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The latest news on Defense from Business Insider

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    Rex Tillerson

    • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to lay out a new strategy on North Korea on Tuesday, but the White House followed with a vague statement that seemed to dispute him.
    • China and Russia welcomed Tillerson's new stance, which would allow the US to talk to North Korea without preconditions.
    • But President Donald Trump seems set on putting pressure on North Korea.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out a new US strategy toward North Korea on Tuesday that was met with cheers in Russia and China but may have been squashed by the White House on the same day.

    "We're ready to talk any time North Korea would like to talk, and we're ready to have the first meeting without precondition," Tillerson said at an event at the Atlantic Council.

    "Let's just meet. We can talk about the weather if you want ... But can we at least sit down and see each other face-to-face, and then we can lay out a map, a road map, of what we might be willing to work towards."

    His words appeared to signal a significant shift in US policy toward North Korea.

    President Donald Trump has sought to pressure Pyongyang to surrender its nuclear capabilities. Tillerson's approach would allow the US and North Korea to begin peace talks without the prospect of denuclearizing.

    "It's not realistic to say we are only going to talk if you come to the table ready to give up your program," Tillerson said. "They have too much invested in it, and [Trump] is very realistic about that as well."

    Instead of the promise of verifiable denuclearization, Tillerson simply asked for a "period of quiet" in which North Korea pause testing nuclear devices and ballistic missiles.

    Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian media he welcomed the decision. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, told a press briefing the same.

    The White House is unmoved

    Rex Tillerson Donald Trump

    But the White House, where Tillerson has reportedly fallen out of favor, seemed to push back.

    "The president's views on North Korea have not changed," the White House said in a vague statement, according to Reuters. "North Korea is acting in an unsafe way ... North Korea's actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea."

    Hardliners on North Korea say that if the US were to accept talks with Pyongyang without preconditions, it would give the country a seat at the table with Washington as equals, something they consider a defeat.

    Trump has frequently talked up military and kinetic responses to North Korea's missile testing, and he has often undermined Tillerson's efforts at diplomacy, once calling them a waste of time.

    In the past month, Trump administration sources began leaking that Tillerson may be on his way out of the executive branch in favor of a Trump favorite, CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

    Golden opportunity for peace — if that's what the US wants

    Trump kim jong un

    Past presidents who have looked to engage with North Korea diplomatically without first securing guarantees from Pyongyang have faced strong backlash from more hawkish US officials, usually Republicans.

    Trump may have the unique opportunity to engage with North Korea, as he has proved at least partially insulated from the criticism of Republicans.

    Additionally, Trump has said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader whom no head of state has ever met with.

    The US has engaged in a massive pressure campaign of sanctions on North Korea that may have begun to take effect. If the US could hold out and wait until sanctions further weakened North Korea, it may achieve a better negotiating position in future talks.

    But with North Korea having demonstrated an intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to detonate a nuclear device over the Pacific, the US has a choice: Settle now before things escalate, or continue the nuclear showdown until one party blinks.

    SEE ALSO: The F-35 could intercept a North Korean missile launch — but it could bring an all-out war

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    kim jong un

    • A UN envoy to North Korea emerged with the news that Pyongyang said it is "important to prevent war" with the US.
    • The discussion now must move to how to prevent war, and what direction North Korea wants to go.

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. political chief said Tuesday that senior North Korean officials told him during his visit last week "that it was important to prevent war" over the country's rapidly advancing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

    Jeffrey Feltman told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council privately that "how we do that" was the topic of more than 15 hours of discussions he had with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Vice Minister Pak Myong Guk, and other officials.

    Feltman, a veteran American diplomat who is the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, said he told the North Koreans "they need to signal that they're willing now to go in a different direction, to start some kind of engagement, to start talking about talks."

    He said he stressed "the urgent need to prevent miscalculation and reduce the risk of conflict," while he also underlined both the international community's commitment to a peaceful solution and its opposition to North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

    He said he emphasized the importance of opening channels of communications "such as the military-to-military hotline to reduce risks, to signal intentions, to prevent misunderstandings and manage any crisis."

    It was the first in-depth exchange of views between the U.N. and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the country's official name, in almost eight years.

    Feltman called the mission the most important one that he has ever undertaken and called it "constructive and productive."

    He said he believes he conveyed the concerns of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Security Council and the international community, but he was cautious about the impact.

    "They listened seriously to our arguments ... they argued with us," Feltman said. "They did not offer any type of commitment to us at that point. They have to reflect on what we said with their own leadership."

    "I think we've left the door ajar, and I fervently hope that the door to a negotiated solution will now be opened wide," he added.

    Feltman said both sides agreed the situation on the Korean Peninsula is "the most tense and dangerous peace and security issue in the world today." He said they also agreed that his visit "was only a beginning and that we should continue our dialogue."

    He said the U.N. and others are prepared to facilitate any new opening for talks.

