealth jets to the annual US-South Korea exercises, this drill will be unlike any others. The US typically invites international observers to its military drills, but North Korea simply has no way to track stealth jets.

    In late September the US flew a B-1B bomber and a few F-15 fighter jets near North Korea, and Pyongyang never found out. In the past, the US has had to tell North Korea about B-1B flights, because North Korea can't detect them on their own, a South Korean defense official told NK News at the time.

    That's why stealth jets in South Korea is a nightmare for North Korea.

    f 35 b 1 north korea japan .JPG

    North Korea sees US and South Korean military drills as preparation for an invasion to remove Kim. North Korea has specifically threatened to shoot down US B-1B bombers when they fly or where they rest at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. Often, North Korea schedules its missile launches around the dates of US and South Korean drills in protest.

    But North Korea has no chance of spotting, tracking, or shooting down stealth jets, and the commonly accepted role of stealth platforms as being "door kickers," or weapons systems to start wars off, will only aggravate Pyongyang's worst fears.

    So a year of record-high tensions between the US and North Korea will end with practically invisible jets flying over the Korean Peninsula, and there is little that Kim Jong Un can do in response.

    SEE ALSO: US Navy pilot pulled off heroic landing that saved 8 after engine failure en route to aircraft carrier

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    Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov walks before a meeting of the state council at the Kremlin in Moscow, September 18, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Monday that Ramzan Kadyrov, the outspoken leader of Russia's republic of Chechnya, would remain in his post despite comments he made about the possibility of standing down.

    Kadyrov, 41, said in a state interview broadcast late on Sunday that it was "his dream" to one day leave office and that, if asked, he could suggest several candidates capable of taking over his role.

    "Ramzan continues to remain the current head of the republic," Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on a conference call when asked about Kadyrov's statement.

     

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    trump erdogan turkey

    ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday his talks with U.S. President Donald Trump last week were the first occasion in a long time the two NATO allies were "on the same wavelength" and they would speak against this week.

    Diplomatic ties between Ankara and Washington have been strained by several disagreements, particularly over the United States' support for the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara regards as a terrorist group.

    "The telephone call which we had with Trump on Friday was the first in a long time in which we got on the same wavelength," Erdogan said in a speech to deputies from his ruling AK Party in parliament.

    He said discussions would continue in the coming days on the issues of the YPG, defense industry cooperation and the fight against the network of a U.S.-based cleric whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating last year's failed coup in Turkey.

    According to Turkey's foreign minister, Trump on Friday told Erdogan he had issued instructions that weapons should not be provided to the Syrian Kurdish YPG.

    However, the Pentagon said on Monday it was reviewing "adjustments" in arms for Syrian Kurdish forces, but it stopped short of halting weapons transfers, suggesting such decisions would be based on battlefield requirements.

    Speaking to reporters in parliament after his speech, Erdogan said the Pentagon statement would be discussed at Turkey's National Security Council (MGK) meeting later on Tuesday.

    He also said that Trump indicated that another call may happen this week.

    "If he doesn't call, I'll call," Erdogan said.

    The YPG spearheads the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting Islamic State with the help of a U.S.-led coalition.

    Turkey regards the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in Turkey and is designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and European Union.

    SEE ALSO: Trump says he will get peace in the Middle East 'done' by talking to Turkey's Erdogan

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    • US, South Korea, and Japanese sources have all detected activity that may indicate North Korea is readying a missile launch.
    • North Korea hasn't launched a missile since September 15. It rarely fires missiles in the winter or fall.
    • But North Korea has faked preparations for missile launches before.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watches the launch of a Hwasong-12 missile in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. government experts think North Korea could conduct a new missile test within days, in what would be its first launch since it fired a missile over Japan in mid-September, two authoritative U.S. government sources said on Tuesday.

    One of the U.S. sources, who did not want to be identified, said the United States had evidence that Japanese reports about the monitoring of signals suggesting North Korea was preparing a new missile test were accurate.

    Both sources said U.S. government experts believed a new test could occur "within days."

    A Japanese government source said earlier on Tuesday that Japan had detected radio signals suggesting North Korea may be preparing another ballistic missile launch, although such signals were not unusual and satellite images did not show fresh activity.