    Feltman's visit came at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and South Korea, Japan and the United States, sparked by the reclusive country's frequent missile launches and recent nuclear test explosion, and particularly by its latest launch of a long-range ballistic missile that experts say could reach Washington.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have traded insults and engaged in escalating rhetoric in recent months but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson softened the U.S. stance on possible talks with North Korea on Tuesday.

    Tillerson offered to meet the North Koreans without preconditions and said it was "unrealistic" to expect the country to come to the table ready to give up a nuclear weapons program that it invested so much in developing. He said Trump endorsed his stance.

    Tillerson is expected to attend a Security Council ministerial meeting Friday at which the secretary-general will brief members. Feltman also is scheduled to attend.

    Feltman, when asked about Tillerson's comments, said the Security Council is united on the need for a political solution, "so I would underscore that that was the message I took to Pyongyang."

    "But we have to get there by opening the door to a different direction from the current trajectory" that North Korea is on, he said.

    "They agreed that it was important to prevent war," he said.

    hwasong 15

    Feltman said the North Koreans are very focused on the United States. But he and his team sought to get them to understand that whatever problems there are between Pyongyang and Washington, North Korea has a larger issue to deal with — "which is that the international community does not accept its nuclear program."

    He said increasingly tough U.N. sanctions that have been unanimously approved by all 15 Security Council members helped him show that the problem is not simply a U.S.-North Korea problem.

    During his trip, Feltman said, he also met with diplomats and staff working for the six U.N. agencies based in North Korea and visited several projects.

    He said he was concerned that the $114 million U.N. humanitarian appeal for North Korea for 2017 was only 30 percent funded, which he said is having a bigger impact than any unintended consequences of sanctions.

    Feltman stressed that U.N. assistance is saving lives and said the lack of funding reinforces North Korean feelings "that the international community is inherently hostile to the DPRK."

    "So I hope that for both life-saving reasons and for political reasons we'll be able to generate more funding," he said.

    SEE ALSO: Tillerson's new North Korea strategy praised by China and Russia — but undermined by Trump

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    Taiwan military army

    • China has become angry after President Donald Trump allowed for the possibility of US Navy ships visiting Taiwan and vice-versa.
    • China considers Taiwan a rogue province, and an existential threat to it's Communist party.
    • China previously threatened to go to war the same day the US Navy visits Taiwan.

    BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - China accused the United States on Thursday of interfering in its internal affairs and said it had lodged a complaint after U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law an act laying the groundwork for possible U.S. navy visits to self-ruled Taiwan.

    Tensions have risen in recent days after a senior Chinese diplomat threatened China would invade Taiwan if any U.S. warships made port visits to the island which China claims as its own territory.

    On Monday, Chinese jets carried out "island encirclement patrols" around Taiwan, with state media showing pictures of bombers with cruise missiles slung under their wings as they carried out the exercise.

    On Tuesday, Trump signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2018 fiscal year, which authorizes the possibility of mutual visits by navy vessels between Taiwan and the United States.

    Such visits would be the first since the United States ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 and established ties with Beijing.

    Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said while the Taiwan sections of the law were not legally binding, they seriously violate the "One China" policy and "constitute an interference in China's internal affairs".

    "China is resolutely opposed to this, and we have already lodged stern representations with the U.S. government," Lu told a daily news briefing.

    China is firmly opposed to any official exchanges, military contact, or arms sales between Taiwan and the United States, he added.

    china aircraft1

    Proudly democratic Taiwan has become increasingly concerned with the ramped up Chinese military presence, that has included several rounds of Chinese air force drills around the island in recent months.

    Taiwan is confident of its defenses and responded quickly to the Chinese air force drills this week, its government said, denouncing the rise in China's military deployments as irresponsible.

    Taiwan presidential spokesman Alex Huang, speaking to Taiwan media in comments reported late on Wednesday, said the defense ministry had kept a close watch on the patrols and responded immediately and properly.

    Taiwan "can ensure there are no concerns at all about national security, and people can rest assured", Huang said.

    Both sides of the narrow Taiwan Strait, which separates Taiwan from its giant neighbor, have a responsibility to protect peace and stability, he added.

    "Such a raised military posture that may impact upon and harm regional peace and stability and cross-strait ties does not give a feeling of responsibility, and the international community does not look favorably upon this," Huang was quoted as saying.

    US Navy uss lassen

    Relations have soured considerably since Tsai Ing-wen, who leads Taiwan's independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, won presidential elections last year.

    China suspects Tsai wants to declare the island's formal independence, a red line for Beijing. Tsai says she wants to maintain peace with China but will defend Taiwan's security.

    Taiwan is well equipped with mostly U.S. weapons but has been pressing for more advanced equipment to deal with what it sees as a rising threat from China. The United States is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

    China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

    SEE ALSO: Senior Chinese diplomat threatens to invade Taiwan 'the day' a US Navy ship visits there

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    nikki haley

    • Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, will present "irrefutable evidence" that Iran has violated the Iran deal, according to her office.
    • Haley will go after Iran for allegedly providing missiles to Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen.
    • Iran denies it has armed the Houthis and has dispatched its top diplomat to Europe to get Europeans to side with them over the US.

    US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, will present "irrefutable evidence" that Iran has violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran deal, at a press conference on Thursday.

    Haley will demonstrate "Iran has deliberately violated its international obligations and has tried and failed to cover up these violations‎," according to a press briefing on the US mission to the UN's website.

    Haley's conference comes after President Donald Trump decertified the Iran deal on October 13, leaving it in place practically but testifying that it was not in the US's national security interests to continue the deal.

    Trump's decertification set off a 60-day period for Congress to decide whether or not to reimpose sanctions on Iran, which it declined.

    Haley will update the UN on the implementation of the Iran deal in a regularly scheduled report, which ABC News said will delve into accusations that Iran provided arms to Houth rebels fighting against the internationally recognized government of Yemen. 

    This in itself does not necessarily contravene the deal, however, as the agreement does not explicitly forbid ballistic missile production or distributing arms.

    As part of the "ongoing destabilizing activities in the Middle East" Haley will raise, ABC reports she will discuss the US and Saudi Arabia accusations that Iran of provided ballistic missiles and possibly drones and other weapons systems to the Houthis.

    Iran denies it has armed the Houthis. It has responded with vitriol to Trump's moves to decertify the deal while dispatching its chief diplomats to Europe to shore up ties with other members of the Iran deal.

    A non-binding part of the Iran deal forbids Tehran from building ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

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    putin and assad

    • The UN Syria envoy called on Russian President Vladimir Puting to 'have the courage' to push Syria's government towards new elections and a new constitution.
    • The statement was an unusual appeal to Russia, which has become a key player in the Middle East.
    • Russia has provided Syria with lifelines to keep its regime in power throughout its more than 6 year civil war.

    GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. Syria envoy has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to "have the courage" to push the Syrian government to accept new elections and a new constitution.

    In an unusual public appeal directly to a key powerbroker in the region, Staffan de Mistura told a TV interviewer the Russian leader should "convince the (Syrian) government that there is no time to lose" in efforts to reach peace in Syria after more than 6-1/2 years of war.

    Russia has provided crucial military and diplomatic backing to Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, though Putin announced a drawdown of Russian military forces in Syria this week. He made the announcement during a visit to a Russian military base in Syria in the wake of successes against extremist militants.

    Asked on Swiss broadcaster RTS what signal Putin could provide now, de Mistura alluded to how territorial gains would be "temporary. But the peace must be won — and for the peace to be won, it's necessary to have the courage to push the government also to accept that there must be a new constitution and new elections."

    Russia bombing syria iran russia

    The comments late Wednesday to Swiss broadcaster RTS came near the end of the eighth round of intra-Syrian peace talks under his mediation since early 2016, which is set to end Friday at the latest. A new session was set to take place on Thursday morning, and de Mistura was signaling frustration at the lack of progress in the round.

    De Mistura said it was "regrettable" that Assad's delegation had refused to meet face-to-face with the opposition in what have been indirect talks in Geneva.

    He re-emphasized the importance of a U.N. role in any peace process, and held up a color-coded map showing the divisions of territorial control in the war-battered country. Syria's war is estimated to have killed at least 400,000 people and driven more than 12 million people from their homes.

    SEE ALSO: US to present 'irrefutable evidence' that Iran violated the nuclear deal

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    isis militant

    • ISIS threatened attacks on the US after President Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
    • Many in the Islamic world have taken offense to the move by Trump.
    • ISIS has been handily defeated in it's old territory in part thanks to a US-led bombing campaign.

    CAIRO (Reuters) - Islamic State threatened attacks on U.S. soil in retaliation for the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, one of the group's social media accounts reported on Thursday without giving any details.

    In a message on one of its accounts on the Telegram instant messaging service titled "Wait for us" and "ISIS in Manhattan", the group said it would carry out operations and showed images of New York's Times Square and what appeared to be an explosive bomb belt and detonator.

    "We will do more ops in your land, until the final hour and we will burn you with the flames of war which you started in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria and Afghan. Just you wait," it said.

    "The recognition of your dog 'Trump' (sic) Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will make us recognize explosives as the capital of your country."

    Washington triggered widespread anger and protests across the Arab world with its decision on Jerusalem. The disputed city is revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and is home to Islam's third holiest site. It has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

    Islamic State was driven out of its Iraqi and Syrian capitals this year and squeezed into a shrinking pocket of desert straddling the border between the two countries.

    The forces fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria now expect a new phase of guerrilla warfare there. Militants including people claiming allegiance to Islamic State have carried out scores of deadly attacks in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the United States over the past two years.