    Other U.S. intelligence officials have noted North Korea has previously sent deliberately misleading signs of preparations for missile and nuclear tests, in part to mask real preparations, and in part to test U.S. and allied intelligence on its activities.

    After firing missiles at a rate of about two or three a month since April, North Korean missile launches paused inSeptember, after it fired a missile that passed over Japan’s northern Hokkaido island on Sept. 15.

    SEE ALSO: 

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    Kim Jong Un Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Hwasong 14 North Korea

    • North Korea launched a missile on Tuesday that experts estimate could reach any part of the continental US.
    • The launch was likely the most advanced by North Korea yet.
    • The test took place in the middle of the night and during what's usually North Korea off-season, suggesting it is becoming sneakier.


    North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday night that experts say could reach any part of the continental US.

    The missile flew about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) and landed in the sea east of Japan, but it crested at a remarkable 4,500 kilometers (2,800 miles) above the Earth's surface, making it the highest and longest-lasting flight North Korea has completed to date.

    North Korea had previously tested ICBMs, but those did not display ranges sufficient to hit important targets on the US's East Coast.

    David Wright, a physicist and the codirector of the Union of Concerned Scientists' global security program, wrote recently that North Korea's latest missile could likely fly 8,100 miles on a normal trajectory, enough to reach anywhere in the continental US.

    But while the test demonstrated range, it's still unknown how credible the launch was. An effective ICBM has to carry a payload of about 1,000 pounds, and it's unclear if this launch had a reduced load.

    North Korea missile range november 2017

    And some early reports indicated that the reentry vehicle — the component that returns the payload to the Earth's surface — broke up under the pressure during reentry.

    The launch took place in the fall and in the dead of night, at 3 a.m., which might suggest North Korea has improved its ability to fire missiles in an unpredictable, operational way. North Korea has typically tested missiles in the spring or summer and during the day.

    In the hours before the launch, Japanese and South Korean sources reported that North Korea had sent a radio signal similar to ones it had sent before past launches. These sources assessed that the launch would happen "within days."

    Tuesday's launch marked the first in 10 weeks and could have served as an opening statement before the US and South Korea perform air-combat military drills in mid-December.

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    North Koreans Korea Watch Hwasong 12 Ballistic Missile Launch

    • North Korea just pulled off an ICBM launch in realistic conditions, suggesting they may actually be able to strike Washington DC.
    • The launch took place during the fall and at night, as they've rarely ventured in the past.
    • This kind of launch would be difficult for the US to detect or stop.


    North Korea demonstrated its most capable threat to the US yet on Tuesday night, with a 53 minute flight of what initial reports are calling an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    North Korea has tested ICBMs before, but the country has never shown the ability to reach important east coast targets in the US like Washington DC or New York City. This time, not only did they show range, North Korea showed the kind of skills and tactics they'd need to actually nuke one of those targets.

    North Korea usually avoids testing at night or in the winter or fall, but the timing of the test likely included a message: the threat to the US from ICBMs is real.

    The South Korea and Japan detected a radio signal they found usually consistent with launch preparations earlier on Tuesday, but said it was likely "within days" until a test took place.

    The quick run up from the signal to the launch and the timing in the dead of night suggest North Korea prioritized practicing a realistic nuclear strike on the US instead of just a drill.

    In the past, the US has spotted North Korea's preparations for a launch, but testing at night obscures that. Additionally, North Korea's focus on road-mobile missile launchers serves the purpose of pulling off quick strikes from hidden locations — an ideal strategy for attacking a vigilant force like the US.

    The launch follows the most heated ever passage of US-North Korean relations with President Donald Trump threatening to "totally destroy" Pyongyang and Kim Jong Un's propaganda outlet sentencing Trump to death. The US led the world to sanction and isolate North Korea after its sixth nuclear test in September, when it displayed the capability to level entire cities with a nuclear device.

    While it's unknown what missile North Korea fired or if it can actually carry a nuclear payload as far as it flew on Tuesday, the launch communicates that Washington DC is now within range.

    SEE ALSO: Here's how long it could take North Korean nuclear missiles to reach US cities

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