    SEE ALSO: US to present 'irrefutable evidence' that Iran violated the nuclear deal

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    kim jong un

    • The US said it might "interdict" North Korea's maritime traffic.
    • Pyongyang called it a "big step" toward nuclear war.
    • North Korea consistently makes grand threats, but naval blockades have led to war in the past and would most likely require violence to enforce.

    After North Korea's latest missile test late last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on all nations to clamp down on the rogue nation and reasserted the US's "right to interdict maritime traffic" coming into and out of North Korea.

    The threat riled Pyongyang, which has threatened war if its ships are blocked.

    "Should the United States and its followers try to enforce the naval blockade against our country, we will see it as an act of war and respond with merciless self-defensive counter-measures as we have warned repeatedly," North Korean media said, adding that it would be a "big step" toward nuclear war.

    But North Korea consistently refers to the US's actions as "acts" or "declarations" of war, usually following with threats of war.

    After North Korea's nuclear test in September, the US sought the UN Security Council's consent to interdict traffic, though that language wasn't included in the resolution it passed unanimously.

    While North Korea's rhetoric tends to be vitriolic, naval blockades are typically considered an act of war because they usually require violence to enforce.

    And there is precedent for such practices leading to war in the Pacific. In 1941, a US oil embargo on Japan was a prelude to the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor that dragged the US into World War II.

    SEE ALSO: North Korean soldier who defected has been granted Choco Pies for life — a snack Kim Jong Un hates

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    china parade

    • With the US making North Korea its top priority, Beijing has continued to militarize artifical islands in the South China Sea. 
    • China continues to test other Pacific nations with its increasing and increasingly militarized presence in the region.
    • Satellite photos show China is building a formidable network of military radars, airbases, and missile sites.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - While attention in Asia has been distracted by the North Korean nuclear crisis in the past year, China has continued to install high-frequency radar and other facilities that can be used for military purposes on its man-made islands in the South China Sea, a U.S. think tank said on Thursday.

    Chinese activity has involved work on facilities covering 72 acres (29 hectares) of the Spratly and Paracel islands, territory contested with several other Asian nations, according to the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative of Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies. The report cited satellite images.

    The United States and its allies oppose China's building of artificial islands in the South China Sea and their militarization, given concerns Beijing plans to use them to deny access to strategic routes.

    "It's completely normal for China to conduct peaceful construction and build essential defense equipment on its own sovereign territory," China's foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing on Friday, in response to a question about the report.

    "We believe certain people who have ulterior motives are making mountains out of molehills and stirring up trouble."

    The report said that in the last several months China had constructed what appeared to be a new high-frequency radar array at the northern end of Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys.

    Subi Reef had seen tunnels completed that were likely for ammunition storage and another radar antenna array and radar domes, the report said.

    Construction on Mischief Reef included underground storage for ammunition and hangars, missile shelters and radar arrays.

    Smaller-scale work had continued in the Paracel Islands, including a new helipad and wind turbines on Tree Island and two large radar towers on Triton Island.

    south china sea fiery cross military air base

    It said the latter were especially important as waters around Triton had been the scene of recent incidents between China and Vietnam and multiple U.S. freedom-of-navigation operations, which the U.S. navy has used to assert what it sees as its right to free passage in international waters.

    Woody Island, China’s military and administrative headquarters in the South China Sea, saw two first-time air deployments "that hint at things to come at the three Spratly Island air bases farther south," the report said.

    At the end of October, the Chinese military released images showing J-11B fighters at Woody Island for exercises, while on Nov. 15, AMTI spotted what appeared to be Y-8 transport planes, a type that can be configured for electronic surveillance.

    The Pentagon has conducted several patrols near Chinese-held South China Sea territory this year, even as it has sought China's help in northeast Asia to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

    On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated a call for a “freeze” in China's island building and said it was unacceptable to continue their militarization.

    SEE ALSO: The US said it might block North Korean ships — and Pyongyang called it a 'big step' toward nuclear war

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    Putin Missile

    BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO says it is concerned about a Russian missile system that could carry nuclear warheads, and believes it violates a landmark Cold War arms treaty.

    The U.S.-led military alliance said in a statement Friday that "allies have identified a Russian missile system that raises serious concerns."

    It urged Russia "to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way, and actively engage in a technical dialogue with the United States."

    NATO fears the system, which it did not identify, contravenes the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

    The Cold War-era pact bans an entire class of weapons — all land-based cruise missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (310-3,410 miles).

    SEE ALSO: The US said it might block North Korean ships — and Pyongyang called it a 'big step' toward nuclear war

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    vladimir putin donald trump

    MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin said on Friday that President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump had agreed in a phone call to exchange information about North Korea and cooperate on possible initiatives to resolve a crisis around the Asian nation.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call that Putin and Trump had also spoken about establishing contacts with North Korea.

    The two men had also talked about improving dialogue between Russia and the United States, Peskov said.

    The Kremlin earlier on Friday released a statement about the phone call between the two leaders

    SEE ALSO: The US said it might block North Korean ships — and Pyongyang called it a 'big step' toward nuclear war

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    f-22 raptor

    • The top American and Russian fighter jets this week had their first run-in in the skies above Syria, and the incident favored the Russian jet if combat were to break out.
    • The US's F-22 doesn't visibly store weapons, and it relies on stealth, so coming face to face with an advanced Russian fighter puts it at a disadvantage.
    • Most incidents in the skies involving the US are communicated in advance and handled professionally, but the rules of engagement leave the US vulnerable to a first strike.

    Two US F-22 stealth fighter jets intercepted Russian Su-25 and Su-35 jets that crossed into the US's area of operation over Syria on Wednesday, and it highlights a downside to the US's top fighter jets.

    The F-22, with its incredible acrobatic abilities in air and all-aspect stealth cloaking it from enemies at a distance, is the US's most lethal combat plane.

    While the F-35 has been built as a flying quarterback that can dogfight, bomb ground targets, gather intelligence, or conduct surveillance, the F-22 specializes in one thing: air-to-air combat.

    But with today's rules of engagement, the F-22's huge advantages in stealth mean little.

    During an intercept, a jet pulls up next to the plane that has invaded its airspace and tells the plane via radio some version of "turn around or this will escalate."

    At this time, it's customary for the jet to tilt its wings and show the intruding adversary a wing full of missiles. But the F-22 can never do that. Because of its stealth design, the F-22 stores all missiles and bombs internally.

    A pilot intruding into US or US-protected airspace and meeting an F-22 really has no idea whether the jet is armed. And the Russian Su-35 holds more missiles than the F-22, and it holds them where everyone can see.

    On top of that, if a routine interception were to turn kinetic, the F-22 would start the battle at a huge disadvantage.

    Stealth advantage negated


    F-22s rely on stealth and establishing the battle on their own terms. When the enemy jet can't tell where the F-22 is, the F-22 pilot's preferred course of action is to dictate the battle and ideally to score a kill without ever being seen.

    If a fight were to start during an intercept like the one this week, the Russian pilot would start with the huge advantage of having the F-22 in sight. What's more, the Russian Su-35 can actually maneuver better than the F-22.

    Lt. Col. David "Chip" Berke, the only US Marine to fly both the F-22 and the F-35, previously told Business Insider that when flying the F-22, "my objective wouldn't be to get in a turning fight" with an adversary. Instead, Berke said he would use the F-22's natural advantages of stealth to avoid the dogfight.

    But just because Russia's Su-35 can turn better and has more missiles doesn't mean it would automatically win a dogfight that broke out from an interception. The capabilities of the F-22 and of its pilots, who stand among the Air Force's best, would surely give it a chance in such a fight.

    But because of the F-22's internal weapons stores and reliance on stealth, Justin Bronk, an expert on combat airpower at the Royal United Services Institute, previously told Business Insider that fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and the F-35 were "not really necessary" for interceptions and that "other, cheaper interceptors can do the job."

    The real risk


    The prospect of dogfighting with advanced Russian fighters over Syria has only gotten less likely as both Russia and the US look to pull out of the country after the military defeat of the terrorist group ISIS.

    In reality, conflicts in the airspace above Syria between US and Russian jets are handled all the time, but not with jets. The US and Russia maintain a deconfliction line and call each other constantly to alert the other side to inbound jets.

    But the rules of engagement, as they stand, put the US's top fighter jet at a distinct disadvantage if the worst happened and a dogfight broke out between the world's top military powers over Syria.

    SEE ALSO: Here's who'd win in a dogfight between Russia's and the US's top fighter jets

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    North Korea

    • North Korean state media announced a new Netflix-like app available to smartphone users within the country.
    • North Koreans can only consume state-approved media, and can be killed for watching South Korean programs.
    • North Korean smartphone users have their online activity monitored around the clock by government agents.

    North Korean state media announced this week that the burgeoning population of smart phone and tablet users in the country can now enjoy a Netflix-type app.

    The app, called "My Companion 4.0," reportedly allows users to read ebooks, watch video, play games, or even do karaoke, according to an NK News report on the North Korean media announcement.

    Screenshots of the app posted by North Korea's state-run media show users can watch a variety of shows, performances, and sporting events. Users can also buy programs, but it's unclear how.

    North Korea's creation of a Netflix-like app comes after smartphones have become widespread in the country, but only with a sinister catch.

    First of all, North Korea doesn't access the internet, only a limited intranet of websites hosted within the country. This allows the regime in Pyongyang to police the content available to its citizens.

    Though South Korean media is commonly smuggled into the country, and enjoyed by many, possession of the media can result in a death sentence or going to some of North Korea's prison camps, which a judge who survived Auschwitz recently called"as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps."

    Secondly, North Korean officials monitor smart phone use around the clock, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    "There is no country which monopolizes and controls successfully the internet and information as North Korea does," Kang Shin-sam, an expert on North Korean technology and co-head of the International Solidarity for Freedom of Information in North Korea, told the Journal.

    SEE ALSO: The US said it might block North Korean ships — and Pyongyang called it a 'big step' toward nuclear war

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    north korea

    • The US Naval Academy just discovered a bloody link to the history of North Korea's Kim dynasty.
    • In the 1870s, the US captured forts in Korea and took flags that belonged to a direct ancestor of Kim.
    • The Kims have hated and been violent towards the US for more than a century, and the flags found by the academy testify to the difficult history.

    The US Naval Academy just made a startling discovery recalling the violent past between the US and North Korea's Kim dynasty while moving around some old war memorabilia.

    When reshuffling some old war trophies in the academy's Mahan Hall, staff found old Korean battle standards in the framework that hadn't been opened since 1920, the US Naval Institute's news service reports.

    The flags recall a bloody history of US-Korean relations, and actually belonged to a Kim Ung U — a direct ancestor of Kim Jong Un.

    The story starts in 1866, when a US merchant ship arrived in Pyongyang to try and open Korea up to trade. Fearing the Westerners had come to sack their temples, the Koreans killed the crew and burned the ship, according to the Institute.

    Five years later, five US warships returned on a mission to establish diplomatic relations, but the Koreans fired on them. The US Marines responded and seized several coastal towns, taking some of the flags with them, according to the Institute.

    The US sent the flags to the Naval Academy, and simply forgot about them for almost a century.

    Today, when the tensions between the US and North Korea seem higher than ever before, the rediscovery of these flags points to a long, violent history between the two feuding states.

    Read the full story at the US Naval Institute's news service here >>

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    afghanistan military security forces kabul

    • ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack near Afghanistan's main intelligence agency in Kabul.
    • The attackers seized a building in a heavily populated area of the city.
    • So far the number of attackers and possible casualties are not clear.

    KABUL (Reuters) - Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack near a training facility of Afghanistan's main intelligence agency in the capital, Kabul, on Monday as gunmen exchanged fire with security forces.

    Details of the attack remained unclear after a group of armed men seized a building under construction in a heavily populated area of the city.

    "The number of attackers, possible casualties and their target is not yet clear," said Najib Danish, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior.

    The Afshar area of Kabul where the attack was under way is close to a training facility of the National Directorate of Security, the main Afghan intelligence agency, as well as a private university.

    Another government official said the attack was near the intelligence agency training center.

    Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement on its Amaq news agency, in which it said two of its fighters had attacked an intelligence agency center in Kabul.

    The group, which first appeared in Afghanistan in 2015, has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Kabul over the past several months.

    But much remains unknown about how it operates and many observers are skeptical about its ability to mount complex attacks on its own.

    SEE ALSO: Trump to make sweeping national security speech explaining his vision of 'America first'

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    Former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson, author of "100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation," explains why it can be healthy for you to end a shower with cold water.

    Following is a transcript of the video.

    Clint Emerson: Cold water will wake you up, without a doubt, and it will keep you awake.

    But it has more health benefits than anything else. In SEAL training you spend a lot of time in cold water and there's actually some science to the madness of putting us in cold water. One, the reason professional athletes do it all the time after a workout is it increases recovery. It vasoconstricts the entire body, squeezing out all of that lactic acid so that you can feel good to go the next day and be ready for the next day training.

    That cold water is therapy. Even though it was torture, it's therapy so that it keeps you healthy, keeps your joints and inflammation down, vasoconstricts everything down and allows you to keep moving forward, hopefully without any more injury.

    This video was originally published March 16, 2017.

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    Rohingya Refugee Women

    GENEVA (Reuters) - Myanmar has told the U.N. independent investigator into human rights in the country that it will not cooperate with her or grant her access to the country for the rest of her tenure, she said in a statement on Wednesday.

    Yanghee Lee, U.N. special rapporteur, said she had been due to visit in January to assess human rights across Myanmar, including abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

    "This declaration of non-cooperation with my mandate can only be viewed as a strong indication that there must be something terribly awful happening in Rakhine, as well as in the rest of the country," she said.


    SEE ALSO: China slams US 'cold war mentality' after Trump brands China a rival power

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    us army south korea warrior strike

    • The US and South Korea reportedly trained to 'infiltrate' North Korea and remove its weapons of mass destruction.
    • If war broke out between the US, its allies, and North Korea, this would be a vital early step.
    • Video shows US troops participating in the drill, which followed an exercise where stealth aircraft ran simulated bomb runs on North Korean targets.

    The US and South Korean militaries carried out a training exercise focused on "infiltrating North Korea and removing weapons of mass destruction in case of conflict,"military sources told Yonhap News.

    Lt. Col. Christopher B. Logan, a spokesman for the US military in South Korea, told Business Insider that the US military doesn't "discuss specific scenarios," but that "exercises are vital to the readiness of the US and our allies, and ensure we are ready and trained for combined-joint operations."

    Online video of the exercise, called Warrior Strike, shows US troops training in protective gear and in urban environments, much as they might if they had to fight through a situation where nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons had been used. 

    The training, which took place on December 15, followed up a week-long air drill that involved an unprecedented number of stealth aircraft carrying out simulated bomb runs on North Korean targets

    If war broke out between the US, South Korea, and North Korea, a key task early in the conflict would be seizing control of, or destroying, Pyongyang's weapons of mass destruction.

    Though its arsenal remains secretive, experts suspect North Korea possesses chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. North Korea has frequently threatened nuclear attacks on South Korea and the US, and demonstrated nuclear devices six times. 

    At the moment, China and Russia accuse the US of escalating tensions with North Korea as it increases its military drills, while the US pushes the world to implement strict sanctions on Pyongyang and refuses to accept the nation's illegally forged nuclear status. 

    Watch the video from Warrior Strike below:

    SEE ALSO: The US said it might block North Korean ships — and Pyongyang called it a 'big step' toward nuclear war

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    south korea military drill us marines

    • South Korean officials are trying to delay military drills with the US to ensure a peaceful 2018 Winter Olympics.
    • Military drills with the US anger North Korea, which may attempt some provocation during the games.
    • But the US says drills are going ahead as planned.

    SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean officials said on Wednesday a proposed delay in military drills with the United States was aimed at ensuring a peaceful 2018 Winter Olympics, not ending the North Korean missile crisis, as relations with China suffered new setbacks.

    South Korean President Moon Jae-in is seeking to soothe relations with North Korea, which is pursuing nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and with China, the North's lone major ally, before the Games begin in South Korea in February.

    China, which hosted years of on-again-off-again six-party talks to try to end the North Koreastandoff, resumed some blocks on group tours to South Korea, industry sources said, and rebuked Seoul for firing warning shots at Chinese fishing boats

    On Tuesday, Moon, who visited China last week, said he had proposed postponing major military drills with the United States until after the Games, a move his office said was designed to reassure athletes and spectators.

    "This is confined to our efforts to host a peaceful Olympics," an official from the presidential Blue House said. "We are only talking about the exercises which are supposed to take place during the Olympics and Paralympics."

    North Korea sees the regular joint exercises as preparation for war, while China is still angry about the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system, commonly known as THAAD, by SouthKorea, whose powerful radar it fears could see deep inside its territory.

    The South argues it needs THAAD to guard against the threat posed by North Korea, which regularly threatens to destroy South Korea, Japan and the United States.

    The proposed delay in drills was discussed during a summit last week between Moon and Chinese President Xi Jinping, after the proposal had already been submitted to the Americans, the Blue House official said.

    China and Russia have proposed a "freeze for freeze" arrangement under which North Koreawould stop its nuclear and missile tests in exchange for a halt to the exercises. However, the official denied the proposed delay had anything to do with the freeze idea.

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Ottawa on Tuesday he was unaware of any plans to "alter longstanding and scheduled and regular military exercises".

    North Korea has stepped up its missile and nuclear tests at an unprecedented rate this year, and any new provocation from the North would "inevitably have an impact" on the exercises, the Blue House official said.

    "It is a display of the president's strong message that North Korea must not conduct any provocation (during the Olympics)," the official told reporters.

    "Biological experiements"

    kim jong un seafood

    Japan's Asahi newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing an unidentified person connected to South Korean intelligence, that North Korea was conducting biological experiments to test the possibility of loading anthrax-laden warheads on its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    The Asahi report said the U.S. government was aware of the tests, which were meant to ascertain whether the anthrax bacteria could survive the high temperatures that occur during warheads' re-entry from space.

    Reuters was unable to verify the report independently.

    In a statement released by state media, North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called reports it was developing biological weapons "nonsense" designed to provoke nuclear war.

    The United States has given China a draft resolution for tougher U.N. sanctions on North Koreaand is hoping for a quick vote on it by the U.N. Security Council, a Western diplomat said on Tuesday, however Beijing has yet to sign on.

    When asked about the U.S. resolution at a press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying would only say that China always takes a responsible and constructive attitude towards Security Council talks on North Korea.

    The United States has also called on the Security Council to blacklist 10 ships for circumventing sanctions on North Korea. Hua said China had received the proposal from the United States.

    SEE ALSO: US and South Korean forces reportedly carried out a training drill to infiltrate North Korea and take out its nukes

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    US Marines South Korea drill

    • Both the US and China have been taking unprecedented steps as tensions ramp up along the Korean Peninsula.
    • China has prepared refugee camps and information for citizens to help them survive nuclear attacks and has expanded its offensive capabilities with its air force.
    • The US has stepped up military drills, practiced air raids, and reportedly started preparing to seize North Korea's nuclear weapons by force.

    As tensions rise to historic heights on the Korean Peninsula, both the US and China have begun taking unprecedented steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

    Across North Korea's border in China's Jilin province, state-run media ran a full-page instructional package on how to survive a nuclear blast. The page doesn't mention North Korea, but it doesn't need to.

    Also new in Jilin are five new refugee camps built "because the situation on the China-North Korea border has intensified lately," a leaked document seen by The New York Times said. The camps could accommodate thousands of North Koreans who might pour across the border in a time of war.

    China not just worried about refugees

    china air force plaaf

    But China's preparations don't just indicate a defensive, wait-and-see approach. China's air force engaged in exercises along "routes and areas it has never flown before" earlier this month, with surveillance aircraft over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean Peninsula, according to the South China Morning Post.

    "The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further," Li Jie, a military expert based in Beijing, told the Post, using the abbreviation for the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

    In addition to flexing its military muscle against the US, China has been increasingly assertive in the South China Sea. It has also dispatched military spy planes to encircle Taiwan and provide up-to-date info, which the Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the Post was "very unusual."

    US preparing to denuclearize North Korea, possibly by force

    US forces south korea military drill

    The US appears resolutely determined to put the pressure on North Korea.

    South Korean officials have been talking up a pause in military drills in hopes that it will lead to a peaceful Winter Olympics in February, but the US has yet to agree to that pause.

    Though December is normally rather quiet for military drills, the US this month brought in a record number of stealth aircraft to train up on an air war against North Korea.

    Immediately after the drill, which featured a marked increase in simulated bomb runs on North Korean targets, the US and South Korea reportedly engaged in drills to infiltrate North Korea and neutralize its weapons of mass destruction.

    At a speech at the Atlantic Council last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US was preparing plans to seize loose nuclear weapons, should North Korea somehow collapse or become unstable.

    President Donald Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, also flatly rejected the clearest path to peace by saying the US would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. He recommitted the US to using force if necessary.

    "We're not committed to a peaceful resolution — we're committed to a resolution,"McMaster told the BBC. "We have to be prepared, if necessary, to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime."

    Maximum pressure


    The Trump administration's approach to North Korea explicitly calls for every means of pressure to bear down on the country. Threats of war, military deployments, increased drills, stealthier and more lethal weapons systems, sanctions, and even a possible shipping blockade could become a daily fact of life for Pyongyang under Trump.

    But North Korea is not the only one to have noticed the US's new approach. China has closely watched the US ratchet up tensions along its border, and its recent military movements reflect a country that i's considering all-out war a possibility.

    SEE ALSO: US and South Korean forces reportedly carried out a training drill to infiltrate North Korea and take out its nukes

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    Donald Trump H.R. McMaster

    • President Donald Trump's national security adviser says the US is prepared to denuclearize North Korea against its will.
    • This would most likely require war, and it flies in the face of experts who say North Korea's missiles are now so advanced that they should deter a US attack.
    • But Secretary of Defense James Mattis says he doubts North Korea's claim that its missiles can reach the US with a nuclear warhead, and it looks as if the military isn't ready to be counted out of the North Korean crisis.

    H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, has taken an incredibly bold stance on North Korea that points to the worst possible outcome: all-out war.

    Asked by the BBC on Tuesday whether the US was committed to a peaceful resolution to the North Korean crisis, McMaster abandoned the usual formality of political speech.

    "We're not committed to a peaceful resolution," McMaster said. "We're committed to a resolution."

    He added: "We want the resolution to be peaceful, but as the president has said, all options are on the table. And we have to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime."

    Denuclearization by force would equal a massive war, no way around it

    North Korea artillery test

    Of the seven possible courses of action on the North Korean crisis prepared for Congress by its internal think tank, denuclearization of the country by force is one of the harshest and most dangerous.

    In separate comments to "PBS NewsHour" on Monday, McMaster restated his belief that the chance of war with North Korea is growing every day.

    "We have a very short amount of time to be able to address the problem," he said.

    Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has dished out another revelation from the country's top national security officials: that despite its claims, North Korea cannot yet hit the US with a nuclear weapon.

    Though some experts have calculated that North Korea's latest intercontinental ballistic missile could hit any part of the US with a 1,000-kilogram nuclear device, others, including Mattis, remain doubtful.

    Essentially, the missile could probably lob a heavy nuclear warhead as far as the US, but its ability to evade missile defenses and function properly once it gets there isn't a sure thing.

    Is the US headed for war?

    Vigilant Ace 18 US/South Korea Air Forces

    Taken together, the comments from the US's top military officials paint a picture of a country that still sees a slim window to use force against North Korea.

    For decades, as North Korea's nuclear might has grown, US and South Korean leaders have been deterred by Pyongyang's massive offensive output.

    But today, as North Korea perfects its missile program to the point where it could credibly threaten the US with a nuclear weapon, it seems as if the US's military won't allow a set of calculations on paper to tell it that its strength is no good here.

    SEE ALSO: The US and China are preparing for all hell to break loose in North Korea

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